1. Home
  2. Cruise Styles
  3. Holiday Cruises
  4. Holiday Cruises Cruise Reviews

104 Holiday Cruise Reviews

A Very Un-Merry Christmas Cruise on Carnival Freedom CARNIVAL FREEDOM CHRISTMAS CRUISE My husband, nineteen year old son and I just returned from the Carnival Freedom Christmas sailing to the Western Caribbean 12/20/2008 - 12/28/2008. ... Read More
A Very Un-Merry Christmas Cruise on Carnival Freedom CARNIVAL FREEDOM CHRISTMAS CRUISE My husband, nineteen year old son and I just returned from the Carnival Freedom Christmas sailing to the Western Caribbean 12/20/2008 - 12/28/2008. The itinerary called at Cozumel, Limon and Colon. We are relatively experienced cruisers, having completed about a dozen cruises on five cruise lines. Our first cruise was on the Carnival Sensation in 2000, and this cruise was our first return to Carnival after ten cruises. The following is an honest review of our experience. This review is not intended to offend a particular party and includes some opinions. EMBARKATION We got to the cruise terminal at 12:30pm. Because we had been upgraded, we obtained new luggage tags from a porter before leaving our baggage. We waited approximately 30 minutes outside the terminal before entering the security line. Once inside the terminal, the wait was an additional 45 minutes. Carnival was experiencing problems with their computer system, which increased the wait time. I recommend arriving at the terminal earlier that 12:30pm to avoid the wait outside the terminal. SHIP CONDITION As the Carnival Freedom is new, the ship in great condition. Cleaning, painting, varnishing etc. was going on throughout the cruise. DÉCOR The dEcor of the ship was not to our preference. In fact, it is downright ugly. However, when booking the cruise we knew that the onboard ambience would be gaudy and much different than that of Princess and Cunard ships. Because we knew this in advance we had no grounds to complain. We booked the cruise solely for the outstanding last minute price our travel agent provided. Who doesn't enjoy a last minute deal to the Caribbean, regardless of the cruise line? The best description of this ship is that of a carnival. There is no class to be found in any dEcor on the ship. Much of the dEcor seems juvenile and clichE. When we cruise, we prefer a more upscale ambience of class and understated sophistication. For us, a classy shipboard experience includes elegant color patterns, stylish chandeliers, fresh flowers, wood paneling and quality furniture that is as comfortable as it is visually appealing. This desire was impossible to satisfy on Carnival Freedom. CABIN AND ACCOMMODATIONS Since the cabin layouts and furnishings are the same throughout most of the Carnival fleet I won't go into detail. We were very satisfied with the Carnival Comfort Beds. However, because we had not cruised with Carnival in many years, we had forgotten about Carnival's lack of bathroom amenities. Soap and shower gel were provided in wall dispensers, and our steward was very conservative about providing bar soap. It was necessary to ask each time we wanted the ice bucket refilled or wanted another bar of soap. We do not need any toothpaste or antacid samples, so the sample basket was unnecessary. We had the mini bar emptied and the robes removed to make more room in the closet. The balcony was sufficient but we had to clean the glass each morning ourselves. On previous cruises, the cabin attendant would wipe down the balcony glass when it became dirty. After a few days we started doing it ourselves so we could see. MAIN DINING ROOM The food in the main dining room was extremely repetitive. While food is subjective, the menu on the Carnival Freedom was very disappointing. Earlier this evening we ate dinner at Ruby Tuesday, a very mainstream American food chain. The simple $10 dish called Chicken Fresco, a grilled chicken breast with mashed potatoes and broccoli, was so much better than the dinners we had in the Chic Dining Room. We have never eaten so many shrimp cocktails and mixed green salads on cruises because nothing else was appetizing. There seemed to be more Carnival Classics entrEes than options that changed daily. Big red flags were raised when steaks were served with macaroni and cheese, and vegetables were served on the plate in 2-ounce salad dressing cups. Additionally, we feel that that dining room is a place for dining, and the theatre is a place for performance. We did not find the dancing waiters and the, "Hokey pokey chicken dance," as the Maitre'D called it, amusing. Service lacked during the waiter shows and the music and flashing lights were disruptive. Since we remembered this from the Sensation, we took this in stride or tried to leave before the shows. On the last night of the cruise, most of the meals ordered at out table were downright bad. Our waiters were never around to ask how the entrees were. Extra salads and orders of vegetables never arrived. After eating (or not eating) our last dinner, we saw our waiter serving a round of lobster to his other two tables. We are not accustomed to ordering off the menu because