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Sail Date: February 2005
Our first ever cruise was on the Elation, and it was very nice. We thought the ship was very elegant and the food mostly outstanding except for the steak dishes. The service was great in the dining room, and the housekeeping staff was ... Read More
Our first ever cruise was on the Elation, and it was very nice. We thought the ship was very elegant and the food mostly outstanding except for the steak dishes. The service was great in the dining room, and the housekeeping staff was very friendly. Our dinner companions were very nice people, but overall we were surprised by how much drinking there was on the Elation. It occurred to me that I'd rather have people drink to excess on a cruise ship than anyplace where driving might be involved, but it still was slightly eye-opening. People boarded the ship shouting "where're the drinks!" and people brought their umbrella-embellished beverages with them to the safety drill despite being told they weren't allowed to do so. The very funny and helpful cruise director warned passengers not to drink so much in Cozumel that they had to be brought back in wheelchairs. People laughed and thought she was kidding, but she wasn't! Besides the cruise director, the shopping expert, Kaylene, was so helpful and friendly, and the entertainment staff also made sure we had a lot of fun. Though the rockiness of the ship and noise and vibration made it difficult to sleep every night, I enjoyed the Elation thoroughly. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2005
What a wonderful experience and memory for 17 of us to celebrate altogether my parents golden wedding anniversary. There were my parents, their children (3 daughters) with their husbands and 8 grandchildren and 1 grandchild in law. For my ... Read More
What a wonderful experience and memory for 17 of us to celebrate altogether my parents golden wedding anniversary. There were my parents, their children (3 daughters) with their husbands and 8 grandchildren and 1 grandchild in law. For my parents it was the ultimate that they were both blessed with good health and able to have an amazing holiday with their nearest and dearest. The Explorer of the Seas made our holiday. It had everything to suit all generations. This all started with the flight and then the stay in the Hilton near the airport. For my daughter-in-law and one of my sisters, my brother-in-law, nephews and niece this was a totally new experience for a holiday. From the first moment we stepped on board it was a dream for all of us. Having been on a number of Royal Caribbean cruises myself I could not get over the fun of the Promenade deck to the ice skating arena and all the other forms of activities. My parents who had been Captains of their golf club and had won many cups brought a few of these with and we all teamed up to win the cups on the crazy golf on the top deck. This was a great success and it took all week to go through the competition. The evenings were great and dinner was fantastic as your restaurant staff made an extra effort to put us all on one table. All of us enjoyed the Johnny Rockets and the frozen yogurt's around the ship. The entertainment in the evening was great and those of us old enough rounded it up with a little flutter in the casino. The cabins were spotless and every evening when we went to bed it was surprise to see how the cabin steward had designed a towel in different animal shapes. The stops were great and we only went to the beach and swam in the wonderful clear Caribbean sea. I was also extremely impressed with the competency of your staff at embarkation and disembarkation. On behalf of my family I can only thank Royal Caribbean for making such a memorable holiday, something all of us will never forget for the rest of our lives. Finally, since this cruise we are now proud grandparents of two grandchildren, they have seen the DVD's of our special holidays and cannot wait for their parents or us to take them on a Royal Caribbean adventure they will never forget. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Embarkation was very easy. Although our advised check in wasn’t until 3pm we arrived at 11.30am without a problem. The queue was long but with so many staff working at the check in desks we were at front and collecting our cruise cards ... Read More
Embarkation was very easy. Although our advised check in wasn’t until 3pm we arrived at 11.30am without a problem. The queue was long but with so many staff working at the check in desks we were at front and collecting our cruise cards within 15 minutes. To my surprise we didn’t even have to wait in the lounge we walked straight onto the ship!Cabins were ready so we dropped off our hand luggage and headed to the Da Vinci restaurant on deck 6 for a three course lunch with waiter service. We hate the buffet on embarkation day so the fact that Princess have a main dining room open straightaway is a real treat. We purchased a coffee card (which can be shared as it has a limited number of punches for tea and coffee, plus unlimited filter coffee) and two UKP drinks packages (which gives unlimited hot chocolate, milkshakes, mocktails, frozen drinks, juices and sodas). After lunch we headed back to our cabin and most of our luggage had already been delivered. Our cabin was an outside cabin on deck 5 which was a superb location as it was only five metres away from the International café and Piazza.Our steward provided us with extra hangers and as the wardrobe had no doors it was surprising how many clothes we were able to hang up. Above the hanging space there was a shelf where the life jackets were located but there was still ample space for storage. In addition, there were two bedside tables with a storage space and two drawers, the vanity table had two shelves in a cupboard on the right and by the wardrobe there were shelves on the side wall from floor to ceiling which was also the location of the combination safe. The