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Sail Date: July 2003
i have just returned from the carnival victory sailing from july 26 - july 31, 2003 to st. john and halifax canada. i took this cruise with a friend who had never cruised before, and for me this was my first cruise on carnival. i have ... Read More
i have just returned from the carnival victory sailing from july 26 - july 31, 2003 to st. john and halifax canada. i took this cruise with a friend who had never cruised before, and for me this was my first cruise on carnival. i have previously cruised royal caribbean, princess, dolphin and home lines. embarkation: we took the train from nj to penn station, and then got a cab to the pier. we got in the cab at approx. 11am and didn't€™ get to the pier until 11:40! the traffic was a mess because there were turns that were blocked off, plus there were two other ships (both celebrity) in port that day. once we were dropped off, things went rather quickly. we gave our larger bags to the porter, then proceeded inside. we put our carryon bags thru the xray machine and went thru the metal detectors. there was a carnival rep walking with us up to this point, ripping out the appropriate docs from our folder. after going thru security, we got our embarkation picture taken, then were directed to the lines to have our docs checked and get our sail and sign cards. after that, were proceeded on board, and were in our cabin by 12:15pm. this was the fastest embarkation i've experienced! cabin: we were on deck 2 (main) with an oceanview cabin on the port side. our cabin was ready, so we unpacked our carryons and relaxed a while before heading up to the buffet for lunch. the cabin was very spacious. we had drawers and shelves that we never used. there is a closet with 3 sections, one with shelves (one shelf held the safe that was operated with a credit card or any other card with a magnetic strip other than your sail & sign card), and two sections with hangers. we didn't have any skirt/pants hangers with clips so i was glad i brought some from home. there were 3 large drawers on one side of the vanity, and a section with small shelves behind doors on the other side. other furniture besides the beds were 2 nightstands that had storage space, a vanity stool, a pull out sofabed and a table and chair. also, placed on the sofa were 2 thick terry cloth robes and our carnival pool towels. very nice. the bathroom had a small medicine cabinet with shelves, a basket of toiletries on the counter that included 2 packs of disposable razors, toothpaste, moisturizer, soap, and a few other sundries. the hair dryer was mounted on the wall, and was pretty decent unless you have really thick long hair. the shower had shampoo and shower gel in dispensers on the wall, and a shower nozzle that could be hand held or placed in the holder. the water pressure was pretty decent. we did have a problem with our toilet not flushing a couple times. once we were told that it was a problem that affected one area of the ship and would be fixed in 15 minutes (more like a ½ hour) and the other time we were told the plumber would be called and within 15 minutes our toilet flushed on its own. (i guess the plumber could access the problem without coming into your cabin.) our cabin steward was antonio and he kept our cabin spotless. he always had plenty of fresh towels and ice waiting for us. i left a note requesting additional glasses and they were there when we returned to our cabin. he was always friendly and stopped for a little chat when he saw us. and of course we got chocolates and those cute animal towels with the turndown service. no complaints about cabin service for us! ship: navigating the ship was a little tricky at first. the galley is in the middle of the ship, so on some decks you could not go directly from one end of the ship to the other. but after a day or two you learn your way around. i’ve read some posts on these boards about the color scheme, but i actually liked it! i thought the different shades of green were pretty. and i loved the seventh seas bar with the seafoam green seats and seahorse tables. the dining rooms had peach linens. the lounge chairs at the siren’s pool had padded cushions and were more comfortable than the striped loungers at the other pools. but there were not that many of them so sometimes it was hard to find 2 that weren't "saved". those same loungers were also on deck 3 on both port and starboard side. that was a nice area for reading or even sleeping as not many people seemed to go there so it was very quiet. one thing that i didn't like was that it was hard to find a lounge chair by any of the pools that were in the shade. the shaded areas under the decks above were all filled with tables and chairs for eating. also, the carpeting in the hallway on deck 2 needs to be replaced-it was spotted and had what looked like water stains. otherwise the crew were always seen about cleaning. the public bathrooms, elevators, and buffet tables were always clean. food: we requested late seating but when we got our sail and sign cards discovered we had been assigned early seating in the atlantic dining room. first order of business was to see the maitre€™d about changing that. no problem. we were seated at a table for 10 at the 8:30 seating. the first night there were 2 couples seated with us. the maitren d' came and asked if we would switch tables to accommodate a family of 12, but our table was next to the window and no one wanted to move, so we stayed there. the next night another couple joined our table after switching from the pacific dining room where they said they had horrible service. our waiter and assistant never introduced themselves, but were extremely efficient, and would chat after dinner if approached. i never felt rushed, but we were always done by 9:45-10pm, while other tables were just getting their entrees. on the first night i asked for lemon for my iced tea and after that night there was always a plate of lemon wedges on the table. overall i thought the food was good to very good, but i think the food on royal caribbean was better. and on royal caribbean, the waiters were always encouraging you to try something in addition to whatever you ordered, and always brought out extra desserts for you to try. one night on rccl, i didn't want any dessert and the waiter insisted on bringing something, and brought me a fruit salad that wasn't even on the menu! our waiter on carnival never offered anything additional. if you asked for another dessert or a second lobster tail, it was brought, but not encouraged. maybe that was why we were always done early! i can't remember everything that was on the menu for dinner, but some of the entrees were rack of lamb, lobster tail, prime rib, grilled salmon, grilled shrimp, roast duck, roast sirloin of beef, chateaubriand, turkey and roast pork loin. a few nights there was a pasta entree that could also be ordered as an appetizer portion, but they needed more sauce as they were too dry. all the soups i tried were very good, especially the cream of mushroom and indian pumpkin soup (very spicy). the appetizers were also very good, but when you order the shrimp cocktail, the cocktail sauce that comes with it is just a little dab, hardly enough for one small shrimp let alone four! the smoked salmon appetizers were my favorite, not salty at all. another choice was escargot, which many at our table loved. each night you were offered two salads, but one was listed as field greens and was always just iceberg or romaine lettuce. the caesar salads were good. overall, nothing was terrible, but nothing was really excellent either. we never went to the dining room for lunch (which is not open on days when you are in port), but went to the buffet, the grill, and the yangzee wok. the buffet always had a nice variety of food and even when the lines were long, they moved quickly. there was a salad bar with various fixings and dressings, cold selections, hot foods, a carving station that had a different meat every day (turkey, ham, pork, roast beef and leg of lamb), fresh fruits, and desserts. the grill served hot dogs, hamburgers (well done only), minute steaks (which took 10 min. to cook), chicken breasts, and even veggie burgers. the line here moved more slowly because you had to wait for things to be cooked. drinks were iced tea (no lemon available), lemonade, fruit punch, water, coffee and tea. pizza was ok, and there were self-serve frozen yogurt and ice cream machines. for breakfast we ate in the dining room and at the buffet. (not on the same day!) the buffet had an omelet station where you could choose your fillings, sausage, bacon, ham, pancakes, toast, bagels, yogurt, cereal, danishes, fruit, scrambled eggs (which i think are powdered eggs) hash brown circles, and cold cereals. fruit juices were only orange and grapefruit. there was more of a variety of juice choices in the dining room, but if you want cranberry juice the waiter has to go to the bar for it. one morning it took 20 minutes to get a cranberry juice which i thought was just ridiculous. the dining room offered some things you couldn't get at the buffet, such as bagels with lox and cream cheese, hot cereals (oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits), french toast, and eggs benedict. for the eggs benedict, you only get one egg and it is finished under a broiler making the hollandaise sauce pretty dried out. we never used room service so i can't comment on that. entertainment: our cruise director was mark price. he was ok, some of his jokes were pretty corny. the welcome aboard show was fun, and there was a very funny comedian that night. he also did an adult midnight show the following night. living in america was a broadway revue song and dance extravaganza with some spectacular costumes. and yes, many of the girls costume bottoms were thongs! vroom was another song and dance show, but the songs were pop and disco. the other shows offered were a magic show and the guest talent show, but we skipped those to go the casino instead. there was kararoke, and the usual newlywed not-so newlywed game was done in the afternoon on our last sea day. we wanted to stay by the pool so we didn't get to see that. (many of the shows are shown on the tv in your cabin afterwards but we never saw that one.) the adriatic lounge had dancing to a variety of music, 60's, 70's, disco and latin, on various nights. films were also shown here