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175 Holiday Cruise Reviews

The Elderly - Having spent most of our cruise life on Holland, we are familiar with the over 80 cruise scene. Usually, traveling with older folks is a great benefit - they don't bring little children who play "Marco Polo" ... Read More
The Elderly - Having spent most of our cruise life on Holland, we are familiar with the over 80 cruise scene. Usually, traveling with older folks is a great benefit - they don't bring little children who play "Marco Polo" all day, don't reserve deck chairs and don't get "rowdy" at night. This time however, it was all we could do not to get behind a slow moving scooter, wheelchair or walker. We had cruised Princess 2x before and had never experienced this issue. The Staff - save our cabin steward Ariel - was HORRIBLE!!! Rude, abrupt, unhelpful, short tempered and did not seem to want to be there. In every conversation, each staff member told us the number of days until he/she could get out of his/her contract. In the Steakhouse, it took over 40 minutes to get our first course. During the meal, our waiter disappeared and we had to ask the Maitre D' for the check. When I described our displeasure in the service to him, his response was "No one wants to work on New Year's Eve." No apology, no recognition of poor performance. The Food - YIKES!!! What happened to the quality of the food on Princess. Very few options and the Lido buffet at lunch was something out of summer camp - white Wonder bread sandwiches and assorted glop in casserole dishes - ick. The Ship - hello - ever heard of dry dock?!? This ship needs refurbishing desperately. We are not cleanliness fanatics but ceiling tiles in the hallways that are rusted and dented, brown and mildewed grout in the bathrooms, tattered carpeting and upholstery on furnishings. It was like a bad furnished rental apartment. Plus, there was no attention to detail. Staff seemed to overlook dirty napkins and empty glasses strewn about the ship. The only redeeming thing about the adventure was the itinerary - many islands we had never visited. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
I took a Christmas cruise on the Poesia with MSC for Christmas. Before that cruise I read up on the cruise line and ship and as MSC is new to the Caribbean and I got a lot of value out of the other reviews I thought I would share. ... Read More
I took a Christmas cruise on the Poesia with MSC for Christmas. Before that cruise I read up on the cruise line and ship and as MSC is new to the Caribbean and I got a lot of value out of the other reviews I thought I would share. Pre-Criuse: My in laws got 3 rooms on the Poisa for the Christmas cruise December 20-27th. We got one inside room for my wife and I, one balcony for my in laws and a "single" for my brother in law. They do allow one person to occupy a room, which is the same as the 2 person room, and pay 50% of the second ticket, paying 150% of the single person price. The alcohol packages are very reasonably priced, so we purchased a few of the bottled beer packages ahead of time. This was a real pain because it could not be done over the internet or even by phone. We had to fax in a separate order form for each room that we wanted to purchase add-ons for (3 for us). So I did this, only to find out 30 or so hours later that they did not take discover, and I would have to start over. We also wanted to purchase the wine packages ahead of time. It worked out to ~$9 a bottle, who can beat that. We were told that wine packages are the same on the ship and that we should purchase that from our waiter once we got to dinner to avoid confusion (yes this is foreshadowing future problems). We got our room assignments a few weeks ahead of the cruise, to find out that my wife and I as well as my brother in law got upgraded to balconies. That was a great surprise. That on top of the $100 per person on ship credit made this a very reasonable cruise cost wise. Getting on the ship in Fort Lauderdale: We had no problems at all, even though they said we couldn't get on until 2, we got on at around noon. We were by no means the first people on either, so I would say get there early; I doubt they will turn you away. Getting on was quick and easy, we did have to sign a document stating that we didn't feel sick and they were recording us from multiple cameras. I later heard that at least one was an infra-red camera and they would pull you out of line if you looked too hot. We didn't see anyone actually get pulled though. The ship: The ship is new and very clean. As others have said, if you take the stairs from floor 13 to floor 5 you will probably see 2 people that are constantly cleaning hand rails. This ship had a more European/subdued style then other ships I have been on. I don't remember if other ships I was on were like this, but there were almost no straight lines, I am assuming this was to minimize the feel of the moving boat. While this ship was the largest I have ever been on it didn't feel that way at all, in fact it felt cramped and crowded. The buffet upstairs was one giant line, it often took 15+ minutes to actually make it from one side to the other and because of the design you couldn't go to the section you wanted without cutting in line. I would say that the people flow was bad enough to make this my least favorite ship. That said this was the Christmas cruise, so it was sold out, and kids are free on MSC, so I am sure it was over 100% occupancy. The Decks: There were plenty of chairs, and while some people in my party ran into issues with people saving chairs I never saw a time that there was a lack of lounge chairs available. There are 2 small pools and a few hot tubs as well. As far as I could tell there were no adult only anything on this ship, or it wasn't enforced. That said outside of the pool and hot tubs, I barely noticed the kids. Our Room: I have never had a balcony before, but our room was very nice and large, I feel like it was laid our better than any other ship we have been on. When we arrived we did find a few problems though: our beds were arranged as singles, our safe was locked in the open position and our shower leaked. Once we found our room steward which wasn't easy we had then fix the beds at dinner (they had to get king sheets). Our steward found an engineer to fix our safe and also called someone about our shower leaking into the room. It wasn't that the wet floor spilled out it was coming from the wall where the drain was. They sent 2 groups of people to look at our drain and snaked it, but it leaked for the whole cruise. The room stewards are more like the cleaning people at a decent hotel than any other cruise I have been on. They do a good job cleaning the room, but don't do anything else and when you rarely see them in the hall then don't acknowledge you like on other ships. This was all fine to me, but I think my wife secretly missed the towel animals. First day shenanigans: Our receipt for the beer tickets said they would be in our room. They weren't. When we found our steward she said she had no idea, but that we should talk to reception. After waiting in line for reception they had no idea either and said we needed to go to any bar to get them. We then went to one of the bars near reception, who sent us to the "main bar" upstairs. When we got there they had no idea what we were talking about, and said we needed to come back when the manager was there (2 hours later). We took this time to fix our seating assignment, we had all requested the second seating (8PM) during the booking, but had been given the first (5:30). This was not acceptable, because we didn't want to eat with so many kids, also we were in port at that time for multiple ports. We asked our steward who to see to fix it, which sent us to registration, my wife protested saying we needed to see the maitre d, I should have listened to her. After being corrected by registration we went to the main dining room and after waiting ~30 minutes got it fixed by the maitre d, who said we would be one of the last who would be able to switch to the late seating. I am sure this angered a lot of people because it wasn't even 2PM (the official boarding time) yet and they had messed up quite a few peoples seatings. We then went back to the main bar to see the manager about our beer (I was getting really thirsty). Unfortunately he also had no clue what we were talking about and said we would have to talk to our waiter because they deal with all of that stuff. So unfortunately we couldn't use our tickets we had already paid for to drink for the first 9 hours of our cruise. We get to dinner and ask our waiter about the beer tickets, he too has no idea, but assures us that he will find out by the end of dinner. That is ok, because now we want wine with dinner. Unfortunately the wine package that we were told to purchase once we boarded was not available, not even the main manager (the one with the cell phone) knew what we were talking about. We got over this rather quickly because the on board packages were still quite reasonable at ~$15 a bottle. Though not getting the pre boarding price did end up costing us around 75 dollars. The food The menu has an American side and a European side. With a few exceptions, they are booth equally bad. In fact, this is the reason I would not go on an MSC cruise again. We are all reasonably well traveled, and really enjoy food. This wasn't just a case of wanting the foot to be more Americanized. The food was just bad. I am pretty sure that everything is frozen and then reheated, and then stored under a heat lamp letting it get overly reheated and soggy. It is amazing how badly an Italian cruise line can mess up Italian food. Everyone on the ship was complaining. One British couple we sat with at lunch said they had been asking people and not one person said they would take MSC again and the food was the number one reason. In general the service is very poor, you probably get 80% of what you order on any night, but you didn't want the other 20% after you see it anyway. I ended up ordering pizza off of the kids menu the last night, what Italian cruise line can mess that up right (it was quite good upstairs in the buffet when I had it earlier in the week). Man was I wrong; I am sure it was good at some point, maybe 20 minutes before it was left under the heat lamp. They had one chocolate dessert the whole time and we didn't get it delivered (we were in the dining room for 2.5 hours before giving up to go to the 11PM show). I will say, you should ask for the better cheeses, they do have some good parmesan reggiano which was authentic and was the only food that reminded me of my time in Italy. They have 2 specialty restraints: A sushi place with reasonable, but not cruise ship great prices and a specialty Italian restaurant which shared a room with the lunch and breakfast buffet. Given the overall food we decided not to pay extra. I was looking forward to sushi, but was not comfortable with eating it on this ship. I tried to eat in the dining room as often as possible; the most enjoyable thing about eating was sitting with the all of the different types of people who were on the ship. There is no difference between the buffet breakfast and lunch and what is available in the dining room with one exception. They had smoked salmon in the dining room and smoked haring in the buffet for breakfast and people kept mooing like cattle in the feeding line upstairs. They had a midnight buffet, but not being impressed with the food in the first place and seeing the huge lines of people we choose to leave without sampling anything. My inlaws went and said it was ok but overly crowded. There were many times when there was no food anywhere on the ship outside of room service. Room service was an absolute joke. There was nothing hot , and they rarely got your order right. I would recommend ordering the Mozzarella and Tomatoes (Caprese). Alcohol on this boat was very reasonable, better than most restaurants and bars back home. The wine selection is very good, I didn't have a bottle I didn't like and some were simply amazing for the price. The beer selection on the other hand was weak, sam adams was the darkest beer they offered. This was a major disappointment for me. The entertainment: This ship was truly international, all announcements were done in 5 languages which were interesting, but meant that they rarely spoke to us. They generally had one announcement at 9:30 AM over the ships intercom, they didn't tell you when you could get off the boat, and you had to guess. We always got into port early, so if you want to get off, try. The other thing this influenced was the entertainment, there was little speaking. It was mostly what I would call budget Cirque de Soleil, which was pretty good, but got a little repetitive. Any other games they had on the ship were at least somewhat hampered by the multiple languages, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the multilingual karaoke. The Ports: They had very few excursions available through the boat. This might have been because we were in port at weird hours. Getting on and off the boat at the islands is easy, because as I mentioned before no one knows when they can actually get off, so it spreads the crowd out some. They do xray bags getting on the ship from ports, but they don't look at the xray, we found it easier to "sneak" alcohol on then to check it in with the boat. We didn't take advantage of them, alcohol was so cheap on the boat it wasn't worth the effort, but it would be easy to do if you wanted. In general this ship seemed a lot less focused on sucking money out of you then others I have been on, but that could also be viewed that there were less potential value added services and less organization. Not only were the people on the Poesia not pushy, they weren't there. You wanted a drink in the theatre? You need to go to a bar and find someone to get you one. The art auction was exceedingly boring, but took forever, 45 minutes for 3 paintings. Part of this was because the auctioneer spent 10 minutes auctioning CDs from on board entertainment, no one bought them. We (along with most everyone else) left early. It might have been one of those things where the last man standing wins all of the prizes? People were not at all pushy or even particularly visible, except for the rare time when they tried to force everyone to take pictures as they got off the boat, or went into dinner. There was probably a 30 minute line to get into the captains reception because they were "forcing" everyone to take pictures before they could get in. I have to admit that I skipped the line and went behind the photo backdrop, ignoring their demands to get back in line. Disembark: This was great; we decided to carry our own bags so that we could get off as quickly as possible. We arrived in FLL at 7AM and our entire party was off the ship and through customs in 45 minutes. I have had times where it took 2-3 hours to get out. I don't know how much of this is MSC versus the number of other ships disembarking at the same time and customs at FLL, but I was impressed. Overall impressions: Good: -The price - Getting to sit with such a diverse group of people at meals -The ship is very clean -rooms were big - alcohol prices Bad: - The food - The unorganized ship -Forcing pictures - The food - MSC lacks the polish (not literally) compared to the other lines I have been on Overall we had a great time. I could be on a tanker and as long as people on it are trying to have fun ant it is stopping at Caribbean islands every day or so I will be happy. That said, I would not take this line in the future, the cost savings was not worth the very sub par food and sub par service. MSC is new to the Caribbean, so I wouldn't be against giving them another shot in a few years if I hear good things. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We have cruised on Regent multiple times and have enjoyed every prior cruise. We have cruised with our TA and met many wonderful posters from this and other boards. We are big Regent fans but noticed considerable decline in this sailing ... Read More
We have cruised on Regent multiple times and have enjoyed every prior cruise. We have cruised with our TA and met many wonderful posters from this and other boards. We are big Regent fans but noticed considerable decline in this sailing experience. We felt let down in terms of service and the quality of provisioning on this trip. Perhaps some of the problems can be attributed to this being the first cruise after a drydock and they were simply not as ready as they should have been. However, I have sailed on Voyager after a drydock and had a wonderful experience. Something was definitely not right on this cruise as evidenced by the senior HQ staff that came onboard a few days after we sailed. My sense is that the slippage in service, quality of meals, poor provisioning, low morale onboard of both passengers and staff makes me wonder if there are bigger issues brewing behind the scenes. I hope not because as a past cruiser I am a big fan but as someone who has to work hard to save money to go on trips like this I also want to get what is promised - at a minimum they should deliver on at least meeting my expectations based on my previous cruises on Regent. We also paid a premium as it was priced higher being a "holiday" cruise. Truly, after you make final payment, you have very little recourse - you lose the time spent on the cruise and you lose your money. You come home unhappy and disappointed. Embarkation - This was a disaster. Poorly organized, passengers cutting in line, and it took a long time before we were onboard. Cabin - I had great trepidation about our cabin location (non-balcony). However, we were pleasantly surprised. The location was fantastic especially during the rough weather we experienced on several days. However, we had a horrible sewage smell in the bathroom from the first day until the end of the cruise. Sometimes this smell was fairly significant in the hallway outside our cabin as well. Crew - Our cabin stewardess was fantastic and the staff in Compass Rose, although a bit frazzled at times were very pleasant. The service for ordering wine/drinks in Compass Rose was very, very slow. Most of the front desk staff were really great especially the purser that had come over from Voyager (I can't remember her name but she is one of the nicest crew members on the ship). Senior Staff: Three senior officers stood out in terms of positive interaction with passengers - they were Capt. O'Neill, the Security Officer and the new F & B manager, Joe. They walked about the ship speaking to passengers and were always smiling and pleasant. For much of the cruise, several senior staff seemed like they were in foul moods. It seemed to me that the Cruise Consultant was not really interested in selling cruises even after a couple of attempts to try and do an onboard booking. The Cruise Director appeared not to be connecting with the passengers very much. My sense is that there was so much grumbling that many of the senior staff simply avoided the passengers. Vibration - There is still significant vibration in the aft of the ship. We've sailed on Navigator before and did not notice much improvement. We found it to be most noticeable in the show lounge as well as when dining in Prime 7 and La Veranda. We had to leave a movie one afternoon because we found it difficult to watch/hear the show. We did find that it was somewhat lessened if the ship travelled at slower speeds. Food/Service- We found this area to be highly variable. We had some very good meals and some awful, inedible meals. Some simple things such as breakfast foods and rib-eye steaks were poorly prepared - meat was tough; other items lacked taste or items such as wine or after-dinner drinks never arrived. Prime 7 was fine but I was not bowled over. La Veranda was not great at the beginning of the cruise but improved considerably by the end in terms of quality and selection. The same can be said for Afternoon Tea. The tea service vastly improved after the arrival of a senior staff member from HQ and a new F & B manager. The Pool Grill was variable - our orders never arrived on at least two occasions and the outdoor buffet which was often a highlight of prior cruises was just so-so. The ice cream had melted and refrozen several times so was of a grainy texture for the entire cruise. Overall, we found the food to be somewhat lesser in both variety and quality on this trip. The shows/entertainment were largely unremarkable. The Krew Kapers, however, was great fun and well done. The excursions were also variable - some great, others just so so. Spa/Fitness - This was a big improvement. Great staff and nice selection of equipment and classes. Ship Common Areas (Lounges, Computer Room/Library) - these have been nicely redone. Lots of computers and great upholstery throughout. So, all in all, we were not that impressed. I know that we were not alone in our assessment. By the third day of the cruise, there was fairly significant and vocal dissatisfaction throughout the ship. I cannot pin my own personal disappointment on one big thing but it was something more like "death by a thousand small cuts" - We started off with high hopes and perhaps our expectations were too high given what great experiences we had in the past on Regent. But expectations are funny things - Last winter we went on a large family trip on Holland America. I had very low expectations but they not only met my expectations, they exceeded them. We had a wonderful time and they are not a luxury line nor do they profess to be. But it was a very good experience. That's what I had paid for and hoped to experience on Regent and it just didn't happen. Perhaps if I was not a highly satisfied past Regent cruiser, the letdown would have been less. 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Sail Date December 2009
In November 2009 we spent 10-days on the Island Princess cruising to the Panama Canal. We sailed from Ft Lauderdale across the Caribbean to Aruba, west to Cartagena Columbia, thru the first 3 steps of the Panama Canal and into Lake Gatun ... Read More
