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

2,163 Holiday Cruise Reviews

Nothing in the last thirty years of cruising could have prepared me for the let down of this 16 night Panama Canal Cruise. Celebrity Cruise line should refund every passenger on this trip, their money, immediately. This trip was organized ... Read More
Nothing in the last thirty years of cruising could have prepared me for the let down of this 16 night Panama Canal Cruise. Celebrity Cruise line should refund every passenger on this trip, their money, immediately. This trip was organized by my friends for my 50th Birthday, and was researched very carefully... what follows will make you think twice about boarding either of the Azamara ships. What you are about to read has not been embellished one iota, and can all be substantiated by other guests. The good news is... the boarding process was seamless. We went directly to our "Sky Suite" to unpack. The press on this ship had stated the Azamara Journey had undergone a major remodel eighteen months previously. There was no indication of this upon entering our suite. Yes, the suite was rather small, and the bathroom miniscule, but it did appear to be clean, although extremely dated. There was no way this room had been fully remodeled eighteen months ago. Immediately the "Butler" (he is nothing more than a housekeeper with a bowtie) showed up introduced himself, and told us that if we needed anything, to just pick up the phone. He had a smile on his face throughout the entire cruise and did a great job keeping our room clean. After unpacking we caught up with our friends and we did a tour of the ship. We were expecting the five- star ship the Celebrity Cruise line was touting. We expected the ship to look just as it did in the advertising photos. Even an untrained eye could see the rust, the cracks, the dirt, the scratches, drapery rods with no draperies, lounge chairs that desperately needed to be varnished, I could go on, but why bother, we have bigger fish to fry. No one could explain why, but we set sail almost an hour and a half late. We missed the sunset and the fanfare that one normally looks forward to when you set sail. We should have known this was the start of a very long "Journey" to say the least. The open seating in the Discovery Dining Room is a great idea, and the fact that you do not have to dress up if you do not want to is an added bonus. However, do not expect dinner to take anything less than two-and- a- half hours in any restaurant on this ship. That is unless you have a desire to eat average cafeteria food, if so you can eat the buffet dinner in the "Windows Cafe". The menus in the Discovery restaurant create such mouth watering expectations that when you taste the food, you are in shock. What happened to the savory food that was described so elegantly in the menu? Why was it taking so long between courses? Why when we specifically told our waiter that one of our guests was deathly allergic to Bell Pepper would he continue to put dishes that contained bell pepper in front of her? The food was so bad in this restaurant that after four days of torture we made contact with the Food and Beverage Manager who kindly and graciously arranged for all of our meals to be upstairs in the two "Specialty Restaurants." More on this later. The first day, we were at sea, and we went to the gym. It was very clean, a great view of the water, and had all the right equipment one would expect. After about fifteen minutes on the treadmill we kept hearing some loud screaming coming from down a hallway and figured there was an aerobic class in progress. The screaming became more piercing and desperate to the point that many of us got off the lifecycle and went towards the door to see what the commotion was, but before we could get to the door a security guard closed the door. We were a bit confused as to what was going on, so we went through the spa and came out the other side of the hallway to an encounter that do not think any of us shall soon forget. It was almost as if we had stepped into a CSI crime scene. A security guard was telling us to "be careful" as we passed. There were bloody handprints and blood splattering on the outside of the first white paneled elevator doors. As we moved further along we could see that four or five other security guards had what sounded like two maniacs trapped in the other open elevator. It was totally surreal. Whoever was trapped in the elevator was screaming inappropriate racial remarks against the security guards who were from varying nations. In all the years we have travelled on ships we have never seen anything like this. We found it all deeply disturbing and went down to our rooms. Later we discovered that it was a father and son who had been drinking, and the son, who supposedly had never had any alcohol before, reacted badly to drinking and temporarily lost his mind. Everyone was expecting these two to be thrown off the ship at the first port, but surprisingly, they remained. And no surprise to any of us, a few ports later the drunken father was screaming at the drunken son outside of the ship, "I don't care if you walk home!" And with that he got on the boat leaving his intoxicated son to figure out what to do next. Passengers should not be subjected to this kind of behavior. Ever. There is no excuse for this. What more could I say about the itinerary except that on Christmas the cruise line had us in Costa Rica, and on and New Year's eve had us in Cabo San Lucas. All of the shopping was closed in Costa Rica. Whereas we were in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua, on December 26th, where there is absolutely nothing to buy, and truly no reason to ever visit. This port should be taken off the itinerary, but is probably much cheaper for the cruise line to land in, because you end up staying there longer than you do when you dock in Acapulco, which is a shame, because in Acapulco you truly could use two days to see the scenery. None of the itinerary makes any sense, except maybe to the corporate office. As the cruise wore on, so did everyone's nerves. People were complaining left and right about the food, the accommodations, and the horrific third rate vaudeville performers. It appeared to everyone on the ship that one hand did not know what the other hand was doing. It was quite confusing, because all in all the staff was wonderful in their attitude. It was not until later in the cruise that we discovered that over fifty percent of the staff had never been on this ship before we sailed out of Miami. Most of them had never been on a cruise ship before. What was the head office of Celebrity thinking? The two high end restaurants "Prime C" and "Aqualina" did deliver better food than the other sources on the ship. However, this quality of food is what should have been delivered in the Dining Room to all of the guests on a daily basis. The high end restaurants on the "Journey" should be providing a higher quality product than what they have presented here. The staff was much more knowledgeable and attentive in these venues. It was a consensus on the ship that the Head Chef should be fired. In the daily activity program that is slipped under your door every night there was an article about the new head chef that had decided to change all of the round plates to square plates, and in doing so, Azamara was happy to announce they were incurring a major extra expense because square covers did not exist! Who is this chef? We have a news flash for you. How about keeping the round plates; and with the money you are saving hire proper chefs and purchase better quality food. In all of the years we have cruised, everyone in our party agreed, none of us could remember having such horrific food. If Azamara is going to advertise the "Journey" and the "Quest" as "Five Star" ships then they should hire someone to walk stern to bow and point out the obvious issues. Why are the coffee machines breaking down? Why are the Juice machines malfunctioning? Why are the water machines not working? Why is there not a menu on the wall at the Pool Side Grill? Why is the staff allowing glass items to be served anywhere around the pool area? Why have you run out of honey? Why have you run out of Butter? Why have you run out of Peanut Butter? Why did you run out of steaks, and why would you purchase them from Panama? Why have you run out of vegetables? Why are running out of desserts? Why would you leave port without all of the obvious provisions necessary? You want to know why? We will tell you what the cruise ship employees told us. The reason we were late leaving Miami was because the provisions were late being boarded and the Captain finally said, "Enough is Enough!" And off we went in the dark without enough provisions. You are kidding us right? This is a joke, right? Sadly it was not. We were asked to fill out response cards at the end of cruise and to drop them personally in the boxes located on the fourth floor @ "Guest Relations" Everyone we spoke to yesterday said they marked their response card saying they would never take another cruise on Azamara, and they would definitely never recommend Azamara to anyone in the future. It will be very interesting to see how many of those response cards end up in corporate hands. I can honestly say our party was never so happy to see land, as it was today when we finished my 50th birthday party cruise! PS... As other reviews have pointed out... This ship is not handicap friendly. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Where to start, where to start ... We cruised on the beautiful Emerald Princess 12/20/08 to 12/30/08. There were three of us traveling together; myself and DH (BB cabin C743 / Caribe deck) and a friend in a separate cabin (OV cabin L103 ... Read More
Where to start, where to start ... We cruised on the beautiful Emerald Princess 12/20/08 to 12/30/08. There were three of us traveling together; myself and DH (BB cabin C743 / Caribe deck) and a friend in a separate cabin (OV cabin L103 / Lido deck). All three of us have cruised a number of times, at many different times of year on a variety of cruise lines. This was the first time the three of us have ever cruised together and it was the first time any of us cruised over the Christmas holiday. The ship is beautiful and the areas we frequented were immaculate. The attitude of the entire crew was outstanding! They were friendly, helpful, smiling and always, always, always went the extra mile to make sure we were having a memorable cruise. EMBARKATION: We went through the maze of finding the ship at Pier 18 and the parking garage near Pier 2. It was all sort of chaotic at the drop-off area until the parking garage shuttle bus returned my DH to the curb where my friend & I were waiting. Once he (finally!) returned and we had only our carry-on bags left, everything went very smoothly. Our cabins were ready when we arrived so we dropped off our carry-ons, put our name on the list for the Chef's Table (already wait-listed), signed up for the Ultimate Ship Tour and got a bite to eat in the Horizon Cafe. By the time we returned to our cabins we had already received our luggage. [A note regarding the parking mess ... FLL is really a nice port to leave from so please don't get the wrong impression. They are building new parking garages in the advent of the Genesis class ships. During this construction phase it's just a little crazy when there are 9 big ships and 2 little ones in port at the same time. Once the garages are complete things will be hunky-dunky again. If you don't drive your own car to the port the parking thing really doesn't even affect you at all.] STATEROOMS: DH & I were in the very last cabin on the starboard side. We wanted our favorite cabin, C753 which faces aft, but even booking a year out we weren't able to get it. We enjoyed C743 though and would definitely book it again. Our cabin was kept spotless by our steward(ess), Noawarat (pronounced Nora), who was an absolute delight. She worked really hard but always had time to stop what she was doing and ask how our day was, where we had gone, if we needed anything, etc. We had an endless supply of fresh ice and our room was so cold you could probably have hung meat in it. Just the way we like it after a day in the Caribbean sun. ULTIMATE SHIP TOUR: All I can say is ... wow-WoW-WOW !!! What an experience! They will do this tour for a maximum of only 12 passengers so if you are interested sign up early. I'll admit that it isn't exactly cheap ($150 per person) but to us it was worth every penny and then some! I won't spoil all the surprises that are in store for you by writing about it here but if you like to see "behind the scenes", you will definitely NOT be disappointed!! Okay ... I'll spoil one surprise and it includes champagne and canapes on the bridge and a photo with Commodore Guiseppe Romano. And did I mention you get to climb on the funnel! Or go UNDER the stage in the Princess Theatre?? [Note: take closed-toe shoes to wear or you might not get into some of the more interesting areas.] ANYTIME DINING: We had a standing 8:15 reservation at a corner, window table in the DaVinci dining room (Table #433) with Roberto and Oksana. They were a cracker-jack team