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2,163 Holiday Cruise Reviews

Ship Info Even though the Norwegian Star is not a big as the new monsters they are building nowadays, don't be fooled, this is still a very big ship. It is a Panamax ship. The areas of the ship are divided by three sets of ... Read More
Ship Info Even though the Norwegian Star is not a big as the new monsters they are building nowadays, don't be fooled, this is still a very big ship. It is a Panamax ship. The areas of the ship are divided by three sets of stairwells/elevators - Forward, Mid, Aft. At the front of the ship we find the Bier Garten on Deck 14, the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 12, the Stardust Theater on Decks 6 and 7, The Carousel and Martini Bars on Deck 7, and the Casino on Deck 6. In the middle we find Cagney's Steakhouse and the Star Bar on Deck 13, the Market Cafe and La Trattoria (at night), and the poolside bar and grille on Deck 12, Internet Cafe on Deck 9, Endless Summer on Deck 8, Ginza and Teppanyaki on Deck 7, The Soho Room, Gatsby's, The Havana Club, Le Bistro, and Aqua on Deck 6, and the Atrium with the Purser's desk and the Java bar on Deck 7 between the staircases. Aft, we find the kid's club on Deck 13, the gym, the kids' pool and slides, the ice cream stand on Deck 12, the spa on Deck 11, the Galleria shops on Deck 7 and the Versailles dining room on Deck 6. There are other public spaces like the Cinema, the Library, the board rooms, but I didn't use them. This was my 2nd time aboard this ship in the past 3 years. I did not see any noticeable difference between how the ship looked 3 years ago and how it looks now. The only difference I noticed was that there are now two poolside Blackjack tables. Don't confuse this with swim-up Blackjack like there is at some Vegas hotels. Keep in mind that every week, another 2,500 or more new passengers get on this ship and there is very little time to clean the ship between the time the last set of passengers disembarks and the next set of passengers embarks. Maybe once a year or even less often than that, the ship will be taken out of service to be dry-docked and they can then work on the superficial things more thoroughly. I found the ship to be very clean and very well maintained considering that it is now 7 years old. Before the trip, I read that some people found the ship to be worn out. So during my time aboard, I began to look for evidence of this. And I did find SOME spots that did show SOME signs of wear. Where the carpet inserts into the metal trim on the steps, in some spots it had separated. The trim was also quite scuffed on many steps. In the hallways where the cabins are, I also noticed a few areas where the wood grab rails was worn. I did not find any of these to be so obvious that it detracted from the overall appearance of the ship nor did I find that any of it suggests any lack of maintenance on the part of the crew or the cruise line itself. Many years ago, my wife and I took this same trip aboard the Song of America. Even then, that ship was already 15 years old and that ship really looked worn out. The Norwegian Star wasn't even close. Interestingly enough, it wasn't until the final night aboard that I saw what I felt was a poorly maintained, or neglected area. It was the card room up on deck 12. I took my kids up there to play some board games with their cousin and there were dozens of drink glasses and plates from people who probably brought food in there from the buffet or from the pool deck earlier. We were up there for a good hour and a half and I never saw a single staff person come in to even check the room or clean the mess. Also, the chairs were badly stained in there. Nowhere else on the entire ship did I see anything else like this. One thing I found to be pleasantly surprising, was the lack of cigarette smoke inside the ship. The only two places I noticed smoke was in the Havana Club and in the Casino. I do like to smoke cigars, but I limited that to the Havana Club, then just one night out on the tiered deck near the Bier Garten well after the deck party in Puerto Vallarta had ended and everyone was gone and there was no one left to be bothered by it. The Norwegian Star is not glamorous or elegant along the likes of Crystal, Cunard, or Celebrity, but its dEcor is not as Las Vegas neon flashy as the Carnival ships (I have cruised on 8 of those). It is modestly decorated, with some hints of art deco finishes. I'd say it's trying to look more elegant than it is. Not a deal-breaker though. Activities This cruise was during Thanksgiving week. That meant there were an unusually large number of kids on the ship, because so many school had the entire week off, so families took advantage. One of the kids' club staff said there were 850 kids, and that they had never seen such a large number of kids since the ship went into service 7 years ago. That's probably 1/3 of all the passengers that week. Because of this, the kids' club staff had to expand their activities into some of the conference rooms near the Spinnaker Lounge. This also meant that the kids' activities were more crowded into cramped spaces and my kids were less eager to spend time doing these activities this time around. With the kids spending less time doing their activities, that meant the adults spent less time doing adult activities. What can you do? Blame the cruise line for being too popular for families for Thanksgiving week? Three years ago, we almost had to drag our kids out of the kids' club and it was one of the reasons we gladly booked this ship a 2nd time when the opportunity came up. Service One of the reasons I have been on 15 cruises is the service. With the Freestyle Cruising philosophy, some believe service is sacrificed. Given the flexibility Freestyle Cruising offers, my personal experience on this specific trip was that the service level remained high. EVERY reasonable request was accommodated, from getting extra pillows, to putting sodas obtained with the soda card in larger glasses, to getting extra lobster tails one night in the Aqua dining room. One drink waiter recognized me and every time, he just brought me the can along with a glass of ice. This reduced the frequency that both he and I needed to go through the routine, making it more convenient for both me and for him. It's small details like that which reinforce the service level. I did not find the frequency of other waiters asking me if I wanted to buy a drink to be to the point of being annoying. For those who do not drink alcohol or who do not drink a lot (like me), this may be perceived as being too pushy, but they are trying to make a living, and there are plenty of other passengers who have no problem draining their wallets to enjoy their drinks, so there is a reasonable assumption that if you are approached, especially since they don't know one way or the other, that you may actually want a drink. So let's be realistic and let's be fair to them. Shore Excursions This being the fifth time I have done this route, my family and I did not book any shore excursions. Stateroom Our stateroom was cabin 5026 - Deck 5, Forward. This location is very close to the front stairwell and elevators. There is a partition that separates the waiting area for the elevators from the cabins. This partition keeps nearly all the noise from the deck above from being heard at the cabins. Considering that the Casino was right above us, and that the lower level of the Stardust theater was also above us and slightly forward, we could not hear any noise, even during the shows with the doors to the theater wide open. If someone heavy was walking adjacent to the Casino, we would hear that, but that is no different than being below another passenger deck and hearing everyone walking above. The stateroom was identical to what we had three years ago. There were two lower beds, one upper, and a 4th, rollaway which would be brought out when the room was turned down each night. During the day, when the room was made up, the 4th bed would be collapsed and stored underneath one of the lowers creating a small walking space. For 4 people, these accommodations can be tight, especially if all 4 are trying to get dressed when the 4th bed is out between the other two. Carnival's cabins have two uppers, which does ease the cramped feeling and their cabins are larger. This is not impossible to live with, but the space planners should have kept this in mind, especially for a cruise line that is trying to attract families. Two upper berths would work out so much better. I don't know why, but for some reason, I found the bathroom in the cabin to be ridiculously small, especially considering that I spent 8 days on this ship 3 years ago. I am 6'1", and it was an exercise in contortion to get in to you-know-what. What made it worse, is that there is a privacy sliding door which reduces the elbow room even more. The privacy door could work if the bathroom was larger, but in this case it's useless. The bathroom on an airplane almost seems spacious compared to this. For 2 people, the cabin is just fine, even for 3. With the 4th, it is definitely more tricky. Think of it like going camping almost. With 4 people in a tent, there's not much room when everyone is in there at the same time. Everything is tight where you sleep. Dining OK, so here's what is often the signature of cruising - the food. I've been on 15 of these now, twice on the Norwegian Star. I'll try to keep it simple. The buffet at dinner is worse than I remember it was 3 years ago. The dining room food quality was very good, as good as it was 3 years ago. The Blue Lagoon had more choices than I remember 3 years ago, and so did room service. The quality and service at Cagney's Steakhouse was superb. Again, in my opinion, it is on par with the likes of Ruth's Chris. For $20, it's a steal. Treat yourself at least once. They may be charging a surcharge but I can't see this as being a profitable venture given the quality of the raw materials alone. It was the only premium restaurant we ate at during this trip. Last time we also ate at Le Bistro and it was also superb. The first night out was the most difficult to deal with. I believe too many people did not know how the Freestyle Cruising works, and too many of them swarmed the dining rooms expecting to be seated easily right around 6:00, including my party which was 9 people. That made it harder, and for the sake of the kids, we just went up to the buffet on Deck 12. All the kids were happy, none of the adults were happy. For a couple, this would be a lot quicker and not really a hassle. By the second night, I did not notice any long lines at all. It seemed like everyone got the hang of it. Children's Club I've already mentioned the kids' club before. We were on this same ship 3 years ago and then it was an excellent program. I would recommend if you are coming with kids, to maybe not go Thanksgiving week or any other holiday that might bring a larger-than-normal number of kids. The attention the staff can give to 850 kids is not as good as it would be to let's say, half that number. And yes, the cruise line knew in advance, and did bring extra staff for this. But they still had to spread out into non-kids' club areas of the ship. Entertainment We saw some of the shows. Again, I've been on 15 cruises now and have seen a lot of shows. I found the Cirque Pacific show to be very well done, and Romano Frediani was outstanding. The other shows, Band on the Run, and the Music of the Night were quality shows, but having seen so many, did not rock my world. There was a crew talent show one afternoon and the final act, "Fountains", was hilarious. There are YouTube clips of it from other sailings. Disembarkation Since we were traveling with a handicapped person (my father-in-law uses a walker), we were given priority disembarkation. We waited in the Carousel Lounge less than 5 minutes and were off the ship and at the curb in no time. Here's where NCL's responsibility stops and the Port of Los Angeles' begins. Getting the car out of the parking lot back to the curb to pick up everybody else was a nightmare. There were only 3 booths to pay the parking toll, and 2 huge ships disembarking at the same time. It must have taken me 45 minutes to inch my way through the line to get out. Complicating the matter was everyone else who was parked between where I was and the exit blending in. How do I get mad at them? It's not their fault they got lucky and parked closer to the exit. Summary Overall, this is still a nice ship with good facilities and premium dining available if you choose to step up on occasion for what 2 hands of Blackjack would cost you. Now that we've been on this ship twice in the last 3 years I would spend my money on another ship just for a change of scenery and try something new. I would still recommend this ship for anyone who has not yet been on it. The Mexican Riviera ports are more well-developed than they were 25 years ago when I first visited them. I like the Freestyle Cruising concept, but I do think that NCL still needs to fine-tune it some more so there is less confusion among the passengers. NCL is trying to differentiate itself from the other cruise lines. It is not trying to be Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princes, HAL, or Celebrity. Freestyle Cruising is what makes it different. For those who want the Princess experience, stick with Princess, as you won't get it on NCL. For those who got stuck with NCL during Thanksgiving and hated it because it wasn't Holland America, blame your travel agent for talking you into it, and blame yourself for agreeing to it, don't blame NCL. If all the cruise lines were the same, there would be one gigantic cruise line with 200 ships in its fleet. Oh yeah, isn't that called Carnival Corp??? Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Embarkation - landed at airport at 12:15 and had our luggage at baggage claim by 12:30. We bought our tickets through Carnival and we waited 30 minutes inside before they transferred us outside. The first bus was full so we waited 30 ... Read More
Embarkation - landed at airport at 12:15 and had our luggage at baggage claim by 12:30. We bought our tickets through Carnival and we waited 30 minutes inside before they transferred us outside. The first bus was full so we waited 30 minutes for another bus to arrive. The transfer which should have taken 10 minutes took over 30 minutes because we had to wait for other buses to unload. Security was disorganized and took 40 minutes. The part of the building they do security is very small and we were all squeezed in there like sardines. Once we got through security, we went in to the HUGE part of the building and it took less than 15 minutes to check in (hmmm, maybe switch the security and check-in areas around?). We were on the ship shortly after 2:30 and headed to our room 2404. It is below the gallery but in general wasn't too noisy. The room was ready and we dropped off our stuff and headed for lunch. This was probably the most frustrating part of our trip. There were 3,500 people trying to eat all at once. We could not find a place to sit, they ran out of plates and silverware, lemonade, etc. Life boat drill next. Dinner in Posh restaurant was good that night and we did the Camp Carnival session to do the paperwork. They give you a big clunky cell phone you have to carry around for anyone 5 and under and they would ask quite often to see it throughout the week to make sure you had it. Too tired for any entertainment but the comedian that night was Diane Ford. Day 2 - walked on the track in the morning and laid out. The sky was overcast most of the day. Our kids hung out in Camp Carnival most of the day. Dinner in Posh was good again. We caught the main show which was "Big Easy" which was o.k. We did keep the kids in Camp Carnival late so we could catch Diane Ford's Rated R show @ 10:30 p.m. She was good. We were happy to see Carnival make these shows earlier as they often are not until mid-night. Day 3 - arrive in Cozumel and beautiful and sunny. Breakfast lines were very long. Hindsight we wished we had done room service this morning. We made our own reservation at Dolphin Discovery prior to sailing. Me and my 9 year-old did the dolphin swim and my husband and 5 year-old son did the dolphin encounter. The reservation was for 11 a.m. and I wasn't even thinking that the ship's time would be one hour later. Good thing we caught that so our reservation was really noon ship time. We took a taxi to Chankanaab Park. The taxi would be free if we had paid for four individuals but since my 5 year-old was free, we had to pay our own taxi which was $10 one way. When we arrived, my 9 year-old and I rented gear and snorkeled first and saw some great fish and also a sting ray. The cost of the dolphin discovery for the four of us was $375 (youngest free). The waves were strong so it was hard for my husband to balance him and my 5 year-old at same time. My older son and I loved swimming with the dolphins. We got to do the dorsal fin and toe push. I was amazed how easy it was to do. There was a large lady in our group and those two dolphins even got her up in the air. You can take cameras with you so be sure to have a waterproof one with you for great shots. We got wrist bands for free drinks at Senior Frogs or Carlos and Charlie's. We took a taxi in to town cost $10 and headed to Senior Frogs. I was at the SF in Playa six months ago and it was pretty tame. After we sat down, we realized this was not going to be very kid friendly. We ate and drank quickly and dashed out to avoid having our kids see too much more drinking. Carlos & Charlie's down stairs would have been the tamer option. We shopped in town and bought tequila that was $5-$10 cheaper a bottle then it was when we had just been in Playa six months earlier. We also bought vanilla and took taxi back to ship, $8 ride back. Dinner in Posh again. That evening we caught the magician Puck. He was good right up until he did the "swallow the razor" act. Thank goodness Camp Carnival kids did not attend that night. Day 4 - it was a day at sea. There was note in Capers saying you could do laundry for $15 a bag. Our cabin steward knew nothing about it but I showed him the paper. We did two very stuffed bags of laundry for a total of $30. Since we only packed four days of clothes, we were counting on this offer that we had seen on our last cruise. We had breakfast on Lido and walked on the track. It started to rain and pretty much did not let up all day. Kids were in Camp Carnival the entire day except afternoon because they made teddy bears and my kids have enough stuffed animals. The rain let up in the afternoon and we played basketball and putt put as a family. Dinner in Posh followed by comedian/juggler Michael James who was good. Day 5 - arrived in Limon, Costa Rica. It was overcast and rained off an on. We booked our sloth sanctuary excursion through cruise line because I had read the Limon wasn't that nice. We were smart and ate an early breakfast to avoid the long lines on the Lido and got off the ship for our 11:30 tour. Nice bus took us to sanctuary. Tour guide was excellent. Upon arrival we watched short video and had your picture taken next to a sloth. We then walked through the rain forest and got some great pictures of flowers and a blue crab. You could hear cars driving on the road next to us so it might not be as authentic as you would want it to be. Next we did a canoe ride and saw a caiman (like an alligator), several birds, sloths in trees, and a lizard. Next they gave us a plate of fruit and we got to see the baby sloths. I bought coffee and nuts and a few other souvenirs. The bus took us back to the boat. It was raining when we got back. We stopped at the market right across the street and bought salsa and a billfold. Coffee would have been cheaper at the market vs. the sloth sanctuary. We did not have bug spray on in the rain forest. Might have been good to have some as my son did get bit by a mosquito on his ear. Quite surprisingly no one else had any bites but the owner claimed no one needed any repellant. I would say pack it. Dinner again in Posh and caught show "Jump, Jive & Wail" which was good. Day 6 - arrived in Colon, Panama. Booked Panama Canal tour through cruise ship. Did room service breakfast card night before for 6:15. Even tough Capers said room service could be delayed by one hour, it arrived at 6:20. All tours leaving for excursions before 10 a.m. had to meet in the Victoriana Lounge at 6:45. They made us sit in lounge until 7:30. Bus driver said it would take 1 hour 20 minutes to get to Pacific side but it was more like 2 hours. It was very misty and humid out but bus was nice and new. The drive was gross - lots of litter along the side of the road and dogs running