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2,163 Holiday Cruise Reviews

This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.) We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things! As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time). I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :))))) All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :) Looking back now that I am older and wiser now Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
My husband and I are a couple in our late 50's and this was our second cruise. We drove to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton resort along the seawall. This was good value for money in December (~$100) and we would ... Read More
My husband and I are a couple in our late 50's and this was our second cruise. We drove to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton resort along the seawall. This was good value for money in December (~$100) and we would recommend it at that time of the year. We got to the cruise terminal around 11:30am on the 23rd and were able to go through processing and board straight away; had lunch in the buffet restaurant and then went to find our cabin. This was our first Christmas cruise and we weren't sure what to expect. Our only disappointment was that there was no Christmas church Service but it was fun on Christmas Day to listen to the little kids try to decide where Santa and his sleigh actually landed on the ship ! Our cabin steward, Peter, was great and quickly brought us some wine glasses and made room in the small refrigerator for a bottle of champagne we brought on board. He kept our cabin spotless the entire trip. We had early dinner in the Monet dining room and were pleased with both the service and the food. Although our seating was for 5:45pm it actually worked well for us. Between ordering, eating and relaxing, we found that we were there most evenings until about 7:30pm. One caution - when the ship is at capacity, most tables for 2 are in the middle of the aisles and it takes a while to get used to having people passing by on both sides throughout the meal. By day 3, we hardly noticed them. We had a cabin at the rear of the Verandah deck with an oversize balcony. Nice balcony but the trade-off was the noise from the Lido deck until the early hours of the morning. From the deck plans it looks like you're under the pool, and we knew that closed at 11pm. What we didn't realize was that there's about 20ft with tables and chairs between the pool and the rear of the ship and the 24hr pizzeria is nearby. Oh well, we'll know better next time. In Jamaica, you need transportation to get from the port to the main shopping area. If you don't take an official tour, we'd advise taking a cab from the port rather than a minibus if you're on your own. The minibuses wait until they have a full load, and then the majority vote rules on where you actually go. Cabs are more expensive (around $25 to downtown) but you have more control. You don't need transportation in Cozumel or Grand Cayman unless you want to go outside the town. Onboard, we only went to one show so can't comment on those. Lots of places to just sit and listen to live music and have a drink. We paid the surcharge and went to the Steak House one evening for dinner. The food was really good but the portions are huge and we couldn't finish the main course - my husband had the smallest steak - 18oz prime rib and I had the filet mignon and lobster tail. We had waiters rushing to our table to make sure there was nothing wrong ! We really enjoyed this cruise and would recommend it as good value for money.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
DH, DD and self were on the Millennium 7 night Holiday cruise from 12/23/07 to 12/30/07. Overall we had a wonderful time, someone once said 'I don't think you can ever have a bad cruise', but the ship was definitely ... Read More
DH, DD and self were on the Millennium 7 night Holiday cruise from 12/23/07 to 12/30/07. Overall we had a wonderful time, someone once said 'I don't think you can ever have a bad cruise', but the ship was definitely overcrowded and the level of service we expect from Celebrity (we are Select Members) was lacking. 12/22/07-We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before and spent the night at the Renaissance. We weren't overly impressed with the hotel. We were stuck in a smoking room in what was advertised as a non-smoking hotel. Also, the gym was very lacking in the weight department, some free weights and some type of weight machines my DH and self had no clue on how to work. For our DD, disappointment in the pool and hot tub was closed for repair. Why they chose the week before Christmas to work on the pool, I'll never know. 12/23/07-Embarkation was relatively painless. It took us 35 minutes from leaving the shuttle to sipping our champagne. It would have been shorter as our paperwork was filled in on-line, but they had us fill out a health questionnaire at the counter. Once on board, we went up to the grill for the first of many hot dogs and fries for DD. At this point, there was hardly anyone on board and we felt it was our own ship. How quickly that changed! Muster drill was fine, always remember safety first! At this point we realized just how crowded this cruise was to be. People everywhere, I know this cruise was a holiday cruise, but we took a holiday cruise in 2004 which was nowhere near as crowded as this one. 12/24/07-DH and self up early to walk on the jogging track. We love to walk in the morning as the sun rises. We were walking as the ship pulled into Nassau, Bahamas. We purchased tickets through Celebrity for The Pirates of Nassau Museum, which is just a short walk from where the ship docked. We can't say enough how much we enjoyed Captain Blah Blah and the Museum! He was hilarious and very informative as was the museum itself. We highly recommend visiting the museum. After touring the museum, we went back to the ship and enjoyed the peace and quiet with everyone off the ship. We actually found loungers by the pool in the shade! DH and self had dinner reservations at The Olympic Restaurant to celebrate, belatedly, our 12th anniversary. Needless to say, the service and food were impeccable. I dream of the goat cheese and chocolate soufflEs. They are my favorite. I especially enjoyed the Chocolate SoufflE as on other Millennium class ships they only offer the Grand Marnier SoufflE. After dinner, we collected DD from Fun Factory and then on to bed. 12/25/07-Christmas! Tried out the gym first thing in the morning. My only complaint with the gym, it's not "officially" open until 7:00 am. DH and self are early risers and like to get our workouts over early. Machines were nice, slightly different then what we are used to, but they did the job. After breakfast, we took DD to Kid's club for crafts and to await Santa's arrival. DH and self went to Guest Relations to reactivate my Sea Pass card which mysteriously stopped working the night before. This actually happened three more times throughout the cruise. Never could figure out why. Anyway, while we were there, the Cruise Director came on the PA saying radar had picked up a mysterious looking object. They played it up very nicely for the kids. We picked our DD up for lunch and found Celebrity had given all the kids her age a wonderful over the shoulder book bag. We were very impressed. After lunch, we went to the pool to find DD who had gone up with her new best friend. We had a hard time finding a chair without a person or a book/magazine in it! We eventually found our DD's stuff right next to her new best friends' parents and spent some time swimming. Hi Alan and Marsha! DH went to art auction while DD and I watched the King of the Millennium contest. We used to love the art auctions, but not anymore. DH had picked a few items to bid on and after several hours sitting in the Rendez-Vous Lounge; the auctioneer still had not gotten to them. The auctioneer was hawking the more expensive selections the ship had. Needless to say, we never attended another auction. No amount of free champagne is worth it. DH and self went to The Martini Bar before our first meal in the Dining Room. Hi Togi! It's a small world, because lo and behold who is at our table but our DD's new best friend and parents. Enjoyed a nice meal with all our tablemates-Willie and Avis along with Alan, Marsha and Marni. Waiters brought a cake and sang Happy Birthday for me. Very nice. 12/26/07-DH and self up early for morning walk as we pulled into San Juan. Ship docked at new pier with fancy awning type thing that came awfully close to ship. Decided to make this a sea day for us and enjoyed the pool without all the screaming kids. DH heard there were 1800 kids on the ship I thought I heard 800 kids. Either way, there were a lot of kids. If you didn't get in a hot tub before 9:00 am, think twice about it. At times there would be 20 kids in one hot tub. Too many germs! After a relaxing day by the pool, stopped at The Martini Bar for a quick cocktail before dinner. Since DD's new best friend was sitting at our table, she joined us for dinner. Nice meal and then to bed. 12/27/07-DH and self took a Yoga class in the morning as we pulled into Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic. Ship was docked at a pier right next to a factory spewing out dark smoke throughout the time we were there; not very tropical. As a family, we took the Bayahibe Beach Break, which was changed to the Coral Canoa Beach Hotel and Spa due to work at Bayahibe. After a short bus ride, we arrived at the resort which was very beautiful and well maintained. We had our choice of the pool or the beach chose the beach which was lovely. The beach was filled with people from the excursion as well as guests from the resort. Warning! The clientele at this resort was European, if you go here expect to see some topless bathing. At the edge of the swimming area were some artificial reefs. The same type Mike Rowe (sp?) made in an episode of Dirty Jobs. DH spent a long time exploring them. The only downer for this excursion was the trip back to the ship. The majority of the people made it back to the rendezvous spot by the appointed time. We sat on the bus as 10 minutes went by after the departure time, then 20 minutes and we still hadn't left. Many of the passengers were grumbling to leave. Finally, one woman went to the organizer and asked why we hadn't left. It turned out a couple had had their picture taken by the resort staff and the delay in leaving was to wait for them to purchase their pictures. Needless to say, this didn't sit well. Eventually, we left the couple there. Rightly or wrongly, the couple did not return to the bus in a reasonable time-should all those that did, have to wait and wait for them? A lot of grumbling for both sides was heard on the way back. I did see the couple later in the voyage, so I know they made it back to the ship in time. Cleaned up and went for our normal cocktail at The Martini Bar and then on to dinner. After dinner, took DD to room while DH and self went to Casino to use our Select Member coupons in the Casino. It was considerably cooler in the Casino although not sure why. Anyway we broke even and went to bed. 12/28/ 07-DH and self up early to walk. Got DD, ate a quick breakfast, and then waited in the theater for tender to Labadee, Haiti. Able to get on first tender of day, therefore, able to get some nice loungers in the shade in the first beach on the left. Enjoyed some peace and quiet until everyone else got off the ship and crowded the beach. DH explored some formations in the ocean before everything got disturbed. The family then explored the island. On opposite side of where ship anchors, seas were very rough and warnings posted everywhere. Due to the rough seas and warnings, no one was swimming. We got to see a few zip liners go by, but the winds must have picked up because they cancelled the rest. We paid to do the water park. Not worth it. My advice, don't bother with it. You only get one hour in the park, which they are very strict about. While it's fun, it surely is not worth the money. After the disappointing water park, took a tender back to the ship and enjoyed some peace and quiet by the pool. Stopped at The Martini Bar before dinner, again. After dinner, we were all tired from the day, so went to bed. 12/29/07-At sea-DH and self up early to work out. DH sat at two chairs while I started to pack and fed DD. DD and self took over the seats while DH went to eat. At this point, it was 8:00 am. Seats all around us had magazines, books, etc. on them to reserve them. As mentioned, either DH or self was sitting in our two chairs from ~7:00 am we saw no one sitting in those chairs. As the day wore on, tempers were flaring. The Pool Butlers were very reluctant to remove anything from a chair, even though it was obvious no one was sitting there. Not helping the situation was the washer/dryers for the pool towels had broken over night so towels were hard to come by. Why one person has to take 10 towels is beyond me? I know I've seen this all over the boards, but why do people have to save seats in the shade and in the sun, without using either for several hours? Or save seats at all? And why can't cruise personnel do anything about it? It is so obvious at 8:00 am, when so few people are in the pool/hot tubs, not all the chairs having stuff on them are actually being used by people and are only being saved. It's a never ending problem that I'm not sure will ever be resolved. Tempers were flaring throughout the day; we observed several arguments in our area alone. Adding insult to injury, they ran out of the plastic cups used around the pool deck. Several officers' and security personnel were walking around, but their presence didn't help people's feelings. After a day like this, we skipped dinner, of course after leaving our tip envelopes on our plates as we didn't see our waiter/assistant waiter. We wandered the ship nibbling on sushi, pasta, and salad, whatever we could find. We picked up DD from kid's club, finished packing, placed our suitcases out, and went to bed early. 12/30/07-Back at Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. Disembarkation was no problem for us-our flight (through Celebrity) wasn't until 4:10 pm. We were in no rush to leave, but eventually we had to. Spent several, several hours in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. Word of warning, they do not let you check in until 3 hours before your flight. So we sat in the check in area until 1:10 pm at which time we were able to check our luggage in. Positives-The Olympic is always a wonderful experience and well worth the $30.00/person charge. The Pirates of Nassau Museum was very informative and Captain Blah Blah was real funny. Labadee, Haiti. I came into this cruise expecting this to be the weak point of the cruise. How wrong I was! It was a beautiful peninsula, with a lovely beach/cove. Don't be afraid to explore the island as there are more beaches than you think. Avoid the water park and the slide, just lame attempts to get your money. Not worth it. Our Sommelier in the Dining Room, sadly I can't remember his name. Togi the Martini bartender was very nice and mixed excellent drinks. Cepepec assistant stateroom attendant. He always greeted us with a smile and a "How are you?" He kept the room up very nicely. Kudos to all the staff, never met one that wasn't pleasant. Negatives-Too many people! On our plane trip back, people from other cruises made the same comment. It appears that all cruise lines overbooked for the Holiday cruise. We have taken a prior Holiday cruise in 2004 which was nowhere near as overbooked as this one, especially with all the kids. The first day or so, we told our DD not to go in the adult only hot tub, however, when you have 20 or so kids crowded in these hot tubs with no one stopping them, and all her friends are going in them, who are we to say no? One time in the T-pool, I told two kids that this was an adult's only area and they weren't allowed. I even pointed at the sign that indicated you needed to be 18 years old to be in the pool, but they looked at me like 'what do you mean I can't be here? I'm a kid I can go wherever I want!' By the end of the week, there were smokers and kids all throughout the T-pool area. I avoided it, even though it's usually my favorite place to relax. Rudeness was another big negative. People seemed to have forgotten their manners once they got on the ship. They were cutting in line, rushing to get in the elevator before you could get out, saving seats, taking more 20 towels for one person, you get the picture. It was so nice to finally get home and not have to deal with people. Again, overall we had a wonderful cruise. In fact, we've just booked on the Solstice for 03/15/09, eager to try the new ship. Our itinerary includes a stop in Labadee, Haiti; we will definitely stay there longer and explore all this wonderful place has to offer. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
This was a difficult and disappointing trip for us. Difficult because my wife was ill for about 9 days, disappointing because of the lack of class we experienced with many of the passengers and a decline in the quality that we had ... Read More
This was a difficult and disappointing trip for us. Difficult because my wife was ill for about 9 days, disappointing because of the lack of class we experienced with many of the passengers and a decline in the quality that we had previously enjoyed on other Celebrity cruises. This review also includes our experiences on a side trip to El Calafate, Argentina, before embarking on the cruise. This was our twelfth cruise, fifth with Celebrity and third aboard Infinity. Also, this was our second time doing this itinerary - the first time was in 2004 (also aboard Infinity). That particular trip was outstanding, and perhaps, this is partially the reason that this second trip paled in comparison. Since this was going to be our second time in most ports of call, our planning emphasized visits to new locations and/or doing different activities. In most instances, we enjoyed the excursions in 2004 more than those that we did on this cruise (with 2 notable exceptions). So, by the end of this cruise, we had concluded that we had done it right the first time around. A Christmas Cruise This is the first time that we have done a Christmas or New Years cruise. I have always resisted booking a holiday cruise because there is a significant cost premium for these cruises. But the timing of the cruise ship worked perfectly with our work schedules, so we took the plunge. Now that we have done it, I will never do a Holiday cruise again. Are a few extra decorations, feeble Christmas activities, and a New Year's party really worth the 75% premium we paid? Absolutely not. Also, I did not enjoy having over 400 kids traveling with us. At times, they really strained the resources of Fun Factory. With most of the 3rd and 4th berths occupied, I can honestly say that this was the most crowded ship we have ever traveled on. We have a 5 year old, and I missed the attention she's gotten on prior Celebrity cruises. The Ship It has been 4 years since our last trip on the Infinity, and the aging of the ship is noticeable. The ship is in need of some TLC, so I hope that it gets a much needed refurbishment soon. As expected, the wear and tear is most apparent on public areas such as the Trellis restaurant (furniture), the elevators (broken buttons, worn out paneling), and the Thalassotherapy Pool (rust). The Service I am happy to report that the service we received was, for the most part, excellent. The staff in the dining room and our cabin attendants did a great job. The Food We like simple food, so we typically don't have much to say in this area. However, we did notice that the quality and variety of the food in the Trellis restaurant has deteriorated considerably. We kept seeing the same food (especially meat) presented with a different sauce over and over again. On the plus side, I can not recommend enough the Rodizio dinner that was offered as a casual alternative on the Oceanview cafe on several days during the cruise. It was excellent. As word got out, reservations became hard to get. We ate on the United States restaurant, and the experience was excellent, except for a pushy sommelier that kept trying to sell a bottle of wine to us, even though we only wanted a glass each. Passengers This was the first time that we travel on a ship where the majority of the passengers were not from the US. I would guess that 60% to 65% were from Latin America. Of those, the great majority were from Mexico (around 1000 passengers). My wife and I were both born and raised in Latin American countries, so I was disappointed, and sometimes embarrassed, by the rudeness and lack of class exhibited by many of the Latin American passengers. I saw people picking food with their hands on the Oceanview Cafe, cutting of lines, incessantly talking during shows, blatantly disregarding the rules (for dress code, age limits, behavior), throwing discarded bingo cards directly at the cruise staff (actually hitting her on the face several times), and trying to sneak into the Persian Garden on several occasions. Also, there was significant Spanish foul language from the younger crowd. My personal favorite was having our neighbor smoking cigars in his underwear on the balcony next to ours. What a sight! I truly believe that most of the passengers on this ship had never been on a cruise before, and did not know how to behave. This does not mean that we did not meet some very nice people during the cruise. We met some great families from Mexico, Venezuela and other Latin American countries. It was also a pleasure to share our daily experiences with our tablemates from Hawaii. Over the years of cruising, my wife and I have formulated this theory: the best cruises are the ones that have a general mix of passengers, with no particular group dominating. This cruise has reinforced that belief. Children's Services In our four prior Celebrity cruises, we never had more than 50 kids on board. While we think that the facilities, programs, and staff for young children are outstanding for groups of that size, they were struggling with such a large number of kids. Typically they have 5 counselors, but for this trip they added an extra 5. The lack of truly special programs for Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day was disappointing. Also, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Celebrity (and all other cruise lines) would figure a way of monetizing the children's program. By adding a few perks (such behind the scenes tours, costumes), re-branding existing programs and offering unlimited time at the Fun Factory (including premium $$ hours), Celebrity has created a program called VIP. In our cruise, they wanted $220usd per child for this program - which was absurdly overpriced. We did not sign up our daughter. The fact that only 9 children out of the 400+ children on board signed up for the program speaks loud and clear. Please note that kids are now allowed in the Thalassotherapy Pool, if the are with their parents. So, the peace and quiet of the area has been somewhat compromised. Travel Journal December 14 - Our goal was to try different things on this trip. That also included the airline. We decided to fly with COPA from Orlando to Buenos Aires via Panama City. We found chaos in the Panama City airport flying down to Buenos Aires and coming back home. For some reason, about half of the passengers seemed to have duplicate boarding passes, which made a mess of the boarding process. We were directly affected by this on our way down. The seats on the plane were very tight and uncomfortable, and the food was bad. This was our first and last experience with COPA. December 15 - Buenos Aires We arrived in Buenos Aires around 5:30am, and after immigration found our driver fairly quickly (we arranged all of our transfers in Buenos Aires thru DeFrantur). We made it to our hotel around 7:00am. The Claridge Hotel has good reviews in TripAdvisor, but we found the front desk personnel to be arrogant and unhelpful. The location of the hotel, near Florida street (a pedestrian shopping street), was not a good choice for us. That street seemed to have a sea of humanity every day (maybe because of holiday shopping). It was full of people trying to get you into their stores, street performers and beggars. On our previous trip, we stayed in Recoleta, a neighborhood we enjoyed much more. Even though our ship was departing from Chile, we came to Argentina first in order to visit the Glacier National Park near the town of El Calafate. So, today was an in-transit day. We finally got our room key around 11am and took a shower and a nap. Around 3pm we visited the Recoleta area and the market that is outside the cemetery on weekends. With an early flight the next day, we called it a day very early. Since we were coming back to the Claridge after our visit to El Calafate, we left 2 large suitcases with the hotel and took only 2 small ones to El Calafate. December 16 - El Calafate Our flight was at 8:30am, and we had schedule a transfer at 5am at the hotel. (Why so early? Well, having experienced Ezeiza airport before, we knew that we might need 3 hours to get to the gate.) The driver never showed up, so at 5:45am the hotel's driver took us to the airport. We were lucky and the line at the Aerolineas Argentinas counter was very short when we got there. Our flight left on time and we had a pleasant 3 hr flight to El Calafate. The airport at El Calafate is tiny, it had one gate. However, it is a modern facility. El Calafate is a small town in the middle of nowhere, whose only reason to exist is to serve as gateway to the Glacier National Park about 45 miles away. The town has a feel of a small alpine village, even though it sits