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53,776 Family Cruise Reviews

A reminder we were a party of 6Me,DW, DS-19,DD-17-DD-7DM-80. Sunday 19th-Arrived at 11 at airport, as we were a party of 6 we had to get 2 taxis and forgot the advice to have the name of the port handy. Taxi driver didn't speak much ... Read More
A reminder we were a party of 6Me,DW, DS-19,DD-17-DD-7DM-80. Sunday 19th-Arrived at 11 at airport, as we were a party of 6 we had to get 2 taxis and forgot the advice to have the name of the port handy. Taxi driver didn't speak much English but eventually we worked out where we needed to go. At quay by 11.30, she looked very big closeup-biggest ship we've been on so far. Very small queues had done online check-in but slight delay caused by filling in swine flu declaration and my son's alcohol waiver having to be photocopied. Obligatory boarding photo followed. We then went to the Windjammer for lunch and most of us tried the famous honey stung chicken, I thought it was ok but my son and youngest daughter loved it. I preferred the roast beef. Generally,I thought the Windjammer food was good, only on a couple of occasions was the food lukewarm and generally the quality was good. We all preferred the Island Grill though. It doesn't get as packed in there and the staff are much more attentive. Then went swimming pool was busy but probably least busy we saw it all week. Water was cold and my daughter didn't like the sea water - a common complaint that I've read! Some of party were peckish so went to Cafe Promenade, Royal Promenade as a whole is very impressive the first time you see it. Food at Cafe Promenade was ok, cookies, pizza and cakes good, sandwiches just ok I thought. Went to staterooms we were in inside cabins on eight deck. Liked separate seating area which made it seem bigger than other similar cabins on other ships. Drawer and wardrobe space just about ok for 7 nights would struggle for longer I would say. Met Clifton our cabin steward who I mentioned before he was brilliant all week efficient friendly and made us laugh! Beds comfortable bottom bunks had mattress topper but top bunk didn't and you sure noticed the difference! Went to La Boheme restaurant, had requested a table for 6 but were on one for 10 but in window. Our table companions were Scandinavian but they only came 3 nights out of the seven, the parents spoke English but the children didn't so we didn't have much interaction with them to be honest other than pleasantries. Really enjoyed the Pork Medallions and the Pavlova. Took Rachel to register for Adventure Ocean. Asked about My Family Time Dining but was told not available. Didn't realize it wasn't fleetwide yet. That was a big disappointment as Rachel did get bored during evening meals. She enjoyed going to AO though but mainly went at night as we were off the ship all the other days bar one. 20th at sea. Time to explore the ship. The Voyager has impressive facilities, but in my opinion is just a little too big. The pool deck on the sea day was just a mass of humanity, this was the only time I felt there were too many people on board. I've been on 28 cruises and have seen plenty of packed pool decks but this was the most packed. The surface near the pools is made of stuff made to look like decking and it gets unbelievably hot, have sandals or crocs or similar at the ready! I was glad there was only 1 sea day!!Formal night-nice meal particularly the grand marnier soufflE. Found it strange having the cocktail party after the meal and not the same atmosphere not having it in a room but made up for it in welcome back party the next night. 21st.Naples.We decided to go to Ischia as we'd been to Capri before and Pompeii.Went on Hydrofoil which took 45 minutes. Ischia is a stunningly beautiful island which not enough people visit.You could easily be in the Caribbean. We went to a thermal spa Negombo which was about a 15 minute taxi ride form the Port. The baths are beautiful all different temperatures some heated by thermal spring plus some large swimming pools and access to a beach. The biggest challenge were 2 walk through pools that came about waist high one that was about as hot as anyone could stand followed by a freezing one. We also had a lovely Italian lunch at the restaurant there followed by a fresh fruit bowl with the freshest tasting fruit I can remember-peaches,grapes,3 different types of melon, pineapple, cherries. A truly memorable day, which wasn't over. Had lovely asian soup bit only disappointing main course all week cod which was dry. I've read a lot about the restaurant meals but in my opinion virtually all of them were good restaurant quality. My only gripes were that the sauces were nice but there wasn't enough of them you ran out before the meal did(!)and the vegetable portions were tiny with each main meal. We ordered extra every night but almost every night they were the same -carrots and Broccoli(done very nicely though) The night was topped off by the soul group Sweet Sensation who were simply brilliant and got the whole of the downstairs audience on their feet-not an easy task! Wednesday. Civitavecchia. Having been to Rome before we decided to have a quiet day,we went into the town briefly but took the opportunity to enjoy the ship whilst it was less crowded,including having a go at the climbing wall which was fun.Went to see Ice show which was excellent especially the guest skater who rolled in a wheel on the ice, spellbinding. Thursday-Livorno. Had pre-booked Giovanni from Sunflower Tours who met us at dockside. He is very friendly ,very flexible and very knowledgeable about the region, can't recommend him highly enough. He gave us a tour of Pisa and then we went to a waterpark in Cecina to keep the kids happy in the afternoon. It's a great waterpark with lots of different waterslides and a wave pool.Also has a nice cafe but the toilets are very basic. Nice meal back on board Italian night had Minestrone which was very good Chicken marsala also nice but not enough sauce. We were warned it would be a bit rough coming out of Livorno and it was DD took to her bed but was fine next morning. Had late night snack at cafe Promenade good people watching opportunities on the Royal Promenade. Friday Villefranche. Decided to have a lie in and just go to nearby beach .Many people seem to go to Nice or Monte Carlo but Villefranche itself is beautiful. Lovely meal tonight Mushroom Filo pastry was excellent BBQ Thai chicken nice but not enough sauce!!Dessert sampler and Valentin our waiter arranged for me not to get the dark chocolate option but to get 2 of another. Valentin the waiter and the assistant Oscar were both very good. Went to Diamond plus party not very busy at all but drink flowing. Saturday Marseilles. First time we had to use ship shuttle but there were taxis waiting ,someone had pre-booked a large taxi for 6 but they wouldn't let me book one said I had to take 2 taxis, I would pre-book if I went to Marseilles again 12 dollars per person for a 10 minute journey is a rip-off especially when you are a big party. Went to Palais Longchamps beautiful building and waterfall, travelled back on tram to city centre. Went for Ice skate kids loved it still seems unusual on a ship and we were at sea! Last meal in restaurant onion soup good turkey ok and another dessert sampler. Sunday had to get off, we were told we would have to hand in seapass cards for reasons of security but we were given them back which is a nice momento I think. Niggles-drinks I know it's been covered but they are way too expensive, many bars were empty and not hard to see why. My favourite tipple is Strongbow cider which wasn't cheap at $5.25 but most places on the ship gave me a 250 ml bottle and some a 440 ml can (only once) yet the price was the same. That can't be right??I drank Coors instead as it annoyed me. Photos also too dear I'm sure $19.95 for 1 picture is too much for most I'm sure they would sell more if they lowered the prices or had better bundle offers. Overall, we had a great time. I would say IMHO that the food was better than many have billed the restaurant was restaurant quality in my view. Most of the staff were very friendly and polite and Clifton was a star. To keep a family as diverse in ages and tastes happy is a testimony in itself. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
This was our first cruise, us and 2 daughters aged 16 and 14. We all shared a superior balcony cabin, and it was bigger than I expected, and big enough for the 4 of us most of the time! We drove ourselves to Harwich, parked and embarked ... Read More
This was our first cruise, us and 2 daughters aged 16 and 14. We all shared a superior balcony cabin, and it was bigger than I expected, and big enough for the 4 of us most of the time! We drove ourselves to Harwich, parked and embarked easily at about 12pm. Our cabin was ready at 1pm. The ship is beautiful, and very easy to get around. It never seemed crowded except on the pooldeck on a sunny day and in the Windjammer just before arriving in port. Joff the cruise director was great, and all of the activities which we did were well done and great fun. The best was the impromptu pool party overlooking the MSC Opera!! Service was almost perfect, certainly better than you get in a normal 4 star hotel. We found the food very nice, and would be more than happy to be served most of it in a normal mid-priced restaurant (and it was always hot). We mostly ate lunch and breakfast in the Windjammer, but one day tried the Seaview cafe (not that good) and one day the MDR for lunch (ok, but too formal for us). We ate once in Chops, which was wonderful and well worth the extra. I had the rack of lamb on their recommendation, it was very nice but don't listen to them - have the filet mignon, it was amazing! We also tried Portofinos one evening - th food was no better than the MDR, and service was poor, so I wouldn't bother with that again. The children's activities were the only thing which we did not rate highly - our daughters went, but as there weren't that many kids on board a lot of the activities didn't happen, and the organizers never seemed to be there even if the kids were. The theatre entertainment was a surprise to us, we really enjoyed it. The only one we didn't rate was Andy Stewart the comedian, but the others were really good (and Gary Nardini was Fantastic!). All in all it was an excellent holiday, and we would not hesitate to recommend the Jewel of the Seas. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Check-in: Well organized and took about 1 hour from arrival at port to boarding.The cold juice and cookies were welcome on arrival. Cold towels and cold drinks were also a nice touch when returning to the ship after excursions. ... Read More
Check-in: Well organized and took about 1 hour from arrival at port to boarding.The cold juice and cookies were welcome on arrival. Cold towels and cold drinks were also a nice touch when returning to the ship after excursions. Cabin: Large outside cabin deck 1 starborad aft. Space was adequate for 2 adults and 2 children. Comfortable beds, functional bathroom and sufficient hanging/shelf space for all our luggage for this 12 night cruise. Cabin service was OK, kept clean and tidy but no special touches.....kids liked towel animals and chocs but steward seemed to constantly forget how many occupants were in our cabin: no bathrobes, then 2, then none. 4 beds made then 3 turned down at noght and sometimes none etc. Gave up asking for laundry bags/info. Communal areas: As anticipated with no surprises. Vista dining room very pleasant, string quartet played on high tea afternoon which was a lovely way to pass an hour or so. Vista Lounge was large enough to accommodate the audience although seats were uncomfortable and there were a few signs of wear but then the ships 6 years old so acceptable. Screening room was enjoyable, not many seats but they were comfy recliners and quality / variety of films was excellent. I saw "Crossing Over" which was a fairly shocking portrayal of the green card system but not quite as shocking as the 13 seconds it took for the popcorn tray to empty into the hands of glutinous people who obviously hadn't eaten for maybe half an hour or so, you always hear them before you see them and they seldom have anything interesting to say. The Crows Nest was a comfy place to have a few drinks, do a bit of reading or explore internet. Entertainment. Jason the cruise director was very entertaining and, for us, struck the right balance of humor with a very well polished and professional delivery. Leo ?, the illusionist presented a well rehearsed and original magic show but soon lost our respect and would have done better to stick to the magic and leave the comedy (strictly 'Carry-on') to those better qualified; his contribution was bawdy and bordered on offensive, in fact I believe he made a public apology one evening for some comments made on a previous evening. He also appeared rather 'elevated' for someone who hasn't quite made it into 'who's who'. Livewire were a Lancastrian couple (guitarist and violinist) both well accomplished at their instruments and belted out Irish songs met with great applause. The singers and dancers were good but the productions would have been more enjoyable if they were properly themed. The classical singer was mediocre and my kids and I gave him about 5 minutes before we decided an early night was the better choice. Tours: Ridiculously expensive if you take a HAL excursion and you're tied to everyone elses pace so we organized our own excursions. e.g. Catania, got a map and directions from the tourist info desk in the port building and took a stroll along the shoreline for about half an hour to the Military Museum. Paid 4 euros per adult (kids free) had a part guided tour from very pleasant and helpful staff. Excellent museum inspired by Imperial War Museum in London and compares favorably. Bought the largest and tastiest ice creams ever from the parlour opposite then walked into the town centre for a look around the architecture and fish market. Had a couple of excellent coffees and other refreshments in a cafe bar behind the fruit & veg market and strolled back on the ship after being ashore for about 3 to 4 hours having walked about 3 to 4 miles. In no particular order: Santorini: lets just say it's Greek, was very hot, donkey drivers won't win any etiquette or health and safety awards. Had pre-booked a hire car for 35 euros which received some detrimental comments from National / Alamo staff who were disorganized and car arrived an hour overdue. Drove 20 mins to Oia, pretty clifftop village. The drove to Harmer (or similar) It had a black sandy beach which was it's only individual feature. Got the impression the locals are only interested if you're throwing $ at them and first time I paid for my kids to swim in a pool connected to a bar overlooking Ammoudi harbor and the proprietor thinks he can charge the same as The Ivy for his beer. Corfu: hired a car and drove to Gilfada beach.Had a great day relaxing by and in the sea followed by a Mythos or 2 at the beach bar. The Aquapark is about a 20 minute drive from the port and is a good fun day out. Corfu town is good for a wander around, when it's open! Rome: Courtesy coach from ship to port entrance, walk about half mile long coastline to train station and ticket was about 14 euros for single (2 ad, 2 ch). Got off at Termini Stazione in Rome and walked about 15 minutes to Coliseum. Very hot day, strolled around the usual spots then took a bus to the Vatican city over Castello Angelo bridge, then back on train from St Pedro station (St Peters). Journey out was about 1hr 15 mins and return was about an hour. Livorno: No walking from ship, took the 5 euro coach to the town centre then a bus along the coast for about a mile to a Lido (no, not the zoo type) Pretty much exclusively Italian family outing place with large pool, 2 rickety water slides and a bit of an encapsulated beach. 4.50 euro entry each for the day. Venice: It's fantastic and reviews are countless so I won't add to them save to say : get a cab from Piazzale Roma to the ship for about 20 euros or spend 20 minutes walking; don't hang around for a courtesy coach which may or may not exist or arrive. Dubrovnik: likewise, take a taxi from the ship to the citadel for 10 euros, have a walk around within the castle walls for an hour or 2 and go to the pebbly beach just on the other side of the wall. There are showers and nice loos etc for a small contribution.If you see a new pair of Nike trainers size 2; my son would like them back! Food: Vista dining room was very good with wide selection and we were very impressed with the service. Breakfast and lunch were equally impressive. We ate in the aforementioned Lido a couple of times in the evening but we found our meals became disjointed and they weren't pleasurable experiences. Certainly not enhanced by paying witness to outrageous glutiny and waste; left me puzzling how so many people can consume so much and talk so audibly at the same time. Drink: House red was OK and about £13. Alice White was a very nice Shiraz at about £20, as was the South African: 'Foot' something. Beer was about £14 for a bucket of 5 (one free when you order 4). The kids had soda cards but the draught soda was a bit tasteless on occasion. Club HAL: Some of the staff allegedly employed to look after the 8 to 12 year olds: Didnt seem that interested in kids; didnt know where they were supposed to be or at what time on certain occasions; didnt engage either of my kids; didn't know whether my youngest had signed out or not or where he'd gone;didn't appear to want to interrupt their cosy shipboard chats with any work but; Did send the group out on a 'scavenger hunt' unsupervised for an hour and a half leaving individual 8 years olds to wander aimlessly around the ship on their own whilst their parents thought their kids were being entertained and cared for. General: Kids were only allowed in the midships pool. A few over exuberant fellow continental travellers seemed to annoy some of the HAL staple tourist diet (STD)of clientele with jumping in and splashing etc; The staff couldn't invoke the rules and a few STD's tried to do some more world policing of their own to little effect but it was amusing to witness their efforts. "Sorry for you!" The casino area was smokey and unpleasant but the other lounges were nicely proportioned and decorated. They also have 3 sets of staircases, that you can walk up and down. Great cruise, great places to visit, very polite staff (mostly) and we were, with the one exception of the kids club, very satisfied, albeit I think I prefer Cunard. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
