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Sail Date: November 2008
My wife and I were on our 16th cruise sailing from Ft. Lauderdale on Thanksgiving Day for 10 days visiting St. Lucia, Tortola, Barbados, St Kitts, Martinique and Half Moon Cay. This was our second trip on Holland America and we are both 45 ... Read More
My wife and I were on our 16th cruise sailing from Ft. Lauderdale on Thanksgiving Day for 10 days visiting St. Lucia, Tortola, Barbados, St Kitts, Martinique and Half Moon Cay. This was our second trip on Holland America and we are both 45 years old. This review will be detailed for those that want specific information. We stayed at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa prior to the cruise. They have a restaurant called 3030 which is one of the top places to eat in Ft. Lauderdale. We had a fantastic meal at 3030 which was one of the highlights of the trip. My wife also used the Marriott spa for her seaweed wrap. The cost is cheaper than you will pay on the Noordam and includes a message jet bath which the ship doesn't. I set this up in advance and my wife loved it. The Marriott has a private beach and a tropical pool which were both excellent. A great start to a vacation. Ports: We really enjoyed all the ports and particularly enjoyed the "Boat Yard" beach in Barbados and Cane Garden in Tortola. The Boat Yard is $4 per person by cab and provides a free ride back to the ship. Entrance cost is $15 per person, includes chairs, umbrella, choice of free drink and unlimited use of non motorized beach items. In Tortola we got off the boat and found a 30 person taxi waiting. He was charging $6 per person for Cane Garden Bay Beach. We spent 5 ½ hours at Cane Garden and found plenty of taxis for the return trip ($6) back to the ship. Chairs are $5 per person and several friendly vendors will set you up right on the beach (umbrellas were $10). The beach has plenty of shade if you don't want to pay for an umbrella. We had lunch at Sharkys on the beach which had a great lobster salad and cold beer. Embarkation: We arrived at the pier about 1:30 pm at the same time as a few buses from the airport. We found a line out the front door and thought we were in for a long wait. This was because the metal detector and x-ray machine are at the entrance which actually worked better. The line moved fairly quickly and the only snag was with the medical questionnaire. The lady whom handled it was rude, didn't give instructions until you were at the point where you needed to have it filled out and just a pain in general. Not a big deal and we quickly filled it out while in line before getting to the check-in counter. Note: even when filling out everything on line "before" hand, you still have to have the immigration form in your cruise documents signed. They then write completed on line across the top. The whole check in took about 30 minutes and because it was after 1pm we were able to go directly to our cabin and drop off carry on bags. Crew: I will say that we have seen several different types of crew members over the years. We have had crew members who do what is required only and those who go above and beyond especially with automatic tipping. The Noordam Cabin Stewards, Waiters, Assistant Waiters, pool and cleaning staff are all from Indonesia. Your bar staff is from the Philippines and your officers are mostly Dutch. All crew members are highly trained and it shows. We never heard the word 'NO" and herd "Yes" to all request. I had very high praises on the comment card and to some supervision about this very hard working crew. They smile all the time and will accommodate special request with a smile. Just ask if you want something and give them a little notice in the dining room and it's done. Service really makes HAL and out of 1900 passengers on board, 1300 were repeat customers. Many people have had comments about extra tipping, the extra cash given to an employee stays with that employee. The automatic tipping is pooled and distributed based on a formula. I was told that as long as you left the "service charge" as they call it alone, the crew kept the extra cash given. Cabin: We booked a "guarantee" inside and were upgraded to a large inside. The cabin had 3 separate closets, tie holder mounted to the door, shoes shine basket (for free shoe shine) a safe plus plenty of space, once you placed the life jackets under the bed. Note there are two drawers under the end of the bed that pull out. You can easily place suitcases and life jackets under the bed to allow for more cabin space. The cabin has a hidden dirty laundry hamper located in the chair under the vanity/desk. You pull the seat top off the chair and place dirty laundry in it. It seals up and the chair slides right back under the vanity/desk. You also have a full mini bar located to the right of the vanity with the same pricing as the other ship bars. On the left of the vanity/desk a hidden compartment has a hair dryer and extra glass for wine or champagne (a bottle opener and cork screw are provided with your ice bucket). The hair dry only plugs into the vanity and can't be used in the bathroom. Two Hal robes are provided and are a nice touch and so are the full size bath towels. HAL uses Elemis spa shampoo, body wash, conditioner, lotion and soap (replaced daily). They don't use those stupid wall mounted soap and shampoo dispensers. Beds were fantastic and the room was keep spotless. Pool and Deck Space: Plenty of deck chairs padded and non-padded. Chairs were always available at both pools and plenty of chairs were available in the shade. No signing out towels with a limit (like RCI...so stupid) you just help yourself. This includes towels when going ashore which are not signed out with a threat of being charged if you don't return them. Other lines need to take note here, we are adults and don't need to sign out a towel. HAL gets points for having towel stations all over the ship. You don't have to go down to the pool to get towels from the upper decks (like RCI). They also have towels at the hot tubs and on the Promenade deck #5. The pool and decks are clean and trash is removed quickly to avoid stuff blowing all over (NCL is famous for this one). I was very pleased with the efficient deck staff and their wiliness to get water or tea for seniors. General Areas: Spotless and public bathrooms have cloth hand towels which keep the restrooms clean. No paper towels anywhere and plenty of hand sanitizers. Bars and common areas have comfortable seating, the recliners are located in the observation lounge, great leather seating in Library/Coffee bar. In the stairwells between decks is some very nice art work of the different HAL ships though the years. Outside the shops on deck #3 is a touch screen interactive map showing ship location and other information about the ship. Food: This one is subjective but this is my opinion. The Noordam Lido has the same concept as you see on Costa and Carnival with the newer ships. The use of food stations which include a sandwich bar, pasta and pizza, salad, dessert and ice cream, Asian and sushi station and a hot food station. They have the stations located on both sides of the ship when in full service. They also have a taco, fajita, hamburger and hot dog station by the pool. What is different here is the execution. You are served most of your food and several things are cooked at the food station limiting people handling items and keeping food fresh. All plates are served covered to keep food hot until you return to your table. In the mornings most stations cook eggs, make toast and have basics along with the specialty items. This keeps lines down because you have multiple egg stations going at the same time. They have three special breakfast items daily plus all the basics. They have a great waffle station and an eggs benedict station which had some nice combinations. During the day, tea and water are served table side so you don't have to get up for a refill. Juices are available from 6am to 6pm at the ice cream station (just ask the attendant). Free fresh squeezed orange juice is available in the morning which is not the case on most lines. I found limited lines and the Lido staff assists with carrying trays and keep lines moving. This concept is less of a buffet and I found the food quality to be very good. Plus not as much food sits out and people handling items is kept to a minimum. The dining room food was on a 20 day menu cycle which gives better variety on longer trips. The lobster was excellent because we asked in advance for it to be steamed not broiled. The prime rib and all steaks were very good. The Coho salmon was good and the Noordam uses large shrimp not the mini shrimp used by other lines. All the deserts were lighter (less sugar) than I have seen on other ships. The sugar free items were pretty good and the ice cream selection was nice. Fresh fruits were top notch! We did assigned second seating and had a table for two (plenty of them) and had fantastic service. I didn't notice any major waits for the "as you wish dining" but didn't use it. We also skipped the specialty restaurant Pinnacle Grill which I never saw even close to full. Over all food was very good. Spa/Gym/Pools: The gym was very nice, good sized with most of the standard equipment, classes and a great view. A nice touch is the cold towels available in the refrigerator after your work out. The Spa is very nice and the girls are very friendly. We only used the hydro pool and the relaxation room (a hidden gem with a great view and chairs that will make you fall a sleep). The sauna and locker rooms are complementary and so is the gym. The hydro pool can be purchased with packages or just used at a rate of $20 a day. That includes use of the robes, slippers, showers and changing area. We choose the day pass and it was nice, but, I would not get the whole week. Pools are not sea water and the main pool (top) was closed and opened according to weather conditions. The whirlpool closest to the spa has foot jets and seats that fit the body. Entertainment: The Vegas acts were very good and vary from cruise to cruise. We had a comedian, classical pianist who did magic and a juggler. The dancers had nice sets and a great theater and several production shows. Two male dancers destroyed some classic songs and several of the female dancers where a bit chunky (which was something I had seen in other reviews and made me laugh). Over all it was fine and we went to most shows. The crew also has a show which is popular. Overall this is a great ship and I found numerous people under 40 whom where trying cruising for the first time. It is true that most of the ship is over the age of 55, I found the older group to be fun, interesting and respectful. So this ship is a winner for all ages Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Hi Friends! Well, here is the much anticipated review of the Valor! What a great Thanksgiving! I cruised with a my college buddy, JT. SATURDAY NOV 22: Pre Cruise: South Beach Hotel Final Score: Ohio State 42, Michigan 7. (an old ... Read More
