1. Home
  2. Cruise Styles
  3. Family Cruises
  4. Family Cruises Cruise Reviews

53,737 Family Cruise Reviews

We decided to take this cruise because the price was great for a 3 night cruise. Our kids were able to cruise free. We traveled with a 10 and 5 yr old boys. Overall it was a fun cruise, and was worth the money. I have been on ten ... Read More
We decided to take this cruise because the price was great for a 3 night cruise. Our kids were able to cruise free. We traveled with a 10 and 5 yr old boys. Overall it was a fun cruise, and was worth the money. I have been on ten cruises including disney, carnival, royal caribbean, and ncl. Embarkation - Took about 1 hour, was not what I was used to with other cruise lines as far as all the tables you have to stop at. Not too bad though. We did have someone ask us if we wanted to go to a timeshare presentation but we declined and that was it. Food - We thought the food was pretty good, good variety. The buffets were sometimes cold however. The Crystal dining room had good choices however and my children were pleased. There was also burgers/hot dogs available by the pool for most of the afternoon. Pizza was pretty good too. Room - We had an ocean view room with two uppers. The good news is yes, we did have air conditioning. You could definitly see how this was fixed though as there was no vent cover in the ceiling where the ac was. We were happy to have ac though. There was not much storage space, but it was ok for only a three night cruise. Picture window was nice. Kids club - There were not a whole lot of planned activities, but my kids still enjoyed themselves here. They are boys though so they loved all the video games. The staff was very nice but seemed a little overwhelmed with all the children on board. Staff - Waiters and bar staff very friendly. Entertainment staff was also very nice. We thought the entertainment was ok for a cruise of this length. Mostly variety type shows. They did try hard though to make it fun. Lots of trivia and other themed events. Nassau - This was great, we rented a room at Comfort suites to use the Atlantis slides and pools. Wonderful day!!! Pool was very small but kids slide was a blast. The only bad thing was the debarkation process. This was awful. After ten other cruises I have never had to wait so long. By the time we got to our car it was 11:00am. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Just got off Celebrity's Summit three days ago. What a disappointment! The good, first: the ship is spotless and the cabin steward was the best in the business. They should make him director of customer relations...he really ... Read More
Just got off Celebrity's Summit three days ago. What a disappointment! The good, first: the ship is spotless and the cabin steward was the best in the business. They should make him director of customer relations...he really "gets" it. I responded to a blast email that was waiting for me when I got home offering the director of something with RCI the chance to call me to discuss the issues I had with the ship before posting anything...no response. Now the not so good: I'm a "Captain's Club" member for what that was worth on this cruise. The desk was seldom open and the person staffing it was of no help. The concierge was usless. Example: while the ship was docked in Venice I wanted to make a local call. He refused to do it saying I could do so from my cabin. Hah! This cost $7.95 per minute. My cell phone did finally work on land but what a joke. EVERYTHING that was not included in the cruise price was prohibitably expensive: shore excursions, bottled water ($2.50 for 10 ounces), wine, wine tastings, vodka, vodka tastings, jewelry, tee shirts, mixed drinks, etc. One shore excursion was great, the other very expensive for a short period of time. Furthermore, while in Venice and having paid for a shore excursion, the staff refused to allow us to board a shuttle boat because we had not paid for that particular service. In previous ports, that was not a problem. There's little time for shopping in museum book stores because they want to take to other retail sources with whom they have an interest (glass blowing factory in Venice vs the book shop at St. Mark's). Booked a private driver for three cities through Internet website for 1,200 Euros. Inquired about this from Celebrity before sailing...their price $5,300 (yes, $5,300). Spa treatments were about the same as at home but the "relaxing" music was not quiet Asian sounds but the ship's "radio" with among other "pieces", rap music. I just loved listening to that during a masaage. Hard sell for acupuncture and their products. The food on this ship is mediocre compared to previous Celebrity cruises. Of course, the night the comment cards appeared in the cabins was the night of lobster and filet. Celebrity must feel that familiarity breeds friendship because most employees who were much, much younger than I felt quite comfortable calling me by my first name. At almost 60 I've lived long enough to determine who I want to be on a first name basis with. Even my 30 year-old son's friends are not that presumptuous despite having known them most of their lives. The staff assumed we were life-long friends. Celebrity needs to instruct staff that all older women are not flattered by that. And speaking of the dining room, "formal" night is a joke. Despite saying on the website and in printed materials about certain expectations regarding dress codes, ANYTHING goes...shorts, jeans, tee shirts, whatever passengers feeling like throwing on is permitted in the dining room. The staff has been instructed to let it slide. The "security" staff is positively obsessive about passengers bringing back alcohol. Never did, never tried but every single day they went through my camera bag thinking that a long lens was a bottle. This group of cracker jack security officers insisted one day on x-raying my film camera even after I asked them to hand inspect it, telling me that the film would be safe. I travel with a lead-lined bag to protect my film and asked them to hand inspect the camera because I hadn't placed it in that bag. They refused and proceeded to patronizing tell me everything was safe. What was frightening is that they NEVER looked inside the lead-lined bag. I could have had booze, guns, or explosives but their main priority was the alcohol that might slip on board. The photographers are aggressive every time you get off the ship and you need to be down right rude to get them to leave you alone. Again, $20 for one digital photo on formal night. Who are they kidding? Will I book with Celebrity again? Probably not. As much as I love to travel and to cruise, I will go longer between trips and go for a shorter time with a high-end line like Sea Dream Yacht Club. Celebrity had a good product at one time and they've let it become run-of-the-mill service with an expensive price tag. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
First let me say I'm a fan of Royal Caribbean. Four cruises since December 2008. We were very disappointed to learn that there was no ice rink, no Royal Promenade and no specialty dining like there is on the voyager class ships. ... Read More
First let me say I'm a fan of Royal Caribbean. Four cruises since December 2008. We were very disappointed to learn that there was no ice rink, no Royal Promenade and no specialty dining like there is on the voyager class ships. We made reservations in May for the end of July cruise and requested early dining. The twins are 6 and the baby is 2 years old. We even called the special number for Crown and Anchor members to request early seating. When we got to the pier in Seattle there was an incredible line for security (where they took away 4 nice wines I had brought from home in Houston to enjoy on the cruise.) Oh well. Then we checked in and were given room keys saying late dining. The guy checking us in said we needed to change it on board. We knew that since this has happened several times over the last year with 6 other cruises on RCI. So we went immediately to the Maitre D' and he said that with 6 people he could do nothing and that the 'you time dining' option was full too. There was nothing he could do but put our names on his long list. I looked and we were about 20th on the list. Well, with the kids being on Houston time that would have meant dinner at 10:30 pm for two six year olds and a 2 year toddler. Unacceptable. So we decided to go down to the dining room at 6 pm and again plead our case. After 30 mins they found us a table right at the entrance because someone else no-showed dinner that night. We were told they would find us a table by tomorrow night but it would not be that table we had at the first night. No problem I thought as long as we were early dining. When we showed up the next night Rocky had us taken to table 105 on the 5th deck section of the dining room. As soon as we sat down with our drinks in hand we knew there was a problem. The table was shaking so bad that the water was bouncing around in the glasses. All of us were shaking like we had palsy. Of course we asked the waiter and the Head Waiter what the deal was. Oh, this section is known to shake like this but it wont be so bad tomorrow when we are in Juneau. But it was bad the next night too and we were tied up at the dock when we had dinner. The following day in Skagway we went to dinner and the ship's engines were off and that was the only time we had a comfortable meal. The food was mediocre and the service very slow. They advertised tenderloin form chops grille for an additional $15 but there was no chops grille on board? Of the seven dinners on the ship there were two OK and another acceptable. The rest were low quality. I will be revisiting Celebrity for the better food quality in the future. The cabins were OK but seemed to be a little smaller than on Mariner and Voyager. Before the cruise I had told the kids about the neat sliding shower doors on the Mariner. They are not on the Rhapsody. Also missed was the ease that a Royal Promenade gives to movement around a ship. Missed Johnny Rocket's too. The fitness center was a joke with all the elliptical machines facing a mirrored wall versus what you get on Voyager. There are only two high points for this cruise:- The friendliness of the crew and the incredible talent of the singers and dancers for the production shows. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We chose this cruise for the route (we're from Florida & needed some cool air) and also for Circle C which is a kids camp for 13-15 year olds (just 1 of the many camps thru age 18). This was like my 13yr old son's 1st ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the route (we're from Florida & needed some cool air) and also for Circle C which is a kids camp for 13-15 year olds (just 1 of the many camps thru age 18). This was like my 13yr old son's 1st overnight camp experience since the kids, guided by a wonderful counseler Jenny, sometimes stayed out 'till 3Am @ the Kid levels & etc.. anyway, he had a blast & made so many friends. Again, the camp staff & Jenny were awesome!! Hubby & I were never bored..always looking @ the days activities & definatley eating to much. We're fairly picky eaters but could not find fault w/any of the buffets or main dining & we tried everything! The staff in Paris were just about the best you can find & I recommend all the soups & ofcourse Lobster night which is the formal 2nd night. Lido had on-going buffets + grills +chinese .. just unbelievable choices. Would rate the food 3&1/2***+ stars & even the pizza place(seemed like 24 hour)was fabulous. Shows exceded expectations. Saw them all @ the 10ish hour (we had late dinner seating)& then mozzied to the next round of shows starting @ 12A. The magicians Kevin & Carusso are a must see & the dancers are amazing. Comedians too funny- amazing entertainment. Noticed people of all ages getting around easily & having a great time. Even though the ship was full (3500 passangers),we rarely waited in line- just hit the buffets @ 1:15 instead of noon. Noticed older ppl getting around pretty well & there's always helpful ppl on all levels. Good ship to take your parents on cause they'ld love the shows, the decks & the casino. Our cabin was balcony 6th floor & there's just a ton of fog in Canada & @times about 65F degrees in July. St John & Halifax are worth looking into b-4 you book & decide on day excursions. We just kind of walked around unplanned but heard from our table friends that the St Johns Waterfalls & the bus tour of Halifax was amazing. Do not hesitiate- this is a relaxing & fun cruise. The Cons however: *cannot bring your own wine on board so spent way too much on bar wine. *Lost big @ the Casino- just wondering what the odds are on the boat. *This is not always a sun cruise (I like the fog)but don't bet on sunny days. *The ports (St John & Halifax)are just scary looking (industrial)from the port but get better as you roam in-land. Either plan ahead for those days or just take short walks. The nearby shopping is surprisingly affordable. Hope you enjoy your smooth cruise to visit our peaceful Canadian friends in the North. I would do it again in a heartbeat - good Job Carnival email w/Qs Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We arrived at jacksonville A day before on the 19th Stayed at Holiday Inn Blount Island about .6mi from the pier thats good the rooms are Nice and the staff was super .The Not so much is you are basically at a place where the Wendy's ... Read More
We arrived at jacksonville A day before on the 19th Stayed at Holiday Inn Blount Island about .6mi from the pier thats good the rooms are Nice and the staff was super .The Not so much is you are basically at a place where the Wendy's next door is all the food choice you get or order pizza. The next Day they will shuttle you to the pier thats good it went smooth the embarkation process took about an hour not bad at all we were on the ship by 1:00 We are told our cabins that Adjoin will not be ready fore an hour but lunch is being served inthe coconut grill buffet till 3o'clock this is good the fare for the most part is about standard is good but nothing great. The only thing of note is they serve a theme style be it mexican or cajun etc. One one side but you have to discover that by your self for the most part. We finish the begin our deck by deck exploration the ship for the most part is very clean looks like the crew is busy at it . I notice that there is no pool for adults only the main pool area is crowed and seem to stay that way the chair hogs are in full glut. The pool situation is such that if you try to go in the pool A swimsuit and a shoe horn will be required and expect the kids to splash you. that aside the ship is inoverall good shape for its age. We then work our way around to find our cabins and the fact that the keys and the arrangments as who's in what room are out of whack so we unpack the wife decides a Drink is in order but Here sea pass says shes 9 which is of course mathmatically impossible standing next to our 15 yr old and our 9 old so they won't let her get a drink so I get her one, willing to take my chances Since we have been Married 26 ys. So it is off to guest services to corret our multiple problems ,They are very nice but it takes about 45 min to do so. Then was time for the all so important safety drill which on fascination seemed to be more involved and more convoluted then on past cruises.It finally breaks out and it's time for sail away which is done with little fan fair as I've ever seen but ok . It is now time for dinner so I we go to get ready for dinner Which we dress for by the given casual code but nice I can see that this is not the case with quite a few others .I never saw flip flops and tank tops inthe dining room before this is bad. the food was pretty good but not great except for there isa desert I recommend you try chocolate melting cake it is awsome but addictive . we then go to sign up our 9 yr old for kids carnival went fine the go around the ship some more then off to bed. The next day is a day at sea we just hang out go to the show after our formal dinner the wait staff sings they are great then we change and go to the show it was good but not great . the next day is key west . Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
I and my husband (we 30 and over) took this cruise based on itinerary. It's our fifth cruise so we knew what to expect, we knew how it should be. We booked cruise shuttle from airport to the ship (only one thing which we booked ... Read More
I and my husband (we 30 and over) took this cruise based on itinerary. It's our fifth cruise so we knew what to expect, we knew how it should be. We booked cruise shuttle from airport to the ship (only one thing which we booked through the cruise, because everything overprice). People in airport was slow and confused, did not know what to do with extra luggage event it was not full bus, but we got to the ship fine, embarkation was very quick and we were in a ship in10 min. We got there maybe 12:30, waited for room maybe 20 min. Room was nice (a little old fashion, but its older ship so we expected that),enough space for luggage, nice size balcony. Then looked around, ship was clean, small compare to previous cruise ships, atrium tiny. A lot of hand sanitizers all over the ship, we liked that, because we have been on the ship with norvovirus (no fun), but sad is that not a lot of people using them. Luggage came quick to the room. We packed 2 bottles of wine and wine opener of course. This way you don't need to pay any opening charges. We had open seating for dinner, I think that's the way to go, because some days cruise leaves from ports after nine, this way you choose when to eat. Most of the stuff was Indonesian (mostly guys) and not all with the best manners. Barcelona. We stayed overnight there. We walked first night to La Rambla street, it's about 30 min walk. A lot of young people there, a lot of scary people (you afraid that they will steal something and something like that), trying to sell some cans or who know what. But city itself very nice. Next morning we went back to La Rambla, this time took port bus (3 Euros round trip or 2 one way).Then we took the Hop on hop of 2 deck bus (21 Euros per person one day), we took blue route, then I wanted to take red route but it was long line waiting to get on them and route take about 2 hours, so we didn't have enough time to do that (time change mixed our plans, we slept too long that morning). We just walked around, we used McDonald's restrooms for free, and then walked back to the ship (didn't want to wait in line for port bus). Before that I gave my Hop on hop of bus tickets away to one couple, they gave me 10 euros, so it worked well. When we walked we saw already people attending drill with the wests, we didn't go. How silly to do that, when people still ashore. I am Europe union member so I got letter that I need to bring my passport to front desk. We did, but front desk not helpful we heard so many different stories from them why they need my passport. Next day they where collecting U.S. and Canada citizen. My husband didn't give them, so they did a copy and said they will call in a room in case they would need to check original, never did. (It's good idea to have certified copy, in case somebody would lose it.). Monaco, Monte Carlo That morning we got the note, that we need to attend drill, but note came at 10am, drill was scheduled for 9 am, so we missed it again . They had tender boats from the ship to shore. We got there early so they announced that we can get on tender boats early, when we got to them, they announced that now will go only people who booked excursions, cruise director Jason Venner was blocking the stairs checking excursion stickers. He was rude, he said that now we need to wait almost an hour, but the boats were almost empty, so we sneaked in them anyway. EXPECT TO BE TREATED DIFERENT IF YOU DON'T BOOK SHIPS EXCURSIONS. WHEN YOU GETTING OUT FROM THE SHIP THERE IS NOBADY TO GUIDE YOU WHERE TO GO. In Monaco it's easy to walk (my easy means - people who fit), it's beautiful there. We walked first up to prince palace, then down toward casino (IF YOU WANT TO GO THERE, DRESS NICE AND KEEP YOUR PASSPORT, the reason for that, they don't let gamble for Monaco people. They have beach there (not the best one), but if you planning to go there bring water shoes (rubber shoes); all beaches which we saw on a trip had a lot of rocks. Restrooms in Monaco was free, some places had plate so you can put some money if you want. It's just nice to walk there, peeked in Casino, and didn't go in. On a ship it's really not a lot what to do. We didn't go to all shows; it was enough 2 first ones. The dancers not good, not graceful, singers just ok. I liked there costumes liked how stage moves, rotates. The last show with the car was o k, but it was more like a play, not a lot of dancing. During the day most of the people ashore, then they go eat dinner, would be nice to use pool or hot tub after that (GOOD LUCK,THEY CLOSED AT 7PM ,HOT TUB AT 9PM, sometimes even earlier with no notice. Back pool supposes to be adult, but nobody controlled that. It seemed that a lot of things cruise employees did for there convenient, it's always would be closed areas in buffet for stuff members, saw few couples of working people, I don't need to see their romances. We saw once how they where closing curtains in buffet on people heads. A lot of times I would bump in the worker, guess who needed to move ME, they didn't. Rush to eat before nine, otherwise you not find a lot, buffet after 9 will have just pizza and dessert, you can get room service (that's kind a nice thing) but menu limited, after 10 only few things you can get from them. Internet cafe nice, together with the library, close to bar. We got 100 min for 55 $ plus 3.95 onetime connection fee. The internet really slow and in a lot of port we saw internet cafes, so if you don't need it for work better to take your own computer and go ashore, faster and cheaper. Front desk always looked mean if you would have any questions. When our TV broke (power problems) we called them every 10 min, they didn't liked that, after over than hour they fixed the problem. Next stop Livorno Remember, you can't walk in port, only taxi or shuttle can be used. We didn't know that, we walked back, but then they told us to wait for shuttle (200 meters was left) we didn't pay, but usually it's 5 Euros for the day, it takes to Piazza grande.. We decided to take train to Florence, taxis from port to train 20 Euros, so try to find who would share it. I asked whoever I saw, we found one couple. Got round trip tickets (27 Euros round trip for both). Train times were on July 8:11, 9:11, 10:11 don't forget to validate them in a yellow machine in train station, they don't have them in the train. But one couple forgot to do that; conductor said them to write date on a ticket. We got out at Firenze S.M.N. Before that stop was Firenze stop. Don't get mix up. It's everything so close in Florence, easy to walk. We didn't go to any galleries or museums, so had enough time to stop at Pizza on the way back to Livorno. Train times 2:27, 3:27, 4:27, 5:27 we validated our ticket, got out at pizza stop, then used the same ticket back to Livorno. From the train station you can get on bus, but it's only 15- 20 min walk, you can't see tower from there, ask people. We went straight from the station, and then saw when