28 Dover Repositioning Cruise Reviews

We departed Dover on 6 October 2015 after a couple of weeks in Morocco and the Saraha. A nice change and we were glad to be on the Star. I made the mistake of attempting to move our cabins and we ended up in the forward section of deck 8 ... Read More
We departed Dover on 6 October 2015 after a couple of weeks in Morocco and the Saraha. A nice change and we were glad to be on the Star. I made the mistake of attempting to move our cabins and we ended up in the forward section of deck 8 with an ocean view stateroom. This is not our first cruise, and it won't be our last on Norwegian. I should remind you that the placement of your stateroom above or below major entertainment areas should be a consideration when booking if you want a good nights sleep. Our stateroom was above the Stardust Theater but it wasn't an issue since we generally saw the first show, looked at other entertainment venues and went to our cabin after 10:00 pm. Things I liked about this cruise: Embarkation - smooth, efficient and timely. Cabin - large enough for comfort and good storage overall. Cruise Director: This is the first time that I couldn't find fault with the Cruise Director - group of people who try so hard to be friendly, happy and your best buddy that they are more than annoying. Ian - the cruise guy on this trip was a helpful, informative, entertaining and genuine. Of all the times we interacted directly or indirectly through ship wide announcements, I never felt that he was forced or ingenuine. Kudos to Ian the Cruise Director. Dining: Very good to excellent dining choices of well seasoned and prepared dishes served by professionals. Stateroom Attendant: "Johnathan" was an excellent steward who kept our stateroom spotless and ship shape. He was friendly, accomodating and a credit to Norwegian. Entertainment - The show cast was very good and gave very entertaining shows throughout the crossing. I enjoyed the musicianship of the duo Touche, the solos of the pianist, guitarist and trombone player from the house band. The bass player was also very good. Disappointing -the ship broke so we had to divert to Tampa without going to Miami. Having to depart the ship a day early was well done by US customs and the local Tampa staff, however the letter provided by the Star Captain and coordinating staff was less than adequate to the task of providing complete information to customers. Basically it was "You can stay or you can go by yourself and we won't tell you before we get to Tampa (and maybe afterwards) what all your options are." This can't be the only time an NCL ship has had a problem during a voyage, and there should have been a template available to who ever was providing the customers needed information and options a document with frequent updates. Two days of long lines at the customer service desks should have tipped off the cruise staff that they left too many issues unadressed. I suppose that the ship's administration was handicapped by what I believe is NCL's lack of administrative support, coordination, forward thinking and active corporate management. For me, I've enjoyed the ships, crews and entertainment of Norwegian Cruise Lines, but dread having to deal with their headquarters staff related issues. As an indication, the form for requesting an airline change fee is buried below layers of their web site, AND THE PROCEDURE WAS NEVER BRIEFED PRIOR TO DEBARKATION!!! Just a huge lack of complete communication, which I attribute to a less than adequate corporate headquarters staff. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
We have cruised many times with various lines, but this was the first time with NCL. We booked a Transatlantic crossing, and after reading some reviews we were a bit apprehensive. WE HAD NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT! - We found that embarkation ... Read More
We have cruised many times with various lines, but this was the first time with NCL. We booked a Transatlantic crossing, and after reading some reviews we were a bit apprehensive. WE HAD NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT! - We found that embarkation and disembarkation was very well organised, the cabin was a reasonable size, the shower room was the best we have had on any ship, the food was good, with lots of choices. The speciality restaurants were great, the crew and service fantastic, and the onboard activities and entertainment were good. We would not hesitate to sail with NCL again. Believe me, we are very critical, and when something is good, we say it is, but if something is bad - watch out! Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
We have cruised on NCL many times, as well as a number of other cruise lines. This has to rate as the worst cruising experience, ever. The only redeeming feature was that we met many friendly fellow cruisers from the US, UK and Germany. ... Read More
We have cruised on NCL many times, as well as a number of other cruise lines. This has to rate as the worst cruising experience, ever. The only redeeming feature was that we met many friendly fellow cruisers from the US, UK and Germany. Some we hope to remain friends with in the future. The food was poor, in our opinion, and so heavily salted that my wife and I had to ask for no-salt meals. The entertainment was mediocre, except for the electronic string quartet. The service in the restaurants was very slow, at times. Our propulsion system failed as we were approaching Florida, causing us to skip Miami and proceed to Tampa, where we arrived a day early, but had to leave the ship. We were shuttled from one hotel to another and spent most of our final day standing in lines with no information as to where we were staying. It was a very poorly handled situation, and I understand, that it was the second time in the past several months that the Star had a similar problem. It is highly doubtful that I can be persuaded to ever step foot on another NCL ship. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
We took this trip to visit my family in England as we do most years, 2010 was the last time we crossed on NCL, timing was the important factor we needed an early October crossing. Knowing it was hurricane season, we still chose this ... Read More
We took this trip to visit my family in England as we do most years, 2010 was the last time we crossed on NCL, timing was the important factor we needed an early October crossing. Knowing it was hurricane season, we still chose this trip, Joaquine joined us for a couple of days before the Azores. ' Twas a bit rough, up to 27 ft seas. The remainder of the crossing was perfect, water, a sheet of glass, my USNRet. husband said he had never seen the Atlantic so smooth taking pictures to show his pals. Our luck began before we left home with an upgrade from Mini Suite to a 405 sq.ft. suite, it was a wonderful treat with all of the frills. Our butler, Made, was a first for us. We had received the UDP so we were unable to judge the main dining room, no complaints about the cafe. I ate there most mornings before "morning stretch". Zumba was offered complimentary, great instruction both by a male dancer and the assistant C.D., our numbers grew as the word got out. I normally enjoy the pool but due to weather they didn't fill it 'till day 5, the outside was closed down for almost 48 hours during the storm. We participated in the T/A progressive trivia and missed a few options at that time of day, too much to do, too little time. Loads of activities, lectures even some of the evening entertainers and the C.D. with his magic performed extra afternoon shows. The entertainment troupe was newly formed at the beginning of our journey and improved immensely with time. My favorite guest entertainers "Oh What a Night" Jersey Boys style were exceptional. The cleanliness of the ship was impressive, I witnessed the early morning inspections on more than 1 occasion. The Star looked as good as new but had all of the charm of it's era, would take it again in a heartbeat, love those smaller ships. Finally the crew, so many smiles and always helpful, a couple of waitresses I could do without but they do work hard. Since the early 90's we have enjoyed the Norwegian Way. It was unfortunate that our ship had an azipod problem as we reached the Bahamas, the Captain chose to skip Miami and head straight for Tampa. We arrived a day & half early. NCL managed to arranged hotels and transportation changes and charges, we were more than satisfied but I have read a few cruise critic reports that were negative. Disembarkation was a breeze but more than half of the passengers were non U.S. passports making our line much shorter. Best part of all NO JETLAG! Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Generally, when we travel, the time comes that you just want to click your heels together and be back at home. This cruise was not one of those times. We are avid cruisers, having been on most lines. We left Colorado on the 3rd of ... Read More
Generally, when we travel, the time comes that you just want to click your heels together and be back at home. This cruise was not one of those times. We are avid cruisers, having been on most lines. We left Colorado on the 3rd of October. Although we’d booked our cruise only a couple of weeks prior to the sail date, we were able to take advantage of frequent flier points to keep our prices down. We spent the nights of the 4th and 5th at Holiday Inn-Ariel. Not a wonderful hotel, but good enough to keep us for 2 nights. We got an early check-in at about 1pm and hung out there for the rest of the day. The next day, they helped us with instructions as to which bus (route 285 and FREE) to take to get the Underground. We made it to London and spent the day on the hop-on, hop-off bus. Saw all of the highlights in the rain. The next morning, we took the “Hoppa bus” back to Heathrow and met up with others being bussed down to Dover. This transfer was $75, but well worth it, as carrying our luggage on a bus, on the Underground, to the train station, into a taxi and to the port sounded like a lot of work. When we figured out the cost, it was only a couple more dollars to take the NCL transfer, and once we were on the bus, it was the last we had to deal with our luggage until we had it delivered to our stateroom. We were celebrating our 34th anniversary on this trip, and everyone went out of their way to make it special. We were also NCL Silver tier prior to the trip and managed to skip Gold and go right to Platinum! No more long check-in lines for us with NCL again! Our stateroom. We generally get an “outside”, but decided to splurge with a Penthouse Suite (10226…aft corner). Was it ever worth it! At the terminal, we were whisked away to a line of one, met Roel (the concierge), got dinner reservations made, and were taken on the ship to Cagney’s for lunch. Now here’s where I started to worry, as we were seated, water was poured, lunch was ordered, and we were completely forgotten! Yes, we were served our lunch, but never checked on or offered anything else to drink. Dessert? Nope. (Not a problem, though, as we were excited to see our stateroom and then explore the ship). When our water ran out, I waved and waved and never was acknowledged. Luckily, we’d had bottled water for the bus ride which wasn’t removed during security screening, so we poured some for ourselves. NOT the way I’d thought we’d be treated! Staterooms were ready by 1:30PM. Within minutes of arriving, we met Asep, our room steward. He was wonderful throughout the trip! When, after a couple of rough nights, I mentioned that the duvet was just too warm, he found a blanket to substitute it with. Each time we passed him by, he’d chat. He’s probably the best room steward we’ve EVER had. Our luggage took quite a while to arrive. That was fine, as we used the time to explore the ship and start our use of the Ultimate Beverage Plan. I’d get that again, in a heartbeat! We were worried, as they have you sign a bill for the entire cost of the drink (including service charge), but when we finally got our bill at the end, the only costs were the tips we paid on top of the standard gratuity. Stateroom: Again, we had an aft-facing penthouse suite. The balcony had 2 lounge chairs with cushions and 2 chairs and a table. With all of that, there was still some room to maneuver and to stand by the rail and watch where we’d been (more on that later). The room had a king-sized bed, 4 chairs and a table, a pull-out single which was a comfy place to read, an ottoman (stained), the coffee maker, lots of glassware, a champagne bucket with a complementary bottle of champagne and a bottle of water…both on ice and cold! The bathroom seemed to have as much space as some cabins I’ve been in. Some folks say that the closet arrangement is awkward, but we really liked it as you could open doors on both sides to facilitate unpacking/packing, and dressing. There was so much storage space that we didn’t even open some of the drawers until we were packing to leave. (Too bad that the previous folks left a pear and a banana in one of those drawers! YUCK!) We didn’t meet our butler for a few hours, and when we did, he really didn’t offer much besides, “Is there anything I can help you with before I head back to the front where most of my cabins are”. I did get him to show me how to use the coffee maker, but there was no offer of unpacking, different pillows, etc. Oh well. He did deliver snacks between 4-4:30 each day, and changed them once we told him that we didn’t care for sweets. From that day forward, we got cheese. LOTS of cheese. General things: By now, most folks know that our ship had a problem and it shortened our cruise. Our aft balcony gave us a terrific view of both our “sea rescue” (they’d spotted something adrift, and we did a HARD left turn to approach it…apparently, it was a Canadian weather station which went adrift). After that, we began to see that the port Azipod wasn’t functioning correctly. Was it a result of the “rescue”? Who knows, but a LOT of folks saw this as the beginning of the end of their nice trip. When it was announced that our ship would skip Miami and end early, it began a panic. Lines everywhere. We took it in stride, and went out in the rain to play on the waterslide. Funny thing, the pool was closed for days, followed by the waterslides. They were doing repairs, I gather for the Western Caribbean cruises. But what about OUR trip? We had some beautiful days where we couldn’t make use of the pool. We also had a couple of VERY rough days. Some folks say 27 foot swells…personally, I believe that they were closer to 45 foot. Luckily, neither of us get sea-sick, though our steward had a tough time getting to the back of the ship to clean. He managed, though. We had shore excursion credit which we decided to use for Tampa. They don’t tell you, but it can NOT be combined. That is, you’re expected to use your credit in each port. $25 p/p with 2 ports wasn’t going to go far, and then Tampa excursions were cancelled. That’s $100 wasted, as we didn’t go on an overly price excursion in the Azores. Oh well, I won’t pick that again! The communication about getting off the ship early wasn’t as good as it could have been. Lines everywhere and a few folks threatening to sue. Really? We were relaxed about it, and NCL took good care of us by putting us up at the Marriott with $100 p/p vouchers for food and drink. On the Riverwalk, so we were able to walk to the aquarium. We met some of the most wonderful people on this trip, and hope to see many of them again. Internet: We had 250 free minutes. Usually, it took over 10 minutes to get into e-mail. When I ran into problems and went to see the internet manager, he was rude. I’m not sure that I can take another “working trip” unless internet service improves. And the manager? I hope that I’m not the only person he is rude to, and I hope that NCL finds a more pleasant person to replace him with. Entertainment: Kudos to the Cruise Director and his staff! There was an abundance of activities for various interests. If you’re “sporty”, there were basketball games, shuffleboard, etc. Like to dance? Lots of classes and dancing every day. A brain? Many trivia games daily, maritime lectures (Thanks, Dave!), etc. Crafty? Lots of things to do for them, as well. The production shows were just that….production shows. I’m not a juggling fan nor do I care for aerialists, but there was always something else to do….sometimes there was just too much to choose from! One place that they could improve would be to have a sing-along (either piano or guitar player who encouraged audience participation). Yes, they had a pianist and a guitar player, but we were not encouraged to participate. That would have made my evenings more fun. Staff: I’ve read other reviews and wonder what cruise those folks were on. The staff was about the best I’ve ever seen! The Maître ‘D of Aqua worked at the buffet during lunch, and always sought us out to chat. He also spent a LONG time helping fellow cruisers who’d had a rubber wheel separate from her wheelchair. Although communication was poor about NCL being able to help, he persevered and made sure that HER chair was repaired. The guys at 5 O’Clock were terrific, both our room steward and concierge were fabulous. Even the hotel director took time to talk to us, in a stairwell! Also, we were invited to dinner with the Captain (pay attention to your daily, as it was a small blurb about getting the chance to do this!), but he was too busy to attend. Instead, we ate with one other couple and the Staff Captain, and it was a highlight of the trip. Wonderful man with a myriad of stories. Food: Alright…this is VERY subjective. My husband was happy with nearly all of his meals. Personally, I found nearly everything over-salted. Makes me wonder what they were trying to hide….. Especially in Cagney’s. We had the UDP and ate in a variety of places. Food was fair to good, as far as I’m concerned. With so much of it, there was always something to eat, and I really never got hungry. Conclusion: I had worried about so many sea-days, prior to this trip. I shouldn’t have. NCL did a great job at mixing folks up and giving a lot of options as to what to do. Would I do this again? In a heartbeat! I just hope that I don’t have to bring work with me, next time! Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Some background before I write this review - we have taken numerous cruises on all levels of ships around the world (small, medium, large, riverboats, etc.) so we have a lot of reference points on what we like and expect as a function of ... Read More