This is written by two sisters in their 20's. Side note..the age group on this cruise is kinda on the older side. There were about 100 cruisers younger than 30! Sister 1: We took our very first cruise with Princess Cruises to ... Read More
This is written by two sisters in their 20's. Side note..the age group on this cruise is kinda on the older side. There were about 100 cruisers younger than 30! Sister 1: We took our very first cruise with Princess Cruises to Alaska on 07/27/09. It was AMAZING. We were 1st time cruisers, so we were worried about getting seasick. We even got a prescription patch which we ended up not needing. We were a large group of travelers and only 2 of our group got a little motion sickness one day but that's about it. I personally didn't feel too much "motion in the ocean" except when I was sleeping. And of that, only 2 of the 7 nights was there a significant amount. As for the weather...I have one word: PERFECT. The cruise director did say this was one of the few cruises where there was 7 days of sunlight. But bring jackets/sweatshirts. It gets a little cold while traveling around Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord. One word of advice, bring stretchy clothes. HAHA. There is SOOOO much food to eat. One of my favorite parts was the afternoon tea. Not too many people went, so the ratio of staff to attendees was 2 to 1. You could get tea and wonderful pastries. Another favorite event of mine was the pastry extravaganza. WOW. The Grill has great burgers. The Pizzeria has good pizza. You can get personalized omelets each morning. The dining options are various. But, you do get a little of the food; It's like the "same variety" everyday. A lot of healthy stuff was available, but who wants that, right? Overall, no complaints with the food. The staff was great. Everyone was so nice and accommodating. Our waiter and his assistant remembered little things like the fact that we like lemon with our water, or water without ice. Attention to detail was 2nd to none. Maybe it was just the waiters we had J. The cruise director's staff was amazing. They were always SO energetic. We took advance of all of the dance classes because they were so fun. They had activities planned each night and each day and we really had to schedule what we were going to do. A word of advice, read your Princess Patter nightly. They have a list of ALL of the activities so you can plan accordingly. Sister 2: Shore Excursions: So in Ketchikan, we went snorkeling. I personally didn't think it was worth the $100. Sure they give you the whole body suit thing with the hood and goggles and flippers, but the view isn't as great as it is in Hawaii (and you can do it there for $50). However, the water was like 60 degrees so that was nice! In Juneau, we did the Alpine Zipline and Mendenhall Glaciers excursion. TOTALLY worth the $200. Let's break it down a little. The zipline portion included all materials needed to make it from one end of the rope to the other safely. Our instructors were GREAT..funny and charismatic. The difference between the Alpine zipline and the other one (I think it's the rainforest one) is that the Alpine zip consists of "5 lines" that equal to about a mile long and the other one is 2 miles in length with 9 lines. Then you head on over to Mendenhall Glaciers. Again the weather was sunny the entire cruise so we just had a sweatshirt and were ok. It was pretty..scenic is probably the only way I can describe it. A must see if it isn't included in your excursion. Last, but not least, we went to Skagway which is a tiny little city with a population of 800 and is 4 blocks long and 1 mile wide (or something similar to that). We had booked the 8 hour Experience the Yukon and Suspension Bridge tour, but cancelled that BECAUSE in Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier tour was more than 50% off when booked outside than with Princess!!!! SO cancelled the 8 hour tour, saved ourselves $124 a person and we winged it! Walked around the entire city, went to their museum, and booked our own tour that took us to the Summit and gold panning for $50 a person...and it was about a 3 hour tour. Not bad I say..considering how we struck it rich with the gold panning..NOT! Overall, had a good time on the excursions, but don't feel the need to book through Princess-massive rip off unless you go ziplining! This was our 1st cruise, and won't be the last. The standard was set really high by Princess Cruises. Not sure if other ships meet the same standard. Will definitely cruise with Princess again. Oh..and FYI...the cruise lets you take one bottle of wine per person onto the ship. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My daughter And I get to Penn station at 11:30am. Then, we have Dial 7 waiting upstairs for us and they take us to the cruise terminal about 12 noon. Embark was great. I thought there would be hundreds people everywhere with mile long ... Read More
My daughter And I get to Penn station at 11:30am. Then, we have Dial 7 waiting upstairs for us and they take us to the cruise terminal about 12 noon. Embark was great. I thought there would be hundreds people everywhere with mile long lines. NOT the case, we checked our bags with the porter and in we went. We were on the lido deck by 12:20pm. I took a bonine at 3pm. Our balcony room is very nice. They still have the old style TV but thats ok. The room is clean, the A/C works cold and everything was good. My daughters bag gets to the room at 2pm(shes a past cruiser & has the GOLD card). Mine gets to the room at 6pm(not a past cruiser). Oh well,no big deal. I was relieved to see it made it to my cabin! The food was great and we loved the bacon police!, entertainment was wonderful and tne staff do a fine job. Its amazing how they handle 2500+ people. Ship sailed away at 5 or so. I took another bonine, just in case! Thankfully, the ride was so smooth, I didnt need bonine for the rest of the trip. And, we went through some heavy fog on travel nights. The shows were very entertaining. From the talent show to the magic show and The BIG Easy!! Bravo to them all! Now, we come to the final day. I wake up at around 6am. I walk out to the balcony and I see land. I knew what that meant, this great trip was about to end. That was the worst part of the trip though.Debarking was easy as well. they were using deck 2 and 3. We were not in a rush to get off the ship, but we waited for our deck to be called. Then went down to deck 2 and were off the ship in 15 mins. I plan to travel with Carnival again, hopefully a longer cruise next!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Hopefully this review is helpful to any future cruisers on the Gem and or people following the same cruise itinerary. I'll try to give as many critical details as possible in order to assist those planning for this cruise or looking ... Read More
Hopefully this review is helpful to any future cruisers on the Gem and or people following the same cruise itinerary. I'll try to give as many critical details as possible in order to assist those planning for this cruise or looking into going on the Gem (NCL) in the future. I focused primarily on the ship and give short comments on the ports. The ports are all awesome, you can't really go wrong. I will give some critical info on each. We have cruised the Med, the Nile, and the Canary Islands all on different cruise lines that offer different styles of cruising. Last year we all did the Eastern Med with Costa Cruise lines (Costa Serena) and this year we all wanted to complete the Mediterranean by cruising the Western Med. We are traveling as a family of six, which can make it a challenge sometimes, but well worth it for the looks of awe on everyone's faces when they see the ship and the exotic ports of call. I want to put the biggest positive and negative right up front. First the biggest negative with NCL. Double charging on gratuity. This is really a low-class act and I feel like I was robbed (Not sure if I can forgive this of NCL). Beautiful ship with a great atmosphere, but you charge gratuity twice! What gives? not making enough money? I doubt it. Here's the deal: NCL charges each customer over the age of THREE, $12 every day for service charges, then if you go to the bar or a specialty restaurant they add 15% gratuity on to your bill automatically. This is tasteless. NCL...Hey! You are going to lose customers, not because its too expensive, but because people don't like to feel like they are getting robbed. Think about this policy (word is spreading). I paid for 6 people $72 everyday just in service charges, then another 15% when I ordered some drinks. Now, the biggest positive with NCL. The layout of the ship and dining options were excellent. The ship is an awesome ship and has something for everyone of any age, so many activities. Another big plus, the embarkation and disembarkation of the ship was "hands down" no competition - the smoothest ever, well done. Very professional crew and ship. The ship (Common areas): No doubt, The ship is beautifully decorated and very clean. All the common areas on the ship were unique from each other and nicely done with comfortable chairs, couches, and even beds! It is a very well designed ship with many areas for families, to include smaller children. For the most part there was plenty of room for all the passengers to hang out and not feel so crowded (With the exception of the sun decks around the pool, I'll get to that later). If you are traveling with or without children this ship has something for all. The ships crew was for the most part in good spirits and helpful. We had one incident with the crew at the port of Livorno that was a little disappointing (I'll get to that later). The rooms: We had 2 rooms. One was a balcony room and the other was an inner room directly across the hall (Our room numbers were 8028 and 8029). The rooms were very nice and the beds and linen are very comfortable. The bathrooms were the largest we had seen on a ship with nice roomy showers. The rooms were decent size with plenty of storage to unpack and stow away your suitcases under the bed. The TV were nice, but I have to say we don't go on a cruise to watch TV. I have seen people complain about how many TV channels there were on board. Are you kidding me? We like to put the TV on the Navigation channel so we know where we are and look out over the balcony trying to spot wildlife. We seen about 4 large groups of dolphins and some flying fish on this trip. Last year in the Eastern Med we seen dolphins and a sea turtle! Awesome! Hey! You can watch TV at home. The sun deck and pool areas: As expected on a cruise ship with 3000 passengers, it can be very crowded at times in the prime locations near and around the pools. One really good thing they have on the Gem is a separate pool for adults only (And they enforce it). I liked that because compared to the Costa cruise we took last year, it was nice to go to a pool that didn't have 200+ little screaming Italian kids and there mothers in it. The pool areas are very nice with lots of areas to relax in quiet areas or be closer to the action of the pool. No surprise I have to complain about the rude inconsiderate jerks that feel that they can reserve a spot on the sun deck all day long (You know who you are). I really hate these people that feel that they can place a towel or fold a chair down and reserve a spot when they go take a break or go eat and think they should have the same spot (Because its such a good spot). NCL has a policy that if you leave for more than 30 minutes they will remove the towels, but unfortunately it doesn't appear to be enforced (too bad). Note: To the people that came back to "their" chairs 2 hours later to find my family there and your towels missing, no apologies, and I hope you had to pay the missing towel fees! yes, it was me, kiss my you know what! If NCL won't enforce it, I recommend a little vigilante towel removal. Biggest violators appeared to be all the European passengers, they also have a problem with lines. What's up my European cousins? Why so rude? Dining: When looking for a cruise line we liked the idea of the NCL "Freestyle" dining options. Overall, I'd say the food was very good. Not always excellent, but very good. Sometimes it was more exceptional than others. Fact is, if you don't like what you have you can just eat again! There are so many free options to eat, that you are certainly not going to starve on this ship. We ate out at a specialty restaurant that had a cover charge. We ate Tequila's Latin (Tex-Mex) for a cover charge of $10 per person. It was good food, but to pay extra for it, I'd say no. There are many really good free options, so why pay? The free restaurants we ate at were the Grand Pacific (formal sit-down), Garden cafe (Buffet), Blue Lagoon (American Diner type), and the Great Outdoors (Buffet). All had great options and like I said, if you didn't like what you had, order something else or pick-up something else from the buffet. There are so many options, no reason to starve. Personally I liked the Grand Pacific (Be advised there is dress code- No swim suits or shorts for men). I liked it because I prefer a nice dinner with my family and to be served rather than being a part of feeding frenzy at a buffet. The buffet was convenient and the fastest way, but finding a table was occasionally a challenge. Recommend that you find a table first, then get your over-flowing plates of food. The Blue Lagoon was also good, but more like bar type food (Hamburgers, Wraps, hot wings, Fish and chips, a bunch of appetizers). Overall, we all enjoyed the dining on the Gem and liked the NCL "freestyle dining". The best time to eat dinner is before 8PM, after that the restaurants appear to start really filling up. The entertainment: We all really liked the shows, very entertaining. "Colors" was very good and performers did a great job. The improv comedy was hilarious! The comedians were awesome. we also did bingo, we didn't win anything but it was fun for all, kids play free with an adult. Casino was also very nice. The excursions: We did not do any excursions with NCL. Bottom line- Too expensive when your traveling with 6 people. It made more sense and was cost effective to go alone or use an independent tour operator (Which every port has). All the port calls were excellent locations with so much to see. We were not disappointed. Overall, I do recommend the Gem and the Western Med. It is a really great ship that will stay in our memories forever, unforgettable trip! Compared to the other cruise lines we have been with, I'd say NCL is not better nor worse, they all deliver a slightly different customer experience for approx. the same price. Like I had mentioned the only real downside with NCL is the double charging on service charges (Nickle and dime the customer at any chance). If you calculate that into the cost and forget about it then maybe it won't bother you (exactly what NCL would want you to do). I didn't let it bother me during the cruise (I was too busy), but I hope someone with some rank from NCL will read this and maybe make a change for the better (Show some class). There is so much potential with NCL, they are leading the way with modern cruising ideas (i.e. Free style dining, on-board activities). To the crew I say a big thank you for keeping the ship so clean and running so efficiently. Great job! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
This was our first crusie, and the whole family went!! What a wonderful time we had. Our trip started in Pennsylvania and we drove..... for 16 hours to Jacksonville Fl. My father in-law has trouble walking and we were concerned about him ... Read More