at the shores of Argentino Lake. We found the people living there to be very nice and helpful. Our hotel, Calafate Parque, was very good and had a great location (one block away from the town's main street). The staff was great and I would recommend it to anyone who visits the area. The local operator (Prestigio) that picked us up at the airport offered a variety of tours to the Glacier Park, so we booked 3 tours with them for the next 2 days. That afternoon a contacted another operator (Cerro Frias) that offered a 2.5 hr horseback ride and dinner at a local estancia. I was a little concerned about my 5 yr old managing such a long ride, but she did great. We went up a small mountain and the views were amazing, including the horns of Torres de Paine on the Chilean side. We saw plenty of local wildlife and tons of wild flowers. Then, we went back to the main house and had an asado (BBQ) dinner. We had a great time! December 17 - El Calafate We typically prefer private tours, but a private guide will add little value here as everyone ends up in the same places anyway. So, on this day we joined a bus tour to the Perito Moreno glacier. We had about a 1 hour ride to the entrance of the park where you will pay an entrance fee of around $10usd. As were getting close to the glacier, the guide offered an optional 1 hour cruise to the south face of the glacier. We accepted the offer and had great views of the glacier (however, if you are doing the all glaciers boat tour at any point during your visit, I would skip this in favor of spending more time at the time in trails that face the glacier). After the boat ride, we were taken to the main visitor center, which has a decent restaurant and clean bathrooms. In front of the main building there is a trail and walkways that you follow downward. From these walkways, you get great views of the glacier. The sound of the ice cracking was amazing, and we were lucky enough to see a large caving while we were there. A memorable experience. December 18 - El Calafate Our second tour was an all day boat ride in a large catamaran to see 3 other glaciers (upsala, onelli and Spegazzini). The boat was packed with people, but each person gets a seat. As were seating down, one of the staff members announced that they had a few spots left in the VIP area. I jump at the opportunity and it was money well spent. For the extra money, we got very wide and comfortable seats in a great location (on the top floor with captain). We also got unlimited free drinks (such as coffee, hot chocolate and sodas). The VIP area also had 2 small balconies from which to step out and take pictures. We were very comfortable during the whole trip and avoided the mass of people trying to take photos below. I truly recommend that you pay the extra money and reserve seats on the VIP section when making reservations. The views the glaciers and icebergs from the boat were amazing. As part of the tour, we had a picnic lunch on the shore of a lake with small icebergs. The lunch was prepared by our hotel. Our daughter had a blast. We added a dinner and show at an estancia called El Galpon del Glaciar. So, on the way back they dropped us at the ranch about 1.5 hours before the program began. We had the opportunity to go horseback riding again, watch a farm hand sheer a lamb, ate a great dinner, and watch a descent show. For the price, it was a very good choice, but I would recommend not combining this with a full day tour like we did. We were worn out, and got to the hotel around 11pm. December 19 - Buenos Aires I wish I had scheduled more time in this region and less time back in Buenos Aires, when I planned this side trip. We had a great time here, and it would turn out to be the highlight of our trip. We got back to Buenos early afternoon. This time we flew into Newberry airport near downtown, so we were back to the Claridge hotel in no time. We took it easy the rest of the day. December 20 - Buenos Aires When we were planning the trip, we decided to take this day to visit Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. It is 1 hour away from BA via ferry (Buquebus). We bought the tickets via their website about 2 months in advance, which turned out to be a great decision as the ship was sold out. The trip to Colonia was underwhelming. The historical part of town is tiny and can be seen in 2 hours. We had a very good lunch in a local restaurant, and did a little bit of shopping. Given the hassles of immigration (you are going to another country) on both ferry trips, I would not recommend doing this trip just for a day. Too much work, for such small payout. December 21 - Santiago My wife woke up with a fever, and was not feeling well. However, we had to catch an 8:30am flight to Santiago, and we pressed on. The check-in line for Aerolineas Argentinas was huge even though we arrived at the airport at 5:30am. It took about 1.5 hrs to check our luggage in, but we made to the gate with plenty of time. My wife was not doing well at all when we finally landed in Santiago. I had arranged a transfer with SportsTour from the airport to the hotel, but when we got out of customs no one was waiting for us. I called them to see what was going on, they said someone would be there right away. 20 minutes later and still no show, I called again and said if I don't see anyone in 2 minutes and would take a taxi. About a minute later someone from another company showed up and told me that he had been hired to take us to the hotel. The bottom line: SportsTour forgot about us and they ended up calling someone else to take care of us. We arrived at the Santiago Park Plaza, and as soon as we got there, we ask the front desk to call a doctor. The doctor was in our room in 20 minutes. My wife was diagnosed with bronchitis and given some antibiotics. A lot of rest was recommended. So, that killed our plans for the rest of the day in Santiago. I can not speak highly enough about the staff at this hotel. They showed genuine concern, and the fact that they got a doctor so fast was impressive. December 22 - Valparaiso My wife was still not feeling well but was doing slightly better. The day before I gave our contact at SportsTour a verbal whipping for non-performance. They promised that they would arrive on time for our transfer to Valparaiso. 15 minutes after the agreed time, SportsTour was no where in sight. Our representative gave me the cell number of the driver and, of course, I called him. He said that he was having trouble with the van and that he was going to be there in 10 minutes. To say that I was concerned about beginning a 90 minute trip in a van with mechanical troubles would be a major understatement. Four years ago, SportsTour gave us a great tour of Santiago; this time around they failed miserably. We made it to the pier around noon, and there were no lines. We were aboard by 12:30pm. We took care of spa appointments, reservation in the United States restaurants, and then my wife's fever returned. December 23 - Day at Sea My wife went to see the doctor, and she was diagnosed with the Flu. She ended receiving respiratory treatments for the next 3 days, and pretty much was out of commission in our cabin for the next 4 days. December 24 - Puerto Montt On our previous trip, I noticed that driving in the Puerto Montt region was pretty easy, so I arranged a car rental thru the local Hertz agency. Their brought the car to the pier and collected the car when we returned. My original plan was to go horseback riding in the morning, and then circle Llanquihue Lake in the afternoon. My wife stayed aboard the ship, so my 5 year old daughter and me collected the rental car and headed to Quinta del Lago. This working ranch sits between the 2 main volcanoes: Osorno and Calbuco. The ranch is owned by a lady from Washington State and her Chilean husband. We had a great time riding the hills of this beautiful land. After 2 visits, I think the best way to enjoy this region is by doing some kind of activity, such as river rafting or horseback riding. This region begs exploration, and not in a bus. Even though the rental worked out fine, there are plenty of taxis that will give you a tour just outside the pier entrance. They may not speak good English, but you don't need an interpreter to appreciate the beauty. This is a tender intensive itinerary. When we booked this cruise a year in advance, we specifically asked if "priority tendering" was still one of the benefits of having a Concierge Class cabin, and were told that it was. Well, when we met our cabin steward, he told us that Celebrity had recently stopped giving priority tender tickets to CC cabins. I was angry, and let the concierge know that I had private excursions in every port and needed to be out the ship early. The next morning, priority tender tickets showed up in our cabin. With tickets and help from some of our cruise critic friends, we were able to take early tenders on every port. I was told that in some ports, people had to wait up to 2 hours to tender the regular way. Yikes!!! December 25 - Day at Sea Christmas Day. I thought that Celebrity would have a full day of special activities for the kids, but the only thing that they did that different was a rather disorganized children's parade through the ship and a quick visit with Santa. All kids got some kind of gift. My daughter got a child-size bathrobe, which she loved. My wife and I have always enjoyed the Spa on our Celebrity cruises. This was no exception, but the prices are really getting out of hand. With so many days at sea, we purchased passes to the Persian Garden at the beginning of the cruise. Because of my wife illness and lack of time, we did not go there enough to warrant the price that we paid. For those of you that will be traveling on the Infinity in the next 6 months, I can not recommend Dora (from Hungary) enough. She has to be the best masseuse that I have encountered in over my 10 years of cruising. Ask for her in the Spa. December 26 - Day at Sea The weather was very overcast with low clouds, which limited somewhat the view of the Chilean fjords. However, the scenery was still spectacular. December 27 - Punta Arenas Our experience in Punta Arenas 4 years ago was underwhelming, so this time we looked for something outside the typical tours. I bumped into a website for a local ranch that offered several types of activities, such as trekking, hiking and a small zip line canopy. They arranged a program for us, and we decided to go with them. Our trip to Fundo San Fernando turned out to be an expensive disappointment. Our program called for a 2 hour hike to Cerro Campana, followed by lunch, then some canopy or horseback riding. The family of the Fundo was our hosts, and they were a very nice. However, the Cerro Campana hike turned into a 4 hour ordeal (I guess highly fit individuals can make up the hill and back in 2 hours, but there is no way the average person can do it that fast) and threw our whole day out of sync. My wife (feeling slightly better) was bored to death, as she waited for us in the main house with our daughter. In summary, this is a work in progress as a tourist attraction, and maybe in a few years, they will have all the kinks worked out. December 28 - Ushuaia On our last trip we visited Ushuaia first, and then Punta Arenas, which gave us the opportunity to see the 5 large glaciers a few hours away from Ushuaia. This time around, I got up at 4am, and missed them because we passed them earlier that night. What a disappointment! For this port, we contacted local operator Canal - they had provided once of the best excursions during our first trip. We visited the national park last time, so this time we did a 4x4 trip to Lake Fagnano. I am happy to report, that they did not disappoint. We had a great guide and enjoyed our ride thru the Fuegan forest and a BBQ lunch next to the lake. Even my wife's spirits were lifted during the day. I can not recommend them enough. December 29 - Day at Sea We had nice weather as we visited Cape Horn. December 30 - Day at Sea We went to see a comedian/juggler on this night. He was so bad that he was getting heckled by the kids in the front row. Overall, the nightly entertainment at the theatre was very poor. The production shows have been around for years now, and the rest of the entertainment was mediocre at best (with the exception of a comedian on the next to last night of the cruise - he was pretty good). I think Pampas devils have been in every Celebrity cruise we have been on (at least it seems that way), and trust me they are not that good. This is another area were a decline in quality was evident. December 31 - Port Stanley With some other CC members, we arranged a private excursion (with Neil Rowlands) to Volunteer Point to see a King Penguin colony. There were 14 of us. In essence, the same tour that Celebrity offers under the name "A Day with Royalty", but 30% less in cost. In our previous trip, we visited the rookery at Kidney Cove and had a wonderful time (at that time the trip to Volunteer Point did not exist). The opportunity to see King Penguins seemed to be worth the long trip to get there (2.5 hours). We found the trip to Volunteer Point too arduous. The last part (well over 1 hour) has no roads, and progress is very slow. What these Land Rovers can do, is truly amazing. Although the payoff is outstanding: 3 rookeries (King, Gentoo and Magellanic), we found the trip over there (and back) painfully long and rough. I must say, that some of the other members of our private tour though that the whole experience was great. Having done 2 tours in the Falklands, I would recommend the excursion to Bluff Cove rookery as a better alternative. Save the long trip to Punta Tombo in Puerto Madryn (which is also long, but over a paved/gravel road the whole way). After a long day, we still had a formal night and New Year's festivities ahead of us. I found no sense in Celebrity's holding the main party at the Constellation Lounge and requesting that all children be removed from the location by 11pm. As expected, most families ignored this rule. In addition to the Constellation Lounge, other parties where simultaneously held at the Rendezvous Lounge (with Latin Music), Michael's Club (with a string quarter) and the Cova Café (with members of the Celebrity orchestra). All locations were packed by 11pm with no seats to be found. I don't understand why the Trellis restaurant or the Celebrity theatre were not used. We roamed the ship until midnight, trying to stay awake. We did the countdown at the Rendezvous Lounge, and went to bed soon after. January 1 - Day at Sea My wife was finally starting to feel a little better. So, we enjoyed the ship together for the first time in our trip. We had dinner on the alternative restaurant on Deck 10 aft. We ended getting a show with our dinner. For about 1 hour, we went passed several whales (some of them very playful) that were heading south for the summer. This is the first time we had seen large whales in the open ocean, so it was a thrill for us. Those in the main dining room went unaware of the show outside as no announcement was made. January 2 - Puerto Madryn In Puerto Madryn, we contacted local operator Huinca Travel for a tour of peninsula Valdez. On our previous trip, we used Huinca for an excursion to Punta Tombo, which was excellent. At that time, the owner of Huinca, German Beck, gave us a great tour. His company has grown a lot since then, and he no longer has time to do the tours himself. We have stayed in touch with him since our trip 4 years ago, so we were so happy to learn that we would join us in our tour as a passenger. We had a great time with German and our guide. I recommend them without hesitation. I was a little disappointed in that our visit to Peninsula Valdez was between whale season and the peak of the sea lion season. However, we saw seals, sea lions and penguins (mostly from a distance of 50 to 100 feet. I must say that the color of the ocean on this area was truly remarkable. Having now visited both Punta Tombo and Peninsula Valdez, my recommendation would be as follows: (1) if your trip falls within whale season or the peak Sea Lion breeding season, go to Peninsula Valdez (see the penguins in the Falklands or Punta Arenas); (2) if your visit falls in between whale or sea lion season (or if can not enough of the penguins) go to Punta Tombo. For either tour, the distance that you will travel in total is the same. January 3 - Day at Sea The wind really picked up. Fortunately the wind was in the direction the ship was traveling, so the incremental ship movement was minimal. Around 5:30pm, the captain announced that because of the high winds for tomorrow, we would skip Punta del Este and instead, head directly to Montevideo and spend 2 days there. We really did not like Montevideo during our last visit, so this change to the itinerary was unwelcome by us. January 4 - Montevideo We had a private excursion set up in Punta del Este for this day. However, we were able to cancel with no problems. During our first in 2004, we arranged a city tour. That tour was really bad and spent 2 hours touring residential areas. Since the city itself did not warrant more than half a day, we walked out of the ship with no plans. Once we got to the area where the taxis are waiting, we asked the supervisor where to go off the tourist path and do some horseback riding. He suggested the Minas region in the center of the country. I usually do a lot of research before any trip we make, but this time we decide to just take a chance and go with the flow. Wrong decision!! After a 2 hour ride from Montevideo, we arrived at a vacation center in the mountain region usually reserved for employees of the electricity company of Uruguay. I do not kid you when I say that this place look like the hotel in "The Shining" movie. We got off in the main courtyard and were welcome by sad music blaring from a speaker from the 1950's and some very elderly people being wheeled around by staff dressed in white. It was so bad, that it was funny! We got there around 11:30am and were quickly informed that the horse trip would be at 3pm. So, that took care of that. Then we asked about eating lunch, and were told that the restaurant would open at 1pm. Fortunately, our driver convinced the restaurant manager to let us eat early. Our second stop was a waterfall called "Salto del Penitente". At this point we were skeptical about everything, but the name held promise: "Jump of the Penitent". After a 30 minute ride, we arrive at the waterfall. My wife and I looked at each other, and just starting laughing. My cabin shower had more water falling than this cascade. What a joke! After that, and because my daughter was starting to feel ill, we told the driver that we had enough and wanted to go back to the ship. This may our worst tour ever! January 5 - Montevideo After yesterday's fiasco, my wife and I decided just to do a little shopping and return to the ship quickly. January 6 - Buenos Aires The end of our trip. We were able to disembark quickly, and had secured transportation from the pier to our hotel for the day in advance. Our plane was not leaving until 3:00am that night, so we booked a room for a day at a hotel not worth mentioning. We did some shopping and then got some rest before leaving at midnight for the airport. After a very disappointing and difficult trip, we were ready to go home. We love to travel and we love to cruise. So, we look forward to better vacations in the future. Major bad luck and some bad decision making on our part seemed to doom this one. However, I do hope that Celebrity addresses some of the issues discussed above. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
This was our tenth cruise and our second one on the Sapphire Princess. We sailed on this ship when it was new in 2004 and enjoyed it very much so we were interested in doing this longer cruise over the Christmas and New Year holidays. My ... Read More
This was our tenth cruise and our second one on the Sapphire Princess. We sailed on this ship when it was new in 2004 and enjoyed it very much so we were interested in doing this longer cruise over the Christmas and New Year holidays. My husband and I are in our sixties and live on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. We usually have long flights to join cruises in Europe and the US but this time it was only a seven and a half hour flight to Singapore where we stayed overnight in order to see the Christmas Lights. The next morning we took a short one and a half hour flight to Bangkok for our operational overnight stay that we had booked with Princess. This turned out well because our transfers went smoothly and the Menam Riverside hotel in Bangkok was a pleasant place to stay. We had the advantage of being able to check in with Princess at the hotel so that embarkation was a breeze the following day. It took about 3 hours to get to the port but this took longer than usual because of road works. Once on board we found our cabin on Caribe deck and were happy to see that we had a large balcony with nice blue mesh chairs and flooring. The cabin was nicely laid out with good storage space and plenty of coat hangers. The shower was quite small but manageable. We met Marvin, our cabin steward, who looked after us very well for the duration of the cruise. We unpacked our suitcases before muster and then joined our Cruise Critic friends in the Oasis bar. We had already met some of them at the hotel but now we were able to match more names to faces. We were all excited to be at the sailaway together and were looking forward to our 20 day cruise! The ship is large and beautiful. It's one of the Grand Class ships and carries 2800 passengers. The dEcor is classy and elegant with lovely artwork and a pleasing color scheme throughout. I won't go into too many details as a full ship's review can be found elsewhere on this website. It takes a while to explore the ship fully and find your way around but we had been on this ship before so it was easier for us this time! We had opted for anytime dining rather than the traditional dining and I'm glad we did because it was fun eating in the various restaurants and also convenient to eat at different times. We usually booked ahead when we had figured out our plans for the day but sometimes we changed times and it was no problem. Sometimes we ate with friends or on our own and at other times we joined a big table where we met some interesting people from all over the world and from all walks of life. We rotated between the Pacific Moon, Savoy, Vivaldi and Santa Fe restaurants in the evening. In the morning we sometimes had breakfast in the International dining room and at other times we ate buffet-style in Horizon Court. On port days we ordered breakfast in our cabin and ate on the balcony. The restaurant and the room service was consistently good. On occasion we enjoyed afternoon tea in the International dining room. One time when we were at afternoon tea a passenger was being rude to one of the waiters. He told the waiter he was stupid and this irked me because the waiters are often trying so hard to give good service. I loved it when my husband defended the waiter and told the passenger that he would be more likely to get good service if he wasn't so rude! The food was very good everywhere on board and there were only a couple of meals we didn't like. We usually had a drink on our balcony at sailaway and then ordered wine at the dinner table. We occasionally ordered drinks at the bar or in the lounges. The entertainers were not as good as on our last Sapphire Princess cruise but the production shows with the talented singers and dancers were very good. Lenny Windsor, the comedian, was quite amusing and we also enjoyed the dynamic singer Caron Kate Blackwell and her husband, comedian Marty Allen. The best band of all was Deep Blue who managed to get everyone dancing and having fun. What a talented group! They usually played in Club Fusion or around the pool deck. The captain was Attilio Guerini. The cruise director was Sammi Baker who was quite a live spark around the ship. Her assistant Sam was a wonderful teacher for the dance classes together with Tom who also organized the virtual golf team competition on some of the sea days. We went once to the bingo and also to the wooden horse races on a sea day and it was good fun. After attending one of Brad Coates rather uninspiring lectures on Achieving Personal & Financial Freedom in mid-life we decided to free ourselves of him before the next lecture! Christmas Day Santa arrived in the Atrium on Christmas Day. We listened to the announcement that he would be arriving by helicopter to give the children their presents! There were Christmas carols in the Atrium on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. It was fun joining in and watching the children receive their gifts from Santa. The snow machine was an excellent idea and really helped to get everyone into the spirit of things. New Year's Eve A fun time for everyone! We had dinner with friends and then got changed out of our formal dress to attend the pool deck party where Deep Blue was playing. We danced the night away and brought in the New Year with our friends and other passengers. Now to the ports and what we did there. Koh Samui We joined four of our Cruise Critic friends on a private tour, Mr.Ung's Magical Safari,in Koh Samui. We travelled in a jeep which was a bit bumpy but made for some good fun rides! We visited the elephant, crocodile and monkey shows before going on an elephant ride along a winding path through the forest. We managed to get some great photos of us on the ride. We went to a waterfall and gardens before having a delicious Thai lunch at a scenic viewpoint high up in the mountains. We all enjoyed the day and had a lot of laughs together! Singapore We had been to Singapore before so we decided to explore the Tanglin Rd area and the Botanic Gardens, which are lovely and have some