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4,742 Hawaii Cruise Reviews

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
This was our third Celebrity Cruise; our second two weeker. We were on the Zenith in late November/early December. While I love Celebrity and especially its marvelous staff, I can't say this was one of out better cruises. It started ... Read More
This was our third Celebrity Cruise; our second two weeker. We were on the Zenith in late November/early December. While I love Celebrity and especially its marvelous staff, I can't say this was one of out better cruises. It started badly with food poisoning in the hotel in Santiago we were put in, and it got even worse when the good ship's Doctor, an overweight, chain smoking Italian, decided that a mild case of diarrhea was deserving of a three day confinement to my stateroom. I had no other symptoms: no fever, no vomiting, nothing. But he arbitrarily committed me to confinement, and my wife to twenty four hours. I will admit they are making an attempt to make it up by offering a future cruise credit but of course, that means I need to make another cruise. Upon embarkation we were all handed a letter advising of engine problems and the fact that the ship was operating at about 80% of speed, necessitating the removal of one of the port calls. We were also issued a $150 credit for the loss. The one excursion I was able to make, Arrica, was probably the most depressing shore experience I've ever had. It's like the old joke. First prize is a day in Arrica; second prize is a week in Arrica, and the last place prize is a golf course lot at the Arrica Country Club. What a hell hole. I couldn't do the Lima excursion due to the "confinement". Finally, the entertainment was very mediocre. And that was disappointing since I had told everyone about what a great group the Zenith had, including a world class Broadway singer, Jordan Bennett, whose CD's I play all the time, incredible comedians, and some of the best dancers I've ever seen. They can't get something comparable for a Millennium class ship? I also wasn't real pleased the with the former Brazilian Ambassador and his liberal politics either. The other speakers were pretty good. The food was the usual quality; the staff as always, brilliantly trained and motivated. Where does Celebrity find such nice people? Whoever is doing the hiring should be promoted, given a raise and put on the Board of Directors. They are all such marvelous representatives of their countries and their cultures that you can't help but admire the consistency of their work. How they put up with some of the passengers, especially the rude French and Germans, is a mystery to me. The special restaurant was well done but the wine by the glass prices are obscene. Service was outstanding. Food was not 5 star. During disembarkation, at a point when things had slowed to a crawl, whoever the young man was in charge of the theatre disembarking group, totally defused some growing tempers, by taking off his jacket and walking on his hands across the stage. The crowd applauded, quieted down and had a good laugh. You can't teach that type of public relations. I wish I'd gotten his name. He also needs a promotion and a spot bonus. A lot of stores on board. Called the Emporium. Not employees of Celebrity and very spotty in terms of attitude and customer relations. The H. Stern staff was excellent. Some of the others, especially some of the gals manning the islands, were snippy at best. Two or three I would have fired on the spot. I took two other couples with us. First time Celebrity cruisers, but very, very experienced cruisers nevertheless. In fact, far more so than we are. They pretty much concur with what I'm writing. I don't know that they'll go back to Celebrity. But we will. But I won't do South America. It was underwhelming. I wrote a critique of my Zenith cruise. It has never appeared. But I can tell you that on a scale of one to ten, it was a nine. This was a five. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
These were cruises number two and three for us. We live in Hawaii and, given the state of the world, decided to put off a planned trip to Europe and, while casting about for something interesting to do, found a real deal on a back to back ... Read More
These were cruises number two and three for us. We live in Hawaii and, given the state of the world, decided to put off a planned trip to Europe and, while casting about for something interesting to do, found a real deal on a back to back from Honolulu to Tahiti and back. We booked an ocean view cabin, which was fine, although not as nice as the balcony cabin we had on our first cruise, which was to Alaska. Since we live in Hawaii, we spent more time on the ship than we did ashore. This was nice for us, as we got to experience the slower pace of life on board in port. There are also terrific bargains at the spa during shore days, and the on-board activities and entertainment are much less crowded and more personal. So there is something to be said for cruising your home turf. It was also fun to get to see the islands from this new perspective - normally when visiting interisland, we fly, so it was our first experience in seeing the state the way it used to be done. I was also pleased that Princess brought on board some really good entertainers from the islands - they could do more of this, though. We didn't do any shore excursions, but did get off and walk around in Lahaina, and in Hilo (our home island) on the return trip to off load most of our luggage, which made the disembarking process a lot easier and quicker, although we had to wait for a while in Hilo to clear customs. There are only two guys working the whole east side of Hawaii Island, so they had to do the planes and a private yacht first. Tahiti was lovely, and we enjoyed Moorea and Bora Bora, taking shore excursions on both. Christmas Island was great for the first tender full of people who were able to hook up with the local entrepreneurs for rides to the end of the island, fishing, etc. etc. and not much for anyone else. There are far more people on the ship than on the island, so the availability of transport of any kind was very limited and the area where the tender lands is pretty spartan. If you can't make it on the first or second tender, stay on board. Several people on our ship got off in Papeete and took the ferry back over to Moorea, which takes less than an hour and is pretty reasonable. Papeete is expensive, not very clean, and, as we arrived on a Sunday, there wasn't much going on. As we were told at the visitor's center at the dock "People gone to church..." with the implication that we should as well. That aside, it is a lovely setting. Be aware the the Gauguin museum doesn't actually have any paintings by Gauguin. Just so you know... Moorea has really good buys on black pearls, and there are lots of vendors offering free transport to their shops, so you can get a pretty thorough tour of the island for free while shopping for your jewelry. We also took a circle island tour, which I probably wouldn't do again or recommend. I think the water based tours are better. Try for morning snorkel tours, as by afternoon it can become too rough to go out to the circling reef at the edge of the lagoon where the good snorkeling is. Bora Bora is everything that everyone expects of a tropical paradise and we had a very nice tour there. The Dawn is a Sun class ship, and we had been on her sister ship the Sea Princess, so it was like coming home. There isn't much difference between them except in decor and color, on an external basis, but there was a world of difference in the "culture" of the ships. We had found the Sea Princess very pushy and sales oriented. The Dawn was laid back to the point of unconsciousness. We had to seek out the drink card seller to get our coke cards. There was never any pressure to sell anything. Maybe it was because this group was on their way home after this cruise with a new batch coming on for the Alaska season, but they were majorly mellow, sometimes to the point of poor service. The gym, for instance, never had any one in attendance to provide towels, help, sign up sheets or anything else. Some of the regulars finally made our own signup sheets for the treadmills. We complained but it never got any better. Our cabin attendant was fine, most of the wait staff were good, but we had the usual issues with the coke cards. Waiters simply didn't want to bring you drinks unless they were getting a percentage, so for meals in the Horizon Court, we picked up our drinks at the bar, and, fairly often, got ignored by the bartender in favor of "paying" customers. We suggested that there be some kind of gratuity attached to the coke cards, hoping that it would improve service. We'd pay more if we could get less surly response to these otherwise convenient and cost effective devices. The entertainment was good, but not outstanding, and for the back to back folks (and there were a lot of us - probably half the ship) it got repetitive, as there weren't any changes in the movies or the shows, although we did have some different individual entertainers. My favorite part of the entertainment package was the local talent who were brought in for, usually, late afternoon shows. There was a hula troop from Hilo and a dance group from Papeete and both were outstanding. There were also some "on deck" local entertainers while we were in Hawaiian waters who were quite good, and a local gal who taught hula who was great fun. Overall, it was a good cruise, although I think it got a little long at 28 days on board. We both also got a flu bug (along with about half the rest of the passengers) and between us, spent about the last 10 days ill. This no doubt had an adverse impact, but we think that 14 to 18 days is probably closer to our ideal cruise length. We were ready to be home by the time we got there! And we were really glad to only have a short interisland flight home! Wish more cruises left from Honolulu. Donna Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
This was my first cruise w/ my husband. We wanted a quick vacation from the kids and the 4 day Baja Mexico cruise was a great choice. We were a little concerned because we heard some negative things about the Carnival reputation for being ... Read More
This was my first cruise w/ my husband. We wanted a quick vacation from the kids and the 4 day Baja Mexico cruise was a great choice. We were a little concerned because we heard some negative things about the Carnival reputation for being a booze cruise.. We had a great time.. Embarkation was smooth. Plan to arrive early, have your tags on your bags, and be patient. Once you get inside the terminal building things will move quickly. We boarded the ship with no problems and checked out our room on the Empress deck. We loved being on this level, right in the middle, not a lot of walking through the ship..Regardless of what other reviews said there was no sewer smell..Everything was reallt clean. Our steward kept our room so clean every time we came in the room our bed was re-made.. The first port was Catalina island. My husband and I decided to pay for an excursion on Carnival to go kayaking. We paid $90.00. When we arrived at the place to kayak we could have done that on our own for $50.00. We are novice kayakers and w/ a little instruction we were kayaking several miles in the ocean. It was a lot of fun, bring a change on clothes. I did not and was in for a real treat walking back to the tender 2 miles soaked.. The next day we went to Ensenada. Again don't pay for an excursion on the boat. We got off the ship and for $13.00 each we went on a tour on La Bufadora and the mexican flea market, got a free margarita downtown and went shopping for an hour..w/ a private tour guide..everyone there speaks english and it is a lot cleaner than we thought..no begging kids. The last day was all day at sea. I felt a little nauseated, went to the pool, drank more than I should have..they had a lot of activities; Hairy chest contest, dance lessons, newlywed game..hilarious.. Food was okay, like going to applebees..no complaints it was free!!! We bought 2 soda fountain cards which were sort of a waste. One would have been fine.. Debarkation was long, sort of a pain but we got through customs real quick and left the ship..that was it all in all great trip, would recommend this for a quick get-away, and I am ready for the 7 day cruise to the Caribbean..A cruise is what you make of it..we had a blast Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Hail to the NEW Queen Mary 2 Pg 1 Arthur Stewart May 2004 ridger@optonline.net EMBARKATION-SOUTHAMPTON Anxious to check out the newest and largest cruise ship in the world, I booked on the Queen Mary 2 for her maiden voyage from ... Read More