In November 2009 we spent 10-days on the Island Princess cruising to the Panama Canal. We sailed from Ft Lauderdale across the Caribbean to Aruba, west to Cartagena Columbia, thru the first 3 steps of the Panama Canal and into Lake Gatun (Gat-tune), backtracked to Colon Panama, sailed west to Port Limon Costa Rica, went NW across the Caribbean to Ocho Rios Jamaica, around Cuba and back to Ft Lauderdale. We booked late and ended up with a balcony on Deck 12. We are keen bird watchers and used the balcony mostly to look for Ocean birds. With temps in the mid 80sF, we could be on the balcony a lot. We selected this trip primarily because it went into the Panama Canal. Some cruises just stop at Colon Panama since it costs big bucks for a cruise ship to pass thru the Panama Canal. Birding Summary We saw 109 bird species in 6 countries on the 10-day cruise: City Country # Birds Ft Lauderdale US 9 Oranjestad Aruba 23 Cartagena Columbia 19 Colon Panama 26 Puerto Limon Costa Rica 46 Ocho Rios Jamaica 32 Total 109 36% of the birds we saw can normally be seen in the US. 46% are never seen in the US. The remaining 18% are uncommon to very rare in the US. A few birds like Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Royal Terns were seen at all ports. However, 81% of the 109 bird species were only seen once. We saw 16 endemic bird species on the trip, all from Jamaica. In Jamaica we were able to find a birding guide - Wendy Lee @ wendylee@cwjamaica.com 876-973-4305. Wendy runs the Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife in Runaway Bay, and is a volunteer Game Warden. She is a native of the islands, has a Master's Degree in Biology from the University of Florida. She is of English decent and really knows the birds, butterflies and flowers of the island. Embarkation and Disembarkation We drove to Ft Lauderdale and stayed at the Comfort Inn in Hollywood on Stirling Avenue. We could leave our car here for $6 a day and get a free bus to the Cruiseport. Great idea! Lots of people stay here the night before going on a cruise. We got to the Cruiseport at 11:30am, and by 11:45 we were eating in the Buffet. This is first time it really helped to be a Platinum member of the Captain's Circle. However, our 3 pieces of luggage didn't show up till 6pm. Princess was well organized to get people off the ship, but the luggage area was a zoo. Gold 1 thru 6 luggage tags were supposed to be in separate areas, but the luggage was all thrown together. This was the worst experience we have had finding our bags while getting off a ship. We had a free bus back to the hotel, but many people were waiting for the same bus, so we took a taxi back for $25. The bus got to the hotel 1.5 hrs after we did - we had already been to the beach and back. Cabin We had a balcony cabin on the Port side of Deck 12 (A304). The room was pretty standard with lots of storage. The bed was very hard and by 2am your back would be hurting (we heard other passengers make the same comment). We didn't use the balcony as much as on other cruises because of smokers in other cabins around and below us polluted the air to the point we couldn't stay out. Also, the people next to our cabin talked so loud you didn't want to be out when they were around - you could even hear them thru the walls. Some of the cabin furnishings were in need of replacement; i.e., the bedspread had cigarette holes , the duvet was ripped in several areas, and the refrigerator didn't get things very cool. We normally stay on Deck 5 or 6. I can't see how being on Deck 12 was any upgrade from Deck 5 - I wouldn't pay more to be higher up on the ship. Princess must be assigning more rooms to each Cabin Stewart. Our Stewart worked pretty fast, but it still took him a long time to get to our room most days. It didn't used to be that way. We got good Internet reception in our room (free because we're Platinum). The Port side balconies are best for birdwatching going from the Atlantic to Pacific thru the Panama Canal, but the best side for seeing the operation of the locks is on the Starboard side. No one had been smoking in our cabin before we arrived Nov 20. I feel sorry for whoever got cabin A622 on the Nov 30 cruise - we had to hold our nose in the hall as we walked past that room because of the stench of smoke. There is no way to know if your room will smell bad or not - it's Russian Roulette with cigarette smoke. However, if you get a room where someone has been smoking - Complain immediately!!! We did that on a cruise to Antarctica and they shampooed the floors, washed the walls and ceiling, and changed all the linens the next day. Food & Drinks We had one Br, one Lu, and one Dn in the dinning room. Br was OK. The Lu and Dn Dinning Room choices were pretty mediocre, even by cruise standards. A restaurant would soon go out of business with these uninteresting menu selections and tasteless choices. We ate most of our meals in the Buffet on Deck 14 Forward. They had a bigger selection than the Dinning Room, plus you could see what you were getting (helps me a lot). You could always make a vegetable salad for Lu or Dn. There were always lots of rolls to choose from and real butter. There was always some type of fresh cut meat, but the pork was not cooked hot enough so we didn't eat it. The curry dishes were always good. The freshly made pasta dishes were usually bland (they use very weak Pesto). I learned a long time ago that the desserts were going to be bad on cruise ships. The Island Princess was no exception! Their sorry imitation of Key Lime Pie was especially bad. The best thing we found was the Oatmeal & Raisin cookies. On the last day at sea they had a Chocolate Buffet at Noon. The timing was better than the late night dessert buffets I have seen on other ships, but the cakes were dry and bad - I did like the strawberries dipped in white chocolate I got off a piece of cake. The coffee was bad in the Dinning Room and Buffet - they must use instant coffee. To get fresh brewed coffee you have to buy a coffee card ($27 for 15 cups) and get coffee from the Bar - the Cappuccinos and Frappuccinos were good. We brought our own coffee, a small "coffee by the cup" coffee maker, and made our own coffee in the room by getting hot water and cream from the Buffet. The Ice Tea in the Buffet is made from syrup and has a funky celery taste - much better to make your own hot tea from bags and pour on ice. They have a variety of tea bags, but we brought our own Chai Tea. The Lemonade in the Buffet was great with lots of lemon pulp in it. My wife ordered a Margarita during the Mexican Buffet. It came in a small glass and tasted like water, but cost $5.50. She complained to the area supervisor. Pretty soon they brought a much larger drink that tasted like a Margarita and cost $7.76. The waiter said the first drink was the House Margarita and the second was a 24K Margarita, but no one told us there was an option when we first ordered. In the Buffet you can dress casual or even wear shorts for Dn. You can usually eat in 20 to 30 minutes with no waiting for a table for 2. Public Areas We avoided the public areas as much as possible because of the stench of cigarette and cigar smoke. Princess encourages people to smoke cigars at the Churchill Bar on Deck 7, but this contributes greatly to the overall stench of the public areas on Decks 5, 6 and 7. We never went in the Casino on Deck 6 because of the strong smell of smoke. The Wheelhouse Bar of Deck 6 Midship was large, comfortable and smoke free. We enjoyed the private Spa (limited to 20 couples a day) with 4 hot stone beds, 3 steam rooms and 1 dry sauna on Deck 14 Aft. It's a great place to spend sea days and the afternoons of port days - especially since it is No-Smoking! The Rainforest showers are very large with lots of water (in case you don't like the small showers in the cabins). We thought it was well worth the $199! We used the Sanctuary on the day we went thru the Panama Canal. It was probably not worth $70 per person, especially since someone was smoking a cigar on one of the balconies on Deck 12 Aft that wafted up to the Sanctuary. I did get some good pictures of the locks from the Sanctuary as we sailed back toward Colon (but you could get the same pictures from the basketball court on Deck 15). They have removed the freestanding smoke stands from the Promenade Deck and from the elevator areas. This seemed to reduce the number of people smoking on the Promenade Deck, but sometimes people with cigars would congregate there anyhow, even though the Princess handbook in each cabin specifically requests that no cigars or pipes be smoked anywhere on the ship except the Churchill Bar. The handbook also says some areas are marked Non Smoking, but we never saw any signs. The Internet area on Deck 8 was smaller than we had seen on other ships, but we got great Internet coverage in our cabin. We got 250 minutes free since we are Platinum members. Shore Excursions We only took a ship's shore excursion in Cartagena Columbia because of safety concerns. It turns our there was nothing to be concerned about. The tour spent 45 minutes at an Emerald store (we didn't buy any). We should have gotten a taxi on our own at the Port to take us to the impressive Fort and Old Town. At every port, it was possible to get tours at substantially reduced prices from the ship's Shore Excursions. Highlights Finding a beach in Aruba near the ship with lots of Beach Glass. Finding a Mask Boobie rookery on some small islands 3-hours west of Aruba. Finding a store that sold Aguadiente (Fire Water) in Cartagena. Seeing a flock of Keel-billed Toucans and a Black-mandibled Toucan while approaching the Panama Canal. Seeing a pair of Crested Caracaras, a Yellow-headed Caracara, and a Fork-tailed Flycatcher while in the Panama Canal. Hearing "Kiss-K-dee" everywhere in Port Limon Costa Rica and seeing 5 Kiskadee and Flycatcher species around town, finding a gorgeous Montezuma Oropendola in the suburbs, seeing a Violaceous Trogon and 3 Tanager species in the Rainforest, and getting a good enough photo to identify the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer hummingbird. Birding the Prospect Plantation near the Port in Ocho Rios Jamaica for 4 hours and seeing 16 endemic bird species, including the very long-tailed Red-billed Streamertail hummingbirds, Lizard-Cuckoo, Northern Potoo, Jamaican Woodpecker, Stripe-headed Tanagers and Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo. Walking 4 to 6 miles a day on the Promenade Deck. Relaxing on the heated stone beds of the private Spa. Disappointments The trip was too rushed, with barely enough time in most Ports to take some short shore trips and shop. There was never any local entertainment at night, as we have seen on other South America cruises. The Sanctuary didn't add enough value to justify the cost. The pool should have been a large mineral-water hot tub like on the Pacific Princess. Not being able to get off the ship at the Yacht Club (9.262N 79.916W) after passing thru the Panama Canal. I found a bird guide in Panama (Gonzalo Horna at gonzalohorna@hotmail.com), but Princess said he would not be allowed to pick us up at the Yacht Club. Columbia has an impressive bird list, but we couldn't find any birding guides in Cartagena. If I Could Do It Over I Would Consider going on Celebrity since they don't allow smoking in the cabins or on the balconies. The buzz on Island Princess was that Celebrity had better food. Celebrity stops in Colon all day so you could arrange for a bird guide. I choose to go on Princess because it goes through the Panama Canal. We would probably have had a better experience of Panama by finding a guide and go birding all day. Going through the Panama Canal turned out to be mostly a memorial service for the 23,000 people who died constructing the facilities by the overly talkative Dr. Ryan. Not take any formal clothing. This would have allowed us to do the early morning walk-off Disembarkation. Special Comments Nov 23 Monday Aruba We were off ship at 7am (84F). We found a driver on the street that would take us to the Bubali Bird Sanctuary (12.562N 70.048W) for $40/hr (Regmy Dubero streetzaruba@hotmail.com 297-593-3551). We found some good water birds including a Sora. Regmy spotted 2 pairs of Brown-throated Parakeets for us. We only stayed 1 hour and saw 16 birds. If you put the above Lat & Longs into Google Earth you can see the location I am discussing. Typically, there are lots of pictures. Regmy said it would take 40 minutes to drive to the Arikok NP one-way. The drivers at the Port said you couldn't go to Spanish Lagoon. Back at the Port you could get a 2 hr tour of the islands for $10pp on a school type bus. Princess charges $64 for a 3 hr tour using the same type of open-air school bus. Near the Port we went looking for beach glass on the small beach we could see from our balcony. We got heaps (about a quart) of good beach glass including a nice piece of blue and a small piece of yellow. At 2:55pm (while walking after the ship left Port) we saw our first ocean bird at Sea - a Masked Booby who circled the ship for half hr and dive-bombed fish. We also saw 8 dolphines surfing the boat midship - one jumped from wave to wave. Later there were 16-Masked Boobie on our side of the ship plunge diving for fish. Finally, one Brown Booby showed-up. They all probably came from some small volcanic peaks we saw this afternoon. We saw 23 bird species today, including: Bird Location Black-faced Grassquit Port Brown-throated Parakeet Bubali Bird Sanctuary Neotropic Cormorant Bubali Bird Sanctuary Tropical Mockingbird Bubali Bird Sanctuary Nov 24 Tuesday Cartagena We saw 19 bird species around town including: Name Location Mottle-backed Elaenia Old Town Red-crowned Woodpecker Old Town Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Old Town White-throated Kingbird Old Town Caribbean Martin Old Town Velvet-fronted Grackle Old Town Neotropic Cormorant Port White-winged Swallow Port Nov 25 Wed Panama Canal We saw 26 bird species today including: Name Park Neotropic Cormorant Approaching PC going toward Pacific Keel-billed Toucan Approaching PC going toward Pacific Crested Caracara Approaching PC going toward Pacific Yellow-headed Caracara In PC going toward Pacific Ringed Kingfisher In PC going toward Pacific Fork-tailed Flycatcher In PC going toward Pacific Red-lored Parrot Departing PC going toward Atlantic Tropical Kingbird Departing PC going toward Atlantic It rains here about every day. They get 237" of rain per year. It rained about 11am with some strong wind for 10 minutes. Things got pretty wet. Something to think about if you decide to go on a tour. The only bridge across the Canal on the Atlantic side is a "telescoping bridge" across both lock chambers that is only operational a few minutes each hour; i.e., when there is no boats in both chambers. Long delays are likely for some of the ship tours that have to use this bridge. On average, 43 ships a day go thru the PC. It costs $100 per bed for cruise ships to go thru the PC. It costs about $4 per ton for cargo ships. It takes 8 hrs to go from Atlantic to Pacific. A few hundred people work at each locks, but 8000 people work around the clock to keep the shipping lane thru Lake Gatun (Gat-tune) open. Thanksgiving Nov 26 Limon, Costa Rica We got off the ship at 7am. We found a taxi at the Port (9.984N 83.019W) for $30/hr with a driver that spoke English and knew some birds - Holme Samuels (Sam), PO Box 402, Limon CR (he worked for Trans OBM DEL Caribe - transobmdelcaribe@hotmail.es 2798-07-08. We drove around town and Sam found a Montezuma Oropendola (large bird with yellow tail and black & orange beak) in a tall tree on a back street. We stopped at Playa Bonita (10.010N 83.063W) and found 3 types of shore birds & a Snail Kite. We stopped on a one-lane bridge (9.999N 83.080W) over the Toruguero Canal and found a Northern Jacana, .a.k.a. Jesus Bird. Sam said they also have the Jesus Christ Lizard that can walk on water also. Sam got us a 1 hr Toruguero Canal (9.998N 83.086W) tour for $20pp (it costs $69 from ship) on a small/fast boat with one other couple. We saw 2 Slothes and got to hold a Cayman, but didn't see any unusual birds Sam drove us to the suburb of La Bomba to drive thru the Rainforest (9.912N 83.066W). We found a toucan and several tanagers near the resort that does Zip Line trips. We were back to the ship at 12:30pm. After Lu we went to the Vargas Parque (9.993N 83.024W) across the street from the Cruise Port (2 minute walk from ship). We saw a Sloth in a tree and a Clay-colored Robin - the national bird of Costa Rica. We walked to the Central Market on 2nd Av. Interesting area, but the market itself was smelly, so we returned to ship. We saw 46 bird species today in 6 locations around town: Name Park Magnificent Frigatebird Port Common Tern Port Royal Tern Port Ringed Kingfisher Port Brown Pelican Port Black Vulture Port Montezuma Oropendola Playa Bonita area Snail Kite Playa Bonita area Spotted Sandpiper Playa Bonita area Pectoral Sandpiper Playa Bonita area Grey Plover (Black-billed Plover) Playa Bonita area Semipalmated Plover Playa Bonita area Acadian Flycatcher Playa Bonita area White-ringed Flycatcher Playa Bonita area Social Flycatcher Playa Bonita area Grey-capped Flycatcher Playa Bonita area Great Kiskadee Playa Bonita area Variable Seedeater Playa Bonita area Ruddy Turnstone Playa Bonita area Yellow-throated Vireo Playa Bonita area Blue-black Grassquit Playa Bonita area Northern Jacana Toruguero Canal bridge Reddish Egret Toruguero Canal bridge Green Heron Toruguero Canal bridge Blue-and-white Swallow Toruguero Canal tour Ruddy Ground-Dove Toruguero Canal tour Snowy Egret Toruguero Canal tour Little Blue Heron Toruguero Canal tour Great Blue Heron Toruguero Canal tour Great Egret Toruguero Canal tour Violaceous Trogon La Bomba Rainforest Scarlet-rumped Tanager La Bomba Rainforest White-winged Tanager La Bomba Rainforest Blue-grey Tanager La Bomba Rainforest Summer Tanager La Bomba Rainforest Olive-backed Euphonia La Bomba Rainforest Louisiana Waterthrush La Bomba Rainforest Stripe-breasted Wren La Bomba Rainforest Blue-black Grosbeak La Bomba Rainforest Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer (hummingbird) La Bomba Rainforest Groove-billed Ani La Bomba Rainforest Cattle Egret La Bomba Rainforest Clay-colored Thrush Vargas Parque Red-eyed Vireo Vargas Parque Red-lored Parrot Vargas Parque Great-tailed Grackle Vargas Parque Sam knew where to go to find birds. It is surprising there were no real bird guides in Limon for the number of good birds that can be seen. Nov 28 Sunday Ocho Rios, Jamaica We met Wendy Lee (wendylee@cwjamaica.com 876-973-4305), our birding guide for the day, at 9:30am. Wendy runs the Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife in Runaway Bay, and is a volunteer Game Warden. She is a native of the islands and really knows the birds. We went to the Prospect Plantation (18.404N 77.112W) to go birding. The Plantation is only a quarter-mile walk from the Port, or 1 mile by car using the one-way city streets. You could easily walk there from the ship, but the Plantation won't let individuals in to walk around - they only have group tours by tractor pulled wagons and on camelback. Wendy has an agreement with the manager to take birders on private tours at the Plantation. We walked the shaded roads of the Plantation for 4 hours and saw 29 bird species, including 16 that endemic to Jamaica. Right off we saw the very long-tailed Red-billed Streamertails and a Lizard-Cuckoo. We found a Northern Potoo sleeping at the top of a termite nest on a tree - it looked like part of the tree. Green-rumped parakeets were easy to see and photograph. The Jamaican Woodpecker and Stripe-headed Tanagers were spectacular. The Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo was massive but beautiful. White-crowned Pigeons are supposed to be uncommon in Jamaica, but there were lots of them here. We heard the knife sharpening sound of the Vervain Hummingbirds (world's second smallest Hummer at 2.5 inches) often and saw some farmed Ostriches (the world's largest bird). Vervain's like to perch in the tops of tall trees and are sometimes hard to see. Wendy said one always perched on an electric line we pass, but today a Kestrel was on the electric pole and the Vervain was no where to be seen. It was sunny and 82F today - that is equivalent to 102F in the shade. By the time we got back to the ship at 1:40pm our clothes were soaked. We were ready for quick Lu in the Buffet followed by a 1.5 hr power nap and an hour in the Spa. From the ship and Plantation we saw 32 bird species today: Name Status Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo Endemic Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo Endemic Northern Potoo Endemic Red-billed Streamertail Endemic Jamaican Vervain Hummingbird Endemic Jamaican Woodpecker Endemic Sad Flycatcher Endemic Loggerhead Kingbird Endemic Jamaican Crow Endemic White-chinned Thrush Endemic Stripe-headed Tanager Endemic Orangequit Endemic Jamaican Oriole Endemic Jamaican Euphonia Endemic Jamaican Becard Endemic Jamaican Olive-throated Parakeet Endemic Green-rumped Parrotlet Endemic White-crowned Pigeon Uncommon Brown Pelican Common Magnificent Frigatebird Common Royal Tern Common Cattle Egret Common Turkey Vulture Common Red-tailed Hawk Common American Kestrel Common Zenaida Dove Common Common Ground-Dove Common Northern Mockingbird Common American Redstart Common Prairie Warbler Common Bananaquit Common Ostrich Introduced We saw the Cuban Swallowtail and Jamaican Zebra Broadwing butterflies at the Plantation, and several others we photographed but couldn't identify. From Aruba to Jamaica we saw new birds each day of the cruise: Name Date Observed Destination Park Brown Pelican 11/20/2009 Ft Lauderdale Port Everglades Little Blue Heron 11/20/2009 Ft Lauderdale Port Everglades Magnificent Frigatebird 11/20/2009 Ft Lauderdale Port Everglades Osprey 11/20/2009 Ft Lauderdale Port Everglades Ring-billed Gull 11/20/2009 Ft Lauderdale Port Everglades Royal Tern 11/20/2009 Ft Lauderdale Port Everglades Snowy Egret 11/20/2009 Ft Lauderdale Port Everglades Masked Booby 11/23/2009 Oranjestad At Sea 14:55 on 11/23 Brown Booby 11/23/2009 Oranjestad At Sea 15:52 on 11/23 Bank Swallow 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Blue-winged Teal 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Brown-throated Parakeet 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Common Moorhen 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Great Blue Heron 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Great Egret 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Green Heron 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Neotropic Cormorant 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Palm Warbler 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Ruddy Turnstone 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Sora 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Tricolored Heron 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Tropical Mockingbird 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary White-winged Dove 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Bubali Bird Sanctuary Black-faced Grassquit 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Port House Sparrow 11/23/2009 Oranjestad Port Black Vulture 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town Blue-and-yellow Macaw 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town Caribbean Martin 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town Great-tailed Grackle 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town Mottle-backed Elaenia 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town Red-crowned Woodpecker 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town Rufous-tailed Hummingbird 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town Turkey Vulture 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town Velvet-fronted Grackle 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town White-throated Kingbird 11/24/2009 Cartagena Old Town Common Tern 11/24/2009 Cartagena Port White-winged Swallow 11/24/2009 Cartagena Port American Kestrel 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Ani 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Black-mandibled Toucan 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Crested Caracara 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Fork-tailed Flycatcher 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Keel-billed Toucan 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Purple Martin 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Reddish Egret 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Red-lored Parrot 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Ringed Kingfisher 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Solitary Sandpiper 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Tropical Kingbird 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Yellow-headed Caracara 11/25/2009 Colon Panama Canal Acadian Flycatcher 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Blue-and-white Swallow 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Blue-black Grassquit 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Blue-black Grosbeak 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Blue-grey Tanager 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Cattle Egret 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Clay-colored Thrush (Robin) 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Great Kiskadee 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Grey Plover (Black-bellied Plover) 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Grey-capped Flycatcher 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Groove-billed Ani 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Louisiana Waterthrush 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Montezuma Oropendola 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Northern Jacana 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Olive-backed Euphonia 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Pectoral Sandpiper 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Red-eyed Vireo 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Ruddy Ground-Dove 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Scarlet-rumped Tanager 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Semipalmated Plover 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Snail Kite 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Social Flycatcher 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Spotted Sandpiper 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Stripe-breasted Wren 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Summer Tanager 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Variable Seedeater 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Violaceous Trogon 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon White-ringed Flycatcher 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon White-winged Tanager 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon Yellow-throated Vireo 11/26/2009 Puerto Limon Puerto Limon American Redstart 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Bananaquit 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Common Ground-Dove 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Green-rumped Parrotlet 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Jamaican Becard 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Jamaican Crow 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Jamaican Euphonia 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Jamaican Olive-throated Parakeet 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Jamaican Oriole 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Stripe-headed Tanager 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Jamaican Vervain Hummingbird 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Jamaican Woodpecker 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Loggerhead Kingbird 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Northern Mockingbird 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Northern Potoo 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Orangequit 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Ostrich 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Prairie Warbler 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Red-billed Streamertail 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Red-tailed Hawk 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Sad Flycatcher 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios White-chinned Thrush 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios White-crowned Pigeon 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Zenaida Dove 28-Nov Ocho Rios Ocho Rios Happy Birding, Carl & Wilma Ball carlball@yahoo.com Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