wild but glad my sons got to see it. We got to the ferry that took us through the canal, it was already packed. We got inside seats on the 3rd deck. The cruise director warned in his excursion talk that lunch served this day might not be that good and boat might be crowded but eventually people would get bored with the locks and move inside. WRONG. The food was quite good: kabobs, spicy cut up hot dogs, fruit, banana muffins, pasta, potato squares, and free sodas (equivalent of Shasta in the states) and water. Beers were $2 each. There was a local lady on board selling souvenirs and snacks. We did by a map of the canal for $5 and you could get your picture up front of the boat next to the locks for $10. As for people moving, forget it. If they did, they would leave their stuff on their chairs and go walk around the ferry. The ferry was way too crowded. There had to be 300+ people on it and we were crammed in like sardines. Because my sons had a hard time seeing what was going on since we were shoved in the middle seats, they got bored quickly. We found out that the rainy season in Panama is April - December. We were very disappointed that Carnival would pick this itinerary when they know it is the rainy season. Definitely do your homework before you take a cruise as the cruise line certainly isn't looking out for you. The excursion cost $800 so I am definitely going to write Carnival for a refund (yeah, that will do me a lot of good but it is the principle of the matter). It finally started raining and people squeezed up under the covered middle section of the boat. Although we got soaked, it was our only chance to get a view of the canal. They are widening the canal so ships like Freedom can sail through it come 2015. My advice would be to wait until then and do the Panama Canal from the privacy of your balcony. The bus ride back probably took 1 hour and 15 minutes. Thanksgiving dinner in Posh and then caught show. Cruise director Todd Wittmer did his Top Ten funniest questions they have ever been asked and comedian Michael Panzeca did an act. Both were excellent. Day 7 - day at sea and finally some sun. They finally publicized the laundry promotion for $15 a bag so we did another bag of laundry. We had breakfast on the Lido, walked on the track, and laid out and read. We had pizza and fish/chips for lunch. A quick cloud burst cleared the deck but it quickly got sunny again and we got great deck chairs to watch some college football on the outdoor theatre. We are originally from Nebraska so we got to see the Huskers take on Colorado. It was awesome! Dinner in Posh. Show that night was "Ticket To Ride" a tribute to Beatles and it was excellent. Caught Rated R show of Michael Panzeca at 10:30. It was standing room only so get there early. Again very good. Day 8 - a very sunny day at sea. We had breakfast on the Lido, walked on the deck, laid out at the adult pool. There was a disembarkation show this day but we did not attend as we knew they always play it on TV which they did so do not waste your time going. We had the pizza and grill for lunch and then took the boys swimming and did the water slide in the afternoon. This was one complaint I had was that Carnival had security guards monitoring the adult pool (to make sure kids were not in it) and they had a guard watching the pool under the theatre but they did not have one down by the slides. Our 5 year-old went down the slide several times and I stood at the bottom to wait for him. There were four boys about 11 or 12 at the bottom and they would splash the kids as they were coming down the slide. I told them to stop three times. They would walk away for a minute and then be right back splashing again. Even though the pool next to the slide says "kids must swim with adults," apparently no parents were present for these rotten boys. Finally I yelled "I am not going to tell you boys again" and I think they got the hint that I was about to explode. We went to the Camp Carnival talent show and then I played chess with my son on Lido until dinner again in Posh. We put kids in Camp Carnival and took walk on deck. Came back to the room and packed. Disembarkation - we had breakfast in the dinning room and did not have to wait. If you get off the ship unassisted you could do so at 7:30 a.m. We had a late flight so we were in no hurry. We got off the ship about 10:30. This actually worked out well because our luggage was about the last of it sitting there so super easy to find. Took only 15 minutes to go through customs. We found the bus to transfer us to airport which took only 15 minutes. Our flight wasn't until 3:30 and American only lets you check in 4 hours in advance so we had to kill 30 minutes outside before we checked in. We had lunch at Chili's to kill more time. We didn't realize that the Fort Lauderdale airport does not let you go to your gate until 2 hours before you flight. We would have stayed longer in Chili's had we known that. Flight to Atlanta and then back to Wichita was on time. Our son threw up on the car ride home from the airport. Not sure if anyone else got sick. I stayed home with him one day from school and he actually felt pretty good by lunch time so not certain what bug he picked up but it only lasted 12 hours. Overall the trip was good. Camp Carnival staff was excellent. This was our 7th cruise and probably the best room steward (Jose) and wait staff (Prasit & Arnold) we have ever had. Cruise Director was good and entertainment was definitely above average. Food overall was good but went down hill as the week went on. They ran out of lemons and oatmeal by the middle of the cruise. Usually do the spa but didn't do it this trip - massage was over $160-$180 so just too much for my blood although I noticed they really started to discount quite heavily towards end of the cruise. Costa Rica excursion was good but it too was the rainy season like Panama (however Costa Rica sounds like it is always the rainy season) so again just very disappointed that Carnival would pick this itinerary at this time of the year. We have done Carnival the last two times now so we may try another cruise line (one Carnival does not own) just for a change for next year. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I finally convinced him to take a Christmas Market riverboat trip up the Danube in last December, and this year, he agreed to spend Thanksgiving on a cruise ship. I did loads of homework on the lines and ships, and concluded this might be ... Read More
I finally convinced him to take a Christmas Market riverboat trip up the Danube in last December, and this year, he agreed to spend Thanksgiving on a cruise ship. I did loads of homework on the lines and ships, and concluded this might be the best match for us. Nothing's perfect, but this came fairly close. EMBARKATION: We live in Florida, so we opted to drive 4.5 hours that morning. We arrived earlier than we thought, and believed we could not embark until after 1PM, and wanted to avoid the rush, so we stopped at Total Wine to get some provisions. We boarded about 2, and were literally whisked aboard, with a friendly greeting from all we met. Nice beginning. We found our cabin (inside), and it was set up as twins. Eventually, our steward appeared, and we requested the change. We also asked the refrigerator to be emptied. Eventually, all these came to be. To say our steward was discrete was an overstatement at times. We had directions to call his pager if needed. We found leaving notes didn't work (the bedside light was out two days), but then mid cruise, things snapped together, and things went well from there on. We had check some Coke Zero and Coke in their cases taped together as part of our luggage. It did not make it to our room with the bags. Later we went to the purser's desk, and it was there all beaten up. (We did tip the porter well to take it) so let that be a lesson to all... DINING: Here, the report gets spotty. There was good, there was very good, and there was "ih." We were in anytime dining, and found that once you learn the ropes it was a breeze. Come before 7 or after 8:30 or make a reservation, and there was little waiting. We always asked to be seated at a large table, and met lots of interesting people, and had great conversations. In the dining room, the biggest disappointment was "fillets", two over tenderized rounds of meat. Didn't care much for the offerings on Caribbean night either. And the final seafood night the crab legs were not King unless they were harvesting babies. Not that it was inedible, just not "right." We had two dinners in Cafe Caribe, one was the cold seafood buffet, the other the "rice taffle" night. The buffet was okay, but not small forks or crackers. The lobster claws were supposedly scored, but I lost two nails in the attempt, and my husband had little better luck. The crab was the full backfin lump which was tricky to extract with a big fork, but doable. The shrimp were nice. Just not up to the hype we'd heard. The other night, Thanksgiving, was their regular "rice taffle" night. This is an outstanding Dutch/Indonesian offering where all kinds of delicious small things were offered to be eaten on a plate of rice. Their version was served on "creole" rice, and was mostly very hot (spicy) to the point of inedible stews. Okay, karma was going to make me celebrate traditional Thanksgiving, because they also had carved real roast turkey. The gravy was oddly spiced, and the mashed potatoes tasted like a combo of white yams and potatoes, but the sweet potatoes were there as well as the cranberry, so it was as traditional as it was going to get. The best treat of all was getting up in the morning and going to the international cafe. As we approached the pastry display we were greeted with a cheery "Buon Giorno" and some incredible delicacies. My fave was chocolate croissants, but the almond were great too. The danish were as light as a feather, and donuts were like little pillows. Such a choice! These along with cappuccino (DH had a double espresso) was heaven. The coffee card was not pushed on this trip, but do get one. For $27 you get 15 specialty coffees or smoothies (no alcohol). As they cost $3 on up, it's a deal. Later on we'd have juice and maybe an egg (okay DH indulged in lox and a bagel loaded more than one) in the Horizon, but we'd take them back to Caribe to eat. Just across a small lobby toward the back, and there's plenty of room when Horizon is jammed. ENTERTAINMENT: We both loathe crowds, so we made no particular effort to go to the theatre (we popped in watched, but not our thing). Tried to see the Pop star competition, but it was also crowded! Entertainment in the piazza was always nice. The sting quartet was wonderful, and the steel drummer was great too. Caught Epiphani a couple of times and enjoyed them on deck. We don't dance, so didn't go to those venues. Did enjoy trivia during the day. Seems we were playing for luggage tags when other games like Wii bowling had champagne and tote bags as prizes. And I cannot believe that someone got 40 of the 44 mostly obscure questions in the travel trivia contest in the evening. Do they change questions week-to-week? Our favorite hangout was the Adagio bar next to Sabatini's. The bartenders there are fabulous, it's quiet and non-smoking, they have a pianist for entertainment, and for us it's the perfect spot. We tried almost all the drinks, and the tiramisu martini is like drinking the real thing! The cooking demo was serious and silly, as the head chef demonstrated some dishes, and the maitre d' did the parody. After, we went on a tour of the galley, tho we had to wait in the lobby for some time before someone came to get us. The tour clarified some of the problems we saw in serving, but when you are cooking for 3000+ some efficiencies must take place. The tour was self guided in a bunch. If you missed the demo, it was rerun forever on the TV, as was the shopping/port orientation. Now that is one you can really miss. There is very little practical info shared, just a big hype for shops that advertise. They propose a VIP shopping card for $25, which gets you small gifts in several shops. Of course they try to upgrade you, or interest you in more once they get you in the shop. If you are traveling to buy, do homework at home first. St Thomas ain't what it used to be. I used to come home with six bottles of great stuff no one had heard of. Now, due to the airline policies on liquids, there's no market for it. All we found were brands we can get locally, for less. Much more interesting things on St Maartin had we known to buy more there. There was a definite lack of concrete information about anything but the cruise excursions, so do your homework on these boards to find out about your destination. DEBARKATION: This was also a breeze. they give you colored/numbered tags, and after breakfast you wait in one of the lounges 'til they call it. You find your luggage, breeze through customs, and you are out. The hardest part was finding a porter, and they come fairly quickly. OVERALL IMPRESSION: We found the staff very friendly and attentive. Our cabin was fine. The ship is beautiful, and easy to navigate. Everything runs well considering the number of people involved. The food was a bit disappointing at times but not awful. We feel a bit ripped by the fuel surcharge since the only thing that prevented our rebate was one day when it went over $70. Cruisers after next week get it. But all in all we got what we were looking for on this cruise, and my dear husband found it enjoyable enough to put a deposit on another, so all's well that ends well! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My fiance (24 years old) and I (27 years old) sailed on the Thanksgiving Cruise, Monday through Friday. This was our 3rd cruise. We first sailed with Carnival Miracle and then Carnival Destiny. One of the main reasons we chose Royal ... Read More
My fiance (24 years old) and I (27 years old) sailed on the Thanksgiving Cruise, Monday through Friday. This was our 3rd cruise. We first sailed with Carnival Miracle and then Carnival Destiny. One of the main reasons we chose Royal Caribbean was due to the feedback that "going Royal" is taking a step-up. After having an unpleasant experience with Carnival Destiny, we decided to give RC a chance. The first thing I must mention is that the Carnival Destiny was built in 1991 and RC Majesty of the Seas was built in 1992. Though, the Majesty of the Seas looks 10 times better than the Destiny. The decor was of better quality and class. It was not "bright" and tacky. Now on the Carnival Destiny, it was terrible as the ship's condition was the main factor as to why we had a horrible time. Therefore for a ship of this age and in such great shape, I can only imagine what the newer ships look like. The crew and staff of RC was very nice. I was impressed and taken aback by how nice they were. Carnival is known as the "Fun Ship" but I truly believe of the 3 cruises, this one by far gets the better rating in terms of the ships crew and their friendliness. In regards to additional tips, here is some things I noted to help all of you: Do not book a room on the 8th Deck near the Club. I would be pissed if I had a room here, because this is where ALL the traffic is at from 11pm-3am. The noise from the people walking to and from the Club would annoy me. I believe the room numbers were 8500. Please seek out the layout of the ship, and avoid getting a room their. Also, make sure you attend the Game Show "Quest". After being on 3 ships, the activities begin to look the same, but "Quest" was absolutely hilarious. I laughed so much that my voice was gone the next day! And please do enter yourself in the free giveaways. So many people sign up, but don't show up for the actual give-away. We were lucky to win a Spa Treatment after 30 names were called! We were excited about that! In regards to Ports, this time my fiance' and I decided to freestyle this one. We usually do intense research looking for excursions, but this time we decided to do it differently. Though I wish we had something set up for Nassau because although the Atlantis is nice to see, we were bored after a while. We did do the Kayaking in Coco Cay, and that was nice to do. Overall, I would do RC again. I would love to try out a bigger and newer ship due to my pleasant experience on this older ship. Though I will admit that as a young couple, we did find ourselves comparing the activities with Carnival. Both my fiance' and I agreed that in regards to activities, Carnival wins the cake! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My wife and I were on our 16th cruise sailing from Ft. Lauderdale on Thanksgiving Day for 10 days visiting St. Lucia, Tortola, Barbados, St Kitts, Martinique and Half Moon Cay. This was our second trip on Holland America and we are both 45 ... Read More
My wife and I were on our 16th cruise sailing from Ft. Lauderdale on Thanksgiving Day for 10 days visiting St. Lucia, Tortola, Barbados, St Kitts, Martinique and Half Moon Cay. This was our second trip on Holland America and we are both 45 years old. This review will be detailed for those that want specific information. We stayed at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa prior to the cruise. They have a restaurant called 3030 which is one of the top places to eat in Ft. Lauderdale. We had a fantastic meal at 3030 which was one of the highlights of the trip. My wife also used the Marriott spa for her seaweed wrap. The cost is cheaper than you will pay on the Noordam and includes a message jet bath which the ship doesn't. I set this up in advance and my wife loved it. The Marriott has a private beach and a tropical pool which were both excellent. A great start to a vacation. Ports: We really enjoyed all the ports and particularly enjoyed the "Boat Yard" beach in Barbados and Cane Garden in Tortola. The Boat Yard is $4 per person by cab and provides a free ride back to the ship. Entrance cost is $15 per person, includes chairs, umbrella, choice of free drink and unlimited use of non motorized beach items. In Tortola we got off the boat and found a 30 person taxi waiting. He was charging $6 per person for Cane Garden Bay Beach. We spent 5 ½ hours at Cane Garden and found plenty of taxis for the return trip ($6) back to the ship. Chairs are $5 per person and several friendly vendors will set you up right on the beach (umbrellas were $10). The beach has plenty of shade if you don't want to pay for an umbrella. We had lunch at Sharkys on the beach which had a great lobster salad and cold beer. Embarkation: We arrived at the pier about 1:30 pm at the same time as a few buses from the airport. We found a line out the front door and thought we were in for a long wait. This was because the metal detector and x-ray machine are at the entrance which actually worked better. The line moved fairly quickly and the only snag was with the medical questionnaire. The lady whom handled it was rude, didn't give instructions until you were at the point where you needed to have it filled out and just a pain in general. Not a big deal and we quickly filled it out while in line before getting to the check-in counter. Note: even when filling out everything on line "before" hand, you still have to have the immigration form in your cruise documents signed. They then write completed on line across the top. The whole check in took about 30 minutes and because it was after 1pm we were able to go directly to our cabin and drop off carry on bags. Crew: I will say that we have seen several different types of crew members over the years. We have had crew members who do what is required only and those who go above and beyond especially with automatic tipping. The Noordam Cabin Stewards, Waiters, Assistant Waiters, pool and cleaning staff are all from Indonesia. Your bar staff is from the Philippines and your officers are mostly Dutch. All crew members are highly trained and it shows. We never heard the word 'NO" and herd "Yes" to all request. I had very high praises on the comment card and to some supervision about this very hard working crew. They smile all the time and will accommodate special request with a smile. Just ask if you want something and give them a little notice in the dining room and it's done. Service really makes HAL and out of 1900 passengers on board, 1300 were repeat customers. Many people have had comments about extra tipping, the extra cash given to an employee stays with that employee. The automatic tipping is pooled and distributed based on a formula. I was told that as long as you left the "service charge" as they call it alone, the crew kept the extra cash given. Cabin: We booked a "guarantee" inside and were upgraded to a large inside. The cabin had 3 separate closets, tie holder mounted to the door, shoes shine basket (for