Hail to the NEW Queen Mary 2 Pg 1 Arthur Stewart May 2004 ridger@optonline.net EMBARKATION-SOUTHAMPTON Anxious to check out the newest and largest cruise ship in the world, I booked on the Queen Mary 2 for her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. Flying from JFK to London's Heathrow Airport, I picked up a coach that tooled me down to Southampton. We arrived dockside at about 3:00 PM. Although you could see the ship in the distance as we wound our way through the dockside, the enormity of it doesn't strike you until you step off the coach and look up at the towering monster. It has been aptly described as "The QE2 on steroids." As you go up the gangway and enter the grand lobby, you are in an atrium that reaches to the 7th deck. The Romans would be proud of its majesty! A shaper Guide takes your bag and leads you by an elevator to Deck 8 and then down an endless corridor to Cabin 8028. After the usual Emergency Drill in three languages at 5:00 PM, a Sail-a-Way party is held on the Aft Deck as the ship readies to sail at 6:00 PM. The weather is chilly but the sun has arranged for a layer of clouds to be positioned with rays beaming through openings forming a semi-circular fan backdrop to the occasion. Pierside, the express train from London, having discharged its passengers at the Terminal Entrance, wends its way back to London. The cars are Orient Express style, 12 "Wagon Lits" with shining bodies, curtained windows and silver trimming. Champagne flows as water and a Show Band "Onyx" made up of Tiger Woods Look-a-Likes kicks off with "In the Mood". Dancing erupts as hand held British and American flags flail the winds. Recorded music is then played at deafening decibels as those staples of British history bring the deck rails of crowded passengers to full voice with "Rule Britannia! Britannia Rules the Waves" followed by the moving tribute England "Land of Hope and Glory". Fireboats fore and aft spray a Niagara Falls curtain of water. Streamers fill the air from the upper decks. With a nod to Uncle Sam, "Anchors Aweigh" and the "Marine Hymn" follow. Tony and George would be proud! The ship's mighty whistle thunders "Under Way" and followed by a phalanx of small craft, the QM2 edges away from the pier into to Solient and it's on to New York and six memorable days on this palace at sea! THE WEATHER On our first day at sea, the weather turned foul. This comes as no surprise as it is generally known that the North Atlantic can behave this way at this time of year. I envisioned it as a confrontation between King Neptune and the Queen as follows: King Neptune: "So you think you're the biggest and the best! Well let's see what you've got!" Queen Mary: "Out of my way, Buster. You've met your match!" The battle got underway. The Beaufort scale read Force 10 and winds across the deck were clocked at 70 mph. Stay off the decks was the word. The seas erupted in mountainous explosions of white and green foam. The white horses were in full stampede. As you sat in the Commodore Bar on the prow of the ship, you watched in awe as the ship buried its prow in the waves and rose up as a dog shaking off the water. The spray from these frontal collisions would on occasion, wash the windows... and this was on Deck 9, well above the water line. It was beautiful! Speed was dropped from 24 knots during the night to 15 knots and then to 7 as the storm peaked. Next morning on my way to breakfast at 8 AM, it seemed every other Cabin had a "Do not disturb" sign on the handle. This continued for two days. The Lady plowed on. It had a date in NY and it must not be late. Conditions eased to sullenness for a period. The next day, although starting out sunny, suddenly turned yellowish dark and a sneak attack began. The Captain came on and said this was some unexpected turbulence and once again, be careful. On my way to dinner at 8:30 PM, I always stop in the Golden Lion Pub for a sip, a delightful copy of a London pub with gleaming brass, burnished walnut walls and taps of the finest English brews. It was located on Deck 2, near the water line. Seven windows on the outside wall gave you a clear view of the action outside. Once again the waves rose high and explosively and on occasion would rise up against the windows in fury and for a moment you were under the waves. It was awesome! On the 5th day, with one day to go, the day dawned bright and sunny, the waves calmed and the Captain leaned on the throttle, to 30 knots. We arrived in New York Harbor on time. The Queen passed her first test with flying colors. ENTRY INTO THE PORT OF New York This final day on the six-day cruise from Southampton was looked forward to with much excitement by the 2,746 passengers. This was it! The day dawned gloomy and foggy. The decks were crowded as the ship aimed for the middle point of the Verrazano Bridge. It moved underneath smoothly with an estimated 23 feet to spare. The flagship of the Moran Tugboat fleet led the way up the North River and her sister tugs formed an escort convoy. Police boats and Coast Guard vessels accompanied and they all looked so small from the 7th deck rail. The fog began to dissipate and slowly there emerged on the port side, the Lady. There hasn't been a time I have passed her that others) (and I don't get a feeling of pride and emotion. On 7 Deck is the cafeteria restaurant for those who shun the Dining Room. It is large and expansive and manned primarily by newly hired Filipinos. It was open for early breakfast but when the National Anthem sounded for the Statue of Liberty, the workers deserted their stations en masse, and flocked out on deck. The pattern was the same...first a look of awe and staring and then the cameras went to work. Singles, doubles, groups backed against the rail with the backdrop, the Statue. Very crowded, they stood on slippery deck chairs to see over the heads of the crowd. Slowly, they filed back into the restaurant and their stations. Wail 'til they see these pictures in Manila! The ship now neared the Battery and two fireboats joined the parade, shooting geysers of red, white and blue water into the air. Helicopters buzzed the ship providing early morning fodder to the Networks. At Ground Zero, the ship paused and sounded three long thunderous blasts on her whistle and then continued the march to Pier 92. As the ship made her turn into the berth, tugboats hovered nearby in case...they were not needed. Commodore Warwick slid her in slow and as smooth as silk and edged her to the pier. On the roof of the adjoining pier, the United States Maritime Academy band saluted with martial music and once PG 2 again with the National Anthem. Mayor Bloomberg greeted the Captain as the gangway landed and told Captain Warwick he had a bad dream. He said it was of the phone ringing and the Captain asking if he could raise the Verrazano Bridge just a bit for passage. NOTES AND COMMENTS When I arrived in my Cabin in Southampton, the television was on and the screen read "Welcome Arthur Stewart. See Instructions". In the desk drawer was a keyboard—computer style—with directions how to find out anything you wanted to know about on-board. Lectures, programs, shops etc. And if you were expecting e-mail, it would appear on the screen. The Lecture Programs were of the highest caliber. The speakers were from the Oxford University Discovery Program. There were several from other leading educational institutions in the UK and North America. Subjects covered in 3-4 one hour sessions included: Shakespeare, Dinosaurs, Trans Atlantic crossings when immigration soared, Opera, and Charles Darwin's Epic 5 Year Voyage on HMS Beagle. A highlight for me was the planetarium on board. A large theater with lean-back seats, the ceiling was a constant vision of the heavens. During the lecture, the lecture ceiling, now lowered, reflected a variety of star galaxies that were brilliant. Haven't seen that many stars in years. Commodore Warwick, Master, comes from a family of ship captains. His grandfather and father captained Cunard Liners. He took over as master of the QE2 when his father retired from that position. He has a lovely wife Kim who sails with him on most cruises. He said the happiest moment for him had been when, with special permission of the Governor of Massachusetts, he performed a marriage ceremony for his daughter in Boston Harbor. The Library, the largest afloat, (8,000 hard backs, 500 paperbacks, audio and CD ROMS) was located in the bow with windows overlooking the ship's prow. Wooden cabinets of oak polished softly contained a myriad of books on every conceivable subject. You could sit in a living room type chair and read at your leisure glancing now and then at the sea before you. Authors appeared regularly and you could get signed copies of their current book. In one room a "shop" was open for purchase of cards, QM2 bookmarks, napkins, etc. It was constantly busy. The Britannia Dining Room is a two-tiered restaurant with open seating at breakfast and lunch and two seattings for dinner at an assigned table. The main floor was vast and truly a grand salon. It was ringed with balconies and then a third, more cozy third wing. In total, the restaurant soars for three decks. Our table was near the door where the waiters went to get the food and return to your table. To do so, they exited by an escalator to the kitchen and when you saw a tray slowly moving upward toward the door, it was time to eat. The open seating was a positive feature as you got to talk with different people daily. At lunch, two young men (40ish) on my left had flown to London from Auckland, New Zealand to be on this trip. One was from the US, went to NYU where he later got his law degree and now works for a company in Auckland. The other was an applicant for a teaching job in London and would stay aboard for the return trip to Southampton. Another couple from Westport, CT asked me what the notice in the Daily Bulletin was that said "...friends of Bill will meet at 2:30 in the..." I informed them it was AA and it is on board every Cunard ship I have sailed. They mentioned attending a church in Westport—the Congregational Church. I asked them if they knew a Wally Scoffield. "Oh yes!" they beamed. He is our present Minister in the First Congregation Church in Riverhead, NY. And so it went. I did note that on several occasions people from other countries would lean close to you and ask, "Is Bush going to be re-elected?" The Captain's Compliments, and will you join him for cocktails..." The first blast was welcome aboard for all passengers who thronged the Queen's room at 5 PM for the inevitable picture taking of you and the Captain shaking hands. It's your Proof that you made this trip. The next invite was to the Frequent Floaters (5 plus cruises with Cunard) extended by the Captain. 700 Showed up for this gala and exchanged war stories of previous cruises and one-upmanship. Not to be outdone, the Senior Staff Officers threw another FF party and the same 700 showed up to do battle again, Surprising how so many couldn't make it to breakfast or lunch seemed in full fettle for these bacchanalia. Maureen Ryan, senior cruise hostess, always greets me with a warm properly mannered hug and updates me on some of the people I know so well from the QE2 who are still with her. She hosted a small group get-together for 70 passengers who had sailed on the original Queen Mary. Four of them were on her for her maiden voyage. They all told stories of what it were like and the gal from our dinner table who attended said it was a pleasant afternoon session—with tea. As to staff who left or were transferred to the QM2, I recognized and was warmly greeted by about 10. And, truth be told, the preponderance were bartenders. Don't tell. We were provided with a Passenger list of the 2,476 passengers on board. The first name on the alpha listing was..... Tahereh Abdolkarimzadeh through Helmut Zylla The ship picked up the Pilot at Ambrose light at 4AM and Robert D. Jones came aboard to guide her to her berth at Pier 92. A veteran of 45 years of service, he stood on the bridge with binoculars and hand held radio well away that the world was watching as he peered through the early morning fog. He knew that off Brooklyn he had to make two crucial turns. "We were flying along at 18 knots" and he asked Commodore Warwick "How'll she do?""Fine" he responded. "She's a lot like the QE2." Jones didn't want to hear that. He said on the QE2 you had to use a lot of rudder. (The QM2 had no rudder—it's all done by propellers strategically mounted) But this thing noted Jones "Pranced around just magnificent!" At Pier 92 Jones turned over the duty to the Docking Pilot. And that concluded his service as a Pilot. He retired as of that day. What a way to go out! FINALE A story line in THE New York Times summed it up perfectly: A QUEEN ARRIVES, AND EVEN IN JADED New York, JAWS DROP. Early debarkation was arranged and my time with Carl at the helm had me home by 11:30 AM. It took two days to come down from my high. In summary...Of my 10 years of cruising, there have been many notable events, places visited, people met, and friendships formed. This 6-day cruise was by far the most memorable of them all. It was as though you were in another world... and indeed you were. Each night you set your clock back one hour and another 25-hour day was yours to savor. In 1839 Samuel Cunard of Halifax, Nova Scotia had a dream of Trans-Atlantic shipping carrying the Royal Mail. More than 160 years later, the newest Queen of the Cunard Line carries his vision on. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Norwegian Star 4/18/2004 - 4/25/2004 This is our sixth cruise, our second on NCL, and our first on NCL Star. We are an active, professional couple in our mid-thirties. Prior to boarding the ship on Sunday, April 18, we spent two nights ... Read More