to turn left. From Pizza train times where 3:45, 4:34, 5:34, 5:45 From Livorno train station took no 1 bus (that would work if you get cruise shuttle from piazza grande,but we didn't know that, so from the stop closest to ship we walked, a lot. So or share taxi, o pay for shuttle and from there no 1 bus (cost euro or something like that) Civitavecchia From ship shuttle took us to port gate (for free, its only 5 min walk maybe 10) then we walked to train station, just few blocks straight ahead. (10 min). Got round trip tickets. Times where 8:41 , 8:59, 9:17, 9:41, 9:59. They gave without asking B.I.R.G (18 Euros for both of us), its work for buses and metro in Rome too. It's a lot of stops in Rome S Peters close to Vatican. But you can get out on the last one, then take bus, depend where you want to go. We got out at Ostensia stop, took bus to Coliseum (bus 60 if I am fight, I just asked people all the time). We waited in line for tickets 45 to 60 min. 12 Euros per person, for Europe union members 7.50 so get your passport if you want to get discount. We went to complain about that in front desk, after talking with supervizor,they said they will put difference on our card, guess what, they didn't so last day we needed to talk about that (and it's not about 4.5 Euros it's principle) but they looked at us like we would be crazy. This entire passport situation made a lot of problem for a lot of people. They just needed to inform about that in their website, don't you think? Then we took the bus to Fontana trevi (we asked people again, which no to take). You can't see it from the bus stop, so ask somebody let you know where to get out. It seems confusing but it's really not. Then we took bus 62, it took us to Vatican. That we saw from bus stop. Then 40 or 64 bus back to train station, we went to Roma centrale, this way more likely you'll get seat. Trains comfortable and clean, restrooms not really. Times back were2:09, 2:39, 3:09, 3:39, 4:09, 4:39, 5:09, 5:14, 5:39, 6:05. Messina, Sicily we got in port at 2pm. We wanted to take train to Toarmina, train station is walk able distance from the ship, but we got there close to 3 o clock, next train was at 4:05, we didn't want to wait, so stayed there. Train times from Taormina to Messina 3:55pm, 5:22, 6:41, 7:13, 8:36 (it's about hour ride) It's really nothing what to do in messina, first everything close till 5 or who knows. It's really dirty in a streets, even poop (I hope it's just dogs), my husband decided to fish there, so we bought fishing rod and all other stuff (25 Euros we spent) and he fished for hour and a half, then I started to see strange people around, one guy was using some drugs from the bag, other kid (maybe 10) was smoking, a lot of people smoke in Europe. So we decided go back to the ship with the fishing rod, no problem. Sea day finally we can relax and not rush anywhere. It was second formal night, first was on second Barcelona day. They had crab legs that day for appetizer. Finally they had karaoke, we went there, the list of songs was a mess, not all song artists in there, one girl was singing when we got there, the cd was scratched, cruise director was laughing, next to him some employee women was laughing with him, they were really "lovie-duvie" and then he's "ok, try again, first tell about yourself, but he's not intelligent, he even didn't lift his butt to feel this poor girl better, all karaoke was like a joke. So we left. Tats it, no more karaoke nights (so don't spent time practicing). Navplion, Greece They had tender boats there. We stayed there, its cute city. We walked by fortress and found road to beach, it was small, rocky beach, so we sat in there, had some drinks, just relaxed. Katokolon We decided to take train to Olympia, the train station close to ship,5-8 min walk, it looks like restroom building, very small. Tracks start there. First train was 8:36am, its only 2 wagon train which goes to Olympia and back (I think it's only one train). Cost 6 Euros for both of us round trip. From train it's close to Olympia site place. Tickets 6 Euros each, 9 if you want to see site seen and museum. Then we took 12:05 train back, walked in Katokolon and back to ship. Corfu We didn't plan anything there, just got out and walked, a lot. They had ships shuttle (16$ round trip, 9$ one way to old town.) We walked there in 30 min, then went to fortress (4 Euros each) its nice view from there. Restroom I used in McDonald, but you need code on receipt to open the door, or just wait for somebody walk in or out. Then we found tiny beach in a cafe territory, paid 1.4 Euros entrance fee, they had changing rooms, 1.5 Euros for sun beds, towers you can take from the ship. They return passports that day. Dubrovnik Ship had shuttle 16$ round trip,9$ one way to pile gate (old town). Don't do that, there is a public bus right there, take mokosica-pile bus,we paid 20 kunas it's about 3 Euros for both of us. Old town very pretty, then we walked to the beach, it was one closer, but we walked more and found more quiet, nice beach, with rocks of course. It didn't cost, just rented sun beds 20 kunos each (3 euro) they took Euros. Then back to the bus and back to ship. That night ship had dessert extravaganza, it was nice, I missed strawberries dipped in chocolate, and they had a lot of cakes, crapes, some hand size desserts, but nothing too crazy. Next day Venice We loved Venice. We stayed there one extra night after cruise, so we bought 23H bus and water bus tickets, 23euros each. We used them a lot. They go from Piazzale Roma. About 25 min. from the ship. One way would be 6, 50 Euros per person. 12h ticket for land and water bus 16 Euros per person. Gondola rides 80euros, but you can find somebody to share the ride, 6 people fit, then the price not so bad. If you just want to go one time to Piazza San Marco then just use right there alilaguna water taxi, 6,5 one way. On Venice day you can set your credit card, you can adjust tips which they adding automatically, Next morning we paid in cash what we owned to the ship, ate last breakfast and rolled with the luggage to the bus stop, took no. 5 bus to Russot hotel, then went back to the city. We had a lot of fun, from ship we expected more, but we saw nice places, had nice room with balcony (where we spent most of the time when in ship), had decent food. So we will have only nice memories about this trip. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Background Information: We were a party of 5 coming from the Central Texas area. We had two first time cruisers along with my mother (3rd cruise) and my son and myself (4th cruise). This was my family's second time on the ... Read More
Background Information: We were a party of 5 coming from the Central Texas area. We had two first time cruisers along with my mother (3rd cruise) and my son and myself (4th cruise). This was my family's second time on the Conquest. (We've had two sailings on the Ecstasy.) Hotel Info: We drove down Saturday afternoon and had reservations at the LaQuinta on the south seawall. I got a great discount using my teacher organization, so the rooms were $76 per night plus tax. The hotel was nice enough (we got what we paid for...) and they do provide a nice breakfast in the morning. We had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe which was fun to experience but just be prepared to wait in line for a while. Embarkation: We arrived at the port early (before they had even opened up the doors) but we couldn't wait any longer to get there. Once inside, we enjoyed the VIP lounge and check-in. This was the easiest check in I've ever been through and it will be hard to sail again without this perk. We didn't have to wait in lines or stand around waiting for our zone to be called. We were one of the first parties on board. Ship Info: Having been on the Conquest last summer, we knew what she looked like and how beautiful she is but it still took our breath away to turn that corner and see her sitting at the pier. She is a majestic sight and I just couldn't wait to run up that gangway and return to my favorite home away from home. Activities: Chris Jefferson is possibly the most talented cruise director on the seven seas. He keeps his announcements to a minimum and he's hilarious when he's on stage...whether he's giving a talk or transformed into Dolly. His staff is just as talented and they certainly added a lot to our experience. Service: As usual, the service was top notch! A little problem we had in the dining room was quickly resolved by the Maitre'd in the Monet DR and he followed up every night to make sure we were having a great night. Our stateroom stewards and waitstaff was above excellent. Port & Shore Excursions: Jamaica: We opted to spend the day at Sunset Beach. I highly recommend this. Take a taxi from the terminal (approx $10) and check in at the resort and you'll have a wonderful day. The swimming pools, slides and lazy river are wonderful and the beach is nice and clean. There's lots of covered shaded area if you want to get out of the sun. The resort employees are wonderful and very accomodating to their cruise guests. Grand Cayman: We booked the Best of Cayman tour through Carnival and loved it. The tour itself is with Webster tours and their guides are superb. The tour takes you through town, past landmarks and other famous sites. You are also taken to the Turtle Farm, Hell and the Rum Factory. The buses are air conditioned and we really learned a lot about the island. The tour lasts about 3 hours but it seems to go by really fast. Cozumel: Since we had been here 3 times before, we opted to take this day easy. A couple of us got off the boat to look for a piece of pottery for a friend of mine but we were back on board in an hour or so. Stateroom: We had two Cat 11 staterooms 7242 and 7238 which are side by side. We asked our room steward to open up the divider and we enjoyed a enormous balcony the entire week. Our rooms were wonderful. Lots of space, lots of storage and the bathroom is twice the size of a regular room...and you get a shower door rather than a curtain. Dining: All I can say is YUM!!! Children's Clubs: This was DS's 4th time in Camp Carnival and again, he spent more time there than he did with us. These workers are fabulous with the kids and there was always something fun going on. Entertainment: The Motown Singer, the illusionist and the Legends show were the BEST!! I still don't care for Point & Click or Formidable. For some reason, we missed the juggler. Disembarkation: We were given the option of using the priority debarkation and since we packed too much to do self assist, we took it. We went to the lobby and went to wait in the room we were told to wait in and at the appropriate time, a member of the entertainment staff came in, got everyone who was sitting there waiting and walked us to the gangway. There was a line of porters waiting and our luggage was out waiting for us to come claim it. The porter took us to a no-wait customs line and we were on the shuttle to the Lighthouse parking lot and in our car at 9:00am. It was just as easy to get off the ship as it was to get on...only I didn't want to get off. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We recently returned from our first family cruise aboard the Liberty, sailing from July 11 to July 18. My husband and I have cruised before but have never taken the kids so this was quite an adventure! Embarkation was a breeze. We ... Read More
We recently returned from our first family cruise aboard the Liberty, sailing from July 11 to July 18. My husband and I have cruised before but have never taken the kids so this was quite an adventure! Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the Port of Miami at 11:45am and were on the ship, at the pool, drinks in had, by 12:30. Our kids ages are 13, 10, 8, and 5 so we experienced all of the levels of the Camp Carnival offerings. We were very pleased overall with the kids' programs. My eldest daughter went to the first night's activities, quickly made a group of friends and hung out with them the rest of the cruise. They definitely took part in many of the organized activities like scavenger hunts but also just hung out together and had a great time. My 10 year old son went to Camp Carnival a couple of times, made a couple of friends, but chose to hang out on his own and with us more than with anyone he met. The 8 year old loved the Camp activities and had a great time on the two nights we let her stay in the 'group babysitting' area. She prefers to be with us though and so didn't take part in many organized activities. The same could be said for the 5 year old. He had a great time when there but was with us more often than not. The staff was excellent and the security was top notch. We were able to borrow a cell phone from the Camp so we could be located immediately if necessary. THis also came in handy when the older two kids were on their own with friends and needed to check in with us. We had two adjoining cabins forward on the 7th deck. They each had small balconies which was really nice. In each room we had a double bed and a single, which worked great for us. Our room steward was very good. THe cabin was always spotlessly clean and he left cute towel animals for the kids. We rarely saw him but he was very efficient. We had one maintenance issue which was when the bar holding up the shower head fell off the wall. I called maintenance and the guy was there within 30 mins. He had to go get a part, we went to dinner, and it was fixed when we came back. Very impressed with their efficiency in that regard. We ate in the early seating in the Silver Dining Room. Our waiters, Bags and Sudiana, were incredible. THey were so accomodating and helpful. My daughter still says she misses Bags! They knew by the 2nd night how to cook the steaks, everyone's names, and the drink server (Olga) soon knew what the kids all would want for drinks and would just bring them to the table before we even ordered. The food was excellent. We usually would eat breakfast and lunch from the buffet or sandwich area or pizza counter. Of course there were lines - there were a couple thousand people on board. There was never a really long wait, the food was plentiful and fresh, and every one of my 6 family members could always find something they wanted. We purchased Fountain Cards for all of us the first day of the cruise and it was always easy to get sodas at the bars. The alcoholic drinks were good, the service was fairly quick, there always seemed to be a waiter walking around to get drink orders. We went to a couple of shows and they were all pretty good. Kind of cheesy but well done for a ship. My youngest daughter was able to participate in a Talent Show for kids which was really fun for her. They got to perform on the same stage that all the shows were on so she had a good time with that. Our port stops were Ochos Rios, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. My husband and I have been to Grand Cayman before and knew we wanted to take the kids on the snorkeling tour of Stingray City. I booked our tour through Moby Dick's and we were pleased with it. It was a smaller boat so not as many people, which was nice. They kids learned how to snorkel and got to play with the stingrays (2 loved them, 2 were scared). In Ochos Rios we took a tour that just went to the Dunns River Falls, and then dropped us off downtown. I was happy with the tour operator I booked with (the name is escaping me). The falls were fun although I couldnt believe how many people were in there all at once. It was a little rough for my 5 year old, but he made it. After the falls we just went to Margaritaville and ate, swam and hung out the rest of the afternoon. The bar has a pool in it with a waterslide and my kids must have gone down it 100 times each. The slide was enclosed on top and went over the bar. They really loved it. And compared to a lot of the island bars I have been to it wasnt too crazy and loud. We really enjoyed hanging out there. Cozumel was our favorite stop. I had booked an independent tour to drive dune buggies around the island. The guide picked us up at the right time, we got to our dune buggies and drove around the island for about 4 hours, stopping to snorkel, to tour a small ruins, and to eat a freshly prepared Mexican lunch on the beach. Our tour guides were outstanding and we were with some other fun people. Definitely worth the money. Getting on and off the ship at the ports was frustrating but not unexpected. Lots and lots of lines. We did stand in line at Grand Cayman for over an hour in the very hot sun with hundreds of other people trying to get on a tender back to the ship. For Debarkation we chose to carry our bags ourselves as we had an 11:25am flight. We were in the 6th group to be called. The only problem we had there was that we could not get an elevator and had to walk down the stairs with our 9 suitcases!! Our fault for bringing so much! However, we got off the ship, in a cab, and were at the airport in plenty of time. We will definitely cruise again with our kids. The Carnival Liberty was a great ship for our family and we can't wait to plan our next trip!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Me my husband and 3 teenagers went on the Grandeur of the Seas. We have nothing to compare this cruise to since none of us had been before. We had a wonderful time and we want to do it all over again and again. We left out of Baltimore. ... Read More
Me my husband and 3 teenagers went on the Grandeur of the Seas. We have nothing to compare this cruise to since none of us had been before. We had a wonderful time and we want to do it all over again and again. We left out of Baltimore. Our ports were Peurto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and St. Thomas. Peurto Rico was okay, nothing much there to see. Just a bunch of busy streets and little shops. We ended up in Senor Frogs for most of our time there since it was just across the street from where the ship was. Nothing really fascinating to report about that place. I'm not real sure why the ship ports there. St. Thomas is pretty. We did the Marine Blaster Snorkel Tour. That was fabulous. The crew on this boat were great. We saw a lot of marine life while snorkeling. The boat was easy to get in and out of since it has a platform and ladder off the back. Afterwards we walked around some shops and walked thru a flea market but that was about it. Haiti was nice. The Flea market venders really make you mad. They grab your arms and get in your face. You really have to raise your voice to make them understand that No means No. However, when they tell you a bowl or treasure box is $40 -$45 just walk away. I got them for $10 each. They will eventually take whatever you offer but you have to have patience while they are in your face asking you to look at their stuff and buy this from me and buy that from me. They will even follow you and keep talking to your backside...it's the craziest thing I've ever seen. We did the Malfini Beach Tour. It was okay. It's pretty but not what we expected. Take your own snorkel stuff with you on this one cuz they don't have any there. I would wear some kind of water shoes too cuz there is a lot of sea grass and rocks, etc. - they do provide a little bar for drinks and they have mats that you can float on. Dominican Republic was our favorite place. We did the self drive 4x4 jeep tour. Please take note that none of the jeeps are automatic so make sure someone in your group knows how to drive a stick !!! The beach we stopped at was nice, the waterfall we walked to was fabulous as everyone was climbing up to the top and jumping off. The locals are very poor and they live in shacks. Some of the children didn't have anything on but underwear. Next time we go we are going to fill some sacks and hand out toys to the kids. The children will come up to you and hold out a piece of coconut or little bracelets they make out of leaves. I handed out dollars to the kids and they were very grateful. We got to see how they live, we got to see how they cook their foods and even got to sample some things. It was really a great educational experience. I felt like I was on the National Geographic channel. The jeep ride was nice. The land there is breath taking. We drove deep into the jungle and saw some amazing sites. If you don't do any other excursions please do this one !!! As for the ship we loved it. You can tell it is an older boat but that didn't bother us. They have great deals in the shops, the food in the Gatsby was wonderful. The Windjammer was okay if you like buffet food. We stuck to the salad bar mostly cuz we felt like we were in a cafateria and the food was okay. The shower in the cabin is VERY small. It's kind of hard to bend down for anything so don't drop the soap. Shaving my legs was a task in itself. The beds are comfy...kinda firm. The rooms were cleaned very well every day and turn down service at night was always neat cuz we got a different towel animal every night. We were disappointed in the pools. The main pool was small and always full of kids which to me meant full of urine. The music was loud and not much seating to choose from. The indoor pool was for adults only so that was hard because one of my kids was only 13 so we didn't want to leave him out. Both pools are salt water so it will sting your eyes. I felt dirty after getting out of the pool so we only did the pool twice. The burgers and fries in the solarium were really good. Room service was fun. We bought the coupon book they offered for $25 but wish we hadn't after seeing the coupons in it. They tell you to use them at the ports for all the free stuff but the free stuff is just junk so it was a waste of money. Not everyone dresses up for formal nights. I wore a sun dress and my hubby and 3 boys wore long pants and t-shirts with Tuxedo's printed on them. I orded them from Ebay. I was not gonna pack suits nor was I gonna buy a formal dress. You'll see a wide variety of people dressing in pants, dresses, gowns, glitter, tuxedo's, suits and polo shirts. The elevators are very slow so we mostly used the stairs. There are pros and cons on every vacation but we would definately do this trip again. I'm not much interested in getting off the boat at the ports because just sitting on the deck of the boat in a comfy chair is a little piece of heaven in my mind. My favorite waiter is Hector - we now chat online via facebook. We fell in love with this guy..he is so darn cute. We love you Hector !!!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Our "Crackin, crackerjack, smashing Bermuda vacation on the beautiful Norwegian Dawn" (as stated by our CD John every time he made an announcement). This was my 5th time to Bermuda and second on the Dawn. We have cruised ... Read More
