Queen Victoria Cruise Review by Roger I Baxter
- Sail Date: December 2011
- Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
- Cabin Type: Balcony
HOWEVER, there was one aspect which was completely unacceptable - the embarkation and disembarkation arrangements. In Miami we had to wait for over an hour after the published time to board the coach taking us to the ship and, once on the quay, the boarding clearance arrangements were akin to what I imagine it must be like waiting for the start of a West End department store sale (and not helped afterwards by the boarding photograph being posed next to a very tatty and peeling lifebelt!).
Once on board, however, everything was fine and very enjoyable, as stated above, UNTIL it was time to disembark.
Absolute chaos is the only word I can use for what then happened - and yes, I do appreciate that this was the first time that the US Customs and Border Protection Agency had (apparently unexpectedly) insisted on doing clearance on board ship, as we were later told, but there can surely be no excuse for having to wait in a queue for 2 hours fifteen minutes after the time we were given to start queuing (and did). The queue itself eventually stretched from one end of the ship to the other and then half as much again!
As you will appreciate, this meant that it went through all three lift lobbies at least once and even obstructed the exit gangway. Not the memory I am sure which was intended to be the one with which passengers would leave.
What made the waiting infinitely more frustrating was the complete lack of any policing by any member of the crew to make sure that selfish passengers did not jump the queue wherever there was an opportunity to do so, as happened much too frequently. This was much to the anger of those others - the vast majority - queuing stoically for their turn to come.
Raised voices were the least of the problem - I myself saw one incident that became physical, a sorry spectacle if ever there was one after such a marvellous trip and I cannot imagine this was an isolated case. Anodyne apologies that eventually came over the tannoy, no matter how genuinely meant, did not help since they were not backed up by any visible action to keep things under control or improve the situation.
Whoever was or should have been responsible for avoiding this debacle will, I hope, already have been made very aware that an enormous amount of passenger goodwill was lost through their/his/her inaction.
We were hoping to be able to take further trips with Cunard, to Alaska, Norway and across the pond, for starters, but I for one will first need some reassurance that lessons have been learnt and that such incidents will not be repeated.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
ArubaQuite pretty coming into port and good docking arrangements - no problems with security and good tourist info within port compound.View All 1,366 Aruba Cruise Port Reviews
Port compound next to main street for shopping and bars - a bit tacky and quite expensive. Don't expect beer to be cheap either, even if local. Language spoken is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch! Not a lot of English spoken in shops.
Not much to see on island which is small anyway, but beaches claimed to be good. Fiercely hot - sunburn inevitable if don't use suncream on any exposed areas, including neck (back and front),face (if no hat), lips (whether wear hat or not!)and back of hands. So don't think you won't get burnt, even if you aren't trying to be suntanned!
Away from front it is surprisingly run-down in built-up areas.
There is a small extinct volcano which can be seen from the port and is approx 3 miles away. No public transport available to it except for seasoned locals who know the routes, so it's taxi or on foot. No signs to it. Locals are quite friendly and charming, however, even if they have difficulty understanding you! If you manage to get to the volcano, the access to the top is via 560+ steps, to be found on the opposite side to the port (near the water-park access). Very good view from the top, as to be expected - the whole island!
Very picturesque views on way out - but still prefer St Maarten!
View Cruise Critic's Aruba Cruise Port Review
ManzanilloQuite impressive coming into port, though pretty large and industrialised to some extent. Good view of volcano ranges all round. Very established shops and reception area. Usual Mexican security arrangements to ensure no drug-running problems to bother tourists - armed sailors on the dock and coastguard cutters offshore. No safety concerns outside port compound and plenty of life. Very hot. Plenty of shops and plenty of novelty kiosks. Prices higher than Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala with quality and choice OK but Guatemala still better.View All 61 Manzanillo Cruise Port Reviews
Didn't fancy or do any excursions there - all too far away anyway and you could in any case certainly get a pretty good idea of Mexican life by staying in the port area and exploring that. People friendly as in Huatulco but more cosmopolitan - still mostly Spanish-speakers but more English spoken.
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Punta ArenasNo fuss docking and well organised on the dock so far as third party excursions and taxis were concerned. Reassuringly good control and security by local authorities. Very good quality souvenir shopping just beyond the port compound.View All 131 Punta Arenas Cruise Port Reviews
Quality of third party excursions high and reliable - we went on a river crocodile cruise which far exceeded our expectations, including hand-feeding a 2.5 metre wild crocodile by the tour guide (who survived and still has all limbs and digits).
We also did zip-lining (whizzing down a long cable at a great height between trees for up to 150 metres) in the rain-forest and loved it (despite the rain and spray) - well-trained experienced instructors and good equipment (never felt unsafe and I have vertigo!). All-in-all a very good destination port.
Everyone friendly and helpful, without exception, though little English spoken apart from tour operatives and port-side shops. Useful to know some Spanish!
View Cruise Critic's Punta Arenas Cruise Port Review