fridge was located to the left of the vanity unit and was large enough for the ice bucket, a box of wine and a bottle of fizz. There were two US sockets and we brought a four bar extension lead for all our electrical equipment. The children slept in bunks above our beds which were lowered at night when the beds were turned down and then put away in the morning when the room was made up. The bathroom was tiny. The shower had a shower curtain and there was not a lot of space so dropping the soap ended up being quite tricky! Large towels, hand towels, flannels and pool towels were provided. There were also bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotion provided plus many bars of soap. The bathroom had three little shelves on the left so there was room for all our toiletries despite the small size.After unpacking we collected treasure hunt cards and had fun exploring the ship and getting stamps at each named location. This was an excellent way of getting to know the ship and we had great fun. We also filled in the spa raffle cards and after our muster drill we headed up on deck for the sail away party. The live band were really good and to encourage people to dance they gave out raffle tickets for every song for people who were dancing which was a great idea. Then they drew cards from the treasure hunt. The prizes were very varied from dinner for two at Sabatini’s (specialty Italian restaurant) to a glass of Martini. Next was the sail away raffle and having danced every dance we had loads of tickets. I won a bottle of fizz and our son won a Princess drinks bottle. We then went off to the Spa raffle and I won $150 Spa voucher!The Crown is a beautiful ship and we had a fabulous time from the moment that we stepped on board. The Art Gallery just outside our cabin was quite extensive and had a good variety of art which would appeal to most tastes. The International Café was open 24 hours a day and served a variety of complementary pastries, salads, sandwiches and cakes depending on the time of the day. It also sold ice cream for $1.50 for three scoops on a glass plate. This was also the location for specialty teas and coffees. On the opposite side of the Piazza was Vines the wine and sushi bar. We did a Champagne tasting on the last night at Vines which was really enjoyable even though they did serve a Californian fizz as one of the Champagnes and our host was relying on notes rather than her own knowledge. The Piazza was the location for a variety of entertainment including the Champagne waterfall on the first formal night, the balloon drop on the second formal night, a string quartet, singers and a body balancing act. Deck 5 was also the location for the Internet café and future cruise sales. The future cruise sale rep was not available for the majority of our cruise but there was a drop box for future deposits and on board credit.The Passenger Services desk on deck 6 was always well manned. There were also two self serve machines for print outs of your on board account. In addition there were machines for foreign exchange currency. The shore excursions department was next to Passenger Services. There was a drop box for excursions (just outside the Casino) for passengers who wanted to book or cancel shore excursions when the desk was closed. Deck 6 (and 7) is the location of the Princess Theatre which had three shows a night so unlike some cruise ships we’ve been on we were always able to get a seat. The entertainment was generally good. The singers and dancers were excellent and the comedy impressionist Gary T Thompson was hilarious on his first show but the comedian on the first night was terrible and the second show by the Gary didn’t live up to the first.Deck 7 was the Promenade deck and a good deck to walk from aft to forward indoors as not all decks are accessible from one end of the ship to the other. Similarly deck 15, the Lido deck, was handy when heading from the Spa forward on deck 16 to the kids’ club aft on deck 16.The pools on deck 15 were heated and the children were surprised just how warm they were. There were also two additional adult only pools. Forward at the Spa next to the Sanctuary and aft at the back of Café Caribe. There was a large movie screen above one of the pools which showed films daily.There were self-service Laundromats available on decks 5, 8-14 which although not needed on our 7 day cruise would have been a extremely valuable on a longer cruise and Princess is the only American cruise line that we have found this service.The food on the Crown was outstanding. We loved lunch in the main dining room and were disappointed that it was not open on port days. As anytime diners we had the choice of eating in either the Michelangelo Restaurant or Da Vinci restaurant so if there was a queue at one we just went to the other. As we were cruising in Europe the busiest time was 7-30 to 8-30 with early diners able to walk in without a queue no problem. They did have a pager system so if you wanted a table for 2 and not share but there wasn’t a table available you could take a pager and enjoy a drink in the Piazza while waiting. The Botticelli restaurant (aft deck 6) was fixed dining only. Children are able to order from the main menu or the children's menu or a combination of the two. They are also able to get complementary chocolate milk and fruit juice with the evening meal. Our children's favourite breakfast was smoked salmon and bagel, lunch was pizza and favourite dinner was medallions of beef. My highlights included egg Benedict (served on request even when not on the menu), fettucini Alfredo, lobster, Beef Wellington and all the wonderful fish dishes. If you are like me and find that your two favourite main courses appear on the same evening have the lobster as a fish course and then the beef as the main!Our dining highlight was Chef’s Table which I can’t recommend enough. We were treated like VIPs for the entire evening, given the guided tour in the working galley on deck 6 with the Maitre D before