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21 Harwich to Europe - All Cruise Reviews

Cabin , spacious, newly refurbed and very pleasant except for when at sea . Very loud intermittent banging, rattling noise. I have cruised several times and accept that when at sea there is always a certain degree of noise from engines, ... Read More
Cabin , spacious, newly refurbed and very pleasant except for when at sea . Very loud intermittent banging, rattling noise. I have cruised several times and accept that when at sea there is always a certain degree of noise from engines, machinery, air con but this was exceptional and unacceptable. Some service especially in the dining rooms was spa radio and at times chaotic. In the Observatory on Sunday Lunchtime, there were three waiters, one setting out tables for Afternoon tea yet some people waited for service and then walked out after being ignored. You have to ask for tea and coffee instead of waiters approaching tables . A value for money cruise but it shows on the quality of food . Avoid cabin 3106 very noisy Would I use FreD Olsen again ? Only if no one else was offering the same itinerary and I would upgrade cabins , but that would negate the advantage of being value for money. A more expensive cabin still means you would still have the Medicare food and sporadic service Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
Our ninth cruise on HAL, our first on Ryndam, we were a couple from Holland, both in our early fifties. Although she will leave the fleet later this year, she is still being taken care of, with a great and enthusiastic crew. Earlier ... Read More
Our ninth cruise on HAL, our first on Ryndam, we were a couple from Holland, both in our early fifties. Although she will leave the fleet later this year, she is still being taken care of, with a great and enthusiastic crew. Earlier reports mentioned the missing tender, this is still the same, I think it is not because of the tender, but due to a defective launching equipment (do not know the proper English term). Since there are plenty of lifeboats, not an issue, although a bit of a nuisance during tendering, which was slightly longer than normal in some cases, but handled very wel, circumstances considering (relocation of anchoring position due to changing winds in Heamaey). Travelled to Harwich by ferry, arriving just before Ryndam did, a small hop-over. Noro precautions were vigorous, also during the embarkation process, but this did not delay to process in a way it was inconvenient. Excellent entertainment, especially by the talented singers and dancers of the Ryndam. The service was friendly and good, no complaints there. During the first 2 days we had some plumbing issues, but they were dealt with efficiently and accompanied by apologies for the inconvenience. We were upgraded from our partial ocean view, to an unobstructed view, slightly before embarkation, a nice cabin on deck 5, no complaints there. Dining, staff and food in the MDR (early, fixed seating) was excellent, wide varied choice. Excellent line up of beautiful ports, where we did a mix of HAL and private excursions. Lerwick, a tender port, was a bit of grey and rainy, but in all a nice little town. Torshavn, here we did a nice HAL excursion to the Vestmanna Seacliffs, weather was reasonable friendly, beautiful surroundings and lots of birds. Eskifjordur was a bit of a rainy port unfortunately, but still managed to have a reasonable excursion to see the history of WWII in Iceland. Heimaey island gave us beautiful weather on a very nice island. Here we did a great tour to the Westmann islands, home to large colonies of Puffins, which we spotted a couple of. Reykjavik, Isafjordur and Akureyri we did private tours, to the highlighted waterfalls, geysirs and nature baths, travelling through beautiful rough volcanic scenery that Iceland is famous for. A great country, with proud and well informed guides throughout. After Iceland, we made our way to Norway, where Alesund, Bergen and Eidfjord were our last ports. Some mixed weather, Bergen is not for a reason one of the wettest places there is, but our final port was a sunny and warm Eidfjord. In all a great cruise, fantastic crew and sorry to see the Ryndam go to P&O Australia, they will get a beautiful ship.! Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This was our 8th cruise (6 with RCI, 2 with Celebrity) and 2nd time on the Brilliance. The embarkation at Harwich was easy and quick and our luggage was waiting for us outside our cabins straight after lunch. We had a fair idea what to ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise (6 with RCI, 2 with Celebrity) and 2nd time on the Brilliance. The embarkation at Harwich was easy and quick and our luggage was waiting for us outside our cabins straight after lunch. We had a fair idea what to expect service and food wise and we weren't disappointed Except the only negative being with the breakfast in the Windjammer. We were on my time dining and had no problem getting a table with our favourite waiters Dino and Miroslav as long as we went down around 7.15. We ate lunch mostly in the main dining room and the quality and choice was fine. Thankfully we had the inclusive drinks package as the drinks are unbelievably expensive but unfortunately it didn't include premium coffee!! The ports of call were great. Particularly loved Copenhagen and Stockholm. We didn't do any ships tours but used SPB in Copenhagen and St Petersburg (both excellent) and the rest, except Skagen, we used the Hop on Hop off buses ( you get a discount if you keep your tickets and use the same bus on the next stop). The onboard entertainment isn't really to my taste but did like a group called Zoot. In Skagen we hired bikes straight in front of the ship for $10 each and because it is such a small place it is an ideal and easy way to get around. Also I forgot to mention that most of the stops accepted Euros or dollars so we hadn't needed all the different currencies we had taken. All in all we had a great, but very tiring holiday but do think that maybe it's time to try another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Cruise on MS Ryndam Voyage of the Midnight Sun - July 4th We feel that Holland & America is responsible for this poor cruise.....not the ship. Holland & America were not forthcoming with the truth of how the results of a ... Read More
Cruise on MS Ryndam Voyage of the Midnight Sun - July 4th We feel that Holland & America is responsible for this poor cruise.....not the ship. Holland & America were not forthcoming with the truth of how the results of a 'sick ship', was going to affect the next cruise...ours !! We feel that we paid a full price for half a cruise. Arrived at Harwich after a four hours drive. At the Terminal, we were greeted with a letter informing us of the fact that the MS Ryndam had suffered a 'higher than usual' run of the Norovirus on its last cruise and that the ship was being put through a ‘deep cleanse’. We had received an email a couple of days earlier informing us of the delayed departure of our cruise. Holland and America did not inform us of how the 'deep cleanse' was going to affect the cruise...........the first few days were terrible. Various services were not available, ie.: the library, the video rental, the games….many other services. Conversing with one of your guests, who works in the shipping industry; apparently the MS Ryndam should not have sailed at all, on reasons of health and safety regulations. The Lido restaurant was restricted very heavily. We could