on certain days. the adriatic lounge was also the site of the captain's cocktail party, and the past guest cocktail party. we attended both. (i think we were invited to the past guest party because i had previously cruised on princess which is now owned by carnival.) both parties were similar. note: before entering the lounge for the captain's cocktail party, you go thru a reception line to meet the captain and other ship officers. get there early as the lounge gets very crowded and it will be impossible to get a seat. waiters walked around with trays of drinks you could choose from such as champagne, wine, whiskey sours, martinis, and fruit punch. you could also get soda. and other waiters passed around trays of hor d'oeuvres like mini meatballs, chicken nuggets, and empanadas. at the past guest party, they had more cocktails to choose from like melonballs, and blue margaritas. they had 4 different canapãs to choose from, and then came around with mini pastries for dessert. mark price raffled off a couple of prizes and then a short film was shown on carnival's history. ports: in saint john, all the ladies were greeted with roses as we disembarked the ship. we took the saint john highlights tour and enjoyed it very much. we had a lovely sunny day that started out at 63 degrees but warmed up nicely. our guide told us that it was the first time they'd seen the sun in 13 days, previously they had nothing but rain and fog so thick you could barely see your hand in front of your face! i guess the travel fairy was with us! the tour took us to the city market where we were able to walk around for 45 minutes, then to view the reversing falls. our last stop was at the carleton martello tower, a circular stone fortification, that had spectacular views of the bay and harbor.. along the way, our guide also pointed out some of the notable places in the city, along with bits of history. it took about 2½ hours and i'd recommend this tour. after returning from the tour, carnival only had one gangway open to get back on the ship. the line was unbelievable as most passengers were returning from their shore excursions at the same time. they finally opened a 2nd gangway, but clearly a lack of planning. in halifax, we walked along the boardwalk that runs along the waterfront, and poked into some of the shops along the way. in the afternoon we took the titanic treasures tour. there wasn't much to it. we were taken to the maritime museum (which is right on the boardwalk so you can easily walk to it) where there was a small exhibit of titanic artifacts. this seems to be the major attraction, so it was very congested in that area of the museum. there were many other nautical exhibits but not enough time to see them all. then we were taken past two of the cemeteries where victims were buried (the catholic and jewish) and then to the fairview lawn cemetery where the rest of victims that were recovered were buried. both ports are relatively small cities and easy to get around in. we never saw the free bus in halifax. also both ports had shopping areas set up right at the pier so you didn't have to go far to look for souvenirs. misc: the passengers on the cruise were evenly mixed between families, couples, and singles. lots of kids, but for the most part they were well behaved. we had some noise from them running in the hallway but otherwise our cabin was quiet. even though it was late july, the weather was very cool. we had no rain or fog, but the air coming off the water was quite chilly. also, the dining rooms, bars and lounges were like alaska, so i'd recommend bringing a sweater or shawl. i was freezing most of the time, and bought a sweatshirt jacket to try to keep warm. i think i've covered everything. hope this helps some of you who are taking this cruise, or thinking of it. i would cruise carnival again, and think this cruise was definitely worth it for what you paid. hope this wasn't too long. 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Sail Date: August 2003
Just returned from a 5 night NY/Canada Cruise Aboard the Victory. This is my 5th cruise and fourth with the entire family (wife and 2 girls ages 11 and 13). In order to give the reader some background we have sailed Western Caribbean, ... Read More
Just returned from a 5 night NY/Canada Cruise Aboard the Victory. This is my 5th cruise and fourth with the entire family (wife and 2 girls ages 11 and 13). In order to give the reader some background we have sailed Western Caribbean, Bermuda, Canada/Alaska, Bahamas and now Eastern Canada. Have sailed Carnival before as well as Princess and Norwegian. Cruises from 5 nights to 11 nights and ships from 21,000 tons to 102,000 tons. I'll rate on 1-10 scale with 10 highest. The Ship. "8" She is huge @ 102,000 tons. Nicely laid out with only a few problems navigating to various dining rooms. Great waterslide, pools were heated but on the small side, and hot tubs near every pool. I felt the ship was clean and well kept. Although I did notice a few stained carpets and one atrium elevator was out of order after the first day- considering more than 3,000 passengers on board- it was well looked after. Nice lounges, beautiful main theater, beautiful atrium and attractive 2 story dining rooms and casual eating areas. There was a very nice Spa, typical photo areas, and gift shops. The Cabin. "9" We booked an outside cabin with balcony on Empress deck 7. Room with balcony was approximately 200 square ft and well laid out. Everything worked well and was quite comfortable considering it held 4 people. We were given robes for the trip. The balcony was a plus and although small and you can definitely hear your neighbors it was was quite nice. There was enough storage, a safe, color tv, phone, music and tight but well laid out bathroom. The Food. "8" Maybe we are not very particular but I've enjoyed the food on all my cruises including this one. The menu in the main dining room (Pacific) was varied and had something for everyone. Lobster tails were available on the second night. The food in the casual areas were also quite good especially the Deli and the Chinese sections. They also have a 24 hour pizza area. Each night there was a mid night buffet. Although there was a cost for soft drinks there were many free flowing beverage stations which had apple juice, iced tea, lemonade and punch. There was also Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate available around the clock. The Service. "8". Actually "7" in the main dining room and "9" for cabin steward. We appeared to have a great dining team, however The maitre De asked if we would kind enough to move in order to accommodate a large family. Although we liked our table and waiter, it was our first night and it seemed like the nice thing to do. The Table they changed us to was just as nice however, we believe the waiter and his assistant were only satisfactory. Cabin Steward was very good and rarely seen unless needed. Itinerary. "6" We felt that Saint John, New Brunswick was not very attractive and there was not much to do. We made the best of it with a walk around town and took a cab to The Reversing Rapids Jet boat ride. We booked on line before we left and it cost less than $100 Canadian (approximately $70 American) for a family of 4. Much more expensive booked on board. The thrill ride lasts only 20 minutes but you get soaked and it's highly recommended. Halifax was prettier and we rented a car and visited Peggy's Cove (very nice) and booked thru the internet a 2 1/2 hour Whale Watching cruise with Four Winds. This cruise was very disappointing not only because we saw no whales or any wild life for that matter but there was not one word muttered by the crew through out the cruise. Entertainment. "7" The shows were typical cruise shows including a good comedian, singers, dances, magician and talent show. There were typical carnival hairy Chest contests, TV trivia games( I won), and The not so Newlywed game to name a few. The Cruise Director was a likeable fellow named Mark Price. The one thing that has nothing to do with the cruise line but always affects the vacation is the weather. We knew that Canada in late August is a crap shoot but we lucked out. The Weather was beautiful for just about the entire 5 night cruise. Temperatures ranged from the mid-70s to the low 80s for much of the trip and only the last day was a bit foggy in the morning and windy through out the day. Unlike some of the comments I read on line, Carnival had all the pools and hot tubs open through out the last day at sea as well as the waterslide. Last Comment: The thing that concerns me most about cruises are all the horror stories I read about Embarkation and Debarkation. It seems that many people wait an hour or much more to board the ship. For some reason we have never had this problem. We have sailed twice out of NY, Once out of Miami and Once out of San Francisco. On this cruise we waited a grand total of 10 minutes to board. The only thing we do each time is arrive about 1-2 hours before the cruise line stated boarding time. For each cruise the stated boarding time seems to around 1- 1:30 pm. We usually arrive between 11:30 am and 12 noon. Each time we arrive passengers are already boarding. Now I realize We may be lucky but I would definitely recommend arrive early!! I'll keep doing this until it doesn't work. Finally, Debarkation on this cruise was the best ever. Instead of putting our luggage out our door the night before, we were given the choice of carrying out our own which we gladly accepted. Instead of spending time looking for our luggage after sitting in a waiting area for an hour or more- we simply ate a leisurely breakfast, went back to our cabin, waited to hear it was ok for passengers carrying their own luggage to leave and walked off the ship. What a pleasure! In sum- we had a nice cruise! Read Less
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Sail Date: September 2003
Here's my review of the NY - Canada (Halifax, St. John) cruise (our honeymoon cruise) of Serenade of the Seas. Note that I've cruised twice before, most recently on the Norwegian Dawn so any comparisons I make will be ... Read More
