I wanted to write a review because as a first time cruiser there was a lot I did not know or fully grasp until I took this trip. So I wanted to do as in depth a review as possible because I feel sometimes reviews don't say enough. ... Read More
I wanted to write a review because as a first time cruiser there was a lot I did not know or fully grasp until I took this trip. So I wanted to do as in depth a review as possible because I feel sometimes reviews don't say enough. So you know I am a single male, I traveled with a friend, and had no kids in tow. We opted for a inside room and had the pick 2 of 4 amenities options and chose to go with the Unlimited Beverage and Ultimate Dining Package.
Start of the day we went to the World Cruise Center in Los Angeles, went in took a right past the Battleship to the terminal. When you go in especially early, people are leaving so there is a lot of commotion, we checked in our bags, I carried on a bag pack with some spare clothes and my toiletries as was suggested by many. So we had stand in line answer some health questions and since we were no Latitudes members (being first timers) we were given a number and had to wait until our number was called for us to be able to go on the ship.
So as we finally got on the ship, we headed over the O'Shenohans or whatever the Irish pub was on the 8th floor and decided to try out lunch. You should know the menu at this restaurant stays the same for breakfast and lunch. We did not have an opportunity to eat here for dinner as we wanted to try the other many options on the ship. So each bar has drinks they specialize in and can vary from amazing to yuck, and depending on the bartender that all can change. Standard pub food was served wings, strips, mozzarella sticks for appetizers and corn beef sandwiches, meatloaf, chicken pot pie for lunch just to name a few. Strawberry shortcake and cheesecake 1 or 2 other items for dessert. It was good I quiet enjoyed it, its true you can order multiple of anything in this restaurants, Chin Chins, and the main dining rooms Azura and Tsars. The grill upstairs and the Garden Cafe were buffet style.
To continue on the discussion of food we did have the Dinner package to four restaurants and decided to try Le Bistro, Tepanyaki, La Cucina, and Cagneys. We also ate dinner in bother Azura and Tsars and Chin Chins one night each.
As this is an Ala carte restaurant the dinner package works differently, each person gets one appetizer, one soup or salad, one entree, and one dessert. The food to me was just so so, they are located on the 6th floor and we believe they share a kitchen with Tsars and Azura so some food may cross over for convenience making the cuisine feel nice but not wow. My friend did get to try escargot and the lobster which was included, I decided to opt for the lamb and some cones. The Hazelnut dessert was my favorite overall.
Its dinner and a show, we were crammed into a small room accessible through Chin Chins on the 7th floor. There was four cooking tables in a fairly tight space, so it gets pretty tight and noisy. Food was good, they watch out for allergies, I had the chicken udon which was you know Asian food on a ship, getting it to be average is my highest expectation. You got to choose your entree, you were given miso soup and salad and a dessert to top it off between fresh fruit or a green tea cake, The garlic butter fried rice was good.
So again different rules here for dinner package, as many appetizers, desserts, pizzas, and soups or salads but only 1 entree. I ordered all the pizza three were good but the fourth the meat sauce pizza was weird. The food was overall enjoyable about the same level as well just a hair under Oliver Garden. The restaurant on the 12th floor gave us a nice view of setting sun as we left Puerto Vallarta.
On the 13th floor towards the back is Cagneys right next door to the Brazilian BBQ which we did not eat. Cagneys is like a traditional steakhouse. You order your meat and sides separately. You can order two sides at this restaurant and 1 appetizer and 1 soup or salad and 1 of the cuts of meat. I went for the Porterhouse which was huge and hard to finish, but cooked a bit under but I expected that for the size of meat. It was good overall. The restaurant was low key, we had a later dinner, and the cheesecake I had was good.
If average is what I expect as a high point for Asian food on a ship, I would say it did not meet this expectation. Chin Chins was just a waste of a meal, but if you come from outside of a major urban center with lots of Asians and Asian food, Chin Chins might be an okay place to eat. Located on the busy 7th floor next the Fyzz lounge and Atrium was easy to find and right above the lounge in front of Le Bistro and the Martini bar where live music played every night.
Tsars and Azura
The main dining, the decor could not be any more different from each other, Azura was like a psychedelic eatery with fancyish food. The dress code was more relaxed than Tsars but felt more cramped. Tsara was opening dining area, towards the back of the ship, it had pictures of nobles in portraits on the walls and felt a little more open then Azuras. The menu was the same for both, a set of items that were similar every night and the rest changed daily. I had to say the food was just as good here as it was in the Specialties, if I had to only eat in Tsars or Azuras, I would be content because food was at time exceptional.