free shoe shine) a safe plus plenty of space, once you placed the life jackets under the bed. Note there are two drawers under the end of the bed that pull out. You can easily place suitcases and life jackets under the bed to allow for more cabin space. The cabin has a hidden dirty laundry hamper located in the chair under the vanity/desk. You pull the seat top off the chair and place dirty laundry in it. It seals up and the chair slides right back under the vanity/desk. You also have a full mini bar located to the right of the vanity with the same pricing as the other ship bars. On the left of the vanity/desk a hidden compartment has a hair dryer and extra glass for wine or champagne (a bottle opener and cork screw are provided with your ice bucket). The hair dry only plugs into the vanity and can't be used in the bathroom. Two Hal robes are provided and are a nice touch and so are the full size bath towels. HAL uses Elemis spa shampoo, body wash, conditioner, lotion and soap (replaced daily). They don't use those stupid wall mounted soap and shampoo dispensers. Beds were fantastic and the room was keep spotless. Pool and Deck Space: Plenty of deck chairs padded and non-padded. Chairs were always available at both pools and plenty of chairs were available in the shade. No signing out towels with a limit (like RCI...so stupid) you just help yourself. This includes towels when going ashore which are not signed out with a threat of being charged if you don't return them. Other lines need to take note here, we are adults and don't need to sign out a towel. HAL gets points for having towel stations all over the ship. You don't have to go down to the pool to get towels from the upper decks (like RCI). They also have towels at the hot tubs and on the Promenade deck #5. The pool and decks are clean and trash is removed quickly to avoid stuff blowing all over (NCL is famous for this one). I was very pleased with the efficient deck staff and their wiliness to get water or tea for seniors. General Areas: Spotless and public bathrooms have cloth hand towels which keep the restrooms clean. No paper towels anywhere and plenty of hand sanitizers. Bars and common areas have comfortable seating, the recliners are located in the observation lounge, great leather seating in Library/Coffee bar. In the stairwells between decks is some very nice art work of the different HAL ships though the years. Outside the shops on deck #3 is a touch screen interactive map showing ship location and other information about the ship. Food: This one is subjective but this is my opinion. The Noordam Lido has the same concept as you see on Costa and Carnival with the newer ships. The use of food stations which include a sandwich bar, pasta and pizza, salad, dessert and ice cream, Asian and sushi station and a hot food station. They have the stations located on both sides of the ship when in full service. They also have a taco, fajita, hamburger and hot dog station by the pool. What is different here is the execution. You are served most of your food and several things are cooked at the food station limiting people handling items and keeping food fresh. All plates are served covered to keep food hot until you return to your table. In the mornings most stations cook eggs, make toast and have basics along with the specialty items. This keeps lines down because you have multiple egg stations going at the same time. They have three special breakfast items daily plus all the basics. They have a great waffle station and an eggs benedict station which had some nice combinations. During the day, tea and water are served table side so you don't have to get up for a refill. Juices are available from 6am to 6pm at the ice cream station (just ask the attendant). Free fresh squeezed orange juice is available in the morning which is not the case on most lines. I found limited lines and the Lido staff assists with carrying trays and keep lines moving. This concept is less of a buffet and I found the food quality to be very good. Plus not as much food sits out and people handling items is kept to a minimum. The dining room food was on a 20 day menu cycle which gives better variety on longer trips. The lobster was excellent because we asked in advance for it to be steamed not broiled. The prime rib and all steaks were very good. The Coho salmon was good and the Noordam uses large shrimp not the mini shrimp used by other lines. All the deserts were lighter (less sugar) than I have seen on other ships. The sugar free items were pretty good and the ice cream selection was nice. Fresh fruits were top notch! We did assigned second seating and had a table for two (plenty of them) and had fantastic service. I didn't notice any major waits for the "as you wish dining" but didn't use it. We also skipped the specialty restaurant Pinnacle Grill which I never saw even close to full. Over all food was very good. Spa/Gym/Pools: The gym was very nice, good sized with most of the standard equipment, classes and a great view. A nice touch is the cold towels available in the refrigerator after your work out. The Spa is very nice and the girls are very friendly. We only used the hydro pool and the relaxation room (a hidden gem with a great view and chairs that will make you fall a sleep). The sauna and locker rooms are complementary and so is the gym. The hydro pool can be purchased with packages or just used at a rate of $20 a day. That includes use of the robes, slippers, showers and changing area. We choose the day pass and it was nice, but, I would not get the whole week. Pools are not sea water and the main pool (top) was closed and opened according to weather conditions. The whirlpool closest to the spa has foot jets and seats that fit the body. Entertainment: The Vegas acts were very good and vary from cruise to cruise. We had a comedian, classical pianist who did magic and a juggler. The dancers had nice sets and a great theater and several production shows. Two male dancers destroyed some classic songs and several of the female dancers where a bit chunky (which was something I had seen in other reviews and made me laugh). Over all it was fine and we went to most shows. The crew also has a show which is popular. Overall this is a great ship and I found numerous people under 40 whom where trying cruising for the first time. It is true that most of the ship is over the age of 55, I found the older group to be fun, interesting and respectful. So this ship is a winner for all ages Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Hi Friends! Well, here is the much anticipated review of the Valor! What a great Thanksgiving! I cruised with a my college buddy, JT. SATURDAY NOV 22: Pre Cruise: South Beach Hotel Final Score: Ohio State 42, Michigan 7. (an old ... Read More
Hi Friends! Well, here is the much anticipated review of the Valor! What a great Thanksgiving! I cruised with a my college buddy, JT. SATURDAY NOV 22: Pre Cruise: South Beach Hotel Final Score: Ohio State 42, Michigan 7. (an old fashioned Beat down!) Sunday NOV 23: Embarkation We arrived at the port of Miami at 10:30, and at 11:30 were some of the first on the ship! Lido buffet was awesome! If you're ever first on the ship, check out the raspberries and blackberries in the fruit cocktail on Lido! I did not know about that! (Sorry if you were on the ship this week... I took a lot of the raspberries... oops.) During the afternoon, we watched football on lido, got Fun Ship Specials, and even met some Cruise Critic members at sail away! It was partly cloudy and warm enough. At Dinner we sat with Brandon and his mom and sister, and a mother/daughter from Florida via ohio! The Welcome Aboard show was fun! The bars were hopping! We are stoked for a great week! Monday NOV. 24 Sea Day Sunny and Warm! We headed up to Lido around 8:30 for breakfast... lines not too long. We like to eat in the back of the ship... not crowded, fresh air, nice views... Ate too much food! Eggs, bacon, pancake and syrup, yogurt, 2 grapefruits, and maybe even some raisin bran. We then collect several cups of Passion-Guava juice for "drinks" later that day! (We ended up doing this more than once.) Hung out on Lido all day, SURVIVOR, ran on the track, pizza, cheeseburgers, and Rum-Runners! Formal night #1: Captain's Cocktail: in the back lounges... Late seating dinner: Lobster tail night. Yum! The show was nice, but we'd seen it before on the Destiny! (Night Club Express... with the talking couch.) Went to see Ron in piano bar, but it was too SMOKY! Yuck. Went to Karaoke instead. Midnight comedy show. Tuesday NOV 25: Grand Cayman! After a quick breakfast on Lido, we tendered over to Cayman, and took a $4 taxi ride to 7 mile beach... Sunny and Warm! We walked the beach, snorkeled near the Marriott, (we had our own snorkeling equip.) and then taxied back to Georgetown for free Rum Cake samples at the Rum Cake store! Yum! Went back to the ship around 2:30 to beat the long lines that we knew would appear for the tender. Headed up to Lido grill for a few hours of relaxation, music and sun! We ended up eating way up on Sky Deck near the slide. Great views all around! (and not quite so loud like it is down near the pool.) Past Guest party was this night in main lounge. After dinner...Karaoke that night. Fun times! Disco not too crowded, Piano bar too smoky. Yuck. Wednesday NOV 26: Isla Roatan, Honduras Scheduled time to dock: NOON. But from 8:30 to Noon, the sail-in is awesome! The ship passes by several islands... mostly on starboard side... ship docks with island on port side. There were a few sprinkles when we got to the island. We walked off the ship and found a family going to the "West Bay" beach (same as Tabyana... there was a bar where we went: Banarama) round trip was $15.00 per person. If you've never been to a 3rd world country, you're in for an eye-opener. Everyone was very nice! But it is very poor... They said that the kids skip school on days a ship comes, so that they can hawk bracelets for a dollar... (I bought 3!) The ride up and over the hills was beautiful! RAINFOREST! Beach admission was free. Beautiful beach! Many vendors walking and selling... but very nice people! Walk along towards where the ship excursion takes people for wonderful snorkeling! (you'll see where... look for the breathing tubes!) Our taxi driver waited all day for us... we headed back to the ship when a big rain came around 5PM (Ship sailed at 7.) Thursday NOV 27: Thanksgiving! Belize! Another SUNNY and warm day! Tender was about 4 miles off shore due to the Barrier reefs. Beautiful tender ride to the mainland... It was like a free excursion! Loved it! English speaking country. We took an hour taxi ride around Belize City, just to look around, and when we stopped in a little store, we ran into a couple of mission girls from the states... They told us a sweet spot to go to!... We took a water taxi ($11 round trip on the San Pedro-Belize Express) to "Caye Caulker"... one of the barrier islands. What a great decision that was! And what luck to run into those girls! The boat ride was about 45 minutes long, and another beautiful ride! This island was awesome! No motorized vehicles... just electric golf carts. Wonderful snorkeling... and there were small outfits that would take you out in their boat if you want to snorkel the barrier reef itself. We just snorkeled off the small beach near "the Lazy Lizard"... There were a few other bars, and places to rent. One lady we met said she goes there for a couple months at a time! Rent = $300! It was a quiet little paradise... great for relaxing, reading, and at night maybe some guitar around a fire on the beach... We had to head back to Belize city at 2:30, so we could catch a tender going back to the ship. That was sad. Back on board they had Football on the big screen on Lido deck, so we watched the Cowboys while eating a late lunch from the grill... even watched from the hot tub! Wow. What a great Thanksgiving! Friday NOV 28 Cozumel Guess what: Sunny and Warm!!! We had an excursion scheduled for this morning: Deluxe Snorkel and beach Catamaran. (Thanks to our On-Board-Credit!) We sailed to our snorkel spot (5 minutes away), snorkeled for about 30 - 40 min... which was plenty.... Beautiful fish! Then on to a private beach... (Just south of Paradise Beach!) We played on the water trampoline and got free beers and margaritas! The ride back to the ship was fun! We danced to music and had more beverages! We just wished the excursion had lasted longer... so much so, that we took a taxi ride back to Paradise Beach! We heard a rumor that we would have to spend $10 on food or drink, but we just walked in and found chairs... We still had our bracelets on from the excursion and were tempted to walk the 100 yards down the beach where we could drink more for free, but we'd had enough by that time. It was sunny and hot! Another great day. Back on board, we headed up to Lido, got more burgers from the grill, and headed up to Sky Deck for some sun and music before sail away. We were docked next to "Freedom of the Seas" (Is that still the biggest cruise ship?) We were also next to the Conquest. After hot tub and sunset and sail away, we got ready for dinner. We were happy that it was not our last night on the ship! I think this was the night of the other production show... "Far from Over." (Might have been Thursday night!????) Anyways, the show was brilliant! All about the 80's! (midnight comedy show also) Saturday NOV 29: Day at sea. Sunny and WARM! Hooray! After a relaxing breakfast on Lido, we headed up to find spots high above the pools to take in all the action, and views of the Caribbean! It's best to listen to Ipods before Noon, when the calypso band starts in. Either that, or move to the back of the ship... But we enjoy watching all the action, the flirting college kids, and activities... such as the Hairy Chest contest! Haha! A very relaxing day, we had to make more drinks to use up our supply... didn't want to be taking that home... After a full day of sun, it finally clouded up around 5PM? We reckoned it was time to pack... then we'd be free that evening to relax. After dinner we went to the "Carnival Legends Show"... the same show for 2 years now on the ships... Maybe it's time for a little change? At least new characters? But it was still fun and funny. And almost standing room! Afterwards, we headed up for one last slice of pizza, (and one last Pina colada while watching Terri Jo: the musician near the Casino.) We were her little 2 -man fan club all week! She's great! Sunday NOV 30: Debark. RAINING! Haha. We didn't care. (we did feel sad for people just starting out though.) We stayed in our rooms until maybe 8:45. Then headed up to Lido for breakfast. We took our time, and waited until 10:30 or so when they started making last call.... Then we headed down, and walked right out! No hurry, no hassle, no fuss! Easy debark that way, and a good breakfast. A few notes about our trip: A. While hanging out on Sky Deck all those afternoons, there was this one little girl that would run Full-Speed up all those stairs, go down the slide, and do it again! Over and over! It was hilarious! We would yell at her... "Go Go Go!" or "Here comes Speedy!" We chatted with her family. Very nice. B. Being Thanksgiving week, the ship was full of kids. The camp Carnival director told us over 900 kids were on board! But us, being country boys, like all the action on the ship! On our previous cruise (which was in January), there were hardly any kids... Boring! C. Service was great, as always on Carnival D. We had an inside cabin. Every morning we would turn the TV to channel 40: a live feed from a camera on Lido... That's how we checked the weather status! E. Food was great as well. Loved those Shrimp cocktails every night! F. Some of the movies on Lido: Transformers, I am Legend, Spiderwick, some movie about high school boys learning Ultimate fighting?, and a few others. There were movies every night at 8 and 10... except Thursday: football! G. The same little kids were in the hot tub every afternoon when we wanted to get in. (NO Hot Tub in SPA on this ship.) But we got in anyway. But where were the parents? These kids would splash us, take my buddy's drink, etc. What the heck? Anyways, I teach 4th grade, so I was OK. It was just kind of funny. Those crazy kids! A couple days we ended up going to the AFT hot tubs... Adults only! H. We ended up meeting a lot of fun people on the cruise! Hello to all of you! The Best Thanksgiving Cruise Ever! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background Information: This was our 7th cruised and third with Royal Caribbean International. My wife and I are early 60's and we were cruising alone. We selected this cruise on Grandeur of the Seas strictly because it was over the ... Read More
Background Information: This was our 7th cruised and third with Royal Caribbean International. My wife and I are early 60's and we were cruising alone. We selected this cruise on Grandeur of the Seas strictly because it was over the Thanksgiving holiday and price for a Ten day cruise. Our itinerary was two sea days, San Juan, St. Maartin, St. Kitts, Antigua, Tortola and Two sea days. We booked our cruise through a Travel Club travel agent, Category H and were assigned stateroom 3114 Large Oceanview Stateroom and requested and received main dinning. We were assigned table 18 in the Gatsby Dinning Room. Travel To Port and Embarkation: Travel to Port of Tampa was and easy 2 hour drive, the road signs to the Port and Ship Terminals were easy to follow. We arrived at the port around 12:15, the cruise departed on a Monday. Grandeur of the Seas was the only ship in the port but there was very heavy traffic around the entrance to the cruise terminal. We received blank luggage tags from the porter at the terminal curb and quickly filled those out and turn our luggage over to the porter. Going thru security the couple in from of us in line was stopped at the carry on luggage x-ray machine and directed to table that was line with confiscated bottles of alcohol for a physical search. The check in line was about 15 minutes long, we had completed RCI online check in process on their website, and had our Set Sail Pass. The check in process was less than 30 minutes, from arriving at the terminal to entering our cabin. Ship information: Grandeur of the Seas is a Vision Class small and twelve years old but it appeared to be very well maintained. The following Grandeur of the Seas Facts are from the RCI web page Gross Tonnage 74000, Length overall 916 feet, Breadth 106 feet, Max Speed 22 Knots, eleven decks. One thing I found interesting the Captain said that the Grandeur was 25 feet below the waterline and 110 feet above the waterline. Why does it turn over? It was easy to get from one point on the ship to another, very little wait for elevators. The cruise was full and I would estimate that 80% of the passengers were over 50, seen very few young children and I would guess less than 20 teens. Stateroom: Our cabin 3114 is listed as a Large Oceanview Stateroom and it anything but large, but that normal for RCI. There was also a noticeable vibration when the ship was moving, but nothing that would keep you awake at night. There was adequate closet space and ample room under the bed to store luggage. Our room attendant introduced himself to us on our initial arrival to the cabin. He always kept the cabin clean and tidy and we had towel animals on the bed at night after dinner. Activities: Lot of activities going on, especially on the sea days, every activity had lots of people attending, and it seem that there was always two things going on at the same time that I wanted to attend. There was the usual over priced Art Auction that blocked the Centrum on deck 4 every sea day. Bingo was crowded. The evening shows in the Palladium Theater seem to fill up quite quickly and if you wanted to attain you had to get their early for a seat. We show up on time for the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception in the South Pacific Lounge and it was completely pack with no were to sit. Again I think this had to with the age of the passengers. Service: The service we received ranks was pretty good not the best that we had, but far from the worst and I would give it a 4 on a scale on 1 to 5. There was a problem with the Dining room which I'll cover it the dinning section. Everyone from the lady that checked us in at embarkation, Pursers Desk, to the towel attains on the poll deck were amazingly pleasant and conscientious. Shore Excursions: We only had one RCI excursion and that was in St Maartin. SM86 St. Maartin Island Tour, 2 ½ hour tour that crossed over to the French side of the island. This tour was very inexpensive; it was the first RCI excursion that I ever felt cheated when it was over. All it is is a bus ride (large bus) form the tourist tarp on the Dutch side of the island to the same type tourist trap on the French side. No island history or geographical information was provided; a number of schools and the island flower were pointed out a number of times. One would have been better off hiring a cad for a lesser price. Dining: We had main seating for dinner and ate half of our breakfasts, lunches and all our dinners in the Gatsby Dinning Room the rest were in the Windjammer Market Place.. We also had a indulged ourselves at the Solarium Cafe late at night after the windjammer was closed. The quantity, variety and quality of food all over the ship was again pretty good. I would rate the quality of food on a scale of 1 to 5 a solid 4 for the quality of food only. In the Gatsby Dinning Room our waiter was Edwin and his assistant was Godfre we had a table for 4 very near the front of the dinning room. Main seating was at 5:30 and that seemed to be earlier than all the other cruises we've been on. The dinning room staff was very attentive and remembered each of our peculiarity each night. The first three nights the dinning room was full and it took over two hour for dinner. On the fourth night on the dinning room was less crowed and dinner was only 1 ½ hours. I don't contribute this long time to the waiters, but to some problems in the kitchen. The Windjammer was a very popular place and was always crowed, tables were bused quickly as soon as dinner were threw. Food was always fresh and hot. Entertainment: I attended all of the evening shown and found was above average for a cruise ship with the exception of the comedian Chas Elstner he was pretty bad. The Cruise Director, Simeon Baker was above average and the Singers & Dancers were really enjoyable. The Liars Club and Love and Marriage Game Shows were a big hit. Disembarkation This was the worst debarkation we experienced in our six prior cruises. We had an 8:45 call time for our color baggage tag but were not called until almost 9:20. It took another 40 minutes to get threw the custom line. I believe this is a problem with the US Customs and not Royal Caribbean Summary: Prior to departing I had review this cruise on Cruise Critic and read all the reviews that I could find on the Grandeur of the Seas and had a pretty good idea of what to expect. We had a real good time on this Cruise, service was good, weather was great, and food was OK. We would take this cruise again next year if it were available. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This is a combined review of consecutive cruises starting with the Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona of Nov 22nd, 2008 and the transatlantic crossing to Galveston on Nov 29th. I have completed 18 cruises with Royal Caribbean and am a ... Read More
