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17 Los Angeles to Australia & New Zealand Cruise Reviews

Ports of call were good - not excellent! Why stop at locations that have nothing to offer? An example woud be Hilo, Hawaii. The destination personnel were not well trained. Priority guests were not treated like priorities! In most ... Read More
Ports of call were good - not excellent! Why stop at locations that have nothing to offer? An example woud be Hilo, Hawaii. The destination personnel were not well trained. Priority guests were not treated like priorities! In most situations - waitlist was an imaginary item. Basically I would say the ship personnel were very friendly and dedicated employees. Upper management needs to wake-up! Many people felt that this cruise was not up to par for RSSC. We suggested in our cruise comments that the 9:30 timing for entertainment shows was too late. Most passengers taking cruises over 30 days tend to be older because we are mostly retired and can spend that amount of time and money. Jamie did add several 5:30 shows which were excellent. The entertainment was not nearly as good as previous cruises. I would also have to add that the "country club casual" has really gone down hill. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
White glove service, staff who care about your personal preferences, accurate assistance, and a crew who genuinely look out for your comfort and safety to deliver a relaxing and fulfilling journey. Congratulations to Cunard for ... Read More
White glove service, staff who care about your personal preferences, accurate assistance, and a crew who genuinely look out for your comfort and safety to deliver a relaxing and fulfilling journey. Congratulations to Cunard for preserving their traditions and not bending to trendy expectations. Unwinding is not the norm for most cruise experiences yet I managed to read, recollect, reflect and actually slow down enough to realize how spectacular a holiday I was having. Queen Victoria excels in food and beverage service. Every dish served to me was exceptional. A minuscule Waldorf salad took me by surprise..the BEST bite sized salad to ever hit my taste buds. Serving sizes are to be applauded. Never too much, always just enough to satisfy considering how much food one can consume over an entire day. The wine waiter helped us find wonderful vintages that didn't break our budget. Watching couples strut in their finery to a live orchestra awakes an era of romance rarely found elsewhere. Hearing lectures of interest from exceptional humans activates the mind and encourages vivid conversation with new friends in passing. The entertainment surprised us with variety cleverly selected to delight all tastes. Featuring artists from within the core group, such as the wind instrumentalist, is genius as we then feel closer to these artists later recognizing them in, their usual postings. The passenger choir and staff talent concert both highlights among many brilliant guest artists such as the pianist comedian who was hilarious. Shore excursions lived up to the promises and appeared to be similar in price but with the assurance that one would be returned safely to the ship under any unforeseen circumstances. Fire engine over the Golden Gate, priceless. Long bus trips may be best avoided as our trip to Christchurch took up the entire day and was not as directions weren't easy to follow, we wasted precious time trying to locate anything, and would've been better off back on the ship, our preferred destination. Embarking and disembarking was a breeze for us, however we heard of others being treated like cows in some ports. An amusing story was that of a fellow falling from the tender platform, I can't imagine how this might have occurred so pardon me for sharing, the poor wet fellow probably did not find it funny at all. Maintenance of the vessel is astounding, I witnessed the repainting of the hull whilst at sea so that the sparkling image as the Queen sailed into port would strike in full focus of those who were lucky enough to see her and wish that they too were aboard. How satisfying it is know that I will again bask in the tradition of such royalty. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
We try to cruise Princess because overall, everything is consistent. However, on this smaller ship we did not enjoy the main restaurant as much as other ships. The big disappointment, it did not have anytime dining. The food was fine ... Read More
We try to cruise Princess because overall, everything is consistent. However, on this smaller ship we did not enjoy the main restaurant as much as other ships. The big disappointment, it did not have anytime dining. The food was fine but when I ordered a chilled soup, it came out room temperature. The cabin was like other Princess ships, so no surprises there. Entertainment was average and normally when we don't care to go to see the entertainment we will go to our room and watch a movie. Not this cruise. The media in our room was atrocious and I am being kind. We were lucky to have a movie choice at all some days. The service was fine and what one would expect with Princess. We only had a stop in Honolulu, Pago Pago, Samoa, Auckland and bay of islands and this suited us. We would do the same itinerary again but on a larger ship so sea days were more entertaining. We are a mature couple and did not travel with children but this cruise ship would not suite kids at all. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We sailed on a segment of the Queen Victoria's world cruise from Los Angeles to Sydney. In many small ways this was a disappointing experience. For example: This was the only cruise where we were not welcomed on board with a glass of ... Read More
We sailed on a segment of the Queen Victoria's world cruise from Los Angeles to Sydney. In many small ways this was a disappointing experience. For example: This was the only cruise where we were not welcomed on board with a glass of Champaign or given a bag to use for purchases. Although the food was good, it was difficult to find out about alternative items on the menu and ordering them required the aid of the dining room manager. Cookies were hidden behind the counter somewhere in the Lido buffet and you had to ask the correct person for them. During the first couple of formal nights, the food was nothing special and the dining room was never decorated for any occasion. The waiters in the Golden Pub were not service oriented. We went for lunch one day and were told that all the tables were taken but we could go around and ask people if they would be willing to share their table with us. On another occasion, we were not told the kitchen was closing and sat at the table with empty plates for 20 minutes until it was too late to order dessert. The lectures were very good and well attended but there was very little to do in the afternoons. It seemed like trivia was the only thing available morning, afternoon and evening. We were never given a cruise review form to fill out despite asking three times for one. Prices seemed high in the shops and there was no change in the items for sale during the entire cruise. Happy hour meant the too high prices for drinks were 25% off. On the plus side, the beds were comfortable with a lot of pillows and there was no charge to use the washers and driers in the passenger laundry. Also, the library had a nice selection of books.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
We joined Arcadia in Los Angeles, at the start of the second sector of her World Cruise, and disembarked 7½ weeks later in Dubai. It was our first time on this ship, and the longest cruise we have yet experienced. We found Arcadia to be ... Read More
We joined Arcadia in Los Angeles, at the start of the second sector of her World Cruise, and disembarked 7½ weeks later in Dubai. It was our first time on this ship, and the longest cruise we have yet experienced. We found Arcadia to be a very welcoming ship, and she very soon wrapped herself around us and became ‘home’. As with most cruises we have taken, we’ve come home with a bag full of impressions, some good, some not so good. Our comments here are intended to be positive and constructive, and we hope readers will take them this way too. Arcadia had just undergone a refit which seems to have worked well for the public areas, but not so well perhaps for the cabins, which have retained tired-looking bathrooms and limited storage space for such a long cruise. Our cabin was on C deck, overlooking the stern, and contrary to some passengers’ perception of these cabins we experienced very little engine noise, and a very sheltered balcony which we used a lot. Arcadia does however have a rather strange arrangement on the stern, with balconies on D deck being larger, but completely covered by the C deck one above (very little sun), and those on E deck being completely open to the sky and to those looking down on them from above (so very little privacy) Future cruisers beware! With the refit also came the introduction of ‘Freedom Dining’ on the upper level of the Meridian Restaurant, and the abandonment of ‘silver service’. Both changes worked well for us. Restaurant Manager Rajeev was adept at matching us to the size of table we wanted, and we rarely experienced queues. Until the very end of the cruise we also enjoyed meeting different folk each night (and at breakfast and lunch, since we took most meals here). The lack of ‘silver service’ actually meant that our food came quicker, on (very) hot plates, and looking as the chef intended. On the whole, the standard of food was very high, and we made only 3 visits to the two speciality restaurants, the main advantage being to escape the noise in the Meridian at its busiest times. Service in the Restaurants and throughout the ship was superb. Daytime activities could have proved problematic on such a long cruise. We enjoy dancing and in Jeffery Dobinson (ably assisted by Brenda Twigg) we found one of the best teachers we have ever had. He quite literally ‘made’ the cruise for us. The ‘downside’ was that his lessons had to be held in The Retreat, up on Deck 10, a room intended for Yoga and gentler fitness classes, NOT for ballroom dancing ( with its low ceiling and unsuitable floor). The ship added its own movements to the dancing, too! Other venues were also badly matched to the activities planned for them, and far too many events started at around 11am, making choices difficult. Painting classes were held in the Globe, a gloomy space with no natural light (but the obvious choice for dancing!), and quizzes in The Rising Sun, right next to the noisy Casino. Classical artists had to perform in the Crow’s Nest Bar, where new screens put in at the refit meant that they could be seen