I chose this cruise to go visit Cuba and Key West with my husband. Carnival has found a way to nickel and dime you even when you pay for all such as drink package. No bartenders except in serenity that were eager to serve you. Anton was ... Read More
I chose this cruise to go visit Cuba and Key West with my husband. Carnival has found a way to nickel and dime you even when you pay for all such as drink package. No bartenders except in serenity that were eager to serve you. Anton was awesome and the only one to come back and keep us happy. All other bars you had to go to them and wait! Since they do automatic gratuity you get poor service. Food was ok....best thing was guys cheeseburgers. Tiny cups for water. Soda was flat that was part of my drink package. Not much entertainment during the day. Comedy shows were pretty good. One pool for whole ship. Definitely outdated even though it says remodeled in 2019. Would not recommend. Budget vacation/ budget ship! Very disappointed. We bought alcohol and was told by airport that cruise ship should have given us a bag for carrying it on plane-nope didn’t happen so we lost alcohol at security. Mel the cruise ship director was kind of rude. She didn’t have great things going on to engage cruisers. We could have visited Cuba on Tuesday and spent more time in Key West. Went on Monday to Cuba and all Museums are closed on Mondays...... Had to pay a $75/pp visa to go to Cuba. Our room attendant did a great job! Greeted us by first name every time we saw him! Asked me what I wanted done on a daily basis whether I needed more towels etc. he was always smiling!! Read Less
Diagnosed with Leukemia so figured I should check off some bucket list items quickly, always wanted to see Cuba, the Bahamas and Miami and figured this would knock out them in one shot.
That being said, Cuba was beautiful but ... Read More
Diagnosed with Leukemia so figured I should check off some bucket list items quickly, always wanted to see Cuba, the Bahamas and Miami and figured this would knock out them in one shot.
That being said, Cuba was beautiful but could've used more time there. Miami was nice, a lot to see and do. The Bahamas, well, not so great. Come to find out it was owned by Norwegian and like the cruise itself, not great! Sad thing was we paid so much for the trip and was seriously let down. The cruise itself seemed to go smooth and the drinks were good although a little slow at times. We paid for the premium package, top shelf alcohol/food but as I said before the drinks were fine but the food was not so and sadly enough, I had to spend nearly an hour of our vacation at the service desk straightening out all the food and alcohol charges they padded my bill with. WHAT?? Thank goodness an experienced cruiser tipped my wife and I off to that problem or we'd have to deal with that at checkout which was chaotic. To add, we went with friends who also stated they had similar issues?
Anyhow, I prefer to think that the cup is always half full and not half empty and may e if things go well with my treatments I'll try it again.
Just my two cents! God bless y'all and stay positive!! Read Less
This was our 21st cruise, so we are not novices. We also aren't overly demanding and understand that things won't always go as smoothly as we would like. We chose this cruise for the itinerary...5 nts with 36 hours in Havana. ... Read More
This was our 21st cruise, so we are not novices. We also aren't overly demanding and understand that things won't always go as smoothly as we would like. We chose this cruise for the itinerary...5 nts with 36 hours in Havana. This was our 3rd NCL cruise, but the last had been over 10 years ago. We had heard that the NCL experience had declined significantly, but were shocked at the extremely poor service and apathetic attitude of the crew. The ship is in good condition and our balcony cabin very nice. When we arrived at our cabins (we were traveling with my brother and his wife who also a balcony cabin but on the other side of the ship, so a different cabin steward), we both discovered that our bathrooms had been used and not recleaned. Our shower had personal products left behind, the shower curtain was very sour smelling and there was a used towel near the sink. Our friend's shower had a used wash cloth hanging conspicuously in it. Disgusting.
We had the premium plus beverage package which includes most drinks including top shelf liquor. We quickly discovered we could consume mixed drinks all day long and never feel the slightest effects of alcohol (if you want any alcohol at all ask for a floater). We aren't big drinkers, but still. We tried several different bars around the ship and could order the exact same drink by name from the menu and it was made totally different every single time...different color, different taste, different everything. Additionally, it took an average of 10-20 minutes to get our drinks once the order was placed...again...every single time.