savouring amazing canapés with Champagne each one made by the executive chef himself. We were then led down to Michelangelo restaurant for a gastronomic extravaganza all accompanied by fine wines, candle light (yes real candles) and great company. The main course was flambéed in the restaurant before our eyes which was really spectacular. The evening ended with a rose and group photo for the ladies and a Princess recipe book for the gents.There were two specialty restaurants open in the evening, the Crown Grill for steaks and lobster and Sabatini’s for Italian cuisine. Although we didn’t eat at either we met so many people who raved about the Crown Grill.All food we found on deck 15 was complementary including hamburgers, hotdogs and fries at the Trident Grill , the Pizzeria made fresh pizzas in visible ovens which were huge so a slice of pizza barely fitted on the plate. Both eateries were by the pool and extremely popular with swimmers and sunbathers on deck. This was also the location for the complementary ice cream bar served in either a cone or a tub from 11am to 11pm.Inside, Horizon Court buffet served a very limited lunch which did not meet our expectations of Royal Caribbean or Celebrity. This was probably why the International Café was so popular on deck 5 as the salads and pastries always looked so tempting. Café Caribe at the back of Horizon Court was a bit of a non event with only continental breakfast served there from 5am-10am.The staff on Princess were extremely conscientious and friendly. The waitstaff were always attentive but never rushed us, the drinks staff were alert to a nearly empty glasses which meant we never had to go without a drink at dinner while we waited for another. The daytime staff were equally superb at their jobs. We played Win, Lose or Draw (that’s Pictionary to you and me), did a couple of quizzes, played and won champagne hoopla, played the golf chipping challenge, watched a film in the theatre, took part in flashmob and attended the Champagne art auction. We were lucky that there was always going on we were spoilt for choice and never made it to the mini golf course, Casino, the bingo, the aerobics studio or gym.Our children both went to Shockwaves, the kids’ club for 8-12 year olds. They were able to sign themselves in and out at sea, but needed us to sign them in and out when in port. They both had a great time and came home with t-shirts, hand made jewellery and a decorated picture frame. Our daughter especially loved making things while our son enjoyed the playing games and the competitions. Unlike most cruise lines the children were not given a muster bracelet. Equally we were not given child life jackets from our steward despite asking. When we mentioned it to one of the officers she was absolutely horrified and we got the impression that our steward wouldn’t make the same mistake again.We had intended to take the Princess excursion to Bordeaux but our son wasn’t feeling well that morning. I went to the Shore Excursion desk to find out whether we would be able to get any money back and they were fantastic and told us that it was understandable that people get ill especially as it was very rough that night and gave us a full refund without penalty on return of our tickets. I was so impressed as this was superb customer service by Princess.Disembarkation was easy and hassle free. We put our suitcases out the night before and walked off with our hand luggage easily finding our suitcases in the baggage collection hall. A couple of days prior to disembarkation we were asked what time we would like to get off and got our requested time. All passengers are given coloured and numbered labels for cases to indicate disembarkation time and then the luggage in stored in coloured and numbered zones so need to panic at the thought of 3000 passengers trying to find their suitcases at the same time !Our ports of call were La Coruna, Bilbao (free shuttle provided), Le Verdon (free shuttle to Soulac sur Mer or excursions to Bordeaux) and Guernsey which was a tender port. All ports were very easy to do DIY and walk around. The tides were causing issues with the gangways and at times one of the gangways was closed for repositioning. Wheelchair users were warned that they may not be able to disembark at Guernsey but we saw several getting back on the tenders with wheel chair assistants at the ready.We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and walked off the ship desperate to book another one. Princess is certainly a quality cruise company and their staff made every effort to ensure that we all had an amazing time. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2006
Just returned from a 15 night cruise. We had a bumpy start, the BVE people who had paid to get on the ship with passengers rec'd a call the day before sailing to say their boarding passes were cancelled and we were very disappointed. ... Read More
Just returned from a 15 night cruise. We had a bumpy start, the BVE people who had paid to get on the ship with passengers rec'd a call the day before sailing to say their boarding passes were cancelled and we were very disappointed. We were supposed to sail until the bridge around 4 pm and at 11:30 pm we were still at the port and so we went to bed. When we woke we were out to sea thank goodness! The ship had just replaced all its carpeting throughout and everything was clean. However there were some plumbing issues on some decks, and being sold out the people could not be moved to new cabins. Not one complaint about the service, everyone was friendly and helpful, I would give the staff a 10. Entertainment was above average, and we enjoyed all the entertainers, another 10. Food was a different story, since the addition of the specialty dinning, the food choices have gone down in the main dining room. The meat served is not the same as it once was, but then why would it be if they can get you to pay $25 for a great steak. The Crab shack is a bust as we heard from others who tried it. The buffet is same as most on all ships and would give it a 6-7 rating. The addition of the International Cafe was good and a good fit you have the need for a snack at any time, would give that a 9, and the new Pizza Cafe was excellent a score of 10. Not much storage in the rooms and oh my the closest space was so small! They have flat screen TV in the room but did not mount them on the wall, so they took up valuable space that could have been turned into more storage. Thank goodness the suitcases fit under the beds. Showers were good size but very little storage space in the bathroom, use to having double cabinets on on each side of the sink on Royal. This was a special cruise with my Mother and she enjoyed herself, so that is all that matters. Had a great cabin location if walking is a problem for you, we were close to almost everything you needed and only three doors from the elevator. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
I am a grandmother who always wanted to take a cruise. I finally got the chance. We drove from the mountains of NC to Port Canaveral-myself, DH, DS(1),DDIL, GD1(10), GS1(8), and GD2(6). 11 hrs in a van with a very nervous DH who ... Read More
I am a grandmother who always wanted to take a cruise. I finally got the chance. We drove from the mountains of NC to Port Canaveral-myself, DH, DS(1),DDIL, GD1(10), GS1(8), and GD2(6). 11 hrs in a van with a very nervous DH who wasn't exactly sure he wanted to go but wanted me to have my dream. From the time we crossed the bridge and saw the ship the van rocked until I was afraid it might overturn or explode from excitement. When we got into the terminal,it was beautfully decorated for Christmas. After we registered DH started to relax a little. DDIL registered the kids for activities and we finally got called to go through "the ears"' Family picture taken we walked into the ship. When they announced us DH was ecstatic. We ate lunch walked the ship, went to our rooms, which connected, and so began the fun. Our room host, Nonoy,wasfantastic.Until this day the family swears he slept under the bed and every time we left came out and cleaned the room. Our servers, Wayan and friends, were great and kept the kids entertained at mealtime. We saw the rest of the family at mealtime but everyone had a blast.The grandkids enjoyed the clubs and the pools, the kids enjoyed time for themselves and we enjoyed everything. Nassau was alright but DH was nervous about getting too far away from the ship. We visited the Straw Market and got back on board. We loved Castaway Cay!! How beautiful! (We would really like to live there.) We all snorkeled except for DDIL and GD2, ate lunch, and then DS's family biked while we rode the paddle boats. We went back on ship to take a nap. Our review -the food was marvelous, the staff friendly and courteous, and everything was run very efficiently. We have been on the Wonder twice since then-once by ourselves and once we took DMIL(who is in a wheelchair) and have always gotten the same excellent service. We went on another cruise line with our other son and had to be towed into port because the power went out.We are going again (just the 2 of us) in October. If you look at the doors leading off the ship you'll probably see my fingernail marks where they've had to drag us off the ship! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2006
My wife and I are usually cruising over Christmas, but my Mom asked us to be home this year, so we moved our cruise up a week. This was our fifth holiday cruise and sixth cruise on Norwegian. The Jewel was our second Jewel-class ship - we ... Read More
My wife and I are usually cruising over Christmas, but my Mom asked us to be home this year, so we moved our cruise up a week. This was our fifth holiday cruise and sixth cruise on Norwegian. The Jewel was our second Jewel-class ship - we sailed on the Pearl a couple of years ago. While it was not exactly the same as a Christmas cruise, it was a cruise with a holiday spirit, especially compared to a New Year's cruise we did a couple of years ago where we left on Christmas Day and everyone seemed a bit cranky until New Year's Eve - the last night of the cruise. Sailing on another ship in the same class was great because we almost instantly knew where everything was onboard - it was like coming home. That saved us a lot of time the first couple of days on just getting around the ship. The Jewel is a nice ship and I can easily find my way around her layout, but as our last two cruises were on the Epic and the Breakaway, she almost seemed a step down - which I think may be an unfair comparison, but that was first impressions. The Jewel felt older (because she is) and smaller (also because she is), so I think the comparison was accurate, but it doesn't mean that we didn't like her - it is just a different experience. This was an interesting cruise for us because all of the ports were places we had been before, so we had different excursions booked than previously. We didn't book anything in Cozumel since we were meeting friends who were also in port that day (on the Dawn.) We flew into New Orleans the night before departure and stayed at the Hyatt French Quarter - we booked our own flights and hotel. Coming from Dallas, we could probably fly in the day of departure, but I don't have that much stomach lining to spare. Plus, a night in New Orleans is always interesting. We did a little wandering around on Bourbon Street, so we got some of the Nawlins tourist experience. We arrived at the port just after 11am and got through the paperwork phase quickly. After a short wait, we were allowed to board, and had coffee in the Atrium. This caused a moment of panic, since the computers weren't up yet, and the staff was running paper receipts. I was asked what my room number was, and I had to admit that I had no idea. This is what happens when my wife is in charge of the reservations. Luckily, she had left all the paperwork while she was wandering, so I found my room number. I