beautiful orchids as well as other tropical plants. On the way there we were invited into the newly opened St. Regis hotel and had an interesting conversation with the assistant manager. She introduced us to the butler who took us around the hotel and showed us the bedrooms. They were absolutely lovely and the bathrooms had a plasma TV on the mirror next to the bath - quite an innovative idea! It was a hot day so on the way back from the gardens we called into one of the shopping centers and had a cool drink before catching the shuttle back to the ship. Vietnam We had booked the Ho Chi Minh City on your own tour with Princess. We drove through little villages with run-down shops and houses. It was interesting to watch the people in cone shaped hats riding bicycles and mopeds and going about their daily business. In about two hours we arrived in HCM. I've never seen so many motorcycles on the road all hurrying to get to their destination without stopping to let anyone across the road. We managed to survive by just crossing over and letting them go around us otherwise we would never have got to the other side! Shopping was fun at the markets! We bought shirts, pants, sunglasses and hats at absolutely ridiculous prices! Finally we went up to the rooftop lounge of the famous Rex Hotel for a well- deserved drink! The buffet up there was quite cheap and the food looked good but we weren't hungry enough so we decided to wait until we got back on board. Kota Kinabalu Another private tour booked on the internet with KK tours by one of our friends. Henry was our guide and he spoke good English. First he took us to the water village which was situated in a sea of mud with rubbish everywhere! The houses were on stilts and living conditions were poor and far from sanitary! I thought of my own very comfortable home and was thankful I didn't live there! It was an interesting experience! The next stop was a Chinese temple where we took photos. Then we arrived at the Monsopiad Cultural Village to see the headhunter's house of skulls and the traditional cultural show. It was all very interesting and I would recommend this tour to anyone else. Darwin It was a very hot and humid day so we just went into the city for a look around. We took a taxi to Mindil beach and walked along the sands( no one swimming here because of the deadly box jellyfish!) It was New Year's Day so there wasn't too much happening. We were glad to get out of the heat and back into the ship's air conditioning! Cairns We live in Queensland so we had been here before. We decided to go to the little tourist town of Port Douglas with the Princess tour bus. It was another very hot day so we walked along the main street to Four Mile beach for an hour or so and back to the Old Court House hotel where we sat upstairs on the verandah and had a light lunch and a cool beer. The pretty coastal drive was about 40 minutes each way and we were back on the ship by 3.00pm. Airlie Beach We were lucky with the weather again! After a quick shower at the start it turned out to be a beautiful day. We decided to visit the markets first and then we explored the town. It had changed for the better since the last time we were there. A lagoon area and a boardwalk had been added as well as more sand on the little beach. Luckily we missed the floods that came just after our visit! Brisbane We stayed on the ship as we live just a one hour drive from here. We had the ship to ourselves for the day apart from a few others who probably lived there too. We sat around the pool, read our books and had a nice lunch. It was a very relaxing day! Sydney We were lucky to get a late disembarkation time as our flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast didn't leave until 1.30pm. It was very well organized and on time but we had to wait almost an hour for a taxi as there were two other ships docked in Sydney that day. But that was fine as we had plenty of time before our flight home. Summary On this ship you can really " Escape Completely" as they say in the Princess ads! There were many sea days when you could either do your own thing or join in the many activities provided. We had a fabulous time but we didn't feel as though we had to join in everything. We used our balcony a lot and enjoyed watching the sailaways before dinner. Meeting up with new friends from Cruise Critic really enhanced our cruise and we hope to meet some of them again soon. We met some people who were rude to the staff and complained about everything but you will always get those unhappy people on cruises or anywhere you travel - just move away from them! We met some lovely people on board and all were enjoying the cruise as much as we were. We saw some parents who let their children run around unsupervised on the ship at night but we also met some very polite children who were well controlled by their parents. I wish Princess would stop young children from running around in the bars and lounges late at night. It annoys other passengers and it's also dangerous when drinks are being served. We are looking forward to our next cruise on the Sapphire Princess when she sails from Sydney to Los Angeles in April. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
I will make this short but am open to further questions from anyone interested. The ship was amazing from a technical and size perspective but slightly less elaborate in decoration then some of the regular cruise ships I have been ... Read More
I will make this short but am open to further questions from anyone interested. The ship was amazing from a technical and size perspective but slightly less elaborate in decoration then some of the regular cruise ships I have been on.(not a complaint just an observation) On the whole it was a remarkable ship! The food was very good as we ate in the Britannia Room but do highly recommend the Chef's Gallery as this was stellar. Book early and often for the various nights there. Todd English was..well not so great. The food was good but the overall feel and service was not close to that of Ocean Liners on say Celebrity. My advice is book the Chef's Gallery in lieu of Todd English and as a bonus it is free. Our room was comparable to other cruise staterooms and was always very well cleaned. We had a sheltered balcony and although you could not see out when sitting, it was very roomy. I thought this a better value then decks 8 and 9 which appeared to have a very obstructed view from the lifeboats even though those were glass balcony's. The shows were mixed and I would say overall disappointing compared to other ships. Cunard needs to really improve this end. It would be my biggest complaint. They did have a few very good ones but on average....average. Staff was very friendly and accommodating and getting on and off a ship of this size was pretty coordinated and easy. The Itinerary for 15 nights was great with 9 stops starting in Ft. Lauderdale, Panama, Bonaire, Granada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts, Tortola and St. Thomas. Overall I loved being on this "Ocean Liner" and would go back tomorrow despite the shows. However we did seem to pay a fair bit less then others and it seemed to be the higher one paid the more they complained! We thought the Value was very very good based on other cruises we took. We paid less this year for 15 nights then one last year with Celebrity for 10 nights so thought it very good value. Might simply be the time and economy helping us here. The age was older and on average I would say 60's which I think was lower due to the Holiday season as we did see a fair bit of Families on board! I would also say that this is a pretty formal ship so go prepared to wear the formals or be turned away as some found out! Also we had your handful of usual rude and miserable guests on board and again for the life of me...."Why do these people insist on traveling?" I guess they just want to spread their miserable little existence around for the enjoyment of the rest of us?? So many things to mention but in ending...I would rate this a 9 out of 10 based on my experience of 8 cruises with various lines and would recommend it highly! Cheers and Happy Sailing! Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was an amazing cruise! It was our second time with NCL and our 4th cruise. We stayed at La Pavilion the night before the cruise, it was a elegant fancy hotel with a rooftop pool and hot tub and PB&J at 10:00. We checked out ... Read More
This was an amazing cruise! It was our second time with NCL and our 4th cruise. We stayed at La Pavilion the night before the cruise, it was a elegant fancy hotel with a rooftop pool and hot tub and PB&J at 10:00. We checked out the French Quarter and had early dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, the food was pretty good, but we found Bourbon Street and the rest of the french quarter inappropriate for our children (nude ladies in windows, signs for "Big Ass Buckets of Beer" so we didn't stay for long Embarkation: We packed fairly lightly compared to some other people we saw, so we got to the lines quickly. the staff were quick and we got through the whole thing in 20 minutes because we were latitude members and got to skip the long lines. When we got on the ship we were offered free fruit juices and wine. Dining: We ate at Windows for dinner every night and almost every day for lunch, i don't know what other people are talking about the food was delicious and the staff were amazing! The kids went to Raffles for breakfast and lunch bythemselves, we went once for lunch and breakfast - for breakfast there is your typical food eggs, omelets, cereal, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, bagels etc, and for lunch there is salad, pizza, pasta, carving, vegetarian selection, meats, soups and a deli counter. The Bier garden had hamburgers and mashed potatoes and unfortunately we only figured out that Henry's Pub had soft pretzels and popcorn on the last day. Blue Lagoon was a comfort food restaurant, it was usually busy, we only went once for french fries and hot dogs. For christmas at window's for dinner we had turkey and mashed potatoes and yule logs for dessert - delicious! We missed the Chocoholic buffet because we were too tired Entertainment: The Second City was funny, the Broadway and radio shows were okay and the magician was excellent! The christmas show was good too, the Kids Club did a performance. The Ship: the pools were usually packed and at night the hot tubs were very popular, we only went swimming once, there is an Asian theme and the whole ship had christmas trees and big ginger bread houses around. The Cabin: On the small side but cozy, our TV had problems, the bathroom was good, an actual shower instead of a curtain shower, our kids had a connecting room and their bed needed to be separated into two, we got an egg foam pad so our bed was really nice. Our stewards - Jovito and Herbert are amazing!!! They were always on time and made a variety of towel animals for us. Disembarkation: We used express, a LOT faster, had dinner at Window's at around 8:30 and we got off the ship at around 9:30. It was surprisingly fast and only took us 10 minutes!!! We loved this vacation, and the bad reviews are very untrue. It is an amazing ship and the staff are wonderful. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
embarkation smooth sailing if you get there by noon we were on line about 20 minutes and waited about 30 minutes before boarding , don't wait till late afternoon the lines were insane!  we went right to our room and it was ready nice ... Read More
embarkation smooth sailing if you get there by noon we were on line about 20 minutes and waited about 30 minutes before boarding , don't wait till late afternoon the lines were insane!  we went right to our room and it was ready nice cabin ,clean and plenty of storage for the 3 of us , my 14 yr old had a pull down bunkbed that was comfortable .We went right to lunch at the garden cafe it was crazy no seats people were rude the staff was not fast enough cleaning down tables so people were eating around dirty plates from other guests.we walked around the ship i have to say it is beautiful and very clean .We went to dinner early around 5:00 it was great no waiting at all i was afraid from other posts that we would wait but again get there early we only ate in the grand pacific (for the meals included in cruise price)we has a great server named magdalena she is from the Philippines and a real sweety probably the nicest one the rest of the staff is hard to communicate with ,after dinner we went back to our room to find our luggage we had alot because of christmas presents and unfortunately they lost one of our suitcases with most of our gifts for our son that was never found,day 2 day at sea the wether was horrible and the activities were for a much older crowd im not interested in lectures about global warming or jewelry repair eating right gimmie a break im on vacation not in school.We enrolled our 14 yr old in the teen club he was bored out of his mind!!!!!!!!!! he spent most of his time in the arcade at 1 dollar to 3 dollars a game or the bowling alley that we did not know it was 10 bucks per person per game total ripoff, again dinner and then a show , the shows were good thank god ..day 3 florida ncl did not keep the timetable and we got to fl 3 hrs late which totally screwed the day up .we met up family and had christmas but had to return early so we would not be forced to rent the car for an extra day , which we did because of the 3 hr delay ..but it was nice to see family .. day 4 was supposed to be great stirrup cay and don't you know we could not tender because the water was too rough (total disappointment and don't you know the nicest weather on the entire cruise) we went right to reception to ask for a revised daily itinerary , thats when i lost it ... no kids activities , no adult activities they decided to paint and the fumes were horrible by day 4 you have seen and done all thats included without paying extra for bowling , casino, shopping the rock wall was never open... we went to dinner to discover it was the same menu as the first night , we were starved and opted for the steakhouse @ 20 bucks per person sat down opened the menu to find another 10 dollar charge for anything on the specials menu!!!!!!!!!!!!!! of course anything good was on the special menu it was good not great just good . we went to a show and sat in the casino we were bored out of our minds this was christmas eve and now i want my suitcase these people are programmed to smile and say sorry not found yet , i had to break down in tears to get something done .. fill out forms and wait till i get home so christmas was ruined, so sympathy and the language barrier was frustrating ..day 6 christmas morning freeport bahamas i have to say waking up to most of your gifts being misplaced we went to the java cafe and santa was there thats it no music no christmas spirit the dinner menu was horrible and i was not spending one red cent on this ship . we have been to the bahamas before we knew what to expect but did not realize everything would be closed no shops ,restaurants, nada .we went back to the nightmare ship and could not wait to get home ...day 7 debarkation we opted for the express , carry out your own luggage and we did we ran off that ship ncl does not take care of their guest like carnival does it was the worst cruise ever we could have saved 4 grand and stayed home , i a currently working with the insurance company to out in a claim and wrote to ncl seeking compensation for everything else ....stay with what cruiseline you know we will never ever sail with ncl again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ps the room stewards were horrible had to chase them around to maintain our cabin Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on the NCL Sky. Husband, son(16) and I flew into Ft Lauderdale on Friday - rented a car for the 3 days before left on the Sky on Monday 11/24. Did the tourist thing around Miami for three days. ... Read More
Had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on the NCL Sky. Husband, son(16) and I flew into Ft Lauderdale on Friday - rented a car for the 3 days before left on the Sky on Monday 11/24. Did the tourist thing around Miami for three days. We stayed at the Best Western in North Miami in the Bayside Marina. Location was great - just north of South Beach and 15-20 minute drive to Port of Miami. There were several other people we met in the hotel that were booked on a cruise. Picked this hotel from recommendation of other cruise critic reviews. Older hotel recently renovated. Continental breakfast was okay. Hotel restaurant was great - on the marina. Would definitely stay again. Dropped rental car off at the Miami Int'l airport. Cab fair from MIA was set a flat rate of $24. Lot's of road construction around the drop off area for the rental car companies. Got turned around - was late checking in and Avis charged us another hour at $39. Did call Avis and complain because of the road construction, etc. Got a credit back for the $39. Embarkation was easy. We arrived at 11:15 - paper work processed quickly. After passport check, etc. was put into a holding area with many other people. They didn't start boarding until 12:00. That went pretty quick. Rooms were not ready until 2:00 - so had plenty of time to have lunch and find our way around the ship. You could tell the ship was an older ship - but was very clean. This was our second cruise. First was with Carnival. Was sort of dissappointed in the room size. Had a balcony. Size of balcony was just fine. Room was somewhat smaller than that we had on the Carnival ship, especially the bathroom. Shower was really small - but we were okay. We were across from the crew service area but never heard any noise. Short walk to elevators. Cabin 9233 - mid ship - great location. Staff was great. Cruise director - Matt - was funny. Shows were good - the comedian was kinda lame. No complaints at all about room stewards. They kept our room changed and cleaned in am and pm. We didn't pay the extra to dine in Cagney's or the Italian restaurant. They wanted $20 pp extra. Previous reviews indicated $10 pp - maybe they charged more because of the Thanksgiving week. Food was okay in the buffet lines, seemed to have almost the same everyday. Dinning room was different - great food and great service. Never waited more than 10 minutes. Love the freestyle dining though. Husband and son went to breafast bar every morning - I had room service. They were prompt with time requested. Ports of call were good. Didn't book excursions until we got on the ship on Monday 11/24. Waited in the lobby for the excursion desk to open - was first in line. Great Stirrip Cay, NCL's private island, was wonderful; but you better get out there early. Lounge chairs and umbrellas go really fast. Walked right off the ship onto the tender boat. Waited just a bit for the boat to fill up before leaving for the island. The beach was a bit crowded - but had a great day. Debarkation was quick too. We put our luggage out the night before so we didn't have to drag our bags through the hallways with many others. Just kept a bag with morning essentials and change of clothes. We didn't get off until 9:00 or so. Took cab back to MIA and then rented a car to drive to Ft Lauderdale. It costs us about $15-20 more for the rental car and the cab to MIA than had we taken the NCL shuttle to Ft Lauderdale - our flight didn't leave until 4:15 from FLL to Atl so we didn't want to hang out at the airport all day. Overall cruise was great - will definitely travel with NCL again. P Fountain - Atl, GA Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We were on the 5 day Thanksgiving sailing on the Ecstasy out of Galveston. There were 6 of us (me, DH, DD-13, DS-11, DS-19 & DS-22). All but the 2 oldest sons have sailed 5+ times before. I do a lot of homework and planning prior to ... Read More
We were on the 5 day Thanksgiving sailing on the Ecstasy out of Galveston. There were 6 of us (me, DH, DD-13, DS-11, DS-19 & DS-22). All but the 2 oldest sons have sailed 5+ times before. I do a lot of homework and planning prior to cruising so I usually know what to expect and am not easily "surprised". Such was the case with this cruise. Our last 2 cruise experiences were on the Conquest, a much larger and newer ship. I made sure that everyone was aware of this so that they didn't "expect" the Ecstasy to be as fancy as the Conquest. Also, we've been to both Cozumel and Progresso many times so we also knew what to expect on shore. Acknowledging these things ahead of time helped shape our cruise experience as our expectations were reasonable. Embarkation: Usually, we spend the night in Galveston prior to the cruise, but this time we just drove in from our home town (60 miles SE of Dallas) the morning of the cruise. We arrived at the EZ Cruise parking lot around 11:30. We were eating lunch on the Lido Deck by 1pm. Needless to say, embarkation was a breeze! The Ship (in general): As mentioned, our last 2 cruises were on the Conquest. I knew that the Ecstasy was a bit older and smaller. At first, I felt a tinge of disappointment as the Ecstasy doesn't quite have the "wow" factor of the Conquest. However, it was in no time at all that we warmed up to this wonderful ship. This might sound strange, but even though the ship is smaller, it actually felt less crowded, especially around the pool area. On the Conquest, a lounge chair around either of the main pools was sparse. On the Ecstasy, we never had a problem getting a chair around the pool, or a table for lunch or a decent seat in the main theatre. The pools were a little dated, but we don't ever use them so this wasn't a big deal for us. All the other kiddos were enjoying the pools though! The hot tubs were small. And there is not a hot tub in the spa . I did miss that. The Ecstasy should be getting the Waterworks upgrade soon so this will vastly improve the pool areas. Common Areas: The common areas were typical. There were several bars & discos. We never went to any except on Thursday to catch the Cowboys game. Our 2 oldest sons thoroughly enjoyed the bars and clubs and often were getting back to the room after 2am. Can't complain about the casino as we were able to break even by the end of the week! I read a post somewhere on this board about the ceilings being low ... this wasn't a distraction for me. Again, even though some of the areas are smaller, they were not crowded. This was a huge plus for me as I like a little elbow room. Rooms: We stayed in balconies our past 2 cruises & prior to that we always had window rooms. This time we just got 2 inside cabins. We were in M255 & M251. We did not regret this at all. We've been to Cozumel and Progresso several times & we knew we wouldn't spend much time in our cabins. The money we saved on cabins allowed us to feel better about splurging on other activities during our cruise that we usually don't do. I do wish our cabins were more midship though. We were in the far aft of the ship. Our rooms were clean and comfortable. Our room steward, Ernesto, was the best! He was very attentive and did so good with all of our kiddos. I didn't find any difference between the rooms on the Conquest vs Ecstasy. Dining/Food: Only thing missing was the Fish & Chips station - which, actually, I didn't miss at all. I found all the food options & quality on the Ecstasy comparable to that of the Conquest. They even had the sushi bar (even though it was not listed in the Capers except on the 1st day). The sushi station is outside the casino. In the mornings, the lines in the back of the Lido deck would get a little backed up, but there were never lines by the pool stations. The buffet lines were exactly the same (for breakfast). Never any lines for the omelet station The lunch buffets were the typical buffet variety. And of course, there was the 24 hour pizza and ice cream. There never was a lack of good food! The first night, our waiter seemed to be a bit cranky & we thought uh-oh, this is going to be a long week, but he must've just had a bad day because the rest of the cruise we had a wonderful dining experience. Denis & Eduardo did a great job taking care of us. I have no complaints other than the fact that I think I gained about 5 pounds! We ate all dinners except 1 in the main dining room. A note on the food quality and variety: I always try to keep in perspective that the staff is having to serve thousands of people - all with different preferences. Given this, I think overall Carnival does a great job. I don't expect every dish to be of 5 star caliber. I do expect the food to be of good quality and variety - in line for what I paid for my cruise. Thus, I am rarely disappointed! Entertainment: This was one aspect that I found lacking. Our cruise director's 2 acts were the highlights for us. He can play the fiddle and juggle. The comedians were not very good at all. I found Jerry Torres to be absolutely offensive. There was a show by a Russian couple on the last night. I didn't make the show, but I hear they were good. The shows on the Conquest and other ships were definitely of higher quality. The shows on the Ecstasy were not on par with what I expected thus I was disappointed. Debarkation: Again, a breeze. We just hung out on the Lido Deck until our number was called & then the lines were moving pretty fast. We were back to the EZ Cruise parking lot around 11ish. Progresso: We love Progresso! I know this port is highly controversial & many people are disappointed with it. We find it absolutely charming! We took the double decker bus tour (45 minutes). We sat on the top of the bus. My husband is about 6'3". It was a hoot watching him have to duck under the electrical wires over the streets! After our bus tour we went to the shopping market for a little while and bought some souvenirs. We then headed to the beach. We ended up at Buddy's. We got massages ($60 for 30 minute massages for 4 people), went on a banana boat ride, and ate and drank to our hearts content. They had great bar specials & the food was excellent. Cozumel: We did the all-inclusive at Mr. Sancho's. We loved this place! We rode horses, ATVs and jet skied. Great food and drinks. Next time, we probably would not do the all-inclusive option but it was nice to have run of the bar and grill since we had 4 kiddos with us! Definitely 2 thumbs up to Mr. Sancho's!!! Fellow Cruisers: Since we sailed over a holiday, there were lots of multi-generational families on board. Lots of kids (no problem for us). I was surprised by how many past passengers were on board. Carnival did a good job of trying to ensure activities for people of all ages. Overall Rating: All in all we had a wonderful cruise. I would definitely sail on the Ecstasy again. Our 2 oldest sons also said they would sail the Ecstasy again. Our 13 & 11 year olds really liked the Conquest better, however, I take their opinions with a grain of salt! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
