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36 Dover to Europe - Western Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

My husband and I are both in our seventies and we have never considered a cruise with Saga before. The last five cruises we have have taken have been with Azamara or Oceania, but we were attracted by the idea of sailing on the Spirit of ... Read More
My husband and I are both in our seventies and we have never considered a cruise with Saga before. The last five cruises we have have taken have been with Azamara or Oceania, but we were attracted by the idea of sailing on the Spirit of Discovery as she seemed to incorporate all that we like about a cruise ship. We were absolutely delighted with the 14 day cruise around the Iberian peninsular. The weather was wonderful and everything about the ship lived up to expectations. We were collected from our home and driven to Dover, where embarkation was swift and we were shown to our standard twin cabin, which was very near the stern of C deck. I was a bit concerned that being so far aft might not be ideal, but the ship is so quiet and smooth it was not a problem at all. The balcony was a good size and was furnished with two upright chairs with cushions and a small low table. We wondered if there would be enough drawer space in the cabin, but there is so much room in the wardrobe we just hung most things up, as there were fifty hangers. Anything we didn’t have room for in the drawers stayed in our suitcases as there was lots of room under the bed for those. The bed was extremely comfortable with good quality sheets etc. It was nice to have a USB port next to each side of the bed and also a good reading light. After the safety drill, which for us took place in the Club, we went to make our bookings at the speciality restaurants. (It is also possible to book these by telephone at certain times during the cruise). There seemed to be no problem getting a table for two at each of the three restaurants. We enjoyed all three dinners very much, but perhaps we liked Coast to Coast, the seafood restaurant, the most. All the other evenings we ate in the Grand Dining Room on Deck 5, where the food was also excellent. We were able to have a table for two every night except one, when we sat at a table of 10. Breakfasts was either in the Grand Dining Room or, when we were in more of a hurry, in the Grill or the Verandah. The food was the same in both locations, and was very good. When the weather became very hot we tended to have lunch in the grill, where there was a delicious choice of salads as well as all the hot food which was also available in the dining room. We managed to resist afternoon tea except on a couple of occasions, but it was delightfully served every day in the dining room with a choice of teas and a glass of sparkling wine, as well as sandwiches, cakes and scones. It was also available in the Grill. We didn’t see all the entertainment, but we did see all three shows performed by the Spirit of Discovery Show Company; we thought they were very good indeed, with superb sets. We also saw two different shows done by the Opera Boys, and one evening when Jools Holland performed - all marvellous. The Playhouse is a beautiful theatre with room for over 400 people; the only thing that worried me was that there were a lot of people on board who had walking difficulties and they struggled with the steps in the theatre; perhaps space should be reserved for them in the back few rows. We did attend the very good destination talks by Alistair Guthrie, wine tasting with Oz Clarke, talks by cookery writer Jennifer Deeprose and talks by coroner Dr Peter Dean. The ORCA team gave a presentation about the whales and dolphins we might see and then they were on the observation deck during the days we were at sea. We had three sea days at the start of the cruise which gave us a good chance to explore the ship. The spa is beautiful; although we didn’t have any treatments we did use the lovely hydrotherapy pool. One of our favourite places to sit and read was the Terrace, which is at the stern on the Promenade deck. You can chose to be in the sun or shade there, and there are machines to help yourself to coffee or fruit juice. The identical coffee machine is also to be found in the Grill and in the Library. I have never had such good coffee from a machine before! The Library is a nice place to sit, and so are the Living Room and the Britannia Lounge. In fact, there is a huge amount of space, both inside and out, with masses of chairs and loungers on deck, in both the sun and shade. Our ports of call were Gibraltar, Cartagena, Sete, Barcelona, Alicante and Lisbon. We did not join any of the ship's shore excursions, but walked and made use of hop-on hop-off buses. All very enjoyable, but hot! We were interested to hear that the vast majority of passengers on board were all long time Saga enthusiasts and I now understand why. The crew are fantastic and look after everyone superbly. We very much hope to sail on this ship again in the near future; it really is lovely. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
We had actually never heard of Saga until we did an internet search, but this cruise seemed to fit the bill because we wanted an enjoyable way to see the Northern Lights of Norway. Saga made the booking process very difficult for us as ... Read More
We had actually never heard of Saga until we did an internet search, but this cruise seemed to fit the bill because we wanted an enjoyable way to see the Northern Lights of Norway. Saga made the booking process very difficult for us as we live in Australia. We had to use a particular travel agent which meant lots of filling forms and emails back & forth. Then we couldn't use their My Saga application because it wouldn't recognise our postcode. So, more printing out pdfs and emails to book excursions. Very frustrating for us folk who are used to making online reservations. But, we did enjoy the cruise. Firstly, Saga offer a complimentary limo service to the port which was very convenient. Then we found Saga Sapphire to be well laid out and not as ostentatious as some of the ships we've been on. It's small, but our cabin was comparatively large and well equipped. Our only disappointment with the layout was the fitness centre which was small and on a lower deck. Not so good in rough seas. And we couldn't walk around the decks most days because of ice and snow. The food and service were very good, as was the range of entertainment and speakers. The ship only has two main restaurants, both of which serve the same food, so there wasn't a huge variety of flavours on offer. They do, however, turn one section into a specialist restaurant which we had to book. This particular cruise had quite a few problems along the way. We encountered large winter storms which caused us to take a slower route. Plus the ship's propeller was caught in fishing lines. Both of these factors meant we missed two of the scheduled ports. But they tried to make it up to us by adding more entertainment for the passengers. Again, being winter, some of the passengers came down with a bug, but the crew were fastidious about cleanliness and hygiene everywhere on the ship. There were quite a few older passengers who were likely more susceptible. The excursions we went on were well organised and interesting. Unfortunately we didn't see the lights on the evening tours, but did manage to see them from the deck when we were at sea. Artic Norway is stunningly beautiful and we're very glad we chose this time of the year to visit. It was VERY, VERY cold, but Saga provided us with arctic jackets and snow grips for our shoes. And we needed them several times. The Sage Sapphire is in its last season and is to be replaced by a brand new ship. But we really enjoyed the cruise and would certainly consider Sage again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
My wife and I sailed on the Star Legend leaving Dover and going to Lisbon. We stayed on the next cruise which was Lisbon to Barcelona. The first leg was a food and wine cruise which featured wine tastings every night and free wine with ... Read More
My wife and I sailed on the Star Legend leaving Dover and going to Lisbon. We stayed on the next cruise which was Lisbon to Barcelona. The first leg was a food and wine cruise which featured wine tastings every night and free wine with dinner. In addition there were free special events such as a fancy dinner at a top winery. The second leg also had special events as well. My wife and I have had over 30 cruises on many ships including Windstar and several luxury lines. We chose the Star Legend because of its itinerary, its small size, and we wanted to see how Windstar handled the Star Legend. There was a hiccup or two but in the end we felt it one of the best cruises we have ever taken. Guests on each leg of our trip were extremely friendly and the cruise staff were excellent. In particular, the Voyage Leader (Windstar's name for cruise director) Alina Moroz was excellent. She had an abundance of energy and made every guest feel special. If you sign up for a Star Legend Cruise make sure she is your Voyage Leader. Ram, our room steward was superb, as were the two ladies at the Reception Desk (who could handle any problem). Every one serving food and drinks were also great. A special shout out for Daddy, one of the senior food serving staff, who could always find your special foods. We enjoyed each port and the history that went with it. The deck BBQ's and dancing with the Officers were real treats. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
for those of you considering a cruise with Fred Olsen, i can definately recommend it. I wasnt sure whether I would enjoy it or not - hence a mini cruise. The boat is not too big, but has plenty to do. The cabins are lovely and the one ... Read More
for those of you considering a cruise with Fred Olsen, i can definately recommend it. I wasnt sure whether I would enjoy it or not - hence a mini cruise. The boat is not too big, but has plenty to do. The cabins are lovely and the one we stayed in had Lots of storage space and kept beautifully clean. We dined in the Grampian and waitors there were so welcoming. The food was lovely with plenty of choice and the service was extremely good - best we have ever had to be honest. We had lunch in the palm cafe restaurant which is self serve, and enjoyed food from mussels to roast leg of pork, with cinnamon rice pudding, bread and butter pudding and peach cobbler to enjoy for dessert. Breakfast had everything you would wish for,and the cakes at afternoon tea were fantastic, although we only tried this once as we werent hungry after the first day. We didnt sample the late night supper but i am sure that would have been as good as the other meals. We dont normally go to the evening entertainment, but the start time of 10.30 meant we were able to get a seat ln both evenings and enjoyed some singing and dancing from musicals for the first night and then a really funny comedian the second night. We wanted to stay up and the watch a tribute to the jersey boys, but were just too tired, as it didnt start until 11.45. So if you are thinking of trying Fred Olsen - give it a go and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This is our 8th cruise since 2010 when we went with the family on this ship. My wife wanted London and Paris this time and we had the chance to pick up other ports that were cancelled in 2010. Two were St Tropez and Portofino. It seemed ... Read More
This is our 8th cruise since 2010 when we went with the family on this ship. My wife wanted London and Paris this time and we had the chance to pick up other ports that were cancelled in 2010. Two were St Tropez and Portofino. It seemed like the decor had been done and was darker but the Tahitian room at the front was still excellent. Overall the ship is still very nice and small enough to be boutique and friendly. Good staff with no bad experiences. Our first meal was also great but seemed more average as the days rolled on. Not as good as 2010. The casual restuarant sometimes surprised. We really noticed that the entertainment was much better than 4 years ago but of course can't equal the sets of the big ships. Very good none the less. With a port nearly every day we were keep on our toes. Steady at sea in the Med except for the first day on the edge of the Atlantic. Completely put "off side" by weight talk that morphed into a voluntary $86 session with a push to buy product for $3000. On land you'd call Consumer Affairs. The ports got us in for this cruise but if RCI was doing the same I'd go for their nicer ships , good entertainment (mostly) but similar other experiences. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was our third "small ship" sailing and it did not disappoint. You get to know your fellow passengers and the staff so much better on these small ships than on the larger ones. The cruise was not without its challenges, but ... Read More
This was our third "small ship" sailing and it did not disappoint. You get to know your fellow passengers and the staff so much better on these small ships than on the larger ones. The cruise was not without its challenges, but was overall very delightful. We typically do Anytime Dining, but that is not available on the small ships. We were able to secure a table for 2 after the first night and had an excellent waiter who quickly learned our tastes and preferences and catered to them. Being a small ship with fewer entertainers, there wasn't a production number every night, but that was OK. The ones they did were excellent. Our 10 day cruise left Dover, and was scheduled to visit Le Havre (Paris), Algarve Coast (Portugal), Gibraltar, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Portofino and ending at Civitavecchia (Rome). This was our 4th European cruise and we stayed in London for 3 days before heading to Dover via a shared car. Departing Dover (and seeing the famous white cliffs!) was much nicer than departing Southampton. We did the Seine River cruise excursion in Paris which I highly recommend. Day two was a challenge - as we rounded Brest, France and left the English Channel we encountered several hours of very rough seas which caused the ship to shudder as we hit each wave and many passengers experienced some degree of seasickness. We had to skip the Algarve Coast (Portugal) due to a dockworker strike, but Princess quickly substituted Cadiz, Spain which we enjoyed. After enjoying Gibraltar, Barcelona and Monte Carlo we headed to Italy. The tendering at Monte Carlo was rather exciting as large swells came up in the afternoon which made it difficult to get the passengers back on board. Some people were on a tender for close to 45 minutes until they could disembark, but kudos to the Princess staff for handling it in a safe manner. Our next scheduled port was Portofino, but with high winds predicted and our tendering experience at Monte Carlo, the captain did not want another tendering incident so he quickly grabbed the last pier available at Genoa and docked there so people could still see Portofino via bus ride. Again, an excellent job of adjusting to daily circumstances! Unfortunately our scheduled excursion was cancelled so we rode the HOHO around Genoa, then headed back to the ship. After arriving in Rome we made our way to our hotel and enjoyed tours of the Vatican and Colosseum before flying home. ( With the two port changes, the shore excursion staff had their work cut out for them but they handled it very well and had replacement shore excursion information available in a timely manner. I do wish the buffet would keep desserts available later in the evening. When I'd go up for a late night snack around 11 pm, about all that was available was cookies. All in all, it was a very good voyage and Princess did well to accommodate the challenges as they arose. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Dover to Barcelona to Rome This is our 5th Princess cruise and we are in our 60's. Booked with Princess, used FCC's then moved it to a TA and got free trip insurance through the TA. Started booking in December for a ... Read More
Dover to Barcelona to Rome This is our 5th Princess cruise and we are in our 60's. Booked with Princess, used FCC's then moved it to a TA and got free trip insurance through the TA. Started booking in December for a Sept 1 cruise and was waitlisted, as were many. I got shareholder benefit of $250 for a 14 day cruise plus $100 OBC from the FCC's. This was a two segment, 17 night, expensive, once in a lifetime cruise for us starting in Dover and seeing Normandy or Paris, Bilbao Sp. Lisbon, Portomao, Gilbraltar, Barcelona, Sete Fr., Portifino, Florence, Tunisia, and Sorrento then Rome. Flew to London LHR on an overnight from Chicago nonstop, about an 8 hour flight time, arrived at 9 AM. Took out 200 GBP from an airport ATM, grabbed a cab to the Radisson on Bath for 10 GBP. Had asked for an early check in and were in the room at 10 AM. Room was 100 GBP (bfst incl). Concierge got us a car to take us to Windsor Castle for a visit. Another option is to take a bus. The Castle was 15 GBP PP over 60 rate. Were back about 4 PM and went to dinner about 6. Should have gone to McDonalds which is right next door. Lasted till about 7:30 before we both crashed and slept through the night. Next morning we grabbed a cab back to the airport for a 9:30 AM pickup on the Princess transfer bus. The ride is about 1 ½ hr. and can be very expensive to book on your own . With the transfer you hand your bags to the driver and don't see them again till they're in your room. That alone saves a lot of tipping and handling. The ship was ready for us and we were on board before 11:30 in our cabinette. We had a level 7 balcony room forward. The ship. Small with 680 passengers, clean well kept a short walk to everything. Tender time was always short, would do it again. The casino, casino bar, and lounge were all together which allowed me to have a drink, watch the piano player and keep an eye on my wife. Buffet was 9 aft had a coffee bar and some outside seating. Lotus was 9 forward as was the cyber cafe. MDR was on 5 aft. Shops were 5 mid. Lido had 2 small hot tubs one pool. Cabaret lounge was never packed, always had a good seat. We got to meet a whole bunch of people due to the size of the ship. There were one or two buses per tour so you would run into the same folks. We were always bus # 3 or# 7 or# 8. While in Piza I looked at the tags on some folks from those mega ships and noticed they were bus #27. Shows. Liked the shows, they changed the shows and had different acts join the ship. The usual comics, singer, magic act. Food. MDR was kinda bland. Nothing special and on Lobster night the Lobster/Prawn combo had good prawns but mushy lobster both times. Went to Sabitini's and that was good. They didn't drag out a bunch of things you didn't want but you can order anything on the menu you wanted. So we did our own thing and tasted a few things plus our entrEe. Went to the steak house with two of our table mates for steaks. They were served with brown gravy on everything, even the rack of lamb. Sent it all back to remove the gravy. I let Princess know about that via the follow up survey. Note: Sabatini's and Sterling Steakhouse are two different restaurants on deck 10 and they alternate being open. The Panorama Buffet is set up as the Bistro on sea days with waiter service for dinner. Eggs to order and afternoon pizza are served from the same window in the buffet area. Burgers are out by the pool. Ports: Being small we pulled into smaller docks and were closer to the center of some towns. Barcelona we were next to the World Trade Center, Portifino we were a short tender ride from the