not get our own tea, coffee, etc, and were not allowed help ourselves to anything. Long queues for everything. The activities also seemed restricted and there was no activities of any interest on offer. On a general overview of the cruise……not very good at all. We were informed by various people that Holland and America was 'special' and of 5 star excellence...it is not! We were also informed that there would be would be 'life enhancing activities'.....they were not! The activities were not very interesting. There were a few good shows, a couple of good talks and the rest was selling to the passengers most of the time and encouraging us to play in the Casino. Very little to stimulate the brain and entertain. The Lido freedom dining Buffet was not that good. Strange hours and very limited choice of food....not much variety, repeated meals. The roasts were always good. The food in the Rotterdam was excellent....but then again strange hours. There were certain times of the day when one could not get anything to eat or drink at all. (not even tea, coffee, etc). The cinema room was a poor choice for viewing a film. The screen was too low and people's heads got in the way. The television in the staterooms were old, poor picture, poor sound and too small and difficult to find out what was showing. Intermittent satellite coverage. Even when in Harwich the ‘satellite’ was not working for the BBC World News !! The tours were ridiculously expensive and can be arranged locally for nearly half price. The tenders/lifeboats were very tatty looking, disorganised inside and did not give a very good impression of health and safety. We resented the practice of the Spa staff informing us that a “15% gratuity has been added to our invoice for your convenience” !! We should have been asked, not told. We were also informed that to change the percentage of gratuity was very complicated and would take a long time! We not encouraged to pursue a refund. We had to speak to Housekeeping several times ref: shower head kept swivelling. Toilet flush button very hard to push. Neither of these faults were rectified. The TV stopped working, the toilet did not have enough water in it….these two faults were fixed. We also complained about the loud thumping noise above our heads….this did not diminish. We had a couple of power cuts and we had to change rooms on our last night as the air conditioning failed in our Stateroom. The Stateroom was very comfortable and clean; though showing its age…drawers were difficult to open. No fridge and no kettle!! We are used to having a fridge and kettle. The crew and staff have obviously been efficiently trained and knew their jobs well. They all worked very hard and were courteous all the time. We paid the full price for an incomplete cruise. Many of the other guests also thought that the standards of this cruise line have dropped. We will not consider going on another cruise with Holland and America. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Check in at Harwich and disembarkation from ship very easy and we'll organized. Itinerary for the Baltic great. This was our 8th cruise, first and probably last with Royal Caribbean. Our balcony room was great, largest we have had and ... Read More
Check in at Harwich and disembarkation from ship very easy and we'll organized. Itinerary for the Baltic great. This was our 8th cruise, first and probably last with Royal Caribbean. Our balcony room was great, largest we have had and cabin steward great. We were a large group with 2 tables for dinner. Large table had great service, small table terrible service. Waiter passed out menus like he was dealing cards, consistently served wrong food, mixed up orders, reached across the guests to remove dishes. Food itself was mediocre, absolutely no regional choices. At the buffet, only fruit for breakfast was melons apples and oranges. Until 2 days before disembarkation (when waiters looking for tips and good reviews) dishes not cleared from tables, often difficult to find a clean spot to sit for breakfast and lunch. Entertainment rated 2 out of 5. One night the entertainment was a movie!!!!!! We had booked our excursions with SPB tours, and it was great. Nice to have small tour as opposed to the "cattle bus" offered by cruise line. Talks about destination offered by cruise line were informative but the guest speaker was terrible. Captain and crew talks were good. There seemed to be lots of activities, music happenings. However seating around pool area limited and one side all smoking. Overall a fun time only because we were a large group and had done a lot of planning before the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Our only previous experience of RCI cruises was a Med trip on Liberty of the Sea which had the wow factor. This cruise was less spectacular - apart from the destinations themselves. The staff were great and worked hard to provide good ... Read More
Our only previous experience of RCI cruises was a Med trip on Liberty of the Sea which had the wow factor. This cruise was less spectacular - apart from the destinations themselves. The staff were great and worked hard to provide good service but I felt the boat was understaffed and dining room service was haphazard. Food was very good - especially in Giovanni`s when we paid extra for the murder mystery and had the best food of the week and a great time. Announcements were few and far between , the muster station drill was a waste of time as we could hear nothing of the announcement itself and the captains night was a waste of time and no more than a photocall. Sailaways were low key affairs. Friends with us used to a larger P&O boat were clearly unimpressed. We had a free drinks package but if we had had to pay the prices on board with 18% gratuities we would have been tee-total. Excursions as usual were overpriced - so we booked our own in advance on the internet and had great service and wifi too expensive to use. Mytime dining was a waste of time - always queuing, dumped on a range of tables often next to a noisy servery section and on the last night put downstairs in the 2nd sitting on a table for 10 instead of the round ones for our group of 6 we had been used to. Entertainment was good on a couple of nights but otherwise strictly average and nothing like our previous experiences on a bigger boat. Next time I`ll look elsewhere to RCI I feel. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was cruise number 10, all with Royal. Check in in Harwich was very easy, parking so close to the terminal and the curtesy bus was waiting for us. When we got to the terminal there was no demand for a tip either. If going by train, ... Read More
