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13,188 Family Cruise Reviews

First off we sailed two years ago and since then I know they did an "upgrade" on the ship as well as the itenirary has changed greatly. It now sails out of San Diego to the Mexican riviera, when we went, it sailed out of Port ... Read More
First off we sailed two years ago and since then I know they did an "upgrade" on the ship as well as the itenirary has changed greatly. It now sails out of San Diego to the Mexican riviera, when we went, it sailed out of Port Canaveral to the Bahamas. First off we drove down to the port (I hate to fly) and I also enjoy the scenery you miss when you fly. We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites in Cocoa Beach, just across from the ocean and just a couple minutes from the port- we could even see the ships from our room. On a side note- fabulous hotel for a low rate!! They even will let you park your car there and shuttle you over to the port for free. We did not take advantage of this opportunity and boy we should have. I didn't want to have to wait at the port for a ride as we were in a hurry to get back home (got a call on the way down our children whom we left back at home had fallen very ill). However I found out the hotel shuttle was there waiting even before passengers disembarked. Not to mention I dropped $60 to park at the port. All in all the parking for those who drive is very easy to get in and out of and is as close to the ship as you can get! A porter walked right up to us as we got our luggage out of our car and took care of it for us. We tipped him well since he was very nice, very helpful and carried it across the parking lot. Embarkation: VERY EASY at Canaveral. We stood in a line of about 75 people, got there early, until the doors opened (12:30pm) which was only about 10 minutes later. Once the doors opened, we were inside, through security, checked in at the desk with our sail and sign cards and had a photo taken and on the ship all within 15 minutes flat. We were told our room wouldn't be ready until about 1:30, however we just wanted to get a feel of where our room would be so we walked by right after getting on board and found it already for us. So we dropped off our backpack we took on with us and headed to the buffet. Food- Very good. I was quite surprised to find myself eating such great food during embarkation and before we even set sail! Before the sail off party my wife and I already had ate several things we never had before. The food was always visually stunning and tasted great. We hit the buffet everyday for lunch and breakfast. We also tried the pool side grill for breakfast once to see what it was like and found it was really just another smaller version of the lido deck buffet, but it did have made to order omelets. We ate in the dining room every night for dinner and were never let down. Our server was Cicero and he sure did a great job. By the end of the cruise- he had my wife laughing to the point she almost teared up. She ordered the melting chocolate cake every night- so on the final night, he didn't even give her a desert menu, just brought the cake straight out to her. All the food in the dining room was great, especially on formal night. We both had lobster and they also served filet minon. I never had had a minon, and was talking to another guy at our table when he mentioned, they allow you to order anything you want and as much as you want in the dining room- this I didn't know. So I asked the waiter and sure enough he brought me out a 2nd entree- the filet minon. As a side note- they'll do this for any course, so try a couple things if they both sound good. The only thing we didn't do was go to the dining room for breakfast and lunch. Another couple at our table went there each day for all meals and mentioned it was a great fresh breathe of air to go there instead of the bufett and most people didn't go to the dining room, also they said the food was 10 times better. This is something we are going to do on our next cruise. Entertainment- OKAY. The shows were very good, especially the midnight adult only shows- laughed till we cried! However they do a passenger talent show the night before our last and it's well worth skipping. I didn't shell out $2000 to see a bunch of people try to be the next Carribean Idol- god help them all. As far as at Sea Days, we only had one as we were on a shorter cruise. That day we spent mainly walking around trying to find something to do. This was one of the very few let downs- they scheduled many of the activites (ie: ice carving, galley tours, dance classes, ect) on port days!! This we didn't understand. But we still enjoyed the mini golf and relaxing on the lido deck. Activities- NEEDS IMPROVEMENT. The ship had several pools and a water slide- but we never could find when they were open. Night or day, the pools were always drained and closed. The two times (the evening of sail out, and the afternoon of the 3rd day) we saw them open, they were absolutely ran over by kids. There were so many kids in the pools that the ship actually stationed a crew member at the pool whom would then stop letting more in until so many got out. So needless to say we never got an opportunity to enjoy the pools, slide, or hot tubs. Every night we found all the bars/clubs empty. This was a shock as it was during spring break time, we figured the ship would be livlier, but that partying all took place on the lido deck by the pools. We aren't much for partying, but we left the kids at home to break out of our shell a bit. We did find one bar the final night that had a band doing rock and roll cover music- fantastic show!!! Our cruise director was awesome- very funny and always visable. There was a sidekick though that was a complete dork and annoying. The mini golf was fun, especially where it was located- on top of the ship with a view that is unimaginable! Cabin- Very surprised. We booked a ocean view room, as it was our first cruise as wanted to be able to see the ocean anytime day or night. We were quite surprised the size of the window- it was huge!!! Also the room was much larger than we thought it would be as we always heard the old stories of the tiny cabins on cruise ships- further from the truth. Also the tv played movies that weren't even out on dvd yet, which was nice late at night when we retired to the room- only suggestion: DON'T PLAY THE MOVIE "THE GURDIAN" about coast gurad divers rescuing people from sinking ships on a cruise!!! :) The movie was good though. Our housekeeper was very nice and attentive. He dazzled us with the famous animal towels of course and was always willing to do anything for us. Final Suggestions: GET INVOLVED! Look at the capers (daily newsletter) delivered to your room nightly, and go participate in all the activities/shows/parties that you can. Get to know the other people at your dining table and make friends quickly- do this at the sail out party. The friendlier you are and the more outgoing, the more fun you will have. We were seated with older couples and still had fun and found many things in common. We also ran into another couple at sail out and ended up meeting with them several times at a bar just to chit chat. And finally pack light! You will find that you won't wear half of what you bring. Other than the dining room, we wore a t-shirt and swim suit the entire time. Debarkaton- A NIGHTMARE! We sat in the show room from 7:30am until 10:00am waiting for our number to be called. We eventually gave up and just got in line as we noticed nobody hardly came in to announce the numbers and it was a complete mess. Waiting in line from deck 7 to get to deck 3 to get off and wait for customs as well. Once we got off the ship we waiting another 30 minutes to get out of the terminal. This was awful!!! I've heard much better and smoother debarkations at other ports- from what I can gather, this is pretty much a Port Canaveral problem. Also over the past 12 months, Carnival has imporoved their debarkation process and I've been told by fellow cruisers who've sailed just this year and report being off the ship by 8:30am. We are going to the Western Carribean in January and I hope that holds true. Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
Embarkation and Debarkation were very smooth we did "walk off" and liked that they did it by floor - made it fast and civilized... We were pleased with our balcony cabins - on the port side of ship forward on the Lido deck. ... Read More
Embarkation and Debarkation were very smooth we did "walk off" and liked that they did it by floor - made it fast and civilized... We were pleased with our balcony cabins - on the port side of ship forward on the Lido deck. During a warmer time of year on this cruise I would choose starboard because you do get sun most of the day on the balcony. There was some motion but nothing unusual but we do not suffer from motion issues. It was quiet having cabins both above and below. The location on the Lido deck was excellent - no fighting for an elevator to get to pools, buffet, etc... Also there are self serve laundry facilities on this floor.Food was better than expected - we came in with low expectations and were pleased with the food. It's not Disney but we thought food was as good (though not as much selection) as what we have enjoyed on royal caribbean and the level of dining room service was also comparable to RC. Unlike others experiences the steaks we were served in the dining room were cooked to our order and tender and enjoyable. The buffet food was standard buffet fair, not the best, but much better than having to feed the family myself. I was impressed with the availability of good fresh fruit throughout the cruise. We did do the Emerald Dining Room for $60/couple. We were one of a few couples present the evening we did it. That meal on land would cost more than the $60 you pay but is not the wonderful deal that RC's upgraded dining is at $20/couple additional...The service was attentive but also not at the level of our dining experience on the RC Liberty of the Seas which was truly phenomenal. Camp Carnival was wonderful! The kids had a great time and I was very pleased with the variety of crafts and activities that they had planned. Having an 8 and 10 year old they were not in the same group which actually turned out to be a plus as they enjoyed each other more when they were not in camp. There were not that many kids on board as we sailed the first week that school was back in January - so I do wonder if it would be as fun when there are many more kids there during high season. We were pleased with our cabin and the overall cleanliness of the ship and cabins.. Seemed like a fair amount of effort was put into keeping things clean and disinfected. I liked that they had the hand sanitizers at the end of the buffet lines but would love it if they would make it more mandatory like on Disney. I heard one older man boasting to his friend - I don't use those and I don't wash my hands - and no I don't think he was joking around. We didn't do many activities but enjoyed the comedian, the marriage show, and another game show. We were disappointed that they only had one little sports bar showing the BCS National Championship. I do not understand how a ship built in 2003 cannot have big screen tvs. We asked at the pursers desk and spoke with one of the entertainment staff member but apparently the only "big screen" is in the amber palace where they do the evening shows. Even the sports bar just has a whole lot of smaller tv's - they also showed it on like an oldschool 42in tv at the casino bar and people were stacked 3 deep. We would have had a better viewing experience in our family room... The ship is smoky - smoking is allowed pretty much everywhere - the sports bar where our 10 year old would have liked to play sports trivia games available and watch sports on tv with Dad was also one of the cigar smoking areas so we stayed out. Overall the facilities did not seem well designed for a ship of it's size - it seemed like a rabbits warren of little bars which always seemed to be vacant. It would have been nice to have some larger more useable facilities like a good size sports pub... Also the pools are small - there are 3 and they are about the size of a good size FL resident backyard pool. Our kids didn't bother. And yes if you want a lounge chair get up early and go throw something down. We usually went to breakfast 7ish and there would already be many chairs with books etc marking that they were taken. Overall value - it was cheap and I think a very good value for the money. We actually had two cabins on this cruise but I think next time we agreed we would rather just have one cabin but go on a larger ship with more and better designed public spaces. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was the 11th cruise for my wife and I - five on Royal Caribbean, five on Holland America, and one on the Norwegian Sun. For this cruise, we were joined by our son and daughter, their spouses, and two grandchildren. We picked the ... Read More
This was the 11th cruise for my wife and I - five on Royal Caribbean, five on Holland America, and one on the Norwegian Sun. For this cruise, we were joined by our son and daughter, their spouses, and two grandchildren. We picked the Liberty of the Seas because we thought our grandkids would love the ship's activities and we picked the Eastern Caribbean cruise because of relatively few stops. In other words, the ship was the focal point and for that reason, much of this review is dedicated to the Liberty of the Seas rather than the ports visited. The Ship We had two adjoining balcony cabins that each slept three (one grandkid in each) with the third unit on the same level. We opened the balcony door between the neighboring cabins and the kids basically ran back and forth for much of the cruise. We went to the Windjammer for our first lunch and quickly encountered the theme that was to be repeated for the rest of the week - as big as the ship is, the common areas are just too small when the cruise is sold out. Also there were 500 plus kids on board which added to the perception of a swarming bee hive. The pluses are many for the Liberty. It is a beautiful ship in the RC mode. Based on our cruising experiences, HAL aims for "class", RC goes for "flash", and the Norwegian Sun is basically a "people hauler" but with great food and entertainment. And the Liberty is loaded with "flash" - although perhaps approaching "tacky" in some areas. The basic facilities are unsurpassed and are by now well known - a great water park for kids, a very large rock wall, a skating rink, a flow rider, fast elevators, a three level dining room, a large theater (albeit with a very non-RC ambience - incredibly boring and with mediocre sight lines), a smallish but very nice movie theater, a large casino, and a wonderful and well equipped gym. There are two large hot tubs cantilevered over the side of the ship plus two other spas and three pools - one for adults, one for kids, and one for both. Of course, all were crowded; deck chairs were at a premium after 8 a.m. I won't list the many shops, bars, and restaurants that are also scattered throughout. The main feature of the ship has to be the huge promenade - five stories high and hundreds of feet long. It serves well as a common area although, of course, it was often very crowded - even at midnight. By the way, if you are interested in sitting in a deck chair and reading a good book, try the promenade deck (four). It was seldom crowded and you could usually get a shuffleboard with no waiting. I suspect that many on the cruise never discovered this deck. The Service Considering the number of people that were on the cruise, services tended to be on the slow side with line-ups common. An exception to this was our cabin attendant who was very efficient (our grandkids especially looked forward to the towel animals every evening). The dining room was a different story. Our main dinner sitting was slow in spite of our waiters who were friendly and worked as quickly as anyone could expect. The problem appeared to be kitchen related and no doubt could be traced to the number of people they were attempting to service. Twice on evenings when there was only one show, we didn't get out of the dining room in time to attend the theater performance. Ironically, in spite of slow service, we ended up eating many of our other meals in the dining room because the Windjammer was so crowded. I overheard two members of the dining room staff complaining to each other about the larger than expected number of diners so obviously many others had also fled the Windjammer. These increased numbers no doubt slowed service further but at least one was not walking around with a plate full of food looking for a table. We also tried Johnny Rockets cafe (good but also crowded and slow) as well as Jade which is just an awkward extension of the Windjammer. By the way, the food quality was the best we ever experienced on RC - a common complaint from our first four voyages with them. Both kids spent some time in the Kid's Club and both reported good things. Our eight year old grandson was especially enamored with the rock wall but was bitterly disappointed that he was too short to try the flow rider (he checked everyday just in case he had grown that required one more inch overnight!). The entertainment was typical cruise fare - a good but not excellent dance troupe, a juggler, an impersonator, and a comedian. All were enjoyable but nothing to bring you to your feet (in spite of the repeated urging of the cruise director). The ice show, on the other hand, was great (go early, the facility fills up quickly). I skated on the rink and the ice was about what you would expect in the Caribbean - ruts and slush. I'm sure the performers had a fresh flood for their show but the ice did not look great and the rink size (40 x 60 feet) is much smaller than what they would be used to. There must have been 10 skaters and they did a great job. A few minor quibbles. The chocolate on the pillow at night has apparently fallen under the axe of the bean counters as have the daily sudoku and crossword puzzles in the library. Okay, so the chocolates were mainly wax - it still was a nice touch. I especially missed the small daily papers that were a part of our previous cruises. I suppose that the reasoning is that one can watch CNN but it is 99% of its coverage is devoted to U.S. news. For the people from the other 31 countries on board, one would have to use the expensive Internet connections to check news on the home front. Bring back my paper! Disembarkation (what an awkward word) was a nightmare. We left our waiting lounge shortly before our son and family who are U.S. citizens. It took them five minutes to get off the ship whereas we were stuck in a long, long lineup. Fortunately, we were able to phone them and tell them not to wait for us. Well over an hour later we finally made it to the promenade deck for our final swipe of our room cards. I don't know what the problem was but it didn't seem to be related to customs. Disembarkation is always a bit of a downer when you realize that you have suddenly gone from pampered guests to cattle, but this experience was especially bad. The Ports We had only three stops on the cruise; San Juan, St. Maarten, and Labadee in Haiti. We didn't arrive in San Juan until about 3 pm so we had relatively few hours of daylight. We just did a walk around and returned to the ship. It does seem like an interesting place and one that we will make a point of revisiting. We had been to St. Martin previously and my grandkids enjoyed a beach day collecting shells. My wife and daughter went shopping together whereas my son-in-law and I walked around for a bit, then returned for some gym time. Labadee is RC's private beach. Consistent with our previous attempts to visit private islands, it rained, and rained, and rained. Not to be deterred, we did take the walking tour and got soaked as a reward. To their credit - and to my surprise - RC refunded our money without asking. Labadee seems like a beautiful place and I hope to be able to revisit it. Would I sail on the Liberty of the Seas again? The Liberty (and Freedom and Independence) are huge and change the rules of cruising. Most of our party would avoid these ships in the future - certainly at the premium prices they currently command. My grandson, on the other hand, would quite happily move there permanently. Me? I would sail on these ships again, especially if I could get a reasonably priced, repositioning cruise where sell-outs are less likely and kids are fewer in number. I suspect that when the Oasis is launched later this year, the novelty seekers will flock to that ship and maybe take the pressure off the Liberty and its sisters. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Embarkation at Port of Miami- Big crowd at 12, but went fairly quickly. Rooms not ready till 2PM. People directed to the food court for a buffet lunch. If you don't know your way around, you can pick up a ships layout by the ... Read More