that made every dining room meal a cause for celebration. Roberto quickly got to know our tastes and gave us excellent recommendations. On the very rare occasions that our selection wasn't all we thought it could be, he gave us his million dollar smile and quickly brought us something different to try. Oksana was a breath of fresh air and her positive attitude, her quick wit and her laughter charmed all three of us instantly. SABATINI'S: Great food, great service. This isn't a complaint, exactly, but if I could make a suggestion it would be to allow you to pick what appetizers you want instead of insisting you take all of them. The spectacular seafood and the fine service are a good enough draw to bring people back again and again - the multiple "courses" and the "show" just aren't all that necessary after the first time. I asked for the option but was told that it wasn't an option and that instead, just leave what I didn't want. I did but we could have done the meal in half the time if we'd been allowed to just order the yummy foods that we wanted and be done with it. An enjoyable occasion nonetheless. CROWN GRILL: My momma always said, if you can't say something nice then don't say anything at all so let's just say this was the worst disappointment of the entire cruise and leave it at that. I know others have had fabulous meals and great service in the Crown Grill and we're really glad for you. Honest we are. Unfortunately we had neither. Maybe it was just an off-night. A really, realllllly off night. CHEF'S TABLE: We got "picked" but it was cancelled because of heightened precautions due to noro. They were hoping that it could be rescheduled but by the time the food service restrictions were lifted it was too late. Having already done this on the Caribbean Princess we were only mildly disappointed. We'll just have to keep cruising Princess so we can do it again sometime!! SANCTUARY: The most incredible place to relax and unwind on the planet. There is a surcharge to use this very tranquil, "adults only" area but we would gladly have paid any amount they asked. They also charge a small service charge to bring you lunch & snacks, which we were more than willing to pay. If this bothers you or you don't like a quiet-zone, laid-back style, then Sanctuary won't be your cup of tea. For us, Sanctuary and it's tremendously attentive staff of Somchai, Joy, Stephen, Suriya, Hardika and the ever-flowing iced cucumber water made a wonderful cruise even better. SHORE EXCURSIONS: PRINCESS CAYS ~ We had already experienced Princess Cays in a pretty red bungalow by the sea so on this cruise we opted to stay on the ship and enjoy Sanctuary. ST. THOMAS ~ Been there, done that so we stayed on the ship and enjoyed Sanctuary. DOMINICA ~ "Flower Garden & Creole Cooking". The second WoW of the cruise. There were a mere seven of us who signed up for this tour. We spent several hours with our guide, Josie, visiting the homes and gardens of residents on the interior of the island. The owners of these properties graciously welcomed us into their homes and gave us the opportunity to explore their tropical flowers; from vast gardens to small greenhouses. We were then treated to a delicious lunch, prepared especially for us, 2,000 feet above sea level at Exotica Cottages, one of the finalists of the National Geographic Change Maker awards. I highly recommend this tour if you want to really see the local heritage and culture and participate in an honest "show, tell and taste" experience. GRENADA ~ We had been to Grenada 20-some years ago so we decided just to get off and explore the area near the dock instead of doing an organized tour. Most everything was closed on Christmas, which we expected, so we snapped some interesting photos of what appeared to be bombed out buildings, bought the requisite spices and quickly returned to our haven back on the ship, Sanctuary. BONAIRE ~ Maybe not the most spectacular port of all times but definitely not the worst either. We found it to be very clean and the residents were extremely friendly. We scouted out some unique & unusual souvenirs and then had a delicious lunch of spicy, cold shrimp with an avocado/chili sauce and ice cold beer in an open-air, waterfront cafe! Yum. CURACAO ~ Once I finally get it posted you can read the full review of this wonderful shore excursion over on the Curacao board but suffice it to say that cooking some culinary classics in Angelica's Kitchen is an experience that you just have to try when visiting Curacao. Ok. I take that back. Not EVERYbody should try this. A while back someone on Cruise Critic openly admonished these wonderful ladies for pairing Cheese Doritos with one of the appetizers. Puh-leaze. If it was you that complained and you are reading this ... shame on you. You either weren't listening to the story or you just didn't get it. This is a fabulous, awesome, unique excursion. If you go, tell them Seapixie says hello and thanks for the memories! SHOWS: Crooners, followed by a long leisurely dinner, is our preferred evening entertainment so we only went to one of the shows in the Princess Theatre. It was a production show and it was very, very good. We didn't go early or have anyone save seats for us yet we ended up with great seats in a perfect location and had excellent service. A very enjoyable part of the evening for us and one we would highly recommend. Truth be known, if the Crooners waiters didn't shake such darned good martoonis we probably would have gone to the theatre more often You might want to take a sweater or light jacket as the Princess Theatre was a little chilly, even by our standards and we like it cold. CASINO: Last of the big spenders, we generously deposited $5 to the cause and had a lot of fun doing it. We were only playing the quarter slots but ended up with about an hour's worth of entertainment for our five-spot. CHILDREN: We don't have any children so we can't comment on Princess' children's programs but they must be pretty good. We were told that there were just over 700 "Under 18's" on board but you wouldn't know it by us. Perhaps our shore excursions didn't appeal to families with little ones and then we DID spend a lot of time in Sanctuary where children aren't allowed but even at dinner or in the open deck areas, we just didn't notice them. DISEMBARKATION: How very sad that they make it so easy to disembark. Why-oh-why can't they make this procedure last several long meaningful hours including a leisurely lunch, a couple of hours by the pool and a shoulder massage (LOL!). Seriously, if you have to disembark from a wonderful, amazing cruise, at least Princess makes the process as painless as possible. We waited in our assigned space until our color was called. There were only a couple of ships in port so we were docked at Pier 2 this time, near the parking garage. Because of that it took only about a half an hour from the time they called out "Gold 3" to the time we were in the car, bags loaded, and on our way home. Thanks for the memories, Emerald Princess! We are counting the minutes until we set sail on the spectacular Ruby Princess next Christmas! Seapixie ~ Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
As we approached Ventura after the long but comfortable flight from London Gatwick Airport to Barbados airport, the first view of the ship gave the impression of a multistory block of flats, but this view was soon to change after we ... Read More
As we approached Ventura after the long but comfortable flight from London Gatwick Airport to Barbados airport, the first view of the ship gave the impression of a multistory block of flats, but this view was soon to change after we embarked. The one thing that P&O Cruises do exceptionally well, are their transfer arrangements in Barbados. Luggage is transferred directly from the aircraft to your cabin. Coaches meet you near the aircraft steps and swiftly convey you to the ship, similarly at the end of the cruise luggage is transferred from the ship to your final airport destination and customs and immigration formalities are completed on-board prior to disembarkation. This saves a lot of hassle at the airport both on arrival and departure. On entering the ship, we were extremely pleased to find that she was tastefully decorated in rich colors, with a feel of spaciousness. There were plenty of comfortable chairs and settees, ideal for curling up and spreading out with a book. Traditional P&O style elegance abounded. All public spaces inside were spotlessly clean and remained this way throughout the cruise. On this cruise, we had chosen a balcony cabin on deck 11, port side. The cabin was compact and comfortable. There was good storage space and the added bonus of having tea and coffee-making facilities in the room was appreciated. The bathroom was adequate with excellent toiletries provided and the large fluffy towels were changed twice daily. There was an ample supply of hot water. There is an excellent interactive television system that offers many choices- from television channels to ordering in-cabin room service and to choose free and pay movies. You can shop, gain information - look at your on-board account and many other actions from this facility. Guests should also be aware that this service also acts as your messaging system. The comfort of the bed was average; it certainly did not have the "wow" factor. The covering was a flimsy duvet, which was not large enough to be tucked in and more often than not ended up on the floor. There is a good air-conditioning system, and there is adequate lighting and a refrigerator. Bathrobes are not provided on board, except in mini-suites and above. The balcony, of adequate size was furnished with two upright chairs and a very small low-level table. There was absolutely no privacy on the balcony as owing to the construction of the ship, the majority of balconies on decks 9, 10 and 11 are tiered --be aware of this fact when booking - we could look down to those below and they could look up at us. Additionally because of the design of the ship, conversations could clearly be heard from balconies three or four cabins away. The room was maintained in an excellent condition and serviced twice daily. There are three formal dining rooms on board - two for "club dining" - 1st and 2nd seating and the third for "anytime" dining. There are also other various specialist and casual dining venues. We found the food to be consistently of a high quality in all dining venues -plenteous and varied and especially designed to the British palate in the main restaurant and casual style buffet. The only disappointment was the very limited choice of breads. In the main Restaurant, dinner was well presented and expertly served. Great care is taken to cater for guests who have dietary requirements. Unfortunately breakfast in the main restaurant lacked any presentation skills whatsoever - breakfasts looked as if they had been just thrown on a plate. Yoghurts should be served in a dish and not presented in the container itself. The ship had over 3000 guests on board and never once, even on sea days did we have to queue or wait for seats in the self-service buffet. Dishes were replenished often and hot food was hot and cold food was cold. There are no free juices, other than at breakfast time. Free tea; with lots of different blends and coffee are available here 24 hours a day. There is a full and varied programme of entertainment, outlined in the Daily Newspaper - The Horizon. There is something for everyone. We found the production shows and most of the guest entertainers to be excellent offering professional and varied programmes. For a ship of this size, the Cruise Director and his limited number of staff did a great job. They were highly visible all over the ship, a pity the same could not be said of the officers, and gave the impression of being a most happy and caring team. Even on days when ports of call were cancelled due to bad weather, within a reasonable time, additional entertainment was arranged and relayed to guests. They are to be congratulated! There are the usual on-board shops offering a good selection of goods and usually at competitive prices, do be aware that the shop selling those items that you may have forgotten to bring with you, is, if they have not run out of goods, fairly expensive. There are free launderettes on board, but you have to purchase soap powder from this outlet. They charge 50p for 2 concentrated soap tablets. There is a luxurious spa offering various treatments and therapies. They do offer specials and details of these are messaged to you through your in interactive cabin television as are shop "sales" as well as being advertised in the daily newspaper. There is a well-equipped gym. Internet facilities are available. Although expensive - take advantage of the packages available and the special offers advertised. Specials are also available for the speciality restaurants. There is an excellent and knowledgeable Shore Excursion Team and tours bought from the ship are reasonably well priced and good in content. Occasionally, some tours do not reach their expected standards and to which they have no control - they do however listen and investigate and take appropriate action. There is a Future Cruise