properly only by a select few sitting right in front of the piano. The acoustics there were poor, with low ceilings and thick carpets. On just three occasions they were moved to the Palladium, a much better space for them. We particularly enjoyed Allan Schiller, the pianist (by far and away the best of the performers) and the clarinet and piano duo of James and Maciej. Another example of mismatching was the siting of the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party in the Neptune Pool area. With the roof closed, this event was unbearably noisy, and the Captain’s speech could not be heard. Surely the Palladium Theatre would have been a better choice? We noticed that areas such as the Spinnaker and Intermezzo Bars were not used for events at all, because they remain ‘open plan’. Maybe that was why they didn’t seem popular as bars, either! Arcadia is fortunate in having a number of launderettes, but they are quite ridiculously inadequate for the 2000 or so passengers on a World Cruise of more than 90 days, there being only 4 machines available on each of decks C, D and E, and a further small launderette on Deck E which seemed to be kept a secret for those ‘in the know’. They were rumoured to be the source of all gossip, but you had to do all your gossiping standing up ----- no chairs!! As to trips ashore, we did not take many of the ship’s excursions, but those we did do were generally well-planned and enjoyable. We do wish, though, that the planners wouldn’t assume that we all need toilet stops and ‘shopping time’, which eat into time better spent at more interesting places. On the Mumbai tour, for example, we had 1¼ hours ‘shopping time’, but only 5 minutes at the ‘Gateway to India’! The Port Talks on board were excellent, and Sam was always ready to give her advice to independent travellers, too. On the ship itself, a guided ‘behind the scenes’ tour (culminating in a visit to the Bridge to meet the Captain) was advertised, but we were horrified to discover that a charge of £75 would be made for each person! Whatever happened to FREE visits to the Bridge, or indeed the tour of the Galley on ‘Chocoholics’ afternoons? Needless to say, we didn’t go. Evening entertainment was a bit ‘hit and miss’. The ship’s own Headliners were brilliant (particularly the ‘Killer Queen’ show), but we got far too many ‘crossover’ acts (two violinists, two pianists, even two sets of tenors!). The Palladium is a lovely, comfortable venue, but sight lines are obscured by pillars and high-back sofas, and it was often impossible to find a seat at the first show if you arrived after 8pm. We enjoyed the regular dances in The Globe, though after the first few weeks things did get a bit repetitive! Internet use on board most cruise ships continues to be fraught with difficulties, and the charges that P&O make for it are quite outrageous, given its slow speed. We had reason to query charges twice, because the connection had been lost, and we were clocking up the pounds and pence simply getting back on to email. I guess most of us are not interested in using the service every day, or even every week, but we do like to keep in touch with family and friends on a very long cruise like this one. Passengers could be seen scurrying ashore with laptops at every port of call, to the cruise terminals and beyond, just to get a connection at an acceptable price. We managed 2 dollars an hour in Singapore; on the ship, this would have added £30 to our bill! Free Internet use should be included in the cruise fare, and if this causes problems with bandwidth on board, passengers can be allotted specific times to access it. These few ‘moans’ apart, we had a fabulous cruise which was excellent value for money.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
We had been on the Odyssey in 2011 for cruise from Athens to Istanbul on Veranda 2 level. This time we asked for Veranda 2 but got room 503 Veranda 1. Very noisy at 4:30am when the anchor dropped since it was a floor or two below us. We ... Read More
We had been on the Odyssey in 2011 for cruise from Athens to Istanbul on Veranda 2 level. This time we asked for Veranda 2 but got room 503 Veranda 1. Very noisy at 4:30am when the anchor dropped since it was a floor or two below us. We wanted a balcony because we love eating on the deck. We had a balcony but it was only 1/4 glass and the rest metal as we were the first balcony. It got covered in salt and spray often. Next time will insist on Veranda 2 and more midship. Several days it was a rough ride especially between New Zealand and Sydney. Crew friendly. Felt the crew push liquor service a bit too much. It was free but we don't drink that much. Tours were not always done on vehicles that were not always in the best shape for bumpy roads on small islands like Bora Bora. Meet wonderful couples, Crew helped me plan a surprise 70th birthday party and closed Restaurant 2 for it.IN that experience they excelled in achieving their motto"JUST SAY YES. From putting friends invitations that I created in their mail slot outside their room to helping me choose a menu of our favorite meals. All 20 of our friends had a good time. The maître de at Restaurant 2 outdid himself in helping me before and during the party.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Since the moment we stepped on the boat, we were treated like royalty. The stateroom attendants, waitstaff, bartenders and even managers knew us by name. Every step we took we had a welcoming smile, good day mam/sir, and may I assist you. ... Read More
Since the moment we stepped on the boat, we were treated like royalty. The stateroom attendants, waitstaff, bartenders and even managers knew us by name. Every step we took we had a welcoming smile, good day mam/sir, and may I assist you. We could not be more happy. The food was incredible. Lots of options for a variety of eaters (vegan/vegetarian/gluten free/ even low sodium). The staff kept us busy with activities daily. The shows were incredible! Comedian, magician, professional singers, dancers and musicians entertained every night. Again, we were extremely satisfied with the plethora of options on the boat. We had new movies running in the theatre daily and running on the tele in your room the next day. Our stateroom was an inside cabin 2691. We have been on several cruises before, and the size of this room was considerably larger than others. My husband and I agreed that the queen bed was more comfortable than expected too! We had a pull out coach that we never used, but it was nice to sit on and eat room service at the table. We found it difficult to live for 3 weeks without a fridge, but with talking to other passengers found that you can rent a fridge for $2 day. (not advertised) Just ask at main office. We did not have a tub either, but we wouldn't have used it if we did (too small). All port days we did our own thing. We were on a budget, so we did not book any excursions. We walked through the main port and hopped on a local bus. At Hilo, Hawaii there is the best travel company called Hoppa On, Hoppa Off. Well worth the money for what you get. Very friendly and affordable transportation that shows you the island. The rest of is;ands we took city buses for a dollar or 2 each way and had a great time. The snorkeling was the most memorable experience. TAKE YOUR OWN SCUBA MASK! We brought our own and so glad we did. The beaches would rent them for 15-20 dollars, but you can buy your own from walmart for $5-10 and be set the entire time. -Waikiki on Oahu Hawaii is beautiful- check out punchbowl cemetaary and the view. -Pago, Pago- take city bus for $2 and go to $2 dollar beach. Best place in the world! -Vanuatu- hideaway beach and underwater post office is amazing! -Fiji- take a tour to rainforest and waterfalls. Check out their local markets, huts and culture. Stay out of Suva! -New Caledonia- french speaking, so learn how to say "i'm sorry I do not speak french, do you speak english?" The locals will respond easier to that than "english?" You will get laughed at -Sydney- take the bridge walk. It's amazing!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
When we boarded at Los Angeles it was with a little trepidation following our November 2012 cruise with Seabourn where we had encountered such poor food and service aboard Seabourn Sojourn. We need not have worried. Silver Whisper was as ... Read More
When we boarded at Los Angeles it was with a little trepidation following our November 2012 cruise with Seabourn where we had encountered such poor food and service aboard Seabourn Sojourn. We need not have worried. Silver Whisper was as close to perfection as I think it is possible to get and, believe me, after 36 years of cruising on a whole variety of cruise lines, I think I can comment fairly, objectively and without bias. The 29 days crossing the Pacific to Sydney where we disembarked were the first two sectors of the 2013 World Cruise. Silversea only do one annual World Cruise and the job normally goes to Silver Whisper, one of the mid-sized ships. There were 340 guests aboard a 28,000 tonne ship which makes for a remarkable space/passenger ratio. Nowhere ever felt crowded. This is an extremely comfortable ship which rides the ocean very well - and we did encounter some quite 'big' seas! The other passengers were, like us, virtually all in the upper age bracket. 140 (approximately 40%) were doing the full 4 month World Cruise. You need to be retired to commit to such a long time away from home, but it does enable you to experience leisurely cruising as it used to be, before these 7-day (or less!) 'every day a different port' cruises were invented. 