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5,271 Family Cruise Reviews

Let me start by saying...I was on the NCL Dawn when the 70 foot rogue wave hit and I had more fun on that cruise with all it's sea sick passengers then I did on the Gem. The only thing I can truly say is that this cruise was just ... Read More
Let me start by saying...I was on the NCL Dawn when the 70 foot rogue wave hit and I had more fun on that cruise with all it's sea sick passengers then I did on the Gem. The only thing I can truly say is that this cruise was just mediocre. There was NO wow factor. The food was just ok (very small portions and blah)If you went to dinner any time from 6-7:30 you had to take a beeper and wait 20-45 min for them to beep you. If you wanted a better quality meal you had to pay extra at the specialty restaurants. The rooms were fine, just small. We're a family of 4 and we got two balcony rooms so that we had some space...Thank God because there is no way were could have managed with 4 in one room. Our friends had 3 and said it was very tight. (PS they had a mini suite, I do not see where it was any bigger then a regular room!)Another friend had an interior room and when they dropped the bed from the ceiling for the 3rd person it was half over her bed and only 2 feet from her face!) The Room stewards NEVER talked to us, They said we took 4 bottles of pelegrino from the honor bar. We never touched the honor bar! My kids hate water so I know they didn't take it.(next time i would have them lock it up and take out anything else.When we complained to the front desk(nasty and useless) they said there was nothing they could do, they they had to take the word of the steward. (Who never changed our sheets or cleaned the mirror that had nasty white stuff on all of them). We told them ...then were were taking back the tips to cover the charges, they could care less! I hated that because I work for tips ad know how important it is. We were traveling with a group of 20 and they all had the same comment, it just didn't seem like any one cared if you had a good experience or not. The only show I didn't want to walk out of was the 70's show,. the rest were boring. The magician was good but I had seen him 3 years ago and his act hadn't changed one bit. They had this thing called the white hot party, you had to wear white, It sounded fun and I thought there would be some special lighting but it was just a plain ole dance ,no wow factor there either. My daughter (8) couldn't wait to go to the kids club...after the first day she would not go back unless we forced her. She said it was very boring and only the kids 6 and under have fun. Not to mention that not once did anyone ask to see my card to make sure I was her parent. Chucky cheese is safer then this. My son (13) really hated his club. there is really nothing going on accept hanging out and some (in his words) goober games. Luckily for him there were 950 kids on board, he made friends. In my opinion Disney Cruise line is the best by far in the kid club area. I just felt like it was very crowded and I had to wait in line for every thing. I had to stand and eat breakfast twice because there was no tables to sit at. The buffet was the same food everyday. It wasn't bad just boring. The chocoholic buffet was a waste of time and aggravation. It was almost inedible. The good thing about the buffet is that you can get coffee and icecream/ snack till 11:30 pm. This is the 1st cruise I have ever seen that they didn't have a survey card, they just don't care. In short this is the last (I've had 4) NCL cruise I will ever take. Freestyle takes away from the personal service, because they know they will get their tips either way, It is $12 per person per day for gratuities. Which is more then fair if the service was good. Happy sailing Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Just came back. Will try to be as objective as can be. Loved the itinerary. We were a group of 17. We had two inside cabins on deck 9, and 3 balconies. Embarkation was easy enough. Though the fellow that checked us in may have been a ... Read More
Just came back. Will try to be as objective as can be. Loved the itinerary. We were a group of 17. We had two inside cabins on deck 9, and 3 balconies. Embarkation was easy enough. Though the fellow that checked us in may have been a bit clueless. He told us apart from the $12 per person room charge, there was also a $16 per person charge if you order drinks on the pool deck. We asked him this 4 times to clarify and he stood his ground. Once we reached the deck we realized that was not true. He also never activated the room keys for one of our inside cabins, and also did not assign a credit card for one of our rooms. Once we realized keys were not working we tried to go the first night to reception but there was a line out the door. Next morning at 6:00 am I went and asked the lady if we could get the keys to the room so we would be able to access our cabin. The first thing out of her mouth was did you demagnetize the cards, now I had a lanyard where we carried our cards. Her tone was so demeaning. I go up and again only two cards were working, so I went back down, she now has the gall to ask me if I knew how to use the cards, so I sweetly said why don't you come up with me and show me how, she gave me a key that finally worked. Oh, and they never recognized the two cabins we had as a family, my husband had to go separately to deactivate our son's charging capability and to reactivate his charge card that was messed up since embarkation. Had NCL staff done this with a smile we would have had no issues. The ship is gorgeous. Loved all the vibrant colors. The cabins were a bit smaller than on Princess. The bathroom was larger in the balconies. Would have preferred more space in the room. Our room steward was very nice and responsive enough. He never opened our mini bar, but we weren't bothered. Two nights he left us animal towels. I don't know about other cabins we only got one lotion for the entire cruise and they did not provide any conditioner, which is a bummer for the hair after all that sun, luckily we did take some along. Elemis products were nice. The buffet was better than Princess. Loved the crepes for dessert and the free icecream. The food at the main dining room was dismal. NCL does not get any points for customer service. The desserts were horrible. On other cruises we have requested special meals and as long as you give them 24 hour notice the chef obliges, not NCL. The very first day my friend bumped into a server carrying drinks on the pool deck, obviously both could have tried to avoid it and weren't able to. She said sorry, he did drop about three drinks that he was carrying. He found us sitting about ten minutes later, came up and said next time please don't bump into people. Very rude. We were dumbfounded but were not going to start a vacation picking a fight/argument so let it go. Then we heard other servers walking around and telling people to take their shoes off the loungers. This was not done politely or with a smile. Then came the pool police. Did appreciate him because he kept the kids out of the adult pool but wished he could have cracked a smile. The people working the buffet line were always courteous and went the extra mile, once a lady offered to carry one of the two plates I was carrying, one day the man attending the pizza warmed up a slice of pizza. Hey it does not take much to make us happy. Loved Roatan did zip lining and then off to Tabyana beach, just as we got off the bus it started to rain, I never got a chance to get in my swimsuit, had the best time ever. Sand fleas did bite you even in the water. Belize, we had arranged cave tubing with Vitalino cavetubingdotbz, he was great, he even had lunch ready for us after wards, we felt quite safe, learned a lot. Cozumel got ripped off, but had fun on the beach. One day my daughter scraped her nose and started to bleed in the pool, a friend and her ran into Garden Cafe buffet to get a napkin, the lovely lady that sprays the germicide refused to let them in or hand them a napkin. Now I understand why they don't want anyone without shoes and in a bathing suit to enter, too much water, people would get hurt. But is it so hard for anyone to hand a napkin to a ten year old scared girl who was already in tears. I went to the buffet line spoke to the head chef who was shocked and annoyed at the lady's behavior, he called the supervisor who did not seem to get it and said would look at the surveillance tapes and get back to me, he never did. Kids hated this cruise, every where you turned NCL people were rude. The pool was always crowded and the salt water/chlorine combination really stung the eyes. Kids program was not well thought off, one day they went in the 11 year olds were made to write their name and do 90 jumping jacks, kids program lacked creativity. Shows were great. Loved David Naster and Sharkbait. Enjoyed the not so newlywed game, loved the liars night. On the Liar's night we realized how funny Simon the Cruise Director was. Didn't enjoy the first night of Jean Ryan show, but the Geisha show was awesome. There were charges that we never made, one for Great Stirrup Cay and one for the mini bar, we went the night before disembarkation and they promised to take it off once the finance department came in the morning, assured us we would not have to wait in line again and that the final bill will be correct which they would deliver to our room. Ofcourse had to go back to the desk in the morning, lady was condescending again, said she did not see the charges, prints out her version and lo and behold it was the same as mine, few minutes later it was all taken care of, but the line that morning was again quite long, disgruntled folks, most of them with charges they never made. Disembarkation was a mess, again encountered idiots, finally we had enough, I and my GF spoke to the NCL person and told him to be quiet and listen to what we had to say, once he heard us he apologized for making us walk the length of the ship for no reason. We used Steve, from SAS for transportation, great service, he said every Sunday all other cruise lines get done fast, NCL holds everyone up. Here's the best line I heard, there is nothing free about Free style cruising. Now we did have a great cruise in spite of NCL, we were a large group and had a blast but will probably not be going back to NCL again. When booking we had a choice of NCL or Carnival, wish we had gone with Carnival. Sonal. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
The ship was fine, equal to my experience with Carnival and Celebrity. The rooms are a little smaller and the buffet is not as clean or good. They advertise smoking is allowed in an indoor cigar bar, an outdoor bar, and on the pool ... Read More
The ship was fine, equal to my experience with Carnival and Celebrity. The rooms are a little smaller and the buffet is not as clean or good. They advertise smoking is allowed in an indoor cigar bar, an outdoor bar, and on the pool decks except for dining areas and the children's pool. This is not the case. There is nowhere to smoke on the entire ship except in your room or on the very top deck on the very back of the ship. I like to have a couple of martinis before dinner, and of course a cigarette. Drinking in an open air bar is great when you are swimming or goofing off. Not when you are dressed for dinner. Sweat and wind blown hair will really ruin the mood. And how about those martinis? $17.00 a peace. That's for two measured shots and an olive. Then they add another 15% to pay the bartender and then tax at 7%. Then they want a tip as well. Don't tip, expect to wait for your next drink. Use the mini bar in your room it's the same price without the glass, the olive or service. And please book your own airfare. We were booked on a red eye express to the islands. We arrived at 8 am and could not check in to the hotel until 3 pm. 7 miserable hours homeless and guarding our luggage. At least we had company, everyone else that allowed NCL to book their entire vacation. Time to leave. They booked us on a 9 pm flight. We had to check out at 11 am. 10 miserable hours more. NCL had representatives at the hotel and they apologized but could do nothing. They were just there to make sure everybody got their rooms and make their transfers. Freestyle cruising was fantastic. Tables for two were no problem. Service was great; Pass on the special pay venues for dining, they are a complete waste of money. I ate in 4 of them and found the food and the service to be equal to the main dinning rooms. Nothing special at all. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
We decided to go on another Norwegian Cruise after having a wonderful cruise on the Jewel in 2006. This time we thought we would drive to New Orleans because it would be cheaper. So we went on the Norwegian Spirit. All of the crew seemed ... Read More
We decided to go on another Norwegian Cruise after having a wonderful cruise on the Jewel in 2006. This time we thought we would drive to New Orleans because it would be cheaper. So we went on the Norwegian Spirit. All of the crew seemed tired and treated us poorly except for Merry Ann who is a waitress in Windows. She was the only crew member to smile at us other than our steward. Some of the Galaxy of the Stars waiters and waitresses were even rude. We barely saw our cruise director. The food throughout the ship was terrible except Windows. We ate there 3 times. We went to Cagney's(with an upcharge of 25.00). I had lobster and steak, both tough. We also went to Teppanyaki(with an upcharge of 25.00). The guy cooking was nice but the food, just okay. The Blue Lagoon which is opened 24 hours is a joke! It is soooo small you can't ever get a seat. BINGO is a big rip off. They are making a fortune on this game. $39.99 to play 4 games, loads of people there yet only 3 games paying around 300 each and some got a penthouse sweet because no one was in it. That costs them nothing. The casino takes a BIG rake on the table games. Now for the ship itself which is old, creaky and smelly. You can hear through the walls as if the person is in the room with you. Someone said they were staying on the casino floor and could hear the roulette wheel all not. The elevators weren't working part of the time which made the passengers grouchy. Not a soul I spoke to enjoyed this cruise. I worked hard to pay for this cruise and expected much more. We heard from others that Royal Caribbean and Carnival are much better. All I can say is Royal Caribbean here I come! Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
This was my families second cruise, and I was so disappointed! We chose this one because we really wanted to spend a lot of time in Puerto Rico, and this one allowed for a 13 hour visit! We thought that we would at least be treated as ... Read More