Our "Crackin, crackerjack, smashing Bermuda vacation on the beautiful Norwegian Dawn" (as stated by our CD John every time he made an announcement). This was my 5th time to Bermuda and second on the Dawn. We have cruised most of the popular cruise lines and have never had a bad cruise Did this same cruise on the Dawn in April '08 for our 30th wedding anniversary. This time we took the kids, if you can call them kids (16 and 21). Although we enjoyed our first trip on the Dawn, this one was much improved, especially in number of available activities, quality of food, and service by the crew. We left or home in Jersey City at 9:45 A.M. My sister drove us to the New York Waterway ferry for a quick trip to Manhattan. Pier 88 was only a short walk from there. At 10:30 we were in the check in line for Latitudes and were given boarding pass # 29, which seemed high to us. Embarkation picture taken, we were taken to the waiting area where we were guided to specific seats and told that the ship had arrived late and that this sailing would be greater than 100% occupancy. (This occurs when there are more than 2 to many cabins). So we sat down and talked with a nice family from CT. Surprisingly, boarding started at 11:45 starting with the number 27. We were on board at 11:50 enjoying our welcome aboard OJ. We decided to wait for lunch at the Venetian which would open at 12:30. So we took our boys for a tour of the ship. Also stopped at the spa to buy the week long pass for my wife and me at $150... probably the best $150 spent on the ship. The spa is a little used oasis with a pool, hot tub, therapy pool, lounge chairs and hot and cold beverages, Each time you visit you get towels, a robe and a locker. A wonderfully relaxing place that we enjoyed each day of the cruise. At 12:25 we headed to the Venetian for lunch and got a seat at the rear of the ship right by a window (we got the same table for breakfast on the last day of our cruise too). Starting the trip with a leisurely lunch beats the crowds at the buffet. The menu for lunch is the same each day and has really nice selections. I had chicken soup followed by fish and chips followed by ice cream. My wife Deb had Callamari. Alex had a grilled chicken sandwich which he said was dry, and Matthew had the Philly cheese steak. Other that the grilled chicken, everything was delicious. They have great fries on the Dawn. After lunch it was off to the mini suite, which is in reality just a large balcony room. But there was plenty of room for the 4 of us, even with the sofa bed open. And there was good storage. Had our steward empty the fridge so we would have room for our Brita water bottles. Our TA had ordered a bottle of wine and chocolate strawberries for us. TV's on the Dawn are 13 inch tube type with not as many channels as other lines and no interactive options for excursions or seeing your bill. We also received an apology letter that our excursion for Friday was canceled and we had been place on the Wednesday trip instead. We decided to cancel. Thursday and Friday were national holidays in Bermuda (for the annual cricket Cup Match) and all businesses would be closed both days. We had planned Wednesday to see a shop things while they were open. Bermuda is so easy to get around and so easy to plan, you really don't need excursions at all. We had planned it for Friday figuring it would be nice to have something to do on the holiday, but really were fine without it. After settling in our cabin we went to sign Matthew up for the teen program... a 4 page contract with contingencies for everything. You almost need a lawyer to figure it all out! Alex signed up for the soda card which with tip costs $50 and change. Muster was quick and painless in the theater. The sail away was pleasant, about 78 degrees and partly sunny. I heard that about an hour after we left, New York got some really nasty weather. glad we missed it. there is nothing like sailing out of New York. NCL does sail away right with a huge barbecue on the pool deck. Giant kettle grills with burgers, ht dogs, chicken, corn on the cob and a great fixings and salad bar. After sail away it was time for dinner in Aqua. We were seated promptly and got our order in. My son Alex and I had the strip steak with green beans and baked potato. My wife had Cod and Matthew had roast chicken that was more like a chicken stew. Crab cake was our starter. It wasn't bad and had shell fragments so the crab was real. The steak was a pleasant surprise... cooked perfectly and sliced like butter, a major improvement over last year when any beef on the ship was like shoe leather. Over all the food quality at NCL has improved tremendously and can rival any line. Unfortunately the selection is limited and often too fancy, looking great, but having little substance. Fortunately you can order off menu. My boys ordered a melon plate as a starter each night and a side of fries with their dinner. The fries on the Dawn are excellent. For dessert my wife had key lime pie while the rest of us had some really good ice cream. After dinner the boys went to the show while my wife and I enjoyed being on deck. We had seen all the shows in' '08 and they haven't changed. Dave Heenen, the comedian, is one of the worst I've ever heard. His self demeaning jokes are just lame and really not funny. Was disappointed he was still on the ship. Turned clocks ahead one hour before turning in. The new bedding for freestyle 2.0 is a major improvement. It is the best I've slept on any of my 10 cruises. The moderate seas helped rock us to sleep. I love the motion of the ocean. There was some noise in the hallway as workers laid plastic the length of the hallway. All new carpeting had been installed the week before, but now they were going to take our hallway ceiling down and put in all new fresh water pipes. Seems like backwards planning to me. NCL sent us a notice that the work would be going on for several days. The workers would work 8 - 5 daily and were very courteous and friendly, always willing to move their stuff so you could move freely in the hallway. The passengers were their priority so this was not an inconvenience at all. My credit card size pedometer tells me I walked 20,000 steps embarkation day. Monday, our first full day at sea was 80 degrees, cloudy, with moderate to rough seas (4 -7.5 feet waves... no where near the 22-27 foot waves we had last year). I love sea days and we easily get into a routine. We woke up well rested at 7:30 A.M. and went to the Venetian for breakfast. The dining room menu for breakfast is very good in selection and food quality. service is top notch. The waffles and omelets are especially good. The baby grand electronic piano seems stuck on James Bond themes, except for one day when it was playing a Christmas carol. After breakfast we walked the promenade. Four times around equals about a mile and a half. our boys went to see a movie. After walking we found chairs on the promenade to relax and read as the ocean went by. The old wood lounge chairs have been replaced with upright chars with a blue mesh type material. I read two books in two days while relaxing in these chairs. Lunch was in the Garden Cafe. Variety is good here with hot dishes, a pasta bar, fresh fruits, a deli and more. Try the quesadias made with a tomato based tortillas. A dividing rope, like those in a bank ones separates the pasta station from the buffet line which helps speed things up. Food quality is average cafeteria, good and plentiful. Milk, and ice tea are available. I made lemonade each day using the lemons provided for the iced tea. There is also a kids buffet with macaroni and cheese and even spaghettios. Again a very helpful and hard working staff keep this area running smoothly. In the afternoon we all took part in goofy golf, a small tournament put on by the CD staff in a lounge with putting cups. Alex then headed up to the sports deck and Matthew to the teen center. The teen program has numerous activities, but few participants. The teens just like hanging out together. Matthew chose what to go to and was with the group 'til midnight each night of the cruise. He did eat dinner and attend other activities with us. we went to the spa for the afternoon, the best kept secret on the ship, and a real bargain at $150 per couple for the week. Dinner in the Venetian was rack of lamb which was outstanding. My wife ordered the seafood extravaganza which had lobster, shrimp and more. It must have been good since she ordered it several times during the week. I enjoyed the asparagus soup and the Florida baked shrimp starters. Both were excellent. the shrimp is served i a special dish that was used for escargot until they discontinued that item due to lack of interest! After dinner we attended the show "Band on the Run" together which is a typical cruise show and much too loud. Later we went to the Spinnaker lounge for a Beatles tribute. The harmonies were good, but the solos weak. You haven't really lived until you've heard a Beatles tribute by a Filipino group. The Dawn has a great variety of music every night. The only one we saw that was poorly attended was country/western on the very empty pool deck! We then went to the Blue Lagoon for some before bed snacking. Good comfort food. Turned in at 12:30. Only 9,000 steps this day. Tuesday was very similar as we were now in a routine. Seas were moderate and it was sunny in the low 80's In the afternoon we attended a slight of hand card trick show in the movie theater. Gregg Gleason is a terrific magician. This should not be missed. The place was full, so if you go, get there early. There are always many activities from which to choose, but we often choose just to relax. We did go to the ice carving demonstration on the pool deck which was packed. Glad we didn't hang out there during the cruise. Again the spa is well worth the cost! We also bought one of the cruise certificates for our next cruise. At $250 with a $100 credit on your account and four years to book, this is a no brainer! Also spent some time planing our 3 days in Bermuda. 13,00 steps this day. Woke up early on Wednesday to watch the arrival in Bermuda, our favorite port of any cruise. I love getting up for sail in as the sun comes up. Noticed a ship coming towards us in the Distance. Eventually it passed close by. It was the Norwegian Spirit leaving Bermuda to head back to Boston. I've been on it and it is a delightful ship. Watched us dock at the new Heritage Warf which is right next to King's Warf. Breakfast in the buffet was fine. We ate in the buffet so we could debark quicker. Got off at about 8:30. In the Heritage Warf building they have a visitor center where you can by transportation passes for the ferries and bus. Cost is $20 for 2 days or $28 for 3. Called my sister on my cell which I always do when I get to Bermuda. In past years that call would have been $1.29 per minute roaming. After hanging up I got a text welcoming me to Verizon International. That didn't happen in previous years. After getting home I checked my bill to see the costs and noticed that Verizon treated that call and my son's call to his girlfriend as part of our plan minutes with no roaming charge at all. What a pleasant surprise! If I knew that I might have made some more calls. We took the 9:15 ferry to St. George's, visited a few sights and walked over to Tobacco Bay Beach, about a half mile away. Weather was 86 with clouds and sun, all sun in the afternoon. St. George's is a historic town with a number of interesting buildings. Tobacco Bay is a great Beach for families because it is shallow. It is also a great place for snorkeling. Walked back to St. George's for a reenactment of a criminal penalty called "the dunking chair". This reenactment is done at non on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Shopped a little before boarding the # 11 bus to Hamilton. This trip takes about 40 minutes and lets you get a good overview of the north side of the island. In Hamilton we did a little more shopping and had lunch at the Lobster Pot. Try the lobster,shrimp, crab cake sandwich or the Club Match. Both are terrific. Be aware Bermuda is expensive. A glass of Lemonade or a Coke is $5.50. Took the ferry back to the ship at around 3P.M. to relax at the spa before dinner. Since we wanted to return to Hamilton in the evening for Harbour Nights, a festival held every Wednesday, we decided to eat in the Garden Cafe to save time. The festival is basically a street fare with vendors and a music stage. Quite crowded. Planned to take the 9 P.M. ferry back to the ship but, after waiting 30 minutes it filled up too quickly. had to wait until 9:45 for the special ship's ferry which was much larger. Didn't see this as a major problem, but many people did, getting upset and giving New York a bad name. Come on people, relax. You are on vacation!! Went back to the ship and called it a night. 16,000 steps but it seemed like more Thursday and Friday were national holidays in celebration of the "Cup Match" which is the cricket version of the Super Bowl. One Bermudan told us we could go, pay $10 to sit in the visitor section where the game would be explained to us, and we would be fed. Now that is hospitality! Try that at the Super Bowl! We did not attend the game because of our limited time in Bermuda and we had other plans. All transportation for those days would be on a limited Sunday schedule and all businesses and restaurants would be closed. having done our homework, we knew attractions would be open so we took an early ferry to Hamilton and walked to the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute(BUEI). This is a fascinating museum with displays of underwater exploration. They also have a great sea shell exhibit, and this summer a limited number of Titanic artifacts (no where near like the incredible Titanic exhibit in Manhattan this summer). Cost is $12.50 for adults and $6 for kids under 17. Well worth it. After the museum we visited Par La Ville Park in Hamilton, a delightful oasis. then we took he ferry back to the ship. In the afternoon we walked around the dockyard and bought a few things in the clock tower mall. Noticed one family boarding the ship who obviously missed departure in New York and flew down to join the ship. Also saw some crew leaving to fly to another sheep and a new spa crew board. The evening on the ship included time in the spa, an excellent magic show with Gregg Gleason, and the chocoholic buffet. All the chocolate looks good, but isn't that special when it comes to taste. 16,000 steps again. I've gotten into a rut! Friday was our last day in Bermuda, another sunny, hot day. Decided to skip the pedometer today. After a leisurely breakfast in Venetian, where the James Bond themes on the player piano were getting old, we took the bus marked "Special" directly to Horseshoe Bay Beach. You can take the # 7 bus, but that makes numerous stops. A fleet of "Special" buses await those from the ship at no additional charge other than the transportation pass. Horseshoe Bay is gorgeous. A large beach and many small cove beaches. The sand is firm and dense and easy to walk on. There are changing facilities and a snack bar. We spent the morning there and then went back to the ship for lunch before walking to Snorkel Park beach, a place we enjoy whenever in Bermuda. The place was packed!. Since it is within walking distance to the ship, many go there the last day so they won't have to rush back or worry about missing the ship. About 3:30 P.M. we headed back to the ship to relax and get ready to watch late comers running to the ship, always a fun experience as people gather on the promenade deck to cheer on late comers. this day the ship had to send an officer out in a golf cart to retrieve the last person, who was running late and more than likely called the ship to let them know. At 4:50 all were aboard, the gangway was taken in, ropes drawn in and we were ready to go. We stayed on deck for a while since it takes about an hour to clear Bermuda. after about 30 minutes we went to dinner in the venetian Dining room and got a table by the large windows at the rear of the ship and prepared for a peaceful dinner as Bermuda faded away. M, 21 year old son, Alex, accidentally discovered that his utensils had become magnetic. He entertained us, and the tables around us by using the knife to lift the fork from the table and suspend it in front of him. The tables all around us tried to do the same, with no luck. About 70 minutes after departure and with Bermuda still visible in the background all the lights went out and the engines stopped. Emergency lights came on and the ship continued a very slow forward movement in eerie silence. Dinner continued, but you could see some people getting nervous. After about 20 minutes the lights came on and the engines started and people cheered. Within a few minutes the captain came on and mentioned that we had a complete power outage but the problem was resolved and we were ready to continue to New York. i was hoping they'd see the need to check it out and return to Bermuda for another day, but no such luck. It did take a while to get the TVs in the cabins functioning again. Most channels were blank, except for the navigation channel which had a Windows NT boot screen. I overheard someone with an inside cabin say that it got pitch black in her room when the power went out. many on deck never even noticed. Skipped the pedometer for the rest of the cruise Saturday was a typical day at sea, relaxing and restful. Cloudy with moderate seas. The barf bags were put out but I doubt anyone needed them. In the afternoon we attended a memory seminar taught by the magician Gregg Gleason. It was entertaining but not memorable. Our final dinner was in Impressions, the Italian restaurant. It is an extra fee restaurant but we were tired of the menus in the dining room.. Think fancy Olive Garden, except Olive Garden has better food. Still it was nice to have new menu items to consider. Seems unusual but annoucements were few this cruise and I never felt as if we were being pushed to buy anything. We did buy two robes to remember the spa but had to ask where to purchase them (you buy them through your steward or at the pursers desk). Also bought some T-shirts on the last day when they went on sale (don't buy them earlier). Also at the prsers desk you can buy a map of the cruise with itinerary and captains signature for under $9, not a bad momento. Sunday morning we woke up at 5:30 to see the Narrows and Coney Island in the distance. Went to breakfast in the Venetian at about 7:15 while coming up the Hudson. Ship docked during breakfast, slightly ahead of schedule. Disembarking is easiest on NCL than any other line. On Saturday night you can choose the color tag you want according to when you want to get off or you can choose no tag and take express debarkation if you are willing to take your own luggage. Once the ship is cleared you can get off whenever you want as long as you are off by 10:30. The theater runs one last movie and pools are open. We chose this express debarkation and it was simple. After breakfast we went to our room and gathered our belongings. Walked right off at 9:00. with no delay at customs. Walked 10 minutes in pouring rain to NY Waterway ferry to Weehawken where we were picked up by my sister and were home in Jersey City by 9:45. Having enjoyed a marvelous, relaxing family vacation; a crackin crackerjack smashing good time on the beautiful Norwegian Dawn. And to my shock I actually lost half a pound! pictures athttp://web.me.com/pekrause/Site/Norwegian_Dawn_09.html Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
This was the fourth cruise for my wife and me. Three were with Carnival and one with Royal Caribbean. This was the first for our children (ages 18, 16, and 13). Embarkation- We got to the port around noon and were on board by 1:00. We ... Read More
This was the fourth cruise for my wife and me. Three were with Carnival and one with Royal Caribbean. This was the first for our children (ages 18, 16, and 13). Embarkation- We got to the port around noon and were on board by 1:00. We had to wait some, but things moved along fairly well. Our interior staterooms(4F) on aft Deck 8(8391 and 8407)were in an excellent location. They were located very close to Rosie's and the outer decks. We had no issues at all. Our stewardess (Signa) was friendly and efficient. Please remember to bring a power strip or extension cord. That is one thing we forgot. One outlet is not enough. We always bring lanyards and a hole punch to keep track of our sign and sail cards. It is so much easier than hunting through your pockets. Also, remember to bring hair conditioner as that is not provided. Overall the quality of our food during the week was very good. We ate dinner (main seating)in the Washington Lower Dining Room. I realize they are not offering as many courses as on our past cruises, but I was really impressed at how quickly things were served. We were usually done with dessert after an hour and 15 minutes. I was concerned that our children would be bored at dinner, but that was definitely not the case. They made sure that we did not miss dinner in the dining room on any night of the cruise. They enjoyed the dining experience. We ate at Rosie's for breakfast and lunch each day. The second floor is usually a good place to eat away from the crowd. It was typical buffet food, some very good -some not so much. We enjoyed the ice cream and 24-hour pizza as well. I can honestly say that this was our best Carnival cruise ever. All crew members we came into contact with were so helpful and friendly. They were genuine and concerned about making our cruise as good as it could be. I've read in some prior reviews that some Carnival crew members seem to be put out when helping and not very friendly. All these crew members must have had the week off because our family never ran into even one of them. The crew seemed to enjoy their jobs and spending time with passengers. Our teenage children(and their parents)loved their time on the Fun Ship. We all enjoyed the shows during the week. Things are always going on and it is a fun, upbeat place for teenagers to experience. Our kids are already looking forward to their next cruise. As you can see with our port reviews, we did not book our shore excursions through the ship. We enjoyed them greatly, and saved a ton of money in the process. Disembarkation- Again it was a relatively painless experience. No long lines to wait in. Our next cruise will once again be with Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We had such a bad experience on our last cruise in November on the Carnival Freedom we were going to take a break from cruising for a while. I then received an e-mail from Vacations to go that there were Alaskan cruises available for ... Read More