This was our first crusie, and the whole family went!! What a wonderful time we had. Our trip started in Pennsylvania and we drove..... for 16 hours to Jacksonville Fl. My father in-law has trouble walking and we were concerned about him getting around the ship. We decided to rent a battery powered scooter. This was a great investment. With little delay he boarded the ship and was on his way with Grandma in tow. Got there early and Embarkation went very smoothly for all seven of us. We went straight to the lido deck where lunch was waiting. After lunch we went pool side and purchased drink cards for the kids ($6.50 per day). If you want an adult drink card(alcohol) buy early (when you board) they go very fast and are limited!! Rooms are not ready until 1:30 but this just gives you time to look around. When we got to our rooms (we has three) one smelled like vomit... this was quickly taken care of by our steward. They even checked back with us a couple more times to be sure everything was ok. No complaints on our steward service. Our daughter loved the towel animals. Our first day was at sea, our second was on Half Moon Cay. It was beautiful!! We went horse back riding with our son and daughter. What a wonderful experience. The beach was beautiful the water blue and the sand was white as could be. I would return in a heart beat. The dinner each night in the dining room was very nice and the food was over the top. The waiters couldn't do enough for you. But beware... the Melting Chocolate Lava cake will get you every night. (it was so good) The one thing to try and avoid are the pictures. Once they take them... you want to buy them. It can be a little pricey with two kids & three grandparents on board. They are very nice. To wrap this up, see the shows and head for the casino (grandma loved it). The ship was very nice all the way around and the crew was very helpful and attentive. I would recommend the Fasinaction to anyone and their family. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Arrival and Embarkation This trip was booked 9 days before departure. I flew to Fort Lauderdale non-stop on Continental from Houston. I upgraded to first class for $60 and avoided paying for my luggage. It was worth it for the nice seat. ... Read More
Arrival and Embarkation This trip was booked 9 days before departure. I flew to Fort Lauderdale non-stop on Continental from Houston. I upgraded to first class for $60 and avoided paying for my luggage. It was worth it for the nice seat. Continental now has DirecTV on a lot of their flights, so that is nice. Due to the lateness of the booking, I really only had documents a little over a day before departure. All you really need is a passport and SetSail pass, and you are good to go. Fort Lauderdale was easy as usual, and my cab ride with tip was $18. There were cookies and coffee at the pier, but I had a full breakfast on board the flight. Lines were alphabetical, and I was second in line for my flight. My flight got in at 11:05, and I was on the ship at 11:30, photo taken and all. They lock the hallway doors to the cabins until 1 p.m., so I had to take my carry-on to lunch. The first lunch at Windjammer buffet was crowded, and I was a bit overwhelmed. I found it just easier to always eat at one of the tables on the pool deck right outside the restaurant. Windjammer Lunches Food is grouped in a number of island areas so that there is not one big line. There are salad areas, soup areas, an ethnic food area, a hot entree and carving area, a dessert area, and an area with burgers and hot dogs and such.They always had some sort of carved meat, pasta and sauces, a couple of vegetarian hot dishes, some Mediterranean dishes, and things of this nature. One day they had a great Indian dish, and they had other dishes on a rotating basis. I expected more variety, but I found things. One day, there were baby shrimp for the salad, and I enjoyed that. There were fresh fruits and whole fruits to grab for the kids. Outside, they had soft serve ice cream. Twice, I had the carved roast beef. The rest of the time, I dined vegetarian. I get less full this way and don't gain weight, and I love to see what the chefs prepare. I always do a lot of fruits and veggies anyway because someone else is putting their flair on it.There are several drink stations with lemonade, fruit punch, hot and cold tea, coffee, and water. Solarium Food I never ate there, but they had hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, and fries here at lunch and all afternoon and I think late at night. Though the solarium pools are age 16 and above, kids could come in to get this food. There was also a machine for tea, lemonade, and fruit punch here, but it was not always kept full. There was a full service bar in this area, and you could get water there if the machines were not working. Lunches at My Fair Lady My 5 day cruise had 2 sea days, and on those days, it was possible to get an a la carte sit down dinner at the main dining room. I took advantage of this, and these were two of my favorite meals on the cruise. The first time I dined there, I had a wonderful mulligatawny soup. The head waiter could see how much I loved it and was going to have it made one night for me, but he could not make it happen. I had so many other yummy curry dishes that I did not mind. It had been his idea. A real treat was a customized salad area where you went to a central location in the dining room where there were a couple of chefs. You picked lettuces, vegetables, cheeses, and meats (if desired), and dressings. They mixed it all together, and they would add fresh pepper and serve with fresh bread if you wanted. I had one of these both days. Also, on both days, I had the grilled catfish entrEe. It was quite good and more well prepared than the dinner fish. The second day, I had a chicken soup that was good but could not touch that mulligatawny. I enjoyed being seated with others and had some nice conversations. I was in no hurry to leave the dining table, as the food was delicious, and the company was very nice. Breakfast I always had breakfast at the buffet. There was always a line for eggs to order (maybe 5 or 6 people on each side), so I chose boiled eggs instead and usually crispy bacon and fruit. Daily, at Windjammer, they rotated pastries and had biscuits and gravy, waffles, French toast, and pancakes. There was always carved ham and turkey and pork sausages. One day they were mislabeled, which was a concern to me since turkey was marked as pork and vice versa. I hope that is not a common mistake. They had whole fruits and cut fruit, yogurt, hot and cold cereal, cold cuts and cheese, also. Other than the pastries, I did not see much variety from day to day at the buffet, but I certainly had a good breakfast. They had a la carte breakfast in My Fair Lady at least on sea days. Maybe every day. I am not sure, but guests loved it. I did not make it down there for that. I enjoyed my cabin just laying around in the morning catching the movies. Room Service They also offer full room service at no charge (as long as it is not in the wee hours), including hot items in the cabins. I did not take advantage of this. Offerings change at appropriate times of the day, and you can get enough choices to make a meal here any time of day, though not gourmet in the lower room categories. Some of the suites allow ordering the dinner menu for room service. Dinners in Main Dining Room Four of the five nights, I dined alone, and the last night, I joined a group and had a nice time with them. I had the early seating where you have to show up between 6 and 6:15. There is a later seating. Guests can also choose anytime dining. You are supposed to sign up for that the first day. Those guests showed up at the main dining anytime and waited for a seat upstairs in a designated area. There were always several appetizers, a couple of salads, one or two soups, several entrees, a pasta, several things you could order daily, a vegetarian dish, and an additional Indian vegetarian dish. Everything I had was at least good and sometimes amazing. The garlic soup was good. I had the curry dish every single night and was truly in heaven. It was different every day. The only disappointment was the sea bass on formal night. It was the only sea bass I have ever had that was dry. I ordered the chicken marsala without mushrooms one night. It was good but not award winning. I saw a lot of people enjoying the beef dishes. There was a children's menu, but a lot of kids were eating huge plates from the adult menu. My least favorite meal was formal night, and I wish I had gone to Windjammer where they had Asian seafood. I did go over there for hot and sour soup after dinner and saw enormous scallops, seafood skewers, etc. On the last night, They had lobster and shrimp. I ordered lobster only and extra and also had the curry dish. I was in sheer heaven. This was a fabulous meal. I only had two desserts, both low fat. Both were good. There was plenty of ice cream, chocolate, and special diet dessert to meet any needs. The last night, there was a baked Alaska parade. I didn't have this. The night before, they had guests up doing the Macarena after the waiters went around in a parade singing with hats. I did not like this, but it didn't bother me as much as it could have. Windjammer Dinners Most of the entrees (minus the curry) from the main dining room were available here, and it was very quiet here. Guests could still order wine or get the wine from their package served here with table service even though it was a buffet. I had heard it was surprisingly nice, and all that you may have heard is true. Sea Days & Other Onboard Activities There were a variety of activities to attend, though it was certainly not as enrichment oriented as I am used to on the luxury ships, and was not all what I would have preferred. That is OK, as I enjoyed what I did attend and enjoyed the water areas more than I would have. One day, I attended the wine appreciation hour. This was a pay event. You could sign up ahead of time with your waiter or show up at the event (not recommended) to pay. There was a buffet area set up with grapes and cheeses and crackers, and we sampled two reds, two whites, and a (sweet) sparkling with a toast. We were seated in groups, and there was a talk from someone on staff before each tasting. I attended one port lecture, but it was too focused on shopping and nothing else. I attended two champagne art auctions. One day, I put up a Thomas Kincaid that went for $260. I did not buy anything, and the one I picked the second day never even came up. The pool deck was very crowded on the sea days, and they had a lot of line dancing and other games. I stuck to the solarium. It was 16 and up with no music and just quiet. There was a 70s YMCA dance party in the atrium that I enjoyed a lot. They had a lot of bingos for cash and prizes, including a free cruise, but I did not attend those. They had family things, such as wii games for 15 and up and one for all ages. They had the bungee trampoline that looked great (must wear socks). They had rock climbing activities. I attended a spa makeover event that kept us all waiting when nobody showed up to host it. Entertainment Every night, there was something in the main show lounge. A comedian did two shows. There was a more family oriented show and an adult show later at night that was still tasteful. The staff had a show that was really nice and multi-national. This was a pre-dinner show. My favorite was a Motown act that did a lot of songs. I went to what was left of the early show when I finished dinner and came back for the whole show after dinner. In each show, they had different costumes. There was a magician one night. That was interesting. They had a Broadway tunes show and another production show. The shows were packed with guests, sometimes standing room only. I did not like that not every guest could get a seat at times. They do reserve a section for suite guests. Every night, there was some sort of karaoke. Some were good, others weren't , but guests were always supportive. One night, there was a love and marriage game that was well attended. The most attended was a slightly adult oriented scavenger hunt that was widely attended. One night, they had Shipendales that was women only, however the men did not get kicked out and were hogging the primo spots. The dancers did not seem to want to be there, but it was a photo op and a chance to see the Viking Crown dance club. For those over 40, most were with their grown children. I would rather have seen more diversity. In the atrium every night, there was either a trio, a violinist, guitarist, etc. There was also a Latin lounge. Trivia was held here in early evenings, and then there was a live band. They had a piano lounge, also, and people enjoyed this immensely. You can just wander the ship and see what is going on. Ship The ship wasn't that difficult to figure out. Cabins are all throughout the ship, even on the very bottom deck, and public areas include a lovely showroom that is just not quite big enough for all guests that attend (maybe needs 30 more seats), several nice lounges, a pool deck that is serviceable, but the pools could be bigger, a main dining room that could use more tables but is interesting, a nice spa but without steam rooms, a good gym I wish I had used (some classes carry a charge) with tons of activity choices, a walking/jogging area, bungee trampoline, rock climbing wall, kids misting pool, adult (16 and up) pool and hot tub area, enough ping pong areas, etc. I wish it had mini golf like the newer ships. There is one specialty restaurant, Chops. This is a steak house with a nominal fee. I wish they had more choice for those that really just want lobster or a high end fish, but it was on the meaty end. The atmosphere looked lovely, and those that went loved it. I wish they had the Italian specialty on board, but they don't. The main dining area is very nice. There are a wide variety of cabins for various needs. My Cabin I was in a category G oceanview. I had a lot of storage space in my closet and various drawers. I had a loveseat, a desk, a bathroom with shower, sink and toilet and a clothes line I could string across. I had my bed configured as a queen. I had nice bedding and proper lighting. My TV was the old CRT style but would swivel between the bed and couch, and I could see about 6 rotating PPV type movies for free. There were more TV channels than the luxury ships (though not as many free movies). I was comfortable but would have wanted a larger cabin with a companion, as I am not used to sharing small spaces. For those that are, they would be comfortable. The window was nice for light and seeing what was coming up, but it wasn't that clean and got condensation. This was my first time sailing without a balcony, and I prefer a balcony, for sure. Internet Internet did not work in the cabins, which I knew ahead but still found to be a disappointment. In addition to the computer center, they also had hot spots. I brought my laptop but never took it out of the bag. Their computers do not have a USB port or a photo card slot available since they are locked up and you only have access to the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Even the first day, there was no attendant. If you had an issue, you had to go to deck 5, wait in line and they called someone that you never did see who basically just doled out minimum credit to make up for the issue. I have never been on a ship where they did not actively try to sell internet time or help guests in getting this going, at least on the first day. Guest Services This was the "do all" desk. You could prepay gratuities here and have many other needs met here. They always had a line, but it was just a few people, and these people were helpful and knowledgeable. Tour Desk They seemed to be readily available. I booked my tours online, but there was plenty of material there to make decisions had I not. They had a rather long line at times. Tours This is far different from the luxury tours I am used to. I took it for what it was worth. In Grand Cayman, they have a tender service, and it was quite adequate to get guests off in minutes. There really was no wait at all. The boat could handle 250 guests at once. I signed up for the beach tour with lunch that went to Seven Mile Beach and to Beach Club Colony. I went on this to see that hotel. I did not see any rooms, but I was not too impressed with the operation. The beach was incredible, so perhaps an EP hotel on this beach would be a nice trip. We had a welcome drink coupon for regular or rum punch, and you had to bring a towel and water. Shade umbrellas were an additional $5. I did not do that. Snorkeling equipment was extra, also. The lunch served was mediocre - overcooked burgers, hot dogs, dark chicken, and a couple of salads. They advertised a la carte lunch also available. I did not see that happening, so I ate the "buffet". After that, they started the a la carte, so a few people got it. Mostly, it was what we had on the buffet, plus Caesar salad and maybe a few other items. People here were incredible, including a couple of Jamaicans. We were transported on a huge school bus without a/c, and it took over an hour to get that going. The tour was to be 3.5 hours, but it ended up taking about 5.5. I signed up for the power snorkel in Cozumel. Nobody else did, so it was canceled. I ended up just walking around the shops, including the drug store, and I got back on the ship fairly quickly. This was the one time I actually stayed a while on the main pool deck, as there were not 15 people on there. Other Guests There were many Latino guests in large groups, and there was a lot of Spanish speaking on the ship. Particularly, there were teens 13 to 15 for some birthdays, and kids were camping in the halls singing and chatting until security was called. They weren't hoodlums or anything, just chatting too late at night. There were many multi generational groups and 13 honeymoon couples. Not that many solos. Besides the Latinos from Columbia, Argentina, and Mexico, most of the rest were from the U.S. and Canada. Debarkation I put my bags out the night before, and I was in the last group to get off at 10 a.m. I had a full breakfast, and then I went to my lounge, Bolero where they had tea, juice, coffee, pastries, TV, etc. I had a flight at 2:30, but I was able to pay a fee and get on a flight right away, and I got home almost 4 hours early. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We booked two cabins, one for my DH and I and one for our two teenagers and their Aunt. We were on board to celebrate my DD and Sister's birthdays. We will be sailing on a seven day cruise aboard the Carnival Dream in December so we ... Read More
