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4,741 Hawaii Cruise Reviews

We have just returned from our Hawaiian cruise in the Statendam this morning, March 10, 2004. From departure in San Diego to our arrival in Hawaii and return to San Diego, we thoroughly enjoyed our second HAL experience in two years. The ... Read More
We have just returned from our Hawaiian cruise in the Statendam this morning, March 10, 2004. From departure in San Diego to our arrival in Hawaii and return to San Diego, we thoroughly enjoyed our second HAL experience in two years. The terminal facilities in San Diego made boarding very easy. We arrived early at 11:00 a.m. using a local limo service from the South bay area of San Diego and were able to board within the half hour. During our very brief wait to board we were able to take a moment and sign up for the half price seating in the Pinnacle dinning room on the first evening. More about the Pinnacle further down the page. Also we both signed up for a facial the next day, getting an early appointment before the crowds came into the terminal. Being one of the first to arrive on board we avoided the crowds and had a brief wait on the Lido deck before our veranda suite was ready. We were able to take advantage of the early lunch available in the Lido dinning room while waiting for other passengers to board. On the plus side, our luggage arrived within twenty minutes of going into the room. The departure from San Diego harbor was effortless and we sailed into the sunset over Point Loma on schedule. As we headed into open waters we did experience rough seas from a previous winter storm that had just passed through Los Angeles. With another storm on its tail the next day the seas were rough and made the first full day at sea very uncomfortable for many on board, including my wife who stayed in the suite most of the day, quite ill. She recovered the next day with the help of seasick medication and had her sea legs for the rest of the two week cruise. Five days of sailing to Hawaii is a long period, especially during bad weather, the worst seas were up to 14 feet at times. The ship board staff made the best of a rough crossing by having numerous activities scheduled for every day and evening. There was always something going on every hour of the day and the list is too long to mention in such a short space. Our room steward was very friendly and when we pointed out some of the dust and broken lock issues in the suite he was right on the spot with repairs and a good cleaning that may have been overlooked. I also asked for an additional banana each day with the bowl of fresh fruit in our room. The small fridge was well stocked with water, sodas, milk and other beverages came in handy when we did not feel like going up to the Lido for a quick beverage. The major issue that we both had with the Rotterdam dinning room was more a lack of adequate staffing to cover the table assignments. We waited for our waiter to serve four other tables each evening before even taking our order at our six person seating. This was the first seating of the evening and I wondered if the staff had the same issues at the second seating. Most evenings we were just eating our salads and soup when deserts were being served at other tables. We also had a problem with simple tasks such as a refill of water glasses, coffee, and even sometimes not have cream or sugar available at the table, let alone butter for bread. Some of these issues related to the Captain's decision to remove these items from the tables to prevent illness amongst the passengers after some twenty individuals came down with an intestinal disorder four or five days into the cruise. Our biggest complaint was with the staff presentation of port call tours. The staff member was very nervous, unfamiliar with the material, unable to follow her script and unwilling to answer questions from the passengers during the briefing. She later claimed, when we asked, that the presentation was being taped and she did not want to answer questions during the taping. The other tour desk staff member had a language barrier to overcome, as she was a native French speaker and would become very agitated when asked to repeat herself as the passengers were unable to understand her English, and at one point turned her back on a long line of passengers and told her associate that she could not handle some of the people's attitudes. The tours in all the ports were well worth the money with the exception of the pineapple train in Maui. The train traveled three miles on a straight track along the local highway and turned around to repeat the same course. At about $16 per person was very over priced and had limited appeal. We had several less than friendly experiences with the casino cashier where they seemed to be unhappy about making change and then later had a large error while counting coins from a large jackpot which we had previously verified with the floor staff supervisor. When requested to recount the error floor supervisor verified, on request, the correct pay out. I would advise all passengers that use the casino to be extremely careful about cashing out wins. Know how much you are due before approaching the cashier. The Statendam entertainers were very professional and the show well put together, excepting the lighting and sound department. Several times the visiting entertainers had to ask the lighting personnel to quit blinding the audience with lights that were not adjusted properly and at one point interrupted the performance to ask that the lights be shut off that were not working. The initial few minutes of almost every show lacked sound control and most acts could not be clearly heard until the sound was peaked. This could have been resolved long before the show started. The lounge staff and bar personnel were exceptional and had most names and drinks memorized by the second day of the cruise. The Rotterdam dining staff seldom got this simple task right, almost to the point of frustration among our fellow dinners. In spite of these flaws with staffing and inexperienced crew members, we have already signed on for the Westerdam sailing from Barcelona, Spain in November. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
OK, a little background here. This was cruise number ten for me, the third with RCL. This was a special trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I enjoyed it last year on the Nordic Empress and wanted to do it again. This was the first time I ... Read More
OK, a little background here. This was cruise number ten for me, the third with RCL. This was a special trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I enjoyed it last year on the Nordic Empress and wanted to do it again. This was the first time I boarded from Galveston. The embarkation was strenuous, took almost ten minutes. The port staff were friendly and the bus driver from the airport to the pier was almost worth the trip all by himself. I had communicated with many people on cruise critic via the boards before the trip and we had an unofficial get together for sail away. One of the members had made little name tags which helped to break the ice and get ourselves introduced to many nice people. The party started right at sailaway and set the tone for the rest of the trip. If you are reading this review, it is probably because you are considering a cruise. Sign up for a roll call on cruise critic. I met so many nice people from around the country by chatting on line then meeting in person. Had friends before I boarded. I found the ship to be adequate, as compared to some of the newer larger ships I have been on. The cleanliness and helpfulness of the crew were up to the high standards I'm used to from RCL with the exception of the smoking area on the pool deck. For some reason the tables were always sticky and the ashtrays seldom emptied. Do I expect too much? On other lines, I put out a cigarette, and the ashtray is emptied before I can notice it. Due to a boat collision at the mouth of the Mississippi, we could not dock at the port of New Orleans. Instead, we went to Gulfport Mississippi and RCL arranged to bus us to New Orleans. I thought it was a very nice thing for them to do. And these were regular high quality buses, not school buses. They must have been very difficult to come by on such short notice, and I thank RCL for going the extra mile to make sure we did not miss too much of the festivities. Some cruisers expected some huge compensation for the inconvenience, but I believe most of us took the view it wasn't RCL's fault and they did the best they could for us. In fact, RCL, gave us a credit of $100 to make up for it. This was above and beyond as far as I'm concerned. Mardi Gras was fantastic and something you should think about experiencing. As for the ship, it provided everything you could want. Interior solarium, with pool and jacuzzi as well as the outside pool and the jacuzzis there. The public art was tucked away in different parts of the ship, and was amazing. I would recommend you take an hour or two, tour the ship, and enjoy the art. It was exceptional. As usual, the formal dining room had excellent fare and service. There was discussion about the "ranch steak" which was served with the lobster. We all wondered what cut of beef it was, because it was a little tough. Of course, if you chewed 100 times like mom told you, it would eventually go down. It also took some getting used to when you ordered a salad for dinner. Three different dressings each night and not always one I wanted. I'm also used to 2 or 3 choices of salad, on this ship we had one choice each night. But again the majority of the food, especially the cold strawberry soup and the cold pineapple soup, were to die for. Also had an outstanding blackberry and apple tart for lunch in the dinning room, which I must say was the best desert I have ever had. I found the Windjammer cafe (buffet line), to be a little sparse and a little low on service. Especially considering I was told the ship was not full. The same appeared to be true in the bar areas. Several of the bars didn't open until late afternoon, which ordinarily would have been okay. But serval times, the wind was so bad on pool deck they closed the pool bar. People moved inside, but the pool bar staff was not reassigned to serve the inside bars, nor were the closed bars opened early. I'm used to sitting in a bar and having a waiter come around every 10 to 15 minutes. For many periods, I had the choice of walking to the bar myself, or getting sober. As always, I noticed the casino had waiters stationed every few feet. As for entertainment, to be honest, I am my own entertainment and seldom go to the onboard shows. From what I heard, they were the usual fare. I did enjoy the piano and easy listening at the champagne Bar on deck four. The Bartender Sinan was a great guy and offered exceptional service. Can't get off this topic without a complaint. We were in the Viking Crown lounge, another great place to enjoy the trip. The dance floor was full, as was the bar and most of the area seating. We were enjoying a "Motown hour". Everyone was having a great time and RCL was making money at the bar. At the end of the hour, they were going to shift to a different type of music, which bothered all of us. We yelled to do more Motown, and the DJ said it would have to be repeats. We said fine, and spent a few more hours enjoying ourselves. If I had to recommend something to RCL, I would say to give your DJ and staff the ability to deviate from the planned routine if you have a full dance floor and bar. It just makes sense to give the customer what they want. On the next sailing, maybe Motown hour has 5 people and country western starts at 11pm. At 10:55 the place gets full. Hint Hint. The folks are there for Country Western. Change over. But for us to have to threaten mutiny to keep enjoying ourselves made it look bad. After Mardi Gras we went to Cozumel Mexico. It was OK, but I just went for New Orleans, so Cozumel was just an additional benefit. Many shore excursions were cancelled do to "high winds'. Several of us found it strange since the other ships in port with us did not have their trips cancelled. Apparently, an additional ship was in with us on an unscheduled stop. They were rerouted from Haiti due to the violence there. Could it be Rhapsody of the Seas was shortchanged for this other larger newer ship. I won't speculate but who knows. Debarkation was a mess. I liked the immigration being done on ship, the other cruises I've done we did it in terminals. We had early debarkation due to early flights, which was nice. But, there was no system for making sure the people who got off early, were able to get the first buses to get us to the airport on time. I talked with one of the RCL people and he said they only had seven parking spaces for buses which created the problem. They are in the process of building a new cruise terminal at Galveston, so hopefully they will solve that problem. You've read this far, so lets wrap it up. Cheers to RCL and Rhapsody of the Seas. I had a great time. Could it have been better? Yes. But kudos to the staff and especially the Captain for all he did to show us a wonderful time. See you next year for Mardi Gras. February 8, 2005. Happy Sailings Feel free to email for more info. Please put Mardi Gras in your subject line. Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
RMS QUEEN MARY 2 MAIDEN VOYAGE ~ A REVIEW EMBARKATION. With high expectations, latterly fed by a frenzy of TV coverage that assured the world that we had all paid £26,000 for the privilege (our bank manager was especially impressed), we ... Read More
