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86 Caribbean - Southern Luxury Cruise Reviews

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
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
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
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
This was our first time with Oceania cruises and will not be the last Embarkation was quick and simple even with our own wheelchair and although the cabins were not ready till 3.00 we were able to sit in comfortably in a lounge for the ... Read More
This was our first time with Oceania cruises and will not be the last Embarkation was quick and simple even with our own wheelchair and although the cabins were not ready till 3.00 we were able to sit in comfortably in a lounge for the few minutes wait. One minor point for anyone bringing a self propelled wheelchair and expecting to be able to move around the ship independently was that the carpets are so new and thick that it was very hard work to do so and I ended up having to push my husband around, and there is quite a slope up into the theatre ! We had booked an inside cabin as you spend so little time there and it was very good. Always clean with the most comfortable cruise ship beds we have ever had. Storage space looked tight but in fact there was room for everything and although the bathroom was small it had everything you needed and no dreaded shower curtain. Our cabin steward was great, stored our suitcases which did not fit under the bed, often opened the door for us to make manipulating the wheelchair easier and asked if there was anything he could do to help us, finally removing the coffee table so it was easier to store the wheelchair. We eat mainly in the main dining room and were a bit concerned about anytime dining having heard of long queues on other ships but found that provided we went down before 7.30 in the evening there was no queue and the dining staff would always make sure we had an easily accessible table. We ate in Pepin's, Toscana and the Polo Grill which were all excellent but did not take up our possible booking for Red Ginger as my husband does not like such food - there did not seem to be an option for only one of you to book ! We did not try the self service restaurant other than for coffee as it is too difficult with a wheelchair passenger. It was pleasant that the main dining room was open for lunch every day as so many ships now only provide this on sea days, and it was never crowded. We tried the main dining room for breakfast but soon decided to be lazy and order room service, again this is the only ship we have ever been on where everything we ordered arrived correctly every time ! We enjoyed the inclusive soft drinks, waters and coffees, and found the price for a bottle of easy drinking wine to be comparable with other cruise lines, and were very surprised to find that even with anytime dining and also using the speciality restaurants if you did not finish the bottle the staff would always save it for you and retrieve it the next night. Evening entertainment was surprisingly good, both guest artistes and production shows for a ship this time, and the singers could actually sing. It was also good that the ship's own orchestra was not as brassy as some of the larger ones. Entertainment during the day was fairly predictable and the program could have offered more however with the very small entertainment staff this may not have been possible. The library was excellent, I could always find something to read, and the coffee shop served wonderful frappucinos - lovely in the late afternoon. We did not book any excursions due to concerns about being able to use the wheelchair but found the tour staff helpful, for example advising us in the Turks and Caicos and it was not worth trying to go into the town as it would be difficult, but on the other hand St. Croix was very easy to get around with the wheelchair. One minor complaint was that even the lower gangway was quite steep and had two steps at the shore end rather than a ramp, and there was not always anyone around to assist with the wheelchair. Sadly my husband had two suspected heart attacks while on the ship, from which fortunately he recovered very quickly and has had no lasting effects. I cannot thank the crew's medical staff sufficiently for the care and attention he received, I will never worry about being taken ill on a cruise ship, they were fantastic. Finally does anyone know how to get public liability insurance to take a collapsible mobility scooter to the US ? We had been advised that because we were staying a couple of nights in Miami we would need this cover but could not find any way of arranging this from the UK? because of this we took a wheelchair instead but the scooter would have been much better Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
As a first time cruiser, I had several unfounded reservations about cruising, but after a 10 day trip on the Norwegian Dawn in the Garden Villa, I've turned over a new leaf. I feel like I could dedicate an entire review to Gian our ... Read More
As a first time cruiser, I had several unfounded reservations about cruising, but after a 10 day trip on the Norwegian Dawn in the Garden Villa, I've turned over a new leaf. I feel like I could dedicate an entire review to Gian our butler, and those of you who have had that profound pleasure know what Im talking about. There were 7 people in our room and 3 of them were under four years of age. Whether Gian was cutting up pancakes for my discerning two year old, or showing up in the nick of time with a clean bottle for my loud son, or more frequently tending to our absurd food requests while half in the bag, Gian was the absolute consummate and able gentleman. Although our group rarely ate at the same time or ordered from the same restaurant and exhibited a distinct inability to keep track of a key-card for any more than a few hours, Gian took care of everything with a reassuring smile. My primary issue with cruising, was the idea of being in a small room. Problem solved... The Dawn has a magnificent Garden Villa with countless ammenties and plenty of space. You can see the layout and pictures online, but it really exceeded my expectations. Its a short walk out through the back of the garden to the Kids pool area and basketball court. The other perceived issue I had about cruising was adhering to an aggressive schedule and not being able to spend extra time at places that I like. This fear held true in some respects, but I can live with it. It was quite entertaining to open your eyes in the morning, slide the curtain to the side and find a totally new island to buy a tee-shirt on. My normal routine in the morning was to gingerly descend the half-flight of stairs for some crab-cake benedict at Cagney's, and marvel at how much work the crew had done before I managed to stumble out of bed. These cruise ships are quite large of course, and I never got to see what giants from the Jurassic period they must keep chained up below to tie these ships up to the pier in the morning. In any case, picking your excursions carefully seems very important. We did a third-party ATV excursion on Sumana with Terry where at some point we tasted the local coffee, coconut, cocoa and fruit. If I took anything away from that experience, its that the fruit I get in New York should be called something else. If you like golf, play at the Sandy Lane country club on Barbados. Great course, gorgeous area and great bloody mary's. The port area of Barbados is terrible, so get to the far west of the island as soon as you can. We Zip-Lined on beautiful St Kitts, which I would certainly recommend. Its not as death-defying as it sounds, but the views are incredible. I though the food on the ship was pretty good. I didn't eat at any of the buffets, but the restaurants were solid. The Bistro and Bamboo were my favorites while La Cucina and Teppanyaki were serviceable. I did not make it to Moderna, but heard good reports from our group. As for the entertainment, late nights in the Spinaker Lounge were a lot of fun, and there was usually a cash texas-holdem game at night. The magic show (prestidigitator), was so good that I didn't speak for a long time afterwards. I didn't see most of the other shows, but our group liked second city and the kids loved Bollywood. By all accounts however, the comedian needs to retire. The service overall was without parallel and apparently dominated by Filipinos. Id like to ship a Philippine Island up to the metropolitan area and glue it to Manhattan. The whole crew was cordial, professional and always willing to go out of their way to solve your silly issue. LIKES: Piano in the room. ( on tippy-toes, my one year old thinks he's Glenn Gould, so that was a plus) Caribbean sunsets on the private deck. Steam room and rain shower in the garden. Finger sandwiches and hot wings served in the room, post excursion. Cell phones on the ship for the suites. Port wine with a cigar in the havana club. Gian. DISLIKES: Internet access not included in the garden villa. I think this is just an oversight but it can't cost me an extra $100 USD if I forget to hit the "Logout" button and my time expires. Being on the starboard side of the ship, it would have been nice if the sun set in the east while we were traveling north. Gian's name should be added parenthetically on the side of the ship... Norwegian Dawn (with Gian!) or something similar. Overall, this was a great vacation, and we will be booking another one soon. Since this was our first cruise, I have nothing to compare it to, so this review may not be terribly insightful, but perhaps it would be of interest to a skeptical would-be cruiser. I would be interested in finding other ships with similar accomodations and service. Incidentally, what the hell does freestyle cruising mean? Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
This was our first Celebrity cruise. We did a 10-day Mediterranean cruise on Oceania last spring which was our main comparison. We were concerned that although Summit is small for Celebrity, it is much larger than Insignia--but we never ... Read More
This was our first Celebrity cruise. We did a 10-day Mediterranean cruise on Oceania last spring which was our main comparison. We were concerned that although Summit is small for Celebrity, it is much larger than Insignia--but we never felt overwhelmed or crowded. Every aspect of this cruise was equal to or better than the level on Oceania, and the price was considerably lower even with the extra charges, so we consider Celebrity an excellent value for luxury cruising. In the review that follows I will call out the particularly excellent features and the things that we didn't like. This may give the impression that there were a lot of things to complain about so let me state clearly up front that we had a great time, Summit is a wonderful ship, Celebrity is our new favorite cruise line, and we will be back. Embarkation The embarkation process was very smooth, even though this was the dry-dock shakedown cruise and work was continuing. We took an early-morning flight from NY and were able to board as soon as we got to the ship (just before 2 pm but others were already on board), with no lines or hassles. The cabins were available immediately, although luggage was delivered throughout the day (ours was among the last, just in time to change for late dinner). Had lunch, went back to the Pan Am port building to buy bottled water, explored the ship a little, and attended the Muster Drill. We were very impressed by Celebrity's attention to the Muster Drill. Every passenger was checked in at least twice on the way into the muster station, the presentation was thorough, and we were given a complete printed version of everything they said. The crew stayed at the end for further instruction. This was very reassuring. Cabin We and our friend had inside cabins on deck 7 (we had initially accepted the Celebrity website's default choices on deck 9, but changed after reading cabin reviews on another website that warned about noise from lounge furniture being moved around early in the morning). These cabins--7101 and 7127--were completely quiet and located close enough to midship for a smooth ride. The cabins were similar to our inside cabin on Oceania Insignia, and completely satisfactory for our needs. The mattresses were brand new, firm but not hard, and we slept very well throughout the cruise. The new color scheme is nice and contemporary. The bathroom is very functional, and the shower stall is larger than on Insignia so I didn't hit my elbows. The new shower curtain kept the water where it belonged. We would gladly take either of these cabins again. Dining We went to Bistro on Five for lunch on embarkation. It was empty and I think we were the first passengers ever to dine there, so it was surprising that the crepes smelled of old oil. None of our three lunches was particularly good so we never went back there. Select Dining in the Cosmopolitan MDR was mostly excellent. The first night we had excellent service from our waiter Melvin, so after a less satisfactory experience at another station we always requested (and got) him again. We never had to wait for a table to open up. The food was better than Oceania, despite their gourmet claims. Plenty of interesting choices every night. Some items were truly excellent, a few were disappointing (having been spoiled in Maine we should have known not to order lobster, but it wasn't even cooked properly). Overall the food was at least very good. It was generally served hot; soup was always hot because they pour it in the bowl at your place from a thermos. One night I asked for a substitution of mashed potatoes instead of boiled, and that was no problem. Quantities were sufficient and we were encouraged to ask for more or different if anything was not satisfactory. Qsine was a hoot. We went in a party of seven, which allowed us to sample a wide selection of the menu. Service was very attentive. Two examples of the stellar service: one menu choice includes lamb chops which wouldn't have been enough for everyone--so they brought extras without being asked; when my wife asked if something contained tomato, the waitress immediately brought her an extra item that she knew was tomato-free. The quality of the food was much better than the description of Qsine led me to expect: filet mignon, lamb chops, authentic Indian recipes; not a loser all night and so many offerings that even if you didn't like something you could get stuffed on everything else. My only reservation about Qsine is that it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun if we had gone as a two-top. Normandie is to die for. There have been some snarky comments about other rave reviews, implying that the reviewers don't know from top restaurants, so let me state my creds: my favorite restaurants are Radius in Boston, Citronelle in DC, Eleven Madison Park in NYC, and Michael Mina in San Francisco. Normandie is on that level. Everything we had was excellent. We never splurged on the 5-course wine pairing dinner, but they were happy to let us order a second appetizer course to achieve a similar result (it was too much food). I will single out the rack of lamb because of comments in other reviews about the MDR version only including 2 chops; in Normandie you get 4 chops which add up to a very satisfying portion. We made another reservation before we left, and would have gone a third time except that they were sold out. Next time we'll book three nights in Normandie before sailing. We had all our breakfasts in the buffet (which is called Waterfall Cafe on the deck plans and Oceanview cafe in Celebrity Today). There was a large selection of meats, eggs and pastries. Fresh fruit was disappointing: we rarely saw fresh berries and they were not top quality; even the melons and pineapple weren't fully ripe. I felt that all the pastries were overcooked, but this is true of many of the bakeries where we live (except that at home we can shop at the other bakeries). There were at least five kinds of sausage but I didn't really like any of them (or the bacon); and the waffles that some reviewers rave about did not appeal to me (I prefer the ones at Hampton Inn). Luckily there was almost always Eggs Benedict so I only sampled these other choices for informational purposes... All the above comments are based on our likes and dislikes; your mileage may vary. We never tried the buffet for lunch or dinner. Coffee was consistently terrible in the buffet. There has been a thread about this, but I wasn't sure what they meant by terrible. It wasn't too strong or too weak, it was that it tasted bad. It also varied from day to day in strength and flavor (one day for some reason it was