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3,139 Fitness Cruise Reviews

Our second cruise and with double the passengers of our first it was different but the positives outweighed the negatives. Previously we sailed Holland America (Volendam) from Sydney to Singapore and loved every moment so naturally we were ... Read More
Our second cruise and with double the passengers of our first it was different but the positives outweighed the negatives. Previously we sailed Holland America (Volendam) from Sydney to Singapore and loved every moment so naturally we were comparing Celebrity Solstice to the "best". Loved this cruise for totally different reasons as it was so much fun and everyone enjoyed themselves and participated in all the fun stuff. From the 50's, 60's and 70's fun nights to the fantastic variety of the evening shows, it was fun, fun, fun. The passengers were a wider age group from very young to older which was great as more people joined in the activities. The Corning Hot Glass show which is only Deck 15 twice a day, was awesome, not to mention the real lawn deck on 15, so relaxing. The dining room food wasn't a consistent standard but not too bad. Disappointing some people were wearing T-shirts and baseball caps to dinner. Oceanview Cafe was a problem (for us) as not enough tables for the amount of passengers and the design of the food stations scattered all over the place was like a cattle yard with people hurrying around, criss-crossing all over the place. The specialty restaurants looked good, we went to Bistro on 5 for dinner a couple of times, very nice food with pleasant views and ambiance. We didn't try the others as only a short cruise, however would try them next time even although you have to pay. Overall would go back on Solstice no problem and very impressed with Celebrity as a cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
My husband and I have just returned from an 8 day Pacific Cruise. In general we had a wonderful time. The Solstice was a beautiful ship. Loved the cabin, more storage than I could possibly use, and the bathroom was also great, loved the ... Read More
My husband and I have just returned from an 8 day Pacific Cruise. In general we had a wonderful time. The Solstice was a beautiful ship. Loved the cabin, more storage than I could possibly use, and the bathroom was also great, loved the shower. The bed I found just a little firm for my liking, not as good compared to Holland America, that I sailed on last year. The food in general was good, we preferred to eat our lunches and breakfasts in the Oceanview Café, where we could serve ourselves. The choices for lunch were wonderful, although the deserts a little repetitious. We ate there on several occasions for dinner, where we found there to be a lot less choice. Perhaps they presumed most people would be using other restaurants. The added sushi bar in the evening was okay, but I found the sushi a little dry. We dined in the main restaurant at night on 4 occasions. The highlight would be a mouth watering fillet steak we had on the second night. Was a little disappointed with the special Top Chefs Menu that they had on one evening, my husband ordered the top winning strawberry dessert, to find only one strawberry at the bottom of the bowl. Surely strawberries aren't that expensive. And on another occasion we found a main selection with fish and rice, where the rice was bitter and unedible. The highlight however was the service. On one night we had to leave our dinner early before the dessert was served, as we would have missed the performance in the Solstice Theatre. The attendant asked us for our room number, and had our desserts waiting for us in our room when we returned. Our service room attendant William on the 8th floor was wonderful, nothing too much trouble. They deserve all the gratuities they receive, as they work very long hours for little pay. Liked the entertainment around the ship, joined in the Trivia every day, although found some of the questions to be just a little too difficult (on one occasion our group came second with 10 points out of 20. Loved the cooking demonstrations, was so surprised to see my husband join in, when he participated in the crepe making, and then got to eat what he had made. The embarkation was okay, considering the upgrade to the Sydney terminal, but was disappointed we were left waiting in line to board the ship with very little shade. All in all a good cruise. We are trying Princess next year, so we can compare Celebrity with it and Holland America Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We arrived half an hour early, fortunately for us, as those that arrived later must have a worse experience. Due to work being done on the terminal, we were led into a large tent and progressed quickly through the usual mazelike system ... Read More
We arrived half an hour early, fortunately for us, as those that arrived later must have a worse experience. Due to work being done on the terminal, we were led into a large tent and progressed quickly through the usual mazelike system until, about two lines from the exit, we stopped. We stood there for about two hours, with no food or drink supplied, or even available for sale, and no information given about the delay. We found out later it was partly due to a breakdown in the camera used to take our photos for our cruise card. Further delay was caused by having to obtain a visa for Bali, which could have been done later, as we would not be there for about eight days. It took about three hours to get to our cabin ( Stateroom - are they trying to make it sound better than it is?), The worst parts about all this was the lack of info, and the fact that there were many aged and incapacitated people in the line, and they were not offered seating or sustenance while in the cue. In fact, I started to call it a Cue Ship, not a Cruise Ship. They a great point of the fact that people who book land tours through the ship get preference on the tenders, They did on the way to shore, when it suited the ship, but when returning to the ship after a tour, you got in the line with all the people who had gone ashore on their own, More cueing! Some of the tours were very ordinary, but there were some very good ones - Darwin War History and The Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary at Geralton were very good. The choices on the menu in the dining room were a bit repetitive, but the food was good. The table waiter, Richard, was brilliant, and so was our cabin steward. The cabin was average for a cruise ship, although the shower was very small. Due to the large number od days "at sea" some of the onboard facilities were stretched. Finding a card table in the prescribed area was difficult. Generally the ship was comfortable, and we had no complaints about the normal functioning of it. One thing which does annoy me is the price of wine in the restaurant. When they pay no tax on it and still want to charge about four time the price I can buy the same bottle in my local shop, I call this gouging. But this applies to all cruise lines, not just RCI.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Everything was amazing. Food, entertainment, ports, weather, pools, gym, staff etc. We left our hotel room at 12 and had our first drink by the pool on the ship by 12:45. I have only one complaint which resulted in 4 vs 5 stars. The room ... Read More
Everything was amazing. Food, entertainment, ports, weather, pools, gym, staff etc. We left our hotel room at 12 and had our first drink by the pool on the ship by 12:45. I have only one complaint which resulted in 4 vs 5 stars. The room was an attached room and we could hear everything from the next room. Is was as if we had no door at all between us. Therefor they could hear us as well. They were not loud party people thankfully. It could have been worse. Would not recommend these rooms. However, the room itself was great. I have done several cruises and this ship was the nicest looking by far. It depends on what you are looking for. If you want a loud party atmosphere, choose Carnival, quiet choose an older princess ship. This one was in the middle of those two. I would cruise with them again and looks like I may do that soon. Great price and value Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Our first time in Alaska! We had a wonderful time with a wonderful itinerary on Celebrity Solstice. Embarkation in the port of Seattle went very smoothly. We were checked in by 10:30am and actually on board by 11:10am. We were first in ... Read More
Our first time in Alaska! We had a wonderful time with a wonderful itinerary on Celebrity Solstice. Embarkation in the port of Seattle went very smoothly. We were checked in by 10:30am and actually on board by 11:10am. We were first in line at the Shore Excursion Desk on Deck 3 which opens at 11:30am to book a few final shore excursions using our onboard credit. We stopped by the buffet, sat in the sun on the Sunset Bar and in our cabins at 1pm. Our luggage arrived in our cabins before 2:30pm. We unpacked, went to the boat drill and since we had an aft sunset veranda, we stayed in our cabin drinking the bottle of wine we brought on board with us, enjoying in private the incredibly gorgeous sailaway from Seattle, taking in the stunning views of Mt. Rainier, downtown Seattle, the islands of the Juan de Fuca Strait - picture perfect!! Then, we headed down to dinner. Typically, we sail Aqua Class as we very much enjoy the dining experience of Blu, but, there are no Aqua Class cabins on Solstice Class ships, that are sunset verandas - meaning there are no cabins off the back of the ship that are in the Aqua Class category on the Solstice Class ships. We have come to find that we love the sunset verandas - the cabins off the back of the ship - due to the sweeping views, you have your own private 180 degree vista-view! (we sailed away from Venice in a sunset veranda, WOW!!!). So what we have done twice now, is book a sunset veranda in order to have the stunning views, and book Select Dining (same menu as the Main Dining Room, but you have flexibility as to seating and timing). We have come to love Select Dining (ok, no, not as much as Blu in Aqua Class, but we are compromising to get the views from the aft sunset veranda cabins!). We have found that the Select Dining maitre d' works very hard to ensure that you are seated in the same station every night so that you establish a relationship with the server in that station - if you want to, that is, as you can request to sit anywhere in the Select area, which is very big. Saara, the maitre d' on Solstice for this cruise, was outstanding, very patient, accommodating, adept. When you think about what she has to manage, the huge number of guests, it is mind boggling - I am sure that the Select Dining area is the largest fine dining "restaurant" anywhere, with people making so many demands - she really did an amazing job, so much juggling. And the menus - well, I sailed Aqua Class on Eclipse only a month ago for two full weeks in the Baltic. And, truly, there are many many menu item crossovers between Blu and the main dining room. I don't think people realize that. Flavor is of course tantamount in all of the dining venues on board. But the menus in Blu and the Main Dining Room are very similar, many menu items are the same. The main dining room menu has gotten very "healthy" - but just like in Blu, you can order "unhealthy" items that are richer, but in general, the menu items are prepared with good health, great flavor in mind. Our server, Sanyo, was exceptional - he would always bring us the vegetarian menu along with the regular menu. He also realized quickly that we love authentic Indian food, not the "dumbed down" American mild version of it. Who knew (not us) that one of the specialty menus that Celebrity makes every night, is an Indian menu! An Indian menu, separate from the regular menu, with several options under every category. Authentic Indian food, filled with flavor and heat! Sanyo would usually bring my husband a side dish of veg that was featured on the Indian menu, every night, as an accompaniment to his entree. Excellent service, excellent food. Entertainment on this cruise was up to Celebrity snuff. As always seems to be the case, the production cast excels. We particularly enjoyed the shows "Ghostlight" and "Pulse". We were not so enamored with the show, "Music through the Decades", only because the cruise director took part in this show and gave a (TOO LENGTHY) history lesson of each decade - in short, she talked too much, WAY too much - but the musical performances were excellent. We gravitate toward the comedians, and there were several excellent guest comedy performers on board, including a comedy juggler, Adam Kario, for whom I had the pleasure of getting pulled up on stage to "assist" him - it was a very good time! Celebrity is continuing the late night comedy tradition of having a comedy show at 10:30 in a smaller theater, usually Celebrity Central on Deck 4, always excellent. We are not so excited, generally speaking, about the guest performers who simply sing - not that singing is simple, rather, we are not keen on the idea of spending an hour listening to someone who isn't say, Barbra Streisand, sing her songs. There was some of that on this cruise, but most people enjoy this. The takeaway is that there really is something for everyone. We very much enjoyed several of the musicians who performed around the ship in the Grand Foyer, the Passport Bar, etc - the house band this cruise, Top Notch, we thought was especially talented. And we sought out Rob Ondras, who played the guitar and sang - he did a Neil Diamond Tribute one night in the Grand Foyer which was fantastic! The Celebrity Orchestra is always amazing, I don't know where all of this talent comes from! They perform live in almost every show that is in the theater nightly (no pre-recorded music on Celebrity, ever!!, always live!!) - they perform with the guest performers and the production staff, as well as around the ship in various permutations, such as in full, for ballroom dancing or as a breakout jazz combo in the Ensemble Lounge. There were many other live performers throughout the ship - DJs, quartets, trios. There was karaoke nightly in Quasar. Never a shortage of entertainment. I can't possibly mention all of the Celebrity Life Activities - the trivias, the bocce tournaments on the lawn, etc etc and on and on. We especially loved the Top Chef at Sea event - my husband in fact was one of the people chosen to participate, he had a great time and he loves the apron he got to keep! A special mention needs to go to Brent Nixon, the onboard naturalist. He would give presentations throughout the cruise, "Beyond the Podium Presentations" which were informative but also extremely entertaining. We learned so much about Alaska, it's wildlife, etc, from his presentations. Also, during the full day when we cruised through the Tracy Arm Fjord and hung out in front of the Sawyer Glacier, Brent gave a non-stop narration over the public address system in the public areas, and on Ch 5 on the TVs in the staterooms. This was fantastic. We stayed in our cabin that day as we had our aft sunset veranda with the full 180 degree vista-vision, and so we had Ch 5 on so we could listen to Brent describe the history, the geology, the meteorology, the wildlife - you get my point - of the waters and the glacial area that we were in. Thus, the time in the Fjord wasn't, "oh, look, it's so pretty", rather, we were able to get a deeper understanding of what we were seeing and more fully understand it. One event that is one of our absolute favorites when cruising with Celebrity, on Solstice this cruise, did not go so well as on past cruises. The Wine and Cheese on the Lawn event is one we anticipate, one with the weather in Alaska, could have been in jeopardy - but we were blessed with amazing weather nearly every single day, even in Ketchikan! Only in Juneau did we have any rain, and it was not a big deal. The Wine and Cheese on the Lawn event was held on our sailaway from Victoria, British Columbia. We were really excited, because Rob Ondras was the musical performer - love him. How idyllic to lay on a blanket on the LAWN - truly, if you don't know, the Solstice class ships have ACTUAL GRASS that they have to MOW, on deck 14, it's fab! - so yes, to take your shoes off, bury your feet in the cool grass, lay on a blanket, listen to the strains of a wonderful musician, Rob Ondras in this case, have a server bring wine (for a fee) to your blanket, along with a plate of (gratis) cheese and fruit. Heavenly, right? Which is what it has been on other cruises - so, I don't know what happened, but there was only one server coming to the blankets to sell wine and he didn't start until over 15 min into the event! People began to que at the wine station, 20 people deep, to buy a glass of wine - not exactly relaxing!! - and the cheese?? From my blanket vantage point, I don't think they had more than 10 plates!! They ran out nearly immediately leaving only a pile of breadsticks for us sojourners. It was very odd and completely not the way we have experienced the Wine and Cheese on the Lawn events in the past. Perhaps the high turnout was not anticipated, as there were well over 100 people in attendance. There simply was not enough staff, or cheese!!, to serve the number of people that were there. We ended up not buying any wine. There was no way we were going to que for it as the point is to relax on the grass, enjoy the sailaway, the gentle ocean breeze, the sunshine, the music of Rob Ondras, the wine, the cheese, ahhhhhhh, breathe deeply! Queing is not a part of that idyl, nor was it ever before on any other Solstice class ship. The gym on Solstice has gotten lots of new machines since I was last on board. And we were very impressed with what seems to be a corporate wide policy to now offer many free classes in the gym. Some classes remain fee based, but free classes include Stretch & Relax, Tone with Tubes, Abs Express, and Muscle Max. We are Elite level in the Captain's Club, and on this cruise, the Sky Lounge was closed from 5-7pm for the nightly Elite and above cocktail and canape event. No coupons this cruise, so Sky Lounge was not ever too crowded, as only Elite and above CClub members were admitted. I am still going through withdrawals, not being able to head up to the Sky Lounge on Deck 14 at 5pm, sit in our favorite window seats, watch the stunning ocean/shore scenery, have friendly servers come to us with canapes and cocktails, ahhhhhh, a life one gets used to quickly! Boom, back to reality now! It doesn't need to be said that the ports of call were all fabulous, including Icy Strait Point, who's existence is based upon a collaboration between the town of Hoonah and the major cruise companies. Some people say it is the "Disney version" of Alaska, but we say it as an economic win:win, a revitalization of the local economy and a fun port for the cruise passengers - an old unused fish cannery was refurbed and made into a museum with lovely shops for local artisans. There are several restaurants, nature trails, many outdoor activities such as kayaking, whale watching, local dance theater, the famous zipline - lots to do, all good fun, beautifully maintained. Solstice itself, as are all of the Solstice class ships in particular, beautiful, with the lawn club (remember, REAL GRASS) being a huge highlight. Solstice is showing her age on the outside decks but maintenance efforts are ongoing and visible. Indoor spaces, including our cabin, are perfectly manicured. We do hope that the specialty restaurant Silk Harvest is soon replaced with what we feel to be the far superior, QSine. In conclusion, Celebrity does such a very good job of having employees make a connection with their guests, of taking what is a mid size ship, pretty big really, and making it feel more small and homey by ensuring that guests connect personally with their servers, their room attendants, their favorite mixologist in the Molecular Bar - whoever it may be - it is clear that the entire ship's staff has been trained well in the art of personal relations. I can't wait to be on board again!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