This is a combined review of consecutive cruises starting with the Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona of Nov 22nd, 2008 and the transatlantic crossing to Galveston on Nov 29th. I have completed 18 cruises with Royal Caribbean and am a Diamond Plus member. Prior to the cruise, I stayed at the Continental Palacete Hotel which was wonderful. Their 24 hour buffet which includes beer and wine was greatly appreciated! Check in was exceptionally fast and as it was after 1.00pm, I was able to go straight to my cabin - 9690, a corner aft cabin. Our first port was Villefranche where we tendered. I took the local bus to Nice for 1 euro each way. Livorno was the next port. As I have previously visited Florence and Pisa, I took the Royal Caribbean canal boat ride around Livorno which was interesting. Rather than go into Rome from Civitavecchia, I took the Royal Caribbean excursion to Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano. Tom Cruise was married there. It was a good excursion and I enjoyed it a lot. In Naples, I walked around and visited the National Archaeological Museum (costs10 euros). I highly recommend visiting this museum. I also walked all the way up to the Castel Sant' Elmo where for 3 euros, you get a wonderful view of the city and Mount Vesuvius. In Palermo, I walked around the town ending up at the Catacombs. 1.50 euros to enter. There are hundreds of bodies on display and it is quite creepy. Certainly not a place to take kids! We had a day at sea before returning to Barcelona. As we were there for the day, we did a private tour to Montserrat which was fantastic. We were given our new Seapass cards prior to the end of the cruise and our cabin steward moved the luggage so the changeover was easy. For the transatlantic crossing, I had Junior Suite 7694 in the aft. Our first port was Cartegena, a lovely small town that had their Christmas festival going on. Friendly people and a nice place to just walk around and explore. They handed out free liquor samples in 50ml bottles (which Royal Caribbean kept for you when you got back onto the ship!) In Madeira, we had a private tour that included a wonderful lunch near Camacha followed by Madeira wine tasting. Our next port was Santa Cruz in the Canary Islands which like Cartegena is small and easy to walk around by oneself. Then, we had six relaxing sea days before arriving in Nassau, then Miami and finally Galveston. These were two wonderful cruises and I enjoyed both of them. I have 11 more cruises booked (10 with Royal Caribbean and 1 with Celebrity) so you can see that I like Royal Caribbean. They provide a great product at a great price. The Concierge lounge is certainly a perk that keeps bringing me back. It's not just the free drinks but also the wonderful atmosphere talking to everyone each night. Here are a few comments in no particular order: • Bill Brunkhorst was the Cruise Director on both cruises. He is one of my favorite cruise directors and it was a nice surprise to find him onboard. • The crew on Voyager are terrific especially my cabin stewards Ray from Costa Rica and Elimar from the Philippines. Concierge Martin Sanchez did a good job considering there were 480 Diamond and Diamond plus members on the transatlantic crossing. • The ice shows are amazing - I went three times! I am always so impressed with the jumps and spins that they do while the ship is moving. A very talented group. • In most ports, one is able to walk into town but in some ports, Royal Caribbean provide shuttles - Livorno ($12), Madeira ($12), Miami ($15 to Bayside and South Beach). In Civitavecchia, the port provided a free shuttle. I would like Royal Caribbean to either provide free transportation or at least inform passengers before the cruise of these extra expenses. Many passengers were upset about docking far from town and being forced to pay for transportation. • Royal Caribbean hosted Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle parties on both cruises. There were well over 200 of us on the transatlantic cruise. Cruise Director Bill attended both events and I even won the fabled Wave Mouse in one of the draws. I do greatly appreciate Royal Caribbean's support of Cruise Critic. • If you go to Madeira, look out for the local drink called Poncha - rum with honey and lemon. It is fantastic and is especially good if you have a sore throat (or think you might get one!). 8 euros for a litre bottle. • Smoking was still allowed in the Casino all the time and on balconies. I wish they would stop the smoking on balconies. I had a pipe smoker on the balcony beside me and it affected my enjoyment of my balcony. Also wish they would restrict smoking when trivia (and other events) are held in the Schooner Bar and other lounges. • In addition to the usual parties and events, Royal Caribbean hosted a party for just the Diamond Plus members. It was nice to receive that extra recognition. • Food in the dining room was very good. I enjoyed Portofinos on both visits. Windjammer for dinner was excellent but I sometimes struggled with the choices at lunch. • We cleared US immigration in Miami which was a slow process but certainly made things easy when we docked in Galveston - we just walked off the ship there. • Certainly a highlight were the excellent lectures held during the transatlantic crossing. Ronald Bowers' Hollywood Murder lectures were exceptional. I do hope Royal Caribbean continue these on transatlantic crossings Thank you Royal Caribbean for two wonderful cruises. The more I cruise, the more I realize that it is the people you meet that defines your cruise experience and makes cruising so enjoyable. Long may the Concierge lounge continue! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We were very apprehensive as we flew from Buffalo to Washington DC then to Frankfurt Germany and finally to Basel, Switzerland to board The River Symphony from Grand Circle Travel. However, all our tension eased as they promptly delivered ... Read More
We were very apprehensive as we flew from Buffalo to Washington DC then to Frankfurt Germany and finally to Basel, Switzerland to board The River Symphony from Grand Circle Travel. However, all our tension eased as they promptly delivered our luggage to the room that would be our home for the next week. We loved floating north on the Rhine viewing the countryside and towns from our room or on the deck (although chilly. Our directors were top-notch, the food was first class (every meal and what choices, our cabin was spotless....My husband was especially impressed that we had the choice of joining the tours offered or just staying on board or walking to town on his own if his arthritis was bothering him. All in all, we can not say enough about this wonderful trip and all the ports--Kayersburg, Riquewihr, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg, Speyer, Heidelberg, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Brugge....all with their wonderful Christmas markets. I know I forgot some but we have many very fond memories of this trip! (We purchased the post-extension to the trip and traveled by bus from Ansterdam to Brussels and train to Brugge) We are now looking at the Danube! Hopefully soon. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Arrived in FLL the day prior to the cruise, and stayed at the Sleep Inn (Dania).. We have stayed there before, and for the price, including shuttles to the port and from the airport, and a hot breakfast in the AM, as well as a clean room, ... Read More
Arrived in FLL the day prior to the cruise, and stayed at the Sleep Inn (Dania).. We have stayed there before, and for the price, including shuttles to the port and from the airport, and a hot breakfast in the AM, as well as a clean room, we return there on each sailing from FLL! Our friends from the UK picked us up at the airport, and we spent the afternoon at the Sleep Inn, and shopped at Publix, as well as dinner at the Kings Head Pub.. Quite good! In the AM, we dropped the ladies off at the ship at 1130 AM, then returned the rental car to the airport... We then took a cab back to the ship, and were all onboard the ship by 115 PM.. The lines were long at embarkation, but moved quite quickly.. After 'brunch' at the Lido, and a drink or two, we went to our cabins on the Verandah (aft). We had 8448 and our friends had 8442, both category 9A! The steward (Ellsworth) stopped by, introduced himself, and graciously opened the balcony partition as we had requested thru our PVP! Ellsworth was probably the BEST cabin steward we have had on any previous cruise. Our kudo's to him..!! He certainly was highlighted on our 'comment card'! Muster drill was a breeze, and most passengers made it there in a quick and orderly manner. Cabins: I really can't say enough about the 9A's... We viewed the 'side' 9A for the first time and were thoroughly impressed.. Very nice, and almost two times the size of a regular balcony cabin, altho' the balcony was not near the size of the 9A aft-wrap that the DW and I occupied! The connecting balcony (with the partition opened), gave us a 65 foot long balcony! Heaven! Dining: We had late seating, and for some reason were assigned to the center DR, the Chic! We are normally assigned to the aft DR, but it really made no difference. The four of us were assigned a booth table (172), and were a tad worried, but the cushions were quite supportive, and we enjoyed the experience. Wait staff was wonderful (Andrej), and the beverage service (Marina from Croatia) were GREAT!.. (More kudo's on the comment card)! The food was really GREAT, altho' we received a cold (hot) dish on an occasion or two, and were offered to have it replaced. We had two entrees on two evenings! The lobster, which was an entree split by the DW and I was on the the 'iffy' side, but the wife loved it...! I have seen them cooked better..! All in all, probably an 7/8 out of 10 for everything! Lunches in the DR are wonderful... Never made it to breakfast there.. Breakfast on the Lido is 'run of the mill', tho pretty good... Was actually looking for corned beef hash, but never did find it... Fish and Chips was really good... A tad 'greasy', but really tasty! Had fish & chips (fries) and fried oysters.. Just couldn't bring myself to try the Octopus... ACKKKK! Sun King was excellent, altho' probably only half full... Next cruise, we will probably NOT do the Supper Club, but we heard that CCL is discontinuing the option in February, anyhow..! Service was wonderful, as well as the food... Really didn't think I could eat a 24 oz steak, but I did!!! Deli was GREAT! Ate there several times for lunch... Grilled Reubens were my favorite! Mongolian Buffet was quite crowded all the time.. We opted out, as we do Mongolian quite often at home, and 'standing in line' is not high on my list! Room service was pretty quick on most occasions.. They 'post' in the Capers when the service may be slow.. I tried several things, and everything was good. No complaints..! Tuna salad is great, as well as the sliced beef.. Entertainment: Lenny Halliday was our CD.. Seems to be quite good..! Can't comment on the 'shows', as the wife and I are not 'late-nighters'... We enjoy a cocktail or two after our late dining time, then relax on that huge balcony... (after a quick trip to the Casino to donate a few $$$) Excursions: Key West was our first stop, and the reason for the cruise... DW had never been there! Thus, we opted for the Old Town Trolley Tour... We had thought about doing the 'Hop On - Hop Off' feature, but decided to dod the entire route, then go back to Duval Street on our own.. We all enjoyed the Tour, even tho' I had been to EYW probably 5 or 6 times previous! We all had a nice time, as well as a 'pit' stop at Sloppy Joe's.. DW and I stayed on the ship in Grand Cayman, as we have been there before.. Our friends made a short trip into town (a tendered port), but seeing the prices on trinkets and souvenirs, decided to return..! We relaxed on that BIG balcony for most of the day! Ocho Rios was where the wife and I were married in 2004.. We opted for a 'private' tour with Marva Shaw, and had 'Lion King' for a driver/guide. Quite a wonderful day, visiting Shaw Park Gardens (where we were married), then Fern Gully, the Jerk Center for lunch, (YUMMY), then a bit of shopping.. NOTE: Avoid the 'local craft market', unless you can deal with really 'pushy' vendors.... ACKKK! The CCL recommended shopping areas were fine!! Disembarkation: (Getting off the ship).. Was really worried from all the previous reviews we had read! We were assigned #12, and we placed the tags on our bags..! We went to breakfast on the Lido at 730 AM, even tho' we were not required to vacate our cabins until 830 AM. We had a leisurely breakfast, and good conversation... Our # was called at around 905 AM... We were off the ship, and at the airport by 1030 AM! There was no problem getting our of customs... The problem was 'getting a cab'..!! With 7 ships in port that day, cabs were few and far between..! Most people waited for anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to be accommodated.. Naturally, this is not in Carnival's control..! MY observation: After the poor reviews, we were somewhat concerned, but I truthfully believe that by 'following the suggested guidelines', anyone sailing the Freedom will have a wonderful time. A cruise is 'what one makes of it'! We 'go with the flow', and enjoyed this cruise as much as the others! ps: The decor was fine.. Very interesting in fact! The crew was always smiling and friendly, and all in all, sailing is still a very good value for the money! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
After sailing on Carnival twice, Holland America once, this was our first time on NCL and we were not disappointed. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier at 11:30 AM via an off site shuttle service (United Parking - near ... Read More
After sailing on Carnival twice, Holland America once, this was our first time on NCL and we were not disappointed. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier at 11:30 AM via an off site shuttle service (United Parking - near MIA)...it was half the price of parking at the Port of Miami and stress free. The port parking area is under construction and is crazy on cruise days. NCL seemed very organized in their systems and we were on board by 12:30. Dining.....Probably our only disappointment with this cruise. In the past, we have always been impressed with the main dining areas. We ate at Tsar's Palace, which certainly had a great feel for a formal dining room, however since it was "freestyle", there was never a themed evening in the dining room. No waiter performances, no piano playing, no Captain's dinner. We like those features, so not having them was a disappointment. Also, the meals were just OK, nothing spectacular. Our theory was that the "cover charge" places had to be worth the price, so maybe that is why the "free" areas like Tsar's Palace and Azura were just OK. I read some other reviews about long wait times...but we did not experience this at all and it was a full cruise for Christmas. NCL does a nice job with the TV screens letting you know how crowded each location is. The Garden Cafe has great selection.....Breakfast and Lunch were always great. Many stations, many options. We also went to the Blue Lagoon quite a few times....kind of like a TGI-Friday's kind of menu.....not bad........Wings, Chicken Fingers......."Comfort Food" they call it. It's open 24 hours. We never went to any of the "cover charge" locations, but other guests said they were great. Entertainment - We went to every show....all of which were pretty good. Again.....not spectacular...but enjoyable. Dressing Up? Part of "freestyling" is letting you wear what you want, when you want. Ofcourse there are some dress code rules, but as a guest, you have many options. My wife and I brought some dressier clothes, thinking there would be a formal night/Captain's Dinner, but there never was one. Some choose to get dressed up really nice and others opt for some jeans and more casual look. NCL does a tremendous job of keeping the Jewel sparkling clean. The staff is not intrusive at all and made a great impression. Disembarkation was the best I have ever been a part of. They let you pick the time you want to exit the ship. No feeling rushed off, nor do you feel like the service changes on that final morning. Ports of Call......since we had already done these stops before (Grand Cayman and Cozumel) we didn't book excursions through the ship. You can get great deals as soon as you get off the ship. Cabin - We had a balcony for the first time and loved it. Spend the extra money, it's totally worth it. Great Cabin and the bedding and shower live up to all of the hype. All in all......NCL's Jewel is a great ship. I had to chuckle at the post before discussing the "chair hogs". Very true. If you want a chair on a "Day at Sea" you are going to have to send your spouse up to Deck 12/13 pretty early...Otherwise, you will be out of the sun. Their so-called "30 minute" rule is not enforced. Chairs were covered in towels, yet they remained empty for the majority of the time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
If you are someone with low expectations then this cruise line may be ok. Never imagined that my christmas would be ruined this way. Let alone my relationship. I was looking for something really wonderful for my first cruise ... Read More