pretty good, but only the once). The chamomile tea was weak, even with two tea bags. The ship's water also tasted bad, so I don't know how you could make good coffee or tea--but they do in Normandie (where the Chamomile Tisane was excellent). Entertainment We aren't big on shows or casinos, and we like to dine late so the shows are often over by the time we finish dinner. We did attend parts of two of the shows on Summit and were impressed by the quality compared to Oceania. But I'll be snarky here and state that these are definitely not "Broadway quality." Entertaining, yes--but nothing like a real Broadway show. The dance classes were enjoyed by DW, and there was such a wide range of ability that even my two left feet could have joined in. Luckily I had the camera and instructions to take pictures... The Cruise Critic reception was scheduled at 8 pm early in the cruise in the Rendezvous lounge. I popped in between dinner courses as the group was being welcomed by the Cruise Director. It's a nice gesture, but it's very difficult to find a time that works for everybody. Smoking Three cheers for Celebrity's very restrictive smoking policy. It was great to be able to visit every single area inside the ship and never worry about being assaulted by secondhand smoke, and on deck there was enough of a breeze that I didn't have to choose my path to avoid the smokers. I'm glad that the whole industry is moving this way, so Celebrity won't feel any pressure to backtrack on this excellent policy. Shopping We did our shopping in port, so we only browsed through the boutiques on board. A check of liquor prices at a duty-free shop in St. Thomas showed that Celebrity is fairly priced. Photographers We also brought our own camera, so we weren't tempted by the efforts of the shipboard photographers--who were getting a little pushy by the end of the cruise [no, I don't want my picture taken with someone in a dolphin suit]. Oceania has dropped this "service," do we only realized in retrospect how much we enjoyed its absence... Shore Excursions This was an area where Oceania really fell down: the range of offerings was slim and prices were dramatically higher than you could do on your own, and as a result they were often cancelled due to poor sales. Celebrity was much better: many more choices and fair prices. We did most ports independently either because someone from our roll call had made arrangements or because we just wanted a quiet day at the beach or shopping, but the two Celebrity tours we took (described below) were excellent and well worth it. Announcements and Muzak First the good news: announcements were kept to a minimum, and since they are only in English they are short and sweet. Canned music, on the other hand, shows the schizophrenia of Celebrity's attempt to reach out to a younger clientele: it was often too loud and the styles didn't match Summit's classy decor, but it also wasn't authentic enough to really appeal to those who like that stuff. There were a couple of computer-generated tracks that were really annoying (one sounded like a new synthesizer-based dental drill; the other like a violin section tuning up for 10 minutes at a stretch). We complained about the sound level in Normandie one night, and it was lowered; a few minutes later someone else must have complained, because it was replaced by Classical music which fit Normandie much better--please make that change permanent! Post-Dry Dock Teething Problems I expected to see much more last-minute work going on. The aft end of Deck 11 was roped off the entire cruise while they completed the new AQ cabins there, and that also blocked off the new aft Deck 12 (with the rumored basketball court which I hope is not real). There was constant painting, but this is true of all cruise ships trying vainly to prevent the inevitable oxidation process that salt brings to steel. The only real problem on this shakedown cruise was a complete failure of water pressure on day 2, which prevented showers before dinner on the first formal night; we were told that the kitchen coped by cooking with Evian, which given the bad taste of the tap water would seem like a good idea all the time. But all in all this was an incredibly smooth shakedown cruise, and kudos to the entire Celebrity team involved in the Solsticization program. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We sailed out of Lauderdale on Feb 6 and we enjoyed every minute. I had read several negative reviews of this ship and was feeling very apprehensive as we embarked. The embarkation process was very smooth and we were in our cabin in no ... Read More
We sailed out of Lauderdale on Feb 6 and we enjoyed every minute. I had read several negative reviews of this ship and was feeling very apprehensive as we embarked. The embarkation process was very smooth and we were in our cabin in no time with a glass of champagne in hand (I do agree with some other reviews- the champagne was not great and gave me heartburn). However, it is a classy touch! Our penthouse suite was lovely and our butler, Sinjii, was very good as was our stewardess, Maranissa. Our cabin was always immaculate, bar fridge well stocked and my favourite wine always there as well. The suite was a bit of heaven! The bed was very comfortable. I found the balcony small but we did not spend that much time in the cabin so this was not an issue either. I do agree that the decor is a bit tired, but if that is the only criticism it does not detract from the experience. The ship is still very elegant and is being refurbished this spring. Also, it is a small ship so expect the rock and roll; if you want smooth I would suggest that you pick a big ship. To expect smooth on a small ship is an unrealistic expectation. We had only one rough night and that was it. So I can't complain here either. The food was fantastic as well. The included wines were quite good once you tasted several and found some to your liking. The beer was always cold and you were waited on all the time out on the decks and in the restaurants and bars. I am an experienced cruiser and this was by far the best service I have ever had. The main dining venue was very good. We steered clear of the buffet most of the time only because I am tired of ship buffets. We did have breakfast there once and it was fine. We also ate lunch at the back of the buffet outside and it was lovely. The salad selection is excellent. The ports were wonderful as well. Belize and Guatemala are very poor countries so expect that before you get there. I don't think I would go back to either country. It rained the entire day in Guatemala which was a bit disappointing but we made the best of it playing cards at the beach resort which on a sunny day would have been lovely. Our favourite excursions were cave tubing and the speed boats- book them early as they get wait listed very fast. The crowd was older than us on average. What truly impressed is the care given by the staff to older and more frail cruisers. From umbrellas to support to get into wheelchairs, the crew was amazing. But by far we really enjoyed the people we met within our age range. On a small ship you get to know people and we have met some very good friends; something we have not done on the larger ships. This will not be our last Regent cruise! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We flew from London Heathrow, and the new Terminal 5 is so much easier, on British Airways. We upgraded our flights to World Traveller Plus instead of upgrading our stateroom, and it was well worth the small extra cost. The actual flights ... Read More
We flew from London Heathrow, and the new Terminal 5 is so much easier, on British Airways. We upgraded our flights to World Traveller Plus instead of upgrading our stateroom, and it was well worth the small extra cost. The actual flights were excellent and on time and very smooth both ways. After 9 1/2 long hours Miami Airport once again did it's best to spoil things, three hours from landing until we actually reached the doors and found the Celebrity Reps. The immigration process was once more horrendous, intermable queues and the usual gimlet stare from immigration officials. Miami, this is not "welcome to the USA". I appreciate that this was a Friday night and also the start of Thanksgiving week but this is just not acceptable. Finally we were transported to the Sheraton on Seabreeze Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. By this time it was 3.00am our time. The hotel was fine, clean and comfortable and we had a good breakfast the following morning. We never take the transfer buses to the port. I'm not happy leaving my luggage outside the hotel and hoping I will see it later. We took a taxi around 12.30 pm and the embarkation was swift and painless. There was a separate line to avoid the photographers which was nice as we were still a little bug eyed from all the travel. Also on board and during the cruise the photographers were never "in your face" as before which was nice. At check in I was presented with a single white rose and stickers for the two of us. On boarding the ship we were met by the charming Captains Club hostess, Gabriella, and taken to Michaels Club for our glass of champagne. Very much appreciated. It was not long before the staterooms were available and luggage came very swiftly. We were on Continental deck in a 2C stateroom which has "part obstructed views". Absolutely no problem, a clear view out to sea. We had the bed near the balcony which was nice and there was more than enough closet space and drawer space for the two of us if we also used the overbed cupboards. I have to say I found the beds a little hard and the pillows were small and square shaped. But then I have a water bed at home. We had the stateroom bar set up and our steward Lazuro was good, a little shy maybe but he fulfilled every request. Also I found the air conditioning a little faulty, I love a cool room and it never seemed cool enough for me, but fair to say, my dear one did leave the balcony door open a little too many times, and Lazuro must have thought he was cold as he provided an extra blanket!!! This was our second time on Eclipse, the first being in cool weather out of Southampton two years back. At that time I hoped I would love her better in warm weather. So yes, she was beautiful, yes she was classy, but I still love Millenium Class the most. There seems to be no rhyme or reason with Solstice Class, there is not the flow, the bars seem to be on walkways and we missed the Rendez-Vous lounge. We missed a lot on Eclipse too, through our own fault. We did not use Bistro on Five, Cellar Masters, Martini Bar or the Molecular Bar, there never seemed to be the time. We loved the Lawn Club and the Sunset Bar and renewed our acquaintance with Eduardo. We also enjoyed the Sky Lounge and the Captains Club Elite Cocktail hour, I am annoyed I did not get the name of our bar server there because he was charming, came from India. We always love Michaels Club but it was like a morgue. Most nights the doors were shut and no one there. I have to say I was not impressed with the pianist. As for the other entertainers, the two on the steel drums were good, I think they were called Pan Exstacy? They played most days on sailaway where I would have expected to see the party band "Twist of Eight". The A Capella group were OK but only ever played about four numbers before vanishing. As we dined most nights around 7.30pm we missed lots of the shows so it would not be fair to comment. I was not too impressed with the activities. Trivia and bingo is not my thing. I am one of those awful people who actually used to enjoy the pool games, King of the Ship, the greasy pole and the belly flop!! There were never any shortage of deck chairs or tables in the buffet. I don't know where we can find a happy medium on dining. To me 6.00pm is too early and to him 8.30pm is too late which is why we opted to go at 7.15pm every night. This was on the upper level. We booked ahead for a table for two and although those tables are close together this is what we got. Most nights the service was very swift so we were in and out in about 90 minutes which was nice. The last night the service was so bad we almost walked out. The food however was as good as you would find anywhere where they have to serve 2700 pax. The portions are slightly smaller which was good and the cheese tray was excellent. There were no official sommeliers. The buffet in the Ocean View for breakfast was excellent and not too much waiting for eggs/toast/omelettes. Lunchtime was also very good. I just wish they still had the nachos on the pool deck. Each morning we had room service coffee and juice and our server was a gem, I just wish I had got her name, she was also serving appetisers at Captains Cocktail Hour. I also here want to give a big shout to RENATO the tea and coffee server on the port side of the Ocean View Buffet. He made every day a joy with his infectios smile and songs. Celebrity, you have a gem there waiting to be polished. Kids? Very few and no problem except for the parents who thought it was amusing to let their kids strip off and run around naked on the grass. Their Grandma was soon on to this however. The innocence of children is great but this was not really the time or place for "Frie Korpur Kulture! Fellow Passengers: Hmmmmmmmm....we love North Americans and were surprised that there were around 1400 plus Europeans on board, apparently 800 from the UK alone. The Danish and Norwegians were a delight, the Germans overbearing and the Scots were "well refreshed" every day. So now, if you have had the patience to read this far I will do a short resume of the ports. St. Thomas: What happened? We got there on time and sailed up and down. Then the official explanation was that our draught was too much to dock so we had to tender in. We had booked a tour to St. John and were informed the day before that we were now docking at Crown Bay and the tour was brought forward an hour. Hmmmm..........in the end people were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Eventually the Captain brought the ship in near Havensight and we tendered into the town centre. Many tours were cancelled but the people who had booked tours were directed to the theatre where we got priority tendering. Our tour was cancelled but we made lemonade out of lemons so to speak and renewed our friendship with Coconuts Bar. We got a letter from the Captain that evening. My own personal take on this is that Celebrity booked the berth months ago thinking Constellation would be on this run. Some rumours went round that the Captain did not discharge enough ballast before coming into port. It is interesting to see that on the next cruise the ship went to Sint Maarten before St.Thomas as scheduled. Sint Maarten took a load of my credit card. Enough said? We just love this place!!! Antigua...some say we nearly hit bottom! Was a little surprised not to dock at Heritage Quay. We took a great taxi island tour with two lovely American ladies and our driver was Colin. $20.00 great value. St. Lucia....we docked at Pointe Seraphine and took a tour for $65 each on a speedboat down to Marigot, the Pitons, the volcano, Terraile Falls and the Jade Mountain resort with JnLouis from the pier. Great value for money. Barbados, not a favourite. We went to the Boatyard beach which is always great value for money but it started getting a bit wild after 1.00pm. Grenada.........drizzle so our plans for Grand Anse Beach were scuppered but it cleared up later so we wish we had gone. As it was we just spent time in town and at the shoppers area. Bonaire.....so small. Third time there and we took the ships excursion on the glass bottom boat which was amazing, well worth the money, so much life under the sea, turtles and all. Aruba.....took a bus tour round the island and then wandered through the waterside market and sank a few drinks. Two days back at sea was too much. Why could we not have at least a half day at Key West? So, digressing from the ports.....what could have made it better? Nothing much! We had a charming Captains Club Hostess in Gabriella who invited us to the Captains Table one night on a smart casual night. I was dressed OK but my dear one was casual. We did dine on the Captains Table last year so I'm not too upset but it was very short notice this time. As it was then, we never did see the Captain. I am pretty sure that in St. Thomas and Antigua there was a lot of cursing on the bridge! Guest Relations Manager Cameron Robertson was a real gentleman, we were invited to the helipad sailing out of Antigua and he was very personable. Hotel Director Julian Brackenbury was also a delight, I believe he is now on Reflection. We also met Simon Coley the Food and Beverage Manager and the new Executive Chef Lee Goble when we dined wonderfully in Muranos. Never did see much of Jason the Cruise Director but his announcements were clear and concise. Disembarkation was slow, long lines waiting for the baggage hall. Once you get there, grab a porter and he will whiz you through Customs. We had a day room at the Sheraton Miami Airport which was a lovely place on the Miami River. To summarise: 14 nights at sea was too long for us and the first week was jam packed with ports but the second week not so. Celebrity is still our line of choice. Who knows about next year? I have a very sick mother so we can't make any plans just yet, but when we do it will either be Europe or a 7 night plus a land stay out of St. Juan. We would love to do the east coast of Mexico again as we did one time on Mercury and maybe revisit Las Vegas. I apologise for the lenghth of this review. I would like to say hi to Beth (gimletgal) and all my other happy smokers on decks 5 and 12!!!! Also sorry I missed my friend Karen, and also hope the crazy scots got home OK!!! Yes, God Willing we will be back, and hopefully with Celebrity. Millenium Class still holds my heart but I would never dismiss Solstice Class. Thanks Celebrity. And finally, for the two poor souls who embarked in Fort Lauderdale but never made it home, may you rest in peace. Excuse me now, I have to check out next year!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
