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999 Holiday Cruise Reviews

I wanted to treat the whole family on a Caribbean cruise during the Thanksgiving holiday. Holland America is our favorite line and chose the eastern Caribbean itinerary because it included good beach stops for the younger ones. Our age ... Read More
I wanted to treat the whole family on a Caribbean cruise during the Thanksgiving holiday. Holland America is our favorite line and chose the eastern Caribbean itinerary because it included good beach stops for the younger ones. Our age group ranged from 76 (me) to 12 my grandson. Grand Turk is a fantastic stop for all ages, great pool at the Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville where we rented a cabana around the pool which worked out very well, giving us a meeting place to store stuff, etc. Puerto Rico was fun, we just hired a bus right outside the cruise terminal for $10 each and got a full 2 hour tour of San Juan and surrounding areas. The group used the cruise line to book a catamaran boat for a snorkeling and beach excursion on St. Marteens and were very happy with the trip, lunch, etc. Don't try to walk from the cruise ship to St Marteens shopping area, the water taxi is only $6 round trip and runs constantly. We had balcony staterooms which were nicely decorated, clean and roomy enough for sleeping and showering, the balconies extended the feel of the room and by opening the partitions between balconies gave us some party room. I found the food to be very good, meeting everyone's taste, including the cheeseburgers that were provided to the 12 year old in the main dining room when the menu was a little to fancy for his taste. all in all a great family vacation that satisfied the veteran cruisers and the new kids. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
There were 15 of us on this Cruise..Mostly family ranging in age from 11 to 75. We had an absolute blast on this cruise. Any negative comments I've read I saw none of these. The ship was spotless, the crew was fantastic, the food was ... Read More
There were 15 of us on this Cruise..Mostly family ranging in age from 11 to 75. We had an absolute blast on this cruise. Any negative comments I've read I saw none of these. The ship was spotless, the crew was fantastic, the food was awesome, the activities and shows were top notch. Anyone that thinks Carnival is a "budge" cruise line is mistaken. Im sure they are cheaper than the rest and Im a little biased since I've only been on Carnival but I've loved all 3 of my cruises. I burned the candle at both ends on this cruise since I wanted to do everything. We went to both shows, The mambo and the 80's show, which were absolutely wonderful. Top notch productions and fantastic cast. Attended the adult comedy show on the last night and it was hilarious. Went to the afternoon tea with my mother in law and we both enjoyed in immensely. We had an inside cabin this time which actually made it better for the little sleeping I did :) on this cruise. We had late seating 8:15 in the Imagination dining room with our waiters Jorge and Martin who were impeccable. Went to Key West on the first stop and did the City View hop on hop off trolley ride for 19.00 and it was worth every penny. Key West was beautiful but I wished we could have stayed longer. Some did the Butterfly conservatory and they enjoyed it very much. In Nassau we took the #10 Jitney bus to the Sheraton Resort and bought a day pass for 25.00 which was well worth it. The facilities were gorgeous and the kids did snorkeling, kayaking, big water bike and the paddle boat which were all included. The beach was gorgeous and they had 3 or 4 pools along with hot tubs and a swim up bar. The kids in our group ranging from 11-14 had a blast in the Circle C and made many new Facebook friends to keep in touch with. We let them have full roam of the ship and were very comfortable leaving them to themselves. Lots and lots of fun activities on board. My husband did the hairy chest contest and had people recognizing him all over the ship the rest of the cruise. My son and friend both 21 had a very good time in the clubs and the casino. I cannot say enough good things about this ship. We all loved her very much. It was a little rough on the last day but other than that we had calm seas and beautiful weather. We were a little late leaving Jacksonville. Was supposed to sail at 3 and didn't leave until 7 which was not a big deal at all. No activities were stopped on the ship because of it. I plan on writing a review under the Carnival section on the message boards soon so check that out too. Embarkation and Debarkation were seamless as this port has their act together. I loved every minute of this cruise and was very sad to leave. Already planning my next one. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This was a first cruise for my husband and myself, so our hopes and expectations were high. Not only were those hopes met, they were exceeded by the wonderful staff and the beautiful ship. We sailed with our daughter and her best ... Read More
This was a first cruise for my husband and myself, so our hopes and expectations were high. Not only were those hopes met, they were exceeded by the wonderful staff and the beautiful ship. We sailed with our daughter and her best friend, both high functioning autistic adults. We had a junior suite, and the young women had a large interior across the hall from us. We were able to get them spare keys, so they had access to our cabin, with the lovely balcony and the refrigerator. Enchantment is well maintained; an elegant grand dame of a hotel. Our room had the infamous pole, but it in no way detracted from the cabin, and was handy to grab on to when the waves were more active. We spent a lot of time on our balcony, and had no problems with smoke drifting our way. But it was the staff who made our stay especially wonderful. From Martin, our cabin steward, who made sure that everyone was happy and our cabins were perfect, to Justin, our waiter, who served up wonderfully prepared food with a smile. Our wait- and kitchen staff even brewed up herbal iced tea for me every night. Every staff person we dealt with was friendly and helpful. My husband and I ate every meal that we could in the MDR. The Windjammer is nice, with lovely views and good food, but the food in the MDR is so much better. There were very few negatives that detracted from the overall experience. There were long lines for lunch in the MDR, but they moved quickly. The final breakfast line was quite long, and very slow. It took almost 30 minutes to reach the MDR and be seated. Fortunately we had scheduled a later departure, so we were still able to relax and enjoy that last meal. Some smoke from the casino escapes to the stairway toward the bow of the ship. Fortunately our cabins were toward the stern, so we were able to avoid that stairway. The magnetic strip on the boarding passes is extremely sensitive. My husband demagnetized his several times with a camera and a laptop. Our daughter's had to be replaced once a day, until we realized the the magnetic closure of her wallet -- carried in a fanny pack -- was doing it in. But those were minor issues, and the overall wonderfulness of the experience more than compensated for them. The young women had a wonderful time exploring the ship and participating in many activities. We'll be cruising again. Missing ports: Samana, DR -- we did not get off here. Our tablemates did, and reported that we had made the right decision. Labadee, Haiti -- Wonderful. Beautiful beaches, plenty of lounge chairs and hammocks, and lots to do, or just enjoy lazing around. Our daughter and her friend did the zipline, and really enjoyed it. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We have been on six cruises, two with HAL. My husband and I chose HAL again, specifically for the Hydro Therapy Pool. We loved it on the Zuiderdam a few years ago. For this cruise we booked the Thermal Suite and Hydro Therapy for the ... Read More
We have been on six cruises, two with HAL. My husband and I chose HAL again, specifically for the Hydro Therapy Pool. We loved it on the Zuiderdam a few years ago. For this cruise we booked the Thermal Suite and Hydro Therapy for the entire week. It was heavenly. Embarkation was quick and easy. We booked an SC suite, aft. When we arrived, we were given a badge to indicate that we were booked in a suite, our teenage daughter wore it proudly and the badge got us to a separate check in area where we were checked in and on the ship in a matter of minutes. We went directly to our suite, which was lovely. We were met by our two cabin stewards, Elwin and Allus. They were attentive from the moment we arrived until the moment we left. Our suite was kept tidy each day and the service and attention to detail by Elwin and Allus was very much appreciated. The SC aft suite was exactly what I had hoped for. The wrap around verandah gave us a 180 degree view and we enjoyed it every day. We had our Thanksgiving dinner on the verandah at sunset. My husband and I did a lot of relaxing, workout and spa time. It was wonderful. Our daughter spent most of her time at "The Loft" which was the teen club. Since it was Thanksgiving week, there were more teens on board than usual. Our daughter said it was the best, most fun and well organized cruise she has been on. We were extremely satisfied with the the activities for the teens aboard. We visited the Neptune lounge daily, and it was a nice retreat to have cappuccino, expresso and light continental breakfast, sweets and light finger sandwiches. We had tea service and hor dourves in suite each day. Another perk of the suite. Gilbert, the concierge called every day to make sure that tea and hor dourves were delivered and satisfactory. I was missing the tea and hor dourves by Saturday afternoon when we arrived back home. Oh, and the laundry and dry cleaning was a wonderful perk of the suite as well. We came home with all clean clothes...loved it! All food aboard was very good. We dined in the Rembrandt only once, but had it delivered twice for in suite dining and it was delicious. The Pinnacle was the best. Breakfast in the Pinnacle for the Suite guests is a perk you shouldn't pass up. The wait staff remembered my husband's request for a double expresso. The second morning we dined the expresso was delivered just as he was about to order...amazing and based on that attention to detail alone...we would book on HAL again. The Tamarind was very good, beautiful view. The Lido was always good as well as the room service. We spent a lot of time on our verandah and suite this cruise. Why go on deck when you have those kind of views? Plus, we were all about relaxing this trip. We have sailed in small cabins with portholes, verandahs and suites. Once you go suite, it is hard to sail any other way. We couldn't dock at Grand Turk due to rough seas, which was fine by us. We had no excursions planned. We weren't really looking forward to Puerto Rico, but ended up loving Old San Juan. The people were great, John the Baptist Cathedral, beautiful. Barrachina was a wonderful restaurant, much enjoyed and home of the original Pina Colada. My husband bought some good cigars. St. Thomas was beautiful. Half Moon Cay was fantastic and pristine, I wish we could have stayed longer. We rented a cabana and it was stocked with fruit, snacks, soda, water as well as so many comforts such as air conditioning, padded wicker furniture, table for four, misters...and oh what a view. Would definitely do that again and probably will. HAL even had managing cabana attendants to check quality control and we enjoyed the conversation very much. Debarkation was a breeze. We ordered breakfast in suite and then were the first to be called, another perk of the suites. Thanks to the crew on the Eurodam for a fantastic Thanksgiving cruise....we hope to be back very soon! Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
For Thanksgiving 2011, two friends accompanied me for my eighth cruise and second on the Splendor, famous for having suffered a crippling fire that stranded its passengers at sea in November 2010. Carnival is a very decent value; you and ... Read More
For Thanksgiving 2011, two friends accompanied me for my eighth cruise and second on the Splendor, famous for having suffered a crippling fire that stranded its passengers at sea in November 2010. Carnival is a very decent value; you and 3,000 others can travel on the newish Splendor (it first sailed in 2008) for a relatively low price. In return, you get above-average food, a marvelous crew and a ship with very glitzy, Vegas-type styling with lots of pink circles everywhere. On the downside, areas of the ship can feel quite crowded: lines for the Splendido buffet are often very long and slow-moving, and the jacuzzi pools are always loaded with people (they desperately need to install several more of these). To its credit, Carnival has eliminated smoking from the piano bar and other lounges, although smoking is still allowed in the casino, which you unfortunately have to pass through to get to various popular attractions on the ship. My favorite thing about Carnival is that they offer numerous musical performers; this sailing offered the excellent James Morris at the piano bar; SummerBreeze, a male-female Filipino duo in the lobby; and a wonderful Latin-jazz performance by the ship's main orchestra, led by a Russian woman named Kate. The crew of the Splendor (mostly Filipino, Thai, Indian and Indonesian) is absolutely first-rate, efficient and friendly to a fault. Since my original trip on Splendor, Mazatlan has been eliminated from the ports of call in favor of a second day in Cabo, reportedly because of crime concerns, which is an excellent decision on Carnival's part. In the Black Pearl dining hall, maitre d Dessi was friendly and flawless, making guests feel very welcome; her servers are uniformly excellent. The ship is clean and nicely appointed, and I've even come to grow rather fond of the glitzy decor. Carnival desperately needs to resolve the overcrowding in the Splendido restaurant and can we please do something about kids punching all of the buttons in the elevators? Otherwise, I fully expect to sail on a Carnival ship again in the future—perhaps even on the Splendor. It's a excellent value. Not sure if I'm allowed to post my video from the cruise, but let's try it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3djr5xAajb4 Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Jewel: Thanksgiving Week 2011 Other than not wanting to stuff and cook a turkey ourselves, my friend and I booked the Jewel just for the ship ride and to stare out at the sea all day if we chose to. Therefore, everything else ... Read More
Jewel: Thanksgiving Week 2011 Other than not wanting to stuff and cook a turkey ourselves, my friend and I booked the Jewel just for the ship ride and to stare out at the sea all day if we chose to. Therefore, everything else considering the low price for a holiday sailing was a bonus. The ports of call are not the most exciting option available in the cruise industry but it sure is if you want to ride space mountain at Disney, see the NASA space shuttles, or just go to Nassau, Bahamas! Both of us have sailed NCL in the past and both have sailed other cruise lines as well. The last time we were on the Jewel together was Thanksgiving 2006. If you are new to NCL, or have sailed on other cruise lines in the past, be sure to understand the freestyle concept. Plenty of information exists on NCL's website that includes information about the ship booked, how to sign up for excursions, how the freestyle dining and how the freestyle dress code works, the spa offerings while onboard, activities for the children, links to pre boarding information, the 12 dollar service charge per person per day, and how to print documents and cruise ticket online. We knew all this but I often read reviews where others do not and then get frustrated about it. Our balcony guarantee, booked five weeks prior to sailing, landed us cabin 10162 located at the far aft starboard side of deck 10. Cecilio, our steward, was efficient, friendly, and always took a few moments to say hello and to ask how we are doing. Since we were on the end, our balcony appeared to be about 1 to 2 feet longer than the standard. The extra space had a protected enclosed area and the rest open. A very quiet area onboard, we hardly heard any noise out in the hallway. I was thankful to not hear the stern wake in the back of ship since I knew it was so close. Many evenings we had the balcony open and only heard the gentle light swish of the starboard wake. Overall, our seas were surprisingly smooth most days and nights. The Jewel class ships have great stabilizers for the times when the ocean waves are more active. Temperatures on this sailing averaged in the 60's to 70's heading down to Florida and the Bahamas and back. Once there, we had weather around 80 degrees. For this particular itinerary and time of year, we had a mixture of dress/casual and a mixture of light/heavy clothing. Thank goodness for freestyle...I sure appreciated the ability to wear yoga pants or jeans and a sweatshirt from morning until bedtime. We did dress up on other nights too. The dress up or not nights on the Jewel are Sunday and Thursday. There are some dining rooms that Do have a dress code so be sure to read your Freestyle Daily to ensure you are not showing up in shorts or jeans to Tsar's Restaurant or Le Bistro French Restaurant. Although there are many dining options that have a fee, we selected the options that did not and were very satisfied. This included the Garden Cafe for breakfast and lunch, and the main restaurants for dinners. I enjoyed the fresh fruit, the freshly prepared omelets, the chocolate pastries, the eggs benedict, the soups, the salads, the marinated chicken, the fried cod, and the beef ribs. Be sure to check out each food station because they also had Indian food, Asian, pizza, sandwiches/paninis, freshly prepared pastas and sauces, and casseroles all in different areas of the buffet. I have had better desserts on other cruise lines yet I somehow always managed to find the bread pudding and vanilla sauce every day...! If the buffet table sections are too noisy or crowded, you can bring your plate into Mama's restaurant during breakfast and lunch. If the crowd in the Garden Cafe scares you, then another smaller buffet area is set up in the Great Outdoors Aft from which you can enjoy your meal alfresco. The dining room for breakfast and lunch is always an option too but we only ate there at night. For six dinners, we ate in either Tzars or Azura, the two main restaurants. We found a variety of choices and it took a while to notice the menus are not the same for both. Both restaurants have the left side of menu that changes every night. Although the right side of the menu remains the same each night, they are not the same for both restaurants. This was a pleasant discovery. Since we were not eating meats or pastas for dinners most nights, we enjoyed perch, salmon, mahi mahi, and Caribbean lobster tail. Ask your server what the Chef's regional specialty is each evening. Try at least one specialty restaurant. We ate at Le Bistro the last evening and enjoyed the French onion soup, escargot and the beef tenderloin. On any NCL ship, always attend the cruise critic meet and greet if one is set up on your roll call. They make the most effort out of all the cruise lines I have sailed (Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Holland America) to have as many officers available to meet you and to answer your questions. At our cruise critic meet and greet a question asked of the officers was whether or not a traditional Thanksgiving dinner would be served on this sailing. Hugo Vanosmael, the Hotel Director, answered a special delivery of turkeys had been ordered and a special menu created in the dining rooms for that particular evening. The Thanksgiving dinner was better than I expected. Kudos go out to the executive chef and the to all the chefs who helped prepare it. As two middle aged females traveling without our hubbies and without children, we certainly enjoyed the entertainment available for all age groups! The entertainment on board varied. We often danced off our caloric intake from the early portions of our days into the hours after midnight in Spinnaker's Lounge. During the earlier evenings, we were fortunate not to miss Cirque Bijoux, Fire and Ice's performance in the atrium, Dancing With the Jewel Stars, and the White Hot Party. Even earlier hours than that, we were fortunate to not miss Magician Jean Pierre's presentation to the kids onboard, the 10 dollar Bingo session, the crew talent show, Nickleodeon's Slime Time Live, and the Captain/Chief Engineer/Hotel Director's question and answer session. The Jewel's ports of call occurred on three consecutive days. The only "shuttle" we selected in Port Canaveral was a round trip bus ride to Cocoa Beach. We walked the beach about a mile to a pier and then walked back. Ron Jon Surf Shop is nearby and the bus shuttle runs every ½ hour up until a certain time. Check out Florida weather before you go as sometimes it can be cooler than you think during the winter months. A short tender ride to the private island, Great Stirrup Cay, one can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, a giant inflatable water slide, walking trails, parasailing, kayaks, wave runners, and what appeared to be a future zip line set up. A beach barbecue is prepared and the ship's band plays nearby. The cruise staff hosts volleyball and dance activities but if you want more solitude, a short walk further down the beach area can provide more quiet. Plenty of beach chairs are now available, hammocks, new bar areas, a restaurant building, and more outdoor picnic areas are also more convenient to the passenger experience. Bathroom are also conveniently nearby. Do not go barefoot if you plan to explore the island beyond the beach area. Construction is still going on and we were glad to have sturdy flip flops and sneakers on our feet as we walked to the other side of island. Most activity on the island occurs in the late morning to early afternoon. The more quiet time (hence less crowded) is from 2pm until the last tender back to the ship. In Nassau, we got off the ship to walk around on land for an hour. The straw market is getting upgraded and lots of interesting souvenirs are available for purchase. Do not be overwhelmed by the offers of tours and people approaching you at the pier. A simple no thank you and keep walking will suffice if you are not interested. We returned in order to enjoy a quiet day at the Jewel pool area in the sun. Some passengers went to Atlantis, to public beaches, or to hotels that offered day rentals to use the pool/ocean/restaurant areas. Other excursions are available for purchase but if you do some research, you might save more money on your own. Just remember though, the ship leaves without you in case something happens while out on your own and you are not able to get back. All aboard is at 5:30pm and a few solo passengers were very lucky on this sailing to be walking on the gangway by 5:50pm. We spent all other moments onboard relaxing. My friend had a bamboo massage during the first day at sea and reported she enjoyed it very much. On embarkation day go to the spa and they will perform samples of what they offer on you. We joined the spa raffle for the prize giveaways but we forgot to attend the session in the afternoon. I enjoyed the salon onboard and had my hair colored, cut, and styled. My final price was still a better deal than what I pay to have it done in Montreal. Shhhhh, do not tell NCL this! The price was even better when I purchased a future NCL cruise deposit that enabled me to receive an extra 100 dollar onboard credit. David Ward, the onboard Cruise Consultant Manager promotes this very well. He also runs the onboard latitudes desk and gives the talks about cruising NCL. He is extremely knowledgeable about the business, is very friendly, and fun to talk to. At the silver/gold/platinum party he took time to visit with each guest in attendance as did HD Hugo and the Group services coordinator. Anytime we saw Hugo or David or other officers/staff/crew throughout the week they all were very gracious, very professional, and ensuring a great vacation experience for the passengers. A passenger comment made on day 2 at the cruise critic gathering was regarding the entire staff and how the Jewel seemed to be such a happy ship overall. Even the front desk staff in the atrium appeared happy by the end of the week and some of know what they have to put up with sometimes. Any time I asked for a printout of my charges, they were always very accommodating. I do this a few times a week and it is very easy to do when walking by. Know however it can get busy on the last day or evening as everyone else has the same idea! I appreciated the employee who assisted passengers as they waited in line by asking their need ahead of time so he could help direct them. All I needed was to drop off a few thank you letters and he said he would take them and deliver to the appropriate mail box. This saved me time to enjoy the remaining hours of vacation and I was impressed with the overall service. I am very fortunate and very thankful at this point in my life to be able to cruise. A day will come when it will not be this easy. During any holiday week make sure to take time to count your blessings and to appreciate those who help make a vacation special. I am grateful to NCL for consistently providing me with vacations to share with family, friends, with cruise critic members, or to enjoy all by myself. After sailing the Jewel during a busy holiday week, I came home relaxed, rested, rejuvenated, and recuperated. My husband is extremely thankful for that too! Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Embarkation - Barangaroo, Wharf 5, in Darling Harbour. It was a very positive experience beginning with a warm welcome from the happy baggage handlers outside the big white tent and finishing as we were greeted by the onboard Sea Princess ... Read More
