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54,148 Family Cruise Reviews

This is the first time we tried Celebrity Cruises. We liked the itinerary for this ship. 12 nights starting in Vancouver, B.C. and visiting Nanaimo, B.C., Victoria, B.C. Astoria, Oregon, Seattle, Washingotn, San Francisco (2 nights), ... Read More
This is the first time we tried Celebrity Cruises. We liked the itinerary for this ship. 12 nights starting in Vancouver, B.C. and visiting Nanaimo, B.C., Victoria, B.C. Astoria, Oregon, Seattle, Washingotn, San Francisco (2 nights), Monterey, California, and Catalina, California disembarking in Los Angeles. We really enjoyed the ports at each stop. The shore excursions were fantastic. We have cruised about 16 times on Holland America, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. We were told how good the food on Celebrity was so we were excited to try it. Turns out that the food was the low point of the whole trip. We ate in the Metropolitan Dining Room and we had the early seating on the main floor. We had a table for 8 next to the kitchen with a window view. Let me say that it took a full two hours to eat. The waiter took our orders as soon as we sat down at 6pm and we didn't get our main course (even though all of us were finished our other courses and just sitting waiting) until an hour and 10 minutes into dinner. Also when the waiter was bringing the plates of food out he was giving the food to the wrong people. Not only once, but almost every night this happened. The choice of entrees was not as extensive as on Holland America for example. The desserts were nothing spectacular, they were small and no matter what you got, it tasted like sugar free. The presentation was bland and the quality of food was not up to par as any of the other above cruise lines I mentioned. One other thing was they served Cod one night and there were bones in it, I can understand one or two, but two people at our table could not eat it as there were so many bones in it. We told the waiter of the poor food quality and he even said they were "aware of it and were trying to improve." We were disappointed in the Millennium's food as we were told how good Celebrity's food is. One other thing we were disappointed in was the lack of a buffet line in the evening for people who come back late from excursions and don't want to get to the main dining room. They have an Asian stir fry available and some pizza and some pasta. They have a small "alternative" area on the same deck in one corner where you can dine as they use this area to "train' new waiters. Many people never knew this existed. We like the idea of other cruise lines having the buffet line open serving the same food as in the main dining room if you don't want to be dressed up or can't make it to the main dining room. The ship itself is nice, not fancy but with muted earth tones. The lounge up on deck 11 (Cosmos) has spectacular views but one half of it is designated as "smoking friendly" so it can get pretty bad on the nonsmoking side and we left when the smoke drifted over our way. Room Stewards were very nice and did their jobs well. No complaints there. The balcony room was spacious enough with a nice size balcony. The Millennium crew was very conscious of everyone using the sanitizer. Before getting back on the ship from any excursion we were all encouraged to use the sanitizer. The sanitizer was all over the ship and before dinner in the dining room and before breakfast the staff was putting a dab in every one's hand. That's a good practice to follow. We would sail Celebrity again if this line was the only one going to certain ports, like this cruise was. Unless the food improves we won't be going on the Millennium again.Nanaimo, B.C. about 50 miles from Vancouver. This port was great. We took the Coombs Country Market" excursion and loved that marketplace with the "goats on the roof". Then we went to 'Cathedral Grove" with trees over 800 years old, lots of Douglas Firs. If you've ever been to Muir Woods you'll love Cathedral Grove. Nanaimo is a beautiful town with a lovely marina. It's a small town feel and very friendly people and beautiful scenery.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
There have been many reviews on this board already about NCL and in particular the Pearl so I will try and focus this review on our opinions compared to what we expected based on all the reviews read pre cruise. We have previously cruised ... Read More
There have been many reviews on this board already about NCL and in particular the Pearl so I will try and focus this review on our opinions compared to what we expected based on all the reviews read pre cruise. We have previously cruised Celebrity, Princess MSC, and P&O as base for our comparison although in fairness only Princess with our then 3 yr old daughter.(funny how kids change your preferences) We chose this cruise and NCL as we wanted something a bit different and were cruising with our now 6 yr daughter and 2 year old boy. Process of elimination meant either Carnival or NCL for 2 year old allowed into kids club. Other cruise lines require 3 years at sailing. As this itinerary is only conducted twice a year I won't focus much on the particular ports other than to say the P Canal was fascinating and a must do on your bucket list. We preferred the Mexican ports vs Costa Rica or Columbia but that is a personal preference and probably influenced by ease of visitation with two young children in tow. Huatulco is a really nice and emerging resort town right at the dock which is a nice relaxing day. OK firstly the ship. The Pearl is nice and we found it generally to be clean and well kept. Trouble is I think it misses something without a grand atrium and the decor is nice but just to us not that special. It reminded us of a nice hotel resort rather than that special grand cruise feeling. Lots of criticism of the food in other reviews. We eat out quite a bit at home and like all different cuisines. We found the food to be generally very good -both the buffet and both free restaurants. The atmosphere in INDIGO is however much nicer for dinner than Summer Palace which is over lit in my opinion and cheapens the feel. Food is the same in both and while we did have a couple of nights where we felt food was just fair, most nights we really enjoyed our dinners. Breakfast in Garden Cafe each day and yes as others have stated by end of cruise variety is getting a bit thin BUT I really don't know what else they could do as there were all the standard selections and for a buffet we thought food was of good quality and generally served warm. We ate lunch most days in garden Cafe or outside by the pool and again Chicken, Salads, Burgers all quite good. Pizza was OK but not as good as Princess. We did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants. Prices have increased and while we heard good reports about steaks in Cagney's, most other reports were specialty restaurants were just fair and not worth extra charge. Again I don't know how much better the food could have been than what we had in Indigo for included price. Getting atable was a little difficult if no reservation and between 7.30 and 8.30 but generaly no more than 20 min wait. Our cabin was nice, clean and cabin stewards were most helpful and kept it looking great. Overall probably not the biggest mini suite you could find but adequate for 4 people. Entertainment was mixed, we thought the comedian, magician and jugglers were fun but Hypnotist pretty bad and Jean Ryan shows were pretty lame. I think they seem to have run out of fresh ideas as each time we have seen these type of shows they seem to get worse. Why can't they at least choose some great well known music and then dancing would at least be interesting if not great. Overall though good entertainment variety for a 14 day cruise. Liked the calypso band by the pool but by day 10 I think a change would have been good. Few other comments, Cruise director Julie is nice but comes across as a bit rehearsed, Captain is a hoot and we all loved his daily commentary, kids club crew were good but struggled a bit on this cruise with only about 25 kids using club and thus hard to plan special events. Still our kids loved the club and the crew tried hard to make small group fun. In summary we thought ship was nice but again it just didn't have that special something to make it or the service stand out from the pack. We will probably try Carnival or RCL next time as I missed the special cruise feeling on NCL. I am also not a big fan on Freestyle as I like the event status of main dining. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We are a retired couple, usually traveling with another couple. We have sailed with NCL, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Celebrity. Embarkation at Cape Liberty, Bayonne, NJ was fantastic. We arrived slightly after 11 ... Read More
We are a retired couple, usually traveling with another couple. We have sailed with NCL, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Celebrity. Embarkation at Cape Liberty, Bayonne, NJ was fantastic. We arrived slightly after 11 am and after a short wait, we were welcomed aboard w/ champagne and looking for lunch in the Seaside Cafe. Selection and service were good and we were soon checking out our stateroom. Luggage arrived throughout the afternoon and we were pleasantly surprised when the mandatory lifeboat drill did NOT require life jackets!Cabin 7114 is situated mid-ship, not too near elevators, with no cabins across from it; in other words, quiet w/ easy access to everything. The balcony is equipped with 2 chairs and is 2 floors above the life boats which we looked down on. Storage is adequate, but I missed a drawer in the desk because that is usually my make-up area. Hint: we use suction cup hooks on mirrors for hats, storage bags, etc. This is our first cruise to try 1st seating for dinner, but after dinners that finished at 10:30 on our last (Holland America) cruise, we made the switch. So, 6pm found us in the San Marco Dining Room where we were delighted to find our table for 8 and two delightful couples from NJ. Our Waiter, Jorge, and Assistant Waiter, Andres, began right away to learn our preferences and try to keep us happy. They were good at their jobs; we were impressed that Andres remembered drink choices and did not have to ask again. Food: We ate in the San Marco every night except 2 and in the Seaside Cafe for all breakfasts and lunches unless we were ashore or there was a brunch in the San Marco (these were GREAT). Overall, the food was good, but some of our group and others we talked to agreed that the nightly offerings had an unusual (some said European) flair. Thankfully there is a "classic" menu from which one could order any night and we chose items from this menu frequently. When I did stray to the other menu, I was quite often disappointed; items like Shrimp Scampi which had 3 very tough shrimp, rice not done and pureed vegetable were not to my taste. My husband, a beef eater, had several beef dishes that were tough or not cooked to order. It is our opinion that the quality of beef in the main dining room has suffered since the specialty restaurants appeared. We have eaten in a specialty restaurant and it was wonderful, but we are not willing to spend extra every night and don't believe we should have to. Seaside Cafe had great choices for breakfast and lunch. Any type of breakfast food could be found, cooked to order or quick pick up. The only sad note here was the coffee which was (to our taste) not drinkable as it came from the urn. We found that a mix of 1/3 decaf, 1/3 regular, and 1/3 hot water gave us something we could drink. We saw many others adding water and even saw waiters adding water to the coffee they were serving through the dining room. Our complaints seemed to fall on deaf ears. Lunch choices ran from hot foods to a great deli whose chicken salad, egg salad and hot soups were great lunch fare. The only burger we ate from the grill was cold; a disappointment because we usually love the grill items. The 'Casual Dining by Reservation' did not live up to it's billing. We found that they have one menu for the entire cruise! Also, the 'classic menu' from the dining room was not available as we had understood (we were told this was a recent change). Entertainment: Something for everyone! The Celebrity Theater brought us some very enjoyable shows. The productions were well done, costumes great, and our only complaint here is that the volume was way to high! There were the usual orchestra, a classical guitarist, a pianist, comedians, and some combinations. Acts that stood out were Alex & Sally, an Adage Duo, and an A Capella group, The Voice Males. The party band, Sipra was especially good. We attended several enrichment talks and enjoyed them. We are not fans of the art auctions and usually prefer to find a quiet spot for reading when there is time to relax. All employees of the cruise line were efficient, friendly and always trying to please. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We cruised on the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas on a seven day cruise starting September 26, 2009. We had a forced night in Boston, and we got put up at the Boston Hilton. Wonderful hotel, just two minutes from the airport. ... Read More
We cruised on the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas on a seven day cruise starting September 26, 2009. We had a forced night in Boston, and we got put up at the Boston Hilton. Wonderful hotel, just two minutes from the airport. Ended up being closer to 30 minutes, because the RCCL agent called the airport for the shuttle, and after waiting 20 minutes, they called again. The airport to hotel transfer ended up being the hotel shuttle. The Boston Hilton had expensive, though good food, and bring your own breakfast, because they had a $25 breakfast buffet. Travel to the seaport was about 10 minutes! We embarked out of Boston and visited: Portland, Maine; Bar Harbor, Maine; Saint John, New Brunswick; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Our cruise came with two days at sea: day four and day 6. We stayed in an inside stateroom, 165 square feet. They have made the beds curved at the foot, so I could walk from the right side of the bed to the bathroom without scrambling over the bed. Something that was not possible on the 155 square foot stateroom on the Vision of the Seas. The line waiting to embark wasn't as long, and a lady noticing my husband's limp, ushered us to the short line! We handed our credit card to the check in guy, who joked about practicing for retirement. Upon first entering our stateroom, we found the usual flyers, as well as our Gold Crown and Anchor coupon books. On our last cruise, we had to wait until that evening to get our coupon books. Our stateroom attendant never actually introduced himself, but he managed to get our luggage delivered before dinner. He also fixed whatever we needed to fix with the exception of a nasty smell in the bathroom that never went away. Also, the laundry cart seemed to have a permanant station in the hallway outside our stateroom. Knowing that we were not likely to get to eat before 3 PM, we had packed some peanut butter and jam sandwiches in our carry-ons, and ate them around 11 o'clock. Not too hungry yet, we hurried to the spa, and booked our Couples Rasul for the first day at sea. Next we hurried to the Windjammer cafeteria for lunch. Loading up on fruits and vegetables, we dug in. The food didn't seem as fancy as other cruises, and we noticed only one dessert station open at a time. We also had pizza available, as well as both hot and cold dishes. There was also a nice sandwich station with endless subway's sliced into three inch wedges. Once I grabbed a roll, and asked the sandwich chef to slice it so I could fill it with the cold cuts of MY choice. I tried the soft ice cream machine once, and found it working well. Lots of cookies at the dessert station, but limited in variety: chocolate with white chunks of something, oatmeal/coconut (the best), chocolate chip. All cookies seemed almost made from a mix, I think they used crisco instead of butter. I did not try many desserts in the Windjammer, trying to concentrate on the fresh fruit. With the fresh fruit, the pears seemed crunchy, and I do not think they were Asian pears. I ate the shrimp eggs one morning, and got a slight tummy ache. Also, they were selling fresh squeezed orange juice. You could still get regular orange juice at the Thirst Quencher station, as well as lemonade, tea, water. Once I did not notice the guy had removed the garbage can and was replacing the plastic liner, and dropped a piece of trash in the round hole in the counter and got yelled at by the food attendant. Not sure what he said, too thick an accent. I was about to crawl under the counter and retrieve the trash, when he yelled again, and fished it out himself. He may have just been excited. They also had endless packets of Carnation Dark Chocolate mix. Quite tasty! Hours at the Windjammer seemed to be shorter, and we never heard of the midnight buffet. In the Tide's Formal dining room. We noticed that our Waiter seemed to consistently serve us last. The tables were pushed together, and I wonder if he hoped to get rid of the first table to make it easier to reach us. The entire cruise, we were the last to leave. They put us in a smaller room off the main dining room that held maybe a hundred diners. We noticed one upsetting item. Formal night was scheduled on nights with shore excursions. Since we had two formal nights, and two days at sea, it would have made more sense to schedule the formal nights on at sea days. In fact, we missed one of our formal nights, because dinner started at 5:30, and we arrived back at the ship at 5:45! We think the reason they schedule us on port days is that on-board shops are closed, and at sea days, the shops are open, and they want us buying in the shops, not getting all dressed up. Silly thinking. On a previous cruise, my husband forgot his dress shirt, and fortunately we had left port by then so the shops opened in time for my husband to purchase a replacement. A couple at our dinner table celebrated their anniversary, and the waiters sang to them. They also got an invitation to Chops, but no discount. My husband noticed the Portifino's Fine Dining had both a cover charge and a meal charge! On our last cruise, I think they had a cover charge but no meal charge. Speaking of onboard shops, I wasn't that impressed. Previous cruises have included formals! No postcards other than the ship. On other cruises, crown and anchor members have gotten free postcards on the final night, but not this cruise. Another perk dropped. Most of the public rooms were off the Centrum, including the library. Which was more of an alcove than a room. The Library had no door, and only a few hundred books. Still both myself and my husband were able to find a couple books each to read during the voyage. The noise made it hard to read. I always order Eggs Benedict one morning each cruise. But this time, I got some overdone eggs, about 1 teaspoon of Hollandaise sauce spread over two eggs, and a dried out tomato. I heard another passenger with a similar complaint. Once my order was forgotten, and once the order for our entire table was delayed at lunch. The waiter blamed it on the galley. Moving on to the shore excursions: We took a total of four. We had an question about the Boston Tour, and the guy at the Explorations desk took down our question, but never followed up. On Day 6, the explorations desk was only open for one hour. I asked about the Boston Tour with airport and Hotel drop off. This time, the guy said not to bother. Because the tour would only drop us off at the Airport, and we'd have to catch a shuttle to our airport. We were booked at the Weston by Royal, and later learned that the Weston does not have an airport shuttle! Portland - Mount Washing Cog Railway - Excellent excursion. The only downside seemed to be the fact we HAD to be on the return train, or we'd get left and miss our all aboard deadline. This was explained to us in detail. If you take this shore excursion, be sure to pack a heavy coat preferably water resistant/proof. There is one train car, and it's pushed up the steep incline by a diesel engine. I had road this train about 35 years ago, and I remember it slowing dramatically when it got to the 30 degree incline. With the diesel engine, there was no drop in speed. We exited the train, and tottered to the building with a 40 MPH wind with 60 MPH gusts! Yuck! Our box lunch included a wonderful cookie (Made with butter), a bag of chips, a turkey sandwich and a maple candy. We had an hour at the summit. Yum yum. They had the option of a vegetarian box too. On the 2 ½ hour ride up we heard non-stop history, and most of the ride back too. Our guide had actually climbed Mount Washington, but he didn't say what grade the climb was. There were a lot of scenic vistas pointed out to us during the ride, but unfortunately, we missed them due to the clouds. Also, a first, he assured us if we were late, the ship would wait for us. I heard him updating his boss on the progress on the way back. The bus had a bathroom! Bar Harbor - Maine - Jordan Pond House and Cadillac Mountain - Again, we had non-stop history lectures on the way up to Jordan Pond House. There, we went up to a private lunch room the second floor, and ate wonderful seafood chowder. The highlight of the lunch were the popovers, and homemade jams, blueberry or strawberry. Also, we got homemade unsweetened lemonade and a small pitcher of sugar water to sweeten it. After lunch, we had homemade ice cream with blueberry syrup! We had maybe 20 minutes on our own, but much of that time was taken up with restroom lines. No time to walk around the pond. The ride to the summit of Cadillac Mountain had many vistas. We were given about 20 minutes at the summit before heading down. Lots of great camera shots, and the weather cleared up long enough for us to see them. I had lots of blurry shots from the bus until I realized I should set the camera on movie, not still. Saint John - NB - River boat Cruise. This is the site of the Reversing Falls/Rapids. While we saw this, we were only able to see it at Reverse and slack. Our Tour Guide stopped briefly, and for us to see. We were told to note the position of the ship when we left, and when we returned several hours later. In Saint John, the tides are only about 20 feet. We had less than 40 people on our tour, and this made it much nicer. The river boat went up the Saint Lawrence river, and we saw several light houses, as well as a covered bridge. Our sea captain, had been on the river for 50 years. The boat was two story, and we could either be inside out of the elements, or outside. Our sea captain offered drinks and chowder for a fee. The seafood chowder was wonderful, but I felt that this should have been part of our excursion, not add ons. Our tour guide wore a loyalist costume! Halifax - NS - We took the Peggy's Cove and Hop on Hop off Bus excursion. Peggy's cove is a very scenic spot that has become a tourist trap over the years. While we were there, 20 busses pulled into the cove, and it took some really good driving skills on the part of the driver to weave through the maze of busses. I took a wonderful shot of the lighthouse (the most photographed lighthouse in the world), and returning back to the ship, I noticed my husband standing in front of an unsightly dumpster. Line to the restroom was long, and the lines at the cash registers were long too. Our tour guide suggested using our credit cards, because if we used American Dollars, we'd get Canadian back in change. With the exchange rate, Canadian dollars may be worth more anyway. She also mentioned going to the post office to get our passports stamped. The hop-on-hop-off bus portion was disappointing. Long lines, in front of a store called Pier 21. A guy with a clip board at the line asked where we wanted to go, and tried to sell us a ticket and charge it to our seapass account. In the end, with the long lines, fearing we'd get stranded and miss the ship, we didn't use the hop-on-hop-off bus. A number of perks from previous cruises have disappeared. No chocolates on the pillow, and no end of cruise gift for crown and anchor members. Many cruisers grumbled about these disappearing perks. I was miffed about the chocolates disappearing. When we spend a lot for the cruise, if they spent as much as $25 for these chocolates, that's still a small percentage of our cruise ticket. Photos - Photographers everywhere! Our dining table mate was not impressed with the photographers. They just shot the photos, but didn't make sure to show the married couple's wedding rings. Photos were all printed, and I think the cost of the printing could more than have covered the aforementioned chocolates. I think they should scan our seapass, and simply have them available for viewing/ordering on our television. This would also save money, make them easier to find, and eliminate one long line. Spa - We booked the Couples Rasul the first day, and arrived at the appointed time. We'd tried this on the Voyager, but had a problem with the changing room, because there was no place to sit down. On both the Voyager and the Jewel, they were 15 minutes late. Not good! For those that don't know, this treatment brings out the child in you. My husband picked it because he knew we were going to do the spa, and this one was the cheapest spa treatment. You have a set of three rooms: a changing room, shower, and the sauna. You're given some lime ginger salt, to rub into your skin, then it's into the sauna, where a bowl of seaweed mud sits. Now the fun part, you get to play in the mud! You rub it on yourself, and your partner! After 45 minutes, the rain starts, and the mud is washed off. Then you return to the changing room, and rub on various creams, masks, etc. Go to the shower to finish cleaning up. This shower was a round shower, and had about six shower heads about four feet high, so you could get wet from all directions, then another knob operated the traditional shower head for washing your hair. All turned off automatically, but you could turn them on as many times as needed. Over several cruises, we've noticed those people that are working the guest relations and explorations often can't answer our questions (other than what's in the brochure). The Loyalty Ambassador assistant didn't seem to do much better. The food overall was good. Not as wonderful as what we remember from the Vision of the Seas back in 2006. But at that point, we hadn't cruised for six years, and didn't know what to expect. Our head waiter didn't seem to be on the ball. In the past, the head waiter had always come over to diddle with our lobster tail. On our next cruise, we're probably going to wait longer to pay for our gratuities. I'm not sure if the word gets around that the gratuity has been charged. But one of our table mates paid with cash, and the service at our table was still slow. Our assistant waiter excelled! De-embarking seemed better. They had the International Customs meet early in the morning. We didn't have to be out of the staterooms at 8 am, and we were told to report to the Coral Theater 10 minutes before our departure from the ship. Unfortunately, a few International passengers were not with the program, and departure was delayed 20 minutes. It would be better to have the International customs processed the night before, but I suspect they want them shopping, gambling, drinking, every minute possible. Overall, an enjoyable cruise, but we hope the cut backs don't continue. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was our second cruise aboard the Explorer of the Seas sailing from Cape Liberty. Our first experience was in late Apr 09 when we did a 13 day cruise to the Caribbean. This meant that the shows that we saw from the ship's ... Read More