This was our first Silversea cruise. The experience was everything and more than we dreamed of. The ship is immaculate and very well kept. The crew is friendly and helpful, but never intrusive. Even though there were over 500 passengers, ... Read More
This was our first Silversea cruise. The experience was everything and more than we dreamed of. The ship is immaculate and very well kept. The crew is friendly and helpful, but never intrusive. Even though there were over 500 passengers, we never felt crowded. The food was excellent; comparable to the finest restaurants we visit. The service, with rare exception, was outstanding, if not memorable. Our party of four had two vegetarians, a pescaterian and a meat lover. All felt the food was superb. While a number of CC people fret about the evening attire, we found the instructions provided by Silversea to be easy to follow. Virtually all passengers followed the dress code and those who didn't were fine. The atmosphere on Silversea is refined elegance and layer back. Everything was first class and we will be back! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
This was our fourth Oceania cruise. We sailed on the Marina when she was about 2 months old and decided on the Riviera because she was fairly new. New ships are our favorite for a variety of reasons. Our ages are 58 and 60. While we met ... Read More
This was our fourth Oceania cruise. We sailed on the Marina when she was about 2 months old and decided on the Riviera because she was fairly new. New ships are our favorite for a variety of reasons. Our ages are 58 and 60. While we met people who had been on 50+ cruises, we have been on about 20. Age of fellow passengers is irrelevant to us as older passengers have interesting stories, and younger passengers are often entertaining. We usually eat by ourselves and always have a balcony so we don't interact much. Many shipmates embark highly stressed, and that colors their experience. We always arrive at the port a day before to avoid problems with flight delays and luggage. We had some disappointments on Riviera, but were overall very pleased with the cruise. Ports were not important to us, we were there for the ship and food, so I won't review the ports. Our cabin was slightly better than on previous Oceania cruises, as it had a separate shower and tub. However, the LOCATION of cabin 11000 was TERRIBLE. There was a crew access door next to our cabin which slammed closed all night. Prior to sailing, I called Oceania to make sure the location would be quiet. I was told that there had been no complaints. After the first night, I called reception 3 times to ask to move, but the ship was sold out. Other minor problems were a overflowing shower drain, and a toliet that clogged for the first 3 days. Reception was efficient in getting the engineer to repair it, but it took 3 attempts to get it right. Our butler Raj was outrageously good, not invasive but providing all that we expected including many meals in our cabin. Oceania has not quite got it together on this cruise. I went looking for a bandaid and reception told me to go to the ships dr. The drs. office was closed as it was a port day. I found a medical officer who said reception had boxes of bandaids. I went back to reception and was told they didn't have any again. They sent me to the convenience shop area which was closed. I had to get off the ship to find a pharmacy to get a bandaid. They have also cut back on staffing at the grill and buffet. On a previous cruises a waiter had told us that they were trained to remove dirty plates within a minute of a diner putting down their silverware. On this cruise, tables were left uncleared, people were wandering around looking for tables. We were discouraged from self serving our juices/ water and there were rarely glasses available, we had to ask 3 or 4 times to get a glass of water or a clean fork. Dirty dishes were not cleared when we went for desserts. By the time were were done with our meals, the previous plates were piled up high. We have a minor complaint with the milkshakes. They were constantly out of glasses, and kept going back to the kitchen to get more. They must have been hot out of the dishwasher, as the malts were always warmish, not cold. Food was exceptional although a little inconsistent. We will sail Oceania again, but will be more careful in cabin selection. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We sailed to the Caribbean on Seabourn Quest December 2012 in a Penthouse Suite (one category above the Seabourn Suite with veranda.) Even though there were numerous positive reviews of the Quest, we still didn't know what to expect; ... Read More
We sailed to the Caribbean on Seabourn Quest December 2012 in a Penthouse Suite (one category above the Seabourn Suite with veranda.) Even though there were numerous positive reviews of the Quest, we still didn't know what to expect; however, within minutes after boarding we sensed that something was different. To start we were escorted to the Colonade for a spectacular lunch with fine wines. After selecting our "made to order" entrees we sampled their vino offerings that were included with our cruise fare: I chose the white and my husband chose the red. Both selections were excellent complements to the first of many outstanding meals. Afterwards we were escorted again, but this time to our wonderful suite that was awaiting our arrival with appetizers, a fully stocked bar and stocked refrigerator and a Bon Voyage bottle of French Champagne. The bathroom had dual sinks, a Jacuzzi tub and a separate glass shower surrounded by shades of brown and beige marble counter-tops. The walk in closet, which was very spacious, had more deluxe hangers than we could possibly use. The PH suite has a 42" tv with docking station for IPOD in the intimate living room area as well as a smaller flat screen tv in the glass enclosed bedroom. Each tv had a plethora of movies-on-demand which were complimentary - no pay-per-view charges at the end of the cruise. (One night we called room service and requested popcorn, which was freshly popped and promptly delivered.) Entertainment varied from night to night, but consistently impressive. In the Observation Lounge a piano player plays your requests while you are having a cocktail and perhaps enjoying your order of caviar with all the garnishes. I ordered it several times and every time it was presented with a smile. Which brings me to Caviar in the Sea.... imagine standing waist deep water in your bathing wear, while the Seabourn staff are also waist deep, but in their Seabourn slacks. They are interacting with their guests, pouring us champagne and preparing caviar with our choice of condiments. It's one of the most memorable moments on the cruise. The Seabourn Square became my husband's home away from home. There he read his daily newspapers, enjoyed his Double Espressos, checked emails, before heading off to the well-equipped gym for some much needed exercise. On Seabourn you will not hear announcements or loud music on deck. There is a tranquility that you won't find anywhere else. There is no bingo, no art auctions, or photographers lurking around to take your picture. Simply stated, Seabourn Quest is subtle luxury, which suits us just fine. We are booked for our second cruise in June - a 20 night Mediterranean cruise, again in a PH suite. This time I will bring enough clothes to fill those hangers. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
You know you're in love with a ship when you log on to the Port of Miami webcam because the ship is preparing for yet another journey and you just want to see her off. In September I booked the Caribbean Hideaways January 3rd ... Read More
You know you're in love with a ship when you log on to the Port of Miami webcam because the ship is preparing for yet another journey and you just want to see her off. In September I booked the Caribbean Hideaways January 3rd Riviera cruise to celebrate a milestone event in my husband's life and it was a great excuse to throw caution to the wind and spend more than we ever had before on a Caribbean cruise. And then Oceania offered prepaid gratuities if you booked a cruise by 12/31 so unbeknownst to my husband I booked another cruise on the Riviera for January 2014. Usually this wouldn't be odd, but we hadn't even embarked on our first Oceania cruise. So on the first day of our cruise he said "This is an amazing ship; we have to do this again!" and I was able to reply with a smile ... "Good news!" In our entire time on the Riviera he couldn't find anything to complain about which made this wife a very happy woman. I recently read my CC review of our last cruise on Celebrity Solstice. While there were undertones of disappointment in my review, I tried to wrap our experience with pretty ribbons. But what I remember now is telling my husband a couple of months later that my cruising days were over, that the ships were too big, too splashy, that too many cutbacks had occurred first on Holland America a few years back and now on the Celebrity I so loved. Then along came a brochure from Oceania. And it's doubtful we'll ever cruise on any other line again. The passengers, the crew, our butler, the warm greeting at Reception and Destinations, the food in every venue ... all were nothing less than superb. I wrote on my comment form that the service was just the right blend of efficiency and a warm friendliness. Simply stated, we were guests, not cargo. We loved it. Embarkation: Because we booked a Penthouse Suite we could board at 12:00. We parked opposite the pier with incredible ease and literally breezed through check-in and onto the ship. This was just about the easiest, smoothest embarkation we've experienced and there was one thing missing: No photographers making us stand in front of a fake ship backdrop. Thank you, Oceania! Many such "extras" were missing on this cruise and we welcomed their absence. Who Was Onboard: Captain Gunnar Romtveit General Manager Thierry Tholon Cruise Director Nolan Dean Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin Our Butler: Binod Stateroom: We were in PH3 Suite 7128. I chose this for the deeper balcony and location. We had quick access to everything except the Riviera Lounge located forward. Everything else is aft and it was an easy run down to the Grand Dining Room, Reception or to get off in the ports. The extra large balcony was wonderful, but for us unnecessary. I loved looking straight down to the sea with no decks or lifeboats in the way. There was nothing more relaxing than pulling our wonderfully comfy reclining 'wicker' deck chairs over to the railing, putting our feet up and just gazing out to sea or surrounding islands while in port. The PH3 suite is a very generous 420 sq. ft. with a large walk in closet. I could give up the space before the closet that made me virtually euphoric the entire trip. Any 'girl' out there can relate! I hung everything simply because I could yet there was also tons of drawer and cabinet space. My only complaint (if I have one at all) is the space taken from the shower in order to offer a bathtub. You can't shower in the tub without water everywhere and the shower was very tight. But other than that it was a splendiferous bathroom; granite and marble with a huge sink. I love the Bulgari products most especially the green tea body lotion ... to die for. The dead sea salt crystals worked magic on my hands ... simply luxurious. The entire cabin and balcony was spotless throughout the cruise and our cabin stewardesses were always smiling and so terribly sweet. And the bed. The "tranquility" bed, so aptly named, is Euro-top, custom made in France I believe (but who cares), topped with a decadent layer of memory foam with gel and fibers with chamomile to soothe you. All this is wrapped in 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets along with a down comforter. All puff and fluff and soft and luxurious ... yum. Be still my heart. I got into bed the first night and thought I might lie there forever. Dining: There are no words, but I always find them anyway. The first night we felt casual and went to the "buffet" in the Terrace Restaurant. Just toss any conception you may have about "buffets" and imagine yourself in a fine restaurant where you seat yourself wherever your heart desires and someone immediately appears to take your drink order and fill your glass with iced water. White tablecloths and crystal glasses adorn the table. Then imagine you're allowed to go into the kitchen of this fine restaurant and choose whatever your heart desires from whatever a variety of chefs have whipped up. We began with sushi and crab legs, green mussels, crusty breads and fine cheeses. And then, from the grill, lobster and baby lamb chops with mint jelly. I can't even go on ... we were in heaven. We also enjoyed dinner in Jacques (succulent Duck l'Orange and perfectly cooked Dover Sole), Polo for prime rib and steamed lobster, Red Ginger for Miso Glazed Sea Bass and Toscana for more lobster, pasta and veal chop. My husband preferred Toscana to the others, but I liked Polo the best with Jacques a close second. Red Ginger was not my favorite, truthfully, though it was everyone else's that we spoke to. I think I ordered the wrong things there, but I'll definitely give it another try. We loved the Grand Dining Room. The Eggs Benedict at breakfast were the best I've ever had, perfectly cooked. We always shared a table with 2 other couples and had the best time getting to know people from all over this country and beyond. And all the desserts in every venue were superb including the homemade ice cream, milkshakes, and a chocolate fountain with marshmallows and fruits to dip. And then there's Afternoon Tea at 4:00 in Horizons and scones with clotted cream and ..... I know I've lost you ... you've left me to book an Oceania cruise, right? Staff/Service: What can I say? Exemplary. We wanted for nothing. I know it seems like I'm fawning, but everyone working on that ship served us flawlessly and seemingly with no effort at all. I think what really rocked our world was after the last show when officers, chefs, butlers, stewards and other staff came into the lounge to salute US! And as we left they banked the sides applauding us as we applauded them. They made us feel that they were as happy to have us there as we were to have them. We chose the PH because this was a special celebration. But the Butler seemed superfluous. Ha!!! Within minutes of entering our cabin, Binod arrived at our door and told us he was there for no other reason than to make us happy. Each day when I opened the door at dawn to see his smiling face with steaming hot coffee and fresh croissants, I was indeed very happy. On our last day I remarked that I wish he could come home with me; I'm sure this is not a new request. I moaned "Binod, we have to disembark tomorrow! (woeful face)" to which he replied "But you are here now, this moment. Enjoy today. Now is all that matters". It's so simple; it is so true. Carpe diem. I really enjoyed working with Rosanna De Ria, our Oceania Club Ambassador. Both she and Sharon Miceli always had a friendly smile and Rosanna was so helpful even when I kept changing my mind about a future cruise. Tours: Call me stupid because I know that the cruise line tours cost more than booking privately, but I feel safer using them. I know that