Some background before I write this review - we have taken numerous cruises on all levels of ships around the world (small, medium, large, riverboats, etc.) so we have a lot of reference points on what we like and expect as a function of the price point and the specifics of what the cruise line advertises and offers as compared to their competitors. Having recently traveled on Viking (river cruise in China which we absolutely loved!), we wanted to try another ship with a small number of passengers. After a thorough search, we decided to give Windstar (and the Star Legend) our business - per their advertisement - "fully refurbished boat, approximately 200 passengers, gourmet food and wine, world class gym, elegant staterooms and unique and memorable shore excursions'. So let's discuss what was accurate and what was off the mark - the pro's - very spacious stateroom, cabin attendant was excellent, on-board entertainment was very enjoyable, Candles dinning was great, majority of crew worked very hard to make the trip memorable, and select staff management (Elena and Bianca) worked very hard to listen to our concerns and to the extent practical within their control make our travels and pleasant as possible, and the people were so much fun to meet. The cons - (1) for a refurbished ship, the interior was in dire need of a fresh paint and varnish (age of the ship was not well hidden), the bathroom was not updated - pealing paint and wall tiles in shower were old and separating), (2) wine - not paired with dinner or the countries visited, wine tastings were poorly planned and executed (rushed so the room could be turned over for dinner, no wait staff to serve additional portions to the customers, and wine selections ran out during dinner, "wine expert" was not organized and could not keep the attention of the customers) - we stopped going after day four, quality of wines served were average to below average at best and had low Wine Spectator ratings, (3) on-board dinning service - very dis-jointed for the first three days - meals were late (i.e. not everyone was served at the same time), side dished were missing or wrong, and if you ordered fish it was guaranteed to arrive overcooked and dry, (4) food quality - got better as the days went by but serving three shrimps on top of rice is not gourmet, (5) bar service - with the exception of a few bar staff, very inconsistent service for mixed drinks - long wait (10 minutes), wrong order, glass half-filled - deferred to wine and beer to avoid the the hassle which was not our preference, (6) broken water system during seal day - no showers or running water - things happen at sea so my issue is not that this happened but how the ship handled the situation - the captain made an announcement at approximately 9 am and mentioned that the water system broke and we would make a stop at Brest for repairs - not apologetic in any form and tried to make a joke about it - not funny for the guests who were stuck on board without a bathroom or shower - in terms of compensation - NONE...we asked them to open the bar and provide free drinks and were denied....the system was repaired and then broke again around 10 pm (no notice from the captain) - I called the front desk and the staffer did not understand why I was mad as he did not get a chance to shower (paying customer versus employee....where is the training...), (7) off-board dinner in Bordeaux - very elegant, classical music, wine in the courtyard and then dinner - only one selection - a meat dish that was served raw to myself and three others at our table - after 15 minutes and sending it back twice I decided not to eat the dried out mass in front of me. Two wines were served of which one was a beautiful 2001 Margaux - we each had one glass and asked for another bottle - they "ran out" even then we observed other tables actively getting additional bottles, (8) world class gym - broken equipment and missing weights - need I say more, (9) excursions - unlike Viking or other high end cruise lines, Windstar only includes two free shore excursions and the guests have to pay for any other trips so desired - the selections were marginal at best with the most notable being a wine tour of a local vineyard in the Medoc region of Bordeaux - expected elegant wines and encountered less than marginal samples - would have expected a higher quality vineyard to be made available. We did email Hans (CEO) a note summarizing our experiences and have not received any reply as of this review - not terribly surprised since he already has our money and from the experiences listed above, apparently does not have a keen focus on customer service. Some final thoughts and impressions - we probably wont use this cruise line again unless Han's contacts us and don't recommend anyone else using them unless you do a full due-diligence on all high end cruise and read the review, the ship management fell flat on attention to details and building/maintaining a strong and consistent team to perform and execute their respective duties flawlessly every time, and if you are going to offer a marginal experience then charge a marginal price so expectations can be tempered with reality. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Wow, what an experience! We left Dover, England on September 24, 2013 and arrived in New York City on October 10, 2013. If you hate flying like we do, you should consider a Trans-Atlantic re-positioning cruise as an alternative. We visited ... Read More
Wow, what an experience! We left Dover, England on September 24, 2013 and arrived in New York City on October 10, 2013. If you hate flying like we do, you should consider a Trans-Atlantic re-positioning cruise as an alternative. We visited Dover, Dublin, Glasgow, Belfast, Reykjavik, Qaqortoq, and St. John's. Plus, the best part, was a deviation in our route encouraged by the Cruise Director, John Heald, wherein the captain had an "ice-captain" come on board to navigate so that we could cruise through the Prince Christian Sound in southern Greenland. There is only one settlement there, Aappilattoq (population 132 in 2010), which John Heald and crew visited so that they could mail our postcards (provided by the Carnival Legend) home. Our postcard, however, never made it back to our home address; but the experience of seeing all those glaciers was magnificent! I would not hesitate to take another re-positioning cruise. The crew on the Legend was superb - they never stopped cleaning to keep us from getting sick - and the entertainment was the best. Thank you Carnival for making a memory that will last a lifetime! Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
I'm still coming down from a glorious transatlantic cruise - Dover to NYC, Sept. 25-Oct. 10th. In addition to the marvelous itinerary, which is what attracted me to the cruise in the first place, I was cared for and pampered by an ... Read More
I'm still coming down from a glorious transatlantic cruise - Dover to NYC, Sept. 25-Oct. 10th. In addition to the marvelous itinerary, which is what attracted me to the cruise in the first place, I was cared for and pampered by an incredible crew and entertained by some great headliners. In particular: A dedicated ship's crew that navigated us across seas rough and calm, past icebergs, through narrows and fjords, from Europe to North America. Our dining room crew of Andrea, Diyan, and Barbara who worked diligently to meet our every need in the dining room, and recognized and greeted us while they were working shifts elsewhere on the ship. Eva, the dining room hostess who saw to special needs of our little troupe. The chefs and cooks who fed us non-stop for 15 days. Our room steward, Domingo, who worked with us to ensure that 3 rather demanding guests were well taken care of, and Aldo, the steward of the next group of cabins down the hall, who stopped and chatted for a few moments every time we went past. All the stewards that created the absolutely amazing display of towel animals at the Lido pool! The 'quiet', but ever present staff that kept the ship clean and tidy - always at work cleaning, polishing, picking up, washing windows, and mopping up the fog from the open area of the lido deck. The tireless tender crew, taking us to and from Qaqortoq, Greenland. Victoria, the acupuncturist at the spa who worked with our physical problems throughout the cruise. The Park West Art Auction team for fun, champagne, and some great new pieces of art. Our cruise director, John Heald & assistant Kelvyn, the Legend orchestra, the singers and dancers, the comedians, the juggler, the illusionist, the guest singers - wow, what a fortnight of entertainment. We didn't see all the shows, but the ones we did were truly memorable. The Jazz Hot Show, Big Easy, and the back-up dancing to Justin Illusion by the Legend Dancers were all excellent. Violinist Izabella Zebrowska; Vocalist Emily Reed; Comedy Magician Adam Heppenstall; Vocalists Le Musica; Juggler John Nations; Illusionist and Dancer Justin Illusion; and Comedian Danny Buckler - Thank you for sharing your talent on the high seas. I can't get that kind of variety anywhere else! And this doesn't include the wonderful visits to Dover, Dublin, Glasgow, Belfast, Reykjavik, Qaqortoq, and St. John's. That's for a different blog. Thank you to the entire crew of 900+. You made my day (15 times over!) Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
After spending 2 weeks inScotland visiting friends, my husband and I rented a car and drove down to Dover, England to embark our cruise. The 8 hour drive went very smootly and when we returned our car they even drove us to the ship. ... Read More
After spending 2 weeks inScotland visiting friends, my husband and I rented a car and drove down to Dover, England to embark our cruise. The 8 hour drive went very smootly and when we returned our car they even drove us to the ship. Embarcation was a breeze and we were on The Eurodam and eating lunch by 11:30. After a great luch we were anxious to explore the ship. When you cruise alot and repeat many cruieline and ships it is alwasy fun to sail a new line and a new ship. The Eurodam did not disapponted. Our balcony romm was very spacious with lots of storage room. Love the fact the bathroom was well appointed and loved the bathtub. Holland America has what I consider the best bathrooms with the best amenties, I love Elemis products. Holland America has outstanding service as well. I could not find one thing that was below par. Friendly staff, great food, including room service and an overall feeling of calm. To say we enjoyed this cruise is an understaement. The ports were all amazing. Iceland, Greenland, Farrow Islands, Ireland and Newfoundland to name a few. A great opportunity to visit some out of the ordinary places. This is where I think Holland America excells. They offer more unique cruising experiences. We were so pleased we already have a cruise booked with Holland America doing a 30 night Pacific Islands cruise. Can't wait!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We selected the cruise for the itinerary and were not disappointed. Amsterdam, Zeebrugge and Dublin were as expected. While Torshavn, Faroes was interesting the scenery while cruising was the prize. Iceland was interesting, very like ... Read More
We selected the cruise for the itinerary and were not disappointed. Amsterdam, Zeebrugge and Dublin were as expected. While Torshavn, Faroes was interesting the scenery while cruising was the prize. Iceland was interesting, very like remoter parts of Scotland. Cruising by Greenland was magnificent and we were blessed with the weather. St John's Newfoundland was interesting, while Halifax Nova Scotia proved to be well worth a visit. The ship was very good; the food was the best; the staff were first class as you would expect. Sadly, the entertainment was a disappointment. Few production shows for a 17 day trip; soloists who thought it entertaining to tell us about the children and were full of their own importance. The real let down was the disembarkation in New York. While problems can happen, there is no excuse for not keeping the passengers informed as to why things were running over two hours late - there was a gap of over an hour between some announcements. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We returned on September 10, 2011 from a 17-day transatlantic cruise on the Eurodam that started in Dover, England on August 24 and ended in Manhattan with stops in Amsterdam, Zeebrugge (Belgium), Dublin, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, ... Read More
We returned on September 10, 2011 from a 17-day transatlantic cruise on the Eurodam that started in Dover, England on August 24 and ended in Manhattan with stops in Amsterdam, Zeebrugge (Belgium), Dublin, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, St. Johns (Newfoundland), and Halifax. The itinerary was spectacular. What attracted us was the nice mix of ports and at-sea days and the mix of exciting large cities (London, Amsterdam, Dublin, and New York) with remote cultures of the North Atlantic and with the charm of St. Johns and Halifax. We were not disappointed. It was a wonderfully varied cruise with times when we could completely relax and times when we were touring interesting places or sailing past jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery. The highlight of the trip was the day we spent scenic cruising on the Prins Christian Sund in Greenland. Through an incredible bit of luck, we had unusually good weather - cold, but very clear. The result was breathtaking. We spent the better part of the day cruising through a fjord with unbelievably tall, nearly vertical, sheer granite cliffs punctuated by glaciers and waterfalls. Because the weather was so uncommonly good, the captain extended the tour into a portion that no cruise ship had ever visited before. As they do on their Alaska cruises, HAL provided piping hot pea soup on the outside decks that was most welcome in the 30-degree (F) temperature. (For a fee, you could also get Irish coffee or brandy to warm you up.) It's a classy touch. And the crew serving it seemed as exuberant as the passengers about the sights. About midway through Prins Christian Sund, there was tiny village on shore. The ship sent out a tender with pizzas, and the tender crew also sliced off some ice from one of the icebergs floating in the sound and brought it on board for passengers who wished to have the unpolluted ice for their drinks. The next day, we stopped at Nanortalik, Greenland. One of the tenders returned with a bunch of children from the town and the crew treated them to pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, and a tour of the ship. We thought that it was a wonderful gesture. Some notable things: Boarding the ship in Dover and getting off the ship in New York were both speedy and painless experiences. We have found HAL to be remarkably efficient. We spent two nights in London before leaving for the cruise. Since it was a HAL pre-cruise, we were met at Heathrow and taken to our hotel (JW Marriott Grosvenor House). It's a great location. You can pretty much walk to most things you might want to see, including Buckingham Palace and the National Museum. HAL provided the bus transportation from the hotel to the ship. We are not buffet fans, so we can't comment much on the Lido except to say that the food looked attractive and varied when we walked through, and we never saw long lines, but since we weren't up there during a lot of meal times, I can't say that they did not exist. My wife went either at the very beginning or just before the lunch period ended and had a good experience when she purchased soup or a sandwich. We dined mostly at the Rembrandt Dining Room ("As You Like" dining). We had a few meals where we were at tables of four people. Eventually, we settled into a nice routine of making reservations several days in advance for 6:00 or 6:15 p.m. at a table for two, and generally got the same table (No. 111), overlooking the ocean. There were tables for two at either side of us, and night after night we would see some familiar faces, but we also wound up meeting some new people. For us, that seemed ideal: it had some of the characteristics of a fixed seating time (we got to know our serving staff and wine steward - it was a great crew!). We ate at the Tamarind twice. It was superb! It is one of HAL's best ideas, and I wish that all of their ships had it. (I think that the restaurant is available only on the Eurodam and the Nieuw Amsterdam.) It's an Asian fusion restaurant. The restaurant's menu has been endowed with tons of imagination and variety. The service is impeccable. We also dined twice at the Pinnacle. Once was on my birthday, where I gluttonized on a delicious steak. The second time was at one of the two Le Cirque dinners. Le Cirque is more expensive than the Pinnacle's regular $25.00 per person charge. The question is this: is it worth it? My wife and I would say, "yes." The weather: One of the questions we had before we took this cruise was this: how cold is it when you are cruising the North Atlantic in August-September? For most of the cruise we could go out on our veranda to take pictures, sometimes needing a fleece jacket, but it was generally too cold to sit out on the veranda for an extended period of time. There were a couple of times when this was not the case. In fact, one night when we were in port , we ordered dinner from the Rembrandt menu and dined out on the veranda. Bear in mind, too, that in addition to the wind speeds, you are on a ship that is moving at 18-21 knots, so there is a certain amount of wind chill that is generated just from the fact that you are on a moving ship. In any event, we'd suggest that you brings clothes that will allow you "layer" yourself well, and bring more long-sleeved shirts/blouses than short-sleeved. And how rocky was the North Atlantic? There were a few days when the winds were so extreme that it was almost impossible to push the veranda door open. (At those times, the ship also closed the outside decks to passengers - a sensible precaution, especially as there were times when the wind speeds reached 70 miles an hour, which is virtually hurricane force! The Lido deck pool was emptied once when the wind and rocking was significant enough to cause unsafe conditions for walking or sitting in the pool area.) But overall, there was actually less rockiness than we expected; however, being mid-ship was decidedly more stable than rooms closer to either end, as several passengers attested. There were several nights when the ship's rolling was strong enough that we had to put something in front of the drawers in our stateroom to prevent their opening and closing from waking us. We also had to take down hangers that didn't have clothes on them, since they, too, got rather noisy when they banged against each other. There was only one time when we felt that the rolling was very pronounced. Fortunately, it was while we were in bed, and, frankly, it was a rather enjoyable and even soothing feeling. During the at-sea days, we loved sitting by a window with a book or a drink and watching the waves. My wife also took photos of the 8 to 12 foot waves, capturing their fountains of spray, and sketching the result. There is a strange and enduring beauty in the waves when you are on the sea. It is one reason why we will definitely take another transatlantic cruise. In fact, the crystallized ginger candy which my wife brought along for possible nausea was not used for that purpose but rather (by her) for a little indigestion she experienced caused by rich ingredients used in dressing vegetables, making the scrumptious hot or cold cream soups and the elegant desserts. But what's a cruise without an occasional indulgence? In any case, she swears by the ginger candy, which she purchased at our local co-op (organic) food market. We heard very little about people experiencing sea sickness, and since there were the usual number of folks at meals, I suspect that it did not present a problem for most passengers. I would say, though, that if you are generally unsteady on your feet, you might want to think twice about a transatlantic cruise. It is going to be rockier than a cruise in (say) the Caribbean. My wife noticed many passengers with a motion-sickness prevention patch behind an ear. The lectures: This was another highlight. First of all, we've never been on a cruise before where the personality of the ship's captain played such a major role. Captain Darin Bowland was on several panels in the Queen's Lounge or Mainstage during the cruise. Two of his young children sat up front in the Queen's Lounge , watching their self-proclaimed non-cooking Dad give a memorable performance during a culinary "cook-off". During the show, the Cruise Director and the Captain attempted to make a winning venison entree with sautEed vegetables while two other staff persons accompanied their venison with a soup appetizer. The panel of judges (passengers) did not vote for the Captain's team; in fact, they found no menu item particularly palatable. When not cooking, the Captain is informative. He is hilariously funny (by the way, he could pass as a Jay Leno look-alike). He seems to love the work that he does. He gave those who heard him some insight into the kinds of issues that he and his staff face in managing a cruise ship. He also did some interviews on hurricanes and hurricane-tracking (we sailed when Irene was tracking up through the Northeast United States and into the North Atlantic), and they were broadcast on one of the ship's TV stations. On board for the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and Canadian segments of the cruise was Jon Sigurdsson who gave great lectures on the culture, geography, ecology, and geology of the region. He played to pretty full houses in the Mainstage Theatre. He also provided commentary during scenic cruising. He has a deft touch for mixing information, insight, and humor. In other words, he is a perfect speaker for this kind of cruise. The Accommodations: We stayed in a Deluxe Veranda Suite. It is spacious and well-appointed with a huge amount of storage space. There was even space under the bed to fit all of our suitcases (two rather large ones and two carry-ons with wheels). Mary Rose and Mina in the Neptune Lounge were outstanding, as were Nina and Chandra, our stateroom stewards. The Neptune Lounge provides concierge service, and, yes, they will handle pretty much anything that needs handling. While these are (admittedly) fine accommodations and worth the extra money, we met lots of people who were not in one of the deluxe suites who also found this an enthralling cruise. Dress Code: This 17-day cruise had five formal nights. Disembarkation: Getting off the ship was a breeze. We left the ship around 8:30 a.m., got our luggage, found a porter who accompanied us and the suitcases through Customs and to the street, where we hopped a cab to Penn Station to drop off our suitcases. Here's a tip from the porter: if you snag a porter to tote your suitcases on a wheeled cart up to customs, the agents service passengers with porters first. But, be patient with getting porters: remember that the Eurodam carries over 2,000 passengers and that they first announce disembarkation of those passengers who have planes to catch. We spent the day in New York (including a matinee performance of The Book of Mormon - by the creators of the HBO hit, South Park - which we highly recommend) and took Amtrak back home to Delaware. Entertainment: We were in bed before 11 most nights and while we both found one of the Mainstage shows rather