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151 Caribbean - Southern Luxury Cruise Reviews

I have a motto "If you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything" I will make an exception with Silver Cloud. Upon arrival we were rushed aboard, quick but small glass of champagne then left to our own devices ... Read More
I have a motto "If you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything" I will make an exception with Silver Cloud. Upon arrival we were rushed aboard, quick but small glass of champagne then left to our own devices to find our cabins, there was no meet and greet, into our cabins, where was the butler who unpacks your bags and shows you around? I only saw him twice, even then I had to get my son to track him down!!! The ship is tired and in desperate need of a major face lift, the food, AWFUL, anyone else found the New Years Eve dinner the WORST MEAL EVER? breakfast and dinner, the food was diabolical, I ended up eating a chicken burger and salad by the pool everyday as it was the only decent thing to eat. Where was the luxury? toiletries were never replaced, I asked on 4 occasions to replenish my shower gel to be told they had run out, 1 tiny bottle for 2 people for one week, Easy Jet could teach Silver Cloud about luxury and pampering. Now don't get me started on the entertainment, no music by the pool (it is not that kind of ship)if it had not been for the lovely Lisa and her crowd, I would have died of boredom, beach party cancelled,OK give us a New Years Day pool party then, noooooooo "it's not that kind of ship" Overall the general staff were brilliant, especially by the pool, as for the management, GET IN THE 21st CENTUARY, and do not look down your noses or speak down to your passengers, it is not the way to carry on. Having raved about this very poorly run ship my group had a fantastic holiday but that was all down to the wonderful fellow passengers we met, Silverseas again, NEVER, I will stick to Celebrity, now they do know how to run a ship. In all honesty, if you love life and like to enjoy yourselves stay away from Silver Cloud, however if you are of a miserable disposition, hate to see people have fun or have basically "gone to die" you will love it Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We recently returned from a seven day cruise on SD I. The cruise departed from St Thomas and ended in San Juan. St Thomas has to be the worst place in the Caribbean if not on earth for a cruise to depart from. The airport is horrible and ... Read More
We recently returned from a seven day cruise on SD I. The cruise departed from St Thomas and ended in San Juan. St Thomas has to be the worst place in the Caribbean if not on earth for a cruise to depart from. The airport is horrible and doesn't even have jet ways. The taxis are ridiculously expensive and charge on a per person basis while they cram you into a big van with limited A/C. Of course they also gouge you for your luggage. We paid $26 to go from the airport to the Windward Passage which is no more than seven minute ride which would cost about $10 with tip for in normal tourist city. The hotel was fine and we knew what to expect. It wasn't luxury although it was nicely appointed with a friendly staff. The price was pretty good and we liked the fact it was within walking distance to many shops and restaurants. The hotel does have a nice courtyard, pool, free internet, small casino, nice outdoor bar, and other amenities. The Greenhouse and the Giggling Gecko were the two places we ate at and are both a short walk from the hotel. The food and service was fantastic at both places. We arrived at the cruise terminal (Crown Bay) at 1:45 pm and they already started the boarding process. The Captain, Hotel Manager, and other key staff were there to greet us. We were taken to the lobby where an amazing assortment of food was waiting for us to munch on. We relaxed and talked to some of the other guests before being informed we could check in. The staff was very pleasant and got us checked in right away. The rest of this review will discuss the categories such as service, food, and etc. Itinerary: Esperanza, Vieques, Cruz Bay, St John, St Barthelemy, Norman Island, Tortola, and Prickly Pear was substituted for Jost van Dyke (Champagne and Caviar Splash/beach party) Food: Everything was fantastic with only the finest and freshest ingredients. The Executive Chef and some of the other chefs frequently interacted with the guests. Presentation was also a strong point along with the quality of the ingredients. Bars/Service: The bar service was generally good all week at all the bars. My favorite bartenders were Matt and Konrad. They are both very personable and offer great service along with good suggestions on what to drink. They also always had a pitcher of punch or other drink out every day. The selection of alcohol was quite extensive and we never had to pay to upgrade drinks. The included wine and Champagne were also quite good. The Sommelier Tyler did an excellent job matching the wines to the meal and explaining them. Service: Sea Dream excels at service at all levels. The crew was like clockwork at all times and truly went out of their way to please. We made a few special requests during the week and they were instantly granted. I felt like they were a genie who could grant endless wishes. The Hotel Manager John was all but a "freak of nature" with how he was everywhere and always knew what was going on. I swear he had a couple of clones running around. The main concierge lady was a bit stressed and came across as brash and frustrated at times even over very simple matters. I knew before the voyage what types of extras to ask for and it made the trip that more special. Cabin: We booked a guarantee and were assigned cabin 212. We felt a few intense vibrations the first night while sleeping but it was no big deal. The cabin itself was very nice and the room steward La Rosa could not have been better. She was very nice, polite, stealthy, and took great care of the cabin. Activities/Water Sports: There was always plenty to do and very few announcements. The Activities Director Jeff was very outgoing and had a natural knack in observing who may want to participate in the activities. The water sports are one reason we booked Sea Dream and we were quite impressed with the equipment and water toys. It is awesome to ride Sea Doo's off the back of the marina and to swim behind the yacht. Colin and the water sports staff kept everyone safe and worked hard getting everything setup and ensuring everyone was safe. They even draped a towel over your back after getting out of the water. The free "shore side casuals" were also a real treat. I participated in most of the hikes and they all went to some interesting places. They also offered an advanced bike ride which seven guests went on and had a great time even though a few of them came back with bandages. The Yacht Overall: SD I is very quaint and enjoyable. You can always find a place to your own or somewhere in the middle of crowd (not that there is much of a crowd). My favorite spot is the aft of deck four overlooking the pool. It is shaded and close enough to the action. The bartenders also bring you drinks and the afternoon pass around treat which changes daily. The yacht is old and has a somewhat loud and intense vibration in certain parts of the dining room on deck 2. SD I is quite charming and I would sail on it again given the chance. Complaints: None, everything met or exceeded my standards and was as close to perfect as could be expected. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
The Queen Mary 2 is a truly gorgeous ship, it was classy and elegant, no brashness, piped music just lovely quiet atmosphere. We were suprised after booking an inside cabin to be upgraded to a Balcony room, we had sparkling wine ... Read More
The Queen Mary 2 is a truly gorgeous ship, it was classy and elegant, no brashness, piped music just lovely quiet atmosphere. We were suprised after booking an inside cabin to be upgraded to a Balcony room, we had sparkling wine left with the complements of the captain so this was a great start for our cruise. We loved the room and our first impression of the ship was WOW.. We ate in the Brittania room on the late sitting and the food was brilliant !! absolutly great.. I could not complain about a single thing.... hence the downside.... You could hear many people complaining OVER NOTHING !!! it drove me mad that people LOOKED for things to moan about and I soon cottoned on that this was mainly the American contingency and they were desperately trying to get more discounts !!! it become very tiring listening to such whingeing moaning over nothing......the staff/ship did not deserve it.... I heard one American lady say... by the time im done on here I will get this cruise for FREE.... what a stinking attitude to have... if you dont want to pay what the price is then DONT GO....... The staff worked so hard, were always polite but how they held it together with some of this people who were simply trying to shaft Cunard out of getting some of their cash back started to spoil my trip..... Sooo,,, tune out those trying to make a buck !! just relax, chill enjoy your holiday, this is a cruise for the 50+ and its a quiet chilled out type of cruise dont expect fireworks but if you want understated elegance then this is for you.... Well Done Cunard and the staff, a brill experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
My partner and I were eager to experience Seabourn's newest vessel the Sojourn after having had a great cruise earlier this year on the Legend on similar itineraries to the Caribbean. First off, let me say Seabourn is a great ... Read More
My partner and I were eager to experience Seabourn's newest vessel the Sojourn after having had a great cruise earlier this year on the Legend on similar itineraries to the Caribbean. First off, let me say Seabourn is a great line. The vessels are beautifully maintained and staffed with attentive crews. Earlier this year I asked the Legend captain -- a guy who appeared to have a personality like mine, which is to say a bit picky and crusty -- what he thought of the newer and larger Seabourn vessels, along with the concept of cruising with about 400 passengers versus 200 on his smaller ship. His opinion was quick: one loses the club-like atmosphere on the larger ship, even with only 400 passengers. He was right! Something gets lost on the newer Seabourn vessels, and I got the same opinion from several other fellow passengers on the Sojourn who also had taken one of the smaller ships in the past. When the Legend captain saw virtually anything not attended to right away, he took personal responsibility for it, even picking up stray service items himself. That never happened on the Sojourn. On the smaller Seabourn ships, the crews really do know your name. That didn't happen on the larger Sojourn. While not in any way controlled by Seabourn, fellow passengers on the larger ships appeared to me to be trying Seabourn for the first time. A significant percentage of them were not friendly. They didn't mix with others as well and certainly didn't greet fellow passengers in the same way as on the smaller Seabourn ships. Again, that club-like atmosphere was lost on the larger ships. Regarding other aspects of the Sojourn: the spa is fantastic and got a huge amount of our business. The cabins and public areas are ultra-sharp. This is a floating Rolls-Royce. The bathrooms on the Sojourn are stunning, lined with polished granite and marble. They reminded me of the older Ritz-Carlton Hotels before Marriott messed them up. Seabourn is well worth the cost. If you are considering Seabourn, I can easily recommend it. On the other hand, if you really want the yacht experience that is suggested in the line's current name and you want a more intimate travel experience, take the smaller Seabourn ships instead of the newer and larger ones. Just remember the old tale about the goose that laid the golden egg. I hope Seabourn keeps that in mind, too. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Some quick observations from our recent trip... This was our second cruise. The first was a trip to Bermuda from NY over ten years ago and we did not like it very much. We booked this trip late after our planned trip to Hawaii did ... Read More
Some quick observations from our recent trip... This was our second cruise. The first was a trip to Bermuda from NY over ten years ago and we did not like it very much. We booked this trip late after our planned trip to Hawaii did not work out. We did not have super high expectations but liked the fact that the cruise was 15 days and departed from NY. We enjoyed ourselves very much. I don't think we are going to become full time cruisers but we would think about going every few years. It was nice being in the islands when it was so cold at home. I am going to focus this review on the ship and not talk about the destinations. Ship 1. Clean. The crew was always cleaning and painting. 2. We often wondered where all the people were. It never felt crowded 3. I thought the crew response to the Noro virus was excellent. I did feel bad for the people impacted. I never washed my hands so much in my life and was lucky not to get sick. Once at the planetarium the person behind me sneezed all over me. I was mad at that. 4. New years with Vibz in the lobby was a great time. They played over two hours straight without a break. My wife does not drink. Near midnight they were passing out glasses of champagne for everyone. A crew member noticed my wife was not drinking and got her a glass of soda water to toast with. Thank you !!! 5. G32 was too small and they allowed smoking. Because of this we only went one night. 6. Winter Garden appeared to be only for the art auctions. What a waste. 7. Shops were fun to browse but did not buy anything. 8. My wife and I enjoyed going around the ship and stairways looking at the art. Near the end of the trip we could tell where we were by the paintings. 9. I liked the atmosphere in the commodores club. My wife liked the chart room. 10. Dressing up was fun in the beginning but got a bit old by the end of the trip. 11. Tendering to shore always went well but I wish every port could be at a dock. 12. Bar service was very good and they never complained about getting soda water for my wife who had the soda sticker. 13. We did not go to the casino. 14. We met the captain twice and he was very friendly both times. Britannia Club 1. Service was very good every night. By the end of the trip they knew our likes and dislikes. 2. I thought the portions were correctly sized for me. Only gained 4 pounds ? 3. I appreciated the extra options on the 'club' menu. 4. Good non meat options for my wife. 5. The best way I can describe the food is to think of the best wedding or hotel food you have had. 6. The deserts were very good. Enjoyed the flambE and the cheese trolley several times. 7. The people next to us at dinner did not speak very good English but we had some pleasant exchanges. They often were finishing dinner when we were arriving. 8. It's amazing how hard the crew work with such little time off. They still were always pleasant. We ate once at Todd English and were not impressed. 1. Had to ask the wine steward twice to fill my glass. 2. Appetizer was comically small. 3. Risotto and the tuna were both over cooked. 4. Dessert was much too large. Carrot cake and two large plates of petite four. More food in the carrot cake as both our appetizers together. 5. Tables were too close together. 6. Other people we talked to liked it so we might have hit it on an off night. I also had a bad experience at another one of his restaurants so I might have been biased from the start. Kings Court. 1. We only ate lunch once and got some cheese one other time. It had no appeal to me because the food and service was so good in our dining room. The one day we needed to get off the ship early we got room service. 2. We saw passengers with the most disgusting personal habits. People sneezing then grabbing tongs to get salad and children spilling food all over the place. Gross. We called it the plague floor. It was better after the Noro breakout and they staffed it better and did not let passengers touch anything. 3. We wanted to try the Chefs Kitchen but they did not show a non meat option for my wife. Room 1. The room attendant was excellent. She was friendly without being obtrusive and room was always well maintained. 2. On deck 12 you do feel more motion then on the lower decks. 3. With the holiday season more children were on board and hanging out at the deck 12 pool. We sometimes had children running down the halls or talking loudly. 4. We did have the new flat screen TV in the room. 5. Room service was nice if we missed lunch on shore but the menu was limited. Did get some port and cheese one night as a snack when we planned on going to a late show and music. Entertainment 1. They did a great job of getting people in the holiday mood. 2. Lectures were good. 3. Planetarium show was popular and interesting. 4. The headliner,Dez O'Conner, on new year's was great. 5. I enjoyed going to the different venues to listen to music. Some string quartet or harp music before dinner. Maybe listen to Vibz or piano jazz before going to bed. None of the performers were exceptional but always enjoyable. 6. The classical concerts were nice on sea days. 7. The dancers and singers were fun. 8. Only complaint was the 'Crazy in love' show. Just terrible. Spa 1. The aqua spa was great. Not too long ago water was a precious resource on a ship now we have pools with bubble benches, steam showers and reflexology basins. Amazing. 2. The waiting room was a great place to read, relax and watch the over ambitious jog past. 3. Had three massages, two were very good and one was just ok. My wife said her treatments were great. 4. I was a bit concerned that the red alert sanitation protocols in the rest of the ship did not appear to exist in the Canyon Ranch spa. 5. Good fitness equipment. Took a spin class once and it was just ok. 6. Spa staff works for Canyon Ranch vs Todd Engish where they are Cunard employees. Summary 1. Great ship 2. Good food. 3. Great crew Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
this cruise to to celebrate my 60th birthday and we wanted to do it in style! Embarkation Embarkation was quick and easy, but unlike other cruise lines we have been with who offer a welcome drink as you board, there was nothing ... Read More
this cruise to to celebrate my 60th birthday and we wanted to do it in style! Embarkation Embarkation was quick and easy, but unlike other cruise lines we have been with who offer a welcome drink as you board, there was nothing offered by Cunard at all. We just went straight to our cabins to drop off our flight luggage. Cabin We were very pleased with our cabin (C5215) which was an "in hull" balcony on the Starboard side of the ship. The only thing I would say that it was across the hall from where the stewards process your luggage and so on embarkation and disembarkation day, it was fairly busy. This said it did not disturb the rest of the voyage at all. Our room had been upgraded in that it now had a flat screen TV and a new and very comfy mattress. The cabin was very spacious and clean and very well furnished. We had 3 large suitcases and these fitted under the bed without any problem. The only minor moan was that the shower curtain could have been slightly larger so that it could be pulled all the way across the shower. The balcony was spacious and had 2 chairs and a small table. As stated in many reviews when you sat down you could not see the ocean but that did not diminish our enjoyment of having a balcony which let the light flood into our cabin and brought the outside world in. We would not hesitate to have an "in hull" balcony again. Our steward Jean introduced herself straight away and was very attentive throughout the voyage - even ensuring she caught up with me on my birthday to wish me a happy birthday! Cunard Staff All the staff we found were polite and extremely friendly, and there were a few times that we overheard guests being over the top and really rude when it really was not necessary. Motto: Treat people as you would like to be treated yourself! Britannia Restaurant We found the quality of food to be very good on the ship. We had second sitting for dinner and on the first night the food was not really served hot enough, but we had a word with our waiter Juan who ensured that every night after that our food was served piping hot. Juan was our main waiter and although very good, some nights he seemed not so happy and not so communicative. Our assistant waiter Gilbert was an absolute gem, always happy and willing to get you anything we wanted. We preferred to have breakfast and lunch in the Britannia Restaurant on days that we did not have an early start for excursions - more civilised and a quieter way to start the day after a late night! The last night of the cruise was rather a let down. With other cruise lines on the last night of the voyage the waiters usually do a song or parade for the guests, then the meal is over and tips and goodbyes are said, photos taken - a lovely end to the cruise. With this cruise, the meal ended and that was that - a very flat ending to our cruise we thought! Kings Court The Kings Court perhaps had more choice and at lunch time their Chinese was excellent. There were always plenty of tables available but we did miss not being able to eat outside as Kings Court was covered. There was hand gel stations for people to disinfect their hands, but we saw many guests who simply did not bother (which may account for the outbreak of Noravirus on the next voyage out). We often found ourselves in the Kings Court at around midnight having