The 2008 Thanksgiving Mexican Riviera cruise out of Los Angeles was a mad house. This is a large ship, the largest I've been on with Princess, and there was not enough room for everybody because it was packed to capacity. There was a ... Read More
The 2008 Thanksgiving Mexican Riviera cruise out of Los Angeles was a mad house. This is a large ship, the largest I've been on with Princess, and there was not enough room for everybody because it was packed to capacity. There was a line for breakfast, lunch and dinner no matter where you went including traditional dining every single day! In fact there was always a line everywhere (photos, shops, everywhere). I've never seen this on a Princess ship. I was glad that I loved retreating to my huge aft balcony a lot because it was the only place where I could find enough room! I was on the Ship for 3 days before my nameplate showed up! When I asked the purser to get me a name plate he said that was easy to do but it took him three days! No so easy after all I guess. I had also requested egg crates for the bed but my Steward insisted that I didn't and that there were none left. We had to insist strongly before we got our egg crates. I know my TA faxed the request. Our room was okay; the drawers were broken and had to be messed with to get them closed. The beds seemed smaller and shorter than on other ships but this is my first balcony room and I am used to mini suites so I was in bathroom shock for the first few days. I wrestled with the shower curtain but it often won and wrapped itself around me as if it were my new lover! I finally dealt with the overly amorous curtain by keeping it opened most of the way, which created a small lake but with enough extra towels that was easier for me to deal with! Around the middle of the cruise I noticed that many of my toiletries were empty. The brand new deodorant was depleted, the brand new Elemis products that I had brought explicit for this cruise were empty, my moisturizers were empty, my facial soap and oils were almost empty, my toothpaste was gone, and all of my lipsticks were broken and smashed down. My perfumes were empty, and my sunscreens were depleted too. This was the creepiest experience I had to date on a Princess ship. Clearly my room steward did not like when I complained about not getting the towels I asked for (remember the lake) and not getting our patter one night. I can not think of any other reason why this happened, I did not stiff him and I did not put in any formal complaints. beware of hostile room stewards, I am calling Princess on this guy today! This is my second Mexican Riviera cruise this year and I notice a big difference in the quality of food no new menus here and it just doesn't taste very good. My traditional dining room table assignment made me crazy the first night because I was surrounded by families who let their kids run like banshees through the dining room. One child kept coming up to my table with her dripping nose sniffing my food. Yikes. I asked the Maitre d to change our table. He asked me to come and talk to him every day about whether a table opened up. Gee this is not my idea of a relaxing cruise. I had no intention of complaining again because that makes it worse for me and I can't relax. We switched to anytime dining after the first night. This was the first formal night and there were tons of people everywhere taking formal photos and milling about and I couldn't find anyplace to stand. We got into a line to take a formal photo and it took forever to get to the front. The photographer was being very professional but we always look goofy in this kind of shot. Anyway, by the time we were done, there was a 45 minute wait for anytime dining. It was this way every night. I almost gave up and went to the Buffet but I complained one last time to the purser's desk about our seating and the Maitre D John Paul changed us to the International Dining room and we got a fantastic table for 8 with the best group of people we have met on a cruise so far. We really enjoyed getting such a good (and diverse) group of people, it made dinner so fun. We were always the last table to leave every single night! No meals were real standouts, and none were real stinkers either. The Turkey dinner was rubbery, but I met someone who had a juicy piece so I guess there was some inconsistency. I tried the Fajitas and I hated them with their melted cheese on top and too few pieces of Chicken. There was no ripe fruit on the trip either, no berries except Strawberries, and only the Pineapple was tasty. We couldn't get a reservation at any of the specialty dining rooms because of the massive crowds. . The new waffle bar was good; one of the girls at our table had to get the name of the waffle mixture because she loved it so much. I'm not much of a foodie so I really don't care as long as they have sorbet at desert. I love their sorbet. They are getting the new dinnerware in a few cruises, but no new menus yet! We all suggested that they bring out the waffle bar in the afternoon with the Ice cream (3:30 HC) because those waffles with Ice Cream would be to-die-for. Maybe it's not such a good idea! The chair hogs were out in full force. Although half of the lounges were empty of people much of the time, they were marked with towels and magazines and nobody seemed to care. We asked for help getting a chair but the response (which I heard over and over) is "Madam there is over 700 kids on the ship and we cannot do anything about it". I really doubt it was the children's ideas to save the chairs. I got aggravated and disappointed at paying such a high price for a specific cabin which of course immediately created in me higher expectations for everything. I realize this is a dumb thing to do, and I did really LOVE the huge aft cabin (E735). For a cruise that I take so often (sometimes 2-3 times a year) I have to say that the best one I've ever taken was the one that I paid the cheapest price for because I had no expectations. We did some different excursions this time including snorkeling with sea lions at Las Calates in PV. For some reason they decided to combine the kids' Sea lion encounter with our snorkeling adventure and I ended up getting kicked by 15 children while I felt guilty because I wanted to push them all aside. I paid and extra 75 for the experience, they paid 10. I hated having to be with 15 children since as a teacher I am programmed to watch out for their safety and certainly not ram them aside so I can have my turn. Not what I signed up for, not what I wanted, and not what I paid for! Furthermore, we missed many of the other activities like kayaking, hiking, and snorkeling. Unfortunately, we didn't miss the lunch! All in all for the $174pp we paid through Princess, it was not worth it. Do it independently and skip the Sea lion stuff! I did not complain verbally to Princess because I can't stand the excursion director (who I know from prior ships) so I just wrote up a note and dropped it in their comments box and within 2 hours there was a note in my (finally labeled) room mail box. Princess offered me a 25% discount on this excursion because they were not supposed to combine the tow groups! While this was a nice gesture, I still paid a lot of money for something other than what was advertised. I call that bait and switch! We did a good tour in Mazatlan to the mountain towns of Concordia and Copala which was very interesting. We could only understand about half of what the guide said (Maria), but it was enough to really enjoy. We went to Todos Santos in Cabo and that was pretty interesting. Our guide spoke impeccable English and was very knowledgeable about Baja Mexico, the ride to Todos Santos was beautiful and we saw many whales blowing and breaching from the busall on the Pacific (and none in the Sea of Cortez). The infamous Hotel California is supposed to be in Todos Santos but I don't think it really is. Still, we ate there and they did play the Eagles song over and over and the food was pretty good. The prices in Todos Santos were outrageously high, just like in Cabo; we were not going to pay $20 for a junky fake Hotel California Tee shirt! We would have liked to see more of Todos Santos and less of the shopping opportunities there, still the tour was nice and I would recommend it. The entertainment was good, don't miss Steve Morris, he is a riot! One of the reasons I repeat this cruise is because I love his comedy and he is usually on part of the cruise. He gets the audience singing and involves us in his comedy and it's really fun. His shadow puppets are the best I've ever seen. Bohemian Rhapsody will never be the same for me! Disembarkation was a bummer if you didn't choose walking off with your own luggage. There were few reps around to answer questions and lots of families going wherever they thought they could get off the quickest. It didn't seem like many people were following instructions, and instead they were making up their own rules. I heard one man say" I am an American and I want to get off this boat now!" At least I didn't hear any name calling! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Saturday morning, Nov. 22nd, I awoke at 5AM in Atlanta, GA to a frigid temperature of 20 to go catch a bus to the train station to then get on a plane to Ft. Lauderdale where I would leave for my longest cruise taken yet...8 days! My ... Read More
Saturday morning, Nov. 22nd, I awoke at 5AM in Atlanta, GA to a frigid temperature of 20 to go catch a bus to the train station to then get on a plane to Ft. Lauderdale where I would leave for my longest cruise taken yet...8 days! My husband and I were very excited since 2 of the 3 ports were to places we had not been (Panama and Costa Rica). The other port was Cozumel which we love. It was quite chilly and windy in Ft. Lauderdale when we set sail but I was happy to be headed out to sea! Day 2 was pretty overcast most of the day...a little bit of a bummer since I love the sun and was looking forward to going back to Atlanta a few shades darker. We were pretty lazy this day...we took a little tour around the boat and checked stuff out but pretty much laid around all day either in the cabin or a chair on the deck. Our first night to dinner we met Kat and Mike and hit it off...they were great. From then on we always had something to talk about at dinner with the 2 of them. The best thing about dinner however, was the bar waiter, Karel Zimmerman...he was a real cutie pie with a great smile and personality to go along with it. Day 3 was in Cozumel and it was beautiful! Every other time we have went to Cozumel we rented a jeep and drove around, this time we just went to a beach and soaked up the sun. Day 4 was another yucky weather sea day...ugh...by now I had found the Habana bar which I loved...it was a cigar bar so I could smoke in there and it was near our dining room. I loved the salsa type music they played. Day 5 was Costa Rica...we did book an excursion here through the cruise line...we just hopped off the ship and found a bus to jump on for $20 pp. We got to ride down the coast line which we saw rainforests, slothes, and stopped at a little fruit stand thing and then got to stop at a little beach for some shopping also. We went to the banana plantation which was pretty cool too. The whole trip was about 3 1/2 hours...definately worth the money, Carnival had the same type of excursion they were charging about $60pp for. I have found in the past that you get better deals if you just get off the ship and then pay for stuff. Day 6 was Panama and we did book our excursion through the cruiseline, only cause we were afraid it would book up. We went through the Panama Canal! Again...a very nasty weather day...it rained almost the whole day. We did not realize we chose the rainy season to travel...make sure you check on that before going anywhere...lol. Going through the canal is something I am glad I can say that I have done but would not do again. The ship port is on Colon which is the crappy part of Panama...the bus ride to get on the Ferry to go through the canal was 2 hours...each way and our tour guise must have been new cause she did not speak very well. Going through the lockes was pretty cool but after 2 it was kinda like ok...ready to go. Day 7 another crappy weather day...just overcast, not rainy atleast. We took advantage of the huge screen out on the lido deck this night...we watched Transformers. It was a little windy but was nice to lay out on the open deck and watch. Day 8 was beautiful so I managed to get 2 sunny days out of the trip...I was up pretty late in the 70's dance club the night before (which was alot of fun...there were more crew members on the dancefloor than guests...it was nice to see them relaxing) so we laid in the sun all day and watched football on the bigscreen until about 5...then we finished the FL vs FL ST game in the Players Bar...GO GATORS!!!! A few things that I don;t remember what day they were...lol... The comedians were funny, I didn't make it to any of the shows, the casino was always hopping and the night club was alot of fun! The dinner in the dining room was a little repetative but was good. Our waiter, asst. waitress, and cabin steward did a great job and of course Karel made sure I always had a Cosmo in my hand at dinner and while in the casino! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Trek to the point of embarkation, south from Orlando, save $22 and take Toll Road 528 to I-95 and get off the FL Turnpike. Travel time is the same and there's more amenities. Night prior to cruise, recommend the Embassy Suites, ... Read More
Trek to the point of embarkation, south from Orlando, save $22 and take Toll Road 528 to I-95 and get off the FL Turnpike. Travel time is the same and there's more amenities. Night prior to cruise, recommend the Embassy Suites, Airport for spacious rooms and complimentary cooked to order breakfast. Through airportreservations.com, parking is $7/night vs. $20 at the Port. The hotel is 8 miles away. Shuttles are available for $10 person or take a cab for $25. Embarkation - arrive by Noon for 4 pm sailing and expect 30 minute process. Gets longer the later it gets. Attempts to bring alcohol on board will result in the items being confiscated until the end of the cruise - you will get caught. You may bring water bottles and sodas in checked luggage - this I recommend for various reasons. The cabins have small refrigerators stocked with ship drinks (at high prices) but the crew will empty their stock out at your request and you can use the fridge. Ship exceeds expecations. It is clean, modern, well laid out, easy to navigate. Compared to other cruises, the cabins are smaller, but the bathrooms are larger, which makes a huge comfort difference. The showers have sliding glass doors and there is room to move around in the bathroom without feeling cramped - kudos to the architects on that move. The fitness center exceptional and free. Rock climbing wall is great (and hard), tennis courts, basketball courts, golf cage - all very nice.Dining is poor. Two free restaurants and 1 buffet. There are 8 specialty restaurants charging $10 - $30. Without the surcharge, do not expect quality food or service. The entertainment was just "fair." The Second City improv rocks and was the saving grace. There were some jugglers, good but lame. The comedian was OK - but there was only one. Most of the shows lasted only 45 minutes. No pool deck parties. No limbo contests. No midnight buffet parties. Other cruises I'd been on offer many events thru the "at sea" days but not this one. Excursions - book these yourself through outside vendors for better experiences and lower costs. Cruise Critic posts provide so much information that with little homework, it's easy. My oldest son and I went diving in Honduras (Subway Watersports), Belize (thru ship), and Cozumel (Dive Paradise), while my wife took the younger kids on other excurions. The only time we went thru the ship was in Belize because the dive site is so far from Belize City that the only way to reach it is to use the ships vendor, Hugh Parkley's Dive Connection. The land rover tour throught he jungle and mountains can only be booked through the cruise ship (she tried directly and was re-routed to the ship.Kids clubs were good. We have two in the 8 - 10 range and one in the 10 - 12 group. They were quick to make friends and actually requested to go to the club each night. My wife and I welcomed that which gave us a little freedom to enjoy a quiet dinner, drinks, or a show. The clubs are free except during port times and after 10:30 pm. Our teenager made friends as well and claims he had the best vacation ever. On this topic, I would agree with cruise ratings that it is one of the best for kids. Service was good. The cabin stewards were friendly and did a great job. They always would acknowledge you even though they were so busy. Staff at the bars and the reception desk were great. Personnel in the "free" restaurants" though were not as cordial and often difficult to understand. The one time we ate in a specialty restuaurant and paid the $20 per person fee, our waitress was exceptional...again, to get good food and decent service, it comes at a cost. I would recommend checking your stateroom folio a day or two ahead of the end of the trip. I did and had no issues. However, the reception desk was overwhelmed on the last day for those not checking in advance. Disembarkation was the best of the 4 cruises I've done. We did the "express" and carried off our own luggage starting at 7:15 am. In doing this, we didn't have to put our luggage out the night before or wait in lines. In fact, there was no waiting at all...simply walked off the ship, to customs, and out the door. Limited here only by as fast as you can walk. Fabulous. We had a great time largely because of what we made of it. We went for the destinations and excursions that we booked, not for the food or cruise ship entertainment. Next time, I will take a deeper look at the restaurant offerings and any additional charges that may apply. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We took a Thanksgiving cruise on the Navigator of the Seas, and based on the other reviews, were a little worried. However, whatever problems RC has in the Mediterranean seem to have been resolved for the Caribbean. We had a great time. ... Read More
We took a Thanksgiving cruise on the Navigator of the Seas, and based on the other reviews, were a little worried. However, whatever problems RC has in the Mediterranean seem to have been resolved for the Caribbean. We had a great time. We are experienced cruisers, having previously been on Celebrity, Princess and Holland America. Navigator completely outperformed both Princess and Holland America. Embarkation was quick and easy we were able to get on before noon, with no lines, and with the cabins being ready by 1:00 p.m., and luggage arriving by 4:00 p.m. in plenty of time for even the early setting people to get dressed. The cabins were much larger than comparable ones on other ships, with plenty of space for clothes the built-in closets helped significantly in finding places for shorts, shirts, etc. Food all times in all venues was good much better menus, and much better quality than Princess, for example. And the menus were extensive enough that everyone in our group from the grandparents on restricted diets, to the mid-40s parents trying to lose weight (believe it or not, even on a cruise) to the pre-teens and teens always found something to eat. And the buffets were good enough in quality that you could go there for dinner and not be disappointed. We spent one night at Chops, the steak restaurant, and it was good (it should be for an extra $25pp). The person who had the veal chop said it was the best she'd eaten anywhere. One note unlike some cruises, Navigator did not offer a lot of food choices late at night. No big deal for us since we were full after the late seating dinner, but those who like to have a substantial nosh or almost a second dinner late forget it. There is some food, but it is limited in nature. The staff was incredibly friendly (everyone had a smile and a hello throughout the ship in fact, if you walked by someone else's cabin attendant, they made sure to greet you) and customer service oriented. Anything we asked, the first response was either an unqualified "yes", or at worst a "we should be able to do something for you". Lots of special requests by us all satisfied. A small vignette to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the customer experience I was in the gym, and was walking over the trash can to throw out a tissue. A staff member was walking the other way with a trash bag in her hand, saw my tissue, stopped and opened her bag so I could throw out my trash without having to walk the extra 5 steps. This type of service was replicated everywhere. Speaking of the gym it was one of the largest I had seen on a ship, with a really good complement of weights/benches/machines and LOTS of treadmills/ellipticals. Which was a good thing the ship's gym was busier than the gym at home. The quality of the shows was only fair the "review" numbers were creative, but the quality of the singers was only fair. There didn't seem to be as many things to do at night and lots of fun things seemed to be aimed at the early seating people and not replicated for those with the late seating. Our kids had a great time we didn't see them. They didn't use the kids clubs for much, but there is enough to do that they found friends and engaged in their own activities. The one nice option is the late night option it goes from 10 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. later than most other ships. We would definitely take Royal Caribbean again. (BTW, Navigator is a beautiful ship, with the idea of the Royal Promenade as a central place pretty cool). The most important things to us good food, fun activities for the kids, lying out in the sun (didn't see much problem getting pool deck lounges), great service all were there for our Thanksgiving cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was the third NCL and fifth cruise overall for DDP and me. Previously we have cruised on Celebrity to Alaska, NCL Sun to the Western Caribbean, Atlantis (aboard X) to the Eastern Caribbean and this past April aboard NCL Jade on the ... Read More
