In this review, I'm not going to repeat what I have read many times in other reviews. If you read this site as much as I did while planning and before taking a cruise, you already know everything about the ship. I will attempt to just ... Read More
In this review, I'm not going to repeat what I have read many times in other reviews. If you read this site as much as I did while planning and before taking a cruise, you already know everything about the ship. I will attempt to just include what we liked and didn't like (for whatever it is worth) and information about excursions that we took.
We could not find anything to complain about in the condition or the amenities of the ship. We thought that it was a very attractive ship; just the right size to make getting around very quick and easy. I thought that all the lounge and public areas were very attractive and very well maintained.
CABIN - We were in 9044. We never felt crowded even after 13 nights; although I can't imagine more than two people in the cabin. Liked the full-size couch. Had plenty of storage space/room and could actually use the couch for sitting instead of storing things. We always take the over the door shoe rack for the bathroom door. This, to me, is mandatory as the counter space in the bathroom is very small, plus it makes cleaning the bathroom so much easier, I'm sure. The shower was fine - plenty of hot water and good water pressure. We aren't large people and found the size adequate. We, however, would not have survived without a balcony. It made a tremendous difference in our time on the ship as we spent a lot of time in our cabin. We really enjoyed sitting on the balcony during the day and at night. There is a long light right inside the sliding door which illuminates the balcony enough to play games on the table on the balcony at night. We also liked the fact that the entire balcony wall was glass. It made the cabin appear much brighter and bigger. We like looking for sea life and from our balcony we saw many turtles and dolphins. We also saw two pods of orca whales (although it was past the season for whale watching excursions).. We even clearly saw a hammerhead shark swim right below our balcony. We also saw sea lions swimming by while anchored in Cabo San Lucas.
CABIN STEWARDS - Excellent service from both our steward and his assistant. All the stewards we saw while going up and down our hallway were always very friendly and polite.
FOOD - We didn't eat in the dining room as we had late seating (which is way too late for us) and we don't particularly like eating at a set time. We also didn't want to take anything but very casual clothes on this trip as we were gone for almost four weeks total. Therefore, we ate in the Windjammer. Nothing special as far as food but certainly a lot of choices - some better than others. I was able to eat a very healthy diet - great steamed vegetables were available most lunches and dinners. I also really liked the way they prepared the seafood which was also available just about every meal. We found the breakfast items in the bins to be not too great - so to get around the very marginal scrambled eggs, we had plain omelets made most days. The carving station had ham available every breakfast. This cruise was probably fully booked and it often took a bit of time to search out a place to sit (except for dinner when there were always plenty of seats).
We did go to the Seaview Cafe once but mostly what is found there are fried or fatty foods - so we decided to go healthy this trip and didn't go back. It was also at the opposite end of the ship so we decided it wasn't that special to warrant going there. I did have crepes once at the Solarium Cafe and they were delicious.
STAFF - Excellent service and attitude. Didn't come across one person who wasn't smiling and helpful. In the Windjammer, staff walk around constantly offering drinks and clearing plates. We particularly enjoyed having a new waiter in training, Christoph from Belgium, waiting on us in the evening. He was such a nice person and very helpful. I think he will have a great career as a dining room waiter some day.
SANITATION - This is one area that I feel was lacking. Actually, I can't believe that this cruise didn't end up having a virus outbreak. The ship itself appeared to be VERY clean. There were hand sanitizing wipes available when entering the Windjammer, but only about half the people used them and the staff person stationed there didn't stop people to make sure that they used the wipes. (Our cruise two months ago on Celebrity Galaxy, you couldn't get in the door of the dining room or buffet without using the sanitation wipes - you were stopped). I used the fitness center a lot and was appalled that pretty much no one wiped down any equipment or mats. I went to all the aerobics classes and people were sweating and doing floor exercises on the mats. I was always the only one who got sanitizing wipes and wiped down my mat. People even seeing me doing that didn't bother. I went to spin classes - again I was the only person wiping down my bike. You can't get out of my gym at home without wiping down your equipment. My husband and I used the exercise equipment most days and again we were two of the few even bothering to sit on towels, etc., much less wipe down the equipment.
