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2,163 Holiday Cruise Reviews

As our only other cruise experience was a mere 8 months ago, we thought we'd give an inexperienced cruisers review for other newbies. We sailed out of Miami on Christmas Eve. Our flight arrived at 8:05 am and the first bus to ... Read More
As our only other cruise experience was a mere 8 months ago, we thought we'd give an inexperienced cruisers review for other newbies. We sailed out of Miami on Christmas Eve. Our flight arrived at 8:05 am and the first bus to the port departed at 10:30 but we easily found Alfonzo at baggage claim who quickly helped us, even with our bags, to the right door and even helped us with our transfer arrangements, even though he was there for a different ship. Check in was quite quick and took little time. The ship wasn't ready for embarkation so we sat in the lobby for about 30 minutes until we were allowed on board around 11:30am, but we were met with champagne on deck 6 when we stepped on board. The rooms weren't ready until 1pm, so we sat on deck and drank a Bahama Mama and read until the rooms were ready. We carried on our clothes and essentials and only checked our dive gear. Miami was cloudy and rainy so not much sun on departure day. There's not really a grand atrium on Century, so if you're looking for something like the Grand Foyer from Titanic, you'll be a bit disappointed. The main atrium is on decks 5 and 6 and emcompasses the coffee bar, the three small shops and the staircase. Our room was a Century Suite, which was FANTASTIC. If you can splurge for it, it will make your cruise. Our suite was aft on deck 10 and the balcony was easily half the size of our room. The only thing that may deter you from the century suite is that it's directly below the bar/deck that's near the buffet and if other passengers are at the railing, they can see you below. That being said, our butler, Ezio, was amazing and so attentive. We were met by a bottle of champagne chilling in the room. Ezio had champagne chilling and brought tea and hor'doeuvres everyday. We didn't really use him to his full potential as we are a teacher and work in retail, so we're not used to having a butler. Our dinner seating was the early seating at 6pm. Our table was 525 and was two tables away from the captain's table, but he ate at the later seating, 8:00pm, so we never saw him at dinner. As an unsophisticated cruiser, I find it odd that you can't get cokes or tea or even beer at dinner service. But I'm learning that's the culture and you just get over it. The service was done by Vanja, from Croatia. Service was a tad slow, but not for the lack of her working, I just think it took a long time to get the food from the massive kitchens to the tables. I mostly at beef, except the last night, I chose the phyllo dough, artichoke, and pecorino cheese dish which was my best meal in the main dining room. I haven't found the food on either cruise fantastic, but there certainly are massive amounts of it available any time of the day. My travelling companion found that the soups were her favorites and my favorites were the cheese courses. Christmas Day we chose to eat in Murano, the specialty restaurant, which was a nice treat as we are not normally formal dinning type people. The service was the nicest part of the meal. The twice baked goat cheese was amazing and the tastiest thing on the ship. Marcia got the Steak Diane, which was prepared at the table and I got the scallops and lobster. Hers was better than mine as most seafood, I found out, on a cruise has been frozen. New cruiser...lesson learned. The cheese course was my favorite course during that dinner. Also, skip the soda package and drink the lemonade at the Island Buffet! The ship didn't feel crowded, even at meal times. You could almost always find spots at the pool and on the upper pool deck, save for the last day at sea. But NCL was much worse as far as crowding around the pool. Poolside service wasn't aggressive or pushy, but was available whenever you needed them. There are two pools and 4 hot tubs, but the pool was too chilly for me as I am a wuss. The casino was fun and not too crowded and was smoke free. No big payout for either of us, but it's fun to sit and waste a few dollars doing something different. I did notice that there was not a lot of waitstaff in the casino for the slots, so if you wanted a drink you had to go the bar and get it. Shopping was ok for us on board. We are tchochke shoppers and we like to find candy that's not available at home. Very few tchochke's and junk and no candy. Marcia got some nice earrings and I got a fossil watch, but that's about it. I can't comment on the spa or gym as I prefer reading and NOT exercising in any way, shape or form when I'm on vacation. Debarkation was a little weird as the Port of Miami changed things when we arrived. Normally, you go out with your luggage "color" group (we were green and set to debark at 8:40). But Miami decided that they needed ALL of the luggage off the ship before anyone could debark. So we were about 50 minutes debarking, but those assigned for earlier departures had to wait almost 2 hours before they could leave. Not the ships fault, but annoying, nonetheless. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We took the Christmas cruise on the Jewel, Dec. 21-26, 2008. My overall experience was great and I would definitely sail with Norwegian again. Pros: The staterooms: When we initially arrived, it seemed like space would be ... Read More
We took the Christmas cruise on the Jewel, Dec. 21-26, 2008. My overall experience was great and I would definitely sail with Norwegian again. Pros: The staterooms: When we initially arrived, it seemed like space would be limited, but the storage was awesome. We kept finding new places to stash things. The bathroom was great but I could definitely see how the toilet situation could be difficult for a very tall person. You may have to sit sideways because knee space was tight. The shower was better than what I've experienced on Royal Caribbean. More spacious (2 smaller people can fit together) and generally more luxurious. Be prepared to bring ear plugs or a fan if you are a light sleeper because on nights when we had rough seas, the hangers all clattered together in the closet making it difficult to sleep. The bed was pretty comfortable, no complaints there. The food: We found the food to be enjoyable almost every meal. The buffet was surprisingly good (Garden Cafe) and I always found something good to eat, although we only tried it for breakfast and lunch. We ate all our dinners at Tsars, except Christmas night we had Cagney's (very delicious). Tsars was always a positive experience, great food and great staff. From family members who tried Azura, the other main dining room, I heard awful things about the wait. It seems to be commonplace with other reviewers as well. The disembarkation process: Just pick the time you want to leave and it's as easy as that. We didn't wait much except for the customs line. The Mayan Ruins tour in Cozumel: Although the ferry ride was rough and it took awhile to get there, this excursion was really a cool experience. The box lunch/snack provided by NCL, however, was pretty pathetic and you should expect to buy food from the various restaurants outside the entrance to the ruins. The staff: We never encountered rudeness during our cruise and quite often, we had wait staff who were extremely personable and polite. We rarely saw our room stewards but when we did they always greeted us and were very friendly. A few nights we felt it appropriate to leave a larger tip for the staff because they had done such a good job of accommodating us for showtimes, large parties, etc. The shows: We saw the Second City production (comedy, similar to Whose Line is it Anyway?) which was funny. We also saw the Cirque Bijou which was quite impressive but it seemed that some of the routines kept repeating themselves. However, that did not detract from the overall show and we were definitely wowed. Get to the shows a bit early (20-30 mins) if you don't want to hunt for a seat. Cons: The chair hogs: I hate to harp on this again, but I have to wholeheartedly agree with the other reviewers. The second and last "at sea" day was a madhouse. We got out to the deck at 9:30 and had to search diligently for 2 chairs. We found two singles that were not together but we carried one over and it was fine. However, the vast majority of the chairs had towels (but no people) on them. We watched several sections of chairs and no one ever came in the hour or two we took notice. Also, we overheard one large family talk about how they came out at 7am just to put their things on a group of about 10 chairs and had only filled maybe 6 of them by lunchtime. It was really frustrating. I hope NCL enforces the 30 minute rule in the future. The Port of Miami: Okay, this is not really applicable to the ENTIRE port, but if you have never been there before, a few tips. We apparently did not prepare very well and had no idea where to go once we were at the port (we drove from central FL). You need to get to Terminal B if you want to just drop passengers off and if you want to park, you need to go to Parking Garage C. This was in no way clear if you did not obtain directions in advance. The signs were not even listing our cruise ship under the terminal rosters. When parking, a simple rule is just stay to the left. Eventually you will need to veer left to enter the garage and many people tried to go around and ended up cutting in at the last minute. We arrived around 12pm and the parking situation was a nightmare. We waited in traffic for probably an hour or so. All things considered, we had a really fun and relaxing experience!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
It was a delightful trip and interesting to be away over Christmas. I flew down to Florida and stayed at the Hilton on the Beach in FLL; on the 18th we boarded the Voyager. I must add, that for a chain hotel, the Hilton was delightful ... Read More
It was a delightful trip and interesting to be away over Christmas. I flew down to Florida and stayed at the Hilton on the Beach in FLL; on the 18th we boarded the Voyager. I must add, that for a chain hotel, the Hilton was delightful and had not only a lovely dining area overlooking the ocean and pool, but great food. I was pleasantly surprised. Santa left us cookies and candies and a lovely passport folder. Many suite doors were decorated. One suite was apparently done to the hilt. Having never sailed on Regent, Voyager, just out of a major dry dock work was to be under my scrutiny. Because I am so 'wedded' to Seabourn, I couldn't imagine that it could be as nice. Different and good, but not as nice. Well it was. Embarkation was a breeze and I was given a wheelchair assist through the process. I did not need one once onboard. Disembarkation was a mess attributed to the slowness of the luggage handlers off-loading. We got off early, but later, I understand it was a zoo as all colors were called at once. The decor and layout of the ship was very good, lots of nooks and crannies for reading, napping, and card playing. We did all three a lot. The top deck with the pool, jacuzzis and Veranda Cafe and Pool Grill were very crowded on sea days and to be avoided. However, on the port days, I didn't get off (except for a brief trolley tour in Curacao and it was ok.) The 'show theater' had a balcony and i even watched 'Mama Mia' in it. Always cold, the best entertainment was the Crew Capers the last night. The crew is mostly from the Philippines and performed folk dances and singing. I found out my favorite crew member (Manny of Room Service) was the star and choreographer. Otherwise, the entertainment was pretty poor and to be avoided. Christmas Eve there was carol singing in the atrium and a holiday show that was ok, including the numerous children on board who sang carols. Actually the many children had onboard programs and were not annoying to me at all. I even found the team in the scavenger hunt trying to find 4 crew to pose for the YMCA logo quite amusing.The dumb parents who took toddlers in diapers in the hot tubs were just that, dumb. I did see cool towels being passed about in the afternoon. There were lots of activities, always a tea time with music and a 'quiet tea' in another spot. Nice idea. I played Trivia once. It was difficult and the first day, came in second with a score of 6. the winners got 7/15. I mean, who knew that Melanie of the Spice Girls was the first to put out a single record? Besides, the afternoon time, 4:00 was inconvenient to my nap times. I am looking to the blood sport of Trivia on the Legend Crossing in November. The library was very good and belatedly I found out I could have gotten the NY Times delivered daily (for a fee, of course). There was a huge computer room and a coffee nook as well. While there were DVDs available, there was a large on-demand selection of movies of which to avail. Loved the 'Bee Movie', great humor for adults. The TV channels left much to be desired. FNN, CNN, ESPN, and TNT. Never set foot in the spa, gym, casino, or boutiques. Listened to one of the enrichment lecturers on TV replay, interesting about Obama and the challenges he faces nationally; missed part II of the international dilemmas. Smokers seemed rare and there was a cigar room. Never went in there, either. The food was very good, varied with lovely presentations. The main dining venue is the Compass Rose, large and serving all 3 meals. Two specialty restaurants, Signatures which is to be 'cordon bleu' and Prime 7, a steak house. Both were smaller and more intimate. We ate at both twice and were pleased. On time we joined a table of 6 others and that was fun. Room service is always my favorite, breakfast with a great omelet was the treat. Bar service at the pool was fine, but they can't make a BBC like Nelson on Seabourn. I switched to the Blue Hawaii, a drink from my past, and a virgin Madras, which I learned was cranberry and grapefruit juice without the vodka. The weather was lovely, soft bouncing on some nights. People complained, but I had two balsa angels on a narrow shelf and they never moved, nor did the apple perched atop a narrow dresser top. Speaking of the dresser, the layout of the suite with a balcony was delightful. Bigger than Seabourn (not including the balcony) and with a huge walk-in closet and bathroom with both shower and tub. And, the sofa was large enough to stretch out and actually nap comfortably. It did, however, lack a comfy throw to ward off the a/c chill. The table was enlarged with a plastic top for dining. That was a bit wobbly, but we managed. The bed was great, with a comfy duvet and I actually had real 'Turkish' towels! The itinerary was ok, because I have been to most of the islands and to me they are all alike and with not much to buy. My partner wandered off in most ports and in Aruba found a grocery store and we had good Edam cheese on which to nibble. He found St Lucia grim and the others fair to poor. Many of the tours were more vigorous than I could do or care to. The one trip, deep sea fishing, was closed before the cruise started. Embarkation was a breeze as was disembarkation, after the hour wait because of slow teamsters unloading the luggage. We had a car waiting, and were charged some extra time, but it helped to make our early flights. From checking out of the ship (9:40) to my gate at FLL was 40 minutes. But we were off in the first crush. I did not book another cruise onboard, but with the right itinerary, would certainly go again. ABOVE ALL, WE FOUND THE COURTESY AND FRIENDLINESS OF THE STAFF TO BE 5***** Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
San Juan: In order to avoid the risks associated with winter weather in Canada we flew to San Juan on Friday (no stress, no mess). We stayed two nights at the Embassy Suites in Dorado Del Mar which is about 30 minutes west of San ... Read More
San Juan: In order to avoid the risks associated with winter weather in Canada we flew to San Juan on Friday (no stress, no mess). We stayed two nights at the Embassy Suites in Dorado Del Mar which is about 30 minutes west of San Juan. I highly recommend this particular Embassy Suites location (see later that this location is not to be confused with the San Juan location) a)at $125 an night for a suite that comfortably slept 4 (you could do 5) and included breakfast, it is a great value b)it has its own golf course, tennis courts, pool, a small beach and is close to many other big beaches c)they provide the names of taxi drivers who will meet you at the airport d)there are two rental car locations nearby Our favorite activity in San Juan... the Hike to Lamina falls within the El Yunque National Forest. A bit hard / time consuming to get to but well worth the effort. Bring a bathing suit and take a dunk at the bottom of the falls. On return we also decided to avoid the rush and stress of catching a flight the same day and chose to spend Sunday in San Juan. This time we stayed at the Embassy Suite in San Juan (Isla Verde, near the airport) . We would not recommend this Embassy suite location. a)At $ 360 This room was almost 3x the price of the other location b)They were very disorganized. We did not get our room until 8:30 PM despite the the 4PM room availability we were promised upon arrival and that was clearly posted. When we finally did get the room there was no bedding on any of the beds. It all seemed like a comedy of errors. c)The usual courtyard area was not as well appointed as it usually is. It was more like a bare floor with some tables and chairs.. d)The pool water was very cold and the hot tub was under repair. e)There is a casino that opens up to the courtyard area that took away from the usual family atmosphere of the Embassy Suites locations. Boarding: Based on feedback on the cruise critic website we headed to the peer and arrived just after 12:00 Noon.. The taxi convoy into the peer was a bit long but not outrageous. Once at the terminal it took a grand total of 20 minutes from the time we unloaded our luggage from the taxi to the time we were on board the ship. I was impressed by the logistics as well as the number and attitude of the staff present during the boarding process. This first impression of everything being well organized with a very informed and helpful staff turned out to hold true for the rest of the cruise. The State Rooms: Once on board we had a quick lunch and proceeded to explore the ship, locate all of the attractions and count the bars (lots). Our rooms were ready at 2:00PM as promised. My wife and I travelled with our two teenaged daughters and my 82 year old father. We had booked one Junior suite and two inside cabins. The Suite was our common spot but the girls and my dad slept in their inside cabins. I highly recommend getting a separate cabin for the teens, if you go with an inside cabin near your own cabin it is not that much more money and in my opinion well worth it. All of our cabins were at the very back of the ship on level 7. Having a Junior Suite at the back was great because of a bigger deck but we did find it a bit bumpier than a cabin towards the center of the ship. The Cabins on this ship are much roomier than comparable ones we had had on Disney Magic. I also recommend a junior suite, it is as big as a good sized hotel room and has a decent sized bathtub / shower and loads of storage space. The Ship and Amenities: The Adventure of the Seas is very nice with great amenities and plenty to see and do. Our favorite activities were the Rock climbing wall and the Games room. Some reviews had said that this ship is showing its age... I disagree, yes the carpets are a little dirty in some spots but really nothing to complain about. The pool deck area was busy on sea days but there are a number of different nooks with sun or shade and we were always able to find a spot. Sometimes we would hide from the kids in the adult only Solarium area which is very well laid out and beautifully decorated. They don't lock the doors so the kids can find you if they need to. What impressed me the most were the staff.. From 60 different nations, highly motivated and seemingly happy. With such a large ship on what is probably one of the busier weeks of the year I had expected long line ups and crowds at popular activities and locations. This was not the case. Shows: The ice shows were amazing. Short and sweet and very well performed. We had read that getting tickets would be difficult but that was not the case. We turned up 15 minutes ahead of the appointed 10AM time on Monday morning and had the tickets within 3 minutes. Again I found the logistics to be well tuned and the staff quite friendly. The main shows were good but not as good as the ones on Disney Magic. Bars: There are lots of different bars each with different atmosphere. Our favorite pre/post-dinner drink spot was the Crown room on the rear of Deck 14 overlooking the pool decks. The drinks are reasonably priced. The bar staff very friendly and helpful, special mention goes to Jamal who was working the Solarium bar during our week (Bar staff apparently rotate among the many bars every two weeks) . He brews the best Long Island Ice tea I have ever had... highly recommended if you want to spend a few hours in a semi "medicated" state. The Food: I have to admit that with 2000+ guests on board we boarded with "realistic" expectations for the food. Our expectations were exceeded. Based on a suggestion in one of the posts we had pre-booked (via RCDL website) our "departure dinner" at the Portofino restaurant at 8:00PM. This was a perfect way to start, seeing Old San Juan all lit up as we pulled away was really nice. The menu was very interesting, the food outstanding and the service very attentive. Well worth the 20$ extra fee. We ended up booking a second dinner at Portofino for later in the week. Here again I had expected based on previous experience that this would be difficult to do since in the last two weeks leading up to the departure date the web site seem to indicate that the restaurant was fully booked. To the contrary I just called down to the front desk on Monday morning and I was able to book for later in the week. After enjoying our first meal at the restaurant we told ourselves: Maybe we should not have had the restaurant meal on the first night, now we will be disappointed with the Main dining room food. We were wrong, the Dining room menu and food were also very good. Always plenty to choose from including a number of "normal items" (my daughters words" and more adventurous items. As to be expected of a cruise the service was excellent. Our waiter and assistant waiter always would provide tips and suggestions. They also seemed generally concerned that we enjoy everything we ordered. On one or two occasions where one of us did not like what we had chosen, the waiter would offer and bring us a different choice. First class food and first class service. The menu varies from night to night but I highly recommend the Lamb Shank on Tuesday or Wednesday... Wow... As good as I have had in any $100+ a head restaurant. Even the Head waiter spent a bit of time with us each evening with information about upcoming menu items, events or tips for the ports of call. When he heard that my wife was a fan of Spicy Indian food he arranged for a specially prepared "pimped up" dish to be provided on the Friday. Nice touch. Room Service: On Christmas morning we had decided to order room service for breakfast. There is no extra fee for this other than a tip for the person who brings you the food. When the food had not arrived at the indicated time I called down to see what the problem was. It turned out they had misread our time request, they apologized and we had our food less than 10 minutes later. The food was as good as in the dining room, the only limitation was the selection. I recommend room service breakfast once or twice as a treat but I think the Windjammer is great for its variety. Service in the Windjammer was surprising. There are lots of staff roaming around and someone will bring you coffee and juice within seconds of you sitting down. The main dining room is also a very nice alternative for breakfast. They have a good variety including Eggs Benedict and a very nice Smoke Salmon plate. Ports of Call: Our cruise included 4 ports of call: Aruba, Curacao, St Maarten and St Thomas. We did a combination of outings offered by the cruise and our own planned beach days. I recommend consulting the ports of call boards on the CruiseCritic.com site. You can get valuable tips and find something that suits you. I also found it useful to consult the travel web sites of each island to research the beaches. http://www.aruba-travelguide.com/beaches/beach-2.html#playa http://www.curacao.com/ActivitiesEvents/Beaches/Beaches.aspx?lang=en http://www.st-maarten.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=35 http://www.vinow.com/stthomas/beaches_stt/ In some of the ports of call we pre-booked outings with the ship. The best value was the Pirate Cruise at Aruba. A nice half day aboard an old wooden sail boat. The snorkeling was ordinary (bobbing in the water with 75 other tourists) but the atmosphere on board and the rope jumping at the end was amazing. I you are looking for one day of big waves (body surfing, boogie boarding) I highly recommend Dawn Beach at St Maarten.. Not for the faint hearted. Photo Shoots... Of all the "extra services" offered on board, our favorite was the daily photo shoots. Every night around dinner and at very port of call there are several photo shoots that are set up to take photos of you and your family. They use a variety of backdrops and settings. They will take as many pictures as you want. The photographers are professional (not all the same level) and they are using high end cameras and lights. The shoots themselves are free and you only pay if you buy photos. The photos are not cheap but when you consider the quality of the photos and that you only pay for shots you like it is not so bad. We had a good 60 different photos taken and ended up purchasing 5 8x10" photos for $20 each. They have kiosks on board where you can see, crop and select your photos. Conclusion... We were very pleased with this cruise, this ship and this itinerary. We would recommend to any one who is looking for a great family vacation. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My 85 year old mother and I set sail on December 21, 2008 on the Mariner of the Seas. What a beautiful, elegant ship! The service was top notch. Everyone was falling over themselves to take care of us. Our Promenade cabin was lovely. The ... Read More