This was the third NCL and fifth cruise overall for DDP and me. Previously we have cruised on Celebrity to Alaska, NCL Sun to the Western Caribbean, Atlantis (aboard X) to the Eastern Caribbean and this past April aboard NCL Jade on the Atlantis/Alexandria/Istanbul Eastern Med voyage. This was our first trip to the Mexican Riviera. Joining us were DDP's Mom, Stepfather, Brother, Sis-in-Law and step niece (14 yo). This was the parent's second cruise and the rest's first. Precruise We departed RDU aboard Delta on Friday afternoon and with the exception of a 45 minute delay departing Atlanta had an uneventful flight arriving at LAX around 9:30pm. I had prearranged a Karmel shuttle($81 for private van for 4) from the airport to the Doubletree in San Pedro ($80+taxes/fees=$101 per night via Priceline). Karmel took a little bit longer to get to us than I had hoped, but traffic at LAX was crazy. We left the airport right at 10:15 and pulled up to the Doubletree about 20 minutes later. The rooms were nice though they must have some sort of mildew or other odor problem in the lobby as the air there was perfumed with something. Didn't bother me, but anyone with issues related to perfume might have a problem checking in. We signed up for the Doubletree's complementary shuttle to the airport right after checkin. They start their shuttles at 11am and run every 14 minutes. The only ones that had room for all seven of us was the first one so that's the one we took. Saturday morning, DDP and I took the complementary Doubletree shuttle into downtown San Pedro and had breakfast at the Egg and Waffle - very tasty - unusual dishes. DDP had a Beef Stroganoff omelet and I had a Sombrero - it was a tortilla topped with potatoes, chicken ranchero sauce, eggs and of course cheese - be sure to ask for some of their salsa - it like every thing else was very tasty. It had been our plan to order a waffle to share, but the meals were so big, we canceled that order. If we are ever there again, we will split a plate so we can try the waffles. After breakfast, we walked to the Von's Grocery store which was one block away and purchased sodas, tonic and limes to carry on board. We then called the Doubletree and the shuttle picked us up about five minutes later. Embarkation We all loaded on the Doubletree Shuttle and left a few minutes before 11am and were at the embarkation hall no later than 11:05, we were allowed to immediately register - there were no lines at that point. We then were sent(11:20am?) to an area with chairs to await boarding. They said it would be about noon. We went ahead and took our group embarkation picture since the two parental units were going aboard with the special assists. They got to wait in the area with the "suites". Sometime before noon, they started letting folks go through security and with the exception of making us go to "that line over there" just as we were getting to the end of the line we were in, it was uneventful. We boarded, had our glass of welcome aboard champagne and since DDP and my Deck 10 room wasn't yet ready, headed to Deck 12 to use our welcome aboard "buy 2 get 1 free" cocktail coupon. We were having our first margarita at exactly 12:30. The others who had mini suites on Deck 11 were allowed to drop their stuff off at the room and then they joined us. Ship & Cabin Despite other reviewer's concerns with a lack of cleanliness and wear and tear, we didn't see any signs of anything beyond what would one expect on a not-brand-new ship. Throughout the week, the maintenance folks were painting, varnishing and cleaning. Two or three times I saw them cleaning carpets and on one of our port days we got a notice that they would be cleaning our balcony. DDP and I were in a BA on Deck 10 and the other folks had two minis on Deck 11. All were what was expected. Our steward and stewardess were friendly and helpful but not overly so. We had to ask a couple of time for them to refill our ice bucket but it was done quickly. The folks on Deck 11 spoke highly of their stewards - they apparently provided superior service…for which I understand they were financially rewarded! This was the first time we had experienced the three compartment bathroom. On Jade, we were in an inside and only the shower was separate. While the concept of a separate toilet room is a good one, I don't think its execution fulfills the promise. As a six foot seven inch tall, 300 pound guy, I would have preferred to have the extra three inches that the door takes up - especially given the door stops short of the floor so it doesn't really provide much separation from the sink area. Entertainment The show the first night was disappointing - it was basically a few of the singers from around the ship being introduced and singing a song. However, the Andrew Lloyd Weber show the second night was very entertaining. We also enjoyed Second City's stage show but the adult version held later in the week wasn't nearly as funny. As always, the funniest shows were those that involved the other passengers - The Newlywed and the Perfect Couple shows were both a hoot and a half. Cruise Critic Meet & Greet We had a small but active roll call on Cruise Critic. I contacted the Star's Group Coordinator and they provide us with a meeting space on our first sea day. We had about 10 folks show up to put names to faces. We were joined by the Hotel Director, the Food & Beverage Director, the Restaurant Manager and the Housekeeping Manager. They spent close to an hour with us answering everyone's questions. It was interesting to learn that they read Cruise Critic - the Hotel Manager remarked that they pay attention to it and mentioned Ocean Dreaming's recent upsell to the Penthouse. Ports & Excursions DDP and I have determined that we enjoy being on our own while in port so we did not take any of the ships excursions. However, other members in our party loved the America's Cup in Cabo, a daylong snorkeling -booze cruise in Puerto Vallarta, ziplining and a city tour in Mazatlan. In Cabo, DDP and I took it easy and let everyone else line up for tender tickets, we waited until open call, which was about 1pm (we docked at 11) and then wandered around town, bought a tshirt or two and headed back to the ships ahead of the crowds. I had tried to get a group together to do a snorkel trip on Yael but couldn't get enough to make the trip. In Mazatlan, DDP and I taxied ($4 if you catch it on the street, we were quoted $8 inside the port gates) to the cathedral - it's really interesting - hints of European cathedrals but so different - I had never experienced statues of the Saints being dressed in REAL clothes! We then walked back towards the ship making a stop at the restored theatre. After our morning of "culture" we took advice from others on Cruise Critic and walked to the dock and took a small boat ($2RT) across the channel to Stone Island. There we tried to grab a chair at Carmelita's or Malaoy's - we weren't sure which we had chosen, alas, after we sat down and ordered a beer we realized that we were at Pipi's a small restaurant in-between the big boys! Oh well, we enjoyed our day, swimming, sunning, shading under their umbrella, eating cerviche', grilled garlic shrimp and drinking 6 Pacificos (total bill was $37) - of course the margaritas next door at Malaoy's looked mighty tasty! Next time we will pay closer attention before we sit down. After a wonderful day, we walked back to the ship using our return ticket to cross the channel. It takes about 30 minutes total both directions to and from the ship. Very easy walk but for anyone who needs assistance it might be a little tough - getting in and out of the little boat is hard. In Puerto Vallarta, DDP and I along with some friends we had met onboard at the nightly "Friends of Dorothy" get-together, shared a cab ($12 for all 4) from the port to downtown where we walked along the Malicon. This is a great walkway along the beach with sculpture, incredible sandcastles folks are building and at one point tower dancers. After crossing over the river, we stopped at a beachside place and had margaritas…really STRONG margaritas but very enjoyable ones. At this point, DDP and took a cab back to the ship, picked up his parents and cabbed to a restaurant that friends from San Diego who vacation in PV recommended. Ay Charumba sits above PV with a great view. We sat under a roofed terrace enjoying the view, homemade tortillas and salsa (I actually watched the cook chop for about 30 minutes making a fresh batch), delicious food and oh, yeah, those margaritas again. DDP had a whole snapper ($20) that was simply grilled while I had the best shrimp fajitas ($18) I have ever tasted. The parents shared a lobster and shrimp special. It was about 80 bucks but it had three lobsters and about 24 shrimp on it. It would have been enough for all four of us! I But they ate it all and couldn't stop talking about finally getting a really good lobster - she had tried them on the ship and wasn't satisfied. Either of the dishes DDP and I could have easily served two. After lunch, we taxied to the nh Kystal Hotel, where at the recommendation of other Cruise Critic folks, I had made reservations for massages. Wow, what a fantastic way to spend $40 a person! Seventy five minutes of bliss. If we had of wanted to stay and enjoy the hotel's pool we could have, but instead since it was close to six o'clock, we headed back to the ship. Hard to say which was the better day - Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta - but both were definitely wonderful ways to spend the day. Food After cruising on several NCL ships, we have determined that while the food in the main dining rooms is very good and one doesn't' have to spend any extra, we enjoy budgeting to spurge with some meals in the specialty restaurants too. This trip we ate in the Asian one once - I had the fusion meal while DDP and niece loaded up on AYCE sushi. Everyone enjoyed the meal; the hot and sour soup was especially good. They have changed the ice cream dessert from how it was served on Jade. There it was simply the ice cream, albeit interesting flavors. On Star, the ice cream was wrapped in pastry - uncooked it seemed- rice maybe? Anyway, it didn't add anything to the flavor and the texture was a bit un-nerving. Next trip it will be the tapioca for me! We enjoyed dinner in Soho twice - once as a substitute for LeBistro from our anniversary package (thank you Restaurant Manager Monique who we met at the meet and greet for arranging that) and again as our final dinner on board. What a surprise Soho was. Others on this site have talked about how terrible it was, however, we found it to be one of the best meals we have had whether on a ship or not. DDP had the rack of lamb twice it was so good. I had the veal chop the first time and the filet the second. Both were great but the veal chop especially so. Not to be missed appetizers include the tuna tartare dish and the scallops with guacamole dish. While the cheese tray was tasty, the other desserts left something to be desired. The service here was top notch - some of that may be due to the fact that the restaurant was relatively empty and because Monique had stopped by our table to say hello. We used our 2-4-1 coupons the first night in Cagney's and had a good meal. Both the service and the food were better than it had been in Cagney's on Jade. We lunched in Versailles once and had two dinners(including Thanksgiving) in Aqua. All were very good. For Thanksgiving, they had a traditional dinner along with other choices. After an early dinner, we went up to the Garden Market and grabbed a few slices of freshly roasted turkey, some cranberry sauce and some sliced bread and treated ourselves to a turkey sandwich later in the evening…just like at home. This was one of our few visits to the buffet. Due to the amount of children on board, it was a madhouse so when we did visit, we tended to zip in, grab something and take it either back to our balcony or out on the pool deck to eat. The ship offers balcony cabins and above access to Aqua for breakfast each day except the last. We took advantage of this - its part buffet - fruit, yogurt, pastries, lox, etc combined with a menu you order from - the menu includes omelets, eggs Benedict, meats, potato sides, pancakes and French toast. It was a nice perk as it was much quieter than other venues - well except Cagney's I guess…some day I will make it into a suite and get to try that out! Issues I can't say enough what a great job the crew and staff did to make the trip enjoyable given the number of guests. However, there were a few missteps, which I hope were caused by being overwhelmed by the numbers. DDP's step father lost his cane in security during embarkation. It wasn't realized until after they were aboard ship, so the desk had them fill out paperwork and said they would return it to him. After not hearing from them, prior to going ashore in Cabo, I inquired at the desk how to say "cane" in Spanish as we planned on buying a new one. The lady at the desk asked why I needed to know, after explaining the lost cane, she said hold on a minute, disappeared and came back with the cane. It had been in lost and found the whole time despite having his name on it and filling out the paperwork. For our final dinner in Soho, the seven of us were seated at a table that would have best seated five but they were full that night, so they couldn't move us. Similar small issues happened throughout the trip - nothing terrible, just annoying. Disembarkation I had lots of trepidation about this aspect, given the horror stories of others from recent cruises. Thankfully, our worries turned out to be for naught. We were scheduled to dock at 7 with expectation that express departure would commence before eight. After lugging our and the elderly parents luggage on the way out, we elected to use the new BAGs program. What a joy it was. For $19.95, the ship, through BAGS, an outside vendor, checks you in with your airline, provides your boarding pass and a luggage tag. You put this tag on your luggage on your bag the night before, set it outside your door before bed and don't have to touch it again until you get to your home airport. DDP and I usually use our roll aboards and never check luggage, but if you need or want to do so, this is the way to do it! One thing to know, the tag they give you onboard won't be the actual luggage tag - it apparently gets it to BAGS and then they put on the correct one. This worried me a bit…for no reason thank goodness. We arrived in San Pedro early, they started tying us up before seven, and about 7:15 they started requesting (deck by deck) all non US citizens to make their way to the lounge for immigration clearance. No one else had to go through customs on the ship. The rest of us could either wait in our rooms or in public areas. About 7:30 they announced that those who had chosen express debarkation could make their way to the two gangways. This was a bit crowded, the elevators were a nightmare, but since we didn't have bags it wasn't bad for us. We started to leave about 7:50 and were off the ship by 8:25. Customs was a breeze - hand them the form, hear "welcome home" and through the door we went. The prearranged Karmel shuttle was scheduled for 8:30 but we had to call once we were outside and it took about 15 minutes, we arrived at LAX shortly thereafter and were through security and at the gate at 9:35am for our 1pm flight! Shucks - we could have slept in. In the future, I would probably try Primetime Shuttle - they had tons of vans lined up and waiting when we arrived to port so they might have been quicker and I wouldn't be in such a rush to get off the ship. Summary All in all a great cruise! The price couldn't be beat - unfortunately, everyone else and their mom and kids thought so too! The ship, food and service were fine. The ports were enjoyable but not too much work. While I doubt we do a thanksgiving cruise again because of how crowded it was, I highly recommend NCL and Star! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I just returned from a Thanksgiving week cruise with my wife on the NCL Star. The ship departed Los Angeles, and made stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta (in that order). THE GOOD: We had a balcony cabin on a upper ... Read More
I just returned from a Thanksgiving week cruise with my wife on the NCL Star. The ship departed Los Angeles, and made stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta (in that order). THE GOOD: We had a balcony cabin on a upper floor. Definitely worth the extra money. There was enough room on the balcony for the 2 lounge chairs NCL provided. It was a pleasure to get some sun and read on our own balcony instead of heading down to a pool deck. At night we would stand on the balcony and look at the endless black night and sea. Occasional shooting stars would appear each evening, and the sunsets were great too. Other highlights were the Dolphins, Whales, Flying fish, and two 6 foot Sharks that we saw from the balcony. The cabin itself was a nice size. Roughly comparable to a hotel room we had in Manhattan recently (NYC is notorious for small hotel rooms, but a cruise ship room that size is good). The cabin (and ship) were clean and well maintained. The BINGO was really well done and fun (although quite expensive). And the jackpots were significant. Often well into the thousands. BINGO was played in a nice theater/bar called the Spinnaker Lounge. The BINGO was the highlight our days at sea. Always got your adrenaline up, etc. The daily trivia games were also fun to play in, and complete against other cruisers. They were also a highlight of our days at sea. Murray the Magician was a good illusionist, and was pretty funny as well. And the Chinese acrobats were very good. The Stardust Theater that he and other shows played in during the week was very nice. The breakfast buffet was more than adequate (in spite of bad reviews we had read). Likewise the food in the main dining rooms was fine as well. Was it the best food I have ever eaten? No. But was it bad. Absolutely not. The debarkation was easy and did not take excessively long. The cruise director was very good and his staff was decent as well (with a few who were noticeably better than others). In general the whole crew/staff of the ship were very nice and helpful. The spa treatments (we had massages, and she had a facial as well) were excellent. Self parking by the ship was great. You literally park less than 100 yards from the ship! A pleasure to have such a short walk from the car to the embarkation, and back. Even during a holiday week, we never felt extremely crowded. Best meals were the "Surf & more surf" (Basically Lobster, scallops, mussels, and shrimp), and the Turkey Scallopini. The ships styling/motif was nice. Not too loud and tacky, not too soft. Nice colors, paintings, furniture, etc. Cabo had nice beaches and water. Puerto Vallarta was a nice and interesting city to walk around, when you take a cab to the Malecon and start from there (heading towards the Guadeloupe Church). Horseback riding on Mazatlan was nice too. THE BAD: NCL charges you constantly for every little thing (and some big things) resulting in a MUCH higher on board bill than you could ever anticipate. for example, it is inexcusable that NCL is charging for soda with meals in the dining rooms or other restaurants. HOW can they think it is acceptable to charge passengers who paid thousands of dollars to cruise, $2 per soda at meals! Those sodas should absolutely have been included! They also offer an obscenely expensive ($50 per person) unlimited fountain soda plan. That is $100 per couple in sodas. Not worth it, when all we wanted was 1 soda at dinner and/or lunch per night. And note that the soda plan is for fountain sodas. The sodas they served at dinner were in cans, so they may not have even been included! Totally unacceptable. The BINGO ran from $29-$129 per game, depending on which type of paper or handset you chose to buy. VERY expensive. The ship says they have Wifi in public spaces. Saying that implies that if you have your own laptop (as we do) you will be online for free. WRONG. They charge over $100 for 250 mins. Their cheapest plan is $55 for around 100 mins. Both charges are way too high. The up charge at the specialty restaurants is probably not worth it. We went to the French restaurant 1 night (Le Bistro). it was ok. But food in the dining rooms was comparable and included. And the Versailles dining room was the physically nicest dining room (or room of any kind!) on the whole ship! They push the duty free shopping (especially the jewelry) too hard. The ships photographers take loads of pics, and the charges are pretty high is you want any. Earlier I mentioned that the massage at the spa was excellent. But they are charging 2.5-3x what a spa in L.A would charge! 2 out of the 3 ports we visited required tendering to shore. And the cruise had 4 days at sea out of 7. They could easily have made it 4 land and 3 sea, by including Ensenada, or Acapulco. Embarkation came with very long lines, and was much less efficient that debarkation. Exiting the self parking lot in your car was a nightmare. Took an hour to get off the property. TV in the room was adequate, but could have used a handful of additional channels. We mainly watched CNN. That works for us because we're News junkies. But probably wouldn't be enough for most people. The people in cabins next door to you can smoke in their cabins, on the their balconies, etc. There should be separate smoking sections, to house the smoking cabins. It seemed that every time you went out to enjoy your balcony, a smoker would come out next door and ruin the air on your balcony. This happened at all hours, from both sides! In general dinner portions (most notably the size of the Lobster tails) were on the small side. In Cabo we went to Medano beach (and so did virtually all other cruisers in town that day). This made for a crowded beach, full of peddlers constantly trying to sell us stuff. Aside from the horseback riding (which we bought from Randi's Happy Horses, not from the overpriced cruise excursion shop) - there was nothing else about Mazatlan that seemed worth doing/seeing. SUMMARY: A mostly enjoyable cruise, that unfortunately nickel and dimed you with constant and obnoxious "up charges". Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background Information Here is my best attempt at writing a review for my families Thanksgiving cruise on the Carnival Glory. We sailed on Saturday November 22-Saturday November 29th. I actually booked this cruise through a TA and was ... Read More
Background Information Here is my best attempt at writing a review for my families Thanksgiving cruise on the Carnival Glory. We sailed on Saturday November 22-Saturday November 29th. I actually booked this cruise through a TA and was pretty happy with the cost of the cruise considering it was a holiday week. I was traveling with my DH, 2DD, Mom and Dad, Brother and Sister-in-law. We booked three inside guarantee cabins. Since we were leaving out of Port Canaveral, we decided it was more coast effective for us to drive the 12 hours than to fly. Of course we had booked this a year or so out in advance and that was before gas had gone up to $4/gal. Thank goodness it was cheaper by the time we left. About two months out from the cruise my brother and his wife decided they wanted to fly and contacted the TA. Carnival was not going to guarantee them a flight at first, but after a week or so they did get a flight. It was around $1000 for the two of them, ouch! We got our room numbers about six weeks before we sailed. We were all in the front of the ship. My mom was not happy and nervous because she gets sea sick easily. I didn't really care where we were as long as I was on the ship. My brother complained a little too because we are past guests and we had all hoped for an upgrade. I guess you have to be a high spender to get that. Hotel Info (if any) We stayed at the Radisson Resort at the Port and would absolutely recommend this to others. I loved the idea of getting to leave our car there and there was a free shuttle to take you to the port. We left VA Thursday after I got off work around 3:45. We were going to drive until somewhere in GA, but as we got further and further and the DD's were sleeping we toyed with driving all the way. It would put us at the port at 3:30. I decided to call the hotel around midnight and asked if they had any rooms. The guy at the front desk was very nice and said that our room was ready and that since we were getting in after 3 AM that he would just do an early check in for us. That was great and we drove in and got there right at 3:30. This saved us an extra nights hotel pay. The beds were okay, I didn't quite get the whole sleep number bed thing, but I wasn't complaining. We slept in the next morning and went to the Omelette Station for breakfast. We decided to just see what was around us that day. There was a cold front passing through Fla. and it was very chilly. We had not packed for such chilly weather, so we actually wound up buying some warm clothes that day and I am glad we did. We visited Ron Jon's where I searched for over thirty minutes for a t-shirt. My family was getting annoyed. There were just too many to choose from. We decided to head back to the hotel and to let the girls swim. It was cold and windy, but the pool was heated so my DH and dad took the DD's swimming. I sat bundled up on the chair and took a few pictures. The pool area is beautiful and the bar service was great. I would stay here again for sure. Very clean and reasonable rates. You sign up for a shuttle time and for the most part it was on time. I think our shuttle was five minutes late but that was because of traffic at the port. Service and Dining I do have to say that the service does not seem to be as good on this ship as my past cruises on Triumph and Sensation. There were many times that getting a refill was hard because the dispensers only had water instead of lemonade or whatever. The hot chocolate was out often as well. I was able to get that about half the time. I only ordered room service one time. It took a long time to get the food, around 45 minutes for a grilled cheese. By the time it was there, it was cold and soggy for whatever reason. So after all that wait I ate about four bites. The pancakes on the buffet were always cold and tough. I am not sure why I kept getting them, but I was hoping for better each time. I seemed to get bagels and fruit for the most part and this was always good. The bacon was very greasy, but that is just my personal preference not to eat very greasy food. We usually did not get anything from the lunch buffet and opted for either the burgers, pizza or deli. Everytime we waited in the buffet line we found that the food was not something that we liked. The burgers, hot dogs, pizza, and deli sandwiches are good and were always fresh. My biggest gripe about the Lido deck is the desserts. They always look so good and then you get them and they have little to no taste. So I stuck with the ice cream, always a safe choice. The dining room was another experience. We were in the Platinum dining room on the back of the ship. We had very rough seas for two days and being on the back with the vibration from the engine and the roughness of the waves made it quite interesting. Carnival can not help the weather so I am just making a note of our own experience. We were on the upper level and I loved where our table was. Very easy to find and close to the exit and a bathroom. DD's can not sit through any meal without going to the bathroom at least once. I found the food to be wonderful. Most of the people at our table would order multiple starters of entree's and everyone seemed to be pleased. Our waiter seemed to struggle a bit. It seemed as if he only had three tables. Two were larger tables that had around 8 people each and one was small with two people. These two people were right beside us and were very nice. They had the best service by far. They had wine and drinks ready for them every night. We had to struggle to get water. Their food was there first and always correct. Their desserts were always right and not melted. I guess serving two is much easier, but come on lets be fair to all the tables. The other big table seemed to get refills easier than us as well. Not sure what that