Here's my review of the NY - Canada (Halifax, St. John) cruise (our honeymoon cruise) of Serenade of the Seas. Note that I've cruised twice before, most recently on the Norwegian Dawn so any comparisons I make will be against those two cruises. Embarkation - It went very smooth. We got to the pier around 12 noon and the check-in process took under 15 minutes. Cabin - We had a category E1 cabin with balcony (#8138). The cabin was smaller than a similar one we had on the Dawn, especially in the bathroom. However, the cabin had a lot of storage space/shelves. Also, the closet was configured with shelving in the middle of the closet rather than on one side. This would've made fitting any large suitcases in there hard if not impossible. Luckily, we had a rolling garment and duffel bags. The balcony was nice but with Canada being chilly, we didn't use it as much as we'd like. The balcony had two chairs and a small table but the chairs both had a fixed back (the tilt of the backs could not be adjusted like the chairs near the pool). Food - The food was very good. We had dinner at Reflections, the main dining room every night (6pm main seating) and the service/food was excellent. We had breakfast/lunch buffet at the Windjammer Cafe and the food was good too. The waiter staff did some singing for the guests on two of the nights. There were two alternative restaurants, Chops Grill and Portofino (Italian food) which we didn't use because we found the basic dinner good enough. The Norwegian Dawn had freestyle dining, which let you decide when you wanted to have dinner. Going back to a fixed dinner time took some getting used too. Service - The service was also very good. Dinner courses were delivered quickly. The dinner took about 1 hour to 1 ¼ hour from beginning to end. The staterooms were cleaned twice a day. Public Rooms - There were many places to explore on the ship. I liked the Schooner Bar - Safari Club area on deck 6. It was very relaxing and comfortable area. There was also a piano player there who added to the atmosphere. I also liked the Centrum, the lobby of the ship. There was music/dancing there every night. Unlike the Norwegian Dawn, which concentrated all its public areas on a 2-3 decks, Serenade had them more spread out, with at least one public area on almost every deck. Since it was chilly in Canada, we did not spend much time in the pool. We did try the miniature golf on the sea days, when it wasn't as cold. Entertainment - This was one of the best parts of the cruise. There were a lot of different activities aboard the ship throughout the day. There were two production shows, one focusing on Broadway musicals that were made into movies and a "music legends" show. Other evening entertainment included 2 comedians (Sal Desmone was the better of the two), a dance comedy couple (think Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers meets the Marx Brothers), and a juggler. Just before we left Halifax, one of the local Irish dance companies put on a show for the passengers in the theater. The cruise director, Allan Brooks, was around all over the ship and was very involved in many of the activities. Excursions - Because we haven't been to either of the cities, we took the Halifax and St John's City highlights tours and enjoyed both of them. They both gave an overview of each city. Our dinner table mates took the Halifax Hop on Hop off bus tour. It was cheaper and more flexible than the city tour we took so if you are going to Halifax, consider that one. At the cruise shop pier, there was shopping with local arts and crafts. The downtown of each city was only a few minutes walk from the ship. Disembarkation - This was also very smooth. We took the Express checkout option, which lets you off the ship first if you carry your own bags. The ship started letting us leave around 8am and we were off the ship around 8:15am. Overall, it was a very good trip. I just want to note that most of the passengers were older, about 70% was at least over 55 and there weren't too many families on board. There was a kids center that seemed to keep them occupied. The kids also made an appearance at one of the evening shows. This was my first Royal Caribbean cruise and I would recommend this ship/cruise line. The Serenade is a beautiful ship, especially since this was only its 6th cruise. If you have any specific questions, please email me at mccoy132@aol.com Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
Just returned from the September 1 sailing to Canada. What a treat! I've sailed with Crystal on two occasions, and the Serenade of the Seas was a far superior cruise.   The ship is absolutely beautiful and the staterooms are ... Read More
Just returned from the September 1 sailing to Canada. What a treat! I've sailed with Crystal on two occasions, and the Serenade of the Seas was a far superior cruise.   The ship is absolutely beautiful and the staterooms are intelligently designed and quite comfortable. Service is excellent. Chops Grille lives up to its reputation of having the best steaks and chops on the high seas. The coffee at the Windjammer is great! The atmosphere is congenial and relaxed.   Unlike Crystal, where you are bombarded with high-pressure sales techniques to encourage you to buy, buy, buy, extras on the Serenade (such as specialty restaurants, tour excursions) are for you to enjoy or not, depending on your inclination.   The children's "club" is exceptional and the counselors are well-trained. The Spa is state of the art, with a seasoned and experienced staff.   RCCL, with its new Radiance line of "smaller" ships, is attempting to create an upscale, deluxe cruising experience at mid-market prices. I believe they have succeeded! Now all they have to do is move the art auction from the atrium to another location... Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2003
This was our third cruise and our second HAL experience. We enjoyed the Prinsendame, its size and its decor. Not to say it had no problems at all. We sailed from Montreal for New York on a fall leaf change time cruise. We went from ... Read More
This was our third cruise and our second HAL experience. We enjoyed the Prinsendame, its size and its decor. Not to say it had no problems at all. We sailed from Montreal for New York on a fall leaf change time cruise. We went from Montreal to Quebec where we woke up to people walking on the dock next to us. (Windows are tinted or something so that they could not see in. Unless you were right in the windows, you were not visible from outside. We were on Main Deck (6), aft and on the port side. Near the aft elevators which we needed because of being disabled and using a walker. The QE2 was tied up just ahead of us. It was in Quebec on its last visit to the New World before it begins its life as a cruise ship in Europe. The dock was really crowded as it was Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Friends who took some of the trips offered by HAL said they had a good time. We had been in Quebec before so we did not choose to take a tour. Instead we used the time to get to know the Prinsendam. We ate mostly in the LaFontaine Restaurant for Breakfasts and Dinners and in the Lido for luncheon and snacks. The Explorers Lounge was a great place to hand out before dinner and to read (also to people watch). The Java Cafe was a nice place to have coffee and watch ESPN which was not on the main TV in one's room. We chose the second sitting for dinner and then the late show and the Crow's Nest after dinner. This ship is different than the S class ships such as Maasdam, etc. It is smaller overall and carries some 790 passengers vs 1200+. It is not as glamorous either although the interior design and decor are very nicely "lived in." There were signs of her previous life before HAL. The port in our room and various other places about the ship suffered from being painted shut. The original ship had had a built in spray-fresh-water-on-the-windows-to-clean-them-of-salt-spray system. It seemed to be quite clever. It did not work now. The spray heads had been painted shut. Whether it would have worked otherwise, we never found out. Unlike Maasdam, the Lido pool area was not covered so there was no swimming in October so far North. The hot tubs were fired up but I never saw anyone using them. The snack bar on Lido Deck was kept busy but the snacks I got there were cold by the time I could get inside. (Cold hot dog, ugh!) Food inside in all places was great. The extra charge restaurant behind the Ocean Bar in the Odyssey Room looked good and the head chef seemed to be a good guy. I refused to pay a surcharge to eat there however, so I cannot comment about it. The main dining room was a two part affair. We were in the extension area on the starboard side of the ship just aft of the Ocean Bar. We were at a four person table and had very nice dinner companions. The two formal nights and the two dress up nights were fun. Rest of the time, slacks and shirts worked well. Everyone in the LaFontaine Dining room "Played the Game" and followed the dress code. The food was good but not quite five star. The dutch night and the Captain's Night were really good. The dessert extravaganza looked great. The food in the Lido was very nice and the "cook to order" breakfast menu was awesome. Portside was passengers only while starboard was also open to some of the crew management level staff. (cruise directors, show dancers, and such) The Captain was very accessible and not at all shy at being around the ship. The Officers of the various departments were likewise very visible. We had very fine weather except for one day of a little rain. We did have a couple of days of high winds, one of which caused us to have to pass up one port, being unable to safely dock. We like rough weather so it caused us no problem but some were not so happy about it. The ship was very stable, I felt. Unlike ships of old, it did not sail on its side so although it was rough you could get around the ship fairly well. I did not think our cabin was shabby as some have reported from cruises just after Prinsendam came to HAL. The walk-in closet was a real plus vs the hallway closets on the Maasdam. While this trip we did not get a balcony in our cabin, our cabin lower down in the ship was just fine for space and sleeping. What else do you need a cabin for? I would have liked more elevators, just four is a trial. Only the forward elevators went to the four deck where all the tendering loading was and also were the ones that went to the Crow's Nest. This Crow's Nest was where my wife went to read. It offered a great view and rarely had very many people in it. Unlike the Crow's Nest on Maasdam, this Crow's Nest was quite staided. There was no DJ. No Karaoke. It