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5,499 Family Cruise Reviews

My wife and I cruised MSC Orchestra on 1/24/2009 bound for the western caribbean. We have been on over 15 cruises. We went on this cruise at the request of a friend who has been on over 100 cruises. Our friend indicated that MSC was new to ... Read More
My wife and I cruised MSC Orchestra on 1/24/2009 bound for the western caribbean. We have been on over 15 cruises. We went on this cruise at the request of a friend who has been on over 100 cruises. Our friend indicated that MSC was new to north america and was making an effort to appeal to the American market. He also indicated the line president was the previous president of Celebrity cruises. Celebrity is one of our favorite cruiselines. I had read the reviews on CruiseCritic.com about MSC Orchestra. Turns out they were "right on" for the most part. Embarkation- Previous reviews indicated a BIG problem with embarkation. Apparently, MSC has "fixed" the embarkation "issues." We arrived after spending a few days in Fort Lauderdale at approx. 1pm. Baggage staff took our bags, and directed us to check-in. I had previously registered online to save time. Bottom line, embarkation went smoothly. The only complaint was we were not directed to our cabin. The staff did not speak English, so we were pretty much on our own. Cabin- We had an outside cabin with a balcony. The cabin itself was nice in appearance, but small compared to other ships we had been on. The bathroom; however was larger than most, but I was not happy with the shower. I am not a small guy, but have been on other ships where the shower was large enough to accommodate my size. This one was just too small. On a positive note; the water pressure was the best I have experienced. Dining- We had requested late seating for dinner both online during registration, AND through our travel agent. None the less, they had us in early seating. We were with a group of friends we cruise with every January; thus we all wanted to be seated together. Out travel agent corrected the problem, and we were all in late seating; however it was obvious that MSC had added tables so that they could accommodate our request. Normally I would applaud MSC for going to such great lengths to accommodate us; however the additional tables reduced space, made it difficult for our server, and made us physically very uncomfortable. As for the food itself, hands down, it was the WORST food I have EVER tasted on a cruise! The quality of the food was just terrible! Our server did his very best to make us happy, and did an outstanding job of taking orders and serving us; however he was just overwhelmed. He did not have a busboy to speak of. He seemingly had to do it all. If you didn't place a complete order first time around, forget about ordering anything else. He simply did not have the time. Entertainment- The entertainment in the theater on this ship was simply the best I have seen at sea! The performers were truly professional. The vocalist were top notch, and the instrumentalist were incredible! The seats in the theater were uncomfortable, and MSC did not have a place for drinks as I have seen on other ships. In fact, no drinks were served in the theater, INCLUDING the captains toast! Only the crew on stage had a drink to toast! If you decide to try MSC Orchestra and attend a show, sit on the bottom level. Do not sit in the balcony unless you sit on the front row seats! Every other balcony seat has an obstructed view. Tendering- We had to tender at two ports. It was an abso;ute NIGHTMARE! I have NEVER! The lines extended endlessly into the hallways! You go and get a tender ticket, go when your number is called to the assigned tender, and WAIT. We later figured out that not only did MSC not check tickets, if you went to the forward tender, you could get right on. There was always a long line for the rear tender. Pool area- The pool area was crowded as it is on all ships during the days at sea; however MSC was the worst I have seen. You could only get about 4 adults in each of the jacuzzi's at one time. None the less, folks would try to stuff themselves anywhere from 6 to 8 people. You would literally sit with your legs together trying to not touch anyone else! The chairs were the most uncomfortable I have ever seen on a ship. They were reserved by passengers as early as 6am on the sea days. So, if you want a seat, get up and put something on it EARLY. It seemed MSC jammed the seats onto the two decks. There was little or no room to walk around on deck when the seats were in place. Lastly, the nice large screen TV that's advertised? It was NEVER used for anything other than MSC commercials. There were no movies under the stars, nothing. Kids were all over the place. They ignored the signs that say no diving, occupied the jacuzzi constantly, and splashed water everywhere. They needed a kids/teenagers pool area. MSC could have, and should have used the promenade for seating. It would have been an excellent place for reading; however there was not a chair to be found. Disembarkation was easy. Many passenger utilized the take your own luggage off; however I would not recommend that. It was simple to locate your luggage after being called. Overall, a passenger stated, "you get what you pay for." Until she made that statement, I had nothing good to say about my experience. I still will not cruise MSC again, but if you are looking for an inexpensive cruise where kids up to age 17 cruise free, this is your cruise, otherwise for those who cruise often STAY AWAY! Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
I will preface this review with 2 comments. First this is a beautiful, modern, well maintained ship. Second the management has no concern for the welfare of their passengers. This ship visits 4 ports, the first is the island of ... Read More
I will preface this review with 2 comments. First this is a beautiful, modern, well maintained ship. Second the management has no concern for the welfare of their passengers. This ship visits 4 ports, the first is the island of Roatan (Honduras), the second Belize City (Belize), the third Cozumel (Mexico) and the last is Great Stirrup Cay a private island owned by NCL (Bahamas). Roatan really has little to offer cruisers unless you dive or snorkel. Belize city is a slum but offers some interesting side trips but don't waste your time seeing the city or you will leave very depressed by the poverty you see everywhere and the garbage piled everywhere. Cozumel is the same as almost every other Caribbean port with the same bars, shops and water related activities. The private island is pretty and a nice place to go to the beach. On our 3rd night of this cruise we decided to eat at one of the specialty restaurants onboard (Cagney's Steakhouse). My wife and I ordered our meals and ate our appetizers, the main course was served and my wife found her Filet Mignon tough, we summoned the waiter and he said he would have another steak prepared for my wife. She had a side of creamed spinach and told me to go ahead and eat my steak while it was hot and she would eat her spinach while she awaited a new steak. About 15 minutes later the waiter brought another filet and my wife tasted it and said it was fine but she did not feel well. She excused herself to the ladies room. I finished my steak and waited for her to return. She was gone and unusually long time and I began to be concerned when 15 minutes had passed when the waiter came to the table and asked if my wife was wearing a black and white blouse. I said she was and he said "she is on the floor in the ladies room". I rushed to the ladies room to find a small crowd gathered and a doctor and nurse bending over my wife. A young woman approached me and said that she had been in the ladies room with my wife. She told me my wife had started to throw up in the sink, turned ghostly white and fainted hitting her head on the tile floor very hard. A wheelchair was brought up from the ships hospital and we were taken there. My wife had many bruises and sparing the details ended up with several stitches to the back of her head which had spit open from the fall. After a couple of hours we went to our cabin and were asked to return the next morning so the doctor could examine the wound again. My wife has never fainted and for a 65 year old woman is in extremely good physical condition and we could not understand what had caused this episode. She stayed in bed the whole next day and in the evening she insisted that I go out and do something entertaining. I decided to go to the casino and play poker. I played for a couple of hours and the game was ready to break up when the gentleman sitting next to me commented that he normally would not play so long but his wife was in bed and had become sick shortly after eating at Cagney's, another gentleman at the other end of the table said "thats funny, wife is sick too and became sick shortly after eating at Cagney's. My wife and I had discussed the possibility of some form of food poisoning and the only thing she ate that I did not eat was the spinach. I asked both of the men at the poker table if their wives had eaten the spinach and both said yes but neither of them had eaten it and none of us had become ill. After telling my wife what I had learned she called the food and beverage manager the next morning and requested that they not serve the spinach again until they could have it tested for pesticides of other contamination. His response was "I will credit your account for the meal but we have had no other complaints". That afternoon I saw both of the men from the poker table and they both said that they had received a call from the food and beverage manager who told them he had heard their meals a Cagney's were not satisfactory so he was crediting their accounts for the meals. Apparently he intended to continue serving the spinach and was crediting our meals to avoid a scandal. I was billed almost $500.00 for the medical treatment my wife received and I went to the pursers office and asked that these charges be removed. I was refused but told as a courtesy they would give me a $200.00 credit, I asked if they stopped serving the spinach and the lady refused to answer. I went to Cagney's that evening and saw that they were still serving spinach. I don't know if this is the policy of NCL to avoid responsibility or just an overzealous staff trying to make the P&L look good but needless to say this cruise was a huge disappointment and we will never cruise on an NCL ship again. We have returned home and my wife is recuperating from a minor concussion and suffers terrible headaches but NCL DOESN'T CARE. Have a great vacation all; PAPA SQUID Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
In 2005, we cruised on the Pride of Aloha. We had great service, food, and entertainment. However, during our recent cruise on the Pride of America, we experienced just the opposite. Main Dining: The main dining experience was a ... Read More
In 2005, we cruised on the Pride of Aloha. We had great service, food, and entertainment. However, during our recent cruise on the Pride of America, we experienced just the opposite. Main Dining: The main dining experience was a disappointment. When I ordered the fish and lobster as the main course, all I received was one half of a lobster tail, and a fish filet worth about 4 bites. Also, the food arrived cold. When I ordered the Prime Rib as medium well, it came as rare. Breakfast: Because of the sanitization process, it took forever to get drinks - orange juice, coffee. We had to stand in line for between 8 to 12 minutes, with up to 20+ people, before we could get the coffee the way we wanted it - including the cream and sugar. My omelet was cooked incorrectly twice - with the ingredients uncooked prior to adding the eggs, and uncooked egg running out of the omelet. Buffet: There seemed to be fewer American/European food choices and more Asian food choices (strange for "Pride of America"). None of the staff asked if we wanted drinks. It was hard to find a clean table to sit at. And, when we completed one plate, and went for another, our dirty plates were not taken away. Other cruises were much better with this kind of service. Overall, the buffet food was good. I liked the chocolate fountain, and complimentary soft-serve ice cream (creamy and delicious). Room Service: This was the worst experience of several cruises so far. Our ice bucket was never filled. On embarkation day, we didn't have the typical "Welcome Aboard" documentation - no map of the ship, no easy to read schedule of events, or no recommended shore excursion documentation. There is a manual dial device to indicate when to make up the room, when to "Turn Down" the room, when to "Do Not Disturb" and "Welcome". Only once do I remember when our beds were turned down, and a chocolate was left on our pillows. I turned the dial to "turn down room" in front of the room stewardess just before leaving for dinner. Although friendly in conversation, she did not turn down the room, but left chocolates on the counter top. On other cruises, we did not need to indicate when to make up or turn down the room. Also on other cruises, we were also left cute little towel animals on our bed each night (in addition to the chocolates). I did not feel special on this cruise. Entertainment: This was also the worst experience of several cruises. The shows were cheap - like a cruise staff talent show. On other cruises, we experienced Vegas style - profession song and dance groups. The magic show was lame - with typical card and ring tricks. The comedian was probably the best show. Children: There are no programs for children under 2. This was the worst experience of several cruises so far. Our ice bucket was never filled. On embarkation day, we didn't have the typical "Welcome Aboard" documentation - no map of the ship, no easy to read schedule of events, or no recommended shore excursion documentation. There is a manual dial device to indicate when to make up the room, when to "Turn Down" the room, when to "Do Not Disturb" and "Welcome". Only once do I remember when our beds were turned down, and a chocolate was left on our pillows. I turned the dial to "turn down room" in front of the room stewardess just before leaving for dinner. Although friendly in conversation, she did not turn down the room, but left chocolates on the counter top. On other cruises, we did not need to indicate when to make up or turn down the room. Also on other cruises, we were also left cute little towel animals on our bed each night (in addition to the chocolates). I did not feel special on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our third cruise out of Galveston, but our first time with Carnival and first time on the Ecstasy, and we were hoping it would be as fun and relaxing as the previous two..and it was great! We enjoyed this cruise with my wifes ... Read More
This was our third cruise out of Galveston, but our first time with Carnival and first time on the Ecstasy, and we were hoping it would be as fun and relaxing as the previous two..and it was great! We enjoyed this cruise with my wifes parents, and spent time with them and also had plenty of time for just us. We drove down to Galveston a day earlier than usual so we could see some of the island...and while there is still a lot of damage, the people there have done a remarkable job getting things repaired. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort on the Beach for two nights, and enjoyed eating at Caseys and the Spot. Embarkation was Monday, Dec. 8 and we took advantage of the resorts free cruise parking and shuttle and arrived at the pier around 11 am. The Ecstasy had arrived a bit late, and we had to wait around an hour before we could board, but soon we were up on the Lido deck eating a very nice lunch. After lunch, it was off to explore the ship until around 1:30 when our cabins were ready. We had an ocean view cabin on Riveria deck R237 in the aft part of the ship...it was our first time in the back of the boat, but it didn't feel any different to us. We both thought the cabin was very well laid out and very spacious, and the bathroom seemed bigger than what we'd remembered. Our cabin steward did a fine job, and I'd like to be able to tell you his/her name..but I cant, as we never once met him/her. This surprised me and I thought it a little unusual that we didn't ever see them even once...but whoever was doing it did a fine job, with the usual towel animals and kept us with plenty of ice. We suffered through the lifeboat drill, in a very warm room...thought this one area where Carnival needs improvement. It was fun being on deck as we sailed away, heading away from jobs and responsibilities and towards fun and relaxation. The first night we ate in the Windstar dining room, as we did every night. We sat with my wifes parents at a huge table that seated 10 people, but the other 6 people never once showed up. This was disappointing, as we were looking forward to meeting new folks and enjoying their company. WE had first seating, and one night a very nice couple from Texas who usually ate at the late seating ate with us, and that was nice, but the rest of the time, it was just us. Our head waiter was Elder from Honduras, and he did a fantastic job. His humor and personality made it fun each night. Our assistant waiter was from Indonesia, and we couldn't pronounce his name, so we called him Sue for short. He was very quiet, but did a fine job. As far as the food goes, I thought for the most part it was very good..with only a couple of exceptions, one being the mushroom appetizer and another being the iced tea. The iced tea was horrible...Carnival needs to come up to Missouri and let one of us hillbillies show them how to make good tea. I really enjoyed pretty much everything else and must admit I ate like a pig on some nights, with more than one appetizers and entrees on some occasions. And the warm chocolate melting cake!! I tried more than one desert, but always had the WCMC each night...and soon learned to order it with an extra vanilla ice cream and a glass of milk. There was a table next to ours with some really fun folks who had to make fun of my milk each night. They seemed like real nice people, and we were a little envious of them...since they had a full table and we didn't and they sure did have fun every night! We ate lunch twice at the Lido deck buffet and once in the Windstar with some nice folks from our roll call, which was fun. We ate at the lido buffet for breakfast each morning, and thought the food was very good, especially the omelettes from the omelet station. We also took advantage of the 24 hr pizza bar, and ate at the midnight mexican buffet the night they had it..and it was very good. As for the entertainment, we enjoyed all the shows and liked the two comedians...even went back for the late night R rated comedy shows. The cruise director was Steve, and he's got to be the best and most talented cruise director in the business. He does an excellent job, and is a very fine fiddle player and a pretty good juggler. We also played trivia every chance we got, and actually won 3 of the games...so now I have multiple Ships on a Stick trophies in my den!! We also enjoyed the Karaoke several times...some of those people could really sing. The talent show night had some really fine singers..we especially enjoyed the lady who sang I Will Always Love You...if she isn't a professional, she needs to be! We went out dancing a couple of nights and had a good time...enjoyed the music. We wanted to try out the piano bar, but the cigarette smoke was too much for us two non-smokers. The smoke only seemed a problem there and in the casino...but that didn't stop us from losing around 60 bucks there. On our two sea days, we relaxed on deck a lot and read...and people watched!! The hairy chest contest was fun. The weather wasn't too bad on deck, but the wind was pretty strong. We had a couple of wavy days at sea, but nothing like the rough seas on our last cruise. Our first port was Progreso, and although we'd never been there, we had a heads up on what to do from reading the post on cruise critic. We took the double decker bus tour of the town, which was interesting, then walked around exploring the town for a couple of hours. Shopped at the little flea market and also walked around the local market. We ran into my inlaws, and together we did some sightseeing...bought a few things, took some pictures...then it was off to the beach. I had promised my wife a beach day, and it turned out to be near perfect. We ended up at Buddys on the beach..enjoyed margaritas and beer and chips, salsa, and guacamole. My inlaws went back to the boat, but we stayed and had a blast..the weather was perfect..the water felt good and the waiters would bring the drinks down to the waters edge where we sat in the beach chairs.There was good music playing and we had a good time there. The next day was Cozumel, and we just went sightseeing and shopping. It was a little cooler...but good for walking around. We ran into the nice couple from Texas who had dined with us the night before...and we took them to our favorite restaurant La Mission...where we had very good fajitas. By the time we got back to the boat, we needed a nap! The next day was our last sea day..and we were heading back to the real world...where there are no Elders waiting on us hand and foot...no nameless cabin stewards cleaning up after us...and no more warm chocolate melting cakes. We arrived back in Galveston just a little late, and we were one of the first off the boat as we had done the self assist debarkation. This was another area Carnival needs improvement, although I'm not sure what they could do to help eliminate the mess it turned out to be. But we survived it and was off the boat and doing the free shuttle thing back to our car. This cruise was very enjoyable and we really had a fun, relaxing time...the price was very well worth it and we would definitely cruise Carnival and the Ecstasy again!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Our first cruise was on the Carnival Triumph in May 2003, which went from New York City to St. John, New Brunswick, Halifax, Novascotia and back to NYC. We had a wonderful vacation on this north eastern trip. The next cruise was the ... Read More
Our first cruise was on the Carnival Triumph in May 2003, which went from New York City to St. John, New Brunswick, Halifax, Novascotia and back to NYC. We had a wonderful vacation on this north eastern trip. The next cruise was the beginning of a yearly tradition, and was on the Carnival Fascination in December 2006 that departed from Miami, FL and went to Key West, FL, then to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This too was a wonderful vacation and was perhaps my favorite ship thus far. The next cruise was on the Carnval Liberty in December 2007 that went from Fort Lauderdale, FL and went to Nassau, Bahamas, then to Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and then to Ocho Rios, Jamaica and back to Florida. This trip was with my family, mother and father in laws and my parents.We had so much fun on this trip that, when we returned, in January and February, I did two things: 1st because, I had enjoyed the Carnival Cruise Lines so much I purchased stock with my IRA (not such a good decision given the state of the economy now, but oh well. I still own the stock for now). 2nd, we decided to book our next Christmas 2008 cruise with Carnival again and decided to book an 8 day cruise on the Carnival Miracle that was "supposed" to go to the Panama Canal, Costa Rica and Belize departing and returning to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.Now the bad: The cruise was scheduled to depart Fort Lauderdale on December 15th 2008. We had 15 people that were all meeting in Fort Lauderdale on December 13th two days prior to the Cruise. My family left Virginia Friday night on December 12th and started driving toward Fort Lauderdale. Before, we left I checked my email and had a email from Coral Breezes cruise excursions that my itinerary had been changed and we were going to be in Belize on the 19th instead of the 20th. I thought this was odd, but thought maybe Carnival had decided to go to Belize first then continue to Costa Rica and the Panama canal. We got to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday and we were all staying at the Ocean Sky Hotel and Resort. It is a nice beachside resort with a shuttle to the port everglades for $10 per person. We had stayed there last year and really enjoyed it, so we re-booked here. Again we enjoyed this hotel and stayed here the day we returned from the hotel as well. The hotel has nice beach access, a nice pool overlooking the beach, a Tiki bar, and free wireless internet. When we got to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, I was shocked to find out the entire itinerary had been changed. Do to a problem with the propulsion system, Instead of going to Costa Rica and Panama we were going to go to Costa Maya, Mexico then to Cozumel Mexico, then to Belize City, Belize and finally to Roatan and then back to Fort Lauderdale. In lei of the sudden change in the itinerary, Carnival said it would provide $50 per state room in on ship credit. Everyone in my group was furious. I was a little embarrassed having set this whole vacation up, and many people were asking me and my wife to call and ask for a better compensation. My wife and I called and asked and Carnival told us that we were the only ones calling and that we could not cancel our reservations with a complete refund because the 24 hour period had passed already (we called on Sunday). I did not get a chance to check my email until Saturday at the hotel and the email had gone out late Friday night. None the less, we still probably would not have cancelled because we had all our hotel plans and flights reserved. Carnival was not interested in increasing the compensation. When we got to the embarkation area a fly was given to us stating that the compensation was going to be $25 per person. Also, just from talking with other passengers I realized that there was going to be a lot of unhappy people on this trip. Embarkation went smoothly, and we were on board. On the ship a posted new itinerary state that only $25 per state room would be the compensation. With three different versions of this updated itinerary, my first trip was to the Pursers desk, to find out which was correct. The Pursers desk was flooded with unhappy passengers. I did find out that that the ship was providing $25 per person, but also, interestingly, I found out that passengers that had booked through companies such as "Vacations made easy" were receiving even better compensations. One couple was receiving $100 per person compliments of vacations made easy, this was on top of the $25 from carnival. I personally believe that at least $100 per person would be more appropriate. As far as the cruise goes, this was my least favorite carnival cruise. Tensions between passengers and crew members were high. I witnessed a bar tender (Bipul) slam a glass on the bar shattering it into pieces after getting mad at a passenger. This display of anger cause all to people at the bar to quickly scatter and leave the bar. I had never seen this on any Carnival cruise before. I think this was in McGuire's bar on the ship. The ship, supposedly larger than the Fascination, but smaller than the Triumph or Liberty did not feel like a large ship. With the lay out I thought the Fascination felt like a more open ship compared to the Miracle. I liked the Comic book names of the rooms and the decorations on the ship, but still the Fascination is my favorite for decoration. There was only one dinning room (the Bacchus dinning room) this was a two story dinning room at the back of the ship. The Phantom Theatre was at the front of the ship on the same floor (floor 3). I thought there were quite a few obstructions if you did not get a seat up close. But overall the dEcor was pleasant. Unfortunately I think a lot of my opinions are biased due to the sudden change in the itinerary with little compensation. Finally, we were scheduled to return to Fort Lauderdale on December 23rd. But on the day of the 22nd an announcement came out about a passenger being sick and needing immediate medical care and that our captain was going to increase the speed to make it back to Fort Lauderdale that night. Which is exactly what the captain did and we were back before 12 am, but was stilled schedule to debark at the normal debarkation time the next day. The fact that the ship was traveling at over 20 knots made us feel that perhaps there was really no problem with the propulsion system after all, but oh well. Out thoughts were with the passenger who was sick and their family. Ports of Call: Costa Maya: My daughter and I decided to explore this port by ourselves and did not book an excursion through the ship. Once off the ship, I found an individual from Shark Tours who told us about an ATV excursion that sounded interesting and was half the price from the cruise ship. We signed up for this tour and we loved this excursion. My daughter (8-years-old) had so much fun on the 4-wheelers. I really enjoyed it as well. For the tour we rode with 3 couples and our tour guides (2) south through this small fishing village and along a rode with beautiful mangroves on one side and beautiful views of the Caribbean ocean on the other side. Along the way back we stopped at a cute little beach that had gorgeous white sand, hammocks and chairs to relax in and a neat little family run restaurant. Here, my daughter looked at shells and we ate a neat little Mexican lunch. Water was bought for us by our guides. I order a burrito and nachos which only cost $8. After about an hour of relaxing at the beach we left and went back to the boat. Our guides were excellent, very friendly and knew the area well. We tipped each $15 for their guidance. We really enjoyed Shark tours and recommend this tour to the adventurous that wants to have fun on a 4-wheeler and enjoy a beautiful beach. Cozumel: For this excursion, I booked at the last minute, Saturday night with Island Marketing Ltd. http://www.cozumelcruiseexcursions.com. This was my family's favorite tour of all the tours we did. What we booked was the Dune Buggy and Beach break tour. This was provided by Dune Buggy Tours. Two big notes though. 1st the tour operators meet you in downtown Cozumel at the Divers memorial and not right outside of the cruise terminal. 2nd the email we received said it was a 20 minute walk to the meeting point or a $7 cab ride for 4. Do the cab ride! We were walking for 10 minutes and probable only made it 1/3 to ¼ of the way when my daughter was tired and grumpy of walking, that we decided to get a cab. We should have done this to begin with. We got to the meeting point and we were 30 minutes early and the guide was not there. We were all a little nervous about meeting this guide in down town Cozumel, but we stayed there as the directions said and right on time, a guide with a Dune Buggy Tours polo shirt approached me and asked if I was Ron Tyler, yep I was. We then walked two blocks to this lot with cars and some dune buggys in it. I paid for the tour, we had 3 adults and one child ($89/adult and $44 for the child). You may notice that the dune buggy tour on board is $99 but trust me, you get a lot more with this tour. So we followed our guide (Antonio) who was driving a dune buggy like truck and we drove our dune buggy. Oh, also, In the back of the dune buggy were these built in coolers that had sodas, beer and water in the cooler. We left Cozumel and followed our guide to this cove for Scuba Diving. We stopped here and our guide outfitted us with scuba equipment. We went out swimming and our guide had fish food and he attracted fish around us as we dove looking at this beautiful coral and beautiful tropical fish. Our guide also had a guy with a underwater camera take pictures of us as we dived around looking at the fish. We had our own underwater camera and our guide took pictures of us with this as well. It was really awesome!!! After about an hour to 1.5 hours we left this cove and we followed our guide who took us to this small little Mayan Ruin, with several small shops and a statue celebrating the pig (a statue with a guy holding a pigs head on a platter on his head). This was a neat little stop. We hopped back in the buggy and were off and went to a little road side stand that sold coconuts. Our guide got us a coconut and took pictures of us drinking the coconut and got us outfitted with some weave hats and took pictures of us at this small stretch of rocky beach in the back ground. After here we were off again for our last and final stop "Lunch" that is included in the tour price. We pull up to this secluded beautiful beach called Playa bonita. This little beach has nothing around but white sands, this small empty cabana with small little wooden make shift chairs. Our guide pulled out a large ice chest and box and headed down to the beach. Our guide told us to play for a while and that lunch would be ready in 15 minutes. My family and I hung out on the beach enjoying the natural beauty. 