The Garden Cafe buffet menu and food were average but we always had to find someone to clean a table as there were very few workers (max of 2 per very large section) and they moved in slow motion and with great apathy. More than once we had to ask that a dirty table be wiped after the used dishes were removed, and once I had to ask that the whole table be wiped and not just the part in front of me.
The worst service encountered was in the main dining rooms. Very slow service, orders taken and food served reaching across the table, and one waiter took my brother's order standing about three feet back at a 45 degree angle behind his shoulder making him practically yell his order by twisting his neck around. The food was less than average with one fish dish that smelled like dirty socks being totally inedible. I ordered hot tea during the entree one evening and was told I couldn't get any until coffee was served with dessert.
We ate in the Brazilian steakhouse restaurant one night and did have excellent service there but after my husband paid a cash gratuity for all four of us (more than 20%), my brother discovered a $10 gratuity on his statement at the end of the week that was not on his receipt after dinner. We also ate at Cagney's which was very good. We were careful to order wine that was included with our beverage package (the bottles on the menu with stars next to them) and our bills reflected no charge at the end of the meal. However, we were charged for two $42 bottles of wine on our week's end statement. My husband addressed it with the purser and was told it happens all the time. Seriously?
We only had to tender once, but that was frustrating as well. We were at Great Stirrup Cay where there is a local tender boat rather than using the ship's life boats. We disembarked well after the point where tender tickets were required. We got on the almost full boat and thought "Great! This won't take long!" Wrong. It started to drizzle rain (not a storm and no lightening), so some passengers decided to get off. Apparently they won't leave until the tender is completely full so we had to sit another 20 minutes and wait for more passengers to slowly arrive. My brother and his wife took a later tender and had to wait over 30 minutes for it to fill up.
Our take-away is that NCL is banking on their beverage package and people's perception of free, unlimited booze to bring passengers. We want to feel valued when we pay someone hundreds and even thousands of dollars depending on the cruise to give us a vacation we love and will remember fondly. As NCL did not ask for customer comments at the end of the cruise we can only assume they do not care. Fortunately for us, we know what other cruise lines offer so we know not to sail NCL again. Read Less
I, like many of my shipmates, chose this cruise specifically because it visited three Cuban ports: Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, and Havana. As MANY others have noted in previous reviews, RCI advertises these ports, knowing full well that ... Read More
I, like many of my shipmates, chose this cruise specifically because it visited three Cuban ports: Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, and Havana. As MANY others have noted in previous reviews, RCI advertises these ports, knowing full well that for at least the past six months, they cannot port in Santiago. They continue to advertise three Cuban ports, and then literally as soon as final payments are paid, the RCI website is updated to show that in fact you won't be visiting Santiago: the ship will stop somewhere else instead. In our case, it was Cozumel, Mexico. Since most Caribbean cruisers have been to Cozumel before, this wasn't a particularly attractive alternative.
RCI doesn't do its guests the courtesy of notifying them of this change. I only found out via the CruiseCritic roll call for the cruise.
So if you are interested in this cruise, be forewarned: you will probably NOT visit three ports in Cuba.
There was, for us, only one positive about this cruise: the crew. With the exception of the cruise director (whom none of us saw at any point in the 7-day cruise, even being out and about all the time!), the crew were friendly, helpful and really just an amazing bunch of people. They made up for many (but not all) of the many shortcomings of this ship (and RCI in general.)
MANY NEGATIVES: where to begin? Let's start with the cabin. We had an inside (see below). Another problem? The food is average AT BEST: and often downright bad. We're not fussy by any means, but of the seven meals, 3 of them were awful (we couldn't even eat them), 2 meals were mediocre, and only 2 were average in taste and quality. Our dining room waiters did their best: always asking if we wanted something else, and so on, but we don't like to waste food, so we just figured (on several nights) to have a bit of a "fast".....
The dining rooms (both the main Starlight areas and the Windjammer buffet) are horribly overcrowded, with tables pushed so close together that you literally had your neighbors' chairs up against the backs of yours. They are also VERY understaffed: they need at least 50% more servers in both areas. We like to talk with our servers and get to know them a bit, but they were so busy that they rarely had time to even slow down, much less stop!