was all about. Our waiter was nice and was very kind to our kids, but this was the worst service we have had on Carnival. A lot of our table ordered something with ice cream and it was always melted by the time we got it. So that was disappointing. I ordered a souffle one night and had to wait 10 minutes to eat it because the waiter did not put the cream sauce on it. The small table had the same dessert and immediately had the cream sauce. Still the food was great, but service could have been better. Still better than me having to cook. Shore Excursions We usually opt not to do any excursions through Carnival. They are too expensive in our opinion. We just do our own thing. In Nassau, we walked around and went to the Straw Market. That was an experience. I am not sure I would do that again. It was very crowded and most of the vendors had the same stuff. I did not think the prices were all that great either. A lot of cheap knock offs that they would ask $75 dollars or more for and you could talk them down, but you could get them cheaper on the streets of New York. We then came back towards the ship and got a taxi and it took us over the the Atlantis. What a nice place that is. I wish we would have spent more time there. I recommend seeing that to anyone. In St. Thomas, we were late getting there because of a small medical thing in Nassau plus rough seas. I think we were about 2 1/2 hours late. We got a taxi/pick-up with benches to take us on an island tour. I think we paid $20pp. We had the oldest pick up on the island. We were on this with some people from SC and they were fun company. Our driver really wasn't that great, but we made the trip fun anyway. St. Thomas is beautiful from high up, but getting there is soo windy. My sister in law was not feeling too good by the time we did get to the top. I just enjoyed the scenery and being on land that was not rocking so hard. We had very, very rough seas for two days and this was a welcome change. Our last port was St. Maarten. I wanted to do the beach so me and SIL took the water taxi over and got two chairs and umbrella and many frozen drinks. We had a great time just people watching and enjoying the sun. The rest of my family got a taxi and did a 4 hour tour for $30pp. They enjoyed it, but the thing I heard the most about was their stop at Bikini beach. Apparently there were some women there who were not old and saggy. My DH, brother and Dad were very chatty about this. I tuned them out. I was stuck looking at saggy old men in speedos. Yuk! Stateroom We were in room 2224, 2228, and 2214. Our room was 2224 and had two doubles pushed together to make a king. It also had two beds from the ceiling. Our room was clean and nice. I like that the bunks can be put away during the day. Our suitcases fit nicely under the bed and the storage was adequate. I am glad I brought extra hangers because there were not enough at all. The beds were very comfy, just as I remembered. Our room steward did pretty well. I was a little curious why we didn't always get new drink cups though. I had to wash ours out in the sink several times, but that is minor. The kids loved the towel animals. I am glad the bathroom had all the little shelves. A word to the wise, bring your own hair dryer. I did, but my mom did not and she had a hard time with holding the button down the whole time and the dryer was very weak. We were in the front of the ship under the Amber Palace stage. We were not in the room very much except for showering and sleeping. However, one night I was in the room while a show was going on and if you were trying to sleep you would have major problems. Very loud and booming music. I have mentioned about the rough seas and I will mention it again because you could hear the waves crashing on the hull of the ship in all of our rooms. My mom was in room 2214 even further to the front and her room was awful. The drawers would slam open and close with each crash of the wave. The movement seemed much worse in there as well. She was sick in her room the first two days. Not fun for her. I would not recommend this room. It was clean, but not sure about the location and the deal with the drawers. My brother was in 2228 and his room was clean also, but still loud from the stage. On a side note, we were across the hall from the most annoying child ever. The baby cried from early morning until night. There wasn't a time where you wouldn't walk down the hallway and hear it. Now I have kids, but I seriously considered calling the pursers desk to see if they could say something to the parents. There was no reason for them to allow the crying to go on that loudly and constant. I know you think I am nit picky on this, but this was not normal. They were very inconsiderate to the others around them. Even my kids commented on the crying. Still this is not on carnival, that is on those parents. I hope they read this and feel embarrassed. There were others on the hallway who felt just as annoyed with them. Children's Clubs Camp Carnival is one of the main reasons we like Carnival. The kids love it. The only complaint I have at all is the time on sea days. You can take them in the morning from 9-11:30 or 11:45. I wish they would take into consideration those that do sleep in. We usually didn't even get to breakfast until 10 or so and that put the kids getting there at 10:45. It would be better if it was more like 12:30 or 1:00. We don't expect them to keep the kids all day, but sometimes the morning seemed like it wasn't worth the effort and the kids would complain that they weren't there long enough. I only have good things to say about the staff. Entertainment The shows were good. One show was cancelled due to rough seas but was made up later in the week. The Rock Down Broadway ended on this cruise and the new show was debuted on this cruise as well. I think they were good for cruise ship entertainment. We saw all the comedy acts and enjoyed them. I did not like the Just an illusion show, but everyone else did. I think I was tired and just ready to go to bed. I did like the Carnival Legends show, but others said it was the worst. I thought it was funny seeing the passengers up there trying their best. I am not sure what the other people thought the show was going to be. There was always something to do or see. I was happy. Disembarkation My parents insisted we do the self-disembark. We had a long drive home and they wanted to be first off the ship. Well we were late getting to port because of engine trouble. People were anxious to get off and catch flights. The lobby area on 3rd floor was a mad house. It was hot, crowded and full of rude pushy people. I was separated from my husband twice and they tried to separate me and my kids once, but I got pushy right back. There was a group of elderly asians that were the most forceful and pushy. I found them to be quite rude. People were stuck on the elevator because there was nowhere to go in the lobby. The staff did the best they could given the situation, but I was frustrated. I don't think this is the norm, but it was not fun. Once we were finally cleared, the line moved fairly quickly considering. I did not know we would have to take our luggage down escalators. This was fine for me, but my DD's were scary with their luggage. I was a nervous wreck thinking that they would fall. Once off the ship, everything was smooth sailing haha. Really this was the best disembarkation we have had. The waiting in the lobby was hectic, but unusual I think. Summary Overall, I had a great cruise. The weather was not ideal. Very cold in Fla. when we left and windy for two straight days. They had the barf bags out and all. A lot of people were sea sick. I usually get sea sick, but I tried Bonine this time and ginger capsules and was fine. I felt a little ill one night right at bed time, which was also the roughest night by far, but once asleep was fine and better by morning. Just make sure to take the pills before you get on the ship and continue. Once you are sick, there is not a lot you can do. I liked the Glory and really liked being able to drive to the port and the hotel situation. The service was not as good as previous cruises. Crying baby was not fun to be around. Wish we had the golden dining room, more mid ship. Lido desserts need to have flavor. They need to refill beverage stations more often. We did not get a soda card because I had read on here that it was fountain drinks that were flat. I noticed around the second day that it was all can drinks, so in hindsight I wish we had purchased one. Sometimes drink service was slow during the shows, sometimes not. I don't know what makes the difference with that. Dining room service could have been better, but food was great. The only midnight buffet was mexican and wasn't all that great. We ate a couple of things, but the rest was bland. The chocolate buffet was pretty good, but the chocolate fountain was dark choc. and bitter. I like milk choc. so I didn't like those things. The milkshakes were great. Go to the coffee shop near the casino and order one. We did not realize they had those until the last day. Probably a good thing because they are expensive, but tasty. I would stay away from the rooms we had. You should probably stay away from the casino as well. We had fun, but lost a lot of money in there. Haha! Wish the seas had been calmer at the beginning, but coming home the seas were very calm. I mentioned the engine trouble, one night the captain stopped the ship for three hours for them to work on the engine. I think the Glory may be having some issues. Lots of delays lately, mostly medical, but I wonder if sometimes it had been mechanical. I am just saying, if you have been reading the boards for the Glory there have been a lot of issues lately. I am ready to go again. If you have any questions I will be happy to answer them. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My family occupied four cabins on the Legend during Thanksgiving week. There were 10 of us. I had my own balcony cabin on the Empress deck. My parents were down the hall in a suite. My brothers and their families were in oceanview cabins ... Read More
My family occupied four cabins on the Legend during Thanksgiving week. There were 10 of us. I had my own balcony cabin on the Empress deck. My parents were down the hall in a suite. My brothers and their families were in oceanview cabins on the Riviera deck. The layouts and storage spaces in the cabins were very good. This was my first cruise and I guess I anticipated a lot less space in the cabins. I was pleasantly surprised. The embarkation process was relatively painless. My brothers and I had flown into Tampa the night before the cruise and we all stayed at the Embassy Suites/Westshore by the airport. The rooms are very large and the kids loved the pool, manager reception and breakfast buffet. We had booked a cruise package on the hotel's website that included transportation for two adults/room on a shuttle to the port. We left the hotel around 12:30pm and we boarded the boat right at 1:30pm when the rooms were available. It was pretty much perfect timing. My parents drove up from Sarasota and arrived at the port a little after the rest of us. Since they had VIP check-in, the got on board at the same time we did. All os us dumped some stuff in our cabins and met up in the Unicorn Cafe on Lido. Everyone got something different, since the Lido really offers such a big variety of food choices. The deli, the asian food, the grill (the cheeseburgers and onion rings are really quite good) and, of course, the dessert bar were all favorites for lunch during the week. After lunch, mom, the SILs and I headed to the spa to make appointments. Okay, they only had one person working the appointment desk and the computer apparently wasn't working right. After 25 minutes in line, we were next up and the woman tells us that we all need to leave for the muster drill. We said that unless she was going to give us numbers to get back in the line afterward, that we weren't leaving without appointments. We got them and she was apologetic about the wait times. She gave us the at-sea special for late afternoon after Grand Cayman because there weren't any times available on the sea day that weren't during dinner. If you use the spa, be warned that Elemis makes their staff do a VERY hard sell on products after your treatments. It is actually to the point of being offensive and takes away some of the relaxation that the treatment gave you. I was offered a $375 product option or a $572 product option and they seemed shocked when I said no and kept pushing for me to buy at least some of it. Muster drill was quick and painless. Ran into much of the rest of the family since they were in the same muster zone. After the muster, went to the cabin where my bags were waiting outside my door. I unpacked everything got it all stowed away. I went and walked around the ship to see where things were located. After a moderate tour, I realized there was way too much to cover and I would just have to discover it during the week. The ship's main lobby was decked out for Christmas/Chanukah already. I know my parents thought the ship's decor was a bit on the gaudy side. I guess I've spent too much time in Vegas. it was pretty much what I expected. The highly patterned carpets and overly ornate fixtures reminded me a lot of Vegas hotels. Met the family in the Truffles dining for the late seating. Our servers were Carlos and Harold and they were absolutely fantastic. They did tricks for the kids on the nights we brought them and Carlos gave great recommendations on the food. On the night my mother ordered the plain boring tiny chicken and veggies on the spa menu, Carlos "accidentally" brought the wrong chicken dinner that had a wonderful sauce. My mom was eating it when Carlos brought out that sad little spa plate and offered to take the other chicken away. I thought she might stab him with the fork. After that, we all trusted his recommendations. Occasionally, if he thought there was something we needed to try, he would just bring out another entree, appetizer or dessert and plunk it on the table. Room service deliveries, which I did a few times for breakfast, were always at the time I specified. It was nice to sit on the balcony in the morning with a pot of coffee. GRAND CAYMAN We pulled into Grand Cayman in the rain. By the time we got off, it had pretty much stopped. I had planned to scuba dive at Stingray City through a dive shop called Divers Down. My dive buddies (who I met through cruise critic) and I got to the dive shop only to find out that the dive had been cancelled due to rough water. We walked down the street to Eden Rock and rented equipment to do our own shore dive. We had a very nice dive and then took our equipment back to the Legend, dumped it off, changed clothes and went back to shore for lunch. All in all, a very nice day. COZUMEL Cozumel was a two-tank scuba dive day with Sand Dollar booked through Carnival. There were a lot of people and it took a while to check us all in. They ended up putting us in taxis to take us to the dive shop. We had two great dives. They broke us up into groups of six for the dives and each group had an assigned videographer underwater. They sold the videos to anyone who wanted them and will ship them to the states. They gave us a preview and the quality was phenomenal. They brought us back to the port by boat where I stopped for beer and chicken wings at Fat Tuesdays with my dive buddy for the day, Ren. BELIZE I booked cave tubing in Belize for myself and my brothers and their families. We went with Major Tom. There were way too many people, since Carnival had cancelled its tubing excursion after the recent mishap with their vendor. It took an hour for them to check everyone in and get us on our way. We stopped at a local grocery to pick up water and snacks and proceeded to the caves. The water was cold, but everyone had a really good time. Our guide, "George of the Jungle," was very good. Butts Up is our new favorite saying. The tubing ran late and Major Tom was at the buses shouting for them to get on the road and get us back to the port. We got there at the deadline for tendering back. Belize is a very long distance tender. ROATAN Roatan is an absolutely beautiful port. The water there is fantastic and the reefs are spectacular. This was another two-tank scuba dive for me booked through Carnival. The dive shop takes very good care of you and has very nice facilities. Giant grouper swim through the reef and the "wall" is really something to see. My brothers and one SIL did the discovery scuba here. They actually got to see a sleeping nurse shark, which was pretty cool. I was sorry we didn't have more time at this port and can definitely see going back there for a nice lazy week of hammocks and diving at some point in the future. The nieces (4, 7 and 9 y/o) weren't that keen on Camp Carnival at the beginning. By the end, they were much happier there and had made some friends. I wouldn't say that they raved about it and it often seemed much more like daycare than a camp with age-appropriate activities. However, there were some things that they definitely found fun. We didn't really attend a lot of the ship activities. We were too wiped after our excursions. We met at the cocktail lounges before dinner and at various other times. The grownups also spent some time in the bars later in the evenings. Billie's Piano Bar, which isn't that easy to find, is practically empty most nights. In part this is because the location is bad and, in part, it's because the entertainer isn't very good. He's a super nice guy, but he absolutely butchers some songs (ask him to play "Devil Went Down to Georgia" if you want a good laugh) and sings like he has marbles in his mouth. It's a good place to find seats and have a few cocktails. The Dreamteam sports bar is kind of weird because the ship doesn't get ESPN channels so they rarely have anything other than a random soccer game on the many tv screens unless there are sports on the major networks at the time you're in the bar. We aren't really clubbers, so we didn't hit Satchmo's or Medusa's. The casino was very smoky and pretty empty most of the times I went through there. I did play some slots on one day and ended up down about $20. It was up and down. I just didn't know when to say when. I have to say that Carnival exceeded our expectations. I will admit that our expectations were not tremendously high, but we were pleasantly surprised and I think all of us would sail with Carnival again. It was fun running into each other and all of our new friends on the boat. While we didn't have our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with everyone cooking, we did have everyone together in the same place for Thanksgiving, which is something we haven't had for a long time. With all of us together at dinner and after hearing the horrible news out of Mumbai earlier in the day, we all had lots to be thankful for on the Carnival Legend. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Valor 11/23 - 11/30 We flew in from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at 10:00 and took a Carnival Shuttle to Miami. The shuttle people met us right at the foot of the escalator from our terminal and let us to the meeting place. We ... Read More
Valor 11/23 - 11/30 We flew in from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at 10:00 and took a Carnival Shuttle to Miami. The shuttle people met us right at the foot of the escalator from our terminal and let us to the meeting place. We didn't leave FLL until about 11:15 though. Embarkation was easy, got in, checked, registered and on the ship. We met the rest of our party on floor 3 until our rooms were ready. Smooth sailing for the most part, some rocky times during the night. Had an issue where the ship was listed to fix something at about 11:30 on the second night. The aft lido pool overflowed at the time and that had to be handled as well. Grand Cayman- took a cab to the Reef Grill/Sea Grape Beach. Great time. $4 pp cab. We also walked around the area. No charge to enter beach but the food and drinks were expensive. Beautiful beach though. Weather was great as well. Roatan Island, Honduras- booked an excursion through Carnival to take us to Tabyana Beach. What a beautiful beach! All the amenities are there for your convenience. Honduras is a poor area but very lush and beautiful. Belize - At this point we were tired and had some sunburn. We walked around the port area and did not venture past the gates. We ate at the Lizard restaurant/bar and did some shopping. Met lots of people at lunch, including some who were on the Legend. We heard there were some great flea markets outside the gates and that people were very friendly to them. Cozumel - Took a cab to Paradise beach. We got there early, about 10:30. Great food. The guacamole was excellent, as were the drinks. This is a very family friendly beach. Parasailing, water trampolines, jet ski's, kayaks, massages, etc. Water was beautiful. Our dinner staff was awesome. Our head waiter, Toly (Anatoliy) was very caring and had a sense of humor. He even performed some magic for us. We were a table of 8 friends and kept him on his toes! J Our steward was also great, Norman. He memorized our schedules and when he can come into our rooms. We had a plumbing issue our first day, the water in the shower was not draining quick enough. It was resolved within a matter of hours. Piano Bar is a lively place. Rockin' Ron (or Rick?) knows how to entertain. The place was hopping all night. Sushi bar....yummy.... Java Cafe...yummy.... Chocolate buffet last sea day...yummy... Food was great every time. We ordered coffee and salmon every morning through room service. We ate and showered, got ready for a more dressed breakfast . J The gym was also very nice. Lots of machines, never packed. Tried out the sauna and steam room. Not bad at all. Enjoyed myself J Heard great reviews about Camp Carnival from the people who had kids there. Everyone said their kids didn't want to leave the camp. Debarkation...we were group 2, early flight people. We had an 11:20 out of Miami. We got up at 6:20 and the ship was docked already. We were called at 7:10 or so and off the ship before 8. Made it to the airport with enough time to nap in the terminal and wait for the flight! This was our second cruise with Carnival. We love it and cannot wait to go back! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We first sailed on the Majesty OTS Thanksgiving weekend 2007 and truly enjoyed the experience. This time, not so much. Though our staterooms were much better (Superior Oceanviews on deck nine), the cruise was not as enjoyable mostly due to ... Read More
We first sailed on the Majesty OTS Thanksgiving weekend 2007 and truly enjoyed the experience. This time, not so much. Though our staterooms were much better (Superior Oceanviews on deck nine), the cruise was not as enjoyable mostly due to the crew. In the course of a three-night cruise, one of our party of six (DH, me, my mom, DD, DG and a family friend) was denied boarding, one was falsely accused of smoking in her room and the spa receptionist insisted our appointments were for 4:00 not 4:30 - argh! However, in our nine cruises, we have learned to handle the big stuff (flight home and taxi to the airport for FF who was denied boarding; ask stateroom attendant why housekeeping supervisor thought DD was smoking in her room - turns out SA had turned in room 9558 but HS called room 9578 - note the HS never apologized) and blow off the small stuff. We like the design of the Majesty, a smaller ship with a more intimate feel. It is nice to have some of amenities RC is known for such as Johnny Rockets and the rock-climbing wall. However, the spa locker room is a joke: there were six lockers but no keys to lock them with, one toilet, one shower, and a tiny steamroom (think three or four people). No sauna. No ambiance. Just a place to disrobe before your spa appointment. When the ship was refurbished, they should have expanded the spa and locker rooms. The ship had all the usual RC activities: belly flop contest, Love and Marriage, etc. We went to all three evening shows. First one was good but SRO - there is not room for all of the guests so why do they combine the first and second seatings on the first night? We left but watched in our room later. "Signed, Sealed and Delivered" was entertaining - singers and dancers are talented. Juggler on last night and he was fun. Ports were good. Coco Cay - we got lucky and had a warm, sunny day. The water was cold but the hammocks and loungers were perfect. This is a delightful island. Nassau - weather not quite as nice but still enjoyed the water park at Atlantis. Got a room at the Comfort Suites (which included four Atlantis armbands) for $220 total. Nassau needs to fix its taxi system - just take us where we want to go when we want to go. I had to exit the first taxi (van) and tell the driver if we didn't leave now, we would find another way. Who wants to waste 15 minutes waiting for other people? The driver complied but was not too friendly about it. We enjoyed the dining room for breakfast and dinner. Service was top-notch and food was fine. Nothing to write home about but certainly edible. Windjammer was a disappointment - fish was not tasty. Room service was excellent. Our DG, age 8, registered and went to the Adventure Ocean on Friday night. Unfortunately, all the activities were the same as last year so she spent the rest of the cruise hanging out with us. The final insult of this cruise was disembarkation. We were assigned Group 2, and supposed to leave between 8:15 and 9:00. We went to our departure lounge on deck five and notice the line wrapped the entire length of deck four. When we went to join the line, we were told it started on deck seven so two and one-half hours later, we finally exited the ship at 10:00. Lessons learned: 1. Make sure everyone's documents are in order. 2. Get a written spa appointment card. 3. Think twice about repeating a cruise - even a good one. 4. SMILE and have fun anyway - it's your vacation. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background Information: We are a married couple in their 30's on our 11th cruise, 2nd on board Royal Caribbean. We are normally Celebrity or HAL cruisers, but decided this would be a good opportunity to try the big RCCL ship, Liberty ... Read More