we don't travel in Grill Class, so we were all very disappointed. It seemed like our waiters provided much better service to a specific table. DRESS CODE What dress code? On this cruise, a graphic tee shirt and tennis shoes were formal. Very few people exhibited any class or dressed formally on this ship. We prefer cruise lines that ask guests to follow the evening dress code, and do not the admit people into the dinning rooms if they are improperly dressed. SUN KING SUPPER CLUB The supper club experience was a refreshing change from the monotony of the main dining room. The only complaint we had concerned the French Onion Soup. It tasted so strongly of bouillon and was so hot that it was inedible. Other than the reality that there was way too much food, the meal was worth the $90 surcharge. This is how main dining used to be. FREEDOM RESTAURANT LIDO BUFFET The lido restaurant was always overly crowded, especially at peak meal times. Food was mass-produced and generally unappetizing. This was worse than banquette or cafeteria food. You get what you pay for, so couldn't complain based on the low price we paid for this cruise. Guests formed lines at breakfast and lunch and moved slowly down the buffet. The design differs from that of other cruise lines in that it is necessary to wait in a line to grab just one or two items. There aren't standalone stations for salad, fruit, and hot entrees. Instead, all of these items are located along a line. While uneven in quality, the deli and fish and chips were nice alternatives to waiting in the maddening lines. SERVICE We saw our cabin steward only twice or three times, but he did his job. Service was never personalized, and no staff member ever addressed us by name where appropriate, such as our waiters. Staff members rarely said hello in the hallways. Our dining room team would deliver a course and would disappear until serving the next course. On the first day of the cruise, Carnival's computer system apparently did not register our credit card upon embarkation. At dinner the first night we were told that we could not have wine. My husband was told he must leave dinner to have the purser's desk fix the problem. Instead he called from a phone at the waiter's station and was told there was nothing they could do at that time. We have perfect credit and did present a credit card, so to be told in front of newly met tablemates that we could not use our shipboard account was very upsetting and a nuisance. We summoned for the Head Maitre'D who told us he would take care of one bottle of wine, and also offered us a bottle of champagne. We do not drink champagne, so we told him all he had to do was cover the bottle of wine. After several battles at the Purser's desk and playing cabin phone tag with the Hotel Director, the Maitre'D explained he meant that, "taking care of one bottle of wine," meant charging us without the need for a signature. We promptly removed his tip. There we no other major service issues. HOLIDAY DECORATIONS It is impossible not to compare this Christmas experience with past Christmas cruises. Our Christmas cruise last year was onboard the Coral Princess. The Coral Princess was decorated from stem to stern with Christmas trees, lighted garlands and various holiday decorations. Even every cabin door was appointed with a Christmas garnish of holly and ribbon. However, the Carnival Freedom only had garland in the atrium and promenade, and had maybe three Christmas trees. That was it. The tree in the main dining room remained unlit until Christmas Day when my son got disgusted and got up to plug it in. There was a significant lack of Christmas onboard this ship. On Princess, many crewmembers wore a Santa hat the entire cruise and Christmas music played in the public rooms. It was rare to hear a Christmas song on the ship. HOLIDAY FESTIVITIES Christmas Day was marred by high winds and rough seas. Motion sickness bags appeared shortly after our departure from Colon. The Christmas show was cancelled and so was much of the evening entertainment. However, despite the weather, we felt that Carnival did more for the Jewish guests than those who celebrate Christmas. My husband and son actually watched the Menorah lighting ceremony one day because it seemed festive. Carnival provided wine and food for each nightly celebration. When Christmas Eve rolled around, we sat in the atrium listening to the two singers and requested some Christmas songs. We were told that they only knew Feliz Navidad and could not set up sequences for any other Christmas songs. This was a drastic change from our experience last year. Instead of listening to Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, we listened to a few rounds of That's Amore and Sweet Caroline. We feel as tough Christmas was completely skipped this year. There is no such thing as a Carnival Christmas. Last year we received stockings and a signed Christmas card from the captain. Santa showed up and gave every child a wrapped toy. On Carnival, nothing except TWO Santas side by side in the promenade for picture opportunities. How would you explain