a bite to eat and a cup of tea! Entertainment This was the only downside on this voyage - the evening entertainment in the theatre was not of a calibre that we have seen on other cruise lines such as RC, Princess and NCL. We caught a couple of evening shows that were very mediocre - the ventriloquist was very old hat and something that you expect to see at a seaside theatre matinee! The act had definitely seen better days. Having said that in the Chart Room (our favourite venue) there was a harpist one night and a string quartet later on the voyage who were absolutely fantastic but these were the exception not the rule unfortunately. Vibz were excellent and when they played in the G32 disco, it was full and everyone was up dancing - great! Although I celebrated my 60th birthday on board I did feel that most of the entertainment was even too old for me at times! Shops What shops there were, I felt, far too expensive on the whole and a great disappointment to me but not to my husband as I did not spend very much at all this voyage. Tours We arranged our own tours, except for the port of St Maarten which had been substituted for Grand Turk. It was found that Grand Turk did not have a high enough water level to accommodate the Queen Mary on a previous voyage so St Maarten was added. Unfortunately it was a Bank Holiday that day and the traffic was really bad. This in turn had a bad affect on our tour from Cunard which was "The Best of St Maarten and Beach" at a cost of $42 each. Well, it certainly was not the best of anything, we stayed mostly in traffic jams and had 1 hour at the beach. Upon return we did complain and duly received a 25% discount. Disembarkation This went very well, and as we were booked on a flight out on Sunday 19th December after 6pm, Cunard gave us a complementary tour of New York before taking us to the Airport. Heathrow Airport Closure and Events Contrary to another reviewers account of events, please now read mine: Indeed, the Airport was bedlam and eventually 2 Cunard representatives did arrive. They proceeded to put us on to coaches which took us to the Marriott Brooklyn Bridge Hotel. On the Monday, BA Reps were supposed to come to the Hotel to let us know what was going on but they did not arrive and the Hotel Staff advised us that no flights were going that day. Contrary to what has been written in another review Cunard staff were at the Hotel from at least the Tuesday evening until the Friday evening as we spoke to them every day. We were informed by the Cunard staff on the Tuesday evening that the earliest flights we could have were not until Christmas Day and that our return flights had been booked for then. Obviously other holiday makers who had flights out before us with BA, regardless of whether they were Cunard guests or not, had also to be accommodated. Admittedly we were disappointed as we all had family plans for Christmas but we made the most of a virtually free 6 days in New York! I think it was on the Thursday that BA put through messages to our rooms to let us know that some flights may have been double booked, and if we wanted to try and get home earlier then we could take a chance and go the airport in case there were empty seats on some flights. We spoke to the Cunard girls who were at the Hotel and they did advise us against this as if we left the Hotel and went to the Airport and no seats were available, we would not be able to return to the Hotel and we would be on our own! This we took to be sensible advice and stayed put! At that time we were handed a letter from Cunard stating that they were very sorry that we would not be able to get home for Christmas and that they had organised a Christmas Eve party at Morton's (a Steak Restaurant next to the Hotel) for the Friday night (Christmas Eve) starting at 6pm. This we duly attended (about 80 guests in all) and Cunard treated us to free drinks throughout the party (champagne, red and white wine) and a lovely 3 course steak meal. The Cunard Reps also attended and were duly applauded and thanked by everyone for giving us such a lovely Christmas Eve party. In addition, the Cunard letter also stated that in the New Year they would be sending us something they hoped we would enjoy (as yet to arrive). This we felt was marvellous as it was not Cunard's fault that Heathrow had closed and we feel very strongly that they did over and above what would normally be expected in these circumstances. On the Saturday lunchtime Cunard sent coaches to collect all their guests and drove them back to the airport. We were very glad to be under Cunard's wing during this event. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Holiday Cruise R/T NYC to NYC on the Queen Mary 2. December 19, 2010 to Jan 3rd, 2011 We arrived at the pier around 12:15. Our party is 5 people: My 97-year old father-in-law in a scooter, 2 adults, and kids 6 and 8 years old. We ... Read More
Holiday Cruise R/T NYC to NYC on the Queen Mary 2. December 19, 2010 to Jan 3rd, 2011 We arrived at the pier around 12:15. Our party is 5 people: My 97-year old father-in-law in a scooter, 2 adults, and kids 6 and 8 years old. We pulled up and immediately gave the longshoreman a $35 tip. We had a ton of stuff (including the heavy scooter) to unpack and we wanted to assure that our stuff all made in onto the boat. He got us into the building and into the handicap line (where there was basically no line at all.) There are benefits to traveling with the elderly! The staff at the counter were efficient. We had pre-registered, so they really just needed to see our passports, take our photos, swipe our credit card and we were ready to go. Total time to check in, less than 10 minutes. We headed right onto the boat with no annoying waiting in a lounge to be called As we walked onto the ship there was a bit of a crowd, confused about where to go. They only had one person "directing traffic", so she was definitely overwhelmed. She told us to use another elevator down the ship, which was fine. We went right to our cabins to check them out, which was nice that the cabins were already available. We then went to the Kings Court (aka the Lido deck) for lunch. It was busy already, but we got a table for the scooter and then brought back food for all of us. If you need a walker or scooter, be sure to get a handicap-accessible cabin. We booked late on a great deal, so we couldn't get a handicap room. My father-in-law's walker JUST barely fit into the cabin door. We had to rearrange his room so that he could use the walker to move around the bed and get to the balcony and the bathroom. It worked, but it was sub-optimal. He had a handicap room on the last HAL cruise that was much easier for him to maneuver in. We parked the scooter in the "Atlantic room" (the little-used room for card games) down the hall. Others parked theirs in the elevator vestibules, as we have done in the past. The scooter was able to access just about every other location on the ship, although one pool deck is only handicap-accessible by passing through the Todd English restaurant. There were probably about 20 people on the ship with scooters. We loved being on deck 11, near the front of the ship. We had easy access to the B staircase that takes you to and from the show each night. We also were near the self-service laundry and the large Observation deck on the front of the ship as well as being directly down 1 flight from the pool on deck 12. The only downside is that we had to travel the length of the ship to get to the dining room. Beware of deck 6 on the port side. It leads to the Kid Zone and the outdoor pool. Those cabins have noisy crowds walking past their doors throughout the day. The Food: We ate most meals in the Britannia restaurant (the dining room.) My wife and I agreed that the QM2 food and service was nearly exactly on par with that we have experienced on our last three Holland America cruises. Very good quality. Very attentive service. HAL always has a few stock items that are always available (chicken, a steak etc.) While QM2 lacked that, you could order non-menu items (we had Caesar salads often) and if they COULD get what you wanted, they always would. (If you wanted something that they have at the Kings Court, they'll get it for you if you ask.) Our waiter learned that we like a basket of bread and a cheese plate every night, and it was always there waiting for us. Each menu typically included a red meat (beef or lamb usually), a seafood item (mahi-mahi was great), a veggie item, sometimes chicken, but not always and then one more (maybe pasta etc.) There is a different soup for every meal and just about all of them were excellent. As elsewhere, if you want to remove parts of a dish that you don't like, you can. You can also mix-and match items from one dish to another and french fries are always available. Desserts were just OK. The baked goods are all beautiful, but they are suited more to the European palate, I believe. A couple of soufflE desserts and creme brulee were outstanding. We found that the time it took to serve each meal on QM2 was a bit faster than on HAL. I would say that a typical dinner lasted a bit over an hour, while on HAL it would have been closer to an hour and half. The wait after you order and between courses was shorter, which I thought was great. We CERTAINLY were never rushed out, but neither did we sit wondering when the meal would end, which sometimes happens on HAL. The Ship: Public rooms were nicely decorated for the Holidays. Every restaurant and bar had it's own unique Christmas tree. And many of them were just gorgeous. Many passengers got in the spirit too, by decorating their door or "mailbox" with small wreaths or stick-on Santas or bows or stockings. One person wrapped their entire door in Christmas paper, like a giant present. It was fun to see all the original ways that people added a bit of decoration to their rooms. Most days we participated in the afternoon trivia contest in the pub. We met many very nice (and smart) folks by joining new trivia teams each day. Entertainment: The shows were similar in quality to those on HAL. I was impressed that they almost never used prerecorded vocal tracks or canned music (just one show, "Love Crazy", featured lip-synching.) The orchestra was very good. I find that all ships choose odd acts at times. We had a show starring a harp soloist and another with a violinist. Both were very talented, but how long can you sit and be entertained by a woman playing the harp? New Year's Eve featured Des O'Connor who apparently is famous in England. He was like a UK Merv Griffin (he sang a bit and told stories about his famous show-biz friends) which might have been entertaining if we knew who the heck he was. For Christmas Eve they had three sessions of group sing-along's of well known Christmas carols in the Grand Lobby. I was very moved by the emotion of singing along with hundreds of other folks who chose to come and join in the festivities. I was having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit, but that night turned out to be one of the highlights for me. New Years Eve featured events in several areas of the ship. A big ball in the Queens room (dancing etc), the calypso/rock band in the Grand Lobby and disco in the disco. They all had a balloon drop and complementary champagne at Midnight. A fun night. The Pools: There are basically three. One family pool (The Minnows), one 18-and-over pool and the indoor pool (with retractable roof) for adults and kids alike. As we had many days of unpredictable weather, the roof of the indoor pool was only open one or two days. We found that the pools were not well maintained; that is, they were dirty. When we got on, there were piles of some black stuff piled on each corner of the Minnow pool. I'd estimate that there was 1 to 2 cups of that black stuff in each corner, so I'm not talking about just a little speck of dirt. We called the purser at least 4 times about that, as well as telling people near the pool. Nothing was ever done. On the day we left the ship, I walked by the indoor pool before we disembarked and noted that there were piles of sand in each corner of that pool too. That said, we did use the pools just about every day and I must say that the water didn't look murky. Still, it's a weakness. The People: There were around 200 "kids" under 18 on the ship, ranging from babies to teenagers. The teens tended to move around in a pack of 10 to 20 of them, occasionally taking over one of the pools and jacuzzi. They seemed like basically good kids, although they can be a little loud when they all get together. The average age of the rest of the guests was probably in the late 60's to early 70's. While we bonded with LOTS of people on the ship and had many wonderful conversations, there was an undercurrent of rudeness and unpleasantness among plenty of the guests, particularly the older ones. We saw people being short (and downright rude) to the staff. Nothing seemed to please them and they just seemed like they had come off a crowded subway car and everyone better watch out! It was not the ship that caused these people to be in such a foul mood. It's Christmas for goodness sake. Lighten up and enjoy yourself. Our Cabin: We had an inside cabin and my father-in-law had a balcony down the hall. We were on the 11th deck, near the front, so we made a habit of taking a quick walk out onto the Observation deck (also on 11) each morning to see where we were and what the weather was like. They also have a channel on TV that shows a view of the front of the ship, but it's not the same as being outside to really see what's up. The bathroom was typical, although perhaps a tad smaller than our last couple of HAL bathrooms. Our cabin steward was efficient and helpful. He knew when we left for meals and I think only once was still cleaning the room when we came back. Special requests, like a cork screw or extra tissues were handled quickly and with a smile. The room was in very good condition. The TV's have been upgraded to flatscreens. Our rug had not been replaced, as I read that some others have been. It was OK, but ready to be changed. I suppose I'm behind the times, as people now routinely travel with their entire music collection in their shirt pocket, but I missed having music available in my cabin. They do not have CD or DVD players and there are no "music" channels on TV, aside from the Musak on the webcam channel. If I came back to the cabin by myself, it was strangely quiet. On TV they have a menu of movies that runs each day. They seem behind the times in that you cannot call up a movie "on demand". As such, we saw parts of many movies, but never saw one all the way through. I'm not going to plan my day around watching some old movie. Smoking: We were pleased that smoking is now restricted to only a few spots on the ship. The pub, which was very smoky 4 years ago, is now free of any smell. People can smoke in their cabins and so we sometimes smelled strong smoke in the halls, but that was the exception, not the rule. The only inside location that reeked of stale smoke was the disco. The Ports: St Thomas - We've been to Meghans Bay and it's really just OK. We tried Sapphire Beach this time. About the same distance from the boat 20-40 mins based on traffic. The beach was great: Very clean and beautiful. Good surf but not rough. Shared taxis from the pier were $11 per person, but since we filled the van we were charged $10 and the kids were free. On the way back, there was no discount and I paid $11 each for adults and kids. Chairs at the beach were for rent at $7 and there was a stand selling drinks and snacks. There is a bathroom and a diving rental store. No real restaurants. Less "locals" hanging around smoking than at Meghans. We're not shoppers, so while St Thomas looked to be a good place for shopping, I can't really say. US cell phones work here with no roaming fees. St Martin: Went to Dawn beach. It's closer than the famous Orient beach and much quieter. Chairs and umbrellas for rent ($15 for 2 chairs and an umbrella) and a nice (I'd even say pricey) restaurant/bar on the beach. (You can use their toilets.) This was the nicest beach on our trip until we got to Barbados. Great waves, perfect smooth sand and friendly people. Definitely worth a visit. St Lucia: You have to tender-in here. It rained terribly all day, so since we couldn't go to the beach (I had heard fantastic things about Pigeon Island) we just stayed on board. Curacao: We've vacationed here before, so we know the island quite well. It was a short visit (out at 2:00) and it was Boxing Day so many of the shops were closed. (In the end I'd say that 2/3 of the stores were open by Noon.) The shopping area is quaint and not as full of Little Switzerland-type stores as other ports. Plenty of t-shirt shops. Always worth a walk into, even if just to cross the floating bridge. If you come here, the nicest beach is Porto Marie. Barbados: We read on CC that Crane beach was great for body-surfing. Since the kids love that, we went there. We were quoted a price of $20 per person R/T, which for the 4 of us seemed steep at $80. We pleaded for a "even for the kids?" discount and agreed on $60 R/T. We arrived at the end of a street and the driver showed us how to get to the beach, by walking across concrete stepping stones that crossed an outcropping of sharp coral, down to the beach. Oh and what a beach! Incredibly soft sand, nice boogie-boarding waves and just about the most serene place you could ask for. Chairs, umbrellas and boogie-boards are available for rent. We watching daring youth jump from the cliffs into the turquoise sea and then went and jumped in too! Wow, what a day! There is a shack selling drinks. At the far end of the beach is a small outside shower. You can enter the beach through The Crane Resort and they have facilities. I'm told that they charge you for entering that way and to use the facilities. We didn't, so I'm not sure about the cost. Note that even though this beach was PARADISE, there was no place to change or go to the bathroom. I'd suggest arriving in your bathing suit, as we (and many others) used the trees just off the beach as our public changing area. Dominica: Not much of a beachy island and very limited shopping. We almost went back to the ship, but were talked into a tour by one of the local vultures who will descend on you as you cross the street from the dock. They all pretty much do the same tour, which is to see the sulfur pools and Trafalger Falls. The tour was about 1.5 hours and we were charged $20 for adults and $10 for the kids (fair enough.) The driver stopped along the way to show us flora and fauna and then on to view the bubbling hot pools. (You can also pay extra to visit one of the mineral spas for a soak, but that's not our thing.) From there you go to Trafalgar Falls (admission $5 per person.) You walk about 5 minutes on an easy climb trail to an observation point where you can see the falls. Very impressive. For the more daring folks (that was me and the kids, but not my wife) you can continue down an even rougher trail that takes you to large boulders at the base of twin falls. If you climb over them (it's fairly challenging) you can "swim" in the small pools just down from the falls. Many folks came prepared for this with their swimsuits under their clothes. My son just fell in with his clothes on instead. A very cool place! After leaving the falls, the tour then visited the Botanical Gardens (the crushed school bus from a hurricane in 1979 was a highlight) and then on to a viewing spot high above the city where you can see the ship and all that surrounds it. There is an inexpensive Internet cafe/phoning place right behind the bank as you exit the pier. Greneda: Very friendly people here. I forgot to bring cash and as the tender was arriving we contemplated just staying on and heading back. My wife had $25 and we were able to plead with the taxi guy to take us to Grand Anse beach R/T for that $25. This left us with nothing to pay the $1 fee to use the bathroom, but even the folks there were very kind and let us change and use the toilet. The beach is quite close and has all the facilities. Guys selling watersports are walking around. It was a shame that we had only a short time there, as it was a very comfortable beach. We wanted to go visit the spice plantations and processing plants, but apparently those tours take a long time and you need to be off the ship pronto in order to have time to do them. We took our time and it was too late to go. Our loss I think. St Kitts: Kind of rainy, so we just walked around. Too bad as I was excited about beaches I had read about. Lots of shopping but the prices were high. T-shirts mostly $15 and up. No bargains here. Liquor prices similar to New Hampshire. Tortola: A short day in port. Very long (30-45 minute) tender ride in. There is shopping about an 8 minute walk from the pier but we went to Cane Bay beach. There were 3 ships in port and the beach was very crowded. It's about 20 minutes from the pier by taxi ($8/person each way) over treacherous hills. Quite a ride. We actually got a different taxi back (there are tons available) because the shifter handle on the first taxi was falling off and we feared for our lives. The beach is nice with many beach bars and the usual chairs for rent. Not a quiet spot, but fine for our last day on a beach for 6 months. Tortola's currency is US dollars. There is a bank near the pier that had a big line at their ATM as American's restocked their cash supply. We had just gotten a cash advance on the ship, or we would have been in line too. Summary: We did have a great time on the ship. 15 days go by very fast. We would definitely consider taking this cruise again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