Norwegian Star 4/18/2004 - 4/25/2004 This is our sixth cruise, our second on NCL, and our first on NCL Star. We are an active, professional couple in our mid-thirties. Prior to boarding the ship on Sunday, April 18, we spent two nights in Waikiki at the Ohana Waikiki Village. This was in order to acclimate ourselves to the time difference (since we were traveling from the east coast), as well as to do some sight-seeing on Oahu since it was my husband's first trip to Hawaii. We recommend this highly as we felt completely acclimated by the start of the cruise. We spoke to other cruisers who did not do this and wished they had because they were so tired the first day. The hotel was average, but was in a good location for the price. On Oahu, we rented a car to visit the Pearl Harbor memorial, attend the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet (a Hawaiian style flea market held every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6 am - 3 pm), visit beaches on the North Shore, as well as various sights on the eastern part of the island. For dinner the two nights in Waikiki, we ate a small meal at House Without A Key in the Halekulani Hotel just down the street from the our hotel on Friday (dinner served 5-9 pm accompanied by Hawaiian music); and Saturday we went to Neptune's Garden based on a recommendation on a message board. Both places were very good with a great view at House Without a Key and an impressive fish tank at Neptune's Garden. Also, per recommendations on the message boards, we obtained an Entertainment book prior to our trip which we used at Neptune's Garden and a few other stops on our trip. We more than made up for the cost of the book (around $30). The ship: We found the NCL Star to be very roomy. Our cruise was sold out, but other than embarkation and the Chocoholic Buffet, we never felt crowded or had to wait in any long lines. And, even though the immediate pool area was crowded during our one at sea day, there were plenty of open lounge chairs on the many sun decks around the ship. In general the ship was clean and tidy, though we did notice that dishes sometimes laid on the Market Buffet tables for a while before being taken away. Our inside cabin on Deck 9 Forward had plenty of room for two people and the bathroom was a very good size for a cruise ship with ample room for storage. We had booked with the open "Inside Guaranteed" option, and were very happy to get assigned to Deck 9. Everything was laid out efficiently. Kudos to NCL for the heavy duty, powerful hair dryer and the mini-fridge with a daily supply of fresh ice. Our cabin steward team kept the cabin spotless and well stocked. For embarkation, we got to the pier at 2:00 pm ($20 taxi ride from the airport, including tip and baggage fee). The embarkation line was long, but moved at a fairly steady pace. If you are a Latitudes member (NCL frequent cruiser program), make sure to bring your membership card with you, as there is a separate line, usually shorter, for embarkation for members. We didn't have ours, so we had to wait in the longer, general boarding line. Once we got through the line, the actual embarkation was fast (we had pre-registered on-line), we just had to show a credit card for our onboard account, show our passports, and have our pictures taken. We were on the ship by 3:00 and, much to our surprise, found that our luggage had already been delivered to our cabin. We immediately unpacked, stored our suitcases under the bed, and set off to explore the ship, have lunch, and investigate our dining options for the week. To help us plan our week of dinners, we checked out all the specialty restaurant menus (on a table in the Grand Atrium by the Reception Desk on embarkation day till 5 pm) as well as the Aqua and Versailles menus for the week (available to browse through at the Reception Desk). We did this first thing on embarkation day and wrote down which nights we wanted to go to the main dining rooms, and filled in the other nights with Endless Summer, La Trattoria, and Ginza. Reservations can only be made for the same day or one day in advance and are only taken till 5 pm each day either at a desk in the Grand Atrium or by calling from your cabin phone. After 5 pm, you could still go to the restaurant to try to get a reservation for the same night. Following this, we attended the muster drill at 5:30 pm, which was very well organized and quick. For disembarkation, there was an option to keep your luggage and carry it off yourself at your leisure OR you could set your luggage out by midnight and the porters would take it off the ship for you and you were assigned a color group. We set our luggage out, and waited for our color group to be called the next morning to leave the ship and get our luggage. We were allowed to stay in our cabin or in any of the dining areas or lounge areas while waiting to be called, and we really enjoyed that option versus our previous experiences of being herded to a specific area to wait. Everyone had to be off the ship by 10:00 am. Some things we liked: the temperature in the public areas on the ship was very comfortable (we have found other cruises to have the AC turned up way too high); we liked that the photography staff did optional portraits almost every night (not just formal night); very helpful color coded carpets for the elevator shafts (green for aft, red for mid, and blue for forward); cabin plaque that had a dial for 'Do not disturb', 'Turn down room', 'Make up room', and 'Welcome'. Some things we didn't like: Internet usage prices were too high; no free beverage that was caffeine free except water (we would have liked to have a lemonade or fruit punch option); we thought that many guests dressed a bit too casual in the evenings. Some things to note: Since we were within Hawaiian waters, there was Hawaii sales tax on purchases on the ship and the casino was not open. I understand on the Pride of Aloha ship, they don't even have a casino. The service The staff around the ship were very friendly and efficient. We didn't find them to be quite as formal or outgoing as we have experienced on other ships, and we noticed a lot more chatting between staff than on any of our other cruises. We enjoyed the cruise director and his staff and thought they did a good job with entertainment. The food This was our first experience with Freestyle dining and we came out of it with mixed feelings. On the pro side, we loved the flexibility of eating dinner at any time (restaurants open 5:30 till 10:00 pm, last seating at 9:00 pm). We ate as early as 6:00 pm and as late at 9:00 pm, dependent on the entertainment schedule and the port schedule for each day. In general, we found that most people ate around 7:00 pm, so we avoided that time and usually went later or earlier. And, we liked going to different restaurants with different dEcor and menu styles. On the con side, we missed the camaraderie you develop with fellow passengers assigned to a big table in a traditional dining arrangement. Every time we elected to share a table, we went into a repetitive getting-to-know-you mode (what are your names?, where are from?, is this your first cruise?, etc). We also missed having the same wait staff each night, as they really get to know you over the course of the week and know whether you like ground pepper, whether you order from the bar, etc. We ate dinner in La Trattoria, Endless Summer, Ginza, Versailles, and Aqua. La Trattoria is Italian-themed. There is no extra charge, but reservations are required. We made reservations when we got on the ship at 5:30 after a day in port for 9:00 pm that evening without any problems. While my husband liked the very meaty sauce for his spaghetti, I had to return my lasagna (menu said spinach and cheese, but it was really vegetable lasagna which I don't like). The chicken parmesan I ended up with was good, but it seemed to take a long time to get it. Loved the freshly grated parmesan cheese and the tiramisu. Endless Summer is Island themed. We recommend the boneless BBQ pork ribs, Caesar salad with fruit, and mahi-mahi chowder. This restaurant has lots of windows and a beautiful stained glass ceiling - get there for a great sunset dinner as the ship pulls away from one of the ports. The menu was limited and set, and while we really enjoyed our meal there, we never returned because we had already eaten the items we wanted there. The only fee restaurant we tried was Ginza, for the Teppanyaki Grill. It was $12.50 for most of the combination meals (we had Filet and Shrimp). Service was great; the chef's tableside show was good, and the food top quality. Versailles and Aqua were the two main dining rooms. We found that Aqua was usually less crowded than Versailles, but they usually have the same menu (though there are slight variations). A menu breakfast is only served in Versailles, and we ate there twice and were very pleased with the menu choices as well as food and service. The other days, we either had room service breakfast or went to the Market Cafe - which had a good selection though buffet food never seems to be hot enough. They had made to order omelets, eggs, and waffles. With five port days, we only ate lunch twice on the ship, once during our at sea day and once at embarkation. We really enjoyed the poolside BBQ on the at sea day (salads, potatoes, freshly grilled steak, fish, and chicken). We tried the poolside grill on embarkation - good fries when they are hot and fresh. Would prefer the buns to be warmed for hamburgers and hotdogs. But, they always had all the fixings and a good sliced fruit selection. There was also a great optional choice for snacking "23 hours a day" at the Blue Lagoon. They had chicken wings, potato skins, fries, burgers and a few other choices. Fries were better here than at the poolside grill because they are made to order so always hot. The only "healthy" choices were a side salad and tomato soup. But, they also always had fresh fruit and some delicious pound cake and banana bread available. Ice cream was available from a Smoothie stand by the Spa in the afternoons from 2 pm till 4 pm. Selection was good, but the serving sizes were a bit skimpy. The entertainment On our first NCL cruise, we had seen two of the production shows by the Jean Anne Ryan Company, so we opted to skip those this cruise. They were good to see the first time, but didn't warrant a repeat performance in our opinion. But, we really enjoyed the third production, Cirque Asia. We also really enjoyed the comedian, Kermit Apio - he did two shows during the week and participated in the Liar's Club show. We also really enjoyed Lucas, who did a variety act with comedy and some impressive juggling. He did one show on his own and one show in combination with his wife, a violinist. We also enjoyed the Matangi Polynesians (dancers), who did two shows. There was the usual Newlywed game, which we always thoroughly enjoy. We also went to see the Liar's Club and Who Wants to be a Bizillionaire? I also attended the lei-making class, which was fun and educational. There seemed to be a good variety of other lectures, lessons, wine-tastings, etc, but we just didn't have time to attend any of them. Nor did we ever make it to the Spa. There were poolside Olympics, an ice carving demonstration, and a Hairy Chest competition by the pool on the at-sea day which were entertaining. There were two nighttime, poolside events. One was the sail away party and the other was a Big Kahuna party later in the week. We would have liked to have even more of these nighttime deck parties. Below is a summary of our days in port, so read on for recommendations on things to do. Kona on the Big Island This is a tender port, but the ride to shore is short. We never heard an announcement over the PA that tendering had started, so we decided to just walk down to the gangway. There was no line and we got right on a tender. We had reserved a rental car from Dollar on-line prior to our trip. After arriving at the pier, we didn't see their shuttle, so we called for pick-up. It was only then that we learned that the Kona Dollar location does not provide free shuttle service to the pier and it is a $20 one-way taxi ride from the pier to the airport (where the Dollar office is located). Thanks to help from a Kona visitors' center volunteer right there on the pier and our cell phone, we were able to change our reservation to Enterprise and cancel the Dollar reservation. The Enterprise rental was $11 more per day than Dollar, but the free shuttle ride clearly made up the difference. And, as an added bonus, the Enterprise office is about 2 miles from the pier right in Kona, instead of located at the airport, so that helped us make up some of the time we lost changing our reservation. Once in our car, we drove south on Route 11 heading toward the Southernmost point. En route, we stopped at the Coffee Shack (one mile south of Captain Cook) to get sandwiches and pie for a picnic lunch later. Sandwiches were excellent on their home-made bread with fresh, tasty meat and fixings. The peanut butter pie and macadamia pie were wonderful!! The Coffee Shack had a great view of Kealakekua Bay and outside seating if you have the time to eat there. They do serve breakfast. We stopped along the side the road several times for quick picture taking, so it took about 2 hours to get to the southernmost point. After exploring there and taking several pictures, we continued on Route 11 to Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Park to see the beautiful palm tree lined black sand beach. There are green turtles there, which we saw swimming in the water. While we ate our picnic lunch on the beach, one of them crawled onto the beach and began basking. Some folks were in the water, snorkeling, but the water seemed very rough so we decided against going in ourselves. Instead, we walked around the cove to the lava fields and watched some dramatic waves crashing into shore. We had been warned that traffic in the afternoons in Kona could back up, so we allowed ourselves plenty of time to get back into town. Took us 1.5 hours to return to Kona from the Park, with no stops. We didn't encounter any really bad traffic, but there were some backups at lights and the opposite side (south bound) traffic looked worse than north bound. We went past Kona to get gas for the rental car and also to go to the MacPie shop (located just north of Kona, in the second level of a shopping center behind a Chevron station). We bought a small pie which we saved until we returned home and it was delicious!! They offer mail order, so I think there will be some Macpie deliveries in our future. We also quickly visited the Kona Brewing Company to buy a t-shirt and made it back to the Enterprise office by 4:30 pm and they quickly shuttled us back to the pier. There was a very long line for the tender, since it was almost 5:30 pm (last tender), but they had four tenders going and the line moved as well as can be expected. Kona is a small town with