If you are someone with low expectations then this cruise line may be ok. Never imagined that my christmas would be ruined this way. Let alone my relationship. I was looking for something really wonderful for my first cruise experience so I found something for a little over 1200 dollars. It was the biggest waste of my money. first I will start with the good points: -nice ship -really spacey and beautiful room -ports of call (grand cayman and cozumel were fantastic) -didn't feel crowded eventhough it was a full ship heres the bad stuff: -first and foremost the food: I was expecting something decent because I have heard nothing but raving and ranting about the food. it was stale and disgusting and I did not have one thing that didn't taste like day old cafeteria food. This is completely unacceptable. A decent meal is not hard to achieve and shouldn't be on a cruise so expensive. It was not even to the quality of crappy fast food you can get at wendys. Me and my boyfriend are young and really not hard to please.. but my health suffered from all the bad food that I forced myself to swallow. - customer service: Nobody knew what was going on besides the information people and even they had a little confusion. Though it was nice to have people from all around the world (I myself am colombian and love to be around people from different countries), A lot of them spoke little english and were hard to understand. Not one person understood one thing I asked or could carry on a simple request. -Waiter- the waiter was lifeless, not friendly and barely spoke to us. Came over once to check on us if we got lucky that night. The maitre d was nowhere to be seen. -shows and entertainment: Not appropriate for all ages. They had very boring events and then some that were a bit "too" much. Very corny and cheesy contests that were tacky and not entertaining in the least bit. I did not pay 1200 dollars to see harry chests, absolutely ridiculous. Not one event captured our interest or made us happy. Once again I stress upon you that we are not hard to please and on sea days we were miserable. -time in ports of call- we were in grand cayman (the most beautiful place) for barely 2 hours, had lunch and then we were almost late getting back to the ship. what a waste. in cozumel we were there longer but stayed the bare minimum because everything closed down at 4 so the experience was shortened as well. I do have to say that getting off that horrendous ship of annoying employees made those 2-3 hours feel like heaven. Not sure if I am allowed to say this on here but I feel cheated. I feel ripped off and these people took a grab at my money any chance they could... to communicate with someone, to get help, to have a friendly person to talk to. No courteousness whatsoever. I intend to let everyone know what a crap cruise line this is. Please go with someone else. I may never cruise again. They knew nothing about dealing with someone who had diabetes (such as myself) and I am in the process of suing them for ruining my christmas eve. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
12/20/2008 Thru 12/27/2008 Cruise Review: Carnival Liberty 7 Night Western Caribbean Ports of Call: Miami, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, Jamaica Room: 7299 Cat: 12 Who are we? We are newly married in our late ... Read More
12/20/2008 Thru 12/27/2008 Cruise Review: Carnival Liberty 7 Night Western Caribbean Ports of Call: Miami, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, Jamaica Room: 7299 Cat: 12 Who are we? We are newly married in our late 30's with no kids from Tampa, Florida. In our business travel we like to stay with the Hilton family of hotels. In our weekend getaways we love the Ritz Carlton's in Florida. We enjoy excellent food and service when we go out but fine dining is not a must. We both love to play golf but took the Holidays off this year to go on a cruise. You don't have to join the conga line on the Lido deck to have fun on Carnival. We have categorized our review for your ease of jumping from subject to subject. Packing: Go to a couple of websites to find a packing list. The extension cords with multiple plugs are essential. Read below for booze and wine packing. Embarkation: Parking is a little slow so be prepared to wait 20 minutes to get into the parking garage. The embarkation is pretty seamless considering the amount of people trying to get on board. The staff giving directions doesn't really know where to send and seem somewhat confused. Bringing liquor and wine on board. We drove to our cruise so we packed 7 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of vodka plus all the mixers for the vodka. Also, we brought on our own water. Highly recommend bringing whatever you can fit into your suitcases. Do Not Carry any of these items on with you - checked luggage only. We were VIP passengers so we breezed right through the check in - VIP check-in is not very well marked it is a private room behind the standard check-in. Boarding in Miami is at 11:30am we understood it wasn't until 1:30pm. Stateroom 7299 (Cat - 12): It is a great room and well worth every dime we spent on the room. More cabinet, drawer and storage space than you could ever need. The bathroom was very nicely sized with 2 vanities and dressing area was right off the bathroom. The bed seemed like it was going to be very uncomfortable but we had many good nights of sleep. They do have DVD player in the room but they don't tell you that on any website. It is much nicer than the royal junior suite on Royal Caribbean. The deck was exactly double the normal balcony suite. Our room was located in the middle of the ship so when seas were rough we did not notice as much. The seventh floor (empress) is perfect with floors above and below so it is as quiet as possible. The floor is good for reaching all destinations promenade is 5th and lido is 9th. Food: Harry's Supper Club is a must if you like the fine dining experience. We have gone 4 times on our 7 day cruise. I would compare it to a Ruth Chris' steakhouse. They did charge us a corkage fee of $14 for the bottle of wine we brought ($30 per person each night for dinner). Every steak was superb and the overall dining experience was fantastic. Breakfast can be ordered via room service; we started every morning with continental breakfast and coffee on our balcony. Room Service was always prompt. The dining room has open seating which was fine. The buffet at Emile's was very good with an omelet station and egg making station so it didn't seem like a buffet. Hamburger's and hot dogs from the grill hit the spot for snacks and the deli did the same for grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. The pizza was much better than it looked and it is highly recommended. We did formal dining almost every night but spent one night in the room watching our DVD's and having pizza brought down from the pizzeria. Room service does not have pizza or the grilled food on their menu (basically no hot food). The ice cream (not soft serve) was excellent in the dinning rooms for lunch and dinner. They do have a new "open seating" policy that you can select. If you do not want to be seated with people that you do not know, and want to eat anytime, you should choose this option. On-board Activities: The casino was nice with a very accepting staff. The table games were kept at pretty low limits - Blackjack $5 and Roulette at $1 and it was pretty large considering. It is a smoking casino, so don't plan on wearing your clothes a couple times after being in the casino. It is very simple to find the smoking and non-smoking areas of the ship. You must get to the jogging track early because it will be very busy on sea days. The exercise room was well appointed but very crowded. The treadmills do have televisions attached. We would recommend exercising at off times. Everyone reserves beach chairs on deck you must get their early if you would like secure a chair on your favorite deck. The pools and spas are quite small so if you are looking to lounge in a pool go at off times. They have a "don't save deck chair police" but nobody enforces it! Go down early and save a chair with a towel and book...if not, by 10:00am you will not have a seat. Cozumel: You can book your excursions outside of Carnival for a cheaper experience. We did not participate in an excursion in Cozumel but did visit a restaurant in Cozumel. La Choza was fantastic. It is located a couple of blocks off the main shopping area in a new location. They were very warm/friendly and the food was fantastic (Fish Fajitas and Steak/Shrimp Fajitas). It is listed on "Trip Advisor" for dining in Cozumel and we were very pleased with everything they offered. The town is clean and very easy to get around. The people are very friendly and the shopping is good. Grand Cayman: We booked an excursion on-line; the Sea Doo (wave runner) experience ($180 for 2 bikes). It was about a 15 minute bus ride which was pleasant ($5 per person each way). The ride was a bit rough due to some high winds but it was very enjoyable. The bikes were new and well kept. The Sting Ray portion was interesting with a lot of tourists. You should not miss this! The stingrays are huge and very tame. A must see! Ocho Rios, Jamaica: This is not a great destination point for a cruise - The town is dirty and the people are extremely aggressive. We did not book an excursion but I did hear from people that went to Dunn's River Falls that it was quite boring. We did hear that the shopping is good but I would shop at other destinations because of the aggressive people! Debarkation: Not bad.....You can order room service in the morning and wait for your number to be called...nothing else to do but follow the rules. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We just returned from a very nice 4 day Caribbean cruise on the Century. We are Select on X mostly due to RCI cruises, plus one on the Xpedition (our favorite cruise ever). This was our first cruise on a "regular" X ship and we ... Read More
We just returned from a very nice 4 day Caribbean cruise on the Century. We are Select on X mostly due to RCI cruises, plus one on the Xpedition (our favorite cruise ever). This was our first cruise on a "regular" X ship and we were looking forward to comparing it to RCL and Princess (where we are Platinum). DW and I had an aft port Deck 9 Concierge Class stateroom and DD (19) and DS (17) and their friends had a nearby inside and an OV on Deck 8. On this short vacation time cruise, the age and composition of our fellow passengers seemed about the same as on Princess or RCI—mostly couples in their 40s and 50s, some honeymooners, a decent number under 21, and not a huge number of the older crowd. Embarkation—A+— After arriving at the Port of Miami around 12 noon (we're lucky, we live around 20 minutes away) , everything went very quick and smooth—the fastest we have ever got on a cruise ship. We picked the Select line as slightly shorter than the Concierge Class line, and we were on the ship within 10 minutes. I unfortunately missed the CC gathering. Ship—B+a very nice easy to find your way around layout, which seemed very similar to the Coral and Island on Princess. The carpet colors are a bit odd looking with lots of colored circles, but we liked the eclectic artwork. The ship never seemed crowded anywhere—a big difference from RCI especially. I got decent wireless Internet service on my laptop in my room about 80% of the time. There are plenty of bars and entertainment venues with plenty of seating and never a long wait. There was a nice "secret" balcony all the way aft on Deck 9 out a side door where you could watch the wake. There seemed to be very little vibration while in our stateroom this may have been the first time I've been on a cruise ship and couldn't tell when we were leaving from or arriving in a port. The ship was very clean everywhere (no odd smells either) but does look a little tired. Lots of stained carpeting and rust spots, and some refinishing work is needed (our balcony railing and a lot of others needed a good varnishing, some dings and wear in various places (such as seat panels falling apart in the theater) but all in all not too bad. The four Princess ships we've been on (which are all newer) seem better maintained. We didn't use the pools or hot tubsbut it seemed that they closed down much earlier each night compared to Princess. Stateroom—B+basically, an average, not huge, but decent balcony stateroom. There is enough storage space for any length cruise. On this cruise, Concierge Class was only $30/pp more than a regular balcony room, and we thought it was worth it. All of the perks for Concierge Class (fruit, canapEs, etc. raised the grade from B to B+) were delivered without having to be asked for (the tote bag is quite nice). The shower with the upgraded showerhead is the best we have had on a ship. The curved-ended beds and pillows were quite comfortable—we're not small or short and still had plenty of room. Two big improvements over a regular Princess balcony stateroom—being able to get a full breakfast (see below) in your room every day, and having a decent sized table on the balcony to eat it on. The flat screen TV was nice, but there wasn't much to see on it since the TV satellite was mostly out (see below). X also sometimes repeated the same movies several times a day, instead of mixing them up more with more variety like Princess. ButPrincess doesn't have pay per view options. The Deck 8 forward OV stateroom and inside our kids had were nice—they especially liked the huge window in the OV. One downside from Princess—the Sky Suites seem to be the most comparable product to the Princess mini-suite, but they appear to be considerably more expensive on equivalent sailings and itineraries. Service—A in the staterooms, B+ at Murano, B- in the MDR, B+ and elsewhere. Our steward (Hector) was seen only at the beginning of the cruise, but we had no complaints with his work. He kept the room tidy and spotless and the room was always cleaned by 9:00 AM—something we're not used to. We did have a bathrobe and a X beach towel disappear from our room before we left, and left him a note about it, so hopefully we won't be charged for them. Our MDR waiter (Roy) and his assistant were OK but nothing special. Food seemed to take an inordinately long time to make it to our table as opposed to others, and ice cream arrived half-melted more than once. Anything we didn't like (not much) was promptly replaced. What was missing was the kind of MDR service we've gotten used to on Princess and RCI—like the waiters remembering our drink and coffee preferences and not having to ask again for either one after the first night, and being a little more involved than just mechanically dropping off menus, taking orders, and dishes and retrieving them. Maybe they are just too busy now for a significant personal touch, but we have enjoyed it elsewhere. It's not just the short cruise experience—we have had much better MDR service on the Majesty OTS. We had a nice experience in a couple of the bars. The ice bar in the Martini Bar wasn't working properly, but the drinks were great, as was our waitress, Zora. Both DD and my children didn't think the crew in general was as friendly as the ones on other ships we've been on (not a lot of "hellos" or "Merry Christmases) as you walked by them, but no big deal. Note—the Xpedition had the friendliest crew of all. Food—B to B+ in the MDR, A in Murano, B- to B in the buffet. Although it's obviously a subjective analysis, we thought the MDR food was slightly better than on Princess and a lot better than RCI. Although quite tasty, as noted by others on CC it's not really gourmet dining (a lot of fancy names for dishes but fairly run of the mill starters, entrees like roast turkey, lamb shanks, spaghetti carbonara, etc.), but a good selection, prime rib and steak were prepared as ordered, seafood and pasta dishes were especially delicious and nothing was less than good. Portions have apparently gotten smaller, but who cares if you want more, they'll bring it. Desserts were only fair to good but Princess and RCI are also mediocre there as well. We were hoping that the Century's coffee would be better than the syrup swill served as coffee on Princess, but it wasn't much of an improvement (we never made it to the Cova Cafe). Murano was the best specialty restaurant experience we have had on any ship—it beat out Chops and was better than anything on Princess. Superb food and service, and it was fun to watch certain items be made tableside, like the MDR in the Good Old Days. The foie gras (if you have a nearby cardiologist) and rack of lamb were great, the cheese course was very well presented and quite good, and I had a perfect Grand Marnier soufflE, which Princess doesn't do well. We did not like the buffet layout at all—some long lines developed because of it, and there were shortages of ice and utensils that held up things. The food was OK but nothing special. The sushi and pizza and the outside grilled items weren't bad. We didn't eat there at night. Princess has a goofy buffet arrangement but you get used to it after awhile and we think it has much better food and much more available in the wee hours. A friend of mine who was also on this voyage (who spends so much time in RCI buffets that we call him the "King of the Windjammer") agrees that RCI's buffets have the best food and layout of all' As stated above, we tried room service for breakfast. The first day it arrived 15 minutes after the scheduled time, but with a call in advance that it was coming, and it arrived hot and the order mostly correct (one extra omelet). The second day was a disaster, but not entirely X's fault. Some bozo put down the wrong stateroom number (ours) on their order card. When we were called (at around 7:00 AM, an hour and a half before we wanted breakfast—arrgghh!) to confirm a couple of things, something didn't sound right, as they kept asking about things we hadn't ordered, like cereal. DW tried to tell them over the phone what we really wanted, but they didn't seem too interested. The woman that DW talked to actually delivered the order later, and it turned out to be totally different from our actual order, and only then did anyone notice that the order was for 4 people (not the 2 of us) and under a different name. We just had her leave the food anyway, our real order never arrived, and we didn't care for what was brought after we opened and sampled it, so we made do with some great smoked salmon and hot gooey cinnamon rolls from the buffet, sitting in the back open area with a beautiful view. No problem there. We had breakfast once in the MDR, and it was good and fast. Select Perks—B+. The Captain's Club party had better hors d'oeuvres and watered down drink choices than Princess' or RCI's frequent traveler parties. The Elegant Tea was very nice—quite tasty scones, finger sandwiches and desserts. Princess welcomes the masses for a daily budget version of afternoon tea, X's is for frequent travelers only and is far nicer. A friend of ours was denied entry for wearing a (nice) T-shirt. We're glad we went. The only downside for tea snobs like us was the use of tea bags, but we can certainly live with that. The Select coupons are generally useless—nothing useful to us except the extra Internet time. X is way behind RCI and Princess here. Entertainment—B—Liverpool Nights and the Taste of Broadway show were decent—some talented singers and dancers, although there were some "tastes" in the latter show that seemed a bit odd, like arguably secondary numbers from major shows. We also saw a singer (Karen Saunders) who was OK, and the Michigan Avenue acapella quartet was enjoyable. The house rock band was fair at best and tried some numbers that were abysmal (Folsom Prison Blues?) The Hemisphere nightclub was a good venue but wasn't heavily used, even though this was a fairly young crowd. Princess rules here, at least on the bigger ships. Random Notes—the casino is well laid out and we had fun on video poker and the slots. This was the busiest place on the ship and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The lack of numerous PA announcements and in your face pushing of wine tastings, art auctions, etc. like on Princess and RCI wasn't missed at all. A BIG plus here for X. The biggest problem we had with the ship is that (unlike Princess and RCI) it seemed to be missing a sports bar type venue with large screen TVs, which me and my friends love. This was made worse by the fact that the TV satellite was broken almost the entire trip, so no football on Saturday or Sunday. Mutinies have resulted for lesser offenses. We lived with it, and it certainly didn't ruin our cruise, but watching a football game in a bar on a cruise ship (or in a sports book in a Las Vegas hotel) with a bunch of screaming maniacs is one of my favorite things, and it was sorely missed. Disembarkation—A+— We carried off our own luggage, so we were able to wait in the Cova Cafe at 6:45 AM and get off the ship 15 minutes later and be in our car by 7:20 AM—WOW!—but we only did this so I could get to work on time today. BOO! All in all, a very nice cruise, and we would definitely sail Celebrity and the Century again. This was a worthwhile step up from RCI, other than the fewer frequent cruiser perks. On the other hand, partly due to the fact that Celebrity seems to be more expensive for comparable cabins and itineraries, Princess will probably remain our first choice on the longer cruises. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My DH and I are in the mid 40's-50's and as a Christmas present to each other decided to take this cruise because for the first time in years we didn't have any relatives coming to our house for the holidays. We arrived in ... Read More