no matter what happens the ship won't leave without me. We've been to the Caribbean many times and visited most of the islands both by land and sea. So for us the Riviera was our destination, but we did book 2 tours. Antigua -- Lobster & Champagne Catamaran Cruise: This was a wonderful tour exploring the shores of Antigua, visited two beaches, and included lobster grilled off the stern of the catamaran along with delicious potatoes, salad, a rice dish we didn't really care for, and champagne. We don't drink alcohol, but it was fun to watch everyone kick back, relax and enjoy ... it's catching. The lobster was delicious which says a lot coming from this New Englander who honestly believes that there is no other lobster than Maine lobster. Maybe it was the ambiance, or the boat, or the magnificent turquoise waters, but that lobster tasted pretty darned yummy to me. All of us onboard really had fun on this tour and you can't put a price on a wonderful day you'll never forget. Barbados -- Photo Adventure: Barbados is really an exquisite island. In the 80's we stayed on the island and we've visited since by sea, but I looked forward to returning for a view from the "inside". I was not disappointed. The host of this tour was Ronnie Carrington, a Barbadian photographer. On our way to the spectacular "Scotland District" on the east coast of Barbados, he showed us a number of his photographs. As an amateur photographer, I was in awe of some of his work. Our last stop was at the charming Atlantis Hotel on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, white louvre shutters thrown open to an azure sea, breezes gently swaying the palms, magnificent views ... just wonderful. Here we enjoyed a cold rum or fruit punch before returning to the ship. I only hope I was able to capture some of the beauty along our route in my photographs. Barbados was just as I remembered. The only blemish on this day was dropping my brand new camera on a rock rendering it useless. How lucky was I to have brought along a "just in case" and had it with me on this tour. As in so many ports, you need to get away from Bridgetown to really experience the island. And while some islands are often better enjoyed from the water, Barbados is an island you really need to explore from within. Entertainment: The Jean Ann Ryan Company was the featured entertainment in the Riviera Lounge. We thought they were wonderful and saw all but one of their shows. I regret we missed some of the Entertainers onboard because we got so caught up in conversation at dinner that we couldn't tear ourselves away. But the entertainment we did see, we really enjoyed. What stood out for me was one of the Jean Ann Ryan singers performing " The Phantom of the Opera". She was as good, or better, than performers who have performed it on the New York stage. I want to mention here that Nolan Dean was probably by far the best Cruise Director we've ever had ... at least in recent memory. First, he was so funny which in itself is enough for me. His self-deprecating humor had me from moment one and I believe he held all of us in the palm of his hand from that day forward. Nolan seemed to be everywhere. Maybe he fooled us all with an identical twin stashed away, because it seemed no matter where we were he was there with a huge smile. The Passengers: We had a wonderful group anticipating this cruise on our CC Roll Call and we got more excited with every day. We had arranged to meet in Horizons our first morning at sea. Almost everyone showed up and my only regret is there wasn't more time to spend talking. We were a little rushed and in the way of an activity, but we were all in a pretty happy mood that morning and it was fun running into everyone throughout the cruise. We met so many wonderful people from all corners the world. I don't think I ran into one grump the entire cruise. Even my husband was at his best! I would love to join all the people we met and sail off again one day, get to know them better. A couple of our fellow cruisers are already booked on our next cruise and I'm looking forward to seeing them again. Disembarkation: We requested 8:30. We were told everyone would leave the ship between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. Our number was called about 8:20, we were off the ship and through Customs within 25 minutes. With our drive of 1 hour 20 minutes we were back in our home at 10:00 a.m. Having walked out of our suite at 8:00, this was just amazing. Last year we experienced the worst disembarkation ever and this was definitely the best ever. Final Thoughts: Our cruising days together began on the fun filled decks of the Cunard Countess in the early 80's and washed onto the Royal Viking Sea in the Mediterranean for our honeymoon. We sailed through the South Pacific waters on Wind Song and enjoyed the small feel of ships like Seawind Crown, Prinsendam and NCL's Windward (both formerly Royal Viking ships). I have been on 19 cruises, which for some may seem few, but neither are we cruise novices. For years we enjoyed Holland America and then Celebrity, but as those lines tried to keep their fares low and their ships full, we felt the decline yet not unlike a wife trying to excuse her husband's faults, or vice versa, we overlooked a lot. But looking back today at my last review of Solstice I now know how generous I was because the tarnish was greater than I acknowledged. So to board Oceania Riviera a few weeks ago, feel the luxury and the warmth that engulfed us, it really was like coming home and served as a reminder that you get what you pay for. And truth be known, even the lowest level on Oceania comes at a higher cost than the cruise lines we enjoyed in the past. But we've reached a time in our lives that if we're going to take ourselves out on the glorious ocean we so love, we're going to do it in style and we're going to do it on Oceania. I'd rather cruise less and do it on Oceania than accept anything less than what we experienced on the Riviera. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Let me preface my post by saying we had a WONDERFUL time on this cruise! Great friends, new friends, excellent food, service, and entertainment! I am still going through Crystal withdrawals 5 days later. Embarkation: The ship was ... Read More
Let me preface my post by saying we had a WONDERFUL time on this cruise! Great friends, new friends, excellent food, service, and entertainment! I am still going through Crystal withdrawals 5 days later. Embarkation: The ship was full, but the only time we felt that was on embarkation day. We boarded at about 1:30. There was about a 10 minute wait in the terminal until our number was called, and then we waited on line outside the casino for about 15 minutes until we were rapidly checked in by a casino employee (that knew us from Symphony). Since we missed lunch in the MDR, we went up to Lido Deck, grabbed a table and called our friends already on board. DH volunteered to get us some lunch from the Trident, and waited on line over 30 minutes to be served. There was a very long line, and only so many Trident employees. Our friends joined me at the table and waited until DH arrived with our lunch. Our cabin was ready before 3 pm, and we went down to unpack. Our cabin: We used our 10th cruise upgrade that we had banked for several years and paid for a C and were upgraded to an A, 9080. It was a great midship location. The cabin is a bit larger than those on Symphony, with larger drawers for storage. Great new reading light! Everything else appeared to be about the same, and the layout was essentially the same. The veranda may be slightly larger than on Symphony. Our stewardess, Sonia, was pleasant and extremely efficient. She did an excellent job! Our only complaint about the cabin, and our only major complaint about the ship, is the bed. It is like sleeping on a bag of cement, and we like a firm mattress. I know that Crystal replaces the mattresses frequently, but it may be time to switch mattress manufacturers. Please, someone from Crystal should sail Oceania and try their wonderful beds. Even Holland America has more comfortable beds than the ones on Crystal. IMO, the beds are the only thing that is not 6 star on Crystal! Service: We received excellent service in every venue! Because this was our first time on Serenity, there was not the immediate familiarity with crew we knew from Symphony, but within two days, they knew our names and we felt at home. Special mention goes to Liezl, the Librarian and Urara, the wonderful Activity Hostess, who are the quintessential representatives for Crystal! Our waitstaff Zoltan and Ana were great, as was our sommelier, Jiri and our Headwaiter, Peter. Thank you to Ziggy and Albert in Silk Road who took wonderful care of us and Antonio and Mario in Prego. Benjamin from Lido is a star, and thanks to Darko and Walson from Tastes. There was no decrease in service from the switch to All Inclusive, it was as superb as it always is on a Crystal ship! Food: Better than ever!! We tried every dining venue except room service and felt the food and service was exemplary in each. I am still longing for the yellowtail tartare in Silk Road! I think it is my favorite dish on the ship. I think the variety and amount of food in the Bistro was more than I have seen before. It is such a popular meeting place, thank you Crystal! We were at the Ship Doctor's table in the MDR and had a very congenial tablemates. There were a red and a white wine offered nightly with dinner, but additional options were also available on request. We were satisfied with the spirits available in the lounges, at no time did we feel we were getting "second best," in terms of our personal requests. Entertainment: Rave reviews for the shows Rocketman and Across the Pond! It is difficult to believe that the performers on Broadway could be anymore talented than the singers and dancers on Crystal. The costumes deserve special mention! Our lecturers: Dr. Anthony Aveni, who was the destination lecturer, was very entertaining, as was Joan Salge Blake, who spoke on nutrition with humor and energy. Prof. Louis Rene Beres was our other lecturer, who spoke on the Middle East and threat of nuclear war, was obviously very bright and well-informed, but his topics were so grim, perhaps too grim for a vacation. Thomas Daniels, the Cove Pianist and Marcie Castro, the Avenue Saloon Pianists were both terrific! Unfortunately, the smoking in The Cove made it difficult to sit and enjoy Thomas for very long. Thank you, Crystal, for making the Avenue smoke-free! It made such a difference! Marcie had a full house every night and really got everyone rocking! Special mention to Rick Spath, the Cruise Director, who is so upbeat, friendly, personable and accessible! It was such fun to visit with our dear friend from Symphony, Scott Mitchell, who is the Asst. Cruise Director on Serenity. We had a great Trivia team and came in 2nd twice and won the last game after 3 tie breaker questions. Ports: Swimming with the dolphins in Tortola was amazing! Although we have done it before in Cabo, it is still such an incredible feeling to be up close and personal with those bright creatures. We had a great assortment of islands on this cruise and beautiful weather! About Serenity: All of our cruises on Crystal have been on Harmony (I still miss her) and Symphony. So this was our first time on Serenity except for visiting friends last year for the day in Miami. It is like Symphony, except different! By that I mean, in addition to being larger, many things look similar, but are in different spots on the ship, so I would find myself leaving Bistro and expecting to cross the Deck 6 to the library, only to remember that it is on 7, etc. It is larger over-all, and each ship has some specific stars among its public rooms. The ship is sparkling clean and well maintained. The norovirus which had been present on the previous cruise was contained and almost non-existent on our cruise due to the vigilance of Crystal staff and crew. We also noticed an outside contractor sanitation crew on board, too. Crystal did an outstanding job insuring the presence of the virus did not linger on the ship. Again, the only sign of a full ship was on embarkation day on the Lido deck. Even on sea days, plenty of seating was available around the pool. Disembarkation was smooth, we simply walked off the ship at our assigned time and found our luggage and a porter. We had a great time, ate too much, stayed up too late with friends, laughed and talked and got to know so many new people and enjoyed the special old friends on board and new friends. It was wonderful! Thank you, Crystal, from the staff in Los Angeles to the crew, staff and officers on board, we always leave wanting to stay longer. You make our vacations so memorable and enjoyable! We can't wait to come home again! p.s. We appreciate the ship's carpenter who did a super job replacing the handle on one suitcase that came off during delivery. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
This was our 3 rd and 4th cruise with Oceania, as we took a two 10 days back to back Caribbean cruise package. Although we have tried a number of other cruise lines, we found, like everything else in life, you get what you paid for. If you ... Read More
This was our 3 rd and 4th cruise with Oceania, as we took a two 10 days back to back Caribbean cruise package. Although we have tried a number of other cruise lines, we found, like everything else in life, you get what you paid for. If you want a cruise where the dinner jacketed waiter brings the caviar on a silver plate while you are in the swimming pool, Oceania is not for you. Or if you are happy to line up at a summer camp type canteen to get your lunch and love to listen to loud electronic "music" blaring at you everywhere, Oceania is not for you. We found it amazing how some ships cater for different type of travellers, for example we saw a German ship which carried bicycles for passengers to tour the different ports. Our Riviera was more notable for the number of wheel chairs it carried. But if you appreciate superb food, outstanding service, and great ambiance, the Riviera will provide it, with abundance. Most of the passengers were senior or very senior citizens who not only had the time to cruise but who reached an age to be too old to be missed back home. Out of the 1200 passengers, 60% were repeat customers, and one couple celebrated their 50th Oceania cruise. The Riviera is very similar to her sister ship Marina, but we found that the artwork and decoration is less offensive to the eye than on the Marina. The ship launched in 2012 was made in an Italian shipyard, and we were sorry to see that the famous Italian flair had gone the same way as their economy. At least the pictures on the wall were signed by the "artists", indicating which way to hang the paintings. The cabins are comfortable and adequate for a short trip, provided you get on well with your travelling partner. The bathroom is well equipped, with a shower cubicle and for those who could not fit in, there was a full size tub, provided they were fit enough to step in. The cabins are kept clean and tidy by the ship staff, but we found it helps to give a $20 bill to the stateroom attendant as you board on the first day. Oceania charges $11 per person per day as gratuity, but if you shop around, you may find a travel agent who would prepay the gratuities from their commission. On the ship, the dress code is country club casual; there is no need to have formal ware days, like on other ship we have encountered. Judging by attire worn by some of the passengers on those ships, it is possible that the formal days were introduced to enhance one's appetite at meal times. The choice of entertainment on the Riviera is limited. This becomes important on sea days, or when docked at the few ports with little to offer, except the notorious International Diamond store, the Wallmart of jewellers in the Caribbean. The ship has a good library, otherwise only few activities are available during the day, unless you are interested in lectures on weighty subjects, such as napkin folding. Most evenings there was a late evening show, attended by approximately half the passengers, the rest must have retired, or did not fancy the type of entertainments offered. The variety shows ranged from class to crass, with scanty dressed young 6 ft 6 inch tall (without the high heels) dancing girls, their long legs reaching to the armpit gyrating, a routine more suited for an audience swimming in testosterone, instead they were reminding the old folks what they used to do long ago at their younger years, but horizontally, in bed. There was a good eight piece house band playing dance music in the evening, but the few couples who were fit enough to climb up the two