Consultant on board, who is most anxious to sell you a future cruise. Beware! She quoted us a price for the same itinerary and on the same ship next Christmas at a cost of £8600.00. We were horrified at this cost. We went next door to the Internet centre and checked P & O`s web site and found the same cruise, although in a different grade of cabin, but in a grade on the same deck with the same facilities, and almost next door to the one that she quoted for £4300.00. We returned a few days later to her, after having again checked our facts and confronted her with our information. You can guess her embarrassment. We asked her to check again and guess what? You are right. Obviously someone who works on a commission basis? We had originally booked the Christmas and New Year Cruise on the Oceana for 2009. However after a number of months, having paid the deposit and received confirmation - P&O cancelled the 2-week cruise and extended it into a 4-week cruise. We were offered a transfer to the 4-week cruise at a supplement - but as we could not get time of work had to decline. We were offered very minimal compensation if we were to book a further cruise with P&O within a specific time frame. We asked to be transferred to the Ventura but were told that P&O would not honor the price available at the time of our original booking, even though they had the advantage of having our deposit for some 5 months. The price had risen by £1000.00 - we did however receive our deposit back in full. Gone it appears are the days of honorability. Administration on the ship and Head Office leaves a lot to be desired. We had a query re on-board credit. The ship e-mailed their Head Office on 21 December and followed the query up with further e-mails - no response was received by the time we disembarked on 2 January and thus we did not receive the credit due to us. Additionally notifications originating from the Pursers Office were In-correct - especially in respect of disembarkation - these had to be withdrawn and re-issued on a number of occasions. Likewise in respect of the 1st edition of the Port information issued in respect of St. Vincent - the information provided actually related to the Azores - what a waste of paper, time and money - more attention to detail is required in this department. The Ships`s photographers do and good job and produce fine quality photographs, together with an excellent DVD of the cruise. Individual photographs tend to be expensive, but again packages are available. This was a Christmas and New Year Cruise and the ship was discreetly and sensitively decorated. There were excellent festal activities. There were, I understand over 700 children on board. This being the case P&O are to be congratulated on their programmes and organized events for those guests as they were very seldom seen and certainly not heard - most well-behaved and a credit to their parents and staff. The facilities for kids and teenagers are outstanding. Dress Code on the ship fell into 3 categories - formal, semi -formal and smart casual. It was pleasing to not that the majority of guests adhered to the dress code especially on formal evening. Following this cruise however, the dress code for this ship and the Oceana fall into only 2 categories - Formal and Smart Casual. There are numerous bars and other venues for drinks throughout the ship. Quiet bars, energetic bars or pool bars. Drinks are well-presented or excellent quality (except at the Captains Cocktail party - where they appeared to lack in alcoholic content) and were reasonably priced. There is a comprehensive wine list again not overly priced. The currency on board is the British Pound. In keeping with the P&O tradition, gratuities are extended on the final evening of the cruise by way of cash in envelopes. Although if you opt for Anytime dining, your gratuity for the waiters in this regard is added to your on-board account. Do be sure that you bring enough sterling for these gratuities. We had planned to withdraw cash at a facility at Gatwick Airport but it was out of order. Fortunately we had enough cash to cover the gratuities, as the Pursers office do not cash personal cheques. There are 3 modest sized swimming pools (one of which is reserved for adults) on board as well as a number of Jacuzzi's. Whilst there are large deck areas with sun beds, there are insufficient sun beds or space for the number of passengers on this ship. - There is just not the amount of required space and beds are so tightly squeezed together and you have to climb on to the sun bed and then sit on it. It does not help when passengers reserve sun beds for hours with their towels and then come along and remove their towels and walk away not having even sat in them. One morning at 7.45am all sun beds were occupied by towels and yet no sun worshippers. P & O do not have a policing policy on this issue - they need to adopt one - this was one of the major factors of discontent on this cruise. A suggestion as to how this might be alleviated is that the upright chairs on balconies be removed and replaced with reclining chairs, like those on the promenade deck. Many guests occupying such cabins would quite possibly tend to spend more time relaxing there than to fight for a sun bed on the open decks. Excellent reclining chairs are provided on the promenade deck. However as the ship has a strict no-smoking policy inside the vessel - many smokers tend to congregate on the starboard side of this deck as it is within easy reach of the bars, entertainment areas, restaurants and night club for their smoke. More ashtrays are needed and those broken need to be fixed and all need to be emptied more often than they are now. This deck also needs to be cleaned more regularly. Some guests on deck 8 - starboard aft, complained about the smoke drifting up from this deck and on to their balconies. They also complained about the noise experienced from these cabins during the early hours of the morning, when smokers from the night-club gathered on this deck. Noise was a constant problem when late night revellers were returning to their cabins in various areas of the ship when the discotheque closed at around 4.00am. There were reports that there were a number of fights on board and those guests were locked up in the brig, but we never witnessed any such fights or any real drunkenness. Unfortunately on the first week of the cruise, the weather was not kind, rain, winds and high seas. This resulted in the ship not being able to dock at 3 of the ports of call. The ship handled well during these conditions whilst at sea. However, it was disappointing that we missed these important ports of calls. Obviously something to do with the size of the ship and its design as guests on other cruise ships and on those of a similar or larger size had no port cancellations. She appeared to the able to dock when in the Caribbean but not at those ports at the edge of the Atlantic. As our fare had included port taxes and charges, it will be interesting to see if P&O refund these to the passengers as they would not have had to pay them and we did not avail of these services. The foregoing are thoughts and/or suggestions and are by no means complaints. They are also designed to assist others when planning their cruise vacation, as to some things that they may wish to consider. In all, we had an excellent cruise and would certainly travel with P&O again. P & O market the ship more towards families, but we feel that the Ventura is suitable for all, couples singles as well as families. We thoroughly enjoyed the traditional P&O experience and would recommend them without reservation. Well Done to all those who made this possible. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We are not novices to cruising as this was our 39th cruise. We are gold card members of the MSC line. Until this sailing, MSC has been our favorite cruise line. Unfortunately the service made us feel like unwanted relatives on the ... Read More
We are not novices to cruising as this was our 39th cruise. We are gold card members of the MSC line. Until this sailing, MSC has been our favorite cruise line. Unfortunately the service made us feel like unwanted relatives on the Orchestra. We have had better and worse embarkations thus nothing worth writing about. It was upon entering the ship our problems began. Our adult son came with us since this was a Christmas and New year's vacation. Upon boarding he went to the Receptionist Desk to give them cash so he could open up his onboard account. When he tried to tell the receptionist what he wanted to do she told him "if he would shut up and listen." I was standing by him or I might not have believed a customer relations person would talk that way to a passenger. We are loyal past passengers and get treated this way. Strike one within ten minutes of boarding. Other cruise lines show you to your cabin and some even offer a glass of champagne. None of that here. You are on your own to find your cabin. Being hungry we went up to deck 13 for something to eat. Another disappointment. The food was tasteless and all the salads looked and tasted the same. There were only two variety of cakes for dessert. Little did we know this was to be the case for the entire cruise. Our first dinner foretold what was ahead for the next 17 days. We never saw a steak the entire trip. Fish served every meal but over cooked and quite dry. Chicken every meal and again over cooked. We ordered pasta the first night (remembering how wonderful the pasta was on the Opera.) To our surprise it was tasteless except for a rancid, metallic taste. No one at our table could eat it. In 17 days we had truly good pasta only two times. Service in the dining room was bad to pitiful. We were at a table for 6 and one person would get their dish while the rest would wait 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes we were served the wrong orders. Other times we never got what we ordered. Sometimes we would get our food but have no silverware to eat it with. Dinner always took around two hours. Everyday except for three we went to the "formal" dining room for lunch. Imagine our surprise to have to go through a cafeteria line (buffet) at lunch in the formal dining room. No menu service. Again the food was tasteless. In all our cruises this was a first. Christmas Eve we could have "prime rib" or lobster. Everyone at our table and next to us agreed the "prime rib" was merely a small piece of over cooked roast beef. The lobster was soooo large we took three bites and it was gone. Also, I was told fourteen passengers ended up in the infirmary ill after eating the lobster. Unfortunately the food never improved the entire cruise. I had occasion to speak with Marcello, the Guest Relations manager. He told me he was a "chef" and that Italians do not cook with spices. I wondered if he thought I had dropped here from another planet. Especially since my husband is 1/2 Italian. Day two we slept in and did not leave our cabin until 10:10 am. Imagine our surprise to find it was not possible to find anything to eat on the ship until noon. The restaurant closed at 9:30 am everyday of the trip. The deck 13 cafeteria (buffet) closed at 10:00 am. No rolls, croissants, nothing. Our cabin was always very clean and our room steward had a handicap as our adult son would stay out quite late and thus get up very late. Our steward never complained and graciously worked around our night owl. We were quite happy with our service in this area. The productions shows were good and the costumes were beautiful. The were four African men who were acrobats. They were truly wonderful. The magician and illusionist were acceptable. One night there was no show at all and three nights the show consisted entirely of groups which played every night in the atrium lounge. These three nights were poorly attended since we saw them every night anyway when passing by the atrium. The Entertainment (Animation) Team on MSC really work hard and extremely long hours. These young people were no exception. They danced with passengers every single evening until 1 or 2 am. They had Italian lessons, trivia games, crazy games, dance lessons, etc. From nine in the morning until two am they were very visible and working hard. They truly made this voyage bearable. The cruise director on the other hand was very aloof and seldom said anything to the passengers. The ships lounge performers were generally good. We especially liked the Popcorn Band and their singer, Romanica. She has a truly lovely voice and is very friendly and outgoing. On the Opera you could not get on the ship or go into an eating facility without a crew member squirting you with hand sanitizer. Imagine our surprise when we cannot even find the sanitizer on deck 13 four four days. It was behind a door. Quite often when getting back on the ship or entering the dining room the hand sanitizer was empty. There was never any crew in sight the entire trip checking on this. Something we have never seen before was that none of the ships shops were open until the fourth day of our cruise. Christmas decorations (such as they were) did not appear until day four and five of our cruise. We heard several passengers complain because the ship never put up a