this cruise was the worst i have ever gone on . If this is there newest and best ship i do not want to see the older and smaller cruise ships I do 2 cruises every year ! to start the food disgusting ! The same repeat food items every meal ... Read More
this cruise was the worst i have ever gone on . If this is there newest and best ship i do not want to see the older and smaller cruise ships I do 2 cruises every year ! to start the food disgusting ! The same repeat food items every meal and what we did get was poor quality , the service what service did not exist , the ship was always dirty tables at lunch still full of empty trays full of breakfast food in the dining halls and the pool areas , the floors covered with pieces of food , the stairways even had plates of food on the steps for hours , the main dining area is too close to the kitchen dish washers the main room smells like a sour dish rag that has been sitting out . the stage shows and the comedy acts were very good . the smaller entertainment like trivia ,planed group activities ,pool side games were very disorganized . my wife loved the spa package ! It was cold and rainy i got board on the cruise after the first day . The ship is cut up into small pockets there is really no promenade to gather in either your in a lounge or a hallway . it was hard to get across this ship sometime having to go to higher or lower floors to cross . we booked theis cruise because it was a little cheaper than royal caribbean wow ! was that a mistake i wont make again ....the kids programs an hour wait to drop off the 6 year old to the kids club, just too drop off she was already registered , and almost as long too pick up , the 14 yr old program had no rules , and no supervision .there were 5 fights in the halls ,i had too stop my daughter from going there ! she had fun but at what cost ? Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
My husband and I cruised on the Miracle over the Thanksgiving holidays. We have cruised numerous times before on Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We decided to give Carnival a try this time because the ports were interesting and ... Read More
My husband and I cruised on the Miracle over the Thanksgiving holidays. We have cruised numerous times before on Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We decided to give Carnival a try this time because the ports were interesting and the dates worked for us. It was overall a disappointing experience. The good things were: Malcolm, the Cruise Director who was the best we have ever had and our room steward, Sri who did an excellent job. These were the bad things: The worst thing was our cabin. We booked a "superior" balcony cabin with the extended balcony on the 8th deck. So far so good - but we were under the outdoor portion of the Lido restaurant and the chairs above us scraped the deck every time someone moved one to sit down or when the staff moved them back into place. This noise went on and on during the day and early morning during breakfast. One night around midnight they were moved around apparently while the deck was being cleaned. It was impossible to sleep in or take a nap midday. We selected the "Anytime Dining". What a mistake. We were herded in and out and the waiters barely spoke to us. They all seemed in a hurry to get us fed, get us out and turn the table for the next set of diners. It was a really bad experience. It was obvious that the waiters had no incentive to give you exceptional (or even really good) service since they might not see you again. (Tip at the end of the cruise?) I visited the spa on the last day at sea and took advantage of a bundled set of services. (3 for $109.00) Each service was discounted. All was well until the hairdresser who styled my hair attempted to charge me full price when I was checking out. When I explained to her that her service was part of my package she stood me down and argued with me about it in front of other clients. The Salon Manager eventually stepped in and got it settled in my favor, but the damage was done. It really ruined my spa visit. Overall, there were fewer people to wait on you everywhere on the ship and the level of friendliness and service was below what we are accustomed to. We will not sail on Carnival again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We sailed the Carnival Freedom Thanksgiving week 2009. The ship itself was beautiful and the Cruise Director Wee Jimmy was absolutely the best. But other than that, here is why NOT to cruise Carnival again. First day at sea, go to ... Read More
We sailed the Carnival Freedom Thanksgiving week 2009. The ship itself was beautiful and the Cruise Director Wee Jimmy was absolutely the best. But other than that, here is why NOT to cruise Carnival again. First day at sea, go to breakfast at the Freedom Rest. and it was total bedlam. Food cold and the set up was late. Same old food every morning with them running out of Banana's and other fruit before the cruise was over. The selections were lackluster. But the kicker was the Chic Dining room. Our service was awful the first three nights; wrong food, cold food; slow service. It all hit the wall when one evening while every other table around us was getting their en tree's we had not even gotten our starters. Then the worst was the Head Maitre D was rude and got an attitude with my wife. Ramesh came around telling tables if they had any questions, concerns or complaints to please tell him, so my wife called him over; first questioning the "black tiger shrimp" on the menu, that they were not tiger shrimp and I being a chef and every one at our table knowing the difference; Ramesh told my wife, you just buy your shrimp somewhere that sells something they call their own tiger shrimp; then she complained about our awful service. He got an attitude with her speaking down to her and everyone at our table was in shock. The food choices were something out of a roadside dive diner with lot of the same things on the menu every night; the food lacked any taste and it was not what we are used to on a cruise. We even had past carnival cruisers at our table and they too were shocked at the food. And then not to have more choices of food available throughout the night. Only thing you could get was pizza; no cookies or sweets; nothing open all night long to serve you; and no midnight grand buffet where they show off their ice sculptures, carved fruits and food. All in all, the food was not what you would expect on a cruise and it was to the point of not eating and filling up on pizza late at night. Their inside cabins were smaller than those on Royal Caribbean, yes more closet space, but no little love seat or extra chairs to sit in. All in all, it was a waste of time to take this cruise because the dinners are something you look forward to because you are "supposed" to be getting food you normally would not have at home and the tastes you are not used to. Well carnival, this cruiser will not be back; Be careful when booking; pictures and the cruise lines descriptions are not what you get! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
The Carnival Victory is, when all is said and done, a decent enough ship, the problems it suffers from are basically all derived from the human factor. The ships layout is pretty standard for this class of vessel and the facilities ... Read More
The Carnival Victory is, when all is said and done, a decent enough ship, the problems it suffers from are basically all derived from the human factor. The ships layout is pretty standard for this class of vessel and the facilities available are generally good. PORTS OF CALL The itinerary with a different island each day is, as far as I know, fairly unique and offers a good variety of islands. ST. Thomas offers good shopping, Dominica offers an island with little development, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and St. Kitts all offer well developed tourist infrastructure, with historical and cultural differences enough to make them all worth visiting. FOOD The quality of the food was quite possibly the worst I have ever experienced on any ship. The buffet was like a farm yard feeding trough and seemed to be cleaned less regularly. The full service dining provided a menu of bland, non descript food that i would be embarrassed to be served at a local Picadilly. I'm not sure where the 'chef' trained, but it certainly wasn't a culinary institute, or maybe he just made do with the poor quality food available onboard, any decent chef would have sent most of the food back to the supplier. SERVICE The levels of service provided by staff were barely acceptable, there seemed to be an underlying attitude of 'well what do you expect'. ENTERTAINMENT This seemed to be kept to a minimum, mainly to keep people in the bars, which had the obvious results of drunks wandering around the ship at all hours. When shows were performed by the ships dancers and singers they were generally of a good standard, but way too infrequent. These shows are now cut down to one show per night rather than one show per dinner sitting, to allow for the sales of more booze. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Firstly the positives about the Christmas cruise on the Poesia: We sailed through some very heavy sea's with little, if any, discomfort for the passengers. The ship is a credit to modern cruise ship design. The cabins and the ... Read More
Firstly the positives about the Christmas cruise on the Poesia: We sailed through some very heavy sea's with little, if any, discomfort for the passengers. The ship is a credit to modern cruise ship design. The cabins and the staff servicing them were very good. The public area's were tastefully decorated and kept very clean. The negatives would have to be: Slow embarkation. The European staff on board seemed to come from the 'the customer is always wrong' school of training. There was a large staff rotation on the ship for this cruise - many didn't appeared to have been trained properly. Lack of dining choice in the evening. If you don't want to eat in the restaurant there is no buffet alternative. The only other choice to pay extra in one of the other restaurants. The food was very disappointing. Having eaten well in Italy on many occasions I was looking forward to a great culinary experience. The food, apart from being permanently lukewarm, never achieved the 'wow' factor and was for the most part very ordinary. There was not free water with the meals - bottles had to be paid for. With the exception of the band in the wine bar, who were the highlight of the cruise for me, the entertainment in the lounges was mediocre. The casino was lacking in any atmosphere, principally I suspect because at €5 per hand customers couldn't afford to stay there for very long. I know I would have spent more time in there, and inevitably spent more money had the prices been more reasonable. Overcharging. Beer was €4.90 for 440ml (or £6.32 a pint), wine could be up to €7 a glass (although more normally €3 for house, but this wasn't a large glass). €5.80 for a gin & tonic and €7 for a shuttle bus at the port. I felt that charging premium prices to a captive audience really was and is not acceptable. This was my sixth cruise and the first time I have ever been disappointed. I find it hard to imagine sailing with MSC again. There are many other cruise lines in the market, so why risk your hard earned cash and valuable holiday with MSC? Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My family of 4 spent Christmas on the Carnival Glory, I am 43, my wife is 46 and my girls are 8 and 10. Let's start with the basic things you would enjoy on a cruise. Food and Entertainment... The food on the Carnival Glory is ... Read More
My family of 4 spent Christmas on the Carnival Glory, I am 43, my wife is 46 and my girls are 8 and 10. Let's start with the basic things you would enjoy on a cruise. Food and Entertainment... The food on the Carnival Glory is "Heinous" the dining room food was always overcooked and cold; served by zombies with no personality whatsoever. After 3 nights we had enough and either ate at the trough (buffet) or the Supper Club. The supper club was exceptional but at 30 bucks a head it should be. The grilled burgers were alright but how many can you eat? The pizza was nasty with so much fake cheese you had to peel it off. My eight year old has a policy that there is no such thing as bad pizza; well she found it on the carnival glory. The oriental food sucked, the deli lines were long for a "wish" sandwich (two slices of bread and you wish you had some meat) maybe they could get more than one guy working the counter. Even the deserts sucked unless you paid more money for something nice. Entertainment...I do not expect Broadway caliber shows, but my god these shows were so boring and the singers could not be any worse. The pool side Calypso band played the same 6 Bob Marley songs twice daily (very badly), the lounge bands were for dead people, and the comedy was mediocre. The low point was on Christmas day with the solid gold dancers performing a flash dance medley in the showroom and an Asian lady with bad english singing you light up my life by Debbie Boone to a group of 7-8 very old women. Come on Carnival what a wasted opportunity!!! The pool decks were empty by 5pm with most pools and slide closed. Not one rocking deck party at night during the entire cruise!!! Bad music and Bingo, I am surprised they did not have a "murder she wrote" theme party The boat itself was nice except for all of the wasted space for teen areas. The crew did a great job of keeping everything looking new. The pools are very small and freezing, the lido deck was very busy and if you wanted two deck chairs in the sun you had to be there by 8am. The casino was fun except if you don't smoke get a lung cancer shot before you get on board. While we are on the subject of smoking Carnival does not enforce any of its no smoking areas. We had smokers on both sides of our cabin so our veranda was unusable and smokers were at every bar and outside area. My kids enjoyed camp carnival and their only complaint was they could not understand the councilors with there accents. My only complaint was the fact even though you paid a premium price for this cruise, camp carnival needs to charge you more money to have your kids stay past 9:30pm. Some things went very smoothly like embarkation and debarkation I have no complaints with this process. The ports of Nassau, St Thomas, and St Maarten were a blast. Getting off the boat was smooth and very pleasurable; we chose this cruise because of these ports. Our stateroom host Mackenzie was great, he did an outstanding job keeping a very busy stateroom clean and stocked. He is the only person we gave an additional gratuity to. We have been on 3 cruises all with Disney and wanted to try something different. I was not expecting a Disney type experience but hoping for more of an adult type of trip. Each has their good and bad, I had several conversations with fellow cruisers with kids my age and they were just as disappointed/bored as we were. All of the people we spoke to who had been on a Disney Cruise were very disappointed they did not select them for the Christmas cruise, but like us wanted to go to St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We felt that this Cruise was not geared to active, fun, rock music type of cruiser, but rather a slot machine pulling, heavy smoking, lounge lizzard-leasuresuit Larry type of cruiser. I guess a better explanation would be Cousin Eddy form the Chevy Chase vacation movies. So if fast institutional food, heavy smoking, heavy gambling, and 4 kinds of Budweiser beer are your idea of a good time. Then get on this ship and you will have a wonderful time. And to Carnival, you should be ashamed of charging a Christmas premium for this cruise and nickel and dimming every chance you get. The supper club should be $10 tops, camp carnival should be complimentary as part of your cruise, nice desserts should be for all not just those who pay more at creams or the supper club. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We are not novices to cruising as this was our 39th cruise. We are gold card members of the MSC line. Until this sailing, MSC has been our favorite cruise line. Unfortunately the service made us feel like unwanted relatives on the ... Read More
We are not novices to cruising as this was our 39th cruise. We are gold card members of the MSC line. Until this sailing, MSC has been our favorite cruise line. Unfortunately the service made us feel like unwanted relatives on the Orchestra. We have had better and worse embarkations thus nothing worth writing about. It was upon entering the ship our problems began. Our adult son came with us since this was a Christmas and New year's vacation. Upon boarding he went to the Receptionist Desk to give them cash so he could open up his onboard account. When he tried to tell the receptionist what he wanted to do she told him "if he would shut up and listen." I was standing by him or I might not have believed a customer relations person would talk that way to a passenger. We are loyal past passengers and get treated this way. Strike one within ten minutes of boarding. Other cruise lines show you to your cabin and some even offer a glass of champagne. None of that here. You are on your own to find your cabin. Being hungry we went up to deck 13 for something to eat. Another disappointment. The food was tasteless and all the salads looked and tasted the same. There were only two variety of cakes for dessert. Little did we know this was to be the case for the entire cruise. Our first dinner foretold what was ahead for the next 17 days. We never saw a steak the entire trip. Fish served every meal but over cooked and quite dry. Chicken every meal and again over cooked. We ordered pasta the first night (remembering how wonderful the pasta was on the Opera.) To our surprise it was tasteless except for a rancid, metallic taste. No one at our table could eat it. In 17 days we had truly good pasta only two times. Service in the dining room was bad to pitiful. We were at a table for 6 and one person would get their dish while the rest would wait 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes we were served the wrong orders. Other times we never got what we ordered. Sometimes we would get our food but have no silverware to eat it with. Dinner always took around two hours. Everyday except for three we went to the "formal" dining room for lunch. Imagine our surprise to have to go through a cafeteria line (buffet) at lunch in the formal dining room. No menu service. Again the food was tasteless. In all our cruises this was a first. Christmas Eve we could have "prime rib" or lobster. Everyone at our table and next to us agreed the "prime rib" was merely a small piece of over cooked roast beef. The lobster was soooo large we took three bites and it was gone. Also, I was told fourteen passengers ended up in the infirmary ill after eating the lobster. Unfortunately the food never improved the entire cruise. I had occasion to speak with Marcello, the Guest Relations manager. He told me he was a "chef" and that Italians do not cook with spices. I wondered if he thought I had dropped here from another planet. Especially since my husband is 1/2 Italian. Day two we slept in and did not leave our cabin until 10:10 am. Imagine our surprise to find it was not possible to find anything to eat on the ship until noon. The restaurant closed at 9:30 am everyday of the trip. The deck 13 cafeteria (buffet) closed at 10:00 am. No rolls, croissants, nothing. Our cabin was always very clean and our room steward had a handicap as our adult son would stay out quite late and thus get up very late. Our steward never complained and graciously worked around our night owl. We were quite happy with our service in this area. The productions shows were good and the costumes were beautiful. The were four African men who were acrobats. They were truly wonderful. The magician and illusionist were acceptable. One night there was no show at all and three nights the show consisted entirely of groups which played every night in the atrium lounge. These three nights were poorly attended since we saw them every night anyway when passing by the atrium. The Entertainment (Animation) Team on MSC really work hard and extremely long hours. These young people were no exception. They danced with passengers every single evening until 1 or 2 am. They had Italian lessons, trivia games, crazy games, dance lessons, etc. From nine in the morning until two am they were very visible and working hard. They truly made this voyage bearable. The cruise director on the other hand was very aloof and seldom said anything to the passengers. The ships lounge performers were generally good. We especially liked the Popcorn Band and their singer, Romanica. She has a truly lovely voice and is very friendly and outgoing. On the Opera you could not get on the ship or go into an eating facility without a crew member squirting you with hand sanitizer. Imagine our surprise when we cannot even find the sanitizer on deck 13 four four days. It was behind a door. Quite often when getting back on the ship or entering the dining room the hand sanitizer was empty. There was never any crew in sight the entire trip checking on this. Something we have never seen before was that none of the ships shops were open until the fourth day of our cruise. Christmas decorations (such as they were) did not appear until day four and five of our cruise. We heard several passengers complain because the ship never put up a Menorah even though we were cruising during Hanukah. There were never any Christmas Carols, no egg nog, no special Christmas show Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. A passenger chorus sang prior to midnight mass which was held at 11:00. Other than Santa for the children Christmas Day might as well have been any other day of the year. Get this the Orchestra had a Friends of Bill W. meeting in the Savannah "Bar." Our past passenger party was not until December 28 which is when we got our "welcome cocktail." It took three phone calls to get the invitation which we finally received 10 minutes prior to the party. Only ONE cocktail is permitted per passenger. No canapes. Since Saint Thomas is the first U.S. port this is where the immigration procedures were done. What a mess. We got a paper which I am quoting "instructions for passengers NON USA and Canada." We get a knock on our door and were chastised for not going through customs. I showed the person our form and he said we did not know how to read and must go right away. We stood in line for one hour to have a ship officer glance at our passport and put a sticker on it so we could get off the ship and go into town. The last week of the cruise many of the passengers and some of the crew got a hacking cough, sore throat and fever. My son and spouse both had to go to the infirmary for medicine. They were told there was not an outbreak of illness. However, the ship sounded like a T.B. ward. A couple of passengers said they had contacted the Center for Disease Control because of the ships denial and the lack of sanitization. We have cruised so many times, we know there are always a few disgruntled passengers but we have never talked to so many people who were so angry. People from nearly every country we spoke with expressed their displeasure with the Orchestra. We only met three people who seemed happy with the cruise. We found out they were on their first cruise. Disembarkation was truly a nightmare. Everyone had to be out of their cabin by 7:00 am. Breakfast was closed at 8:30 am. Nobody was allowed off the ship until after 10:30 am. There was an announcement about 9:00 am blaming the Immigration Department for the hold up. Since we had a 12:30 train home we were getting quite nervous. I went to the Receptionist and she said she could not give me a different colored tag. (Ours was over half way down the list to be called.) She then said they could not "force" anyone to stay on the ship. We spoke with some people sitting near us and they had 7:00 to 8:00 evening flights and had the first colored tags to be called. We slipped in line when the first tags were called and upon reaching the baggage area off the ship found our luggage had not even been taken off the ship yet. We spoke to someone in Immigration and were told they were ready by 9:00 am to clear the Orchestra's passengers but the ship is under staffed and that was why it was taking so long. Many a time I have gone on Cruise Critic to defend MSC, telling the detractors how wonderful MSC is. I now feel a need to apologize to my fellow Cruise Critic's for misleading them. What has happened to my beloved MSC??? Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I sailed on Royal Clipper on her New Year's cruise with my partner and another couple. We are in our early 40's and this was our 46th cruise. Embarkation involved standing in line for an excruciating hour and a 10 minute walk to ... Read More
I sailed on Royal Clipper on her New Year's cruise with my partner and another couple. We are in our early 40's and this was our 46th cruise. Embarkation involved standing in line for an excruciating hour and a 10 minute walk to the ship as we didn't feel like waiting in another long line for the shuttle. The cabin was compact but well-appointed. The low shower-floor lip and lack of enclosure walls except for a curtain all but guaranteed flooding of the bathroom with each use. The ship was beautifully decorated in an Edwardian yachting motif. The gym was minimally equipped with two treadmills limited by a low ceiling and two ancient recumbent bicycles. The open-seating dinners were fine with good service and reasonably priced wines but the seating could be extremely tight depending on location. Breakfast and lunch buffets were of variable quality but a beach barbecue was terrific. Those accustomed to large ships were shocked by the ship's extreme movements in all directions but this was to be expected. The sails were magnificent but generally used more as a display than as an active means of propulsion. The ship primarily sails under diesel power and usually engine noise and cooking exhaust smells were present on the open decks. Activities are minimal to nonexistent. The Cruise Director is a glorified shore-excursion salesman and a font of misinformation. He lead no activities and showed no leadership or entertaining skills. There are few onboard activities, no daily summaries or navigational information and a surprising lack of sailing-related information or exercises. Entertainment consists of a solo piano player generally playing 70's melodies backed up by preprogrammed disco beats. New Year's Eve was particularly poorly planned. We were told to go on deck at 11:30, were served warm "bubbly" and looked at each other until 12:05 when some passengers counted down to artificially start the year. No music, no horn, no sign of the Captain or officers and no Cruise Director. When questioned the next day, the Cruise Director said the Captain was "ill" and that he himself was "elsewhere". When we returned to the cabin after the New Year's Eve "celebrations", the annoying nightly noise (I had previously used ear plugs and sleeping pills) of the Crew Mess located directly under our cabin became intolerable with loud singing, yelling and music. There was no-one on duty at the front desk and when I brought the matter to the Hotel Manager the next day, he basically "blamed" me for only complaining on the fifth day. When I said that I hadn't complained earlier as the ship was full and there was likely no recourse, he agreed and offered me a complimentary downgrade (he actually used the expression "downgrade") where we could sleep in a smaller cabin while occupying our original cabin. Uh, right. He acknowledged the noise problem, showed no particular concern and offered no apology. Other passengers expressed numerous concerns about the senior officers and their ill-treatment of the general staff and the overall unhappiness of the crew. It was also extremely concerning to hear passengers commenting on how they observed heavy alcohol consumption of officers at some of our beach stops. Disembarkation was extremely relaxed and their was no hurry to get us off the ship although our requested wake-up call was never delivered. While Royal Clipper is a first-rate ship, she offers an overall disappointing cruise experience, generally omitting any and all of the sailing-themed activities and ambiance that attracted us to her in the first place. Her poor onboard atmosphere, absence of "joie de vivre" and lack of understanding of what makes passengers happy will ensure that I avoid Star Clippers in the future.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The MSC Cruise line is for the birds. If you plan a cruise DO NOT CHOOSE MSC CRUISE LINES. It is a very boring place to be. The food was terrible-horrible-everything was either undercooked or overcooked....they even screwed up corn ... Read More
The MSC Cruise line is for the birds. If you plan a cruise DO NOT CHOOSE MSC CRUISE LINES. It is a very boring place to be. The food was terrible-horrible-everything was either undercooked or overcooked....they even screwed up corn flakes (I lived on French fries and tomatoes for 17 days)...... there were no trained crew members everybody was new and spoke very little English if any at all....there were 16 decks on this ship and 2...yes 2...Christmas trees..no decorations.........no Christmas music......they had no planned organized fun things to do except stretching exercises and bingo and that was ill organized........Bingo cards cost $10 for one card......I paid extra for a smoking balcony and they did not allow smoking on balconies.......they charge 3% for cashing travelers checks.......the only deck party they had was New Year's Eve....no ice carvings and grand buffet on the last night as ships usually do...the nightly shows (except 2) were all operatic and classical.....no religious Christmas services except for Catholics.....the first and second days they had no night time buffet so you had to eat in the dining room whether you wanted to or not, then they had so many complaints that they had to open a buffet at night.....you had to pay for pizza...you had to pay for ice cream...one man had to pay $3.50 for a glass of crushed ice.....there were two big fights on the ship....no movie theater or free movies....the first few days they had 10 free movies but so many people were so bored they were staying in the cabins watching them so they took them off.....one couple got off in Casablanca and flew themselves home and another two couples got off in San Juan....... We had to beg for bananas...beg for doughnuts...they kept these things under the counter...... they did not ever have any milk although people were asking for it....until about 5 days into the cruise after thousands of complaints we didn't even get coffee except at mealtimes and on every cruise I have been on there are coffee and juices 24 hours a day.... One more thing...there were no hand sanitizers until we got to American territory and inspection time. They were hidden under the counters too. A lot of people caught colds and were in bed for a period of time....Clarence was one of them for 4 days. There were about 3K + travelers on this cruise and 2900 of them swear they will never go on another MSC Cruise Line. Everybody was complaining from all countries. If you sat down at a table or somewhere with a complete stranger, all that was talked about was how bad the ships crew, the service, and the organization was....especially the food. Everybody was teed off because the only vegetables were cauliflower, broccoli, and shredded carrots. We finally got some potatoes. They were also upset because all the deserts were the same with just different colored icing. The food was horrible in all restaurants because we tried them all trying to find something fit to eat. This is the only cruise line we have ever been on that we LOST weight. The productions shows were good and the costumes were beautiful. The were four African men who were acrobats. They were truly wonderful. The magician and illusionist were acceptable. One night there was no show at all and three nights the show consisted entirely of groups which played every night in the atrium lounge. These three nights were poorly attended since we saw them every night anyway when passing by the atrium. The Entertainment (Animation) Team on MSC really work hard and extremely long hours. These young people were no exception. They danced with passengers every single evening until 1 or 2 am. They had Italian lessons, trivia games, crazy games, dance lessons, etc. From nine in the morning until two am they were very visible and working hard. They truly made this voyage bearable. The cruise director on the other hand was very aloof and seldom said anything to the passengers. The ships lounge performers were generally good. We especially liked the Popcorn Band and their singer, Romanica. She has a truly lovely voice and is very friendly and outgoing. On our other cruises you could not get on the ship or go into an eating facility without a crew member squirting you with hand sanitizer. Imagine our surprise when we cannot even find the sanitizer on deck 13 four four days. It was behind a door. Quite often when getting back on the ship or entering the dining room the hand sanitizer was empty. There was never any crew in sight the entire trip checking on this. At one point I asked a crew member for the hand sanitizer, he sent me to the toilet. It took about three hours to get onto the ship and nearly six hours to get off. They ran us out of our rooms at 7AM (which was a first for us) and gathered all 3K+ into two small bars and then the Captain did not have some type of paperwork that America requires and we waited nearly six hours to get off. That is with no water, food or anything else and no place for all of us to sit. We were sitting on the stairs, laying in the floor, sitting on the bar and nearly hanging from the rafters. Children were irritable, crying...it was a fiasco. and I could go on and on but I bet you are tired of reading by now. However, the itinerary was great and off the ship we saw a lot of good stuff. We made several good friends and they helped to make the trip from becoming a complete disaster. So if you want to punish your friends and get even with your enemies..send them on an MSC CRUISE LINE FOR A FEW DAYS. Not us though, we will never cruise MSC again. The nicest people on the ship were both working on Deck 13. There names are Arie from Bali and Miriam from Peru. This was our first MSC Cruise and although we cruise at least twice yearly and sometimes more. This will be our last MSC Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Norwegian Latitude Members, Cunard World Club members and Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our fifteenth cruise. My wife is 46 and I am 42. We ... Read More
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Norwegian Latitude Members, Cunard World Club members and Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our fifteenth cruise. My wife is 46 and I am 42. We have two boys ages 10 and 5. This cruise was our first holiday cruise with the kids. Embarkation - We arrived later than planned due to traffic delays at the Lincoln Tunnel. When we arrived there were tons of people checking in and we had delays in every line. It took us about 90 minutes to board and arrived on the ship by 2:45pm. It certainly wasn't the worst embarkation we had from New York. The good news was that our room as ready, so we could dump our carry on bags and get a snack. The Ship - It is new at just over a year old. The ship was built in Papensburg, Germany like many other of NCL's ships. The ship was nicely appointed and well maintained. The German design is rather compartmentalized and most spaces are single deck, which does not allow for much natural lighting. All of the dining venues are small with virtually no natural lighting. The Grand Pacific dining room is the nicest looking dining room on the ship. It was two decks high and had nice views of the ocean. It is located at the aft end of deck 6, but you must access it though the aft staircase of deck 7. The lobby is also a very nice two deck space with a lovely piano bar and coffee shop. There is also a two deck high TV screen that plays videos, sports programs, and Nintendo Wii games. The kids loved the Wii tournaments in that room. The casino is large and well serviced. The slot machines are also very quiet, so you can hear yourself think when in the room. The most glaring error in design is the Garden Cafe. This is a buffet dining area with a traditional buffet line instead of buffet stations. The area is cramped and there is not enough seating for folks at peak times, so eat early or late. The Great Outdoors is an outdoor dining area on the aft end of the ship to the rear of the Garden Cafe. It is a nice area to eat when the weather is warm. The other public spaces are pretty standard to other NCL ships and I found navigating the ship very easy. I liked the fact that the Tree Top Kids Club is located mid ship, so the movement of the ship through the water is minimal. Accommodations - Since this was a holiday cruise and pricing was higher than usual, so we chose an inside cabin for the four of us. When we first walked into the room, we looked at each other and wondered where all of the clothes and luggage will fit. We had five bags with us. To NCL's credit, the room held all four of us, our clothes and bags. There were two adult size beds, a drop down bed from the ceiling and a cot that was stored under one of the adult beds. It was snug and we won't get an inside for four again. The room was approximately 150 sq.ft. The bathroom was small, but the shower was a decent size. The water pressure was great and we never had an issue in getting plenty of hot water. The housekeeping staff was horrible. Our cabin was not made up until almost dinner time every day and was not turned down until almost 11pm each night. We never saw our cabin stewards. Itinerary - It was a good itinerary for kids. I liked four ports in a seven day cruise from New York. The port reviews are below. They were Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, Nassau and Freeport. Shore Excursions - Were poorly organized. There was alot of waiting time and the kids got anxious. I realize that local tour companies were running the tours, but NCL needs to make sure they are providing the level of service required. The worst tour was the Atlantis Aqua Adventure. I'll explain below. Entertainment - Good solid entertainment. The Gem Singers and Dancers had three good shows. We enjoyed the comedian, Peter Sasso. We missed the shows when we were in port, but comments by other guests were positive. The New Year's Eve party was not well advertised. When I asked one of the kids club counselors what they were doing for the kids on New Year's Eve, they had no idea. They wound up having a New Year's party complete with top hats and face painting, but I passed on that because their late night party fee, which is usually $5.00 per hour per child was doubled to $10.00 per hour for the first child for New Year's Eve only. I thought that was an awful thing to do especially since there was no notice to the parents until you arrived to drop off your kids at 10:30pm. The kids did like the overall program. My 10 year old loved the Nintendo Wii freeplay. Passenger demographic was diverse with many families traveling with children. There were 642 kids on board for this trip. Dining - The food quality and presentation in the main dining rooms (Magenta and Grand Pacific) was very good and exceeded our expectations. The wine lists were diverse and good. Wines from $14.00 per bottle to $1,350.00 per bottle. We stayed with the $14.00 per bottle stuff. The Garden Cafe buffet was also very good. However, the food quality and presentation in the specialty restaurants we patronized (La Cucina and Tequila) was poor at best. Very bland tasting food with little going for it. My wife put it best when she said the red sauce at La Cucina tasted like Chef Boyardee. Disembarkation - Was very smooth and well organized. One of the best I have had in New York. Overall - We all had a good time as we always do on a cruise, but this ship's service and lack of organization left us with a feeling of emptiness. We did not make any friendships with anyone for the first time. I said to my wife on the last day that I always start missing the ship and it's crew on the last sea day, but not this one. This Gem needs alot of polishing before I would go on her again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The ship was beautiful! Elegant! But the most boring cruise we have ever had!!! I am 57 but not dead!!! The staff was pleasant but I found myself longing for the waiters who called you by name and who seemed happy and made serving you ... Read More
The ship was beautiful! Elegant! But the most boring cruise we have ever had!!! I am 57 but not dead!!! The staff was pleasant but I found myself longing for the waiters who called you by name and who seemed happy and made serving you fun!! This group appeared as bored as the ship was boring! Our experience started off bad when I had preordered and paid for wine and flowers for our traveling partners anniversary..to be in their cabin on arrival. Flowers no wine...after checking several times no one seemed to know anything about the problem and no one offered to find out or help. I finally talked with guest services and cancelled the order and was told they would see if a refund could be arranged??? After two days, I was told it would take 7-10 business days for a refund...Only took 2 minutes to bill me! It took til Thursday for Celebrity to send a complimentary bottle of wine to my friends No apology! The cabins were fine...nothing special..the flat screen tv was a nice touch. Our cabin steward did not restock our frig for days and finally left me a note on a napkin telling me what I needed to do to get our frig restocked. Strange! She was adequate...nothing special. Just did her job. Clean beds and towels everyday. Room service was a definite plus!! Each morning a call saying my breakfast was on the way and at the exact time I requested. Unfortunately our dining room experience was terrible. We had a very nice table but our waiter and assistant waiter were personality VOID!!! This last summer on a RCCL cruise to Italy our waiter and assistant waiter were wonderful...fun and delightful! Our waiter only took our order, no suggestions...I never even knew his name!!! Our assistant waiter had not bathed in days...we were glad he only stayed a few moments!!! The food was horrible! I think they are forcing you to go to the specialty restaurants. Which we did and Morano was good definitely not worth the extra money. Silk Harvest was very good and the waiters there did have a personality! We requested late seating but were told 700 people were forced to take early at 6PM...However the dining room allowed people to come in late, really late...over an hour late and were seated and served. Of course our waiter seemed to rush us in anticipation of the large groups coming in late every night! The head waiter told us cruising is changing! Obviously! We truly only found two waiters on the whole ship that had any life in them! One in the Martini bar, she was wonderful! The Ice bar is a treat and a beautiful area! The grass!!! What a waste...it is always resting and you can't get on it for more than a quick step across it. And when you have to get up at 7:30 am on vacation to get a deck chair I say remove the grass!!!! Again people were saving chairs...large family groups that by 7:45am there were no chairs around the pool or upper area available. No pool attendants enforcing the no saving policy. When I complained in a shop I was told by an employee that not everyone wants to sit by the pool!!! But I saw many many people searching and complaining about not having a chair when you are at sea for two days!!! We were on Carnival Pride out of LA and there was never a problem with chairs...Carnival obviously does a better job...didn't even take the chairs down til 10am. Hopefully this is just a holiday cruise problem. The glass blowing was very interesting and a must see! The Casino was nice. I found $700 on the floor in the casino and turned it in..I hope the person who lost it claimed it. The casino did not even take my name... The ports were the same as always in the Caribbean. Beware of Orient beach if you are not accustom to nudity! I'm not!!! New Year's Eve was so blah!!! This is our 4th NYE cruise and this was by far the least fun! But that was the feel of the ship all week long! I hate to be so negative but we had so looked forward to this cruise, paying more than most cruises and were so disappointed in the value. I have had much better times on Carnival, RCCL, Holland America for a lot less money. We were not in the suite and Aquaclass so maybe we missed out on all the "perks". But as a regular cruising person it was a definite disappointment. I missed the fun, the island music, the waiters who knew your name! I will probably not cruise Celebrity again. Maybe I'm toooooo young for them! HA! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation: Boarding at Fort Lauderdale was easy because we used the VIP line. It was quick and we were on the ship lightening fast. The embarkation photo had nothing to do with the ship; background looked more like a forest or something. ... Read More