Embarkation - Barangaroo, Wharf 5, in Darling Harbour. It was a very positive experience beginning with a warm welcome from the happy baggage handlers outside the big white tent and finishing as we were greeted by the onboard Sea Princess staff who took our photographs for ID purposes. It was all handled very professionally and expeditiously. Our inside stateroom on Plaza Deck was compact. It was what we paid for and suited our needs. There was plenty of drawers and cupboard space for all our clothing and possessions. Our cases fitted nicely under our bed making the room much more comfortable. Carlo, our cabin steward, was most helpful whenever we approached him for either ship information or service. We chose traditional dining in the Traviata Dining Room and the wait staff, Joseph Levita & Victor Barerra, appointed to care for our needs provided exceptional service especially when my husband became unwell and was absent from the dining room. Shouldn't overlook the services of the Head Waiter and Maitre D who also offered alternative dining options for him. We couldn't fault the food in the Dining Room. It was delicious and hot. The presentation was what we would expect in a good restaurant in any capitol city. Horizon Court offered a more casual dining experience and there was a good range of dishes to select from and some other options included a Grill Bar and Pizzeria. Entertainment -,Didn't miss any of the production shows. The entertainers and dancers did a superb job considering the sea was not always flat while they were entertaining us. The Piano players attracted huge crowds in the evenings. So many choices in the daily patter, you could never be bored. The Cruise Director, Peter Tregett and his staff took great pains to make the trip enjoyable and were always good for a laugh. Ports of Call Pahia in the Bay of Islands, a tiny tender port -, shuttle or 2-3 km walk into town for a little retail therapy in the local shops and small market set up in the local park. Auckland, the ship pulled into a berth more or less on one of the main streets of this hilly city. Closeby was the free Link Bus that took you to the top of the town and back. The Port of Tauranga also had an excellent local bus service that ran from the "I" site building just outside and to the right of the port entrance gates. The more active passengers turned left outside of the port entrance gates, strolled along the promenade and then either up or around Mt Manganui. Wellington, another hilly city. Shuttled into town then caught the cable car up to the top where we wandered around Kelvin Grove, a very pretty suburb with its attractive weatherboard houses and narrow stairways that lead off the street to access these properties and the adjoining botanic gardens before going back into the town. A short walk from the shuttle is the seafront where there are a number of art galleries and museums. Don't miss the Maritime Museum. Arkaroa, another tender port, that hosts a charming village that was settled by both the British and French. Take time to walk around the streets and enjoy looking at some of the small, older, historic homes. Caught a Cityline bus from the end of the pier into Christchurch via the Banks Pass. Dunedin, another shuttle connection, this time the ship was berthed about 10-12 km out of town. From memory it was $A10 or $NZ 15 for the journey. The shuttle stopped in the centre of the city and being by myself I hopped on a city hopper bus ($NZ15) Fiordland The highlight of the sailing was through 3 sounds ending in Milford, the shimmering silver of the mountains and sea in the early morning through to clearer skies where you could see large mountains jutting out of the sea, some with remains of the winter snows and waterfalls crashing over the rocky mountain faces. Superb scenery for any keen photographer. Captain Martin Stenzel steered a steady course and made the journey as comfortable as possible given that at times the seas were running rather steadily. Unfortunately, we had to miss Napier due to high winds and changing sea conditions which would have made it impossible for the ship to dock safely. I was very impressed that within 2 hours Princess had revised the Sea Day Patter and provided a greater range of entertainment for passengers in lieu of our port visit. I organized the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle for this sailing. The Carnival staff in Sydney provided pre-cruise advice and an introduction to James Easton, First Purser " Administration, who was my onboard contact person. It was held in the Razzmatazz Lounge and everything went as planned. Cruise Critic members were delighted to have the opportunity to meet Captain Stenzel and many of his senior staff who took time out of their busy schedules to come and talk to us. Feedback from Cruise Critic members indicated that they all similarly enjoyed their cruising experience and only had good things to say about Princess. We were both impressed by the professionalism showed by all staff members we encountered and congratulate the Princess Line for this. It was a great cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Over all, we had a great time. And my kids especially enjoyed it; they have fantastic kids' programs for all ages (both oldest son and youngest son ended up with the 11-13 year olds all week). So bottom line, if you have ... Read More
Over all, we had a great time. And my kids especially enjoyed it; they have fantastic kids' programs for all ages (both oldest son and youngest son ended up with the 11-13 year olds all week). So bottom line, if you have children or grand children, this is a fantastic cruise! Lots and lots of activities for the kids, lots of family type events, etc. They do have adult only sections so once you drop the kids off at their activity (youngest son and oldest son came and went on their own since it was the 11-13 year olds), then you can find some quiet areas. Also, after 9:00 p.m., a lot of the lounges that were open for kids were now off limits. Not an issue normally but we really wanted to do some family game nights and we never found a place to do that after 9:00 p.m. That was kind of a bummer for us. The food was just OK. Some dishes that were supposed to be hot were cold, others had little flavor while other dishes were fabulous! I guess we were spoiled by the Regent Seven Seas Mariner but now that I look at their current prices, I really cannot compare them to Disney. It's like comparing a Four Seasons hotel to a Best Western or Holiday Inn Express (we love BW and HI). Apples and oranges. But for the value, it was excellent. We spent about $1200 per person and we had 2 seperate staterooms. The same 2 staterooms on the Regent Mariner would be a lot more! Also, you do have to tip and pay for all alcoholic drinks on the Disney Cruise. On the Mariner, it's ALL included. On the Disney Cruise, we had to pay for just about everything including internet. It does add up but not what we would pay on the Mariner! (We paid an additional $1500 for shore excursion, internet access, surcharge for the adult only restaurant, alcohol, club sodas, lava flows for the kids and laundry). The noise level was over the top. I guess I should have expected this since it was a holiday cruise and the ship was full. Lots and lots of small children. Even some of the 11-13 year olds were allowed (by their parents) to run wild. Not my kids' style, thankfully! When we walked into the dining room the first night (and this was after watching the kids run up and down the hallway), it was quite loud. All hard surfaces and many of the parents ignored their children as they banged their spoons and forks on their plates. It did settle down a bit as the cruise went on and we changed dining rooms each night (rotation dining). We ate a peaceful and quiet dinner on the 2nd night in their very casual restaurant since none of us felt like dressing up (formal night). On the 3rd night, my husband and I went to the adults only restaurant (an extra $20 surcharge per person) and it was a lot more like what we experienced all over the Mariner. It was very quiet (except for some large adult parties) and the food was outstanding. We cancelled our reservations for Saturday night to have dinner with the kids; I kind of wished we had not done that and enjoyed yet another great meal at that restaurant (called Palo on the Disney Wonder). I asked my husband to move to the later seating but he really wanted to eat at the main seating (he gets up early to workout since he is a triathlete). So I told him to get ear plugs! I was told by our server and main server that the second seating has a lot less kids and is somewhat quieter. I was very impressed with the service! On the 1st night, I guess they could tell my husband was a bit annoyed (mostly at the 4 year old, curly haired blonde boy that played the drums on his plate all evening while his mother at the other end of the table completely ignored him), the Head Server asked us there was anything he could do for us. Well, the bok choy with oldest son's meal was outstanding! And my husband was hoping for some green vegetable. So he came back in a few minutes with a huge bowl of the bok choy and a 2nd bowl of steamed broccoli. Also, whenever we went to the Outlook Cafe and Lounge (an adults only place), "Vendy", our server from the Czech Republic) automatically brought me a class of La Crema Chardonnay and a club soda with lime. This so impressed this other family on the 5th night when I sat down to say hi! The bar tender at Diversions was equally responsive to our needs. My husband and I had some difficulty finding activities we liked. The trivia games were fun. I'm not a big fan of Bingo but that seemed to be a big hit with a lot of other folks. The live entertainment was very "Disney" and more suitable for smaller children and total Disney freaks (there were a lot of these on the ship!). They had a great movie theatre and showed first run movies. Unfortunately, I missed Cars 2 and I do not want to see The Help until I finish the book (which I read on the cruise). They also showed the new Muppets movie the morning it opened (at 12:01 a.m.). We liked most of the lounges and enjoyed meeting other parents with kids our age. The adult only lounge at the bow of the ship was a popular place to get an after dinner drink after the kids took off for their kids club. Very quiet, adult's playing cards and we met quite a few folks there. It also had a killer view! There was no Bridge playing on the ship. But a lot of grandparents. I was surprised that this was not an activity like it was on the last cruises we took (the 1st being NCL with my mom in 2000 and again on the Mariner to Alaska, all had Bridge time). The kids clubs were fantastic and I think this is what would bring me back to a Disney cruise. They had 5 different areas: The Vibe for ages 14-18 just for teens (and they did not allow anyone younger), The Edge for ages 11-13 and the kids could come and go as they pleased, The Oceaneers' Lab for ages 8-10 and Oceaneer's Club, ages 3-10 with some younger activities. Kids could come and go as they please at the Lab but ONLY with parents permission (they had to wear an electronic bracelet). Unfortunately, the activities were a bit "babyish" for youngest son and he did not have very much fun. But then on the 2nd day, we met a family with the same aged children and she told me that her almost 10 year old was going to The Edge. Since they never checked the kids, I thought I would just let youngest son go in. He loved it and fit right in! My youngest son hangs out with his big brother's friends (all in 7th grade) all of the time. They also had a Nursery, play room for the babies and toddlers. We never went in there :). My kids spent most of their time in The Edge with all of their activities including Xbox 360 games, Wii, card games, scavenger hunts, t-shirt painting, Dodge Ball, or on the Sports Court playing soccer or basketball. We also discovered that we all love Foosball! Looks like Santa may be delivering one of those this Christmas. We often hung out at the Outlook Cafe or in loungers near the bow while they played. On Saturday, it was too windy on the Sports Court (we were heading back up Baja at this time), so my husband set up a server (he bought a router at the Wal-Mart in Puerto Vallarta) and they had a Quake Fest in the Diversions Lounge with 4 college aged kids. It was quite the site to see the 7 of them playing Quake! I relaxed and read. So if you thinking about this cruise with your grandkids, it was fabulous. Disney does a great job with the kids and the adult areas were extremely nice. Don't expect the food to be "Cafe Firenze" but it was OK. Also, if you absolutely LOVE Disney and enjoy all that Disney offers in shows, characters (my husband got to ride the elevator with Donald Duck), than it's also fun. The Disney Vacation Club members were all over this cruise and they eat, breath and live Disney. ;) With no kids, stay in the adult area sections, eat at the late seating (8:45 p.m.) and hang out in the lounges. So my friends asked me to be honest about the noise. It bothered both my husband and me and we have kids! So maybe another cruise line geared towards adults might be a better choice if you are sensitive to the noise level generated by children unless you want to try my suggestions. They were very strict about not letting children in the adult only sections. They had a fabulous Cadillac Lounge in the Route 66 area (yes, an entire area devoted to Route 66) and the piano bar was great. I told them they needed to add a picture of the Cadillac Ranch in Texas to be complete! Also, the carpet had the entire Route 66 map from Santa Monica to Chicago. But for some reason, it stopped at Santa Rosa, NM and resumed at St Louis. I gave them a real hard time about skipping Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas especially since the National Route 66 museum is in Oklahoma! The location of our staterooms was key. Mid-ship (minimum movement), on the same level and right around the corner as The Edge, only one deck from the main dining and lounges. We also had easy access to the elevators, stairs and laundry room! I guess my biggest disappointment was the quality of food (which would explain why I actually lost weight!). The pool areas that were open to the children were zoo like on sea days (again, the ship was full because of the holiday). Neither one of my children opted to swim on the ship; just too hectic! But the younger kids seem to enjoy it quite a lot. A comment on loungers in the pool area. I noticed a lot of people dropping off their stuff to save their place and then take off. The Disney pool staff was well aware of this practice and if they saw this happening, they would take the towels off the loungers to free it up for someone who would actually use it. Of course, if you went into the pool for a little while, they would not do this. But some "campers" were obvious. For instance, my youngest son and I wanted a place to sit and eat lunch. We had a table but not chairs. I borrowed two chairs from a table behind me just long enough to eat. I thought I would wait until they came back and return their chairs. They never came back. The Disney staff also did a great job with getting more chairs, etc. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We couldn't have asked for a better cruise! After reading a number of negative reviews on this ship our expectations were fairly low so we were delighted when this cruise proved to be nothing like anything we'd been ... Read More
We couldn't have asked for a better cruise! After reading a number of negative reviews on this ship our expectations were fairly low so we were delighted when this cruise proved to be nothing like anything we'd been anticipating. We found our cabin, although quite small, to be very comfortable with lots of storage. It was spotlessly clean and our cabin steward was eager to please at all times. We were impressed when we were boarding that as he showed us to our cabin he already knew our names - we'd told him our cabin number and he welcomed us on board and used our surname! It is only a little thing....but it is what I expect from 5-star service and not necessarily for passengers located on Deck 4, as we were, and not in an owner's suite. So this was a nice start :) Bathroom was small also but the ribbed shower curtain was a definite plus - no wet curtain sticking to you as you shower. We've been on other ships where that shower curtain (un-ribbed) is nothing but a nuisance. We'd arranged for a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet which Leonie (Group Service Co-ordinator) organised for us in the Napa Wine Bar. Two Officers came and met with us, Dallas (Hotel Director) and Frank (Food and Beverage Director), and talked about the ship and answered any questions we had. It was lighthearted, very informative and a great way to begin our cruise. It was also a lovely to meet the eight other CC folks and we seemed to bump into them fairly often throughout the cruise and managed to catch up for dinner with some them of them at various times which we enjoyed very much. As it turned out all of us who attended the M&G were also invited to an Officer's table for dinner on the Tuesday evening after our day in Hilo. What a lovely surprise! We were split up at different tables and at our table was Steve (in charge of staff) and Brian (in charge of fire safety). It was a wonderful evening in the Liberty Main Dining Room. Our table shared good food and lots of laughter. It was lots of fun and very memorable. (Thank you POA!) The food served in the Dining Rooms was good to very good. Not 5-star fine dining by any means but fresh, attractively served and very enjoyable. We mainly had our meals in the Liberty and somehow we always had good service although I did hear stories of long waiting times. Apparently the first evening in Kauai the service was very slow due to the fact that the one of the main dining rooms was closed as a huge number of people were ashore for a luau. This night we had chosen to have a quick light meal at the Cadillac Cafe as we'd done a sunset cruise on a catamaran sailing past the Na Pali coast and they had served a delicious chicken and salad meal before we docked at 6pm. We tried the Lazy J Steakhouse one evening and the steak was "to die for" - absolutely melt in your mouth fillet steaks and definitely worth the cover charge. We enjoyed this restaurant as service was exceptional and food mostly great. We did not enjoy the prawn cocktail - prawns tasted very watery and did not have much flavour - probably frozen and thawed. All, and I do mean ALL, the staff were wonderful. We did not come across one member of staff in any area of the ship who was unhelpful, surly or less than friendly. Without exception they were eager to assist and always smiling. We had been a little worried about the tendering process at Kona as on various other ships we've been on tendering sometimes proved to be a long drawn out process. Not here! Smooth and quick and no waiting time at either end. I wish I could say the same for the initial embarkation in Honolulu. Two hours is an awful long time to stand in a queue! Maybe the fact that Apec was starting in Honolulu that morning had something to do with the slowness of being able to board....but maybe not. Maybe its a current occurrence. I would have thought though that since the POA does this week after week that they would have a smooth system in place. Even to have had the rows sign-posted better could have helped. It wasn't until we were finally near the front of the queue that we could see the sign that said "Latitudes".....hmmm, if only that had been at the end of that long row!! That is my one and only complaint otherwise everything was just perfect. The ports, the cruise, the ship, the passengers, the cabins etc etc was perfect, perfect perfect. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
November 19th - Overnight Stay We arrived in New Orleans Saturday the 19th and stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Downtown Superdome. The hotel has a cruise deal, and we were able to park for free with a one night stay. They have a ... Read More
November 19th - Overnight Stay We arrived in New Orleans Saturday the 19th and stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Downtown Superdome. The hotel has a cruise deal, and we were able to park for free with a one night stay. They have a shuttle to the port, but no return shuttle, so you need to take a cab back. November 20th - Embarkation Embarkation day we woke early, had a light breakfast, and headed downstairs for the shuttle. We arrived at the Erato Street Cruise Terminal before 10:30. There are no automated check-in kiosks, but the lines were short--there are different lines for different decks. We had our Sail and Sign cards before 11, and were told that boarding might start within 20-30 minutes. At 11:30 someone announced that people could begin taking embarkation photos (a backdrop was set up near the center of the terminal.) VIPs and those needing assistance began boarding at about 11:40. The buffet (Restaurant Cezanne) was crowded when we finally made it to the Lido Deck shortly after noon, so we waded through to the grill at the aft pool area for burgers. Afterwards we wandered for a bit and took pictures. The twin cantilever bridges of the Crescent City Connection are an imposing presence off the bow of the ship in port. Our cabin--7201, a forward-facing obstructed view (see pictures: http://www.cruiselinerooms.com/view_room.php?r_id=1992) --was available before 1:30 and our luggage was waiting for us at the door. We spent some time putting things away in the four drawers and three ample closets. There was room for everything we brought, including the kitchen sink. We also decorated our door and room with Thanksgiving cutouts from a party store. The room was square with the bathroom off the entry hall. The bed was under the windows. They call it an obstructed view, but you actually had a great view of the deck, the sky, and anything off the bow, unless you wanted to look down. There are doors port and starboard that access the deck in front of the room. The windows are tinted, so you can't see into the cabins unless the lights are on and you get close to the glass. Since you are required, for navigation reasons, to keep your drapes closed after sundown, and the deck doors are locked then, there was no fear of anyone peeping. Ida, our room steward, introduced herself--we saw her many times during the cruise, and were always warmly greeted by name, and with a vibrant smile. She and her assistants always did a great job. The Conquest's thrusters began moving us from the pier at about 4:40. The sun was setting, and the lights were coming on along the New Orleans Skyline. The Lido Deck was rocking with Kool Runningz on the deck 10 stage overlooking the main pool area and the small stage where ACD "Squishy," "Princess Jasmine" (Marilyn from Canada) and Ryan were dancing. Off our port side, the beautiful city began to roll by until... The fog bank must have been waiting for us just downriver. Visibility dropped from miles to mere feet in seconds. We would see NOLA no more until we returned. Adrienne Barbou and Hal Holbrook were spotted by several cruisers. Our table in the Renoir Dining Room was number 646--a table for two along the upper rail on the port side near the Maitre D's station. Renoir's main lever caters to Your-Time-Dining. We, however, had requested and received early seating, which works out best for the two of us. Our head waiter was Ruel, and the team waiter who assisted our end of Ruel's section was Lazaro. The food was excellent, including Alligator Fritters (Didja Ever?) and prime rib. The service was outstanding. The waiters sang "That's Amore," and we felt we were home. After dinner we tried to get into the Game Show Mania, but technical difficulties kept us from a near certain Ship-On-A-Stick. November 21st and 22nd - Sea Days Breakfast was partaken of in the buffet both days, followed by before wandering the ship and general R&R. The Conquest's Joe Farcus décor is actually pleasant and interesting in its French Impressionist and Post Impressionist motif. There are reproductions of famous paintings virtually everywhere. In addition, the ship was decorated for Christmas with trees in various places, green garland strung in the atrium, and wreaths on pillars. Lunch was Sur Mer fish and chips or the Deli on deck 9. The deck 10 area of the buffet is quieter and less crowded than the lower level, so it makes for a pleasant place to eat. Quite a few people filled their plates on deck 9 and walked up to eat on 10. Dinners included Alligator