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Sail Date: October 2003
Vision is a sister ship of Grandeur which we sailed on Jan 2003 out of New Orleans. We loved Grandeur so much it was one of the reasons we booked the Vision trip. Since September 2001 we have taken 5 RCI cruises. All have been well worth ... Read More
Vision is a sister ship of Grandeur which we sailed on Jan 2003 out of New Orleans. We loved Grandeur so much it was one of the reasons we booked the Vision trip. Since September 2001 we have taken 5 RCI cruises. All have been well worth the money, especially this cruise with very few if any complaints even now. Vision came with everything we expect in a RCI vacation. A very clean ship, well serviced with lots to do. We found the shows average, but then again were not really show people, and our table mates seemed to enjoy them. We did our homework and booked our shore excursions or beach time ourselves well in advance over the net. Of our past cruises the shore excursions really seemed to be a value. Maybe it was just the location being Mexico, and our first time to the Mexican Riviera. We did horseback riding, chartered an offshore fishing trip, just $350 for the two of us for 8 hours of fantastic saltwater fishing, and enjoyed lots of beach time. Our only negative experience with any RCI vacation did come on this trip. We were told before booking that Vision was like Grandeur in Every way. It's not. We really enjoyed the quiet relaxing atmosphere in Grandeur's Solarium pool and hot tubs. On Grandeur, at that time any way, it was an adults only area, this was not the case on Vision. Why children have to be in every pool on the ship is beyond me, but we were very disappointed. There was no place to sit, read, or relax by a pool that wasn't filled with screaming, cannonball jumping kids. We thought maybe we were over reacting until we overheard other people also complaining about it. Even though signs were posted everywhere forbidding it, children in diapers were allowed in the pools and hot tubs. When we complained we were told the staff didn't want to upset the parents. Food was the only other disappointment, and I was hoping it was just this ship, but I have been told by many of the staff this is not the case. RCI has started to cut the corners and begun lowering themselves to the Carnival level. We noticed it only during dinner in the dining room. RCI has done away with the New York Strip dinner and having it as an alternate selection on the menu. Instead they offered this horrible, tuff, thing called a ranch steak. Were not even sure if it was a steak. I should have known something was up when our waiter didn't recommend it and cringed when I still ordered it. Several of the meals were fantastic as usual and second helping was always available. It was our first cruise though where we were disappointed at more than one dinner. The Windjammer was excellent as always, offering a wide range of pleasing meals and desserts. We ate there for every breakfast and lunch. The Solarium food was an added plus with different pizzas available everyday. A nice touch and something new I think. Overall we would probably take the same trip again. If you're looking for a quiet place to relax by a pool, forget about it, it was almost as bad as a Disney ship. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
Mexican Riviera Cruise October 26, 2003 to November 02, 2003 We have now had a week to digest our wonderful cruise. I would like to share some impressions of our time in San Diego and our week away from reality on the ms Statendam. We ... Read More
Mexican Riviera Cruise October 26, 2003 to November 02, 2003 We have now had a week to digest our wonderful cruise. I would like to share some impressions of our time in San Diego and our week away from reality on the ms Statendam. We arrived in San Diego just before sunset on Thursday October 23. Our flights across the country had been flawless. We met our friends from Minneapolis, who had arrived before us. We stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Beach. The hotel is well known as a playground for the rich and famous. We enjoyed our stay there, but it is safe to say that we all agreed that the hotel is past its prime. It is very expensive, but we found the hotel to be ordinary and noisy. We were able to enjoy the Zoo on Friday and the Wild Animal Park on Saturday. Sunday we awoke to a disaster. Looking out across the beach early in the morning we saw smoke across the horizon. I left early to return our rental car. I was appalled to find the car covered in ash. As I drove across the Coronado Bay Bridge the scope of the disaster was evident. The smoke over the city was a fierce back, looking like a terrible storm was about to erupt. To the east was another plume coming off the backside of a distant mountain. By the time I reached the rental car return ash was falling like snow. I found a cab and returned to the hotel to meet my wife and our friends. We watched TV in horror. The fire had closed the highways we had driven just the day before to visit the Wild Animal Park. The images of the fire ravaging the countryside and neighborhoods were unforgettable. It was incomprehensible, less than 24 hours before there had been no fires at all. We left the hotel around noon. By that time the smoke had reached the ground in an acrid cloud. The odor and taste of the smoke will always be seared in my memory. It was impossible to avoid breathing the miserable smoke. We arrived at the pier without any problem. There was little traffic as people were being asked to stay off the roads. Check in was a breeze. A porter took our bags in seconds. There were no lines. We had pre registered on the Internet, but it really did not matter. San Diego is the easiest check in of any of our cruises. We found our way on board. We were not escorted to our cabin as on previous Holland American cruises. We were led, with several other couples, to the Lido. No one noticed that we were in a suite, so we made our way down to our cabin on our own. Our suite was ready. We stayed in suite 020, directly across from the new Neptune Lounge. Our cabin attendant Ansari introduced himself and told us he would bring our bags shortly. We settled in, found our friends, and went up to the Lido for lunch. The scene outside was surreal. The pier in San Diego is directly across from downtown. By the time we finished lunch the smoke obscured most of downtown. It was so dark streetlights were on and cars had their headlights on. We returned to our cabin and stood on the veranda. The view was across the harbor to the airport. We could just see the airport, and to my amazement flights were coming and going. I watched one jet on final for landing, and to my astonishment it went around, disappearing into the smoke. Later we saw a second flight do the same thing. It was scary to watch, and I could not imagine how people must have felt who were on those flights. Most people are pretty nervous these days while flying, and can you imagine smelling smoke then your pilot taking you around for a second try? It was not comfortable to stay outside for long. The air inside was fine, so visits to the veranda were brief. By the time the Life Boat Drill was scheduled the ash had changed from white to black. Touching anything exposed to the smoke left my hands black with soot. It was obvious that the crew had some tough days ahead cleaning up the mess. The Life Boat Drill was uneventful. Our Captain Peter J. Van Maurik announced that we would leave an hour late to accommodate late flights. Later we were told that over 40 people missed the ship due to flight problems. I did not envy them, and we were especially glad we had arrived a few days early. We met our friends and headed to dinner. We had reserved the first seating and were seated at table 20. Table 20 is located on the upper level of the Rotterdam restaurant along the windows. We laughed when we realized it was the same table we had been assigned to on the Veendam last January. Our waiter Rahmat met us and soon his assistant Wibowo and the Head Steward Bram introduced themselves. We also met our sommelier for the week, Romeo. It is safe to say that we were immediately impressed with the food. After a few meals we all agreed that the food was more flavorful than we enjoyed on the Veendam last January. The dining room selections were varied and flavorful. The service was typical Holland America, uniformly superb! Not long after we finished dinner we ventured outside. To our great relief the smoke was gone. The crew went to work immediately to clean up the mess. It took them two days. Every outdoor surface had to be cleaned, including all the verandas. They did a great job! We explored the Neptune Lounge and met our concierge, Monet. Monet is a beautiful young woman, and proved to be a great help to us throughout the cruise. The lounge is nicely done in dark wood, and was always supplied with goodies including a continental breakfast. We enjoyed spending time in the lounge relaxing and chatting. It was now time to pick a bar. We walked around and settled on the Ocean Bar. A young lady was singing and Jhomar welcomed us. He proved to be a classically wonderful Holland America waiter, immediately learning our names and remembering our favorite drinks. Just how do they do that, anyway? We ending up spending each evening there, and it was always great fun. Monday was a sea day. We had a one-hour later time change. We attended a party for the suite guests in the Neptune, and met the hotel manager Frits Gehner, Guest Relations Manager Paula De Man and the Cruise Director Jack Jones. Otherwise we did absolutely nothing. Isn't that wonderful? I did check out the Internet Cafe, and signed up for the wireless service. The manager Paul helped me setup my notebook computer. The speed was considerably improved from my experience on Veendam. It was much better using my own computer, as managing my e-mail is much easier than going directly to the mail server as I have to do from the terminals. The price was unchanged from the Veendam; I paid $100 for 250 minutes. Bring your own wireless card, they charge $10.00 a day or $50.00 a week to rent one. The service was erratic as wireless so often is. It was only available on the 7th deck near the Internet Cafe. I became a bit of a celebrity because of my cool little Lifebook notebook computer. Many people were amazed at the small size and weight. Interestingly the wireless and terminal accounts are not interchangeable. If you have a wireless account you cannot use it on the terminals. Monday evening we reserved a table at the new Pinnacle restaurant. It was a formal night. We arrived promptly at 7:00 PM. Monet had made the reservation for us. The restaurant was perhaps ½ full. The meal and service were absolutely divine! The steaks were simply superb, on a par with steaks served at fine steak houses like Morton's or Ruth Cris. The service was incredibly attentive, even better than the excellent service in the Rotterdam. We did note the menu was fixed for the entire cruise. If you sail on the Statendam and want a treat be sure to enjoy dinner in the Pinnacle! Tuesday was another sea day. Again we had a one-hour later time change. The captain sailed us along the Baja California coast. Our cabin is on the port side, and we enjoyed a fantastic view as we headed south. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm. We saw a structure on the beach, and the Captain told us it was a movie set. We decided to have room service on the veranda, and our friends joined us for lunch. We passed by Cabo San Lucas, and some jet skis came out to ride in our wake. All of a sudden one of the guys leaned over and dropped his bathing suit. He was, well you know! We laughed and wondered just how much the guy had to drink. I suspect the captain was no so amused. We soon passed out of the sight of land as we headed southeast. It was a good time for a nap, and the breeze on the veranda and the comfortable chaise lounge made it a nap to remember. We returned to the Rotterdam Tuesday evening. We enjoyed another fine meal. We did notice that the dining room in our area was quite warm. It was a minor problem that bothered us through the cruise. We arrived in Puerto Vallarta on time Wednesday morning. We looked out from our veranda and had to laugh. Directly across from the cruise ship pier is a Wal Mart and Sam's Club. No joke! So much for an exotic port, but it did make for a good photo op. The day was perfect, sunny and warm. Our shore excursion for the day was the Sierra Madre Expedition. The tour operator met us at the pier. We were soon whisked away on a bus to their headquarters building. We were encouraged to buy bug repellent and to use the bathroom. We were separated into two groups of two, and boarded our vehicle for the rest of the tour. It was unique, to say the least! It was a 4-wheel drive truck, with a modified bed that includes two long benches with seat belts and a canopy top. Our guide sat at the end, warned us about our crazy driver, and off we went. The seat belts were essential. The trucks were built for off roading, and the ride was tough even on pavement. Everyone was in a great mood and we headed towards the mountains, bouncing along as we went. Our first stop was at a Mexican village. Our tour guide was from Holland and his English was excellent. We explained about life in Mexico and gave us a tour of a church. The poverty was everywhere. Almost no buildings were finished. We were taken to a taco stand, where the source of the meat was only from the head of a cow. Needless to say everyone passed! We were again encouraged to use the bathroom, and then we headed into the forest. The ride was a blast! We went off roading along a riverbed. The truck was amazingly agile, and we roared up and down the riverbank. The poor folks in the front got wet as we raced along the riverbed. We stopped and everyone laughed about the ride we just enjoyed, or endured, depending upon your point of view! We next took a beautiful hour-long walk through the subtropical forest. Our guide explained the plants, birds and insects we found along the way. The bug repellent proved invaluable, as there were loads of ticks. We saw woodpeckers, parrots, termites, butterflies and huge spiders. The shade was welcome and the forest quite beautiful. We headed back out to civilization. We stopped at a second village, and were given a tour of the garden maintained by one of the families. We were all famished by this time, so we all enjoyed the tacos and local fruit served by the family. Our final stop was at San Francisco beach. We arrived late at about 3:00 PM. Lunch was prepared for us, but we ate little as we knew dinner was at 6:00. We were warned by the guide not to buy any jewelry from the "vendors" waiting for us, as the silver was not real. We were regularly approached, but they did go away when we said no. Eventually 2 police officers arrived, and most of the "vendors" disappeared. Their fake silver is apparently well known. Our ride back to the ship took an hour, I think. Our guide had a bottle of tequila and other spirits. He had us play a question and answer game, where the winner got a shot of tequila. We had a blast, and we all had a buzz by the time we reached the ship. We might have been upset that we were two hours late, but I doubt anyone cared! Dinner was pleasant that evening as we regaled our friends with stories of our fun excursion. We departed about 9:00 PM and left to the cheers of people on the Carnival Pride, which was docked next to us. Thursday morning we docked in Mazatlan. Again the weather was perfect. We had a one-hour forward time change. The view was quite different than Puerto Vallarta. The dock is part of an industrial port. There were countless small cars and trucks lined up in the port. We learned later they were imports by Hyundai. We left on our excursion around 9:30. Our friends joined us on the Stone Island tour. We took a cab ride to the dock where our catamaran awaited us. We then were given a tour of the harbor, including the point of land at the entrance of the harbor. We had a perfect view of the Statendam and the Pride, which was docked next to us. Stone Island was across the harbor from the ships. We docked the catamaran and were escorted to what our guide called "Mexican limousines". They were carts with benches towed by tractors! Our ride to the beach was through a village. There were many horses and countless coconut palms. We stopped at an outdoor restaurant, which would be our home for the day. We grabbed a table close to the beautiful beach. It had a palm frond roof that gave us protection from the sun. Once again we had been warned about the "vendors." They soon arrived in droves, selling everything from hammocks to carvings to tattoos to hair braiding to carvings and tee shirts. They were an annoyance, but never harassed us when we said no. Our friends went horseback riding while we went on a horse drawn sleigh. The island's economy is tourism and coconuts. The poverty was much the same as we saw the day before. The beach was lovely and safe for swimming. We enjoyed an open bar and a delicious lunch cooked by local people. The service was excellent. Our guide Dorita spent some time with us and told us about her family. The conversation was personal and real and was a highlight of the trip. Later a piñata was broken by some of the children, who enjoyed the candy. We were a little bored by mid afternoon, and were ready to return to the ship. There was a shopping bizarre at the terminal. We looked around before returning to the ship. Most interestingly were the prescription drugs being sold by "pharmacies". I was amazed at how brazen they were! Dinner that evening was in the Rotterdam. To our astonishment, as we were leaving after dinner, the Maitre D called us over and invited us to dinner the next evening with the Chief Officer. We were flabbergasted, as we had received the same invitation on the Veendam. The odds of this two cruises in a row are unbelievable! Friday we arrived in Cabo San Lucas. For a pleasant change there was no time change. The weather was again magnificent. We had not seen a cloud in 3 days! Cabo is a tender port, and we set anchor south of the Pride. Our excursion in Cabo was Half-Day Sport Fishing Adventure. The tender ride was uneventful once we got on. Swells made it difficult to board. We docked near a US Coast Guard Cutter and were escorted to our fishing boat. We headed to sea past the famous arch at the entry of the harbor. They say a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work. That was our solace, as we caught no fish. We did see one magnificent marlin make a classic jump. The views were beautiful as we trolled along with many other fishing boats. Oh well, that's how it goes sometimes. The tender ride back was hot and rough. They had a great deal of difficulty getting everyone off in the swells. I fell as I got off the tender, but no harm was done. I don't like tendering, and this experience did nothing to make me like it any better. Dinner at the Chief Officer's table was a pleasure. Chief Officer Robert-Jan Kan met us before dinner and escorted us to the table. The couples were split up, and we enjoyed a wide-ranging and most interesting conversation. The special menu was outstanding. The entrEe choices were filet minion or lobster tail. Excellent wine was served and the food was terrific. Chief Officer Kan told us about