The swimming pool is a joke. First of all, it's a uniform depth of 1,80m (a bit over six feet). It is VERY small and because it has no shallow area, older people tend to just sit on the edge with their legs in the water. This makes getting into and out of the pool a real challenge, and once you're in the pool, you have to keep swimming, because you can't stop anywhere on the sides (with all those dangling legs!) Maybe 20 people (if they crowd close together) can sit around the sides, and only 10 or so can "swim" (by which I mean tread water in a very confined space.) Finally, it's a salt-water pool, so if (like us) you don't care for salt-water pools, you won't enjoy this one. We went in on the first day and never went back: it was always very crowded.
The casino onboard has an interesting two-level design, which we liked. There are a couple of things you need to know about the casino, however. First of all, it is completely non-smoking. Not a problem for us, but for many, this will be a disappointment. The other thing we didn't care for was the fact that about 75% of the slot machines are old: and I mean 20+ years old! Some of them still use coins, believe it or not, that's how old they are! Many have buttons that don't work, or are out of order for "maintenance". If you plan on playing the slots, you cannot charge to your "SeaPass" card. You have three options: bring cash (USD) with you; use the ATM to get money (for a $6.95 fee); or go to the cashier and charge it to your SeaPass (for a 5% fee). So if you are going to get more than $107 to gamble with, use the ATM. The fee is actually better than getting it at the cashier's. Generally, though, we were bored with the selection of machines after 2 days. Honestly, going to this casino is like going to a small "locals" casino in Las Vegas: lots of old, tired machines, and really low payouts.
Another irritating aspect of this cruise is the way RCI has two levels of customer service when it comes to shore excursions. This is particularly true in Cuba. If you are booked on an RCI excursion, you get off the ship first. But if you have made independent plans, tough luck. You have to wait on the ship until all of RCI's "customers" (as they put it) have left the ship. Then you can go (unless you are in Cienfuegos: then you have to get a "tender ticket" and wait even longer for your turn.) So for example, we arrived in Havana at 0700. Because we had private tours, we couldn't get off the ship until 0930. So you may want to schedule any private tours for later in the morning (i.e. when it's getting hotter!) because if you had an 0900 tour, you'd probably miss it in Havana.
We did one ship excursion, the "Chichen Itza Mixed Reality" tour from Cozumel. We had not been to Chichen Itza, and it's a long trip, so we thought a ship tour was safer in terms of getting back in time. The description of the tour is quite a bit different from the reality: the virtual reality they offer is in fact a slide show on a tablet, that you do with the guide on the long bus ride to the site. The guide and driver were excellent, but we only had 90 minutes at the site, out of an 8-hour excursion.
As to the Cuban ports, the town center of Cienfuegos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, though I honestly can't imagine why, unless perhaps UNESCO felt like Cuba ought to have a site or two. The best way to see the "sights" in Cienfuegos is to hop on the little Transtur tourist (covered open-air) train that departs every 45 minutes or so from the pier. It's a 40-minute tour, costs 5 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos), and makes a lengthy stop at Jose Marti Square (where all the "UNESCO" sites are located.) Then it continues on to Punta Gorda, where all the rich government officials and other revolutionaries live, and goes past some of the beautiful old hotels and the Palacio Valle and along the Malecon. You can walk to Jose Marti Square from the pier, but many of the roads are rough, unpaved, and you have to run the gauntlet of touts selling pedi-cab or horse-drawn carriage or "classic car" tours.
We found Havana to be amazingly underwhelming, and certainly not deserving of the hype we'd read before our trip. Again, a few well-maintained (tourist-oriented) streets surround by squalid, dirty, rather smelly neighborhoods with decaying buildings and a lot of poor people living the socialist dream. No, we're not political at all, but the irony to us (as Europeans) of the failure of the revolutionary ideals was very sad.
Embarkation and disembarkation were fairly lengthy experiences. Long lines, long waits, and once you did get on the ship, all of the cabin areas were closed off, with signs saying, "Cabins will be available after 1330." Our luggage did not arrive until just before dinner.
RCI transfers are a joke. At disembarkation, we did "self-assist" so as to catch the schedule 0815 transfer to Fort Lauderdale airport. We waited in line for 30 minutes, then finally got off the ship and walked to the bus. We sat on the bus for 90 minutes before leaving at 1000!