This was our second cruise aboard the Explorer of the Seas sailing from Cape Liberty. Our first experience was in late Apr 09 when we did a 13 day cruise to the Caribbean. This meant that the shows that we saw from the ship's singers, dancers and skaters were the same as we had seen in the spring; however, we still enjoyed them. Arrival at the port from a hotel in Newark was relatively straight forward, given that we had a GPS. The route would otherwise have not been very easy. Processing at the cruise port was very straightforward. I unloaded luggage and my wife, parked the car and soon afterward joined her and the bags for a relatively efficient and speedy check in. A brief wait in the terminal and we were aboard the ship. We arrived about noon but had to wait until about 1:30 before our cabin was available. In the meantime, we took in a good lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. Our cabin, 6692, was a mini suite on deck 6 at the stern. It was the first time we had been in a balcony cabin, let alone a mini-suite. We loved the cabin which had much more storage room and space than we were accustomed to or needed. The stern cabin on deck 6 had a very generous balcony but unlike other decks and the sides of the ship, our balcony did not overlook the water because it was set back from the stern and actually had a significant deck outside our balcony. That deck was accessed during the morning and afternoon by the ship's crew as a work platform and staging area. A pleasant discovery during the cruise was the water in the pools was being heated. With the comfortable air temperature, sunshine, and heated pools we actually spent more time using the pools on this cruise than we had during the Caribbean cruise in late April/early May. The only days that the weather was less than very good were the first day at sea - which was very foggy and drizzly, and the day before getting back into Cape Liberty, which was rougher and rainy. While we checked out excursion options online before the cruise, we did not take advantage of them during the cruise. We chose to play it by ear except that we also checked online for trolley tours for Boston. Food aboard the Explorer of the Seas was good to very good. We took all of our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer Cafe and our suppers in the main dining room except for one night in the Windjammer and a second night in Portofino's. We typically take one or two meals in Portofino's during a cruise. The supper in Portofino's was excellent and the same one we typically go with, an appetizer, the seafood skewer and the dessert sampler. Our departure from the ship went relatively smoothly except that we were about 30 minutes later getting off than advertised. Portland Our first port of call was Portland and we chose to just wander the town. It so happened that the Portland city's Metro bus system laid on "Ride all Day Hop-on/Hop-off" buses for $5 that were supposed to do an expanded loop of the city and downtown. Not a bad deal but the bus line had problems keeping up with the demand at the cruise jetty. As well, the bus driver we had did not seem to understand that there was a set route he was supposed to be following in accordance with a map that the passengers had been provided. He did try to tell us about the neighborhoods he took us through; however, between his accent and the poor speaker system on the bus, it was impossible to hear and understand anything. Still, we did get to see Portland by bus and by foot and got some sounvenir shopping in. Bar Harbor We were tendered into Bar Harbor from a relatively long way out. A much smaller Holland America ship was closer in. The tenders were hired locally and did a relatively good job of ferrying people back and forth. Fortunately, the weather was again very pleasant. We ended up spending our time walking up the main street from the pier and just shopping. We had noticed a restaurant on the pier advertising a lobster meal at quite a reasonable price. We had thought to take advantage of it for lunch; however, when we returned in the early afternoon, we learned that there was an hour long wait for seating. The lesson to take away is that if you are interested in this deal, you should plan around your meal if possible. The people in the stores were amazingly friendly and the prices for souvenirs, including clothing, were very reasonable. We would definitely like to visit Bar Harbor again. A classic small New England tourist town. St John This was St John, New Brunswick as opposed to St Johns, Newfoundland. Despite our having lived in the Maritimes, i.e., in Halifax, Nova Scotia, we had never visited St John before. The cruise terminal in St John was newly constructed and dedicated in early summer 2009. It was very nice and had a large pavilion tent set up just outside for local craft vendors who provided a good range and selection of souvenirs. The city center and shopping were an easy 15 minute walk from the terminal. Unfortunately, the shopping was restricted because it was a holiday Monday and most businesses were closed. Halifax We had lived in Halifax for about 8 years so we had already seen as recently as the previous summer many of the key tourist attractions. Having said that, there is a lot in the downtown area including the waterfront boardwalk, businesses, parks and museums to amuse cruisers for a day. There are also excursions to Peggy's cove that are well worth considering. Peggy's Cove on a sunny windy day is gorgeous. It also has a memorial to the passengers of a Swiss Air flight that crashed off the coast in the vicinity of Peggy's Cove about 10 years ago. Boston We had never visited Boston before. Wow! What a historic city. Whether you are an American or foreigner, there is a lot of fascinating history in this city and, as we discovered, taking a "hop-on/hop-off" trolley is an excellent way to see it. As previously indicated, we had researched trolley options prior to arriving in Boston. Despite the research, we chose to go with the Upper Deck Trolley Tours. We started by walking into town to the World Trade Center, about 20 minutes from the ship but a relatively easy walk. From that point, you could actually grab virtually any of the trolley tours because they tend to have common stopping points. The Upper Deck trolley set itself apart from the competition by including a "Super Duck Tour" of the harbor. An added benefit, if you could take advantage of it, is that the tour gives you a second day free. We found that the bus drivers we had were very knowledgeable and made the tour extremely interesting. Finally, another feature that sold us on the Upper Deck Trolley Tours was the fact that the elevated view put us above all of the normal traffic. It made a big difference to our ability to get good views and photos of the city. We found that we had a relatively small amount of time to actually step off the bus; however, we did get a good amount of time in the vicinity of the Old North Church and then downtown at the Trinity Church. My wife had an idea of what she wanted to sea based on the movie, "National Treasure." Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Our first cruise to the Mediterannean was by far the best vacation ever and what made it more special was our brother's wedding in Tuscany. We travelled from Montreal, Canada to Barcelona, Spain via Swissair. We stayed at Hilton ... Read More
Our first cruise to the Mediterannean was by far the best vacation ever and what made it more special was our brother's wedding in Tuscany. We travelled from Montreal, Canada to Barcelona, Spain via Swissair. We stayed at Hilton Barcelona Hotel in Av. Diagonal; it's approximately 30 minutes from the airport. The hotel location is very close to all the services, local restaurants, cafes, shopping mall, grocery store and a walking distance to the subway. Being close to the subway was a big plus to us, as this is how we got around town. It is easy to use and a lot cheaper than the taking a cab. We bought the day pass for unlimited use of the subway, tram and bus. We used all modes of transportation to see major sights such as the Sagrada Familia, (entrance fee is EUR12 and EUR2.50 to go up the tower), Park Guell, Placa d'Espana and Las Ramblas. One thing we thought about Sagrada Familia was the entrance fee was a little expensive for what you are really seeing, since there was little to see inside because it is still unfinished. The outside was spectacular although I don't think you need to go inside the gate to see all of Gaudi's work. The church is so big that you can see from the outside the gate and take beautiful pictures. We didn't think it was worth the money but at the end, we figured that we are donating it to the church. Las Ramblas was basically where we end our day as they have plenty of great restaurants and shopping. It was a fun place to visit; plenty of local artists displaying their talent, but be careful of pickpockets. We were fortunate not to lose anything because we simply didn't have anything in our purses or bags. Our favourite restaurant, which we found has the best quality food, price and ambiance was La Quinze Nits, located in Placa Reial. They have the best sangria and paella we ever tasted. We certainly enjoyed our stay in Barcelona; people are very friendly and a safe place to visit especially for the family. Embarkation: Cruising with Royal Caribbean is no doubt exceeded our expectations. Our embarkation went very well; it's a good idea to embark earlier to avoid long line ups and more time to explore the ship and lounge by the pool. Ship: We sailed aboard the Voyager of the Seas, which is the first of the Voyager-class fleet. We have read some mixed reviews about the ship being old and not maintained, however we didn't see that; the ship was still in good shape. We stayed in a Quad stateroom, but since the kids are getting bigger, it was little tight for us. Our next cruise will be definitely in a stateroom with a balcony or a junior suite. We have not been disappointed with RCI. Food and Services have been great throughout our cruise. We had the first seating which we thought was perfect time since it didn't interfere with our shore excursions and we had plenty of time to get ready. We found the second seating very late. The entertainment was great; the kids enjoyed the magic show and ice skating on board and rock climbing. As for the kids' entertainment, they have plenty of activities for the kids to enjoy; unfortunately there weren't many kids on board at the time we sailed due to school, however the Adventure and Ocean Club offered excellent entertainment for the kids. Overall, we enjoyed the ship and the food and services were great. However, we have noticed that they cut back on some of the privileges for Crown and Anchor members, and this is very disappointing. As loyal passengers, we expected some kind of special treatment. Maybe, it is something they can improve. Ports of Call: Since we have never been in Europe before, we decided on a cruise so we can have a taste of Europe. Surprisingly enough, we saw a great a deal of Europe, although it was only a 7 day cruise, we didn't find it short. We had enough time to see everything we had to see. We didn't pack our week with tours because we want to be able to enjoy and take it all in. Also, travelling with our kids, we wanted to make sure that they remember everything about Europe so we have only booked two tours. We booked two tours with a local tour guide, Driver Service Guide with Ivano & Mauricio, in Rome and Naples. We have read about them in the Cruise Critics and we are so happy that to have booked with them. Their website is www.driverserviceguide.com. We were in two Mercedes van and both tour guides were very knowledgeable and accommodating; they organized everything for us: tour schedule, lunch and private tour guide at the Vatican. And most importantly, we got to the ship on time. Not only the tours were very informative but they made us feel right at home; it was really a blast having them as our guides. They brought us to a local restaurant which is what we were looking for. We were pleased with their services and we highly recommend them. We find that they offer more for the price as opposed to the cruise tours which we found far more expensive for what you get. Our next stop was in Florence, where we had our brother's wedding in the beautiful Tuscan valley. It was the most beautiful and intimate wedding with the presence of both families and closest friends. RCI also accommodated us by closing restaurant Portofino for our dinner that night. Our next stop was in Villefranche sur Mer, which we thought was a very quaint town. We tendered to the town and then took the train to Nice which only cost us EUR1.35 return trip. It was a 10 minute ride to Nice. We walked around town and had cappuccino at Le Grand Cafe De Lyon. As it is the French way, you may have to wait until you get service, but it is their culture and it is worth the wait. You may not know but you have to pay to use the toilet, which came as a surprise to us since we ate there. One would think that a restaurant will provide such service. Since it was quite a long walk back to the train station, we decided to take the tram back for EUR1 per person, and later found out that the tram can take you to Old Nice. Our last stop was Marseilles, which we didn't expect a lot, but when we got there, we enjoyed this town. It is the 2nd oldest town in France. We didn't take tour at this stop, since this is our last port we wanted to explore it on our own. RCI has unlimited bus transport to and from the ship for USD$12 per person. Although, we found it very expensive as the bus ride was only 5 minutes and there was no way you can go back and forth the town. Basically pick up and drop off. We had to take it as it was more expensive to take the taxi for a family of four. In summary, we were very happy with the cruise and all the ports of call. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
After reading some of the negative reviews here I was hesitant to book a cruise on this ship. I was also a bit hesitant being on a boat for 22 days with so many sea days. But it was such a low price since it was a repositioning cruise I ... Read More
After reading some of the negative reviews here I was hesitant to book a cruise on this ship. I was also a bit hesitant being on a boat for 22 days with so many sea days. But it was such a low price since it was a repositioning cruise I decided to book it anyway. I was sure glad I did. Most of the complaints people have are nit picks to me. Embarkation - smooth. Took about 30 minutes to go through the assorted lines and find our way to our cabin. Went to the buffer for a late lunch, bags were waiting when we got back from lunch. Although the ship is 5 years old, there was nothing significant broken, overworn, or old in the common areas or my room. Booked an inside cabin on deck 10, first time on an inside and did not miss the window. Great for sleeping late on sea days and didnt spend a lot of time in it anyway. The room had plenty of space, a large open close that separated the bathroom from the rest of the room which I liked. So you can step out of the shower and get changed in front of the closet while someone else is in the bed area. Tv was not an LCD flat panel but didnt mind. Had about 20 channels with about 5 working when sattelite had bad reception which wasnt a big deal. Got to watch some football games. I was pleasantly suprised at the size of the bathroom, the toilet was well laid out so you didnt bang your knees on the wall or door. Water was always hot in less than 10 seconds and water pressure was good too. The food. I was on the anytime dining which worked out great. Could go to anyone of 3 restaurants which were right next to each other, so if one was crowded, just went next door or down 1 flight. The pacific moon could get a bit loud but thats where many Chinese dined who tend to be loud talkers when dining. After more people boarded in Japan, the dining rooms tended to fill up about 6:25 but then were empty again by 7:45. The hostess at Sante Fe was awesome, if that restaurant was full she got us seats somewhere else, including empty tables at the main dining room which was reserved for fixed seating times (some no shows each night). Food was very good on most nights. never had so much steak, lamb and shrimp. They did tend to overcook meat, but i just started ordering rare when medium rare consistently came out like medium or medium well. The steak on the every day menu was excellent - better than some of the main course steaks that changed daily. It was a tenderloin as opposed to a ny strip you get on most other cruises. When nothing appealed to me, you couldnt go wrong with this steak. Salads were good, soups so so but loved the cold fruit "soups" which were more like a fruit smoothie. Desserts were ok - stuck to cakes or the different ice cream flavors most nights since you could only get hard ice cream in the dining rooms but the cakes were also at the buffet. Soft serve was available on the pool deck from 11am until about 8pm. Service was generally good, but did take 1.5 hours to get through dinner especially during peak hours. Had lunch in the main dining room most days, the menu was limited but almost always found something interesting that was usually very good. Service here was same as dinner - a bit slow when busy. It took about 1 hour 15 minutes for lunch. The buffet. At first, I thought it was small, but then realized they had a second side which they opened during peak hours of breakfast and lunch and dinner. This allowed them to close half at a time and clean it thoroughly at least once a day while keeping the buffet open 24 hours. Finding a table could be hard during peak hours, but was easy to share a half empty table with others. Ate breakfast here most days. Loved the fresh made to order waffles you could get at the pool deck. Didnt eat dinner here but did check it out a few times - they usually repeated about 3 of the dishes from the main dining room. They also had same desserts so if you saw something else in the dining room, you could come up here after a show for another round. The buffet was open 24 hours with something decent available all the time. The staff in the buffet were good, after a week you got to know them. They also helped find you a table, carried your tray if you needed help and were usually very quick to offer to get you coffee, tea, water or juice. Entertainment. The comedians were very good, with probably about 6 different ones during the cruise. They would board in one port and leave a few ports later. The production shows in the main theater are not my thing, but they were usually crowded. They did repeat several of the popular shows (early and late on same day, plus 2 days in a row) so you usually had 4 opportunities to catch a show. They staggered the overlap, so there was at least 1 new show per day. The piano players were good too, but also not my thing so didnt spend a lot of time in the lounges/bars. The same band was with us for all 22 days playing almost every night and they were good but a bit loud. Pools were open late (dont think they closed) and were empty in the evening hours so I could swim laps. During the day, wasnt usually a problem to find a lounge chair. But that could be due to average age on this repositioning cruise in september of 60+. Water was heated and very comfortable, and 1 pool was covered and very comfortable even in Alaska. The gym had cybex weight machines, free weights up to 50 pounds and the usual treadmills, ellipticals and bikes. On sea days during peak hours, a few fights almost broke out because people were not observing 30 minute time limits on the treadmills, but to me this wasnt a big deal - just avoid peak times (9-10:30, 1-2:30, 4:30-6). There was no one in the gym after 7 at night and I quite often was the only one there at the 10pm closing time. The ports. The cruise operated tours are way overpriced but not worse than other lines so I toured them all on my own. When will cruise ships realize if they priced something other than a walking tour at Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Carnival Liberty - Review Sept 5, 2009 - 7 day cruise Eastern Caribbean: Half Moon Cay, St Thomas, Old San Juan & Grand Turk About us: We went on our yearly vacation with another couple, I'm 25 and my wife is 23. We ... Read More