his career and his future assignment, and answered many questions about the vessel. Don't you dare call the Statendam a ship. It's a vessel! Saturday was sea day. Our time changed again by one hour forward. The day started uneventful. About 10:00 AM the Captain announced that there was a serious engine problem. A turbocharger on one of the generators that drive the engines had malfunctioned. There was no danger, but we would arrive in San Diego about 6 hours late. Many of had blank looks as we realized we would miss our flights. Monet offered us free use of the satellite phones, but all the circuits were busy. What were we to do? Our friends went to the Internet cafe. Incredibly their secretary was on line, and using instant messenger we were able to convey our problem to her. She was able to reach their travel agent at home, and she contacted the airlines and got us new flights. She also made us hotel reservations. It was incredible, all done without a telephone! It was pure luck she was on line. Needless to say this good fortune saved us a great deal of heartburn! The front desk handled the many people affected with their usual grace. I was amazed to see so many people with a big problem, yet I never heard a voice in anger. We later learned many of the staff was affected as well. They had plans to meet friends and family on shore, and now they had to deal with an almost instant turn around. Saturday night we enjoyed our last meal in the Rotterdam. It is always a little sad to goodbye to the wonderful dining room staff. Sunday arrived with another one-hour time change. Considering that the time had changed from daylight savings to standard time the day we departed we had experienced 5 time changes in 7 days! We enjoyed one benefit from the engine problem. The sail into San Diego was in daylight and the view was incredible. The smoke was gone, replaced by cold air and a clear sky. I took lots of photos as I savored the view. Disembarkation was slow. One incredibly inconsiderate non-American couple did not report to customs. We waited about an hour listening to repeated announcements for them. They must have eventually found them. Once we were let off all went well. I would like to add a few comments about our experience on the Statendam. We did not attend any of the entertainment. We enjoyed our evenings with our friends. If you reserve a suite and are sensitive to noise avoid the cabins near the Neptune. There was lots of socializing outside the lounge in the morning, which awoke us almost every day. It wasn't a big deal for us, but might be for others. The air conditioning on the ship is poorly balanced. The public areas varied from hot to cold. We kept our cabin set at the warmest setting while our friend next door kept theirs at full cold. I don't know it was so irregular, but it was annoying at times. We are not fans of Holland America's "Tipping not required" policy, but during the disembarkation talk you are informed, "tipping is the international gesture of thanks". It would be far easier and fairer to the staff to adopt a clear tipping policy. The dining room was half empty the last night, and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to know why. We've been on another cruise line with a clear policy, and the service was also excellent. The staff pays the bill for this outmoded policy, not the passengers. I have no doubt that the service would not suffer if the policy were changed. Holland America does a superb job in selecting and training their staff, and that is far more important to ensure good service than are tips. The staff would only work harder if they were assured consistent tips. These were minor flaws in an otherwise excellent experience. The ship was spotlessly clean and the service exceptional. The itinerary was excellent. I highly recommend the ms Statendam! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
This is my Reader's Digest condensed (ha!) review of the Carnival Pride. For more in depth reviews of various aspects of the Pride, I direct you to the following locations: Embarkation Review  Cabin Review  Deck A and Riviera ... Read More
This is my Reader's Digest condensed (ha!) review of the Carnival Pride. For more in depth reviews of various aspects of the Pride, I direct you to the following locations: Embarkation Review  Cabin Review  Deck A and Riviera Deck Review: Deck A & Riviera Deck Review  Promenade Deck Review  Atlantic Deck Review Main Thru Panorama Decks Review Lido Deck Review Now, on with the show! Saturday, September 27, 2003 We arrived at the Long Beach Terminal on Saturday and spent the night at the Coast Long Beach Hotel which is a 15 minute walk away and within sight of the Long Beach Terminal. We stayed in a garden view room for $139 that included a breakfast buffet and being able to leave our car on the premises for the duration of the cruise. The beds were comfortable, the food was delicious and I highly recommend this hotel if you are looking for a place to stay the night before the cruise. We met up with Nancy (Nancyjw) and her husband Rodney, who were also staying at the hotel, and had dinner in the hotel's restaurant before calling it a night. Sunday, September 28, 2003 The next morning the hotel shuttle took us to the terminal. Since we had arrived at 9 a.m. for early check-in at the Queen Mary, there were plenty of porters to be found since they were busy unloading passengers from the previous week's cruise. We simply walked up to the nearest porter who was unloading luggage and asked him to take ours to be loaded on the ship for this week's cruise. No problem. Early check-in on the Queen Mary was a breeze. Thank you Carnival for providing this unique way to check in! There are signs telling you where to go along with helpful people. We were all checked in within 15 minutes and then spent the next two hours exploring the Queen Mary. I ran into several CC members at the QM. It wasn't too hard for them to find me. I was, after all, the only one around wearing a tiara! At 11:45 we went to the Terminal building to board the ship. There are two lines that form outside: one for those who did early check-in (ours was the left line) and one for those that did not (ours was the right line). There are Carnival reps who wear navy blue jackets that will direct you to the correct line. MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN THE CORRECT LINE!!! The doors to the terminal opened promptly at noon. It took us 20 minutes to get through security and were onboard the Pride at 12:25. Smooth and efficient. As you board the ship they give you a miniature map of the ship. You enter on Atlantic Deck 3. We were on Main Deck 4 so rather than wait with everyone else for an elevator, we simply took the stairs to our cabin where we dropped everything off and then went off to explore the ship. The Pride is a beautiful ship and very large. It is easy to get turned around and before we left the port, people were constantly changing directions once they discovered they were going the wrong way to get to where they were going! Once the ship started moving it was easy to tell which way to go. If you wanted to go towards the front of the ship, then look out the windows and go in the direction the ship was moving! If you wanted to go towards the back of the ship, then go in the opposite direction. Pure and simple. We grabbed lunch from the Mermaid's Grille and ate it on the Lido Poseidon Deck. For the record, let me say that the food on the Pride is excellent! I frequently eat out at nice restaurants and the food that was served on our cruise was comparable to those fancy dining establishments. Aside from the cardboard hash browns, there wasn't anything that I can think of that wasn't good to eat. The omelette station was good for breakfast. Oh, one bad thing. The coffee on the Pride is weak. If you like strong coffee, you will have to go to the Piazza Cafe and get a mocha or latte there. It will cost you, but it is better than what you will find in the Mermaid's Grille. Coffee was a little better in the Normandie Restaurant, but not by much. The after dinner cappuccino, however, was excellent. Muster drill is held immediately prior to sailing. We sat in our cabin until the horn sounded and made our way down to Muster Station B. I was shocked to see how many people were already there! We ended up standing in line only for about 5 minutes and then it was over. Very fast and efficient. Immediately following the muster drill we had our Cruise Critic meet & greet at the Perfect Game Bar. We had a small group consisting of Nancy, Rodney, CathyDev and her family, Michelle10803 and her husband along with my mom and myself. It was a great place to meet, but we should've scheduled another gathering on Monday in the Piazza Cafe seating area. It was hit or miss the rest of the week in running into other Ccers. I apologize for dropping the ball on that one, gang! Monday, September 29, 2003 Monday is a sea day. It was cold outside, so make sure when you pack that you bring along at least a pair of long pants and a sweater. Formal nights on the Pride are Monday and Friday. Monday night is also the Captain's Cocktail Party. Go to this, just don't go too early. They have free pre-made drinks and hors d'oeuvres. The drinks were champagne and screwdrivers, if I remember correctly. The hors d'oeuvres were meatballs, crab-filled pastries, pizza mix in tiny cracker cups and chicken nuggets. The meatballs were to die for! They have big band music and dancing on stage in the Taj Mahal. The Captain will come and stand in the starboard entrance to the Taj Mahal and you can shake his hand. Don't show up right away! Come about ten minutes after the scheduled start time and you might be able to see him and shake his hand. We never saw him since we were there too early. The shows on the Pride were hit or miss for us. The Welcome Aboard show and "Vroom" were the best. They were also the least loud. If you are only planning on seeing one show, then I would see "Vroom". Lots of fun. Tuesday, September 30, 2003 Tuesday is the second sea day. You will start feeling the humidity and heat today! For those of you who want to take pictures of the Pride without all of the crowds, I do NOT recommend doing it when you first board the ship. Do it around 5:30 in the morning on Tuesday!!! I did this and there was no one up and about when I did and I was able to get all of the shots I wanted. I think I will do this on all of my future cruises. I was also able to catch a beautiful sunrise before heading for the Mermaid Grille for the omelette and cardboard hash browns. Let me just say that I got those hash browns "hot off the grill" and they were still lukewarm and had no flavor, so thinking that if you get up early enough might make the difference is not true! I never went to a single Lido Deck activity, so you will have to look elsewhere for a review of them. I had too much fun doing all of the other things on the ship! I did do the art auction and it was a blast, although it ended up putting a dent in my wallet because I saw and bought six pieces that I really liked and couldn't say "no" to. They offer free champagne on the first day of the auction. All other days of the auction there will be waiters who will come and take your orders, but your Sail & Sign card will be charged accordingly. I learned a lot at that auction. Our Park West representative was Sean and he was great. He took the time to explain the differences between the types of art being sold and gave information about the artists. He said we were the quietest bunch of cruisers he had ever sailed with! Wednesday, October 1, 2003 Puerto Vallarta was hot! I was up early again to take some amazing shots of us arriving at PV. Definitely worth the effort. We did the Marigalante Pirate Cruise in the morning. Carnival only offers this tour as the Sunset Cruise and in my opinion it is better for you to do it at night. We signed up for it online through PVPam and when we got onboard the ship we were informed that it was now offered as an official Carnival shore tour. Since we didn't do the Sunset Cruise I can't tell you how it was, but I can tell you that from our experience on the day cruise it was well worth the money. I do not recommend that you book this independently during the day simply because the Pride docks too late at the port for you to catch the Marigalante. We were five minutes late and watched it sail away as we arrived at its dock. Although the distance to the Marigalante is nearby (a simple five minute walk around the corner from the Pride), you have to find the entrance, pay your fee, get to the dock and board the ship. There is not enough time to do that. The Pride docks at PV at 9 a.m. ship time, but in reality it is 10 a.m. PV time. The Marigalante leaves the dock at 10 a.m. PV time, so it sailed away while we docked. My mom and I were first and second off the ship, so don't think that will help either. Now, having said all of that, we were able to do the cruise because they have a speedboat that will come back and pick up those passengers who have missed the boat, so to speak, and take you to the Marigalante which is what happened to us. We finally boarded the ship in the middle of the bay and from then on it was a blast. The pirates do a show involving male and female passengers, then they did a mutiny with the captain being run off the ship (no walking of the plank, but one pirate did literally dive headfirst into the ocean!). The captain regains control of the ship and all's well that ends well. We were allowed to lounge around a little and then we arrived at a small island where they have beach space with umbrellas and a roped off area of the ocean for those who want to play in the water. They also had a banana boat, kayaks, boogie boards and for those who wanted to, they took them snorkeling. You will need to bring your own towel should you decide to do the tour. We didn't know this and didn't have any towels to lie out with, so instead we just sat in the plastic chairs they brought on shore for us or played in the water. We spent two hours at the island before going back to the ship for a barbecued lunch, another show and dance contest and then resting under the sails. We arrived back at the dock at 2:30, very weary but happy. It was worth every penny (or peso!). The guys who play the pirates were very accommodating and a lot of fun. We were so tired, however, from our trip that we simply went back to the Pride for a shower and a nap. We never went out to explore PV after that because we were so tired, so if you want to do more, do the PV exploration thing in the morning and then board the Marigalante for the evening sail. From what we were told they have fireworks on the evening sail. Thursday, October 2, 2003 We did Randi's Happy Horses in Mazatlan. Randi will meet you as soon as you get off the ship. She is the tall lady with the pink sign! Mom and I actually saw her waiting on the dock while the Pride was positioning herself. What else can I say about Randi that hasn't been said already on [Cruise Critic's message] board? Every positive thing you have read about her and her tour is the absolute truth. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about her or her tour. The horses ARE gentle; she does care about her horses; the garlic shrimp at Victor's is to die for! You should pay her at the end of lunch at Victor's. Randi is a great lady with a great sense of humor. If you are looking to do horseback riding on the beach, do it with Randi. She even stops on the beach for photo opportunities, so have your camera ready. Back onboard the Pride, mom and I got Swedish massages after the ride. I was very grateful the next day! The massage was wonderful. They play soothing music while rubbing you down. I felt like limp linguine when my masseuse was finished! But that wasn't the end of my spa adventure! I had seen on one of the Travel Channel specials the Alpha Capsule and had decided that if the Pride had one I simply had to try it. They did and had a special for Thursday: $1 per minute. I did 25 minutes in the Alpha Capsule and let me say that if I had the money I would have one of those things in my house! It was well worth the $25 I spent. How it works is that it lifts up to reveal a terrycloth lined interior. You lay down on your back and they bring the top down over you so you are encased. There is plenty of room to move around inside. Then they put some headphones over your ears. There is more of the soothing music playing. They set the timer, choose a scent to gently waft around you and then bring the head covering over your head. A towel is then placed over the space between the main body cover and the head cover, so you are in the dark with nothing but good music and good scents. Mine was lavender. They set the temperature at 110 degrees which, although it sounds really hot, it was actually very comfortable. Then, to top it all off, the capsule underneath you vibrates. I would have preferred a rolling ball action massager, but the vibrator wasn't bad. It was very relaxing and I did doze. I felt rejuvenated once I got out of it. For those of you who are claustrophobic I don't think you would enjoy this as much as those of us who aren't, but I felt it was well worth the money I spent. Friday, October 3, 2003 I wasn't originally going to get off the ship in Cabo simply because there wasn't anything there that I wanted to do. But I eventually did simply because my whole body ached from riding Randi's Happy Horses the day before! That's what happens to non-riders like me! (Thank God for the Swedish massage I had the day before, but maybe I should've scheduled a second one for today!). Anyway, I decided to take the tender into town just to walk around a bit to stretch my legs. The tenders are easily reached and it takes about 5-10 minutes to get into the harbor. Once there you simply walk out past all the sellers and restaurants. There are a lot of vendors who will come out to you with their wares. I simply waved them off with a slight smile like I used to do to the panhandlers in San Francisco. Keep walking and don't make eye contact or you will never lose them. I did some jewelry shopping in Cabo at the ship sponsored stores. They had some good deals on jewelry and were willing to negotiate prices. I saw a beautiful tanzanite/diamond/opal gold ring that was very tempting. If I weren't in the middle of building a new home and hadn't already spent a small fortune at the art auction I would probably be wearing that ring today, so save your pennies onboard ship if you like jewelry. The stuff that was on sale was very nice and unique. Friday night is also the night of the Gala Midnight Buffet. It was amazing seeing what the Carnival chefs were able to do with all of the food! Extremely creative, colorful and fun. Be there before midnight because they might open the doors early and you can be a little more leisurely in taking your photos. I actually went through the line twice in order to not hold up the line so I could get all the shots I wanted. Since I was still full from dinner, however, I didn't stick around to eat any of these creations! Saturday, October 4, 2003 Hard to believe, but once you leave Cabo it finally sets in that the cruise is almost over. Cabo was so incredibly hot, but the next day as you are sailing back to Los Angeles you notice the chill in the air. This is the time to get your last photos of the ship and savor that balcony that you scrimped and saved for during the last year. Wait until the last night to purchase your photos. You might find you want enough of them to qualify for one of the packages that the ship offers and can get a free 16x20 canvas portrait as part of the deal. This is one thing I wish I had done. Sunday, October 5, 2003 Disembarking from the Pride is a let-down, but needs to be done. First of all, do NOT wait in your cabin for your color to be called! The reason I say this is because you can't hear the announcements in your cabin!!! You have to be out of your cabin by 8:30 anyway so the stewards can start getting them set up for the next sailing. We waited in the Florentine Lounge. Our color was called at 9:30 and we were off the ship in no time. One recommendation I have for you is this: GET A PASSPORT!!! The line for customs is minuscule for passport holders than it is for those with birth certificates. Once you clear customs you head downstairs to where your luggage is located. Simply look for the sign with your color luggage tag and start digging. Sometimes your luggage may be set aside or even mixed in with a different color. Be patient and keep looking. One person should look for luggage while another locates a porter. Now, here is something to warn you about. These porters move FAST. You probably saw it at embarkation. MAKE THEM SLOW DOWN if you can't keep up with them and don't allow them to lose you in the crowd. Our porter was so fast he lost my mother after dumping off our friends' luggage while I was out looking to see if our shuttle had arrived. As I was heading back to find them, he came tearing past me, my mother nowhere to be seen. I went looking for mom and here she comes, still with her sealegs, running and trying to find him and catch up. She tripped and fell flat on her face. There is NOTHING worse in this world than watching your mother's precious blood dripping on the cement after a wonderful week at sea. MAKE THE PORTER SLOW DOWN! I am still absolutely furious at that porter for causing my mother to injure herself as well as putting a blot on the memory of our cruise. Thankfully, my mother was not seriously injured, although she did suffer whiplash and a sprained wrist. MAKE THE PORTER SLOW DOWN! I cannot reiterate this enough. Yes, they need to get you and your luggage to your shuttle or bus, but not at the cost of injury to you or another family member. Having said all of that, let me say that sailing the Pride was a wonderful experience. Take plenty of film and a great attitude and have a fantastic time cruising the Mexican Riviera with Carnival! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