Hi Friends! Well, here is the much anticipated review of the Valor! What a great Thanksgiving! I cruised with a my college buddy, JT. SATURDAY NOV 22: Pre Cruise: South Beach Hotel Final Score: Ohio State 42, Michigan 7. (an old fashioned Beat down!) Sunday NOV 23: Embarkation We arrived at the port of Miami at 10:30, and at 11:30 were some of the first on the ship! Lido buffet was awesome! If you're ever first on the ship, check out the raspberries and blackberries in the fruit cocktail on Lido! I did not know about that! (Sorry if you were on the ship this week... I took a lot of the raspberries... oops.) During the afternoon, we watched football on lido, got Fun Ship Specials, and even met some Cruise Critic members at sail away! It was partly cloudy and warm enough. At Dinner we sat with Brandon and his mom and sister, and a mother/daughter from Florida via ohio! The Welcome Aboard show was fun! The bars were hopping! We are stoked for a great week! Monday NOV. 24 Sea Day Sunny and Warm! We headed up to Lido around 8:30 for breakfast... lines not too long. We like to eat in the back of the ship... not crowded, fresh air, nice views... Ate too much food! Eggs, bacon, pancake and syrup, yogurt, 2 grapefruits, and maybe even some raisin bran. We then collect several cups of Passion-Guava juice for "drinks" later that day! (We ended up doing this more than once.) Hung out on Lido all day, SURVIVOR, ran on the track, pizza, cheeseburgers, and Rum-Runners! Formal night #1: Captain's Cocktail: in the back lounges... Late seating dinner: Lobster tail night. Yum! The show was nice, but we'd seen it before on the Destiny! (Night Club Express... with the talking couch.) Went to see Ron in piano bar, but it was too SMOKY! Yuck. Went to Karaoke instead. Midnight comedy show. Tuesday NOV 25: Grand Cayman! After a quick breakfast on Lido, we tendered over to Cayman, and took a $4 taxi ride to 7 mile beach... Sunny and Warm! We walked the beach, snorkeled near the Marriott, (we had our own snorkeling equip.) and then taxied back to Georgetown for free Rum Cake samples at the Rum Cake store! Yum! Went back to the ship around 2:30 to beat the long lines that we knew would appear for the tender. Headed up to Lido grill for a few hours of relaxation, music and sun! We ended up eating way up on Sky Deck near the slide. Great views all around! (and not quite so loud like it is down near the pool.) Past Guest party was this night in main lounge. After dinner...Karaoke that night. Fun times! Disco not too crowded, Piano bar too smoky. Yuck. Wednesday NOV 26: Isla Roatan, Honduras Scheduled time to dock: NOON. But from 8:30 to Noon, the sail-in is awesome! The ship passes by several islands... mostly on starboard side... ship docks with island on port side. There were a few sprinkles when we got to the island. We walked off the ship and found a family going to the "West Bay" beach (same as Tabyana... there was a bar where we went: Banarama) round trip was $15.00 per person. If you've never been to a 3rd world country, you're in for an eye-opener. Everyone was very nice! But it is very poor... They said that the kids skip school on days a ship comes, so that they can hawk bracelets for a dollar... (I bought 3!) The ride up and over the hills was beautiful! RAINFOREST! Beach admission was free. Beautiful beach! Many vendors walking and selling... but very nice people! Walk along towards where the ship excursion takes people for wonderful snorkeling! (you'll see where... look for the breathing tubes!) Our taxi driver waited all day for us... we headed back to the ship when a big rain came around 5PM (Ship sailed at 7.) Thursday NOV 27: Thanksgiving! Belize! Another SUNNY and warm day! Tender was about 4 miles off shore due to the Barrier reefs. Beautiful tender ride to the mainland... It was like a free excursion! Loved it! English speaking country. We took an hour taxi ride around Belize City, just to look around, and when we stopped in a little store, we ran into a couple of mission girls from the states... They told us a sweet spot to go to!... We took a water taxi ($11 round trip on the San Pedro-Belize Express) to "Caye Caulker"... one of the barrier islands. What a great decision that was! And what luck to run into those girls! The boat ride was about 45 minutes long, and another beautiful ride! This island was awesome! No motorized vehicles... just electric golf carts. Wonderful snorkeling... and there were small outfits that would take you out in their boat if you want to snorkel the barrier reef itself. We just snorkeled off the small beach near "the Lazy Lizard"... There were a few other bars, and places to rent. One lady we met said she goes there for a couple months at a time! Rent = $300! It was a quiet little paradise... great for relaxing, reading, and at night maybe some guitar around a fire on the beach... We had to head back to Belize city at 2:30, so we could catch a tender going back to the ship. That was sad. Back on board they had Football on the big screen on Lido deck, so we watched the Cowboys while eating a late lunch from the grill... even watched from the hot tub! Wow. What a great Thanksgiving! Friday NOV 28 Cozumel Guess what: Sunny and Warm!!! We had an excursion scheduled for this morning: Deluxe Snorkel and beach Catamaran. (Thanks to our On-Board-Credit!) We sailed to our snorkel spot (5 minutes away), snorkeled for about 30 - 40 min... which was plenty.... Beautiful fish! Then on to a private beach... (Just south of Paradise Beach!) We played on the water trampoline and got free beers and margaritas! The ride back to the ship was fun! We danced to music and had more beverages! We just wished the excursion had lasted longer... so much so, that we took a taxi ride back to Paradise Beach! We heard a rumor that we would have to spend $10 on food or drink, but we just walked in and found chairs... We still had our bracelets on from the excursion and were tempted to walk the 100 yards down the beach where we could drink more for free, but we'd had enough by that time. It was sunny and hot! Another great day. Back on board, we headed up to Lido, got more burgers from the grill, and headed up to Sky Deck for some sun and music before sail away. We were docked next to "Freedom of the Seas" (Is that still the biggest cruise ship?) We were also next to the Conquest. After hot tub and sunset and sail away, we got ready for dinner. We were happy that it was not our last night on the ship! I think this was the night of the other production show... "Far from Over." (Might have been Thursday night!????) Anyways, the show was brilliant! All about the 80's! (midnight comedy show also) Saturday NOV 29: Day at sea. Sunny and WARM! Hooray! After a relaxing breakfast on Lido, we headed up to find spots high above the pools to take in all the action, and views of the Caribbean! It's best to listen to Ipods before Noon, when the calypso band starts in. Either that, or move to the back of the ship... But we enjoy watching all the action, the flirting college kids, and activities... such as the Hairy Chest contest! Haha! A very relaxing day, we had to make more drinks to use up our supply... didn't want to be taking that home... After a full day of sun, it finally clouded up around 5PM? We reckoned it was time to pack... then we'd be free that evening to relax. After dinner we went to the "Carnival Legends Show"... the same show for 2 years now on the ships... Maybe it's time for a little change? At least new characters? But it was still fun and funny. And almost standing room! Afterwards, we headed up for one last slice of pizza, (and one last Pina colada while watching Terri Jo: the musician near the Casino.) We were her little 2 -man fan club all week! She's great! Sunday NOV 30: Debark. RAINING! Haha. We didn't care. (we did feel sad for people just starting out though.) We stayed in our rooms until maybe 8:45. Then headed up to Lido for breakfast. We took our time, and waited until 10:30 or so when they started making last call.... Then we headed down, and walked right out! No hurry, no hassle, no fuss! Easy debark that way, and a good breakfast. A few notes about our trip: A. While hanging out on Sky Deck all those afternoons, there was this one little girl that would run Full-Speed up all those stairs, go down the slide, and do it again! Over and over! It was hilarious! We would yell at her... "Go Go Go!" or "Here comes Speedy!" We chatted with her family. Very nice. B. Being Thanksgiving week, the ship was full of kids. The camp Carnival director told us over 900 kids were on board! But us, being country boys, like all the action on the ship! On our previous cruise (which was in January), there were hardly any kids... Boring! C. Service was great, as always on Carnival D. We had an inside cabin. Every morning we would turn the TV to channel 40: a live feed from a camera on Lido... That's how we checked the weather status! E. Food was great as well. Loved those Shrimp cocktails every night! F. Some of the movies on Lido: Transformers, I am Legend, Spiderwick, some movie about high school boys learning Ultimate fighting?, and a few others. There were movies every night at 8 and 10... except Thursday: football! G. The same little kids were in the hot tub every afternoon when we wanted to get in. (NO Hot Tub in SPA on this ship.) But we got in anyway. But where were the parents? These kids would splash us, take my buddy's drink, etc. What the heck? Anyways, I teach 4th grade, so I was OK. It was just kind of funny. Those crazy kids! A couple days we ended up going to the AFT hot tubs... Adults only! H. We ended up meeting a lot of fun people on the cruise! Hello to all of you! The Best Thanksgiving Cruise Ever! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Background Information: This was our 7th cruised and third with Royal Caribbean International. My wife and I are early 60's and we were cruising alone. We selected this cruise on Grandeur of the Seas strictly because it was over the ... Read More
Background Information: This was our 7th cruised and third with Royal Caribbean International. My wife and I are early 60's and we were cruising alone. We selected this cruise on Grandeur of the Seas strictly because it was over the Thanksgiving holiday and price for a Ten day cruise. Our itinerary was two sea days, San Juan, St. Maartin, St. Kitts, Antigua, Tortola and Two sea days. We booked our cruise through a Travel Club travel agent, Category H and were assigned stateroom 3114 Large Oceanview Stateroom and requested and received main dinning. We were assigned table 18 in the Gatsby Dinning Room. Travel To Port and Embarkation: Travel to Port of Tampa was and easy 2 hour drive, the road signs to the Port and Ship Terminals were easy to follow. We arrived at the port around 12:15, the cruise departed on a Monday. Grandeur of the Seas was the only ship in the port but there was very heavy traffic around the entrance to the cruise terminal. We received blank luggage tags from the porter at the terminal curb and quickly filled those out and turn our luggage over to the porter. Going thru security the couple in from of us in line was stopped at the carry on luggage x-ray machine and directed to table that was line with confiscated bottles of alcohol for a physical search. The check in line was about 15 minutes long, we had completed RCI online check in process on their website, and had our Set Sail Pass. The check in process was less than 30 minutes, from arriving at the terminal to entering our cabin. Ship information: Grandeur of the Seas is a Vision Class small and twelve years old but it appeared to be very well maintained. The following Grandeur of the Seas Facts are from the RCI web page Gross Tonnage 74000, Length overall 916 feet, Breadth 106 feet, Max Speed 22 Knots, eleven decks. One thing I found interesting the Captain said that the Grandeur was 25 feet below the waterline and 110 feet above the waterline. Why does it turn over? It was easy to get from one point on the ship to another, very little wait for elevators. The cruise was full and I would estimate that 80% of the passengers were over 50, seen very few young children and I would guess less than 20 teens. Stateroom: Our cabin 3114 is listed as a Large Oceanview Stateroom and it anything but large, but that normal for RCI. There was also a noticeable vibration when the ship was moving, but nothing that would keep you awake at night. There was adequate closet space and ample room under the bed to store luggage. Our room attendant introduced himself to us on our initial arrival to the cabin. He always kept the cabin clean and tidy and we had towel animals on the bed at night after dinner. Activities: Lot of activities going on, especially on the sea days, every activity had lots of people attending, and it seem that there was always two things going on at the same time that I wanted to attend. There was the usual over priced Art Auction that blocked the Centrum on deck 4 every sea day. Bingo was crowded. The evening shows in the Palladium Theater seem to fill up quite quickly and if you wanted to attain you had to get their early for a seat. We show up on time for the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception in the South Pacific Lounge and it was completely pack with no were to sit. Again I think this had to with the age of the passengers. Service: The service we received ranks was pretty good not the best that we had, but far from the worst and I would give it a 4 on a scale on 1 to 5. There was a problem with the Dining room which I'll cover it the dinning section. Everyone from the lady that checked us in at embarkation, Pursers Desk, to the towel attains on the poll deck were amazingly pleasant and conscientious. Shore Excursions: We only had one RCI excursion and that was in St Maartin. SM86 St. Maartin Island Tour, 2 ½ hour tour that crossed over to the French side of the island. This tour was very inexpensive; it was the first RCI excursion that I ever felt cheated when it was over. All it is is a bus ride (large bus) form the tourist tarp on the Dutch side of the island to the same type tourist trap on the French side. No island history or geographical information was provided; a number of schools and the island flower were pointed out a number of times. One would have been better off hiring a cad for a lesser price. Dining: We had main seating for dinner and ate half of our breakfasts, lunches and all our dinners in the Gatsby Dinning Room the rest were in the Windjammer Market Place.. We also had a indulged ourselves at the Solarium Cafe late at night after the windjammer was closed. The quantity, variety and quality of food all over the ship was again pretty good. I would rate the quality of food on a scale of 1 to 5 a solid 4 for the quality of food only. In the Gatsby Dinning Room our waiter was Edwin and his assistant was Godfre we had a table for 4 very near the front of the dinning room. Main seating was at 5:30 and that seemed to be earlier than all the other cruises we've been on. The dinning room staff was very attentive and remembered each of our peculiarity each night. The first three nights the dinning room was full and it took over two hour for dinner. On the fourth night on the dinning room was less crowed and dinner was only 1 ½ hours. I don't contribute this long time to the waiters, but to some problems in the kitchen. The Windjammer was a very popular place and was always crowed, tables were bused quickly as soon as dinner were threw. Food was always fresh and hot. Entertainment: I attended all of the evening shown and found was above average for a cruise ship with the exception of the comedian Chas Elstner he was pretty bad. The Cruise Director, Simeon Baker was above average and the Singers & Dancers were really enjoyable. The Liars Club and Love and Marriage Game Shows were a big hit. Disembarkation This was the worst debarkation we experienced in our six prior cruises. We had an 8:45 call time for our color baggage tag but were not called until almost 9:20. It took another 40 minutes to get threw the custom line. I believe this is a problem with the US Customs and not Royal Caribbean Summary: Prior to departing I had review this cruise on Cruise Critic and read all the reviews that I could find on the Grandeur of the Seas and had a pretty good idea of what to expect. We had a real good time on this Cruise, service was good, weather was great, and food was OK. We would take this cruise again next year if it were available. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
This is a combined review of consecutive cruises starting with the Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona of Nov 22nd, 2008 and the transatlantic crossing to Galveston on Nov 29th. I have completed 18 cruises with Royal Caribbean and am a ... Read More
This is a combined review of consecutive cruises starting with the Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona of Nov 22nd, 2008 and the transatlantic crossing to Galveston on Nov 29th. I have completed 18 cruises with Royal Caribbean and am a Diamond Plus member. Prior to the cruise, I stayed at the Continental Palacete Hotel which was wonderful. Their 24 hour buffet which includes beer and wine was greatly appreciated! Check in was exceptionally fast and as it was after 1.00pm, I was able to go straight to my cabin - 9690, a corner aft cabin. Our first port was Villefranche where we tendered. I took the local bus to Nice for 1 euro each way. Livorno was the next port. As I have previously visited Florence and Pisa, I took the Royal Caribbean canal boat ride around Livorno which was interesting. Rather than go into Rome from Civitavecchia, I took the Royal Caribbean excursion to Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano. Tom Cruise was married there. It was a good excursion and I enjoyed it a lot. In Naples, I walked around and visited the National Archaeological Museum (costs10 euros). I highly recommend visiting this museum. I also walked all the way up to the Castel Sant' Elmo where for 3 euros, you get a wonderful view of the city and Mount Vesuvius. In Palermo, I walked around the town ending up at the Catacombs. 1.50 euros to enter. There are hundreds of bodies on display and it is quite creepy. Certainly not a place to take kids! We had a day at sea before returning to Barcelona. As we were there for the day, we did a private tour to Montserrat which was fantastic. We were given our new Seapass cards prior to the end of the cruise and our cabin steward moved the luggage so the changeover was easy. For the transatlantic crossing, I had Junior Suite 7694 in the aft. Our first port was Cartegena, a lovely small town that had their Christmas festival going on. Friendly people and a nice place to just walk around and explore. They handed out free liquor samples in 50ml bottles (which Royal Caribbean kept for you when you got back onto the ship!) In Madeira, we had a private tour that included a wonderful lunch near Camacha followed by Madeira wine tasting. Our next port was Santa Cruz in the Canary Islands which like Cartegena is small and easy to walk around by oneself. Then, we had six relaxing sea days before arriving in Nassau, then Miami and finally Galveston. These were two wonderful cruises and I enjoyed both of them. I have 11 more cruises booked (10 with Royal Caribbean and 1 with Celebrity) so you can see that I like Royal Caribbean. They provide a great product at a great price. The Concierge lounge is certainly a perk that keeps bringing me back. It's not just the free drinks but also the wonderful atmosphere talking to everyone each night. Here are a few comments in no particular order: • Bill Brunkhorst was the Cruise Director on both cruises. He is one of my favorite cruise directors and it was a nice surprise to find him onboard. • The crew on Voyager are terrific especially my cabin stewards Ray from Costa Rica and Elimar from the Philippines. Concierge Martin Sanchez did a good job considering there were 480 Diamond and Diamond plus members on the transatlantic crossing. • The ice shows are amazing - I went three times! I am always so impressed with the jumps and spins that they do while the ship is moving. A very talented group. • In most ports, one is able to walk into town but in some ports, Royal Caribbean provide shuttles - Livorno ($12), Madeira ($12), Miami ($15 to Bayside and South Beach). In Civitavecchia, the port provided a free shuttle. I would like Royal Caribbean to either provide free transportation or at least inform passengers before the cruise of these extra expenses. Many passengers were upset about docking far from town and being forced to pay for transportation. • Royal Caribbean hosted Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle parties on both cruises. There were well over 200 of us on the transatlantic cruise. Cruise Director Bill attended both events and I even won the fabled Wave Mouse in one of the draws. I do greatly appreciate Royal Caribbean's support of Cruise Critic. • If you go to Madeira, look out for the local drink called Poncha - rum with honey and lemon. It is fantastic and is especially good if you have a sore throat (or think you might get one!). 8 euros for a litre bottle. • Smoking was still allowed in the Casino all the time and on balconies. I wish they would stop the smoking on balconies. I had a pipe smoker on the balcony beside me and it affected my enjoyment of my balcony. Also wish they would restrict smoking when trivia (and other events) are held in the Schooner Bar and other lounges. • In addition to the usual parties and events, Royal Caribbean hosted a party for just the Diamond Plus members. It was nice to receive that extra recognition. • Food in the dining room was very good. I enjoyed Portofinos on both visits. Windjammer for dinner was excellent but I sometimes struggled with the choices at lunch. • We cleared US immigration in Miami which was a slow process but certainly made things easy when we docked in Galveston - we just walked off the ship there. • Certainly a highlight were the excellent lectures held during the transatlantic crossing. Ronald Bowers' Hollywood Murder lectures were exceptional. I do hope Royal Caribbean continue these on transatlantic crossings Thank you Royal Caribbean for two wonderful cruises. The more I cruise, the more I realize that it is the people you meet that defines your cruise experience and makes cruising so enjoyable. Long may the Concierge lounge continue! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We were very apprehensive as we flew from Buffalo to Washington DC then to Frankfurt Germany and finally to Basel, Switzerland to board The River Symphony from Grand Circle Travel. However, all our tension eased as they promptly delivered ... Read More
We were very apprehensive as we flew from Buffalo to Washington DC then to Frankfurt Germany and finally to Basel, Switzerland to board The River Symphony from Grand Circle Travel. However, all our tension eased as they promptly delivered our luggage to the room that would be our home for the next week. We loved floating north on the Rhine viewing the countryside and towns from our room or on the deck (although chilly. Our directors were top-notch, the food was first class (every meal and what choices, our cabin was spotless....My husband was especially impressed that we had the choice of joining the tours offered or just staying on board or walking to town on his own if his arthritis was bothering him. All in all, we can not say enough about this wonderful trip and all the ports--Kayersburg, Riquewihr, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg, Speyer, Heidelberg, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Brugge....all with their wonderful Christmas markets. I know I forgot some but we have many very fond memories of this trip! (We purchased the post-extension to the trip and traveled by bus from Ansterdam to Brussels and train to Brugge) We are now looking at the Danube! Hopefully soon. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2008
I will make this short but am open to further questions from anyone interested. The ship was amazing from a technical and size perspective but slightly less elaborate in decoration then some of the regular cruise ships I have been ... Read More
I will make this short but am open to further questions from anyone interested. The ship was amazing from a technical and size perspective but slightly less elaborate in decoration then some of the regular cruise ships I have been on.(not a complaint just an observation) On the whole it was a remarkable ship! The food was very good as we ate in the Britannia Room but do highly recommend the Chef's Gallery as this was stellar. Book early and often for the various nights there. Todd English was..well not so great. The food was good but the overall feel and service was not close to that of Ocean Liners on say Celebrity. My advice is book the Chef's Gallery in lieu of Todd English and as a bonus it is free. Our room was comparable to other cruise staterooms and was always very well cleaned. We had a sheltered balcony and although you could not see out when sitting, it was very roomy. I thought this a better value then decks 8 and 9 which appeared to have a very obstructed view from the lifeboats even though those were glass balcony's. The shows were mixed and I would say overall disappointing compared to other ships. Cunard needs to really improve this end. It would be my biggest complaint. They did have a few very good ones but on average....average. Staff was very friendly and accommodating and getting on and off a ship of this size was pretty coordinated and easy. The Itinerary for 15 nights was great with 9 stops starting in Ft. Lauderdale, Panama, Bonaire, Granada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts, Tortola and St. Thomas. Overall I loved being on this "Ocean Liner" and would go back tomorrow despite the shows. However we did seem to pay a fair bit less then others and it seemed to be the higher one paid the more they complained! We thought the Value was very very good based on other cruises we took. We paid less this year for 15 nights then one last year with Celebrity for 10 nights so thought it very good value. Might simply be the time and economy helping us here. The age was older and on average I would say 60's which I think was lower due to the Holiday season as we did see a fair bit of Families on board! I would also say that this is a pretty formal ship so go prepared to wear the formals or be turned away as some found out! Also we had your handful of usual rude and miserable guests on board and again for the life of me...."Why do these people insist on traveling?" I guess they just want to spread their miserable little existence around for the enjoyment of the rest of us?? So many things to mention but in ending...I would rate this a 9 out of 10 based on my experience of 8 cruises with various lines and would recommend it highly! Cheers and Happy Sailing! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
This was an amazing cruise! It was our second time with NCL and our 4th cruise. We stayed at La Pavilion the night before the cruise, it was a elegant fancy hotel with a rooftop pool and hot tub and PB&J at 10:00. We checked out ... Read More