Embarkation at Port of Miami- Big crowd at 12, but went fairly quickly. Rooms not ready till 2PM. People directed to the food court for a buffet lunch. If you don't know your way around, you can pick up a ships layout by the registration desk. By 4PM we had the mandatory emergency drill, which was run smoothly and quickly. The Food- Average in the Main Dining Rooms. Some dishes were good, but the Lobster Tails were like chewing rubber. Order two dishes if you like.There is no problem with that. At in Cagney's(20pp. That was worth the price, but I feel that the line is cutting back on the regular food quality to force you into the specialties. Prices in these venues are rising. On my !ST Norwegian cruise, the Italian was free with advanced reservation. Now it costs. The Chocolate Buffet,which they have once a cruise, was a miniaturized version of what it used to be. Not all chocolate, and very chintzy. The Entertainment- Very Good for the shows I saw (5). The Comedian was hilarious(Dave Heenan). The Jean Anne Ryan show was terrific. Singers and Dancers and High Energy. On board at various venues were stylists who performed Sinatra to Simon and Garfunkel.and everything in-between. You could be as busy as you wanted, but you couldn't possibly see everything. Room and Staff- Adequate. My balcony was peeling railing paint and didn't look clean. The room was nice and cleaned every day, although we never really were introduced to the housekeepers. We were at their last cabin for the day and had to find them. They did do everything we asked. All of the workers and waiters and staff were always smiling and gracious. Ports- Semana is a pathetic attempt at a cheap cruise port. Shame on them! Walked off,saw the abject poverty, and went back to the ship. St. Thomas is the best port for shopping and sightseeing. Rented waverunners at Sugar Bay(not through the cruise lines) Tortola is fair if you do not find an interesting tour. The water was too choppy to tender at Great Stirrup Cay, so we went to Nassau. Go to Atlantis. It is amazing. I guess you get what you pay for. Norwegian is reasonable without the tumult of Carnival. I rate it like Princess. As of January , they charged 12 pp per day for tips, even though when we booked it was $10. More and more past free activities are now being charged(such as kitchen tour, $55). I wish they would stop nickle and diming us. PS-Take express disembarkation, as smooth as silk. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
My wife and I cruised with the Norwegian Spirit out of New Orleans in January. Boarding was well handled, very organized and relatively painless. The Spirit itself was clean, well appointed and very pleasantly decorated. We had only ... Read More
My wife and I cruised with the Norwegian Spirit out of New Orleans in January. Boarding was well handled, very organized and relatively painless. The Spirit itself was clean, well appointed and very pleasantly decorated. We had only cruised once before on an ancient Royal Carribbean Ship called the Nordic Prince (some may remember the old tub) and the experience was awful. That ship was small, old and we were chased up the west coast of Mexico by a hurricane (not RCC's fault) but the experience was so bad we swore off cruising for over 20 years until we decided to take one more chance on Norwegian Cruise Lines. What particularly appealed to us, and what we really liked the most, was the open dining program. To be honest, the food on the Spirit was acceptable but not outstanding. We did experience some very nice meals in the main dining room but the buffet was fairly mundane... not bad... but not great. The staff was exceptional. We were always treated very politely and it seemed the crew went out of it's way to make the experience pleasant. I really loved the ship. It was very roomy and I enjoyed walking the decks and taking in the views... the waters of the Western Caribbean are incredible. We booked an outside cabin and wished later we had booked a balcony or small suite. It would have made the experience even more pleasant. The room was comfortable and the bathroom was very well equipped. This was such a superior experience to the Nordic Prince that we have decided we will go on a few more cruises just to expand our experience. Even though the experience we had on the Spirit wasn't fantastic, it was very enjoyable and pleasant... although next time we will skip a shore excursion or two... we booked an excursion on every port day on this trip and by the time we got back to New Orleans we were pretty tired. Considering everything, we would do the Spirit again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
I traveled with my 3 children on this cruise. My children were 15,13 and 11. This was our first time on RC we had sailed Carnival twice before. The trip was very pleasant. The ship was in excellent shape and very clean. The workers we ... Read More
I traveled with my 3 children on this cruise. My children were 15,13 and 11. This was our first time on RC we had sailed Carnival twice before. The trip was very pleasant. The ship was in excellent shape and very clean. The workers we constantly cleaning. In fact while we were cruising they were installing new carpet in the foyers. The pool area was wonderful. It was not crowded at all. They were not a lot of children on this cruise so it was generally fairly quiet. The cabins were really small for a family of four, but sufficient. They had two lower beds with bunks up above, a comfortable sitting chair and a desk with a chair. By the time we got all of the luggage in the room there was no room to spare. The food was good but I prefer the food on Carnival much better. On Carnival we had nice jumbo shrimp and great cheese sampler plates, lobster and great desserts. On RC the food portions were smaller and the food was good but not great. I guess what I am trying to say was when we left the Carnival dinner table everyone in our group was raving about the food and the kids couldn't wait to go back to try something new and adventurous, with RC my two younger two had a difficult time with the menu and one ate steak every night and the other ate pasta. Although they enjoyed what they ate there was no "WOW" factor. The ports of call were Cozumel and Costa Maya. We really enjoyed Cozumel. We booked a private tour and went to Nachi Cocum Beach. In Costa Maya we took the Chichen Itza shore excursion and had a wonderful time. The night shows on the cruse were really good. I must say RC out did Carnival in this aspect. RC had a more family, low keyed atmosphere which was perfect for my kids. There is not a lot of amenities on this ship for teens and older kids. My kids mostly swan and played ping pong. They definitely met more children to play with on Carnival and enjoyed the Carnival kids club. All and all I would sail RC again. I must say between Carnival and RC, I enjoyed different things about each cruise and would consider them very comparable, although RC was considerably more expensive. We are sailing with MSC this year because kids sail free. We are trying a 10 days cruise this time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Background Info: I sailed with my wife and daughter. This was the 9th cruise for my wife and I (8 Carnival & 1 Royal Caribbean) and the 7th cruise for DD (all on Carnival). We have previously sailed on the following Carnival ships: ... Read More
Background Info: I sailed with my wife and daughter. This was the 9th cruise for my wife and I (8 Carnival & 1 Royal Caribbean) and the 7th cruise for DD (all on Carnival). We have previously sailed on the following Carnival ships: Triumph, Victory, Sensation, Glory, Valor, Liberty and the Legend. This was our 2nd cruise on the Legend. We also sailed on her last year. Pre-Cruise: We flew into Tampa International the day before as usual arriving around 10:30 a.m. We took the free shuttle to the Grand Hyatt hotel (about a 10 minute drive from the airport). I booked the room on Hotwire.com for $105 including taxes. We were pleasantly surprised that we were able to get in our room around Noon. The hotel was very nice and was certainly deserving of its 4 star status. Nice big bathroom for the ladies. I loved the workout facility. The treadmills were top notch and had a TV built in that you could connect your headphones. They also had a nice selection of weight machines and free weights. One drawback was that the hot tub was in the work out facility so it was extremely warm. The hotel offers a free shuttle to and from the International Mall. It is not a constant shuttle that goes to and from the mall. The shuttle runs 4 times per day each way departing the hotel at 10:15, 1:15, 4:15 and 7:15 and takes about 5-7 minutes. It picks up passengers for a return ride to the hotel when they drop off at the Mall. The International Mall is huge and has just about every store you can imagine. Our original plan was to have lunch at the Cheese Cake Factory (DW loves the Asian salad) but the wait was 45 minutes and we were already starving. We found a nice deli called TooJay's. It was pretty good but not outstanding considering the sandwiches were over $10. The next day we took a taxi to the cruise port (about a 20 minute ride and $35 w/tip). Normally it would have been around $25 but we had the driver stop at a liquor store on the way over to the port. FYI - liquor can be sold beginning at 11:00 am on Sundays. Embarkation: Extremely smooth! We arrived at the port around 11:30, checked in by Noon, eating and drinking by 12:15. Tampa is my favorite port to cruise from. Easy in/easy out. Ship: The ship's dEcor is darker than any of the Carnival ships in which we have sailed. There was quite a bit decorative woodwork throughout the ship. It almost had a gothic feel to it. Not my favorite but still very nice. The layout of the ship is very easy to maneuver. Cabin: We had a balcony cabin on the Empress deck (#6244). We managed quite nicely with all three of us. It did not seem crowded at all. The cabin had a sofa bed rather than a bunk bed from the ceiling. DD much preferred the sofa bed since the bunk bed was very cold as it is right next to the air conditioning vent. The cabin was in the back of the ship but we did not notice any extra rockiness. Noise was never an issue since the decks above and below us were all cabins. The bathroom had a gift basket stocked with toothpaste and razors (both men and women). Natanya was our room steward and she did a fantastic job. We rarely saw her but had no complaints. Dining Room: We went with the Total Choice Dining option (open dining) in Truffles Restaurant. The results were mixed. We loved being able to eat dinner on our own schedule. It was especially nice on port days since we did not have to immediately jump in the shower as soon as we returned in order to make a 6:00 dinner seating. We were able to relax and take our time getting ready for dinner. It definitely reduced the stress level for all. What we did not love was the length of time it took to get through all of the dinner courses. A couple of nights we were in the dining room for an hour and 45 minutes. It seemed as if the wait staff was used to everyone eating at relatively the same time. Perhaps they are still working out the kinks. However, I would still not let this stop me from going with the Total Choice Dining in the future. I hope it spreads fleet wide. Something different in the dining room that I have never seen on before was a Table Artist. His name was Ram. He walked around the dining room performing magic tricks at various tables. He was there all week and he spreads himself around to make sure everyone gets a performance. The food was very good. As usual, the soups were outstanding. I loved the lobster bisque, cream of broccoli, pumpkin and mushroom soups especially. Not a big fan of the chilled soups (strawberry, cherry, peach...blech!) The lobster and filet mignon were definitely smaller than last year. In fact, each was paired with another protein as an entrEe'. The lobster was paired with shrimp and the filet was served with another type of beef (can't remember exactly what ...but it was good.) I also noticed that many of the entrEe's had the same side dishes with it on the same night (i.e., peas served with the fish, beef and chicken entrEe's). This probably saved Carnival a few bucks but it certainly did not detract from the overall dining room experience. One last comment......for the life of me I don't get all the rage about the chocolate melting cake. It tastes like an extremely under-baked brownie. DW loved it, though! Lido Deck: Service was excellent and the lines were not too bad even on sea days. I highly recommend the roasted turkey on a country roll (with Swiss of course). The chocolate buffet on the last sea day was disappointing, as usual. In my opinion, they sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity. The pizza was a better than last year but still a little on the flimsy side. I like my pizza a little more crispy. Breakfast was the usual fare. Another cutback I noticed is that you no longer serve yourself for bacon, breakfast ham and bagels. You can have as much as you want but a Carnival employee will serve it to you. Probably a good idea as I have seen quite a bit of wasted food. We ate dinner in the dining room so I can't comment on that subject. The late night burger bar was fantastic. Entertainment: Improved from last year. The production shows were Take II and Jazz Hot. Take II was definitely the better of the two. Jazz Hot was mostly music from the 40's. If you are a Tommy Dorsey fan then you will love this show. The comedians were Happy Cole and Max Winfrey. I only saw Cole but he was pretty good. The best show of the week hands down was Incredible Motown Sounds of Marcus Anthony. He has a terrific voice and great personality. Nice thing about him is he show for the early and late performances. Do not miss his show. The Carnival Legends show was a hoot especially for this proud Daddy as my daughter performed! My wife and I really enjoyed going to Satchmo's Bar and listening to the Music Blitz. They played a nice mix of music ranging from CCR to the Beatles to Def Leppard. They were very entertaining. There was a country singer (Dewayne Spaw) that played at various bars throughout the cruise. I didn't see much of his show as I am not a country music fan but he had a nice crowd every time he performed. The karaoke in the Fire Bird Lounge was entertaining. Misty did a great job keeping the crowd going. Social!!!! (you'll get it if you go to karaoke) The cruise director was Jen Baxter was unspectacular. She told the same tired jokes as all the other CDs. Cozumel, Mexico: We went to Paradise Beach and did the each thing. It was a $13 taxi ride each way. They have all the amenities: food, drinks, beach toys, hair braiding, etc..... My recommendation is the guacamole. Get it with the tortilla chips for around $6. A bucket (5 beers) of Dos Equis cost $15. They also have a couple of laptops at the bar that you can use free of charge. They have a wristband you can buy for $10 to get access to the water trampoline and water rock climbing. Something to be aware of is they charge a 20% "service charge" for all credit card transactions. Plan to bring cash to save yourself self money. We also did some shopping at the pier. Belize: We did Belikin Brewery and City Tour. Coral Breeze Limited. We were the only ones on the tour. Cornell was our guide and was very knowledgeable about Belize City. It started out with a tour of the "nicer" part of Belize and then moved to the brewery. The actual tour of the brewery only took about 30 minutes but was very interesting. At the end of the tour, you are taken to the brewery bar (beautiful) and you have 45 minutes to drink as much as you can. The beer was cold, fresh and delicious. I tried all 5 types. They also have soda as it too is bottled at the plant. The tour concludes with lunch at the Wet Lizard restaurant at the port. Food was pretty good. (This is where you meet for the tour I the morning.) Cost was $66 pp. We did some shopping at with the locals behind the port. Don't worry it is safe. But be prepared to haggle. My wife bought a sterling silver bracelet for $20 that the vendor originally wanted $35. He told her that he would give her that deal but "do not tell anyone". DW and DD also bought designer purses in the port shopping area. I was told they were "a great deal". Grand Cayman: We took the taxi to Sea Grape Beach ($15 each way for all three of us). It was $6 for a beach chair and $5 for an umbrella. We hung out on the beach, swam and enjoyed some liquid refreshments. The food was good too. The jerk chicken is good but be warned it is SPICY. This is not the port to drink at as the beers were $5 each. No buckets, no specials. Mixed drinks were just as bad. A good day to give your liver a break! We have gone to Royal Palms in our previous trips to Grand Cayman but wanted to try Sea Grape. I would probably go back to Royal Palms in the future as Sea Grape really packed the chairs close together and the employee running the beach was a little on the surly side. She even tried telling us what direction we had to point our chairs in. Costa Maya, Mexico: I booked the Costa Maya Beach Break. The beach is Pez Quadro. The cost was $35 for 18 years and up, $20 for ages 12-17, free for 11 and under. It included chairs, a palapa for shaded and all you can drink. Food was extra but was pretty reasonable. We pre-booked the excursion and our chairs and