My 85 year old mother and I set sail on December 21, 2008 on the Mariner of the Seas. What a beautiful, elegant ship! The service was top notch. Everyone was falling over themselves to take care of us. Our Promenade cabin was lovely. The view from the large window was great. It felt like looking down on a busy street. We ate in the Rhapsody in Blue dining room for all our meals, except for hitting the buffet in the Windjammer when we first got onboard. Breakfast and Dinner were wonderful. Lunch grew boring. Same choices everyday. Our waiter was Mark from the Philippines. He was great. Our cabin steward was a lady named Smorty. We called her Smarty Pants! I just can't say enough nice things about the people on this boat. The shows were amazing. We had two ice shows. One was Circus themed and the other was a Holiday Extravaganza. The comedian on the last night was so funny we were crying. I don't think I have ever heard my mother laugh so hard! We will definitely cruise with Royal Caribbean again. I do have three complaints. 1. A passenger had a huge, hairy, dirty-looking dog that she said was a service dog because she has diabetes. I have never seen an uncontrolled service dog in my life. The thing drug the lady because it did not walk next to her. During breakfast one day it got loose in the dining room. The animal came and laid it's head on the table next to me. Scared the daylights out of me. The waiters were running around like the three stooges trying to catch it because it didn't have it's harness on. There was no vest identifying this animal as a service dog. I like dogs but not romping around my food. 2. The computers and internet connections were so slow they ate up the money in my prepaid account. It took me twenty minutes to get signed in and read two emails. I won't waste my money on that anymore. I wanted to email my children and grandchild for Christmas. 3. I went to a seminar at the Shipshape Spa only to find out after one hour that it was a sales pitch for a $700.00 toxin cleansing program. I missed some other things I wanted to do to go to this seminar. I never imagined they would try to sell me something like that on a cruise. I am now educated! Other than that we had a fabulous trip. Coco Cay was lovely, St. Thomas and St. Maarten were beautiful. I found some lovely little shops to take my friends to when we go there in March on another cruise on another cruise line. I booked that trip in September and this Christmas cruise 10 days before the ship sailed! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We began our journey in Buffalo with air purchased through the cruise line, yes we flew the day of sailing. To make a long story short, we missed our connection in Philadelphia due to weather, and ended up at the pier just in time to watch ... Read More
We began our journey in Buffalo with air purchased through the cruise line, yes we flew the day of sailing. To make a long story short, we missed our connection in Philadelphia due to weather, and ended up at the pier just in time to watch the ship sailing off into the night. Beautiful! If you run into trouble en route to the ship, I urge you to call Carnival. Because I called while we were in Philadelphia to let Carnival know we would likely miss the ship, they put us up in a really nice hotel in San Juan, and let us know who to call to book a flight to St. Thomas the next day. This was all done painlessly on my cell phone while we waited for our new flight in Philadelphia. San Juan - our hotel was just lovely - the Condado Plaza - I would recommend it for a pre-cruise stay, which I will definitely do before my next trip, no more day-of flying for me! Our flight to St. Thomas was with Cape Air on a 9 seater plane. The flight was wonderful! What a thrill, and it almost made up for missing the sailing ;) Basically a half hour sightseeing flight. My hubby and I just loved it! After a short cab ride to the pier, we finally saw the Victory - and even though we were all scared of hearing the "toot toot" from the horn just before we got there, she was still tied up when we happily rolled up the gangway. I believe there were 200 - 300 people who missed the sailing, so we watched many people follow our path all day long. St. Thomas - we didn't do anything! We boarded at 2:30, and weren't about to set foot off the ship again that day!!! The Victory - What a beautiful ship! We absolutely loved the color schemes and designs of the public areas. The "seas of the world" theme lent itself to beautiful blues, greens and golds. There are tubes covered in tiny white lights that snake around the ceilings which make the ship festive. Joe Farcus said in the design video that they were inspired by electric eels - don't worry, they don't look like eels! I found the colors and decorations elegant and lovely. The ship was constantly scrubbed and cleaned, and most surfaces were simply gleaming. Of course there were some areas where several years of wear were evident in carpets, for example, and I believe she is in for some refurb in the near future, but you certainly won't suffer any if you go before that work is done. Others had warned about "seahorse bites". Boy oh boy, did I fall victim! The seahorses at the foot of each stairway railing were quite decorative, but for the somewhat accident prone, just watch your step! (DH can't figure out how I did it). Staff and Crew - We really liked Malcolm as director. We found him genuinely funny, not corny, and very entertaining. He also kept the Bingo and the announcements to a minimum, which made for a nice atmosphere in our opinion. Although this coming week will be his last on the Victory, so if you're cruising in 2009, you won't have him anyway. Squishy, the assistant CD walked with us on the On Deck for the Cure, and was great to chat with. Otherwise, we didn't see many entertainment staff. The room stewards and wait staff were just as good as we have always had, and some of the bartenders were especially friendly and chatty. On-board: I have to admit, we didn't make it out to any bars, which is out of character, but when you read our daily activities, you'll understand why! There was a latin band, karaoke, some jazz nights with the orchestra, a classical pianist, a solo guitar act, a duo (replacing the Music... bands?) and a calypso duo. The Orchestra was wonderful. I thought the dancers were the most coordinated and talented we've seen so far. The female singer has a tremendous range, and I enjoyed most of her songs, definitely the most talented female we've had on our three cruises. The male must have been sick at first, because I wasn't impressed during the first show, but was blown away by the second. Livin' in America and Vrooom are fun, high energy shows with great costumes and fun music. They were nice, enjoyable evenings. Christmas: Decorations on the ship were lovely, traditional, and certainly not obtrusive. There was also a large menorah lit every evening, but there was no ceremony involved as far as I could tell. There was a lovely Christmas show with the singers and dancers and a very few children from Camp Carnival - each age group performed a song or dance. Santa Came, the Captain gave a greeting, and at the end, many staff came down with candles and everyone sang Silent Night. It was a lovely, moving experience. We gave all our servers and stewards a little extra cash in a holiday card, and a box of chocolates for each of them. They were all pretty surprised and happy to receive them, and it was nice to give a gift on Christmas. Passengers and cruise atmosphere - this was the most low-key cruise we've ever been on. There weren't many people on-deck at any time of day. The lido buffet was very busy around 3:00 every day when people returned from shore. The shows were pretty much full every night. While talking to Squishy (Assistant CD) he told us that most cruisers on this itinerary are there for the ports of call, so not many participate in on-board activities or games, and the night spots aren't as busy. Case in point - there were 9 of us who completed the On Deck for the Cure. As I mentioned, there were only a couple Bingos on board, hardly any special activities and the advertisements and announcements seemed to be at a minimum, which was really nice. It seemed less "camp-like" and more relaxed than other cruises we've done. Food - yum, yum, yum! We did not enjoy the food on the Triumph last year, so we were wondering about the food on her sister, the Victory. I really loved the food. Nearly everything I ate was absolutely delicious. Stand-outs were certainly the chilled cucumber soup, the Taste of Nations Mediterranean on Lido, the soups at the Yangtze Wok, the Sushi bar, appetizers at the Past Guest Party and Seafood Medley in the main dining room. The only so-so meal I had was Chateaubriand, and that's because we raise our own beef so it's hard for plain old American beef to compare ;) Let's get on to the ports of call!! (those that I actually made it to!) Dominica - we did a private tour through bumpiing tours with the owner Levi Baron. It was only $60 per person for a 7 hour tour - the Roseau Valley Best. We hiked to Middleham Falls (I felt that hike for three days!), visited the Titou gorge, Middleham Falls, Wotten Waven Sulphur Springs, the Botanical Gardens and did snorkeling at Champagne Reef. The tour was phenomenal. I have never seen a place as breathtaking at Dominica. It's very undeveloped, and you're truly in the rainforest here. It's my idea of paradise with mountains, valleys, waterfalls, rivers and lush green as far as the eye can see. Levi was terrific, and I would HIGHLY recommend his tours for anyone travelling to Dominica. Remember, in the rainforest it rains - they average an inch a day. We were soaked all day, but it didn't dampen the awesome tour! www.bumpiingtours.com Barbados - we booked a helicopter tour through Horizon Helicopters. They are relatively new, and are located near the airport. The nice thing about Horizon compared to the competition is that your tour is private, so DH and I were by ourselves with the pilot and no other passengers. The tour was very interesting, we encircled the entire island, and the pilot gave us a lot of information on the land and history. After Dominica I didn't find Barbados as beautiful, but the cliffs and coastline were very impressive, and the helicopter experience was once-in-a-lifetime. It was very windy, so we were pretty queasy by the last 10 minutes or so, and glad to touch down!! The tour also included a visit to the Barbados Concorde Experience which is an interesting exhibit for anyone interested in aviation. You get to go through the Concorde and learn a lot of the history of aviation in the Caribbean. DH really enjoyed it. We hired a taxi which came back to pick us up at a pre-arranged time. Some more rain today, but luckily after we landed. www.horizonheli.com and www.barbadosconcorde.com St. Lucia - booked the Land and Sea to Soufriere through Carnival. We loved the tour which visited a fishing village, several lookouts spots, drove through a banana plantation and visited a drive-in volcano (cool!) and the botanical gardens. Our guides were fantastic, enthusiastic and gave a lot of information on the land, history and culture. The Gardens were tremendously beautiful. There's plenty to see and do on St. Lucia, and lots of lovely places to stay. I would certainly go back for a week-long vacation. We then boarded a catamaran for a delicious creole lunch and 2-3 hour cruise, a highlight was breadfruit casserole, which tasted like a baked mashed potato with cheese. The rum punch was free flowing, and there was calypso Christmas music playing. The shoreline was beautiful, and I felt perfectly relaxed and contented. We stopped to swim and saw some nice fish life. It was another windy day, and we had a few showers. It was the perfect way to spend Christmas. Antigua - this island seems very developed with homes and businesses most closely resembling those we're used to at home. The landscape is much flatter than the other islands, it's drier, and there are more fields with agriculture and pasture. We did another ship tour - hike, snorkel and kayak eco-tour. We took small boats for about 45 minutes to great bird island. The ride was WILD! It was very windy again, and we got soaked on the fast ride. It was very James Bond though, and we loved the rush. We walked up to the top of this nice island which had a bit of vegetation, definitely a desert island. There were cool rock formations to look through down to the ocean. We snorkeled for awhile, but the waves were so big the bottom was really worked up which made it murky. One thing we weren't pleased with was that after our snorkel, we were told to throw our equipment back into these bins where we got them, and the next group was on their way down to get them. ick. I'm sure the salt water keeps germs down, but I'm tempted to get my own equipment for future. We then boated back to a somewhat sheltered area among mangroves for kayaking. The water was rough, and it was not exactly relaxing to fight our way around the stands of mangrove! The guides were friendly enough, but didn't explain much. They definitely show signs of doing this every day like clockwork. We did a very similar tour in Grand Turk last year which was phenomenal due to the enthusiasm of the guide who practically jumped in the air with glee each time he saw a creature to show us. In all, we didn't have a bad day in Antigua, but nothing we saw or did would entice us to return. St. Kitt's - what a great way to end the trip! Another absolutely beautiful island. The buildings and homes were lovely here. Roads were well-maintained and drivers were courteous. We booked the Scenic Rail Tour through Carnival ( you can't book it privately). There was a 45 minute bus ride to the train with a very friendly, knowledgeable guide who showed us many towns and landmarks. The train itself is a narrow gauge double-decker train. There are 5 cars, and each holds maybe 20 passengers. You can sit up top in an open air covered car or below at tables in air conditioning. they do not over pack the cars, so there's plenty of space. It was very windy again (surprise) so it was a very shaky ride! They provided drinks, little coconut cakes, a travelling choir and informative narration. It was a beautiful trip with acres of sugar cane, scenic mountains, old sugar mills, busy little towns and farmers working in the fields. There were kids running alongside the train, and in every town people waved and smiled at us. Maybe it's because the government has told them that this is what paves the roads and builds the hospitals.... but regardless, it makes a great impression, and they are definitely hospitable to tourists. Where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean sea meet you can actually see the waves crash against each other in a wild frenzy. That was something to see! There are many historic sites, museums, hiking trails and places to visit in St. Kitts, so I will definitely be back here as well. www.stkittsscenicrailway.com Coming Home - we enrolled in the Lex program. For $20pp Carnival takes your luggage from the pier to the airport and checks it to your final destination. They also print your boarding pass and give it to you the night before you disembark. We did this because we had several hours before our flight, and since we missed San Juan on embarkation day, we wanted to wander a bit. Disembarkation could be nicer. After a week of excitement and luxe treatment (hey, this is luxury for us!) we felt pretty unceremoniously booted off the ship, bags in the hallway, waiting in the lounge to be told to line up, then standing in line to get off the ship. Oh well, I guess a super expensive line might have a fancier send-off, but it's a small trade-off for the great prices on Carnival I guess :) We walked down the paseo de la princesa which had a neat "Earth From Above" photo display on, then headed along the pathway at the base of the wall to the foot of El Morro. There were loads of cats here which added a sort of quirky ambiance! They collect donations to feed the cats. Again it was super windy, and we enjoyed rolling seas and big waves. Walking through old San Juan was lovely with beautiful Christmas decorations on many buildings. Getting to the airport was great, as we breezed through security straight to the gate, although the lines weren't long at all, so we wouldn't have had much trouble anyway. Our flight arrived and departed 40 minutes late, and the plane was practically falling apart! (US airways). Three luggage compartments popped open during takeoff and landing, and my hubby had to close several during the flight that opened above our heads. My seat wouldn't stay upright, and the light above my seat was smashed. Made me very optimistic about the safety of the plane! The pilot told us he was late because before they left Philadelphia the equivalent of the check engine light kept lighting up so they had to get it checked out. I was very uncomfortable on that flight. We found that our connecting flight was leaving concourse F, and we were landing in concourse A, and would have 10 minutes to get there by taking a shuttle. While rushing to concourse F, we looked on the departures board, and saw beside our Buffalo flight "Cancelled". Oh No! After another visit to Special Services, we got on an 8:30 flight to Buffalo. Ok, another 2 hours, no problem. We finally got to Buffalo and.... no luggage. Filled out some forms, and headed home, pretty exhausted. After crossing the boarder painlessly, and making it across the windy skyway bridge (do you notice a weather trend here?) we got to my parents house 22 hours after getting up that morning. Phew! the next day, we got a call from the airline around noon that they had our luggage, and were sending it by truck that evening. So DH and I headed home, and our luggage made it to my parents' where we'll pick it up later this week. Phew. So I've initiated my claim for our extra little flight to St. Thomas, some huge taxi fees, extra meals, and a smashed digital camera that didn't survive the flight home in our carry on luggage. It wasn't the best way to end the trip, but in all we had the very best time we could have hoped for. I absolutely loved this itinerary, and would do it again in a heartbeat. The Victory was probably our favorite ship for decor and atmosphere, as well as food. It was the perfect way to spend Christmas, and we loved every minute from the moment we boarded the ship to the moment we got off. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My mother, my brother and his friend and I cruised on the 5 night Christmas cruise. I have been on 5 cruises (Celebrity to Russia and Baltic, Caribbean, Western Med and Oceania to South America, plus a river cruise to Eastern Europe). My ... Read More