If the sub-head above seems odd, it is triggered by the disparity of reviews from the same cruise in which some are exultant and others reflect bitter disappoint.You will have to judge for yourselves whose judgments to trust. This ... Read More
If the sub-head above seems odd, it is triggered by the disparity of reviews from the same cruise in which some are exultant and others reflect bitter disappoint.You will have to judge for yourselves whose judgments to trust. This was our third Seabourn cruise--in chronological order, Odyssey, Legend, then Sojourn. It was in many ways the most satisfactory of them all, though perhaps nothing can equal the sense of discovered pleasure that one derives from your first Seabourn cruise. But of course, how you feel about a cruise depends on your attitude, the behavior of other passengers, and the singular experiences which form happy memories or dreadful ones. We found the food to be very good to excellent Dining room service was occasionally hurried, never uncomfortably so. We very much liked the tasting menu offered in Restaurant 2. We had pre-ordered venision and Dover sole, and were delighted that both were indeed available. The venison was great, the Dover sole was pleasant, buy no threat to Scott's in London. (It should be noted that Scott's can serve their sole as never frozen, while Sojourn obviously cannot.) And we found the breakfast served in the Colonnades to be a great way to start the day. Wines were better than other Seabourn experiences; cocktails were made with care. (Though no one on board could make a decent margarita.) Sitting at any bar, you could order caviar from room service (we did) and enjoy it with champagne. The suites are essentially as pictured in the brochure. The bathroom luxurious for many hotels, and surprisingly so for a ship. Our stewardess was charming and responsive to our few requests. We thought Seabourn Square was a great innovation, as it was on Odyssey. Essentially, it is a central area where the library, a coffee bar, and guest services are on offer. The Show Lounge does suffer from a few pillars which do indeed obstruct a few seats. But we thought the entertainment--a quartet of very young British singers (who also danced a bit)--were very good. A comedian imported from the U.S. for a single night was reminiscent of bad television comics. There were also some special interest lectures which varied from dull to fairly interesting. Trivia was contested hotly by several teams of exuberant players. (None more so than that led by Host Dan of the Seabourn forum who happened to be aboard.) And now to service. One could quibble about this or that crew member who wasn't quite as diligent as most, but it is the "most" who create the atmosphere you remember. And that atmosphere was one of smiling interest in your happiness. "Anything else I can do for you?" was perhaps the most repeated phrase during our voyage. Fellow passengers included a large number of Cruise Critic members who with just a little encouragement would share their experiences on other cruises.( And a bit more. too; as did the lady who confided that she had been a Playboy Bunny in her youth.) And while the passengers were mostly Americans, we did discover a highly interesting couple from Belgium. We shared some dinners with people we met on board, and enjoyed the pre-prandial conversation over cocktails with many passengers. So,. "big" Seabourn ships verses the lil' sisters? It depends on what you value most. The little ships are more of a club. They are, or perhaps one should say can be, a bit stuffy, as they tend top attract long time Seabournites who are devoted to the line, and to the smaller ships regardless of their deficiencies.(For example, older cabins, smaller bathrooms. an absence of balconies, fewer restaurants.) They do offer a highly individual experience. And so do the larger ships. Mind you, "larger" here means a mere 450 guetss--a half deck's worth of folks on a really big ship.The Sojourn seemed to ride the waves a bit more smoothly than Legend, and was in every way a memorable and satisfying experience. Note that that we had been to all of the islands that the cruise visited multiple times before,. So our real discovery was Sojourn herself. And it was a pleasure to meet her. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
First things first. We are Seabourn fanatics and have sailed on month long voyages with Seaboun. I thought I'd share my comments about Silver Spirit that we sailed on for Christmas and NYE. We started cruising on the larger, ... Read More
First things first. We are Seabourn fanatics and have sailed on month long voyages with Seaboun. I thought I'd share my comments about Silver Spirit that we sailed on for Christmas and NYE. We started cruising on the larger, bigger (low scale) lines such as Princess, P&O, NCL and RCCL we then found Seabourn and became instantly hooked. I've written a few reviews on Seabourn Legend if you want to read them. Silver Spirit was a choice that we made last year due to the heavy discounting that Seabourn could not match. It was a difficult decision to make, and we do prefer the smaller ships. On boarding, we were amazed at the quality of the inside of the ship, something that Seabourn Legend of course (due to age) hasn't got. The space per passenger was higher than we had anticipated and we were impressed by the way the ship was laid out (with the accommodation at the front, and the entertainment and dining areas at the back). Our cabins were superb, I can't fault the cabins on this ship, the only negative thing I could find, was they were narrow by the bed, potentially making it difficult to navigate to the lounge area (not a problem for me, but for an older person) We have had amazing service on Seabourn before, and we were interested in the Butler service that Silversea offered. Unfortunatley for me, this proved to be a real let down. My butler was very friendly and efficient, but couldn't see his relevance (apart to restock my bar and pick up laundry). He was always calling my name and after a while, this became annoying. My cabin steward did his job well, but he could have done the job of a butler(maybe I missed something in the 14 nights!) saying that.. they had lots of cabins to attend to, so overloading the poor room steward probably isn't a good idea! We tried "Le Champagne" and we were impressed by the level of service offered, it was a totally different dining experience, however be warned.. $200 is a lot of extra money that is really spent on wine, not food! You can dine here for an additional $30pp, plus buy a bottle from their wine list (this brings down the cost considerably.) The main dining room was always busy, we dined on table of 3 every night, with the same waiters. Our opinion of the food is that it's pretty much identical, however.. SEABOURN wins with the desserts. We found that the desserts consisted mainly of "mousse" and were not to our taste (we are European and Australian!) Coffee on board was HORRID.. Any Europeans will be disappointed! The bar service was great, again very little to distinguish between Silversea and Seabourn. Your drinks were always complimentary and replenished as and when required. To be fair, we need to travel on the newer Seabourn ships to give an accurate account of any differences. We did enjoy our cruise, and wouldn't hesitate to go back in a heartbeat. There was one negative about our cruise, my Mother and Grandmother were in a disabled cabin, and it STANK, not just a little, but enough to make you vomit at night. We made several complaints to various people, but it was never resolved whilst on board. We are not complainers AT ALL.. but this kind of spoilt the holiday for them. Silversea did compensate us post voyage after writing to them to be fair. We are booked again on Seabourn Legend in September of this year, and it will be an interesting comparison again. Any questions, please feel free to email me. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
This was our second cruise on the QM2 but the first commencing in New York (Brooklyn) which included flights to and from the UK. Living in Scotland meant a flight down to Heathrow and an overnight stay at the Sheraton Skyline hotel due to ... Read More
This was our second cruise on the QM2 but the first commencing in New York (Brooklyn) which included flights to and from the UK. Living in Scotland meant a flight down to Heathrow and an overnight stay at the Sheraton Skyline hotel due to the early Virgin flight to JFK (who - be warned - have a 6 Kg limit for carry-ons). We were obviously unable to take our formal kilt outfits (we were traveling with another couple who are our regular cruise partners) due to the new rules of just a single checked bag per person - introduced by all airlines in 2010 (as far as I can tell) no doubt to make more money - but not from us! We arrived at JFK on time and were met by a Cunard rep and asked to remain in one spot until all the QM2 customers arrived. Unfortunately, there was no seating and so we stood around for over an hour until we boarded a bus for the 45 minute ride to the Brooklyn Terminal. It was not our day as just about all the other 2000 or so guests seem to have arrived at the same time and we had to wait in line for almost 2 hours before finally gaining access to the Ship. This was unacceptable especially when compared to the really pleasant experience when we joined the QM2 at Southampton last time. Brooklyn Port is the pits in comparison to Southampton as I'm sure all who have experienced both will agree. I will generalise now otherwise this will be a rather long review. The bottom line is that we were all disappointed - it was definitely not as good as our previous cruise on the QM2 late 2009. There seemed to be a lack of focus and dedication by the service staff that was the opposite of the first time around. Our main gripe, however, had nothing to do with the on-board staff - we like our formal dinners and had asked for a table of eight. We got a table of 4 and despite the efforts of the very approachable Maitre d' - Jamie (& Bobbie his assistant) after 3 days, we finally got the same table of 4 but with the adjacent table of 4 pushed up - we really needed a round table but there were none available. Both couple had Wedding Anniversaries at the beginning of the cruise and true to form; we both received a small cake for two - with a candle - nice touch! The cabins (Staterooms) are fine as are the public areas - it's great that the casino no longer allows smoking! I would argue with a previous review that the "pub" is fine and we all used it a lot for both the food and the quizzes! Surprisingly one of the shows was a repeat from our first Cruise - as was the "magician". The planetarium films were also the same although I can understand that any projection system that uses 6 projectors is going find it difficult to have a varied selection! The American comedian was really good however; he directed his jokes at all cruise audiences - not just the Americans as we had feared. Overall I would agree with some previous reviews that imply that the best staff have been moved to the newest ship - Queen Elizabeth and I have a suspicion that Carnival have dumbed down what was a superb liner into an average cruise ship. A big mistake as we were certainly not on our own when decrying that we would not be back. The only happy punters were the newbies that had no reference point (and no doubt paid a lot less than us!) Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
I am still stunned from the level of service I received while aboard the Silver Cloud. I have sailed on Princess, RCCL, and various ferry type vessels in the Med, but have always wanted to experience a "luxury" cruise. Well, all ... Read More
I am still stunned from the level of service I received while aboard the Silver Cloud. I have sailed on Princess, RCCL, and various ferry type vessels in the Med, but have always wanted to experience a "luxury" cruise. Well, all I can say is, there is no turning back. Silversea Cruises far surpassed my expectations and then some. The public rooms are a bit dated but still beautifully appointed. I heard this ship was going to be refurbished sometime next year. I would say it probably needs it but in no way did the older furnishings detract from the overall experience. The food was incomparable, as were the selection of wines. I dined in Le Champagne, La Terrazza, the Dining Room, the Galley Lunch, experienced Dining Under the Stars, and the BBQ on deck. ALL superb. I actually gained 5 pounds, something I never do when cruising as I have never found the food to be all that great to begin with (RCCL and Princess). Plus, I'm not a typical over-eater, which I have to say, was one of the things I loved about the demographic on this ship. Very few overweight guests were on board. I never saw someone balancing a huge plate of bacon like I've seen on the mass market lines. That in and of itself was refreshing! =) The fact the staff called me by name whenever I was served was incredibly engaging! Even passing me in the hallway, they would greet me by name. Amazing. The Butler Service is quite a nice touch, most especially when bringing me my morning coffee, laying out a damask cloth and setting the table perfectly. He was always very unobtrusive, polite, and very efficient. I really loved this touch. Turn down was always a pleasant surprise each evening. From my menu with my name delivered to my cabin after I dined in Le Champagne, to the different chocolates, I couldn't wait to return to my cabin each night, kick off my shoes, undress and wrap myself in the soft Silversea robes provided, and read the Chronicles for the next day. Also having a large bottle of water every night by the bed was marvelous for me. I drink a lot of water and its the first thing I reach for in the morning. Nice not to have to "pay" for a bottle of water. The walk in closet is to die for. I'm a clothes horse and love traveling with many clothing and shoe selections. It was great having a plethora of hangers and more than enough drawer space. I didn't even use up half the drawers that were in the cabin. Loved the ports of call, St. Barts especially. Two we had to tender in to, and there were many elderly people with canes and the seas were pretty rough. The care with which the crew helped these people in and out of the tenders was perfection. One night, a man with a cane, getting up from his chair, fell over and the Captain himself was on his feet in a flash, helping the man back to his feet, and personally caring for him until the man felt well enough to be escorted back to his cabin. Again, the service was just beyond belief. The gym instructor was terrific. I work out daily and her yoga and pilates classes were excellent. The gym is very small but I loved it. Intimate, enough equipment to get a good workout, and a knowledgable attendant who answered questions intelligently. This was a surprise to find such a good instructor on a ship that caters to an older demographic. I saw her working out elderly people every morning with great care to their individual needs. She made quite the impression on this work-out-a-holic! The entertainment was a disconnect however. Lovely dancers, adequate singers, but the shows themselves were not of the caliber of the service I experienced. They had a concert pianist on (I forget his name as it was rather quirky), but I found his playing to recorded music a bit off putting. I only saw his first show however and he did get a standing ovation. The guest lecturers were interesting. There was also a cooking demonstration in the theater that was rather fun. The on deck BBQ performance was probably the most energetic show of all the shows they performed. There was a "First Timers" event I attended but it was just another cocktail party. Nothing special, although I did feel like it was a bit 'sales pitchy' to me. I am hooked on Silversea Cruises and can't wait to experience all the ships. Of course, I won't be able to cruise as often as I have in the past due to their price point but all I can say is, Silversea Cruises is totally worth the cost. I can't wait to return. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
We got to Fort Lauderdale a day early. Stayed at the Hilton at the marina. We liked the view of the cruise ships from our room. Other than that it was nothing special. Embarking and debarking were very smooth.The ship was beautiful. It ... Read More
We got to Fort Lauderdale a day early. Stayed at the Hilton at the marina. We liked the view of the cruise ships from our room. Other than that it was nothing special. Embarking and debarking were very smooth.The ship was beautiful. It didn't feel crowded. Nice glass elevators.The crew members were polite and always offered a friendly greeting.One of the most important aspects of our experience was the fellow passengerswe shared the ship with for 11 nights. We were very happy to cruise with such nice people! The passengers on this cruise were refined, polite, friendly, and a pleasure to cruise with. I'm guessing the average age was about 60. At one to the ports we shared with another ship it was very easy to tell the our passengers from theirs. This may sound snobby, but when you spend your hard earned cash, you'd rather be with your peer group, than "joe 6 pack" and the wild bunch. The activities were fun. We enjoyed karaoke with Michelle, Rachel and Jackie. They were lots of fun. We had fun at bingo, The casino was great. Kremi made everyone feel welcome at the poker tables. I played $5 dollar blackjack and the dealers were friendly and helpful. My wife had fun on the penny slot machines. The fitness center was very good. Stacy and Nick were great instructors. We enjoyed their classes. The pools were small,but we always found a chair. We prepaid all of our tips. I guess that qualified us for select dining.Even thought we were in Aqua class, they saved a table for us in the main dining room. The food and the service was great everywhere we eat. Once in Silhouette, Once in Silk Harvest, one night in the Buffet, Three nights at Tuscon Grill(the best food), the rest at Blu. We had room service every day. It was perfect.House keeping was good. The entertainment was good. We really appreciated all the wonderful music on the ship. The music helps set Celebrity apart from the loud, frat house,party ship atmosphere of some of the other cruise lines. Thank you Celebrity for a more tasteful and elegant environment.No complaints about anything on the ship. We had a wonderful time.The next time we cruise it will be with Celebrity! Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Route: 11 day voyage: Ft Lauderdale - St Thomas - St Maarten - Grenada - Bonaire - Panama Canal (Gatun Lake only) - Ft Lauderdale 1. General Comments: A most pleasant and interesting voyage. This was the ship's only Caribbean ... Read More