Embarkation: Boarding at Fort Lauderdale was easy because we used the VIP line. It was quick and we were on the ship lightening fast. The embarkation photo had nothing to do with the ship; background looked more like a forest or something. Not being big on pictures, no big deal but I do like embarkation pictures but we didn't even bother. First impressions do mean a lot. We entered the ship preparing to be WOWED, instead it was UGH!!! I know, I read the ship was pink, but it was PINK, and not a very pretty shade of pink-everywhere, even the wood railings. Little pink circles with zebra stripes, everywhere!!! It was so pink it looked cheap and tacky. We went straight to Lido for lunch and waited for the cabin to be ready. We were so excited we had booked a spa balcony cabin. Able to get into the cabin around 1:30, we found a tiny balcony cabin, much smaller than on other Carnival ships. On the counter, we found our two yellow (no, not pink) wrist bands that you couldn't take on and off for our spa privileges, and we were supposed to wear these all week. (Please rethink this, I don't want tan lines and a yellow wrist band would look great with a formal!) Nobody wore them; we carried ours in case we needed them but never did. Our two twin beds barely had room to walk between. The layout of the cabin was not what we were used to. It had a sofa but not in a functional place because the coffee table just didn't fit the room. There did not seem to be as much hanging nor drawer space. In the middle of the mirror was this awful pink and orange light fixture that blocked using the mirror for much more than the light fixture. With a tiny bathroom, where do you dry your hair, get dressed, and do makeup? The beds were the least comfortable I have had on a ship, very disappointing. Paying extra for the Spa Cabin I did not expect the noise level from the kids running up and down the hall. Running kids were bad and seemed to get worse outside our cabin as the week went on. Dining: Lunches were fine, buffet has plenty to offer. The Asian grill was very bland. The rotisserie was excellent. Burgers were great. Lunch was satisfactory because there was plenty to choose from. Has Carnival trimmed their dinner menu? We were on Carnival Legend in July but the menu in Black Pearl seemed so much smaller and not nearly the selection from just a few months ago. Food was okay, but not great. Desserts were slim picking. Our waiter learned our names the first night and used them each night. I do appreciate waiters getting to know names. The Black Pearl dining room was hideous. The ceiling was decorated with what looked like fried eggs with black yolks-everywhere. More than me mentioned this. I overheard one person say they felt like burnt fried eggs were staring at them. UGLY!!! I know they are supposed to be black pearls, but -. Room service menu was very limited, only a few sandwiches to choose from. We ordered a couple of times late night, and my BLT was always overdone. DRINKS were a royal rip off. I don't cruise to get drunk, but the daily specials had NO liquor. I stopped buying them and this was the lowest on board bill I have ever had. I don't know why, but half of everything was always closed, lunch buffet, the second bar on deck was closed even on New Year's Eve. The ship was sold out supposedly. Shopping: There were two small shops. Don't they realize people go to spend money? Pools and decks: This definitely is not your typical ship design. All the others I have been on are tiered to allow for lying in the sun. Splendor, the main pool, which is very small, is three tiers high, but the top deck overhangs the second making it seem very enclosed, even when the roof is open. The pools were very small and empty too often. If you cruise for the pools and the sun, Splendor is not the ship for you. Guess New Years Eve caught the staff off guard. There were no seats on deck, but then it is a very small deck area. There was a constant stream of people dragging chairs from the Lido Grill and trying to find a place to put them on deck. They were selling bottles of champagne for midnight. Reading other ship's reviews, they gave out champagne. I thought it was a little tacky at the time, now I am convinced it was. Sell a bottle if you want more, but make it a New Year's Party for Pete's sake. Forego the Captain's Party and give out champagne on New Years. However, it was cool that we had New Years twice. Spa: Exceptional, especially the bamboo massage. I really couldn't tell we had a private entrance; anybody could have gotten in and probably did because of the "wrist band" bad idea, so I felt a little cheated. Sorry it sounds like I painted a rather dull picture of Splendor. Like I said earlier, any week on a cruise is better than a week at work, but the Splendor just didn't do it for me. Here is my word of advice, if you go for sun and pools, you will be dreadfully disappointed with Splendor. Splendor's design, maybe given an interior makeover, would do well in Alaska. I know there is a niche for Splendor, Carnival just hasn't found the right way to market it yet. For nearly 5 grand, I was disappointed. I really wish I had gone on Solstice. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My family of 4 set out for a special holiday adventure to South America. What we ended up with was outrageous treatment beyond belief. American Airlines and Celebrity Cruise line's incredible callousness and incompetence nearly ... Read More
My family of 4 set out for a special holiday adventure to South America. What we ended up with was outrageous treatment beyond belief. American Airlines and Celebrity Cruise line's incredible callousness and incompetence nearly completely wrecked our holiday before it even began. When we finally made it to the ship after two and a half days the treatment and service on board wasn't much better. This cruise line behaves like a company ready to go out of business (it certainly will if it keeps this up).This is going to be a long review, but bear with me because it is necessary to include all the details to fully illustrate the incredible degree of incompetence and indifference that my family encountered on this expensive cruise. We were scheduled to sail on the Celebrity Infinity for a 14 day holiday cruise from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina which embarked on December 21, 2008. Scheduled is the operative word here. I had upgraded our cabin to "concierge class" because I wanted a balcony and decided that the extra amenities seemed worthwhile, particularly the priority embarkation and disembarkation that was promised. My two daughters, (ages 20 and 14) had an inside cabin of their own. I also purchased air transportation and port transfers and a two day add on stay in Buenos Aires from Celebrity. The first problem was that we were scheduled to fly from Cincinnati to Chicago to Miami to Santiago on December 20. When the weather in the Midwest started getting dicey, I called my travel agent on December 19 to see if there was any possibility of being routed through a hub other than Chicago. No luck there except an earlier flight from Cincinnati to Chicago which ended up prolonging the agony in Chicago. Our flight which was scheduled to leave Chicago at 3:45 pm ended up leaving after 7 pm with an estimated arrival time of 11 pm in Miami. Our connecting flight to Santiago was to leave at 11:25 pm. A couple hours prior to boarding the delayed flight to Miami, i called Celebrity and told them that I might miss the connection. Their office closed t 7 pm Eastern time and I told them the flight wouldn't even start boarding by them so I wouldn't know my situation before they closed. I was told just to call the same number and it would ring through to an after hours emergency operator if I had a problem. After we boarded the flight to Miami, I asked the American Airlines flight attendants if they could arrange for assistance at the arrival gate in Miami to reach our international gate due to the tight connection. I have health issues that prevent me from running any distance. The attendants not only refused to assist, but were downright nasty. Since we were at the very rear of a large plane, I asked if at least we could be moved to a seat closer to the front of the plane. Again I was refused. My daughters and husband ran ahead to the international terminal while I tried my best to run. My daughter got to the gate, only to be refused boarding while others who were on the same connecting flight from Chicago and who had arrived at the international gate at the same time she did were boarded. (American Airlines excuse when I filed a complaint was that they were sorry that we arrived after the flight had closed. That is ridiculous when you consider that the people standing right next to us in line were allowed to board and we weren't). All in all, 15 people from our cruise were denied boarding on this flight. The American Airlines supervisor at this gate was even nastier than the flight attendants had been. It took over an hour to re-book everyone. Meanwhile I became ill from all the exertion and stress and I lay on the floor at the gate the entire time with chest pain and my head pounding, taking medication. No one from the airline even inquired as to whether I required assistance. It was almost 1 am by the time we got the new tickets. They made no attempt to put us on a morning flight which would have still allowed for the possibility of making the cruise which didn't leave Valparaiso until 9 pm the next day. Instead we were put on a 9:30 pm flight the next night (Sunday December 21) on LAN (this meant we'd still be in Miami after the ship left the dock in Valparaiso). I called the "emergency" number at Celebrity and instead of being put through to the emergency operator who was allegedly available, I got a "we are closed" message. As soon as we got to the hotel, I checked our reservation on LAN's website but it wouldn't recognize the locator number. At 7 am Sunday morning, I called LAN and got the same answer-we don't have that locator number in our computer. So off we went in the shuttle back to the airport, and amidst hundreds of people trying to check in at American Airlines, we tried to get help. After being told by one agent that LAN did have the reservation and calling LAN again to be told the new locator number AA gave us wasn't valid, I finally found an AA supervisor who admitted the reservation had been put in the wrong database by the bungling AA employee at the gate the previous night. She reissued the tickets and we went back to the hotel. I was still not certain at that point whether we had confirmed seats on the LAN flight or if we were standby, which had been mentioned by the gate agent, so I called the "day of travel" number at Celebrity and inquired as to what I should do if I didn't get on the LAN flight that night. I was told that I should just go to the airport that evening and standby and wait. I told her that I didn't think that was a good answer because if I didn't get on this next flight, the ship would be out to sea and would be 1000 miles from the port by the next time it docked. Her answer was "just go to the airport and see what happens." I hung up on her and called my travel agent. The travel agent told me that she could get us seats on a LAN flight the next morning from Santiago to LaSerena but that it would cost nearly $800 for the four of us and we would have to pay out of our own pockets and hope to be reimbursed later. I said that I didn't like that idea and that we needed to get a more definitive input from Celebrity. Phone calls from the travel agency came in all afternoon. At one point the travel agent said that two travel agents (it was Sunday and the agency was closed) had come in and had as many as four phone lines going to Celebrity trying the resolve the issue. Ultimately, we got a call from the travel agent informing us that we did have confirmed seats on the LAN flight from Miami to Santiago and that once Celebrity was sure that we were on the flight, they would make arrangements to fly us to La Serena. Dream on. At 5 pm we picked up our hand luggage that had been stored at the hotel and coincidentally met up with another family who were to be on the cruise and had been refused boarding as well. I asked them if they had checked their tickets, because I assumed that the same mistake had probably been made with their re-booking as had been made with ours. They hadn't. When we arrived at the LAN counter at 5:30 pm(behind scores of other passengers, even though we'd been told by AA that we couldn't check in there any sooner than 3 hours before the flight) we were relieved to find that we were on the passenger list. Unfortunately, the other family was not. They were sent back to AA to try and get re-booked again. Once we were finally at the counter, the LAN agent said that our tickets still weren't correct and we spent another half hour standing there while she reprinted the tickets yet another time. Then they made a big deal of checking all the luggage tags and recording the numbers from the AA luggage receipts, as our luggage was allegedly going to be transferred to this flight. With boarding passes in hand, we called the travel agent again and told her we were headed to the gate. Again we were told that a Celebrity Agent would meet us outside of customs in Santiago and guide us to the ship. We boarded the LAN flight at 9 pm. The other family finally made it to the gate just as the flight began boarding. They had been hassled for two hours between AA and LAN before LAN finally issued them boarding passes, even though they too had been on the phone all day with their travel agent who had assured them three times that they had seats on this flight. The flight on LAN was great (much nicer than the United flight on which we returned from the trip). Comfortable seats, a decent dinner (for airline food) and a complimentary glass of wine. Movies, videos, games and music on demand were on individual screens with remote controls. LAN was to become our best travel ally. After deplaning in Santiago sometime around 8 am, we paid the arrival tax ($131 per person) and went off the retrieve our luggage. It wasn't on the flight. My husband went to stand in the huge line of passengers with missing luggage and suggested that I go through customs and get outside to look for the Celebrity agent. No Celebrity agent anywhere in sight. I did meet another man who had been on our flight who had also been bumped from Saturday's flight. He told me that our luggage was in the AA office. They had sent it to Santiago on the next AA flight (so why couldn't they have sent us on the next flight too?). I had no way of communicating this to my husband who was still back in the secure area of the airport. By that time I was in tears, and some guy who appeared to be airport personnel asked if he could help me. He wanted to direct me to a taxi of which he was probably getting a cut of the fare. My husband and daughters finally came out through customs, after having waited about 45 minutes in line to be told that the luggage was indeed in the AA office. In the process, we ran across another party of 4 people in the same situation, but they told us that American Airlines had given them free tickets to La Serena to meet the ship. I put my 20 yr old daughter in charge to trying to contact the travel agency and Celebrity as I was so stressed at that point it was hard for me to be objective. She has traveled the world to such places and Burma and all over India by herself, so she's an experienced traveler and very level headed. Again, a continuous barrage of calls ensued back and forth (now on international roam prices) all of which proved to provide false information. We were first told that a shuttle was to meet us in front of the airport to drive us to La Serena (a 300 mile distance through the Atacama Desert) and that it would be arriving soon. It was now after 9 am. At the front of the airport we met up with another group of 4 people who were also on the cruise and had been bumped from the Saturday flight. They had been in front of the airport waiting for a Celebrity agent since 6 am. The other family of three joined us, too. There were now 11 of us waiting for the shuttle. Around 10 am my daughter called again and was told by Celebrity that the shuttle was on its way. Another half hour passed and everybody was getting anxious that we wouldn't make the boat in the time that was left even if the shuttle came. The airport agent and his taxi vultures had convinced us at that point to ride to La Serena in one of their vans for $100 per person and grabbed our luggage and started hauling it to the vans. As we were doing that, my daughter made another call to Celebrity, who insisted that the shuttle was still on its way. We wrested our luggage back from them and hauled it back to the curb in front of the airport. More time passed. The taxi vultures kept insisting that they could drive us to La Serena in time to catch the boat before it left at 4 pm. That was physically impossible at this point unless they drove 100 mph the whole way. I finally had to start screaming that I was going to call the police to get them to leave us alone. It was now after 11 am and my daughter called Celebrity again and this time was told that there was no shuttle on its way! They said they had no authorization to send a shuttle and that they hadn't even gotten in touch with an English speaking agent in Santiago yet. The Celebrity agent on the phone told my daughter to get in a taxi and to try to reach La Serena on our own. She told him that would be impossible at this point due to the distance we would need to travel in the time left and his response was "stop arguing with me and get a taxi or you won't ever make it!" My daughter replied that she wasn't getting into a taxi and going on a wild goose chase and hung up on him. (Apparently he told our travel agent the same thing and she was incensed at the way he had spoken to her). We were all on the verge of despair, but we still had the option of buying tickets for the 1:30 LAN flight to La Serena, so we headed upstairs (with piles of luggage) to the LAN counter. While we were standing in line waiting to buy tickets for the flight, we received a call from the travel agent relaying a message that she had gotten from Celebrity claiming that they were sending an agent who was now on their way to meet us at the airport and take us to the port. We told her we were going to buy airplane tickets and fly there as we saw that as our only viable option and only had a few minutes to get the tickets before the flight started to board. She called back again and said that Celebrity had insisted that the agent was on the way and that it was only 2 hours to the port. At that point I realized that they were under the assumption that the ship was still in Valparaiso, which is 2 hours from Santiago. Unreal!! My daughter told our travel agent that what Celebrity had told her was nonsense and that we were going to take our chances and fly to La Serena and also told her that we wanted confirmation that the captain of the ship had been contacted and that he knew that we were coming before we got on the flight. Fortunately for us, one of the LAN supervisors noticed us and the confusion we were experiencing, along with the others in the group, and took my husband to the ticket counter, helped him purchase our tickets and expedited our luggage check in. As we headed to the gate we got more phone calls from the travel agency. We were told that we had to make it to the port by three or else the customs agent would be gone, then we were told again that a shuttle would meet us in La Serena and take us to the port (which was some distance from the airport). We were also told at that point that the captain was informed that we would be arriving in La Serena at 2:30 pm and we would proceed directly to the ship. We were told that the ship would wait for our arrival. We arrived at the La Serena airport after another pleasant short LAN flight. I went out to look for a Celebrity agent while my husband collected the luggage. Again, no sign of anyone from Celebrity at the airport. My daughter checked her phone (which had been turned off during the flight) and had text message stating that an agent was going to meet us at the Santiago airport, put us in a hotel in Santiago for 2 days and then transport us to Puerto Montt to meet the ship there!! There were now 15 of us assembled in La Serena trying to figure out the fastest way to get to the ship. Fortunately, one person in the group spoke fluent Spanish and negotiated hiring a van for us. Eleven people and piles of luggage went into a van and the remaining 4 took a taxi to the ship. We went careening through town, passing trucks and carts and a near miss of a crash or two before we finally got to the ship at around 3:15 pm. We were directed to the customs office. Fortunately the customs officer was still there. He stamped all of our passports and we headed back toward the ship and unloaded our luggage on the dock. An officer of the ship wandered over to us and gave us an incredulous look. She said that the crew had been told by the Celebrity office that we weren't meeting the ship that day. She said that Celebrity had sent a van to the airport and "waited hours and hours" for us and that we had never showed up! What airport? When? Really!! The captain obviously had no idea that we were on our way. All of this nonsense could have been avoided if Celebrity had just made the arrangements for us to connect to La Serena from the flight to Santiago when our travel agent contacted them on Sunday (and they were on the phone to Celebrity much of the day on Sunday, being put on hold and experiencing extreme frustration themselves). We would have avoided the long line to pay the arrival tax, the long line to get our luggage, and all the other frustrations, because if you had a connecting flight in Santiago to another city in Chile, you got to bypass all the arrival formalities in Santiago, and I am sure that they would have gone much more quickly at our final airport destination which was much less crowded. They made Sea Pass cards for us and we boarded the ship and went to our stateroom. It was now nearly 4 pm and the ship was preparing to leave the dock. No one else from the crew greeted us or called or made any inquiries as to any further needs that we might have. In our cabin we found a bottle of warm champagne (a concierge class amenity) that had been left in a pool of melted ice in the ice bucket overnight. No one came to bring us a chilled bottle. (We later found out the travel agency had also sent us a gift of a bottle of wine which Celebrity bothered to give to us). I was thoroughly exhausted from all the extra travel time, stress, and frustration. I asked my daughter to call our travel agent and extend to her the courtesy of knowing that we had made it to the ship, since she had spent so much of her weekend trying to help us. (The travel agent later told us that she received a call a couple hours later from someone at Celebrity who acted "absolutely giddy" that we'd made it to the ship. She told the person from Celebrity that she already knew this because we had called her hours earlier and said she "went off at her" telling her that it was through no effort whatsoever by Celebrity that we had gotten there.) After getting ready for dinner, we went to the guest relations desk because my daughter had discovered that her Sea Pass didn't reflect the beverage waiver that I'd filled out online for her before the cruise (if you are between 18 and 21 you can drink while in international waters if your parent signs a waiver) and also because I wanted to request a meeting with the hotel manager concerning the whole fiasco that we'd just been through. The beverage waiver hadn't been processed because I needed to present the form at the check in at the embarkation terminal in Santiago which obviously hadn't happened. It wasn't a big problem to take care of that issue (I just signed a new form and she got a new ID