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151 Caribbean - Southern Luxury Cruise Reviews

West Indies, December 2 -- 18, 2011. Back to back 9-day cruises Ft. Lauderdale / Barbados / Ft. Lauderdale. My wife and I are seasoned travelers and have cruised a dozen times from the big ships to The World of Residensea. We are also ... Read More
West Indies, December 2 -- 18, 2011. Back to back 9-day cruises Ft. Lauderdale / Barbados / Ft. Lauderdale. My wife and I are seasoned travelers and have cruised a dozen times from the big ships to The World of Residensea. We are also foodies who enjoy dining out at all levels and have given up on the crowds of the larger ships. Suite 1110: Our Silver Suite was excellent and spacious except for the tiny TV's. I was surprised however being put on the top deck towards the front after having told our travel agent that my wife was prone to seasickness. All four of our sea days were pretty ruff and we basically laid low in our cabin. The top floor has vibration issues we were told are associated with the HVAC system located nearby. Our suite was very noisy under way with lots of rattles. Food: The food overall was our biggest disappointment. Boring, unseasoned and overcooked, most befitting a typical 3-star chain hotel. We stopped looking forward to meals after our fourth day onboard. The only way we could get our steaks and fish cooked to our satisfaction was to do it ourselves at Hot Rocks. Seishen was good but limited in menu. La Terrazza offered great pasta but the sauces were boring. The pool deck lunches were Holiday Inn at best. I could do an essay simply on the food but I'll just say that we found the specialty dining aboard Royal and Celebrity Cruises to be much better in terms of both food and service. Service: Service was all over the board. It appeared that about half the food wait staff had not been trained in table service or even instructed to stand aside and make way of a guest walking down the restaurant isle. On the other hand our suite butler was excellent. Smoking: This issue really bothered us. Smoking cigars seemed to be allowed on suite veranda's making using ours difficult at times. One port side (left) of the pool deck nine is smoking and the staff did not enforce the ships no cigars rule on the aft portion of deck nine which basically polluted about 50% of the deck space on deck nine and ten. We found ourselves with sore throats after day four. Space: On sea days we found a lack of deck space for chairs and shade even though our two cruises were only at 75% to 80% occupancy. Towels were scarce at times and the pool food and towel crew seemed to offer the worst service on board. Restaurants all had low ceilings and the décor seemed dated for such a new ship. The Musak in some public areas reminded us of a 60's dentist waiting room. Dress: Sun and surf make for warmer body temps in the evening plain and simple. To have formal nights in a hot tropical climate made no sense to us. Overall: Our first cruise on Silversea was a big disappointment and we'll likely be our last on the line. We had hoped for a good experience and were prepared to sign up for a 2012 Med cruise if we liked it, but that won't be happening. We paid a very premium fare but received below average food and service. Every meal we had ashore including our return flight to LAX on Virgin America was better than was offered onboard the Silver Spirit. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Have cruised all my life but never on a high end ship. First time on the Oceania Lines and Marina. Pros: Beautiful ship , friendly staff, nice balcony, bedding, cleanliness of the ship, Embarkation, enrichment activities for pay. ... Read More
Have cruised all my life but never on a high end ship. First time on the Oceania Lines and Marina. Pros: Beautiful ship , friendly staff, nice balcony, bedding, cleanliness of the ship, Embarkation, enrichment activities for pay. Restaurant options. Cons: Poor bathroom design in the veranda suites as well as the size and depth of the closet for your clothes, shipboard activities, entertainment,enrichment activities for free.clanking in the hallway or pipes (never figured out) all times of the evening.Debarkation. Pro's a little more in depth. The ship is beautiful and kept very clean. The staff for the most part is friendly and helpful. It seems like the crew was more friendlier then the officers passing by. The verandas have a nice balcony with 2 cushion chairs. Very relaxing and comfortable. The veranda rooms have nice comfortable bedding as a well as a top notch bed(s). Embarkation was a breeze. 15 minutes and we were on the ship.No waiting whatsoever. We didn't participate in any of the wine tasting or culinary classes but we heard that they were informative, interesting and worth the money. The food without question was the highlight of the trip except for the Grand Dining room. Don't get me wrong the Grand Dining room was okay it is just that from the Terrace Cafe to all the specialty restaurants each one of them were superb. Service-Room steward was excellent and was attentive to our needs. Waiters and Wait staff.. Never had any bad experiences in any specialty restaurants involving the wait staff. They all were excellent. Terrace Cafe- Best buffet on the high seas. Exceeded our expectations in every way. Had a few instances of poor service but for the most part everyone tried hard and went the extra yard to satisfy all the customers. Cons a little more in depth: Bathroom was designed by a midget. Figured most people that take a cruise would be 5'4" or shorter and weigh less then 100lbs.They tried to do to much in to little of space. The shower is not high enough and there isn't enough room to move around. Spoke with the captain and he told me that he agreed..oops they goofed. Hard to believe this could happen on a high end shipping company like Oceania. Hardly any room on the vanity counter space and the doors open out so you have to be careful that no toiletries are in the way or they will fly off the counter. Had 2 twin beds that were not twin beds but 2 single beds. If you end up in this situation you need to be careful if you tend to turn when you sleep you could end up on the floor. Free activities.... same ole same ole... Putt putt golf, Table Tennis, paddle tennis, shuffleboard... Couldn't remember if they offered even 1 free cooking class or wine tasting or anything else interesting. Grand Buffet in the Grand Dining room... worse venue on the ship.. unorganized, not enough help, had menus and a buffet. Sat for 15 minutes no service...went up to get something to eat and still no bus boy or waiter came by... 10 minutes later I ordered a pancake and it arrived 25 minutes later... No refills on coffee and the entire meal was a bust. Debarkation: Said everybody had to be off the ship by 9 am. But docked way before 6:00 am. We signed up for late debarkation because we had a driver picking us up. Debarkation was unorganized and people were cutting the lines from all over the ship. There was one line to exit but 3 or 4 feeder lines from all over the floor. We didn't exit until almost 9:30 am. 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
We've made six cruises on the Queen Vic and all in all they have been enjoyable and met our expectations for food, service, safety , and entertainment. However, our last two cruises on the Queen Victoria have been less than ... Read More