This was cruise number 10, all with Royal. Check in in Harwich was very easy, parking so close to the terminal and the curtesy bus was waiting for us. When we got to the terminal there was no demand for a tip either. If going by train, the train station is next to the hanger wher you check in, no taxi's needed like Southampton. Although this was the smallest ship, sorry cruise liner, we had been on, it was perfect. First nights dinner we met our table guests, a lovey bunch who always returned, the wait staff were entertaining and remained professional. Food choice was very good, only issue was choosing what not to eat and decline two starters or two main courses. There was a mix up on a birthday cake ordered, but this got rectified with the charged being refunded and a complimentary galley tour thrown in. Concierge and Diamond Lounge were well placed for the scenic views, both people managing these lounges were just briliant, using our names from day one. Taking of using our names, we unfortunately independently lost our sea pass cards. When we went to customer relations, the lady used our names? Out of some 2500 guests, that made us feel special. The suite was maintained to a high standard, bed was comfortable and the large balcony gave us great views. The attendant was jolly and gave us tips on the ports too. We did no ships excursions as they were all more, much more, expensive than doing it privately, example being The RCCL cost for a hop On Hop Off bus $29 at our first port, Copenhagen, yet the Getting the ticket direct from the company outside the ship cost €14. We did a segway tour, 2 hours of fun with head sets to listen to the tour guide. In Tallinn we just walked about, pretty city. In St Petersburg we used ALLA Tours for a 2 day excursion, this was only $300, yet a simliar deal from RCCL would have been £300, we saved over £100 and we got lunch too. The ALLA guide was incredible, her use of English was outstanding and the knowledge of everything she told us was in scripted, all from her head, worth returning as although we saw loads, we could have spent a day in just one Palace. Helsinki, we did not pay the $12 to RCCL, the town was close enough to walk into. Just di walking around. RCCL tried to charge $39 for a Hop On Hop Off bus in Stockholm, privately it was less than half price. Again just walking around and shopping. Last port, Skagen. Easy walk into town, there was a music festival on which added to the amusement. We walked to the north of the town to wade in the sea like everyone else, did shopping before our return. I captained the winning team in The Quest, exciting and with a fantastic group of people. The flyers for the spa treatments were misleading. Pamper yourself for only $149, then in small print it states that 18% is added for my convenience. My convenience? We did not go to any shows, they were at 7pm for our 8:30pm dining, so we could not enjoy the lounges and relax our way through the evening. In all a wonderful holiday, so much to see and do, a well packed in itinerary, shame it is not going from Harwich next year. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This review is to fully endorse, and even ADD TO , the woes described in the review of Barry M,.posted07/12/15 regarding the Iceland cruise of Ryndam, June 20-July 3. I waited to post ,so that HAL could respond to my submitted written ... Read More
This review is to fully endorse, and even ADD TO , the woes described in the review of Barry M,.posted07/12/15 regarding the Iceland cruise of Ryndam, June 20-July 3. I waited to post ,so that HAL could respond to my submitted written criticisms, and , receiving a "form letter" thanking me for my input, it's time to vent ! We were NEVER told the severity of the outbreak of norovirus during our cruise. We got daily tip-offs from a HAL casino employee, and it peaked at 30% of combined passengers plus crew. At embarkation we were issued a form advising us that Ryndam, having just docked 9 hours previous had had an outbreak - no details on WHEN or HOW EXTENSIVE. Given that HAL had all our email addresses, why no prior notice. The (cruise director ?) cancelled the "Dancing With The Stars" after one session, and even that session was below the norm, since none of the ship's pro dancers served as judges, no humorous critiques were given,and eventual winners were chosen by audience applause. There was no knowledgable lecturer aboard who could lecture us on the culture, attractions, cuisine, or art of the people whose ports we were about to visit - instead we got a verbal pitch on the tours which we had already perused at HAL's online site. The cruise director didn't even know the NAME of the first Icelandic port. Stage shows by the song/dance troupe were great, as always, BUT we learned in conversing with them that their company's relationship with HAL was about to be severed at HAL's wish. We usually enjoy the classical string quartets aboard our 5 prior HAL cruises, but Ryndam featur4e only a violinist and accompanying pianist. Cost downsizing? Excursions were cancelle4d, or even interrupted in mid-trip, due to norovirus. Ther crew worked very hard to sanitize public areas during the trip, and even the musicians and dancers jumped in to serve food in Lido. The cruise was cut short by one day, so the July 4 embarkation had an extra 24 hours to sanitize the ship. Maybe the subsequent cruise's passengers got better advance warning, and had a better cruise. Please post your thoughts folks ! Finally, the best laugh of the cruise was garnered at the Piano Bar when the accomplished entertainer swung into Ray Charles's "What'd I Say" and invited the surrounding passengers to throw in spoken couplets , just as Ray did on the original recording. One chimed in "'We scrub our hands with your Purel, as we take this cruise from Hell" Bottom line- it is one thing to sell a ship- as HAL is selling Ryndam to P & O in October-but quite another to let your standards slide while the ship still bears your name. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
By the time my review is posted there will be numerous reviews from fellow passengers regarding the outbreak of NoroVirus on this trip and the subsequent impact whilst on board and eventual early curtailment of the cruise. The first ... Read More
By the time my review is posted there will be numerous reviews from fellow passengers regarding the outbreak of NoroVirus on this trip and the subsequent impact whilst on board and eventual early curtailment of the cruise. The first thing to say is “Did this spoil our holiday?” I can categorically say “No” My review may be biased as neither my husband nor I were affected by the virus. We kept to our own cabin bathroom and were meticulous around hand washing and sanitising as instructed. It did of course impact on our holiday as it was a bit painful to have to queue for coffee in the Lido and it was a shame that some of the touches that do make the cruise special to Holland and America (flowers on the tables, chocolates on the pillows) had to be withdrawn. The photo gallery, Library & Card room were all closed and the shops were tightly supervised to prevent contamination. The pools were closed for the first week or so but did reopen during the cruise. I must say that the staff were all tremendous throughout. We had the entertainment department regularly helping serve in the Lido along with the cadet engineers and they all provided a friendly service and greeted us with a smile. I realise that these extra shifts must have taken a toll on all concerned but I never saw one staff member lose their smile or let their personal service slip. I suspect it’s not ideal serving ice cream when you are a casino staff member, but they all chipped in and helped ensure that the trip continued. I have never seen so much sanitation taking place on a cruise – the shuttle buses were done on every return trip, decks and deckchairs were hosed with liquid frequently during the day and every piece of gym equipment was washed down with soapy fluid every 20 minutes. In my opinion, it was clear the staff were doing absolutely all they could to prevent the spread. There was extra pressure on room service and the cleaning teams (especially for the ill guests) but again, we did not see any deterioration in the service we received from our cabin attendants. This cruise did attract a high number of elderly guests who frequently and I am sure, unconsciously, touch the