was not the place the performers hung out after the shows. (That was the Ocean Bar and its live band) Instead George Cuba played piano for two hours, 'till about midnight. This ship is not a "party" ship. All bars except the Java bar, closed about midnight and it was not open except that the Casino did not close 'till 12:30 or 1 AM. We did not go to the movie theater nor did we use the Internet Room. The Oak Room was for cigar smoking and I gave that up a long time ago. The ship's store had a lot of really neat stuff some of which was quite expensive. The Liquor store sold out of Scotch the first day and did not restock for the entire cruise so one was left with the $4.95 a drink bar tabs. Two bucks for soft drinks seemed to me to be over priced. BTW, dinner wine was also $4.75 or more. We had not bought the wine deals when we boarded because we did not know and were not told that the Wine Tasting table was for that purpose. Boarding was really easy but it took time. Stewards kept passing out coffee to cushion the wait. Had to be easy with that as there were no restrooms nearby. There are metal detectors just like at the airports when you board. Also, your computer screening (roomkey, ID etc.) card was checked carefully each time you left the ship or came back on board. In addition we each were given a treated sanitary wipe for our hands each time. The crew wiped all surfaces each day. We had NO Sares or Norwalk Virus on our trip. All the restrooms had a constant supply of washcloth sized towels and we were constantly washing up after every trip to the restroom. One cute twist was the carpet in the elevator every day. On Sunday, the carpet said "Sunday," It said "Monday" on Monday and so on. If you did not remember what the day was, look in the elevator. This cruise was very nice and we signed up for another HAL cruise for next year. However, as nice as the Prinsendam was, it was not up to HAL standards IMHO. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2003
October 2003 - Royal Caribbean - Serenade of the Seas - Canada Cruise - Paul & Noreen Chin Below is a review of our cruise of Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas... WHO ARE WE? Noreen - 35 years old; First Vice President ... Read More
October 2003 - Royal Caribbean - Serenade of the Seas - Canada Cruise - Paul & Noreen Chin Below is a review of our cruise of Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas... WHO ARE WE? Noreen - 35 years old; First Vice President at an Investment Banking Firm in New York City. I will be the author of the report. Paul (my husband) - 35 years old; soon to be small business owner. We have a beautiful Akita named Kiki who cannot join us on our cruise (too bad they don't allow dogs). PLANNING Paul and I went on our first cruise in May 2003 on Voyager of the Seas. Prior to that, I was leery of cruises thinking I'd feel trapped on a boat and bored. I love to be busy all day and our trip on Voyager proved that there are tons of things to do on a cruise. We booked a balcony cabin for that cruise and upgraded at the pier to the owner's suite. We had a great time and decided we definitely want to cruise again. Paul is in the process of possibly buying a small business. With that going on, we weren't planning to take any other vacations this year. Normally, we would do two trips of at least a week in length and several long weekends away. The Cruise Driving down the West Side Highway on my way to work every day, I would pass the NY pier and see various cruise ships there. I was always looking to see what ship it was and how they looked; which is probably not the smartest thing to be doing while in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic. I found out about great deals (Happy Hour Specials) on Serenade of the Seas for prices that were too low to pass up. This is a shorter cruise of 6 days and it leaves out of New York (so we don't have to worry about air fare). These deals need to be booked within pretty short notice of the ship's sailing date. The Serenade Itinerary is as follows: Saturday - Leave from NY Sunday - At Sea Monday - St John's New Brunswick Tuesday - Halifax, Nova Scotia Wednesday - At Sea Thursday - Return to NY It also sometimes leaves on Monday and returns on Saturday; then sometimes also has a day shorter cruise leaving on Thursday and returning on Monday. I think the shorter cruise only has one port day. The Happy Hour specials are as follows for the date we want (10/4/03): Inside - $299 per person - total of $640.50 including taxes and port charges Outside - $359 per person - total of $760.50 including taxes and port charges Balcony - $449 per person - total of $940.50 including taxes and port charges On Tuesday 9/16/03 I spoke with the Travel Agent - Cathy from Captain's Club Cruises. I put our cruise on hold and she will book it at 1pm when the Happy Hour specials are available. Since we are trying to be as economical as possible, we are going to go with the inside cabin. I know it will be quite a shock after the Owner's Suite on our last cruise, but the price is great. Also, Paul won about $600 in Atlantic City the weekend of 9/13/03 and he gave it to me towards our cruise (so out of pocket we're only talking $40) We will be in room #8573 which is on the 8th deck in the middle of the ship. It's an inside cabin. It's category M. We also are buying the insurance for $29 per person. With taxes and port charges it comes out to $698.50 in total for both of us. We chose the early dinner seating. We normally eat dinner around 8pm at home and on our last cruise chose late seating which was at 8:30. We wouldn't get done with dinner until around 10:30 so we're going to try the early seating this time. Transportation We live in Northern New Jersey (Bergen County) so will drive into the city for the cruise. Since I drive to work every day (I work downtown) and pay monthly for a parking spot, we will drop the car off at my lot by my office and take a cab up to the pier to get on the ship. Excursions We've been reading about all the excursions on line as well as through various cruise review websites. I think we may try going on our own this time. I'd like to see the Reversing Falls in New Brunswick. I'd like to see Peggy's Cove and the Citadel and the Harbour Hopper in Halifax. Kiki Anyone who has a pet knows how difficult it is to take a vacation and leave their furry family member home. We're very lucky in that Peter (a friend of ours) loves Kiki as much as we do and when we go away he dog sits / house sits for us. It works out for all of us in that Kiki is happy since she's in her own home with someone who loves her, we don't stress over Kiki not being cared for, and Peter gets to spend time with Kiki, have parties at our house, and make some extra money [we wouldn't ask him to do this for free]. DAY BY DAY The week before our trip I was busy at work leading up to the trip. The day before our trip - Friday 10/3/03 Nothing out of the ordinary - just busy at work. I worked until about 7:45 (long day since I was there since 7:15 that morning) but I wanted to wrap everything up before leaving. Saturday 10/4/03 We left the house approximately 11am. We arranged for our friend Peter to stay at our house while we were gone to dog sit / house sit so we knew Kiki would be in good hands. He loves her as much as we do. We made good time driving until right before the pier where traffic backed up. Since we booked less than three weeks prior to sailing we did not have official documents, just electronic documents and no luggage tags. We were supposed to pick them up at the pier. When we arrived, Paul mentioned this to the luggage person who pulled us up in their computer, and asked how many tags we needed and gave them to us. Paul stayed at the pier after they took our big suitcase and he took his carryon while I drove downtown to park the car at my lot by my office, then jumped in a cab back to the pier for about $10. I arrived back at the pier at 12:40. Check in was really quick. There was no line at all. We walked through the queue that was set up (in case there was a line) right to the front and were directed to the check in person. Most of them were free. The check in system seemed much more organized than the Miami pier. We gave our credit card, showed our ID and were given our seapass cards. They were pre-printed so the check in person just pulled them from the bin behind their station. We were ready to board less than 10 minutes from the time I arrived at the pier. We decided to stop at the pier coordinators desk to inquire about upgrades. This line took about 15 minutes. The woman that we went to had an attitude. The ship was not full. They had upgrades available to a balcony room for $500. We decided it wasn't worth it. We paid $400 in May to go from a balcony to and Owner's Suite for a 7 night cruise. I couldn't see spending $500 to go from an inside to a balcony for only 5 nights. So we kept our inside. We walked right on the ship, only stopping to take the embarkation photo. There wasn't a line for this either. Then we were on the ship. We found our cabin #8573 and went in. I was pleasantly surprised. Although it's small, it is laid out very well. Every inch of space is well utilized. Paul was not as happy with the room as I was. Mark (our cabin attendant) stopped by and introduced himself. We asked him to empty the refrigerator as we brought our own water and soda. They ship has Evian bottled water which we do not like - we like Poland Spring so we brought our own. We also brought a 12 pack of cans of Coke to have in our room. I read through the daily compass and found something odd. We need to move our clocks ahead one hour tonight. I found this strange since on prior cruise, we stayed on ship time even when the ports had different times. We headed up to the Windjammer for lunch then wandered around exploring the ship. It's beautiful and elegant. As we were walking around, many times there wasn't any one else around. Our only comparison is Voyager of the Seas. This ship is definitely smaller. We wandered all over the ship, but are having a little trouble finding our way around - we kept running into dead ends. But it's only our first few hours on board, we'll find our way around before too much longer. Muster was at 4:15. It was much more comfortable to be standing on deck in a life preserver in 55 degress rather than the 90 degrees we stood out in Miami on our last cruise. No one seemed to be