RMS QUEEN MARY 2 MAIDEN VOYAGE ~ A REVIEW EMBARKATION. With high expectations, latterly fed by a frenzy of TV coverage that assured the world that we had all paid £26,000 for the privilege (our bank manager was especially impressed), we finally arrived at Queen Elizabeth II terminal in Southampton for the voyage we seemed to have been waiting for so long. Even the weather smiled on us that day as the sun shone for the first time in weeks. The terminal was buzzing with excitement and embarkation was a very smooth operation. After 45 minutes in the waiting room, which was decorated with Cunard memorabilia, bell boys and white QM2 roses, we were ushered aboard willing ourselves to be impressed. There was no need, for as we entered the Grand Lobby, between ranks of white uniformed flunkies, this ship touched our emotions as none had before. Although we were not greeted nor offered assistance in finding our stateroom (a missed opportunity which did not bode well for service expectations), we wandered through this heart of QM2 impressed by the scale, richness and ocean liner tradition that oozes from the design. It is possible (if your eye sight is up to it) to stand with your back to the Samuel Cunard mural adjacent to the Royal Court entrance on Deck 3 and look through the Grand Lobby to the QM2 tapestry on the back wall of the Britannia Dining Room over 360 feet away! It was remarkably easy to find the way to our B4 grade stateroom on Deck 6 and we were suitably impressed when our South African stewardess greeted us by name in the corridor as we opened the door. ACCOMMODATION. The staterooms are a major leap forward for a Cunard ship, but no better or no worse than the latest staterooms on RCI, Celebrity, HAL or Princess. In design terms it is very simplistic (not even central light switching) and shows a strong art deco influences in the pale wood with black inlay headboard and furniture. Storage behind a neat bank of veneered doors comprises a double wardrobe with about 25 hangers, a second single wardrobe with a pull out rail for hangers from a suit carrier, four drawers, two shelves and a safe. For 2 weeks the storage is more than adequate and for longer trips there is always the free laundrette on each deck (4 washers, 4 dryers and 2 ironing boards for the technically inclined). Bedside tables with annoyingly stiff anti-roll catches, a dressing table / fridge / TV console with chair, height adjustable coffee table and sofa complete the furniture. Apart from the black inlays, pale red sofa and primary coloured art work, the colour scheme is generally beige and pale neutral. The shower room is more compact than expected, but with a huge shower tray and adequate storage size was never an issue. The internal layout of the B4 grade stateroom is similar in size and style to all B, C and D categories, with the exception that some C's (Standard Oceanview) have the combined space of the B stateroom plus its balcony and are huge. The only other grade of stateroom we saw was a P grade Mini Suite, which had identical dEcor but was 50% larger than the normal staterooms and had a walk-in wardrobe plus a more generous bathroom with full size bath tub. We were blessed with what has become known as a 'hull' balcony, an open balcony space within the hull with a rectangular opening cut into the top half of the deck height. The balcony is accessed by a glazed door in the floor to ceiling glazing of the stateroom. To me the location of this rectangular opening is a major design flaw, as it is impossible to see anything other than the sky unless you stand at the rail and look out. I can see no reason why the hole could have been made lower or a second hole cut below the first. If safety was an issue then why did they put a metal step a few feet convenient to the floor and compound it with furniture that lends itself to be stood on so that you can lean out of the balcony opening? The lounging furniture is a nonsense and takes up half the floor space. A table and chairs would be much more useful. That said, it was still good to have a balcony and we made good use of it - especially on the very rough Bay of Biscay crossing (when fresh air was sometimes need in a hurry and this type of balcony becomes much preferable to the unsheltered inaccessible 'glass' variety. The thinking behind these balconies I will touch on later. DINING. Pleased with our accommodation, it was with great excitement we ventured to the Britannia Dining Room. The photographs of this room catch the grandeur of the design but give no clues to its vastness, seating up to 1300 passengers at any one time. The vast illuminated glass ceiling over the double height space and curving double stairways gave the feeling of being in a large Edwardian liner. The space however is cleverly broken up and separated so that there are only a few places where you are aware of more than a hundred fellow diners. We were unlucky with our table companions (twice) and had no problems being moved which beggars the question why, with the computer based passenger data available in the Dining Room plus many months to plan it, was the dinner seating plan not more considered. Many of the people we spoke to in the first two days were also unhappy with their tables and had moved. After three restless nights we were invited to a table full of Cruise Critics (thank you Dan Tobey and Peter, Bill & Ray and Thulewx) and were set fair for the rest of the voyage. Much has been said elsewhere about service and food. All I will add is that, whether it be too few waiters, poor training, lack of planning or galley problems (and it was probably a combination of all four), service fell far short of what anybody could reasonably expect on the maiden voyage of an untried Cunard flagship. Service was very inconsistent and varied from the appalling to the acceptable. Food overall was a good banqueting standard. Ingredients were good, presentation was good but menus were sadly lacking in imagination and after a week it boiled down to a choice of fish, beef, chicken or pasta every night. If they can raise standards to those found in The Franconia Dining Room on the Caronia then they will have a winner. The 280 seater Queens and Princess Grills on Deck 7 are a complete and stark contrast to the Britannia, being very simple and most plain in dEcor. It must be said that initially I felt glad to be dining in Britannia with its wow factor dEcor, but after about a week it became a little overpowering (or maybe that was the stress of wondering what the service would be like each night) and the Grills started to look and feel more and more elegant each time I saw them! We heard that both these dining rooms also experienced service problems on the same scale as the Britannia. We generally took lunch in Kings Court on Deck 7, which is cleverly divided into four distinct areas by colour scheme and menu. Asian dishes; fish, meat and chicken; pasta and pizza; carved roasts; sandwiches; salads; - these delicious offerings and more were available at these four daytime buffets (Lotus, The Carvery, Piazza and The Chef's Galley). Again the only downside was the lack of staff at busy times when tables weren't being cleared quick enough for people to sit down. Against lunch buffets on other ships this compared very favourably. Like many other ships, QM2 has done away with the midnight buffet in favour of a late night buffet in Kings Court Piazza. Lunch in the Britannia was tried once, but strange table mates, haphazard service that included forgetting water and bread for the whole table, plus an uninspired menu meant the experience was not repeated. The alternative dining onboard has much to recommend it. Service and food in both Todd English and especially Kings Court Lotus were pretty good considering the stress on the staff by the second week. The rich dEcor of Todd English is an amazing concoction of styles from somewhere between Morocco and Byzantium - check out the tented entrance. Lotus (as well as Piazza and The Carvery) in Kings Court is transformed by screens and soft lighting into a series of charming and intimate casual dining booths. It seems that Todd English will soon be making a charge which is hardly surprising given the over subscription. but the Kings Court venues (apart from the Chef's Galley which charges $35 including wine) still remain an excellent free alternative to the main dining rooms. DRINKING. The bars onboard offer a variety of styles and atmospheres to suit every taste. Grand in scale and size, the three central bars adjacent to the Britannia Dining Room are ideally located for pre lunch or pre dinner drinks as well as for a quick one during a busy day tracking down those elusive souvenirs. Sir Samuels is modern and sharp in decor but colours, lighting and furnishing feel a little harsh and as a whole it doesn't strike me as a very inviting space. The Chart Room is Cunard elegance at its best. During the day very calm and restful and at night a sophisticated bar with live music - also one of the most stable places to be in case of storms! The much maligned Golden Lion was as expected, typical faux pub design (the steamer trunks and hat boxes were a step too far) but high on atmosphere which, as any Brit will tell you, makes any real pub more than just its decor. Always busy, this was the place for pub food, a pint and karaoke! The Veuve Cliquot Champagne bar is a very nicely designed corner of the Grand Lobby with a few art deco references, but blink and you'll miss it! The Commodore Club on Deck 9 became our favourite haunt. Restful observation room by day, it became sophisticated cocktail bar par excellence at night - even dispensing cocktails in Stuart Crystal, 'Jasper Conran' designed glasses which retail in the UK at $55 each! The dEcor with its dark wood and muted colours merely accentuates the shape and location of the space which, with the huge spell binding, bar mounted model of QM2, are the keys to its success. If you like to ride a roller coaster then you will want to drink in the Commodore in rough seas - those G forces are something else. Again, much has been said about the service in the bars. All I can add is that Cunard probably missed anything between 25 and 50% of its potential income from pre dinner drinks by having insufficient staff or inadequate bar facilities to cope with peak demand - with empty glasses on most tables and in many hands during the last 15 to 20 minutes before dinner, it was not uncommon to wait 5 to 10 minutes when actively seeking to be served. The Winter Garden is a strange mix of lounge and bar (which closed at 7.00pm) and was largely empty and underused once we reached warmer climes. It's dEcor is very tropical with wicker chairs, a trompe l'oeil ceiling full of palms and blue sky and a rather garish waterfall with bright fluorescent colours that seem out of place in this well mannered area. The entrance like a shrub lined park gate is a nice eye to detail. It strikes me that this is one of the areas that relates more to the Liner role than warm weather cruising and I'm sure it is going to be a bright and popular day lounge on cold grey North Atlantic crossings. One annoying aspect common to all these rooms was the smoking policy. If a majority are non-smokers, which is a fair assumption, then you would expect a well ventilated space in each room to be set aside for smokers. Unfortunately, on QM2 smoking is also allowed along the length of all bar tops which spreads cigarette smoke almost everywhere except the far flung corners of non-smoking areas in what have effectively become smoking rooms. ENTERTAINMENT. The main entertainment areas of the ship are grouped together forward on decks 2 and 3. In a few words, The Royal Court is a 'state of the art' theatre with a stage almost in the round and seating more akin to a luxurious cabaret lounge than a true theatre. The three or four shows we saw there were all technically superb, with great sightlines from comfortable bench or club seats. Dame Shirley Bassey gave two superb one hour celebrity guest concerts after a very rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay and laughed about it (no mean feat). Two production shows, La Passionatta and Rock @ the Opera, are very good and could be excellent once the cast eases into them more. Rock @ the Opera is worth seeing for the stage effects and costumes alone - well, I've never heard a stage set get applause before! Opera Babes, Magicians and Comedians we gave a miss. Curiosity drove us to witness Ruben Studdard killing us not so softly with some songs in between complaining how seasick he was and how drugged he felt (no mean feat on QM2 in a very calm Caribbean). Like a large portion of the audience we left early to enjoy a last cocktail. For me the real jewel in the crown is Illuminations. Theatre, cinema, lecture hall and planetarium - this space not only looks like a fabulous 1930's art deco Cinema, it also doles out excellent entertainment at every level. The illustrated lectures given by John Maxtone-Graham and Steven Payne were enthralling and packed to the rafters and the planetarium experience is mind blowing. Attending any of the lectures at the well laid out Cunard Connexions we deemed unnecessary when it became clear that they were being taped and screened on stateroom TV. The much vaunted interactive QM2 TV had not been fully commissioned so many of the functions were unavailable and, disappointingly, this included the normal details on ship course, speed, location and weather conditions. DANCING. The largest ballroom at sea is also one of the most stunning spaces on Queen Mary 2. The Queens Room is cunningly accessed via two Deck 3L fenestrated corridors housing the photo and art galleries in voids running below the raised Deck 3 seating areas on either side of the Britannia Dining Room. It is an impressive space richly decorated in blue and gold, with a lavish inlaid dance floor and sparkling crystal chandeliers above. The busts and memorabilia of Queen Mary and King George V add a sense of being somewhere exclusive. Not being a ballroom dancer I can't extend an opinion on the music or dancing offered there. If you venture through the Queens Room you reach the dark, double height space of G32, the supposed late night club. This is a big disappointment for me as a design and how it is used. From the richness of other public areas you are plunged into a hi-tech space with uninspired 60's retro dEcor. Maybe the designers were touching their caps to those two high points of 60's design, the France and QE2 (I jest), but the result is dull and uninspiring. Its convenient proximity to the Queens Room but remoteness from everywhere else, means that when the ballroom band stops playing there is usually a dichotomy of groups patronising G32 (the ballroom dancers V the partygoers). Throughout the voyage a combination of vocal group (how many Nat King Cole tributes can you take in 30 minutes!) and an inexperienced DJ (who looked all of 16) cleared the dance floor by half past midnight and kept all party fun to a minimum. Low bar returns from G32 must surely lead to a rethink and early changes. THE VOYAGE. Although the itinerary was predictable and traditional, the draw was in being the first to take a commercial voyage in the first Cunard 'Queen' for nearly 40 years. Nothing however, could have prepared us for the strength of welcome and the pure unadulterated joy of the inhabitants at most of our ports of call. The sailaway from Southampton was the beginning of a rollercoaster voyage of emotions which couldn't fail to touch even the most inveterate traveller. Maybe we left late because there was so much more luggage than Cunard had expected - well, this was THE Maiden Voyage, but nobody cared once we had backed up to Mayflower Park and that amazing firework display started crashing overhead to the strains of Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, Crown Imperial and other stirring anthems. This was the sort of send off that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and tears well in your eyes! The fireboats sent their water high into the black night sky and the escorting flotilla of boats, small and large, made as much noise as possible as we began edging back down Southampton Water past Town Quay and Queen Elizabeth II Terminal with the Commodore returning the greetings on the deafening steam whistle from the original Queen Mary. We stayed, frozen by the cold wind, until Southampton disappeared behind us and then had the pleasure of travelling down in an elevator and chatting with Steven Payne who was as happy and excited as any boy with a new toy could possibly be. The first day at sea through The Bay of Biscay came hurtling at us with a high class storm to make the ship slowly roll and pitch like she was alive. We drove through seas which must have been reaching upward of 40 feet in height (in order to frequently drench the windows of The Chart Room on Deck 3) at speeds of up to 26.5 knots and the G forces in Stairway A were something to play with! Needless to say the dreaded mal de mare struck down many during that first full day. By day 2 the storm had abated and day 3 woke early to a warm welcome in Funchal, Madeira. After a stroll around the town in warm sunshine it was all aboard to a warm but polite send off by crowds in their hundreds. Day 4 woke to a loud raucous welcome from fireboats in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and crowds in their