85% of the passengers had sailed with Silversea before. Our fellow passengers were well travelled, well educated, charming and companionable. We joined a 'trivia team' where all the other members had sailed before on the Silver Whisper World Cruise and we were made most welcome, even though we had not sailed on the ship before. The crew were incredible. They were very experienced, very attentive and nothing ever seemed too much trouble. By Day 4 every crew member referred to me by name as either 'Mr Philip' or 'Mr Bxxxxxn'. Service was consistently excellent throughout the ship.This was potentially a difficult routing as regards provisioning the ship. Our first port of call was remote Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas, after six days at sea, and it took eleven days for us to reach Tahiti where very little is available by way of fresh produce. Despite this, the excellent Food & Beverage Manager (Sujith Mohan) and the first-class Executive Chef (Anne-Marie Cornelius) managed to produce delicious meals, including fresh salads and fresh berries all along the way. The food was consistently excellent. We do not like eating in our cabin and generally went for breakfast in La Terrazza. Here, cereals and fruit are self-service, but juice, coffee and hot main dishes are waiter service. The egg dishes were properly cooked. The soft boiled eggs and hot crisp toast were absolute perfection! Whenever the weather permitted we tended to lunch (fairly lightly) outdoors on the pool deck. Here, simple grilled fish and chicken caesar salads are excellent. On sea days lavish buffets were often put on. At 4 o'clock most afternoons we headed for the Panorama Lounge for a pot of (excellent, proper leaf) tea, more than occasionally being also tempted by the delicious sandwiches and pastries. Then it was off to 'trivia', run by the Cruise Director, Fernando de Oliviera. He is a Silversea 'institution' and hugely entertaining. A great asset to the Line.I generally walked a few circuits of the deck before going down to change for dinner. We then tended to go to The Bar for cocktails before dinner. The good news is that this is now completely non-smoking (Seabourn please note!). My favourite place to dine was the Restaurant, with a preference to join others at a table for 4, 6 or 8. This way we met many delightful fellow guests. Food and service were consistently excellent and accurate. There is a very good selection of side-orders of vegetables and sauces to accompany main dishes. Fish dishes were particularly good and soups excellent. House wines (unlike Seabourn!) were all perfectly palatable and some of them were very good. We strayed onto the wine list a number of times and here there is very good value to be found. One evening we dined in Le Champagne, but the food was no better than the Restaurant and - because it is so small - the atmosphere was somewhat muted. I think we went four times to La Terrazza which, for dinner, has an Italian menu. But the good thing is that this changes every four days. Again, like the Restaurant, good food (especially if you want pasta, but stay with the Restaurant if your preference is fish) and service. I cannot comment comprehensively on the after-dinner entertainment in the Show Lounge. We saw little of it and on a score of 1 to 10 it is, for me, the least important part of any cruise. What we did see did not excite! And somehow my late-night partying days seem mysteriously to have deserted me!!! As a result a nightcap in The Bar after dinner was generally sufficient. There were good guest lecturers on board and a full programme of daytime activities. I tend to take my own books on board, but noted that I am very out-of-date. Almost everyone else had a 'Kindle'! The cruise itinerary was good (I cannot rate the ship's excursions - other than to note that they tend to be 'pricey' - since we tend to make our own arrangements when in port). After Nuku Hiva we called at Rangiroa and then the Society Islands (Moorea, Tahiti and Bora Bora). It was the rainy season so we had rather mixed fortunes weatherwise (no fault of Silversea!). Then we sailed on to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. When we tried to anchor off it was clear that the swell was too great to tender safely so the excellent Captain Corsaro (he is Silversea's Senior Captain) wisely decided to abort the call. The good news was that this allowed us to arrive early in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand - on a glorious sunny day. We then enjoyed seven days of perfect weather as we sailed down the east coast of the North and South Islands of New Zealand, with ports of call at Auckland, Wellington, Akaroa and Port Chalmers before sailing into Dusky and Milford Sounds on the west coast on a lovely blue-sky day. This was remarkable. I had been there before (twice) on cloudy wet days, which is the norm. After leaving Milford Sound we began our crossing of the Tasman Sea. It was lively but we did not encounter the mountainous seas which I remember on the QE2 ten years ago, and Capt. Corsaro told me afterwards that it was the best crossing he had ever experienced. The previous time he was battling with 45 foot waves! So it was 'on-time' into Hobart for a half-day visit (we could have done with longer) and then on to Sydney. We had to farewell many new-found friends who were staying on (some to Hong Kong, some for the full World Cruise) and I would have been bitterly disappointed had I been flying straight home. As it was, we left the ship with the prospect (for me) of staying almost another month with friends in Sydney. Lovely. The Russian taxi driver (Australian taxi drivers are virtually non-existent in Sydney) who took me to my friends' apartment was amazed that it had taken us 29 days to reach Sydney from Los Angeles. 'But you could 'ave flown here in 13 hours' he exclaimed! I think he was rather missing the point. Full marks, Silversea, for putting on such a first-class show, and thanks to all those hard-working members of staff on board. I look forward to my next Silversea cruise, the transatlantic crossing aboard Silver Cloud (Barcelona to Barbados) in October. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
This cruise was a great mix of English, Australians an a few Kiwis. It was the friendliest cruise I have ever been on. Not necessarily with the crew though. The shows in the theatre were brilliant and the best I have ever seen oh any ... Read More
This cruise was a great mix of English, Australians an a few Kiwis. It was the friendliest cruise I have ever been on. Not necessarily with the crew though. The shows in the theatre were brilliant and the best I have ever seen oh any cruise, I couldn't believe how lucky we were to have Pam Ayres one night.We also had the Tenor boys and a variety of other very professional shows. We actually went every night. The day time activities were also just the best. I was absolutely impressed with the fuss free and smooth boarding, it took no time at all. How ever, we were not at any stage shown to our cabin, we had to muddle our own way there. We were given a small bottle of water at LA and then another at Sydney, not at all very generous. We had to pay for it after that. The food in the belvedere was just terrible.The night we had Indian that was all there was, tough for people like me who don't eat Indian, same with their Sea food night, no alternative. Generally speaking the food was dull, boring and bland. often to the point of being inedible. The absolute worst for me the mashed potatoes were just slop.Surely they should notice by the amount of plates going back still full. Certainly the worst I have ever experienced. We called it Woollies Cafe. The menu had no imagination what so ever.The waiters were slow and disorganised, the plates and dirty tables piled up, we had to ask for the tables to be wiped down so we could sit there. The food in the Meridian was delicious, well served and presented. Waiter for the most were friendly happy souls. As they had 8 black tie nights in the month, we ate in the Buffet instead, much to our horror. Toilets were repeatedly out of order - or there was no water or electricity. . At other times it was wash basins or hand driers not working - the knock on effect being empty paper towel holders. There were also some very strange, garbage type, or sewer smells in several places on the ship.Not a pleasant experience as you can imagine. Although she is a beautiful ship, she is not a patch on many of the others. The library was so small, you would be lucky to get a seat in there. It is no wonder so many people on the ship were ill with chest infections, including us. First time we have ever been ill on a cruise. We are in agreement with many that we spoke to on the ship, we will not be cruising with P& O again. this is just my opinion. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
I took the Los Angeles-to-Sydney segment of Queen Elizabeth's inaugural world cruise, January 29 to February 22. Communications were bad, beginning with Cunard's Website. I could book excursions but neither review nor ... Read More
I took the Los Angeles-to-Sydney segment of Queen Elizabeth's inaugural world cruise, January 29 to February 22. Communications were bad, beginning with Cunard's Website. I could book excursions but neither review nor modify or cancel my selections. Cunard's telephone Help Desk, with its jarringly ungrammatical ("Your call will be answered in the order it was received") was no help at all. Operators had plummy, fake-posh English accents (I am a Brit). At one point I was transferred to Princess Cruises. On-board messages were often misworded, as in "Captain James Cook chartered the two main islands [of New Zealand] in 1760." Embarkation in Los Angeles was chaotic; no one was in charge; no-one to help; no signs; no advice; no information. People arriving by cab had their bags put onto porters' carts ahead of people who had been waiting for half an hour. Queen Elizabeth is somewhat of a poor man's Queen Mary 2, downsized to fit into the Panama Canal with 2 feet to spare on either side and bulked up at the back to maximize cubic space, with low ceilings, narrow corridors, and tiny bathrooms with hopelessly small sinks. There is only one flight of steps either side from Deck 9's central pool area to the upper deck. Many of the Staff appear untrained. Stewards in the buffet would remove a plate from under one's nose without a word, sometimes before you had finished eating. We found the purser's office to be uninformed about almost everything. Given the ship's purported British genes, it was unfortunate that the smiling Eastern European waitress in the Golden Lion Pub didn't know what bitter or ale or draft beer meant, or what kind of fish was in the fish and chips. Britannia Restaurant staff were good. Food: My first dinner of steak in Britannia Restaurant was tasteless and overcooked ("medium" requested). Subsequent meals were better, sometimes average, never great. There were no spectacular surprises. Hamburg Grill on Deck 9 aft served me the first hot dog in my life that I couldn't finish, stringy and tasteless. Chaos reigned in the Lido buffet, where layout and traffic defied logic and common sense. There was no set direction of traffic and people entered from both ends. There was a paucity of choice and only average quality. Don't expect the raisins to be anywhere near the muesli, onions and capers near the bagels, prunes near canned fruit -- if you can find them at all -- or bowls anywhere near any of these. The soup was next to the dessert and both were difficult to spoon out from under their glass-covered containers. The cream cheese was near the bagels but across the aisle from onions and capers. Smoked salmon was not available at breakfast unless you asked for it, a chore that wasn't worth keeping up for 21 days. The capers ran out, I was told, after Port Denarau, Fiji. Smoked salmon finally appeared on