would have hated to see my first drink repossessed. We pre-booked our dinners and excursions online as they became available, which meant we didn't have any lines to stand in, so we just relaxed with a drink until we decided to go eat lunch in the Tsar's Palace MDR. I had my usual steak lunch to start the cruise. It was very good. We were allowed up to the rooms just after 1pm, which seemed early to me, but I was happy to get clearance to go see our home for the next week. We were in an aft-facing handicap-accessible mini-suite. It is a nice cabin, but a mini-suite is not a suite (no extra services), and aft-facing was not the nirvana we expected. You are looking out the back of the ship, but it's not really much different (to me) to a balcony anywhere else, and if you are sailing west or north most evenings, you will never see a sunset, which was my goal. So, it was worth the expense to see it once, but I'm not really sure I would pay for it again. We had pre-booked the dinner package with Cagney's, Le Bistro and Mama's for a fixed price, plus a bottle of wine. The first night, we were asked what type of wine (red or white), served, and at the end of the evening, we were given a receipt for the glasses we had not consumed. Since we're not really wine drinkers, the bottle of wine was a nice touch, but saving a bit of money over the individual dinners was more important - since these were the three restaurants we would have visited, anyway. Mama's was having a bit of a mid-life crisis. Sometimes, it was "Mama's" and sometimes it was "La Cucina" (which is what the Italian restaurant is called on other ships.) Hopefully, the name will be standardized. All of the dining was very good and the service was good, as well - we had two dinners in Le Bistro, one in Mama's, one in Cagney's and the rest in Azura so I didn't have to change out of shorts. We did eat at Azura one evening and I felt under-dressed, which was a first. There were less sloppy people on this cruise than usual. We ordered room service for a snack one evening and it was very slow. However, it was just after all the shows finished, so they may have been slammed. It there had been anything open, I would have just walked down and gotten food myself. It would have saved time. (On the newer ships, we would have just gone to O'Sheehan's.) The staff were great - the Captain was very funny, and I believe staff attitude and actions start at the top. We had no issues with any of the staff. The cruise director and her assistants were not as visible as some have been, but we weren't wandering around as much as on some cruises, so we may not have been in the right places. The evening entertainment (Newlywed, Not So Newlywed, Dancing with the Jewel Stars and other assorted games) were very funny and paced well. We skipped the planned entertainment. Our first port was Montego Bay, Jamaica and we were docked, but at the commercial dock next to the passenger dock, so all the excursion buses met us there and brought us back. We were on a Norwegian-sponsored excursion, so we just got off the ship and into line. Coming back to the commercial port was an issue if people wanted to shop - but in our case, the excursion went long, so there wasn't much time left, anyway. Our next stop was Georgetown, Grand Cayman and we tendered. The seas must have been up that day, because we had an excursion canceled (Stingray City) for the first time. We did manage to switch to an alternate excursion - a beach break, but there was only one person at the excursion desk, so it took some time. This was a bit irritating, since the desk knew anyone going to Stingray City (either as an only destination or as a part of a longer excursion) might be changing to something else, so wouldn't it make sense to have extra people around? The beach excursion was fun and the cost differential was handled easily, so it worked out. This was actually our second stop in Grand Cayman - we had diverted there on the way to Jamaica for a medical emergency, and had a passenger disembark for care. All we know about it was what we heard from other passengers - since we were aft-facing, we didn't really see anything going on. Our final port was Cozumel on a day that seven ships were in port. We tendered and it was a rough procedure - the currents were up, so we could tender off only one side of the ship, so it took quite a while. I was beginning to wonder if we were going to make our noon appointment! I am glad we didn't have a planned excursion, since we were not in port late and it took so long to get off the ship. Going back was bumpy as well. In all, this was a very good cruise. I do enjoy the Jewel class ships (I miss the Spinnaker lounge when we are on the newer ships.) The staff was very helpful, as always. I did expect more Christmas events - even though it was the week before. The ship was decorated but the Christmas music that is usually playing on the TV was missing, and it seemed more like a prelude to Christmas (which is was.) Someone asked about it in the Officer's Q&A, and the cruise director said "Christmas is next week." This is true, but I think for many people, it was a Christmas cruise. Still, it was not a major issue for me - I just had been told by other cruisers that it would be Christmas onboard, and it was, but it wasn't. The navigation channel on the TV was out. This is a minor issue unless you actually enjoy navigation and trying to determine where you are (and like having something to double-check your GPS readings.) Someone else asked about it in the Q&A session and the Captain said the software was being upgraded, but it wasn't ready, so it was off - since that was better than showing incorrect values. A minor disappointment, but I was glad to know I wasn't the only navigation nerd onboard. Disembarkation was reasonable - I think they were actually ahead of schedule when our color was called. We got through customs and security fairly quickly and our porter helped us find a cab for the ride back to the airport. I did enjoy the itinerary - even though we had been to the ports before, they were places I would visit again, and there were three sea days to just relax onboard. The Jewel seemed like home, since we had been on the Pearl, so it was a good week. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2007