We booked two cabins, one for my DH and I and one for our two teenagers and their Aunt. We were on board to celebrate my DD and Sister's birthdays. We will be sailing on a seven day cruise aboard the Carnival Dream in December so we kept calling this our Appetizer Cruise (little but fun!). GETTING ON AND OFF: Waiting to board was very easy, just long. We got to the port around noon and so did everyone else it seemed. We waited in a large wrap around line for about an hour. I think the process moves slower than other ports due to the way they set it up. Muster Drill was very lax compared other lines. It started 45 minutes late, they never did a head count but it was fast and we were sailing before they finished. Normally the ship won't sail until muster is over and that gives you time to get up top for sail away. As for getting off, we decided upon self debarkation. That means grab your own luggage, go to breakfast and sit and wait for them to call your deck. We were delayed in docking but just talked and enjoyed our coffee. The ship should have docked around 8 am but it didn't until almost 10 am. THE SHIP: The Ecstasy is the one of Carnival's oldest and littlest. Everything was in good shape for her age and kept clean. The only wear and tear we saw was in the halls where the cabins are. The walls had lots of large scratches and dents most probably from luggage and cart banging. We did notice little bits of rust around some of the window edges but that is not a bad thing. She's a ship, she's a little older gal and has earned her "freckles". Our room was very comfortable and the pillows perfect. The steward cleaned and then changed our sheets every single day. DH loved the size of the shower and felt it was better than our Princess and Disney cruises. We never smelled foul odors as others had previously posted. Its a smaller ship than we have sailed at other times but that was sort of a good thing. It was easier and faster to learn our way around, there were fewer decks so easy to take the stairs vs waiting on an elevator and we found eachother easily after going in separate directions. We did notice more movement when sailing most likely due to its smaller size. I wore a patch behind my ear and was just fine. DH took nothing and did comment he was starting to "feel" things from time to time. It was never rough but you could often tell you were on a ship. FOOD: In a word...GREAT! The first night was disappointing but I think it was our choice. We went with fish and it was very bland. However, everyother night was wonderful...better than on our Disney cruises, really! DH and I are both doing Weight Watchers so we were worried about all the choices. I ate from the Spa healthy menu several times but not always. We both stayed away from the bread/rolls and but did have dessert every night. I often ordered two appetizers as they are small and offer lots of healthy options. FYI: I lost two ounces and DH lost 4 pounds (yes I secretly hate him LOL) At least we didn't gain!!! ENTERTAINMENT/CUSTOMER SERVICE: We all really enjoyed the shows. Most were large Vegas stylish dancing and singing. Some were comedy. It was standing room only every night and well worth seeing. The cruise director is one of the best we have ever sailed with. He was funny, a talented fiddle player, juggler and kept his act fresh. He seemed to really enjoy his job and was very proud to be on board the Ecstasy. They have won the entire companies biggest award for customer satisfaction several times and I saw just did so once again right after we sailed. Thats a pretty big deal when you are one of the smallest ships! The crew was full of smiles most of the time and greeted passengers with "hello's" and "good mornings" often. We enjoyed the casino and the dealers way too much if you know what I mean (UGH). DH stayed mostly with the slots and I stopped at various tables. The dealers are friendly and compared to other ships we have been on. We would happily sail this cruise again. Its a perfect long weekend escape mostly filled with proud to be Texan people. Keep in mind that being a Texan means you might opt to wear your fancy boots to dinner or a cowboy hat with your bathing suit. I never saw anyone ignoring dress codes but you could easily tell it was a Texas crowd. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
A little bit of background info. Family of four - 2 adults and 2 teenage boys (16 & 15) Previously on Princess Emerald and RCI Independence of the Seas. Travelled from North Wales to Harwich (staying one night in Cambridge ... Read More
A little bit of background info. Family of four - 2 adults and 2 teenage boys (16 & 15) Previously on Princess Emerald and RCI Independence of the Seas. Travelled from North Wales to Harwich (staying one night in Cambridge pre-cruise) EMBARKATION This was a breeze - mentioned numerous times on this board! SHIP I had been worried about the 'state' of the ship following many reviews of the ship. Here are my thoughts. * Not as glitzy as our previous cruise ships....but more stately and refined. * Maintenance going on all the time. Spotlessly clean at all times. * Some areas showing signs of wear and tear (thread-bare chairs, rusty verandas etc) BUT soon to be rectified in her April 2010 refurb. Did not detract from our enjoyment - and should not detract from yours! FOOD Subjective.....extremely subjective!!!! SAN MARCO RESTAURANT: * Food always hot. * Portions small, but 4 or 5 course available, so plenty of food - best described as proportinate. * Good variety. * Steak hit and miss. * Better than RCL food, but not quite hitting Princess quality. SEASIDE CAFE (BUFFET) * Always busy - no defined areas, so no one quite sure where to line up. * Good variey of food. * Best food - various curries!! ENTERTAINMENT * Good variety for most tastes. * Good string quartet and American juggler/comedian. * Entertaiment not as good as RCL. It could be improved. * Trivia - most days (sea days) very entertaining and competitive!! PORTS Amsterdam Not a lot of time in port - so we did our only ship tour. Comprehensive tour of Amsterdam with Anne Frank house. Recommended. Amsterdam was surprisingly impressive. Berlin Did a private tour from Waramunde with 21 others from the CC roll call with SPB tours (spb-tours.com) An absolutely fantastic day with the most wonderful guide (Sarah) Bus picked us up for the drive to Berlin. Visited all the 'must sees'sights. Only cost 85 Euro per person (as opposed to £200pp ship's tour)!!! Berlin, whilst a long trip from Waramunde, and if you haven't been to Berlin is highly recommended. Stockholm Did the Ho Ho buses (with boat ride) - not recommended, Too infrequent to make full use of them. Stockholm was 'pretty' and had lots of character. St Petersburg Again, we did a private 2 day tour with SPB, arranged through the roll call. It was so popular, we ended up with three tour groups! We had two fantastic days (very active days) with Elena our guide. She was incredibly knowledgeable and fun too! I would highly recommend SPB, especially if you want to book private tours in Berlin and St Petersburg. St Petersburg is a special place. Tallinn We took the Official Tallinn Sightseeing tour (free if you had a 24hr Tallinn card)....well, don't bother! A bus trip took us out of Tallinn and along the coast line before returning back to the centre for a walking guided tour. The whole trip was in English and Finish...which made it very tedious. You only need walk off the ship to Old Tallin.......no need for tours! Tallinn old town is beautiful. Helsinki We did a bus and boat tour via the helsinki expert website. The bus tour was quite enjoyable, but the sunlines CANAL tour was anything but.....no canal involved?!!!! Helsinki was quaint. We had afternoon rain. Copenhagen We bought the Ho HO bus with DFDS canal tour ticket...AGAIN....big mistake! The DFDS canal tour was fine, but the Ho HO was so infrequest...2 lines were once every hour only. Not worth the money. CONCLUSION An absolutley wonderful trip - the itinerary was perfect, a cultural delight. The weather was perfect....just a coupe of showers during the whole 2 weeks. The ship was delightful and the eclectic mix of people was fascinating - all people we met were VERY friendly. Our two teenage boys had a wonderful time on this trip....a smallish group of well behaved teenagers made for a wonderful group of friends for them. I highly recommend for families with older children. Would I sail again with Celebrity? Absolutely!!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
I booked this cruise for myself and my 17 year old daughter as a high school graduation present. Our first night on the cruise couldn't have been better. We got there at midnight so we were exhausted. When we started sailing it ... Read More
I booked this cruise for myself and my 17 year old daughter as a high school graduation present. Our first night on the cruise couldn't have been better. We got there at midnight so we were exhausted. When we started sailing it was like two in the morning. I was already in my room but my daughter went up to check it out. She came back down immediately to tell me I had to see this. We went back up and the sails were going up and they were playing some great music. There was a huge full moon so the whole scene was like something from a movie. You could see the mountains in the back ground and the moon thru the sails. It was truly magical. We stayed up there another 2 hours so it was four in the morning before we went back to the cabin. We had been up well over 24 hours at that time but it was worth it. The cabins are fine or how little time you spend in them. I was surprised by how much storage there was. We didn't have any noise problems either which surprised me because I figured we would. The crew was great especially the cruise director angela and the sports team. By day they take you on activities like snorkeling, water skiing diving, etc. By night, they are part of the entertainment and did a good job of pretending to enjoy it. The food was fineespecially breakfast and lunch. The dinners were too formal for meits a sailboatI didn't want to have to change into a dress. I figured my daughter who is a picky eater might have problems finding something to eat on the boat but she did fine because there was a decent selection. They could use an update to their music but they were good about taking requests later in the evening when trying to get folks to dance. We didn't have much luck with that. But you do get so tired from the days activities that most people just went to bed after dinner. The bar was great and the bartenders were fun. The ATV ride on Moorea is not to be missed. It was worth every penny. Make sure you take the full 3.5 hour oneit is unreal. The Helmet dive is also a great excursion. I didn't care for the jeep safari I took on raieeta We were crammed into the back of a covered jeep and looked more at each other than anything else. My daughter took the hiking trip up the water fall and loved it. The picnic on the private beach is great and you should just do that and save money on excursions on that day. The island is wonderful and the snorkeling is great. The also have all the activities so there is plenty to do. We took the Robinson Crusoe lagoon/snorkeling tour in bora bora and that was a BIG waste of money. 150 euros per person. The took us around the lagoon in a boat which was fine. Then he stopped and said this is one of our snorkeling stops even there are never any fish this time of day. Then he took us to his motuwhich was dirty and shabby. We walked across some coral and then were put into the tip of a drift snorkel which washed us back up on the island so fast you couldn't see anything. I wish we had just went to the beach and saved our money. Some fellow passengers did the jet skis and loved it but that was huge money. We got tired of doing excursions (and paying for them) so we started just going to whatever beach they were taking people too on any given day. We saw great beaches and they were close to some villages so we could walk to do some shopping. We took a 3 week trip to tahiti and the cruise was the first week. it was the best part of the trip. We will def hit them again Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My wife and I, a 40-something couple with no kids, cruised with eight other family members (including nephews ages 1 and 5) to celebrate her parents 50th anniversary on the Spirit from Boston. We have cruised before (on RCI Majesty), so we ... Read More
My wife and I, a 40-something couple with no kids, cruised with eight other family members (including nephews ages 1 and 5) to celebrate her parents 50th anniversary on the Spirit from Boston. We have cruised before (on RCI Majesty), so we are not experts but do have a point of comparison. The check-in experience at Boston was dreadful, very disorganized and crowded. It doesn't appear Boston is accustomed to handling cruise traffic compared to our experience in Miami. WE chose Boston because it provided the most convenience for the most family members. While the ship itself was nice, relatively clean and not hard to navigate, we were somewhat disappointed with certain aspects for NCL's heavily promoted "free style cruising." The problems started when they did not have the large cups for the soda card (buy it at the start and have soda whenever you want at all restaurants and bars). I was told they would be available next week (like that would do us any good). The server seemed more interested in pushing the drink of the day than explaining the drink card, and often during the cruise, servers seemed almost offended when we only requested a soft drink. And many times, we only got a six ounce glass of soda. One of the other mixed results came from the food. We're not big fans of the big buffet, so we used the dining rooms most of the time and occasionally the short order Blue Lagoon cafe (which has good pub fare). The service in dining rooms was just OK, sometimes we would go long periods without follow up requests being honored. One time, my wife had to ask three times for tea. This may be a downside to "freestyle" since at dinner you don't have the same servers every day, who get to know your needs and are working hard for their own tip, not just a group "service charge." Several times the food was cold, or at least at room temp. We will give the one special restaurant we attended, Cagney's steak house, high marks. The quantity and quality of food there was good, but I did have to send my steak back because it was undercooked. But, they handled that properly and even brought a second potato out when the steak was redone. The breakfast buffet was quite plentiful and had lots of variety, but the same could not be said of the late night buffet. But there is some good news, we attended every evening show in the Stardust Lounge and enjoyed them all. My wife especially got a kick out of the Cats Pajamas Vocal Band. Alas, they were transferring out with our cruise, but I think they cycle through various cruises so look for them. The in-house company and the Second City comedy team performed well and we even met some of the players of each in their off hours and they were very friendly and enjoyed what they were doing and meeting with passengers. The magician did a lot of traditional tricks, but was also enjoyable. One problem was there were only a certain number of events at a given time, making for large crowds in the Galaxy of the Stars lounge. The biggest madhouse was the chocolate buffet, which may have been done better on deck than in one of the dining rooms. The front desk service was top notch, providing us with updated bills when we needed, but the photo department folks had a hard time going "off script" when we wanted to be creative in our photo packages to maximize savings for our large group. Another positive, one member of our group had a service dog and the ship crew was very helpful and accommodating. The children in our group also enjoyed some of the services provided them, the adventure themed children's pool area and the meet and greet with the captain come to mind. So, all in all, if you like flexibility, you could give NCL's freestyle a try, but just bear in mind that may also reduce the accountability of service. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We cruised in July 09 to the Western Carribbean.We left out of Tampa after flying into the St.Petersburg/Clearwater airport. The hotel we stayed in on Saturday night offered free transport from the Tampa airport and to the port the next ... Read More