card), but in requesting a meeting with the hotel manager, I got the third degree from the guest relations person. She finally told me that I could only meet with the assistant hotel manager and that they would call me when he decided to meet with me! At dinner we were escorted to our table (for 8) and sat waiting to order. Another party of 4 (who were speaking Spanish) was escorted to our table, gave us a dirty look and left abruptly. So we ate by ourselves the first night. The next day was a day at sea, which I desperately needed to get some rest and collect my thoughts. I ordered a room service breakfast for my husband and myself, since I was still very tired and wanted a little pampering from the allegedly "special" room service selections available in "concierge class". The food took almost an hour to arrive and was cold and the order was not correct. This was a harbinger of what was to come with anything ordered in the cabin. It took almost an hour to get ice or a glass of juice in the afternoon (when you could contact the steward). After that initial experience, I ordered room service only one other time to get some pastries and fruit to take along on a very early morning shore excursion. Breakfast was on time that day but the order was still incorrect. Later in the day, I met up with other "stranded" families, who also told me that they had tried to arrange meetings with the hotel manager and were given the same standoffish story. I called guest relations three times over the course of that day and finally just before dinner, they conceded to allow me to meet with the assistant hotel manager after dinner. We had invited the couple and their daughter whom we had met in Miami to join us at dinner since they too had no one else at their assigned table. Before they arrived at dinner to join us, a man and his daughter sat at our table, whom we hadn't expected since they'd not been there the night before, and there were only two seats left so our new friends went back down to their original table. (We asked for the table to be set for 9 on subsequent nights so that the other 3 could join us, but that took 3 days for them to get right and ultimately they moved us all to a larger table on the other side of the dining room). On the positive side, the 9 of us all enjoyed dining together for the rest of the voyage. At 8 pm I went to meet with the assistant hotel manager, Alexander Zeitz. My daughter had told some of the others that I had finally arranged a meeting and they were all on hand to join me. When Mr. Zeitz came out of his office he was very upset to see the group rather than just me and said he was uncomfortable meeting with so many people at once. The others refused to budge and he finally acceded although he behaved like he was about to be attacked by an angry mob. After listening to our stories, we got a very polite song and dance about how this was all beyond his control and that he would have to relay the information from the notes he had taken to corporate because it was obvious to him that we wanted to be compensated for our ordeal above and beyond the $150 per person compensation that was their standard refund for missing a night of the cruise. He asked for our receipts from the out of pocket expenses for the airline tickets and taxi and said it would probably be several days before we would hear anything from corporate because it was December 23 and the offices in Miami would be closed for the holiday. He admitted that the message that customs would close at 3 had come from him, so obviously someone on the ship had been in contact with Celebrity's land based offices! So why all the confusion when we got to the ship?? After the others left, I ask to speak further with him privately about our accommodations. I expressed my dismay at having purchased an upgrade when apparently I wasn't getting the amenities I'd purchased. Most of the times that I'd called the cabin steward, he didn't answer his phone, nor did the main guest services line answer. I ended up looking for the pantry and getting my own ice when I wanted cold water. The concierge line never answered either (so much for concierge service!). The fancy pillows and bed linens never materialized either. The one time that we did get through to guest services about locating a light switch and a problem with the sliding door's latch, they said they'd send someone to the room but never did. What I was mainly upset about was having read in the nightly newsletter that priority disembarkation at the ports had been suspended in South America. This was the main reason why I chose to upgrade to Concierge Class. Response-more song and dance about how this would disrupt disembarkation and take longer if they gave priority to everyone in Concierge Class (because they had made half the staterooms on the ship Concierge Class, ostensibly to extract more money from the guests for no tangible upgrade in service). He said that the steward would be told to bring me ice daily and apprise me of my selection of pillows. No pillows, but occasionally I had ice in the afternoon. I still had to get my own ice from time to time. Finally after a week of frustration in trying to reach the cabin steward for anything (and I really didn't ask for much other than ice or assistance with things in the room that were problematic), I was finally told by someone in guest services that my steward's phone was broken and the he had a new phone number. Why couldn't he have told us this at the outset?! On Christmas Eve we arrived in Puerto Montt, where I had arranged a tour for my family with a private tour operator a few weeks before the trip and was looking forward to seeing the lake country of Chile more than any of the other port stops. Several of the other passengers that I knew had arranged for the same tour with this company. The morning announcer stated that if you were not participating in a tour through Celebrity's shore excursions, you could pick up a tender ticket in front of the theater, but they wouldn't be available until 10:30 am. We went to the guest relations desk and asked again if there was any possibility of getting a priority ticket, but were told-no, only guests in suites got priority tendering (this was different from what the newsletter stated of no priority tendering other than excursions purchased through Celebrity). I also asked what was the first possible time I could obtain a ticket at the theater for the tenders for non-excursion guests, and she said 10 am. We decided to go to the theater a little early and at 9:40 am we got a ticket for tender #16 (when they weren't even supposed to be giving out tickets until 10!). Finally we arrived on the shore and went out to look for our tour van. A man at the end of the pier was holding a placard for the tour company so we approached him. To my shock, he told us that the van had already left and that the tour operators had asked him to wait for us to see if we still wanted to go with him in his taxi. He gave us a decent tour but certainly not all that had been part of the original tour that I booked. He didn't have any arrangements for getting us lunch at the restaurant the tour operators used, so he discounted the trip to make up for the fact that we had to buy our own lunch. However, it was Christmas Eve and the restaurants for the most part were closed and it was 3 o'clock before we found a half decent place to eat. I spent the greater part of 6 hours jammed in the back of a Nissan with no air conditioning (it was an unusually hot day in the area), couldn't open the window much of the time because of the dusty unpaved road, and the trunk of the car kept unlatching! Frank, our guide (a Chilean native who lived in Canada for 23 years), was a great guy and we loved his narratives, so despite the discomfort, he got a substantial tip for Christmas Eve for his willingness to stick around and do his best to show us a good time. I was still pretty disappointed that I didn't get to see many of the sights that I'd hoped to see in this very quaint and scenic area (but I blamed that on Celebrity-not Frank). Back at the port, Alexander Zeitz was on hand to hand out cups of hot chocolate to the returning passengers. He asked me how my day had been and I told him that I missed my tour because of the tendering situation. He said that if I'd asked for assistance, they would have gotten us off the ship earlier. Really??? Isn't that what I'd discussed with him the night before??? I found out later that other passengers (who made it to the tour that we missed) had asked the hotel manager for priority tendering passes and she's simply given them out with the admonishment not to tell anyone else! Back on the ship, it was Christmas Eve, and I had made reservation several weeks before the cruise to dine in the specialty restaurant, the S.S. United States, as a special holiday treat. We got dressed in our formal wear and went to the restaurant at 7:30 pm. There was only one other party in the restaurant and yet they tried to seat us at the first table which was sticking out into the foyer of the restaurant. I declined that table. This meal proved to be an extreme disappointment and certainly not worth the additional $120 that I had paid for the meal. The waiters were very professional and the service was very showy. It's too bad that the food wasn't on the same level of quality. My husband and I ordered the lobster bisque, which obviously came out of a food service package. My older daughter pronounced her foie gras as excellent, though. The younger daughter ordered a Caesar salad. The table side presentation consisted of pouring the pre-made dressing over the salad in a bowl and tossing it around, adding cheese and croutons and serving it. Not your standard table side Caesar salad routine. It was average. For entrees my husband and I ordered the Chilean Sea Bass, after inquiring if it was indeed fresh since we were in Chile. We were told that it was. The girls ordered Sole Meuniere and Steak Diane. The sea bass was dry and not really good except for an interesting vegetable sauce. The table side presentation of the Steak Diane involved heating up a pre-cooked filet in some premade gravy with a few other garnishes. It was tasty but the filet wasn't top quality meat and was rather chewy. The sole was the only dish of distinction amongst the entrees. The French cheese course followed and actually was very good with a nice selection of fine cheeses. The dessert course was the most disappointing of all. My younger daughter loves chocolate soufflE and three of us dutifully ordered ours at the beginning of the meal to allow adequate preparation time. My husband ordered some sort of fruit dessert. At approximately 9:30 our desserts were served. My older daughter asked if she could order a glass of the Royal Tokay with her dessert which was $20 per glass. I told her to go ahead since it was Christmas Eve. The wine arrived in a lovely Riedel crystal glass and was superb (she let me have a couple sips). The three soufflEs looked great until we started to eat them. Under the top crust, they were completely raw. When the waiter came to collect the dishes (he didn't come to ask how our desserts were) I mentioned this to him and he asked if we wanted something else. We declined since it was now after 10 pm. So much for an awesome Christmas Eve dinner. A couple days later the head pastry chef was giving a culinary demo and I mentioned the raw soufflEs to him. His response was, "sometimes they get busy". Indeed. The ship of lame excuses. We went up to the Rendezvous Lounge to meet some of our new friends and listen to some music until midnight Mass. I was explaining to our friends what had happened earlier with the tenders and how we had missed our tour. A lady came up to us and said she had overheard us talking and introduced herself as the wife of the cruise director. She said she was very sorry that this had happened to me and that her husband had been very upset with the way the crew had handled the tendering tickets that day. She wanted me to meet her husband and offered to buy me a drink. I told her that I didn't drink, but she insisted , so I ordered a Coke and waited with her until the cruise director arrived and we were introduced. He also offered his apologies and gave us his phone number and invited me to call him if I needed any future assistance. This was the first time anyone on the ship even acted like they cared anything about me as a guest. At 11:45 they set up a buffet of Christmas cookies and pastries, but we were headed to Mass and the line was long, so we couldn't partake in the goodies. At 12:45 am after Mass, we went back but the food was long gone. I guess that's a disadvantage of being Catholic. Again, on the plus side, on Christmas morning, Santa Claus handed out nice gifts to all the children (allegedly over 200 children on the cruise). My daughter got a nice messenger bag which she used a lot on the cruise. The holiday brunch In the Trellis restaurant featured some spectacular ice sculptures, but mostly mediocre buffet selections. By around 11 am most of the tables had been used and hadn't been cleaned and reset, so we had difficulty finding seats. The rest of the Christmas festivities were unmemorable. One of my chief complaints about the food on this cruise was that the food never seemed to be at the optimal temperature, neither at the buffets nor in the restaurants. Everything was lukewarm or marginally cold, and usually extremely under seasoned. At the grill near the pool they served hamburgers, hot dogs and other fast food items. They made a big deal out of putting the bun on small griddle to heat before they placed the hamburger of hot dog on it (which held up the line greatly), but it was still stone cold when you got it. If you asked for a cheeseburger, you got a cold slice of cheese on the burger. They had nachos which consisted of a warmer filled with fried flour tortilla triangles (that were so greasy they were actually good) and a melted cheese dispenser. The both the chips in the warmer and the cheese in the heated dispenser were stone cold. The ice dispensers were frequently out of order and galley pans of partially melted ice lay about on the counters for ice service. The Spa cafe occasionally had interesting and tasty fare that seemed to be prepared with a little more care than the other venues. I don't drink coffee, but a review book on cruise lines that I purchased before the trip said Celebrity had the worst coffee on the high seas. My husband agreed. One morning at the Spa cafe my husband saw a woman approach one of the attendants and ask who had made the coffee. The man replied that he had and she proceeded to tell him that it was the worst coffee she'd ever had. My guess is that they have bad coffee on purpose so that they can sell more in the Cova Cafe, which actually served good coffee for a price. The pastries in the Cova Cafe were frequently quite good. My husband and I bought a pass to the Persian Garden for the entire cruise on the third day of the cruise. It was, in our opinion, overpriced at $249 per couple, but we wanted to spend time together relaxing in the steam rooms and sauna and the only other sauna option was in the men's or women's locker room. We were pretty disappointed with the spa. On our only previous cruise, we had all bought spa passes on the Norwegian Pearl whose spa was magnificent. Those passes were only, If I recall correctly, $60 dollars per person, and included exclusive use of the thallasotherapy pool, individual spa tubs, a private sunbathing area with a great view at the front of the ship, sauna and steam rooms, and other amenities plus an excellent locker and changing room. The Infinity only offered two small steam rooms and a sauna. The locker rooms weren't inviting and there wasn't a comfortable, private, dry area to change clothes. After a few days, my husband complained that whenever he went up to the spa, there were no locker keys available. After paying $249 for a pass, I felt that they could at least have a locker available for him and I called Alexander Zeitz. He assured me that he would "look into it". The next afternoon as he was passing me by the elevator, he mentioned that the spa had "re-keyed" all the lockers and getting a locker should no longer be a problem. My husband decided to just go up to the spa early in the morning, get a key and keep it all day and use my key card to get in the room, since you had to surrender your key card to get a locker key. At the end of the voyage, when I went to settle my account, I found that I had been charged a $24.95 gratuity on the spa pass, even though my receipt clearly stated that the gratuity was included in the total price of the pass and $249 was listed as the total charge. I complained but they refused to remove the gratuity from my bill. Keys were another issue. They had to redo mine three times to get it to work in the disembarkation ID machine. My younger daughter got a couple of keys and none of them ever worked the entire time to allow her to charge anything. I received a notice in the cabin a few days into the voyage stating that they didn't have my credit card on file (even though I had filled out all of the information online weeks prior to the cruise) and that I was a cash account with a $500 spending limit. I surmised that this was because, once again, since I hadn't presented the paperwork with a signature at the check in at the terminal in Santiago, they couldn't process my credit card. I never did go down to straighten this out before the last night. I guess I just "got busy" like the pastry chefs. I didn't plan on spending anywhere near $500 at an enterprise that could apparently care less about my satisfaction as a customer. Other than the spa passes, the only thing that I bought was a small souvenir for my daughter and a sugar free chocolate bar. I thought a good chocolate fix would help reduce my stress but to my dismay the bar was hard as a rock and had obviously melted at some point in its storage, from observing the white "bloom" that covered it. I returned it to the store and the attendant did graciously give me a refund. Tendering continued to be a fiasco throughout the voyage. When we arrived at Punta Arenas, having learned a lesson from our previous experience, we just went down to the front of the theater really early, despite any announcements to the contrary, and got an early tender ticket. Later in the afternoon, we walked back to the dock after shopping in town with our friends and their young daughter. The weather was sunny and mild but I could see that a squall was looming out over the water. There were at least a couple hundred people standing in line on the dock which had only intermittent partial little shelters (like a line of bus stops with no sides and very short overhangs), waiting for tenders. The squall blew in a few minutes later and pelted us with rain, wind, and ice pellets until most of us and our shopping bags were soaked. I had purchased waterproof jackets for my husband and daughters especially for this trip, and they were glad to have been wearing them. The tender tried to come in, lurched, bounced, and struggled trying several times to dock before it was finally successful. My husband was afraid that the tender was going to capsize from the rough seas, but fortunately we made it back to the ship without incident. We were two hours late leaving port here because the anchor winch malfunctioned. At the last tendered port at Punta Del Este, again we had the situation of hundreds of people waiting on the dock for tenders. This time the sun was blazing, but at least there was a canvas shade. The last tender was supposed to leave at 5 pm in this port and the ship was to sail at 6, but the tenders didn't get all the passengers back on the ship until almost 6:30, even with extra tenders rented from local vendors that were put into service shuttling passengers. I had arranged for another private tour to see the penguin rookery at Punta Tombo when we arrived at Puerto Madryn. Other passengers had asked to join me and by the time all was said and done there were 24 people traveling with me in the group. (because I had arranged the same tour as the cruise offered for $193 for only $90 per person). I tried to call the staterooms of the other passengers to inform them of a time and place where we would meet before disembarking. I wondered what was going on when I didn't get any replies to my phone messages. I later received a note on my stateroom door from one of the other passengers that said that my voicemail didn't work. I called another passenger who was also on the ninth deck and realized that her voicemail wasn't working either, so I assumed that the same problem existed on the whole ninth deck. I placed a call to guest services and they said-you guessed it-"we'll look into it". I mentioned the problem to Alexander Zeitz when I saw him later and he responded," We had a problem with that on previous voyages. They were supposed to have fixed that when we were in dry dock." Well, I guess that they didn't! And p.s. my refrigerator doesn't work either, it's about 65 degrees and my sliding door won't lock (because some broke the locking mechanism) and the wind whistles through the door! Another passenger told me that Alexander Zeitz had commented to them that there seemed to be far more passenger complaints on this trip than usual. I bet! One of the elevators had a fire in the control box and stopped between decks while loaded with passengers, several days before the end of the cruise, and was out of order until we reached Punta Del Este (obviously they needed to obtain the burned out parts to repair it). Once the cruise reached warmer latitudes, we found to our chagrin that the air conditioning in our cabin didn't work adequately. I opened the balcony door for some cool air, but frequently had to close it due to cigarette smoke wafting in from other balconies (where smoking was not allowed). New Year's Eve was interesting. Normally, the Constellation Lounge is off limits to anyone under 18 after 11 pm. The family that my older daughter spent a lot of time with on the cruise had a 17 yr old son and wanted him to be with them and their extended family in the lounge one evening. They hadn't checked ID's the previous evening and this particular night the crew decided to be stringent and kick him out. When the mother complained and got into an argument with the crew members, citing the fact that small children had been in the lounge on Christmas Eve after 11 pm, the crew member said that had been different because those youngsters were children of crew members! Again, a meeting with Alexander Zeitz ensued and a notice appeared in the daily newsletter informing everyone that parents needed to sign a waiver if they wanted their 12 to 17 year old child with them in the lounge after 11 pm on New Year's Eve. At 11:05 pm on New Year's Eve all children under 12 were kicked out of the lounge and were running around the hallways screaming that they were kicked out of the lounge. The next day a notice appeared in the newsletter admonishing parents to control their children; otherwise crew members had the authority to do so and would. On the second to last night of the cruise, I received a letter from the hotel manager informing me that I was being offered 15% discount on a future cruise as a gesture for the problems we had suffered at the beginning of the trip. I was incensed. She got an immediate hand delivered reply from me indicating that I felt that was in no way adequate reparation for what had occurred or for the poor service I'd receive on the cruise. Alexander Zeitz had told one of the other "stranded" passengers that corporate had not wanted to offer us anything at all and this was being offered as gesture from the crew. He also invited us to join him in the lounge for a drink the following night before dinner in Punta Del Este. I wasn't too keen on this idea, but it wasn't an issue because the tenders were so late in Punta Del Este that I knew that he wouldn't be back on the ship until well after dinner started. He later came to our table and offered us a complimentary bottle of wine with our dinner. Again, I don't drink, so