thousands (obviously word was getting around!). After lunching on land with friends living on the island, it was back to the ship for dinner and a late sailaway with a generous firework display on the quayside. Day 5 woke to an even louder arrival in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. With crowds in their thousands to welcome us, the day would become one that will go down in folklore as one of the biggest receptions ever given by any port to a passenger ship. On the quayside the local association of carpet weavers created a vast QM2 carpet in coloured salt, the high speed oompah bands marched up and down in a way that only Spaniards can, folk dancers danced and crowds grew bigger and friendlier by the hour. Departure was originally slated for 5.00pm but the Las Palmas schedule to welcome QM2 would not be denied the chance to give a lavish 30 minute firework display par excellence, as we left behind us tens of thousands of adoring Canarians some two hours later. By the sojourn in the Canaries, the weather had warmed enough for sun loungers and steamer chairs to start appearing all over the open decks. The next 4 days were given over entirely to worshipping the ever strengthening sun as we sailed in a west south westerly direction. Time had come to explore the vast expanse of the outside teak decks. The aft sun decks 6 to 8 were the most popular with the timber loungers and green canvass covered mattresses filled to near capacity, especially near the pools. In spite of expressed misgivings, the duplex suites, the open seating of Todd English and the sunbathers of deck 8 all coexisted quite comfortably like the inhabitants of any sun kissed Marina or Lido might. The strange three deck shortcut open staircase from decks 8 to 11 is quite a climb, but at least it allows one to put a foot (even if it is only in transit) on the sacred sun deck 11which in sunny weather is reserved for Queens Grill passengers only. The climb up to deck 12 is worth it for here, and on the forward deck 13, there is more space and sun loungers than even a Carnival ship could fill. Equipped with an open air cafe, a pool with opening glass roof, two bars, jacuzzis, splash pool, sports and observation areas this is a sun seekers paradise, but strangely most of these areas were never more than 25% occupied. My only complaint would be that there is no shade in the form of awnings or canopies anywhere even in the vicinity of the Boardwalk Cafe. The other thing I could not get my head around was the sense of having 'splash pools' with only a few inches of water - surely they used to be called foot baths??? The heat was on by day 10 when we arrived at Bridgetown, Barbados and true to form we received a suitably relaxed and inform Caribbean welcome from the local brass band. One more day at sea and did the Commodore really say that we were currently doing 28.5 knots - it seemed we were hardly moving? Day 12 brought ours and the crews first tendering experience as we reached Charlotte Amalie on Saint Thomas. Having duly faced the intransigent and charming as ever officers of the US Immigration Department, we had a leisurely breakfast before taking the first 'open' tender of the day around 11.00am. The crew's lack of experience in handling the tenders, the unwillingness to fill tenders too full and the failure to be able to accommodate larger shoreside ferries against the tender platforms meant that the tendering process took longer than anticipated. This one assumes is something that can be overcome with practice and a little more forward planning. Moored in the very outer anchorage of the harbour, our presence in Saint Thomas must have gone almost unnoticed - we took the opportunity of this call to slip away to Magens Bay for an afternoon swim. All too soon Day 13 came and went, goodbyes were said, last meals were eaten, last cocktails shared and the triumphant arrival in Fort Lauderdale was upon us. We arrived out of the dawn to find the noisiest and most colourful fireboats yet throwing their red white and blue spumes high into the air. An unprecedented US Naval escort, a dozen helicopters and the most cacophonous reception from the famous landmark Condos made this welcome the cherry on the cake, a fitting end to a truly remarkable voyage. QM2, CRUISE SHIP OR LINER? Having once been the devil's advocate in the discussion of cruise ship or liner I now have to say that, having travelled onboard and having listened to authoritive sources, I know for sure that this ship has been built as a transatlantic liner. There is no cruiseship on earth that can sail at 26 knots through 40 foot seas and there is no way on earth that Mickey Arison has spent a 40% premium (over $200 million) for a cruiseship that looks like a liner! An interesting anecdote from John Maxtone-Graham credits Mickey Arison with being so inspired by the movie 'Titanic' as to want to create a dream of building the largest and most expensive transatlantic liner - why else would he want to buy Cunard? Stephen Payne described in great detail the research made into designing this ship so that it could handle any weather the Atlantic has produced in the past 25 years and be twice as seaworthy as QE2 (for example, a sea that produces a 10 degree roll in QE2 will only produce 5 degrees in QM2). Stephen also added that Mickey Arison told him 'I need seven decks of balconies or she doesn't get built', and how he was able to give him eight! John Maxtone-Graham amongst others has been disparaging about the 'hull' balconies but as he explained, these cabins produce more revenue with a balcony than they would if the balcony space was included in the cabin - so these balconies are purely revenue driven and without them the ship would not have been built! The other piece of enlightening comment from Stephen Payne was that nothing was allowed to compromise the design of QM2 as a transatlantic liner - something which should be born in mind when considering criticisms of the ship's cruising abilities and her unsophisticated warm weather outdoor deck spaces. On the aesthetic side, Stephen also thinks the funnel is too short but, save raising the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge, there was nothing to be done about it! So there you have it. The head of Carnival does have a dream and that dream is to re establish transatlantic travel by sea as a major rather than a niche market. Who amongst us can doubt that dream will probably come true? 2005 sees QM2 slated for 26 Atlantic crossings, which is already 42% of the year, and I believe the years following will see the Atlantic 'season' increase to whatever the market will support. She is utilised for cruising when the North Atlantic is too uninviting, like other great liners of the past, hence the seven day jaunts out of Fort Lauderdale and New York in December to March. Only market demand will decide if these warm weather cruises settle into premium or discount rates. I also believe that if Mickey Arison has gotten it right again, we will see a sister ship in service on the North Atlantic within 7 to 10 years. If as I believe, Queen Mary 2 has been built primarily for the 6 day North Atlantic crossing and if Cunard can overcome the annoying service problems caused by lack of crew or insufficient training, then I think she will be a huge success and succeed to the title 'Most famous ship in the World', if she hasn't done so already! Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
The QM2 itself is not friendly to single travelers, much less the attitude of the staff who are clearly trained for pairs of travelers. The dining room tables are mostly square or rectangular - not good for a singleton. Dinner aboard the ... Read More
The QM2 itself is not friendly to single travelers, much less the attitude of the staff who are clearly trained for pairs of travelers. The dining room tables are mostly square or rectangular - not good for a singleton. Dinner aboard the ship should be a social occasion, and having the ability to converse with tablemates is critical. Fortunately I was able to find a set of good tablemates at a round table, although that took a couple of days. "Cunard-ival" has turned its back on the singleton. Ironically, when I wished to be seated alone for a meal other than dinner, I was actually told on board twice (not once, but twice) that the only way I could get a table for one at breakfast or lunch was to dine at the buffet. I did not pay my fare to schlep my tray like some high school student through a second-rate cafeteria. My cabin (Category B3, Premium Balcony) was interesting. I am a tall person, standing about 6'2". The deckchairs were wedged in between the railing and the cabin bulkhead so that they were useless to someone my height. In order to sit in the deckchairs, I had to put my feet up on the glass panels or move the chair sideways on the balcony, thus rendering the use of the balcony door useless without moving the chair again. Even with the obstructed views of the ocean, I had expected the ability to enjoy breakfast on my balcony with the sea air, but was unable to do so. I have alluded to dining earlier in this letter, but let me directly address the food. It was practically impossible to order off menu. The menus in the Britannia Restaurant were not at all coherent between courses. One passenger at my table likened the incongruent menus to rolling a cup of dice in the game of yhatzee. The portions were small and I always left dinner hungry - because of course there was no time to eat a second meal since the late seating was waiting. Quite frankly, if this were a land-based restaurant, I would never return; however, I was trapped onboard a ship with few other dining options. Lotus was too heavy on the shellfish and seafood. To pay a service charge for the Carvery was ridiculous at the fare (read single supplement and cabin category) I paid. I did, however, have one good meal in two weeks aboard the ship - Todd English. One of the things missing on the QM2 is a nice middle-of-the-road dining option like the Caronia Restaurant aboard the QE2. Cunard is trying to mass-market luxury with this ship, and it does not work. Unless you are willing to move into the Princess Grill categories, I would not recommend any cabin category above a B6. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
Boarding the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton was at first a magical experience. Well dressed men in London Fog overcoats and ladies in mink walked through the terminal as their luggage was ferried aboard. We never did see the ship as the view ... Read More
Boarding the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton was at first a magical experience. Well dressed men in London Fog overcoats and ladies in mink walked through the terminal as their luggage was ferried aboard. We never did see the ship as the view was obstructed, but as soon as we stepped aboard, we could tell what a technical marvel she was. We entered the lobby with its rich red carpeting and tall white pillars. We inquired about our room and were given vague directions, and no help with our luggage. Odd, I thought. In my cruising experience (which had been entirely aboard Celebrity Cruise Line vessels), passengers were taken to a stateroom by a steward. When we found our cabin, the first thing that greeted us was not a "Welcome Aboard" notice but a warning about the Norwalk virus. The ship sailed an hour later than planned. As we stood on the deck waiting to see the departure, no one told us there would be a delay. Instead, passengers who were scheduled to eat during first seating were told via the intercom that the dining room was about to close its doors. Also, Champagne, normally free on sailing day, was to be $9 a glass. Not that it mattered: they ran out of glasses. When our friends and fellow passengers Bill and Linda Valliant found their favorite wine on the menu on our first night out, they joked about the ship running out of that, too. The joke was on them: Not available, said the wine stewardess. Even the purser's desk was unprepared for the voyage. When I asked for stamps the first day so I could send some postcards home, I was told there were none. When sending a four page letter of concerns and complaints to the hotel manager. There was no acknowledgement of receipt until the 25th and all it was just a 3 line form letter. Cunard's slick brochures promised the "skilled attentions of one staff member per couple," and the promise was kept by our bedroom steward, Steven, who was very friendly and kept the room exceptionally clean. He was helpful in any way possible. The public rooms for the most part were nicely decorated. The Britannia Restaurant was three stories tall and had a large, lighted glass dome overhead -- a magnificent sight as people descended the winding staircases that led into the lower salon. The Britannia Restaurant was a different story. Its menu included haggis, fish tacos, and "boneless" chicken that I found out far too late had a bone in it, as I sat at the table choking. At breakfast, the toast was stale and cold. I had to flag down the waiters to get more water and another roll. Even seating could be a problem. One morning we were led past 50 or so clean tables and told to sit at one that still had dirty plates, crumbs and I don't know what else.We were lucky enough to eat there almost every day. The staff was wonderful and we met the nicest people there: a hotelier from the island of Sark; the author of Low Fat Cooking for Dummies; a corporate trainer from Pennsylvania, and even Lara Spencer from Good Morning America.The brochure also promised "menus created by some of the greatest chefs in the world," and the food was delicious -- but only in the Todd English restaurant. English is a world renowned chef who agreed to open a concession restaurant on the new ship. Thank goodness he did, as his selections were incredible: Boston Bibb salad, truffle loveletters, sirloin, and orange creme brulee Room service wasn't a reasonable alternative. Usually it had a recorded message saying to call back. One time, my friend Jim called and was told that it would be an hour and a half before we got our ginger ales. When our friends Bill and Linda went ashore at Tenerife, they came aboard raving about the food they had had, the best since the start of the trip. The restaurant? Pizza Hut! Passengers and crew got plenty of exercise walking about the ship. Try as I did, I don't think I got to visit every possible public area. On our last day at sea, we found an open promenade just under the bridge that could be reached only by elevator. I found the Queen's Lounge by accident one day, and it was a pleasure to take tea there. It was just as wonderful as the Savoy. The initial entertainment was a treat as we had Dame Shirley Bassey singing many ballads. We were also privileged to listen to the musical trio of Vive Classica who played many tunes from the turn of the last century. The program deteriorated from there and people had to make their own fun. There wasn't much to do other than listen to a few lecturers ( one of whom embarrassingly singled out a fellow for bringing a video camera, though no formal announcement had previously had been made ) or pay $25.00 to make your own corsage. Well, at least they gave napkin folding lessons to fill the time. There was much hype about this trip and there were speculation about who was aboard. Names bandied about included Rod Stewart, Madonna, and Elton John. Once during the voyage I thought I had spotted actress Debrah Farentino of CAPITOL