My mother, my brother and his friend and I cruised on the 5 night Christmas cruise. I have been on 5 cruises (Celebrity to Russia and Baltic, Caribbean, Western Med and Oceania to South America, plus a river cruise to Eastern Europe). My mother has also cruised on Crystal and Seabourn. We have never cruised for shorter than 10 days. This was my brother's first cruise. We decided to try NCL because of the "Freestyle" dining where we could eat when and where we wanted. The number of specialty restaurants was also very appealing. In addition, the abundance of Asian food, including Shabu Shabu is hard to come by or non-existent on most lines. My brother likes to dress casually and we decided Celebrity would probably not work for him. We thought considering everything NCL was our best option. Embarkation: This was a nightmare. It took a least an hour just to get to the check in desk. We had all our paperwork and quickly got our SeaPass. Not sure why the lines moved so slowly. It was the most unorganized embarkation I have experienced. Once onboard we went up to the Garden Cafe (Tsar's was already closed) because the cabins were not ready. As soon as we sat down the announcement came that the cabins were now ready. We were not impressed with the choices in the cafe. I chose a bunch of different items but it was all unappealing. Stateroom: We were in BA 10168 Aft. I received a call a few days prior to the cruise asking if we wanted to upgrade to a mini suite for $320. I really wanted to try the aft location so kept my original choice. We were very pleased with stateroom location. The room was a little smaller than on other lines. The colors were also not to our liking (purple and orange sofa, orange and pink carpet, blue drapes, you get the idea). But the layout was good. There were two large pillows on each bed. The safe was large and very deep. We requested two lounge chairs for the larger aft balcony which took 3 requests. The balcony was the best part of our cruise and lived up the positive reviews on Cruise Critic. It was an added plus that not once did we smell anyone smoking. This was a great worry of mine prior to the cruise. The bathroom is divided in 3 sections: Shower with door, Sink, and toilet with glass door. The bathroom feels smaller because of the separate compartments. I think the door for the toilet might be unnecessary. There was also a glass ashtray attached the wall in the toilet area. Could have done without that too. The toilet area is very small and anyone over six feet must feel very squished. The best part about the bathroom was the dispenser of Elemis lavender hand wash next to the sink. I loved the soap! It was so soothing. As for the rest of the cabin, the telephone is in a strange place on a table near the sliding glass door. The closet had over a dozen hangers which was a nice surprise. The television was an old CRT 13 inch. It was very hard to watch. I usually don't watch much TV on a cruise but the size of this one made it nearly impossible. Crew: The crew was very professional and eager to please. When our stateroom attendant introduced himself he added that he was responsible for 32 staterooms. Our room was cleaned promptly everyday. I really liked the wheel outside the room that you can turn indicating Do Not Disturb, Make up room, or turn down. Our fruit bowl was replenished everyday but once the bananas were soggy they were not removed. The crew were vigilant in the sanitation of spritzing everyone with germ cleanser. They even have the dispensers in the elevators. Entertainment: We went to 2 ¼ shows. I say ¼ because we only saw the last 15 minutes of Band on the Run which was more than enough. The theater is a nice size but the stage is so small. They also do not have tables between the seats like they do on Celebrity. We also saw the Second City show which was pretty good. Cirque Bijou was ok. It was mostly dancing and singing with some acrobatics. There was one very talented and very thin young woman who was essentially a contortionist. The other performers just sort of danced around her. Celebrity used to have the traveling Cirque de Soleil show. The Celebrity show was far superior. The crew and captain joined at the last show singing the gooey "We are Family". However, it was nice to see the captain and senior officers. Food: This is so subjective but here are our thoughts. We only ate in the specialty restaurants, Garden Cafe and Blue Lagoon. As I already mentioned the Garden Cafe was unappealing for Breakfast or Lunch. Eggs were watery, Eggs Benedict too cooked, and selection of cheeses was very poor. The smoked salmon was just ok. The lunch items were more varied but again just couldn't find much that I liked. For our first night we had dinner in Cagney's. I had the twin lobster tails and everyone else at our table of four had the Surf and Turf. The meal was good but the service was lacking. Our waiter accidentally pushed all the sautEed mushrooms off my mother's plate while removing the lobster from the shell. I am not faulting him. However, he did not bring any additional mushrooms as they were now on the table and my mother's wine glass. He also did not clean up the mess. The Cagney fries were soggy. The Kahlua Crème Brule was excellent. I finished it in 5 seconds. The next day we had lunch at Blue Lagoon. It was not good. Won Ton soup had no taste. The chef salad was embarrassing. Very small and the ham was too fatty. My mother had the stir fried pork which she said was just ok. We had dinner in Le Bistro that night. It was a great disappointment. I had read such positive reviews of this restaurant and I was very much looking forward to it. The Escargot was nothing special. The Foie Gras appetizer was good. The frise salad was uninspiring. Just some frise with a tiny bit of fig and a smidgen of Roquefort. Main courses were both terrible. Chicken with stuffed Foie Gras was almost inedible. My mother had the Duck for but had to send it back. She ordered the steak instead. We have eaten in many French restaurants and were not expecting Michelin stars but Le Bistro was probably the worst "French" food we have ever had. The food did not actually seem very French. The Chocolate Napoleon for dessert was good. The nicest part of the meal was that we had a seat near the window and could see the ocean. We visited Le Bistro on the last day for the Jazz Brunch. They have items that you can serve yourself (quiche, salmon, French toast, Caesar salad) and then you order a main course or two if you wish from the al a carte menu. I had the filet with prawns which was very good. Everyone else seemed to enjoy the meal. The best food for us on this cruise was in the Asian restaurants. Both the Mongolian Hot Pot (Shabu Shabu) and the Chin Chin (Chinese food) were excellent. We also had sushi one night. They don't have hand rolls (temaki) on the menu but you can request it. The Shabu Shabu was delicious. Ports: This was only a 5 night cruise with 2 ports, Cayman and Cozumel. Tendering in Cozumel was a zoo just to get to the tender. It seems about 90% of the people were doing their own thing in Cayman so everyone was going to the tenders at once. It took over 40 minute in very crowded hallways and stair wells just to make it to the tender for the 5 minute ride to shore. We had not been in Grand Cayman since 1981. I think it was much nicer back then. We visited 3 or 4 of the shopping arcades and then went to lunch at the Ritz Carlton. It was very windy and raining by the time we reached the hotel. The Ritz was wonderful. We ate at 7 which is on the beach but indoors. My mother had the penne pasta and I had the chicken curry with mango chutney. Both were delicious. As it was blustery outside we walked around the hotel and browsed their two shops. We had some trouble getting a taxi from the hotel back to port. Finally flagged one of the mini-buses down. When we returned to ship my brother told us his Stingray excursion was cancelled due to the weather but not until they brought them all ashore and tried to sell them an alternate excursion. My brother and his friend ended up drinking in Cayman for part of the day. His friend had been looking forward to the Stingray encounter since she was six years old. She was very disappointed but I clearly understand if it was not safe to go NCL did the right thing. The next day we visited Cozumel which thankfully was not a tender port. We got off the ship without delay and took a short taxi ride to Dolphinaris. This was our first dolphin encounter. The entire experience was very positive. Dolphinaris personnel are extremely professional. The entire program was well organized. Each participant was fitted for a life vest. Then we were given a locker for our clothing and personal items. Cameras are not allowed in the pool area but I knew that before booking. The pool area is quite large and right on the ocean. We had 60 minutes with the dolphins doing a kiss, handshake and belly ride. Afterward you can buy photos that they will put on a disk. The first 5 photos (just the dolphins) are free. Four photos of kiss, ride were $67. There was also a video of our encounter for purchase but we did not watch it. Our admission to Dolphinaris was booked online. $238 for two people. After the dolphins we walked all the way back past the dock to calle 6 where we had lunch at Guido's. The food and ambience in the courtyard were wonderful. I had the lasagna and my mother had the snapper. We also had freshly made Pisco sours. They were almost as good as the ones in Chile. When we finished lunch we walked the gauntlet past all the shopkeepers back to the ship. Actually we did not think the shops were too aggressive. Most of them were pleasant. Our last day on the cruise was at sea and was very relaxing. On our first day I had purchased one of the downloaded newspapers (New York Times) for $3.95 each. Unfortunately the equipment was not working on our last day to download any of the newspapers so I read my book and relaxed on the balcony. Disembarkation: A breeze. Did express walkoff. We use the Heys luggage which is small and light. Both my mother and I were stopped and asked separately if we had ALL our luggage! It is amazing how much can fit in the small HEYS carryon. In summary, in the future NCL will probably not be our first choice. It was a pleasure to eat when and where we wanted but the food quality and choices were disappointing. NCL excels in the Asian food department which is not surprising given the 50% ownership by Star Cruises. The Jewel is not that old, yet the stateroom dEcor felt dated. A refurbishing could change the entire feel of the cruise. A toned down interior with white and blue or maroon would be more soothing. I would suggest making Azura a bar instead of a restaurant. The bar areas on deck 6 are just too chopped up. The lobby on the Jewel is atrocious. Anything they can do to change it would be an improvement. We did not use the spa but liked the prices. They were willing to do a flat iron for $15 instead of the full $75 if you did not want a wash. The Fitness Center is a little too small. It is nice it is open 24 hours. The pool area was very crowded and we did not use it. There is a lot of promenade space on the Jewel. I think this makes the interiors feel narrower and smaller. It was odd in Cagney's to have the promenade outside where people could walk by. The large aft balcony, lavender hand wash and large pillows were the highlight of the cruise for me. We had a good time on the cruise but it was not a great time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation The morning of the cruise we drove down from Tampa to Miami, we live in Tampa, and arrived at the pier about noon. We had rented a one way rental from Avis, so we had to drop off our luggage and then return the rental. When we ... Read More
Embarkation The morning of the cruise we drove down from Tampa to Miami, we live in Tampa, and arrived at the pier about noon. We had rented a one way rental from Avis, so we had to drop off our luggage and then return the rental. When we arrived at the pier our luggage got tagged by the baggage person and was whisked away to the ship. We thought we were going to have to be with our luggage more, so our plans changed and both of us drove to drop off the rental and we enjoyed a nice leisurely walk from Avis to the pier. It's a little over a mile and took about 30 to 40 minutes to walk. I really enjoyed walking over the long bridge to the pier. Once we got the check-in area we waited in line for about 15 minutes and check-in was smooth and simple. I forgot to one important question about my account status, but that was my fault. More on that later. After we checked in we did stop by the Pier Coordinator on the off chance upgrades were available, they weren't, so we proceeded to the ship. Ship The Jewel is in great shape and since this is the only class of ship we've been on, I really don't have any other RCCL comparison, our other cruise was on the Radiance in 2005. Since this was the Xmas cruise we thought there would be more Xmas decorations, but overall it was done nice. The main decoration was a very long table of Gingerbread houses which were just excellent. Lots of detail and different scenes from one end of the table to the other. I like the class very much, but do want to experience the other ships that RCCL has to offer. Room We were in an D1 7534, which was a good room with an extended balcony. It's forward on the ship's starboard side. Only negative was the location was Starboard which is the smoking side of the ship, so deck 5 being the walk around deck had a lot of people smoking below our room and that was not pleasurable at times. With being forward we did have a close stairway and elevator bank, but did a lot of walking to get to the aft, windjammer and tides, along with other places nearer the Centrum. Not a big deal as we needed the exercise, just wanted to note that there is some walking and stair climbing to do when your forward. Ports Labadee We didn't expect much from this port, but had an enjoyable time. We got off and walked to the main beach that faces the ocean. To me that is a real beach and really enjoyed watching the waves come in. I was disappointed that they wouldn't let people swim freely in this area and only kept people in a very isolated area and didn't let anyone enjoy the surf. Probably a liability/risk issue, but it was a damper for me. We watched folks do the zip line and that looked like lots of fun. We passed on that as we thought the cost for the one zip, yes there is a small starter, was too high, plus we were going to do Zipline in Jamaica, so we saved it for another time. The area was nice. We liked walking around and found our way to the new hammocks and spent a couple of hours enjoying those. We then went over to have lunch at one of the barbecue areas and watched some of the entertainment. They were local dancers and musicians. We aren't shoppers, so didn't really mess with the flea market area or the other shopping areas. Nice island, but we liked Disney's Castaway Cay better. Cartegena No planned excursions for us here, but we wanted to go into town to see some of the sights around town. Didn't have any interest on the other tours outside of the town. We hooked up with a Taxi driver at the pier terminal and he took us around for about 2 hours. It was nice and the driver walked with us as we walked around town and provided history and information on the Old City. He also took us to a couple shops, an Emerald store was nice as we got to go to the back, upstairs, room to watch the jewel maker work. We wished we knew more about Emeralds as we would've like to have gotten a nice emerald jewelry item. The town was nice and it was a perfect day for the short stay at Cartegena. Panama Canal Our goal for this stop was to stay on the ship and just enjoy going through the canal. We got up early for the first trip through and made our way to the deck 5 bow section, where the helicopter landing area is. We picked a spot and watched as we came through the entrance area. The sun rose and it was a perfect morning to come through. The trip was a little slow going through. I had been there back in 1986, so it was interesting to see what has changed, but DW had never been, so her experience was new. We both really enjoyed it and really appreciate the engineering marvel that it is. They had a Canal person on board talking about the canal and the history as we traveled through, which was great. Once we got through we spent the day in the Gatun Lake area, where we anchored and enjoyed the day in the sun. In the afternoon we then went back through the canal. We then arrived at Cristobal Pier where we hopped off and walked through the shopping area that is setup in the building on the pier. It was nice as it was low pressure and they sure had some great items. Jamaica - Montego Bay First shore excursion for us. We signed up for Chukka Canopy experience, which is a Zipline tour. It started at the pier where a driver picked us up and drove about 30 minutes up into the mountain area near Montego Bay. They had setup an area where we all got our Zipline gear and then headed out. It's a walking, climbing, and zipping experience which is just want we wanted. The forest was great and guides were a lot of fun. There were 6 different zip lines. Two of them were short little hops to get from one stand to another, but the long ones were really very nice. Only real negative was that it had advertised a rope bridge and we didn't do that at all. They also apparently had 3 or 4 more ziplines that are only offered to hotel guests as they say there isn't enough time for cruise guests. The tour ended and a few folks got some food and did a little shopping at the make shift shop they had. Our drive back to the pier was nice and the driver even offered to take us to Montego Bay if we wanted, but everyone opted to go back to the pier. That was the end of our day as we had no interest in going to Montego Bay. Grand Cayman A very busy day for us as we had booked two shore excursions. Sting Ray city in AM and 2 Tank Scuba dive in the PM. The day started early as we had to be at the pier by 7:15 AM. We arrived on time, but then sat around for about 45 to 50 minutes waiting for, well I don't know, but the operation didn't seem to have it's act together at the pier. Sting Ray city is on the opposite side of the island from the pier area, so we all hopped into a bus and were drive, about 20 minutes, over to where the boat was located. We then hopped on to the boat and began a 20 to 25 minute boat ride out to Sting Ray city. When we arrived we were the third boat to get there, would have been first if we were on-time. The boat Captain had a problem with getting the boat to anchor and almost ran into a sail boat that was already anchored. We hopped in right away and had tons of fun with the Rays. Feeding them, Holding them, and just having fun playing with these amazing creatures. I wasn't really impressed with one of the guides as he wasn't offering any information about the sting rays and kept singing the same "we will we will rock you" song over and over. I think he thought he was trying to make it fun and lively to help encourage people to get in, but it was annoying to me. If people didn't want to do it, then it was there loss, but there are better ways to help encourage people to get in and enjoy the experience. We then headed back, but I felt we were rushed as the other two boats were still there when we left, so us being late starting cut the experience short, even though they said we would get the full experience. The ship had different add ons with the sting ray experience, so on the drive back we made a couple of stops to drop people off at other locations. Once back to the pier we only had about 50 minutes until our next excursion, so shopping at Grand Cayman was cut short. We were also forced to have to baby sit our dive bag as the RCCL excursion guy said they would have a place for our bag, but they didn't, so we had to stay with it. The scuba trip was a great. We again hopped into a bus and were taken a brief drive to the pier where we got organized to get ready to dive. Again we were late as it took longer to get ready, there were 24 of us diving, as apparently the ship never sent over the equipment list and they had to handle that one by one once we got there. The boat ride to the dive site was short and we hopped in and enjoyed a nice 30 minute dive. I think with the size of the group and being late, this bottom time was reduced, but we still enjoyed ourselves. Our second stop was about 45 minutes later, have to be on the surface between dives, but they only offered water. A snack or more drink options would have been nice. The second dive was again 30 minutes and we were brought to the surface early as we were running late. We all surfaced at about 4:20 and the last boat back to the ship was at 4:30. We knew they wouldn't leave, but it was a rush to get off of the boat and back to the ship. All in all we had a great excursions, but the day was not smooth and I blame both RCCL and the excursion company. By the way, when they tell you Sting Rays don't bite, well they kind of do if you stick your thumb up while feeding the suction is really strong and the abrasive plates the rays have for chewing can do some damage. Disembarkation We were part of the late group to get off as we had our own ground transportation. We enjoyed a nice breakfast and then headed off of the ship. The line to get off the ship and get through customs took about an hour, longer then I had expected, but was uneventful. Got our luggage and then I headed off to Avis to pick up the rental car. Unfortunately, Avis had problems and I had to wait about an hour and half until a car was ready. All in all the two one way rentals was worth it as it saved us over $100 on transportation costs. Summary We had an outstanding time on the cruise. It was a great length, 10 days, and well balance of sea days and port stops. The ship crew was just excellent. Our cabin steward was decent, however he had to be told that we were C&A members, but he did a great job keeping the room always ready for us. Our waiter was outstanding as was the assistant waiter. We purchased the gold wine package, so we always had wine for us during dinner. The meals were good and offered great selections. I don't consider myself to be food critic, so didn't really find too much fault with the food. DW commented that some of the deserts were bland in flavor. We love the Windjammer as breakfast and lunch offered great variety and good food. We also tried out the Seaview, which was good as well. The ship activities were very diverse, and we had fun doing Bingo, Trivia and some of the talks. The only down area were the type of entertainment they offered. While they were generally enjoyable, I felt they were bringing out a lot of older entertainers and lacked some younger/newer talent. I also wanted to comment on the Cruise Director, Joff Eaton. He is an interesting person and we found him to be very accessible and visible throughout the cruise. His staff was excellent as well. I mentioned earlier that I had forgotten to check on our account status. The on-line TA that we transferred too was to give us prepaid gratuities and OBC, but it didn't happen. When we found out, near the end, the ship personnel were helpful in doing the research and even allowed us to call the TA free from the ship, but we had to take care of it once we got back. It all worked out, but the lesson learned is to check when getting there so that if there is a problem it could get fixed. We definitely recommend the Panama itinerary and the Jewel of the Seas. We are anxious to get to our next cruise and hope to do more cruising with RCCL. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the ... Read More
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the cruise dropped TWICE. The first I feel was due to the economy and the second to fill the ship. The first time our cruise was not paid off yet and Carnival was kind enough to adjust our price. The second time our cruise was paid in full and Carnival was kind enough to give us an onboard credit for the difference. Later, Carnival dropped the fuel surcharge and gave us onboard credit for that. It would be an understatement to say that Carnival and our agent were very accommodating with our booking. Please note that you must keep up with the price of your cruise and call and ASK for the discount/credit - it DOES NOT happen automatically (except for the fuel surcharge)! Airport to Cruiseport taxi was just $24. Embarkation - We arrived Christmas Day and were the second family there and only waited about 20 minutes before we were shuffled through and awaiting to board. We were on the ship about 30 minutes later. This was a great experience compared to past experience. The Inspiration - My first impression was very clean and well maintained! We do not drink but still found the "welcome aboard" complimentary glasses of champagne a nice jester but eventually got tired of saying "no thank you" due to the many, many offers. We walk around the ship to get oriented and I suggest everyone do the same. You are not able to walk front to aft on most levels/floors so learning the maze if very helpful. Stateroom - Our cabin was roomy even with 2 kids (14 & 10). The beds were very comfortable! Bathroom was basic and watch out because the hot water is HOT! Sometimes we could not mix enough cold water in. Our cabin was ALWAYS well taken care of. The towel animals prompted me and my daughter to go to the demonstration on how to fold them. Room service was prompt and tasty. Food - We ate most breakfast and lunch meals at the buffet and found it quite pleasing. We did eat one breakfast in the dining room and the Eggs Benedict was awesome! For the evening meals we ate in the dining room. We sat with the most amazing family from Virginia! We couldn't wait each night to get to see them again! We know we will see them again some time down the road! OK back to the food. The dinner meals were delicious! Everything prepared nicely. The appetizers were all great. Main dishes were hard to choose from so I ordered two and the waitress was happy to bring both (she was very kind, informative and delightful!). On lobster night my son ate two entire meals. The Chocolate Melting Cake is the ultimate dessert! It is hard to order anything else, but try them all. If you want to see how challenging it is to feed over 2,000 three meals a day take the Galley Tour. (It should be mandatory for those that discredit the food in their reviews!). This ship has a FREE sushi bar that opens around 5:30 pm each afternoon. Get there early - the line gets long quick but it's worth the wait! Entertainment - Maybe not Vegas quality but you are not paying $100 a ticket. The singers were very talented as were the dancers. The orchestra put out a big band sound with only 8-10 musicians. The shows were put together well. The magician was good and the comedian was even better. We did not attend the late version of the comedian and appreciated the Cruise Director's warning that it was not appropriate for kids. Karaoke was fun. Trivia was also. For the kids - AWESOME! The ship offers many things for kids and it looked like all the kids were enjoying them! (This cruise has a lot of kids onboard so if this is something you don't care for - find another cruise) Formal Night - We had the onboard credit so we rented tuxedos for me and my son. If you do this, do it online before you go or first thing on the ship. There inventory is small and they may run out of your size. We met the captain and went to the dining room where just like every night Wilson (our Maitre' d) welcomed us. Cozumel - This was the second cruise to Cozumel for the wife and I so we were able to plan our visit better. We went to Chankanaab National Park and snorkeled. I have heard there are better places off shore to snorkel but this was our first time and this place was perfect for us. Beautiful fish, some nice coral reef and other things to do inside the park also. The taxi was $10 and admission was $49 for the four of us. Snorkel gear and life vest were $15 each to rent. We returned to the ship for a late lunch and then in to town for shopping. We had experienced the hounding of the store workers last trip so this was short and again unpleasant. So we went back to the pier and bought our stuff then got back on the ship. Disembarkation- Very quick and easy! Do the one where you take your own luggage! Show up early as they start before the time given. In summary, we had a great time! This is a 3 star cruise ship and you cannot expect it to compare with a 5 star. For the price this is an AWESOME cruise, do not hesitate to book this cruise. I found it to be nothing like some of the negative comments in a few of the previous reviews. If I had to complain about anything it would be the constant solicitation of having your picture taken. A simple "no thank you" took care of each. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise and an experiment for us to see what it is like to travel on one of these "monster" ships. This was our tenth cruise and our third with Royal Caribbean (RCL). This was a Christmas cruise and ... Read More