Fritters (Didja Ever?), Prime Rib, Studies in Sushi (try the one with the Wasabi paste if you want your eyes wide open,) and Jerk Pork Loin. When the waiters dance a large number of women join them. We didn't see any men do that. I wonder why? We attended Voila Paris! Yes, it's pretty much the same show we saw on Destiny last October, but it was still good. The dancers were better on Conquest, and the singers were better on Destiny. Degas Lounge on deck 5 was the location for the Punchliner Comedy Club, and we had fun at the show put on by Mark Theobald. Hint: don't sit near the doors starboard side doors. People continuously filing in and out were a distraction. November 23rd - Montego Bay Jamaica We had no excursion booked for Mo-Bay, so we spent some time at the nearby shops and the bar in the port. We took the gangway picture and the "Rasta Man" picture on debarking, but as we were returning to the ship my "brotha from another motha," another "Rasta Man" grabbed us for a picture and asked for a few bucks. That's Jamaica; well, that and the ubiquitous Bob Marley... and Rum... and coffee. After lunch we spent a very pleasant time at the lobby bar talking with Jina, the marvelous bartender from Manila. Seriously, she made our afternoon most pleasant. While we were there "Be a Trivia Master" started up, so we grabbed sheets and a couple golf pencils and joined in. Ryan was the host, and he made sure we didn't cheat by having us pass our completed sheets to strangers for checking. In spite of this he looked at me suspiciously when I announced that I had 19 of 20 correct. Ha! He still had to give up that Ship-On-A-Stick! After trivia was Giant Tumble. It's a giant Jenga game. Imagine playing Jenga on a listing deck. We almost won another Ship. It was a blast! If you sail Conquest, don't miss the magic show. Lady Hellevi is a dancer, aerialist and master magician who, along with the dancers, puts on an exciting show. November 24th - Grand Cayman We left the ship shortly after breakfast. Grand Cayman is a nice place to walk around, although we stayed fairly close to port because we had an excursion at 11:30. We had enough time for browsing and for pictures before we had to get back to meet our excursion. The bus ride north (on the wrong side of the road!) took us past stores, hotels and golf courses on our way to one of the many quays on Governors Creek. It also reminded me why I hate roundabouts. The snorkeling was wonderful! The water was crystal clear and the barrier reef teemed with life. The rays part of the excursion was at what they call deep stingray city. Rather than the wading-on-the-sandbar experience, this is another snorkel in about 10' of water. The tour operators toss calamari into the water to coax the rays up. This was fine, except that they wanted everybody bunched together, making a scrum of fins, elbows and bottoms. This was also Thanksgiving! Turkey and stuffing were on the menu in the dining room. The shrimp appetizer wasn't exactly traditional, but who cares. November 25th - Cozumel Another excursion day: Mayan Ruins and Beach, a four hour tour... a four hour tour. We looked around the shops of Puerta Maya, taking note of some places we wanted to stop in when we got back. It turns out that this wasn't such a great idea. We were 45 minutes late starting out because our guide, Jorge, had to wait for a couple people. The bus ride took us past houses with bars on the windows and graffiti on the walls until we reached the jungle. The San Gervasio Mayan ruins are about 9mi northeast of the cruise port, as the crow flies. There are no big step pyramids to climb, but the tour was interesting and we got some good pictures of ruins and iguanas. After San Gervasio, and a short primer on buying coral jewelry by our guide, it was off to Playa Azul, a private beach, restaurant and hotel about six miles north of the cruise port. First, let me say that it is a beautiful setting for the restaurant, which is located in a very large open cabana. Now, that I've said that, I must say it wasn't exactly what we expected. For some reason we thought we were going to be on a smooth bow of white sand and wading beach. This is not the case. There are two short piers, and a small sandy area filled with lounge chairs. The shallows are rocky and somewhat treacherous for wading, but also ideal for snorkeling: it's a good thing I brought mine. We had sandwiches and cervezas at the restaurant, snorkeled and generally lazed around until the bus was supposed to pick us up. "Supposed" is the right word, by the way. We were informed by Jorge as our pickup time neared that the bus would be a few minutes late. Fine, it was a nice place to be, as long as the bus wasn't too late. It was 45 minutes late, which meant that we were an hour and a half behind because we started out 45 minutes late and nothing had been rushed to catch up. When our bus finally arrived it was filled with passengers from the HAL ship docked next to Conquest. Apparently they were late as well because several passengers decided to skip the beach and ride back with us. In spite of everything, we still expected to have a little time for shipping. That's when got stuck in traffic in San Miguel! We'd been going along fine until we reached downtown, and then we slowed to a crawl past the shops and downtown cruise port. Traffic didn't ease up. In fact, we came to a dead stop in front of a bar where a group of people were standing around and laughing. A taxi was stalled in front of our bus. The cars that preceded us had been able to get around the taxi, but our bus could not. Our driver and the tour guide fairly leaped off the bus to find out what was going on. Apparently, the taxi had been in an accidente, and the taxi driver refused to move until her supervisor came to the scene to assess the damage. Jorge and the driver both got on their cell phones, alternating between their phone conversations and yelling something about "tarde" at the taxi driver and others hanging around. As it neared 4:30, the time we were supposed to be back on the ship, we knew we wouldn't be shopping. We were just glad we'd booked a Carnival excursion, because the ship wasn't going to leave without us. We didn't get back on board until just before 5. Didja ever have escargot bourguignon? Kinda apropos after moving through San Miguel at a snail's pace. After dinner was the Battle of the Sexes in the main lounge. Men on one side of the theater and women on the other, it was a close contest until a gaffe by the captain of the male team. I was teased about that for the remainder of the cruise. Mark Hawkins was hilarious in the Punchliner Comedy Club that night. He did an impression of Captain Alfonso Verdoliva on the intercom that had everyone roaring with laughter, "Big ship wins!" We spent some time afterwards listening to Davis in Vincent's Bar. Davis does a great job--just him with his guitar and backing tracks. He also encourages some passengers perform on his stage, either with him playing or on their own. November 26th - Sea Day Last day of the cruise. The Gulf was choppy as we yawed, pitched and rolled our way north. It was cloudy and occasionally rainy, as well. It was a day of on board shopping for last-minute souvenirs, of packing, and of just absorbing everything around us one last time. You know, I just realized that I haven't mentioned Paul Santley, the cruise director. He's funny, often in a corny and self-deprecating way, personable, and a good singer. His morning shows with Squishy are very like watching Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Frog Legs in a Provencale herb and butter sauce started off our last meal in the Renoir dining room, followed by prime rib again. During desert the waiters sang about our leaving the Fun Ship, and we thought about stowing away. November 27th - New Orleans It had been warm in New Orleans when we left. It was now cold. Debarkation went smoothly. We were zone 15, and the estimate of when we would be called was 9:15: they pretty much nailed it. The line to baggage took awhile, but our luggage was easy to spot once we got there. We cleared Customs without a hitch and got a cab to the hotel at the front of the cab stand just 100' or so outside the door. The cab cost $14 to the Holiday Inn Superdome, but the cab driver said he'd had to wait over two hours to get into line for his first fare, so we tipped well. It was a wonderful cruise, and the Conquest is a great ship. We'd sail her again in a heartbeat, although we're thinking of the smaller Elation for our next cruise, for right now, "Big ship wins!" Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Best Cruise we have been on to date..... about the same as Holland America but more things to do on RCI. People complain a lot about cruises, but I think after talking to Staff, a lot of customers are Demanding, Self Centered, Selfish, ... Read More
Best Cruise we have been on to date..... about the same as Holland America but more things to do on RCI. People complain a lot about cruises, but I think after talking to Staff, a lot of customers are Demanding, Self Centered, Selfish, Rude, Ignorant, High Maintenance, and Cheap.... Little or No TIP. We had a FREE Shuttle from our Hotel in Newark to the Dock, right on time. Boarding was typical for US,... Shuttles, Lines, Security and some waiting time but overall Efficient. What do you expect with 3500 people trying to get on the same Boat. I didnt have all Documents with me and the Boarding Agent was Patient, Kind and very friendly. THAT set the tone for our Cruise. GOOD STUFF Went to the Buffet and had a great lunch, lots of variety, could have called it supper with both Hot and Cold Foods being served. Staff encourage you to Sanitize your hands at stations before entering Dining areas...... some people ignore and walk right by. They might be the ones that get sick and complain. Always get Good Pictures. Staff are helpful, seem happy and eager to help. We loved the Evening Shows, Ice Shows, Hot tubs, Health Spa, Promenade, Dining, Windjammer Cafe, Shore Excursions Including... Wave Runners on Labadee, Best of Antigua tour, Train Tour on St. Kitts and Wife had a nice Massage on Board Ship. ALL food was excellent, I dont know how people complain about food, maybe they need to try another form of travel. We did sit with some people who picked things apart and bragged about getting extra service and apologies for things that are not the fault of the cruise line. Room Attendants are always great we find and keep rooms tidy and ready. Promenade always has Coffee Shop open for snacks and drinks, you never go hungry. THINGS TO IMPROVE ? You can always find fault if you look hard enough, there's 3500 people on board with 1200 Staff, somebody has to wait at some point. Many Nationalities, Customs and Languages on board. You need patience and understanding..... Relax, its supposed to be a Holiday. Even I got a little anxious in some of the lineups. Things That DID Bug me but not unusual with large groups: - People that dont respect Line ups or Queues and simply butt in or go to the head of the line and pretend they dont get it. - Coffee and tea at the Windjammer Beverage stations. Area is a one way dead end where there is room for one person at a time to get drinks. Waiters are in the way a lot and also will butt ahead of you to get drinks for people who are too lazy to get their own drinks. Thought it was BUFFET style.. serve yourself !!! - Movie Theatre seats were a fun time. Its a chess game to get a good view of the screen. Room is not sloped enough and as people come in later and sit in front of you, you have to move and/or block someone else..... it actually became funny and a game with people trying for a better view or mumbling and leaving. Movies were good. - Went to a 'Secrets to Tummy Flattening' seminar to maybe learn an exercize I wasnt aware of. Was told there were no exercises but a DETOX test costing $37 and detoxing sessions costing $500 - $700 is the ticket. Wife didnt bother going to the Puffy Eyes and circles seminar as we agreed that too would cost Hundreds to fix. - Some people dont like to share the Elevators and will butt in front of you knowing full well you were there first and waiting longer. - People who put towels on lounge chairs near the pool and never come back. - Same people always trying to save multiple seats at Theatre and ice rink even though its not supposed to be allowed. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Parking in Southampton was easy, and boarding the Ship was far easier than last year. Our rooms were not ready when we boarded, so we were advised we could go and watch a film, go to windjammers or head to a bar. We decided to go to the ... Read More
Parking in Southampton was easy, and boarding the Ship was far easier than last year. Our rooms were not ready when we boarded, so we were advised we could go and watch a film, go to windjammers or head to a bar. We decided to go to the bar and purchase a drinks package, at $39 for my partner and $49 for me. This I feel is quite reasonable. We are not very big drinkers however it was best knowing exactly what we were spending. My time dining in the King Lear was fantastic, we had two wonderful waiters Rohinton (Rocky) and Caiton. These guys are a credit to the Royal Caribbean. Nothing was too much trouble, the service was first class and as you would expect there was a wide range of selection for meals. We visited many bars whilst on board, and tended to visit the Vintage Bar on most occasions. The staff (Claire, Christine and Christopher) were free friendly and ran their bar well. Six of us tended to meet up there most nights and the staff remembered our names and our drinks order without having to be reminded. Our stateroom was kept clean by our stateroom attendant Leo, however this was not to the standard of our stateroom last year. Often it looked as if he had rushed around and not paid too much attention to detail. I was disgusted by some of the passengers in the way they spoke to the staff and to fellow passengers. Some can be described as nothing but snobs - its such a shame how judgmental people can be. I pity them for their outlook on life and that they feel they should constantly complain about the most trivial things. Trying to get our cases in Southampton was not the best experience as it was havoc. This does need to be improved, as it took over 15 mins to locate our luggage. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We always arrive for our cruise a few days ahead of time and stay a few days after so we aren't rushed. We stayed at the Sleep Inn & Suites in Dania as we did last year on the Oasis. The staff are pleasant, the rooms okay and they ... Read More
We always arrive for our cruise a few days ahead of time and stay a few days after so we aren't rushed. We stayed at the Sleep Inn & Suites in Dania as we did last year on the Oasis. The staff are pleasant, the rooms okay and they have shuttle back and forth to the airport and port. Embarkation - A breeze just like it was on the Oasis. RCI seems to put their best customer relations and friendliest staff in the boarding area which really helps with first impressions. We didn't need to acquaint ourselves with the ship so we headed directly to the Solarium for a quiet lunch. Next we were off to the Flow-rider and were the first ones on it as soon as it opened. I had been on it back in 2006 on the Freedom and last year on the Oasis so I knew it filled up fast. The staff there were fantastic and gave my friend and I one on one attention. Orientation - We always visit the Dining Room to check our table assignment. It was next to the Captains table like last year so there are benefits to being repeat cruisers. There was one lady though who was upset with her seating and she really let them know it. She had no patience and staff did not deserve to be chastised the way she did (there are some people who should not cruise or even leave the house). Our luggage arrived shortly after we got back from a quick tour of the ship. The amenities on most RCI ships are located in much the same areas on the ship so navigating around for us is a breeze. They also have information screens on each floor for the uninitiated so nobody should have an excuse for getting lost. Sea days/shows- our itinerary had 3 seas days which is a must for this ship and even then you might not get to enjoy everything it has to offer. Having to schedule the shows in advance is a bit of nuisance. It also created problem when shows were cancelled or re-scheduled. There was an incident on our cruise in the dive pool which also created havoc in scheduling. There was often conflicts with show-times and they had to change venue locations a few times at the last minute due to private functions. The ship never seemed full although we spent most of the time in the solarium during sea days. We also ate in the solarium as the open hours for some of the other food venues was sporadic. RCI could do a better job of posting open hours for the venues. Dining - we pretty much kept to our late seating in the dining room. The staff there were not as attentive as we have had on other RCI ships and they seemed to be in a bit of a daze most of the time. They kept asking us to give them rave reviews which I suspect had something to do with the stress they were under to perform. We even tried Johnny Rockets one morning and it was very disorganized. We tend to avoid the Windjammer as it is a bit hectic in there. When we did venture in the selection seemed to be limited. I am sure the company is feeling the downturn in the economy and probably trying to do more with less like everyone else. As a repeat customer we do comparisons and the customer service on Allure was definitely not up to our expectations. Ports - Nassau looks a little tired and needs some attention. Even the walkway to the reception area is in need of repair. We were going to have a beer at Senor Frogs however the prices were crazy...we settled for a quieter place with reasonable prices. RCI could strike this port off their itinerary. St. Thomas was okay but is always a bit of a free-for-all to get a ride anywhere. We normally head off to St. John's for snorkeling but decided to do a beach on the island this time. It rained off and on all day so we were glad we stayed close-by. St. Maarten is one of our favourite ports. We for the afternoon. The ship could stand to stay in this port a little longer. All in the all the ship looks great. The entertainment staff were fantastic and the shows were awesome. We had Captain Johnny on the Mariner and once again he put on a show himself...RCI needs to scout out more captains like him. The only real negative we had on Allure was the service. I think the shear size of the ship has created an environment not unlike that of a huge all-inclusive resort where staff can get by on mediocrity. In future I think we will stick with the Freedom and Voyager class ships where the staff seem to be more attentive. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This was my and my 6 year old daughters first time on the Sensation but my 10th and my daughters 6th cruise. I found the Sensation as fun and nice as the Ecstasy. We had VIP boarding on this cruise since this was my first platinum cruise. ... Read More
This was my and my 6 year old daughters first time on the Sensation but my 10th and my daughters 6th cruise. I found the Sensation as fun and nice as the Ecstasy. We had VIP boarding on this cruise since this was my first platinum cruise. They knew we were coming and had everything ready for us. As usual the food service and and room service was fantastic. Our room steward was Picard. Our Head Waiter was Martin. Outstanding individuals. This was my first 4 day cruise. It was to Freeport and Nassau. I would recommend this particular cruise to anyone from first timers to seasoned cruisers that are just looking for a quick short trip. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We were fortunate enough to be able to take our second cruise this year. We took our first in the spring and I am addicted! We decided to take this cruise because it worked out with me taking time off work over the holiday. Our original ... Read More
We were fortunate enough to be able to take our second cruise this year. We took our first in the spring and I am addicted! We decided to take this cruise because it worked out with me taking time off work over the holiday. Our original plan was to fly down Wednesday and come back Monday after we debarked however Thanksgiving airfare was horrendous. We ended up taking a 6 am flight from IAD to MIA and staying an extra day on South Beach. Our flight was uneventful, we stopped at a Walgreens to buy 2 12 packs of soda which were a whopping $5 each. The cab fare was prorated to $25 to the port from the airport, we paid him a couple extra for taking us to Walgreens. We got to the port around 930 and were one of the first ones there! We easily used the kiosks ( they didn't have these in the San Juan terminal) and were given our sign and sail cards along with zone 1 boarding pass. It didn't get too packed until 10:30 or so and they started allowing us to board around 10:45. Embarking was easy, we headed to the lido grill to eat and then laid out on the aft loungers until our rooms were ready. They were finally ready around 1:30 and so we took a nap before the muster drill ( I was up all night doing some last minute packing). The muster drill went by fairly quickly and then we went to the Lido again for sail away. Everyone was waving to us from the cars as we left and it was really nice to go past South Beach as we were leaving. After sail away we walked around and learned our way around the ship. The Victory and the Destiny are pretty identical so it was pretty easy to get used to. We preferred the decor on the Destiny than the Victory but we preferred the Victory overall. The ship is showing some wear but is still overall a very nice ship. The pizza was a lot better on the Destiny, but the ice cream suffered as it was more a frozen yogurt consistency and just never seemed to be ready. My boyfriend enjoyed the buffet but the lines were quite long, while during the day I mostly ate at the grill or had pizza. We had dinner in the MDR 3 of the 4 nights, all except the formal night. We did the Pub Crawl in Key West so we napped and then didn't feel like getting a gussied up. The food in the MDR was pretty good, not as good of a selection as I remember the last cruise having but that may be because this was a 4 day. We had ATD which we have enjoyed both cruises. We were seated immediately every night and had average wait staff. Night 1 was Thanksgiving and I wasn't in the mood for the turkey so I had the fried chicken from the southern comfort section. It was good but the mashed potatoes side is small (do not recall the appetizer i had) and my BF had the steak and ribs. 3rd night I had the gazpacho which I didn't realize was chilled but was still good and the lasagna which was terrible, it didn't have much of any sauce and had a lot of spinach. My BF had the escargot which I also tried and thought it was very good and had the fried chicken for dinner. The 4th night I had spinach & artichoke dip and meatloaf which were both good. My BF had the sushi plate and steak. Sushi was a huge point for him on this cruise as he had at least 2 plates a day, the last night he had 6 including the plate in the MDR. I do not care for sushi but he says its delicious. We had room service a couple of time which was slow sometimes and other times came right away, always exactly what we ordered and great. We had the deli a couple of times which was also good and the line was never too long. I heard a lot before this cruise that the short 3 & 4 day cruises were "party/booze cruises" but we didn't encounter that at all. I'm not sure if it was because it was over thanksgiving but besides the casino bar they were never really packed and there wasn't a lot of people up late in the disco where we spent a couple of nights. We went to one of the adult comedy shows for Louis Ramey which was really funny and also caught the Love & Marriage show which was also good. We participated in the scavenger hunt on the day at sea but it was pretty unfair. They gave people points for things even though they got them wrong but didn't do it for everyone. The list for the scavenger hunt was pretty good and some things you need to think outside the box for. Key West We arrived at Key West on schedule but we didn't get off until 9:45 for our ship excursion. We booked the Key West Pub Crawl which was soooo much fun. Our tour guide was Beau and we hopped on a trolley to Mallory Square with a group of about 20. The crawl gives you a ticket for one drink at each of the 5 bars you stop at as well as a t shirt. The ticket covers either a domestic beer or well drink ( a drink with one shot of alcohol and one mixer , a cranberry & vodka or a rum & coke etc) or some had a house special. The first drink was a Bahama breeze or something which was pretty good. There is also a pizza place next door which was really good but $3.50 a slice. The 2nd bar was the flying monkeys saloon which was our favorite stop. They have slushie style drinks here which were amazing I had the chocolate one and my BF had the "grain train" which was 3 types of grain alcohol ( also a slushie style) which he said was also good, both were covered by our ticket. Next we stopped by the Schooner Wharf bar which