rails, shelves, podiums etc around the ship to help steady themselves, especially if the seas are a little rough and it must be difficult to keep on top of this from a sanitation perspective. In HALs position, they really did try to minimise the spread, kept us well informed and unfortunately had to make a difficult decision to end the trip one day early to deep clean the ship. This meant missing out the last fjord stop in Norway. We had planned a Kayaking trip there so that was a disappointment for us but we have visited the Norwegian fjords before so this was not such a blow to us as to other passengers. We also missed one earlier stop in Iceland, Heimay due to poor weather conditions and the captain wanted to avoid an area of Low pressure. This meant we had an extra overnight stop in Reykjavik. It was a beautiful sunny evening and we enjoyed 3 hours ashore there that evening plus the whole of the following day. I hope that the passengers who are on a back to back trip are honest and declare if they have any symptoms before rejoining the ship. Many guests had travelled a long way and instead of being honest and isolating themselves, they were out and about as they did not want to miss their trip. We witnessed one guest being ill in the Lido one evening and the next day he was on a shuttle bus. Our waiters Yudi, Kaka and Jeremy (on wine) were all superb throughout. Nothing was too much trouble if we wanted roast potatoes instead of rice or extra bread and butter or ice cream as an “extra” They remembered how we liked our meat cooking and how we took our tea and coffee. They were a great trio and we were treated very well every night. If they did not have our wine choice, Jeremy provided alternative options that were often a couple of dollars cheaper. Whilst some of the guest entertainers were also taken ill, we still had an enjoyable show every night and shows were rescheduled. I think there was only one lady jazz pianist and one late night comedy show that did not go ahead as planned but other shows were put on instead. My only slight grumble is that the theatre was very cold at night (some guests had coats on) and I remember it was the same on the old Amsterdam ship when we cruised to Alaska. I suspect the older ships in cold climates are tricky to insulate and moderate. I would recommend taking a wrap or jacket to wear at night. The ship is transferring to P&O Australia in September. Whilst other reviewers have mentioned its age, it is true it is an older ship. Our cabin was very clean, lots of storage space and the bathroom had been modernised recently. The bath did not drain very quickly and could not cope with the new power showers volume of water. If you take the plug out completely problem solved. We had a cabin on deck 5 (outside) and we did hear the trolley taking the deckchairs out on deck each morning (between 6.30-7.00am) it trundles along the deck so you can hear it. We are early risers so this did not impact us and it was the only noise we heard from the promenade deck above us. If you are visiting Iceland in the summer I would also recommend an eye mask as it daylight all night long and it can disturb your sleep. I took an airline one that I had kept and it did the job very well. The worst noise was when a guest played basketball. The court is directly above the Lido and the sound resonates loudly throughout the Lido. Due to our destination and age mix we only noticed this couple of times at lunchtime. The ship is small by comparison to others we have used but there was ample space and it did not feel cramped. There was plenty to do with a cinema, digital workshops and all the usual talks. The restaurant and Lido always had spare seats. There was one morning where a high number of trips were all going at around 7.15am and the Lido opened at 6.30 so it was chaotic. We chose to eat breakfast in the dining room for the latter part of the trip to save having to queue for juice and coffee and it did not take too much more time. We still enjoyed our holiday, had beautiful food, enjoyed the entertainment and seen some fabulous scenery in Iceland in pretty good weather for that part of the world. To top it off, we have been compensated beyond what I would have reasonably expected and have a cruise credit for a future trip. They had made all the necessary arrangements for transfers and accommodation for all guests and even offered to put us up in Harwich for the night if that helped our onward plans. We had our car there so we just came home a day early but had we pre -booked rail tickets we could have stayed and travelled back as planned on Saturday. They did not wait for guests to complain but were on the front foot in their plans. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Voyages of Discovery (VOD) is not for everyone, so best not blindly choose this ship if you are looking for conventional large ship cruising and expect a floating hotel with distractions and land-based luxuries. We are active seniors have ... Read More
Voyages of Discovery (VOD) is not for everyone, so best not blindly choose this ship if you are looking for conventional large ship cruising and expect a floating hotel with distractions and land-based luxuries. We are active seniors have had two prior cruises with the old Discovery and this was our first with their new ship Voyager, so now about 100 days total with Voyages of Discovery. We will keep coming back. CABINS: Rooms are small and basic on the lower decks, but kept up very well and no issues with what they offer. Ship noises and movement are part of the experience of being at sea in a small explorer ship like Voyager, though it can be an unpleasant assault due to the chronic nature in the pool area and some cabin locations. (Lower decks -mid ship - ours was challenging in cabin #4126 but Hotel Manager offered a room change had we raised our concerns earlier - we coped and did adjust better, than our first few nights when the sea passage was also rough.) Cabin while small, did absorb our own 50 pounds each of luggage and supplies. Three deep drawers, 6 shallow drawers for odds and ends, a night stand and the closet had 6 or so shelves as well as hanging space for easily 15-20 hangers. 4 shelves above the bathroom sink, full width counter top as well as a full length under the sink shelf. Hair dryer probably a 1500 watt ion dryer and very adequate for shorter hair. Small shower, yup but endless good flow hot water. If you can go to the upper level cabins cost wise, they would be the very best choices - larger, quieter, closer to each dining deck and most with balconies but they seem to sell out fast. We liked Deck four (Columbus Deck) because it was just one flight up the stairs to get to the activity Discovery deck, but we used the elevator to get up to the buffet and outdoors deck on seven. (My vacation stair limit is 2 flights up, but no problems going down.) Elevators never crowded. Ship had a good feel to it, and easy to figure out after the first day. It felt like getting invited to someone's spacious country home - comfy and accessible. ACTIVITIES: So with the limiting cabin noise issues out of the way, the rest of the cruise experience was 100% Voyages of Discovery unique and wonderful. Norway and Russia White Sea itinerary was excellent. Shore excursions top rate. On board lecturers were all first rate. VOD - five star as always. Entertainment was varied and talented, hitting just the right notes with this more "prime time" age group in tempo, pace and selections. Dance hosts and a good dance instruction program. All