only a few blocks of shops, but the pier is right in the middle of it, making it easily walkable to the stores from the pier where the tenders come in. There is an ABC store just behind the large banyan tree as you exit the pier for souvenirs, a newspaper, or snacks. Hilo on the Big Island This was a gangway port, so no time wasted on tenders. We elected to take an NCL excursion for this port called the EcoSafari Tour. This was the only excursion we booked through the cruise ship. We made the reservation online prior to the cruise as we have with other cruise lines and we highly recommend this to cruisers as it saves time waiting in line on the ship. This particular tour was 6 hours in length and we visited five spots south of Hilo. The group was split up between a 12 passenger van and a mini-bus, which we preferred over a coach bus. Our driver/tour guide was Tony, and he was a wealth of information about the environment as well as living in Hilo. You could tell he was very happy living there and very proud. We first visited the Hawaii Orchid Farm, where Tony told us how orchids are raised and how new varieties are created. We then walked briefly around one of the greenhouses. Next stop was to the lava flow by the ocean, where the 1990 lava flows created new oceanfront property. The longest stop was at Ahalanui Park, where there is a geothermal pool, a mixture of heated fresh water coming from underneath the ground and cooler salt water coming in from the ocean. We were served a deli style lunch, which was plentiful complete with cookies, chips, and fresh fruit along with soda, water, and fruit drinks. The park was beautiful and uncrowded - a very relaxing stop. After lunch, we went to the Lava Tree State Park to see the tree molds from the 1790 lava flows. Last stop was at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. This was a nice surprise. It was a county zoo, but very well maintained and very interesting. Tony walked around the zoo providing interesting commentary, but many folks elected to go at their own pace in their own direction, which was fine, too. After the tour returned to the ship, we took the free shuttle to Hilo Hattie's (offered in every port during the tour, along with free shuttles from the pier to Wal-Mart and K-Mart at some ports). The Hilo Hattie's was only about a 10 minute ride away from the pier, and was located near a mall and a Wal-Mart. We stocked up on extra film for the rest of the trip and reasonably priced macadamia nut treats to take home to our co-workers from Wal-Mart, which had a good selection of souvenir items. My husband had looked several places for a University of Hawaii shirt, which we ended up finding at a Champs store in the mall, and we bought a couple of things at Hilo Hattie's before returning to the ship. The downtown area of Hilo was not walkable from the pier, and we overheard other cruisers complaining about that fact - just keep this in mind if you want to explore Hilo on your own - you will need to pay for a taxi. Because we took the tour and did the shopping, we saw virtually nothing of the town of Hilo itself. Lahaina on Maui This was another tender port and, once again, we didn't hear any announcement on when tendering started. So, we just walked down to the gangway and waited in line. Once again, we had rented a car from Dollar, and once again, we did not see the Dollar shuttle. But, we called the local office and they said they would send the shuttle. This took about 30 minutes, and during that time we saw two Hertz shuttles, two Budget shuttles, and two Avis shuttles come in and out of the pier area. Also, when we called Dollar, they informed us that they would be picking up a lot of people, and that only the driver would be allowed to ride in the shuttle. We were, of course, not happy about this, as we knew this would waste more of our precious port time. But, once the shuttle did arrive, we were the only people waiting for it, so the driver allowed both of us to go back to the office. Once in our rental car, we set off north searching for some good snorkeling spots. The first spot we tried Hanakao'o Beach Park, recommended in Fodor's, proved to be a nice beach, but the snorkeling appeared to be far out from shore, where there appeared to be an anchored pontoon platform that we assumed was for snorkelers or divers. In fact, while we were at the beach, two scuba divers did wade into the water and disappeared toward the platform. The undertow there was quite strong, but we decided to give it a try anyway. As we feared, there was nothing to see near shore with snorkeling equipment. The water was very cloudy in some places, and where it was clear, there was merely a sandy bottom. But, we still enjoyed the nice swim in the refreshing water. This park is next door to one of the canoe clubs, so we also enjoyed watching the rowers while we were there. We headed north again and turned off at Napali Road, and drove toward the water till we spotted a Public Access sign at Kapalua Beach, found a parking place along the road, and walked down to the beach. This was a very nice area, including public bathroom facilities. There were several hotels around the beach, and the beach was crowded, but still had plenty of open space. We were encouraged to see several snorkelers in the water and the area did indeed prove to be a good excursion with several varieties of fish. After our snorkel, we walked up to the point to overlook the beach and to also peer over the ocean in hopes of sighting some whales. Timing wasn't our on side to see any whales, but the view was still spectacular. We headed north again and went to the Kapalua golf course club house, where one of the PGA tournaments (Mercedes Championship) is held each January. My husband bought some items in the pro shop. We had hoped to have lunch at the club house, and there really was a very nice restaurant with gorgeous views of the course. But, we found that the menu consisted of appetizers and large entrees. We were really looking for more lunch-type items like sandwiches, so we opted to look elsewhere. We ended up back at a shopping center at the corner of Route 30 and Napali Road. We had the BEST smoothies at Planet Smoothie and ordered some take-out tacos at Maui Tacos (we recommend the steak - great grilled flavor and very tender). We also wandered into a small art gallery, Napali Art Cetera Gallery, and surprised ourselves by immediately finding some prints of the Napali Beach that we fell in love with and bought. The shop even offered shipping, so we elected to have the prints sent to our home instead of having to carry them with us for the rest of the vacation and risk damaging them. The shop carries originals and prints from local artists, with varying styles. We talked to one of the artists, who was running the shop that afternoon while working on a painting. And, the prices were much better here than the galleries in Lahaina. With our smoothies and Maui tacos in hand, we drove to the next potential sight, Honolua Beach Park. This proved to be the best sight of the day. The beach was not very crowded and was absolutely beautiful. But, there were no bathroom facilities. The snorkeling was wonderful. We even were graced with seeing a green sea turtle swimming and eating. We watched it for quite a while, maintaining our respectful distance, and he never seemed to even notice us. Water was fairly clear and there was a good variety of fish. Regretfully, we had to leave this lovely beach in order to make it back to the Dollar office near the airport to catch the last shuttle back to the pier at 4 pm (otherwise we could have left the keys in the drop box and called a cab, but that seemed a worse option). Once back at the pier, we tendered to the ship, showered, dressed, and went to Endless Summer for our 6 pm reservation. Watched the sunset and viewed Lahaina during dinner. We then boarded another tender (there were only 5 of us on this tender) and went back into town for some shopping and strolling. Had some great ice cream at Scoops on Front Street. This was definitely the "shopping" port of the trip, with a mirage of art shops, jewelry stores, souvenir shops, and clothing stores as well as several restaurants and bars. Many of the bars were open air and had live entertainment. Returned to the pier around 9:30 pm, hoping to make it back to the tender line before the buses of Luau excursion participants returned. We think we made it, but there was still a fairly long line. They were still running several tenders, so the line moved steadily. This was our first time having a nighttime port, and we really enjoyed it. Kahului on Maui We walked off the ship just after getting into port and, once again, began looking for our Dollar Shuttle. It showed up without too long of a wait, and we were taken to the office by the airport and got our car. We then headed across the middle of the island on Route 311 toward Kihue, then on south to Route 31. We found two parking lots for Big Beach, parked at one, and walked down to the beach to see if snorkeling was a possibility. The Beach is very aptly named, as it extends for 300 yards. There were many sunbathers there, but no one was in the water, which concerned us, as there were signs around the beach warning against the strong undertow. So, instead of attempting it, we merely took a stroll along the beach. There are no public bathrooms here, but there are port-o-lets at each parking lot. At the far right end of the beach is a point that you can cross over via a dirt trail to Little Beach. Maybe there were snorkelers over there, but we had also read that this was unofficially a clothing optional beach, so we decided not to explore it. Instead, we continued south where the road becomes one lane (but still paved). Once inside Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve, along the roadside, we spotted a beautiful cove where there were several snorkelers and roadside parking and we went in for a snorkel. There were several varieties of fish, but the water was a bit cloudy (we learned there had been a very bad storm the afternoon before, which probably attributed to the cloudiness). The area also was very shallow, where you really had to navigate your way around the coral formations, because it was usually impossible to swim over the coral. Often times, you would find that you had reached a "dead end" surrounded by coral formations with no way out but the way you came in. So, we enjoyed a quick snorkel but decided not to linger here for too long. The cove was very beautiful, but there was no beach, only black lava rock on the shores leading into the water. Therefore, we recommend wearing some sort of surf shoes at this location. We decided that it was time to take a lunch break, and drove back north to Wailea where the closest restaurants were located. We initially tried to go to Joe's Bar and Grill, which overlooked a tennis club, but we found the doors locked. There were no signs, but this was almost noon on a Friday, so obviously they were not open for lunch - at least not the day we were there. We then went to the Cheeseburger in Paradise, located in the Wailea Shopping Center. This proved to be a great lunch stop. Good food, great smoothies, open air, casual atmosphere - a very popular lunch spot. After lunch, we attempted to find some other good snorkeling spots in the Wailea area. We found a Public Access parking area and access walk near the Makena Surf Properties, so parked there and walked down to the beach. The walk itself turned out to be the highlight with gorgeous flowers planted along the walkway in an array of varieties and colors. I went back to the car just to get my camera for the flowers. It was almost like its own botanical garden. We found the beach to be a nice, completely uncrowded sunbathing beach, but didn't look too promising for snorkeling. It was a little after 1 pm at this point, so we abandoned our quest for snorkeling and drove to Ma'alaea to the Maui Ocean Center. Admission was $20+tax for adults, but there was a AAA discount of $4 per person with a AAA membership card. They offered portable headset devices with a recorded tour (we're not sure if there was a fee), but we elected to stroll around the center on our own. This stroll lasted 2 hours, and while we didn't rush, we also didn't really stop to read all the displays. The displays and tanks were mostly indoors, with a few outside tanks. The most notable outside tank was for the Green Sea Turtles, where we stood for some time watching these creatures from both a surface level and underwater level observation deck. A staff member was there talking about the turtles, who were set to be released in the next two months into the ocean and then another batch of younger turtles would be brought in to be raised at the Center until they were ready for release. At 3 pm, there was a feeding in the main tank, where the sharks and sting rays were located, along with several other varieties of fish. The feeding consisted of two scuba divers in the tank, one of which had a microphone and she discussed the different varieties of fish and their eating habits as well as took questions from the audience in the underwater observation area. We found the Center to be very enjoyable and would definitely recommend it. We learned the names of many of the fish we had seen snorkeling, and saw many varieties that we could have never seen snorkeling. Around 4:00 pm we left the ocean center and drove back to Kahului to the Dollar office and took the shuttle back to the pier to conclude our time in Maui. Nawiliwili on Kauai Our last port, and possibly the port we were looking the most forward to. We ate breakfast while we watched the ship coming into the obstacle-course port of Nawiliwili. Definitely a fine display of navigation to get into the dock. We then leisurely left the ship and again waited for our Dollar