We had such a bad experience on our last cruise in November on the Carnival Freedom we were going to take a break from cruising for a while. I then received an e-mail from Vacations to go that there were Alaskan cruises available for $299. At that price we couldn't pass it up. The only question that I had was would we have coveralls waiting in our cabin so that we would have to work to get out meals?? Just kidding. We arrived in Anchorage at around 2:00P.M and loaded a bus for the port in Whittier. Our bus driver was a local college student that had grown up in the area. He was real entertaining and provided some interesting commentary along the ride to the port. To get to the port you have to go through the tunnel. This is the longest tunnel in North America (2.5 mile long) and one way. It was built during WWII to access the base that was there in the 40's & 50's. We reached our ship at around 5:00P.M. And to say the least we were exhausted. 17 hours of travel from the east coast. The check in process was real easy. A two minute wait and we were cheeked in. The staff had their act together. We boarded and found the ship to be very nice and exceptionally clean. The staff very friendly and the passenger were some of the friendliest we have met in along time. For $299 we were upgraded to a JJ cabin inside deck 11. The cabin was one cabin aft of the elevator next to the guest laundry. I thought that this would be a problem because of the noise but just the opposite was true. No noise at all and convent because it was easy to wash our clothes and close to the elevators and stairs which is a plus. We ate at the buffet the first night and did some exploring. Over all I thought the ship was very up scale. The lounges and dinning rooms were reminiscent of older ships that we were on in the past. Only on level in the dinning rooms made them feel a little more intimate. I especially liked Skywalker lounge in that aft end of the ship. Nice views to sip Alaskan ale. I thought the food was above average, nothing like the cruise food of the past but good and I would have to rate the filet I had the last night in the steak house to be as good as any I have ever had. Princess does a good job with there food offering a wide varity of items each night and repeats like shrimp cocktail, tenderloin and salmon every night. The thing I like the best was that there was always a place to get something to eat. Even when you sleep through dinner and wake up a 10:00. Our first day at sea was at College Fiord Glacier. It was amazing as with Glacier Bay the second day. The ship's promenade deck was completely open in the front of the ship and covered so that you can stay out of the rain. A nice feature for Alaskan cruising. We spent almost eight hours each day on deck. The views were incredible. The only mistake we made was that we didn't pack warm enough jackets so we purchased a couple of hooded princess logo's in the gift shop for about $50 each. This was a great price until we found similar jackets in the ports for $20. So if you are cruising north and stop in the ports first buy your new jackets there. The ports were amazing, the views, excursions, wildlife and shopping were all great. Although for a time I thought that I was in the Caribbean with all of the jewelry shops that were there. We did the biking tour in Skagway, Whale watching, salmon bake & Mendenhal Glacier in Juneau and a 4X4 adventure in Ketchikan. All excursions were very fun and the salmon was the best that I have ever had at the salmon bake. Getting off the ship was very easy. We carried off our five pieces of luggage at 7:45A.M. Went to the transportation stand in the Vancouver terminal and used a credit card to pay for two $13 transfers to the airport. At the airport in Vancouver you go through U.S. customs. This was very convenient seeing we didn't have to go through the process in the U.S. and possibly miss a connection. Overall the cruise was great and exceeded our expectations. I know that the price was a big driver for expectations but I would have enjoyed this at three times the price. I know that many people like to spend the extra money for the balcony and suites(us included at times) but in this situation I would recommend an inside for the price. How often are you in your room and these ships outdoor areas are made for Alaska? I would definitely cruise Princess again. We are frequent cruisers and this was number nineteen. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We are from Montreal, Quebec so we know what winter, snow and cold weather mean. So when I told my husband that I wanted to go to Alaska for the summer he was a little bit hard to convince. But we did no regret the trip at all. there were ... Read More
We are from Montreal, Quebec so we know what winter, snow and cold weather mean. So when I told my husband that I wanted to go to Alaska for the summer he was a little bit hard to convince. But we did no regret the trip at all. there were six of us: my husband and I, our daughter, my niece, my mom and my aunt who flew all the way from France. We flew the day before from Montreal to Vancouver and stayed at the Sandman Signature Suites near the airport. The hotel offers a shuttle that take us from the airport to hotel and back. That was very convenient. The hotel is nice but ask for a room that does not face the highway if you go. It gets noisy early in the morning due to the traffic. The next day, the shuttle takes us to the airport with plenty of time to spare and we flew to Anchorage Int'l Airport. We booked transfer with an independent company named Aurora Limousines in Alaska. They sent a bus and a trailer to pick us up at the airport. They are on time and quite efficient. The only thing is, they required a deposit and full payment even before you get there. Everything is OK but when I got back home and check my credit card statement, I realized that they charged us twice. I have been trying to call them but it is very hard to get to talk to someone and when finally I got hold of the owner, Howard, he was in a rush. He said he will get back to me in a few days but I hoped that things will be straighten out soon. I'll have to get back to you guys on that...This is our 7th cruise (3rd with Carnival)so we are familiar with the embarkation stuffs. We boarded in Whittier. It rained and foggy so we were wet and cold and miserable. The Spirit is nice and clean with plenty of public room. It never seems to be crowded. Maybe it is because it is an Alaskan cruise not a caribbean cruise so people tends to do more things that just lying around the pool. Also , the age average of this cruise is older. You see kids but not tons of them. There are also no young adults trying to get drunk to impress the girls. The people on this boat are here for the scenery and the beauty of Alaska and not for the partying and the booze... The food is good but after a few cruise with carnival, you have the same menu coming back like clockwork. One thing that got us disappointed is there is no seafood that comes from Alaska.Even the salmon came from I don't know where but it is not the fresh wild salmon that is the trademark of Alaska. The balcony cabin that we booked was nice (we booked a balcony once on Disney cruise and since then can never go back to an inside cabin). It is convenient to have your coffee and breakfast and look at the scenery that passes by without having to go to deck 9 or 10. I don't want to get in more details about the boat since all the carnival ships are more or less the same. I want to tell you more about the ports of call. We always booked our excursions with independent tours operators since that the only way that the money spent will go back to the community. In Sitka, we booked with Sitka Sound Tours (Jim Seeland). Since there were six of us, we were able to have the whole boat to ourselves. Jim took us to see whales, otters and puffins for less than what the Carnival tours charge. We saw tons of whales. They were so close that we thought they will hit the boat. I highly recommend this tours. Jim is very knowledgeable and reliable. He was right there at the time and place he said he will be. In Juneau, we booked the helicopter ride to the Hebert glacier and the sled dog ride. We booked through Dolly Varden tours in January to make sure that we got the time that we wanted. I highly recommended this tour. It is amazing to see the glacier from high up and then land in the dog camp. My daughter and niece loved the whole thing and will not hesitate to do it again (even a the high cost of $450 US+tx per person). In Skagway, we did the Liarville Gold rush and salmon bake. It was nice but a little pricey for what they offer (a lunch with salmon...) but we did not wanted to sit 3 hours in a train with kid ans teenager. We shop a little bit but did not find anything that we can not find in the other ports. In ketchikan, we did not booked any tours and just walked around town. My husband bought some Vodka at the Alaska Duty Free shop for $5/bottle of 1 liter. He said that In Montreal, he would have pay around $30 for them. Debarkation in Vancouver was a breeze. They are so organized. You can buy tickets for the shuttle from the pier to the airport for $13/person: once you got your luggage, just walk out and you will see the ticket counter on the left side. You can also take a taxi for around $30/trip Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We are a couple in our mid-fifties and very experienced with cruise ships having sailed more than fifteen times over the past twenty years on both luxury/premium (Crystal/Celebrity) and standard (Norwegian/Royal Caribbean) cruise lines. ... Read More
We are a couple in our mid-fifties and very experienced with cruise ships having sailed more than fifteen times over the past twenty years on both luxury/premium (Crystal/Celebrity) and standard (Norwegian/Royal Caribbean) cruise lines. Pride of America is a much more casual operation than, say, Celebrity, although everything about the ship was pleasant and, we thought, well-managed. Our inside cabin on Deck 8 (we only spend for inside cabins because we spend so little time in the room other than sleeping)was the equal of any we have had previously and our cabin attendant service was very good. The bathroom was well-appointed and (addressing some complaints we'd read on this site) the size of the shower was acceptable...we'd say about cruise ship average. Overall, the American crew was friendly and polite and we had no service issues. We did not utilize any of the alternative restaurants because the Cadillac Diner and Liberty/Skyline Restaurants and Aloha Cafe offered very good meals and well-paced service. That said, the menu choices/variety and dining room service were a cut below Celebrity, but certainly the equal of Royal Caribbean. The Freestyle Dining was different for us and OK although we missed the friendships we have had with more polished European wait staffs on other ships. We did not like the policy regarding gratuities(the first time we've ever been told that tipping is "mandatory") and prefer to be able to hand out our own gratuity envelopes as opposed to contributing to a general pool for the crew. We held our peace about the "mandatory" issue because the crew was generally deserving and we're good tippers anyway. An idea: abandon the idiocy of tipping on a cruise ship, increase fares to be "gratuities included", pay the crew better, attract a bigger worker pool, weed out the bad apples on the crew and have done with the foolish charade we call tipping. (End of tirade). This trip was our seventh visit to Hawaii and the first involving a cruise through the islands. It was pleasant and enjoyable and we recommend it to all.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Holland America Line's Ryndam was a ship unlike any other ship I've ever been on, the first thing I noticed was for an 8:00 p.m. sail-away time the ship hosted a 4:00 p.m. lifeboat drill this was a major inconvenience considering ... Read More
Holland America Line's Ryndam was a ship unlike any other ship I've ever been on, the first thing I noticed was for an 8:00 p.m. sail-away time the ship hosted a 4:00 p.m. lifeboat drill this was a major inconvenience considering that at 4:00 p.m. only half the passengers checked in and boarded making the next day's 10:00 a.m. make-up drill a real inconvenience having about 500 passengers standing on a deck for 45 minutes with no instruction that should be included with the drill. When the late dinner began at 8:00 p.m. the service was just above mediocre 4 out of the 7 nights dinner was served my family didn't get out of the dinning room until 10:30 that was without sitting around, 2 hours and 45 minutes for a meal was ridiculous with children. One Major turnoff was A-Deck this deck smelt like the local tavern with the stench of alcohol and smoke coming up from the staff deck below the line should at least put up a door to close off the staircase from the passenger section of the ship.This ship seemed redundant everyday having the same activities such as bridge playing, this ship tends to hang towards seniors more than the younger crowd howerer during our trip there were a good amount of kids and families onboard. One positive about the ship is once all passengers are accounted for after being in port the captain would leave port many times 10 to 15 minutes ahead of schedule which gave a major advantage on the next day in port getting in slightly earlier ment the ship was cleared for debarkation into the ports. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Vacation is finally here! We drove in from N Texas sunday morning, prepaid for parking on line- I recommend this, plus you save $5. woo hoo. I dropped my wife, two kids and their two friends off at the terminal around noon. Parked and ... Read More
Vacation is finally here! We drove in from N Texas sunday morning, prepaid for parking on line- I recommend this, plus you save $5. woo hoo. I dropped my wife, two kids and their two friends off at the terminal around noon. Parked and caught the shuttle back to the terminal and found my family and guests in no time. Embarkation is what it is- 2500+ people trying to get on the ship and start a great week of cruising. Yes there are lines, unless you pay extra for vip, but it all went pretty quickly and we were on our way. We checked our luggage getting on the ship- its much easier if you do this- tip the guy at the terminal a buck a bag and everyone's happy. Of course you have the safety drill- don't be the first to your muster station- they pack you in like sardines, it's hot and humid- some people in our group got sick. After that formality- it's time to start livin the cruise life. Yes- everywhere you turn someone is trying to sell you something- it's up to you whether to buy or not to buy, drink of the day, pictures, excursions etc. Just have fun, and do it your way. My wife and i had been on Carnival before, our kids (17 and 18 yrs old) and there two friends (same ages) were first timers. We got a couple of soda cards and sent them on their way. My son (18) was pretty excited that he could eat 24-7, he is always hungry- on this trip he was always full! His friend Dave (18) is a vegetarian, and didn't have any problem find plenty of choices for dining. We ate early seating in the Monet room. Food and service were excellent. We did not attend the supper club- just didn't see any reason for the added expense. Our rooms were clean and tidy- Dala, our room steward was like a ninja- she was always smiling and greeted us by our names from day one. Towel animals were of course top notch- even the "pig-bear" thing we could not quite figure out. We attended the magic show and the comedian show- sure, there is some cheese factor- but, hey- it's a vacation, and your boss can't call you or make you do work- right? Over all everyone did a great job. Go see the marriage show - it is really funny learning about some of your fellow cruisers. Just for planning purposes- the "dress up nights" are on monday and thursday for dinner. Wednesday put us in Jamaica. I highly recommend, if you go ashore, that you go to a resort for the day. Stay away from any of the "craft markets", or "tent cities" venders. These places can be scary! My wife got separated from us, and when I found her she was being pulled in ten different directions by people trying to get her into there "shop". These people wouldn't take No, for an answer. Just stay away. I do recommend you take a cab to the Pork Pit. excellent jerk chicken and shrimp- goes great with Red Stripe- Margaritaville is great too. Go down the slide and enjoy some time there. Grand Cayman was amazing. Clean, friendly, and expensive- but, who cares, we are on vacation-remember? We booked an excursion- Discover Cayman, Hell, turtle farm and Sting Ray city sandbar- I think it was put on by Kelly's. We did prepay on carnivals web site- it shows up on your statement as a credit. This was a great time- the turtle farm was awesome. Our driver Kirk took care of us- after a quick visit to Hell for a shot glass and a couple of pics, Kirk dropped us off on 7 mile beach for a few minutes to dip in the water and take some pics- simply beautiful. Then on to the sting rays- Everyone must do this at least once in their life- it was sooo cool standing waist deep in the clear water with 4-5 ft stingrays swimming all around you in the middle of the ocean. wow. This was my favorite day. Friday we were in Cozumel- we've been here before so we knew what to expect. Cozumel is the great compromise- the people are friendlier than in Jamaica, and the stuff is cheaper than in Grand Cayman. We ate at Sr Frogs and shopped downtown before we parked our butts at sunset beach (across from Villa Blanco) The kids snorkeled all afternoon, there were hundreds of tiny colorful fish everywhere. Equipment from Pap Hogs dive shop rented for $10 per person. Beer was cold and cheap. Saturday was depressing- it was almost over. Oh well. Overall an excellent trip- service was outstanding, staff was friendly and attentive. We tipped dining staff and our room steward extra at the end of the trip. PARENTS- if you travel with younger kids- PLEASE keep track of them or get them into camp carnival. There are no background checks done on guests aboard the ship. We don't know if there is a pedophile or a rapist in the next cabin. I was amazed at the amount of little kids ( approx 8-12 yrs old) just running around the ship at all hours of the night and day- screaming and stomping up and down the halls and stairways, not to mention clogging the elevators just riding them up and down. We said some things to a couple of groups of kids- some listened, some just laughed and dared us to do something about it. Again- either leave the kids at home with grand ma, or use camp carnival. Debarkation was fast- as before- we checked our luggage going, and self assisted on our way home. Customs was a bottle neck- but at least no one in our party got strip searched! I recommend this trip for people up to 50 yrs old. It has a party atmosphere and there is always something to watch, eat, drink, or participate in. Chris the cruise dir is awesome. Lot's of value for the dollar.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We flew into Seattle the night before embarkation and stayed at the Hampton Inn downtown. We reserved a van connected to the hotel for $10 a person to pick us up at the airport. The Hampton is located one block from a 24 hour QFC grocery ... Read More
We flew into Seattle the night before embarkation and stayed at the Hampton Inn downtown. We reserved a van connected to the hotel for $10 a person to pick us up at the airport. The Hampton is located one block from a 24 hour QFC grocery store which we used to get sandwiches, drinks and fried chicken from the deli area. The hotel let us use the microwave in the complimentary breakfast area to heat up the chicken and had outstanding front office staff and real comfy beds. The hotel is only a few blocks from Seattle Center, which has the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center, Key Arena, and the Sci-Fi and Music Building as its main attractions. There is also a monorail station there, which half of our group took the following morning to Pike Place Market downtown, about a 5 block walk from the downtown monorail station. The monorail costs $2 one way or $1 for seniors. The other half of us took the Duck Tour which is also only about 3 blocks from the Hampton. That was a lot of fun. Then about noon the hotel called 2 taxis for us and we went to Pier 91. The cost was $11 for each taxi, plus tip. Embarkation was quick and we were soon eating the buffet in the Lido restaurant. We liked the variety of food, especially the reuben sandwiches, and didn't miss having trays. Sometimes it was hard to find a table, but we always managed. Most of us usually ate breakfast there, although some of our group had room service for breakfast and enjoyed that. Most of the food at the buffet was served to you, after you told them which of the many choices you wanted. There were quite a few stations, so we didn't find many long lines. There was also a different type of outdoor barbeque each day and a late night snack buffet. Our group had 3 inside cabins, which were adequate and had comfy beds. The family of 4 had a quad, which was much bigger than the other two double rooms, with a pull-out sofa to sleep one child and a pull-down bunk which came over the big bed, so the people down below had to be careful they didn't bump their heads! The room was much bigger than the inside quads on either Norwegian or Carnival. The bathrooms had little jars of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and lotion. which they kept replenishing. The Westerdam is beautiful and very clean. Our favorite spot was the Crow's Nest area, which had comfy chairs, a panoramic view, a bar, sometimes a musical group, the computer area and the library. Sometimes trivia would be played up there, too. I would have liked the library to be in a quieter spot. There are many cozy nooks and crannies on this ship which are used for the 6 different music groups, cooking lessons, and digital workshops. Two pools are available , the more popular being the covered one. It never seemed to be overcrowded. We never made it to the spa area, but it looked inviting. Food was provided at the Pinnacle grill for $20 each. The main restaurant was the Vista, a 2story place. We had "any-time" dining which was what the first floor was used for. We sometimes made reservations early in the day for the 8 of us and sometimes just showed up. We never had to wait, maybe because we always ate by 6pm. We used the Vista for breakfast and lunch twice, and enjoyed the choices. We also liked the choices at dinner, and if you didn't they always offered "perfectly grilled" chicken, steak, Caesar salad, and Baked Alaska everyday and a couple other things. The sun was shining when we left , but by Wednesday, it was lightly raining and did so each day until we returned! Even though it rained and was in the 50's, we had a great time! Day 2 was spent at sea and the water was not too rough. Some of the activities we did were the sporting events at which you had a chance to earn "dam" dollars. My two grandkids ended up with over $100 and traded them in on the last day for a beach towel, a sweatshirt, a t-shirt and other things. A luggage tag cost $5. There was a Travel guide series on Alaska interspersed throughout the week, along with trivia challenges, the Casino, cooking classes, Bingo, Spa talks and art auctions to keep you busy. My grandkids, age 8 and 12, enjoyed the Club Hal, especially the "Amazing Race" and the scavenger hunt. That night was the Westerdam singers and dancers. Day 3 was in Glacier Bay. What a beautiful day! There was no rain or fog and it wasn't too cold, about 48. The ship was there from 10:30am til 8pm. One hour and a half was spent in front of Marjorie Glacier and there was quite a bit of calving, but nothing big. I liked being on the side of the ship near the top as it was a lot quieter than on the front of deck 4. There was an excellent talk by a Huna native and another by a Park ranger. There were just a few activities scheduled during the day, so all could experience the mystery and grandeur of the place. The movie shown that night at 10pm was "Crossing Over". The show was Joel Mason's tribute to Elton John, an excellent job. Day 4 was Juneau and that's where it started to drizzle. The movie shown at 1pm was "Seven Pounds". 