We've made six cruises on the Queen Vic and all in all they have been enjoyable and met our expectations for food, service, safety , and entertainment. However, our last two cruises on the Queen Victoria have been less than satisfactory, as much for the attitude of the ship's staff as the specifics of our displeasure. Seems there is a trend aboard the Victoria toward "hucksterism" in the Spa...the selling of promises of loosing eight inches off the waste, unheard of physical improvements, and such, if only you'll buy these expensive products and services. They really have no shame. All the while the Spa staff ignores basic care and attention of the fitness center; spa shower shoes are cleaned by the staff in the sink in the restroom/sauna; blinds on windows are broken, the chiller in the water cooler is broken, rap music blairs, towels and wipes are not available, the list goes on! Meanwhile down below, the beautiful Queens Room, once home to perhaps the best ballroom dancing at sea, has been taken over by "dance clubs" or groups seeking a dance teaching platform at sea. The result is the ballroom is no longer a venue for the casual passenger to have social dance but home to competition dancers wishing to impress the world. It's saddening to see couples, once quite at home dancing in the Queens room, disappear night after night and give way to "wanna be" Dancing with the Stars and dance students. All that said, the good news is Queen Vic (and Cunard) do so much right and hold to so many wonderful seagoing traditions that they still can claim a unique niche that has had us coming back to them and other Cunard ships. We only wish they would remember those traditions and put the breaks on what appears a downward spiral. Unfortunitly the spiral will continue unless the ship's staff musters more than a big "Oh, Ho-Hum" which is all I got. 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
Previous cruise experience: 5th cruise for myself, 2nd for my husband. All previous cruises were with Princess; we decided to try Celebrity as the recommendation of a friend who has done 20 cruises with "X." This was the third ... Read More
Previous cruise experience: 5th cruise for myself, 2nd for my husband. All previous cruises were with Princess; we decided to try Celebrity as the recommendation of a friend who has done 20 cruises with "X." This was the third cruise for Summit post "Soltisizing" in January. We began with a flight from the northeast on a day that was overcast with light snow; there was a problem with connecting flights arriving in our departure airport so we started our day leaving late. By the time we got to our transfer airport we were told to sprint to the gate on the chance our departing flight was still on the ground; if it was not we were given boarding passes for the next flight. When we got to the gate they were lining up passengers who were sailing on that day and we got the last 2 seats on the flight; this made paying the extra $50.00 to the cruise line for our tickets worthwhile. The flight we got on was an earlier scheduled flight that had not yet departed; our actual flight didn't leave until late in the afternoon leaving those passengers to arrive well after sail time for our ship. I usually fly the day before and won't do this again; too close a call! We got to the ship about 5 PM, missing the planned gathering of CC friends and the ship's lifeboat safety drill. We had an early dinner in the dining room, a pleasant meal and our first shot at escargot! We had an early morning excursion and after a brief ship's tour we went to enjoy our aft balcony for sail-away. Sunday morning we had breakfast at the buffet and departed in St Croix on our ship's tour to kayak the Salt River. It was a lovely trip with some great guides and I would do it again. Interestingly I HAD to book this tour through the ship because they had an exclusive with the only kayak guide I could find for the location. I have never had this experience with Princess; we were always free to book with anyone we desired. One can certainly understand why the cruise lines and guides would do this but I hope the trend of scooping up reserves on the best tour guides isn't the trend among all the lines. We had dinner in the dining room, choosing to request a table for two during our "select" dining time. This was the first of two formal nights and we were surprised to see so few tuxes on the men; to our memory there were more people who dressed formally (tuxes, long gowns) on our Princess cruises. We both dress up for formal nights, my husband in a tux and I in a long gown or cocktail length. We tended to request a table for two all week, which we had to wait for on only 2 occasions (and not more than 10-15 minutes); the way the tables were set up we had the option of either easy conversation with couples on either side of us, or keeping to ourselves. Although many people like to have an assigned seating time we enjoy the flexibility of the open dining time and we found that most nights we were assigned to the same area of the dining room and we developed relationships with a couple of the wait staff members and most importantly to me, the two sommelier's assigned to that section. On this evening we wandered the ship, heard a delightful pair of musicians called the Mozaika Duo (accordion and violin), and retired early to our balcony to enjoy the stars. On Monday we were in St. Kitts; this was the second of our two planned ship's excursions. Today we went to a restored plantation for a culinary demo and lunch. We are serious foodies (my husband attended culinary school) and love to cook. To us the tour was pleasant but we would have preferred a more hands-on class. The food was delicious, we learned about a few new seasonings and tried delicious sorrel tea, toured the beautiful garden, and the sun was warm. What's not to like in the Caribbean in February? When we returned to the ship I attended a wine tasting-food pairing program that was a part of the Celebrity "Life at Sea" program of activities. This tasting was recommended by the sommelier and the cost was $15.00 per person; it was well worth the expense! Celebrity has a contract with Wente Vineyards of California to use their wines for these shipboard events. There was wine, a variety of food pairings, and a very knowledgeable sommelier who walked us through the pairings; it was very interesting to see not only how the wine affected the food (expected) but how the food affected the wine (unexpected). I learned a lot and left with a very informative brochure about pairings accompanied by lots of tasting notes. After the tasting I went to the spa. I had purchased a spa pass for the week ($100.00) that allowed access to the steam rooms (one moist, one dry, one moist-herbal). Near the spa there is a pool of warm salt water and two hot tubs, there is also a locker room with a dry sauna. These areas outside of the spa are accessible to anyone. I made a habit of enjoying these areas almost every afternoon while my husband read or napped on our balcony. On Princess there was a similar area with paid access however it only cost me $60.00 for the week (it was 120.00 per couple and my sister and I split the cost; it was $189.00per couple on X). If I sail on Celebrity again I probably wouldn't do the weekly access to the steam rooms, but might do it on a per day basis once or twice; the free warm salt pool, hot tubs and sauna would be enough especially since these areas seemed to be largely undiscovered. I think on the "worst" day in these public access areas there were only 30 people in the area at any time I was there. After dinner this evening we went to the show of comedienne Fred Klett who was VERY funny and also touted himself as a "clean" comic; this is a refreshing approach once in a while, because many very funny comics use a lot of foul language. Not that I care one way or another about the language, funny is funny regardless for me, but he was a comic that you could have taken your teens to and they would have enjoyed. After the show we went to the martini bar and had a drink while enjoying Nestor Santurio, a