that one? We feel like Carnival Cruise Line follows a strict schedule. Since Christmas caroling and Midnight Mass do not usually take place on the Thursday schedule, these things did not happen on Thursday December 25. With the increased holiday fare, it is only expected that Christmas will be mentioned on the ship. Not one crewmember said, "Merry Christmas." There was no nondenominational Christian service like on other cruise lines. Midnight mass is always celebrated in the theatre, and many crew attend who are Christian. BUT, the Jewish guests did get to celebrate every night, center stage in the atrium, at 5:30 sharp...and loudly too. PORTS OF CALL We called at Cozumel, Mexico; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama. We have been to these ports before and only left the ship for an hour or two at each port to do some shopping. We do not cruise the Caribbean for the itinerary anymore, only to be at sea. WEATHER AND SEA CONDITIONS The weather was wonderful for most of the cruise. We got plenty of sunshine every day. The trade winds were slightly bothersome on sea days, but it did not impact our cruise. My son looks forward to the Christmas Trades each December. We do not get sea sick, but my husband and I saw two passengers using sickness bags near the atrium. The Columbian Basin was the trouble spot. We had 40-50 knot winds and high seas. The Conquest class design does not seem to handle large swells very well. I have video of the ship bottoming out on waves and producing massive waves and sea spray. ENTERTAINMENT The productions shows were very Vegas like, compared to the Broadway or West End approach of other lines. Of the three shows, the Beatles show was excellent, particularly because of the recorded soundtrack. The other shows provided much energy but left something to be desired. We never attend cruise ship comedians or magicians. CROWDS Our sailing on Carnival Freedom had 3,600 guests, including 1,200 guests under age 21. When walking about this ship, we constantly were bumping into people and waiting in lines. The ship's photographers set backdrops up in the middle of the promenade, making it impassible in the evenings. It was aggravating to have to wait for the photographers. It was like waiting in a row of red traffic lights. Children congregated on the promenade and were loud and unruly at times. It is surprising how may parents allow their 8-12 year old children roam the ship alone after midnight. On the last night we saw several intoxicated minors stumbling into the elevator. The ship is overcrowded and commercialized. Nickel and diming is evident everywhere. DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation was lengthy. Not much to say. How else do you get 3,600 people off of a ship in two hours? Not a pleasant experience, but unless they switch to silent disembarkation, I can't think of a better way. I recommend self-disembarkation, but we had too much baggage. BOTTOM LINE Based on this experience, there are a few simple questions that you must ask yourself to decide if you will like a Carnival cruise. Do you prefer a classy and elegant cruise ship, or do you prefer a mass-market commercialized cruise ship? Do you mind long lines and maddening crowds, or do you prefer a ship with a higher space ratio? Do you mind cruising with more than 1,000 minors, or do you prefer more mature passengers? Do you prefer a higher level of service and glamorous dEcor, or basic service and amusement park-like dEcor? For us, we prefer a more upscale experience. As stated, given the price we paid, we could not really expect class or sophistication, so we simply used the time away to be with our son on his winter break from college. The unexpected getaway was worth the time away, but we will never cruise Carnival again. EVER. CONTACT Please feel free to direct questions or comments to qm2cruiser@hotmail.com. I am more than happy to answer any questions or provide any additional information. Thanks for reading! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Nothing in the last thirty years of cruising could have prepared me for the let down of this 16 night Panama Canal Cruise. Celebrity Cruise line should refund every passenger on this trip, their money, immediately. This trip was organized ... Read More
Nothing in the last thirty years of cruising could have prepared me for the let down of this 16 night Panama Canal Cruise. Celebrity Cruise line should refund every passenger on this trip, their money, immediately. This trip was organized by my friends for my 50th Birthday, and was researched very carefully... what follows will make you think twice about boarding either of the Azamara ships. What you are about to read has not been embellished one iota, and can all be substantiated by other guests. The good news is... the boarding process was seamless. We went directly to our "Sky Suite" to unpack. The press on this ship had stated the Azamara Journey had undergone a major remodel eighteen months previously. There was no indication of this upon entering our suite. Yes, the suite was rather small, and the bathroom