I suggested that the other family (who had shared our ordeal in Miami) who were now dining with us choose a wine to their liking since they were wine aficionados. My daughter suggested that she and I ask for a glass of the Royal Tokay with our dessert that had been so delicious in the U.S. United States. The sommelier grudgingly agreed and we were served two glasses of dessert wine. This was a harsh, acidic wine which was more likely a Muscat, which had also been on the wine list. There was no way that this was the same wine that we were served on Christmas Eve. The sommelier became upset and insisted that it was the Royal Tokay. I should have insisted that he pour me a glass directly from the bottle, but at this point in the cruise, I was so tired of dealing with these people that I just let it ride. In the middle of this last dinner aboard we had another exciting experience. The ship hit a mud bar in the channel which we were passing through in the Rio de la Plata (we could see all the mud churn up in the wake because we were dining in directly in front of the picture windows at the stern)and did about a 40 degree tilt to one side. Fortunately, we didn't capsize or run aground but the Poseidon Adventure came to mind for a minute or two. Later in the evening, the cruise line presented the guest talent show as entertainment in the theater. My daughter was one of the finalists in the dance contest. There had been preliminary competitions in different categories throughout the cruise. It was an interesting show and I felt that it was a nice concept that apparently had been an innovation of the cruise director, Alan King. Afterward there was an appetizer and dessert buffet in the Constellation Lounge. Unfortunately for all the kids under 18, the show finished after 11 so they couldn't attend the party. There was a crème brulee bar and other marvelous artisanal desserts. It proved that the culinary team could put together quality food service if they tried. The final aggravation was the last morning of the cruise when we were transported to the hotel for the post cruise package in Buenos Aires. About 100 of us were dumped into the lobby of the Emperador Hotel, again with no Celebrity representative in sight. Everyone waited in a huge line only to be told that we couldn't check in until 3. The representative showed up after an hour or so later when most people had finally gotten their luggage stored and had already left. She was present dutifully from 9-6 each subsequent day to sell tours. When we finally did get to check-in, we were pleasantly surprised at the excellent rooms we'd received. The bottom line- South America was fascinating and we'd like to explore it in depth someday soon-on land! We met several wonderful people on the cruise with whom we hope to cultivate lasting friendships and our children had a wonderful time with their peers. Celebrity Cruise line appears to me to have serious management problems-extreme lack of communication, breaks in the chain of command, major inconsistency in enforcing regulations and procedures, maintenance of facilities and equipment so lacking that in some instances would border on negligent, and obviously bad morale among employees to engender such poor service and indifference to customers. In my opinion, the quality of service, food, lodging and amenities on the cruise weren't worth half what I paid and the incredible degree stress and aggravation they caused me at the outset degraded my enjoyment factor of what value remained to just about zero. I wasn't alone in my opinions. I encountered many other passengers in the course of the cruise who swore they'd never cruise on Celebrity again, or expressed intense disappointment that the cruise experience on Celebrity had seriously declined since previous cruises they'd taken. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
SERVICE LEVELS VERY LOW, INCONSISTENT and WAY BELOW PRINCESS IN THIS MARKET ( The Christmas cruise on Sun Princess at the same time last year offered far superior service and all round product.) Some examples that may seem trivial but ... Read More
SERVICE LEVELS VERY LOW, INCONSISTENT and WAY BELOW PRINCESS IN THIS MARKET ( The Christmas cruise on Sun Princess at the same time last year offered far superior service and all round product.) Some examples that may seem trivial but the constant battle to get things right is not how it should be: Linen wasn't changed for 10 days and then only after several requests. It was also of very poor quality (thin, holes, stained) - no crisp white ironed sheets here! From check in it took 3 days and 10 keys!! to get ones that opened our cabin We had so many different charges on our bill that didn't belong to us it became a joke. Everyday we had to check and get them removed and then on disembarkation morning when the final bill arrived the whole lot had been put back on again! Room Service requests frequently never happened There was no information available in the cabin about what services were available - no info on things like the soda pass or wine card. Only people who had cruised with HAL before knew about them Turn down service existed of turning the corner of the bed down and putting chocolates on bed. No refresh of bathroom or room. Toiletries were also never replaced throughout the cruise except soap. Generally staff seemed undertrained, overworked and unhappy General cleanliness of cabin and ship average The only activities available for children under 18 was provided by the kids club and these were inadequate and boring. Apparently only 1/3 of the children onboard went to it regularly which left many (including mine) roaming the ship bored and taking over the lido pool. Despite politely worded requests in the newsletter that they restrict themselves to the aft pool it wasn't policed and their overwhelming presence and noise disturbed the older cruisers. Despite many complaints from the older brigade about this you rarely saw any members of the cruise "entertainment" staff on deck unless they were hosting a cocktail making function (paid) or towel animal demonstration (flogging book!). On other cruise lines they have very visible youth security patrolling day and night plus activity and entertainment staff always around The port arrangements left you believing this was the only time they had visited these ports. Despite knowing how few had taken up shoreex and would be requiring wharf to town transport they were always surprised by the numbers and inadequate services were provided which left people queuing for ages with no alternative as you couldn't walk off the port due to security reasons. The Hotel Manager's response to this was next time we'll charge for the shuttle service and arrange more buses! ENTERTAINMENT Unless it was a paid event or promoting a paid event e.g. SPA, BINGO, ART AUCTION, CULINARY EVENT, OPAL SHOWING etc there were very few activities during the day, no sailaway parties, rarely music on deck and no games you could participate in as a family. There was a daily quiz that was very dry, occasional games (adults only) and a daily cooking demonstration. Cruise Director was the worst of any I have ever encountered and refused to enhance or adapt the program to entertain those demanding more. There seemed to be an inflexible policy and "by the book" mentality that dictated the usual routine be followed come what may!. Many people we spoke with were bored, so much so that we formed our own entertainment group of different families which grew and grew and ran things that are usually run by the entertainment staff on other ships - shuffleboard and table tennis tournaments, scavenger hunts, sailaway parties etc. I contacted the Hotel Manager as I wanted to let him know how disappointed we were and that so many people were unhappy and give him the opportunity to fix it while we were onboard but he really wasn;t that interested. As I said to him we know things are different elsewhere on other cruiselines as we've always enjoyed our cruises as a family on a variety of cruiselines (Princess, Oceania, Carnival) and maybe this time we just chose the wrong ship. However for first time cruisers many would think this was what cruising was all about and will never cruise again. The ship was also so American and didn't seem to make any concession at all to the fact that the majority of the passengers weren't and that she was based in Australian waters for at least 3 months.There were many requests made by pax for some Australian and NZ news and to pick up an Australian feed on the satellite to cover the Sydney Hobart race and the Boxing Day test. They managed to organize it for 2 days while we were in NZ but after that nothing. They changed the timing of the evening shows so if you were late seating you had to go to the 7.00 show and early seating the 9.00 show. This left us with little or no choice after dinner. Usually when cruising the evening consists of dinner then the show, nightclub or piano bar - bed. The piano bar had a nightly "name that tune" but the piano man was very flamboyant and we enjoyed his performance but it certainly wasn't for everyone! With no show to go to after dinner, piano bar not suitable for all, string quartet in the Ocean Bar very placid, the nightclub run by a DJ who played questionable music, then got overrun by teenagers, nights became very boring for many. I would really hesitate to recommend Volendam to anyone that isn't sedentary and looking for entertainment.Despite big promotions for their kids club this one did not do the trick for many onboard. This was meant to be a celebratory Christmas and New Year cruise and is naturally going to attract families. Christmas was so poorly done (again compared to the event they made it on Princess last year) and didn't have any magic at all. New Year's Eve was quite a celebration on the aft deck, but with Sydney Harbour and the fireworks as a backdrop hard to get it wrong! ( Apparently it was originally promoted that the ship would be moored at Circular Quay or in the harbour to see the bridge and this later changed to put us at Darling Harbour with a much lesser view and the U.S. passengers weren't told - rumors of a class action pending!!) I have cruised on Volendam before many years ago in the Caribbean and expected so much more. I always believed HAL was just a cut above Princess but couldn;t have been more wrong. Service and standards were mediocre and indifferent. There was no excellence. On a positive note food was probably better than Princess, but presentation was below par. The cabins too were of a good size as per all HAL ships and the general layout of the ship gave it a very spacious feel with good public areas. Whinge over - but feel the cruise was a waste of a family holiday and not good value or an enjoyable experience at all. Thank goodness I know there are cruising alternatives and can only imagine they "dumbed down" the product for this market. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Our holiday cruise on the Golden Princess was a disappointment for us. We were looking forward to the 14 day holiday cruise as we come from the pacific northwest and had a huge amount of snow. The ship was worn and it showed. We noticed ... Read More
Our holiday cruise on the Golden Princess was a disappointment for us. We were looking forward to the 14 day holiday cruise as we come from the pacific northwest and had a huge amount of snow. The ship was worn and it showed. We noticed this as soon as we boarded. The help on the ship was great; we couldn't have asked for better waiters and stewards. But, our beds were terrible. As soon as we entered our room we knew it wasn't good news. The beds were actually bowed down. When we laid on them we could feel the springs! WE tried it for 2 nights and then I left a message for our steward. I asked if we could either have new mattresses or another room or something. It took two more nights before they brought a thin eggshell pad; that didn't help. Finally after 6 nights we each got a thicker piece of foam; they said there were never other mattresses on board so they couldn't get us that; also they said all rooms were booked so we couldn't exchange. WE figured that because it was a holiday cruise. The food was also "boring". The meals in the dining room were the same as the buffet. The traffic patterns for the buffet areas were poorly designed; cruisers were in each others way and often times folks were rude to each other which surprised me. I heard some other cruisers say how rude some of the passengers were. The shows were not all that professional either. It is nice that the Golden has 3 areas where they entertain but you could easily skip the shows and not miss anything. The ship had four days of rough seas heading to Hawaii; our room was extremely noisy; we kept hearing something roll over the ceiling back and forth for days and finally we asked about that; they said nothing was over us but it kept us up all night; the walls also squeaked and creaked when the boat moved. THe captain even said once that if you heard the ship creaking to not be afraid; this was normal....but it was hard to sleep!! We were disappointed in the quality of the food and especially the drink stations. The ice machines hardly ever were full or worked; you got ice from a large container which didn't seem to sanitary. You had to usually ask for milk and it was not in cartons. We think we have been spoiled by Carnival and some other lines that have many choices and better quality. We wish we had more positives to say about this cruise. It rained a lot in Hawaii and it was cold which has nothing to do with the ship. The seas were smoother going home but it was again cold so you didn't want to go outside. The workout area is not very large and often was crowded. The hot tubs were good but because of the rough seas the pools often were closed. Cruising over the holidays you would think they would have had nicer decorations but those looked worn too. The said we would have carolers on board and we did the day we boarded but they left as soon as we left! The shops didn't offer anything unusual from other cruise ships. The casino was typical and nothing really fun; the whole atmosphere of the cruise just didn't seem to sparkle and entice us. After the cruise we really felt like we needed a vacation!! We will keep cruising but probably check out the ship better next time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Investor Insights based on passenger observations and personal experiences from the Holland America Ryndam Holiday Cruise from Dec 21st through Sunday Jan 4, 2009 Good riddance was the mantra for the day for many passengers as they ... Read More
Investor Insights based on passenger observations and personal experiences from the Holland America Ryndam Holiday Cruise from Dec 21st through Sunday Jan 4, 2009 Good riddance was the mantra for the day for many passengers as they disembarked from this two week holiday cruise on the Ryndam as we arrived late in San Diego. There was not a tear to be shed or a sob to be found as many seasoned cruisers appeared to be disenchanted at the culmination of this voyage. I was not surprised when disembarkation was at least 90 minutes late to start (we were suppose to be off at 9:45 AM and retrieved our luggage after 10:45 AM-luckily we made our flight as it was delayed) nor that the elevators at both the aft and forward locations had mechanical failed requiring some folks to be taken off in the service elevator. These elevators are in need of dire repair-the elevator buttons would not light in some, while others would flicker. On at least three separate occasions I experienced a brake problem with the elevators and on one occasion had to step up about 10 inches to get off. Knowing that CCL cut their dividend and management was addressing the company's bottom line, I expected some changes, but was disappointed that the signature of excellence was severely compromised in the process. There will always be a few things that go awry on a voyage as we do not live in a perfect world and we usually are just nonchalant about it. I was a little surprised when on day one of the cruise the front counter personnel would not replace my wife's 100 day pin that was broken as they did not have enough supplies and they would send one to our room later if they had enough-it never happened. Okay, but when we went over to the explorer's lounge and requested a deck of cards to play a game-we were turned down as they did not have any supplies. We were told cards were available for purchase in the Casino-hmm. Moving on our Dining Room Table stewards were excellent, however, the Pinnacle Grill folks were less than satisfactory. We always looked forward to this venue and frequent a few times per voyage. Not this time, it took 20 minutes for someone to bring a signature cocktail list to make a selection from. I clearly pointed out to the staff I was highly allergic to both egg and all poultry products. They insisted they would take the utmost care. When the hors d'oeuvres were brought the waiter could not tell me what was in the three brought to me, however, I already knew from many past voyages. In the past I was given a couple of Bruschetta as the others appetizers contained egg. I had questioned the warm bacon dressing in the salad and the salad dressing. I was assured all were safe. After the first bite-I knew something was awry. My son called over the waiter to let him know, that I had an allergic reaction with the salad. The waiter immediately became defensive and told me I was mistaken. I told the person this is for educational purpose that something in the salad had an egg or poultry ingredient. This person insisted I was wrong and was quite terse. He later must have been told to apologize. Should I mention that several of the side's dishes were not brought to our table as ordered until we reminded the servers? I won't mention my brother's tough lobster or the other disappointments. Several days later the chef I had met in Alaska stopped by to visit us on the Lido as he recognized us from the two voyages on the Ryndam in Alaska this past summer. He informed me that the warm bacon dressing is made with turkey bacon and if staff had inquired it would hot have been served to me. The food in the dinning room was better than the Pinnacle, however you have to savor what you can because the pickings were awful slim and the prospects no matter how hard you squint were just plain bleak. Looking at a coupon for Black Angus that I have-I regretfully submit that this chain restaurant would receive higher marks for a better quality of food. Should I mention that the Hot Woks in the local super markets now do a better job with the oriental dishes than the Lido? The pomp and circumstance that use to accompany the Master Chef's dinner was noticeably absent-yes they did the same motions but without the props, for example the parade of the baked Alaska no longer has the sparklers on top. Although the first time cruiser would not know the difference, it was not the case for the many of us who had cruised before and on other Holland America Holiday Cruises. Should I mention that all of us traveling together were not even invited to the mariner's luncheon for the same sitting? We had staff fix the reservation time. The before luncheon cocktails were no longer offered and only wine was served with lunch - but these subtle changes again were an example of the noticeable cut backs. Clearly front office staff was not on top of their game plan. When I question sail away cocktail charges on my bill as someone inadvertently used the wrong room number - I requested that they pull another tag for comparison that did have my 17 year old son's signature for a soda card for the cabin that he was in-they refused and he had to go to the front desk to correct their error. Are the cutbacks the new paradigm for Holland America mariners? Those past perks supplied to former cruisers have succumbed to a vicious bout of vertigo in memory. Apparently across the Holland America line - these changes were implemented November 1st. I wasn't looking for disgruntled passengers on this cruise - but somehow I kept running into them in the dinning room for breakfast when I joined other travelers. What are the likely hoods I would eat breakfast and every time people started complaining? After several encounters with disgruntled passengers I decided to interview a few of the smiling stewards (about 10 percent of the staff) to learn about downsizing and increased workload. The morale has been shattered for many except those with their first contract. Supplies are short and staff does not have the needed tools to do their jobs effectively. We all have had jobs we didn't like, but somehow made the best of them so we could pay the bills-this message somehow is not universal and has resulted in many resignations among the crew. Random Comments: Supply problems-No batteries for remotes (TVs-DVD). One cruise staff mentioned that recently they did not have any Kleenex and were instructed to put five sheets in an empty box. Event staff did not have all the needed supplies to hand out for the dam dollar redemption-travelers were furious. Event staff was told to scrimp at dam dollar events. Cabins weren't that clean-fortunately we had Clorox wipes and cleaned drawers before we put our clothes in. Hand towels put on the floor to be changed were re-hung on a couple of occasions. The bed linens reportedly were not changed on a two week cruise. When Cabin stewards were off, they did not turn down the bed sheets at night as they hurriedly knocked on the door and handed out chocolates along with literature for the next day. Was the laundry equipment working properly as the wash cloths did not have the Clorox removed 100%. Does the ventilation system filters get cleaned or changed? There were a lot of sick passengers. The coffees were hit and miss and sometimes tasted like someone reused the grounds. Observed passengers' complaints in the dining room as orders for both lunch and breakfast were wrong. With deflation on the horizon-gratuities' were raised with less service provided. Chocolate extravaganza has lost the extravagance in contrast to just as recent as last summer. When a passenger told me they wouldn't bother to get off in Manzanillo-I should have listened. Ditto for Puerto Chiapas-the tour bus parked in a poultry yard to get to the Izapa Ruins and the Chocolate City portion was a bust. This was a desperate attempt to offer a tour. I could list more but what is the point. There were many passengers with a chip on their shoulder and I did not believe them for a nanosecond, however many long-time cruisers were disenchanted also. One final note: Two of the passengers that had been on multiple cruises across the spectrum of cruise lines - summed Ryndam stewards and help like this - they thought the Norwegian line cruise Pride of Aloha staff were the worst ever until they went on this cruise. As an investor it is my belief from what we just experienced is that this lack of quality going forward will have severe financial consequences - unless management can attract new passengers that do not know any better. Good day, Kidderman Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Cruise J824 - Arcadia - Dec 20th 2008 to Jan 5th 2009 Embarkation We arrived at the terminal in Southampton at 2:10 pm to find a huge queue ahead of us. When we finally entered the terminal building the check in desks were unmanned, ... Read More