palapa were ready when we arrived. I would recommend booking in advance especially if there is more than 1 ship in port that day. You may save yourself $5 by booking at the port........but why chance it?Francisco and his brother (sorry, forgot his name) took great care of us. They went out of their way to make sure we had a good time. The beers were cold and the tequila was tasty. Bathrooms were clean. I got a 1 hour massage for $20 ($25 w/tip) and it wonderful (thank you, Maria). Pez Quadro will be my destination the next time I am in Costa Maya. Disembarkation: Smooth, we were in no hurry since our flight was not until 7:00 pm. Miscellaneous: Overall it was a pretty smooth ride. It was a little rocky one night but that was it. The wind was pretty bad a couple of nights. There were not many kids on board for a President's week sailing. Room Service was good. I recommend the tuna salad on an English muffin and the pastrami on rye. They are really tasty at about 12:30 a.m. The room service menu has been greatly enhanced since we sailed last February. Nice! One tip for the men (especially if you are travelling with a couple of ladies in you cabin) - The men's locker room has a wonderful sauna and private showers that have 5 heads (one above and two on each of the left and right walls). These are normal sized showers...not the phone booths in the cabin. I would go over around 5:00 - 5:30 and sit in the sauna for 15 minutes, shower and shave and be back in the cabin ready for dinner in around 6:15 - 6:30. I just discovered this on my 8th Carnival cruise. One criticism - the tendering process leaving the ship was a mess. In Belize, they announced that you could come to the Follies Lounge and get tender tickets at 9:00 and did not hand them out until 9:30. In Grand Cayman, there was an insert in the Capers that said tender tickets would be given out at 9:30 in Satchmo's Bar. However, the back of the Capers said tender tickets would be available in the Follies lounge at 10:00. They were contradictory. And to top it off, they were both inaccurate. They were actually handed out in the Follies Lounge at 9:15. When I asked Mark (the asst cruise director) who was responsible for making sure the information given out was accurate and consistent his reply was "Not me....I'm not in charge of communications". It was a classic "it's not my job" attitude. This was the only real complaint I had of the entire staff. The gym had very nice equipment. It was busy at the beginning of the cruise but tapered off as the week went along. The cardio machines were busy. Cruise Critic Meet N' Greet: Our Roll Call set up a Meet n' Greet at the aft bar (Unicorn Bar) right after the muster drill. We had a maybe 10 or so people show up. It was nice to meet all of you. If anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer them either here or via e-mail at runningdad@comcast.net Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
This was our first time on such a large ship. My husband and I are not fans of big ships with thousands of people. However, this cruise was specifically for my grandfather, who is handicapped (he rides a scooter)and rather advanced in age, ... Read More
This was our first time on such a large ship. My husband and I are not fans of big ships with thousands of people. However, this cruise was specifically for my grandfather, who is handicapped (he rides a scooter)and rather advanced in age, so we decided that for him with mobility problems, etc, a large ship is the right ticket. Embarkation was very fast and easy. Porters assisted my grandfather with luggage and his scooter, and got us on the ship without too much hassle. Cabins: The handicapped cabin we booked was the standard balcony room, but had a fairly large amount of space to move about, the closet had hand pulls to help you get to things if you were sitting in a wheelchair, bathroom very accessible with ride-in shower. Bathroom was older looking with dated hardware. Our cabin (also basic balcony) was half the size, also dated but we could cope fine. Maid service was great, although we found some fellow passangers complaining that the housekeeping staff blasted TV's and music while cleaning and took up a lot of space. Getting around: My grandfather had no problems getting around on the scooter. There were times when the housekeeping carts were not "parked" well in the corridors, so we needed to move them for him in order to get by. The elevators took a while, and we found that sometimes it was easier to just get on the first one that arrived, irrespective of its direction so we could just squeeze in. It was also somewhat shocking to me how some fellow travelers would literally jump in the elevator before the scooter leaving no space for us to get in. I guess in some places manners are a thing of the past. Dining: Making reservations for dinner was a hassle. We were given a late seating for dinner, which doesn't work for my grandfather. It took us 1.5 hours in line and working it out with the manager to have that changed. There were many others on line who looked pretty upset, and I found out later many were not able to change their seating. Food was fine, and exceeded our expectations given the number of people they have to serve daily. Food service in the restaurants was great, as were the maiterde's (sp?) at dinner time. They helped my grandfather feel comfortable and welcome. I would say that buffets were dissapointing, and after 2 unpleasant meals we resorted to the restaurant for all our meals. Pools - one of the pools is handicap accessible. They have a lift that they can operate to get you in to the water. There was a pool hand that did this for us a few times during the week, and it was wonderful. It was the first time in over thirty years that my grandfather went into a pool, and was a memorable experience for him. The staff at the pool could not have been more accomodating. I will caveat that we tried the pool only on port days, so there was barely anyone left on the ship. On sailing days, it was barely possible to find a chair, and asking for the lift to operate with that number of people in the pool was out of question. We did not go to any ports as my grandfather was not up to it, so I cannot comment on the ports of call. Overall the experience was exactly what we were looking for. The room was a great size, housekeeping very decent (they made towel art every night which my grandfather got a kick out of), food and service for lunch and dinner was great. Would we do it again? Yes if my grandfather was able to do it. Would we go alone as a couple or with our children? No, honestly this trip only cemented our preference for smaller more intimate ships.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
The Costa Concordia Northern Mediterranean Cruise, April, 2008 First: This cruise was my 6th. I was on Holland America for Alaska, Princess for 2 Mediterranean cruises, Renaissance for Greece and Turkey (pity it went out of ... Read More
The Costa Concordia Northern Mediterranean Cruise, April, 2008 First: This cruise was my 6th. I was on Holland America for Alaska, Princess for 2 Mediterranean cruises, Renaissance for Greece and Turkey (pity it went out of business—it was an awesome cruise line) and Princess for the Panama Canal. All of these cruises were excellent. If arriving at the Civitavecchia port by train (the express from Rome's Termini takes about 25 minutes and cost 11 Euros each one way), you can easily walk North along the waterfront to the port—it's about 6 blocks. Buses at the entrance to the port will take you to your ship (the buses are labeled). Pulling luggage, it took us only 15 minutes to walk there. Civitavecchia is a small town with limited facilities, so you probably would not want to spend a vacation there. (Train tip, given to us be a local: If the train is crowded, then just sit in the restaurant. By a coffee or glass of wine and you can stay there for the entire trip). The Concordia is, above all, an Italian ship. 90% of the passengers were Italian. For anyone who enjoys the European experience, it can be entertaining, but the Italian culture is definitely not American. If you are not comfortable with lots of smoking, lots of kids running around freely, crowding on elevators (in fact, not even waiting for exiting people to get off first), and lotsa pasta, it's not the ship for you. If the culture differences are acceptable, then you have to consider the size of the ship. It's huge, carrying over 3000 passengers and all of the staff. Due to this experience, I will stick to smaller ships in the future (I like 700-1200 passenger ships). It took 5 minutes just to walk from one end of the ship to the other—and that's when the corridor is a straight shot. On this convoluted and garishly decorated ship, a deck is often interrupted and you have to go either up or down a deck to cross over. AND, they shut down the main elevators whenever passengers are disembarking or embarking, which is at all the European ports. It was quite annoying to have to walk to the port or after elevators since the staff was using the main elevators to load and unload luggage. We paid $799 each (yes, dollars) for an 8-day cruise. At that price, we paid $100/day for a floating hotel, transportation to various ports, food, evening entertainment and water activities (pool and hot tubs). It's a good deal. Yes, we booked at the lowest price and were on deck 1. We did not care since we got access to everything and spent very little time in our room. The room was a typical cruise ship room. Limited space, but adequate. The bathroom was actually a bit nicer and larger than any other ship I've been on. The decorating was muted and not displeasing. The service was adequate. The meals in the dining room varied. Some nights the seafood was excellent. Other nights the food was mediocre. But it was never bad and the pasta was always good. We had several dishes that were excellent, such as the scampi and the calamari. The desserts were typical cruise ship fare: Pretty to look at and sweet, but no real flavor. Our waiters did a good job. Breakfast was a buffet and it never varied. But I don't vary it much at home, so I was content with it. The lunch buffet was always typical buffet food. Some items were quite tasty, but cooking en mass for buffets automatically means that excellent is not an adjective that gets applied to the selections. If you want decent coffee, you have to buy the coupon books. The free coffee is the shameful equivalent of what imagine sewage sludge to taste like. Since Italian coffee is generally quite good, the cruise line should be embarrassed to offer such swill. The entertainment also varied. Some nights it was surprisingly good and other nights it was so bad that we left early. The flamenco was terrible, but the drummers were surprisingly good. The spa and gym are exceptional. I had an excellent massage in a well-appointed facility and I used the gym every day. The shear size of the ship meant that we had to deal with crowds. It got old. We also got tired of dealing with the extremely rude customer service. I won't go into that drama, but they certainly do not know what service means. And be aware: All announcements are in 4 languages: Italian, German, French and English. We chose to skip the rainy, gray day at the port of Genoa (well, actually at Savona, but everyone said that it was a boring, industrial town). Instead, we spent a lovely afternoon in the hot tub, drinking wine. It was the only way to spend time in one of the hot tubs without playing sardine. Whenever most of the passengers were on board, the hot tubs were full. The pools were also somewhat disappointing in that the "adult only" pool was always full of kids. The Italians seem to ignore signs and even if the Concordia staff chased the kids off, the kids would come back within 15 minutes. THE PORTS Savona/Genoa: We skipped it. After the long flight from the US, and due to the rainy, gray day, we decided to spend the afternoon in the hot tub, drinking wine. Other people told us that Savona is disappointing, just an industrial town. Genoa is apparently interesting, but a train ride away. Barcelona: With only 6 hours in port, we did not have time to do Barcelona justice. We chose to walk to the easily accessible Las Ramblas (we did take a cab back to the ship). The street performers were fun to watch. The Boutiqueria is a local market. While I find it interesting to walk through such venues, nothing about it was particularly distinguishing. The so-called Gothic area was disappointing since many of the shops were vacant. Along Las Ramblas, many of the shops can be found anywhere. I would have liked more local handicrafts and art. Just fyi, everyone we talked to who had taken the "Highlights" tour (offered by the cruise line), said it was disappointing. Palma de Majorca: The day before we arrived, Concordia announced that it was offering a free Pearl Factory Tour. We signed up. The drive was about 30 minutes outside of town, so we saw some lovely country-side and also stopped at the main cathedral on our way back into town. I suspect that Concordia has an arrangement with the Pearl Factory and guarantees a certain number of visitors whenever it is in port. Too few people signed up, so they offered the bus ride for free. And seeing how the pearls are made was actually quite interesting. Tunis: What a HUGE disappointment. It was our first visit to Africa, so we were quite excited about it. Having done some research, we knew that we wanted to visit a local artisan shop in the downtown area of Tunis (we like to do early Christmas shopping and we did find some beautiful lacquered olive wood with the local jasmine flower decorations). We expected to get off the ship, book a cab, and then tour the old medina. However, the taxis ALL wanted 100 Euros round-trip to the medina (about a 25 minute drive each way)! They were rude and pushy (no doubt cultural, but unpleasant just the same). The taxi drivers insisted on staying with you for the entire time that you were exploring. And many people told us that their drive "hi-jacked" them and insisted on stopping at a local carpet shop (no doubt run by their uncle, brother or other family member). We were fortunate in eventually finding a driver who took us where we wanted to go, and for a bit less than 100 Euros. The terrain is dessert. Sand. Brown. Dry. Our dinner companions said that they felt downright unsafe in the old medina. Bottom line here: It's a good place to book a tour...any tour that is of interest. Everyone who took a tour seemed to have a much better experience than those of us who went out on our own. The Tunisians would be better served by building a bridge from the port to the old town so that tourists can more easily spend their money on local goods instead of taxi fares. Malta: This island proved to be the unexpected highlight of our cruise. We got off the ship and with some British friends we rented an open-air jeep for the day (120 Euros total, plus the tips for the guide). The native languages are Maltese, English and Italian, so we got a wonderful English-speaking guide named Albert. For just a little over the cost for one person at the cruise ship rates (90 Euros/person), we rented a jeep for the entire day for all 4 of us...it was a very reasonable deal. Many tours are available right at the wharf. The Maltese have also been quite smart and built an entire line of attractive-looking restaurants and shops right by the docks. Besides getting an excellent tour that touched on local history, geology, museums, flora, fauna, and prehistoric megalithic temples (Tarxien Temples), we also bought some beautiful silver filigree jewelry for which the island is famous. Palermo: This Sicilian city is like most big cities: Some nice parts and some tawdry parts. The ship docks right by the city of Palermo, so we enjoyed a day wandering around Palermo, but most people who took tours or went off on their own into the countryside raved about the island. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
This review is in tribute to all who post ... Your posts are very, very helpful! Hugs! Background: 2 (young!) seniors, 3 in their 30s. No children. Got a fab. rate reduction thanks to Cruise Critic posters, so a great value. ... Read More
This review is in tribute to all who post ... Your posts are very, very helpful! Hugs! Background: 2 (young!) seniors, 3 in their 30s. No children. Got a fab. rate reduction thanks to Cruise Critic posters, so a great value. As a cruise agent and veteran cruiser, I have to say that Mariner of the Seas during Spring Break had lots of activities for families. Huge ship fully loaded (3500 pax.) Excellent staff and crew, well-trained and friendly. I hadn't been on a RCCL ship in years and this was my first experience with this class of their ships. However, IMHO, this is the wrong ship for the Mexican Riviera. We live in Los Angeles and know that this itinerary before the end of April and after October can be cold, windy, and sometimes rocky. What surprised me most about this ship was that it had NO retractable pool roof top cover. The weather was sunny and warm the first 5 days, but the last 2 days at sea was very cold and very windy, destroying any chance of poolside sunning April 10 - 11. Other RCCL ships have the pool roof cover, and it would have made a huge difference in our last 2 days at sea. So, I do not recommend this ship in winter... although with a little bit of weather luck, possibly OK in late Dec. and early January when we get a spell of warm weather. Tip: For those with inside cabins, take showers in the spa dressing rooms ..much roomier! The Good: Rock climbing wall Min. golf course In-line skating Ice skating (adult and kids' sessions) Ice Show (don't miss!) ...all at no charge. Huge video arcade for the kids Excellent gym and indoor spa Lunch in dining room had an excellent salad bar which, in the way they have it set up, can be a wait for the servers. Service consistently good. Embarkation and disembarkation handled exceptionally well. Plentiful, quality smoked salmon (lox) which at $30. lb. in L.A. was a delight to have each morning. Promenade (sp?) and the 24 hour Cafe lovely..with several special shows taking place during the cruise. Latin Bar was a happening. The Not-so-good: Food in Windjammer was OK at best. Fried hamburgers and hot dogs, instead of grilled. No poolside grill > discouraged outdoor dining. Specialty restaurants: nice experience but OK at best. Main pool area was a visual mess ..has to do with design of the area ....tiered with lots of rails. Adult pool area ..closed in with cheesy design. No in-cabin amenities ..no little basket of samples. In sum ...(and, in fairness to RCCL, it was Spring Break and they handled the crowd well).. found it was an average experience in a big newer ship. Unless RCCL changes ships, take this one in late Spring to early Fall. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Our 2nd cruise on RCLEmbarkation  - was a breeze - walked right up to the counter checked in, was on the ship within 20 minutes, went up to the Windjammer had lunch. We were in our cabin by 1 PM. Checked out the ship, then had our muster, ... Read More