entertaining (a couple who performed several routines while executing unbelievably quick changes of dancing costumes), my wife attended only one other show. At the 11:15 pm crew show, she particularly enjoyed the experience of watching an especially beautiful member of the Neptune Lounge staff from Bali flawlessly perform a 15-minute, enchanting "bird dance". However, we both liked relaxing with an after-dinner drink while the Adagio String Quartet played beautiful classical music from 6 pm to 10 pm each evening. Two different couples, passengers themselves, surprised the seated passengers with a lovely tango on two separate occasions. Casino: We both look forward to the day when HAL bans all smoking onboard - anywhere. For those bothered - as we are - by second-hand smoke we held our breath and moved quickly through the Casino area. In Sum: This is not a cruise for people who want non-stop activity and parties. For folks who like visiting a range of really interesting and sometimes fascinating ports, but who also like the peace and relaxation of at sea days, it is ideal - especially if you also enjoy excellent food, good conversation with well-educated guests, and intelligent lectures. One substantive complaint is that the Eurodam puts its library ("Explorers Cafe") on the top deck with the Crow's Nest. That's a goofy place to put a library: it is way too noisy and not very conducive to sitting and reading, especially when there is Muzak playing in the background and folks gathered around the bar at the Crow's Nest. Putting it on the 4th deck, as it is on most other HAL ships, seems a much better place for it. Another complaint was that we learned from other passengers that the tender service in Noratalik was extremely s-l-o-w with long lines and long waits, partially due to a mechanical problem. (Since that was the only port where we stayed onboard ship, we can't comment directly. It was quite cold and windy, and we opted to stay onboard.) There was also a luncheon buffet in the Pinnacle Grill to showcase culinary displays that drew long lines on one of the at-sea days; on another day there were long lines at a Polynesian-theme buffet around the pool. In other respects, however, the Eurodam is a wonderful ship. The "Rembrandt" theme works extremely well throughout the ship. The ship is kept spotlessly clean. We were on the Eurodam two years ago when we sailed on one of HALs Canadian/New England cruises, and we were glad to see that it remains such a beautiful and well-run ship. The crew were very friendly. In addition to the kudos mentioned above for our Neptune concierges and our stateroom stewards, we would also mention Temmy, our wine steward in the Rembrandt Dining Room, who was always eager to please and very amusing, and Anne Jameson, manager of the Pinnacle, who is a class act. Finally, Muji, who made the seating assignments in the Rembrandt when you arrived for dinner, (for those passengers with or without reservations), had nerves of steel. He never displayed anything other than a pleasant demeanor. On every cruise, there are always a few people who act like jerks - particularly when the matter at hand concerns food. They don't make reservations or they show up late for them, but then are put off because they don't get exactly the table or location they want. Muji was unflappable. We both came to admire his patience and good nature, even when a guest was being rude. In case you're wondering about us: I am 66, and my wife is 62. This is our fourth cruise (all have been on HAL). Excursions: Amsterdam - we took a HAL tour that include the Van Gogh Museum. Spent lots of time at the Museum and then took a very leisurely walk back to the ship on a route that took us past the Anne Frank House. Some passengers complained that none of the HAL tours included the Anne Frank House. The problem, we think, is that there are very long lines to get into it. We believe that the waiting time was 45+ minutes, and that is tough to schedule as part of a tour. It was moving to stand in front of it, however. Since it was a somewhat longish walk back to the ship, we stopped for tea at an outdoor cafe by one of the canals. Zeebrugge - we opted for a tour that included Zeebruge and Damme. Saw a lot of the Flemish countryside and learned some history. It probably would have been more interesting to have gone to Brussels, but we did enjoy the tour we took, and the tour guide was excellent. Dublin - like Amsterdam, a tremendous city with lots to offer. We took a HAL tour, and, again, an excellent tour guide made it worthwhile. We saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin and spent some time walking around (including a stop at a pub where I had a Guinness and my wife had her favorite pie - apple - which she declared was the best she ever tasted). We also did some shopping. One of our fellow passengers spent the afternoon at a performance of River Dance. They explained that they went to the tourism center in town and learned how to get tickets. We thought that was a neat idea: to go to a matinee performance while we were in port. We wish that we had considered that option, though we don't regret the tour. Faroe Islands - the weather was gloomy and a bit chilly, and towards the end of our tour of Torshavn (which included a fair amount of walking), it started raining. That said, our tour guide gave us a lot of insight into the history of the Faroe Islands and what it is like to live there. We were glad that we took the tour, despite the wretched weather. Rain gear is a necessity for this cruise! Reykjavik, Iceland - the only disappointment, not because of Reykjavik, but because the tour guide's English was not up to the demands of conducting a tour. We opted for a general tour of the city. Judging from our conversations with other passengers, touring the geothermal sites would have been far more interesting. And those who visited the Blue Lagoon loved it - this was true whether they took a Blue Lagoon HAL tour, one of which included an opportunity for a 3 hour swim in its warm water, with nearby showers and lockers, or opted to go out there on their own (which was undoubtedly a less expensive option). Greenland - as mentioned above, this was the highlight. It is an extraordinarily beautiful and fascinating place. St. Johns, Newfoundland - this was the only place where my wife and I opted for separate HAL tours. I did a tour that was more history-based, with visits to Cape Spear (you can see the WW II defenses there), Signal Hill, and the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, which is a pretty spectacular church. My wife opted for the Memorial University Botanical Gardens and loved it. The gardens are on 100 acres which university students reconstructed after a fire had destroyed much of the foliage. What resulted are beautiful and varied displays of indigenous flora and fauna as well as carefully constructed areas made to protect small animals and even butterflies. Halifax, Nova Scotia - since we had been to Halifax before, we didn't do a tour. We walked from the ship to the Maritime Museum and spent several hours there. It is a terrific museum. Lots of information on the Titanic and on the horrible 1916 explosion in Halifax harbor. It also has models of 19th century ships. It was a well laid out and very engrossing museum. There are nearby shops with intriguing art and sculpture which gave us the opportunity to purchase a thank-you gift for our cat-sitter. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
First: I´m Swedish, excuse me for bad english. Second: I´m a rather experienced traveller in many parts of the world. But this was only my second cruise of this kind of ship. The first was 7 days in Mediterranean on RCCL "Splendour ... Read More
First: I´m Swedish, excuse me for bad english. Second: I´m a rather experienced traveller in many parts of the world. But this was only my second cruise of this kind of ship. The first was 7 days in Mediterranean on RCCL "Splendour of the Seas" (SoS. And below I compare a bit to that cruise. The Itinerary was the only reason we choosed this cruise. (We had first the idea of going the 7-days with Cunard.) The Itinerary fulfilled our expectations. (And a bit more thanks to good weather through south of Greenland.)The only port with tenders was Greenland. And there it was surprisingly slow. I could write pages about the ports. But I only say they were well choosen. We took excursions in every port. And they varied from fantastic to boring. Sorry to say the latter outnumbered the former. Sometimes I suspect HAL had found their guides on the street. HAL provided us with many high quality lectures in the main stage before many of our ports. They were often so popular that the latecomers had to sit in the stairs. Eurodam is very beautiful seen from outside. But it´s function is in many aspects inferior to the much older "SoS". Many of the open decks in front were closed to passengers. (Security reasons.) Eurodam lacks the open top-deck. Instead one open in the back, and a half-open in the middle. I did not like the layout and design of some public spaces. (Bars etc.) First 8 nights we had a standard inside cabin. Avoid it! Fantastic large beds and good ventilation. But no floor space. Go for the large inside (with a sofa), unless you not travel with friends with larger cabin. Last 9 nights we had a veranda-cabin. And it was perfect in every aspect. (On SoS we had the second largest suite, nr. 8000, but the much smaller in Eurodam, was in some ways better. Food and service was superior than on the cheaper SoS. But I did not experience better food in the restaurants, Pinnacle and Tamarind, who charged extra. We had the best dinners in the main restaurant, Rembrandt. And the best service. Entertainment had it ups and downs. Mostly inferior to SoS. Would I go with HAL again? Very probable. If they are 20% more expensive than for instance RCCL, they give you 20% higher quality. (meals, cabins and service.) Would I go with RCCL again. Yes, roughly as probable. Or I will never cruise again. (Not so probable.) Or perhaps I choose i River Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Prior cruises have been on 700+ passenger ships. This was a second try at HAL for me and a fifth for my partner (going back to the "student" ships of the '50's) Overall a great itinerary and and a fabulous captain who ... Read More
Prior cruises have been on 700+ passenger ships. This was a second try at HAL for me and a fifth for my partner (going back to the "student" ships of the '50's) Overall a great itinerary and and a fabulous captain who provided smooth seas, great information on what to expect and unexpected sites and views that included including local communities in our adventure. On the other side, never again on a ship this size. The feeling on board is stilted and unfriendly compared to the smaller ships. The cabin for some reason had a foldout bed couch instead of a normal couch and chair. The couch was so deep no one short of 6'6" could sit on it without three deep pillows. I checked the Eurodam deck plans, and about two/thirds of the veranda cabins are configured this way. Because of the space taken up by this "couch," there is no room for a chair. If you want to spend any time relaxing in your room, avoid these rooms. Food was fine. We actually ate most of the time in the cafeteria ("Lido") for all meals, since it took so long in the main dining room for food that was really no better and a menu that was more restrictive. We tried Tamarind for lunch and dinner (premium price) and were not impressed. The same for Canalletto (no premium charged), which we tried twice. Staff and service were comparable to other lines. Note that there is no self-service laundry. So come prepared to pay for laundry, or with do-it-yourself supplies. The Library is combined with the computer area and doesn't provide a comfortable reading area. We couldn't find a comfortable, quiet reading spot anywhere on the ship. Charging for coffee or tea in the lounge is a bit much. Entertainment is noticeably more professional and varied than on a small ship. Shows were Vegas glitz sort of. One delightful pianist was like a Russian Victor Borge. The piano bar was all about the singer. Mostly, it was much too high volume, with forced electronic sound. We gravited towards a bar with a great jazz trio. Overall if you can enjoy a ship this size than it probably as good as its competition. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
EURODAM CRUISE REVIEW - AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTICI am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith an unretired homemaker who previously worked in health ... Read More
EURODAM CRUISE REVIEW - AUGUST 24 - SEPTEMBER 10, 2011 ROUTE OF THE VIKINGS - TRANSATLANTICI am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith an unretired homemaker who previously worked in health services. This was our 28th cruise, since 1999, including one river cruise. Without providing a boring laundry list of destinations, we have sailed in Tahiti and the Galapagos, around and in South America; to Alaska; made the usual Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean cruises and several Transatlantic crossings.Why This Cruise?It is reaching the point in our cruising life that we are having a little difficulty in finding new areas to explore. We will probably never do a Caribbean or solely Mediterranean cruise again, although we have two more Transatlantic crossings set which start in the Med. We have not done any cruises in Asia, mainly because we do not enjoy super long air transits.But this cruise had appeal because of its itinerary; Amsterdam, Bruges, Dublin, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada, and then a New York arrival. Edith was worried about cold weather, but after a hot Phoenix summer, I welcomed it. We had two prior short cruises with HAL and liked their professionalism, the ship-shape quality of their vessels; attributable to a line that has been sailing for more than 135 years; and the friendly attitude of their largely Indonesian staff. So we called our travel agent and made our plans.Pre-cruise PlanningEarly on in our cruising life, we learned the benefit of arranging as many of our own shore excursions as possible. We have found that you get a much better value most of the time. Alaska is an exception, since the excursions are limited, and the pricing is the same. On occasions we have found ships' tours that were unique and were reasonably priced. Somewhat surprisingly, Crystal Cruises offers some of the most reasonable excursions, which like everything else Crystal offers, were first class also. But we often have had privately booked experiences which, when compared with our fellow passengers tales of ship's excursions brought back on board, were evidently much better. It takes some effort, but through exhaustive web searches as well as information provided on the Cruise Critic Roll Call site, we have not only found excellent trips, but people to take them with. We spent a good deal of time lining up excursions for every stop except Amsterdam (we know the city and will use local transportation) and Nanortalik in Greenland, where the town itself arranges the sightseeing for everyone.Clothes planning involved some consideration. We are going to Arctic Circle climates, and we will be out of doors everywhere, so we needed to bring winter type clothing (or at least the Phoenix version of winter clothing). This included my Aran Island wool sweater that I bought on that marvelous island during an Ireland visit a number of years ago. I also brought a storm jacket acquired in Canada. I opted not to bring my tux for what we thought were four formal nights. This turned out to be a five formal night cruise. Edith uses some imagination to prepare for formal nights, and was more concerned about warm clothing for our outdoor excursions in chilly climes. We were a bit surprised when we got everything we thought we would need in one suitcase and one small duffel bag apiece as checked in luggage, along with back packs and small carry on bags with the travel necessities. ON OUR WAYBritish Air flies non-stop from Phoenix to London every day, so we booked them and splurged a little with Premium Economy. We use The Best Travel Store for our air purchases on overseas flights, and have been very satisfied. Our flight left at 8:00 P.M. and arrived on London at 1:00 P.M. We had booked a B&B in Dover called Maison Dieu, not because it was French, but because it was on Maison Dieu Drive in Dover. It is some distance from Heathrow to Dover, and while there are trains, it would have involved changing stations, hauling our luggage, in London. The B&B owners recommended Coastal Cars, and although we tried to find fellow cruisers making that trip around that time, we had to settle for a private car which cost £100.00. We were met promptly and, after buying UK pounds at the Barclay Bank ATM (which does not charge fees for Bank of America cardholders), drove down to our B&B for the overnight stay. Once there we got in touch with Bobi, our travel agent who was making the same cruise and staying at a Ramada near Dover, to join her and her cruising companion for dinner. The Maison Dieu is reasonably priced at £75.00, and the owners very friendly and helpful. Breakfast the next day was fine, and we did a little shopping in Dover before going down to the harbor to look at Eurodam docked there. Dover is a nice little town, easily traversed on foot. We loaded up a cab to go to the pier and boarded with minimal delay.EURODAMThis is a fairly new ship, having made its initial voyage in 2008. It is one of the two largest in HAL's fleet, carrying just over 2100 passengers and with a gross tonnage of 86,200 for a decent space ratio of 41.05. Holland America seems to favor a "mature" ambience, with dark wood walls and furniture, warm colors for their carpets, solid sofas and chairs, lots of reproductions of old Dutch art and artifacts. The lower exterior up to deck four is black and all above that white. The layout is normal. Deck 1 is mostly staterooms, with the front desk, the excursion and future cruise desks and a small atrium. Decks 2 and 3 are the main activity centers with access to the main dining room aft on both decks, and the theater forward. Deck 2 also has the Pinnacle Restaurant, a specialty restaurant open only for dinner with a $25.00 per person surcharge. The store area is a little unusual in that, except for one separate high end jewelry store, the display tables for all merchandise are in one open area. An open steel mesh curtain is lowered to create an aisle when the shops are closed. There is also a "Culinary Center" for cooking "shows"; a small motion picture theater, the casino and the usual array of bars and lounges. One room is dedicated to the computer "Learning Center". Decks 4 through 8 are virtually all staterooms as is Deck 10. Deck 9 has the typical "Lido" Buffet, swimming pool and spa-fitness center set-up. The pool can be covered, and was heated so that even in our cold climates, swimming was possible. There are three elevator banks, and the one midships has two outboard facing glass elevators on each side. For some reason these seemed to be the fastest and most convenient of all. One of the aft group of four elevators was out of commission the entire cruise.OUR STATEROOMOur stateroom, and it really deserved that designation, was one of the true "highlights" of the cruise. It was number 7079, and there are only 3 others like it on this ship. They are Nos. 7080, 6113 and 6118. Grab one if you can! This is the "Superior Verandah" class, but what makes these 4 cabins so neat is their special configuration. Eurodam widens out for the aft quarter of its length. These cabins are immediately in front of that "bulge", with the result that the verandah, in addition to its normal outward facing aspect, has an angled aspect looking forward down the whole length of the ship. This gave room for two comfortable arm chairs with ottomans, in addition to the normal side chairs and table. It also created a triangular area in the cabin for additional storage of stuff, if needed. Not that more space was really needed, we had plenty.There were three closets, with the center unit containing the safe, several shelves and one shirt hanger bar. Edith and I split the other two, and had plenty of room and hangers. The bathroom had a Jacuzzi tub/ shower, a separate shower and two sinks with Corian counters, plenty of room between the sinks, a shelf below and two corner toiletry shelves, providing more than enough space. The main cabin had two desks, one opposite the bed, really more of a dressing table with its lighted makeup/shaving mirror; the other to one side of the bed with its own window onto the verandah. One dressing table/desk had six drawers, the other two. The side desk also had the TV screen and the small refrigerator. There were two bedside tables, and each side of the bed had its own directed halogen reading lamp on a flexible arm for easy nighttime reading in bed. There was a full couch (which converted to a bed), an arm chair in