Menorah even though we were cruising during Hanukah. There were never any Christmas Carols, no egg nog, no special Christmas show Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. A passenger chorus sang prior to midnight mass which was held at 11:00. Other than Santa for the children Christmas Day might as well have been any other day of the year. Get this the Orchestra had a Friends of Bill W. meeting in the Savannah "Bar." Our past passenger party was not until December 28 which is when we got our "welcome cocktail." It took three phone calls to get the invitation which we finally received 10 minutes prior to the party. Only ONE cocktail is permitted per passenger. No canapes. Since Saint Thomas is the first U.S. port this is where the immigration procedures were done. What a mess. We got a paper which I am quoting "instructions for passengers NON USA and Canada." We get a knock on our door and were chastised for not going through customs. I showed the person our form and he said we did not know how to read and must go right away. We stood in line for one hour to have a ship officer glance at our passport and put a sticker on it so we could get off the ship and go into town. The last week of the cruise many of the passengers and some of the crew got a hacking cough, sore throat and fever. My son and spouse both had to go to the infirmary for medicine. They were told there was not an outbreak of illness. However, the ship sounded like a T.B. ward. A couple of passengers said they had contacted the Center for Disease Control because of the ships denial and the lack of sanitization. We have cruised so many times, we know there are always a few disgruntled passengers but we have never talked to so many people who were so angry. People from nearly every country we spoke with expressed their displeasure with the Orchestra. We only met three people who seemed happy with the cruise. We found out they were on their first cruise. Disembarkation was truly a nightmare. Everyone had to be out of their cabin by 7:00 am. Breakfast was closed at 8:30 am. Nobody was allowed off the ship until after 10:30 am. There was an announcement about 9:00 am blaming the Immigration Department for the hold up. Since we had a 12:30 train home we were getting quite nervous. I went to the Receptionist and she said she could not give me a different colored tag. (Ours was over half way down the list to be called.) She then said they could not "force" anyone to stay on the ship. We spoke with some people sitting near us and they had 7:00 to 8:00 evening flights and had the first colored tags to be called. We slipped in line when the first tags were called and upon reaching the baggage area off the ship found our luggage had not even been taken off the ship yet. We spoke to someone in Immigration and were told they were ready by 9:00 am to clear the Orchestra's passengers but the ship is under staffed and that was why it was taking so long. Many a time I have gone on Cruise Critic to defend MSC, telling the detractors how wonderful MSC is. I now feel a need to apologize to my fellow Cruise Critic's for misleading them. What has happened to my beloved MSC??? Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our sixth cruise, the second on the Grand Princess. We chose it primarily because of the interesting Caribbean itinerary, and for the fact that we got to spend both Christmas and New Year on the ship. It was 14 days, visiting 9 ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise, the second on the Grand Princess. We chose it primarily because of the interesting Caribbean itinerary, and for the fact that we got to spend both Christmas and New Year on the ship. It was 14 days, visiting 9 ports. This is not a review on our flights or on the islands we visited, this is about the ship itself. It is long, but full of information. We are not big complainers, and we tend to believe that many cruisers are too picky or expect too much. On this category of ship, you cannot expect 5 star dining. At best, 3+ is our overall rating for Princess, RCCL and Celebrity. But, I do not have to cook or clean, and service is generally good. We are very fortunate to be able to enjoy a cruise, so we always try to look at the positive side of things. This time, it's a little different... It all started when we arrived at the cruise terminal. Since we flew in the day before the cruise, we arrived at the terminal at around 11:00am. Thank God! We were able to get a seat inside the terminal and have a ticket that should have allowed us to board at around 12:30-1:00pm. We had to wait until 3:00pm to board, apparently there was a coast guard inspection going on, but wasn't this ship on dock for one complete week prior to this cruise? There were about 1500 passengers waiting outside the terminal building, in the sun, for a few hours due to this supposed inspection. Having sailed on the Grand about 6-7 years ago, we knew that this ship is the best looking one on the outside, but the inside is definitely not spectacular. Having read all the reviews and knowing that this ship is now 10 years old, we were expecting to see signs of wear. Well, the Grand is definitely showing its age. Although it is kept clean, chairs, sofas, balconies, carpets and various areas would surely need refurbishment or replacement. The cushions on the chairs in all bars and lounges are so soft, I almost fell on the floor the first time I tried to sit on one in the Explorer's Lounge. Our cabin was on Caribe deck 10 portside, so we had a larger balcony (10'x10') which was nice. They install rubber tiles on the balconies, but ours was missing all the surrounding tiles so we had a nice view of a rusted balcony. The chairs had probably not been cleaned for months, so we did it ourselves. I do not particularly enjoy resting my arms on sticky chairs. Our cabin attendant was the worst we had on all 6 cruises. All he could do was change the towels, make the bed and vacuum. After 5 days of constantly asking for ice, my husband had the good idea to give him $10., and from then, we always had ice. Let me tell you this is the only extra tip he received, and on all previous cruises, we "extra tipped" very well the cabin attendants. Since this was a two-week cruise, I was curious to find out when the bed sheets would be changed, so we made a small mark on the sheets and pillows. After 9 days, they still had not been changed, so we went to the Purser's desk to find out if they expected to change them? We were told it should have been done on the 7th day, so the gentleman at the counter called room service and just said "Can you please have the sheets changed, thank you." not even mentioning that it had not been done. 24 hours later, nothing was changed. We went back to the desk, but this time I was not polite and requested that this matter be escalated to the Manager. An hour later, our bedding was changed. I do not expect to have my bed sheets changed every day, but once a week is not excessive... The power went off one evening in the cabins located on our floor, our shower head fell off the wall, and a whole bunch of cabins had no air conditioning for one day. The worst event was that the bow thrusters did not function for half of the cruise. This meant that they had to rely on tug boats to push the ship on the docks. However, in St-Vincent and Antigua no tug boats were available so we had to anchor and we were taken ashore by the tender boats. Then, we were not able to sail away from St-Thomas in the evening, apparently the tug boat had a mechanical problem! Therefore, we stayed overnight in St-Thomas, and don't believe they let us go ashore for the evening, it would have been too much trouble... The next morning, the tug boat was miraculously repaired, so we were able to sail away. Of course, since we were late on our itinerary, we could not go to La Romana, so we had an extra sea day instead. To compensate for the inconveniences, Princess offered compensation in the form of dollars on our shipboard account. This was granted to all passengers two days prior the end of the cruise, and was not refundable. We were quite happy about it, we had spent a little more than expected so this cleared our account. The food was good overall in the dining rooms, in our opinion Princess does better than RCCL. We chose Anytime dining, which meant that we had to wait at least 30 minutes every night to get a table. If you are willing to share a table, and have dinner at 6:00pm, you will not wait. But we wanted tables for two, and had dinner around 8:00-8:30. So depending on what you want, you will have a seat or a pager. You can make reservations on the DINE line, but you have to call at 8:00am sharp every morning. And of course, we always forgot and by 8:20 they are out of "reservable" tables. We are not complaining, we do prefer the little wait for a private table. The quality of the service varies from one table to another, but is basically efficient. As far as the Painted Desert is concerned, in our opinion it was not worth the extra $40. I ordered filet mignon, medium rare, and it was served well done. I returned it, asking again for a medium rare, and this time got it fully rare, barely a little grilled on the top, and it had a big strong white nerve in the middle. When your only job consists of cooking steaks, how come you do not know the difference between rare and well done? But we had ordered a good bottle of wine, and Elena our waiter was the best. So we had a good time, but would not pay for this again. Sabatini's is good, but if you do not want to be stuffed with food, tell the waiter you are not in a rush. Otherwise you will eat in an hour, the equivalent in calories of two dinners in the regular dining room! As far as the islands are concerned, we mainly made our own arrangements. I will not bore you with all details, but will recommend the following tours: Aruba: ABC Tours (www.abc-aruba.com), we did the 3.5 hours Safari Jeep tour which brought us to see the most magnificent views we have seen in the Caribbean. Warning: This tour is extremely BUMPY!!! The Jeep takes you completely off-road, and I mean off-road! Not adviseable for everyone, but soooo beautiful! We booked online without any problem. St-Vincent: Hazeco Tours (www.hazecotours.com), we did the Darkview Falls tours. It is one full day, they pick you up at 9:00am at the pier and take you back at 4:00pm. Our guide was the sweetest person, and gave us lots of information on the island. Only warning: the lunch is not good, but the tour is well worth it! Do not try to book online, you have to call them directly. Antigua: We had booked with Princess for the "five-star catamaran tour with lunch". Hi Hi Hi, the guy NEVER showed up at the pier and they could not locate him!!! So they offered us a different catamaran tour which is "Circle Antigua" offered by Excellence Tours, and it was the BEST tour we could have. You go around the island on a motorised catamaran (do not expect sails), they take you to a small island for a good lunch and snorkeling, and take you back to the pier at around 4:00. Warning: when they get to sail on the Atlantic Ocean, it gets really bumpy, but this lasts only about 20 minutes. Just be advised in case you tend to get seasick, but it really lasts about 20 minutes so it's not too bad. Overall this was a great cruise, as far as itinerary and celebrations are concerned. We very much enjoyed the fact that we celebrated Christmas and New Year on a cruise ship. The food was good, the overall service was medium (not bad, but the worst on our 6 cruises), the shows were sooo amateur (the crew talent show was the best one!), the ship definitely needs to be refurbished. Would we sail again with Princess, yes. Would we recommend the Grand? Well, if you like the itinerary and price, then yes. But be aware it is worn out, and technical problems could arise. Would we sail again on such an old ship? Well again, if the itinerary was interesting and the price was good, we would consider it, but our next cruise will certainly be on a newer ship where we can get more dining options and cleaner spaces. Happy and healthy New Year to all cruisers! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I sailed on Royal Clipper on her New Year's cruise with my partner and another couple. We are in our early 40's and this was our 46th cruise. Embarkation involved standing in line for an excruciating hour and a 10 minute walk to ... Read More