The ship itself is old and very tired, despite the fact that it just came out of a "refurbishment" at the end of March 2019. We couldn't see much that looked like it had been upgraded or updated: perhaps they just put in more tables and chairs in the dining areas, and renovated the cabins for the officers and the cruise director. To us, Empress of the Seas seemed like a ship that needs to be completely rebuilt, possibly for one of the luxury lines. It certainly is nothing more than a cash cow for RCI, because they don't seem to be spending any money on facilities or crew. Read Less
This review will be long. I am an experienced cruiser; with this being my 14th cruise. First time and last on MSC. I have cruised in the past with Carnival, Holland, Norwegian, Royal Carribbean and Windjammer. I travel frequently and ... Read More
This review will be long. I am an experienced cruiser; with this being my 14th cruise. First time and last on MSC. I have cruised in the past with Carnival, Holland, Norwegian, Royal Carribbean and Windjammer. I travel frequently and generally expect some hiccups when traveling by air, boat, or car. I would describe myself as pretty tolerant and not difficult to please. We cruised from Miami on the MSC Armonia on 4/2/19. I booked this cruise and paid in full in January 2018 and we chose the Fantastica package based on the offers with it (drink vouchers, free room service and room choices). I booked directly with MSC by phone. We choose room 7055 with the category of ocean view.
Embarkation was fast and smooth. I was impressed we had very little wait time and were on our ship quickly. We were told our vouchers for drinks would be in our stateroom. Staterooms were available by 1:30 pm. That where the disappointment started. No drink vouchers in the room. Our room was very tiny. That is ok, we don't spend much time there. The problem is our ocean view window was in actuality an obstructed view. Clearly the deck plans and category is listed (and priced) as ocean view (indicated on the plans as dark green) and not an obstructed view. Armonia has installed a large net off the bottom of the 8th floor that extends down and across our entire view from our room on the 7th floor. It was clearly there for a long time. I will try and attach picture. This net made it impossible to take any pictures from our window. The bed was large and comfortable. The shower was ridiculously small, with a shower curtain that "sticks" to your body when you shower. The hair dryer was useless, not enough power to dry your hair so bring your own. Those small issues we ignored. The room view I was unhappy with so we went to the desk to voice our complaint. We initially had a long line, but a guest services agent asked us in line what she could do to help. We gave her our issues with not receiving drink vouchers. I had called about this with MSC the day before departure. My fantastica experience was supposed to include 12 vouchers per person. I guess they are discontinuing these on 3/31. Well when I purchased it was advertised. It also was clearly listed on my eticket I had just printed a week before departure as "included in your cruise". I showed this to the first agent we talked to. Her name was Nadia. She said she would take care of the issues and check back after 6pm. Long story short it took 2 days to get the drink vouchers and MULTIPLE trips to the front desk where we had to explain all over again what the issues were. First you get met by a blank stare, then "I don't see any of these issues documented", then the longer you stand there they "find it", and tell you "to come back later, another day, no rooms left etc. It took 4 days and multiple trips to come to a conclusion. At one point on day four just as we are about to leave ship for port we were contacted and told we could move to another ocean view room 7001. Thankfully I insisted on seeing before packing everything up. After waiting 40 min for someone to open the room for a look I discovered this new "ocean view room 7001" didn't even have a window in it. No door to outside, it looked just like an interior room. What a waste of time. Eventually they offered 100.00 in compensation credit. We balked because I already knew the obstructed view rooms were 100.00 less per person. I paid 200.00 more to get that ocean view that really wasn't. By that evening on day four we were told that they would compensate 200.00 total for our cabin. We were told multiple times the ship was full and no other rooms available but met a couple who told us on embarkation that they were asked if they would like to upgrade to balcony rooms. I feel we were lied to multiple times and put off in hopes we would just give up.
Our rooms was kept spotless by our steward. We appreciated that. The shows I saw prior on this forum were rated as poor. We actually really enjoyed them. The acrobats and entertainment were amazing. The bands in bars and public areas were frequent and enjoyable. We really enjoyed the variety night by the crew.
The pool was clean and temperature comfortable. The hot tub was a disappointment as well. There were two onboard. They held 4 people each for a ship of 2000 that was not sufficient. The last two days on board one hot tub was drained and never refilled.