Carnival Liberty - Review Sept 5, 2009 - 7 day cruise Eastern Caribbean: Half Moon Cay, St Thomas, Old San Juan & Grand Turk About us: We went on our yearly vacation with another couple, I'm 25 and my wife is 23. We live in Miami so we are used to sunny places and beaches but we love going to new places in the Caribbean. I will give as much details as possible since many reviewers don't put as much. Embarkation: I strongly believe it was very smooth and organized. You go thru lines assigned to your floors and this is when they give you room keys and you give your credit card or cash down. Rooms are ready at 1:30. The Cruise: I would rate by the following: Cleanliness: The ship was immaculate, so clean and perfect. You can even see workers at all times re-touching and cleaning up. This applies to all rooms, dining room, pool and just in general. Rooms: This was my 1st time in a 7 day cruise and in an interior stateroom. Experience was good, bed was comfortable as many reviews state. Every night you get your towel animal design which is cute along with chocolates. On TV you have about 15-20 channels including 2 channels were they put 2 full movies daily for the whole day. You also have your mini bar which keeps usually beer, sodas and small containers of your favorite alcohol. You can request extra pillows if you like. Room Service: This service is supposed to be offered for 24 hours which is pretty cool. You have the menu in your room inside the hard cover book. Room service doesn't have many choices and they consist of sandwiches, salads, fruits, breakfast and others. You have to try the quesadillas, wow...really good. I also tried some sandwiches and they were tasty and room service only took 10-15 minutes the most to deliver. Lunch: For me the food was outstanding. Sushi is free in 5th deck by the club, usually opens from 5:00 to 8:00 most of the days you are in the cruise. The Sushi comes in 3 pieces, is like a sampler and you can repeat how many times you want. For Sushi fans you will see your regular California rolls, JB Roll, Tuna Rolls and some unusual ones they make with crème cheese and wasabi. Emelie's is your regular buffet located in deck 9. They got usually a few options to pick from at the buffet itself, usually about 7-8 dishes from fish to pasta. If you want to skip the buffet line you also have inside of Emelie's a Deli consisting of fresh made sandwiches. Also you have a Burrito Bar which is amazing, very fresh made to the order with steak, shrimp or chicken. Also you have a Mongolian tempiyaki chef were you pick your vegetables and your meat and they stir fry it for you, line gets a little big but it's worth it, they even let you pick from 3 different sauces. Your other choice inside of Emelie's is the "Fish and Chip Station" located in the 2nd floor of the buffet, the fish and chip is awesome. You also have other fish related dishes like fried calamari, ceviche, octopus salad, seafood soup and also you got over 5 different side sauces you can pick from. There's plenty of seating space in Emelie's and if you want to be away and more relaxed hit the 2nd floor. If you want to skip buffet then you can have a menu lunch at the Silver Dinning room. Never went because buffet was good enough and we were always rushing to get to the pool or a show. If you like staying around the pool then you have the pizzeria open 24 hours and you got about 10 choices of pizzas and also some calzones and salads. Also in the opposite side of the pool you have the burger and hot dog station where you can eat all you want burgers, hot dogs, nachos and fries, delicious. Drinks: The free liquid included in this cruise is Lemonade, Iced Tea, Water, Orange Juice, Milk and Guava Passion Fruit. In breakfast I believe you can get coffee at no charge. The alcohol and sodas are already pre-charged with a 15% tip which increases the value of your drinks. Your daily "Drink of day" costs you about $5.95 + 15%, these drinks are usually pretty fruity and taste really good, no complains. You can take a bottle of alcohol I believe per person to your cruise and you don't get in trouble, trust me. You can purchase pre-paid drinks for like $24.99 for 5 drinks from carnival's website or you can buy a "Cha Cha Ching Drink Card" at the ship which is about the same as the coupons. Also you can purchase a soda card for like $45 bucks for the 7 days, one per couple should be fine, nobody checks for ID just the room key. If you are not a soda drinker, they don't get it. Soda is about $1.95 a can + 15%. Popular named drinks like "Mojito", "Long Island Iced Tea" and any type of Martini are actually more expensive, I believe they run to about $7.95 + 15% tip. Dinner: You automatically get assigned to either the Silver Dinning room or the Golden Dinning room. They both serve the same however if you want to experience both places, have your night dinner at the Golden and eat lunch at the Silver Dinner. We had servers Ni Luh and Tommy, amazing servers with sense of humor and had an awesome time with them. The food was great quality and I loved it. You can actually order more than one plate, they never tell you the opposite. Every night there's something different to try out, they literally got a choice for anyone even chicken nuggets. Menu also offers a fixed section where you can pick from their "Classic Plates" such as Mahi Mahi, Steak and others, these items are all the same for the whole stay in your cruise. Desert was ok, had some good deserts and had some weird ones. Recommended appetizers: Tiger Shrimps (cold cocktail) - 4 shrimps per plate Fried Cheese - 2 Big ones Cesar Salad Entrees: Penne Pasta Seafood (With the Ala Vodka sauce) Lobster & shrimp - only captain's night Chicken & Bacon pasta Lamb BBQ Ribs Pork Loin Tilapia Norwegian Salmon Sweet & Sour shrimp Deserts: Cream buele Melting chocolate cake - (only for extreme chocolate lovers, very strong) Tiramisu Grand Manier cake Pool: I'm not really a pool guy but we went to the back pool twice. There is the main pool and there's also a back pool which is a less crowed. The main pool is located right under the huge screen Carnival has were they play music videos, movies and Carnival's broadcasting. A lot of the pool activities happen in the main pool and there's usually a reggae band playing which is pretty good. The water slide was really fun, there was no line to get in it at most times. There are also 2 Jacuzzis per pool which fit about 10 people in them. We were 4 of us and we were able to find chairs to lay down at most times. Spa: My wife used the SPA for a message special they had for $89. She had some back pain after it for about 2 days so I really don't recommend the SPA message if you are in vacation. I know it varies but its better to be safe than sorry. Casino: They have a lot of machines to choose from and you have your regular craps and blackjack going on as well. You have waiters going around asking for drinks every 1 minute and there are a lot of smokers around you. I think the Casino is where a lot of people give away their money, my recommendation is don't waist more than $50 bucks in it and use it to buy stuff in the island or to buy things in the cruise. Entertainment: The shows take place at the Venetian Palace which is a beautiful theater that fits a lot of people. The lights and the sound are amazing, just like if you were in a Broadway show. I enjoyed some of the shows Carnival offers, the dancers were really good and most of the performances were accompanied by a live band which was really wonderful band. The comedian's name was "Phat Kat" and has made appearances in BET and other TV networks, he was ok, nothing special but we laughed. I recommend going to the show on your first day cruising, they do a little bit of everything and if you miss it you will be lost the rest of the week. The last show of the cruise "Carnival Legends" is kind of fun, its pretty much regular cruisers dressing up as singers and perform in front of everyone. Another show I recommend seeing is the "Marriage show" on your last due of cruising in the afternoon time, it was really funny. Other activities I saw but never participated were dancing lessons, golf lessons, island shopping presentations, art auctions and the list keeps going. Our cruise director Butch was hilarious. I think he was really entertaining and kept everyone in a happy mood. Facilities: Never went to the piano bar activities but it was beautiful and people seemed to be having a lot of fun. The Karaoke room was really pretty; it's decorated in red with specially made wooden sculptures of musicians from the band of a famous jazz trumpet player. The paparazzi bar was always empty and it was really creative. The Club is intended for teens however older people go there to dance as well but the Cruise staff seems to be directing the entertainment more towards the shows and other activities at night. Booking Tours: All the ports we went were great, no complains. I'm always trying to save money so I looked online for different tour options outside of the cruise, didn't find much. Half Moon is owned by the cruise line and Grand Turk's tour agencies work directly with the cruise line, is almost like the have contracts with them. Puerto Rico and St Thomas might be the only places you can book a tour outside of the cruise. If you book with the ship, I recommend doing it before you are on board because they start running out of the good ones. If for some reason your tour is canceled, they will give you an alternative tour or refund you. Overall experience: All islands were fabulous; the ship's quality was amazing. It seems from what I hear Carnival is focusing more now more than ever in the customer experience and the quality of the food. I have been heard from travel agents that Royal Caribbean had to lower their prices because Carnival is catching up quickly to their ultimate customer service experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Pre-Cruise In Honolulu We left home on Thursday for the Saturday sailing of the Pride of America. Because of the length of the trip from Wisconsin and the five-hour time difference, we figured we would need some recovery time on Oahu ... Read More
Pre-Cruise In Honolulu We left home on Thursday for the Saturday sailing of the Pride of America. Because of the length of the trip from Wisconsin and the five-hour time difference, we figured we would need some recovery time on Oahu before the cruise. Also, we had some things we wanted to do in Honolulu, such as see the chapel where we were married at Fort Shafter forty years ago, and to see the Pagoda Hotel where we stayed at that time. It turned out the Army tore the chapel down and was in the process of putting up a headquarters on this very high site with great views of the ocean. And, the hotel now has a Wal-Mart a block away. Before we left home we signed up for the Thrifty car rental Blue Chip program, made rental arrangements at five cruise stops, and used a discount code which we got online. Thrifty has the best pricing in Hawaii. They are located with Dollar in several locations, but the pricing is different. Our cost in Honolulu was about $28 per day plus taxes for a Chrysler Sebring four-door. We used their "Wild Car" program, which provides their choice of a mid-size or larger car at favorable rates. The cars we rented included Chrysler Sebrings, a Dodge Charger, and a Jeep Rubicon. Reserving ahead of time and the Blue Chip program are musts for use in Hawaii. The rental sites were jammed with people in every location. Their site on Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu had long lines of people standing in the sun all day long. With the Blue Chip program you give your name to the shuttle driver and they have the car ready for you when you get to the rental site, which has a separate line for Blue Chip card holders. We paid an extra $30 in Honolulu so we could leave the car downtown, rather than return it to the airport. The downtown location provides a pier shuttle at the top of the hour. The radios in the Thrifty cars are set to a radio station, KINE, with a great playlist of Hawaiian music. Here's a link to their music-streaming site, http://hawaiian105.com/, which should be good background music for planning cruises. The roads all over Honolulu are jammed with cars, including many tourists, like ourselves, who have no clue where they are going. The road system is quite confusing. Despite the heavy traffic, most of the drivers are very courteous, unlike most large U. S. cities. Speeds are relatively slow except on the large highways. Quite an array of rental vehicles is available, including everything from dangerous-looking three-wheelers about the size of a rickshaw to Dodge Vipers. We chose to stay at the Outrigger Luana Waikiki hotel. Despite the modest price, I would rate it at least three stars. Very clean, with helpful staff and a great location, adjacent to Fort Derussy park. One of the reasons we picked this hotel was the $18 per day self-park garage. Most of the other hotels have valet parking, which can be a nuisance, and their parking charges were higher. Also, Thrifty is located across the street. Although we didn't use it, there is a good public bus system. Additionally there are free, open-air, wood-sided buses which travel to the major shopping sites, the names of which appear on the sides of the buses. We shopped at the huge Ala Moana shopping center, the International Marketplace, King's Village, and others, including getting soda and other items to take aboard ship at Safeway and Wal-Mart. Aloha Stadium normally has a large flea market on Saturdays, but it was pre-empted by a football game, which also added to the traffic and helped fill up the hotels. There are a great number of restaurants of almost every type in Honolulu. Our hotel staff was quite helpful in subtlely helping us to avoid some of them. While walking to dinner on Friday night we were pleasantly surprised to hear and see the weekly fireworks show at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. This is not something you would normally see in the center of a city. We had visited most of the tourist sites on Oahu years ago. Had we not, we would have allowed at least four days before or after the cruise for this purpose. Embarkation On Friday the gate guard at the pier told us to wait until 1:00 P. M. or 2:00 P. M. to arrive on Saturday to avoid a long line. We drove to the pier and parked near the gate. Unlike most cruise ship docks, the place where the porters receive passenger luggage is about two hundred yards inside the entrance gate. The result of this is passengers must push, drag, or, if their luggage is without wheels, carry their own bags over a very rough blacktop surface to the luggage drop. Watching elderly people perform this task in the heat and the sun should give NCL some thoughts about revamping this process. There are some small and inadequate canopies over a portion of this trail, but most of it is open to the sun and rain. It's a good hint at what happens next. The embarkation process is performed in a large, hot, warehouse. At the time we got there, about 1:00 P. M., there was a huge line of people. It appeared there were an adequate number of processing stations. But, for whatever reasons, the lines were very slow in moving the passengers (These lines were still very long at 3:15 P. M. when we returned on the Thrifty pier shuttle). As Latitudes members we bypassed the long lines. Even so, the actual processing seemed painfully slow, compared to any modern day embarkation we've done, including on other NCL ships. I was never asked to produce any documents showing I was entitled to the Military Discount, which we were using. Once aboard we had lunch at the buffet, took our hand luggage and returned to our car and drove to Thrifty. When we returned on the shuttle we were surprised to find the rooms were still not available for most of the decks, despite the ship having docked at 7:00 A. M., with the cabins emptied by 9:00 A. M. This was an example of the kind of service awaiting us. Our Cabin We had the highest category balcony cabin. It was smaller than we had expected, but had adequate storage for our belongings. There didn't seem to be the usual creaks and groans from the walls and floor while sailing, unlike most other ships. The balcony door drape provided the best room-darkening I've seen on or off a ship. The air conditioning was top notch and easy to control. The refrigerator, unlike those on other ships, actually worked so well that we had to adjust the temperature upward. We had the staff remove the mini-bar items from the refrigerator and also the other overpriced things which they had for sale in the room. Lighting was quite adequate in the room. The pillowtop mattress was quite comfortable on the bed. We didn't feel the need to request an eggcrate mattress topper, like we usually do. The shower temperature controls worked well, but the shower was very small. Body wash and shampoo were provided in a dispenser. Despite being below a portion of the Aloha Cafe there was not lot of noise from above. Cabins closer to the stern on this deck would experience considerably more noise during serving hours. On Board The room stewards were responsible for delivering the luggage to the rooms. Our steward was not involved in this for some reason. In fact we never met our room steward for two or three days. She, like all of the other employees on the ship, was very pleasant and eager to please. She, and they, were also either new employees, poorly trained, or both. It was obvious that this ship must have a huge turnover of staff. We were constantly overhearing staff explaining tasks to one another, and seeing them shadowing each other to learn tasks. All of the staff speak English to some degree. Many are American, which might explain the high turnover. They probably hear a sales pitch about the "glamorous" shipboard jobs. Once the reality of the day-to-day drudgery sinks in, they jump ship. Despite the overwhelming politeness and big smiles, the staff, taken as a whole, was simply not up to performing the necessary jobs at a decent pace. Luggage was slow in being delivered and the staff didn't seem to put much effort into it. At 7:00 P. M. it was clear that they didn't have our luggage on our deck. I spoke with several crew and one told me it must have been "confiscated". He directed me to a room in the bowels of the ship on deck 3. I went there to find a security person and what appeared to be two hundred pieces of luggage with tags on the handles which said "liquor". I spotted our bags right away. The man asked me if I had received a written notice about the bags along with the other notices from the steward. I explained that I had received no notices nor anything else from our steward and had not seen her. He told me I was supposed to have received a notice explaining where the bags were and to bring a key to open them. We did have a bottle of wine in one bag and liquor in the other bag. He said that NCL was "really cracking down" on people bringing liquor aboard. He said, "I really hate doing this part of my job". Apparently he was supposed to have me open up the bags and turn the bottles over to him for safekeeping until Friday night. As I was the only passenger there at the time he just turned the bags over to me and I left. I've read of this on some of the cruise boards, but thought NCL must have posted it to frighten passengers from bringing their own refreshments aboard. I couldn't believe they actually would do this to their customers. I know they weren't doing this on the Spirit last year, and I don't think the New York passengers would put up with this kind of treatment. Given the way the luggage was arranged there must have been many more bags originally "confiscated" and given back to passengers before I showed up. The recorded music played in the hallways and other public spots was unusually good. It was Hawaiian style, and very well done. Dining We ate almost all of our meals in the Aloha Cafe buffet. There was a good variety of food which was tasty and fresh, served hot or cold, as appropriate. There was a soft serve bar with various toppings and fruit tarts for ala modes. We ate dinner in the main dining room once and never returned. The food was poorly prepared, served by incompetents, and the worst we've encountered on a ship. Our tablemates voiced the same opinions. What a confused mess. We checked the menu a few other times and decided that we'd rather eat in the buffet. The Cadillac Diner was another place we ate. The food is prepared to order and was nice and hot and well served. It was the only place open on Saturday night after the buffet closed, and it had a huge line of people waiting in the hallway to get in. I usually gain a little weight during a cruise. Not during this one. Exercise The ship has a very large gym which is fully equipped and kept clean. The running and walking promenade is very nice. It seemed to be blocked off many times for lifeboat training sessions. We could hear the instructions being given to obviously new staff. Entertainment We heard that the main shows and acts were lame. So, we didn't go to any of them. Instead, we went to see the music artists in some of the smaller venues. I think we saw all of the ones they had aboard. They were mediocre, and certainly not any better than you would find in any club on land. There is no casino, and no forms of gambling allowed. So, the bingo games were described as being "free". This is not a ship to count on for entertainment. Maui The first port was Maui on Sunday and Monday. The ship docks in Kahului Bay. It was raining and foggy, so we took our time eating breakfast before we got off. We took the Thrifty shuttle to the airport to pick up our car. We decided that we wanted to go to the Haleakala National Park, which has a mountain over 10,000 feet. We drove to about 4000 feet elevation and gave up as it was raining so hard we could hardly see anything on a very winding road. It didn't seem to make sense or be safe to continue. While we were driving on the very wet and winding road we encountered several groups of bicyclists. One of the shore excursions consists of being hauled by van up to several thousand feet of elevation and being given a bicycle to ride down. It probably sounded like a great idea at the time. The people on the bikes looked totally miserable with the water pouring off their helmets and rain gear along with their clothes and faces and hands. This looked very unsafe, given the slick and narrow, winding, roads. We returned to Kahului, parked the car near the ship, and had lunch. After lunch we went to a number of shopping areas in the town before returning the rental car and reboarding the ship. Monday it rained again and we didn't leave the ship. I don't think I can really provide an opinion on this island or its attractions. The weather was so bad we couldn't really view much of it. Hilo The second port was Hilo, on the island of Hawaii, also known as "The Big Island". The ship docks in Hilo Bay. This is a very rainy place, with an average 278 days of rain each year. And, of course, it was raining heavily when we got off the ship. The Thrifty shuttle took us to the Hilo airport for the rental car. We headed for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in a driving rain. It took about an hour to get to the park entrance. We were informed that some of the roads in the park, including the Chain of Craters Road, were closed due to the "vog" which is formed when the sulfur oxides emitted by the volcano Kilauea mix with moisture. The concentrations in the air were at three times the toxic level. This volcano has erupted continuously since 1983. We stopped at the Visitor Center and looked at some of the exhibits in the Jagger Museum and shopped in the gift shop. From there we went to the viewing station for the volcano caldera. The rain stopped briefly while we were there and we were able to take pictures and view the tremendous size of the crater, or caldera, as it is called. It was quite interesting to see. On the way back out of the park we stopped at an area riddled with volcano steam vents. After taking some pictures it started to rain again and we headed back into Hilo. Hilo is a very old city and has some interesting old buildings. We drove around the old part of town and took the scenic route which goes north from Hilo Bay, before doing some shopping, returning the car, and getting brought back to the ship. Despite the almost constant rain, viewing the park and the volcano were very much worth the time. We were unable to see the summit of the volcano due to the rain and clouds. There is no doubt much more to do and see but the ever-present rain is likely to interrupt a lot of the fun. Kona Kona is on the opposite side of the island of Hawaii from Hilo. Wednesday we anchored in Kallua Bay. The ship issued tender tickets with various times on them. Rather than get involved in that we waited until they took those with tickets ashore. At that point we boarded the tender for shore. The tendering operation was very well run, with many tenders used and very short waits to board. The pier and the quay are very reminiscent of the setup in Grand Cayman. The shopping is all within walking distance of the pier and there is a lot of it. After all the rain of the previous days, it was nice to see the sun again. It was also very hot. We shopped for quite some time and then returned to the ship. About 9:00 P. M. we sailed to the other side of the island again where the Captain positioned the ship alongside the active lava tube from Kilauea. He stopped the ship and kept it in position so everyone could view the lava flow at night, both on the hill and where it flowed into the sea. This was another unforgettable sight. Very impressive. All of the lights on the deck were turned out for even better viewing. The sulfur smell was very strong even though we were a few hundred yards from shore. We should have taken videos of the lava, as our still photos didn't turn out well due to the long exposure times needed and the motion of the ship. Kauai Thursday we docked at Nawiliwili Harbor in the city of Lihue and picked up a car at the Lihue airport. We headed west on highway 50 to see the Waimea Canyon State Park. There is a lot of interesting scenery along the way, as well as a turnout for taking pictures of another interesting canyon. The drive up and down the two roads that go to the Kalalau Lookout are quite challenging, being very narrow, with many turns, along with tour buses and so forth coming the other direction. The lookout is at 4000 feet elevation. This canyon is called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", and is very beautiful and very large. From the lookout the ocean at Waimea Bay can be seen. The many colors of the canyon were quite a surprise. It is a very spectacular sight, the photos of which don't do it justice. We drove back to the port and ate on the ship. There is no convenient place to park near the dock. So we parked at the closest marketplace. There is a shuttle that runs all day back and forth to the ship from this strip mall. Later we did some shopping and then returned the car. On Friday the ship left for Honolulu at 2:00 P. M. The ship's route goes past the beautiful Na Pali coast, with its rugged cliffs almost 4000 feet high. There are no roads on this part of the island. So, the cliffs can only be viewed by helicopter or by sea. The ship passed this area at the perfect time to capture the beauty of this coast, as the sun highlighted the huge crags. Disembarkation NCL permits the passengers to pick when they leave the ship. This process was very well run and worked speedily. Everyone was off the ship by 9:30 A. M. or so. There are no Customs checks for most passengers. After getting the bags it was once again a bit of a hike to the place where the taxis are parked. Overall This was a very enjoyable cruise with fabulous sights to see. We had a great deal of fun and will never forget what we saw. The ship is very nice, but not well run. In retrospect I think it would be best to consider this ship like a taxi and not to expect anything special in the way of food or entertainment. The ship provided a means to get to the sights, but really didn't add anything to our enjoyment. I've never been too thrilled with NCL. But, this ship was really disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We read a lot of reviews prior to booking so we feel obligated to make some comments. Booked cruise online with a special $200 credit voucher. Arranged accommodation prior on "www.hotwire.com" we booked the mystery hotel. Do your ... Read More