addition to the two desk chairs and another cabinet which held two extra couch blankets, which Edith enjoyed.. There was also a decent sized coffee table in front of the couch. There was a large picture above the couch, two others on the wall next to the bed, a mirror above the bed and a full length mirror next to the bathroom door. There was room for all our items and enough space to get around comfortably. All in all this was one of the best staterooms we have ever had.PORTS OF CALLAmsterdamWe had spent several days on two occasions in this delightful, sophisticated city before this trip. Therefore we opted for the hop-on-hop-off canal trip, purchasing the all day tickets for 20 € apiece at the very modern cruise terminal. This building is within walking distance from the Central Station Plaza from which all the canal boats and most of the trams and buses originate. We actually boarded our canal boat closer to the cruise terminal and had a nice harbor view before we reached the central station area. The weather was nice; mixed clouds and sunshine and in the 70s and we had a fine time taking most of the canal routes (with some duplication) and enjoying the marvelous Amsterdam architecture. We stopped for a quick bite for lunch (having had a full breakfast on board to prepare ourselves for a full day), and at the Flea Market which was a disappointment. If you have never been to Amsterdam, we would recommend the Van Gogh, Stedelijk and Rijksmusems. The latter is huge, and probably cannot be properly seen in one day, but the first two are great on their own, and close to each other. Transportation by tram is fast, cheap and clean. If one does the canal thing, there are several companies, but only one hop-on-hop-off, and this is the recommended one for a thorough view of the city.BrugesZeebrugge is actually the present day port for Bruges, which was a major port and trading post itself up until the 17th century when its harbor silted in and caused an increasingly rapid decline which resulted in the city becoming almost "frozen" in time. The construction of the port in Zebrugge, about 12 miles away led to a gradual increase of tourist traffic, which by now has become the main focus of the city, showing off its late medieval and early renaissance architecture, easily accessible on foot or via its small canal system.Our plan had been to take a taxi arranged by Bobi, into town with instructions to return later. Unfortunately we waited in the rain for almost ½ an hour and no taxi. Edith and I were discouraged by the rain and returned to the ship. But since the daily schedule of events was pretty barren, we decided to take the shuttle bus provided by HAL to the train station in a nearby town called Blankenburg, and were on time to catch a cheap round trip fare to Bruges. We arrived shortly before noon, walked around this very quaint and attractive town, took the 30 minute canal tour, had a real Belgian waffle, very light, crisp and tasty with powdered sugar, and coffee for 6 € and wandered into the main square, always on the lookout for Belgian chocolate We noted that the restaurant prices for a regular lunch were very, very high; e.g. € 45 for bouillabaisse. I recall paying about 20 € in Cannes ( in the area where it was first made over 2000 years ago) in 2003. On the way back we explored Blankenburg, which had a nice shopping street and more reasonable prices. DublinHere we had two separate excursions, one routine, the other most unique and surprising. On this quiet Sunday morning we took a bus tour of the city provided by our travel agency. It was pleasant, and we saw some lovely Georgian neighborhoods with their vibrant, differently colored front doors. We then went to Trinity College, which is very striking. But since the line was very long for a glimpse of the Book of Kells, we all opted to return to the ship at about noon. There we, and another couple met John Kenny, who runs Hidden Wicklow. John loaded us into his Land Rover and off we were to Wicklow County, a very rolling, hilly and rural county south of Dublin. John is a young man who spends his weekdays as a barrister, drafting legislation for the Irish Parliament. He has lived in Wicklow since birth, less a few overseas trips, and knows absolutely everything about his home area. We carefully avoided all the normal tourist areas, stopping off first at a little known graveyard, still being used, but also holding stone tablets identical to those in Estonia, all carved by Vikings in about 850 A.D. We then traveled through the beautiful countryside, with lush valleys and raw, bog encrusted hillsides, where John cut us some turf, and told us how it was used in fires. We visited an ancient monastery with a marvelous tower where the only door was at least 12 feet off the ground to facilitate repelling invaders. We went to a graveyard for German airmen who accidentally, (or maybe not), overshot England in the bombing raids of WWII and were interned safely in neutral Ireland. At this spot he provided us with lunch; very nicely done sandwiches, and a fruit cobbler made of a local berry which had to be picked, one berry at a time, from the local woods. John had done both the picking and the cooking and it was delicious! We visited "Killruddery", the home of the ninth Earl of Meath (although no such titles are used in Ireland) This was not just a beautiful, stately home, but also a working farm with a wonderful vegetable garden. The home is still occupied by the family, who welcome locals and visitors, and also lent the grounds for concerts, one of which was to be held that day. We traveled through a quiet deep farming valley where John said the same few families had farmed the land for many hundreds of years. The sun was setting over a lovely view of Dublin as we returned to the ship after more than seven hours of marvelous insight into one of Ireland's most beautiful and historical counties. John is a superb guide, and this ranks with Patrick Watt's tour of the Falkland Island as one of the most memorable we have ever done.Faroe IslandsWhere? Well, the Faroe Islands are 600 miles north of Dublin (so we had a sea day, as we did between Bruges and Dublin) and 250 miles north and slightly west of the northwestern tip of Scotland. We docked in the capital, Torshavn, and joined a group again lined up by Bobi. This time the driver appeared in his Mercedes van and 10 of us took off to see this remote country. Perhaps not surprisingly, the countryside resembles both the Western Highlands of Scotland and Iceland, about 300 miles to the west. Torshavn [that's right - no "e"] holds about 17,000 people and the total population of all the islands is about 48,000. The three main islands are roughly parallel to each other. Torshavn is on Stremoy, Vafgar, where the airport is located is to the west and connected by a long tunnel. We drove up Stremoy, and crossed a short bridge to Eysturoy, to the east passing through several small towns. Few, if any people were around, and our guide, who spoke pretty good English, said most worked in Torshavn, or were out fishing, which still is an important part of the economy, despite some growth in information technology. The Faroese are Scandinavian. The islands have a large degree of political autonomy, some legal ties to Denmark, and the people speak both Faroese and Danish. The Danish Krone is the currency. The farms raise mostly sheep, and are attractive in the Scandinavian style. It purportedly is very windy, but was not bad when we got out of our van and wandered around some quiet towns. The Faroe Islands would not precisely fill one's concept of a dream vacation spot, but have a quiet charm and barren beauty.IcelandIn contrast, Iceland is a very interesting, starkly beautiful, surprising and vibrant country. We spent four days there in June 2005, and greatly enjoyed it. The offerings for excursions were many, but based on the fact that we had been to Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geysirs (an original Icelandic word, spelled that way) and the Blue Lagoon, we opted to rent a car, persuaded another couple to join us and went to two small towns, Akranes and Borgarnes, and then the Thingvellier National Park. Akranes is a small fishing village a few miles north of Reykjavik and offered a nice view of the water as well as a lighthouse. Borgarnes has the Cultural Center, which provides a narrated guide through Icelandic Viking history. Their written records go back to about 850 A.D. and the entire show, costing about $15.00 per person, was fascinating. We then left for Thingvellier, and made a few false directional starts, but arrived there not too late to enjoy it. Basically it has two claims It is the site of the first true parliament in the western world. Everyone would meet on an annual basis and make community decisions. It also marks the division between the two major tectonic plates in the northern hemisphere. There is an attractive visitor center and marvelous views out over the plains and a nearby lake. All in all it is a striking place. While driving we noted the truly beautiful Icelandic farms, widely spaced over rolling hills, and populated with sheep and graceful Icelandic horses, whose bloodlines have been kept pure for over 1000 years, and whose special stride enables them to carry people over the rough volcanic ground in the smoothest possible style. This is indeed a country in which one could enjoyably spend a lot more time; although it is expensive.GreenlandIt could be said that we spent two days in this icy wilderness. The first day was spent cruising into Prince Christian Sound, and the second in the town of Nanortalik. We had not expected much when the cruise guide said we would be cruising the Sound, but it turned out to be very striking, sailing almost due West, up a fjord-like body of water, sometimes fairly close to steep, snow covered shores with frequent waterfalls, and a view of the actual ice cap that covers most of this huge, virtually empty island. The Sound gives way to other water bodies at its west end, and on one of these we stopped to view a small Inuit community called Aqappilattoq. The captain sent in a small boat from the ship, not one of the large tenders, but a Zodiac type of craft, delivering pizza, we were told. Several small boats from the village came out and circled us, with their crews and passengers - 3-5 at the most - cheerfully waving at us. We then exited south to the open sea and proceeded, on a full sea day, around the southern tip of Greenland and up its West coast to Nanortalik.This is a town of about 1500 people, mostly Inuit. They are visited by about 3 cruise ships a year, and set up a small event for these visits. For $20.00 US per person we were given entre into a small choir presentation at a local church and a coffee, cake and dance show at the local community center. The choir sang in a very pretty Lutheran church, and the group consisted of four women, five men and the choir director; who led the initial song with an organ chord, but conducted the balance a capella. The singing was in Greenlandic, but a Danish man gave short introductions for some of the songs. It was very beautiful and a most delightful experience. The coffee, cake and dance show was enthusiastic and pleasant, if not great dance; mostly by young people. We strolled around the town; looking at the small neat homes, mostly with flowers in their front windows, as we saw in the Faroes and Iceland. There was a gift shop, but it was so small and crowded (we were there only from 7:00 to 2:00 P.M. and had to tender back and forth) that it was extremely difficult to see, much less ponder the purchase of anything. The prices were quite high also. We reboarded in time for lunch at the buffet, which we shared with about 50-60 children from town, invited to see the ship. I am sure they had a marvelous time, especially the child who managed to smuggle his puppy aboard, to the great delight of the buffet staff. It was a mite chilly on shore, but not really too bad, and we considered this a delightful and very different port.St. John's NewfoundlandSt John's Newfoundland [not to be confused with St. John (no "s") New Brunswick], is much larger and more settled that we expected. We had envisioned Newfoundland as rather desolate, rainy and windswept, but were surprised by the very well kept, up to date ambience of this city, which has an urban area population of close to 200,000. The fishing economy collapsed in 1990, but new oil and gas operations have given the area a strong economic boost. We were transported to the airport Thrifty, a trip which took about 15 minutes, to my surprise. There our group, consisting of Edith and myself and a Winnipeg family , parents and 12 year old daughter, boarded our rental car and drove about 30 some mikes to Bay Bull. Why it is called this and not Bull Bay, I have no idea. But here we noarded the Gatherall's family catamaran to go out in search of whales and puffins. There were about 20 of us on board, which gave us all enough room and ability to walk about when we were able to in the Atlantic swells. We turned up whales just outside the bay in the Atlantic after a 20 minute ride and were able to get close and follow three fin backs for a half hour or so. The do not come as far out of the water as the Pacific humpbacks but are very large and impressive when seen from our close viewpoint. We then moved over to Witless Bay and circumnavigated one of the four puffin ecological preserve islands in this bay. Puffins are actually a lot smaller bird than we imagined, but their bright orange, parrot- like beaks make them very attractive. They came quite close to the boat, landed in the water, dove quickly for fish, and then flew to the island to dive back and disappear into the bright green ground cover plants where their chicks awaited dinner. We were told they mated for life, and lived about 16 years. This was a fascinating show. The crew was amusing and informative. Most inhabitants of Newfoundland are of Irish, Scots and/or English heritage, with the Irish being very apparent in Melinda, our guide. We had hoped to see the Salmonier Nature Reserve on our return but unfortunately it closed at 3:00 P.M., so we drove back to St.John's by a different route, and enjoyed seeing the area. The whale and puffin trip was well worth it, however.HalifaxHere we had another private tour arranged by Blue Diamond Tours, a small local company. We chose to stay away from Peggy's Cove because there were two other cruise ships in Halifax that day, so a total of more than 6000 people would be traveling around, many of them to Peggy's Cove. Our excursion company had offered a wide selection of options on their website, and we chose the Eastern Shore. There were six of us in a nicely sized van, one couple from Australia and the other from Las Vegas. Our driver had been born in Halifax and was extremely knowledgeable. We crossed on one of two bridges to the Dartmouth side and went south down the harbor and the east along the coast. Our first stop was at a long public beach, where there was a good ocean surf, and some surfers in the water with wet suits. I went out to the shore edge to test the temperature, and found it to be pretty reasonable, not too cold for swimming for someone like myself who is used to the cold California Pacific and even North Sea Danish coast. We then went to a small port town and out onto a pier to see the lobster boats and lobster traps piled up everywhere. We next visited a wonderful farm house of about 900 square feet, which at one point housed a couple with their 13 daughters! The youngest of these had died in her 90s a few years ago. From there we went to a Heritage site, where the local people had restored about 11 various farm buildings to their status in the early 20s and 30s. We also were fed in a "cookhouse"; a meal with excellent soup and marvelous baked beans. We spent a lot of time going through these structures to see how people lived, and be reminded of our own backgrounds, at least in my case, of the late 30s. We returned to the ship after an excellent and reasonable ($115.00 per couple) five hour excursion, with no other tourists anywhere.FoodThis subject is of great interest to all contemplating a cruise, but is rather subjective in outlook. There is not actually a vast difference in the approach to food service taken by the major cruise lines; nor can there be, given the environment in which it must take place. There is one area in which cruise lines are beginning to try to separate themselves from competitive lines, and that is in the widening use of specialty restaurants. This is most apparent in the newer ships which have featured these alternative dining spaces in their designs.HAL is a little behind the times here, with Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam; their latest, having only two. These are the Pinnacle Room, basically an upscale, dinner only, dining room with a $25.00 per person surcharge, and Tamarind, an Oriental food venue with free, but reservation only, lunch and a dinner with a $15.00 surcharge. We received a complimentary dinner at the Pinnacle Room for early booking of the cruise, and enjoyed it, but only had a disappointingly bland lunch at Tamarind. Others reported well about their dinner there, but it was not well designed for Edith's vegetarian requirements.The main dining room, the Rembrandt, had fixed seating for two times, 5:30 and 8:00 on its upper (Deck 3) level, while it offered open seating from 6:00 to 9:30 on its Deck 2 level. We chose our normal early fixed seating, believing it to be at 6:00 as on all other ships with this system (now becoming more rare since "open" dining is gaining popularity); and were discomfited with the 5:30 time. We like fixed seating, especially if there are six or eight regular attendees, but had we known, we would have elected open dining, and shown up at 6:00 to 6:30.We were also disappointed in that there was only one other couple at our table for six. We enjoyed their company, but there were several nights when only one couple was at the table.We are not wildly enthusiastic about HAL's food. This is especially true of their vegetarian offerings, which were limited to one per meal, and inspired in neither selection or preparation. The full menus were pretty standard in both selectionand preparation. On a scale of 1-100 I would rate HAL at 82, Princess 83, Celebrity 88, Oceania 92 and Crystal 97. We have had only one Royal Caribbean and one Norwegian, and don't really have a good basis to rate them, but would probably say about 80 for both. The food service was good, although our waiter seemed a bit overloaded with three tables when all were full. The buffet also had some problems. The layout was confusing and the signs not always informative. Ostensibly for health purposes, food was dispensed by buffet servers or stewards, including coffee; which made that item slow. However after two days the buffet service by ship's personnel was somewhat hit and miss, so the health goal was not well attained. Seating was overcrowded and difficult at times since the weather did not allow outside seating aft of the main Lido dining area. The breakfast selection was reasonable, although the potato offerings were inconsistent, and the ship ran out of apple juice on the third day. The coffee in the Lido was pretty bad, but the one time we had breakfast in the dining room it was pretty good. Once I figured out where the more exotic, Asian lunch items were located, I enjoyed these. The food in the buffet was served directly on large plates. The Food Service Manager told us that HAL had stopped using trays in the buffet and that this has resulted in substantially less waste. It worked out pretty well, although if you wanted to keep your utensils, you had to make sure your dining companion was on guard against the rapid removal of apparently used dishes and cutlery by the buffet staff. I should note that each night a portion of the buffet was set aside for Canelo, an Italian food setup with waiters, linen napery etc. at no extra charge.On Board Activities and EntertainmentHAL does not rate highly in this area. We had read that they realized the weakness of their activities on short cruises (and we experienced that on both Zaandam and Veendam on one week Caribbean cruises) and were going to remedy this on their longer cruises. We did not see much of this except for the lecturer for the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. This was Jon Sigurdson from Iceland. He did several lectures in the main theater, which were always well attended and enjoyed. His amusing and relaxed, but very informative talks added to our enjoyment of the Viking countries we visited.Aside from this there was an astronomy lecturer that we did not attend, and a "techspert"; a young lady named Kristin who ran a series of computer and camera classes, often twice a day or even more, in the "Kings Room" a small room on Deck 2 that was equipped with about 20 laptops. This was a nice concept, but there was obviously a limit to the number of people who could avail themselves of this, and the classes moved quite rapidly, so