steps to the dance floor did not exactly exhibit ballroom grace of motion. For shoppers, there are no Middle Eastern type bazaars on the Riviera, like on some ships. Instead the on ship boutiques are full of beautiful merchandise, but some of the jewelry may cost almost as much as your trip. Also, the journey is made more pleasant by having no onboard photographers pestering you and the constant bombardment of announcements and flyers on special sales of mostly junk. The tours offered by Oceania carry a large mark-up, but if you are interested in more than sightseeing, or are planning a longer duration tour, it is advisable to take a tour organized by the ship, to make sure that you have a knowledgeable guide and you are back safe and sound before the ship sails. It is advisable to do some research on the different tours before you book to avoid any disappointment. During the first 10 days Caribbean Hideaways trip the cruise stops at five different islands: Tortola, Antigua, Barbados, Saint Lucia and Gustavia. All lush in vegetation and the mountains provide breathtaking scenery overlooking the ocean. Some people say once you have seen one island you seen all, but we found that each island had some characteristics ranging from the majestic peaks of the Pitons on St. Lucia to the harbour of Augusta at St. Barth, which reminds one of Monte Carlo or Nice of the French Riviera. The second 10 day cruise called Mayan Mystique stopped at George Town, Cozumel, Belize, Santo Tomas, Costa Maya, but we could not dock at Roatan due to the stormy weather. We found the name of Mayan Mystique appropriate as we found it mysterious why Oceania chose some of those ports of call, such as Belize City and Santo Tomas in Guatemala. The Mayan ports appear to offer less sightseeing than the Caribbean ports, for example one of the Mayan tour we took involved 5 hours of bus ride through boring landscape, then spending one hour looking at three Mayan ruins, while standing in pouring rain. Some Mayan ports offer trips to beaches and various other water activities. The Mayan leg of the cruise should be advertised for young couples, and book or other lovers, as in case of inclement weather there is nothing else to do, until the next meal time. At every port there are shops after shops, selling various merchandise, some are junk, but somehow they survive proving that one man's junk is another's treasure. The good news is that some of the products were made locally and none of the merchandise I looked at had the label "Made in China". If one is inclined to keep up to date with all the bad news while travelling, there is a brief four page daily summary news sheet printed on the ship and delivered to your cabin. It is an embarrassing collection of mostly trivia news item, but sport fans are well served, as sport items are occupying more than 50% of the news sheets. Fortunately, there is TV in the cabin and for those who are interested in international and unbiased reporting can even watch the BBC news programs. The best shows are the meal times in the Grand dining room, or the 4 o'clock Tea and in the evenings in the four Speciality restaurants, where the presentation, flavours and ambiance produce and evening to remember. The Grand dining room on the Riviera is truly grand, serving food with exotic ingredients, in picture perfect presentation, resulting in mostly outstanding dishes. The other four smaller restaurants serve more specialized food, in intimate and elegant surroundings. You are entitled to dine once in each of these speciality restaurants. It is recommended to book your tables on the internet before you sail, to make sure you get a table, especially if you are not inclined the share the table with others. There is no extra charge for dining in these speciality restaurants. These restaurants serve French, Italian, Asian and steak dishes. When dining at the Red Ginger Asian restaurant it is advisable to have some help from the waiting staff, to navigate through the rather strange and exotic sounding dishes offered. The Red Ginger is not strictly a Chinese, Thai or Japanese restaurant, but it serves a fusion of Asian dishes. The show starts with a magic, hot water is poured on a small white pill in a plate, which acts as an instant Viagra, and grows suddenly into a large napkin to wipe your fingers with, after which you can go through the ceremony of picking the colour of your chopstick, I assume to match your outfits. One needs lots of willpower to moderate the amount of food one eats, otherwise while you board the ship as a passenger; you may be unloaded as cargo at the end of your trip. Great attention is paid to small items such as the daily bread, which is as good as anywhere in France, not like the bread on other cruise lines which tasted like pressed sawdust. For espresso lovers there is an all day barista service with real Italian coffee, expertly prepared for no extra charge. There is Internet connection on the ship but it is slow and expensive. Use it if you have some urgent business to take care of, or if you have money to burn. Otherwise at most ports you can find free Wi Fi connection, either at a public place or at a coffee shop or bar. In the port of Miami at the customs office while waiting for clearance I downloaded a book from my public library in Toronto. All in all we had a good time and would consider again going on an Oceania cruise, once we have shredded the extra weight put on during our past 20 days. We wish we could take one of the Oceania chefs home with us, or at least the one who baked our daily French baguette. Well seasoned traveller and a very senior citizen Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Hello every one, We are a couple of 33 and 34years and we've done our first cruise on the Royal Clipper, the 26th January to 2nd february in the Grenadines islands. We do not regret the expensive ticket because the cruise has been ... Read More
Hello every one, We are a couple of 33 and 34years and we've done our first cruise on the Royal Clipper, the 26th January to 2nd february in the Grenadines islands. We do not regret the expensive ticket because the cruise has been wonderfull. FOOD : ++ The food quality is excellent and various. You will find something new for every breakfast first example. We can tell that the food is a concern for Star Clipper by the number of time that you can eat on board : 6 time per day!! * Early breakfast on the piano bar * Breakfast buffet on the dinning room (fruit, sweets, eggs, bacon, pancakes, vegetable,... and a egg bar where the chef will make for you the eggs you want) * Lunch buffet at the dinning room with one thematic per day. Wonderful desserts and a meal "a la decoupe" (a full salmon, sucking pig, ...) * Cocktail and Collation at Tropical Bar around 5PM. Again sweets and salty thing, different every day. * Dinner at the dinning room. You are placed by the "Maitre d'hotel" and you can change your table every night if you want. The menu have 2 appetisers and 1 soup; 2 main dishes (one fish one meat) and a vege dish and a more local suggestion; salad and cheese and 2 dessert. * Midnight lunch at the Piano Bar Food are more european/french style than really local. Very good and nice presentation but I would like the local suggestion to be more "local". You will not really taste the local products like grilled fishes, sweet potatoes, yam, colombo, plantain and all the wonderful fruits of the Caribbean. If you want to taste local food you will have to go in ports but, for dinner, you will have time only at Grenada. Wines and cocktails are at reasonable price, count 5.50euro for a cocktail. The cocktail of the day is a little bit cheaper. EXCURSIONS : + One of my biggest fear was the excursions. Previous review were pretty bad about the cruise director. I have to say that the new one, Renata, is more than efficient and friendly. Inside documentation we get by mail before the cruise we've found all the excursions proposed with hours, description, prices, ... And during the week Renata stick to the programm. she even add one more trips due to passenger demand as snorkeling in Santa Lucia. She's speaking English, German, french and also Spanish. You will see her everywhere, at the boat tender to check departure of people for excursions, at evening to animation the shows, explaining the disembarkation or giving more information about the excursions, ... When is she sleeping?? So she's doing a very good job. Excursion themselves are more oriented to 60s people with 4x4 travel. No big hiking or physical activities. Also on many island we stay 4 hours (morning or afternoon). that is a small amount of time if you want to do something by yourself except beach or shopping on the touristic front beach. SHIP : +++ It is a real sailing ship and the captain does not miss any occasion to remind you that. So yes, the boat is rocking (and yes I can confirm that I'm seasick). The Royal Clipper is a pretty lady and you will always seen crew member painting, cleaning, repairing,... every beat of it. It is really something to sail in this ship and to see other cruise ship passenger looking at the Royal Clipper! The dinner room is just amazing. Look at the Titanic, shrink it a little bit and you get it. For a ship of this size it is really impressive To be honest it has been one of our criteria to select the royal Clipper over Star Flyer. *Sun Deck, you will find 2 small pools (hot-tub size) and one big enough for 5 people. A lot of sun chair and roof for the shadow. There are also 2 steering wheel (real ones, you can drive the ship with them if the bridge decide so) and all the sails and rope. Note that thanks to electrical helping plots one sailor is able to rise a sail (he wind the rope around it at that help him to pull). There is also the bridge and the forward nest where you can go, except the night. Very good place to see the sunshine! * Main Deck, the heart of the ship : the Tropical Bar, open both side to the sea in the middle of the ship. It is the real meeting point for everyone. Inside you have also the Piano Bar and the impressive light shaft to the dinning room. There is also the library, the cabins with balcony and the forward lounge used for conferences. * clipper Deck is the cabin deck with the continuation of the light shaft, the reception and sloo shop. * Commodore Deck is again the cabins and the luxurious Dinning room. There is also a well equipped gym room and the spa (used none of them as we were to busy!!) PASSANGERS : ++ We were the youngest. 2 or 3 other couples in the 30s-40s but majority of passenger are couples of 50s and more. A lot of american, german, some canadien also. Usually people are repeaters of the Star Clipper and are seasoned travelers. English is the main language. However all official communication were made in english, german and french. Don't except to have party every night with dance after midnight! In the other hand, if you prefer to enjoy the stars/moon at the sun deck and discuss with crew members it is perfect. SATURDAY, Embarkation at Barbados arrived at 1pm, it is a little bit too early but we've been part of the first to get inside the boat. 1 or 2 hours to explore the ship and wonder if we are inside a dream or not. Followed by the drill exercise then the diner. We skipped the desert to assist to the sail and departure at 10PM. SUNDAY, Captain's choice Union Island Quiet day at the beach, a little bit raining. It was one of my favorite place for the beach background : forest, not to many people, 1 or 2 bars made from wood and really local. MONDAY, Grenada Muddy and slippery hiking to the Seven sister falls. It is not very difficult or long... for young people. The waterfalls are very nice and it stay as one of my favorite place of the cruise. Imagine to swim in the water-pool in the middle of the rain forest... Never think I will be able to do that one day! We've also see some monkeys very quickly. If you want to eat local that's the day because the boat leave at 11PM. TUESDAY, Tobago Cay An other post card place. Very nice beach and good snorkeling place. For the lunch it a a BBQ on the beach. The only problem : maybe too many people (almost all the boat) on the beach... WEDNESDAY, St Vincent The morning at Kingston, the capital. It is a NOT touristic place. Then I will not say beautiful but interesting to see what can be the real world behind the post card of touristic pace. Afternoon at Bequia, this one is a real touristic place in front of the beach. Lot of gift shops (twice the price compare to Kingston). The boat tender can also bring you to the beach, seem to be nice. THIRSDAY, MARTINIQUE Morning at Fort de France. It is a little bit of France in the middle of Caribbean, very surprising. Bring euros here to buy something! The rum is excellent and cheap. :-) Afternon at Anse d'Arlet. Many people love this place but it was my less favorite one. First there is no shadow at all and we've already get sun burned from the previous days, second the beach is narrow and full of constructions. The worse of "Cote d'Azur"! FRIDAY, St Lucia Again, one place in the morning (Marigo Bay) and one the afternoon (Soufriere). The bay is funny to see all the expensive yachts. The Soufriere is a beautiful place. The zip-line excursion is good but the highlight of the day is the photo-tender : at the sunset the 2 boat tender will turn around the ship, all sails out, and you can do amazing picture of the Royal Clipper. SATURDAY, Barbados The end of the cruise, sadly. You can have some excursion (beach or island tour) that will bring you at the airport. As usual the organization is serious and efficient! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
14 days from Singapore to Hong Kong was a delight. Azamara did a great thing by providing soft drinks and wine gratis. Our previous Azamara cruise I was still signing for each drink, a nuisance for me and the staff. The overall ... Read More
14 days from Singapore to Hong Kong was a delight. Azamara did a great thing by providing soft drinks and wine gratis. Our previous Azamara cruise I was still signing for each drink, a nuisance for me and the staff. The overall experience was up to their usual excellent standard. Food was quite good at the Windows buffet as well as the Discoveries (MDR). A few signs of cost cutting since our last trip, berries are frozen rather than fresh, and no more Prosciutto appetizer. Sushi was available all evening, a nice touch. Service outstanding as usual, entertainment was "cruise ship" song and dance, which we enjoyed. Sadly the British comedian's accent was difficult for my old ears to decipher, though the many Aussies and UK-ers had no trouble. Wish I knew what they were laughing at sometimes. There was one major disappointment though, the internet service. It's terribly expensive and frustratingly slow. Buying any amount of minutes incurred a 3 minute overhead to log on and another 3 minute overhead to log off. Their usual disclaimer is that satellite service is slow by nature. Perhaps, but when I peeked over the shoulder of the techy guy (in title only, he knew less than I about the technology) in the internet center, his laptop was surfing lightning fast. There's a good signal somewhere on the ship, just not for the passengers. I spent more for internet time than for liquor, and that's wrong for 2 reasons! The internet service was also down for hours at a time. We live in the age of Skype and streaming. Neither of these services were available or even possible. I read other ships with similar complaints. I'd like better internet service, if for no other reason than to supplement their satellite TV channel set. I doubt any cruise company will want to upset the present profit center that selling time provides. Next time I'll load more books on my Kindle. I continue to love Azamara's 2 ships and will travel with them again. Hopefully the technology will improve in the future. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
3.16.13 -- St. Marten Took a (very) early morning flight from JFK to St. Marten. DW and I arrived around 11:30am. Customs was painless -- one small note -- the FAs on Delta insisted that the Immigration cards for SXM were one per family ... Read More
