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Sail Date: March 2007
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: January 2008
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: February 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: April 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

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