there was the danger of being left behind. Many of them were repeated during the cruise however. On most sea days there was a presentation or "show: in the Culinary Arts center, which has a small theater setup with a stove top on stage. Most of these had a comedy approach, and the one in which our very friendly Canadian Captain attempted to cook was amusing. Most of the balance of the offerings were typical cruise games, contests and sales pitches for stores and the spa.The evening entertainment in the theater had some variety and two pretty good singers, one male, one female as well as two typical "Singers and Dancers" shows. There was a flutist, a pianist who had us worried if the instrument would survive her attack, a couple of comedians and a dance/quick change artist couple. All in all, we considered the evening entertainment to be of average quality; not up to Celebrity or Crystal, but better than our last Princess cruises, and most others.A daily ship's version of the New York Times was available in many national editions. In addition, one could go on line, without charge, in the internet cafe and bring up the e-mail version of the Times. Internet communication otherwise was not free, of course. I paid $55.00 + tax for 90 minutes, and it was slow. The in-room TV was sporadic in its pickup of satellite programs, as is normal when at sea. What was annoying was that the program listing for the in-house shows, including several movie channels was totally inadequate and uninformative. Nor did it enable you to see your on board account - pretty poor service for this day and age. The Crew and the ShipHAL runs a very high quality, ship-shape operation. The crew is constantly cleaning, and the results are apparent. The crew is also uniformly pleasant and attentive. Our cabin attendants were on the spot all the time, and always had a smile. The wait staff and buffet staff were equally nice. The Captain gave detailed, very understandable reports of progress, which was well appreciated because of two hurricanes, Irene and Katya, which posed possible threats. The officers made sure you knew that their families were on board, the Captain's three children obviously enjoying Dad's failures as a cook. As on all HAL ships, the stateroom attendants and wait staff in the dining venues were Indonesian, except for the wine and liquor servers who are non-muslim Filipinos. There was some upset over the store manager who would announce raffles and then cancel them with little notice, but he was not a HAL employee. There were a few days of high seas, but no reported motion sickness, merely some swaying as one walked about. The outer decks were closed a few times as the wind approached 70 knots, but the ship remained very steady. Often people on Cruise Critic wonder about the North Atlantic crossings. This is the third westbound crossing we have made, all in fall months, and all without disturbingly high seas. We have also done two eastbound cruises, from Rio to Barcelona and from Baltimore to Rome, both in the spring and equally smooth. The highest seas we have ever had have been going north up the Baja coast and west to Hawaii from California.DebarkationThis was the slowest we have ever experienced, and it was due entirely to the customs/immigration authorities, no doubt as frustrating for HAL as it was for us, since there were still passengers on board when we left at about 10:15. The new arrivals were to start boarding around 11:00. (We read one review which said that the early debarkees exited very promptly, but progress certainly slowed down later.) However, there were three ships arriving at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, Carnival Glory, which had joined us in Halifax and Norwegian Jewel, which might have accounted for the delay. There was a very long line for taxis, but, as a born New Yorker, I believed I could walk one block to 11th Avenue and catch one there, which we did, and were on our way to pick up our rental car and drive to Long Island to visit my sister. Overall EvaluationThis was a cruise with highs and, if not exactly lows, some weak spots. The high points were the ports of call, the overall itinerary, our delightful stateroom; the general high quality of Eurodam as a ship, and its very pleasant staff. The food would be rated as medium to quite good; and the on board entertainment and activities as fair to medium. It is probably not a cruise one would do twice (although our friend Bobi had done just that) but certainly well worth doing once. We should note that of the 2100 passengers, about 450 had done a back to back with the cruise through the Baltic preceding our trip. Since we chose this cruise largely for its itinerary, and not for on board shows and activities, we were certainly not disappointed, and considered this an excellent adventure.Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
This was my second TransAtlantic, first being on the QE2 (with a return on the Concorde :) ) about 20 years ago. It is not my preferred sailing itinerary, but my husband really likes the sea days. This was my 4th time on this cruiseship, ... Read More
This was my second TransAtlantic, first being on the QE2 (with a return on the Concorde :) ) about 20 years ago. It is not my preferred sailing itinerary, but my husband really likes the sea days. This was my 4th time on this cruiseship, with most recent, in March 2010 to South America. Other two times were to Alaska. Overall was cruise #67 for me, I'm Platinum with NCL. We were in the UK for 2 weeks prior to sailing, split between London and Glasgow. Stayed the night prior at the Premire Inn in Dover, after taking National Express Bus on one of their bargain runs from London at about $20 for both of us. The morning of the cruise, I easily rolled a suitcase to the laundry mat and had all clean clothes for the cruise. :) Embarkment was simple as, I didn't bother until about 1:30pm. The lobby of the hotel was lined up real early with people waiting. The ship is a nice size and easy to get around. Staff was consistently friendly and helpful. Our room stewards were excellent, as always for our inside cabin. We ate in the main dining room, buffet, Pacific Heights, Sports Bar, Italian and Le Bistro. There were enough choices to find something likable. Food is not my priority, price is. This cruise was a bargain give away, so any "food" complaint, I don't find too valid. All lines, after taking 4 cruises this year on three lines, have cut back, bottom fact. The only port was Lisbon, which I had a wonderful independent walking tour, set up by a Roll Call poster. It was excellent and loaded with history. The other port was skipped due to rerouting due to Hurricane Otto. There were a few days of rough sailing- I wished there were more, as it tells me, I'm on a ship. :) I admit, I am bored silly on sea days, so I spent a good deal of time reading and doing puzzles. There was a movie every day in a lounge which was limited in seating space. The shows were good, some great. Not too much going on during the daytime, that could have had more offerings, perhaps. Never any waits for the main dining room at breakfast or dinner. Service was excellent. Disembarkment was highly criticized, BUT this sailing required ALL guests to report to Customs on the ship, at scheduled times, which they did not. Repeated announcements had to be made. It WAS the best option having it done on the ship, as it avoided, having to haul luggage around and line waiting, which people did not seem to realize. People also did not seem to realize, these are features of today's travel, lines. :) We had prebooked with Cruise Express for the transfer to MCO. Very efficient and excellent value at $20pp. Overall another very good cruise for the two of us. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
After reading all the reviews of the Sun before leaving for our cruise, we were somewhat uncertain what to expect. We have to admit that we were pleasantly surprised with this cruise. We had excellent service and one of the quickest ... Read More
After reading all the reviews of the Sun before leaving for our cruise, we were somewhat uncertain what to expect. We have to admit that we were pleasantly surprised with this cruise. We had excellent service and one of the quickest embarkations ever. We were impressed with the staff from the time we stepped on board. We loved having a balcony room on the port side of the ship as we had the sun from morning until night. And that side of the ship seemed warmer and out of the breeze. We were disappointed, as were others, that we could not go to the Azores because of Hurricane Otto but respected the Captain for protecting his passengers and ship. We thought NCL would do something more than $4.23 credit per person to try and provide quality customer recovery. We realize no one controls the weather, but it would have been nice if they had given everyone a voucher to use at a restaurant or for ship activities. Our cabin stewards were great and we usually avoided the buffet and ate breakfast in the dining room or in the Pacific Heights. This is a very private area and we were very happy with the food provided there. We also enjoyed the Sports Bar especially the popcorn at 2 pm. We attended all the educational movies in the afternoon about Magellan, the Vikings, the Spanish Armada etc and felt there should have been more movies like that for a cruise across the Atlantic. I am not sure that NCL takes into consideration that a transatlantic cruise requires a different venue for daily events...9 days at sea requires some variety. We enjoyed golfing in the Ryder Cup which really enabled us to meet other golfers on the cruise. We truly enjoyed the DOTS Cruise Critic group and all the activities that were planned for us to socialize. In summary, we would love to do another TA cruise again. We highly recommend booking a balcony cabin as it was one of the best things about this cruise. We thoroughly enjoyed the privacy it gave us and the magnificent view of the ocean both day and night. The downside of this cruise for us was the NCL disembarkation. It was very unorganized and their was a noticeable lack of leadership among the staff. It was as if they hid from the chaos and didn't want to assist in the process. There was no excuse for the crowded halls of people waiting to leave. We stood in line for 45 minutes in a crowded stairway and we were among the carry off your own luggage group. At that point, we were happy we had not put down the deposit for a future NCL cruise. We never want to go through that craziness again. Everything else about the Sun was good for us and we would like to see the ship after it is dry docked...this cruise made us want to take another...maybe NCL, maybe not. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We left on 10/4/10 from Dover, England on the Norwegian Sun as a 1st timer on this cruise line for a 12 day Trans Atlantic to Pt.Canaveral. We encountered many problems and being the Sun is an older ship from the fleet, it might be ... Read More
We left on 10/4/10 from Dover, England on the Norwegian Sun as a 1st timer on this cruise line for a 12 day Trans Atlantic to Pt.Canaveral. We encountered many problems and being the Sun is an older ship from the fleet, it might be expected. Our toilet would not flush 5 different days of the trip and the worst was at 4AM with water overflowing on floor. Besides being ill with a high fever, this plumbing problem made it worse. All of these occurrences were documented by the reception desk. We were offered a different cabin but we declined because it was not a balcony as we already had. The disarray and confusion that happened on exiting the day of disembarkation was not acceptable.There should of been an organized meeting place for calling the colored tag groups of passengers to the gang plank instead of a mass of people falling upon each other. The food was nothing special. It was too crowded at the buffet with the staff getting in the way of the small walkway. Would of been nice if there was staff directing you to tables. We chose Norwegian because of Free Styling but with the discomfort that happened I would opt not to select it again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We have been on NCL 3 times previously so we knew exactly what to expect. This ship exceeded our expectations. The staff were wonderful, especially our room stewards, Jonathan and Ferdinand. They went above and beyond to make us ... Read More
We have been on NCL 3 times previously so we knew exactly what to expect. This ship exceeded our expectations. The staff were wonderful, especially our room stewards, Jonathan and Ferdinand. They went above and beyond to make us comfortable. The only staff that were not so friendly were the counter servers in Las Ramblas. They acted as if we were bothering them asking for tapas--this is not the table wait staff. They were as friendly as could be. Getting on the ship was easy--we just walked on and our rooms were ready. We loved the food in the MDR's. We ate at La Bistro on my birthday. The food was outstanding, but the portions were so huge that an entire family could have dined on our two dinners. Some of the entertainment was fabulous. Some so-so. We especially enjoyed the hypnotist, comedian and comedian/juggler. We are not great fans of Las Vegas style entertainment, but that is us. Others love it. We visited the gym every morning and found the equipment to be the same as at home except for the TV screens on the treadmills, bikes and elipicticals.We had no complaints about the ship, food or entertainment, except the Dazzles Lounge. It smells of mildew and mold and seems to need a good airing out. Also, the cabin TV's are ancient and get uninteresting channels. We did like the FREE in room movies though. We enjoyed the relaxation of not having to hurry up to get off the ship because there was only one port day, Lisbon. The weather was miserable at the beginning of the cruise, and there were many seasick passengers, but we were not disturbed. We knew that crossing the Atlantic could be rough. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
I'd read complaints about the food not being very good on this ship, and the buffet area being short on seating, so I pleased to experience the opposite. My husband and I did not love every dish we tried, but over all the food was ... Read More
I'd read complaints about the food not being very good on this ship, and the buffet area being short on seating, so I pleased to experience the opposite. My husband and I did not love every dish we tried, but over all the food was good. The fish was always good. I was pleased with the variety of choices offered in the buffet at lunch and supper. Some days we ate every meal at the buffet and we never experienced a lack of table availability. I was surprised and pleased that both soft serve and regular ice cream was offered free. We tried two of the "pay extra" restaurants. The Italian place was just OK, nothing special. The Steak place served a very good shrimp cocktail. The 4 of us were pleased with the steaks. However 2 of us ordered "medium" and received WELL DONE. It took 3 tries to get my tenderloin done MEDIUM, (first one was dry - too well done, and second one was much too rare) The staff was very concerned about getting it done right, so we were impressed by their effort to please. Our room staff was very friendly and accomodating. No complaints about the room - the bed was fine. They could provide an option to the comforter. I found it much too warm for use most nights even with the AC turned up to the max. I asked for something less heavy, but nothing was substituted. We had a balcony room on the 10th level, slightly aft. The entertainment could have been better. Not enough choices during the day hours, and the evening music/dancing options were too late. We'd have liked some live music in a lounge area at about 7:3o so that if we did not care to go to the floor show, we'd have had an option for after supper. The TA part of the trip was fine. We had to skip a port due to a storm in that area, so too bad. Better to miss the port than sail into a storm, yet we heard complaints. The Carib. part of the cruise had major anoyances. In Port Canaveral getting off and on the ship was the most difficult I've ever experienced. The EASY OFF -take all of your luggage with you and walk off sooner than the other folks, was NOT easy. My husband lost one and a half hours of his excursion time due to not being able to get off at the time told to us. People gathered in the atrium area and became aggitated over standing in a long unmoving line. On our dis-embarcation day we were told that a pasenger fist fight broke out in the atrium over a line-jumping issue. Also there was a very badly handled line problem at the KEY WEST port. We were gine a notice that we had to come down to the Stardust by floors, starting at about 6AM. Then another notice came and said 7 AM. When we showed up at 7:25, we discovered no line movement had happened. We stood in line for awhile and then decided to go to breakfast. After breakfast the line was amazingly long! Some folks stood in that line nearly 2 hours! The staff should have used the PA to tell people to stop coming down, and/or told the early birds to go back to their rooms and await another anouncement to come down. Only two "officials" were doing the document checks, and they had arrived later than expected. Getting up very early, to stand for a long time in an unmoving line, is not a good way to start a day! In any large group of people there are those that do not care if their behavior is offensive. We experienced some of those. I would not have wanted to be on the Carib. portion of the cruise with children, due to the behavoir of some adults in the pool area. Too bad the SUN is not large enough to have an ADULTS ONLY pool area. Over all we had a good time, but it was not the best cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We just completed a 26 day cruise on the Norwegian Sun. This ship is going into dry dock in December so know ahead that there will be things that require updating, cleaning and repairs. We had sailed on Norwegian about 10 years ago ... Read More
We just completed a 26 day cruise on the Norwegian Sun. This ship is going into dry dock in December so know ahead that there will be things that require updating, cleaning and repairs. We had sailed on Norwegian about 10 years ago and had terrible experience with them so we were apprehensive about this trip. We checked all the reviews on the web and were prepared for some of the issues facing us. Working with the NCL web site was not good. Our reservation was locked and the technicians could not unlock it. We got NCL info on our 8 hour flight to Dover too late to find good seats. They provided us with their own cruise consultant and we didn't call often but most of our calls were left unanswered. This is a NO FRILLS cruise. Folks do not dress for dining at any time. Old tee shirts and frayed shorts seemed to be the daily choice of dress. Do not waste your precious luggage weight by bringing any formal clothes. Although it would be nice to dress properly in the evening in the two free dining rooms, it is not required. Do bring a bar of soap, toothpaste and shampoo. These are not provided. The crew and staff do need training on customer services. There is some sort of internal problem as there are few who will actually smile. We did see crew in the dining room who were a bit too friendly with each other behind the water pouring stations. I read one other reviewer on this site who also noticed this. They do have their own cabins below for those activities. Security did hold any luggage that looked like it might contain alcohol and did not deliver it to the cabin until the passenger came down to security and removed it. Drinks run from $7 up so be aware that your check out bill may be more expensive than the low cruise price. There are two dining rooms included in the cruise price and a buffet and outdoor cafe on Deck 11. Seating is at a premium and folks do seem to get agitated trying to find a seat. No trays are provided so you must get your drinks and find a table and then return to the buffet to get your food. When you return to the table you will find your drinks removed and someone else has claimed the table. So you start all over again. We had lots of handicap motorized vehicles on this trip. It became a major problem as there did not seem to be a slow speed limit. Most vehicles were so large that they filled the elevators and the drivers sped through the cafe. Just be aware as you might be run over or pushed as the aisle are not big enough for those high powered "cars". The pull-out couches were dirty. The air filters desperately need cleaning or replacing. If you have allergies, take your meds with you. I tried to surprise my husband for his big birthday coming up by upgrading (with money) to a suite on the second half of our journey. I was the only person at the Reception Desk. I was told that nothing was available. The Customer Service gal turned and walked away from me. She could have smiled and said "Let me check". Three days after that, a couple asked to join us at lunch. They were laughing as they had complained three days in a row about a small problem on one of the doors in their cabin and were just moved to a beautiful suite for FREE. So things are not always what they seem. The Reception Desk needs to know that they might be caught in a lie. Most complaints were about the staff at the Reception Desk. They were very rude and short with their answers. The Sun is sailing from the Port Canaveral to the East and West Caribbean. Perhaps this will be a good thing for those families who want to be casual and stay in their swim suits all day by the pool. You can eat in those clothes and wear the to the shows. The food is okay. It is not an upscale cruise. The entertainment was good. Instead of lecturers on the foreign ports, they showed copied TV shows from the PBS channels. Movies on board were old repeats in three languages. If you are bring children, add a CD player to your list to bring. And CDs. Their are activities on the ship but most areas do not have many seats. You must show up 45 minutes early and save your seat in order to partake in most activities. The bars are small so if you find a favorite, get there early. Bingo and the Art auctions are going all day long. Personally I would not go on another NCL cruise. Twice was enough for us. This was our 33rd cruise and third transatlantic crossing so we have some sense of what we wanted in our cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