1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise and an experiment for us to see what it is like to travel on one of these "monster" ships. This was our tenth cruise and our third with Royal Caribbean (RCL). This was a Christmas cruise and the ship was full: about 3,500 passengers, including over 1,000 non-US citizens, and 1,500 crew. There were loads of families with ages from infants to very senior citizens. We booked a cabin with verandah on the seventh deck. Details below. In contrast to previous cruises on RCL and others, our request for a table for two at dinner was honored; we were on the mid-level of the three-level dining room. The cruise had three sea days which were very relaxing. 2. Travel to Florida and Embarking: We made our own plane arrangements but used the RCL pre-sailing hotel in Orlando, the Doubletree at Universal, and the RCL bus to port. Cab from the airport to the hotel, including tolls, baggage charges and tip, came to $50 and took about 20 minutes. Hotel was fine, but the first glitch appeared the next morning. RCL has no representative at the hotel; you just receive a sheet of paper at check-in telling you to be in the lobby at a certain time the following morning with your bags. People gathered in the lobby and started drifting out the door toward a bus that turned out to be the right one. My wife and I noticed that everyone in line had preprinted tags on their luggage - except us. It turns out that since we received our RCL travel documents via e-mail, there was no way we could get paper tags for our suitcases. The bus driver seemed to understand the situation and segregated our luggage from the others. On arrival at the pier (a 45 minute ride), while everyone else went in the terminal to process in, we had to fumble with the porters (and an RCL rep) to tag our suitcases. It worked, though, and our bags arrived at our cabin around 5PM, the same time as other cabins around us. Having done Sea Pass check-in on-line got us through the check-in procedures very quickly. We were in our cabin by 1:30. The usual lunch was being served in the Windjammer and Jade areas. One interesting item to note if you order a drink before the ship sails: you will find tax on your bill. A small reminder that you are still in the US until the ship sails. 3. The Mariner of the Seas: What a large ship! And somehow it works! The cabin was a bit small for the two of us - should have reserved a mini-suite. However, there was enough storage space for unpacking clothes. Suitcases fit well under the bed. The closet could have been larger, but we made do. We join others who complain that the shower is very small. My wife is 5'2" and weighs under 100 lbs; she banged her elbows during her first shower. We got the hang of it. The cabin has a small safe and a small refrigerator. There is a TV that receives movies, CNN, ESPN, shipboard activities, and other channels. You get a daily planner in your cabin the night prior. You need to read it carefully as there are very few announcements on the PA system. A 4-page summary newspaper is available in the library. It takes a while - days - to get a handle on what is where on the ship. You receive a map sheet after boarding, and there are maps at each elevator bay. The elevators are quirky; often you push the button and watch the elevator go right past your floor. There is a huge childrens/teens area and programs for them. I defer to others with children to comment on this part of the ship. While the ship's staff will sell you stamps for your mail, do not look for postcards of the ship. There are none. And the ship's shops only had postcards for stops for previous cruises - none for this cruise. Do nose around the front of the ship on Deck 11, I believe, as there is an unadvertised spot that lets you see the bridge. You don't see all of the bridge, but you do see the Captain's seat and the array of electronic equipment in front of him...very similar to an airline captain's seat. There is a diagram and chart explaining what you see. 4. Meals: Food in the Windjammer and Jade buffets - which almost everyone uses for breakfast and lunch - is good. There are plenty of choices at both meals, and you can eat as much or as little as you want. It is a bit hurried, though, and not a place for a slow meal. There is no self-service coffee in this area; you have to ask for it. The dining room's food was very good, well-prepared, and well-served. We only used it for dinner, although it is available with open seating at breakfast and lunch. The main seating is at 6PM, and the meal is paced so that you are out of there before 8PM. The second seating is at 8:30. Food portions are of respectable size, and if you don't try to eat all the courses everyday, you should not do bad weight-wise. The wine list is respectable, and wine is available by the bottle or glass. I only had one meal - Christmas Day - in the dining room that bombed. The menu described the dish as "beef and veal tournedos." There was no veal on my plate, the beef was definitely not a tournedos cut, and the meat was quite leathery. Other than that one slip, no complaints about the dining room, and service there was excellent. We had made reservations on-line for the Portofino specialty restaurant. Excellent food, wine, and service. Well worth the extra charges. There are other food outlets around the ship as well as a goodly number of bars including a pub and a wine shop. You cannot go hungry or thirsty. Due to the number of passengers, the Captain's reception is now held in the Promenade. You still get your glass of champagne but no place to sit. In fact, there are very few places to sit in the public areas; if you want to rest your feet, you need to grab a table in one of the bars. 5. Dressing for meals: For this seven day trip it was two formal, one casual or Caribbean and four casual. Most people did not bother with doing anything different for "Caribbean." A good number - perhaps half - of men at formal nights were in tuxedos or suits; some who did not want to dress up just did not appear for these meals. Considering how the ladies dress up for these meals, I suggest more men who served in the military obtain miniatures of the medals they were awarded and attach them to their tuxes. It's permissible to do so, and the medals do add some color to our basic black tuxedos. 6. Shore Excursions: A word of advice: make your shore excursion reservations on-line! Otherwise you will either have to use the not-so-user-friendly on board TV system to make your reservations or stand in line on board at the excursion counter. The on-line billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you don't need the ship's tour office. RCL's tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ship's staff, you have support when there is a problem. As the Captain said, "we do not leave anyone behind, but we do leave on time." Those "standard" 4-page sheets on each stop with a map and recommended stores are hard to come by. They are not available at Guest Services, and the shopping person does not have them with her unless you attend her lecture in person. We did find, though, that the sheets are available at the gangway when you leave the ship. Coco Cay is the same as every other line's "private beach" in the Bahamas. Been there, done that. Enroute to St Thomas we were informed that as we were returning to the US (ie, the Virgin Islands), from the Bahamas, everyone on board would have to go through US immigration whether or not they would get off the ship. At the last moment it was announced that there would be no immigration to deal with. It could be that the immigration staff was stretched thin that morning; we were four cruise ships in port. St Thomas is attractive and was a pleasant stop. Had a couple rain showers while there. St Maarten deserves another visit due to a unique problem when visiting on Christmas Day. By law, all stores in both the Dutch and French sides are shut. A small shop area at the pier - inside the control point - was open as well as a couple restaurants and some street merchants in Marigot on the French side. The island is attractive, but it would be more interesting to see some people moving about. We were again four ships in port. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, lectures, bridge, bingo (for serious players!), etc, etc. Don't forget the rockclimbing wall. And do not forget the ice skating rink. There are times that you can practice skating, and you should try and get tickets (they are free, but are needed) to see the ice show. The show is not of super quality, but remember where you are: on a ship in the Caribbean. You can tell that the skaters, even with all their rehearsals, still have problems with the small size of the rink. The evening shows were fine; the performances by the ship's troupe were very good, and the two comics - one a juggler - were fun. The casino was of good size and the payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. Duty-free liquor on board was reasonable; you order your liquor and it is delivered to your cabin the day before disembarking. If you are flying, though, how do you take it home? There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have your picture taken by the ship's photographerspricey, but a good souvenir. There are various venues for night owls. 8. Tipping: Not a problem if you sign up for the recommended amounts (for cabin steward, waiter, asst waiter, and head waiter). The amounts are charged to your shipboard account; you receive vouchers and envelopes before the last night on board. Put the vouchers in the (pre-addressed) envelopes, and hand them out. You're done. You only need to tip separately (cash) the person who brings your room service breakfast. Your bar bill automatically adds 15 percent. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise, anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos, even bingo) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. You can track your account on the ship's TV channel. On Sunday morning you receive a paper final statement of your account. 10. Disembarking: Your bags have to be out before midnight, breakfast is early, and you have to be out of your cabin by 7:00 and in one of the designated waiting areas. Your bags are color coded. Disembarking starts around 7:00, and the announcements are made only in the waiting areas. Strong recommendation: Use the RCL "Luggage Valet and Onboard Check-In Service" for $20 per person. You receive special bar coded tags for your luggage. Put them on your bags, put the bags outside your cabin door, and you do not see the bags again until you land at your final airport. The catch? This is only for certain domestic airlines flying out of Orlando, you have to travel all the way on the same airline, and this is only good within the US. You also receive e-ticket boarding passes which also give you the luggage tag number. You arrive at Orlando airport and can go straight to security and on to your gate. At the gate, do check with the counter personnel if the e-ticket passes are OK. The clerk told me, "sometimes the bar codes are OK and sometimes they aren't." It only took her one minute to print off the regular boarding passes for the entire trip. We did see at our home airport that the barcoded tags we put on the bags must have been an identifying code for airline personnel at Orlando as the "regular" airline luggage tags (with the number printed on our e-tcket pass) were also attached. Again, the system worked. Downside to this system: You have to get up way early. We were the first ones off the ship at ca 7:10, zipped through immigration, got on a bus around 7:20, left the pier at 7:35, and arrived at Orlando airport at 8:20. And our flight out of Orlando was at 1:20. Thankfully, Orlando airport is pretty comfortable. 12. Conclusion: While not an outstanding cruise, it was certainly pleasant and well worth repeating. The ship's staff did provide briefings with slides and videos of the new Oasis ship that will start sailing in December 2009 (6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew). The Mariner is a good, smaller, example of what the new ship will be like. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@satx.rr.com. Fred Groth San Antonio, TX Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We drove down to Miami from Virginia, stopping at Cocoa Beach for the night before continuing on to the port. We stayed at the Best Western in Cocoa Beach, which was fine, and reasonably priced. We arrived at the Port of Miami around ... Read More
We drove down to Miami from Virginia, stopping at Cocoa Beach for the night before continuing on to the port. We stayed at the Best Western in Cocoa Beach, which was fine, and reasonably priced. We arrived at the Port of Miami around 10:30am, which seems to be a good time to get there. Parking was very easy (although somewhat expensive). They do take credit cards at the lot across from the pier now (apparently, they used to only take cash). You have to pay up front, $20 per day). I dropped on my wife and kids and luggage and went and parked the minivan. We had the luggage tagged and then proceeded to embarkation. For some reason, the porter tagged our luggage using a yellow highlighter, so one of our bags didn't make it to our room later because it couldn't be read (duh!). Embarkation was very smooth - we were through the process and in the holding area shortly after 11am. We were not allowed on the ship until shortly before noon. When we got on board, we were greeted with glasses of champagne and shown where to store our carry-on luggage before our cabin was ready. We then went to the Garden Cafe to grab some lunch. The buffet was fine - not spectacular, but not bad. About what we'd expect our first day. We then went out to the pool area to look around and then walked around the ship to try and familiarize ourselves with it. I checked out a book from the library at that time. After we'd looked around, the kids went swimming while my wife and I people watched and waited for when we'd set sail. I must say, that looking out at the lines waiting to get into the garage, I was glad we arrived early. The ship has a "sail away" party on deck, which a Caribbean-themed band and drink specials (we didn't try the special drink, but the price wasn't anything special - $8.50, which included a souvenir "glass" that was actually plastic). We opted for the bucket of beers, which is 6 beers for the price of 5. That was a special all week, in all the bars. I would recommend bring along a bottle opener if you are a beer drinker, so that you can open them at your leisure. If you don't finish all the beers in one sitting, you can take them back to your room and store them in your refrigerator. Overall, we thought the prices for alcohol were not too bad, although we'd stay away from the souvenir glasses, all of which are plastic. Overall, we were underwhelmed by this cruise. We had not cruised for more than 10 years, and this time we brought our three boys, aged 15, 11, and 8. They made their own friends on board and did not partake in the kids programs, so we don't have a review on those programs. We hated the fact that we were constantly being hounded to buy more stuff, both on the ship and on Great Stirrup Cay. Every show began with a pitch to buy scratch-off type strips that went for 5 for $20 at first and then 6 for $20 later in the week. If you must buy those, definitely wait until the end of the week, when they start throwing in lots of inducements like t-shirts and such. We decided that the "Freestyle Cruising" concept is not for us. Even though set seating times do force you to plan, we liked the idea of meeting and eating with other people every night at dinner. On other cruises, we found it a good opportunity to discuss what we liked and didn't like about ports, excursions, shows, etc. We really missed that interaction this time around. We also grew tired of the Venetian and Aqua, both of which served identical menus, which changed little, day-to-day. The ambiance in the Venetian is really nice, however. If you have the opportunity to sit in the rear of the restaurant in the morning for a sit-down breakfast, you won't regret it - the view off the stern is really nice. We ate at two of the fee-for-eat restaurants on board: Salsa and Le Bistro. Salsa we found to be average, although our waiter was excellent, very funny and performing magic tricks for the kids. Le Bistro we ate at by ourselves, having sent the kids to the Blue Lagoon, which has pub-type food that kids love. We liked Le Bistro - the food was well prepared, and the chocolate fondue for dessert was heavenly. It was, however, the only meal we had all week that really filled us up. If you're worried about gaining weight while sailing on the Dawn, you'd have a hard time doing so. The portions at the restaurants are pretty small, and at the Venetian and Aqua the service is slow enough that you'd definitely think twice before ordering more of something, even though I'm sure you could if you wanted to. The Chocoholic Buffet was not as great as it sounds. The lines were quite long, and most of the desserts were OK, but not elaborate or exotic by any means. We ate lunch each day either at the Garden Cafe buffet or at the hamburger-hot dog buffet on deck. Those days were were in port, we ate in port. And speaking of ports, we would never again go on a cruise that requires tenders for more than one port. If we had not been scheduled for a shore excursion in Samana, we might never have made it off the ship. As it was, we were 45 minutes late getting off. We went to Cayo Levantado, which was beautiful. The snorkeling was not very good, however, just as a word to the wise. The beach was very nice. The kids ate at the hamburger buffet that was maybe a little pricey for what they got, but I figured I wasn't in the DR to eat American pub food, so I went to the other little cafe-type restaurant and ordered the fish, which they said was their specialty. It took awhile (could have been two Presidente beers worth), but I wasn't disappointed. While I have never eaten a fish presented with the head and tail still on, it was truly delicious. I was forced to buy another Presidente to go with it - what choice did I have? Before I go further - absolutely, positively DO NOT buy the bottled water on board ship before going ashore. You can easily buy $1 bottles wherever you get off, whereas they want $2.50 to $3.50 on board. Our next port was St. Thomas, the shopping mecca of the Caribbean islands. If you have not booked a shore excursion, I'd encourage you to take a quick taxi ride into town rather than shopping at the Havensight Mall, right next to the pier. The shopping in town is much better. If you plan to go to Magens Bay beach, which we did, don't bother booking the shore excursion - you can do the exact same thing yourself for quite a bit less. You just hop aboard one of the taxis that go there constantly, at $8 per person each way, and then just relax on the beach. You can book a shore excursion called "Magens Bay Beach Getaway," that involves exactly the same taxis going to exactly the same beach, with nothing more than that. Taxis go back to the ship every 10 minutes or so so there's no way you could ever miss the ship as long as you didn't cut it too close. The view from the top of the hill going to the beach is spectacular. You'll want to take photos, so have your camera out and try to sit on the end of the taxi seat. The next port is Tortola, which has a pier. We booked the Virgin Gorda Baths and Snorkel, which we were really looking forward to because we honeymooned in Virgin Gorda at a resort right next to the Baths. Unfortunately, the weather was such that our safety could not be assured on that excursion, so they took us to Norman Island for snorkeling (at $10 less per person), after giving everyone the opportunity to cancel. The snorkeling at Norman Island was very good, even if the weather was still a little iffy. On the way back they gave us rum punches that were more rum than punch, and we got back to the ship maybe a little tipsy! The final port was Great Stirrup Cay, after a day at sea. Even though NCL seems proud it has owned its private island for 30 years, it amazes us that they never seem to have noticed that GSC is too small for such a large number of guests. If you have not booked a shore excursion, you have to get a tender ticket for each member of your party, beginning at 7:30am. If you are not in the first couple hundred, you will wait and wait and wait to get ashore. And when you get there, you will have to scrounge for a decent chair and a little patch of sand to put it on. We were packed in like sardines. And to make matters worse, NCL charges $25 to rent a large float for the kids to play on - a float I seriously doubt cost $25 to begin with. And they wanted $29 to rent adult snorkel equipment and $15 for kids. They only rent them "by the day," even though you realistically cannot use them for more than about 3-4 hours. Oh, and the water was freezing cold - there's no way I was going to get in there to snorkel. One huge bright spot - the entertainment was fantastic. The Jean Ann Ryan company of singers and dancers were amazing - the acrobatics were stunning and the singing and dancing were superb. The Second City show is not to be missed - it is really hilarious. The magician was very good, as well, but the comedian has seen better days. Overall, the ship was clean and well laid out. The staterooms are decent sized, and the bathrooms are as well. We booked last-minute, so we had an inside stateroom (actually two), and we were quite satisfied with them. We never actually met our stateroom steward, which is much different than on previous cruises. Because of the automatic tipping policy, I don't think the staff have a lot of incentive to "go above and beyond." Our deck waiter, Ryan, did though, so we gave him a separate tip. We opted out of the automatic tipping policy, preferring to give our own tips. This can be done by visiting the reception desk on Deck 7. They were quite alarmed at our decision, and made us sign a form. We gave our cabin steward a separate tip for each stateroom. Because we had a long drive back to Virginia, we opted for the Express Disembarkation, which required us to take our own luggage off the ship. We were notified around 7:20am that we could disembark, and by 7:45, we were in the car and on the road. Very quick and painless. We had a very nice time on this cruise, mostly because we were warm while all our friends back home were freezing! But we are concerned that Norwegian is becoming (or has become) the new Carnival - an emphasis on mediocrity at a good price. We probably will go back to Royal Caribbean next time we cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Poesia Xmas 2008 Embarkation in Genoa was the usual organized chaos we have come to expect from MSC. Our scheduled sailing time was 16.00, so we arrived at 15.00, having checked in on-line. With MSC Club priority boarding we expected to ... Read More