was just past the recording studio Jimmy Buffet owns which was cool to see. We got the house special here which was just ok, this was our least favorite bar but it was right on the water which was pretty. Next we stopped by the Lazy Gecko which was kind of cool. Here they didn't have a special but they did offer you a deal that if you paid $1 you got to add an extra shot to your drink. I had malibu and orange juice and my BF had jim beam & coke with an extra shot. Next we went across the street to Ricks which was owned by the same person as the first bar so they also had the Bahama Breeze as the special. After this we walked around and shopped a little. We found a CVS for some pepto and then shopped some more. We had to be back by 1:30 so we headed toward Mallory square which had a HUGE line. We were docked at the navy pier so we couldn't just go through the port area. They stopped the trolley and checked the IDs and then we waited again to get back on board. As I said earlier we took a nap so we missed formal night but walked around the shop some more, looked at pictures and then went to latin music party in the down beats lounge. This was a pretty relaxing area, there was a large family that was dancing and having a great time. After this we just went up to lay on a lounger on the lido. I do wish that the itinerary was switched around so that we would be able to be in Key West at night or longer because there was not enough time there. We apparently had to slow down at night due to rough seas, I didn't feel this at all but we were delayed pulling into Cozumel until 1:30 instead of 1. The lines were EXTREME to get off the boat which worried me because we had booked the Discover Scuba excursion which was scheduled for 2. The lines moved pretty fast and we were off by 1:45. We got to the area where we were meeting but come to find out it had been cancelled due to rough surf. I really was not impressed on how this was handled as this was a carnival excursion. We were late docking and I'm sure there was plenty of time to call Carnival so they could let us know. We found one of the excursion people who gave us a book and told us we could get refunded or pick a new excursion but we had only a few minutes to do so. We decided to hang around the port since we didn't get a chance to really look over our options and had done very little research on anything because we had decided to do this months out. We had done this in St. Thomas and were looking forward to it very much. The port area was nice but we did have a negative experience with some of the store owners. I wont go into the long story but they really do not know how to price things based on the other stores around them for certain items. The sunglasses were very cheap and they wanted $45 there were other items priced a minimum of $20 more than what the store next door was charging and I was constantly harassed to buy jewelry that was insanely overpriced ( i know because he dropped a ring for $600 to $200). After doing some shopping we got back on to eat some at the buffet and grill. Afterwards we went back out to shop a little more and then drank at Fat Tuesdays, which seemed fairly priced but didn't seem to have much going on. We sat by the fountain for a while and then went back on at about 8:30. We had dinner in the MDR, saw the comedy show and then went to the disco until late since the next day was at sea. We were surprised that there weren't more people out. Day at Sea We actually ended up sleeping until at least noon. We LOVE the beds on Carnival, super comfy!!! We were hoping to go to lunch in the MDR but didn't have time so that is something to try the next cruise. We got the usual at the buffet and grill. Its amazing how many people are on the ship. There were people laying out everywhere! We did the love & marriage show and the scavenger hunt and then hit the casino! We used some of our refund for our excursion there and I found a slot machine I loved, the Rich Little Piggies. I doubled my credits at one point but of course decided to hit the big money button and got NADA from it! Oh well it was fun anyways. We got some sushi for Mike and then some more! We went to dinner. We went to the disco again tonight, there obviously weren't so many people out tonight since it was the last night but it was still fun. We were given zone 6 debarkation which I found odd since we didn't fly home until Tuesday but we opted to carry our bags off anyways so it didn't matter. I was too tired to pack the night before so i got up and did so the next morning. We were asked to be out of our stateroom by 8:30 am so we gathered our stuff and went to the Lido where we discovered it was raining. Since we were going to our hotel we stayed in the buffet until last call and then headed off. Debark was simple enough, we got in the cab line and were quickly assigned a cab and were off to our hotel. Overall we had an amazing vacation. We did find that the 4 day cruise was too short for us and will continue to take 7 days in the future. The ship was nice as was the itinerary. We were lucky to have such nice weather and a stress free Thanksgiving. Please let me know if you have any questions. Its been about a week since we got back so I have forgotten some things and tried to keep it as short as possible. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This was our second cruise on the Island Princess. We first sailed on her on a cruise/tour to Alaska in 2009. That trip was spectacular and will probably remain as our #1 of eight cruises. But this moved to #2 over a Thanksgiving cruise to ... Read More
This was our second cruise on the Island Princess. We first sailed on her on a cruise/tour to Alaska in 2009. That trip was spectacular and will probably remain as our #1 of eight cruises. But this moved to #2 over a Thanksgiving cruise to the Eastern Caribbean last November on Emerald Princess. Positives: The food on Island Princess this time was noticably better than on the Alaska trip. The itinerary was very good (Aruba, Cartegena, Colon, Limon and Ocho Rio). Cabin Steward (Eduardo) was outstanding and responsive. Dining room wait staff were incredible though they always been great on all three Princess cruises. In general, all of the ship's company seemed friendlier and more welcoming than on previous trips. The ship is well maintained with no noticable deterioration in the two years since we last sailed on her. Also, there seemed to be a little less sales pressure than on previous Princess trips. Negatives: Anytime dining seemed totally disorganized with long waits for a table if you didn't make reservations. The chaos was even worse on formal nights especially immediately following the end of a show in the Princess Theater. There apparently was a leak from the aft holding tank into the starboard-most aft elevator which had a foul odor most of the trip. Some days it was so bad that it filled the entire elevator lobby. Package deals for soft drinks and wines were not clearly explained. I took a soft drink package which was promoted at $45.00 though the steward told me it was $47 and would allow unlimited soft drinks. What wasn't explained was there was a 15% add-on for tips and that you were limited to a max of $4.50 per day in one kind of fountain soft drink...not canned soft drinks. There was no mention of a second package which allowed unlimited soft drinks of any kind up to a max of $7.50 a day for $75.00 plus 15%. I only drink cokes so was surprised when my bill showed an item of $80.00+ which sent me scurrying to Passenger Services for an explanation. The very courteous clerk had to go through every bill from the Lido Bar for that day and still couldn't find the original receipt. He also advised that he could take no action but that his supervisor would review the situation and make a decision. I was credited with the difference between the two packages on my final bill so, in the end, it was handled well. Strangely, once they put a little sticker on my ship's card, I could get a coke at any bar and there was no accounting of how many refills I got during the day...so I don't know how they would even know when I exceeded my limit. Friends had similar problems with a wine package. One final note: On the second and third nights out winds reached full gale of 40+ mph with seas of 7-12 feet, occasionally reaching 20 feet. Island Princess handled the seas as well as the normal 5-7 foot seas we experienced most of time. Considering the negative reviews we had heard about some of the ports, especially Ocho Rio, we were very pleasantly surprised at the lack of pushy sales attempts by locals in nearly all of the ports. Ocho Rio had some extremely bad reviews but we encountered no problems with locals harrassing us trying to sell trinkets. We did encounter some problems in Cartagena but our tour guide helped us out there. Port Review for Limon, Costa Rico: Our fourth port was Limon, Costa Rico where we decided to do another tour on our own. This time we had the recommendation of a friend who had been to Limon the previous year. We didn't make reservations but as soon as we left the ship we encountered a barrage of locals hawking tours. We simply told them we were looking for OkeyDokey Tours operated by Charlie Soto and quickly got directions to their stand which was close by. There were just two of us and after haggling a bit we got what we thought was a fair price which we agreed on. We were led to a very clean air six-passenger air conditioned van by our guide, Carlos Valladares (0348@hotmail.com) and our driver, Jose. The per person price was about $30 less than we would have paid on the ship and the value was outstanding. It included a trip to a scenic garden where we could hear Howling monkeys roaring in the nearby rain forest; a roadside stop where we handled and photographed a sloth; several roadside stops to look at monkeys; a visit to a banana plantation; a river boat tour to view wildlife and a trip to a beach which we declined because of the weather. Carlos spoke excellent english and talked non-stop about the culture and the sights we were seeing. We were fascinated with the operation of the banana plantation where the banana stalks were ziplined from the field to the plant. We got to watch the entire process from tree to shipping by truck to a waiting ship in the nearby harbor. Carlos and Jose dropped us off at a boat operated by Alden whose english was extremely precise and much better than mine. The first thing I noticed about Alden was his extremely sharp eyes. He could see camoflaged birds, secretive sloths hidden in the trees and small but rare lizards in the woods and brush along the river. Once he spotted something, he would then maneuver the boat to make sure I got a good shot with my camera. We spent an hour on the river and I took more than 100 pictures of the birds and wildlife. The only negative was that it rained thoughout most of the trip. Though there was a top on the boat the wind was blown inside. Alden supplied us with heavy plastic ponchos so we stayed pretty dry. We bypassed the beach to return to the ship to get a hot shower and warm up. The temperature never rose above 76 while we were there and with the dampness and walking we were pretty tired, but it was a good tired after an excellent tour. OkeyDokey tours has a website at www.okeydokeytours.com. The one thing that surprised me about Limon was its low standard of living. I had understood that Costa Rico had one of the highest educational levels and standards of living in Central America but it was obvious that poverty is similar to other Caribbean countries. Carlos also made it clear how important tourism and the cruise industry is to Costa Rico to improve the country's standard of living. This was an outstanding stop and possibly worth considering for a future cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Our party of 16 stayed in 1 inside, 2 balconies and 4 suites. We chose this cruise due to cost, embarkation port (NYC) and freestyle concept we love with children. This was my 4th NCL cruise and 2nd on the Gem. Being from RI, NY is an ... Read More
Our party of 16 stayed in 1 inside, 2 balconies and 4 suites. We chose this cruise due to cost, embarkation port (NYC) and freestyle concept we love with children. This was my 4th NCL cruise and 2nd on the Gem. Being from RI, NY is an easy port to get to and airfare is just way too expensive during the holiday season. The ports were the least attractive part of the cruise but at least they were warm :) Embarkation went well for my immediate family as we were in a suite. My aunt had an issue with not having a letter for her grandson to travel with her. I was afraid they wouldn't be able to board but NCL was great in my opinion as they worked with her to get a letter from her daughter faxed to the terminal. Another good reason to arrive early to the port, you will have time to deal with any unexpected issues. Our cabin was an SC (former AB) #11012. It was the nicest cabin I have ever had and I miss it every day since :( Cagney's for breakfast and lunch was great. MDR meals was very good in my opinion and I AM A FOODIE! Buffet was good, the only thing was the soft serve was gross as always. Shows we saw were Worldbeat, Man from Mars and Get Down Tonight. All were good. Bingo was fun, first time I had ever played. Didn't win but has a good time. The ship was in great shape and the crew was excellent. Pools could have been warmer and a big "thanks" to whoever put their child with a diaper in the family pool. It was closed a day due to feces. People are just so selfish. I've been there with an infant/toddler and never considered such an absurdity. My daughter was obsessed with the slide and used it about 50 times! LOL Bowling was fun too :) Had a great time and look forward to sailing NCL again soon Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
CABINS The best cabin I've ever had on any cruise ship, period! We had a balcony room (10278) which had the good layout with the bed by the balcony door so we had plenty of room to access our closet. The bathroom is well laid out ... Read More
CABINS The best cabin I've ever had on any cruise ship, period! We had a balcony room (10278) which had the good layout with the bed by the balcony door so we had plenty of room to access our closet. The bathroom is well laid out and felt spacious, and the balcony was the largest we've ever had. The balcony was wide AND deep and extremely roomy. I also appreciated the extra drawer space and cubbyholes all around the stateroom. The closet even had two racks for hanging and we had plenty of room for all of our clothes and gear. Bring an extra outlet plug for phone chargers, etc. since outlets are scarce. SERVICE - CABIN The service on a whole was excellent. Our cabin steward was incredible. I am difficult to impress and he impressed me. I won a bottle of champagne in the casino raffle the second night on the cruise. I wanted to save it to drink at Thanksgiving so I set it down in our stateroom. When we came back in, our steward had brought 2 champagne glasses AND a large separate bucket of ice for the champagne. We also never had to ask for anything more than once. The first night I requested 2 extra pillows and an extra towel and we had them all week. Another amazing feat: we were called / greeted by name all week long. SERVICE - FOOD OUTLETS The My Time Dining service was a bit spotty. We sat at the same table every night and had the same waiter / assistant waiter but they just weren't very good. We were practically ignored several nights (waited 20 minutes just to place an order, never got items we ordered, received the incorrect entrees, etc.). Several nights I sat with an empty water glass for over 15 minutes! On "lobster night" I ordered the lobster and a steak since I thought surf and turf sounded good and I asked for them to be served together. Alas, I was presented with the lobster first and only after I finished, they brought my steak -- but they removed my dirty silverware from my plate and set it down on the table to use with my second entree! I was taken aback by that. Normally waiters will bring fresh silverware. I've cruised with NCL many times and they truly "get" the freestyle concept. Royal Caribbean does not. I would not recommend My Time Dining since it's not "eat whenever you want." You have to have a reservation if you want to avoid waiting for a table -- and what's the point if you have to eat at a set time? The bar staff was friendly and the service at the specialty restaurants, including Johnny Rockets, was fantastic. FOOD It's no secret that I think RCI has the worst food of any cruise line. I'm sad to say that the Oasis is no different. The food is just not good. The food in the main dining room was edible but not very tasty. I made a point to try everything on the "available every night" menu. The sirloin steak was adequate but had a weird texture. The roasted chicken was moist and tasty. Only the salmon was actually inedible and I had to order something else. Some of the menus were better than others, and some of the selections were better than others. Sugar free ice cream is offered in the dining room every night and the flavor changes daily. Food is subjective but RCI still has the worst food in the business. The Windjammer buffet is absolutely disgusting, and I do not say that lightly. I took photos of the food and I wish I could post them here because a pictures really is worth a thousand words! The food was cold, bland and generally unappetizing. The Windjammer has the same soups / desserts as the main dining room on most nights so if there's something you liked at dinner, stop by the buffet if you need a midnight snack! Sorrento's pizza had a good variety of pizzas and a made to order pizza bar. Promenade Cafe had poor quality cold sandwiches and desserts. Solarium Bistro had good vegetable options at their lunch buffet and a decent salad bar. Room Service was okay. The spinach dip and caesar salad were the best items on the menu. Avoid breakfast; we ordered it once and the bacon was served practically raw. The Boardwalk donut shop was really bad, but it was free. The roast beef in the Park Cafe was good and I enjoyed the tossed to order salads (these salads aren't as good as the tossed to order salads in the main dining room at lunch time; go there and get big shrimp and premium ingredients like roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and more). The service here was exceptional as well. We couldn't get reservations at most of the specialty restaurants but we did get to go to Giovanni's Table and Johnny Rockets several times. The food at Giovanni's was very, very good. Johnny Rockets had typical burgers but it was fun to munch on them while sitting out on the Boardwalk. Service was stellar at both. The best kept secret on the Oasis is Vintages, the wine bar! They have an extensive tapas menu of very tasty appetizers. We went there on several occasions. Ask for Ramona, she is wonderful and took great care of us. We were in Vintages almost every single night (Caymus cabernet by the glass for $25; combine that with a Gold member 2-for-1 coupon and it's a deal)! ENTERTAINMENT I didn't like having to make reservations for all of the shows. I made them before we left home for all of the shows but we only ended up going to Hairspray. I didn't like having a set time that I had to be at a show, so we just stopped going. Hairspray was good and fun; not Broadway quality but good for a cruise ship. The sets were awesome! We also enjoyed the improv show (no reservations required) and of course Quest! As an animation fan, I was always excited to see the DreamWorks characters roaming about. The characters pay attention to the kids as well as the adults so I got some great photos. The Dreamworks parade was a ton of fun, and it was a thrill to take a flash mob dance class and then get to join in as the entertainment one evening! Ride the carousel, listen to karaoke, mini golf, flowrider, play music trivia...there was so much to do we didn't have time to do it all! The casino, the nicest I've ever seen at sea (and I live in Las Vegas!), was large with a non-smoking side and lots of fun slots. The Aqua Theater shows fun movies at night (the Grease sing-a-long was a blast). I was sort of surprised at the low quality of the lounge acts and house bands. GOOD I was most impressed with, aside from the sheer awesomeness of the ship, the attitudes of all of the staff we encountered! Every single employee we dealt with, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, was happy, friendly, smiling and seemed very eager to please. I really feel like the crew of the Oasis tried really hard to make sure we had an awesome vacation. I did not encounter even one disgruntled employee. Not one. That is very rare on any cruise ship and I have never had that happen before. What really surprised me is that the ship never felt crowded. Embarkation and debarkation was easy, and our luggage was delivered to our stateroom about 30 minutes after we boarded. Amazing! BAD Aside from the food, my only major complaint was the time it took to get back on board after being in port. It was ridiculous, especially in St. Maarten where it took us over one hour to get back on the ship! RCI is serious about security, however, and they x-ray everything and wand you down before you get back on. Don't even think about trying to bring alcohol on board, they are crazy about stopping you from doing that. It was the worst liquor patrol I've ever seen on any cruiseline. I also hope the Oasis will start to sail different ports because our itinerary was overcrowded and not that fun (Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten). Of course, we've "been there, done that" so we were going mostly for the ship! THE FREAKING AWESOME Select pools and hot tubs are open 24 hours! Yes, 24 hours! We went swimming at 2:30 in the morning and it was awesome (the pools are freshwater, so no nasty salt in your mouth). There was also NO pushiness about shopping or recommended stores or any of that nonsense! I didn't hear one solicitation all week. I also majorly loved Vintages wine bar. SUMMARY All in all this was a great cruise and I'm ready to sail the Oasis again. One thing is for certain: it is going to be extremely difficult to ever go back to a ship that's not an Oasis class! This ship has spoiled me. Take the Oasis: you won't be disappointed. It is truly an amazing vessel. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We decided just three months from departure to travel over Thanksgiving. I had read so much about the Cove Balconies and wanted to experience one. We are two fifty something nurses from South Florida and are seasoned cruisers due to our ... Read More