miniscule, but it did appear to be clean, although extremely dated. There was no way this room had been fully remodeled eighteen months ago. Immediately the "Butler" (he is nothing more than a housekeeper with a bowtie) showed up introduced himself, and told us that if we needed anything, to just pick up the phone. He had a smile on his face throughout the entire cruise and did a great job keeping our room clean. After unpacking we caught up with our friends and we did a tour of the ship. We were expecting the five- star ship the Celebrity Cruise line was touting. We expected the ship to look just as it did in the advertising photos. Even an untrained eye could see the rust, the cracks, the dirt, the scratches, drapery rods with no draperies, lounge chairs that desperately needed to be varnished, I could go on, but why bother, we have bigger fish to fry. No one could explain why, but we set sail almost an hour and a half late. We missed the sunset and the fanfare that one normally looks forward to when you set sail. We should have known this was the start of a very long "Journey" to say the least. The open seating in the Discovery Dining Room is a great idea, and the fact that you do not have to dress up if you do not want to is an added bonus. However, do not expect dinner to take anything less than two-and- a- half hours in any restaurant on this ship. That is unless you have a desire to eat average cafeteria food, if so you can eat the buffet dinner in the "Windows Cafe". The menus in the Discovery restaurant create such mouth watering expectations that when you taste the food, you are in shock. What happened to the savory food that was described so elegantly in the menu? Why was it taking so long between courses? Why when we specifically told our waiter that one of our guests was deathly allergic to Bell Pepper would he continue to put dishes that contained bell pepper in front of her? The food was so bad in this restaurant that after four days of torture we made contact with the Food and Beverage Manager who kindly and graciously arranged for all of our meals to be upstairs in the two "Specialty Restaurants." More on this later. The first day, we were at sea, and we went to the gym. It was very clean, a great view of the water, and had all the right equipment one would expect. After about fifteen minutes on the treadmill we kept hearing some loud screaming coming from down a hallway and figured there was an aerobic class in progress. The screaming became more piercing and desperate to the point that many of us got off the lifecycle and went towards the door to see what the commotion was, but before we could get to the door a security guard closed the door. We were a bit confused as to what was going on, so we went through the spa and came out the other side of the hallway to an encounter that do not think any of us shall soon forget. It was almost as if we had stepped into a CSI crime scene. A security guard was telling us to "be careful" as we passed. There were bloody handprints and blood splattering on the outside of the first white paneled elevator doors. As we moved further along we could see that four or five other security guards had what sounded like two maniacs trapped in the other open elevator. It was totally surreal. Whoever was trapped in the elevator was screaming inappropriate racial remarks against the security guards who were from varying nations. In all the years we have travelled on ships we have never seen anything like this. We found it all deeply disturbing and went down to our rooms. Later we discovered that it was a father and son who had been drinking, and the son, who supposedly had never had any alcohol before, reacted badly to drinking and temporarily lost his mind. Everyone was expecting these two to be thrown off the ship at the first port, but surprisingly, they remained. And no surprise to any of us, a few ports later the drunken father was screaming at the drunken son outside of the ship, "I don't care if you walk home!" And with that he got on the boat leaving his intoxicated son to figure out what to do next. Passengers should not be subjected to this kind of behavior. Ever. There is no excuse for this. What more could I say about the itinerary except that on Christmas the cruise line had us in Costa Rica, and on and New Year's eve had us in Cabo San Lucas. All of the shopping was closed in Costa Rica. Whereas we were in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua, on December 26th, where there is absolutely nothing to buy, and truly no reason to ever visit. This port should be taken off the itinerary, but is probably much cheaper for the cruise line to land in, because you end up staying there longer than you do when you dock in Acapulco, which is a shame, because in Acapulco you truly could use two days to see the scenery. None of the itinerary makes any sense, except maybe to the corporate office. As the cruise wore on, so did everyone's nerves. People were complaining left and right about the food, the accommodations, and the horrific third rate vaudeville performers. It appeared to everyone on