My DH and I are in the mid 40's-50's and as a Christmas present to each other decided to take this cruise because for the first time in years we didn't have any relatives coming to our house for the holidays. We arrived in San Diego after a huge freak snowstorm nearly stranded us in the desert! San Diego was sunny but a bit chilly. We used the Park and Go lot which wasn't right at the dock but they had good shuttles and for only 10 bucks a day was well worth it for those who drive to SD. Embarkation was very fast and orderly. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits. We had a nice lunch in the Lido and were in our cabin by 1:30. Well, we had a great view of the LIFEBOAT. When they say fully obstructed view I guess you have to take them seriously. I could see a bit of the promenade deck. Hubby (who is 6'1") said he could see just fine but I think he was just rubbing it in because I am short. During the lifeboat drill, as we were chatting a nice lady said to my husband, "Are you Lapidary Lady?" "Um, no but I think that is my wife's screen name on Cruise Critic," he replied. We had run into RuthandJohn who were absolutely WONDERFUL companions to us throughout the cruise! (Not to mention they are top-drawer trivia players!) It was fun to run into other people from the Rollcall right away, and then again when we had a meet and greet up in the Crow's Nest on the second day. We hadn't been paying attention to our dining and ended up with the As You Wish dining. It was okay. You had the option of dining by yourselves at a table for two, or with others if a large table was being seated. We met some nice people, but didn't develop any good friendships as it was all very transitory. We ended up the second half of the cruise eating with RuthandJohn at the eary sitting. Big thanks to the manager of the Vista Dining room for accommodating us! The ship had beautiful decorations, including a whole gingerbread town that smelled wonderful each time we walked by it. It was constructed in the Explorations Cafe by the pastry chefs...it even had a train! Our cruise director Cory was nice but seemed kind of, well, inexperienced. Maybe he is new, but he seemed a bit stilted and flustered at times. Whomever he had "announcing" Santa's arrival needs to take some serious lessons in how to sound convincing. There were probably at least 100 retired school teachers on board who could have done a more enthusiastic job. The crew and stewards really did their best to be friendly and helpful....A++ for their efforts. We had a nice whale watching cruise with free drinks, chips and salsa for our Cabo San Lucas excursion.(and actually SAW some whales!Not just a tiny spout far off in the distance.) Cabo seems very new and a happy place to visit. The tenders over were a grown-up version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, ( Or would that be Senor Frog's?) They were very rough, and we kept bashing into the platform while waiting to load more passengers. We eventually got away and things improved....it was a picture perfect beautiful day. Saw some interesting sights, like a huge green iguana wearing a Santa hat that was available for pictures, (for a price) and heavily armed policia walking around with automatic rifles, (whom I doubt would be available for posing for pictures, but then again, I didn't ask.) The "Bargains" weren't that much of a bargain. T-shirts were $11.00,(almost Free said the sign,)the vanilla extract I bought was rather pricey and the eelskin leather belt was right up there in price with what I would have paid for the same thing in the mall back home. Mazatlan was hot and humid. They did have a shopping trolly to safely transport shoppers from the dock to the shops. There was huge mariachi statues with a real life sized mariachi band serenading us as we disembarked, but as it got hotter everyone seemed to disappear. My hubby enjoyed the sea kayaking but they were done in a few hours, and spent the rest of the time (another 2 hours)standing around fending off rather aggressive street vendors instead of being allowed to return to the ship. The next day was Puerto Vallarta. Hubby had a blast doing the zipline throughout the jungle. He highly recommends this excursion! I stayed onboard and enjoyed the ambiance of the ship (...and the airconditioning). There was a lady on the dock with a beautiful Macaw to pose for pictures with, and a Walmart and a Sam's Club right across the street for those people who interested in seeing the same stuff offered for sale at home in a foreign land! (Actually, people getting gifts said they had better prices on the same touristy stuff than the street vendors did.) The two sea days home were nicesaw lots of dolphins and whales when we passed by Cabo again. The last night we had some rough seas...had to excuse myself from the Mariner's brunch rather hastily when I unfortunately caught sight of the horizon doing wild things. The lady at the medical dispensary gave me some Bonine tablets that fixed me up but soon we saw wooden trays holding seasick bags conveniently placed near the elevators so I knew I wasn't the only one. I recovered so quickly I was able to enjoy the Chef's Dinner with the Baked Alaska that night. We got really cute little glowsticks to wave around during the show. We were really sad to say goodbye at the end of the cruise especially to our new dear friends. We became such good friends they decided to book the 15 day Hawaiian cruise with us for next year! This was truly a wonderful cruise and a great way to spend Christmas Thank You HAL!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Splendor review, Dec. 20-27, 2008 Our group included my wife and me (40's), a friend (20's), and our two kids, 9 and 12. We have only cruised once before, on the Disney Magic in 2004. Overall, the reaction of all five of ... Read More
Splendor review, Dec. 20-27, 2008 Our group included my wife and me (40's), a friend (20's), and our two kids, 9 and 12. We have only cruised once before, on the Disney Magic in 2004. Overall, the reaction of all five of us was excellent, and we all had a great time. EMBARKATION: this was the weakest point of the trip. Disney handles this so much better. We arrived at 1:00 and were on board in a little over an hour, but the kids did not enjoy the long, hot waits. But we did not let it dampen our enthusiasm. STATEROOMS: we were on Deck 2 in outside view staterooms. We saved some money by changing our booking from a large window to double porthole rooms, located just a few doors away. We decided early on that it wasn't worth it to us to pay for the balcony because you spend little time in your room. The views were not great, but it really felt like you were on a ship, and the portholes achieved the goal of letting us know it was morning and providing a quick check of our location. We were below the theater and did have some noise from the show props moving around before and after the show, but not as much noise as I expected, and not a problem. Also, we had a lot of noise from the side thrusters as we were pulling into port and this disturbed our sleep sometimes. But a little ship noise only added to the experience. STAFF: High marks go to all of the staff for friendliness and service. SHIP: Overall, very clean, with crew members constantly cleaning and polishing. With 3,500 guests on board, that is no small task. I personally did not like the Las Vegas-like dEcor, but it does accomplish the goal of transporting you to another type of place, and by the end of the week I was used to it. As noted in many reviews, the dEcor included a lot of pink and it appeared that they tried to decorate almost every inch of the ship. It was kind of weird actually. We did like the corridors, which had a 1940's art deco look. I have read reviews about elevator problems. We never saw any elevators out of order. Also, the sliding roof over the pool worked fine and was open the entire trip, except when some rain showers occurred in La Romana, when it was quickly closed. SPA: My wife and friend did the spa, but not me. They gave it mixed reviews, with some parts excellent (massages and the special whirlpool) and others not so great. The seaweed wrap was a waste of money and the spa receptionist was not overly friendly. Generally, the staff performing the services were friendly, but they did not go out of their way to ensure a superb experience given the inflated prices. FOOD: Overall, excellent. How they can feed that many people and do it well is amazing. The Pinnacle was very good, but not a whole lot better than the main dining room, and I would skip it next time. The kids loved the 24-hour pizza (very tasty) and ice cream and the room service grilled cheese sandwiches. Not all of the food was spectacular, but I am not picky and overall it was excellent. ENTERTAINMENT: The main shows were first rate. My kids loved being able to sit in the front row of a Broadway-type show. We felt the productions were better even than on the Disney Magic. We also saw a hypnotist and juggling act, which were also very good. The comedian was so-so. The lounge acts (typically duets) were good, a little cheesy, but this is a mainstream cruise ship after all. The piano bar was excellent. The Cool and the Red Carpet dance clubs could have done better with the music selection. Overall, no complaints at all except the lounges and clubs seemed empty at times and some things closed at 10 p.m. The Library was a nice addition to the amenities where you can borrow books and board games, although the hours were so limited that we never took enough advantage of it, and it would help to have board games available 24-hours. Also, we were disappointed at the lack of shuffleboard. KIDS PROGRAMS: My 9-year old was in the 9-11 group in Camp Carnival and loved it. She made new friends and liked being able to pick and choose activities and get to them on her own. She liked that several of the activities were in the disco. My 12-year old was in Circle C and did not like it very much. You had to get there early to get a spot in some of the activities (Wii and PS2). That's a tough age group to satisfy. But he did enjoy a few events with them. Part of the problem may be that we heard that there were over 1,000 kids on board, the most ever so far for the Splendor. SAN JUAN: We started with a horse-drawn carriage ride, which we located on our own along the pier. It was $65 for 30 minutes for 5 people, which was pricey, but there is not much time in this port, so it was a good way to get a quick look around. Then we walked all over, and enjoyed the locals selling crafts in booths. Also, look for the free rum in the port... Overall, we thought Old San Juan was a neat cultural experience and I wished that we had more time there, but it was getting late and the kids were tired of walking, so the short visit was ok if you have small kids. Felt very safe there. ST. THOMAS: We booked Coral World and Magen's Bay Beach through the ship. Enjoyed both, although again, felt like we did not have enough time. Such is life on a cruise ship, however. Coral World is no Sea World, but is just a local attraction and not fancy. But the kids loved it, including the iguanas walking around and the lorikeet bird enclosure, where they land on your arm and drink from a cup of nectar you hold. We noticed that Coki Beach next door was very packed. But there were 5 ships and about 12,000 passengers that day, so it was all crowded, including Magen's Bay. LA ROMANA, DR: Great stop. We booked Altos de Chavon in the morning through the ship, and the Countryside tour in the afternoon through the ship. Altos de Chavon was really quaint with spectacular views. The tour guide didn't leave enough time for shopping. The shopping there was unique with some very nice hand-made local items. The countryside tour was especially notable and fun. We really liked giving our kids a brief view of life in a foreign country, which you really don't get in ports like St. Thomas and Nassau. The drive through the sugar cane fields was really great, and the kids loved eating raw sugar cane right from the field. You go in an open air jeep and the ride is wild and exciting. We even got stuck in the mud once (fortunately, there was rum on board). La Romana was probably the highlight port of our trip, and about as good as you can get on a cruise vacation in terms of getting a quick taste of local life. We felt very safe there, although we did have a local guide to watch out for us. He was great, and spoke French, English, Spanish and Russian. NASSAU: We booked the Atlantis Aquaventure through the ship. Although very expensive, it gave us a glimpse of Atlantis and allowed us to swim there. We spent most of the time on the huge lazy river, and then did a quick walk through the Dig and the grounds. The lazy river was fantastic, with warm water and lots of crazy waves. The smiles all around made me think that the money was worth it. The time there was definitely too short. FT. LAUDERDALE: Our flight did not leave until mid-afternoon, so we booked the Everglades tour through the ship, which gives you not only the Everglades, but also a bus ride to the airport and the handling of your luggage. We rode on airboats and saw several alligators, birds, and a cute raccoon, so it was worthwhile and a good ending to the trip, especially if you have time to kill before your flight out. It also made the debarkation very easy. Overall, it was a wonderful week. Yes, it was expensive, but we saved money on a porthole room, kept the alcohol consumption reasonable (that can really add up) and avoided the casino. I might like to try a smaller ship and different cruise line next time, but we have no regrets at all with the Carnival Splendor. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation : very easy we arrived at 10:30am , parked in the lot, carried luggage to a porter and went inside and were one of the first to check in. We were on the ship at 11:30am walked around as rooms were not ready went to the ... Read More
Embarkation : very easy we arrived at 10:30am , parked in the lot, carried luggage to a porter and went inside and were one of the first to check in. We were on the ship at 11:30am walked around as rooms were not ready went to the Versailles and had a nice lunch. Luggage arrived at 3PM right after lifeboat drill. Cabin; We were in balcony 10730on the aft end the balcony was as advertised on cruise critic it is 90 sq. ft. big for a common balcony so this was nice since we usually book a suite. Stewards were absolutely great of course we have found this to be the norm for NCL. First day at sea: attended cruise critic meeting it was well represented by all key officers expect the Captain it was really a nice gathering -where we meet some really nice fellow cruisers also knowing the officers made it nice for the rest of week greeting them in the hallways or at dinner. Food: tried the Aqua, Versailles, Cagney's, Ginza, buffet, Blue Lagoon. The new balcony cabin breakfast at the Aqua restaurant is one the best improvements NCL has made in it offers a buffet with fruit, pastries, cereal, juice, milk, toast etc. and you can order from the breakfast menu. We also had one dinner at this restaurant it was excellent with great service. The speciality restaurants were excellent I especially like the Ginza and Sushi. Service was excellent on one day at the Ginza and on the last day at sea the service was very slow. The buffet is where the NCl Star needs to improve I thought it was the worst in the NCL fleet ( we have said on the Sun ,Spirit, and Pearl)I rate this buffet as bad there was no omelette station in the mornings and the food was not appealing the fruit and salads were good. The other thing I noticed that on other NCL ships we sailed on the ice cream bar was open until 10PMthe Star closed at 5PM. The Blue Lagoon was fantastic just like the Spirit great wings, fish and chips, and cheese cake- the wong tong soup and tomato soup are both very good. We never used room service. Service: overall service was excellent on a ship fully packed for xmas with over 800 kids onboard. Entertainment: No real comedian act on board. Jean Ryan shows were good.Live music ok need a better dance type band I thought this was a week point. No craft demonstrations or passenger talent contest (one of the crew told me these activities are being done away with), trivia was good.One problem was the ship scheduling entertainment in the Red Lion Pub at the same time as football bowl games it created a few bad situations. I spoke to the cruise director about this. Also I thought there should have more caroling on board by the entertainers/crew on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.christmas decorations thru out the ship were beautiful especially the ginger bread house and town in the main atrium. Ports: Ports were fantastic. We enjoyed each port Solomon's Landing great lunch place in Cabo in Mazatlan was . NCL tour to El Quielte in Mazatlan was fantastic with mexican folkloric dancers, mayan fire dances, horse dancing etc., and a great lunch- In Vallarta we hired a private car and shopped and saw the city and went to Cocos Paradise for lunch thisabout 40 mins. out PV great waterfall zip lining and swimming you spend the whole day there easily. That night we took the Pirates ship excursion a really nice big part open bare entertainment etc. Our 24/25 year old boys went and really enjoyed it. Disembarkation was a breeze we off the ship by 8:30am we pulled into our driveway in San Diego at 10:30am Overall I thought the Star was really lacking in the overall entertainment/crafts package that we have experience on other NCL cruises. The buffet really needs to looked at with improvement in mind. The fact that the Star does not have an aft outside area for passengers off the buffet is really bad we look forward to that feature on other NCL ships. Would we cruise on the Star again yes would it be our first choice in NCL-no because of the ship layout(no aft outdoors area and very small pool area) and buffet design. Big Gren Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Arrived in Miami, sailed (if you'll pardon the pun!) through check-in and was on the ship in a matter of minutes. We were starved so we headed to the buffet while waiting on our room to become available. We were a little ... Read More
Arrived in Miami, sailed (if you'll pardon the pun!) through check-in and was on the ship in a matter of minutes. We were starved so we headed to the buffet while waiting on our room to become available. We were a little disappointed in the quality of the food and the atmosphere of the Garden Cafe, but we're happy to be there. We found our room to be quite pleasant even though small. We had a balcony so the room did not seem as cramped as it would have otherwise. Our adult daughter was with us and when the soft bed was out, we had wall-to-wall beds. But a small room is to be expected on a ship unless you're fortunate enough to have the garden villa suite. The carpet was a little dirty and in need of replacing but, otherwise, everything was good. We then explored the ship, and as on other ships, you "can't get there from here." You have to learn which elevator to take to get to your destination. We dined at the Teppanyaki restaurant the first night. It was just mediocre for my husband and me but our daughter enjoyed her meal. We also ate at Le Bistro, the French restaurant, and Salsa, the Tex-Mex restaurant. We considered those quite average also. The Buffet seemed to go downhill as the cruise went on. I must say that the Cheese Tortolini at the Venetian was quite good as were the breakfasts we had there. Service was great at all venues. Our room stewards were great, very accommodating. (Hello Jose and Romel) We always enjoyed the towel animals. One thing that I was disappointed in was that if you went on an excursion, there was no time left for shopping. As we had never been to these destinations, we chose the tours over shopping but would have liked to do both. The excursion into the countryside in Samana was a really rough ride but we enjoyed seeing the flora and fauna and learning about the people. I must say that it was a little disconcerting to see that the "shotgun man" in the tour truck was literally "carrying a shotgun." The tours on both St. Thomas and Tortola were good with all the beautiful scenery. Our daughter chose to go to Magen's Bay to the beach which she said was quite nice. On arriving at Great Stirrup Cay, the cruise line's private island, my husband and I chose to stay on board as all the activities involved the water. My daughter said that the water was cold and that we didn't miss anything by staying onboard. Our favorite part of the cruise was the shows. The Jean Ann Ryan Company was spectacular, very professional. What's up with all the photography? How many pictures does a person want taken on a cruise? Just say No! Disembarkation was easy. We chose to carry our own luggage so we ate breakfast and leisurely took our time as we had a late flight our of Miami. We were off the ship in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, customs took our jam we had bought in Samana. This was our second sailing with Norwegian. The first was on a new ship in Hawaii. Would we sail with Norwegian again? Maybe. We decided that if and when we went on another cruise that we would go back to Royal Caribbean, so we'll see. I don't really have a lot of negative things to say about Norwegian. We had a pretty positive experience both times. Our disappointment in the food was the biggest negative factor of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