We decided just three months from departure to travel over Thanksgiving. I had read so much about the Cove Balconies and wanted to experience one. We are two fifty something nurses from South Florida and are seasoned cruisers due to our proximity to several ports. We used a vacation planner from Carnival and he did a great job for us. We traveled to Cocoa Beach two days prior to the cruise for some beach time. I looked on several web sites for accommodations and finally selected the Best Western Ocean Front on Cocoa Beach. It was reasonable for ocean front and we were not disappointed. The hotel is older but very clean and was steps away from the local pier which had bars, restaurants and live entertainment on Friday night. They have a special before 8:00pm for a one pound Maine lobster for $10.00. My friend, who is from the Northeast, proclaimed it as one of the best lobsters she ever had. We were in cruise training, so had to order two...each! They were delicious. On Thursday and Friday we took a cab to Fishlips, a restaurant at the port, to watch several "sailaways" and it certainly gets one in the mood to cruise. We sat outside both nights and nearly froze to death. One must remember that we live very south in Florida and our blood is way too thin. I turn on my car heater when it is 65 degrees. I wished I had brought mittens. We elected to use one of the local parking establishments instead of mortgaging our car for the week to park at the port. It worked out very well and we will use this option for all of our cruises in the future. We were finally Platinum and were able to use priority embarkation. We were escorted to a private office just off of the embarkation area, invited to sit down, given water and proceeded to check in. It was more than civilized, it was heaven. We were then given group #1 cards and lead to a separate area. Waited 15 minutes and were escorted onto the ship. It was now only 11:10 AM. Proceeded to to the Tandoori Grill at the aft and literally had the ship to ourselves. The Indian grill was outstanding. Be sure to try the pineapple and tomato relish. I ate there every day. We eagerly awaited 1:30 when the rooms would be ready as I just had to see how really close the Cove balcony was to the water. I was also hauling around many sodas and mixers in a rolling suitcase plus my other carry on. Felt like a bar on wheels. We had ordered liquor from the Bon Voyage dept. and I must say it certainly saved on our bar bill. Well...the Cove was exactly as I had pictured it. Yes, I could barely see over the dock, as we were that low. It was very cozy and had plenty of space to put everything. I have to admit the beds were not comfortable and did not seem like the great beds we have had on other Carnival cruises. It was more like a rock and since we were in a "cave balcony" as I began to call it, it was appropriate I suppose. The bathroom was adequate and had ample storage spaces. We elected to go to the Steakhouse on the first night as they were offering a free bottle of wine for embarkation night only. I assure you, we are lushes only on vacation. I was a bit worried as we ate in the steakhouse on the Oasis in May and were very disappointed. Well, this meal rivaled any upscale steakhouse anywhere. The surroundings were exquisite, service outstanding and the food amazing! We had MTD in the upper Crimson dining room and the only time we waited was on Thanksgiving night. The new menu was excellent and the service top notch. We asked for a booth each night and received it most of the time. Most mornings breakfast was room service which we enjoyed on the balcony. It was served at the time specified on the card placed on the door before retiring each night. The entertainment was varied and excellent. The Black Jack Band played on the Lanai most evenings and they are so talented and personable, too. Do not miss this band. I had read so much about the Lanai area on deck five, but I have to say I was not impressed. It felt very closed in to me. The outside portion had chairs, tables and loungers but the plexiglass partitions made it feel almost claustrophobic. The BBQ lunch here featured hamburgers and hot dogs. We felt like it was very overdone and only ate there once. There are plenty of other places to eat. Do not miss the Pasta Bar, which is actually an entire restaurant at the aft section and upstairs from the buffet. It was outstanding. Other cruisers do not find out about this place until the third or fourth day. Their Ceasar salad is fresh and tasty. The comedy lounge is beautiful and the perfect setting for the shows. They were all very funny and definitely R rated. They also offer family comedy shows. Get there at least 30 minutes before the show as it was standing room only the entire week. Do not miss Dancin in the Streets and the Fun Force dancers. The casino was very accommodating and Dirk, at the casino bar, was the best bartender we have ever had. Hysterically funny and very entertaining. I know many do not like the Jumbotron movie screen by the main pool but I really enjoyed our time there. On Thanksgiving morning seated in comfortable loungers, the Bloody Mary cart waiter making our favorite cocktails while watching the Macy's parade, priceless! I certainly do not remember a better setting for this time honored tradition. There were several who enjoyed the many football games here, as well. The seas were.....rough the entire week, but this just made the cove balcony that much more fun. Maybe it didn't seem too crowded all week because people were sea sick. Whatever the reason, we encountered very few lines and the other cruisers were very well mannered. We did not get off in Nassau but did the Carnival excursion "St. John Catamaran and Snorkeling in St. Thomas. I do not usually do ship sponsored excursions but felt traveling to an adjacent island required the assurance of the ship waiting for us if we were delayed. The catamaran was not over cowded and the staff was very accommodating. They had a dingy to take you to the beach that was very easily accessible. In St Maarten we did a private tour with Bernard's Tours and stayed with him for most of the day. Maho beach was beautiful, much better than Orient Beach, which surprised me. The jets landing over your head has to be experienced to be believed. We had a fabulous time, the ship is beautiful, the service outstanding, the food unbelievably good and the holiday passed without a single dished washed by me. I would recommend this cruise to everyone and I'm usually a Royal Caribbean snob. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
About Us: We are married, in our early 40's and have cruised 4 times previously (RCI twice, HAL once, NCL once). As this was our first Celebrity Cruise I will be comparing some of the aspects of the ship against the other lines ... Read More
About Us: We are married, in our early 40's and have cruised 4 times previously (RCI twice, HAL once, NCL once). As this was our first Celebrity Cruise I will be comparing some of the aspects of the ship against the other lines we've cruised. Embarkation was fairly smooth, we were on the ship 45 minutes after arriving at the pier. An announcement was made about 1:15 that all the cabins were ready, and soon after most passengers discovered their room keys didn't work. Celebrity set up many make shift passenger services tables around the ship for everyone to turn in their original key card for a new key card (with lines of 20 plus passengers at each table). We overheard many people complaining about this for a few days. Ship: The ship is 4 months old, modern, well designed and sparkling clean. Although the Silhouette doesn't offer a promenade deck (where you could walk the entire perimeter of the ship outside) like other lines offer, I was impressed with the large variety of shady places to sit outside (on high quality, wooden deck chairs). Unlike RCI and NCL, there were also many places to sit outside where it was quiet. There are two banks of elevators, fore and aft. With the larger number of elderly passengers on board these would often time be full and we'd end up taking the stairs which was fine by us. Fellow Passengers: As the ship departed from Bayonne, NJ a large number of passengers were from the NYC area. I'd guess about 15 to 20% of the passengers were European, and well over 2/3 of the passengers were over 60. I recall previous Silhouette reviews had noted a large numbers of passengers on scooters with a penchant for running over other guests' feet and I was a bit leery of that possibility. On our cruise there were only a few scooters and I'm glad to report they all were driven responsibly and with respect for the other passengers. We met many great people of all ages. Interestingly several of them had been loyal (long time) HAL fans who had switched to Celebrity in the past few years for the better service they report Celebrity delivers. Staff: Fabulous, Celebrity really shines in this department. Our room attendant, Ozzy, kept our room spic and span, and was always available if we needed anything. All of our requests (extra towels, foot stool for our balcony) were taken care of immediately and with a smile. I can't say enough about him. Best room attendant we've encountered on our 5 cruises. Every staff member we encountered always made eye contact and asked us if there was anything else we needed. We also noted that there were always officers walking around the ship mingling with passengers, I don't recall seeing this on other lines. Room: We booked room 8226 (Category 1A), on the hump, for the sole reason the balcony is over twice the size of a standard balcony (book early, they sell out quickly). Ample storage space, great water pressure in the shower and more than enough room for the two of us. Each room has 2 bathrobes, a small bag and an umbrella (all of which are for sale but available for your use during the cruise). They also provide you with very large, high quality beach towels on port days. Bring a power strip as there are only two outlets (both located at the desk) to plug in your various items. Nice flat screen (27" or 32", I forget) TV where you could check your onboard account, order room service or look at photographs the staff had taken of you. Food: We ate in the main dining room 6 nights out of the 12 and found the food and service to be top notch. After missing a few nights (having gone to specialty restaurants) our waiter greeted us like long lost family and appeared somewhat nervous we had skipped the last few dinners due to something he had done wrong (it wasn't). I'm not a fan of the waiters parading around the dining room on the last formal night but I guess I'm in the minority on that one and it seems that all the mainstream cruise lines seem to be doing that. We were pleased with the food and service in the MDR. We tried 3 speciality restaurants: Murano, Qsine and The Lawn Club Grill (our favorite of the 3). We ate breakfast and lunch in the buffet which provided a large selection of food (including fresh vegetables for salads). Sometimes it was difficult to find an open table at breakfast or lunch. We ordered room service once and our food was in our room within 20 minutes. Drinks: My husband and I both opted for the soda drink package (about $90 per person for the 12 night cruise) and were very pleased that we were given cans of soda with a glass of ice each time. I recall that RCL and NCL's soda packages require you take your plastic soda cup (that they give to you the first day) to the bar to be refilled (from the tap) - not only does this mean you must have that cup on hand any time you wanted a Coke but you had to clean the cup yourself. Not exactly the most sanitary route (but I'm sure RCL and NCL save money with this routine). Celebrity's soda package was a very good value (and includes Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Diet Sprite). Silhouette's Martini Bar was located right off of the Atrium and those bartenders were entertaining (check them out on You Tube) but also made great drinks (most martinis here were $10 plus 15% gratuity). A nice alternative was the Molecular Bar (on deck 5), they made some great martinis as well (very unique, these were $12 each plus the 15% gratuity). If you're a wine drinker you really have to check out the Cellar Masters (deck 4) where they have samples of all sorts of wine available to try out before you commit to an entire glass. We've not found this on any other cruise line; two more stars to Celebrity for this idea. Entertainment: We didn't go to any shows so I can't comment on those. The music onboard the Silhouette was very, very good. Unlike NCL (who follow the 'This is Spinal Tap' School of Music in that everything is played at 11 on a scale of 1 to 10), all the music on Celebrity was played at a reasonable level where you could actually speak to your neighbor at a normal tone of voice and hear what they said to you in response. There were also many movies available to view in your room (and one daily in the theatre) at no cost. Gym: Stocked with 'Life Fitness' brand treadmills and eliptical machines, weight machines and free weights. Other than the first full day there were always machines available. There is a smaller aerobics room that was being used the majority of the time for classes or seminars so I found I had to do my stretches and sit ups on the perimeter of the main room. The mens and womens locker rooms off of the gym each have a sauna (no add'l cost), but if you're looking to use a steam room you need to either book an Aqua Spa cabin or pay extra to have access to the Persian Gardens (we didn't do either). Spa: Neither of us used the spa so we can't comment on the quality of services. The prices of the services seemed a bit steep to us (on the second to last day they were running a special for a 100 minute massage for $200 plus a standard 15% gratuity). Kids Program: our daughter didn't join us on the cruise, so we have no firsthand knowledge of the program (we also found there were less than 25 kids on board for our cruise). We spoke to many families on board, all of whom reported their kids absolutely loved Celebrity's Kids Program (one young lady, who I'd estimate to be about 10, told us she liked Celebrity's Kids Program better than RCL, HAL, Carnival and NCL). We toured the kids area with a staff member who told us that 600 kids are booked for Silhouette's Christmas Cruise and they had about 400 kids for the Thanksgiving Cruise. I assumed Celebrity to be more of an adult line but based on everything we heard from other passengers they have a very well run kids program and we have no hesitation including our 7 year old daughter on our next Celebrity cruise. Summary: Based upon this cruise I'm sold on Celebrity as their customer service was great. The majority of passengers we spoke with are seasoned cruisers who are loyal Celebrity fans. There were not as many sales pitches as on the other lines (but there were still some). A huge plus is that there is only one announcement per day (so you don't have to listen to multiple announcements about useless art auctions, gold necklaces being sold by the foot, bingo, etc) and that is only broadcast in the public areas (not staterooms). As non smokers we liked that there was little smoking going on (and were told that as of 1/1/2012 smoking will be further limited to a small section in the pool area - two 'snaps up' to Celebrity on this move). We look forward to sailing with Celebrity in the future. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
As an introduction we are on our first cruise aboard the Holland America Veendam. We have cruised on several other Holland American ships however decided a couple of years ago to switch away from Holland America. However this year we ... Read More
As an introduction we are on our first cruise aboard the Holland America Veendam. We have cruised on several other Holland American ships however decided a couple of years ago to switch away from Holland America. However this year we wanted a cruise that would include the holidays and a non-European cruise thus we opted for the South American cruise and included the return cruise making this a back to back adventure. The views and opinions expressed in this review are those solely of the author who is in no way connected with Holland America. We know and respect your views and opinions which may be totally different from ours. You had a different cabin, perhaps different waiters, different restaurants, etc. throughout the cruise(s) and thus saw the same cruise from a different perspective. The ship reflects recent refurbishing throughout. The ship was launched in 1996. We don't know exactly what the theme was supposed to be thus we will call it 1920's Supper Club Modern. Many areas look as though we have reentered the supper club era of the 1920s.In any event the ship is being well maintained for the guest. By today's standards the Veendam has to fit into the small ship category, after all there are large and mega ships with over 4000 passengers and small ships with around 750 passengers. With a passenger compliment of around 1350 passengers the Veendam is definitely not considered a large cruise ship by today's standards. From our view that is very good as we don't really care for the rock climbing, the boisterous swimming pool antics and adventurer land aboard a cruise ship. Upon closer inspection you will notice several broken or cracked glasses and windows throughout the ship. Some of the metal especially around the outside windows is pitted and rough indicating it was not recently replaced. The first cruise left from Rio de Janerio and thus there were more passengers from the United States. On the second leg of the cruise starting in Santiago, there were even less from the United States. The Neptune Club on our deck was only occasionally visited by a person from the United States. We are taking back to back cruises on this ship thus we have one segment from Rio to Valparaiso followed by a segment from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires. Several of the ports will be the same thus we have an opportunity to see more at each port. We have previously visited some of these ports, just a couple of years ago, and this trip will give us an opportunity to see things we missed in the past. Seating throughout the ship contains both comfortable and uncomfortable seats. Funny you say that we would start the review about seating. We were so fascinated that we even took dozens of pictures. Some seating appears to be for "munchkins" as they have extremely high back with very small seats. In the Showroom At Sea almost all seats have low backs, thus providing little comfort for a lengthy show. On top of all of this, unless you select a chair to sit in you will find nothing but bench h style seating, all of which we found uncomfortable. What were they thinking? Dining room seating is much better however some chairs have arms while other are open chairs. There seems to be no consistency at any of the tables---just whatever is available at the time. Get to your table a few minutes early and select your own chair even if that means borrowing from another table. In our cabin we had a leather couch however I challenge anyone to try to sit for any length of time when the ship is moving and tossing as you will most certainly be tossed to the deck because of the slickness. The ship as a whole is nice and clean and one will get used to décor. RESERVATIONS Just a note about making reservations. Not all published cruise prices will be the same, however most cruise agents can match the lowest price you may locate on another cruise site. Just ask! We waited almost too late to purchase a suite cabin and we had to move to a different cabin at the end of the first cruise as the first cabin we purchased had already been sold. You should try to get the same cabin throughout all your segments as you don't want to have to move after a few days at sea. We deliberately chose the starboard side on our first segment as that gave us a shore view from our veranda and on the returned segment we chose the port side so we could again have the shore side view from our verandah. That worked really well. Now a word about location of the cabin. Our first cabin was 035 about midway on the Navigation Deck. The second cabin was 006 which was at the front of the ship. This made a really great difference on the open seas however not a concern in the inland passages. The ship's movement was almost never felt when we were in cabin 035. Don't be eager to take the first suggestion from your travel agent if you are not pleased with the location on the ship. There are also cruise web sites where you can check available cabin locations on each of the decks. Changing cabins should be an easy process (in our judgment), however Holland America apparently does not have a firm policy on this thus a separate letter has been generated back to corporate. On the next to last day of our first segment we still had not received anything from the front desk about our move to another cabin. I inquired three times and each time got different information. Finely on the last evening of the cruise we received a letter with partial information about the move to cabin 6. We still had no key to our cabin though thus another visit to the front desk where we advised to come back the following day. Our new cabin was made available to us around 0930 on the last day of the cruise and we received a new cabin key card upon visit once again to the front desk. We had not received any statement of charges for the cruise so we asked and was told we could have an interim copy. We also did not receive a survey questionnaire and were advised we would get that at the end of the second segment. We moved most of our personal belongings with a crew member helping us with a rack of clothes. BOARDING THE SHIP----We flew to Rio de Janerio and boarded the ship at the terminal in downtown Rio. It was a total disaster as the terminal is under renovation for the forthcoming Olympics. The main area was completely closed and HA had all passengers' crowded into spaces just inside the entrance. Once checked in, you had to go to a backroom and wait to be called by group number for boarding. I can understand the need for the renovations as the terminal is in bad need of repair. If you arrive during this renovation period, just be patient. Once inside this portion of the terminal space there is nothing to do other than sit or stand and wait for your boarding number to be called. Listen carefully for that number as there was no PA system. We provided the computer generated boarding pass at the check in counter. I could not believe how many ahead of us did not have that pass with them Your passport will be confiscated and you will be given a receipt. If you need to update your credit card or change to a different credit card from the one you originally gave HA, you cannot do it at check in and will have to proceed to the Purser's Office once aboard. A word about your passport. Holland America apparently has the feeling that we as guest are not capable or responsible enough to carry our own passports. You will be told that the retention of passports is necessary for customer officials to quickly check the ship's roster. In any event you may find, as we did, a reluctance at some ports to even exchange currencies. In Buenos Aires we were refused twice because we could not produce the original passport. To complicate the matter, Holland America does not exchange monies aboard ship and even the casino refused our Brazilian money. TIP--make a couple copies of your passport before you leave home. Do this in color as the black and white copies may not look all that official. We found that by producing a color copy and discussing with a clerk what Holland American had done concerning retention of our passports, the on shore transactions went smoothly. Our passports were returned two days before the end of the cruise. Once our group number was called the process went rather quickly however there will be those that try to jump the line by not following the called number. The staff sent all we saw to the back of the line and that was the way it should be. ABOARD SHIP----You will soon learn that sanitation is of primary concern for HA as you will be asked to wash your hands as you enter the ship and there are hand sanitizers located all over the ship. We personally think it is a good ideal. You will be asked to stop at the end of the gangplank for a picture to be taken. We just try to accommodate the photographer as he/she is doing their job and we normally have no intention of purchasing that photo. These are just snapshots and remember you don't have to purchase any of them. The Holland American staff, almost without exception, provides a genuine excellent level of service. Everyone greeted us with a warm greeting and their service was impeccable. There were some guest though on the second segment of the cruise that apparently felt they deserved more that friendly service. They displayed an arrogance with DEMANDS. Frankly I think they need to find another mode of travel. One passenger got very upset with the waiter because there wasn't a certain kind of tea available for him. Give me a break!! Travel on cruise ships has definitely changed for the worse in the past two decades. Some passengers want to dress as "slobs" and expect to sit next to you on formal night while wearing a pair of sandals and a gross t-shirt. On smart casual nights one can see flip flops, ragged t-shirts and shorts. We even saw one 80 year old woman wearing what appeared to be gym shorts on smart casual night. These are some of the same passengers that demand their food be served immediately, reject their entrée and send that glass of wine back as they state it is not suitable. They was also the person at the purser's desk arguing about the $5.95 drink charge which they swear is not theirs. We don't personally have a problem with these type passengers however we do believe they would be better off traveling on a container ship or oil barge in the future. OUR CABIN----We have been traveling on cruises since 1980 thus we have been on board a number of different ships. This time we decided to give up one of our cruises of the year so we could have a suite. Best decision we ever made. We selected cabin 035 on the first segment. However because we waited too late to decide on this cruise we had to change to cabin 006 (which was just a stone's throw away from 007) on the second segment. Not a big deal as the staff will move us at the end of the first segment. Cabin 035 was on the starboard side which gave us the shoreline on the travel both south and north. Cabin 006 will give us the same shore side verandah view on the return trip back. Our suite was fabulous. More space than we usually have in a hotel room and a patio that was unbelievable. Two lounge chairs and four sit down chairs, a table and still a lot of room left. We had our beds configured for a king size and the industry still does not have this down. There is that split in the middle that is most uncomfortable. Our living room area was very large with a coffee table, two club chairs and a sectional couch. There was a closet with a large bar with lots of glasses, and a mini bar filled with drinks. The bathroom was very large with three closets, the most we have ever had on a cruise. There was a dressing area just outside the shower area that was really outstanding. Mirrors all over the place along with lots of counter space. The cabin was very tastefully decorated. Carpet almost new as were the covers on the verandah chairs. Lighting throughout the cabin was excellent. There is small desk working space juts opposite the bar. There are more drawers and closets in this cabin than one will have clothes to fill. If don't mind gambling a little and waiting until the last minute for your cruise, you may find a suite at a greatly discounted price. If you do, reserve it immediately and make your travel accordingly. Please be aware that some cruise destination, including embarkations, may require that you have a visa in addition to your passport and depending on the number of such visas