Background Information: We are a married couple in their 30's on our 11th cruise, 2nd on board Royal Caribbean. We are normally Celebrity or HAL cruisers, but decided this would be a good opportunity to try the big RCCL ship, Liberty of the Seas. After we booked and paid for our vacation, we had some difficult economic changes, but decided still to enjoy our cruise. A major priority was enjoying ourselves without spending too much money on activities, excursions, or other temptations. I was expecting lots of activities and a fun younger crowd, which is what we got. I was not expecting high quality personal service, delicious food, or quiet places to relax, so I was surprised when I got that too! Travel Arrangements: We did the cruise line air and flew out of South Bend, through Detroit, to Fort Lauderdale on Northwest. Because of the cruise air, we did not have to pay for our checked bags (cha ching - a savings of $50). We took a cruise line transfer bus from FLL to MIA. Unfortunately had to wait almost 2 hours for this bus, but we made it to the ship on-time. Note to others - have your transfer paperwork out and ready. We did E-docs, but thankfully I printed the entire E-doc package. They made us give them that piece of paper to confirm our transfer arrangements, on other cruises they had our names on a list, no need to show the transfer vouchers. Embarkation: There was a short line (maybe 20 minutes) at the pier. We went through security and baggage screening first and then got checked in. Priority check in line for suites and Platinum/Diamond members. We used that and were in and out in 5 minutes. I was traveling with a passport card and they acted like they had never seen one before. After some delay I just decided to give them my paper passport which they scanned and we were on our way to the ship. Our stateroom: Number one tip for Liberty - bring a deck layout with you. There are none available on board except the ones by the elevators. You'll need the ship layout! We chose a Promenade Family stateroom (I know, we only have two people in the room) but RCCL let us book the room and I am glad we had the extra space. It was like having a suite without the extra expense. What I didn't like was there was only one switch which controlled all the cabin lights. There were reading lamps at the bed, but otherwise it was either pitch dark or surface of the sun bright. The view from the 8th floor of the promenade was awesome. We looked out on the ben and jerry's, the floating bridge (where all the entertainment happens), but we could see the entire length of the promenade. Good for scoping out lines or just for people watching. Speaking of people watching - if you stay in a promenade room you MUST close your blinds. Everything you do in the room, the whole room, can be seen by your neighbors. I can't count the number of times in seven days that we saw things that should be kept private. Upon entering the room there is a large bathroom with single sink and bathtub/shower combo. My husband and I are both big boned and we had no problems using the tub. It was long and deep, but not too wide. Soap bar (yuk) and Shampoo dispenser (good quality stuff) were provided. Shower was nice and tall, no ducking to get under the showerhead (Yay!). I recommend you bring your own soap and hair conditioner. Just off the entry hall was a small bedroom with wardrobe, nightstand, and two bunk beds. This room also held the overhead announcement speaker. The room would be great for extra guests, even adults. Reading lamps AND overhead lamps provided, a curtain serves as the door. A large living room with double wardrobe, sofa (pullout bed), chair, and window seat came next. A nice LCD TV was provided. It had hookups for video input, but no ability to change the channels except for pre-programmed channels, so we could not use the TV to view movies or play video games. TV was typical cruise fair - TNT, AMC, CNN, music channels, movie channels, and kids channels. In-Room movies were available for $10.95. Room service also available through the TV, most items for free. A small mini bar was under the TV - no alcohol, pop and snacks only. There was also a desk with lots of drawers and shelves (nice hair dryer in the center desk drawer), but not too much room to sit in the chair without running into the bed. Small vanities and lights provided, but no magnifying or makeup mirror. The bed was an oversized queen with nightstands and reading lamps on each side. The bed was super comfortable! There is also another window seat on this side of the cabin. A curtain divides the bed area from the sofa area and TV can be turned to either side. Nice surprise-when the announcement channel is not being used for, well, announcements, a nice Jazz mix plays on that channel. We also had a WALK IN CLOSET! Every girl's dream. This Promenade family room was HUGE. So I'm sure you're wondering, can you hear the noise from parades and such? The answer is YES, and it's very loud, and the lights are bright, and parades happen after 11pm, but they are over within 30 minutes, so you'll get over it and go back to bed. I loved the room, but another little note was there was no clock on the phone. If you must know the time, wear a watch with glow in the dark hands or bring a lighted travel clock. They have a wake-up call service, otherwise we would have slept until noon. Activities: There is so much to do, you can't possibly get bored. There were over 1000 kids on the ship and I swear, we never saw them. You can have a completely adult experience on board, or enjoy family activities. My big tip for you is to go to the activity as soon as it starts - if you are there a few minutes before it begins, you'll have no problems with lines. Here's what we did to make the cruise enjoyable: Martinis (20% each day in a different bar); Wine Tasting at Vintages (Coupons for discounts and BOGO from the Crown & Anchor); Reading on promenade deck - if you go around AFT of the restaurant it is really quiet. The library was well-stocked and underused; Hanging in the Solarium and cantilevered whirlpools; Casino slot machines and $1 minimum table games; Trivia and other misc. activities staff; Working out in the gym - the equipment is top notch and gym was not crowded before dinner (5-7pm time); Ice Show - you MUST go to the ice show. It was better than CATS. I wanted to see it again and again and again. Tickets are distributed days in advance. If you go early to the ticket distribution, you'll have no problems. Get to the rink 30 min before the show and sit facing the "stage" near the floor for the best seats at the ice show; Production Shows-comedians, theater song and dance shows; Hanging in the lounges - there was a great guitarist on board; Thanksgiving NFL football games - on the stateroom TV and On-Air Club; Ice Skating - I would recommend saving all your extreme activities (skating, climbing, flowrider) for the last day. It wasn't busy and you don't want to ruin your vacation with a broken body part! MANY people were in casts or splints by the end of the vacation. We also tried the "twenty" late night dance club in the Solarium. It was all crew with a bad DJ, so not worth staying up late for. It could have been really cool, but just didn't work. Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle - we received some small free gifts, had some fun intros to other members, and RCCL gave away three prize packs. Service Our cabin steward, Alberto, was Awesome! If you put the white card in your door when you leave for breakfast, it will be clean and fresh before you come back. Same with evening turndown service. Alberto always had a friendly greeting for us and remembered our names. They were very respectful of the DND blue card in the door. Our dining room table was changed on the second day, thankfully! Not only did we have great new tablemates, the servers, Nacibe and Jovenito, were great. Very attentive and personal. Not too much explanation about the food, no wine recommendations as they are also your sommelier, but an enjoyable dinner. Personal preferences were remembered. It took us a while to find a bar we liked. We enjoy a bit of elegance or at least a personable bar server. We found it in Garrett at the Casino bar. The smallest bar on the ship, but he made us feel special! Vintages was also nice. The servers had wine recommendations and always brought canapes with the wine. Wines were around $40 with gratuity. Peligrino and Evian are also available for purchase. Shore Excursions We did our own thing, not through RCCL. Ship was late into San Juan due to rough seas, so we didn't get off. St. Maarten we took a taxi to Dawn beach. The taxi's try to get a full load of passengers, so flash a good tip ($5) and they will take off right away. Dawn beach we got chairs and umbrella for $10. Snorkeling gear was $10 (excellent snorkeling). Beautiful clean beach was not too crowded. $.75 Carib beers and great lunch $10-$20 made for a great day. Taxi ride was $15 each way. Labadee was Beautiful. We started at Dragon's Breath Beach. It was rocky and water was dirty, but we had some nice shade under a tree. The sand was full of shells and I found a few nice treasures to bring home (including a full size conch). There were very few vendors other than RCCL "labadoozie" pushers. The drink was very tasty, but for $6.95, I only had one. We moved in the afternoon to Barefoot Beach - very small, but much nicer for swimming and walking. Lunch on Labadee was typical cookout fare. Bathrooms were nice and clean. The area workers were kind of rude, but it's Haiti and things have been bad there, so I can hardly blame a bit of attitude toward us tourists. A UN helicopter flew over the beach and reminded me of the difficulty they had after the hurricanes. I also heard reports of kids begging at the Labadee gate for food or coins. Dining Our C&A coupons included a free Johnny Rockets experience. The food was great, service was awesome. We sat outside in a booth facing the sea. I enjoyed the Boca burger and the onion rings. We had malts too which were delicious and worth the $4.95 each. We ate at Portofino, $20 each. The food was delicious, but nothing "special". Same food was served at dinner or lunch in the dining room. What was special was celebrating our anniversary overlooking the San Juan night skyline as we departed (I timed it just right so that we started eating as we pulled away from San Juan and finished as we left the island behind). Reservation was for 9:15 for you fellow hopeless romantics. The desert at Portofino was soooo good. Save room. We tried everything for breakfast and lunch: room service, dining room, Jade (just part of the regular buffet), and Windjammer. If you like curry, which we do, it's available at breakfast and lunch in the windjammer and at dinner each night in the dining room. The quality of the food was outstanding, much better than I expected. You can find pastries and coffee/tea all day in the Promenade Cafe (chocolate croissants were delicious. Pizza, antipasti, desserts and panini are found in Sorrento's all day. One thing I missed was fresh made waffles for breakfast and fresh made sandwiches for lunch. Neither was available anywhere on the ship. We also like sprinkles, the low fat yogurt by the kids H20 zone pool. The cookies (room service) were also delightful. Dinner was very good. Thanksgiving dinner was standard fare on Thursday. Other days there were two beef, two fish, two vegetarian, and two other meat dishes. Veggie meals were curry and/or Italian. Soup, Salad, and Appetizer were all very good. Breads were delicious. Coffee/Tea after dinner with desert was very good. No baked alaska parade, but some meaningful presentations of the chefs and the wait staff that were memorable. The water on the ship tasted like chemicals, so I was glad for tea and lemonade. Disembarkation Was remarkably smooth. The ship got in to MIA at about 3am. They want you out of your room no later than 8am. You wait in a lounge for your color (6:15-9am debarkation). They give you times associated with each color and all color tags were available if you wanted to switch to an earlier/later time. Full breakfast was available on debarkation day, just not room service. Once color is called you go down and off the ship. Then you pick your luggage off an airport style conveyor, go through customs, and you are done. The longest part was finding the luggage. No lines anywhere else. We got on a transfer bus (again-make sure you have your paper voucher) and headed to FLL. Overall impressions: You can definitely tell that the ship was designed by marketing people, not by mariners. There are very few views of the sea and even the outside decks are designed to draw you back into the ship for spending and shopping. There were lots of things to do for free, but it sure felt like all the "fun" stuff was stuff you had to pay for. It was a really big ship, and it's not laid out so that you can get from place to place without an effort. I commented that it would be good to decide what you want to do first, then find out how to get there. With only two staircases and two sets of elevators, it can get a bit confusing. RCCL is a great line for all kinds of people. I saw all ages, races, and backgrounds of people. You can find your niche and do your thing on the Liberty of the Seas. It's an affordable way to enjoy a cruise vacation. Although there were some things I didn't care for, there is not a thing I would do differently. It was a great ship, with great food and great service. Made for a great vacation. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My girlfriend and I are in our early 30's. We sailed the Mexican Rivera on the Norwegian Star November 22nd thru November 29th. We took the same Thanksgiving cruise last year on the Star. Last year the cruise was 8 days and had a ... Read More
My girlfriend and I are in our early 30's. We sailed the Mexican Rivera on the Norwegian Star November 22nd thru November 29th. We took the same Thanksgiving cruise last year on the Star. Last year the cruise was 8 days and had a slightly different itinerary. As a ship, I like the Star. This was my 19th cruise and my fourth with NCL. This is my fifth cruise this year - three with Norwegian, one with Celebrity, and one with Princess. Three were short weekend cruises and two were weeklong cruises. My favorite ship that I've ever been on is Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas, which I took in 2002. FOOD I'm a vegetarian. The food on the Star, in general, was mediocre. * BUFFET: The selection of vegetarian food on the buffet was poor. I really like that Princess has the 24-hour buffet - this buffet was often closed between meals during the day and closed for the night at 9pm. Why so early? My favorite buffet food was the pasta station and the Indian food. The cookies were absolutely great. They are using a completely different recipe then they did last year - they were exceptional. We did not see an omelet making station when we went to the breakfast buffet. I am always very disappointed that in the buffet area there are no cold non-caffeinated drinks other then water and milk available. They have the juice in the dispenser at breakfast. Why take it away? Celebrity offers lemonade and fruit juices all day long. If I ordered a pizza at home and got what was on this buffet, I would send it back. Is great pizza really that hard to make? Why can't any cruise lines do it? To be fair the Star's pizza is not the worst cruise pizza I have had. * DINING ROOM: The wait wasn't usually bad, however, we did have to wait about 30 minutes to be seated a couple of times. A couple of nights the service was extremely slow with very long waits between courses - but the other nights were good. The service at Versailles tended to be better then the service at Aqua. The food was plated beautifully but it didn't taste nearly as nice as it looked. Many of the vegetarian options are curries. I love curry but not every night. Why can't they make a hot vegetarian soup instead of these cold fruity ones? Royal Caribbean knows how. Does anybody really like cold soup that much anyway? Last year the Mexican and Italian restaurants were free. We went to both of them last year and were not that impressed. This year you had to pay at both like all of the specialty restaurants. From what I overheard from people who went to them, they still aren't good and defiantly not worth paying extra. This change was disappointing and made the dining rooms busier. The dress code seemed to be much more lax this year compared to last. It made the dining room look unprofessional. I heard some angry people complaining that they could not get in with shorts. My opinion is if you want to dress like a slob, go to the buffet. If you want to go to the dinning rooms, have some class. Nobody is asking you to wear a suit and tie. * BLUE LAGOON CAFE: They changed the menu since last year and had even less vegetarian options. I asked to get one of the sandwiches on the new menu without meat. I was told that they were already made and they could not do that. I would have liked to be able to get a veggie burger at this diner. If they are going to have a diner restaurant like the blue lagoon, why can't they have diner quality food? I don't understand why you have to get your own drinks at a place where they take your order and bring you your food? The French fries I got were really bad. Seriously, how hard is it to make French fries that are crispy and delicious? I would love it if I could get restaurant quality mozzarella sticks on a cruise. I haven't yet. * ROOM SERVICE: We were very impressed with the new room-service menu. Last year it was all cold, stale foods. This year the food came very quickly - freshly made, warm and perfectly cooked. They didn't make any mistakes. The guy that delivered it was always nice. I will say that I wish they had an awesome grilled vegetarian sandwich like the one that Princess has, but this was good anyway. * POOL SIDE FOOD: We didn't eat much out there. The hamburger buns by the pool and buffet were completely stale. Every one was throwing them away and just eating the meat out of the middle. ENTERTAINMENT/PRESENTATIONS/MUSIC We went to at least one show every night. One day we saw 3 shows. We were much more impressed with the shows on this cruise then any other recent cruise. We really enjoyed the comedy group Second City, the juggler Romano Frediani, the Chinese acrobats and the acoustic guitar/singer Jana Seale. The magician Murray wasn't bad. We had a hard time getting seats at several of the shows because the cruise was sold out and they only had one show several times. One show we came about 20 minutes early so we could get seats. My girlfriend has a broken leg and can't stand well. The cruise staff were saving seats for their other cruise employee friends. We asked if we could have two of the seats and they said they were saved for their friends. I don't think a single paying passenger (especially one with a broken leg) should have to stand because there are not enough seats while the staff sits in them. The cruise director Paul Scally was really nice. Last year our cruise director on this ship was Ricky Matthews who was awesome. Paul wasn't as good as him, but he was much better then most other cruise directors. It was obvious that he was trying real hard to do a great job and he was. ROOM AND STATEROOM ATTENDANT We had a balcony. We had the curtains and door open almost the entire time we were in the room. It was great to have fresh air and the sounds of the ocean. The room was clean, seemed to have new carpets, etc. I did have to put a couple of paper shimmies into the ceiling and wall to try to make it a little quieter. Our stateroom attendant was the worst I've had on a cruise. We didn't have any towels of any size the first day, even after requesting them. We did not have washcloths or hand towels until the third day. I had to ask him for bathrobes, which we were already supposed to have in the cabin. When he delivered them, they were without the belts that keep them closed. He never introduced himself. When I first asked him a question in the hallway he said that he wasn't the attendant for our room until another attendant corrected him. He did keep the room clean. DAY 1 - EMBARKATION This process was incredibly smooth and easy. We arrived at the port at noon. It took us about 30 minutes from arriving at the pier to getting on the ship. Our room was ready about an hour after getting on the ship. I like that they are finally offering Champaign when getting on the ship like other cruise lines. It unfortunate that this is the last drop of free alcohol I got for the rest of the cruise. That would not be the case with the other lines. DAY 2 - SEA DAY The first day at sea had pretty rough water. We took motion sickness pills. This night was the first formal night, which only a few people dressed for. Most people in the dining room were just wearing jeans and t-shirts. Other lines have a "captain's cocktail party" where you see the captain and get free drinks for 45 minutes or so. NCL has nothing like this. Other cruise lines also have a "repeat customer" appreciation party in the evening during the cruise. This cruise line has it at 1pm on the day after embarkation - too early to really enjoy free drinks. Seems like they offer it just so they can say that they did, but don't really want people to go. Compared to Princess and Celebrity, and for many other reasons, it is very clear that NCL does not appreciate its repeat customers. DAY 3 - CABO SAN LUCAS The tender system was horrible. Because we didn't get to the port until around 11am and were only at port for a few hours everyone wanted to get off at the same time. It took a couple of hours to get off of the ship. We eventually begged our way off before our turn so that we wouldn't miss our dive boat. We dove with Manta Dive Shop. We dove with them last year too. I'd highly recommend them. DAY 4 - MAZATLAN We were able to just walk off the ship with no problems. We reserved a trip with Randi's Happy Horses after reading about her on cruise critic. We would recommend this trip. Randi and Tony were really nice. We took road and water taxi's to get to Tony's family's horse ranch. Every one was great. The horses are really calm and easy to ride. The ride through the palm tree forest and by the ocean was beautiful. We liked the food and beers at Victors. It cost us around $25 for 2 meals, one appetizer and a couple extra beers (our first drinks were included in the tour). DAY 5 - PUERTO VALLARTA Last year we found a nice hotel called NH Krystal on accident while we were walking along the street. It was really nice. We went back this year. It's about a 15 minute walk from the ship. They have beautiful swimming pools with great $5 piña coladas and $4 bottles of beer from the swim up bar. The ocean access is also great. We swam in the pools and ocean for several hours. DAY 6 - SEA DAY - THANKSGIVING Very rough waters. My girlfriend felt sick all day even with the motion sickness pill. They decorated the entire ship for Thanksgiving (and the next day for Christmas). It was nice. We went to Aqua around 8pm. They said it would be an hour wait. We wanted to make it to the show. They told us to come back at 10:30pm. When we came back they treated us like we were an inconvenience coming too late. Right after we began eating 3 different people came up to tell us they were closing the galley so to make sure that we knew we couldn't change anything on our order. My girlfriend felt really uncomfortable and hardly ate her food just so we could get out of there faster. Not what I envisioned for our Thanksgiving dinner together! DAY 7 - SEA DAY I ate breakfast in Versailles. I ordered the eggs benedict without the meat, little pancakes, and hash browns. It was incredible. I actually ordered a second entire meal and ate them both. For lunch we went to the blue lagoon. Fortunately I was still a little full from breakfast. DAY 8 - DISEMBARKATION It went really smoothly. We ate breakfast in the dining room. There was no line to get off of the ship. It was pretty perfect. Really as good as it can get. The cruise director was standing there saying goodbye as we got off. I thought that was a nice touch. FINAL THOUGHTS At no fault of the cruise line, there were way too many kids on board. The problem is that parents stop parenting on a cruise and the kids are free to be wild and bad. With this many kids they started to get extremely annoying. One think that I found irritating was that during every show there would be lots of groups of people looking for seats and making people get up to let them in throughout the full length of the show. Maybe they should make it a rule that if you can't get there within five minutes after the show starts, you can't see it. I am not saying you shouldn't be able to go to the bathroom and come back. I love to go on cruises. The only reason I keep going on NCL has been because of the excellent rewards from the NCL credit card. It was not hard to earn free cruises. Effective January 1, 2009 they are changing that and I will have no incentive to go NCL. If I am paying full price, I don't see why I would ever choose to go with NCL again. Princess offers anytime dining which means you eat when you want, with whom you want. That was one of the things I liked about NCL. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We booked our cruise on the Sapphire Princess to give us a chance to get to know our future son-in-law as well as to celebrate Thanksgiving. As so many others do, we left a day early to avoid last minute snafus. Fortunately, nothing ... Read More
