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9,298 Family Cruise Reviews

Travelled from Manchester on december 20th one and a half hours late. This is nothing unusual so no problem there. Arrived in Barbados 8 hours later after a pleasant flight, quite fresh and looking forward too getting on board the ship. ... Read More
Travelled from Manchester on december 20th one and a half hours late. This is nothing unusual so no problem there. Arrived in Barbados 8 hours later after a pleasant flight, quite fresh and looking forward too getting on board the ship. The embarkation process is always efficient so all good there and the ship was impressive at first glance. The atrium was a little disappointing,a little small and boring. Found our cabin very easily as we booked very early and our agent was able to tell us what number it was so we could check on P&Os web site to locate it. The cabin was as we expected,reasonably sized with good storage.The bathroom was ok but the shower was quite small. Time to get to know the ship,its massive! trouble is there seems to be locked gates everywhere so hard to get around all the public areas. Although the deck space seems plentiful,its only when the sun beds were out the next day that the problems with space became obvious. there just isn't enough space between loungers,even more of a problem on sea days and we had more than our fair share of these on this cruise. 22.12.08 First call was Antigua and an excursion(kayak and snorkel).Too big a group and all a bit rushed, nice day overall though, my brother and his wife did the same trip in the afternoon and they felt the same. The evening was uneventful and the freedom dining experience was nice if a bit slow, good food but not much choice of desserts. 23.12.08 The next day was at sea and this is were it began to go a little sour on board. people became frustrated with the lack of sun beds and those who could get one had to be up early and climb over people to get on it as they were simply crammed in.Some rows were reported and it transpired that people reserved beds on both sides of the ship so they could move in the afternoon.Nowhere near enough entertainment on deck. 24.12.08 Grand Turk,saw it but didn't get onto it.The captain made his first announcement to say the wind was too strong and it would be dangerous to dock, well he should know best! So an extra sea day and more tension over sun loungers. Again no on board entertainment apart from a christmas songs cd on repeat in every area of the ship.My wife asked one of the entertainment staff if he could put some other music on so he just turned the christmas tunes up. 25.12.08 Christmas day at sea and a rainy start so not so bad getting a sun lounger. some young lads dressed as santa and an elf walking round the ship helped to brighten things up. Poor entertainment from the staff again,yes christmas songs on repeat again until the junior entertainment officer (LITTLE KEV)came out to play and got a good afternoon underway,just as well as the day was gettin lost. The food in all the restaurants was really good and the service was quite good considering the waiters were obviously having to work really hard to keep up and some people should be ashamed at their own behavior towards the waiters. 26.12.08 Boxing day at Catalina island and a beach barbecue.Nice day,rain trying to spoil it but not bad. The ship was tied to a buoy and we were tendered to the jetty.I missed it but it seems the rope snapped and the ship began to drift away,it was soon sorted and didn't effect the day. going back to the ship was troublesome as the wind picked up and delayed the tenders. 27.12.08 Tortola,NO! too windy again and another announcement from the captain,he's making a habit of this. Another enforced sea day and again nowhere enough happening on deck besides fights over loungers. 28.12.08 St Kitts today, "Good morning ladies and gentlemen blah blah blah" he doesn't have to say any more we can't land due to wind and we're stuck at sea, I feel like fletcher christian but they probably had better deck entertainment on the Bounty! 29.12.08 St Lucia,so thats what solid ground feels like,I was beginning to forget. Did some horse back riding overland and bare back in the sea,really good fun. 30.12.08 St Maarten.We are getting spoilt.Spent the first part of the day on the beach near the port,a really nice beach with nice people along it,drinks are cheap and the area is spotless. Then for the afternoon we visited Maho beach a couple of miles away $18 in a taxi.This is where the beach is at the end of the runway,look it up on google video,its mad! 31.12.08 Dominica. Walked around the town,not much to do here if you haven't booked an excursion and none of them appealed to us. 1.1.09 Dominica.Very hot,brilliant! Stayed on board and relaxed,listened to tales of people being thrown of the ship for fighting and trashing a cabin(note to P&O,if you slash prices then you will get cheap people). The new years eve party went well without too many problems,or so we thought,seems that in the early hours a bad fight broke out and a man was cut on the face with a bottle and a couple of young lads were caught by a passenger trying to set fire to one of the bars and more boys tried to set fire to the christmas tree. Under age drinking was a problem on this cruise. but who was supplying it? A few people were put off the ship for the fighting on the previous night. 2.1.09 Barbados. Catamaran & turtles excursion, we have done this trip a few times and has always been good value, recommend the 5 hour trip though, appeared a little crowded this time with some 10 catamarans around the turtles at once. We also visited a hotel which we stayed at in 2006 (Coconut Court hotel) great beach and the sea is excellent for nervous snorkelers or 1st time snorkelers, plenty of fish to hand feed. Review of Ship: The Deck Deck space is very crowded, particularly on sea days. Too many areas closed off to passengers. Smoking appeared to be allowed anywhere on deck, not confined enough to designated areas. Havana Bar Poorly planned in terms of layout and also the barriers separating the seating areas are far to high making it very difficult to enjoy the entertainment, with trip hazards on the floor from loose lighting strips, appears to be small steps from the isles to the seating areas. Exchange Bar: This can be noisy at times due to the casino being to one side. Tamarind: This was at times like sitting in a corridor with people moving around the ship from the Havana and the Arena Theatre. Entertainment: In the theatre the entertainment was average from the theatre company. There were two very good comedians/entertainers the second week. Sludge Lee was very poor, very old jokes. Jane Curry and Paul Baker were excellent, very good voices and talented. Scott Brutton (X FACTOR) was surprising OK. Entertainment on Deck Leon di ste coix - supposedly entertainment director, should be overboard, his management of entertainment on deck was well below standards previously seen on other ships, the standard from the entertainment staff overall showed no enthusiasm to entertain unless they were showing off to other ships and THEIR passengers what a good party ship we were on. Pity they were not this enthusiastic for us, especially on sea days when people are disappointed, there was nothing put on to lift them. A lot of entertainment seemed to be below deck, with art talk, computer talks, talks on the stars, and so on. The Ship Itself: Too big for some of the un-sheltered ports even when the seas are less than moderate, seems to be quite unstable, as if the stabilizers are not working properly. The ship has a very odd way of waggling its tail. Would we travel on Ventura again? At the moment we are booked on Ventura in May 2009, lets hope things have improved! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This is a review of the Aurora, operated by P & O during the Christmas 2008 Calypso Cruise to the Caribbean. We (2 parents 55ish with 2 children 21 and 24) have cruised with P & O before and did the same or similar cruise at ... Read More
This is a review of the Aurora, operated by P & O during the Christmas 2008 Calypso Cruise to the Caribbean. We (2 parents 55ish with 2 children 21 and 24) have cruised with P & O before and did the same or similar cruise at Christmas 2007 on Oriana. The ship was described to us as a sister ship to Oriana but a little bit nicer with such pluses as the Cafe Bordeaux. It is a nice ship; the cabins (outside window Deck 5) are fine with plenty of hanging and drawer space. I had great difficulty working out the bow from the stern directions and which deck had which facility. This in spite of a pocket guide and schematic maps every 30 yards. Accommodation: The cabins are well sized, comfortable and equipped with double/twin beds, TV, fridge and reasonable bathroom. Some have shower/baths and others showers only. Beds are 3 feet wide and 6 feet 6 inches long. There is plenty of support but they are not firm. On Board facilities: Internet: The internet room is on Deck 13 by the Crows nest bar and is a pleasant airy room with 12 desktops and 2 laptop dedicated desks which are provided with UK 12 amp power sockets. The ship has a very restricted wifi which operates only in the Internet room and next door in parts of the Crows Nest Bar. It is fairly fast downloading emails and uploading to the internet. I would say that it is adequate but could be simply improved if it were made available on a wider basis through other areas of the ship. The charges are standard across the fleet and the pay as you go is 30 pence per minute, pre paid plans are available which can reduce this cost to 16 pence, but you do need to buy 4 hours of connection time. Reception: The reception area is on Deck 5 and operates from 7am to 9pm. Restaurants: We ate on second sitting in the Medina Restaurant and found the accommodations comfortable although some tables near the end walls/bulkheads suffered from a lack of room between the back of the chairs and the wall. I suppose this is a problem for the waiters rather than passenger, but I did notice it and think it worth mentioning. The waiting staff is charming as expected but some seem less fun than others and this may, of course, be shyness but it was very noticeable. The level of service is just ok. The head waiter comes to the table most evenings but we have had meals that were returned partially eaten through the meat being tough or the fish being overcooked and these incidents aroused no action whatsoever by this person. This is the absolute opposite of our previous experiences on P & O and was commented upon fairly widely by passengers. He came on the penultimate night and made his enquiry, he was horrified to receive complaints from 4 of the six diners and he wrote them down on a scrap of paper. It did not convince us that he was going to raise the issues with the Chef. When he passed by some 30 minutes later I asked what the Chef had said, the response was totally unconvincing and I seriously doubt if he reported the matters. The other general restaurant is Alexandria and I have no experience of that. Afternoon tea is served in the Medina from 4 to 4.45 pm and is very pleasant. There is a choice of a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, teacake and crumpets. They only toast the crumpets on the top, so you will end up with a soft underside. We tried for two weeks to explain but they kept coming out undercooked or charred. We also tried the Marco Pierre White facility which attracts an additional payment which varies depending upon what time during the evening you dine. We paid £3.95 each and it was certainly worth it for the food. The restaurant is the Cafe Bordeaux which is above the casino and surrounds a stairwell, one side of the restaurant has the main corridor of the Promenade Deck running alongside; quite bizarre but the food, wine choice and service were absolutely excellent and much better than the main restaurant. Depending upon your table position you may well hear a lot of extraneous noise from these sources. We also took breakfast and lunch at the Cafe Bordeaux and it was absolutely delightful. Some of the best food available on board and good service. There is a buffet restaurant on Deck 12 called the Orangery and they serve all three meals there and afternoon tea on a self serve basis. They also hold themed buffets on evenings and these vary from British, to Italian, to Asian to Indian buffets. I only tried the Indian and would not repeat the process. Other P & O ships have held these evenings and operated a reservation process which ensured a smooth progress of diners through the starter, main course and dessert stations. Aurora did not and the resulting 60 person/20 minute queue for main course was the direct result. The choices offered were not all there to be had and the curries themselves seemed very watery. I am no chef but I do know curry. I raised the lack of reservations with our ineffectual head waiter and was told that it is fleet wide and it enables many more people to be served. I don't believe this as it makes no sense. An additional facility is found on the stern deck on 12 and is called The Pennant Grill; a small surcharge will provide a nice steak or fish dinner in the warm evenings of the Caribbean. I did not use it but reports were mostly favorable. Late night service is provided by the Cafe Bordeaux but no food is displayed, sandwiches and Fries with Mayonnaise are among the very limited choices and one cannot get a toasted sandwich. Tea and coffee are available but a charge is made for peppermint tea which comes by way of a nasty teabag with very little flavor. There are 3 levels of dress acceptable by P & O on board for dining purposes; they are Formal (Black Tie), Semi Formal which is trousers, smart shirt and a jacket (no tie required) and Smart Casual, which is identical to Semi Formal except no jacket is needed. These are pretty standard but it is now permissible to wear Jeans to dinner! Bars: There are several bars catering for broad tastes on board. The Crows Nest is at the bow on Deck 13 and has panoramic views. Trouble is that smoking is allowed in the port half and the air handling system cannot stop the smell pervading the entire room making it unpleasant for the non smokers. There are other bars but none has the style of the Crows Nest, I know that smoking is not allowed in the sport bar called Champions nor Andersons on deck 7 Pools: There are three pools, 1 is exclusively for children and is part of their club area, the other two are on deck12 and are the Crystal and Riviera. The Crystal pool is set amidships and has the benefit of a retractable roof; the other is set towards the front of the ship and is open to the elements. The center pool has two hot tubs which are well used. The Children tend to use the Crystal pool which does have an effect on the clarity of the water. It was luminous green one day after treatment following one of the very regular quality tests. The pools are a reasonable size but are just over 1 meter deep. It is not easy to swim in such shallow water. If the ship encounters any swell, a wave sets up and the water flows forward and aft or side to side, shipping great gouts of water and spray from the pool itself onto the surrounding decks. If there are swimmers in the pool, they undertake a very exciting but perilous ride in or on this wave as it crashes into the end of the pool. Quite often the pools are netted to prevent passenger use; this is very frustrating especially in sunny weather. There seem to be plenty of sun beds around the pools and on the Sun Deck above the pool. Those at the Crystal Pool are a sturdy metal and mesh construction whereas the others are the nasty white plastic ones beloved of package holidays. There are also some white plastic chairs which are fairly comfortable. On the Promenade Deck you are spoilt by teak steamer chairs with attached foot rests and cushions, they also have plastic recliner chairs for the less fortunate. There is a spa which to my unpracticed eye seems to offer the usual beauty and health treatments. The charges seem reasonable and the staff is very professional. At the front of Deck 7 is a great theatre which is used for most show, there is a "ballroom" called Carmen's at the rear of that Deck, which has seats around a dance floor and is more for passengers dancing. Most of this takes place to CDs which is disappointing to some. Overall the entertainment was not very good other than Richard Digence, who was as hilarious as he always is. Tom O'Connor is OK but his act is as old as his suit, Stuart Gillies has a nice tan but should stop checking his comb over when he passes a reflecting window. Jimmy Nairn should stick to what he is best at, whenever he discovers exactly what that may be. Caravan was a very good and talented group as were the steel band. There was a female singer who I did not see but she received rave reviews from people to whom I spoke. The Entertainment Officers were a mixed bunch; one of the senior female blondes was so full of herself as to be approaching obnoxious. She needs reminding that we pay her wages and she is there to make sure that we enjoy ourselves. Most of the males are good but one of them is the worst DJ in the world. They all seem to operate on a what we say goes basis, and that can irritate the calmest of passenger. On the Food and Beverage side there seems to be a malaise among the staff, dishes lay around uncollected in the Orangery Buffet and on the outside tables, I have never known that before. Whether P & O have reduced staffing levels or it is an apathy that has set in, it needs to be addressed. Many waiters expressed dissatisfaction with "the management" and told me that they were considering transferring ships. What on earth is happening? The deck and drink waiters are all very attentive and I believe that they now work to sales quotas per shift. This may explain why they are so keen to attend you. This malaise may stem from poor senior management or perhaps the blame lies with the middle managers, I do not know but I do know that there are problems which need attention. Sports and gymnasium, there is a well equipped gym on Deck 11 and quoits, golf, shuffleboard, table tennis and soccer take place on 12 & 13. Overall I think that standards of service and food quality on board have dropped since last year although the Aurora is a new experience for me, I think it unlikely that I will repeat it although I will continue to use P & O. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We flew into Miami Sat 20th Dec 2008 and endured long lines at the airport in order to clear US Passport Control formalities (Insufficient staff appeared to be the main issue) Next... no taxis available to transfer us to the Hyatt ... Read More