This was an amazing cruise! It was our second time with NCL and our 4th cruise. We stayed at La Pavilion the night before the cruise, it was a elegant fancy hotel with a rooftop pool and hot tub and PB&J at 10:00. We checked out the French Quarter and had early dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, the food was pretty good, but we found Bourbon Street and the rest of the french quarter inappropriate for our children (nude ladies in windows, signs for "Big Ass Buckets of Beer" so we didn't stay for long Embarkation: We packed fairly lightly compared to some other people we saw, so we got to the lines quickly. the staff were quick and we got through the whole thing in 20 minutes because we were latitude members and got to skip the long lines. When we got on the ship we were offered free fruit juices and wine. Dining: We ate at Windows for dinner every night and almost every day for lunch, i don't know what other people are talking about the food was delicious and the staff were amazing! The kids went to Raffles for breakfast and lunch bythemselves, we went once for lunch and breakfast - for breakfast there is your typical food eggs, omelets, cereal, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, bagels etc, and for lunch there is salad, pizza, pasta, carving, vegetarian selection, meats, soups and a deli counter. The Bier garden had hamburgers and mashed potatoes and unfortunately we only figured out that Henry's Pub had soft pretzels and popcorn on the last day. Blue Lagoon was a comfort food restaurant, it was usually busy, we only went once for french fries and hot dogs. For christmas at window's for dinner we had turkey and mashed potatoes and yule logs for dessert - delicious! We missed the Chocoholic buffet because we were too tired Entertainment: The Second City was funny, the Broadway and radio shows were okay and the magician was excellent! The christmas show was good too, the Kids Club did a performance. The Ship: the pools were usually packed and at night the hot tubs were very popular, we only went swimming once, there is an Asian theme and the whole ship had christmas trees and big ginger bread houses around. The Cabin: On the small side but cozy, our TV had problems, the bathroom was good, an actual shower instead of a curtain shower, our kids had a connecting room and their bed needed to be separated into two, we got an egg foam pad so our bed was really nice. Our stewards - Jovito and Herbert are amazing!!! They were always on time and made a variety of towel animals for us. Disembarkation: We used express, a LOT faster, had dinner at Window's at around 8:30 and we got off the ship at around 9:30. It was surprisingly fast and only took us 10 minutes!!! We loved this vacation, and the bad reviews are very untrue. It is an amazing ship and the staff are wonderful. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2008
embarkation smooth sailing if you get there by noon we were on line about 20 minutes and waited about 30 minutes before boarding , don't wait till late afternoon the lines were insane!  we went right to our room and it was ready nice ... Read More
embarkation smooth sailing if you get there by noon we were on line about 20 minutes and waited about 30 minutes before boarding , don't wait till late afternoon the lines were insane!  we went right to our room and it was ready nice cabin ,clean and plenty of storage for the 3 of us , my 14 yr old had a pull down bunkbed that was comfortable .We went right to lunch at the garden cafe it was crazy no seats people were rude the staff was not fast enough cleaning down tables so people were eating around dirty plates from other guests.we walked around the ship i have to say it is beautiful and very clean .We went to dinner early around 5:00 it was great no waiting at all i was afraid from other posts that we would wait but again get there early we only ate in the grand pacific (for the meals included in cruise price)we has a great server named magdalena she is from the Philippines and a real sweety probably the nicest one the rest of the staff is hard to communicate with ,after dinner we went back to our room to find our luggage we had alot because of christmas presents and unfortunately they lost one of our suitcases with most of our gifts for our son that was never found,day 2 day at sea the wether was horrible and the activities were for a much older crowd im not interested in lectures about global warming or jewelry repair eating right gimmie a break im on vacation not in school.We enrolled our 14 yr old in the teen club he was bored out of his mind!!!!!!!!!! he spent most of his time in the arcade at 1 dollar to 3 dollars a game or the bowling alley that we did not know it was 10 bucks per person per game total ripoff, again dinner and then a show , the shows were good thank god ..day 3 florida ncl did not keep the timetable and we got to fl 3 hrs late which totally screwed the day up .we met up family and had christmas but had to return early so we would not be forced to rent the car for an extra day , which we did because of the 3 hr delay ..but it was nice to see family .. day 4 was supposed to be great stirrup cay and don't you know we could not tender because the water was too rough (total disappointment and don't you know the nicest weather on the entire cruise) we went right to reception to ask for a revised daily itinerary , thats when i lost it ... no kids activities , no adult activities they decided to paint and the fumes were horrible by day 4 you have seen and done all thats included without paying extra for bowling , casino, shopping the rock wall was never open... we went to dinner to discover it was the same menu as the first night , we were starved and opted for the steakhouse @ 20 bucks per person sat down opened the menu to find another 10 dollar charge for anything on the specials menu!!!!!!!!!!!!!! of course anything good was on the special menu it was good not great just good . we went to a show and sat in the casino we were bored out of our minds this was christmas eve and now i want my suitcase these people are programmed to smile and say sorry not found yet , i had to break down in tears to get something done .. fill out forms and wait till i get home so christmas was ruined, so sympathy and the language barrier was frustrating ..day 6 christmas morning freeport bahamas i have to say waking up to most of your gifts being misplaced we went to the java cafe and santa was there thats it no music no christmas spirit the dinner menu was horrible and i was not spending one red cent on this ship . we have been to the bahamas before we knew what to expect but did not realize everything would be closed no shops ,restaurants, nada .we went back to the nightmare ship and could not wait to get home ...day 7 debarkation we opted for the express , carry out your own luggage and we did we ran off that ship ncl does not take care of their guest like carnival does it was the worst cruise ever we could have saved 4 grand and stayed home , i a currently working with the insurance company to out in a claim and wrote to ncl seeking compensation for everything else ....stay with what cruiseline you know we will never ever sail with ncl again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ps the room stewards were horrible had to chase them around to maintain our cabin Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
My husband and I are a couple in our late 50's and this was our second cruise. We drove to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton resort along the seawall. This was good value for money in December (~$100) and we would ... Read More
My husband and I are a couple in our late 50's and this was our second cruise. We drove to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton resort along the seawall. This was good value for money in December (~$100) and we would recommend it at that time of the year. We got to the cruise terminal around 11:30am on the 23rd and were able to go through processing and board straight away; had lunch in the buffet restaurant and then went to find our cabin. This was our first Christmas cruise and we weren't sure what to expect. Our only disappointment was that there was no Christmas church Service but it was fun on Christmas Day to listen to the little kids try to decide where Santa and his sleigh actually landed on the ship ! Our cabin steward, Peter, was great and quickly brought us some wine glasses and made room in the small refrigerator for a bottle of champagne we brought on board. He kept our cabin spotless the entire trip. We had early dinner in the Monet dining room and were pleased with both the service and the food. Although our seating was for 5:45pm it actually worked well for us. Between ordering, eating and relaxing, we found that we were there most evenings until about 7:30pm. One caution - when the ship is at capacity, most tables for 2 are in the middle of the aisles and it takes a while to get used to having people passing by on both sides throughout the meal. By day 3, we hardly noticed them. We had a cabin at the rear of the Verandah deck with an oversize balcony. Nice balcony but the trade-off was the noise from the Lido deck until the early hours of the morning. From the deck plans it looks like you're under the pool, and we knew that closed at 11pm. What we didn't realize was that there's about 20ft with tables and chairs between the pool and the rear of the ship and the 24hr pizzeria is nearby. Oh well, we'll know better next time. In Jamaica, you need transportation to get from the port to the main shopping area. If you don't take an official tour, we'd advise taking a cab from the port rather than a minibus if you're on your own. The minibuses wait until they have a full load, and then the majority vote rules on where you actually go. Cabs are more expensive (around $25 to downtown) but you have more control. You don't need transportation in Cozumel or Grand Cayman unless you want to go outside the town. Onboard, we only went to one show so can't comment on those. Lots of places to just sit and listen to live music and have a drink. We paid the surcharge and went to the Steak House one evening for dinner. The food was really good but the portions are huge and we couldn't finish the main course - my husband had the smallest steak - 18oz prime rib and I had the filet mignon and lobster tail. We had waiters rushing to our table to make sure there was nothing wrong ! We really enjoyed this cruise and would recommend it as good value for money.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
DH, DD and self were on the Millennium 7 night Holiday cruise from 12/23/07 to 12/30/07. Overall we had a wonderful time, someone once said 'I don't think you can ever have a bad cruise', but the ship was definitely ... Read More
DH, DD and self were on the Millennium 7 night Holiday cruise from 12/23/07 to 12/30/07. Overall we had a wonderful time, someone once said 'I don't think you can ever have a bad cruise', but the ship was definitely overcrowded and the level of service we expect from Celebrity (we are Select Members) was lacking. 