We read a lot of reviews prior to booking so we feel obligated to make some comments. Booked cruise online with a special $200 credit voucher. Arranged accommodation prior on "www.hotwire.com" we booked the mystery hotel. Do your research and you can almost guess the hotel with a good discount to any other internet/travel agent rate. Book your transport before you travel and save. We used Enterprise, they have special rates on taxis/limo to and from the airport as well as hire cars on all the islands. Hiring a car is not for everyone. However if you have a group of 4 or more and don't mind driving on the other side of the road this is the most economical way to travel. Being Aussies we believe in when in Rome do what the Romans do. We tipped everyone who provided a service. 15% for good and 10% for bad! Porters $1 a bag and $2 to make your bed! The cruise staff were excellent! We only tipped the people who made our beds $10 when we arrived and $10 when we left. A service charge is included on your drinks and on your bill. If we ever needed something extra for the room we had it straight away. Kids loved the buffet and if you go to the Cadillac Diner you can take a meal to your room. Breakfast/Dinner we ate at several restaurants and always had good food and service. Piano bar was hard to avoid after a busy day on the island, Lauren providing some helpful advice on the next island while serving a cocktail. Lava Flow, Mud Slide, Mai Tai......... Kids loved playing Dodge Ball, Table Tennis, Water Volley Ball, Gym (16 and over) and the POOLS! We spend 4 days on Hawaii prior to the cruise and 2 days after. My wife and daughter enjoyed the shopping while the boys and I spent quality time at the beach and pool. Sensational hassle free holiday, relaxing and would recommend it to friends! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
My eighth cruise, seventh on Carnival, first balcony. We travelled with an all-adult group of family and friends. Embarkation at Port Everglades was pretty easy. The fish and chips on upper deck of buffet was my favorite food venue. The ... Read More
My eighth cruise, seventh on Carnival, first balcony. We travelled with an all-adult group of family and friends. Embarkation at Port Everglades was pretty easy. The fish and chips on upper deck of buffet was my favorite food venue. The main dining room food was pretty good, but our waiter was a nervous wreck who rarely got our requests correct on the first or second try. He was paired with a friendly assistant who spoke nearly no English. Most of our group gave up on the MDR service after elegant night and ate at the sushi bar, room service, Lido buffet, and/or the steak house. The cocktail servers in the MDR, casino, and pool decks were great, and all knew me by name by the 3rd day (I have the S&S bill to prove it). Spent most of the sea days visiting with our friends on our balconies, doing trivia, and hanging out by the pool. Our cabin attendants were great. The ports were the big activity attractions for us, the seas days were about doing as little as possible. Debarkation was pretty typical. The exit queues layout pretty much inhibited the attempts of the porters to gain head-of-line priviledges for their customers. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Me, hubby and son cruised on the Imagination several years ago before the renovations. We had been on 2 RCCL cruises and 1 other Carnival cruise before this one. The smell of pot in the hallway (I know Carnival can't control ... Read More
Me, hubby and son cruised on the Imagination several years ago before the renovations. We had been on 2 RCCL cruises and 1 other Carnival cruise before this one. The smell of pot in the hallway (I know Carnival can't control that)...crowded pool area...waiter rolling his eyes upward when my husband was mentioning to him how he wanted his beef cooked...buffet food was not good. We had a good time. It just was not one of those good memorable cruises when you say "Honey, remember when we were on the Imagination and ......". Fast forward to September 2009, I booked the Imagination last minute. I work for a major airline and got an incredible deal on an oceanview cabin. Hubby couldn't get off on such short notice, so me and my son went...He's 19. We got excited when we saw all the new additions and updates on the Internet. This cruise turned out to be so enjoyable. I basically had been working a lot of overtime at the job, and was going to do nothing but eat and sleep. And this is just what I did. The food was unbelievable. Carnival really puts RCCL and NCL to shame in the food areas. We ate all our dinners in the dining room. I had the Steak the first night (Tasty, moist and juicy) and I'm not a steak person. Another night, Sweet and Sour shrimp (excellent). Lobster tail and shrimp (2 plates (Delicious). Last night had Beef Short Ribs (Exquisite, falling off the bones). My son had all the entrees I chose. Also, one night he had the grilled pork chop and said it was juicy. He enjoyed his food also. I loved the baked Mac and Cheese that came with some entrees. I'm African American, my moms from down South, so I know good Mac and Cheese. Not as good as moms, but good. I loved all the cold soups. I get them every time I cruise. I like the fact that Carnival has the cold shrimp as an appetizer every night along with the Chocolate Melting Cake. I love the souffles, I order them for dessert every chance I get. They were so good on this ship. Our Wait team was excellent and he saw how I was enjoying the food. I said to him that Carnival beats RCCL in the food department. He said he hears that a lot. The lunches at the buffet were unbelievable. Everything I put on my plate was tasty. I remember having the Fried Calamari, Jerk Chicken, Grilled Reuben, Fresh off the grill Burgers with mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and Carnival fries are the best. Just like eating McDonald fries. Breakfast was just as good. I had Omelette's and grits every morning with Bacon and fruit on the side. This is the most I ever ate on any cruise I've been on. The updated cabins were so nice. The bed was comfortable I slept like a baby. Enjoyed the flat screen TV in the upper corner out of the way. Bathroom updated and very nice. My favorite part of the ship was the Serenity area. I was there every day. The "drink of the day" prices went up from my last Carnival cruise. So I limited my alcohol intake. I've been on the NCL Jewel, Carnival Liberty, Spirit and Imagination 2 x's and have been on RCCL Sovereign, Majesty 2x's, Explorer and leaving on the Independence on 2/20/2010. I have no allegiance to any Cruise Line. I go were my pocketbook says I can go. I am also a foodie, and for me getting meals I normally do not know how to make and enjoy them is a big part of my cruising experience. I go on cruises to enjoy the relaxation of a lounge chair in the sun sailing the ocean. I could care less about the Ports. Now, I'm reading the not so good reviews about the decline of food on RCCL. I'm looking forward to trying the Freedom Class ship and again, booked last minute and snagged an unbelievable rate on our 8 day cruise. This time the whole family will be going. I love Carnival and RCCL, but, being that I'm a foodie, just a little worried that the Independence won't measure up in the food area. I definitely will not starve. I mean any bad day on a cruise is better than any good day at work. Isn't that what folks say? Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We had a great time on the Destiny! I'll quickly give the pros and cons: Pros- relaxed atmosphere, fun pool area, staff did anything for my 9 month old daughter to keep her entertained at dinner and even to take pics with her ... Read More
We had a great time on the Destiny! I'll quickly give the pros and cons: Pros- relaxed atmosphere, fun pool area, staff did anything for my 9 month old daughter to keep her entertained at dinner and even to take pics with her smiling, decent food- loved breakfast in the dining room everyday, desserts were really good in the dining room, we never starved, loved the pizza, fitness classes were awesome, we had a suite and loved the extra space, staff saw me with a stroller and always let us go first to get off the ship, etc- very accommodating, very nice staff Cons- it felt crowded on the deck most days, the buffet lines were long We had a great time and would do it again! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
The Golden Princess is a lovely ship. To us, it was huge. By the next morning we felt we were doing pretty good in learning our way around the ship. There is a certain amount of having to go up and down to get to the dining room, for ... Read More
The Golden Princess is a lovely ship. To us, it was huge. By the next morning we felt we were doing pretty good in learning our way around the ship. There is a certain amount of having to go up and down to get to the dining room, for example. Embarkation was quick and easy. The buffet lunch on the Lido was welcome. Sadly we were delayed about 2 hours waiting for several hundred Canadians coming from Vancouver. We got a bang out of "Sail Away" by Enya being played. The Seattle skyline was impressive, even with all the clouds around. We had dinner in the dining room with a private party. I don't recall which of the 2 dining rooms it was. The food was okay. We thoroughly enjoyed the stage show. For the first time ever, my husband and I had a cabin with a balcony. We enjoyed watching the passing scene. We were disappointed it was dark when we got to Whidbey Island, because we were looking forward to seeing it from the sea. Many times we have watched cruise ships passing. We loved being on our balcony to see the arrival in Vancouver, and watching the sun come up. We have been to Vancouver many times, had not seen it from this vantage point of our own balcony. Many years ago we had stood on deck arriving from an Alaskan cruise. The breakfast buffet on the Lido was great. Disembarkation went smoothly. Directions were a little hazy for getting to our motorcoach for the transfer back to Seattle, but we got there easily enough. The driver and other staff gave us welcoming smiles. All the staff we met were friendly and helpful. Our only regret about taking this cruise was that it was not long enough! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Let me start by saying that without a doubt, this was the cruise of a lifetime. I had never cruised before and was a little anxious, as I suffer from inner ear problems, causing of course the dreaded sea sickness. Thanks to tons of great ... Read More
Let me start by saying that without a doubt, this was the cruise of a lifetime. I had never cruised before and was a little anxious, as I suffer from inner ear problems, causing of course the dreaded sea sickness. Thanks to tons of great advice on this board, I bought something containing meclizine, and for the entire cruise I felt great. The one morning I felt uneasy, I ate a green apple, as suggested by some, and it settled my stomach. Not ten minutes later I was ready for breakfast. Before I start this review, I'd like to thank everyone for all the wonderful advice here on CC. This is without a doubt, the best board I've ever been a member off. Seattle before the cruise: We came in from Seattle by train, as it was much cheaper to fly to Seattle from Belgium and take the train up to Vancouver. It is indeed a beautiful journey as you pass by the Pudget Sound. Business is a little more expensive, but well worth the extra money. You get a separate check-in kiosk in Seattle and better seats. If you can, try to sit on the left side; this is the place you have the best view of the Ocean. When you arrive in Vancouver you bags are waiting for you next to the train, just pick the right ones, and then you pass through immigration. All went very smooth. We took a taxi to our hotel (the Westin), which was a very short drive. Vancouver: We arrived in Vancouver two nights before our cruise, so we could visit Vancouver. The weather early September was amazing on the second day, that's when we did our sightseeing using the Vancouver trolley. A great way to see a lot of things in a short time. A walk by the water was also in store, which was so beautiful under that amazing ray of sunshine. When we arrived the first day, it was raining, but it didn't bother us so much since we were so close to the shopping heart of Vancouver, and did just that: Shop. It was exciting to see the Winter Olympics countdown and all the things you see on TV. Vancouver is simply amazing. My favorite two things were seeing the Lion's Gate Bridge from above, and Nunchuk, the official winter Olympics mascot. Embarkation: We took a taxi from the hotel to Ballantyne Pier, which was a very short cab ride. Once I say the Radiance shining in the sun like a star from a short distance, my mouth fell open in amazement; She truly is a beautiful ship. Walked up to the ship to take pictures and was followed by a security agent. He didn't say anything, but when he asked, he told me that he would be in trouble if he didn't keep an eye on me. After, I learned that you're actually not allowed to do that. Oops, sorry, I'll never do it again. But he was really nice about it, and I'm pretty sure he recognized the amazement in me as a first-time cruiser. Porter were very nice, took our bags and put our cabin number on them, since we hadn't received the cabin thing (sorry, can't remember how you call that, temporary loss of memory The lines to embark were very short. We filled out the questionnaire about our health, security lines were very short. Check-in process to a little longer, I'd say about 20 minutes, but it went smoothly. The longest wait was of course immigration. It was very short for US citizens, but longer for non-US or Canadians citizens. Drinks and cookies were provided to make the wait short. I think it must have taken a little under 90 minutes from the time we arrived until we were allowed on the ship. We had our picture taken and headed straight to the Windjammer. Great lunch upon embarkation, and we didn't have to much trouble to find everything, since they have great plans near the elevators. The ship: What can I say about such a beautiful ship. She truly is the queen off all the ships I have encountered upon this journey. The pool and sundeck is beautiful, she is very well kept. Windjammer and the main dining room are well laid out, gorgeous and very clean. I loved the elevators in glass facing the ocean, I even saw a school of porpoises next to the next from the elevator one day. It seems they are always cleaning the handrails, each waking moment. My mouth fell open more than once in amazement. Our cabin Steward: He came in the first night and introduced himself. He was polite, always greeted us (as did the other stewards on our gangway), our room was very clean the entire journey. I loved the towel animal, my favorite probably being the monkey hanging on our ceiling. We always were excited to go to our cabin at night, wondering what we would find. I did indeed find it very strange that the towel animals always ended up wearing my sunglasses when we arrived. That still puts a huge grin on my face today. We got fresh ice in our bucket twice a day. Beds were always made. Two thumbs up for our steward, whose name I have sadly forgotten. Cabin: We got ourselves an interior cabin N. I read everywhere that you just had to book a room with a view when cruising to Alaska. I don't agree with that, as I didn't miss the view once. There are so much places on the ship where you can see the ocean from, the helipad being my favorite. It was nice to sleep in a totally dark cabin, and in the morning turning on the TV to watch the ship cam. We had booked cabin 3563, which is a sideways cabin, midship and great for my motion sickness. The size was perfect, lots of cabin space and great beds. Since I knew about the dreaded shower curtains before we left, we bought table cloth hangers to hang at the bottom of the dreaded curtain. Not once was I attacked by the curtain, and I'm not a small person. Bathroom is not big, but perfect. There still was a but about this cabin. It was right next to a crew door, and we found out that it often happened that the door slammed shut, starting around 7. Not easy to sleep in, but it didn't bother us more than that. Meeting the folks of CC: It was fantastic to meet everyone you talked to for months on the roll call. We had organized to exchange calendars from our hometown, which was a great idea. Meet and mingle is great Doing a cabin crawl: Now that was quite an experience. I loved seeing all sorts for cabins, from our own little inside, to an ocean view, a junior suite, a grand suite and of course the royal family suite. We occasionally got strange looks for fellow passengers who wondered what that group of 40 something people were doing walking down the hallways. But my favorite part was the cabin steward from the royal family suite who asked: "do you need more towels?" ? Our waiters and table mates: I think that table mates can make or break a cruise and we truly and honestly had amazing table mates. We had lots of fun together, and had the best conversations ever. I have very fond memory about a particular couple, where the husband just loved to tease me. Of course, I love being teased and loved to tease back, so had great laughs. I still miss being teased by him today. So I guess it's no wonder that we are still in contact. We had the best waiter and assistant waiter you can wish: Our waiter was Alexi and the assistant-waiter was Dushan. Both of them are extremely nice, polite and helpful. Second night they already knew we drank diet coke. Didn't have to ask for refills or anything. They knew our name by the third night. We were at a table for ten, but only seven of us showed up for the two weeks. And each and everyone was nice and polite. Captain: Our captain for the cruise was Trym Selvag and he was great. Loved his good morning, good morning, good mornings". Always very informative over the speakers, entertained everyone with his jokes on formal night and found out during the entire cruise that he has a great sense of humor. I can understand why he has been transferred to Oasis, but I'm sure he will be missed on the Radiance. Entertainment: It was simply great. Never was bored during a show. I'm not gonna bore you with everything we saw. Simply because I'm just really really bad at remembering. We saw the sons of famous Ricky (insert name) and they were great. They moved me with the song they wrote for dad. Best entertainment was cake decorating with the captain, the staff captain and the pastry chef. The cruise compass advised you had to wear rain gear for that activity. Afterward, I understood why. Pastry cream was flying around, landing on shoes, clothes, etc... Of course, the captain and staff captain were no strangers to that, as they catapulted it to each other and poor Kirk Detweiler, who received a shower of cream. Even his ears. Put some alcohol in the cake? Right, more like 3 quarter of a bottle for the captain and staff capt. Other than that, their cakes didn't look that bad, but a seat close to the cake making, was dangerous. I filmed to cake decoration and I still fall off my chair watching it now. Hilarious. Food:We had dinner in the MDR each night, breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer, and where ever we ate, the food was excellent. Not once did I have to complain, the waiters disappointed when I didn't want dessert one night. On see days, the MDR has salads to die for. Basically, you pick what you want in your salad, and they make it for you. Not once was I sick or felt under the weather because of the food. Ice yoghurt is delicious, but my favorite where the double chocolate chip cookies they served in Seattle's best. From what I could tell, they only had them on see day. Or maybe I was just too late the other days. Hygiene:There were sanitizers at the entries of all restaurants, they were constantly cleaning everything. I didn't hear about any NORO or other health issue while I was on board. Ports-of-call: Ketchikan: We had booked a shore excursion through RCI, and took a 4 hour boat ride to the Misty Fjords. The Misty Fjords are gorgeous. We saw orkas near the boat and it was very exciting to see puffs of air before you saw them appearing. We saw bald eagles and its nest, young bald eagles, a colony of sea lions on a small island and we had binoculars to search the shore line for bears. It was very cold on the boat, let me tell you that, but they provided hot cocoa and coffee so we were okay. We had a small lunch and then went back into town. We walked up to Creek Street, saw Dolly's House and were excited about the seeing the salmon swimming upstream. This is truly an amazing experience! Skagway: Again, we had booked a shore excursion through RCI and in all honesty, it was great. We