on deck, but it turned out to be a look-a-like. But things kept breaking down. Toilets refused to flush, elevators wouldn't lift, hot water turned cold and computers shut down in the middle of work-related e-mail, or functioned slowly at what seemed 50 percent capacity. There were communications breakdowns, too. Lara Spencer was scheduled to do a segment for Good Morning America one morning. Our daily program told us to be on deck for 7 in the morning if we wanted to watch. We waited and waited but nothing happened. Finally we gave up and had breakfast. Later, strolling through the Winter Garden, we saw that filming had just wrapped up. The program had had the wrong time, and no one from personnel thought to tell us about their error. Another time, "Code Bravo" was announced over the intercoms and in the staterooms. All crew members were to report to a certain area. What did that mean? Again, there was no announcement or explanation, but we found out there was a fire. Quite a few of us were getting ready for dinner and did not know whether to finish taking our showers or grab our lifejackets. The fire was quickly controlled and eventually the voyage ended without serious incident. I experienced mixed emotions on the final day. Our home for two weeks was beautiful, but had many flaws. The camaraderie among fellow passengers could not be beat. I came away with so many addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and for that I will be forever grateful. Items commemorating the maiden voyage were very rare. Cunard did provide every passenger with a lovely wedgewood plate, which was small, but nice.We found a beautiful maiden voyage certificate in the bookshop that sold for $10.00. Passengers finally received a plain one near the end of the trip ( and after many complaints ) that resembled the NY State death certificate. Prices on the few maiden voyage items were exorbitant as well. $25.00 for a hat and $39.00 for a t-shirt, I passed on those items. Cunard certainly did not make one feel that they were special and that this was "THE" maiden voyage such as ONE passenger list per cabin instead of one passenger list per person. The final slap being a special menu folder reserved for only a few people to take home. We certainly paid extra as this was touted as "THE" big event, but we didn't get rewarded for being there. When we prepared to disembark, there was one last annoyance. We were held aboard much later than had been announced, and my luggage, as well as many other people's, had disappeared. Was it on the forklift that we saw dump many suitcases onto the dockside? Maybe. I found one suitcase in the wrong area, but no sign of the rest. I missed my flight while searching for an hour. My friend Jim did as well.We arrived home around midnight and the luggage arrived a few days later. It was not wrapped in any plastic and was dumped into the snow. I was surprised to find many rips in it as well. To sum it all up, I expected more of Cunard and the ship it billed as the "greatest ocean liner of our times." Was I satisfied with the experience? Yes and no. I had a good time despite the voyage, not because of the voyage! It was not at all as I expected it would be or more importantly, what was advertised. Hopefully, Cunard will invest more money in these areas so others do not experience what we did on the maiden voyage. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
Overview -- This was our 4th cruise and since we choose our cruises based on the itinerary, we just couldn't pass on this one. As soon as I heard about this inter island Hawaii itinerary I told my husband I had to go on it. Before ... Read More
Overview -- This was our 4th cruise and since we choose our cruises based on the itinerary, we just couldn't pass on this one. As soon as I heard about this inter island Hawaii itinerary I told my husband I had to go on it. Before booking this cruise I had read horrible reviews of this ship on cruisecritic.com so I was well aware that there would likely be some shortcomings compared to our last cruise 3 years ago on the Celebrity Infinity. Despite 4 days of rain, the beauty of the destination and great itinerary made up for all the shortcomings of the ship and service. Embarkation -- A breeze. Just make sure you go in the late afternoon. Most of the other passengers we talked to flew in a day or 2 before the embarkation date. Take the morning to sightsee in Honolulu -- there's so much to see and do. We were lucky to have 3 days in Honolulu after the cruise, and we felt it still wasn't enough to see everything in Oahu. Cabin -- 8106 Inside Forward. There were no outside cabins available when we booked. The cabins are the smallest of any of our cruises, but the location was convenient and quiet. The decor is not to my taste, but was bright and cheerful. The bed was firmer than we would have liked. I really liked having the small fridge in the cabin. We ended up buying Coke, water and orange juice (yeah we didn't like the OJ on board and bought Tropicana) at the Wal-Mart in port and stashing it in our fridge. Dining/Food -- My husband and I really loved the Freestyle dining concept and not having to pack a formal outfit that would only be worn once or twice. However, it appeared that some of the logistics around this idea needed to be tweaked. It was most noticeable on days when it rained and the day we set sail at 1:00 p.m. from Kuaui. On these days of course everyone wanted to eat in the dining room and this caused long waits for a table. The food does not compare to Celebrity at all. In general the food was OK. We ate breakfast and lunch mainly in the Hukilau Cafe and dinner mainly in one of the main dining rooms. The desserts were very mediocre and in fact, one of our servers mentioned that most of the desserts came out of a box! What a difference from the French-style pastries on Celebrity. Recommendation -- for those who enjoy the fixed seating and ensuring they're served by the same people every night -- you can make arrangements for this at the beginning of the cruise. This is not mentioned anywhere on any of the literature. Drinks -- This annoyed me the most. We were in the Longboard lounge to get something to eat -- btw this was the only place you can get food between 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. other than room service -- and ordered a couple of nonalcoholic slushy drinks. When we got the bill, it was $2.45 each more than on the drink card. When I asked the bar waitress, she said it was because of the Souvenir Glass. I didn't ask for a Souvenir Glass. She said they assumed you wanted the Souvenir Glass unless you state otherwise. To me this is negative option billing and should be illegal -- what a rip-off! If you order a lot of blended drinks, make sure you tell them you DON'T want the Souvenir Glass. Most of the time you won't have the room in your luggage to be able to take it home. Entertainment -- Was comparable to other cruises we've been on. I really liked the idea of the Polynesian show and recognize the need to keep the culture alive; however, the show needed some more oomph. Ports of Call and Excursions -- Fabulous. This is what we came for -- to be able to island hop and see the highlights without having to pack and unpack and board a plane! Unfortunately some of our sightseeing was hampered by the weather -- we saw only fog at the Waimea Canyon lookout on Kuaui. But for anyone who's interested in volcanoes and lava, I would highly recommend the lava view hiking adventure. Seeing red hot lava was just awesome. And we got a treat with the view of the lava flowing into the sea from the ship at 10:30 p.m. that night. It must have been better than usual since it was reported on CNN the next morning! It was also exciting to see whales and dolphins from the ship. BTW if you forget to pack some things like toiletries, there's plenty of opportunity to pick them up at the Wal-Mart or K mart. All ports except Maui had free shuttles to take you to there. Gratuities -- Totally confusing and annoying. NCL really needs to iron this one out. All the literature that we received said that there would be an automatic charge of $10/person/day to the shipboard account. We first found out that it seemed the norm is to tip in the dining room every night because of the Freestyle dining, then we find out on the 5th or 6th day that the automatic charge was not being done, so we then had to make sure we had some cash for our cabin steward. This is probably no big deal to most of the passengers, but is very inconvenient for the non-American passengers who may not have brought enough cash. ATM withdrawals are foreign transactions and incur extra service charges. Summary -- There is no other paradise like the Hawaiian Islands. If NCL can iron out the logistics and service issues, this would be an incomparable vacation. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
Seabourn Legend, Transatlantic Crossing 2003 By CruiserDan The Ship Having Cruised Seabourn Legend in February, I was pleased to see that the carpet had been replaced and CD players had been installed in the suites. The ship sparkled! ... Read More
Seabourn Legend, Transatlantic Crossing 2003 By CruiserDan The Ship Having Cruised Seabourn Legend in February, I was pleased to see that the carpet had been replaced and CD players had been installed in the suites. The ship sparkled! The crew diligently worked hard to keep the ship looking its best at all times. The Staff What can I say? The staff and crew on Seabourn are some of the very best at sea. They go out of their way to make sure the guest is always happy and satisfied, and strive to call you by name at all times. Please notice I used the word "guest", not "passenger". On the Legend, you feel like you belong to the Seabourn "family". This is an edge that Seabourn has enjoyed over its competition. You cannot put a value on the "feeling" that Seabourn is able to convey to their guests. The entertainment staff, including Dan Hodge (Cruise Director), Helen and Amanda (Assistant Cruise Directors) are some of the best at sea. They compliment each other, whether performing, hosting trivia, golf etc., or mingling with the guests. The other musicians were excellent. The only weak link, in my opinion, was Leonard, the Club piano player/singer. He wasn't able to play several standard requests, and his voice was a bit weak. He also didn't interact with the guests very much. Bruce Tilden (previous piano entertainer) was missed. The crew was as professional as always. Captain Gier- Arne Thue Nilsen is always a pleasure to sail with. He is very approachable, and has a tremendous sense of humor. The Hotel Manager Guenter Steinbrunner seemed to have the ships guests as the top of his priority list. He can be described as professional, approachable and very capable of his varied duties. The Maitre D'Hotel, Gerald Hauswirth, did need some improvement on his communication skills. The first night, we arrived at dinner with our traveling companions, a party of 6, and were asked if we had reservations. We were told we must have reservations for a party of 5 or more. This was a first on Seabourn. Later in the cruise, he explained that he wanted only to make sure a table would be ready for a large party. I understood, and we agreed that there was a misunderstanding at the offset. All is good. The Dining Room and Verandah Experience The Verandah for breakfast and lunch was always a pleasure. The waitstaff, especially Allison, Leon, Curtis, Robert and Lucca, were the best. They aimed to please. The food in the Verandah was always hot and excellent. I can't say enough for Seabourn's offering of soup during lunch. Fantastic! Wine flows flawlessly. I did not experience the Dining room for breakfast. Only at the Galley tour did I experience the Dining room for lunch. At dinner, during the beginning of the cruise, the service was a bit slow and spotty. This problem seemed to iron itself out as the cruise continued. The food however, was usually excellent. The only constructive criticism I might have would be that the food was too salty. This was a sentiment many guests conveyed. I find European chefs tend to over-salt. Wine was excellent, and other than our initial experience with our party of 6, tables were ready for us when we arrived. Cabin Service and Suite Our cabin Stewardess, Jenny, was lovely. (I think "lovely" is a pre-requisite to working as a stewardess on Seabourn) She did a beautiful, thorough job. In the past, our suite was always made up during breakfast. On this cruise, sometimes we would wait until almost noon. Not a big deal, only different from past cruises. The suite was the standard Seabourn suite, with amenities like a stocked mini-bar/refrigerator, CD player with a complimentary Seabourn CD, offering a collection of jazz tunes, and a variety of soaps and bath items. Always a pleasure to sail in a Seabourn suite. Our friends enjoyed one of the Owners suites. It was beautifully appointed with a separate bedroom, dining area, living room and deck. We took advantage of their suite, and hosted an entertaining party on the first formal night. Special Events The evening under the stars was magnificent. The food was excellent, and the service was exquisite. By that time, we had made so many friends, the waiters put 6 tables together on the upper deck, and we all socialized and watched the show below. It was something to remember. The Galley tour was disappointing. By the time trivia was over, the food seemed to be picked over, and the servers in the galley were sparse. Some of our favorites were not offered. (Fondue especially). Not as eventful as cruises past. Dan Hodge hosted the well-attended putting contests by the Sky Bar. The staff and crew had a tug-of-war on deck (fun). Trivia, by far, was the most fun on board. It seemed half the ship participated. We all took it a bit too seriously, which made the competition fierce. Everyone "won" a prize the last day. By far the best trivia competition ever, on Seabourn. The Spa, Gym and Boutique Although I did not use the Spa services, several friends indicated that they were pleased with most of the offerings. I used the sauna and steam room, which were adequate for a small ship. The gym boasted several new weight machines. I work out on a very regular basis, and was glad to see the upgraded gym equipment. The boutique had a very limited selection of offerings. Gone were casual t-shirts with the Seabourn logo. Very missed. A friend and I both decided on a crystal statue, only to find out that only 1 was available. I understand that the boutique is being run by a new concession to please more people. If that is the case, the stock must be available on board, throughout the cruise. The Passengers Every cruise is different. The cruiseline can do everything in their power to make the cruise special, but in the end, the mix of passengers can make or break the cruise. This cruise had such a magical mix of people. It felt like so many of us were on a family reunion. This being my 3rd transatlantic cruise, it was so nice to see so many friends on board. There was so much comradery. Finding an interesting person(s) to talk to was never a problem. I brought books to read, and never even cracked them open. I can only wish that every cruise in the future have such great people aboard. Finally This cruise was truly a magical one. Old and new friends, great staff and crew, and truly outstanding memories. I have never had a bad Seabourn cruise. (This being my eighth) This cruise, however, was right up there at the top. I hope you enjoyed my opinion of the Seabourn Legend Transatlantic Crossing 2003. CruiserDan Read Less