We flew into Miami Sat 20th Dec 2008 and endured long lines at the airport in order to clear US Passport Control formalities (Insufficient staff appeared to be the main issue) Next... no taxis available to transfer us to the Hyatt Hotel downtown. Having waited over an hour, we decided to take the Super Shuttle and paid $55 for 4 of us (We should have waited for a taxi which is a fixed rate of $29.00 so be warned!) We found the Hyatt Hotel to be old and dark, not what we expected and we would not stay there again. The Hyatt is close to Bayside and the Cruise Terminal, that is the end of its good points. We found the area at night was not really 'friendly' and were advised by the Doorman to be back before nightfall!! Sunday 21st Dec - The Freedom of the Seas looked magnificent! A short taxi ride from the hotel and without doubt the fastest cruise check-in we have ever experienced... no waiting and straight aboard the ship. Lunch was served in the Windjammer. We have cruised with RCL before on the Mariner and Navigator of the Seas. The ships are pretty much the same inside, the Freedom has an extended street and ofcourse Flowrider however, we noted that this was at the expense of the skate track which our eldest daughter missed. They have also removed the whirlpool in the spa and replaced it with a boxing ring. Whilst this may look novel, we never noted anyone using it and would have much preferred to have the whirlpool back. FOOD and BEVERAGE: - Below our expectations and disappointing for a Christmas/Happy Holidays cruise. Little in the way of effort put into the menu, much of the food was bland, whilst it looked very nice it was often tasteless or dry. Luncheon in the main restaurant on a daily basis had to be the greatest letdown of the cruise. The menu was the same every day, food was awful, the best option was to visit the salad bar which did provided a good choice of salad and associated meat or fish options. Dinner was acceptable but compared to our previous RCL experience and Norwegian it was very poor. RCL appear to have scrapped traditional favorites such as the Midnight Buffet and Death By Chocolate. For us, these are just as much part of our 'cruise experience' as dressing up for the formal night. We noted with disappointment that when travelling out of the US compared to Europe the 'formal night' is pretty much ignored as is the dresscode with a number of people wearing jeans and tshirts to the formal night dinner on Christmas Eve. The 'Freedomfest' is a FLOP in our opinion, RCL would be wise to drop it and bring back the above. Coffee Shops: We enjoyed the Coffee Shop which is expanded on the Freedom of the Seas. The Coffee Shop Team were also very friendly, the 'sofa' layout in the Coffee Shop reminded us of the FRIENDS T.V show. Service in the Restaurant: - Lunchtime, poor just like the menu.... Dinner was very good. Our waiter was Ibrahim from Turkey, he was very polite, superb with the children, nothing was too much trouble for him. We ate in the Windjammer a couple of times but it was always packed. Food spillage was a real problem (and we were put off eating there) as people are not allowed to have a tray and subsequently pile their plate with more food than they could possibly eat!! ACCOMMODATION: - Our cabins were probably the best we have experienced on a cruise ship of any cruiseline. Our choice of accommodation was selected by RCL, we assume that we had a little luck smiling upon us as the cabin looked into the street (Great for the parades!) Our Steward was called Enrique, who also went out of his way to look after us which we very much appreciated! SHIPS APPEARANCE: POOL Area: - We know... it is Christmas and the ship is full!!! - 1300 children (including ours...) however, we found that the pool area was often dirty with the Pool Patrol not doing a good job of cleaning up. Obviously if our fellow passengers were to clean up after themselves that would help!!! We noted that around the Ice Cream machine and H20 Zone the general cleanliness of the pool area was not as clean and tidy as it should have been and certainly not as good as the Mariner or Navigator of the Seas both of which we've sailed on during the holidays. Other than the above, we found that the Freedom of the Seas was actually very clean and tidy although some areas of the ship display the requirement for a carpet change in the near future. FACILITIES: - The Freedom of the Seas is nothing short of a floating resort. It has something for everyone and we could not fault the options available (other than the boxing ring perhaps) Cinema, Ice Rink, Flowrider (more fun to watch!!) Climbing Wall, needless to say the ship caters for all tastes and many, many activities. KIDS CLUB: An experienced critic, HALFPINT007 wishes to inform all 8-11year olds that the Voyager Kids Club on board the Freedom of the Seas is the BEST!!! or as she would say..."Numero Uno, Fantabalistic!!" the best Kids Club that I have ever been too. HALFPINT007 reports a 5STAR PLUS rating for facilities, very interesting activities and superb Kids Club hosts. The RCL Kids Club Team did a fantastic job, HALFPINT007 wishes to thank them all for a fantastic cruise! THEATRE: - No better, no worse than other cruise ship. The Ice Show is superb and not to be missed. Mr and Mrs (Sorry... The Dating Game) always provides 'entertainment' and we also enjoyed the 'QUEST' hosted by Richard Spacey, Cruise Director. CRUISE DIRECTOR: Much has been reported of Richard in previous posts (and as we have since discovered is documented and can be viewed on UTUBE.) We would agree that he is without doubt probably the funniest Cruise Director we have ever met and if he ever decides to give up 'a life on the ocean waves...' would have a huge career in television. PARADES: 2 x Street Parades, we enjoyed the Carnival (especially the Elephant which was a nice touch) but thought that they were often too short. Christmas Eve - A Carol Concert had everyone singing their Christmas favorites but again was perhaps a little short. Needless to say that many people were dressed for the occasion with a large selection of Santa hats on display. A nice touch was to have snow falling during the carol concert. When out at sea, with a temperature of 28C/80F outside we didn't really feel in the Christmas mood as the midnight hour approached... we were delighted with the snowflakes which started to fall during "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas..." much more like it... Merry Christmas! Following the Carol Concert we attended Midnight Mass in the Theatre. The Theatre Staff are to be commended for their efforts to transform the Theatre into what looked and felt like the interior of a large church. Father Perkjavich delivered what he billed 'The Midnight Show' Christmas had arrived aboard the Freedom of the Seas... We awoke Christmas morning to the announcement that Father Christmas was expected at 8.30am. Having watched his arrival down the ships funnel, Father Christmas (aka Santa Claus) proceeded to a Winter Wonderland which had been created in the Ice Rink. Once again, full marks to the Technical/Backroom Stage Staff for creating an atmosphere that was like being at the North Pole. Ice Skating, Father Christmas handing out gifts to children (alternate Gift giving arranged for children of other beliefs) EggNog flowing... a most enjoyable Christmas morn. PORTS OF CALL: Labadee is very nice (RCL Private Island really) however, there is alot of construction and sand blasting taking place in order to prepare for the Oasis of the Seas. Ocho Rios, Jamaica - A complete WASTE OF TIME! Not a nice place to stop, I am sure an alternate venue could be found. We were hounded all day long, 15 year old daughter and myself constantly offered drugs... an awful experience, our advice is forget the waterfalls and stay on board the Freedom of the Seas. Grand Cayman - Christmas Day, port was closed and we just sailed by... Cozumel, Mexico - Our last stop and favorite port. Nice people, a nice walk into town (or cheap taxi if you wish to ride) we looked around the resort and walked back. Miami, USA - Upon our return to Miami we spent 2 days in town in order to see the sites. To be honest, we should have just flown home or driven north to Orlando and spent a few nights with Mickey & Minnie before our flight home. 1 day in Miami is enough... alot of areas do not look or feel good, we did not feel very safe driving around town. We visited South Beach, the shops however, the bargains are better in Orlando in our opinion. Day 2 was spent in Fort Lauderdale, a short drive up I95 but much nicer than Miami. CREW Experience: As with most cruise ships the crew were very polite and whenever possible went out of their way to help. They are to be applauded for their efforts in this regard. CRUISE CRITIC "Meet & Mingle!" - On the first day of our cruise we attended the Meet & Mingle with our fellow critics. A good turnout of critics, a disappointing turnout of representatives from the crew of the Freedom of the Seas. On previous cruises a number of officers (Captains included) had attended and mixed with the "Critics" but not in this case. Infact, Lee (Entertainment Manager) was more interested in telling us to hurry up and come to BINGO! than he was meeting with us. I don't know why he bothered to turn up to be honest. We had a surprise during the "Meet & Mingle..." our dinner table partners also turned out to be "Critics" which made for a most enjoyable dinner each night, discussing our observations and experiences of the day! RETURN TO MIAMI: Unlike the embarkation process which as documented earlier was the best we have ever experienced - Oh Dear... the arrival in Miami won the prize for the worst disembarkation process that we have encountered. Totally disorganized, insufficient staff, people jumping the line to get off, lots of screaming and shouting, punches thrown, oh dear... it was simply awful! We were supposed to get off the Freedom of the Seas by 8.30a.m At 11:15 we finally left the ship to calls of 'just get everybody off the ship, they must get off now...' crushed in the Terminal gangway, not an experience we ever wish to repeat and at the end of what had been a very nice cruise, not a good final moment to remember the Freedom of the Seas by. In summary, whilst a very nice ship the Freedom of the Seas for us is too big. We prefer the similar (but smaller) Mariner, Navigator etc. Same experience but less people. DUNKINDONUT and HALFPINT007 Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background Information: I was travelling with my husband and his parents. My husband and I have been on 5 cruises in the last 5 years - RCCL (1), Carnival (1), and Princess (3). Inlaws were with us on our last Princess and one other ... Read More
Background Information: I was travelling with my husband and his parents. My husband and I have been on 5 cruises in the last 5 years - RCCL (1), Carnival (1), and Princess (3). Inlaws were with us on our last Princess and one other previous Celebrity cruise. DH and I are in our late 30's, inlaws are in their late 60's. Ship Info: At first we really liked the smallness of IP. We had been on Golden and Grand Princess prior. As the days went on there were several things we did not like about this ship. We wished that there had been laundry aft/bow on alternating floors. it was really quite a walk from the very front of the ship to the very back of the ship with 4 people's laundry. Activities: We spent most of our time in the spa or pools! I don't recall every going on a tour of the spa area on the first day - so that was a new experience for me. We purchased a couples (for me and mil) pass for the thermal suite which was AMAZING. I snuck my hubby in one night to figure out how to make me a heated ceramic recliner!! We also thoroughly enjoyed working out with David and had a great experience with him. I hope the products we bought from him weren't a scam :) I really really enjoyed the pools and jacuzzis. we liked to go up when nobody else was around - and we could always find somewhere that a billion other people weren't there. Service: This is one area where this cruise really lacked compared to cruises in the past for us. The passenger services desk was horrible. They could never help you. Our safe somehow stopped excepting our code part way through the trip - and I had to call 2 times to get someone to finally come. I called to report it. And they said that someone would come. So we waited (changed our dinner plans). waited and waited. 45 minutes later I called again. THey said - oh are you in the cabin now? I said - yes - I am waiting. They finally came 30 minutes later. Meanwhile my husband is convinced everything was stolen out of our safe :) This is petty - but when I would call the services desk - I would sometimes give my inlaws cabin number when they would ask...what is your cabin number. So I would say; E202 (their number) and the dude would say - you mean E204. WELL IF YOU KNOW WHAT CABIN I AM IN WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME? Our other service issue: My hubby made a purchase at a ship recommended store and part of the purchase was left out of the box. so we went to the shopping desk - during their hours (after I was told I couldn't leave him a voicemail?) we waited 30 minutes. I went to the desk (right next to his desk) and said - do you know when he is expected? His hours were to start at 7:30 (it is now 8). The girl - who had already verified his hours with me....verified them again. she said well he is supposed to be here. so she tried calling him and paging him. We waited some more...nothing. Finally she said she would get him a message to call me. We waited a day - nothing. So I went again - and happened to get the same girl. I said that we had never heard from him, she said "like i told you he is sick" I said you never told me that....you said you were trying to reach him and that you would have him call me. I am sorry the man was sick - but I am sure there was a way that he could have let someone know before his set hours that he wouldn't be there. The issue is supposed to be resolved with our purchase - though it hasn't been as of yet. Shore Excursions: we only had one organized excursion and i was in Jamaica. DH and I had been to Jamaica a few times before - and had no desire to be there again. INlaws had never been so they booked a "best of" type tour for all of us. We very much enjoyed it! Cartegena: We actually enjoyed this port - and wished we had done some type of tour/excursion after watching them on the tv. We basically bought coffee and chocolate here :) Costa rica: We did not feel safe here. Again - had we participated in an excursion I am sure it would have been better... alas. We did buy some coffee here. But we went to the market recommended by the ship - and did not see a single other passenger....so we left. Aruba: I wish we had been here longer and not on a Sunday :) That is all. Panama Canal: We really enjoyed this whole experience. We did not have an excursion booked..so we stayed on the ship and went through the locks a second time. We ended up being in the dining room while we were lowered into a lock - and that was quite eerie! Cristobal: Thoroughly enjoyed this!! We bought lots of goodies here! Stateroom: Category C Oceanview. We typically have inside cabins (other than one time with a balcony). The window was a nice treat. My only complaint in the rooms - is the damn shower :) YOu had to stand cattywompous to not bang yourself on the handicapped bar. and the shower curtain is VERY friendly :) Once my hubby figured out how to get the water hot - it was must more enjoyable!. The bed was not the best. We had a really bad night the first night - so i requested an eggcrate. it got a bit better. Dining: This was another one of our unhappy areas. We had selected anytime dining. The first night our cards were checked to see if we were in the right place. The second night I believe they were too. After that they weren't checked. I did read another review of our exact cruise - and they mentioned not have sanitizer available in the dinging rooms. We had an entirely different experience Joanna (whom we actually called sanitizer girl) was there everytime we went in the dining room and squirted us...the same was true up in the buffet. Anyway - for some reason I never got the info that we should request the same dinging service crews - I wish we had. We had great service and HORRIBLE service. Unfortunately we had more of the latter. We basically dined at the same time every night...some nights we had no trouble getting in. Others we were asked to go upstairs to the fixed dining room. THe first time this happened - we were like - whatever - should be the same. WELL IT was awful. By the time we would be seated upstairs in whichever section - the other tables would be well into their courses. So we would sit and sit and sit. Waiting 20+minutes even for WAter! We happened to be up there for lobster night - and it was awful. The tables all around us were well into their courses and we were ordering. My husband politely asked for 2 lobster tails. You would think he had asked for the waiter to give birth to the entire state of TEXAS. Maybe we have just been lucky- but nobody has ever batted an eye if we asked for seconds of anything - especially LOBSTER! On our first cruise (RCCL) our waiter brought both of us 2 lobster tails and even had 2 more ready for my hubby - as we had told him it was his favorite. We are used to 2+ pounds lobsters from Maine....not a tiny tail. ANYWAY. My other issue - was in all of our past cruises every meal - we have had a hard time picking just one thing to order - it seemed on this cruise - we had a hard time picking one thing that we wanted to order. ODD. We did eat in Bayou one night - we enjoyed it. it was worth the extra fee. The sausage was YUMMY, filets were good, I remember not liking the corn muffins. Pickled turnip was interesting! We didn't like the alligator either. The buffet got really old. It really seemed to be the same stuff day in and out. We enjoyed the pizza, and hot dog/hamburger bars. FIL and DH used the ice cream bar at least once...i took advantage of the ice cream on the buffet a few too many times! we really enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the dining room. Entertainment: We didn't go to any of the shows :) We didn't use the Casino (our wallets thank us - Princess I am sure wishes that I had given into my addiction to Black Jack!) We did watch a lot of the movies in our cabins that played back to back all day long :) Disembarkation: This was a big part of our bad experience on this cruise. MIL purchased 4 ship transfers in which she stated our flight departed at 11:15 AM. We received 2 tickets and they received two tickets...our cabins were right next to each other. The night before we were to disembark - inlaws got the right tags - Red 3...and we got the wrong tags - Gold 5 or something. Allowing us to be off the ship between 10 and noon - well that won't work. We look at the breakdown on the sheet and it shows that Red 3 is for people with flights departing after 11 am...and before some other time. Gold 5 was for the entire Emerald deck with no special flight constraints. We call down and the Passenger Services deck (yet again) proved to be less than helpful and not knowledgeable. We finally went down in person with our transfer tickets....and flight info - and the service person said that it couldn't be changed. MIL said we could just use her tags (red 3) and we winged it. Thankfully it worked. But it might not have - and we got lucky! The transfer we paid for was a RIP OFF. We had to be smushed into a big bus with a million people for $15/person and then were dropped off at an inconvenient location where we (my fil has congestive heart failure) had to walk forever with our luggage to get to Jetblue. RIPOFF. And to think we were disappointed that we didn't get a transfer to the ship! Overall we enjoyed the itinerary. We will not be doing another Princess cruise before we go back to another line. I hope we can do Royal again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed about almost EVERY aspect of this cruise. I would like to invite others who may think that I am just a complainer, to read my travel reviews on cruise critic and tripadvisor.com (same name: drjentile). I ... Read More
Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed about almost EVERY aspect of this cruise. I would like to invite others who may think that I am just a complainer, to read my travel reviews on cruise critic and tripadvisor.com (same name: drjentile). I believe this will help to validate my complaints. I have never had a BAD travel experience (other than an unfortunate stay at the Motel 6 in San Marcos Texas). While I enjoyed my vacation (it is what you make of it) I would like to share my thoughts about the HAL experience... Embarkation: Well I began to get fired up as soon as we were called to the desk to check in. The lady (if you want to call her that) called my mother and I up to the desk so we quickly shuffled over there. As soon as we set our bags down she rolled her eyes in the most dramatic fashion and let out a large grunt at us. Not sure why this happened, but I said "is there some sort of problem?" and she stiffened up and proceeded to be overly gracious. What a welcome! After boarding we headed to the lido restaurant (without being given direction as to where that is...unlike Carnival). We were pleased that the all clear announcement was given precisely at 1pm to indicate that our cabins were ready. Our Cabin: We got to our cabin to find out that the stationary and our steward's list indicated a different set of occupants...a Harold Veltree or something of that nature. Then we received his luggage at the cabin and the room stewards did not seem to understand that we were not Howard Veltree after several attempts to explain. He finally got it though :) We went to the purser's office to alert them to the mistake...the woman at the desk indicated that there was no problem. Then when we went to the muster drill they were asking us again if we were Harold Veltree (or something of that nature) and we were trying to indicate that there was a mix up. They did not take our names down and I was fearful that if the ship went down we would have gone unaccounted for. We booked a Superior Suite. The room was large enough but the fixtures in the bathroom reminded me of the Motel 6. The verandah was wonderful!!! It had a table with two chairs, and two chairs with ottomans. We loved it! The beds were hard and the linens left something to be desired. The blankets were those old polyester ones you see at Motel 6. Mine had holes in it. I looked under the bed to find the old linens from the previous guest, stuffed under there...sheets, pillow cases, blankets, everything...and hair!!!!! It took over 5 polite request, one more sharp request, and 7 hours to actually get the used linens removed and replaced. Also when we arrived in the room, the waste bins still had rubbish in them and the programs from the previous cruisers were left on the couch. We were skipped several times for turn down service. Our water was never replaced from the first day. I placed my wine bottle by the ice bucket, and we did not receive ice for it until day 6. We got only three towel animals (weren't sure what they were..couldn't find them in the book). Sometimes our towels were replaced...etc, etc, etc. Dining: The choice of food in the Lido for breakfast and lunch was outstanding! The pizza/pasta station was delicious. The deserts were fantastic. The taco bar was amazing!!! I even saw sushi at the buffet! There was also a nice station where you could slice your own cheeses (including brie, gouda, etc). I do not remember our lead dining steward's name (and we just disembarked yesterday)...he was outshined ten-fold by the assistant dining steward Wizz. Wizz was fantastic and very attentive. Our wine steward Romeo was excellent too. He always anticipated my needs which was very nice! The dining stewards at the other surrounding tables were helpful as well...always there to pull out a chair or offer a menu. I am a vegetarian and I was satisfied with the veg fare. There was a veg choice nightly and a completely separate menu that was all vegetarian!!! This was so wonderful. The dining stewards brought me the next night's menu and the veg menu nightly so I could choose what I wanted in advance :) I do however have to indicate thought hat the veg fare on Carnival was much better. This veg fare was often of Asian or Indian influence, which I don't enjoy as much. Unfortunately the main course was always cold when it arrived, without exception. The soups and appetizers were warm though. The teas and goodies provided at the afternoon tea were scrumptious, and I will surely miss this portion of my day. There was no chocolate extravaganza which I had read about on other posts. Beverage Service: The beverage staff were wonderful! Best crew on the ship. Although I am a very very light drinker, you wouldn't know it b/c in every common area or bar there was a beverage staff member who knew my name, anticipated my needs, and was quick to serve. They were all very friendly as well. Entertainment: The female dancers were largely unfortunate. The male dancers were excellent. The singers were good. Joel Mason (the Elton John tribute) was excellent. Even if you don't enjoy Elton John you will likely just enjoy the show he puts on. Derrick Cameron the comedian was outstanding! The magician was incredible as well, and his whole family got involved. The Filipino crew show was wonderful. The scheduling of the evening entertainment did not lead to a smooth evening. This should be considered by HAL. Unfortunately there was a huge lack of on-board activities...unless you wanted to pay for them. Also it seemed like the best activities were scheduled while we were in port and on sea days there was nothing going on! We did participate in both wine tastings (for a nominal fee) and they were excellent. Georgi the Cellar Master was fantastic...very informative and just wonderful all around. Ports: Tendering in Cabo was a breeze. Out of I believe 4 ships we were "parked" in the best location...right next to "land's end" and lover's beach. This provided great photo opps. There were an inordinate amount of individual's selling items on the beach...more so than I have ever seen in Mexico. We went to Playa Madera which was lovely, though the food and drinks were just as expensive as in San Diego...in other ports there is a substantial savings, but not in Cabo. Mazatlan was wonderful. When we walked off the boat, we booked a tour with someone that was selling tours in the market area. It took us to Stone Island and was all inclusive with drinks, food, and activities for $30 pp. Thanks to Jorge and Gabriel with Playa Sur/Mazatlan tours!!!! I was underwhelmed with the beaches in Puerto Vallarta but the town itself is beautiful. Disembarkation day: Okay so when we woke up on Saturday morning it was like a switch had been turned off. All of a sudden there were no more warm greetings and only salty looks and a lack of any sort of service for breakfast. We were made to feel very uncomfortable, and could not wait to get off of the ship! This was delayed though as the computer system was down. Overall I was very underwhelmed with my experience on HAL. I will not sail with HAL in the future. It is not a luxury experience like you are lead to believe by the website. The ports and our table-mates for dinner were what made the cruise for me. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Sometime ago, my mother and I decided it would be a great experience to go on a family cruiseAs we live within 80 miles of Port Canaveral, we headed towards the port at 10am. Embarkation was a breeze, even being a family of newbies (with ... Read More