vocalist-guitarist with Latin rhythms; we had a great time dancing to his music! On Tuesday we were in Dominica where we toured with Bumpiing Tours; a member of Levi's staff took us on the requested "wet" tour where we went to Champagne reef to snorkel and to the village of Soufriere, where we sat in the hot baths. This is the second time I have toured with Bumpiing (www.bumpiingtours.com) and I would highly recommend them. I would also recommend the Champagne reef snorkel as one of the best places I have ever snorkeled, including Bonaire with a private guide. It is a tough place to get into the water because one has to walk out 15-20 feet in moving surf, but once you can swim it's a pretty comfortable swim out to the reef. Wear a swim belt as you can tire easily between the early surf and the length of time you spend on the reef because you won't want to leave. I was in the water at least 1 ½ hours and we saw barracuda, parrot fish, clown and angel fish, and many, many others that I can't name. I had previously been to a location on this island to sit in the hot baths among the natural rock formations; Dominica is a volcanic island with underground activity that creates the bubbles as Champagne reef and the hot water for the baths. The location we went to on this day was more private; it appeared to be a state park type environment with baths built of poured cement where the warm sulfur-stained water was diverted to fill the "tubs." There were formed seats in them so that you could be seated and be up to your chest, or in my case, up to my neck in the warm water while surrounded by forest lands. A beautiful spot and a lovely day with friends! At dinner this evening we had one of our more memorable meals, a Cajun-blackened rib-eye steak with a red wine chosen from the Wendte tasting. We didn't go the show this evening, a musical stage production called "Sirens." It seemed to be well received but we just aren't interested in these types of shows after experiencing them on other cruises. We had quickly developed our end of day cocktail routine, Southern Comfort/rocks for my husband and a martini for me; we'd meet back at the martini bar and listen to the musicians in that area. This evening we wandered between our friends the Mozaika Duo and Nestor Santurio; Nestor was great fun to dance to! We also attended the Celebrity planned party for our Cruise Critic group. It was held in a bar that was located in an area where it took us a bit to find; when we got there the group was seated on a series of couches listening to the cruise director field questions and talking about the events on the ship for the rest of the week. It felt very stiff since people weren't mingling and it did nothing to help me to meet other people I'd been talking to on the message boards leading up to the cruise. The party broke up soon after our arrival since many people had late dinner seating's (30 minutes or so after we arrived, we were late for scheduled gathering time from dinner) but we were invited as a group to tour the bridge later in the week(we didn't go on this tour as we had other plans). Although I am often a night owl at home, I went to bed earlier while cruising due to early morning excursions and my husband's tendency to not be a night owl. We also really enjoy our deck time and would end our evening there watching the sea. On Wednesday we were in Grenada, where we toured with Mandoo (http://www.grenadatours.com/) who was fabulous! We went to the spice plantation and to the nutmeg station, where I was able to purchase beautiful, locally made fabric imprinted with nutmeg stamps. This is a cooperative that is finding ways to keep people employed in a spice related industry now that spice production has been diminished by hurricane damage to the trees. Mandoo is a great ambassador for the island and he doesn't mince words about the political situation there. His running commentary was upbeat and fascinating despite some of his topics (Regan and Grenada anyone?). Don't let this idea shy you away from touring with him; it was a wonderful day! On this evening we had planned to attend a Life at Sea program on celestial navigation however it was overcast so we didn't bother to see if they set up an alternative plan to star-gazing on the deck. We did go the comic David Merry's show; he was a combo comedienne and magician who was also great! He wove the magic into the comedy show in a seamless manner that was very clever. On Thursday we were at sea, and this was our second formal night. I had a massage scheduled and we had a lovely lay-low day on our balcony reading and enjoying a day of relaxation; I also spent time at the spa. I took a tour of the galley which started with an introduction to the many head chefs (pastry, prep, various kitchen location leaders) followed by each chef talking a small group down to the main galley for a tour. The program was well intentioned if not well executed. Some chefs were better than others at gathering their small groups in each kitchen area before beginning to talk about that area; in my group that left us scrambling to catch up to the group and vying for position so that we could see and hear. The head chef of the ship was touring his group behind mine and I considered joining them for a better tour as I observed him being more sensitive to the group's needs. Since this was a day where the lack of day's engaging activities was very noticeable for us, I'll comment here that overall I found that the things I would have enjoyed doing on Celebrity (more Life at Sea programs) were often scheduled while we were off the ship in a port. Likewise, much of the more off-beat entertainment was either very late (the staff talent show was at 10:30 PM, too late to start for an early riser who wanted to jump early on a port excursion). The musical talent was the same individuals and groups every night at different times and locations, which got old after the third or fourth day at sea. In addition to the duo and the guitarist I already mentioned there was a woman singer piano player (Liz Strauss) and an acapella quartet called "These Guys." A lot of the entertainment was pool games, casino related activities, or silly games such as a ship's version of the Newlywed-not-so-newly-wed game. Our group all got on this subject at the CC party and told the CD that we really thought they could at least change the questions from year to year and ship to ship. We did have fun one day helping a group of kids with suggestions on where to find items on their scavenger hunt list. This was our second formal night and my husband enjoyed the "mama's pork chops" for dinner. After dinner we strolled the ship and had a drink while listening to Liz Strauss play a "name that tune" game by playing the opening lines of a song on the piano. After researching this cruise and talking with our friends who cruise on Celebrity I had expected that there would be art auctions and viewings; there were none of these and my husband was particularly disappointed as this was a favorite activity of his on the Princess ships. On Friday we were in St. Thomas where we had hired Henry of EEE Tours (http://www.eeetours.com/); for a quite reasonable price he toured us on the island's sights, history and current economic influences. We went to "Mountain Top" the "home" of the banana daiquiri, we also went to visit a friend who owns a roadside stop where he serves fresh-made fruit and herbal drinks with or without rum, and eventually he took us to Megan's Bay Beach (our request) where we had time to relax and swim. While very beautiful Megan's Bay is not a good snorkeling location; my only other beach experience on St Thomas was a trip to Coki Point Beach, which had pretty reasonable snorkeling; there may be better locations that I have not