3.16.13 -- St. Marten Took a (very) early morning flight from JFK to St. Marten. DW and I arrived around 11:30am. Customs was painless -- one small note -- the FAs on Delta insisted that the Immigration cards for SXM were one per family -- they are really one per passenger. Only place I know where the immigration officer says, "it's no problem -- just remember for the next time." Ahhh, already know we're on vacation. The reps for Windstar were waiting right outside Customs for us. The drive from SXM to the port took about 25 minutes. We got to the pier at about 12:20 -- about 40 minutes before boarding. Dropped our luggage off at the Windstar tent, then went to grab $5 margaritas at a pier bar. Turns out the Windstar was docked right next to the ill-fated Carnival Dream. Based on our conversations with Dream passengers at the pier, the Dream trip didn't seem too ill-fated. Yes, the toilets did back up for a bit. Carnival fixed that pretty quickly and the ship (outside of being able to move) is fully functioning. To boot, they've gotten to stay on the ship and everything is free! While I'm sure I wouldn't be pleased, all in all could be worse. Boarded the Windsurf right at 1pm. Sign-on was a breeze -- maybe took 10 minutes. You pick up paperwork, fill out forms in the lounge, have some rum punch, turn in paperwork, and then voila -- you're being escorted to your cabin. Walking through the yacht, it's clear it just went through a facelift. The modern-nautical theme really works -- that said, it's clear the upgrades were purely cosmetic. Some of the carpet is worn, porthole sealing is decaying, etc. To be fair, you'll have to look really hard to find this stuff. Our cabin on Deck 2 is surprisingly large -- the bathroom is definitely the best layout I've seen at sea. Shower is quite spacious. After dropping off our stuff, we headed upstairs for lunch at the Veranda and to make dinner reservations. Based on what we read on the CC boards, we were expecting something terrible -- it wasn't bad at all! The salad bar is quite delicious. Beyond lunch, I strongly suggest making specialty dinner reservations ASAP. It was quite obvious that the line for dinner reservations got much larger as the day went on. For us -- Candles on night 2, and Stella Bistro on night 6. After lunch our luggage had been delivered to our cabin (quite fast!), so we unpacked and then headed up to the pool deck to get some sun and read. This is when we noticed we were on a yacht and not a ship -- the staff actually recognizes you -- already. They would say things like "Hello, again," etc. I could get used to this. Hung out by the pool until about 5, then back to cabin to shower and get ready for the muster drill. Post muster drill, went to the Compass Rose for appetizers and drinks. Dinner at AmorphA was quite good -- DW had butternut squash soup and veggie napoleon for dinner. For myself, the snapper special appetizer and seafood risotto. Our mains were definitely better than the apps -- soup was too watery, snapper was a bit bland. AmorphA itself is incredible -- really feels like a high-end NYC restaurant. Highlight of tonight was definitely our sail-away from SXM. The minute we pulled out of the port, Captain Alan unleashed the sails. I'll admit -- I was VERY skeptical that we would ever sail under the full power of sails without the engines. I was wrong. Totally. Night 1 and we we're sailing under the power of seven sails. Another tip -- we highly recommend walking up to front of the bridge deck for sailaway. For one, you can watch the happenings of the bridge firsthand and two, the sight of the sails unraveling are incredible! Post watching the sails unravel, we hung out on the loungers by the Veranda. Spent 45 minutes on deck and saw not a soul. Really felt like our own ship. Night 1 and I've already sipped the Windstar cool-aid. This is very easy to get used to! 3.17.13 - Antigua Awoke early and went upstairs just in time to see the captain and his crew rolling in the last of the sails for our entry into Antigua. There is something magnificent about seeing the sun rise at sea -- it never gets old. Had breakfast this morning at the Veranda -- DW and I treated ourselves to the buffet of lox and fresh backed breads, all of which were quite good. Unbeknownst to us, there is also a breakfast menu you can order off of -- we'll save that for tomorrow. Breakfast on deck was capped off with a cappuccino -- delicious! After breakfast, we ventured out on the tender to the port of Falmouth. We passed many a yacht on the tender! The port itself was nothing special. The minute we got off the tender, we took a taxi to Pigeon Point -- the closest beach. While it looked nice, we knew it wasn't for us -- it's right on a road, no chairs to rent, etc. Realizing we weren't thrilled, the cab driver drove us to his favorite beach -- Valley Church Beach -- about 35 minutes from the port. It was amazing -- I have never seen such pristine water! We spent five hours at Valley Church and maybe saw 15 other people in total. You can rent beach chairs for $5 each at the beach as well as umbrellas and towels. Towels at the beach are $7, but the ship gives them to you for free -- so remember to grab them on your way out. We returned to the Wind Surf around 3pm and grabbed sandwiches from The Lounge and ate poolside (try the French -- brie and onion compote on a fresh baguette -- very good!). We lounged poolside until sunset, when the pool closed for Candles setup. One small annoyance at the pool -- the towels at the pool were completely out for most of the afternoon and the towel return was overflowing -- it wasn't addressed until I went till the guest services desk and mentioned it to them. I found this a bit surprising, but by no means was it terrible. Upon returning to the cabin to ready ourselves for dinner, there was a bottle of champagne and appetizers in our cabin for our anniversary -- a very nice treat! Dinner tonight was at Candles. On the recommendation of the crew, we chose to eat at Candles on a night when we were in port because there is less wind. Dinner again was very good. DW had caprese salad and lamb chops (very tender!) and I had a caesar salad and marinated sea bass. At the end of dinner the ship surprised us with a cake and sang to us -- definitely got the DW blushing. Ended the night by listening to the duo in the compass rose. Another great day! 3.18.13 -- Antigua/At Sea Although we were still docked in Antigua, DW and I spent most of the day on the aft of the Star Deck lounging in the sun. We had breakfast again at the Veranda -- DW had the California Benedict and myself a Breakfast Burrito -- both were just okay. Her poached eggs were overcooked and mine was just bland. I think we'll stick to the buffet in the morning. As I was lounging, I realized -- I think we're one of the few on board who enjoy "big ship" cruising too -- many people we talk to shun it and I certainly understand why. I am loving Windstar, but this isn't a cruise -- it's an "anti-cruise" cruise. Days are passed by relaxing in the sun -- no activity list to follow, no announcements about an art auction, just you, the sea, and (maybe) a good book. Lunch again was on the Veranda and it was very, very good. With all passengers back on board with our impending departure, it got very crowded. DW and I actually sat in Stella. I had a delicious chicken caesar salad and DW had a turkey sandwich that was out of the world. Our sail away from Antigua from phenomenal too -- once again, under the full power of sails. After an afternoon of sun, we attended the captain's welcome gala in the lounge at 6pm (side note -- I found it ironic that on the same night as the welcome gala we received our departure questionnaire at turn down. Really Windstar? Can't you just wait one more night...). Dinner followed in AmorphA. DW and I agree -- tonight's dinner was one of the best meals we've had at sea -- not just on this cruise. DW and I both started with the beef carpaccio. For dinner, DW had duck a l'orange and I had the lobster ravioli -- both were superb. One other tip -- at some point during the trip you must try the french fries with truffle oil and parmesan as a side dish. YUM. We shared a cheese plate for dessert. A great way to top off a wonderful meal. We visited the bridge post-dinner, then on to the casino and the compass rose. It was a very relaxing day/evening. All that said, the ship was very rocky tonight -- we overheard many people talking about their battles with sea sickness. Lucky for us, we weren't affected. If you are one to battle sea-sickness, remember to bring your remedies. According to the captain, the seas were calm tonight -- boy, were we rocking! 3.19.13 -- Torola/Jost Van Dyke The seas calmed early this morning. Finally! Stuck with some lox and bread for breakfast, then on to the first tender to Tortola. Soper's itself is a very small port -- a few stores -- you can walk the entire port in 10 minutes. After we walked the port, we jumped in a taxi with some others from the ship and headed towards Roadtown. For me, Tortola was a bit of let down -- I thought Roadtown would be a nice quaint town to walk around. While it's a perfectly fine and safe place to walk around, it's not very picturesque. After about an hour, we had enough and went back to the ship. After a quick lunch, DW and I ventured out to the watersports deck -- lots of fun! We probably made a fool of ourselves on the water trampoline, but luckily no one was around to see us. On our way back in from the watersports deck, we made appointments at the spa for foot massages later in the day -- there was a special in today's program, 30 minutes for $39. We pretty much had the ship to ourselves this afternoon. It was great! Unfortunately, the clouds rolled in and it rained a bit. Oh well, time for our massages anyway. The massages were wonderful. After our massages, the ship made the 5 nautical mile journey to Jost Van Dyke. Along the way, an incredible rainbow appeared. Very cool. Tonight was the big barbeque on board. The rain forced the ship to move the event inside to the lounge. It was still lots of fun though (and delicious!). Lobster tails, shrimp, roast pig, skirt steak, seafood jambalaya. One suggestion -- definitely try the grilled bananas for dessert. Yum. The Wind Surf is anchored in JVD tonight. It seems like many passengers on the ship are heading to Foxy's tonight for some libations and good times. DW and I are enjoying life on the ship and just don't feel like getting ourselves on another tender. We're quite content hanging out reading our books. 3.20.13 -- Jost Van Dyke/Virgin Gorda After a quick breakfast, we hopped the first tender to Jost Van Dyke and took a cab to White Bay/Soggy Dollar Beach. JVD is a VERY small island -- no banks, no ATMs, only five cab drivers -- truly unspoiled Caribbean. Once on the beach, I wrote to our family "I've never really been searching for Heaven, but I've found it." JVD is incredible -- the water, the sand, the view, the drinks from the bar -- everything about it was euphoric. The beach is small, but delivers a big punch. Just grab a towel on your way off the boat, buy a drink at the bar and you're all set. As long as you buy stuff from one of the bars, you can use the chairs on the beach. In terms of drinks, you have to try a Painkiller, but we liked the Nilla Killa better. We ate lunch at the Soggy Dollar, but we heard the restaurant One Love was very good too -- it's just down the beach from Soggy Dollar. As the afternoon goes on, the beach gets more crowded as the hotels from St. Thomas bring their guests for the day, but the whole experience is just fantastic. Once we left the soggy dollar, we took a quick cab ride back to our pier and quickly walked into Foxy's. To be honest, I didn't get the hype -- it's a bit of tourist trap. I know I'm in the minority hear, but Soggy Dollar was more my style. Back on the ship, we hung out the pool as the ship readied to sail to Virgin Gorda. I left JVD praying we'll return soon. The sail to Virgin Gorda takes about three hours. We stood on the bridge as the ship headed into the Bitter End Yacht Club (where it docks). Sailing in, we passed the Seabourn Legend. It was quite exciting to be on the bridge as this all happened. The captain took a ton of care to make sure all went well. The passage into Bitter End is very, very narrow and filled with yachts. I imagine it's one of the captain's more nerve-wracking moments of the itinerary. At dinner, we ended up being seated right next to the Captain's Table (lots of eavesdropping ensued) and learned lots. He said that on an average cruise 40-60% of guests are repeat cruisers -- on TAs that number jumps to 96%! Dinner itself was amazing tonight. DW had bruschetta caprese, lobster bisque, and the most succulent lamb chops ever. I had shrimp cocktail, the bisque, and an out-of-this-world stir-fried Thai shrimp. We split a piece of banana cream pie for dessert -- also very good. Today was truly a day in heaven. I'd happily repeat it again and again and again. 3.21.13 -- Virgin Gorda We had to get up early today because of our shore excursion to The Baths. I would guess about 45% of the ship went on the tour. Since there were a lot of shore excursions going out today, they started breakfast service early. The shore excursion meeting process was very seamless -- I guess it helps when you don't have to corral thousands of passengers at once. The Baths were stunning. There are parts of the climb that do get a little hairy (ie -- you need to use a rope at some points), but it's not like you are hiking Mount Everest. I thought climbing Dunn's River Falls was much harder (and a lot scarier) than this. We heard some people on our ship complain that they thought The Baths were too crowded (the Carnival Breeze was docked in Tortola and had a shore excursion going too), but we didn't experience this. One tip -- our ship gets you there earlier than the big ships -- don't dilly dally at the first beach -- go through The Baths right away. This will help you avoid the crowds and you'll get to enjoy Devil's Bay Beach at the end. The tender from the shore excursion took us right to Prickly Pear, where the beach barbeque was being held. The food was very good -- burgers, dogs, brats, salads, noodles, etc. The queue for the salads builds up for some reason -- if you don't want a salad just go straight to the bbq line. Many people didn't realize this (including us) -- we were starving having just gotten done with The Baths and spent 15 minutes waiting in line for something we didn't even want. As we ate Captain Alan unfurled the sails on the ship so passengers could take photos. The ship looked beautiful with its sails out. After sunning a bit, we headed back on to the ship to watch our sail out. This time the captain kept the bridge closed -- I certainly understand why. Dinner tonight was at Stella. The DW really liked it, I thought it was good, but certainly not the best meal I've had onboard. DW had duck pate, mushroom soup, and the steak frites. Her pate was extremely dry. I had the goat cheese souffle and the poached salmon with asparagus. My souffle was very good. Overall, I'm glad we only went once. While the service was impeccable, I preferred Candles. Tonight was the crew talent show. It was great to see the crew in a whole different environment. Tomorrow is St. Barth's and we are very excited! 