yacht club pier. Lisbon across the street from the bus station and train station. Tunis two blocks from town. Le Havre France: All tours left before 8 AM and ours was 10 hours long. Choices were Paris or Normandy. We spent a week in Paris once so went to Normandy. IMHO I think that Paris deserves a lot more than 5 hours in the city which included some shopping and a river boat ride. Everybody I've talked to wanted to know about Normandy. "Everybody". We visited Omaha beach, the US cemetery, the bunkers on the cliffs that the Rangers attacked and the June 6th Museum in the town of Arromanche where they constructed the artificial harbor. All of it amazing, glad we went, wouldn't miss it. Had lunch at a French farmhouse/hall which was great. A two hour bus ride each way. $480 for two. Bilbao Spain: In town there is the Guggenheim, It was Sunday and some places were closed. We opted for the bus tour of Basque country which was just OK, nothing special. Saw Bermeo and Guernica, the city that Franco had the Germans bomb during the Spanish Civil War in the late 30's. Lisbon: On our own, we got lucky. The first line of cab drivers try to sell you a city tour for 100 E. Across the street is the train station and bus stop. The Yellow HOHO bus was there and for 20 E we got a day pass which allows you to ride on any public bus plus the HOHO. Every town has a fort and a church to see so we took the yellow bus into town center and transferred to the smaller #87 bus which took us up to the Castelo S. Jorge. We toured the fort and grabbed the #87 back down to Miradouro Sta. Luzia church. Toured the church and #87 back to central square. Here we walked down Rua Augusta pedestrian mall and visited a wine shop, bought some Port. Had lunch in a cafe, bought some trinkets from Fatima and Lisbon and walked down toward the dock. We ran into a HOHO rep and she pointed us to the bus back to the ship. Got lucky this time and only walked down hill. LOL. Portimao: Free shuttle takes you into town then stops at the beach then back to the ship. We were going to take a boat tour of the grotto's but missed it cause we got a late start. Option two was a boat trip up the river to Sintra with a fort and a church so we took that. Nothing thrilling, visited the cork shop which has a bunch of strange cork products. Back to town then the bus. Turns out the beach was a better bet because that was the tourist / resort part of town and all the shops were open. We missed the Grotto's but as the ship pulled out of port and headed to Gibraltar we passed all the grottos on the port side. We got to see more than the tour although from farther away. Gibraltar: On our own again. Walked off the ship into a cab driver offering a tour. This one we took up on the deal. He had an 8 passenger and there was 8 of us including two kids that he charged half price for. I think is was $25 PP which included tickets to the sites. That's about half of what the ship wanted. Drove us up the rock to the siege caves. Went in there. Went to see the monkeys which were very funny. They do bite. Saw the lookout site and back to Main Street for some shopping. Went to the glass blowing shop and a cafe and a linen store. The private cab was smaller than the ships buses so at each location we were closer to the attraction, less walking. The instructions on getting back to the boat weren't clear and it took us a while while waiting for the cabs that were assigned to the boat to show up at the pick up spot. They were scheduled to be there at 4 PM but were late. We had to pay for the cabs but it was a fixed rate. This was were I unloaded the last of my GBP's left over from London. Barcelona: Barcelona is a major cruise starting point and we arrived on a Saturday. There were 7 ships in according to a cabbie. The place was so packed with people that it was hard to move in some places. On our own again. We got on the HOHO Red bus into town center to transfer to the Blue bus to get to La Sagrada Familia. So did 300 other people. The line to board had 200 people in it but did move right along. When we got to the church there was another monster line. We walked around the outside and left. Shoulda taken the tour. Big mistake. Went back to La Rambla ped walkway and strolled along there. Visited the market place which was swarming with people. The Palau Guell which was beautiful to see although it was hot in there. Stopped for lunch had the Black Pig ham with some wine and bread. Walked and shopped some more, looked at all the street performers etc. Skip the bus, cab back to the ship. Barcelona requires more time. So much to see. Must go back. I was armed with a Frommers walking tour guide so I had an idea of what to see in the big cities. I also used the CC port guide to let me know about each ports highlights. Sete France; (Didn't set the alarm, almost missed the tour.) Took the ships wine tour which included the city of Montpillar which was beautiful. Our bus was blocked by a stray parker and we were delayed while having him towed. Had a coffee and crepe snack in town square. Wine tour of an old winery at Chateau de Flaugergues. Bought 2 bottles of Cuvee Rose for 6E each and 1 Cuvee Sommeliere red (Wine Spectator 92 points) for 10E. The red we took home. No problem bringing it back on board. Everybody seemed to be buying wine. We had sampled 3 different wines. The guide said that Montpillar was not bombed during the war because it wasn't a port and wasn't a strategic location. Good tour. Stopped in Sete on way back and there really isn't much there to see. A little fishing village is about it. Portifino: Doesn't everybody want to go here? Tender to town. Not very big and not a lot to see. Walked up and down the harbor front and then decided to see the church and fort. Talk about a climb up the mountain. I wouldn't do it again. A lot of work and not that great. Took a ferry to Santo Margarita and walked around there. The church in town was a beauty, the shops were closed from 1-4 and we had lunch at Palma's. Back to the boat. Florence + Pisa: Took the "trolly" tour to Pisa. A lot less walking with the trolly. The bus drops you off and a trolly picks you up. Saw the tower which has recently been restored so it looks like new. Got tickets to tour the church and baptistery. We didn't get into the tower because the next time slot was after we left. The tour guide should have managed things better and we could have gone in the tower given enough notice. The church was worth seeing, the baptistery, save your money. This was a half day tour but we had been to Florence before so we did this one instead. Tunis: Another tour, went to Carthage Roman ruins, American Cemetery, and the Souk market. Tunis is where Rommel made his stand and lost Africa. The cemetery has grave markers covering about a three year span. The Roman ruins are huge here. The market I could have done without. In your face vendors. There is an enclosed market at the pier when you get back that has all the same stuff with better prices and no haggling. Everybody was late getting back and I think we left a little late, Sorrento: Were here 12 years before and had planned some shopping and lunch. Ship provided a free shuttle to town. Last minute decided to visit Capri. Took the ferry over walked around and went back. Didn't care to see the grotto, or take the tram up the mountain so without a specific reason to go there it was a waste. So much for last minute decisions. Back to Sorrento, into town at Tasso square, visited some shops bought some glass trinkets and went to a leather store for a purse and a belt. Had lunch at Caruso's just off the square which was great. A great finish to a great trip. Rome: Been there three times. Dock to airport, FCO to LHR, LHR to Chicago. 12 hour trip. BA business class is another story. The whole trip it was hotter than usual. 85 and up some days. Tires you out walking. Got home and people were wearing jackets. Remember that Rome and Chicago are both 42 degrees North. It was about 65 in Chicago. After visiting all these places, it's great to be back in the Midwest on FLAT ground. Got my Platinum card midway through the trip. Showed it off to our table mates at dinner, made jokes about it for days since everybody else was Gold. I asked the waiter if I could see the Platinum dinner menu. Everybody got a laugh out of that, even the waiter. Told everybody there was a midnight buffet for Platinum members but you had to know where the secret door was to get in. They tell you to take your passport with you. Only had to show it at Gibraltar. At a few places I asked for a senior discount and we got one. Then I had to show my passport for ID. One lady got picked in Paris. If you have a purse, a cane, and a little green sticker on your shirt, you're a target. They got her wallet, charge cards, money and passport. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We're just off the Oceania Marina's Tastes of Europe cruise, that ended in Rome yesterday, August 26,2011. The impressions are all fresh in our minds. Overall it was a satisfying experience but far from the original ... Read More
We're just off the Oceania Marina's Tastes of Europe cruise, that ended in Rome yesterday, August 26,2011. The impressions are all fresh in our minds. Overall it was a satisfying experience but far from the original expectations built up by the heavy advertisements in press and via internet. The passengers have the opportunity to fill in a feedback document, that we decided against submitting but it does serve as a good template for organising the comments below. We had a Penthouse cabin provided with butler services. The accommodations were satisfactory along with the Stateroom maintenance. Too bad that the cabins are rather poorly built with squeaky doors and hissing sound from the wind outside, that the maintenance crew tried to prevent but didn't succeed entirely. The bathroom facilities were adequate and the towel service was prompt and unobtrusive. The services provided were rather poor. To start with, most of the service desks, the travel desk, the reception etc would not answer directly and one should have expected to be called back in order to register the specific requests. After being denied service for a number of times (related to trip planning, concierge service and another time a special request for room service), we asked to speak to the cruise director. The request did not even generate a call from the director. Instead of it we had our complaints acknowledged by the respective service staff ?!. While we had access to the Executive Concierge service, it was almost impossible to get to the sole person who was supposed to provide them. The line up could take literally over ½ hour at any time of the day. The concierge was only available during limited intervals of the day (about 8 hours). Generally the reception and destination staff and management were 'lost at sea' looking for excuses rather than trying to do their job well. Totally uninformed about the locations we docked at, not ready to resolve any issues on the spot without going for 'approval' (this refers to mistakes in the billing) The cruise staff was rather efficient but annoyingly eager to acknowledge the passengers at all times. This created an impression of artificial courtesy. The same comment goes for the Red Ginger and Toscana restaurant staff. One values one's privacy during the dining experience and a non intrusive, while attentive staff. It does get really annoying being asked 8 times during dinner if everything is all right ! The culinary experience was of a high quality. The specialty restaurants were well appointed (we actually dined twice, at each of them) with a wide choice of on each restaurant menu. The Far Eastern, Red Ginger restaurant was somehow disappointing, by trying to please all tastes but not able to concentrate on any of the far eastern cuisine well. It wasn't either a Chinese or a Japanese or a Thai restaurant, but had a dish from each cuisine . La Reserve's food was of a good standard but the wine pairings were mostly off (their excuse was that the Wine Spectator picked up the pairings ??!! ). The Grand Dining Room was OK.,. The butler service proved worth its price after the first day when our calls were not returned for lengthy periods of time. We had a 'friendly talk' with the butler after which he got 'religion' and probably started servicing us ahead of other passengers. The entertainment was of a very poor quality except for Bruce Parker who did a good job singing the tunes and getting the audience involved. The shore excursions were a real disaster ! The group sizes varied from 40-50 people, the guides were impossible to be heard unless one was at a foot distance away and the tour content was extremely poor. We ended up going of 3 of these but heard the same comments from other passengers who went on other ones. We ended up actually renting a car in three locations, namely in Saint-jean-de-luz, Cadiz and Livorno. The prices charged for the shore excursions were a total rip-off. Overall not a bad experience but it won't bring us back to the Oceania again. Lots of regrets to lose the good food experience (thanks to Jaques Pepin ?...who was on the cruise himself and I caught him ordering at lease 3 times hot dogs for lunch !!!) Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Allocated a cabin midships under open deck - noise intrusion from footfalls - chairs and tables being moved and also wheeled cabinets meant we could not use our balcony or get relaxing sleep at all. Noise intrusion was for some 20 ... Read More
Allocated a cabin midships under open deck - noise intrusion from footfalls - chairs and tables being moved and also wheeled cabinets meant we could not use our balcony or get relaxing sleep at all. Noise intrusion was for some 20 hours plus per day and despite formal complaints nothing was done to alleviate the problem which completely ruined our holiday. P&O have catered for the mass market with the design of this ship and regular cruisers looking for a quality holiday should avoid at all cost allowing P&O to allocate /select cabins for them . We made the best of it but will never book a cruise on this ship again. It sounds ridiculous but we actually prayed for bad weather to keep passengers off the open deck above us to allow a few hours to get some sleep. To add insult to injury on our return home we discovered our cases had been tampered with during embarkation and 2 expensive pairs of sunglasses stolen. P&O will just suggest claiming on insurance for the items instead of accepting they have a problem with security of our belongings has i found out a few years ago when a similar problem arose at Southampton after a Oriana cruise .. Be aware to not put easy to access expensive items in your luggage. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
we got a last minute cruise and paid for an inside cabin on the lowest deck because we have had some big bills this year ,but we were given an outside cabin, and it was lovely.people said we would not sleep at night for the noise , but we ... Read More
we got a last minute cruise and paid for an inside cabin on the lowest deck because we have had some big bills this year ,but we were given an outside cabin, and it was lovely.people said we would not sleep at night for the noise , but we heard hardly any , and the very low ""hum"" put us to sleep no problem. food was absolutely magnificent,as were the dining room staff ,the ship is beautifully laid out , and i found getting to different activities very easy..we got plenty of time ashore and even when we were put behind schedule due to having to go back into port due to illness, the captain made up the time and we arrived at our next port of call in good time. of the places we visited . ,toulon stands out as a really super place.with a fantastic supermarket and department store next to the footy ground , which is right next to the berth in the centre of the water front.,and swimmimg is a little town train ride for about five minutes. they go all day round the town ""hop on -hop off"". olsens ships may be smaller , but we met people every day ,from the day before , so most people knew each other by the end of the cruise . it was a great holiday .thanks fred. ..brian little Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We were on deck four on an inside cabin. The noise and vibration were terrible.The walls shook.The bed shook. We had to wrap the glasses and cups in a towel to stop them from banging together and smashing. We asked to be moved and were put ... Read More
We were on deck four on an inside cabin. The noise and vibration were terrible.The walls shook.The bed shook. We had to wrap the glasses and cups in a towel to stop them from banging together and smashing. We asked to be moved and were put down on deck two in an outside cabin. Just as bad but at least we had a port hole. They did provide ear plugs but still got headache from the vibration. I got into the habit of sleeping on the top deck in the day and staying awake at night. Even at three in the morning you can't find peace. They have piped music all over the ship. The food was ok.Some passengers thought it was good. Not up to the standard of a Princess cruise. Very limited selection for my wife who is a vegetarian. Entertainment was average with the crew doing about 40% of the shows. They had a classical guitarist, a classical violinist and a comedian. Staff were very good and friendly couldn't fault them at all. Cabin was clean and kept to a high standard. If you do go on this ship. Go as high as you can afford and towards the front of the ship. Every where else really is very noisy and vibrating. I thought it was fairly calm but quiet a few passengers and crew suffered with sea sickness. Trying to find some good points. The embarkation was smooth and well organised. Better that Princess. But all in all I wouldn't go on it again.Lots of people complained we weren't in port long enough to do anything. Half day stops. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We thoroughly enjoyed this, only our second, cruise. We were particularly lucky in that our dining arrangements, in the Grampian Restaurant, were with two other couples with whom we got on extremely well. We had really great fun at ... Read More