12/22/07-We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before and spent the night at the Renaissance. We weren't overly impressed with the hotel. We were stuck in a smoking room in what was advertised as a non-smoking hotel. Also, the gym was very lacking in the weight department, some free weights and some type of weight machines my DH and self had no clue on how to work. For our DD, disappointment in the pool and hot tub was closed for repair. Why they chose the week before Christmas to work on the pool, I'll never know. 12/23/07-Embarkation was relatively painless. It took us 35 minutes from leaving the shuttle to sipping our champagne. It would have been shorter as our paperwork was filled in on-line, but they had us fill out a health questionnaire at the counter. Once on board, we went up to the grill for the first of many hot dogs and fries for DD. At this point, there was hardly anyone on board and we felt it was our own ship. How quickly that changed! Muster drill was fine, always remember safety first! At this point we realized just how crowded this cruise was to be. People everywhere, I know this cruise was a holiday cruise, but we took a holiday cruise in 2004 which was nowhere near as crowded as this one. 12/24/07-DH and self up early to walk on the jogging track. We love to walk in the morning as the sun rises. We were walking as the ship pulled into Nassau, Bahamas. We purchased tickets through Celebrity for The Pirates of Nassau Museum, which is just a short walk from where the ship docked. We can't say enough how much we enjoyed Captain Blah Blah and the Museum! He was hilarious and very informative as was the museum itself. We highly recommend visiting the museum. After touring the museum, we went back to the ship and enjoyed the peace and quiet with everyone off the ship. We actually found loungers by the pool in the shade! DH and self had dinner reservations at The Olympic Restaurant to celebrate, belatedly, our 12th anniversary. Needless to say, the service and food were impeccable. I dream of the goat cheese and chocolate soufflEs. They are my favorite. I especially enjoyed the Chocolate SoufflE as on other Millennium class ships they only offer the Grand Marnier SoufflE. After dinner, we collected DD from Fun Factory and then on to bed. 12/25/07-Christmas! Tried out the gym first thing in the morning. My only complaint with the gym, it's not "officially" open until 7:00 am. DH and self are early risers and like to get our workouts over early. Machines were nice, slightly different then what we are used to, but they did the job. After breakfast, we took DD to Kid's club for crafts and to await Santa's arrival. DH and self went to Guest Relations to reactivate my Sea Pass card which mysteriously stopped working the night before. This actually happened three more times throughout the cruise. Never could figure out why. Anyway, while we were there, the Cruise Director came on the PA saying radar had picked up a mysterious looking object. They played it up very nicely for the kids. We picked our DD up for lunch and found Celebrity had given all the kids her age a wonderful over the shoulder book bag. We were very impressed. After lunch, we went to the pool to find DD who had gone up with her new best friend. We had a hard time finding a chair without a person or a book/magazine in it! We eventually found our DD's stuff right next to her new best friends' parents and spent some time swimming. Hi Alan and Marsha! DH went to art auction while DD and I watched the King of the Millennium contest. We used to love the art auctions, but not anymore. DH had picked a few items to bid on and after several hours sitting in the Rendez-Vous Lounge; the auctioneer still had not gotten to them. The auctioneer was hawking the more expensive selections the ship had. Needless to say, we never attended another auction. No amount of free champagne is worth it. DH and self went to The Martini Bar before our first meal in the Dining Room. Hi Togi! It's a small world, because lo and behold who is at our table but our DD's new best friend and parents. Enjoyed a nice meal with all our tablemates-Willie and Avis along with Alan, Marsha and Marni. Waiters brought a cake and sang Happy Birthday for me. Very nice. 12/26/07-DH and self up early for morning walk as we pulled into San Juan. Ship docked at new pier with fancy awning type thing that came awfully close to ship. Decided to make this a sea day for us and enjoyed the pool without all the screaming kids. DH heard there were 1800 kids on the ship I thought I heard 800 kids. Either way, there were a lot of kids. If you didn't get in a hot tub before 9:00 am, think twice about it. At times there would be 20 kids in one hot tub. Too many germs! After a relaxing day by the pool, stopped at The Martini Bar for a quick cocktail before dinner. Since DD's new best friend was sitting at our table, she joined us for dinner. Nice meal and then to bed. 12/27/07-DH and self took a Yoga class in the morning as we pulled into Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic. Ship was docked at a pier right next to a factory spewing out dark smoke throughout the time we were there; not very tropical. As a family, we took the Bayahibe Beach Break, which was changed to the Coral Canoa Beach Hotel and Spa due to work at Bayahibe. After a short bus ride, we arrived at the resort which was very beautiful and well maintained. We had our choice of the pool or the beach chose the beach which was lovely. The beach was filled with people from the excursion as well as guests from the resort. Warning! The clientele at this resort was European, if you go here expect to see some topless bathing. At the edge of the swimming area were some artificial reefs. The same type Mike Rowe (sp?) made in an episode of Dirty Jobs. DH spent a long time exploring them. The only downer for this excursion was the trip back to the ship. The majority of the people made it back to the rendezvous spot by the appointed time. We sat on the bus as 10 minutes went by after the departure time, then 20 minutes and we still hadn't left. Many of the passengers were grumbling to leave. Finally, one woman went to the organizer and asked why we hadn't left. It turned out a couple had had their picture taken by the resort staff and the delay in leaving was to wait for them to purchase their pictures. Needless to say, this didn't sit well. Eventually, we left the couple there. Rightly or wrongly, the couple did not return to the bus in a reasonable time-should all those that did, have to wait and wait for them? A lot of grumbling for both sides was heard on the way back. I did see the couple later in the voyage, so I know they made it back to the ship in time. Cleaned up and went for our normal cocktail at The Martini Bar and then on to dinner. After dinner, took DD to room while DH and self went to Casino to use our Select Member coupons in the Casino. It was considerably cooler in the Casino although not sure why. Anyway we broke even and went to bed. 12/28/ 07-DH and self up early to walk. Got DD, ate a quick breakfast, and then waited in the theater for tender to Labadee, Haiti. Able to get on first tender of day, therefore, able to get some nice loungers in the shade in the first beach on the left. Enjoyed some peace and quiet until everyone else got off the ship and crowded the beach. DH explored some formations in the ocean before everything got disturbed. The family then explored the island. On opposite side of where ship anchors, seas were very rough and warnings posted everywhere. Due to the rough seas and warnings, no one was swimming. We got to see a few zip liners go by, but the winds must have picked up because they cancelled the rest. We paid to do the water park. Not worth it. My advice, don't bother with it. You only get one hour in the park, which they are very strict about. While it's fun, it surely is not worth the money. After the disappointing water park, took a tender back to the ship and enjoyed some peace and quiet by the pool. Stopped at The Martini Bar before dinner, again. After dinner, we were all tired from the day, so went to bed. 12/29/07-At sea-DH and self up early to work out. DH sat at two chairs while I started to pack and fed DD. DD and self took over the seats while DH went to eat. At this point, it was 8:00 am. Seats all around us had magazines, books, etc. on them to reserve them. As mentioned, either DH or self was sitting in our two chairs from ~7:00 am we saw no one sitting in those chairs. As the day wore on, tempers were flaring. The Pool Butlers were very reluctant to remove anything from a chair, even though it was obvious no one was sitting there. Not helping the situation was the washer/dryers for the pool towels had broken over night so towels were hard to come by. Why one person has to take 10 towels is beyond me? I know I've seen this all over the boards, but why do people have to save seats in the shade and in the sun, without using either for several hours? Or save seats at all? And why can't cruise personnel do anything about it? It is so obvious at 8:00 am, when so few people are in the pool/hot tubs, not all the chairs having stuff on them are actually being used by people and are only being saved. It's a never ending problem that I'm not sure will ever be resolved. Tempers were flaring throughout the day; we observed several arguments in our area alone. Adding insult to injury, they ran out of the plastic cups used around the pool deck. Several officers' and security personnel were walking around, but their presence didn't help people's feelings. After a day like this, we skipped dinner, of course after leaving our tip envelopes on our plates as we didn't see our waiter/assistant waiter. We wandered the ship nibbling on sushi, pasta, and salad, whatever we could find. We picked up DD from kid's club, finished packing, placed our suitcases out, and went to bed early. 12/30/07-Back at Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. Disembarkation was no problem for us-our flight (through Celebrity) wasn't until 4:10 pm. We were in no rush to leave, but eventually we had to. Spent several, several hours in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. Word of warning, they do not let you check in until 3 hours before your flight. So we sat in the check in area until 1:10 pm at which time we were able to check our luggage in. Positives-The Olympic is always a wonderful experience and well worth the $30.00/person charge. The Pirates of Nassau Museum was very informative and Captain Blah Blah was real funny. Labadee, Haiti. I came into this cruise expecting this to be the weak point of the cruise. How wrong I was! It was a beautiful peninsula, with a lovely beach/cove. Don't be afraid to explore the island as there are more beaches than you think. Avoid the water park and the slide, just lame attempts to get your money. Not worth it. Our Sommelier in the Dining Room, sadly I can't remember his name. Togi the Martini bartender was very nice and mixed excellent drinks. Cepepec assistant stateroom attendant. He always greeted us with a smile and a "How are you?" He kept the room up very nicely. Kudos to all the staff, never met one that wasn't pleasant. Negatives-Too many people! On our plane trip back, people from other cruises made the same comment. It appears that all cruise lines overbooked for the Holiday cruise. We have taken a prior Holiday cruise in 2004 which was nowhere near as overbooked as this one, especially with all the kids. The first day or so, we told our DD not to go in the adult only hot tub, however, when you have 20 or so kids crowded in these hot tubs with no one stopping them, and all her friends are going in them, who are we to say no? One time in the T-pool, I told two kids that this was an adult's only area and they weren't allowed. I even pointed at the sign that indicated you needed to be 18 years old to be in the pool, but they looked at me like 'what do you mean I can't be here? I'm a kid I can go wherever I want!' By the end of the week, there were smokers and kids all throughout the T-pool area. I avoided it, even though it's usually my favorite place to relax. Rudeness was another big negative. People seemed to have forgotten their manners once they got on the ship. They were cutting in line, rushing to get in the elevator before you could get out, saving seats, taking more 20 towels for one person, you get the picture. It was so nice to finally get home and not have to deal with people. Again, overall we had a wonderful cruise. In fact, we've just booked on the Solstice for 03/15/09, eager to try the new ship. Our itinerary includes a stop in Labadee, Haiti; we will definitely stay there longer and explore all this wonderful place has to offer. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
This was a difficult and disappointing trip for us. Difficult because my wife was ill for about 9 days, disappointing because of the lack of class we experienced with many of the passengers and a decline in the quality that we had ... Read More