Poesia Xmas 2008 Embarkation in Genoa was the usual organized chaos we have come to expect from MSC. Our scheduled sailing time was 16.00, so we arrived at 15.00, having checked in on-line. With MSC Club priority boarding we expected to waltz straight on board. Hope springs eternal! In fact we got our cruise cards right away, but were then given a boarding number and asked to go into a waiting room full of hundreds of passengers. No thanks. We went off for a drink in the bar in the terminal. Twice. We finally boarded at 16.15, having waited for ten minutes for security. Someone told me we eventually set sail at 18.00. First impressions of the ship were as expected, with everything ship-shape as it should be on a six month old ship. She really is a magnificent vessel. The public rooms and staterooms are tastefully decorated, and everything is pristine. I witnessed officers and crew alike, constantly running their fingers over every flat surface in a hunt for the slightest speck of dust. Our balcony stateroom on deck twelve aft was nicely furnished, with a reasonable size shower room, and very comfortable. Unfortunately it suffered from terribly unpleasant vibration at eighteen knots plus in a rough sea, gale force 8. Others reported vibration from their cabins in that same area. One phoned reception to complain and the Chief Housekeeper came to investigate. They should have sent the Naval Architect who designed the darned thing! The Grappolo d'Oro is a nice bar with Italian snacks (chargeable)where they serve a good selection of quality Italian wines, that are not on the regular wine list. There is also a knowledgeable sommelier (the only one on the ship) to discuss our wine choices. The passenger mix is predominantly German, with many Italians, Brits, a sprinkling of Yanks and then lots of other nationalities. We travelled on her sister ship Musica a year ago and had a great time. Unfortunately, since then cost-cutting accountants appear to have taken over the helm, and examples of penny-pinching abound. There is a 4 Euros minimum internet charge, 4.40 Euros to log on to the GSM phone system, plus call charges on top. No tap water is served at table in the restaurant - you must pay through the nose for bottled. The "speciality" restaurant (really just a section of the buffet with tablecloths on) has an 18 Euros supplemental charge, and guess what? - a supplement of 8 Euros on top of that if you want shrimp! 10-15 Euros to watch a year-old movie on your TV? The orange "juice" served for breakfast appears to be the "nectar" type, i.e. 25% juice and 75% sugar water. You can buy freshly squeezed juice: nearly 4 Euros for a small glass. A photocopied city map from the tour office? 50c! A pizza in the evening? 7 Euros. A free daily newsletter with news and sports results from home? You must be joking! At the Captain's Cocktail party, only the four drinks on the waiter's tray are available, and they wait till the room is half full before serving you any drink, so as to cut down on consumption. You can't even buy a drink whilst you are waiting, as the tills are not open. But the nickel and diming is at its absolute worst in the buffet at lunch. The ice and hot and cold water machines are shuttered and padlocked like Fort Knox, in case you try to get a free glass, and there is a notice on the water dispenser warning "It is not permitted to fill your own bottle", for when the vault is unlocked during the breakfast buffet. The food budget has been cut to the bone. On the first Gala night, thin slices of fillet of beef were the only steak option. The same on another Gala night. In fact all the steak choices were thin slices, rather than a whole steak. I have recently come off Oceania line where you could have a 32 oz Porterhouse every night, Cardiologist permitting! When lobster was served it was only half a tail from a small specimen. No smoked salmon is offered on the breakfast menu. The buffet menu at breakfast and lunch appears virtually identical to the fare on offer in the restaurant. There is nowhere to eat from 2.30 until your dinner service in the main dining rooms, unless you pay. The buffet re-opens at night as a paid for pizzeria. The food in general is very tasty, with excellent breads and patisserie. Do not expect gourmet cuisine or any prime cuts. One day the roast of the day in the buffet was meatloaf. Some of my tablemates had a problem with the temperature of the food as served, complaining "It's not hot enough." I asked for a bottle of Tabasco to be set on the table, and invited them to use that instead of sending the plate back They have never had an orchestra on MSC in recent years, which means the theatre shows are performed to recorded music. Don't expect epic productions like on Celebrity or Cunard, but the entertainment is just about OK. The "Atlantis" show is well executed. We saw an excellent magician, Martin, and a superb shadow lamp exponent who produced the most amazing shadow characters with just his hands. There is very little to do on sea-days or half days at sea if it's cold or raining, unless you fancy a multi-lingual quiz or bingo. There are amateurish ad-hoc "shows" performed by the cruise staff in various lounges. They are a bit of a laugh and help you while away the time whilst waiting for the next port of call! There are umpteen TV channels with about four broadcasting news in English; Sky, CNN, CNBC, Russia Today, but otherwise, only pay TV films. We had poor weather most days, so no sunbathing. We longed to be able to watch the old re-runs of Lucy, Bonanza, Frasier, and The Beverly Hillbillies etc. that seem to be on a permanent loop on other lines. Some of the Purser's staff seem to have a "no can do" attitude. There are something like twelve to fifteen red-clad girls on the front desk, some of whom seem to have been specially selected for their stupidity. Perhaps a brain with a flair for languages is balanced by a deficiency in the part of the brain that deals with common sense! There is virtually no Concierge service available, as the whole set-up seems geared to selling you expensive ship's tours at 40-109 Euros a pop. A simple request to the front desk for a paper print out of a single page railway timetable from a specific website was met with every excuse why this was not possible, including: "You can see it in the Cyber Cafe" "There's no printer there" "You can get it on your laptop" "I don't have a printer" This proved an insurmountable task for the receptionist. I got the print-out myself in minutes from an internet cafe in third-world Egypt. It took five visits to the accounts office to claim my 200 Euros on-board credit promised by my travel agent, and it eventually appeared in two instalments of 100 Euros, days apart. In the wine bar, there are a number of flat screen TV's. I and one of the staff were watching cricket on one screen. A "Purser Cadet" appeared on the scene, demanded the remote control, and proceeded to change the TV to the ship's promotional channel showing exactly the same programming as the other TV's. Apparently, it's "impossible" to watch a sports channel, as all the screens must show the MSC propaganda videos simultaneously in perpetuity. The wi-fi connection is patchy, slow and expensive, so we didn't bother after an initial attempt in the cyber cafe, as the cost was 25 Euros an hour. I had no signal in my stateroom, 12180. We were surprised that the excellent cabin stewards seemed to know when we were home, because we were never disturbed by them barging in to "do" the room. I wondered if they had CCTV surveillance in their pantry, but it turns out when you put your key card in the slot to turn the cabin lights on, it also illuminates a little amber warning light above the door to show the room is occupied. Don't buck the system by leaving a business card in the slot when vacating the room, otherwise you'll wait all day to get your room serviced! Some passengers had an issue with tipping, as all tips are pooled between the whole crew and around 40% goes to management, who are already on decent money paid in Euros with pensions and European-type employment contracts. The third world staff on ten month contracts who need the money, supporting extended families at home are thus short changed. Many of the bedroom stewards and cleaning staff come from Madagascar. MSC must have found they will work for less than Filipinos. However, if you go to the cash desk to remove the automatic tips, there is a notice: "Staff are not allowed to receive their tips directly in cash". You betcha! See if they turn down cash. They did not! All in all, MSC provides a pleasant enough cruise experience, better than the Carnival and Costa ships we have travelled on. We enjoyed this voyage, which was very reasonably priced for a Christmas cruise. However, following the changes, MSC is not for us either. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The Carnival Victory is, when all is said and done, a decent enough ship, the problems it suffers from are basically all derived from the human factor. The ships layout is pretty standard for this class of vessel and the facilities ... Read More
The Carnival Victory is, when all is said and done, a decent enough ship, the problems it suffers from are basically all derived from the human factor. The ships layout is pretty standard for this class of vessel and the facilities available are generally good. PORTS OF CALL The itinerary with a different island each day is, as far as I know, fairly unique and offers a good variety of islands. ST. Thomas offers good shopping, Dominica offers an island with little development, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and St. Kitts all offer well developed tourist infrastructure, with historical and cultural differences enough to make them all worth visiting. FOOD The quality of the food was quite possibly the worst I have ever experienced on any ship. The buffet was like a farm yard feeding trough and seemed to be cleaned less regularly. The full service dining provided a menu of bland, non descript food that i would be embarrassed to be served at a local Picadilly. I'm not sure where the 'chef' trained, but it certainly wasn't a culinary institute, or maybe he just made do with the poor quality food available onboard, any decent chef would have sent most of the food back to the supplier. SERVICE The levels of service provided by staff were barely acceptable, there seemed to be an underlying attitude of 'well what do you expect'. ENTERTAINMENT This seemed to be kept to a minimum, mainly to keep people in the bars, which had the obvious results of drunks wandering around the ship at all hours. When shows were performed by the ships dancers and singers they were generally of a good standard, but way too infrequent. These shows are now cut down to one show per night rather than one show per dinner sitting, to allow for the sales of more booze. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My wife & I left San Juan on the Caribbean Princess on December 21 for a cruise to Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Tortola and St Thomas. I believe the ship delayed leaving port so that a few customers might make it to the ship from their ... Read More
My wife & I left San Juan on the Caribbean Princess on December 21 for a cruise to Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Tortola and St Thomas. I believe the ship delayed leaving port so that a few customers might make it to the ship from their delayed flights (due to poor weather). Boarding the ship was the easiest and most friendly experience we have had in our three cruises ( others were with Carnival and Royal Caribbean). The line of new passengers went along swiftly and we arrived in our cabin in no time at all. Our luggage was delivered shortly afterwards. We could get spoiled this way ! The cabin showed some aging but mostly only in terms of decor and styling and was much more than adequate. It was clean and the service by our Cabin Steward was excellent. The shower water was HOT and pressure was excellent. We had been upgraded to the Lido Deck and it was wonderful, top of the ship! We chose the "Anytime Dining" and only had a problem on Christmas Day evening getting into a dining room for the 8 o'clock sitting. If we had requested reservations a few days earlier we would not have had the wait (90 minutes). Otherwise, the Anytime Dining was an excellent choice for us. We also enjoyed the Buffet in the Carib Cafe, especially the Seafood Night. The ship had a very good selection of modestly priced wines as well. It was our third cruise and I think the seas were a little rougher than earlier times as the ship rolled more. Some folks took offense to that, but it did not bother us at all. We loved the Crooners Lounge and the service there by Yuri and Joseleo was super! With the possible exception of NYC and Boston's North End, the Caribbean Princess had the best pizza I have ever had. You sure don't expect that on a cruise in the caribbean. The STAR of the show however was the Caribbean Princess's Shopping Consultant, Jennifer. I attended her first day lecture while my wife sunned as I was just strolling along the decks. I listened and got a number of tips. Several days later I bought my wife a tanzanite ring in Antigua. 12 hours later, we noticed a diamond had fallen out of the setting. I brought it to Jennifer and she immediately said "not to worry." She managed to get it completely repaired and all the stones re-checked by dinner the next day. Thanks Jennifer! The few negative aspects of our trip had to include the service staff at poolside. Several days they totally ignored my wife to the point of being rude (servicing the people lying next to her and ignoring her). Another comment involves not the ship but the companies running the shore excursions. We went on the bus tours of the islands and we would have appreciated more time at the individual sites for picture-taking and shopping. Otherwise, the tour people were quite pleasant and knowledgeable. We understand the Caribbean Princess goes to dry dock in a week or so. With some remodeling and enhancements, we would certainly consider a return trip aboard this Princess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Ecstasy 5-night 12-27-08 New Year's Cruise! Headed to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton on the Seawall and ate at The Spot. There was lots of fog all day, all evening and even into the early morning of departure, but ... Read More
Ecstasy 5-night 12-27-08 New Year's Cruise! Headed to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton on the Seawall and ate at The Spot. There was lots of fog all day, all evening and even into the early morning of departure, but the sun came out and we were ready to cruise! The ship was in port before 8 am. We arrived at the ship at 11:15, walked straight up the stairs, through VIP and were the first two people through the photo line and onto the ship - Wow! We of course went to the Lido deck and were handed a glass of champagne, come to find out, the classes were almost bottomless until muster drill - fun. We called and texed our friends and family, took some photos of the trays of champagne that kept coming and coming, dropped my husband's Blackberry phone into the ocean accidently (we have insurance) then went to our cabin E-244 to dress for 1st night's dinner. I left $5 and a note asking our cabin steward (who we never saw and that's okay with me) to leave me an extra pillow and a blanket. When we returned to our cabin, both items were there and he also kept our "stuff" iced down all 5 days. At dinner, we were assigned a booth for 6 people, all were our age, one was a honeymoon couple on their first cruise and feeling motion sickness, they left during appetizers and we never saw them again. Unfortunately, we did see the other couple again, we went to the maitre'd and asked for a table change after missing the next two nights at dinner. We thought of the NCL commercial where the man keeps talking and talking and talking, well it was something like that. Anyway, the maitre'd moved us to a beautiful table and we very much enjoyed our last dinner there. We tipped him on the last night by the way. Even though the sun was shining through our cabin window, we slept 11 ½ hours the first night, after going to bed at7:30! That's unheard of, I guess we really did need some rest. We got up the first day at sea - ahhh - had breakfast on the Lido, read and people watched on the aft area in lounge chairs, had an early lunch and watched some Sunday afternoon football which was showing all around the ship. Tonight was elegant night and we had the prime rib, pumpkin soup, cherries jubilee, all were wonderful, we walked around the ship and went to the cabin to prep for Cozumel. Got up for breakfast again on the Lido as we pulled into lovely Cozumel. We did the Dune Buggy Tour leaving at 10:00 and loved it, they prepared and served us food on Playa Bonita consisting of guacamole, salsa, chips, chicken, beer, soda and water. We walked the beach, picked up some sand and shells and relaxed. We returned to the ship and had the sushi; we always look forward to the sushi and sometimes the sake too! We turned in early to prep for Progreso. Before you say anything about Progreso, we LOVE Progreso, we have friends there and it's one of our favorite ports of call. In Progreso we stayed all day long on the beach, eating, drinking, visiting, buying fun stuff and enjoying the heck out of the day! I got a massage on the beach as usual, it's always a treat and we had an awesome day. We ate in the Panorama Grill for two reasons, 1- the dreaded table mates, 2-didn't want to dress for dinner. The food in the Panorama was okay that night, but nothing to write home about; once we had our ice cream, it did however fill the void in our tummies. We went to the show tonight for the first time, the comedian Brian Tassell was good and our cruise director Steve Cassel did a wonderful juggling act. He is a multi-talented man and very, very well spoken and polite. We saw him many times around on the ship. We went to our cabin, watched TV and fell asleep by 10pm - sweet. New Year's Eve at sea, went up for the yoga class, breakfast in the dining room - I always love that, had salmon, bagel, turkey bacon, 2 eggs and coffee. We went to the gift shops to spend our on board credit which WAS on our sign and sail cards at arrival - nice. I bought some T-shirts, a coffee cup, some earrings and other little things. The sea was like glass until about 11:30am, it was so eerie and beautiful at the same time and remained calm all the way back to Galveston. Ate a light lunch, walked around the ship, went to the specialty coffee shop on the promenade and had latte's and the carrot cake. We returned to our cabin and our customs info was there along with party hats and blow out horns for the festivities later. I spent some time filling all the customs paperwork out while thinking of what to wear to our last night, New Year's Eve dinner without the "dreaded" table mates. We had clam chowder, rib eye steak, apple dessert and the cheese assortment - excellent! We also took our own bottle of wine we brought with us and it was opened and served nicely and at no extra charge, maybe because it was NY Eve. The New Years celebration parties were held in several areas, and again the almost bottomless champagne glasses were passed around on large trays. There was food, music and specialty champagne's if you cared to purchase them. At midnight, the Captain came on the speaker and did the 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1- countdown and blew the ship's horn. It was all very fun. With all our luggage (and we intentionally packed less than ever and did just fine) we were the second and third people off the ship and headed for customs. We were off the ship and in our car by 8:30am. We have a 6 hour drive ahead of us but as we were leaving Houston, I received a phone call from Carnival, I had forgotten ALL my hang-up clothes in the closet! How could I have done that? I've never done that, but at any rate the lady said I had two options. 1-they could ship them to Miami and they would mail them on to me or I could come back and pick them up. I told her I'd come right back and be there in about an hour, she told me where to come and I thanked her. We returned to the port, I handed security my sign and sail card and told them my story, they had me sit and wait. The nice lady took my sign and sail card and went to find my clothes. After about 30 minutes, she returned with my clothes and a smile on her face. I thanked her for all her trouble and we headed back towards Galveston again. Excellent cruise in every way - way to go Carnival! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background: We have been on 10 other cruises, mostly in the Caribbean. We have cruised on NCL, RCCL, Princess, and Celebrity before this Carnival cruise. We have come to expect a certain tone and level of activity on board ships, with ... Read More