4 of our group went to the Dog Musher's Camp and really enjoyed that. 2 went to the Native American canoe trip to Mendenhall Glacier. They got wet, but had a great time, too. My DH and I went to the Underground Gold Mine Tour and panned for gold. The tour was very informative, but I don't think I would go again. It was probably my least favorite of the 4 tours I did. Julie Barr was the comedian for the show that night and she was funny. Day 5 was Sitka, this was my favorite stop. 4 of us went on the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest, which I recommend. We were the first tour and were picked up right at the ship, so we did not have to tender in. We saw seals on the rocks, lots of sea otters up close, a whale, a deer, and eagles. They provide you with binoculars, warm drinks and salmon. When we returned we met up with the other 4 and walked around Sitka. I especially recommend walking to the Aquarium, which is free for donations, and then walking through the National Historical Park, which has 28 hand carved totem poles scattered throughout. It is a place full of majestic tall trees, and immense quiet and is free unless you go inside. 3 of us walked on to the Rapture Center and saw and learned about the injured birds there. There is a charge. I think it was $12 for adults and $6 for kids and is mostly touring by yourself. The ship offered a new tour for $29 each which included a30 minute tour of the Rapture Center and then of the town, which might have been a good idea. We then took a taxi back into town for $7 and went to St Michael's Cathedral, with our free pass from the Otter Tour and shopped around. That night was our 2nd formal night and at 10:30 was the Dessert Buffet, loaded with lots of tempting desserts! I forgot to mention that there was mass everyday at 5pm. The singers and dancers performed again. Day 6 Ketchikan We were here from 7 am to 12:30pm. It was still drizzling, but my DH and I went on the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour and enjoyed that very much. The only disappointment was that we could not get the eagles to come down and eat the fish thrown on the water. Hot drinks, waterproof jackets and a bite to eat on the way back were all available. 2 in our group had booked a flight plane with Family Air to Misty Fiords, but it was cancelled, which was a big disappointment. They went on the Duck Tour instead and said it was okay. 2 others went on the zip line with the big slide and loved it. The other 2 just walked around town. That night we had the movie "Pink Panther2" and the Kid's Talent Show, in addition to Mike Robinson, the ventriloquist. Day 7 Victoria. We arrived on time at 6pm and had to be back on board at 11:30. DH and I took the ship's tour to Butchart Gardens. It took 45 minutes to get there and shortly afterwards it began raining and didn't stop. They handed out free plastic umbrellas, the gardens were beautiful, but the rain and the busloads of people made it too crowded. (There were a few other ships in port, too). They had fireworks at 9:45, but we gave up and went back to the bus. The rest of our group went into town to look around, but didn't stay long. Sunday we docked right at 7am. We all had signed up for the express walk-off, which they called right on time at 7:45am. We left about 8am, walked right out and 6 went in 2 taxicabs right to the airport. Fare was $43 plus tip and were through security by 9:15 and had lots of time for their 10:55 am flight. DH and I took a taxi back to the Hampton Inn downtown for $9 plus tip and left our luggage there, which they had said was okay when we left the week before. Then we took the monorail downtown and went to Pike Place Market for the 10:30 Classics tour done by Savor Seattle Food Tours, which was excellent. We had 10 stops along the 2 hour tour and had something to taste at each stop, enough for a meal! Then we took an Argosy boat tour of the harbor, went back on the monorail and then explored the Sci-fi and Music building. We were not too impressed with the Sci-fi, even though my DH is a fan of that stuff, but the music half was interesting. You could even go into a booth and do your own CD, for $10. Then we picked up our luggage and took a shuttle from the Hampton for $40, back to the airport for our 10:55 pm flight. All in all we had a great week and I would return in a heartbeat! We all enjoyed the Westerdam! Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We sailed Carnival Miracle on July 19 out of NYC to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau. This was our 10th cruise, all on Carnival, so I thought I'd highlight in this review our experience as Platinum cruisers. What I'll do ... Read More
We sailed Carnival Miracle on July 19 out of NYC to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau. This was our 10th cruise, all on Carnival, so I thought I'd highlight in this review our experience as Platinum cruisers. What I'll do is a day-by-day review followed by some general thoughts about the ship and the cruise - and what we liked about being Platinum. About us: DH and I are in our late 40's and sailed with two of our three sons, ages 13 and 9. This was our first cruise without our oldest son, who already started his studies at the United States Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island. He wants to be a ship's engineering officer. So while we were sailing the Atlantic and the Caribbean, he was learning to navigate the Long Island Sound and the East River. We sent him a postcard from the Bahamas. Hopefully he'll be able to join us for a cruise sometime again - after all, he would be Platinum as well! Embarkation: We drive to NYC and park at the pier for sailings out of New York, since we live about 2 hours north of the city. This was a Sunday, and the GW Bridge and West Side Highway were not crowded (although we were very thankful not to be continuing on the Cross Bronx, which we've been doing to go to USMMA. I've decided that there is never a good time to drive the Cross Bronx.) A warning for those who like to drop off their luggage with the porters and then park: the parking entrance is at the beginning of the pier complex, so if you want to drop off your luggage you will pass the parking entrance, drop off luggage, then exit onto 12th Avenue and loop around to re-enter the pier complex and go to the parking entrance. That's what we ended up doing. It's a little more inconvenient, but the luggage is out of the way. Once on the pier, we went through the regular security line, then entered the VIP line for Platinum and suite passengers. They direct you to a separate VIP room to check in and get Sail and Sign cards, then direct you past the regular check-in to board the ship. The whole boarding process took us all of about 20 minutes. We arrived at the pier around 11:45 and were on board a little after 12. Not bad. Of course, I managed to mess up the online registration - DH didn't have charging privileges on his Sail and Sign card - so our first stop was the Purser's (excuse me - Guest Services) desk, where we were able to wait in the "concierge guest" line - not that we bypassed anyone, but the special line was a nice touch. Second stop was the shore excursion desk to get a cabana at Half Moon Cay. I would recommend that you don't wait to do this - there are 15 cabanas, and they go quickly. After that, up to the Lido deck and lunch. My one (minor) disappointment with embarkation day was sailaway. We were scheduled to sail at 4, but ended up not sailing until close to 5. Since we had early dining, we barely made it under the bridge before we went to dinner. I was hoping to be able to be up on one of the high decks to go under the bridge, then go back to the cabin and get changed for dinner. Not a big deal, but in six cruises out of NYC I think we've actually sailed on time (or even close to on time) only once. After dinner, we registered the kids for Camp Carnival/Circle C, then paid another visit to the Purser's desk to ask that the divider between our balconies be opened. You have to go to the Purser's desk on Spirit-class ships instead of simply asking your cabin steward because there is a special clamp needed to fasten the divider to the balcony and they have to notify Maintenance. No problem - we were added to the list, and by 10 a.m. the next morning the divider was opened. Then off to "Funship Trivia" in the main lounge. All of the questions were about Carnival ships (e.g., "What was the first cruise ship to exceed 100,000 tons? Answer: Carnival Destiny.") I won the ship on a stick with only 10 right out of 20 - guess all those past guest parties paid off! We then went to listen to "Music Unlimited" in Frankie and Johnnie's lounge. No "Welcome Aboard" show for us - younger son was too tired, so off to bed. Sea Day 1: Breakfast on the Lido deck, then sons went off to kids' activities. DH and I went for one of our favorite cruise experiences: getting a specialty coffee and sitting on the Promenade deck playing gin rummy. There was an arts and crafts session going on near the coffee bar - needlepoint lanyards for the sail and sign cards. I came back to the afternoon session to make one. I wished I had brought my needlework scissors - it's not easy doing needlepoint without scissors! The Captain's party was before dinner in the Phantom (main show) lounge - drinks were still on the house, no food. Most men wore jacket/tie, women's wear ran the gamut from gowns to nice "Sunday" dresses and pantsuits. The evening's show was "Swinging with the Big Band," Christopher Alan Graves' tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. We saw him perform three years ago on Legend, and it was worth seeing him again. He had some changes to the show. After the show, we went to see Music Unlimited again - however, they took a break within a few minutes of our arrival, so we tried the piano bar. We've sailed with Peter before and like him a lot, but it sure was tough trying to get a crowd in the piano bar. The piano bar is in a really lousy location on the Spirit-class ships. Peter even skipped breaks in the hope of getting people in there, but there were never more than a handful of people. He had much a much bigger, livelier crowd when we saw him on Victory. Sea Day 2: This day was gray and somewhat rough as we sailed off Cape Hatteras. I think there were a whole lot of folks from New York thinking, "Oh no....we just left a month and a half of rain...is it following us?" At least it didn't rain too much, but I've seen nicer sea days. This was the day they brought us the canapE plate for being Platinum cruisers. They were all very good - prosciutto-wrapped melon, smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers on a baguette, shrimp/cucumber, and stuffed tomatoes. And since we had two cabins, we had two sets of canapEs. We went to Nick and Nora's for dinner this evening. I really like the supper clubs on these ships - the two-story restaurant with the funnel skylight is very well done. And as usual the food was wonderful. I went for the beef carpaccio, which I had never tried before, the Caesar salad, the surf and turf, and the chocolate trio dessert. As much as I tried, I still couldn't finish the dessert. Grand Turk: We docked and found...that it was cloudy and drizzling. Since we didn't have any plans, we took our time getting off the ship and walking over to the beach. We had no problem finding beach chairs, but as the morning went on (and the weather improved) and more and more people came over to the beach, the chairs started getting scarce. I wasn't crazy about the beach area - the beach itself was nice, but the sea bottom was very rocky and the water was loaded with seaweed. Right next to the beach is Margaritaville, a pool, and the Flow Rider, all of which were very crowded. We went back to the ship in time for lunch onboard. It was all okay, but I think if we go back we'll book an excursion or find a different part of the island to visit. Half Moon Cay: Without a doubt, the best beach I have ever visited. Absolutely gorgeous. Since we had booked a cabana, we were able to go ashore on the first tender. (I assume we could have used the first tender because we're Platinum, but I couldn't say for sure.) It's not a long tender ride. When you arrive, there's a small "island village," a kids' playground and waterpark. Down the beach are plenty of loungers, clamshells, a couple of bars, and the cabanas. Lots of water rentals, like kayaks, tubes, hobie cats, and sunfish sailboats. We had Cabana 11, a long way down the beach. To me, the cabana was well worth the cost ($225 for the day): we had the shade of the cabana, a table with four chairs, two cushioned loungers, a misting fan, a shower, an air conditioner, four water floats, and four sets of snorkel gear. For snacks, we had eight sodas, a large bottle of water, tortilla chips with salsa/guacamole/sour cream, a fruit plate, oranges, and veggies with dip. All the food is brought over from the ship. The beach itself has some of the softest sand you can imagine (the only other beach that came close in my mind is Starfish Beach on Grand Cayman) and the water is gorgeous. Lunch is served at a picnic pavilion behind the beach area - salads, hot dogs/hamburgers, jerk chicken, cookies and brownies. Given the food in the cabana, we really didn't need much for lunch! Around 3:00, we decided to wrap things up and head back to the ship. We didn't have much of a wait for a tender. The evening 's show was "Generations," one of the two production shows. It was pretty good - not my favorite, but entertaining. It's a series of numbers from the 50's to the 90's. Nassau: We were in Nassau in February aboard Glory, so we knew about the gamut of taxi drivers, tour operators and hair braiders that awaited us. Last time we visited Nassau, we walked around, went to Pirates of Nassau, and went to Sunday Mass at St. Francis Cathedral. This time we booked the Blackbeard's Cay with Stingrays excursion through Carnival. This was a fun way to spend a day in Nassau. There's a ½ hour ride to Blackbeard's (on the same island as Sandals Resort). When we arrived, we went over to a beach to the side of the main beach, where you do the stingray snorkel. If you have kids who aren't yet comfortable with snorkeling, this beach is a great way to introduce them. It's shallow and calm. Our youngest had never done very well with snorkeling until now, but he had a great time at this beach. And aside from the stingrays, we found plenty of other fish to view. One of the staff came out with food for the stingrays - you just have to be careful that the fish don't get the food before the rays! They don't set a time limit on your snorkeling, but after a while we went over to the main beach area. This excursion comes with lunch - hamburger/hot dog, chips and a soda. Then back on the boat to Nassau. We didn't do too much else in Nassau - a little shopping, that was about it. Third sea day: Another lazy day. This morning was the Platinum cruisers' galley tour. There was only DH and me plus one other couple, with the tour led by an assistant Maitre'D. It wasn't much different from the main tour, but it was more personalized. This was the second formal (excuse me - "elegant") night - not nearly as dressy as the first, but people still dressed well. The Platinum plate of petit-fours arrived before dinner - as nice as the canapEs, but too close to dinner for us. The evening's show was "Ticket to Ride," a Beatles tribute, and we really enjoyed this show. This evening also was the Camp Carnival super-late night party for the 9-11 year olds, so youngest son was up until 3:30 in the morning, long after we went to bed. Surprisingly, he got up at 8:00 the next morning. Last sea day: Our luggage tags arrived for disembarkation with the #1 for Platinum cruisers, along with instructions on where to meet to be escorted off the ship. The ship crawled on her way back to NYC - at one point, we were doing 5 knots! Obviously we had much more time than we needed. DH worked on packing, while I spent most of my afternoon keeping tabs on youngest son and a friend from Camp Carnival who made the rounds of pools, hot tubs, and waterslide. They closed the balcony dividers that afternoon in preparation for the return to NYC. After dinner, one last round of lounges for music. Debarkation: Captain Marchetti said we would dock at 7:10 a.m. and he was pretty much on the nose. Triumph was ahead of us and there was enough of a breeze/current to make docking interesting - both ships needed the tugboats' efforts to push them into line with the piers. Since we put our luggage out the night before, we had instructions to meet in Frankie and Johnnie's at 9 a.m. to be escorted off the ship with the other Platinum passengers. It all worked like a charm - at 9:10 we were in line to disembark, we breezed through customs and immigration (the agent was fine with our three bottles of alcohol - no extra charge), picked up our luggage (once again, the pick duct tape on the suitcases served its purpose), and we were in our car and on the way home by 9:40. Cabin: We originally booked one of the deck 5 balconies with an adjoining inside cabin for the boys. Then we had the chance to switch to two connecting deck 5 balconies and went for it. And then, about 6 weeks before sailing, DH received a call offering two adjoining (not connecting) suites for an additional $500 for the four of us. Twist my arm.... The cabins were great; since we had the balcony divider opened, we had our connecting cabins anyway. Our steward was Japhet and he was absolutely wonderful. Dining: Up to now, I thought the dining rooms on Victory were the ugliest dining rooms afloat. I hated the mermaids. Well, the mermaids pale in comparison to the Bacchus dining room on Miracle. It's...purple. I mean, really purple. This definitely was my "What was Farcus thinking?" space on this ship. Fortunately, I don't cruise for the dEcor. We had a four-top booth near (not next to) a portside window, the closest we've made it to a window yet. Our servers, Katalin and Mlosevic, were terrific. I think Katalin has all the skills to move up to assistant maitre'd - she knew the food and the wine, and she was very personable. And the food was generally very good. The Lido deck food was fine for breakfast and lunch. Entertainment: One of my biggest complaints about Spirit-class ships is the entertainment space, and I noticed it on this cruise. First and foremost, the piano lounge location stinks. I read on the piano bar thread that a lot of performers refuse contracts on Spirit-class ships, and I can understand why. Peter is a good entertainer, and he put his heart and soul into getting people into the piano bar - but it's on deck 3 near the chapel. It just isn't in a place to attract a crowd. By contrast, Music Unlimited was one deck below and had no problem with an audience - and they had an uncanny knack of taking a break just when the crowds were gathering. (I liked them, BTW - it just seemed that every time I went to see them I'd get one or two songs, and then they'd take a break - and their filler was a Brittney Spears video or the like, which just sends me fleeing.) Another example of bad space was the Jeeves Lounge on deck 2 - on the second sea day, the ship's orchestra gave a great big band concert, but the orchestra was placed on a stage on the other side of a walkway from the dining room, so while we were in the lounge trying to enjoy the performance we had lot of people walking between us and the band. Not their fault - just a lousy set-up. Cruise Director: Josh "Big Sexy" Waitzman was serving as cruise director on this sailing. I liked him, but thought he had way too many announcements of events. To my mind, a cruise director should make three general announcements: One in the morning to let people know of things happening before lunch, one after lunch to advise of afternoon activities, and one after dinner to let people know the evening activities. Josh doubled up on the announcements - it's just not needed. Platinum status: So what did we get by virtue of being Platinum? For us, the best perk was the free laundry. And we did take advantage - during the week, we filled five of those bags that go for $15 apiece if you're sending laundry out to be done. Before, we spent a day putting clothes through the coin-operated laundries. The free laundry was worth its weight in gold - we put the laundry out in the morning, and when we returned from dinner that evening it was back in our cabin, washed dried and folded. Can't beat it. The canapEs and petit fours were nice - very tasty. Loved the VIP boarding and debarkation - they took care of us. Our free gift was silver-colored picture frames - I'm sure we'll use them. Overall, a great cruise (but then, we haven't had a bad cruise yet). Our next cruise is a 7-day on Conquest out of Galveston in February, but then we're considering what we do next summer. Maybe Pride out of Baltimore - we really would like to go back to Half moon Cay! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My husband and I traveled to Alaska this July with my sister and her husband; my second trip/cruise and their first. Our vacation started out in Anchorage on July 15th. We flew from Sacramento to Seattle then on to Anchorage and arrived in ... Read More