experienced. It was a fine, relaxing end to our cruise week. This evening we attended a show that combined to two comics we'd seen earlier in the week; they were again very enjoyable. On Saturday morning we had a delayed departure from the ship that was attributed to slow customs agents; as concierge class passengers we were given the option of waiting in a conference room with coffee, tea and pastries available. We went there as opposed to the other waiting area in a bar for a more general (not concierge class) passenger group because we thought this group might be disembarked a little earlier, but it seemed to make no difference and we had no outside view. Fortunately for us we had a 3 night booking at the Sheraton in Old San Juan, so we had a few more days to linger before heading home. Some overall observations about our Celebrity experience: The price for this cruise was significantly higher than a similar cruise cabin (aft on Princess, 7 day Caribbean) and I didn't feel that the differences between the lines were great enough to justify the higher costs. We were in concierge class because it was what was available when I booked in order to get an aft cabin. We had a bottle of champagne in the room on arrival that we never drank but carried home (we arrived so late and tired and just didn't want it, then never got to it during the cruise). One of the "perks" of concierge was daily appetizers before dinner (6 pieces); these were made up too many hours before delivery to be very special, but most were ok, just not reason enough to spend the extra cost for concierge class; to my mind the only reason for investment in this class is future cruise credit if you are going to be a long-term Celebrity cruiser because you get more credit in their version of the captain's recognition program. Food overall was quite good; we can admire the challenges of getting out food that is beautiful, interesting and tastes good on the scale of any cruise ship, however our friends suggested that Celebrity food was 'over the top' great and it wasn't for us. I certainly know that food quality is very subjective, but overall I am happier with the food on Princess for the price. We didn't eat in the specialty restaurants at all. This was a mix of wanting to experience overall dining room food choices and quality, and not wanting to pay extra for a meal that might not be "worth" the cost. Our friends on the ship told of their experiences at Qsine, where I had considered eating. They thought the presentation was very unique and fun, but overall not significantly tastier than the food in the main dining room. Another ship acquaintance recommended that we order breakfast from room service each morning; we did this twice with overall disappointing results. We were spoiled by our coffee cards for espresso and cappuccino from the coffee bar near Bistro on Five and the dining room coffee delivered with breakfast was pretty awful by comparison. Our food was cold when it arrived, and was somewhat limited in selection. After two tries we started going to the buffet and carrying trays of food back to the cabin to breakfast on the balcony; we were only one flight down so this was not a big deal and was worth the view as we docked each morning. The other disappointment was that the lunch buffet had very little variation each day; it was always a pasta bar, an Asian bar, a deli bar, pizza, and fish and chips. Burgers and fries on the deck grill were good the one day we tried them; pizza options were the usual margarita, veggie, pepperoni and white pizzas; they were good but not exceptional and the daily special was gone every time I tried to get it (they seemed to make fewer of the special ones without adjusting to demand). A nice touch was antipasti options to go with the pizza. On each buffet bar there were some exceptional items, and many that seemed the same day to day. I can see when reading this comment that many folks would look at my list of options and think, who'd be critical enough to think those weren't great options? Let me give you a more specific example of what I am comparing to, lest you think I am crazy. On Princess the buffet would have different cultural options every day. So there might be two Asian days, and the choices would be different from one another on those days. On my Celebrity experience, the Asian choices would be essentially the same every day (maybe know favorites?) and they would change two of the options to something else each day, including some curries. On Princess the other days were not Asian, but were based entirely on other cultures reflecting the staff of the ship's kitchen and I felt I experienced a wider range of choices of things I would otherwise not have an opportunity to try. This might be riskier, because even as adventurous eaters there were moments when we thought there were things that we stretching our palates a little bit far. To be fair I need to go back to Princess and do a real comparison to these notes, not one based on my vacation induced fond memories, especially since a subtle sense of decline in overall food quality on Princess on my last cruise had driven my desire to try a different cruise line. Overall though I believe I prefer my Princess food experience, where on my third cruise I did try one of the specialty restaurants, which I found to be well worth the additional cost for both exceptional food and service (Sabatini's Italian restaurant). There were a lot of great options in the Celebrity Life at Sea programs but their timing was not conducive to enjoying them as well as a day ashore. They are great options on a cruise with more sea days to enjoy them and I wish Celebrity would consider shore time when scheduling these events. This program does stand out over Princess's similar offerings for its more interesting topics (celestial navigation, charting the ship's course, wine and food pairings and ships tours are some examples, compared to craft type programs and photography and computer classes that dominate on Princess). Similarly I thought that some of the more interesting entertainment options were too late at night for our tastes; I read in the last few days that most people return to their cabin after midnight so perhaps we are more of the exception to that rule about late night participation in events, but I'd love to know how others feel about this subject. Lastly, because I participated in reading and commenting on several message boards about the beverage packages (cost-benefit ratios can be discussed forever can't they?) I will add that we purchased a classic non-alcohol package for each of us which served us well. This got us each a large bottle of water on departure from the ship each day, all the high-end coffees and teas we wanted (dining room staff would go to the coffee bar for us at meal time if we requested this), and fountain or canned soda if we desired (think we had 1-2 all week as we don't really drink soda). This took care of our biggest daily costs. We do drink alcohol and with the sommelier's assistance we purchased 3 bottles of wine and some single glasses of wine or beer over the course of the week to drink at dinner. Additionally we each had one other drink in the evening and I had one midafternoon drink one day at the pool. If one is not a big drinker then I'd suggest this classic non-alcohol package ($14.00 per person per day) is a very nice option if you enjoy good coffee and tea and don't want to have to search for water in port. To me the alcohol packages were pricey and I came nowhere near the cost of them with my consumption. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
When booking a suite, one expects a bit of first class treatment. Princess makes a lot of promises, but the delivery of services is less than expected. You have to ask for all the little extras on Princess, NCL justs delivers them all. ... Read More