This was a last minute deal. My Carnival PVP called me Thursday to see if I could go on the cruise Sunday, free, just pay taxes. My wife could not get vacation, so I called a buddy I sailed with last year on the same ship in the summer. We ... Read More
This was a last minute deal. My Carnival PVP called me Thursday to see if I could go on the cruise Sunday, free, just pay taxes. My wife could not get vacation, so I called a buddy I sailed with last year on the same ship in the summer. We went on this cruise expecting to have fun, but not too enthused about the food or service. We had been on the Breeze last summer, and the service was not so good and they always seemed to overcook the meat or fish. This time, the Breeze had it all corrected. Embarkation was easy. I'm Platinum, so we were escorted into the lounge, checked in 1 5 mintes, and boarded the ship. The room was ready when we got there at noon. It was fabulous. Being last minute, we got booked in 7207, a HC cabin. It had a 36" entry door and bathroom door, and the bathroom was twice as big as standard Carnival. Shower was also twice as long, so the usual claustrophobia was solved. This one was in the corner of the front of the ship, so it was more spacious than usual. Storage was more limited. Only a double floor-to-ceiling hanging closet, 1/2 of one had drawers in it, instead of the standard 3 closets and separate drawers, so if you need storage space for clothes, remember that. The window had a "sky" view, as there was a wall outside for the railing, so no ocean view, but at least sunlight. I would certainly take it again, but since it is a handicapped room, I assume it would be hard to get on a constant basis. Service on this trip was great. Our steward, Agus, kept us in ice the whole cruise. We brought a small cooler, and that was always full, as were 2 ice buckets. The room was always clean. The purser line for Platinum was actually short (last time, they were letting non-Platinum/Diamond in as well). The staff was courteous, of course. We did the late seating Blush dining room. The food was fantastic. The medium rare steak was actually medium rare. Lobster was tender, fish was juicy (not dry). It goes on. The food was very good. It was a very relaxing week, and Carnival really did it right. I cannot wait until my next cruise with them. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
I went on this cruise off season (mid-September) and as a solo cruiser. The ship was beautiful and just the right size, not too big, not too small. It never felt crowded. I chose the itinerary because I was familiar with Cozumel but had ... Read More
I went on this cruise off season (mid-September) and as a solo cruiser. The ship was beautiful and just the right size, not too big, not too small. It never felt crowded. I chose the itinerary because I was familiar with Cozumel but had never been to the island of Roatan. I loved the ports! Roatan - which isn't on the mainland, was just beautiful. Cozumel (also an island off the mainland) was gorgeous as well. They had a lot of choices for excursions and I love the beach so it was great. Snorkeling at Roatan was great - there is a reef that surrounds the island so it makes the waters there really calm. Cozumel the waters were much rougher but still beautiful. I booked my excursions straight through Royal Caribbean before I went and had absolutely no issues - tickets were ready and waiting for me, they both went perfectly. For the ship, the dining room food was fantastic! I ate lunch and dinner in there as I have discovered I much prefer the quality of food in there verses the buffet as well as the interactions with other cruisers I found the buffet challenging in the morning (only if you are an early riser, which I am). There is no food available until after 7 am (well you can do room service for a fee before 630 am, but delivery for a non-fee is somewhere after 630 am). I had to save a cookie or roll from the previous day just to have something in my stomach when I went to the fitness center. There were many cruisers hovering around the entrances to the buffet starting at 615 to 630 am. I really wish they put out muffins or breads or something prior to the opening like they do on other ships. After 7 am though food was pretty accessible until almost 11 pm. The entertainment was your standard cruise ship shows, I have seen many so I didn't stay for all of them, but they were good. The spa had some really good deals on the first day of the cruise, and the treatments were great - just expensive if you don't get a deal. Also, watch once you get into a treatment, they will try to sell items to you and some can be a little pushy. The girl that did mine actually put her hands on her hips and shook her head at me when I told her I wasn't interested and actually made me feel really pressured into buying things. I avoided a lot of their seminars after that just because I didn't want to feel pressured into buying things that were really costly. There were tons of activities to do on the ship, so many that I couldn't fit them all in (which is a good thing). I loved that there was so much to do while on the ship. There were raffles and sales and talks throughout the sea days. The room was nice - I had an interior room and I must say the walls seemed a little thin on this particular ship. The room next to me had little kids and unfortunately I could hear the making noise and crying at different times while I was trying to sleep (I was on deck 2). No noise for above or below, just next to me and behind my room. I could hear what sounded like carts being rolled down a hallway behind my room, I am guessing some type of crew hallway. I couldn't hear voices from them juts rolling carts going by. The room stewards and dining room crew were great. They went above and beyond to make the experience great. The guest relations desk was fine until the very end. When I went to get off the ship,after waiting in line for about 30 minutes, I was told I had to go to guest relations. I went and stood in another line for about 20 minutes. I was then told that I had a cash account and had to pay for my charges. I showed them my registration that showed my credit card was attached from my online reservation and also told the guy at the desk that the lady at check in also took my credit card and verified it to my account. He told me I should have known to come to the guest relations desk to personally register my card and that doing online at the time of check-in was only a "reservation" and it didn't count. After I told him I had cruised many times before and had never had to do that he just shrugged his shoulders at me. After registering my card to him (now for the 3rd time) my account was charged and I was free to go back in another line to get off the ship. Thus my lesson was learned - I will double check and triple check to avoid that hassle and confusion again. All in all though it was an enjoyable trip, I only wish I had done a 7 day trip instead of 5 as it just seemed too short and left me wanting more time on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Prior to the cruise, there weren't any email communications/updates from the cruise line. It felt as though I wasn't sure the reservation existed until I did the online check-in. I guess I expected some email reminders or ... Read More
Prior to the cruise, there weren't any email communications/updates from the cruise line. It felt as though I wasn't sure the reservation existed until I did the online check-in. I guess I expected some email reminders or countdowns, etc. The cruise was certainly for the retired crowd. There were very, very few people under 60 on the cruise. Because of this (I’m guessing), everything closes early, about 12-1am. FIRST DAY On first day, you’ll probably have to wait for your stateroom if you board early. If so, go get lunch in Windjammer while you’re waiting. Windjammer will be very busy around this time, but you can eat out by Rita’s Cantina if it’s nice weather. It’s actually a much better option if the weather is nice! The mandatory drill is at 4pm, so plan things around that. In between lunch and the drill, try to find out when the formal nights are, and when the specialty plates are being served in the main dining room. It’s good to know when the formal nights are so you can book spa treatments (hair styling or shave) on formal nights. Similarly, you’ll want to know when the special plates are being served in the main dining room because you don’t want to have a reservation for a specialty restaurant when they’re doing something special in the main dining room (lobster night). The Guest Services desk should be able to give you all this info, but don’t take “We’re not sure yet” as the answer. Tell them you need to know to plan your spa and specialty restaurant reservations. You might have to push a little because they’re quick to give the easy reply that doesn’t really answer your question. But why wouldn’t they know this well in advance? You could also find out when they’re doing tours of the ship (if any – I didn’t see any on my cruise), and what type of entertainment is playing, and where it’s playing. It’s fun to be on deck for the “Sail Away Social” with a drink for the departure. However, get your drink at one of the inside bars, because they’re less busy than on the deck bars and may have quicker service. If you find out what other entertainment options are playing during departure, you may prefer the classical violin music (Schooner Bar), or Rock music (on the deck), or dance music (in the Centrum). You can also make your reservations for the spa based on what you’ve planned for the week (i.e. if the men want to get a shave, or if the ladies want to get their hair done, before the formal nights). However, do your mani/pedis on land before the cruise because I’m sure it’ll be way less expensive on land. This would also be a good time to make reservations for the specialty restaurants, assuming you’ve already found out when the specialty plates are being served in the main dining room as mentioned above. More advice below on that… There were rough seas on my cruise, which meant for a lot of rocking. Not much you could do about that. The ship had to stop for a few hours for the storm pick up ahead of us. It was OK after that. DINING Dining is the biggest reason I’m drawn to cursing as my vacation choice. In my opinion, the purpose of the cruise is to treat yourself, and indulge in great food. I book cruises because I love the excellent food, but I was seriously annoyed, if not disgusted, that Izumi and Rita’s had a la carte pricing and NOT a cover charge (as advertized online when I booked). Chef’s Table, Chops Grille, and Giovanni’s were still cover charges, gladly. This meant that Izumi and Rita’s had prices on the menu, which basically meant you would pay for each item you order from the menu. The prices were quite expensive too, even for a NYC resident like myself. I was looking forward to trying out Izumi and Rita’s, but not when I can get the same food for the same price on land! Because of this, 50% of my specialty restaurant options were effectively no longer of value to me. Sorry to say it folks, but this change in pricing put a HUGE damper on my trip. And now for the rest of the dining experience… We ate in the Windjammer every day, and the main dining room several times. We also ate at the Chef’s Table, Giovanni’s, and Chops Grille, but as I mentioned above, not at Izumi or Rita’s, even though I would have liked to. The first two nights of “My Time” dining had very long lines and waits, even with reservations. To avoid this, you could take advantage of the discounts they offer (20% off) if you eat in one of the specialty restaurants on the first night. You could also avoid the lines if you eat during the last sitting, which is 8pm I think. Specialty restaurants were fast to book up, but when we were there, there were lots of tables open, which was confusing. Make your specialty dinner reservations early, but make your reservations for nights towards the end of the cruise. I recommend this because eating in the specialty restaurants during the early part of your trip makes the food in the main dining room look poor in comparison to the amazing food in the specialty restaurants. Save the best for last, if you can. As I mention above, try to find out when there are special plates being served in the main dining room (you don’t want to be in a specialty restaurant on lobster night). Don’t forget; you can order multiple items on the menu, so don’t be afraid to try several things. I suggest making your dinner reservations earlier in the evenings, unless you don’t mind eating (a lot of food) at a later sitting. I prefer to not sleep on a full stomach. Give your poor body some time to digest all the food you’re about to eat. The chefs table was very well done. When you arrive, you’re greeted by a crew member (they'll recognize you by face and address you formally by last name the entire dinner). You wait in a small private room with the other guests, and are given a glass of champagne. You're seated at your assigned spot, and you chat with the other guests. Formal dress is requested, so if it's not a formal night, it will be a third formal night you'll need to pack for. You get a five-course meal with excellent wine pairings with each course. The chef will explain (very quickly, unfortunately) how the dishes are prepared. Be ready to listen carefully, because the chef’s accent can be difficult to understand because he speaks so quickly. The first course was a jumbo shrimp and salmon, followed by scallops, followed by soups, followed by Kobe beef, and ended with peach desert and side of wonderful chocolates. We ate at Giovanni’s on another night, and didn’t think anything could beat it, until we ate at Chops Grille on another night. They were both absolutely amazing. I have 4-5 bakeries within a few blocks of my apartment in NYC, and Chops Grille had the best Red Velvet cake I ever tasted, and I’ve tasted some great Red Velvet cake. Windjammer was buffet, and it was good on first and last day. The other days were good also, but not as good as first and last. I suppose you have good and bad days everywhere. FYI; the orange juice in the Windjammer is not orange juice; it’s concentrate. Gross. Because seating can be sparse at times in Windjammer, eat out by Rita’s Cantina because the view is great on nice weather days, and there is usually seating readily available. The Windjammer crew was pretty attentive to the guests, but the drink bar attendants weren’t friendly, and sometimes rude. For instance, I was getting wine with lunch one day, and I accidentally knocked over a wine glass (this happened primarily because there are no trays, so you need to carry your plate, drink, flatware, and personal belongings, etc. to your table). When I knocked over and broke the glass, the attendant just looked at me and didn't do anything, almost as if he expected me to start cleaning it up. I would have, but he didn't even offer me a paper towel. I’m in the service industry, and that response was completely unacceptable. If a guest accidentally knocks something over, you do whatever you can to make sure they don’t feel bad about it. I was also unpleasantly surprised that the fresh juice bar was only open for a limited amount of time in the mornings, and on one day, they ran out and closed early. Not sure how this can happen on a cruise. It was annoying because I paid for the drink package. BTW; the Park Café (in the Solarium) has salmon, bagels, and cream cheese each morning. This is not available in Windjammer. ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT The classical guitar was absolutely fantastic. The guitarist was in Schooner Bar when I checked it out, and the ambiance there made the music even better. On another night, big band entertainment looked like it would have been nice to dance to, but I got there too late. Temperature (a singer and 3-person band) was excellent. The main singer was an entertainer at heart and I could have listened to him all night. I saw the aerial acrobatics in Centrum. It was cool, and different, but still not my cup of tea. The piano player/singer was not good I’m sorry to say… The string quartet was also nice if you like classical music, which I do. It was very relaxing. The late nice dance option was totally empty every night, which was depressing, and meant we stopped trying after 2nd night. However, the bartenders and DJ were always a blast to hang out with in the empty bar! One-on-one entertainment! We went to the later seating of the shows in the theater, and it was hard to get seating. I think that’s because all the older guests went for earlier dining, and went to the later show after dinner. Therefore, the later shows were packed, unlike what the daily program suggested. EXCURSIONS We thought we heard announcements that excursions were all booked up, but I later found out that they weren't. It made me wonder if they made those announcements to spur bookings. Excursions were expensive for what you were getting. We went on the Halifax Titanic tour, and the tour guide was great. However, there absolutely wasn’t enough time in the museum. I only saw about 50-60% of what was available to be seen, and had to rush out without even seeing the gift shop. The guide explained everything we were seeing while on the bus, and did a very good jog explaining the Titanic graves. BTW, the tipping etiquette for tour guides is 10-15% of the tour price, if you’re happy with the guide. I’m sorry to say the St John was disappointing, even though the tour guides were fun. We did the Scenic St. John tour. We could have saved the $50 each and just walked around town. They brought us to the Reversing Falls Rapids. It was nice, and somewhat interesting, but the backdrop was a HUGE power plant, which killed the scenery. I would have rather taken a cab to the museum, and then go to the Old City Market to walk around. The Old City Market had some really cool stuff, and GREAT food. Definitely check it out. We had great weather in Bar Harbor, and it was beautiful town. We didn’t do an excursion, and I’m glad we didn’t. We walked around, browsed the shops, and ate at an AMAZING restaurant named Paddy's Irish Pub & Restaurant. Best clam chowder! We didn't even get off the ship in Portland due to lack of interest. Weather was great, so a sailboat trip may have been nice, but it’s hard to guess the weather. Nonetheless, it’s a depressing day since it’s the last day, so maybe an excursion would have been nice, but they were expensive, so I guess it depends on your energy levels. CABIN Our cabin was smaller than other rooms in same class (class “H”) by 20 sq ft. Not sure why our cabin was so much smaller, and there was no notice about it. I only found it out because our travel partners were in adjacent room. The bathroom smelt mildew; not terrible, but noticeable. The shower was tight. I'm 5'11", 170lb male, and if the shower was any smaller, it would have been too small for me. It makes me feel claustrophobic just thinking about it. The shower curtain didn't reach ground, so a lot of water sprays all over the bathroom floor. Also, the rim at the bottom of the shower was very low, which made it even easier for water to spray on the floor. Make sure you put down a floor towel. The showerhead was a misty spray, as opposed to a stream, which was a little annoying. There was good closet and drawer space. We couldn’t find channel guide, and there was no iron. The cabin steward was good. And BTW, the tipping etiquette is $3 per day per person. I wish I found that out before I went on the cruise, because I under-tipped the steward. Oops… Sorry Mark… OTHER I got the Premium liquor package ($55/day), but it doesn't include items in mini bar or room service. The bars make measured drinks, which means the drinks aren’t strong at all. I would've been annoyed if I had to pay for each drink. Most, if not all, of the drinks were under $10, which is what the package covers. The Ultimate drink package (one step up, for an additional $10) would have also allowed you to get premium coffee, premium tea, sparkling bottled water, and fresh squeezed orange juice. It would have been worth the price with 1-2 lattes a day, and a fresh squeezed orange juice at breakfast (because as I mentioned, the OJ is concentrate otherwise). When you start the cruise, pick a bartender, and tip that one so you can get speedy service from him/her during the rest of your trip. They’re pretty responsive to tipping passengers. They'll also provide a heavier pour sometimes. Although you prepaid tips, an extra $1-2 a drink will go a long way when you need speed things up during busier days. Cash tips are even better. For the shopping on board: the brands on the ship are ok, but not spectacular. The only benefit is not paying duties/taxes, so don’t plan on any great deals other than saving on duties and taxes. The shops on the ship sell pretty cheap (as in quality, not price) goods. The prices are incredibly inflated, so they offer big discounts throughout the cruise to spur buying. There were raffles that felt like a racket because the prize was a free fifth item if you buy four other items. THAT was the raffle prize; a free 5th item after buying 4 others. The same thing happened with the artwork. They gave a seminar that imparts value for the artwork, then offers a discount if you “buy today.” For instance, they were selling paintings that “would normally go for $750-$1250 each”, but they’ll sell them to you for $350 each, or $950 if you buy five. Are you serious? Maybe I just wasn’t a fan of the art? I got really annoyed by a towel attendant (male, Eastern European) at the pool one day. When I was done with my towel, I wanted to return it to them instead of leaving it on the deck for them to pick up. When I asked the attendant if this is where I can drop it off, he didn’t even reply, and just rudely pointed to a basket. Again, I’m in the service industry, and he could have just said “Oh thank you sir. You can just place in that basket.” Instead, I felt treated as if I was an annoyance. I just wanted to help… The photographer on board was good and took great pictures, and had great energy. The down side is that the prints were $24 a print for 8x10 and $14 (I think) for 5x7. I had tons of my own digital pics (as does everyone else), so I’m surprised they cost so much. They should lower these prices to make the option more appealing, especially since they throw out the prints if they're not purchased. There's no laundry avail to guests. You can have wash and fold laundry done on board for $30 a bag, and it’s a pretty small bag. The bag should take 24-48 hrs. They’ll allow pajamas, pairs of socks, shorts, swimwear, t-shirts, and underwear only. The bag would probably fit a pair of shorts, a few pairs of underwear and socks and 2 t-shirts. You can also do the laundry per item cost (not cheap). You can also get items dry-cleaned. That should take 24hrs, or you can do express service for 50% extra. PUBLIC SPACES Seating in Centrum was sparse at times, especially when the entertainment was good (Temperature). The gym is very good, which is important when you’re eating and drinking whenever you’re NOT in the gym! I wish they had heavier free weights, but the machines were pretty good, and covered the basics. It wasn't crowded whenever I went, but I think that’s because of the demographic on board. Their "library" was two bookcases. They call it a "nook". It is not a “library.” Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Just returned from the Eastern Caribbean on the Getaway., We have cruised with Princess, Holland America and Carnival in the past and although all were good this was a step up, Being casual was a big plus for us, I loved getting up each ... Read More
Just returned from the Eastern Caribbean on the Getaway., We have cruised with Princess, Holland America and Carnival in the past and although all were good this was a step up, Being casual was a big plus for us, I loved getting up each day and putting on a bathing suit. There were lots of things to do including the ropes course and the rock climbing wall and water slides, One of the reasons we choose this time of year was the kid factor, We were not overrun with children everywhere and those that were there were pretty respectful and were having a very good time, One of the nice places on the ship was Spice H20, I loved the water falls and really did not care that there was not a pool there, True from other reviews the adult pool is way too small for s ship of this size but we did not care as we don't usually use it when we cruise. There were many things to do. We played mini golf and participated in the trivia several times, The food was good, The Garden Cafe was good and we thought there was lots of varied foods and all were fresh and clean, We ate in the Tropicana dinning room the first night and it was very good, We also had the prime rib at O'sheehan's and it was to die for. We choose to go a la cart at the noodle bar one night and also at the sushi bar another night. Both were very reasonable and very good food if you like that kind of thing...we do. We went on the Maribella in San Marrten..........Do that if you can!!! The crew is great and makes the trip so so much fun and the beach is to die for, We also wert on the Turtle Cove tour and it was again all we hoped for and saw many turtles and other sealife, the crew is very helpful with those who are uncomfortable and learning how to snorkle for the first time. I saw Burn The Floor with my friend and it was pretty good even if you are not into dancing. Would I do this cruise again? In a heartbeat! Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
I have sailed on Celebrity ship, Princess and now the Divina. The MSC Divina is by FAR the most beautiful ship... ELEGANCE beyond words. My sister and I were upgraded from inside stateroom to balcony two weeks before departure and was ... Read More
I have sailed on Celebrity ship, Princess and now the Divina. The MSC Divina is by FAR the most beautiful ship... ELEGANCE beyond words. My sister and I were upgraded from inside stateroom to balcony two weeks before departure and was quite happy with the room and size, 9th level. In order of importance I am going to review: ENTERTAINMENT: OUTSTANDING !!!! Better than anything I have seen in Las Vegas or Branson, Missouri for sure! Fine Arts exemplified in many venues. The Pantheon Theater is amazing and so classical. I don't enjoy opera, but the other shows were totally amazing. Yatsel Vera won my heart with his amazing tenor voice every night. The entire entertainment staff work tirelessly for these productions. The day entertainment was lacking, but it is more of a relaxed atmosphere for the days at sea, i.e., pool side, (many pools and hot tubs... smaller areas, not large) but always plenty of loungers. Others complained that there were not game type activities, but that didn't bother me. SERVICE: Service is lacking on this ship, as you will read on other reviews. I don't know if it is the European style or what, but we had to ask for wash cloths EVERY night for the next day. I used the pull out sofa and didn't want it pulled out and made, I did that myself. We saw our room attendant daily and he was friendly, but not overly serviced. I did tip him extra because I do believe they work hard, but was disappointed with the towel service. Don't ask a waiter for coffee or water refills at the buffets because they rarely speak to you or acknowledge you and will point you to the direction where to get your own. RESTAURANTS: We were assigned at the Black Crab and had to ask for different table, as we were way back by the noisy kitchen area. This was accommodated. BUT I have to say the only thing that was edible at the restaurants for me was the desserts (bad)... but true. Prime Rib so tough my sister and I sent it back. Chicken Parmseasan reminded me of microwave, thin and tough, did not eat. In fact, I would have preferred to eat at the buffet every night. We did not attend sit down meals 2-3 evenings because the food was so bad. The same menu is served in the Villa Rosa. The breakfast was always better. A lot of breads, pastries, Italian fare, which makes it difficult to eat healthy, but I still managed to lose weight while on this ship! Food was not important to me when booking this ship, for the price, it was still a super great deal. BUFFETS: Always plenty to chose from. I think they should have more vegetable options. A lot of bread, pasta every meal, the carving station was hit or miss. Late night they need more options, after 10 pm the pizza line is long and they can't keep up. I enjoyed the huge buffets and didn't overeat while there, tried to walk around and look at the options. Plenty of salads, fruits. Again, staff is there to walk around slowly it seemed, and even if you tried to get their attention, they would avert their eyes. I don't know if it is a language barrier or what. EMBARKATION: We were two hours late leaving Miami and they said they had to get the "paperwork" in order. That was disappointing, as I wanted to watch the ship leave Miami port so I missed the first night show Frank Sinatra! The next day we were told there was a medical emergency, so that's understandable if that was the case. DISEMBARKATION: We carried our own luggage off so had to be out of room at 6 a.m. !!! Continental breakfast and it was smooth and quick. Our plane left Miami at noon so we had a long day, but better than waiting for the long lines and groups. Would do that again. PORTS: St. Juan, Puerto Rico - full day of shopping and sightseeing, St. Maarten - I booked excursion through TriCity Sports or something like that, on line beforehand, and it was a disaster. This was for snorkeling/kayaking for $69. They put us on the wrong bus and it took over an hour to get onto the right bus, then the bus had mechanical trouble. Several in my group were going to demand a refund, but it is not MSC that gives the refunds, so be wary of where your excursion is booked through. I wasn't on a time schedule and was alone, so kind of enjoyed the chaos, at least I got to see all sides of the island with all the traveling we had to do on the bus... lol.... The snorkeling was fair, but wouldn't do it again. It was worth the experience of kayaking in the ocean... my husband was proud of me... and it was a fun experience. We had two days at sea. Was supposed to go to Bahamas but our great CAPTAIN took us to Grand Turk instead!!! WHAT A GREAT CAPTAIN HE WAS !!! He was personable, friendly, and always available. He was at the end of the show Thurs night and his speech brought me near tears. Talking about how many staff it took to run a ship this size (HUGE) and the staff people we see are but a few -- it takes so many to do the dishes, laundry, and behind the scenes. I left my whole $12 per day gratituity for this reason, at the end of the 7 nights. I felt, even with the poor restaurant and buffet service, $84 was deserved. Grand TURK: Ship dock is right next to WONDERFUL beach, pleasant shopping experience, bars, and wonderful snorkeling. I was at the beach for over 8 hours and saw more undersea life than I did on my excursion. It is wonderful! FITNESS ROOM is outstanding !!! You have to pay EXTRA for the aqua cycling so I never did that. A lot you have to pay extra for - spa, etc. and many specialty restaurants. The music on this ship is phenomenal. If you like jazz, disco, classical or whatever , you will FIND IT... such talent and always something is going on in the musical venue. The atrium is beyond explanation ... so beautiful. I just sat there many evenings listening to the grand piano, cello and violin, thinking I was the richest person in the world.. lol..... I would definitely go on this ship again, despite the few kinks that need to be brought up to par. I don't expect to be pampered or waited on hand and foot... if you want that kind of experience, then go to the Yacht Club or purchase a higher priced ticket. For the money, you can't go wrong.. and I hope to get my husband on it for our 20 year anniversary! The balcony stateroom we had 9094, was so quiet and the ship is well balance. I only felt the ship move once and that was coming into Miami port at 4 am on the day we returned.. Just the change in the speed and the current. Rarely heard our neighbors,.... but I imagine they heard my sister and I giggling and laughing through the night. It was truly a trip to remember and I would sail MSC Divina AGAIN !!!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
After reading some disappointing previous reviews thought I would write this for those booked on future Equinox sailings. Husband and I flew from Toronto to Barcelona where we enjoyed a few wonderful days in the city before embarkation - ... Read More
After reading some disappointing previous reviews thought I would write this for those booked on future Equinox sailings. Husband and I flew from Toronto to Barcelona where we enjoyed a few wonderful days in the city before embarkation - highly recommend. In a précis we enjoyed everything about the cruise ( our second time on this ship due to itinerary). Embarkation smooth, cabin comfortable, food excellent in MDR, shore excursion staff and guest relations efficient, no complaints at all. As the cruise was fairly port intensive and we met so many nice people on board we never made it to any shows or spent time lounging around the pools. We really enjoyed having the complimentary premium drinks package, paid gratuities and onboard credit extended by Celebrity and upgraded. I think you have to be realistic - yes, it sometimes is a bit hectic at the morning buffet so order breakfast in your cabin, lunch in the Silhouette for a quieter experience, relax and watch the world go by. Consider you are being transported from one fabulous destination to another, having your accommodations tidied twice daily, delicious food selections, entertainment etc. etc. and remember you are there with lots of other people and the crew still makes you feel special! Hope you all enjoy as much as we did.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We (myself and my husband) have sailed with Royal Caribbean ships, mainly voyager class and freedom class 8 times. This was our ninth cruise and second on Liberty, The ship and cabin and public areas as always were lovely, clean and fresh. ... Read More