display, but in the evening. Next morning a miracle: the capers re-appeared. On occasion the tea packages were distant from hot water and milk. Captain Burgess was accessible and popular, but perhaps complacent. If the captain is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on his ship he has much to answer for. I wrote to him that some destination maps were either non-existent or lacked scale and any indication of where the ship or tender would be, so one couldn't estimate the time it would take to walk anywhere. This omission didn't seem to interest the tour desk, though it should have been easy for them to download and print maps. I would expect a marine officer to realize how absurd this was, but the captain merely passed my letter on to the hotel manager, from whom I heard nothing. Disembarkation in Sydney was worse than embarkation had been. People awaiting transfers milled around without guidance, dragging their bags to and fro, pressing the few harassed Cunard staff for information as to which coach they should take. It took us 40 minutes to board our coach. Summary: There good points, of course, such as a spacious theater with good sight lines and first-class lectures. Other good points -- I don't know. We may have received value for or money since the fare was reasonable for 21 days, but the cruise didn't begin to meet my expectations of Cunard. There was a dissonance between the aggressive formality (six black-tie evenings) and the tawdriness of food and (non-dining room) service. Parent Carnival Corporation seems to be milking the Cunard brand with what the auto business calls badge engineering, such as a cosmetically-modified Chevrolet branded as a Cadillac. The pictures and the bust of Queen Elizabeth, nostalgic relics and photos of early Cunard ships, and fine deco art fail to not counter the chintzy product. This will sully the entire brand. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show ... Read More
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show "Desperate Housewives" and instead I found my own live version right on the ship. The stories I heard were unbelievable. There was a big drama on the ship—and I bet there is one every year—and you are either in the know or being made fun of. It is better to in the know than to be left out of the loop, welcome to Desperate Cruisers! This ship had just come out of dry dock and it was in good shape, all new carpeting in many rooms and only one elevator was out of service for several weeks. This is the old Renaissance #3 ship for those who are interested in this. The public rooms were beautiful. The elevator in repair was a Godsend, the food was outstanding and plentiful and I needed incentive to walk those stairs. I spent a lot of time in the Pacific Lounge, the Cabaret Lounge, and the Casino Lounge—Steven the bartender in the Casino lounge was very nice, he made a mean virgin Margarita. We had a lot of rough sea days; however once I got my sea legs nothing bothered me. For many days walking through the ship was like snow skiing, rather tiring but great exercise. I also love to walk around sideways; I am really good at it! :) I stayed in a balcony room by myself and there was plenty of storage for me alone, but sharing this space for a month with my husband might present a challenge because space is much more limited than on a traditional ship. I do need to learn to pack less things, this is the bane of my existence when I travel alone and have to schlep my own stuff around. The bed was very low and a bit hard for me; they don't have real egg crates anymore, only puffy pillow tops which are not as soft as egg crates. I got one bar set up for 27 days, not the weekly set up I though I was getting. I was a little bummed out to learn this after I had given away all my booze and stuff because I had been told the wrong info by another FCC person on another ship. Live and learn, I though it sounded too generous for Princess to do this but I did not listen to my own instinct. I got one set of shampoo and conditioner and lotion for the whole 27 days, fine by me because I don't like the stuff anyway and I always bring my own. I got a nice array of elite amenities and used them for the boat building contest. I did not get any upgraded towels or bathrobe; I don't know why they bother promising them since I have never gotten them as elite. The occasional thick towel is such a treat! I had a weird dining experience initially as I was seated with a loud and unpleasant person who was traveling solo like me. Thankfully I was also seated with a couple, Ken and Peter from Australia, who were fantastic and they totally saved an otherwise problematic situation. We got stuck with an unpleasant person who had made no friends on the first leg of the journey and demanded "young" people be seated at the table. This person treated the waiters like they were personal slaves and we all found ourselves getting more and more uncomfortable with this poor behavior. I finally spoke up in front of the group and asked this person to refrain from speaking to the waiters poorly in from of me. Then the whole table ignored this person, and we talked over this person for several days. Finally this person decided to change tables; this was the only way we could get Princess to take action. We could not get Princess to change this mean person's seat for us because nobody in the dining room wanted to sit with them. This person ultimately became a great source of humor for the remainder of the trip, suffice it to say we saw the humor in a bad situation and choose to find the joy rather than the bummers. Nancy No-friends (the name my friend Ken gave her) sat alone every night! This person terrorized a few individuals on the cruise; Princess did nothing to manage this person because they were bragging about bringing 100 people on the world cruise next year. This was a joke; this person talked a big game but had nothing to back it up with. You know the kind of person who manipulates situations to their advantage. We were all amazed that this person never got booted from the cruise; instead they continue to cause a tremendous amount of trouble for some individuals and a huge annoyance for the rest. If you are going on a segment this year you will meet this person, just don't say I didn't warn you! The food was great; I really enjoyed the variety and abundance of options available for such a small ship. We had a late dining table that seated up to 10 and we had a few empty spots that we used to invite people to join us, especially after ridding ourselves of our problem tablemate. The MDR was a little more traditional with the Head waiters preparing pasta and pineapple flambe, and the food was truly standout fare. We also loved the Bistro, they had their own menu and you could also order off the main dining room menu and you did not have to dress. A fantastic solution to no anytime dining, we loved the bistro! On port days the buffet stays open for the evening, otherwise it becomes the Bistro. We had a few loud and large dinners there and really enjoyed it. I did not want for anything during the entire cruise, there was more food around than you can possibly imagine on such an intimate ship. I learned a secret; you can order things like Lobster and Filet Mignon in the MDR if you give 24 hours notice on any night. We only had 2 formal nights in the whole 27 days and I guess this reflects a general lack of interest in dressing up when one cruises the World. I seemed to be the only one who knew about the Elite and Platinum lounge but soon lots of people were frequenting it. I regularly stopped by for nibbles, especially since I had late seating, we didn't usually get served until 9pm thanks to our poorly behaving tablemate. They had a lot of food and drink parties in the Pacific Lounge, with skewers of Pineapple and Shrimp and all sorts of fruits, kind of a happy hour thing with reduced priced drinks and stuff. Room service was great; I ordered lots of fresh fruit for those late night moments (LOL) where food is necessary. I got to know my morning coffee and toast kid well, he dutifully served me for 26 days and I miss him a lot. I got several trays of fancy strawberries and stuff sent from captain's circle, plus I got to order stuff as an elite perk. This was very nice, and boy did I get spoiled. I had brought my own coffee press and fresh ground Cubita coffee but the press broke in transit and I was not able to get it fixed and then I just got used to the syrup coffee and gave up on brewing my own. I did bring my bag of coffee down to the coffee bar and asked them to brew me a cup which they did, I though that was very nice. I had issues with some of the waiters in the dining room, one in particular was very petty and mean to me based on who was sitting at my table (mean person) and kept handing me scalding pots of hot milk for my "best friend" (mean person) who quickly became the bane of my existence! I realize that when people are mean to waiters, they can become curt and slow but imagine how it feels to be seated as a solo traveler with someone who is so nasty that their reputation becomes yours! This happens quickly on small ships and I found that I suffered the sins of this mean person, as did my other table mates, until we took control of the situation by making this person go away. Meanwhile, I do think it is dangerous to have waiters who target people, even the bad ones, because my hand got burned badly and I was not able to use it for days. I hope none of you get this waiter and if you email me I will give you his name! I did turn him in but nothing happened to him and he is still in the MDR. Be careful of him. My room steward Victor was very good, he had 16 rooms to care for and yet he took outstanding care of me. He made me feel safe and secure all the time. He was never obtrusive, always there when I needed him and kept my room clean and tidy. My laundry was handled perfectly; they never lost one single pair of the junky target undies I bought for the purpose of not caring if they lost or damaged them! Go figure... There were some very interesting lecturers on the ship including an Astronomer, a Middle East Crisis expert, a style adviser, an Academy Award winner, a nice Port Lecturer, and a WWII Historian. We had at least 2 lectures on Sea days. There was also a Water Color paint teacher who gave regular lessons in very high surf! We had Concert Violinists and other wonderful musicians and singers, and we had several dance shows done quite well on the very small stage by the excellent Princess Singers and Dancers. We had several lounge acts, all very talented. There was a wonderful fitness instructor who taught Yoga and Pilate and she had her Appendix burst while we were in Honolulu so we lost her, she is doing great back in