Background: We have been on 10 other cruises, mostly in the Caribbean. We have cruised on NCL, RCCL, Princess, and Celebrity before this Carnival cruise. We have come to expect a certain tone and level of activity on board ships, with which to compare our recent Carnival experience. We found our cruise lacking in almost every category except for shore activities, which we arranged for ourselves. Flight Info: We flew from Bellingham, WA, to San Diego on Allegiant Airlines. That turned out to be a lucky break for us, as the day we left (12-21-08) Sea-Tac was snowed in and many flights were cancelled. We spoke to many people on the ship who said that friends and family members missed the cruise because they couldn't get out. One man said he flew his wife to meet the ship in Acapulco to the tune of over $1000 US. Bellingham is about 80 miles north of Seattle, and we had a few empty seats on our flight down. Something to keep in mind if the weather outside is frightful in the northwest. On the return, San Diego was fogged in and our outbound flight was cancelled due to weather. We left the next morning after staying at the Sheraton at our expense. Hotel Info: We stayed in SD on the cheap, at the Dolphin Inn (http://www.dolphin-motel.com/bry/dolphin/home.html), across from the San Diego sports fishing dock where the charter boats moor. Our bare-bones, small room was $66 a night, which included a continental breakfast. The place was really cute and the staff was very helpful. When we had difficulty finding a van-sized cab to take us four miles to the ship, the owner and his son loaded our luggage and us onto their private cars and drove us there. They wouldn't accept a tip for the service. We will always be grateful and will stay there again. By staying there, we were also treated to the sight of a returning sports fishing charter boat that returned from Mexican waters with about 200 yellow fin tuna and wahoo, including 61 tuna over 200 pounds each. That was something to see! Embarkation: Excellent. It was POURING rain in San Diego (This coming from people who live north of Seattle), and we were drenched when we arrived to embark. The process was extremely smooth. Staff provided us with extra bag tags, as the rain had soaked through ours and they were falling off. We dried off on a big tour boat next to the ship, and were ushered quickly through the arrival process and onto the ship. Surprisingly smooth. Ship Info: The Spirit seemed like an older ship, though it was launched in 2001. It had everything our other cruises had, except for much spirit, oddly enough. I guess we would have to say it was adequate, which was a bit of a disappointment. We like a good bar at night for instance, so were disappointed to learn that the funnest bars were the crew bar, which we couldn't get to, and the Karaoke bar. The stewards, waiters, and other staff were very nice, but there was no cohesive spirit of fun. We had been expecting a "fun ship," and couldn't find fun on board. Celebrity has martini bars with flair; most ships have live bands that play on the pool deck, creating a lively atmosphere; Celebrity usually has quartets that play around the ship. Carnival Spirit had a couple older guys perched on stands above a bar in the center of the lobby and above the casino bar, playing electric guitars and singing solo. Strange, and seemingly cheap. Stateroom: We had a standard inside cabin which was fine. Our steward Lito did a great job, with towel animals every night and excellent service. The only weird thing about the cabin was that you had to swipe a personal card through a reader on the safe to open and close it. While this was safer than using a room card, it wasn't as safe as a combination keypad, as you needed to keep another card out of the safe to get into the safe. If people used a credit card, they couldn't leave it in the safe, where it would be safe. Dining: Great staff, adequate food. This was the first cruise we have been on where most nights I didn't find an item on the menu that I really wanted for dinner. One time pasta was cold, one time a flat iron steak was rubbery, and most times the food was good but not great. Breakfast in the dining room was a tad lacking. They had a butter substitute on the tables, for instance, rather than butter. Out of the four days we breakfasted in the dining room, they only presented the pastry basket once. At dinner, no bread basket on the table; they would come by at the beginning and serve a roll or two. And no breadsticks, which we loved on Celebrity. These are picky little things and we probably sound like snobs, but it was the little things that differentiated this cruise from all the others. Excellent Warm Melting Chocolate Cake and Bitter and Blanc. The highlight of dining was the Supper Club, where the service was fantastic, only surpassed by the high cuisine. The Lobster Bisque was one of the finest tastes I've every experienced. Ashlie Dias, the Executive Chef, was a master, and a really nice guy. Activities: If you love trivia, you'll love this cruise. Our itinerary included four days at sea, and we checked every day for the activities. Mostly it was trivia, it seemed. There was a waterslide on board, which was open only two days out of seven. We found it open on Christmas, and had a blast going down it over and over as we pulled into Acapulco. It was open on the second sea day also. Lots of fun if you lay down in a luge position. If you see the slide open, take advantage of it as it might not be open again. There were no educational activities on board. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Firstly the positives about the Christmas cruise on the Poesia: We sailed through some very heavy sea's with little, if any, discomfort for the passengers. The ship is a credit to modern cruise ship design. The cabins and the ... Read More
Firstly the positives about the Christmas cruise on the Poesia: We sailed through some very heavy sea's with little, if any, discomfort for the passengers. The ship is a credit to modern cruise ship design. The cabins and the staff servicing them were very good. The public area's were tastefully decorated and kept very clean. The negatives would have to be: Slow embarkation. The European staff on board seemed to come from the 'the customer is always wrong' school of training. There was a large staff rotation on the ship for this cruise - many didn't appeared to have been trained properly. Lack of dining choice in the evening. If you don't want to eat in the restaurant there is no buffet alternative. The only other choice to pay extra in one of the other restaurants. The food was very disappointing. Having eaten well in Italy on many occasions I was looking forward to a great culinary experience. The food, apart from being permanently lukewarm, never achieved the 'wow' factor and was for the most part very ordinary. There was not free water with the meals - bottles had to be paid for. With the exception of the band in the wine bar, who were the highlight of the cruise for me, the entertainment in the lounges was mediocre. The casino was lacking in any atmosphere, principally I suspect because at €5 per hand customers couldn't afford to stay there for very long. I know I would have spent more time in there, and inevitably spent more money had the prices been more reasonable. Overcharging. Beer was €4.90 for 440ml (or £6.32 a pint), wine could be up to €7 a glass (although more normally €3 for house, but this wasn't a large glass). €5.80 for a gin & tonic and €7 for a shuttle bus at the port. I felt that charging premium prices to a captive audience really was and is not acceptable. This was my sixth cruise and the first time I have ever been disappointed. I find it hard to imagine sailing with MSC again. There are many other cruise lines in the market, so why risk your hard earned cash and valuable holiday with MSC? Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
In this review, I'm going to mainly focus on aspects of the cruise or ship which were not 100%. Some are very petty complaints and barely deserve a mention, but to some may be more of an issue than to myself. I won't go into what ... Read More
In this review, I'm going to mainly focus on aspects of the cruise or ship which were not 100%. Some are very petty complaints and barely deserve a mention, but to some may be more of an issue than to myself. I won't go into what we did at each port, but I welcome any questions. Background: My wife and I are both 39 and we have been on 2 other Regent cruises before - the PG and the Navigator in the Med. This is the third cruise we've taken with our children, the other 2 being short 4 day cruises on Disney. This is also the first time we've been away from home and family for the holidays. Overall, the cruise met our high expectations and was excellent in most every way. We would gladly do it all over again, and are planning a trip to Alaska on the Navigator in 2010 with our children. To us it felt like things have gone a little south since we were on the Navigator 2 years ago, but other than the Portofino restaurant, we really could not put a finger on just what. I attribute most to just being in our head and knowing that there is now a new owner. I don't think things have changed for the worse as drastically as I've read about. The thing everyone talks about is the vibration. 2 years ago we had a midship cabin and did not notice the vibration in the room at all. I only noticed it during the shows and in the Portofino which are both aft. This trip, our cabin was aft, deck 9, and we felt the vibration whenever the Navigator was in motion. It was a low level vibration. Nothing that would wake you from sleep. It only bothered me in the bathroom and I think that was because it was hard floor as opposed to carpet. The vibration in the Stars lounge and Portofino was not at the high level I remember from 2 years ago. At night, the cabin squeaked from numerous locations. It was not loud enough to keep us from sleep. However, when docking in the morning, the aft tunnel thrusters made a horrendous vibration that woke everyone up. The staff everywhere, with one exception, were fantastic. They were always in good spirits and did their best to fulfill requests. In some areas, they were understaffed as I will note below. The one exception was when my wife was in a fitness class and an older woman came in late. The instructor would not allow her to join the in-progress class and told her to wait until the next class. My wife found this to be a bit rigid considering this is just a CRUISE after all and everyone is on vacation. At our gym back home, people come and go from classes as they wish. Our cabin stewardesses were Pitchie and Jonaliza and they were incredible. I'd leave her messages on post it notes if we were leaving before seeing her, and my requests were always taken care of quickly and accurately. From getting a new DVD player for the room when the old one broke, to keeping the fridge stocked with Corona and Fanta. They also had to bring in an extra bed each night for us, as well as take it out the next morning. The room and bathroom were kept spotless despite my deposits of sand everywhere from the snorkeling gear. Of course, service varies from person to person. Service was spotty everywhere during breakfast and lunch. Sometimes there would be 5 people waiting on us and I'd have coffee served before I even sat down. Other times, I'd be half way through my meal before getting a drink. The problem just seemed to be lack of staff. Once I got someone's attention, service was quick. Service out by the pool seemed slow too. The pool deck bar staff and waiters were overworked. I'd like to mention that any time Ben was the bartender and I walked up to the bar, he served me immediately. But many times no one was behind the bar. And it never seemed that busy around the pool except at lunch time. When sitting next to the pool, it could be 10-15 minutes before a wait staff came by to take your order. Sometimes I'd try to flag them down with no luck, and just go up to the bar myself. Dinners were the exception. We never had slow service for dinner in either restaurant. If there were problems at dinner, I may have missed them as we almost always ate with others and I get so distracted by conversation that I'm not aware of service delays. The Portofino restaurant was disappointing, but only because we are comparing to what we remember. I think we are in the minority. I liked it 2 years ago when the one area of the restaurant was set up with hors d'oeuvres and wines from various regions of Italy with a poster showing you the region and explaining the growing conditions, grape type, etc. Then, you went into the other part for dinner and the Maitre' De Roberto and one of the waitresses, nicknamed Mona Lisa, would sing. Now the anti-pasta is set up buffet style which I did not care for. Food is very subjective, so I won't put much time into reviewing it. I will say that of all the meals, we only had one not liked. And that had more to do with misinterpreting the description than the taste or quality. One thing that struck me as odd was that the hash browns were those rectangular frozen kind. Regent should know better for something so simple to make as hash browns. I really enjoyed the selection of cheeses they offered after meals for lunch and dinner. The wines were all very nice and there were plenty of alternatives offered from regions all over the world. I can't imagine anyone finding something they would not enjoy. The alcohols offered at the bars were top shelf and there was a large selection. For example, 4 single malt Scotches were offered - Macallan 12 year, Glenlivet 12 yr, and Glenfiddich - the other I can't remember. My favorite spot on the ship was the Navigator lounge. It was never crowded or busy and the Italian Espresso machine became a good friend. There was only one incident where we were really annoyed. We had booked the Atlantis Tourist sub ride on our own for 10:30 am, with check in at 10:15 at their office which is less than a 10 minute walk from the pier. Because we left Ft. Lauderdale an hour late and the currents were stronger than expected, we anchored off GC very late. The first tender did not leave the ship until 10:00 and takes 8-10 minutes to get to the dock. We were some of the first in line, but they announced that only people who booked tours through Regent were allowed on the tenders. We, along with a few other people complained that the tours would wait for the Regent group, but us with independent reservations would be late and some had cancellation fees, etc. This was not really the major issue though. The major issue was the mass confusion and how no one seemed to be in charge and no one was being allowed onto the waiting tender. The guys on the tender were calling for people to get on board, yet those on the ship kept us waiting. One Regent employee told me not to worry that the sub would wait for me. I knew this was not true. The woman who had announced that only Regent booked tour groups were allowed on the tender looked frazzled and did not know what to do and made other vague statements that made it seem like maybe she could fit us on. I finally asked her outright - are you going to allow us on this tender or not? She said that she did not have the authority to make the decision. There was a mass of people now waiting to get on, and more coming down. So they eventually let us and everyone else get on the tender. I was not so much annoyed with their Regent first policy, but that they did not seem clear if it was going to be enforced or not, and with the general confusion of the entire disembarkation process. Other minor things I noticed: In some parts of some hallways the floors are uneven. There was a terrible garbage smell just as you entered the hall to the aft deck 9 suites. It never went away, and I never complained because we only quickly passed that area. I imagine the cabins closest to the end may have smelled it even in their cabin. The barrier between our balcony and the next was loose and banged all night, but was fixed the next day after we left our stewardess a note. Now that I'm done with the complaints, I want to reiterate that this cruise was excellent and overall I left with a feeling that Regent is still a top of the line, 5 star cruise line. There are so many little things that were positive that made the trip special and overshadowed the few small negatives. The gingerbread houses with candy and cookies set about the ship. The staff who made special efforts to interact with our children and make them feel special. The flexibility of all the restaurant staff in fulfilling special orders. If you are reading this review to help decide if you should take a Regent cruise or not, I say without hesitation, YES, take the cruise. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We took our first cruise on December 21, 2008, on the Carnival Legend. We had no idea what to expect and tried to go into the experience with an open mind. First off, we waited in a fairly long line to board, which was longer than ... Read More
We took our first cruise on December 21, 2008, on the Carnival Legend. We had no idea what to expect and tried to go into the experience with an open mind. First off, we waited in a fairly long line to board, which was longer than expected. The staff was friendly and things proceeded at a reasonable pace. Once on board, we immediately tipped our room steward as suggested in many reviews. Personally, I don't know if I would do it again as our steward acted like it was expected. He didn't say much nor did he ask if we had any special needs/requests. That was my first disappointment. He just wanted us to sign his paper that he had explained things to us. Of course, he didn't explain anything. Our room was an extended balcony over the life boats. The room was bigger than we expected, very clean, and comfortable. After the steward opened the fridge, it was up to us to empty it and keep those items until the end of the cruise. The fridge NEVER got any of our drinks cold. I kept cans of pop right next to the coils and still, barely cooled. There was no adjustment for the temp. At least we had a fridge and brought our own drinks. We carried on a big case of water, 2-packs of soda, and a pack of ice tea. We had no problems. Most was in our bags except the case of water. As long as the bottles are unopened, you could bring them through security. They did not check closely. We set off to explore the ship and wait for our luggage. Getting around on the ship is easy and the staff is very helpful if you need directions. The lunch buffets were very busy and crowded. We explored the upper decks and even met people from our home town! Small world! The ship was very clean and spacious. We didn't feel crowded in most public spaces. We had our mandatory muster to the life boats. This went smoothly except for a few rude people who shoved us down the stairs with no apologies. Perhaps I'm too old fashioned, but an overall theme was rudeness amongst the guests. Our first dinner was great! The food was good and our table-mates were delightful. We seemed to be matched up perfectly as we had common interests. Then we discovered, it was simply by room numbers. LOL! Go figure! I had the black forest dessert which was absolutely delicious and I highly recommend it. If you are a chocoholic like me, you'll be stuck with the chocolate melting cake most nights. There was a killer chocolate raspberry pie at lunch one day that was to die for good! Don't miss it! Our drink "steward" at dinner was Vladimir. He was wonderful and had a great personality. After one night, he had our names and drink choices down pat. It was great! I loved the Carnival punch, no alcohol. I now understand why many people want the punch returned to the "free drink" list. It's great! Compared to a river cruise I took in Europe, the food was good but not fantastic on the Legend. We found our best food in the main dining room, so we had many of our breakfasts there. It was not crowded and the food was better, much better. The lunch buffets were always crowded and the food wasn't really hot, temperature wise. Our biggest lunch time disappointment was the unruly children running about the place. We were appalled that parents, albeit only a few let their children run wild. And I mean wild! Our day at sea was pleasant. There are lots and lots of things to do, depending on your interests. The Vegas style evening shows were fabulous and shouldn't be missed. My husband enjoyed the comedy, especially the late night comedy. I missed several shows because the slight rocking of the ship put me right to sleep! The ships are not "stand still" smooth. You will have some roll and rocking. Not bad, just enough that you feel like a drunk trying to walk around! I noticed that most people had "the patch" behind their ears and heard of only a few that was really sick. We both did just fine and didn't need the patch. Our first port was the Grand Cayman Island. We had booked an independent tour. The ship announced that their snorkeling and Sting Ray excursions were canceled. We had to go ashore and contact our independent tour. We began to panic a bit trying to figure out how to contact them. I politely asked a nice lady at a jewelry store if I could possibly make a local call. She was very kind and dialed the number for us. I spoke with our tour company and we were canceled, too. As I understood, the government will close down the reefs, etc when the seas are too rough. So we spent the day wondering town, going through shops. Pretty much what we expected, touristy yet interesting. We went back to the ship for lunch and stayed there. Our next port was Cozumel where we booked a Carnival excursion to the Tulum Mayan Ruins. It was interesting. The trip included a 30 minute stop at the tour company's rest stop, aka tourist store. The tour of the site was okay, but not much detail and hard to hear the guide as we were in bus sized groups. We had about 1 1/2 hours on our own to explore (not nearly enough time) and then be back to the bus. There were also shops set-up at the bus staging area, prices were quite high. Carnival did provide a snack and cold bottle of water which was very nice on the ride back. We had wanted to take a private tour of Tulum, but the time in port and the length of the tour were too close. I had read on other sites about people in a panic to not miss the ship, so we opted for a ship-led tour. As we left our anchorage, the ship was turned around and starting to leave as a tender boat raced up. A few passengers and a ship's officer boarded. I'm sure those passengers were thankful that they were with a ship's officer! Our next port was Belize on Christmas day. We booked a private tour with the "Action Boys of Belize". Our tour was for the zip-line and cave tubing. Carnival did not offer either one because of the recent death of a tourist on a cave tubing trip. To our delight, we were paired up with a tour guide, Peter, just my husband and I. This was a complete surprise! We quickly saw why others have said not to leave the tourist area unattended. Belize is very rough and life is quite basic. We made our drive through town and out into the countryside. The land is beautiful and Peter kept us informed throughout the hour plus drive to the site. Upon arrival we learned that the zip-line was down. I later quizzed our guide and learned that the zip-line has been closed for quite some time. He offered several options including an extended cave tubing trip, a visit to the zoo, and lunch. We took the longer cave tubing which ended up being a MUST do! If you are going cave tubing in Belize, make absolutely sure you take the two cave option or insist on it. We were the only people in the first cave. Absolutely peaceful and beautiful! The enjoyed the slow and easy float through the cave as Peter talked to us about Mayan history and much more. We also enjoyed some silence to listen to the eerie water dripping down in the cave. Pretty cool! We then entered the area between caves and witnessed the perils of booking with the cruise company, aka bus groups. OMG! Peter told us it can take up to an hour to get that sized group into the water. I have no idea how many guides they had compared to people floating, but it didn't look good. Our trip through the second cave was rushed because of the tons of people pouring in from the bus groups. This cave also has the shallower water, hence, the "bottoms up" phrase. Going through the first cave was well worth the extra walk and it's a truly must do. We did not opt for the zoo or lunch stop, we wanted to get back to the ship. Because the zip-line was shut down, Peter gave us a discount which was very fair. We ended up giving most of it back in a tip because the trip and service were absolutely wonderful! I highly recommend the Action Boys of Belize! Our last stop was the Island of Roatan, Honduras. We took Carnival's adventure snorkel and kayak trip. The trip guide/owner was originally from Chicago. He did a great job driving us from the port to his place of business. There we were divided into two groups of about 12-15 people each. We chose to snorkel in the morning and kayak in the afternoon. The snorkel was our first and I felt very safe. Because we were beginners, one guide stayed by my side the entire time. I think there were at least 3 guides in the water and one in a kayak. My husband saw a lobster that was huge having antennae as wide as a car hood! The afternoon kayak wasn't anything special, but still enjoyable. One big thing I learned about shore excursions is to talk to the shore excursion staff. We chatted with a young man about the options in Roatan and asked what HE would take if he were going ashore and didn't want to be crowded. He suggested the tour we took and he was right on the money! Our last sea day was relaxing yet disappointing because we'd be back to port soon. It was nice to be spoiled by not cooking or cleaning for a week! Over all, we may do another cruise, but not over the Holidays. The ship was clean, well kept, and enjoyable. As many would say, you get out of it what you chose to. All in all we had a good time and enjoyed the ports of call. The majority of people we encountered on the ship were friendly, kind, and a delight to chat with. The sites and ports were amazing and made for a wonderful break from the snow up north! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
To start, we missed our embarkation in Miami due to the unusual weather we had in Vegas. We met up with the ship in Cartegena, Colombia, the second port of call, after we decided to take a diversion trip to Epcot while the ship sailed ... Read More