My husband and I traveled to Alaska this July with my sister and her husband; my second trip/cruise and their first. Our vacation started out in Anchorage on July 15th. We flew from Sacramento to Seattle then on to Anchorage and arrived in the early afternoon. The airport was quite busy as people were arriving for several different cruise lines and all checking-in close together. After a short wait, the Princess outfitters were very helpful and got us on the correct bus to the downtown hotels. We stayed at the Captain Cook hotel and were pleased with the accommodations. We had time to explore the city a little, see a film about the Northern Lights at the Community Center, and eat dinner at the Brew House. The next morning we took a one hour trolley tour of the city (very informative) and saw a mother moose with her calf off the side of the road. Around noon we left on a bus for the Kenai Princess Lodge. The two and a half hour coach trip was comfortable and scenic. We stayed two nights at the Kenai Princess Lodge. Our adjoining rooms were very comfortable. The wood burning stove is a quaint touch. We fired it up the first night but the fan was noisy and we were warmer than I prefer, so a fire for one night was enough. Our only complaint was that they did not provide coffee makers in the rooms; having said that, the staff was pleasant and accommodating. The lodge does provide, though, transportation around the grounds. All we had to do was to call the front desk for a van that would take us to/from our building (a little bit of a hike up a hill) or down to/up from the river (a rather steep road). Having the choice to either ride or walk was a nice luxury. The lodge itself is rustic and beautiful. We enjoyed the game and book selection, free internet, and the coffee bar. And we had dinner both nights at the informal bar (great music). We chose not to take any excursions at Kenai, but next time I would choose to take the Kenai Fjords tour because of the abundance of wildlife that can be seen from the boat. The two and a half hour coach ride to the ship (July 18th) was pretty and the tunnel was fun. Embarkation in Whittier was smooth and quick. There was no-one there taking embarkation photos which was fine with us since it was rainy and we were anxious to board and get settled. The Sapphire Princess is as beautiful as the Diamond (the sister ship), but I did notice a couple of small differences in the layout especially in the placement of the restaurants (dining rooms) and the casino. The similarity helped me keep my bearings (most of the time). We had side-by-side balcony rooms on the Caribe deck (10), mid-ship on the starboard side. We used our balconies a lot! Our room steward, Ronaldo, opened the door between our balconies, brought us fresh fruit, ice for our coolers, plush bathrobes and slippers, egg crates for the beds and deck blankets. He was attentive to our coming and going and made up the rooms while we were out. Our first full day out (College Fjord day), we met in the early afternoon with members of our Cruise Critic roll call at the Skywalkers Lounge. We talked for a couple of hours. Princess had set an area aside for us to sit and talk (with the bar handy for those who wanted to order drinks). The young people (teens through young 20s) formed their own "meet and greet" and forged friendships that lasted the rest of the cruise. We chose "anytime dining" and ate in a different restaurant every night. Each restaurant had its own "feel" and nearly all of our waiters were excellent and the rest were pretty good! On "Italian night" (Skagway) we had the Ultimate Balcony Dinner (for four) and it was fantastic! I highly recommend it. The dinner and service were worth much more than the $100/couple cost (plus $20 tip). Alphonso, the room service supervisor, is worth his weight in gold and Angel our server made our dinner a very special event. I have never felt so pampered! Formal nights are a little hectic but it is so fun to see everyone all dressed up. Portrait backdrops are set up all over the atrium area and with no sitting fees, we moved from backdrop to backdrop and had lots of pictures to choose from at the end of the cruise! We ate late (8ish) every night and only made reservations twice. It was difficult to get into the Vivaldi dining room without reservations because it opens late (it accommodates traditional dining for first seating), and the last night of the cruise the dining rooms were packed. I recommend reservations if you want window seating or specific waiters. We ordered room service for breakfast (I wrote in bagels and lox on the card), and went to the buffet, grill or pizzeria for lunch. Twice we had lunch in the dining room (International) and we only made it to tea once. I guess that was for the best, tea that day was not very relaxed. The doors opened at 3:30 to a small crowd of us, we were seated, served and cleaned up by 4:10. I felt guilty asking for another half cup of tea when they so obviously wanted to clear out the dining room. It was no problem since there were so many other areas on the ship where we could linger and visit and we did try tea only the one day. After much thought, we decided to forgo the soda cards and drink ice tea (and lemonade upon request) instead. This worked out well for us and a little cheaper (no charge for ice tea!). My sister and I did buy coffee cards and I was very glad that we did! The lattes were great. We were quite happy, but my husband never did get a good cup of coffee even when we asked for "brewed" with the coffee card. We found the room service coffee was the most drinkable. We purchased (in Anchorage) and brought on board, bloody mary mix (for virgin bloody marys), champagne (for mimosas), and Saint Pauli Girl non-alcoholic beer. This saved us a hefty bar tab for our non-alcoholic drinks. Our room steward brought us ice daily and we ordered orange juice and tomato juice daily with our breakfasts and kept them in the refrigerator. We went to a few shows and really enjoyed them. The dance production show was fun and the comedians were funny. We also enjoyed watching the finals of the Princess Idol competition especially since the winner was someone we had met through our cruise critic roll call! On our last sea day (inside passage), we met up again with our roll call group and went on a "cabin crawl." It was fun touring each different type of room and getting to know each other a little better and sharing our cruise experiences. (Maybe next time a suite!) Our excursions included the White Pass railroad in Skagway and shopping in town (the movie in the train station was fun also); Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching in Juneau (we saw humpbacks and orcas!); and in Ketchikan two went zip lining, one went on a Harley motorcycle tour and I stayed on board the ship and enjoyed the empty pools and hot tubs in the rain and read my library book! The consensus: zipline and motorcycle tour were great but would have been even greater in nicer weather—all-in-all, we got to see Ketchikan just like it is advertised—wet! The seven night cruise was too short! We disembarked in Vancouver on the 25th and stayed two nights at the Westin Bayshore. We had intended to buy a two day ticket for the Hop-on Hop-off trolley, but due to an unpleasant trolley experience, went with a HOHO coach company instead (combo driver narrative and video). It had a little different route, but restrooms on the bus, large windows, air conditioning, and cushy seats and a bus stopped right at our hotel every half hour. We had purchased the Vancouver entertainment book and got more than our $15 back on the horse drawn carriage tour through Stanley Park, the Lookout, and the IMAX theatre two-for-one tickets. We ate at Carderos (across the street), White Spot (up one block), the restaurant downstairs at our hotel, and The Spaghetti Factory in Gastown (only so-so food with not-so-good service—but a great setting). In Vancouver we heard that our ship had brought a whale into port. We saw it on the news but we were not aware of it on disembarkation. We were relieved to find out later that it was either sick/dying or already dead when the ship hit it. Since the weather was off and on, we used the HOHO to explore the city instead of going to Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge like we had originally planned. That leaves those sights for a future trip. I was disappointed that the weather was poor and such huge crowds were expected for the Celebration of Lights fireworks show/competition on Saturday the 25th (South Africa). We had dinner at the hotel instead and went to our rooms. We were rewarded by a spectacular sunset and lightning storm that lasted for hours then crowned by the fireworks shooting up in the distance reflected in the glass skyscrapers all seen from the balcony of our room. A life memory to be sure. We spent the day coming home on the 27th. An early morning flight insured a fairly quick customs experience but flying home was not nearly as much fun as going. Oh well, back to reality. This review does not do our trip justice! This was my second trip to Alaska with Princess and I could do it many more times before running out of fun things to try and see. We were all thrilled with the service, the food, the entertainment and the accommodations. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Though I'm writing some, I can provide many more details of our experience than I am writing if you have specific questions. Drop me a note if you have specific questions, I'll be happy to answer. We have often spent many of ... Read More
Though I'm writing some, I can provide many more details of our experience than I am writing if you have specific questions. Drop me a note if you have specific questions, I'll be happy to answer. We have often spent many of our summers (we live in the U.S.) in "warmer climates and temperatures", it was certainly nice to spend it in an area which possesed "coolness" during the month of July. Though we have not previously visited the British Isles, we were hoping for cool temps and lots of green. We were not disappointed! Before I mention about our port stops and itinerary, let me start with the Crown Princess itself. This was our 2nd cruise on the Crown as we loved it so much last summer in the Mediteranian. So, we decided to take advantage on the same ship but on a different itinerary. Again, we were pleased. We chose an inside cabin on this cruise on purpose. We knew that this itinerary would bring us cool, windy, rainy, and cloudy weather. Therefore, spending the extra for an outside cabin in which we would rarly use the deck and porch, didn't make sense. We'll save those cabins for our Caribbean, Tahiti, and Hawaiian Cruises - all of which we've been on. We were glad for the inside cabin and savings. It WAS cool, windy, cloudy, rainy, etc. etc. much of the itinerary. The ship is a newer ship in the fleet so it "does" look new inside and out. It is very well kept and clean. Our cabin steward was excellent and our cabin well attended. Upon arrival, we had a couple requests and they were met within 30 minutes. One thing I have noticed in over 10 years of many cruises, is the ships have cut back the number of personnel over the last couple years - I'm sure like most company's. Therefore, working on these larger ships with 3,000+ passengers, it becomes quite a chore to meet the needs of all passengers in a timely manner. That being said, there were times that service was slow in many areas of the ship and during some specific times such as...dinner, and sea days (when ALL passengers are on the ship at the same time). In some instances, you are able to see the "crew" getting frustrated due to handling large quantities of people and requests during those times. However, we understood the situation, and didn't let it get to us. There hard working people and they really are trying hard to make ALL of our holiday's and vacations and excellent experience. A couple notables that I thought were BIG DEALS that all should take note were...the buffet on sea days and the internet cafe room on the last day and evening. Again, when ALL 3,000+ passengers are on board at once and trying to eat at the same time, you can imagine what the buffet is like. The buffet during mid-late mornings on sea days are to be avoided. It was quite a fiasco and quite crazy on both of our sea days. VERY, VERY crowded and no place to sit and eat. It was a mess. Also, It seemed like EVERYONE wanted to print out there post-cruise flight boarding passes on the last evening and it was making the internet cafe a crowded mess, the guy working very frustrated, and the computers were VERY slow during that time. Again, something to keep in mind on that last day of the cruise. Other than that, we were very, very pleased with our cruise ship and the service. Now, a quick review of the itinerary...Again, we were pleased. We had not visited this area of the world and we were glad we did. We were pleased with all the ports and what they had to offer. We DID take the ships advertised tours on most of the port stops. Sure, many were expensive, but they were also worth the expense as well. The only thing we noticed about the Princess tours was that some would place you in a "rushed" situation. You were trying to get so much in, in such a small amount of time. Since many of the tours take you well away from the port, much of the time is traveling on busses and once you reach the intended destination, it seemed as though there wasn't nearly the amount of time you were thinking there would be. So, at times, though we went and saw what we intended, we felt "jipped" on time at the location. Also, on this itinerary, MANY (if not most) of the ports, were not within walking distance of the "town". So, for many ports, you did need some sort of transportation if you wanted to explore off ship on your own. At some ports, shuttle busses were offered. Sometimes the ship would advertise these and sometimes they would not until you actually ported and found out for yourself that you could have taken a "shuttle into town" rather than spend money on a tour. The one tour that was expensive but probably the most well attended was that of the Normandy Beaches in France. We went on that and so did 9 other busses of people from our ship. WOW!! It was great and well worth the money! All-in-all, we had a wonderful vacation. We would definitely cruise with Princess and the Crown Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
First on the Oosterdam herself. We found it to be a fabulous ship! The staff was very friendly, courteous and helpful. My wife and daughter enjoyed the shows (I enjoyed the casino). We found the meals to be very good. We ate one ... Read More
First on the Oosterdam herself. We found it to be a fabulous ship! The staff was very friendly, courteous and helpful. My wife and daughter enjoyed the shows (I enjoyed the casino). We found the meals to be very good. We ate one dinner and one lunch at Pinnacle as well as a couple dinners in Lido. I do have a confession; prior to this cruise we had always done late fixed seating. On this cruise we had to do "anytime dining". We will always sign up for ATD for future cruises. We could eat when we wanted, we never had a wait. We had rotating guests to eat with which is a good thing for us and them on a 12 day cruise. We met many delightful people from Holland, New Zealand, Canada, Slovakia, Ireland, California and England at dinner and never had a bad experience. We would usually show up around 7:00 and every time were seated immediately. Another pleasant surprise for me was smoking. I assumed that it would be worse than US-based cruises since this cruise had so many Europeans on board. I found it to be just the opposite. The casino was almost smoke-free (not due to HAL rules). We did have a serious accident aboard the Oosterdam after we had left Kusadasi. Two crew members were injured, one very seriously so the ship had to divert back to Turkey in the middle of the night. The Captain gave us daily updates and one crew member was able to rejoin the ship during our cruise with the other crew member out of danger (but still in the hospital) by the time the cruise ended. We were very glad they were getting better and fully understood the need to take them back to Turkey. The disembarkation in Venice was the best I have ever experienced. We did the self-disembarkation. They announced we could leave a few minutes before 7:00 am and we were off, in a taxi and at the airport by 7:20. Unbelievable! I would say there did not appear to be a large number of taxis at the port that morning, maybe ten so someone behind us may have had to wait. Day one - Venice We had pulled an overnighter from Philadelphia with US Air and touched down in Venice at around 10:30 a.m. We were supposed to arrive at 9:00 but thunderstorms in Philly had delayed our departure by two hours. Arrival was non-eventful as we gathered our luggage and cleared customs by approximately 11:00. We grabbed a taxi outside (38 euros) and were deposited at the front of the cruise terminal within 20 minutes. HAL had baggage porters out front and we walked all of 20 feet with our bags before they were whisked away by the porters. There was very little in the way of signage as to where to go next but we quickly figured out that we needed to go upstairs in the cruise terminal. HAL was ready for us in a large hall with refreshments and a short wait until check-in opened up. We were on the ship by noon eating a nice lunch in Lido. After lunch we began our tour of Venice by walking to Piazzale Roma. It is not a bad walk, about 20 minutes but is up and down some bridges and crossing a traffic circle until you arrive at a very busy plaza. The walk is not marked so you have to kind of know the general direction to go. Piazzale Roma is full of activity but we were able to locate the ACTV ticket outlet pretty easy, just look for the bright blue signs near the water. The ticket window for the vaporetto is on the outside of the office, bus tickets are inside. We purchased three 36 hour passes (I had brought some euros with us but ATMs were readily available). Passes in hand we walked a few 100 feet to the loading platform for the vaporetto. I had done enough research to know we wanted route 2 (we were headed to Accademia) as it was quicker (less stops) than route 1. I was proud we were able to figure out which platform to get on and within minutes a vaporetto began loading. It took about a minute for me to realize that while we where in fact on the correct route, we were in fact going the wrong way! Not a big deal as we just got off and got on the correct way but pay attention to the little maps they post on the boarding stations, they show which way the route is headed! Once at Accademia we disembarked and found our way to the front door. It was here we experienced something that we found to be true throughout our visit to Venice, a lack of crowds. Don't get me wrong, St. Mark's Square was not empty but we had been prepared for long lines and there were none. We walked right in to Accademia with no wait at all. Once we were done there we headed over to St. Mark's Square were we got in a line that was about 50 feet long but it only took 5-10 minutes and we were inside. We had already stored our knapsack at Ateneo San Basso around the corner so we got by the fashion police with no problem. It was so non-crowded that when we paid to enter the treasury in the basilica there were only three other people inside! What an awesome experience. By this time jet lag was taking hold (I had slept like a rock on the flight thanks to Ambien but my wife and daughter were starting to look like zombies) so we headed back to Oosterdam and an early dinner and some sleep. Day 2 - Venice After a good night sleep and breakfast we were back at it by 9:00. HAL provided a free bus to Piazzale Roma so we rode that over and were back on the vaporetto by 9:15. Our morning goal was Doge's Palace. Again upon arrival at St. Mark's Square we were surprised by the lack of lines for the palace. We bought tickets and got in within a few minutes. All I can say about the palace is wow! It turned out to be our favorite place in Venice. We spent well over two hours touring its rooms, courtyards and prison. By that time we were getting hungry so we headed off in search of a restaurant I had found on the internet called Trattoria da Remigio. We walked and walked through the winding streets of Venice with no luck so we finally turned around, no sooner did we do that than realized we had walked right by the restaurant a few minutes earlier. Turned out they were closed for another 45 minutes so we opted for Trattiria da Giorgio, right around the corner which was very good, nice atmosphere also, right on one of the side canals. After lunch we headed to Ca' Del Sol and Atelier Marega for a Venetian mask for my daughter. Wonderful mask shops if anyone is interested, they are about a 10 minute walk from St. Mark's Square but well worth the diversion. From that point we began a shopper's dream (not mine) of a walk to the Rialto Bridge stopping at what seemed to me, every shop along the way. Once at Rialto, more shops and then a walk to Frari Church. This is a fascinating church, a Franciscan church built around 1250 AD. From there, back to the vaporetto and the Oosterdam. Day 3 - Venice I really considered this a sea day as we departed from port at 10:00 am. Not much you can do in Venice that early and still catch the ship. Turns out the ship had to wait due to the Festa de la Redentore festival which was held over the weekend (we wondered if this affected the crowds, maybe everyone went to the festival?). Part of the festival included a pontoon bridge across the Giudecca Canal. This could not be removed before 10:00am. The sail away from Venice has got to be the most awesome in the world. From the upper decks you get a magnificent view of the city, its buildings and all the canals. Day 5 - Athens I had arranged for Jordan Ntaioglou (jordantaxi52@hotmail.com) to take us to the sights in Athens. Jordan provides the transportation as well as a lot of insight into the history of Athens and Greece but does not accompany you inside any of the sights. We found Jordan to be a delight; he is very passionate about his work and wants his guests to leave Athens with an understanding of its history. The stops included the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum (this was fantastic!), Hadrian's Arch, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Temple of Zeus, The Tower of the Winds, St. George's Church, the President's Palace (including the changing of the guards) and the Panathenaic Stadium. A full day to say the least. Jordan also took us to a local taverna for lunch, To Oaronoteion; it turned out to be the best meal of our trip. My daughter claims it is the best lunch of her life! For dessert, Jordan went across the street and got us some baklava, awesome! We also spent about one hour in Plaka shopping where a vendor kept trying to sell my daughter a "gift for her future husband". I was afraid to ask what that might be! Day 6 - Istanbul We had decided to do Istanbul on our own and no sooner had the ship docked around 4:00 pm than we were off. We had docked further away from the Galata Bridge than I had anticipated and when exiting the ship you had to travel toward New District in order to get out of the secured port, kinda of a pain as it took us 20 minutes just to get to the main street. Once there we were in search of an ATM and Turkish Lira. I had been mildly concerned on this aspect as the tram required lira but found that ATMs are everywhere in Istanbul. In fact, I am not sure you are every out of sight of one. We queued up at the ATM with a few other Oosterdam adventurers and met up with Susan from Cruise Critic. Susan and her lovely daughters Caroline and Ti were schedule to go with us on our private tour in Kusadasi. It became kind of funny as throughout the remainder of the cruise; we seemed to run into Susan everywhere we went. On this occasion we hooked up and figured out how to buy tickets to the tram (there is a little office at each stop that sells them) and rode into the old town on the tram disembarking at Sultanhamet stop. Here is where we got our first lesson in dealing with Turkish vendors. We were all (Susan's group and my group) heading to the Hagia Sophia on the outside chance we could still get in when a friendly man started chatting with us, you know "where are you from, O' I have been there" kind of stuff. He told us we had missed the Hagia Sophia for the day but the Blue Mosque was still open. As we headed to the mosque he stuck right with us, chatting the whole time. He was quite helpful in explaining about the Muslim practices of worship, things like the separation of men and woman in the mosque, the washing of hands and feet etc. He showed us to the door, helped us get bags to store our shoes, all in all very helpful. Well, Susan and I were not dummies, we suspected there would be a catch to all this and with hardly any planning we split our group up with the intent of losing our benefactor in the mosque. After about 15-20 minutes I felt it was safe to go outside as I had not seen "our friend" for some time. Well as soon as we exit, guess who was waiting? As I am putting my shoes back on he begins telling me about his store, a rug shop and that I must see it and we can go there right now, it is right around the corner. Well I was not going and just told him we needed to meet some people and walked off. From that point forward anytime someone tried to engage us in a conversation we just did not respond. The Turkish vendors are pretty aggressive in talking to you but we found ignoring them to work pretty well. After the mosque we headed over to the Hippodrome and Underground Cistern, a very interesting place, plus it is naturally cool. By this time it was around 6:00 so we decide to get back on the tram and head to the Grand Bazaar (Cemberlitas stop). What a crazy place, vendors