activities were well attended. DINING: We thought the food and the creativity of the personable, young Dutch to be very good. Something for everyone from fresh salad fixings, fresh breads, excellent soups, and a wide range of entrees with lovely pork choices. Occasionally there would be a specialty buffet in the main lounge for lunch - stir fry, sausages (excellent!) or pasta bar that were individually cooked. These most likely would have been outdoor during cruises that did not go to such a cold area like the Arctic on this one. Delicious. We personally did not like the larger group tables with "open dining and open seating" but found ways around it to get tables for two just for ourselves - that is just us - come late or use the outdoor dining tables, which in this weather often meant putting a parka one and have a brisk but memorable morning or lunch dining experience. In time the dining rooms stewards knew what we wanted and we found this a workable option to the larger table dining. Plenty of variety, fresh and always tasty. Mid-day tea and late evening snacks were excellent. We would often take our tea choices to our cabin or to one of the lounges. House wine choice was also very good. The 24 hours coffee and tea station was located at the rear of the seventh floor buffet dining room and the outdoor coffee tea station was open only during meal hours on this cruise - cold outdoor weather. STAFF: Across the board we found the service staff excellent in our cabin, and at each dining location. Officers were out and about and approachable - offering a Q&A session for one of the sea days. Captain has a sly sense of humor with very quick wit. We felt we were in very good hands. Few tannoy announcements during the day, and front desk could handle any other inquiries. Shore excursions well-organized and efficient. WHAT WE LIKE A LOT ABOUT VOD: We can now articulate what we love best about this cruise line and what will keep us coming back - and much of the credit goes to the fellow passengers that make everything click for us as Americans. They are mainly British, well-travelled and so amiable in any random discussion we would get into. High loyalty return passengers on this cruise which is typical, and demonstrates those who love this unique brand of cruising do love it - high on intellectual appeal with ambitious itineraries, and low on glitz and distraction, this remains for us a wonderful cruise option. Think of it as a traveling classroom, both in and outside of class and you get what we like best about VOD. Yes, the main lecture-entertainment Darwin lounge on the fourth deck needs more work for better sight-lines but they added some ramped up seating and a special glass partition corridor for those wanting to go to the forward Observation lounge and bar during show and lecture times. It is T-Coil so at least the sound was excellent for those not in the front rows or new risers along the side. Improvements in response to passenger requests continue to be made to this ship. We also liked the full windows feeling of the Scotts Lounge. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Food-- Upon boarding we went to eat. It looked like leftovers from the last trip. The mashed potatoes had no flavor or taste. I just can't describe them. Cold and tasteless I guess. The cookies were not fresh. Must have bought them at ... Read More
Food-- Upon boarding we went to eat. It looked like leftovers from the last trip. The mashed potatoes had no flavor or taste. I just can't describe them. Cold and tasteless I guess. The cookies were not fresh. Must have bought them at the day old store. Food in general was way below average. Even reported a employee blowing his nose and handling glasses with water without washing his hands. No WOW factor here. Ship-- Clean and kept up. Overall very good. Cabin 1538 Deck 10--Great water pressure. Lots of storage room. Many drawers and cabinets behind mirrors, walk in closet and more in the bathroom. Very clean over all. Only problem was bathroom shower/tub had spots of mold around several tiles. Not cleaned daily. Tours-- Took 3 or 4 . All skipped some stops with excuses of traffic, not enough time etc. Some locations instead of stopping, did a drive-by and pointed. Oh, at Chops Restaurant, you pay $35 to eat there, but if you want the aged steak they charged $18 more. Is this a new policy? We have traveled on 5 other ships cruise brand named ships and not experienced this. Entertainment-- Average at best. Embarkation--Fast and efficient. Best ever. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We had a great time on our cruise, but it was because of the the people, not the ship or what it had to offer. The ship was very "tired" with lots of deferred maintenance noted, and our balcony cabin was small. This must have ... Read More
We had a great time on our cruise, but it was because of the the people, not the ship or what it had to offer. The ship was very "tired" with lots of deferred maintenance noted, and our balcony cabin was small. This must have been a beautiful ship when it was new. The ship appeared too small for the number of cruisers on board. Everything was crowded - shopping, activities, "not for additional cost" dining. We stayed away! Lack of "no additional cost" eating venues was quite evident and limited seating made the buffet and afternoon cafe location a dreaded event. Breakfast and lunch in the dining room were fine, and anytime dining for dinner was nice. In general, the food was ok to good. In fact, many things seemed to cost extra, a lot extra. A litre of water was $6. The ports were all new to us and we liked them. We didn't go on any of the ship's tours, but booked our own privately or just explored the ports on our own. Getting on and off the ship was well handled. The entertainment was good, not special. The entertainment director was tops. On sea days, there was lots of drinking available, if that's your thing. Activities were often in the center of the ship and were too crowded to observe or participate in. Our cabin steward was one of the best we have encountered in our cruising. We found a great waiter for our evening dining, too. The maitre'd in the anytime dining was very helpful. Other staff were ok. The captain handled the ship expertly. We were pleased about this! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This was our first time to do the Baltic itinerary, our fifth cruise on Brilliance, and our 32 RCCL cruise. We are Diamond Plus C&A members and so we know our way around pretty well and know some of the staff from previous cruises. We ... Read More