Shuttle, which did show up shortly after we had walked out to the shuttle area. The shuttle took us to the Dollar office at the airport, where we got our rental car and headed south to Hanapepe, taking in the scenery along the way. Our goal in Hanapepe was Burn's Field, where we had pre-booked a helicopter flight-seeing tour with Inter Island Helicopters. Our tour was scheduled for 11:30, but we were supposed to check in by 10:50. We got to Hanapepe a bit early, so drove past the entrance to Burn's Field to explore the Salt Pond Park. This proved to be a great park with pavilions, bathrooms, playgrounds, and a very well protected cove great for swimming (especially for young children). Having read that there was also good snorkeling here, we were surprised to not see any snorkelers in the water. So, we inquired with the lifeguard and he directed us to the snorkeling area to the left of the main part of the cove. We walked out to the area (which is best accessed not from the main park parking area, but from a dirt parking area which can be reached by making a left hand turn on a road just before reaching the main park area). We were skeptical, because the water looked very shallow and sandy. But, it was then time for us to head over to Burn's Field for the helicopter tour. We checked in at the Inter Island Helicopter trailer. Burn's Field is very small, there is a runway, but as far as we could tell, the Field is only used by a couple of helicopter tour companies. After signing the release form and watching a short safety video, we were taken to the helicopter and given inflatable floatation devices. We picked Inter Island because we had read some good recommendations on the Cruise Critic message boards. The helicopters only hold four passengers - two in the front beside the pilot and two in the rear. We liked that every passenger would have a great view. We also liked the fact that Inter Island didn't use the doors of the helicopters, so the views were unhindered - which is great for flight seeing, but especially great for taking photographs. Though a bit scary at first and when the pilot does banking maneuvers (especially for someone like me, who admits to a fear of heights), this no door thing proved to be a wonderful experience. We do recommend wearing pants and/or a jacket, as the flight can be cool at times and we did encounter some moisture as we flew through low-lying clouds and into some of the very rainy areas of the island. The tour provided ample photo opportunities so make sure you bring plenty of film. Also note that the pilot gets extremely close to the scenery, so a zoom lens is unnecessary. Following the helicopter tour (which lasted about 50 minutes), we returned to Salt Pond Park, although we parked at the area convenient to the snorkeling spot recommended by the lifeguard. Despite the water being shallow, we did find the snorkeling to be pretty good. There was coral protected by rocks that shielded the area from the much rougher currents further out. The snorkeling provided the opportunity to see many of the fish we had seen at other locations, although we had the surprising opportunity to see an eel. This was a very nice park and a place we'd recommend bringing a picnic lunch, as well as a place conducive to families with children. After some time snorkeling, it began to rain (a relatively short shower, but we didn't know that at the time and decided to explore other parts of the island). We headed east on route 50 to route 530 in order to find a place for lunch in Poipu. We settled on a place called Keoki's Paradise. This turned out to be a great decision! Like we found on this entire trip, the Hawaiians really know how to make a good fruit smoothie, so we had one more before the end of our vacation. The restaurant was open air and beautifully landscaped with a great selection of lunch items including sandwiches and salads. After lunch, we walked to a public beach nearby (access was across route 530 from Keoki's) through a timeshare community parking lot. We were short on time, but we enjoyed a short snorkel at Poipu Beach Park. This beach was large and had lots of activity, although I wouldn't call it overcrowded. The snorkeling was decent although not the best of our trip. We did enjoy watching the surfers one last time before we headed back to the ship. Following this, we returned to the Dollar office and then back to the ship for our last evening aboard. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
We started out our vacation by staying at the Hyatt in Garden Grove. I had won a free night in a sweepstakes and this was the nearest hotel that I could get for free. We went to check in and were told it was too early, however, I did ... Read More
We started out our vacation by staying at the Hyatt in Garden Grove. I had won a free night in a sweepstakes and this was the nearest hotel that I could get for free. We went to check in and were told it was too early, however, I did manage to get upgraded to a suite for free. What a great start to our trip. Monday morning we drove to Long Beach, we arrived about 10:30. We parked in the parking garage and went to find out our cabin assignments as we had both booked guarantees. I got upgraded 1 category and my friend got upgraded 5 categories. Don't know how they figure this stuff out. This was my 8th cruise with Carnival and her second. Oh well just happy to go. We tagged our luggage, and proceeded to walk to the check in area. As we were walking out of the parking garage I noticed a gentlemen travelling solo and asked him if he was Kent from this board. He was. How great is that to find people before you ever get on board. We found a porter and checked in. We then proceeded to early check in on the Queen Mary. There was no one in line so we got done rather quickly. When we got our sail and sign cards I looked at the dinner seating and realized they had goofed. My friend got early 6:15 which is what we all requested and I got late 8:30. This is the second time in 3 months they have screwed up my dining arrangements. Oh well, not to worry it gets fixed later. As we were leaving the Queen Mary and walking towards the dome we saw Andrea and her son Curtis. We have been lucky finding fellow CC members before boarding. We agreed to meet up with them later. We got in line at the dome. We boarded right around 12:30. We dropped off our carry ons and found our rooms were ready. We went to Lido deck for burgers and the first bucket of beers. We then walked around and got our bearings. We went to see the maitre d' to find out about switching my dining time so we could all be together and this was accomplished. However I was still a little miffed as we had told our PVP when we booked and I had called a second time to reconfirm this. Because of this we were seated at a table for four instead of a larger table. We also got relegated to a table near the kitchen. Oh well as I said before just happy to be there. We also went to the Travel Talk which was at 3:45. Now comes the wonderful life boat drill. The last 3 I have done before this were very painless. This one was awful. No one would be quiet and listen to directions so it took longer than expected. The people with 5:45 dinner barely had time to change for dinner. We felt rushed with the 6:15. We went to dinner and it was very good, although I cannot remember what I had. My friend had the lobster which used to be on formal night but was the first night this time. We went to the Welcome aboard show which was good. The comedian was Geechy Guy. I thought he was really funny. Before the show they had horseraces and Bingo. You can now buy package bingo. You pay for all sessions up front and save 20%. I did this and went to all five sessions so it was only $80.00 instead of $100.00. Sorry to say I didn't win at all. I lost about $50.00 in the casino. It had been a long day so I took a showered at midnight and went to bed. Day 2 Catalina. We got up and went to breakfast. The teenage girls slept in and got ready for the tender. We had breakfast in the dining room. We both had eggs benedict. It is good, but like others have said sometimes a little congealed. We then went to Lido deck and got hot chocolate for the girls. We took this back to them and then went to the tender line. We just wondered around Catalina and shopped. After we got back on board we decided a jacuzzi would be good. My friend never made it but the girls were there when I got there. I also found out about the Corona sail-a-way party and bought a bucket of Coronas. We let the girls have one each. Tonight was the Captains cocktail and formal night. We went to the Captains party and had several glasses of champagne. I gave one to my daughter and the waitress asked how I had drank it so fast. I explained I had given it to my daughter and she asked if she was 21, I said no, and she just laughed and gave me another. We went to dinner and then decided we would go to the show. Well we never got to the show until the end because I was winning at roulette. I won back the money I had lost on Monday and earlier that evening. I was actually even. There was also a Beatles set in the Chinatown lounge. I am a total Beatles freak, so told everyone I was going alone if necessary. I met a nice man there named Mick who was English and he was great. We danced and had a good time. I invited him to meet up with my other friends to see Geechy Guys late night show. Very hilarious. I bought the CD. After this I recall going to the cabin and falling fast asleep. Tomorrow is Ensenada and the Scenic Gold Coast tour. Day 3, Ensenada. We booked the scenic Gold Coast tour. It was very relaxing. It is basically a drive along the coast with a couple of stops for drinks and picture taking. If you want something more energetic this is not the tour for you. I was glad it was very relaxing as I went on the cruise for some rest. After the tour you can either go back to the ship, or the bus driver will let you off in the shopping area. We did the shopping. I asked the tour guide where the best place was to get Kahlua and Tequila and he told me where the grocery store was. I got a litre of Kahlua for $7.40 and a litre of Tequila with a smaller .375 bottle for just over $12.00. The liquor stores were charging about $10.00 for the kahlua and $15.00 for the tequila. We went to Papas and Beer, but they wouldn't let anyone under 18 in so I took the teens across the street and my other friends went in for a drink. We bought the normal souvenirs, t-shirts, shotglasses, an extra bag to carry back all the stuff. After we were done we went back to the ship. I put my bag on the belt and picked it up. I didn't even see the table to turn over the liquor and just kept going. No one stopped me at all. We got rid of our stuff and went back outside to the flea market by the pier. I bought a cute little thing that resembles a holster but instead of being for a gun it is for a bottle or can of beer. Thought my husband would get a kick out of that. We got ready for dinner and again I don't remember what I had specifically but it was good. We went to the variety show which was good. They had another comedian Merl, who I know I have seen before. He was very funny and we also went to the late night show with him as well. If you are offended easily do not go to the midnight show. He is very raunchy. After this I went to bed. Next day is the sea day. Day 4 - Day at sea. I slept in this morning and never made it to breakfast. I went to the casino and played some nickel slots. I ended up $20.00 ahead. I then went and played Win a cruise Bingo, unfortunately I didn't win. I stayed for the disembarkation talk. After this I went to lunch in the dining room because they were having fish and chips which was fantastic. After lunch we entered the slot tournament. Unfortunately didn't win this either. I think I went to the casino for a little while after this. I got real lucky at roulette a couple of times. I was even by the end of Wednesday and I think I only ended up losing about $30.00 total for the entire cruise. We went to the Newlywed not so Newlywed game. This always cracks me up even when I know the punchline. I played bingo again, lost, again. Oh well it was still fun. I did the galley tour which was very interesting. It is amazing what they do with watermelon and cheese. We had dinner in the dining room and I had a great appetizer with black beans and chicken in a wrap. It was fantastic. We went to the show, but it was a little too weird for us so we left early and went back to the casino. I played the last bingo game. We watched the Carnival Legends show which was all the people from Karaoke who were wonderful. I had some chips left and cashed them in and then turned in because the next day was debarkation. It was over too quickly. The ship seemed in very good shape to me. They had put in a lot of new carpet. I noticed this especially in the elevator, as it had a new carpet smell. The glue smelled pretty fresh. The pool and jacuzzis were clean and the decks were kept clean the entire trip. They were painting the outside of the ship when we were docked in Ensenada. The cabins are typical of fantasy class. We had an inside, which was identical to the outside we had on the Elation. Two beds a vanity area with a chair and a little table you could move wherever you wanted it. Plenty of closet space. One was open and had hangers there was another closed with hangers and one closed with shelves. The staff was great. Never had bad service at all. The showroom is good. Just be careful of sitting behind the poles. They do block your line of vision. The casino had plenty of blackjack tables, 3 card poker and roulette wheels (2). The dining room was also done very nicely, no loud colors in there. Debarkation. Well, needless to say, very painful. We knew ahead of time we would be the last color called. I asked everyone if they wanted to try to carry everything off and they all voted no. Turned out it wouldn't have been that hard. We got called off around 11:15 am. I was fine with this as I always have reading material. The nice part was it was very easy to find the luggage. There wasn't much left at this point. We got all the luggage and made it to the truck without a porter. This is why I know we could have carried it all off. Oh well, live and learn. We had a fabulous trip. Thanks to Kent, Andrea, Curtis, and all the other wonderful people we met on this cruise. Hope everyone else had as good a time as we did. Candi Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Aloha! We just returned from an 11 day Hawaii Cruise from Honolulu to Ensenada. Here is my review from our great vacation! We just got home a few days ago from a two week Hawaii trip aboard Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas. ... Read More