To start, we missed our embarkation in Miami due to the unusual weather we had in Vegas. We met up with the ship in Cartegena, Colombia, the second port of call, after we decided to take a diversion trip to Epcot while the ship sailed towards Cartegena. We were told we could not board the ship in Labadee, Haiti, the first port of call, since it was a privately RCI owned island. I wonder why not? In the future, we will plan our cruises away from the Holidays. We were told that this cruise had up to 800+ children which was a minor annoyance since we are a pair of DINKS and travelled with another couple that left their children at home. The kids, including teenagers, were running rampant (in packs) at times. The most annoying part was that every night, they clogged the entire staircase on the 12th deck leading up to the disco/bars on the 13th deck (we had to use this route because the SeaView Cafe is located on deck 12 which we frequented). RCI ship security is way too nice in comparison to our hotel security here in Vegas. To be fair, there were some well behaved kids. This is our first RCI cruise. We have cruised on Carnival once and Princess five times. So, I can only compare RCI vs. our experience with Princess. SHIP: -Very nicely laid out. -Central elevator very elegant. Can see both inside and outside of the ship. -Rock climbing wall and miniature golf course were highlights. -Higher quality gym equipment in comparison with Princess. -Library is too small IMO and poorly located in the centrum where it is noisy. -Computer center is too small IMO and poorly located in the centrum. CABIN (#2005): -Inside cabin. Very nicely appointed and laid out. Nicer than Princess. -Sizeable in comparison with Princess. Small love seat and coffee table. -Nice shower with glass/plastic enclosure. -Overall, IMO, nicer than Princess. -Cabin 2005 is noisy since crew quarters are behind it. Several times, the crew was playing loud music with a heavy bass beat from 11 pm and on. Had to call security a few nights to have the music turned down. DINING: -Dining room food on par with Princess. The NY strip from Princess was tastier and available every night (not sure about RCI since we only dined in the dining room three times and out of the three, it was only offered once. -Buffet offered quality food on par or even better than Princess. Too bad buffet not open 24 hours like Princess (we like to hang out with friends late night and chat). This alone is a major CON for us. -We still favor "Anytime Dining" that Princess offers. -Service charge for late night usage (gratis on Princess). -Coffee was bad. But same on Princess! -Free lemonade! -Soft serve ice cream in the buffet. -Limited late night food. Sea View Cafe (salads, sandwiches, soups) only opens till 11 pm and Solarium Cafe (pizza & hot dogs) only till 1 pm. ENTERTAINMENT: -Production shows on par with our experience with Princess. -Disco. DJ did not seem to play a variety of music to inspire various taste to dance. Though he did take requests. Not much happening here. At one point, he was clapping to his own music without anyone on the dance floor. I guess since this is a Holiday cruise, most families stayed together? -Ping pong paddles are plastic molded units that have a textured plastic hitting surface (no rubber surface). Lack of ping pong balls available. -Separate movie theater (nice) but not recent first run movies like Princess. CONCLUSION: We still favor "Anytime Dining" that Princess offers when we feel like being served and liked the convenience of the 24 hour buffet as well. It is too bad that RCI does not offer this. The cabin is nicely appointed vs. Princess. Everytime we travel with Princess, the cabin steward makes it a point to remember our names. Our steward on the Jewel did not once address us by name. Perhaps I am being a little picky here. We still favor Princess for all future cruises. The one exception is that we may want to cruise on RCI's Oasis of The Seas due to it's sheer size and novelty. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
A Very Un-Merry Christmas Cruise on Carnival Freedom CARNIVAL FREEDOM CHRISTMAS CRUISE My husband, nineteen year old son and I just returned from the Carnival Freedom Christmas sailing to the Western Caribbean 12/20/2008 - 12/28/2008. ... Read More
A Very Un-Merry Christmas Cruise on Carnival Freedom CARNIVAL FREEDOM CHRISTMAS CRUISE My husband, nineteen year old son and I just returned from the Carnival Freedom Christmas sailing to the Western Caribbean 12/20/2008 - 12/28/2008. The itinerary called at Cozumel, Limon and Colon. We are relatively experienced cruisers, having completed about a dozen cruises on five cruise lines. Our first cruise was on the Carnival Sensation in 2000, and this cruise was our first return to Carnival after ten cruises. The following is an honest review of our experience. This review is not intended to offend a particular party and includes some opinions. EMBARKATION We got to the cruise terminal at 12:30pm. Because we had been upgraded, we obtained new luggage tags from a porter before leaving our baggage. We waited approximately 30 minutes outside the terminal before entering the security line. Once inside the terminal, the wait was an additional 45 minutes. Carnival was experiencing problems with their computer system, which increased the wait time. I recommend arriving at the terminal earlier that 12:30pm to avoid the wait outside the terminal. SHIP CONDITION As the Carnival Freedom is new, the ship in great condition. Cleaning, painting, varnishing etc. was going on throughout the cruise. DÉCOR The dEcor of the ship was not to our preference. In fact, it is downright ugly. However, when booking the cruise we knew that the onboard ambience would be gaudy and much different than that of Princess and Cunard ships. Because we knew this in advance we had no grounds to complain. We booked the cruise solely for the outstanding last minute price our travel agent provided. Who doesn't enjoy a last minute deal to the Caribbean, regardless of the cruise line? The best description of this ship is that of a carnival. There is no class to be found in any dEcor on the ship. Much of the dEcor seems juvenile and clichE. When we cruise, we prefer a more upscale ambience of class and understated sophistication. For us, a classy shipboard experience includes elegant color patterns, stylish chandeliers, fresh flowers, wood paneling and quality furniture that is as comfortable as it is visually appealing. This desire was impossible to satisfy on Carnival Freedom. CABIN AND ACCOMMODATIONS Since the cabin layouts and furnishings are the same throughout most of the Carnival fleet I won't go into detail. We were very satisfied with the Carnival Comfort Beds. However, because we had not cruised with Carnival in many years, we had forgotten about Carnival's lack of bathroom amenities. Soap and shower gel were provided in wall dispensers, and our steward was very conservative about providing bar soap. It was necessary to ask each time we wanted the ice bucket refilled or wanted another bar of soap. We do not need any toothpaste or antacid samples, so the sample basket was unnecessary. We had the mini bar emptied and the robes removed to make more room in the closet. The balcony was sufficient but we had to clean the glass each morning ourselves. On previous cruises, the cabin attendant would wipe down the balcony glass when it became dirty. After a few days we started doing it ourselves so we could see. MAIN DINING ROOM The food in the main dining room was extremely repetitive. While food is subjective, the menu on the Carnival Freedom was very disappointing. Earlier this evening we ate dinner at Ruby Tuesday, a very mainstream American food chain. The simple $10 dish called Chicken Fresco, a grilled chicken breast with mashed potatoes and broccoli, was so much better than the dinners we had in the Chic Dining Room. We have never eaten so many shrimp cocktails and mixed green salads on cruises because nothing else was appetizing. There seemed to be more Carnival Classics entrEes than options that changed daily. Big red flags were raised when steaks were served with macaroni and cheese, and vegetables were served on the plate in 2-ounce salad dressing cups. Additionally, we feel that that dining room is a place for dining, and the theatre is a place for performance. We did not find the dancing waiters and the, "Hokey pokey chicken dance," as the Maitre'D called it, amusing. Service lacked during the waiter shows and the music and flashing lights were disruptive. Since we remembered this from the Sensation, we took this in stride or tried to leave before the shows. On the last night of the cruise, most of the meals ordered at out table were downright bad. Our waiters were never around to ask how the entrees were. Extra salads and orders of vegetables never arrived. After eating (or not eating) our last dinner, we saw our waiter serving a round of lobster to his other two tables. We are not accustomed to ordering off the menu because we don't travel in Grill Class, so we were all very disappointed. It seemed like our waiters provided much better service to a specific table. DRESS CODE What dress code? On this cruise, a graphic tee shirt and tennis shoes were formal. Very few people exhibited any class or dressed formally on this ship. We prefer cruise lines that ask guests to follow the evening dress code, and do not the admit people into the dinning rooms if they are improperly dressed. SUN KING SUPPER CLUB The supper club experience was a refreshing change from the monotony of the main dining room. The only complaint we had concerned the French Onion Soup. It tasted so strongly of bouillon and was so hot that it was inedible. Other than the reality that there was way too much food, the meal was worth the $90 surcharge. This is how main dining used to be. FREEDOM RESTAURANT LIDO BUFFET The lido restaurant was always overly crowded, especially at peak meal times. Food was mass-produced and generally unappetizing. This was worse than banquette or cafeteria food. You get what you pay for, so couldn't complain based on the low price we paid for this cruise. Guests formed lines at breakfast and lunch and moved slowly down the buffet. The design differs from that of other cruise lines in that it is necessary to wait in a line to grab just one or two items. There aren't standalone stations for salad, fruit, and hot entrees. Instead, all of these items are located along a line. While uneven in quality, the deli and fish and chips were nice alternatives to waiting in the maddening lines. SERVICE We saw our cabin steward only twice or three times, but he did his job. Service was never personalized, and no staff member ever addressed us by name where appropriate, such as our waiters. Staff members rarely said hello in the hallways. Our dining room team would deliver a course and would disappear until serving the next course. On the first day of the cruise, Carnival's computer system apparently did not register our credit card upon embarkation. At dinner the first night we were told that we could not have wine. My husband was told he must leave dinner to have the purser's desk fix the problem. Instead he called from a phone at the waiter's station and was told there was nothing they could do at that time. We have perfect credit and did present a credit card, so to be told in front of newly met tablemates that we could not use our shipboard account was very upsetting and a nuisance. We summoned for the Head Maitre'D who told us he would take care of one bottle of wine, and also offered us a bottle of champagne. We do not drink champagne, so we told him all he had to do was cover the bottle of wine. After several battles at the Purser's desk and playing cabin phone tag with the Hotel Director, the Maitre'D explained he meant that, "taking care of one bottle of wine," meant charging us without the need for a signature. We promptly removed his tip. There we no other major service issues. HOLIDAY DECORATIONS It is impossible not to compare this Christmas experience with past Christmas cruises. Our Christmas cruise last year was onboard the Coral Princess. The Coral Princess was decorated from stem to stern with Christmas trees, lighted garlands and various holiday decorations. Even every cabin door was appointed with a Christmas garnish of holly and ribbon. However, the Carnival Freedom only had garland in the atrium and promenade, and had maybe three Christmas trees. That was it. The tree in the main dining room remained unlit until Christmas Day when my son got disgusted and got up to plug it in. There was a significant lack of Christmas onboard this ship. On Princess, many crewmembers wore a Santa hat the entire cruise and Christmas music played in the public rooms. It was rare to hear a Christmas song on the ship. HOLIDAY FESTIVITIES Christmas Day was marred by high winds and rough seas. Motion sickness bags appeared shortly after our departure from Colon. The Christmas show was cancelled and so was much of the evening entertainment. However, despite the weather, we felt that Carnival did more for the Jewish guests than those who celebrate Christmas. My husband and son actually watched the Menorah lighting ceremony one day because it seemed festive. Carnival provided wine and food for each nightly celebration. When Christmas Eve rolled around, we sat in the atrium listening to the two singers and requested some Christmas songs. We were told that they only knew Feliz Navidad and could not set up sequences for any other Christmas songs. This was a drastic change from our experience last year. Instead of listening to Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, we listened to a few rounds of That's Amore and Sweet Caroline. We feel as tough Christmas was completely skipped this year. There is no such thing as a Carnival Christmas. Last year we received stockings and a signed Christmas card from the captain. Santa showed up and gave every child a wrapped toy. On Carnival, nothing except TWO Santas side by side in the promenade for picture opportunities. How would you explain that one? We feel like Carnival Cruise Line follows a strict schedule. Since Christmas caroling and Midnight Mass do not usually take place on the Thursday schedule, these things did not happen on Thursday December 25. With the increased holiday fare, it is only expected that Christmas will be mentioned on the ship. Not one crewmember said, "Merry Christmas." There was no nondenominational Christian service like on other cruise lines. Midnight mass is always celebrated in the theatre, and many crew attend who are Christian. BUT, the Jewish guests did get to celebrate every night, center stage in the atrium, at 5:30 sharp...and loudly too. PORTS OF CALL We called at Cozumel, Mexico; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama. We have been to these ports before and only left the ship for an hour or two at each port to do some shopping. We do not cruise the Caribbean for the itinerary anymore, only to be at sea. WEATHER AND SEA CONDITIONS The weather was wonderful for most of the cruise. We got plenty of sunshine every day. The trade winds were slightly bothersome on sea days, but it did not impact our cruise. My son looks forward to the Christmas Trades each December. We do not get sea sick, but my husband and I saw two passengers using sickness bags near the atrium. The Columbian Basin was the trouble spot. We had 40-50 knot winds and high seas. The Conquest class design does not seem to handle large swells very well. I have video of the ship bottoming out on waves and producing massive waves and sea spray. ENTERTAINMENT The productions shows were very Vegas like, compared to the Broadway or West End approach of other lines. Of the three shows, the Beatles show was excellent, particularly because of the recorded soundtrack. The other shows provided much energy but left something to be desired. We never attend cruise ship comedians or magicians. CROWDS Our sailing on Carnival Freedom had 3,600 guests, including 1,200 guests under age 21. When walking about this ship, we constantly were bumping into people and waiting in lines. The ship's photographers set backdrops up in the middle of the promenade, making it impassible in the evenings. It was aggravating to have to wait for the photographers. It was like waiting in a row of red traffic lights. Children congregated on the promenade and were loud and unruly at times. It is surprising how may parents allow their 8-12 year old children roam the ship alone after midnight. On the last night we saw several intoxicated minors stumbling into the elevator. The ship is overcrowded and commercialized. Nickel and diming is evident everywhere. DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation was lengthy. Not much to say. How else do you get 3,600 people off of a ship in two hours? Not a pleasant experience, but unless they switch to silent disembarkation, I can't think of a better way. I recommend self-disembarkation, but we had too much baggage. BOTTOM LINE Based on this experience, there are a few simple questions that you must ask yourself to decide if you will like a Carnival cruise. Do you prefer a classy and elegant cruise ship, or do you prefer a mass-market commercialized cruise ship? Do you mind long lines and maddening crowds, or do you prefer a ship with a higher space ratio? Do you mind cruising with more than 1,000 minors, or do you prefer more mature passengers? Do you prefer a higher level of service and glamorous dEcor, or basic service and amusement park-like dEcor? For us, we prefer a more upscale experience. As stated, given the price we paid, we could not really expect class or sophistication, so we simply used the time away to be with our son on his winter break from college. The unexpected getaway was worth the time away, but we will never cruise Carnival again. EVER. CONTACT Please feel free to direct questions or comments to qm2cruiser@hotmail.com. I am more than happy to answer any questions or provide any additional information. Thanks for reading! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
BACKGROUND: Total of 9 cruises (four this year alone) and 5th with RCI but this is our first holiday cruise. Travel To Cape Liberty: We left on a slushy/snowy day and opted to use a car service for the 60 mile trip to the port. The ride to ... Read More
BACKGROUND: Total of 9 cruises (four this year alone) and 5th with RCI but this is our first holiday cruise. Travel To Cape Liberty: We left on a slushy/snowy day and opted to use a car service for the 60 mile trip to the port. The ride to the port was smooth and uneventful and we arrived at the entrance to the port at 12:20 PM. However, there was only one lane of traffic to the terminal and it was another 65 minutes before we left the car with our luggage. EMBARKATION: Lots of people checking in at the same time. Security and the RCI check-in process was a slow process - over 2 hours. Muster drill was already in progress when we boarded the ship. STATEROOM: D2 balcony. Very clean. We are heavy packers (5 suitcases + 2 carry-ons) and still managed to stow all our clothing and in the closet and drawers. Four empty suitcases fit nicely under the beds. The bathroom was small but functional. The sliding shower doors are so much better than the curtain! SHIP INFO: The ship seemed too large on the first day but we became comfortable very quickly. There was a big tree in the promenade and pointsettias and wreaths in some areas, but definitely not as many holiday decorations as I expected to see based on the rhapsodic descriptions of holiday cruises on the this site. Automatic hand-sanitizer dispensers were available at the entrance to all the dining venues and at the gangway and staff was present to ensure it was used. This should be a standard feature on all ships (absent on Enchantment in October and Brilliance in November) as there are still an amazing number of women who fail to use wash their hands after using the restrooms (I'm sure the same applies to men). We missed the retractable glass roof in the solarium (available on Brilliance). DINING: There were many choices at all meals. Taste was good or very good, not 5-star, but certainly nothing to complain about. We had breakfast in the dining room only twice (Day 2 and Day 11) and went to the Windjammer the days because we like to get the day started off quickly. The waitstaff in the Windjammer will bring your preferred beverages to your table. We had lunch in the dining room only once - it was excellent and the salad bar was superb. Had a late lunch one day in Johnny Rockets while ship was in port -great fun and the food was wonderful, although we had no room for dessert. Otherwise, lunch was only fruit or a small sandwich from Cafe Promenade. We opted for late seating and had all our dinners in the dining room except for the evening when we were seated at the Captain's Table. ACTIVITIES : Dave Chapman is an incredible cruise director with a great sense of humor. His "Morning Show" routines were very funny and not to be missed. The Love & Marriage Show is always great, especially the couples who have been married for the longest period of time. Despite our middle-age status, we had fun trying to rock-climb and ice-skate. We are not pool people or sun worshippers, so I don't have any first-hand knowledge of "chair hogs", but based on other behavior patterns, I'm sure there was no shortage of this species on board. The Screening Room (movies) was very small for such a large ship . It would be more appropriate to run the movies continuously instead of just 2 or 3 times a day, particularly on sea days. The library does not have a great selection of books (Princess is much better) and again, it seemed to be too small for the number of passengers on board. SERVICE: The crew was incredible - always smiling and doing everything possible to ensure all passengers have an unforgettable cruise. We received stellar service from our cabin steward (Cesar) and dining room waitstaff (Premikumar and Venis). Dean and Oana in Windjammer always remembered we preferred green tea. Luz in Guest Relations, Dwayne from the Bar Staff, and Runi (Loyalty Ambassador) were also outstanding. The entire crew was extremely friendly and upbeat, although they were surely missing their families at this time of the year. ENTERTAINMENT: We attended many (but not all) of the evening shows in the Palace Theatre and enjoyed the ones we did see, including The Happenings, Antonio Salci, Beatlemaniacs and two RCI productions - Fast Forward and Vibeology. The ice shows are not to be missed. We avoided all those bars/lounges where smoking was permitted (Maharajas Lounge, The Chamber, Dizzy's Jazz Lounge) unless completely unavoidable (e.g. Catholic Mass was held in Maharajas despite multiple requests for a change of venue). RCI should reconsider their smoking policy and make all public lounge areas non-smoking just as Princess did. Smoke permeates even to non-smoking areas - e.g. the Schooner Bar (directly adjacent to the Casino) and mid-Royal Promenade area near the staircase to the Casino. Latin Rumba was usually in the non-smoking Aquarium Bar and they were very good. Passengers: There were 3502 passengers and over 1200 crew members. I don't have the exact breakdown, but passengers from the US were in the minority on this cruise - many Europeans, primarily from the UK. Lots of kids and teenagers but only a few disruptive groups (always the same kids). There were also many rude, thoughtless passengers suffering from entitlement mentality. Grand Prize to the man who instructed his children to block entrance to the elevator "to make it look like it's full so no one else can get on. " Second Price goes to the man in the second row of the icerink who made a fuss because an elderly couple was holding a front row seat for someone who went to the restroom, jumped over the the seatback to stake his claim (needless to say, there were many other seats available); and then several days held three front row seats for over 20 minutes until his wife and daughters came barreling into the ice rink, shoving people out of their way. Third Prize to all those who left their open strollers (including strollers) in the hallways at all times, blocking doorsHonorable mentions to the many people who left plates of half-eaten food on the floor at the elevator banks, insistently pushed the "door close" buttons while others are trying to board and held the elevator doors so that they could discuss the day's plans with their friends. PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS: After an exhausting 12-night Mediterranean cruise on the Brilliance in December, we decided to take it easy on this sailing and just relax. Labadee, Haiti: Sunny, 82°F . Went ashore for only a couple of hours as we are not into sunbathing or watersports. San Juan, PR: Sporadic showers, occasional downpours, 82°F. Christmas Day, thus no ship excursions (cruiseline-recommended shops were open). This was not a problem for us as we visited our family but there was a lot of grumbling from passengers as originally, this was to be a sea day. Philipsburg, St Maarten: Sunny, 82°F. Took a water taxi from the pier to the town pier - good shops, great food (coconut shrimp, conch fritters, jerk ribs, fresh hand-made chocolates) . Took ship excursion "Natural Wonders" - the description is more exciting than the tour itself. Basically a visit to a small zoo and bus tour. Roseau, Dominica: Sunny, 83°F. Not much to see near the port. Took a quick walk to the Anglican cathedral and then back to the ship. Bridgetown, Barbados; Sunny, 86°F. It's Sunday and we were informed that apart from shops in the terminal, everything is closed in town. Happily shopped for T-shirts for the family. Antigua: Rainy, with several downpours, 82°F. Booked the "Rainforest Canopy"excursion because the last sentence in the description was "this is for the faint-hearted." That was a typo - the word "NOT" was omitted. Only one of us enjoyed the ziplining! Disembarkation : Quick and smooth with luggage in hand and through Customs/Immigration by 9:35 AM. SUMMARY: Great cruise despite the behavior of some passengers. Explorer is a beautiful ship and is in good condition. Not having to fly during the holiday season (or worry about luggage weight limits) is a big plus, well worth a couple of rocky days at sea. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Eurodam New Years Eve Holiday Cruise 2008-2009 (Dec. 27, 2008 - Jan. 3, 2009) First time HAL cruisers. This was our second New Years Eve Holiday cruise in a row. Last year we sailed on the Grand Princess. My wife and I are 50 and we ... Read More