Cruise J824 - Arcadia - Dec 20th 2008 to Jan 5th 2009 Embarkation We arrived at the terminal in Southampton at 2:10 pm to find a huge queue ahead of us. When we finally entered the terminal building the check in desks were unmanned, staff were milling about but no announcements were made regarding the delay for at least an hour. Asking a staff member we were told there were "technical issues" and they couldn't embark anyone at the present time. A few clowns were present to entertain the waiting masses but cold drinks would have been more appropriate. The building was very hot and not even cold water was available. The usual procedure took place at check in, photo for ship pass, registration of credit card etc. 2 days into the cruise we received a call from reception saying they had no record of our registered credit card on the system, it seems our credit card details were lost somewhere between check in at Southampton and the ships database. When we questioned the staff on reception about this once again their response was "technical issues", poor show P&O. At 4:40 we finally got on board only to find the lifeboat drill had taken place, no other drills were arranged for the passengers who had missed this vital information. A 2 hour 30 minute wait to embark is inexcusable. Cabin The cabin (D-deck with balcony) was spacious with plenty of wardrobe space. Luggage fitted easily under the bed with room to spare. Adequate lighting in the bathroom, shower had good pressure and was easy to use. A range of Temple Spa toiletries were present, only the shower gel was replenished. The balcony was showing signs of wear, peeling paint. One small table and 2 chairs took up the majority of balcony space available. Good sized fridge. Decent size, height adjustable table in the cabin. The bed was very comfortable, pillows soft yet supportive. Overall the cabin was clean, fresh and inviting. Our cabin steward was a real gem and easily the most professional crew member we encountered aboard the ship. Entertainment The entertainment aboard ranged from poor to outstanding but most of it was aimed toward the more mature passenger with very little provided for those not in their twilight years. To any readers under 50, I would suggest doing some research on alternative cruises before doing a cruise on Arcadia. Other member reviews have said the same thing and I can only echo their warning. It does seem to be a ship of mainly older folk, average age was around 75. Our first day at sea had a fluid retention and swollen ankles talk in the spa, if you were out of there by 11 am you could head up to The Crow's nest for a game of bingo. Headliners Theatre Group, the ships entertainers, were outstanding. Each cast member was an accomplished vocalist and competent dancer. All the shows they performed were wonderfully executed with superb costumes and sets. Highlights of the cruise were the performances given by Gerald Dickens, great great grandson of Charles Dickens. His performance of 'A Christmas Carol' on Christmas day was joyous and worthy of the West End. It's just a pity that the other entertainment provided in the various bars around the ship was so mundane. Not everyone enjoys listening to repeated sets of what sounded like elevator music day after day. The refit of Arcadia allowed P&O to provide a small cinema on deck 3. As it only seats 30 people you have to get there early in order to ensure a seat. The seats recline and are very comfortable...if you can get one. An annoying thing was the extreme rudeness of some passengers who would barge in 5 minutes before the end of the previous film with no thought to the passengers already there and enjoying the end of the movie they had chosen to watch. On more than one occasion the wrong movie was shown and staff had to be informed, as they didn't hang around to check they were actually playing the correct film. A cinema on board is a great idea but pointless to have one that seats 30 on a ship that carries 2000 passengers. The cabin TV was supposed to have a dedicated channel devoted to movies, Christmas movies especially. When we tried to watch channel 9, all that we saw was a screen of interference. When we called reception to ask about the problem we were told that channel 9 wouldn't be available for the entire cruise, it's a "technical issue", seems that term was the answer to any query P&O encountered. The Disco was usually always empty and seemed to be a complete waste of space, extending the casino into the disco area would be a better utilization of that area of deck 2. As it is the casino is very small with an outdated selection of slot machines. A Christmas Bazaar was listed as a shopping experience to take place in the upper level of the Meridian restaurant. We were disappointed to see that this shopping extravaganza was merely the shop inventory laid out on some of the restaurant tables with nothing new whatsoever. The newly extended Aquarius deck was the main venue for Hogmanay celebrations. The generally friendly fellow passengers and crew enjoyed many hours of music and dancing. The party went on into the wee small hours as can be testified to by the Alpha alert over the tannoy system at 4 am, it seems there was a passenger in difficulty after falling down some stairs We got chatting to long standing P&O diehards who mentioned that this was the first New Year party on a P&O ship that they were not given a free drink. The consensus seems to be that the standards are dropping year by year with passengers being charged for more extras. Crew The majority of the crew we encountered were polite and friendly with the exception of an extremely rude member of the photography team. Our cabin steward couldn't be faulted; waiters were pleasant and chatty once we got to know then. Our wine waitress left a lot to be desired, on more than one occasion drink orders from ourselves and our table companions were completely forgotten by her and she only remembered as we passed her on the way out of the restaurant. Some crew had a personal hygiene problem; we noticed this numerous times. 3 separate barmen had a particularly strong B.O odor that was quite off-putting. Ship and dEcor The ships dEcor was fresh and bright, plenty of Christmas decorations and trees on every deck added to the festive atmosphere. Beautiful sculptures in the lower entrance to the theatre that are easily missed if you enter theatre on a higher deck. Lots of interesting artwork around the ship, it's certainly worth walking around all the decks to have a look at what's on display. It was easy to see the ship had been re carpeted throughout. P&O must have encountered a problem on deck 2. Just at the Spinnaker Bar, there was an extremely obvious musty smell coming from the carpet, which they tried to rectify by having an industrial drying machine plugged in for the first week of the cruise. The toilets near the Globe on deck 2 were also experiencing problems, the stink passengers encountered when passing them was horrific Food The food in the Belvedere was plentiful but not of the highest quality. A lot of the cakes on offer had synthetic cream and were not at all appetizing. The selection available from midnight onwards tended to be dried out and uninspiring food that looked like it had come from the local freezer center. Salads and fresh fruit were of good quality as were the accompaniments, coleslaw, bean salad etc. Long queues were not apparent, we seldom had to wait for more than 1 minute to reach the food we were in line for. The juice dispenser in the Belvedere was switched off at 12 noon, I must say that this was rather mean and penny pinching of P&O, there can be no other reason to switch of the juice other than to increase passenger spending on drinks over lunchtime. Some of the best lunchtime food was available at the Neptune Grill, always fresh and cooked to order. A particular favorite there was the blueberry cheesecake, very tasty indeed and of much higher quality than the desserts in the Belvedere. The Meridian didn't live up to expectations. The dreaded potato croquettes that have been mentioned on the forums, accompanied dinner on the first night. They are of very poor quality indeed and have no place on an evening dinner menu of a cruise ship. Fellow dining companions ordered the steak one evening. What they received could have been hidden under a small bread roll, it was tiny! Food in general in the Meridian ranged from distinctly average to a few excellent dishes. The Indian food was especially good; the Dhal soup was one of the best I've ever eaten. Afternoon tea was a huge letdown. Hard, tasteless scones, small cakes with synthetic cream and measly filled sandwiches were the order of the day. The vegetarian sandwich was Rocket, one Rocket leaf between 2 slices of bread. I asked the waitress for some cheese sandwiches only to be told that I would need to order them 24 hours ahead. When we spend 3k per person on a cruise we don't expect to have to give a days notice for a sandwich. As I am a vegetarian, I informed my travel agent and also called P&O in person to inform them of this fact. Despite doing so I didn't receive the vegetarian menu until the 5th night, neither the staff in the restaurant or the staff on reception had any record of my dietary requirements. Yep, you've guessed it, technical issues were to blame. Come on P&O spend some money on competent admin staff and computer systems that actually work. During the last sea day passengers could enjoy a galley tour and a chocolate buffet. After previously cruising with Celebrity I expected big things from the chocolate buffet, sadly it was another indication of cost cutting measures. The layout wasn't at all spectacular with more of those thawed out gateaux that can be seen in every supermarket in the land. One or two pleasing ice sculptures couldn't lift the lackluster affair of the tasteless selection on offer. Ports We didn't book any of the P&O excursions preferring to do our own thing. Every port had regular free shuttle buses provided by P&O. Ports of call varied. Palma was a washout, being Boxing Day everywhere was closed and it rained incessantly. Our favorite had to be Malta, beautiful harbor and surprisingly warm weather for the time of year. Certainly a place we shall return to. We arrived in Barcelona on the morning of the 30th of December expecting to leave again as 2am on January 1st. Due to mechanical problems with a generator we didn't leave Barcelona till almost 5pm on January 1st, a full 15 hours behind schedule. As a result of this delay our last post of call was cancelled. Each passenger received £100 as an apology for not getting to Vigo. £40 per person was also refunded during the cruise; this fuel supplement refund was deducted off your shipboard account. The cruise log that each passenger receives at the end of the cruise mentioned nothing of the delay. It states "Arcadia extended her call in Barcelona until late afternoon, allowing a whole extra day for the opportunity for passengers to go ashore" That's not the case, passengers had to be back on board by 1:30-2:00, rather economical with the truth there P&O Disembarkation Disembarkation was smooth considering the number of passengers onboard. Passengers are given color-coded cards the night before with your time to disembark on them. Luggage in the terminal building is sorted according to your deck so is easy to find. In conclusion all I can say is that this was our first cruise with P&O...and our last. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This is the first time that I am writing a review; I hope that you will bear with me. I would like to start by telling the readers something about myself, so that they can have an idea about the perspective from which these observations ... Read More
This is the first time that I am writing a review; I hope that you will bear with me. I would like to start by telling the readers something about myself, so that they can have an idea about the perspective from which these observations were made. I am 56 years old and have been cruising for over 30 years, having taken more than 25 cruises. Other lines on which have sailed include Celebrity, Cunard, Holland America, Oceania, P & O, Premier, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. Other than cruising, I have traveled extensively throughout the world (except for Asia) and I have passion for food (cooking is one of my hobbies). On this trip, we were a group of four adults, including my legally blind, octogenarian mother who cannot stand for long periods nor walk long distances. Now, on to the review. Boarding Manhattan has never been one of the best embarkation ports. But on this occasion, we arrived at the pier into a scene of pandemonium. The ship had docked late, so literally thousands of passengers were everywhere, standing on zigzagging lines and even sitting on the floor wherever they wouldn't be trampled. Despite the fact that I was told on the phone by NCL that a wheelchair would be available at check in, none was, and there wasn't even a place for my mother to sit. When I went to one of the tables and told the NCL representative of the situation, she said "I'm not responsible for what you were told. There's nothing I can do about it". When I asked her to give me one of the chairs that were behind her table, she said no. I had to take it over her objections and told her to use her radio to report the situation to someone who is responsible. Finally, after about 20 minutes, someone showed up with a wheelchair. From that point, boarding went smoothly. Physical Condition The ship is beautiful. As I am very fond of the traditional designs of ships such as Oceania or Cunard, I didn't think that I would like the modern design of NCL. But the mixture of dark wood and color was extraordinary. Also, being practically new, all of the furnishings were still in pristine condition. Everything appeared very clean and well maintained. Because, NCL nearly doubled the price of the tickets for the holiday sailings (as compared to the same itinerary from two weeks before), we only booked balcony cabins. In comparison to some lines, these were on the small side, but well laid out. And the large showers were very much appreciated. Fortunately, opening the divider between the adjoining balconies added to the spaciousness of both cabins. Entertainment The entertainment on board was the best I have seen in years. The big shows were terrific and even the small shows were good: talented singers and dancers and funny comedians. The casino was above average: spacious with plenty of tables and a variety of machines in various denominations. But, call me old fashioned, the computerized Roulette machine went too far! Food The range was from horrendous to very good. In the main dinning rooms, the food was dismal. There was an inedible vichyssoise that tasted as if made from skim milk and potato flakes; many hot entrees were served barely warm at best; and the inattentive service ruined the few good dishes. A sea food platter that was tasty (and served hot) was cold by the time the requested tartar sauce was brought (fully 10 minutes later). On the other end of the spectrum were the upgrade restaurants: good food and excellent service. But it seemed as if the food that was included was deliberately bad to make you pay for the upgrades. Even in the buffet at breakfast, the orange juice was so diluted that one was compelled to pay the extra price for the fresh squeezed juice that was being pushed. Service While cheerful and friendly, the service was poor. Calls to the room steward were slow to be answered. If one slept late and didn't leave the room until after 10:30, the room was not made up until after lunch. Many staff didn't speak English well enough to comprehend simple requests. Yet, in the upgrade restaurants, you couldn't ask for more attentive waiters. This contrast made the service in the main dinning room seem even worse! Another example: Somehow, we were not given our bill on the night before disembarkation. When I went to the desk on the next morning, I couldn't get another copy. This was distressing. But, there was one shining example of good service. We lost a wallet that was found and returned within 30 minutes. This was impressive. Overall There were lines for everything. Even with reservations, there were lines to be seated in the restaurants. Even at off-peek times, there were lines for boarding and disembarking in the ports. There were even lines for the nightly special deserts and the extra charge OJ in the buffet. In my opinion, Free Style meant that one was free to stand on line and pay extra to get what one should have received with the price of the ticket. Given the price paid, especially after all of the extra charges, I would rank this NCL trip at the bottom of my list for value and only in the lower end for overall quality. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I should first of all inform you all that as veteran cruisers on many other cruise lines my wife and I have never found the need to put pen to paper in order to complain until our experience on the Thomson Celebration. Our cabin ... Read More
I should first of all inform you all that as veteran cruisers on many other cruise lines my wife and I have never found the need to put pen to paper in order to complain until our experience on the Thomson Celebration. Our cabin number 817 was at water level on deck 1 or deck C. The two different names for each deck we found very confusing, but the problems on this deck are: when the ship is moving you cannot see anything other than frothy seawater over the porthole. also we experienced persistent loud banging of the wash against the outer shell of the ship when the ship was moving at 14 knots or more overnight. This resulted in five sleepless nights out of the seven of our cruise. This double bedded cabin was quite spacious but very-very dated. We did on the second night move the bed-head away from the outer wall in an attempt to reduce the noise levels of the ship crashing though the waves. On doing so we revealed indescribable dirt and filth, toe and fingernails, human hair of all descriptions along the wall and floor. Photos of the mess will be found on the cruise photo page of this site should the powers that be allow publication of them. The air conditioning in our cabin was stuck on cold, in the evenings it was like living in a fridge. On complaining the first attempt to repair this was to block the vent with two layers of foam. This of course resulted in us unable to breath when the cabin door was shut. On the third repair attempt, we had no access to our cabin for a whole day at sea whilst it was fixed properly. The saving grace of the cruise was the high standard of the evening theatre entertainment and the friendliness of the restaurant and house-keeping staff. We found the attitude of the senior staff when we had the audacity to complain very rude and complacent. Sorry Thomson my wife and I know that no-one is perfect but your very poor and dismissive response to our letter of complaint through Cruise.co.uk will result in our determination never to use you again and we will inform others of our bad experience. We are The Paxtons Isle of Wight. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
After entering through one of the more efficient boarding processes into the beautiful atrium, we were keyed up for a really fabulous cruise - our fifth. After checking out our cabin which was of the usual style and standard we were still ... Read More
After entering through one of the more efficient boarding processes into the beautiful atrium, we were keyed up for a really fabulous cruise - our fifth. After checking out our cabin which was of the usual style and standard we were still feeling great about the experience before us. On reading the information provided we discovered there were a few issues of concern regarding the ship and cabin facilities. These were: No laundromat nor passenger ironing facility; No tea/ coffee making facility in cabin. These amongst some other issues would detract from what could have been a great cruise. The following are areas that I consider were extremely poor aspects of the MSC Orchestra and would have to be addressed before cruising with or recommending MSC to any other person or travel agent: Lack of Drinking Water The only available water, for drinking, provided was in the buffet, at meal times, or afternoon tea. In the dining room, or at any other time drinking water was only available as bottled water @ 2.60 Euro for 750ml. After much discussions with the various levels of the dining room hierarchy I eventually managed to get three glasses of iced water served at dinner each night. I contacted the reception of the ship to find out if the water in the cabin taps was suitable to drink and they said that it wasn't. After discussions with the ship's purser he advised that the water in the cabin was drinkable? I am still unsure. Tea/ Coffee As there was no tea or coffee facility in room, one could reasonably expect that instant coffee or tea would be readily available, free of charge, at various stations around the ship. Not only wasn't this the case but the only time tea/coffee was served was at breakfast or afternoon tea. At lunch, dinner or at other times passengers were expected to purchase from a bar at inflated cost. After raising this as part of an overall lack of available water/ fluids available we were given coupons to address the issue - under strict secrecy requirements. As an average a person requires two litres of water per day which works out at 10 Euro per passenger at MSC rates. Smoking Whilst I acknowledge that smoking in Italy is allowed in far more places than Australia, I found it incomprehensible that you had to walk through a smoking lounge to get to another bar or the theatre and that all the major entertainment activities were held in a smoking bar. As a non smoker this precluded me from many activities and by the time I left the cruise, having had walked through smoking areas, with clothing that reeked of cigarette and cigar smoke. Laundry/ Ironing As this was part of a longer trip with the constraints of luggage allowances, we had anticipated, like others we met, that we would have access to laundry/ironing facilities on board as had been our previous experiences cruising, or the option of sending out laundry and ironing. It came as a shock when the only facilities were send out at extortionate rates and we are supposed to look presentable to enter the dining facility. Dining Hygiene Being conscious of the rapid way in which infection can travel through passengers on board ships, I was appalled at the lack of basic facilities at the entry to the dining areas. Whilst the buffet had hand wash machines at the entrance, these were not always working, and the dining rooms had no such facilities at all. When I asked about the dining room facilities I was told to go to the nearby toilet to wash my hands by the Assistant Maitre D'. Other Facilities Internet Cafe- 25 euros an hour and then it would drop out when you sent a message. There was never a problem finding a computer because passengers refused to use it. Gymnasium - the size of the gym and equipment in relation to passenger numbers was totally inadequate. Coupled with this was the exercise classes which had to be conducted in public areas and so my wife did feel comfortable to attend. Incorrect Information - Reception As mentioned previously I received information from reception which was then contradicted by the Purser. This one of several occasions that reception provided misleading or incorrect information including refund information for day trips as well as questions relating to various aspects about the ships processes- room service, accounts etc. It was very difficult to trust any information provided. What I found extremely disappointing, apart from the issues raised above was the attitude of the ship's "management team" - who when asked to address an issue would respond with - "It's company policy". Whilst it may seem from the above list that we didn't enjoy or value any aspects of the MSC Orchestra. This is not true. MSC does the big things really well - the onboard environment is fabulous- with the exception of the smoking issues, and the entertainment was first rate, especially as it was designed for such a diverse audience. The cabin staff, wait staff in the dining facilities, the bar staff and the ship's medical officers provided outstanding service throughout the cruise. They were always extremely helpful, professional and willing to go out of their way. I have since raised these issues with MSC and the response was basically like it or lump it. I guess it is one company who I am reluctant to recommend. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
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

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