Its a big buffet and outside was Topsiders Grill, its a buffet, massive amount of decent food, available most of the day.
Is not free, its 7.50 and up depending on how crazy you order. Breakfast in the morning is included if you put out your order before 4AM, it is delivered between 5-10. It includes pastries a maximum of 2 each, cereal, coffee, and juice. Things like eggs, and other stuff come with the 7.50 charge.
Finally the coffee bar, they were missing items, because well I guess they weren't loaded or baked or something but it was unfortunate to advertise a cupcake and dessert bar but be very limited on selection. They had two of the four or five cupcake choices, and the coffee was good but it wasn't as good as say a Starbucks, it left you hanging a little bit.
My friend tried almost every drink on the boat in nearly every bar, she had an enjoyable time at Spinnakers, the Sake Bar, and O'Shays. Highlights for her included Pisco Punch, Mango Meltdown, and Chilada. She said the Negroni was gross and a couple of the martinis were just meh. She loved the drink at the Sake bar, Wasabi something.
The ship has three main areas for night life Spinnakers, the lounge in front of Le Bistro, and Fyzz.
Spinnakers on the 13th floor had all the parties, dancing, it was the night club on the ship. The music grew tiresome after the first few nights and for people wanting to relax more and be social well Spinnakers is a club. In the day activities like Bingo, and movies occurred here it was great for big group stuff and had wonderful views.
Fyzz at night had dance lessons,trivia and karaoke. We usually had family from 10-11, and from 11-12 was adult time. Karaoke was limited on selections and the same few people always sang. Each night they taught the basics of a lot of dances like salsa, triple swing and hop hop. We also had trivia done here and presentations for like jewelry and stuff.
The lounge in front of Le Bistro next to the champagne/ martini bar, had live music every night. It was nice to hear, but I never really sat down to listen for very long. They had theme nights, and so if you had a particular music you liked, it was a nice place to relax and be social with friends.
During the day as well as night there was of course the pool, the super expensive video arcade, the casino trap, basketball court, shuffel board, a game room and a little library. All these activities were good and added to bring the monotony of doing the same things over and over.
I went to three shows in the Stardust, the shows are at 7:15 and 9:15, I saw Rod Long a comedian, JP a magician comedian,and Bijou the Cirque style acrobat and dance show. Bijou is the most popular on the ship and clearly for the all the pizzazz its justified. Rod Long was funny but there was something enjoyable about JPs show that I did enjoy very much.
So I did a massage and got a pretty nice deal on Embarkation day. I did the Elemis Aroma Therapy massage. In essence you strip down to almost nothing they lather you up in a seaweed cream, stick you in a plastic streamer, have you shower it off, and then they steam you again. After that they give you a massage, it was unique and slightly uncomfortable because well I am a big guy and they gave me a paper underwear that was clearly to small, at some point we just gave up and there I was just butt naked to the world. The massage was nice though and I felt good for the rest of the trip.
I did not venture into the gym, I should have but I passed on that. I did however enjoy the Therapy Suites, it was a nice place to find quiet, and to relax. I highly recommend paying the extra for the serenity. I can imagine on the newer ships they upped this feature and it must be even more so delightful.
Shore excursions were expensive, I ventured away from that and decided to book elsewhere. I am glad I did because I was not about to spend that much money on something that was 1/3 the cost. For us Cabo was okay, we ventured to San Jose and it was more real Mexico to us, Mazatlan was my favorite city, and Puerto Vallarta we did a taco tour was very enjoyable. Going away from the cruise ship excursions was a little uneasy because if you're late back well, see ya later.
As the last part of this review, I participated in the art Auction. It was enjoyable. Everything was really expensive and at time it felt like we were dealing with an oil salesman. We did purchase a Winnie the Pooh etching "third level of collecting" for 75 which made my friend really happy.
Disembarkation was a little less fun, my friend lost an item, and something in my bag shattered. We opted to check stuff in but the line for customs is long, next time I'm walking my bag off. The cool thing was, the form was easy, you do one for all the people in your household (same last name), you itemize all the items and even though we brough more then 1 liter of alcohol they let us slide right through. Read Less