Sometime ago, my mother and I decided it would be a great experience to go on a family cruiseAs we live within 80 miles of Port Canaveral, we headed towards the port at 10am. Embarkation was a breeze, even being a family of newbies (with the exception of my parents who have cruised 4 & 5 times.) The port is beautiful & the security & staff were very pleasant & understanding. Should you be traveling into Orlando International Airport, prepare yourself for the opposite, as the security staff is NOT in any way polite or understanding of the stresses of travel. If memory serves, we arrived at Port Canaveral at 10:30am and were onboard by 11:30. Everyone was advised to go up to Deck 9 (Lido) to the Red Sail for lunch, buffet style. Obviously, during embarkation things feel VERY much congested, but after rooms are available, which was at 1:30pm, people moved to different areas of the ship. @ 1:30pm we went straight to our room, Cabin 7834 and tried to get ourselves familiar with our close quarters for the next 7 days. We originally had planned to use the bunk above the couch for our 5 yr old and the couch for our 2 yr old, but immediately decided probably not a great idea, for safety concerns. All the announcements and Muster Drill advisories made our 5 yr old VERY VERY upset and our steward, Sherwin from Trinidad, did his best to calm him and us. Although the Muster Drill was NOT fun, we managed through it and went back to our rooms to find MOST of our luggage had been delivered. My parents had the balcony room next door and my grandmother, who was in a single room (only a handful on the ship) was located towards the front of the ship on deck 6. We asked Sherwin to remove the balcony partition, which proved to add a great deal of balcony space. As for the cabin itself, it is very small but has a great deal of storage space, thank goodness! Best part of the cabin: the Beds! So soft and comfortable, which says a great deal coming from a Sleep Number bed gal! As we were planning on using Camp Carnival for our boys, we attended the Welcome Aboard Orientation in the Ebony Cabaret @ 5:30pm. It was somewhat thorough and helpful to get the Kids Capers (I do have a copy) and general info about the week ahead. Camp Carnival hours are varied and most times not at all convenient. A typical day on ship was 9am - noon/ closed from 12pm - 2pm/ open from 2 - 3:30pm (WHY!?)/ CLOSED until 7pm/ Open from 7pm-10pm (after 10pm babysitting service at Camp until 3am - 2 boys = $10/hr). Personally, I would have preferred they remain open more daytime hours and start the babysitting earlier (if it's a money making issue) and end around midnight. Who am I though? Our first night & day at sea were okay, I suppose. Hubby and I had a massage, which was nice, followed by a money making scheme of product selling. Before I knew it I had spent nearly $500.00 for 2 massages, 1 manicure and a couple of useless products from the spa! Watch out, Carnival nickel & dimes you to death!!!! So, after our 1 hour of relaxation, we had to go pick up our kids from Camp. As I felt the 1 1/2 hours of Camp from 2-3:30 was a waste, we remained in our cabin for the next 7 hours, except to eat at Lido's Red Sail buffet. By this time, I'm beginning to realize, this ship's food is well, NOT well. In fact, so far, it's BAAAD. We had reservations for the Supper Club that night though, so was willing to accept buffet food for what it was and hope for the best. If you are willing to pay an additional $30/person for dinner, you MUST MUST MUST go to the Emerald Supper Club! It was as good, if not better than some of my favorite 4 & 5 star restaurants at home! The filet is actually grilled (not so in the Dining rooms) the lobster tail was cooked perfectly... the food was Delicious!!! We wound up going back 1 more time after that. It should be said, that this pallet could only stomach these 2 meals. With the exception of the BLT & Roasted Turkey from Room service. Otherwise, I do not have to worry about the after cruise diet as I actually LOST weight! Day 3 - Cozumel I had done a lot of Cruise Critic research and was looking for an excursion for ALL to enjoy. Rather than book through the ship, I decided to go to the all inclusive: Nachi Cocom. We had to pay a deposit through the website but paid the remainder upon arrival. The cost of the taxi was about $20 1-way. For $49.00/ adult & $15.00 for the 5 yr old, we were brought to our own chairs on the beach. Offered a 3 course meal, drinks all day & a lovely waiter named Joseph. It's a beautiful spot (don't let the entrance scare you), very clean and simply perfect! Also, they only allow up to 100 guests/ day! Unfortunately for us, the high temp was only to reach 68F and all water activities (through the resort) were cancelled due to bad weather & seas. We picked through seashells, drank Corona & had some of the best Guacamole ever! No swimming to speak of (as we are Floridians and were cold, cold, cold). Day 4 - Belize City Only time we made plans to go on an excursion w/o our kids. Camp stays open until 5pm on port days. So, get this, our ship was 2 hours late getting into port due to an underwater earthquake! Not only were the seas rough due to weather but the ship had to slow to a crawl for safety reasons due to an earthquake! Anyways, we left the boys in Camp that day, while grandma stayed on ship, and headed to AltunHa & the Belize City tour through Carnival. It was definitely good for me to see the city and to get a better appreciation of just how good we Americans do have it, but as for spending time in the city... DO NOT GO INTO BELIZE CITY unless locked safely in a bus. After the city tour we headed about 45 minutes out of town to the ruins. Altun Ha is VERY cool! Approx. 8 temples/ buildings and 1 you can actually climb up to the top! It was a good and interesting day. Day 4 - Roatan Island, Honduras Without a doubt, the most fantastic day! We went to the Coral Cay resort through Carnival. What a breathtaking and beautiful place Roatan is! My hubby walked to dock down to the reef to snorkel, the kids played in the water, of the food ordered I would have to say the breaded shrimp was the best. I have discovered a new favorite drink: Monkeylata (Baileys, Kaluha & OJ frozen) YUMMY! Tasted like a chocolate milkshake. The service was awesome and the people were so friendly. Based on our time there, I would definitely consider going back to the island to stay for a week... although the singer at the resort suggested to stay away from the mainland if at all possible. Apparently, what we witnessed in Belize was very much like the country of Honduras.... Day 5 - Another day at sea... much like the 1st. Couple hours of free time and then, stuck in our cabin. We did roam the boat some, but due to the bad weather we couldn't go swimming in the pools on board. The upper decks (mini golf and scenic views) were closed a lot of times due to Strong Winds and bad weather. Can't do much about the weather, but it would have made for a totally different experience had the Caribbean been more like the Caribbean weather-wise. As for the boat, itself, there is not much else to do but gamble, drink, drink, gamble, & spend money. Every single show, Camp activity, shop & onboard experience had some kind of catch. Sell, Sell, Sell! Which seems unfair to the crew as far as I'm concerned. If I were them, I'd much rather give people things to do so as to earn better tips rather than force them into spending money on corporate crap because they are so bored.... So, here's where I'll talk about the Ship's Crew. WOW! What an amazing group of people they have working on the Glory! Every single person from housekeeping to bartender to Manicurist was simply lovely and so personable! Sherwin remembered our boys' names after day 1! Nearly every crew member stopped to smile and speak to our children! They were w/o a doubt some of the most humble and sweet people I've ever met in my life and they were from all over the world! The sacrifices those people make to make our lives more comfortable is amazing! Kudos & much much appreciation to the entire Glory Crew!!!! Day 6 - Freeport Not much to look at once you pull into port... industrial Ship Yard. We decided not to book anything and take a taxi ($10/person round trip) to Port Lucaya, which was nice I suppose. Lots of shops and bars. Again, chilly & windy weather didn't allow for swimming really. So, we wondered around, went back to the shop 2 hours later and were VERY anxious to pack our things and head home. THIS WAS THE WORST NIGHT AT SEA! I actually got sick for the 1st time on our way into Port Canaveral.... We HAD to take motion sickness meds everyday even though none of us had ever had it before. You should know, my husband and I go out on boats fishing the intercoastal & off the FL coast and I've never been sick (nor has he). We were not blessed with good weather EVER on this trip... no one's fault but be prepared for it. Apparently, the Eastern cruise scheduled for the week prior to ours only made it to 2 ports due to a hurricane. I realize we scheduled during the final days of hurricane season, but I was born and raised in FL and late season storms truly are a rarity. Oh well. Day 7 - HOME (FINALLY) Getting off the ship was nothing short of AWFUL. Our boys really tried to hold it together. We were in port at 7am, they began calling by deck (self assist luggage) & luggage numbers (issued w/ luggage tags) at 7:30am, by 9:30am they had called through number 7 (we were 9 - my grandmother was 25!) So, needless to say, my 2 yr old pitched such a fit (thankfully) that a very lovely crew member actually escorted us off the boat! Thank you, thank you, thank you! What a relief it was to get our luggage! Once off the boat, things moved very smoothly (as they had during embarkation) through the port & customs. What a surprise to get back to the garage & find our car battery was dead, but thankfully jumped by the parking garage attendant! NOW - 2 days later We are all still very queasy and suffering from motion sickness. My 5 yr old has something viral and was taken to the doctor this morning with a fever of 103. The kids don't want to sleep in their own rooms (having slept in the cabin with Mommy & Daddy for 7 nights). We are adjusting and hoping that one day soon, the wobbling will quit and the fond memories will surpass the pretty disappointing ones. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Embarkment was hectic however Valet was well worth it..and we had someone take our bags in. We dropped off the car and got on the ship within about 30 minutes. Camp Carnival - was great for my younger kids, however my 14 yr old high ... Read More
Embarkment was hectic however Valet was well worth it..and we had someone take our bags in. We dropped off the car and got on the ship within about 30 minutes. Camp Carnival - was great for my younger kids, however my 14 yr old high school student didn't like being put with middle schoolers. They gave us a phone for onboard for them to call us on for the 5 yr old, but we also gave it to the 14yr old to call our room to check in. It was handy and free. Ship - the ship was updated in the bathrooms, spa, gym and cabins, but the pools were a little worn and we didn't like that they didn't have a kiddy pool, so most little kids hung out in the hot tubs Food - was actually pretty good, and plentiful Cozumel - we did the Talum tour...which was amazing and well worth it, with a beach and pyramids and we were able to leave our little ones at Camp Carnival Grand Caymans - we did the 7mile beach tour, which they give you a ride to and from, beach chairs, and a free soda whoopie... but it was nice and warm Debarkment - we were # 17 and one of the last to depart, we left our room at 8am and ate, then we waited around and was one of the last people to get off the ship... it was pleasant. Then we got a valet for our bags...well worth the $10 tip and our car was waiting for us accross the street and on the 4th floor. Overall it was a nice cruise...however if I had to choose between this cruise and our Disney cruise...Disney's service, staff, and fun was much better The staff on carnival was hit or miss, some were nice others naughty and rude. Specifically the camp director for C0 2 camp was very rude and mean, and it was hard to lodge a complaint while on ship, they seemed to just listen to you but do nothing Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Embarkation was smooth and didn't take to long. We did have one problem, the person checking us in was in training and did not activate our credit card, no biggie but just another chink in the Liberty's armor. Now we had ... Read More
Embarkation was smooth and didn't take to long. We did have one problem, the person checking us in was in training and did not activate our credit card, no biggie but just another chink in the Liberty's armor. Now we had a good time overall but everything (except the kids programs) was below what we have come to expect from a Carnival cruise. Never say the room steward to request needs and missed putting things in our stateroom several days, like the carnival capers. Were seated at a booth with a chair at the end to make a table for 5. This left us cramped. In order to get to a table that actually sat 5 people we had to make the shift to late seating. This was an inconvenience since we requested early seating especially with 2 young children. The service was so bad at the early seating it helped make the decision to swap to the later times. After the swap the service was much better, not the best but much better. Food was mediocre, nothing special, food was ok. Almost of an Applebees / Ruby Tuesday's quality. Was expecting much more but the chef's here have a lot of room to go to get to the level of the Miracle or Glory from previous sailings. The dessert menu has been chopped in half, but you can get warm chocolate melting cake every night (and I did because nothing else was really appealing). Would someone please teach Carnival how to make a decent cheesecake (NY style please). Rooms were nice and typical carnival. The beds were not so good though. It is true that Carnival has great sheets and a wonderful comforter, but if the mattress is worn and has indents from the rest of the 5000 people who have slept there then no sheet or comforter will improve the nights sleep. Shows- absolute worst I have ever seen on any Carnival ship ever. I attribute this to the overall scripts and choreography not the dancers or singers. These shows need to be replaced with better ones. Way to much dancing with no purpose. Cruise Director- Steve- unless it was a show never saw him around the ship. His staff was constantly yawning at the trivia games like they were bored and were doing this because they had to. A little excitement would have been nice, I felt like a burden to their time off and not a valued customer. The ship is beautiful, well kept and very clean. I loved this ship, it wasn't over the top like the Miracles dining room or some of Joe Farcas' designs. Camp Carnival was wonderful, my kids had a great time. Since this was their first time fully using Camp Carnival I have nothing to compare it to. They always came away with smiles and lots of fun stories and art creations. Was going to try Harry's supper club but decided that $30/pp was not worth it. In summary we are long time Carnival Cruisers, and really enjoy them however this ship was not up to the standards we have come to expect from this Cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I am 35 and took this cruise with some family members (12 of us in all). We live in LA and drove to San Diego the night before the cruise and stayed at the US Grant - lovely hotel! We arrived for embarkation at around 12:30. The staff at ... Read More
I am 35 and took this cruise with some family members (12 of us in all). We live in LA and drove to San Diego the night before the cruise and stayed at the US Grant - lovely hotel! We arrived for embarkation at around 12:30. The staff at check in were incredibly rude and abrupt and acted like they were being tortured by working there. Between the 12 of us we checked in with 4 separate people and we all had the same experience - not a very good welcome to your cruise! It was about 1:15 by the time we were on board and we were completely aggravated and frustrated by the way we were treated. The ship is nice but nothing special - I am used to Princess and the atrium, etc. When we walked on board it was anti-climactic. The 3-story atrium is ho-hum and small with low ceilings. I felt that the ship is very chopped up - lots of small spaces everywhere - it didn't seem open and free-flowing. We had an inside cabin which was by far the most spacious of any inside cabin I've ever seen - and lots of room for 3 people to unpack and put away all out stuff. The highlights of the cruise were: 1. The cabin size and layout 2. The food - the food in the Lido was the best buffet food I've ever had on a cruise ship (although 4 out of 7 mornings I could not find a table and had to take my food back to my room). Dining room food was excellent as well. 3. The staff in the dining room. We had fixed late seating and Ario, our server, and RJ, our wine steward made every dinner special. They had all 12 of our names memorized by night #2. Incredible service! 4. Joel Mason, the Elton John impersonator - great entertainer and very funny! 5. Thermal Suite. If it wasn't for my buying this package I would have lost my mind due to boredom on the ship (all 3 sea days were cold). I highly recommend purchasing this package - it was AMAZING and so nice to be able to go there twice or more each day and chill. Other than that we were less than impressed. For us the biggest problem was lack of activities. HAL schedules their shows to be seen before dinner instead of after. I have never experienced this before on a ship. I choose late seating because I don't want to have to get cleaned up and ready to go by 7 PM - its too early for me. Every night we would finish dinner at around 9:30 and we would go from bar to bar, show room to show room, looking for something to do. There was rarely anything going on. 2 nights they did have karaoke which was fun. Other than that you had to hang out and occupy yourself until 11 PM when the Northern Lights Dance club opens. By then you'd be out of the party mood. And the times we did finally make it to Northern Lights we were the only ones in there dancing (other than the second to last night, when it was busy). Several nights I was in bed, lights out before 11 PM because there was nothing to do (a first for me on a cruise!) Overall service on board was so-so other than our dining room staff. I had an 80 minute massage that was good but not great. However, the staff in the Spa was very friendly and warm every single day. PORTS: This is my 4th time doing the Mexican Riviera so I went for the ship, not the ports so much. In Cabo we took a water taxi to Medano Beach - very relaxing and easy!! In Mazatlan we went into town and shopped and hung out at the beach in front of the hotel Flora. Mazatlan is just so-so and every time I go I wonder why I got off the ship. In Puerto Vallarta we went to Las Caletas for the 3rd time and it never disappoints - one of my favorite places on earth! I HIGHLY recommend this excursion! In my opinion if you're under 55 and you like to have any kind of fun after dinner, HAL is not for you. If you're looking to vegetate and hang out in a nice stateroom and eat great food then HAL is for you. One last comment - they allow smoking in many of their bars, and a couple of their main bars are right off the casino and smoke is wafting in rather strongly. NOT GOOD. I had asthma problems more than once. Smoking should not be allowed anywhere other than the casino. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was our first Freestyle cruise with NCL (my wife and I had sailed NCL back in the mid-90s). We were a group of 11 including 3 children (8,6,3). We drove to Miami and apparently arrived about the same time as everyone else. We were ... Read More