This was my families second cruise, and I was so disappointed! We chose this one because we really wanted to spend a lot of time in Puerto Rico, and this one allowed for a 13 hour visit! We thought that we would at least be treated as good as we had been on the Royal Caribbean 2 years earlier, but that didn't happen. The good stuff: We loved all the ports of call. We saw the rain forest in Puerto Rico which is beautiful!! St. Thomas is equally beautiful, clear blue waters.........I could go on and on. Grand Turks, again, fantastic! My stateroom attendant was Super! The bad stuff: My son was injured on the tender boat that was taking us over to Half Moon Cay (Holland America's Private Island). The ramp collapsed, he is a 22 year old autistic man. We were treated less than expected by all staff after this happened, including the treating doctor and nurses, along with all other Holland America staff, no one ever asked how he was doing after this. He suffered a leg and abdominal injury. The food and organization in the Lido was terrible, way too crowded, I felt like I was herded like a cow or something. Sometimes I ate without a drink because it was to much trouble to stand in yet another line waiting for one. Entertainment was mediocre at best. Really not a lot of things to do on the ship. Geared more for the elderly, alcoholics and gamblers. We would never go with Holland America again, even if it was free of charge. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
This was our first cruise on Carnival, and very likely our last. Over the past 40 years, we have averaged a cruise per year, so we have a good basis of comparison. Carnival's definition of "Fun" seems be be "Noise, and ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Carnival, and very likely our last. Over the past 40 years, we have averaged a cruise per year, so we have a good basis of comparison. Carnival's definition of "Fun" seems be be "Noise, and lots of it." You can't eat a quiet dinner without commercials, marching and singing waiters, and a lot of racket. Every venue in the ship seemed to be playing its music at the highest possible level. Ecstasy was built in 1991, and shows its age. I don't know if they had stabilizers on the ship, but the ship's motion and passenger sea sickness I saw made me think that there were none. Ship design left much to be desired. I could find only two, one-person, restrooms adjacent to the Panorama Grill on the Lido deck. One was marked, "Women"; the other, "Men/Women". Restrooms on the aft end of the Promenade deck were well hidden. Trying to walk from one end of the ship to the other on the Atlantic deck was impossible. Because of the dining room locations, one had to go up or down a deck to get through. The food may have been tasty - what there was of it. Breakfast waffles in the Wind Star restaurant were about 3"x3" or about 9 square inches. (In contrast, the 7 - 8 inch diameter waffle one can make at any Comfort Inn is about 30 square inches.) My omelet appeared to be made from one egg. A cream cheese serving for a bagel was enough to cover one half the bagel. Presentation was also poor. I was appalled when my second cup of tea at dinner was only a new container of hot water. It seems I was expected to reuse my old teabag. (It took a separate request to get a fresh bag.) When we boarded our cabin, we noted that the sink drain did not let the water out easily. Despite several calls for the plumber, the drain never worked right. We had to remove it from the sink, where we were able to see all the mold that had accumulated. Entertainment was for the birds. It seemed as though Carnival was trying to save money by having its very talented CD do everything but dance in the production numbers. The comedians were passably funny in the regular shows, but seemed to rely on language as a substitute for humor in the 11:00pm adult comedy hour. My wife was surprised to find that cabin amenities did not even match those in an Econo Lodge, for example. No hair dryer, no hand lotion. Sorry, Carnival, you're not for these long time cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
First let me say that as a family having cruised many times on Royal Caribbean we may have set our expectations too high for this particular cruiseline. We had read numerous reviews prior to departing and decided not to cancel and go with ... Read More
First let me say that as a family having cruised many times on Royal Caribbean we may have set our expectations too high for this particular cruiseline. We had read numerous reviews prior to departing and decided not to cancel and go with an open mind. I'm still not convinced that was a great idea. There were four in our party, my wife and I, and our sixteen year old daughter and thirteen year old son. We arrived the day before and stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66, which is nicely located one mile from the port and has beautiful grounds and marina. I highly recommend this hotel. The staff was courteous and the rooms nicely appointed and clean. The night before the cruise we had a room in the tower, where from our balcony when we awoke the next morning we could see the Orchestra at the pier. The night the cruise ended we stayed in a lanai room directly on the waterway with two beautiful yachts docked right outside our window. The water taxi stops right at the hotel pier and brings you to some great spots in Ft. Lauderdale and also affords a spectacular view of the homes and yachts along the waterway. We arrived at the cruise terminal at about 11:45 and were greeted by long lines. I had completed the express check-in on the MSC website a few weeks prior with all of our passport information, etc. and as the instruction said printed the form to be presented at the express check-in window. There is no express check-in window and after waiting in line for an hour we finally made it to the check-in desk and the guy didn't even look at the express check-in form. The process once we were at the desk was quick and we were on board by 1:15. Not as speedy as expected but not too bad. When we stepped onto the ship there were crew members standing there but they were talking amongst themselves and not paying any attention to passengers boarding. No welcome or directions were given, so we assumed our stateroom was ready and went directly there. It was ready. For four people it was a little tight, but manageable, as we don't spend a large amount of time in the room. There were two twins made into one queen a pullout love seat and a bunk that pulled out of the wall. The room was clean with the exception of the slider to the balcony had finger prints all over it and obviously hadn't been cleaned. Bathroom was small with a tiny shower with a curtain that stuck to you when you showered. After checking out the cabin we headed up to the pool deck (13) for the buffet. This was extremely unorganized and usually total chaos with people entering the line at any point they felt like, rather than going to the end and waiting their turn. This is obviously not so much the fault of the cruiseline as of the rude people who have no regard for others in line. The food choices were somewhat limited compared to those on other cruises and for the most part was either bland or tasted awful. They did have roast lamb one day that was great, but the accompanying side-dishes were horrendous. The standard burgers and dogs were only offered on one side of the buffet and usually had the longest line. They do have a salad bar and we usually stuck with that for lunch. It would be nice if they added onions to the salad bar. Seating was usually easy to get if you go all the way back to what is know as the Four Seasons Dining Room. The pool area was crowded but seats are always available. We liked sitting on the lounges on the deck above the pool and watching the activities or reading and relaxing. Beverage service was always available and the servers were extremely polite and not constantly pushing drinks. Small finger sandwiches and pastries were available around four o'clock and pizza was available at five o'clock. Not being a huge pizza fan I thought it was horrible but my wife who loves pizza said it was "ok". We had the second seating in the Ibiscus Dining Room and had requested a private table of which there were plenty. We were seated at a table for eight and after speaking with a Maitre d' with an attitude, it was quite evident he couldn't care less what our request was and had no intentions of honoring our request. It turned out fine as we were seated with a very nice group and had a lot of laughs. On the first night I ordered Caesar salad and Chicken Marsala for dinner. The salad had perhaps five or six pieces of lettuce and hardly any dressing. When my entrEe was served, I told the waiter I didn't order an appetizer and he informed me that appetizer size drumstick and the accompanying bite size piece of thigh (?) was in fact my dinner! First time I lost weight on a cruise! We also like to enjoy a martini before dinner and discuss the day's events and plan tomorrow's events with the kids, while we review the menu selections. We were told that the dining room staff does not serve cocktails, but that they would get a cocktail server, who showed up as we were finishing dinner. Cocktail service did improve as the week went on, as I tipped one of the servers the second night. He was very attentive going forward. As for the food for the rest of the week...horrible. Absolutely the worst tasting and smallest portions of any cruise we have been on. I have seen better presentation and tasted better food in a hospital. What was advertised as rack of lamb turned out to be two paper thin lamb chops. What was advertised as filet mignon was a not even recognizable piece of rubber boot. Escargot served in a dried up baked potato with no snails, just mushrooms and a brown sauce. The language barrier was also a major stumbling block, as our waiter was from Indonesia and spoke very limited English except when taking our order he would point with his pen and say "what you want" and when changing silverware or serving food he would give everything to me to pass down the table to the intended recipient. Not exactly fine dining!! Entertainment in the lounges was terrible. What was built up to be this fantastic Beatles Review turned out to be the ship's cruise director and four other staff singing (or attempting to) Beatles' songs. They should stick to their day jobs! Karaoke and talent show were ok. Usually any show with the cruise activity staff in it was corny and sometimes almost homo erotic. We only attended the Magic show in the theatre, so I can't really comment on this venue. Poolside activities were minimal and rather foolish. The ports were great. We booked only one excursion through the ship in Antigua and it was excellent. The rest of the ports we did our own thing with shopping and dining, etc. A few points of concern that I noticed: Pool rules not enforced. There was a large family that basically took over one of the pools and had an infant in a diaper in the pool with them. That did it for me using the pool for the rest of the week. One afternoon while we were sitting having a gelato we were inundated with young children perhaps age five or six who we assume were part of the day care, running wild around the pool deck on a scavenger hunt. These kids were not under the direction or watch of any staff and were let to run all over the pool deck and upper decks above the pool. Not only were these kids at risk of being hurt, etc., I would bet that the parents had no clue their children were running around unattended. The teens group also had very little supervision and age limits not enforced. It is beyond me why a twenty-four year old guy was allowed to hang at the teen club. Trouble just waiting to happen. Thankfully our two were not interested in hanging there and made friends that also chose not to hang there. In summary, I think MSC has a long way to go before it could even come close to comparing with cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean. While I recognize that MSC is a European company and promote themselves as such, I saw many disgruntled Europeans on the cruise as well. I feel badly for the staff, as I truly believe that given the proper training and a quality product to deliver they could do so. I observed simple frustrations of passengers being elevated to levels of anger because of either a language barrier, or in some cases a "who cares" attitude. I was also dismayed at the way the wait-staff and bar staff was treated by management and in some cases patrons. The bar manager in the Savannah Lounge treated the staff like they were slaves and looked down his nose at everyone including patrons. This guy truly needs to get over himself. Additionally, there were a number of elderly passengers that were extremely rude and degrading to staff with an attitude of superiority and entitlement. It is beyond me why people feel they have the right to be nasty to other people. A little kindness can go a long way in trying to resolve a situation. In a conversation we had with a member of the staff, when asked how much longer he would be serving on this ship, he responded "hopefully not long, nobody likes working here." Mr. Sasso, it shows. While one might argue that because of the kids sail free incentive we "got what we paid for", to the contrary, we paid about the same price for the owner's suite on the Royal Caribbean Empress two years ago and have unbelievable memories that will last a lifetime and we were fed and treated like royalty. Shop around, there are some great deals to be found. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
We were four of a group of 13. Port was a nightmare when we arrived and staff ranged from bothered to outright rude. This includes talking about passengers behind their backs like they were idiots. Nothing about boarding was well marked, ... Read More
We were four of a group of 13. Port was a nightmare when we arrived and staff ranged from bothered to outright rude. This includes talking about passengers behind their backs like they were idiots. Nothing about boarding was well marked, efficient, or pleasant. Even when I beamed a smile and thanked them and wished them a wonderful day. Our dining group got split into different times and dining rooms.We boarded. Staff talked among themselves...no welcome or anything. At the end of the cruise we found out the individuals can not accept cash tips, and can result in termination. When we inquired about it we found. All tips go into a pool and are divided equally. So a waiter who does excellent, like ours, will not see the tip as you'd give it. They can accept gifts. Which my account for lack of attention of some, explain, Not excuse.We went to rooms. They were ready. Small but do-able. Shower was tiny and curtain even stick to my size "0" DD. Room attendant was not great. No fruit. daily letters always late.Saw about dinner reservations. They told me who ever booked it only booked for 9. Funny...I made the booking for the group and handled everything. Ended up with a table for 9 and a table for 4, Late seating in the Ibiscus. Waiter and Assistant waiter were AWESOME! Found little to no language barrier. Food in dinning room lacked flavor. Cocktail staff were SLOW! Buffet food was good. Juices were VERY watered down. Lines awful and sorry to say my fellow americans were rude, wasteful, gluttons. my roomy is a gym junkie and spent 2 hours a day there. Clean. Location pleasant. Equipment was current, easy to use and adequate enough to get through her usual weekly rituals.Kids program was a soar spot with me. Loved getting to spend time with kids and enjoyed ourselves in spite of the lack of a kids program. The time block they called a Jr. program was when there were really no adult activities to speak of. As a parent I was looking forward to a little child free time with other adults. That did not happen. It is also a BIG mistake for MSC. If the kids are safe and entertained...parents will spend $$ on Spa treatments, go to activities in lounges and drink more, hit casino and any number of other areas where the line makes $.I found entertainment staff on pool deck amusing. Shows in theater...Not what I expected. I've seen better shows on other lines. Found the magic act lacking, and chair dance number between sets vulgar. NOT KID FRIENDLY. Everything in theater was classical or Circe de sole-ish. Fine for a night or two. Would have like more entertainment options. As kids sail free a rating or description of shows would have helped. Or make the shows kid friendly. Even a few pranks by staff on pool deck had me cringing when the kids were there. Seating my the pool was always available. Although at least  2 days I found it too windy to stay there long.Ports we did our own thing so can not comment on excursions.Disembarking was as bad if not worse then embarking. Had to get luggage and drag it with you lines started as 2 split into 6. people pushing, cutting each other off, running your toes over, etc. only to get to 1 agent handling 2 lines. Overall we had a great time because we kept an open mind, great attitude, a fun group and an awesome dining staff. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