Sydney and getting better. By the time her replacement came several weeks later, I had given up on Yoga and Pilate. Oh well, some things are not meant to be. I got much exercise righting myself on such a rocking ship for almost all of the sea days. Karaoke was very fun, we got the whole place going one night and it was very fun. My first Karaoke song ever was "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" which is the longest Karaoke in history. I loved it! Sadly there was only 2 Karaoke sessions during the whole 27 day segment and there should have been more! We had a fantastic crossing of the Equator Ceremony, it was so funny and messy and everybody had a blast. I am no longer a pollywog, now I am a shellback! Many of our sail-a-ways included Champagne although I am not a drinker so I did not have any. The ship building contest was also quite fruitful, all the ships were great and I got to donate all of my "elite amenity items" and my Obama Surfer Bobble head doll to one group who should have won but didn't. Must have been the crappy elite amenity items! I took a Princess excursion in Vanuatu to see Ekasup Cultural Center, it was nice but limited to that place only. I did not get to sit with the people I went with, this always happens when I take Princess tours. I liked the place we visited, a fake tribe who also appeared on Survivor. Survivor was filmed on this island, on the other side of the island but fairly close to Vila! The port had lots of junk to buy, mostly from China but I did manage to find me some Kava. ;) I took a Princess excursion in the Bay of Islands to see the Kauri Forest and Glow Worm Caves and that was really fun. We got to see much of the area including some artsy toilets, there was plenty of stops for postcards and junk and opportunities to hike a bit if you wanted to. It was a good excursion. I took a Princess excursion in Picton to see the area via land and sea and this was a classic bummer made so by an individual who showed up late (they waited) and then who "got lost shopping" at a 10 minute stop and caused another half hour delay, all of this amounting to a shortened excursion. This is why I hate ship excursions. I don't mind so much when we go slower because of handicapped people, but I go crazy when some selfish loon shows up late (duh) or wanders off to shop at a toilet stop! I took private excursions in all the other locations. In Honolulu we rented a car and spent the day tooling around the North shore and more. It cost 50 bucks for the whole day, plus $15 in gas. Several folks rented cars as well, one man who drove to buy flowers and to see the Diamond Head lookout point later told me he was suffering from Macular Degeneration. Be careful driving when the World Cruise is in town! In New Caledonia we took one of the petite tour "trains" around on our own and that provided for a nice overview of the Island, which is quite beautiful and civilized if expensive. We were in town late, we got to port at noon and that is when the market closed for the day so we missed that. It is an expensive place, one can hardly afford to blow ones nose at $7 a box of tissues. I did manage to find a jewelry store open and there was this Gold Tiki I could not resist... We walked on our own in Auckland and Sydney and had a blast. We took local buses and ferries and walked as much as we could. The only HOHO we took was in Sydney Harbor, a boat you could hop on and off but we did not end up using it in that way. The Botanical gardens in Sydney were outstanding, we saw tons of bats just hanging around and mating (flying foxes) and so many different birds, bugs, and butterflies it was amazing. This was a perfect place to end our stay in Sydney. We found a wonderful restaurant 14 years ago in London and were pleased to find it again in Auckland and Sydney, it's called Wagamama and it is well worth a visit. You have to try the Passion Fruit & Lychee Sorbet, with a shot of Sake. All in all it was a nice cruise, it was just the right amount of time to be away and though I did enjoy the cruise I was ready to get off the ship after so many Sea days. I am not sure I could handle being on such a small ship for such a long period of time (107 days) with the same people and the same staff. While some staff was a delight to be around, others seemed tired and battered and ready for a break. The same was true of the cruisers, many were delightful and happy, but there were the occasional grumps that got grumpier as time moved on. I was happy to leave the mean and the grumpy but very sad to leave the wonderful friends I met on the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
Background: I am one of the last people you would expect to find on a Crystal ship. Most of the qualities for which Crystal is renowned mean little to me. The stage shows are great but I could easily live without them. I'm not fond of ... Read More
Background: I am one of the last people you would expect to find on a Crystal ship. Most of the qualities for which Crystal is renowned mean little to me. The stage shows are great but I could easily live without them. I'm not fond of formality, and choose Best Western and Holiday Inn over the Ritz and Four Seasons, and my nature runs towards frugal. I booked my first Crystal Cruise in 1996 when a good opportunity presented itself, expecting a once in a lifetime experience. I was mistaken, at least in a literal sense. While anyone can consider themselves fortunate to sail a Crystal ship once in their lifetime, I quickly decided that the experience would be repeated many times. My second Crystal experience took another 6 years, but since that time I have never walked off a Crystal ship without a future booking in my hand. Why do I keep coming back when I am nominally such a poor fit for the line? Primarily, because Crystal does EVERYTHING extremely well, and a bit more specifically because every customer is treated as the most important person in the world. Ship info: The Crystal Symphony was built in 1995, and has been updated regularly since then, most recently in 2009. It is moderately large, and extremely spacious for the passenger capacity. My voyage was completely sold out, and the only brief hint of crowding came during a major storm when the activities were concentrated in the midship rooms. The open decks are especially spacious, and there is a wide, wrap-around Promenade Deck. Staterooms: With the exception of the penthouses on deck 10, the rooms are essentially the same. There are only 8 categories, 3 for penthouse, regular and deluxe verandas, depending on the deck, and 3 categories of penthouse cabins. The rooms are well equipped, especially the baths, with a full tub in even the lowest category rooms. There is ample storage space. Dining: Up to now, dinner in the main dining room has always been served in 2 seatings, usually 6 or 6:30 and 8:30, but Crystal has just announced plans for an option of a flexible dining time beginning in 2011. In addition to the Crystal Dining Room, there are 2 specialty restaurants, Silk Road with Japanese cuisine and Prego with Italian cuisine. These restaurants require reservations but have no surcharge other than a suggested gratuity. The Lido Cafe does not typically open for dinner but will once or twice per cruise. The Lido Cafe serves breakfast and lunch, starting with coffee and pastries around 5AM. There are special theme buffets in the lido, typically about every 3 days. While nominally a buffet, the lido is staffed by several incredible stewards who greeted me by name by day 3, learned my preferences, and generally provide very personal service. A grill midships on the lido serves a late breakfast plus burgers and sandwiches with a few extras. The selection of side dishes is limited, but it is just steps from the Lido Cafe, so these extras are readily available. The Crystal Dining serves a traditional breakfast and lunch with open seating, with one grand gala luncheon buffet sometime during the cruise. The Bistro a deck above the dining room serves pastries and other snacks. Dining as such pretty well closes after dinner, but each room has a refrigerator and is stocked with beverages and fruit, routinely restocked by the Stewardess on her regular visits. Light snacks are served in the lounges in the evening, and there is excellent 24-hour room service.. Activities and entertainment: Activities are geared to a mature demographic and a wide variety are offered. Many cruises have a theme, as did this one with a "Movie and Theater" theme with 3 presenters focusing on the topic. The Crystal Visions Enhancement is very strong, usually with at least 3 presenters, and always providing opportunities for ample feedback from the audience. The spa and fitness staff is very strong, including 2 innovative programs for walkers. The walkvest program uses vests with removable weights (up to about 16 pounds) to improve the strength benefits of walking. A new program uses trekking poles to get more muscles involved in the walking process. There is a log sheet on the Promenade deck where passengers can record their progress and receive shirts and certificates at the end of their cruise celebrating their progress. One slight disadvantage of the ship's design is that the Promenade doors are frequently subject to wind turbulence and often closed, but the aft doors are almost always available. Other regular enhancement activities include computer classes, music and Berlitz language classes, and excellent dance instructors. There are daily activities including bingo, team trivia, concerts, and movies in the Hollywood Theater. There are 4 significant routine venues for activities, the Palm Court (Deck 11), and the Galaxy Lounge, Hollywood Theater, and Starlite Club on deck 6). It is routine to see simultaneous activities in 3 of these venues, and not unusual to have them in all 4. In the evening there are several venues featuring several varieties of musical entertainment, and a daily presentation in the Galaxy Theater. The excellent Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers presents about 5 or 6 shows per voyage, with other headline entertainers brought on board for the remaining nights of the cruise. Children: There is a children's program with 2 facilities set aside for programs, one for younger children and another for teenagers, but most of the cruises I have been on do not attract a large number of children. Disembarkation: Disembarkation was smooth and easy. At least on our cruise, we were allowed to continue using our rooms until we actually left the ship. Summary: Crystal provides a stunningly superior product in every respect. You will frequently pay a significant premium to be on Crystal, but that is not necessarily the case. If money is an object you really need to look at your own situation for each cruise individually, and you will find some excellent cruises that are surprisingly affordable. While the fares are not "all inclusive" more is included than on many other lines, such as soft drinks, and specialty restaurants. Most current Crystal fares include air fare, and there is an "As You Wish" credit, usually $500 or $1000 per person, which offsets many of the things that are extra. The single supplement is typically 25-30 percent, making it very friendly for solos both in price and services. Many of the things that are extra are also priced reasonably. For example, on my next cruise I will be using Crystal's hotel program in Athens, at about a 15 percent surcharge over booking the hotel which includes Airport-hotel-ship transfers, while I have seen other cruise lines charge at least double the hotel's price. In summary you may pay extra with Crystal, but you always get a lot extra. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