We cruised in July 09 to the Western Carribbean.We left out of Tampa after flying into the St.Petersburg/Clearwater airport. The hotel we stayed in on Saturday night offered free transport from the Tampa airport and to the port the next day. (it was about a $55 taxi ride from St. Pete/Clwtr airport.) Getting on the boat was no problem. We had booked the cruise through AAA and they had given us these pre-printed luggage tags for the boat.(we just didn't realize that we needed to have them on our luggage before we gave them to the guys at the port! We had registered online so I think that helped eliminate a few steps from the embarkation. We were in line for about 30-40 minutes getting on the boat. We had gotten our passports but I had had several people tell me that they just used their DL. (photo id) but I had kids with me so I decided to be safe than sorry! My husband and I are in our 40's and our kids are 16 and 8. Our room was great. We had splurged and gotten a balcony and I highly recommed it. It was only a few hundred dollars more and with 4 people in the room, it was nice to have a place to "escape" to. We had two chairs and a small table, plently of room so sit and read or have a snack. I was impressed at how efficient the rooms were. They were small, but we had plenty of room to put all our stuff. I will tell you that in our room, we only had ONE outlet! And it was in the main room in front of the mirror. Small problem when you have 2 kids with electric gagets that need to be charged! Plus curling iron, hair dryer etc. They did have a hair dryer in the room but it only had one speed and heat setting. They had shampoo and shower gel in the bathroom. We thought we were going to have open seating for dinner but when we got there, we had been given the 6 o'clock dinner seating. We thought about changing it but I'm glad we didn't. If you have open seating, you can eat from 5'45 on but you don't get the same waiters each night and that's alot of the fun. Ours were great, Antara and Mudi. Food was great and we were always full without being "sick full"! Great desserts-warm chocolate melting cake every night plus what ever else looked good! Enjoyed the shows at night, played bingo once (you have to pay to play 5-20.00)and you win money. I think personally, I would have rather gotten to play for free and been given carnival stuff as prizes! We chose to self disembark because we had an 11:10 flight out of St.Pete/Clearwater. We were ready at 7:15 and just decided to go on down. We weren't supposed to be on the 2 level deck, but were supposed to wait on 3 or 9. We were on 3 and noticed people already going down to 2 so we did too. There was already a line so we got in and we were off the boat at 7:45, grabbed a taxi (VERY simple)made it to the airport at 8:30. Was so worried we would miss the flight. Totally unnecessary! Very easy! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Our family of six (kids ages 6-12) travelled with 10 other family members (ages 3-80) to Alaska this summer. Six of the adults had been to Alaska on other cruise lines (Holland America & Royal Carribean), but I chose the Sapphire ... Read More
Our family of six (kids ages 6-12) travelled with 10 other family members (ages 3-80) to Alaska this summer. Six of the adults had been to Alaska on other cruise lines (Holland America & Royal Carribean), but I chose the Sapphire princess because of its kids programs and flexible dining options. We stayed in five cabins-2 inside quads, one inside double, one double balcony, and one family mini-suite with balcony. The inside quads were cozy, but since we spent most of our time exploring the ship or ports or hanging out in the more spacious rooms, they were fine and worth the $$$ we saved. We flew in from 4 different cities, and most of us stayed at the Vancouver Pan-Pacific hotel the night before our cruise and took advantage of their baggage transport service. I highly recommend the hotel for its lovely & spacious rooms, excellent service, and delicious breakfast buffet, especially if you can get a good deal on Orbitz. We spent our Friday evening exploring Stanley park, walking along the seawall, and eating a wonderful dinner at Fish House. The morning of embarkation, we took a taxi to Granville Island, explored the markets, enjoyed a delicious light lunch at the relatively inexpensive and extremely diverse food court, and watched various street performers. Our embarkation was smooth, and we settled into our cabins with plenty of time to get to the decks for the bon voyage festivities. Dining on Princess was excellent-we used the anytime dining option. Sometimes we ate breakfast at the Lido buffet, which was quick with an excellent variety. Twice we ate at the International dining room, for tastier pancakes, made to order omelets, and other options. Service at the dining room was always excellent. Some lunches were at the dining room, others at the buffet, depending on our port activities and the options offered at the international dining room, which were posted immediately after breakfast ended. Dinners were usually around 6pm, at one of the dining rooms. We were able to try all of them, and they all were excellent, with wonderful service. Our favorite was the Santa Fe. We also had a dinner for four at Sabatini's-the food & service were fabulous-well worth the extra $20/person! Twice we enjoyed formal tea-our girls loved it, and the sandwiches and desserts were lovely. I would have liked more than one choice of tea, but otherwise it was wonderful. Our final night was in College Fjord, with scenic cruising from 530-730, so the kids had pizza or the formal tea in the late afternoon, with dinner at 8pm. The ship had plenty of activities for all of our family members-the adults enjoyed the fitness room, and I took the Pilates classes for a small additional fee. Everyone walked or jogged on the decks during designated times. My sons enjoyed the tennis and ping-pong, and all of the kids LOVED the pools. Grown-ups enjoyed the hot tubs. My kids had fun playing shuffleboard and "giant chess." We enjoyed the park ranger talks at Glacier bay (both adult and kids). All of my kids enjoyed kids club, especially my eight year old daughter, who attended every activity offered. My six year old daughter attended about half, her favorites being the movie nights, PJ party, and earning a Junior park ranger badge at Glacier bay. My ten and twelve year sons favorites were game night, movie night, and casino night, but they skipped the PJ party and karaoke/dance nights. My husband and I do not gamble, so we did not go to the casinos, but we did enjoy all three musical/dance shows. We went to Skywalkers lounge one night, but did not dance much. My in-laws enjoyed the Gran Torino early movie option (we were in port), plus the classical and piano concerts offered various evenings. My parents enjoyed some of the comedy and club options. Disembarkation was a little stressful for me because as independent travellers with a Gray Line connection, we initially were placed near the end of the disembarkation schedule. I was concerned about having enough time for us to get our luggage and make our connection, so after discussing it with Passenger Services, we left with an earlier group. It was easy to leave our tagged bags for our room steward, and they were waiting for us at the Whittier terminal. We had plenty of time, and had a long wait at the Whittier terminal for our connection, but I was glad to not have to worry. I chose to book a 4-5 day land tour with Gray line since I loved our experience with them in 2005 (with HA on a formal cruisetour), and we were able to put together our own itinerary for a great price. We took a shuttle to Denali (with a 30 minute layover at Portage glacier and a 3 hour layover at the Anchorage museum-but fun), stayed two nights at Mckinley chalet (highly recommed-see Tripadvisor review), and took an early morning tundra wilderness tour (fabulous-lots of wildlife). Some of us took a flighttour over denali NP, which I highly recommend. We spent our 2nd morning at the visitor center, watched the excellent dogsled demonstration, earned junior park ranger badges, and enjoyed the movie about Denali NP. We took the 1245 Mckinley express train back to Anchorage, enjoying a tasty lunch and wonderful views of scenery. Our last one or two nights were in Anchorage, at the Westmark hotel (not so great, but part of my package). We took a train trip to Seward and enjoyed a half-day cruise through Resurrection bay at Kenai Fjords NP. Three of our party flew home that evening, while the others stayed in Anchorage one more night. It was a wonderful experience and worth the time and money!   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Baltimore Port: We live just outside Washington DC so getting to the port was a piece of cake. We drove right up to the ship unloaded our luggage and parked the car. We arrived around 1:30 pm and had we did have to wait quite a while ... Read More
Baltimore Port: We live just outside Washington DC so getting to the port was a piece of cake. We drove right up to the ship unloaded our luggage and parked the car. We arrived around 1:30 pm and had we did have to wait quite a while to board (The terminal had plenty of seating but was a little hot). Overall, the check-in process was very efficient. Ship: The ship was immaculate and the staff responsible for keeping the common areas clean did a fantastic job. The nude art was okay. Didn't seem as bad as some posts made it seem. Some of it is subtle, some of it not. A lot of naked breasts. I was worried how my kids would react and they didn't seem bothered by it. Normandy Dining Room: The first night is open seating and we did not know this. We were very hungry but waited until 8:15 (our assigned dining time) to go and the line to get in the main dining room was very long. We waited about 20 minutes to be seated. If I had known, we would have gone at 6:00 when we were hungry. No lines any other nights. The food was good. The servers were very attentive. We also had lunch and breakfast in the main dining room a couple of times and we preferred this over the crowds on the lido deck. Breakfast hours were limited and changed daily. We arrived a couple of times at 9:30 (when it had closed at 9:00). We learned to read the operating hours in the daily caper. We had a problem one day when we arrived at 9:50 on a day it was supposed to be open until 10:00. We were told it was closed because they were at full capacity. I looked in and saw over half of the tables were empty . I had to argue to be seated since it was not yet 10:00. The crew was just being lazy and did not want to reset a table. This was only negative experience on the cruise. Elegant Evening: Most people were dressed nice Men in suits and women in cocktail dresses. Children dressed up too. A few people didn't follow, but most did. No women in gowns and only saw one man in a tux. Also saw one man with stonewashed jeans and a polo shirt. Mermaid Grille/Ledo deck: We had breakfast and lunch at the start of the cruise on the ledo deck. Huge variety. We found a table open in the same area every day for breakfast. Lunch was a little more difficult. We could not find a single table for lunch on the last at sea day. I ended up finding some open tables outside by adult pool bar. I'm not sure if children were allowed in that area, but nobody told us to leave. Room Service: Very fast and had a nice selection. Soda Card: We did not purchase soda cards because we thought the price of 6 cards was ridiculous. We saw several people carrying on cases of soda during embarkation and I wish we had thought of that. Cabin: Have cruised Carnival before and they were just as we expected. Cabin steward did a great job keeping them clean. Gym: Nice variety of equipment. Pretty full at times, but never had to wait to use equipment. Grand Turk: We did not plan any excursions. We had no trouble finding chairs on the right side of the pier and had a nice beach day. I thought I had read that this was a nice beach for snorkeling so I didn't think we needed to spend the $$ on an excursion. We had our own snorkel gear, but didn't see anything exciting. The water is rocky and we did have water shoes with us. I would highly recommend water shoes. In retrospect, I wish that we had taken a snorkeling excursion in the morning as we learned the snorkeling at Grand Turk reefs is supposed to be amazing. We spent some time at Margaritaville in the afternoon and that was a lot of fun. My kids thought the boogie board excursion at Margaritaville looked like fun, but it was sold out so they couldn't do that. It is another excursion that I wish we had booked. Half Moon Cay: We tried to get a cabana when we boarded the ship but they were sold out. I think that would have made a world of difference. It is beautiful, but it was extremely hot. I never thought the ship seemed crowded until you saw everyone off the boat at Half Moon Cay. We had to walk down the beach a ways to find open chairs. I would recommend bringing some thermal water bottles and filling them with ice water just to have something as you walk down the beach to find chairs. We spent most of our time in the water because it was so hot out. It was beautiful and the water is so clear that my pictures look like the kids were in a swimming pool. We walked down to a secluded area away from the beach chairs and really took in the beauty of the island. Freeport: We took a taxi to Lucaya Beach. We rented some chairs under a palm tree. We took a ride on a banana boat and rented jet skis. We really enjoyed the jet skis. The kids went swimming in hotel pool. We shopped a little in the lucaya market shops, but it was just too hot to stay very long. We picked up a couple of trinkets. Casino: The casino was fun even though we lost a few $$. The tables have low minimums so the damage wasn't too bad. Shows: We caught of few and they were good. Photos: They photographers are good. Definitely worth it to get a family photo for the elegant dress nights. Camp Carnival: My 8 year old tried camp carnival twice. She had a lot of fun with the activities, but found it a bit boring in between activities. Circle C: We checked out Circle C for (11-14 year olds) on 3-4 occasions. All it ever seemed to be was a bunch of kids just sitting around talking. I only found a counselor present once. I was not impressed and my kids were not all that interested so they never stayed . It looked like a core group of about 8 kids were in the room every time we check it out, so it must be good for some, just not mine. I think they would have like to have made some friends, maybe we just hit it at the wrong times. TV: Limited TV stations and they broadcast from Denver for some odd reason. Didn't spend much time watching TV. Pay per view movies were fairly current as well as a couple of free ones. Disembarkation: We had checked our luggage. We thought that would be easier since we had quite a bit with 6 people. We had to leave the cabins so they can clean them for the next cruise sometime in the late morning, so we had to wait in a common area for a couple of hours. We chose the ledo deck because it was nice day. I think the first group was allowed off at 11:15. We were the last group to be allowed off the ship at 1:45 pm. They do not serve lunch so my kids got really hungry. They finally opened the grill at 1:30 (probably for the next cruise). In retrospect, I would have ordered a couple of sandwich from room service and had my kids bathing suits so they could have swam in the pool during the long wait to get off the ship. Once we got off the ship it took less than 15 minutes to find our luggage, grab a porter, go thru customs, and drive off the lot. Overall: It was a great vacation and we really enjoyed our selves. I can be quite picky and really had nothing significant to complain about. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Accomodations I went on the Caribbean Princess with my husband, his brother and my mother and father in law. It was a 9-day cruise that set sail on July 8, 2009. We embarked in Brooklyn. When we drove up to the pier, several gentleman were ... Read More