Route: 11 day voyage: Ft Lauderdale - St Thomas - St Maarten - Grenada - Bonaire - Panama Canal (Gatun Lake only) - Ft Lauderdale 1. General Comments: A most pleasant and interesting voyage. This was the ship's only Caribbean run. It had completed Los Angeles - Ft Lauderdale, and after our voyage it was returning to its home base in Southampton. (According to the Captain, Cunard ships are "ocean liners" that are on "voyages." They are not "cruise ships," nor do they "cruise.") The ship was nearly full with ca 1,900 passengers. While the majority of passengers were American, next were the British, followed by the Germans. Most passengers were experienced, older, travellers. In the 11 days I counted only two infants and three grammar school-aged children on board. I saw no teenagers. We booked a Princess class stateroom in order to learn the Cunard standard for this level. We wanted something longer than a regular crossing, and we also were celebrating my wife's birthday. 2. Travel to Ft Lauderdale and Embarking: We made our own plane arrangements and arrived in Ft Lauderdale the day before the voyage. We took the hotel shuttle to the pier. Having checked in on-line, and using the separate check-in line for Grill class passengers, we got on the ship quickly. We arrived at the pier at noon, checked in, dropped off our carry on bags in our cabin, and were sitting down to lunch in the Lido at 1PM. Waiting for us in our cabin was a bottle of champagne on ice, a bowl of fruit, and a plate of sweets and chocolate-covered strawberries. This was an indicator of things to come. Our luggage arrived around 3:30, as did a bowl of fresh strawberries. 3. The Queen Victoria: A very attractive ship, enhanced by its smallness. Our cabin was a tad larger than a "regular" cabin with verandah. I think the extra size could be seen in the sofa; it was regular size instead of the smaller two-person type. Our cabin was perfect for two. Plenty of storage space (few drawers, but plenty of shelves), and the bathroom had a tub shower. There was a small safe and a small refrigerator (only filled with water and soft drinks, which we assumed were free. There was no liquor.). We had two TV screens (one for bedroom and one for sitting area) which received the usual news, movies, music, etc. However, there was no CNN nor ESPN. We did very well with BBC for international news, and CNBC for financial news. . You get a daily planner in your cabin the night prior. You need to read it carefully as there are no announcements on the PA system. The Captain does his noontime report from the bridge, and that is it. You also get a daily newspaper (US, UK, or German, depending on your home), and weekdays you get an international financial news sheet.For the ship's public areas, see the films and descriptions on the Cunard website. They show you just about everything. While the audio may be a bit overblown, the pictures are accurate. 4. Meals: OK, we took Princess Class so we could have our own dining room. There are separate dining rooms for Princess and Queen Classes, and there is a lounge between the two. And, this area is restricted; you need your key card and a specific elevator to get to this level (11th deck). If you are celebrating a special occasion, save your pennies and go for this class. When you book, you indicate what size table you want. When you board, you receive a card informing you of your table. This is YOUR table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You only need to appear during the meal times. No reservations, no early or late seating... nothing. After you appear once, the maitre d', the wine steward, and your two waiters know you by name and your preferences. We only did dinner in our Grill; there was no way we would have been able to consume all three meals there. Dinners were uniformly outstanding, as was the service. I think the wine list is the same throughout the ship; you can get good wines for $40 and you can splurge $1,500 for a Bordeaux. The choice is up to you. Lido Buffet: Well designed, and very good food. The design is such that compared to other ships the Lido is relatively quiet. You can actually hear the background music on the speaker system. Selections for both breakfast and lunch were varied, and there was no rush. You could sit over a second cup of (weak) coffee and not feel that people were waiting to pounce on your table. Also different from other lines, there are no wine or beer carts going through hawking their wares. You want a glass of wine or beer? A crew member will get it for you. Oh yes, the Lido is open 24/7. Todd English specialty restaurant: My wife and I have mixed feelings on this. Food, service, and wine were great. However, when you are in the Grill Class, is this restaurant worth the $30 per person extra charge? We aren't so sure. The Grill dining rooms are already top flight. Yes, the Todd English menu is different, but not that much. We have no idea on the food and service in the Britannia dining room; we are sure it is good. On other ships we felt that the specialty restaurant was a definite step up from the dining room. We are not so sure that Todd English is that much of a step up from the Grill dining room. You have to make your own decision. There are plenty of bars - but not food outlets - around the ship. You have to choose what appeals to you. We settled into the Grill lounge for a pre-dinner drink and the Commodore lounge for after dinner. In all bars you have to specify the brand of liquor you desire for your cocktail; there is no "standard" or "house" brand. Birthday celebration: I ordered flowers, a gift, and champagne for my wife's birthday from the on-line Cunard gift brochure a month or so before the voyage. Flowers were delivered in the morning by our steward. The gift came late that afternoon because it was from a different department. I checked with our maitre d' that the champagne would be waiting for us for dinner that evening (it was). Our waiters and maitre d' presented my wife with a simple and attractive birthday cake with only one candle and NO singing at the end of our meal. It was all very well done. 5. Cunard dress code: Cunard is serious here. If you don't want to follow their code, the staff and fellow passengers will make you wish you had taken a different ship. Nothing blatant, but subtle... like you are the only one in jeans at formal night. Before you leave home, you will receive from Cunard some literature on the ship, your shore excursions, etc. Included will be a listing of the evening dress for each night of the voyage. No more wondering; you have the schedule ahead of time. We were 11 nights: 4 formal, 3 informal (coat and tie), and 4 informal (jacket, but no tie). Formal nights were all on sea days. On formal nights, most men were in tuxedos; the rest in dark suits. A number had medals or ribbons on their tuxes. The ladies were in everything from elegant pants suits to ball gowns. Informal nights for men was not so much suits as it was blazers with ties. 6. Shore Excursions: Make your shore excursion reservations on-line! This saves you standing in line at the ship's tour desk. The on-line billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you don't need the ship's tour office. Tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ship's staff, you have support when there is a problem. There was a professor (geology) on board who lectured on all aspects of Panama and the Caribbean before we entered the canal. Many people commented on how pleased they were to have heard some, or all, of his lectures. Another lecturer boarded the ship when we entered the canal and provided a very good commentary - not continuous - of the entire tour; she left the ship only after we cleared the last lock before re-entering the Caribbean. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: lectures, bridge, bingo, etc, etc. Don't forget fencing lessons! The bits of the evening shows we saw were fine; we heard good reports about them in the Lido. The ship's theater is that: it is a theater. There is no bar service as on other ships. There are also boxes. For a fee, you can reserve a seat in a box and be treated royally - to include champagne - while you watch the show. While art is for sale, and there are auctions, this is done discretely and without noise. Much of the art on board is generally nautical and specifically of Cunard's long history...and ships. While there is advertising for the art for sale, there is also plenty for the ship's spa. The casino was small and the machine payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. Card and roulette tables were present, but no craps tables. There was a small selection of duty-free liquor on board; you order your liquor and it is delivered to your cabin the day before disembarking. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have your picture taken by the ship's photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. There are various venues for night owls. 8. Tipping: Not a problem if you sign up for the recommended amounts. The amounts are charged to each person's shipboard account. You have nothing more to do. You only need to tip separately (cash) the person who brings your room service. Your bar and wine bill automatically adds 15 percent. If you want to tip, for example, the maitre d' because of his help in organizing your wife's birthday celebration, then you have to give him some cash in an envelope. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your voyage, anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos, etc) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. On March 26, three days before our disembarkation, we received a preliminary bill. This bill not only lists every charge you have made, but also subtracts the charges from whatever ship's credit you may have received from your agent or elsewhere. Pay attention to this as contrary to other ships, your credit is per person and not per cabin. If you are the usual couple, the husband signs all the charge slips. His credit gets used up. Now you find out that the wife's "voyage credit" has hardly been touched, and the credits are NOT transferable. For the last days of the voyage, my wife signed all the charge slips, and we made out OK. In short, if each person does not use his credit, he will lose it. On the last morning you receive a paper final statement of your account. 10. Disembarking in Ft Lauderdale: Your bags have to be out between 5PM and 12PM. Crew personnel are constantly removing the bags; you must be careful placing your bags outside because they will be gone, and you will have no chance to add or retrieve an item. Breakfast is early, and you will be out of your cabin by 8:30. You must be out and waiting in your designated area because that is the only place where you will hear disembarking instructions. Nothing is announced on the TV or PA system. The system works very well. In our case we got off the ship at 8:30; were through customs and immigration, and arrived at the airport at 9:15; and were checked in, through security, and at the gate at 10:00. 11. Our only complaint: Several days into the voyage I received a rude form letter from the "chief accountant" accusing me of "failing to provide credit card information" and threatening to freeze my ship account if I did not provide this information. Not being in a good mood, I went to the Purser's desk to find out what was up. The clerk apologized that there was a transfer problem from the pier check-in computers to the ship's system. That was reasonable, and he was not thrilled when I pointed out the tone of the accountant's form letter. More apologies. Cunard literature emphasizes how the line trains its personnel in service, manners, etc. While this training is well reflected in the crew and officers on board, it does not seem to apply to the bean counters who have no contact with the passengers. 12. Conclusion: This was a most enjoyable trip. We learned about the Cunard system of running its ships and can easily see why there are so many fans of this line. We are not interested in doing a crossing, but whenever a Cunard ship is doing some sort of a voyage based out of the US, such as this one, we will be interested. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@satx.rr.com.Fred GrothSan Antonio, TX Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Oceania Cruises has earned a fine reputation by providing great food, good and personable service on friendly well-maintained ships, with interesting itineraries. The company lived up to that billing on our recent 24-day Amazon Adventure ... Read More
Oceania Cruises has earned a fine reputation by providing great food, good and personable service on friendly well-maintained ships, with interesting itineraries. The company lived up to that billing on our recent 24-day Amazon Adventure cruise aboard Regatta. In many ways, we had a fabulous experience. Unfortunately, a series of planning and communications failures by Oceania marred the trip and left many of us frustrated. The check-in procedure was a disaster, a purported computer snafu that kept us waiting in the terminal three hours. Worse yet, ports promised in promotional literature last year were switched. One port was skipped altogether. At a key port, we lost half a day of touring time because of sailing delays. The crew aboard ship, regrettably, didn't even want to acknowledge the problems. Let's hope there has been some private rear-kicking in the Miami headquarters. This was an ambitious cruise: leave Miami, go through the Caribbean, visit various islands, then enter the Amazon for eight days and visit Santarem, Boca da Valeria, Parintins and Manaus for two days, then stop at various Caribbean islands on the way back to Miami. We paid about $5,900 per person including tips for our stateroom, 4049, very well located just steps from the reception desk and central stairway. The ship, although 13 years old, looks all but new. We had to look hard to see any maintenance issues. Our stateroom was pretty, in near-perfect condition, and quiet. Everything, including the air conditioning, which was really needed, worked fine. The stateroom attendant was seldom seen, but kept up the room twice a day in timely fashion. The public areas of the ship were very attractive and very well maintained. You could occasionally see crewmen doing painting, which is a good sign on a ship. The food was very good, sometimes excellent, sometimes even superb. The top chef was available to talk to passengers almost every day. They do, however, need a better recipe for scrambled eggs and hash browns in the mornings. Oceania has no separate charge for any of their restaurants. Let's hope that continues. The two specialty restaurants were excellent. Restaurant service was usually pleasant and good, although a little slow at times. Overall, the staff throughout the ship were a joy to be around. Entertainment was of mixed appeal. In various parts of the ship, we had a string quartet, which really adds class, a piano player, and a band. All were good and entertaining. Other entertainers were brought aboard for special appearances, and some were quite good. Passenger laundry facilities and internet service, like on all Oceania ships, were terrible. The enrichment lecturers weren't very useful. We suffered a lot by not having an Amazon naturalist aboard. Shore excursions offered by the ship were overpriced, and we heard numerous complaints about them. We booked private guides in several of the key stops, including in the Amazon, and they provided great experiences for us. The problems on this cruise came with the ports. As we boarded, we were informed we would not stop in Tobago but rather go to Port of Spain. This was not an even trade. Because of that change, we lost a shore excursion we had booked privately in Tobago. They could have informed us of this change days before we left home. After Port of Spain, the schedule failed to allow enough time to get to Santarem. They knew or should have known that weather in this area can pose problems, and they surely knew that Brazil customs authorities are feuding with the United States and might hold us up as we entered the Amazon. Because of these delays, we arrived in Santarem at 3 p.m. and lost half a day of our privately arranged shore excursion. Our stop at Devil's Island was skipped, purportedly because of high seas. Again, they knew or should have known that this stop is chancy for cruise ships. We were NOT warned about that in promotional literature. As a result, we expected and looked forward to the stop. The captain could have tried to land, or could have waited for several hours to see if the seas calmed. He did neither, and did not even go slowly past the island to give us a photo opportunity. Originally, Grand Turk was to be our final port. But we were told after we had made our reservations that would change to Nassau. Again, not a fair trade. While on the Amazon, if Oceania had planned properly, we would have had more time to visit one other city, perhaps Belem. Or we could have been given an overnight stop in Santarem. Instead, we spent too much time in Caribbean ports. We registered these concerns on board, including to the captain directly, but the ship personnel saw nothing wrong. They didn't seem to grasp that they should deliver what they promised. They never apologized for the computer snafu at check-in. Considering complaints on other Oceania cruises about changing ports, and now the mysterious problem with Insignia, one has to wonder if Oceania is slipping a bit. While we love the memories of our Amazon trip, the big question is: would we schedule it again, knowing what we now know? The answer might be no. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
From the moment my 18 year old son and I arrived at Heathrow Terminal five we were looked after by Celebrity. There was a representative from Celebrity to help us with the check in process. On arrival at Miami airport there were ... Read More
From the moment my 18 year old son and I arrived at Heathrow Terminal five we were looked after by Celebrity. There was a representative from Celebrity to help us with the check in process. On arrival at Miami airport there were representatives waiting to guide us to our bus that would take us to our hotel.The Marriott Hotel in Fort Laudedale was very impressive. We had a large hotel room with the most comfy beds we had ever encountered in a hotel, just what we needed after a nine hour flight. The restaurant in the hotel offered either a buffet or waiter service dinner. We opted for the waiter service dinner and found the food was really nice and the service was exceptional.The next day, we were taken to board the Constellation. From when we reached the dock to finding our cabin was less than 30 minutes. Our cases were with us less than two hours of arriving at the dock.We then had fourteen days of pure perfection. Our cabin was always spotless and our cabin steward and his assistant greeted us every morning and every evening. One evening we rushed to get ready for dinner and left a couple of clothes on the couch and came back to find them all folded neatly for us.We opted for early dining and were seated with three couples. The food catered for both our tastes, my son can be a bit picky but there was always something on the menu for him. I still can't believe it I even tried frogs legs and yes it's true it is just like eating chicken!! Our waiter really knew the menu well and gave us exceptional service. The assistant waiter was brilliant we had so many laughs with him. Both the waiter and assistant waiter got to know everyone by first name and all our different likes and dislikes. The desserts were out of this world and it helped by them bringing examples of the desserts to the table to aid our choice although it just left me wanting all the options!!The entertainment on the Constellation was the best we had ever experience. Our cruise director Sue Denning was outstanding, she was everywhere and taking part. From dancing to jumping in the pool fully clothed. The shows in the theatre were stunning, the Celebrity cast were very talented. There was a very good variety of entertainment acts, three comedians, two singers, pianist, and a hypnotist. Although we were a little disappointed with the hypnotist as it took half the show for him to get people hypnotised and then we were not fully convinced that the people were actually hypnotised. The music around the ship was brilliant, Momentum the group covered a wide variety of songs most of which both my son and I knew.This paragraph has to be given to the best entertainer on the ship, Perry Grant. I had heard people talking about him and my son and I decided to see what he was all about. Well he picked my son out and my son loved it. We have never laughed so much. We were in hysterics some nights recalling Perry's show. We must have gone to seen him about 8 to 10 times during the fourteen days and every time was great. To top it all Perry came over as a very nice person. The activity staff were outstanding, from quizzes to sport to evening entertainment they were there entertaining us. Victoria, Caroline, David and Stephanie all deserved a mention they made our time on the ship so enjoyable.I marked this cruise overall as a 5+ but I feel this undersells how wonderful this cruise was. We are determined to go on another one soon. Celebrity Constellation definitely delivered for us the holiday of a lifetime. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
We travelled as a couple in our early 50's. Everything went without a hitch from the flights from Heathrow, the transfers between airports, hotels and ship, the overnight stop at the Hilton Marina, Fort Lauderdale, the ... Read More