First, some background information. I received a "great last-minute deal" offer from an online TA in late November for a 5-Day Western Caribbean sailing on the brand new Norwegian Pearl. The offer was too good to refuse, so I ... Read More
First, some background information. I received a "great last-minute deal" offer from an online TA in late November for a 5-Day Western Caribbean sailing on the brand new Norwegian Pearl. The offer was too good to refuse, so I recruited by brother as my traveling companion, and booked it. We had paid for a Category N guarantee...by the time the confirmation came back, NCL had upgraded us to a Category JJ on Deck 9. Day One - Embarkation Miami We flew into Miami on the morning of the flight. Our sailing was scheduled for 8pm and we were advised that boarding would not begin until sometime between 1 and 2pm. To pass the time, we caught a cab from the Airport to Bayside to shop and have lunch. As is our practice when traveling, we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (add another pin to the collection) where we could sit at look at the Pearl from the windows of the restaurant. There were a total of 6 ships at the Port of Miami that day...and that lead to the first "issue" on this trip. With 6 ships full of passengers having debarked, the traffic leaving the cruise terminal was extremely backed up. Because of this, cabbies were refusing to take us from Bayside to the cruise terminal...they felt the short ride (i.e. low fare) wasn't worth what they would lose being stuck in the exiting traffic jam. It took some doing (and a little bribe), and we finally caught a cab and were on our way. We arrived at the pier a little after 1pm, passed the luggage to the port workers and went inside to get in line to check in. Surprisingly, there really wasn't much of a line...it seems that they actually got boarding started around 11, so it had really thinned out by this time. We completed check in, got our key cards, posed for the embarkation picture, and were off to the ship! Cabins were ready, so we were able to drop off our carry-ons and start to explore our home for the next five days. The Pearl is a beautiful ship. The pictures online really do not do her justice. This ship has to be seen in person. Once we were done with the brief "tour", we returned to the room to get ready for the muster drill. We met our room stewards, Johnson and Susanna outside our room. They were extremely polite and friendly. (And remained that way throughout the cruise). Our muster station was the Indigo Main Dining Room. I didn't know this at the time, but this was the only time I would be here this entire cruise. After the muster drill, we headed for the top decks. With 6 ships (2 each from Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean) in port, there was plenty to see. Since we were scheduled to leave last, we could sit out and watch each of the other 5 ships pull away from the pier and head out to sea. For dinner, we booked a table in Le' Bistro. The service, atmosphere, and the food were fantastic. By the time we finished, the Pearl had left the pier and was well underway. We completely missed sail away! No matter, good food...good company. Since we missed that party, we decided to head up to Spinnakers to see what was going on there. This place was PACKED! It looked like the whole ship had the same idea. You could barely move. As it turned out, that was a good thing. For the rest of the cruise, there seemed to be two different crowds. The 20s and early 30s crowd spent their evenings in Bliss, while the late 30s and up crowd spent their evenings in Spinnakers...and the crowds were never bad again. Day Two - At Sea One thing to understand...my brother is a "sleep in" person, while I am not. So, not wanting to waste a minute of my vacation, I had set my alarm to go off about 15 minutes before sunrise. I got up, threw on some shorts and sneakers and got to watch the sunrise from the jogging track. What a beautiful sight! After walking a few laps (yes walking...this is vacation) I headed down to the Great Outdoors to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. This is a great way to start your day. Time for the first "LOL" of the cruise. When I returned to the cabin, there was my brother, sitting on the end of his bed with a look of half anger and half confusion on his face. The anger came from the fact that when he woke up, he didn't see me in bed and assumed that I was in the bathroom getting ready...and he "needed" to use it. The confusion was a result of me walking into the room and the ensuing realization that I was, in fact, not in the bathroom and that it had been vacant the whole time! After I was able to shower and dress, it was off to Le Bistro for the Meet & Greet. There was probably about 25 people from the roll call in attendance. Additionally, Captain Trond Kildal, Hotel Director Klaus Lugmaier, Asst Hotel Director Prem Kainikkara, Cruise Director Clint Wells, Food & Beverage Director Sean Wurmhoeringer, and a few others came on behalf of the ship's staff. They were all very gracious, taking the time to introduce themselves and answer any questions that we had. Dinner was at Teppanyaki. It was very enjoyable. We were able to meet some interesting and fun people during dinner. The food was well prepared and the "show" was enjoyable. Second "issue" of the cruise: (Note that this was the only real issue. The others were very minor and not any big deal at all.) We had two shore excursions booked for Cozumel; parasailing in the morning, and time on a party boat in the afternoon. When we were getting things ready for the next day, I noticed that someone had changed the scheduled times of our