First of all, I'm not normally compelled to write an online review. Second of all, this will most likely be part of a letter being sent to RCI (as our room steward chose not to give us the ship's questionnaire our last night ... Read More
First of all, I'm not normally compelled to write an online review. Second of all, this will most likely be part of a letter being sent to RCI (as our room steward chose not to give us the ship's questionnaire our last night onboard)... Check-in and embarkation went great. I was traveling with my 83 year old mother who is on a portable oxygen concentrator and in a wheelchair, along with my 82 year old aunt (her sister), a second cousin and a brother onboard the Voyager of the Seas. The RCI staff in Galveston could not have been any more pleasant and helpful. We used EZ Cruise parking, but that's for another review. We arrived about 10am, hoping to board early as we did on Carnival last Christmas. First little snag we ran into was the checkin clerk sent us to the side to have a seat until they were ready to board the ship. (Keep in mind, my mother is on oxygen - highest setting which is 6/lpm and a battery life that is limited on her machine). I kept watching people go up the stairs and elevator, and nobody else seemed to be congregating where we'd been sent. When asked again, a staff member told us they were not boarding yet. But we continued to watch dozens of people walking through the hallway and disappearing into the walkway toward the ship. I decided to go into the hallway myself where I asked someone if the ship was ready to board - he said yes, they've been boarding for a while now. Ugh. Once onboard, we were told to wait in another area as the staterooms were not ready. I was quite anxious to see if Mom's oxygen cylinders and concentrator had been loaded, so asked a crew member if I could peek in her room. He was very sweet and walked with me to check. As planned, CareVacation had placed everything in the room. Whew. We went to the 11th floor buffet (Windjammer) and were very impressed with what we saw. It was beautiful. Snacked a little there, and began plans for dinner. We had heard a lot about the delicious burgers and marvelous fries and onion rings at Johnny Rockets. For $3.95, you get the WORST hamburger and onion rings imaginable. Was not fit to eat. Strike one. Later that evening, my cousin and I went to one of the bar areas on the promenade and waited for an eternity for someone to ask for our drink order. After finally getting up and finding someone ourselves, we enjoyed watching people wander around the beautiful 5th floor shopping area. Was really impressed with the beauty of the ship. The rest of the cruise, we experienced an inattentive staff at nearly every turn. At breakfast in Windjammer Cafe, not ONCE did any staff member take the initiative to approach us to ask for our drink requests. It is not an exaggeration to say we had to seek out someone every time we went in there. Most frustrating. The dining staff in La Boheme was superb. Our waitress and asst waiter were outstanding. Used our first names frequently, which was a nice touch. However, the food was an embarrassment. Sure did miss the food we enjoyed last year on Carnival Conquest, especially the molten chocolate cake. Yummy. Nothing like that on Voyager. The food was bland and often cold. Steaks were tough and chewy. But the service was superb in the dining room. Room service food was marginally better than the regular food outlets. THe only edible hamburger on the ship was through room service, but it arrived quite cold after a 50 minute wait. THey forgot the chips for our sandwiches (big deal, I know), so we enjoyed those as dessert after another 20 minute wait. Finally we met our room steward on the third day. Third day? Yes, third day. The room was musty smelling and the hallway reeked of cigar smoke most of the time even though we were in a hallway where all the rooms had non-smoking symbols on the doors. Glad we had a balcony so we could get fresh air. Our room steward did an ok job on cleaning, but lacked personality - didn't even leave us a towel animal until the fifth day. Not that a towel animal is a make or break deal. But it is a nice little touch. Spa staff was the best I've experienced on a cruise ship. We went horseback riding in Grand Cayman, and afterward I had spasms in my upper back from an old auto accident injury. One of the massage therapists (Tessa) got me right in and did the most amazing deep tissue work I've ever had. The next morning, I awoke a new person. Thanks, Tessa! We were also snubbed by a preoccupied crew member at the Cafe Promenade, where the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream beckoned to us on a daily basis. The boy was too busy flirting with the cute little teenagers and couldn't be bothered to wait on us post-20 year olds. His shift mate was a young woman with far more patience than I have. She was doing all the work, bless her heart. Getting off the ship was another chore. They made us wait in a crowded bar area where folks decided it was a good time to light up the cigarettes. Keep in mind, mother on oxygen and in a wheelchair... hmmm. Not a good combination. Looking around the area, which was the holding area for ALL the wheelchairs and people needing assistance, there were other people in respiratory distress. I asked a crew member if they were allowing smoking, and we were told we could move to another area. We gathered all our bags and moved into a dining room. If not for the help of a sweet little crew member who saw my distress, we might still be trying to get out of there. It was by no means a disastrous cruise, and we did enjoy the ship very much. But overall in my list of preferred cruise lines, RCI is at the bottom of the list behind Carnival, Princess and Norwegian. Once you could corner a crew member, they were nice enough. It was cornering them which proved to be exhausting. We'll choose Carnival next time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We booked this special Christmas cruise for our family of 5, and the fact that we were all together at Christmas was the only saving grace for this appalling debacle which was the MSC Fantasia maiden cruise. We arrived in Genoa to total ... Read More
We booked this special Christmas cruise for our family of 5, and the fact that we were all together at Christmas was the only saving grace for this appalling debacle which was the MSC Fantasia maiden cruise. We arrived in Genoa to total chaos. Embarkation was dangerous due to the fact that nearly 4,000 people arrived in a very short space of time to check in. Some children were trampled and two people fainted. There was no organization by the port staff (which was MSC's final excuse, even though it was the Fantasia staff on the ground checking people in!) It took over 2 hours for us to get on board (some people were waiting for almost 5 hours). There was no proper explanation and certainly no apologies. When we got to the front of the queue, we were quite understandably unhappy about the situation, but the staff member said he didn't speak English (we later found out that he did, quite well!). We had booked our cruise direct with MSC in the UK and had booked first sitting, but were given the second sitting. We were directed to the maitre'd on the ship, but found a whole line of others trying to change their dining arrangements. The maitre'd refused to do anything for anyone. I guess we were lucky really, at least our party was all seated together; some parties were put on different tables, different dining rooms at different sittings! I guess we were also quite lucky with our cabins. We had booked two particular cabins adjacent to each other and actually got what we had booked. Some parties were split up onto different decks at different parts of the ship. Apparently MSC's response to this was "we put people where we want them and not necessarily where they want to be" - how nice and very customer friendly! The ship is undoubtedly beautiful and was spotlessly clean and tidy all the time - there were staff constantly cleaning and polishing, and our cabin stewards were helpful, cheerful and friendly, as were most of the bar staff. Unfortunately, the people who really needed to be all of the above were not. The reception and information staff were at best surly and at worst downright rude. According to MSC all staff speak 5 languages - what they omitted to say was that no one spoke any one language well enough to hold a conversation with foreign guests, certainly not the English ones! -We were constantly reminded to wash our hands to help avoid spreading germs and told that we must use the disinfectant handwash stations throughout the ship - there were NONE anywhere! -We found that everything on the ship was to pay for, even water on the dining table. We did manage to get a jug of tap water after some time trying. There was not even water in the gym, just a juice bar selling drinks! -The cafeteria was always extremely busy and chaotic and was only open certain hours (not most of the day like other cruise lines). On port days, MSC seemed to like having visitors aboard and offered them lunch in the cafeteria which only added to the problem of overcrowding as well as their being no proper security (as far as we could see the visitors did not have to go through security before boarding,even though we did). -The restaurant food was quite good with 7 courses offered every night. MSC advertise several other restaurants on board in you fancy a change to the main restaurants but all are to pay for. -The evening entertainment in the theatre was adequate but the performers still appeared to be learning their routines - surely something which should have been done prior to the maiden cruise! -DO NOT SAIL WITH MSC unless you like an inefficient, unorganized cruise line, indifferent staff and have nothing better to spend your money on. If having read all of the above you decide to still book with MSC, stay away from having a cabin at the back of the ship - the vibration was bad all the time and absolutely horrendous when the ship was maneuvering into port. Someone on board who knew about these things said there was definitely a misalignment with one of the pods. If you have already booked with MSC despite all the poor reviews (as we did, thinking that the launch of their new flagship would surely change the way they operate - unfortunately they did not!) GOOD LUCK and I hope it improves for your cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Parking was great just across the street from the ship. We took some of our smaller luggage (roll-ons) and went in to check in. This went very smoothly and soon we were boarding the ship at around 12:30. Once aboard we were told we ... Read More
Parking was great just across the street from the ship. We took some of our smaller luggage (roll-ons) and went in to check in. This went very smoothly and soon we were boarding the ship at around 12:30. Once aboard we were told we couldn't take our luggage to our room (that was ok) but we would have to check it. Well, they had only two luggage tags left (they were already out of them at a really early time) so we made up our own. The really good thing is our luggage (all of it) was among the first to arrive at our room (Good for them!) After a nice buffet lunch, we proceeded to our rooms around 1:30, took our luggage in and proceeded to tour the ship. The ship is just beautiful and very tastefully decorated, especially the atrium which had fantastic holiday decor (a Christmas tree, a large gingerbread house poinsettias, etc. All could be viewed from many floors above this open area. Dinner in the dining room the first night and the next three were just great. Our waiter Kwasi couldn't have been more friendly and helpful, especially since we had a 5 year old with us. Our family table consisted of folks with different food requirements (2 vegetarians, and another with a health issue) but all were able to find something they could enjoy. The selection on the menu was quite good and the food overall was great! Now the not so good - We all lined up the second day at the appointed time to get off the ship in Key West. The line which snaked up several floors did not move at all for some time. (Ok, maybe the ship hadn't cleared customs) No announcement was made for the delay, and over a half hour later, the line started to move but VERY SLOWLY!! Several people we talked to missed their Cruise tours which had left without them. Hopefully they got reimbursed but, in any event, they still missed what they had wanted and signed up to do. Getting back on the ship was not much better. Another 20 minutes or so to get back on (which was tough since our 5 year old needed to go "potty".) We have never in our previous 12 cruises experienced these kind of delays. (RCL - something you should definitely try to improve) The rooms (we had a Junior Suite for 4) was large enough and had loads of storage space, some of which we never used. The bathtub was a nice addition for our grandson who did use it twice. We ate breakfast and lunches in the buffet which were very family friendly. Food selection was quite good even though it was sometimes hard to find a table for 6. One other thing we must mention - the smoking allowed in lounges and in the casino. As non-smokers we could not enjoy MOST of the lounges at night because of the smokers. We understand that RCL is catering to a younger crowd than we usually travel with, but why encourage them by allowing them to smoke in so many places,turning off those of us who don't smoke and want to enjoy the lounges and casinos? For that reason, we probably would not travel again on RCL ships; Celebrity and Azamara, both owned by RCL, have designated areas for smokers which do NOT include the lounges or casinos. We truly hope RCL will change and correct some of these problems. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our first time cruising with MSC. We've previously cruised with Princess and Royal Caribbean, and had such a great time that when we found this Caribbean cruise with MSC for such a great price, we couldn't pass it up. We ... Read More
This was our first time cruising with MSC. We've previously cruised with Princess and Royal Caribbean, and had such a great time that when we found this Caribbean cruise with MSC for such a great price, we couldn't pass it up. We had decided earlier in the year that instead of gifts for Christmas, we would take our teenager daughter and son on an unforgettable Christmas cruise instead. We all had a great time. It was well worth it. We arrived at our Ft. Lauderdale Marriott hotel the evening before departure, so we had a leisure morning, and taking a walk we discovered that we were close enough to the MSC Lirica dock that we could actually walk over to the check in station...let me state right up front that my family is the adventurous, do-it-yourself type, and we didn't consider it a big deal for us to walk a few blocks to the ship with our luggage. We had packed light and our luggage was on wheels. Others might want to get the cab or whatever, but this worked fine for us. The check in process was a breeze, which I was happy about since I had missed the Express Online check in deadline, but it turned out that it didn't matter. The regular check in line was just as fast. They took our credit card info and made each of us a cruise card and we were headed to the ship, where we were escorted by a crew member right to our cabin. That was a nice touch. We had an inner cabin, which we chose because we figured that we would be spending a lot of time outside and not inside. Even though there were 4 of us, we found the cabin to be spacious enough for us with plenty of storage cabinets. The kids got the bunks, and we never had to mess with them...the cabin steward was very attentive to turning the beds up (back into the wall) for us when we left in the morning, and had them turned down for the kids when we came back at night. The cabin steward was excellent at keeping our room neat and organized for us. The bathroom was pleasantly big enough for us as well. The shower stall was pretty small, but there was always soap, shampoo, body wash, and fresh towels. We never once had to ask the steward for towels. No matter what time of the day it was or how many showers we took, the towels were always picked up and replaced. There was also a hairdryer built into the wall, which I wish I had known about as it would have saved me space in my luggage. I didn't need to bring mine. We found right away as we started checking out the ship that we could have saved our hotel lunch expense and eaten right on the ship, as there was a welcome buffet from 12:30 to 4:30 PM that we weren't aware of. We had been given confusing information prior to our cruise about mealtimes, what to wear, and we figured we would just find out when we got there. We found out that we had been given 2nd dinner seating, even though we had requested first. We went to talk to the Maitre'D about it right away when we got on board, but they just told us they would put us on a waiting list for 1st seating and let us know. They never did fix it for us. We didn't like eating late too much, but we had such an awesome waiter (Bambang from Indonesia) that it made it all worth it. He was the BEST! He had such a great attitude, smiling and laughing, joking with us and the kids all the time, that we looked forward to going to dinner and seeing Bambang. He really treated us and everyone at his tables well. He was a joy. CLOTHING: We had been told that no jeans, shorts, flip flops, or T-shirts were allowed after 6 PM on deck or in the restaurant. Being American, that's mostly what my kids wear, so we went out and bought slacks for my son, and my husband packed an extra jacket and tie for dinner. It was all not necessary. We saw people in jeans and T-shirts in the restaurant every night, and even on Gala night, when you are supposed to dress up in formal attire, there were people in casual clothing. They definitely don't enforce their rules, and as a result, we had clothes that we brought and never wore. We enjoyed getting dressed up for formal night, even though when packing for the trip we thought it was a big bother. It was fun after all. FOOD: Their food quality was all over the map! We had some really outstanding menus and awesome dishes that left us waddling out of the restaurant feeling like we had eaten a whale, but we also had some foods that were underwhelming. I used the salt and pepper shakers with a heavy hand, which was fine. The absolute worst was the scrambled eggs in the restaurant on the morning of disembarkation. Really, how do you mess up scrambled eggs? (Could NOT eat them. It was like they had stretched them out with flour or something and they were like paste, and tasted like cardboard. Awful.) Having said that, the menus for the 5 course dinner were different every night and there were excellent choices in these categories: Appetizer, soup, salad, pasta, and main entrEe. After that, of course, dessert. The portions were perfect...the appetizer, soup and salad were small enough that you didn't get too full for the main course, but by the time you ate the pasta, it was pushing it. Then the main course put you over the edge. There was always fresh fruit. My favorite new food was the chilled soups that they offered every night....Mmmm, they were truly excellent! We ate in the restaurant every night of our cruise, and of course, missed the midnight buffet because we were already too stuffed. The only