When booking a suite, one expects a bit of first class treatment. Princess makes a lot of promises, but the delivery of services is less than expected. You have to ask for all the little extras on Princess, NCL justs delivers them all. First of all, the Crown Princess is beautiful as was the suite. Unfortunately, this ship is very unstable and tends to pitch and roll with even the smallest waves. Of all my cruises, this ship was the worst. If you tend toward motion sickness, please avoid this ship. The staffing seemed very light. Many of the restaurants were very short handed. I agree with many of the other reviewers: the staff is very stuffy and walk around like zombies half the time. Many seemed like they would rather be anywhere else but working on a cruise ship. I hate to profile but much of the staff is from Eastern Europe and quite unfriendly. Pool areas are extremely crowded during days at sea. Unlike on cruise lines, Princess crew does not go around and keep things in order. The decks are a mess of wet towels, garbage and deck chairs. Again, it seems like the ship is short staffed. The Crown Grill steak house ($25 up charge) is nice but the meat is tough and chewy. Deserts are pretty, yet bland. My biggest criticism is how bland the food is throughout the ship. It looks nice, but has no flavor. except for the French Onion soup which was incredible. The Italian restaurant, Sabatini's, does not fare much better. ($20 up charge).Bland and very slow service. The maitre de (Pedro) is downright rude and treats the staff - and guests - poorly until the last day of the cruise when then the "rate our service" cards are displayed on the podium. Let's take a look at the suite amenities and what was delivered. -Luxury mattresses [very comfortable] -Fluffy duvets in place of blankets [ more flat than fluffy] -Luggage protector on bed at embarkation [every cabin gets it] -Luxury bathrobes [very stiff, needs fabric softener badly] -Luxury towels [they look nice but very rough] -Pillow menu [requested pillows never appeared] -Massage shower heads [broken] -Luxury bathroom amenities (shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, bath gel, plus new lip balm, gel eye mask, bath salts and loofah mitts) ["luxury"? not really] -Facial mist (choice of scents) [zilch] -Complimentary slippers [very small] -Fresh flower arrangement [ very nice and looked great the entire trip] -Complimentary mini-bar - one-time set up [nice!] -Combined DVD/CD Players [ broken] -DVD Library [no one seemed to know about this amenity] -Complimentary Princess tote bag [very cheap] -Umbrella for use during the cruise [zilch] -Expedited embarkation process [nice to walk past 800 people standing in the other line] -Preferred Anytime DiningSM reservations [yes, you can make a reservation, but NO the table is never available and wait time can be up to an hour] -Personal shore excursion reservations [zilch] -Complimentary laundry and dry cleaning service -Complimentary shoe polishing service [zilch] -Welcome glass of champagne at embarkation [zilch] -Extended room service menu (extended breakfast, lunch, dinner offering) [no one on the ship knew anything about an extended menu for suites] -In-suite afternoon tea service [never happened] -Passenger's choice of deluxe canap?s, delivered daily [delivered once] -Complimentary internet access in onboard Internet Cafes [we got free wireless] -Private portrait sitting [do not confuse this with receiving a free photo] -Complimentary use of the thermal suite in the Lotus Spa [zilch] 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
This was my first cruise on Cunard's QM2, and the 12 day holiday cruise was eagerly anticipated by myself and my travelling companion. We were also part of a larger tour group organized out of NY. And although the ship did experience ... Read More
This was my first cruise on Cunard's QM2, and the 12 day holiday cruise was eagerly anticipated by myself and my travelling companion. We were also part of a larger tour group organized out of NY. And although the ship did experience a number of norovirus cases, no one I knew was affected, and the ship's captain and crew took enormous steps to prevent a further outbreak. As a result, I had a very nice cruise and it was certainly comparable to many others I have taken. To start off, Cunard did a great job delivering our luggage, which arrived about an hour after we boarded the ship. Our stateroom as quite nice, with a good size balcony. The service on the ship was excellent. Our stateroom attendant, dining room waiters, etc. were all great. White gloves are standard on Cunard.This is a formal cruise, and more than half the days required tuxedo, etc. If you like formality, Cunard is a good choice.This might also be because it was the holidays. The Queen Mary 2 is a lovely ship. One of the nicest I have been on. There are unique features, like the Planetarium and on board lectures. Afternoon Tea is a highlight. It was definitely an older crowd, with far fewer children or teens than you would expect for a holiday cruise. The specialty dining rooms,esp. Todd English and the Indian fare, were excellent. The good has a definite British slant, which means great fish and chips, but a breakfast and lunch buffet that definitely needs greater variety and spice. Better to take these meals in the main dining area, where the food choice is better.On the third day, the Captain announced that several cases of norovirus had been reported and precautions were being taken to prevent further outbreak. This meant that the usual serve yourself buffet was not available, and that attendants had to serve you everything--including all beverages. This was frustrating for those of us who want to serve ourselves, but it is a minor inconvenience. Certain events were cancelled, as well, but other than the lack of handshaking and the persistent presence of hand sanitizers, the cruise continued. But neither myself nor any of my travelling companions were affected by illness, and I think the actions taken definitely prevented further outbreak. The ship's crew worked so hard sanitizing everything all the time, it was inspiring to see their hard work--disinfecting handrails, elevators, and all common areas all the time. I wanted to write this review so people know that this cruise was not ruined due to the presence of an unfortunate outbreak. The ship worked really hard to prevent further outbreak, and heroically stemmed the situation. As a passenger, I was not affected and experienced only some minor inconveniences. All in all, a very nice cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 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
Although still very good, this cruise disappointed us from the perspective of service that is Crystal's trademark. The new all-inclusive program has resulted in a profound lack of enthusiasm among the staff. Now that everyone receives ... Read More