Aloha! We just returned from an 11 day Hawaii Cruise from Honolulu to Ensenada. Here is my review from our great vacation! We just got home a few days ago from a two week Hawaii trip aboard Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas. Just to give you some insight, this review will be a very long, detailed review! I learned so much from the cruise critic Hawaii board, that I feel I have to "pay it forward" to anyone else that is considering this cruise, and give as much information as I can to help answer anyone else's questions out there! We started planning this cruise over 2 years ago and put a lot of research and work into! Thursday, May 6th- Flying to Honolulu, Oahu We had a car pick us up at 4AM to take us to LGA for our 6AM flight. We had been up since before 3AM and were so excited that our trip was finally here after 2 years of planning and waiting!! When we arrived at LGA, we did curb side check in, hoping they would not weigh our luggage! (a 12 day trip requires a lot of clothes!!) We were right; the man just picked each one up and then said "ok" and gave us our boarding passes. As we had been planning this trip for over two years, we managed to save up enough airline miles to fly first class to Honolulu for FREE!!!! We then made it through security and waited to board our flight. We flew from LGA to ORD on a 6AM flight and then connected with an 8:55AM Flight from ORD to HNL. The flight from LGA to Chicago was quick and painless. We made it to Chicago with a little over an hour before they would start boarding our connecting flight. We walked around the terminal for awhile to stretch out our legs as we knew the next flight was going to be long. Soon it was time to board the plane and we were greeted with champagne and juice! We found out seats which were huge and reclined 180 degrees! We got settled in and soon it was time for take off!! The flight was a little over 9 ½ hours long. We were served lunch and a snack and watched 2 movies. We tried to sleep but even with those big seats it was still hard! We landed at 1PM in Honolulu and were one of the first off the plane. We were greeted by the car service that was taking us to the hotel and he helped us get our luggage. Within 20 minutes of landing, we were leaving the airport and on our way to the hotel for our 1 night pre-stay! Our hotel was the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Originally I had booked the Outrigger Reef, but every once in awhile I would check the rates at the HHV and eventually I found a rate that was cheaper then what we were booked in at the Outrigger, and for a few dollars more we even got the breakfast included! We arrived at the hotel and we checked in right away. The HHV had even upgraded our room to an ocean-view room in the Rainbow Tower! We then headed around the hotel to check out our room and it was awesome! We were on the end and had two balconies and a great view of the ocean! We then walked around the hotel some more and met up with two of our Cruise Critic friends Pat and Eileen (pkexton & ebk2795) from Philadelphia who were going to be sailing with us also. We checked out their room in the Tapa Tower and then got a cab over to the Ala Moana Shopping Center to have dinner at Bubba Gump's! There was no wait and we were starving since we were a little jetlagged. I had the Mahi-Mahi and DH had the Coconut Shrimp! It was good! The restaurant was nice, but we felt that the one in Miami stuck the movie theme a little more. We walked around the mall a little more and then headed back to the hotel. Once we got back to the hotel, we walked around the beach admiring the view and stuck our feet in the Pacific Ocean! As it got dark, it then hit us that we had been up for almost 24 hours straight with the time distance and we decided to go to sleep! Friday, May 7th - Embarkation Day!! I woke up around 3AM and made myself sleep until 6:30AM! By then the sun was starting to come up and the view was amazing! We got up and showered and then headed over to the Tapa Tower to have breakfast with Pat & Eileen. The HHV had a really nice buffet breakfast that included everything from eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast & fruit to having a lot of Japanese specialties like rice, sushi, miso soup and some other things that I did not recognize. We ate a leisurely breakfast and then headed over to the Harley-Davidson store that was within the HHV. We bought some t-shirts and souvenirs for our nieces and nephews back home (we buy them a Harley Shirt on every trip that we take!). We walked around and visited a few more stores that included a Honolulu Cookie Co., and ABC Store, and a Crazy Shirts store and took some pictures of the HHV. We then went back to the room and finish packing everything up. We had to check out of the hotel at 11AM and we needed to get all of our cruise documents ready! After we checked out, we took a cab from the hotel to the pier (a $15 ride). We arrived at the Aloha Tower Market Place Pier at 11:15 AM to find out that they were not ready for us to board yet. We had to stand on a line with all of our luggage by a gate to be x-rayed. We were 10th in line and within 15 minutes, the line was all the way out to the curb. We waited for a few minutes when we realized that 2 of our cruise critic friends were behind us in line. We introduced ourselves to Susan & Ray (Murphy) from Chicago and talked with them for a few minutes about their week in Kauai and then the line began to move. Everyone pushed their luggage up to the front where the X-ray machine was and we then got inline to go through security and check in. After waiting another 5 minutes in that line it began to move. We had to show passport & cruise documents at the door and then security allowed us to go through the security check point. We then headed over to the priority check-in for Platinum and Diamond members. We got a new girl who was a little slow and soon we had our documents handed in and our Sea Pass in hand?!!! I asked if there were upgrades available and she said yes to check with the pier coordinator. We were currently booked in cabin 7550, a category D, Balcony cabin mid-ship. When we got to the pier coordinator, we found out that there was a lot of category C, Junior Suites available, so we upgraded to Jr. Suite Cabin 8552! We then had our welcome aboard photo taken and our Sea Pass picture taken and we went up to find our cabin. All the fire doors to the hallways were closed to block access to the cabins. There was a sign posted stating "Your cabin will be ready at 1PM". We opened the door and found our cabin to put DH's Lactose Free milk in our refrigerator and the cabin attendant told us our cabin would not be ready until 1PM. We then headed up to the Windjammer for lunch and to check out the rest of the ship. We made spa appointments, found our table in the dining room and confirmed DH's special dietary needs and spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking because our luggage arrived very quickly, and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We had early seating at the beginning of the cruise, but we switched to late seating 3 days into the cruise because we were so rushed to get back on the ship and always missed the sail away's. Dinner the first night was casual/Hawaiian but I don't remember what we had to eat. After dinner we walked around the pier looking at the small shops but didn't buy anything. We were still really tired & jetlagged and had to be up early the next morning, so we went to bed shortly after dinner. Saturday, May 8th - Honolulu, Oahu We were up early and had breakfast in the windjammer. We did the Arizona Memorial and Oahu sightseeing tour through the ship and had to be in the terminal by 7:15AM. We all lined up and boarded a coach bus and went straight to Pearl Harbor. We had an hour to wait for our group to be called for the movie so we walked around and took pictures and looked at the small museum that they had. Then at 9AM we were called into the theater to watch a 20 minute film about the events leading up to the attack in Pearl Harbor and actually footage from the attacks. We then boarded a small boat and were taken out to the memorial. You could still see the oil on top of the water. It was very emotional seeing the ship still there. We then boarded the small boat and headed back to the main building. From there we all met our bus driver and re-boarded the bus. The driver then drove us around the island to point out several things and making stops at the Napali Lookout, Ionali Place and the original statue of King Kamehameha. We also drove through Chinatown before getting off at the pier. Once we were back on the ship, we had lunch at the windjammer and took a nap. The muster drill was at 5:30 and everyone had to be onboard by 5PM. There was a sail away party on the pool deck as we left Honolulu and the ship gave everyone a real Hawaiian lei. They even had people in the dining rooms giving them out since the party started when the first dinner seating was. Dinner again was casual/Hawaiian. After dinner we had our first Cruise Critic get together. Because we did not have enough people for a M&M party, we had set a bunch of times for us all to meet up. Our first meeting was in the Schooner Bar between dinner seating and we meet up with CruisinTrish, HFP, and Pat and Eileen & Saltyswife. Our meeting overlapped with TV Tune Trivia so we formed a team together and one the first of several trivia games together! Sunday, May 9th - Nawiliwili, Kauai This morning we had breakfast delivered to our stateroom. As we pulled into the pier, it was clear and we could see far out into the mountains. We finished our breakfast and headed off the ship. We booked a helicopter tour of the island through Island Helicopters. It was recommended to us from friends who did it on their honeymoon and said it was the best way to see the entire island. They were so right! We signed up for the 9:15 tour and were greeted at the pier by a driver at 8:30. He drove us to the airport where we paid and were given a complimentary video of the tour. Two more people then joined us and we were off to the helicopter pad. Once there, we were strategically seated in a special order and given life vests and instructions on how to use them. Then two more people showed up and we boarded the helicopter. The tour took us all over the island through Poipu, Waimea Canyon, the Napali Cliffs, Hanalei, Lumahai Beach, the Princeville Resort, Mount Waialeale, and the Wailu Falls. It was absolutely breath taking and I don't think there is any other that you can see the entire island, then by helicopter. After the helicopter tour we returned to the ship. DH grabbed a quick burger from the Solarium and got ready to go golfing with friends. I had lunch in the windjammer and then met up with Pat & Eileen. We caught the Wal-Mart shuttle from the pier and went over to Wal-Mart and then walked over to Hilo Hattie's. I had read on the boards that Wal-Mart was the best place to buy coffee and macadamia nuts, and souvenirs. After a little searching, I found that Wal-Mart and Hilo Hattie's had pretty much the same prices and I would think the quality and freshness would be better from Hilo Hattie's then Wal-Mart. We bought all of our postcards and a few other Hawaiian souvenirs from the stores and headed back to the ship. It had rained on and off the whole day after the helicopter tour so once we were back on board we spent some time writing out all those post cards and spent some time in the solarium with more cruise Critic friends Herb & Trish (HFP & CruisinTrish) before my massage at the spa. Tonight was the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception and the first formal night. We missed the Captain's party because I was getting me massage and DH got back from golfing at 4:45. We also had to dress up because it was the first formal night. After dinner we checked out the photos that had been taken of us and then wrote out more post cards! Monday, May 10th - Lahaina, Maui We booked the Lanai Wild Dolphin & Snorkel Excursion through the ship. Because we were tendered in Lahaina, we had to be in the theatre at 7:15 for our tour. So we were up early again and had breakfast in the Windjammer and then our group was led to the tenders together for our shore excursion. Once we got off the tender, we were lead to a large catamaran where we all boarded. Even though it was called a dolphin snorkel, we did not see any dolphins, but we did see a few whales, even though it was the end of whale season. The water was a little on the cold side compared to snorkeling in the Caribbean, but we did see a nice reef, sea turtles, and some fish. The crew was great and I really recommend this excursion! After the excursion we walked around Lahaina a little and visited a few souvenir shops and Hilo Hattie's again! Getting back on the ship took awhile because the tenders were very slow loading and unloading and it took almost an