Our 2nd cruise on RCLEmbarkation  - was a breeze - walked right up to the counter checked in, was on the ship within 20 minutes, went up to the Windjammer had lunch. We were in our cabin by 1 PM. Checked out the ship, then had our muster, which was kind of confusing. no one checked us in so we had to make sure afterwards they had marked us off the list. Dining - We chose the Murder Mystery dinner at Portofino. It started in Ellingtons bar with champagne & hoerdovers, then after the "murder" we moved to Portofino's where the mystery continued. It was great fun, met real nice people, and the meal was delicious. Ate in he main dining room the rest of the nights. Head waiter was awful. Didn't do a thing or even speak to us most nights. Assistant waiter seemed confused most nights with our drink orders. Food was pretty good. Windjammer was just okay. We ate most breakfasts in the main dining room too. Johnny Rockets was fun, but thought paying for shakes & drinks was ridiculous. We had a coupon, so didn't have to pay the $4.95 each cover charge.Activities - Lots of activities, I attended 4 craft classes, which were fun. bingo, keyboard classes, drum classes. Abe was a great activity director.Cabin - We had an inside promenade room. It was great, could watch the parades & dances etc form our window, although most of the time we were down their participating. Our room attendant Viniod was fantastic! He helped us with a couple of issues promptly 7 with a smile. We had great towel animals everynight. We did miss the chocolates on our pillows though. Guess RCL can't afford them anymore LOL!Ports - Not too interested in any of the ports, just walked around. The Shrimp Factory in mazatlan was GREAT!  Swam with the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta and that was fantastic. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
A great experience! Embarkation: The cruise line had placed signals through out the city, no risk of getting lost! We found the parking lot and paid about 55 dollars for parking in a gated and supervised parking lot. A great deal for ... Read More
A great experience! Embarkation: The cruise line had placed signals through out the city, no risk of getting lost! We found the parking lot and paid about 55 dollars for parking in a gated and supervised parking lot. A great deal for parking in Stockholm! We loaded our luggage on a bus and was shipped of to the terminal. The baggage tagging procedure was really bad, we got a few tags, but no pen and was left to figure out ourselves how to procedure. Getting in to the crowded terminal we got in line in the VIP line. When greeted they told us that we have to have copies made of our passport for our visit in Russia. That have never been mentioned before, in that case I would have prepared for that. The lady pointed at a line long as a marathon run and asked us to make our copies. I found a lady working the line and asked if there was a VIP line for us there to, and the girl, bless her made our copies right away. Back off to the check in and finally, we got our cabin keys and could walk on board. Dining: Our first dining experience was lunch as soon as we arrived onboard, we had to wait for our cabin, and hey, why not grab a bite in the mean time? Windjammer was good, my brother eat a lot of the meals there. For me, not being a buffet person, it was totally ok, but not my favorite. Most times it was pretty crowded and it was hard sometimes to get a table. The main restaurant was great, we was lucky enough to get a table for four, thank you! Our waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter was excellent, we loved our three boys, working so hard for making our dining the great experience it truly was! Always a wide choice of food, plenty of bred rolls and butter. Our waiter also advised my mum who wanted to buy a glass of wine the first night to buy a whole bottle and promised her to save it for the following nights of dining, just to save us some money! That was so thoughtful and sweet! Entertainment: We played pool in the Safari Lounge (please make the whole ship a non smoking area), watched the shows in the Coral Theatre (mum loved the backbeat Beatles!) and played golf. No time for a swim but we had pizza and hot dogs in the solarium two night before bed. (Staff in the solarium cafe, try to smile for a change!) The VIP Lounge: Lovely Nedere, you are such a star! You made us feel so welcome! We love you! Hope to see you soon! Great drinks before dinner, coffee during the days and a stunning view. A total bliss! The Portofino: A beautiful restaurant, make your reservations as soon as you possibly can when you arrive onboard. This place gets full pretty quick! We had a great dining experience at the Portofino. My dad had "the best steak of my life so far" in this place, and he is pretty fussy! Lovely staff, our head waiter tried to pour wine out of an unopened bottle and tried very hard not to giggle his head of when he found our his mistake! He was great about it though, and we really liked him! We will come back! We do hope that Jewel will be back in this region soon, in summer 09 we will hopefully travel with Vision of the Seas. Something to look forward to! If you want more information, please do not hesitate to ask me! And please excuse my poor language skills, hopefully you will get the message (as well as a lot of spelling mistakes). Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
We spent 4 days doing the Disney parks and left the Polynesian (where we had H2O raining from the bathroom ceiling; older hotel, would not rebook it) by Disney Cruise bus (one of our three daughters got bus sick; not a good omen). Checking ... Read More
We spent 4 days doing the Disney parks and left the Polynesian (where we had H2O raining from the bathroom ceiling; older hotel, would not rebook it) by Disney Cruise bus (one of our three daughters got bus sick; not a good omen). Checking in and embarking was seamless and our Family cabin (8020) was clean, but a little tight (esp. with the three extra beds in the down position). Nice to have balcony (but would have preferred more s/f) and split bath helped out. Our cabin was near front bank of elevators and worked out well for us, though we lived out of suitcases (as storage for 5 was tight). Sailaway was fun and the meals were decent; waitstaff was great [thx Nondu]. The crew members were fantastic, with most all of them calling our daughters "princess" at every opportunity. One of my daughters got selected as an honorary crew member for pin trading, which made her smile ear to ear. Our favorite crew member, Pikey (Asst. Cruise Director) got another daughter practice time on a piano and invited the 5 of us to a special meet and greet with the characters. All personal touches. Seems as though they strive to do something to make each child feel special. Our kids did not do much in the kids programs, but we heard they are good. Highlights and recommendations the Dolphin Encounter at Blue Lagoon in Nassau (our girls, 4, 7 and 8 all participated) [try to be last and be sure to order video and photo package]; the Pirate Party on deck at night (characters on zip lines and fireworks, a great time); most everything on Castaway Cay (great spot); the stage Shows (Toy Story was super); and the bottomless soft serve ice cream machine (the kids' favorite); and the family greeting (announcement) on arriving on board and the requisite towel animals were nice touches (makes that credit card bill easier to swallow). Dad also found most of the other Dads on deck, late at night, in deck chaises, watching sports on the big, big screen. Disembarking involved some lines, but moved quickly enough. Though cabin a tad tight for 5 (the only non suite category that allows 5), and trip a bit pricey, was memorable and worth it (at least once). Would highly recommend Disney Cruise Line (kudos to DCL, well done, on several levels. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
     This was the first time my family and I had taken a cruise (my husband and I are both 30 and we took our 9yr old son and 4yr old daughter). We decided to leave from Baltimore because we didn't have to fly. We drove there from ... Read More
     This was the first time my family and I had taken a cruise (my husband and I are both 30 and we took our 9yr old son and 4yr old daughter). We decided to leave from Baltimore because we didn't have to fly. We drove there from the Eastern Shore of MD. The Carnival Pride was a beautiful ship and our balcony stateroom was awesome. Although we had nothing to compare it to. However my mom and dad also went along with us on this trip. They have sailed with Carnival before on the Glory. They said that the staff, entertainment, and food on the Pride dwarfed in comparison. I myself was a little dissapointed in the friendliness of the staff. I have heard countless testamonials from other cruisers on how amazing the staff on Carnival's cruises are. However on the Pride you could definately tell that most of them were there just to do their job. There were a couple of exceptions though. Our room steward Gede was great. We also had a very friendly bar waiter- Taufik.      The entertainment on the Pride was good. The shows were excellent. Although if you are traveling with kids, keep in mind that the show "Vroom" has VERY skimpy outfits. I'm talking g-strings. My husband didn't mind but I was glad that my 9 year old son was at Camp Carnival. My son loved Camp Carnival. He spend most of his evenings there while we were just lounging around or catching a show. They offered a wide variety of activities to keep the kids entertained. My daughter did not want to go just out of her shyness. Plus, the camp is in the very front of the boat and when she did go the first day I think it was just a little too rough up there for her. I do not get motion sickness, but after visiting the ship's arcade with the kids one evening (also in the fwd part of the ship) I felt nauseated. The Pride also offered a lot of activities for adults. Do yourself a favor and catch the men's hairy chest competition if you have never seen it before. It was a riot! I also attended one of the bingo games on board. I thought the bingo was quite expensive. They play 1 game and it is $20 for a sheet with 3 cards on it. They also offer live music on the lido deck every day. The music was ok, I just wish they would put in a new sound system or fix the one they have. The music came across screechy and very LOUD. You could not hear the people at your own table talking to you.     On this cruise my family opted out of the formal dining. All of us just went to relax and we did not want to dress up. So, the only food I can comment on is what came out of the Mermaid Grille. The food was again....just okay. They offered a different meat selection every night. However, the side dishes remained the same for the most part. Lets just say I don't want to see steak fries or white rice for a while. The cheeseburgers and hotdogs poolside where really good. Just don't go there at lunch time and expect not to wait. The line wait was about 20-25mins long between noon and 1pm. If you have a sweet tooth, they offer an awesome dessert buffet during the lunch hours. I did find the lunch meal to be better than the dinner. Especially if you want different selections.     All in all this was a great cruise. My family needed a relaxing vacation and Carnival provided it! I will definately sail with Carnival again, but on a different ship. The Pride didn't show me anything I will CRAVE to see again. I guess they just need a little more time in their new port to get it together. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
First of all, this was my 29th cruise overall, but only my third on HAL first since 1997. In the last 5 years, I have cruised exclusively with Carnival. We traveled with a group of 11 on this cruise. Five of us are in our mid-20's, ... Read More
First of all, this was my 29th cruise overall, but only my third on HAL first since 1997. In the last 5 years, I have cruised exclusively with Carnival. We traveled with a group of 11 on this cruise. Five of us are in our mid-20's, with our parents and a couple seniors. All in all, it was a great trip... the ship was great, service excellent, and Alaska was breathtaking. Embarkation: A breeze we arrived to the Pier in Seattle around 11:35, and were on board in 15 minutes. Service: Excellent in general. Room stewards were great. Bar servers were extremely personal and went out of their way to learn your name. We found dining room service to be very average, and wine service in the Vista Dining Room to be poor. However, our two nights in the Pinnacle Grill provided EXCEPTIONAL service. Entertainment: Solid all around. Was not expecting shows up to Carnival or RCCL's caliber in the show room, but they were still pretty good. The magician was phenomenal one of the best I've ever seen. Comedian was great too. The Cruise Director (forgot his name) and the cruise staff were great, and made sure that there were activities to be had for people of all ages. There was MUCH more to do aboard than I anticipated. Nightlife: Again, LOTS more than we thought. The casino was of adequate size with friendly dealers. The Piano Bar was a BLAST. Sports bar was okay; poker room was a HIT. Northern Lights was hit and miss more of a crowd on formal nights, though it seemed teens took it over at times. Food: I'll break the food up in three categories, because they deserve to be recognized individually. Vista Dining Room: A MAJOR part of our cruise is meeting every night for dinner in the main dining room. We were traveling with friends we haven't seen in years, and our family does not get to get together that much. We realized we would not have one table for 11, but thought we would be next to each other. Unfortunately, there ended up being a couple tables in between. We tried to change to no avail, so we had to live with it. Fine, we'll accept it. Unfortunately, we found the food in the Vista Dining Room to be marginal at BEST. All courses were wildly inconsistent, and entrees tasted like they had been sitting out for a while. Normally a highlight of the cruise, we found the dining room food to be very disappointing. We ate in the Vista the first and second nights. We ate in Juneau on land, and returned to the Vista after Hubbard Glacier night. Another sub-par dinner made Tuesday our last trip to the Vista for the week. We spent the rest of the week either at the Pinnacle Grill or eating on shore. I don't think I had unreasonable expectations for this dining room food we just found it to be WELL below the quality of the main dining room food on the last DOZEN cruises we have taken (mainly on Carnival). Pinnacle Grill: In my opinion, this restaurant really MADE the cruise for us. We had made reservations for 11 for Sitka night before the cruise. Our waiters (Jay and another couple servers) were OUTSTANDING. Everyones meals were phenomenal and cooked perfectly. We all were able to sit at one table, and had a great time. We tried to book again for Thursday, but were told that it was sold out. Thursday afternoon, we went by to check if there were any cancellations, and we were in luck! They were able to squeeze our party of 11 in again, and we all enjoyed another near perfect meal. This place is WELL worth the $20 cover. Our experience here was superior to our experiences in Carnival's Supper Clubs (which are also fantastic). Lido: I ate all my breakfasts and most lunches in the Lido. The breakfast selection was great. I really enjoyed the eggs benedict station and the belgian waffle section sooo good. Lunch also had a wonderful selection, and I usually opted for the Asian food. Debarkation: Painless. We were off the ship by 9am after a leisurely breakfast in Lido. Miscellaneous: I'm not going to cover the ports too much, as those can be researched separately. I will say that the tendering process in Sitka was pretty poor if you didn't book an excursion. I did not have a problem, but many in our party had to wait almost 2 hours in order to be called to shore. - The ship was clean and laid out generally well. I really appreciated all the nightlife activities being together on deck 2. I didn't really like the setup of the gym, but it was adequate for the crowd on board. For the size of the ship, I prefer the layout of Carnival's Spirit-class. In conclusion... this was a very good cruise. We LOVED Alaska, and especially enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Our sub par experience in the Vista Dining Room did actually detract from our enjoyment of the cruise because it is such a large aspect of OUR cruise experience. However, other than that, it was a good time, and everything else was generally good to excellent as we expected. Would I sail HAL again? Sure... for the right itinerary and right price. Would I go out of my way to sail HAL? Not at all. Being in my mid-20s, I did not at all feel out of place, or feel like there wasn't enough for me to do. This actually surprised me, and I would not at all mind sailing with them again. Other than some big improvement to make in the kitchen, the Oosterdam was a great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
Monday - Arrival The Port at Miami is owned by Carnival Cruise lines, so it's state of the art - they have a lot of their people working there - getting on board was really fast and really easy - their people are great at getting ... Read More