This was a difficult and disappointing trip for us. Difficult because my wife was ill for about 9 days, disappointing because of the lack of class we experienced with many of the passengers and a decline in the quality that we had previously enjoyed on other Celebrity cruises. This review also includes our experiences on a side trip to El Calafate, Argentina, before embarking on the cruise. This was our twelfth cruise, fifth with Celebrity and third aboard Infinity. Also, this was our second time doing this itinerary - the first time was in 2004 (also aboard Infinity). That particular trip was outstanding, and perhaps, this is partially the reason that this second trip paled in comparison. Since this was going to be our second time in most ports of call, our planning emphasized visits to new locations and/or doing different activities. In most instances, we enjoyed the excursions in 2004 more than those that we did on this cruise (with 2 notable exceptions). So, by the end of this cruise, we had concluded that we had done it right the first time around. A Christmas Cruise This is the first time that we have done a Christmas or New Years cruise. I have always resisted booking a holiday cruise because there is a significant cost premium for these cruises. But the timing of the cruise ship worked perfectly with our work schedules, so we took the plunge. Now that we have done it, I will never do a Holiday cruise again. Are a few extra decorations, feeble Christmas activities, and a New Year's party really worth the 75% premium we paid? Absolutely not. Also, I did not enjoy having over 400 kids traveling with us. At times, they really strained the resources of Fun Factory. With most of the 3rd and 4th berths occupied, I can honestly say that this was the most crowded ship we have ever traveled on. We have a 5 year old, and I missed the attention she's gotten on prior Celebrity cruises. The Ship It has been 4 years since our last trip on the Infinity, and the aging of the ship is noticeable. The ship is in need of some TLC, so I hope that it gets a much needed refurbishment soon. As expected, the wear and tear is most apparent on public areas such as the Trellis restaurant (furniture), the elevators (broken buttons, worn out paneling), and the Thalassotherapy Pool (rust). The Service I am happy to report that the service we received was, for the most part, excellent. The staff in the dining room and our cabin attendants did a great job. The Food We like simple food, so we typically don't have much to say in this area. However, we did notice that the quality and variety of the food in the Trellis restaurant has deteriorated considerably. We kept seeing the same food (especially meat) presented with a different sauce over and over again. On the plus side, I can not recommend enough the Rodizio dinner that was offered as a casual alternative on the Oceanview cafe on several days during the cruise. It was excellent. As word got out, reservations became hard to get. We ate on the United States restaurant, and the experience was excellent, except for a pushy sommelier that kept trying to sell a bottle of wine to us, even though we only wanted a glass each. Passengers This was the first time that we travel on a ship where the majority of the passengers were not from the US. I would guess that 60% to 65% were from Latin America. Of those, the great majority were from Mexico (around 1000 passengers). My wife and I were both born and raised in Latin American countries, so I was disappointed, and sometimes embarrassed, by the rudeness and lack of class exhibited by many of the Latin American passengers. I saw people picking food with their hands on the Oceanview Cafe, cutting of lines, incessantly talking during shows, blatantly disregarding the rules (for dress code, age limits, behavior), throwing discarded bingo cards directly at the cruise staff (actually hitting her on the face several times), and trying to sneak into the Persian Garden on several occasions. Also, there was significant Spanish foul language from the younger crowd. My personal favorite was having our neighbor smoking cigars in his underwear on the balcony next to ours. What a sight! I truly believe that most of the passengers on this ship had never been on a cruise before, and did not know how to behave. This does not mean that we did not meet some very nice people during the cruise. We met some great families from Mexico, Venezuela and other Latin American countries. It was also a pleasure to share our daily experiences with our tablemates from Hawaii. Over the years of cruising, my wife and I have formulated this theory: the best cruises are the ones that have a general mix of passengers, with no particular group dominating. This cruise has reinforced that belief. Children's Services In our four prior Celebrity cruises, we never had more than 50 kids on board. While we think that the facilities, programs, and staff for young children are outstanding for groups of that size, they were struggling with such a large number of kids. Typically they have 5 counselors, but for this trip they added an extra 5. The lack of truly special programs for Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day was disappointing. Also, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Celebrity (and all other cruise lines) would figure a way of monetizing the children's program. By adding a few perks (such behind the scenes tours, costumes), re-branding existing programs and offering unlimited time at the Fun Factory (including premium $$ hours), Celebrity has created a program called VIP. In our cruise, they wanted $220usd per child for this program - which was absurdly overpriced. We did not sign up our daughter. The fact that only 9 children out of the 400+ children on board signed up for the program speaks loud and clear. Please note that kids are now allowed in the Thalassotherapy Pool, if the are with their parents. So, the peace and quiet of the area has been somewhat compromised. Travel Journal December 14 - Our goal was to try different things on this trip. That also included the airline. We decided to fly with COPA from Orlando to Buenos Aires via Panama City. We found chaos in the Panama City airport flying down to Buenos Aires and coming back home. For some reason, about half of the passengers seemed to have duplicate boarding passes, which made a mess of the boarding process. We were directly affected by this on our way down. The seats on the plane were very tight and uncomfortable, and the food was bad. This was our first and last experience with COPA. December 15 - Buenos Aires We arrived in Buenos Aires around 5:30am, and after immigration found our driver fairly quickly (we arranged all of our transfers in Buenos Aires thru DeFrantur). We made it to our hotel around 7:00am. The Claridge Hotel has good reviews in TripAdvisor, but we found the front desk personnel to be arrogant and unhelpful. The location of the hotel, near Florida street (a pedestrian shopping street), was not a good choice for us. That street seemed to have a sea of humanity every day (maybe because of holiday shopping). It was full of people trying to get you into their stores, street performers and beggars. On our previous trip, we stayed in Recoleta, a neighborhood we enjoyed much more. Even though our ship was departing from Chile, we came to Argentina first in order to visit the Glacier National Park near the town of El Calafate. So, today was an in-transit day. We finally got our room key around 11am and took a shower and a nap. Around 3pm we visited the Recoleta area and the market that is outside the cemetery on weekends. With an early flight the next day, we called it a day very early. Since we were coming back to the Claridge after our visit to El Calafate, we left 2 large suitcases with the hotel and took only 2 small ones to El Calafate. December 16 - El Calafate Our flight was at 8:30am, and we had schedule a transfer at 5am at the hotel. (Why so early? Well, having experienced Ezeiza airport before, we knew that we might need 3 hours to get to the gate.) The driver never showed up, so at 5:45am the hotel's driver took us to the airport. We were lucky and the line at the Aerolineas Argentinas counter was very short when we got there. Our flight left on time and we had a pleasant 3 hr flight to El Calafate. The airport at El Calafate is tiny, it had one gate. However, it is a modern facility. El Calafate is a small town in the middle of nowhere, whose only reason to exist is to serve as gateway to the Glacier National Park about 45 miles away. The town has a feel of a small alpine village, even though it sits at the shores of Argentino Lake. We found the people living there to be very nice and helpful. Our hotel, Calafate Parque, was very good and had a great location (one block away from the town's main street). The staff was great and I would recommend it to anyone who visits the area. The local operator (Prestigio) that picked us up at the airport offered a variety of tours to the Glacier Park, so we booked 3 tours with them for the next 2 days. That afternoon a contacted another operator (Cerro Frias) that offered a 2.5 hr horseback ride and dinner at a local estancia. I was a little concerned about my 5 yr old managing such a long ride, but she did great. We went up a small mountain and the views were amazing, including the horns of Torres de Paine on the Chilean side. We saw plenty of local wildlife and tons of wild flowers. Then, we went back to the main house and had an asado (BBQ) dinner. We had a great time! December 17 - El Calafate We typically prefer private tours, but a private guide will add little value here as everyone ends up in the same places anyway. So, on this day we joined a bus tour to the Perito Moreno glacier. We had about a 1 hour ride to the entrance of the park where you will pay an entrance fee of around $10usd. As were getting close to the glacier, the guide offered an optional 1 hour cruise to the south face of the glacier. We accepted the offer and had great views of the glacier (however, if you are doing the all glaciers boat tour at any point during your visit, I would skip this in favor of spending more time at the time in trails that face the glacier). After the boat ride, we were taken to the main visitor center, which has a decent restaurant and clean bathrooms. In front of the main building there is a trail and walkways that you follow downward. From these walkways, you get great views of the glacier. The sound of the ice cracking was amazing, and we were lucky enough to see a large caving while we were there. A memorable experience. December 18 - El Calafate Our second tour was an all day boat ride in a large catamaran to see 3 other glaciers (upsala, onelli and Spegazzini). The boat was packed with people, but each person gets a seat. As were seating down, one of the staff members announced that they had a few spots left in the VIP area. I jump at the opportunity and it was money well spent. For the extra money, we got very wide and comfortable seats in a great location (on the top floor with captain). We also got unlimited free drinks (such as coffee, hot chocolate and sodas). The VIP area also had 2 small balconies from which to step out and take pictures. We were very comfortable during the whole trip and avoided the mass of people trying to take photos below. I truly recommend that you pay the extra money and reserve seats on the VIP section when making reservations. The views the glaciers and icebergs from the boat were amazing. As part of the tour, we had a picnic lunch on the shore of a lake with small icebergs. The lunch was prepared by our hotel. Our daughter had a blast. We added a dinner and show at an estancia called El Galpon del Glaciar. So, on the way back they dropped us at the ranch about 1.5 hours before the program began. We had the opportunity to go horseback riding again, watch a farm hand sheer a lamb, ate a great dinner, and watch a descent show. For the price, it was a very good choice, but I would recommend not combining this with a full day tour like we did. We were worn out, and got to the hotel around 11pm. December 19 - Buenos Aires I wish I had scheduled more time in this region and less time back in Buenos Aires, when I planned this side trip. We had a great time here, and it would turn out to be the highlight of our trip. We got back to Buenos early afternoon. This time we flew into Newberry airport near downtown, so we were back to the Claridge hotel in no time. We took it easy the rest of the day. December 20 - Buenos Aires When we were planning the trip, we decided to take this day to visit Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. It is 1 hour away from BA via ferry (Buquebus). We bought the tickets via their website about 2 months in advance, which turned out to be a great decision as the ship was sold out. The trip to Colonia was underwhelming. The historical part of town is tiny and can be seen in 2 hours. We had a very good lunch in a local restaurant, and did a little bit of shopping. Given the hassles of immigration (you are going to another country) on both ferry trips, I would not recommend doing this trip just for a day. Too much work, for such small payout. December 21 - Santiago My wife woke up with a fever, and was not feeling well. However, we had to catch an 8:30am flight to Santiago, and we pressed on. The check-in line for Aerolineas Argentinas was huge even though we arrived at the airport at 5:30am. It took about 1.5 hrs to check our luggage in, but we made to the gate with plenty of time. My wife was not doing well at all when we finally landed in Santiago. I had arranged a transfer with SportsTour from the airport to the hotel, but when we got out of customs no one was waiting for us. I called them to see what was going on, they said someone would be there right away. 20 minutes later and still no show, I called again and said if I don't see anyone in 2 minutes and would take a taxi. About a minute later someone from another company showed up and told me that he had been hired to take us to the hotel. The bottom line: SportsTour forgot about us and they ended up calling someone else to take care of us. We arrived at the Santiago Park Plaza, and as soon as we got there, we ask the front desk to call a doctor. The doctor was in our room in 20 minutes. My wife was diagnosed with bronchitis and given some antibiotics. A lot of rest was recommended. So, that killed our plans for the rest of the day in Santiago. I can not speak highly enough about the staff at this hotel. They showed genuine concern, and the fact that they got a doctor so fast was impressive. December 22 - Valparaiso My wife was still not feeling well but was doing slightly better. The day before I gave our contact at SportsTour a verbal whipping for non-performance. They promised that they would arrive on time for our transfer to Valparaiso. 