Although still very good, this cruise disappointed us from the perspective of service that is Crystal's trademark. The new all-inclusive program has resulted in a profound lack of enthusiasm among the staff. Now that everyone receives the same gratuity regardless of service rendered, the extra attention and care that spoiled passengers in the past has fallen away. For example, our cabin stewardess was adequate but there was no automatic replenishment of bath supplies when they got low. We had to ask for more shampoo, soap and for the mini fridge to be refilled. Also, no more Aveda products except for the body lotion :( The girls were very polite and reserved, but nothing one would not encounter on another ship. DINING: The food is still fabulous. Everything on board was delicious! I sent only one thing back and it was not their fault. Mario the Maitre d' helped us after the first night when we requested to have our table moved. Our waitress was slow yet thorough,but again,nothing exceptional. Every night I requested a glass of ice for my wine. On past Crystal cruises, I only had to ask once and after that, it was brought to me automatically. Thanks to Christian,the sommelier,who on the final two nights,remembered and brought it to me. To us, the all inclusive alcohol is not attractive since we don't drink that much, however, many found it so. Also, I noticed a lot of wasted drinks around as people might try something for the first time, not like it and put it down. In my humble opinion, mixing alcohol and a passenger roster that's mostly senior is risky.ENTERTAINMENT:The Crystal singers and dancers were good,and the costumes were beautiful. The Galaxy Theater is small enough to be intimate. They did the usual salutes to Hollywood & Broadway. The very best was THE ROCKET MAN show with Jonathan Kane. He was unbelievably good and received a standing ovation. The Casino kept busy after the show and the roulette wheel was good to me!LOL A TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT:I'm going to keep this short,but an unforeseen fiasco arose when we innocently tried to exchange a CRYSTAL SERENITY shirt purchased on last year's transatlantic cruise.Rather than give it away,I recommended that we bring it back because Crystal is SO service oriented. I was positive they would gladly accomodate us. BIG MISTAKE!!!Enter the senior retail manager who places her rulebook before customer satisfaction. SHE: "NO EXCHANGE! Shirt was purchased over a years ago(by 5 days). NO EXCHANGE! Shirt is covered with food. NO EXCHANGE!You definately wore this more than once in spite of what you tell me.NO COMPROMISES!I do not have that decisionmaking ability." We saw a pattern, so we backed off. In spite of her best efforts,she did not spoil our good time, I was totally caught off guard though because I firmly believed that Crystal prided itself in customer satisfaction at any price. Had I known that we would meet with such resistance, I would not have even bothered packing the stupid shirt :( MAMA LEE:Crystal Serenity's best asset and overall goodwill ambassador. She's a wonderful little lady and semi-celebrity on the ship. Everyone who meets her, loves her. I did, too. Crystal had better treat her right because if Mama's not happy, NOBODY's happy. Also, Crystal's Japanese customer rep, Urara, is absolutely adorable and very, very helpful. I HATE to criticize Crystal because past cruises have made up some of the best memories in my life. I still have a soft spot in my heart for them but I cannot in good conscious, recommend them unconditionally like I once did. Other cruiselines are chasing Crystal by training their staffs better and they are catching up. In many instances, we received the same level of service on other ships that we did this time on Crystal. Unfortunately, the price is no longer a direct reflection of the value. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
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
My wife and I just returned from a very relaxing 10-day Caribbean cruise on the Oceania Riviera. While most of our reactions were thoroughly positive, there were a few negatives too. I'll start with the positives. The ship: Just ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from a very relaxing 10-day Caribbean cruise on the Oceania Riviera. While most of our reactions were thoroughly positive, there were a few negatives too. I'll start with the positives. The ship: Just a year old, the small-to-moderate size ship is beautiful throughout, with generally excellent facilities, including great staterooms with verandas, plenty of dining options (more below), lounges, bars, and public restrooms. Important to us, the ship has a state-of-the-art fitness center. We also loved the golf hitting cage and quite remarkable 18-hole putting course. The surface on the latter was the closest to a real golf green I've encountered, with the ball rolling fast and true. The pool is small (not suitable for swimming, as with most cruise ships). There is a well-staffed casino. We delighted in the fabulous art throughout the ship. Neither of us is an art connoisseur but we stopped often to marvel at the creativity and color in so many of the works. This was a major unexpected treat. Staterooms: We can only comment knowledgeably about the penthouse suites since we decided to splurge on one. The PH suites are essentially what would be called a junior suite in a hotel. Ours was a very attractive spacious 420 square feet, with a very comfortable bed (with elegant sheets), a nice sitting area, an incredibly large walk-in closet (an amazing asset, one not found in all of the PH suites), and a good-sized and well-designed bathroom with attractive vanity with plenty of storage space for toiletries and separate tub and shower (and stocked with Bulgari shampoo, etc.). The design of the shower was especially impressive. Although it was somewhat small, I never felt cramped when I showered. The rainforest showerhead was great, although I should note that if you are over 6'2", you will have to duck a bit. I'm 6'1" and I had no more than 1" clearance between my head and the showerhead. We particularly enjoyed our huge veranda, about 12' x 12' (I'm guessing), with 2 comfortable chairs, 2 chaise lounge chairs, and a small table...and plenty of space to roam. Our travel agent singled it out when we were booking, and it proved to be a blessing given the unavailability of lounge chairs throughout the open deck areas (more below). Our stateroom (7133) was one of only 4 PH suites on deck 7, the lowest of the passenger decks. 7135 was somewhat smaller than our room (with a smaller but still decent closet), but it had a veranda that wrapped around the ship, affording great access to sun and views. Note that all of the verandas on deck 7 are considerably larger than average. The verandas for other staterooms on higher decks are pretty typical of modern cruise ships -- large enough to accommodate a couple of chairs and a small cocktail table and no more. Restaurants: The food on the Riviera is superb and the options numerous. The Grand Dining Room is quite elegant and our first night dinner there was of a caliber we have experienced in the best restaurants in which we have dined around the world. The Terrace dining room had great buffets for all 3 meals, with seating both inside and out. Waves Grill had great burgers and the like (including mahi-mahi and tuna), a limited salad bar, and an always-in-demand ice cream bar. Waves was open for lunch until 4 pm, while the other restaurants closed around 2 pm. There are 4 specialty restaurants. Frankly, we were a bit disappointed in both Red Ginger and Jacques, the two for which we had the highest expectations. In contrast, we very much enjoyed both the Polo Grill and Toscana. The latter was especially impressive, with a wide-ranging menu of delicious and interesting Italian-themed dishes. We had two slightly negative experiences with service in the specialty restaurants. In two instances, we felt our food was brought much too fast, with no time at all in between courses. In one of the restaurants, the waitress knocked over my wife's glass of red wine toward where I was seated. I reacted quickly and caught most of the wine headed for my lap in my large cloth napkin. My (black) shirt felt a bit damp in one area, although I couldn't see any "damage", and remarkably I didn't see any spillage on my khaki trousers. The waitress apologized and reset the table. She put the wine glasses back on the table but didn't offer to have my clothes