We (myself and my husband) have sailed with Royal Caribbean ships, mainly voyager class and freedom class 8 times. This was our ninth cruise and second on Liberty, The ship and cabin and public areas as always were lovely, clean and fresh. The staff in general were attentive and friendly, however there were noticeable differences and reductions in service as follows: - 1. Dining room was only open once for lunch - we much prefer this to the Windjammer - the only other option on RC ships, and as we stayed on the ship at many ports, we had to go ashore many times for lunch when we wanted to stay on the ship. The dining room also CLOSED at 8.30 many mornings - this did not suits us at all, as we only eat breakfast in the dining room, and on occasion wanted a lie-in when we were not going ashore - we were on holidays after all. The dining room previously stayed open until 9.30 - 10 am on previous cruises. RC also need to tackle the issue of the service areas - these need to be hidden from view of passengers, trays / trolleys piled with used dishes, leftovers is totally unacceptable. 2. Entertainment - overall the standard was high, shows were great, however only saw the cruise director once, no attendance by any of the main entertainment team at the poolside white party as other cruises. Some music / entertainment did not happen as scheduled, and also the standard of the music in the piano var - the schooner was very poor. In fact the Schooner Bar was empty most nights. 3. Guest Services - One queue for all queries, questions, issues and members is unacceptable. Some passengers had minor queries had to queue for over 40 minutes with passengers who had queries regarding accounts, or who wanted to book tours etc. There were separate queues on previous cruises. Why do RC still not allow irons, or provide irons in cabins free like other cruise lines? Overall, the staff seemed hurried, stressed and generally having low morale, and with the lack of commitment of the entertainment team to the enjoyment of the passengers would make me question whether I would travel with RC again or go back to another cruise line. Please RC you need to listen to your passengers.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
I wanted to love this cruise so I could go on this ship again.I have been on a lot of cruises,this is the most beautiful ship,but that alone is not enough to bring me back.Embarkation was fast & easy but that could be because I was in ... Read More
I wanted to love this cruise so I could go on this ship again.I have been on a lot of cruises,this is the most beautiful ship,but that alone is not enough to bring me back.Embarkation was fast & easy but that could be because I was in the Yacht club.the suite was smaller than other ships suites I've been on,however it was very nice with a closet ,tub,marble vanity & a pillow menu which was needed ,the pellet pillows were on the bed.I was not sure the extra perks were worth it until I went to the buffet ,really needed some vegtables,the Le muse restaurant was good for the most part steak was excellent ,as was the lobster pasta dishes could have been better.Anyway the buffet offering was pizza ,fish ,thin slices beef and green beans.everything else was fruit & salads.The desserts were very few & didn't look very appetizing,save myself some calories there. Some things were odd to me, I like to eat breakfast early,we had 24 hr room service but could not get breakfast items til 7:30.the top sail also served at 7:30 & the restaurant at 7:00.It was inconvenient to get to the restaurant,you had to take elevator to 7th walk through the photo area that was crowded & narrow then take the elevator to the 15th otherwise you walked outside on a wet deck dodging chairs & people.Also the desserts looked beautiful in the atrium area but at a price. I did not think there was enough to do during the sea days .I saw 3 shows that were very good,nice theater.It was a different vibe for us in the evening always felt like the lone american,which would be fine if you spoke several languages.The private pool was great except very little shade,wine ,cocktails were excellent so I think it was worth it as a one time thing to stay in the yacht club ,I had planned to sail on this ship again in a balcony room in a couple of months ,but realized you do get what you pay for,cheap price on cabin ,not so good buffet,pay for the good desserts,no afternoon tea (they did have tea in Topsail) if any of these things are important to you ,you might want to reconsider.The Staff I had interaction with were very nice & professional. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Having grown up in Minnesota, I retired in the South to get away from cold weather. This probably is why I prefer cruises to warm areas more then the North. Our favorite port on this cruise was Boston. A lot to see and enjoy with one day ... Read More
Having grown up in Minnesota, I retired in the South to get away from cold weather. This probably is why I prefer cruises to warm areas more then the North. Our favorite port on this cruise was Boston. A lot to see and enjoy with one day being perfect. Portland Maine was a nice place to walk as was Halifax. St Johns was a pleasant city to explore but once again one day was more than we needed. The ship was very clean and comfortable. Easy to get around and find what you were looking for. The working crew we were exposed to were very nice and worked hard. The language often was a problem when ordering or questioning food in the ships food locations but not in the main dinning room. We enjoyed the late dinning and the waiters were great as were the others we shared the table with. The menu selection as well as the food was very good. We have been on cruises where the food was superior but for the price it was great. No need to do the premium steak resturant unless steak is your main desire. The cabin was very good, quiet and convienant to getting around to all venues. Entertainment is weak but we did enjoy the comedians nightly. Exercise facilities and staff not helpful. Does have a nice running track. Once is enough for this ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Personal Background Information: I'm retired. This was my third cruise. Previous 2 were with Carnival. Travel To Port of Embarkation: Drove from my home to Miami. Hotel Info (if any): Stayed at a hotel near the airport. Parking at ... Read More
Personal Background Information: I'm retired. This was my third cruise. Previous 2 were with Carnival. Travel To Port of Embarkation: Drove from my home to Miami. Hotel Info (if any): Stayed at a hotel near the airport. Parking at the terminal is expensive. Would try to get a hotel parking deal next time, or at least park away from the terminal. Embarkation: Miami. Since we got there early, we got on the boat quickly. Stateroom: 10186. The room was nice. The luggage fit under the bed, even with the scooters (to be used on shore), helmets and tennis racquets we brought along. Ship Info: MSC Divina. Nice ship. Only 2 years old. Multiple pools and hot tubs. Slide separate from pools. Nice sports court, but under utilized. Dining: 2 main dining rooms, 2 buffets, and several specialty restaurants. I did not go to specialty restaurants. In the dining rooms and buffets, the food was good to below average. Activities: I participated in basketball, ping pong, and soccer tournaments, since that's about all they offered. They mentioned tennis and volleyball in their "during cruise" document, but kept on coming up with excuses to why they could not be set up, though the court supports it. In that regard, MSC did not meets its commitments. - Children's Clubs: They have them, but I did not use them. Staff & Service: Very accommodating in the dining room. However, the entertainment team refused to set up tennis and volleyball on the boat. They know when you are in your room and won't bother you. The glasses in the room were not always replaced with clean ones. Entertainment: The song and dance shows were good, incorporating jugglers and acrobats. More lead singers than Carnival. There were a couple of opera performances. No comedy except jokes by the cruise director and entertainment team. Shore Excursions: I did not purchase any. Disembarkation: Was smooth like at an airline terminal. Summary: For me, this cruise would have been good value for the money, if they would have met their commitment and provided tennis and volleyball on the boat. If you could get Carnival for the same price it would be a better deal, since the food is better, they have comedians, and there will definitely be volleyball on the boat. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: I have cruised 42 times on multiple different cruise lines. I travel solo and can’t get enough of cruising – I love being on the ocean. This cruise was in celebration of a milestone birthday. I’m an ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: I have cruised 42 times on multiple different cruise lines. I travel solo and can’t get enough of cruising – I love being on the ocean. This cruise was in celebration of a milestone birthday. I’m an adventurous “mature” adult who views every trip and cruise as a unique chance to experience the world and its people. TRAVEL TO EMBARKATION: Limo service from my rural northeast home to Montreal, Quebec. Really excellent train ride from Montreal to Quebec City on VIA Rail Canada, first class, with beautiful restored “Renaissance” class car with a row of single seats and a row of double seats, very good lunch, beverage service, and wines included. Quiet, clean, and wonderful way to begin a cruise, plus great scenery. Once in Quebec City, a 10-minute cab ride from my hotel to the cruise terminal was very inexpensive, in a clean, upscale vehicle with a courteous English-speaking driver. HOTELS: In Montreal, I stayed at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure, where I’ve had good stays before. In Quebec City, I stayed at the legendary historic landmark Chateau de Frontenac, high atop the cliffs of the city. It was like being in a French chateau in a past century, beautifully restored and preserved, and absolutely gorgeous and full of luxuries. Reasonable prices to begin with, and I received a complimentary upgrade to the high-floor executive level. Great view, plus access to the executive lounge with its lovely service, beverages, and foods. At the end of the cruise, I once again stayed at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure, who really exceeded all expectations and upgraded me to what appeared to be their presidential suite at the originally booked standard room rate, on my birthday. SHIP: The “Crystal Serenity” appeared clean, perfectly maintained and beautiful outside. The inside was indeed “serene”, with subdued colors, tasteful furnishings, and luxury feel everywhere - decorated with lovely marble, fabrics, style. Even the air smelled luxurious, and everything appeared brand new and/or so well maintained it appeared this 11 year old vessel had just been launched. The ship is 68,870 tons, with a length of 820 feet, beam of 106 feet. Top speed is 22 knots. There are nine passenger decks. A crew of 655 cares superbly for a maximum passenger compliment of 1,070. On my cruise, however, there were approximately 800 people on board. The ship is painted white overall, with beautiful yacht-like lines. There is a marvelous wood-decked completely circular one-level promenade deck, great for walking or jogging. The lifeboats are recessed within the hull. I wondered if the ship were soundproofed throughout, as it was unusually quiet no matter where I was within the ship. This ship does not have the glitzy multilevel atrium many cruise ships feature, but rather a two-level atrium at the ship’s center, with comfortable seating scattered throughout, plenty of windows with cushioned window seats, the reception/concierge desk, future cruise desk, Crystal Society desk, a small bar, a unique clear-crystal piano, and a beautiful two-story wall made of what appeared to be Murano glass of various colors, with a small cascading water fountain. There is a bronze statue of a woman playing a harp, with beautiful detail. A curving staircase descends from the upper level of the atrium down to the marble floor first level, perfect for formal night grand entrances. It is luxurious, serene and peaceful in the atrium, and this feeling was enhanced by a string quartet playing classical music there at various times. It reminded me of a grand foyer entrance to a stately home. Subdued colors are found throughout the ship, very tasteful and rich. There is none of the bright, sparkly, flashing, neon glitz seen over so much of the industry’s shipping afloat today. EMBARKATION: Pure pleasure. Courteous porters took my bag at the curb when I arrived by cab. Next, a quick walk through the small cruise terminal in Quebec City, right on the St. Lawrence River. The usual security screening was done quickly and courteously. Entry to the ship was through an enclosed walkway, which was especially appreciated as the day of embarkation had cold, raw, windy weather with rain. The actual “check-in” process was carried out in the lovely atrium of the ship. There must have been at least 40 agents sitting at tables with linen tablecloths, so there were no lines and no waiting. The agent took my papers, took a photo, gave me the cabin key card and some welcome-aboard information, and that was it – less than five minutes in a very gracious and relaxed setting. Cabin access was not until approximately 3 PM, and as boarding began at 1 PM, I had some time before going to my cabin. The string quartet was playing, the bar was open, waiters circulated with champagne on silver trays, the receptionists were patiently answering questions, lots of material was available to read about future cruises and the current cruise, old friends from previous trips were meeting, and the feeling was more like old friends gathering at a luxury estate for a vacation together than the usual hassles with embarkation many cruise lines seem to have. The wait went quickly with the sociable guests and crew. For those not wishing to haul their hand baggage with them, a secure check-in station had been established, and crew took the bags to the passenger staterooms to await the arrival of the passengers in their cabins later on. CABIN: I had a deck 8 midship deluxe verandah stateroom. It seemed about 30% larger than the usual balcony cabin. Luxury fabrics and quiet colors, subdued and peaceful. Queen-size bed with luxury linens and lots of pillows, but with a slightly tired and soft mattress. Pillow menu made getting just the right pillow very easy – just ask the stewardess and they were brought. Small leather sofa near the balcony glass wall. Desk/vanity and TV above a small refrigerator. Lots of lovely dark wood cabinetry and closet sliding doors. Plenty of mirrors. Closet had substantial and plentiful wood hangers, a safe with touch-pad entry, shoehorn, robe, slippers, huge umbrella, shoe care kit, clothes brush. Rack for shoes on closet floor, and shelves and drawers. There was a phone near the bed but not on the desk. Only one electric outlet at the desk, which could have used more outlets in this day of so many devices requiring charging. Lighting was plentiful, but could have been brighter, especially at the desk area. Nice clean carpet in very good condition for a cruise ship, as were all the furnishings in the room. Refrigerator had complimentary variety of soft drinks, waters, beer. Anything the passenger wishes can be brought quickly to stock or replenish the refrigerator. The verandah wall is all glass with a sliding door. There are sheer drapes against the glass, and then heavier light-blocking drapes which can be pulled over the sheers – the regular drapes are tied back neatly during the day. There were two chairs and a small table on the fairly large verandah, but due to mainly cold and windy and damp weather, I did not get nearly enough use out of this really nice balcony. Good TV channel selection with better than average reception, plus a bow camera view and ships statistics channel. TV had a DVD player built in. The bathroom was incredible, probably three times as large as the usual cruise ship bathroom. There was a gorgeous double-sink granite sink top in warm rust/gold/earth tones. Big mirrored wall above the sink, with shelf. Good bright lighting. Lots of separate shelves on either side of the mirror – lots of good storage space. There was a full-size bathtub with a hand-held shower setup inside a glass and shower-curtain enclosure. Even the toilet was a surprise, as it was a nearly full-size facility compared to the tiny ones on regular ships. Nicely placed towel racks. The towels were luxury thick, fluffy, soft, and looked brand new. You do not see thin, ragged, scratchy towels on this ship! Towels are replaced twice daily if you wish, but the usual eco-friendly practices abound on this ship – hang up the towel and reuse if you wish. Aveda bath products provided in the bathroom. There were shower caps, Q-tips, cotton balls, good-quality bath tissue and Kleenex provided. There was a soft small rug on the bathroom floor – nice touch for bare feet, but it could be very slippery so beware. Everything in the bathroom appeared spotlessly clean. There were several coat hooks on the wall near the door, very convenient. There were cloth laundry and shoe bags in the closet, again an eco-friendly effort, as well as the enormous cloth logo totebag. A large adjustable table was near the sofa for meals in the room. A full-length mirror was on the wall near the hall to the door. There was a small touch-pad system replacing the usual door-hanger signs – one of the best systems I’ve ever seen – to either announce the do not disturb status or request for cabin cleanup and service. One touch of the pad inside the cabin near the door lights the appropriate signal