I have been on several Carnival sailing before this one and I loved them all but found this one very disappointing. Embarkation was a mess.  In fact several people in my group including myself had received phone calls from Carnival prior ... Read More
I have been on several Carnival sailing before this one and I loved them all but found this one very disappointing. Embarkation was a mess.  In fact several people in my group including myself had received phone calls from Carnival prior to the sailing telling us embarkation would be from 2-4pm and not to show up before then.  I found this a little strange.The layout of the ship is very poor.  It does not flow very well and it is difficult to get from one end of the ship to another.  Most of the time you had to go through Deck 5 which meant going through the casino filled with smoke and walking thorough the shopping area.  While the ship was bigger cabin wise, I found the public areas to be small for accommodating the number of people on this ship.  The shops are nothing compared to what is offered on other ships. We encountered a lot of smoke on the ship and I had a constant smell of sewage in my bathroom.  Other passengers complained about the same issues.I found the food to be so so.  Food portions were definitely smaller and quality was not as good as what I had experience on past sailings.  The desserts selection was poor and tasteless - as if they were premade or bought.  Service in the main dining room was good - but I felt the servers had to really hustle and had little time for interaction with the passengers.  The Lidio dining was a mess - always congested with lots of long lines.  We dined mosting in the main dining rooms and the Rotisserie which was very good.  We ate a the Specialty restaurant two nights.  The quality of food there is very good and worth the extra $30.  I did not care for the shows - they were very disappointing except for the last one Varoom which was good but not up to the past shows I had seen on Carnival.  For the shows I attended, I notice there were only two people going around and taking drink orders.  Places to sit and have a cocktail were very limited on this ship.  They had service in the Casino area, but once you got past that there was nothing.  They had a nice lounge area, but the seats had their back to the windows, so you could not sit and enjoy the view and there was no cocktail service for this area.  The did have a nice coffee/pastry stand.The pursers desk was not in a good location.  It was located just outside the theater and there was a lounge/bar area right next to it with entertainment.  It should have been in a quieter location.The selection of daily activities onboard the ship were poor and lame.  There really was not much to do.Unfortunately were were one of the ships that did not make it to Mexico because of the Swine Flu outbreak.  While I understand Carnival's decision not to stop in Mexico, I feel that in light of the news coverage prior to our sailing that Carnival should have had a contingency plan already in place.  There appeared to be no plan of action and the ship was scrambling to make last minute changes.  Passengers were left in the dark with little information as all announcements were made over the PA system with no chance for any questions or answers.  As a result, we ended up with a 6 days Cruise to No Where and a half day stop in SF in pouring rain.What really bothered me was how Carnival handled this situation.  To add insult to injury, we found out when we got home that cruises after us that are now scheduled for SF, Seattle and Victoria/Vancouver are getting some compensation.  We received nothing.  It is unfortunate that Carnival has chosen not to make any kind of a good will gesture.   Many people have said they will not sail Carnival again. One highlight of the cruse for us was Camp Carnival.  My grandchildren loved it and it appeared that they did a good job.  It will be a long time before I take another Carnival Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
On April 4, 2009, me and my family, a total of 14 people, boarded the MSC Orchestra not knowing what we were going to experience since it was our first time booking with MSC. We head heard from other sources that it was a newer ship and ... Read More
On April 4, 2009, me and my family, a total of 14 people, boarded the MSC Orchestra not knowing what we were going to experience since it was our first time booking with MSC. We head heard from other sources that it was a newer ship and was supposed to be nice-looking as well. Well those 2 comments were correct, but wait until you here our story. EMBARKATION DAY: We found getting to the ship terminal station was a breeze and dropping of our luggage was easier than I thought. One negative comment was that we had to share parking spaces with a Princess cruise, which was fine since we found a spot not to far away. We made it through showing our passports and travel documents and went to get our id cards, which is used as a room key and charge card. We gave our credit card information, took our pictures, and received our cards. Note: These are VERY IMPORTANT. Try not to lose them. Go up the elevator one level and get your minors  life jackets and wristbands. The line moved steadily, and we checked off 4 life jackets and wristbands. From there you board the ship and find yourself into the beautiful lobby. This process was VERY simple and there was absolutely no line watsoever.  From there we went to our cabins, since it was around 2 o'clock and drooped off our carry-on bags and headed for the pool deck. Had some gelato, which was $1.50 for a sugar cone, $2 for small cup, and $2.50 for large cup. We went to the buffet on that same deck, which was packed, and found ourselves 2 empty booths and a table right in the entrance. Grabbed some pizza and drinks, and enjoyed. There were other options here as well, like salad, chicken fingers, burgers, hot dogs, fries, and some other dishes and fruits.DINING: There are 2 things that everyone can agree on. One - the waitstaff at Villa Borghese on Deck 5, (we had Parka and Giri from Indonesia as our main waiters, divided among the 14 of us) was very helpful and caring. Two - most of the food was EXTREMELY DISGUSTING!! I understand that it's not supposed to be the best food in the whole world, but this food was very very very very very very very bad. It was disappointing, especially since it was an Italian cruise line. The pasta was cold and tasted liked it was not fully cooked. The soup tasted like tap water, and the chocolate gelato there was very untasting, I guess is how you would describe it. If you want something good, especially on of the formal nights, get the spinach and cheese crepes. They were probably the best item on the menu for dinner. The bread, of course, was good as well as the vanilla gelato. There was one pasta that was a special one night and I can't think of the name, but it did not have any sauce and had some spices. Very good indeed (about the pasta with spices). Bar waiters and waitresses were usually available whenever you needed them. We would spilt up occasionally for breakfast and lunch onboard and days at sea. Breakfast was good as well as lunch. The cheeseburgers are good. BARS: At 10 o'clock all of them claimed to be "closed". The bar attendants would say things like "The Savannah Bar is open now." when you were at the neighboring Amber Bar, and the Savannah Bar would say the same thing vice-versa. All of this would get annoying at times, especially if you just wanted a bottle of water. There was one man at La Cantinella bar that was always helpful, so stay get your drinks there when it's past 10 o'clock. CABINS: Tiny room. Open bathroom door and hit cabinets in front of you and front door. Shower very small, very difficult if you have to bathe young children like some of my family members did. Limited storage for luggage. Lots of drawers. The safe doesn't work properly. Hangers provided. Sheets not changed/cleaned. Bed comfort is ok. Not enough space for max. capacity - 4 adults - to walk in. Ladders for bunk beds have limited space to crawl up. My cousin found a movie when we first opened out bunk beds and another surprise, a dirty pair of wet underwear!!! We informed the cabin steward and he quickly removed it from our hands and apologized, but I would expect more from that terror! The lights or the tv don't turn on unless you leave a room key in the light holder next to the door. We were not informed of this and there are no signs indicating to do so. We saw a housekeeping maid putting her card in and flipping the lights, and that's how we got power the 2nd day.Positive remarks: It was quiet a lot of the times, rooms were cleaned twice daily, and the room was close to the elevators. Our room always had fresh towels. PORTS: The ports were fun and exotic. At Key West we got there an hour earlier, leaving an hour earlier. We were not informed that we needed id's such as passport and drivers license on top of our room key to get back on the ship since we were docked at the Navy base, so some members had to get BACK ON THE SHIP AFTER THEY WAITED IN LINE TO LEAVE THE SHIP!! This caused chaos as we had a wedding to attend to (that was the point of the 14 member family vacation, as well as to enjoy ourselves). It was nice there, and we were informed when to get the last trolley to get back on the ship by the trolley driver. In Mexico we docked, Grand Cayman Islands we had to use a tender boat as well as the Dominican Republic. More info on ports below.POOLS: Were usually crowded, espcecially on the at sea days. We found the pool next to the buffet to be more crowded than the other, and having a higher capacity of kids. The pool in front of the stage with the kiddie pool was a bit less crowded. The water was salt water from the ocean which was good and bad. Good because the salt water is good for you and bad because most people don't know this and jump in or go under water with there eyes open and end up with red eyes. The pool was 6 foot deep all around and there was one ladder if any. Smaller than Royal or Carnival. The hot tubs were not always crowded, and we found these to be relaxing, even though 4 adults were squished in there. There is a kiddie pool about ankle deep between the 2 hot tubs, having glass surrounding it by the bar area. They would close the pools at 6pm no matter what. They say they clean them at night but dont do that till the break of dawn. They just leave the nets over the pool and let the water stay there till the next day at 4am. They had 2 tv's always playing commercials. At night there would be chairs set up to watch either movies or sports (the Final Four was going on during our cruise). You can find this listings in the daily events booklet. SERVICE: This is the category that MSC needs the most improvement on, well at least the Orchestra. It was very difficult to communicate with employees on the ship. A lady at the front desk didn't understand what we wanted when all we were asking for was a baby crib. Service was a disgrace. The room steward never introduced himself to us, the employees on the ship were always angry and didn't bother to have a smile (except waitstaff, maids, and photoshop employees). One thing that made people angry was that the photoshop never informed anybody that they were having a sale of 15 pictures for $90 plus a cd of the ship until the LAST DAY!! Luckily for my family me and my cousin saved pictures in our families folder. This area really needs to improve.Thanks to Parka and Giri at Villa Borghese and Lillian and Amy at the Photoshop for their great service. The marachi band and the orchestra with the women were also very good (in the lobby).ENTERTAINMENT: Only shows worth seeing are the circus show, magic show, and the passsenger talent show. The pool side entertainment was dull and unexciting.MISC: The announcments on the ship took about 15 mins because they repeated it in 5 languages. English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German or Dutch. Cayo Levantado, Samana, Dominican Republic was the best. Had to to tender there but it was fine. The beach was the best and the water was perfect and not to salty. The street shops had some good stuff, but bargain your prices with them. Ate at an outdoor buffett that was not crowded right by the bar. The food was good and yummy. You can take a picture with a pirate and parrots and get a copy for $5 or 3 for $10 or $12. Can't remember. Had the best time here. Overall Grade:     D- Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
I traveled with extended family on this cruise.  It was a first cruise for the majority of the group.  Altogether, we had 13 people in 7 rooms.  We all requested late seating.  Prior to the cruise, I called my cruise agent with the ... Read More