15 minutes later, lunch was ready. We had tortillas with Rice, pico de gallo, grilled chicken (our guide teased us saying it was iguana but it was chicken). We had chips and guacamole. It was a beautiful lunch on a beautiful beach and a great way to end the day. We finished eating then we left for a 30 minute dive back to Cozumel. Because my wife and daughter were taking their own sweet time, despite my constant nagging that we had to go and go now! When we got back we had 15 minutes to get back to the ship. We tipped the guide $20 and caught a cab back to the pier for $7 for the four of us. We made it back to the ship with 5 minutes to spare. Just to caution everyone, while the tour was well worth it, it is imperative that you stay on schedule and I would recommend despite how much fun you are having on the beach that you leave to make it back with more time to spend than what we did. This is the effect of my wife and daughter getting away with spending to much time on the beach when it was time to go. If you miss the ship and you have booked a not ship sponsored tour, you will be paying airfare back to Fort Lauderdale or to the next port of call. So, make sure you stay on time and know how much time you have. Belize: Cave tubing. For this excursion, we booked through Coral Breeze tours http://www.coralbreezetours.com For this tour, we met our driver outside of the Wet Lizard restaurant right next to the pier where the cruise tenders arrive. This was a great tour and my family really enjoyed this tour. This tour also included lunch and was half the price of the cave tubing excursion on the ship. Also, what was nice about this tour, the ship excursion required children to be 12-years-old for this excursion. But Coral Breeze tours allows for children as young as 6-years-old. My daughter was 8-years-old and really wanted to go cave tubing. I don't know why the age limit, because drifting down a river is not too difficult. Anyways, so we meet our driver who drives us in an air conditioned van to our the Branch River where we then walk with our tour guide Little Louis (little Louie) who was excellent. He is a 100% Mayan Indian and has a Master in Archeology from Penn State. He was very knowledgeable about the rainforest jungle and Mayan history. At the river, Little Louie had us get in the refreshing water and we all locked arms together (my family and another couple on the tour). We then all drifted through the caves and down the river together with Little Louie telling us about the things we were seeing. It was a great trip. At the end we got back in the van with our driver who stays at the van and watches all your personal items (since you just wear your bathing suite for the river floating). We got back in the van and we rode to a restaurant where this lady made us a traditional Belizian lunch with beans, rice, chicken, and potato salad. We then traveled back to the pier area and our driver gave us advice on shopping in the area and recommended shopping and bargaining with the street venders outside of the tourist complex area. We did a little shopping, bought a Mayan calendar and then went back to the tourist pier to board our boat with plenty of time 1-2 hours to spare. Roatan: Canopy Zip Line tour. This was probably our second favorite tour and our favorite port of call. We absolutely loved Roatan. We booked a Canopy Tour with optional Beach break. I booked this tour with Island Marketing through http://www.roatancruiseexcursions.com/ through the South shore Canopy Zip line tour group. For this tour we met Theris Dixon with the company outside of the port. We paid Theris Dixon, who then sent us with Alexandro who led us to our van and driver Julio. They then took us to the zip lining tour, and took care of the payment and we were fitted with harnesses and then we were giving a brief safety instruction and demonstration. We were soon flying with the birds along the rainforest canopy. It was an excellent adventure and out tour guides took pictures of us as we traveled in the trees. After 13 or so rides we were at the bottom. At the bottom a van picked us up and we were all taken back to the top of the mountain where we picked up our back pack we had left and we were met by Julio and Alexandro. They then took us to a cute little beach with a restaurant in a cabana. I got a couple of beach chairs and was told by these two kids that the chairs were for rent for $5. Alexandro quickly told them that we were guests through the company and were not to be charged for renting the chairs. We stayed and relaxed at the beach for 1 to 1.5 hours. We had lunch and when Alexandro and Julio returned we were still eating lunch. I ask them to join us for lunch and bought them there food. The food was relatively cheep for the meal we got. We ate fried plantanes, beans, tortilla, rice, chicken, beef tacos, and some rum punch for me. It was a lot of fun. Julio and Alexandros then drove us back to the ship and we tipped each Julio and Alexandros $10 for the guidance and got back on board. Just a note, To me Roatan seemed a little like Jamaica in that you are bombarded with people trying to sell you stuff or asking for money. Though, I though Roatan seemed a little cleaner, though they both have beautiful plush forest and light blue Caribbean water. I found a neat little cigar shop owned by an American and bought a Cuban cigar while on shore. I smoked this back on the boat while traveling back to the US. So, in summary we really did enjoy our new ports of call, but still wish we would have gotten the chance to see the Panama Canal. I guess another time. We have got our December 2009 Cruise scheduled. This time we have booked with Disney Cruise lines (despite my protest). My wife, daughter, and mother are going on this cruise. It is a 7 cruise on the Disney Magic leaving on the 19th of December and going to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Cast Away Cay. Perhaps next time we will give Norweigian at try. I am not sure what I will do with my Carnival Stock. I still think they are a good company and really enjoy their hospitality. We will see. Happy Cruising to all. Ron Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Firstly the positives about the Christmas cruise on the Poesia: We sailed through some very heavy sea's with little, if any, discomfort for the passengers. The ship is a credit to modern cruise ship design. The cabins and the ... Read More
Firstly the positives about the Christmas cruise on the Poesia: We sailed through some very heavy sea's with little, if any, discomfort for the passengers. The ship is a credit to modern cruise ship design. The cabins and the staff servicing them were very good. The public area's were tastefully decorated and kept very clean. The negatives would have to be: Slow embarkation. The European staff on board seemed to come from the 'the customer is always wrong' school of training. There was a large staff rotation on the ship for this cruise - many didn't appeared to have been trained properly. Lack of dining choice in the evening. If you don't want to eat in the restaurant there is no buffet alternative. The only other choice to pay extra in one of the other restaurants. The food was very disappointing. Having eaten well in Italy on many occasions I was looking forward to a great culinary experience. The food, apart from being permanently lukewarm, never achieved the 'wow' factor and was for the most part very ordinary. There was not free water with the meals - bottles had to be paid for. With the exception of the band in the wine bar, who were the highlight of the cruise for me, the entertainment in the lounges was mediocre. The casino was lacking in any atmosphere, principally I suspect because at €5 per hand customers couldn't afford to stay there for very long. I know I would have spent more time in there, and inevitably spent more money had the prices been more reasonable. Overcharging. Beer was €4.90 for 440ml (or £6.32 a pint), wine could be up to €7 a glass (although more normally €3 for house, but this wasn't a large glass). €5.80 for a gin & tonic and €7 for a shuttle bus at the port. I felt that charging premium prices to a captive audience really was and is not acceptable. This was my sixth cruise and the first time I have ever been disappointed. I find it hard to imagine sailing with MSC again. There are many other cruise lines in the market, so why risk your hard earned cash and valuable holiday with MSC? Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Just completed a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Triumph. Traveling with three kids 7, 5 and 2. This is the cruise with a decidedly holiday camp feel. If you like lots of games like bingo, name that tune with a bouncy ... Read More
Just completed a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Triumph. Traveling with three kids 7, 5 and 2. This is the cruise with a decidedly holiday camp feel. If you like lots of games like bingo, name that tune with a bouncy announcer on the microphone announcing the next activity etc.. this could be the cruise for you. There is absolutely no stuffiness or formality with the ship even though there is an 'elegant' night - the only thing remotely elegant were some of the dresses the passengers bought along. The ship is supposedly only 10 years old but is decorated from the early eighties with faux Donald Trump gaudiness in most places. Despite this, the up keep of the ship is on the whole good and the crew work incredibly hard to keep everything clean and ship-shape. Accommodations: We chose this cruise as they would sleep all five of us in a single room. We liked the room. My wife and I had a King and each of the kids had their own twin bed which in a room not much bigger than 150 sq ft is quite an accomplishment. Space is tight but the room is well laid out with a TV and most other conveniences. The room is well cleaned everyday and there is a bed pull down service every evening where they make an 'animal' from the towels and leave a chocolate or cookie for the kids. All the beds had duvets which was nice and everything was clean. Food: The overall emphasis is definitely of quantity over quality. If you like your plate piled high with whatever is available and are not too bothered with the taste then you are going to love the food on the Triumph. The main dining rooms (Paris and London) bare no resemblance with their namesakes and are a noisy and chaotic dining experience. They provide a 'fresh' menu each day which is good, the problem is in the execution; everything pretty much stank. It was all edible (we were not spitting stuff out), however, at no time in the entire week did we really enjoy what we ate. The wait staff are nice but clearly are overworked and exhausted (my wife requested balsamic instead of butter one night and the waiter said he would get it but made us feel pretty guilty that he had to go downstairs to pick it up). Breakfast in the 'South Beach Grill' is monotonously the same every day with the most disgusting 'link' sausages I have ever had in my like. The rest of the cooked options are mostly a greasy mess (i.e bacon, eggs, omelets). There is some fresh fruit with melon, bananas, apples etc.. but it is hit and miss in freshness - sometimes great, sometimes not. Anytime of the day, there is an abundance of pizza, burgers, french fries and the like so if you want to come on a junk food mecca or want to nurture a future coronary episode this food will not disappoint. Kids Club: Lots of activities for all ages. Our 2 year old had a great time but our 7 year old and 5 year old were mostly board. For the most part it seemed well run and organized and there was always something going on for the kids but we felt we could not leave our kids for more than 2 hours max as they just couldn't take much more. Entertainment: We saw three shows during the week and were surprised at the polish and professionalism of the singers, dancers and other entertainers. The 'Rome' lounge is quite a beautiful room and every night there is a new show with two performances. It was good wholesome family entertainment which my wife, I and all three kids looked forward to. Carnival have obviously made an investment in these and it has paid off. Other ship activities: There are lots of other things to do on the boat but if the weather is windy (which it was on our cruise) most of the them are closed. The pool was drained, basketball, mini-golf, ping pong, kids pool were all shut for at least three says due to wind and I am not talking about a hurricane here, just a breezy sunny day at sea. Sell, Sell, Sell! About every two minutes there is someone trying to sell you something. Whether it is the art on the walls, photos in the corridors, liquor, cigarettes, diamonds or other jewels, health sessions, exercise classes. Basically, this cruise is master of the 'upsell'. I am the kind of person where it does not really bother me but it drove my wife nuts so I thought I would mention it. You will also be charged $10 per day tips for your stateroom steward and other wait staff. Internet also seemed pricey at 0.75 per minute for connectivity although you can access it from your own laptop in a of public places but not your stateroom. Overall: We've had a great vacation, but that was despite the cruise not because of it. We paid a third of what the same cruise on Royal Caribbean charged so you definitely get what you pay for and as far as value is concerned I think we did get value for the money spent. Would we go on the Triumph again? No. But would we really take another cruise and the answer would probably be no too. It ultimately is really just a too cheesy experience where you feel like a ignorant tourist, greedy consumer and glutton-ridden eater. Las Vegas on the water is the best way to describe the experience - after a few days you just are sick of all the phoniness and excess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My family of 4 spent Christmas on the Carnival Glory, I am 43, my wife is 46 and my girls are 8 and 10. Let's start with the basic things you would enjoy on a cruise. Food and Entertainment... The food on the Carnival Glory is ... Read More
My family of 4 spent Christmas on the Carnival Glory, I am 43, my wife is 46 and my girls are 8 and 10. Let's start with the basic things you would enjoy on a cruise. Food and Entertainment... The food on the Carnival Glory is "Heinous" the dining room food was always overcooked and cold; served by zombies with no personality whatsoever. After 3 nights we had enough and either ate at the trough (buffet) or the Supper Club. The supper club was exceptional but at 30 bucks a head it should be. The grilled burgers were alright but how many can you eat? The pizza was nasty with so much fake cheese you had to peel it off. My eight year old has a policy that there is no such thing as bad pizza; well she found it on the carnival glory. The oriental food sucked, the deli lines were long for a "wish" sandwich (two slices of bread and you wish you had some meat) maybe they could get more than one guy working the counter. Even the deserts sucked unless you paid more money for something nice. Entertainment...I do not expect Broadway caliber shows, but my god these shows were so boring and the singers could not be any worse. The pool side Calypso band played the same 6 Bob Marley songs twice daily (very badly), the lounge bands were for dead people, and the comedy was mediocre. The low point was on Christmas day with the solid gold dancers performing a flash dance medley in the showroom and an Asian lady with bad english singing you light up my life by Debbie Boone to a group of 7-8 very old women. Come on Carnival what a wasted opportunity!!! The pool decks were empty by 5pm with most pools and slide closed. Not one rocking deck party at night during the entire cruise!!! Bad music and Bingo, I am surprised they did not have a "murder she wrote" theme party The boat itself was nice except for all of the wasted space for teen areas. The crew did a great job of keeping everything looking new. The pools are very small and freezing, the lido deck was very busy and if you wanted two deck chairs in the sun you had to be there by 8am. The casino was fun except if you don't smoke get a lung cancer shot before you get on board. While we are on the subject of smoking Carnival does not enforce any of its no smoking areas. We had smokers on both sides of our cabin so our veranda was unusable and smokers were at every bar and outside area. My kids enjoyed camp carnival and their only complaint was they could not understand the councilors with there accents. My only complaint was the fact even though you paid a premium price for this cruise, camp carnival needs to charge you more money to have your kids stay past 9:30pm. Some things went very smoothly like embarkation and debarkation I have no complaints with this process. The ports of Nassau, St Thomas, and St Maarten were a blast. Getting off the boat was smooth and very pleasurable; we chose this cruise because of these ports. Our stateroom host Mackenzie was great, he did an outstanding job keeping a very busy stateroom clean and stocked. He is the only person we gave an additional gratuity to. We have been on 3 cruises all with Disney and wanted to try something different. I was not expecting a Disney type experience but hoping for more of an adult type of trip. Each has their good and bad, I had several conversations with fellow cruisers with kids my age and they were just as disappointed/bored as we were. All of the people we spoke to who had been on a Disney Cruise were very disappointed they did not select them for the Christmas cruise, but like us wanted to go to St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We felt that this Cruise was not geared to active, fun, rock music type of cruiser, but rather a slot machine pulling, heavy smoking, lounge lizzard-leasuresuit Larry type of cruiser. I guess a better explanation would be Cousin Eddy form the Chevy Chase vacation movies. So if fast institutional food, heavy smoking, heavy gambling, and 4 kinds of Budweiser beer are your idea of a good time. Then get on this ship and you will have a wonderful time. And to Carnival, you should be ashamed of charging a Christmas premium for this cruise and nickel and dimming every chance you get. The supper club should be $10 tops, camp carnival should be complimentary as part of your cruise, nice desserts should be for all not just those who pay more at creams or the supper club. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
INTRODUCTION I choose this cruise because from a lot of years ago I had the dream to see the fire works of reveillon in Rio. I leave a part of the year in Lisbon and generally in European winter I am in Brazil where I have residence too. ... Read More