We thoroughly enjoyed this, only our second, cruise. We were particularly lucky in that our dining arrangements, in the Grampian Restaurant, were with two other couples with whom we got on extremely well. We had really great fun at mealtimes in the evening, helped no doubt by the fact that the table was hosted by an officer on each of the formal nights. The cabin was adequate. Because we had such good weather, we were able to spend most of the daylight sailing time on deck. It would not have been so good if we had wanted to spend lots of time in the cabin. I had originally wanted to go for a Marquee Deck cabin (which would have given a bigger balcony) but they did not look much better inside and the balcony can be overlooked from Deck 9. The embarcation process was relatively fast and efficient. So we did not need to wait too long in the relatively uncomfortable departure facilities at Dover. Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the cruise is the way in which the crew are so helpful and cheery (although that comment does not extend to some of the Beauty Centre staff who are of course working for a franchise). Overall, we preferred the Braemar to the Barmoral on which we had our first cruise: the only drawback being the location of the spa/fitness centre on Deck 3. We never experienced any real problem getting places to lie/sit on the Marquee Deck during the glorious weather we had for most of the cruise. Some of the shore visits were not so successful. First we visited Gibraltar on the day of the colony's National Day so all of the shops (except those selling tourist tat) were closed. The provided tour was reasonably interesting, but I'm afraid that our overall impression is that Gibraltar is a bit of a dump. Probably the best way to see it is on a shore tour from a cruise ship. The next port was Cagliari in Sardinia. We called at this port on a Sunday. Guess what, the shops were shut. Cagliari is quite pretty and has some moderately interesting things to see, but if, as here, the Cruise Company promotes the port as a shopping opportunity it does not help if there are no shops open. The next Port was Naples. We docked shortly before 1pm (when the shops closed) and had to be back on board by 5.45 (but the shops did not re-open till 4.30). Again much was made by the Cruise Company of the shopping opportunities in Naples. Our next ports of call were Civitavecchia (for Rome!) and Livorno (for Florance!). Each city is a good two hour drive from the respective port. The advance literature did, of course, make that clear, but in each case the journey took rather longer - Italian traffic - so the tours of each of those cities was somewhat rushed. In each case lunch was included. Unfortunately, in Rome it was virtually inedible and the wine provided was undrinkable! On the other hand, in Florence, not only did we dine in a splendid room in the Palazzo Borghese but the food was of a reasonable standard as was the wine. These issues are of significance because our experience of eating on Fred Olsen cruises is that the food on board is of a very high standard. But the really irritating thing about the Rome tour was the cost, £85 per head. Frankly it was a rip off. There is no doubt that the guide engaged in Rome itself was an excellent guide, but we were also provided with a separate Guide for the coach trip from the port to Rome and back. It is really not clear to us what her function was but her presence no doubt contributed to the cost. The preblem with the Florence tour was that although the literature made it clear that the tour was not suitable for passengers with limited mobility, one of the party in our group neede to use a triangular walking support and could only move at a very slow pace. This meant that the guide was constantly being asked to slow down. In consequence we were at least half an hour late in getting to the lunch venue and then the amount of free time after lunch was severely curtailed (and in Florence the shops were open!). The highlight of the port calls for uns was Elba. It is a delightful island with, of course, the historical link to Napoleon. But, as mentioned, overall we had a wonderful time on the Braemar and will certainly sail on her again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
After reading the reviews on the Costa Deliziosa, we were worried that we wouldn't like it, but having already tried Royal Caribbean, Princess and Island Cruises I can honestly say Costa were far better than our previous cruises. The ... Read More
After reading the reviews on the Costa Deliziosa, we were worried that we wouldn't like it, but having already tried Royal Caribbean, Princess and Island Cruises I can honestly say Costa were far better than our previous cruises. The ship is immaculate, the staff were brilliant, very attentive and really nice, the food was excellent, good quality, served very efficiently and well presented and the entertainment was far better than RC or Princess. We embarked at Dover, with the cruise having started in Copenhagen, we were two of only 20ish english speakers on the passenger list out of 2600, the passengers were mainly italian and german, but we never had a single problem with language as a very large proportion of the staff were very good english speakers. We visited Le Havre (check out the awesome church), Vigo, Lisbon (stunning) Cadiz (where we went to Seville - again stunning) and Malaga, we ended up in Savonna where we flew back to Gatwick. Embarkation and disembarkation were very well organised. The highlights of the cruise were the animators who entertain the passengers around the ship with the hysterical Fabito who does candid camera stunts which are shown before the evening shows. The evening shows are glitzy, professional and nice with a crew x-factor type show which was lovely. The english hostess Rebecka was really attentive but not "in your face" and always available if we had a problem, which we didn't. I would really recommend Costa it is far better than the previous reviewers have reported. We will definitely use them again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was my husband and mine third Disney Magic cruise but the first for our two daughters and their families. This cruise came about due to my mother leaving us a legacy when she died earlier this year and i couldn't think of ... Read More
This was my husband and mine third Disney Magic cruise but the first for our two daughters and their families. This cruise came about due to my mother leaving us a legacy when she died earlier this year and i couldn't think of anything more special than spending family time on a magical holiday Our first Tinkerbell sprinkling was our three cabins were upgraded from 3 gty Cat 12 cabins to 3 Cat 7 Navigator Veranda's - absolutely out of this world. Second Tinkerbell sprinkling was when we became Disney's family of the day and we were announced and we got to go through everything and be first on the ship - a very special event for all of us. The whole family just loved the cruise - both daughters are now blaming me for a new addiction - cruises!!! We loved the sail away party, us grandparents loved using Cove Cafe this time (we always do way but it was nice to get away and have some quiet time!!), the kids loved the kids clubs and the youngest grandson seemed to really enjoy the nursery. Our servers were fantastic and couldn't do enough for us - whatever we requested they went out of their way to deliver - the kids loved them and they seemed to love the kids. Our room steward was a star and he had an extra big tip for the way he looked after our three cabins so well. The shows that we went to were brilliant - the daughters really loved the nightclubs. Cherbourg was our first stop - didn't get off Vigo was second stop - see review Lisbon was third stop - see review Cadiz was fourth stop - I just LOVE Cadiz - its my favourite and my husbands too. love the back streets, the cathedral (don't miss going up into the tower for 4 Euros - the views are 360 and are incredible), the gardens, - just love it. This time we visited the beach as it was the first time any of the kids had been to the seaside - very hot but we had a lovely time. We were going to use the HOHO bus but there were other ships in port that day and the lines and wait time were stupid as there is no shade and we had three small children with us - so we got our money back and used taxis which worked out half the cost of the HOHO bus! Gibraltar was our final stop - see review Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
I have just returned from a holiday of a lifetime - it was fantastic!! As some of you may already know (I have mentioned it in plenty of reviews during the past few months , that I was going on a cruise) , and after waiting (impatiently) ... Read More
I have just returned from a holiday of a lifetime - it was fantastic!! As some of you may already know (I have mentioned it in plenty of reviews during the past few months , that I was going on a cruise) , and after waiting (impatiently) for almost ten months , the time arrived on Saturday 5th June and lasted until Saturday 19th June , and so my holiday has quickly and sadly been and gone! I had never been on a cruise before , let alone gone away from home for more than one week , let alone a fortnight , and now after a brilliant time , I am very sad that's it's over! So to help me get over my post-holiday-blues , I thought that I would share my experience with you!! (Just to warn you , it is going to be a very long review , as I have so much to say!) Right...where shall I begin............ from the very beginning I guess. So , last year , having never been abroad before , I was moaning that I wanted to go on a foreign holiday , so one day whilst out shopping , I walked into a travel agents and picked up a load of holiday brochures. My mum had always wanted to go on a cruise but hadn't been and so after flicking through a couple of brochures , was getting quite tempted to actually go. We then decided that it would be good if a group of us went (these were the very early days of the planning, and me like an excited child , was really hoping that the answer would be a great big yes!) So we discussed it with my sister and her boyfriend , and my aunt and uncle , and we were all (well I wasn't - I was all for it!) debating , shall we shan't we. In the end we decided on a two week mediterranean cruise with Royal Caribbean International. I was so excited when we had confirmed the booking , yet I still had ten months to wait for the time to come. When the day eventually arrived , we caught a bus not too far away , which was a 'link' to the ship itself. The journey to Southamton (we got on in Southamton , not Dover as I have put as the 'place of emarking' , it didn't have 'southampton' on the list , but wouldn't let me post my review if I didn't choose one of the places)took about four hours (I slept most of the way , and so I woke up just as we arrived at the port), there were loads of ships which we passed before we got to hours and I was thinking 'I think it's that one' , 'no wait , it's gotta be that one'. But when I finally saw the actual ship , Independence Of The Seas , I was gobsmacked - it was absolutely massive - in fact it was bigger than a lot of the big buildings by the port. I could not believe that something so big could sail the seas!) It was a beautiful ship ; very smart looking. * Boarding The Ship * Once we had got off the bus , we had to queue for a little while , and then check that our 'papers' and passports were correct before going to a desk where we had to hand in some paperwork. We were then handed our 'seapasses' (more of which I will come to later on). We then had to make our way through 'security' ; the same kind as you would in an airport , I expect ; putting your hand luggage through an 'x ray machine' and then walking through a kind of 'x ray frame'. We then had about a ten minute walk where we finally got to step onto the ship. Boarding was fairly straightforward and didn't take too long which was good news. We were told that it could take up until 9pm that night (by now it was around 4 o' clock) until we had our luggage , although when we found our cabin at about four , our luggage was there waiting for us outside the door. We had around thirty minutes in our room , and then we had to go to a 'safety thing' about how to put on a life jacket etc. Apparently the ship would not sail until everyone had seen the demonstration. As planned , we set sail from Southhampton at 4:45. When I first got on the ship and saw how big it was , I was a bit 'scared'. I was thinking 'oh my god - this place is massive, we're all going to have to stick together the whole time otherwise we may not see eachother for days. Before going , a lot of people who had been on cruises before had told me , 'it's so easy to get lost' and 'make sure you follow the corect carpet (if your room carpet is red , then follow the red carpet on the ship and then you will know that your cabin is in that area'. Well of course that panicked me , although after a couple of days , I knew my way around and so there was no way of getting lost. We were all on deck 6 and we were on one side and the rest of the group were on the opposite site. We had a meeting point which was the bit between the two corridors , this was the place that we always met , by the balcony overlooking the Royal Promenade. * Seapass* As I mentioned earlier , before boarding the ship , each person was given a little blue card which was known as the 'seapass'. This little card was the same size and made of plastic just like a bank card. On it , it had the name of the ship,your name , date of sailing , your cabin number, your designated area number (if there was an emergency etc) , the name of the restaurant you were booked at as well as your table number. So all in all this card held a lot of information about the passenger. Also , instead of using money , the ship uses a cash-free system. Whatever you bought onboard (food is included) , for example drinks , spa treatments or for buying souveniers in the onboard shops , you would pay for it by 'swiping the card' , which would then add the amount to your 'bill' which you paid at the end of the trip. I really liked the fact that you could use it to buy things , as it made it so much easier and meant you didn't have to carry money around on the ship with you at all. This card also acted as your room key , and also to 'clock you in and off' the ship. So it was very important not to lose it. * The Ship * The ship itself was absolutely massive , yet very smart looking. It is a fairly new ship , built in 2008 and cost £900 million to build! The ship is very smart in the inside , with a lot of artwork and paintings. There were a few glass elavators which were handy as sometimes if you were shopping on the ship's own street on Deck five and then wanted to go to the Windjammer (on deck eleven) for lunch it meant walking twelve sets of stairs. So taking the lift was the easiest option (although I did try and take the stairs when I could , until I twisted my ankle one day - being silly , I jumped off the bed and landed on a shoe - not clever at all). The ship had glass elevators so you could see the street and decks from the inside when you were going up and down. There were also 'closed elevators' where you couldn't see out , and I wasn't too keen on using these ones. At least if you broke down in the glass elevators (thankfully we didn't) at least people could see you panicking! The ship itself was very , very clean. There was always a member of staff cleaning the hand rails on the stairs or cleaning the floors. A couple of nights when returning to our rooms at about 11:30pm , I saw a member of staff hoovering the carpets - at that time of night -poor thing! * Cabin * Our cabin , was quite spacious. The room was spotlessly clean and tidy. The beds were the comfiest ever - I always find it hard to get to sleep at night and always sleep lightly , but on the ship , I don't know what happened to me , becaue the minute my head hit the pillow , I was fast asleep , and a deep sleep it was. I've never had such good sleep as I did on that ship - I think the slight movement helped). Because there were three of us , I slept on the 'sofa bed'. My first impression was 'oh no - it's going to be uncomfortable' , but that was the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in! It did not look like a sofa at all at night - it was brilliant. The room had plenty of storing space ; a large wardrobe and plenty of draws and cupboards as well as mirrors with build in cupboards behind them on the dressing table. We had a shower (no bath) which was great , especially after a sweaty day in the sun - the shower was adjustable , and was easy to adjust (either hot or cold , and also you could choose which pressure you wanted). There was plenty of 'oomph' in the pressure of the water which was great. Tea and coffee were available in our bedroom , along with a mini fridge which included cans of coke , sweets and bottled water. To begin with , we were like 'don't touch the fridge - it'll cost us!' but towards the end , we had almost cleared all the sweets! We even had our own private balcony which was great , as you could see the sea , and whenever we were close to the ports , you could see the land getting closer and closer , and also when we were leaving the port , you could watch the sight of the land fade away. It was also a great place to relax outside , knowing that you had a 'bit of outside space to yourself'. No one could see you either which was nice , although if you popped your head round the side , you would sometimes see your neighbour if they were also leaning over the balcony. I absolutely loved the balcony , and would often sit there reading a book or listening to my music , not having a care in the world whilst watching the sea go by. The bathroom , although small , was still quite spacious with a huge mirror. We also had a hairdryer and tea and coffee making facilities which were replenished on a morning/night basis. We also had a televison with a great selection of channels ; sports , news , movies , music etc. The ship even has it's own channels including one which shows , events which have happened so far on the holiday ,as well as the shows , and also a morning programme with the ship's famous 'Joff' the cruise director , who 'presented' all of the shows. There was always an 'interactive' thing on the telly , where you could book an excursion , see what was coming up on the cruise , and even keep an eye on your bill , as well as loads of other things. You could even watch some of the latest movies for a price of $12. I watched Dear John. I had thought that $12 was quite a lot to watch a film , but then I realised , had I gone to my local cineworld which is an hours drive away , the cost of petrol combined with the £7 per person cinema ticket it would have cost around £30 for three of us to go to the cinema , and so for $12 , it was great value as we saved petrol , and all three of us got to watch the movie , so it worked out a lot cheaper than going to the cinema. We had our own room attendant , who was brilliant ; always friendly , professional and always had time for us. He did his job really well , and I felt sorry for him that every night he would have to turn the sofa into a bed for me , and in the morning change my bed back into the sofa , although when we returned from dinner at night , my sofa bed was always ready , and in the morning , we'd leave the room for about half an hour for breakfast , and then return to our room , and the bed would be back to a sofa. When returning from dinner , it was always a pleasure to see what kind of animal the room attendant had made for us using towels ; some nights we would have elephants , pigs , snakes and monkeys. * Food * The food on the Independence of The Seas was brilliant. The restaurants wee always very clean and the standard of cleanliness was very high. Before entering a food place, everyone had to sanitize their hands which I thought was a brilliant idea.There were so many choices of places to eat : * Romeo and Juliet Restaurant * This is the restaurant where we were automatically booked into when we booked the holiday. The restaurant was very posh looking and you could see the above restaurant 'Macbeth' above , and also the restaurant 'King Lea' which was above 'Macbeth'. It was like one big restaurant (3 floors - yet each floor had a different name and had a different menu and sometimes a different style of serving. ) It was in the Romeo and Juliette restaurant that we had our breakfast and dinner. Breakfast (Romeo and Juliette restaurant): You could choose where you wanted to have your breakfast each day. Most of the time we stuck to the buffet-style breakfast which was served in he Romeo and Juliette restaurant. Here , you helped yourself to the massive selection of cereals , pastries , fruit salad , cooked breakfast , cheese and meats and yoghurts. There was so much choice, and the food was always topped up right to the top. I am not a fan of cooked breakfast , although the rest of my group all had cooked breakfasts (bacon , eggs , mushrooms , beans , harsh browns etc) and could not praise