I traveled with extended family on this cruise.  It was a first cruise for the majority of the group.  Altogether, we had 13 people in 7 rooms.  We all requested late seating.  Prior to the cruise, I called my cruise agent with the booking numbers for all rooms and asked to have us all linked together for dinner.  This was done, but because of the table arrangements, we were only able to sit a max of 10 at a table...leaving the other 3 at another.  This was not a problem and the 3 sitting at the other table reported that they were matched up well with table partners.  Our dining room was the Wind Star.  Embarkation in Galveston went very smoothly.  The porters at the cruise terminal were very kind and helpful.  If you have anyone who cannot walk long distances uphill in your group, then request wheelchairs for those individuals.  It is a long walk through check-in and up ramps to the boat.  Check-in went smoothly.  The groups with wheelchairs got VIP check-in and assistance, which was greatly appreciated.I should preface this review by saying that, at the age of 32, the reason for never cruising before is not related to money - I've traveled to Europe, Hawaii, and other costly destinations.  This vacation was actually more affordable than most vacations I've taken.  The reason for not cruising previously is because I have always believed that I would be bored on the ship, but I've had so many people report back that you'll never get bored and that the ship is so huge, it's like a city, that I decided I'd give it a try - especially since I wanted to spend this time with the family.  My sister that I was to share a room with also started to get worried before the trip about being bored and I convinced her that we'd have a great time - that these cruise ships are so big that we'd get lost and find something new to explore or do every day.I'd been forewarned that I should expect the cabin to be small, but it was actually quite a bit larger than I expected.  I have stayed in very small rooms in Europe and that was what I was expecting, so I was pleasantly surprised that the cabin was actually pretty spacious.  My only complaint was that there was only one power outlet - it wasn't a horrible thing, but it did make it difficult when trying to charge up a camera batter, blow dry two heads of hair, and let my sister use her hair straightener prior to dinner.  The beds were comfortable enough.  The bathroom was small, but large enough for our use.Our cabin steward was very nice.  We aren't the type to really request much, so we never had any special requests.  The couple of times that he tried to communicate with us, we really had a hard time understanding his English, but we didn't mind.  We love cultural differences and appreciated his efforts with the language.After embarkation, we dropped our carry-on bags in our room and four of us headed for the Lido deck because we were very hungry.  We had deliberately chosen not to stop and eat lunch on the drive down to Galveston from Dallas because we knew lunch would be available on deck at no extra charge.  Drink servers with trays of yummy looking alcoholic treats asked us at least three times on the way to the buffet line whether we wanted a mixed drink.  On every tray, the card displaying the price was turned around backwards toward the server.  I'd read before that the drinks were not free.  We did not accept the offers and got in line.  I was very disappointed to find that there were really no healthy options readily available.  I wound up with a cheeseburger and fries after hoping that I'd be able to get chicken breast and vegetables.  I did ask about chicken breast and was told that I'd have to wait fifteen minutes.  There's really nowhere to wait except to hover over the buffet line, over someone else's table, or block people's access to the drinks, so I settled on the cheeseburger and a few fries (since I was already splurging with the burger).  After picking up drinks, we started looking for somewhere to eat.  We wound up hovering around other people's tables anyway because there were no tables available.  At this time, we didn't realize that there were more tables further back in an air conditioned room...Would have been nice to know...  Once a party did leave their table, we waited around even longer waiting for someone to clear the table.  One of us went to go beg for empty chairs from other tables.  Nobody ever came to clear the table and it didn't appear that such a service even existed on the boat (we realized that there was nobody looking to clear any tables).  We resorted to clearing the table ourselves and just abandoned the trash on top of a life jacket box because we couldn't find anywhere else to put it.  There was certainly no shortage of drink servers though....All this time, they kept coming by and offering drinks.  When we asked one of them for a little help or to point us in the right direction, he didn't understand what we were saying.While eating, we listened to the worst blaring music with all kinds of technical difficulties.  We were on a cruise headed to Cozumel (MEXICO), but we were listening to Jamaican music...bad Jamaican music....and the same song over and over again.  We also realized that there was no water in the pool and it was roped off with a sign indicating that it was out of use.  We wondered whether that would be for the entire cruise or just until we got out of port.  Also, the pool is MUCH smaller than I expected.  From commercials and ads, I expected a very large pool.  This was disappointing.  It turns out that the pool only had water for one day.  The one time that I observed the pool with water, it was filled with loud kids and I wouldn't have gotten in anyway.  The slide was never open.After eating, we wondered around the ship a little and went back to our rooms.  My sister and I fell asleep.  I was woken up by the alert to go to the muster drill, but I had a hard time waking up my sister.  By the time I got her out of bed, the cabin steward was there asking if she was alright and telling us that we need to get up on deck.  We took off and decided that we were not going to carry our life jackets up there and then have to bring them back to the room, so we left them.  Turns out that it really didn't matter.  Nobody really paid any attention to whether we went to muster or not...and certainly nobody cared that we didn't have life jackets with us.  About 50% of the people there didn't have theirs either.  We came in at the end of the drill and didn't really have any idea what the instructions had been, but we were filled in by family members.  Afterwards, we just hung out by a rail and watched as we were escorted out of the Galveston area.I don't really remember what all we did next...We probably wondered around the ship a little bit and realized that it's actually much much smaller than we anticipated.  I was expecting the grand boulevard with tons of shops and things to do, but was really disappointed by the few places with overly priced merchandise that I wasn't even interested in if it had been free.The rest of the time on the ship was spent trying to find things to do that appealed to my age group.  We were disappointed with every activity that we went to.  Either they were super cheesy, low quality, or exorbitantly priced ($20 Bingo card for a chance to win $100!! - Ridiculous.  Yes, the prizes do get better each day of the cruise, but the cost for a "chance" to win the prize was never reasonable.  We played once out of pure boredom.  You get just half the boat to do that because they are bored with everything else you are offering them, then you've made an extra $20,000 less the small amount that you are paying out in prize money and staff salaries - and the staff are getting paid anyway - might as well make them work).  Even my parents (in their 50s), who are big on joining in on activites, were disappointed.Entertainment - The staff certainly tried and looked like they were having a good time doing so, but the programs were very cheesy and low quality.  The adult comedy was filled with profane language and nasty insults rather than comedy.  The game shows were equally as cheesy.  I would have walked out of every entertainment thing I went to if I'd had something else I could think of to do.  Out of boredom, my sister and I spent some time on slot machines in the casino.  She was alt least evening out on one machine for a little while, but I did horrible.  The machines are so tight that you get sick and tired of pushing a button to throw away money...They are not even fun to play if the machines just suck away your money and don't give you even the slightest idea that you could possibly win.  Thankfully I brought a deck of cards and my sister and I went into some little room for card and board games and played cards for several hours once.  We also took a lot of naps...not because we were tired, but because we were bored.Fitness/Sports deck - Nice little jogging path that I spent some time on, but it was really too windy.  I never saw anyone playing on the little putt putt course...Don't know where you'd even find the putters and balls...But it seemed futile to try anyway because of the wind.  The weight machines were acceptable for the most part - a couple of pieces of broken equipment and I spent time winding through all the equipment trying to find the right machines for muscle groups that I was trying to target...only to find that they were usually already occupied.  I felt like I spent too much time wondering around and waiting.  I never took any of the fitness classes - I think you had to pay for them and I wasn't interested in supporting the idea of paying for something that should be free.  Besides, it wasn't like they brought in some fitness champion to teach the classes.  Maybe if I'd thought I'd have gotten something out of it that I wouldn't get out of a fitness class in my gym at home, I would have tried one.As for the boat itself, the decor is very outdated and dizzying.  It looks like an early 1990s casino - bright but dirty colors in all kinds of dizzying patterns.  Even the artwork by the elevators was dizzying - some type of dimensional art that hurt your eyes if you tried to really look at it.  My grandmother actually fell down and wound up with a huge bruise on her face that took weeks to go away.  That certainly put a damper on her trip.  In areas where decorations were used to acheive some type of ambiance, it felt like the decorations were purchased at a dollar store.  You had that type of decor mixed with expensive (overpriced) jewelry and watches.  Really, it just cheapened the merchandise.  The only thing I wound up purchasing on the boat (other than spending money on things to try to entertain myself and some drinks) was a bottle of Sheridan's.  I tasted it during the free taste testing and fell in love.  I ordered a bottle, but didn't realize that it wouldn't come to my room until the last night during dinner.  I was hoping that I'd be able to enjoy it during the cruise - no such luck.  Apparently, the only way you can have liquor on board is to pay for it by the glass or bottle at (again) exorbitant prices (I think about $7 for a mixed drink).  The price of the drinks probably wouldn't have bothered me quite so much had the drinks actually had any alcohol in them or tasted good.  I tried three different mixed drinks on the trip hoping to find something I'd like, but they were all awful.  My aunt purchased some wine at the wine tasting, but we were only able to have it at dinner.  She had about 1/3 of a bottle left after dinner and wanted to take it to her room, but she wasn't allowed.Also, I question whether this boat actually has stabilizers.  Having no other cruise experience to compare with myself, but having heard reports from other cruisers that the stabilizers on the boat drastically reduce the rocking, I am left to believe that either this ship does not have stabilizers or they were not working.  The boat rocked A LOT all the time.  I don't know if it was particularly windy, but the weather was perfect.  The waves didn't seem any higher than expected.  I think that the drunk people on board had an easier time walking than the sober.  We arrived back in Galveston on a Monday and it was not until sometime on Friday that my body finally quit feeling like I was still on the boat.  I didn't get seasick on the boat, but my mom did at dinner the first night.  She took something for it and was okay after that.  Other issues - Once while walking from the elevator to our room, my sister and I came across a used syringe laying on the ground.  We looked around for someone to come take it, but couldn't find anyone, so we got some tissue and picked it up carefully and disposed of it in our room (couldn't find a sharps container anywhere).  That night, after dinner, we came back to the room and found that a sharps container had been left for us.  I don't know how long the syringe had been laying there...and for the most part...the ship seemed to be kept clean.  But it really bothered me that first of all this would be left laying in a common area near the elevators where anyone could have stepped on it...and second that we couldn't find a proper way to dispose of it or anyone to help us.Meals - For a ship that touts itself to be a party ship, I would expect that breakfast would be available a little later than it is.  We slept in some and knew that we had late dinners, so at late breakfasts, my sister and I always had to pick over what was left on the Lido deck since breakfast foods were already picked up elsewhere.  That also messed up lunch - we were never hungry when any of the healthier lunch choices were available, so our late lunches were a disappointing walk around trying to convince ourselves that we actually wanted to eat something available.  Dinners in the Wind Star dining room were great.  I never had something that I didn't like.  The waiters were great as well and always did a fine job of getting our food to us quickly (we were often done with our meals by the time other tables were just getting theirs).  The wait staff was required to do some cheesy entertainment though.  While it had the potential to be fun and cute, it was really more annoying and I felt really bad for our waiters because they were required to participate in an embarrassing form of "entertainment."I'll review Cozumel below....But to sum up the experience on the ship, I'd say that it was certainly worth skipping.  I don't know if it is just the ship that I didn't like, Carnival that I didn't like, or the entire cruising experience that I didn't like.  I am leary of ever taking another cruise and probably never will unless it's another family event like this one was.  Had I thought about it at the time, I probably would have considered taking enough off of the ship with me in Cozumel to just stay off of the ship and purposefully miss embarkation.  I don't know what they do with luggage and belongings for people who end up missing embarkation in port, but certainly there is some way for those people to get their belongings back.  I would have preferred to spend the rest of the day in Cozumel as well as the next day and just catch a plane back to Texas and meet up with the rest of my belongings there.  Overall, the cruise experience felt to me like slow expensive transportation (with a few "babysitters" to keep you busy with games and such) to and from a destination where you spend only enough time to do one thing and then walk around in a tourist shopping area reminiscent of the Mexico area at Six Flags Over Texas minus the rides.  Heck...why not build a few rollercoasters at the port, charge fees and make more money.  They'd fit right in.Disembarking in Galveston was fairly smooth.  I'd read complaints about the process, but didn't really have any myself except for the long lines to go through customs.  We had left our bags out the night before, so we didn't worry about carrying luggage off.  We waited in one of the entertainment show rooms for our group to be called.  It really didn't take too long.  We followed everyone out, grabbed our luggage, and got in line for customs.  I think it took about 45 minutes to get through customs, so I wondered why they were calling groups so quickly.  It would have been preferable to sit around a little longer to standing in a long customs line with my heavy backpack (because that's where all the liquor was).  Speaking of the liquor in my backpack, it was not until sometime on the last day that someone mentioned to people on the cruise that they'd have to pay taxes on the liquor if they had over a certain quantity.  This seemed to be news to everyone.  One woman had purchased a case of liquor and was very upset that she had not been warned when she purchased it.  I knew that with the small amount of liquor that I had, that even though it was over the limit, I'd probably end up paying taxes, but it wouldn't really amount to much.  When going through customs, I was honest about the amount of liquor I had, but the agent told me that they were pretty busy "back there" and he was just going to let me through!!  I am left wondering "where is the 'fun' in this 'fun ship'"?  The fun was targeted at either the very young, the much older, or the drunks.  I don't fit into any of those categories.  When it's all said and paid for, I think I gave Carnival about $900 for this vacation (my portion of the room, the few things I bought, drinks, casino, cell phone charges, bingo, etc.).  That got me meals, a bed, and transportation.  I checked airfare from Dallas to Cozumel for the same time frame - about $250.  Three nights in a small non-resort room on Cozumel would probably cost me $300-$400 (less if shared with others).  Add in meals and I'd have spent less on this trip, had a greater time, more flexibility, cheaper drinks, and a better report. 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Sail Date April 2009