INTRODUCTION I choose this cruise because from a lot of years ago I had the dream to see the fire works of reveillon in Rio. I leave a part of the year in Lisbon and generally in European winter I am in Brazil where I have residence too. We were two couples , we with a total of 120 years old the other rather young , him in the early thirties and her with 25. THE EMBARKATION We flight on 24 th. December from Fortaleza to Sao Paulo and on 26 th. we went on a private transfer to Santos. When we arrive to the Port of Santos after 2 hours I had the first surprise. The road in front of the piers was completely crowded of cars, bus, tucks, etc with a big confusion and a really horrible environment. After leave the car we went to a queue so slow as an " escargot" and after 2 hours!!! we received a paper with a figure and the orientation to go to a room completely crowded to await that our figure was called!!! I was just a pre check-in. The check in was made only about 17.15 , we enter abroad about 17.30 qand for the first time I saw a ship leave the port with more than 1 hour of delay. And for us were almost 6 hours without any kind of comfort, without food, etc THE SHIP MUSICA is a beautiful ship and cabins are nice and comfortable but balconies are smaller that in other ships . Another negative point is the number of elevators. Too small overall in a cruise where the boat was completely full.The capacity of elevators is too reduced and one elevator was out of service since the first minute. Result: people were obliged to exercise and to go up or down using the stairs. THE SERVICE and FOOD Most of employees of the ship seemed to be the first time on a boat. In restaurants to see the service was like a funny joke if the price paid wasn't so high. I was normal to have in all meals the arm of the "garçon" passing near my nose for serving my wife when was possible walk 2 meters and serve her as is common even in any 3rd. class restaurant. Once I asked for a second bottle of wine. when the waiter bring it , open the new bottle and put the wine over the rest of wine I had in the glass from the first bottle and asked me to try!!!! The food in Oleandro was generally very poor and in Buffet was horrible , hamburgers, pizza and other things without a minimum class. To see the quality of the service we need to say that on 31 December all keys didn't open the cabin doors!!! All of us were obliged to go to the reception to resolve the problem, The last day I received a notification to return the net cable!!! I hadn't asked for any net cable. THE PORTS I knew already Salvador but is always good to see the old part of the town. Ilheus and Buzios are typical Brazilian beach villages , interesting and with their beauty. Ilha Bela was a surprise . Is terrific. We rent a taxi and we go to the Curral beach that is excellent. THE SHOWS About shows MUSICA can compare withe other competitors , they are good and some excellent artists. But a cruise only for 2 or 3 good small shows is not enough.Poor MUSICA , the beauty of the ship deserved much more, overall in service quality, food and personnel training Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Norwegian Latitude Members, Cunard World Club members and Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our fifteenth cruise. My wife is 46 and I am 42. We ... Read More
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Norwegian Latitude Members, Cunard World Club members and Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our fifteenth cruise. My wife is 46 and I am 42. We have two boys ages 10 and 5. This cruise was our first holiday cruise with the kids. Embarkation - We arrived later than planned due to traffic delays at the Lincoln Tunnel. When we arrived there were tons of people checking in and we had delays in every line. It took us about 90 minutes to board and arrived on the ship by 2:45pm. It certainly wasn't the worst embarkation we had from New York. The good news was that our room as ready, so we could dump our carry on bags and get a snack. The Ship - It is new at just over a year old. The ship was built in Papensburg, Germany like many other of NCL's ships. The ship was nicely appointed and well maintained. The German design is rather compartmentalized and most spaces are single deck, which does not allow for much natural lighting. All of the dining venues are small with virtually no natural lighting. The Grand Pacific dining room is the nicest looking dining room on the ship. It was two decks high and had nice views of the ocean. It is located at the aft end of deck 6, but you must access it though the aft staircase of deck 7. The lobby is also a very nice two deck space with a lovely piano bar and coffee shop. There is also a two deck high TV screen that plays videos, sports programs, and Nintendo Wii games. The kids loved the Wii tournaments in that room. The casino is large and well serviced. The slot machines are also very quiet, so you can hear yourself think when in the room. The most glaring error in design is the Garden Cafe. This is a buffet dining area with a traditional buffet line instead of buffet stations. The area is cramped and there is not enough seating for folks at peak times, so eat early or late. The Great Outdoors is an outdoor dining area on the aft end of the ship to the rear of the Garden Cafe. It is a nice area to eat when the weather is warm. The other public spaces are pretty standard to other NCL ships and I found navigating the ship very easy. I liked the fact that the Tree Top Kids Club is located mid ship, so the movement of the ship through the water is minimal. Accommodations - Since this was a holiday cruise and pricing was higher than usual, so we chose an inside cabin for the four of us. When we first walked into the room, we looked at each other and wondered where all of the clothes and luggage will fit. We had five bags with us. To NCL's credit, the room held all four of us, our clothes and bags. There were two adult size beds, a drop down bed from the ceiling and a cot that was stored under one of the adult beds. It was snug and we won't get an inside for four again. The room was approximately 150 sq.ft. The bathroom was small, but the shower was a decent size. The water pressure was great and we never had an issue in getting plenty of hot water. The housekeeping staff was horrible. Our cabin was not made up until almost dinner time every day and was not turned down until almost 11pm each night. We never saw our cabin stewards. Itinerary - It was a good itinerary for kids. I liked four ports in a seven day cruise from New York. The port reviews are below. They were Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, Nassau and Freeport. Shore Excursions - Were poorly organized. There was alot of waiting time and the kids got anxious. I realize that local tour companies were running the tours, but NCL needs to make sure they are providing the level of service required. The worst tour was the Atlantis Aqua Adventure. I'll explain below. Entertainment - Good solid entertainment. The Gem Singers and Dancers had three good shows. We enjoyed the comedian, Peter Sasso. We missed the shows when we were in port, but comments by other guests were positive. The New Year's Eve party was not well advertised. When I asked one of the kids club counselors what they were doing for the kids on New Year's Eve, they had no idea. They wound up having a New Year's party complete with top hats and face painting, but I passed on that because their late night party fee, which is usually $5.00 per hour per child was doubled to $10.00 per hour for the first child for New Year's Eve only. I thought that was an awful thing to do especially since there was no notice to the parents until you arrived to drop off your kids at 10:30pm. The kids did like the overall program. My 10 year old loved the Nintendo Wii freeplay. Passenger demographic was diverse with many families traveling with children. There were 642 kids on board for this trip. Dining - The food quality and presentation in the main dining rooms (Magenta and Grand Pacific) was very good and exceeded our expectations. The wine lists were diverse and good. Wines from $14.00 per bottle to $1,350.00 per bottle. We stayed with the $14.00 per bottle stuff. The Garden Cafe buffet was also very good. However, the food quality and presentation in the specialty restaurants we patronized (La Cucina and Tequila) was poor at best. Very bland tasting food with little going for it. My wife put it best when she said the red sauce at La Cucina tasted like Chef Boyardee. Disembarkation - Was very smooth and well organized. One of the best I have had in New York. Overall - We all had a good time as we always do on a cruise, but this ship's service and lack of organization left us with a feeling of emptiness. We did not make any friendships with anyone for the first time. I said to my wife on the last day that I always start missing the ship and it's crew on the last sea day, but not this one. This Gem needs alot of polishing before I would go on her again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We're a Canadian family with two young children (ages 6 and 8) that travelled on the December 7, 2008 sailing of HAL's Veendam from Tampa visiting Key West, Belize, Guatemala and Costa Maya. Here's a write-up of our ... Read More
We're a Canadian family with two young children (ages 6 and 8) that travelled on the December 7, 2008 sailing of HAL's Veendam from Tampa visiting Key West, Belize, Guatemala and Costa Maya. Here's a write-up of our not-so-great experience on the Veendam. We're veteran cruisers and have sailed on several Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruises. We were looking forward to several new ports for us and to the "upscale" service that's expected on HAL. We were wrong, very wrong. It didn't help that our sailing was in Code Red with a noro virus outbreak. It just made things worse. Learn about our struggles to find food, the HAL disappearing act, the "nasty" ship, the surprisingly excellent Club HAL, our port of call experiences and finally our rude awakening. AS YOU STARVE DINING Before the rant about all the things we disliked about the dining experience, we must say that we loved the quality and presentation of the food. It was by far the best we have ever had on a cruise ship. The quantities were smaller and access to food was very difficult if you couldn't adhere to the schedule. Access to kid-friendly foods was limited unlike most other cruises we've sailed. Dinner at 5:15 pm is great if you can easily access food on the ship at other times. Not so on the Veendam. We had requested early dining but were told that everything was full for fixed seating. We were told by the dining room manager that the older folks usually like the early dining times since they need time to digest. Not impressed with the attitude or response. Upon embarkation, we were told that we had something much better - As You Wish Dining. We asked if they had any times available around 6 pm and were told no - you can reserve something at 5:15 or after 7 pm. Not impressed. To make matters worse, we had to make reservations every other day since we were only allowed to reserve two nights at a time. So we try dining at 5:15 pm. The first night we had awful service. The kids meals came out when the adult desserts were served. The second night in Key West we went to the Lido in hopes of finding better service and dining just after 6 pm. Wrong. No help juggling the kids' trays but plenty of older passengers offered some assistance. No food from the kids menu available - the grill area by the pool closes at 6 pm so we were told that we can try to get a dining room reservation or room service so the kids can eat. Needless to say that the kids picked at different items from the Lido buffet. The kids went to Club HAL until 10 pm and then we tried getting some room service for milk and cookies for the kids. Milk and cookies arrive an hour later. Both kids were asleep. We develop a strategy. For the next few nights we execute our strategy to cope with our dining situation. We wake up and dial 88 to request a different dining time but to no avail. We have loved our dining room experiences during all of our other cruises. We couldn't understand why what could be one of the best parts of the cruise experience was being ruined by dining at times we didn't want, having different waiters every night, disregard for kids and their attention spans (i.e., bring their food out ASAP and make sure that the adult dishes are served fairly quickly so that we can be out of the dining room by 7 pm when Club HAL opens), and having a lack of alternative snack options available past 8 pm since we had to eat our dinner so early. There's even more stress generated by the limited dining options on the Veendam. Since we finished dinner around 7 pm, we had to plan in advance for late night snacks for the kids. That meant leaving the show in the lounge a few minutes before 8 pm to get some fruit, milk and cookies from the Lido before it closed. We asked if we could pre-order room service and were told that we had to be in our room - we couldn't guarantee an exact time so that was out of the question. We also asked about room service being delivered to other locations (i.e., movie theater) and were told "no" but that we were welcome to purchase our own snacks in the shops. We wish that the Lido dinner was open until 9 or 9:30 so that we can grab a snack; it would have likely solved some of our issues since we were having dinner at 5:15 pm. Usually Club HAL has snacks available during the evening (drinks, cookies and a fruit plate) but due to the Code Red, they weren't available so we had to scrounge for snack items ourselves hence the room service issues. We really disliked AYWD. We love traditional dining and luckily we're getting it on our next two cruises. In our opinion, nothing beats developing a personal relationship with your dining room staff. We have come back from previous cruises just glowing with compliments about the way our family was treated during dinner. The bright side of all of this dining stress on the Veendam, no one gained a single pound. I've averaged a gain of 10 pounds on previous cruises. GOING, GOING, GONE The noro virus outbreak on this cruise put a damper on many activities and amenities. By the time we returned from Key West, things started to disappear. Long lineups formed. Plastic wrap covered the sneeze guards in the Lido buffet. We got chapped hands from using so much sanitizer. Pools and hot tubs closed. Pool towels disappeared. Club HAL activities were restricted to watching movies. Popcorn disappeared in the movie theater. Condiments, bread, butter and other small things disappeared in the dining room and at food stations. We had heard that at one point about 25 people had the virus. We heard the dreaded "Happy Birthday" song reminder of how long to wash our hands from the captain on a daily basis but little else was explained about what we were losing out on. Unfortunately there was no on-board credit offered to make up for the inconveniences we endured. What made the Code Red worse was the dining experience in the Lido. Yes, we've complained enough about dining but what made things worse was the fact that crew who were not familiar with handling food were now serving us at the buffet. We'd ask for a plum and get a kiwi. We'd ask for some bacon and get one strip (for a parent and child to share). We'd ask for some more of something, and be given just one more and nasty stares. An additional challenge was the metal plate covers added to each plate that made us look like pigs when we headed to our tables with ten plates stacked on a tray when in fact the total food wouldn't even fill a single plate! We did learn some new skills on this cruise. We are now all experts now at pressing elevator buttons with our elbows. We also learned some interesting new ways of greeting folks without a handshake - the high five with your elbows was a favorite for the kids. The kids also learned to climb ten flights of stairs without using the handrails. FLOATING MOTEL 6 The ship is old and in need of repairs. We sailed on the Empress of the Seas last year and it was on its last legs before being transferred to another cruise line and it was far superior to what we saw (and smelled) on the Veendam. Eau de sewage graces the hallways on several decks, especially on the lower decks mid-ship. Frayed and discolored carpets in halls and stairways are common. The ship itself has a dark, depressing look. The center area spanning decks 6 to 8 is unimpressive. The pools looked like they've seen better days. One of the shops had cracked glass that looked like it had been that way for a long time. Many of the public restrooms were out of service for a good portion of the voyage. Elevator buttons had duct tape over certain floors. The nicest part of the ship was the Oasis. Luckily our kids were able to use the area a few times although they are not quite teens. It was the only part of the ship that didn't look "nasty" as the kids referred to most of the rest of the ship. Our inside stateroom wasn't that bad. We liked the size and colors. The carpet could use some vacuuming and deep cleaning. The grout in the shower was crumbling apart. The bedding was ok - surprisingly, the bedding on Carnival was far better. Toiletries were pretty skimpy - only one of each item replenished daily although they were shared with four people. Try sharing a tiny bottle of sample size shampoo with two ladies who have waist-length hair - luckily the guys have buzz cuts! We've been on several "older" ships before with much lower star ratings than the Veendam and they all looked terrific. Their refurbishments and upkeep really showed. The only area that looked new on the Veendam was the Oasis. We expected a ship that looked nicer and that was better kept since it had higher ratings than the Empress of the Seas. Yes, we understand that it's more than the looks that comprise a ship's ratings but we didn't find that it was any better. I don't think that this Motel 6 can get into drydock soon enough. CLUB HAL BEAT OUT EXPECTATIONS Not bad at all. We were very afraid at the time that we booked that our kids would be disappointed with Club HAL but the counselors, Dani and Alex, made a huge difference. We typically sail in November and December and expect (and enjoy) low numbers of kids onboard since it's while school is in session. As expected, there were fewer than 30 kids on board and at most there were ten kids in the Club at any point. We were surprised though that they only had two folks working - on our other cruises on Royal and Carnival, even though we've only had about 20-40 kids, there would always be at least six to eight staff in the kids clubs. Dani and Alex really tried their best to make due with movies and games that didn't involve physical contact because of the Code Red. Our kids really enjoyed the overall experience although they couldn't have as much fun with crafts, games, and other activities. The Club hours were typically from 9-11:30 am, 1:30-4 pm, 7-10 pm on sea days. On port days, the Club was open from 7-10 pm. If you need one of the counselors to look