I took my first luxury cruise on Radisson's new Seven Seas Voyager as a special way to celebrate my 50th birthday. With its large cabins, the Voyager is perhaps the most comfortable ship afloat. We picked an 11-night Baltic Sea cruise ... Read More
I took my first luxury cruise on Radisson's new Seven Seas Voyager as a special way to celebrate my 50th birthday. With its large cabins, the Voyager is perhaps the most comfortable ship afloat. We picked an 11-night Baltic Sea cruise that departed August 19, 2003. Having taken 20 other cruises on mass market lines, mostly Princess and Celebrity, I was afraid that once I stepped into the luxury market I'd be so spoiled that I'd never want to sail on anything else. I could taste the caviar, lobster and champagne as I envisioned days of being pampered. Luxury cruises are expensive. Our cruises on Princess and Celebrity usually were in balcony cabins at about $300 per couple per day. The cruise on the Voyager cost $1000 per cabin per day, more than three times as expensive as our other cruises. Was it worth $1000 a day? Pour yourself a little champagne and read on to find out. At these prices you have to judge Radisson with a more critical eye. A deficiency that easily could be overlooked on a $300 a day cruise should not occur when you're paying $1000 a day. The one word that best describes the Radisson experience for me is inconsistent. The cabins and personal attention were wonderful. It was great not to have to wait in line for anything and have servers bring you any food or drink you wanted. But the food was disappointing and the service not quite what it should be at these prices. Embarkation: Even though they say boarding begins at 3PM, you can board as early as 11:30AM. You're met by one of the cruise staff, given a glass of champagne and escorted to a lounge to check in and have a security photo taken. Then you can have lunch at the pool grill or sandwiches in some of the lounges. There's no hot lunch available except for what's cooked on the grill, hamburgers, chicken, and steak sandwiches. The rooms are not usually ready until about 2:40PM but you can tour the ship while you wait. The Ship: The Voyager is one of the best ships afloat in terms of passenger comfort, 49,000 tons and only 700 passengers. Other ships that size could carry up to twice the passenger load. To fully appreciate the Voyager you have to venture inside. From the outside, the ship looks like so many of the newer floating hotels. Not much on the outside appears special. It's painted all white. There is not even much of a promenade deck. With no chairs, it's really just a place to duck outside for some fresh air if you happen to be on deck 5. The centerpiece of the ship is an atrium that goes form deck 3 all the way to the top on deck 11. The Voyager is furnished in an elegant but simple fashion. There's not much to wow you until you enter your suite. The Suites: This is where the Voyager clearly leaves other ships in its wake. The minimum suite is a 300-sq. ft. cabin with an additional 50-sq. ft. balcony. There is more than enough room for two people. The sitting area has a full size sofa with two additional chairs and a small table. There's also a desk and bar in the sitting area, and a small vanity by the bed. The bathrooms are fabulous -- full-size and marble, there is a separate shower, bathtub, and large sink with plenty of storage space. There's also a walk-in closet with enough hangers and room for everyone's clothes. And there are cushions for your two lounge chairs on the balcony. And remember this is all in the minimum cabin. The Food: When I did a little on-line research before the cruise, passengers had said the food on Radisson was on par with Celebrity. This surprised me since, at these prices, I felt the food should be a lot better than on Celebrity. It was not. The overall quality of the food was my big disappointment on the cruise, the only area that did not meet expectations. The food was inconsistent. A few of the meals were the best I've ever had on a cruise ship. Others were major failures. There are four restaurants on the Voyager. The Compass Rose is the main dining room, with open seating. Show up anytime and eat with whomever you wish to dine. I never saw anyone waiting for a table. And there are plenty of tables for two for those who don't want to eat with others. While the food at Compass Rose is certainly good, the menus and preparation of the food left a lot to be desired. We felt much of the food was overcooked or not seasoned properly. The meals our first two nights in the Compass Rose were so unmemorable that we didn't eat there again until the final two nights of our 11-night cruise. On the second night, which was formal, they served Beef Wellington and lobster tails. Both were disappointing. The beef was overcooked and the lobster tails were very small baby lobster tails that lacked texture and flavor. I've had much better Beef Wellington on Princess and better lobster tails on every other cruise I've taken. They didn't even stock regular lobster tails, only the baby ones. This was very surprising for a luxury cruise. On the last formal night the waiter forgot to serve the sherbet course to our entire table. To their credit, they did accommodate special requests for cherries jubilee and baked Alaska. There are two specialty restaurants that require reservations. Signatures is a gourmet restaurant, part of Le Cordon Blue. Its philosophy is the exact opposite of Burger King. At Signatures you have to have it their way. No substitutions, no special orders. But there's plenty on the menu to satisfy almost all tastes. For the most part, the food is very good to excellent and presented so artfully that I took pictures of some of the dishes. By the way, the dress code for Signatures is always at least semi-formal, even on causal nights. The other specialty restaurant is Latitudes. Here, they serve different dishes from different restaurants around the United States. Everyone eats at the same time, 7:30PM. Your only menu choice is between two main course items, usually a meat and fish. At Latitudes we noticed the greatest inconsistency. This is where I had both the best and worst dishes ever on a cruise ship. Some of the food is truly excellent. A shellfish soup and a fillet mignon in a wonderful sauce were the highlights of the food part of the cruise. But on our second visit and with a different recipe, the same excellent cut of fillet mignon was not properly seasoned and served on top of a puddle of bland beef consume. The unanimous opinion of the six people at our table was that the beef turned out bland and tasteless. It was as if the chef had not even bothered to taste it. Deserts also were inconsistent. A pecan pie was overcooked and tough. Some tips for making reservations at Signatures and Latitudes. If you want your choice of times and days, make your reservations as soon as they start taking them at 3PM on the day of sailing. They'll only let you make one reservation for each restaurant. But you can book a larger table and invite someone you meet later. After a couple of days when everyone has had a chance to make their first reservation, they will let you make a second one. If they do fill up you can always try for a cancellation. We ate in Latitudes two nights when there were at least 10 empty places for people who had made reservations but didn't show up and neglected to call. If you have a hearty appetite, beware of any dishes where the meat comes sliced. The polite term would be to say the portions are "delicate." In other words, they're small. We had three different meals of sliced veal, sliced duck breast and sliced Chateaubriand that amounted to no more than 2-3 ounces of meat in a serving. You should have seen the expression on my face on the last formal night when I ordered Chateaubriand and I got a plate with two small 1/8-inch thick slices of meat. The entire table asked for more meat which the waiter brought after a wait that seemed too long. The fourth restaurant is La Veranda, always casual and with an outdoor seating area. We only ate there twice, although some people felt this was the best food on the ship. Its theme is a Mediterranean Bistro. Humus and chunks of Parmagiano cheese await you with bread on the table. The atmosphere is warm and inviting. Much quieter than Compass Rose. Here the appetizers are served buffet style, and the waiter brings your entrEe and some deserts. Other deserts are available from the buffet. On the whole, I thought the food in La Veranda was very good. They had an excellent lamb shank, and I don't even like lamb. But others at our table were not as impressed by the food here. To be fair about the quality of the food, I spoke to many people on the cruise that were delighted with it. They loved every bite. It's interesting how two people can experience the same meal and come away with two completely different impressions. But I was not alone in my feeling that the food was inconsistent. Everyone in our core group of eight passengers felt the same way. And while the quality of the food wasn't always excellent, the presentation was beautiful. The Drinks: All drinks at meals are complimentary. However, except for wine with dinner, they don't tell you the drinks are free. They never offered a pre-dinner cocktail or an after dinner drink. But they are free if you ask for them at the dinner table and the waiters will bring them. This applies in all restaurants. Non-alcoholic drinks are always free anywhere on the ship. Upon arrival you select an in-room bar set up of two bottles of liquor or wine. You also get two cans of beer and mixers, soft drinks and bottled water. The non-alcoholic beverages are replaced as needed. To our surprise, we found that, other than water, we really didn't drink anything in our suite. There are so many opportunities to drink elsewhere on the ship that we didn't have much of a desire to drink in the room. I ended up lugging the two unopened bottles of liquor back home. Radisson does not seem to make much of a profit on drinks. The most expensive glass of red wine we ordered was $5.50 and most cocktails were no more than $4.75. I know people have suggested that Radisson just go to an open bar policy. But they would have to raise cruise fares to do it and those who don't drink would end up further subsidizing those who do drink. I would suggest a compromise that would give passengers a choice of the in-room liquor or a shipboard credit. A $50 bar credit would have been more use to us than two bottles of liquor we never had time to drink in the room. The Service: It was always prompt, professional and attentive. With a ratio of 1.5 passengers to 1 crew, the ship excels at service. Even tables in the buffet restaurant are set with table clothes and silverware. Same for tables in the Horizon Lounge at teatime. As soon as you sit down at a table anywhere, someone is usually quick to come to take a drink order. But as good as the service was, there is still room for improvement. Only about a quarter of the time did the serves make an attempt to address me by name. Almost every time I was drinking soda, I had to ask for a refill, instead of the server coming to me to ask if I wanted another one. And in only one case did the server bring a refill without asking or being asked. The room stewardess and her assistant were very professional in doing their jobs. I never had to ask for anything for the room. But again, they never made an effort to address me by name in the 11 days of our cruise. They only would say "good morning" or "have a nice day" when we passed in the halls. I've taken cruises on Princess and Celebrity where the room steward was calling me by name on the second day. These are small points but they are important if you want to be the very best. The Lounges: They are all comfortable, pleasant and simple. Not much leather or glitz. Most of the chairs are cloth. The Constellation Theater is the main show lounge. There always were seats available. The Horizon Lounge featured afternoon tea and evening dancing. The Observation Lounge was my favorite, on deck 11, glassed in and overlooking the water. A quiet place to have a drink or tea and watch the ship sail. There is also the Voyager Lounge outside the entrance to the Compass Rose. Great for a drink before dinner, it turns into the disco later. The Staff and Crew: Cruise director Barry Hopkins was excellent. He and his staff made an effort to chat with and get to know everyone. I felt the ship's management was accessible if anyone had a problem. The Captain also seemed accessible and was on the bridge to answer passenger questions during the two sea days when the bridge was open for visits. Entertainment: The 10 singers and dancers who did the three production shows were excellent. The rest of the shows in the main showroom were a bit spotty. I felt some of the entertainer's acts were not good enough to sustain an entire show. But you really can't expect to have all top acts on a smaller ship. There was also an on board enrichment lecturer who many people thought was great, even though I didn't get to hear her. And the cruise director Barry Hopkins did a couple of lectures himself, on digital photography and the Royal family, which were popular and entertaining. Internet Access: Available in the top suites and in the Internet cafe. The price for surfing the net is very reasonable. You're charged only for actual downloading time. It's less expensive to use a web-based mail account like Hotmail than to use the ship's email address. With the ship sailing full, there was sometimes a wait for a computer terminal. Laundry: Free self-service laundry, including detergent, is available on all decks. With only two machines per deck there sometimes was a wait. Dress Codes: On the Voyager there are three: casual, semi-formal and formal. I've concluded that ship dress codes really apply only to men. Women can wear anything but jeans. A black pantsuit can double for casual and semi-formal nights. Add a string of pearls and you can wear it for formal night too. So for the men, formal means tux or dark suit and tie. About half the men wore tuxes. Semi-formal is a jacket, tie optional. Most men wore ties. Casual means no jacket. About half the men wore them anyway. Tipping: This is a topic that seems to get people riled up. The policy on Radisson is that all tips are included in your cruise fare and no tips are expected on board. They even tell you on board that tips are not expected. Some people felt the need to tip anyway, sometimes up front, and believed they received better service. I didn't tip extra and my service was fine. However, as much as people don't like the hassle of tipping, I believe that you will never get service as good as you would get when the employee's income depends on a personal tip from you. Conclusions: Radisson is an excellent cruise line and I would sail it again. Some people have said it's like a floating Four Seasons resort. But I didn't feel that it was quite up to that level. The Voyager excels in its cabins, passenger comfort and service. In my opinion the food needs improvement. At these prices the food should be much better than the mass-market lines, not on par with them. What you're paying for on Radisson - and you're paying a lot for it - is a larger cabin, much more attentive service, not having to wait in line, and a more exclusive group of passengers. Whether you think it's worth three times the cost of a mass-market cruise is a personal choice. I wasn't won over completely. But I would like to sail a luxury line again. When I do, I think I'll try Crystal's new ship Serenity so I'll have something to compare with Radisson. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
We sailed the Grandeur of the Seas, August 23, 2003, leaving from Harwich England. We bought air through RCI which included transfers. They were waiting for passengers at the airport, downstairs from the customs area at Gatwick. They ... Read More