selling what appeared to me to be the same as the stall next door. How do they sell anything? They certainly try their hardest but I escaped relatively unharmed. From there it was back on the tram and back to the ship. One item of note, particularly late in the day is that Turkish men have different hygiene practices than Americans. The use of certain products appears to be optional and on the tram ride back it was quite obvious what these differences where. Off the tram at Tophane stop and back to the ship. One item of note is that Susan later told us that if you go one stop beyond Tophane to Findikli it is a much shorter walk. We used it the next day and found it to cut the walk in half. Day 7 - Istanbul Up early and back on the tram headed to Topkapi Palace. We got off the tram at the Gulhane stop and hit the side exit of the palace. It was weird as I expected to have a controlled access but in fact it is just a winding road where eventually you find a guard (armed with an Uzi in case you try to get in early) who stopped us until a few minutes before nine. We hit the Harem first and than the rest of the palace. As my daughter would say OMG, what a place. Certainly our favorite in Istanbul. Not only are the various courtyards breathtaking but the artifacts they have on display are unbelievable, Moses' staff, Muhammad's footprints, an 86 carat diamond.... After the palace we needed to eat so we went to Sultanahmet Koftecisi for lunch and to cool off. Lunch was good, a limited menu, meatballs and kebabs plus some salads and appetizers. This is the place that "invented the Turkish meatball". Once we had recharged we decided to head to the Spice Bazaar so back on the tram, off at Eminonu and to the bazaar where of course we ran into Susan and her group (as we did in the waiting line for the palace). After a tour of the Spice Market we decided it was time to head back to the ship. Day 8 - Mykonos This was a late arrival, 1:00, so we had already had lunch when we disembarked. This was the only time on the trip I found HAL to be disorganized. We dock about one mile from town so HAL had arranged for buses to carry us into town. The problem was the bus line and the disembarkation lines were all jumbled up so those trying to get off could not until those ahead of them got on the buses. Confusion reigned. We checked out the Archaeological Museum which was quite interesting. I never get tired of seeing things made several thousand years ago. What a beautiful place, Mykonos, small winding streets, whitewashed houses and shops. We basically just wandered the streets, stopping at shops (too many for me but I am out numbered). Visited "Little Venice" for a drink, found the Church of Panagia Paraportiani, went in the Folk Museum, found the windmills etc. We ate at Kostas where we got a seafood platter appetizer that freaked my daughter out because we ate pickled octopus. We are not late night partiers so headed back before the crowds. Day 9 - Kusadasi We had arranged for the services of a tour guide for Ephesus, Levent Solmaz (www.leventsolmaz.com). There were four families on this tour and Levent actually accompanies you through the various stops. Levent did an outstanding job. I would highly recommend him to anyone! We visited the Ephesus ruins, the terrace houses, Mary's shrine, Museum of Ephesus, Basilica of St. John, Hadrian Temple and the Temple of Artemis. The ruins in Ephesus are awesome, the best we saw on the whole trip and Levent did a great job working us around the crowds and the heat (it was 114F). Levent took us to a local restaurant called Selcuk Koftecisi which was great (plus it was air conditioned). After lunch it was off to a rug making shop and leather shop and back to the ship. Did I mention it was hot? Day 10 - Santorini I am surprised I am saying this but Santorini was our most disappointing stop. It was not Santorini itself but just the way the stay worked out. I mentioned earlier that two of the ship's crew had a serious accident and the ship had to divert to Turkey so they could receive medical attention. This was understandably necessary. This did impact our arrival in Santorini so instead of arriving at 8:00 am we actually did not arrive until 10:15 am. Then began a laborious tendering event that translated into an over 2 hour wait to actually get to the island. Our original plan had been to rent a car, go to Oia and return later to Fira for shopping but since we did not actually set foot on Santorini until 12:15 that plan went out the window. In addition, the ship did not, could not, would not delay leaving Santorini (we ended up arriving over one hour early in Katakolon the next day) by and hour or two. In fact we were told that the last tender would leave Santorini at 4:30 giving us a whopping 4 hours on the island. Given the tendering nightmare, the logistics of getting back to the tenders from Fira and the time we had been allotted we felt that we had better be in the cable car line by 3:30 at the latest (turned out that was about right as the cable car line wait was at least 30 minutes). This gave us time for lunch and some shopping but nothing like we had planned. I don't know if there were special issues surrounding the tendering but if that is typical of a Santorini stop, I would not care to go back unless the stop is scheduled for at least 12 hours (I have seen some cruises on HAL where Santorini is only allocated 6 hours versus our original 9 hours). It just seems a shame that a place so beautiful and difficult to get to should be rushed. If necessary consider cutting out a port and do an overnighter in Santorini, I bet that would fill up quick. Day 11 - Katakolon We had arranged for a private taxi for this port with Andreas Stamos (olympiataxi@yahoo.gr). Andreas is a very nice driver, he is very careful with his driving (his wife just had their first baby so maybe he wants to be sure to make it home!). Andreas did a great job of taking us to Ancient Olympia, the Olympia Museum, the Amphitheater and the Olympic Games Museum. The Olympia ruins are hard to understand what you are looking at as time and the Romans leveled the original buildings. Andreas gave us a very handy book and map that included pictures as the ruins looked today and then an overlay of what they looked like in ancient times plus a write-up on the particular ruin. We found this to be very helpful! For lunch it was off to another local restaurant (eating is very important to us) called Aegean. It was fabulous. I had a calzone that was huge and very very good! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We sailed on the Celebrity Expedition to the Galapagos on July 24 - August 2, 2009. My wife and two grown children shared in this voyage of discovery. We flew into Quito, Ecuador the day before the cruise. The next day we had a full tour ... Read More
We sailed on the Celebrity Expedition to the Galapagos on July 24 - August 2, 2009. My wife and two grown children shared in this voyage of discovery. We flew into Quito, Ecuador the day before the cruise. The next day we had a full tour of the city including lunch and dinner, and in the afternoon got to stand on the equator. WARNING Quite is on the Equator,but it is 9,000 feet HIGH. Breathing may be difficult particularly with luggage or climbing stairs. Bring altitude medicine from you doctor. It was also down right COLD - 12 degrees centegrade - you will need a light weight jacket - trust me on this. Flew to Baltra in the Galapagos the next day. Loaded onto the Expedition via PONGAS - we know them as Zodiacs. 20 person rafts that were our transport for the next week - sometimes with wet and sometimes with dry landings. Expedition holds about 100 passengers and had over 60 crew including 6 wonderful naturalists. All meals and top shelf liquor all day was included, as were all gratuities. 8am departures for two hour hikes each morning then another island and another hike in the afternoon. More picture opportunities than you can possibly imagine. Sea lions, iguanas, turtles, birds that defy the imagination, sharks etc - and you can snorkle with them if you choose. It was a little rocky on the ship for sleeping some nights. Almost everyone had seasickness patches - see your doctor. Wonderful food and crew - almost all from Ecuador. Trip was exactly as advertised. Expensive but I would highly recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
About Us: Our party of 4 was made up of myself and my husband (DH) (40's and 50's, British expats living in the USA for the past 20 years) and our daughter (DD) and her friend, (RHSD) both 15. It was the friends first trip ... Read More
About Us: Our party of 4 was made up of myself and my husband (DH) (40's and 50's, British expats living in the USA for the past 20 years) and our daughter (DD) and her friend, (RHSD) both 15. It was the friends first trip out of the USA and her first cruise. This was our 14th cruise and we have sailed predominantly with Celebrity. Our last 2 cruises with Celebrity (Med Summer 2008 on Galaxy and the Solstice Inaugural in November 2008) just didn't measure up to their previous high standards, especially when it came to food, so we were ready for a change. Our son was booked on a People to People Ambassador trip to Australia and this HAL sailing fitted perfectly into the period he was away. Pre-cruise: We flew from Washington Dulles on 4th July on Lufthansa to Barcelona via Munich. Service on board was like in the old days, with hot towels, complimentary cocktails, wine with dinner and after dinner drinks. Flights were on time and even though we had a tight connection and 2 coaching stands rather than gates, we made our Barcelona flight. Took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. We stayed at the Hotel 1898 on the Ramblas, just south of Placa Catalunya. Hotel was great and surprisingly quiet considering it's location. We spent time on the rooftop terrace, swimming, sipping Cava and eating tapas. The next morning we took a taxi to the ship and arrived at the port around 11:30. Check In To describe check in at the port as chaotic would be very generous. We checked-in online at home and had printed our boarding passes. At the terminal were given check in number 9 and then heard them calling number 12 to check in. Huh? We lined up and were at the check in desks in about 15 minutes. I think the agent we got was new to the job as she seemed very flustered. I had a notarized Power of Attorney (as requested by HAL) giving us permission to take RHSD on the cruise. The agent had no idea what it was, and then had a problem with my passport. Eventually a supervisor sorted it out and we were given our number 9 back for boarding. Of course number 11 was boarding by now so we went to the front of the line. After a brief photo stop we were onboard and herded into an elevator up to the lido deck. I asked if the dining room was open, but was told it wasn't. (Checking later on the daily programme it was listed as being open from 12 noon until 1pm, grrr!). To be honest I usually avoid the lido whenever possible as it is always crowded and there is never anywhere to sit. We eventually found a table out by the pool with Lena and the Halcats blaring out, and waiters constantly pushing wine cards, soda cards, cocktail cards, wine packages and sommelier dinners. I felt like my head would burst and just wanted to go somewhere quiet. Cabins Our cabin was ready at 1:30 and was just what we expected having had a similar aft VA on deck 4 of the Westerdam previously. The verandah was roomy enough for a chaise lounge, armchair and ottoman, chair and a small table, and the overhang from the deck 5 verandah covered about 18" of it. The bathroom was big enough for a bathtub, which was nice. The cabin was roomy and had space between the bed and the living area. The girls had an inside cabin nearby which was much smaller and only had a shower. Both cabins had the same stewards, Fullah and Neru who did an excellent job cleaning our cabin and did the best they could with the girls cabin. Suitcases came quickly and we unpacked straight away. There was plenty of closet and drawer space and the suitcases were easily stored under the bed. It seemed strange overnighting in Barcelona, as usually at this point in the cruise we are ready for lifeboat drill and sailaway. We decided to not go back into town and checked out the Crows Nest for pre-dinner drinks instead. Hmm. What have they done to the Crows Nest? I love the Crows Nest bar and I love the library come computer centre, but I don't think I like them together. We introduced ourselves to the bar staff and ordered what would become our "usual" - the split of Henkel champagne and a Corona. We had main seating dinner, 8pm, and our table (#92) for 4 by the upper level railing overlooked the staircase and a small landing on which we hoped they would sometimes have live dinner music performing. Unfortunately they didn't. I think it would have added to the atmosphere on formal night in a classier way than the creased white chair covers did! Our waiter was Jeffrie and his assistant was Riski. They did a really good job of taking care of us and coping with the girls picky appetites. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of choices and the high quality of the food in the dining room compared to our recent experiences on Celebrity. It was a pleasure to be forced to decide between 3 or 4 things that you would have loved to order rather than picking the one item on the menu that you thought you could possibly eat. Typically there were four appetizers, three soups including a chilled one, a salad, eight entrees and desserts. Additionally french onion soup, Caesar salad, steak and salmon were always available. We had been eating healthily before our trip so stuck with seafood, fish and chicken on the ship and really enjoyed our choices. Often fish is overcooked on ships but we found all the fish we ordered, bar one, to be cooked perfectly. We ate in the dining room 9 out of 12 nights. We were a bit worried about the Master Chef's dinner on the last night as I had read unfavorable reports about it online and didn't think we would enjoy it. Fortunately on the Oosterdam there was none of the singing and dancing that I was dreading and the only "performance" part was the Baked Alaska parade, which is pretty standard on all ships. We ordered wine with dinner every night but the last. I thought the selection was somewhat limited and overpriced - not too many bottles under $40. On the last night we brought our own wine to the dining room, a bottle of Prosecco that we had bought in Dubrovnik, and the wine steward was kind enough to open it for us and not charge us corkage. It was a very nice gesture and we appreciated it very much. We ate a couple of very nice breakfasts and lunches in the dining room, during its limited opening hours. The meals were always delicious and hot and it was a more relaxing alternative to the buffet. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill on two occasions, the first for the Sommelier Wine Dinner and the second for their regular dinner. I cannot enthuse enough about the Sommelier dinner, other to say that it is probably the best meal we have ever eaten! The dinner cost $69 per person and there were 6 courses, each paired with a wine chosen to complement the food. We started with a cocktail called Jade, which was champagne mixed with midori. First course was a caramelized orange scallop paired with a kir royale. Second was an asian style cod with pickled warm cucumber, paired with a chardonnay. Then came a wild mushroom cappuccino and pinot noir followed by "spoom". Spoom seemed to be champagne and sorbet in the same glass, a bit like a rich man's root beer float! After than came lamb paired with cabernet sauvignon and a selection of cheeses served with port. The final course was a grand marnier soufflE served with a glass of grand marnier. Then when we couldn't eat another bite they brought out coffee and exquisite truffles. It was truly a memorable meal! Our other meal in the Pinnacle Grill was also memorable, but not for what we ate, but what we didn't get to eat. All week, while eating healthily, we had been looking forward to Steak Diane, which comes with a mushroom sauce, french fries and a side of sautEed mushrooms. The sort of meal someone on weightwatchers would fantasize about for months! Unfortunately it was not to be as mushrooms were not available that night. How bizarre! We thoroughly enjoyed the main courses that we chose by default, the lamb and the surf and turf, but I can't help wondering how much better it would have been if we'd been able to have what we really wanted! Oh and by the way, the French fries in the Pinnacle were out of this world, and well worth the calories! At the end of the meal we were too full to eat our truffles so we asked the waitress of she could wrap them so we could give them to the girls. Not only did she wrap them, but she wrapped a couple of dozen more, so we had incredible pillow chocolates for the remainder of the cruise! We planned to eat in Canaletto the night we got back from Rome as we didn't want to have to rush to get ready for dinner after a long and tiring day. When we tried to make a reservation we were told Canalettos would be closed that night, but that the entire lido would be serving the Canaletto menu. We waited until 8:30 as we thought the crowds would be gone by then. Instead it was a seething mass of humanity. Apparently the ship tours had all got back late as President Obama was in Rome that day and roads were closed so the tour buses were unable to leave on time. All the tables were full but Boozee the bar waiter found us one that had just been vacated and said he would get us a bottle of wine and set up the table while we queued for food. He was as good as his word. The food wasn't great. Things like desserts and cheeses and the antipasto displays just weren't being refilled when they were empty, so towards the end of the evening pickings were slim. We retreated to our verandah with the bottle of wine and ordered shrimp cocktails, a cheese plate and a fruit plate and had a nice quiet picnic under the stars instead. We occasionally used the lido for lunch. We particularly enjoyed the asian station with it's soups and freshly cooked stir fries. Towards the end of the cruise we discovered afternoon tea in the Explorers Lounge. It was very civilized, with a selection of teas, scones, sandwiches and pastries served by a white gloved waiter. The scones were the best I have had outside of England. One day we went to Indonesian Tea served in the dining room. The waiters were wearing Indonesian dress and served Indonesian desserts and teas as well as the standard afternoon tea. Entertainment If HAL is streets ahead of Celebrity with its food, it unfortunately falls short with its entertainment. For late seating, the shows were before dinner, which was a bit of a rush after a day in port. Trivia and Name that Tune always seemed to be while we were still eating dinner. On the positive side, we saw 2 production shows, one was a dance show and the other a musical and both were excellent. The other great act was Leo Ward, the illusionist. His show was very impressive. He also performed as a comedian in a late night show early on in the cruise, which we didn't see. From some of the comedy he did during his illusionist show, I wish we had caught his comedy act as well. On the downside was a show featuring a tenor. We left after the first few minutes. Not really our cup of tea although lots of other people seemed to be enjoying him. Another night the entertainment was a "Mamma Mia" movie singalong. No thank you. We took dancing lessons before our trip and were hoping to be able to dance on board. There was a dance venue with live ballroom / latin music every night, but it was aimed at people at least 20-30 years older than us, and because the people dancing were of a very high standard, they did not seem to appreciate novices having a go. We enjoyed listening to the string quartet and thought how much they would have enhanced formal night dinners had they played live in the dining room. They played once in the Crows Nest during a wine and cheese sailaway party from Dubrovnik, which made a pleasant change. Lena and the Halcats were good, if only they had turned them down a little. The ship had a nightclub but the loudness of the music seemed to drive people away rather than draw them in. Volume for me really was an issue. We pretty much found the ship to be dead after dinner, which was disappointing. The worst night was when we left Taormina at 10 or 11pm, and the following day was a sea day. After the long tiring port days people seemed ready to party. There was a pool party which was fun (we finally got to meringue and salsa!), and very well attended, but which finished at 11pm. Our options then were to go to the nightclub which, (after nights of disco, Motown, music through the decades and 80's, that we were too tired to stay up for), was doing 90's music at ear splitting volume, so we didn't bother with that. We tried the piano bar, but that sounded like a load of drunks singing along with an out of tune piano player. Our last option was the dancing venue but after Moon River and Stranger on the Shore et al, we gave up and went to bed. I really feel they should have kept the pool party going until midnight with Lena and the Halcats, or played music that was more multi generational in the nightclub that night. If we thought the entertainment in general was lacking something, the girls found the teen club to be totally underwhelming. For starters 13-19 year olds were lumped in together and the activity every evening was playing card games. To make matters worse, the teens were not allowed to just hang out with their new friends in the teen room, but had to participate in the card games or leave. Every night in the daily programme they listed a "teen disco" and every night at that time it was card games instead. On other cruises they had Wii sports, guitar hero, karaoke, casino nights, scavenger hunts etc and we hardly ever saw our teens. On this cruise hanging out with the parents was more fun than teen club, and for a teen that is really sad. We did notice that the teen staff had other duties on this ship such as checking in people for shore excursions and accompanying tours. Perhaps the teen counselors were too tired to do their proper job well? The outcome is that DD says she won't go on another HAL cruise and RHSD says she doesn't want to go on a ship again as it was boring. Spa We used the spa twice for massages. We indulged in a couples massage and a hot stones massage. Both were excellent. I would recommend not using the spa flip flops as they were hard molded plastic and had razor sharp edges, and were quite uncomfortable. I have become smart enough over the years to never mention anything about my appearance or lifestyle that I am "concerned about" in the initial spa questionnaire as I have learnt from experience that this will lead to a sales spiel for some or other product, outrageously priced, that will supposedly fix it. This time I didn't write anything and the masseuse tried to sell me something for the black bags under my eyes! I thanked her for pointing them out, said they gave me character and declined the product, and to my surprise the hard sell ended immediately. I was thrilled. Lifeboat Drill Last year on the Celebrity Solstice we had our lifeboat drill in one of the specialty restaurants, which