We travelled as a couple in our early 50's. Everything went without a hitch from the flights from Heathrow, the transfers between airports, hotels and ship, the overnight stop at the Hilton Marina, Fort Lauderdale, the embarkation/disembarkation, to the return flight home. The Celebrity Equinox truly is a beautiful ship and there were many 'WoW' moments throughout our 10 days onboard. There were also a lot of things that we felt should not have been as they were. I've covered everything that we loved...and what we didn't, below. The things we loved: First and foremost, the food. We had absolutely no adverse comment to make at any time. The variety was amazing with no compromise on quality. We ate everyday in the Oceanview Cafe for breakfast and lunch and the Silhouette Restaurant each evening bar one as my husband really fancied the trying the evening O'view Cafe buffet (which was ok, but not as good a selection as we'd have hoped for an evening meal). The fresh made ice-cream & sorbet choice in the O'view Cafe varied daily and was innovative and delicious. I frequently noticed fairly long queues here so I chose only to go for ice-cream when it was less busy. The steaks in the Silhouette were exceptional and always cooked exactly to order. My favourite meal by far was the lobster which was served on the second formal night. I'd previously read reviews that the buffet deserts look much better than they tasted but I never found this to be true...they definitely all tasted as amazing as they looked! The buffet curries were incredibly tasty! The ship itself: So many parts to explore and we were still discovering different areas on the day we were disembarking! I'd read reviews before we sailed that said you could always find a quiet area to relax away from the crowds. It's surprisingly true. At times when strolling around we even felt the ship had been deserted and actually wondered where everyone else was! A visit to the pool area usually revealed all. On sea days the poolside was rowdy and hectic but you could still relax in peace on the sunbeds towards the sides of the ship or on the nearby upper decks. Yes, there were the inevitable 'hoggers' which is to be expected but vacant sunbeds could usually be found. We did have to remember which side was the smoking side though and often had to reposition ourselves to the other side when we realised we had inadvertently placed ourselves downwind of the dreaded smoke! The friendliness of everyone onboard, crew & guests alike: American and Canadian guests are just so pleasant and always ready for a chat whether it's for a few moments in a lift or whilst enjoying breakfast or lunch on the closely placed tables. It made us realise how reserved us British are! The entertainment: We were a bit worried that it would not match up to previous experience on the Ruby Princess 2 years ago but we had no cause for concern. Every show and production we saw was fabulous, in fact it got better as the cruise went on. Gareth Oliver the English ventriloquist was brilliant. Very clever and hilariously funny! He seemed such a regular down to earth guy too (he sat near us at breakfast on the last day which I thought was great!) The Equinox shows were also brilliant. Trapeze acts, contortionists, jugglers, dancers, singers...all amazing and on a par with the best Cirque du Soleil shows we've seen in Vegas and the UK. The Liars Club, Newly Weds and Not so Newly Weds show and comedian Al Ducharne were all very entertaining. I really liked the male quartet called Jukebox but my husband said they were too young to be doing the type of show they did! The group we really didn't like I've mentioned below! The ports we visited: Great choice for the cruise called 'The Ultimate Caribbean'. St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, Dominica and St Maarten....loved them all and found it very easy to get onto an island tour (either as a couple or part of a small group) offered by local tour operators just minutes from the ship. We paid between $25 and $30 each for a 2 to 3 hour trip which we thought was great value (and a fraction of the ship's tour prices!) Each tour gave us a good insight into what each island had to offer. The prices generally seemed fixed which we found a lot easier than the haggling we'd been used to on previous cruises. The Casino: A vibrant, fun and colourful place to be even if you don't intend spending a cent! It was fun simply watching others part with their virtual cash (and we were amazed at how quickly and easily those dollars diminished on the slots and tables!) The noise and atmosphere in here was intoxicating...very reminiscent of Vegas! The smoke free air was lovely too! The silhouette dining room: A huge and glamorous place to dine in. We loved the menus and we didn't tire of eating there each evening. The staff were very efficient (though somewhat annoyingly full-on with the 'good' service...a peaceful, uninterrupted meal was sadly not the norm). In-room television: Easy to operate the interactive facility. We would put the TV on while we were getting ready to go to dinner and we even managed to watch a film one day! It's there if you want it and plenty on it to watch. The films could even be saved for a couple of days if not finished. You could even view and purchase your onboard photos and it was fun to browse them! The veranda/balcony: We had already experienced this little luxury on the Ruby Princess and would now find it difficult to settle for anything less than a cabin with a balcony. Although I only sat on it once for any considerable length of time, it was lovely to have it. The seats were comfortable and there is a small (slightly weathered) round table too. We didn't have breakfast on it as we like to go the buffet but I spoke to some guests who did (via room service) and they really enjoyed that aspect of it. We kept our curtains open all night (even though the cabin steward insisted on routinely closing them for us while we were out in the evening!) so that we could wake up to the surprise view each time we docked somewhere new. Half the cabins were designed so that the bed was adjacent to the patio doors, the other half were set back and the huge boxy sofa was by the window instead. We were fortunate that ours was by the window but you won't know the configuration of the room until you first enter it! My husband said it all depended on the shape of the room, they alternate the design along the corridor apparently. Now for the let-downs :-( Overall cleanliness onboard: This was my biggest gripe...everyday! I am a self-confessed 'clean & tidy freak' and I felt that there were certain areas onboard that had been seriously overlooked in this respect. Good hygiene practices appear to be a top priority onboard (the numerous hand gel dispensers placed everywhere are testament to this fact!) but I feel it is equally important to simply provide clean, tidy and pleasant surroundings to relax in. The worst areas for grubbiness were the toilets. In all the toilets around the ship I rarely saw anyone in attendance and when I did they were not actually checking or cleaning inside each cubicle, rather they seemed to be spending far too much time folding small (unnecessary) cloth hand towels into neat little rolls just to be used once and then invariably discarded by inconsiderate guests into the wrong container after use! Consequently it was hit or miss whether you'd find a quick 'visit' either a pleasant or cringe-worthy experience. Sadly, 5 star cruises do not guarantee 5 star guests and the state some selfish people leave the facilities in after use simply beggars belief. Also, I did not initially find the toilet in our stateroom cleaned to my standards (there was that unpleasant odour emitting from the hidden areas that gave it away). Fortunately I always pack anti-bacterial toilet cleaning wipes which I'd prefer not to have to roll my sleeves up and use (well I am on holiday!) but as I was to be using the loo for 10 days I was glad I'd packed them. Rightly or wrongly I am always reluctant to make a fuss about such things as I don't want any repercussions, hence I don't tend to alert housekeeping...I just do it myself my way...it's easier! Something that regularly niggled us was being constantly surrounded by uncleared tables...also plates, tumblers, cocktail glasses and cutlery left either sitting on the end of or under sunbeds or anywhere else the inconsiderate guest decided to abandon it. Sometimes tumblers of drinks had spilled over on the outside deck areas and were left sitting in sticky, spreading puddles which guests (and crew!) simply stepped over! This happened all over the ship but mainly around the pool areas. We found this sadly lowered the tone of the ship's elegance. Some guests seem to have the attitude that it's not up to them to take their wine glass back out of the theatre or to place their empty water bottle in the nearest bin rather than on the carpet against a wall but as I said before about 5 star cruising and the guests etc....following on from that, we did feel the crew also tended to overlook such clutter and we constantly observed them (whatever their status) casually walk past the same 'mess' several times seemingly oblivious to the fact it was unsightly. I felt this general lack of care just served to encourage more of the same mess to accumulate. Quite often I would often clear things away myself for my own convenience. This was also a frequent problem I found in the O'view Cafe. Finding someone to clear or wipe down a table at busy times was sometimes just too time-consuming (especially with your plate of food going cold!) so once you secured a table it was easier to simply move used stuff yourself onto another table that was already piled up waiting to be cleared! Other areas of concern we observed were the food and drink splashes that had collected on the full length windows in the O'view Cafe coupled with general grime accumulating on the lower ledge of the window...not pleasant to observe whilst eating and trying to admire the view of a new port! I never saw anyone cleaning the inside windows and the outsides were 'cleaned' by a spray machine on one of the days but then left to dry naturally resulting in unsightly watermarks! The bench seats in the O'view Cafe were really past their use by date...very grubby and food stained to the point I wouldn't sit on them unless I placed a serviette down first! Certainly not of a 5 star standard in fact I would expect better seating in my local McD's! The same can also be said of the sofas in the Library....well overdue for a good clean or replacement! Carpets in the O'view Cafe were quite often covered in crumbs and food remains and I personally felt a quick passing of a simple carpet sweeper would make a huge difference in-between the thorough daily vacuuming. The sunbeds: Plenty available but crammed in without any gaps in-between, definitely designed for keeping sardines at sea where they belong! They are covered in a navy blue fabric, some of which are inevitably looking faded and worn after several months use. We had a couple of impromptu rain showers which just left the covers soaked and unusable until the sun dried them again! A major design faux pas I fear! Also, some guests had no qualms about sitting on the sunbeds with their shoes on leaving unpleasant dirty marks on them. One totally selfish (ignorant?) girl was even standing on a sunbed in high heels trying to get a good photo!!! Padded wipe-clean plastic beds would have been so much more practical, more durable and would look nicer for much longer . Towels: Cabin towels were lovely...white, fluffy and very clean (even by my standards!) I felt they were replaced unnecessarily often even when placed on the rails for re-use as they suggest. I don't mind using mine twice but generally they were swiftly whipped away for replacement wherever you left them! Pool towels (pale blue) on the other hand were very hit and miss. Always available whatever time of day on a help yourself basis which unfortunately proved not to be ideal as it wasn't therefore possible to regulate their usage. Consequently we felt that many more towels were used each day than was really necessary. This method also didn't require towels to be returned to a central area and many were simply abandoned by selfish guests (yes, they are sadly everywhere onboard!) after use on sunbeds giving the impression the bed was 'reserved'. When collecting my daily towels I found I had to sort through the supply to find acceptable ones as some were simply too disgusting (stained and grubby) and I even doubted whether some had been washed at all! Unlike the cabin towels they never had a fresh or clean smell to them. The beach towels (pale yellow) were far too chunky and large to carry around on island trips so we opted to take the lighter-weight pool towels with us instead. Kids: Fortunately not too many on our cruise as we chose to go during term-time but the few we encountered were particularly irritating. One particular group of 4 young girls would often be seen playing in the lifts (mucking up the glass with noses and hands) or on the outside decks flicking spoons of ice-cream around and throwing jelly sweets at each other whilst running around shrieking loudly. I would have shaken my head in disbelief at their parents....but not surprisingly we never saw them with them of course! Some kids had been given the task via the kids club to approach the guests and collect 'jokes' or ask where we were from etc. One would have assumed they would have been encouraged to be courteous when doing so but they had obviously forgotten to brief them on that bit ;-) Our stateroom: There is much talk of these 5 amazing well travelled women who designed the cabins....hhhhm. I somehow feel they must have lost their blueprints at the last moment. We found the general design to be awful. Given the limited space available to play with, the worst thing they did was cram in an unnecessarily long cream leather-look boxy sofa which just happens to be rock hard, bolt-upright and most uncomfortable! Completely surplus to requirement too! 1 or 2 comfy fabric chairs would have been much more practical. We sat on the bed mostly which is what most people in hotel rooms do anyway! Our huge cream vinyl sofa had 2 large unsightly dark blue stains on it which is the very first thing we noticed upon entering our cabin. We immediately moved the central coffee table out of the way to the space under the dressing table. We didn't have need for it once and it was just in the way in the narrow room. The fabric cushions placed upon the sofa smelled very unpleasant and musty and the 2 smaller ones that were placed on the bed (against our pillows, yukk!) got thrown straight into a corner each day for the same reason! On the first day we left the balcony doors wide open while we went exploring the ship as we felt the room was in need of a good airing. The quilt cover was not changed for the duration of the cruise (I got a small lipstick mark on it the first day which was still there the day we vacated!) The bottom sheet and dividing sheet were changed just once half way through. The wardrobe was the most annoying thing to use on a daily basis. It was practically inaccessible because of the large sofa leaving little room to get into it and the sliding doors were stiff and didn't open fully. Twice I painfully caught my finger in the handle because of the bad design. Not a relaxing way to ready of an evening! There was a lot of wasted space that could easily have been better utilised such as the solid piece of fascia under the huge sofa. This could have housed a large drawer for shoes or the beach towels. Any hooks (and these were an absolute minimum) were placed so high there was no way I could reach them (I'm a fairly short but not a dwarf at 5 foot 2 inches). All I can assume is that those 5 women must have all been at least 5 foot 8 inches! There is a shaver socket in the bathroom that is literally inaccessible to anyone shorter than medium height! Any swimwear has to be carefully washed in the miniscule basin and then hung on the 2 mega-high short pegs within the shower.....that's it....any other washing is simply out of the question! There is space for a much bigger basin so why not have put one there? There is a big void beneath the basin which could have housed more valuable storage. And for some reason the mixer tap on the tiny basin is HUGE! Simply washing one's face can cause a major flood and could give you a black eye into the bargain if you're not really careful! And as for the gimmicky steam proof mirror.....errr...it really doesn't work! Constant intrusiveness: Equinox is a friendly ship, no doubt. But around half a dozen daily visits to your room from the cabin stewards is just not necessary. Even the 'do not disturb' sign on the door does not guarantee complete privacy. We became paranoid about the constant visits and often had to jump back into the bathroom to save our embarrassment each the door handle was rattled! Sometimes we even found our very pleasant cabin steward patiently waiting against the wall outside our cabin for us to go to dinner so he could come in and clean the shower yet again, replace the towels, turn down the corners of our quilt, place 2 totally unnecessary chocolates on our pillows etc (we collected them to take home to our chocaholic son so I didn't really mind that!!!) These constant visits are just annoying and simply not necessary and this is where I feel the standard of cleanliness around the ship is unbalanced. The cabin stewards on our deck had a little 'code' that they would use where they would place tiny rolled up pieces of paper in the door jamb so they could tell if you were in/out/had been back/had not been back etc etc. We figured this out after just a couple of days ( I'm the type that would notice tiny bits of litter on the floor!) and sometimes we teasingly played them at their game by putting the rolled up paper back as we left our room! The same irritating attentiveness is to be found in the Silhouette dining room. The constant interruption such as 'is everything ok with your food sir/madam' and the routine reading out of the whole menu (usually off my menu from over my shoulder!) is again unnecessary and annoying. It was hard to pay attention when all you wanted to do was enjoy perusing the menu at leisure for yourself and then just enjoy your meal in peace! On a plus note, we just happened to mention one evening to the maitre d' that we preferred longer breaks between courses and commendably he remembered this and from that evening onwards he saw to it that we got our wish which was a nice touch. If you get a bit too familiar with some of the waiters you do end up having to hear all their gripes about working for Celebrity which can be tiresome. Mostly they are all lovely (they have to be, it seems to be the main Equinox rule) so we didn't really mind....unless we were trying hard to get away in a hurry for a show which incidentally all start exactly on time! Nominal fee applies: This is probably one of the things that irritated us most. It is a phrase that you will see onboard a lot...it appears frequently amongst the list of daily activities, in the additional cafes and the bistro, for ice-cream other than from the O'view cafe, some TV films, some exercise classes, for fresh fruit juice in the O'view cafe...the list goes on. It seemed inconsistent and frankly penny-pinching. Worst of all it wasn't always clear whether there was an additional charge for some things or not and it's embarrassing to have to ask before deciding whether it's necessarily worth paying for! We thought the most disappointing additional fee was for the afternoon tea. On Princess cruises this was included in the price and was beautifully done. On Celebrity the cost was unreasonably high in our opinion (can't recall the cost exactly but it was well over £20 each and it wasn't stated anywhere so you did have to ask!) Needless to say we gave it a miss! The least enjoyable form of entertainment in our opinion was the daily pool-side singing group called Top Notch. Cringingly amateurish and boringly samey out of tune songs day after day. When they started up each afternoon we would use this as a 'time to move on' excuse! Quite honestly we were intrigued at how they managed to secure such a coveted position of resident band on a Celebrity cruise ship! I am sure I will remember many more things I wish I'd mentioned in my review but I hope that I have been helpful to prospective cruisers on this ship. Overall we had an amazing time and we would definitely recommend the Celebrity Equinox. I realise I am in the minority in expecting very high standards of cleanliness and tidiness so unless you feel you are even more picky about such things than me, then GO, you will definitely enjoy it!!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
We have sailed out of the NYC and Bayonne, NJ area before. However sailing out on the river on the Crystal Symphony at night with all the NY skyscrapers twinkling their lights made it magical. We were at dinner and mentioned this to the ... Read More
We have sailed out of the NYC and Bayonne, NJ area before. However sailing out on the river on the Crystal Symphony at night with all the NY skyscrapers twinkling their lights made it magical. We were at dinner and mentioned this to the couple sitting next to us and how right we were. We live just over an hour from the port so we decided on using a car service to get us to NY. Embarkation was quick and easy and we had friends and family come join us for lunch on sail away day. We took them on a tour of the ship, lunched and laughed at the luggage we had. We usually travel in a room with a little more square footage, but we were able to stash all our luggage out of sight and felt very comfortable in the stateroom. The elevator was just a few steps from our stateroom door and we were never bothered by any noise. What amazed us was the attention to detail that could be seen all over the ship, by the second day we knew we wanted to sail with this company again. We met many first time Crystal Cruisers who voiced the same opinion. We had main seating for dinner and we like to eat around this time at home. The food was consistently good along with exceptional service from both our senior and assistant waiters. We enjoyed all the special buffets including the Gala. We met many friendly people. Somehow we always meet great people when we sail and have made life-long friends. We/I enjoyed water color painting classes, money folding, several lectures, computer classes,and trivia our team won once. I did take a peek at the final digital film making class where passengers had taken videos and produced an excellent video under the video instructor. There was always something to do. We are retired so we can not hang out late at night so we missed some of those activities that went on late in the evening such as dancing and listening to music. I took in a movie and just about every stage show all being superb. The morning television show with the cruise director is one of the best I have seen on the ships we have sailed. His show was full of information, not just chatter to fill up the time. He profiled guest speakers, entertainers, chefs and more. The CD always gave port information and what to expect the next day. You never had to guess what you needed to do. We took several ship excursions. The first was in Bermuda and the next in Aruba. We are not beach people so we try to go out and see what life is like were we visit. Grand Cayman was a new port for us we usually do not use other than ship tours but we choose to use another company and enjoyed our tour. I had read about the excellent service that Crystal Cruises presents on Cruise Critic and I was not disappointed. It was exceptional from the time we walked into the terminal,then stepped on the ship till our welcome back home as we were welcomed back by Crystal uniformed smiling faces. This return to MI was the quickest and easiest disembarkation ever. Our stewardess,the Lido Deck Crew, dining staff all were the best. There is so much more that I could say about this sailing but I would be typing until the next cruise. We are retired and enjoy sailing. Will we sail other lines again yes. Will we sail Crystal again, most certainly. My suggestion is to try Crystal Cruises. I feel that everyone deserves to share this wonderful experience. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Prior to our Silversea cruise, I studied the brochure carefully and compared the comments in all of the usual cruise ship authoritative guides and read all of the comments on Cruise Critic. I could not understand why there were so few ... Read More