3.22.13 -- St. Barth This morning breakfast was to the scenic view of our sail in to St. Barth. A lot of ships appear to be in port this morning -- Holland America, Star Clipper, and Paul Gauguin. We ordered off the menu again -- DW had poached eggs with salmon hash and I had southwest steak and eggs. We quite enjoyed both -- much better than our first attempt at the menu. Once again, we were the first tender off the ship. Town was crowded, but nonetheless we enjoyed our walk around the ship. Following our walk around the downtown, we took a cab to Nikki Beach in St. Jean where we had reserved an umbrella and a beach bed. Nikki Beach was tons of fun -- certainly something we wouldn't do on most our vacations. It's definitely a place to see and be seen. Our lunch at Nikki Beach was good -- steak tartar and a pesto chicken wrap. Their mojitos were very good -- they claim to have the best in the world, but I wouldn't go that far. We returned to the ship and packed up. We booked transfers through the ship and our disembarkation time is 8:30am. Post packing, we headed upstairs, grabbed a drink and listened to a few tunes from the guest singer. It was another solid night in the dining room -- DW had caprese salad and porcini mushrooms with fettuccini. I had escargot and the grilled snapper with a mango salsa. I would say my dinner was better on the whole, but both were very good. For dessert, we split the chocolate banana tarte and highly recommend it. It's hard to believe that our seven nights has come to a close. Luckily, our trip has felt much longer than seven nights. Both the DW and I agree that Windstar has exceeded our expectation in every way imaginable. We look forward to returning in the very near future. Some Final Thoughts The Ship: Quite honestly, it's hard to believe the ship is over 30 years old. They have kept very good care of it. Although we we've never been on it before, DW and I both agree the refurbishment did the ship well -- it's really stunning. As the days went on, it really did feel like more of yacht than a ship. As we got familiar with the layout it felt smaller and smaller -- something we both really enjoyed. We loved the amount of deck space the ship has -- never once do you have to fight for a lounger. To sum up, it's simplistic yet elegant. The Crew: Amazing. Every single crewmember works incredibly hard (as they do on all ships). However, something was different on Windstar -- the crew seems to genuinely enjoy their job and it's shows in their service. By the end of the cruise, most of the crew we interacted with on the ship knew our names. They always remembered my wife's drink order -- iced tea with sweet and low -- and would have one ready for her promptly. The officers of the ship are the friendliest bunch of ships' officers we've met. They do not carry a pompous air like most of the big ships. One small note -- we were surprised we never met our cabin steward -- not once. I wouldn't be able to recognize him if I walked right into him. He took excellent care of our cabin, so perhaps this is intentional. However, it would have been nice to meet him at least once. All that said, the crew is really what made the trip special. Special thanks to the bartender Ed, Ziggy the dining room steward, and Harry the dining room steward. These three gentlemen went out of their way to make our trip special. The Food: I won't go into great detail here as I feel the trip report pretty much sums it up. The cuisine ranged from good to excellent and I would say averaged out at very good. Needless to say, you won't be disappointed with the cuisine. Go with an empty stomach and enjoy. We enjoyed that the focus of this cruise was not food -- we did not walk out of any one meal overly stuffed. It's clear great attention is put on quality not quantity. If you are looking for the twenty-four hour lido buffet, pick another cruise. Tips for Future Cruisers: - Always grab towels when you disembark - Tenders are usually ready to go thirty minutes before the published time - Eat at candles on a night when the ship is docked -- it can get very windy otherwise - Make reservations for dining right when you embark - There is only one American outlet in the Windsurf cabins, if you need more bring an extender. - Be careful using powerful blow dryers -- they will blow the fuse in your cabin. - If the lights don't turn on in your cabin, try pressing the "general" button near your cabin door -- this controls the overall power - Make a point to visit the bridge at least once when entering/exiting a port -- it's a very neat experience Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
This was our first cruise on Oceania. We were looking forward to the newness of the ship, the length of the itinerary, and the warmth of the Caribbean! The ship is gorgeous and very tastefully decorated, a dramatic difference from ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Oceania. We were looking forward to the newness of the ship, the length of the itinerary, and the warmth of the Caribbean! The ship is gorgeous and very tastefully decorated, a dramatic difference from Holland America, and less clubby than Azamara (Journey), which were the only other lines that we had to compare with Oceania. We were excited to spend fourteen days on board. However, if you adore star-gazing into the Caribbean night sky as much as I do, you would have been disappointed to find an overhang blocking our view from our Penthouse suite on Deck 11. If we are fortunate enough to set sail on Rivera again, I would only consider Deck 12 or one of the PH class staterooms in the aft of the ship on Deck 7, which have a more favorable view of the sky. As a matter of fact, I did catch a peek from the balcony of the Oceania Suite on Deck 12, as I had met a couple in the Internet Lounge who offered to give me a tour while we were chatting (thanks, Frank and Suzanne!) I vowed to set that little disappointment aside, and the remainder of our stateroom was attractive, well-equipped and comfortable. Storage, storage, storage ... almost too much, as I found myself backtracking through empty drawers and cabinets when I misplaced something. The walk-in closet was a dream, and the bathroom well-appointed. We were already prepared for the small-ish shower from previous reviews but it was plenty comfortable, especially with rain shower head. We loved the Bvlgari toiletries but suggested in our post-cruise survey that for a fourteen day cruise, full size bottles would produce less waste. Another comment for the cruise line about the reams of paper that appeared in the stateroom day after day: Why not take after Holland America and put a recycle bin next to the waste bin in each room? (Go green!) We promptly were greeted by our butler Pio and room steward Eniko. Pio was a nice enough fellow, but we consider ourselves fairly self-sufficient and aren't really "butler" people. I can only RAVE about Eniko. She was pleasant, efficient, and it was a joy to have her take care of our room throughout our stay, including ensuring that the water in our massive flower arrangement (a gift from me to me) was changed daily. I have to add that it was a nice touch to see an impromptu floral shop set up in the lobby on the 1st day @ sea. I selected my own arrangement of star-gazer lilies and Delphinium, and they lasted the duration of the cruise. I was also surprised at the quality of internet service on board ship. Lest my husband miss an email or a hockey score, we purchased the unlimited package @ $21.99 per day), and except for an unfortunate 36 hour unplanned outage, we easily connected with no issue from my husband's iPad for the duration of the trip. (Being in the IT industry myself, I felt a great deal of empathy for the poor fellow manning the Internet Lounge during the outage. People were not happy.) The specialty restaurants were all wonderful, but some of the highlights were the pumpkin soup at Jacques, the desserts at Polo Grille, the baguette bread at the Terrace Cafe and Jacques, the spicy shrimp appetizer at Red Ginger, and just about everything else at Red Ginger, for that matter. We only ate at the Main Dining Room one time, opting for al fresco dining at the Terrace Cafe for all breakfasts and most dinners. Having escaped the 20 degree cold of Western New York, it was always a delight to dine outside. For added ambiance, however, we brought along our flameless votive candles for dining after dark. (Another suggestion for the cruise line . . . why not have rechargeable candles outside for nighttime dining?) I hesitate to call the Terrace Cafe a buffet (or "boo-fay", as we heard it called). I would suggest that it be referred to as high end food stations, with much of the food cooked to order. Grilled Lobster, grilled fish, pastas, meats carved to order, hand tossed Caesar salads, fresh fruit, sushi, cheeses and meats, and the list goes on. One of my favorite light meals was a glass (or two) of red wine, bread, and blue cheese with a drizzle of honey. We attended three onboard cooking classes and thoroughly enjoyed every dish we prepared (and sampled) under the direction of Executive Chef Kathryn Kelly. The mood was light (and the wine was flowing), and with two person teams, there was plenty of hands-on time for everyone. All of the dirty dishes are magically whisked away and washed by someone other than yourselves. What could be better than that? We pan-fried, sauteed, poached, grav loxed and sauced our way to heaven. We learned new techniques and recipes that we have already adopted at home. (Who would have ever thought that pan seared prosciutto wrapped prunes stuffed with blue cheese and walnut would be such a hit at a dinner party?) For future cruises, I am hoping that they find local venues in the Carribean to incorporate the shopping and cooking excursions that are prevalent on some of the other itineraries. We decided to take ample advantage of the Spa Terrace and Canyon Ranch Spa and with only a minor exception, can say that service and services were terrific (it would be nice to have drink service out there, however, and people did bring their own cocktails despite the Spa's no alcohol policy). During our two weeks on board, I partook in a facial, multiple massages, manicure and pedicure. After his first massage my husband declared Louise the best massage therapist he had ever encountered. He specifically booked his 2nd appointment with her, only to find that they had switched therapists when he arrived at his second visit. Although the staff was able to book an appointment later in the day to accommodate Louise's change in availability, he felt that the front desk at the spa handled the incident badly and without apology for what was clearly their problem (all he wanted to hear was "I'm sorry" . . . would that have been so difficult?) The artist in residence at the Artist Loft during our cruise worked with paper in a crafty sort of way. I was surprised to enjoy my sessions as much as I did, but only had time to attend twice. There was just too much other stuff to do! Having traveled to the Caribbean on several other occasions, we were feeling comfortable enough to go off-grid and plan some of our own shore excursions. On Curacao, we met up with local resident Clarita Hagenaar who conducts culinary walking tours of her beloved island. A travel agent and KLM steward in a previous life, she conducts herself professionally but is playful, knowledgeable, and incredibly personable. We found ourselves sampling street food that we would have never tried on our own, including kala (made with black eyed peas and habanero pepers deep fried like a donut), tentalaria di kashew and tentalaria di pinda (sweets made of cashew nuts and peanuts), boiled peanuts (not my favorite thing), and goat curry and plantains served in the open air Old Market with fabulous onion and habenero relish. Our tour included stops at the floating market, New Market, Old Market, Parliament, the fort, the synagogue and museum (fascinating!) as well as a couple of stops not on her normal itinerary. We felt like, and were treated like, an extended member of her family. Thank you, Clarita! In Greneda, we hopped on a water taxi to Grand Anse Beach, right outside of the cruise port terminal. For an $8 round trip, it was a huge bargain, but you'll need to be prepared to fend off beach vendors and other relentless fellows who offer to deliver drinks or lunch to your beach chair all day. They were very friendly, persistent, and did take no for an answer (as well as a dollar) if you were direct with them. There were mostly locals on the beach, an outdoor market for a little light shopping, as well as casual or sit-down dining for lunch. A terrific way to spend the day on Grenada. Absolutely gorgeous. In St. Lucia, we connected with Spencer Ambrose Tours for snorkeling at Sugar Bay (formerly Jalousie Island), and were thrilled to find that we were only a party of six that day. Because Spencer's staff knows that the snorkeling site can get quite busy with other tour operators later in the day, they whisked us there first thing in the morning. The the water was clear and the fish were abundant (compared to later in the day, with close to 50 other people in the water). Our tour included a locally prepared lunch and was well worth the $85 per person charge. Our goal in Barbados was to celebrate my husband's birthday in style, so I treated him to lunch at Sandy Lane while we were in port. We were treated like royalty (but is was uber expensive!) The options offered in St. Barth's didn't interest us, so we opted for some walking and shopping. We had previously gone on the ATV Tour with Azamara and it is a fun way to see the island. For other shore excursions we stuck with the cruise line, knowing that although we would be paying a premium, there would be no risk of not getting back aboard on time. I believe that the quality of the excursions vary by island, so you are definitely taking a chance but I don't fault the cruise line for a less than spectacular shore excursion. In Aruba, I took a scuba excursion and would definitely recommend this for beginners. Our group felt safe at all times with two guides and two additional people onboard the boat looking after us. In Antigua and St. Vincent we took excursions on catamarans. Both trips were well run but the stop for snorkeling on Bequia (Antigua) was risky since the wave action was fierce that day (certainly not the cruise line's fault). We are early risers and only took advantage of the evening entertainment one time (didn't begin until 9:30), so I won't comment on the quality. Disembarkation was the area with room for most improvement, probably due to the crowd of 1,200 people, many of which not willing or able to follow instructions of when to line up to leave the ship. It was an entirely different experience from our trip last year from Barbados to Miami on Azamara Journey, where senior staff members were at the gangway to say one final goodbye. Ship's officers were not in evidence as far as I could tell, and not even the people who swiped our card for one last time as we stepped off board said goodbye. It was an awkward end to a wonderful trip. One final thought for the Port of Miami is that many senior citizens (not us) would have benefitted from Porter assistance once luggage was gathered. I felt that some people were left struggling. I guess it pays to pack light. Overall, I would describe this vacation as a dream vacation if you like to leave the cold weather in early March behind and spend two weeks island hopping. It was two weeks well spent! Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
December 2013. We have just returned home from our 2nd Azamara Club Cruise. This time we were aboard the Quest, last fall we were on the Journey. The ships are virtually identical so we felt quite at home. Hospitality is the name of the ... Read More
December 2013. We have just returned home from our 2nd Azamara Club Cruise. This time we were aboard the Quest, last fall we were on the Journey. The ships are virtually identical so we felt quite at home. Hospitality is the name of the game and Azamara does it very well. There have been a few changes to the Azamara line since we travelled in September 2012, the most notable being new carpets and upholstery and the number of beverages that are now included in your ticket price. We didn't buy a beverage card this time; it really was not necessary. For this cruise we upgraded to a suite, and it was well worth it. Suite privileges included priority check in and departure, butler service (Xavier was dressed in tails at all times, and we were in the Caribbean!), a welcome bottle of wine, fresh fruit and flowers in the cabin, 4 bottles of assorted liquor in the cabin (we were able to swap the liquor out for 2 bottles of wine), afternoon hors d'oevres served on our veranda, complimentary seating in the two specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, and complimentary access to the Spa deck and pool. Captain José, the daily "voice from the bridge", was informative and amusing. This was his first voyage as captain with Azamara, and he certainly echoed the Azamara standard of excellence. He was a wonderful host, friendly and sociable. We felt very welcome on board. We saw him everywhere! There was a glitch in the power system on the ship one day, and it was handled very well. We were not among the guests without power in their cabins for a few hours, and I imagine they noticed the lack of air conditioning and toilet flushing, but we were fine. The "voice from the bridge" kept everyone well informed on the state of repairs. The main restaurant, Discoveries, was without power as well, so it was closed for dinner. To compensate, the pool deck was cleared of lounges, and Chef Fabio and his food and beverage team rallied to provide one of the best meals we had on the ship. One can only imagine what went on behind the scenes to provide this seamless conversion from dining room to pool deck buffet. Kudos to the crew for this one. The only disappointment we had on this cruise was the 'Amazing Azamara Evening' that took place at the Fairview Great House on St. Kitts. The logistics of transporting several hundred people to the site in an acceptable amount of time proved to be beyond the capacity of the local bus and taxi service. As a result, the first guests had been at the site for long enough to get restless before the last group arrived, and the last to arrive did not have time to enjoy the venue before the entertainment began. The itinerary for this cruise, the 12 Night West Indies Hideaway Voyage, was very good, with stops at St. John (US Virgin Islands), Marigot (Saint Martin), Roseau (Dominica), Basseterre (St. Kitts), Charlestown (Nevis), Gustavia (St. Barts), and Virgin Gorda (B.V.I.). There were many options for land discoveries, and we enjoyed a catamaran sail and snorkel expedition, although the wind and wave conditions prevented us from visiting the preferred snorkel site. The cruise started and ended with two days at sea, which we also enjoyed. Seminars on jewelry and wine tasting as well as tours of the ship were of special interest. We were as busy as we wanted to be and that made it a wonderful vacation. Maybe the next time we will try to find the putting green and take part in the trivia challenges. The ship is great, the food was great, but the crew is exceptional, and will keep us coming back to Azamara. Vipin and his colleagues in the boutiques, Carlo, Mustafa, Boban, Aileen, and many others in the restaurants, Carlos, Constance, Jade and fellow spa employees, and of course Captain Jose, Cruise Director Tony, Activity manager SaraLou, Nathalia in Future Cruises, Wade, our excursion companion and all the others whose names I have forgotten, you all made us feel like we were more than travelers, but guests in your home. We will be travelling on the Azamara Journey in February, and look forward to another wonderful experience.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Do I recommend Oceania Riviera cruise? It depends. This CC forum is full of Oceania fans who rave about Oceania gourmet foods, their elegant ships (especially Riviera and Marina.) We are no different. After being on Oceania Cruise three ... Read More