the ship that one hand did not know what the other hand was doing. It was quite confusing, because all in all the staff was wonderful in their attitude. It was not until later in the cruise that we discovered that over fifty percent of the staff had never been on this ship before we sailed out of Miami. Most of them had never been on a cruise ship before. What was the head office of Celebrity thinking? The two high end restaurants "Prime C" and "Aqualina" did deliver better food than the other sources on the ship. However, this quality of food is what should have been delivered in the Dining Room to all of the guests on a daily basis. The high end restaurants on the "Journey" should be providing a higher quality product than what they have presented here. The staff was much more knowledgeable and attentive in these venues. It was a consensus on the ship that the Head Chef should be fired. In the daily activity program that is slipped under your door every night there was an article about the new head chef that had decided to change all of the round plates to square plates, and in doing so, Azamara was happy to announce they were incurring a major extra expense because square covers did not exist! Who is this chef? We have a news flash for you. How about keeping the round plates; and with the money you are saving hire proper chefs and purchase better quality food. In all of the years we have cruised, everyone in our party agreed, none of us could remember having such horrific food. If Azamara is going to advertise the "Journey" and the "Quest" as "Five Star" ships then they should hire someone to walk stern to bow and point out the obvious issues. Why are the coffee machines breaking down? Why are the Juice machines malfunctioning? Why are the water machines not working? Why is there not a menu on the wall at the Pool Side Grill? Why is the staff allowing glass items to be served anywhere around the pool area? Why have you run out of honey? Why have you run out of Butter? Why have you run out of Peanut Butter? Why did you run out of steaks, and why would you purchase them from Panama? Why have you run out of vegetables? Why are running out of desserts? Why would you leave port without all of the obvious provisions necessary? You want to know why? We will tell you what the cruise ship employees told us. The reason we were late leaving Miami was because the provisions were late being boarded and the Captain finally said, "Enough is Enough!" And off we went in the dark without enough provisions. You are kidding us right? This is a joke, right? Sadly it was not. We were asked to fill out response cards at the end of cruise and to drop them personally in the boxes located on the fourth floor @ "Guest Relations" Everyone we spoke to yesterday said they marked their response card saying they would never take another cruise on Azamara, and they would definitely never recommend Azamara to anyone in the future. It will be very interesting to see how many of those response cards end up in corporate hands. I can honestly say our party was never so happy to see land, as it was today when we finished my 50th birthday party cruise! PS... As other reviews have pointed out... This ship is not handicap friendly. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
1- Creaky cabin when ship in motion. Could not sleep fitfully. This ship is supposed to be new though it already feels worn and shoddy. Balcony was big enough to accommodate two small chairs and a tiny table and was the best feature. Cabin ... Read More
1- Creaky cabin when ship in motion. Could not sleep fitfully. This ship is supposed to be new though it already feels worn and shoddy. Balcony was big enough to accommodate two small chairs and a tiny table and was the best feature. Cabin itself was very tiny and very cramped and not worth the money though to "inside" cabin dwellers (a couple from across our hall asked if they could get a look at our cabin) it looked like the Taj Mahal. They nicknamed their cabin "the coffin". 2-Spotty service with some waits of up to thirty minutes to be waited on by dining room staff in spite of lots of room in the dining room as many passengers were seasick for the first few days from the badly stabilized ship (which is huge,but you feel every roll). Dining room food quality inconsistent and went from good to awful and several times our different waitpersons (we were on anytime dining) forgot part of our orders. 3-Asian restaurant Tamarind for a premium fee quite good. Prime dining experience in Pinnacle restaurant also for a premium fee was anything but. Mediocre classic steak house type food. Unfortunately got food poisoning from dessert (knew it as soon as I began to eat it that it was off). 4-Following morning requested immodium to help with number 3 above and got promptly confined to cabin with threat of disembarkation for non-compliance as a a "norovirus" suspect by hysterical amateur nursing staff in spite of all protestations to the contrary thereby completely missing Aruba as a port of call. Never got to see a doctor. Incompetent organization. 5-Many staff are act like airheads who are trained to say hello to anything that moves. Beyond the greeting most are as useless as a snooze button on a fire alarm unless it is to extort money out of you for some over-priced thing. 6-After giving up cruising on Princess and then Costa because of the sad deterioration in product and service, we can now add Holland-America to the list as the worst one of all and will save ourselves further disappointment by not sailing on anything Carnival owns or runs. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