the food enough. I myself would have fresh fruit (different fruits laid out in separate bowls ; different kinds of melons , grapes , pineapples - great for getting your five-a-day) , croissants , cereal such as Alpen and also there were muffins which I absolutely loved. Tea and coffee was brought to your table , and so was the orange juice. There didn't seem to be many other fruit juices available ; the waiter would come to your table and say 'would you like some orange juice' and if you didn't they would ask if you would like apple juice. I loved the orange juice though , as it was always fresh. Another 'toast waiter' would then come around with a basket of toast and ask you if you wanted white or brown. Throughout the cruise , the toast was edible , although it wasn't that nice - it was always really hard and had a funny texture , although I solved the problem by smothering it with plenty of butter and strawberry jam. Dinner (Romeo and Juliette) : We were a group of seven and had requested at the time of booking for a table of our own so that we could sit together. However , when we received our seapasses with the dining information on it , it stated that three of us were to eat in the Romeo and Juliette and the other four were to eat in the Macbeth restaurant. We went to see the restaurant manager who changed this for us and so on the first evening we had a table to ourselves. One you knew where your table was (at dinner , you sat at the same table every night , although breakfast , the waiters would find you a suitable table each day , and so for breakfast you sat on a different table each day - on the last day we had a window table which was fantastic!). So on the second night , we walked into the restaurant , making our way to our table , when we noticed a couple on our table , meaning that as the table was only set up for us seven, there wasn't enough room for all of us. The head waiter then came and explained to the couple what had happened (we couldn't hear what exactly was being said as we were too far away) , although the couple did not seem happy at all , although the head waiter was brilliant and we had our table back , which remained ours for the rest of the holiday. The food was brilliant at the restaurant ; of a very high standard. The menu more or less changed each evening although there were still items which remained on the menu most nights. There were about eight options for each of the three courses. The majority of the group are meat-eaters (including fish) and so it meant that they had a different starter and main course each evening , however , I am vegetarian and so is my mum , and we are quite fussy eaters too. I stuck with the ceasar salad most nights (consiting of crisp lettuce , parmasan cheese , yummy garlic croutons and a gorgeous dressing - I absolutely loved it!) and a pasta dish (I love pasta). On one or two ocasions there was other vegetarian meals available such as 'pastry tarts' which I tried one night - it was nice to begin with , but I found it became too much of the same taste and so I couldn't finish it. Although , there was nothing wrong with the food (we all agreed that it was wonderful) , it was just that I am a very fussy eater. On the other hand , the deserts were to die for ; sponge puddings , chocolate tarts , panacottas - they were all brilliant. Although , I love fresh fruit , I am not really a fan of fruity deserts , although I did try a 'berry mousse' one night - and it was one of the best deserts I have ever tasted! Also if you didn't want to put on too much weight during the holiday , there was also a 'special three course menu' where every starter , main course and desert all came to less than 800 calories - I tried this some nights and the food was of an excellent standard. * WindJammer Cafe * What a great place this was ; it was open from about 7am everyday for breakfast , right through for lunch and afternoon tea until 5pm and then it would open again at 6:30pm for dinner. The very popular , cafe is located on top of the ship at the back with fantastic views of the ocean. Foodwise ; there was so much to choose from. The food was served buffet-style and had something for every taste , whether you were starving or just in a 'picking' mood. Such food included roast dinners ,salads, pizzas , burgers , pasta , rolls , as well of a huge range of deserts. On days where we were getting off the ship to go exploring , we would sometimes get up early and go to the cafe for breakfast. Food available was served buffet style where you helped yourself. Although it was a great place , I prefered having breakfast in the Romeo and Juliet dining room as although they were both buffet style , at least in the restaurant a waiter would bring you juice,toast, tea and cofee and anything else you wanted. A waiter would come around with tea or coffee in this cafe , but it would be served tea-bag-in-a-cup style rather than in a pot like in the restaurant. I loved the Windjammer ; as it was always quick and you could go whenever you wanted ; there was always plenty of food to choose from and the dishes were always topped out ; they never seemed to run out of anything. The food was always of a high standard too. One thing which I did not like about the Windjammer , although this is by means no fault of the ship's , was the fact that some people were like pigs and would push in front of you even if you were queing. One day , I had been queing up for one of the deserts and as it was my turn , was just about to take a desert , when a man pushed in from nowhere , and said 'excuse me , can I just grab one of those' , and his attitude was so selfish ; he hadn't queued or nothing. People would very often push you out of the way too which was annoying. We found the nicest time to go was at about 4:30 as there wasn't that many people about then which was great. Also sometimes , at peak times , especially lunch time , it was hard to find a table , although there was always one waiter who would greet customers and get another waiter to find a suitable for us. They always found us a table very quickly and we were never left to wait more than five minutes. Once you found a table , the experience was great. What was also great was the fact that you could just grab a slice of pizza or a cake and then take it to your room or to the poolside to eat it. * Other Restaurants * There were also many other places were you could have food , such as 'Johnny Rockets' which was like an American-1950's style burger place. We went here one night for a change (there was an extra charge of around $4 per person at this place - most of the restaurants including the Windjammer and Romeo and Juliet restaurants as well as a lot of others were included in the cruise package which was good as it meant that you could eat as much as you wanted which was brilliant). If you like Italian dining , then there was an Italian restaurant onboard called the Portfino. Although to eat here , it cost $20 per person. I did fancy here but the rest of the group thought that beings as there were a lot of places that we could eat at , that were included in the price of our holiday , it would have been silly to have spent $140 between us for just one meal , and so we didn't go there. Although I would have liked to have tried it. There was also a 'meaty' restaurant called 'Chops Grille' which also charged around $10 extra , although being vegetarian , I didn't eat here. There are also numerous cafes down in the Royal Promenade , where you could obtain as much tea and coffee as you wanted for 'free'. There were also tea and coffee stands in various areas of the ships , although these were only available at certain times. * Bars * If you wanted a drink then you had many bars to choose from , and even at busy times , you would almost always find a seat. Some of the bars which we went to included the 'On Air' bar, which also did karaoke , where my sister and I sang a couple of times. They also had a 'private karaoke booth' where you could sing if the karaoke wasn't on. This place also showed the football on a big screen. Another bar which I loved was 'Boleros' ; a latin themed bar. There was a live latin band who performed there every single night and I loved their style of music and how they made their own 'Spanish sounding' versions of popular songs such as 'Sway' by Michael Buble. I also loved the Olive Or Twist bar which was located right on top of the ship and you could see 360 degrees around the ship ; it was brilliant. It was one of my favourite places to go in the day as it was always peaceful , and you could see all that was happening outside on the ship as well as the sea , so it was great. There was another bar called 'The Pyramid Lounge' which had an Egyptian theme. I didn't particularly like this bar ; there wasn't nothing wrong with it , just that it seemed 'out of the way' compared to a lot of the other bars which were located in the centre of the ship. When the football was on , this is one of the areas where loads of people flocked too to see a game - there was a good atmosphere here though, especially when England were playing. There were also a lot of other bars which you could go to , although the ones listed above are the ones which I went to the most. There was also a nightclub called 'The Labyrinth' on the show. I did step inside and it was full of smokers (one of the not too many places that smokers could smoke). I was really disappointed that they had made the club a 'smoker's place' as I love partying yet hate smoking , and because the club was absolutely full of smokers , I didn't go there again. * Staff * The staff were absolutely fantastic!!! They treated us as though we were royalty. They couldn't do enough for you ; always willing to help and nothing was too much trouble. They were always so professional , friendly , and a lot of them were also really comical too so that made our dining experiences entertaining. The service was always spot on , especially in the dining room. They would not let you lift a finger ; they wanted to do absolutely everything for you which was brilliant , although I did feel guilty at times especially when they said they don't get one day off and work all day every single day for six months!! We had two waiters at dinner who remained the same two throughout the cruise (for breakfast you always had a different waiter , depending where you sat) , the main waiter and an assistant waiter and they were brilliant ; so professional , yet very friendly. They really knew their stuff. Working in the hotel industry myself , I appreciate it so much more and with their excellent 'Gold Anchor service' I even picked up a few tips! The staff in the Windjammer cafe were also great ; always smiling and willing to get anything you wanted from the buffet (if you were too lazy to get it yourself). All staff aboard were great ; always friendly and saying hello if they met you in the corridor , even the ones you had never spoken too. Throughout our cruise we received a fantastic service. Everything about it was properly thought out and all made sense , which meant that everything ran smoothly. There was always plenty of staff around too , all working very hard. Everyone was lovely ; professional , friendly and ALWAYS willing to help which was great. *Tipping * Before we went on the cruise , a lot of people who had been before had warned us about the tipping of staff - apparently if you didn't say that you didn't want them to automatically add tips to your bill , at the beginning of the cruise , then they would go ahead and do this. So , at the beginning we made it clear that we wanted to choose the amount of tips we gave at the end of the cruise , as the suggested amount for each person (head waiter , waiter , assistant waiter and room attendent) added up to around $6 per person per day ,and did seem quite a lot. We were assured that unless we had signed a form in our room that said you wanted the tips to be added automatically to your room bill , then you wouldn't be charged. So on the last day , when we received the envelopes to put our own tips into. We all agreed on what we were going to give per person ( in total it added up to about $200 between the three of us for four members or staff). Although , later on that afternoon (before we had handed in our tips) we receieved 'vouchers' along with a letter type thing that said 'thank you for pre-paying your gratuities'. We weren't sure what this meant (there were four vouches which had our names printed on them so they were obviously for us). So we went down to enquire about it at the guest relations , and they said that we had indeed already paid the gratuities in the price of our holiday. We were a bit annoyed at first because we had preched and preached that we hadn't wanted this (although it wasn't the ship's fault , it was the travel agent's fault) , although when we added up what we had already pre-paid (around $60 from each of us between four members of staff) compared to the $200 which we were going to pay , it worked out less for us , and we were also relieved that it had already been paid as it meant we had more spending money left , and also , we weren't sure how much to give in the first place , so that solved the problem. We did however give the room attendent an extra $30 , especially when he told us that he would have to move all of the cases (there were hundreds of them , all laid out in the corridors outside people's cabins) in the night (and he had already worked most of that day). The staff worked so hard , so it was really worth every penny! So instead of putting money in the envelopes and handing them to each member of staff (4 in total) , we simply put our vouches in the envelopes and then gave them to them. I expect they would then have to hand in the vouchers in return for the money we had already paid for them. So although we were against pre-paying the gratuities , it did actually work out better for us , and also means you get it out of the way. Apparently the staff only get $50 per month (including their food and keep) , although they work very long hours , and for their whole contract (6 months , usually) they don't get one day off - so they rely on the tips as their income. * Shows * The Independence Of The Seas has it's own theatre called the 'Alhambra' , which is fairly big. Each night , there was a different show on. The ship has it's own entertainers simply known as 'The Royal Caribbean singers and dancers'. Whilst we were there they put on four different productions ; one was a circus , another one was about fairytales as well as others. The shows were brilliant and the performers were excellent. As well as the shows they did , they also performed in the street parades. The ship also had it's own live band ; who seemed to be involved with most things musical on the ship ; all of the shows , the street parades , the talent show etc. As well as the ship's own in-house-entertainers , there was also entertainers who had just 'called in'. Some of them were very good including a comedian who was very funny , and kept us laughing throughout the whole show. There was an elderly gentleman who sang , and he was brilliant too. Another good one was a comedy juggler , who was brilliant and so was the Motown band. There was one man though , who was an impersonator and he was really bad ; he was American and lot of the impersonations he did were of Americans from television shows and things like that , which we hadn't seen and ,so because we didn't know who these people were , we didn't know if he was good at impersonating them or not , and so the show was very boring. A lot of people even walked out that night. It was really cringy because no one was laughing either! Most of the time , the shows were fantastic , although my only criticism was the fact that they were too short. Each show only lasted around an hour and so they were over quickly. Apart from this , the shows were of a very high standard (apart from the impersontor man). There was also an ice rink onboard which also had their own shows , although because these were always on in the afternoon , because we had either been out in the ports all day we would go for a rest before dinner that evening and so we didn't go to see the ice shows. Also another factor was that , with the other shows you could just walk in (it was included in the price of the cruise) to the theatre , find a seat and watch the show. Although with the ice shows , you had to get a ticket in the morning of the day of the show , and so we had already gone out by then perhaps. One evening they did a show called 'The Love And Marriage Show' in the theatre. The show consisted of four couples hand-picked from the audience ; the men then had to answer embaressing questions about their other halves while they weren't there and then vice versa , and the other halves would have to guess what their partners had said. This was a very comical show!! * Activities * There were many activites taking place all day every day. Each night , you would receive a cruise newsletter called 'The Cruise Compass' which would tell you everything about what was going on the next day , including the weather as as well as certain onboard offers such as at the spa etc ,which was very good . There were hundreds of activites to choose from including ; Yoga , bingo , Quizzes , karaoke ; everything you could imagine. They even had a rock climbing wall and a Flow Rider which was a water thing which 'shot' out water so that you could surf. Great for kids! There was so much to do that in the whole two weeks , no way would you have had time to try everything! I had orginally thought when I saw that we had a few 'sea days' (days where we didn't get off the ship at ports) that we would be very bored with nothing to do , although there was soo much to do , that at times I actually prefered the sea days to the port days. We went to the karaoke one night and it was quite quiet there. There wasn't that many singers there. Me and my sister both sang , although I was disappointed with the songs available , as they were all pre 2000's songs and so there weren't many songs that we knew. We also went to the bingo session one afternoon. We go to bingo every couple or months or so , and so were looking forward to the session. Although we were really disappointed when we only played about four 'line' games and one 'house' game and so for about $30 we felt this was a bit of rip off as there was only about five chances of winning a prize. When we go to Mecca bingo at home , we pay about £15 and have about twenty-something games , so this one was a bit disappointing. Although I would have loved to have won the top prize which was to spend the rest of your holiday in the 'royal suite'. There were also other 'fun activities' which involved 'members of the public'. Such things included 'men's belly flop' competition , where they had to flop into the pool and the audience had to vote for who they thought made the biggest splash. The ironic part was , that there were five guys trying (four of which were quite big men) and a skinny guy and the skinny guy won which I thought was funny! There were a lot of sports facilities including table tennis tables , which we played a few times during our stay. You could also play football and basketball as well as go swimming in one of the many swimming pools. What was good was the fact that there were lots of little swimming pools and one section was for kids and then there was a more quieter area with pools for adults. There were also a few jacuzzis which were lovely and warm. There was also a pool bar which was good , especially at night as it was very quiet and relaxing. There were loads of deck chairs available on the top deck ; great for sunbathing , and most of the time we had