Accomodations I went on the Caribbean Princess with my husband, his brother and my mother and father in law. It was a 9-day cruise that set sail on July 8, 2009. We embarked in Brooklyn. When we drove up to the pier, several gentleman were waiting to unload our luggage and take it to the ship for us. When we boarded we were allowed to go to our room right away. (We had traveled on NCL last year and had to wait nearly 3 hours before we were allowed to go into our cabin) My in-laws had a suite whereas my husband and I had a general stateroom with balcony. The balcony was a nice size that fit a table and four chairs. The stateroom itself was a typical cruise cabin. The bathroom was small and the shower was smaller. The beds and the pillows were comfortable. The suite had room for 3 people. The bathroom had a small, stand up shower with an actual shower door and a Jacuzzi bathtub. It was much bigger than our bathroom and it had two sinks. There was a large counter area as well as plenty of closets and drawers for storage. The suite included many perks including complimentary laundry and dry cleaning service, free Internet access, daily canopies (chocolate covered strawberries, caviar, etc.) Entertainment and Activities The Caribbean Princess has 18 decks. By the end of the cruise we had explored all of them. There was a lot to do on the ship. Tim, the cruise director, was excellent. He got on the loudspeaker at least three times a day to update us on the days' events. He was also very charismatic when introducing shows and he even hosted a few shows of his own. The entertainment was wonderful. There was always something going on in the piazza whether it was a musical group or a street performer. The shows in the theater were close to Broadway caliber. The comedians were very funny and toward the end of the cruise there was a hypnotist on board who did an extremely funny show with members of the audience. In addition to the on board entertainment, there were numerous activities the guests could participate in, such as Princess Pop Star, a contest similar to American Idol. They had qualifying rounds three days in a row. Then on the final night of the cruise they held the finale where the top six singers competed for the title. The only complaint I had about Princess Pop Star is that the winner did not receive anything special. All six contestants received a Princess Cruise tote bag but the winner, did not receive anything in addition. I thought that was a little tacky. There was also a dance contest where contestants competed in ballroom dance. The Caribbean Princess offered Scholarship at Sea classes in computers, ceramics, scrapbooking and more. The scrapbooking class was not what I expected. In the beginning, they showed us some products that they were selling. Then they brought out tools and paper so we could start creating our own pages, however the tools were old and didn't work well anymore and the paper was construction paper. In scrapbooking you need to use acid free paper so it doesn't fade. Other activities included Bingo, Bridge, board game get togethers, pool games, basketball, ping pong and more. We wanted to take advantage of the gym they had on board during one of the days at sea. However, we got there at 8:30 in the morning and all the machines were in use. There were also 5 treadmills that were roped off so no one could use them. We went outside to the track but they had shortened the track to add The Sanctuary. Therefore the outdoor track was extremely short and boring. There was another walking track on deck 7 that went all around the ship however, you had to walk up a set of steps around the front of the ship and then down another set in order to complete the wrap around. The Crew Every member of the crew that we came in contact with was extremely nice and pleasant with the exception of one. When we had a problem with one of our excursions, Tina from the excursion desk was very helpful and followed through with everything until we were satisfied. One member of the cruise director's staff, Shane, remembered my name throughout the entire length of the cruise after I tried out for Princess Pop Star on the second night. The room stewards were very accommodating. Anything we asked for we received in a timely manner. We always felt welcome by the staff with the exception of one crew member. As part of the benefits of being in a suite my in-laws received a card in their room that invited them to breakfast at Sabatini's, one of the premier restaurants. We went along with them on the last day of the cruise. The maitre'd looked up their cabin and it showed that there were only three people in the cabin, however there were 5 of us all together. The man told my mother-in-law that "under no circumstances" can they allow anyone to dine for breakfast who was not staying in one of the suites. He repeated himself several times after my mother-in-law tried to explain that she had received a card that said suite guests and their families were invited. We thought it was very rude of him to continue saying "under no circumstances" could we dine there. It was as if he was saying "How dare you step foot into this restaurant. You are just commoners." We had eaten at Sabatini's for dinner and paid the premium a few nights before. We were disappointed and annoyed with the maitre'd. The food The food was amazing. I tried things I wouldn't normally eat and I was not disappointed. The soups, the appetizers, main meals and desserts were mouthwatering. It was all five-star quality. Even the food at the buffet was good. They were making omelettes for breakfast. When we didn't see the lox that we wanted we asked for it and a dining worker went in the back and retrieved it for us. We had the option of having formal seating (where you eat at the same time and with the same waiter every night) or anytime dining (which is what we chose). Twice, we had to wait up to half an hour for a table, though. The Casino We are avid gamblers and were in the casino every night. There were several blackjack tables but only one roulette and one craps table. Both of which were crowded every night and hard to get on. Perhaps they can remove two of the blackjack tables and add another Roulette table. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We sailed on the 12 day mediterranean romance cruise from Venice to Barcelona. Having read many negative reviews on the Oosterdam before leaving home I was somewhat worried about what awaited. However, we were pleasantly suprised. We ... Read More
We sailed on the 12 day mediterranean romance cruise from Venice to Barcelona. Having read many negative reviews on the Oosterdam before leaving home I was somewhat worried about what awaited. However, we were pleasantly suprised. We found the ship very clean, staff extremely friendly and food wonderful. We had previously sailed with Carnival and feared there would be little for the children to do on board. However they said it was the best cruise they had had. They enjoyed the ambiance of the ship and the relaxed quiet atmosphere on board. It was so lovely not to have to hear persistent tannoy announcements nor have your time in the pool interupted by organised pool games. We were very impressed with the thoroughness of the lifeboat drill and the Captain advising passengers to avail themselves of the medical centre free of charge if they should encounter sickness or diarreah and his reminder on the importance of hand washing. With the current outbreak of Swine Flu I was concerned about spending 12 days in such close proximity to 900 passengers but my fears were alayed. Copius amounts of hand gel were to hand and it was lovely to be welcomed back to the ship after an exhausing day ashore to be offered a cold towel at the gangplank. Yes we did have a couple of gripes, the length of time to be served in the restaurant but then we were on holiday and there was no rush. Also our balcony light remained out of use for the duration of the cruise. The continuity of entertainment could be questioned but the shows we did see were second to none and there was always the cinema showing a different film each day with fresh popcorn. However, this would not deter us from recommending or travelling with Holland America on a future occasion. Unlike Carnival who made every effort to deter passengers from venturing independently ashore, Holland America offered details on cost of taxis and local trnsport. We treated ourselves to a private water taxi transfer to the ship in venice 100 euros for 4. In Dubrovnik a private taxi cost 10 euros into the old town. In Santorini we took the local bus. Sicily we joined with another family to share a taxi to Mount Etna. Naples have so many taxi drivers offering you differing trips, we found that if you ventured a little way from the port the prices dropped. Civavettia we took the port courtesy bus, walked 10 minutes to the station and took the train. We then paid 19 euros each for the open bus which stopped at all the sites in Rome. We did not venture far in livorno but took the port shuttle bus to the shops. Finally in Barcelona we took a taxi to the airport, left the suitcases at left luggage (very efficient) then the airport shuttle bus back into las ramblas to enjoy the dy before flying home. Personally I would have been quite happy to stay on board for another 12 days. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
I literally planned this cruise one week before our departure. The website was super-easy to navigate and had representatives available to assist. Upon arrival, I was glad to see the Carnival staff greeting us at the door and cheerfully ... Read More
I literally planned this cruise one week before our departure. The website was super-easy to navigate and had representatives available to assist. Upon arrival, I was glad to see the Carnival staff greeting us at the door and cheerfully escorting us to the terminal. The check-in procedure was very lax which sort of concerned me, but overall, I was not worried about my safety on board. Our first couple of hours on board were a little chaotic because we were not instructed that we could venture the ship nor attend the lunch buffet. There was a large crowd in the atrium area until the staterooms were open. The first night was a little uncomfortable because the minute we got to relax, we had to participate in a ship evacuation drill then were not given any information regarding that evening's activities. However, the rest of the cruise was very well planned and organized. There was literally something to do at all times. I was very very impressed with the shows that were put on by the Ecstacy Dancers. Not only were they attractive people, but had genuine talent. I did find the bar service to be terribly overpriced, but the rebate I was awarded by purchasing online helped to offset the cost. The interior of the ship was average-not emmaculate. The staterooms were cleaned often, but the public areas were not kept very clean. I was very disappointed to see Lido deck as well as the trademark fin to be visibly dirty. My family and I wanted to use both these areas as a photo-op, but were unable to. Camp Carnival offered some activities that were fun for the children joining us, but had several 'unsupervised' events that were not suitable. Overall, I will definately sail Carvial again, but may opt to ride another vessel. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Background Information Six of us booked this cruise around December 2008 and thanks to the Early Saver rate we ended up saving about $200 a person and were upgraded from an ocean view to a balcony cabin. This was my fourth cruise (all on ... Read More
Background Information Six of us booked this cruise around December 2008 and thanks to the Early Saver rate we ended up saving about $200 a person and were upgraded from an ocean view to a balcony cabin. This was my fourth cruise (all on Carnival) and I am 23 years old. Everyone else sailed at least one other cruise and ranged in age from 19 to 80. Pre-Cruise Hotel We drove into Baltimore a day early and stayed at the Residence Inn Baltimore Downtown/Inner Harbor. The hotel was perfect for us since it had large suites. Our room was on the 16th floor and consisted of a living and kitchen area large enough for the six of us to comfortably sit. One bedroom had a queen bed and a full bathroom and the other bedroom had two double beds and another full bathroom. The sofa in the living room had a pull-out bed. The service at the hotel was in line with Marriot's hotels. The staff was incredibly friendly and greeted us by name. A full breakfast is included that consisted of many hot and cold options. We used valet parking that was $29 a night. We walked about 3 blocks to Inner Harbor and spent the day exploring the area and touring the National Aquarium. The only downside to the hotel is that we could hear sirens at night, but nothing unusual for any hotel in a city. Embarkation My first three cruises sailed from New York and Baltimore's Cruise Terminal is larger which allowed it to run very smoothly. We drove and parked at the port, so they had a special section were we could pull right up to a baggage cart where porters unloaded the car. Then we parked ($15 a day) and walked right into the building. Once inside the building, you immediately go through security then check in. They had many rows of seats and each row was a separate boarding zone. We were zone 4 and VIP embarkation were both zones 1 and 2. Boarding began around 1:10 with travel agent tours, then 2 wedding parties, followed by everyone else according to zones. We arrived at the terminal at 10:30 and had no waits, but those arriving later had to wait outside to get through security or wait in their car to drop off luggage. The wait for us (seated in our row) went very quickly as we chatted with others and the embarkation staff began tossing beach balls around. The only thing that would help this process would be 3 or 4 more staff members to help direct people where to go. For example, after passing through security it would have been nice if a person directed us into the correct line. Ship Information The Carnival Pride is in my favorite class of Carnival ships. The size seems just right for the number of passengers so that it is always easy to find seats on the lido for relaxing or to eat at the buffet. The dEcor was modest for a Carnival ship but mostly well done. The ship was kept very clean, but it seemed like the Pride could use a dry dock to fix some broken decorations caused by passengers. My favorite part of this ship was the adults only aft area. It is a great place to relax with its own pool and hot tub. Captain Alessandro Galotto was the friendliest and most personable we have had. He and he officers were frequently around the ship interacting with passengers. Cabin I stayed in cabin 4210 and we also had cabin 4208, two balcony cabins on deck 4 aft. This was my first balcony and I never thought I would use it as much as I did. It was great to start and end each day out there and enjoy the peace and quiet during the day. In our location we could not hear any noise from the lido deck and the exterior promenade a deck below us was usually empty. Being in the back of the ship we could feel vibrations at night, but they were not noticeable during the day. We opened the balcony divider and it was nice having a large area, but the divider blocked a little of the view from cabin 4208. In cabin 4210, our steward was Nurcholas from Indonesia. It was the first time we rarely saw our cabin steward, but we realized it was because we were his first cabin and by the time we returned he was usually around the corner servicing the aft cabins. The service he provided was excellent. Cabin 4208 was the last cabin serviced by another steward (I forget his name) so it was not always complete before we returned from dinner, but it was still done to the same expectations. Dining Most days we ate breakfast and lunch on the lido deck, but we occasionally ordered room service breakfast that was always served at the time requested. On the lido deck I always found the shortest line since I am not picky and I never had to wait long. For breakfast, long lines always formed for omelets, but the other food was pretty standard from station to station. For lunch the buffet stations all served something different and if you had a particular item in mind it may be difficult to find where it is. We ate in the main dining room every night. The first night it is come at your assigned time, but you are not seated at your assigned table. It is nice that they offered this as most people with the 6:00 time (including us) showed up around 6:15 since the ship sailed at 6:00. On my previous cruise I always had excellent service in the main dining room, but this team far surpassed anything I experienced before. We were assigned table 161 in the lower level. Our head waitress was Duangjai (or Lady D.) from Thailand and our assistant waitress was Martina from Slovakia. Duangjai has been with Carnival for 7 years and Martina for 8. They were the most attentive wait staff we have had on a cruise. They would always begin service with a quick hello while we got seated and Lady D went over the menu. All of their tables were consistently done with the service a good 10 to 15 minutes before other tables, but it wasn't rushed, they were just very efficient. After our desserts and the entertainment, both Lady D and Martina chatted with us and entertained us with tricks or napkin folding. We (and their other tables) would typically stay 20 minutes after finishing our meal because they took that much time