15 minutes after the agreed time, SportsTour was no where in sight. Our representative gave me the cell number of the driver and, of course, I called him. He said that he was having trouble with the van and that he was going to be there in 10 minutes. To say that I was concerned about beginning a 90 minute trip in a van with mechanical troubles would be a major understatement. Four years ago, SportsTour gave us a great tour of Santiago; this time around they failed miserably. We made it to the pier around noon, and there were no lines. We were aboard by 12:30pm. We took care of spa appointments, reservation in the United States restaurants, and then my wife's fever returned. December 23 - Day at Sea My wife went to see the doctor, and she was diagnosed with the Flu. She ended receiving respiratory treatments for the next 3 days, and pretty much was out of commission in our cabin for the next 4 days. December 24 - Puerto Montt On our previous trip, I noticed that driving in the Puerto Montt region was pretty easy, so I arranged a car rental thru the local Hertz agency. Their brought the car to the pier and collected the car when we returned. My original plan was to go horseback riding in the morning, and then circle Llanquihue Lake in the afternoon. My wife stayed aboard the ship, so my 5 year old daughter and me collected the rental car and headed to Quinta del Lago. This working ranch sits between the 2 main volcanoes: Osorno and Calbuco. The ranch is owned by a lady from Washington State and her Chilean husband. We had a great time riding the hills of this beautiful land. After 2 visits, I think the best way to enjoy this region is by doing some kind of activity, such as river rafting or horseback riding. This region begs exploration, and not in a bus. Even though the rental worked out fine, there are plenty of taxis that will give you a tour just outside the pier entrance. They may not speak good English, but you don't need an interpreter to appreciate the beauty. This is a tender intensive itinerary. When we booked this cruise a year in advance, we specifically asked if "priority tendering" was still one of the benefits of having a Concierge Class cabin, and were told that it was. Well, when we met our cabin steward, he told us that Celebrity had recently stopped giving priority tender tickets to CC cabins. I was angry, and let the concierge know that I had private excursions in every port and needed to be out the ship early. The next morning, priority tender tickets showed up in our cabin. With tickets and help from some of our cruise critic friends, we were able to take early tenders on every port. I was told that in some ports, people had to wait up to 2 hours to tender the regular way. Yikes!!! December 25 - Day at Sea Christmas Day. I thought that Celebrity would have a full day of special activities for the kids, but the only thing that they did that different was a rather disorganized children's parade through the ship and a quick visit with Santa. All kids got some kind of gift. My daughter got a child-size bathrobe, which she loved. My wife and I have always enjoyed the Spa on our Celebrity cruises. This was no exception, but the prices are really getting out of hand. With so many days at sea, we purchased passes to the Persian Garden at the beginning of the cruise. Because of my wife illness and lack of time, we did not go there enough to warrant the price that we paid. For those of you that will be traveling on the Infinity in the next 6 months, I can not recommend Dora (from Hungary) enough. She has to be the best masseuse that I have encountered in over my 10 years of cruising. Ask for her in the Spa. December 26 - Day at Sea The weather was very overcast with low clouds, which limited somewhat the view of the Chilean fjords. However, the scenery was still spectacular. December 27 - Punta Arenas Our experience in Punta Arenas 4 years ago was underwhelming, so this time we looked for something outside the typical tours. I bumped into a website for a local ranch that offered several types of activities, such as trekking, hiking and a small zip line canopy. They arranged a program for us, and we decided to go with them. Our trip to Fundo San Fernando turned out to be an expensive disappointment. Our program called for a 2 hour hike to Cerro Campana, followed by lunch, then some canopy or horseback riding. The family of the Fundo was our hosts, and they were a very nice. However, the Cerro Campana hike turned into a 4 hour ordeal (I guess highly fit individuals can make up the hill and back in 2 hours, but there is no way the average person can do it that fast) and threw our whole day out of sync. My wife (feeling slightly better) was bored to death, as she waited for us in the main house with our daughter. In summary, this is a work in progress as a tourist attraction, and maybe in a few years, they will have all the kinks worked out. December 28 - Ushuaia On our last trip we visited Ushuaia first, and then Punta Arenas, which gave us the opportunity to see the 5 large glaciers a few hours away from Ushuaia. This time around, I got up at 4am, and missed them because we passed them earlier that night. What a disappointment! For this port, we contacted local operator Canal - they had provided once of the best excursions during our first trip. We visited the national park last time, so this time we did a 4x4 trip to Lake Fagnano. I am happy to report, that they did not disappoint. We had a great guide and enjoyed our ride thru the Fuegan forest and a BBQ lunch next to the lake. Even my wife's spirits were lifted during the day. I can not recommend them enough. December 29 - Day at Sea We had nice weather as we visited Cape Horn. December 30 - Day at Sea We went to see a comedian/juggler on this night. He was so bad that he was getting heckled by the kids in the front row. Overall, the nightly entertainment at the theatre was very poor. The production shows have been around for years now, and the rest of the entertainment was mediocre at best (with the exception of a comedian on the next to last night of the cruise - he was pretty good). I think Pampas devils have been in every Celebrity cruise we have been on (at least it seems that way), and trust me they are not that good. This is another area were a decline in quality was evident. December 31 - Port Stanley With some other CC members, we arranged a private excursion (with Neil Rowlands) to Volunteer Point to see a King Penguin colony. There were 14 of us. In essence, the same tour that Celebrity offers under the name "A Day with Royalty", but 30% less in cost. In our previous trip, we visited the rookery at Kidney Cove and had a wonderful time (at that time the trip to Volunteer Point did not exist). The opportunity to see King Penguins seemed to be worth the long trip to get there (2.5 hours). We found the trip to Volunteer Point too arduous. The last part (well over 1 hour) has no roads, and progress is very slow. What these Land Rovers can do, is truly amazing. Although the payoff is outstanding: 3 rookeries (King, Gentoo and Magellanic), we found the trip over there (and back) painfully long and rough. I must say, that some of the other members of our private tour though that the whole experience was great. Having done 2 tours in the Falklands, I would recommend the excursion to Bluff Cove rookery as a better alternative. Save the long trip to Punta Tombo in Puerto Madryn (which is also long, but over a paved/gravel road the whole way). After a long day, we still had a formal night and New Year's festivities ahead of us. I found no sense in Celebrity's holding the main party at the Constellation Lounge and requesting that all children be removed from the location by 11pm. As expected, most families ignored this rule. In addition to the Constellation Lounge, other parties where simultaneously held at the Rendezvous Lounge (with Latin Music), Michael's Club (with a string quarter) and the Cova Café (with members of the Celebrity orchestra). All locations were packed by 11pm with no seats to be found. I don't understand why the Trellis restaurant or the Celebrity theatre were not used. We roamed the ship until midnight, trying to stay awake. We did the countdown at the Rendezvous Lounge, and went to bed soon after. January 1 - Day at Sea My wife was finally starting to feel a little better. So, we enjoyed the ship together for the first time in our trip. We had dinner on the alternative restaurant on Deck 10 aft. We ended getting a show with our dinner. For about 1 hour, we went passed several whales (some of them very playful) that were heading south for the summer. This is the first time we had seen large whales in the open ocean, so it was a thrill for us. Those in the main dining room went unaware of the show outside as no announcement was made. January 2 - Puerto Madryn In Puerto Madryn, we contacted local operator Huinca Travel for a tour of peninsula Valdez. On our previous trip, we used Huinca for an excursion to Punta Tombo, which was excellent. At that time, the owner of Huinca, German Beck, gave us a great tour. His company has grown a lot since then, and he no longer has time to do the tours himself. We have stayed in touch with him since our trip 4 years ago, so we were so happy to learn that we would join us in our tour as a passenger. We had a great time with German and our guide. I recommend them without hesitation. I was a little disappointed in that our visit to Peninsula Valdez was between whale season and the peak of the sea lion season. However, we saw seals, sea lions and penguins (mostly from a distance of 50 to 100 feet. I must say that the color of the ocean on this area was truly remarkable. Having now visited both Punta Tombo and Peninsula Valdez, my recommendation would be as follows: (1) if your trip falls within whale season or the peak Sea Lion breeding season, go to Peninsula Valdez (see the penguins in the Falklands or Punta Arenas); (2) if your visit falls in between whale or sea lion season (or if can not enough of the penguins) go to Punta Tombo. For either tour, the distance that you will travel in total is the same. January 3 - Day at Sea The wind really picked up. Fortunately the wind was in the direction the ship was traveling, so the incremental ship movement was minimal. Around 5:30pm, the captain announced that because of the high winds for tomorrow, we would skip Punta del Este and instead, head directly to Montevideo and spend 2 days there. We really did not like Montevideo during our last visit, so this change to the itinerary was unwelcome by us. January 4 - Montevideo We had a private excursion set up in Punta del Este for this day. However, we were able to cancel with no problems. During our first in 2004, we arranged a city tour. That tour was really bad and spent 2 hours touring residential areas. Since the city itself did not warrant more than half a day, we walked out of the ship with no plans. Once we got to the area where the taxis are waiting, we asked the supervisor where to go off the tourist path and do some horseback riding. He suggested the Minas region in the center of the country. I usually do a lot of research before any trip we make, but this time we decide to just take a chance and go with the flow. Wrong decision!! After a 2 hour ride from Montevideo, we arrived at a vacation center in the mountain region usually reserved for employees of the electricity company of Uruguay. I do not kid you when I say that this place look like the hotel in "The Shining" movie. We got off in the main courtyard and were welcome by sad music blaring from a speaker from the 1950's and some very elderly people being wheeled around by staff dressed in white. It was so bad, that it was funny! We got there around 11:30am and were quickly informed that the horse trip would be at 3pm. So, that took care of that. Then we asked about eating lunch, and were told that the restaurant would open at 1pm. Fortunately, our driver convinced the restaurant manager to let us eat early. Our second stop was a waterfall called "Salto del Penitente". At this point we were skeptical about everything, but the name held promise: "Jump of the Penitent". After a 30 minute ride, we arrive at the waterfall. My wife and I looked at each other, and just starting laughing. My cabin shower had more water falling than this cascade. What a joke! After that, and because my daughter was starting to feel ill, we told the driver that we had enough and wanted to go back to the ship. This may our worst tour ever! January 5 - Montevideo After yesterday's fiasco, my wife and I decided just to do a little shopping and return to the ship quickly. January 6 - Buenos Aires The end of our trip. We were able to disembark quickly, and had secured transportation from the pier to our hotel for the day in advance. Our plane was not leaving until 3:00am that night, so we booked a room for a day at a hotel not worth mentioning. We did some shopping and then got some rest before leaving at midnight for the airport. After a very disappointing and difficult trip, we were ready to go home. We love to travel and we love to cruise. So, we look forward to better vacations in the future. Major bad luck and some bad decision making on our part seemed to doom this one. However, I do hope that Celebrity addresses some of the issues discussed above. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