brilliant weather. There was almost always deck chairs available , until the last day when there were hardly none left! There was also a 'help-yourself-ice-cream-machine' which I absolutely loved , and you could as many as you wanted! * Ports of Call * We went to some great places ; Gibraltar , Corsica , Cannes , Barcelona , Ibiza , Malag , Lisbon and Vigo. You could book excursions with the ship , where you could go on tours (you had to pay) or go to museums or things like football clubs. We never went on any of the ship's excursions and just did our own thing. I was really pleased with the places we went to especially ; Barcelona , Malaga , Lisbon and Vigo. The rest of the places we visited were good , although the ones I have listed above are the ones which stood out the most for me. When getting off the ship you had to use your seapass to 'clock out' and then on returning to the ship , you had to clock back in , and go through security checks ; you couldn't bring particular items such as food and drink onto the ship. * Photographs * There was always an opportunity for a photograph. The ship had it's own photographers , who were always buzzing about the ship. Whenever you stepped off the ship , the photographers would be waiting for you , (one would be dressed up in a special outfit depending on which place we were at - in gibraltar they were dressed up as a monkey , a bull fighter in Barcelona , a dolphin in lisbon etc) and you could have your photo taken with the 'mascot'. Your photos would then be available to purchase in the ship's own gallery which held loads of photos. You could also have you're photos taken every night around the ship with special backgrounds such as the ship , or on the stairs. On formal nights they would 'chase' you for a photo - sometimes even interupting your dinner for a photo. We had some good photos of all of us which we purchased at around $20-$30 per photo. Once we had purchased four photos , we had a 'free' photo album which was worth $39 so that was good! Throughout the cruise , they were always on about a dvd which the ship people had made during the fortnight and would be a great souvenier to take home as it contained great memories from the particular cruise (featuring clips from the shows , and the parties , and of the people). I thought 'oh wow ,that sounds good' and so bought a copy of the DVD for $30! However , I managed to watch it for the first time last night , and it was a load of old rubish! Yes , it did feature clips of the shows and clips of the passengers dancing in the parties and so on , although it was more like a 'promotional dvd' which you can get free if you request from cruise companies (I had had some free through the post from P&O cruises and Ocean Village , before we went) and this one was exactly like one of those as it said 'this is the so-and-so - we are open from 8-4 every day' kind of thing , and so I felt it was a complete rip off , telling me about what I already knew! * Royal Promenade * Believe it or not , the ship has it's own 'street' with shops and cafes. You would not believe that you were on a ship , but would think that you were really shopping on a real street. There aren't that many shops (just small shops such as a 'general store' which sold sweets , medication and souveniers , a women's clothes shop , a men's clothes shop , cafes , Ben and Jerry's Ice cream shop as well as 'travel agents' where you could book your next cruise' , and once you had been in them once , you'd seen it all. One good thing about the shops was the fact that they were 'duty-free'. The shops were sometimes closed whilst the ship was docked , and would then open when the ship was back at sea. At night , 'parties' would take place on the Royal Promenade. The first 'party' was good ; it featured two of the cruise's professional singers and they were brilliant. Although as the cruise went on , these parties became 'boring'. There were these bridges/stages that came down from the roof. There would be music playing (they would have special nights such as British rock etc) and then they would have members of the entertainment teams (not the actual singers and dancers - but the ones who would help out at events such as bingo and karaoke etc) and they would just be dancing and jumping up and down , and the crowd would just be looking at them , and so I thought that this was very boring and so I didn't watch these parades after. * Extra Points and tips * Beforehand , we had worried that we would get sea sick ; although it did take us a day or two to get used to the ship's movement , we were absolutely find. One or two nights it was a bit rocky although we felt safe onboard. We took 'travel bands' which really helped on the first day. Although sea sickness didn't affect us at all. We always made sure that we left at least an hour before we were supposed to get back on the ship , when visiting ports , as the ship wouldn't wait for anyone. When we visited Cannes , there was a group of people who weren't back on the ship at the time the ship was set to sail , the captain said that they would wait twenty minutes for them and no more (as the ship was being charged to park at the port). I don't know if they did get back on in time or if they had to fly to Barcelona to meet the ship the next day. So it's better to leave the ports a little early in order to get back onto the ship in time. Before the cruise I shopped and shopped until I was certain that I wouldn't be able to fit everything into my suitcase (luckily I was). I was sure I didn't have enough clothes for two weeks ; I took about eight different pairs of shoes and only ended up wearing the same two pairs throughout. I also didn't wear half the clothes that I took with me. There was also an onboard laundry where you could send your dirty laundry for a small price and then they would return your items to your room which was good. The best time to go swimming was at around 6pm as there were hardly no people there at all , just the odd one or two. However in the day it was proper busy and quite noisy at times too . If you are going to buy sovenieres then I recommend that you do so on the last day rather than at the beginning of your holiday , as there was a big sale at the end of cruise ,especially on jewellry and perfumes , so it is worth waiting. With over 4000 passengers onboard as well as over 1,300 members of staff , you would have thought that it would have been overcrowded , but the truth was it wasn't (apart from the Windjammer at busy times). There were some real great places which were very peaceful , including the very front of the ship , on the top deck after 6pm (when everyone had either gone to dinner for 6:30 , or gone to get ready for dinner at 8:30). Before going , a lot of people had said that a cruise was a holiday for old people ,so I was a bit like 'oh god', but I can honestly tell you that there were more people in their twenties and thirties than old people. Although having said that , there were people of all ages from , babies , toddlers , kids , teens , adults and seniors. It really is the perfect holiday for everyone! If you're in a group , it's a good idea to have a meeting point. So if you do happen to get split up from everyone , it's a good idea to say 'if we lose someone , head to the 'meeting point' (whether it be outside a shop or bar) on the hour' , so say that you 'lose someone' and it's 12:45 , then you would be at the meeting place to meet at 1 o clock , if that makes sense. Before going I was worried that I wouldn't have enough spending money to last a fortnight , and was thinking 'oh my god , I'm going to need at least £1000. In the end I took around 400 Euros with me and that was more than enough - I think during the whole two weeks , I only spent around 100 Euros , and that was off the ship , mainly buying tickets to go on tour buses , entries into places like caves and museums and for souveniers , and so that proves that you don't need that much money with you at all , although it wise to make sure that you do have enough. Everything you bought onboard the ship with your 'seapass' , which was linked to a credit card , was taken out of your bank account at the end of the holiday. * Overall Experience * We had a fantastic time ; all seven of us agreed that it was a brilliant experience and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Everything about it was wonderful ; the food , the staff , the cabins , shows , ports , ice cream machine , jacuzzi , bars ....everything was perfect!! We paid around £1300 each for a room with a balcony and it was well worth the money. At first it did seem a little expensive , although when we were actually on the ship it was obvious that it was well worth the money when you think about all that was included : Unlimited food : (breakfast , lunch tea , and dinner as well as 24 hour buffet) , including a three course meal every night (if you had gone to a restaurant it would probably have cost £20+ per person). All of the ice cream we had at the pool (if you would have bought it in a shop , each cone would have cost at least £2 each , and we had loads here) The top shows ; In all , I think we saw about nine shows. Imagine if you had gone to see a show at your local theatre it would have cost around £20 per person per show (actually more probably as the performers on this ship were World class). There was so much more included although the above are the main ones! So all in all it was excellent value for money! * Highly Recommended * I would definately recommend the Independence Of The Seas ; it was fantastic , a real holiday in a lifetime , and now that I have arrived home after two weeks onboard the brilliant ship...it's horrible , there was so much to do onboard , so many people and great company , and now it just seems really boring and lonely after being surrounded by so many people for a fortnight !I really can't wait to go again! Time to start saving some money for another cruise I think...........! Thanks for reading! Apologies for such a long review (it's not often I write long ones!) June 24th 2010 xdonzx Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
From a cruise we expect good quality food,hate buffets, good entertainment, good value for money. Friendly and helpful staff Sailed 5th Sept 09, Meditarian Western. Ship sailed approx 4 hours late, due to bad weather. Embarkation no one ... Read More
From a cruise we expect good quality food,hate buffets, good entertainment, good value for money. Friendly and helpful staff Sailed 5th Sept 09, Meditarian Western. Ship sailed approx 4 hours late, due to bad weather. Embarkation no one told us what the procedure was. 1st morning at breakfast the waiters didn't make any indication if waiter service, kept on pointing to the buffet. Noticed a menu so asked the waiter if we could order, he seemed put out, the food that eventually came was not edible. Same attitude for lunch the turkey that was presented was totally raw on the inside, so in the end we tried the buffet which was great if you like salads but the cooked food was very dry and tasteless. The evening meals were only ok some good and bad days. If you are vegetarian I am sorry but the menu is very limited even for meat eaters. Lots of fish some good and bad! If you like buffets then this could be your sort of cruise. The entertainment of a day was very limited, if you like a quiz or bridge, bingo, The entertainment of an evening was good but sometimes you could not get in the Coral Club as the ist sitting people would not move! I was worried about the health & Safety for the Neptune Lounge if the Breamar had a fire it would be very difficult to get out. They have added extra chairs which means you have difficulty in accessing the exits. Not sure why H & S have not picked up on this as there are many elderly people on this ship who have difficulty in walking. Staff some were excellent and some didn't give a dam, the waiter service standards were very poor compared to PO cruises. I think the reason for this is no one is checking what they do, also there is not enough staff now they have increased passenger numbers. Food is not replaced as quick from the buffet service. Also note ordering food from you cabin can take over 30 minutes and is not always what you have ordered. Also if you missed breakfast after 10 am then the only food you can get is biscuits and cake but are limited, once they have gone you will not get anything until the buffet at 12.00. The tea machine from the palms cafe kept on breaking down and running out of spoons.     Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
It was with real surprise to have received a letter from the MSC Club asking if I would contribute 'a short, impartial review of your experience of your cruise with us' to this web site. Why you might ask, well simply put our ... Read More
It was with real surprise to have received a letter from the MSC Club asking if I would contribute 'a short, impartial review of your experience of your cruise with us' to this web site. Why you might ask, well simply put our cruise was the worst we have ever experienced. You might think that MSC would have done a little more background checking before mass mailing a letter to all its previous cruisers, especially when we spent 6 months trying to get some form of acceptable compensation from them.   Anyway some background. Having cruised before we thought we would try something different and so choose MSC's 'Italian' sophistication for my milestone 40th. We really wish we hadn't. We chose the inaugural sailing of the MSC Poesia taking in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy with a two night stay in Venice at the end. Now with anything new I expect some issues it's only natural, however I didn't expect them to happen before we even boarded. The major problem was when MSC changed our specifically booked hotel accommodation without notice and instead gave us a room in business hotel situated by the junction of a motorway, which we got a nice view of from our window. After I didn't some comparisons I found that the hotel we got was over £200 cheaper for the two nights than the one we booked and paid extra for. I raised the issue with reservations in the UK before we boarded and then again when we got on board. All I got was assurances it would be sorted out before we departed the ship in Venice - in short it wasn't.   As for the ship well when we got on the ship things started ok but it didn't take long before a number of other things came up. For instance   -          The gym did not have a supply of water, you were expected to pay for it at the bar just outside. -          Tap water was not freely available and took the restaurant staff 3 days to get to grips with the idea. -          Tea and coffee - not specialities, had to be bought everywhere except in the restaurants. -          Only one English speaking hostess available on the entire ship that was carrying over 1500 people who spoke English as their first language. -          The Italian crew members were at best unhelpful, probably due to their lack of understanding basic English, thank God for my Italian which was better than their English and that is saying something! -          Oh and of course being Italian they and were more concerned with their appearance and self importance to be of any use when you were able to communicate your needs. -          Cabin staff that needed to pay more attention to actually dusting and cleaning the glass and mirrors. -          The cinema mentioned in the literature that wasn't available/finished - we never did find out which.   I could go on with numerous other small points that when you put them altogether really puts a large black cloud over the whole experience.   At the end of the day my numerous letters of complaint did nothing to sway MSC and in general they just weren't interested in resolving anything once they had our money.   Would I cruise with MSC again? Well not at my expense. However, if anyone wants to send me on one to see if anything's changed and provide another impartial review on that feel free to get in touch.   In short, my opinion - 5 star hotel, 3 star food and 2 star service. If MSC are trying to develop their business in the UK market, they have a long, long way to go. I know of other lines that for less than the £3,000 we spent give better service, have friendlier staff and are more customer focus than this lot. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
We could see Balmoral berthed as we approached the Cruise terminal at Dover but were puzzled when directed to a car park well away from the ship.There was a great deal of traffic leaving the area and we learnt that Balmoral had been held ... Read More
We could see Balmoral berthed as we approached the Cruise terminal at Dover but were puzzled when directed to a car park well away from the ship.There was a great deal of traffic leaving the area and we learnt that Balmoral had been held outside the harbor because of extremely high wins and a heavy swell.She had planned to dock at 5.00am but had not berthed until 11.00am!The result was chaotic as passengers disembarking met with incoming passengers and their vehicles. It certainly stretched the resources of Dover's Cruise Centre but theharbour staff were superb and handled the crisis with patience, skill and good humour.We had arrived at 1.00pm and were on board at 4.00pm.Their was a wait while the incoming passengers were documented,the allocation of cabin allocation was difficult as one had to seek a an Olsen crew member with a clip board,however we found cabin 6110 which was aft on the main deck.A comfortable double bed with large double window,Tv east chair,dressing table with large mirror,and bathroom with sower and a tub. There was plenty of hanging and storage place.Kettle'tray etc and effective air conditioning. We had a long wait for our luggage and I eventually found the last two cases on the reception area of main deck, obviously the late arrival had caused a huge problem fore the luggage handlers.The Captain welcomed us aboard over the p/a system and warned of very rough weather in the Bay of Biscay,because of the wind and high seas he said that all decks were out of bounds and the doors were being locked. Sadly these conditions existed for most of the trip and I briefly list the course of the voyage: Sun 18 Jan- Still in the English Channel but ship was rising and falling in the heavy seas and everybody had found sleep difficult in the stormy conditions. Access to decks still locked. Mon 19 Jan Another bad night we had to place everything on the floor as violent motion sent everything on lockers or shelves went spinning off to the floor. Captain Trond Lippestad said at 9.00am that he had been on the bridge all night and we were now in the Bay of Biscay with atlantic swells causing waves 40 foot high and a force 9 gale.We should have docked in La Corunna at 10.00am but arrive at 7 p.m. Tues 20 - Woke to heavy rain but it was good to be on terra firma.We found the town quiet and unhospitable in a heavy hail storm.There was more bad news when the Captain announced that the terrible weather meant he had to cancel the visits to Tangier and Lisbon.To go further south would mean he could not return to Dover by 27 Jan (the storms meant sailing at 10 to 12 knots instead of the normal20-22knots. Wed 20th-Docked in Bilbao mid morning,we are here for two days and revised itinerary is Fri 23 - La Rochelle, Sat 24 Jan -Lorient Mon 26 Jan - Cherbourg. Thursday22 Jan Left Bilbao at 4pm and Captain broadcast that a satellite weather map showed a hurricane moving towards the Bay of Biscay.He was forced to abandon plans to visit La Rochelle and Lorient and would head North for the relative shelter of the English Channel.Olsens were trying to find two Northern ports that we could visit en route to Dover.This was disappointing but the Captain bore the responsibility for 1300 passengers(many elderly) and 550 crew,apparently there had been several broken limbs reported due to violent movement of the ship. We had sunshine in Cherbourg and a warm welcome from the port authority during our 2 day stay in Antwerp.There were hastily arranged visits to The Bayeux tapestry at C.bourg and Brussels in A/werp but we felt they were a poor substitute foe Tangier and Lisbon! CONCLUSIONS A cruise break in January is tempting particularly to N. Africa but be prepared for violent seas in the Bay of Biscay.You have two days out and 2 days back.The need to maintain a strict adherence to the Olsens cruise calendar means that ports will be cancelled from the itinerary if the ship is not back in the home port on schedule. The Captain, Officers and crew of Balmoral maintained a calm very attitude during a very difficult cruise.Waiers with laden trays weaved across canting decks as did the dancers in the cabaret. Balmoral is a happy ship and we will certainly sail with her again(not in January) They were fair in pricing the cruise and refunded the fuel supplement of £60 that had been on our invoice days after returning home a letter from Mike Rodwell their M.D. apologizing for the disrupted cruise but offering 25% off a future Olsen cruise. Some passengers will claim they would expect a refund in compensation I believe the majority will accept we were the the victims of abnormal weather conditions and we together with Balmoral survived THE CRUEL SEA. ........................ Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