The QM2 is a very interesting and rewarding experience. Unlike today's contemporary cruise lines which are trending toward Las Vegas in their look and feel, the QM2 hues to a more subdued approach where old-world elegance is more ... Read More
The QM2 is a very interesting and rewarding experience. Unlike today's contemporary cruise lines which are trending toward Las Vegas in their look and feel, the QM2 hues to a more subdued approach where old-world elegance is more valued that surface gloss. The weak point of the experience was boarding the ship in Los Angeles when 1800 new travelers came aboard. For the fortunate, it took only an hour to board. For the later arrivals, it took up to 3. Unlike the Crystal line, where each on coming guest is escorted to their room, Cunard simply takes your mug shot for their computer, a welcome aboard photo to sell later and let's you find your own way around. Our room, a premium balcony on the 12th floor, was average for contemporary cruise lines. Materials were solid, space was sufficient for our two week jaunt and the glass walled balcony was just roomy enough, with its two chairs and single table, to allow the door to be opened even while one was on the balcony. But the suite lacked the latest amenities such as basin sinks as found on the Crystal Symphony and there was no flat panel TV. Just an old fashioned Philips CRT. Our fellow travelers, as we later learned, included 320 folks who were going all the way around (the world), 365 Americans, 350 Brits and 1200 Aussies along with representatives from various other countries. Total passenger count was just below 2500. One of our fellow passengers guessed that the average age on the ship was 75. It may not have been quite that high, but I felt I was in the bottom quarter and I'm 63. Happily we were assigned to the Brittania Grill. Nestled into a back corner of the huge Brittania dining room, it offered us our own table for the evening with no restrictions for late/early seating. We liked the flexibility to eat when we chose as it allowed us to mix the early and late show entertainment depending on our own degree of fatigue. Days are well spent on the QM2. With compelling enrichment lecturers, trivia contests, dance and bridge lessons, afternoon tea, 2 golf simulators and 5 swimming pools, we were never bored and always had something to do. Of particular note is the planetarium where 150 could be shown one of 4 shows about the cosmos. Food on the QM2 is interesting and varied. On arrival to the ship we signed up for 5 specialty events: two in the Chef's Galley where around 40 of us received menus, a cooking demonstration and compelling food; one each in two of the "specialty" buffet areas that become upscale restaurants at dinner and one in Todd English. While the food in the dining rooms is very good, Meg and I thought it was just a cut below that available on the Crystal Symphony, the specialty dinners in the buffet area were perhaps slightly better and were more varied due to their ethnic focus, Todd English served the best food we've ever had on a cruise ship. In my opinion, their regular menu is approaching a Michelin 2-star experience and their deserts have already made it to 3 stars. I should also add that the beef served in the Brittania was superb. Service on the ship is personable and one does not get the feeling that the crew's main purpose is to extract extra money from the guest's pockets but it falls a little short of the very warm experience we've had on Crystal. For a simple illustration, at a Crystal buffet, guests are not expected to find their own table or even to carry their own tray. A crew member does bothand for every guest. On the QM2, guests find their own table and carry their own tray. Other features on the QM2 were exemplary. Ball room dancing on the ship is second to none with live and recorded dance music every evening. In fact, the overall level of musicianship on the cruise was the best I've experienced. The library is tremendous. Two hall ways are filled with board games and the tables and chairs on which to play them. Beyond the main theater which seats 1100 and could be crowded after early seating, no area of the ship seemed crowded. The bars and lounges were inviting and their always seemed to be space for the next arrivals. The exercise area was ample with plenty of treadmills, stair climbers, etc. The extra cost "water spa" experience was very enjoyable and probably worth the extra cost even to a cheapskate like me. The promenade path on Deck 7 was sheltered from the wind at the ship's bow. For an understanding of its size, 3 laps of the deck covered 1.1 miles. Entertainment on the ship was a bit of a mixed bag with classical or near classical musicians, comedians, a magician, singers and large shows. One even had a 22 piece orchestra. It must have included nearly every musician on the vessel. While the main shows lacked the integration of singers and dancers that seems common on most cruises, the dancers12 Russians with 6 boys and 6 girls were clearly the best we've seen on any cruise. The 4 singers were merely OK. WiFi internet is available in all areas of the ship. I purchased 4 hours of access for about $180.00 and although it was more like dial-up than broad-band, I was able to keep up with the main issues at work while I was gone The ship made only 4 stops: Honolulu, Pago Pago in American Samoa; Auckland, New Zealand and final departure in Sydney. The available excursions, although they are probably typical of all cruise lines, were not the best we've had and one QM2 policy defied explanation. In both Hawaii and New Zealand we took 5 1/2 hour tours that did not include lunch. Instead of real sustenance, we got a bottle of water and a Nutrigrain bar. The odd part: both tour operator's told us that the tour usually included lunch but that Cunard had asked them to omit it. We finished the cruise with two great days in Sydney. We walked the old section of town (the Rocks) and took a ferry to Manley Beach on our first day. The second day we went to a wildlife "zoo", petted Koalas, fed the kangaroos, etc and then toured the Blue Mountains. It was a day well spent. On our return, our biz class upgrades on United finally came through at the airport and we discovered that seating from Sydney had been revamped and now included chairs that became completely flat beds. We liked it and jet lag has been the least we've experienced when returning from such a long trip. All in all, it was a great trip. Although not quite up to our Crystal experience, the lower cost gave our trip good value. And finally, 6 formal nights for a guy who owns three tuxedosheaven. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
This trip was planned as my elderly mother's last "big one" before retiring from travel completely. We actually hadn't heard of Holland America before but decided to take this cruise as it ended up in Auckland our home ... Read More
This trip was planned as my elderly mother's last "big one" before retiring from travel completely. We actually hadn't heard of Holland America before but decided to take this cruise as it ended up in Auckland our home port. Before finalizing I read many reviews most of which were to our liking. We found the ship wonderful with like minded passengers and plenty of activities to suit everyone. Being a long cruise, there was plenty of time to try everything on offer without having to rush around a ship as you do on shorter cruises. However, nothing is perfect. Being Kiwis our dollar was getting thrashed and therefore we were careful in what we spent. We took several bottles of wine onboard and were very grateful to HAL for allowing us to do so. However, we did purchase bottled wine for dinner at the Rotterdam - big mistake - a few days into the cruise a fellow passenger gave us the heads up on THE WINE CARD - a great saving over buying by the glass or the bottle. However, it is not advertised as such by the ship. I purchased a gym package which entitled me to do all the classes such as yoga, pilates and spinning for $200. The gym facilities and fitness instructors were outstanding. However at the spa, my elderly mother was "encouraged" to get skin products when she went to get her hair done. No price was mentioned at the time but when she went to sign for the bill she was most upset to see it was over $600. I was however able to return most of them. I was also told by a fellow "novice" cruiser he was also "encouraged" to get his teeth whitened and was charged $500 afterwards and was too embarrassed to question it. So anyone using the spa I would advise to question the price of all products they are offering. The cabin was on Dolphin Deck midships and one of the smoothest rides I have ever encountered. It was quiet, spacious, big window and comfortable beds. If it had a fridge I would have rated it with a top mark. (We had done a short cruise on the Sun Princess earlier and were upgraded to a balcony. However the cabin was a lot smaller than Volendam and the bathroom was tiny). The cabin and ship were kept spotlessly clean. We had open seating which I preferred over fixed dining as it gave us flexibility to dine especially in port. We preferred to eat at the Rotterdam and all meals were tasty, well presented and quite healthy. Breakfasts however were disappointing as the toast was always either burnt, soggy or both. The bacon also was fatty and very overdone and impossible to eat with a fork as it just crumbled. They constantly ran out of cereals or fruit but made up for it with the fresh omelettes made before your eyes which I particularly enjoyed. We dined with an officer once and I was disappointed that the officers were not around more. (I always remembered cruising in the seventies and eighties as being a lot of fun when the officers partied too!) There was one evening called a Black and White Ball where you could dance with them and it was probably the most fun I had all cruise. The live shows each evening were wonderful with lots of variety and they also incorporated live local cultural shows from various ports. We also attended the Park West art shows and these were really interesting and informative as well as being entertaining. The Art Director was particularly knowledgeable and nothing was too much trouble for him. The ports were good with ample time in each one although I would have preferred Tahiti to Suva. We tendered 3 times and it was well organized with minimal waiting time. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and found the Volendam full of wonderful surprises. The front office staff were most obliging and helpful, as were 99% of the crew. The captain kept us informed most days on the ship's nautical happenings as did the cruise director with activities and I would have no hesitation to sail with HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