This was our first time to do the Baltic itinerary, our fifth cruise on Brilliance, and our 32 RCCL cruise. We are Diamond Plus C&A members and so we know our way around pretty well and know some of the staff from previous cruises. We loved all of the ports and had tours planned in Tallinn, Estonia and St Petersburg, Russia. We did our own touring in the other cities. More about all that later in the review. Background We booked this cruise way in advance to cruise with friends and we both booked aft JS staterooms. We scored 1100, the best JS on the ship. The balcony is about the largest balcony for any class stateroom and is a perfect place for sail away parties. It is also mostly out of the wind so it's a perfect place to catch some rays on a sunny but cool day. After checking the airline pricing we decided to cruise over instead of flying. We sailed Quantum transatlantic to Barcelona and spent the 5 days in between cruises in Paris and London. We flew into London very early on Saturday morning and we stayed at the Double Tree Hilton Westminster. It's a great hotel that is reasonably priced, by London standards, and well located to tour by walking around. It is also very convenient to the Hop On Hop Off bus routes. We toured Westminster Abbey on Saturday and Kensington Palace on Sunday and had great weather for touring. We stopped into a pub for snacks by Hyde Park and rode the underground to Pimlico station and walked a few minutes to the hotel. Westminster Abbey is only a 10 minute walk as is Parliament and Big Ben. The Thames is only a couple of blocks east and easy to access. I hired a 16 passenger mini bus to take us to Harwich the morning of the cruise departure. The bus showed up at 10 as scheduled and we loaded up and headed for Harwich. Sailing from Harwich is the one negative because it is 90+ miles away and in London traffic proved to be an adventure. It was a real battle getting out of central London and once we hit the highway the traffic was equally bad. What should have been a two hour trip ended up being four because the driver had to take a 45 minute mandatory break half way through the journey. So he parked us at a rural Shell station/convience store for the better part of an hour. Not so much fun but we were still an hour from Harwich. Once at Harwich we had an easy check in and went for lunch in the Windjammer. Our luggage showed up at the stateroom by about 3:30 and we were unpacked and ready for muster at 4:15. We had a great stateroom attendant who brought us extra hangers and a bucket of ice and we were in business. We have sailed a dozen times on this class of ship and a JS is really a great cabin. It's about the size of a real hotel room and has a bathroom with a tub. It's a 50% bigger cabin than a D balcony and 120 sq ft bigger than an E balcony. We've been in every type of stateroom from an interior to a JS and if the pricing is relatively close or the cruise is a long one this is what I recommend. Dining WE ate everywhere on the ship except Izumi and that was only because on of our party has a fish allergy. We always do MTD because we have people that like earlier than late seating and later than main seating. We did three nights of specialty dining in Chops and Giovanni's. We had excellent food and service both times that we dined in Chops and Giovanni's was equally as good. We had six in our group and half preferred each venue the most. The filets in Chops were most popular and the lamb chops in Giovanni's was the standout. My personal favorite is the Parmesan Veal Chop in Chops.We always do Chops the first night but I made sure to line things up with the Maitre D" for the other nights. I created a standing reservation for 7 PM and we had an excellent table by the rail.No standing in the line to be seated; we just went to the table each night we were in the dining room. We counceled with him as to which nights had our least favorite menus and that is when we scheduled our specialty dining.The staff was very attentive and our headwaiter stopped at the table every day to make sure that everything was good. The maitre d' checked on us daily as well. Cruise Activities Our main activity was playing the various trivia games in the Schooner Bar. We had a diverse group with a lot of specialized knowledge but we always learn more each time we play. The usual pool games were missing due to the cool weather but things like the Quest and Love & Marriage Game show were well attended. Our Cruise Director Clo is one of the best in the fleet and she remembered us from our previous cruises with her. It's amazing how sharing your chocolate and cashews can create a lasting memory. Ports This cruise had great ports and even though we missed our last stop we were very happy with all of our port stops.We had visited Copenhagen and Stockholm on a land vacation many years ago so it was very nice to go back. We did not do ships excursions but in Tallinn and St. Petersburg we used TJ Tours and we had an excellent experience.In Copenhagen and Stockholm we walked around and searched out the Hard Rock Cafe to buy t shirts and souveniers. In Helsinki we had a real bonus because one of our neighbors had hosted an exchange student from Finland. She showed us around when we arrived and directed us to a great local restaurant and a street fair that the ladies really enjoyed.Of all of our stops Helsinki was the least touristy so we were glad to have Roosa showing us around.We stopped at Parliament and the Opera House before walking to the harbor area and lunch. In Tallinn we toured and saw Estonia's presidents residence and the palace that the Russian czars used as one of their summer escapes. The highlight was the old walled city with the old churches and narrow cobblestone streets. We visited an ancient apothecary and a really nice bakery for coffee and pastries. We had some free time at the end so my friend and I geo cached and the ladies shopped. St Petersburg, Russia was amazing to see. Things are ultra controlled and unless you have a Russian Visa you can not go around unsupervised. It was about 30 minutes to go through immigration and your visa ends up being your tour ticket. The tour highlights were the churches, museums, and palaces. We saw Peterhof and the Hermitage museum on one day and Catherine the Greats palace on the second day. The Russian palaces were heavily influenced by the French palace at Versailles. We also saw the cathedral of St Isaac and the Cathedral of the Spilt Blood. We even went down into one of the subway stations and saw how much detail they put into building their metro. The first day we had a pre planned lunch with traditional things like borscht and chicken kiev. The second day we stopped at a bakery and had a tradition lunch that was about the only bargain for the whole trip. We had meat filled pastries, salads, soups, and cokes and the bill was about $6 a person.One of our party had purchased a ticket to the ballet and so at the end of the first day she got off the bus and was met by a member of the tour company. She then escorted Kathleen to the ballet. In Stockholm we picked up a HOHO boat right by the ship and rode it to the Gamla Stan. We walked around the old city before setting off in search of the Hard Rock. We ended up taking the subway back to the old city and found a great sidewalk cafe/restaurant for lunch. After lunch some of us hopped back onto the boat and toured the rest of the harbor area and headed back to the ship. In Copenhagen we walked along the waterfront and saw the Little Mermaid statue before jumping onto a HOHO boat and touring around the harbor area. We then walked to the Tivoli Garden area where we stopped and had coffee and pastries. We decided to walk back to the ship once we figured out that it was a straight shot.Our last stop was scheduled to be Skagen in Denmark but the winds were so high that we couldn't dock. There was a lot of disappointment on shore because we were the first ship scheduled to dock there and the town had turned out in force to welcome us. So, we ended the cruise with three days in a row on board. This cruise also had some drama. We had two helicopter medical evacuations during the cruise and one tender evacuation outside Skagen. We actually turned around while at sea and went back to drop off one of the medivac patients husbands. Disembarkation was easy and painless for us. We had scheduled a 7:30 AM shuttle to Heathrow so we made sure that we were off the ship by 7. One couples luggage went astray but it was located within about 10 minutes and we were on our way to the airport just a few minutes behind schedule. I highly recommend the Baltic itinerary to all cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We Have Cruised with many cruise lines over the past 20 years, more than 50 cruises, but this was our first cruise with Holland America. First, the good. The Cabin, Food, Staff and Ship were all fine. The BAD- We did a ... Read More