needed for a particular cruise, it may take some time to get those. NEPTUNE CLUB ROOM----Since we are in a suite we have access to the club room on the Navigation Deck where we have a full time concierge. Coffee, water, teas, small desserts and sandwiches throughout the day. Television and internet hook up (don't get excited--please review my section on the Internet). The concierge staff was excellent and most accommodating. This is just a nice place to relax away from the crowds in some parts of the ship. You can save the long lines at the tour desk by letting the concierge make the tour reservations and obtain your tour tickets. On the first segment of the cruise we noticed just guest from the suite section, however on the second segment we were surprised to see some in the lounge that were not suite guest. At least one of them appeared to have been brought to the lounge by one of the suite guest. It is our opinion that if guest did not pay for this level of cabins they should not be using the Neptune Lounge. We also witnessed some passengers who kept the concierge busy for lengthy times as they asked trivial questions. One woman insisted that the concierge go over her entire dining room times and options day by day for the entire cruise. By the way those times and options were clearly listed in the daily bulletin. In the suite category you are given several amenities complimentary and one of those is the free laundry and dry cleaning. We sent a bag everyday and many times the laundry came back to us on the same day we sent it. The service was excellent. Another perk one has with the breakfast served just for suite guest in the Pinnacle Dining Room. Once again the service was outstanding. You can also have a continental breakfast in the Neptune Lounge. Anyone contemplating an upgrade to the suite level should check the HA bulletin to see a list of everything that is offered in the suite class. If you are a frequent HA guest and have reached the three or four star level, a combination of those rewards along with the suite amenities could weigh heavily upon one's decision on where to travel and what cruise line to take. We received priority boarding on tender departures and once the passports were returned they were available in the Neptune Lounge thus we did not have to stand in long lines to get our passports. ENTERTAINMENT-----I inevitably hear some passenger state that they don't care that much about the cruising and destinations, as they come on board for the entertainment. Look friend, I feel sorry for you if your number one objective in cruising is for the entertainment. Some shows are not all that good and if you stayed at home you could probably find some really good high school productions that would suit your taste. On our next to last night aboard we had a male and female singer that were very good. The dancers need to work on their portion of the act. I felt so sorry for one entertainer I had to leave the auditorium 10 minutes after he started. I was actually praying that some could get though their act without totally screwing it up or forgetting their lines. One magic act had little professionalism in it and the children at the local library club will provide you a better magic/comedy act. All in all the evening shows were acceptable with some actually being good. Pick your entertainment nights and if the act does not live up to expectations then just politely leave. INTERNET---Let me get this "negative" out of the way first. I paid for the 250 minutes internet service as soon as I boarded in Rio and then being the sucker I am paid again on the second segment for another 250 minutes. Looks like I would have learned my lesson. I used up my first 150 minutes just trying to log on and was successful a couple of times. I figure my emails are costing me about $20 an email. This is by far the worst internet service aboard any ship in the world. Don't expect any sympathy or assistance from the "clerk" on board as he would just as soon you left him alone. After three days I swore off the internet and decided I would never again pay Holland America even as much as dime for their internet service. A walk though this morning (our 6th day) revealed only one person using the internet in the internet café. In our cabin the service is even worse. At the concierge desk there are two computers and wireless however it is not good. Yesterday I was ashore in Montevideo and took my iPad with me. Found a Wi-Fi hookup at the California Burrito Company restaurant. It was free. The hook up was amazing. Just as good as my cable service back home. I learned from other passengers that had also enjoyed such success at other internet cafes in the town. We even used Facetime and SKYPE, which by the way is "can't be used" aboard ship. Save money and most of all save frustration by waiting until you are docked and then look for an internet café or Wi-Fi spot. We are now two days away from our final destination and the internet has some reliability. We noticed almost all terminals are in use today. We were able to hook up to the internet with only two tries and sending e-mails took less than 20 minutes. What a deal!! Before I receive numerous e-mails. I am aware that the satellite transmission of communications in some parts of the world are rather limited and this may be the case with the South American cruise. However, in all fairness to the customers, HA should not be selling services it cannot deliver. CROWS NEST------On deck 12 at the front of the ship is the Crown's Nest, a place that we frequently have gone for quite time to read. This location is actually large and quite during non-sea days. More passengers use on sea days with some talking so loud they disturb others. One corner is for smokers so if you don't like second hand smoke better stay away from that section. The seats are not all that comfortable as they as low backs and small seats. Lots of bench seating if that is your thing. Occasionally there is a group or travel club meeting on one side to the area. The bar opens later in the day as there is dancing and music in the evening hours. Lots of fog on our trip thus seeing much from the 12th deck was rather limited. I will not list the name, however there was a large travel group from one US company and if that is the way they conduct their tours I will most certainly not be using that company in the future. The "hostess" was actually quite rude. In one waiting area she insisted on getting her group up front and ahead of others that had been waiting. Please remember these are not HA employees but rather independent tour operators. If you are invited to attend a Captain's cocktail, you will more than likely find it located in the Crowe's Nest. There will be no "hand shaking" from either the Captain or his crew. All for health reasons. THE CAPTAIN-----The Captain came to the Neptune Lounge (where the suites are) on the very first evening and brought key personnel with him. This was excellent and another benefit when purchasing a suite. He returned on a later date and chatted with the passengers. There was a special Indonesian luncheon for the suite guest held at the Pinnacle Restaurant with both the hotel manager and the Captain attending. We had to miss the stop at Port Stanley, however the Captain explained more than once it was a safety issue due to the weather. He was sincere and his explanation was acceptable. He seemed to always be truly concerned about the guest aboard. He left us after the first cruise segment and a new captain came aboard. He was present at the first night reception held in the Neptune Lounge for the suite guest. We had an unusual experience as we had two Captain's with the first segment Captain going on leave at the end of the first segment and a new Captain coming aboard. THE FLORIST--You can purchase from HA, through a pre-board internet program, flowers for your room. We paid a premium price and the flowers did not look that good the day we boarded. Within three days they really looked bad as the roses had swiveled up and dropped their petals. We had to toss them on day 5. HA puts a small bouquet in your cabin if you are on the suite deck. They too withered to nothing after day 4 and were taken out of the cabin by the room steward. On our second segment of the cruise we received a very nice bouquet in our suite. We were never sure who sent them as there was no note. They lasted for several days. In fact the flowers at our dining room table were changed several times as they did not hold up all that well. FOOD---There are six main food locations on the ship. The ROTTERDAM is the main dining room located on decks 7 & 8. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is available. You may be assigned (for dinner) early, late or open seating. The LIDO is the deck 11 cafeteria type dining open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You will find the cafeteria line to be broken down into various food sections designed to make the lines shorter and service faster. Does not always happen as some passengers just can't make up their minds on what they wanted. There are the two specialty restaurants, the Pinnacle, where one can get steaks and sea food and the Canaletto Restaurant where Italian food is available. Both of two restaurants require an extra charge. The TERRACE GRILL is located on deck 11 at the end of the swimming pool. You can get hamburgers, hot dogs and fish and chips for lunch or late afternoon snacks. The SLICE Pizza is located on the aft of deck 11 and is weather dependant. We dined all over the ship and we are convinced the quality of the food is the same wherever you go except for the specialty restaurants where you pay an extra fee. If you are being served you will swear the portions are much smaller than on past cruises and we think you will be correct. They seem to count the exact number of green beans or asparagus spears and they will be much less than in the past. In the Rotterdam the asparagus spears were wilted and about the diameter of a pencil. In the Pinnacle the asparagus spears were three or four times the diameter, were green and crisp and served with an excellent hollandaise sauce. They were top quality. However in all fairness, you can ask for more. One evening when crab legs were being served the waiter told us the crab legs were small and not that many and if we wanted to have that entrée he could bring more to start with. We accepted the offer and the crab legs were indeed small and there were only two on the original plate. Food in my judgment, is about what you are going to get back home in a nice restaurant location. It will be served with a little more fanfare though. At the LIDO food is similar to any cafeteria back home. You can always order seconds and the wait staff will accommodate your request.. This reduction in the quantity is certainly being done by the "pencil pushers" as they try to figure out ways to increase the profit margin. The suite guest can have breakfast in the Pinnacle Restaurant with no additional charges. Lunch and Dinner in the same location comes with an extra charge ($10 & $25). Sometimes a quiet evening is worth the price. Not all the suite guest knew about the "no charge" Pinnacle dining for breakfast. Ask the concierge what days breakfast is served for suite guest.. The dinner meal is actually very good with the steaks being great quality and grilled exactly as you order. The bone in rib eye that I ordered was excellent and would challenge any steakhouse in Dallas. The food and service was so good, we are going back for a second evening. There are always a few that think they the staff in the dining rooms are servants and thus they make unreasonable demands. We saw one male that did not like the selection of teas available and he actually threw a fit. Another passenger ordered eggs Benedict and she did not like the way they were served while just a couple of tables away the woman insisted the meat was not prepared correctly and thus sent it back. For those in suites the Neptune Lounge is open for breakfast snacks such as coffee and Danish, however not a full breakfast. You can also get snacks and coffees at the Explorations Cafe. When we first arrived on the ship, there was no self service of food items. This was relaxed a little after the first 48 hours and you could serve yourself on certain items on the Lido Deck. There were some food items that continued to be served by the wait staff. This no self service policy applied to all food areas throughout the ship, including the Neptune Lounge for the suite guest. You should certainly not go away from the ship hungry and the wait staff that we met tries hard to make your dining experience a good one. MOVIES---There are several choices depending upon the days. On deck 11 there is the large outdoor screen which had excellent picture quality and however the sound system is very poor. A lot of the passengers left the area after only a few minutes due to the poor sound quality. You just flatly could not hear the sound. Once the weather turned cold no one seemed to attend these movies. Look for the free popcorn. Movies on certain days may be shown in the Showroom At Sea. The screen is small--small--small. Not much more than your large TV screen at home. Sound is acceptable though. No popcorn. There is the movie theater on deck , the Wijang Theater. The screen is large however don't expect high quality on the screen nor expect high quality sound. The seats in the center section are comfortable. Popcorn is free and you get about 1/3 of a bag. The number of bags is limited and if you get there at the beginning of the show don't expect pop corn as the bags will all be gone. Movies we saw were just DVDs, some of which reflected a lot or use or improper mishandling. EXPLORE TECHNOLOGY----This is a series of "classes" that Microsoft and HA provided free of charge. There is minimal seating, so get thee early. I think HA must go out of their was to obtain the most impersonal people anywhere when it comes to the technology and internet. I would have to give this person a very low rating when it comes to a friendly personality. She has an almost scripted program format , so don't expect to interrupt her and ask a question. Her voice presentation was without much volume thus if you are sitting close to the back of the room you may find hearing difficult. One good aspect is that we were told the "lessons" could be downloaded from the internet when you returned home. As a note, this is supported by Microsoft so expect to get a sales presentation pertaining to Microsoft products. You can learn a little about some of the subjects however if you are already an advanced used of software and the internet you may find these presentations rather boring. Some subjects included cameras and photography however once again don't expect in-depth technical assistance. FOOD PREPERATION & ENTERTAINING---If you have very many sea days you will most likely be looking for something to occupy your time. Perhaps a culinary workshop or food preparation would be to your choosing. Some of these classes have a fee associated with it, thus you have to sign up and be preregistered before going. We just attended the free ones as we are not professional chefs and have no desire to become one. Cake decorating drew about a dozen guest and lasted about 20 minutes. The presentations are made in the Culinary Arts Center (that is the Wajang Theater on Deck 7) BEVERAGES----There are eight locations throughout the ship where you can obtain beverages with the MIX being in the center of the ship on Deck 8. It's a sports bar thus if the satellite transmission is working you can pick up a football game from the US. You can purchase a drink card for 50% of the retail cost and alcoholic drink cards are also available for a discount. Check at the Wine Cellar on deck 7.There is no refund at the end of the cruise. We just paid by the day for whatever we ordered. There is a wine special where you can purchase three bottles of wine for a fixed price. This will actually save you some money if you expect to consume three bottles of wine during your cruise. There is a wine cellar on Deck 7 where a selection can be made. Taking your own non-Holland America wine will incur a corkage fee in the dining room. EXPLORE OUR WORLD----These presentations cover a wide range of subjects, some of which are interesting and other which will give you an opportunity to sleep for an hour. We noticed guest attending were involved in a lot of activities, such as reading the Kindle, crocheting, talking and reading a book. You might want to drop by one of two sessions to see if anything interests you. Don't expect to earn your PHD from the subjects being discussed. Some classes there are discussions on ports where the ship docks. The speaker/presenter was very good. CASINO-----I am usually negative when it comes to cruise ship casino, however this time I make an exception. This is a very small casino, with one roulette table and no crap table. Not all that many slot machines. There are one and two cent slot machines, however I never did figure out a way to play only a penny. The staff is friendly, accommodating and patient. I write patient as there were several novice gamblers that did not know the games or rules, however the staff took their time and made the people feel good and want to gamble. They still lost, however had a good time in doing so. There are Texas Hold'em Tournaments, Slot and Blackjack Tournaments. Texas Hold'em tournaments had buy ins on the first segment which was $30 however it went to $60 on the second segment. The slot tournament had a grand price of $500. The casino is closed while in Chilean waters and at all ports. Video cameras are not allowed however still pictures are permitted in the casino. THE SIGNATURE SHOPS----Sales of merchandise seems to pop up just about anywhere. Could not believe all the people pushing to get those t-shirts at pool side (2 for $25).Most of the "stuff" in the stores one just does not need. The watches and jewelry can be purchased stateside or on the internet at about the same prices or lower. Perfume available on this ship was rather limited and when my wife asked the prices it was more than state side sales prices. The store close to the MIX Lounger was clean and very well lighted. There is a liquor store on the same deck that carries a few drug items and snacks. If you think you will want snacks or drug items, bring them with you. The cost aboard is way out of line. There are several "sales days" aboard, some around the pool or on the deck where the shops are located. Just what you needed more "stuff" to put into that suitcase and take home for the next garage sale. PHOTO GALLERY------The ship offered all the photos taken of you aboard the cruise for a one time price of $299.00. Throughout the cruise we never saw very many passengers making purchases at the photo shop, however on the last day at sea of the first segment, we witnessed several making package as well as individual purchases. Many of the photos taken on shore and in the dining room were actually not all that great. They were just poorly concrafted snap shots and I know you can do much better. Even the formal night photos were out of focus, poorly posed and just enlarged snap shots. We noticed very few guest stopped by the photo locations on formal nights. The ship also has a special section called "Black & White". We talked with the graduate photographer, a young girl from England, who studied design, etc. and went into the photo portion after graduating. She has limited settings for her work and she tells me that generally the work is done on 8 X 10. There is no charge for the settings, however she advises there is a limit of 18 clients per cruise. You have to be into this type of photography to enjoy it and many are not all that keen about the rather off the wall concept for portraits. You will find though some of these type approaches to photography being highly acclaimed especially in the photo magazine contest. THE OUTSIDE WALKING TRACK--DECK 6---This is a walking track with several signs posted that advise "No Jogging Allowed"---In spite of that, you are going to encounter the person who thinks they are still a high school jock and can run down all those who walk on this deck. This is really a nice area to enjoy and four trips around the deck will give you your daily mile. Walk in the direction indicted by the arrows, not opposite like those "jocks" who apparently could not read. TOURS The ship's staff will offer a presentation on the various tours that are available. This will more than likely take place on the first morning after sailing. You can also go on line after registering and pre reserve your tours via the internet. We found this easy to do and on top of that your tour tickets will be delivered to your stateroom on your first day at sea. If you happen to be staying in a suite the concierge has the ability to reserve your tour at his/her desk and print your tour tickets immediately. Under the "ports" section I have discussed some tours. Benjamin along with another crew person made presentations on tours each morning. While they never misrepresent the tours, you may find the actual tours a little different than the presentations. For example the City of Rose and the German settlement tour was listed as 3 ½ to 4 hours. This was a tender location. We waited on the ship from 8:05 until 8:30 when we boarded the tender. After arriving at shore we had to wait until a second tender arrived which took us to around 9:15AM. The moved through the city to a stopping point above the city where we stopped for 5 minutes before proceeding o Puerto Arenas where we arrived at 10:15AM and advised we had approximately 30 minutes to visit the town. We reboaded at 10:50 and proceeded to the town of Fruitillar where we were again given 30 minutes to visit the German Settlement. Leaving at 11:45AM we arrived back at the dock around 1PM, boarded the tender and was back on the ship at 1:40PM. If you count all the waiting time then it is possible to get 3 ½ to 4 hours posted in the tour brochure. Actual time at the two site---one hour with all the rest being travel and waiting time. If you had done this on your own you could have seen a lot more and spent additional time at both locations. LAUNDRY & PRESSING & DRY CLEANING The laundry and dry cleaning with a suite cabin is complimentary. Otherwise there is a charge. Before you go cheering about this a word of caution. Don't send any really good, especially designer, clothing to be washed or cleaned. After 5 laundries your under clothes will no longer be a bright white, but rather a dingy gray. Those shirts you had laundered and starched will look a little dingy after just a few washings and your trousers will not hold a crease even a few hours after wearing. The bottom line is that the free service is a fantastic idea however the wear and tear on your clothes may end up costing you in the long run. My colorful polo shirts have lost their brightness and now look like dollar store shirts. Perhaps I can pass them off as designer polo shirts that were designed with dingy colors and by cutting a couple of holes in the blue jeans I now have designer blue jeans. As for the under shorts---they did not cost that much so I will toss them upon return home. PUERTO MONTT, CHILE This is an anchor port with about a 15 minute tender ride to shore. The landing port is a little over one mile from city center. There is very little around the actual port other than some local shops. The walk to town center will take about 30 minutes over concrete walkways and some gravel intersections. We found little to do in the town center other than browse through some of the local shops and stores. Tired of ship food---there is a McDonalds in the middle of town. We would suggest taking one of the ship's tours thus on our return trip we decided to take the tour that goes to Puerto Varas and Frutillar, the "city of roses" and the "little black forest". USHUAIA, ARGENTINA----- This is a neat little town of about 60000 population and is the most southern city in the world. The day we were there the weather was spectacular with the temperature around 50 degrees. A short walk from the cruise ship to downtown and St. Martin Street where one finds all the shopping, including internet cafes and restaurants. If you want to use the internet there are several locations on St. MARTIN'S Street and at a very nice hotel the Wi-Fi is free plus the coffee is rather good too and at a reasonable price with no charge for the internet. You will though need your own laptop. There are several museums plus the train to the end of the world. People are friendly and the US Dollar was accepted everywhere we went and credit cards could be used with your passport. One day we were there many of the shops were closed all day on Wednesday. By the way---tour guides at the end of the pier will tell you that just about everything you go to see will be "at the end of the world". According to the ship's personnel this is basically true as it is the mostly southern large city in the world. As we leave Argentine and return to our cabin we have a notice from Guest relations (still puzzled by guest relations title) that as we head for Chile we need to complete an entry form for each person. The form has been partially completed thus all we have to do is check a few blocks and sign. No doubt the cruise line feels as though many or some of us don't have the ability to