Reasonable price for the cruise £600 but once CAPTIVE on board they fleeced every penny (cent) they could from you.NO BAR PRICE LIST'S available, they are at the printers, so we were told, yet they can print a daily events paper !1 ... Read More
Reasonable price for the cruise £600 but once CAPTIVE on board they fleeced every penny (cent) they could from you.NO BAR PRICE LIST'S available, they are at the printers, so we were told, yet they can print a daily events paper !1 x 250ml bottle of Heineken     = $4.95 = £3.00 + 15% autogratuity (compulsory) = £3.451 pint draught Heineken           = $5.95 = £3.60 + 15% autogratuity (compulsory) = £4.141 x 25ml J Walker Black Label    = $6.75 = £4.10 + 15% autogratuity (compulsory) = £4.721 x can diet Pepsi                   = $1.95 = £1.20 + 15% autogratuity (compulsory) = £1.361 x Evian 500ml bottle of water = $2.50 = £1.52 + 15% autogratuity (compulsory) = £1.751 x 25ml Smirnoff Vodka,          = $5.75 = £3.50 + 15% autogratuity (compulsory) = £4.031 x 125ml Merlot wine              = $7.50 = £4.56 + 15% autogratuity (compulsory) = £5.25From the examples above you can get the picture ... cider the same as lager, brandy the same as whiskey etc. .... VERY EXPENSIVE !O.K. being a thrifty Scotsman we went to the bar ourselves by-passing the waiter service but, guess what ?,  the 15% autogratuity was STILL applied.BINGO was nothing more than a total Rip-Off ... no evidence of the monies taken in from ticket sales but after a few visits we estimated prize money to be in the region of 10% to 15% of the gross takings ... the remainder goes to NCL !POKER .. No Limit Hold'em ..  60$ entrance fee but they do not inform you that re-buys are allowed, ALSO 25% of the takings goes to (you've guessed it ) NCL !As for the SHORE EXCURSIONS ....  DO NOT ... I REPEAT .. DO NOT BOOK WITH NCL IN ADVANCE OR ON BOARD THE SHIP. Check on the internet before you sail, you will save a fortune.When it comes to St Petersburg, get your local Travel Agent to arrange for the Visas and again book on the internet ... again you save a fortune.The ship itself ... very nice, excellent food, good entertainment but all let down by the 'RIP-OFF'Would I go again ... NEVER WITH NCL ... ONCE BITTEN TWICE SHY. Neil Moffat. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Ok first the bad!!! This was going to be a first cruise experience; we got pet sitters, took time off from work, left early to hit Norfolk terminal on time - everything was going well and then we were told we owed $800 more. Imagine our ... Read More
Ok first the bad!!! This was going to be a first cruise experience; we got pet sitters, took time off from work, left early to hit Norfolk terminal on time - everything was going well and then we were told we owed $800 more. Imagine our surprise since we had paid in-full when we booked in February for a May 2 trip. What is worse - no one could tell us why. Just pay up or don't board. We had to stand there for over an hour while they even tried to get there machines to show we paid (at one point it doubled the $800 to $1600!) - which we did since we were told we would lose the $1381.22 we had already paid for the Ocean view room if we didn't pay the $800. We were then told see the finance/accounting controller on board and to go to the Guest relations desk. We get there and are told nope you can't see him because he doesn't see guests. Throughout the trip we received many shrugged shoulders for questions related about this or even as simple as "is the pool 24 hours? or "will buses take us back to the parking lot?". I can understand if they are unsure but they just shrugged off our questions and sent us on our way.  The $800 was a gloomy cloud that ruined it for us. To make matters worse the last full day of the cruise they claimed that $400 didn't go through even though we had checked our credit card accounts. They made us pay that too after they made us come back to the desk several times because most of the guest relations folks had no idea what we were talking about when we came up. The guest relations desk folks were polite but by design very, very unhelpful. Finally we got to call RCI Customer office to be told our travel agent had mistakenly taken a discount we shouldn't have. A discount by the way that should have only cost us $300 to make up for the difference (if you go by our date of booking) and no one at RCI called to tell us was in error - I mean, we gave our date of birth when we did the on-boarding almost two weeks before sailing but they said we were marked for a senior discount and never told us! Therefore Royal in my eyes will always be the pirates of the sea. They went for an extra $500 that we probably would have spent on the boat anyway but with happy, relaxed grins on our faces. Remember RCI - happy people spend more.  Instead I spent the bare minimum I had to on the ship and was sad about the sudden upcharge and lack of help. It was sad that my happiest moment was getting off the ship and coming home!  We couldn't even hear over half of the announcements in our room during the day without running to open the door to hear them. The food was the same all the time everywhere - no variety! Always Asian or mediterranean, which is fine for  a night but not the whole trip. The toilet wouldn't work half the time, the bed curtain was missing and several drawers kept getting stuck out and wouldn't go back in without a lot of effort.  When it is all said and done it is obvious Royal didn't want the business of us two 25-45 somethings, and we are now happy to oblige by taking our future wedding plans and wedding guests elsewhere.  GOOD Stuff still happened: The only fantastic persons was Wendy and Haimi (sorry if we got the name spelled wrong). They were always friendly, helpful and made us feel like we were welcome. They even gave us a quick towel folding lesson! The two Bermuda excursions were also fantastic. We did Hartley's helmet dive - Greg H. himself took our group out and even if you can't swim and don't like to go under water or get your hair wet you will enjoy this! BTW - you won't get your hair wet because the helmet you put on to go under is perfect, plenty of oxygen and no water gets in the helmet. We loved him and Rolf (sorry again if named is wrong!) Greg obviously loves the marine life and what he does. We love our CD with pictures. A few young ladies were scared to go under and he showed a great deal of patience and superb customer service trying to balance everyone's experience and ensuring we all had a chance for this great adventure. He saved our cruise trip from being a complete unhappy disaster!  The cave tour to the Prospero caves at the Grotto hotel was also fantastic - we even swam in the underground cave lagoon; a little cold but a fun experience to brag about!  It is amazing to hear about its formation but sad to see that previous tours had left trash...so please don't.  On our own we went to Alexandria Battery beach to pick up tons of sea glass (it isn't much of a beach but what fun we had picking up the glass) and Dorey snorkel park. Both very lovely - the water is so blue! It is obvious that the Bermudians care about their home and keep it very clean. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
This is my fourth Cruise. 1st was Carnival to Mexico, 2nd was Windstar to Western Med, 3rd was Windstar to Costa Rica, and now this trip to the Eastern Med on Solstices. My first impression was Wow, big ship. The ship is big, and ... Read More
This is my fourth Cruise. 1st was Carnival to Mexico, 2nd was Windstar to Western Med, 3rd was Windstar to Costa Rica, and now this trip to the Eastern Med on Solstices. My first impression was Wow, big ship. The ship is big, and comfortable. Most of the staff were very nice. The Glass blowing by Corning was outstanding. But... It's not Windstar or Carnival. In both cases OUTSTANDING food. This trip, the food in the main dining room was less then good. Broccoli way over cooked, lousy steak, dry over cooked chicken. Don't get me started on the Salmon. The sauces were over salted or too rich, or just bad. OK so the food was not their main selling point. The interesting thing was the quality of the food in the Ocean View Cafeteria was way better, and much better tasting. When I asked the Brown suited gentleman that was in charge of our section about the food, he got very upset, and said that we were not aloud to complain. I'm sorry, say what? I spoke to customer care, and were very surprised to learn such a rule had been implemented by one of their staff members. As for the other restaurants, it got very expensive, very quickly. At $30 per person, and then add drinks (4 people) it's not something I was interested in especially after both my Windstar experiences and Carnival. The term nicked and dimed comes to mind for the other things. A bottle of beer is $5.75, Coke or Diet Coke was expensive too. But they made a deal for that, For $6+ a day you could buy a cup that would be refilled as much as you liked at any bar. On an 11 day cruise that's $66 worth of Soda pop. Understand, once you buy the cup, you are charged automatically, whether you use it or not. As for the things to do, The glass blowing is very interesting and is a must see. On the other hand the onboard entertainment was painfully BAD!!! That trumpet player must go, he never found the note he was looking for. The dancing was somewhere between silly and stupid. I don't play bingo, so that sort of ends the things to do.The automatic tipping $11.95 a day, means the staff is not busting their butts for the tip.Now to some of you reading this, you might be writing me off as someone who just complains, about everything, because I enjoy complaining. Yes, I know people like that. This is not the case. Though I do not have tons of experience, the people I went with did. Including the Queen Mary II. They too, made the same observations. Indulge me in one more example. The tour I had signed up for was to be for 3:15 min, Starting at 2:45pm and ending at 6pm. OK... They put us in the Solstices forward theater stage area, were the people on stage were cracking jokes and talking. All the while you relies that the tour is almost half over and your still waiting. The every three min this guy comes by trying to sell you a bottle of water for $4.50. The first twenty times you tell him no thank you, does not change his enthusiasm to sell you very over priced water. At 3:45 they start telling us to get ready to go, another 15 min later, we go. So the three hour tour was about 1.5 hours. No refund, no "I'm sorry", no free water. Just an attitude of what do you want me to do about it. I know it's a new ship (first trip was Oct 08) and this was it's first trip in the Med. The GPS in the room was still set to Florida, Why. It's really seamed like nobody was in charge, or the people in charge were over their heads.  Am I just spoiled by the Windstar experience, and this was a normal cruise. Everything I mentioned was "Normal". I hope that's not the case. The Mexico trip was fantastic, the pool and jacuccis were open late, so after you been on shore all day, you get back to the ship, Eat, then relax, drink, swim if you like. The food was outstanding. The people making up the rooms were fun and clever. Did I mention the food was very good.Then Windstar, what can I say... Outstanding food, crazy fun stuff to do, Beach BBQ's swimming off the dive platform. Hang out on the bridge with the Capt. Anytime day or night (except when docking), Kitchen tours, cooking demonstrations and lessons.Something is missing from the Solstice and I would guess it's in the management area. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
I went on the Sensation for a family reunion. There was 7 of us including a 8 year old and a 10 year old...I have cruised once before with RCCL and do not think I will be going on another Carnival ship.Embarkation: The staff in the ... Read More
I went on the Sensation for a family reunion. There was 7 of us including a 8 year old and a 10 year old...I have cruised once before with RCCL and do not think I will be going on another Carnival ship.Embarkation: The staff in the terminal were very rude and pushy! My first impression of the ship was what a dump! It looked like the inside of a cheap Las Vegas hotel! Everywhere you looked nothing but neon purple lights! We were told our room wouldn't be ready until 1:30 so we went to the buffet. We got up onto the Lido deck to discover the buffet was OUTSIDE and the pool was a joke! We had an oceanview cabin on the 5th floor and it was very nice! Very spacious and the bathroom was huge!! Our room steward Nelson was excellent he remembered everyones names and was very friendly and efficient!The first night sucked the seas were rough and my entire family went to bed by 8! The next morning we went to the breakfast buffet, not very impressive. The lunch buffet also sucked so we decided to get some pizza. The pizza was horrible!!! We arrived in the bahamas which i have to say was very beautiful! We went to Atlantis and we had a great time..until we got back onto the boat.Camp Carnival: The kids pretty much wanted NOTHING to do with camp carnival! They said all they did the entire time was sit in a room and watch movies they absolutely hated it.We all got ready for the formal dinner the food in the dining room was much better then the food in the buffet area. The strawberry bisque was superb and everyone enjoyed their meals. Our waiters name was Joselito he was hilarious and entertained the kids quite well. The waiters all sang and danced and had a great time!Entertainment: For anyone traveling with little children beware of Carnivals entertainment! All the shows were rated PG13! We figured it couldn't be so bad so we brought the kids...what a mistake! All the woman in the show were barely wearing any clothing they were all in costumes with thongs!!! The dancing was provocative and unacceptable for a family cruise line!!"Fun" Day at Sea: Fun day at sea was ok we were having terrible weather and Carnival really did al they could to make it up to us. It started out with the Newlywed game and our cruise director Paul was the host, he was hilarious!! After the Newlywed game we did battle of the sexes in which the ladies won =) Heres where it goes back to low standards, our magicians name was Prax. He attempted to do a magic show and had absolutely NO personality!! Not only that but one of his tricks everyone clearly saw him take a 20 dollar bill out of his sleeve to make it "appear!" The other adults wanted to go to the Casino and since I'm not a gambler I told them i would keep the kids. I figured I would take them mini golfing and keep them entertained..i was sadly mistaken. We went up to the lido deck to rent out golf clubs and were told the lido deck was shut down for routine cleaning. I politely asked the crew member if he could just give me golf clubs to take the kids to the sports deck for a little while and he very rudely responded "NO were closed."When it comes to food, class, and entertainment RCCL has the upper hand!Overall you get what you pay for. If you are going on an older Carnival boat do not have high expectations! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