checking off the cabin numbers of those in attendance. I asked the person who was going to demonstrate how to use the life jackets and he asked our cabin, ran off, then returned. We brought our lifejackets back to the room and continued exploring the ship. There was luggage in front of our room, but it wasn't ours even though it had luggage tags with our room number. Very odd - we saw Mark in the hallway and told him and he said he'd take care of it. 5pm was sail away. We went out on deck where it was really cold and windy. We sailed past the statue of Liberty. Everyone was outside taking pictures. One couple was very serious about their picture taking and had a tripod and a huge camera. We have the early seating for dinner this cruise at 6pm. Our luggage still hasn't shown up so we went to dinner in our casual clothes. It seemed like many others were also dressed very casually at dinner. We are at table 509 which is a small table for 4. We were really worried since it's only 2 other people and if we don't like them, we'll have to change tables. There were several empty/half full tables. Our tablemates showed up - Rachel and Adie from Brooklyn, NY. There are nice and friendly so we were very relieved. They were around our age. The people at the next table was a family of 4 with the parents being around our age and two children. Our waiter is Alberto and our assistant waiter is Genner - they are both from the Philippines. For appetizers we both had the Vidalia onion tart. This was good which we knew it would be since we also had it on the Voyager. Paul had the Tomato Tuscan soup I had the Spinach salad with Vidalia onion vinaigrette. For our entrees I had the shrimp ravioli and Paul had the Mongolian pork chop. For dessert Paul had Key lime pie and lemon sherbet; I had the low fat cherry apricot compote. For our beverages Paul had iced tea and I had apple juice (with ice). Many criticize the food, but we were happy with it. The food was good. However, it seems like it's the same menu that we had on our last cruise. One thing we noticed, this is definitely an older crowd. I'd say the average age of passenger is in their fifties and many are older than that. At 7:45pm was the Welcome Aboard Show. There were no seats. We stood for about 15 minutes then left figuring we can see it later on the TV. We saw the cruise director, Allan Brooks, introduce himself and talk about some of the things that would be going on this week. We went back to our room and our luggage was there so we unpacked to get settled into the room. The big luggage (once unpacked stayed in the corner of the room. The two carryons fit in the closet. I was surprised at how much room there was to put things away. We didn't even use some of it and we both overpack whenever we go away. We went to the casino for a little while. At 10:30 we went up to the Safari club for Karaoke. We ended up talking with the couple at the next table (also about our age) because Paul and John both planned to sing My Way (by Frank Sinatra) so they went up together to sing. Dana came to our table while the guys went to sing. What's funny is Paul and John both said they were from Brooklyn when asked where they are from. We haven't lived in Brooklyn in almost 6 years. John has never lived there. Turns out they are from Ridgewood (two towns away from us in NJ). Since they were among the first few singers, they each received a Royal Caribbean key chain and a free bingo card. At 11:30 we went up to the Vortex (the club) with John and Dana. It was the 70's show tonight. The Royal Caribbean dancers were there and performed, then people from the cruise director's staff were dressed up as the Village People and they sang and danced too. We went to the Casino after the Vortex until they closed at 2am. We were looking for a little snack, but unlike the 24 hour Royal Promenade on the Voyager, there wasn't anywhere to get a snack now except room service. We didn't feel like waiting so just went to sleep. Sunday 10/5/03 Today is a "Day at Sea" We slept until about 8:30 (which under the new ship's time is 9:30). This is really late for me. I'm a very light sleeper and the second a bit of light comes in, I'm awake. With the inside room, this wasn't an issue and I was able to get a good night's sleep. I was worried about showering in the clamshell round shower stalls, but my worries were unfounded. There was plenty of room in the shower. Granted, I did bang my elbows a few times but other than that, it was fine. Paul didn't find the shower stall as comfortable to use as I did. We had breakfast at the Windjammer around 10:15. There were no seats inside so we sat outside which was very nice. Breakfast was only served until 10 in the dining room today. We liked the drink stations where you can just stop by and pick up your juice without having to wait for someone to fill the cups for you. Also you can take a few with you to your table so you don't have to go back for more. We stopped by Bingo but we weren't there when it started at 10:30 so we didn't get cards. We just watched for a few minutes then left. They play Bingo every day so we have time to play another day if we want to. Paul stopped in the Casino for a little while. I stopped at Guest Relations for our Crown and Anchor coupon book since it wasn't delivered to our cabin. Many people must have had the same issue since there was a list that people were signing when picking them up. I received two books (one for me and one for Paul). They each had the following coupons: Free Wine Tasting, 5% off in Gift Shop on Logo merchandise, free Bingo jackpot card, buy one get one free cocktail, ?% off spa service, $12 for $10 coin I casino, $5 match play in casino. We went out to try to climb the rock wall but it was closed due to the wind. We wandered through the shops on board. We stopped at the room and received a notice that we didn't go to the Muster (which we did) so we stopped back at Guest Relations to tell them. They said not to worry, some people received these notices in error. At 1:30 I played in the Slot Tournament (this cost $20). I didn't make it past the first round but it was pretty fun. At 2 Paul played in the Blackjack Tournament (this cost $20). He didn't do that great either. He bought in again (another $20) to see if he could do any better, but he didn't. He still had a good time. Paul won some money playing real Blackjack instead of the tournament, so he gave me $100 of his winnings which I put on our Seapass account. We were starting to get hungry but since it's already 3pm we didn't want to eat too much since we have dinner at 6. We went to the Seaview Cafe for a snack. It's very cute. You order, they give you a number, you find a table, and they will deliver the food to you when it's ready. We shared an order of fish and chips and nacho chips with guacamole and sour cream. The portions are small so it was the perfect snack. At 3:30 another round of Bingo was going on so we stopped in there and played the final game only. We didn't win. At 4:30 we went back to our room and watched the welcome aboard show on TV. Tonight is formal night so we got ourselves dressed. Paul wore his suit and I wore a nice pants outfit with a sparkly top. We went down at 5:45 for the formal portraits. We waited about 15 minutes for the first one (with the ship in the background), then figured we'd go to dinner and have the other pictures taken after. Our assistant waiter remembered our drink preferences and brought Paul iced tea and my apple juice without us asking. For appetizers I had the escargot and Paul had the shrimp cocktail. We shared. We both had the lobster bisque soup. We skipped the salad. For our entrEe Paul had the Duck and the Steak; I had the Vegetable in puff pastry. I didn't like my vegetable dish so had some of Paul's steak. After the appetizers, soup, and some tasty dinner rolls, I wasn't that hungry anyway. For dessert Paul had the low fat chocolate cake and orange sherbet; I had the strawberry cheesecake. After dinner, we took the two other formal pictures. One was on the green stairs in the centrum. The other one was in front of this hanging art. We stopped in the Schooner Bar for Paul to see the football scores. At 9pm we went to the show "Stage to Screen". It was crowded again and we couldn't find two seats together so sat a row apart. The show was very good. The show ended around 9:45 and we went back to the room to change back into our casual clothes. We headed over to the casino. At 11pm we went to the Safari Club for Karaoke. Paul sang "My Way" again. We were there until 12:30. We headed up to the Seaview cafe for a midnight snack. Paul had the Feathers and Wings (Chicken Fingers and Chicken wings) with fries and a hot dog. I had the Caesar salad. It was very crowded in the Seaview Cafe at this time. We went back to the Casino until they closed at 2am, then we went up to bed. Monday 10/6/03 Today we are in St John's New Brunswick We received an invitation to a Crown and Anchor party Tuesday at 5:15 in the Safari Club. We went to the Windjammer for Breakfast at 9:30. It was much less crowded today than yesterday. Breakfast in the dining room was from 7-9 today. The breakfast hours in the dining room are much shorter than those in the Windjammer. Windjammer served breakfast from 7-11. We were docked at Saint John, New Brunswick so after breakfast we walked off to explore. When exiting the ship, I was given a rose and Paul was given a pin. There were many shops set up right at the pier. It was cool and windy, but bright and sunny out. We stopped at the tour guide booth to get a local map and get some ideas. We were planning to go to the reversing falls. After speaking with the guide, he basically told us not to waste our time. High tide was at 9:45am so if we went now we wouldn't see anything except calm water. We took his advice and map and went on the route he suggested. We walked through Market Square, City Hall, Brunswick Square, City Market, King's Square, the Old Burial Ground, and Barbours General Store. We took some pictures and bought a few souvenirs. It is a cute quaint town, but we didn't find that much to do. I'm not a big fan of sightseeing. I don't mind seeing something, but I don't need to stand there for much time staring at it. Once I see it, and maybe take a picture or two, I'm ready to move on. We took some cute pictures when we got back by the ship. I boarded while Paul stayed on the dock. Then he took pictures of me