sign on a small pad outside the door. Touch again and the sign light goes out. There is also a real doorbell touch pad on the corridor-side pad so housekeeping can ring the bell rather than barge in and disturb the occupants, or guests can ring the bell when they visit. Very good climate-control system with heating and air conditioning adjustable individually for each cabin – just touch the indicator pad on the small control on the wall. A small bedside alarm clock was provided. I believe the cabin walls were soundproofed, as I never heard the people on either side of me. The cabin was so luxurious and comfortable it was a destination itself, as was the ship. ACTIVITIES: There were activities to suit all ages and interest levels. There is a “University at Sea”, offering computer classes, camera classes, personal enrichment topics, and other learning opportunities. World-class lecturers spoke each day on pertinent and interesting topics, with lectures in the very comfortable small theater on the ship. Fitness fans could work with a personal trainer for a fee, or use the huge array of new equipment and free weights in the fitness center. Joggers, runners, and walkers had plenty of space to do laps around the promenade deck. It is obvious that personal wellness is a popular topic on this ship, and plenty of opportunities are there to stay fit and well. My only wish in this area was for a Zumba class. Small groups met for diverse activities such as bridge, knitting, needlepoint, crafts, and reading. There was a small, elegant and apparently smoke-free casino with the usual games of chance and slots, including penny slots machines. There were plenty of photo opportunities and a nice photo gallery. Many people simply enjoyed socializing and looking out the windows at the ever-changing sea, or strolled with friends within the ship. Activities on this luxury-level ship are aimed at an older, mature passenger demographic for the most part. You will not find the raucous, carnival-type games and noise here. The passengers on my cruise appeared to be on average at least over 60, mostly couples, but plenty of singles (this cruise line offers some very nice price breaks for solo travelers). The passengers on this cruise were mainly from the USA and Canada, but there were other nationalities nicely mixed in as well. Most of the passengers I spoke to were devoted fans of Crystal Cruise Line and belonged to the Crystal Society of past passengers at some astoundingly high cruise number levels. There were a lot of professional people, very well-to-do, as well as ordinary Mr. and Mrs. Anywhere USA couples and singles. Everyone was very quiet, courteous, and interesting to socialize with. I love ballroom dancing, and this ship offers Ambassador Hosts, a small group of gentlemen who are available to dance with single ladies, or attend meals and tours with those wishing company while traveling solo. I danced every night almost until midnight with these courteous, well-traveled and well-spoken gentlemen from various countries, who were all outstanding dancers. It was one of the highlights of the cruise for me, and there was a small live orchestra for dancing in the beautiful lounge with a proper wood dance floor. A small bar is in the lounge area for those wishing drinks. There were just two sea days on this cruise, and I know there were more activities than I’ve listed here. The daily “Reflections” newsletter delivered each night to the staterooms was full of listings for dining, fun, relaxation, etc. There is a very nice spa at the top of the ship, and I splurged with a manicure, pedicure, and massage to get my birthday body some really nice pampering the last day of the cruise. Various societies represented on the ship offered some type of social gathering or cocktail party nearly every day of the cruise at various times. The future cruise consultant was a genial multilingual gentleman who always had somebody at his desk and a few people waiting. Apparently the loyalty to this brand keeps people booking the next cruise right on the ship, with good extras available if you do so. Another unique feature of this ship were four ladies who live on it. I met one of them who had been on the ship for six years straight. Talking to her was incredibly interesting, especially learning about the logistics of extreme downsizing with possessions and property, plus how to deal with the daily temptations of rich cruise ship food. The knitting and needlepoint groups were as much fun for the talk and shipboard gossip as they were for the small complimentary projects available, and often the groups met in the same lounge area where the elegant and elaborate themed traditional high tea events were held, with the classical string quartet playing. The high tea events featured servers in tuxedos, magnificent English and German elaborate china and silver, and very tempting and beautiful food items. There were just a few shops, all of which offered goods at the luxury level. There was a clothing ship, a “logo” articles and clothing shop with a very small selection of necessities and ship souvenirs, a perfume and cosmetics boutique which smelled so divine I wish they could make a perfume from the fragrance inside and sell it with the name “Cruise Ship”, and a very elegant high-end jewelry boutique with some of the most magnificent jeweled creations I’ve seen outside of a museum or world-class jewelry establishment. Everything on sale was tasteful and appeared carefully selected, and displays changed frequently. There weren’t any of the “sidewalk sales” other cruise ships offer. In a sensible change of procedure, the captain and officers do not shake hands at the meet and greet functions, very smart in these times of lots of nasty diseases in closed populations. I saw the Norwegian captain just once while walking through the ship, and he was a big man who appeared very serious and dedicated, but also polite when I said good morning to him as he went about his rounds with his staff. Safety was his priority, and after all, that is his main job. A popular activity on one of the sea days was an “open house” of the various types of staterooms available on the ship. It was a marvelous, clever selling tool for those not familiar with the ship or the actual cabins, as a photo can only demonstrate so much in a flat dimension. The penthouse suites were incredible to actually visit in person, and all categories of staterooms were lovely. Even the lowest-category outside cabins with a big picture window were extremely spacious and had the same nice bathroom as the other categories outside the suites and penthouses. The bottom ledge of the picture window was cushioned, and would make a great place to sit and watch the seas roll by, or just enjoy a cup of tea while reading, assuming one is agile enough to climb up the short distance to settle on the ledge. SERVICE: The best I’ve ever seen on any cruise ship, ever. Nothing was too much to ask for, and anything requested was taken care of incredibly fast. There were no excuses about why something could not be done – it was just quietly and efficiently made to happen, “with our compliments” – “it’s our pleasure”, etc. The staff always remained professional, cool, gracious, polite, composed, and willingly helpful. It felt like being royalty and treated accordingly. As this ship is all-inclusive, tips were included generously, and there were none of the sly, subtle little games played by the crew to get more tips. All the crew apparently had to speak English to work on this ship, and all were multilingual. Very international crew who had some great stories to share, and it was a good chance to meet and interact with people from other cultures. This crew seemed far better educated and sociable than on other ships. Cabin service appeared to be mainly female stewardesses, although I did see male waiters for room service and some room cleaners. I had a lovely lady from India caring for my stateroom, and she was genuinely dedicated to good service and being helpful. A huge plus was not finding service carts blocking the walkways first thing in the morning. The early-morning hallways were silent, clean, and uncluttered. Cabin service was at the guest’s choice of time, but appeared to usually being around midmorning to allow people to breakfast in their cabins undisturbed, or perhaps sleep late without being disturbed. The cabin service took longer than usual, but appeared more thorough as well. Service was complete twice a day, morning and evening turn-down. No pillow chocolates or towel animals on this cruise line, but that’s something I can easily do without. Eve the white orchids in a silver vase which I found on embarkation in my cabin, as well as the flower bouquet in my cabin delivered later on embarkation day from my travel agent were watered regularly by my cabin stewardess! Any shipboard mail, notices, invitations, etc. were placed in a “mail box” type rack just outside the cabin door, and there was a lot of printed information every day to keep passengers well informed without disturbing them. No annoying loud announcements were ever heard, as the ship has a “no-announcements’ policy unless it related to an emergency or port visit status. The captain makes a daily noon broadcast of items of interest, weather, position, etc. and this is heard ship-wide and on the decks. Anything related to safety or disembarkation at ports is also broadcast in the corridors as well as a designated shipboard TV channel in the staterooms. What a relief not to hear some braying carnival-barker style announcements constantly for art auctions while trying to take a guilt-free nap on a cruise! Items like time-change notices appear in printed notices and the daily newsletter. The crew was always willing to take photographs for passengers requesting this, which is a huge improvement for solo travelers trying to get a decent “selfie”. Everybody smiled most of the time, said hello quietly, and were one of the most contented crews I’ve ever encountered. Nobody complained about being tired, and nobody kept talking about how many months, days, weeks, hours they still had to work before their contract ran out. Good teamwork and mutual respect was apparent among the crew members. Dining room service was at the level of what the royals of the world probably receive. Nothing was too much to ask for, and everything was done with grace, style, smiles, courtesy, quiet professional efficiency, and warm concern that the guest was enjoying everything as much as possible. My table had a very compatible and expert team of two male waiters – one from Hungary and one from Croatia. Every night’s entrance into the dining room began with the head waiters and maitre’d at their podium, beaming at the guests, as well as a side line of 10 waiters smiling and offering to escort guests to their tables. Table service was the best I’ve seen in many years of cruising. Service at breakfast and lunch in the buffet restaurant also was extraordinarily good most of the time, with far more than average staffing. There were no trays in the buffet restaurant, but an observant waiter or waitress immediately approaches and offers to hold one’s plates as you progress through the lines, and they patiently wait with you while you choose your meal items, and then take all your plates and bowls or whatever to your table and then proceed to bring the beverage(s) of your choice. They will check up on you during the meal as well and bring seconds of anything and more beverages. The buffet crews feed you love along with your food. It is obvious that this crew knows they are on the ship to cater to very discerning passengers who pay a lot and expect the best for their cruise experience, and service is truly amazing in every department. DINING: Besides the main dining room, there are two pay-per-visit specialty restaurants – Silk Road and Prego. I did not take the opportunity to enjoy Prego, but did eat twice at Silk Road, with the feeling being that I can get Italian cuisine easily where I live, but not Japanese food. Silk Road is small and elegant, with superb service by its staff. There are flexible seating arrangements from a table for one or two, up to groups. There is also a sushi bar. An intricate and very unique menu offers a good variety of Japanese cuisine with some very different combinations of ingredients and seasonings. Chopsticks are provided as well as the usual utensils. Portions are small but adequate, and arranged like works of art. If you desire more of something, you will have it delivered to your table most graciously. There is chicken, seafood, fish, noodle type items, and many other choices. Deserts are wonderful as well. Appropriate complimentary beverages as well as for-pay menu are available to compliment any main entrée. The usual cruise ship buffet restaurants and little places around the lido deck offered grilled items and ice cream, too. I had expected true gourmet and Continental cuisine, with the rich sauces and complex recipes, in the dining room menus, but was rather disappointed to discover American home-cooking and “comfort food” items among the other and often somewhat peculiar food items offered. Salmon seemed to be offered at least twice a day in some form as well. Seeing liver and onions, fried chicken and roast turkey on such an elegant ship just didn’t really fit in with the luxury cruise ambience. Considering the majority of passengers were from the USA, however, perhaps it is the cruise line’s intention to feed these people what they want and get at home. When I cruise, it’s a chance to get away from dull, “healthy”, and boring food at home and enjoy the world’s cuisine and lots of good deserts guilt-free on vacation. The fish items were among bottom-feeder and bait varieties, for the most part, and the one time lobster was served, it was tasteless and mushy. Salad dressings on the buffet line were watery and poor quality. There certainly were enough items in all food groups to create something good, however, and it just took some time and practice. International food theme days were a feature on the buffet food lines, but some items weren’t really that good. There was a huge overabundance of using kernel corn and red and green bell peppers and onions as fillers in too many dishes. Dining room menu desserts had little variety, and seemed to be mainly made of fruit ingredients, with a lot of ice cream served. There were a lot of sugar-free and flourless items, but most were rather dry and tasteless. “Modern” cuisine was on the menu for lunch and dinner, but it appeared to be an overabundance of someone’s ideas of creative food blendings and preparation – different, and usually tasty, but a bit too exotic for my personal taste. Complimentary red and white wines which were very good were available at lunch and dinner, with premium other alcoholic beverages available for purchase. A big problem was the buffet line, where many items had obviously been prepared far ahead of serving times, and were held under ineffective heat lamps which did nothing to keep the items warm. Repeatedly, waffles and pancakes and other hot items were lukewarm or cold, and often dry and stiff. Same for the breakfast pastries first thing in the morning, as they had apparently been sitting out far too long and had become dry and stale. Some of the dining room food was also served below proper temperature for hot items, and not chilled properly for cold items. This was mentioned to the proper authorities several times, but I did not see much improvement in the seven days of this cruise. This situation is not unique to Crystal, however, as I’ve seen it on all 42 cruises I’ve enjoyed. Buffet items all had their little individual tags in front of them, identifying what each item was. Beverage selection was outstanding all over the ship, be it in the bars, dining rooms, or buffet restaurant. It was nice to have a whole can of soda brought to the table to enjoy, and many varieties of bottled water were also there for those wishing it. Sometimes cold beverages arrived without ice, which seemed to be the norm in Quebec restaurants and in Europe, too, but it was simple to remember to just ask for ice, please, and it was provided. The buffet restaurant tables were nicely set with china and silver, but a small plastic place mat was on the tables, and I did not see it cleaned between diners – and silverware was placed unwrapped on this plastic mat. This seems to be a serious breach of good health practices, as other diners put their used utensils on the mat during the meal. This was a rather tacky procedure in an otherwise beautifully set table. The dining room tables were masterpieces of flower arrangements and magnificent china, silver and glassware. The line uses Villeroy and Boch china, and has a series of four unique old-world map design charger plates on the tables. These plates were designed specifically for the cruise line, and I bought one of them for a souvenir of the trip. There were two seatings in the main dining room – main and late, as well as dining by reservation, and the buffet offered walk-in convenient service all during the day for the appropriate meals. A handy and appreciated electronic, large menu display is on the wall just outside both buffet entrances, and it changes screens to show all the food items available at each meal. I was delightfully surprised by the maitre’d and his staff when they brought a lovely chocolate birthday cake with candle to my table in the dining room – a very nice way to celebrate my milestone birthday and to be able to share it with the two very nice couples at my table that evening. Room service had a good menu available 24 hours a day, and although I did not try it, apparently the menu in the dining rooms is also available for service in the staterooms, with more items available to the elite penthouse accommodation passengers. PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: The ship provides a printed information sheet on each place visited. This cruise departed from Quebec City in Canada, and sailed up the St. Lawrence River, making a scenic cruise for a few hours in the Saguenay River fjord. Lots of beautiful fall foliage was visible, as well as quaint tiny villages along the riverbanks. There was a respectful and peaceful short stop below the beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary high on a cliff above the Saguenay River. The first port visited was Sept Isles, a small town on the St. Lawrence River. There were organized tours, but I chose to explore and walk on my own. An old historic trading post has been restored and preserved, and was an interesting place to see at the edge of town. There is an Innu Native “reserve” as part of the town, and a new marina with a scenic walkway along the riverfront. There were bus tours offered on local school buses, but I believe I saw most of what they did during my hours-long walk. The main highway at the inland edge of town leads to Quebec City, 10 hours away. There are the usual big-box stores and fast-food places along the highway. Effort has been put into upgrading the town, roads, cruise terminal (which had lively local music, foods, crafts on sale and nice helpful tourism people). The people I met while walking were helpful and friendly, and some did speak enough English to get directions and just interact sociably. The next port was the Isle de Madeleine, but due to very high winds and rough seas the tender shuttle service was not possible safely. A short stop in view of the scenic cliffs was about all we were able to do. The tiny islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon were next for the cruise, with tender shuttle service to the town pier. There were still very high winds and rough seas, and the tender ride was very rough. The local tourism board had a welcome committee bravely standing in the cold wind to greet the ship’s tenders as they arrived, and the music and smiles were lovely. This island is a territory of France, located just south of Newfoundland, with the French language and flag and traditions. Narrow hilly streets with cobblestones, stone architecture, lace curtains in windows, a few flowers still visible in window boxes. Some stores were open, but not many, and the bakery displays of French pastries looked wonderful. I did not tour in this port with the ship tours, but again chose to walk and explore on my own. There is small old stone cathedral in the center of town, and many historic monuments. The waterfront is full of various types of businesses, souvenir shops, tourism office, and different kinds of boats. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco. After a few hours exploring on foot, the icy wind and dampness convinced me to return to the ship for lunch, after seeing all I could of importance. The tender ride back to the ship was just as rough as the one to the land, with an additional 45 minutes of waiting for conditions safe enough to be able to actually dock the tender at the ship and escape the rough ride. The ship left that afternoon to return to Quebec, sailing back through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with beluga whale sightings to everyone’s delight, and then into the large, peaceful St. Lawrence River once again. The ship arrived in the morning at Quebec City, where it remained overnight to allow maximum touring of this beautiful old historic city. There were multiple city tours offered by vehicles, horse carriage, and on foot, as well as dining tours and explorations of the local area outside the city. I’ve been to Quebec numerous times, and chose to explore again on foot, this time visiting the huge Citadel high atop the cliffs next to the old walled city. I did not have enough time to enter and explore all the Citadel, but did enjoy walking the scenic grounds with the fall foliage and wonderful views of new Quebec as well as the old city below. The boardwalk on the top of the cliffs is worth walking just to people-watch and enjoy the music played by local musicians. Some of the views along the boardwalk of the buildings and people come right from French impressionist paintings. The French language of Quebec is heard everywhere. There are numerous restaurants offering all kinds of good food in Quebec, as well as multiple shopping opportunities and art exhibits. No matter how many times I’ve visited Quebec, there is always something new to find, eat, explore, see, or just enjoy by visiting with the local people and trying to improve my amateur French-speaking ability. The last night of the cruise was spent enjoying the many amenities of the beautiful ship, and getting a good night’s sleep before heading home. The night view of the old city from my verandah was spectacular. ENTERTAINMENT: There was the usual variety of cruise-ship entertainment on this cruise. Several very professionally-produced production shows were performed in a comfortable theater-type lounge with plenty of seating for everybody at two separate times. A really good live orchestra enhanced each performance. The dancers and singers seemed far more professional and skilled than average compared to other cruise lines. Costumes were spectacular, especially in one show which highlighted Broadway hit shows. The ship’s cruise director (from the USA) was a clever ventriloquist who performed one evening. There was a professional ballroom dance duo, and wonderful singers – something for everybody and every taste. There were also lounge singers in several venues throughout the ship in the evening. A favorite was the classical string quartet of European ladies who played at various places and times during the cruise. There was also a very skilled and entertaining magician aboard. Movies were offered in a real movie theater onboard throughout the cruise. If all this was not enough, there was a good selection of DVDs available for checkout from the library for private viewing in the staterooms. Many people seemed to be entertained quite nicely just by reading books, working on personal IT devices, small craft projects, attending the various lectures and educational offerings aboard ship, shopping, socializing, and enjoying the shuffleboard and other deck sports available despite the weather being somewhat inclement at times. CHILDREN: I only saw one small child and several teens on board. I observed a small room which was a playroom of some sort, but overall, this is a cruise line catering to adults. With the obvious service and quality of this cruise line, however, I’m sure if a large number of children were onboard, they would enjoy themselves as much as the adults while being well cared for. DISEMBARKATION: Extremely quiet, organized, and convenient. The ship was in port from the day before the end of the cruise, and this allowed people who had extremely early flights to disembark as early as 2:30 or 3:00 AM. Luggage was set out and collected silently during the night at the passenger’s convenience, most of it by 11 PM. There was the usual colored tag system indicating when disembarkation would take place. If one had an early flight or needed special arrangements, it was quick and easy to arrange an appropriate time. If an assigned time wasn’t convenient, a simple call to guest services provided a convenient time and a new tag. A really nice feature of disembarkation was allowing passengers to stay in their cabins much later than usual on other cruise lines. No cabin service people barged in and started tearing the cabin apart and cleaning while the guests were enjoying privacy to the last minute. I never heard a sound from the baggage collectors or early departing passengers. No announcements were made, as very detailed instructions about how to leave the ship, where to meet, what to do with final details, etc. were given to guests well in advance of the actual day of disembarkation. I had a late train from Quebec back to Montreal, and was able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, do final packing in my carry-on bag, and leave the ship at my convenience without any noticeable crowds or confusion. The ship was so organized that I was able to leave the ship 45 minutes earlier than my requested time. The cruise terminal at the pier in Quebec City is small but well organized, and my bag was waiting for me in a clean, neat area. Plentiful inexpensive cabs were right outside the terminal, and I rode comfortably to the train station after leaving the ship with plenty of leisure time and no stress. SUMMARY: Crystal Cruise Lines is nearly perfect, or at least this cruise was. It is a product which appears to be aimed mainly at mature adults. Most of the people I interacted with among the passengers were sociable, well-traveled, and well-to-do people who lived to cruise and loved to cruise. Many had the means and time to take multiple back to back cruises, and as one passenger commented to me, “This is what we do – this is our lifestyle”. Another remark overheard was “The passengers on this cruise line who take the world cruises repeatedly are a cult. There is nothing like it with any other cruise line”. Being well-traveled and sociable, but certainly not “well-to-do” compared to my fellow passengers, I considered this birthday celebration cruise a privilege and a splurge, and really appreciated it. I can’t imagine taking this level of luxury and quality for granted as some people seemed to do on the ship. Most of the passengers appeared to be traveling as couples, or family members together in small groups, with a preponderance of single older women. One large group of travelers was from Asia, and other international countries were represented. This definitely was a more sociable passenger contingent than I’ve noted on multiple other cruise lines. Many people knew other travelers from prior cruises, and the Crystal Society members were very numerous and enjoyed reconnection with people they had met on other cruises. A premium company representing quality travel agencies had a representative on board as well, and there were social gatherings and on-board perks for passengers who had used a travel agency belonging to this company. There is enough to do without ever feeling bored or ignored on this gracious ship. It all depends on what your interests are and your desired level of involvement. Premium shore excursions are available if you have the desire and means to purchase something out of the ordinary. Pre- and post-cruise quality packages of hotels and private or group transfers begin the luxury experience well before the cruise ever begins for those who choose to purchase them. Service is exceptional overall, absolutely the best I’ve ever experienced. No wish is impossible, and everything is done with courtesy, class and amazing speed. Dining was a bit of a disappointment in some areas, and apparently satisfied the majority of diners - but this cruise line apparently has achieved the impossible by taking calories out of the food. I lost two pounds while eating five or six desserts per day – and I normally come home from even a short cruise with several extra pounds as unwanted souvenirs of enthusiastic dining. Nobody can starve on this ship, even if the cuisine offered is at times a bit unique or unusual. With the two specialty restaurants offering complimentary dining for one time in each, be sure to give them a try. Despite some rather exotic food offerings, it was all mostly very good and a great chance to experiment and try things most of us never get at home. Activities offered were age-appropriate and had something for every interest, fitness level, or age. There were very popular offerings involving computers on this particular cruise, as well as photography. Had the weather been better, I’m sure more people would have enjoyed the wide, wrap-around promenade deck for walks and whale-watching, as well as the lovely pool deck area with its inviting large lounge chairs and clamshell “cuddle couches”. A daily newsletter is well-written and full of useful and interesting facts about each day of the cruise. Weather and the daily dress code are included in detail. One does not need to wear formal attire every night, either, despite the elegance of the cruise – nice resort casual clothing is the norm most of the time, and there was just one truly formal night on my 7 night cruise – and this had a nice showing of tuxedos and formal gowns, but also dressy tops and pants for women and suits for men. People dressed appropriately for the weather, ports and onboard ambience, but with a welcome lack of the usual torn shorts, undershirts, tired flip-flops, and worn-out baseball caps seen on the more casual cruises no matter what the dress code. Fares for Crystal run a bit higher than average, but you get what you pay for. There are specials, “deals”, early booking rates, Crystal Society discounts, early full-payment discounts, and very enticing solo traveler fares. It’s worth every penny, considering the quality of service, beautifully maintained and designed vessel, far above average cabins and interior appointments in the cabins and baths, and attention to detail in every aspect of the cruise experience. Crystal travels the world with its two lovely medium-sized ships, with varying lengths of itineraries, and offers the usual pre- and post-cruise services of airline flights, transfers, land tours, and hotels, all at a higher level of luxury than ordinary cruise lines. While the cruises can be booked online, I was assigned a travel agent when first contacting the cruise line by phone for information, and the agency admirably handled all the details for me to my complete satisfaction plus treating me to flowers on board and two generous on-board credit packages. I usually do my own cruise bookings, but was glad for the professional assistance with this Crystal booking. If you want extraordinary service on a meticulously run and elegant medium-sized cruise ship, with multiple dining and activity options, plus a passenger contingent of sociable, mature, well-traveled adults, Crystal offers cruises which will far exceed your expectations all over the world. This is not a “stuffy” or “snob” cruise line, but rather a nearly-perfect cruise experience on two ships which travel the world. Such is the popularity of its cruises and dedication of loyal repeat passengers that some 2016 cruises are already nearly fully booked, and the historic Northwest Passage month-long cruise in 2016 is already sold out with hundreds on a waiting list. I had expected my trip to be a one-time splurge, but it was so wonderful that I’m booked on the “Crystal Symphony” in the future. Having experienced this level of quality in cruising, it will be very difficult to go back to the usual and ordinary cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
First and foremost, Son, our Tour Director was an amazing and diligent guide that met everyone’s needs. He ensured everyone understood the plan, how to eliminate overhead and bureaucracy and the most time was spent on the attractions and ... Read More
First and foremost, Son, our Tour Director was an amazing and diligent guide that met everyone’s needs. He ensured everyone understood the plan, how to eliminate overhead and bureaucracy and the most time was spent on the attractions and not waiting around. We loved how he handled all the passport, visas and customs processes. He made it so easy for everyone. Not a single complaint. The land portion of the Hanoi tour excellent. Good balance and blend of sites. My only criticism is the tour did not include an option for the women’s museum which is a great museum to understand all the ethnicities in Vietnam, nor did it include a visit to the (Army) War Museum in Hanoi. We went to these on our own. Taxis only cost $2-3 each way, so it was no problem for us to do when we arrived a day early before the tour started. The hotels were clearly 4-5 star choices. Could not have been better choices and the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi was a clear delight. Definitely sign up as soon as you can for the free bomb shelter tour. You will learn a lot of history in 45 minutes that many never hear or see in Hanoi. As everyone will tell you, bring LOTS of $1 bills for tips. You need at least 50 of them. Plan for it, you will need them for many things, like Tuk Tuks, taxis, drinks, etc. Don’t plan on exchanging money in Vietnam for the small bills…you can, but it is a pain in the butt and may not be possible when you need it. Just bring $100 in lots of small bills. You will be happy. The ATMs in Vietnam are plentiful and spit out local currency…most people don’t need more than $50 in local currency. In Cambodia, most people use US dollars and even the ATMs give out US dollars, no local currency needed. In restaurants, taxis and bars, tipping is not needed or expected. From a weather standpoint, it was HOT and HUMID in August. You will sweat your butt off and be prepared to bring lots of clothes that you can wash in your room every day (like EXOffico, REI and Columbia). Most people can and do wear shorts, but for temples and pagodas, you do need long pants and full shirts that cover your shoulders to get into most of them. Outside of that, most places and most people are very casual. It can also rain/downpour at a moment’s notice, so small mobile umbrellas are handy. The tour group is very good with giving ponchos and umbrellas when people were not prepared. Hanoi, Siem Riep, Phnom Penh, the villages are all safe. No threats whatsoever. Very friendly people and no concerns of theft, pickpockets, etc. A true delight that is not experienced in many countries anymore. Never felt or seen any behavior or activities to concern a tourist. One thing that AMA did very nicely is there for approximately 65 people total in our group. They broke it down into 3 groups every day based on a color naming scheme. In general, most groups at 15-20 people max, and each group got their own bus. They never operated with massive group sizes or crowded busses. You actually felt like a smaller tour. This was well done and a definite plus for this tour company. Cruising with AMAWaterways on the AMALOTUS for a week was a delight. The highlights: The staff do have limited English, but it is adequate and they try very hard meet all passenger needs while being in a third world country. They are customer focused and it