hour to get back on the ship. So we all changed quickly and got ready for the Luau because we did not know how long it would take to get off the ship again. So at 4:30 we all met in Pat & Eileen's cabin for the luau and got off the ship together. Trish and Herb had rented a car and offered to drive us all there. We booked The Old Lahaina Luau and we seated at table 2. We had a great view of the stage. The food was buffet style was good, but by the time we got our food and sat down, we were eating in the dark. The show was great and explained the history of Hawaii and the Hula. However, afterwards, when we got back to the pier, the line was extremely long and took over an hour and ½ to reboard the ship. All of the luau's must have ended at the same time and we thought the ship would have been prepared and had enough tenders running, but that was not the case. Wednesday, May 11th - Lahaina, Maui We had originally booked the Maui Downhill Sunrise tour, but when we called to confirm the reservation, they told us the meeting time had been changed from 3:30AM to 2:25 AM. The tender schedule over night was just 1 tender every hour leaving the ship on the ½ hour and the pier on the hour. This meant that we would have had to have taken the 1:30 AM tender and sat on the pier for a good 45 minutes in the dark. We tried to cancel our reservations, but would have been charged the full amount because it was within 24 hours, so we opted for the 7:45 AM Tour. We met our driver at the Pioneer in at 7:45 AM and he drove us to the office where everyone got their gear. We were then driven to the top of Haleakala where we took some pictures and looked at the crater. It was a little chilly at the top, but soon everyone loaded up and started the tour downhill. I stayed in the car while DH did the bike part. It was very clear when we started the trip up, but on the way back down it got very cloudy and started to rain and pour at times. By lunch everyone was wet & cold but they continued on down to the bottom. It was very well coordinated between the driver and the bike leader to make sure that everyone was in line and safe. But DH was not to happy with the quality of the bikes and felt that for the money we had paid, that they should have had better equipment for everyone to use. Once we returned to the ship, we found our Matire'd Yasa and asked to switch to late seating. While at the luau, we found out that Herb & Trish were at the same table as us and there were 4 empty seats, so we switched to late seating so we wouldn't have to worry about always rushing for dinner. And since we were sitting at the same table, we had the same waiter Jose and assistant waiter Alex! We then hung out at the Solarium and rested before dinner! Dinner was Casual / Hawaiian again and afterwards, we all went to the Love & Marriage game show, of which our tablemates, Sharon & Ted won!!! Wednesday, May 12th - Hilo, Hawaii We did two excursions though the ship in Hilo. First was the Best of Hilo which included the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory, Nani Mau Gardens & Akaka Falls. The Nut factory was really just a gift shop, but the prices were the lowest that I had seen anywhere on any of the islands so we stocked up there. We then arrived at the Nani Mau Gardens for a 20 minute tram ride through their gardens. It was pretty, but it was as if there was just 1 of every plant planted in the ground with a sign. It felt as if it was more of landscaping then a tropical garden. The last stop was at the Akaka Falls. This required some walking on a paved trail to view the falls. It was well worth it to see the view, but some people, mostly the elderly, could not handle the walk or the heat. Afterwards, the bus dropped you off at either the pier or Hilo Hattie's! We waited in line to clear security and grabbed a quick lunch at the solarium before heading back out for our next tour, the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens. Several Vans met us at the pier and drove us along the coast to the gardens. We were each given a map of the gardens and told to meet back at the top in an hour & ½. This was more of what I was expecting. It was a tropical rainforest filled with all kinds of Hawaiian plants. We walked around the gardens for an hour taking pictures before heading back up to the top! We really enjoyed this tour, but don't forget your bug spray! After returning to the pier we spent some time in the solarium pool before dinner. Dinner tonight was Casual / Hawaiian again and afterwards we all went to Trish and Herb's Balcony to view the volcano as we sailed from Hilo to Kona! We could see the lava, but not that much and it did not come out in our pictures unfortunately. Thursday, May 13th - Kona, Hawaii We had no set plans for Kona, just that we wanted to see Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge). Herb & Trish had rented a car and said that we could go along with them for the day. The ride from the pier to the car rental place took about 15 minutes and there was a little line so we had to wait awhile to get the car. Once we had the car we headed south. We stopped at the Royal Kona Coffee Museum and store, but no one bought anything. The prices were much cheaper in Hilo Hattie's. We then arrived at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge) and we walked around and took pictures. The main building was under construction, but we got pictures of everything else. We even saw 2 Hawaiian Sea Turtles in the bay along with some fish. After walking around for an hour, we got back in the car and headed back into Kona. We had lunch at Bubba Gump's and had seats right on the water. We saw another turtle and tons of fish. We also had a great view of the ship! After lunch we stopped at Long's Drug store (right behind Hilo Hattie's). They have the best prices of anywhere on Macadamia Nuts, Maui Potato Chips, Kona Coffee, Pineapple Wine and any other Hawaiian food souvenir that you could think of. So we stocked up there before heading back to the ship. Once back on board, we spent another afternoon in the solarium before dinner. Dinner's theme was Smart Casual / Country Western. (We turned our clocks ahead 1 hour) Friday, May 14th - Monday, May 17th - At Sea The sea days were filled with a lot of activities to choose from. There was always Bingo twice a day, academy at sea which were classes where you could learn about certain things on the ship like how they run the shows or photography, hotel & restaurant management. But we pretty much spent most of our time in the solarium and participating in the trivia games that they had everyday. Friday night they had the Quest game and the Sock Hop. We participated in the Quest game, but were in the back of the room so we never made it up there in time. Dinner was casual / 50's & 60's. (We turned our clocks ahead 1 hour) Saturday night they had The Coasters perform which was really good and it was the formal night and the Crown & Anchor Society Get together. They also had the Gala Buffet. Sunday night was smart casual and the show of Jump Jivin Swing which was good. (We turned our clocks ahead another hour) Mondaynight was casual with the farewell show. Our luggage had to be out in the hallway by 10PM. Tuesday, May 18th - Ensenada, Mexico Everyone was given color luggage tags and a sheet with where all the luggage tags were supposed to meet and at what time. We were up at 3:45 AM and had breakfast. We were white with green stripes and had to be in the theater by 5:30 AM to disembark at 5:45. We sat there until 6AM when they finally called us. They then walked us down through the ship to deck 1 where we were escorted to buses that matched our luggage tags. All of our luggage was already under the bus and we just got on the bus. There were only 27 of us on the bus, so we each had our own seat pretty much for the ride. We drove up the coastline which was very pretty. However, our driver Jesus did not speak a word of English. When we got to the border, we crossed into the US at the Otay Messa boarder. We only had to take our carry-on's with us and show them our passports and claim form. They then x-rayed our carry-on's. Our bus then came around to the other side where we reboarded. 20 minutes later at 9:40 we were at the San Diego airport. We then spent the next 5 hours at the airport for our flight home to JFK. The Ship Review Ship This was our first time sailing on a Vision Class Ship. We have sailed on the Nordic Empress (Empress of the Seas), Sovereign Class, Radiance Class & Voyager Class. We found the ship to be very much like Celebrity's Century in size and in amenities. We really enjoyed the Solarium where we spent most of our time. The lounges were nice, especially the Schooner Bar and the Viking Crown Lounge. The Ship was in excellent condition and the only places where we saw any signs of its age & wear, was in the cabin in our bathrooms where there was a lot of rust on the door frame, the wood floor in the entrance was badly scuffed and there was some rust on the balcony. Otherwise, the ship looked great! We did miss the signs in the elevator that told you what day of the week it was. You definitely could use them on an 11 day cruise!!! Cabin As I mentioned before, at the pier we upgraded from a D balcony cabin to a Category C Junior Suite cabin 8552 at the pier. It was well worth it for the 11 day cruise. We saw our original cabin because none of our stuff was transferred to our new cabin. So we had to find the cabin attendant to help us find DH's tux, our C&A coupon books and our shore excursion tickets. We saw how much smaller the D room was and were really glad we upgraded to the jr. suite! It also took 3 days for everything to get straightened out with our shore excursion tickets, out C&A packet, and to find DH's tux. The cabin had a regular sized couch that pulled out into a bed, 2 chairs, 2 ottoman's, a 20" Sony TV, a desk with 6 drawers, a full size closet, but it had no shelves in it. The bathroom had a large tub in it and lots of room to get around in. The balcony was the largest yet with 2 chairs, 2 lounge chairs and a table. And all this was kept nice and clean by our 2 cabin attendants Lincoln and Edison. I think that they cleaned all of the C cabins on the floor because we always saw them, no matter what side of the ship we were on. The only thing that I suggest they improve or invest in, are new mattresses. It was the worst! It felt like the springs were popping out! Dining Room and Food Service We were seated at table 123 located on the deck 5 of the ship. We had a great window table and our waiter Jose Tolentino was great, along with his assistant Alex Ani. They were very kind and friendly and got you anything you asked for. The food in my opinion has gone down a little since we cruised RCL in August. I am not saying that it is bad; I am just saying that I thought the quality was a little better on the last cruise. Some days there were 3 things that you wanted off the menu and other days there was nothing that you wanted. But overall, the dining room food was average. The windjammer food was the same as all the other ships, nothing special to write home about. But the Solarium Snack Bar was the best yet. They had a large menu from hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs to rotisserie chicken, chicken fingers, fish tenders, pizza and the best French fries. Sometime there were more people getting food from there then the windjammer! Also, the menu for lunch and dinner was on a TV channel 24 hours a day. You could order anything on the menu for room service as long as it was during that time frame. I.e. Lunch was served from 11:30-1:30, so you could order anything off the lunch menu during that time frame to be delivered to you room. Overall We chose this cruise for the price and the itinerary. I would recommend sailing from Honolulu to Ensenada so you have the sea days at the end to rest. Believe me, you will need them!! I would also suggest spending 1 if not 2 says pre-stay, to get adjusted to the time change! We loved all the islands and would do this cruise again in the future because there is so much to see on the islands. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions and thank you to all those that helped me plan our vacation. Without all your reviews and answering my questions, I would have not known where to start! Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
We had a nice cruise. Room attendant asked if we'd like him to separate the beds and then did so (other than on other cruises). Otherwise he did a great job too. Food was excellent. Not only the choice - which is excellent but the ... Read More
We had a nice cruise. Room attendant asked if we'd like him to separate the beds and then did so (other than on other cruises). Otherwise he did a great job too. Food was excellent. Not only the choice - which is excellent but the same on any Celebrity cruise we have been on - but this chef knew how to prepare the food and it was done accordingly. The shows were comparable to the shows on other Celebrity cruises we have been on, which is good. Weak points: While in Hawaii, weather was nice but because of port days we got little out of the pool. Once we had left Hawaii the wind was rather strong and the temperature of the outside pool soon became too cold for me. The outside whirlpools were much too hot for me. The wine tasting for Captain's club members I saw in the program was not for classic members. A good number of the menu cards in the dining room looked disgusting. Movies were not always well scheduled. Summarizing: as far as the ship and matters under its control are concerned this was probably our best cruise - so far. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Wind to Hawaii & Fanning Island - May 19-29, 2004 We sailed Wednesday May 19 from Honolulu. Once we arrived at the port I felt everything went pretty quickly boarding the ship. Probably about 45 minutes from arrival to getting to our ... Read More