Sail Date November 2003
Celebrity Millennium October-November 2003 Transatlantic Crossing This was our fourth cruise with Celebrity. Overall rating was fair. - Approximately 70 passenger bags never boarded. Some came on days later and three bags came on 10 ... Read More
Celebrity Millennium October-November 2003 Transatlantic Crossing This was our fourth cruise with Celebrity. Overall rating was fair. - Approximately 70 passenger bags never boarded. Some came on days later and three bags came on 10 days later. - The ship had food shortages. Milk, bananas, prunes, berries. - The ship docked in Ft. Lauderdale at 10pm, the evening before our Sunday 7am scheduled arrival due to replacement of transformers. The work was commenced immediately upon docking and the noise level was unbearable. - One guest the second night got a shard of glass in his soup and was given an apology and 6 chocolate covered strawberries as satisfaction. - Captain's club members were not given priority debarkation at all times and on the final day some were forced to stay on board until other "baggage colors " called. - Food was average. The buffet was poor. The morning and luncheon in the Metropolitan restaurant was spotty. It seemed like 1/2 of the waiters were not at all attentive. Many passengers noted this and said the crew looked and acted tired. - Entertainment was also fair with one exception Scott Record, a comedian. - Casino was the worst I have ever experienced. The slots were so tight with any payment far and few. Most people avoided this venue. - Guest activities at best a hodge podge. Meaning there were few events and they often conflicted. Given a 5-day crossing they need to provide many more activities. Highlites were Bingo, Cartwrites series on ships, the computer classes, the investment banking seminar (however it was way too basic). - Olympic restaurant ($25.00) per person additional charge was well worth it. - The outdoor pool water was not heated. - Cabin pricing: Celebrity's pricing is similar to the airlines. Depends upon who you call and time of day. Many people seem to know the angles and book a "low-cost" room and then complain and get upgraded. This practice is very unfair. - Shore excursions were very good and generally well run. The only complaint is that a certain tour guide took the right front seat making the paying guest sit behind, even though space was provided on the steps for the guide. - Spa services were very good.  We were in a Concierge cabin. The service by our room attendant was good although he offered no additional services as we received on a previous cruise in a non- concierge cabin. The only exception was Hor'D at 5pm which were tasteless and poorly presented. I will say that our embarkation was very good. Read Less
Sail Date October 2003
Just returned from a voyage on Pride of America. After reading previous reviews I went with low expectations and came back with mixed personal opinions. Pride of America is a beautiful ship and is certainly an upgrade from my previous ... Read More
Just returned from a voyage on Pride of America. After reading previous reviews I went with low expectations and came back with mixed personal opinions. Pride of America is a beautiful ship and is certainly an upgrade from my previous Hawaii cruise on the Hawaii American Cruise Line about twelve years ago. (They no longer exist). There were some things I really liked. Getting on and off the ship was a pleasant and quick experience. We (3 couples) booked two nights at the Marriott Wakiki Beach Resort prior to sailing to adjust to the time difference between Hawaii and the east coast of the mainland. Nice hotel and best of all had an NCL office where we could do all our pre-board registration which really made getting on the ship an easy process. There was a fairly long line for those who did not go through that process. It is a small office, however, and if there was a line it sometimes appeared to take a long time to get served. We had a standard balcony cabin. Small but adequate since we spent little time in the cabin. It was obvious they did not take great care in cleaning the cabins during the change over between one group leaving and another coming on board. One of our couples found shoes under the bed and the cabin was not very clean. My cabin was fine except for missing wash cloths which appeared after dinner. We later found out the cabin stewards are not only responsible for cleaning 14 cabins but also have to help move luggage. NCL needs to rethink the whole changeover process. Dining was an interesting experience. Service varied from night to night. We never did the alternate dining experiences since except for one meal (breakfast)in the Cadillac (didn't go back because of slow service). Did not feel we should pay extra for a meal. The main dining rooms were beautifully decorated however the service was inconsistent. Mostly a very young staff who did not appear to be well trained. Sometimes service was quick and efficient and at other times slow and poor. The wait staff was very pleasant and accommodating but NCL needs to train better. Some of the food was great while some was not so good. Usually had four entrees that were different each night and an additional four that stayed the same. The Aloha Cafe (buffet) was OK and offered a good variety. Overall the food was good but not great. I have cruised before and remember telling everyone about the great dining. Not so this time. We are not drinkers so I can't say much about the bars except I ordered on drink and waited 20 minutes to get it and another time they had a drink special but when I ordered it they were out of the mix. Sodas!! I don't personally think you should have to pay for soda when tea, iced tea, lemonade and coffee are included but it seems to be an industry standard. You can buy a sticker to put on you cabin card for which you pay around $35, which we did, but found out we could not drink that much soda in seven days to make up the cost. All of the shore excursions were very good. We did at least one each day and two on one day. Be sure to book in advance. Sometimes sold out and the lines on the ship at the excursion desk were long the first couple of days. I booked on-line and had some difficulties. I found out the excursion staff at NCL in Miami doesn't seem to know what they are talking about since they booked us on a couple of tours that when we got on board the ship found out we could not go on them because they were too close together in timing since you need at least 45 minutes between tours which is something they don't tell you anywhere that I could find. The excursions are somewhat expensive and NCL charges $15 to $25 more than if you booked them on your own but they also eliminate the hassle of booking your own. It was worth the cost to me. We did a helicopter ride ($299 per person- WOW!) which was spectacular. They charge you 1.5 times if you are over 250 pounds and they weigh everyone who says they are over 200 lbs. The only objection is they weigh you in the main lobby next to the excursion desk. Tacky!! One of our party was weighed in at 251 and charged the extra. When he got to the helicopter terminal he was weighed again and weighed 238. He did get a refund. Entertainment was good. I am a musician and I liked all of the musical productions. It beats watching CNN in your cabin. My over all impression was NCL has a corner on the market and knows that most people only do this once in a lifetime so they could perhaps get away with cutting corners. They did a great job in some aspects of the cruise and in others they need to work on training and quality. However, I would recommend doing the cruise since it is, in my opinion, the best way to see Hawaii and hope NCL gets the message that quality,training, and first impressions do matter. Read Less
Sail Date September 2003
Serenade of the Seas—Pre-inaugural Cruise Aug. 12-14, 2003 I was invited on the pre-inaugural cruise of the Serenade of the Seas from Boston, and while this cruise did not visit any ports I wanted to post a review of the ship and ... Read More
Serenade of the Seas—Pre-inaugural Cruise Aug. 12-14, 2003 I was invited on the pre-inaugural cruise of the Serenade of the Seas from Boston, and while this cruise did not visit any ports I wanted to post a review of the ship and onboard services. I have been fortunate enough to have sailed on every Royal Caribbean ship, and I must say that the Serenade is by far the prettiest ship in the fleet. RCI has done an outstanding job with the dEcor and layout. This ship combines rich wood, plush carpets and furnishings with an outstanding collection of artwork throughout the ship. Having only been on the ship for 2 days, it was impossible to view all the artwork and details that make up this ship. Deck 2 and 3 contain passenger cabins. Deck 4 is where you'll find the Lobby Bar, RCI Online, Guest Relations and Explorations Desks as well as the lower level of Reflections Main Dining Room. Reflections Main Dining room is nicely decorated in tones of gold, red and burnt orange. The areas on the sides near the windows are accented by dark wood beams and columns which give a more intimate feel. The silk tapestries that flank both sides of the main dining area give the room a smaller feel, as you can't see the balcony of the upper level. The Lobby Bar is a nice place to sit, have a drink and listen to the music played by a variety of onboard entertainers. When live music isn't being played the player piano gently plays soft background music. The Tropical Showroom spans Decks 4,5 and 6. Deck 5 is the upper level of Reflections Dining Room, Latte-tudes coffee bar, the Shops of the Centrum, Photo and Art Gallery, Conference Center and the Tropical Showroom's main level. Latte-tudes coffee bar was quite popular on this cruise, and with only 2 crew members manning the counter the lines were often quite long and slow moving. I suspect this was due to the fact that everything onboard this cruise was complimentary. I would assume that on regular "revenue" cruises, the lines would be less lengthy. Adjacent to Latte-tudes is a nice sitting area with comfortable chairs and couches as well as several internet stations. The Shops were well laid out and offered the usual wares. Prices were average. The Photo and Art Gallery was nicely laid out and did not cause any "bottle necks" when the traffic increased through the area on the way to the main showroom. Deck 6 is where you'll find the Safari Club (Colony Club on Radiance and Brilliance). The Schooner Bar, Chops and Portofino restaurants, the Champagne Bar, Casino Royal, Cinema, The Pit Stop Sports Bar and the upper level of the Tropical Showroom. The Safari Club is laid out exactly like the Colony Club, however it's dEcor is more like an upscale African Lodge rather then the British Social club dEcor of the Colony Clubs. The 2 self leveling pool tables are at the entrance, there are 2 bars in the "main" club. This was a very nice lounge to enjoy a drink, and look over the wake of the ship. They held various events, game shows, karokee etc. Each night a live band played music for several hours. The Schooner Bar is typical of any other RCI ship and had nightly entertainment by either a piano player or a Latin guitarist. Directly off the Schooner Bar is Chops and Portofino's. Chops is richly decorated in warm earth tones with an open kitchen for added entertainment. Portofino's is decorated in light colors with murals on 2 walls. The Champagne Bar has a nice size bar and lots of seating near the windows. Casino Royal is quite large and has a nice sized bar located directly in the center. There are lots of slot machines and there seemed to be an adequate number of blackjack and craps tables to satisfy everyone onboard. Directly behind the Casino is the Pit Stop Sports Bar with large circular bar, several small seating areas and plenty of large, plasma screen TV's to keep an eye on multiple sporting events. The Cinema was small but had stadium style seating for a clear view of the screen from any seat. The Tropical Showroom spans 3 decks and is a well laid out and comfortable room. This area is decorated in tones of yellow, gold, green and blue. The dark wood accents adorn the walls and the beaded curtain adds some dazzle to the room. The seating is comfortable and allows enough legroom for someone over 6 feet tall to sit comfortably. There are great sight lines, however some balcony seats may have an obstruction from the support pillars. The 2 production shows we saw were very good—the singers were some of the best I've seen on any cruise. Decks 7, 8, 9 and 10 contain mostly passenger cabins. Deck 8 houses the Explorer's Court, a quite place to sit and read. The Library is on Deck 9 and while small, it looked like a comfortable room to sit and read. The Yacht Club and Concierge Lounge are on Deck 10. Both rooms are small yet functional. Deck 11 houses the ShipShape Spa, Solarium, Main Pool and Windjammer Cafe. The Spa had several treatment rooms, all with private windows looking out across the ocean. The Thermal Suite offers dry and wet saunas, aroma-therapy and heated loungers. The Solarium is a beautiful, lush area to relax. Several padded loungers surround the pool and hot tubs. There is also a bar and small cafe located inside. The Solarium is reserved for adults only. The Main Pool is surrounded by 2 hot tubs. The Windjammer has several food stations and is well laid out. Each station had a different offering and allowed for smooth traffic flow. Just behind the Windjammer is a covered outdoor seating area where you could dine al fresco and watch the wake of the ship. Deck 12 is the main sports deck onboard. The ShipShape Center is laid out nicely, with the aerobic area in the center of the space surrounded by various treadmills, stairmaster and weight training machines. The Sky Bar is a nice place to have a drink and is 1 level above the main pool so you can still hear the music being played below. Also located on Deck 12 is the video arcade, Fuel teen's disco, Adventure Ocean, kids pool and slide, Basketball court, Golf and Sports area and the Seaview Cafe. The children's facilities onboard are very nice and looked like it would be fun to be a kid again. The Seaview Cafe is tucked away on the side of the ship, and once found offered an excellent alternative for a quick snack or lunch. Deck 13 contains the Mini-golf course and the Viking Crown Lounge. The Viking Crown is broken up into several smaller lounges, including the Vortex Disco complete with revolving bar, and the Hollywood Odyssey jazz lounge which is also the nightly cigar bar. Cabins—as this was a special cruise, they had 1 cabin from each category open for viewing. Each cabin was nicely decorated and richly appointed with wood accents and nice fabrics. The cabins were compact but functional and the bathrooms have replaced the shower curtain for sliding doors. Food—The food was excellent. We ate in the main dining room each night and had breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer and Seaview Cafe's. Service—The crew onboard were taken from various ships in the fleet and were the typical friendly, fun and efficient crew RCI is famous for. Nothing was too much trouble and you were always greeted with a smile and a "hello" from every member of the crew from the Captain down to the maintenance workers. Summary—I would not hesitate to sail on this beautiful ship again. As a matter of fact I have several cabins booked on her to Alaska in July 2004. The Serenade of the Seas is truly a work of art, and a ship RCI should be proud of. I took over 130 pics while onboard and once I get them developed I will post the link. Happy Sailing!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2003