after your kids during a port day, you must let them know the night before and they will take care of your kids at no charge. We did this one day when we took our daughter snorkeling. Our son stayed with the counselors one morning and had "fun" doing his homework, watching a movie, and playing with his Nintendo. GREAT PORTS OF CALL The primary reasons for selecting this cruise were: (1) low cost - about $1600, (2) fit with our pre-existing trip planned to Disney, and (3) itinerary. We prefer port days over sea days and we like visiting new places. With Belize, Guatemala and Costa Maya being new to us, we had a winner. We did all tours on our own thanks to our research on Cruise Critic. KEY WEST My wife and I had previously visited Key West but this was the first time for the kids. We enjoyed walking around, shopping for color-changing t-shirts, and visiting the Pirate Soul museum. We visited the museum on our own and it was a bit expensive (around $50 total) for a mediocre experience that lasted about one hour. The best part of Key West was the Sunset Festival that takes place near where the cruise ship docks. We watched the street performers until 5:55 pm before racing back to scan our cards and get back on the Veendam and watching the crew pull up the gangway after we boarded. BELIZE In Belize, we had pre-booked with Cave-Tubing.com for $45 per person and had a great family experience. We were expecting to meet our tour at 8 am but we only got off our tender at 9:30 am - first official tender of the day. Although we anchored at 7 am, there were some unexplained delays. So much for getting up early. The ride to the cave tubing site was great aboard an aging Greyhound-type of bus. When we got to the site, it was a good 20-minute hike on a gravel path to our starting point. Bring comfortable shoes - someone else came barefoot and regretted it! The caves themselves were great and the water was low so we were in "butts up" mode for a good portion of the trip. We went past the point where the woman on a Carnival tour died a few months ago. We found the approach taken by this tour operator to be much safer than some of the others we saw when we were there. We had one tour guide for every three or four people. Our whole family felt very safe throughout. GUATEMALA We loved Guatemala although it was chilly and overcast most of the day. We decided to took a tour with Happy Fish Travel to the waterfalls and absolutely loved every minute of our experience. After comparison shopping and haggling with the tour operators, we chose Happy Fish to go to Los Escobas for $80 for the four of us. We met up with a lovely couple from the Veendam that we had met the day before. Our tour guide was great (can't remember her name) but she explained lots of the local history on the way to the falls and gave the children some old currency. At the falls, we were joined by a local guide Jose (he was 11 or 12 years old) and he became the personal guide for our kids. They found shrimp, crabs, tadpoles, fish and many other neat things in the rainforest. We loved swimming in the refreshing water. Be sure to bring a camera and don't worry about getting it wet - there are always plenty of folks who can take your photo since not everyone ventures in. Luckily we brought lifejackets for our kids since they're not the strongest swimmers. The water is deep at certain points. Water shoes are a definite plus. After seeing the waterfalls, we stopped for some food that's available for sale. Our son gulped down three oranges. Our daughter enjoyed coconut juice in her very own coconut. Some souvenirs are available. The trip took about three hours overall by the time we returned to the ship. After having lunch on the Veendam, we decided to venture into town and check out a flea market that we had driven by on the way to the waterfalls. Upon leaving the port area, we were approached by various taxi drivers offering tours and we politely said "no thanks" many times. Some kids also approached our family offering to be tour guides but we knew where we were going. We wanted our kids to see what it's like in other places - something that you can't fully experience if you're zipping by in a taxi cab. We found our way to the market and saw a poor limping horse on the road, waved at lots of locals, and did our best to truly stood out like sore thumbs. We had fun. The market was nothing to write home about - pretty much what you'd find at a flea market or dollar store, some used goods, fresh fruits, and other necessities. Do not venture off to this market if you are looking for better deals on souvenirs like you'll find in the port warehouse - there aren't any there. We then headed back to the ship, did some shopping, ran back to the ship to get our passports so that we can have them stamped and receive a nifty little bracelet that our kids are still wearing, and watched some of the local entertainers. The real delight (and sad part) of our day in Guatemala was leaving. We went out on deck six and watched the Guatemalan dancers perform for the sailaway, taxis honking and blinking their lights, and vendors from the market waving. We felt special, appreciated. We left wanting to come back and willing to share our experience with others. COSTA MAYA Costa Maya was so-so. Since we hadn't really had any beach or snorkeling time, we decided to go snorkeling with one of the tour operators at the exit from the complex. Shark Tours took us to the 40 Canones (40 canons) hotel and were sent off on our $30 per person trip. We took a $3 per person cab ride to the hotel. The reefs were nothing to write home about. The water was a bit choppy and the guide pretty much did his own thing and expected you to follow. He didn't point anything out or ask if we were doing ok. We spent some time on the beach and then took a $2 per person cab ride back to the Veendam. After lunch, the kids enjoyed the pool in Costa Maya since the ones on the ship had been closed for most of the cruise. The cruise terminal looked very nice. There were enough shops to do some bargain hunting for sombreros and other knick-knacks. The kids painted their own ceramic souvenirs in one of the booths. THE RUDE AWAKENING Upon arrival in Tampa, we were woken up just after 6 am by the Purser's desk calling us to say that we must get off the ship NOW with our passports to clear immigration at the cruise terminal. We asked if one person could go and were told "no" but that we could come back onto the ship. Getting very tired 6 and 8 year olds to wake up early and stand in line was no fun. We would have appreciated some advance notice that we were going to be forced to do this (i.e., a simple note under the door the day before). Although this situation is not entirely within HAL's control, they could have prepared us a bit better since this wasn't the first time this ship has returned to Tampa. The disembarkation talk on TV didn't mention a specific time - we were just told that we'd be called by our colors. On our previous five cruises, we never had to report to immigration (usually on-board in a lounge) any earlier than 7:30 or 8 am. In other cases (twice in San Juan), we only dealt with immigration upon leaving the vessel. When we got back on the Veendam, we found our room steward tearing apart the room, the bunk bed had been retracted into the ceiling, and the sofa bed was no longer a bed. Our sheets were gone. So much for returning to bed after clearing customs. Fortunately our carry-ons weren't removed. We decided to go for breakfast. The expected crowds were everywhere and lots of carry-on luggage was in the way. We returned to our stateroom and waited, waited. We were expecting a silent disembarkation but were met with a string of announcements about the fact that we were delayed. We left just after 9 am. Thanks HAL for the wonderful kick in the butt on the last morning of our cruise and giving us two very cranky children for the rest of the day. PROBABLY NEVER AGAIN WITH HAL For now, the answer is definitely no with HAL. The dining experience ruined it for us. The Code Red made matters worse but that can happen on any ship. The difference is in how things are handled. We found the Purser's desk was pretty useless in several regards. For example, it took over 30 hours for our in-room safe to be repaired. On a previous Royal cruise, something similar was repaired within one hour. We asked the Purser's desk where the popcorn was one night in the movie theater. They said that it would be there shortly. We finished watching the movie and guess what, no popcorn. We asked what happened and they said that the popcorn will be there the following day. It wasn't. We asked the next day and were told to wait until the next show. We waited and asked again and were finally told that due to the Code Red, no popcorn was being served. My expectations of the Purser's desk to be a one-stop shop for honest, complete answers gave me the overall impression that HAL doesn't care. Other staff who didn't really care were in the gift shops, especially the one selling costume jewelry. The photo shop staff were somewhat standoffish. We were also surprised to learn that there were only portraits on the two formal nights. It helped keep our purchases down to only over $100. On other cruises, we spent several hundred dollars more because casual photos were taken on other nights. HAL's loss. Some positives to help balance out our negative experiences on HAL - my wife enjoyed several of the free cooking demonstrations, party planner events and the behind-the-scenes kitchen tour. MOVING ON Luckily we haven't been turned off cruising. We just booked a Celebrity cruise for November 2009 and a Royal cruise in November 2010. We asked the kids if they'd rather return to Disney, go to an island for a week or go on a cruise - the cruise won. Would we recommend HAL to others? No. If given the chance to cruise again with HAL, at a significantly discounted rate, would we go again? Yes - a cruise is always better than no cruise. Final blow - the wheels on our Royal Caribbean luggage were broken off upon arrival in Tampa. Coincidence or just bad luck? Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation - We arrived at the dock to drop off our baggage around 12:30pm before returning our hire car. The ship sailed at 6 pm & there were already nearly 1000 people at the dock. We came back at around 2pm & the queue had ... Read More
Embarkation - We arrived at the dock to drop off our baggage around 12:30pm before returning our hire car. The ship sailed at 6 pm & there were already nearly 1000 people at the dock. We came back at around 2pm & the queue had pretty much gone & it took only about 20 mins to embark. The room was ready. We had a queen bed & a sofa bed for our daughter. The room was nice & the bathroom was clean & roomy. Storage was adequate with plenty of drawers. The bed was nice & comfy, much nicer than the Golden Princess we were on last time. My husband was complaining about the air-cond on the Golden & this time there was no complaint at all. We had a late lunch at Lido Buffet. It was quite disappointing. The food weren't hot with not much variety. We were in the 1st seating dinner at 6 pm at the Metropolitan Restaurant. Our waiter & assistant waiter were v nice & attentive. The food however were pretty average. They all tasted pretty much the same. They served lobster on the 2nd last night of the cruise & for some reason, my husband & I both tasted something mouldy in the lobster. After the 1st few nights, we got sick of the food & had dinner at the Lido. They served sushi & freshly cooked pasta & noodles every night. The sushi were pretty average with the same variety every night. The pasta & noodles were freshly made & were the only food that were hot. They provided a 'Casual Dining' alternative - they made part of the Lido into a restaurant setting & the menus were different to the Metropolitan. However, we were told by the assistant Maitre D' that the menus there were the same everyday except for the Chef's special. We tried there for dinner 1 night. The food were ok, nothing special. There was a US$2 gratuity per person added to our account. For breakfast, we went to the Lido everyday. Again, the food were the same every day. However, the omelette, pancake & waffle stations were pretty good, at least the food were hot. They provided orange, apple & o'guava drinks. The fruit selection was good at breakfast. There were oranges, melons & Pineapple. On a couple of mornings, there were strawberries but they were pretty much all rotten. Only fruit salad was served at lunch & they weren't fresh at all. Apart from that, they had whole oranges, apples & bananas. I was shocked to see some oranges were rotten with moulds all around them. I tasted an apple & it tasted mushy & was the worst apple I've ever tasted. Lunch was boring & pretty average every day. Again, everything wasn't hot, apart from the pasta station. There were freshly made pizzas which tasted quite nice but for some reason, they got cold v quickly. I saw a few passengers actually asked their pizzas to be reheated in the oven. Fruit salad was terrible & dessert were pathetic. They didn't seem to be freshly made. There were different varieties of ice-cream & sorbet every day which were pretty good though. I would like to mention the cleanliness on the Millennium. We were really impressed with the Golden. They were spotless. I would give a perfect 10. However, I would only give a 2 to the Millennium. I can't say how many times I saw dirty dishes & cups in the Lido. There was once that I put lemons in my cup only to realize that there were still traces of milk in there. 1 of the fellow passenger obviously saw my shocked face & said she had the same experience the other day. She said their dishwashers obviously weren't too good..... From then on, I made sure I checked every single dish & cup that I used. Regarding service in the Lido, it really varied. Some of the waiters were quite good. However, there were times that we found a few waiters of the same nationality were standing there chatting in their own language while the plates kept on piling up on our table...... I would like to say something about the lifts. For some reason, the lifts didn't seem to stop at level 3 which was the lobby. There were so many times the lift went pass this level if you wanted to go up. We later figured out the trick & pressed 'down' instead. We went down 1 level & then pressed the level we wanted & hehe ..... up we go, passed level 3 of course........ Entertainment wise, pretty average again. However, we could see they made an effort of getting the Australian female vocalist in for a couple of shows. There was a talent show for adults 1 night & my daughter participated in the youth talent show 1 afternoon which I think was quite nice. We found the 'Sat night at the Movies' ridiculous. The movies they showed were at least a year old! Most of the nights they had the Celebrity singers & dancers doing the show, pretty average..... There were 250 kids on board due to the holiday season. 60% of the passengers were from the US, approx 30% from Europe & other countries & the rest Aussies. My daughter rated the kids programme average. She was in the 7-9 group. They had different themed nights which was nice. But my daughter commented that the staff there always gave them a hard time & weren't really interested at them. There were lots of free plays & my daughter liked the PS2. The talent show was a highlight & there was a movie night which was quite nice too. On X'Mas day, Santa came & presented every child a gift which was a nice touch. There were shuttles provided at most ports for a nominal fee. We were charged US$12 return at Dunedin & later realized Volendam provided free shuttle for their guests ( they docked on the same day ). The queue was so long for our return shuttle back to the ship & we queued for nearly 1 hr while there was no queue at all for the Volendam. Disembarkation was very organized. The allocated time for our disembarkation was 8:30am & we were off the ship exactly at that time. There was also a disembarkation show & the cruise director James presented all the info in details. The top 10 cruise questions he presented at the show was hilarious. He was v energetic & you could always see him around. I would say the experience we had with the Millennium wasn't what we expected. The food was pretty average, same as entertainment. The service of our waiter & assistant waiter was great. Apart from that, the service at the Lido was only ok. Will we cruise with Celebrity again? I doubt that. I'm sure there are other cruise lines which provide better food, service, entertainment...... Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
SERVICE LEVELS VERY LOW, INCONSISTENT and WAY BELOW PRINCESS IN THIS MARKET ( The Christmas cruise on Sun Princess at the same time last year offered far superior service and all round product.) Some examples that may seem trivial but ... Read More