drove up to Carcross by bus, and we had a wonderful female driver, and she was very informative. The sights on our way to Carcross were amazing. Deep blue lakes, snow top mountain, etc. We stopped at Caribou Crossing for a lunch, which was not bad at all. We went to pet, hug and kiss the sled dogs, and we were welcomed by a truly sweet Golden Retriever. I fell in love with him immediately. Then we went on to pet the sled dogs and their puppies, they were so cute. Then we went on and the bus driver asked us to close our eyes, since she had a surprise. What we saw there took our breathe away. Although it wasn't included in the trip, she had driven us to Emerald. Truly worth a detour, it is so beautiful. The trip back to the port was by railroad, over the historical white pass. Amazing what a great railroad the built over a hundred years ago. What wonderful views you get from the train. The only negative I could say is that the smoke literally gets in your eyes when you are in the first compartments; and you get to chose were you sit. You have to remember to take your passport with you. First when crossing into Canada and when you return to the US. But all in all, that went very smoothly. Icy Strait Point (Hoonah): Small village, not much to see there, but I had the best day of my life there. Over the roll call message board I had met people who were doing a bear search with Keith from TREKK. I managed to get on the same excursion, since I couldn't get in contact with Keith from Belgium. It was great to travel with people I had met on the meet and mingle. Keith and his lovely dog Trigger, who was still a pup at the time, are wonderful. He drove us deep into the woods with his van, told a scary bear stories and kept us entertained all the way. We saw a bear down by the river and he parked the van a little further and we walked up to the river. No luck, by then the bear had gone. But Keith know were he was and tried to get Winnie out, but I guess he wasn't in the mood. The forest was beautiful, it really looked like a lush tropical forest, with flowers, trees and leaves I had never seen in my life. A little later we saw a bear up the road, but it managed to get away. We didn't have more luck, but I call myself lucky that we saw two bears. We drove back to Hoonah, with Trigger sleeping sweetly on my lap. By then I was driving shotgun, since the road in the forest was bumpy and got carsick. It was raining the entire day and the ship was tendered, but that didn't ruin the experience of a lifetime. Juneau: I love the capital of Alaska. It's a small and nice little town, but we found out in the afternoon it gets packed with tourists when 4 or 5 cruise ships are in at the same time. We hadn't booked a shore excursion, but like in every port-of-call, there was plenty of choice right there on the pier. We opted for Mendenhall Glacier, and took the blue van to the Glacier. When we got there, it was cold (remember that it was still early morning) and very misty. Some paths around the creek were closed due to bear activity. A ranger told us there had been a lot of bear activity the past days. We saw bear droppings and eaten fish, but that's as close as we came to a bear that day. We walked up to Mendenhall, but we couldn't see our hand in front of our face. It was so misty. But an half an hour later the sun came through and was we saw took our breath away. Mendenhall Glacier is beautiful and is sure worth a trip. When we came back we had lunch on the ship and took a walk around town, but it wasn't easy with the crowds. Sitka: Small little port-of-call, the best place to see the influence of the Russians. When we tendered and disembarked from the ship, the town was still quiet. It was very early and we took a walk around town, enjoying the peace and silence. We hadn't booked an excursions, but lots were offered on the pier. We settled for a city tour combined with the Bear sanctuary and it was great. We got lots of insides of the early days in the Seattle, the way of live, saw the University, a bald eagle perched on a tree, visited the chocolate factory, drove to Silver Bay, etc. It was a very enlightening tour. The best part was the bear sanctuary of course, with two big bears playing around. They were rescued when their mom dies, she was a garbage bear. Garbage bears eat everything and when they get used to humans, they get dangerous, and sometimes have to be put down. That's were the bear sanctuary comes in. They take on cubs whose mom is dead, put them in quarantine and then in their sanctuary. Afterward, they can be shipped to zoos, but they try to keep brothers and sisters together. Sitka is a nice little town you just have to see. Cruising Hubbard Glacier: The highlight of the cruise. It's amazing to sail up to the glacier and the closer you come, the bigger it gets. With Hoonah, it was our second and last day of rain, and it was very cold up on the helipad. I was there at the crack of dawn, but had to give up that last part of the sail, since my fingers were frozen and I was frozen. Went in to put on another layer of clothes, warm myself and when I came back out, the view took my breathe away. We were very close to Hubbard and the ship basically did a 360 so everyone got a great view. We saw lots of calving, the funny part is that you hear the calving, before you actually see it. When we were ready to depart, we heard that loud cracking noise and a huge piece of ice calved off. What a great spectacle. With pain in our heart, we had to leave Hubbard and sail towards Victoria. If you take a cruise to Alaska, take one that visits Hubbard, since it's more than worth it. Victoria: The beautiful capital of British Columbia. It's more a town than a city. When you get off the ship, buses are waiting to drive you to the city center for a fee. We walked around town, and if you like museums, there the museum of national history, which seems very nice. We walked to all the sights and had lunch on the ship. In the afternoon, we spent some nice time on deck, enjoying the sun. San Francisco: Everyone had to go through immigration before anyone could debark. So when some people are inconsiderate, everyone is punished and has to wait until everyone has been to immigration. It took some time before we could debark. No shore excursions booked in SF, we did the city on our own. We were in SF a couple of years ago and had seen the main sights, so we mainly focused on shopping, pier 39 and the famous sea lions and relaxing. Of course, we rode the cable car and walked around the city. I love SF, it's the most European City of them all. We sailing into SF I got up at the crack of dawn to see the sailing under the Golden Gate, but it was so misty; the only thing we saw of the bridge were the lights underneath it. For our sail out of SF I watched from the helipad and it was really cold and windy. Sailing under the Golden Gate is amazing. And that night at dinner I saw the pilot boat for the first time next to the MDR. The last night: It was a very very sad sight the last night, when we saw all the suitcases in the hallways. I guess that's when we realized the dream was over :-( Disembarkation: We were in the last group to disembark and spend some more time on deck. When the time for disembarkation came closer, we went to our designated area, which was the theater area. We disembarked around 30 minutes later than normal and took a taxi up to the Alamo rental counter. We spend a night at the Sheraton Marina and drove up to an outlet mall for the last round of shopping. I felt very sad that I had to leave such a beautiful ship, but on the other hand, I have some wonderful memories that will last forever. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
As stated above, we sailed on the Splendor inaugural cruise in Europe last year and were very spoiled. So, once you have had the best, everything else doesn't seem to measure up. Nevertheless, we get started at Port of Miami where ... Read More
As stated above, we sailed on the Splendor inaugural cruise in Europe last year and were very spoiled. So, once you have had the best, everything else doesn't seem to measure up. Nevertheless, we get started at Port of Miami where checkin is very quick and painless. No problem there. We arrived about noon and could not get into the rooms until 1:30 so up to the Lido deck to kill time. Went by the New York Deli for a grilled sandwich, Reuben for me and ham and cheese for the wife. Both very tasty and quick. Finally got to the rooms, but had to reconfigure the bed setup in two of the rooms. This was NOT Destin's fault as we had juggled the rooms around to accommodate 2 other people at the last minute. Housekeeping staff, particularly Mykhalo, took care of everything so, by 5PM, everything was set right. Had the obligatory evacuation/lifeboat drill with the life vests from the room. Jeez, do they ever clean these things? Again, spoiled by the Splendor which had brand new ones never used before so maybe a tad overcritical here, but these are dirty. After that, had a quick walk around the ship which is considerably smaller than the Splendor, which is good and bad which I will explain later. We had dinner in the Universe dining room. Very nice and the meal selection every day was VERY good. We had a very efficient waiter named Yoseph who is from Indonesia. An older chap probably in his fifties, which is a little surprising. As part of a wine package, we could buy coupons for 3 bottles of wine for $65. Wines were in a moderate price category from what I have seen in liquor stores. You could buy a higher end package for $90, but the choice in the $65 package was more than adequate. Most of us ate the mainstay Flat Iron steak which, if not overcooked, is excellent. Mine was fine, but the wife's was overcooked and a bit chewy. The others seemed happy with theirs, so maybe just one steak left on too long. Most of us had the obligatory Chocolate Melting Cake the first night which is excellent. Our first day on board is a day at sea. Lots to do on board during the day if you get bored lying in the sun. Lots of trivia contests, scavenger hunts, bingo, etc. They give smalls prizes for the trivia etc. most of which are what they call "Little Pieces of Ship on a Stick", a plastic version of the ship. And yes, I did win mine for the sports trivia contest after finishing second in the Destiny Amazing Race, and another contest. Bingo prizes are all in cash. I must add that this ship was packed to the limit, so the lines at breakfast were very long. Destiny has only 1 Lido buffet section whereas Splendor has 2 so never saw a long line on that ship. The long wait is compounded on port days which I will explain below. After the first day at sea, we had our formal night. Many locations to take pictures and I suggest that you do so before dinner as the lines back up afterward. In the dining room, this is also the first night where the waiters danced. Imagine our shock when the quiet, businesslike, 50ish Yoseph dons a napkin, doo rag style, and proceeds to bump and grind to the music. Man, wish I could still move like that. This was also the lobster night and the kitchen got very backed up leading to numerous apologies from the Maitre'd and the wait staff. Not sure what the problem was, but it was the same at every table. Food was good when it arrived. This happened to also be my wife's birthday. My friend had ordered a cake for her through the travel agent when we booked the cruise. Alas, it did not show up, but they gave her a small piece of cake and had the staff sign happy birthday anyway. We had a show in the Paladium Lounge that was OK. Nothing great but not bad either. (Spoiled by the Splendor again). The comedy act was very good but singing and dancing was underwhelming. Another reviewer (Falkcor) wrote a very lengthy review of the Destiny and raved numerous times about the piano bar. I can honestly say that I NEVER saw anyone in here and went by it at all different times. I can tell you for sure that it was NEVER open after 11PM. Maybe the piano guy was sick, who knows. Next day was a port day at Ocho Rios. Details of the port are separate but I will say that Carnival needs to get its head out of the sand when it comes to dining on port day. In addition to the Lido buffet, the dining rooms are open for breakfast from 7-10AM EXCEPT on port days when they close at 9AM. So, everyone is trying to get breakfast at the same time and you close one option early. Makes no sense to me. One tip I can give you is to go to the omelet stations where the lines are shorter. You can still get scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, etc. here if you want. In addition to the breakfast problem , most of the ship goes on an excursion somewhere and returns around 3-4PM. Most also have not yet had lunch. Problem with this is the dining rooms are closed, as is the Lido buffet, leaving you 3 options, 2 Lido pool grills (one of which was closed), the Grill at the Aft pool and the pizza stand also at the Aft pool. Needless to say, it is chaos with LOTS of hungry people arriving at the same time and lines out to Cuba waiting for a bite. Had a similar problem next day after Cayman but this time the other Lido pool grill was open so that helped a bit. Either that or people got smart and ate something off the ship. Anyway, port day in Cayman was MY birthday. Carnival recognized this by decorating my room with lots of birthday paraphenalia that was much appreciated by me. In the dining room, they actually delivered the cake that my wife ordered. So kudos to them for getting this right. The Carnival Capers also had several instances on misinformation. They advertised music at the piano bar which I never saw. They also advertised a Mexican buffet on the last night of the cruise when, in fact, they had it the night before. Just little things but annoying.The entertainment staff is the best part of the ship. Brent, Pip, JoJo and LT work their butts off to keep you entertained aboard. So, if you get bored, it is your fault not theirs. The deck party on the Lido deck was a LOT of fun. Debarkation was without incident which is the ONE area where Destiny topped the Splendor. The Splendor debarkation in Dover was a total disaster, but here on the Destiny, no problem. Got off the ship quickly and bags arrived in good order as well. We were one of the later groups to disembark but were out of the terminal by 10AM. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
First thing I'd like to say is, before booking and sailing on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the seas, I've watch the travel channel many times and was very impressed with all of there ships ammenities and activities. Just the sight ... Read More
First thing I'd like to say is, before booking and sailing on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the seas, I've watch the travel channel many times and was very impressed with all of there ships ammenities and activities. Just the sight of the ships size alone was convincing enough to say "oooh ahhh" I am eager to make my next sail with RCC at any cost. Well, My ship left from Cape Liberty in New Jersey on Aug 1, 2009. Boarding was fast and easy. I was very impressed with the inside of the ships 5th floor promenade "Ooooh Aahhh",,,It is truly the heart of the ship. They get 5 stars***** for that. My Junior Suite was on the 9th floor room 9572, and let me tell you I was not impressed with the size of the room at all((very small)). On Carnival its a normal size room. I saw an online virtual view of the room we had, and it showed the room having a flat screen tv((false)),no flat screen at all, in fact the tv was a 20 inch tv, the same size that's inside my 8 year old daughters room at home,,This is a JUNIOR SUITE?????? Come on!!!! The Balcony was rusted, in need of a paint job.. The food in our Dinning was horrible, but we were able to get the waiter and head waiter to change the menu for us to something we like which was a big plus, and The asst. waiter was a real sweet heart. They went above and beyond to please us and we were very happy with them...We thanked them and made sure they saw it inside the gratuity envelopes at the end of the cruise....5 stars ***** smile My kids were not happy with the 1 A.M. curfew the ship has for kids,,,,On Carnival Funships they can chill out as long as they want. After a certain time part of the WINDJAMMER CAFE was closed on deck 11 which sucked and the food was sometimes dry during those times. On Carnival, Though they dont serve much food on the lido deck after late hours, they do leave the whole Lido deck open so you dont feel force to one side of there cafe like Explorer of the seas did. However, on the 5th floor there is a deli shop that stays open all night, and they were very nice to deal with,,,,,everything fresh all night,,, All the shows we saw on board were out of this world..... 5 stars ***** 5 stars ***** for the rock climbing wall, inline skating, ship shape fitness center and the promendae parades.. In whole, I think Carnival Funship Cruises are 10 times better, all Carnival needs is a basketball court and a rock climbing wall,,,lol Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Carnival Triumph- Personal Review Sail Dates: 08/01/09 to 08/06/09 Ports of Call: New York City/ St John NB/Halifax NS Eddie Burke, Long Island NY I recently completed my 34th cruise and the 13th on a Carnival ... Read More
Carnival Triumph- Personal Review Sail Dates: 08/01/09 to 08/06/09 Ports of Call: New York City/ St John NB/Halifax NS Eddie Burke, Long Island NY I recently completed my 34th cruise and the 13th on a Carnival product. I have sailed to these ports of call three times in the past with the latter being in July 2007. I selected this itinerary once again because of the easy access to the NYC cruise terminal and of my positive experiences in the past. Accompanying me were my friends Charlotte Cognato, her daughters Karen Cognato and Denise Gallo and grandsons Justin and Nicholas Gallo. I will basically grade each segment of my cruising experience. These opinions are my own. Embarkation: A+ Our group arrived at the Manhattan pier at 11:30 AM after a train ride from our local Long Island Rail Road station to the last stop in Penn Station in NYC where we hopped a cab to the terminal. We arrived to a partly full terminal, but were directed to the VIP area due to the concierge status of our repeated cruises on Carnival. The VIP area had two Carnival reps checking in passengers with the concierge status. This area was a true delight with juice and beverages available plus some of those famous Carnival home made Danish (more on that later). We were asked to fill out a short questionnaire on our health status over the past three days. There was one group ahead of us and the efficiency of the reps simply amazed me. We were asked to show our credit cards and passports and were given our Sail and Sign/Room Key cards and were on the ship in about five minutes. We were asked to take an embarkation photo from the ship photography department, which I bought during the cruise. Our key cards were then certified by security with our pictures and off we went. We did sit in the lobby bar area and punched our cards so they could be hung around our necks on a lanyard, which we had from past cruises. This was one of the smoothest embarkation process experienced in all my cruises. Here Carnival did a great job and I hope they continue the good work. Stateroom Precruise Preparation: A+ After boarding the Triumph we headed for the self serve Lido area for lunch as we did not have our luggage in hand (checked at the terminal) and we assumed that our staterooms were not ready. For this cruise, I booked an inside room on the Main Deck 2 #2-388, while Charlotte and her daughters were right next door so Denise could keep an eye on her two teenaged boys who shared a room with me. Our room was spotless as we entered for the first time, with the boys asking me tons of questions about the room set up and who would take the top bunk which was not as yet pulled down by the room steward. Justin said he would take the top bunk and brother Nick just below him. Carnival continues to provide a goodie pack in the bathroom, though fewer items that you find on a seven day cruise. The shower curtain in the bathroom was brand new and the lav was spotless and clean. It still amazes me, after all my cruising experience, how the housekeeping staff get staterooms ready for incoming passengers with such short time parameters and how well they do it. The Ship: Carnival Triumph: A The Carnival Triumph was entered into service in July 2003. This "Conquest" class ship is 952 feet long and can hold up to 3,710 passengers with a crew of 1,160. This six-year-old ship, which was once the diamond of the Carnival fleet, does not look her age. The ship looks and smells brand new with the crew constantly cleaning and polishing. I did not see any wear and tear that was in need of repair. Second hand smoke was minimal (perhaps more and more people are quitting the habit) and the crew and staff seemed friendly to me. One thing I did dislike about the ship was the numerous "dead ends" on the ship's design. The reason was the two-multi level dining rooms took up most of decks four and five. I did do a lot of elevator changing and walking to get from deck to deck. The front of the ships elevators go all the way up to Deck 11, while aft elevators only go to deck 9. I guess with all the meals, a little walking would not be too bad. A new installation when the ship last went to dry dock for refurbish, was the installation of a movie/TV screen by the center pool. This was where all the activity was on sea days. Late movies were screened at night, but the dense nighttime North Atlantic fog and the Triumph's blaring foghorn prevented passengers from enjoying nighttime screenings. I especially enjoyed our NY sail away. We were provided with crystal clear skies on the day we left with summertime temps in the 80's. The city looked so beautiful with its skyscrapers soaring into the heavens. As we passed "Ground Zero" my heart still aches from the loss of life there and the lack of the soaring twin towers missing from the NY skyline for almost eight years now. Rebuilding continues on the site, which will someday rise from the ashes of 09/11/01. The Triumph now has a cell communications system installed, which enables cell phone users to make calls with their cell phones. I made two, but I do not know how much it cost me. On Board Entertainment: B I usually do not attend after dinner show time, but this cruise was an exception. Having an early dinner seating, I went to the shows without falling asleep in my seat. After 34 cruises, the shows all seem the same, but this cruise was different. I would not call them spectacular, but they were very entertaining and well worth the time spent. One show was great. a magic show and a comedian. Very funny as the comedian raked over the coals cruise line bathrooms, photo departments, embarkation process and cruise line staff. He did pay tribute to serviceman past and present in the audience, which I though was a nice touch. The other shows consisted of musical presentations with Las Vegas type showgirls and one aging guy, which I though did not fit in with the rest of the young dancers. I did enjoy them though and I am giving them a well-deserved B rating. Sea Day Entertainment: C Carnival continues to do silly things that other cruise lines do not do on sea days, where passengers need to be entertained. I wish they would forgo that stupid hairy chest contest. I guess people enjoy them and that is why they continue them. I did not attend, but I did see theses guys making idiots out of themselves with an in room TV presentation. At least they discontinued the knobby knee contest that used to be part of the sea day fare. Other things done on the two sea days were Bingo, Trivia, Newly Wed Game, Latin dance contest, bean bag toss and of course the art auction. I wish cruises would think of other things to do on sea days. Me, I spent it in the gym, spa, taking a nap, relaxing in a lounge which was not saved with someone's towel, looking at the beautiful sea before the late afternoon fog rolled in, people watching, eating lunch and looking for my cruise friends which I could not find most of the time. Spa Facilities: F Here I have to give Carnival a failing grade. First of all, all whirlpools on the Triumph were taped off with yellow tape and were closed for some reason. One pool contained disgusting