Monday - Arrival The Port at Miami is owned by Carnival Cruise lines, so it's state of the art - they have a lot of their people working there - getting on board was really fast and really easy - their people are great at getting people in and out as quickly as possible so you can get on the ship. Even though boarding time was 12:00 pm, the rooms weren't actually ready until 1:30 (or so their letter said) - we got on at around 1:00 pm and went to our room anyways, it was done, although I know some people were waiting around the lobby for their rooms to finish. Our family of 5 got 2 rooms - the first cruise with Carnival last summer, the 5 of us got one room because we had no idea how small or big the room was going to be. The rooms are a nice size (considering you're on a boat with thousands of other people) and as 5 people in 1 room, there were 2 bunk beds and 1 cot right in the middle, so basically there was nowhere to walk. But they only pull out the cot at nighttime during their turn down service, so it's not always there in your way. Depending on how much time you spend in your room, it wasn't that big of a deal for us. This time, we had 2 rooms for the 5 in our family - it was MUCH more comfortable. Originally we had one room for the 5 of us because it's about 500-600 more expensive for 2 rooms, but then a few days before we were going to leave, Carnival upgraded us to 2 rooms right next door to one another! So ask your travel planner to notify you if that is a possibility, they try to accommodate as best they can. My parents had their own room next door and us three kids got our own room - 2 single beds and one pulled down "bunk" bed. It was plenty of room for the three of us. They upgraded the tvs from our last ship, so they were flat screen about 20" and they play different movies (on rerun) every day on cruise, so that was nice - and they were recent movies, too, not old ones. You also get regular cable channels so you can watch the news, and even MTV. In the bathroom, they provided body wash, shampoo, razors for girls and guys (bic), and toothpaste if you need it. There are also plenty of towels so you don't need to bring your own. We just spent our time walking around the ship, it's considerably smaller than our first one (Carnival Victory), so it's pretty easy to navigate yourself around the ship since there aren't that many places to go. The water "park" is BEAUTIFUL - it's new! - and it includes a tube water slide that swirls around (and gets to be pretty fast, actually) and two water slides that go straight down, as well as some cute fountains that spray water for the smaller kids. I would recommend going on these if you come back early or leave later at one of the stops because there are always tons of small children running around there and lines can get long. They close at 5, though, so if you're planning on going when you get back early from one of the stops, keep that in mind - my sister and I were only able to go on the slide about 4-5 times before they told us it was closing. The sun decks are really nice, there's an adult serenity deck where children aren't allowed so it's more peaceful up there than by the pool. The pool is small and there is only one and there is a jacuzzi (two maybe? I forget). They had a couple of activities, nothing amazing. We had our dinner time at 8pm (the late seating) - and the staff was wonderful, as always, our waiter did magic tricks for us every night. We shared a table with another family, if you don't want to do this make sure you let your vacation planner KNOW otherwise you won't have an option. Our first trip we sat at our own table and while it's nice to meet other families, it can get awkward and you aren't able to relax as much because you feel like you need to have a conversation with them. It depends on what kind of personality you are though and what kind of vacation you're looking for. They had shows at night, the shows are nice - nothing amazing - but fun, colorful, and loud all the same. Our cruise director, George (Jorge), was AMAZINGLY WONDERFULLY FANTASTIC - so funny, he used to be a stand up comedian, and if you go to show only for him, it's worth it. Oh and don't let them fool you when you are arriving to check in, you don't HAVE TO check your luggage - but they tell you that so that you'll tip them. We didn't have to the first time, but then this time they confused us by telling us we had to - then later on we saw people carrying on their own luggage onto the ship. Tuesday - Day at Sea Nothing special. Look below for past carnival cruisers. They had activities throughout the day. My family loves their steam and sauna in the spa carnival so we went there usually before dinner and then showered in the spa because the stalls are bigger so it's more comfortable. This steam and sauna room was different from our first cruise - it was about half a size smaller and there were no windows looking out into the ocean. But it was fine, nonetheless, not many people used it so it was peaceful. If you're traveling with children, a good way to save money on soda (which is extra) is to buy your child a fountain card (I think it's about 10-15 less than adults) and they can get endless amounts of fountain drinks, so you can all just share. We did that with our family and it worked fine. They have sushi bar night every night for an hour, a ping pong table, the Carnival Spa which has a spa/steam/sauna room, a small gym, some fitness classes (which you have to pay for - usually $10 per class), some "free" consultation classes about weight less and what not but they usually try to sell you some product and it gets annoying. For people who want to use the spa, the first day of the cruise you can enter a raffle for free spa services - I would recommend that, they give away some fantastic things! it takes some time out of your day to go and put your name in, then you have to go back at the designated time for the drawing - if you aren't there then you don't get it. But they gave away maybe 15 spa services for free. So it was pretty nice. Wednesday - Grand Turks This is the smaller of the Bahama islands, there's actually not much to do or see there but if you do want to do some sightseeing, I would go with something from Carnival because the taxi drivers there charge about $35 per person for a tour of the island and I think you can get something cheaper through Carnival excursions. I would do an excursion this day - one of the snorkeling or scuba diving, apparently there is a lot to see (we didn't do anything this day) - we did take a taxi into "town" but there wasn't anything great to see and we were charged $5 per person for the small ride one way and then another $5 per person on the way back. It's a very poor, developing area - a lot of run down houses, etc. but there is very very little crime - so no need to be worried. The people there are very friendly. Some of the past reviews said you can go and find a scuba rental area on your own - if you are to do this - you NEED to take a taxi there, there isn't anywhere (at least from what we saw and tried to look for) ON the beach where you're docked to look for somewhere to rent equipment from if you don't want to go through Carnival. There is one famous location, if you want to go scuba/snorkeling, you should just go up to the taxi drivers and ask them to take you there - I forgot what it's called, but they all know what it is because there is only one major company on the island who provides it. It was a nice beach, a lot of seaweed so it was kinda gross. If you hate sun, make SURE you rent one of those clam shells because there is NO shade and it gets HOT. You're going to be spending the next few days in the sun so don't try to get too much at once. You'll end up getting sick of it. Or worse, burnt. Thursday - Half Moon Cay If you were to choose one day to be a beach day - THIS IS IT. The water and the sand is GORGEOUS GORGEOUS GORGEOUS - when you look up pictures of the "Bahamas" or you imagine vacationing in the "Bahamas" this is what it looks like. Perfect soft sand and crystal clear turquoise water. Like out of a dream. I would do an excursion this day, too, only because you can only spend SO much time just lying on the beach doing nothing. We did snorkeling - it was $50.00... the water was rough and it was hard to swim around and see things when you were trying to fight so hard to not get washed away, but the coral was beautiful - there wasn't a LOT to see but we've never been snorkeling before so it was still fun for us. NOT GOOD for people who aren't good swimmers. My youngest sister flipped out after 5 minutes - what a waste of money. I would consider doing a scuba diving, I honestly think it looks better and more comfortable than snorkeling did. Although it was fun, I probably won't do it again because it was just too difficult to get around and you never know what conditions the waters are going to be. You only get 45 minutes out in the actual water swimming around to look at things, the ride there and back is about 20 minutes each way. When we got back, we ate at the BBQ on the pavilion on the island (Carnival owns this island, so it's uninhabited except for a few people they keep there, I guess). BRING SHOES when you go to the pavilion - the sand is scorching hot, as is the cement floors of the Pavilion. You'll burn the bottom of your feet. After that we just played around in the water and then went back onto the ship early because it was just too much sun. HERE is where you will also want a clam shell if you can't stand being in the sun for too long - there is no shade ANYWHERE here. But get it fast because you need to rent it and they go REALLY fast. Friday - Nassau Wednesday - This day my sisters and I woke up early to do the Dolphin Excursion - if you've never done it before I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS EXCURSION. It's expensive... about $200 a person - but definitely definitely worth it as a one time experience. AND YOU NEED TO BOOK IT FAST - either before your trip or the day you get ONTO the boat - the tickets for these excursions go REALLY REALLY fast. If you don't make it, call a few days through the next few days - sometimes spaces open up or get they are able to secure more tickets, so ask that they call you if that happens. We were too late to buy ours but out of luck the fifth time I stood in line, I found out that they had JUST gotten some extra tickets so I was able to go with my sisters and it was a WONDERFUL adventure. It really is about 4 hours, the way they say it in the pamphlet. When you go, though, MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT TIME THE BOAT IS COMING BACK because we almost missed it and if you miss it, you'll need to wait another 2 hours to get on the next boat and you'll basically waste your entire day. After the dolphin excursion, you can walk around that facility and they have sea lions and giant turtles they're training as well, so that's pretty fun to see. They will take pictures and video for you, so you don't need to bring a video camera. Also, if there is someone in your family who doesn't want to do it but wants to just go and watch - you can ask if they can go to observe. I'm not sure if you need to pay for it, but I did see a family where the mother just went to observe. After we got back to Nassau from the excursion, we bargained with a taxi driver and he was able to give our family a 2.5 hour tour for $20 per person. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS. He showed us around the entire island, talked about their lifestyle and lives and jobs and people, he stopped at a few places and gave us time to get out, take pictures, walk around, etc. He was really great! We had him drop us off at the Atlantis - without a wristband which they use to distinguish hotel guests from outsiders or you can purchase one from carnival for $150 per person or from Atlantis front desk for $105 per person (but they give out a limited number) you basically can't see much of the resort because everywhere good takes a wristband. But there still are things to see and I think it was still nice to go and see what it was like. The food there is REALLY expensive. Half a sandwich and a bag of chips at the resort was $10. The people on the island eat "Conch" as one of their main sources of food, and I hear it's delicious the way they cook it - unfortunately we didn't have enough time to try it but I wish we had. On the taxi ride, we saw markets of people selling conch on the side of the roads in little stands. Saturday - Departure I would recommend self embarkation. It's not hard, it's really fast, and you can get out before everybody else. We did this last time too, no problems at all. Note for Past Carnival Cruisers: The shows are basically the same except for the comedians they bring in; The activities are basically the same too - they don't really change all that much (I tried to ask our vacation planner this since this was our second cruise and I didn't want it to be exactly the same but he wasn't straight with answering my question) - but most of the activities you were involved with or saw on your schedule the first time, will most likely be there again. It seems as though nothing really changed except for the stops we were going to and the size of the ship (and maybe a few upgrades in terms of how the ship looked and some amenities - it was little more modern); the food on the bigger cruise ships is also MUCH better - so the bigger the ship, the better the food. This ship was smaller compared to our first trip, so the food wasn't as great which was a disappointment since we were really looking forward to that. 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Sail Date August 2008
Background Information We were originally planning to sail with a different cruise line. I had recently completed a certification class with the other line (I'm a travel agent) and had picked out an Alaska itinerary that would ... Read More
Background Information We were originally planning to sail with a different cruise line. I had recently completed a certification class with the other line (I'm a travel agent) and had picked out an Alaska itinerary that would coincide with my husband's birthday. It was a last minute decision (four weeks before sailing). I was having trouble finding a flight home that wouldn't require us to spend the night in port. So my husband decided to "help". He got online and realized we could save $1500 in airfare if we left out of Seattle. The trouble is, the other cruise line didn't go to Seattle, but NCL did, so we booked it and I immediately lost my attention span for anything but our vacation! It was not our first cruise, but would be my first time to Alaska and my first experience with NCL. Hotel Info We flew into Seattle a day early to help relax and get into "vacation mode" before the cruise. I chose the Embassy Suites for a lot of reasons... The first being they have an airport shuttle service. The shuttle driver also made some recommendations on local restaurants that he would shuttle us to. We took his advice and went to Claim Jumper for a great dinner. On the way back we asked the driver what the best way to get to Pier 66 would be. He said for $45, a few dollars more than a taxi, we could take a Town Car. We loved the idea and he arranged the whole thing for us. I love the two-room suite floor plan that Embassy Suites uses. If we had been staying longer, the microwave, fridge and living room area would make it much more comfortable. Also, the business center had computers with internet access that allowed us to slowly withdraw from our computer addiction. (We went cold turkey and left the laptop at home). I purposely picked a hotel with an indoor pool, knowing that it would probably be too cold in Alaska to swim, so the hotel pool was a great option. There is a nice breakfast buffet included with the stay that was perfect for us the morning we checked out to board the ship. It included hot and cold entrees and an omelet bar. Travel To Port of Embarkation Our Town Car service arrived 10 minutes early. We received a call from the front desk letting us know it had arrived. The driver had obviously made this trip a lot. He was familiar with the Pier, the ships and their destinations. For a few dollars more than the price of a taxi, it was worth every penny. Embarkation Our paperwork said we could board after 11:30am, but I was wanting to get on board as early as possible so I could get some photos of the ship without a lot of people in them. We arrived at Pier 66 at 10am and it was packed! It turns out all those people had just gotten off the ship. By 10:30 they were mostly gone. One of the port employees explained that all the doors have numbers over them, and that we could do an early bag check in front of doors 5 & 6 and then get in line for embarkation at door 18. There were about 10 people in line in front of us, and we were all swapping cruise stories, so time flew by. The doors soon opened and we moved pretty quickly towards the security screening area. As we walked through the line we were handed a small square of paper with a number on it (ours was #3). We also had to sign a statement saying we hadn't had any symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea in the past two days. The line moved quickly through security then we went upstairs where we registered our credit card, were photographed for security and received our cabin keys. The staff member explained that our 13-year-old son would be able to charge on our account with no restrictions, so we "may need to have a talk with him". (And we did. We didn't have any problems in this area but appreciated the warning). At 11:30 an announcement was made that people holding numbers 1 through 3 could begin boarding. We were early enough that our stateroom wasn't ready yet, but exploring and taking pictures occupied us for quite a while. After 12 o'clock, we went to Versailles for lunch and then went out on deck to find that the Blue Angels were in Seattle for Seafair weekend and they kept us entertained until the announcement was made that our cabin was ready. Boarding went very smoothly for us. The NCL staff members at the pier were all very friendly and helpful. Including the staff member handing out the "Freestyle Daily" (the schedule of events and activities). He was in a wheelchair (I'm guessing because of Cerebral Palsy). That right there spoke volumes to me about the company I was cruising with. Ship Info The Norwegian Star was built in 2001 and refurbished in 2004. She is one of two Dawn Class Ships, (the other being the Norwegian Dawn). From the colorful stars and streamers on the ship's hull to the artwork around the interior of the ship, the Norwegian Star is a fun adventure all on its' own. Size is relative...it's a pretty big ship, but not the biggest out there. The passenger capacity based on double occupancy is 2,240. With 1,100 crew members, that puts the ratio of crew to passengers at 2 to 1. At the time of our sailing, the crew members represented over 60 different countries. (If you look at a crew member's name tag, it will say where they are from right below their name.) Boarding in Seattle put us directly onto the Promenade on deck 7 right outside the Atrium, an impressive introduction. There's a lot to see on this deck, so go inside and take a lap around to get your bearings. Start in the Atrium at the Reservations Desk and make your dinner reservations. There is one other deck that is worth taking a lap to explore everything and that is deck 12. There's the Market Cafe, the pools, Teen Center, Fitness Center, Meeting Rooms, Library, Theater, Spinnaker Lounge and more. The last deck I recommend on your "first to explore list" is deck 6. Here you will find lots of restaurants, the Casino and one level of the Stardust Theater. Decks 8 through 11 are mostly cabins except for a couple of public areas that are part of the Atrium. Endless Summer Restaurant overlooks the Atrium on deck 8 and deck 9 has the Internet Cafe overlooking the Atrium. The Barong Spa isn't part of the Atrium, it's in the back of the ship, but it's the only public area on deck. Decks 4 & 5 are also mostly cabins except for the medical center on deck 4. At the top of the ship, decks 13 and 14 have small public areas with outdoor activities. Whatever your mood, you can find someplace on the ship to fit your needs. There are quiet areas and fun active areas. You can watch or participate. Service Everyone was very polite and friendly. Our cabin stewards were the only ones that we saw often enough that we got to know each other. The downside of Freestyle cruising is that you don't get to know your wait staff. I did miss that. Overall, I feel that the restaurant service was a bit slow, but always friendly. The wait staff was visibly busy; perhaps they were spread too thin. We also had to replace my son's cabin key as it developed a crack down the middle. For some reason the process caused my key (and my husband's key) to quit working so it involved three trips to the front desk, but was quickly resolved. There was a medical evacuation during our cruise. One of the tenders was lowered to deck 7 and the area around it roped off. Ship's officers were coming and going, helping the family. Unfortunately