SERVICE LEVELS VERY LOW, INCONSISTENT and WAY BELOW PRINCESS IN THIS MARKET ( The Christmas cruise on Sun Princess at the same time last year offered far superior service and all round product.) Some examples that may seem trivial but the constant battle to get things right is not how it should be: Linen wasn't changed for 10 days and then only after several requests. It was also of very poor quality (thin, holes, stained) - no crisp white ironed sheets here! From check in it took 3 days and 10 keys!! to get ones that opened our cabin We had so many different charges on our bill that didn't belong to us it became a joke. Everyday we had to check and get them removed and then on disembarkation morning when the final bill arrived the whole lot had been put back on again! Room Service requests frequently never happened There was no information available in the cabin about what services were available - no info on things like the soda pass or wine card. Only people who had cruised with HAL before knew about them Turn down service existed of turning the corner of the bed down and putting chocolates on bed. No refresh of bathroom or room. Toiletries were also never replaced throughout the cruise except soap. Generally staff seemed undertrained, overworked and unhappy General cleanliness of cabin and ship average The only activities available for children under 18 was provided by the kids club and these were inadequate and boring. Apparently only 1/3 of the children onboard went to it regularly which left many (including mine) roaming the ship bored and taking over the lido pool. Despite politely worded requests in the newsletter that they restrict themselves to the aft pool it wasn't policed and their overwhelming presence and noise disturbed the older cruisers. Despite many complaints from the older brigade about this you rarely saw any members of the cruise "entertainment" staff on deck unless they were hosting a cocktail making function (paid) or towel animal demonstration (flogging book!). On other cruise lines they have very visible youth security patrolling day and night plus activity and entertainment staff always around The port arrangements left you believing this was the only time they had visited these ports. Despite knowing how few had taken up shoreex and would be requiring wharf to town transport they were always surprised by the numbers and inadequate services were provided which left people queuing for ages with no alternative as you couldn't walk off the port due to security reasons. The Hotel Manager's response to this was next time we'll charge for the shuttle service and arrange more buses! ENTERTAINMENT Unless it was a paid event or promoting a paid event e.g. SPA, BINGO, ART AUCTION, CULINARY EVENT, OPAL SHOWING etc there were very few activities during the day, no sailaway parties, rarely music on deck and no games you could participate in as a family. There was a daily quiz that was very dry, occasional games (adults only) and a daily cooking demonstration. Cruise Director was the worst of any I have ever encountered and refused to enhance or adapt the program to entertain those demanding more. There seemed to be an inflexible policy and "by the book" mentality that dictated the usual routine be followed come what may!. Many people we spoke with were bored, so much so that we formed our own entertainment group of different families which grew and grew and ran things that are usually run by the entertainment staff on other ships - shuffleboard and table tennis tournaments, scavenger hunts, sailaway parties etc. I contacted the Hotel Manager as I wanted to let him know how disappointed we were and that so many people were unhappy and give him the opportunity to fix it while we were onboard but he really wasn;t that interested. As I said to him we know things are different elsewhere on other cruiselines as we've always enjoyed our cruises as a family on a variety of cruiselines (Princess, Oceania, Carnival) and maybe this time we just chose the wrong ship. However for first time cruisers many would think this was what cruising was all about and will never cruise again. The ship was also so American and didn't seem to make any concession at all to the fact that the majority of the passengers weren't and that she was based in Australian waters for at least 3 months.There were many requests made by pax for some Australian and NZ news and to pick up an Australian feed on the satellite to cover the Sydney Hobart race and the Boxing Day test. They managed to organize it for 2 days while we were in NZ but after that nothing. They changed the timing of the evening shows so if you were late seating you had to go to the 7.00 show and early seating the 9.00 show. This left us with little or no choice after dinner. Usually when cruising the evening consists of dinner then the show, nightclub or piano bar - bed. The piano bar had a nightly "name that tune" but the piano man was very flamboyant and we enjoyed his performance but it certainly wasn't for everyone! With no show to go to after dinner, piano bar not suitable for all, string quartet in the Ocean Bar very placid, the nightclub run by a DJ who played questionable music, then got overrun by teenagers, nights became very boring for many. I would really hesitate to recommend Volendam to anyone that isn't sedentary and looking for entertainment.Despite big promotions for their kids club this one did not do the trick for many onboard. This was meant to be a celebratory Christmas and New Year cruise and is naturally going to attract families. Christmas was so poorly done (again compared to the event they made it on Princess last year) and didn't have any magic at all. New Year's Eve was quite a celebration on the aft deck, but with Sydney Harbour and the fireworks as a backdrop hard to get it wrong! ( Apparently it was originally promoted that the ship would be moored at Circular Quay or in the harbour to see the bridge and this later changed to put us at Darling Harbour with a much lesser view and the U.S. passengers weren't told - rumors of a class action pending!!) I have cruised on Volendam before many years ago in the Caribbean and expected so much more. I always believed HAL was just a cut above Princess but couldn;t have been more wrong. Service and standards were mediocre and indifferent. There was no excellence. On a positive note food was probably better than Princess, but presentation was below par. The cabins too were of a good size as per all HAL ships and the general layout of the ship gave it a very spacious feel with good public areas. Whinge over - but feel the cruise was a waste of a family holiday and not good value or an enjoyable experience at all. Thank goodness I know there are cruising alternatives and can only imagine they "dumbed down" the product for this market. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Investor Insights based on passenger observations and personal experiences from the Holland America Ryndam Holiday Cruise from Dec 21st through Sunday Jan 4, 2009 Good riddance was the mantra for the day for many passengers as they ... Read More
Investor Insights based on passenger observations and personal experiences from the Holland America Ryndam Holiday Cruise from Dec 21st through Sunday Jan 4, 2009 Good riddance was the mantra for the day for many passengers as they disembarked from this two week holiday cruise on the Ryndam as we arrived late in San Diego. There was not a tear to be shed or a sob to be found as many seasoned cruisers appeared to be disenchanted at the culmination of this voyage. I was not surprised when disembarkation was at least 90 minutes late to start (we were suppose to be off at 9:45 AM and retrieved our luggage after 10:45 AM-luckily we made our flight as it was delayed) nor that the elevators at both the aft and forward locations had mechanical failed requiring some folks to be taken off in the service elevator. These elevators are in need of dire repair-the elevator buttons would not light in some, while others would flicker. On at least three separate occasions I experienced a brake problem with the elevators and on one occasion had to step up about 10 inches to get off. Knowing that CCL cut their dividend and management was addressing the company's bottom line, I expected some changes, but was disappointed that the signature of excellence was severely compromised in the process. There will always be a few things that go awry on a voyage as we do not live in a perfect world and we usually are just nonchalant about it. I was a little surprised when on day one of the cruise the front counter personnel would not replace my wife's 100 day pin that was broken as they did not have enough supplies and they would send one to our room later if they had enough-it never happened. Okay, but when we went over to the explorer's lounge and requested a deck of cards to play a game-we were turned down as they did not have any supplies. We were told cards were available for purchase in the Casino-hmm. Moving on our Dining Room Table stewards were excellent, however, the Pinnacle Grill folks were less than satisfactory. We always looked forward to this venue and frequent a few times per voyage. Not this time, it took 20 minutes for someone to bring a signature cocktail list to make a selection from. I clearly pointed out to the staff I was highly allergic to both egg and all poultry products. They insisted they would take the utmost care. When the hors d'oeuvres were brought the waiter could not tell me what was in the three brought to me, however, I already knew from many past voyages. In the past I was given a couple of Bruschetta as the others appetizers contained egg. I had questioned the warm bacon dressing in the salad and the salad dressing. I was assured all were safe. After the first bite-I knew something was awry. My son called over the waiter to let him know, that I had an allergic reaction with the salad. The waiter immediately became defensive and told me I was mistaken. I told the person this is for educational purpose that something in the salad had an egg or poultry ingredient. This person insisted I was wrong and was quite terse. He later must have been told to apologize. Should I mention that several of the side's dishes were not brought to our table as ordered until we reminded the servers? I won't mention my brother's tough lobster or the other disappointments. Several days later the chef I had met in Alaska stopped by to visit us on the Lido as he recognized us from the two voyages on the Ryndam in Alaska this past summer. He informed me that the warm bacon dressing is made with turkey bacon and if staff had inquired it would hot have been served to me. The food in the dinning room was better than the Pinnacle, however you have to savor what you can because the pickings were awful slim and the prospects no matter how hard you squint were just plain bleak. Looking at a coupon for Black Angus that I have-I regretfully submit that this chain restaurant would receive higher marks for a better quality of food. Should I mention that the Hot Woks in the local super markets now do a better job with the oriental dishes than the Lido? The pomp and circumstance that use to accompany the Master Chef's dinner was noticeably absent-yes they did the same motions but without the props, for example the parade of the baked Alaska no longer has the sparklers on top. Although the first time cruiser would not know the difference, it was not the case for the many of us who had cruised before and on other Holland America Holiday Cruises. Should I mention that all of us traveling together were not even invited to the mariner's luncheon for the same sitting? We had staff fix the reservation time. The before luncheon cocktails were no longer offered and only wine was served with lunch - but these subtle changes again were an example of the noticeable cut backs. Clearly front office staff was not on top of their game plan. When I question sail away cocktail charges on my bill as someone inadvertently used the wrong room number - I requested that they pull another tag for comparison that did have my 17 year old son's signature for a soda card for the cabin that he was in-they refused and he had to go to the front desk to correct their error. Are the cutbacks the new paradigm for Holland America mariners? Those past perks supplied to former cruisers have succumbed to a vicious bout of vertigo in memory. Apparently across the Holland America line - these changes were implemented November 1st. I wasn't looking for disgruntled passengers on this cruise - but somehow I kept running into them in the dinning room for breakfast when I joined other travelers. What are the likely hoods I would eat breakfast and every time people started complaining? After several encounters with disgruntled passengers I decided to interview a few of the smiling stewards (about 10 percent of the staff) to learn about downsizing and increased workload. The morale has been shattered for many except those with their first contract. Supplies are short and staff does not have the needed tools to do their jobs effectively. We all have had jobs we didn't like, but somehow made the best of them so we could pay the bills-this message somehow is not universal and has resulted in many resignations among the crew. Random Comments: Supply problems-No batteries for remotes (TVs-DVD). One cruise staff mentioned that recently they did not have any Kleenex and were instructed to put five sheets in an empty box. Event staff did not have all the needed supplies to hand out for the dam dollar redemption-travelers were furious. Event staff was told to scrimp at dam dollar events. Cabins weren't that clean-fortunately we had Clorox wipes and cleaned drawers before we put our clothes in. Hand towels put on the floor to be changed were re-hung on a couple of occasions. The bed linens reportedly were not changed on a two week cruise. When Cabin stewards were off, they did not turn down the bed sheets at night as they hurriedly knocked on the door and handed out chocolates along with literature for the next day. Was the laundry equipment working properly as the wash cloths did not have the Clorox removed 100%. Does the ventilation system filters get cleaned or changed? There were a lot of sick passengers. The coffees were hit and miss and sometimes tasted like someone reused the grounds. Observed passengers' complaints in the dining room as orders for both lunch and breakfast were wrong. With deflation on the horizon-gratuities' were raised with less service provided. Chocolate extravaganza has lost the extravagance in contrast to just as recent as last summer. When a passenger told me they wouldn't bother to get off in Manzanillo-I should have listened. Ditto for Puerto Chiapas-the tour bus parked in a poultry yard to get to the Izapa Ruins and the Chocolate City portion was a bust. This was a desperate attempt to offer a tour. I could list more but what is the point. There were many passengers with a chip on their shoulder and I did not believe them for a nanosecond, however many long-time cruisers were disenchanted also. One final note: Two of the passengers that had been on multiple cruises across the spectrum of cruise lines - summed Ryndam stewards and help like this - they thought the Norwegian line cruise Pride of Aloha staff were the worst ever until they went on this cruise. As an investor it is my belief from what we just experienced is that this lack of quality going forward will have severe financial consequences - unless management can attract new passengers that do not know any better. Good day, Kidderman Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
After reading many fantastic reviews on the Norwegian Pearl, I expected that my cruise experience would be stellar. My first experience with Norwegian will likely be my last. I found that the staff on board were extremely rude and had ... Read More
After reading many fantastic reviews on the Norwegian Pearl, I expected that my cruise experience would be stellar. My first experience with Norwegian will likely be my last. I found that the staff on board were extremely rude and had little personality, something I had never experienced before on a cruise, normally the staff is friendly, outgoing and go out of their way to be friendly and helpful-NOT the case at all on this particular cruise in most service areas (The only exception to this were the folks working at the reception desk) The Garden Cafe was always extremely crowded and it was always difficult to find a seat, it would be helpful if there were staff to assist people in finding available tables instead of allowing them to wander around aimlessly with plates of food. Come meal time it was next to impossible to find anyone to take a drink order unless you wanted to walk ALL the way to the entrance of the Garden Cafe to the ONE beverage person, by the time you get back to the table after wading through the crowd, your meal is cold. Supposedly there is a 30 minute time limit on unattended lounge chairs by the pool, however people were allowed to hang their towels on a chair all day without returning, as this policy was not enforced and that left a shortage of chairs for everyone else unless you woke up at 5am to reserve chairs. Lounge chairs at Great Stirrup Cay were very limited and most people coming after the second tender had no lounge chairs at all. After one of the ports of call I got stuck in a downpour with one of my children, we had to walk 1/4 of a mile in the rain, upon returning to the ship I asked the gentleman that was on the gangway with the new towels if I could have one for my little girl who was soaked, he told me NO quite rudely-these were just for exchanges if he couldn't make an exception seeing that my very small daughter was drenched. The elevators are extremely slow. Noise outside the cabin was terrible starting around 6am. I overheard one of the youth counselors at the Kids Club swearing in frustration in the presence of my children as well as other children. The entertainment was definitely lacking. We found ourselves bored most nights, there are only so many nights you want to see a comedian. The food was good. I dined in the Garden Cafe, Cagney's and Indigo and was pleased with each. A cruise, even a bad one is still a good experience most times, however I do not think I will cruise on this line again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
First let me start out by saying a cruise, no matter how bad, it is still a vacation away from home, with your family. So how bad could it really be. Now the reason though we booked the cruise was because the price was unbeatable but we ... Read More