When you combine many moving parts, the risk of faults increases. When you launch a $1.2 Billion ship with over 3,000 guests onboard the opportunity for failure looms large. When you add 1700 employees from over 70 countries, and then ... Read More
When you combine many moving parts, the risk of faults increases. When you launch a $1.2 Billion ship with over 3,000 guests onboard the opportunity for failure looms large. When you add 1700 employees from over 70 countries, and then offer 20 bars and nearly as many restaurants in a completely new and innovative design the challenges raise their heads high. This is why the experience we completed yesterday on the Norwegian EPIC was so spectacular. Were there issues? Of course. Were they minor? Some yes, some a little more perturbing. Were they fixable? Absolutely, with minimal effort. We chose the Spa Suite as the least expensive entry-point which gave us access to the entire ship including the Courtyard, the Spa thermal suite, the Epic Club Lounge and the Epic Club itself, as well as suite-oriented amenities such as Posh. The services of a Concierge and a Butler made the experience even more enjoyable. The suite is beautiful. Neutral and muted tones with river-rock wall treatments, a large shower, in-suite jacuzzi tub looking over the ocean, and oodles of storage space (so much that we didn't even start to use 2/3 of it). We boarded the ship with the assistance of Karan, our concierge...and within 10 minutes of clearing security, were on the ship and in our cabin. The security lines at Southampton were such that a spa experience was really needed by this time.... 1.5 hours in line waiting to get through the metal detectors/x-ray. The ship is enormous, with niches and atria, and wavy walls to balance out the sheer size of the vessel. Deck 5 houses the art gallery, internet cafe, Le Bistro, Reception, and the Atrium Cafe. This space may be redesigned eventually, it was underutilized and perhaps this is where the library will eventually be installed. On a related note, its unfortunate the Park West is still operating this gallery, their customer service is nowhere near as good as NCL's. Further back on deck 5 is Taste, one of the main dining rooms on the ship. Escalators take you up to the casino on deck 6, which is where we spent most of our time (and money). We believe (firmly! ;) ) that the casino was trying to recoup the entire cost of the ship's construction from us, on this 7 day sailing and we helped them out as best we could. We really liked the atrium with chandelier, and although I've liked the Chihuly glass on the Jewel-class ships, I preferred the 3 level atrium on EPIC. Ice Bar was a fun experience, and we were pleased to see Canadian IceWine featuring prominently in one of the included drink options. There were certainly some ongoing construction issues throughout the ship (we had no television for a few days, and no telephone with which to report it!) but we didn't let that detract us from the enjoyment of our cruise. As usual, and to our expectations the crew and staff were superlative. From the unflinching commitment to customer service that Klaus instills in his staff, through the execution of this as exhibited by team-members all over the ship. We've only taken a single non-NCL cruise (22 days on Sapphire Princess) and although we felt they treated us as valued customers, on NCL we have regularly felt as though we were family, and that we were returning to a second home. An example? The Epic Club is a dining room reserved for the Suites, Courtyard Villas, and certain designated guests...probably available to about 10% of the ship....that's 300 - 400 people. Maria, the hostess, greeted everyone we saw by name starting at day 2. To me this shows a genuine interest in people, and her bright smile seems to confirm it. She was a highlight of our cruise, and a great way to start each morning. For those who propose that the Daily Service Charge negatively impacts the crew's incentive to try harder....I present Maria as an example of how that does not hold true...and she's not the only one, Ceceelio our room steward was excellent, and Cris our Butler was always at hand should we need something. Bravo NCL. With so many potential hurdles, you launched a wonderful and innovative ship where the only remaining issues are easily solvable, and you populated it with the best staff we've seen at sea. Congratulations, we can't wait to sail her again next year! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
I agree with the previous review regarding the Epic. The entertainment venues are too small for the number of passengers and you cannot just walk in and sit down you have to wait in line until showtime and then file in. I waited for one ... Read More
I agree with the previous review regarding the Epic. The entertainment venues are too small for the number of passengers and you cannot just walk in and sit down you have to wait in line until showtime and then file in. I waited for one show and almost reached the door only to be told it was full and come back in two hours for the later show at 11 p.m. Epic will have to sort out the queueing problem as the corridors were blocked with two or more queues and everyone was unhappy with the situation. There were lots of charges for everything, more than other ships, keep in mind all the food and entertainment has been paid for in the holiday price but once on board you find yourself paying a surcharge for some shows and restaurants and once inside paying again for select items on the menu and paying over the odds for drinks plus of course extra charges on top. We did enjoy the week, the food was as always excellent and we met some great people. The Blue Man Group were rubbish and were also on in New York and Las Vegas so who are they under all that paint? The Second City Group were fantastic as was the circus. We did not like the toilet, shower, basin, curtain thing going on and could not understand why we could not just have a bathroom as before, it would not take up any more room than splitting the appliances into three pods did. Whichever art student thought up that idea wants shooting. Too much thought has gone into the shape of the rooms and sinks and not enough into the capacity (or lack) of the venues taking into account the great number of passengers on board and where is the usual starbar like a showbar place which was greatly missed. We will not be choosing Epic again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
The cruise.. in a nutshell.. Flew to NYC, and then got on the big bird, 777, to London, man that beast looks big, especially when you sit in row 42 of 43 rows.. LOL. Tiny seats, no leg room.. the body curves so you really don't have ... Read More
The cruise.. in a nutshell.. Flew to NYC, and then got on the big bird, 777, to London, man that beast looks big, especially when you sit in row 42 of 43 rows.. LOL. Tiny seats, no leg room.. the body curves so you really don't have much legroom on the window seat, but we figured it beats the 5 seats in the middle... let the time warp start! The sun was up and then it was DOWN and then it was UP. We moved our watched up SIX hours today... We arrive at Heathrow, the passport check went very quickly.. then we got our luggage, pretty easy... and found our van for the trip to Dover.. nice trip over.. saw a bit of the landscape in England, looks like any other place really.. some like Nebraska.. rolling hills... rainy day. Arrive at Dover, cruise terminal, we check in and sit for 3 hours.. heck had we known this we would have given up all our luggage and done something in Dover, it looks like a small place.. Around 2 PM we finally get on the ship, but not to our room, not until around 2:30.. the lifeboat drill is at 3:30.. so we hang out until then... did a bit of unpacking. room is great, lots of good shelves and drawers, no problems there... scads of room and plenty of hangers.. just right actaully. Ship is nice, big and clean..... immediately we notice the ages, we are YOUNG very young.. really young, VERY young.. and we are thinking this may not be a good thing.. LOL. Looked like the average cruising age for this trip was in the 70 to 75 range. And we found out 400 on the ship had been on the ship for 12 nights already, with the Baltics cruise, which we hear is wonderful... maybe one day, but not for a couple of decades.. LOL. We find the Garden Cafe and get a bite to eat, food looks good enough... we are really tired, so we skip the first night of entertainment, which we heard later was a good comedian... . The Freestyle cruising is different. you eat when you want, but to go to the Tzars palace you must dress up a bit, (no jeans)... mostly we went to Azure, same food, and shared big tables, which is very interesting when you eat with Americans, lots of Canadians and mix in some Europeans... kind of fun. Fish... first night on the ship I ordered the Red Snapper, it was so tough I couldn't get a knife into it.. really I had no idea one could cook fish long enough to make it like a rubber ball, our table of 8 was very impressed with it.. we all played with it. Our waiter didn't think it was very humorous and he took a long time to bring me a replacement dish.. this was my first impression. The two nights they offered Lobster (tiny tail) it was very tough, the second time one the waiters asked me how my food was, so I told him, " my lobster is very tough".. so he kindly brought me another, which was also very tough, so hubby got three lobster tails that night. The fish was generally very overcooked. the fish and chips in the Blue Lagoon was very good. This is how tea works. the doors open at 3 PM you file in and sit wherever you want.. and everyone is served at the same time.. we enjoyed it, the little cucumber sandwiches are really tasty... the English however noted that this is not how high tea is served.. no gloves ect.. for us it was fine. Never did meet our steward in person, we saw several in the halls, but never did one introduce himself... (Carnival cruise we met our Steward three times the first day and we were given a card with his name and number in case we needed anything). Room was kept very clean and nice, we didn't get to enjoy many towel animals though.. we got two rabbits and a snake in our 11 nights.. we are funny we enjoy those little extra's.. Room service: one night we skipped the big restaurants and they had coconut cream pie, later on I was hungry for it.. and we called for it and we were told, "sorry it is not on the menu"... (doesn't it all come from the same galley)... so we didn't order anything.. the room service menu is set in stone, never changes... so next day at the Garden Cafe I enjoyed a nice piece of Coconut Cream Pie......... it wasn't like I asked them to make ME a coconut cream pie, it was already being served in the two nice dining rooms. Free style dining, pros and cons...... con you never get the same waiter even if you go to the same table two nights in a row.... pro you eat when and where you want... we enjoyed sharing most nights... depending on the menu's we would decide to eat in a dining room or the cafe. Tzars is nicer, but we found the service to be very slow at times... Azure quicker. The entertainment, we heard a lot of complaints about it, but we personally found it to be OK, all fairly enjoyable, the dance shows were really great and the Cirque show the last night is one not to miss, very well done even in very rough seas. The seas were very rough at times, and it was bit nauseating, so we drank water, and skipped the alcohol, and I took off my damn scopolamine patch it was making me very dry.. and I did just fine without it.. but now I know, we can both handle very rough seas, I was really amazed at no one lost their balance, but the staff was good to help folks out if they needed it, carrying their food etc... The side to side roll and up and down of the ship was quite evident at times.. you'd sit in the theatre with the curtain closed waiting for a show to start and the curtain would sway significantly from side to side.. Stay well hydrated and just keep eating.... I did feel badly for two young sisters, they were in the dining room at lunch and clearly green with sea sickness, so the waiter offered gingerale, and then collected $1.95 for each one... now I realize the ship needs to make $$ and they can't help the rough seas, but really it seems like they could have just let them have two free cans of gingerale. The conversations were interesting.. one day we sat with a French lady, and it was hard to understand each other, but we had an interesting conversation about many things. Some of the cruisers were very well traveled, they have been everywhere twice! In fact many seemed bored with the ports of call, they prefer the days at sea... many read all the time, saw Kindles everywhere.. and people playing cards, dominio's etc.. some never left the ship at all. Each port was interesting, Iceland wasn't as interesting as I had dreamt, but the Blue Lagoon was a big highlight for us... we only had about 90 minutes there, but it really was enough. Lerwick was sweet, quaint. Halifax was very, very interesting, it was nice to do a half day of exploring on our own, we covered a lot of ground on foot, and boy we felt it. The next day was nice getting on a bus and going to Peggy's Cove, had a wonderful narrator who was born and raised in Nova Scotia, and she loves her city... that is a one beautiful place, and the rain Gods were kind to us, it poured rain all the way over, stopped when we arrived, and started again as we left. The seas there are fascinating to watch, and the huge smooth rocks very cool to walk on. Then the city tour the hop off and on buses was nice, we just sat and listened to our narrator talk about the city... Halifax is a very livable city. Canada is nice, and the people are very nice. Iceland we did a gray line tour, at a much cheaper price than what NCL offered... and in Lerwick we just walked around, in Halifax we booked two NCL tours which were comparable in price to Gray Line. One of the big highlights was getting up very early and watching the Statue of Liberty as we sailed by her... really it gives you a feeling for what our forefathers saw as they traveled into NYC to immigrate here.. of course not on a great ship such as ours.. but still pretty neat... We slid under one of the big bridges, it really looks like you won't make it under, very cool to see... and then to watch the sun rise up over New York City.. way cool... the pics don't do it justice. A great trip, no big problems, we had jet lag for days, and shared a cold back and forth a bit... and at times the trip was a bit dull, but enjoyable.. The ship was exquisitely clean, and they sprayed our hands before entering the buffet or any restaurant... nice. The cruise lines are big on getting you to book another cruise or put down a deposit.. at once of the events. the cruise director asked for a show of hands on how many put down deposits or rebooked.. and ONE person raised their hand.. it was rather telling. The speciality restaurants, if you walk by them, no one is dining there... and we noticed every day they had a special for them, buy one get one free, etc.. they really don't get any business to speak of and those who did use it complained they would try to get a 7PM reservation but they could only get a 6:15 or 8PM slot, so when they would arrive at say 8 PM they would be the ONLY diners, the guess is it has to do with staffing.. We heard Cagneys' had tough steaks, but that Mama's pasta is delicious. The Garden Cafe does stay really busy and then you have those travelers who seem to show up at 0700 for breakfast and then they set up a table for dominos near the window and never move till the sun sets. We saw one couple (two people) setting at the same window table for 8 every day... this is OK when the place is not busy, but during dining times they should give it up .... The food is fairly bland, but tolerable, the older folks couldn't get enough salt to come out of the shakers... (we found it to be salted just fine). The chilled soups are good and offered daily. The vegetable consume was wonderful on a rough sea day. The cappucino/latte machines are great. The lounges are nice, as is the entertainment they provide, the Spinnaker lounge is really nice, too bad it's used for everything from bingo to trivia, it'd be nice to just be able to sit and relax in there and lounge around a bit. The dance troupe is wonderful, I was surprised they didn't utilize them more in the entertainment.. I think in the 11 nights we saw them three times. It was interesting to hear conversations about the stars... the hypnotist talked about his "Vegas show".. and all his CD's.. it makes one wonder why is he in the middle of the Atlantic selling his CD'sx for "half off"... Everything with NCL seems to have a selling point.. the Chinese medicine guy (from Brazil) ended his talk about Chinese Medicine selling his "special formula's for life"... After a while it makes you not want to go to a lecture because you feel like it's going to be a marketing scheme for something. The $25 laundry bag is costly! Not having a guest laundry is definitely a way to make more $$$ off your guests.... we packed enough to last. The cabin had plenty of room for everything. The Showers are great!! no curtain, rather a nice door, so you don't have a wet bathroom everyday. Plenty of good bathrooms all over the ship, and very clean and nice. We noticed in the last three nights of the cruise the staff became much more friendly and conversational... in the first nine nights they were just doing a job. and many looked rather worn down... The crew entertainment on the last night was hilarious!! And we missed the Liars club, we heard it was also hilarious. NCL didn't get our $250 for another cruise, but we'd use them again, this cruise was unusual in that it was repositioning 11 night trip, so the clientele will be older as not many in the 40 to 50 age range can take off that long from life. If you prefer a cruise with no or very few kids this is the one.. we saw maybe 12 children on the ship, and about that many teenagers. The chocoholic buffet is a must go, as it is some of the best dessert you will get on ship.. the souffles were good, but most of the desserts were not worth the calories, especially the jello type cheesecake, not the touted New York Style cheesecake which is clearly is not. The ice cream is good and can be had at anytime in the Garden Cafe. And my one big complaint is when we would go to a lounge to enjoy a show, the waiters would come along and take our drink order, often we would order Ice water, they would smile and say OK and never come back. one night we had three different waiters take our drink order and finally one gal brought us ONE glass of water (no ice) to share... One guy during trivia actually brought us water on the first try and we got a $5 tip from me... he was so pleased and he gave us great service all through that event. The waiters should bring whatever you order, as we may then order a real drink later.. or we may give them a real tip for water.. but many assumed incorrectly. Also if they put a napkin down in front of you, that seems to be a signal to other waiters, of "don't bother they aren't ordering real drinks"... Iceland's port offered 15 minutes of intenret for $2.. $3 for 30 minutes.. NCL is slow and costly. Really this is about ICELAND .. (not listed in the offering).. we stopped in Reykjavik.. do the Blue Lagoon.. it's wonderful!!! We did the city tour in the am.. and Blue Lagoonin the afternoon.. via Gray Line.. the cost was much more reasoanble and we felt very safe.. The port building at Reykjavik has internet for $2 for 15 and only $3 for 30 minutes.. very useful.. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We started off feeling like we were stranded in the airport at Gatwick. Once we got through customs and into the terminal building there was no NCL person to be found. We wanted to take the NCL bus to the port, I had contacted NCL prior to ... Read More