with us. Activities Danny, from Florida, was a substitute cruise director and liked to talk a lot. Other than that he was fine. The assistant cruise director Matt and the other social hosts did a great job hosting many activities and could easily be seen around the ship along with Danny. There was a nice variety of activities planned throughout the day including multiple bingo and trivia contests. I would say that the activities were on par with what I expect from Carnival after four cruises. The casino is an area where I spend a lot of time. Carnival usually has some great dealers, but this trip they were average. They were good at what they did, but they did not interact much with the passengers. The casino host was Adina from Romania. She just joined the Carnival Pride on this cruise and she was the casino host on one of my previous cruises. She is still my favorite because she is very friendly and makes the tournaments a lot of fun. Entertainment The evening entertainment on Carnival's ships (along with the price) is why I keep returning. The Carnival Pride hosts three production shows, and all were very good. Wonderful World highlighted music from around the world, Jazzin' focused on jazz music, and Vroom surveyed classic rock music. More than on other cruises I noticed some little things going wrong like a dancer out of sync or a lighting cue not correct. Even during other shows or activities in the main theater there were sometimes issues with the lighting. It was never a big problem, but occasionally a small distraction. Other evening shows in the main theater included the standard Welcome Aboard Show, Pete Mamos, an entertaining hypnotist, Frank Dell Pizzo, the first comedian I've seen on board that had a great family show and an even better adults-only show, and finally the Carnival Legends show that is always entertaining. The Breeze performed variety and dancing music nightly in Butterflies and during the deck party. They were great! I went to karaoke once but it was not a great crowd so I didn't stay long. The calypso band on the lido and the other musicians around the ship were excellent. I didn't make it into the piano bar, but what I heard passing by sounded great. Grand Turk We reserved golf carts ahead of time from Nathan Smith after reading many reviews on the Cruise Critic forums. It took us about 3 hours to explore the island. We first drove all the way across the island to see the lighthouse and the cliffs, and then worked our way back to the ship via the downtown area where we stopped at a shop and a museum. The locals are very friendly and nice to chat with. The island is still recovering from the hurricane last year but the people of the island were cheerful. Once we got back, we returned to the ship for lunch and went back out to spend the afternoon on the beach. The water was a nice aqua color but there were rocks on the bottom. We were delayed about 2 hours from leaving because of a medical debarkation. Half Moon Cay Due to the delay leaving Grand Turk, the cruise director announced that we would arrive at Half Moon Cay an hour late, but we would also stay an hour later. We ended up arriving on time, but still stayed an hour later. Tendering was well done since they use large ferries. Everything I read about Half Moon Cay was true. The island was beautiful! The water was a clear blue with a smooth bottom, and the sand was powdery white. It was easy to find a lounger and let the day pass by while relaxing on the beach or in the water. Lunch on the island is buffet style with barbecue chicken, burgers, and many other items such as fruit and sides. There are also nice pavilions scattered in the area with picnic tables. In the afternoon, my sister and I went para-sailing. Due to wind a lot of the excursions in the middle of the day were canceled, but we were lucky enough to go. It provided a great view of the island and was worth the cost since it is one of the things I've always wanted to do. Getting back to the ship was easy as they crammed as many people as possible on the ferries. The line was long, but it went fast. Freeport We used this as a lazy day and woke up around 10:00. We wandered around the shops near the ship and then enjoyed the rest of the day on board relaxing. For an industrial port, it was still beautiful. We just didn't want to deal with getting in to town and worrying about making it back on time. I think this would be the perfect itinerary if Freeport was replaced with Nassau. Disembarkation The ship gets back in port around 10:00am, so debarkation starts later than usual. It is nice waking up and watching the ship sail under the bridges again and slowly getting ready to leave. We don't like dealing with craziness of self-assist, so we were in zone 21 of general debarkation. Self-assist started around 10:15, and once that was completed general debarkation went very quickly. We were called around noon and it took less than 10 minutes to get to the car. Summary This was one of the most relaxing vacations I have ever taken, and the ports of call allowed for some easy beach days. The Carnival Pride is a great new option for cruising from the Northeast and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice vacation. I am looking into the Carnival Miracle from NYC for a future trip for two reasons. First it is a day longer, and who can argue with that? Second, it stops at Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau, almost the same itinerary, but Nassau instead of Freeport. Still, I would not hesitate to take this cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We flew into Seattle the day before and stayed at the Homewood Suites by Pikes Market. It was not what I had hoped for. There was no assistance w/ luggage, the pool or hot tub were not working, and only one elevator working for the ... Read More
We flew into Seattle the day before and stayed at the Homewood Suites by Pikes Market. It was not what I had hoped for. There was no assistance w/ luggage, the pool or hot tub were not working, and only one elevator working for the entire hotel. They did have a nice free breakfast and the room was clean. We have been to Seattle before, our daugher went to college there, so we had already done site seeing on previous trips. Seattle is a wonderful city with some of the nicest people I have ever met. We arrived at the pier a little early thinking we could just drop off our luggage and walk around by the ships but were told we could go ahead and avoid the lines and start boarding. It was quick and simple. Our rooms were on the 7th deck, right side of the ship w/ balconies. The food on the ship is not as bad as people say. Some things we didn't like but other people seemed to really enjoy them. We did eat at the specialty japanese restraunt one night but I don't think it was worth the money. The food was over cooked and salty for my taste. The sushi was great. We only at the buffet for breakfast a couple of times, but it is the same menu everyday. All and all I enjoyed most of my meals. Alaska is beautiful. We went zip lining in Ketchikan and it was wonderful. The guides did a great job and my daughters laughed the entire time. In Juneau we were scheduled to go on the helicopter/dogsled trip. The weather was terrible so it was cancelled. What was disappointing was the lack of customer service from the company. They never offered to try to rebook it for the next day in Skagway and were actually really rude when I spoke w/ them on the phone. We wasted the day walking around town. I wouldn't book a helicopter unless I knew the weather was going to be great. Otherwise you don't get to do anything. There were some great things to do there and since we got cancelled late, we weren't able to rebook anything else. In Skagway we were again trying to helicopter/dogsleed.(My daughters dream flight) We had high hopes since we dock next to the airport and watched the helicopters take off and land all morning. We had a 1:00 flight and when we went me our guide I was told our flight was cancelled. No explanation, nothing. We continued to watch the helicopters take off and land. I had to scramble to find something for our family to do so late in the day. Luckily we were able to go to the dog sled camp and Shilo made it fun for us. When I returned home I wrote the helicopter company a letter asking why this had happened. They have never responded. I wouldn't waste my money w/ a company that obviously doesn't care about the people they are supposed to be taking care of. In Prince Ruppert we went whale watching and it was raining the entire time. We did see some whales and eagles. We enjoyed it and the people on the boat were helpful and answered all the questions everyone had. We had rain most of the trip. We had fog so bad on the way back that the fog horn was used for most of the return trip. Getting off the ship was quick and simple. We had a later flight so we enjoyed a last breakfast and then carried our stuff off and left. I would recommend this trip to everyone. Alaska is so beautiful and the wildlife is amazing. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Day 1 - Upon arrival, we noticed that the room only had only two towels, even though our reservation was for 3. Right off the bat I was annoyed and already thinking that the cruise line was not going to be attentive. I was right ... Read More
Day 1 - Upon arrival, we noticed that the room only had only two towels, even though our reservation was for 3. Right off the bat I was annoyed and already thinking that the cruise line was not going to be attentive. I was right on the money. Our phone had no labels on it, unlike my friend's phone. It was difficult to figure out which button to push when I needed guest services. The shower wall unit was missing labels. Not that one could not figure out that the other one was shampoo, but it looked crappy not to be labeled and once again gave me the feeling that the cruise line does not take pride in its ships. We had no hot water. We had no TV - it was not working. My friend told me of a laundry special where if we put our clothes out to be pressed we could get them back by 6pm the next day and it was half price! I decided to do it but unlike my friend, I had no laundry bag in my closet. So I had to call for one. I put my clothes in it and left it on the bed. I was hugely disappointed that there was not an outlet for a hair dryer. Both of the outlets available were "Not for dryers" and "For shavers only". I wish this information was somewhere available before I packed my blow dryer. Additionally, my hair takes forever to dry with that dryer the cruise line supplies. Most nights I went out with my hair slightly damp. Very annoying. Someone's belt from a previous cruise was left in the room in our closet. Ick. Day 2 - We could not get anything but tepid water until Day 2 in the afternoon. This was awful for the first two showers. My kids even went to a friend's room to shower. Why this occurred I still do not know but I pushed on that red button forever and still did not get the hot water expected. When I asked my friends if they got hot water, all of them said it was extremely hot. We did not have any TV until Day 2 at 6pm after three visits by someone to try and fix it! Someone came the first time to fix it while we were at dinner. When we got back to the room my son was excited to relax and watch a movie because the TV was finally on. Only, what they "fixed" was just that they got the TV "on" and said it was fixed but it only played the channel with the boat's location. Remote did not work. Disappointment set in as we had to call again. My son was extremely annoyed. This time another person came to look at it and decided it needed a new remote. He said he would go get one and be right back. It took about an hour before he returned. Expecting my laundry to be back by 6pm. No sign of it by 5 pm. I call and a woman says she'll call to find out what happened to it. She never calls back. At 6pm I called again. She says she will call again. This time I ask her to call me back. She doesn't! Now it is too late and I have to wear shorts to dinner because my nicer clothes are not back. Talk about frustration. After dinner I get back to the cabin and STILL NO CLOTHES! I had to call again, making it 3 times in total before it showed up at 11pm with no apologies, and I still had to pay for it. My son went to charge his game system in the outlet by the mirror in the room and the outlet did not work! Had to call to have them fix it. Day 3 - Starting today, Day 3, we had to call DAILY to have towels replaced. We tried to keep same towels for the first two days but with the humidity they never dried. They were gross. After that, at times the wet towels were left and other times replaced. Some times they were picked up and other times they were left on the floor! Day 4 - The left side of the closet stopped working on Day 4, making it difficult to get to anything on that side of the closet. Called 4 times to have it fixed, as well as speaking to our steward Eric in the hall about it twice but to no avail. IT NEVER GOT FIXED!!! So every time I had to open that side I had to open the right side all the way and drag the left one open. This was beyond inexcusable. Every time I had to open the closet I got very upset, usually yelling out loud, making it miserable for my children. Day 5 - I ran out of shower gel on Day 5! I cannot believe this was never checked and refilled! There were three of us in the room so considering that it should have been checked at least once during the week. I had to use shampoo to shower with. I was extremely agitated with this. Day 6 - We traveled with friends. On this morning, we all got to breakfast only a few minutes before 9:30am. The hostess seated us without a problem. Our waitress, however, was the rudest person we encountered the whole trip!!! She had a nasty face, was rude beyond rude, threw down, yes, threw down cream cheese on our table, and had no patience with us whatsoever. It was so bad that our beverage person picked up on it and eventually got us a new waitress! If they didn't want to serve us, they should not have let us in to the dining area. That was totally uncalled for and upset and angered all of us! Day 7 - The last day of the cruise was my younger son's birthday. I asked at the reception desk if I could get a larger cake and also asked if there could be decorations. A very nice supervisor said he could get it done. They took my order and I expected everything to go smoothly. We asked the supervisor if we should decorate and they assured us that the boat staff would take care of it. I told my son all about it and he was very excited! HOWEVER, when we got to the restaurant, there were NO DECORATIONS! I was very upset. Then the host comes over with a white bag with all of the decorations in them!!!!! He had just received them. So we went without them. I was beside myself for my son who didn't know why the room wasn't decorated. I paid $50 for a cake to have a nice party with decorations and there were none. Truly disappointing. I carried the decorations home with me. And last but not least, the last night of the cruise the pull out bed was not even turned down!!!!!! Additional issues/Inconsistencies: They market "freestyle" as free to do whatever, but in reality, if you travel with a group and want to eat together, they only allow that at 2 specific times in the evening so there was not a lot of flexibility with that. Also, there were 20 of us that ended up cruising together but because we did not book together, NCL did not acknowledge us at all. No discounts on anything! My friend's room was stocked with a bottle of water and sparkling water when he arrived. We had none. Ice bucket was only filled first day. The same water from the melted ice stayed in the bucket the entire rest of the week. The balcony was very dirty. The fiberglass was filthy and there was a lot of dirt around making the whole balcony very unappealing to sit in. Why have people pay for a balcony and then not even keep it clean? My friend told me that his steward knew his name by day 2 and used it! Even though I used Eric's name the entire week, not once did he bother to ask our names. That was very disappointing. The entire week I never was able to go into the large pool. Three days in a row I tried to find a chair and not once was I able to secure a lounge chair in this area. People hogged the chairs, and even though NCL says that it is not allowed to do that, no one cared to do anything about it. So I went on a cruise and never went into the pool!!!!!! Overall feeling - if you sail NCL, you should keep your expectations low. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
I bought a cruise certificate for the Imperial Majesty cruise lines off of Ebay in 2008. I called and booked this cruise for my mom and I. I paid for an oceanview room. In July 2009 my mom and I drove to Port Everglades and took their 3 ... Read More