green water that was not drained completely. Here we have a full ship, and I just don't understand why the whirlpools were not fixed for passenger use. Additionally, the indoor whirlpool in the gym was removed and converted into an exercise classroom. I suppose this was done at the last retro fit. The men's sauna did not work and did not generate any dry heat. The steam room was five minutes full stream and off for thirty minutes. The gym area was standard fare with a line to use the treadmill and other equipment. The men's room spa bathroom was filthy with unsanitary conditions, which would fail any sanitary examination. The locker area was, however clean and neat with plenty of fresh towels available with spotless floors. This area needs improvement. One more thing...spa treatment prices have gone up considerably and are basically unaffordable by most during these rough economic times. My cruise mate Karen, did win a free spa treatment resulting for a drawing on sail away day. Lucky her, though they did push spa products. Bar Service: B What kept me giving this area an "A" were the prices Carnival charges for drinks. A Pina Colada now costs $6.25 with the gratuity added and a bottle of Bud Light is now $5.00. A simple can of Coke is now $2.25 with the gratuity. Bar service was generally good with drinks arriving in a few minutes after ordering. I thought the colada's were more ice than liquor and became tasteless after a few minutes. Beware that beverages in your room are extremely expensive and can really run up your "sail and sign" account, especially when you get thirsty in your room and you don't feel like going to one of the many bars aboard ship. I am not sure if Carnival allows passengers to bring aboard their own sodas and water, but I know that liquor bought at ports or aboard ship are held to disembarkation day. Stateroom Maintenance: A+ Stateroom attendants always get my highest rating. They work real hard to keep your room clean and neat by servicing it twice a day. On this cruise, they did a great job, especially cleaning up after two teenaged boys who had a tendency to leave their clothes and shoes on the floor and the bathroom not in the neatest order. Good job here Carnival! By the way, I did enjoy rooming with Nick 16 and Justin 14. They were very well behaved and I did enjoy their antics during the cruise. They both never cruised before and we always had a Q and A time every night before they fell asleep, with most questions asked about ship operations and ports of call. I remember one question was why the toilet makes so much noise when they flush it and where does the dirty water go. Of course, I had the correct answer for them! Dining: A We took an early seating assignment on this trip for dinnertime. Personally, I had breakfast and lunch on the Lido self-serve area, but I did have breakfast twice in the dining room. Here, I recommend eating breakfast in the dining room for breakfast with its open seating concept. Breakfast in the dining room was good...not excellent, but good. I do recommend the oatmeal with brown sugar. It was so delicious! Service was excellent. The Lido self serve breakfast was also great with those delicious raspberry and lemon Danish that Carnival is so noted for. The scrambled eggs were so so, not like mine when I make them at home. The wait staff at the Lido was always ready to remove your tray and clear the table for the next customer. Once I got up to get a cup of coffee, and when I returned, my uneaten breakfast was gone...removed by a server who thought I was finished. Stay away from the 24-hour Pizza service. The pizza was horrible (guess I am spoiled by living on Long Island with its hundreds of pizza places). Carnival does provide free lemonade and ice tea to wash down this terrible pizza product. Also prepare to wait on long lines on the Lido deck during peak lunch hour times. The NY Deli pastrami sandwich was lousy with shredded pastrami on rye. Pastrami is not usually shredded, at least here at home. Carnival chefs need to go to a good NY Jewish Deli to see how pastrami on rye is to be served. Dinnertime was a delight and a feast to behold. Carnival food had improved so much over the years; they are now up to par with high-end cruise lines. Service by our wait staff was A++, while attending to our every dinnertime need. The lobster was wonderful and I mostly enjoyed a seafood fare throughout my cruise. The chocolate warming cake was my favorite desert. Dinnertime is what makes cruising so wonderful along with the great service. Port of Call Excursions: C If you are going on a Carnival Cruise, you will be shocked to see how high the prices have gone up, I guess attributed to higher fuel costs. A one hour tour at St John, NB ran $40 bucks on a motorized trolley, while a Gray Line "Hop On/Hop Off" bus tour of Halifax was another $40 bucks. The tours were very interesting, but not worth the $80 bucks I paid out. You will get the pricelist in your stateroom and I suggest you choose carefully. The weather in the ports were clear and dry, quite different to my last trip when it rained in both ports. What a difference a beautiful day makes. The locals in both ports were real nice and welcoming. I just love visiting Canada, as the country is so much like the USA. Disembarkation: A+ Today, Carnival passengers are given the option of leaving the ship early while hauling their luggage off the ship themselves or following the traditional way of waiting for your preassigned color to be called. We opted for hauling our own luggage off the ship, which worked out great for us as we were off the ship and through customs by 9:00 AM. I realize that not all can take of this advantage of leaving the ship by hauling their own luggage, but it is a great option and I recommend it for a short five nighter like this cruise. Casino Operations: B The Triumph houses a full service casino, but getting your winnings is quite a process. Your "Sail and Sign" card has to be registered with a PIN number when inserted into a slot machine. I can see the marketing concept here. They try to get you to add to your personal bank by using your card ($1,000 a day limit); this of course, will be added to your shipboard account. If you win something at the slots, you have to take your sail and sign to the casino cashier, enter your pin in order to get your winnings. Way too much trouble for me. What ever happened to the clanging of coins in casinos today? Overall Cruise Rating: A- I really liked my short five night cruise to the Canadian Maritimes and I do recommend it for cruisers who are short of time and who wants to get their feet wet in the cruising concept. Don't let the high prices on drinks and tours hold you back. The Triumph is a beautiful ship and in great condition. Go and enjoy all that she provides. My next cruise will be on the Glory in September '09 and I look forward to my 14th Carnival cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: My first cruise was on Royal Caribbean back in the dark ages when ships only held about 1000 passengers and the cruise staff and entertainment staff were the same people. I loved Royal Caribbean then, and they still ... Read More
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: My first cruise was on Royal Caribbean back in the dark ages when ships only held about 1000 passengers and the cruise staff and entertainment staff were the same people. I loved Royal Caribbean then, and they still deliver a great product today even with 3000+ guests. This was our 12th cruise, and we've been on all the major mass market cruise lines - NCL, Princess, Holland America, Carnival, Disney... EMBARKATION: Cape Liberty will never be the most attractive homeport - I doubt it will ever make the top ten. But...the absolute pleasure I felt in knowing that at no time did I have to board an airplane and sort out my liquids and gels and make sure my bags were less than 50 lbs. - that was priceless. I'm really hooked on sailing out of the New York City area. Once we arrived at the port, it was about 90 minutes to get through all the lines (luggage drop off, parking, security, check-in, photos, shuttle) and be in our stateroom. STATEROOM: We had a D1 - Balcony room. We were in room #1672, which is pretty far aft. Balconies are partially enclosed on this ship, and it actually worked out quite well on windy and rainy days as we could sit on our balcony and enjoy the ride without being exposed to the rougher elements. Storage space is surprisingly good in the room. There were ample shelves and drawers for the four of us, and we had more hangers and space in the closet than we needed. There are lots of hidden compartments for smaller items, but I finally bought one of those over the door shoe holders at Target ($7.99) and that thing worked wonderfully for items like hairbrushes, sunglasses, and sunscreen - far better than using the hidden compartments as everyone could see what was hanging on the back of the door and easily found what they were looking for. Beds were high enough off the floor to store large suitcases underneath. Bedding left a bit to be desired. The main bed was firm and the sheets were a pretty high thread count. We had lots of pillows - eight not counting all the throw pillows. The 'bed' for the third/fourth guests was the couch, which folded out so that the back of the couch became one side of the bed, and the seat of the couch became the other side. It was basically a sheet of plywood with a three-inch foam pad on top of it. After three calls attempting to get more padding for the couch, someone showed up with a blanket. We were able to use the comforter from the main bed, the blanket, and extra pillows to make the couch tolerable for one person, and we squeezed three of us on the main bed (luckily one was a child). The next morning we found our steward, and he brought us a foam 'egg crate' to add to the pile. It made the couch tolerable, but not comfortable for anyone weighing more than 100 pounds. CASUAL DINING There is a separate area in the Windjammer called Jade that serves excellent Asian selections. Among our favorite items was honey stung chicken (only offered on embarkation day), Thai soups, and stir fry. There is also an area that offers several types of pizza and pasta - a big hit with my Italian food loving family. In general we felt the food quality in the buffet area was good. Servers will bring drinks to you at your table (including the free water, lemonade, and iced tea) or you can server yourself. Bar service is also available. MAIN DINING ROOM Overall rating = excellent I requested main seating (6PM), a large table, near a window. We were assigned main seating, a small table, and in the distance we could see windows. We were assigned a lousy table location, right next to the bus stand. There is one advantage to this location - your waiters are constantly checking on you because they trip over your table every time they move. Our water and tea glasses were always kept full. Our Waiter was excellent and performed several 'magic' tricks to keep my eleven year old entertained. Dining room food quality was excellent. With one fussy kid, one fussy adult, one adventurous adult who can't eat anything too chewy because of a jaw injury, and one adult who eats only vegetarian and seafood entrees, we were a challenging group. But every night we were able to find something appealing on the menu, and most dishes were excellent. The first night onboard I asked our waiter what night the key lime pie was served, as on my earlier cruises this was Royal Caribbean's signature dish. He told us that key lime pie was only served on the longer itinerary. A few minutes later he brought the head waiter over, and I told him how much I loved Royal Caribbean's key lime pie. Later that week, a key lime pie was delivered to our table - the whole pie, just for us! ENTERTAINMENT: The singers and dancers were very talented. However, the production shows lacked something – they seemed to drag on and on. The second production show (Invitation to Dance) was full of unfamiliar tunes and was meant to showcase the ballroom dancers. Perhaps someone who likes ballroom dancing would enjoy it, but I would have enjoyed it more with a couple of familiar tunes and at about ½ the length. The ice show was phenomenal - we actually went twice to it we enjoyed it so much. CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING My 11 year old daughter was happy with the children’s program. My two complaints: 1) You have to walk through the video game room to get to the kid’s club and check your kids in/out. Very annoying. 2) In six months when my 11 year old has her next birthday, she’ll move up to the teen club for ages 12 – 17. That is way too wide an age range, I would not be comfortable having my very mature appearing 12 year old daughter in with 14 – 17 year olds. This was really a great cruise - I would love to do the same cruise again next year! 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Sail Date August 2009
This was our third cruise for my husband and I on the Explorer. Traveling with us were another couple who were first time cruisers. We are all in our early 40's. This cruise left for Bermuda on August 1. Getting to Bayonne was very ... Read More
This was our third cruise for my husband and I on the Explorer. Traveling with us were another couple who were first time cruisers. We are all in our early 40's. This cruise left for Bermuda on August 1. Getting to Bayonne was very easy from CT and we were on the ship at 12:30 p.m. after leaving home at 9 a.m. The line into the luggage drop off was kinda long, but once luggage was dropped off, we were on the ship fairly quickly. We went straight to the Windjammer and headed to the back of the ship to the second Windjammer buffet. Food was ok. Nothing great... The fried chicken and the sweet and sour chicken were good. Lunch is my least favorite meal in the Windjammer. We headed to our cabins which were ready about 1:30. We had promenade cabins. They were bigger than I thought they would be. Plenty of storage space. I was surprised to see regular tv's though. I was on Majesty of the Seas two weeks ago (read my review!) and that ship had flat screen tv's. Our window was above the coffeeshop and we had a pretty good view of the promenade. But most of the time we kept the drapes closed. I dont mind an inside cabin, because we were never in the room, and even with the promenade cabin, we never looked out the window too much. Across the hall was a balcony cabin and me and my husband sneaked in to look at it on departure day (door was open!) We were not impressed with it. Baclony was rusty looking and small. We had an inside cabin on Majesty cruise and for our other Explorer cruises it was fine for our needs. Anyway, we had hot water the first day of cruise and then none! We went down to Guest Relations and nothing was done until almost 3 days later when my husband went down again. Then the guy came and the water was nice and hot... finally. Our friends were right next door and they had hot water eveyday. We also had My Time Dining(we had it on Majesty also) and I don't like it. Everyday you have to call or go to the Dining Room and tell them what time you want dinner that night. It was kind of a pain. Then, each night the hostess seemed confused and frustrated. She was not very pleasant. The waiters seemed a little frazzled and I didn't like not having the same waiter each night. Every night we had to introduce ourselves and ask our waiter about himself. Whereas, with the main or late dining, your waiter got to know you and vice versa. Next time we will just go with late seating and have the same waiter and table. We gave our tip envelope to the waiter we had that last night. Even though we only met him once. I assume the tips are all split! Oh...we never once saw the Mater Dei (sp). Formal night was nice. I have to say most everyone dressed up and everyone looked very nice. Dinner was pretty good that night... prob the best dinner of the cruise. Other than Portofino's. Oh my god... you have to go there. It was the BEST dinner ever. We had 9 p.m. reservations. The waiter was the best. So professional. And the meal...out of this world. It was awesome. You pay $20 per person, but we left a $20 gratuity because the staff was outstanding. Once in Bermuda we rented scooters. They are so much fun. We only rented two. The guys drove while us girls rode on back. We had great weather and we went all over the island. We drove to Hamilton and shopped, then headed to the beaches. We were able to stop at about 3 different beaches. Docking in King's Wharf, there is not much to do. I felt bad for older people or people with walking problems/wheel chairs. You have to walk pretty far until you come to the little town center. You really need to have an excursion lined up. There is not much to do right there. On the ship we hung around the pool and we used the hot tub in the gym area. There were some young adults in the hot tub, who were using it as a pool. Swimming around and doing hand stands, flips, etc... This should not have been allowed. But no one stopped them. There were plenty of chairs around the pool. We never had a problem. And you have to return your towels when you are done with them, so there were never chairs with towels on them. I think most everyone returned thier towels. I only saw maybe one or two chairs with a towel thrown on it. There is a sign that said you would be charged $20 for not returning your towel! We had lots of drinks by the pool. Pricy, but we knew they would be. The ship was really nice and clean. There were always staff cleaning. The shows were pretty good. The other couple went to every show, inc the ice show and enjoyed that the best. The cruise director on this ship (Dave)was alright; but the one on Majesty (Ricky) was ten times better. The shops were nice and the coffee shop was nice to have. Try the ham and cheese croissant sandwiches! This was the only place I could actually drink the coffee. The coffee in the Windjammer and Dining Room is too strong. But I still had to add some hot water to dilute it. Getting off the ship was easy. We had our last breakfast in the dining room. Which we felt was rushed, but I guess the waitstaff wanted to prepare for the new cruise or something. We has the private departure lounge (we are platinum members) and we were off the ship by 9:30 a.m. We left our luggage out the night before and it was very easy to locate when we got to the luggage area. We walked our luggage to the parking lot and went out the exit on the other side of the lot. That saved alot of time instead of driving over to the area where you come out of customs and picking up your luggage there. There's alot of chaos over there with new passengers dropping off luggage and the other passengers waiting with luggage for their rides to pick them up. Parking for the 5 night cruise was $100. You pay when you enter before the cruise. We had a nice time and my husband booked this cruise again for next year, for him and his two sons. I've done this cruise three times and that will prob be it for me. Explorer is a very nice ship and we had great weather and a great time. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
To start with, cruising isn't what it used to be. A lot of the things I used to take for granted are no longer there. Some for the better, some worse. To start with, the prices for some of the things onboard are ridiculous. They have ... Read More
To start with, cruising isn't what it used to be. A lot of the things I used to take for granted are no longer there. Some for the better, some worse. To start with, the prices for some of the things onboard are ridiculous. They have you sign out towels and have a sign posted that there is a $20 charge PER towel for each one not returned...not so sure they really do this as I can't imagine anyone really paying that kind of penalty on a ship...but then, why threaten that to people who just paid a lot of money to go on the cruise. Next, RC used to give away bottles of water when you went into ports...especially the island area they own. Now, they charge $4 a bottle. Bingo used to be a fun game onboard a cruise ship...not so anymore. Not only do you have to fork over about $60-$70 for the new electronic BINGO machines...which you do absolutely nothing....but the payouts are terrible. Other than the last night of BINGO, the payouts (with a decent amount of people playing) were in the $50-$95 range per game...not per player. Some of the staff (one in particular)....was very rude to us and I saw her being rude to a kid on the boat...she is missing one arm and a has an artificial leg...not my reason for complaining about her of course....when we were getting off the boat to get on a tender, we accedentally used the elevator instead of going to floor 2 and walking down a flight and she nearly chewed out heads off...and, when there was a kid after a game of BINGO throwing away his paper bingo cards (they still do have these but for 3 or 4 dollars less than the electronic ones), which they asked you kindly do to recycle, he pushed them down in the garbage can, it accidentally pushed the bag into the can....the one armed lady who worked for the cruise ship asked him to fix the garbage...he didn't speak English too well you could tell....I didn't know this kid....but when he looked at her funny, she told him again to fix the garbage can as he broke it and he should fix it...this was a 8 or 9 year old kid....the nerve of her....does she think because she is handicapped it gives her the right to tell a customer of the ship (kid or not a kid) to fix the garbage can...if it was my kid and she did that, I would have reported her...after I had a few words with her....she is just RUDE. The ice skating was terrific on this ship....the wait staff at meals was terrific as usual on all cruises I have been on...the food SUCKED though...desserts especially were terrible...the best place to have food on the ship was either Sorrento's for pizza or salad or the Seattle Coffee house for small ham and cheese or turkey sandwiches on croissants 24 hours a day or great desserts and pastries...and good coffe too. The prices on board for cologne and electronics is nothing to write home about although with the invention of the internet, that is to be expected....ordering most of this stuff online from somewhere like Amazon is much cheaper and still no tax and minimal shipping charges. The photographers onboard lacked from a few years ago when we were on the Navigator of the seas...and talk about crazy pricing....$20 for a picture....drinks were pretty expensive too....I realize it's a cruise and you expect to pay somewhat more than being at home but some stuff was just astronomically much higher. The rooms were okay...our kids adjoing room was filthy upon checking in. There was a huge red spot of some stuff....not sure what it was...on the carpet that smelled bad...the room never lost it's damp smell even though ours next door didn't have that. There were sunflower shells from someone eating sunflower seeds on the carpet in the kids room too....the drains were clogged with hair and barely drained in both rooms in the sinks. One of the bright spots of the cruise was the Cruise Director...he was very funny and participated in all the events. So...bottom line....food sucked for the most part...things they used to give you they now charge more for...and, there wasn't as much nightly entertainment as there used to be in the years past...things that used to be a secondary nightly thing like skating shows were sometimes the only nightime event. I would give a long hard thought process before just going on Royal Carribean again....that is, assuming all lines aren't cutting back the same way in today's economy. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
As background, I had taken this same cruise last year with my son(13 yrs), pregnant daughter(24yrs) and son-in-law(25yrs). This year, bowing to my son's begging for the flow rider and the rock climbing wall, we took the same ship ... Read More