cleaned (she didn't even ask if they had been hit by the wine, despite having seen my wine-saturated napkin). Equally remarkably, she didn't refill my wife's glass, leaving it empty on the table! Service: The staff on the Riviera are amazing. They are incredibly attentive and always approach you with a great smile, one that seemed genuine, something you don't expect to see among so many staff. On several occasions we would make a request of one staff member for something that was not in his or her area of responsibility, but rather than saying that, they would go find the appropriate person and make it happen. For example, if we asked a busboy for some wine, he would instantly take our request to a wine steward. Our biggest "problem" with staff was disappointing our butler, Binod! PH suites are served by butlers. We are not accustomed to using butler services and, frankly, had little need for them, especially since we like going to restaurants rather than having meals served in our stateroom. Binod kept finding us and asking how he could be of service. We did have him serve dinner our last night at sea, and must say that we enjoyed the experience. Regarding service, we were also very impressed with the efficiency (and again staff friendliness) of the boarding and disembarkation processes, both at ports of call and at the beginning and end of the trip. Entertainment: We had heard that the entertainment wasn't equivalent to that found on much larger ships. While the quantity of entertainment might be substantially less, the quality couldn't have been any better. The song-and-dance troupe performed 4 nights, with different themed shows each night, and they were absolutely fabulous -- excellent voices (especially the lead singer, Lawrence) complementing astonishingly good dancing. The comedian/magician, who performed two nights, rivals the best such acts we have ever seen. Even Nolan, the cruise director, excelled in his song-and-comedy show after the main performance one night. Ports of call: We stopped in Tortola, Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Barts. For 4 of the islands we simply booked taxis (including large open-air "safari" taxis in two cases) for 1- to 3-hour island tours and then we walked around on our own. As we had never been to 4 of the islands, we enjoyed the opportunity to see some new locales. Frankly, the islands per se were not what attracted us to the cruise. The demographics of the passengers: Given the size of the ship, the nature of the cruise, and the relative expense of Oceania, we expected a relatively older clientele. Even given these expectations, we were surprised by the age distribution of the passengers. We are 66 and 67 and we'd guess that that put us in the younger half of those onboard! There was no more than a handful of children, and I'd guess that passengers under 50 constituted no more than 5% of the total, if that. There is nothing wrong with this; it's just a point of interest. The international nature of the passengers was fun, with most of it accounted for by the 400 (?) folks from the UK (out of about 1200 total passengers), many of whom we enjoyed meeting. The reason for the large contingent of Brits is interesting and was a bit disquieting to many of the Americans onboard. This is discussed below. We did find a few aspects of the cruise disappointing. In describing them here, I want to emphasize that the overall experience was very positive. Excursions: The ship offers numerous excursions at each port of call. We had been forewarned that they were over-priced and didn't participate in any of them. Frankly, we found their pricing ridiculous. For virtually the identical island tours that we took for $15-25/person, the ship charged $85-115! My guess is that Oceania is missing an opportunity. If their prices were more reasonable -- no more than half of what they were charging -- we would have signed up for some of the trips. I wouldn't be surprised if the additional volume lower prices would generate would increase their profits. We found the current pricing extremely disappointing. Availability of chaise lounge chairs on deck: An Oceania cruise is a relatively expensive one. Under such circumstances, I would expect the ship to be designed such that it could be provisioned with an adequate number of lounge chairs to accommodate any passenger wanting one at any time. The opposite was the case. Especially during days at sea, if you didn't grab lounge chairs early in the morning, you had little chance of getting any until late in the afternoon. The ship has a policy of moving books and the like used to hold lounge chairs if the occupants do not return in a half hour. But whether it was enforced or not, demand so greatly exceeded supply that the situation was essentially hopeless. Our veranda with its two lounge chairs saved the trip for us. Without that, we would have been disappointed in the extreme. Food availability after hours: It's hard to be hungry on a cruise, but if you want a snack late in the evening, the only way to get it on the Riviera is to order room service, and that seems like overkill just for a snack. The ship ought to have a place where passengers can pick up a bag of chips or a cookie, even if it isn't staffed. Paying for alcoholic drinks: Riviera is not all-inclusive. Passengers have to pay for their drinks each time they order them ($9-12 each) or else pay $55/day for unlimited bar (and restaurant) drinks. This includes wine and beer at dinner. We prefer not to have to think about shelling out money every time we want a drink, so we bought the package. Even so, the bartenders or wine stewards had to swipe your card every time you ordered one. We found this annoying. We'd prefer that all beverages be included in the basic cruise price, although I can understand that non-drinkers wouldn't. Wireless charges: Wireless is available on the ship, and we had a laptop provided in our room. (I don't know if this is true of all rooms or just the PH suites and above.) There is a one-time connection fee of $4 and then -- ready for this? -- a charge of $1 for every 1 minute of use of their wireless! The alternatives were $28/day, which would be okay if I was spending my days working (!), or $160 for 200 any-time minutes. I can understand a charge for using wireless, but, as with the shore excursions, these charges are way off the charts. They contributed to our feeling that Oceania was trying to nickel-and-dime passengers to death (only it was $5 and $10 instead of nickels and dimes). I found this unclassy. Activities on board: Given the nature of this cruise and the passenger demographics, this criticism is almost certainly a bit unfair, but I like to have more physical "games" to play on board. The options on Riviera were the aforementioned golf facilities, shuffle board, a small paddle-board court, and croquet. When we docked next to the Carnival Breeze, I envied its passengers the huge water slide, the ropes course, basketball court, etc. Again, I appreciate that this is a reflection of my preferences and not this ship. But it's something to consider if planning to take a cruise. The British are coming: Finally, everyone was amazed to find about a third of the passengers (maybe more) being from the UK. Chatting with them we learned that Oceania had been publicizing the cruise heavily in the UK and offering outstanding discounted fares. Several of the Americans we met were discussing the fact that the Brits paid less than we did. I understand marketing, but this left us, and several of our fellow American passengers, with a slightly bitter taste. Having noted these few negatives, I want to conclude by reiterating that overall we thoroughly enjoyed the ship, its people, and the cruise itself. If we are to take another ship cruise in the future, we will certainly consider Oceania once more. Read Less