FITNESS CENTER - Excellent facilities pretty heavily used. I really enjoyed the variety of weight machines and went there almost every day. I didn't use any cardio equipment but there appeared to be quite a variety and plenty of machines and they were used a lot, it appeared.
FITNESS CLASSES - Every morning there was an early morning stretch class - you had to get there 15 minutes early in order to get a space and even then it was packed. It wasn't anything special but was a nice way to start the day. A spin class was offered about every other day. I went to the first three classes but participation was very limited (3-5 people). When the fourth class came around, only two of us showed up. The instructor decided not to run the class because it "wouldn't be motivational enough." I wasn't too thrilled about that because I feel if it is offered and he is just sitting there, he can run the class. No spin classes were run after that because I was the only person. However, the cruise director, Kirk, instructed an hour aerobics class on port days (at 4 or 5 p.m.). He would run them if only one person showed up. They were excellent, a lot of work, and fun. I really appreciated the fact that he did that. I wasn't that impressed with the fitness staff. They certainly did have a lot of enthusiasm for their various "classes" that they taught such as detox, etc. I noticed that they did seem to get quite a few people to sign up for personal consultations or whatever they were hawking.
PORTS - Cartagena, Colombia: I had often read on this site how beautiful Cartagena is. We didn't find it to be anything special. The Old Town doesn't even come close to Old San Juan - there are a FEW pretty buildings but that is about it. There are a lot of beggars. We took the Deluxe Cartagena and Fortress (CA08) tour. There were buses full of people on this tour. The first stop was Fort San Felipe de Barajas - a hot walk up for absolutely nothing. This fort has absolutely nothing to really offer - nothing to see inside the fort (or at least we didn't get to see it); no great views from the fort; a hot walk up for nothing to see. Every ten feet, someone was trying to sell you something or asking for money. Next stop was Las Bovedas (The Dungeons) "craft"/souvenir shopping area. . It was so crowded that it was pretty much impossible to walk around. We paid a dollar to use the bathroom and did a little shopping. I entertained myself by giving money to a few of the women dressed up with fruit baskets on their heads to have my picture taken with them. At least they made an effort to get some money instead of the other people just standing around asking for money. Next stop was a walk through the Old Town area. In the Inquisition Palace I found the display on torture equipment the most interesting part (just in case this interests you, just about all the equipment had signs stating that it was never used in Colombia). Most of the time, the guide stood in front of framed maps explaining historical events. The San Pedro Claver church was okay. We did give some money to the nuns and nurses standing at the door asking for donations. Next stop was at the Navy Museum where our tour director gave more history talks while standing around exhibits in glass cases. We watched a folkloric dance performance that I think was ongoing all day while they cycled through the tourists. It certainly was lively and kept my attention. The next area was to the official shopping mall (Pierino Gallo) - just a block of the typical jewelry and souvenir shops. Luckily that stop was only 30 minutes. Due to huge traffic jams it took a long time to get back to the ship. All in all, I can't think of another way to see Colombia unless you are comfortable enough to go out on your own or get your own driver, and I was thrilled to say that I finally got to South America - but I would never consider Cartagena to be a possible vacation destination.
Huatulco, Mexico - This port had a lot of the typical souvenir shopping in a one-block building jammed full of stalls all selling the same stuff over and over. My husband speaks some Spanish so he had fun talking to and bartering with the locals for the few items that I wanted to buy. We didn't go the beaches at any of these ports, but this stop was supposed to have some very nice beaches.