when the gurney was brought out onto the tender, it was completely covered with a sheet. We were sad for the family and at the same time, impressed with the way the crew assisted them. Shore Excursions Ketchikan We signed up for the Back Country Jet Boat excursion. It was an early tour, our group of about 28 people met at the pier at 7:20am! We were bused to the world famous Salmon Falls Resort where we boarded a covered Jet Boat for a water tour of Clover Pass and Naha Bay. Our tour guide pointed out landmarks and wildlife along the way. He explained how many of the residents of the area had to live "off the grid" and pointed out solar panels, wind turbines and water cisterns. (All of those things we take for granted.) There were some great photo opportunities, but good pictures were hard to get while the boat was moving. (We had 300mm zoom lenses, and it was hard to keep the shot in the viewfinder while the boat was moving). Whenever our guide spotted wildlife, the boat captain would bring the boat in closer and stop so we could get pictures. We saw eagles, deer, and seals. The history of the area and the stories about some of the places we visited were fascinating. It kept our 13 year old interested. After the boat ride, we had about 45 minutes to enjoy a snack at the resort and browse their gift shop before taking the bus back to the ship. We also explored Ketchikan for about 90 minutes. I enjoyed the local shops more than the obvious jewelry store transplants that were not locally owned. If you find yourself needing a warm jacket, we saw several in town that were cheaper than the ones on the ship. Juneau We opted to split up for our Juneau tours. I went on the Capture Juneau Photography Tour while my husband and son went on the Mendenhall Glacier and Wildlife Quest. The Photography tour was a small group of nine of us. We boarded a small bus that was equipped with a computer and large screen monitor. Our guide was a professional photographer that gave instruction via the monitor while the bus was en route to our different destinations. Our group had both professional and amateur photographers with both high-end and point and shoot cameras. The instructor did a great job of covering the basic and advanced topics along with great visual aids that demonstrated his points. (For example he talked about the importance of depth of field and then explained how to get this effect on a point and shoot digital camera as well as using the manual mode to do it with a DSLR camera.) We went to a total of 4 locations that were ordered based on the sun's movement and location at that time of day. We explored an old gold mine, a lookout point across the water from where the cruise ships were parked, a meadow near the Mendenhall Glacier and finally Mendenhall Glacier (where I bumped into my husband and son on their tour). Before going to Mendenhall glacier, my husband and son had an amazing experience whale watching. They not only saw whales, they saw a lot of them! Their guide taught them what to watch for and explained the behavior behind what they saw. Next they went to Mendenhall Glacier where they explored on their own trying to find the bear that was rumored to be in the area (when the saw me). Naturally the bear showed up again after we moved on somewhere else. Skagway You'll find that sometimes two tours are combined into one. This worked great for us in Skagway because I wanted to pan for gold and my husband wanted to ride the train. The White Pass Railway and Klondike Gold Dredge excursion was the perfect choice. First we were bused to the Gold Dredge where our tour guide "Lone Star Suzie" (dressed in a period costume) gave us some history on the Gold Dredge. We were then instructed on how to pan for gold. The panning part went very fast, and then we were given a tour of the dredge. We had our gold weighed and valued and then browsed the gift shop before boarding the bus for the White Pass Railway. I'm glad we did the tours in this order (some groups did it in the opposite order). The train ride was much longer. It was narrated over a speaker system. There was also a booklet with a map and a list of the points of interest along the way. Everyone was asking which side of the train is the best one to sit on. The answer is, it doesn't really matter. The train is set up so that when you get to the top of White Pass, you swap seats with the person in the isle across from you and then fold the seat back over. It's hinged on the ends so you can just flip it and always be facing the same direction the train is moving. You'll get to see the view from both sides. The train engine moves to the other end of the train for the trip back. That is when our guide brought out the champagne or sparkling cider and a selection of smoked salmon spread, sausages sticks, cheese and dried fruit. She was very good with kids too. She recruited their help in passing out things for her and lavishing them with praise for their help. Prince Rupert My husband was signed up for the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Viewing excursion, but due to the medical evacuation the night before, we arrived too late and this tour was cancelled. He ended up going on the Canadian River Float instead. It was enjoyable, but it wasn't bear viewing, so I didn't hear much about it. My son & I opted to wander around town on our own. There's a nice park across the street from the pier where people were welcoming us and handing our maps as we walked up. We saw a couple of eagles in the span of about an hour. Prince Rupert is a fairly new port of call and it's obvious that many of the local residents are excited for the business that the cruise ships bring. We were a bit disappointed that our passports didn't get stamped in customs (customs was a quick "non-event") but found out that the Visitors Bureau will do it, so we stopped there, and it was fast, easy and right by the pier. Prince Rupert is a great town. I liked the locally based merchants and the lack of high-end jewelry stores that seem to sprout up in cruise ports. Stateroom We opted for an inside stateroom (category JJ, room 9597). Our thinking was it was my husband's birthday and we would rather spend the extra money on shore excursions. If I had it to do again, I would like a balcony. Unlike other parts of the world, the Inside Passage of Alaska has more than an endless body of water to look at between ports. There are islands and glaciers and whales. The scenery is breathtaking and if you would be drawn to it, a balcony may be worth it for you. Our cabin stewards had already converted the twin beds into one queen/king-sized bed. There was an upper bunk ready as well. We stored two suitcases under the bed and one in the closet. We used all three of the drawers and shelves. It was a bit cozy, but we expected it would be. The mattress on our bed was very firm, so were the pillows. Three days into the cruise my husband ended up with a migraine. Someone in the spa told him to ask the cabin stewards for a mattress topper and different pillows. That made a big difference. If we had known about it, we would have asked sooner. The room included a TV, refrigerator/mini bar and hair dryer that were hard wired in. (So you couldn't "borrow" those outlets) There was one outlet in the room by the hair dryer and mirror at the foot of the bed. If you need to charge camera batteries, video games, laptops or run a C-Pap machine, a power strip will be a big help. There were individual reading lights for each bed, but no clock. So when the lights go out, it's pitch black. If you will be staying in an inside cabin, you may want to bring a light up digital clock. If you are having a tough time without a window, turn on your TV to channel 2. You'll get the live feed from the ship's web cam. (If you see beads of water across the screen, be thankful you didn't pay extra for a balcony, add another layer and grab the umbrella.) Next time, I would get an outside cabin because between ports, in Alaska, there are things to see, and it turns out, I need the sun to wake up. The bathroom is nicer than I expected for the small space, although in this cabin category, the shower and toilet are not divided into two private areas. There is an outlet in here next to the sink. There's a small magnifying mirror attached to the big mirror. The shower had me stumped for a bit....there's two handles, one with a blue spot, one with a red one. I turned on the red one first, and nothing happened. After a bit of experimenting, I figured out that the handle with the blue spot controls water flow, and the one with the red spot controls temperature. There's also a dispenser in the shower with shampoo and body wash (but no conditioner). Dining With ten restaurants, room service, plus a buffet, you may think it's all about the food...and for some people, it is. If you like diversity, on the Norwegian Star, you'll have it, formal to casual, American and International. Others, (like my 13 year old son) aren't interested in spending ninety minutes on a nice meal, they just keep a running total of how many slices of pizza they ate during the cruise (74). There's a restaurant for everyone. With NCL's Freestyle Cruising, there is no assigned time or table, (although the Maitre 'd can arrange it for you if you would like). You can choose from several restaurants that are included with the price of your cruise or select a specialty restaurant for an additional per person cover charge. As of August 2nd 2008 these are the rates for meals: Versailles - no charge Aqua - no charge Blue Lagoon - no charge Market Cafe - no charge The Grill - no charge Room Service - no charge La Trattoria - $10 Endless Summer - $10 Le Bistro - $15 Soho Room - $15 Ginza - $15 Cagney's - $20 Teppanyaki Room - $25 Believe it or not, we didn't have time to sample all the restaurants! Here's our take on the ones we did visit: Versailles - This is the designated "dress up" restaurant. I have to say, I heard crew members telling people they weren't supposed to wear blue jeans in this restaurant, but I saw a few pairs of blue jeans. (Jeans are welcome in any of the other restaurants). It's a beautiful place. Located in the back of the ship, with high ceilings, the entire back wall is made up of windows that look out over the ocean. We had both lunch and dinner here, but never made it for breakfast. The menu items change daily and are often gourmet dishes with foreign names. If you are traveling with picky eaters that are used to fast food, they may get frustrated when they can't figure out what some of these dishes are. Portion sizes were a bit smaller than I expected (this coming from someone that hit the average 6-14 pound weight gain on the cruise). Lobster was served on formal night, and was good, but was only a small lobster tail, not the big red crustacean presentation I was expecting. I would rate the overall food as slightly above average in appeal, variety and presentation. It was nothing to complain about, but not as good as I have had on other cruise lines. The service was fine; nothing bad about it, but nothing above average either. We usually had a bit of a wait between courses. Aqua - This restaurant shares a kitchen with Versailles and has an almost identical menu. It is smaller, darker and more intimate than Versailles. Again, we had a longer wait between courses than I would have liked, but I always hoped that my appetizer would digest in time to make room for dessert. We were among the first to be seated at 5:30 and barely finished in time to catch the 7pm show. Blue Lagoon - When one of my husband's shore excursions ran late past dinner, he came here for some chicken wings (while I waited in line for the Chocolate Buffet). He wished he had discovered this place earlier in the cruise. It's set up cafe style but has a "main thoroughfare hallway" that goes right through it. It's open 24 hours, so if you're hungry at an odd hour, and don't want to wake others in your cabin, this is the place to come. Market Cafe - This is the buffet. Due to the nature of buffets, they have a crew member at each entry door with a spray bottle of hand sanitizer. Since it's also a main hallway from one end of deck 12 to the other, you may get sanitized even if you aren't eating...no big deal. Because it was fast, and our shore excursions all seemed to start between 7 and 7:30 am, we ate breakfast here every day. There are three segments to the buffet on one side that are all different, and another segment on the opposite (port) side of the ship that becomes the La Trattoria for dinner. There was a variety of hot and cold breakfast foods that were pretty much the same from one day to the next. Lunch had a bit more variety, (including a chocolate fountain!) If you are cruising through the Market Cafe, but not staying to eat, grab a chocolate chip cookie off the dessert section of the buffet for me. (I'm sure that's where the extra pounds came from.) Room Service - My son used this once (you guessed it, pizza) and said they came pretty fast. My husband tried this the night his excursion got in late and was told due to the number of people that missed dinner because of the late excursion, it would be an hour. That is how he ended up in the Blue Lagoon. The menu choices were pretty standard with a good variety. La Trattoria - We made reservations for this restaurant first thing when we boarded the ship. It was a bit hard to find, since until it opens, it doesn't exist. It's actually the starboard side of the Market Cafe. During dinner it is transformed with Italian dEcor and becomes La Trattoria. The food was excellent, although I think we ate there on an off night. We were the second table seated after it opened, but waited a long time for service. Some friends asked us later what we thought of all the breads and dipping sauces and we said "what dipping sauces"? We didn't even have butter. I had the Lobster Ravioli and it was excellent, but there were only four normal sized Ravioli included with my entrEe (and still I gained weight.....). I suppose when you see a lot of wasted food, it's better to serve seconds than toss good food. This restaurant just started charging a cover charge. I'm on the fence about whether it was worth it. The food was great, but there was no hiding the buffet atmosphere and I'm still wondering about the dipping sauces we missed out on. Endless Summer - Here's another restaurant that just started charging a cover charge. The exterior of the restaurant is all windows with ocean views, the interior is open overlooking the Atrium. It is much more "upscale" that La Trattoria. I liked this atmosphere, except for the loud music coming up from the Atrium. The food here was great, the quantity was plentiful, but it wasn't any better than a nice Mexican restaurant at home. I'm on the fence about the cover charge here too. Cagney's Steakhouse - We came here for my husband's birthday dinner. It's on the 13th deck, so the view is stunning. The steak here is great. Of all the meals we had on board, the wait staff here interacted with us on a personal level the most; not just the person that took our orders, but also the person that brought our drinks. The staff also brought a cake over and sang Happy Birthday. It was definitely worth the cover charge. Children's Clubs NCL has separate programs for kids based on their ages. My 13 year old son participated in the Teen Program designed for 13-17 year olds. The teen program was pre-arranged and printed up on a flyer with the schedule for the whole cruise. We checked in at the Teen Center shortly after boarding and signed the release forms. There was an air hockey table, a foosball table, several computers (no internet) and a Wii. The first few activities involved "getting to know you" games. The Wii competitions were popular, but overall, turnout was pretty low. (I personally wanted to do the digital camera scavenger hunt, but didn't want to embarrass my son hang out with teenagers.) Overall, I only have two beefs with the teen program: First, shortly after setting sail, the kids were doing what I thought was a "meet & greet" activity. What really happened was they were turned loose on the ship to recruit other kids. They were supposed to be in groups, but there weren't enough kids so they were wandering around in "groups" of one or two. Whoever brought back the most kids won a prize. We happened to bump into our son wandering around by himself, lost. It's not the best way to make a good impression with a parent. Second, I was a bit frustrated to discover that the Teen Center isn't a dedicated area. It is shared with the 9-12 year olds. Activities are rotated between the groups. None of this was made clear to us. I was expecting to go to other activities on the ship knowing my son would have the teen center to hang out in, instead, I ended up arranging some of my activities around the teen schedule so he would have something to do and I would know where to find him. The very first night, we though he was in the teen center and were expecting him back at the cabin at 11pm. At 11:30 we went to the teen center to find him only to discover it was empty. In my head I'm thinking there's a big difference between a 13 year old and a 17 year old; where is my son and who is he with? My husband and I split up running up and down stairs trying to find him, he took the front half of the ship and I took the back. Our son turned up at the cabin a few minutes later. It turns out the 9-12 year olds were using the Teen Center and the 13-17 year olds had to move their activity to the ping-pong tables by the kids pool at the back of the ship. He just lost track of time. After that total body panic workout, we developed a system where we agreed on 3 places he could be during a certain time period so we could limit our workouts to the gym and know where to find him. On the second day, when my son resisted going to the Teen Center I had to grill him to find out why. It turns out, my son went down there to hang out while my husband and I were at another activity, only to be told by the counselor for the 9-12 year olds to "Get out or I'll throw you out". When I asked him to point her out to me, he knew I would bite her head off could never find her for some reason. This is how we learned that you couldn't just go to the Teen Center anytime and hangout. You have to wait until your age group has a scheduled activity. When it comes to kids, you aren't going to please everyone. As far as the Teen Program goes, the intent and planning is well organized. The logistics need work. Separate areas for the 9-12 year olds and the 13-17 year olds would resolve a lot of issues. Entertainment There was a different show in the Stardust Theater every evening (usually with two showings). The first evening on board there was a sampling of some of the different shows that would be performing on the cruise. We really loved the music, but if you notice in the "Freestyle Daily", some of the shows are rated PG-13. I don't think it would have detracted from the shows at all to be a bit less suggestive with the costumes and dance moves, especially when the teen schedule had the kids sitting together at the shows. Onboard Activities The "Freestyle Daily" is like a mini newspaper with a list of the day's activities and announcements along with the upcoming weather report. It