1st cruise for a family of 4, including 2 daughters (aged 17 & 12). This appears to be a budget cruise. The ship is generally clean, but decor is dated. We chose the least expensive cabins and they were adequate in size and ... Read More
1st cruise for a family of 4, including 2 daughters (aged 17 & 12). This appears to be a budget cruise. The ship is generally clean, but decor is dated. We chose the least expensive cabins and they were adequate in size and accomodations. The only real complaint I would have with the cabins is that there is no hair dryer. The bathroom/hallways smell slightly and while not overpowering, also not pleasant. The food was mediocre. Even on lobster/seafood night, I expected more. the lobster was overcooked and dry. However, the flatiron steak, which I got twice, was great both times. Service in the Imagination dining room was usually good. The pool was under maintenance the day we boarded and not availble until the 2nd day which was a disappointment for the kids. The entertainment was mildly entertaining. A moment doesn't go by with Carnival looking for ways to get more money out of your pocket via pictures, bingo, shopping, extra charges for internet, tipping, overpriced drinks. If you don't drink, smoke, gamble, and eat excessively, cruising may not be your thing. Because we had only one port (Catalina Island - Ensenada was pulled due to swine flu) we were bored. Cruising us just too slow a pace for us. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
The food was horrible, the service almost non-existent.  If Carnival is your first cruise then it was probably a good experience since you have nothing to compare it to.  For experienced cruisers and those that aren't dedicated to ... Read More
The food was horrible, the service almost non-existent.  If Carnival is your first cruise then it was probably a good experience since you have nothing to compare it to.  For experienced cruisers and those that aren't dedicated to Carnival (because they haven't tried other cruise lines) are not impressed at all with Carnival.  The complaints are usually, the FOOD, the SERVICE, the SHOWS, and the outrageous drink prices.  The cleanliness of the ship was OK, however, they had the bad habit of closing down the running and / or walking track in the mornings when most people that use them are up and about.The FOOD in the Main dining room was horrendous.  The hot soups were like dishwater and even my 10 year old son said the old fashion chicken soup tasted funny.  I tasted it and it wasn't made with chicken stock.  The cold soups were better and the strawberry and cherry soups were actually good.The entrees were inedible.  The fish was either overcooked.  I joked to my wife that the salmon would have been good for bricks.  The trout was oversalted.  The beef dishes were either overcooked or tough.  The vegetables were either under or overcooked.The desserts were so-so.  How can you ruin ice cream and sherberts?  The Mermaid Grill was fairly decent and they made excellent fries and pizzas.  The omelettes were overcooked, the grits runny and the bacon was generally undercooked.  The salad bar was fairly decent and the soft ice cream machine was good.One other point, we did purchase soda drink cards which enables you to drink all the sodas you want for about $7.00 a day.  A great bargain considering one soda will cost you $1.50 plus 15% gratuity.The waiter was ok but never did know our names and his assistant was non-existant and only showed up on the next to last day. The cabin crew was ok but we only met them on the next to last night and other than that never saw them.The SHOWS were bad (compared to other cruise lines).  The Taj Mahal lounge (where the shows are held) was usually only half full for the shows.In summary, for those cruisers who have not tried any other line except Carnival I would recommend you try Royal Carribean or Princess and make your own decision and reevaluate your experience on Carnival after you have tried them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We were very disappointed with the overall experience.  We were big fans of freestyle cruising prior to this cruise.  NCL has made several changes to the Freestyle Cruise program which we were told became effective recently.  Here is a ... Read More
We were very disappointed with the overall experience.  We were big fans of freestyle cruising prior to this cruise.  NCL has made several changes to the Freestyle Cruise program which we were told became effective recently.  Here is a listing of what we didn't like about the changes:- You now have to pay a cover charge for ALL of the alternative dining options.  The last time we cruised the Dawn there were 2 alternative restaurants that were free.  We were told by the cruise representatives that the food quality is now better.  We refused to pay extra to eat at a different restaurant, so I can't comment on the food quality at the specialty restaurants.- They have changed the menus in the 2 main restuarants.  The menus are totally different, but don't change during the entire 7 nights.  They claim that they are now offerring their most popular dishes every night, but we found it to be very boring and ended up eating the same thing over and over again.  We think this is a way to try and make you eat in one of the specialty restaurants where there is an additional cover charge.- The service in the restaurants was not very good and dinner took forever.  The restaurants are crowded because there are no free alternative choices.- The buffet was horrible.  The tables were dirty, they didn't keep up on cleaning up and they were always out of clean cups and silverware.  They closed half of the buffet early to switch over from breakfast to lunch making the other side very crowded.  One morning they started the switch over just after 10 AM.  The dinner buffet was very disappointing, the choices were no better than lunch.- The per day gratuity charge has increased from $10 per person to $12 per person and now they have made kids a full gratuity charge.  We paid $12 per day for our 9 year old and my sister paid $12 per day for my 3 year old nephew.  The kids charge used to be half.- The spa is very expensive and they no longer allow you use of the heated pool/hot tub facilities with a treatment.  If you want to use the entire facility, you pay a cover charge of $100 per person or $150 per couple to use the facility for the week.- The entertainment was very poor.  We were last on the Dawn three years ago and the shows and comedian were the same as back then.  You would think they would change it up a little.  There is no entertainment during the day unless you want to pay for bingo.  NCL has taken the theory that they discount the cruise and then make up for it on the extras once you get on board.  If you plan to book a cruise with NCL, add about $200 - $300 per person to the cost of the cruise when comparing with other cruise lines.  We cruised NCL frequently in the past because of the NCL mastercard rewards program.  They also changed this effective January 2009, significantly decreasing the rewards.  We will most likely try a different cruiseline in the future.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Four of the seven days on board our May 23rd HAL cruise on the Ms Amsterdam, we had ZERO toilet facilities because they were experiencing huge problems with the sewage system so ours either OVERFLOWED or DIDN'T WORK. It was really no ... Read More
Four of the seven days on board our May 23rd HAL cruise on the Ms Amsterdam, we had ZERO toilet facilities because they were experiencing huge problems with the sewage system so ours either OVERFLOWED or DIDN'T WORK. It was really no surprise when a lot of people(reported 78) came down with gastro-intestinal illness onboard resulting in a code red from Thursday thru Saturday. Weather resulted in us not being able to get off in Victoria so being on board with limited toilet facilities and a lot of sick people was not fun in any way shape or form. Of course coming down with the cooties from Saturday night thru yesterday(Monday) made the trip all the more horrible for me. The front desk and guest relations were not terribly concerned or responsive, we were given a bottle of wine after my husbands keys ceased to work to comp us for the technical difficulties however lack of toilet facilities didn't result in anything other than a pat, "we are aware of the problem and are working on it" or my least favorite, "people flush things down the toilet they shouldn't so it's not really a surprise yours is broken." Presumably, I am those people? At one point 50 plus staterooms, crew cabins etc. were affected by a faulty sewage tank on a day at sea from early morning until 6:30 pm. Service in the dining room for our table #55 was abysmal on our first night(we never returned), our wine steward never showed, food came at different times or not at all. The people we were traveling with complained and got re-assigned to table #43 and a superb waiter named Reo who was indeed  excellent. Our room stewards were great and our room was topically clean at least. Disturbingly I never smelled bleach or any other agent that would leave me to believe our room was bacteria free nor was our room/bathroom cleaned with hazmat gear meaning that our raw sewage was presumably tracked thru our cabin, down the hallway and any other room the repair people and or stewards visited. The singing barista, Leo, was a joy, Andi in the gym and a few of the Lido staff but otherwise the service was rather unremarkable. I have ten years in the hospitality industry and choose my land bound accommodations based on value versus service. Sadly HAL didn't even come close to breaking even in this regards.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Boy, where do I start?  Upon arrival to Vancouver we discovered that the HAL Transfer Direct gate was closed..  We then found some Holland America reps at the airport who informed us that boarding the ship had been delayed and that we ... Read More
Boy, where do I start?  Upon arrival to Vancouver we discovered that the HAL Transfer Direct gate was closed..  We then found some Holland America reps at the airport who informed us that boarding the ship had been delayed and that we needed to go through Canadian Customs and prepare for a tour of Vancouver by bus..??..  This was the last thing I wanted to hear after spending the day flying to get to Vancouver.  We later learned that the ship was being disinfected due to some illness/virus on the ship.  So we then spend the next 45 minutes clearing customs.  One would generally expect to go through customs, but the HAL Transfer Direct was suppose to keep us from having to go through this.After clearing customs we then started the process of getting on buses.  This was a challenge since we had a large group of people that wanted to stay together and nobody with HAL or the bus drivers seemed to know if all of the buses were going to the same place.  Nobody knew for sure when we would make it to the ship or exactly what we were going to take a tour of.   We were then taken to some place that I don't even remember the name of.  The bus driver pointed out various sites around Vancouver and several hours later we finally made it to the cruise ship port.  We quickly made it through the check-in process and thought we were about to board the ship, only to be herded into a large room that was occupied by the majority of all the other passengers that were waiting to board.  The room was very hot and stuffy.  We waited for about an hour and a half which really seemed like an eternity.  Please keep in mind, we had just been on various airplanes all day, then put on a bus to tour Vancouver for several more hours, then worked through the extensive check-in process and just when we thought we were getting on the ship,  another roadblock, stuck in a hot stuffy room with a thousand other people..We finally were allowed to board the ship, only to discover that EVERYTHING on the ship was coated with a film of whatever was used to disinfect the ship.  The ENTIRE ship had been sprayed down.  All windows, doors, mirrors, walls, floors, tables, I mean everything had a film on it.  Apparently the delay was so that everything could be sprayed down and dry, but there wasn't enough time to clean it all up.  The crew spent the two weeks we were on the boat cleaning up the mess around the entire ship.Once on the ship and underway we made several trips to the front desk.  We tried to inquire about getting out money back for the HAL Transfer Direct that we didn't get.  The girls at the front desk seemed put out and claimed they didn't know anything about the HAL Transfer Direct being closed down.  We made numerous trips to the front desk to take care of this problem before the money was finally credited back to our account.  It was very frustrating to say the least.Okay lets talk food!  I've cruised on other cruise lines and the food has always been the highlight of the cruise!  I'm not a picky eater by any stretch of the imagination, but the Veendam food was without a doubt a let down.  The Rotterdam Dining Room food seemed to have issues each night we ate there.  Almost every time the soup was luke warm at best.  The steak came out raw (dripping blood) after requesting Medium Well.  The lobster that was served one night was EXCELLENT!  The last night the crew did their little song and dance routine which was very cheesy.  A bunch of waiters marching around with light sticks??  Various waiters marching in with various parts of a salad while singing and dancing?  The whole deal was just a waste of time after 14 frustrating days on the ship..  Why can't HAL buy some salt and pepper mills that really work?  