I sailed on the NCL Dawn on her repositioning cruise May 3rd to May 17th 2003, Miami to NYC. I will start with embarkation seeing that's where it all started for my wife and I, We got at the pier around 1:45pm and after a long line to ... Read More
I sailed on the NCL Dawn on her repositioning cruise May 3rd to May 17th 2003, Miami to NYC. I will start with embarkation seeing that's where it all started for my wife and I, We got at the pier around 1:45pm and after a long line to get to the first counter were we showed our ID's and got our account opened then to the next room where we had to fill out more forms (there should be a way to fill ALL forms out before you get there)and then through security and to the ship, It took about 1 hour and 15 min. to get to our room it was the longest time I have spent getting on a ship I don't know why they run things like they do other cruise lines seem to have it down NCL needs a little work on this! Our bags got to our room at 4:00pm pretty fast for any cruise line I have been on and this is our 5th cruise line. The biggest pain in the rear is always the life boat drill but this one was well organized and went very quickly. The food was above average and gave more choices than any other cruise ship I have ever been on! We ate at all the places (10) all where very good. Cagneys steak house wasn't my cup of tea but great service we didn't go there but one time at $17.50 to $25.00 per person extra charge it was no better than the free food and the Lobster was much better at LeBistro and cost less to go there! The best place we eat at was Teppenyaki and it was great the service in the Bamboo area was Perfect! Salsa restaurant was free and really good food with great (Marilenea) service! Aqua was run by all women and was great also. Venetian and Impressions was the same food different view. There free food was so good though that I felt next time I go on this ship I wont spend so much money on the restaurants that cost extra! Our room was a mini suite room #11128 deck 11 midship starboard side. It was very comfortable and the room service was great Santiago and Roselle were both hard working and nice! I never had a problem with the accommodations, The only thing I have to complain about was that we didn't have a remote control for the TV! But the bathroom was larger than average and has separate sliding glass doors for each area, the verandah was nice and private. Room service was fast and friendly! It only took about 5 min. to get iced tea or coffee and something to snack on, I ask for strawberries one afternoon for some champagne I wanted to open before dinner and they said that they didn't have that for room service but they would try? in 5 minutes they were at our door strawberries and all! Over all I loved our room. Public rooms were very clean beautiful I love a new ship and this one is in great condition and flows very well from one area to another. Entertainment on board was just OK the first part of the cruise with acts that were so bad that we walked out of them for a stroll around the deck or a drink in on of there many bars, but in week two of our cruise they kicked it up a notch with comedian Jimmy JJ Walker and a great dancer blond goddess! And ballerina shows that were much better! I would give them a 3.5 on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the top. Fitness and workout rooms were great they had alot of tread mills weight machines a spinning class's and an aerobic room, a jogging track around the out side of deck 12. I was at they gym everyday with all the good food! Disembarkation was a nightmare! I really enjoyed the 14 days cruise with really no problems and we really gave them a great review on there cards but when we were disembarking all hell broke lose and there seemed to be NO organization what so ever we all were crammed together in the hall ways with people struggling to get through because we were late clearing customs! It's amazing that we were the first of four cruise ships at the port that morning I know I was up taking pictures of us coming in to NYC but we were the last to be cleared? I am not sure who's fault it is NYC or NCL? anyway we got our bags and were sent out to fight and I mean fight to get on a bus to the airport! Everyone had transfers through NCL to the different airports and no one seemed to know when they would be there and wear they would come to I couldn't believe it! We missed our flight and had to find another one leaving at 9:00pm that night to go to Orlando, we got home that night about 2:30AM what a nightmare! Overall I would give the ship food and service a 9 out of 10 even though the last day was hell I can't punish the crew for the cruiselines failure to organize a better system! Read Less
Sail Date May 2003
My partner and I took the 7-day cruise on Norwegian Caribbean Lines' "Norwegian Star" in early January 2003. This was our first cruise on NCL. The Star is an attractive new ship; we had a great time, and are glad we went. ... Read More
My partner and I took the 7-day cruise on Norwegian Caribbean Lines' "Norwegian Star" in early January 2003. This was our first cruise on NCL. The Star is an attractive new ship; we had a great time, and are glad we went. However, we probably won't be back on NCL anytime soon. Read on to see if this cruise is for you. We're a gay couple from the West coast, both around 40 years old. We travel to relax first and to see new sights second. We've cruised on Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and now Norwegian. We're both very partial to Celebrity, and I'll try to make comparisons when appropriate to help you understand where we're coming from. As I said, we had a great time, and the things that we did not enjoy might not matter to you. Everyone has different tastes, which is why there are different cruise lines. I'll try to break this review up by subject, rather than a day-by-day description. First, the itinerary. As you should already be aware if you're considering this cruise, you shouldn't expect to get a real sense of the Hawaiian islands from this cruise. The port stops are even shorter than usual for a cruise, due to the need to sail 1,200 miles south to the Fanning Islands and back in order to comply with US shipping law. I understand that NCL is trying to get an exception from this law, which would significantly change the experience of this cruise. My partner and I particularly enjoy days at sea, so we didn't mind at all, but others complained about spending so much time in transit. Until the law changes, if you really want to see Hawaii, plan to spend some time in the islands before or after the cruise. Pre-cruise: We arrived a day in advance, as is recommended for any cruise. There's a bus transfer from the airport to all Waikiki hotels for only $7 per person, which runs every half hour. A taxi to Waikiki would be about $35-40. Just walk across to the middle island from the baggage claim carousel, and ask one of the attendants. You can pay on the bus, and there's a savings of a dollar or so if you pay for a roundtrip. We used it at the beginning and the end, it was on time, and the drivers were both very professional and efficient. Plus, you get a little tour of Waikiki as they drop off other guests. We stayed at the Marriott on Waikiki, which is almost at the far east end of the beach. We were there because my partner works for Marriott and could get a good deal, but it's actually a nice hotel in a good location. Because it's at the end of the "strip" the beach and the streets around it aren't as crowded as they are further west. It's only a block from a lovely park, which includes the Honolulu zoo, so it might be of special interest to families with children. There are several restaurants, including a roofdeck bar/restaurant overlooking the beach that had good live music. There are two pools and lots of sunning space. The hotel has two towers, and we were in the taller one set back behind the front one. It appears that the rear tower is actually newer and nicer and the upper level rooms all have balconies with views. We had a gorgeous view of Diamond Head from our room. We relaxed after our flight, walked along the beach as they lit the gas "tiki" torches, and had a cocktail while we watched the orange sunset. What a romantic welcome to Hawaii! The next morning, we were up early due to the time difference, breakfasted on our balcony, and went to workout. There's a 24 Hour Fitness gym on the second story of a building overlooking the beach in the middle of the "strip". It's a great place to workout and watch the surf (and the passing crowds). I'm a member of the chain, but I think a day pass is $15, and less if your hotel has an arrangement with them. Boarding: We figure that the ship is the main destination on a cruise, so we try to board as early as possible in order to check it out, have lunch, and be the first ones at the pool or reading a book on the promenade deck. We took a taxi to the terminal ($25 - it's not that close to Waikiki) and were at the terminal before noon. The baggage checkin was efficient, and the lines weren't too bad. After verifying our information and getting our cruise cards, we were up the escalator, had our picture taken and were on the gangway within half an hour of arriving. Comparison: Both NCL and Celebrity have special lines during check-in for their return guests, "Latitude" for NCL and "Captain's Club" for Celebrity. It makes a difference in speed and treatment on Celebrity. I couldn't tell whether the Latitude guests were moving faster, as there were so few of us checking in at the time. Boarding the ship itself was our first introduction to NCL's inefficient people-moving process. I've read similar comments on other reviews, and we experienced it occasionally during our cruise. It appeared that no one was in charge, and after our cards were "swiped" on the computer we were standing in the lobby area for about ten minutes with a growing crowd. We were told someone would be coming to escort us, but I finally asked if we could just go on, as I knew where our cabins were. Comparison: Celebrity has white-gloved staff lined up waiting to escort you to the cabin. They take you all the way to the cabin and make sure your card works in the door. Cabin: We had a handicapped balcony cabin on the 9th deck, port side, aft. Neither of us is handicapped, but we booked a balcony cabin only a few weeks before the cruise, and this is what we were assigned. When I realized what had happened, I talked to our travel agent because I didn't want to prevent someone who really needed the cabin from being able to reserve it. He laughed and just told us to enjoy it. When we walked in we understood what he meant: in order to accommodate wheelchair users, the handicapped cabins are larger than normal. The bathrooms are also much larger, and have a large shower. We ended up with a cabin the size of a mini-suite for the price of a normal outside cabin. Like all the cabins on the Star, ours had nice, cherry-look paneling, matching furniture with metal legs which reminded me a lot of grade-school tables and chairs. Unlike most cruise ship cabins, the refrigerator and TV aren't built in, but are just stacked in a corner. The refrigerator was empty - whatever happened to the idea of a mini-bar? I thought they could make money that way, and also make it more convenient for guests. The desk, closet and shelves are built in. The bathroom had a sink rather than a vanity, although I don't know if that was only for our handicapped cabin. There were only a few narrow glass shelves. As a result, there weren't enough flat surfaces to put our things on, and we don't have THAT many toiletries! Also, a small point, but there were drinking glasses in the bathroom that don't fit the holders, so I was always afraid they'd end up falling on the tile floor and shattering. The carpet and bedspread are very bright colors, but otherwise it's a nicely decorated cabin. The balcony was wider than those of other cabins, to match the cabin, but no deeper. Still, it had two plastic chairs, one reclining, and a cocktail table. Comparison: Celebrity also uses a wood-look paneling in most of their cabins. The colors are generally more subtle, and there's more of a sense of finish, with a small loveseat in all cabins, glass cocktail table, and the TV and refrigerator are all built-in. Also, Celebrity provides terry cloth robes in all cabins, which I have never seen on other cruiselines. We had a bowl of fresh fruit and a nice bottle of wine from our travel agent - thanks Stan! (aka "Stan the Cruise Man") DEcor: As I mentioned above, I think of the ship as the destination on a cruise, and the dEcor partly sets the tone for the week. Here, we found NCL Star was a little glitzier than our taste, but it was generally pretty well done. Probably the most garish area was the pool, with giant twin yellow plastic slides into the pool and towering green plastic palm trees that were lit from within at night. As I mentioned, the cabins have bright carpeting and bedspreads to offset wood paneling. The atrium lobby has a good deal of shiny brass and tracer lights, with marble floors and plants. Think of an upscale shopping mall. The theme restaurants are all decorated differently to correspond to their theme, and generally well done (more on the restaurants later). The stair wells had some interesting modern pieces in the landings and the use of wood paneling tied everything together pretty well. Probably the nicest space on the ship is the two-story Gatsby's lounge outside the Bistro and Soho specialty restaurants and below the Ginza restaurant: It had an art-deco theme, with a set of bronze panels depicting modes of travel through the ages, and several oversized deco-style paintings of cosmopolitan partiers. We usually ended up there every night for a drink and to listen to the piano player. Restaurants: NCL has moved entirely to a dine-when-you-want-where you want policy they call "Freestyle Dining". On the Star, they have 10 places to dine, and we tried all of the nicer ones through the course of the week. My partner is vegetarian, and we're not burgers and fries-type people anyway, so we didn't try the poolside grill, the 50's diner style Blue Lagoon, or the Italian style La Trattoria, which is really a section of the buffet which is sectioned off at night and has red checkered tablecloths and candles. We also didn't try Ginza, since Japanese food seldom has vegetarian options, although the space looked very elegant and they were busy most nights. In general, we found the food was average to good, but the service was mostly just average. Several points: there are no sommeliers, except in the Bistro French restaurant. The wait staff doesn't appear to know wines at all, and we were reduced to giving the waiter the number off the wine list to get the wine we wanted. Also, the wait staff seemed to assume we were in a hurry, and kept our courses coming with no break. We figured this out after a couple of meals and learned to tell the waitperson as we were being seated that we prefer to linger and not to be rushed. We never had a problem getting a table for two in the non-reservation restaurants, even at peak times. The host would tell us there would be a 15 minute wait for two and would