excursions, which would not normally an issue, but you can't parasail if you've been drinking all morning...so this new schedule would not work out. I went to reception to get this changed back. They said the change was done because the morning parasailing had been cancelled and this was the only way we could do both. I explained that you couldn't parasail if you had been drinking first, so we were only going to be doing one excursion anyway. That being the case, I would rather parasail in the afternoon than "party" first thing in the morning. We were told that the excursions could not be changed since it was past 6pm on the day before the excursion and the shore excursion desk was closed for the night. This went back and forth for a while with no progress. Finally, they told me to just see the shore excursion people the next day as they would be available on the beach where everyone met for their excursions. This wasn't going to work. Then I ran into Klaus. I had given up for the evening and was headed back to the room when I ran into Klaus in the hallway. Recognizing me from the Meet & Greet he stopped and asked how my cruise had been going, was I having a good time, did I need anything, etc. So I told him what was going on with the excursions. I'll never forget his reaction. He was genuinely appalled at the customer service I had received. And he fixed it....fast. He delivered the type of service that makes you a customer for life. I learned two things: 1) Check over all of the details on your booked excursions immediately upon boarding...don't wait, and 2) Go to the Meet & Greet to get to know the crewmembers in attendance. When they ask how things are, they aren't just making small talk...they really want to know and they do care. Day Three - Cozumel, Mexico Our day in Cozumel started out with some unexpected entertainment. We pulled in and tied up to the pier. It took about 45 minutes to get everything done so that passengers could disembark. This was just at the time when the Coral Princess was scheduled to dock next to us. For safety reasons, we were told we could not disembark until the Coral Princess was tied up. So the morning entertainment was watching our new neighbor dock. It must have been their first time at this dock, though, as they couldn't get off of the ship. They had one gangway to use and where the gangway would attach to the ship stood a big light pole on the pier! It took a bunch of confused dock workers about a half hour to figure out what to do! Once we finally got off the ship, we walked into town for more of our practice...lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (and another pin for the collection) followed by some souvenir shopping in town. We got back in time to be picked up for our parasailing excursion. This was a lot of fun. There was a total of eight of us that signed up. Three pairs (tandem) and my brother and I went up separately. It was a great time, and the tour provider did a wonderful job. When we returned to the ship, we found treats in our room "Courtesy of the Hotel Director". A really nice touch. We spent the remainder of the day in the spa enjoying the steam room and sauna. Dinner was in the Main Dining Room. This would turn out to be the worst meal of the cruise. The food was OK, but there really wasn't anything on the menu that I liked that night. Additionally, I think my stomach wasn't real happy about bobbing around in the parasailing boat all afternoon. After dinner, we went to the Stardust to catch the 2nd City Show. It was very entertaining. Day Four - Belize City, Belize Belize was a tender port. We had booked the Lost Canopy Zip Line Tour with the ship. After a short tender ride, we met up with our group, were loaded on a bus, and were on our way. Our adventure started with a guided tour of the town and outlying countryside, followed by a looooooooong stretch on a pothole-filled dirt road to the zip line site. Afterwards, they took us for a barbeque lunch. All-in-all a really fun day. If you go, don't forget your bug spray. We had some time to browse through the many shops at the pier before returning to the ship on one of the last tenders. We had reservations at Mambo's, so we went to the room to shower and change for dinner. While we were gone, more treats had been delivered to the cabin... "Compliments of the Concierge - Ruth". What a pleasant surprise. Mambo's was fantastic. In every restaurant (except once in the MDR) I was able to find at least 2 or 3 items that I liked to choose from. Not here. I liked EVERYTHING. I should say that I LOVE Mexican food. I could eat it everyday. If I would have known about this menu earlier in the cruise, I would have eaten here every day. After dinner, we went to the Stardust to see Jean Ann Ryan's Garden of the Geisha show. It was also fantastic. Interesting to see them doing acrobatics on a moving ship. Day Five - At Sea Our last full day onboard. Surprisingly enough, the last four days had gone by pretty slow. Time to enjoy and absorb everything. Not today. This day went flying by like a speeding train. I think it was the knowledge that we were on our way back home. We finally got to spend some time on the Pearl's rock climbing wall. We had met some friends on the zip line tour so they joined us for some climbing time. It was a lot of fun. Dinner for our last evening was to be in Cagney's...courtesy of Klaus. (Thank you). Great service, great food, and to top it off, the Asst Maitre D', Joey Lepasana was fantastic. I had no idea what I wanted to eat, and he made some great recommendations. After dinner, we went down to catch the early show in the Stardust. Tonight's show was the Comedy Magic of Bob and Sarah Trunell, followed by the crew show. It was excellent. Afterwards, I had planned to stop in the shops. I wanted to get an NCL Pearl "Inaugural Season" souvenir. Third "issue" of the cruise...I couldn't get a souvenir. All of the shops had closed for the night (and the remainder of the cruise) at 6pm...for