During the 14 days I would estimate that I picked up at least 10-15 individual salt or pepper mills that didn't work!  By the end of the cruise I was ready to start throwing them in the trash,  Water glasses and coffee cups ran empty almost every night in the dining room.  I can remember cruises on both RC and Carnival where the waiters almost jumped over each other in attempts to keep the drinks 3/4 full at all times.  Most of the food served in the dining room was always cold or luke warm, but NEVER hot.When I didn't eat in the dining room, I ate at the Lido Buffet.  WOW, I only THOUGHT the dining room had problems with organization!  I started off in the Lido with wanting to eat breakfast.  There was no direction on how things were suppose to work.  Many times there was a cruise employee asking what room number we were from at the beginning of the line.  I never did figure out why he had to have our room number..  At each meal there were continually arguments between passengers over cutting in line.  I *think* that one was suppose to walk straight to the portion of the buffet line that had the food that you wanted to eat.  For instance, there was no reason to wait behind everyone waiting in line for fruit, if you didn't' want fruit and wanted a fried egg.   Unfortunately nothing was clearly marked and when going around other passengers waiting, that always caused hard feelings.  There should have been employees or signs that explained how the whole deal was suppose to work.  Now lets talk about freaking TRAYS!  The only people that had trays were the bus boys that were cleaning tables.  So try to imagine this...  The LIDO dining room is a very busy place.  Finding a table is a challenge on most days.  You just got your plate of food and maybe you also picked up a second plate or bowl that contains fruit or oatmeal.  Your hands are full, so you start walking around trying to find a table to drop off your plate and bowl of food.  Dang, you can't find a table and your food is getting cold, if it was ever really hot to begin with.  Sweet success, you just found a vacant table that is covered with left over dishes from the previous passenger.  You then bus the table yourself and set aside the dirty dishes and put down your food.  Now you need eating utensils, so off you go looking for a napkin and utensils.  Also this is the time to go to the drink station and stand in another line for water, coffee or tea.  This wait could easily last 1-3 minutes each morning.  Often times they were looking for cups because they had run out.  If they had coffee cups, the coffee was out and everyone was waiting on coffee.  On some mornings everything was in place, but the server was just running behind.  Everyone had to wait on the server to make someone a cup of tea, even though the coffee spicket was open and available, if only a person would be allowed to self-service!  Okay so you now got your cold coffee and made it back to your table.  WHAT THE HECK!  Now your food is gone and some other passenger is sitting at the table??!!??  YES THIS DID HAPPEN!  I can't blame the passenger, I was gone for several minutes looking for utensils and coffee..  A HUGE part of this constant frustration could be solved by providing trays!  Now that I'm back home I did some GOOGLE searches and see that TRAYLESS buffet lines is something that is being tried by several ships and or cruise lines.  I've read they are trying to cut down on waste by doing this.  I don't know the answer, but I do know that if they are going to go TRAYLESS some things need to be seriously tweaked so that the process of getting food and drinks to a table is a little easier.  Right now on the VEENDAM, the system is BROKE!  Generally speaking, the food at the Lido was better than the food in the dining room.  Most of the time the food a little warmer, than it was in the dining room.  Notice, I said "most of the time."  The pancakes were ALWAYS cold.  The waffles were ALWAYS cold.  The entire buffet line continually came to a standstill when someone ordered toast.  Nobody toasted bread, until someone ordered toast.  The entire buffet line continually came to a standstill when someone wanted a fried egg.. They were cooked to order, just like the toast.  As mentioned before, someone on VEENDAM needs to make it clear how the buffet line is suppose to work.  Do you wait in the buffet line behind someone waiting on toast or fried eggs or not??  If the line is backing up, someone needs to direct others waiting to go around!  Passengers are capable to dispensing coffee or hot water!  Why make everyone wait in the coffee line for minutes, while the luke warm food is getting cold?The casino and employees were nice.  Some of the dealers could use more practice dealing poker, but not bad overall.The cabin and room stewards were nice and no real complaints, other than the aforementioned film of disinfectant that remained on most widows and mirrors for several days.  The closet door mirrors never were cleaned during the 14 day cruise.  Oh yeah, on the first day we found lots of hair 10-15 strands from the previous passengers on the bathroom floor.  Also, we had a cabin with an outside window view.  Half of the window was completely clouded over and one could only look out of the left side of the window.  The window needs to be replaced or HAL should give a discount for obscured view window room.Overall, I wouldn't risk going on another HAL cruise, even though I spoke with many people who claim that my experience was a fluke and not the norm on HAL ships.  The ports of call were fine and what I expected.  I saved some money and booked my excursions direct, rather than using HAL. 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Sail Date May 2009
Not to be long winded, The food in the main dinging room was uninspired and marginal The waiter was slow and non-responsive The assistant waiter had personality, ran to serve, and should have been the head waiter The ... Read More
Not to be long winded, The food in the main dinging room was uninspired and marginal The waiter was slow and non-responsive The assistant waiter had personality, ran to serve, and should have been the head waiter The rooms were great, but the technology sucked. TV's in both rooms (Suites) did not function, the GPS and cameras never worked, the internet was down most of the time we tried, and the onboard accounting system was days behind The pool and jacuzzi closed way too early and they were way too undersized for such a large boat The green was closed alot and you could not even putt on the green, which is one reason my boys were not happy The kids club and teen room were closed all the time, and did not have the services advertised The soda plan worked well, and we did not have carry those dopey glasses around The entertainment in the theater was lousy, lousy, lousy, I have seen better in a Club Med, where the people are not trained to entertain The entertainment in the rest of the ship was great, only problem they quit just as the evening was getting started. Not everyone eats at old people time (6:00). The cruise director told me that the target market for this boat was families with older (teen) children. Guess what, they missed this completely. my children do not mind a little classical music (violin, etc.) only problem was that the music ended before cocktails and dinner, and the shows had odd hours that if you ate late you were screwed to see the shows though we did not miss much, in our opinion. Never quite figured out what the purpose of the butler was. He really didn't do much, it was the cabin attendant who seemed to work and always be outside our door. Field trips/excursions were OK, but where were the ones for people under 75? Jet skiing, snorkeling/diving, parasailing, hiking, climbing, beach, boating, sailing, golf, tennis, shooting, all day trips with climbing or as the brochure says "Strenuous" stuff, etc.. The most "strenuous" thing was climbing a few steps on the bus. Their problem is that with no teen type activities, no teens should be on this boat, hence they are not really marketing to who they say they are "families", just couples and old people. We did like embarkation and disembarkation, this process was fairly painless, with the exception of trying to get my daughter a drinking ID as she was 19, and allowed to have a glass of wine with dinner (After living in France for many years this is standard practice) The specialty restaurants were for the most part the only place to have a decent dinner. I agree with other opinionaters, the buffet had better food. The Asian restaurant needs to learn how to make and serve sushi, it was terrible, the French had the best food and service on the entire boat. The rooms were nice, but we had suites, so I can not say what the others must be like, and the baths were bigger than we thought they would be. The photo shop/photographers did a decent job, but don't buy anything until the last day as they lower the prices significantly rather than through the stuff out. The would be better served to have a way to view your photos without having to print and throw away so many photos, which also means less chemicals, etc. in the environment. We thought drink prices were fairly moderate, and we brought our own "special" liquor on board. They said they would confiscate it, but never even looked, just xrayed and let it past. We did not have a problem with paying for their liquor, but their selection was pretty limited. Thinking about it there are a couple of pet peeves: Hardly anyone wore black tie, what's with this? If you have black tie nights, then everyone wears black tie. We did not feel like wearing formal wear, as we wear it all the time, but did to be in the spirit, or so we thought. Why would you schedule an excursion to a place without head sets, when you know you will not be able to be heard without one over the din of 1000's of other tourers, and everyone else has them but Celebrity???? You can't even buy a piece of the Corning glass, why??????? Why do they close jacuzzis on a boat at 7:30?????? What is the incentive for good service if you tip ahead of time?????? Why do they have such nice TV's if you can;t use them??????? Why advertise things you do not deliver on (Teen Club)??????? Why did we spend 4 hours at a rug store??????? We actually did not, we left the tour and went to a ceramics place, where other tour companies take their tours, but when no one else is there they will cut a deal on some beautiful stuff. Why when you are in Ephesus would you not go to see the Virgin Mary's church? They talk about it at length on the bus to the site, but then ask you to see a stupid show. (we did not we left the group and walked 200 yards to the site), and guess what?? it was one of the better preserved sites. In fact a private tour guide had 2 people with him and told us that not all the tour companies blow off the church, only those that want you to stay at the rug place for 4 hours in hopes you will buy something. To be perfectly honest, I would much rather go to a travel agent, book hotels and air to travel around Greece, and rail to travel around Italy, pay for a nice 5 star hotel, eat in very nice restaurants, and save a bunch of money. The cruise would have been OK for just me and my wife, if all we wanted to do was rest, and take a couple of excursions. By the end of the trip, we had blown off the boat programs and did our own. Why would Celebrity not offer do it yourself land trips or make arrangements to rent cars, boats, etc.? I now know why so many people do their own things on each of the stops, but then if you are going to do this, then why cruise at all, just pack 1 bag (leave the tux and dress at home) and travel around, particularly Greece where the ferries and air are very convenient, and Italy where the trains are very convenient. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We opted to take the Carnival Freedom for just one reason: Ports of call: Antigua, Tortola and St. Thomas were the main motivation + our first Balcony room. We've cruised with Royal Caribbean and Carnival before, and decided to go ... Read More
We opted to take the Carnival Freedom for just one reason: Ports of call: Antigua, Tortola and St. Thomas were the main motivation + our first Balcony room. We've cruised with Royal Caribbean and Carnival before, and decided to go with the Carnival Freedom instead of Royal Caribbean Freedom of the seas this year... big mistake! Carnival Freedom sailed from Ft. Lauderdale. It was our first time leaving from this port. We got to Ft. Lauderdale around 11:00am and we thought the embarkation process was longer than Port. Canaveral and Miami. Once the agent gave us our sail and sign cards we followed to get our picture taken, then, all the way to the atrium of the ship (12:15pm) The first impression we got of the Freedom was 'blah'. After sailing on the Mariner of the seas, our "Wow factor" was no longer there. For the first timers, I'm sure the Freedom was a beauty, but for us, it felt like all the other Carnival we've taken, no difference, in fact, worse. I had heard about the dEcor issue on this ship, but both being in our mid 20's and having a 'cool' 77 year old grandpa sailing with us, we thought decoration won't be a big deal... wrong! Our cabins were not available until 1:30pm, so we walked around the ship and found the same entertainment lounges exactly as the Valor. Once our cabin was available (# 6461) we checked our first Balcony cabin... yesssss, we thought!!!! The cabin was clean and provided enough space for the 3 of us, despite the fact that grandpa is a big boy, 6'2, weighting 240 pounds. Our sofa was already converted into grandpa's bed for the next 8 days and remained that way for the rest of the cruise. Having the Piano bar right under our cabin became hell at nights. The piano bar was loud and its entertainment extended every night from 9:00pm all the way until 2:00 -3:00am every single night of our cruise. During our first 3 nights we all joked about it, and even sang some of the songs they were singing downstairs.... That stopped once we began doing our snorkeling, bicycling, kayaking excursions and going to bed at 11:00pm to get some rest. Sleeping was almost impossible! You could hear every lyric, every note on the piano, everything!!!! "Nightmare", like grandpa said one night. Try to stay away from this area of the ship. It was not only our cabin being affected by the loud music, but also interior and other balconies around us. We spoke to some of our neighbors and they had the same issue... music is too loud, can't sleep. The weather was not what we're used in the Middle of May. It rained on and off, but we made the best of it during our Meet and Greet around the pool area. If there's something about this cruise that I'll never forget, those are the cruise critics pals. So many of them!!! Many were first timers, others, like us were on our 5th cruise and up. Fun day at the sea: We enjoyed the pool area, the waterslide, and the food. The food has always been good on Carnival cruises, and the Freedom was no different. The service was great, I have no complaints! This was our first formal night (captain's night). Since our captain seemed to be in a rush to get to San Juan, our ship became a little rocky, and my partner became sea-sick for the first time. We had a dinning