We sailed the Grandeur of the Seas, August 23, 2003, leaving from Harwich England. We bought air through RCI which included transfers. They were waiting for passengers at the airport, downstairs from the customs area at Gatwick. They will ask to take your luggage and you won't see it again for hours. If you need something earlier keep it with you. The bus ride to the port at Harwich is 2 1.2 hours. Our bus had broken a/c so it was a very uncomfortable ride. Check in at the port went quickly and we were able to get into our cabin at 12:00 p.m. which is when we arrived. Sunday was a sea day as we sailed to Oslo. The North Sea had 8-13 foot swells so it was a bit rough. We enjoy this though!! There is a lot of ship traffic in the North Sea and Baltic which is interesting. We had our Cruise Critic party at 11:45 which was a lot of fun meeting those we had been talking with for months! Monday we arrived in Oslo to sunny skies and 65 degrees. We were off the ship at 7:10 a.m. We do all the ports independently. We didn't dock where we were supposed to by the fort, but instead at the ferry terminal. We walked into town and found tram #12 and took it to Vigeland Park & sculpture garden. It went to Frogner and stopped due to construction, but it was only a 5 minute walk to the park. The tickets for trams and buses are expensive, $4.30 per ticket, good for l hour. We ended up using it for 2 hours with no one checking. It was 8 a.m. and the park had few people in it. People on bikes riding to work and a few gardeners. It was so peaceful, a wonderful way to enjoy it before bus loads of people arrived! From the road directly in front of the park we caught bus #20 and rode it to Bus #30 line. The drivers will help you if you ask which stop to get off at. We then took bus #30 straight to the Fram museum. We used our original bus ticket for all 3 of these rides. It would be best to get an Oslo card which covers admissions and transport. We didn't since I couldn't find it that early. You can buy this ahead of time on-line and not worry about wasting time looking for it early in the morning. The Fram opens at 9 a.m. so it's important to go here first. The ships papers said it opened later, ignore this. At 9:30 we walked next door to the Kon Tiki museum. Both these museums are worth seeing. A 15 minute walk from here brings you to the Viking Ship museum which has 3 old Viking ships. This was the least impressive museum of the 3, although it has a huge parking lot so this is where the cruise ship tours come. We then walked to the Outdoor Norwegian Folk museum. This is only a 5-6 minute walk from the Viking museum. We enjoyed it a lot, although some houses were closed. We then ferried across the bay to the main harbor and walked to the City Hall. City Halls are very important sights in these countries. We were able to see the wood carvings outside and the first floor, but the important 2nd floor was closed due to election day. We were told it had been open in the morning. From here it's a 10 minute walk to the National Museum where we saw "The Scream" and Munch's other paintings. This is a free museum but you must check your backpack in free lockers. We then walked down Karl Jhons Gate, not to attractive, but found a department store selling tourist items. I bought a troll that I loved! Get the paperwork to get the VAT back. They are very good returning it on the ship just before you sail as long as you have the paperwork. They give you the refund in US$'s. We then went to the Cathedral, then to the Akershus Fortress where the Norwegian Resistance Museum is. It is a good museum, but the English is written in small letters and it's a dark museum, so is difficult to concentrate on. I liked the resistance museum in Copenhagen better. We had walked for 8 hours but had seem so much! This is a very expensive city. Cherries $9 lb., slice of chocolate cake $10, child's t-shirt $30, postcard, $1.25 for one, Ouch!! We sat at the back of this ship on deck 5 to watch our sail away, past beautiful small islands with summer homes on them, don't miss this! Tues. Sea Day We slept a lot, catching up still and getting ready for the hectic schedule to come. Wed. Stockholm Heavy rain in the a.m. but cleared at 10:30 am. 65 degrees Beautiful islands sailing into Stockholm. We arrived at 9 a.m. so had time to enjoy the sail in. There is a Tourist Info Office right at the dock in a small red building. We bought the Stockholm card here. This is a good buy at 220 crown. Again, the admissions add up. We walked in the downpour to Slussen Ferry Dock for the ferry to Djurgarden where the Vasa museum is located. It is an easy, but 25 minute walk to the ferry. Get off the ship and walk along the water toward town. You could take the ships bus to town and if it's summer take a different ferry over, which wasn't running in late august, or take the bus from there. We were dropped of the ferry at Tivoli and walked 5 minutes to the Vasa. It opens at 10:00 a.m. and we arrived at 10 sharp! We spent 50 minutes at this museum which is excellent! We then walked to the Nordic Museum which is right across the street from the Vasa in a large brick building. We really enjoyed this museum, it's different from most with Christmas exhibit, shoes, china, clothing. Quite interesting. Next we walked a short way, 6-7 minutes to Skansen Outdoor museum. Again, this is excellent, but quite large. You can't possibly see everything here in a short time but it's worth seeing what you have time for. We did find the reindeer!! We spent 45 minutes here. From Skansen we took bus 47 (bus stop right in front of Skansen) to the City Hall at the city center. We asked driver to tell us when to get off. He did happily and pointed to us which way to walk! It's past the train station. You must go on a guided tour here and the next was at 2:00 p.m. It was 12:30 so we should have gone to Gamla Stan first. We had to walk back to Gamla Stan and onto the Royal Palace where we saw the changing of the guard. The guards talked softly to the tourists. I had never seen that done before! We went to the Armory to see the large coaches and wooden sleds. We then walked in Gamla Stan, shopping a bit in this delightful area of small streets. This is the Old Town of Stockholm. We walked back to the City Hall for the 2:00 tour. This is a ways, so had to really rush. We had a tour of the Nobel Prize Banquet hall and city hall council meeting room. It was a good tour, although a little long. Back to the Royal Palace for us and a tour of the Treasury with it's small but beautiful crowns and swords. Then we had a bit more time for Gamla Stan, and a walk back to the ship. My legs desperately needed a break after all the walking we did today! Thursday Tallinn Sunny/rainy 62 degrees We were very tired after yesterday, but still got off the ship a bit before 9:00 as soon as we could. We docked early here. I wanted a Tallinn card but there is no TI at this dock. Ask for directions to Terminal A where you can buy the card. We got the card that is good for museums, not the one with the tour included. One man we knew on the cruise could never find the meeting point for the tour and was told it's very hard to find. This city is easy to get lost in. To find Terminal A walk from the ship toward town and shortly upon leaving the gated area turn left. You're heading for the ferry terminal D. walk toward it, but when you can see Terminal A turn left towards it. It's not far. 10 minutes at most from the ship. Inside terminal A is a TI and money changing station. Buy and Sell at good, fair rates. They bought US$'s at $14Kroon and sold for $15 which was only a 3% markup. We only changed $20 USD and got 280 EEK. It was all we needed for the day! The 6 hour Tallinn card covered all museum entrances and buses. We never needed a bus. The card was 60 EEK or $4 US. We walked to town, a very easy walk, past Fat Margaret. They have excellent Matryosha nesting dolls at many shops here. Expect to pay around $55-60 USD for a nice stack of 5 though. We walked through the Old town up to Toompea, Tallinns fortified hill. The view is superb!! Postcard girls are everywhere. Buy postcards from them, they are so sweet. We met on from Georgia. She's trying to support herself and eventually follow her older sister to the US. Excellent sites here are kiek in de kok, with a photography exhibit, medieval cannons left over from the Livonian wars, and other interesting exhibits. St. Nicholas Church with WW II ruins behind it, Dome Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Holy Ghost Church with old outdoor clock, Estonian History Museum, Tallinn Town Museum, among others. At each site, they wrote down the # of our Tallinn card. There is still plenty of time to wander and shop. It's easy to get lost here, which we did a lot. The shop selling CD's of Estonia Music was gone, empty shop now. I asked a waiter at Old Hansa, a restaurant many enjoyed, where I could buy CD's. He told us of Black Market ones under the bridge between Old town and New town! Visit a pastry shop for the best cookies! .35 each, for a cake base, fruit filling, meringue and then covered in chocolate!! We found the internet in Tallinn! A unique experience. We had asked at the TI in town center where it was. She gave us directions of which street to go to. We did, but couldn't find the internet. Asked at the spa, and hair salon on this street. They didn't know. Well, I finally found it, next door to the hair salon. It's a single door, looks like an old Russian apt. building. On the small sign if you look carefully it says internet. The shops right next to it don't even know it's there! Walk up 4 flights of steps in this old building, and down a long, old hallway with many doors. At the end of the hall is an excellent internet center with 5-6 computers. High speed. 30 minutes was $1.50!!! Great after the .50 a minute internet on the ship. It was an easy, relaxing walk back to the ship. Friday St. Petersburg, Russia!! Partly cloudy 57 degrees Again, we didn't want to do ship tours. We looked into and got information from Red October and Denrus. Both e-mailed us their itineraries and prices, which were quite high. It was still early and we couldn't find anyone to team up with. Then I saw posts about Palladium and heard many good things about them. You do need to get Russian Visas, but their prices were great for 2 people. $10 hour for guide and $12 hour for car and driver. We decided to go with them for part of the time. They gave us free visa support. We e-mailed our information and they faxed the necessary paperwork. We filled out the application and sent it along with Travel vouchers and a passport sized picture, I cut from a mat finish, photograph I had taken with $100 each and our passport to the Russian consulate in New York via Fed Ex. 2 weeks later we had our passports back with the Russian Visas inside. Follow the instructions and it's not bad at all. It was so exciting, now we could go tour on our own and have total freedom to do what we wanted!! Almost everyone I corresponded with said don't do it, it's to hard. Well, it wasn't hard, but easy the way we did it. We did have to plan ahead a lot though. We had Palladium pick us up at the ship the first day. They need a gate pass to do this which is $25 a day. We were going to meet them at the port gate, which is very easy to do, but decided to have them get the pass for l day so they could return us to the ship at 11 p.m. that night. A wise choice. We met at 8:30 a.m. but we got off the ship as soon as we were allowed so we wouldn't be behind many people on ship tours going through the same custom lines. There are only 2 lines. We had NO problem with customs. They looked at our visa, stamped the white paper attached and sent us on our way. We waited outside the customs house for 30 minutes for our guide. It would be okay to meet at 8 a.m. if you want. Our driver and guide were excellent! Elena, our guide was so smart, had so many facts to tell us. She has been only married for l year and has traveled a lot outside of Russia. We think she was from a well to do family. The guides must have individual passes for each site you visit, and they must take a test every year to renew their guide passes. We could have not been happier with her services. I had some phrases for her to translate for us into Russian for the time we'd be on our own, and she happily did it. We started out with a city tour covering everything imaginable. We also went into several churches and saw services going on. Quite interesting. Each church was different from the last. We stopped at many sites and took pictures. It rained a bit. Then we drove out to Peterhof, stopping at Chelsma Church on the way. It's a pink and white striped church, looks like a candy cane! Small and quaint. We went inside during the service. In front of this church new drivers were taking "drivers ed" and learning how to do 3 point turns, etc. It was fun to see. We saw very old apt. buildings along the roads, and summer houses with their gardens. They also looked old to me. We saw Peter and Paul cathedral across from Peterhof, a large and beautiful church. We loved Peterhof and it's fountains! Don't miss this, a real highlight. We had plenty of time to walk the gardens and see many, many fountains, and the trick fountains the kids were enjoying. Yes, we got wet here!! There are bathrooms here but you must get the tp in the lobby area first. None in the stalls. Most people didn't realize it and were without! We had local currency and need it to pay for admissions and restroom facilities. After Peterhof we drove back to St. Petersburg where we had Palladium drop us off at the Hermitage. We had bought tickets ahead of time on the internet. This way you don't have to stand in line. It's also good to take pictures with. Elena took our e-mail confirmation and used her guide pass to walk us in that entrance, right to the ticket window without waiting and got our tickets. This was so nice of her, over and above service! She wished us well, gave us some tips on what to see, although I had the Lonely Planet book and had it all planned out. We were here at 1:30 p.m. There weren't many people here since it was lunch time. We checked our backpack. In this area there is also a money exchange desk. We changed more US$ into rubles. The exchange rate was very fair. We had started with $100 US$ amount we changed at our airport bank into rubles. We used the lonely planet map of the museum which I had highlighted all the rooms we wanted to see. It was easy to follow, we felt we saw all of the highlights with no problem, spending about 3 hours here. It wasn't hot, and when we needed to ask the Russian women in the room, guarding it, where stairs were etc. they were very helpful. We used hand signs to communicate! They even smiled! We left the museum and found a bench just outside in a small park by the building and sat and had a lunch I had brought from the ship. We were in St. Petersburg with no guide eating lunch at the Hermitage! It was a thrill! It's important to bring bottled water also. We walked to St. Isaacs next, found it easily, bought tickets, no line. Buy the tickets up the steps on side opposite the Bronze horseman statue. Don't stand in line with the Russians on the street. You must also buy a separate ticket for your camera if you want to take pictures. Do so. Excellent mosaics here but not as good as Church on Spilled Blood. We shopped at the street market across the street next. They were getting ready to close up, but I bargained well and got 2 sets of very nice Matryoshka nesting dolls, hand painted for $50. They started out asking for $50 USD each, but I got 2 sets for that price in the end. They'll bargain if you get more than l. I had wanted 3 so it helped in the bargaining, but ended up with two. They like USD, but the rate is same for rubles or $, no mark up for $. We asked them for directions to the Moya, yes they spoke English well! We walked here following the canal. We felt like we were walking in an older Paris, very simular. We felt very safe, just had to watch for traffic. We went to the Moya canal where the bridge crosses Nevsky Prospect. Here we joined others for a canal cruise. 1 hour for $7. They would wait until the boat was full before they'd leave. There is a small canal side cafe for drinks as you wait. We only waited about 20 minutes. It was a small boat, holding about 20 people at most. The guide was a Russian woman giving the tour live for over an hour of non stop talking. They thought she was quite funny also! We couldn't understand a word, but it didn't matter a bit. We cruised the small canals and the Neva. It was excellent. It was getting cool so they gave everyone a wool blanket, and when it started to rain just a bit, they handed out umbrellas! This was great fun. We had theater tickets later for a folkdance show at Nikolayevsky Palace at Truda Square, 4. This was an excellent show, the best folkdance show we've ever seen! The had many, many costume changes, dances and singing. Even a comedic guy in a costume after intermission, falling on people, including me in the audience! It was great fun. They show was 2 hours with a break for champagne, vodka, fruit, and desserts. Before the show though we went to the Astoria hotel and cleaned up. Then we walked through the city some before going to the Palace. We knew where it was since Palladium showed us the location earlier in the day. It was very close to the Neva river west of St. Isaccs. At 11 p.m. our driver from Palladium picked us up at the palace and drove us back to the ship. The streets were deserted so we were happy not to have to find our own taxi back. Saturday St. Petersburg, cloudy, no rain, 57 degrees Today we met a walking guide at the port gates. To get to the gate from the ship was simple and free. The taxis usually will charge $10 to go to the gate. They may ask for more, but $5-$10 is usual. If you want to go for free, simply get on the old port bus. The bus stopped right in front of the ship to the left of where all the tour buses line up for ship tours. There is a blue wooden building that is the bus stop. We waited about 10 minutes for the bus to arrive. As we were waiting 2 employees from the ship also came and waited with us. When we asked the purser on the ship where the bus stop would be, they said, no, no you don't want to use the bus, it's very old. We told them we didn't care if it was old, but they wouldn't answer our ?. Just must find it on your own, but it's very easy to spot. We hopped on the bus and 5 minutes later it was at the port gate. It was free. Customs at the ship was again easy, and the Russian customs official even laughed with me at my passport picture, which looks nothing like I do today! And who said they don't smile! You show your passport again at the gate. Keep the blue paper with your cabin # on it that the ship gives you the night before you arrive in Russia. We passed on through and met our walking guide, Olga Stepanova. I had found her on the internet, she is also recommended highly on the Fodders sight. She usually uses a car and driver, but that's not what we wanted. We wanted to tour by metro and bus. We had thought about doing this on our own, but we still had so much to see we decided before we left to use Olga to help us get around quicker. She's a fully licensed guide and I sent her a list of what we wanted to do ahead of time. She charged $10 an hour, a bargain. We walked from the port gate straight out to the street where we crossed the road and she flagged down a mini-bus. It's just a van that is used as a mini bus for people. I think it was #41, not sure though. The 2 people who worked on the ship ended up doing the same thing, but got the next bus. We took this mini-bus for .50 each to the center of the city, to the metro. Rides inside the city are .25. We took the metro to Kuznechnyy rynok indoor market. It's a fruit, vegetable, meat, dried fruits, flower market. We had great fun here. The dried fruit stall had 3 men working in it who were just delighted at us Americans being there. They sold us fruits and told us they were Saddam Hussein figs! They knew they were punching our buttons!! We had a fun time with them though. I got one dirty look from the artistic vegetable stall when I took a picture here, but very friendly cheese ladies. We tasted the nasty, soft cottage