This was our first Freestyle cruise with NCL (my wife and I had sailed NCL back in the mid-90s). We were a group of 11 including 3 children (8,6,3). We drove to Miami and apparently arrived about the same time as everyone else. We were forced to park about two miles from the terminal from which we sailed, as one garage has been taken down and the other parking areas were apparently full. Once the drivers reunited with the rest of the party at the terminal the waiting began. Line up around the building, then inside to present paperwork. Strangely we were then sent upstairs to get key cards. More lines for that. Once on the ship, we waited in yet another line on the deck to be let into the atrium. Finally inside the ship, the announcement came letting everyone know that cabins were accessible and off we went to drop carry ons. The cabin itself was inside and as small as expected. My wife, two daughters and I were surprised to find that there was only one fold-down bed. The other appeared at night between the two beds on the floor. It seemed like it would be a tough fit, but really worked just fine. The bathroom was one of the finer we've had on any cruise. Pretty spacious. Nice touch with the shower door rather than curtain. The toilet is arranged quite oddly and necessitates a side saddle approach for those who are tall. Lunch in the Garden Cafe was absurdly crowded. Probably no more so than any other buffet at that time of day, but after so much time spent in line already, some in our party were quite peeved to have to wait for tables to open up (we were not trying to sit all 11 together). Sail away was nice, but chilly. Jackets at sail away always seems odd, especially in Florida. The seas were of decent height, but calmed as the night wore on. We ate at Tsars the first night. The food got mixed reviews. Mostly people thought it mediocre in terms of selection and preparation. I liked the jerk chicken, though. Service was decent. The next night in Azuras, was a disaster. We got a table with a minimal wait (10 minutes at 6:30ish). The services was the slowest I've ever had in my life. We asked nicely if the process could be sped up because the children wanted to go to the kids club and were getting a little antsy. No results. After two hours, not one entree had made its way to our table. We had all had only salad. At that point my wife and I took the kids to the buffet to feed them and drop them off at the kids club. On the way out I told the maitre'd that he should be embarrassed by the service in his restaurant. After the feeding and drop off we returned to the restaurant to meet back up with our party. The maitre'd fell all over himself bringing us food (which was the second best meal of the trip)and gave us his card so that we could call later and have more brought to our cabin. Odd way to make up for a three hour fiasco. We ate at Cagney's the next night. The food and service were brilliant. Garden Cafe, the next, and Tsars the last night (Thanksgiving dinner) service again was good there, food uninspiring. The kids club saw pretty good action from our two kids (8 and 6) and limited time from the three year old (mostly because she napped during the afternoon on sea days). Our kids had a love hate relationship with the club. My oldest said she liked to go but it made her nervous. The six year old wouldn't attend by herself. I think it had a lot to do with the number of kids on this kid heavy family cruise holiday. The place was packed every time we went there. We stood in line for nearly 45 minutes to sign them in on the first night. They have an odd system of wristbands on rings which they must sort through each time you bring a kid. No pagers either. You have to write down where you'll be in case they need to come get you to pick up your kid. We never ended up in the places we wrote down due to any number of reasons. If your kid is in the club for three hours, are you going to stay in one place the whole time? Very strange system of keeping track of kids and parents. The instructors didn't seem too fond of the kids. There was always yelling from the instructors when we were leaving or dropping off. We asked our kids if that bothered them and they said no since they weren't being yelled at. This was the first kids club where I've run into shouting staff. I didn't care for that and in fact on the last sea day, our kids stayed with us by their choice. The general condition of the ship is very good. I liked the color schemes. The only show we saw was Cirque Bijou. It was a cruise ship version of Cirque du Soliel. Not nearly as good, but a respectable effort given their limitations on a ship. We did Stingray City on our own in Grand Cayman. We used Captain Bryan and were very happy. We took a taxi to Chankanaab in Cozumel. That was fun as well. Finally, it seems that the whole Freestyle concept is built around the idea that people go on cruises only to eat. While we all did our fair share of absurd consumption, we felt that the emphasis on the many "pay" restaurants hurts the overall cruise experience. There is a sacrifice of public space due to the numerous restaurants. The atrium is very small; picture nights are absurd with people walking in front of a shooting photographer, or just waiting in a line for him to snap the shot so they can pass by. All of the public spaces that could be used if not for the numerous restaurants would really open up the ship and make it feel less crowded. Further, it's clear, if you're unwilling to pay a service charge, either the food or the service you'll get are going to suffer. The $10 dollar a day charge they use in lieu of tipping is a bad idea. It is a disincentive to provide good service. You see it not only in the dining areas, but also in the staterooms. Never was our room made up before 2pm, or turned down until after 8:30. I've never seen that on any of the 11 other cruises I've been on. Towels not replaced, used glasses left behind. I came back to the room to get a camera, and there stood our steward watching Batman on the tv. He never even looked at me as I searched the room for the camera, just kept watching the movie. I know it's common for people to scold critics with the statement that "a cruise is what you make it". And that's true to an extent. We made it an enjoyable time. But there is blame to go around for the things that weren't right. And enough wasn't right for me to be pretty sure that I'll not be back on NCL again. We've cruised Princess, X, RCI, Disney, and Carnival. All (yes even Carnival) offer a better overall experience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background: Family of 4. Husband, wife, 2 boys ages 6 & 8. We had taken one cruise prior to this (on Royal Caribbean) 14 years ago for our honeymoon. Chose Norwegian specifically for its "freestyle" program. We thought this ... Read More
Background: Family of 4. Husband, wife, 2 boys ages 6 & 8. We had taken one cruise prior to this (on Royal Caribbean) 14 years ago for our honeymoon. Chose Norwegian specifically for its "freestyle" program. We thought this would be easier with the kids. Flew in from New York the day before sailing. Stayed at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami as recommended by so many on these boards. It was perfect for our needs. Our flight got into Miami at about 5:00 pm so basically we checked into the hotel, walked across to Bayside Marketplace and had dinner. I wouldn't want to spend a week at the hotel but for a one night stay with no time to use amenities, it served us well. They gave us a room with a great view. The boys were excited to wake up and see the ships in port from our hotel room window. Had breakfast at the hotel in the morning and headed for the port. NCL kept us moving so it didn't seem as though we had a long wait before we were able to get on the ship. I think we actually "waited" sitting down for less than half an hour. We were greeted by a crew member and told that we could eat lunch at the Garden Cafe. I asked if Summer Palace was open for lunch. She said no but Indigo was just opening for lunch. So we headed to Indigo for a quiet relaxing lunch. I had a sandwich. Hubby had fish. Kids ate off the children's menu. Older son ordered grilled cheese. Didn't like that the american cheese was yellow instead of the white that we usually buy. Our server took note that he wasn't eating and very nicely told him that he could order something different, which he did - peanut butter and jelly which he ate. On a side note we ran into that same server on another day, in a different restaurant, while she was pushing a huge cart and she stopped to smile and say hello to us. In general I found all the staff to be smiling throughout our cruise. It was clear that they truly work but yet no one seemed to be resentful towards us about their workload. Aqua Kids Club: We were disappointed with the kids club. I wouldn't direct this at the youth counselors, I think there were just too many kids on board the ship Thanksgiving week. I heard one of them say that there were 600 kids on board the ship. The kids were not broken up into the stipulated age range of 6-9 and 10-12 but rather all the 6 to 12 year olds were put together in the teen center. We sent our boys there the first morning we were at sea for 2 hours. They never wanted to go back again. My 8 year old said that there was no choice as to what you wanted to do. They would decide on a game to play. If you didn't want to play that game then you had to sit and do nothing. I dropped by the place a few times during the week to see what was going on and usually they had the kids watching a movie. There were so many kids they were really packed on top of one another. On the positive side to this, my son has a severe peanut allergy and I was able to leave them with an epi-pen and they gave me a phone to keep with me in case an emergency occurred. Dining: Overall, the food was fine. We did not go hungry and always found something to our liking. We tried Cagney's one night but we were not all that impressed. I ordered the filet mignon. The beef itself was good but seemed naked when it came to the table. It wasn't sizzling in butter like at Ruth's Chris. I don't recall there being any garnish on the plate. I ordered onion rings as a side and literally was served 3 of them. We tried Teppanyaki one night. The show that the chefs put on is great. Downfall is that we took the kids and had to pay full price for them which I wasn't expecting. I was thinking it would be half price but I understand that you are paying for the seat in that specialty restaurant due to the show. We tried La Cucina one night. My husband was craving Chicken Parmesan which they had on the menu. We arrived at the restaurant at 9:00pm with no reservation. The hostess said to wait she would see if she could find a place for us. After ten minutes she seated us. I think there were only 4 other families eating! The place was virtually empty. It was odd. Again, the food was ok. Granted, being so close to New York we are spoiled with great Italian restaurants at home. In short, we wound up eating at the buffet most of the time. Only negative on the Garden Cafe is that it is very chaotic. It is often difficult to find a clean table. We felt like we were eating in shifts. Ok, let's have the boys stay at the table while we go up and get food for them (so as not to lose the table). We'll then drop off their food and go back up to the buffet to get food for ourselves. Of course by the time we got back to the table the boys would be thirsty so we'd have to get up again to go fetch drinks. As strange as this sounds, it was more desirable to us than the specialty restaurants! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This cruise was meant for our father. 3 generations on one ship at one time is a miracle but we did it. On Nov 28 we started our trip to Winnipeg Manitoba( a 2 hour car ride on the highway). We got in to the city and went to the Comfort ... Read More
This cruise was meant for our father. 3 generations on one ship at one time is a miracle but we did it. On Nov 28 we started our trip to Winnipeg Manitoba( a 2 hour car ride on the highway). We got in to the city and went to the Comfort Inn for the night. It is a nice hotel nothing special,free shuttle to and from the airport and continental breakfast.IN the morning we took the shuttle to the Airport and met my brother,sister in law and 2 nieces 9 and 12 and nephew 14. We all boarded the plane to Vancouver then transferred plane to LA. Nothing out of the norm for seasoned flyers. Arrived at the Airport and took a shuttle to the four points sheraton LA and met my mother and father, sister and brother in law and 2 nephews 4 and 6. The hotel is wonderful, clean large rooms with a great view of LA. The hotels offers a breakfast buffet that is awesome. Next morning it is off to the port to catch the ship. We used Super shuttle our drivers name was cheech. He was hilarious with his trivia and cheetos. We arrived at the port around noon and went into a line up for about 1/2 hour,then into the dome for another 1/2 hours then onto the ship.Once on board we went to the Lido for lunch.It was the same old cruise food and NO SEATS Available anywhere. About 4:30 we went for muster drill which was painless and fast compared to other times where it seemed to take forever.At 5:15 met CC group at Florentines lounge. Got the kids a glass of pop.( TIP do not buy your pop cards in port wait till you are out to seas for at least one hour, save the taxes)After M&G we went for dinner. Our servers were Jeffery and Anthony from the Phillipines.First impressions of our servers..they were not very happy to be there and had no energy( first impressions say alot as they were this way the whole cruise but add disorganized to the list). Welcome Aboard show was OK . Met our Cruise Director Mark Price( gave him a Canada flag red pin to support our troops)Comedian Tom McGillen is hilarious. DS 12 was sick with ship fever off to bed early missed Circle C registration. Day 2 At Seas day.Registered 12 year old for Circle C Big Mistake!!!!Nothing to do.Nintentdo Wii till noon and Playstation 3 after that,no activities. Nothing really special today except we met ESTVAN from Hungry he was our server at breakfast.he is an amazing waiter great service very friendly went out of his way to visit everyday after today. Darwin our room attendant had to be called back to fix our room. it was left messy melted chocolate something left on the balcony. No ice left in bucket. Welcome aboard party was just ok singers were very disneyland like.As this was Captains night we had been invited to the Tajmahal for a M&G.There was very little for drinks being served and just as few snacks this was totally the opposite of other Carnival cruises we have been on,where you where constantly getting drinks and were full from the snacks before you main meal. 3rd another at sea day with nothing for the kids to do at Circle C. Not too much to do on board for us either.Dinner was a disaster.Our servers served the wrong food to the wrong person.They could not get organized when one table had there main course our other one had not even got their appetizers, this was constant thru out the cruise.They brought out extra deserts to compensate for people not ordering them to make there quota for the day. Kyle Wayne was from"Americas got talent" was the entertainment for the night.What has Carnival come too?Desperation? 4th day in Puerto Vallarta: We booked our excursion off the ship for this trip. this tour was booked thru Puerto Vallarta tours.We booked the Marigalante Pirate ship Adventure it was around 83pp us.What a fantastic excursion.We were greeted at the pier by a Pirate named JOKER.He was our personal pirate for the whole trip.We walked from the pier to the Marigalante where we were greeted by the other Pirates and ushered down below for a great breakfast of eggs, ham cereal, juices and coffee or tea.Then it was upstairs for the Adventure to begin.They put on a great show and opened the bar. Our glasses were never empty the kids were treated like royalty. Something I need to mention is the bathroom on board are so funny. The boys room has shark mouths and the girls room has skulls for toilets.We sailed out to banderas Bay resort where we were greeted by 4 playful dogs( one of them likes to ride in the front of a Kayak) We again were served beverages and never had an empty glass. One the way back to port we saw humpback whales and Manta rays.We were back at the Pride by 3:30.Dinner on the Pride that night was the same as it was all week trying at best!! Did not make any of the shows at diner ran way too long. Day 5 Mazatlan. We went to Randi's happy horses for 3 hours of fun. She met us at the port but we had to make it thru all the time share people attaching us as we were trying to get thru the market. You can't get around them they are everywhere!!We met Randi out side with ehr bright pink sign and off to get the horses. We went on the back of a truck taxi to a small boat to Stone Island, then back on another truck taxi to the ranch where we were introduced to the horses. My DS 12 has autism and we have always been told that he could not do alot of things. Randi didn't believe that. She knows here horses and puts you with one based on your experience. My Son has always been lead around on the tether when riding but she let him have his own horse with out the tether and if I didn't see it with my own eyes I would never had believed it.He was on his own free and was able to ride like everyone else.Down the beach we went ..He was trotting for the first time he had total control and was able to keep up at his own pace.It was an amazing miracle that I will never forget. after a great 3 hours ride it was back to Victors for a light lunch then back to the ship by 3:30. When we got back we got ready for dinner and the same service we had all week.( if it was not for my mom and dad we would have eaten at the lido the rest of the week but we did not want to hurt their feelings.)The Entertainment was another America's got talent sequel.But Jerome the comedian from Las vegas was great!!! Next Day it was Cabo..YIKES!!! I booked another tours thru Cabo sails.com( NEVER AGAIN) to Land's end and Lover's beach Snorkel.We got off the tender and met our tour guide Don Carlos where he took an ID for the exchange of snorkel equipment, then it was off to the glass bottom boat( what glass?) there was a small window that leaked at the bottom of the center of the boat. WE went to Pelican rock for 5 second( not kidding) saw a couple of fish them off to Los Arcos for another 5 seconds then got taken to lover's beach.You have to JUMP off these boats, in between waves, there is not stairs,no dock nothing. We stayed at the beach for 3 hours then wanted to head back well if you have to jump off guess how you get back on? In between the waves you swing one leg over and then hope to get the other one over before the next wave takes the boat out. I was not so lucky. I had one leg up and DH had the other one and well I got wishboned so bad I ended up at the doctors office when we got home. DO NOT TAKE THIS EXCURSION DO NOT USE THE WATER TAXIS TO LOVER'S BEACH IT IS VERY DANGEROUS. Back on the ship it was same old same old at dinner Vroom was a welcome break it was a very nice show. Day 6 at sea not much going on DS12 got his 1st cookie all week as other had gotten theirs everyday.Got another visit from ESTVAN at breakfast( I would take him home if I could) same same at dinner and off to bed. Debarkation day was a breeze, off the ship luggage in hand by 10:00 Over view: Darwin Cabin attendant needs 2 red bull a day Circle C is a wash out Jeffery and Anthony need 6 red bull and day, daily organizer and kick in the pants with a frozen boot. I need a break from Carnival. 4 cruises with them and there has been problems with all of them.Sorry but this a brutally honest review of my opinion only. I do not want to offend anyone Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background information: 53 years old, male, retired from airline cabin crew, 2 previous cruises with Costa and Celebrity. Cruised with my wife and 19 year old son.Travel to port of embarkation: Slept in Orlando and with private bus reached ... Read More