BACKGROUND We are a retired couple who, having experienced some medical problems and a bereavement or two lately, decided to take the plunge and take a cruise. After all, we're not going to live forever. I have previously taken a ... Read More
BACKGROUND We are a retired couple who, having experienced some medical problems and a bereavement or two lately, decided to take the plunge and take a cruise. After all, we're not going to live forever. I have previously taken a long voyage from Britain to Australia and we have both been frequent users of the Sydney/Melbourne to Devonport shipping service so neither of us were exactly novices to ocean voyages. We booked our cruise through a local internet travel agency. The package included airfares from Sydney to Los Angeles and Auckland to Sydney with hotel accommodation provided for one night in Los Angeles. It was decided to make a real holiday of it so we extended our time in the United States and New Zealand prior to and after the cruise. Just as well that we did as this was the best component of our trip. All prices quoted in this review are in United States dollars. TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION We were initially booked to fly with Hawaiian Airlines as part of our package. As the flight included a refueling stop in Honolulu and would not arrive in Los Angeles until 9:00pm we changed our flight to a Qantas non-stop service which arrived at 10:00am. It was a good decision. The flight and in-flight service was excellent  even in cattle class. Nothing to fault at all. Customs and immigration at LAX was its usual unpleasant experience. HOTEL We were accommodated at the Airport Hilton and Towers at LAX. Room was clean but run down with a noisy air-conditioner. A broken light switch with exposed wiring should have been repaired for safety reasons alone. After 3 weeks touring the west coast we boarded the Coast Starlight in Seattle for the run back to Los Angeles. Amtrak gives excellent discounts to cruise passengers and we really enjoyed the trip, even thought the train was three hours late into Los Angeles. The following morning we used the Amtrak bus to get to the Queen Mary Cruise Terminal and started to realize that Holland America (HAL) was not going to live up to its advertising hype. Embarkation was supposed to commence at 11:00am but passengers were still straggling off the ship. So we stood and waited in the sun with our luggage for over an hour before we were even allowed to enter the terminal. Inadequate seating and no shade provided and no sign of the porters who were supposed to take our baggage at the curbside. Might have been nice if HAL had provided some drinks to compensate for the delay, too. Once into the terminal check-in proceeded smoothly and someone finally noticed that we were still towing our luggage. Once on board we were escorted to the Lido Restaurant for lunch as our cabin wasn't ready (we'd not expected it to be). STATEROOM Our verandah suite was quite pleasant but showing many signs of its 13 year history. Nothing to bother initially but as HAL piled error upon annoyance over the next 23 days everything became a major problem  no matter how small. Peeling paint on the verandah (more on that later), damaged wallpaper where the thermostat had been replaced and a floating drain cover in the bathroom should have been repaired long ago. Others have written about the toilets on this cruise. I will only say that ours was a reluctant performer. SHIP INFO The cruise was fully booked but at no time did the ship feel crowded except with the notable exception of the Lido Restaurant lunches. One could go to the Rotterdam Restaurant but one wasn't made to feel particularly welcome there at breakfast or lunch, which was unfortunate, as it was the only place serving kippered herrings at breakfast. The area around the shops was always cluttered with sale and specials tables. Checking the prices before the sale revealed that there was nothing special except the placement of the goods. At times it felt like the ship was being run by Wal Mart! Didn't use the bars much  bankruptcy is not an option and the cocktails were so weak they could have been mocktails. The Van Gogh Lounge looked lovely but was a disappointment. The upper level was stifling with a full audience and the rails blocked the sight lines. All the seats were extremely low and ungiving. Not a comfortable space DINING We had one major problem with the dining arrangements in that we were allocated an 8:30pm dinner sitting and nothing was going to enable us to change it. It seems all the earlier sittings had been grabbed by passengers boarding prior to Los Angeles. Not a very equitable arrangement and, as we were in premium accommodation, not a way to treat the more profitable passengers. There were grumbles about this from large numbers of passengers. We got so fed up with late dining that we opted to dine in the Lido Restaurant on a few occasions. But only a few  not welcome there at night! It got so bad that we resorted to room service a few nights too. Rather fun having a picnic in our cabin and not having to dress for dinner (especially after shore excursions) but not a way to endear oneself to the service staff if partaken too frequently. The food was, frankly, disappointing. Nothing wrong with anything but to use the world bland might be an understatement. There were occasions where the description of the selected fare on the menu was so widely at variance with what was served that there were initial suspicions that the wrong order had been delivered. On the other hand I avoided the salads at dinner as they only came with heavy dressings. A simple french dressing never was an option. Serves were small, which was just as well as we seldom got out of the restaurant prior to 10:15pm. A couple of special menus for lunch in the Lido Restaurant were disasters. Glutinous sushi with the Japanese theme lunch and watery crab legs and still frozen oysters with the seafood lunch. Worth noting was the suspicious correlation between previous days menus and the soups served at lunch. Suppose it keeps costs down. Our agent provided us with passes to the Pinnacle Grill. A pleasant enough meal and not bad value for the $20 cover per person. The deserts were vile. The menu did not change for 23 days. ACTIVITIES I did not get to retire at 44 by gambling so we gave the casino a wide berth (too many smokers). On the other hand we enjoyed the library with its excellent selection of books. Pity they had to vacuum it every morning after breakfast. Avoided the organized activities like the plague! Infantile and patronizing. The art auctions were a total waste of time. Nothing I'd class as art and I do credit myself with some taste. The provenance of some of the pieces was also highly dubious. CHILDREN'S CLUBS Very few children on board but I did make a point of checking their amenities. Quite all right but I'm not really a judge of children's desires. The Oasis waterfall was never filled or operational. SERVICE Something HAL seems to pride itself on but I can't understand why. Our cabin was cleaned daily and the origami towels appeared for the first two weeks but it was nothing special. The staff ALL greet you at every opportunity which can get tedious when you feel obligated to respond every time. Dining room staff were slow, hence our late exits from the dining room. Ice cream counter shut at 2:00pm every day. Overall we had nothing really to complain about with the Filipino or Indonesian staff but nothing to rave about, either. Engineering staff never did get the toilets working properly, which should not - as it did - become the main topic of conversation throughout the ship. Also, engineering commandeered our cabin for two days for urgent maintenance. This comprised replacing the screens between adjoining balconies and painting them. Surely it could have been done when the cabin was not occupied. This exercise was a complete shambles. It was initially scheduled for a sea day so we objected and requested it be performed while we were ashore in New Zealand. So they started work before the ship arrived (late) in the Bay of Islands while we were at breakfast. I came back to the cabin to find strangers in the cabin and our passports, wallets and jewelry on the dresser. Not impressed and straight to the hotel desk to complain. Next day, whilst ashore in Tauranga, the balcony was painted (badly). We came back to the cabin to find the door lock broken and no semblance of security. Back to the hotel desk to complain. Net result  nothing! During shore excursion the service ended at the dock. I had to assist a disabled (wheelchair-bound) passenger onto buses which I willingly did. But to have to organize seats near the front of the bus also fell to me. Surely the ship's staff could assist with this simple courtesy. Also, it's not a good look for the staff to occupy seats on the shuttle buses while the fare paying passengers are left to strap hang. ENTERTAINMENT Didn't see many of the shows as the aforementioned dinner sittings made it just too late for us to enjoy. Did take in the two crew shows which we enjoyed and looked in on one or two others but the overall impression was that the shows were of the standard one might expect in an expensive retirement facility. Pre-dinner shows might be an option Hal might like to explore. SHORE EXCURSIONS We took two of HAL's excursions, Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii and the R L Stephenson Museum on Samoa. The Hawaii tour was nearly nine hours, over six of which were spent getting to the park and having lunch. Add a couple of toilet stops and it didn't leave much time at the park. At $89 per person it was not good value. The second tour consisted of a bus ride to a market and the parliament house