First let me start out by saying a cruise, no matter how bad, it is still a vacation away from home, with your family. So how bad could it really be. Now the reason though we booked the cruise was because the price was unbeatable but we quickly realized that you indeed pay for that cheaper price. Our first clue was when our alcohol was taken from the luggage. They explained if it was wine then you had to pay 15$ charge and keep it. but because it was rum they had to confiscate it till the end of the trip, so alcohol is fine as long as they choose to allow it. Guess we had to pay for their 9$ margarita which included their gratuity regardless of how good they were(Cha Ching). Next was the food, the food was definitely below par. For instance, the shrimp cocktail was baby shrimp on a leaf. Also the scallops were little bay scallops. Not only that but with the "Free Style Dining" the waiters were more interested in quantity than quality. Again for instance, When the two entrees were ordered they would bring both at the same time even if they didn't fit on the table. Also not one waiter(I kid you not) asked us how our dinner was. Which leads me into their pay restaurants. Why have 8 pay restaurants unless your normal food is sub par. After the third day of the diner we were more than happy to pay for better food(once again they got me, Cha Ching) But don't expect the service to care much more, Get them in and get them out. Also don't expect the smaller activities that are the normal on other ships. For instance their was no belly flop contest, no ice sculpting or fruit carving. Things like that fill the day with interesting things to do. Where was the Captains Party? I know, I know, the free booze again but this was something looked forward to meeting the captain and just enjoying ourselves. Ok ok, enough bad stuff, now the good. Our room steward was absolutely the best we have had. We hardly saw him but every time we got back into our room, it was made up and cleaned. Good Job!!! The Free ice cream was a real bonus. It was nice to get ice cream anytime of the day. We had an interior room because we don't care about a big room for we are never in it. With that said, it seems they made the room a little smaller in exchange for a bigger shower. And what a plus that was. It was so nice to have room while taking a shower(not one of those corner showers but it actually had sliding doors). Good Job designers. The entertainment was fine. Some hit, some miss. Everyones different in their taste. For instance, We loved the Second City. Absolutely hilarious. Now the ports of call. In Roatan we did the Gumbalimba excursion and loved it. We felt safe and had fun. The trail that you walk include a swinging bridge, Macaws that are loose and monkeys swinging around loose that jump on you to get food. And once the guide was done you could backtrack on your own. After that they had a pool and beach that you could chill out at. definitely was fun and worth it. In Belize we did the Wildlife River Raft which was unique in that it was truly wild. It was a 45 min. bus trip to the Old Belize river and then a 2 hr trip down the river. It felt like the amazon. Really was wild. We seen wild monkeys, crocodiles, birds and many Iguanas. There were times that it got boring but there was always something new around the river bend. Then Cozumel, which we decide to get a taxi and go to one of their suggested beaches(13$ one way). That beach was a resort called Paradise beach which had wave runners(55 for half hour). Then for 10 a person you could use their beach mats, snorkels, water trampolines. Good times once again. The last was their own island, Stirrup Cay. After Getting off the tender, immediately we felt crowded, not enough chairs, so after a half hour we hopped on the tender back and enjoyed the whole day practically by ourselves on the ship. I must have gone on the slide 10 times. Weeee... All in all we did have a good time but couldn't help but realize that it could have been better(there is so much more I could write). We made the best of it but the crew could have made it so much better. We don't regret going(the islands were fun) but next time I thing we will wait a few more months and pay for a more expensive cruise, because in the end, you will pay. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Embarkment: Took over 2 hours, absolutely horrendous and that's when we started to have worries. If the check-in process was this disorganized, what else would go wrong? Not the inviting welcome we were hoping for at all. The line was ... Read More
Embarkment: Took over 2 hours, absolutely horrendous and that's when we started to have worries. If the check-in process was this disorganized, what else would go wrong? Not the inviting welcome we were hoping for at all. The line was way too long and painfully slow. Ship Decor: As mentioned by others, it is pink overdone. While it's a brand new ship, it looks like it was built in the 80's, very Miami Vice styling. I know Carnival calls itself the "fun ships" but it was just way too cheesy. Good points were the glass elevators and formal dining areas. Ship Amenities: The pools were too cold, and very small. The kids waterpark should have had warmer water as well, our son was shivering after about 10 minutes of playing in the water. Spa was a joke, overpriced. Front desk staff useless,and the masseuse/acupuncturist tried hard to sell you expensive products. Gym had nice new equipment, but since our voyage was so rocky (I had many veteran cruisers as well as staffers say it was the worst they've ever felt)didn't get a chance to work out as much as I would have liked. Shops had some decent watches and jewelry. Kids Club was great, our 2 year old enjoyed it. This was the main reason we booked this cruise, ample childcare opportunities for the under 3 and not potty trained set. I would have liked to see more involvement from the sitters however, they did seem a bit bored, and not entirely kid lovers. Food: Regular dining was good. Plenty of options. I would give it a 7 out of 10. It is worth the extra $30 p.p. to eat at the Pinnacle. Very impressed by food quality and presentation. Ports of Call: Bahamas and St.Thomas were highlights. It is worth the money to do the Atlantis Shore Excursion, loved the resort there. Rooms Our room steward was fantastic. He remembered our sons name and made the trip somewhat bearable. We got two rooms, one with a balcony, which I highly suggest to get the most of the scenery. It is nice to just be able to get some fresh air if you want. Nicely appointed linens, bath robes, room design really maximized space. They need heavier doors, as you could hear people running up and down the halls all night long, with security not quick to respond to calls. Overall, the ship just didn't live up to it's name of "Splendor". Too often we found ourselves looking forward to getting off the boat and into the next port of call. Unfortunate because a part of the journey was to really enjoy the ships offerings. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was our first time on Norwegian, having sailed only on Carnival. There was no problem with embarking, and we were able to go right to our room only to discover that there were not enough beds. There was only one upper and two lower ... Read More
This was our first time on Norwegian, having sailed only on Carnival. There was no problem with embarking, and we were able to go right to our room only to discover that there were not enough beds. There was only one upper and two lower for four people. I went down to the desk and was told that there was a trundle bed. So I went back up and looked. No trundle. Back down I go. They said they would bring in a rollaway everynight. Nothing to do but make the best of it at that point. The rollaway consisted of a four inch foam mattress. Our kids are young men 14 and 16 years old so the second night we had them add another mattress on top. The cabin steward told me the rooms were originally designed with a trundle bed but that those beds had been replaced. So every morning and night we had to find him and have him take care of the extra bed. Quite a nuisance. I talked to my travel agency about this and they were shocked because Norwegian was still booking this for four people. When I went to get ready for dinner that night I was shocked at the shower. Mold was in all the crevices. Big black mold. On the way down to dinner that night (without showering) I started chatting with a crew member only to discover he was chief of housekeeping. BINGO When I told him about the mold you would have thought I said the ship was sinking. He assured me they would take care of it. Which they did the next day. The next morning we discovered that none of the electric plugs worked. All two of them. It took them to about wednesday to get that fixed. Also, there was a leak under the faucet that landed on the bathmat. So every morning the bath mat was soaking, so the kids used a towel on the floor which made us a towel short because there were only four. The food onboard was extremely poor. I love trying new things. It is one of the reasons I like cruising. We ate in the garden room. On lobster night we were all excited. When they brought out the plates we looked around for the lobster. That is not a lobster but a crawfish. Seriously it was the size of my thumb and so tough I couldn't get it out of its shell. I could go on and on about the food but suffice it to say I lost two pounds that week. Who ever has lost weight on a cruise?The cleanliness of our cabin was another disappointment. Our beds didn't get made the first day. Unless you count when they were turned down. The sheets were not changed at all nor was the floor vacuumed. Cleaning the bathroom consisted of wiping out the sink. The kids club was abysmal. My kids said there was supervision only during scheduled activities. Other than that the kids were left on their own. This concerns me because of the possibility of underaged kids and predators. Carnival cards them when they come in and leave. On our last cruise with Carnival they caught a twelve year old using her sisters ID to get in the teen club. The excursions were the saving grace. In costa maya we went to a fishing village about ten minutes away. Great relaxing day. Had good food and sandy beaches. husband had a message that he said was fabulous. Did a little shopping. they had good prices but could be a little pushy. In Guatemala, we did the San Phillipe Fortress tour. If your not interested in country side, this may not be tour for you. It is a long way off about two hours and although interesting, it is a little disappointing after the long drive. My kids were very intrigued with the cutter ants. The park rangers found that very amusing. The people working here do not speak English at all. Spanish classes came in very handy here. In Belize we went on the "raiders of the lost mayan caves" This is conducted by the Bak-a-bush tours. We had a fabulous day. The driver and tour guide were very friendly and knowledgeable. The little towns were extremely interesting. We hiked up a ways before entering the cave. Our group consisted of six teenage boys, me (the middle aged lady) and three middle aged men. There was repelling, traversing, a rope ladder, and a swinging bridge. It was all great. My mind said it wanted more but my body said it wanted lunch. Lunch was good but not plentiful. It was really cool sitting on a mountain side in Belize having Thanksgiving lunch. The next day my sixteen year old and I stayed on the ship while the younger one and my husband went to the speed boat excursion. They had a great time. The pictures made me jealous. But we had a good day on the ship. I finally dragged my son out of bed around 10:30 and of course he wanted food. We went to the buffet but they were breaking down for lunch. The grill was not open. So we ended up waiting until 11 for the Blue Lagoon to open. (the chips and dip here are really good. I was sorry I didn't discover this sooner. ) We had the ship to ourselves up until about one-thirty. It was really nice lounging by the pool. The last night they gave us a comp dinner at Cagney's Steak House. This is were they hid all the good food. Lobster was normal size. Steaks were good. What they don't tell you in the brochures is that there is an additional charge for certain items on the menu like crab legs and lobster. If it hadn't been comped it probably would have been an additional fifty dollars over the surcharge. This is food equivalent to what Carnival serves everynight. We carried our own luggage off because they had placed the extra bed down while we were at dinner, even though we had asked them not to so we could pack. This turned out to be to our advantage. We were able to get off quite quickly and were on the street in thirty minutes. I have read other reviews and it always sounded like nothing would have made them happy. I am the type that will eat whatever is brought out even if was a mistake. My motto is, heres a chance to try something new. We made a game of "no complaining" whoever complained had to pay five dollars. We made the best of it but would never travel norwegian again. Everyone we talked to had the same attitude. One very classy looking lady referred to it as "ruffing it." The excursions saved this trip from being a total failure. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Long queues awaited us at check-in due to ship arriving late! No explanation given by company. cabin was good although a little noisy due to about 400 children on board who seemed to run amok and do as they pleased ie  running up and down ... Read More
Long queues awaited us at check-in due to ship arriving late! No explanation given by company. cabin was good although a little noisy due to about 400 children on board who seemed to run amok and do as they pleased ie  running up and down passageways and stairways, jumping in pools etc. Ship had notices regarding rules but they werew never enforced.Although an Australian cruise, no special Xmas lunch was served, this had to wait until dinner and then one had to order each meal to get a traditional Xmas dinner of turkey,ham etc.We were provided with one bon-bon between 2 people which itself was a laugh.Whilst our cabin steward was very good the same could not be said for our dining room stewards, one of them kept dissapearing leaving the remaining waiter to serve the 10 people at our table. We had the early sitting and sometimes were just leaving when the second sitting was coming in.All round we were glad to get back to Sydney and disembark. We have learnt now not to cruise over the Christmas period and won't get caught again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We wanted to cruise the Greek Isles and chose MSC, rather than Costa Cruises because the itinerary included both Santorini & Mykonos. We considered the cruise to be reasonably priced, but like anything you get what you pay for. In ... Read More
We wanted to cruise the Greek Isles and chose MSC, rather than Costa Cruises because the itinerary included both Santorini & Mykonos. We considered the cruise to be reasonably priced, but like anything you get what you pay for. In future, we will not hesitate to spend more $$$ on a premium cruise line as we know appreciate that they represent value-for-money. In a nut-shell; YES: * A beautiful ship. Lovely staterooms - contemporary-style. * Fun itinerary. Fantastic ports if you want the best of the Greek Isles, however there is not much time in Mykonos which is a shame. * Sushi Restaurant. You pay for this, but well worth it! Sushi is one choice on the menu. You can also enjoy fresh, cooked to order satay dishes, vegetables & stir-fry's etc. * Delicious gelato! * Italian's love to dance. It was fun to watch them have a good time late at night. * Children travel free and eat free. NO: * Average to poor food. Mass-produced/ re-heatable, un-imaginative - terrible presentation. In-consistent quality and often luke warm. * Average service in the dining room. It took too long btw courses. * No buffet-style evening meals offered as an alternative to the main dining room. * Extremely limited room-service menu (important if you don't like what's being served in the main dining room). You pay for room service. * We phoned for ice. It took at least 3 phone chasers. We rcvd it about 40mins later! * Expensive alcoholic drinks * 2nd Sitting-dining is too late! 9.30pm * Poor management in the Pizza restaurant. Not enough staff, hence orders were being mixed up and guests left the restaurant. This is not the fault of the dining staff, but management. Poor listening. Poor English. They couldn't understand us. * No smiles or genuine customer service from staff. You had to get their attention to order drinks on deck. * We found the Italians to be somewhat arrogant. Pushing in, in queues for the buffet lunch, not giving way in the elevators, pushing whilst waiting to disembark on tenders. Maybe that's just a cultural difference, but usually common sense & ship etiquette. * Often long queues to disembark the ship. They should have opened gangways for tenders on both ends of the ship. * Small shops onboard. Not much variety. * Sleazy ship officers in the night club. * When you disembark for the last time, lousy assistance from staff. No friendly smiles or farewells. I have cruised a dozen times. What makes me happy is good food and attentive service. It's such a shame because the MSC Musica is such a delightful ship itself, however the two important elements were not there for me. If you want a cheap cruise, then feel free to give this a go, but I do believe you would have greater satisfaction on an alternative cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Where can I begin? I agree with RobM--if you're italian, then by all means, book away! First, the positives: the ship itself is absolutely gorgeous! Very nicely furnished, with all the elegance you'd expect from a European ... Read More