Background information: 53 years old, male, retired from airline cabin crew, 2 previous cruises with Costa and Celebrity. Cruised with my wife and 19 year old son.Travel to port of embarkation: Slept in Orlando and with private bus reached Port Canaveral: Embarkation: took us 1 hour from the moment we reached the Port at noon Unfortunately and I do not know why, Only 3 of us, out of 50, received documents and tags. This has meant a lot of confusion to help my 50 friends to fill out blank tags given on the premises while the luggage were being taken down from the bus: stress and confusion because my friends only speak few words of english. Stateroom 6637, inside stateroom, smaller than Costa and Celebrity but enough room for storage. Nicely appointed. This room had a bunk bed for the third occupant, rather than a sofa-bed, like Celebrity and Costa. This meant that my wife had to pay attention to her head when getting up from the bed, since the bunk bed was right on top of our bed. The stateroom was very quiet and well isolated from our "neighbors". Ship info: This voyager class vessel is very elegant, clean and didn't appear "claustrophobic" even if it was at it's full capability. The Windjammer "Lido" restaurant even in the busiest hours, never had long lines, and this because of it's many food stations. Shore excursions: Labadee, Haiti - RCCL owned, has nice beaches, the best one is Malfini beach, in my opinion. Waters are calm and best suitable for small children. On the other side there is a wide beach with a nice view but with not so powdery sand and the sea can get rough as it is not protected as Malfini is. Ocho Rios: We organized everything on the Internet, since we were 50 italian guys. We chose Marva Shaw, since we heard good reports from other cruisers. Well we had a good time and felt in no danger with her. We first went to the Dunn's River Falls and then to the James Bond beach, which we left in 5 (five) minutes, since we found it to small. Besides that, the restaurant appeared to be closed, even if the guy that was in the premises told us it was "open". We moved to Mahogany Beach, much closer to the where the ship was anchored and much nicer. We ate at the restaurant on the beach (try the jerk chicken) and enjoyed it, even if we didn't have time for a swim, since we lost much time going to James Bond beach first. Grand Cayman; Also in Cayman we organized via internet with Nativeway: excellent decision: we had the snorkel, Rum Point beach and stingray tour and it was worth it. Rum Point beach is amazing, like an "away from it all" experience. There is a restaurant on the beach where we had a good and reasonably priced lunch. Only downturn is that time runs fast and when you are beginning to enjoy the beach, it is time to go! Cozumel: Here we didn't organize anything and things went anyway very smooth. We just took two taxis with fixed price fares to Playa Palancar: I have heard of aggressive taxi drivers, but we did find very friendly mannered people with reasonable priced fares and taxis awaiting in line for customers to come. Playa Palancar is beautiful and just 10 minutes away: it has a bar a restaurant, and a dive shop where tours depart for the famous Palancar reef offshore. To return to the ship or to visit Cozumel with it's souvenir shops, just ask for a taxi at the entrance of the beach. Problems: It was challenging: bring 50 italian friends on a first time cruise in a first time landing in United States. And what better than Mariner of the Seas: one of the biggest cruise line companies and one of the biggest ships on earth until a few years ago! We booked on march to ensure everybody to have staterooms on the same deck and possibly near to each other. The ship is splendid! Every public room is very clean and the cabins are well appointed even if a little smaller compared with Celebrity ships. For example my son of 19 had to sleep in a bed that came from the roof instead of the sofa bed that we had on Celebrity,s Millennium ship. The happiness of being on board soon vanished as we noticed that on all our Royal Caribbean electronic keys we had Second seatings options. I had to spend more than 2 hours with the Maitre'D to have what we asked for in March! Without doubt something went wrong with RCCL organization! Anyway we were settled on two different decks for dinner, 4th and 5th deck, and on different tables, so we couldn't share each others company while dining. In the meanwhile I asked every single day, starting from sunday evening, where were our onboard credits, from 75$ to 200$, that everyone was entitled for at time of booking. Only on thursday evening we were told that RCCL was not aware of our onboard credits! Most of us by that date had spent what they presumed to have, so this is a big concern for us but not for RCCL who seemed to not pay much attention to. Food and Service: Excellent, better than I imagined. The staff was all very professional and ready to help in any way. The food was of good quality, even the fillet steak was more than average. Cabin attendant: very good to excellent. Entertainment: Business as usual except for the Ice Show and the phenomenal "The Temptations" tribute band: really enjoyable and a show you would pay for in any city. In conclusion I say it is a pity that after all the efforts RCCL makes to have a "good value for money" cruise, they have to make 50 persons first timers, disembark with the feeling of something "spoiled". Anthony L Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I booked a SZ guarantee at a great price. Four days prior to sailing I was assigned a SA Deluxe Verandah - BONUS! Having previously been upgraded to this category I knew I would have an amazing and spacious suite on the same deck as the ... Read More
I booked a SZ guarantee at a great price. Four days prior to sailing I was assigned a SA Deluxe Verandah - BONUS! Having previously been upgraded to this category I knew I would have an amazing and spacious suite on the same deck as the Neptune Lounge. This came in very handy grabbing snacks with my son. I was a huge fan of HAL prior to this sailing but now I have mixed feelings...here's why: 1) Caribbean brochure promises "table service" in the evenings in the Lido Restaurant. Upon arrival there the staff looked at me like I had three heads when I inquired about food being delivered to my son and I at a table. Instead it was expected that I would leave my toddler in a high chair and roam around the buffets collecting suitable food for him. No one to help. 2) Pools - there are two. The brochure makes no mention of a dedicated adult pool. The Seaview pool on the AFT had a pseudo sign saying adults only. Several inquiries with various front office staff later I had the real story...if there are 50 or more children on a sailing, they are restricted to the Lido Pool. That is just fine except the LIDO pool was freezing. At a Q & A with the captain someone even asked why that pool was so cold. I never saw anyone swimming in it. My bathing suit went unused for the entire cruise. 3) Club HAL - on the first sea day I went there to play with the toys with my son. I arrived when it opened at 9am and was informed that they were being washed. I asked why on a sea day and was told it was routine. No alternatives were provided. 4) There were no movies appropriate for kids under 3 available in the library. The few movies I inquired about were no longer available. Previous guests had not returned them. Why no buy new ones? Other things also went wrong. As a travel agent I will question clients who want to go on a Western Caribbean cruise. Costa Maya was a waste of time and we did not stop in Grand Cayman due to Weather. In general, I found the food and service excellent from the servers and room attendants but mediocre everywhere else. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Embarkation & Debarkation We flew out of Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale the day before our cruise was to set sail. We booked a room at the Courtyard Marriott Airport. For whatever reason, it took us longer to get to the hotel from the ... Read More
Embarkation & Debarkation We flew out of Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale the day before our cruise was to set sail. We booked a room at the Courtyard Marriott Airport. For whatever reason, it took us longer to get to the hotel from the airport than it took for us to get to FLL. The hotel was only operating one shuttle bus and there were quite a few of us so the shuttle got filled up quickly and we had to wait for him to drop off the group before us and then come back to get us. We loved the hotel. The room was great, the hotel was clean, and the staff was very helpful and friendly. The only drawback to this hotel is that the only dining options nearby are a mediocre seafood restaurant and Subway. If you want something else, you'll have to take a cab. There is also no shopping other than a Bass Pro Shops. The breakfast buffet offered by the hotel is an excellent value and quite tasty. The hotel offers a shuttle to the cruise port and unlike the shuttle from the airport, it was run very smoothly. We arrived at the port a little after 12:00 and this has got to be one of the quickest embarkations ever. There was a line to get into the building but once inside, there was absolutely no waiting. I think we were on the ship within 15 minutes of getting off the shuttle and most of that time was taken up by security. Debarkation went just as smoothly. Once they called our color number to come to the dining room, our seats weren't even warm before we were called to debark. Our bags were waiting in the terminal and the customs area was adequately staffed so we were off the ship in record time. The Ship The Crown Princess is a beautiful ship. It's very tastefully decorated and one of the easiest ships to navigate in our experience. We liked our balcony cabin but thought it felt a little cramped compared to our cabin on Carnival Legend. I don't think the cabin was smaller. It was just a different layout which changed the feel of the room. I only have three complaints about the ship itself. First, it rocks entirely too much and too severely. The very first night, we experienced a very rocky ride on our way to Princess Cays. There was also an awful rocky ride on our way to Turks & Caicos. This was truly the worst night of the cruise. It made it very difficult to get out and enjoy myself in the evening. My husband wasn't affected as badly as I was but dutifully stayed with me. Both nights, I spent the night curled up in bed because I was just too seasick too move. I threw up twice that night because I was so sick. We went up to the Lido deck the next day and saw that the ship was rocking so severely that most of the water had sloshed out of the pools. They had to refill the pools when we finally docked in Turks & Caicos. The worst we experienced on other ships when they rocked was difficulty walking in a straight line so this experience was very annoying to say the least. It bothered me so much that when we got home, I did some research about the Crown Princess and found that stability on the water has been a problem for this ship since her maiden voyage. Second, the ship has no real walking deck. There is a track on the Sports Deck but you have to walk around it like ten times to get in a mile. We took the tour of the ship on the first day and the assistant cruise director suggested using the Promenade deck for walking instead. I tried that on the day we docked in Princess Cays. I realized that the deck is not a complete revolution around the ship. You run into some stairs at one end and have to go up and down the other side to get to the other side of the Promenade deck. I don't necessarily have a problem with this but two things interrupted the flow of my walk. First, they cordoned off half the deck for tender operations to shore in Princess Cays so that was half the deck that I could not get to. Second, with the amount of elderly people on this ship, I was constantly running into them trying to make it up or down the stairs. They move slowly so I had to spend quite a few minutes waiting for them to get out of the way. I finally gave up and went to the gym to work out on the elliptical. Perhaps, my biggest problem with this ship is their smoking policy which we were not aware of when we booked the cruise. Obviously, we are non-smokers. As most passengers tend to do, one of the first things we do when we get to the cabin is check out our balcony. As soon as I opened the balcony door, I was hit by cigarette smoke. The cabin directly to our left was occupied by smokers who were on their balcony enjoying the first of many cigarettes during the cruise. We found out later in the day that the cabin directly to our right was also occupied by smokers. The end result is there was always someone smoking on their balcony and we weren't able to enjoy our balcony like we have on previous cruises. On the two port days when we did not really leave the ship, we were able to enjoy our balcony for most of the day because the smokers were gone, thank goodness. Other days, we'd either just open the curtains and look at the view from inside the cabin or stick our noses out to see if the air was clear before we went out there. We could also smell smoke as we walked down the hallways as well. I can understand allowing smoking in designated areas like the lounges and upper decks but why the cabin areas? Non-smokers should not have to suffer through this. We cannot avoid our cabins. We can avoid the lounges and upper decks. Activities For people in our age group (mid 30s) and younger, the Crown Princess has few activities of interest. My husband and I dubbed this the movie cruise because we spent a lot of our time either watching the afternoon movie in the Theater or watching MUTS. They had some really good selections and we got a chance to catch up on movies we've been wanting to see. We noticed the large number of elderly people on the ship and this appears to be the Crown Princess' core clientele because the daily activities reflected it. One of the activities was for grandparents to get together and compare pictures of their grandchildren. They even managed to make karaoke boring. On a ship where about 80% of the people are in the same age group, they all tended to like the same kind of music. So, it felt like everyone was singing the same song over and over again. We attended a few trivia events and they did make some attempts to appeal to the youngest people on the ship by offering activities using the Nintendo Wii. We took in a few shows and they were actually quite good. They seemed to only have one band that played everywhere on the ship. We'd see them on the top deck and they'd play later at night in the lounges. We would have liked more variety in this area. They also had a string quartet that played in the atrium at various hours. We went to see a comedy magic show on the first night and the performer really sucked. He has not mastered the art of timing and dragged out his tricks and jokes way too long. Food The food on the Crown Princess was a disappointment overall. We enjoyed the breakfast buffet every morning and enjoyed the lunch and dinner buffets for the first two days or so. After that, they started to go downhill. My husband and I are not picky eaters but we felt like that on this cruise. We like our food simple, hot, and hearty. There was very little of this to be found on the Crown Princess. There was lots of seafood and cold salads. Even in the dining room, beef was very hard to come by on this ship. We perused the dining room menu every day to see if anything sound appetizing. Most of the time, the food selections sounded weird and we opted for the buffet. On Italian night in the dining room, almost all the selections were pasta dishes with no meat other than the selections they serve every night. On other nights, it was mostly chicken and seafood on the menu. The buffet wasn't much better. The seafood theme was repeated throughout most of the cruise, with the crab and lobster legs appearing on the buffet at least 3 times that week. There was a German theme one night on the buffet and it was really just a selection of sausages, cold deli meats and weird cold salads (mackerel & potato salad anyone?). We've been to Germany and ate quite well while we were there. This is not all they eat over there. I got to the end of the line and the only thing on my plate was watermelon. I spotted some deviled eggs and excitedly put some on my plate. BIG MISTAKE. They were the nastiest things I have ever eaten. Very rarely do I spit food out once it's in my mouth but I just couldn't get that nasty thing down. We started eating exclusively from the grill for lunch and dinner around the 3rd day of the cruise. The grill food was good overall. The pizza was OK. The sauce was too salty for my taste, the crust too thin, and they only offered 3 kinds. The room service menu is very limited...mostly salads and sandwiches. We ordered room service a few times and overall the food was good. Few of the items we ordered arrived the way they're described on the menu. The menu stated the veggie sandwich is served on whole grain bread. Both times I ordered it, it was made with white bread. The grilled ham and cheese sandwich was delivered encased in a coating of egg and fried up like French toast. This was not mentioned on the menu and would have been nice to know before I ordered it. The dining room actually had pork on the menu on the last night and we were tired of burgers, hot dogs and pizza, so we chose to eat in the dining room. The pork dish I ordered was good and my husband liked his steak. We chose anytime dining and had pleasant table mates. The waiter was excellent. But this was not enough to make up for the lack of variety and appetizing food in other areas. Service This is where the ship shined. Everyone we encountered on the ship was friendly and helpful. We were lucky enough to get the best steward we've ever had on a cruise. Jeffrey was attentive, genuinely friendly, and we could tell he takes great pride in doing a good job. He was absolutely wonderful. Other than a few nights of wanting to strangle the captain because of the rough ride, we really enjoyed the staff. Ports We prefer to explore the places we visit and there is nothing to see in Princess Cays other than the beach so we stayed on the ship. In St. Maarten, we booked the Best of St. Maarten Beach tour through the cruise line. We enjoyed a tour of the island with a few stops along the way. The tour included about 2 hours at Orient Beach where we enjoyed lounging in the sun. The bus dropped us off near the cruise ship to do a little shopping and we walked back to the ship when we were done. St. Maarten was our favorite stop of the cruise. We didn't book any excursions for St. Thomas because I grew up there. I know the island inside out. From our balcony, I was able to enjoy watching the ship dock in Crown Bay. Apparently, the smokers on either side of us decided to sleep in that morning. It was a truly beautiful sight. For some reason, St. Thomas is the only port where we had to show our passport. I'm really not sure why. It is owned by the US, after all. There is a small shopping area right at the pier but, other than the iguanas sunning on the rocks, nothing really interesting. Since we were the only cruise ship in port that day, we were pleasantly surprised to find most of the stores open. We spent most of the day walking around and doing a little shopping. We left St. Thomas and finally arrived in Turks & Caicos after the ride from hell. We didn't book an excursion here either mainly because of the hurricane that had recently hit. We were slightly amused to see the ship offering a hurricane tour to view the devastation...very tacky. After the ship docked and my stomach settled a little, we got off the ship and walked around the cruise terminal area. There's not much going on here other than Margaritaville. We bought a few souvenirs and some overpriced candy and headed back to the ship. We have never been on a cruise where we couldn't wait to get home. I was so happy to see Fort Lauderdale and just get my feet on solid ground again. I doubt we will ever book a cruise on Princess again. We booked this cruise because we wanted to try other cruise lines and still plan to try Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. It's going to be a while before we do that though. Right now, It's back to Carnival for us so we can fall in love with cruising again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Thanksgiving 2009 Cruise November 22, 2009 to November 29, 2009 We have cruised 8 times before and this is our 3rd cruise on Holland America. We are Tommy (46 yr old), my darling wife (44 yr old), darling daughter (19 yr old) and son (17 ... Read More