cheese stuff. Not good. Olga couldn't figure out why we wanted to go here, but she took us anyhow! She has her opinions, but will comply to what you want. Just insist kindly, she's a pushover! Next we took the metro to Alexander Nevsky Monastery and Tikhvin Cemetery. I guess I made a mistake here when I took pictures in the metro. Greg and Olga were buying tickets, a card for 3 rides and I snapped a couple of pictures. A metro guard rushed out of his office looking for me. Saw me, but didn't know it was I taking the pictures, and left. Then I asked Olga if pictures were ok. They don't like them, but I could if not caught! The metro used to be used as a bomb shelter so they're still protective. The metro is very deep. Olga was great, she didn't talk nonstop, and we got to talk to her about her life, not just about the sites we visited. She's been a guide for 15 years. We found bathrooms at a hotel, nice and clean, then hopped a mini bus again, this time to Peter and Paul Cathedral and Fortress. We drove down Nevsky Prospect with Olga pointing out more sights, which we would come back to later in the day, walking. We had a good visit inside the cathedral seeing the tombs of Peter the great and family, the cells, and the fortress. I got my picture taken in the lap of Peter the Great statue with the small head and big body! Olga really doesn't like this statue, but I told her tourists do! We took the mini bus to the Church on Spilled Blood with the most beautiful mosaics we've ever seen! A camera ticket is very important here. After finishing our day in St. Petersburg, walking and seeing so much, Olga got a taxi for us back to the ship. We didn't want to do the mini-bus back on our own since we would have to transfer to a 2nd bus and we don't know which corners to catch them at. The taxi was only $10 to the port gate, where we again, took the bus back to the ship. A port gate guard came up to us this time and asked if we were Americans. We said yes, and he said he had a $20 US bill and could we give him change for it. We both thought, rightfully so, that it was counterfeit and he wanted to pass it to us, getting real currency. We refused, telling him we were out of US currency, that we had used rubles, which was true. He kept trying, but finally realized we weren't going to give him any $. We were almost at the point of thinking we would have to comply though, so we could go on. When the woman checking our passports here to go back inside the port was looking at them, he came into the office, grabbed them from her hands and threw them back at us. Oh well, we were on our way. We were very, very happy with our time in Russia. I had a list of many smaller things to see here and using Olga really helped us out. Sunday Helsinki 57 degrees, cloudy No time for rest, still exhausted, we were off the ship at 7:30 am. Helsinki runs shuttles from the ship into the city for $4 one way per person. No one knows the public bus also goes from the same location, but around the corner for 1Euro each. Just ask the guide at the Helsinki tourist bus there by the ship where to get the bus. We were in the West Harbor and took bus #16. The Helsinki site said it would be bus 15A, but it was nowhere to be found so we stopped bus #16 and this was the correct one. It drops you off on the Esplanade. We later, at the ferry to Suomenlinna, bought all day transportation passes for $4.80 Euros each. This is a great deal since many bus rides are $2Euros each. This pass includes the ferry. It was Sunday and very quiet in Helsinki. We did our own city walking tour, seeing Senate Square and the Lutheran Cathedral, Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Cafe Kappeli, which was quiet, not crowded. It's a pretty, but very small city. We shopped in the Market at the Harbor, buying some wonderful items! Great market. We then took the ferry to Suomenlinna island and the fortress. Boy was this place dead on a Sunday morning. Most things don't open until later in the day. I felt bad for those on tour we met here. They paid $60 for the tour. We ferried back to the harbor and walked to the Swedish Theater where bus #24 is. Easy to find. We took this bus to the end of the line which goes to a wonderful wooden bridge you walk across to Seurasaari open air folk museum. This place is wonderful. Smaller than Skansen in Stockholm, but everything was open, and the setting is so pretty. It's on it's own island. Many families were here for the Sunday morning, feeding the squirrels. After seeing most of the houses we walked to the connecting island which was having an ancient Viking Festival. It wasn't to good. We then went back to the bus stop. Walking over the wooden bridge, some cars drove by carrying people dressed as the wedding party for a wedding to be held in the church at the open air museum. We took bus #24 back to town, passing the Sibelius Monument. We saw it from the bus, deciding not to get off since time was running out and we wanted to still go to Temppeliaukio Church. The church in the rock. We got off the bus and walked to the Railroad station to take a picture of this fantastic building, then walked to the church. We got lost, so again asked for directions from a local who walked us part of the way there. This church has very limited hours on Sundays, so we were very happy to get inside. It's a wonderful sight. We walked back to the Esplanade to catch bus #16 back to the port, and arrived at 2:20. All aboard was at 2:30 so we just made it! Monday p.m. Copenhagen 60 degrees, sun/clouds/rain It was a sea day for much of the day, arriving at Copenhagen at 7 p.m. We rested, sure did need it. We wanted to walk to Tivoli. It was raining though so we wisely hopped on the public bus #26 which was at the pier. It would be a long walk for the evening so it was a good decision taking the public bus. We would have missed the entertainment at Tivoli if we would have walked there. You need to get passes to get off the ship so everyone doesn't get off at once. They let a lot of the independent people off at the same time they called the first bus groups. We loved Tivoli! We got a schedule of events as we walked in the main gate at the office to the left of the gate. Magic show, bands, pantomime, acrobats, rides, food, a great place. It's all lit up when the sun goes down. Great fun. We took the public bus back to the ship that evening. Tuesday Copenhagen We wanted to walk the city this day so left the ship at 7:30 and walked to the Little Mermaid statue. No one else was there so we got good pictures! We walked onto Nyhavn which we weren't to impressed by. It was early still, I'm noticed it was much more lively around lunch time. It's just a small area. We didn't buy the Copenhagen card here, didn't think it was a good value for what we had planned. The large fountain was disassembled, being redone. We walked to the Old Market, New Market area. Old market was a disappointment, not much here. Stroget was excellent though. Ecco shoe store with $60 shoes!!! I bought 2 pairs. We walked by the stork fountain, the old phone booth and much more, taking pictures. Stopped by the railroad station, then walked to City Hall. They were having a special handwork, art show which we walked through before it opened! Saw the famous clock through the shear curtains, then walked to Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket museum which opened at 10 a.m. We arrived at 10, it was excellent and not crowded, had a wonderful Gaugin collection along with a lot of sculptor. Next we walked to the National Museum, again excellent. Don't miss the prehistoric section on the ground floor. The entrance is by the lockers, it's the best part of the museum and a bit difficult to find. It has bog people, rue stones and so much more. Walked down the Stroget again, stopping for a Carlsberg Beer rest! We then walked to the Rosenburg Castle. This looks to be far away on the map, but it isn't. Just ask for directions. We toured the castle and the crown jewels, in another area here. There is a nice, big lawn here you can relax on. The 3rd floor of the castle is the highlight, after the crown jewels. From here we walked to a church with frescos, could have skipped this, then onto the Resistance Museum by the fort. This is in a dark wood building, hard to spot at first. We enjoyed this museum much more than the one in Oslo. They won't take credit cards here without a European pin # so don't run out of currency. We used our last to buy tickets here. We walked back to the ship and got our VAT back at the shops across from the ship. We met Captain Zini's Mother and Father in law on our Deck 8. They were wonderful people, his mother in law was so much fun talking to!! This was a wonderful trip. So very much to see. We used Rick Steves Scandinavia book and Lonely Planet book also for planning. The best maps are in Lonely Planet. It took a lot of planning, but it was so worthwhile when everything just fell into place! I wouldn't do anything different, but we did come home exhausted. We spent 3 days in London after the cruise. We saw Mama Mia, and Chicago and did a London walks Pub walk. We went to Brighton for a fun day, also with London walks, and went to Greenwich which is an easy trip and very worthwhile. Hopefully this review will help some of you plan your ports independently! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
My husband and I were on the inaugural cruise of Holland Oosterdam to the Baltic. This was not our 1st cruise although it was on a Holland line and it will be the last on the Holland line. When we arrived at Harwich (in an un ... Read More
My husband and I were on the inaugural cruise of Holland Oosterdam to the Baltic. This was not our 1st cruise although it was on a Holland line and it will be the last on the Holland line. When we arrived at Harwich (in an un air-conditioned bus) from London to board at 10:30 AM, they were not prepared to check us in as they didn't have the computers set up and working. They finally started checking in people at noon. I was able to book a "hot rock" massage right there with a complimentary hand therapy. The massage was mediocre and I never did receive the hand therapy. It was too much hassle to go back and besides we were busy with others things on the cruise. The second day we noticed an odor about our cabin and in the hall (like a septic tank) We reported it to our cabin steward who acted like we were imagining it. He didn't smell it and said no one else had mentioned it. We kept smelling it everyday and it was getting worse. Again we complained but it fell on deaf ears. We eventual put a tissue box over the bathroom floor drain and that seemed to cut the odor down. Otherwise, we were pleased with our deluxe verandah cabin. However, we felt the room could have been kept cleaner, especially the bathroom floor. Our shower curtain was too short so the floor got wet after showering. The response was it was OK -- it would keep the floor clean. We never could get it straight about stocking the refrigerator with the kinds of drinks we wanted. Our steward never offered fresh fruit or bottled water. We had to ask for everything. The layout of the ship did not give enough room in the common areas and halls so it seemed very crowded. By the end of the cruise (12 days) the ship looked worn already (the carpets and woodwork) The dining room on the Lido deck could have been kept cleaner and could the other common areas. There was no laundry room on board the ship but laundry and dry cleaning service was available with a 48 hours return. We had to wait 5 days for our laundry to be returned and that was after persistent calls. Some people still didn't have their clothes the night before we had to get off the ship. There were so many complaints that the charge for laundry was voided for the entire ship. They should convert some rooms to laundry rooms. The food was good mostly but the portions in the main dining room were small, especially for a man. Our stewards were very slow so we had to rush to the Vista lounge for the nightly entertainment. One evening we were in one of the bubble elevators along with 4 others and it fell 2 floors and stopped between floors. Those elevators had been acting difficult from the beginning. We were able to jar the door and it moved level with the floor and we all were happy to get off. We told one of the staff and he told us to report it to the front desk, We informed him that we weren't waiting in a line for 15 minutes to do so. So we went down to an office near the main desk to report it and that staff member didn't want to hear about it or do anything about it. She tried sending us to another desk until we informed her that it was not our responsibility to take care of it so she did take down the information. Later we notice an out of order sign of that elevator. At one of the ports we had to tender in. I don't think the staff driving the tenders knew what they were doing. The had a hard time docking with the ship. Heaven forbid if we had an emergency. The staff in general did not instill confidence at all. Even the front desk ladies needed an attitude adjustment. They were not friendly, congenial, or helpful. They acted put out that even if they were asked a question. Then there was the fire on board the last night as we are having our entertainment. An air-conditioner in a cabin caught fire but it was taken care of. We could not hear the announcements in our cabin as there was no control. The TV stations were almost nonexistent. The video work and quality of the on board station was very poor. Even the bow camera was pointed to the sky and not forward. So, lets face it, the cruise kept going downhill, so we will not be booking with Holland again. They have been around long enough that they should know what they are doing, but apparently the must have had a brain freeze with this cruise. They had time to train their staff, especially since 2 cruises were canceledAs I said, this will be our last cruise on Holland Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
Black Watch is beautiful, and a real 'ship' often described as a Country House Hotel. She's not new but she's well maintained, stable and spotless. Comfortable, good sized and well looked after cabins. Restaurant ... Read More
Black Watch is beautiful, and a real 'ship' often described as a Country House Hotel. She's not new but she's well maintained, stable and spotless. Comfortable, good sized and well looked after cabins. Restaurant ambience, food and service of a very high standard. Baltic Ports were a very pleasant surprise, Talin in particular. Well worth just getting off and walking or using 'City Tour' buses in areas such as Stockholm. Don't tell too many people about the golf driving range and it won't get too crowded. Dover must be amongst the most user friendly and efficient Ports in the World. Embarkation was smooth and on return ship to car couldn't have been ten minutes. Very difficult to fault anything or anyone from either the ship or the ship's Company from the Master (a superb ship handler) through to ultra friendly and highly efficient staff. Overall a good 4 star plus. Full praise to everyone at Fred Olsen and if they made her a no smoking ship, I'd rate her at 5 star. We're off this year through Panama in RCI's Serenade of the Seas but we'll return to the Black Watch sometime in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
Here is my review for the RCCL cruise July 18-30, 2003 on the Grandeur of the Seas from Harwich/UK around the Baltic and Norway. We decided on taking the RCCL Grandeur of the Seas 12-day cruise from Harwich/UK on July 18, 2003 to visit ... Read More
Here is my review for the RCCL cruise July 18-30, 2003 on the Grandeur of the Seas from Harwich/UK around the Baltic and Norway. We decided on taking the RCCL Grandeur of the Seas 12-day cruise from Harwich/UK on July 18, 2003 to visit most Baltic States and some Norwegian Fjords. On arrival in Harwich at around 12:30 pm we parked our car in the assigned cruise parking lot. Our luggage was taken from us at the car and taken directly onboard. We had to board a bus directly to the check in counter. Check In was organised very professional compared to other cruises we have taken. Within half an hour of leaving our car in the parking lot we were in our cabin. I have never experienced this little waiting around on any cruise! At first I thought, that maybe the boat is half empty, but we found out, that it was sold out, making this first experience even more impressive. Our cabin was an Aft Deluxe Suite with a Terrace. The only annoying question I asked myself was, why did I pay for this "Suite", as the Deluxe outside staterooms on Deck 7 had almost the same size room and were in no way different inside. The only difference was the little bit larger terrace compared to the balcony. On the whole, this was my most annoying observation. As it was lunchtime we went to eat at the Windjammer Buffet at Deck 9. Expecting some mediocre buffet food, like we had on other cruise lines I was stunned. The food tasted excellent and was not kept in the trays for too long to get watery or tasteless. The staff was very observant and remembered your favorite drink or dessert and even got it for you. The only suggestion for improvement I have is, that the plastic covers that protect the food are too narrow to get food by without putting half your food against the plastic edge. Anybody that has used this boat knows what I mean. We used the Windjammer buffet daily, as they served the same food as in the Great Gatsby Dining room. The Windjammer is to the stern of the ship so we had a window table overlooking the direction of travel which we found more intimate than the Dining room where the curtains were shut for a cosier atmosphere sharing with 8 other passengers. If one did not like any of the offered food that day, a New York Strip Steak or Salmon was always available. We had a waiter from Slowakia who reserved "our" table for every dinner and had the drinks and rolls waiting for our arrival. We loved the experience especially after our experiences with Costa. In the evening we registered our 4 year old child in the children's centre. The staff of the children's center, especially Kit Kat Kim and Ross the Boss, were very attentive to the needs of children and our daughter loved it. RCCL did not just build a children deposit box like some other cruise lines, but a a real children's centre with planned activities, that actually were followed through. Our daughter loved it so much, that we had to drag her out at 10 pm. On days in port our daughter preferred the club against walking with us through cities. You noticed the difference in the staff also. The RCCL club personnel loved their job and it showed. The evening shows on the Grandeur of the Seas was above the average of our other past experiences. The only suggestion I have is, why not mix the piano and the violin with something else instead of having a violin player playing for one hour and the piano player playing for one hour the next day. These two shows were the emptiest shows during the whole cruise and people were constantly getting up and leaving. It was too heavy for all in one go. If they played the violin for 10 minutes, have some piano for 10 minutes and then do some comedy or else for 10 minutes and repeat with the violin and so on, to make up the hour, the program would not be so heavy and less people would have lost interest so quickly. Everything else was above average, the comedian, the ventriloquist, the juggler, singers etc... just excellent. The only perceived negatives: My lighter ran out and I tried to get a new lighter or some matches. RCCL does not sell lighters or matches for security reasons??!!! You can buy anything you want ashore and bring it on the boat, but you can not get it on the boat. Left me a bit puzzled or are land purchased lighters less dangerous??? The head casino cashier, whom I asked for a light gave me a preach about the dangers of smoking and his personal opinion about smoking in the casino as well. When I told him, that gambling, smoking and drinking would all go together and that a lot of gambling would stop, if you could not smoke in the casino, he said he did not care if he would loose his job. Bit strange for an employee....in a casino. I also missed a sportsdeck to play some soccer or volleyball as I prefer that kind of sport to sitting on a machine. Apart from that, we had very good employees, that were proud to work for RCCL. Not one talked badly about the company as a lot of staff on other cruiselines did. Checkout was also very smooth and relaxed, more so than another cruiseline, that proclaims their checkout to be "Freestyle". Our luggage was already standing color coded in line for pickup. A bus was waiting to bring us to the RCCL parking lot. The ship arrived at 7:00 am in Harwich. At 8:50 am we were sitting in our car. Very, very professional indeed!!!!!!!!!!! Anybody that has cruised on another cruiseline, I recommend trying RCCL. Any first time cruiser please be aware, that if you try RCCL and another company on your second cruise, you might be disappointed with your second cruise or stick to RCCL to avoid disappointment. We will certainly use them over again and again. Keep up the good work RCCL. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