We Have Cruised with many cruise lines over the past 20 years, more than 50 cruises, but this was our first cruise with Holland America. First, the good. The Cabin, Food, Staff and Ship were all fine. The BAD- We did a "back to back" Cruise, and were FORCED to do the Safety drill TWICE, being told that it was Maritime law. This is NOT true, and we have NEVER been asked on any other Cruise line to do it twice! We didn't do any Shore Excursions because they were priced way more than other Cruise lines we have been with. The average age of the passengers was about 65 to 70. The Shows by the Team, were all aimed at people in their 30s! We (In our 70s), knew NONE of the songs ! Also they were sung in the Modern style, ie screeching and shouting and caterwauling ! One song that we did know- "My Funny Valentine" was yelled ! Comedy and Magician- ALL the comedians were "Old Style", meaning, they had assembled their material from hackneyed jokes going back as far as world war 1 ! NO original material at all ! I knew every single punch line before it arrived. Game Shows- There were NONE! Quizzes- Sometimes one at 1-15pm , a Music quiz at 9pm , and every night a quiz at 6-30pm when we were eating our evening meal! Crafts and Art- None Lectures- None They did have Many Lessons on Windows 8.1 - OBSOLETE later this year ! They had many Art Auctions, selling "Art" by People like Peter Max ! Who, if you don't know, is unknown apart from on Cruise Ships, where they flog his daubed on Prints for vast amounts of money! Needless to say, but I will anyway, we will not be returning to Holland America ! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
I'd like to start with the positive. The hotel staff on board are really amazing: kind, discreet, and friendly. Also, the most excellent Captain Mark made some hard but much appreciated safety decisions regarding missing ports and ... Read More
I'd like to start with the positive. The hotel staff on board are really amazing: kind, discreet, and friendly. Also, the most excellent Captain Mark made some hard but much appreciated safety decisions regarding missing ports and changing port times when we encountered a bad storm. There was not a minute I didn't feel that I was in the hands of a capable, alert crew. The childcare staff (well, two out of three) were friendly, energetic, and flexible. One clearly wanted to go home, and, she rarely smiled. Now the negatives: First, I NEVER would have booked this cruise had I known that the ship has already been sold to P and O. There is obviously no investment whatsoever being put into the upkeep of the boat beyond getting her creaking afloat to the buyer in October. There was rust in many toilets and other areas. You just had to look into every corner. The toilet mysteriously overflowed during the night on three different occasions, none connected in anyway with our usage, nor with flushing. In general, to say the ship shows her age is an understatement. Purposeful segway to the guests now. . .we were told once onboard that the median age on that particular cruise was 68. At many times the public rooms resembled retirement homes. My husband joked that the lines for food at the breakfast buffet were like scenes from The Walking Dead! On three occasions, guests were literally screaming down the cabin hallways at each other, presumably due to hearing issues rather than rudeness! HAL is not for any below 70s demographic. I know we cruised out of school vacation times, but what about other couples and singles without children? They are conspicuously absent. We would have prefered a more mixed social group. Perhaps the key to that is also to choose a 7 day, rather than a longer cruise, one that working adults can more easily make time for. Some lessons learned! The food: The menus were a delight to read. But somehow, the dishes that appeared never quite lived up to the billing. Cunard this is not. However, the dining room staff were wonderfully hospitable. We stayed in the main dining room rather than using the specialty restaurants. First seating for dinner is a bad idea on HAL. It seems that any evening fun happens while the first diners eat. By 9:30 PM , most people had gone to bed. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We sailed from Harwich on the MS Ryndam to Cherbourg France, unfortunately there was as strom so we were delayed by 24 hours but you cant fight mother nature so nothing to moan about. We were told that due to the delay we would have to ... Read More
We sailed from Harwich on the MS Ryndam to Cherbourg France, unfortunately there was as strom so we were delayed by 24 hours but you cant fight mother nature so nothing to moan about. We were told that due to the delay we would have to miss out a port in Porto Portugal which was disappointing as were looking forward to that port. We sailed direct to Acoruna then onto Gibraltar, we hired a private taxis to take us on the tour of the island at £15 each much cheaper than on an excursion and we werent disappointed. Cadiz Spain our next port then onto Lisbon which instead of a 24 hour layover we got there early and left at 11.30pm due to the storm headed towards the English channel so we then sailed on the an added port of Zeebrugge to make up for the one missed out earlier. We didnt book any excursion from the ship as i have a mobility scooter and there seemed to be a problem with them so we did our own thing in every port. We even went on the open top bus in tow ports which is a great way of seeing somewhere and really cheap as well. Lisbon was 19 euros each return ticket all over the city. The ship itself is amazing and so much to see and do, i was worried that as an American ship it would be all Jazz hands and have a nice day but most of the staff are from the Phillipines or there abouts and very pleasant. We didnt book sittings for dinner we went to the Lido and had very nice meals every meal once you got used the opening times. Some parts were open when some were closed but always able to get cups of tea and cold drinks at no charge. We went to the casino but found it to be rather uncomfortable with all the staff watching your every move, not being able to have the cards to close to you or show your partner your hand if you werent sure whether to play or not. All things we were used to doing on previous cruises with other companies so we dint go there as much as other cruises. We did find the Crows nest bar and spent most nights there and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, we didnt go the shows its not our sort of thing. Embarkation and disembarkation was smooth everyone was very helpful even when we were given wrong tickets for our luggage, no complaints whatsover. The service was eexceptional in every way even when i had forgotten to put our stateroom number on the luggage they still managed to find us. The only thing we didnt like was being charged 15% on top of every drink we had, the port fees added at the last minute and the price of the excursions wasnt cheap. As much as we enjoyed ourselves we wont be sailing with an American company again we prefer to pay one price and all gratuities are included. You can opt out of the gratuities on the last day of your cruise by going to the reception and filling out a form, so we paid one lot and my partner paid the staff we dealt with most some money directly. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ... Read More