Thanksgiving 2009 Cruise November 22, 2009 to November 29, 2009 We have cruised 8 times before and this is our 3rd cruise on Holland America. We are Tommy (46 yr old), my darling wife (44 yr old), darling daughter (19 yr old) and son (17 yr old but 6'7 and 300+ lbs). Sunday - Nov 22 - Embarkation We came to Tampa last night and stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on Falkenburg Road. Rate was $58 per night and a good clean big room with 2 queen beds. Just a couple of miles from the port and about 10 minutes total so very close and good. We arrived at the port (Terminal 3) about 12:10. Parking in the covered parking across from the terminal is $14 per day (about $100 for a 7 day cruise). A valet told us that we could valet park the car for only $15 more total. The benefit is that the valet parking is right beside the terminal so went you get back, you just tell them you are ready and your car is there beside the terminal ready to load within a minute or 2. We decided to pay the $115. A bus of elderly people unloaded right before we went up to the waiting area so our wait was probably longer than usual. Our wait in line was about 30 minutes then we went through security screening. No need to take things out the carry on baggage except for laptops. Then it was time to fill out health forms that no one has been vomiting and showing signs of stomach flu or head cold type flu. Then there is a cattle type waiting area (ropes and stuff like in a fast food restaurant or Disneyworld). A little more waiting in that and we got photographed and our room keys. We boarded the ship about 1:15 PM and the cabins were to be ready about 1:30 so we headed to the Lido buffet for lunch. I was very pleasantly surprised at the food in the Lido. Wide assortment and all was very flavorful. The biggest disappointment is that HAL no longer sells unlimited soda cards. Now, for $18 plus gratuity you get a card good for 20 glasses of soda. That works out to about $20.70 per card and thus a little over $1.00 per glass of soda (glass, not can). We drink a LOT of soda and I just could not do $1.00 per glass. We brought 4 12 packs with us in our luggage and had no problem getting it on board. The rest of the time we will just stick to water or iced tea. While we were eating, the general announcement came on that all cabins were ready. We finished and began our introduction to one of the problems others have complained about on the Ryndam - the elevators. Many were out of service (being used to move luggage) and so it was very slow. The cabin was nice and we met our cabin steward (Wahyu) and his assistant (Hans). We had some special requests (change the bed set up, remove the in room sodas ($2.00 each) and requested an extension cord). He was very nice and responsive. A quick tour of the ship then it was settle down to wait for the wonderful life boat drill we always get to enjoy on every cruise. Things were pretty normal and, as usual, some people did not show up for the drill so it made it take longer. Then I was off to my favorite place to watch sail-away - The Crow's Nest. Such great seats and great views. The cabin was awfully hot so I hoped that turning the thermostat down would cool it off but right now (at 11:00), it is still awfully hot. After that, we went to watch "The Proposal" in the Wajang Theater. All four of us got popcorn so were excited about that and the theater was not very crowded. Enjoyed it and had just enough time to get ready for dinner. Ate in the Rotterdam dining room for supper. Nice table with just the four of us and next to a window. The waiter is Anata and his assistant is Eka. Neither was very personable or friendly but they got the orders and did their job. We were spoiled by great waiters on the last several cruises and it is early in this trip. The food was pretty good and after the dinner, we went to the first night show. The show was not the usual overview of entertainers so I missed that but it was an ensemble song then several games between a blue team and red team made of fellow cruises. Funny games that were quick and entertaining. Key West is tomorrow at 11:30 so hope to get a good night of rest. Monday - Nov 23 - Key West The cabin never did cool down much so we all slept pretty hot. We woke up late (10:30ish) and began to take our showers. Shower was good and provided freebies (shampoo, soap, conditioner, lotion, etc.) were fine. We went to get some breakfast/brunch as the ship docked. Docked right on time and at 11:30 the announcement came that we could go ashore. We docked at the old Navy Base and apparently there are two docks at Key West (I was not aware of that before). Last time we were here, we docked at the other dock and it was a quick walk right into Old Town. Thankfully, there is a free trolley from the Navy Base dock right into the middle of Old Town (sponsored by the Conch Train tour so they do a little sales pitch on the way and let you out right at their main depot but it was fine and we have done the Conch Tour and it is really good). Since we did the tour last time, we decided to ride around on our own this time. We rented a cart from the vendor located at the Conch Train tour depot. The cart was a 4 person golf cart and it was $90 for 3 hours. I was disappointed it was not the little car things but the golf cart was fine and did its job. I did check with another vendor while we were riding around and found that the car looking carts rented for about the same thing and you can reserve them online at http://www.infokeywest-scooter.com. Many rent jet skis as well as Harleys, scooters and the carts. We rode all around Key West and had a good time. We stopped at a marina looking for soft drinks and there were people gathered at the docks. We walked down and found that one of the marina workers was giving manatees fresh water. What that means is that he was using a hose to hang in the water and the manatees would put their mouths on the hose to get fresh water. We saw about 5 there getting water so it was fun to watch them. All had scars on their backs from being run over so I do question whether or not it is wise to give them fresh water at a marina where boats will be frequently moving. We enjoyed it and especially enjoyed key lime pie and key lime sugar cookies from Kermit's. No problems getting back to the ship. Seeing the Ryndam near a Carnival ship parked at a neighboring dock, I noticed how much smaller the Ryndam was. It does not seem much smaller than the other HAL ships I have been on (Veendam and Zuiderdam) or the other ships so I was surprised to really see that it was smaller. One difference is that the show for late diners (we are at the 8:00 seating) is at 7:00 so we will have to go to the show dressed for dinner. On other cruises, the show for late diners was earlier so there was more time between dinner and the show. The show itself was about average. The singers were good and the dancers good and skilled but there was nothing really spectacular. It was "Hits of Broadway" and we have seen that show on other cruise lines or ships. Dinner was casual again and not quite as good as last night. Our waiter is not any better yet but the helper is very personable. There was a problem with my credit card so I had go to the front desk to try to straighten that out. Guest services was not all that pleasant to deal with and I had more trouble than usual understanding their English. I reported the temperature problems in the cabin and they said they would have it checked out. Later that evening, they called and left another message that they forgot to swipe the card through the first time so needed me back down there again. I reported that the room was still hot and the clerk, who spoke better English, promised to send a fan and did so. Tomorrow is a sea day so looking forward to that. Nov 24 - Tuesday - AT SEA Room remained hot and even though it was calm seas according to the captain, we could really feel the ship moving. Did not make anyone sick but just could really feel the rolls. Once again I am reminded that the Ryndam is a smaller ship than we are used to being on. Despite the heat, we all slept very late. Had lunch in the Lido buffet again and it was again pretty good. Nice variety (Italian, Asian, salads, sandwiches and Bistro (Swiss steak, fish, pork, etc.). Each type is a small station and the stations duplicate on each side. One minute, there will be a lot of people at a station and then a minute or two later, there is will be no one there so do not let a line dissuade you. Numerous attendants walking around clearing tables and helping so it went well. Pool games were fun to watch and the girls in our group liked lying in the sun while I enjoyed just sitting in the Crow's Nest listening to my book on CD. We had some light rain in the afternoon so that drove people inside. It was a formal night and the reception to meet the captain was right before the 7:00 show so we got dressed and joined the captain for a toast. The show was a ventriloquist named Mike Robinson. Some stale jokes but overall he was entertaining. Dinner took a long time and our waiter said it was because of long lines in the kitchen. The food was okay but once again not as good as other times and the waiter remains very uninterested. Overall impressions thus far are that this has not been as good a cruise as prior ones. In part due to the heat seemingly in every room and in part due to the other cruisers. There are far fewer middle aged people, young couples or children on this cruise and far far more older cruisers. I think everyone can and should have a good time on a cruise but in this instance, when I say older cruisers, I really mean very senior citizens with significant mobility issues and other issues. They stop at random in the hallways, cannot hear instructions and it seems we are constantly having to dodge a wheelchair or Rascal scooter. The middle aged and young couple and children are not very friendly so far. The children that are aboard are very boisterous and in the Main Dining Room, most of the children near us are running about while we are trying to eat yet the parents appear completely uninterested in the disturbance they are creating or else the parents are busy shouting across the tables to someone they know from another table. I have heard far too many cruisers (of every age) giving staff a lot of grief about silly things and just behaving in the stereotypes of "ugly Americans". This is also the first cruise in a long time that there was not a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. Although I put my picture with my messages in the roll call thread, no one else did so I have no way to recognize the other Cruise Critic passengers and so far, I assume none of them have recognized me. We really want to have a fun cruise so I am hopeful that tomorrow in Belize, things will be better. Nov 25 - Wednesday, Belize We were to dock at 7:00 AM (docked meaning anchor offshore since Belize is a tender port). Because the water around Belize City is too shallow for cruise ships, there are many high speed tender companies who provide tender services. These tenders are at no charge to passengers and are pretty large boats. It is about a 15 minute ride into the city. We were here several years ago but things have really changed in the last few years. The port facilities are larger and remain pretty nice. As you would expect, although there is shopping at the port facilities, they are the usual tourist gimmicks and prices but there is no requirement of a prescription to buy the drugs at the pharmacy apparently although the price is still pretty high. We were booked with Cave-tubing.com and following their instructions was clear and easy. As we excited the port, there was a rep there waiting and holding a sign with our name. He checked us off of a list and called over a guide named Evan to take us for our excursion. We had ordered the ATV and Cave Tubing combo tour. Evan loaded us into a van (Toyota Sienna) and said we would go ahead rather than wait for the bus. He was exceptionally knowledgeable, friendly and fun. Once again, I was impressed with how nice and polite most Belize people are and about their pride in their country. According to Evan, tourism has grown from about 200K when we were first in Belize to about 1.4M projected for this year (the actual numbers will be a little bit lower due to the worldwide recession but not by much). Our first stop was the ATV site. It is about 5 minutes from the cave tubing location and was about an hour ride from the port. During the ride (which was very comfortable since it was a nice van), Evan told us a lot about Belize, its people and the countryside as we passed. He also discussed that it takes 6 months of school to become a licensed tour guide and how the government is trying to be careful about avoiding any bad reputation for tourists. The ATV site was a large central "hut" type structure that housed a restaurant and gift shop with a large storage shed in the back housing a large number of modern ATVs and a smaller shed in the front where they had several ATVs waiting and running. There were restrooms and changing rooms if desired and they offered helmets if we wanted them. They warned us that we would get muddy. Their suggestion was to wear what we intended to wear while cave tubing and that is very good advice. Definitely wear things you want to get very muddy and be sure to bring a full change of clothes if you do this or cave-tubing. They showed us how to operate an ATV and were very thorough as they stressed that safety was very important. Evan led us on the ATV trail. It was a constructed trail with lots of muddy places and intended to give riders a good time tiding through the jungle. The ATVs were in second gear the whole time so while speeds were not break neck fast, neither was it putt putt slow. The trial was designed to be muddy most of the time and a key factor is to be aware that the ATV in front of you will throw mud on you if you get too close. The riding is about 25-30 minutes which was long enough to have a good time but not too long that it got monotonous. One of the people at the ATV site took our camera and ran ahead of us to be waiting and take pictures so we got a lot of pictures. They had certain areas where we each went one at a time so he could get a good picture with our camera. Everyone really enjoyed it although of course my teenage son wanted to have gone much faster (even though he was covered with the most mud and struggling to fight a big grin that kept spreading on his face). We then loaded back into the van and drove to the cave tubing site. Wow, this had really changed. Before, it was a horrible dirt road down to a very primitive area. Now, it is a nicely paved road to a national park checkpoint and large parking lot. The old cement bathhouse was gone and in its place was a very modern and nice restroom facility for men and women (separately) that also included showers and changing rooms. They were a new very large building housing a gift shop and museum display. The walkway path to the river was also changed from a dirt path to a nice "crush and run" type path. The next part was about the same in that it is about a 30 minute walk through the jungle along the river to the part where you get into the river. The path is very smooth and wide so it is no problem if you are able to walk around a mall. The walk is hot and humid and you will be carrying your tube. You should not take anything on the trial that you do not intend to have very wet and float back with you since there is no storage facility when you get away from the parking area. Our guide let us put all of our things in the van and locked it and showed us that park rangers patrolled the parking area. During the walk, Evan pointed out many features of the jungle including plants and survival tips. We even got a chance to eat some termites. At the end of the walk, we got into the river to begin. Everyone had a tube, a life jacket and a headlamp. Last year a woman died on the trip so the rules changed for tubing. Now, everyone is required to wear a life jacket. In addition, while last time we floated separately and the guide was nearby, now tours are required to stay linked together and there is a maximum number of tourists to guides. Linked together means that each tourist is connected to the tourist in front of him by putting his feet under the arms of the front tourist. The guide then moves from the front or the back to steer the chain or slow us down. It was actually quite comfortable. Last time, there was a lot of paddling and struggling to go where the guide indicated. This time, we did not have to paddle and Evan was able to steer us right where we needed to be. Last time, I bounced my behind on many rocks but this time, there were just a few areas where I felt the bottom and prior to each, Evan gave us the oft-heard "butt's up" warning. This time down the river was so much better than last time that I really cannot describe it well. It was relaxing, beautiful and completely fun. I do not think I could say enough good things about the excursion (ATV and cave tubing) and about how nice and entertaining Evan was. We saw several tour groups from ship tours and saw how their guides rushed them along and really ignored a few safety matters. The guides were clearly trying to hurry and get done so they could get another group. Our trip was nothing like that and I cannot recommend enough that people consider using a private operator since we got more time, more attention and all for much less money. After we got back to the parking lot, I was amazed at how full it was and how many big buses were there. Then the skies opened up and we had a lot of rain for a bit. We changed and headed back to the ATV site so we could buy some lunch if we wished. It was $5.00 per person for some great stewed chicken, cole slaw and vegetable rice. Drinks were $1 and T-shirts were $10. The food was very good and we were all very glad we got a chance to eat some. We got back to the port and my wife and daughter headed back to the ship. Although it began to rain again, my son and I decided we would leave the port area on foot to walk around a bit. We quickly learned that was a bad idea since the people outside the port were like a pack of wolves eyeing a couple of sheep. They were nice enough and not scary or anything but we saw that between offers to sell us all types of legal and illegal substances as well as offers to take us all types of places, and the rain, we decided we were better off back in the port and headed back to the ship. That's were things went bad. While waiting for the next tender, I stepped on some very slick tiles and took a nasty fall. I tried to catch myself with my left hand but was unable to stop the fall and crashed into the cement on my right ribs. In addition to the humiliation of such a lovely fall in front of many people I managed to really hurt my left wrist and right ribs pretty badly but I did not want to admit it. Back on the ship, my wife made me go to Medical to get checked and they were very nice in the medical office. They did some x-rays and the doctor told me that I would just be very sore for the next few days and gave me some powerful pain relievers. (update, upon arriving home still in pain, I had X-rays done and learned I have 2 broken ribs - so that adds to the fun I suppose) I was in a good bit of pain and the menu for the main dining room did not appeal to any of us so we ate in the Lido buffet for dinner. I was really surprised there was no show at all other than a "Call my Bluff" game and then a very late night comedy show. No singing or other show around dinner time. Since there was no show, we went to the movie which was "The Hangover". Great movie that we loved but it was especially funny to watch all the people who had no idea what they were getting into end up leaving as they realized the movie was NOT kid friendly and greatly offended some of the senior citizens. Everyone else seemed to really like it just like we did. Tomorrow is Santo Tomas. Since the fellow cruise critic cruiser did not finalize the plans to get us a private tour with one of his suppliers, we figured we were on our own. Nov 26 - Thursday - Thanksgiving - Santo Tomas de Castillo We could not get a clear idea of the available options for Santo Tomas. A fellow member of cruise critics mentioned in the roll call that he had a connection in Santo Tomas who was going to arrange us a private tour but the member never announced any final details and, as I mentioned before, I have not met any of the actual cruise critic members who responded in the roll call. So, we went ashore to see what we could arrange or figure out. This is a docking port and we were the only ship currently docked. Very close to the dock was a large building. Other than the large building, there were only warehouses. In the large building, there were 3 main areas. It was all open but in the first area, there were booths along the walls. The booths were selling tours and although the operators called to us, they were also very polite and friendly. There was a large sign showing the price for tours but the operators each promised us a lower fee so although the advertized price is one thing, don't be surprised if you get a lower one. The middle portion was a food court where there were native people dancing. There was also a booth where they would stamp your passport for free or give other information. The back third was composed of several rows of merchants selling locally made goods or goods claimed to be locally made. There were also taxies and busses waiting outside the area and offering to take you to various places if you wished. We did not see anything that really interested us so we decided to just go back aboard the ship. Lunch was in the Lido buffet and again I saw the staff servers behind the counters behaving rather uncaring and almost rudely to many passengers. I experienced it directly too by getting some shrimp off of the salad bar and asked the person there for some cocktail sauce. He looked at me then went back to doing something else. After getting his attention again and asking again for some cocktail sauce, he sighed and walked away. I stood there amazed and after a few minutes standing there, someone else walked up behind the counter to do something. I asked this person for some cocktail sauce and at least he responded and said that it was down in a storage room below so he would try to get some in a few minutes. I went to my table (which was in view of the salad area) to eat the other things and wait. I saw him doing other things and obviously making no move to go below to get the cocktail sauce. I never saw the first person again. After a while, a cook walked by and asked if there was anything we needed and I told him I was waiting to get some cocktail sauce and he said he would check on it. Still nothing. Finally, a waiter came by and asked and I told him the same thing and he politely told me that he would need to go and get some from storage but would be right back. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he was back with the sauce for me and I thanked him profusely and promised I would mention his name on my comment card. So thanks Juli, it is sad that so many others did not care but I am thankful that you did and that you helped out. We took naps and I have been surprised at how seldom we have seen our cabin steward or seen him do anything in the room. We have repeatedly had to ask other stewards for ice and towels and that is very surprising. It is also very disappointing. The show was "impressionalist vocals" by Tony Pace. Basically, he imitated a few singers such as Louie Armstrong, Tom Jones and Willie Nelson and talked a great deal. I did not enjoy it at all. My wife and daughter however thought it was pretty good. Dinner was good and included traditional Thanksgiving fare. This was our second formal night. Up was the movie playing but we managed to miss every showing although we wanted to see it. I can safely confirm that the ship's doctor knew what he was talking about as today, I am indeed much sorer. Worst of all, I have almost no use of my left arm due to the pain and nerve twitches in the forearm (so if I pick something up, it will randomly fire off an intense pain that makes me drop it) while the bruised ribs make it hard to breathe or use my right side. I need to keep in mind that there is no appeal from the law of gravity. Tomorrow is Costa Maya and we are looking forward to that. I hope I will feel better and be able to go. Nov 27 - Friday - Costa Maya and Majahual We avoided the rush to get off the ship and waited until about 10:00 AM (docked at 8:30) to go ashore. Costa Maya has not changed a great deal since the last time we were here and it was a very clean nice place. We rented a golf cart for $45 for 3 hours and headed to Majahual (the nearby fishing village). Wow had it changed! Every time we have been to Costa Maya, we have brought school supplies for the little school in Majahual. This time, we had a rolling backpack that we loaded with good school supplies and planned to give it to the school along with the backpack. We have always found taking supplies to a local school to be one of the highlights of our trips and it is so nice to see the kids faces and smiles. It is not all that expensive but it is usually things they rarely have otherwise. Paper, lined and unlined, pencils, pens, colored pencils, colored markers (no crayons since those melt), calculators, rulers, maps, etc. are all useful and we try to include some treats such as the little toys you get at any store for a kid's party. The time we were in Majahual, it was a one room school house and last time we were here, school was not in session so we had to leave the things with the teacher. This time, the school had changed tremendously (as had Majahual as I will mention) and now it has several buildings. It is behind a nice fence and we saw at least 4 teachers. Very nice and clean. As hot as it was, we were stunned to see many of the teachers and students wearing sweaters or jackets! They were on a brief break when we arrived and all of the kids were looking out the doors/windows to see what was up as we walked in the gate to check in with the teachers. The teachers said that it would be okay to stick our heads in the door and speak to the kids and it was just terrific to see their smiles and return their greetings. We did not get to pass out the supplies this time because there were so many kids, the teachers asked that we let them handle passing stuff out later and we gladly complied. The higher grade students were studying some familiar math and were very nice. We liked looking at the pictures posted outside the lower grade's classroom and some essay/poems they had written. Later, we saw several of the same kids as we stayed in Majahual and they were out of school and it is so good to see smiling children's faces. I mentioned that Majahual changed and I cannot really explain it enough. The first time we were here, Costa Maya was a pretty new port and the fishing village was still mostly a fishing village. Dirt paths served as roads, there were few if any shops other than local things and the people could be seen going about their regular fishing stuff. Last time we were here, it had changed and there was no fishing stuff going on but the roads were still dirt roads and the touristy things were mainly tables in front of buildings and some places renting jet skis or serving drinks. Now, it is almost like a seaside walk in any US beach community. Instead of a dirt road, there is a nicely paved and colorful walkway. On the second row is a road going away from the port and the third row back is a road heading back to the port. There is only foot traffic allowed on the road closest to the ocean. There are tons of little shops selling trinkets and tons of people trying to get you to come into their bar/grill for drinks or food. On the beach side of the road, there are lots of places renting jet skis, scuba, snorkeling and other tours. There are also lots of people on the beach and on the second floor of the cantinas selling massages for $20 for an hour or $10 for 30 minutes. I really wanted to do that but unfortunately my painful ribs would not have allowed me to lie on a hard surface and I really and truly hate that. It would have been like a dream to get a massage on the beach for that low price. I guess I will have to find a way to come back. Several places offered free shots of tequila so we stopped a few times. We had some drinks (margaritas) and even ate lunch at one place that served tacos and other things you would expect. It was excellent and sitting there on the beach with a cool beverage and good food made this a very relaxing and happy stop like it tends to always be. The biggest problem with sitting on the beach drinking or eating is that you become a stationary target for the people trying to sell jewelry and other trinkets so you have a lot of people coming up to you. They were determined but also polite enough so you just kind of learn to shrug it off. We were the only ship in port so that also made us bigger targets. I know some people suggest taking a taxi but I prefer renting a golf cart so we have more freedom. This time though, there were so many taxis anxious for taking you places, it might have been cheaper but I know from past experience that if there are several ships in port and you seek a taxi to or from the village, it can be more of a wait. After we got back on board and got ready for our evening, we went to the 7:00 show. This was the Club Nevada show from the Ryndam singers and dancers. I was disappointed again and so was the rest of my family. The singers and dancers (and the band) were very talented but by and large the selection of songs was pretty poor. I would like to have seen them do a selection of songs more in keeping with other shows we have seen on other cruises. Most of the tunes were things from Tom Jones, Jimmy Durante, Ann Margaret, etc. Perhaps they catered to the vast majority of the people on this cruise for whom those songs would be much more familiar. It was odd though that it was referred to as the "grand finale" show and even in the dining room, the menus referred to it as our "farewell dinner" . We still had another whole day but our waiter mentioned that normally this night would have been the second formal night but that was altered due to Thanksgiving. Still, it was odd. Dinner included the surf and turf and many other things and it was quite good. Tomorrow is our 2nd day at sea and the final full day of the cruise. Nov 28, Saturday - 2nd day at sea We had to set our clocks ahead an hour to return us to EST. It was good this was a sea day to help absorb that. The boat continued rocking a good bit but it was not as rough as prior Thanksgiving cruises have been. On the biggest ships, I do not feel the ocean as much most of the time but when you start to feel it, you feel it A LOT. On this ship, the rolling is almost always present but it is not unpleasant to me nor to my family (one member of whom has a history of getting a bit seasick when the waves get too rough but had no problems so far on this cruise). Very little is different from prior days on board the ship. It is still uncomfortably hot in most places and the serving staff in the Lido continues to sometimes be friendly while most of the time being either very aloof or bordering on rude. We are not having any great problems with them but just watching their interactions with the other passengers surprises me. Holland America has long been my favorite line in large part because of how nice, helpful and friendly the crew were. On the Ryndam, that is absolutely not the case. Even our worst prior cruise (on Carnival, which was still pretty nice) pales in comparison to what I have observed here and been personally exposed to. I have no doubt some readers will say I am being unduly harsh for some reason or want to counter things with stories of their own from another cruise but I remind everyone that I have nothing but good prior things to say about HAL and I have continued to hope on this cruise that things would change but they have not. This is absolutely and for certain the worst cruise ship experience we have had. We have had problems with the cabin steward not serving the room, with having to go in search of towels or ice, with having a cabin that is way too hot, with lackluster entertainment shows, with a dining room staff that is slow with service and with a Lido buffet serving staff who border on being deliberately rude. Any cruise is a good time but this one pushes that theory. The ports of call have been good but rather than looking forward to another sea day, I am looking more forward to docking and getting off this ship. I am pretty certain I will never willingly go on the Ryndam again although I may still try Holland America again because of so many good prior experiences. Nov 29 - Sunday - Tampa Debarkation went very smoothly from a HAL point of view. We got up, ate in the Lido and then went down at our pre-announced time to exit the ship. There was a big line and backlog of people waiting to get through customs and that was slow as usual but that is not within HAL's control and even the customs service can only go so fast. We found our luggage quickly and easily and a porter took it to the valet stand while a valet went and got the car. The porter and valet loaded the luggage and indeed we were on the road within 10 minutes of getting our bags. I would definitely pay the extra $15 to valet park (plus the tips of course). Coming back home meant going up I-95 and it was amazing how many parts of I-95 became a parking lot. Whether it was accidents, road constructions or just the mysterious 10 mile back up, we ended up having to use secondary routes to avoid log jams far more than I have ever had to do before. If you are travelling I-95, be prepared for delays and be prepared to exit and go to a secondary road. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
There are two sides to Disney cruise - adults and kids. I will try to address both. I have to say that kids part of the cruise was above expectations and Disney cruise is an absolutely amazing experience and vacation for kids, specially ... Read More
There are two sides to Disney cruise - adults and kids. I will try to address both. I have to say that kids part of the cruise was above expectations and Disney cruise is an absolutely amazing experience and vacation for kids, specially for girls ages 3 to 7, even though kids of all ages and genders will have a blast on the ship. Adult part of the vacation was a bit disappointing and did not meet our expectations in any area. We went off the ship very tired and ready for a real vacation. Our background: we have been on 18 cruises on majority of mass market cruise lines, this was our first (one and only) cruise on Disney. We have planned this vacation for a long time but because it is more expensive then all other cruises we would always choose something else instead of Disney. I am 38, my husband is 46, kids are 14 and 7, and we live in Florida and usually take 2 cruises a year. We drove from South Florida a day before and stayed in Radisson for the night. It sounded convenient not to wake up early in the morning and have a long drive, but rather wake up already packed, have breakfast and go on the ship. Also we wanted to use free parking at the hotel and use free shuttle to and from ship. Well, that idea backfired and the stay was not worth $150. The hotel is old and rooms are like Motel 6, very uncomfortable number sleep bed, mediocre breakfast, shuttle that you have to sign up for and wait for it for 45 minutes on the way to the port, and wait 1hour and 15 minutes on the way from the ship to pick up your car. Embarkation: The worst we've ever had. Very slow, long lines, they let families go one by one and announce them at the entrance to the ship. It took forever to get on the ship, not a pleasant experience at all. Cabin: Balcony cabin with sofa that converts to queen size bed. Very roomy, plenty of space for luggage, separate toilet and shower rooms, the best shower/bath combination we've ever seen on any cruise line. Balcony is small but cozy, TV with Disney channels. Kids cruise: Kids are being entertained on this cruise constantly; the kids program is the best on the Ocean. From 8 am to 1 am non-stop entertainment, games, computers, Nintendo, Wii, science lab, show, movies - kids love it. Disney characters are everywhere throughout the ship, Disney movies are on all screens, everything is catered to kids. Kids menus are very good, pirates night is an excellent entertainment, waiters and staff are very attentive to kids. Kids were never treated with such attention on any cruise line before. Our waiter would chop their salads for them, cut their meat in little edible pieces, draw Mickey with ketchup, and create super fun deserts. Kids Entertainment: The best production shows we've seen in the last 10 years - Broadway quality - all 3 shows were excellent. Very entertaining for kids and adults. Excellent ventriloquist, very good orchestra, excellent cruise director and staff. Very nice pirate night and the best midnight parade on deck. No other cruise line have anything similar to Disney's show on the deck, fireworks in the middle of the Ocean, or Princess Ball and character farewell show for kids. Private Island: Very easy to get off/on the ship - no tenders. Great Island, gorgeous beach, very nice BBQ lunch. The best entertainment on the island - Stitch, pirates, Mickey, Winnie, games, music - excellent. Kids had a blast. Adult Entertainment: Kids productions show, kids dance party, kids meet the princess, kids ventriloquist. There is no adult entertainment on the ship. Even late night adults only comedian uses kids jokes and is not funny. Disco night and rap karaoke were too little too late to be enjoyable. There is nothing to do on the ship throughout the day for adults. Nothing is geared toward adults. Itinerary: Nassau - nothing special, we stayed on the ship, most people did the same. Kids program was open and kids enjoyed their time with characters. There was nothing to do for adults all day but schlep kids from character to character, sign then in and out of the program, take them to the movie, etc. The day at sea - forget about relaxing by the pool or having a nice time on deck. If you have no kids you could go to an adult pool and enjoy nice lounge chairs and empty pool. However, if you have kids or if you are 18 or less the only pool option for you is tiny square tub where you cannot swim, you can stand there in 3 ft of water and try to avoid splashing teens and kids. The huge movie screen is on top of you, every one of 900 kids onboard are surrounding you, their mothers, fathers, uncles and extended families are yelling and trying to find their kids in the mob of kids. Not a very pleasant experience. Again absolutely nothing is catered toward adults. No learning classes, no dance classes, no adult trivia games, no adult pool games, no adult music or entertainment by the pool. Private Island is great but also just for kids. Dining: We could not go to an adult restaurant, out kids said that it was unfair for adults to be alone on the kids ship. Also when we go on a cruise we like to have all meals together as a family and try to spend dinner and show time every night with kids. So all dining was done at the main dining rooms. Dinner menu was mediocre at best, there were no shrimps and no lobsters on any night, food was tasteless at best, cod filet had bones in it. There was nothing on the menu that I would want to eat ever again. Again kids were entertained, adults were forgotten. Lunch selection in Parrot Cay was better then dinner selection. Breakfast and lunch service was poor, there would be no clean plates, no-one would bring coffee or juice, no silverware on the tables. Midnight grill on the deck was fine, not great, but ok. Midnight snakes throughout the ship were ok, but not great. Pizza was terrible and even kids did not want to eat it. Grill had limited selection but kids enjoyed it, fresh salad and wrap bar on the deck was very nice. Ice cream on deck was popular spot for kids. Again, service was lacking in every dining venue. Service: Overall fair, for adults - poor. Room steward, waiters, staff - not friendly, "let me do my job and leave me alone" attitude. Last night on the ship the room steward knocked on the door every 5 minutes hurrying us up to get our luggage out the door by 11 pm. Last morning breakfast, there were no waiters in out part of dining room, to get coffee we had to go with a cup to the other side of dining room and try to stop someone with coffee pot to get some coffee. If we had small kids we would consider Disney cruise again in a few years, but our kids are older and I don't see us going on Disney cruise ever again. It is an expensive vacation and I don't see the value in spending your money and precious vacation time on vacation that leaves you less then satisfied and more tired at the end then when you started it. This vacation is a hard work because instead of being pampered and cared for and entertained and having quiet adult time by the pool, you have to constantly take kids from place to place, from photo op to photo op, from nascar to captain hook, from pool to lunch, from movie to club, etc and always try to make sure that they did not miss any fun since it is their cruise not yours. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
I booked this cruise as a treat for my daughter during our holiday to Florida. As we only had 10 days in all, a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas was perfect. We have previously cruised with Carnival and Royal Caribbean and thought it would be ... Read More
I booked this cruise as a treat for my daughter during our holiday to Florida. As we only had 10 days in all, a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas was perfect. We have previously cruised with Carnival and Royal Caribbean and thought it would be nice to try a different cruising style. In future we'll stick with the "formal". EMBARKATION was quick and easy, with no queues and we were aboard in no time at all. We were greeted with a complimentary drink as we boarded. THE SHIP itself I thought was quite nicely presented, all public areas were clean and well maintained. However, we did find it quite difficult to find our way around as there doesn't seem to be a direct route to anywhere, and we did have trouble navigating our way from place to place in the beginning. OUR CABIN was OK, clean and fairly comfortable but very basic with a tiny bathroom and an awful shower curtain - the type that clings. Courtesy toiletries were cheap and nasty. I had eagerly awaited the arrival of "fluffy animals" in our cabin, but alas, there were none!! FOOD was very disappointing and left a lot to be desired. The buffet was the worst I've ever had, and everything was loaded with salt. Choices were very limited, lacking in imagination and repetitive during the cruise. A lot of the dishes weren't being replenished as they were emptied, and no-one seemed to care. Breakfast in the main dining room was lovely, lots of choices, but evening meals were less pleasing. The portions were small, and again everything I had contained too much salt. ENTERTAINMENT was OK but you had to be in the theatre waaaay in advance of the shows starting to get a seat, otherwise you were stood squashed in at the back of the auditorium. To sum up, we enjoyed ourselves during the cruise and didn't let the negative things spoil our holiday, but cant say I was impressed by anything aboard this ship. I'm pleased it wasn't our first cruise, and would steer away from "freestyle" cruising in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
So many places to start, so I will just start at the beginning. No less than 6 people asked for our tickets prior to boarding. Once in our room, the first thing we noticed was the size or lack thereof. There are a few things in life ... Read More
So many places to start, so I will just start at the beginning. No less than 6 people asked for our tickets prior to boarding. Once in our room, the first thing we noticed was the size or lack thereof. There are a few things in life where size matters a great deal. On a cruise, size is king. We weren't even in the the castle. I am glad we upgraded to a room with a "private balcony". Anything smaller would have been intolerable. They use the term private and balcony rather loosely. The balcony in 5 feet across and three feet deep. When we embarked, ours was tastefully decorated in cigarette buts and stagnant water. Welcome to New Orleans! Let's talk about food: The buffet is acceptable, not the best, not the worst. But a word of warning, you should probably sit away from parents who let their children devour bowls of ice cream as large as their head. They will vomit but we will discuss the people aboard the ship later. The restaurants that were good: Windows, The Garden Room and the Trattoria. Cagney's Steak House was Excellent and by far the best value on the ship. The soda program is in the expensive side, $58.00 for seven days. Also, it's difficult to get a soda in the buffet. You need to go to a bar by the pool to get one. Room service was rather limited but what was offered was hot, delivered quickly and exactly what we ordered. The people: I could go on for days about the people aboard this cruise. In all my traveling (11 countries and 44 states) never have I seen so many obese, elderly, or handicapped people. I understand that handicapped, obese and elderly people want to travel. I think anyone who fits this category needs to think long and hard about a cruise. If you are unable to go up one flight of stairs, you shouldn't be on a cruise. If you are so obese, you need help carrying your plate to the table, stay the hell home. If you are taking someone on a cruise and they don't know their name, maybe they shouldn't go? I was amazed at the amount of people who needed a wheelchair to get off the boat but walked fine once they disembarked. My two cents, if you are going to slow other people down, stay home and knit, play checkers, anything but go on a cruise. Kids: Kids don't belong in the jacuzzi. NCL should really enforce this since it's their policy. There should also be a limit on how long 4 people can stay in a jacuzzi. I was able to get in once in 7 days. And that was when I squeezed in between 7 other people. Parents, if you kids are crying take them outside. I know you want a vacation but I don't have any kids. I certainly don't want to hear yours scream. Prices: As most cruises go, they try to get you for every dollar they can. I was okay with almost all the charges except the pictures. A package was only offered for one picture and that was $17.99, all of other pictures are $14.99 each, 9.99 for the second picture and 4.99 for the third. We spent close to $100 for pictures and we got 4 pictures. The staff was great. I guess they are used to wheelchairs and diapers, so 2 thirtysomething's were easy to deal with. All activities were geared to people who can't walk or see very well. The excursions were lame at best. What wasn't lame was very overpriced. $140 for two people to go the beach is outrageous. You could easily spend five or six hundred a person on excursions and not do anything memorable. I am writing this review from the airport and will book another vacation as soon as I get home. If it's a cruise, it will not be with NCL, it definitely not be freestyle and will not have anyone under 18 aboard. Stay home or find another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