Where can I begin? I agree with RobM--if you're italian, then by all means, book away! First, the positives: the ship itself is absolutely gorgeous! Very nicely furnished, with all the elegance you'd expect from a European line. Our stateroom had a balcony, and it was immaculate! Probably the best room we've had so far. The ports we visited were AMAZING! Southern Italy, Greece, Croatia, Istanbul--all fabulous! We booked our own outings with a private guide (as we were a rather large group)via the internet before boarding, otherwise, to buy them through the ship was outrageous. Also, the gelato bar on the Lido deck had really good gelato! Now the NEGATIVES: The staff was terrible!!! They kept leaving the daily bullentins in Spanish, when we repeatedly requested them in English. In all fairness, other members of our party spoke Spanish, but we didn't. At dinner on the first night was a disaster! We asked for ice, only to be ignored. When we asked again, we were laughed at. Finally, my father-in-law had to get ugly with the wait staff and demanded ice--they brought it to us in cereal bowls! Remember, we Americans are used to ice with our water--the Europeans ARE NOT! Not to mention our waiter didn't speak a lick of English. So finally, members of our party went back and forth with their Spanish and the waiters' Italian and we finally got what we wanted. Hmm...the food! I'll give them the benefit of the doubt--I remember one particular salad being good--an octopus salad. But I have to say that the rest of the food tasted like something you would be served in a nursing home. It was terrible! And you had to pay for water with your meal!!! We had wine tickets, which were supposed to be paired with each nights entree theme, but our waiter kept screwing it up and we kept drinking the wrong wines with the wrong meals. Again at breakfast, we asked for ice water for everyone, and only the person asking got a small, juice-sized glass of water with 2 ice cubes. Is ice that expensive??? Finally, we asked for the entire water pitcher. The buffet was disgusting! The hot food was cold and the cold food was hot, and again, never a place to sit. The dishes seemed like they were "creations" thrown together at the last minute. Actually,...one afternoon, there was a cookout on the lido deck with hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.; the next day, at the buffett, there was a cold salad made with the cut-up, leftover hot dogs!!!! I'm not kidding! How's that for Euroopean elegance??? Now for the entertainment. We had the last seating of the evening, so by the time we finished our meal, there were no seats available in the theater venues. So, we never watched any shows. Also, there were never any lounge chairs or seats available poolside, so we didn't get to do much swimming or sunbathing, either. Forget about the outdoor jacuzzi! It was always stuffed full of people, like little sausages in a can. Now, on the night of the captain's reception, it was a real first-class affair!!! Everyone was dressed in their best, and my husband and I were at the bar having a drink, and another, and another, because the festivities that were taking place were in other languages, so we weren't paying attention. Suddenly, we saw and heard a commotion--NOW THIS IS CLASSY--two Italian females were into a brawl over a guy!! I'm not kidding! Two bimbos got into a fight during the captain's reception over some idiot guy! They were broken up and escorted out, as we all laughed! There was a nightclub, all the way aft, and my husband and I decided to check it out. We are both early thirties and still enjoy a good time every now and then! Wrong choice! Everyone in there were teenagers, I mean YOUNG teenagers, like 13, 14, 15--all drinking and partying on the dance floor! The fellow cruisers, mostly Italian, were the rudest, most un-classy group of people I have ever been around. As we were in line for the elevator, it was nothing for them to cut in front of us, and dash ahead of us into the elevator. If they accidently ran into us, forget about pleasantries, as "Excuse me," or whatever the Italian equivalent is. Also, if you like seeing all the men (regardless of age) wearing banana-hammocks (YUCK!--i.e., speedos) at the pool, and all the women wearing bikinis (regardless of age)then this is the cruise for you. MSC waaaay overbooked this cruise, and it was full to the max! I hated being shoulder-to-shoulder with people everywhere! It reminded me of the cartoons where all the people rush into a popular place at once, and when that was over, they all rushed to another happening spot, again, all at once. At the first Turkish port,Izmir, we had to wait an hour an a half, in the hot sun, before the officials would let us continue on to our excursions. All in all, we were expecting European elegance, after all, it's an Italian line. All we got was a taste of the rude Italian middle class. Never again. Not worth the money. I can eat hot dogs at home. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
We sailed on the "Sun Princess" departure Sydney April 06, 2008 to Far North Queensland. I have been on 8 cruises, 2 with Princess and this cruise was absolutely sub-standard. We chose this cruise because we had sailed ... Read More
We sailed on the "Sun Princess" departure Sydney April 06, 2008 to Far North Queensland. I have been on 8 cruises, 2 with Princess and this cruise was absolutely sub-standard. We chose this cruise because we had sailed previously on the "Pacific Princess" and found it to be quite luxurious in every way. Unfortunately the same can not be said about the Sun Princess. The ship is touted as luxury cruising for the Australian market, but to quite honest it is like a floating RSL club. How Princess (or Carnival) can promote this ship as a super liner and luxurious is false advertising and very misleading. The prices certainly don't reflect the cheapness of the whole experience. I thought I was on the old "Fairstar", that is how low grade it was. We always book a balcony cabin because we like the extra space........unfortunately the balcony cabins on this ship are much smaller than we have experienced on other cruises. They were also quite "worn" and not worth the money. To start with we were due to depart at 1600hrs but due to "mechanical problems" it was after 2300hrs when we finally departed. While I understand that technical faults can not be helped, it was the lack of information by the crew that was frustrating and unprofessional. Nobody seemed to know what was going on (this is how it was for the entire cruise). I found most of the crew to be unhelpful and just plain surly and rude (except for one girl on the purser's desk, Regina). Almost all of them looked like they didn't want to be there. This attitude permeated through the passengers, everyone seemed miserable. Our dining room staff were basically hopeless. They were either very inexperienced or just didn't care. Most nights our orders were wrong or courses just didn't turn up. Our table complained every night that the food was cold, yet nothing was done. On one night instead of getting us new mains they just reheated them!! My main was scallops so as you can imagine they were tough after being reheated. I did complain to the Maitre'D but he was very rude to me and was demanding to know my cabin number (which I didn't want to give out) He basically said that they were very busy and he didn't have time for me. Sorry but you know you are going to be busy with 2000 pax on the ship it's not as if they just turned up out of the blue!. It's their job so if they can't do it efficiently then they shouldn't be there!!!. I found his attitude extremely offensive. On the whole, the food was very poor quality and not a great deal of variety. No fabulous buffets as experienced on other cruises (Cunard, Royal Caribbean and Pacific Princess). The buffet was the same everyday with very little change or selection. The food again in here was mostly cold as was the coffee. It was overcrowded all the time as the oldies got their on the dot of opening and didn't budge. We had a few meals in our cabin (room service) which was actually quite good and very quick delivery. The lack of knowledge and help extended to the gift shop as well. No body seemed to know anything down there also. I was inquiring about a piece of Swarovski jewelery and the young girl that served me told me she was new and didn't know what I was talking about. She asked me to come back in an hour to speak to another assistant who had more knowledge. I did come back and spoke to the other girl who did know what I was talking about but said that she was too busy to look in the storeroom for the piece. Needless to say I gave up after that. This type of attitude is simply unacceptable in my opinion. The entertainment was terrible. On one occasion nearly everyone walked out of the theatre when one very outdated singer/comedian started his act. We ended up not returning after seeing 3 very amateur mediocre shows. The lack of public areas was also a problem, Our table liked to meet for drinks before dinner (late sitting ) but due to the high volume of elderly people, we found that they occupied the seats from early afternoon ad didn't budge. Everything was a hassle and took the glint off the time on board. The 12 days couldn't pass quick enough! The other drama we encountered was with the tender service. To be blunt it was simply appalling and completely unorganized. We were told to obtain tender tickets on the morning of the tender service in each port which we did at 0800am. In Townsville we didn't get off the ship until 1130am, 3 ½ hours after getting the tender tickets. When we finally got on the tender we were horrified to see that the tender departed half empty!!!. We wondered if this was the case with every service as some poor people did not get off until 1330pm. Of course this meant that our time in Townsville was very limited. We arrived back at the dock to board the tender back to the ship at 1500hrs. There we waited in the blistering heat for over an hour. There was no shade as the queue extended well into the carpark. No announcements were made and we just stood there until finally getting on the tender at nearly 1630hrs. Again, such lack of organization and information was very disappointing and totally unprofessional from such a large company. This was the case with every tender port if you were not booked on a shore excursion. Speaking of Shore excursions, the one we did out to The Great Barrier Reef from the Whitsunday's was horrific. Another poorly organized event by the Sun Princess. I will say that I complained on the ship about this (along with nearly everyone else on the trip) and we were refunded 1/3 of the price. The only thing that ran smoothly was the disembarkation on the last day. They were very efficient in getting us off!! (Funny that, they can move 2000 people when they want to!) On the whole the vacation was a total disappointment and certainly was not worth the money paid. We had such high expectations of Princess and this was a letdown to say the least. We actually went to the Purser's desk and removed the gratuities from our bill, the first time we have ever done this. That is how bad the whole experience was for us. It will be very hard for us to book another Princess cruise after this. Although we enjoyed the Pacific Princess we are left wondering if Princess's service and quality have declined throughout the whole fleet. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Embarkation was efficient, Destinations were really good But from there it went south really quick. Starting with the buffet, The first day it was really good, Especially the seafood pasta salad with squid. I thought we were in for a real ... Read More
Embarkation was efficient, Destinations were really good But from there it went south really quick. Starting with the buffet, The first day it was really good, Especially the seafood pasta salad with squid. I thought we were in for a real treat. So after lunch we decided to tour the ship and stumbled onto the main dining room. We decided to enter through the doors to take a peak when we were rudely yelled at by the Mater D (Sorry for the mispelling) to leave. Our initial reaction was "Wow, That was shocking, He could have handled it differently. He was an Italian with a huge attitude and bad manners. I thought from that point this guy can kiss his tip goodby! The first night we ate in the main restaraunt and both my wife and I had the French onion soup thinking that it should be a good choice. That was a big mistake! I took my first spoon full and lost my appetite right at the get-go. I called over the waiter and he offered up a salad as an alternative which I reluctantly accepted. Shortly after the same Mater D came running up to my table apologizing for the terrible soup and insisted to make it up with another menu choice. My first thought was he needed a Huge breath mint as his breath was that of halitosis. At that point my Dinner was ruined and we left immediately. Moving forward we really enjoyed our destinations, Which were Grand Cayman, Routan, Key West and Cozumel. The ship was very clean, The bartender "Leo" was excellent, But the Italians and europeans working on the ship treated my Wife and I like second class citizens. Specifically Customer Service. (NOTE: Customer Service is not a term that is understood on this ship) I almost got into a tussle with a Euro in the Casino after winning a $500.00 jackpot on the Wheel of fortune machine that he had left a couple of minutes prior. Funny thing is that the Italian Employees on this ship must not realize that their Employer is Carnival International and it is an AMERICAN Company that owns it. I reflect back to how I was treated by many of their staff and get a laugh at who is paying their paycheck. This Cruise was a nightmare. After our bad experience in the dining room on the first night we opted for the Buffets, But they closed at 8:00pm and the remaining choices were pizza and salad OR salad and pizza, Take your pick!! So, In reviewing the Buffets I will start with Breakfast which the choices were smoked salmon and a Tilapia wrapped pickle "Really"? I can see that the Euros may have a palet for that but not us Yanks. Note to Costa, You are cruising out of Ft. Lauderdale, It would only make sense to design the menu around the preferences of American cuisine, Correct? Breakfast was only good if you had the omlette which had huge lines or the fruit. Either way, It was not good. Now we go to Lunch. Bottom line it was terrible. The squid salad was served daily without change and every day it got a little more distastful and rotten as the week progressed. In summary of this waste of money, I would only recommend that people who are considering a cruise with Costa, To spend it with a Cruise line that really knows how to treat their Customers. IE: Royal Carribean or Princess. Sincerely One Very Disappointed Yankee! Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Let me preface this with the fact that this was the second of two short cruises in the same vacation (see my review of the Carnival Inspiration) and any bad day on a cruise in the Bahamas is better then a good day at work! Also, I do not ... Read More
Let me preface this with the fact that this was the second of two short cruises in the same vacation (see my review of the Carnival Inspiration) and any bad day on a cruise in the Bahamas is better then a good day at work! Also, I do not expect caviar at a popcorn price. I give credit (good or bad) where due. With that said, let's continue. Embarkation - Everyone was dressed nice and looked very professional but we were assisted by a woman that had to be VERY new. Had it not been for the employee next to her it would have taken FOREVER! The Norwegian Sky - Very nice decor. Looked clean but there was a smell of sewage when you walked past public restrooms. I had not experienced this on other cruiselines (Carnival and RCCL). Accounting - Onboard credit was not on account. Was told it would be put on the next day. Had to ask again the next evening to have another credit to be put on account. Crew member working the desk was pretty much a jerk. Room - Nice and roomy. Well maintained. TV was terrible. Food - More options for special diets than past experience but quality left a lot to be desired. Small portions. Hope you like to drink water or unsweet tea (pretty much the only non-alcohol options). Service at sitdown meals was SLOW, SLOW and SLOW. We dined plenty early prior to a show and had to leave before desert was served so we didn't miss the show. The unlimited soda purchase was a joke! We waited over 30 minutes for our sodas during a meal (even after reminding them 3 times). Those purchasing drinks were served promptly. Another issue is they close some of the bars so you have to walk around searching for a place to get your unlimited soda. On the private island only one bar (farthest from the snorkeling area) honors the unlimited soda. Last but not least, we could find no place to get soda the morning of disembarkation. BBQ on private island not much and ice water tasted "fishy". Room service was prompt, nice menu but food was basic and sub par. Entertainment - The Magician/Comedian was the highlight of the cruise, AWESOME! There is also a guitarist/singer named Leo that was equally entertaining and also a highlight! All other shows/events were at a high school class play level and CHEESEY! Kid's Stuff - Not very appealing to the kids. Very few kids participating. Disembaration - Easy. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008

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