i just returned from the carnival elation (7/27-8/3). i did as much research as i could prior to the cruise since this would be my first. i learned a lot from various web sites and reviews, so i thought i'd share my opinion as well. ... Read More
i just returned from the carnival elation (7/27-8/3). i did as much research as i could prior to the cruise since this would be my first. i learned a lot from various web sites and reviews, so i thought i'd share my opinion as well. there were five of us, ranging from ages 24-31. we had two rooms, 3 in one, 2 in the other. we arrived in long beach at around 11am. there was about a 20 minute wait to check in. the lady at the check in was very friendly and well organized. my friend had been on carnival before, so she was invited to the return cruisers party. and since we were all in the same room, the check-in lady was kind enough to put all 3 of us on the list. we also found out we were upgraded to the main deck instead of our booked riviera room. we booked it as a "guaranteed" room, so i guess it saved us one flight of stairs. we then proceeded to get in line to board the ship. there were two lines, on in the sun, one in the shade. we chose the shade. ten minutes later, a carnival employee announced this line was for people who hadn't checked in yet, if you had, please step into the other line. so we wasted 10 minutes in the wrong line. clearly marked signs would have been helpful. the line started moving around 12pm, and it moved pretty quickly. we picked up our sign & sail card, saw that all five of us would be in the inspiration dining room, late seating and at the same table. we were on the ship and eating at tiffany's in a matter of minutes. they were just setting up, but the selection was typical of any las vegas hotel buffet. i hit up the pizza bar, which we did frequently (often in the wee hours. ) we then walked around to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the ship. it took me a few days to feel comfortable with knowing how to get from point a to point b. but i've never been good at directions ?. later we hit up the casino, which was fairly decent sized. i'm used to the enormous las vegas casinos, so it seemed small in comparison, but it was about right for what i expected on a cruise ship. we played mostly craps all week, and there were a few nights where i did pretty well. of course, being the generous guy i am, i made sure to give nearly all my winnings back by week's end. also we caught the welcome aboard ship show where steve the cruise director introduced the elation orchestra and then the magician/comedian (who's name escapes me). i had read about the mikado lounge and how there are some obtrusive poles. i agree. unless your down front, the viewing can be pretty bad. monday we got up, took advantage of the overnight room service order card and got our daily pot of coffee & o.j. and then went to catch some rays by the pool. the weather was perfect and we lounged with the buy 5 beers get one free bucket. nice relaxing day. later we got dressed up for the first formal night and hit up the captain's cocktail party. we stayed up late in the jekyll & hyde disco, drank, gambled, and had to put our clocks forward and hour. needless to say we didn't roll out of bed until afternoon on tuesday. ok, more like 3pm. ouch. we took it easy on tuesday. i took part in the karaoke action, and later the craps action. wednesday was puerto vallarta. we got off the boat at around 11am. we had nothing planned other than wanting to see senior frogs. so we took a cab into the downtown shopping area. before we got in the taxi we asked our driver if he spoke english and if the car had air conditioning. he answered in english, "roll down the windows - mexican air conditioning!" well 1 out of 2 is better than nothing. we did a little shopping up and down the street. all the little stores pretty much look the same. jewelry, sombreros, pottery, blankets, etc... so shopping didn't do much for me. it was hot and humid. i was dripping like i had taken a shower. finally we took another taxi to senior frogs and had lunch. they had 2 for 1 pacifico beer specials. well, we took full advantage. i've lived in southern california for 20 years and have never stepped foot in mexico until today, so i don't feel all that guilty for going to the full-on american tourist trap that is senior frogs. i wanted to see what it was all about. and i'm glad i did. we stayed in there for 3 hours drinking, eating, and competing in their games. it was actually a really good time. after lunch we walked to the beach, by this time it had started a light rain. we did some more shopping, then took a cab back to the flea market shopping right in front of the ship, then finally make it back on the ship around 7pm. we could have had more time, but we all wanted to shower in time for our 8pm seating. later that night, as you could probably guess by now, we took in some jekyll & hyde and craps. thursday brings us to mazatlan. this was the only port where we had booked an excursion - through the internet and through good word of mouth from web sites like this one. we did not do randi's horses, although i understand it's excellent, but the others in my party were not too keen on horses. so we went with the stone island tour through king david & co. we were met at the pier by barbara who took us to a truck that took us to the boat for the cruise. we left right at 10 am and had a nice tour of the island and our guide was friendly and funny speaking his "spanglish" and repeating his catchphrase of "how about that? take a picture!" after the 45 minute tour around the island we got off the boat and were pulled by a tractor to the beach. the beach area was very nice. we were able to pick two water activities and we did the snorkeling and the banana boat ride. the snorkeling was only ok because the water was murky. they gave us the option of choosing something else before we went but i bought a new mask & snorkel from costco for this trip and i'll be damned if i don't get to use it! so we went anyway. then we came back for lunch, which along with an open bar, was included for the $35 price (carnival offered the same tour for $75). after lunch we took our ride on the banana boat. all 5 of us were towed behind a motor boat, holding on for dear life. we took a bad spill, but it was a lot of fun. after the stone island tour we did a little more shopping in the mazatlan downtown, then took an open air cab back to the ship. back on the ship, we showered, had dinner, then went to the mikado lounge for the talent contest. 8 passengers performed, and with the exception of one guy who butchered copa cabana, they were all pretty good. then some of the elation staff came out and performed a very funny, and slightly racy vaudvelle-esque song. dancing at jekyll & hyde and craps soon followed... friday morning we had to get up early for our short stay in cabo. considering we were out late the night before, i was surprised that i was pretty awake at 7am. but as we would soon find out, there was no point in getting up that early. we headed out of our room at about 7:30am to find the stair cases filled with passengers. our confusion would soon be cleared up as soon as one passenger snapped, "this is only for people who have booked tours!" obviously she could have used a few more hours of sleep. so we went up and had breakfast. finally got off the ship via tenders at around 8:30. so right away we only have like 2.5 hours left. my gripe is that i think it should be first come, first served. just because these people paid carnival extra money by booking a tour, they get to get out early? that's crap. whoever gets their butts out of bed should be able to get off the boat. well anyway we took it easy in cabo and just laid out at the beach, swam in the beautiful clear blue water, even did a little poor-man's snorkeling right on the beach, then took a glass bottom boat ride around the island and saw some stunning rock formations and beaches. it really is quite a sight, and unfortunate that we had only 2 and a half hours here. the boat took us back to the tenders line just before 11am. once we got on the elation, we took a nap till about 3pm. later we had our 2nd formal dinner. saturday was another "relaxing fun day at sea." and that's about that. we also had to pack everything up for our sunday departure. then we stayed up waaaaaay too late at the casino. sunday we woke up at 8am and we were up on the promenade deck by 8:40 waiting for our luggage tag color to be called. we didn't get off the ship until 9:30am. other than the long wait, the debarkation process went pretty smoothly. i know i rambled, and i apologize. here i will sum up my experience: the room: b+ it was actually a pretty decent sized room, but with the roll-away pulled out, there was no room for the extra chair & table that they had in there. it was removed by monday. which made more room, but limited places to put the room service trays. the steward: b+ jeffery. nice guy, kept the room clean, was pretty attentive. there were a couple of times though we needed to call him for ice. we told him on sunday, and even gave him a pre-tip to make sure there was always ice. but when we did have to call, he was there in less than a minute usually. inspiration dining room: b the imagination dining room looked nicer. but this one was nice too, it just seemed a little "darker." the wait staff was very friendly, however, we were always the last table to be served it seemed. and there were a few occasions where someone else got my plate, and we had to switch. and on 3 separate occasions someone had a coffee cup with lipstick already on it. that is gross. the food: a i must say, i was impressed with the dining room food. i had read mixed reviews, but i was thought the selection was good, the quality was good, and the presentation of the dishes was excellent. the ship: b+ it was my first cruise, so i have nothing to compare it to, so i thought it was nice. basically it seemed like a las vegas hotel on the ocean. maybe because i was in the casino too much, maybe because of the lights. but that's ok by me, as you can see i enjoy the vegas scene. however, the carpets in the hallways to the rooms were a bit dirty. other than that, it seemed like a clean, well maintained ship. our only other complaint was on sunday night, when we went to bed (technically monday morning i guess) we pulled out the roll away and found that it was slouching a lot in the middle. we called the steward, but he never came. so we called the pursers desk and finally about 45-60 mins later we had a new roll away and some guy taping wheels to it. that was a bit off putting. the bed still slouched a bit, but we dealt with it. random thoughts: • we were able to sneak booze on with no problem. just put some in water bottles. we didn't even drink all of what we brought. • bar prices are about that of regular bars, some even cheaper. not terribly strong, unless you get a good bar tender though. • when you pay for drinks with your sign & sail card, tip is included already. • that damn sign & sail card makes everything real easy. too easy... • in hindsight, i think i would have liked to have checked out some of the other shows and activities on the ship. we spent a lot of time in the disco & casino. • i never felt sea sick, but at times you could definitely feel the ship move. but i got to like it. it was nice reminder that i was on a ship and not just in vegas. • when all is said and done, we had a great time. and i would definitely cruise again. sooner rather than later. 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Sail Date: July 2003
Here is my review for the RCCL cruise July 18-30, 2003 on the Grandeur of the Seas from Harwich/UK around the Baltic and Norway. We decided on taking the RCCL Grandeur of the Seas 12-day cruise from Harwich/UK on July 18, 2003 to visit ... Read More
Here is my review for the RCCL cruise July 18-30, 2003 on the Grandeur of the Seas from Harwich/UK around the Baltic and Norway. We decided on taking the RCCL Grandeur of the Seas 12-day cruise from Harwich/UK on July 18, 2003 to visit most Baltic States and some Norwegian Fjords. On arrival in Harwich at around 12:30 pm we parked our car in the assigned cruise parking lot. Our luggage was taken from us at the car and taken directly onboard. We had to board a bus directly to the check in counter. Check In was organised very professional compared to other cruises we have taken. Within half an hour of leaving our car in the parking lot we were in our cabin. I have never experienced this little waiting around on any cruise ! At first I thought, that maybe the boat is half empty, but we found out, that it was sold out, making this first experience even more impressive. Our cabin was an Aft Deluxe Suite with a Terrace. The only annoying question I asked myself was, why did I pay for this "Suite", as the Deluxe outside staterooms on Deck 7 had the same size room and were in no way different inside. The only difference was the little bit larger terrace compared to the balcony. On the whole, this was my most annoying observation. As it was lunchtime we went to eat at the Windjammer Buffet at Deck 9. Expecting some mediocre buffet food, like we had on other cruise lines I was stunned. The food tasted excellent and was not kept in the trays for too long to get watery or tasteless. The staff was very observant and remembered your favorite drink or dessert and even got it for you. The only suggestion for improvement I have is, that the plastic covers that protect the food are too narrow to get food by without putting half your food against the plastic edge. Anybody that has used this boat knows what I mean. We used the Windjammer buffet daily, as they served the same food as in the Great Gatsby Dining room. The Windjammer is to the stern of the ship so we had a window table overlooking the direction of travel which we found more intimate than the Dining room where the curtains were shut for a cosier atmosphere sharing with 8 other passengers. If one did not like any of the offered food that day, a New York Strip Steak or Salmon was always available. We had a waiter from Slowakia who reserved "our" table for every dinner and had the drinks and rolls waiting for our arrival. We loved the experience especially after our experiences with Costa. In the evening we registered our 4 year old child in the children's centre. The staff of the children's center, especially Kit Kat Kim and Ross the Boss, were very intentive to the needs of children and our daughter loved it. RCCL did not just build a children deposit box like some other cruise lines, but a a real children's centre with planned activities, that actually were followed through. Our daughter loved it so much, that we had to drag her out at 10 pm. On days in port our daughter preferred the club against walking with us through cities. You noticed the difference in the staff also. The RCCL club personnel loved their job and it showed. The evening shows on the Grandeur of the Seas was above the average of our other past experiences. The only suggestion I have is, why not mix the piano and the violin with something else instead of having a violin player playing for one hour and the piano player playing for one hour the next day. These two shows were the emptiest shows during the whole cruise and people were constantly getting up and leaving. It was too heavy for all in one go. If they played the violin for 10 minutes, have some piano for 10 minutes and then do some comedy or else for 10 minutes and repeat with the violin and so on, to make up the hour, the program would not be so heavy and less people would have lost interest so quickly. Everything else was above average, the comedian, the ventriloquist, the juggler, singers etc... just excellent. The only perceived negatives: My lighter ran out and I tried to get a new lighter or some matches. RCCL does not sell lighters or matches for security reasons ??!!! You can buy anything you want ashore and bring it on the boat, but you can not get it on the boat. Left me a bit puzzled or are land purchased lighters less dangerous ??? The head casino cashier, whom I asked for a light gave me a preach about the dangers of smoking and his personal opinion about smoking in the casino as well. When I told him, that gambling, smoking and drinking would all go together and that a lot of gambling would stop, if you could not smoke in the casino, he said he did not care if he would lose his job. Bit strange for an employee....in a casino. I also missed a sportsdeck to play some soccer or volleyball as I prefer that kind of sport to sitting on a machine. Apart from that, we had very good employees, that were proud to work for RCCL. Not one talked badly about the company as a lot of staff on other cruiselines did. Checkout was also very smooth and relaxed, more so than another cruiseline, that proclaims their checkout to be "Freestyle". Our luggage was already standing color coded in line for pickup. A bus was waiting to bring us to the RCCL parking lot. The ship arrived at 7:00 am in Harwich. At 8:50 am we were sitting in our car. Very, very professional indeed !!!!!!!!!!! Anybody that has cruised on another cruiseline, I recommend trying RCCL. Any first time cruiser please be aware, that if you try RCCL and another company on your second cruise, you might be disappointed with your second cruise or stick to RCCL to avoid disappointment. We will certainly use them over again and again. Keep up the good work RCCL. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