We did not buy any MSC excursions. We purchased our own directly from a vendor before departure. We took an old car tour while in Cuba. There is paperwork you have to fill out in advance for Cuba. You do have to pay 75.00 pp to get a visa to be allowed to disembark in Cuba. We enjoyed Cuba very much and were overnight in that port. Some confusion on if cigars are allowed back into the US. Law says yes but I saw a couple stopped when boarding by the Cuban officials telling them they were confiscating them because they were not allowed. Money is easy to exchange as soon as you get off the ship in the terminal. You can change it back again if you have any left over. Cozumel with spent the day relaxing at Chankanaab Park. 12.00 for two people in a cab to get there. Cab drivers like to gouge and charged the same ride back 15.00 for two people. Grand Caymen we spent the day at Royal Palms beach club. 2.00 entrance fee pp. 5.00 pp taxi ride there. Very nice beaches there, but you will pay 15.00 for a chair and 15.00 for an umbrella.
Now, the food. I am not a picky eater. My husband is. But even I felt the food was very poor in the buffet in particular. It was often seen two days in a row. The food choices were not huge. The buffet items were often empty. The carved meats were doled out in the size for a child. The breads were good. The pizza was excellent. The grill was the staple for my husbands cruise. The dining room was better, but not a huge menu either. The service in the dining room was excellent. The buffet area was too small for the number of passengers. It was always crowded and hard to find a seat and if you did the table was dirty and you had to wait for someone to wipe it off. The staff in there seemed overwhelmed most times. We never got a visit asking for drink orders in the buffet area unless we sought one out or went and got it from the bar ourselves. Once I got a waiter for a drink on the pool deck when I stopped one. Otherwise, we had to go to the bar and get our own drinks. Other ships I have been on have multiple wait staff walking around getting orders on the pool deck. The fantastica package says free room service. Literally the only thing free with that was 3 sandwiches, 2 salads, 1 soup, cookies, brownie, fruit plate or continental breakfast. I ordered mild and cereal and my milk cam heated up in a teapot. ? The full breakfast and dinners came with additional 7.95 service charge. I didn't use it. Not sure why fantastica has "free room service" on their offer.
There does not seem to be many public bathrooms on board and those we did use were not kept clean frequent enough. The most used ones definitely smelled like urine. Sinks not kept tidy and papers on the floors.
Disembarkation was smooth and quick, we carried off our own luggage. All in all the ports and entertainment we enjoyed. I will not cruise with them again, due to the issues that took too long to resolve. There is no reason to book a higher level experience if they do not deliver on the benefits. Read Less
Aboard the Norwegian Sky, you are likely to find inconsistencies in guest service which in turns feels like Horrible Guest Service. The Buffets lack a variety of choices of food daily/the same foods are served on the buffet for ... Read More
Aboard the Norwegian Sky, you are likely to find inconsistencies in guest service which in turns feels like Horrible Guest Service. The Buffets lack a variety of choices of food daily/the same foods are served on the buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with little to no change every day. The late arrival in Key West causes many excursions to be closed for the day and pre-booked excursions that feel rushed because of the late arrival. The late arrival also causes all guest rushing to disembark the ship all at once which causes all guest to wait in long lines for several hours before actually getting off the ship. Don't hold your breath if you need something from housekeeping, it will be a hit or miss if you actually get it...The daily entertainment and activities are mediocre at best. On the other-hand, the complimentary fine dining options and open seating/dining times are great. I would recommend choosing a different cruise line with a similar itinerary. It would not only be worth your money, but worth your vacation! Read Less
This was our 5th cruise on NCL, the 4 previous have been cruises in Europe. We took this shot cruise with family as it went to Cuba. We had a third in our cabin and it was ridiculously crowded as the sofa when made into a bed blocked ... Read More
This was our 5th cruise on NCL, the 4 previous have been cruises in Europe. We took this shot cruise with family as it went to Cuba. We had a third in our cabin and it was ridiculously crowded as the sofa when made into a bed blocked access to the bathroom from the main bed! I would tell anyone to avoid a third in a cabin on this ship (SKY)!!!! There is no way the third person in the cabin should be charged full price, at least then it might make the cabin cost more appropriate. Cost/day was relatively high which I attribute to alcohol included and going to Cuba.