As a veteran cruiser, we look for a certain style. Not a fancy style, more homey, more friendly, more open cruising style. We book in a suite because we like the room. And we stay in our room occasionally. And bring others in to see the ... Read More
As a veteran cruiser, we look for a certain style. Not a fancy style, more homey, more friendly, more open cruising style. We book in a suite because we like the room. And we stay in our room occasionally. And bring others in to see the room. Even hosting a "get together" with canapes and soda's (we don't drink). We look for those friendly people who like to visit, to talk, to share lives, and see the world together. On this trip we traveled with 350 French Canadians, many of whom only spoke French and were pretty rude. And, as veterans, we like to request certain amenities, "egg crates" on the bed to soften it. Diet sodas in the refrigerator that help us keep the sugar intake down. Save our complimentary canapes for the get together we host. Dry cleaning and laundry complimentary. And Internet access complimentary, after all, we pay four times the amount for an inside cabin! On this ship we had to pay for all those amenities. Having said all that, we booked the "Explorer of the Seas" because of it's center Promenade. Because of it's access to Cape Liberty which was twenty minutes from half our family. And because we hadn't tried Royal Caribbean as yet. We booked the available owner's suite category and, unfortunately, we were placed in a middle cabin.... She likes the stern, I like the bow. And most ships have their better suites in those positions. It was handy to the concierge lounge, which was a nice touch. And only one floor down from the buffet, which the family liked because they wanted breakfast there. We couldn't convince them white linen in the dining room was better. The Promenade was a nice touch, although with some two thousand plus passengers, it was usually crowded. And the casino, which we frequent, was the seemingly designated smoking area, and that smoke poured into the Promenade up the staircase. Sea days are a favorite of hers, and we had three down, and two back. Although you can tell from the pictures how warm it was by how bundled up we were on the first two, and the last day. As a family reunion, and a first cruise for most of them, it was a success, they had nothing else to compare it to. The other veteran cruisers (one couple) drink most of the time, so they were fine. I was pretty dissatisfied, but it might be because the crap table was cold the whole voyage. My wife enjoyed the spa time, and the sister time, and there was a lot of family laughter. So it was a minor success. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was our first cruise and as yet we havent decided if we would do it again! If we did venture onto the seas it would be with another cruise line. We arrived at the Summit in Barcelona, we had arranged our own flights from Manchester as ... Read More
This was our first cruise and as yet we havent decided if we would do it again! If we did venture onto the seas it would be with another cruise line. We arrived at the Summit in Barcelona, we had arranged our own flights from Manchester as the Celebrity option was more expensive and went via Frankfurt!!! and also our own taxi to the port - saving us a fortune. We were met with a long queue to check in - again I was glad I had done it all online and so we had a quick trip onto the boat where we learnt we could not get into our cabin for another 3 hours!We sat beside the pool and have to say we were very dissappointed with the first impressions.The pool area was crowded and a bit shabby. When we got into our stateroom ( concierge class with balcony)we were again dissappointed as the room was shabby and the carpet was worn.The curtains had holes in the lining and the net curtain was torn.There was a stain and a small hole in the bedspread too.On the very small balcony were 2 chairs and a lot of rust!! It was also a tight squeeze when our son's bed was out and it was impossible to get onto the balcony if he was in bed.Our room steward was Peter, who was very good and solved any issue straight away but the room was not good!! The public area's are better on the whole and in particular the martini/champagne bar was nice. Breakfast was in the waterfall cafe and although it was ok it was a bit of a scrum and we had difficulty finding a chair on a couple of occassions so we opted for breakfast in our room which was ok but the order was never right! As said before the pool area could do with some improvement and was overun with spanish teenagers the whole time who were really noisy and rude.   Dinner in the main restaraunt was good overall although on some nights we were struggling for choice.Our waiter was excellent though and made it a good dining experience overall. Our wine waiter was also very good and attentive throughout.We didnt dine in the waterfall cafe at night as we dont like to do this on holiday( and it was $2 extra!!) - we were looking for a bit of luxury. The soda package is a rip off as it doesnt include water!!!!!! The wine was expensive too and we felt we were being ripped off the whole time - this included the trips we booked and any photo's we bought.Overall we felt Celebrity were trying to get as much money out of us as possible at every opportunity. Turning to the trips, we took 4 by celebrity, Rome on your own ( you got a coach there and back) which did give us some useful tips on how to beat the queue's, Pompeii which was really good due to the great guide and Athens which was dire, again due to the guide and Pisa which was really good although expensive. Disembarkation was slick and well organised. When we docked in Santorini - we gave up and spent the day on the boat as the queue for the cable car was huge and didnt seem to be reducing - due to the number of cruises in that day.Dubrovnik was fab and we will go back there again as was Venice.We took the summit tranfer which at $20 was very expensive but it was the last day and we were too tired to care! The destinations were definitely the high point of ths holiday. The entertainment was poor - the shows in the theatre were on at weird times so we werent able to catch many ( the last dinner sitting was changed to 9pm which was too late especially with children and the earlier one to 6.30 which is much too early in my view) The dancers were ok and the 'orchestra' were out of tune the whole time.The band around the pool were absolutely rubbish, they couldnt sing and were much too loud - very intrusive as was the music in 'Rendevous'it was like they were playing a stadium!!! Our son ( aged 9 ) was hoping to make some new friends but the kids programme was really poor and the kids club was taken over by sulky american teenagers - it was like 'so raven' i n real life.The club seemed poorly supported and the facilities for children were really poor, old and tired. Overall we had a nice time as we kept ourselves to ourselves and the service of the staff was excellent but Celebrity really need to upgrade the ship and the value for money.The staff also seemed very stressed to get a 'excellent' recommendation on the customer comment cards and we got the impression they would get in trouble if they didnt get it. Would we cruise again?? maybe.With Celebrity - probably not. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
My wife and I took our first cruise in October 2006. We sailed Navigator of the Seas to the Eastern Caribbean. Great ship, awesome ports but poor customer service and resolution. I have contacted RCI several times and still to this day ... Read More
My wife and I took our first cruise in October 2006. We sailed Navigator of the Seas to the Eastern Caribbean. Great ship, awesome ports but poor customer service and resolution. I have contacted RCI several times and still to this day over three years later, it still has not been resolved leaving me with a bad overall view of how Royal Caribbean treats the customer. I am the author of a travel website Around the World in Pictures http://www.dontenphotography.com/ and here is a copy of my trip log from the cruise, highlighting the good and bad. Eastern Caribbean Cruise 2006 October 21, 2006 Miami, Florida: We left our home in the early morning to begin the three hour commute to the cruise port in Miami as we embarked on our first ever cruise. The anticipation of the cruise made the drive feel more like 8 hours. As we climbed the bridge and caught a glimpse of the ship in the port, the excitement began to kick in we had finally made it. Embarkation was a breeze, having a toddler in a stroller was a golden ticket to advance to the front of the line. We were photographed for our Sea Pass and quickly stepped aboard the Navigator of the Seas. Once one board, it did not feel like a ship, rather its vast open promenade felt like a city block. We headed up to our stateroom on the ninth deck. We booked an superior balcony room near the front of the ship. The room was spacious and the private balcony was worth the extra money. My parents and sister arrived shortly after and checked in to the room next to us. They added airfare to their cruise package and were picked up and transported from Miami International Airport directly to the ship. Once they arrived we headed up to the Windjammer buffet for some food, a spot that will become our choice for the cruise. The convenience of the buffet and variety of food offered was easiest for us traveling with a 1 1/2 year old. We then headed to the front of the ship as we set sail from Miami to begin our cruise through the Eastern Caribbean. Once afloat, we played a round of golf at the Navigator Dunes miniature golf course as we watched the skyline of Miami slowly disappear into the Florida sunset. After a walk around the ship, we retired to the stateroom for the night. October 22, 2006 Atlantic Ocean: The began with breakfast at the Windjammer. Then my wife and mother went to play bingo while my dad, son and I set off to explore the ship. With 15 decks the ship has many places to enjoy. We started from the top down and visiting the Viking Crown, Bridge overlook, pool area and many more. During the evening we decided to break from our routine and have dinner at Johnny Rockets. After dinner we spent some time playing games in the arcade before heading back to the stateroom for the night. October 23, 2006 San Juan, Puerto Rico: Today marked the first stop of the cruise, San Juan. We started the day off with breakfast at the Windjammer and then got ready for the day. As we approached the coast of Puerto Rico, we went up to the deck to watch the ship sail into the harbor. We past the Fort El Morro on the point as the ship made its way to the dock. We were greeted by Puerto Rican dancers on the pier as we arrived in port. Disembarkation at the pier was hectic, a mad rush and the lines were slow moving. Once we were off the ship we began our shore excursion. We chose the Old and New San Juan City Tour. The tour consisted of a bus ride through the city of San Juan passing by many of the landmarks of the city. The tour guide was great, provided a great historical perspective of the city while mixing in the right amount of humor to keep it interesting. The tour bus stopped at Fort San Cristobal and we spent some time touring the fort on foot. Once back onboard the bus, we heading into the shopping district where the bus left us off. We walked around for a little before taking the short walk back to the pier. Back on the ship we ate dinner at the Windjammer and then headed back to the stateroom for the night. October 24, 2006 Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas: Day four of the cruise began as the ship arrived at St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. Living it Florida it was nice to see some elevation as the ship pulled closer to the island. Disembarkation here was much easier. We walked around the Havensight Mall by the port prior to beginning our excursion. For the excursion we book the Ultimate Island Experience. We boarded an open air bus and began a tour through the island. We drove along Skyline Drive and enjoyed the scenery that St. Thomas has to offer. First stop on the tour was Mountain Top overlook. We continued our climb through the mountains and made another stop at Drake's Seat overlooking Magen's Bay. After a brief stop, we began our descent from the mountains to Magen's Bay where we took a two hour beach break. It was easy to see why Magen's Bay has been rated one of the top beaches in the world, the water was crystal clear and refreshing. We then boarded the bus resumed our tour. The next stop on the trip was Blackbeard's Castle. Here we toured the castle and ground before boarding the bus and heading into town. The bus tour concluded in the down town shopping district of Charlotte Amalie. From here we hopped a cab and headed to our next destination, Skyride to Paradise Point. The Skyride took us to the top of Paradise Point and then return trip back to the base of the mountain. We then took a short walk back to the ship where we ate dinner and retired for the evening. October 25, 2006 Phillipsburg, St. Maarten: Another day, another island. This time marking the first time we set foot on land not under control of the United States government. We will be visiting to separate countries on one island; Dutch St Maarten and French St Martin. We took the St Maarten Island Tour excursion. We boarded the air-conditioned bus and began our tour of the Dutch side of the island, traveling through the great salt pond and past Orient Beach. A stop was then made for shopping in Marigot. Forty-five minutes later we boarded the bus to continue the tour back to the ship. Once back onboard we headed to the Windjammer for dinner and then to Ixtapa Lounge for karaoke and drinks before heading back for bed. October 26, 2006 Atlantic Ocean: Today marked our second day at sea and when our wonderful vacation turned bad. We encountered some rough seas after departing St Maarten and the ship was rocking pretty good. Between the rough seas and the drinks from the night before, my wife got seasick pretty bad. She went down to the clinic to see the doctor and get some medication to cure the seasickness. He misdiagnosed her with a viral disease rather then give her seasickness medication and quarantined my entire family to the stateroom. We were not allowed to leave the stateroom for any reason and all food would be delivered to us. During this time, the cabin attendant was not allowed to enter the cabin for clean linens or to clean the room and was ordered to keep an eye on us that we did not leave the cabin. Despite pleas to the medical staff explaining the circumstances of the night, the rhinovirus diagnosis remained an the quarantined restrictions we kept in place. We tried to speak to guest relations and all offers of assistance were turned down and eventually we were told if we were not happy with the results, we could get off at the next stop in Nassau and find our own way home. After that threat, we just dealt with it and could not wait to return to Florida. October 27, 2006 Nassau, Bahamas: Today was the second day of the quarantine period and the ship had pulled into port in Nassau. We were originally scheduled to do the Nassau and Paradise Island excursion but thanks to the restrictions put in place by the medical staff, we were unable to attend. Today we were extremely grateful to have had a balcony room so at least we could get some fresh air. But the four walls of the room were closing in quickly and the stateroom began to feel more like a prison. As the quarantined continued, the rudeness and hostility of the staff increased. Our meals arrived to the stateroom cold and when asking for drinks, all we were told is they couldn't do that. Well if we weren't restricted to our rooms, we would have gotten it ourselves, but it wasn't an option. By the end of the day, I was so furious with the situation I could not wait to return home in the morning. As the sunset over Nassau, we began the short trip back to Miami and off the prison boat. October 28, 2006 Miami, Florida: We arrived into Miami early in the morning and it could not be early enough as we could not wait to get off the SS Prison Boat. Well its not like we had a choice, since my wife was still "infected" she was given priority disembarkment and we were off the ship quickly. Not sure if it was because they didn't want to get anyone else sick or just because they were tired of hearing us complain but it didn't really matter since we were free. We gathered our luggage in the claim area and began the drive back home. The events of the last few days of the cruise really tarnished what started out as a remarkable vacation. Its hard to believe the amount of power they give to one person with no secondary opinion available. Seems like there should be a checks and balance system in place which there was not at the time. Once we returned home, I contacted Royal Caribbean's corporate office and advised them of the experience. The actions of the crew were justified in their minds and as a token of the inconvience, they gave us $500.00 towards a future cruise, but based on what happened that wasn't much since the experience prevents us from ever wanting to cruise again. Update: Three years later, the emotional scars of the last few days of the cruise have worn off my wife and she is ready to give it another try. I contacted Royal Caribbean to see about booking another cruise and using the credit they offered and I was told that the offer was no longer on the table, that too much time has passed since the offer was made. So the customer service aspect of Royal Caribbean has not improved, really leaves me disappointed. They offer such a great product but the poor service of a few has a lasting effect on the whole company. So it leaves me in a predicament, I am looking to try another cruise in April 2010 and they have the itinerary that we want, 10 night Jewel of the Seas. Do we suck up and deal with the poor relations we had with them to give them another try or do we go shopping for another cruise line? Only time will tell what we are going to do and you will be the first to know. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
Our flight was set so we would leave 6am the day the ship would leave Puerto Rico. Delta overbooked our flight and we were bumped to leave later in the afternoon. We arrived in Puerto Rico at 10pm and the ship would be leaving not long ... Read More
Our flight was set so we would leave 6am the day the ship would leave Puerto Rico. Delta overbooked our flight and we were bumped to leave later in the afternoon. We arrived in Puerto Rico at 10pm and the ship would be leaving not long after. Needless to say we missed the ship, lost our luggage, and were put up in a hotel for a few hours. We flew the next morning to our first port of call in St. Thomas. This was our second time aboard Carnival Destiny (went in 2003). Carnival gave us some spending money onboard since we had problems which was nice. At some point we got our luggage which impressed us. My opinion: try to get to the town where the port is located a day early. We stayed in the Penthouse Suite which was just two cabins together. It was nice having a balcony again but if we were to go again... I'd just opt for a balcony room. Having a bigger bathroom was nice this time though. The color schemes in the rooms are very 90's and I would never use the word 'luxury' for Carnival. We went to St. Thomas, Barbados, Dominica, and Aruba. We loved all ports but Dominica. The first time we went on the Destiny we went to Martinique and it was horrible as well. So we had been excited about Dominica. A bit of a let down. Food onboard Carnival is pretty much the same on every ship. You have pizza, ice cream, dining in the dining room (I recommend an early seating time), buffet, etc... It fits some people but not all. Here's where the problems got stickier. We had left Aruba and were sailing back to Puerto Rico. We weren't told much except the ship had to turn around to disembark an injured passenger. Fine. Leaving Aruba a second time the ship hit coral and we were told it messed up a propeller. The ship was going sooooooo slow after this. We ended up getting into port super late, everyone who was set to leave that day missed their flights, and we had to stay onboard forever for customs. It was the worst disembarkation experience thus far. We were sitting on the ship and watching the people who should have been boarded for the next trip just standing outside. I felt bad for the passengers taking the next trip as they weren't told much. We finally get off of the ship and are told we will be in Puerto Rico at least 3 extra days until Carnival could get us a flight out and back to Oklahoma. This normally would have been awesome except there were two college students in our party who had classes to get back to and two other people who needed to get back to their jobs. We felt a bit disgruntled but understood that things can happen. We were sitting oceanside at the hotel around 2am and watched the ship leave for their next trip. Lessons to learn: Get to the town where the ship will leave from a day early just in case. Keep in mind the ship can break down and go less than 10 knots from Aruba to Puerto Rico. :0/ Read Less
Sail Date March 2006

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