I bought a cruise certificate for the Imperial Majesty cruise lines off of Ebay in 2008. I called and booked this cruise for my mom and I. I paid for an oceanview room. In July 2009 my mom and I drove to Port Everglades and took their 3 days cruise. When I got there and checked in they put us in an inside room. When I objected they had no oceanview rooms available. They stuck us in the dundgeon on deck 3 in two separte rooms. The rooms were about 86 square foot. There was no TV in the rooms. The shower and A/C in the rooms did not work. Luckily when I went back to complain a third time this time they gave us an inside cabin on the 7th floor with two twin beds. It was okay. Nothing spectacular. It had a decent sized shower, TV, and thank God the A/C worked. During the cruise there were families that were staying in these rooms that had no A/C. Many of these folks flew to Florida just to take this cruise. I was just reading through previous posts of folks that had taken this cruise after we did and it seems to me that the NO A/C thing is ONGOING. The first night we dined in the Crystal Room. Food was okay. The next night we dined at the buffet place where we also had breakfast. The staff doesn't speak english very well but we could understand them. The food was mediocre, the service was very poor. I had to chase down our servers to get tea, water etc. I couldn't believe how small the adult pool was. It looked like it could only fit a handfull of people. The kiddy pool isn't a kiddy pool. It's a slide that drops off into a wading area. Many adults were down there. It was nicer than the adult pool. The auditorium/bar area where they had nightly entertainment was okay. The entertainment was less than mediocre the majority of the time. They ususally had their celebration dancers, followed by a juggler, then a comedian or a guy who was a singer. when I went to the guest desk for something usually someone was hanging around it complaining about something being wrong with the rooms. I have been on other cruises and have never seen this many dissatisfied people. I would not recommend this cruise to anyone. My mom and I coined the phrase "Happiness is the Bahamas Celebration in our rearview mirror". We nicknamed this ship the "Bon Voyage Maintenance ship" because the staff were always telling the customers that they were working on something that was broke. Bahamas Celebration knows it has problems and should at least ensure that it's rooms as running water in the shower and toilet, and working A/C. These are basic things a human needs in order to survive even in the carribean heat. Major cruise lines such as Carnival, Princess, Royal Carribean and such has better prices for a 3 and 4 night cruise. I am an adequately experienced cruiser. Take my and my mom's advice and stick to the major cruise lines. You'll get your money's worth with those guys and be happier. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We booked the Oosterdam for the 24 day Venice to Barcelona Cruise. Firstly, I thought the Oosterdam was in fine shapevery nice public areas,cabin in reasonably fine shape. We had a smaller cabin and it was well laid outplenty of light, ... Read More
We booked the Oosterdam for the 24 day Venice to Barcelona Cruise. Firstly, I thought the Oosterdam was in fine shapevery nice public areas,cabin in reasonably fine shape. We had a smaller cabin and it was well laid outplenty of light, good storage, bathrooom was fine, no toilet problems. Even though cruise was full (or almost full) there were never crowds or lines and really very pleasant to get about the ship. Never a long wait for the elevators. I really felt the the plan of having the library high up was very nice-you could read a book and lookout at the view etc. Re food pretty good. Occassional dishes not good at all, but most food really fine. Some dishes simply great. Had very good vegetarian optionsin factif you are looking for spicy food the vegetarian options tended to be tasty. No problems with Lido food or the lack of trays. Staff generally very nice, friendly, helpfulboth food servers and the cabin stewards ere great. Occas lido deck server a little grumpy though. Re ports the usual cruise issuesthey wanted you to take the shore excursions but that is typical. For the med cruisesmostly nice portsCatania was really nice. Napoli is greatly improved citygreat food. Only poor port and not sure why HAL goes there is Argostoliwaste of time (although if you are there they have a great english book storekind of out of place for this small city but great to get some more books to read). Fellow passengers other than the usual 600am towel on pool chair routinevery nice group of peoplemix of americans, british, spanish, russians, and prob others but again everybody very nice. Since HAL generally offers a "peaceful" cruise the cruisers it attracts are generally nice, "laidback" people. Overall, at its price point HAL is doing a great job. Now the big problem I got food poisoning from the ship. I developed what I believe was Staph Aureus Food poisoning in the middle of the cruise. I am a primary care doctor so I know the signs and symptoms of food poisoning and it appears that I got what looks like Staph Aureus food poisoning, which is commonly caused from improperly stored food, not an uncommon problem from buffets. I was violently (and I mean really really unpleasant with uncontrolled vomiting) ill for a good 8-12 hours and felt tired for about another 18 hrs or so. Based upon my "food history" (i.e what and where i had eaten before I got sick) that the cause of this was food on the Oosterdam. I did speak to a HAL physician and he stated that there was not an outbreak on the ship i.e I was an isolated case. But still, it certainly was an unpleasant outcome from a Holland America Cruise. I would think carefully what food you eat from the Oosterdam. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We sailed from 7/19 through 7/31 on Crown Princess's British Isles cruise. This is a great itinerary and is one of those cruises you take for the itinerary, not necessarily for the cruise experience. Summer weather in the British ... Read More
We sailed from 7/19 through 7/31 on Crown Princess's British Isles cruise. This is a great itinerary and is one of those cruises you take for the itinerary, not necessarily for the cruise experience. Summer weather in the British Isles is often cool and cloudy with a chance of rain. Therefore, this is not a warm weather, sunbathing, type of cruise. One time we saw a group of people huddled in blankets watching the Outdoor Movie very different from the Caribbean. This is a shore excursion-oriented cruise and, if you try to see everything you can, you'll be ready for a break when the cruise ends. It is a great way to see alot of the UK in a very convenient way. We prefaced our trip with a 3 day stay at the Grasmere House in Salisbury and visited Bath, Stonehenge, Stourhead Gardens, Winchester, etc. This is a great way to preface your cruise and make sure you're in the area on time so you don't miss the ship (We are amazed at people that will take a 'red eye' from the USA and try to go to straight to the ship that's not our idea of a vacation). We were very fortunate to miss the rain in every port. It was forecast many times, but somehow escaped us. Embarkation at Southampton was great. Princess advised us if we arrived after 2 p.m.,embarkation would be the fastest and that was definitely true. We literally walked right on and didn't wait a bit (and this cruise was sold outI guess everyone got on before us!) Overall the service was excellent. This is our 3rd Princess cruise and our impression of Princess's service levels has improved with each cruise. We had an outstanding server in the dining room. We recommend staying on Plaza level it is less expensive and very convenient with many cafe's and other facilities on this floor and the one above. Also, this is not a 'balcony' cruise and sometimes the cool weather wouldn't make it worthwhile. The first port of call was St. Peter Port, Guernsey. A drawback of this ship is the size and # of passengers. Whenever tenders are required, there is often a wait. We waited until 11 a.m. to get off and still had to wait a while. Because there are 5 in our family, we generally avoided the Princess shore excursions. Since our Princess Mediterranean cruise in 2007, it seems to us that they (Princess) have significantly increased the price of these to the point that a full day outing for a family of 5 often runs $800 to $900. As a result, we arranged for van/taxi tours, in advance, at most ports and generally had a great full day outing for around US$400 to US$500a significant saving from the cruise line. All the ports (except LeHavre) are English-speaking, so it is even easier here. In Cork, we used Cork Airport Taxi's (Maurice) , who gave us a great tour of Cork, Blarney Castle, and Kinsale. There are incredibly long lines at Blarney Castle waiting to kiss the stone our advice, don't bother. Save the 2-3 hours you'll wait to see something else (especially Kinsalea beautiful, scenic village) Next was Dublin. We had an outstanding drive named Nicholas Glynn, who we got from Dublin Taxi Tours. Again, we got a full 8-9 hour tour for 40 euro's an hour in a nice Mercedes Van. Our first stop was the beautiful Powerscourt Gardens, then to central Dublin to Trinity College (Book of Kells) and the Guinness Brewery and the wonderful Gravity Bar (where you get a free glass of you-know-what plus a fantastic 360 degree view of Dublinyou can even see the ship from here). Finally, we went to Malahide Castle, which was closed, but the beautiful grounds were still open for our pleasure and strolling. Nicholas brought us to a beautiful viewpoint with a lighthouse. Liverpool: This was the only port where we took a ship tour. We did the Lake District Tour with the Steamer Train and Lake Cruise. This a very nice outing and we had an excellent guide. Plus, again, great weather with excellent view of the mountains around the lake. Next to Belfast. We wisely skipped most of the city and went straight to Giant's Causeway. Again, we were blessed with good weather and enjoyed the spectacular coastline, including the Rope Bridge and Dunluce Castle. We stopped in Belfast for a quick city-center drive around and a stop to see the 'murals' painted on the sides of houses. We used Belfast Taxi Tour and our vehicle was a regular taxi cab without seat belts for all passengers. Our drive was OK, but if I did it again, I would make sure we had a van. Glagow: We used George McClelland Glasgow Taxi's and, again wisely, went straight to Culzeane Castle, near Maybole (about an 80 minute ride from Greenock). This is an absolutely spectacular place If I did this again, I would just go here and no where else. The house, coastline, gardens, trails are simply amazing and beautiful. Again, great weather lucky us! We made a stop in Glasgow at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the Cathedral (these were interesting, but looking back, just stay at Culzeane and soak up the beauty. At sea A very beautiful trip sailing through the Hebrides. You get excellent views of the rock, barren, windswept islands. Invergordon. This a very small village, so you really want a shore excursion here not much to walk to. We used Highland Tours. They were great because they had a fixed agenda, which we didn't realize, and they amended it for us. First to Dunrobin Castle (another great spot with an excellent falconry show) and Dornoch. We left the main group and our drive took us to see Loch Ness and her charming, home village (Drumnadrochit), where we had an authentic Scottish lunch. She brought us to the hillsides near her home for some spectacular view of the lake. After a lakeside drive, back to ship. A disadvantage of this cruise is that some of the most interesting things to see are an 60-90 minute drive away. On to Edinburgh. No need for a shore excursion here just walk up to the train station (we took the city bus) and you're in town before you know it. You can walk to everything. Tip: Instead of waiting 60+ minutes to get into Edinburgh Castle, just go to the office and buy a National Trust 3 Day pass. It's 5 pound extra, but you skip the entire line. This is a beautiful city make sure you go in to see it. The only drawback with this port is that you have to tender ashore (Although you anchor in a beautiful spot, near the Firth of Forth Bridge). Le Havre, France: We used LeHavre Radio Taxis. After extensive e-mailing weeks earlier, we located an Enlish speaking guide who took us to Giverney and Rouen. Givereny is a must see for any art lovers. The home, gardens, and water lillies are spectacular. They look just like Monet's paintings. By taking the taxi tour, we got there way ahead of the hundreds of cruise passengers. This trip was by fare the most expensive (460 Euro's), but still about $US250-$300 less than if we used the ship tour. Because we had travel plans in France for a week following the cruise, we elected to not go back to Southhampton and disembarked one night early. We went back to the ship for quick buffet dinner and then got off around 7:00 p.m. (just as hundreds were coming back from the trip to Paris). This worked out really well we took a taxi right to our hotel in LeHavre and toured HonFleur the next morning (Another must seean exquisite seaside village near Le Havre). All we missed by disembarking early was one meal (breakfast the morning of disembarcation), plus the depressing site of all the luggage sitting out in the hallway. To do this, you have to obtain permission from the cruise line in advance (we did it several months ago), because the cruise line has to coordinate with the local immigration authorities. You don't get any credit back from Princess, but we saved a whole travel day by having to go from Southhamptom all the way back to Paris. Great trip. If you're interesting in English/ Irish /Scottish scenery, history and culture, this is the one for you. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Overall the cruise was enjoyed by my family (husband,me and our 19 year old daughter who came with us). We had been on RCCL twice before. Last year to Alaska on Radiance and 5 years ago to the Carribean on Voyager (the sister ship of ... Read More
Overall the cruise was enjoyed by my family (husband,me and our 19 year old daughter who came with us). We had been on RCCL twice before. Last year to Alaska on Radiance and 5 years ago to the Carribean on Voyager (the sister ship of Navigator). So as far as the ship layout and theme restaurants they were familiar to us. We chose this cruise based on available dates and itinerary as we had to work around my daughter's college schedule. We felt that after the Alaska cruise last year there was a decrease in the level of service of staff and quality of food and entertainment when compared to the first cruise 5 years ago on Voyager. Sadly we would have to say the same was true on this cruise even when compared to last summer's Alaska trip. The main dining room fare and Windjammer food selections were average, lower in quality, no lobster dinner for instance.One day they promoted the luch buffet as a special thing when we were in Crete (1/2 day in port) beginning at 1:30 to 3pm. We showed up at 2 and were turned away as the main dining room (only one level was open we guess) was full. They sent us to the Windjammer which was overwhelmed and there was no silverware or seats for 30 minutes at least!!!!! The main dining room waiter was very good and attentive. Other service personnel were fair, and especially noticed in the bars and pool areas a lack of service personnel when a drink was desired. Previously (other cruises) our room attendant was seen daily and would greet us- I honestly did not know who our guy was on this ship although he had greeted my husband on the first day. We went to three shows- one of which were were impressed with Three Tenors- it was very good. The two others were song and dance type shows- and were average. Only had two days when we were not in ports so had some poolside activities (which we did not participate in) on those days. Thank goodness for the Solarium as it was relatively kid and smoke free.. the main pool area was very loud... Had a dance club on this ship called the Dungeon- a multilevel complex that was cramped and not as nice as the larger room overlooking the pool that was on the Radiance. Our table mates were lovely and we had the early seating. Since this ship has probably 1/2 of the clients from Italy or Europe- the late seating is very,very..... late like 9:30pm. We had a young married couple at the table who had gone on this same route last year with Carnival Cruises and preferred that ship for food and cabin layout/design. We would definitely try another cruise line next time also. No laundry facilities for self service (evidently other lines have this available)but we did take advantage of the laundry service special they offered on Wed- clothes were back by Friday night. Internet service was available and would recommend buying a pre paid plan for say 60 minutes if you have kids. Also make sure to check your phone plan. On the ship they own the airwaves- so you will pay $2.50 per minute on the cell phone regardless of which port or country you are in!!!! We turned off the phones.. as even email notices that you don't read will cause you to incur data charges... We purchased phone cards in the ports and used payphones... Read Less
Sail Date July 2009

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