shows. But, be aware, they are limited and if you have questions that are more than basic things, they will not understand you or be able to help. It is important that people set different expectations on what is possible and what can be done in a third world country. The rooms are very comfortable and clean. We were a little worried that our first room (303) had very poor air conditioning and was going to be hot, but they moved us to a new room (305) and we had a nice ice cold room the entire cruise. One thing people should be aware of: if some of the better rooms are not occupied, they will not upgrade you to the nicer rooms. If you want a nicer room, they will offer the upgrades for a discount ($500 - $800 for the week), but it won’t happen just because you are a frequent guest of AMA Waterways. The food was great every day. Good choices, many options and generous portions available to everyone. Local and western choices. Great flavors and unbelievable presentation every day. The seating times are somewhat fixed though: lunch is at 12:30 and dinner is at 7:30. There is a little flexibility, but not much. Everywhere you, you will be given lots of bottled water to drink and brush your teeth with. Not even locals drink tap water, so you better not try it yourself. Even if you run out, you can buy a bottle for 50 cents in local currency or even a bottle of beer for less than $1 US dollar. Most people felt the Cambodian Angkor beer was the best choice. Drinks are always available: beer, cocktails, soft drinks, juices, water, etc. Wine is only available at lunch and dinner, but it is poured with ease and you can take a full glass when you leave the table. The house wines were not bad and unless you are a connoisseur, the wines will be just fine. The exercise room has 1 bike, 1 treadmill and 1 elliptical with a few free weights and yoga mats. It is not much, but at least they had something on the small ship. I think it would have been nice to have a few more free weights in the heavier levels. Vising the local villages and schools was a wonderful experience as a westerner. We were able to see, smell, and feel how many people in Vietnam and Cambodia live their daily lives. It is so limited and so different, it is hard to explain until you experience first-hand. You learn and understand so much more with tours like this that are not possible in the standard group tours. The people love to meet and see you and it is a delight to interact with them. When you visit these places, the children love the gifts. In Siem Riep, we purchased some small soccer balls to give to children in the villages. This is something they could never afford, but it gave them a toy that many could enjoy that might not be possible without outside visitors bringing these things to them. It was a great reward to play a game with all the kids without saying a word that neither side could understand. If you have one of the mini-suites you get the great benefit of a bathtub (with jets) which is great when you have to do laundry to clean your daily sweaty clothes in the 100% humidity and 100 degree weather in these countries in the summer months. You also get a dedicated Internet hotspot for your room and do not need to share with the entire passenger list which is VERY nice when you want to stay connected along the way.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
The Oasis is not your typical cruise, you might not feel fussed over like on other ships but omg what a ship! We usually cruise on Celebrity or Holland. I swore would not go on RCC since I caught the Nor Virus in 2006 on our last RCC ... Read More
The Oasis is not your typical cruise, you might not feel fussed over like on other ships but omg what a ship! We usually cruise on Celebrity or Holland. I swore would not go on RCC since I caught the Nor Virus in 2006 on our last RCC cruise. But we had few options for a summer Caribbean cruise since most ships are in Europe or Alaska in the Summer. I read the reviews on Oasis and they really varied - especially about the food. We found the food to be excellent even at the buffet. We read that there were crowds for the Windjammer buffet, and there were at peak times. But this ship offers many other free venues for meals that other ships just don't have. Since I read the reviews that mentioned this we opted for the other venues and they were fine. I suggest you get yourself familiar with the many other free dinning option offerings your first day on the ship. Try them. You will like the surprise. There are plenty of specialty (extra fee) restaurants as well. The entertainment was everything from ice skaters to a Broadway show, all great. Since 6000 people can't fit in one show venue all at once a reservation system is employed to manage them. I was only able to pre-book 2 of the 5 (free) shows before getting on the ship.If you don't make your reservations before you get on the ship, don't worry, do it after you get on from the comfort of your stateroom's interactive tv. I learned that only 60% of seats are allowed to be reserved in advance. I was able to get seats for every show even though we booked the very last minute. On smaller ships you will probably make stronger bonds with the crew and other passengers. Because this ship is so large you might not have the frequency of running into the same people-perfect if you aren't very social like us. However the ship is wonderful. The outdoor park, the pedestrian mall and the boardwalk make it hard to believe you are afloat. There were fewer lounges with the usual comfortable couches and chairs to sit in during the day because of the vast open spaces. So getting away from the summer heat takes a little exploring. Plenty of lounge chairs for sun worshipers. If you have kids they will love you if you choose this ship. You will love that they have plenty to do and that there is water park for the little ones. You will have an amazing fitness center for your self. You should be able to carve out your own vacation even if you bring children. One last thing I liked about this ship was that most venue entrances were not all the way forward or all the way aft like most other ships. Therefore we never had to walk 1118 feet to get anywhere!! Great trip!   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
We decided to book this cruise because it was a 7 night cruise with 5 ports of call and only 1 day at sea. We arrived a day early and stayed at the Sheraton Old San Juan which is right across the street from the pier. There is also a CVS ... Read More
We decided to book this cruise because it was a 7 night cruise with 5 ports of call and only 1 day at sea. We arrived a day early and stayed at the Sheraton Old San Juan which is right across the street from the pier. There is also a CVS about a block down the road from the hotel to pick up some soft drinks and snacks to carry on the ship. There is also a free tram that runs around Old San Juan to see the sites after you drop your luggage off at the pier. I read on another blog, they will take your luggage stating at about 11:00 AM. We decided to board about 3:00 pm and had purchased "Faster to the Fun" so we were first in line at the check-in desk. I'm not sure how much time it saved us because the other line was not that long. The first thing I noticed was given the ship is about 10 years old it is clean and in good repair. This is something I noticed some of their other ships of this age are lacking. Our room was clean and in good repair. I was disappointed because I thought the ship had gone through "Fun Ship 2.0" upgrades and it hasn't. Felipe Counto, the Cruise Director is the best we've ever had. He could have his own comedy show. His additions to the same old Carnival events take them far from the "same old." We went to the dining room because we had 3 groups in our party and one group had selected the wrong dinner seating. The first night is open seating so they told us it would be fixed by the next day. We tried the Piano Bar the first night with Ed Rrocks. It wasn't very good. He wouldn't let anyone see the song book because he said everyone picks only 5 songs and he doesn't like to play those 5 songs. He did give in and played Piano Man later in the evening. We were disappointed because we like to spend late nights in the piano bar when nothing else is going on. The gym is pretty typical of the ships of that class. Same equipment and layout. We went to the "Fab Abs" class the first day and didn't get invited in to the room until the class was half over. Apparently you are supposed to attend the stretching class before because they don't stop the class before starting the separately listed class. The instructor was very soft spoken, had the music up too loud and didn't speak English very well. I was hoping the Cycling Class we signed up for had a different instructor. The Cycling Class did have the same instructor. The bikes seemed like they could use some maintenance or replacement. Also, not one bike would accept SPD clip-less shoes. That might be important info for some. I did not like the methods of the instructor. HE did not motivate to keep you pushing. I decided to skip the rest of the cycling classes. We played "TV Theme Songs Trivia," "Win, Lose, or Draw," and the scavenger hunt. The TV trivia was ok. For Win, Lose or Draw was fun but I would definitely recommend doing the scavenger hunt. The comedians in the Punchliners Comedy Club were pretty funny. On average, better than the lineup on other ships I've been on. We really enjoyed John McDonnell and Tony Esposito. The "Nightclub Express" show in the Ivanhoe lounge was not very good. The show consisted of songs, dance moves, and props seen in most shows before. Nothing original. Now the Far From Over show was awesome. The 80’s inspired show was one of the best on-board performances we have seen. The show included many hits from the 80s including artists such as Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson to Annie Lenox and the Eurythmics. The show also included many songs from 80’s movies like Flashdance, Footloose, and Dirty Dancing. The dining room was running at a good pace most nights. One night, it was extremely slow, taking over 2 hours for dinner. The last night they were super fast. The first night of "prime rib" I couldn't pass it up. I was disappointed. The rib tips are close to the best beef to be found on a cruise ship. The second "prime rib" night, I skipped it and was happy with the pasta selection. We tried Scarlet's Steakhouse one night, It was enjoyable. They sure feed you enough including the "present from the chef" which was a sample of potato soup for the women and shrimp and cheese for the men. Except for the first lunch and the last breakfast, there was never too much of a line when we were in the Lido. They keep a line at the pizza station for some reason. They will make you a Caesar Salad at the pizza station, which I was not able to get at a couple other ship's pizza stations. The VIFP Party is now only for gold level or above, but they serve all you can drink full size drinks now. I especially like the slide show of all their ships and clapping and cheering for all the ships you have been on. Disembarkation was a breeze. We were assigned #2 with our "Faster to the Fun." We were off the ship by 8:30 and at our hotel by 9:00. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
My husband and I have cruised many other times on several different lines; however, this was our first experience on RCCL Having just cruised this past March on the Norwegian, Epic, and not enjoying our cruise at all, we were so excited to ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised many other times on several different lines; however, this was our first experience on RCCL Having just cruised this past March on the Norwegian, Epic, and not enjoying our cruise at all, we were so excited to have our spirits lifted once again with this fabulous cruise/vacation. The minute you board the ship, you are captivated by the elegance she offers, its grandeur and impeccably maintained appearance. The food was 4 to 5 stars. Service in the dinning room as well as on the entire ship was top notch. They allow you to bring on two bottles of wine at boarding and don't charge you a corkage fee if consume in your room. However, it is not a issue if you pour yourself a glass before you go to the dinning room (no fee applies for that). Pool area very nice. If your traveling without children, you should check out the Solarium Pool. Adults only swim - with nice cushions on the lounge chairs. Great gym with sauna room. Deck 4 has lounge chairs available to use if you want to get away from the crowds around the pool but still catch some sun (or shade) and peace and quite. Can't say enough positive things about this ship. We are definitely going to do it again. Royal Caribbean is our new cruising line for sure. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was our first River Cruise and I didnt know what to expect but was told that this company was a good choice as it was a bit funkier than some of the other more old fashioned ones and had a stylish feel. We couldnt have been happier ... Read More
This was our first River Cruise and I didnt know what to expect but was told that this company was a good choice as it was a bit funkier than some of the other more old fashioned ones and had a stylish feel. We couldnt have been happier and are already looking at booking for next year - the staff have to be the best we have encountered - they were incredibly friendly and helpful and all seemed to do about 3 jobs The excursions were brilliant and were a good mixture of being informative without sounding like your history teacher reeling off a list of dates (I almost fell asleep on one cruise lines excursion round Dubrovnik) We cruised the Danube and as Ive never visited this part of Europe before all the places we visited were new to me. As for peoples comments re double docking we did a Nile Cruise a few years ago so were expecting this so it didnt spoil our trip We had an amazing cabin - Grand Balcony Suite (cabin number 310) which had a coffee pod machine so i could make a coffee while the other half got ready for breakfast - we also had free wi-fi so each morning i checked my emails and the latest news at the same time. The food was good and also on some of the nights we had a small cinema type screen showing films which i prefer to piano players or cabaret bands Probably the best thing for me was the pool as I'm a bit of a water baby and it was a bit like swimming on your own private yacht. Having cruised on big ships with Princess, and Royal Caribbean and having had a so-so Nile experience i have to be honest I thought id be under whelmed but it was a bit of an eye opener and just trying to think which river to do next but we'll definitely be booking with Emerald again Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was our first sailing on Cunard, and hopefully won’t be our last. We quickly got used to the Cunard “ocean liner” experience, as compared to the experiences we’ve had on 20 or so past “cruise ships”. The following is ... Read More
This was our first sailing on Cunard, and hopefully won’t be our last. We quickly got used to the Cunard “ocean liner” experience, as compared to the experiences we’ve had on 20 or so past “cruise ships”. The following is pretty detailed; however, I appreciate the detailed reviews I’ve read here, so I trust this one will help others. Our crossing was Westbound: Southampton to Brooklyn. Embarkation: Very short waits at the port. Our luggage arrived within an hour. Cabin: We had an inside, which was fine, since there’s not much to see at sea! The bed was comfortable and the cabin had plenty of storage. The bathroom tiles were a bit dated, but the amenities were very nice. Lots of storage areas in the cabin. I wasn’t impressed with the cabin steward; she was reactive, rather than being proactive. Dining: The Britannia (MDR) is quite stunning. Cunard’s food was good, but not anything better than Princess. Getting free cappuccino/espresso, etc. after dinner was a nice touch. Drink prices were average for a cruise ship and the bars had a good selection of British beers on draught. Cocktails seemed to be on the skimpy-liquor side. The buffet setup is a bit odd, with the King’s Court spread out over a large area. While it was never crowded, unless you had a table by a window (they jutted out over the Promenade) you were stuck in an interior area, which, frankly looked dumpy. Afternoon tea, either served in the Queen’s Room, with white-gloved service, or via buffet in the King’s Court, was a nice touch with many selections of tea as well as finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. We did the upcharge Indian dinner (Coriander) available the last 2 nights of the cruise. There was plenty of good (not great) Indian food in the King’s Court buffet area, which was converted to a sit-down restaurant. Public Rooms: This is where the QM2 shines. Corridors are broad, the public rooms very large. The Queen’s Room is the largest ballroom afloat. It was wonderful seeing people ballroom dancing. We attended 3 cocktail parties there. G32, the disco, seemed dark and is hard to find. Illuminations (the planetarium cum lecture hall) is beautifully decorated in Art Deco style. The Golden Lion Pub was very comfortable with pub lunch food daily and the Chart Room bar very spacious. The gym had a good amount of weight training equipment and free weights, along with cardio equipment. Unlike most other ships, however, the cardio equipment didn’t face broad windows. I didn’t use it, but took a peek at the Gold Canyon Spa….looked elegant. There were also additional nooks for card playing, and quiet times. There’s a large selection of gift shops, though many were geared toward jewelry and high-end items. One highlight of the ship is the amazing library with stacks categorized by topic and the full-time librarian. In addition, there’s even a bookstore! Entertainment—I was worried about not enough to do, since this was my first crossing, but was NEVER bored. Cunard had 5 lecturers on board, from the former director of the Bank