looking out at him. While I was boarding they took someone off the ship on a stretcher. I'm assuming it wasn't too serious because the patient was yelling at the people pushing her not to let go as they went down the ramp and also at her traveling companion about where some things were in the room. They removed the ramp I boarded from after this lady was taken off so Paul had to get on in a different area. So we met at our room. We were back on the ship by about 1:30. We took a peek at the dining room menu but decided to head to the Windjammer instead. We had a nice buffet lunch outside. We walked through the solarium after lunch and it was much less crowded than it was yesterday. Maybe later we'll go swimming. The pool was deeper than we expected - it started at 5'5" and went to 6'?". While wandering around the ship we came across the card/game room near the Safari Club. There were a lot of people in here playing. We sat down and played Life. I never played this before and it was fun. We also played a game of checkers. This was a nice way to spend some time. When else would we get a chance to sit and play board games together? When we're home, we're always on the go with something to do. We had fun playing. Around 4pm we went to the Rock Wall. Paul didn't want to climb but I wanted to give it a try. I was put in my harness and helmet, put on the rock climbing shoes (all this stuff is provided); then started my climb. Paul took a bunch of pictures of me. I didn't make it to the top, but at least I tried. At 4:45 we went to Bingo in the Safari Club but we didn't win anything. We used one of our buy one get one free cocktail cards. I had a Gorilla Fever (banana flavored ice creamy type of drink) and Paul had Captain and Coke. We went back to our room to change for dinner. The toilet stopped flushing this evening. It was working again by the time we came back from dinner. Tonight's dinner was the Italian Feast. For appetizers we both had the Scallop risotto which was really good. For our entrEe I had the Shrimp Scampi and Paul had the lamb and the rigatoni. For dessert I had the angel food cake and Paul had the Tiramisu and Sherbet At 8 we went to Sports Trivia. Paul had to answer the questions, I'm not a big sports fan. At 9 was Celebrity Showtime. The celebrity was Bobby Arvon who sang the Happy Days theme song. He's a singer/pianist/impressionist. It was crowded again and we couldn't find seats together. I stayed and watched the show while Paul went to the casino. I met Paul in the casino after and we stayed until they closed at around 2am. Tuesday 10/7/03 Today we are in Halifax, Nova Scotia We had breakfast around 9:15 in the Windjammer. 9:45 we were off the ship in Halifax. We had to carry our ID as well as our seapass cards in Halifax. There were shops set up right near the pier. At the tourist booth I asked for advice about things to do. I already knew I wanted to do the Harbour Hopper but figured maybe we'd get some other suggestions. Paul wanted to rent a car to drive to Peggy's Cove. We stopped at the car rental counters but they were sold out (both of them). So we walked down the Boardwalk. We found the Harbour Hopper place around 10:15 but the 10:30 tour was full. We reserved for 11:30 and wandered around nearby. We went to Nova Scotian Crystal and watched them make vases. We also wandered around in a small mall. We went on the 11:30 Harbour Hopper tour. This was very fun. It's an amphibious vehicle that is green and open on top with really big wheels. It starts off giving you a tour of downtown Halifax. Meredith (the tour guide) was very good. We saw the different sites such as the Citadel and the now destroyed public gardens which were damaged during Hurricane Juan two weeks ago. This tour was a good introduction to the area so we'd know where we wanted to wander back to later. After driving around the town, it goes into the water and becomes a boat where we saw other sights we couldn't see from land. It was very cold on the water. Luckily today I wore a sweatshirt or I would have froze. The tour was over at 12:45. We took a few more pictures and realized the digital camera suddenly was not working. Not only wasn't it taking any more pictures but the pictures we've already taken were gone. We walked up to the area we passed on the tour where there were a lot of shops and found a Fuji place and bought a disposable camera with flash. We wandered around this main street for a while. We were very upset about the loss of all our pictures. We were going to try to re-take whichever ones we remembered taking around the ship. However, some things we would not be able to re-create (such as the pictures from Saint John). We picked up French fries at Bud the Spud since Meredith (the Harbour Hopper tour guide) raved about them. We were planning to have lunch at McElvey's (another recommendation from Meredith) but with trying to find a place to buy a disposable camera and our wandering around Halifax, it was getting late and we didn't have time to by the time we passed it. We didn't find much in the way of souvenirs in Halifax. We did buy the Lobster Chips that I heard about on the Internet. We were back on the ship by 3:15 (all aboard was 3:30) and we went to Bingo. We used our Crown and Anchor coupon for an extra bingo card. We tried to retake some of the pictures we remembered. We stopped in the shops again and looked at the ship pictures. We stopped at Guest Relations to fill out the form to have our gratuities added to our Seapass cards. It came out to $48.75 each. At 5:15 was the Crown and Anchor get together in the Safari Club. They handed you a glass of champagne as you entered. They came around with various appetizers. The captain spoke about the ship itself and some of the future plans for Royal Caribbean. A few people asked questions. We went to dinner at 6 - it's Lobster night. For appetizers we both had the mushroom with puff pastry For our entrees we both had Surf and Surf. The menu listed Surf and Turf, but I asked the waiter if I could have Surf and Surf instead and he said yes. I received two lobster tails. Paul asked for and received the same. Paul also ordered the pasta with shrimp. For dessert I had the Grand Marnier soufflE and Paul had the sherbet. 9pm was the Vibeology Show. This was good, but not as good as the Stage to Screen show - that was the best one so far. I was cold during the show so after I changed back into my casual clothes/sweatshirt. At 10:30 we went to the Quest which was held in the Safari Club. We watched but did not participate. It was hilarious. At 11:30 we went down to the dining room for the viewing and picture taking for the midnight buffet. It's really an elaborate spread. You aren't allowed to eat it until 12:30. Midnight was the late night comedy show with Tim Jones. This was very funny. It wasn't as crowded as I expected and we had no problem getting seats. After the comedy show, we spent a little time in the casino. We didn't want to go to the midnight buffet too early because we heard that the line to get in was huge. We went down to the Dining Room at 1:15 for the midnight buffet and there was still a line (not that long though). There really wasn't that much we wanted to pick on. We grabbed two pieces of sushi, a few shrimp and a piece of carrot cake. All the chocolate covered strawberries were long gone. People were loading up their plates like they haven't eaten in ages. It ended at 1:30 and they dismantled the tables and displays really quickly. By 1:45 everything was gone. Tonight we had to set our clocks back an hour (we regain the hour we lost the first night). Wednesday 10/8/03 Today is a "Day at Sea" We had breakfast in the Windjammer around 10am. At 10:30 we went to Bingo. We used our second extra Bingo cards from the Crown and Anchor coupon book. Still haven't won anything but it's fun anyway. We stopped at the shops and bought a few souvenirs using our 5% off Crown and Anchor coupon. We also bought some of the pictures taken by the ships photographers as well as another disposable camera. At 1pm I went to watch the Men's Sexy Legs competition held in the Safari Club. This was funny. We took some more pictures around the ship then we went to the casino for a little while. At 2 we had lunch in the Windjammer. 3pm was the Love and Marriage Show. We went to watch. They were already selling Bingo cards for Bingo at 4pm. Someone has to win the jackpot today. So basically, once you have your seats for Love and Marriage you didn't have to leave. Love and Marriage was funny. We used our other buy one get one free cocktail cards and had a frozen Peach Daiquiri and a Love Connection (combination of Pina Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri and Peach Daiquiri). Bingo at 4pm was fun but we didn't win anything. One person won the jackpot of approximately $5,000. We started doing some packing afterwards. Our vouchers for gratuities were in our room along with the envelopes. Dinner was at 6pm. For appetizers we both had the shrimp cocktail and shared the vegetable spring rolls. We shared a Caesar salad. For our entrees we both had the prime rib and shared an order of turkey. For dessert we both had the banana parfait I watched the Farewell show at 9pm which had the cruise director, the singers and dancers, and a guest star Reid Belstock. Reid Belstock's show was physical comedy. He juggled, rode a unicycle and did various physical tricks. We didn't see much of Allan (the cruise director) during the cruise. He hosted a few events but most times other people from the Cruise Director's staff did most of the events. After the show I met Paul in the Casino Since we are doing express departure (carrying off our own bags) we did not have to leave our suitcases in the hallway before going to bed. Thursday 5/15/03 Day to Debark We had breakfast in the Windjammer around 7:15am. It was pretty crowded, but we found a nice seat outside but under cover as opposed to all the way outside. They called someone's name repeatedly for immigration checks, and we were not able to get off until that person appeared. After breakfast we went back to our room to get our bags. We did the express check out so had all our bags with us and brought them to deck 5 to debark around 8am. By 8:15 we were able to get off. It was a very smooth process and many people chose this option. We handed our immigration form to the person on the pier (they didn't even ask to see our passports) and we were off and had a number to wait for a cab by 8:30. It was very smart how they handed you a number for a cab rather than the mayhem that would have ensued if they let people fend for themselves. We were number 113 and they were up to about 85 when we got there. Good thing we carried our own luggage or we would have been much later. This was the only delay - there weren't any cabs there. You would think they'd be lined up knowing that the ship came in (and ours wasn't the only ship docking either). The cabs started trickling in and the line started moving. We were in a cab by about 9am. We arrived at my parking lot about 15 minutes later but my car wasn't there. I figured Peter (who was dogsitting/housesitting for us would be at work by now). After a few phone calls, we found out he is on his way and should be here shortly. He arrived about 9:15 and we were on our way. We dropped Peter back off at his office and drove home. We were home by 10:15 to a very excited puppy. FINAL THOUGHTS We enjoyed this cruise very much. Sailing out of NY was great. I hope they bring more ships to sail out this way. It was so convenient. I was very pleased with the inside cabin which surprised me since we had an Owner's Suite on our first cruise. I figured we'd be spoiled for anything less but I found it very comfortable and functional. And a bit of good news - once we got home, Paul was able to recover the pictures taken on the digital camera even though we still don't know what's wrong with it. Now we have to decide where to cruise to next... Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
We have never based/anticipated our upcoming cruise experience on the initial checkin procedure - well - we sure could have on this particular cruise!! Flew in to Philadelphia the day before - stayed the night at the Sheraton ... Read More
We have never based/anticipated our upcoming cruise experience on the initial checkin procedure - well - we sure could have on this particular cruise!! Flew in to Philadelphia the day before - stayed the night at the Sheraton Suites-Airport ($45 - thru Priceline.com)and left for the ship at 11:30 - arriving at just before 12:00 noon and finally got to our room at 3:15 after THREE long hours to check in - fortunately there were many in the line to gab with so it went by ok- The folks processing us in were very obviously untrained and slow in their duties and without ANY help from the ships personnel who sat to one side and played on a laptop computer the whole time and never got up to help with the process (I know this to be a fact as we were in a position to observe them for two hours). After getting to and checking out our stateroom (great) we went down to the buffet for lunch - only to find out that the food was fair to good and the selection very limited (this would not change for the remainder of the cruise). The fire/boat drill (for our group) was held outside in misty-sub 40 degree weather - which for the older folks was pure misery - again something that was not absolutely necessary (most of the other passengers had their drill inside). Then we had to stand in line for about 45 minutes to get registered for being Latitudes members (even though our initial booking documents showed our numbers and our pre-registration showed our numbers and I called the Latitudes desk when we got our tickets and the number was not shown - and they said it would be taken care of - and wasn't. We shouldn't been surprised as it has happened on our other four NCL cruises). We finally left port three hours late - due to delayed flights of some of the passengers. So it's off to our first dinner and we found the dining room food to be good to very good throughout the rest of the cruise - and at all meals. The long lines to get into the dining room and some of the waitstaff attitudes left a lot to be desired. This would not get any better later in the cruise. The entertainment and shows were very good throughout the cruise. Our room steward Glorius Antonio was the BEST steward we have ever had. Our bartenders in the Crown Room - Dominic and Eddy - were the BEST bartenders we have ever had. We took the "Crown" as the "Crown Odyssey" in the fall of 2000. Her transformation to the "Norwegian Crown" has been a tragic blow to a beautiful ship - losing the movie theater and the indoor pool - expanding the casino and going to "Freestyle". This is one ship (like the "Norway") that should have kept her traditional dining. As the "Crown Odyssey" she was kept in very good overall condition and repair. As the "Norwegian Crown" she has been allowed to deteriorate and very rapidly. The decks have treads missing (threat to someone stumbling and falling) there is an abundance of rust and the wood treatment is going to hell. And to add to our misery - she lost an engine half way through the cruise forcing the Captain to miss the major port attraction of Savannah and limp us home early to Philadelphia. For this - we were refunded $25 and $13.15 of government taxes per passenger. Then there were several fires in the wiring on the way to Charleston. The overall ambiance of this ship is diminished due to the inconsistent management by the ships Captain and his staff. This shows up in the attitudes of the crew, the perception of the passengers and the overall condition of the ship. We have never heard so many valid complaints from both passengers and crew on any other cruise we have taken. We have made the decision to never take this ship again - for fear that she has fallen so far below our other NCL experiences that she may never recover to her former grace. I would encourage anyone who is contemplating booking or already booked on this ship to carefully read the opinions of others and then make their decision as to where to trust their precious vacation time and cruise experience. We are certainly sorry that we did not have the opinions of others before we made our decision - but - unfortunately they did not exist or we would certainly would have chosen another cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
Boarding the Norwegian Crown was a difficult procedure. The weather was a mixture of snow and ice and was the cause of a lot of traffic and congestion (along with confusion) at the terminal, since passengers were all trying to take cover ... Read More
Boarding the Norwegian Crown was a difficult procedure. The weather was a mixture of snow and ice and was the cause of a lot of traffic and congestion (along with confusion) at the terminal, since passengers were all trying to take cover quickly. Inside the terminal lines were long and although we took the Latitudes line, we did not make any more headway than others. The outside ramp leading to the ship docked at the Naval Base is the longest we have ever encountered and seemed almost dangerous, especially in bad weather. Arriving aboard, we were pleased to find probably the nicest cabin (suite) that we have had aboard any ship in the past. For the 14 day trip we used only half of the drawer and closet space. A pleasant welcome from our cabin steward and prompt receipt of our luggage was setting the pace for a pleasant journey. We went to the Yacht Club for the usual buffet for embarking passengers and were shocked to find such little offering and confusion since they had waiters in the line who served your food and then you had to go around them to continue with your tray to the next waiter. We chalked that up to embarkation day and remained in good spirits. We did discover later that that was the case for the entire cruise in this venue (poor selection and waiters who put your salad dressing on everything except the salad). So much for alternative dining. We went to the restaurant that evening only to incur a long line at 5:30. We did observe that the line moved a bit faster as the days went on but we were never able to obtain a table strictly for two when we asked for it. Because we were in the lowest category suite, we were able to order from the dining room menu in the evenings and enjoyed many evenings dining in our cabin. Any type cabin lower than that was not allowed to order from the dining room. The Italian restaurant was good enough that we had dinner there twice. We did not try the Chinese venue nor Le Bistro. The cruise was a bit early for good weather to be an absolute and we had very cold weather mixed with rain at some ports but all in all those were nice. The evening entertainment was good although they have only seven dancer/singers and the productions were less than we would have hoped for. The usual mix of magicians, singer/comedians, etc. Daytime activities were standard and everything had to be done inside because of the weather until the last three days of the cruise. We were informed that instead of continuing to Savannah after leaving Charleston, we would have to head back to Philadelphia, spend an overnight there and embark on the morning that we were scheduled to embark. There was an announcement that we had some sort of engine problem. Later when they had an impromptu question and answer session with the captain, he was forced to admit that Savannah had not been a strong possibility in any case because of berthing problems and he referred to Savannah as a "marketing tool". This was a big shocker to those of us who had looked forward to Charleston and Savannah as our highlight of the trip. They gave each person a $25 refund and a $13 port refund and a rum drink and that was it! Disgruntled passengers are a new thing to us since we have been fortunate in our many cruises in the past, many with Norwegian. This was our first attempt at Freestyle and perhaps on a larger ship it would have been more feasible. We came away loving not having to dress, but unhappy with the lines for dining and dismayed by the buffet area. Food was never spectacular, but adequate and good in the dining room. Our cruises are usually two, sometimes three each year, and unless we see a spectacular offering on a larger Norwegian ship in the future, it will be our last choice in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
This cruise started bad and got worse. Embarkation was 2.5 hours of waiting in a cold line for embarkation. The cards issued had photos of other people and we could not get off at our first port until they were redone. (How did we board? ... Read More