We started off feeling like we were stranded in the airport at Gatwick. Once we got through customs and into the terminal building there was no NCL person to be found. We wanted to take the NCL bus to the port, I had contacted NCL prior to our departure and was assured that our name would be put on the "list" to reserve space on the bus for us. I went to the airport information desk and had the NCL representative paged, and got no response. Since there was no answer to our page I went and enquired about taking either a bus or train to Dover, none would have made it to the port on time. I was almost ready to take a taxi to the port when I decided to have the rep paged again. This time the page went out to "the Norwegian Cruise Line representative" and a rep showed up in about 5 minutes. She was about 5'3" and holding her NCL sign at chest level! She explained that she was looking for another couple, I suggested that my husband hold the sign up in the air for all to see but the offer was declined so we stood there while she ran around looking for the missing people. We stood waiting for over 1 hour, she finally found the missing couple in another terminal. Our coach left around 12:30 and so by the time we arrived at the ship there were no lines to check in and we were at our cabin in no time. Our cabin was on deck 4, forward. It had a porthole. It is hard to describe here but the porthole was recessed and the water got into the porthole and spun around in it like a front loading washing machine. The noise was terrible. After 2 sleepless nights in the cabin we were moved to a cabin on deck 8, thanks to the efforts of John O'Hara the hotel director. There were many people on this cruise who seemed to have no regard for other passengers. I have read here that the Garden Cafe (buffet) staff didn't bus the tables fast enough and at times this was true, the staff was busy talking to each other and weren't moving very fast. This is true of a lot of companies...if the boss isn't around then slack off a little. My complaint would be not of NCL but of the people who seemed to think it was perfectly okay to sit at a table during peak times (while others were carrying around plates of food looking for a place to sit) and bring out needlepoint, dominoes, books or cards. The food was okay but we knew that we were not going to get gourmet meals...we went for the itinerary which is what attracts us to NCL in the first place. We ate in Mama's Italian restaurant on one night, the rest of the time we ate in Tsars Palace for dinner. We usually had breakfast and lunch at the buffet. We are not picky and always found something to our liking. Cookies and ice cream seemed to be a big hit with all of the passengers. We went to most of the shows and enjoyed them. We bought a spa pass for the 2 of us, $169 for the cruise. Single passes were available for $20 per day or $50 on port days and the port day pass was only good from 8 - 2 pm. We enjoyed the heated loungers and the large spa tub although it did need a good scrubbing by the end of the cruise. Watching the sunset from the front windows of the spa was really a treat. Lerwick, Shetland Island was our first port. The pier was right in the town and since we were exhausted from our first night in the "washing machine room" we did not have any tours booked. We walked along the streets and window shopped, we also took a lot of pictures of the quaint little houses about the town. Our second port was Rekjavik, Iceland. We booked a ship tour to the Blue Lagoon Spa.We had a very informative guide who told us the history of Iceland and explained much of what we were seeing on the way to the Blue Lagoon. I think it took about 45 minutes to get there. When we arrived at the Blue Lagoon we were given plastic wrist bands similar to thick wrist watch straps. This wrist band got you through the turnstiles and also doubled as the key to your locker. We were told that it was necessary to take a "naked" shower prior to entering the lagoon but there was no attendant to enforce this. Everyone that I saw obeyed the signs and took a "naked" shower. The lagoon itself was very nice, the water was an odd milky blue colour and in some areas of the lagoon the water was a little hotter than others. In a couple of places on the perimeter of the lagoon there were crates that had long ladles for scooping up silica mud to put on your face. There was also an area that had a waterfall as well as an area that had a steam bath and another with a sauna. We were in the water about 1.5 hours and really enjoyed our stay. On the way out there is a gift shop that sells all kind of products made from the minerals and mud from the lagoon. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Bottom Line This is a very long review, so for those who want to skip to the bottom line, here it is - I very much enjoyed my cruise on the Jewel. As noted below, there were a few minor negatives, but they were far outweighed by the ... Read More
Bottom Line This is a very long review, so for those who want to skip to the bottom line, here it is - I very much enjoyed my cruise on the Jewel. As noted below, there were a few minor negatives, but they were far outweighed by the positives. The ship is nice, the itinerary was excellent (other than missing a port), the staff was great, the entertainment was good (with Le Cirque Bijou being outstanding), and the food was good to excellent. Background My friend Linda and I are in our 50s. This was my 9th NCL cruise (16th overall), Linda's 9th NCL cruise (15th overall). We booked the Jewel primarily because we wanted to try a Trans-Atlantic sailing (lots of sea days) and the itinerary was very appealing. Reservation, Pre-Cruise and Embarkation I booked this cruise directly through my PCC at NCL about a year ago. He was very helpful and professional, answering all of my questions in a timely manner. I reserved a BA cabin with a $100 per cabin OBC. Soon after I booked, prices went down significantly and a new NCL promotion was in effect. A quick call to my PCC gave me the choice of a price reduction or a cabin upgrade from my original BA cabin to an AF for the same price. In addition, my OBC would increase from $100 to $300 if I opted for the AF. I did so. A couple months later, I received an email promotion from a cruise TA that I have booked through several times in the past. Their offer matched NCL's pricing but doubled the OBC. Despite my positive dealings with my PCC, I couldn't pass up this offer, so I cancelled my direct booking and rebooked through the TA, retaining my AF cabin but now with $600 OBC. Finally, another two months later, American Express was offering a $100 OBC if you paid for the cruise with an Amex card (which I normally do anyway). An email to the TA confirmed that I was qualified for this additional OBC, giving me a total of $700 OBC - wow! We decided to fly to London on Thursday 9/17 (with the cruise embarking on Saturday 9/19). The overnight flight would get us to Heathrow on Friday. Through our CC roll call, we had arranged to share a transfer with three others (Len, Mike and Wendy). Our flight included a stopover in Dublin, where we encountered mechanical problems with our plane, delaying our arrival in London. When we arrived, we couldn't find Jeff (our driver). Fortunately, I had purchased an unlocked cell phone with a UK SIM card, so I was able to call Jeff and figure out where he was waiting for us. Having the phone also allowed us to communicate with Mike and Wendy, who were waiting for us with Len at a local hotel. Once Jeff picked us all up, we headed over to Dover, where we were all staying at the Best Western Churchill. Linda and I opted for the Best Western Churchill because of its location right on the water with a clear view of the White Cliffs of Dover and its proximity to the pier (a quick, inexpensive cab ride the next morning). There were a couple of bad reviews of the Best Western on Trip Advisor, but we chose to ignore them, figuring the price was right ($115 for the night) and it was only one night - how bad could it be? It turned out fine. The hotel is certainly not modern or luxurious but it was perfectly adequate, and it was centrally located for everything that we wanted to do (visit Dover Castle, walk around central Dover, walk along the waterfront, and view the Cliffs). After quickly checking in and putting our bags in our rooms, we headed to Dover Castle (short cab ride from the hotel). We spent a couple hours there and enjoyed exploring the castle and getting great hilltop, panoramic views of Dover and the English Channel. It was a brisk, downhill walk back to the hotel (with a brief stop at a convenience store to pick up soda). After taking a breather at the hotel, we headed back out to explore Dover, looking for a good place to have a local meal. We ended up at the Park Inn where we had a nice, casual dinner in a pub atmosphere. The next morning, we called for a cab to take us to the pier. With five of us sharing the ride (plus all of our bags), we ordered a mini-van, which was not a problem. It was a quick ride to the pier, where our bags were quickly taken by the porters. They were so fast that they ran off without waiting for a tip. We made our way through the check-in process, which didn't take long at all (maybe 10-15 minutes). Then, we sat in the waiting room, waiting for our color to be called. That took all of 10-15 minutes. We were on the ship before noon. As we embarked, we were greeted by crew members (including a couple of officers) along with free glasses of champagne. Our cabins weren't ready yet, so Linda sat in the atrium while I ran around the ship taking photos. Half an hour later, I rejoined Linda and we went to the Azura dining room for a nice sit-down lunch. Our bags were delivered to our cabin very quickly (fastest that I can ever recall), probably around 2 or 2:30. I was completely unpacked before the muster drill at 3:30. Sailaway was great since we got spectacular views from the ship of Dover, the White Cliffs and the English Channel. The Ship I liked the dEcor of the ship. However, if your preference is understated elegance, the Jewel might not be your cup of tea. The ship is also well maintained with very few signs of wear and tear. The worst that I encountered was one public bathroom that was not very clean. Early in the cruise, Hotel Director John O'Hara invited us to join him on the bridge. Captain Hoydal graciously welcomed us and spent quite a bit of time talking to us, telling us about the ship's operation and answering our questions. We also took part in the "Behind the Scenes" ship tour, which was complimentary for Platinum Latitudes. The tour was supervised by Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown. I'm pretty sure the regular fee for the tour was $55. The tour lasted for almost 3 hours. We started in the Art Gallery with a welcome from the Hotel Director, John O'Hara. Then, we proceeded to the bridge, where the Captain gave us a very detailed tour and entertained questions. Next came the Stardust Theater and a tour of the backstage area, including the dressing rooms and the stage itself. Then, we were taken through the laundry room and the environmental systems area (waste management). Next came a tour of the provisions area, where all of the food is stored and processed (meat cutting, vegetable cleaning/cutting, etc.), followed by a walk-through of the actual galley where the meals are prepared. It was a fascinating tour but its length and physical demands (lots of walking and standing with no chance to sit down) should be kept in mind by anyone considering it. Also, the group size (approximately 20) occasionally made it difficult to hear the guide. Stateroom We were booked in 11002, a starboard AF mini-suite, pretty much identical to the AF that we had on the Gem a year earlier. We were very pleased with the location and accommodations - spacious, plenty of storage drawers, roomy closet with lots of hangers, spacious balcony, coffeemaker, a safe that was eye-level, a desk with two chairs (the hair dryer was stored in one of the desk drawers), a roomy sofa that could be made into another bed if needed, a small (old-style CRT) tv, a small coffee table, a curtain that could be drawn to separate the tv/sofa area from the beds, a bathroom with a full tub, and a mini-fridge that was stocked but still had enough room for the bottles of soda that we had carried on. We were originally intending to have the steward empty the fridge but we decided that it really wasn't necessary. We picked 11002 because it was the last AF on the starboard side and it was under the spa, which (to me) meant the likeliness of noise would be close to zero (this proved to be true). We also thought that 11002 would have only one neighbor, which also reduced the chance of noise. However, we didn't know that there were several cabins forward of our cabin that were used for crew members. In fact, Darin Wyman (our Cruise Director) was right next door! As it turned out, noise was never a factor at all. Since 11002 was all the way forward, it did lead to lots of walking when we wanted to do anything at the stern of the ship (mainly dining in Tsar's Palace or the Great Outdoors, or going to the Galleria Shops). However, for our purposes, it was still a convenient location since it was below the Spinnaker Lounge and above the Stardust Theater and Jewel Club Casino (all places that we frequented). The two beds had been prepared as a single bed. We asked the steward to separate the beds and it was done later in the afternoon. We also requested extra towels to be supplied throughout the cruise - no problem there either. Two bathrobes were hanging in the closet and two beach towels were laid out on the bed. The bathroom was partitioned into three sections. On one side was the toilet, separated from the rest of the bathroom by a sliding door. In the middle was the sink area with several small shelves on the wall, probably adequate for most people's toiletries. A liquid soap dispenser is mounted on the wall. There is also a shelf under the sink with a built-in trash bin. Also mounted on the side wall is a Kleenex dispenser. On the left side of the bathroom is the tub. The tub is very deep, so getting in and out of the tub may not be as easy as at home. There's a clothesline above the tub and the tub has a 3-part sliding door, not a curtain. The tub's water controls might be a little tricky to some: instead of a cold water knob and a hot water knob, there is just a single water knob (on the left) for water pressure. The temperature of the water is controlled by a knob on the right, with the temperature indicated in degrees Celsius. Our steward was courteous and professional throughout the cruise, although he never did introduce himself to us - something that doesn't bother us at all but I know is important to some. He also made quite a few towel animals for us - not something that makes or breaks a cruise for us but still fun. I think we ended up getting five towel animals. We also received chocolate mints on our pillows every night. We were so happy with our steward that we gave him an additional tip at the end of the cruise on top of the automatic gratuity. Muster Drill The muster drill was held at 3:30pm, right before sailaway. Our muster station was in the Stardust Theater. It was quick and easy and took only 15-20 minutes. OBC There's always a little apprehension as to whether one's OBC is going to be accurately credited. I had printed out email confirmations from my TA indicating the exact amount that I should be receiving. Fortunately, this proved unnecessary because in our cabin on embarkation day were NCL statements accurately detailing all of the OBC credits that I was expecting. Latitudes There were 1400 Latitudes members on this cruise! Because of the number of people involved, they split up the group and held two Latitudes parties in the Spinnaker Lounge on different days. Ours was held on Friday (almost a week after embarkation, much later than usual, which seemed odd but I assume there were scheduling conflicts). The officers were introduced and the Captain welcomed us aboard with a few brief remarks. Drinks and hors d'oeuvres were served and there was a raffle for several prizes. As Platinum Latitudes members (neither of us actually qualifies but several years ago, we both purchased Freestyle Cruise Rewards onboard a Dawn cruise and, at the time, the purchase included an upgrade in Latitudes status), we were also invited to a Latitudes party for Silver, Gold & Platinum members. This party was held on Sunday (9/27) but we had a scheduling conflict and couldn't attend. Linda and I both purchased $250 Cruise Rewards for future bookings. As long as you know you will cruise within four years, it's a deal that's hard to pass up since you get $100 immediate OBC for your current sailing and the $250 will serve as your total deposit for a new cruise (for most cabin categories). We also asked for and received Jewel Latitudes pins from the onboard cruise consultant in addition to an unsolicited badge holder/lanyard. Other benefits that we received as Platinum Latitudes members included: complimentary dinner in Le Bistro with a bottle of wine, a complimentary "Behind the Scenes" tour, early tendering in Lerwick, early disembarkation in Reykjavik and Halifax, complimentary "fill the bag" laundry service (offered twice, which we used once, normally a $25 service), and VIP disembarkation in NYC. Cruise Critic Activities We had a very active CC roll call and kudos to Len, Margie, Kit and Tony (among others) for putting in all the time, effort and cost (mainly Len's wonderful lanyards and CC member id badges) in organizing our CC activities, including the Meet & Greet, a gift exchange, Murder Mystery Dinner, Cabin Poker Crawl, and Farewell Dinner. Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown was instrumental in many of these events, serving as the ship's main contact for group events. On our first sea day, we held the CC M&G in the Spinnaker Lounge (bumping a session of Bingo). We had a tremendous turnout - probably between 90 and 100 attendees. It was fun to meet many of those who attended, finally getting a chance to put a face to the screen name. Quite a few staff members and officers attended the M&G. Refreshments were provided. Following the M&G, we held the gift exchange, which was a lot of fun. It served to really loosen up the crowd and gave us our first chance to interact with one another. Len coordinated the Murder Mystery Dinner, which ended up being held in Tsar's Palace. The name of this murder mystery was the Eternal Cruise (for those who had participated in the past and didn't want to repeat it). The ship's staff set this up specifically for CC because the regular MMD on this cruise was held in Cagney's and a fee was charged for it, whereas the CC MMD was held without a surcharge. The Cabin Poker Crawl was held on our second sea day (Tuesday). The CC members who were interested in participating met in Bar City, where we divided into two groups. We toured an inside cabin, an oceanview, a balcony, an AF mini-suite, and an AB suite (all cabins belonging to participating CC members). At each cabin, a card was dealt (each time from a new deck) to each attendee, so at the end of the crawl, each attendee had a 5-card poker hand. At the beginning of the crawl, each attendee who wanted to play the poker aspect of the tour anted up $10 to the pot, which would be split between the high and low poker hands at the end of the crawl. We had 12 players for a $120 pot. Following the crawl, we all reconvened in Bar City, where we revealed our poker hands. The high and low hands then split the pot. This was a great, fun activity since it allowed us to see five different categories of cabins, CC members got to have fun together, and there was money to be won. The CC farewell dinner was held following our port stop in Halifax (Monday, 9/28) in Tsar's Palace. Again, we had a good turnout (probably 50-60 people). TV Here's the channel guide for the ship's tv: 21 - Onboard Information 22 - Navigational Information 23 - Bow Cam & Announcements 24 - Safety 25 - Shore Excursions & Cruise Rewards 26 - Destination & Shopping 27 - Onboard Activities 28 - Fox News 29 - BBC Entertainment 30 - ESPN 31 - BBC Knowledge 32 - TVE 33 - BBC World News 34 - New Release Movies 35 - Feature Movies 36 - French & Spanish Movies 37 - German & Subtitled Movies 38 - Spa Information Some of the stations faded in and out depending on the ship's reception (weak signal, poor signal, no signal). Channel 34 showed recent movies, not what I would call "new releases" but fairly recent (within the past 3 to 6 months). Channel 35 showed older movies but some still worth seeing, especially if you failed to see them in their initial release. Here are the recent releases that were showing on Channel 34: The Proposal, Star Trek, State of Play, Angels and Demons, Earth, Fast and Furious 4, My Life in Ruins, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past The channel cycled through these eight movies (in the same order) throughout the day and throughout the cruise. Here are the featured movies that were showing on Channel 35: 21, August Rush, Bella, Chaos Theory, Charlie Wilson's War, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Definitely Maybe, Enchanted, Fool's Gold, The Best of Hannah Montana, I Am Legend, Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, Leatherheads, Mad Money, Made of Honor, Michael Clayton, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, P.S. I Love You, Run Fatboy Run, The Bucket List, The Forbidden Kingdom, The Great Debaters, The Holiday, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Vantage Point, and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins As with Channel 34, Channel 35 cycled through these movies in order 4-1/2 times during the cruise. Some of the movies were also shown in the Fyzz Lounge. Dining There are numerous places to eat onboard. Here's how the dining venues break down on the Jewel. Included, no reservations recommended Azura (Main Dining Room) Tsar's Palace (Main Dining Room) Blue Lagoon (almost 24/7 comfort food) Garden Cafe (buffet) Great Outdoors (buffet) Room Service Surcharge, reservations recommended Le Bistro (French/Continental) - $15 Cagney's (Steakhouse) - $25 Sushi and Sake Bar - $15 Chin-Chin (Asian) - $15 Mongolian Hot Pot - $15 Tango's (Tex/Mex) - $10 Mama's Kitchen (Italian) - $10 Teppanyaki (Japanese hibachi) - $25 Miscellaneous Tapas Bar (free tapas with the purchase of a drink) Java Cafe (free dessert with the purchase of a specialty coffee) We dined in most of the venues. Azura is the smaller of the two main dining rooms. Tsar's is quite large. We had three dinners and one lunch in the main dining rooms. All of the meals were good but not exceptional. Linda specifically enjoyed the chilled soups. The buffet was quite good (for a buffet) in that there was a large selection of items, including salads, soups, breads, meats, poultry, pizza, pasta, hot dogs, burgers, carvery station, wok station, Indian food station, sandwich station, desserts, self-serve ice cream, and self-serve espresso/cappuccino machine. At breakfast, there was also an omelet station. We had most of our lunches in the buffet and enjoyed the food we had. We never had dinner there. There does tend to be a problem finding an open table in the buffet but it never took us longer than a few minutes to find an unoccupied table. Also, they seem to run out of glasses too quickly. Tables were cleared and cleaned promptly. The Blue Lagoon has three different menus - breakfast, main menu (served for lunch and dinner), and a late night menu (a shortened version of the main menu). We ate there several times and enjoyed the potato skins, wings, Chefs salad, fish and chips, and cheeseburger. They offer mild and hot wings. I ordered the hot and enjoyed them but still think they should be hotter. I seem to recall that they were hotter on previous NCL cruises. Breakfast was good. I had the "Full House" breakfast (2 eggs any style, bacon, sausage, baked beans, sautEed mushrooms, and hash browns), substituting a ham and cheese omelet for the 2 eggs. Both the service and the breakfast were good. We ordered room service several times, usually as a wake-up meal on port days. They were always punctual, calling 5-10 minutes before delivery. The menu is a little more extensive than it used to be (noted additions include an angus burger and eggs all day) but I do miss the chocolate mousse. We had meals in almost all of the specialty restaurants - Le Bistro, Cagney's Steakhouse (twice), Chin-Chin, Tango's, Mama's Kitchen, and Teppanyaki (twice). All of our meals in the surcharge restaurants were good to excellent. The service was excellent, too. Food and Beverage Manager Michael Harris often stopped by our table in the dining rooms to ask how we were enjoying our meals. We were fortunate enough to have a meal in Teppanyaki with some of the staff, including Hotel Director John O'Hara and Cruise Director Darin Wyman, among others. It was great to get to know Darin just a bit on a personal level. He struck us as thoughtful, engaging and very passionate about his job. They offered 50% off the surcharge at Chin Chin and Mama's for reservations between 5:30 and 6:30 on port days. They also offered $5 off at Cagney's, also on port days for early seatings. We took advantage of all three deals since it fit our schedule. A minor note: since the discounts being offered are 50% off and $5 off and no longer just 2-for-1, single diners will have no problem qualifying for the discounts. In the past, 2-for-1 didn't offer any benefit to single diners since they really couldn't eat two meals and the ship wouldn't recompute it as 50% off. We had absolutely no problem getting reservations to any of the restaurants. We booked most of them over the telephone. They allow reservations for same day and next day. As Platinum Latitudes members, we were allowed to book an extra day in advance. I know that many people don't like the idea of paying a surcharge for dining on a cruise ship and I can understand that viewpoint. Also, no one is happy that the surcharges have gone up over the years (with the Italian and Tex-Mex restaurants imposing surcharges after initially being included). But my approach is that I price the cruise and then budget extra for dining surcharges. If I still feel that the total price is a good deal, I book the cruise. To me, even with the higher surcharges, the specialty restaurants are worth it. In addition, our sizeable OBC more than covered all of our surcharge dining. We were disappointed that we weren't able to obtain copies of the entire cruise's dinner menus for the main dining rooms in order to strategize our dining plans for the week. We asked at the main reception desk in the atrium but they weren't available (as they have been on some of my previous NCL cruises). Later on in the cruise, I asked the Restaurant Manager Mihaela Mocan, who had greeted us several times during the cruise in the restaurants, for a copy of all the menus. She was gracious enough to do so, sending a full copy of all the dinner menus to my cabin. I do think, however, that having them available at reception for anyone's perusal should be routine. Mihaela was also kind enough to obtain and give Linda the recipe for the mushroom soup that is served in Le Bistro. We were very surprised to see how empty all of the surcharge restaurants were. Despite the fees, they have always been somewhat busy on our previous NCL cruises. Teppanyaki, in particular, struck me because it has always been one of the toughest restaurants to book, but not on this cruise. I'm willing to bet that you could have gotten a reservation at any of the surcharge restaurants for almost any time of your choosing or simply showed up without a reservation. For those who are interested, they offered two special meals during the cruise - a Jazz Brunch in Le Bistro for $15 and a Taste of India lunch in Chin Chin for $15. Late-night snacks are served in the casino around 11:30 pm. The Chocoholic Buffet was held at 10:30pm in the Garden Cafe on Monday, 9/28. Activities Chances are you won't be bored on the Jewel. The ship offers most of what you would expect on a cruise ship and probably much more - bingo, port and shopping talks, art auctions, excursion briefings, portrait sittings, spa treatments, casino gambling (in addition to slot, blackjack and Texas Hold 'Em tournaments), internet cafe, Latitudes party for repeat cruisers, VIP Latitudes party for Silver, Gold and Platinum members, onboard shopping, yoga, tennis, trivia sessions, shuffleboard, lectures, fitness classes, wine/martini/margarita tastings, card room, video arcade games, Wii in the Fyzz Lounge, karaoke, golf putting competition, ping pong, basketball, country line dancing, White Hot party, disco dancing, towel folding demo, aerobics, singles get-togethers, etc. There were also meetings for Friends of Bill W. and Friends of Dorothy. I'm sure I missed some other activities, so be sure to peruse your Freestyle Daily thoroughly. NCL "U" sessions included: "Shetlands to Empire" lecture by Jim Forrester; New World Wine/Cheese Tasting ($15); European Beer Tasting & Food Pairing ($18); The Art of Making Sushi & Sake Tasting ($15); "Iceland Emerges" lecture by Jim Forrester; The Art of Infused Vodka and Martini Tasting ($15); "Great Conveyor Belt" lecture by Jim Forrester; Old World Wine Tasting ($15); "Canada's Rock" lecture by Jim Forrester; Global Beer Tasting ($15); "The Blueness Province" lecture by Jim Forrester; and "Drifting Continents" lecture by Jim Forrester. For those who are interested in more active participation or simply enjoy watching your fellow passengers have fun, you can sign up for the Murder Mystery Dinner (this time offered in Cagney's for a fee, limited to 64 participants); or check out any of the audience-participation games: the Newlywed Not So Newlywed Game; Liar's Club; Majority Rules; The Perfect Couple; Dancing with the Stars; or Where in the World Am I? No Qwest on this sailing - I'm guessing it was omitted because of the older demographic. The game room was very active on this sailing. In fact, at times there was a need for more tables and chairs. This is when the Latitudes Room next door would have come in handy but the Latitudes Room has been converted into the Lifestyles Room and was being used as a satellite sales location for the Galleria Shops. The game room was well stocked with games and the staff sponsored bridge games (held in Tango's) and Scrabble (no room that day in the Game Room so we relocated to Tsar's Palace). I met several people playing Scrabble and got together with them to teach them how to play mah-jongg, a great way to spend a couple spare hours on a sea day. The Game Room had several mah-jongg sets but we had to go through a couple of them to put together a complete set. The Library was also quite busy with lots of readers. In fact, reading could be seen throughout the ship, in the lounges and in the windowsill sitting areas. CD Darin Wyman, in response to the clear need for reading spaces, even designated certain areas of the ship as DMZ (Designated Malacophonous Zones), such as Le Bistro from 7am-4pm or Tsar's Palace from 7am-2pm. The Library also supplied daily written trivia quizzes, crosswords and sudoku puzzles. Bora Bora Spa According to the spa's promotional flyer, the spa offers: heated mosaic lounge chairs, a thalasso therapy pool, steam rooms, sauna, Japanese plunge pools, Jacuzzi tubs, tropical showers, and relaxation areas. Various passes for the spa were available - 11-day pass for $99 (individual) or $165 (couple); 1-day pass for $20; port day cruise pass (8am-2pm on all port days) for $50. For those interested in spa treatments, here's their main menu: Teeth whitening - $149; ionithermie - $159 (one 50-min session) or $399 (three 50-min sessions); oxydermy facial - $169; La Therapie hydra-lift facial - $119; aroma spa seaweed massage - $195 (half-body) or $259 (full body); absolute spa ritual - $265; Mandara hot stone heaven - $145 (50 min) or $195 (75 min); acupuncture - $150 (first treatment) and $125 (follow-up treatments); aroma-flex - $119; couples float massage - $179; deep tissue massage - $129; Swedish massage - $119 They ran $99 specials during the cruise ($99 for any one of the following): hot stone massage; La Therapie hydra-lift facial; Swedish massage; Ionithermie inch loss treatment; lime and ginger exfoliation with massage; milk wrap with massage; back massage with reflexology on the feet; and fire and ice manicure and pedicure combo. They also ran a special for combining certain treatments (you mix and match) - 3 for $99; 4 for $119; or all for $129. The services included: European mini facial; pro collagen eye treatment; conditioning hair treatment; scalp, neck and shoulder massage; moisturing hand spa; and foot and ankle massage. Lastly, they offered a special combo deal of mini-treatments (20-min versions of the more expensive, longer treatments) - 3 for $99 (you mix and match). The mini-treatments included: scalp massage; hand and arm massage; foot and ankle massage; back massage; mini-facial; hot stones back massage; and milk wrap. Please note that an 18% (not 15%, as with bar tabs) service charge is automatically added to all of the above fees. Shows There was a show every night in the Stardust. On embarkation night, there was a Welcome Aboard Show, hosted by the Cruise Director, Darin Wyman. It wasn't really your typical Welcome Aboard Show since it wasn't used to preview some of the acts that would occur later in the cruise. The show was a quick welcome from Darin, followed by a stand-up comedy act by Tucker, who was pretty funny. Tucker offered a second show on the following night in the Spinnaker Lounge. There were three production shows in the Stardust Theater - Band on the Run, Country Gold, and Le Cirque Bijou. All were presented by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. I enjoyed them all for the most part. I thought the singers and dancers were enthusiastic and talented. Le Cirque Bijou was by far the most impressive, with the acrobats displaying eye-popping stunts of strength, timing, flexibility, agility and balance. This is a show not to be missed. Other shows presented in the Stardust Theater included: Buddy Wachter on banjo (okay); Los Locos Ole (comedic duo, eccentric humor, not exactly mainstream, not well received); Hypnotist Dr. Scott Lewis (fairly traditional, Vegas-style hypnosis act, generally funny); Chantz Powell (young pheenom, extremely talented singer-dancer-trumpeter); Comedian Jeff Harms (long-time actor/comedian, still pretty funny, especially with his interaction with the audience); Dorothy Bishop (singer, who had to catch up to the ship in Halifax when we missed docking in St. John's, Newfoundland; good voice but stylistically may not appeal to everyone). Most of the individual Stardust acts put on second shows later on in the cruise in the Spinnaker Lounge. Two other shows were presented in the Stardust - the International Crew Show and the Passenger Talent Show. The crew members were quite good, especially considering they are amateurs. The passengers were also pretty entertaining. Kudos to CC members Rita and Barry, who performed in the show (Rita sang and Barry did a stand-up routine). Following the International Crew Show, the officers and many of the crew staged their Norwegian Way finale. Following the Passenger Talent Show, Fountains was presented as a finale. Word was that Fountains was not going to be presented on this sailing, but numerous requests by CC members convinced them to perform it. It was greeted with uproarious laughter and much applause. Music in the Lounges There were numerous musical acts performing throughout the ship - 4 Strings Quartet in the Atrium, pianist Constantine Dragulyov, the Alambre Trio, Kenosis and Carrie Stone. These groups offered a very diverse selection of music, with a little something for almost everyone's taste. It was clear, however, that the music chosen by the groups was done so with this sailing's demographic in mind, i.e., skewing towards an older audience. Casino/Gambling The casino offers what you would expect: table games (blackjack, craps, roulette, three-card poker, Let It Ride, and Texas Hold 'Em) and slots (pennies on up), including video poker. There's also that game that seems to be incredibly popular for a reason that eludes me - The Tumbler - you drop your quarters/tokens in, trying to cause the machine to push a prize into the prize chute. There are a couple of blackjack tables at poolside. However, they were never put to use during our sailing since the weather was chilly throughout. There is also a blackjack machine up in Spinnaker Lounge. The advantages of the blackjack machine is that it still pays 3-to-2 for blackjack (whereas the $5 table in the casino pays only 6-to-5), it stands on all 17s (whereas the dealer hits a soft 17 in the casino), it uses a 6-deck shoe without a continuous shuffler (unlike the casino), and there's no smoking allowed in the Spinnaker. The casino also runs tournaments for blackjack, slots and Texas Hold 'Em. The casino was not very busy at all, even on sea days. Many of the tables were empty. Occasionally, the $5 blackjack table was full but that was it. The Tumbler, however, still attracted a decent crowd. Signing up for the Casinos at Sea card qualifies you for accumulating points as you gamble, points that equate to dollars off your shipboard account. You need a minimum of 25 points to get $25 credited to your account, but the points are also allowed to carry over to your next cruise if it's within a year. There is no fee to obtain the CAS card, so it's worth signing up for. When you do so, you also receive a coupon book for specific casino promotions. For instance, for $10, you can obtain $20 in slot play. Linda used that coupon and parlayed the $10 into $75 or so. Another coupon serves as a first-card ace at the blackjack table. A third coupon serves as a $10 match play coupon at a table game. There are several other coupons in the coupon book. If you're planning to gamble anyway, sign up for the CAS card and get the coupon book. Some of the coupons are actually worthwhile. Executive Casino Host Che Alapa Ap was kind enough to comp us drinks one night and, later on in the cruise, comped us a meal in Cagney's. Ports and Shore Excursions In Lerwick (a tender port), we booked an NCL excursion - Scalloway Castle and Shetland Ponies. It was a good excursion, showing us much of Lerwick and the countryside. We got to spend enough time at the castle and plenty of time checking out the ponies. Following the excursion, we walked around the town of Lerwick, right near where the tenders docked. We walked around Fort Charlotte and up and down the 2 or 3 main streets of Lerwick, in and out of many of the shops. For Reykjavik, 8 of us from the CC roll call booked an independent tour of the Golden Circle, which included a visit to Thingvellir National Park, the Geysirs, Gullfoss Waterfall, the Hellishaedi Geothermal Power Plant, and a quick tour of downtown Reykjavik. This was an all-day tour, lasting from 8:15 to about 5pm. Thingvellir was geologically fascinating since we were walking around the area where Iceland is slowly splitting apart (but growing since the rift gets filled in), where the North American and Euro-Asian tectonic plates meet. The Geysirs and hot springs were also fun to view. Gullfoss Waterfall was beautiful and the power plant reinforced one of the more interesting facts about Iceland - i.e., how it generates much of its electricity at very low cost by harnessing the geo-thermal power that it sits on top of. One major disappointment was missing the port stop of St. John's, Newfoundland. The harbormaster in St. John's closed the port to traffic because of high winds. In Halifax, we didn't book an excursion. Linda, Len and I walked along the waterfront until we reached the Halifax Casino, which we checked out briefly. We then turned around and returned to the ship, with a detour at a local supermarket to pick up soda. At the end of the cruise, we were again fortunate enough to be invited to the bridge to view our sunrise entry into New York Harbor. Despite having to get out of bed before 5am, we were thrilled to take advantage of this opportunity. A huge thank you to Hotel Director John O'Hara and Captain Hoydal for allowing us this privilege. Service Our steward was excellent. The staff at main reception was courteous and attentive. The wait staff throughout the ship was eager to please. Smiles were commonplace. I cannot say enough about the officers and staff members who went out of their way to cater to our CC group. Captain Hoydal was very gracious and made time for us despite his extremely busy schedule; Hotel Director John O'Hara was incredibly accommodating; Cruise Director Darin Wyman always had a welcoming smile; Food and Beverage Manager Michael Harris made sure that we were cared for; Executive Casino Host Che Alapa Ap was a pleasure to deal with; Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown provided excellent service; this is all in addition to the aforementioned Restaurant Manager Mihaela Mocan, who supplied me with the dinner menus and Linda with the soup recipe. Conclusion I would absolutely sail on the Jewel again and would recommend her to friends and family. Of course, there's always the caveat - if you're someone who loves traditional cruising with fixed dining times, assigned tables, and assigned tablemates, it might not be for you. But, for me, Freestyle is still the way to go. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009

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