Service in the main dining was extremely slow...over 2 hrs for a dinner; some nights up to 2.5 hrs. Not sure why; we did complain and it got slightly better. Seems some of the servers were new/not well trained. Food was OK (not as good as our other NCL cruises).
Not sure if this cruise is an indication of declining service and poor cabins (not by specific choice but chosen by itinerary/value, all our other NCL cruises were on the Jade so hard to compare to the other NCL ships).
If it wasn't for the opportunity to travel with extended family I would have been very disappointed in the cruise. We have taken over 15 cruises with 6 different cruise lines and this was by far the most disappointing. I will probably stay away from NCL in the future unless fantastic value/itinerary offered Read Less
While they did a good job of refurbishing most of the ship this year, there still seems to be a problem in some cabins with an ammonia-like smell, and some parts of the showed the obvious age of the ship (like the rust on the corners of ... Read More
While they did a good job of refurbishing most of the ship this year, there still seems to be a problem in some cabins with an ammonia-like smell, and some parts of the showed the obvious age of the ship (like the rust on the corners of the bottom threshold of the bathroom). I had an inside cabin, and I spoke with several who had a similar cabin on this cruise and they all reported the same thing. While the food and entertainment were acceptable, they seemed a bit below the typical I've experienced on 5 other NCL cruises. I did not pay for any of the specialty restaurants so I can not offer any comment about them. The Crossings and the Palace restaurants were generally about the quality that you normally get on NCL ships in these dining rooms. The buffet seemed a little sub par for buffets on NCL, and was about half the size I usually see on ships about this size. The best reason to go on the Sky is the itinerary. Having the opportunity to go to Havana, and on this particular sailing have two days there, made it all worthwhile. Read Less
5 day cruise out of Miami:
Great Stirrup Cay- Key West- over night in Havana.
I am a seasoned cruiser with 15 cruises under my belt. NCL is easily my least favorite cruise line. After my first cruise with NCL I vowed never again. ... Read More
5 day cruise out of Miami:
Great Stirrup Cay- Key West- over night in Havana.
I am a seasoned cruiser with 15 cruises under my belt. NCL is easily my least favorite cruise line. After my first cruise with NCL I vowed never again. After this cruise I can assure you NEVER AGAIN. Customer service is a joke. The lines getting off the boat especially Key West was beyond ridiculous. People spent 2+ hours of their “Key West” day trying to get off the boat. I did experience the “bad smell” on the boat but I could get over it. Someone on deck 8 down the hall from us was complaining about as we walked by. Food was okay. Service was okay. Entertainment was sub par. My biggest complaint is... if this is your job, if this is what you do every day why is it so hard to organize where and when people are to be moved on and off the ship. Disembarkation for Key West didn’t happen until 5pm for most people and back on board by 9:30... Also, being an alcohol included cruise you can totally get the vibe that bartenders just aren’t as into it as other cruises. Over all Great Stirrup Cay, Key West and Havana are amazing each for their own reason. My advice would be to chose another cruise line. Read Less
We have cruised with HAL for 10 years and are 4 star mariners, did 2 cruises on Veendam starting March 3 to April 6th 2019. Embarkation long, tedious and very hot no assistance from HAL some very sick elderly people made to stand in heat ... Read More
We have cruised with HAL for 10 years and are 4 star mariners, did 2 cruises on Veendam starting March 3 to April 6th 2019. Embarkation long, tedious and very hot no assistance from HAL some very sick elderly people made to stand in heat for hours. Cabins poorly serviced, beds lumpy and hard. Advised of food allergy well in advance of cruise very poor choices, all meals and menu in Dining poor, meals served Luke warm to cold and not together with partner. Veendam Singers and Dancers excellent other entertainment poor to average. Ports good Shore Excursions ok. Disembarkation disgusting, had tour and airport booked, colour and number we were due to leave at 8.00 am, but kept telling us, no bus hasn’t arrived, 3-1/2 hours later we were all still waiting told tour was cancelled Staff member in charge returned to ship and left us all outside some sitting on limited seating the rest standing waiting for a bus to maybe come for us. Hoping HAL has the common decency to take care of airport transfer for all disappointed passengers looking forward to tour, we of FLL Everglades which we will now never see. Lastly emphasise Kitchen staff and Head Chef Orly, who should be responsible, all the time have let the Company down inexcusably Read Less