This cruise started bad and got worse. Embarkation was 2.5 hours of waiting in a cold line for embarkation. The cards issued had photos of other people and we could not get off at our first port until they were redone. (How did we board? Security?) The food was bad, room service had only snacks,the ship had mechanical problems, the best port (Savannah) was cancelled and the ship had lines for everything. The self serve food restaurant was not self serve, due to the virus, and the way it was handled was Keystone Cops. I knew NCL was a poor cruise line as I had been on four previous NCL cruises, but I was not prepared for this. They blamed the problems on the virus, the propellers, the weather, and problems with ports. At a meeting with the captain, he denied there was a virus and claimed there was no docking available in Savannah The ship came back to Philly a day early but no one could disembark. It was a shame, as the people on the cruise, and the people in the ports we visited were so very nice. Dining with so many interesting passengers was the high point of the cruise. The suite was excellent, and many of the crew tried to overcome the problems created by poor management. The port of Phila. also helped by using their sightseeing trolly service to take people to the airport (free)when the arrangements for buses ($20) and cabs ($18) were screwed up by NCL. Many of the passengers are talking of legal action. That's what kind of cruise it was. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
BACKGROUND/GENERAL INFO: My partner and I are owners of a home based travel agency that specializes in Cruises. I have been in the travel industry for 20 years. This was our 2nd annual group cruise with Princess from San Francisco to ... Read More
BACKGROUND/GENERAL INFO: My partner and I are owners of a home based travel agency that specializes in Cruises. I have been in the travel industry for 20 years. This was our 2nd annual group cruise with Princess from San Francisco to Vancouver BC, with 72 friends/guests in attendance. INCOMING TRAVEL AND HOTEL INFO: Since I live in San Francisco and most of my group are from the Bay Area there wasn't a need for a hotel. EMBARKATION: This was the easiest embarkation I have ever experienced at Pier 35. Usually one can expect long lines and a lot of confusion. I arrived with little traffic at 230pm, gave my bags to the porter, within 15 minutes I was on the ship. Word to the wise, fill out your cruise personalizer online (or have your travel agent do it for you) with your immigration information; it saves time when checking in. SHIP INFO: The Sun Princess was my second time on Princess, the first being on the Coral Princess. Even though the Coral Princess is newer than the Sun Princess, I preferred the Sun Princess more. It seemed to have brighter colors in the dEcor and more natural light, especially in the Atrium. Also, the Sun Princess was not showing her age (built in 93) she has been kept up very nicely. CABINS: My Cabin was on Aloha #702, a balcony cabin. The room seemed just a bit larger than other balconies I have been on; the dEcor was nice but simple, included a small fridge for drinks, a desk and chair and a small table which came in handy for the room service trays. The bathroom was stocked with shampoos, soaps and lotions. The shower stall was at an angle vs right angle and seemed to allow more room to move around. The shower head was a plus; great water pressure plus was able to control the temperature. My room attendant Geordie was great!! Give that man a raise. PUBLIC ROOMS: The Horizon Court served a nice buffet; there was enough room to navigate without walking into someone. My only complaint is there weren't enough tables to seat everyone when it became busy. Our dinner was in the Marquis dining room, a good sized area, again seemed to give enough room, never felt crowded. I did go to the Wheelhouse bar one evening, a nice relaxing area with dark wood paneling, old nautical pictures, leather couches, and lots of seating for an intimate gathering or large groups and had a dance floor and room for a live band. The disco was nice with two entrances and a large bar. Not enough seating however. DINING AND FOOD: The food served in the Horizon court was consistently hot and tasted good. I really liked the omelet bar and the fact that the omelets and fried eggs were cooked on a grill vs. a skillet; had that diner quality to it. I did use room service several times, the cheese burgers were always hot and juicy and the fries were always fresh. I had lunch one time in the dining room, my fried chicken was surprisingly tasty and served hot. Our waiter, Jorge from Mexico City was the best! Since we were a group, most of us chose Personal Choice dining because we liked the idea of eating when we wanted however, about two weeks before our sailing 16 of us decided to have dinner together. I decided to have two tables of 8 reserved at 730pm in the Marquis Dining room which is used for Personal Choice. I like the idea of traditional dining but the times 530pm and 830pm are either too early or too late for me. Once onboard, we were told that no table reservation could be held for 730pm and had to move it to 8pm. At 755pm, our group of 16 showed up at the Marquis, there was a long line of about 50 people waiting to get in. These were folks with dinner table reservations. There was a sign for folks without reservations and no one was waiting. In fact, we noticed that when someone did walk up they were seated immediately meanwhile we continued to wait. When we made it to the front of the line, the assistant maitre d' said he did not now where he was going to seat us because our two reserved tables already had someone sitting at them. He asked us if we wouldn't mind separating from the other group of 8 and eating in the upstairs dining room used for traditional seating; we didn't mind doing this and left the restaurant. It was now 830pm, the other dining room was just letting their guests inside, we were told to wait to see if a table was available. I assumed it was which is why we were asked to move. While we waited, our other table of 8 appeared; it seemed that the Marquis didn't have room for them either. We were seated at two tables of 8. Our waiters were as cold as the food they served. My prime rib and potatoes were very cold. I would have to say this was the worst meal I have had on a cruise. The next day we spoke with the Maitre'd about our previous nights experience; he listened patiently and assigned us two tables of 8 in the Marquis dining room. Our servers name was Meow from Thailand. She was quick, thorough, able to handle changes quite well and even brought us a tray of cookies after dinner which we appreciated. The food was also hot and tasty. The bread was the best bread I have ever had on a cruise before. I think we had problems the first night out for several reasons; one, the Sun Princess was built pre-Personal Choice unlike the newer Princess ships that have several dining rooms for traditional and PC. Second, according to the maitre 'd the dining rooms were empty from 530pm until 730pm the first night out it seemed that most folks decided to show up at 8pm. This sounded like a valid reason to me, however why weren't the folks without reservations made to wait instead of those of us with table reservations? I would suggest Personal choice for groups of 2, 4 or 6 persons but anything larger than that I would recommend the early or late seating. ENTERTAINMENT: I did not make it to any shows. FITNESS and ACTIVITIES: Never made it to the Gym, I did go for a walk around deck a few times. The pools and Jacuzzis were heated and used often throughout the cruise. FAMILY: One member of my group brought her two children with her. They seemed to really enjoy the kids area and activities. I think all mass market cruise lines do a good job with the Kids Activities. SHORE EXCURSIONS: I never book a shore excursion through the cruise line because they are too expensive and I enjoy exploring on my own. I did set up a walking tour in Victoria through an internet site for 24 of my guests, they seemed to enjoy it a lot. If you are ever in Victoria and want a walking city tour or a tour of the Empress hotel, it's easy to do so. Our guide treated our group so well! After the walking tour we had drinks at the Bengal Bar located in the Empress hotel; it's a nice big room with comfortable couches and an old world feeling. After drinks we had afternoon tea at the Empress. This was my second tea, the first was at Butchart gardens. The tea, finger sandwiches, scones, cream and cakes were delicious. The strawberries and cream were ripe and tasty and their blend of tea made this coffee drinker want a second cup. The only thing I would suggest is to offer Lemon Curd with the scones but we were told the chef does not do this. After the tea, we treated ourselves to a horse and carriage ride back to the ship. DISEMBARKATION: This was a bit confusing but worked out. We had scheduled a flight for 140pm but I had an appointment in Vancouver at 930am. I was given a brown colored bag tag based on my flight departure time. I went to the pursers desk to ask for an earlier tag since I had an appointment. I was told this could not be done because departure times were assigned based on flight times. For those of us that did not have flight/bus/trains to catch we were moved to a later disembarkation. This hardly seemed fair but I decided to not make an issue of it. The morning of disembarkation, the ship was cleared at 730am and an announcement was made at 8am for those of us without luggage to leave if we wanted. Why the pursers desk didn't tell me this is beyond me. Would have saved a bit of grief and potential drama. VALUE FOR PRICE: The reason why this cruise was so successful for us is because of the price, the length and the fact that we departed from San Francisco. You couldn't stay in a hotel and have dinner and entertainment for the price of the cruise. SUMMARY: I think Princess is a good cruise line, but I feel that it is too difficult to have the "Princess" experience on a 2 or 3 night repositioning cruise, but for the most part they do a good job. A special mention for assistant purser Davide (pronounced Dahviday) who helped me with a last minute location change for an informal get together I had set up for my group. I'm looking forward to my next Princess cruise and the majority of my group commented that they would return too and are looking forward to our 3rd annual cruise!!! Read Less

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