Do I recommend Oceania Riviera cruise? It depends. This CC forum is full of Oceania fans who rave about Oceania gourmet foods, their elegant ships (especially Riviera and Marina.) We are no different. After being on Oceania Cruise three times, we have come to love Oceania’s gourmet foods; clean, elegant ships, and most of all its customer-focused happy crew and officers. For this particular cruise, I like to point out what stood out for us was the crew and the things they do. First, our background: There were 3 of us on this cruise: my husband, my sister and I. This is my husband and my third Oceania cruise, and first for my sister. My husband and I have cruised about 17 times before. The cruise lines are listed below chronologically: We have cruised on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Azamara, Paul Gauguin, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal Cruise, Oceania. After sampling different lines, different sizes, we realize we prefer smaller ships. We are in our 50, 60’s. We are active, and love to walk and hike. Interesting itineraries, food, and service are what we look for. Second, embarkation: Our red eye flight from Victoria, Canada arrived in Miami according to schedule, around 11:30 am. We went straight to the ship, and was on the ship in no time. The taxi ride was about 15 minutes; traffic was light. It costs us $25 fixed rate. I know that is higher than last year, when our taxi charge by meter. The embarkation was a breeze. I believe that time frame was perfect, no crowd, no wait. Our cabin was not ready. We went for a light lunch. We met many familiar faces; the staff greeted us like family. (We were on Riviera in August.) We wanted to put in a few hours of shopping. Dolphin Mall seemed the closest. However, by the time we finished lunch, we did not have the time we thought we had. In addition, the rush hour traffic may delay our return to the ship, and the thought of missing this beautiful ship chills our spines. We left our belongings in the cabin (the steward was kind enough for us to do that because the cabin was not completed yet.) We took a cab to the Bayside Mall. Even though the mall was only over the bridge, less than 10 minutes, the taxi had to go around and wait for traffic lights and costs $10. The mall did not have much. It resembles those "markets", usually located just outside the cruiseship terminals, selling mass-produced “made in China” trinkets. Unless you absolutely need something like sun protection, I would suggest you skip this mall. We walked back to the ship. It took us 24 minutes to get over the bridge, and 30 minutes to the terminal. Fortunately, we did not buy much; our backpacks were light. I recommend that if you like to walk, walk to the mall from the terminal, and take a taxi back. The road back is more direct, and would have cost less, and less to carry, if you have made purchases. Our cabin: We chose suite 8000, category B1, right at the forward. We share a wall with Vista Suite, and another wall with B1 balcony cabin 8001. We chose it because the deck seemed larger than other balconies. Pros: the deck is larger. With 3 deck chairs, 2 tables, we had room to maneuver. We also like the view. The view was expansive. We like sailing into and away from ports. And one morning, the sunrise was right in front of us, putting an amazing show, front and center. With this cabin, it is like being in the front row center seat! The sight of the sun rising from the big blue ocean is something we never get tired of. Magnificent! That alone was worth it. Cons: we do feel more movement in cabin 8000. We also hear more banging noise when the seas was rough. I am a sound sleeper, and I get woken up a few times. Also, as soon as it gets dark, we have to ensure no light emits from our cabin. It has something to do with navigation at night. Just something to keep in mind. If the itinerary is such the sea is calm, and the weather is pleasant, such as parts of Mediterranean, I would definitely select a forward cabin. If you are prone to motion sickness, and a light sleeper, forward cabin is not a good selection. Disembarkation: We rarely have any problem disembarking in Miami. There were 4 other ships at port, and yet our disembarkation process was smooth. We went through custom, got our luggage, without any incident. We shared a van with other Oceania guests, heading to the airport. Only when we arrived at the airport did we find out our flight has been delayed, due to the weather in Northeast region of North America. My sister who has a later flight was planning to visit the Dolphin Mall, chose not to go because she thought time was too tight. Her flight was scheduled for 3pm. However, 2 hours before her flight, she learned that her flight was also delayed. It ended up delayed for 3.5 hours. She could have visited Dolphin Mall or other Miami sights. Spending all that extra time at the airport was not fun. But that is beyond Oceania cruise control. Maybe planning to stay an extra day in Miami in December is a better plan. Next time! Customer Service: Besides food, we like Oceania’s service. Allow me to share with you our memorable experience and illustrate their great customer service. During Captain’s welcome party, we strike up a conversation with a crew member, Ante. This gentleman was enthusiastic, polite, and very personable. He is lighthearted, mirroring my husband’s. The second time we saw Ante, at the “Loyal Customer” event, he is like an old friends to us. We learned that Ante is a concierge in the executive lounge. Executive lounge is a private room exclusive to suites. Ante was very knowledgeable and culturally sensitive. Even though he jokes around, we felt he genuinely cares. The topic turns to specialty restaurants on Riviera, and how popular they are. He then offered to check for Red Ginger for us! He does not have to do this. We don’t have suites, we were not on his deck. We were not his responsibility. Also, it is toward the end of the cruise, he and the rest of the crew were busy preparing disembarkation and embarkation process for their guests. We appreciated his offer, and did not expect much. Yet, the next morning, he left a message about some openings. By the time I got back to him, the openings were gone. Instead of saying, “sorry, I tried”, he said, “I will continue to monitor the situation. You never know.” And sure enough, late in the day, he found an opening for us. Even though it was for 2 only (there were 3 of us), we took it. Talk about going out of your way to make guests happy! He was definitely going beyond his duty for guests. This is not the end of this story. There is more. Due to our respect for Ante, and the Red Ginger staff, 2 of us showed up on time. We did not want to inconvenience anyone or add any strain to Red Ginger’s well-oiled system. Katya, the maitre D, whom we have come to know from our previous 2 Oceania cruises, immediately noticed that my husband was absent. She managed to find an extra spot for him, without making it a big fuss. To us, it is big. We know it took effort to do that on their part too. We had our final cruise dinner in Red Ginger, together! We were so appreciative and impressed. For the service, we highly recommend Oceania cruise line to those who have never tried. Having said that, I do not recommend the Caribbean itinerary (right before Christmas) to those wanting to try Oceania for the first time. We encountered disgruntled guests and heard complaints more so on this cruise than our previous 2 on Oceania. And the complaints or issues were mostly weather-related and or minor, IMHO. As we know the weather is out of anyone’s control. For example, my husband and I found it amusing when we overheard and witnessed guests requesting the deck chairs be set up on the upper deck, as the guests themselves were holding on to their hats, jackets, and to the hand rails, in the gusty wind. (The upper decks had to be closed to guests numerous times due to high winds.) In my opinion, it would be irresponsible for the crew to abide the passengers’ wishes. Second example, the lines to make or change reservations in the very popular specialty restaurants are always long. At least this time, I knew to line up in the right queue. Make sure you are in the right queue, before lining up. You don’t want the frustration of waiting for an hour, and then realizing you had to go to another desk on another deck! The 3 reservation desks are placed in different restaurants, separated by the color of the sea card. I assume it is easier for one desk deals with only one category. I have witnessed many angry guests and the strain the reservation officers went through for the first 4 days of the cruise. We were fortunate. Even though we are in the B category; the staff still managed to change 3 of our 4 reservations to early dining time. For that we are grateful. Were we upset with late dining in Jacques? No. In fact, we got to know a lovely waitress who looked after us very well that night. We cannot comprehend how anyone not enjoy this cruise! 30C weather in the sun (occasional rain), water with 50 shades of blue, and no housework for 10 days! Any day with no housework is a great day for me! Quick note on other amenities on board: Perhaps you have noticed, I did not mention the nightly entertainment, the spa facilities, and the enrichment lectures. The only entertainment we watched was the fairwell performance from the entire (almost) officers and crew. We wanted to show support. We usually walked after dinner instead. My husband and I use the gym for stretching and yoga only. The room next to the gym (one used for yoga, pilate or spinning classes) was not opened until much later in the morning. We improvised and did our stretching and yoga out on the decks, when the wind was not too strong. Every yogi needs to experience the power and magic of sun salutation in the open sea, as the sun rises out of the dark blue ocean. As for the enrichment lectures, we missed because we wanted to enjoy the sun as much as we can. However, we do watch it in the stateroom at night. In closing, I bring back the question: do I recommend Oceania cruise. My answer was, “it depends.” If you love good food, appreciate excellent service and do not take things too seriously, especially on holidays, I think you will enjoy Oceania Cruise. And if you bring with you to Oceania Cruise your open mindedness, your positive outlook, and fun attitude, you will have an amazing time! In fact, I venture to say you will have a fantastic good time no matter where you go! Enjoy!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We just got back from sailing for the first time on Oceania, it was marvelous. I see why they were awarded the ship of the year for 2013. The food in ALL the restaurants was top quality and so much variety. Dining in specialty restaurants ... Read More
We just got back from sailing for the first time on Oceania, it was marvelous. I see why they were awarded the ship of the year for 2013. The food in ALL the restaurants was top quality and so much variety. Dining in specialty restaurants without the upcharge was very nice. All the staff and crew were friendly and were greeting us by name by the second week. The cabins were spacious, comfortable and clean. Granite bathroom with bathtub and linens were top notch. We have never gone on Oceania before and now I am not sure we could ever take another line. I felt pampered the whole time. We did 9 ports, so it was a port intensive cruise, was happy to have two sea days at the end to just "chill". Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
I have just returned home from my first but not last Azamara cruise with my husband. We have sailed on a wide number of lines from Royal Caribbean to Silver Seas and this was the best yet. I follow the reviews and was skeptical when ... Read More
I have just returned home from my first but not last Azamara cruise with my husband. We have sailed on a wide number of lines from Royal Caribbean to Silver Seas and this was the best yet. I follow the reviews and was skeptical when reading the Azamara ones. But in all honesty, we can say they exceeded our expectations. The ship is older as reported and the bathroom and balconies are small, however, this is to do with the basic restrictions of an older ship. From the moment we arrived in the cruise ship terminal until the disembarkation with Captain Smith seeing us off and thanking us for coming, we felt at home. The service is excellent and friendly without being snobby. The food was really good and healthy choices could be found everywhere. We did not try the Prime C or Aqualina because we loved the theme buffets each evening on the back deck. A perfect combination of self service and wait staff assistance. Fellow passengers were Brits, Americans and Aussies with a sprinkling of others. Everyone was cheerful and friendly and happy with the cruise. The ports of call were super, all small Caribbean islands without the hubbub of shopping and thousands of other cruisers. The entertainment was terrific with a live orchestra. The dancers were all accomplished and Russ the cruise director was a welcome addition as he is also a professional singer. We enjoyed the lecturers on board and learned more about the history of the Caribbean. The wine which was served in abundance was just fine. If we didn't like one they found us another. It is not billed as a wine cruise so expect decent drinkable wine. All in all we were impressed from start to finish and tips really are included. While we tipped our excellent room attendant be because he was just so good, we never got the feeling from any staff that is was expected. Loved the Azamara Quest Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
This was our first cruise and we followed the recommendation of friends to travel on a small, rather than medium or large, ship and to travel on Silversea. We were not disappointed and had a great trip. Getting on and off the Silver Cloud ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we followed the recommendation of friends to travel on a small, rather than medium or large, ship and to travel on Silversea. We were not disappointed and had a great trip. Getting on and off the Silver Cloud was always easy, because the crew was well organized and because the number of passengers was small. Our midship veranda suite was the perfect size and we loved sitting on the veranda and enjoying the views, both while at sea and at port. (Our only complaint was that the air conditioning was too cold during the day and could not be regulated.) We loved the buffet breakfasts and lunches and the dinners, ordered from the menu, were consistently very good. The wait staff, butler and maid were friendly, professional and work very hard. I needed to visit the doctor once during the trip and the doctor and nurse were both very professional. We loved the vocal music entertainment at night....six very talented singers. The educational programs were excellent. We scheduled four shore excursions during the trip and all were well organized and executed. We particularly enjoyed the kayaking and snorkeling on Antigua. As a result of this first cruise, we are starting to think about our next cruise on Silversea. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014

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