We booked our cruise on the Sapphire Princess to give us a chance to get to know our future son-in-law as well as to celebrate Thanksgiving. As so many others do, we left a day early to avoid last minute snafus. Fortunately, nothing happened! Our flight on Southwest Airlines was smooth all the way, and they did their usual great job with pre-boarding, etc. I'm disabled and use a scooter to get around, so I'll also base my comments on how well Princess does with disabled passengers.. Embarkation at the San Pedro harbor was the best ever. I would suggest, though, that if you have a GPS unit, program it with all your addresses before you leave - it just makes things go easier, especially if you're not familiar with the area. There was only one negative about Embarkation/Debarkation and I'll mention it now. We all know about the fuel surcharges and the "will they/won't they" that's been going on. We were told that Princess would refund the fuel surcharge provided the price of oil didn't go over a certain point over the prior thirty days. In our case, it did -five cents a barrel over on one day (election day). Princess was under no obligation to refund any of our money but it would have been priceless in terms of PR if they had. There were no lines when we arrived at 2:00 p.m., and we literally breezed through check-in. We'd heard that Princess had new rules for debarkation in place, but you could have fooled us. We were up with the chickens only to sit with other sleepy people in a lounge waiting to get in line... remember the drill? Our cabin was C302 on the Caribe Deck and it was phenomenal. Since I'm disabled, we were put into a handicapped cabin and for the first time ever, I didn't scrape my knuckles on the door trying to get in. When I asked, I was told that there were only 10 cabins for handicapped travelers - nothing to be proud of for Princess. Ours was immaculate and our cabin steward very attentive. My daughter and her fiancE had an inside cabin on Deck 14 and they both said they'd book it again - they had easy access to swimming pools, deck chairs, and the buffet as well. There were always deck chairs available, not only in the adults only section, but with the other areas as well. Another plus was the elevators. We've gotten used to waiting in line, going up to get one going down, etc. etc. etc. With the Sapphire Princess, we very rarely had to wait and only once had to wait for a second car. Please let RCL in on your secret!!! We chose the "Anytime Dining" plan and made reservations at Sabatini's for my husband's birthday on the 27th. We chose the Pacific Moon Restaurant the first night out and it was not a good experience - so bad that we asked for the Maitre 'd. We'll never know what he said to our waiters, but they became unbelievably surly - to the point where we got up and left midway through our entrEe, having been there for almost 90 minutes already. We spoke with the Purser's office about it and they called the next day, asking us to plan to visit the Savoy Dining Room the next night, and ask for the Head Waiter. We did, and if you want our recommendation, ask for Table 242 and Mihaila. From that day on, our service was impeccable and we really enjoyed talking with her. In fact, we cancelled our reservations for Thanksgiving to spend it with her. The food was great and the service impeccable. It would have been easy to overdo Thanksgiving and turkey, but they struck just the right note. We were so pleased that we left her one of the largest gratuities we've ever given and did it happily. She and her husband, a chef onboard, will be leaving Princess next spring to return to Romania, and I'm sure she will be missed. This experience alone is why we prefer not to pre-pay gratuities - and it's our opinion that service has declined since cruise lines began the practice. The entertainment was good, the ports as well. Wendy's fiancE is in the Navy and Naval personnel are not permitted to leave the ship during port calls, so we were concerned about that, unnecessarily. There were all kinds of things going on for him to do. In Puerto Vallarta, we booked a taxi tour that we had arranged ourselves. We asked to see the "real" PV as well as the tourist areas and thoroughly enjoyed our day. In Mazatlan, we took a late-morning trek ashore to do a bit of shopping. Much of the merchandise is similar to other ports in Mexico and the Caribbean, but we thought their prices were higher. It could also have been that we're just more discerning about our purchases. Make time for a stop at the blue tent just outside the pier exit. They offer massages, hot stone treatments, etc. and I only wish I had left an extra hour, the masseuse was that good. Even with a $10 tip, her charges are less than half that of the spa onboard. My husband and daughter had intended to do an ATV adventure in Cabo San Lucas, but he developed a serious case of "Montezuma's Revenge" so they stayed aboard ship. She did not feel comfortable taking a cab alone to the site, and while she hadn't wanted to miss it, she found plenty to do instead. I had also planned to stay onboard because this was a tendered port and I wasn't sure how it would be with my scooter. One of the big draws on the Sapphire, for us at least, was the at-sea time. There were only the 3 port calls, and in between plenty of time for leisure, but plenty of time for other things as well. If one is bored with this itinerary, it's their own fault!! We liked the formality in dress, although there were plenty of options if you didn't care for that. What man doesn't look great in a tux!!! We've done enough cruising that he invested in one online several years ago, and it's more than paid for itself. All told, we would recommend this cruise to others, but with reservations. We got the feeling that we were "nickel and dimed" throughout. We're not big drinkers, and don't drink a lot of soda either. With Royal Caribbean and Carnival, we've been used to water, tea, coffee, and other "free" drinks being readily available. Not here. When he asked, my husband was told that he could get a cup of coffee at any of the bars onboard. The first time he did, however, he was given a bill for $1.50, and when he asked, was told it was "special" coffee. That special coffee came from a normal, ordinary coffee pot, and he swears that it tasted just like all the other "free"coffee he drank throughout the trip. Basically, if you wanted anything "free" to drink, you had to go up to Deck 14 to get it. If we sail with Princess again, we'll bring our own! There were other little things that are free elsewhere. That said, this is a lovely way to spend a holiday and a nice tradition to start. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. In fact, we made a deposit for 2009. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This is the 6th Thanksgiving cruise my sister and I have taken, out of a total of 16 cruises on various lines. We had lunch in Miami and then joined the line for embarkation. From this we learned to get to the port before noon, unless we ... Read More
This is the 6th Thanksgiving cruise my sister and I have taken, out of a total of 16 cruises on various lines. We had lunch in Miami and then joined the line for embarkation. From this we learned to get to the port before noon, unless we have VIP status. It took us approximately one hour in line to actually board the ship. We were delighted that the mandatory practice drill didn't require standing on the outside deck. The ship is large and has quite a number of passengers. We had initially reserved a balcony cabin in June, as we watched the cost go down during the next few months, we were a little upset that suites were going for less than what we paid for a balcony and there was no automatic upgrade commensurate with our payment. We contacted the travel agency used and were upgraded to a mini suite....The difference between a balcony and mini-suite (as far as we could see) is a bathtub. So, unless you require a bathtub the value is not worth the cost. (Regular suites receive VIP goodies and concierge services, etc...mini suites do not) We immediately went to reserve dinners in the pay restaurants for the week. We were informed that reservations were only allowed for the current evening and the next and they could not accommodate reservations for the entire cruise. HMMMM. On day two, we remembered the reading on cruise critic about the mystery dinner and attempted to make reservations...it was already sold out. I don't remember even seeing it advertised in the daily paper...I didn't meet anyone who had participated so can't even provide a second hand recommendation for you. We then went to the Spa to obtain weekly passes. $75 for the cruise was a bargain! Day use is $20 each. I witnessed folks being turned away during the week because the Spa was at capacity. The value for this activity is well worth the cost and probably the BEST value offered on the ship. It allows the guest a free locker and to take advantage of the co-ed room with the thalassotherapy pool and heated ceramic loungers, or go gender-specific with an oceanview sauna, steam, individual whirlpool tubs, icy-cold plunge pool and padded chaises. Iced water and teas and juice are available at no extra charge during the use of the Spa. An additional comment is that for the number of passengers on this ship, additional heated ceramic loungers would have been beneficial for passengers. Generally there was a wait unless you used the Spa at dinner time. We ate at the Japanese steak house the first evening. It was fun and the food delicious! (We did note that bean sprouts were removed from the side dishes as on other NCL ships) On Monday were were torn between the CC meet and greet and the Texas Hold'Em tournament. We had our gifts in hand and luckily meet a couple with wrapped gifts in the buffet. We asked if they we attending the CC meet and greet and asked them to deliver our gifts. We also provided them with our stateroom number. We received a phonecall stating that the DC and Salem witch gifts delighted the recipients....but no information to collect our gifts. LOL!! So looks like someone's brain was on vacation mode. We are still chuckling about that!! The Texas Hold'Em tournament began at 11 am and was well attend. I believe we started with 9 tables. It ran until 2:30 pm with the last 6 players chopping the prize proportionate to chips in hand. Entry was $60, add-ons available for $60 and rebuys and half-time for $60. It was alot of fun and we missed the best sun. NCL should consider an evening tournament on the first sea day. We ate at Cagney's steak house, which was great. We did note that the assistant "waitresses/waiters" did more work than the assigned waiter/waitress........and we Hand-cash tipped appropriately. Roatan: We did not schedule a formal excursion for this port. We departed the ship and witnessed a couple negotiating with a taxi drive for a tour of the island. When their negotiations were complete, we asked the other passengers if we could join and then negotiated a lower price. So each passenger paid $25. The tour of the island was excellent and the young driver knowledgeable. We had read that on a previous cruise to this port there was a civil disturbance and folks couldn't go to shore. It turns out that the private electric company had planned an increase in electric rates. The citizens closed all roads. The rate increase prevented. We should try that in the US!!! We asked to be dropped off at the West end beach...to our surprise the driver said he would come back for us when he finished the tour for the other couple. The beach was actually a private beach which offered restrooms, dining, drinks and a multitude of locals who wanted to provide massages. Once you said no to each and every one, that was it. There were also many children trying to sell junk to you. It was a good wake up call to see how fortunate and spoiled we are here in the US. Our driver came back and located us and we asked him to join us for lunch... and learned more about Roatan and how many of the goods and food come to the island from the mainland. Much development is being done on the island by foreign companies...in ten years there will be more resorts on this island than Cozumel. My sister had read about the good quality and inexpensive hammocks to be purchased in Roatan. The driver drove us to the store accompanied her in the store as she made her selection and carried it out to the cab. It must have weighed 25 pounds and was made of better materials than those hammocks offered on the beach. She paid US$20 for a hammock that for the same quality in US would be over $100. The driver then took us to a local grocery store where we purchased Honduran coffee beans the cost about $5 per pound. That evening we ate at the Italian restaurant...again worth the cost, at the time we wanted, attentive staff and away from the masses of folks at the dining rooms. Portions were good, the roll to your table salads was a treat. Again, we noted that the "assistant" waitress worked more and the cash tip was handed to her. Belize: We booked on line with Major Tom and the Fun Team for the tubing through the caves excursion ($40 US much less expensive than the ships excursion). Cash payment was requested when we joined the group. The team met us at the port and drove us to the site. Major Tom himself provided the small group (about 30) with an oratory history of the area which revealed his love of the country. THIS WAS THE BEST EXCURSION I'VE EVER TAKEN (ziplining is a close second) OUT OF 16 CRUISES. Individuals are equipped with spelunking lights and tubes. You walk an even but rocky path to the cave entrance. We came upon a termite nest and were encouraged to "taste" them as a source of protein should ever we appear on "survivor". LOL! They tasted like woody mint! What a treat and who would have dared if not on this excursion??? The guides were well informed and repeatedly offered to carry tubes for folks during the hike up to the caves. You are led through the caves, sitting in the tube, with your feet under the arms of the person in front of you. The guides do most of the work, paddling along as they point out images on the walls. At one point the guides ask you to turn off your spelunking lights...it is dark in there!! We also saw bats...only a few flying around, a few finds of past Mayan culture and growing crystals that looked like a blanket of snow! At the end of the tour there is a rope swing for those that dare jump into the river. On the drive to and from the caves there was one stop to pick up necessities. On the ride back one could order a meal for $6...chicken rice and salad...excellent value for the money. I was very impressed with the safety standards imposed by this tour and will use Major Tom to arrange other excursions in the future. That evening we ate in the Asian restaurant. Delicious!! The dumplings were fantastic, the shrimp salad was wrapped shrimp over a bed of shredded carrots and cabbage, the lo mein and Singapore noodles a meal in themselves, the main entrees excellent...and when it says HOT and Spicy it means hot so that your lips burn!! The cream brulee and the tapioca desserts were wonderful and the persons next to us had the banana pancakes that they raved about. This fare was better than the steakhouse, but lacked the entertainment of the chef. Again, the "assistant" waitress did all of the work and the cash tip handed to her. Cozumel: We've been here numerous times and decided to book with the ship to go to Xcaret. We were only disappointed in the short time we were allowed to be here. We did the river swim (unfortunately, if we had been in Cozumel prior to Belize cave tubing we would have been thrilled)tanned at a cove and had lunch delivered to our loungers. Get the platter for two..great and inexpensive $27 including sodas). We didn't have time to see all that this park offered. I recommend it if you are in port for 12 hours or so. Four hours for this excursion cheats yourself and forces many choices to be made. It takes about 45 minutes each way for the ferry, so keep this in mind. We will take the ferry over to the mainland next time on our own and spend the day at one of the beaches. We dined at Cagney's for our Thanksgiving meal and again enjoyed steaks cooked to perfection! We did witness an extraordinary demonstration of rudeness to a passenger after the casino closed. We went up to the Blue Lagoon (fish & chips, soups are great, macaroni and cheese- horrid, deserts were great). The head waiter or manager of the Blue Lagoon approach a customer and asked him if he was on break and reminded him that he couldn't eat at the Blue Lagoon!!! When the passenger informed him he was a passenger the NCL guy demanded his passport!!! We were in Shock!! The passenger listened to this guy's lecture for about 15 minutes (we were waiting to be seated during this exchange and completely ignored.) The next day we ran into the passenger and asked if he had complained. He laughed and said that security had approached him to report that the NCL guy had filed a harassment complaint against him. We provided him with our cabin number if NCL wanted to further investigate. We were never contacted. That incident fulfilled any need for drama on the cruise. LOL! The last port was the NCL stirrup key. We've been here before and knew to walk over to the rocks, rent floating pads ($12 for 1 $18 for 2)to lie on and tan. The water is gorgeous!! It is cramped, however most folks took later tenders over so ours wasn't even full to capacity. Swimming was fabulous here, away from the maddening crowd. The last evening we ate at Le Bistro and were very very disappointed. The escargot was served in a hot plate with the escargot cold!! The whole meal, with the exception of the dessert sucked! Service was also less than expected. We choose the wrong restaurant for the last night. From this experience we deduct that the food is microwaved and not cooked to order. I do not recommend Le Bistro, the Blue Lagoon food was much better. We had breakfast coffee and rolls delivered each morning to our cabin....there is nothing more satisfying then starting the day with coffee and a view of the vast ocean! For a small tip, the pleasure is great. I hadn't been on a NCL cruise in over 18 months, so lost any casino points I may have been able to carry forward. So if you have substantial points remaining on your account make sure you join another NCL cruise within 18 months, or don't play slots the last night of the cruise. Unlike other cruise lines, Casino at Seas on NCL doesn't provide trinkets like ball caps, tshirts, key chains etc that you obtain on other cruiselines for your play. Like other cruise lines, if you're a chronic slot player, your drinks in the casino are taken care of and you may get comped a dinner in a gourmet restaurant then based on points you are provided some on board credits towards your account. By an approximation, it seems that you are rewarded with .005% of your play...definitely notVegas or Atlantic City! What was different on this cruise is that activities (sexy legs, hairy chest, belly flop etc.) weren't provided and the daily listings weren't very helpful....done in fine print. Although I did note that lectures on the Mayan culture was offered, which is a step up in enrichment activities offered by NCL. We made it to a few shows only, Sharkbait- graduates of circus clown school were great at juggling and offered a "class" the day after the show that was appreciated. The on-board cast shows were entertaining, they offer two great aerial/body acts that make attending worth it. Bingo wasn't that well attended, probably due to the cost...It was entertaining to see the bowling alleys...again not very affordable if you had a number of children with you. I think it would be about $50 for a family of four....better off getting a spa pass for the week. We choose to walk off with our luggage late...there was no benefit to walking off with our luggage at the late hour...there were lines and lines to get off the ship, then to go through immigration. Of course, we didn't have to pack until after the casino closed the last night! We had bid on a hotel in Miami on priceline and took a taxi to the Miami Mart airport hotel ($51). My sister caught up on her sleep then took the free shuttle to the Miami airport. Quite easy. I stayed for a few days and was well pleased. The hotel offers 24/7 room service, a buffet lunch and dinner (expensive after a cruise...$11 pizza and coke delivered to my room ended up costing $28 after tax, imposed gratuity and imposed delivery charge) and a swimming pool. The juccuzzi was not working. The structure is 15 stories and staff are attentive and pleasant. I was worried when obtained at that price for naught. Next to the hotel is an import/export retail/wholesale mall. Two floors of small shops with great bargains. Most stores were offering 50% off labeled costs. Less expensive if you were purchasing in bulk. I was delighted to purchase jewelry similar to that offered in Cozumel for less expense than even aggressive bargaining would have gotten. I will definitely come back to this hotel, if just for theshopping offered next door! There is a Starbucks and an Au Bon Pain located in the mall, which are open during weekends. Overall, NCL has changed or eliminated some of its fun activities, the gambling was as expected (table games begin at $5) blackjack and slot tournaments are offered during the cruise, the Spa is a definite value and the gourmet restaurants offer a free from the crowd dining experience for a price. The itinerary for this cruise was great. Yes I will cruise with NCL again when the price is right...and will never pay more for a mini-suite than a balcony. I believe any future cruise with NCL will be on a ship with less passengers. Overall it was a delightful cruise....how can anyone not enjoy a cruise? Feel free to contact me. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My husband and I booked this cruise in February 2008 and took the trip during Thanksgiving week. I will begin with the positives: -The service was incredible. Our waiters were wonderful, sweet, attentive, great at their job, and even ... Read More
My husband and I booked this cruise in February 2008 and took the trip during Thanksgiving week. I will begin with the positives: -The service was incredible. Our waiters were wonderful, sweet, attentive, great at their job, and even provided us with some brain teasers and tricks on most of the nights. They couldn't have been better, in our opinion. -The shows were wonderful. We really enjoyed having a show to attend each night before or after dinner. The entertainment was obviously not the best we've ever seen in our lives, but they did a great job and we were entertained. -The casino was fun, despite losing a bunch of money! The dealers were pleasant and we enjoyed our time there. -Our cabin steward was nice, attended to our requests, and left us with a new "towel animal" each night during turndown service. Now for the negatives: -The ports of call were terrible. Nassau is a dump. St. Maarten (on the Dutch side) is a dump. St. Thomas looked decent, but we did a snorkeling excursion and didn't get to see much of it. But we did take the skyride to Paradise Point and the service and cost were not worth it. The view was nice, however. When we got to the top, we intended to eat at the restaurant and watch the sunset, but we were informed that the power was out and they couldn't serve us. So we asked for our money back for the skyride and they gave it to us. -We booked all 3 of our excursions on the first day of our cruise right after embarkation. However, 2 of the three were cancelled due to "lack of interest". When we booked a second excursion to replace one that was cancelled, THAT was cancelled also!!! So we were forced to do our 3rd choice in St. Thomas. We have been snorkeling in Hawaii and Jamaica and let me tell you, the snorkeling in St. Thomas is a distant third. NOT WORTH IT!!!! Do not do the "shipwreck cove" snorkel excursion, it's not worth the money. We also did the "lagoon kayak" excursion in St. Maarten and it was sub-par as well. The water was beautiful, but the view was marred by the fact that there is nothing but squalor and shantys along the beachfront. -The deck and beach chairs were a huge pain. We wanted to sit outside on the sea days, but when we went up to get some chairs, we found entire families had saved chairs with their towels, books, shoes, etc. and then left. One person would be sitting there with 5 or 6 chairs saved. It was ridiculous. We had the hardest time trying to find chairs in the sun because people were rude about "saving" chairs for their family or friends who were off eating or in the pool or wherever. -As a young couple (25), we got bored on the ship. We would have loved to see more comedy shows, take some dance classes, or even see some movies. The Amber Palace would have been great to show movies on a big screen. We found ourselves bored after the show was over and we had nothing to do except gamble. So we slept a lot. This cruise is ok if you have a family or if you are an older couple. We just expected more adventure and more activities. The Glory does an OK job of having lots of activities to participate in. However, if you are a young couple, you will get bored. You will only be able to gamble for so long. After that, there's not much to do to hold your interest. We rated the cruise a 6 out of 10 because the staff was nice and accommodating, the food was pretty good, and the ship was clean. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008

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