I am a seasoned traveler who has been to two dozen countries throughout the world. I travel on business and pleasure and have been to Europe about 25 times. On this trip I took my oldest son who is 14. The Baltic cruise on the MS Noordam ... Read More
I am a seasoned traveler who has been to two dozen countries throughout the world. I travel on business and pleasure and have been to Europe about 25 times. On this trip I took my oldest son who is 14. The Baltic cruise on the MS Noordam was my first cruise. This was a 10 day cruise. I picked Holland America Lines (HAL) because my parents took an Alaskan cruise on HAL in the mid-80s and only had good things to say. Overall, for my cruise, I would have to say that I am very satisfied with all aspects of the cruise. I give it an A-. This assessment is affected by the modest sum that I paid (about $100 per day, per person). Had I paid two or three times that amount (as I am sure others did), I am not sure I would rate the cruise that highly.   I booked online with HAL which was quite easy. Because I guaranteed my booking, I was upgraded 5 categories by the time I boarded the ship. The upgrades took me from the last passenger deck, Deck C, to Deck A. I do not believe that the room size was different between these decks but being on Deck A was more convenient to the main decks. We had an inside room which was perfectly fine. The room size was better than the four star hotel that I stayed in the night before I boarded the ship. We were very pleased with the room (Room 437). Our favorite place on the ship was the Lido deck, off of the back of the ship. It was large, with nice views, and was very comfortable while at sea.   Day 1: Copenhagen, Denmark   We showed up at the port at 2pm for boarding and there was no ship. This was somewhat distressing. The ship was delayed due to engine problems. HAL arranged for a shuttle to take us back to town for the 3 hours that the ship was delayed. This was fine with us since it gave us additional time in Copenhagen. When it came time to board there were long lines and we were standing in the sun for most of that time. HAL should have had some drinks available at the dock for the people in line. The worst service that we received on the trip occurred here. I asked a HAL employee, twice, if he could get a pen for me to fill out some of the forms. Both times he told me to borrow one from the other passengers.   Day 2: At sea - sailing for Tallin, Estonia   The day was very foggy so the ship's fog horn was used quite a bit. This added to the day for me however as it made it a little more adventurous. With the wide Upper Promenade Deck and the easy access to a deck chair, it was a great day to read a book from the Library or to talk to shipmates.   Day 3: Tallin, Estonia   What a great little city. The communists did not invest in a lot Tallin so the city center is much as it was 100 to 500 years ago. Our guide was a college kid learning how to guide as he went so he was a little disappointing when it came to facts and figures but gave us good insights into what the youth of Estonia thought about the recent past and of their own future. We had a wonderful sail-away party on the back deck with great music and wine. Throughout the cruise, the ship always seemed to have live music playing which was a nice touch.   Day 4: St. Petersburg, Russia   In Russia we found the best guides on the trip. They were very knowledgeable and engaging. We attended a folk dancing performance that night and it was spectacular. Being that this year is the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city, a lot of money has been put into restoring the main attractions and tourist sites. It was a big difference from my visit in 1984. There was also a trip to Moscow made available ($600 per person) but you would only have about 6 hours in the city. I have been to both cities and St. Petersburg is more interesting to me. The "been there done that" bragging rights on Red Square is really the only factor I would give Moscow over St. Petersburg.   Day 5: St Petersburg, Russia   On day 5, which was a Monday, the Hermitage Museum was supposed to be closed. I don't know how, and I am not sure I want to know, but our Shore Excursion office managed to have it opened just for tours from the Noordam. The Hermitage, which after my first visit has been my favorite museum in the world, has up to 20,000 visitors a day during the summer. To have a private tour, which was joined by the curator, was a special highlight of the trip for me.   Day 6: Helsinki, Finland   More engine troubles so we arrived in Helsinki late. This was fine with me because I found that Helsinki is a clean and nice city but very boring. The shuttle into the city was $5 each person each way. Since we arrived very late to the city I, and others, expected HAL to waive the fee but they did not.   Day 7: Stockholm, Sweden   This city has a wonderful 'Old City'. Tallin's old city was older but was in the process of being restored so there was still a lot of decay. Stockholm's Old City was pristine. The alley-ways and streets are a photographer's dream. Sailing through the archipelago, which surrounds Stockholm, took three hours and I wish it took more as it was delightful.   Day 8: Visby, Sweden   Visby is on a large island, called Gotland, in the middle of the Baltic Sea. By this time we were "toured out" and wanted to explore on our own. The ship was anchored in the harbor and we took Tenders into the dock which was fun. Visby was an unexpected highlight for me as the city was even more interesting than Stockholm's old city and the views from the shoreline were memorable.   Day 9: Warnemunde, Germany   We started the day off by taking the train to the city of Rostock, which was okay. Arriving back in Warnemunde we found that it was 'Ship Week', and all the tall ships were in port. Had it not been for the tall ships, this stop would have been almost as boring as Helsinki. The sail away that night was attended by thousands of people who were at the docks for the tall ships. With all of the people cheering and all of the ships trying to out-do each other with their fog horns, it was quite a send-off.   Day 10: Arhus, Denmark   We went to two museums while in Arhus and found it a pleasant last stop.   The next day we landed in Copenhagen and left the ship at 8:30am. I have read reports on the Noordam which speak of vibration on the ship. The vibration is there, and is often noticeable, but it was really not a bother for us in the least. The passengers are generally older and many are retired. Some of the passengers would often advance themselves in line at the expense of others. They did not cut in line but were very aggressive in moving forward. This was very noticeable throughout the trip, especially when disembarking for excursions. The ironic part was that we were all going on the same set of buses.   I did hear one lady complain that there was a heavy odor from cleaning fluids in her room. They offered her a fan but refused to upgrade or move her as far as I know. The biggest surprise for me was that soft drinks were extra ($1.95 each). There was plenty of free iced tea and we did buy a 14 pack of soft drink tickets for $20. Since this was the biggest 'surprise', I am quite happy. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2003
Hi, I am a little late with this since I cruise so often, but I have wanted to do this ever since my last cruise with Holland America! I am one of the original cruisers, having cruised on the  1st Veendam, and Volendam, and another ... Read More
Hi, I am a little late with this since I cruise so often, but I have wanted to do this ever since my last cruise with Holland America! I am one of the original cruisers, having cruised on the  1st Veendam, and Volendam, and another ship which was for a short time part of the fleet! Lately we have cruised several times on the  Statendam to Hawaii and Mexico, but I decided to try the Ryndam. Since they are sister ships. I thought my feelings would be the same! I discovered much more open areas that made use of the Ocean Bar, which we go to every evening to dance before dinner! On the Statendam there are walls and poles that obstruct the view there when there are a lot of people! Also, the room after dinner, where they serve cappuccino and chocolates has an open wall so during special events, such as a celebrity interview, you can  actually see what is happening even though there may not be any seats! I still will cruise Statendam again, but if they both went to Hawaii, I would choose the Ryndam! She is such a lovely vessel!  Read Less
Sail Date: April 2003
I always make it a point, upon returning from a cruise, to send my comments to the cruise line and let them know what I thought. Id also like to contribute my comments to Cruise Critic. My husband and I took a mini cruise to Mexico, ... Read More
I always make it a point, upon returning from a cruise, to send my comments to the cruise line and let them know what I thought. Id also like to contribute my comments to Cruise Critic. My husband and I took a mini cruise to Mexico, round trip from San Diego, on Carnival Spirit in April, 2003. As a Christmas gift to some friends and relatives, we also purchased 5 other cabins. Unfortunately, a relative had to cancel at the last minute due to a serious health problem, but the rest of us went. It took until the first of July to get reimbursed for the cruise from the insurance company. To begin, my husband and I are nearing retirement and have discovered we enjoy cruising. Even though weve taken other cruises before, for the past four years, we have made it a point to take a cruise a year. Our first cruise was on Carnival for our 30th anniversary, and we were very disappointed. Until this cruise, we didnt think we would cruise on Carnival again. Our second was on Holland America, which was excellent. Our third was Royal Caribbean, which was a disappointment, other than the great stateroom we had. I like to start with all the positive comments: 1. This was the nicest ship weve been on so far. The layout was excellent and there were many options for dining and relaxing. Specifically: a. The buffet area (Lido Restaurant) was arranged nicely to prevent crowding at the different food stations. There were rarely long lines and there was plenty of seating, even on the day at sea. The options were excellent. b. There were enough pool areas and lounge chairs for those who wanted to bask in the sun for a while. My only pet peeve is the same one everyone else has  people come and reserve chairs by putting a towel or something on them early in the morning, then never show up until the afternoon. It sometimes seemed like half of the chairs were reserved with no one in them. This made it difficult for our group of 10 to be together in any pool area. c. The gym was far more than I expected and I was thrilled to be able to do short workouts every day without having to wait for equipment to be free. I also loved the aerobics room, where I was able to do my own Pilates class with a few of my friends. d. The casino always had room at the machines and I was happy that there were an abundance of quarter machines instead of all dollars. My husband had difficulty finding space at the blackjack tables, but thats the way it always seems to be. e. The bars and lounges were numerous enough that we could always find a seat as we wandered from one end of the ship to the other. 2. We received our luggage promptly upon boarding the ship, which was very much appreciated. 3. Our stateroom (category12) was a nice size and very well appointed. I loved all the closets and drawers for storage. I also liked the modem line in the room, even though we didnt bring our laptop along. (Ill know next time.) Even the wine glasses in the room were a nice size, and the outside balcony was very spacious. 4. The staff, except for our waiter at dinner the last two nights, was friendly, helpful and much nicer than I expected. Specifically: a. The assistant waiter, who seemed a little cold and business-like on the first night, turned out to be one of the nicest staff members we met. He had a terrific smile and went out of his way to serve us. b. I loved the spa staff. On this cruise, I splurged and got a facial, a massage and some other kind of treatment that was supposed to cleanse the body of toxins. Although facial and skin products were pushed on me to purchase, there were no hard feelings (unlike other cruises) when I declined to buy. I was especially pleased to hear one of the ladies tell me she was on her sixth contract with Carnival, which tells me they treat their employees well. This was the opposite of our first Carnival cruise when the staff acted as if they were treated as under-paid slaves. c. When one of my spa appointments conflicted with a Pilates class I wanted to take, one of the spa employees sought out the Pilates instructor and asked if I could be given a short private class. I was astonished that someone would go out of their way for me; it was very nice. d. All of the staff in the buffet area were smiling, friendly and happy to be of service. A smiling, happy staff who appear to enjoy their work makes a huge difference in our enjoyment of a cruise. It totally changes the atmosphere of the entire ship when youre walking down a corridor or past a bar and someone takes the time to say hello and asks you if youre having a good time. Just this one thing can make the difference between a good cruise experience and a so-so or bad one. 5. Its very difficult for me to express my opinion on food because I cook and entertain a lot at home and tend to be overly-critical in this area. I do have some positive comments, however, about food aboard Carnival Spirit: a. The food we had at the buffet when we first got on the ship was excellent. I had roasted chicken, barbecued ribs, potato salad and a roll. The roll was especially good, which was a pleasant surprise. Most of the bread Ive had on ships has been very mediocre. b. The food in the dining room was also very good and well-presented. I was thrilled to be able to get beef very rare. This is normally impossible on a ship and even hard to do at a land restaurant. The Beef Wellington was especially good. The lobster tail on the last night was excellent. The Caesar salad was the best Ive ever had, including what Ive had at restaurants off a ship. There was also a dessert on Friday night that was served in a cruet, kind of a puff pastry, where the waiter poured in hot vanilla-flavored sauce. It was delectable. The omelets at the buffet in the morning were also wonderful. I could tell that real butter was used in the preparation of many dishes. It was a noticeable difference. c. The sandwiches we had delivered to our stateroom were very good, as was the plate of cookies and brownies. I didnt expect them to be as good as they were and was pleasantly surprised. d. I enjoy white wine and was very happy with the Beringer Chardonnay that was served in the lounge areas. I also purchased some to enjoy in our room when we had guests stop by before dinner. 6. The entertainment was much better than I expected. The main show on Friday night was absolutely wonderful. We all remarked on the excellent costumes, sets and talent of the performers. I especially enjoyed the classical music trio that played in the late afternoon and evening. Being an aficionado of classical music, I really appreciated this. Holland America had an excellent string quartet that played in one of the lounges all evening and during dinner. It was one of the things that added most to that cruise. It certainly adds to the relaxing and soothing atmosphere. 7. Getting off the ship was a breeze compared to our other cruises. Even though our color wasnt called for 45 minutes, we were comfortably seated in the dining room up to the minute our color was called. It took us almost 4 hours to get off our last cruise on RCL and considerably soured the experience. Some complaints/criticisms/suggestions: 1. The wait getting on the ship was not an auspicious beginning. We had to wait in a Disneyland-type line for well over an hour. I really feel that check-in should be a pleasant experience, not one that wears you out before you even get on the ship. Other cruise lines check you in by your cabin category. I rather think that if you pay a premium price, you should get some preferential treatment when checking in. I also think if youve purchased a group of cabins, your group should be allowed some preference along with you. 2. I think the same thing applies to getting off the ship. 3. Our stateroom: a. The plug in the tub didnt work and the shower didnt work. Our cabin steward was unable to get either to work. A plumber was called to try and fix things, but the tub plug was broken and he didnt think he had a spare. He was able to get the shower to work once, but we were never able to get it to work. Do you know what its like trying to wash your hair under the tub faucet? It takes some rather creative and gymnastic-type maneuvers to do it. We were not pleased, as we were really looking forward to using the Jacuzzi tub. Not having a working shower was very inconvenient. I had to use one in the cabin of one of our group travelers. b. There were three large closets in the room, but only 4 triple hangers. I realize this was just a short cruise, but by the time you get the formal wear, jackets, etc., you need more than what was supplied. When I requested more, I was brought some plastic throw-away types. There were no skirt or pants hangers. Both Holland America and Royal Caribbean had an abundance of very nice hangers. c. There was only one electric plug we could use. Next time, Ill make sure to bring adapters, but if the ship is doing U.S. cruises, I think they should have more standard electric plugs. d. The television was in a very odd location in the room. It was enclosed in a very nice wood case above a dresser and the area containing the room safe. The only place to view it from was directly in front, and the only thing directly in front was a small table and two chairs. You couldnt see it at all from the bed or the sofa area. If it were on a swivel base, maybe it could have been turned, but it was still enclosed by the wooden case which still would have blocked the view. I thought this quite unusual. e. There was a VCR player under the television, but no information on where to get VCRs, if they were available, etc. f. There was no clock in the room, not even one on the television or VCR. It gets annoying having to look at your watch all the time, especially in the middle of the night. I did bring my own clock, in expectation of none being in the room, but then we get back to the issue on not enough electrical plugs. g. There was no CD player. A CD player would have been very nice or a few music channels that came into the room over a main system would have been nice. When youre in a stateroom that has something so elaborate as a bidet in the bathroom, you would think some other things would be standard. I personally think music is an essential. It was another one of those things I liked about Holland America. h. I dont understand why we couldnt have wine delivered to our room, but instead had to go down to a lounge bar and carry it back up ourselves. Beer was available on the room service menu, but not wine. i. The room service menu did not have anything suitable for a small party in our cabin. The only snack selection was vegetables and dip. I would think that people with the larger staterooms often entertain traveling companions there. I dont understand why there were no options for this, even at a cost. j. It was difficult to figure out what light switches went to what lights. It would have been very nice if our cabin steward would have spent 5 minutes upon arrival familiarizing us with our room and showing us how things worked. We would have found out right away that our shower and tub had a problem for one thing. 4. The instructor that took the time to give me a private Pilates class was not teaching any kind of Pilates as I know it. Being a certified Pilates instructor myself, I was anxious to see his interpretation of the exercises. I have always understood there are some variations on the exercises, but it annoys me no end when a class is being offered as Pilates and it doesnt even resemble the original exercises developed by Joseph Pilates himself. Such was the case here. I think, since they are offering these classes to people throughout the world, they need to set a higher standard if theyre going to offer a class like this. Pilates is not like yoga or aerobics, where there are a variety of accepted variations. The name itself is that of the person who developed the exercises and they should be taught in the exact manner they were developed or the class should be called something else. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. 5. Lastly, a not-so-positive comment regarding the desserts. Other than the one dessert I had in the dining room, everything else I tried was bland and rather tasteless. It got to the point where one of the ladies I was traveling with got a plate of 8 small desserts and fed me a bite of each asking that I identify it. The only thing I could identify was chocolate cake. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2003