Acapulco, Mexico - This was a horrible port for us. The building right where the ship docks is fine, but if you step outside that area you are just besieged by taxi drivers, etc. We are used to being in the Caribbean and used to people constantly asking you if you want a taxi or buy something. However, in Acapulco, they would not take no for an answer. We decided to do some walking and we had people follow us saying that the city pays them to show tourists where to go - I'm sure that is not true or they would present themselves that way upfront not after you tried ten times to get rid of them. Finally, my husband got so annoyed with one man that wouldn't give up and that he couldn't even politely get rid of by speaking English or Spanish, and it was actually getting scary to me - so he finally just about yelled in Spanish that we aren't giving you any money and the guy said something under his breath and finally left, then we turned around and went back to the ship. The place was also dirty and decrepit (not your typical expected decrepit island place) and just a place I would never go to again. We were looking forward to that port, and it was disappointing. For our excursion, we decided that we would do the typical tourist thing and see the cliff divers (Acapulco Bay Cruise and Cliff Divers - AC11) I couldn't decide whether to take the bus or boat tour. All the bus tours involved driving around resorts, etc., and we didn't want to do that. I tried to research the cliff diver watching by boat, but couldn't find out too much so decided it would probably be better than standing on the lookout areas with tons of people. My advice is - DON"T DO IT. First of all, the boat is a large three level tour boat that holds 250 people. There was plenty of room on the boat, but try to get 250 people all crammed along the rear of the boat to see the divers. We had asked one of the crew where to stand, so we were positioned early - BUT - the boat was so far out that the divers were about one-inch tall. You could see them dive - but barely. Smaller boats could get in much closer. They then served a Mexican buffet while going back to the cruise ship. Also, two of the divers swam all the way out to the boat to pose with the tourists and get tips. At the conclusion of this tour, they gave you the options of going with one of their tour guides on a short tour of an historical site and then shopping, going with one of their tour guides to a shopping area (more jewelry), or just back to the cruise ship. We opted for the cruise ship because we wanted to check out the port (big mistake either way, I'm sure). NOTE: When we spent some time in San Diego after this cruise, we met several people who regularly go to the Mexican Riviera area. Not one person had anything good to say about Acapulco and all said they would never go back there.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica - At this port, we decided to try the zip lining excursion (The Original Canopy Tour Mahogany Park - CR12). About 20-30 people were on our bus and it was about a 45-minute drive to the site. They had a person who talked the entire way there so the time went fast and we learned some interesting things about Costa Rica. I was very excited about zip lining, but came away disappointed. I know other people who have gone at other places and loved it and people on our tour seemed to like it (at least in front of other people they said so). I think it would be important to really check out the place to where you are going. In all cases, you will probably have about a 20 minute walk into and out of the jungle - that was fine and we didn't notice any bugs, even though we had sprayed ourselves just in case. They gave good instructions, and I think safety was the major concern. There were about 8 or 9 zip lines, and they weren't that long. That was fine because this was our first time, and I wanted something easy and not too high. What I didn't like - each platform was actually a metal surround about 18" wide around a tree trunk. Once you landed on this "platform" you were attached by your safety line to a rope around this tree trunk. Then, you had to inch yourself around the trunk to the other side to where you would begin the next zip line. I found it very scary and I'm not usually afraid of things like this. No one fell off, but boy if you did, you would be caught by your line but you would go slamming up against the tree and would have to get yourself back up to the platform. I had seen zip lining courses on TV and expected an actual platform on which to land and move around. The hardest part of the zip lining itself was trying to keep yourself from twisting backwards, which is very scary because then you can't see where you are going and whether you should break. The person waiting to catch you yells at you as to whether to break or not, but you can't put your hands on the wrong place or you'll really be in trouble with the cables. I saw several people get twisted around and panic and start grabbing the cables and had to be screamed at to get their hands off. It happened to me, and you do panic because you can't see where you are going. Also, your feet can be hard to control and some trees you go by are very close. I saw a person break too soon and ended coming to a dead stop about 6 feet from the platform and had to go hand over hand to try to work himself to the platform and then get his body up on the platform - he just was hanging there for a while - he said it was exhausting. Another person didn't break properly and went crashing into the tree and the person trying to catch him. (Remember that you only have about an 18" area in which to land before you are face to face with the tree trunk.) In retrospect, at least in my case, I would have to zip line another time or two to get the hang of it. I never once just got to look around - it was just stressful. However, this experience was so bad, I won't be trying it again. ALSO, although the people working the zip lines were courteous enough, only one seemed actually trying to make an effort to be friendly (although I realize that most of them don't speak English too well and I also realize that dealing with people who have never zip lined before and keep crashing into things is probably annoying day after day.) One more thing, I was very disappointed that they didn't take pictures that we could buy of us zip lining. Many people mentioned this as a disappointment. They encouraged you to bring your camera, so I did. However, I was so busy hanging on for dear life that I couldn't take any pictures. Also, I would have had to go several people ahead of my husband in order to at least get a picture of him - MAYBE. Even though I didn't like the experience I really wanted a picture for my scrapbook. They didn't even have anything to buy such as canned pictures of the place or experience. Even the T-shirts they were trying to sell were tank tops only in XX Large. ALSO, didn't see any wildlife at all except for one snake.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - This was a very nice port. We tendered in and the process was smooth and fast. Both directly around the waterfront and in the streets surrounding the port area - lots of stores, shops, and places to drink/eat. There is also a huge building right near the tender area full of the typical stuff found in very port in the Caribbean and Mexico. But, I like to look at that junk and always pick up something as a way to remember the place.