ask if we'd be willing to join others at a larger table. We'd decline and say we'd prefer to wait for a table for two, and we were then seated immediately. Now I'll give my impressions of the various restaurants in which we dined. Market Cafe (Buffet) Deck 12 aft: We only ate in the buffet for lunch, so we can't speak to either breakfast or dinner service there. The buffet is large and has good traffic flow, with entrances from both the rear and mid-ship elevators. There is plenty of seating and we never had trouble finding a table near the floor to ceiling windows. There is a good variety of food, including salads, hot and cold dishes including fish and other "healthy" choices, but the deserts were a little lacking (think Jello) Celebrity has a variety of fresh pastries, along with cakes and pies. We were impressed to see that NCL had an entire section of the buffet that is vegetarian, with pastas, Indian dishes, and different steamed or grilled vegetables. My partner is vegetarian and we are happy if there are one or two choices. Here, they had a whole section. We also learned that it was easier to find a seat near the vegetarian section as most guests were going for the normal food. Comparison: NCL puts out food in big colored plastic bowls that look like Tupperware ® which weren't refilled right away. Celebrity uses polished stainless steel trays and bowls that are artfully garnished and are refreshed frequently. On NCL you picked up your own tray, cutlery, and a napkin; on Celebrity a waiter puts a linen cloth on a tray, with a roll of cutlery and a cloth napkin, and hands it to you. You get the idea. Versailles Main Restaurant - Deck 6 aft: We ate in the Versailles for dinner on the first night of our cruise, once for lunch and for breakfast on two mornings. NCL was going for a pseudo-French look that could more easily be called English Country House, with wood paneling and fabric on the walls and gilt on the railings and the high ceiling. There were lots of tables for two and four. There are large windows in the back and in a portion of the sides. There are also raised areas with tables that allow diners seated in the middle to enjoy the views even though they're seated away from the windows. On the first night we asked to be seated in the back of the room right against the large windows overlooking the stern so we could see the sail-away. The rumble of the propellers and the movement as the ship pushes away is always a dramatic moment. Due to the waiter rushing dinner (see above) we were having desert and coffee before the ship had sailed, so we literally had to sip coffee for a half hour until we could watch Honolulu disappear in the distance. The wait was worth it for the view. The food was fine, well presented, but brought out too quickly by a waiter who was distracted. NCL always had one vegetarian option on all their restaurants' menus. Celebrity, by contrast, creates a separate vegetarian menu each night with several choices not on the main menu. We were impressed with breakfast the two days we ate in Versailles: a wide variety of choices served well. Breakfast is a meal that I don't mind having served quickly! The breakfast waitstaff was also very good about refreshing coffee and juice, and offering more toast. A design note: there's no where to stand when you're waiting to be seated in the Versailles, as the hostess stand is on the landing in the middle of a flight of stairs. People were sometimes backed up the stairs, holding the railings as the ship moved, which was probably not comfortable for the many older people on board. Aqua Main Restaurant - Deck 6 midship: The other main no-reservation restaurant seemed to have the same menu as Versailles, but was contemporary in design. Unfortunately, it's a large, low-ceiling room and the predominant color is white, so it can feel a little institutional. Still, we ate dinner there twice. Design note: there's a large window into the kitchen, which in many restaurants we've been in is used to display the chefs at work. We made a special request to be seated near the window one night, and realized that you have a view of where they stack the plastic plate covers before the dishes go out. Why doesn't NCL take advantage of the possibilities of their design? Le Bistro French Restaurant - Deck 6 mid-ship: One of the reservation-only, extra charge restaurants, Le Bistro was the only restaurant in which we felt we had truly professional service. We had a knowledgeable waiter who didn't rush us, a friendly host, and a sommelier. We probably spent the longest at dinner here, and truly felt that it was worth the extra charge. The restaurant itself is not large, and is appropriately quiet and softly lit, but the restaurant has windows onto the brightly-lit hallway through which people are passing from the show lounge. NCL has painted "French" looking scenes in the hallway and put "French" style globe streetlights in the hall to try to soften the transition. The Soho Room - Deck 6 mid-ship: NCL's "trendy" reservation-only, extra charge restaurant. We ate here for dinner twice, as the food and its presentation was probably the best of all the restaurants, and the setting is good, with large pop-art paintings, an aquarium in one wall, and large windows to the outside. There's also some separation between the tables, the lighting is subdued and the music is quiet. Although the service did not quite match the setting, we recommend this for anyone who enjoys fresh California-fusion style food. Endless Summer - Deck 8 mid-ship: reservations required, but no extra charge. A big disappointment. Both the food and the service were less than average. The restaurant overlooks the atrium, where a band plays every night. We didn't enjoy the band that much, but at least we got a few laughs about it. You couldn't avoid the band since the tables are arranged in small, curved sections with glass railings that are terraced down toward the lower level. Perhaps because the sections are curving, the tables for two are pretty small and our waiter had trouble fitting all the plates, glasses, etc. on the table. The restaurant is billed as being "authentic Hawaiian", but we couldn't figure out what items on the menu were supposed to be Hawaiian. They should just serve the same food as in Aqua and Versailles and not try to be different. Our waiter appeared to be learning his job. If you're going to eat there at least check which band is playing first! Room service: we usually get room service breakfast so we can have coffee and breakfast before going to work out in the gym. On the Star, room service was always on time and got the orders correct, and they normally called when they were on their way. However, the Star uses plastic plates and mugs, instead of china as on Celebrity. We never ordered room service any other time than breakfast so we can't speak to the quality or the choices. Entertainment: Most nights we ended up in Gatsby's, the piano bar in between Le Bistro and The Soho Room. Mark was the piano player during our cruise, and he's got the ability to play requests, chat with people, learn everyone's name by the second night, and generally make everyone happy. We only went to the large production shows in the Stardust theater, and were impressed by the singers and dancers, as those things go. We learned later in the week that one of the female singers had been sick, which explained some obvious doubling up of singing parts. We watched a movie in the cinema one night, which has good seats, but there was something wrong with the video projector and we were missing part of the picture. The screen also washes out every time the doors are opened. We attended the "Polynesian" cultural show one evening, which combined some actual cultural lessons about Hawaii, Fiji, and the Philippines with a little wink-wink joking about the women in grass skirts and the hunky men with the mostly elderly audience. There were two bands that alternated in the lobby, neither of which was very impressive. There is a great dance band that plays in the Dazzles nightclub. As you should know if you're reading these reviews, there is no casino on the Star, due to Hawaii's laws. Not quite in the category of "entertainment", but we spent a good deal of time during days at sea playing Scrabble in the cardroom and reading in the quiet "writing" room. Both of these rooms have floor to ceiling windows and are lovely places to hide out. During the cruise I finished three books from the small but well-stocked library. Exercise facilities: We work out every day, so a ship's gym is pretty important to us. The gym on board is a good example of the odd design choices on the Star: it's a pretty nice gym as ships go, but it has almost no windows and is poorly lit to boot, making it dark and kind of depressing even though you're cruising in the middle of the sunny Pacific. The only windows are right in front of the exercise bicycles, which look directly out on where overweight people line up to get ice cream. No comment. There were even a few lights that were burned out the entire week of the cruise, which were never replaced. The gym has eight bicycles, treadmills, Stair-steppers, two elliptical trainers, several selectorized weight machines and dumbbells up to 50 lbs. There's an aerobics area that's about 20 by 40 feet. By comparison, Celebrity puts its brightly lit gyms at the front of its ships, with a wall of windows all across the front of the ship. The 10 treadmills face windows, and I remember jogging on the treadmill in the Caribbean as the Millennium was surrounded by a school of dolphins leaping out of the water. On the Star, the ship could be surrounded by dancing whales and you'd never know about it if you were in the dark, sunless gym. There's a walking/running path on the top deck that is separated by a glass wall from the sun loungers above the pool. This is a great idea for joggers, but be careful if you're just strolling and you accidentally enter the path, as you can't get out! There's also a half basketball court between the Garden villas and the funnel that I saw being used occasionally. Port stops: Obviously, your experience in a port will depend on the excursions you choose, so I'll just describe the ones we took. Hilo: On the Big Island, we took the tour to the observatories at the top of Moana Kea instead of visiting the Volcano national park. The observatories are at 14,000 feet, so high that you have to stop part way to acclimatize to the thin air. We left the ship at sea level, in warm sunshine, and drove in a van up to 9,000 feet. The guide described the fascinating landscape as we drove, showing us how to tell the difference between the several kinds of lava fields we saw. At 9,000 feet there is a visitors' center with some exhibits, a gift shop, and a small garden with native plants. Our guide fed us some juice, water and cookies, and basically made sure we all felt OK. After almost an hour, we drove on up to 14,000. At that altitude, there are no plants, no life at all. Moonscape is a good word to describe it. Once at the top, you can see the eight or ten different observatories. You actually go inside the Keck observatory, which is air conditioned to match the temperature of the nighttime air so the delicate machinery isn't affected by any changes in temperature. Even with the hour-long pause at 9,000 feet, we still felt a little light-headed up that high. The air is amazingly pure and clear, and we could see all the way back down to our ship in Hilo, down the other side to Kona, and across the water to Maui. Fanning Island: OK, I admit, we didn't actually get off the ship. The stop itself is pretty short, about five hours, and we're not beach people anyway. As they need to tender guests ashore, it took over an hour to get everyone off. So we just took advantage of the empty ship by lounging by the pool and eating lunch in one of the restaurants. We could see a palm-fringed atoll with white sand beaches that looked picture perfect, but I'm afraid you'll have to read actual descriptions on other reviews. Maui: As we were planning to return to Maui after the cruise, we debated even taking a tour at all. We finally decided to take a whale-watching trip, and were glad we did. There are LOTS of whale-watching trips on Maui, but NCL arranges its tours with the Pacific Whale Foundation, a non-profit group that is staffed by wildlife biologists and others who love the animals and enjoy telling you about them. This is not a booze cruise, and will be appreciated by those who actually want to learn about the whales' habits. We saw a number of spouts and a few tail flips, but no full breaches. Still, we learned a lot during two hours. Kauai: We took a bicycle/snorkel excursion along the Poipu coast. We were actually disappointed in the bike ride, as we never even worked up a sweat. But it was beautiful, and amazing to see how relatively undeveloped Kauai is. We bought some "fish food" while we were suiting up with mask, fins and snorkel, and we became very popular with the fish. If you don't scare easily, I recommend it, as you'll be surrounded by a cloud of multicolored, and apparently very hungry, fish. The trick is to release the food and then back up right away. Ship Design: There are a number of odd design features on the Star that you notice and wonder "why did they do that?" Some of them have to do with designs that block light and views. The dark and windowless gym I've mentioned above. The shops are hidden in the back of Deck 7, and it's all just one big brightly-lit room, like a K-Mart. Not a bad analogy, in fact. Every other ship I've been on strives to make the various shops feel like fine boutiques, and puts them where you have to walk past them to get through the ship. Not NCL. The Spinnaker Lounge at the fore of deck 12 has a prime location at the front of the ship with a wall of windows all around could be a prime viewing spot for whales and Islands, but for the heavy black curtains they've put behind the stage that blocks out the middle third of the view. Celebrity also puts a lounge at the top, front of the ship, but maximizes the view from all the seats in the lounge which makes them very popular spots all day and all evening. I've mentioned the lack of a place to wait to be seated at the Versailles restaurant, and the same is true for Aqua. In addition, neither of them have a bar at the entrance, unlike Celebrity, which puts a champagne/martini bar right at the entrance to the dining rooms. Those bars become popular meeting spots for groups of friends before dinner. The pool deck is terraced up so that all the seats have a great view of the hideous yellow water slides. Also, the ship creaks as it rolls from side to side in open water to the point that we woke up almost every night. We're experienced cruisers, so it wasn't just first-timer's nerves. Summary: You may be asking why I said that my partner and I wouldn't be cruising on NCL again when I've said so many good things about the ship. Basically, the things that are most important to us, fine food and service, a good gym, and a younger and more cosmopolitan crowd, were lacking. The ship is quite beautiful in some ways, and we made our own fun. Watching the waves, reading a good book, and spending quality time with the one you love can make any cruise a pleasure. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date January 2003
My best friend and I cruised on the Pride of Aloha on the inaugural sailing on July 4, 2004. This was our very first cruise and our first time in Hawaii. We were thrilled to be there and had no expectations, especially since I had been ... Read More