We are first-time cruisers (not counting 20 years on Navy ships, it just isn't the same). My wife and I arranged the cruise and all airfare ourselves over the internet. It was a very easy process, however, I was not able to get our ... Read More
We are first-time cruisers (not counting 20 years on Navy ships, it just isn't the same). My wife and I arranged the cruise and all airfare ourselves over the internet. It was a very easy process, however, I was not able to get our passenger numbers until the cruise tickets arrived and so was not able to arrange for our shore excursions until later on in the process. My wife and I left Anchorage on January 23 for a cruise that began on January 25, spending about two days in Los Angeles in the San Pedro area. It was worth the effort. We saw the Maritime Museum, the fireboats (my son is a firefighter) and went aboard the S.S. Lane Victory, a restored WWII Liberty Ship, and to the Aquarium. We ate at the 22nd Street Restaurant which was excellent and stayed at the Marina Hotel, which was good and convenient for what we wanted to do. We had read in the cruise critic messages (I wish I could remember the poster's name, but thank you anyway) that early arrival at the pier was the best bet. We arrived in a hotel courtesy van at 10:30 a.m. and in forty-five minutes we were having lunch. This time included a delay because the computer that takes the photos wasn't operating properly. All in all, an excellent embarkation. I highly recommend that people bring passports as ID. When we debarked at the end of the cruise, there were two lines, US Passports and all others, including those with picture ID and birth certificates. We sailed through the debarkation process in 30 minutes from the time our number was called. Our stateroom was a "Large Interior" stateroom, and it was just fine for what we needed, a place to sleep, change, etc. Our room attendant was Lennox, and he was marvelous. Of course, my wife is partial to Lennox China, so go figure. He left animals in the room each night made of the towels, and this delighted my wife. He was always very solicitous of us. I thought that the food was excellent throughout the trip, and that the choices were sufficient for any taste. However, my wife and I are on the Atkins Diet, and it took a little (but not much) thinking to stay reasonably close to our needs (not too close, though, this was a vacation after all). The Surf and Turf was done properly, the prime rib was outstanding. We took most of our lunches in the casual dining room as their salad bar was outstanding. For breakfast, I preferred the dining room as I'm not fond of buffet-style brunches. We took all of our evening meals in the formal dining room. My wife and I dressed for dinner on the formal nights, but not all at our table did. Being from Alaska, we don't dress up that often, and we enjoyed the change. We purchased the unlimited fountain drink stickers for our passes but found that it wasn't a good investment as we didn't drink enough sodas to cover the price of the sticker and there was always coffee, tea and iced tea available for no charge. My wife enjoyed the "drink of the day" program that they had. We didn't find the drink waiters at all pushy. They offered and you either said yes or no. We did purchase the "Wine and Dine" package. We got the basic package because we felt (rightly, it proved) that the ship would not serve bad wine. I recommend this if you like wine with your meals. We missed one dinner at Puerto Vallarta and they gave us the bottle of wine to take home. The passengers were fine, with a few who had obviously came to drink their way to Mexico. We didn't find a lot of "chair hogs" though there were a few who seemed to think that they owned one. Of course, the temperatures were a bit cool at times if you weren't used to living in Alaska. We thought it was quite warm. The entertainment was excellent throughout, and I made my obligatory donations in the Casino. The shows were very enjoyable, with some of the comedians leaving you laughing yourself to tears. The wine tasting "class" was a lot of fun as well. The Captain gave a presentation on the last day at sea (by popular request) about the ship, the crew, and what it's like to be the captain (not too bad, it seems). It lasted for about an hour, he answered questions and, when I turned to leave, the theater was packed. I think it will be a regular feature. We went on three shore excursions. The first was the sail/snorkel tour in Cabo San Lucas. It was very nice, the water was a little cool, but there were plenty of little fish to watch, and we saw whales on the way out. After the snorkeling, they passed out the beer and tequila and it was party time! A very pleasant day out. In Mazatlan, we went on the Fishing Trip. It was a seven hour trip. The boat was nearly as old as the captain, and a bit slow, but my wife caught a 130# striped marlin. She fought it for about 40 minutes before boating it. The trip was billed as "Catch and Release," and the crew's shirts said "100% Catch and Release Sportfishing," but apparently they can't read English. They had no intention of releasing that fish and rammed it with the gaff. I suspect that a lot of Mexican families ate well that night. Other than that, it was a very successful trip. All three of the boats got one marlin each (four fisherman to a boat) and we got a 6' Mako shark as well. What I didn't like about Mexico were the push vendors around the pier area. It reminded me of my Navy days going on shore leave. We didn't take a shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta because my father and step-mother were vacationing there and we spent the day exploring with them. We had lunch at "Le Cliff" about 10 miles south of town and it was great. Watch the Margaritas, though, as there's the rough equivalent of a pint of tequila in each one. They are huge! On our return to LA, we took the city tour to the airport, and it was a very nice way to spend the day and see a city I'd never been to before. My wife's final opinion on the cruise? Seven days is not enough. We're looking at an 11 day cruise for next year, but probably on Celebrity to get another viewpoint. Will we travel on Royal Caribbean again? Most definitely. It was a marvelous introduction to cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2000
Had a great time.......Got the largest suite on the boat which I'd highly recommend as only the suites have a balcony which comes in handy if you want to smoke or sunbathe in the nude.... Yes, they have have an area designated for ... Read More
Had a great time.......Got the largest suite on the boat which I'd highly recommend as only the suites have a balcony which comes in handy if you want to smoke or sunbathe in the nude.... Yes, they have have an area designated for topless on the boat, but it's on the top deck and you'd encounter less wind on Mt. Everest.....I think they cater to Americans as there are more rules as to where and when you can smoke, go naked or whatever....I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't ban the thong and started having church on Sunday trying to cater to most the crazed out Americans onboard walking around with bibles trying to save everyone... Didn't take the kids, but all those who did said they had a great time in Kids camp.... Same with the dolphins in Cozumel, I highly recommend this and also got an excellent report on the ATV adventure riding thru the jungle from the friends we made at the diner table....said it was a blast...but be prepared to get dirty!!! Did self debarkation,,,,,was a breeze....(travel light)....Was luck in the Casino and the disco was rocking, with the exception of one night when they played rap music all night long.... An gonna try another cruise line next time....hopefully one with more of an European attitude as both my wife and I like to sunbathe naked with is impossible on the sundeck of Carnival......also we don't enjoy being herded over to the corners of the boat to smoke....... Enjoy Read Less
Sail Date: April 2000
I sailed from L.A. on the Norwegian Star April 2, 2006 - the first cruise since they were in dry dock. Although I am mentioning a few things I didn't like, we generally had a really good time and enjoyed the cruise. None of these ... Read More
I sailed from L.A. on the Norwegian Star April 2, 2006 - the first cruise since they were in dry dock. Although I am mentioning a few things I didn't like, we generally had a really good time and enjoyed the cruise. None of these things ruined my trip by any means. I was somewhat surprised to notice a broken light fixture as soon we started looking around the ship. It is not a big deal but they had just spent three weeks fixing the ship so it surprised me. Our first room 5016, was uninhabitable. The smell of mildew was overpowering as soon as we went in. Neither neighbour had this problem so I assume the carpet had been wet and mold was growing. They offered to spray with Febreeze but I couldn't see how that would do anything more than mask the odour for a few hours. We were given another room in the same category. An upgrade might have been nice! This was my first Norwegian Cruise having previously sailed with Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. Generally speaking the ship was beautiful with only one exception - that being the Market Cafe - Buffet area. I had heard it described as resembling a high school cafeteria and was doubtful that it could possibly be that bad - but it was! It was the most unattractive and noisy eating place you could imagine. Since I only had a quick lunch there one day, I can't really comment on the quality of the food. The pool area was also less appealing than other ships I have been on. With two huge yellow water slides leading to quite a small pool and surrounded by tables and chairs rather than deck chairs it wasn't a place where I would choose to sit to read, relax and tan. I found the food in both main dining rooms very good and the service was wonderful. The Versailles is an elegant, classy room. The Aqua is a little more intimate and cozy but the food is the same in both. One evening we ate in Endless Summer which is a Mexican Restaurant. It wasn't my favourite meal of all time but there was really nothing "bad" about it either. Le Bistro [a pay restaurant] was in a class by itself. Everything was superb. The first full day at sea is half price in the pay restaurants. All the food at Le Bistro was great but the desserts were amazing. Also a wonderful dessert available at the Trattoria [Italian] is Tiramisu. You can have it on the 'Italian night' at the main dining rooms too. We enjoyed all of our ports. It would have been nice to have a little more time in Cabo San Lucas and Ixtapa/Zihua but they were all great stops. None of the staff ever walked by without a smile and a greeting. They were great. For those who complain about the wait staff in dining rooms not being very friendly - I think that might be a cultural difference. Many of them are from Eastern Europe and are more reserved, professional and serious than Americans but are lovely people when you take the time to chat with them. The service was wonderful. I was very happy with the food and service. The entertainment was far better than on any cruise line I have sailed before. I loved Jeff Harms, the comedian the most. Embarkation and Disembarkation were handled quite quickly with no major problem. Although I had a few negative comments it wouldn't stop me from booking another Norwegian cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2000
Okay, so I wasnt expecting Tijuana on a boat for this vacation, however I sure got it! I went on this cruise with another friend and right upon walking into the port, we were welcomed by ghetto-ness. It was 11:00 a.m. and as we were ... Read More
Okay, so I wasnt expecting Tijuana on a boat for this vacation, however I sure got it! I went on this cruise with another friend and right upon walking into the port, we were welcomed by ghetto-ness. It was 11:00 a.m. and as we were walking toward the entrance, we were greeted at by a nasty, unfriendly port employee who yelled, What do you think you are doing? We explained we were going to check in and she snapped, Well it isnt time! as her eyes flared at us. I simply responded, We did not know and you could have been nicer. She said nothing. She did not tell us that we could have checked in on the Queen Mary, where everyone else was checking in at that time. We found that part out later, as we stood clueless in line with late arrivals. So upon getting in the line to check in, and walking through at about noon, check in was for the most part smooth. The ship was actually nice and the dEcor of it was unique. Our balcony room was comfortable and our view was great. The experience in the bathroom was another story! The shower was freezing! And it wasnt as if we were one of those girls gone wild you know what's on the boat who needed our shower to be cold! We ran out of tissue and toilet paper, and had to call for toilet paper in order for us to have some. We waited about 2 ½ days for more tissue. Ordering room service for the most part was good. We did have to cancel one day because it had been a few hours and when we called, they hadnt even made the food yet! Our time on the Lido deck was all right. The wheat bread was hard as a rock every single day. I showed my friend how hard it was and it could have knocked her out easily if I had thrown it at her. Ice was like a mission if we wanted any. Every ice machine was out of ice 90% of the time. Cold showers and warm beverages! THAT is some service I tell you! So the restaurant was pretty nice and the staff was friendly. The food was delicious  we had no complaints. Although the staff would confuse orders at times and one would get the others salad, and find out when tasting blue cheese when it should have been ranch. The entertainment was mixed. The ventriloquist was hilarious, however the comedians need to go back to comedy school. One actually was booed. He was talking about abusing kids and one person yelled they were hit with a mixer and he said, If your mom had been making pancakes, that would make you a battered child. Um, yea. Booooo! I would recommend for Carnival to add some type of seniors night for the older crowd. Having an 80 year old man (aka Kernel Sanders on Crack) hitting on one of our friends was not cool. She did not oblige to his request of dancing with him and touching her leg. He said she was beautiful and she said she was married. He said its okay so am I. Apparently Kernel Sanders on Crack was there with his wife who had not accompanied him to the club. Besides Kernel Sanders, we had a group of lower class women and men. The women in their 40s were in sweats in the club freaking one another and grabbing the other people on the dance floor to freak with. At one point, one woman was on the floor freaking/humping some young guy who was probably around 19. I was about to punch a guy who would not leave me alone on the dance floor. I should have taken a piece of wheat bread at the Lido deck for a weapon! Oh also in the club, the WORKERS from the ship were buying apparently under-age girls drinks. These girls looked like they were 17 and got so wasted that the security had to pull other guys off them because of the X-rated scene they were causing. Those particular young men made their way around TJ on a boat with many people. In one scene, one of the guys was being freaked/humped from behind by an older male passenger. Yes, during the Lido deck party, where FAMILIES were there with their children. NO respect, no consideration for anyone around! Where did they think they were? The Spa: I had four treatments. The first two were horrible. I had the rock massage for 75 minutes and asked for deep pressure. It was NOT at all deep and for the $180 I paid, expected more. However I did go back attempting to relieve my stress from the night of disgust. The second treatment was 25 minute facial and 25 minute massage. The girl got no tip. I finally had a decent massage on the third go around! So walking in the halls with the smell of marijuana lurking in the air was not too inviting. That smell arrived around the same time as the comedian (who dropped out of comedy school) did and coincidentally enough made QUITE a few remarks about marijuana during his poor excuse of a show. The morning we arrived in Cabo, I went into the restroom on the same floor as the club and was welcomed into the stall by none other than throw up! This is the point where I decided to write a review and save some poor souls misery and buyers remorse! The port stops were pretty but not magnificent. Id recommend Acapulco, Ixtapa and Manzanillo over these any day! Mazatlan had a lot of culture and I would recommend the taxi driver tour -- pretty cool and reasonable -- the ones with the vans. Cabo was beautiful yet very touristy -- we walked around and took pictures and ate. In Cabo, the men are pigs so beware! They are perverted, hit on you and want to take you on a tour to their bed. Dont go! Puerto Vallarta was nice but nothing to brag about. You can pretty much make your way to the beach in Puerto Vallarta and shop around the shops. Just take a taxi into the downtown around and make sure that they are the WHITE taxis  safer! The yellow ones  well, we felt like we were going to die on our way back to the ship. Other than all that, the guest on Carnival Pride were breaking dishes, getting high and causing trouble. The service was OK on this ship. If you like trashiness and TJ revolution and are a swinger, BOOK THIS CRUISE NOW!! Read Less

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