I sailed on Royal Clipper on her New Year's cruise with my partner and another couple. We are in our early 40's and this was our 46th cruise. Embarkation involved standing in line for an excruciating hour and a 10 minute walk to the ship as we didn't feel like waiting in another long line for the shuttle. The cabin was compact but well-appointed. The low shower-floor lip and lack of enclosure walls except for a curtain all but guaranteed flooding of the bathroom with each use. The ship was beautifully decorated in an Edwardian yachting motif. The gym was minimally equipped with two treadmills limited by a low ceiling and two ancient recumbent bicycles. The open-seating dinners were fine with good service and reasonably priced wines but the seating could be extremely tight depending on location. Breakfast and lunch buffets were of variable quality but a beach barbecue was terrific. Those accustomed to large ships were shocked by the ship's extreme movements in all directions but this was to be expected. The sails were magnificent but generally used more as a display than as an active means of propulsion. The ship primarily sails under diesel power and usually engine noise and cooking exhaust smells were present on the open decks. Activities are minimal to nonexistent. The Cruise Director is a glorified shore-excursion salesman and a font of misinformation. He lead no activities and showed no leadership or entertaining skills. There are few onboard activities, no daily summaries or navigational information and a surprising lack of sailing-related information or exercises. Entertainment consists of a solo piano player generally playing 70's melodies backed up by preprogrammed disco beats. New Year's Eve was particularly poorly planned. We were told to go on deck at 11:30, were served warm "bubbly" and looked at each other until 12:05 when some passengers counted down to artificially start the year. No music, no horn, no sign of the Captain or officers and no Cruise Director. When questioned the next day, the Cruise Director said the Captain was "ill" and that he himself was "elsewhere". When we returned to the cabin after the New Year's Eve "celebrations", the annoying nightly noise (I had previously used ear plugs and sleeping pills) of the Crew Mess located directly under our cabin became intolerable with loud singing, yelling and music. There was no-one on duty at the front desk and when I brought the matter to the Hotel Manager the next day, he basically "blamed" me for only complaining on the fifth day. When I said that I hadn't complained earlier as the ship was full and there was likely no recourse, he agreed and offered me a complimentary downgrade (he actually used the expression "downgrade") where we could sleep in a smaller cabin while occupying our original cabin. Uh, right. He acknowledged the noise problem, showed no particular concern and offered no apology. Other passengers expressed numerous concerns about the senior officers and their ill-treatment of the general staff and the overall unhappiness of the crew. It was also extremely concerning to hear passengers commenting on how they observed heavy alcohol consumption of officers at some of our beach stops. Disembarkation was extremely relaxed and their was no hurry to get us off the ship although our requested wake-up call was never delivered. While Royal Clipper is a first-rate ship, she offers an overall disappointing cruise experience, generally omitting any and all of the sailing-themed activities and ambiance that attracted us to her in the first place. Her poor onboard atmosphere, absence of "joie de vivre" and lack of understanding of what makes passengers happy will ensure that I avoid Star Clippers in the future.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I began planning this cruise while my husband was deployed so I had plenty of time to read just about every review of the ship as well as each port we visited. I have to say that I believe that this was the main reason we had such a ... Read More
I began planning this cruise while my husband was deployed so I had plenty of time to read just about every review of the ship as well as each port we visited. I have to say that I believe that this was the main reason we had such a wonderful time. We drove in the night before and arrived at 11am at the port. From the time we got out of the shuttle to sipping our first drink was 30 minutes. Smooth and easy. All of the employees we encountered were helpful and smiling. We got to our room around 1:45 and was very happy to see that our deck was huge and the room was exactly as promised. If you can get the 9A do it. It's worth the money and it's quiet. The dining room was wonderful. Food was varied and good. Service was amazing and we were greeted every night by every server by name. We had two elegant nights in addition to New Years and most of the people I encountered were dressed in very nice gowns and suits and tuxes. We did eat at the Supper Club one evening and I can assure you that it is worth the $30 per person. The food was amazing and the service top. The shows were fun and entertaining. One evening the comedian didn't show up because of schedule mishap, but other than that we had a good time. The Legends show on the last night was hilarious. The gentleman who sang Frank Sinatra was as good (if not better) than many professionals out now. We won at the casino (only $300) and enjoyed it very much. I saw security move several patrons who were smoking in the non-smoking section of the casino and bar area right next to it. One end of the bar was smoking and the other non. I didn't have any issues with smoking like others have reported. I never saw people smoking on the port side of lido deck and my husband and I spent a lot of time out there. Deck chairs were hard to come by if you showed up after 10am, but I asked one of the men working at the towel stand and within 15 minutes he brought out 10 more. The New Years deck party was the highlight. I would estimate between 2500-2800 people on the Lido and upstairs dancing and partying. It was fun and loud. The horn blew at midnight and you could hear the other ships at sea blowing theirs as well. We didn't get to bed till the sun was coming up. The only negative was the long lines getting off the ship in Belize. Weather was slowing down the tendering for excursions and people decided that this (the weather) was Carnivals fault. I have never in my life heard such language coming out of the mouths of adults with children present. I would be ashamed to speak like that with a group of sailors and marines. Overall the cruise was a hit. I would do it again in a minute and that makes it 2 for 2 for Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The cruise started out perfect on Sunday, December 21, 2008 with an effortless check-in and debarkation from San Juan but things changed by the next morning. Monday, December 22, 2008, the shore excursion to St. Thomas was excellent ... Read More
The cruise started out perfect on Sunday, December 21, 2008 with an effortless check-in and debarkation from San Juan but things changed by the next morning. Monday, December 22, 2008, the shore excursion to St. Thomas was excellent but returned to the cabin to find our toilet not evacuating properly (slow to flush). We did not report this problem immediately because we thought just an isolated incident with everyone possibly utilizing the facilities, since most of the shore excursions were returning to the ship. Tuesday, December 23, 2008, this morning the cruise started to go down hill rapidly.... The cabin toilet facility would not work, so reported incident to Cabin Steward. Returned from day in port to fine toilet working properly, so continued with going to dinner at the Pacific dining room. 2015 hours, Pacific Dining room, table 419 met by our waiter, who never introduced himself by name or country of origin, appeared he really did not care to be serving us tonight. Asked for a wine list, which was not produced until after the first course and the bottle ordered did not appear to almost the end of the main course! Service was slow and level expected attention, quite lacking (much better service obtained on the Carnival Valor, with a waiter that was not only a gentleman but an entertainer)! Wednesday, December 24, 2008, once again the toilet facilities in our cabin stopped working and had to report this incident to our Steward. Proceeded to our shore excursion on St. Lucia and returned to the ship by 12 noon to find the cabin facilities operational. Proceeded to spend the remainder of the day on the Lido Deck enjoying the sunshine. Greeted by a big screen television, which could barely be seen from the sun glaring on the screen. The movie was depressing, something to do with Sissy Spacek suffering from Dementia and being befriended by an orphan girl (not very uplifting during the Christmas holidays). Once the movie went off no entertainment followed but advertisement for the shore excursion movie to purchase in the photo gallery. What ever happened to live bands on the Lido Deck? Finally an entertainer emerged to play a kettle drum to pre-recorded back ground music. Where were the Cruise Director and his FunShip entertainment staff??? Would have loved to use the hot tubs but unfortunately they were completely occupied by children (no adults present only kids), I thought this violated Carnival Cruises' safety rules? Christmas Eve, Pacific Dining experience was a repeat of the previous days by a lack of service. Ordered two single glasses of wine to received them at the end of the main course, and this was only after sending the waiter and assistant waiter to locate the wine order! Almost forgot returned to the room to once again find the restroom facilities not functioning properly. By this time it became apparent the toilet would not be fixed properly while at sea, so utilized the facility only in emergencies and relied on the public restroom for the remainder of the cruise. The remainder of our days on the ship were nothing extraordinary and the highlights were the shore excursions. Sunday, December 28, 2008 arrived at the San Juan airport at 1400 hours, after going on a rainforest tour, to find ourselves standing in line five hours with US Airways trying to check in for our flight home. Needless to say, once we were face to face with a ticket agent at 1900 hours, we were finally informed our flight was delayed until 2100 hours but unfortunately we would not be able to make our connecting flight home from Charlotte. All efforts to be rerouted to other major airports to make connecting flights were fruitless and ended up flying to Charlotte and spending the night in a hotel. Monday, December 29, 2008 arrived at Charlotte airport to once again be greeted by a check in line! To make this short we did get home but 12 hours past our original scheduled time, which resulted in us missing one day of work, long distance calls to family to advise of the delays and additional airport parking fees. All these arrangements were made by Carnival Cruise lines, so I must hold them responsible for the poor air service on a airline that is ranked lowest in customer satisfaction! Carnival arranged for Delta airlines to take us to the port on Sunday, December 21 but to save a buck placed us returning home with USless Airways. Basically, I now need a vacation from the vacation we took during the Christmas Holidays, thanks to the Carnival Victory! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The MSC Cruise line is for the birds. If you plan a cruise DO NOT CHOOSE MSC CRUISE LINES. It is a very boring place to be. The food was terrible-horrible-everything was either undercooked or overcooked....they even screwed up corn ... Read More
The MSC Cruise line is for the birds. If you plan a cruise DO NOT CHOOSE MSC CRUISE LINES. It is a very boring place to be. The food was terrible-horrible-everything was either undercooked or overcooked....they even screwed up corn flakes (I lived on French fries and tomatoes for 17 days)...... there were no trained crew members everybody was new and spoke very little English if any at all....there were 16 decks on this ship and 2...yes 2...Christmas trees..no decorations.........no Christmas music......they had no planned organized fun things to do except stretching exercises and bingo and that was ill organized........Bingo cards cost $10 for one card......I paid extra for a smoking balcony and they did not allow smoking on balconies.......they charge 3% for cashing travelers checks.......the only deck party they had was New Year's Eve....no ice carvings and grand buffet on the last night as ships usually do...the nightly shows (except 2) were all operatic and classical.....no religious Christmas services except for Catholics.....the first and second days they had no night time buffet so you had to eat in the dining room whether you wanted to or not, then they had so many complaints that they had to open a buffet at night.....you had to pay for pizza...you had to pay for ice cream...one man had to pay $3.50 for a glass of crushed ice.....there were two big fights on the ship....no movie theater or free movies....the first few days they had 10 free movies but so many people were so bored they were staying in the cabins watching them so they took them off.....one couple got off in Casablanca and flew themselves home and another two couples got off in San Juan....... We had to beg for bananas...beg for doughnuts...they kept these things under the counter...... they did not ever have any milk although people were asking for it....until about 5 days into the cruise after thousands of complaints we didn't even get coffee except at mealtimes and on every cruise I have been on there are coffee and juices 24 hours a day.... One more thing...there were no hand sanitizers until we got to American territory and inspection time. They were hidden under the counters too. A lot of people caught colds and were in bed for a period of time....Clarence was one of them for 4 