My best friend and I cruised on the Pride of Aloha on the inaugural sailing on July 4, 2004. This was our very first cruise and our first time in Hawaii. We were thrilled to be there and had no expectations, especially since I had been reading not-so-positive reviews about the ship from the sailings from California to Hawaii. Embarkation was a little chaos, but we didn't care. All of our luggage, except for one, was waiting for us by the time we reached our room. The last one arrived about 3 hours later, well before we went to bed. We had decided before we even went on this cruise that we were going to DO as much in Hawaii as possible since we were without husbands and our kids. This was going to be an adventurous time and it was. The first day, we went ziplining in Kauai (which I booked on my own and saved over $50.00 per person over what NCL charged). It was fabulous, and I would highly recommend this excursion to everyone. By the time we got back to the ship, we were tired and starved. We ate at the buffet and the food was adequate. No, it was not 5* food, but we didn't care. We just wanted to eat and get ready for the evening show. We didn't want to waste time in the specialty restaurants. Our time was a commodity in Hawaii, and we wanted to spend as many minutes as we could on the actual islands, not on the ship. The second day, we had a very early excursion, and I was extremely disappointed that the breakfast buffet did not open until 6:30 a.m. I grabbed a box of Frosted Flakes and my friend had a cup of tea, and took her own granola bar since there was nothing else to eat. The dining room hours really should open early since there are many up early and leaving the ship. Also, you could never find ice tea except for the first day. I ended up making my own every day by putting hot tea in two glasses of ice. Frustrating, but I didn't care. We went four-wheeling on Kipu Ranch where they filmed Jurassic Park, Hook, Mighty Joe Young, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. My friend actually swung on the same rope Harrison Ford used in Raiders of the Lost Ark at the beginning of the movie. Awesome time. We again came back to the ship, really hungry, and somewhat tired, in just enough time to try the buffet again and get to the show. The buffet items did not change much, but it was okay. I didn't go hungry. The third day, we went hiking on lava fields for 6 miles in Hilo, Hawaii. It was hot and strenuous, but awesome. I actually saw the lava entering the ocean, and our guide was fabulous and very knowledgeable. He led us on up the volcano some until we actually found lava flowing right under our feet. The sight could not be beat. We were walking on hot lava and actually could smell our shoes burning. A once in a lifetime experience. We arrived back at the ship again, starved and a bit exhausted. As you can see, we did not spend much time eating at the specialty restaurants because we didn't care. The barbecue at the pool and the buffets were fine. The fourth day, we went kayaking and snorkeling in the middle of the ocean. We saw some great fish and turtles under us and had a great workout paddling through waves. The fifth day, we took a break and just went on the Atlantis Submarine 150 feet under the ocean in Maui. We saw some different fish, eels, and other predators speeding by our little window. We rented a car on Maui and did some of our own sightseeing. We found a very windy beach and then found a park where we finished the day hiking to the Iao Needle. Very pretty. Our day ended as we found a Crispy Cream Donut shop and stopped and took some donuts back to the ship since we never once found a donut on the ship. We were worried that security would not let us take them on board since they would not let me take a Diet Coke in a Burger King cup on a couple of days earlier, but this nice security officer let us hide them in our back pack and take them on. This was our breakfast the next morning since the ship was not providing much for us early. The last full day on the ship, we arranged for a 38 mile downhill bicycle ride on Mt. Haleakala. The sight at the top of the volcano was indescribable. We were above the clouds and could see ALL of Maui below us. Awesome!! We then coasted at speeds up to 40 miles per hour down hill, careening over hills and hairpin turns. It was scary and rewarding when we reached the bottom safely. We felt as if we had accomplished something. Overall, this was everything (plus more) we had expected and dreamed for. It was a dream come true. We were in Hawaii and doing everything we wanted to do. Yes, we did not get fed like we had heard most cruises feed you, but who cares? We didn't gain any weight. Would I do this cruise again? Absolutely, in a heart beat. The Pride of Aloha was our floating hotel room, and we were able to see the beauty of four Hawaiian islands. Read Less
Sail Date July 2000
Our vacation started out very early Saturday morning at the Boston, MA airport with the reservation clerk telling us that NCL cancelled our 13 year old sons airline ticket. This was after I called them on Friday to confirm our ... Read More
Our vacation started out very early Saturday morning at the Boston, MA airport with the reservation clerk telling us that NCL cancelled our 13 year old sons airline ticket. This was after I called them on Friday to confirm our arrangements. I still have not received an answer as to why that happened. So we could either leave him there, not going to happen, or pay an extra $685 to get him on the plane, which of course we did. When NCL finally opened at 9:00, they told us it wasnt their fault but United Airlines fault. This was completely untrue, NCL has now agreed to return our $685 to us. I guess we should be happy they didnt continue to charge us double. I wish we could say the same for the shore excursions. We fully understand that NCL puts in time to coordinate and schedule these trips for its passengers, therefore needs to charge a fee for their services. However, when the only thing that the shore excursion desk needs to do is type 7 names into a computer, we feel charging $490 more than the vendor is outrageous. That was for only one excursion. When we asked the manager why so much, he explained because of insurance and such. Yet another lie because on the back of each ticket there is language that explicitly holds NCL harmless from all injuries or accidents. What do they need insurance for, maybe fraud. The Norwegian Wind is an old ship that needs some attention. During our 11 day cruise the engine stopped working multiple times, the ship lost power, the curtain in the theater broke. We went on this cruise to be with family and friends and to visit Hawaii. We did greatly enjoy those things. We cruised before with NCL and other lines. We will cruise again in the future, Im not sure if we would use NCL again or not. I would have to make sure it was on a very new ship, triple check our arrangements, and make our own excursion plans if we did decide to use NCL ever again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2000
We arrived at Honolulu and were promptly met by NCL personnel for our transfer to the Outrigger Waikiki on the beach. The transfer from airport to pier went very smoothly and the rooms at the outrigger were first class. We chose to attend ... Read More
We arrived at Honolulu and were promptly met by NCL personnel for our transfer to the Outrigger Waikiki on the beach. The transfer from airport to pier went very smoothly and the rooms at the outrigger were first class. We chose to attend the Germaine Luau an hour after our arrival at the Outrigger and purchased our tickets through the hotel for $54.00 each and included hotel pick up. The luau was all that we expected and the food was good. We booked a excursion for 6:45 in the morning through our travel agent prior to arrival to the USS Arizona. We were back at the hotel by 10:00 am and spent the rest of the morning at the International Marketplace across from the hotel. We were picked up for hotel to pier transfer at 3:00 p.m. as pre-planned. The embarkment at the pier was the was fastest and smoothest I have ever experienced and this was my 20th cruise. We had no wait to check in and all 10 of us were checked in and on the ship within 5 minutes which included lei greetings and fotos. All luggage arrived in our rooms prior to sailing. The rooms were an adequate size with plenty of storage. We were able to store all of our suitcases under the beds including the oversized ones. The bathrooms were a little on the small size which made turning around in the shower a little difficult, however there was plenty of storage in the bathroom to accommodate all our toiletries with storage space left over. The public areas were quite cramped with not enough space to accommodate the amount of passengers. The Sports Bar and Grill where most buffets were held was very small for the amount of people that ate there. There was always a wait for a table. My only complaint was that most of the time tables were cleaned off of dishes but never washed or wiped off. This was a real surprise to me as I found all other areas of this ship spotless. My group were late night card players and we witnessed the carpets being not only vacuumed but shampooed nightly. All brass and glass was cleaned daily and even the ceilings and wall in the hallways were scrubbed daily. It was one of the cleanest ships I have ever sailed on. The food was nothing to brag about. The morning and lunch buffets were basically the same everyday for 11 days and got a little boring. As for the dining room, the food was okay but had very little variety. If you love salmon, you will be fine as it was served as the seafood dish 9 out of the 11 days in some form or other. There was a lack of other seafood. The standard lobster night and one other night that served 3 shrimp on a skewer as the main entree. Baby shrimp about an inch long were served as appetizers on other occasions. The shore excursions were plentiful although expensive. We hired a guide on the dock in Hilo for 1/4 the price of the excursions and he took us to all the highlights of the Hilo area. It was a bargain. In Maui we chose The road to Hana ships tour and were thankful we did. You can do this excursion on your own a lot cheaper however you may be filing for a divorce before you even get to Hana. The road is very narrow and there are 600 some hairpin turns on one lane roads and 50 some one lane bridges. We even passed a fire truck upside down over the edge of the road. So if you want to do this tour, do yourself a favor and book this one on the ship. You will thank yourself for it at the end. The views were fantastic and highly recommended. We also did the aquarium on the second day on our own. The next day was the island of Kauai. Part of our group did Tubing the Ditch. If you want to do this excursion, pre book it prior to sailing as soon as you can. We had 10 people in our group who wanted to do this and it sold out on the first day and we only got 8 tickets. I gave my tickets to two others in the group and I opted for a helicopter ride which I booked on my cell phone on the dock (at half the price). The helicopter tour was the highlight of my cruise. If there is anyway you can fit it in your budget, you won't regret it. You will see sights that no man has ever stepped foot on as it is to remote. I never imagined it would be so diverse and beautiful. The next stop we made was the Fanning Islands. Well worth the 4 day round trip to get there. Do yourself a favor and if you have extra space in your luggage, try to pick up a few things for the children. They are amazing and all they want to do is sing you a song and ask nothing in return. Some of the things passengers brought them were coloring books with colored pencils, pens, small chalkboards, bubbles, matchbox cars for the boys and dolls for the girls. If you an't fit it in your luggage, take one f the free shuttles to Wal-Mart at any of the ports and pick up a few things there. I had chewing gum for them and they loved it, however I later found out that they have no dental care so it wasn't such a great idea. Our last stop was Kona and we took highlights of historic Kona off the ship. It wasn't worth the price but it did get us off the ship before noon. A word of advise. If you book tours on your own, please be advised that you may not get off the ship on a tender port until after 11:00 a.m. as all tour from the ship are tendered first with no exceptions. Same goes if you rent a car. We liked the casual freestyle dining and the opportunity to choose your own dinning time and location. There were 10 to 13 of us that dined together every night and we never had more than a minute or two wait if that at any of the dinning areas in the morning and evenings. There is no night life on this ship. We found by 11:00 PM it was hard to find anyone around. You have to make your own as the only spot open was Dazzles disco. And don't count on 24 hour food either. The only thing available after the supper hour is pizza or a very limited room service. There are a few times during the day that no food is available other than the room service or pizza. We found that at 10:30 and 2:30 on the dot the breakfast and noon meals were done whether there were people in line to eat or not the food was whisked away. Overall this cruise was a real bargain if you want to experience all the islands at a more than fair price. If you want a clean place to stay and aren't interested in 5 star dining, this is the cruise for you. I would do this cruise again in a heartbeat and would also sail on the Wind again. Read Less
After reading the reviews some had written, I was a little apprehensive about our upcoming cruise on the Norwegian Wind. We have taken 5 other cruises on various ships so we would have something to compare the Wind to. We were very ... Read More
After reading the reviews some had written, I was a little apprehensive about our upcoming cruise on the Norwegian Wind. We have taken 5 other cruises on various ships so we would have something to compare the Wind to. We were very surprised to find that this was to be one our best cruises. It is a very clean ship, the staff couldn't be more friendly and helpful and the food was good. It doesn't have a casino so some might be disappointed in that but there are other activities to become involved in. We spent 4 days at sea going and returning from Fanning Island but the other days were spent on excursions on the other islands. I liked the free style dining and the casual dress as this cut down on the amount of clothing that we had to pack. At the Honolulu airport, on our return trip, we found that people who had more than 50 pounds of luggage were charged $25.00 per bag if they were on national flights and international travellers were allowed 80 pounds before they had to pay the $25.00. The ship is a little confusing because it was lengthened and you can't go from one end to the other without the elevator or stairs. You almost need to carry the ships map with you so you know where to go. The drinks are a little pricey so I think that many people who would have wine with meals were opting out. All things considered, I would not hesitate to recommend this trip to anyone who isn't looking for luxury but instead is looking forward to good hospitality, warm weather and friendly staff and a clean ship. We are satisfied with the cruise. Read Less

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