complete such forms so they do it for us. A letter attached states that we need to have a copy of our passport which the cruise line has previously given us. When you make your last stop in Chile an immigration office usually aboard ship will ask you for that form before you leave the ship, so hang onto it. PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE-----This is a neat town with a very clean downtown area. The port though for our ship was in the industrial cargo container section and if you are going to the city center you should get a taxi ($10 per cabin or ride one of the vans ($3 per person) as going to town. It is too far to walk. There is a very nice port downtown and the days we were there a Seaborn ship was berthed. The area around that port is very clean with lots of new construction including a large casino. You can easily walk to the downtown from this port. There is some small amount of shopping about a mile from the pier. If you are not on a pre-paid tour there are dozens of taxis available in downtown and for a flat price they will take you most anyplace you desire to visit. We hired a taxi to take us an hour's drive away to a penguin colony. The price for three hours was $100 which included a return to our ship. In downtown we found a neat coffee shop, candy store/deli all rolled into one. Decorated in Christmas colors and trim, the place offered free internet (need your own PC or iPad). This was a friendly very clean stop located just a block off the main square on the main shopping street. At the park square there are dozens of local vendors selling trinkets as well as locally made crafts. Prices are most reasonable. A very nice tourist bureau office is in the park. You may have taken just those tours offered by the cruise ships or you may be an independent traveled and contract for your own tours. Around the square are lots of taxis and tour operators.Let's compare one of the tours offered at this port. The ship tour programs calls this the Patagonia Experience Otway Sound & Penguin Reserve -4 hours for $94.You travel to Otway Sound mostly over gravel roads. You will walk to the penguins area and from beginning to end is about 1 ½ miles over dirt, gravel, tundra and wooden walkways. The walk is not difficult however the walkways re uneven. Your guide will speak English. There are no stops and you are kept to a rigid time schedule. Most likely some guest will not be aboard on time to return from the tour. You will wait along with all the others. Let's look at the same trip "on your own". The cost for the driver to and from the ship was $100. You have to pay to enter the park and that is $4 each for you and your traveling companion. At the sound there is a $11 per person entrance charge. Total paid for the trip is $130. No tip to the driver. Total paid for the cruise ship tour is $188 plus $5 guide tip for $193. Savings for independent travel for this trip is $63.00 How do the trips compare? On the ship's tour you have English speaking guide, large bus type seating and service from ship back to ship with no corners about being late as the ship will wait. On the independent travel you save $63.00. The driver speaks very little English. You get service from and back to ship. The driver stops for you to take pictures along the way of the jack rabbit, sheep and wild birds. Not going to be the case on the large bus. The seating is car level with small seats however there is air-condition. Almost to your ship and you spot a souvenir stand so the driver stops. Not the case on the bus. Will the ship wait if your are late returning----NOT in a million years. You weigh the difference and see which is best for you. Time was not a factor as both the taxi and the bus returned some 4 hours before departure time.. MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY-----The ships docks right downtown thus walking into the city center is easy. Once off the ship, look for the "green walk way"---that being the sidewalk that is painted green and one that will lead you away from the pier and into the city. Although we were there this last time on a Sunday there were still some stores open and lots of locals on the streets. Travel a few blocks up the street from the pier and make a left toward the city park area which is a few blocks up a slight incline. There is a church on one corner across from the park so look for that church steeple so you can track your way. Want to use the internet (must have your own PC)---well there is a small California Burrito Company store on your right as you go toward the park. Free and fast internet hookup so you can send everyone an e-mail. It's free however at least purchase a drink from the friendly operator. He will appreciate your business. The burritos are hugh so don't order more than one. Traveling on toward the park and then past the park, you will leave the old town and enter the newer financial and hotel district. Worth your time to see all the locals busy shooing and hustling from office to office. If the city center is not your thing, we suggest going to the COLONIA DEL SACRAMENTO which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a 2 ' hour drive each way. You can opt for a tour from the ship or hire a driver at the pier. A personal driver will not take quite as long to get to the town. There are tolls along the way thus check to see if the driver is willing to pay those tolls. We had lunch at one of the local restaurants in the town. It was a long day with cobblestone streets inside the old city. Walking may be a little difficult however it can be done. Wheelchairs are a little more difficult to navigate. There is also a steam train ride available however we were advised this is primarily a tourist attraction like one might find at a large amusement park. Just across the street from the ship terminal entrance is a large pavilion filled with shops and many restaurants. Fresh meats are being bar b q'ed and grill over open pit fires. This is definitely a place to visit and to have lunch or dinner. FALKLANDS ISLANDS No doubt our most interesting and adventurous port stop. First the tenders have to travel quite a way to get to Port Stanley. The water was rough and the winds very strong. We went ashore without any tour reservations and found a local person that took us on a fantastic penguin tour about an hour away from the docks. He had a 4 wheel drive Range Rover that was needed as we crossed private ranch land to reach the nesting and beach area. We were the first to arrive at the area where we spent about 30 minutes observing and photographing at least 200 penguins. We can say this was a fantastic opportunity. As we left several other 4 wheel drive vehicles arrived and all in all at least a dozen by the time we got back to the gravel highway. We were paying $40 each for our trip will some of these other people had paid as much as $259 per person to see the penguins. Oh they did get a box lunch thrown in. We could not have been more pleased with this experience. It was fantastic and we saved a large bundle of money. Upon return to the docks we spent the next hour touring the small port town of Port Stanley. By the way that would have been another tour charge had we purchased on the ship. The time on shore was short, however by 1:30PM we were ready to return to the ship and we caught the last tender back to the ship before tender service was suspended. Those still on tours and on shore found long lines and long waiting time for their return trip to the ship. We were about two hours later leaving the area due to these long waits caused by large waves and high winds. The ride back consisted of repeated tossing's by the waves and getting along side of the ship became a real challenge for the skipper of the tender as we tried several times before being able to get along side. Even then many of us got thourghly soaked by the splashing waves that hit the tender. You can walk all over Port Stanley in a short period of time. We don't think a paid tour for walking is necessary. There is a war memorial that you need to see. Also a large general store right on the waterside street(The West Store), where you can get groceries, a cup of coffee, books and souvenirs, wines, toiletries plus there is an electrical store where cameras and supplies are available.. The place is clean and prices are reasonable. Across the street is the Capstan Gift Shop where some nice gifts c an be found. Numerous gift shops are in the downtown area. There are some small coffee and bakery shops that are worthy of your stooping by. Look for them on the side street away from the water. Pass up the "trinkets" shop as many of these souvenirs may not be of such great quality. There are two churches downtown just opposite the water and a restaurant across from the newspaper office. (Christ Church Cathedral , St. Mary's Catholic Church and The Tabernacle, United Free Church).Close by is the Post Office. The Whalebone Arch is in this part of town as is the 1982 Liberation Memorial. A school is also located downtown. The houses are quaint and most have a brightly painted roof that can be seen from a long distance. The wind blows very hard so bundle up for your walking tour. We were told that the Falklands get 40% of all their electrical power from wind turbines and that the percentage is increasing on a steady basis. If you are interested in the history of the Falkland Islands, including the 1982 war with Argentina, may I suggest that you research back at home before you come as books are rather expensive in the Falklands and I have yet to find that really good one about the 1982 war. Most in the bookstores are written from the perspective of a daily journal by one of more of the residents of those days. You can drop more than $300 per person on ship purchased tours for the Falklands or you can have an equally great time for less than $50 each by becoming your own travel agent. Just get to the dock early as the number of guides is limited. There is a close by penguin area where one can actually walk (about 1 ½ hours each way) and that is 100% free. What a fantastic job to have just meeting the 50 or 60 cruise ships per year and providing tour guides around the island! This in my opinion would be a great fun job, very limited workdays and a fairly good income. Now one would have to bear the cold and winds which never seem to die down. If you are a cruiser and have never been your own travel agent, there is no better time especially with the internet, to save yourself a bundle of money, get away from the crowds and take some fun and adventurous tours on your own. If you are tired of waiting on that constant straggler missing from the bus after every stop, if you are tired of the pushing and discourtesies at each stop, may I suggest trying a tour on your own. Start several months ahead of your trip and gather up tons of information and don't forget to check reviews on what has been the experience of others. CAUTION---There are live mines located in numerous places of the area. They are marked with signs, thus observe those signs and don't enter the marked off areas. Our guide says that mines are still being removed however the process is very costly and progress is slow. EXPLORATIONS CAF'---This is place along the port side on deck 8--just past the casino where you can get a book, coffee drink or use the internet (good luck on the internet). In fact this is one of the most frequently used areas we noticed on the ship. Large windows let you look out on the port side. You are close to the Rotterdam Dining room, thus a good place to meet friends before dinner. On the opposite side of the ship is another good place to meet friends at the Explorer's Lounge. Coffee is sold at about the same price you would pay at Starbucks. In the Neptune Lounge (suite guest) there is no charge for coffee including cappuccino. OCEANS BAR---Has some good seating with large windows on the starboard side. Music and entertainment in the evenings. Check the daily bulletin for drinks specials (usually the second one for $1) each day. TIPPING ABOARD SHIP I have read numerous posting on web sites in which questions have been ask about cruise ship tipping. There is no simple answer in spite of the fact that cruise ship experts , especially those working for the industry, will attempt to give you a "concrete and simple" answer to your question. On board this two segment trip Holland America added $11 per day per couple on the first segment and $12 per person per day on the second segment. total charges. Thus we paid for a 28 day , two segment trip $640.00. This means we paid $640.00 in tips for this limited number of employees, such as cabin stewards, their assistants, the waiter, his/her assistant and "others". In addition we paid 15% in tips for those drinks we purchased. Now if there was someone that was really outstanding, such as your waiter, to whom you have already committed $96.00 in tips, you may want to give him or her some additional cash. While Holland America used to provide envelopes for this at the end of the cruise, there were no visible envelopes around, however the front desk would be most happy to provide as many as you desire. Just remember that your waiter who was serving three tables of six has already received $864 from the mandatory tips for those past 16 days. On top of all of this you most likely were not served every meal by that waiter as you may have dined in the Lido or had service in your room. The point is that the cruise industry really screwed the tipping situation up when they started their "mandatory" program. You now give the same tips whether your service is good, poor or outstanding. On the other hand there are those passengers that without the "mandatory tipping" would most likely leave the ship without having left any tip. Now there are the "good guys" who will leave that waiter an extra $20, $50 or $100 bill as they leave the table on that last day. The real answer to that question is to "absorb" the Holland America "tip policy" and give something extra to that person what you think about his/her service. If there was nothing really outstanding then you have already tipped enough. By the way, these employees aboard the cruise ship are not paid great wages and their livelihood likely depends heavily upon your tips. Did you know Holland America makes that same wait staff pay for their inte3net usage? It is no wonder we see so many staff at the internet cafes on show where they make telephone calls back home or send e-mails to their families. SHIP'S CRUISE SURVEY OR EVALUATION At the end of the cruise expect your service to get about as good as it can get as every crew member is aware that a survey form is about to land in every cabin. However that was not our case as we did not receive a survey form. When we inquired at the front desk we were advised that if you are on a back to back or multiple cruise segments you will receive a survey from only at the end of the cruise. We don't think this is fare to either the staff or the customer. For example we changed Captains, Cruise Directors and many wait staffers at the end of the first segment. One of these was outstanding when another was just satisfactory. There is no way, unless I write a narrative on each employee, that those reviewing the survey will know who I am evaluating. I will probably not turn in my survey form and send a letter AND the survey form to Corporate instead. BACK TO BACK CRUISES----We have done this in the past and without a problem as we have always stayed in the same cabin for the entire cruise. This time it was a little different as the cabin we reserved on the first segment was not available for the second portion of the cruise. I was assured by a representative at corporate that we would have no problem. Not exactly true. Our first segment cabin was 035 and the second segment cabin was 006. One of the port side and the other on the starboard side. On the last evening of the first segment we still had no guidance on the move so I went to the front desk and was told I would get a letter later that day. I did receive a letter in a couple of hours and I suspect it was generated as a result of my visit to the front office. I noticed there was no new cabin key thus back o the front desk. I was informed that a new key could not be issued UNTIL THE actual cruise date which would be the following day. I once again asked about the actual move and was assured that a cabin attendant would assist. I even verified this with the concierge. We wanted to get off the ship as it was docked at Valparaiso however this was not going to be possible as we still had no new cabin at 10AM. Finally shortly after 10AM a cabin attendant came to the area where we were waiting and advised the new cabin had been cleaned. We moved out personal belongings with only one load of hang up clothes being moved by the cabin attendant. It just seemed as though no one knew what to do. We returned to the front desk where we were issued a new cabin key for the new cabin. At 11AM we ask a about leaving the ship and learned that the new boarding passengers would start boarding at 11:45AM. We did not want to get involved in any additional waiting lines thus we left the ship, went to the terminal and shortly after that reboarded so we would not have to wait with new boarding passengers. Holland American did not assist us in any way and I to assume they thought we could just work "it" out. Well we did, as we retuned back to the ship before noon time. So much for touring any of Valparaiso. One certainly needs to work out as many details on such a change before the final day. You can eliminate this problem completely by reserving the same cabin for your entire cruise. SHOULD I RESERVE MY NEXT CRUISE WHILE ABOARD SHIP? If you want my short answer it is "NO". I know it may be tempting to only have to pay a deposit of $100 for a cruise nearly two years away. You will also be advised that "credit" will go back to your home town (or wherever) travel agent. It may also be tempting from a standpoint that you may be able to select exactly the cabin you always wanted. Do you have any idea what world conditions will be some 18 months from now? Will those cruise destinations you desire now still be the ones you want to cruise to in 18 months? The economic stability of business and countries throughout the worlds are such that I just tend to say, let's wait until a closer time when I actually want to cruise. I look for destinations we want to visit, fro great fares and super accommodations aboard the ship. Sometimes it takes a little waiting to get just the right combination. There are new ships being added by the cruise industry every year plus there are new ports being opened up throughout the world. I have come to the point where we are looking for quality service, quality food, quality cabins, etc without breaking the bank. Rather than four cruises in two years we are opting for two or three where we can enjoy cruising at our expectations. Holland America has a 212 page Cruise Atlas 2012-2013. The booklet is very good and was planned well. You can browse through all the Holland American cruises for the two year period. Fining a copy locally may be difficult thus requesting a copy form HA may be the best way to get a copy. There were limited copies available on this cruise however there was a notice asking that the brochures be returned after reviewing. EXPLORE WELLBEING & Salon This is where you can go for a fitness class, acupuncture or across the hallway for a hair makeover or touch up on your fingernails. The Greenhouse and Explore Wellbeing will set you back a few dollars regardless of what you desire. While my wife used the hair dresser I stayed away from all of this section. If it is your thing --then go for it! YOUR TRAVEL GUIDE BENJAMIN Some good information with lectures throughout the cruise. Held in the Showroom at Sea. RELIGIOUS SERVICES Mass was celebrated in the Wajang Theater at 8AM ART AUCTIONS There were none---hurray!!! LATE NIGHT DANCING Available at several of the lounges throughout the evening LIBRARY There is a large library on deck 8 at the Explorations Cafe. Books can be checked in and out at the desk. A few paper backs are available for exchanges. You do not have to check these paperbacks out, just leave one as you take one. You will find a few books in the Neptune Lounge if you are a suite guest. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
By 12.15am every night the only place with any music playing was from a disc in the disco!All the bars closed down by before midnight or 12.30 in the Casino and the only place to get a drink was in the disco where there were never more ... Read More
By 12.15am every night the only place with any music playing was from a disc in the disco!All the bars closed down by before midnight or 12.30 in the Casino and the only place to get a drink was in the disco where there were never more than a couple of dozen people. And this was a Christmas Cruise!!! After the last performances in the Footlights theatre and Starlights Lounge ended at latest 11.30 the ship died. By midnight every night there were about 20 or so in the Yacht and Compass bar, most of 10 in the casino,and a handful of people dotted around the beautiful Atrium. With no drinks being served, no late night piano being played passengers went off to bed! Mind you the average age was well into the late 60s but even us older ones want a bit of sparkle and a late night chat/entertainment. The Entertainment Team were brilliant and did their best to get some atmosphere going but they were thwarted mainly by the layout of the ship itself. With no large floor area, like a level show lounge or dance floor, it was not physically possible to engage a large enough gathering on one level floor, hence things like carol singing etc took place in the foot of the Atrium with passengers having to stand on different deck levels and on the stairs! The speed of embarkation and disembarkation was very good. Our balcony cabin was by far the smallest we have ever had and the bathroom was crazily small. It was nigh impossible to turn round from the sink to the toilet to the shower or vice-versa. And if you wanted to partly dress in the bathroom, like put on your underwear, then you had to be a contortionist. The decor was fine and the service of the cabin steward was excellent. The food generally was very good. As we have always tended to gear our eating round the shows, we take advantage of the buffet and this was on deck 14 with panoramic views. Whilst the food was very good, the ambiance also good, the two important things to me which let it down was 1.About 50/60% of the various foods/dishes on offer were not labelled and you had to guess what they were . 2...Very many times especially at dinner, the napkins were 1/2 ply cheap and nasty paper ones! Not good.The food in the main dining room was excellent as was the service. However, one evening we ate in the so called Marc Pierre White restaurant which was located on deck 8 in the Cafe Jardin. Lovely ambiance, wonderful quality service. There was a £6.50 supplement to dine there and then another supplement if one wanted the 21 day reared rib eye steak. Well I have had better down my local pub for £6.99, better taste, better cooked and better presented. Such a let down. The entertainment generally was very good. Broken down into: duos, pianists, trios; guest artists and the Headliners Theatre Company. One particular duo was Serendipity who were very talented indeed. With Lyn playing the tenor and alto sax, the flute, the clarinet and can also play piano, guitar and bassoon. She also has a great voice too. Stewart on the keyboard and guitar was brilliant. The pianist were ok but nothing special and were not seen playing very much. Would have been lovely to have some late late night music or even a sing song, especially as this was billed as a Christmas Cruise. The comedians on the first part of the cruise were pretty awful but another Steve Tandy was very good as was Maxime Mazunder who did a Lulu tribute one night and a Dusty Springfield another. A lovely voice . However the group of young guys and girls who were just fantastic were the Headliners Theatre Company. They performed six DIFFERENT shows over the 12 nights, playing three times on those nights. The energy was outstanding and the quality of the two main dancers Darren and ? was superb as were the vocalists. Each show as a knock-out and saved the day as far as the overall cruise was concerned. The Cruise Director Leanne was lovely, so natural, so easy, so friendly and caring too. He Assistant Paul had a beautiful velvet voice when they did their spot one night, with him singing a Michael Buble number...great voice Paul. The overall cleanliness of the ship was very good, but then the cleaners had a clear run from just after midnight!!!! One slightly irritating thing was the slowness of the lifts. Somehow for most of the times we used them they were all either up or all down and a bit like the No.10 bus you wait for, for ages then two or three come along. Now to the weather! Within about 12 hours of leaving Southampton we started to encounter very rough seas which gathered pace for almost 36 hours culminating in a Force 9/10. The ship became deserted with many passengers being frightened to venture out of their cabins for fear of falling. There were casualties and a cabin window blown in. A lot of sickness of course, but fortunately I was not affected and in fact I quite enjoyed the experience as this was the first time in some 20+ cruises when it has not been calm seas. We only took one shore excursion and that was down to Playa de Americas in Tenerife. The other ports of call we did our own thing. P & O are very good with their shuttle buses as they do not charge for this useful service. The prices of drinks was very good compared to those on Royal Caribbean for example. P & O also play down the "gratuities" and have a very relaxed attitude towards tipping again compared to Royal Caribbean which thrust it at you several times in a cruise (One cruise of 10 nights on RCL the reminder about gratuities was mentioned 9 nights in the daily news letters, once by the cruise director and once by the two dining room waiters)...so well down P & O. Overall we enjoyed the cruise, me more than my wife, as I wanted to escape Christmas as much as possible. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal ... Read More