inventory. Unbelievable! I didn't want to ruin my last night over this, so I just moved on. It just seemed silly to close stores when you had customers ready to spend money. I guess you have to pick your battles. Day Six - Disembarkation Miami We were scheduled to dock at 8am in Miami. I wanted to get up so that I could watch the ship come in, turn around in the basin, and then dock at the pier. Wasn't meant to be. I woke up at 7am. We were already tied to the pier in Miami. Nothing to do but have breakfast and get ready to leave. We had a nice leisurely breakfast in the Great Outdoors. If the weather is nice, you can't beat this place for breakfast. Disembarking was very easy. We had left our luggage out the night before, so we just grabbed our carry-ons and walked off. We were easily able to find our luggage on the pier and customs was a snap. I don't think the whole think took more than 15 minutes. Plenty of cabs were available for the quick trip to Miami Airport for the flight home. Summary This cruise was the first time I had been on a ship in 20 years. "Traditional" cruising never appealed to me. Now that I've tried freestyle, I know I'll be back. A lot of places refer to you as their "customer", NCL staffers kept referring to us as "guests". Now I see why. That is how they treat you. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
Our 10 night Southern Caribbean cruise on the Maasdam was one of my favorites. The ship itself, though small, was beautiful and more than comfortable, even in our inside cabin. I can find very few things to complain about--the weather was ... Read More
Our 10 night Southern Caribbean cruise on the Maasdam was one of my favorites. The ship itself, though small, was beautiful and more than comfortable, even in our inside cabin. I can find very few things to complain about--the weather was a little rough our first few days, so we had to skip Half Moon Cay, but that was hardly the ship's fault. The food was absolutely delicious and more than exceeded the high expectations we have of the Holland America Line. The service was as good as I have seen in the cruising world-friendly and personal, by the end of the cruise even crew members in the bar knew us, conversed with us, and asked if we would like our usual favorites. Our waiter entertained us with magic tricks--mostly for the kids' benefit, but entertaining and touching nonetheless. I highly recommend longer cruises if you want good service, and longer cruises on smaller mid-size ships especially. The public areas were beautifully decorated, especially the piano bar, with cloth wall hangings that made it look like the inside of a Far East tent. We discovered it near the end of the cruise and enjoyed delicious complimentary appetizers, including duck spring rolls. The entire ship was spotless and in very good condition. The Lido restaurants onboard Holland America's ships are the best cruise ship buffets in my opinion--very clean, beautifully decorated, food nearly as good as in the main dining room, and good service. Some ships have individual stations for pasta, Asian, deli, etcetera where the crew member will personalize your food. The Maasdam did not have the individual stations and had a more traditional long buffet instead, which required you to wait in lines, but they were not too long and it was still remarkably well serviced for a buffet, and you could still get made-to-order pasta or stir-fry. The Lido pool area was very nice, with a graceful dolphin statue and raised terrace for eating. There were not very many children onboard the ship on our trip but the children in our family like it better that way--fewer kids means more personalized attention in the kids' program, better activities, and more chances to bond with the other kids. We still keep in touch with some of the friends we met onboard. The itinerary was incredible. Dominica had a botanical garden with a small mountain which we hiked on our own for beautiful view of the sea and the island. Unfortunately we had to skip Half Moon Cay but we have been there on two other occasions, and it has gorgeous white sand, crystal-clear blue water, fun features like trampolines and other anchored, oversized "toys" in the water, water slides for kids, and if there are two different ships docked they have ship-versus-ship volleyball games and other activities. We also went to Curacao, a beautiful port reminiscent of European towns, and had a great time just walking around. We could have probably replaced St. Thomas with another port as we have already been there many times, but this is forgivable. Altogether the Maasdam was a very nice ship, I give it five stars, and I highly recommend it for families, seniors, couples and just about anyone. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
I took my mother on her 1st cruise and chose the Explorer of the Seas. And I thank God every day that we did. My mother became very ill on the 2nd day of the cruise. The room staff could not have been nicer to her. Mom was not able to ... Read More
I took my mother on her 1st cruise and chose the Explorer of the Seas. And I thank God every day that we did. My mother became very ill on the 2nd day of the cruise. The room staff could not have been nicer to her. Mom was not able to leave the stateroom and our steward would check on her every other hour when she knew that Mom was alone (like when we went to eat or get off ship). We weren't able to keep all but 1 shore excursion because we were afraid to leave ship with Mom being sick. We did get off to go to pharmacy and grocery stores so we could supplies for her. The room staff made sure that she could get things she wanted to eat even if it was not on the menu. The Doctor and Nurses on board were great too - but I just want to make sure the room stewards get their props because they went above and beyond for Mom. Everything else on ship was great. Would never hesitate to take another cruise on Explorer. Read Less

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