My wife and I just returned from a great two weeks in Europe with many thanks to the crew of the Carnival Splendor. We have sailed previously with Celebrity and Princess, and honestly, had some degree of apprehension about sailing ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from a great two weeks in Europe with many thanks to the crew of the Carnival Splendor. We have sailed previously with Celebrity and Princess, and honestly, had some degree of apprehension about sailing Carnival. Most of our fears were unfounded. Our trip began with a day pre-cruise in London at the Park Plaza County Hall which we booked through Carnival. The transfers were first class (no bus) and the hotel was great location, friendly staff, nice room. Although our time was limited we got to see tons of sights, shop at Harrods, eat fish and chips at a pub, and ride the London Eye. The next day we took the Carnival transfer to the ship in Dover. Embarkation was incredible. No lines, no waiting, luggage handled by Carnival. We were on the ship and having our first "celebration" drinks before noon. We did not hear the announcement to not go to your cabin, so we did and found ours ready when we boarded. We had SPA cabin 1116, which we chose because it has an extended balcony. The cabin was pretty standard for what we have come to expect for a balcony cabin. THe access to the spa which it afforded was GREAT. We used the T-Pool and thermal suite at least once per day. We also did the couples Rasul mud treatment which was fun, and found the gym uncrowded all the time. We also enjoyed the spa bath amenities. Since we usually book aft cabins, it was amazing how quiet our room at the front was. The ship was clean, bright (to an extreme), easy to get around. We enjoyed the casino and never found it too crowded. We frequented the coffee bargreat coffees and sweets. Mini golf was very nice and fun. The main pool is the nicest I have seen...we were fortunate that they had the option to slide the roof closed for those cold days. However, the huge poolside tv shows nothing but Carnival promos most of the day and is only used for a few concerts and movies at night. Why not use it during the day?? The waterslide was fun. There seemed to be plenty of deck chairs to go around. The piano bar looked like fun, but was it FILLED WITH SMOKE. We were able to switch to a table for two in the Gold Pearl dining room late seating. We had excellent service, found the food to be OK (dessert was lacking), and we really (much to my surprise) enjoyed the singing and dancing of the maitre d and waitstaff. Our biggest gripe about the ship was the lack of food in the afternoon (when we typically returned from excursions). The buffet was open until sometime between 2 and 230 and did not reopen until 6. The grill and pizza were open but terrible. Room service was pretty bad too. So, after a long day ashore we would return to the ship at 4 and have nowhere to eat. We were also really surprised at the lack of activities on the ship during sea days. I figured Carnival would have way more to do!! Instead, the activities offered did not approach what we typically see on Princess. Finally, though we had one tender port (Cannes) Carnival did a terrible job with the tenders. It took way too long to get off the ship...no excuses. PORTS: Our first port was Le Havre (gateway to Paris) and we booked Paris on your own through Carnival. Since there was almost a 3 hour ride to Paris, we did not want to risk it through an independent. Our guide on the bus did a great job helping us plan our time in Paris. She showed us metro routes, and gave advice on the best way to see the most. Again, in our 5 hours there, we were able to see the Louvre, the Eiffel tower, the Arch, eat crepes, shop at Louis Vuitton, and explore the city. We were very happy with our day. In Vigo Spain, we chose to explore on our own. We found the town to be great. Easy to get around, lots of restaurants, most shopping closed due to it being a Sunday. We had a great seafood lunch, shopped for wine, and enjoyed the Powerboat race which was going on during our visit. In Lisbon, Portugal we began with some sightseeing along the waterfront and then took a cab into town for some shopping. We visited a port wine center to purchase some local product. We were not too impressed with Lisbon. Malaga Spain we did a walking tour on our own. We saw the Cathedral, the fort (what a long walk but worth it for the view), the bull ring, and lots of the city. It was very nice. We also visited a supermarket for some water (.30 e) and snacks. We went to the Picasso museum which was great. We found our first Dunkin Donuts (coffee). We did a tour through Carnival in Barcelona. Some good, some bad.. We enjoyed the trip to Cordoniu Cava cellars where we were able to learn about the winemaking process, saw the history of Cava, and were able to taste and purchase some of their cava. That part of the tour was great. The rest (a tour of the Olympic village) was kind of annoying. We did see Gaudi's cathedral, which was amazing. We loved the French Riviera and the port of Cannes. We explored the downtown area on our own in the morning. Went to the outdoor market, shopped, explored the marina. We took a tour to Nice and Eze in the afternoon which was great. We visited a beach, shopped, went to a perfume factory, experienced great views... We would love to go back for a vacation. In Livorno Italy, we took a tour of Pisa and then went to a winery. I could do without the tower. First, way too crowded. Second, not that tall. I always imagined this huge tower, not even close. We were not impressed. The winery was fun. We met some really cool folks from the ship and had a great time eating and drinking. We booked our first day hotel in Rome through Carnival, and used their transfers off the ship. Debarkation was pretty smooth, everyone was off the ship by 9. However, after having made no announcement for our debarkation group, John (CD) made an announcement telling us that we had 10 minutes to get off the ship..could have been done better. Our first hotel was the Parco Dei Principi. A first class (5 star) hotel which was nice, but in a terrible location. It was a 12 e cab ride to get to a part of the city where you could walk to the sights. Our second hotel, the Palazzetto degli Artisti Suites was in view of the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Though not 5 star, we couldn't have been happier with the location and experience. We were able to spend our first day in Vatican city, where we took a tour of the museum and sistine chapel. Day 2, we planned a walking tour of the sights and monuments. We were able to execute our plan with a map and some bravery in the face of Roman traffic. Rome is an amazing city, there is so much to see. We concluded our tour with a tour of the Coliseum and Forum which was also great to see. Overall, we had a great time. I am a beach guy who had almost no desire to go to Europe. After experiencing the sights, history, and food, my mind was changed. I am glad we took this trip. For their part, Carnival was well represented by the Splendor, which is a really nice ship. Though the "party crowd" would keep us from ever trying Carnival in the Caribbean, if we ever go to Europe or Alaska, we would not hesitate to use Carnival again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Embarkation This was the strangest one that I've ever experienced. I should probably say that first of all this cruise actually commenced 3 days earlier in Copenhagen but MSC were selling it as commencing in Dover for the UK ... Read More
Embarkation This was the strangest one that I've ever experienced. I should probably say that first of all this cruise actually commenced 3 days earlier in Copenhagen but MSC were selling it as commencing in Dover for the UK market. When I arrived at the port by taxi, I asked the driver where I should drop off my luggage and was told that it was normally just beside the entrance but it was closed. I then went in to the terminal itself, only to discover that there were no check in desks open (Check in was from 2pm onwards and I arrived at about 2.15pm). There were signs pointing to the ship and a steady stream of passengers returning to the ship. I decided that there was no other option but to follow them onboard along with my luggage. When I reached the port security just before the gangway to the ship, I explained that I didn't have my cruise card yet and there had been no one downstairs to check me in or take my luggage. He radioed to the ship and they told him to let me through as they were checking in onboard as they were only expecting 10 passengers in total to embark in Dover. As soon as I stepped onboard, one of the security staff came over to assist me, showed me where to leave my luggage and got another member to escort me to reception where they checked me in, in just a few minutes. Within 15 minutes of arriving at the port I was in my cabin. My suitcases were delivered to me 5 minutes later. Although this was the fastest embarkation that I've ever experienced it was certainly also the most unusual Ports of Call I don't do shore excursions. This is not a reflection on those provided by MSC but rather my aversion to getting up early whilst on holiday and being shepherded about in a group. I'm far too independent and I prefer being on my own or with a few friends to being in huge groups. I've also travelled fairly extensively in Europe over the past 30 years so my preference now is just to wander about for a few hours and feel the atmosphere of a place, rather than rush around trying to see every monument or tourist site listed in a guidebook. So anyone expecting lots of detailed information on any of these ports had best read someone else's review! After departing from Dover we had another day at sea before arriving at La Coruna on the morning of day 3. The seas had been a bit rough at times, but I was fully expecting this. La Coruna - we docked right in town. so no local transport required. It was only a few minutes walk to reach the waterfront promenade and as it was a lovely sunny day, I chose to wander along it for a few hours rather than head in to all the hustle and bustle of the shops in town. Lisbon - we were meant to arrive at 11am but didn't arrive until 12.30 as we'd made slow progress the night before due to heavy seas. The captain agreed to stay longer in port so we still had the same time in port. I've been to Lisbon many times before but this was the first time I'd arrived by sea and I particularly enjoyed the sail up the Tagus River which gave great views of the city skyline. It was amazing sailing under the 1966 Ponte (Bridge) 25 de Abril. As we approached it, it looked like we did not have much clearance room but we passed under just). I was standing on my balcony and being on Port side had a fantastic view all the way in. Lisbon is a beautiful and old city albeit extremely hilly. The best way to get up some streets is the trams or the public elevators dotted around the city. Most scenic tram ride is the 28 east from Baixa up to Graca and passing the magnificent 12th century Se cathedral and Igreja de Santo Antonio the 15 takes you along to the Torre de Belem and the fantastic Monasteiro de Jjeronimo (not to be missed). Other things of note are the Castelo de Sao Jorge (great views from up there) and the Panteao Nacional. If you are interested in things equestrian, you may also enjoy the Coach Museum which contains numerous Royal Ceremonial Coaches dating back several hundred years. If you have time to spare and are in port long enough, take the train out to Sintra. It's an absolutely beautiful place, so much so that it's classed as a world heritage site. There is a tourist bus service that leaves from the station and takes you up the very steep hill to first of all the Moorish castle ruins that have a great lookout over the valley below and then on to the fantastic Palacio de Pena (a Disneyland fairy tale castle has nothing on this) It closely resembles a many tiered pastel colored wedding cake. Unfortunately the inside is not as spectacular as the outside. It's very pleasant at the outdoor cafe on one of the esplanades near the top. The bus then heads back in to the town itself where you can not only enjoy the Palacio Nacionale but just wander around the many beautiful winding streets. You can also do the route by horse drawn carriage ride if you prefer. If you prefer the beach then catch the train along to Cascais or Estoril Gibraltar - didn't go ashore here as we docked in the evening and I didn't want to miss dinner and then later on didn't want to wander about in the dark on my own. We docked right in town and it looked just a short walk along the waterfront to the main part of town. I was a bit disappointed as it just seemed to have modern concrete buildings. Perhaps there were older ones with more character lurking behind! Malaga - we docked as expected at 8am, although I did not go ashore until later. I was glad I'd purchased a ticket for MSC's shuttle bus service (4 euros and you could use it as many times as you wanted to and from town). The docks were very large and industrial and I doubt that I'd have found my way out easily to the port Entrance. The ride in the bus (or rather buses) took about 10 minutes and ran every 15 minutes or so. Malaga is a very beautiful old city and I decided to treat myself by having a horse drawn carriage tour of the city and waterfront. It was well worth the 30 Euros. The commentary was in Spanish but I quite enjoyed this as I'm learning the language and was good practice for me. El Parador and El Castello were particular beautiful as were the many parks and the beachfront.... Another day At Sea followed and I stupidly had thought that now we were in the Mediterranean and well clear of the infamous Bay of Biscay, that would be the end of the rough seas. Boy was I wrong. We had the worse weather this day, so much so I ended up having to take seasickness tablets and lie down for a couple of hours. What was most annoying was it was the second gala night and I adore dressing up and having the cocktails, champagne and all the razzmatazz. I made it to dinner (minus the high heels, fortunately had a full length dress to hide the flat sensible sandals) but could not have any alcohol because of the tablets so had to forgo the champers. Dinner was great though Olbia (Sardinia) - as my research had informed me that Olbia was a commercial town with not much to interest a tourist; I'd planned on a taxi ride to a nearby beach. Unfortunately the weather although dry and sunny just wasn't warm enough for a day on the beach, so I decided to have a quiet lazy day onboard instead Genoa - final destination. As I've been here before, I decided to book a lunch time flight so I could get back to Edinburgh the same day without the need for an overnight stay in London. Cabin I booked a suite as these are the only cabins to have a balcony. It was located port side towards the front of deck 10. The balcony has 2 chairs and a table and is fine for 2 people but would be a bit of a squeeze if there were more than that. Unlike some suites it doesn't have a separate bedroom from the living area, just one long room (about the same width as a standard cabin but double the length) There is a sofa which I think converts to a sofa bed), coffee table, mini bar with cupboards either side and the TV. The bed is queen size (although can convert to 2 twins). It has a bedside cabinet either side. The wardrobe is much larger than the standard cabins and is the walk in type. There is also a dressing table that is fitted with 2 European and 2 US power sockets. The mirror opens out to reveal yet another cupboard and the mini safe. Along side the wardrobe are 2 further full height shelved cupboards with a large mirror and glass shelf unit in between. The bathroom is the same width as a standard cabin but longer, so has an additional cupboard in the vanity unit below the sink and has a bath rather than just a shower. The bath is not huge but at 5'7" was absolutely fine for me. I certainly appreciated it the days we had extremely rough seas, as I don't think I'd have managed to stay standing up having a shower! In addition to lots more space, other extras in the suite are a real hairdryer with diffuser attachment (rather than the horrible wall mounted variety with the bendy hose) and robes. I found the bed extremely comfortable and whilst I would have preferred a duvet rather than sheets and blanket, the bedlinen was of a good quality. The cabin was well maintained and my cabin steward kept it spotless. I liked having a fresh fruit bowl too which was regularly replenished. Bars and Lounges There are a number to choose from both day and night. La Canzone del Mare, La pergola & vitamin bar - all deck 11 on the pool deck and open air. La pergola opens from 7am- 8pm and the others open a little later. They serve a range of soft drinks, beers, virgin cocktails, cocktails and spirits and coffees. You can also get smoothies and juices at the vitamin bar. You can either sit at the bar or sit nearby and have waiter service. Coffee Corner - deck 6 aft above the reception area. Wide range of teas and coffees (including hot, cold and liquor). Also serves full bar menus of soft drinks, spirits and cocktails. It's a nice meeting point and a great place to people watch I strongly recommend the Amaretto cappuccino. Sometimes has live music in the evening. It's open 6.30-1.00am and is completely non smoking Lord Nelson Pub - deck 5, stern below the theatre. It closely resembles a British pub but I would not recommend it, unless you are a smoker as it is the smoking bar. Opens 7.00-1.00am The Beverly Hills bar - very pleasant lounge that has a programme of live music and other entertainment (musical quizzes, art auctions etc) It is surrounded by the shops. It has a small dance floor and opens from noon until 1am. I quite liked this lounge pre or post dinner as I enjoyed the live music, especially the classical trio that often played here. Non smoking Las Vegas Casino Bar - on deck beside the casino (as I'm sure you will have guessed) It also has live music, especially for dancing too. It has a reasonably sized dance floor. It's open from 7pm until late (anytime after 1am depending on how many passengers are still around). Although it doesn't serve drinks during the day, it's quiet a nice place to sit in peace and have a chat or read. Also non smoking L'Atmosphere piano bar - midship deck 6 handy for the smaller Ippocampo dining room and directly above the entrance to the main dining room la Bussola, It specializes in Martinis and has live music all evening (but just to listen to as there is no dance floor). Open 5.00pm-1.00am. This was my favorite as I loved the atmosphere (pardon the pun) of it. The bar staff were exceptional here and nothing was too much trouble for them. As well as having an extensive list of cocktails, they'd also create ones for you based on what they knew you liked. Non smoking. Lirica Lounge - the main show lounge directly above the theatre. Has live music and dancing every evening as well as a variety of other entertainment hosted by the young and energetic Entertainment team (cabarets, competitions, games, talent shows etc). The captain's cocktail parties are also held here. Opens 9.00pm-1.00am. Non smoking The Blue Club Disco - aft deck 12. Opens from 6pm until late (after 1am depending on when passengers leave). It has a chocolate bar. The disco music doesn't start until 11.30pm though. Drink packages Soft Drinks - 28 euros - 14 drinks Small beers - 32 euros - 14 beers Large beers - 63 euros for 14 Honeymoon Special - 2 cocktails, 6 non alcoholic cocktails/smoothies and a bottle of Asti spumante served in your cabin - 61 euros There are also wine and cocktail packages available but I did not note the prices. Restaurants and Food Breakfast - You can choose from continental served in your cabin 7-10am but needs to be ordered before 3am), buffet in le Bistrot on deck 11 (6.30-10am)or a la carte breakfast in the main dining room (6.30-9.30am). If you can't wait for your caffeine intake there is early birds coffee served from 6-6.30am or if you rise too late then try either the lord Nelson Pub or La pergola (deck 11) where they serve croissants and brioches 9-12.00, I didn't use the buffet at all on this cruise as I prefer waiter service of the dining room. The choice there was reasonably extensive with a variety of fruit juices (carton variety rather than fresh squeezed), fruits, cereals, variety of bread, rolls and pastries (I particularly recommend the pain au chocolate - avoid toast as they don't make it like you'd expect - stick to the fresh bread, rolls etc). You can have eggs pretty much anyway (the omelettes are very nice as is the scrambled eggs), bacon (bit on the crispy side for British tastes, ham, sausages, potatoes of the day usually sautEed), grilled tomato. They also have smoked salmon which you can have on its own or with cream cheese and a bagel. You can have pancakes too and they also have yogurts. Lunch - if you want to dine in the open air on the pool deck, then your choice is the pizzeria which makes a variety of excellent pizzas or the grill serving hamburgers, hot dogs, and salads both open from 12.00-6.00pm. There is also a gelateria at the opposite end of deck 11 serving a selection of fresh made ice creams (very good but are not complimentary) from 11.00-5.00pm. There is also the buffet on deck 11 from 12.00-2.30pm or the main dining room 12-1.30pm. or occasionally 2; Lunch in the dining room has a selection of 6 courses available - appetizers; salad; soup; pasta and rice: main; dessert. Meals at lunch time tend to be more international than in the evening. I particularly liked the variety of soups especially the chilled consommEs and fruit soups (very varied and absolutely delicious). Appetizers were invariably good and very varied. Pasta was always good too, although the rice dish which was usually some kind of rice salad, which could be a bit bland or dry on occasion. Main courses would always include eggs (e.g. omelette. Eggs Benedict; a fish dish; meat and a sandwich (which could be on ciabatta, foccacio or just bread) they always have hamburgers, cheese burgers etc available too. Desserts always include the ice cream of the day as well as sugar free alternatives and fruit is also available. On the whole I enjoyed most meals. Sometimes the food was warm instead of hot. I was less keen on the chicken dishes, simply because they do not use boned pieces and I can't be bothered trying to get the meat off the bones, especially when it is smothered in a sauce. Afternoon tea - is served 4-5pm. They have a selection of teas (Prince of Wales; Assam; English; camomile; peppermint and a few others) Coffee is also available. The cakes, and biscuits are Italian and may not be what Americans or the British are used too. Dinner is served in the dining rooms at allocated tables. There are 2 sittings; I chose the second at 8.30pm as the first at 6.15pm was too early for me. Dinner also has 6 courses available which are less international, usually with the food from a different region of Italy each night (although on a longer repositioning cruise of 18 nights earlier this year, they did do themed dinners from other countries e.g. Mexico, Asia, France, Spain etc) they also have grilled salmon, chicken or steak available every evening and spaghetti Bolognese, if you don't fancy the main courses available. We had 2 gala dinners in the 8 nights we were onboard. I had a fantastic waiter who looked after me extremely well. I was closest to his station, so this may well have been the reason that my food was far hotter than I'd experienced on previous cruises with MSC. I'm also pleased to report that the beef was greatly improved. I was almost reluctant to order it as I'd experienced the shoe leather variety on previous sailings but am pleased to report that I had it 3 times (filet mignon; cooked in wine and cold roast)( and it was tender and tasty on all occasions. Like lunch my favorite courses were the appetizers, soups and pasta although I also enjoyed the risotto too. Most main courses were either good or ok. I rarely had a dessert but when I did, usually the ice cream or something lighter like mousse or crème brulee, I enjoyed them. Midnight buffet - served from 11.30pm every night had a different theme. Can't comment on this as having just finished 4 or 5 courses an hour earlier, could not contemplate eating again. Crew For me the real stars 9as always on MSC) were the dining room, bar and cabin crew. My waiter was exceptional, he always was waiting to greet me and assist me to be seated. He went out his way to make me feel special with a variety of napkin sculptures rose, peacock to name but a few). If I left anything on my plate or seemed to be eating slowly, he'd be over in a shot, offering to get me something else. One night, I stupidly told him that crème brulee was my favorite dessert and ended up with 2 which I just could not mange after 4 other courses). He'd always give me recommendations as to what was best that evening. One night my main course arrived at his station a little bit early as I was still finishing my previous course. Rather than serve it anyway, it was discarded and he sent for another one, to make sure I had a hot meal. The bar staff were exceptional too, especially Arif in the piano bar who made friends with all passengers regardless of age or nationality. He was very skilled at making cocktails and would invent a few others for his regulars. He also made animals out of straws and played games with the children. He managed all this and kept the bar running incredibly efficiently often unaided by his assistant who was sent away on breaks or to help out elsewhere. My cabin steward done a great job too, cleaning my cabin twice per day and regularly replenishing my fruit bowl (he noticed which kinds I preferred and started to give me more of those and less of the others) and always took time to talk to me. Even the other stewards on my deck always spoke when you passed them (and usually more than just a Good Morning or Afternoon). They would ask what sort of day you'd had and when the weather was rough if I was feeling ok. Form previous cruises with MSC I knew that the Italian Officers and Reception staff were usually aloof and often unhelpful. However on this sailing that had improved too. Whilst I would not say that the reception team were as friendly as the other crew, they'd certainly thawed their frosty attitude to pleasant and were also helpful and polite. I also had to see one of the officers about my account and he was absolutely charming. Entertainment There were 2 showings of the main show in the Broadway theatre each evening to coincide with the end of each dinner sitting. The theatre itself is beautiful and has good sight lines regardless of where you sit. The shows had to cater for 6 languages so tended to be either visual acts (such as cirque oleil style acts; magicians; dancers; or musical (also includes a classical concert). I only went to a few shows but enjoyed the ones that I went to. My favorite was the classical concert which consisted of a good Italian tenor accompanied by a trio from Eastern Europe (pianist, violinist and flautist). Have to say this was my favorite. There is live music ever evening, throughout the evening in a variety of lounges. Some just to listen to and some to dance to. On the whole they ranged from ok to good. There was usually some kind of entertainment hosted by the very energetic group of young Italians forming the Entertainment team going on day and night. Day time tended to be dance lessons, quizzes and bingo (in 5 or 6 languages); competitions and games on days at sea there were also Italian lessons, arts and crafts and other demos and talks) Gym, Spa and other facilities The gym had only 3 treadmills (and 1 was broken) and 3 bikes, so you often had to wait a while to get on them at busy times. They had a good range of free weights and weight machines and here were never queues to use them. The gym is situated right at the front of deck 11 beside the spa and you got great views from up there. It did however mean it also felt the motion of the ship the worst when the sea was rough. Next door was a sun lounge which most passengers had not discovered as it was usually always quiet. The sauna and steam room were here too. I used the spa a few times and can recommend the Balinese massages especially the hot stone one. Not cheap but very good. Watch out for specials in the daily programme. They have a hairdresser too, the pool is salt water and not heated, so is fine when in hot weather but can get a bit chilly. The pool area itself and deck above have lots of sun loungers available (which are all fitted with an adjustable face shield). At busy times it can prove difficult to find a bed as passengers hog them by leaving towels on them. It can also get fairly noisy around the pool area as much of the day time activities take place here. If you fancy some peace and quiet, then head for the small deck areas aft from deck 8 upwards to 12. It is much easier to find a bed there. There is also a small library (although only a small selection of English books) card room, very well equipped medical centre (with extremely proficient and friendly staff), casino; slot machine area; cyber cafe; photo shop and a variety of other shops (clothing; Colombian Emeralds; duty free; perfumery; electronics and a limited range of toiletries) There is also a children's club on deck 11 but as I don't have children, can't tell you anything about it. There is no self service laundry onboard, but they do have a laundry service which is quick and good. They do a special on the last few days of the cruise where they drastically reduce their prices in their (let us do your laundry for you before you go home promo) Disembarkation We were supposed to vacate our cabins and be in our meeting points by 9am. Breakfast was being served from 6.30 onwards in the dining room as normal and slightly earlier I think at the buffet. Room service was suspended that morning (which is the norm with MSC). We docked at 9am as expected and they started allowing groups to leave around 9.30am. I knew that I was in one of the last groups, so expected to have a bit of a wait. My group was called at 10.15am. getting off was relatively simple as the system of only allowing so many off at a time, stopped hold-ups at gangways and in the baggage hall, so all went relatively smoothly up to this point. The next part was a complete nightmare. I made it outside the terminal and headed for where I'd been told the taxi ranks was. Only it wasn't a rank with the usual orderly queue of passengers waiting. Instead it was a complete free for all with no qs - and taxis stopping all over the place and just picking up whoever managed to push themselves to them first. As one of the few single passengers and with 2 cases and slightly visually impaired, I had absolutely no chance against the groups of passengers. I lost count of how many times I was pushed out the way. At first, I was not too worried as I thought "well, I'm just going to have to wait until last". However more and more passengers kept coming out of the terminal and I needed to be at the airport by around 12 and it was already just after 11. At this point I started to get really worried and a bit upset that I was going to miss my flight and have to find a hotel for the night and hope that I could buy another flight for the following day. Fortunately at this point 3 Italian ladies noticed that I was getting upset and offered to share a taxi with me as they were also going to the airport. Now that I was part of a group of 4, we got a taxi within 5 minutes and I arrived in good time for my flight home to Edinburgh via Gatwick. So anyone making their own arrangements to leave from Genoa be prepared to do battle in a scrum or be incredibly patient if there are a lot of passengers also making their own arrangements to get home. Overall Opinion Great cruise despite the sometimes uncooperative weather. Had exactly what I wanted a very relaxing time, being waited on hand and foot by fantastic friendly staff who could not do enough for me. Also pleased to observe the improvements in the quality of the food especially the beef) and the temperature at which the food was served was much hotter than previously. Only small blot on a wonderful experience was the debacle at the taxi rank in Genoa which MSC could hardly be blamed for. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We thought our Carnival Splendor vacation was awesome! The food was good, the shows were great, our cabin was spacious, the staff was perfect. We could not have asked for a better cruise. The Carnival Splendor decor is not as bad as some ... Read More
We thought our Carnival Splendor vacation was awesome! The food was good, the shows were great, our cabin was spacious, the staff was perfect. We could not have asked for a better cruise. The Carnival Splendor decor is not as bad as some people think. Yes, its very pink but I liked it alot. The pictures along the cabin hallways were cute. Like old fashioned pictures from the 50's or something. We spent most of our time in the casino and sports bar on sea days. Our weather was not as warm as we would have liked so we only spent one day by the pool in the jacuzzi and thought it needed to be a little warmer. Sept is the perfect time to cruise, the weather was nice and not alot of kids running around. We only had 31 kids on board and probably only saw three of them. The ship itself is very nice although our group decided we liked Royal Caribbean's Voyager class better. The Splendor seems to have alot less deck space since they use alot of it for the retracting roof. I think this would make a good Alaska Ship since the majority of things to do are indoors. Even the Lido pool seems to be indoors when the roof is retracted. The adult only pool in the back was crowded the whole time. I was surprised by how many people were in the pool. I would have thought the water would have been very cold, but I never tried it. The water slide looked fun but not as big as some of the other carnival ships and the water park area was hidden between two walls and I never saw a single child playing in it. One of our few complaints from my boyfriend was that the Sports bar did not show any american sports. The bartender said that the satellite wasn't able to pick them up. So we watched skynews the whole time. With it being football season we had one unhappy camper in our group! Embarkation and debarkation were both a breeze. We did their self-disembark and basically were the first 4 people off the ship. Totally the way to go if you can carry your own bags. We did do the Pinnacle super club and thought it was a little overdone. The food was good and if you're into all the presentation of food etc you'll like it. We all ordered the surf and turf and my boyfriend wanted the larger NY strip steak instead of the 4 oz filet and they wouldn't budge on that so he went away hungry. The Lobster had a good taste but it was tiny. We all thought the ceasar salad in the main dining room was better then the one they fixed in front of you. The deserts were ok, but nothing that special.. Boyfriend ordered apple pie thing and said he thought the apples tasted bad. My desert had four little dishes and they were pretty good. I can't remember what it was called. The ports of call that we had were Lehavre, Vigo, Lisbon,Malaga, Barcelona, Cannes, and Livorno. Vigo is probably the prettiest port of all. Tall hills on either side with lush trees and doesn't look industrial like the other ports at all. We did a tour of Vigo and Bayona which was alot of fun. Lisbon we just walked around the shopping district and got bored and ended up back on board early. Malaga we did a panoramic and tapas tour. It was good. Barcelona we hung out on La Ramblas people watching and drinking beer. Cannes we did a tour to Nice. It was nice but rainy. Livorno we did a wine tasting tour which was a load of fun. So overall it was a great vacation. Well worth the money and we would definitely do it again! Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
this was the second cruise i have been with carnival and my 3rd cruise overall and i was completely impressed by it. we were completely let down before we even embarked. as 2 families we asked for adjoining rooms, which we were refused. we ... Read More