Sail Date February 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
My husband and I have previously cruised on Royal Caribbean; we've gotten comfortable with the layouts and are very happy on the huge Oasis and Allure. . .we've been thrilled by the superb entertainment on the large Royal C. ... Read More
My husband and I have previously cruised on Royal Caribbean; we've gotten comfortable with the layouts and are very happy on the huge Oasis and Allure. . .we've been thrilled by the superb entertainment on the large Royal C. ships. We chose this cruise, on the Silver Cloud, when an alumni assn. offered it; the reasons we chose this cruise: we enjoy Caribbean cruises, but were eager to see some ports new to us - ie Dominica. We had been to St. Barts before but were eager to return there as well. We were eager to try a "luxury" cruise line, with the all-inclusive fare structure; while we enjoy Royal Caribbean, we get tired of having to sign a check for every glass of wine, expresso or drink. We also were eager to see how the meals were on the "luxury" lines; we find the food on Princess and Royal Caribbean to be acceptable, but we stick to entrees that are pretty simple, or to the ample buffets. The Silver Cloud, holding under 300 passengers, could get us into the smaller ports - we liked this. We found the excursions to be well-organized; we thought "river tubing" in Dominica was an unforgettable adventure - I can recommend that highly. Our suite: was small but workable w/ separate living area, and good size balcony. Silver Cloud advertised bathtubs in all bathrooms - something we want - and sadly, the ship had been reconfigured to turn all the tubs into showers! Too late we found that there were a few staterooms w/ tubs but our travel agent didn't seem to know about that! The suites were comparable to the upgraded suites we get on Royal Caribbean - the one exception being that the mini-bar here is stocked free of charge w/ any and all beverages. The breakfast buffet was excellent; as the ship is small, they can prepare omelets or eggs to order - as well as make pancakes, etc. as you would wish. I found the lunch choices - the dining room, the buffet, or the pool deck - to be acceptable. I was after a good hot dog or burger all week - found an anemic hot dog on the pool deck and a very average burger in the dining room, which I ordered even tho it was not on the menu. Dinners were just acceptable - too many steaks and chops for us; not enough shellfish and what there was was average. Way way too limited in vegetarian options. Just not enough flavor to foods - or not enough imagination in presenting unusual entrees!!! Decent wine - Bogle, etc - flows freely. Sadly, desserts just always missed - either prepared too far in advance, or attempts at something complex which just fell flat. Next time, if I were to select Silversea, I'd do more room service. Room service is very quick and very well done since we had our own butler. We found that for us - we miss the high quality entertainment of the mega-ships, and we'd like more choices for dancing. Dancing was often offered after 11 pm only. We like more activities - although w/ one port every day we were ok. I think I'd have alot of trouble w/ days at sea on the Silver Cloud. It's important for folks selecting the Silver Cloud to know that you need to be able to walk up a 30-step metal staircase to get on/off the ship at most ports. We'd never encountered this before. The staff was friendly and tried to accommodate my requests. I did feel the dining room staff was either very new, or not well trained. . . I like the luxury category - but need a larger ship. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
This was our first trip on Oceania but not our first cruise, we have 30+ on the traditional mass market lines. We did our own air using the credit from Oceania. Went down the day before and stayed in the Holiday Inn Port of Miami. Very ... Read More
This was our first trip on Oceania but not our first cruise, we have 30+ on the traditional mass market lines. We did our own air using the credit from Oceania. Went down the day before and stayed in the Holiday Inn Port of Miami. Very nice, basic hotel right by the Bay side Market. The credit was enough to cover the air, hotel and taxi's. Embarkation & Disembarkation: Very easy, we got to the terminal before our time of 12, got a group number. Right at 12 our group was called and in 15 min. we were on the ship. Getting off easy too, a form was sent around and we signed up for 8 am, at 8 our color was called and by 8:20 we were in a cab on our way to the air port. The cab was 25$ flat rate while the Oceania transfers were around 140$ to ride in a large bus, makes no sense. Some of the prices they charge are so out of line I feel insulted like they must think me a fool or something. Cabin: We started out in a ocean view and the week before the trip we took a up sell of 400$ to get a A1 Concierge cabin. Same cabin with some added perks and a nice size balcony. Cabin was large, well laid out with enough storage for us.Bed was great, lots of electric outlets, very clean and neat. Bath was very nice with good storage, tub and shower. I an 6'6" and just fit in the shower. As for room perks, loved the spa terrace, drank the wine. Did not use the concierge or lounge. Ship: Great, you can see it was built using upscale products, very neat and clean and well maintained. Good size with good people flow. Never felt crowded or had to wait in line. lots of public rooms to hang in. What I DID NOT like was there is no promenade deck at all, the show lounge in very small with poor sight lines because the stage is 1 foot high. seats are the most uncomfortable I ever sat in, saw people bring pillows. Service: All I can say is it was great, No matter where I went the staff were right there to help and do as I asked and there were lots of them. Entertainment: I felt it was very good. The ships singers and dancers were great, they were held back by the poor show lounge. Had one show each nigh, there was also the ships band, great, a singing duo, string group, great, and a piano man, great. There were no activities by the pool during the day, they had art auctions which were non-intrusive if you did not like them, Artist loft, my wife went each day and lover it, her pictures are all over the house. Also the cooking class. We took one, it was a lot of fun however for the price I would of expected to be able to keep the hat, instead they wanted to sell it to me for 25$. Shore Trips: We took two. They were the exact same trip that other lines offer in the port for twice the price. There was a NCL ship with us, same type of bus and same company tour guide. NCL 70$, Oceania 125$. I do not mind paying more if I get more but!!!! The plus was there were no crowds, I wonder why? Food: I an NOT a food critic, some I liked, some I did not. It is obvious Oceania has chosen Quality over Quantity. The choice is very large for a cruise ship with up scale items all around. Most of it is cooked to order. We never had a problem eating at the time we wanted with a table for two. Overall: We had a nice time and will return as I booked another trip on board. We also use other lines as we take our grandchildren and this is NOT for them. This line in NOT child friendly. We also like a little more action at times, even tho I am 66 I still enjoy young folks, you will not find them here. As for rating, if I was comparing this to a mass market line I would of given them a 5+, however they are not mass market in pricing so in the price point they are in they get a 4. 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

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