is given to you first during the boarding process and again each evening when your cabin is turned down. More than once I was in a position where I had to choose between two activities going on at the same time. There are sports and fitness activities, NCL "U" classes on wine and cheese tasting, photography, and upcoming ports of call. There's dance classes, a Texas Hold'em Tournament and of course Bingo. We had a blast participating in the Murder Mystery Dinner and met some great folks. (Poor captain Stubing, he never saw it coming). There was time for quiet reading too on the last sea day we discovered the "Port Room" just off the Spinnaker Lounge. Disembarkation In true Freestyle form, you can pick when you disembark from a list of time frames. There are color-coded luggage tags available in the Atrium the day before disembarkation; you also fill out a form to let the crew know when you plan to leave. The norm is to leave you luggage outside your cabin door the night before so the crew can collect and sort them according to your disembarkation schedule. One option however is to disembark in the first group and carry your own luggage. We took this option, again eating at the Market Cafe for a quick eat and dash breakfast, then getting in line to end our vacation. (Quick tip: When the line in the Atrium heads back through the Blue Lagoon, instead of following it, go around the opposite direction to meet up with the end. It will be much faster.) I didn't mind hauling our own luggage. The only down side is it may take a few minutes to get an elevator that you will fit into (or your family may end up in separate elevators). Lots of people took advantage of this option and so elevators were packed full of people and suitcases. There was a long line, but it moved slow and steady. Customs was almost a non-event, (we filled out the form the night before and handed it off) and since we had our luggage with us, we were on the street in front of the pier within five minutes of stepping off the ship. Summary The Norwegian Star is a beautiful ship. It's big enough that we didn't have time to explore all of it, and diverse enough that at any time there was something fun on the schedule. The crew was friendly and a variety of food was available 24 hours a day. We enjoyed the different restaurants, but missed getting to know the wait staff. Eating "whenever" was great. The ports of call all had a lot to choose from, sometimes it was hard to choose. The Inside Passage of Alaska is great for cruisers that are concerned about seasickness. The protected waters make for smooth sailing. Cell phone service is available while in the ports of call, and spotty in between ports. If you are business owners like us, you can check in with the office off and on. The round trip sailing from Seattle makes airline connections easy too. All around, the Norwegian Star is a fantastic vacation choice. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
This was my 25th cruise and I have been on all the major lines except Princess. For the last four years I have cruised twice a year. My last few cruises were on the Queen Mary 2, Explorer of the Seas, Disney Wonder, Costa Magica, NCL Dawn ... Read More
This was my 25th cruise and I have been on all the major lines except Princess. For the last four years I have cruised twice a year. My last few cruises were on the Queen Mary 2, Explorer of the Seas, Disney Wonder, Costa Magica, NCL Dawn & Spirit (one night). For this trip I sailed with my family: mother, father, and two sisters (one 23 and the other 15). They too have cruised over 20 times.   EMBARKATION We did roof top parking at the NYC pier. We live 20 minutes away in suburban NYC so we drove in. Once in the pier (which was fully redone- pier 88) we waited about an hour to board. This was nothing out of the ordinary but it went by quick and we were on the ship and headed straight to our cabin. We got on around 2:30 or so.   CABIN We had two Category E oceanview rooms with picture windows on deck 5 next door to one another. Cabin#s 5550 & 5552. The cabins were nicely furnished and small which is a staple on most cruise ships. Having sailed the Spirit before on the one night I know that some of the rooms were worn and these two were a bit as well. Nothing big but they could use new rugs. We had new beds and I loved them! Very nice. In the room I was in we had a third person sleeping in the open up sofa bed. This can obstruct the passage to the bathroom. The cabin also had a bunk as well. I would say if you are traveling with three use the bunk instead. My sistser is not fond "heights" plus there was not a rail guard on the bunk so she did not want to use it. Nevertheless the room was relatively fine but I found a few things that I did not care for such as a dirty condom in back of the sleeper sofa. Only reason why I went back there was to get something that fell and out I came with that plus some dried cheerios, bracelet, an earning and a shower cap! I never did let the steward know. It did not ruin my trip but I do think that is sloppy housekeeping to say the least. I know the stewards work hard for no money but they should take a look behind things once in a while.   FOOD To me it was average. Nothing really stood out except the cookies and pretzel rolls at the buffet. Loved them! Buffet food was just that buffet food I ate here for breakfast and some lunches. Dinners I took in Windows and the Garden Room. Windows was a lovely room - bright and airy; while the Garden Room was small and dark looking. I found the selection to be average I liked what I ate but again nothing really stood out. The first night I ate at Shogun and generally enjoyed what I had.   PORTS I have been to most of the ports already but enjoy going back. San Juan I walked around the old town. Tortola I took the beach escape excursion to Cane Beach. It was a lovely stretch of beach though it seemed crowded. In the Dominican Republic I did the Cayo Levantado excursion which was excellent. As many posters have indicated in these forums it is a beautiful place and it was HOT too. I ended up returning early to the ship. I did not want too but I felt like I was cooking!!!! I was very lucky to have perfect weather for the entire cruise. The sun was always shining and the sea was smooth. Very enjoyable, you can't ask for better!   ENTERTAINMENT I am not one for floor shows so I don't go to salute Broadway and the 70s and the 80s and the 90s. But I did see Second City and I love them. I saw them in Vegas and on the Dawn and the shows they do don't disappoint! I did see the crew show and thought it was enjoyable. There was a lounge act - pair of singers of which I forgot their names - who were excellent. I have to look there names up on the Freestyle Daly. When I unpack I will find them. They were superb and the women had some voice. Overall I liked what I saw but I do think that too many daytime activities focused on buying something. More on this....   WHAT I LIKED -I like freestyle this was my fourth time doing it and it always works for me. Two nights I waited 10-15 minutes, otherwise my entire family of 5 never had a problem. I know some have had different encounters with freestyle (including some clients of mine) and I can see that the Spirit had more lines than I can remember from the Dawn but I honestly can say it was a pleasure for my family! I like to eat when I am hungry. -I like the size of the ship. The Spirit is now considered average size but it makes getting around easy. -I love the walk around promenade. I think those days of promenades are numbered on the new ships! -And I loved the back of the ship - all of those terraced decks are wonderful places to sit back and relax in the sun.   WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER Don't kill me over these comments! - think that NCL has become the leader in surcharges and commercialism onboard. Having cruised recently on competing cruise line such as RCI, NCL definitely has increased the number of surcharges for their restaurants and so many daytime activities focus on revenue generating. I understand they are a company and need to make money all of the cruise lines do but I feel based on my experience with many different lines that they lead the pack. Maybe RCI has done this as well recently but the last time I cruised with them which was six months ago they did not. Yes, RCI and other lines have the art auctions, wine tasting and a surcharge restaurant or two but I felt NCL has more of this. One thing in particular is NCLU which is an enrichment program they have been touting to the travel agent community for months. My rep from NCL came in and spoke of it. Most days they had 4 or 5 NCLU "enrichment programs" and only one or two was free the rest had $15 surcharges because they involved alcohol. The same with the restaurants they now have made all specialty restaurants fee based. I understand it is higher quality food but remember you do pay for the cruise which does include food. What I did find was that the service in Shogun was very good while the service in the free or included restaurants was poor. I want to make it clear that this did not make my vacation poor it just gave the cruise a "cheap" feeling to it (and that is clearly my opinion). I want to make it clear that NCL is not the only line who does this all major mass market lines are similar in that they want to generate a lot of onboard revenue; I just felt that it was more on NCL. -As I stated before I thought the dining room service in the included restaurants was poor. Waited over 20 minutes to get menus one night, wrong orders and almost all the waiters don't even introduce themselves. I hate to sound nitpicky but if I go to a neighborhood Applebee's of TGIFriday's the waiters introduce themselves. This is not a big deal but just an observation. -The ship is a really a very nice handsome vessel that I think is even a bit classier looking then the Dawn. I just think they should give her one of those big makeovers and she would be a knockout. I know she is going in for a November dry-dock but she could benefit from a big overhaul just to give her that a fresher look. That does not mean they should do away with some of the Asian dEcor. I like it! -Lastly NCL has abandon the comment card select people from the cruise will be emailed a comment card and the rest can just mail in their comments to the corporate office. I do not care for this.   All in all I had a great time and hate to be home! Please don't think I am NCL bashing because I know some people in this forum may take it that way. I cheerlead for NO cruise line! I have favorites like Celebrity but I do not intend to offend diehard NCL fans. Just giving my opinion on the ship as both a travel agent and frequent cruiser. I would recommend the ship to anyone looking for a three star, three star plus experience she is not a 5 star ship and was never meant to be. I like NCL and think they have a good product but I feel that they nickel and dime you more so than others. Nevertheless, NCL is a viable product in the mass market cruise business which mainly include their biggest competitors Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I would definitely cruise with them again, may not be my first choice but I am always up for variety!!   Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
We had a fantastic cruise! We were first time cruisers, and didn't know exactly what to expect, but it was great. Our cabin was very nice and adequately equipped. The ship was always clean.The staff in the dining room was great. ... Read More
We had a fantastic cruise! We were first time cruisers, and didn't know exactly what to expect, but it was great. Our cabin was very nice and adequately equipped. The ship was always clean.The staff in the dining room was great. I'm a vegetarian and had no issues finding a good meal.We were a little disappointed with the shows; they seemed just slightly better than a lot of high school drama performances I've attended. Not painful to sit through, but not deserving of any accolades either. We enjoyed the comedian and the bars at night. The casino was just your average casino.We spent as much time in port as possible and spent the rest of our time on our balcony, so not much more to report about the ship. It wasn't really pool weather but we did soak in one of the hot tubs shortly after the ship left Vancouver, and it was perfect! Almost no crowds, and great views. I would never do this cruise without a balcony. Too much beautiful scenery! Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
I got off of the Destiny yesterday morning after a great cruise. During this review I will likely be in comparison to NCL as my last 2 cruises have been with them. Embarkation - Organized & smooth Ship - There is certainly ... Read More
I got off of the Destiny yesterday morning after a great cruise. During this review I will likely be in comparison to NCL as my last 2 cruises have been with them. Embarkation - Organized & smooth Ship - There is certainly evidience visible on this ship that suggests a makeover should be in the near future (and it is) but it didn't affect my good time. There are also public spaces that are interesting, modern and fine the way they are. The ship was kept clean by the staff and in my opinion was comfortable and classy. Room - I had a standard balcony cabin on the lido deck and the location was convenient to everything. Perfect! Our cabin attendant whose name was Danny was a standout even in a good service atmosphere and deserves to be mentioned. Bed comfortable, shower big, good TV channels, no complaints. Dining - I have never used the main dining rooms on a cruise as often as I did on this ship. This might have been a mistake in the past but I do know the caliber of food in ship dining rooms in my experience. I have to say I don't think people are very kind on their reviews of Carnivals food. I work in the food industry and feel like I have an educated opinion on this subject. I thought the food was very good. Best food I have had on a cruise to date. I had worried after hearing reviews but everything in the dining room was not only good but very good. This was the best part of the cruise all the way around was the food service from floor staff, to back of the house staff and management obviously worked as a team and really had it together on this ship. Good Job! By the way i ordered room service twice on this cruise and the food was fresh & perfect temperature as well as surprisingly fast & friendly both times. Again good job. More importantly good teamwork, that's how this great hospitality is accomplished. Service - Overall it was average. Certain staff was good to average others especially the casino staff seemed cold to down right icy. At least be nice while I am donating. This area needs work but again I don't need a wave and smile every time I pass you in the hallway. Everyone got their job done. Ports - I loved the itinerary. It worked for what we were looking for on this cruise. Grand Cayman is affluent & beautiful and Ocho Rios is somewhat poor and beautiful. I will say that as my first time in Jamaica I had a great time and would go back. Find a good (licensed) cab driver, make a deal and have fun. He'll take care of you. I think Jamaica gets a bad rap. That was not my experience. Entertainment - Comedians were fun. I did not see much that interested me at the theater and didn't see the shows so I don't know. Could use more daytime activities to take up time and get to know people. Overall - Excellent cruise and for my first carnival cruise. The reviews I read before going made it look sketchy and I thought it was great. They give you everything you need to have yourself the best vacation ever. Just don't waste too much time complaining or you might miss it all. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
3 passengers, wife 2 b, her sister and my self. Booked a balcony, on the 12th floor (Aloha), in the middle. This was my 3rd cruise, 1st with Princess. Previous cruises were with Norwegian (to Alaska and to Bermuda). Flew into Ft. ... Read More
3 passengers, wife 2 b, her sister and my self. Booked a balcony, on the 12th floor (Aloha), in the middle. This was my 3rd cruise, 1st with Princess. Previous cruises were with Norwegian (to Alaska and to Bermuda). Flew into Ft. Lauderdale on the 18th of October for the cruise leaving on the 19th. Previous experience had proved that flying in the morning of the cruise is not necessarily a good idea; almost missed my cruise from NYC last year even though the flight was scheduled to land at 8:30 am for a cruise that was leaving at 4pm! Pre Cruise: - Stayed at the Comfort Inn Airport/ Cruise port (great prices available by booking through southwest.com around $80/ 3 ppl inc. breakfast and am newspaper). The Comfort Inn offers complimentary shuttles from the airport and to the cruise port, so it was ideal for our needs. The airport shuttle wasn't great as for whatever reason the driver kept going around the airport without picking anyone up, but then again, its free, so can't complain too much. Got to the cruiseport at 12:30pm on the 26th. There was a bit of a line up for the embarkation, but around 30 mins later, we were through it all and into our cabins. There were some comments from previous reviews around the cards not working, but this was not the case for us. I would say the entire embarkation process met my expectations. There was a minimum of hassle (other than the 20 - 25 min wait time). The 'purser' was polite, answered the questions we had, etc. The cabin was an absolute delight. It was pretty big (considering this is a ship), ample room to hang clothes, a nice dresser, couple of chairs in the room and a couple of deck chairs and a table on the balcony. Also had a mini fridge, and a hair dryer. I was very impressed with the layout, kudos to Princess for getting this right. Again, this was my 1st balcony, but comparing with previous cabins on Norwegian, pretty good. Hit the buffet for a quick bite (yes, you can have lunch on board the ship) and then took a couple of hours to roam around the ship while no one else was! Everything was empty, so we got a really good look at the dining rooms, the gym, the sanctuary, the pools, hot tubs, theatre, lounges, casino, library, etc. Very impressive! The main atrium is 'only' 4 floor high, but well done. The ship is well laid out, if you stopped for a moment to think about it, everything was fairly intuitive. The ship left on time and it was a real joy to stand on the balcony and watch it move through the channel and out into the bay. On to the cruising stuff Dining: - Adequate. Excellent variety, but just didn't hit the spot for me or the folks travelling with me. Don't get me wrong, the choice is really excellent. There were 2 buffets (the Horizon Court and the Cafe Caribe). The Horizon Court had the standard buffet stuff while the Cafe Caribe was themed (one day Creole, one day Sushi, one day Oriental, etc). Then you had the main dining room (Michelangelo or Da Vinci if you chose anytime) and Botticelli (if you chose fixed time). You also had pizzas, hot dogs, burgers and the like. The quality of the food and the service in the dining rooms was not the issue at all. 5 stars here. The taste however left a little to be desired. Since