this was the second cruise i have been with carnival and my 3rd cruise overall and i was completely impressed by it. we were completely let down before we even embarked. as 2 families we asked for adjoining rooms, which we were refused. we then asked for one of the rooms to be a triple or at least large enough to house 2 adults with 2 babies. we specifically asked for a double with enough space for 2 cots or a double and a fold out sofa bed.what we got instead was a quad room with 2 single beds with bunk beds above. how on earth did they expect 2 infants to sleep on bunk beds i do not know. the agency we booked it through said she had no authority on selecting rooms and carnival assigned them. she even cc'ed us on the emails when she was booking request for large rooms and 2 cots. we took all this to purser on board who said, its not her problem and it had nothing to do with carnival but agents. there was no spare rooms available in same category so she couldn't help us. so much for a new mum with 2 babies trying to get a rest , it added to the stress. in the end they squeezed the two beds together and fitted 1 cot on the side and they all crammed in 1 bed with 1 bad in bed and other in cot. there was no room around bed to move let alone have any bags or buggies. the second thing i found annoying was that the lido restaurants would shut just around the time you would be back on board from the tours. the only pace open was pizza place that i found were very greasy and were tasteless and the burger area serving hot dog and burgers. the burgers and hot dogs were even worse than the pizzas. i found that the freshness of food was not of as high a standard as previous and day after day they would serve out food from the day before. the food in the restaurant was quite good and the steak especially were excellent . however the selection on the menu seemed to be exactly the same everyday, just cooked in different sauces. i especially referred to the fish. like another critic, i also thought the cruise was especially for the americans, seeing as they are the only ones with platinum cards but this didn't bother me as much as i found the american guests delightful. on our particular cruise there were a lot of russian people and what really upset me is on one night as my dad headed to deck 10 to relax with a cigarette as he always did before bed , he found that not only was deck 10 aft shut but also deck 9 and 11 for a private function for the russian guests. you needed a password to get in, believe it or not. i wouldn't have minded if they used one of the discos or maybe the grill restaurant and closed that off for the evening as there are other restaurants and clubs on board but to block 3 whole floors for a portion of guests i found quite rude. after all, i paid as much as they did and should be allowed to go where i wanted. Shows -the cabaret shows were very good and lovely costumes. not so sure about the other shows. one show by a magician, i had to walk out, as he started to cut his wrist off with a knife and all this red "blood" started gushing down. there was no warning that it was an adults only show -not impressed. good thing the kids were asleep. i also wasn't too pleased to see that the cruise director's shows were exactly the same as last year's on the Freedom, including Dick Little, and the woman who knocks him over and drags his pants down...i thought John is great and really funny and was disappointed to see it is same. i didn't bother going to the other shows after that. lido theatre -please explain to me what is the point of having a massive screen by the pool only to show same videos of surfers and fish over and over when they could be showing more shows and movies. especially on the days at sea. the shows would be at silly times like 7 or 10;:45 whilst there is a show in the main theatre. what about 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. when people are by the pool and want to watch a movie rather than getting ready for dinner. same of course with in cabin movies that could have all been shown on the lido theatre too (some did) camp carnival - i thought this was great and most of the girls there are great. we did have an incident though. one time we forgot the mobile that they give you to contact them and the girl there (Nikki) who also won employee of the month said don't worry about it, we gave her the restaurant and table number where we were and she said if there was a problem she would call us and that we shouldn't worry. except that when her shift ended, she left without giving a hand over and didn't tell the next girls this info. as my poor nephew howled and begged for his mum, the poor girls kept ringing our room and the mobile with no answer. he was only there for just over a n hour but it must have been horrible both for him (2 YEARS OLD) and the poor girls trying to console him. Gym - i liked the idea of working out whilst looking out at the view but what is the point of this when the glass pane in front of treadmills stops at about shoulder height so you would have to bend down to look straight ahead. the Freedom was much better laid out. i also didn't like the fact that to use the special spa jacuzzi i had to pay extra as if it were any more special than the others around the ship. my last comment is about price - tours are far too over-priced for the average traveller. my first cruise was on the norwegian wind and nothing has since compared to it- everything from the quality of food, quality of service all over ship and especially in restaurant, lots of various foods available any time 24 hours and the whole atmosphere was incredible. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We enjoy cruising Europe because of the convenience and would say that while we had a good vacation, Carnival wouldn't be at the top of my list again if price and itinerary are equal to another line (ie Celebrity or Princess). Service ... Read More
We enjoy cruising Europe because of the convenience and would say that while we had a good vacation, Carnival wouldn't be at the top of my list again if price and itinerary are equal to another line (ie Celebrity or Princess). Service was good, food quality, okay. THE UPSIDE: Ship was exceptionally clean pretty much everywhere, although tables on the Lido deck frequently were unwiped before they were used again. Overall, not a big deal. Staff was courteous and helpful, but no one called me by name on this ship, which has not been my experience on other lines. We enjoyed our dining room servers and our room steward was very accommodating of our needs. Being surprised with a new towel animal friend on your bed was a delightful way to end the day. The main pool and sitting area with the retractable awning was excellent and one of the best features of the design of the ship. Gave people a nice place to sit out in the evening and the morning that wasn't cold or windy. Loved watching movies on the big screen at night, but wished they had much more current offerings and lighter variety . . . who wants to see "Saving Private Ryan" when you're trying to relax on vacation? Also enjoyed the saltwater pool on this deck that was much preferable to the usual chlorine. The outside room we had on the 1st floor midship was quiet and spacious and was easy enough to get to the other areas of the ship. Bed was a little too hard for us, but many people commented it was the best they had ever slept on while on a cruise ship. Plenty of storage space for all of our stuff. They had not added the Friends of Dorothy meetings (for LGBT cruisers) to the activities schedule, but did so after I requested it. (And the cruise director sent me a bottle of champagne!) My partner and I both had massages from the spa, they were okay, but definitely not standout - not practitioners I would go see again at home, but fine for the reduced price we paid for them ($1/minute) on a port day. My experience has been that it is pretty rare to find anyone who does great deep tissue work on a cruise ship, but if you don't get a lot of massage, their people are probably fine. The equipment in their fitness room was really nice and the staff was helpful if you had questions. On the elliptical machine I used you could control your ipod or watch your own personal tv if you brought your own headphones. Shows and entertainment were okay, even a little better than what I have come to expect from a cruise ship. Nothing outstanding, but at least they were entertaining for a captive audience (though not something good enough that I would pay money to see it at home, and certainly not deserving of the standing ovations they generally received). THE DOWNSIDE: Apart from the Lido deck awning, and our room itself, the layout and design of the ship is the worst I have ever been on. Many reviews have mentioned about the hideous dEcor in the public spaces, so I will just say I will definitely agree on that note. The other thing is that for whatever reason they put one of the dining rooms in the middle of the ship and so one frequently got stuck at dead ends that you would have to go up or down a floor or two to walk around. The unintuitive layout was definitely annoying, but in terms of the big picture, it's not as though either of these ruined our trip or anything. Food was okay not great. Enjoyed lunch much more than dinner. A few highlights included the option of Indian food and Mongolian barbeque at lunch, Caesar salad in the dining room for dinner was great - this was the only lettuce on the whole ship that tasted somewhat okay. Food in the dining room was about what I was expecting, looked much more beautiful than it tasted, but then again, I couldn't even begin to fathom what it takes to feed 3,000 people in only 2 seatings. Not that this is an excuse, and there were a few standout courses here or there, but by in large, they don't serve excellent food on this ship. I would give it about a fair rating. It wasn't bad by any means (I have had far worse on NCL), but it definitely wasn't great either. Meat was frequently overcooked and my biggest issue was really with the taste of the vegetables. They tasted about as fresh as cardboard and probably had the equivalent nutrients to boot. Clearly they were not purchased from sources along the route, but were shipped for the cheapest price from some far away place (and it showed in how they tasted). Alternative dinner options were awfully slim, but at least they had some. Singing and dancing at dinner by the waiters was disruptive, not relaxing or entertaining every night in the dining room. If it happened only once or twice, this would have been okay, but for us, the singing and loud music always seemed to start in the middle of our meal, during which time, all the servers were busy "entertaining" instead of doing their job. One of several reasons enough for us to pick another line in the future if the itinerary and price are the same. If you just want a quiet relaxing dinner, this isn't the cruise line for you. Be warned that moderate to severe engine vibrations can be felt in the rear portion of the Golden Pearl restaurant at the aft of the ship (the forward part of the restaurant is better). I'm not usually someone who has any level of seasickness, and for some reason this even had me not feeling right. Fortunately, when we realized this on the first night, they were able to move us to the Black Pearl for dinner that was so much better. I will give Carnival props for making the switch completely painless, they even had someone walk us to the other dining room. While I will say I haven't actually been in the aft staterooms, based on the amount of vibration that could still be felt on level 3 in the Golden Pearl dining room, my instinct would be to highly suggest that you avoid getting a stateroom on levels 1-2 in the aft of the ship - at least I would expect that the vibrations wouldn't be what I would wish for on my vacation. (We had good luck with our stateroom midship on level 1.) For a so-called "fun ship," the variety of activities, particularly at sea, were sorely lacking. This was also one of the big reasons why I would look at other lines before sailing Carnival again. They did the usual trivia, art auctions, bingo, etc, but didn't really offer any alternative or enrichment classes/lectures that are certainly appropriate for a European itinerary and offered by other lines. No port talks/history lessons (apart from those trying to sell you their shore excursions), language lessons (they certainly have enough people on the ship to teach these), or other special interest talks, or craft activities to keep things interesting on the days at sea. If you take this boat and have days at sea, make sure you plan accordingly. The daily capers itinerary was also really weak. There wasn't any port info with maps or anything as we had experienced elsewhere. The language tips were either completely lacking or pretty weak. Apparently Carnival doesn't really care to help you out if you want to enjoy the ports on your own instead of buying their overpriced tours. Be forewarned to arrive with your own info/guidebook/itineraries in mind for the ports you are visiting if you aren't going to take Carnival's tours. OVERALL EVALUATION: Truth be told, the ship doesn't make for a great vacation, YOU DO. Personally, I would choose this boat for price and itinerary only, not for the amenities, service, or food on the ship. To us, the ports are more important than the ship itself, and this trip was not any different. Cruising is one of the most relaxing and affordable ways to travel in Europe in our opinion. As far as this ship goes, if you're not traveling on a super sunny itinerary, the covered Lido deck and pool area are a big plus and gives a nice place to be which have the feeling of being outside but away from wind and rain. I imagine this would be especially nice if you can only afford an inside room. The other best features were the spaciousness of the rooms and the overall cleanliness of everything. You probably won't be overwhelmed by the quality of the food or entertainment, but for us, we come to Europe to see Europe . . . and the rest, well, the rest made for a perfectly acceptable vacation. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
This was our 9th cruise aboard a Carnival Cruise Ship. Seeing as it was an inaugural cruise from Dover and we live about 45 mins away it was ideal. The Ship was a magnificent site when coming down the hill to the harbor. We missed the ... Read More
This was our 9th cruise aboard a Carnival Cruise Ship. Seeing as it was an inaugural cruise from Dover and we live about 45 mins away it was ideal. The Ship was a magnificent site when coming down the hill to the harbor. We missed the christening by Myleene Klass and because of this our rebooked parking was taken up by the media, we were sent of to nearby parking and ferried back to the Ship. The embarkation went very smoothly as we had pre-registered on-line and had our fun pass. We found our cabin which I must say is very spacious. We were on the Carnival Freedom last summer in the Med and had a balcony cabin and this compare equally, there was 3 wardrobes, plenty of drawer space and a flat screened TV on the wall. The only difference we found with Carnival Freedom was that the dome over the swimming pool made it very claustrophobic, but seeing as this is built with Europe in mind the dome did not open on the 3 days we were on board, the weather was cold and raining. The decoration of the Ship was very Mickey Mouse, take for instance in the Gold Pearl Dining Room the ceilings had what looked like fried eggs running around the whole of the dinning area, and what seemed like large trumpets with balls coming out of them in the swimming pool area. The first night we had our dinner in the Buffet, this was very good almost everything you could image to eat. We went for a stir fry which we helped ourselves to ingredients and then had them stir fried. The only complaint was that the coffee in the machine was awful, and the hot chocolate machines were always out of order, seeing as this is a 'new' Ship this might just be teething troubles. We went to the Gold Pearl Restaurant for our main meal on the following evening and met up with our table companions, the starter was very nice, but the main course on all four of us came up cold, we all had something different. It was not as if the area was packed with people there was about 6 tables occupied, this was replaced but the veggies was still cold, we ended up at the buffet for the last night, better food choice. Activities. We did not have enough time to join in the activities as we sailed at 7 pm and next morning we arrived in Amsterdam and did not leave until 10 pm so it only left one day. The shows are Jazzy and Blues, on their smaller ships we have seen much better shows. On the last day we got up early and by 6.30 am the announcement came over the pa system that we could disembark the Ship, as we were allowed to take our own luggage off with us, which I must say is a blessing, no hold ups whatsoever. it was a joy to get into our car and drive out of the port and not have to have a 9 hour flight ahead of us. We have tried different cruise companies as we have cruised about 18 times but I must admit we always come back to Carnival. I think the Ships are getting too big and impersonal. My ideal size is Victory/Elation. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
If you're under 60 - then our strong advice is DON'T GO ON ARCADIA!! The mean average age on our cruise was 68 (with a median probably over 70??!!). Virtually all the entertainment was geared toward OAP's. First time ... Read More
If you're under 60 - then our strong advice is DON'T GO ON ARCADIA!! The mean average age on our cruise was 68 (with a median probably over 70??!!). Virtually all the entertainment was geared toward OAP's. First time cruisers, my wife (43) & I (51) - & both retired - didn't fit in as we did not waltz or quick step, we're not into quizzes, don't like deck quoits or "art auctions", don't want to see a show where everything being performed was written before we were born etc etc. Even Tom O'Connor geared his act up to the 70-somethings. We paid top whack for a quality cabin (A62) & foolishly expected a "stateroom with balcony" but actually got a cabin that was below Travel Inn standard. Even the dismal wardrobes were inadequate & not fit for purpose as you could not hang your suits without them being crushed in. The balcony was consistently wet & unusable. This misnomer is simply taking the proverbial! We ate at Arcadian Rhodes: dismal experience as the food came out cold (& was sent back) plus it was so salty that it rendered it virtually inedible - yet the staff were not bothered by our complaints. We sat down at 8.30 & it was a relief to leave at gone midnight. The Meridian restaurant was generally of an expected standard although even that wavered a few times such that we ate at The Belvedere self-service a couple of nights. Swimming pools? Well, the Neptune Pool area with its uncomfy fixed-back loungers was usually an unpleasant area & the Aquarius Pool area was simply small & crowded. We usually went up to the higher levels where there was always plenty of sun beds (probably due to the fact that the average cruiser was too old to negotiate the stairs!). Night Club: yes but very small and not enough people young enough to use it - it didn't get going at all until around 1.00am & most people had gone to bed ages ago! Good points? Not many! The staff (generally) were simply exceptional. The social aspect of cruising was surprisingly pleasant. The Crows Nest bar area was generally excellent (until then the quiz took over at 11.00pm when we and friends we'd met there usually went elsewhere or to bed). The Spa & gym were of a high standard (although very hard sell on their products- be warned!!). Finally, be aware of the fact that Arcadia has a propulsion problem such that the whole ship vibrates - particularly on higher decks: if it was a car then you'd take it back! It certainly shakes you to sleep!! All the above points were reported to P & O whilst we were still aboard, but I've not received any written response from them. The Cruise Director (aboard) was deeply concerned that we'd researched this break yet still got aboard a ship that was highly unsuitable for our age group & that our expectations were totally different to reality. I've since re-read the brochure & there is nothing that I've seen that suggests that this is an O A P cruise ship: you have been warned!! To P & O - come clean about the condition of the port propulsion unit & also make it clear to anyone booking that everything is geared toward pensioners! In summary, our opinion is that this was the worst value-for-money break we've ever had. Would we travel with P & O again - doubtful right now! Would we cruise again - definitely but we will book a standard room (at less than half what we paid) and check thoroughly the likely age of passengers! Read Less
Sail Date July 2008

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