of England to a speaker on musical theatre. Most were attended well. In addition, there were the popular planetarium shows. I even found a quiet place forward on the ship with dim lighting for real stargazing. At least 4 trivia contests are offered daily, though the prizes are only given at the end of the cruise and are skimpy at that. There was a nice (and usually empty) casino, with amazingly low table stakes ($3 in the afternoon, $1 one day). One nice touch is that there are no announcements made during the day, save for the Captain’s midday communication. One thing that set Cunard apart was the quality of the live music. At the Queen’s Room, you might find a 20 piece dance band. At other venues a string quartet or harpist. We even had piano recitals in Illuminations during the afternoon. If that wasn’t enough, I attended a 1-hour version of Hamlet acted by students of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. A downside were the evening production shows. The costumes were beautiful, but they lacked a theme, decent music, and dancers who can also sing. A full wrap-around Promenade deck was always full of people walking or jogging (1.3 miles for 3 laps). The deck chairs were padded with pillows. One downside is that Cunard hasn’t banned smoking yet. The aft area was always had a few smokers. The Commodore Club has large windows forward on the ship and was always a popular place for reading during the day, listening to live piano music, or cocktails in the evening. The ship provided an area there for an LGBT cocktail hour. Unfortunately, Churchill’s cigar lounge is next to the Commodore and when the door opens, the smell often ruined the ambiance of the Commodore Club. A worse scenario occurs on the 2nd floor of G32, where it was just uncomfortable unless you were a smoker. One remarkable story: On the penultimate day, we had an almost-emergency on the ship. At about 5:30 all of the staff were called to their muster stations. Cabin stewards put on their life jackets and all waiters left their 1st seating dining passengers to get to their assigned places. Apparently, there was a chemical spill in the engine room. Captain Wells made numerous announcements keeping all passengers informed. While we never had to get our life jackets, it was memorable. Several crew members told me it was the only time in 8 years this had ever happened. Kudos to the staff and crew for being ready! Disembarkation: Very smooth getting off the ship. US Immigrations, however, was very slow, with only 5 people on duty. Finally, the Cunard experience isn’t for everyone. Like most others on the ship, we brought our formal clothes, and in keeping with ship policy remained dressed at the shows, ballrooms, and disco. It made for a classy cruise….or should I say “crossing”!   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Just got back from one week cruise on the Breakaway 8/31/2014- 9/7/2014. Overall, I can surely say we had a GREAT TIME. However, I don't know if I would book again with Norwegian. I have been on numerous cruises and my favorite cruise ... Read More
Just got back from one week cruise on the Breakaway 8/31/2014- 9/7/2014. Overall, I can surely say we had a GREAT TIME. However, I don't know if I would book again with Norwegian. I have been on numerous cruises and my favorite cruise line remains The Royal Carribean- even their silly "love and marriage game" is better and done in the theatre not a small area- so that everyone onboard can see it. If you are going to enjoy your vacation on the Breakaway, you have to be a party person, a people person. The biggest fail of this ship is, as others have stated, is the layout and space in the public areas. The fitness center is divided into two rooms- free weights and cardio machines- the two sides are extremely narrow and is hard to get arounnd the free weights and machines without bumping into people. The pool area has literally no seating around the pool- so if you want to dip in the pool and then lay out in the sun- it's not going to happen- most all of the lounge chairs for the pool are in the overhang- a shaded area from the sun. If you want to layout in the sun- you have to go to deck 16 where all the chairs are in the sun- but there is no pool- but there is a waterfall fountain to get wet..... the adult pool on deck 15 is awesome to hang out at - if you like to drink and party and meet other people- it's a very deep pool 6ft 8inches so you need to know how to swim/float = and it is always crowded- no room for laps for sure- space to sit around on the pool deck itself! They were very diligent in keeping the kids out of the adult pool and there was no smoking around the pool- smokers had their own area.....THE ATRIUM is WAY TOO SMALL for the shows they do in this bar/eatery area - which are games like "deal or no deal"- karoake, and on our cruise "Fire and Ice" performed there nightly ( a female singer with a male partner,) which packed the area- she is awesome- and there were never any seats available or place to stand and see anything so we caught a few songs until we got tired of standing.... the big shows like "burn the floor" and "rock of ages" are held in the main THEATRE- and you just need to make reservations for the shows and get there early and there was no problem with seating-.....shows were pretty good, there was comic/magician that i think would have lost "americas got talent" and his skill level seemed inappropriate for the theatre... CIRQUE DE DREAMS - $40.00 EACH PERSON... COMES WITH ONE PREDETERMINED MEAL... FILET MINION AND SHRIMP- was EXCELLENT AND WORTH THE EXPENSE- if you just want to pay for one thing- make it this show- beyond excellent- i would say amazing. BLISS NIGHT CLUB- INDOORS AND SPICE H20 OUTSIDE- GREAT DJ AND DANCING- COOL TRENDY-YOUNG MUSIC AND WHEN THE CREW WAS THERE- AWESOME AND FUN!!!! MIXED DRINKS SUCKED!!! THEY ARE SO POURLY DONE AND TOO MUCH LIQUOUR THAT I JUST COULD NOT ENJOY THE DRINK- I SENT BACK A COUPLE AND THEN JUST WENT TO WINE AND BEER- OUR ROOM: was fine we had a 218sq ft inside room- I am a complete overpacker- had a whole suit case of just shoes and everything fit in fine in the closet and suit cases were stored under the bed- BUT HOLY COW WHAT A LONG WALK TO THE ELEVATORS- next time I would pick a room closer- there are only two sets of elevators - front and aft- nothing in the middle- walking was crazy to the rooms and all corridors are tight. THE MANHATTAN ROOM complimentry dining- slow service but every night was entertained by a pianist and small band or "BURN THE FLOOR" CAST members did mini show which was fun to see and listen to during dinner- TASTE AND SAVOR indoor dining rooms across the hall from each other- the food and layout is identical - all the same complimentry food- TOOK WAY TOO LONG FOR A POT OF HOT WATER FOR TEA- MY HUSBAND WAS ON HIS SECOND CUP OF COFFEE BEFORE I EVEN SAW HOT WATER EVERY MORNING - I believe the problem is that they have to go to a different section of the ship to pick up food and things other than coffee... THE GARDEN BUFFET DECK 15 COMPLIMENTRY- THIS IS WHERE ALL MORALS, DECENCY AND RESEMBLENCES OF HUMANITY GO OUT THE DOOR AND NO LONGER EXIST- Seriously, this is a narrow circlular room- which sometimes only once side is open- which has a very narrow walkway between the buffet and the tables... people were arrogant, pushy, they cut me off - they cut my husband off- everyone cut everyone off from little childrent to senior citizens- a complete free for all where manors and humanity were just gone and replaced by some sort of insanity.... only eat there if you feel like dealing with CRAZY ARROGANCE- it felt as though if you were not pushy to get your food you would just go hungry.... nice wasn't cutting it- it would just get u bumped off line... THE FOOD IN GENERAL WAS PRETTY DESCENT AND EVERY DAY THE BUFFET DID PUT SOME THINGS OUT THAT WERE DIFFERENT- SAME THING WITH THE SIT DOWN COMPLIMENTARY DINING ROOMS. ONE MORE THING: DONT BOTHER BRINGING A LONG DRESS OR GOWN OR TUXEDO FOR A CAPTAINS DINNER - THE "NORWEGIAN NIGHT OUT" WAS JUST PARTY CLUB LIKE DRESSES FOR THE YOUNG GIRLS AND SUMMER APPAREL FROM CASUAL TO DRESSY FOR OTHERS, I DID NOT SEE ANY MEN IN SUITS AT ALL....AND THE PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO DID NOT HAVE A WOODEN FRAMES FOR SALE- JUST CHEAPO FOAM BOARD TYPES OF FRAMES FOR THE SMALLER PHOTOS- SHOPPING ON BOARD FOR APPAREL WAS TERRIBLE ONLY ONE STORE- THE JEWERLRY STORE WAAYYY TO EXPENSIVE AND OVERPRICED. also- getting of the ship was a pain in the butt to find our luggage and since we were getting picked up we were forced to cross the street at 12th street- in the cab area... getting on the ship was a lot smoother- got dropped off at the door and after getting our sea pass it was nice to just walk on the ship.... GETTING ON AND OFF THE SHIP AT BERMUDA PORT WAS EASY- NO HASSLES THERE- OVERALL: WE DANCED, WE OVERATE EVERYTHING FROM GOOD TO BAD FOODS TO WAY MORE SOFT ICECREAM CONES THAN ANYONE SHOULD EVER CONSUME IN A WEEK- WE LAUGHED- WE PARTIED, WE MET GREAT PEOPLE AT THE POOL AT THE CLUBS, AND DESPITE THE SHIPS POOR DESIGN- WE HAVE NOTHING BUT BEST MEMORIES FOR OUR VACATION AND FOR $604.00EA FOR WEEK AWAY PLUS ONBOARD EXPENSES WHICH WERE ABOUT $700.00 WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT. ENJOY THE BREAKAWAY JUST KEEP IN MIND THAT NOT EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS PERFECT- YOU MAKE YOUR OWN HAPPINESS AND FUN! IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR PEACE AND SOLITUDE- THIS CRUISE WOULD NOT BE FOR YOU- IF YOU ARE FUN AND YOUNG OR YOUNG AT HEART YOU WILL LOVE IT. I DON'T HAVE KIDS BUT IT SEEMED LIKE THERE WAS PLENTY OF FUN FOR THEM WHCH INLCUDED SPONGE BOB AND FRIENDS- WHO DOESN'T SPONGEBOB?   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
This was our first cruise ever, and we were generally pleased with it. We knew several other couples who had done the Princess cruise to Alaska, and none had complaints, so we never even considered another cruise line. Our total vacation ... Read More
This was our first cruise ever, and we were generally pleased with it. We knew several other couples who had done the Princess cruise to Alaska, and none had complaints, so we never even considered another cruise line. Our total vacation was 3 days in Vancouver before the cruise, 7 days on the ship, 5 days of Princess cruisetour on land, and then 3 days, mostly in Seward. The 3 days in Vancouver before embarkation was just about the right amount of time. We stayed at the Landis, a suite hotel, and there are many small restaurants within walking distance. We rented bikes to go around Stanley Park,and also went to the Aquarium, the Capilano suspension bridge and the Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden. We went to Vancouver Island and Butchart Gardens on a previous trip, so skipped it this time. Cruise embarkation was as slow as other reviewers have reported, but we finally made it on. The weather was warm and sunny as we sailed from Vancouver, and after exploring the ship a little, we settled on our balcony with the wine we had brought on board and watched the city slip away. Our cabin was spic and span and, although small, there is adequate storage space for everything. Our steward came in at least twice a day to clean and replace any used towels. We were very satisfied with the food in general. We ate almost all breakfasts and lunches in the Horizon Court (buffet). On the first at-sea morning, we tried the Da Vinci dining room to order breakfast off the menu. That was a mistake, as the service was extremely slow, and the food was no better than in the Horizon Court. There is a large selection of food at all meals in the HC. The only problem is it can be difficult to find an open table, as people tend to sit at the window tables for a long time to just enjoy the passing scenery, but staff are helpful in getting you a table. We ate most dinners in the Michelangelo dining room, as we wanted any-time dining. The food was generally very good there, although sauces tend to be heavily salted. The service is slow there, and it was usually 9-9:30 by the time we were done, so not being night people, we did not go to any evening entertainment, except once for the 50's and 60's music night. We did not purchase any beverage cards as we are not soda drinkers and I couldn't see spending an additional $49/day for alcoholic beverages, so we just ordered them a la carte, and remained well below the $49/day . As first-time cruisers, we found the Princess Patter daily newsletter very helpful in notifying us of the day's events, port info, etc. The weather in Alaska in August was not as rainy as I had feared, but at sea it was quite cold, as were some of the days during the land portion (the second half of August is already Fall season in Alaska). Going out on the outside decks meant dressing in warm jacket, hat and gloves most of the time, but in the ports it was warmer. Many days were cloudy with occasional drizzle, but there were periods of sun, especially in Skagway, where it was warm and delightful. We did shore excursions at every port. In Ketchikan we did a Misty Fjords float plane sight seeing flight; well worth it; in Juneau the rain forest garden, Mendenhall glacier, Mt. Roberts Tram-- warm and sunny at the top so we hiked around a bit. We saw bald eagles, Dall sheep and a marmot. We had booked the Yukon train from Skagway, which it turned out was a bus ride up, and then train back (the train actually is slower than the bus, so you wouldn't want to take it both ways anyway). It was very scenic but Caribou Crossing (not to be confused with the nearby town of Carcross) is a tourist trap and the barbecue lunch there is mediocre, although it was fun to see the sled dogs. Glacier bay and College Fjord were stunning, for the last 2 at-sea days. On one of the at-sea days we attended a presentation by Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod race. Her story was fascinating. We also attended a naturalist presentation, which was informative, but not as riveting. After disembarkation in Whittier we got right on the train up to Denali. We were lucky to get views of Mt. McKinley from the train as we approached--everyone tells you that only 30% of visitors get to see it as it's usually in clouds. The room in the Denali Princess lodge was a let down after our nice cabin on the Crown--dark and musty smelling but at least the window opened to air it out. We went to the Music of Denali dinner theater which is a very silly retelling of the first climbers to summit the mountain. Food is served family-style at long tables, and is plentiful and adequate. It did seem ironic, however, after all of the sanitary precautions on the ship buffet (hand sanitizer at entrances, staff wiping up spills quickly, clearing dishes quickly, etc.), that you would have perfect strangers serving themselves seconds onto their used plates as was done at the dinner theater-- always a no-no at buffets. We did the park bus shuttle tour into Denali the next day, instead of the included Natural History tour and got a refund from Princess for it. We took the shuttle all the way to the Eielson visitor center, which is farther than either the Tundra tour or NH tours go. We were very lucky that the mountain was "out" again that day and got some great pictures of the sun glowing on its white peaks. We were also lucky in seeing lots of wildlife--about a dozen grizzly bears, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. The next day we took the bus down to the McKinley Princess lodge, which was, surprisingly, a 3 hour trip. No more views of the mountain, though, as it was foggy and drizzly. That afternoon we did the Byers Lake nature walk and the weather cleared up a bit. I was surprised that we didn't encounter any mosquitoes, since I'd heard they are really bad in Alaska--maybe too cold already? The following day in Talkeetna we did the Mahay jet boat adventure which was a blast as you go through rapids before the turn around point. Saw a black bear and more bald eagles. Back to Anchorage the next day; Captain Cook hotel was very nice--meals a bit pricey but there are also many restaurants within walking distance. After our cruisetour ended we rented a car and drove down to Seward on the Kenai peninsula to extend our Alaska vacation a few more days. We took the Kenai Fjords Tours National Park boat tour-- it was fantastic, in part due to great weather, and the park is gorgeous. We saw glaciers and lots of wildlife-- whales, sea otters, sea lions, seals, puffins, cormorants and more. In Seward we also hiked to Exit Glacier--an easy hike, and did the Ididaride sled dog ride. On the way back to Anchorage we stopped in at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage. We did the behind-the-scenes tour which was well worth the money as we got to go in the pens of the more docile animals. The weather our last 3 days in Alaska was mild and sunny (upper 60's), so a great ending to our trip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
I have always wanted to take a small cruise (less than 25 people). I found Islandwindjammers on the web and read Cruise Critic as well as their website before booking. The cruise lived up to expectations and more. The booking and ... Read More
I have always wanted to take a small cruise (less than 25 people). I found Islandwindjammers on the web and read Cruise Critic as well as their website before booking. The cruise lived up to expectations and more. The booking and pre-cruise process was great, very personable with quick responses to my every question. They recommended and arranged pre-cruise private tours and airport transfers. The whole process was very personalized. Once on the boat, it was relaxing and fun. The crew was so nice, friendly and attentive. The food was beyond expectations! Everything was delicious and the perfect amount and frequency. The activities took advantage of the islands we visited including walks, waterfalls, snorkeling, and beach picnics. We had a relaxing, fun week and met such nice people. We would like to do it again! Read Less
Sail Date August 2014

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