embarkation smooth sailing if you get there by noon we were on line about 20 minutes and waited about 30 minutes before boarding , don't wait till late afternoon the lines were insane!  we went right to our room and it was ready nice ... Read More
embarkation smooth sailing if you get there by noon we were on line about 20 minutes and waited about 30 minutes before boarding , don't wait till late afternoon the lines were insane!  we went right to our room and it was ready nice cabin ,clean and plenty of storage for the 3 of us , my 14 yr old had a pull down bunkbed that was comfortable .We went right to lunch at the garden cafe it was crazy no seats people were rude the staff was not fast enough cleaning down tables so people were eating around dirty plates from other guests.we walked around the ship i have to say it is beautiful and very clean .We went to dinner early around 5:00 it was great no waiting at all i was afraid from other posts that we would wait but again get there early we only ate in the grand pacific (for the meals included in cruise price)we has a great server named magdalena she is from the Philippines and a real sweety probably the nicest one the rest of the staff is hard to communicate with ,after dinner we went back to our room to find our luggage we had alot because of christmas presents and unfortunately they lost one of our suitcases with most of our gifts for our son that was never found,day 2 day at sea the wether was horrible and the activities were for a much older crowd im not interested in lectures about global warming or jewelry repair eating right gimmie a break im on vacation not in school.We enrolled our 14 yr old in the teen club he was bored out of his mind!!!!!!!!!! he spent most of his time in the arcade at 1 dollar to 3 dollars a game or the bowling alley that we did not know it was 10 bucks per person per game total ripoff, again dinner and then a show , the shows were good thank god ..day 3 florida ncl did not keep the timetable and we got to fl 3 hrs late which totally screwed the day up .we met up family and had christmas but had to return early so we would not be forced to rent the car for an extra day , which we did because of the 3 hr delay ..but it was nice to see family .. day 4 was supposed to be great stirrup cay and don't you know we could not tender because the water was too rough (total disappointment and don't you know the nicest weather on the entire cruise) we went right to reception to ask for a revised daily itinerary , thats when i lost it ... no kids activities , no adult activities they decided to paint and the fumes were horrible by day 4 you have seen and done all thats included without paying extra for bowling , casino, shopping the rock wall was never open... we went to dinner to discover it was the same menu as the first night , we were starved and opted for the steakhouse @ 20 bucks per person sat down opened the menu to find another 10 dollar charge for anything on the specials menu!!!!!!!!!!!!!! of course anything good was on the special menu it was good not great just good . we went to a show and sat in the casino we were bored out of our minds this was christmas eve and now i want my suitcase these people are programmed to smile and say sorry not found yet , i had to break down in tears to get something done .. fill out forms and wait till i get home so christmas was ruined, so sympathy and the language barrier was frustrating ..day 6 christmas morning freeport bahamas i have to say waking up to most of your gifts being misplaced we went to the java cafe and santa was there thats it no music no christmas spirit the dinner menu was horrible and i was not spending one red cent on this ship . we have been to the bahamas before we knew what to expect but did not realize everything would be closed no shops ,restaurants, nada .we went back to the nightmare ship and could not wait to get home ...day 7 debarkation we opted for the express , carry out your own luggage and we did we ran off that ship ncl does not take care of their guest like carnival does it was the worst cruise ever we could have saved 4 grand and stayed home , i a currently working with the insurance company to out in a claim and wrote to ncl seeking compensation for everything else ....stay with what cruiseline you know we will never ever sail with ncl again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ps the room stewards were horrible had to chase them around to maintain our cabin Read Less
Sail Date January 2008

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click