Eurodam New Years Eve Holiday Cruise 2008-2009 (Dec. 27, 2008 - Jan. 3, 2009) First time HAL cruisers. This was our second New Years Eve Holiday cruise in a row. Last year we sailed on the Grand Princess. My wife and I are 50 and we booked 4 cabins. We traveled with our four daughters (ages 15 - 21) and my parents. There were just over 2,000 guests on this cruise. HAL was definitely a cut above Princess. Previous reviews: I had read the reviews for the past several months of Eurodam sailings. Several negative reviews made me worried that the ship would be crowded, the service in the dining room poor, the food pedestrian and the front desk staff cold and stern. All such reviews were wrong. Our cruise was fantastic. None of the Negative Nancy's was accurate. The boat never felt crowded, the food was excellent and ¬all staff were as friendly and accommodating as can be. Embarkation: arrived at 1:30 pm. No wait. Efficient loading of luggage and friendly HAL porters. The staff who hustle you through the security (remind me of hospital volunteers) are a bit crotchety. Entire process from arrival through room key to stepping on ship was 20 minutes. Our luggage made it to the rooms before 4 pm. Rooms: Our staterooms were ready within 15 minutes of boarding. We went to the Lido and had a pleasant lunch. The size of our veranda stateroom (balcony room) was reasonable and seemed to be about the same size as Princess' mini-suite we booked last year. There was more than enough closet space. The previous review telling us about the drawers under the bed was helpful b/c we never would have found them. They are under the dust ruffle. Ask the steward to empty the mini bar or do it yourself and you have a fridge. The bathroom was clean and the shower/bath combo worked well and had plenty of pressure and hot water. The sink is very small. The soaps and beauty products were complimentary and were of high quality (the signature line from the spa). The inside staterooms of our children also had plenty of storage but didn't have a tub - only a s shower. The balcony was nice with two chairs and a table. The stewards were great. Always timely and never intrusive. The room was clean and we always had ice in the bucket and clean wine glasses. Safe worked well. Room for the suitcases under the bed. The towel animals were a bit creepy (one was hung from the wall like a voodoo doll. Nice cloth robes provided. Two plugs on counter/desk and one in bathroom. Plenty of lighting. Closets are in hall along with cabin door and bathroom door. Congested area. Full length mirror in closet. Lighting is bad in that area. There is a lighted magnifying mirror on desk. Insufficient amount of lighting at mirror over desk for makeup. Dining: Lido: The lido dining for breakfast and lunch was very good. Breakfast has a great omelet line (the cook remembered my particulars egg whites, well done, cheese after the omelet was turned—by the second day of the cruise. Several stations for made to order eggs or for pre-cooked items. Lots of fruit, lots of salads, delicious pastries, and fresh squeezed OJ and Grapefruit juice. Coffee in the lido was as good as one could expect for mass-brewed coffee. It was freshly brewed and was very drinkable. The aisle-ways were tight by virtue of an added row of tables. Lunch had a nice variety including, pasta, taco and thai bars. Rembrandt: We had open seating. We made reservations for 6 p.m. the first night (have to make them for 5:30 but we were told we can come at 6 p.m.). We enjoyed our Dining Steward, the Asst. Steward and our Wine Steward so much, we asked and the Manager on duty to make us a standing reservation for that table each night, which he promptly did. The service by our Stewards and the Managers could not have been better. The food was also fairly good, always hot and exceeded our expectations. The variety was good, quality high, desserts tasty and there were always options for some vegetarians in our group. Previous reviews had dampened our expectations. The atmosphere was unrushed and we never had to wait for anything. We always looked forward to dinner. Canaletta: Made reservation for the specialty Italian restaurant. No extra charge. Food was ok. Service was great. No complaints but wouldn't do it again. This restaurant is a cordoned off part of the lido in the evening. Pools: There are two pools on the ship. One has a movable glass roof and gets pretty warm. The rear pool has a large deck and plenty of chaises. Even though the cruise was full and lots of sun - had no trouble finding chaise lounges. The bucket of beer is a good value poolside. Drinks: The drinks are made with a jigger glass so it is difficult to get a stiff drink. There is an extensive wine list and the prices are reasonable. We also brought several bottles on board as well as vodka and rum. Also, we bought liquor in port and never had a problem bringing it back on board. I don't think they actually care if you bring liquor on board at a port. There are plenty of bars on the ship. Fitness: The fitness center is huge. There are about a dozen treadmills and as many ellipticals and recumbent bikes also. There is a complete cybex circuit and free weights. Yoga and other classes fill up so book them the first day. You can usually squeeze in though at the last minute. $11.00 charge for each class. Entertainment: The shows were fun and the singers and dancers were very talented. Well worth attending. The cruise director Shane Michaels was the best. Very personable and always had something going on. Casino: The casino staff was primarily Eastern European whereas the room stewards and dining stewards were primarily Indonesian. The staff was personable and professional. The blackjack tables got very crowded. Blackjack was played with shoes of 8 decks of cards. No continuous shuffle here. There were three $5 tables but they were usually full. If you want to play $5 table or want to play along with someone in your group, you will have to go at an off hour. The $25 table usually had an opening. The slots, as expected, take your money and don't pay well at all. Ports: Aruba was not a very nice port. The docking area was pretty gross. Many shops were closed up. Curacao was very nice. It is disappointing that the only thing the ship will tell you about the ports is where the authorized shopping stores are (obviously a fee is paid for that plug) and what shore excursions are available from HAL. No other info is available about the port. There should be maps or other ways to learn about the island provided on board. Do you own research and read blogs before you board the ship. Half-moon Cay - HAL's private island. Ok beach. There are no umbrellas and the ship says the chaise cabanas (the shade covers for the chaises) are sold out. For $15 they can still be found on the beach. Snorkeling is poor from shore. There is concrete poured in places under the sand. It is buried. I cut my foot on the concrete. The buffet barbecue was not too good but we didn't expect any more either. . Bring your walking shoes - long walk from dock to beach. There is a shuttle at the dock. We enjoyed it though. Internet: $0.75 per minute. $3.95 one time activation fee. Wireless throughout ship. Still that is expensive. There was supposedly phone service at international roaming rates but I couldn't get a Verizon blackberry to work with it. Families: We had heard HAL was for more senior cruisers. There were more seniors than on Princes but there were plenty of all ages on board. Also lots of teenagers were on the boat. Many multi-generation groups. Not too many little kids on board. Nice mix. New Years Eve parties were in almost every venue on the ship. Nice way to find "your crowd." The boat rocked and vibrated. Nothing unexpected. Our cabins were close to the front. Disembarkation: Simple and quick. It seemed as though anyone could get off when they wanted. All luggage was available in the terminal, regardless of your departure time. We did Signature Express Baggage service. The bags are taken directly from the ship to the airport and checked through all by HAL. $15 per person. We were given our baggage tags and flight boarding passes the night before departure and didn't have to deal with carrying heavy bags in Fort Lauderdale Airport. DO THIS ON YOUR NEXT CRUISE. Also, transport to the airport was by boarding the free bus to the airport car rental center; then hopping off and boarding the equally free bus to the terminal. All told this took 15 minutes from ship terminal to airport terminal and it was free.No cheating here Broward County provides these free buses. Overall we were very pleased with the quality of the ship, the food, the staff and activities. We enjoyed the Eurodam and its crew thoroughly. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My family of 4 spent Christmas on the Carnival Glory, I am 43, my wife is 46 and my girls are 8 and 10. Let's start with the basic things you would enjoy on a cruise. Food and Entertainment... The food on the Carnival Glory is ... Read More
My family of 4 spent Christmas on the Carnival Glory, I am 43, my wife is 46 and my girls are 8 and 10. Let's start with the basic things you would enjoy on a cruise. Food and Entertainment... The food on the Carnival Glory is "Heinous" the dining room food was always overcooked and cold; served by zombies with no personality whatsoever. After 3 nights we had enough and either ate at the trough (buffet) or the Supper Club. The supper club was exceptional but at 30 bucks a head it should be. The grilled burgers were alright but how many can you eat? The pizza was nasty with so much fake cheese you had to peel it off. My eight year old has a policy that there is no such thing as bad pizza; well she found it on the carnival glory. The oriental food sucked, the deli lines were long for a "wish" sandwich (two slices of bread and you wish you had some meat) maybe they could get more than one guy working the counter. Even the deserts sucked unless you paid more money for something nice. Entertainment...I do not expect Broadway caliber shows, but my god these shows were so boring and the singers could not be any worse. The pool side Calypso band played the same 6 Bob Marley songs twice daily (very badly), the lounge bands were for dead people, and the comedy was mediocre. The low point was on Christmas day with the solid gold dancers performing a flash dance medley in the showroom and an Asian lady with bad english singing you light up my life by Debbie Boone to a group of 7-8 very old women. Come on Carnival what a wasted opportunity!!! The pool decks were empty by 5pm with most pools and slide closed. Not one rocking deck party at night during the entire cruise!!! Bad music and Bingo, I am surprised they did not have a "murder she wrote" theme party The boat itself was nice except for all of the wasted space for teen areas. The crew did a great job of keeping everything looking new. The pools are very small and freezing, the lido deck was very busy and if you wanted two deck chairs in the sun you had to be there by 8am. The casino was fun except if you don't smoke get a lung cancer shot before you get on board. While we are on the subject of smoking Carnival does not enforce any of its no smoking areas. We had smokers on both sides of our cabin so our veranda was unusable and smokers were at every bar and outside area. My kids enjoyed camp carnival and their only complaint was they could not understand the councilors with there accents. My only complaint was the fact even though you paid a premium price for this cruise, camp carnival needs to charge you more money to have your kids stay past 9:30pm. Some things went very smoothly like embarkation and debarkation I have no complaints with this process. The ports of Nassau, St Thomas, and St Maarten were a blast. Getting off the boat was smooth and very pleasurable; we chose this cruise because of these ports. Our stateroom host Mackenzie was great, he did an outstanding job keeping a very busy stateroom clean and stocked. He is the only person we gave an additional gratuity to. We have been on 3 cruises all with Disney and wanted to try something different. I was not expecting a Disney type experience but hoping for more of an adult type of trip. Each has their good and bad, I had several conversations with fellow cruisers with kids my age and they were just as disappointed/bored as we were. All of the people we spoke to who had been on a Disney Cruise were very disappointed they did not select them for the Christmas cruise, but like us wanted to go to St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We felt that this Cruise was not geared to active, fun, rock music type of cruiser, but rather a slot machine pulling, heavy smoking, lounge lizzard-leasuresuit Larry type of cruiser. I guess a better explanation would be Cousin Eddy form the Chevy Chase vacation movies. So if fast institutional food, heavy smoking, heavy gambling, and 4 kinds of Budweiser beer are your idea of a good time. Then get on this ship and you will have a wonderful time. And to Carnival, you should be ashamed of charging a Christmas premium for this cruise and nickel and dimming every chance you get. The supper club should be $10 tops, camp carnival should be complimentary as part of your cruise, nice desserts should be for all not just those who pay more at creams or the supper club. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My fiancee and I went on our very first cruise on 12/29/2008 en route to Catalina and Ensenada. We've never been to either of the cities. A bit of background: We're from the Bay Area, in our mid-20s and both working ... Read More
My fiancee and I went on our very first cruise on 12/29/2008 en route to Catalina and Ensenada. We've never been to either of the cities. A bit of background: We're from the Bay Area, in our mid-20s and both working professionals. We cruised out of Long Beach on Monday, would return on Friday. We wanted to do something fun and different for New Year's, so we figured we'd go on a cruise. My family lives in Southern California, so we decided to cruise after visiting them for the holidays. Embarkation: Handed off our two big pieces of luggage to the porters, handed him $4 for his trouble. Carried on meds (I have type-I diabetes) and electronics. The embarkation was not as smooth as it could have been, but this was not a personnel issue; it was a passenger issue, with several people bottlenecking by acting as if they have never been through security checkpoints. Lots of people taking a generous amount of time putting their items through the metal detector. Lots of kids in line as well. Initially, we both thought there would be lots of young adults our age on the cruise, but this was not the case. There were lots of families and a 40+ crowd. Guards won't even let you bring bottled water into the lines. They were chewing out people on cell phones as well. A little bit antsy for my liking. I had done the FunPass option online, so checking in was easy once past the security checkpoint. However, our dinner time was changed to 8:15 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. as was requested and confirmed (better for my diabetes), and the registration clerk told me to check in with the maitre'd on the ship. I didn't really like having to seek out another person on a place I've never been on it would have been much more convenient to have the clerk punch my request in the computer and the maitre'd could accommodate the request that way. However, I didn't complain one bit and we got ready to get on the ship. After waiting in a few more lines, and taking really bad forced pictures, we got on the ship. After walking around a bit, I found the maitre'd area and he said we would know later if he could change the meal time. So now I had gone through two Carnival employees to change a meal time that was switched unknowingly to me and still did not have an answer. I didn't play my diabetes card, but I was close to doing so. A few hours later, a card was put in my room letting me know that I would be able to eat at the time I requested. Thanks guys. The ship itself is a bit confusing walking around. I think it took us around 3 days to get the lay of the land. Some floors stop mid-ship and you have to go up a set of stairs in the room area to reach the next level; was very confusing. The rooms: So the whole ship feels like a 1970s Vegas hotel, and the rooms do as well. The bed is quite comfortable felt like a king size. Pillows were good as well. However, the rocking off the boat felt in our room (on the Riviera (bottom floor) toward the rear) was unbearable at times. I would highly recommend to anyone to stay midship if possible and away from the lower floors. In speaking with my travel agent, he said I would not really feel the rocking on the lower floor, but he was false in his assessment. There is a safe in the room, but mine was buggy. It worked initially, but then locked me out. Had to get Carnival personnel to fix it, which they promptly took care of decided to not use safe after that. As others have said before, there is only one electrical outlet, so bring one of those one-to-three outlet plug-ins; don't bring a surge protector as that is too bulky to pack and you won't need it. Also, bring a battery-powered alarm clock, as there is no clock in the room. There is no fridge in the room, but they do put soda and water on the table (water was $4 for a liter size, soda was $2/can) The ports: Catalina was very nice. We were recommended to rent a golf cart and ride around town by several past cruisers. Carnival doesn't offer this excursion, but it's simple enough to rent one. There are two places that rent the carts for $40/hour with a $40 deposit. The cart renters may try to push a buy two hours ($80), get one hour free, but you don't need this. One hour is plenty to drive around and see most of the scenery. Only do the two hours if you want to stop at Wrigley, etc. and visit. Otherwise, just get the hour. Trying to walk all of Catalina (with the hills, etc.) would be lengthy rent the cart. Ensenada is fine despite what I had heard. I felt more unsafe in places like downtown Berkeley, San Jose and San Francisco. If you go to the shopping area, there are lots of taxis/shuttles that will take you for $2 per person each way. The distance from the ship to the shopping area is 2 miles, so the shuttle/taxi is worth it. There are lots of people who will try and sell you stuff, but they are not pushy. Just say, "No gracias" and they will be on there way. Unlike many parts of the states, these people are trying to earn your money, rather than look for handouts. We went on a winery tour, which took us to two wineries in the countryside about 40 miles away from the ship. Cost was $40/person. We left around 11:30 a.m. and got back about 3:30 p.m. (You don't get lunch, but there is bread at the wineries, I recommend eating a brunch beforehand so you do not starve.) The bus was in good condition with a bathroom on board. The tour guide was very friendly and spoke good English. She gave a history of some of the parts of Ensenada, so not only did we get to try wine, we were getting a tour of the town and countryside as well. Food on the ship: Good food, but as not as great as many people claim. Dinner rotates every night, and you can of course order food not on the menu if something does not tickle your fancy. We had a good table of people (8 people per table) and had some good cordial conversation every night. People watching at the buffet may make your hurl. Many purge themselves with plates of fries, ice cream and dip every food item in either syrup or butter and top with bacon. People eat pile 1,900 calories on the plates at 3:30 p.m. and will go eat another one at 6 p.m. And then be back at 9 p.m. for more "snacks" and then come at 11:30 p.m. for two slices of pizza. Absolutely disgusting. Entertainment: Pretty good live music by a couple of different acts: one cover band, one acoustic guitar playing guy, a pianist and one swing band. There is a main show offered every night and it is put on twice a night. Usually it's a song and dance production, but one night they had comedy and a magician. The comedians do a PG routine, and then will offer R-rated shows later that night or the next nights. Our comedians weren't very funny trying really hard to get laughs, but hey, they are cruise ship comedians. The singers were pretty good, but there were only 3 singers; the rest of the cast was forbidden from singing and only lip-synced and danced. That was weird. Basically every passenger wants to go to these shows, so if you don't come at least 15 minutes early, your seat will suck. Also, there are columns in several places that can block your view. Sign-and sail cards: A very convenient feature so you don't have to carry cash. Doubles as your room key and on-board credit card. Tips are included in prices of alcohol and soda. Beer is $5 for a 16 oz bottle. Soda is $2 can. (Tip is 15 percent, excluded in my figures) Annoyances: Biggest one were the drink servers in the lounge areas. You will get no fewer than three of these people coming to you every 7 minutes asking if you want a drink. Will prepare you well for Ensenada. Disembarkation: Do the self-assist one and you will be off the ship within 20 minutes after you are called. If you do the other traditional disembarkation, you have to leave your bags out the night before, and must wait until after all self-assist passengers are off. You can also get off when they call the first floor, despite what floor you may be on. (Carnival has no way of telling the difference of what floor you are on.) Homeland Security took our declaration forms but did not check baggage; was very prompt. Overall, a good time despite some of my nits. Would like to see more of Mexico in the future, so a 7-day may be on the horizon. Would want to do this in better sunnier weather so we could spend more time on the deck and pool area. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

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