Wind to Hawaii & Fanning Island - May 19-29, 2004 We sailed Wednesday May 19 from Honolulu. Once we arrived at the port I felt everything went pretty quickly boarding the ship. Probably about 45 minutes from arrival to getting to our room. We dropped off the luggage, showed our cruise documents and passports and got in a line to get our accounts set up and pictures taken for our ship board cards. Then we were greeted with leis and our pictures were taken as we boarded. Everything went pretty smoothly. Since I had studied the floor plans for the ship I had a pretty good idea of where to go once on board. We found our cabin to be pretty nice. We had a cc category with a large picture window, sitting area and of the course the typical bed and small bathroom with shower. There was quite a bit of storage space....more room than it looked like. Our cabin was equipped with a small ref., which is nice. After putting our carry-ons in our rooms we walked around the ship a bit, ate lunch at the sports bar & grill, signed up for a couple of shore excursions and also a massage in the spa. The food in the buffet at the bar and grill is all right, but nothing to write home about. It certainly could have been worse. After all of the initial reservations were made we went back to our room and put away all of our clothes (the luggage had already arrived). We attended the required hot muster drill. Whoopie! Dinner the first night was in the Four Seasons restaurant. It was very good. 3 of us had prime rib and it was very good...Not the best we have had since we come from Kansas, but certainly very good. After dinner and dessert we went to the deck for the Aloha party. We missed most of the entertainment while we were eating but we arrived in time to pull out of Honolulu harbor. Quite a site at night. After all of the excitement we were ready to head to bed. We hadn't gotten our sea legs yet and I though sleeping might help to adjust to the motion of the ship. The cabin was quiet enough. Very little noise comes through the walls. When a ship's announcement is made we had to open the cabin door if we wanted to hear it. Most mornings we ate breakfast in the Four Seasons. It was good with a good selection of breakfast items. We enjoy having a leisurely breakfast when we could. There is a breakfast buffet available in the bar & grill but when we would rather be waited on. We had room service for breakfast one morning. It was very good and very prompt. We had omelets, fruit, bacon, sweet rolls, coffee juice. We also ordered just coffee and fruit a couple of mornings. Very nice. The first morning we docked at Hilo. It was a beautiful morning in Hilo. I had arranged for a helicopter ride over the volcano and rainbow falls for myself, dh and brother-in-law. We did this online prior to the trip. One consideration for us was that my dh is slightly over the 250 lb weight limit for many helicopter companies and we didn't want to pay extra if we didn't have to. We scheduled with Paradise Helicopters. We were totally THRILLED with our experience with Paradise. They were very accommodating and the flight was exceptionally great. Our pilot, Joyce was terrific and we loved every minute of it. I would highly recommend them. While we were on our ride my sister-in-law went and checked out our rental car from Alamo. Once again I had pre-reserved our rental cars online prior to the trip. In some places the 6T code helped with a cheaper rate, in others a different code worked better. We had cars in most ports through Alamo and had very good luck with them. The only drawback to Alamo was that there was NO shuttle provided at the pier in Honolulu on disembarkation day. We had to take a cab and it was a bit expensive with the 4 of us and lots of luggage. Most other rental car companies provided shuttles from the pier in Honolulu. After our helicopter ride we drove to the Volcano National Park and explored on our own. The weather became cloudy and we had times of rain while we were there but the sights were really interesting. It was well worth the trip. We returned to the ship fairly early. After relaxing for a bit we went to the bar & grill for dinner so that we wouldn't have to dress up too much. Once again the food was ok, but nothing special. It is a buffet for goodness sake! After dinner we went to the Stardust lounge for the comedian Elliot Max. His show was really enjoyable. The captain had announced that we would be sailing past the volcano around 10pm and we might be able to see some of the lava flows glowing at that time. Actually we went on deck about 9:30 and were granted a beautiful site with the lava. That was fun. We don't normally stay up too late and all of the activity wears us out so we headed to the cabin for the night. Friday, our first sea day. I must admit that I have a HUGE tendency to get motion sick. I had every imaginable preventative measure with me. Before going on our first helicopter ride on Kauai (pre-cruise) I began using the patch. It worked great. I never got sick but I SURE FELT THE MOVEMENT. I don't love the feeling....kind of like being drunk all of the time with a woozy head. Maybe this is why people love to cruise so much. The woozy feelings subsided as the trip went on and I did get more used to the motion, however I was always aware of it and on the rougher days it bothered me a bit. Of course I was ALWAYS able to eat well. I did feel more tired that normal and I headed for bed early many nights. During the sea days my dh and I went to an informative seminars on jewelry and gems in the jewelry shops on the ship. I went to the lei making classes (they had real orchids and kakui nuts for us), had a massage, used the internet services, ate a pretty darn good BBQ lunch by the pool and mostly lounged around. It was a bit crowded when everybody was stuffed into the jewelry store to listen to the seminar there, I wish they could hold it in a larger area but it would probably be difficult to do. It was especially difficult with the crowd and the ship swaying back and forth. During the sea days the swells were pretty rough, anywhere from about 8-10 ft. to 14-18 ft. You could definitely loose your balance if you weren't careful, and there weren't many times during the sea days I enjoyed being on deck because of the wind and movement. The sea days weren't my favorite for these reasons, but we loved Fanning Island when we got there, so I believe it was well worth it. More on that soon. During the sea days there was an optional formal night. We had really been looking forward to this since we very seldom have the opportunity to dress up. My sister-in-law scheduled a dinner in Le Bistro for that evening. We enjoyed the atmosphere and service of Le Bistro both that evening and the last evening on the ship, but we didn't feel that the food was much better than the regular dining room. Also do note that the menu for Le Bistro does not change through the entire trip. I would recommend Le Bistro if you wish to enjoy a less hectic dinner experience with very good service, but I wouldn't go more than once if I were to decide to go again. We just didn't think the food was that great. Good, but not great! While I am talking about food I do want to mention that we normally ate lunch and dinner in the Four Seasons. The location of our room was just a few steps from the Four Seasons so it was very convenient to us. Also we felt the service for the most part in the Four Seasons was excellent. The young women that work there were wonderful. Attentive, sweet, considerate and very anxious to please. Most all of them were exceptionally great. Some of the older men were a bit indifferent. We never had any experience with them being rude, but the older men just seemed to be a bit less interested in serving or being as attentive. The food was good. Plenty of choices and reasonable size portions. It wasn't the best food I have eaten but we enjoyed it and we enjoyed trying some new items. The service was what made the restaurant so enjoyable for us. I am really missing the service now that I am home. Only once on the entire trip did we have an NCL employee act rude or unfriendly. Every crew member (except one) was friendly and helpful. They all seemed truly happy to help. The only crew member that was a bit less than friendly or helpful was Carolyn in the Internet cafe. She was a bit short with her assistance on purchasing time on the internet for my laptop. She helped, but seemed a bit miffed to have to help with anything. She also made a rude comment about me to my sister-in-law after there was a mix-up when I signed up for the internet account. She was unclear about her information and I signed up on the computer in the internet cafe and then found out it wouldn't work on my laptop. She corrected the problem but was a bit snippy about it. Please note. You must sign up for EITHER the Internet cafe or your laptop, but your account will not work on BOTH unless you pay for 2 separate accounts. I didn't feel this information was clear until after you signed up....and you sure pay plenty for the internet access. Fanning Island - Such a beautiful day. We had booked the Napali Beach excursion at Fanning Island. I would HIGHLY recommend this and I am so happy that we signed up for it. Napali Beach is probably the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. White beaches, and turquoise water that you could walk out into the lagoon for about ½ mile and never get in deeper than your thighs. With the Napali Beach excursion they provide floatation mats for you to float in the water on. Also provided are umbrella's and beach chairs, both chaise lounges and short beach chairs. There are a few residents on Napali selling merchandise. We did notice the exact same stuff is for sale cheaper on the regular part of Fanning Island. Although nothing is real expensive anyway. Also available for rent were paddle boats, hobie cat sailboats and kayaks. You were able to shuttle back and forth, but it is kind of time consuming to walk to the tender area and tender over to Fanning. We waited till we were ready to leave Napali and then tendered over. We spent time getting our passports stamped, handing out toys to the kids, mailing postcards and of course my dh had to hit the BBQ lunch line. The beach on Fanning isn't NEARLY as beautiful as the Napali Beach. It is nice, but it really doesn't compare. There were welcoming groups singing and dancing for us. The people were very friendly and nice. It was such a terrific experience. We were disappointed that NCL scheduled the chocolate buffet for 2:30 to 3:30 that day, forcing you to return to the ship exceptionally early from Fanning Island, or miss the buffet. We would have stayed much longer on Napali Beach but we really wanted to see and taste that chocolate buffet....so we tendered back about 2:00. I understand the reasons they schedule the buffet for the day they do, but I sure wish they would make it a LITTLE later in the afternoon so that you didn't have to cut your visit at Fanning Island short. After the days at sea we were excited to dock on Kauai. Since we had spent 5 days pre-cruise on Kauai my dh and I decided to head for one of our favorite beaches....Lydgate Beach just a few miles North of Nawiliwili. We had taken a helicopter ride on Kauai previously and highly recommend this. There is some of the most awesome scenery to be seen on this island. We believe Kauai has some of the most beautiful beaches also, mostly because they are virtually empty compared to many Hawaiian beaches. On Maui we attempted to take a shore excursion to snorkel at Molokini crater. Unfortunately I knew our chance of actually going to Molokini were slim because by afternoon many times the wind and waves kick up and it becomes too risky to go there. This happened to us also. Instead they took us to Turtle Bay. It was beautiful and there was lots to see there. Sea turtles, Moray Eels, and many types of fish. It was good excursion but the waves and surf did hamper my basic snorkel skills. We enjoyed the town of Lahaina, and we had dinner at Bubba Gump's before returning to the ship. On Kona we took the Atlantis Submarine. It was a wonderful trip. The entertainment on the ship was very good. We didn't make it to every show since some evenings we ate a bit later and we just couldn't stay up late enough to get to the late shows. But we enjoyed the shows we were able to get to. We enjoyed the cruise director Kevin. He did a very good job and seemed to be everywhere! The ship was in very good condition, clean and mostly very nice. It wasn't extravagant or fancy but very nice. All in all we had a very nice trip. I have absolutely no complaints with the crew of the Wind and the ship itself. I would not hesitate to recommend this ship to anyone unless they are looking for an extremely fancy, upscale ship and cruise. Most of the guests on our cruise were older....probably at least ¾ of the guests were a minimum of 60. There were a few guests that were in the 20's range and quite a few that were 30's and 40's and 50's. There were VERY few children. They seemed to have a small children's program but it didn't seem to be terribly extensive. Hopefully a parent with kids will also post a review. One point to note. Normally I have heard that on cruises of 10 or more days you will have at least 2 formal nights. I purchased clothing accordingly and we were disappointed to learn that there was only one formal night on this cruise. I found that we overpacked, but only on the "dressy" clothes. On NCL the atmosphere is much more casual than I have read about on other cruise lines. Don't take too many dressy items. If you are headed to Hawaii on the Wind, have a great trip in Paradise! Read Less
Sail Date May 2004

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