This was our tenth cruise and our second one on the Sapphire Princess. We sailed on this ship when it was new in 2004 and enjoyed it very much so we were interested in doing this longer cruise over the Christmas and New Year holidays. My ... Read More
This was our tenth cruise and our second one on the Sapphire Princess. We sailed on this ship when it was new in 2004 and enjoyed it very much so we were interested in doing this longer cruise over the Christmas and New Year holidays. My husband and I are in our sixties and live on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. We usually have long flights to join cruises in Europe and the US but this time it was only a seven and a half hour flight to Singapore where we stayed overnight in order to see the Christmas Lights. The next morning we took a short one and a half hour flight to Bangkok for our operational overnight stay that we had booked with Princess. This turned out well because our transfers went smoothly and the Menam Riverside hotel in Bangkok was a pleasant place to stay. We had the advantage of being able to check in with Princess at the hotel so that embarkation was a breeze the following day. It took about 3 hours to get to the port but this took longer than usual because of road works. Once on board we found our cabin on Caribe deck and were happy to see that we had a large balcony with nice blue mesh chairs and flooring. The cabin was nicely laid out with good storage space and plenty of coat hangers. The shower was quite small but manageable. We met Marvin, our cabin steward, who looked after us very well for the duration of the cruise. We unpacked our suitcases before muster and then joined our Cruise Critic friends in the Oasis bar. We had already met some of them at the hotel but now we were able to match more names to faces. We were all excited to be at the sailaway together and were looking forward to our 20 day cruise! The ship is large and beautiful. It's one of the Grand Class ships and carries 2800 passengers. The dEcor is classy and elegant with lovely artwork and a pleasing color scheme throughout. I won't go into too many details as a full ship's review can be found elsewhere on this website. It takes a while to explore the ship fully and find your way around but we had been on this ship before so it was easier for us this time! We had opted for anytime dining rather than the traditional dining and I'm glad we did because it was fun eating in the various restaurants and also convenient to eat at different times. We usually booked ahead when we had figured out our plans for the day but sometimes we changed times and it was no problem. Sometimes we ate with friends or on our own and at other times we joined a big table where we met some interesting people from all over the world and from all walks of life. We rotated between the Pacific Moon, Savoy, Vivaldi and Santa Fe restaurants in the evening. In the morning we sometimes had breakfast in the International dining room and at other times we ate buffet-style in Horizon Court. On port days we ordered breakfast in our cabin and ate on the balcony. The restaurant and the room service was consistently good. On occasion we enjoyed afternoon tea in the International dining room. One time when we were at afternoon tea a passenger was being rude to one of the waiters. He told the waiter he was stupid and this irked me because the waiters are often trying so hard to give good service. I loved it when my husband defended the waiter and told the passenger that he would be more likely to get good service if he wasn't so rude! The food was very good everywhere on board and there were only a couple of meals we didn't like. We usually had a drink on our balcony at sailaway and then ordered wine at the dinner table. We occasionally ordered drinks at the bar or in the lounges. The entertainers were not as good as on our last Sapphire Princess cruise but the production shows with the talented singers and dancers were very good. Lenny Windsor, the comedian, was quite amusing and we also enjoyed the dynamic singer Caron Kate Blackwell and her husband, comedian Marty Allen. The best band of all was Deep Blue who managed to get everyone dancing and having fun. What a talented group! They usually played in Club Fusion or around the pool deck. The captain was Attilio Guerini. The cruise director was Sammi Baker who was quite a live spark around the ship. Her assistant Sam was a wonderful teacher for the dance classes together with Tom who also organized the virtual golf team competition on some of the sea days. We went once to the bingo and also to the wooden horse races on a sea day and it was good fun. After attending one of Brad Coates rather uninspiring lectures on Achieving Personal & Financial Freedom in mid-life we decided to free ourselves of him before the next lecture! Christmas Day Santa arrived in the Atrium on Christmas Day. We listened to the announcement that he would be arriving by helicopter to give the children their presents! There were Christmas carols in the Atrium on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. It was fun joining in and watching the children receive their gifts from Santa. The snow machine was an excellent idea and really helped to get everyone into the spirit of things. New Year's Eve A fun time for everyone! We had dinner with friends and then got changed out of our formal dress to attend the pool deck party where Deep Blue was playing. We danced the night away and brought in the New Year with our friends and other passengers. Now to the ports and what we did there. Koh Samui We joined four of our Cruise Critic friends on a private tour, Mr.Ung's Magical Safari,in Koh Samui. We travelled in a jeep which was a bit bumpy but made for some good fun rides! We visited the elephant, crocodile and monkey shows before going on an elephant ride along a winding path through the forest. We managed to get some great photos of us on the ride. We went to a waterfall and gardens before having a delicious Thai lunch at a scenic viewpoint high up in the mountains. We all enjoyed the day and had a lot of laughs together! Singapore We had been to Singapore before so we decided to explore the Tanglin Rd area and the Botanic Gardens, which are lovely and have some beautiful orchids as well as other tropical plants. On the way there we were invited into the newly opened St. Regis hotel and had an interesting conversation with the assistant manager. She introduced us to the butler who took us around the hotel and showed us the bedrooms. They were absolutely lovely and the bathrooms had a plasma TV on the mirror next to the bath - quite an innovative idea! It was a hot day so on the way back from the gardens we called into one of the shopping centers and had a cool drink before catching the shuttle back to the ship. Vietnam We had booked the Ho Chi Minh City on your own tour with Princess. We drove through little villages with run-down shops and houses. It was interesting to watch the people in cone shaped hats riding bicycles and mopeds and going about their daily business. In about two hours we arrived in HCM. I've never seen so many motorcycles on the road all hurrying to get to their destination without stopping to let anyone across the road. We managed to survive by just crossing over and letting them go around us otherwise we would never have got to the other side! Shopping was fun at the markets! We bought shirts, pants, sunglasses and hats at absolutely ridiculous prices! Finally we went up to the rooftop lounge of the famous Rex Hotel for a well- deserved drink! The buffet up there was quite cheap and the food looked good but we weren't hungry enough so we decided to wait until we got back on board. Kota Kinabalu Another private tour booked on the internet with KK tours by one of our friends. Henry was our guide and he spoke good English. First he took us to the water village which was situated in a sea of mud with rubbish everywhere! The houses were on stilts and living conditions were poor and far from sanitary! I thought of my own very comfortable home and was thankful I didn't live there! It was an interesting experience! The next stop was a Chinese temple where we took photos. Then we arrived at the Monsopiad Cultural Village to see the headhunter's house of skulls and the traditional cultural show. It was all very interesting and I would recommend this tour to anyone else. Darwin It was a very hot and humid day so we just went into the city for a look around. We took a taxi to Mindil beach and walked along the sands( no one swimming here because of the deadly box jellyfish!) It was New Year's Day so there wasn't too much happening. We were glad to get out of the heat and back into the ship's air conditioning! Cairns We live in Queensland so we had been here before. We decided to go to the little tourist town of Port Douglas with the Princess tour bus. It was another very hot day so we walked along the main street to Four Mile beach for an hour or so and back to the Old Court House hotel where we sat upstairs on the verandah and had a light lunch and a cool beer. The pretty coastal drive was about 40 minutes each way and we were back on the ship by 3.00pm. Airlie Beach We were lucky with the weather again! After a quick shower at the start it turned out to be a beautiful day. We decided to visit the markets first and then we explored the town. It had changed for the better since the last time we were there. A lagoon area and a boardwalk had been added as well as more sand on the little beach. Luckily we missed the floods that came just after our visit! Brisbane We stayed on the ship as we live just a one hour drive from here. We had the ship to ourselves for the day apart from a few others who probably lived there too. We sat around the pool, read our books and had a nice lunch. It was a very relaxing day! Sydney We were lucky to get a late disembarkation time as our flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast didn't leave until 1.30pm. It was very well organized and on time but we had to wait almost an hour for a taxi as there were two other ships docked in Sydney that day. But that was fine as we had plenty of time before our flight home. Summary On this ship you can really " Escape Completely" as they say in the Princess ads! There were many sea days when you could either do your own thing or join in the many activities provided. We had a fabulous time but we didn't feel as though we had to join in everything. We used our balcony a lot and enjoyed watching the sailaways before dinner. Meeting up with new friends from Cruise Critic really enhanced our cruise and we hope to meet some of them again soon. We met some people who were rude to the staff and complained about everything but you will always get those unhappy people on cruises or anywhere you travel - just move away from them! We met some lovely people on board and all were enjoying the cruise as much as we were. We saw some parents who let their children run around unsupervised on the ship at night but we also met some very polite children who were well controlled by their parents. I wish Princess would stop young children from running around in the bars and lounges late at night. It annoys other passengers and it's also dangerous when drinks are being served. We are looking forward to our next cruise on the Sapphire Princess when she sails from Sydney to Los Angeles in April. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2007
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.) We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things! As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time). I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :))))) All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :) Looking back now that I am older and wiser now Read Less

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