days. There were about 3K + travelers on this cruise and 2900 of them swear they will never go on another MSC Cruise Line. Everybody was complaining from all countries. If you sat down at a table or somewhere with a complete stranger, all that was talked about was how bad the ships crew, the service, and the organization was....especially the food. Everybody was teed off because the only vegetables were cauliflower, broccoli, and shredded carrots. We finally got some potatoes. They were also upset because all the deserts were the same with just different colored icing. The food was horrible in all restaurants because we tried them all trying to find something fit to eat. This is the only cruise line we have ever been on that we LOST weight. The productions shows were good and the costumes were beautiful. The were four African men who were acrobats. They were truly wonderful. The magician and illusionist were acceptable. One night there was no show at all and three nights the show consisted entirely of groups which played every night in the atrium lounge. These three nights were poorly attended since we saw them every night anyway when passing by the atrium. The Entertainment (Animation) Team on MSC really work hard and extremely long hours. These young people were no exception. They danced with passengers every single evening until 1 or 2 am. They had Italian lessons, trivia games, crazy games, dance lessons, etc. From nine in the morning until two am they were very visible and working hard. They truly made this voyage bearable. The cruise director on the other hand was very aloof and seldom said anything to the passengers. The ships lounge performers were generally good. We especially liked the Popcorn Band and their singer, Romanica. She has a truly lovely voice and is very friendly and outgoing. On our other cruises you could not get on the ship or go into an eating facility without a crew member squirting you with hand sanitizer. Imagine our surprise when we cannot even find the sanitizer on deck 13 four four days. It was behind a door. Quite often when getting back on the ship or entering the dining room the hand sanitizer was empty. There was never any crew in sight the entire trip checking on this. At one point I asked a crew member for the hand sanitizer, he sent me to the toilet. It took about three hours to get onto the ship and nearly six hours to get off. They ran us out of our rooms at 7AM (which was a first for us) and gathered all 3K+ into two small bars and then the Captain did not have some type of paperwork that America requires and we waited nearly six hours to get off. That is with no water, food or anything else and no place for all of us to sit. We were sitting on the stairs, laying in the floor, sitting on the bar and nearly hanging from the rafters. Children were irritable, crying...it was a fiasco. and I could go on and on but I bet you are tired of reading by now. However, the itinerary was great and off the ship we saw a lot of good stuff. We made several good friends and they helped to make the trip from becoming a complete disaster. So if you want to punish your friends and get even with your enemies..send them on an MSC CRUISE LINE FOR A FEW DAYS. Not us though, we will never cruise MSC again. The nicest people on the ship were both working on Deck 13. There names are Arie from Bali and Miriam from Peru. This was our first MSC Cruise and although we cruise at least twice yearly and sometimes more. This will be our last MSC Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Norwegian Latitude Members, Cunard World Club members and Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our fifteenth cruise. My wife is 46 and I am 42. We ... Read More
Background - My wife and I cruise two to three times per year. We are Norwegian Latitude Members, Cunard World Club members and Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society Members. This was our fifteenth cruise. My wife is 46 and I am 42. We have two boys ages 10 and 5. This cruise was our first holiday cruise with the kids. Embarkation - We arrived later than planned due to traffic delays at the Lincoln Tunnel. When we arrived there were tons of people checking in and we had delays in every line. It took us about 90 minutes to board and arrived on the ship by 2:45pm. It certainly wasn't the worst embarkation we had from New York. The good news was that our room as ready, so we could dump our carry on bags and get a snack. The Ship - It is new at just over a year old. The ship was built in Papensburg, Germany like many other of NCL's ships. The ship was nicely appointed and well maintained. The German design is rather compartmentalized and most spaces are single deck, which does not allow for much natural lighting. All of the dining venues are small with virtually no natural lighting. The Grand Pacific dining room is the nicest looking dining room on the ship. It was two decks high and had nice views of the ocean. It is located at the aft end of deck 6, but you must access it though the aft staircase of deck 7. The lobby is also a very nice two deck space with a lovely piano bar and coffee shop. There is also a two deck high TV screen that plays videos, sports programs, and Nintendo Wii games. The kids loved the Wii tournaments in that room. The casino is large and well serviced. The slot machines are also very quiet, so you can hear yourself think when in the room. The most glaring error in design is the Garden Cafe. This is a buffet dining area with a traditional buffet line instead of buffet stations. The area is cramped and there is not enough seating for folks at peak times, so eat early or late. The Great Outdoors is an outdoor dining area on the aft end of the ship to the rear of the Garden Cafe. It is a nice area to eat when the weather is warm. The other public spaces are pretty standard to other NCL ships and I found navigating the ship very easy. I liked the fact that the Tree Top Kids Club is located mid ship, so the movement of the ship through the water is minimal. Accommodations - Since this was a holiday cruise and pricing was higher than usual, so we chose an inside cabin for the four of us. When we first walked into the room, we looked at each other and wondered where all of the clothes and luggage will fit. We had five bags with us. To NCL's credit, the room held all four of us, our clothes and bags. There were two adult size beds, a drop down bed from the ceiling and a cot that was stored under one of the adult beds. It was snug and we won't get an inside for four again. The room was approximately 150 sq.ft. The bathroom was small, but the shower was a decent size. The water pressure was great and we never had an issue in getting plenty of hot water. The housekeeping staff was horrible. Our cabin was not made up until almost dinner time every day and was not turned down until almost 11pm each night. We never saw our cabin stewards. Itinerary - It was a good itinerary for kids. I liked four ports in a seven day cruise from New York. The port reviews are below. They were Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, Nassau and Freeport. Shore Excursions - Were poorly organized. There was alot of waiting time and the kids got anxious. I realize that local tour companies were running the tours, but NCL needs to make sure they are providing the level of service required. The worst tour was the Atlantis Aqua Adventure. I'll explain below. Entertainment - Good solid entertainment. The Gem Singers and Dancers had three good shows. We enjoyed the comedian, Peter Sasso. We missed the shows when we were in port, but comments by other guests were positive. The New Year's Eve party was not well advertised. When I asked one of the kids club counselors what they were doing for the kids on New Year's Eve, they had no idea. They wound up having a New Year's party complete with top hats and face painting, but I passed on that because their late night party fee, which is usually $5.00 per hour per child was doubled to $10.00 per hour for the first child for New Year's Eve only. I thought that was an awful thing to do especially since there was no notice to the parents until you arrived to drop off your kids at 10:30pm. The kids did like the overall program. My 10 year old loved the Nintendo Wii freeplay. Passenger demographic was diverse with many families traveling with children. There were 642 kids on board for this trip. Dining - The food quality and presentation in the main dining rooms (Magenta and Grand Pacific) was very good and exceeded our expectations. The wine lists were diverse and good. Wines from $14.00 per bottle to $1,350.00 per bottle. We stayed with the $14.00 per bottle stuff. The Garden Cafe buffet was also very good. However, the food quality and presentation in the specialty restaurants we patronized (La Cucina and Tequila) was poor at best. Very bland tasting food with little going for it. My wife put it best when she said the red sauce at La Cucina tasted like Chef Boyardee. Disembarkation - Was very smooth and well organized. One of the best I have had in New York. Overall - We all had a good time as we always do on a cruise, but this ship's service and lack of organization left us with a feeling of emptiness. We did not make any friendships with anyone for the first time. I said to my wife on the last day that I always start missing the ship and it's crew on the last sea day, but not this one. This Gem needs alot of polishing before I would go on her again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was my family's (husband, two sons in their 20's and daughter,14) 3rd cruise, and while it had its good points, Carnival wasn't nearly as nice as Royal Caribbean (Eastern Caribbean) or Celebrity (Alaska). We went ... Read More
This was my family's (husband, two sons in their 20's and daughter,14) 3rd cruise, and while it had its good points, Carnival wasn't nearly as nice as Royal Caribbean (Eastern Caribbean) or Celebrity (Alaska). We went over New Year's, departing 12/28 and stopping at Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, and Roatan. We'd read some very positive reviews of the Legend, and the fact that Carnival allowed us to use our credit card "rewards points" to pay for a substantial portion contributed to our choice of this cruise. As far as cost, other than the ability to use rewards points on Carnival, I don't think there is a very significant price difference. Even with the rewards points, this was not a cheap vacation so if I had it to do over again I'd choose a different line. Embarkation: Excellent. Well run, prompt and pleasant. Cleanliness/maintenance of ship: The ship is very attractive and the support staff is wonderful. Everywhere you turned there was a smiling worker cleaning something. There were some signs of wear in the ship's furniture, carpets, etc., but overall it looked really nice. Our stateroom was also clean and attractive, about average size for a 3 person room with a balcony. My sons' room had a whistling sound coming from the door to their balcony. They called maintenance and within minutes someone came and fixed it. Dining: Our dining room waiter and his assistant were a high point of the cruise so charming and cheerful they made an otherwise substandard dining experience fun and enjoyable. The dining room is extremely noisy and crowded much more like a busy deli than a fine restaurant. The fact that they gave the food fancy, names ("delice de la ocean" for example) did not disguise the the mostly mediocre fare. There was some type of steak served each night. The ribeye I ordered the first night was covered with gravy that made the dish taste reasonably good, but the meat was tough. My husband described it as "a steak you get for $11.95 at a chain restaurant." I didn't order steak thereafter, but other family members did, with mixed results. The lobster tail served on the 2nd night was also just o.k. a bit chewy and not much flavor. After that I stuck with basic choices like shrimp and butter sauce, which was quite enjoyable. Our waiter promptly and cheerfully brought something else if we didn't like what we ordered, so overall I was happy. My family had a much lower opinion of the food. They'd absolutely loved the elegance and food quality on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, and were really disappointed this time around. Food outside dining room: As with all cruises, there was a ton of food served throughout the day. Lido deck had the breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, a hot dog and hamburger station with fries, onion rings and fixings, a deli that was open most of the afternoon/evening, and 24 hour pizza and soft ice cream stations. The deli was a high point really tasty hot pastrami sandwiches. I also liked the salad bar at lunch. Hot breakfasts were a low point. I stood in a short line for an ok custom omelette one morning, but all of the other hot food items looked unappetizing. There were round, flat, potato disks that looked like an inferior imitation of tater tots, some grey meat in gluey white sauce, etc. I'm a person who genuinely enjoys the breakfasts you get as part of your room rate at places like Hampton Inn, and Comfort Inn, so when I tell you that much of this