As background, I had taken this same cruise last year with my son(13 yrs), pregnant daughter(24yrs) and son-in-law(25yrs). This year, bowing to my son's begging for the flow rider and the rock climbing wall, we took the same ship again. We did the same ports because that itinerary was cheaper and since we had been to the alternate ports on other cruises, it didn't matter that much. When we decided to go, my daughter and her husband decided to also go again and take the baby, thinking the baby's fare would be discounted. However, we were told that the baby who would be 9 months old had to pay a full third person price. Since we thought it was ridiculous to pay full price for someone who wouldn't partake of the meals, enjoy the shows etc, my daughter decided not to go. Eventually, she realized she needed rest and wouldn't get much with the baby along anyway so she decided to leave him with the paternal grandma and go, but by then her husband could not take vacation time on such short notice, so it was my son, husband, his mother and I who went. EMBARKATION: We are locals, so just took a taxi from home(parking for the week would have been $140, as opposed for about $20 for the taxi). There were lines, but since my husband's mother needed a wheelchair due to age, we zipped right by. The ship's attendant can't afford to wait because they go right back to pick up the next passenger waiting for a chair(we waited about 20-25 minutes for ours). These are elderly people who can walk, but cannot handle the distance from the port to the cabin. I felt uncomfortable cutting in front of people waiting to have security take their pictures, but we had to follow the attendant, and like I said the attendants cannot really wait. Anyway, he dropped her off in her cabin and we went to ours. WINDJAMMER: This year it was crazy. Last year we did not feel the number of people. I am not talking about the first day which is crazy. I am talking throughout the cruise. Many times we circled the room three times before finding a table. Attendants would ask you to stand in a corner and wait until they found you a table which they would basically pounce on to save for you. Once you sat down and you wanted seconds, someone had to wait until the rest of the party got back with their food before you could get your own so that you would not lose the table. There were constant announcements asking people to leave as soon as they finished eating, even though I did not see anyone hogging the tables. The good: The attendants were great. They would clear a table and get it ready for the next party literally in seconds and there was no shortage of attendants. People were not rude. There was no shoving, no nastiness, but the amount of people walking around holding full plates of food was ridiculous. MUSTER: I was dreading this necessary procedure because of the heat. Like an answer to a prayer, an announcement was made that we did not have to put on our lifevests. This made the drill bearable since we did not have to carry the preservers, let alone put them on. Also it was over fairly quick. This is the first muster drill I attend that lifevests are not required. SHOWS: Do not miss the ice skating show. Amazing. The other shows were good too. SERVICE(stewart) I had a junior suite which really didn't come with any perks. The cabin steward was ok. Kept the room clean, introduced himself upon arrival, then didn't really see him and when we'd pass in the hall, we'd all just say hello, no real interaction. The suite had a small tray with tea bags, two mugs and a pot to heat water. Note to crew: Please look in pot when preparing room. When we went to use the pot, there was a used tea bag(not ours)laying inside. Yuck. Aside from that, room very clean. (restaurant) Very good. This ship does not have a sommelier like Celebrity. We did not ask the waiter anything about the wines, since we knew what we wanted, but I wonder what kind of training they receive for those who have questions. Anyway, our wine glasses were promptly filled by our waiter or his assistant and they were both nice and gave good service. The head waiter, Habib was the best. In most other cruises, head waiters will come around briefly once a meal. Not Habib, he would come around many times, chat with you and he was pretty funny. If the assistant was busy, he himself would get you bread, water. Whatever needed to be done to make sure you were happy. (Diamond Lounge) This was my first cruise as a Diamond. Yes! We went to the Diamond lounge for cocktails every night where the two best bartenders in the whole entire world worked, Darwin and Juan Carlos. They would not only mix the best drinks, they gave you excellent service. I could give many examples of their excellence, but suffice it to say these guys could work at any 5* hotel in the world or any luxury ship. RCCL is lucky to have them. The hostess was very nice also and made you feel welcome. Actually, you felt like you had known these people for years instead of less than one week. CABIN: We had a junior suite aft. Loved it. The balcony was set up in a way that gave you great privacy. As a matter of fact, one of the sides of the balcony had an actual wall as opposed to the plastic panel(which was on the other side). We had a wide water view. There was like a catwalk or beam that curved way out and I guess could be called an obstruction, but it did not bother us because the view had such a wide arc. Yes, you did feel some motion and vibrations, but again, we were not bothered. I like a little motion to remind myself I am at sea and the vibration was sporadic. Actually, it made the bed purr and you got a nice little massage. Not a problem for us. FOOD: Restaurant food was consistently good. Buffet some good, some not so good. There was an Indian food station in the Windjammer with pretty good Indian food. Sorrentos, the 5th deck pizza place had really good antipasto with the good olives, not the cheapos. CHOPS: Very good. We had the best mud pie for dessert. So creamy, rich, chocolaty. I'm still thinking about it. I'm still tasting it. The chef introduces himself to you after your meal and we were given complimentary glasses of champagne. On land this meal would cost you maybe three times as much, if not more. Go. OVERALL: Crew bends over backwards to be nice. Excellent attitudes. Age of passengers mostly young. You could tell the kids and teens had a blast. Kids well behaved. Only problem was the ship had 4300 passengers and we felt it. DISEMBARKATION: Last year it was horrible, but maybe because we waited too long before trying to leave. This year we got an early start and it was very quick. Can't wait for the next one!!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We arrived at the port at about 11:30am and were having lunch on board around 12:30pm. Very easy to embark. Lines move very quickly. We had lunch at Rosie's as we did most days. Food was very good. Long lines but always moved ... Read More
We arrived at the port at about 11:30am and were having lunch on board around 12:30pm. Very easy to embark. Lines move very quickly. We had lunch at Rosie's as we did most days. Food was very good. Long lines but always moved very quickly. Everyone could always find something to eat. The Deli was my favorite. Loved the Reubans. Enjoyed the chinese food although this staff wasn't as friendly as the others. We had dinner every evening in the Washington Dining Room. We had a large table for 11. Service was excellent, as was the food. Wide variety of choices. Desserts were excellent. Enjoyed the singing. Entertainment was better on some nights than others. We enjoyed the dancers, singers and comedians. Rooms were very spacious. Lots of closet space and very comfortable for four people. Bathroom was a very nice size. Rooms were always kept clean and we always had fresh towels. Staff was very friendly. Pools were small and very crowded on sail days. We booked excursions on our own and saved a lot of money. Boatswain Beach in Grand Cayman and swimming with the Dolphins in Cozumel were some of the highlights. Elevators were very very crowded and two of them didn't even work the entire cruise. My kids enjoyed the arcade although many of the games were out of order. The camps for their age groups were very good and the staff again was wonderful. We loved the casino. Could always find a table to play on and enjoyed having $5 tables. Disembarking is the worst. We had a 1:30pm flight from Miami. Luggage was delayed and took a long time to get. Lines were very very long and we had to ask to be moved up front of customs so that we could make our flight. Fortunately a supervisor was very helpful with this process and got us out in time to make our flight. All in all we had a wonderful time. We had three generations of people ranging in age from 2 to 78. There was always something to do for everyone. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
My family consists of two daughters (17 and 23) and my wife and I are 50. We enjoy all types of physical activity which is the reason we opted for the Liberty 7 day cruise versus the Carnival 8 day cruise. Carnival was less expensive but ... Read More
My family consists of two daughters (17 and 23) and my wife and I are 50. We enjoy all types of physical activity which is the reason we opted for the Liberty 7 day cruise versus the Carnival 8 day cruise. Carnival was less expensive but didn't have the flow-rider, ice skating, boxing ring and rock wall. We have cruised 4 times on Carnival and this was our first Royal cruise. The day before we drove to Miami and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Miami, 400 South East Second Ave, which is a 4 star hotel. Got it on Priceline for $70. Great hotel and location. Do Priceline starting at $50 and work your way up and you might score it for $60. The hotel was 5 minutes from the ship. There is also a free public rail service right off the hotel to take you to the Bayside mall which is way more than a mall and has free entertainment, good restaurants, etc. We enjoyed the Bayside. We ate at a restaurant called Knives I think which served Latin food, all you can eat, where you can get different meat selections from chicken, steak, pork, etc. freshly prepared. I think it was around $20 per person and includes an ok bottle of table wine per person. The Liberty was fully booked for this cruise so I expected, crowding, massive lines and sold out venues but with the exception of ice skating it never happened. What a really pleasant surprise. I'll get into more detail about food, entertainment, Carnival comparisons and such at the end of the review so I can combine the similarities. Day 1 - the drive from the hotel to the ship was easy. At 12:15 PM we dropped off the luggage with the porter, parked the car and were standing in front of our cabin area slightly before 1:00 PM. AMAZINGLY QUICK. Be sure to fill out and print your sea pass info on-line, have your passports ready and you will fly though embarkation. They don't open the stateroom areas till 1:00 PM so we sat on the steps for about 5 minutes before they opened the doors and we dropped off our carry-ons in the room. We were in cabins 2421 and 2425. The cabins were smaller than Carnival but the layout seemed better organized. We went up to the Windjammer for lunch. The honey stung chicken was ok. Don't really understand what all the fuss is about. We toured the ship and were blown away by the sheer size. The Royal Promenade was smaller than what we envisioned from pictures and descriptions but it's still impressive. The luggage arrived just in time for us to dress for dinner. While the wife went to check out the shops in the Promenade the kids and I booked the tours at the guest relations desk. Since the ship was sold out we booked all the tours day 1. We arranged for MTD when we booked so we went to the nightly show which wasn't very good and then headed off to the MDR when we were ready. I'll describe MTD in detail at the end of the review. After dinner we had a few more drinks, went to karaoke where there was a great group of folk partying and singing, walked around some more, people watched and danced in Boleros where the latin band and the crowd was wonderful. Filled out the room service card for coffee and such for the next morning and went to sleep. Had a great first day! Day 2 - At sea. The in-room phone rang about 5 minutes before the requested room-service time to let us know our coffee was on the way. We never experienced this delivery call on Carnival and appreciated it. So much so that we used it as our standard wake up call every day. We'd take the coffee up to deck 4 and relax till it was time to wake the kids. We always book an inside cabin because of price and the lack of sunlight. I'm a heavy sleeper noise wise but the slightest amount of light trips my wake up switch. I really enjoy the cave-like darkness. It's like one of those sensory deprivation chambers ... so much better than our master bedroom at home for sleeping. We all went to the exercise area for our daily work-out. The work-out facility had excellent equipment, in fantastic condition and plenty of it. We did have to wait a bit for a treadmill but nothing unreasonable. Minutes at best. By the time I had stretched and warmed up there were several available. Same for the family. We all do weights and I run, the wife power walks and does the stepper and my kids like the treadmill, elliptical and trying out other machines. My only complaint would be the boxing ring. I have been doing different martial arts for decades and both my children are advanced practitioners and we were looking forward to beating the crap out of each other in a real boxing ring but you can only use the ring if you pay to book a session with a RCI trainer. After working out we went to the Windjammer for lunch. There were no real lines or unacceptable crowding. Well done RCI! We walked around some more and checked out the teen programs for my 17 year old. Being 17 and mature for her age she was not inclined to hang out where the break down age wise was so skewed to younger teens. 17 turned out to be a less than optimum age on the cruise. Too young to get into the adult venues and too old to enjoy the teen programs. She still had a great time....hanging with us and older sis, meeting kids her own age at the pool areas, flow-rider, etc. and catching up on her summer reading list. She did have a complaint about the library...she has a thing about quiet when she reads so she would head off to the library and there were people in the library who were anything but quiet. My take - Knowing how teens are, if quiet in the ship's library is one of your only complaints, you really gotta give credit to RCI. The wife and I took a well deserved siesta and we all met up for dinner in the MDR. After dinner we headed off to the nightly RCI show, with the RCI entertainers which was again, not very good. The adult comedy act that night was funny as hell though. Day 3 - At sea. After room service morning coffee, we all headed to the rock wall. My oldest daughter and I signed the waivers, got our harness and climbing shoes and got in line. My wife and youngest daughter took a pass on the rock wall. I can't remember how tall the rock wall is but it's massively tall. Once again even with the fully booked ship the lines where more than acceptable. Each person climbing wears a harness that has a rope attached that is held by a RCI person working a pulley. The RCI person did not pull us up to the next hand-hold. They merely keep the line tight in case you fall. My eldest went first and I got started on another line before she finished. One of my workout routines is various positions on a pull up bar so I thought I'd be flying through the rock wall with ease. I was in for a surprise. It's mostly leg work, balance and core strength. So much for pull ups. I got to the top and rang the bell in what felt like 5 to 10 minutes and my legs were more tired than my arms. What a fantastic view! So now that I had accomplished my mission and enjoyed the view and rang the bell at the top I'm looking forward to rappelling down. But NO, ...my oldest daughter, who is well built and pretty was singled out by the RCI line holders. Seems there was this 11 year old boy who had tried earlier to get to the top but didn't make it. They told him if he made it to the top this time my oldest would give him a big kiss... which my daughter gladly agreed to and the 11 year old was also very happy about. So while I was finished my line guy and the 11 year old's line guy were either too busy staring at my daughter or routing on the 11 year old. So there I am at the top with a line just tight enough for me not to drop but not tight enough to eliminate my legs and arms from having to work. I didn't want to seem like a wimp so I rang the bell AGAIN thinking this'll get their attention. Nope. Heck, even my wife and youngest forgot I was up there . So I reached up and rang the darn bell one more time to no avail and finally yelled "Hey! Unless you're planning on serving me dinner up here I'd like to come down now!" That got my rope guy's attention and I was able to rappel down. I'd like to say it was a smooth ride down but since I wanted to bounce off the wall like on T.V. instead of just being lowered it wasn't very smooth but it was an experience I'll never forget and at no time was I in danger and I didn't get hurt. When I reached bottom the 11 year old boy had just rang the bell at the top and they lowered him till he was eye level with my daughter which left about 2 feet of air under him. My eldest gave him a hug and big smooch on the cheek and everyone cheered while he smiled from ear to ear. I laughed pretty hard now that I understood why I didn't get lowered after I rang the bell. After the rock wall we had lunch in the Windjammer, walked around the Promenade and shopped and went down to the karaoke booth were you can make your own DVD. We made the DVD but it never got processed and we never got charged. Seems there was a problem with the computer process for the karaoke DVD. After that the wife and I worked out and took a nap (I wish I could bottle how good an afternoon nap is for a 50 year old - pretty sure I could make enough to buy a cruise ship). The kids went to the pool and hung out. I finished my nap before the wife woke and went to the casino to enter the blackjack tournament. The blackjack tournament is $25 and they group you into 7 players per round of 7 hands with each person starting with $500. The 7 highest money winners get to play in the final. I took first place that day with $1200. They have 2 more sessions like this before the final round on the last day at sea. My $1200 left me in 2nd place for the final. Yay! We met up for the evening show with the RCI entertainers and then off to MTD in the MDR. We had to get up early for the excursion in St. Martin the next morning. Day 4 - Phillipsburg, St. Martin. We had booked the Rhino Riders tour for 10:30 AM but we got a phone message and a hard-copy the night before letting us know it was rescheduled for 11:30 AM. We were happy to get an extra hour of sleep. We ate breakfast in the Windjammer (first and only time we got up early enough to make breakfast). Breakfast was excellent because we didn't go for the ready made stuff and had made to order eggs. The tour was excellent! Those Rhino Riders are sturdy inflatable speed boats that haul it. We met up with the tour folk on the pier and got on a barely air conditioned bus for the 20 minute ride. The bus driver was very informative and the ride up the mountains was a thrill...there was barely enough room for two cars going in opposite directions let alone a car and a bus. The bus driver turned off the A/C heading up the steep hill for extra power and asked us to open the windows if it got too hot J It was never uncomfortable though. The tour consisted of two folk to a boat. Each boat follows a guide, single file for about a 30 minute one way ride to the far side of the island where you can snorkel and swim for about 30 minutes before heading back the same way. The boat is what the tour is about and the snorkel-swimming is just added value. Don't take this tour if snorkeling is what you're after since there isn't much time and there is nothing to see under water. As I said the boats haul and we got some air a few times. The wife was constantly yelling for me to slow down . We got back to the boat and had a late snack in the Windjammer and another nap. The kids were wiped out and slept a bit too. We went to the nightly show again, off to MTD in the MDR and then karaoke. My wife and kids picked out a song for me (Randy Travis, Forever and Ever Amen) and told me just before I got called. I play guitar and sing if you can call it that, and have sung this to my wife when we first got married 26 years ago. Thank goodness for the wine package and the courage a good cabernet provides! Then off to the casino where my wife won $60 on the video poker machine and I won about the same playing blackjack. Day 5 - San Juan, Puerto Rico. Should have gotten to bed earlier. We had an early tour, Carabelli Horse-back ride into the rain forest. We had coffee but no breakfast and met the tour at the end of the pier. My wife was born in Puerto Rico but lived in Philly since she was about 5 so she never got to see much of it and wanted to see the rain forest and we all love horses so the tour was a good match. Some of the things I've read about the tour on this site didn't match up. Someone said it was 1 hour, one-way, on a non-air-conditioned bus. We had a ride of about 30 minutes one-way during rush hour and it was in a very well maintained bus with plenty of A/C. The bus driver was very informative and pleasant. I have ridden horses at least 5 times while my wife and kids have ridden only once and these were some of the best behaved horses I've ever seen. These horses actually obeyed when the reigns were worked and in most cases didn't need much reign work unless you wanted to change the order of the pack. There wasn't a large number of nags either. The tour guide was very good at matching the horse to the person and the horses didn't try to buck or tree rub anyone off or rush back to the stable going or coming. For those who have ridden rented horses before, you know what I mean when I say that even when we were 5 minutes from the stable on the way back not one horse out of the 20 or so in the trip tried to run back or got unruly. The trip consists of about 30 minutes one way up into the rain-forest with a lead guide, a back end guide and two others that monitor those in between. The rain-forest was a small let down of sorts but the horses, guides and overall tour were excellent. The rain forest isn't the kind Tarzan swings around in. When you get to the rain forest stop you can buy water, soda and beer cheaply and swim in the stream. When my eldest got on her horse before we started the tour the horse began to pee. She couldn't figure out how to get the horse to miss her legs and we laughed ourselves senseless watching her try to get her legs out of the way without giving the horse a command. On the ride back the bus would drop you off for shopping or back at the pier. Once on board it was eat at the Windjammer and a nap before meeting up for nightly show and the MDR. I can't remember what we did afterwards but I do know it involved several glasses of wine and perhaps some latin dancing . Day 6 - Labadee, Haiti. We booked the first personal watercraft tour in the morning and the 12:30 Dragon Breath Zip Line. What's cool about booking the first tour in the morning is that you're tendered and you get assembled to go ashore before the tender is open for anyone who has not booked a first morning tour. What's not cool is how early the meet up time, 7:30AM in the morning, comes after drinking and partying the night before! The tender takes all of about 5-10 minutes once they release the lines. It has an upper and lower level. You definitely want the lower level because it's covered and it's sunny and HOT and it takes several minutes to load and go. Labadee is clean and well run. The personal watercraft tour is ok and similar to the Rhino Rider tour. If I had it to do again I would book the Rhino Rider only. The personal watercraft is a jet ski and the tour is about an hour long including the instructions. Like the Rhino Rider tour you follow, single file and are not allowed any time to ride, even in a defined area, on your own. So you line up and if the person in front of you is slow, you go slowly since you cannot pass them. At one point you stop in a small bay where some folks from the island paddle up, each in a plastic sit-on-top kayak and try to sell you trinkets that they will hold for you till you pay at the end of the tour. Cheesy and uncomfortable. So unless you have never been on a jet ski take a pass. After the jet skis we bought some Labadoozies. The Labadoozies were a fruity