complaint I had about dinner was that the assistant waiter rarely kept our water glasses filled and we were always thirsty. Eventually I asked him to fill my wine glass with water as well so I would have two glasses available. We had intended on buying some type of coupon book for the Cokes, since we knew ahead of time that soda needed to be paid for, but since nobody ever told us how to buy them, we decided to just skip it and make it a soda-free cruise for the kids and they were okay with that. We just drank water at dinner, and the coffee, juice or milk provided at the other places. We never missed the soda after all. I think we bought one Coke the whole cruise. For breakfast, we usually chose the buffet on Deck 11, since the breakfast times in the restaurant didn't always work for us. The buffet food could be generally described as adequate.... Nothing special, but there were always plenty of choices, from eggs and bacon to oatmeal, muesli, fruits, bagels and more. We decided to try the restaurant one morning for breakfast to see if there was anything different offered there, and they had eggs benedict, but pretty much everything else was the same. We often missed lunch because we were out on excursions, and found that when we returned to the boat, we had very limited selections for food by about 4 PM. Lunch had a very short window in the restaurant, from about noon to 2:30 PM. By the time we got back from a day in port and no lunch (we did snorkeling trips) we were famished, but our selection was limited to pizza, or burgers and hot dogs every single day. No variation there. We usually had a little something from there to tide us over until our 8 PM dinner. There was always coffee available, so I drank lots of coffee. We took advantage of a few of the shows in the Broadway theatre for entertainment, and they were pretty good for classical music. We actually wish we would have gone to more shows, but we ended up spending time with the kids watching movies, playing cards, working out in the gym, or just strolling on the decks. There was always music in the lounges, and various games and entertainment in the morning and afternoon. The ship was kept immaculate by the staff. We bought all of our excursions on board the first day, having done our research ahead of time at home and knew what we wanted to do. Though everyone spoke with a foreign accent on the ship, they were generally very helpful. We had a great time in Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Cayo Levantado with our chosen excursions. We did the snorkeling, Sting Ray city (which was the kids favorite) and the El Limon Waterfall/horseback riding tour. We were sorry that we missed our chance to go to the private island with its white beaches, but we hadn't realized that it was an "either/or" choice. By choosing the waterfall, we chose not to go to the island. We went to Samana, Dominican Republic by boat, and from there took a bus ride into the interior of the jungle, where we got on the horses and were taken to the waterfall by Spanish speaking guides. It was raining and muddy and we got pretty dirty, but it was a great time. The horses looked like they could have used an extra bale of hay, and we were NOT told ahead of time that our Dominican guides who led us along that steep, rocky path do NOT GET PAID, but only survive on the tips we give them. I wouldn't have known, except for the fact that people started gossiping in our group about it. I confirmed with the tour guide, and it was true. I didn't have small bills, so I had to trust that the larger bill I handed out was going to be divided fairly amongst the youngsters that took care of us. So, here's a tip: Have some small bills handy for tipping at all times! Our excursion got back too late to make a separate trip to Cayo Levantado, so we could only view the white beaches from the deck of the ship, and we were sorry. It looked gorgeous. Disembarkation was the only thing that I felt was not handled well. We were kept waiting for what seemed like an interminably long time in the L'Atmosphere lounge, until our color group was called. Here's another tip: The ship can set you up with a taxi to the airport, but they charge $22 per person. We knew from our taxi ride when we first arrived in Ft. Lauderdale that the trip only costs about $13. We walked back to our hotel and called a cab from there, saving us about $75! Not only that, but when we were walking to the hotel, Bambang came walking up behind us and carried my luggage for me! What a guy! All in all, our family had a great time, the ship was comfortable, the crew was kind and fun, the price was too good to pass up, the food was plentiful enough, and we have great memories that will last a lifetime thanks to MSC. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Overall, an enjoyable cruise. We (my spouse, 15 year old daughter) and I drove to Galveston and parked our car. Galveston still looks damaged from Hurricane Ike and as one of the first post-Ike cruises, it was clear that the City ... Read More
Overall, an enjoyable cruise. We (my spouse, 15 year old daughter) and I drove to Galveston and parked our car. Galveston still looks damaged from Hurricane Ike and as one of the first post-Ike cruises, it was clear that the City both had a lot of clean up to do and had to work on their parking / traffic control procedures. We (wisely as it turned out) avoided the city / cruise suggested parking and went with a lot just across the street from the Terminal (EZ Cruise Parking - $50 for the 7 days). Fortunately, we have an elevated status with RCCL...it took some folks 4 hours to park their car and get onboard...ship departed 90 minutes late and never made up the time until the last day and returned on time. D1 level cabin was a bit disappointing...turns out that ours was a bit smaller than normal. Cabin service was okay...again had the wrong age for our daughter so she got the wrong Kids' Programme until we straightened that out...and had to ask for the towel animals which we've always enjoyed. We found lots of evidence of previous occupants...nothing gross, but clearly there wasn't much of an effort to get the cabin in tip-top shape. First sea day was stormy - good selection of activities though sparsely attended. My spouse and I were 2 of the 4 who showed up for the Meet & Mingle event. Voyager crew tried to make the best of it...but this ended up being the most effort they made. We ate at Portofino's - the "Wine Pairing" dinner very excellent including awesome service. Unfortunately the Murder Mystery dinner was oversold and sold out else we would have ate there twice. We had fair service for our dinners...waiter and assistant barely spoke English and attempts at several other (European) languages failed. Took them 5 nights to get our standing drink orders right not just us, the others at the table had the same issue. But their attitudes were good and they tried. Food wasn't up to the normal excellence either...we ended up eating in the Windjammer for Breakfast and Lunch - better selection, fresher, tastier. Spouse and kid ate at JR Rockers they liked it too. The Cafe on level 5 was good for a quick snack. Bar service throughout the ship was first rate. Entertainment guest celebrities and regular crew was very good. While not what we would pay / go to see in our town, we really enjoyed all. Other than the first day, the other two sea days activities weren't as robust as we expected. There was no organized bridge past the first day (nor an instructor), no golf pro (despite a golf simulator), no midnight gala buffet. Overall, the "at sea" activities were disappointing... Our daughter had a great time with the 15-17 year old organized activities. Again, very high marks for that aspect of our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
• Pre-cruise - we stayed at Le Dauphine in the French Quarter. What a great find! It is a quirky layout over three buildings, with two little hidden pools and several beautiful courtyards. Despite being one block off Bourbon Street, the ... Read More
• Pre-cruise - we stayed at Le Dauphine in the French Quarter. What a great find! It is a quirky layout over three buildings, with two little hidden pools and several beautiful courtyards. Despite being one block off Bourbon Street, the hotel was quiet. The hotel staff were all friendly and helpful. It was only $99 a night with our CAA/AAA card for our sons' room, and $116 for our boutique style room in the building across the street. • Embarkation- we left our luggage at the hotel after checkout and had one more lunch in the French Quarter. We then had the bellman call a cab to take us to the ship. We got there around 2, and basically walked right on, with about a 5 minute line to check in via the Latitudes section. We picked up the soda cards in the port building, and went to our cabins, which were ready. We went to the main desk to sign the consent to allow our 20 year old to drink wine and beer, plus to re-align the boys into the same room. We also booked our specialty restaurants for the first two nights. • First impressions - the recent drydock was very evident. The carpet was new, everything was clean and sparkling, and we saw very few areas that showed wear. • Our cabins were 11538 and 11536. They were adjoining, but we never had the door between the two unlocked. We were on the 11th deck, upgraded from 8 on the NCL summer sale. They had full showers with doors rather than curtains, lots of storage, and new beds with real mattresses and boutique hotel bedding. The only thing that didn't look new was the sofa and chair upholstery. Everything was spotlessly clean and our stewards, Juan and Julia, did a good job of keeping it that way and keeping amenities stocked. We had a greater variety of towel animals on this ship than on other cruises. Our only complaint was that we were right under the workout facility. We didn't think this would bother us, but it did. You know those signs at fitness centers that ask people not to crash the weights? Imagine being one floor down from weights being dropped on the floor. We weren't in the cabin a lot, but there were a few times that we were bothered by people working out at 2 am or 5 am. I am surprised that they don't restrict the fitness center hours when there are cabins directly below. • The Ship - as mentioned, everything was bright and shiny after the Spirit's recent drydock. It is a great smaller ship - easy to get around, but with everything needed for a comfortable vacation at sea. The only awkward spot we found was around the main reception desk, where traffic from reception, restaurant reservations, and the excursions desk often caused crowds. The library/internet space was very nice and I noticed that many people have started to use the library as an informal book exchange. There were many paperbacks on the shelves that hadn't been stamped as being owned by the ship, and I think people just dropped off books of their own when finished and chose new ones. With all the packing restrictions, this is an idea that works really well. We also used the ship's laundry service for the half-price pressing on the first sea day and they did a great job. I also had occasion to visit the medical center and although this is a place most people don't want to visit on vacation, I can tell you that it was professionally managed, very much like a walk-in clinic in Canada. The nurses were compassionate and very helpful. • Restaurants - we ate in all of the specialty restaurants except Teppanyaki, and loved all of them. We had no problems getting reservations. The only problem we had was on Christmas Eve, when we wanted something more traditional and decided to eat at Windows. We waited in line, but when we got to the front, they told us they were closing early to get ready for the chocolate buffet. There were three people working at the door, and nobody bothered to come back in line to tell us the restaurant was closing early and we would likely not be seated. Miffed, we ate at Trattoria that night and had a great dinner, but while at the desk the next day on another issue, my husband mentioned that the Freestyle Daily and the restaurant availability TVs didn't note the early closing, and without any complaint, our Trattoria charges were dropped from the bill. Best dessert by far is in Shogun - a wonderful pancake/caramel sauce/banana concoction. We had fabulous service in all of the specialty restaurants and a good meal with great service in Windows on our last night. • Entertainment - I hate to pan young entertainers who are working hard, but we thought the ship's production company was at a high school level at most. It was very disappointing. Second City was great, and we saw both their shows. The duo at Champagne Charlie's (sorry, can't remember their name) was really good and you could see people gravitating to Champagne Charlie's whenever they were performing. • Ports of Call - this was the big positive surprise. I always research and book excursions well in advance. On this itinerary, nothing really stood out and we thought we'd play it by ear. The ports of call were far beyond our expectations: o Costa Maya - the area around the port has been set up to be similar to the beach/pool area at an all-inclusive, with lots of lounge chairs, several restaurants and many shops. The beach isn't great, but the pool was fun and we had no problem grabbing a chair. This is a great alternative to paying for a beach excursion. Oh, and the bathrooms were fabulous, much better than anything similar in parks in Canada. o Guatemala - Santa Tomas de Castillo - at the last minute we booked a ship's excursion and took the boat tour of the bay around the ship and the port area. The tour guide was great. I really like it when you get a guide who is proud of his or her country and eager to share. The water in the bay was a clear deep green and we saw a lot of wildlife. The only negative was that after the guide told us about the Christmas celebrations (celebrated on Dec 24th in Latin America) and suggested we go into town, several families from his tour decided to grab a cab and check out the city. We got a van to share with another family. The driver wanted $30 EACH for a 10km trip - $210 total. We negotiated it down to $20 each, but finally just walked away. We met several families who were also disgusted by the greedy cab drivers right in the port area. My husband and sons then walked out of the port area and found a driver who drove them into town and stayed with them for three hours. Including lunch (they bought for him) they spent $75. They ate at Safari, the restaurant suggested by our tour guide, and said the food was very good. They saw very few people from the ship in town. What a shame. More realistic cab drivers or even a shuttle service would encourage more tourists to go into town and spend money. o Belize City - Once again, last minute we went to the excursion desk and booked the Belize City tour and airboat ride at the nature preserve. This was done by a company called Bak-a-Bush tours and was hands down, the BEST excursion on any cruise we've taken. We can't say enough about how well run this excursion was. The city part of the tour is basically done on the way to the airboat ride. The guide gave us lots of information on Belize and my husband said he's surprised she isn't working on radio or TV. She had perfect enunciation. The airboat ride literally blew us out of the water. One of my sons has taken eco tourism courses at university and he said the company would rank near the top in measures taken to protect the environment on their tour. We went right into the swamp and I added about 15 birds that I'd never seen before to my birdwatching list. The people on our tour ranged from kids aged 7-8 to seniors and everyone was ecstatic over how much fun we had. The "first mates" who maintained safety standards, pointed out birds, and gave us information on the lagoon were so cute and so much fun. o Cozumel - We've been to Cozumel several times and wanted to just walk around on our own. We had lunch at a spot called "Mr Chiles" and the food was good and a lot cheaper than the chain restaurants closer to the pier. After my husband and I went back to the ship, my sons walked away from the touristy part of the city and sat down at a bar. To their surprise, the owner's wife had just brought him lunch and offered them some of her home cooking. Despite two years of high school Spanish, they can't speak Spanish, and the owner's wife spoke little English, but they all sat in the shade and had lunch together. At the end, they offered to pay, but she made it clear that they were her guests and sent them on their way. • Disembarkation - we packed light so we knew we'd be fine carrying our own bags off the ship. We closed our cabin doors at 8:25 and at 9:00 we were at the New Orleans airport. That's right. We walked out the door, off the ship, through customs, shared a van with another family ($12 each) with a driver who also gave a commentary along the way, and in 35 minutes we were at the airport. We saw more NCL and customs staff in the terminal than passengers! Overall, this cruise surpassed our expectations by a huge margin. The ship, service, and food were wonderful, and the ports were a very pleasant surprise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We boarded MSC's Poesia with an open mind. I have read many poor reviews, but we paid a very reasonable price for an 11 night Christmas family cruise, and you shouldn't expect to get champagne if you pay only for sparking wine! ... Read More
We boarded MSC's Poesia with an open mind. I have read many poor reviews, but we paid a very reasonable price for an 11 night Christmas family cruise, and you shouldn't expect to get champagne if you pay only for sparking wine! The ship is quite superb! It is among the best I have ever sailed on, public rooms were attractive and in very good taste, and kept immaculate. Cabins were kept beautifully clean, and are spacious and more than adequate. We encountered very heavy seas on more than one occasion, and this large vessel coped well with the conditions. We were on a winter cruise, but did note that the lack of open deck space might be an issue in a warmer climate where more time would be spent outdoors. The food onboard was very hit and miss. As other reviews suggest, if your taste is conservative (steaks, lobsters, roasts) then go elsewhere, but if you are prepared to try the Italian flavors, the risottos, pastas, soups and salads were generally quite good. I would say, however, that whilst we always managed to find something fit to eat, none of the meals would really rate as much more than adequate. Getting really hot food seemed virtually impossible, with the exception of breakfasts in the main dining room. MSC prices are initially inviting, but onboard drinks and extras mean that overall it's not as cheap as it seems. Mineral water is charged for, which I had expected, but the excessive charges soon accumulate, although the euro exchange rate is hardly MSC's fault, and that is partly responsible. We allowed our son just two tins per day of his favorite soft drink, but that alone put £70 on our bill at 2.8 euros a time. We did learn to buy water ashore, and chill it in the minibar which we had asked the maid to empty, but alcoholic drinks could not be brought onboard, and were sold at astronomical prices. A gin and tonic set me back 5.8 euros, and wines too were charged at high prices. A beer package, which was 14 glasses of 40cl of lager, was 59 euros Our son, aged 14, didn't attend the kids club as he was the only English speaker on day one, and didn't go back, but he did eventually meet other teens and have some fun. Many other little charges contribute to the bill. We were able to walk rather than use shuttle buses, but at 7 euros for a five minute drive, I'm glad we're able bodied. We rarely take shore excursions, (as the are usually an expensive rip-off on every cruise line afloat) but MSC even charge 50 cents for the photocopied port maps usually given out free of charge. The entertainment was also hit and miss. Singers in the bars were little better than poor pub karaoke standard, with one exception. Frequenze Retro, the gypsy jazz band who played every night in the wine bar, were quite exceptional, and possibly the best onboard band I have ever seen. We have cruised with several lines, and unfortunately can't recommend MSC for us. The prices of better quality lines such as Cunard and RCL may initially seem more, but MSC get the cash from your pocket in the end. If, however, you don't drink, are not too fussy about your food, and don't need transport ashore, you just might manage a bargain cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

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