Prior to our Silversea cruise, I studied the brochure carefully and compared the comments in all of the usual cruise ship authoritative guides and read all of the comments on Cruise Critic. I could not understand why there were so few positive reviews of Silversea, considering its lofty status as a 6 star luxury experience. Having spent 15 days travelling from Lisbon to Barbados, I now know why. Boarding in Lisbon was a pleasant and efficient experience. However, I admit that I was surprised that elderly passengers were required to navigate a very steep and slightly swaying gangway from the dock up three decks to the embarkation lobby. Most ships have a dock-level embarkation lobby where there is no jet way. While in Rio in February we docked in front of Silver Spirit, and I was surprised to notice the same thing on the newest ship. Silver Cloud was, I thought, in very nice condition for a 17 year old ship. Our suite number 445, was exactly as pictured and we really loved having a butler. He always kept our refrigerator stocked with chardonnay and champagne. Kudos to Silversea for the Food Channel and Lyn Farmer on the wine channel. I also liked the bridge cam showing the pool deck from time to time. Unfortunately, unknown to us, suite 445 is directly opposite the crew's emergency exit from the galley. While night cleaning, excessively loud music emanated from the galley into our cabin and on two occasions I had to knock loudly on the galley door to ask them to keep the noise down, which they immediately did. Also, suite 445 is directly above some machinery that came on and off, to grind or discharge material. Very annoying while trying to sleep! The Guest Relations Manager did say they were aware of the problem and offered to relocate us a few cabins away, but as we were already four days into the cruise, my wife declined his kind offer. We were fortunate to have three lecturers, two of whom were exceptionally good, Professor Buczacki and Captain William Wells. Silversea used the crossing to try out its new entertainment format. Gone are the sets, dancers and so on, replaced by a group of very fine singers. The Night Opera was the most enthusiastically received of the shows, and the other three shows were also very enjoyable. We preferred this new entertainment format. The restaurant was beautiful and the long tapered candles used on formal nights made it especially romantic. The restaurant manager, Jorge Caeiro, is a gem, and was a highlight of the crossing. He runs it as if it is his personal restaurant, escorting all of the ladies to the tables each evening. He always found time to stop and chat with us every time we met, anywhere on the ship. Unfortunately, the Christofle silver referred to in all of the books is now gone, replaced by stainless steel cutlery. The knives that sit on their sides are a poor choice, continually turning over on the plates. Not having to polish silver is obviously a cost-cutting measure, but one that tarnishes the ambiance of the dining experience. Breakfast was always a pleasant affair, having been set up in the suite by our butler. I especially liked the his and hers breakfast menus. On a less positive note, in my opinion, the ship is not very Italian. The only Italian crew members we met were the Captain and the Cruise Consultant. This is not to say that other staff and crew were not helpful. Our sommelier was excellent, the Hotel Director, Guest Relations Manager, International Hostess and Judie Abbott, the fabulously memorable Cruise Director, were all incredible. However, there was not a single Italian wait staff in La Terrazza. We went once in fifteen days and were served passable Italian food by a non-Italian waiter. The food was not good enough to warrant a return visit and the ambiance, being anything but Italian, certainly did nothing to compensate. The complimentary wines were usually excellent. There were approximately seventy. It was always possible to ask for another if we did not prefer either of the wines offered at lunch, or the alternatives offered at dinner Turning to the cuisine, this was a major disappointment for us. It was good but in my opinion, no better than Oceania or even Celebrity. Caviar appeared only once, perhaps a quarter of an ounce. After that it was $350.00 for a one and a half ounce serving! Surprisingly, all of the ice cream is purchased ashore, and was of poor quality. We had expected birds, such as deboned quail, pheasant, partridge, emu, and so on, but they never appeared. Just chicken, turkey and duck. Lobster appeared once. The pool grill served only the usual burgers, hotdogs and fries. The luncheon buffet at La Terrazza was the same every day. The same smoked fish, the same sushi, and the same salad greens in exactly the same location. The sole variation in fifteen days was that a different roast would be served at the carvery. As for noise in the restaurant, never had we heard so many plates, cutlery and serving dishes dropped in a ship's restaurant. And never so much cutlery thrown into bins at serving stations. On one occasion we even had to request to be moved away from the serving station. We enjoy dining outside in the evening. On Seabourn, Oceania and Azamara, etc., this is not a problem. Not so on Silversea. We were advised that the verandah of La Terrazza is not available in the evening. How unfortunate not to see the moon on the wake crossing the Atlantic. However, the worst was yet to come. Dining in Le Champagne was a disaster. Imagine $400.00 for two persons for a five course dinner with wine, that was only marginally better than the restaurant food! It is an antechamber to the restaurant and totally lacking any sense of occasion. When I made the reservation, I advised that my wife did not drink red wine. It was the Burgundy Dinner. There was a Champagne, a Chablis then two reds. I was assured that my request for any white wine for my wife would be no problem and my wife would be offered two delicious whites in lieu of the two reds. The first problem came when the reds were definitely off taste, having begun to maderize. The Head Waiter, Fred, had the temerity to argue with us to the point where my wife became embarrassed. We have lived in Paris for over a year and know our wines. He refused to offer any alternatives. When I reminded him that my wife was to have two additional white wines in place of the reds, he poured her more of the Chablis. When I requested a second glass, he told me the Chablis was all gone. When I then asked him to open another bottle, he refused and would not open any alternative whites for her. So for $200.00, my wife received one glass of champagne, a glass of chablis and a dinner that she had already paid for in the restaurant. With coffee, the Head Waiter offered a Marc de Bourgogne which was on the menu. I explained that neither of us liked it. There was a serving cart in the room with over forty different complimentary after dinner drinks. I then requested a Martell cognac and he explained that he would see if there was any. I replied that it is sitting on the serving cart across the room and he should know what is available in his restaurant. We were disappointed in our experience and to be truthful, felt ripped off by Silversea as a result of this episode. This whole experience needs to be seriously reworked by Silversea. Anyone attending from Relais et Chateau should have been very embarrassed. I requested a meeting with the Hotel Director, Mr. Huber, the following morning at 10 a.m. to discuss our experience in le Champagne. He patiently listened, and then offered a complimentary dinner at Le Champagne, which, of course, we politely declined. A complimentary bottle of Dom Perignon was then offered for dinner that evening. Our next serious disappointment occurred half-way across the Atlantic. The air conditioning in our suite was practically extinct. An engineer came and said they would make some adjustments. Three days before arriving in Antigua, it failed completely and our suite was 88 degrees. I asked for a fan and Guest Relations told me there weren't any, but somehow one materialized the following day. Then the air conditioning ceased operating in the galley and half of the restaurant. The Galley Buffet lunch was cancelled. Then the restaurant became so uncomfortable that the waiters stopped wearing jackets and ties and the last formal night had to be cancelled. Using a thermometer, the temperature in our cabin ranged between 88 and 96 degrees for the remainder of the cruise. After two showers it was unbearably humid and made sleeping almost impossible. Supposedly one of the great advantages of travelling on a small ship is to have fewer on excursions. However 3 of our 5 shore tours were abruptly cancelled the evening before due to lack of participation. Apparently Silversea requires 15 passengers or cancels. With the prices being charged, one would think they should operate even if fewer sign up. We would never consider travelling the Silver Cloud again until it receives the type of makeover given to the Silver Wind a few years ago. It obviously has serious problems. In addition to the air conditioning issues described, a pipe in the ceiling in the internet centre burst and water poured down onto us while we worked online. It took fifteen minutes, after giving notification to Guest Relations, for anyone to bother to come and look at the problem. These comments were sent to our travel agent, and to the Director of Guest Relations for Silversea in Fort Lauderdale. Eight months have now passed without a reply, or even an acknowledgment of receipt . This may help to explain the less than stellar reviews for Silversea. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
I just enjoyed the Nov 12 sailing of the Celebrity Summit from San Juan. It was a 7 night cruise that stopped in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. We arrived at the terminal at 1:30pm and the flow was very ... Read More
I just enjoyed the Nov 12 sailing of the Celebrity Summit from San Juan. It was a 7 night cruise that stopped in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. We arrived at the terminal at 1:30pm and the flow was very smooth through the luggage and arrival lines. We were quickly on the ship. Our luggage arrived prior to 5pm. John, our Stateroom attendant and his assistant Luis took excellent care of us during our stay. They were gracious and accommodating with all requests. We stayed in the Concierge Staterooms which provided welcome champagne, fresh flowers and evening hors d'oeuvres. These were very nice touches. Also, there was quite a lot of cupboard space. We both had more than enough room to store all of our items for our 7 day adventure. We were fortunate to meet Sasha, the Maitre D'hotel for the 5th floor of the Cosmopolitan Restaurant and he accommodated our special requests for our evening dining. Sasha was very gracious and flexible to our needs. We appreciated his nightly recommendations for the stops for the following day port locations. He is a true professional and the Summit is lucky to have him. Our server Roldan and his assistant Diego provided excellent service each night as well. Head waiter Edward was very outgoing and oversaw the Aqua Spa Healthy Choices area. He went out of his way to take care of special lunch requests for us during our trip. The overall service from the staff was very detail oriented and friendly. Every member that I came in contact with smiled and greeted me professionally with a "good morning/afternoon or evening". My travel companion and I took advantage of the "Perfect Day" spa packages offered for a port day and enjoyed the services very much. I also had a manicure done by Tandy at the spa and she did an excellent job. She was very friendly and gracious. We did a tour of the Persian Garden amenities and were very impressed with these additional options. The Fitness area was well kept and the machines were very clean. There were many choices of activities and health sessions available to guests. The evening entertainment was very good. I enjoyed the cast member productions the most. The cast members were very good, especially the vocalists. Damian, the Cruise Director had a great sense of humor and his interaction with Matt on the daily in room video was a source of entertainment. The many events for dance competitions, vocal competitions were a great his as well. Shopping is always a treat in the shops on the ship. It was a great area to wander through prior to or after dinner if we had a few minutes. Good variety of items with a wide range of prices. I was sad to see my trip come to a conclusion; however I can't wait to book another cruise so that I have another adventure to look forward to. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We have traveled on HAL in the past to the Panama Canal and it was fabulous. I will just list the disappoints on Noordam; which we will not be traveling again on anytime soon. 1. I asked for an ashtray 4 times didn't get one so used ... Read More
We have traveled on HAL in the past to the Panama Canal and it was fabulous. I will just list the disappoints on Noordam; which we will not be traveling again on anytime soon. 1. I asked for an ashtray 4 times didn't get one so used a glass; then I finally got one. 2. No ice in the ice bucket the 1st night. 3. Both night stands had saltine crackers, Splenda and SweetnLow in them (UCK) 4. Pinacle Bar;ordered 2 drinks; wanted another 2 and too busy to get to us; we left. 5. Wine steward didn't take drink orders unless you were ordering wine and then he paid close attention to you. We did finally get a couple of drinks one night,he forgot to charge our card; we told him the next night and instead of apologizing he asked for our card; his mistake; should not have taken card (in my opinion). 6. Our safe failed 4 times; 1st and 2nd time reset, 3rd time new batteries and 4th reset. We have used the same code for 10 years; so I know it wasn't us. Frustrating when it's a formal night and you can't get to your belongings. 7. Toilet backed up @ 5:30 a.m., and was told the plumber would be out to fix @ 8:00 a.m., not good enough; finally someone came (probable around 6:00 a.m.) 8. We spoke with some other cruisers who were just as disappointed; mainly with the staff. Their attitudes and personalities were just not up to par. 9. The poolside bar in the back of ship was the worse. Smiles actually did appear on their faces on the last day of the cruise. Was hard to get service, it was like they were ignoring you; yet another disappointment. 10. I have to say the best crew member on the Noordam was Roman in the Sport's Bar; every night we showed up, he had our drinks, was kind, talked with us and it was just pleasant. That is how cruising should be. They may be overworked, but we are still the customers. 11. The tours were fantastic; I was a little upset when going to Grand Turk only to find out the Catamaran cruise was canceled; it was canceled because there were not enough people to go; and things like that happen. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We cruised Alaska with Silversea in 2010 on Silver Shadow but this was our first time in the Caribbean and on Silver Spirit. On arrival at Miami Airport we collected our luggage and just outside the baggage hall the Silversea ... Read More
We cruised Alaska with Silversea in 2010 on Silver Shadow but this was our first time in the Caribbean and on Silver Spirit. On arrival at Miami Airport we collected our luggage and just outside the baggage hall the Silversea representatives met us and took our luggage. We boarded the mini bus for the 45 minute transfer to the Silversea pre-cruise hotel which was the Hyatt Regency Pier 66. The transfer was handled well and we arrived at the hotel very quickly. The Pre-cruise hotel was however not so good and poor value for the cost. This is reviewed in more detail on Trip Advisor. The following day the 13.00 transfer to the ship (10 mins maximum) was also smooth and as we passed the long time of people standing in the hot sunshine waiting to board the Holland America ship we started to get a bit apprehensive. No need, as we were dropped off in a covered area and swiftly went through customs after filling in a short health form. Next we went up to a desk and picked up our suite "keys" and were then straight onto the ship - less than 30 minutes after leaving the hotel. A glass of champagne waited in reception for us and then a quick photograph for the security card/ suite key and we were all done. We were informed that our suite would not be ready until 14.30 so off we went to La Terrazza for some lunch. We went along to our suite at 14.40 and it was all ready but there was no sign of our butler (we later learned that they have a break in the middle of the day) so we unpacked ourselves to avoid the clothes being even more creased. This I guess is the down side of being allowed to board early but it was nice to get on the ship and get settled before we left port. We also used the time in the restaurant to book tables for later in the cruise at La Terrazza and "Hot Rocks". The ship itself has some good points and some bad points. For a relatively new ship there are some quality issues which you wouldn't expect to find. The chairs in the dining areas are already showing signs of wear with chips on the wooden handles and some of the seats on deck had nasty stains on the cushions. Some of the deck areas are covered in an "imitation" deck covering which is some sort of plastic coating but it is not non slip and there are signs all around warning that it may become slippery when wet. We didn't find it too slippery but it does look very cheap and nasty. There are however some "bumps" on the deck which do catch you out from time to time. On this warm weather cruise the walking/jogging area became clogged up with sun loungers and we didn't enjoy walking our usual few miles to burn up the calories quite so much as on other cruises. The "bar" on deck 5 is a nice area to meet for pre and post dinner drinks and is a good size. The tables in La Terrazza however are so close together that getting to a window table is difficult. The tables in the main dining area are much better spaced. We tried the "hot Rocks" dining one night but it is a bit of a novelty and who wants to cook their own food when on holiday? There seemed to be lots of room on the ship but there were only around 340 passengers. Our suite was clean and tidy but I don't think that our choice of Hypo-allergenic pillows had been picked up from the guest information forms we filled in on line (my birthday was missed on our cruise last year as well). We asked the butler to check and they were provided before retiring for the night. The cabin does appear narrow at first as others have commented on but we never really found this to be a problem. It does mean that some of the cupboards are so narrow as to be useless but there is plenty of other storage space. We did find the washbowl a bit shallow and if the tap is turned on a bit too hard water does splash over the mirror. The tap is also a bit fiddly and in our suite you had to push the handle down to turn the water on. There is also only one bowl where some ships have two. The shower and bath worked well but we did have a bit of a smell in the toilet at some stages of our trip - it was not particularly bad and seemed to come and go. The major problem we had on our first night on the way from Fort Lauderdale to BVI was the noise and vibration in the suite. The sea was quite rough with a sizeable swell but the balcony door rattled, the wardrobe door rattled and various other bits of the cabin joined in for good measure. On the way back from Prince Rupert to San Francisco on our previous cruise on Silver Shadow the sea was much rougher but we never had a problems with our suite. Also we don't tend to suffer from sea sickness but we didn't feel too good after our first night and the following day we had a light breakfast and lunch and went to bed at 17.00. We complained about our cabin and two maintenance men spent over an hour on the suite door and then pronounced that they couldn't fix it. We were offered the use of another cabin on deck 6 (we were on deck 8) which we didn't like so much but we slept there for two nights whilst we were at sea and until the sea calmed down a bit. This avoided us having to pack and unpack again to move cabin. I managed to fix the balcony door with aid of a flannel from the bathroom wedged under the outside runner of the door to make sure the catches engaged properly when closed. The table on the balcony was falling apart and it wouldn't even take a drink. This was replaced by a better one but it still had sharp pieces sticking out of the side and needed replacing. We were advised that they were all the same. The wooden decking on the balcony rocked as you walked on it and the other end rose up by almost 1 inch. This couldn't be repaired either as it was caused by a bulge in the metal of the deck according to the maintenance staff. By this stage I was wishing I had packed my tool bag as I am sure I could fix it! The aircon also seemed to be a bit dodgy and sometimes in the middle of the night we would wake up as the room had got too hot. The control unit was only partly secured to the wall and this was reported by the butler but never fixed before we left the ship. The TV remote control sensor is located below the mirrors and just above a couple of useful shelves but if you place anything on the shelf it blocks the sensor and you can't operate the TV. Poor design. We felt that the food quality and choice at breakfast and lunch was not as good as last year but still ok. Most of the fruit at breakfast seemed to be tinned which is surprising given we were between Florida and the Caribbean. The eggs were freshly cooked as usual but at 07.00 when we had breakfast most mornings the other "hot" items were not as hot as they should have been. The hash browns were over cooked virtually every day and disintegrated when a fork was applied. The coffee and orange juice were very good however. The dinner choice was good and the quality fine. The menu had quite a lot of fish dishes reflecting the local produce but the steaks were always an option and superb (you must try the Black Angus steak). The complimentary wine (and champagne) was in my opinion poor except for some good Italian and New Zealand white bottles mainly served at lunchtime. On our previous cruise with Silversea when we asked for something else we always found a good alternative. On this cruise the alternatives offered were also on the whole poor and the wine waiter staff did not seem to know what was available in the their cellar. We never saw the head sommelier during the trip. Screw top bottles of Cote De Rhone are not really 6 star cruising? The staff were on the whole quite good and friendly especially the butlers and room maids but some of the European restaurant staff had a very abrupt manner which was a bit disconcerting. Our butler called us by name but virtually no other staff asked our name or used it. On our previous Silversea cruise the restaurant staff knew us by name within a couple of days. There seemed to be just something missing this time and perhaps it was the very officious Maitre d' who certainly kept the staff on their toes. The "senior" staff (captain, Chief Engineer etc) were not very visible either in the restaurants or public areas but perhaps we just missed them. Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation and the colour coding system for our luggage and getting off worked well. We were off the ship by 09.30 having had to vacate the cabin by 08.00 making use of the bar to wait. On our previous cruise we were "abandoned" by Silversea at San Francisco airport at around 11.00 for a 17.30 flight which we knew to be around 5 hours late thanks to a text from BA. The ship had been chartered for the next week leaving ASAP and so remaining on the ship was not an option. On this cruise we were offered a "complimentary" excursion which lasted 6.5 hours and included lunch dropping us off at the airport only 3 hours from our scheduled departure - much better! This was offered as an excursion ($139 if pre booked) on the list we received but we did not take it up thankfully. We took 5 Tours (including the complimentary one in Barbados) mainly because we had $500 shipboard credit. None of them looked very inspiring I have to say unless you like beaches or snorkelling. The tour in Antigua (overview) turned out to be really good but that was down to the fantastic tour guide we had on the bus. We spoke to others who did the same trip and they didn't enjoy it. I guess the Caribbean islands do not have that much to see on tours. I would recommend that you do NOT book the Seven Sisters waterfalls tour on Grenada unless you want to spend an hour on a botany lesson about the vegetation on the island, and another couple of hours slithering up and down a steep muddy slope to see a couple of fairly poor waterfalls (the other 5 are so small that it is not worth the effort to climb up to see them). On the way back there is a group of guys who charge you $1 to clean your shoes before you are allowed to board the bus. The tour guides put on a pair of wellies before they set out which was very wise but not an option for us. The cruise Itinerary gave us a good flavour of the Caribbean visiting 7 different islands but I have to say they are all remarkably similar and apart from the sunshine and beaches they are not very interesting. They are all becoming very dependent on tourism and in places like Castries you have to run the gauntlet of taxi drivers just to walk out of the port, many of whom I am sure are not licensed. It was nice to see the Caribbean but it is not for us Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Spirit of the Caribbean For several reasons, not least a highly attractive price, we booked back-to-back cruises 5135 and 5136 on SilverSea's Silver Spirit. The itineraries were both of 9 nights duration and were part of a season ... Read More
Spirit of the Caribbean For several reasons, not least a highly attractive price, we booked back-to-back cruises 5135 and 5136 on SilverSea's Silver Spirit. The itineraries were both of 9 nights duration and were part of a season which saw the ship sailing between Barbados and Fort Lauderdale for a couple of months during November and December 2011. The Spirit has something of a mixed reputation with past passengers; some love it, whilst others won't return to her. It is the biggest and newest of the SilverSea fleet, and has a normal (not all berths in cabins where more than 2 can be accommodated) capacity of 500. This is over 100 or 200 more than the other ships in the fleet. One of the features of a SilverSea cruise is that the crew make an effort early on to learn your name and we wondered whether this would hold good on our 2 cruises, where there were 473 and 406 respectively on board. We followed our usual practice and arrived in Barbados the day prior to embarkation, in case our luggage did not keep up with us; fortunately, it did. We stayed at the Hilton Barbados (see review on Trip Advisor) and made our way to the port around 13.00. Only Emerald Princess was in port in addition to the Spirit and there was no congestion, with registration being immediate. Our cases were piled with others into a lorry and one was damaged by the time it arrived in our cabin, though fortunately, it was repaired by the ship's upholsterer. After leaving our hand cases in our cabin -- 914 -- we went for a light lunch on the open deck area of the Terrace Cafe, then did our customary ship's familiarisation tour, as we had not previously sailed on her. The condition of the Spirit was excellent. Our lifestyle preference is to have a cabin on pool deck and this influenced our choice of 914, the furthest mid-ship accommodation available for both cruises when we booked. The open deck space around the pool appeared no bigger than on the smaller ships, whilst the pool itself was arguably not as big, a potential issue on sea days when the ship is full. The pool deck attendants were always willing to find, and set up loungers on request. We invariably lunched alfresco around the pool and Bas, the chef, cooked excellent fish to order. The rum & raisin ice cream benefited from a shot of dark rum from the pool bar! The Observation Lounge proved to be an under-used bar both pre- and post-dinner. In fact, it was not unusual after dinner for us to be the only ones there. Sunny made the best pina colada on the ship by adding a shot of dark rum. We were told that the absence of toilet facilities in the lounge would be remedied during the next dry dock, with conversion of the Deck 11 laundrette being the most likely solution. The Panorama Lounge, Terrace Cafe, Theatre, Dining Room and La Champagne speciality dining venues are essentially similar to the equivalent facilities on other SilverSea ships and can thus pass without general remark. One irritant is the requirement that cooked food to order at breakfast in the Terrace Cafe must be via a waiter, rather than direct to the chef. Unique in the SilverSea fleet, the ship has a Japanese dining venue Sieshin, and what is called, the Stars Supper Club. In the latter, a set tapas menu is served to the accompaniment of a light jazz singer and pianist, the entertainers being first class. Overall, the food on board was very good. When we placed pre-orders off-menu at dinner, these were always excellent. We dislike the SilverSea practice of using vegetables purely as a garnish to a plate of meat or fish and ordered extra vegetables, well cooked, which invariably also proved popular with others at our table. Our dinner wine preferences were always accommodated from the table wines onboard. Service at all meals was virtually faultless, a marked change from our experience on Silver Shadow in March. The occasional breakfast in the dining room always found it virtually deserted but the menu choices here added variety to this meal. The main bar, unlike on other SilverSea ships, is, effectively, a corridor on Deck 5. It lacks ambiance and atmosphere at any time of the day, from light breakfast through to post-dinner and is a design error. Our cabin, 914, was a Midship Veranda. As such, it was a typical Silversea arrangement, with large balcony, seating/dining space with a writing desk and drinks/fridge facility, bedroom and walk-in wardrobe with safe. It is, however, somewhat narrower than cabins on other SilverSea ships and, most irritatingly, the dressing table is too narrow, as is the gap between this and the bed. By contrast, the bathroom has an excellent size of bath and a separate rain shower enclosure, which was brilliant. We rarely patronise the spa but it was certainly an extensive facility, though the gym was small and had only basic equipment in addition to the usual cardio-vascular machines. Interestingly, part of the spa, including a wet area (a Hammam) with heated tiled beds, were accessible only on payment of a fee, either on a daily basis, or for the duration of the cruise. Aside from the jazz entertainers already mentioned, we watched all the shows in the Theatre and considered the performers to be very good. Unusually for us, (because we are normally in the gym in the late afternoon) we participated in the late afternoon trivia quiz, though there were never more than 3 teams. Susan, the cruise director, hosted this and, as with other entertainment, conducted herself in a style appropriate to a SilverSea ship. The one area of major weakness was the Shore Concierge Desk. Clive, the manager, had been in the same position during our cruise in March on the Shadow, however on the Caribbean sailings we were extremely disappointed with both the Desk's performance and knowledge. All the staff from Clive downwards ranged from the mediocre to the plain useless. Giving just one example, it took days of emails by us to book an excursion in the pre-cruise booklet but not on the tours list onboard. The company offering the trip (on a rib boat in Grenada), had apparently been reserved by SilverSea, but the staff on board seemed oblivious to this, even when the pre-cruise excursion brochure was referred to. Fortunately our persistence paid off, and we did the trip under our own auspices with only two other passengers, who were staying on the island, but it was most annoying and upsetting for the company, which is a husband/wife operation to realise that they had no bookings at all from the Silver Spirit As we feared, the larger size of ship meant the crew did not get to know your name or your usual preferences, unlike on the smaller SilverSea ships. Surprisingly, the sole exception was no less than His Highness, the Hotel Director, and thus the most senior person onboard (after the Captain?). At the cocktail party on the second night, Paulo came over, greeted us by name and remarked that we were on board for the following cruise too. Full marks, Paulo, and the time we spent in your company during the ensuing 16 nights helped to make our cruise. Although quite a number of passengers were combining 2 cruises, most were from North America and doing round-trip Fort Lauderdale. We were only 2 of 11 doing round-trip Barbados. As is now the norm on SilverSea, the passengers were a league of nations. It was most marked in Philipsburg, (St Maarten) where we were docked along with Norwegian Dawn and P&O's Ventura, to see how it was generally possible to judge which passengers were from which ship! The weather was variable. It poured all day in Philipsburg on the day we should have been in nearby St Barts, the relocation being due to predicted poor weather for tendering ashore. Otherwise, the conditions were generally good, though getting lively as we approached and later left Fort Lauderdale. Across the 2 itineraries, only Bequia was duplicated and during our second visit there, we arranged a schooner with others on board, to visit Mustique, a private island, also part of the Grenadines. When we returned to St Martin (Marigot), on the second cruise, whereas many headed for duty-free shopping in Philipsburg across on the Dutch side of the island (St Maarten), we took the regular 25-minute ferry crossing to the British protectorate of Anguilla. This is noted for its beaches, and snorkelling was a regular feature of our port calls on these cruises. Sadly, apart from Mustique and during the boat trip in Grenada, off-the-beach snorkelling was poor because the unsettled weather was churning up the sea close to shore. On Bequia, we got a local cab $US 10 (same price as the water taxi but avoiding a wet landing) to Lower Bay beach. On Dominica, during a 2-day stay in Philipsburg, Antigua and St Lucia, we toured the island on local buses. These are typically 13-seat minibuses, which charge a Government-set fare and largely pick up and drop off as required. Generally, they will not leave their start point until full, which (for our Soufriere to Castries leg on St Lucia) took 75 minutes but might also be as quick as 5 minutes, as it was on our outward leg from Castries to Vieux Fort, in the extreme south of St Lucia. Drivers and fellow passengers were always friendly and helpful and the fares were so cheap compared to taxis or shore excursions. You also experience more of an island's character by travelling this way. Locals always helped us find where we needed to go to catch the bus we wanted. On St Kitts, we booked the highly enjoyable sugar cane train via the ship and this gave a leisurely trundle round most of the island. (Interestingly on initial research for shorexs, we had tried to book this trip independently, only to be told it had to be arranged through the ship. It would appear that many excursion and trip operators will only take bookings via hotels or cruise lines and refer independent travellers to one or other of these. From our experience the ships and hotels add on a significant mark up). The train trip only being three hours, we returned to Basseterre and got the local ferry across to nearby Nevis and went to Pinneys beach, which proved disappointing for snorkelling. Fortunately, we were the only ship in port in Bequia, Dominica, St Kitts, Grand Turk, Tortola, French St Martin and Grenada. This helped take the pressure off local resources, like taxis, notably in Tortola and Grand Turk. In both the latter we took taxis to Smugglers Cove and Pillory Beach (the latter now hosts the Bohio Dive Resort) respectively. To reach the former involves a 10-minute crawl over a pot-holed road on the other side of the island to reach the beach and taxi drivers do not like making this journey, especially if there are easier pickings from a deluge of ship passengers. The visit was well worth it and there is a Government-set fare. Beware in Anguilla. Based on another posting, we walked just over a mile to the beautiful Rendezvous Bay on the report about the hotel there. It closed 2 years ago and, what has not been demolished, is derelict. If you do go, take drinking water and enjoy the pristine sand and sheltered water. Needless to say there are no facilities there. I have never raved about the Caribbean but these 2 cruises, totalling 18 nights, provided a diverse perspective from a traveller's (a more inquisitive person than a sightseer) perspective. Visiting the West Indies on a small ship has very distinct advantages, not least that it is usually possible to "dock" as opposed to "tender", and the itinerary often includes less run of the mill "touristy" islands. We were extremely fortunate that in most of the ports we visited on these two cruises, we were the only ship. In Grand Turk, for example, if there had been another cruise ship docked at Carnival's purported $US 40 million complex, it would have ruined the visit! However a little postscript -- one of the beachside bars, the much vaunted Jacks Shack outside the complex, didn't open -- apparently because there was not "a big ship" in!! Silversea is classed as a "quiet" ship -- hurrah!! The (relatively) small Silver Spirit offered an ideal vessel from many standpoints, notably comfort and amenity. On cruise 5136, two sea days, then 6 ports and disembark, was not particularly relaxing and a sea day before Barbados would have been preferable. However disembarking on a Sunday morning (about 9.30 am) with no other cruise ships in, was a breeze, and it was incredible to see not only a deserted cruise terminal, but also Bridgetown, and our taxi to visit friends took no time at all, prior to our flight later that day. Would we cruise again with Silversea? Silly question really, already booked on the Shadow from Fremantle (WA) to Singapore next February!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
HAL's ms Noordam - November 11, 2011 Pre-Cruise: Our day-before flying day was not without incident. First, an equipment change, then the new plane had a door-closing issue, which was thankfully resolved quickly. When our ... Read More
HAL's ms Noordam - November 11, 2011 Pre-Cruise: Our day-before flying day was not without incident. First, an equipment change, then the new plane had a door-closing issue, which was thankfully resolved quickly. When our first flight finally landed, our second flight was already in the air. From past experience I knew NOT to stand in that endless line of frustrated passengers and simply scanned my boarding pass in a nearby kiosk to get my newly assigned flight. We now had 90 minutes or so, and stopped by TGI Fridays to split an excellent cheeseburger. We were told to be at the gate by 6:00 and were already on the right concourse. At 5:45 we arrived at the gate to find we had a gate change. For those of you familiar with Hartsfield (Atlanta) airport, it's no easy task to get from B29 to E1. My guess is it's about 6 miles and involves two very steep escalators, a train ride and lots of duckin' & dodgin' (and NO people movers). Finally at our gate, we find our plane to have just arrived from Europe and needed various undescribed inspections which take longer than normal... sure, then why be at the gate over an hour too early? Day 1 - Embarkation Day Finally landing in Ft. Lauderdale, we checked in to the La Quinta Hollywood and took the shuttle (yes, at 10:30 pm - bless you, Keith!) to the Oakwood Mall where we usually dine at Red Lobster. It was closed, so we went next door to TGI Fridays and found the food to be awful. You can't win 'em all. The hotel was clean and very comfortable, and offered a continental breakfast. The shuttle service ran at about 10:00 am, so we went back to sleep for a couple of hours and left at noon. We checked in at the pier in a flash, and were in our cabin by 12:30. We lunched on roast beef, mashed potatoes, grilled salmon, jasmine rice, pate & brie, and, of course, our traditional bread pudding, which I must say could have used a little more sugar. Our luggage was all delivered by the time we finished lunch, so we unpacked and Jim took a nap while I ran around like a crazy lady with last-minute party arrangements. After the safety drill, I headed to the spa for the Treatment Raffle. They gave away treatments for fitness, body image, hair, acupuncture and massage. I then donned my ZuiderPrincess crown and an armful of Mardi Gras beads and went to the SailAway party, where I caught up with some members of our CC group. A light drizzle broke up our little party, and I went 'home' where we dressed for the Suite Cocktail Party followed by dinner in the Vista Dining Room. We have table 77, a table for two on the rail on deck 3. Being the first day, the service was a little slow, but we expect the service to improve as they find their rhythm. My fish filet with cilantro-tomato salsa was superb, and Jim's veal with artichoke mushroom ragout & mascarpone polenta was wonderful. We tried the red velvet cake, but were not impressed. While I went to the introductory show, Jim broke in the Hold'em table. Later I hit the dice table, and they were having a special 11-11-11 drawing. While I played, each time I hit an 11 I got a ticket. By the time of the drawing, at 11:11 pm, I had hit 11 elevens, for each of which I got a ticket. I didn't win the drawing, but did get a free drink ticket for the 11 elevens. That brings me back to my cabin where I am sleepily typing this review, all the time watching an Israeli jewelry promotion out of the corner of my eye. Gotta hit the shops tomorrow! Day 2 - Half Moon Cay This morning I threw open the curtains to a drizzly, overcast view of Half Moon Cay. With every intention of enjoying my clamshell on this lovely island, I finished my invitation business, grabbed a lox 'n' bagel breakfast and joined my love when room service was delivered (on time and exactly as ordered). Not knowing if the rain would stop or if the skies would clear, the famous HAL Signature Bedding won me over, and I ended up sleeping until lunchtime. The Main Dining Room being closed, we dined in the Lido again and had some very nice tilapia over rice and smoked spiral ham. Dessert offered some very yummy cinnamon apple cheesecake and cappucino mousse. I must mention that I am so please they made the dessert portions smaller to prevent the awful waste we've experienced in the past. We can now 'sample' the offerings and if we don't like them, there's not an entire plateful of discarded food. Somehow I managed to sleep again until Bingo time. They've unfortunately changed the cards. Now instead of buying a card pack (4 sheets with 3 cards each for $25) they offer a MaxPack - 4 sheets with 6 cards each for $35. So now, if there are 2 of you and you each want your own cards, you pay $50. If you share a MaxPack for $35, only one person can hold the card, and the numbers are called too fast to keep up. Several times we had to ask the caller to slow down. I won't play again. Formal dinner was very, very good. We dined on jumbo shrimp cocktails, pate brioche, spiced shrimp with polenta, lobster