table of 8, all of us from cruise critic. We joined reservations pre-cruise, so we can have dinner together. I totally recommend this because you already know who you're sitting with, so no big surprise or worries about 'rude tablemates'. Most of us got the lobster, which has been the best of lobster of all my past cruises. Yes, it was small, but very soft and tasty. San Juan: We got to San Juan at 3:00pm (no wonder!!!) We managed to go to Fort (El Morro), from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Took some pics, enjoyed the view and went back to the ship to enjoy dinner and the Big screen movie of the night "Ghost town". Some people washed the movie from the Jacuzzis, and we had no problem hearing the words. This night was our first and only "Open dinning". Basically, for those who don't know, you just go to any of the 2 main restaurants between 6:00pm and 8:00pm, and just join a table. We were sitting with two couples, who were very nice. We chatted about cruises, the weird decoration of the ship, and more cruising. That night was also the Latin party under the stars, which was a lot of fun. Totally recommend it. St. Thomas: Woke up early, had breakfast and headed to St. Johns on our own. For those worried, yes, you can do it on your own!!!! We had printed a guide from Cruise critic on how to get to St. Johns on your own, and we sure followed it. First, you get a taxi to Red Hook (a 20-35 min ride), which grandpa didn't enjoy at all because of all the ups, downs, curves and rocky roads. I had to laugh at his face when he said: "This is like the roller coaster you ride... Sheikra." And yes, it had a little of it. After you get to Red Hook terminal, you get the ferry to St. Johns (20-30 min) and boom, you're there. Antigua: Beautiful port. We booked the Xtreme excursion. It was one of the highlights of our trip, even grandpa enjoyed it. They take you to the stingray city, Hell's gate (just to watch), Bird island, where you have lunch and enjoy the island on your own, Hercules Pillars to snorkel and last one of their beaches for about 30 min. This time we avoided getting into the 'depressing' interior of the Carnival Freedom early and decided to stay walking about the port area until last minute. Gosh, those liberty head statues all over the ship... in the atrium, buffet, pool areas!!! It was so depressing! Just take a look at the buffet ceiling... it has some kind of maggot design that caught our attention. The atrium, dark and gloomy, made me think I was not on a cruise-ship, but somewhere else. Right at this point, we all looked at each other and decided this would be our last Carnival cruise at least for a LONG-LONG time. Tortola: The Baths... beautiful baths! Its caves are a labyrinth. To answer some of people's questions, you should NOT take this excursion if you are not physically active. The entrance is a long rocky way, at least a 20 min walk. To cross from one beach to the other you have to enter this rock formations, which contain "The cave". Beautiful, but very physically challenged. I'm glad I was warned about this and I didn't take my grandpa, who spent the time around the pool area, mostly on his own. Totally loved this port and The Baths. Nassau is the same old port. You can either head for the Atlantis, Castaway cay, Blue Lagoon or shop around. We did little of everything, always trying to avoid going back to the ship early. From an experienced cruiser's point of view, this cruise really open my eyes to explore more options. Not only we're not going back to Carnival, but we're now booked on cruise-lines like Princess, NCL and of course, our favorite Royal Caribbean. I totally loved the ports of call, like I said, it was the reason why we chose this cruise, but from now on I would discover fresher ports with other companies. Somehow we found Carnival to be a repetition, no new avenues, same pools, same entertainment, somehow boring once you do it more than once. I would not tell anyone to stay away from this ship, I would just tell people to explore their options and don't be afraid to try new things. We were Carnival addicts in the beginning, now we don't enjoy it anymore. Happy sailings everyone, and I hope I got to help somebody... Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
having just returned from being on the thomson dream 25/5/10 this ship was in dry dock and started sailing this April having belonged to costa line and now owned by thomson it is due for a major ref-fit in October in my opinion this ship ... Read More
having just returned from being on the thomson dream 25/5/10 this ship was in dry dock and started sailing this April having belonged to costa line and now owned by thomson it is due for a major ref-fit in October in my opinion this ship should not be on the high seas its not fit for the purpose previous reviews state a few teething problems you only get that with a new ship the staff on board where not rude however it would have been nice to get a smile now and again instead of walking about with there heads down this reflected the general mood of the ship so this review will have not to many positives the food was adequate as long as you didn't burn your hands from the steam that was belching out from between the food containers the very long queues only caused by poor management ie same line for hot or cold food they should have been separated making two lines i had to put up with flies in the cabin they looked like swamp flies and house keeper had to put fly killer down toilet and shower every day remember the word swamp it will become apparent walk through passageways that where sodden with water and engineers working on cabin toilets these should have been closed off for heath and safety reasons air condition not working correctly too hot or cold and now the worst part the smell in particular near the restaurants it was sewage like so think what i was walking on carpets ugh there was always constant activity with workmen trying to fix the toilets that didn't work flooded cabins water that came out the taps jet black in colour in my opinion and there guests Thomson's where only making money to help pay for the refit in October from ordinary people i could go on all day about this ship was way below standard Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
I want to let any reader know that I've NEVER complained about any vacation. My family and I have been doing a cruise a year since 2002 and have always had an amazing time. I also want to note that I've cruised wtih Carnival in ... Read More
I want to let any reader know that I've NEVER complained about any vacation. My family and I have been doing a cruise a year since 2002 and have always had an amazing time. I also want to note that I've cruised wtih Carnival in the past and had a really great experience and would maybe attempt another Carnival cruise just not on the Destiny.The service was amazing (especially in the dining room) mostly every worker always had a smile and always ready to help. The ship is very out-dated  but VERY CLEAN. ROOM: My husband and I booked a balcony room and were pretty disappointed with the room itself as well as the balcony as it was not very spacious. The bathrooms are set up horrible. Basically, while you're sitting on the toilet, your feet are in the shower!  The only highlight was the bed (very comfortable).FOOD: TERRIBLE quality for a cruise. I always look forward to the food on a cruise and I can't express enough how disappointed we all were. Breakfast on the "Lido Deck" was redundant and always overcrowded. The lines were ridiculous and we stood in line for at least 15 - 20 minutes. They actually ran out of syrup one morning!  We only went to the Lido two mornings, the toher mornings we hit the dining room where there weren't any lines-food still wasn't great but loved the service. Lunch was always the same - basic burgers or pizza. Dinner was a whole other story!!! The menu was limited and to be honest, I've never been on a cruise that offered Chicken and Turkey two nights in a row. Also, it was Diner quality food! The only steak offered was Flank (offered every night) and was very fatty. I'm not sure if the ship was overbooked, but even the common areas seemed too overcrowded. Hope this review was helpful. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
First let me say that we did have a good time, but that is because we made our vacation what it was inspite of the the poor service we received.   Carnival prides itself on customer satisfaction (or that is what they claim).  The past ... Read More
First let me say that we did have a good time, but that is because we made our vacation what it was inspite of the the poor service we received.   Carnival prides itself on customer satisfaction (or that is what they claim).  The past 4 cruises that I have had with carnival I would rate the service a 10 in all areas.  This cruise....I would rate a 5.  I was told that they cut back on employees....and it truly showed.    Negatives   Guest Services - They were horrible.  Rude...did not care what your circumstance was.  We had the issue with allowing an 8 year old to move up to the 9-11 program.  They refused.  I wasted 2 hours of my vacation on this issue.  I spoke to the pursurs desk, head of camp carnival and was told they would not allow him to move up to be with the other two children traveling with us.  They had rules and they would not bend them to keep our children together.  The head of  camp carnival told us it was at her discretion and she would not allow it.  Then we asked her who she answered to...we were told the hotel director (which we had to make and appointment to see).  Prior to making this appointment we had to call Lydia (travel agent) to see what could be done.  Made the appointment and received no reply from guest services as to our time to meet with the hotel director.  24 hours later rec'd a call from the head of the group bookings on board saying they would be talking to the mother of the child.  I asked the mother the outcome and she said they would allow him to move up, but he had to be signed in and out.  I don't understand why this issue even had to happen!!!  There was no reason they could not have handled this issue on Monday with this outcome.  So the children (who did not want to be seperated) could not even go to camp carnival until Tuesday afternoon.  The children attended camp carnival on Tuesday night and the poor 8 year old felt extremely uncomfortable, so they did not return.     *Note - My 14 year old went to move up with the rest of the kids in her group.  I spoke to Jessen, who ran the Club 02 (15-17 year olds) after explaining our situation to him,  he allowed her to move up on a trial basis as long as she was with her group at all times.  She loved it and met a lot of nice kids.  So...they don't always follow their own rules and the situation with the 8 year old should never have happened.  The person that was head of Camp Carnival was extremely rude as well.    Room Stewards - They were horrible as well.  We saw our room steward a total of 3 times the entire week.  Day one he asked us if we needed anything, when we said yes we need something...he never brought it.  We would leave our rooms no later than 9:30 and by 1:30 on some days our rooms were still not done.  I had to call him to have him bring the items we needed.   He did ask if anyone was diabetic and when my mother told him yes, he said I will bring you something to place your needles in....3 days later, she had to call him to get it.  Beach towels were in our rooms, but once you used them, they were not replaced.  You had to hunt down your room steward to get new ones.  Several of our group was concerned that they would be charged for them.  Aldo was our room steward.   Room Service - Some members of our group used room service regularly.  We had cold coffee delivered and cold water for hot tea delivered.  We had a gentleman in our group that was on crutches...he ordered beer sent to his stateroom.  They charged for the beer, then gratuity and then added another gratuity to have it delivered to your stateroom.....So he was charged gratuity twice for having it delivered.  Ridiculous!   Ports of Call - While we understand that due to the swine flu, we were unable to go to Cozumel....$20 for missing this port per person is totally unacceptable.  Especially due to the cost of the cruise.  Belize and Roatan....unless you do an excursion....nothing worth going to see.  No pictures in either of these ports either.    Dinner Conflicts - There were several things that conflicted with our dinner.  We have always done the late dinner on our cruises, but this cruise it seemed there were more conflicts.  We missed going to dinner at least twice in order to see our kids participate in some things.   Onboard Activities - Extremely disappointing again.  Again, the majority of our group have been past cruisers.  There has always been stuff going on after the dinner show on the lido deck.  Almost every night the lido deck was dead.  Had no music going on, no deck parties going on (with the exception of one, that lasted about 45 minutes).  No midnight buffets and NO GRAND GALA BUFFET!!!!!!!  They did have a desert buffet the night of the deck party.  5 cruises and the newlywed game is still the same, that covers a 10 year period...change the questions of up, make it new and fresh.    Rooms - Again I don't know if they are trying to save on money or what, but all the cruises in the past have had awesome air conditioning....our rooms were extremely warm and the air was set on the coldest setting.  Outlets - only 1 - 110 outlet in the room...um...not enough.  We had to get extension cords to reach across the room for the ones in the group that have breathing machines.   Staff - Several rude staff.  My mother went to the laundry mat on board.  She could not get the change thing figured out.  She found a room steward (don't know his name, but room steward for rooms 4222-4224).  She asked him how to do it and he screamed at her.   Dining tables - Our group was suppose to have certain dining tables.  These were all screwed up on the first night.  We had our group of 4 totally seperated from our group.  Dessie did work with us to fix the majority of the issues, but there were no tables available close to us for the four people to be with our group.     Positives   Drink cards - loved them.  It allowed you to save money on the "drink of the day".   Maitre d' - loved Dessie.  She was awesome and unlike prior cruises was so involved and did an outstanding job.  She was at our table every night and was sooo concerned when we did not make dinner due to conflicts.  She made the dancing with the staff very fun!!!!   Food - as always food was awesome!       In closing, several of our group removed the gratuities from our sail and sign cards.  I am fairly certain we will not be booking with Carnival for our next cruise.  I was so excited when we booked this cruise and especially myself because this was my kids first cruise, but after the poor service and having to deal with the rude staff and them being less than accomodating to our group to almost doesn't make it worth booking another one through Carnival. 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Sail Date June 2009

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