we were 3, there was usually the option of ordering everything (with a couple of exceptions) on the menu and we usually did so. There were only 2 - 3 appetizers and perhaps 4 - 5 main courses that impressed thought all the meals. The rack of lamb was amazing, the barramundi with garam masala was delectable and the spicy pot pie was delicious. Alaskan king crab legs with drawn butter and a touch of lemon made you not want to stop eating. Most of the other dishes were more than acceptable, but nothing to blow you away, which was surprising. Same goes for the buffet. Everything was good, nothing was spectacular. A point to note is the buffet generally served similar items to the dining rooms, so if you are not in the mood to dress up, its an option. I would suggest eating breakfast at the buffet, hitting Michelangelo and Da Vinci immediately after to see what the lunch and dinner menus are (one does not serve lunch and as such, will already have the dinner menu posted) and deciding on which meal to do the sit down and which meal to do the buffet. The cafe caribe 'theme' is in the patter (daily letter), so that could help with the decision as well. The pizza is an excellent option. Afternoon tea should also be tried at least once. Fruit was outstanding through out. Cheese selections were adequate. Bread selections were good for lunch time, sadly lacking for breakfast and dinner. I would also suggest trying one of the pay for restaurants. We tried Sabatini's and that was the highlight (in terms of ambiance, service, quality and taste of the food). They also have a good wine selection; we had a Chablis that went well with our mostly seafood selection. Entertainment: - So, so. The princess theatre didn't always have the best shows and I have to say Princess perhaps skimped on the quality of this. Norwegian definitely had better shows. The comedy shows were good (2 of the 3), the rest of it could be skipped. The production/ dance show as elaborate with costumes and showmanship, but no theme line to it whatsoever. Explorers lounge had some good stuff (newly wed game, peer pressure, etc), so that might be a better option. Quite honestly, I don't think we would have necessarily missed a whole lot (other than a couple of days) if we had simply skipped the theatre altogether. This was definitely not the case with the previous couple of cruises, so Princess disappointed here. Other entertainment was fine. The usual ping pong tournaments, wii tournaments, pool games and the like. Also a scavenger hunt and other little things like dance classes, ceramic classes, etc. The enrichment was sub - expectation (or perhaps I wasn't looking for the right things). The usual talks on the place before visiting them were missing. We didn't go for the port shopping talk, so perhaps it was covered there. There was a pay class for computers, but really, learning computers on a cruise? Ports: - Very good. Started off @ Princess Cays. Lots of things for folks who don't want to spend. Bring your own snorkels and masks and there is good snorkeling right off the beach. Also, while the deck chairs with the shade are to be paid for, if you want to sun bathe on the deck chairs without, feel free. It's also a nice walk from one end to the other. Princess has a lunch buffet (yes, more food), but pretty standard fare. Good beach, nothing to write home about. St Maarten was next. The shopping opportunities were amazing. Alcohol was ridiculous. Cruzan rum can be had for $7, Appleton's Estate reserve for $10 and so on. It's a roughly 20 min walk from were the ship docks to town, assuming you can walk it, do it. The town has better prices on most items (including the alcohol) compared to the 'duty free' shops at the cruise port. We love to walk around town to 'get a feel' so did that for around an hour. Visited Pinel Island. The snorkeling off the island is very good. Don't waste your time around the shore, head out a little for the better stuff. If you have some time after snorkeling, take 20 mins to hit the little hill and get to the top of the island. Great views. Didn't visit Orient beach, but heard it was good. The best way to get to Pinel Island is to take cab. Prices are fixed, but you could bargain if you wish. We didn't and paid $50 for a return trip for the 3 of us (the return trip was back to the boat, not just to town). Other folks suggested they got better prices. Skip the public system if you planning to got to Pinel. Don't know about Orient Beach. St Thomas followed. The walk from Crown Bay (where the ship docks) to Charlotte Amalie is about 25 - 30 mins. Cab is $4 per person. For us, the walk was acceptable and so we did it (walked off some of the food!). Spent some time in town and then hopped on the public safari bus to Coki beach ($2/ person). The snorkeling here was really something else. The fish are absolutely addicted to dog biscuits. Flash one in the water and you will be surrounded in no time. Watch your fingers! Good fish variety and spectacular numbers (literally in the 100's) ... enjoyed ourselves! For the non water lovers, there is Coral Island that we heard was very good ($20 entry), but didn't feel the need to try it given the excellent snorkeling right off the shore. Trip back was by cab ($25/ 3). You could ask the cab driver to stop at Magens bay on the way back. Grand Turk was the last port of call. Its still recovering from the hurricane, so nothing to write home about. Swim and sun on the beach close to where the boat docks. You could also snorkel, but really, nothing much to see. We did see a lobster, so that was different, but nothing other than that. Overall value: OK. I will try other cruise lines before trying Princess again. Post cruise: The boat gets in around 7:30am and you can choose the 'quick disembark'. It requires you to take your bags with you, but essentially, you will be at the airport ($15 cab ride) by 9am. As such, you could book a 11am flight out and be comfortable about making it. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
This cruise was an early Christmas present for my 75 year old father, since he was unable to cruise with us over the holiday. It was also the first cruise my dad had taken in over 20 years! I live in Jacksonville so we had an easy 2 ... Read More
This cruise was an early Christmas present for my 75 year old father, since he was unable to cruise with us over the holiday. It was also the first cruise my dad had taken in over 20 years! I live in Jacksonville so we had an easy 2 l/4 hour drive to Port Canaveral. My father has difficulty walking; however, since he lives in Colorado and had flown to Florida, he did not have his handicapped pass with him. I explained this to the parking attendants and they permitted us to park in the lot closest to the ship. Our cruise was off to a great start! As a platinum member (and since we were in a suite) we were entitled to priority boarding. As usual, it was a breeze. Once onboard, we found a couple of chairs on the deck and enjoyed the sun and drinks until we were able to go to our cabin about 1:30. I had reserved a Cat 12 suite. The cabin was spacious and well appointed. Yes, the ship is older and showing some wear, but everything was clean and our room steward was delightful. As usual, the carnival beds and bedding were extremely comfortable and we enjoyed the robes they provided as we lounged on the balcony. I have been on many cruises and, with the exception of my first one, have always booked a balcony room. To me, it is one of the highlights of the cruise. We had late dining which is great when you are in port and don't want to rush back from an excursion. The food was acceptable, although selections weren't as good as some other Carnival ships. One night we ate at the buffet and it was fine, too. Our servers were wonderful and I found the staff as a whole to be exceptionally knowledgeable and polite. In Freeport, we took the jeep tour. As a rule, I don't usually book excursions through the trip, but thought it would be easier with my dad along. This was a wonderful trip around the Grand Bahama Island with some great stops and an excellent lunch in a botanical garden. We also had about an hour of beach time, although the facilities (bar, restaurant) were not open, nor were we able to use the chair. The water, however, was awesome. I booked a room at the Comfort Suites in Nassau so that we could enjoy the Atlantis facilities. I have done this many times and it's a good deal. Unfortunately, since my dad had some difficulty getting around, we weren't able to do too much. However, we enjoyed the casino, the Dig and lounging by the pool with drinks in hand. We didn't take in any of the shows since I have cruised on Sensation before and my dad wasn't particularly interested. I visited the Piano Bar which is usually one of the highlights of my cruises; however, it was usually almost empty. The piano player was very good, but I think the location on the ship made it difficult to find. We had some fun in the casino and I actually won some this trip! VIP debarkation was fantastic. We were the first two people off the ship and were in our car about 8 am! In summation, the Sensation is a nice, older ship which is going in for renovations in January, during which time they will be adding balconies to some oceanview cabins. That will be a nice touch. This is a wonderful, short cruise for people wanting a quick, relatively inexpensive, getaway. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
I travelled with a large group of 68 but my small group of family and friends consisted of 16 women ranging in age from 25-52 with one 14 yr old. We arrived on the ship just in time for the muster drill. Talk about cutting it close. This ... Read More
I travelled with a large group of 68 but my small group of family and friends consisted of 16 women ranging in age from 25-52 with one 14 yr old. We arrived on the ship just in time for the muster drill. Talk about cutting it close. This was my fourth cruise, first with RCCL. Overall, I would give it an 8 out of 10. Three of our balcony cabins were on the 6th deck and the carpet smelled very musty. Down the hall in front of one of our inside cabins, the carpet smelled even worst. Dining service was OK to say the least. Their lunch selections definitely needs improvement. Coming back from one of 8 hour tours a couple of us couldn't find anything on the buffet worth eating. Everyone does not eat pork or hot dogs. I settled for a salad. The Carmen Dining Room on Deck Three had an odor as well. Service at our early seating was mediocre. Some of our tables were always finished at least 45 minutes before we were. Not sure what that was about. Sometimes we got all of our appetizers, sometimes we didn't. I think there was a conspiracy going on b/c twice I asked for a baked potato but didn't received it. LOL. Maybe they were trying to tell me something. Entertain was OK. The first show wasn't that great at all. Ice show were two nights in a row and once you saw it the first night there was no need to see it again. Yet, there was very little else to do. Activities needs improvement. Sunday, our little group took the train to Monaco. All the shops were closed but it was a delight to see the town. Monday and Tuesday I arranged private tours with Rome in Limo for two vans for Florence/Pisa and Rome. WOW. What an incredible time we had. I recommend these folks highly. They showed us some many things I couldn't begin to list them all. They were very accommodating. Took us to two nice restaurants for lunch and even a stop for ice cream. My daughter has 400 pictures if that's any indication. I definitely helped the Italian economy along in the shopping area they took us to. Wednesday we decided to strike out on our own in Naples. We came across a very friendly older Italian gentlemen who took the 8 of us under his wing. He took us on the bus to the top of the mountain for the most amazing view and a stop at a local cameo store. We would have never felt comfortable doing this on own as we were warned to be careful of our possessions and surroundings. He also took us to a restaurant for lunch, a taste of limoncello and wine. Thursday was Palermo and we basically just wandered the streets for a little shopping and came back on board. Friday was the day at sea thank goodness b/c I was exhausted. This was truly a cruise of a lifetime in that I don't know when I'll ever get the chance to go back to these place and especially with the family I travelled with; e.g. sister, daughter, three nieces and a great niece and friends. Although my niece and one of my daughter's friend's luggage was lost for the first three days and it rained 70% of the time, overall I'd say we had a great time. We stayed at the Hotel Catalonia Ramblas in Barcelona for one night after the cruise. Great bathrooms, hard beds. Ventured out to Las Ramblas to see the sights then hopped the tour bus to see the City. A must see is LaSagrada Familia. WOW. What a church!!!! I put it right up there with St. Peter's Basilica. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
What can I say? Helping me to celebrate my Mom's 76th birthday were 3 other girlfriends all in their 50's. This is my 8th cruise - third on Princess having sailed the Dawn in 1997 and the Grand a few years after that. ... Read More
What can I say? Helping me to celebrate my Mom's 76th birthday were 3 other girlfriends all in their 50's. This is my 8th cruise - third on Princess having sailed the Dawn in 1997 and the Grand a few years after that. Embarkation: Can you believe we were at the port and on the ship in less than 30 minutes? A snap! Painless! Princess devotes staff to organizing embarkation splitting you on escalators by cabin number. Someone greets you at ship entry and even at elevators till you get to your room - bravo! The Cabin - our minisuite on Dolphin deck was superb. Great layout, impeccably maintained inside and plenty of smart storage. Recommendation? Dolphin balcony's are exposed to the elements natural and man made (bird droppings, cigar droppings from above and rain) a better effort to maintain these would enhance the balcony experience which was so-so. Also - if you are 2 in the cabin - 4 chairs are way too much - get two removed! The Public Areas - the true test of a ship is the ability to please a full load of passengers when the sea day has crummy weather. This was a death knell on the Norwegian Dream to Bermuda this summer but on the Crown...a good excuse to take part in all the activities and amenities the ship has to offer. You NEVER feel crowded or bored on this baby! The Staff - LOVE YOU ALL! Big kudos to Rebecca 'Becks' the Asst CD. Indefatigable! The dance lessons were phenomenal. These gals taught in 30 minutes more than we learned in a lifetime of onshore lessons! Priceless! We loved watching clueless couples get to be cool dance partners in 7 days! Entertainment - ok our faves were Epthany, DJ Don, the piano and guitar guy at Adagio and Crooners. The string quartet divine! And the calypso guy wonderful. Some misses...Cindy Chavez and friends, the Orchestra and only saw one production number bit that was enough. As for comedians...our friends said it varied. Wherever Becks was it was great! Food - pretty good! When lots of ships are cutting back Princess still offers some interesting and tasty fare. Loved the International Cafe for morning latte - thank you Angel and Tonya! (coffee cards are a bargain)and for lunch (many items are included and though not a soda lover one of our group was and the soda card was a real bargain!) for salads, lovely sandwiches and a glass of wine! Never got to Vines but my friend loved it! As for the dining room....definitely have our prejudices. We had anytime dining. It may be the same menu all over but it is not the same experience. LOVED the SERVICE and AMBIANCE at Michelangelos. Detested everything about Da Vinci's! Am I picky? Nah! Everytime we went for reservations there was plenty of opening at DaVinci and Michelangelos was booked almost solid except for 8:15 seating (which we gladly took)! Our waitstaff - Pat and Alex were great! We also enjoyed Victor (neighbor waiter at MA DR and our coffee service guy!. Excursions: Only took one in St Martin to the French Riviera Rendevous. 3.5 glorious hours of beach, sand, sun and a nice lunch...very reasonable since I was going alone and best? No hard sell anything! Ship shopping - neutral Art Auctions - fun and yes - I bought something and won something. Photography - Monique did the best lifestyle portrait of me in cargos and barefoot on casual night that ever was taken in 53 years. So I say - get your pix taken - its no obligation and you eve know! Did I experience it all? No - too much to see, do and enjoy! That's a compliment! I could go on and on - it was a fave trip and cruise - I love the Love Boat! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Sailed on the Majesty of the Seas Nov 17-21 to the Bahamas and Key West. Embarcation was a breeze, virtually no line at 2PM, on the ship in 15 minutes. I have only cruised on Carnival previously and was pleasantly surprised when entering ... Read More
Sailed on the Majesty of the Seas Nov 17-21 to the Bahamas and Key West. Embarcation was a breeze, virtually no line at 2PM, on the ship in 15 minutes. I have only cruised on Carnival previously and was pleasantly surprised when entering the atrium. It looked like a nice hotel instead of a casino. Food - sampled all (with the exception of Johnny Rockets)from the buffet to the dining room, the food was of similar quality to Carnival, tasty but not gourmet. Stateroom - Tiny is an understatement. Barely enough room for 2 adults to move simultaneously. The extra 70SF from a Carnival room was missed. The satellite TV was not live except for an ESPN channel and CNN International. I missed watching local news, even if it was from Colorado! The bottom of the bathroom door was very corroded and fell off during the second night of the cruise. Guest Relations was notified 3x (twice by phone and once in person) and it took them 24 hours to offer us another stateroom. Because our children had an adjoining stateroom this was declined and we just asked for it to be fixed while we were ashore the following morning. It wasn't. Our steward did a remarkable job keeping up with the rust chips that fell every time we opened and closed the door. The lack of action was the most disappointing part of the cruise. Service - Room steward and wait staff were phenominal. Guest relations need multiple complaints to take action and maintenance was non-existant. Our head waiter was not personable at all, stopped at the table ust twice and rebuffed compliments about his wait staff. He was certainly there when the envelopes were handed out though! Carnival has it right - the prepaid tips are for only those that you are in daily contact with and the maitre'd only gets a gratuity should you decide to give it, on RCL he is included in the pre-paid list. We always tip over for good service, needless to say he didn't any extra... Ports - Nassau and Key West. Coco Cay was cancelled because the weather was too rough for the tenders. Both are still the same as my last visits - LOL. Overall - It was an enjoyable vacation. Cheers Read Less
Sail Date November 2008

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