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal undercover in two minutes Day 2 24th Nov. We flew with Singapore Airlines, Manchester to Singapore with a short stop for fuel and some more passengers in Munich. Excellent service and food, the seat back entertainment was exceptional over 50 films + comedy shows+games and TV programs on a 10inch screen. Easy on-line check-in 24hrs prior to flight. Day 3 25th Nov .The pick up from the airport was excellent a gent with a board with our name was there, he showed us where to wait whilst he went for his brand new black Mercedes and took us straight to The Traders Hotel, the room was small, as reports had said but was adequate and aircon was good, the pool was excellent, shopping in Orchard rd, shuttle bus to town and routes, we did [a groggy "Orchard Road"] The shops in this city are awesome [not cheap] and everywhere they have Chrissy decorations up, it all looks so good!! Spent some time by the hotel pool in the sun at lunchtime until it clouded over and p-----d down for an hour! Had a meal in Tanglin Mall [attached to the hotel] and bought some food and wine for the evening Day 4 26th Nov. Hippo Bus tour, got over the journey, now up at 7am, today we are doing the hop on hop off bus around all the tourist spots for a quick view of Singapore! This was an excellent way to see the sites in a very short time with a running commentary as to where you were and what to see. We booked this via Viator on the internet and paid '£11pp on the day it would be $S23 It takes 1hr to do each of the two routes, then you can choose where to go and get off at that stop, then rejoin the trip when ready. We had an exceptional meal on Clarke Quay whilst on the route and even though it rained we were under cover and had excellent service and views, had a take away in the room that night and crashed out. Day 5 27th Nov. Lounged in the hotel in the morning chatting to the friendly staff and other people who were going on the cruise, There was one thing to mention, the maid had put a Kitkat on our bill, so we spoke to her and she said we had taken it and that she found the wrapper in the bin! {WE DID NOT HAVE THE KITKAT] so reception removed the charge, as we left the Hotel the next day we noticed a Vodka and Tonic had also disappeared!! Make your own assumptions, then the Taxi to the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre to book in for Transfer to ship [only S$10], this was poorly organised we are Elite so we are supposed not to have to wait but wait we did, in a grotty hall on uncomfortable seats until a bus took us thro a massive container port about 25mins drive away to join the ship, we then booked into the ship had a meal and relaxed. We went for dinner 2nd sitting looking forward to meeting our new companions, they were a gentleman of approx 90yrs by himself and a family of 4 mum, dad and two boys one 9yrs and one 10yrs all from Auss. During the meal the 10yr old was unwell and mum went out with him twice on the 3rd occasion they came back he had the waste bin from the cabin with him! Within 5mins he was being sick in the bucket at the table!!! We resolved to move tables the following day. [And did!] We went to see the show and enjoyed the performance and went to bed! Day 6/1 28th Nov. Day at sea had breakfast on the balcony [room service Free] then decided to spend some time in the sun. It was partial cloud all day so we had a lazy day on deck but unfortunately got a little sunburn. The evening was formal night and Champagne fountain plus our new table [what will we get?] We also had a meet and greet with our friends in the Cruise Critic group at 11am to 12pm for drinks with the Captain, Cruise Director and staff which was good fun followed by another meeting some other good friends we had met on Facebook Rollcall and had had some Video chats with prior to the cruise at 6pm, this went on till Dinner at 8.15 and was an absolute brilliant party!! Then off to dinner at the new table, we couldn't have been more pleased we had a lovely lady from Sydney Sue, and her husband Max[who was Italian and was fluent in many languages] they where a joy to be with. Then another couple from Yorkshire turned up and the table was a delight, pleasant intelligent conversation with a bit of banter all night, then off to the show again till late, then bed. A thoroughly brilliant day!!! Day 7/2 29th Nov Ko Samui. Tendered to the shore for 9.15am which was poorly organised and time consuming then a mini-bus to Chaewang Beach, left to ourselves from 10am to 12am $29 each with Princess. The beach wasn't exceptional, many in the Caribbean and Med are much better, swam and enjoyed an expensive beer and returned on time. Had lunch with some people we had met in the Singapore hotel, it was to hot to sunbathe so we chilled out in the room with a few drinks. Went to dinner enjoyed a pleasant meal with good company then crashed out with a Baileys and brandy. Day 8/3 30th Nov. Bangkok/ Pattaya Took the FREE shuttle bus to Pattaya 45mins, what a brilliant place great shopping right on the beach [not sure about swimming though] spent most of the time spending money and choosing clothes great fun, Sandra bought a silk dress and I bought a pair of trousers. Shuttle back to the ship, crash out and relax with a drink!! Very happy with Pattaya went for dinner with our four companions Sue and Max, Sue and Allen, we have a great time with in depth conversations about just about anything, and we are always the last people out of the dining room. It's a relief to have such good company. Received our first laundry back today all properly cleaned and pressed and free!!! Day 9/4 1st Dec. Day at sea. Woke up this morning the sea is like a millpond not a cloud in the sky, we tried to buy some sunscreen yesterday on the ship but they only had factor 4!! Breakfast on the balcony Spent the day in the sun watched a Movie "Cowboys and Aliens" funny! A few drinks plenty of relaxing. Time for evening meal enjoyable as ever, then off to bed!! Day 10/5 2nd Dec. Vietnam. Decided the 2.5hr drive to Saigon would be to boring [which was confirmed later by people that went] so we took the free shuttle bus to a small town market 45mins away, what a treat, started at a decent supermarket then thought there must be more to see so we walked 2 blocks and found this huge 3 story local market with a food market next door, spent ages routing around clothes shoes belts everything you could think of, all genuine designer goods [not!] I bought an Armarniish belt! Ha Ha. Then off to the food market, OMG fish drying out in the dirt on the pavement, what a stink and flies everywhere, next the Veg. Market what a difference beautiful food everywhere the vendors were the classic ladies sitting amongst the produce sorting, cleaning, peeling and posing for photos, so friendly, indeed everybody was friendly, giggling as we tried to talk to them [apart from the occasional guy pushing sunglasses at you on the street]. A great morning out [except some poor cruisers didn't walk the block and missed all the local stuff, we told a few when we got back to the bus and they them went off to see the local market!] Bought a bottle of wine and twelve cans of coke and tonic with the rest of the Dongs and went back to the ship. Enjoyed the sun and the peace as most had gone to Saigon and we almost had the ship to ourselves! Excellent dinner, had a little argument with Sue who was a NHS worker supporting the strike! So I couldn't let that go and we had a ding dong [which I enjoyed but I don't think she did!] Day 11/6 3rd Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [ Chillin all day!!!] Dinner, atmosphere was ok all forgiven! Day 12/7 4th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 13/8 5th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 14/9 6th Dec. Bali Elephant Safari This was great fun, up early tender to the shore was 40mins and it poured down with rain, the people who got on first where on the open top of the tender and got totally soaked!!! Then a 1.5hr drive to Elephant park in the mountains of Bali. First we fed them then had a half hour+ ride on them thro the jungle, it poured down for 10mins, but they gave us capes for that and there where huge spiders all around us in the trees, then an Indonesian meal [not me normally!] but it was very enjoyable! Then an hours drive to a local market [just sold crap!] and back to the ship. A good day out and very enjoyable. Great meal that night and good company, we were late as usual. Day 15/10 Wednesday 7th Dec Day at sea Lovely hot day, too hot went to the room for a drink at 2pm and stayed till 3.30pm sunny on the balcony. Tonight is Captains Circle night so Formal and free drinks should be good!! Plenty of free drinks; the most cruised person was an Aussie who had done 1500 days at sea [over 4yrs at sea] now thats a lot!!! A good meal we don't bother with shows, so a walk around the decks and off to bed! Day 16/11 Thursday 8th Dec Day at sea Getting hotter as we reach the equator, Had to do Aussie customs today before Darwin tomorrow, all done by midday, sunbathe, but so hot, always above 30C we had to retreat to the spar for a break. Day 17/12 Friday 9th Dec Darwin 37C walked off the ship, passed the protected beach [protected from Box jellyfish] to a lift which took us 5 storeys up to the road into town. Walked into town and explored the shops, very pleasant, with lots of shops. Went to buy some wine in Woolworths, they wouldn't let us as we didn't have photo I.D. a friendly Aussie bought 3 bottles for us and we paid him [ace] Day 18/13 Saturday 10th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 19/14 Sunday 11th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 20/15 Monday 12th Dec Port Douglas, The Great Barrier Reef We where taken to the port by local tender to join the high speed catamaran for the journey to the Outer Barrier Reef [approx 90 mins] where the boat tied up to a pontoon above the reef, we were then given any equipment we needed [$5 for a latex stinger suit ref the Box jellyfish] and were then free to snorkel in the large protected area. The visibility was about 10 metres, there were plenty of fish large and small, We then had a semi-submersible ride around the reef for about 35mins, next we had a pleasant lunch on the pontoon or in the cat. We the returned to Port Douglas and due to time we where transferred straight back to the ship and missed Port Douglas itself [shame]. A long enjoyable day on a trip that has to be done. Day 21/16 Tuesday 13th Dec Airlie Beach, Daydream Island Resort, The Whitsunday Islands we arrived at 10am and had a right mix up with the tenders from the ship, it seems that they didn't have enough Auss customs officers to do both sides of the ship so we were delayed, we finally went to this beautiful island by cat arrived 12pm and watched the hotel staff feeding the fish on their living reef, it was very hot! We had a look around the 7 pools, it was now lunch time at the Fishbowl Restaurant after 30mins it started to rain slightly, we were sitting with a Scottish couple having a good natter and the wind suddenly changed direction. A mini Cyclone went straight thro the whole resort, smashing tables, glasses, chairs, and taking down a number of large trees, one landed on some sun beds crushed them and fell into the pool!!! It was one of those times when you say Wow! that could have been deadly. Luckily nobody was hurt and the sun came out and we enjoyed the rest off the day, 5pm to 7pm with low cost cocktails $3.99 in Skywalkers, "Rob Roy" was the best [Chivas Regal base] Day 22/17 Wednesday 14th Dec Day at sea This was a lovely day slightly cooler than all the others [we are heading south out of the tropics] still very sunny and warm, sunbathing and a few drinks, we then had a goodbye party with the Facebook crowd at 4pm, till 5pm and cocktails in Skywalkers [Cocktail was "Chairman of the Board", Bombay Sapphire base] next changed for the formal night and free drinks at the captains farewell party, superb beef wellington and great company till late. Day 23/18 Thursday 15th Dec Day at sea Last day of the cruise, weather changed as expected, a lot cooler 20C and cloudy, packing has to be sorted as they take the cases tonight after dinner [or before if you want] sort out all the admin. Day 24/19 Friday 16th Dec Sydney, The Sail into Sydney Harbour to Circular Quay was amazing with fantastic views of the city, the opera house and the bridge! Disembark and get a taxi to the hotel [ only $A15 The 4 Points Sheraton Hotel, This is a lovely hotel, check in was perfect, no effort, bags taken to room. The room was a harbour view with a large picture window overlooking Darling Harbour excellent! That morning we chose to buy a joint ticket to The Aquarium, The Wild Life Adventure and The Sydney Tower. The Aquarium was brilliant with lots of exotic sea creatures that you don't see in the northern hemisphere, The Wildlife Centre was just what we wanted, we stroked Kangaroos, saw a Duck-billed Platypus, a giant crocodile, a Wombat and best of all we cuddled a Koala. Next a short walk, to the Tower fabulous 360 views of Sydney. Finally an evening having a meal and a walk around Darling Harbour, this was amazing, Christmas Tree, Carol singers and buzzing with loads of people having a great time in all the bars, a great day all round. Day25 Saturday 17th Dec Sydney Today we had breakfast in a Restaurant on Darling Harbour, the weather was a little cloudy but warm. At lunch time we decided to take the ferry from the harbour to Manley Beach. This was so easy $13 return every 20 mins, about 30mins to get there, the weather was now brilliant and hot, we were surprised how beautiful the area was, lots of shops, a beautiful prom and a fantastic beach, loads of surfers, people having barbecues on the beach, a market, lots and lots of things going on everywhere! That night we went back to harbourside and had a meal, It was Saturday night and was all set up for a fireworks display so we went back to the hotel to watch from our grandstand view room. It was a brilliant display especially with some chocolate and a bottle of wine. Prior to this we had to call our pick-up for the airport the following day to confirm, when we did we couldn't get thro' so I asked the Concierge to help, he tried and said they were closed, however, he went onto the internet and looked up their web-site, got an out of hours number and confirmed our pick up with them [all without me asking him to do it] absolutely excellent service!!. We then needed to check in to Singapore Airlines and print our boarding cards, I went customer services at the hotel and asked about the printer and the girl on the desk offered to do the whole job for me!! I gave her the flight details and she sorted everything out and printed the boarding passes!!! Another example of fantastic service by the hotel staff. Day 26 Sunday 18th Dec Fly home, We had the morning at leisure as our flight wasn't until 4.15pm, so we strolled around the harbour, had breakfast and did some last minute shopping. We were picked up on time by a company called Sunbuses and taken to the airport. Dropped the bags off waited for the flight to Singapore on the Airbus 380 8hrs, then a 2hr wait in Singapore for a flight to Munich 12hrs, then stay in the plane for an hour whilst some passengers left and others joined and the wings were de-iced then a 2hr flight to Manchester. Day27 Monday 19th Dec collect car Arrive at Manchester call APH, they sent a bus to transfer us to the car park. The car was parked ready to collect then off to home 40mins Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We were warmly welcomed in Nuremberg and taken to the beautiful Prestige ship. Our room was just lovely and there was a tray of Christmas cookies and candies. The ship was very nicely appointed and the staff was friendly. It started out ... Read More
We were warmly welcomed in Nuremberg and taken to the beautiful Prestige ship. Our room was just lovely and there was a tray of Christmas cookies and candies. The ship was very nicely appointed and the staff was friendly. It started out real well but we soon learned that the Danube was very low and that we would travel to certain point then have to get off that ship and get on the Legend to continue. Apparently there was a part of the Danube that was impassible. Then, from Vienna we had to travel by bus to Budapest cutting short our time there. We did make all the Christmas markets that were promised. To make up for the inconvenience, we were treated to a beautiful musical show in Vienna that would normally cost around $80 and also we were put up in a 5 star hotel in Budapest for one night. Then, when we got home, we got vouchers to spend on future cruises. This did not discourage us from booking another cruise and we are going from Moscow to St. Petersburg this July. The Christmas Markets are fabulous!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Since booking a Mini Suite on the Epic a few months ago I have been reading with interest the reviews on this site. How I wondered if we had thrown our money away; the awful cabins with strange bathrooms and no room at the end of the ... Read More
Since booking a Mini Suite on the Epic a few months ago I have been reading with interest the reviews on this site. How I wondered if we had thrown our money away; the awful cabins with strange bathrooms and no room at the end of the bed. The bland food in the Garden Caf. The expensive drinks and the overbearing sales techniques that have blithed the poor reviewers. Even the lack of central multi-storied atrium seemed to have concerned worried travellers. I read all the reviews with increasing woe and so with trepidation we set off the Barcelona on Sunday 2nd October 2011. Perhaps I should explain a little about myself. I am a bloke knocking on 50 and have travelled extensively both with my job and for holidays. You could say that I have certain standards that I dont wish to compromise and my friends would say that I am interesting to be with especially if I dont consider the price and promise to meet the actual offering. Yes I find I will often send food back (albeit I will not agree to a replacement, as the human being is not good at accepting criticism without revenge: I value my health). Embarkation was a breeze. Disembarkation was a breeze (we wheeled our own bags without any issues). We both thought the stateroom was just lovely and the curved lines a great success. Yes the toilet compartment was a little cramped and the acoustics were not great, but this was not so bad and I have stayed in many a hotel with the same issues. We have travelled on the Legend and Navigator before and the sinks on both of these vessels were pretty small, so I have to ponder exactly how large are the guests that have complained? Surely they can get their hands into the sink to wash them; their faces cannot be that big and are they using loofers as toothbrushes? Strangely NCL have provided a wonderful shower that I used twice a day. Sink not an issue. The length of the bed has been mentioned! I am 6 2 and hey presto I fitted a treat. Actually the bed was extremely comfortable. I liked the little reading lights on a stalk and especially liked the interactive TV where I could check my billing. However there could be a better choice of channels as it does appear that NCL would rather you spend a few dollars renting a movie! This point leads me nicely into the often criticised up-selling that can be found on-board. Yep they want to take photographs and make cash; yep they want to sell you expensive drinks and yep they want you to go to the surcharge restaurants. They certainly want you to go on the NCL organised excursions. But they are not in your face and we never got anything other than a polite OK when we said no thank you. Furthermore, the same up-selling is evident on the other mass market cruise lines. The food. What are people complaining about! The Garden Caf and the Great Outdoors. What a great selection. In fact it is such a great selection that I noted that many guests had filled their plates with a rare smorgasbord of dishes that would not normally be seen on the same plate. Such was the choice that these poor guests were so confused and bewildered that they were mixing such items as curry with fish and chips with a smattering of blue cheese salad dressing. I am sure these people are not the ones complaining of bland food! I broke all the man rules and actually ate salad at lunchtimes! Peculiarly I enjoyed it and suffered no ill effects! We decided that we would splash out on some the speciality restaurants. We found that the Italian on the first night was good and enjoyed excellent service. I can understand the comments regarding the food at the Cirque but I have this to say. These guys are trying to hit a happy medium! They have to. There is one starter, one main course and one desert to be served (pretty much at the same time) to a wide audience that ranges in age and culture. I attend Industry and Conference dinners in London at prestige hotels and experience similar. If you are complaining about the food at the Cirque venue then you have missed the real point. This being what is happening 15 in front of you not on the plate that is only 12 inches in front. We also paid extra for Cagneys, Moderno and Teppanyaki and found the surcharge to be reasonable and the service excellent. It is staggering the quality they come up with in the middle of the sea! Taste was reasonable, although the quality of the food was below that which you pay a little extra for. The biggest surprise was the quality of the food in OSheehans as this is included in your ticket. This is American Diner food and was excellent and you can order as much as you like! Entertainment was really very good. The big productions on other cruise ships are goodish and if you like the big theatre feel then you may prefer these. The Epic goes for a more intimate feel. We have seen Cirque de Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall for the past 3 years. Its a big production, or rather the set is a big production but with similar performances as you will witness on the Epic. We choose to sit up-stairs and the way the Spiegel Tent has been set up, everyone has a great view. For me this was better than the big London performances and believe me far cheaper! Blue Man Group was a revelation. Loved them and went standby to see them twice. The Beatle tribute band that was moved from H20 to Fat Cats due to weather were fantastic. Again the venue helps as you really get to see the performers up close. I dont really like the Beatles music, but loved the show as the personalities of band really shone through. This was also true of the Slam Allen Band who we hold entirely responsible for some late nights. I am an avid non smoker who occasionally can smell if the car driver in front is smoking. We didnt spend any real time in the Casino as I cannot gamble. This is not a religious thing I simply loose my money quickly! However if I had have wanted to drop a little cash I would not have done so as this area is quite smoky when busy! Oh well live and let live! We have a good dance at the White Hot Party although we did not spend a lot of time at H2O (too many other bars to enjoy). It defies belief that there are 3 flumes, and we particularly liked the one that you had to use the rings. It was good to shoot around the bowl many times! As you may have gathered there are more activities than time and we didnt get round to going the following: Bliss nightclub; bowling, Spa; Comedy Club and Duelling Pianos, Legends in Concert, Ice Bar; Chinese Restaurant; the Noodle Bar; the Sushi Bar. There are probably a few others that are tucked away. So can we recommend this ship? You may be surprised to learn that no we cannot; well that is if you like going to the same restaurant every night and delight in getting to know the waiter and other table mates! If you like the big Broadway shows! If you like a standard square cabin with little technology! If you like dressing in tuxedos and ball-gowns! If you like a chocolate midnight buffet! If you like a formalised Cruise Director! These are not bad things but if you do then this ship is not for you and it would serve you better to book a traditional cruise. I believe that NCL and their Freestyle Cruise is aimed at a very different demographic. We fall into this demographic and loved it. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011

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