thermador and steak, tiramisu and cheesecake. Excellent! There was action at my dice table, so I joined in the fun, and after an hour or two, left with my pockets very full, having had a LOT of fun! I left Jim at the Hold'em table and came 'home' to tell y'all all about my day. Tomorrow is the CruiseCritic Meet 'n' Greet, where we hope to have a wonderful introductions to officers and staff and eat lotsa goodies and drink lotsa cocktails! More tomorrow... Day 3 - Grand Turk When I first entered the Crow's Nest to check on our Meet 'n' Greet arrangements, I was totally amazed by the beautiful presentation of our refreshments. Hotel Manager Mark Pells alloted us HALF the Crow's Nest, and provided Bloody Marys, Guava Mimosas garnished with kiwi, the usual coffee, tea, cookies, and a lovely arrangement of fresh fruit for do-it-yourself fruit kabobs and a CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN! We easily had 60 guests, and were joined by some of HAL's Facebook Roll Call cruisers. Since it was almost time to dock, Captain Scott only had time for a short greeting, and Mark Pells gave us a little overview of our wonderful activities to come. We were also joined by Cruise Director Drew, Spa Manager Milica, and Jessica from the Culinary Department. Ed (Asst. Beverage Manager) was ably assisted by Mark Aguillar (Explorer's Lounge), Jay (Crow's Nest) and M. Paigan from Food Services. Our bartender Fernando (Crow's Nest) was fabulous, keeping up with the high demand for alcohol! Many guests commented that this was the best M&G they'd ever attended, and I must certainly give all the credit to the wonderful Onboard Events Staff, as well as my Concierges for pulling it all off. The rest of my day paled in comparison. It was drizzly again, so we passed on going ashore, and lunched in the Lido, tried to win the golf chipping contest, and retired to our stateroom to tolerate Sunday afternoon football (meaning: I napped). We didn't like anything on the MDR menu, so ate in the Lido where there were more options. After a short trip to the dice table, I left Jim at the Hold'em table and retired to type and post. Day 4 - Dominican Republic Today was a really lazy day. We didn't feel like going ashore, so had a light breakfast, a nap, and went to the Spa for indulgences. Spa Manager Milica suggested exactly the treatments we needed and we had time for a light lunch before our appointments. Jim had a 60 minute head-to-toe massage therapy treatment (Renata), and I had an 90 minute Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Scrub (total body exfoliation), scalp massage, facial (Miglena Dishlieva) and haircut (Angela). We enjoyed a lovely cocktail party where we were able to catch up with our CruiseCritic group about our (non-) adventures ashore. So far, we're all having a great time! After dinner I fully intended to see Kenny James' show, but you have to walk through the Casino to get to the Showroom, and I never made it past the dice table. We closed the Casino around 2:30 am and ordered Room Service's famous club sandwich. Day 5 - At Sea After a very late night in the Casino, we started our day around noon, when we grabbed a bite in the Lido and Jim started his usual sea-day activities unsuccessfully playing in the slots, blackjack and 2 Hold'em tournaments. I waited for him at the 3 Card Poker table where I won a Club 21 hat, shirt, and coupons for tournament entries and free drinks in the Sports Lounge. At least one of us won something. After dinner I attended the "Ballroom Blitz" show with the HAL Singers and Dancers. The singing and dancing were very good, but there was no scenery except for a few projections on screens and 3 chairs. After a short trip to the Lido for dessert (skipped earlier) Jim and I took our casino winnings back to the cabin so he can check his scores and I can write a little about our day. Day 6 - Curacao SUNSHINE! We docked at the Mega Cruiseship Pier which for me is too far to walk to anything, and it was really hot out there, so after a Lido lunch we laid out by the pool for a couple of hours. Tonight is the Barbeque Party at the aft pool, so early this morning they moved out all the loungers and put up tables & chairs, which forced us to the midships pool. Believe it or not, there were LOTS of chairs available, and are actually more comfortable than those on the aft pool. Anyway, at first sign of sunburn we headed inside to get ready for Bingo, which we missed, and dinner in the MDR. We each had the delicious Prime Rib and skipped dessert. Instead of a show in the Vista Lounge, there was a movie, followed by the Indonesian Crew Show, which we've seen many times. So, off to the Casino we went... Jim to seat #3 and me to the 3-card poker table. Lady Luck was not on my side either there or at the dice table, so I came back 'home' to write a little. After I post this, I hope to find some sweets for Jim (the Lido is closed by the time he closes the Casino). Remind me not to gamble unless I've taken my customary afternoon nap. Day 7 - Bonaire We woke up to another beautiful morning! Jim managed to throw his back out (no doubt doing something silly like putting on his socks), so I shipped him off to the Spa where Miglena fixed his lower back. We docked at the North Pier, which is too far to walk and too close to taxi, so I ventured out into the area right off the pier which offered arts & crafts from local artists and China. It was very hot and I welcomed the cool towel and lemonade offered at the gangway. I forced myself to take that afternoon nap so I could maybe have better luck at the dice table. Dinner in the MDR was interesting... Jim had a spiced shrimp dish and I had the salmon, which were both perfect. I chose the German Chocolate cake for dessert, but it was so sweet I couldn't finish it. The show tonight was the Noordam Singers & Dancers in "Simply Broadway". I loved the live performances of the show tunes, but again there were no sets... just 4 mics and a trunk. It may be due to the injury of the lead singer... I'll try to find out. Anyway, the nap didn't help my luck that much, except I didn't lose as much tonight as last night, and I'm no longer gambling with house money. There was a nice spread of hot and cold snacks, but difficult to eat standing up at the craps table. Oh well, up to the Lido I go for some sweet stuff for when my man closes the casino in a couple of hours. Day 8 - Aruba At 7:30 am it was 86 degrees out there. I don't know what possessed me to don that go-to BLACK dress to go to town, but I did. By the time I went ashore it was easily 90+ degrees, and I really should have turned back. In previous cruises there was a straight path to the main shopping drag. Now closed, we were forced to walk an extra 1/2 mile around construction and past local vendors to get to the diamond district. I got as far as the Royal Plaza, stopped in at a few 'guaranteed stores', and headed back to the ship. We took a little nap before heading to the midships pool (plenty of loungers) and spent 90 minutes working on that tan. After a shower we hit the Vista Lounge for what was (not) to be a $70,000 jackpot Bingo. Jim actually got down to one number on the coverall, but a guy behind him won... bummer. Off to get ready for a very special dinner at Le Cirque. Not. First of all, I recommend that gentlemen wear a jacket, if not jacket and tie. Second, read the menu before you book this dinner. That said, we attempted to enjoy this dinner (which was a gift, and non-refundable). Jim did not like anything on the menu. I took the waiter aside and told him there was nothing on the menu to our liking, and could we arrange an alternative meal? It turns out that Mario from Romania remembered us from our last Noordam cruise, and recommended the Chateaubriand for Jim. He also arranged a baked potato and carrots (not on the menu, but served perfectly) and we were now satifsied the meal would go well. The gentleman in the dark jacket frequently stared at me during the meal and was rather off-putting, but I ignored it. The Chateaubriand was MOUTHWATERING, and was a generous enough cut that I could set aside my undercooked cod resting on a sea of unidentifiable sauce with scallions, and enjoy the delicious, perfectly cooked beef with my loving husband who sometimes indulges me ad infinitum. We were then rewarded with an wonderful creme brulee, the repice for which was found at the bottom of the ramekin. The only difference I noticed, besides the menu, were the dishes. There was the whimsical Le Cirque charger and bread plate at the beginning, and the dessert plate at the end. Everything else was the same. Note to self: don't drink the regular coffee. It will result in an absolutely sleepless night. Very sleepy from this early meal, I retired to the cabin to watch 'Three Men and a Baby" on TV. Sleep didn't come until about 3 am. Day 9 - At Sea Although I intended to bake in the sun all day, we ended up in the Casino unsuccessfully entering the Blackjack and Hold'em tournaments. While I was waiting for Jim, and still in my bathing suit, I discovered a new love for 3-Card Poker. Several hours later I returned to find Jim asleep, so I joined him. So much for the sun! After dinner I was so tired I skipped the show and watched some inane movie in my cabin and retired. Day 10 - At Sea The last [sniffle] day of a cruise is really hectic. I had a list of photos I wanted to take, more in the photo gallery to buy/discard, tips to distribute, goodbye hugs to enjoy, cruises to buy - the pressure is insane! No loungers being available midships, we basked in the sun at the Seaview Pool for a couple of hours before the $100,000 Bingo and Cruise Lottery (neither of which we won). I visited the Future Cruise consultant and bought four deposits for open bookings. For those of us who cruise HAL frequently, this is a no-brainer. Deposits are reduced to $100 pp (charged to a credit card), and you get onboard cabin credit based on the category of stateroom you eventually choose. There happened to be no line, and I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. Dinner in the MDR was the Master Chef's Dinner, which we have experienced a few times already (enjoyed the food, but not the parade), so we dined in the Lido. The menu is essentially the same as the MDR, but has more choices in the salad department. Tables were set with tablecloths, dinner served on Lido tableware, and generally went faster because there is no wait between courses. I did have a hard time getting a waiter to remove dirty dishes (I need them GONE as soon as I'm finished). A shortened dinner time left us able to see the comedian Max Dolcelli. We had looked forward to this all week, but the 'outrageous' comedy was really kinda lame. I guess we've heard all the typical cruise jokes and really hoped for something different. Jim took his usual place, seat #3 at the Hold'em table, and I threw dice for awhile. As I was packing (easily a 2-hour ordeal) Jim called from the Casino saying, "Dice are hot", so I dropped everything and ran to the Casino, assuming my usual place to the right of the croupier. After my lucky streak was over I walked away with about $900 and resumed my packing chores. Debarkation We grabbed a light breakfast snack at the Neptune and left a tip for our Concierges. We experimented with Luggage Direct this time... I will never do it any other way again! It's only good for flights on certain airlines departing no later than 11:30. We received our boarding passes and special luggage tags yesterday. I placed the luggage outside by 1:00 am and didn't see it again until we got home. We were first off at 8:00, scooted through customs and were at the airport before 9:00. If seats had been available, we could easily have made a 10:00 standby flight, but had to wait until our 11:30 flight. I'd rather have breakfast and sit around the airport a little longer than wrestle with luggage in the warehouse, drag it to a cab, stand in line outside in the heat at FLL and suffer 3 more rounds of tips. Our flight connections were on time and we made it back in time to pick up our now-skinny beagle at Puppy Overnight Camp. Final Remarks This cruise, even with adjustments due to changes of itinerary from Europe, new crew getting their rhythm down, and stuff I forgot to do, has been one of the best. Our cabin service was as expected, DR service polite and correctly served (although I still want my plates cleared asap), food the proper temperature and nicely presented, although slightly delayed between courses. Our Pinnacle dinner was the Le Cirque experience, and we did not care for the menu. Our server, Mario, saved the meal for us by arranging side dishes off the menu. The Supervisor, however, was rather surly and sneered at me at one point. He never came to the table, and really should have done whatever was necessary to keep us from leaving before ordering. Our Spa experiences were outstanding. We spoke to the Spa Manager, Milica, about our various aches, pains & well-being concerns, and she arranged the perfect treatments for us. In the Casino, we were treated like treasured guests instead of cash machines. We quickly came to know most of the dealers, supervisors and the Manager, and had much fun - even on those nights that Lady Luck was on a break. We'd like to see a LIVE Hold'em table again. Bingo - since they changed to the MaxiCard, it cost us $15 more each time to play. Not good. Entertainment was OK, but not as good as it used to be. In the past there was a comedian, vocalist and magician who each gave 2 shows. We got 3 production shows, a vocalist, gypsy violinists, acrobat and comedian with 1 show each, and a movie. Special thanks to: Hotel Manager Mark Pells Spa Manager Milica Casino Manager Dorel Matiut Casino Supervisor Alexander Club 21 Host Julia Concierges Arvee & Rhia Our next cruise will be 3/26/2012 on our beloved Noordam. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
I am in my 50's and my husband is in his 70's with some mobility problems. So we were looking for a small ship that would limit how far he had to walk, and we didn't want children running around. I mainly wanted to relax and ... Read More
I am in my 50's and my husband is in his 70's with some mobility problems. So we were looking for a small ship that would limit how far he had to walk, and we didn't want children running around. I mainly wanted to relax and didn't care that much about the ports. So we chose this cruise to be pampered and paid a lot more than I'm used to paying for a cruise. Let me start with the good. Our penthouse suite stateroom was all we could have asked for. The butler took great care of us bringing us hors d'oeurves every afternoon whether we ordered them or not. We tend to spend time in the stateroom and enjoyed watching some good movies on the stateroom television. There was plenty of storage for clothes, and the room was comfortable. The staff was great! As soon as we left the room, the beds were made and the room tidied. Both specialty restaurants were excellent, and we enjoyed the grill by the pool. Also, at lunch, the pizza in the buffet by the pool was good, and one day they were making and serving homemade pasta at the luncheon buffet. It was excellent! Also, afternoon tea is a must. Overall the food was good but too rich for our tastes. We are particular about food and enjoy a good meal. As much as I like french food, it got to be too much. Toward the end I was happy to order just a steak and fries -- something simple. The entertainment was disappointing. We enjoyed the string quartet at afternoon tea and before dinner, but their skill level was more of what I'd expect of good high school musicians. The shows were amateurish. We were spoiled by the quality of shows on Royal Carribbean, and this didn't even come close. The first night they had a juggler who had an almost impossible task considering how much the ship was rocking. We did enjoy the Russian female pianist. I have always enjoyed playing bingo on cruises, but here there was little participation and no snowball bingo. The pots barely covered the cost of playing. On the way down to our first port we heard one of the engines broke. Instead of reaching port in the morning, we did not arrive until mid-afternoon. Most excursions were cancelled. Did I mention the ship rocking?! About 1/3 into the cruise there were lots of seasick people even though the seas did not look that rough. Then we heard the rocking was because one of the ship's stabilizers broke. When my elderly husband started vomiting we went to the medical staff. The doctor injected him with something that caused him to immediately slump in the wheelchair. It took 3 of us 15 minutes to get him out of the wheelchair and into bed in the stateroom. Then he started hallucinating and I had trouble keeping him in the bed. It was a nightmare! When we went back to the doctor the next day and told him what happened he replied that that can happen. Well thanks for warning us! And for this we were charged $500!!! All-in-all a very bad experience. Then going through a doorway he scraped his arm badly from the ship rocking. Although we got two calls from staff inquiring how he was, they failed to follow up with any written report. After being charged $500 for seasickness we dared not go back to the medical unit. So I spent most of my time in the ports tracking down first aid supplies to bandage him. Most of the ports were terrible. Since this was a small ship, I did not expect to have to tender this much. I think we only docked at 2 ports. All the rest were tenders. I have been to much of the carribbean before, and we didn't chose this cruise for the ports. That being said, some of the ports have something to offer. In Virgin Gorda I went to the "Baths". This is a beach area with huge stone boulders that form caves and grottos to explore. This is not a trip for anyone with mobility issues. The walk down to the Baths is not easy, and it takes some balance and skill to walk and crawl through the grottos. But for those who like some adventure, this is worth doing. St. Bart's is interesting to walk around and explore the shops, but don't expect any deals. This is like shopping Rodeo Dr. or Worth Ave. -- very pricey. The Dominican Republic was most disappointing. There was a free shuttle from the ship that took us to a shopping area in town that was total junk. We were acosted walking through there with vendors trying to get us to buy plastic junk. Everyone from the ship was warning others not to bother going -- total waste of time. I had signed up to go horsebackriding on the beach, but that excursion was cancelled for lack of interest. If I were to ever consider an Oceania cruise again, I would stay away from these smaller ships. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Itinerary was Half Moon Cay, Turks, Samana, Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba. Wind too strong at Half Moon so we moved on to Turks. Docking was on the starboard side but those with cabins on the port side got the best view of the beach and the ... Read More
Itinerary was Half Moon Cay, Turks, Samana, Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba. Wind too strong at Half Moon so we moved on to Turks. Docking was on the starboard side but those with cabins on the port side got the best view of the beach and the island itself. The port duty free stores were right at the end of the dock and included a Margaritaville restaurant/pool/bar area serving way way overpriced drinks. free wifi here though. Beautiful free beach and loungers within 100 yds. of the ship HA allows passengers to bring aboard bottles of wine for their own consumption. Buy some as the bottles offered on board are triple the price offered than those at the end of the dock. Moved through the night to Samana Tenders moved passengers to shore during intermittent showers and high humidity. we choose to relax on board as the reviews on shore excursions were depressing. Another night sail followed. A slow southward sail to Bonaire amid rising temperatures ( 24-28C)melted away any stress we both had. Docked on port side Bonaire the first of the ABC islands or the Dutch Antilles had no stores at the end of the dock but both indoor and flea market stalls were within walking distance. Free wifi downtown at Lily's ice cream shop. Wine cheap downtown. Took HA sponsored 4x4 tour here. Not worth the time or money unless you want to see, garbage, litter, beer bottles and beaches plastered with plastic flotsam of every shape and size Short night sail to Curacao with docking on port side. Beautiful port with shops within walking distance. Free wifi at Edy's ice cream shop in the nearby fort. Follow your crew members with their laptops, they know where the wifi hotspots are. Aruba next, another beautiful port with docking on the port side. starboard cabins look off shore. Dock shops 30 ft from gangway with more expensive shops downtown. (approx 500 yd. walk) Free wifi in the Renaissance Mall Two day sail back to Fort Lauderdale with a short interruption to rescue 2 small fishing boats off the coast of Cuba. They were separated from their mother ship at dusk and were pointed in the right direction by our helpful Captain and crew. My wife and I took the 4 hour tour of the Noordam hosted by the Marketing Manager along with 9 other intrepid souls. Well worth doing once in your cruising life. Visited the engine control room of the ship, the back stage in the Vista Lounge and the bridge too.Food lockers waste collection area and the laundry were also included. Entertainment each night was packed. Some shows were the same as last year prompting us to look at another HA ship for next year's trip. Want to relax and enjoy quality time with your significant other try a 10 day trip on this ship. You will smile too Read Less
Sail Date December 2011

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