and admission to the museum followed by an overly long kava ceremony. Actually enjoyed this tour because of the wonderful reaction of the locals to our presence. We really fell in love with Samoa. But at $59 for less than 4 hours it was too expensive. By contrast we hired a car on Oahu and circumnavigated the island for the whole day for less than $60 all up. And at Lautoka four of us hired a taxi for 4 hours and were taken on a ride to Nadi (and highlights between) for a total cost of under $55. HAL's equivalent excursion cost $77 each. The main problem with any shore activity was in those ports that required tenders to get ashore. An absolute shambles for anyone not on a HAL excursion as hours were wasted waiting for our turn to go ashore. Got the impression that HAL actively discourages independence in the interest of profiteering on its excursions. Hopelessly late arrivals (3.5 hours late landing at Waitangi) were not matched by commensurately late departures. DISEMBARKATION The one and only thing they seemed to get right. We were off early in Auckland (at last the premium cabins got priority for once), collected our luggage and set off to find our hotel. We did not look back once. SUMMARY All we can say is that we'll never sail with HAL again, or any other vessel under the Carnival conglomerate. What should have been a great holiday left us just wanting to escape. I nearly left the ship in Lautoka to fly home from Nadi. And that was before the incident with the balcony maintenance! We tipped our cabin steward well the night before we left the ship and set our automatic tips to zero. We were not going to pay the front desk and excursion one cent more than they deserved. Engineering wasn't deserving of any largesse either. An example of Hal's greed would be the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc spotted on the ship. $80 on board - $19 in Auckland. This price gouging was typical throughout the ship. All up we paid nearly $700 per day for a rather ordinary experience. Paying gratuities on top was not an option. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
Boarding at commencement of cruise was great; no waiting, no long lines of people, just go right on board & head for the buffet for a lunch snack & a cuppa. Its a long haul from LAX to the ship in a shuttle van & refreshments ... Read More
Boarding at commencement of cruise was great; no waiting, no long lines of people, just go right on board & head for the buffet for a lunch snack & a cuppa. Its a long haul from LAX to the ship in a shuttle van & refreshments were well received.  Cabin was also ready for us & this was a bonus as we could freshen up. Meals in the Lido buffet for a long breakfast & long lunch were a delight with a huge variety of choices plus being able to eat indoors or poolside sharing a table with new found friends. Evening meals in the Rotterdam dining room were of a good standard but the waitstaff were lacking in their manner, speed of service, & general performance. I had to speak to the wait staff about their slowness of service, taking over 1 1/2 hours to do dinner, whereafter things improved. Shows in the Van Goff theatre at night were as good as it gets on a cruise ship but the movie theatre was not generally utilized during the day so clashed with the stage shows. The less said about movies the better, the films were nowhere up to standard both in the room on TV or the theatre, can you imagine sitting thru Humphrey Bogart in black & white & some of the other rubbish they put on. Our plumbing was fine but the deck below & other cabins in the centre of main deck had sewerage back flow from the toilet into the room & out to the passageway I can tell you it was disgusting. Getting ashore on port days with the tender service was nothing short of a complete shambles & many chose to not even try to go ashore. I didn't appreciate being at the end of the line because we didn't buy an excursion. The excursions were grossly overpriced & we chose to do our own thing for a 1/4 of the cost. E.G. Ship t/fer in Aukland to airport was $US26 p/p local airport shuttle from outside the dock was $NS15. The port lectures were a complete waste of time as the lecturer had no idea of his subjects & basically quoted out of Lonely Planet. Air conditioning was a real problem on this ship. The public rooms were on occasion so cold we had to go get jackets & other times were like a furnace. Our cabin was on occasions so hot we had to leave the door open & call maintenance every 15 minutes to get some service on other occasions we had to wear coats & pullovers to stay warm. I cannot see how HAL & other ships can justify the outrageous prices they charge for drinks, a 375ml can of beer $4.50 plus 15% or whisky & soda for $6.25. The cruise was "average" not spectacular, the staff need to have a reality check & stop believing their own advertising dept. If HAL thinks they are a top class cruise co. they need to lift their game & need to ask their passengers what they think of the ship Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
After some thirty cruises or so (our third with Princess) a trip with the Sapphire Princess stands out as one of the better ones. Being a relatively new ship with a high CDC (98) score, a good itinerary and a safe destination, where most ... Read More
After some thirty cruises or so (our third with Princess) a trip with the Sapphire Princess stands out as one of the better ones. Being a relatively new ship with a high CDC (98) score, a good itinerary and a safe destination, where most people spoke English, sounded like a plus for us. She was on her maiden voyage across the Pacific from Los Angeles through Mexico, Hawaii, French Polynesia, Fiji, American and Western Samoa, New Zealand ending up in Sydney, Australia. Unable to fit her 18 decks under the Harbor Bridge she took up 957 feet of wharf space at the " Circular Quay" in Sydney, Australia. Sydney dubbed her as " Big Berther." She earned the title "Biggest Ship" by her other ports. Getting on in Los Angeles was a breeze and getting off in Sydney was laudable. People flying home picked up their luggage at the airport. Those staying locally were provided with baggage carts and help from the resident agents of Princess. (Unlike a chaotic encounter we had with the QM2 in Florida.) About 2,652 passengers among whom were mostly Americans (1,330) boarded the ship in Los Angeles, 565 British, 333 Canadians, 238 Australians, other countries and at least 25 children. The crew numbered around 1,098, the majority from the Philippines (421), 112 Indians, 54 British, 49 Thai, 45 Canadians, 40 Italians, 31 South Africans, 26 Australians, 20 Americans, Eastern Europeans and other nationals including one from Mainland China, and another from Tunisia. The Sapphire Princess is a great progress over our last cruise on the Grand Princess. The present service is fast and apt. Food is a cut above the usual cruise fare. The cuisine is varied, well prepared and finely presented. It is not odd to find your oatmeal served piping hot and eggs Benedict at breakfast perfect. The wait staff had least ten years with Princess and knew how to delight the travelers on board. Headwaiter Lufti proudly calls the waiters adept and highly capable. Personnel with several language skills effectively handle the purser's desk during the day, keeping lines of waiting guests short. Our stewardess kept our cabin squeaky-clean. Public areas sparkle. Butlers, sommeliers and beautiful table settings are things of the past. The waiters now serve drinks (peddle bottled water, cookbooks, coffee tickets and novelty items to harried diners) and supply cutlery as needed. The ubiquitous packets of herb tea and cocoa powder beside hot water dispensers at the Lido buffet are history. Hot chocolate, ice cream and the daily newspaper come with a fee. Perhaps the bean counters had gone too far. The ship is well designed with a minimum of wasted space. The Promenade deck has a nonskid surface providing greater traction for joggers and walkers. Our 182 sq. ft ocean-view cabin had ample closet space. Bathrobes and fruit bowls are available on request. Bar lounges doubled up for other ship activities when not in use. The Grand Plaza at deck 5 is an Atrium elegant in its simplicity. Live poinsettias decorate it beautifully for the holidays. A self-service library, an art gallery, a writing room, a tour office and two eateries that open only for dinner are located on this level. A grand staircase with gleaming banisters and polished white marble steps spirals to the upper decks. Four theme eateries with fixed menus, Southwest, Asian, Italian and Steak promote "Anytime Dining" catch the overflow of guests from the traditional dining room. Seats are limited for conventional dining and operated only for dinner and afternoon tea leaving many guests feeling deprived. An alternative venue Italian trattoria carries a twenty dollar per person cover charge. "Anytime Dining" supposedly provides flexible unhurried dining hours at meal times. But only two of the eateries are open for breakfast and lunch. Seats fill out fast and latecomers waiting to be seated form long lines. A Lido type buffet, a hot dog/burger grill and a pizzeria also provide meals for voyagers. Guests give up their dinner desserts to get good seats at the 910-seat Princess theatre. There is standing room following for high caliber production shows and first run films. There is a daily Catholic mass, Sunday Interfaith Service and Friday Jewish Sabbath Service on sea days. There are classes in fitness, line and ballroom dancing, bridge, ceramics, photography and computers. Experts talk on art, economics, well being and motivation. Guest lecturers accurately research their subjects and present them well. Among the guest lecturers was Barbra Kates, a notable artist specializing in architectural ceramics. She set up the ship's ceramics program with a dedicated kiln included aboard. Her art lectures covered Gaugin, Australian Aboriginal art, and South Sea tattooing. She is also an avid underwater photographer and held meetings with divers aboard. A 24 hour Internet cafe (35 cents/minute, dollar a page for printing) is quite popular with the travelers. Its 29 stations were seldom empty. A photo machine for digital cameras was also available. The ship burned out her thrusters in Moorea. The ship uses thrusters to maneuver only when docking, so the incident did not affect our sailing. It rained in Moorea and Samoa, deleting some land tours. We met rough weather in New Zealand and bypassed Wellington because of the high winds. Overall we enjoyed our Pacific cruise aboard the Sapphire Princess from Los Angeles, California, to Sydney, Australia. Read Less
Sail Date November 2004

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