We didn't take excursions in Cabo or Huatulco. We are snorkelers and I had booked snorkeling excursions in both of those ports but canceled them before the cruise. After doing some research, I realized that the experience wouldn't even compare to the Caribbean snorkeling that we do and that the water would probably be cold. But I did see the snorkeling group getting ready on the pier and it was the typical ship excursion with too many people being fitted with poor equipment being crammed unto a small boat. We took a 11-night S. Caribbean cruise earlier this year and went on many snorkeling excursions. Please, if you have it, take your own mask and snorkel. The unsanitary way many places keep the snorkels is disgusting, and it ruins the entire experience if your mask always leaks or you keep getting water in your snorkel. Some snorkeling excursions are pretty good but most are not too great just because of the large number of people packed on the boats, the time it takes for everyone to get in the water, etc.
PANAMA CANAL - We found the actual canal transit to be interesting. People on this site often ask about whether there is a big difference between the partial or full transit. Well, my opinion is that once you go through one set of locks, you have seen it all. We were very lucky in that our ship went in on the right side and a huge cargo ship went in the same direction on the left side just one lock behind us. So, we were able to sit on our balcony and see how everything works all the way through to the lake. Many people apparently crushed onto the heli pad and spent hours in the HOT sun. I must say that we did enjoy seeing the Panama City skyline and the MANY ships/boats waiting on the Pacific side for their turn through the canal. We spent about an hour on our balcony with our binoculars looking at the ships - that was fun.
ENTERTAINMENT - Most shows were comedians or whatever. We didn't go to any of those. We did go to the two musical shows. Piano Man was pretty good and City of Dreams was also good. We enjoy listening and dancing to oldies rock type of music. All of that type of music started after 10 p.m. when we were already in bed. The closest thing they had to that type of music earlier in the evening was in the Schooner Bar and they would play from like 7-7:45 then take an hour break. It was kind of ridiculous. But, I guess they know what there market wants, and it isn't what we want, so we just stayed in our cabin playing Scrabble or reading, etc.
PASSENGER TYPE - We are in our late 50s. I would say that the average cruiser on this itinerary was in their late 60s or 70s. It was definitely a senior crowd which was great as far as nights go. I never heard one peep from the rooms next to us or in the hall at nights. Makes for great sleeping. No drunks running around the halls. Very classy crowd. - much more dressed up than the Celebrity cruise that we took and that was also a long 11-night cruise. On formal night, we were one of the few in the buffet - we saw people really dressed to the nines walking around the ship - they really seemed to enjoy the experience - many tuxes and long gowns.
ACTIVITIES - Lots of activities every day. My husband tried the golf simulator - wasn't that great but was something to do - but he didn't go back. They did have two golf competitions that he went to. We just don't like the typical cruise things but there were lots of trivia type of activities for those of you that like that. I went to several line dancing classes which were packed. Went to port lectures and they were pretty informative with PowerPoint presentations with lots of pictures. Noticed a craft activity most days and scrapbooking workshops. I can see if you enjoy those type of activities, you could definitely be busy every hour of the day. Read Less