concoction similar to pina coladas. It was a little early to start drinking but what the heck....we each had one except that my youngest had no alcohol in hers. I kiddingly mentioned that I'd take her rum and the RCI server poured about 3 additional shots in each of ours without additional charge. Even with almost 4 shots of rum we couldn't taste it but we sure felt it. We went shopping in the market. I read on this site that the sellers are aggressive and abrasive. Definitely true. Didn't bother me and the wife too much but really got to my kids. My eldest got the hang of it toward the end but my youngest couldn't stop trying to be nice and was really intimidated. This only happened in the market place where all the booths are under one roof in a circle and just outside in a row. It was also obvious that the vendors had been told, maybe recently, that touching was a no-no. They would occasionally reach out to take your hand or upper arm and would correct themselves before making contact. I considered it part of the experience. My eldest wanted 3 small oil paintings for her and her roommates and a wooden statue with a man and a women for her boyfriend who collects them. She picked out 3 pictures and the guy said it was $60. I told him $20. We haggled and settled on $25. Could have gotten them for under $20. We found two matching wooden statues of a man and a women. The vendor said $10 a piece or $15 for both and I, having learned my lesson said $1. We settled on $5 for both. On our way to the Dragon Breath zip line my daughter spotted a larger more pleasing statue of a man and woman kissing and I asked the different vendor if he would take $5 dollars and the other two statues we had bought. He said no. We started to walk off and he said ok. When I tried to give him the other two statues we already bought he laughed and said you keep them. Obviously I overpaid. Off to the zip line! My wife is scared of heights but she asked the kids and me to book the tours so she was surprised and not thrilled about the zip line. If you do the zip line bring a tee shirt. We didn't and had to buy 3 tee shirts or walk all the way back to the lockers at the watercraft area and would have to miss the scheduled start time and maybe the island lunch. Cost was $40 bucks for 3 tee shirts . The first leg of the zip line is a small try-out about 200-300 feet up. My wife was still scared but thought she could deal with it. She screamed most of the way down. When the tryout was over she said that wasn't so bad - that's when we told her this wasn't the real one. We got into a large jeep and went to the real zip line which is high enough to make people on the ground look like ants. I wanted to hold back and go when the wife went but they match you up to a line by weight so I had to go before her. Ladies, here's a warning...in the 26 years we've been married I have never been allowed to know my wife's weight...when they match you to a line you have to tell them whether you fall into the under 100, 100-130, 130-160, 160-180, or over 180 category. My wife was more unhappy about that than the height. Me and the kids were at the bottom waiting on the wife. Even with the height and distance we could tell when she started from the screaming . We ate at the BBQ buffet on the island. The food was regular BBQ food like burgers and hot dogs. We were hungry and too tired to go back to the ship to eat but we should have waited till we got to the ship to eat. The food wasn't good. We got to the tender just before another tender left and there were no more seats on the lower level so we sat in the hot sun for about ten minutes before it left. Another few minutes and it would have been unbearable. There was one lady on the tender, in the row before us who kept getting up to take pictures. She was wearing a bikini that had stretched out badly on the bottom so that her front and back privates weren't private. We kept trying to think of a non-embarrassing way to let her know but couldn't. I hate to admit it but we laughed ourselves silly trying to come up with a way to tell her. Back on the ship we slept till the nightly show and went to the MDR. More gambling, drinking and dancing and off to bed. Day 7 - At sea. We all agreed to get up early and do the flow rider to beat the crowds. Only my eldest and I made it. We spent two hours trying to stand-up surf and got the hang of it toward the end. There were no crowds to speak of. It took less than 15 minutes between turns. At the end of the two hours they end the stand-up surfing to do boogie boarding and the stand-up folk are left hanging unless they want to boogie board which most didn't. I really enjoyed the flow rider and wish I had spent more time on it. What stopped me? The thought of waiting in line at the peak times. I was told the wait could be 20-30 minutes a turn at the peak so opted out. Now I wish I hadn't. It was challenging and fun to try the stand up. Heck, it was even fun just watching. We tried to get in to the ice skating but with a full ship and only 50 people max at a session it was often booked up when we got there even if we were 30 minutes early. In defense of RCI if you showed up on time or early and it was already booked you could get an advance reservation for the coming session. Sometimes the session after was also booked. At 3:00 PM the last preliminary blackjack round was held and I was still in 2nd place for the final round. I got horrible cards for the final and wound up out of the money. If they get 70 participants in total 1st place is a cruise for 2 on the Enchantment and 2nd and 3rd win cash. We didn't have 70 total so it was all cash prizes. There was a tie for 1st and 2nd place and rather than play it out the finishers opted to split the combined total of the 1st and 2nd cash prize. They each got $262. I don't remember what 3rd place got. Went back to the room to get the bags packed and out the door before 11:00 PM as required. Went to see which pictures we would buy and found that some were in their slots and others could only be found by working the electronic kiosk that had all the pictures for viewing and ordering. We ordered and paid for two pictures from the electronic kiosk. When it was completed a message came up and said the pictures would be delivered by 8:00 PM. They never arrived and we had to go down and get them at 7:00 AM before departing. Did the usual nap, show, MDR and then did karaoke till about 12:30. Day 8 - Disembarking. Woke at 6:00 AM to have coffee (They don't do the room service on the last day) and back to finish packing our carry-off luggage. Just before 7:00 AM we were at the picture desk to pick up the kiosk pictures. I mentioned that we thought the message said they would be delivered to the stateroom and was told I misread the message. Maybe they're right. My departure color had already been called so we went through customs and were at the baggage carousel and outside within a half-hour. By 8:00 AM we had loaded the car and were gone. Really smooth! Well done RCI and customs! Entertainment: My youngest goes to a highly rated high school for the performing arts. The quality and professionalism of the productions at my daughter's school from instrumentals, musical theatre, electronic arts to dance is close to Broadway caliber and light years from a regular high school production. We expected something better or the same level of quality from RCI but were disappointed. The comedians were good as was the ice show and the quick change artists. The other productions were just plain bad. The RCI performers were talented enough but the material, choreography, etc. was just below average and poorly directed. Much better than a normal high school production is all I can say. I forced my family to attend each night but if I had it to do over again I would take a pass after the first show. If it weren't for theater etiquette we would have walked out of each show after the first 10 minutes. Actually that would be my best advice - don't opt for the front row - choose a seat/section where you can leave without offending the performers and theater goers. The "guest" performers were the Nelson's who are the children of Ricky Nelson (Ozzie and Harriet). They were pretty good and did a retrospective. I should mention that children under the age of 12 would probably enjoy all of RCI's shows. The Love and Marriage Show and Quest were pretty good too. CCL vs RCI - About the same. One area that RCI has it over CCL on this cruise - we always found good seats on the Liberty and on CCL you got there early or you stood. I'm wondering if its because the shows were so bad or because there were so many non-english speaking folk (latin and asian) who might not have preferred the English centric productions or was there just better seating and more of it. I think it was mostly better seating and more of it followed by the quality of the show itself that left seats available. Service: Service was better than average to superb in every area. The MDR service for MTD was not consistent. Over a 7 day cruise we had 4 different sets of wait staff. The service ranged from slightly above average to great. I can't say that service was bad at any meal. Our favorites were Felix and James. They were superb and we requested them each night but the request was only met once, on the last night. We would have had to wait 20 minutes or more to sit in their section on some nights or chose another time to dine. On the last night of the cruise we sat in their section and could tell they were under pressure. There was smoke coming off their feet they were moving so fast. So that night their service was still excellent but not as stellar as it was previously. So even the same staff can provide a different experience given the demographics that night. I felt bad for them - they knew we specifically waited for a table in their section and we could tell they appreciated it and wanted to chat a bit but couldn't. We waited till things slowed down before we left and let them know how special they made the cruise for us. Also it's what you prefer - my eldest daughter worked as a hostess and server during college and liked the more efficient, professional staff where my youngest enjoyed the more personable staff. Sometimes you get someone with both like Felix and James. CCL vs RCI - RCI was slightly better. Service level can be related to perceived attitude. On CCL my stateroom attendant once let slip a frustrated look when I asked her to fill my collapsible cooler with ice before we left for a tour. That look only lasted a second and that's the closest I ever came to bad service on any cruise. Food: The food in the Liberty's MDR and Windjammer was a B minus to a C. Imagine Red Lobster, Chillis, Outback, etc. food with better ambiance and the service staff gladly cater to your every whim. I have separated service from food in the rating or it would have been a B. We opted for MTD so we could eat when we wanted. The MTD hostess and organization was very good and has to be extremely tough. Imagine trying to please people on a sold out ship who may take offense for being made to wait even a few minutes when they can show up as they like. They don't have the luxury of saying "Sorry Sir, you should have made a reservation. We can't seat you tonight". We didn't make reservations on the first or second night but after noticing how hard the hostess and wait staff were working to fill the gap we did make reservations. After each meal we were asked to make the reservation before we left. It has to make their prep work easier to know when people will arrive. CCL vs RCI - Overall the food on Carnival was better. We ate in the MDR each night. Carnival's MDR food was noticeably better in taste, selection and presentation. Carnival's buffet was also better - my best example was the deli booth on CCL - items like corned beef on rye were very close to a real NY deli. Also on Carnival the buffet selection seemed to change a bit more and didn't feel so similar each day. Carnival desserts were better. I'm a chocoholic and on the Liberty found only 2 days where my addiction was satisfied. Chocolate aside the Liberty desserts were just ok. I found a few desserts that were pretty good and wondered why that level wasn't consistent. My comparison is based on large ship to large ship since there are more amenities food wise on the larger ships. Just to be clear - I did not have a bad meal on any of my cruises. MTD vs Standard Seating: My 17 and 23 year old daughters said they would have preferred standard seating because they like how the cruise line matches up like demographics for the diners. They are still friends with the kids they met that way on past cruises. I preferred the flexibility of arranging our dinner around the day's schedule. It's kind of a toss up but I still like the flexibility more. On some nights we sat at a window overlooking the ocean. On another night we sat near the cutlery station and in a corner. Wine and Dine Package: We got the high end 7 bottle package. Supposedly you get 25% off your wine cost. You are restricted to a handful of wines. We like red wine primarily. I'm no connoisseur but I know a few things including what I like. The majority of the wines in the package are your basic $10-$15 wines here in the states. Berringer, Stone Cellar, good standard wines from Chile and Australia. I tried every one of the reds in the top package and found two that were decent. A cabernet from Stone Cellar and a merlot from Chile. The others were just ok and one was just below ok. When we finished off the package I was happy to start choosing from the available wine list. Water and Soda Package: My youngest drinks water and diet Pepsi consistently it still didn't pay. Other CCL vs RCI comparisons: - DEcor: RCI is more upscale and less gaudy, CCL is more fun. Another way to put it is CCL has more chrome while RCI has more brass and polished wood. - Clientele: RCI folk seemed more mannerly and open to having fun if it would not offend others, CCL folk seemed more out there and ready for a good party. There seemed to be more "excuse me's" and less line cutting on RCI. There was also less spontaneity RCI. Before the flames start lighting up I gotta tell ya at different times I can fall into either category. - Flexibility: On RCI if an activity was scheduled to start at 1:15 and end at 2:00 that's what it did no if ands or buts. Whether or not there was something scheduled behind it for that room/venue or not, even when people were having a good time. On CCL if the place was rockin and nothing was scheduled behind it...it stayed open beyond the schedule whether it was a bar, dance club or karaoke. I'm an organization freak but I'm not sure which I prefer. Summary: My family and I had a great time and will do it all again with Royal but not on the Liberty. Not because we dislike the Liberty but because we've done their ports and the ship's entertainment and on-board itinerary doesn't change over enough. I had such a good time that I slept for 11 hours straight when we got home and the car ride home was not long. I need a vacation to rest up from the fantastic RCI vacation! Now that I've cruised RCI do I have a preference for RCI or CCL? Nope. Both have their advantages IMHO. I'll cruise both lines in the future with preference given to cost and ports but I sure wish CCL had a flow rider. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We arrived in Seattle 2 days prior to embarkation. Stayed at the Grand Hyatt (FANTASTIC!) As a side note, we stayed at this Hyatt when it was brand new shortly after 9/11 the place and the service was as good now as it was 9 years ago ... Read More
We arrived in Seattle 2 days prior to embarkation. Stayed at the Grand Hyatt (FANTASTIC!) As a side note, we stayed at this Hyatt when it was brand new shortly after 9/11 the place and the service was as good now as it was 9 years ago and is in a fantastic location downtown! Now onto the cruise. This was our 2nd cruise to Alaska and our 10th cruise overall. We have cruised on RCCL (Royal Caribbean)most of the time (Radiance to Alaska 6 years ago). This was our 2nd Princess cruise. (We were on Diamond 5 years ago to Mexico) We chose Princess due to fantastic deals they were offering and the fact that the ship was being refurbished in May. Embarkation: We arrived at 11am the process was average....face it you're getting on a ship w/2600 of your closest friends...it HAS TO TAKE SOME TIME. For those of you who think you'll just walk on in 5 min. your expectations are way too high...this is mainstream cruising people ! This is NOT Silverseas or Seabourn !!!! So, expect a 30-40 wait as that is usually the average time it takes. The nice part is that Princess allows you to go straight to your room to drop-off your carry-ons. RCCL does NOT allow you anywhere near your cabin until 1pm. Cabin: Mini-suite for my husband , our 10 yr. old son and myself. Balcony was a great size however the Dolphin deck 9 'sticks-out' with no ceiling sooooooo ALL of your neighbors can AND DO look down at you all the time. At one point a man above me was chewing his fingernails and proceeded to spit them out over his balcony and they landed on my patio floor..JUST LOVELY!!!! The mattresses are DEPLORABLE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't emphasize that enough. Our wonderful room steward promptly brought us a foam thingy and said that our mattress was only 5 months old and I told him I couldn't believe it. He responded, "I know, everyone hates them..they are awful !!!" The sofabed was even worse only a 2" OLD mattress...very uncomfortable and you can't walk around the room when it is out. The bedspread was old and disgusting and doesn't remotely match the decor...why do they bother...just get rid of them !!! The 2nd day I was looking carefully at our carpet and said to myself..wow I wonder why they haven't replaced this crap....funny thing...the next morning there was a knock on the door asking if we'd mind if they changed out our carpet....of course we said yes. The thing is..they didn't replace the trim stuff that goes up 4 inches around the floor...they just replaced the floor. So it was still old and dirty all around the room....kind of 'half-ass' if you ask me. There was plenty of storage but no closet door..strange. Also, the drawers were awful as you had to slam them shut all the time. The new flat screen TV's are a joke. THEY ARE AWFUL!!!!!!! They are soooo high that when you are in bed and want to change the channel or volume you must hold your arm all the way up and use 2 hands to hold and press the buttons and you have to be aiming it JUST RIGHT or it doesn't work. There was no "TV Guide"/schedule so even though they did show some great movies you never knew what you were watching, when it started or when it would end. (RCCL gives you a channel that is strictly a rolling guide/schedule) One more thing, we were watching a movie one afternoon...we were 1 hour into it and all of a sudden a 40 min. Princess commercial came on...that pissed us off. Later on that night we were scrolling thru the channels (which as I said was a difficult task) and our movie was on again so we figured we'd watch the rest....30 min. later the Princess commercial came back on....urggggghhhh! Bottom line ..RCCL's Jr. suites are laid out much better and their beds, linens and sofabeds (are REAL beds) are 200 times better than Princess. FOOD: Again, you're on a "mainstream" cruise they have to accommodate all tastes. It was a tiny bit better than RCCL but the food was slightly better than average in the dining rooms, average in the buffet, Pizza was great and the specialty restaurants are FANTASTIC. Folks, the $20 that you pay is NOT FOR THE MEAL...IT'S THE TIP for your servers....so splurge one night....IT IS WORTH IT !!! Ship overall: The new International Cafe is just as cute as everyone says BUT it's always busy and there's no place to sit ! New casino is nice very bright b/c they put it in a location that has windows. I liked being in a bright casino. The only thing is that you cash out w/your cruise card NOT by getting a piece of paper. At one point my card didn't work so I had to go all the way down to the Purser's Desk wait on line for 40 min. to get a new card then go back to the casino to wait on line to cash out !!! ANNOYING !!! Spa: Treatments were nice. Same prices and treatments as RCCL. However, the waiting areas were loud w/obnoxious music being played not the typical 'spa music' and people were coming and going in and out loudly from the spa pool. This is not typical of a spa waiting area...not relaxing or spa like at all. Ship is pretty clean BUT..there's no hot water in the public restrooms some of the faucets did not work at all and there weren't ANY PAPER TOILET SEAT COVERS!!!! Which grossed me out!!!! So, in my opinion they are NOT DOING all that they should to keep viruses from spreading !!! Kids programs were adequate no worse or better than any other ship, but as usual, very convenient and we were very appreciative of them. Entertainment: We went to 1 show the "Cinematastics" which is the reason we only went to 1 show. LOUSY !!! The choreography, was awful, and on of the female singers sounded like someone scratching their fingernails on a blackboard. Plus the music wasn't even live..it was a recording. RCCL's orchestra plays during their shows....however their shows stink too !!! Don't waste an evening on that...really.....don't !!! We got annoyed by the fact that we had to get our Cruise card/keys replaced 5 times b/t the 2 of us due to the fact that the plastic coating kept falling off of them and they got de-magnetized....what made it worse was that for such a simple thing you always had to wait on the eternal line at the purser's desk...THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. Oh, and 1-2 elevators were out of service the ENTIRE WEEK which is also NOT ACCEPTABLE. (Whatever part was needed to fix it..should have been FEDEXED to our next port and installed while in port!!!!!) It made getting around a lot slower for ALL and the elevators that did work would just stop wherever and whenever and the doors take FOREVER to open and close. Taking the steps was the best option. Ports: Alaska ports are great b/c you don't have to be tendered to shore....you dock at each port and you're right in town..NOT ON GOLDEN PRINCESS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All of the other ships dock right in town. We were docked furthest away at Juneau, and Skagway and if you wanted a shuttle you had to pay $2 each way....that's crappy. We walked because we're young enough and in good shape but I would bet that might have pissed some others off ! Plus having 4 other ships w/you in 1 port at the same time is a drag. As for the shopping, it's really no different than any other cruise..t-shirts and jewelry EVERYWHERE..and most everything is made in China ! There is some locally made stuff, but you've really got to look for it...carefully. Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier and Salmon Bake was a great excursion and so is the Mt. Roberts Tram. The train ride in Skagway is nice. The Misty Fjords flight seeing is nice in Ketchikan but that doesn't leave anytime to explore afterwards b/c it's a short stop in Ketchikan. Butchart Gardens is a must in Victoria. Of course scenic cruising at Tracy Arm is spectacular but due to the warm weather we didn't get in that close b/c there were so many large icebergs in the way. The EZ Baggage valet system I must say was FANTASTIC and well worth the $20/person as you put your bags out the night before disembarkation and you see them at your final destination...PERIOD...!!!! Final words: Overall we had a nice time. However, we found ourselves constantly comparing Princess to RCCL and pointing out what were to us obvious deficiencies aboard the Princess ship. Alaska was once again a fantastic trip, Princess....well not so much !!! The problem w/RCCL is that they are screwing around w/their most loyal customers by re-nigging on their perks and not REALLY putting their cruises on sale like Princess does. There's no doubt about it though. For the $$$ cruising is a great value, however I think when comparing RCCL to Princess they balance one another out. I think the key is picking your itinerary FIRST then getting on the newest ship you can find...that seems to have worked BEST for us in the past. Bon Voyage, everyone ! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009

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