was our muster station. They showed a video and a passenger behind us prattled away on his cellphone the entire time. Some people carried their life jackets. We never saw our lifeboat station and I remember thinking how unprepared some of the passengers would be in a real emergency if that was the extent of the muster drill. On HAL, by comparison, we mustered out on deck, under the lifeboats, in our life jackets, men behind, women and children in the front. The crew checked that each of our life jackets were on properly and then did a roll call of all the passengers. The Captain gave a safety talk over the loudspeaker. This was much more realistic than on the Solstice and people paid attention. Smoking After enjoying Celebrity's smoke free cabins and verandahs, as a non-smoker I was a bit worried that HAL, permitting smoking in both cabins and on verandahs, would end up being the smokers cruiseline of choice, and a rather smelly experience. I was relieved when I walked in our cabin and it didn't smell smoky and only very occasionally did I smell someone smoking on one of the other verandahs. The aft pool bar was the cigar bar in the evening and that didn't bother us at all. On the whole there were only a couple of really smelly areas we came across, one was the casino and the other the sports bar next to it. The hallway outside one of the forward cabins on our deck reeked of smoke, and I was glad we weren't staying in that cabin next. It seems HAL has managed to accommodate both smokers and non-smokers pretty well although I think stopping smoking in the cabins would be a further step in the right direction. Ports We took an Eastern Mediterranean cruise last year and were glad that only 2 of the ports were repeated on this western Mediterranean cruise. Barcelona Day 2 We got up early, had room service breakfast and were off the ship and heading for the Sagrada Familia by 8:30. It truly is an amazing building and is currently under renovation so it was impossible to get a photo of it without a crane somewhere in the picture. Took another taxi to Placa Catalunya and headed off down Las Ramblas. Had a good look round the local market and then explored the gothic area and the girls did some clothes shopping. We managed to run into a demonstration outside a government building, and made a hasty departure when the riot police arrived! Took a taxi back to the ship and had a late lunch. Luckily the lido wasn't crowded and we ate from the asian station. Monte Carlo. This is the port I was most looking forward to as I had worked in the area one summer while I was in college and I was wondering if it was still as fabulous as I remembered it being. Had a lazy morning as we were not due to anchor until noon and then tender at 1pm at the earliest. We had a private tour booked and as tender tickets were not due to be handed out until 1pm we decided to go to the dining room for lunch. Our lunch was great. We had soup and fish and had a lovely table to ourselves by the window with a view overlooking Monte Carlo. Much more civilized than the lido. We had just ordered when they announced that they were ready ahead of time and had time to tender a few independent travelers before the ship tours were due to tender, if they got to the departure point quickly, not an option for us, but useful to know for the future. We picked up tender tickets around 12:45 (it pays to get in line early!) and were on the first non-HAL tour tender and ashore around 1pm. It was particularly rough (well to someone with vertigo combined with a fear of falling into the water when stepping on and off boats!) but we got ashore OK. We had booked a private tour for 7 of us through Revelation Tours for Euro 350 for 5 hours and were scheduled to visit Monte Carlo, The Rock of Monaco, Eze Village and Nice. Our driver/guide was Frankie. He suggested that as our ship wasn't leaving until 10pm, we could hire him for an extra hour for an additional Euro 70 and see St Paul de Vence, which he described as a stunning walled town, so we agreed. We started off in Monte Carlo by the Casino and the Hotel de Paris. It was fabulous and just how I remembered it. Next stop was St Paul de Vence and it truly was a lovely little town with narrow winding streets and bijou little shops. Stopped for a takeaway ham and cheese sandwich before heading off to Nice. Nice again was just as I remembered it. The palm tree lined Promenade des Anglais with its exclusive hotels on one side and the beach on the other. It was stunning and took me back to my youth. Next stop was Eze, a small village clinging to the rocks high above the coast. Despite us telling Frankie we really weren't interested in visiting the perfume factory, somehow we ended up there. Eventually we escaped and got to explore Eze proper. Our final stop was The Rock in Monaco where the Grimaldi Castle is located. From here there were stunning views over the harbour. It positively oozed money! Somehow we managed to tender back to the ship without falling in and changed quickly and headed off to dinner. Watched the ship sail out of Monte Carlo and had an early night as our next port stop was to be Livorno for Florence, and we had an 8am private tour booked. Florence We joined a full day tour of Pisa and Florence that a fellow CCer had booked through Unforgettable Tuscany for Euro 500 for a party of 6. We got to Pisa before the first tour bus and we had 9:30 reservations to climb the Tower. After that we drove to Florence and visited the Accademia to see the Statue of David. There was a very good Thomas Mapplethorpe exhibition there as well. Paolo, our guide, took us to lunch and ordered several traditional dishes for us to share. After that we had free time in Florence and then he drove us back to the ship through the countryside. Rome We had spent 5 days in Rome pre and post cruise last year and took a Rome and Vatican City private tour with Manilo Tranquili so the RHSD could see the sights. The full day tour cost Euro 500 for 6. Unfortunately our visit coincided with President Obama's visit to Rome for the G8 summit, so we had to rearrange the order of our tour as we had planned to visit the Vatican in the afternoon but discovered that it was going to be closed for the Presidents private visit then. We visited St Peters in the morning and then the rest of the day was a blur as we whizzed from sight to sight. We had planned to visit the Basilica of San Clemente but it was closing for lunch just as we got there. In the afternoon we visited the catacombs, which I thought were a let down. With hindsight, the hour we spent at the catacombs would have been better spent actually walking through the Forum and Coliseum. We left Rome around 4:30 as Manilo was worried about road closures for the Presidents visit. He was right. We got back to the ship at the time we expected, but some of the ships tours didn't get back until 8pm, due to delays and road closures. Messina This was an afternoon and evening port stop and we took the ships tour to Taormina and the Greco Roman Theatre. We did the same tour last year so there were no surprises. It's always nice to see Mt Etna smoking in the distance. Navplion This was to be our chill out day, just wandering around the port by ourselves. We were on the first tender to shore after the ship excursions. I had hoped to persuade a taxi driver to drive us to the top of the Palamidi Fortress, but they just laughed at us and said they wanted to do tours to Mycaenae and Epidaurus. One driver offered to take us for Euro 20 but I declined. DH and RHSD decided to climb the 900 stairs to the top and DD and myself explored and went to the beach for an hour. We met up again, wandered around town and had lunch before heading back to the ship. Katakolon We booked a ships tour to Ancient Olympia. The tour guide was superb and really brought to life through her narration what in reality was just piles of stones. She also accompanied us around the museum and highlighted some of the most important treasures. My favorite was the male statue that is said to have the most perfect buttocks! Katakolon itself was a good place for souvenirs - the olive oil soap was very nice. Corfu We took a taxi to the old town and explored by ourselves. Had lunch by the cricket pitch, visited the castle, and RHSC indulged in some shopping. Not the most interesting of ports. Dubrovnik Got off the ship as early as we could and took a taxi to the Pile Gate. Bought tickets to walk the walls and were among the first up there. What a spectacular view! You could see the sea and marina looking out and a myriad of orange colored tiled roofs looking in. Walked the entire wall and spent lots of time taking photos. Went into the town and explored a little then had a refreshment stop and had "toast" (grilled ham and cheese sandwich) and sandwiches. Shopped for souvenirs and a nice bottle of Prosecco and were back onboard in time for lunch. Venice Day 1 Had a late breakfast in the dining room. Waiters were amazed when I ordered "Eggs Benedict" without the hollandaise sauce. I told them I called them "skinny benedicts" and they were for dieters, they said they called them poached eggs, LOL!! Went on deck and watched as we sailed around Venice and into our berth. What fabulous photo opportunities! We were berthed next to barges laden with fireworks for Redentore. I'm not sure whether the fireworks would be launched from that location or if they would be towed into the lagoon later. As we were spending one extra night in Venice, we decided to see if our hotel, the Olimpia in Piazzale Roma, was walkable from the ship with luggage. I don't know if it was the heat or if we are unfit, but we barely made it there without luggage! On the plus side there was only one large bridge from the Piazzale to the hotel. We went into the hotel and checked we could store our luggage there early the next morning and were told, no problem and also confirmed our reservations were OK. Decided to take the slow vaporetto and follow the Rick Steves tour down the Grand Canal. Unfortunately we couldn't get the prime outside seats he recommended, but made the best of the seats we found. Ended up near St Marks and had a quick look round and then decided to blow the budget and have a drink at the Cafe Florian. We happened to get there when they had music so straight away there was a Euro 6 music surcharge per person. We ordered 3 sodas, 2 club sandwiches and a milkshake and it came to a whopping Euro 101, but thankfully that did include the music and service charge. A once in a lifetime extravagance! We had timed tickets for St Marks and had a wander round. It was very gothic, dark and oppressive. Quite creepy and very different in nature to St Peters in Rome. Interestingly, people dressed inappropriately at St Peters were turned away. At St Marks they were given paper cover ups to wear that resembled the wraps they give you in doctors offices! As Redentore was the next day, St Peters Square had a huge stage in it so wasn't how I imagined it would look. By now I had decided that Venice was overpriced and overcrowded and not for me. Walked through the alleys to the Rialto bridge and took a vaparetto back to Piazzale Roma and walked to the ship. We were hot and tired and really hoping there would be taxis at disembarkation! Venice Day 2 We were among the last to disembark, between 9 and 9:15. We had skinny benedicts one last time in the dining room and then disembarked. There was a walk from the terminal to the baggage hall and then long lines for people trying to book transfers and water taxis. We resigned ourselves to dragging the luggage, but I was pretty sure I had seen a taxi rank, albeit and empty one, the day before. Today there were taxis there. Yes!!!! It wasn't cheap, but we got a ride to Piazzale Roma and dragged our bags over the bridge to the hotel. We left our bags in the left luggage room and decided to follow the advice we had read elsewhere ie "throw away the map and get lost in Venice". We started to follow the Rialto and San Marco street signs and came across a deserted square with a lone gondolier standing reading a newspaper. We negotiated a price and he took DH, DD and RHSD on a 40 minute ride. I explored nearby alleyways, canals and squares and settled myself down in a cafe just as they arrived back. Had cappuccino and pastries and then took the girls to buy masks at a nearby shop where the mask maker was crafting his masks on the premises. We revisited St Marks Square and then set off back towards the hotel, following the Piazzale Roma signs this time. We stopped at a small restaurant as I was determined RHSD would try Italian pizza and agree that it was better than American pizza, LOL. She loved it! Shopped for souvenirs - an Italia sweatshirt, statues and a Kaka football shirt and staggered back to the hotel. By this point I LOVED Venice! We ate dinner at the Caffe La Rambla, quite appropriate I thought as 2 weeks earlier we were just beginning our trip on La Rambla in Barcelona. Had a fabulous meal, 2 bottles of prosecco, and the girls sampled the proprietors strawberry wine. The following morning we had breakfast in the hotel and then took a taxi from Piazzale Roma to the airport. Had to wait an hour to check in and a couple of hours for the flight on Air Dolomiti from Venice to Munich which was delayed by 30 mins. Luckily we still made our connecting flight although it was boarding when we got to the gate. In conclusion I have to say that this was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. We had great weather and the ports were superb. The ship was in excellent condition and the crew is truly an asset to the company. We probably had the best food we have ever had on a cruise on this trip, so there was a lot to like. If there had been a little more evening entertainment and a livelier Teen Club the trip would have been perfect. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Hawaii has so much to see and do POA cruise is a great way to see 4 islands without wasting time/money flying or boating (small boat) between islands. Mostly you travel in the evenings/at night, and have days to explore the islands. This ... Read More
Hawaii has so much to see and do POA cruise is a great way to see 4 islands without wasting time/money flying or boating (small boat) between islands. Mostly you travel in the evenings/at night, and have days to explore the islands. This was our 2nd trip to Hawaii 2006 we went to Hawaii & Maui. We loved it and wanted to see more! Myself, husband, two teenage boys. We stayed two nights in Waikiki Marriott before embarkation. Very nice, clean, parking. No rental car return anywhere near the pierhad to return Avis car to the airport, so DH dropped us off and we waited w/luggage for him to return. No luggage porters at pier, also no air conditioning. Long line to check luggage, but it moved fast. Also, Avis didn't have a shuttle bus to/from pier to airport, so $30 cab ride. Thrifty (maybe others) did run a shuttle. Security uneventful. We reserved a suite, so we got to avoid the long line to check in. Very quick, and we were on board. Luggage was there in the hallway before we were! Cabin was nice, very nice starboard balcony (starboard has best views of Maui, Haleakala lava flow & Kauai coastline), few things needed repair. No clock in our room, shower doors didn't close all the way, other minor things. Very happy that we had opted for the bigger room, as we are more private people, and it was good to have enough space to get away from the public and not be climbing all over each other in tiny cabin. Room steward was great left us ice, fresh towels, turndown service, towel animals, advice. Room host left us treats every day (I think that was part of the suite deal) in late afternoon, fruit basket, fresh flowers. Suite concierge told us about breakfast in Lazy J for suite guests only we went twice, but found that it was time consuming (sit down service instead of buffet), and not as much selection as Aloha Cafe. FoodAloha Cafe great for breakfast. I don't think that we ate lunch on board at all, and it was bad for dinner. Cadillac Diner was the other "casual" option for dinner burger joint, and the service was slow, slow, slow. Food was mediocre as best. Dinner Lazy J Steakhouse ($25/person) upcharge was good, Teppanyakki ($25/upcharge) was excellent with a fun show of preparing the food in front of you Japanese Steakhouse style. We had no problems making reservations at either, but we did it the first day on board for the whole week. Make sure that you cancel reservations if you can't make them you are charged otherwise. Skyline dining room was just ok...service was slow & food was nothing notable. We had room service breakfast the first day onboardat 8am. My advice, starboard rooms order room service for 6:30am and enjoy it while you cruise past the Maui coast. Portions are small...for example, toast order is 1 slice. Specify exactly what you want on the room service card & that's what you will get. Oh the soda dealwe bought the sticker for our cards for $6.95/day for unlimited fountain drinks. We are big pop drinkers, but didn't nearly get our money's worth. Be aware, it is $6.95 + 18% ($8.20) per day per person. At $2.00/drink, you would have to have 4 drinks per day to make that pay off. It is for fountain onlynot soda in your room. In retrospect, we didn't take advantage of it. Excursions We did all of our own excursions, not NCL. Rented Avis car at each port, and each port had a shuttle to rental facility. (Many rental car co's did.) The two times that we had to park the car overnight, there was free parking near tbe boat. No problem. Make sure to reserve a car ahead of time. Some people didn't have reservations for a car, and there were none available...especially in Hilo. At Hilo, they gave us a larger car than we had reserved for the same price because of availability of cars. So we paid a little more for more gas, but not a big deal. The day in Kona is a day that you "tender" to get off/on the boat. They give you a number and you have to wait for the number to get off. People that have NCL excursions and suites get first time to get off. Everybody else can get off after 9am. Excursions that we did (did not reserve through NCL): Trilogy snorkeling to Mololini crater (good), Sunshine Helicopter on Kauai (excellent), Zipline on Hawaii (excellent). The rest of our trip was on our own: Haleakala summit (excellent), Volcanos National Park (goodthe rim around the top road was closed), Hilo Scenic Drive north of port & Botanical Garden (very excellent), Kauai as far north as the road will go & hiking (very excellent), Dole Pineapple Plantation (good), Haunama Bay Snorkeling (good), Diamond Head hike (good), Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona Memorial (excellent), North Shore of Oahu (excellent). Figured that we saved $600+ booking our own excursions, not through NCL. AFter the cruise, stayed one night at Waikiki Sheraton. Even though we were one of the last to leave the ship, our room wasn't ready when we arrived at hotel. Room was just ok...needed updating, especially the bathroom. $100 lunch by the pool for burgers! But the pool and beach were fantastic. Ate casual dinner outdoors at Duke's Canoe Clubmake reservations early if you want to eat full dinner menu. We didn't so we had to wait for an outdoor table in the loud bar area, but it was really nice setting. Walked along beach back to our hotel. Bought "boogie boards" for $15/ea and used them before/after the cruise on Waikiki and Oahu North Shore. It's harder than it looks, but we had fun trying! On the last day, we gave the boogie boards to another family. We'll never use them in Chicago! Snorkeling advicethere is some great snorkeling just off shore at many beaches. If we ever go again, we won't pay tour operator for snorkeling. Ke'e beach on Kauai, Sunset beach on Oahu, Haunama Bay on Oahu all had great free snorkeling from shore. All in all, I was disappointed by the food on the cruise, but we had good service almost everywhere we went on board. If I was going to Hawaii for the food, I would have been sorely dissappointed. Luckily, I was going to SEE several islands, and experience Aloha Spirit, and POA was a great way to experience alot without having the inconvenience of moving hotels, flying between islands, etc. Hope this helps someone else in planning their trip. Aloha! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
I am only young and went with my grandparents, parents and my 8 year old sister, and for all of us, we enjoyed the cruise. Day 1 - Barcelona Embarkation was quite and easy with RCCL and it was only about 30 minutes between arriving ... Read More
I am only young and went with my grandparents, parents and my 8 year old sister, and for all of us, we enjoyed the cruise. Day 1 - Barcelona Embarkation was quite and easy with RCCL and it was only about 30 minutes between arriving at the port and stepping on to the boat. When we entered the ship we headed straight for the Windjammer as it was lunchtime, and we wanting to get started on the food binge. The windjammer offered so much range and we enjoyed desserts as well as cold & hot food. We also signed up for the soda & wine packages whilst in the cafe. After that we headed for the stateroom. Thanks to the promenade and the lifts easily located at each end, it wasn't complicated to find and was very pleased with the stateroom. Nice decor, great facilities and when we stepped onto the balcony we had a great view of the hills of barcelona. The rest of the afternoon was spent by the pool, grabbing free ice creams & pool side cocktails whilst enjoying the steel band. We booked the 6:30 dining room sitting and started to get ready at 6pm, and this wasn't a problem, as luggage was very quick arriving at our room. One bit of advice is that, the ship leaves sets sail at 6:30, but this isn't a problem as you don't have to be at your table until around 7:00, the staff understand if you want to see the ship depart. The dining room was beautiful and was quickly welcomed by our waiter Edwin, and his assistant Erick. We were quickly made comfortable & relaxed. The menu was so unique and wanted more than one option! The service was prompt and Edwin was so polite & treated us like royalty. After the wonderful meal of Lobster Ravioli (for me) we headed to the Promenade whist the shops opened and the atmosphere began to build. The promenade has a great feel to it and no other ships offers anything like it. Later, we saw the first ever Promenade parade and soon after headed to bed. Day 2 - At Sea The day started with superb breakfast in the main dining room, and instead of heading to the pool, i enjoyed myself by playing basketball, mini golf, rock climbing & in the gym. Afterwards i was hungry, and headed to the windjammer, with more great food, including the tastiest burgers you will ever eat. Afterwards i sat by the pool for a couple of hours, enjoying the poolside entertainment. Then i relaxed in the cafe promenade with a cookie and a drink in the nice atmosphere. When the evening came, we dressed up for the first ever formal night, which included photos, champagne reception in the Aquarium bar and enjoyed beautiful duck which wrapped up dining well. Then we headed to the La Scala theatre and saw a top class show, which puts other cruise lines entertainment to shame. Afterwards, we headed to the 19th Hole bar for drinks and a great atmosphere. Afterwards, we headed to bed. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click