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ELVIS CRUISE..!!! And what great fun..there were two acts on board plus the ships singers dancers band and comedian.quiz nights film shows and talks by the two Elvis E T A'S dance lessons bingo ..there was a coffee and a cocktail of the day every day..we were lead to believed drinks were very pricey on board..NO they are not..a beer was about £3-80p and a cocktail £5 or £6 it did very a little but you could pay more in your local pub at home..cabins are not huge but they are OK.you have tea and coffee in there all the time and a hair dryer..beds are very comfy..the ship is kept spotlessly clean all staff a so sweet and very attentive..the food is fabulous very very tasty each night the them of the menu was changed..again the entertainment was fantastic..we had a couple of tours one to Randers Graceland..not a copy of Memphis Graceland ..the out side is the inside is a shop cafe' and museum and there is a huge room upstairs which is used for talks and concerts..the food in the cafe is great..and the owner Henrik is such an amazing man so down to earth a real people person..our only let down was because of the nature of the cruise the entertainment lounges just weren't really big enough..and left people having to stand through the shows..at different times through the cruise photos were taken at £5 each we felt this was not a bad price..you can also buy frames if you wish to..there is duty free shops on board but you can not buy ciggys or alcohol ..and so I went from being scared stiff of getting on board to NOT wanting to get off..!!!! Thank you so much Fred Olsen and you amazing staff on the Braemar....hope if our pennies allow to be back on board in the future.. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ... Read More
Embarkation couldn't have been any easier..our first time on a cruise I was a nerves reck but once on board and unpacked cases I was fine the ship is very stable nothing like I thought it would be..this was a special 80th birthday ELVIS CRUISE..!!! And what great fun..there were two acts on board plus the ships singers dancers band and comedian.quiz nights film shows and talks by the two Elvis E T A'S dance lessons bingo ..there was a coffee and a cocktail of the day every day..we were lead to believed drinks were very pricey on board..NO they are not..a beer was about £3-80p and a cocktail £5 or £6 it did very a little but you could pay more in your local pub at home..cabins are not huge but they are OK.you have tea and coffee in there all the time and a hair dryer..beds are very comfy..the ship is kept spotlessly clean all staff a so sweet and very attentive..the food is fabulous very very tasty each night the them of the menu was changed..again the entertainment was fantastic..we had a couple of tours one to Randers Graceland..not a copy of Memphis Graceland ..the out side is the inside is a shop cafe' and museum and there is a huge room upstairs which is used for talks and concerts..the food in the cafe is great..and the owner Henrik is such an amazing man so down to earth a real people person..our only let down was because of the nature of the cruise the entertainment lounges just weren't really big enough..and left people having to stand through the shows..at different times through the cruise photos were taken at £5 each we felt this was not a bad price..you can also buy frames if you wish to..there is duty free shops on board but you can not buy ciggys or alcohol ..and so I went from being scared stiff of getting on board to NOT wanting to get off..!!!! Thank you so much Fred Olsen and you amazing staff on the Braemar....hope if our pennies allow to be back on board in the future.. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
PRE CRUISE. I saw this deal and thought it might be nice to do. I was on this ship in 1994 on my very 1st cruise then known as "CROWN DYNASTY" Running for CUNARD LINE, I went to ALASKA. I booked a single inside guarantee ... Read More
PRE CRUISE. I saw this deal and thought it might be nice to do. I was on this ship in 1994 on my very 1st cruise then known as "CROWN DYNASTY" Running for CUNARD LINE, I went to ALASKA. I booked a single inside guarantee cabin and paid £210. I got my e ticket and documents a week before the cruise. Then I heard from others going on cruise the Embarkation time had changed! I never got the email and, then got a letter by post explaining they had a GASTRIC VIRUS on the previous cruise. So had to do MAJOR CLEAN of the ship, So embarkation was 1630hrs. I got train from my local station to STRATFORD but had to wait ages to buy a ticket/. So had to catch a later train to HARWICH INTERNATIONAL PORT. EMBARKATION. I entered the TERMINAL to CHECK-IN it took ages to get through to check in. Gave me my CRUISE CARD and showed my Card to use to pay the bill. Had my picture taken and board the ship. I was not shown my cabin but found it myself I had been given the number when I got my ticket 2079 on deck 2. CABIN. It was a single cabin not a twin that I had on my 1st cruise. 1 SINGLE BED, a chair, safe,small tv. The bathroom was good with cabinets to put things as well as the sink. Also a shower. Lots of drawer space and wardrobes. DINING. I had booked 1st sitting which I prefer but had got GRAMPIAN RESTAURANT which is a newer one. I had found a few people on the cruise but they had 2nd sitting. I did try to change sittings but this cost £4 and as there were no seat left I didn't bother. I changed restaurant to the THISTLE RESTAURANT which I had on my 1st CRUISE and was at a singles table. DINNER was good a good selection of dishes and wine list was good too. SERVICE was quick too and were out by 8pm. Had breakfast here as well but waiters had to put the buffet food on our plate which took a while. Afternoon tea was really disorganised as it took so long and long queues. ENTERTAINMENT. Saw 2shows "MICKY ZANY" the comedian who was very good. 2nd night was SWING with singers and dancers who were good as well. PORT OF CALL. AMSTERDAM in Holland was our only port of call I had done ANNE FRANK'S house and canal before. So I walked off the ship and asked where the MARITIME MUSEUM was. It was quite a walk but well worth it. Went onboard a sailing ship and 4 floors of maritime stuff. An interesting idea was you couldn't take any backpacks around but had to put them into a locker. This was very easy to do. DISEMBARKATION. This was very quick despite me not get any info on when we could disembark and had to ask for one. I used my old label and put my suitcase outside my room. Next morning after breakfast we left the ship at 8am and found my luggage and made my way home. PHOTOS. I always like buying pictures so got quite a few including the same view I did on my 1st CRUISE. They had a dvd of AMSTERDAM and the ship as well and quite reasonable. SHOPS. Quite a few shops but usually like the souvenir one. They had hats,t shirts but none with the ship on. No special key rings either. I bought a ship model which was good and a dvd of "MICKY ZANY". SUMMARY. A good cruise and enjoyed it despite it being hard work with not touching any plates which did make it hard. Would love to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015

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