food looked too gross to eat, that's saying something. There were lots of people happily chowing down though, so maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked. I very much enjoyed the fresh fruit and whole grain bread each morning, so even at breakfast there were good options available. Here too, my family had a less favorable opinion. My sons felt that the Lido deck food was generally equivalent to a college cafeteria, and sometimes not even as good. Overall, if you're looking for the high quality, beautifully presented food they have on other ships, you'll probably be disappointed, but if you're happy with reasonably tasty food served cheerfully you'll be fine. One Food Experience With No Redeeming Qualities: The only midnight buffet I visited on this trip was on New Year's Eve. I recalled the special "grand" midnight buffet presented on one night of each our previous cruises (one had huge intricate ice sculptures, elaborate fruit and vegetable carvings so beautifully displayed that passengers were invited in beforehand to take photos, with freshly carved lamb chops, and platters of jumbo shrimp and cold lobster tail...) Since it was New Year's Eve, I hoped for something a bit special on this cruise also, although Carnival's description of a "mini gala buffet" let me know not to expect anything too grand. The New Year's Eve "mini gala" was a truly pitiful display: "2009" was carved in ice with a couple of small veggie/fruit carvings. The steam table food looked too vile to even consider tasting some kind of broccoli/cauliflower combo in white sauce, sad looking pasta and a couple of other unappetizing items. Carnival did provide complimentary champagne along with some very loud music to bring in the New Year, but in my opinion the "gala celebration" was really third-rate, Spa and Fitness: The fitness room was beautiful one of the nicest features of the ship. Equipment was well maintained and there were enough of the popular machines to go around. My daughter and I took a yoga class which was excellent and we were charged a very modest fee of $10 each. I wish there were more classes offered at various times both on sea days and on port evenings/early mornings. There is also a complimentary sauna and whirlpool which I didn't take advantage of. My daughter and I also booked spa treatments a mix n match package of mini facial, and mini massages of hands, feet, scalp, neck and shoulders reasonably priced at around $100. My daughter's technician was very good, but mine was one of only two staff members on the entire cruise who was not particularly pleasant or helpful. Her idea of a scalp massage was to move the palm of her hand in a circular motion on the top of my head while gazing into the distance with a glazed expression. With the right technician the mix n match treatment could be very enjoyable, and it was even more affordable on port days. I gave the fitness and recreation a rating of 3. The fitness room was great but the "recreation" was lacking. Excursions: Unlike other cruises, Carnival provided almost no information about their destinations other than the location and type of Carnival-approved shops in port. I'm not aware of any seminars by Carnival about the culture or environment of these countries they basically just gave you a map of shopping destinations. Both on and off the ship you are inundated with fliers and announcements and promotions for Diamonds International to the point that I would never, ever consider buying anything from them. As a general rule, it costs a lot more to book tours through the cruise line as opposed to doing things on your own or through a private company. There are advantages to booking though the cruise line, of course: 1) If there's a delay and you don't get back until after the scheduled ship departure, the cruise line will wait for a tour booked though them. They will otherwise leave without you. I wouldn't recommend taking a private tour that finishes close to the time you are scheduled to be back on the ship. 2) There are risks involved with taking a tour with an unknown guide, both in terms of safety and also of the quality of the experience. It is perfectly appropriate, even desirable, for the cruise line to warn you of potential risks and to let you know that they take no responsibility for private tour companies. However, I feel that Carnival goes beyond appropriate warnings in discouraging participation in excursions that are not provided through their company. WARNING BELIZE POLICY: The real reason I took the time to write this review is so others can hopefully avoid the situation faced by my family when we went to Belize. The ship arrives in Belize at 8:00 a.m. and departs at 5:00 p.m. This is a shorter time than it appears. Carnival (and I believe all other lines as well) must use tenders in Belize. The first tender goes to Belize at 8:00 (getting you there in around 20 minutes) and the last tender leaves Belize at 4:00. However, CARNIVAL WILL ONLY LET PASSENGERS WHO'VE ALREADY BOOKED TOURS ONTO THE EARLY TENDERS. If you have not booked a tour, you must wait until AFTER 9:30. THEN, you must go somewhere to get a ticket and WAIT SOME MORE until it is your turn to take a tender. This can take an additional 1/2 hour or more. As a result, unless you've booked a tour you will lose 11/2 - 2 hours of port time in Belize. Instead of a full 9 hour day you will have only around 5 hours. My family had read about cave tubing in Belize (described by many as a highlight of their trip) and we planned to use a private company for this excursion. Carnival used to run a cave tubing tour, but no longer does. We were told by the excursion desk representative that this was because of "an incident" which occurred with a passenger from another cruise line. When we asked the representative if the private tours ran for 7 hours like the Carnival tour did, she nodded and said, "Yes. It's a full day." (Actually the private tour was only around 4-41/2 hours. Others from our ship went on it and loved it, but we learned this too late.) We didn't receive information about Carnival's tender policy until very late on the night prior to arrival in Belize. At that point it was too late to book a Carnival tour of any kind and (we incorrectly believed) they would not let us off the ship in time to take the private cave tubing tour. The Purser's desk representative, unfortunately, was the other indifferent, unhelpful staff member on the ship. He said he couldn't help us get off the ship earlier and he clearly saw no problem with the ship's policy of telling passengers late on the night before arrival that their port time would be reduced by 20% unless they'd booked a tour for the following day. Debarkation: A nightmare and a safety hazard. We chose to "self-assist" which means that we took our bags off the ship ourselves instead of putting them out the night before and having the crew take them down for us. We thought this would be faster. Instead, all of the self-assist passengers were called at the same time. Everyone was backed up to the point that when we got off the elevator at the proper floor there was no where to go. People kept coming off the elevator, with more and more of us crammed onto an overheated landing, each with all of his/her luggage, unable to go upstairs or down. The amount of time we stood there (around 40 minutes) wasn't all that bad, but the conditions were horrible and frightening. There was no staff member in sight, so no explanation of what was going on. We had no idea of how much longer it would take. It was difficult to breathe and I'm surprised that no one passed out. My son was wedged into a corner and when we finally started moving he was far behind the rest of the family. When he got downstairs and tried to catch up with us an attendant began yelling at him, telling him he was "cutting" and had to go to the back of the line. My husband's verbal response to this was.....unpleasant. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We recently returned from a 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise on the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas. As experienced cruisers who have cruised with this line many times before, some things met and sometimes exceeded our expectations. ... Read More
We recently returned from a 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise on the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas. As experienced cruisers who have cruised with this line many times before, some things met and sometimes exceeded our expectations. We spent two nights pre-cruise at the San Juan Marriott Stellaris Resort and Casino. The hotel underwent an extensive refurbishment since we last stayed there. Our room on the ninth floor was bright and clean and had an ocean view. We were starved after our early morning flight from Atlanta, so we headed down to the pool bar for a quick burger and my first Mojito. We then headed down the street to Walgreens to pick up some last minute toiletries which we could not bring on the plane. That evening we opted to dine at the buffet in the hotel. The following day, after a quick breakfast at Starbucks which was across the street from the hotel, we took a taxi into Old San Juan for a day of sightseeing and an early dinner at the Parrott Club (I was not impressed, and whatever I ate did not sit well on my stomach). Sunday, December 21, 2008 - Boarding Day As Crown & Anchor Diamond members, boarding was a fast, easy and painless process. Upon entering the cruise terminal at the Pan American pier, we were immediately ushered to the Diamond counter where they checked our boarding passes scanned our credit card, and issued our Seapass cards. This is the card which you use to get into your cabin, re-boarding the ship after going ashore, and charging all purchases while on board. The only time cash changes hands is in the casino, and if you choose to tip in cash rather than by voucher. We were then allowed to board the ship. It was then on to lunch in the Windjammer where we enjoyed the standard Royal Caribbean buffet and our favorite Honey Stung Chicken which is only served on the first day. The buffet selection was as varied as we remembered, (salad bar, hot entrees, soups, sandwiches, hand carved meats, deserts, soft serve ice cream & soft drinks). After overstuffing ourselves, it was time to check out our dinner seating arrangements. We were assigned to a table for four directly in the entrance to the Strauss Dining room on Deck 4. We were not at all satisfied with the seating assignment, so we waited in line for the Maitre D' to request a table change. We specifically requested to be seated at a large table with English speaking people and no children. Later that evening we discovered that we were now seated at a large table, but with only one other couple who spoke no English at all. Needless to say, the following morning, we were back at the Maitre D' desk requesting another table change...again. We were assigned to a table for six in the Mozart Dining Room on Deck 5. Only one other couple showed up. They weren't the friendliest or most conversational, but at least they spoke English. This is the first time in all of our cruises that we have encountered such problems. We usually look forward to dining each evening with our tablemates. It is one of the highlights of our cruise. Our next stop was our Jr. Suite on Deck 9 which was ready at 2:00 PM. After unpacking our carry-ons and decorating the cabin, the balcony railing and the outside of the cabin door (it was Christmas), we headed out for a brief tour of the ship. I've sailed on this ship before, however, it was over 3 years since I last sailed her, and I wanted to reacquaint myself. We started with the pools area on Deck 11. The pools and whirlpools were nice, spacious, and not overcrowded. My favorite is the Solarium, a semi-enclosed area which is reserved for those over the age of 16....nice lounge chairs, 2 whirlpools and a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere. Next stop was the Royal Promenade on deck 5. This is the heart of the ship. and a constant hub of activity. The Royal Promenade runs almost the entire length of the ship, and is about 4 stories high. It gives the impression of being on a street in Italy. A huge, beautifully decorated Christmas tree dominated almost the entire space in front of the Cafe' Promenade. There are shops and cafe's and places to just sit and watch the people walk by. It was then back to our cabin to wait for our luggage to arrive. By 4:00 we were unpacked and ready to continue our tour of the ship. We checked out the Lyric Theater. Compared to all of the other ships we have cruised on, these seats as well as the seating arrangements are among the best...comfortable and almost like stadium seating. We checked out some of the bars and lounges before the muster drill at 4:30 which was followed by our informal Cruise Critic Meet & Greet at 5:30 in the Schooner Bar. The ship set sail at 8:00 PM and we viewed sailaway from the Promenade Deck. We always enjoy watching the lights of San Juan fade into the distance during evening departures. Ports of call Aruba - We did the island tour and sail back to the ship Curacao - another island tour St. Maarten - shopping. This is my favorite port for shopping. St Thomas - St John island tour Rather than detail every minute of the cruise, I will offer some of my overall observations. Try not to miss the parades, the 70's Dance party, and entertainment on the Royal Promenade...jugglers, dancers, singers, stilt walkers. Stop at the cafe' for croissant sandwiches, pizza, coffee, cookies and other sweets. The food in the dining rooms is not as good as it used to be. It is good/average...not great. We missed some of the more elegant selections which used to be on the menu. Our waiter, Sylvester, and our Head Waiter indulged my love for Indian food with a side dish of something special every evening. Portofino, the upscale restaurant was just so-so. The food was not nearly as good as it once was (the Seafood Skewer was far too dry and tasteless), however, the service was impeccable. There is a $20.00 per person fee to dine there. Our Jr. Suite on Deck 9, starboard was comfortable and spacious. Our cabin attendant, Carrilee, was terrific and a joy to speak with every day. She always greeted us with a smile and something nice to say. Robert (from France) our Concierge, was quite charming and was always eager and able to help us with our few requests. RCCL spends quite a bit of money on entertainment. The ice show is not to be missed. On this cruise, they had a second ice show for the holidays which had both Christmas and Hanukkah entertainment. The Nelson brothers were the headliners in the theater with a show dedicated to their late dad, Ricky Nelson. There was also a Gaucho act, a comedian, a juggler and the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. Mike Szwajowski was our Cruise Director, and did a fabulous job. He always started the show in the theater with some sort of magic trick. One big disappointment was the lack of Christmas decorations throughout the ship. This was our fifth year cruising during the holidays, and we missed the usual garlands along the railings in the dining room and interior balconies, and the various decorated trees throughout the ship. The only tree we saw was the one on the Royal Promenade. The lack of decorations was noted and mentioned by many of the other passengers and made the sailing less festive than in previous years. Another disappointment, although minor, was the inability to get a Bloody Mary in the Concierge Lounge since tomato juice is now considered a premium beverage. Nice ship, good ports of call, great entertainment, friendly, informative staff... Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation: We have the home port advantage as we are from the L.A. area. Driving from home to San Pedro took about 45 minutes. We arrived some time after 12:00 and it was crowed! Had to stop and fill out the Health form before we were in ... Read More
Embarkation: We have the home port advantage as we are from the L.A. area. Driving from home to San Pedro took about 45 minutes. We arrived some time after 12:00 and it was crowed! Had to stop and fill out the Health form before we were in line. Long line, but we discovered the Latitudes line which was much shorter and faster. One nice touch was while we were in line they served pastries, juice, and hot chicken bouillon. By the time we sat down for lunch at Versailles, it was not even 1pm. Staff directed people to go to the Market Buffet for lunch but after we told them we wanted to go to the sit-down restaurant they did not hesitate to tell us where to go. While having lunch at the Versailles the PA system announced that all cabins were ready. That's where we headed after our relaxing lunch. Cabin: First time in an inside cabin. Cabin was nice and clean. Definitely a little small but we managed. We did have a bit of sewage smell in the bathroom. A little spray of Chanel 5 fixed the problem. Plenty of closet and drawer space for the three of us. Wrote a note to tell the cabin steward our preference of the pull-down bunk bed instead of the under-the bed cot and it was done at turn-down service. We particularly liked the glass divider in the shower, the best shower of all the cruises we had been on. All in all, the cabin was kept up nicely each day. Ice bucket was filled twice a day. We had problems with the temperature control on the second night. We woke up feeling quite cold in the morning and the controller seemed to be stuck. Again, left a note for the steward and it was fixed when we came back from lunch. Cabin steward: I suppose we were lucky? Our cabin steward introduced himself the first day. He knew our last name and always addressed us "Mr. and Mrs. ___." We saw him and his assistant many times every day and they always greeted us appropriately. They were always busy and usually worked past 8pm. We tipped them extra on Christmas day. Dining: We did not use any specialty restaurants because we felt that the main restaurants were fine for us. We had dinner once in Aqua and felt that it wasn't for us. Probably because we had to wait for more than 20 minutes (the only time we had to wait) to get in and then the service was not up to par, in my opinion. The waiter put two courses on the table instead of bringing them one at a time. It also felt noisy and crowded in there. We had all other dinners at Versailles and loved the ambience in there. It reminded us of the palaces we visited in St. Petersburg this past summer when we sailed the Baltic. We never waited more than 5 minutes to get in and most dinners were done in an hour. We did make reservations for the first and second night, and also for Christmas dinner. We figured that the first night could be wild, the second night was "Dress-up or Not Night", we didn't want to stand around and wait for a table. Christmas night was also a sea day, everybody would probably show up at the same time. They were taking reservations the afternoon of embarkation day in Endless Summer, port side, for all the restaurants, including the main restaurants. For the specialty restaurants you can only reserve 24-hour ahead. We decided that if we can get a table for the 3 of us, we prefer the traditional set dining instead of Freestyle. Some services in Versailles were better than other. The outstanding waiter was Gusti from Indonesia. He has the most genuine smile and fine attitude which made our dining experience a great one. We had him twice and both times were wonderful! They actually served lobsters twice in the week, the dress-up or not night, and then one night they had the "Surf and more Surf" on the menu, which was a pasta dish with lobster tail, mussel, shrimp, fish, scallop, etc. Portions for lunch seemed to be larger than dinner. DH and I had all our breakfast and most of our lunches there also. Blue Lagoon: Ate there a couple of times. Wonderful wings and good fish and chips. Seats are kind of tight. Market Buffet: Had lunch there a couple of times and it was OK. Got breakfast for DS from there every morning and he was fine with it. Entertainment: We went to a couple of shows and they were fine. We did not participate much in other activities except went for the free bingo game (green). We also bought the pull-tab game cards (6 for $20) and got 30 raffle tickets for drawing of the free cruise. Of course we didn't win. I also went to the line-dancing class and it was fun. We thought the Stardust Theatre was one of the best theatre because there is nothing that would block your views unless you are up on the balconies. I went to the casino on the last sea day and played on a slot called Munster Match for an hour and spent $10. Christmas activities: They had Santa Christmas day, he passed out presents for the kids. A Christmas carols sing-along on Christmas eve at the Atrium for about 30-minutes, which was too short in my opinion. Christmas eve midnight communion service for Protestants, and mass for Catholics. They also held special meetings for the Jewish faith. The ship was well-decorated with Christmas trees in many locations. Ports: We decided that we would just walk around and then decide what to do. Cabo San Lucas—we just walked around town and did some shopping. Walked to Cabo Waco and took some pictures. It was very easy to just walk around. Mazatlan—Got a taxi from outside the terminal to downtown. Visited the Cathedral and walked around a little. Then took another taxi (the "Flintstone" type) to the Gold zone, which was much more fun. Watched people parasailing, walked along the beach, and I actually bought a parasailing figure (?)—batman! There is this store in the alley next to McDonalds that sells polo shirts for $5. We paid $10 at Cabo. Puerto Vallarta—we took a taxi to go downtown for $3 pp but on the way we talked with the driver and he said for $20 an hour he would take us to all the places tourists would go. For three hours he took us to all the places, including a couple of rich people's property where we got in and saw the most incredible views of PV. Then we spent about an hour walking around PV and caught another cab back to the ship. Ship: I thought the STAR was beautiful. Even with the full ship we never felt crowded. We are not "Lido Deck" type. Sitting in the Spinnaker looking out while doing Sudoku was my favorite activity. I saw 2 whales alongside the ship before we went into Cabo. Endless Summer is also a nice spot to just sit and enjoy the ocean view (when it is not being used for activities or dining.) There is a good-size library with many different types of books available for check-out. There seemed to be quite a lot of people the few times I passed by the card room and the Latitudes Lounge except early in the morning. Debarkation: We wanted to pick the latest time but the tags were all gone so we picked 9:30. It was crowded before you reached the gangway, but once we were out it was easy. Picked up our baggage and went outside. We had a great time on this cruise. There were some minor issues, mostly in the dining rooms (not so polite staff, etc.) but we didn't let those little things ruin our vacation. I will definitely consider going back on the STAR again! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My husband and I, our 4 kids and my daughters fiance just got back for the December 28th sailing of the Carnival Victory. This is our 4th New Year's family cruise and the second one in the Caribbean. We flew into San Juan ... Read More
My husband and I, our 4 kids and my daughters fiance just got back for the December 28th sailing of the Carnival Victory. This is our 4th New Year's family cruise and the second one in the Caribbean. We flew into San Juan from Toronto early Sunday morning and boarded the ship at 1:30 pm. The embarkation was quick. We had booked 2 balcony cabins and 1 inside cabin. All the cabins seemed smaller than on previous cruises and the 3 boys sharing the balcony cabin were cramped but we expected that. The cabin service was excellent. We found the food to be very good in the dining room and to avoid line-ups ate breakfast there every morning as well. It was fine. Lunch was usually on the Lido deck late afternoon after returning from island visits and we had some problems with lines. The service in the dining room for the dinners was excellent. The waiters seemed to have problems getting our breakfast orders correct though. We found the entertainment to be good to very good. The acoustic guitar player was excellent. Ports: St. Thomas. We took a taxi to Coki Beach and would not recommend it. Dominica - We booked a private tour with bumpiingtours.com. Everyone of us thought this to be one of the best tours ever. I cannot say enough goods things about this tour. Every minute was fun. Barbados - We did the Mount Gay Rum tour in the morning which we found interesting and then took a taxi to Lobsters Alive in the afternoon. The beach was beautiful and we all enjoyed it. St Lucia - We booked the Cosul tour because of recommendations on CruiseCritic.com boards. We were very disappointed with it. Everyone of us felt ill by the end because of us having to sit at the back of a large van and having to endure many hours of driving twisty roads. Our driver was boring and had little to say. The waterfall viewing and volcano visit were nice but not worth the long long drive to see them. It was a huge disappointment to us. Antigua - We took a taxi to Dickensen's beach. The beach is beautiful and 2 kids rented a jetski and 2 kids went horseback riding along the beach. A fun day. St. Kitts - We walked off the ship and booked a tour from a taxi driver. It was relatively inexpensive and after the tour we were dropped off at Cockleshell Beach and picked up 2 1/2 hours later. A great final day. New Year's Eve was celebrated onboard. In typical Carnival fashion free champagne was offered all evening and the party was fun. There have been comments on previous postings of the rudeness of the "locals". We saw evidence of this on several occasions and even had to call security on board the ship once because of very obnoxious behavior of 2 women in the cabin beside my daughters cabin. All in all though Carnival does a great job of putting together a great package for a family travelling over a holiday period. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our 4th Celebrity holiday cruise and probably our last. We sailed from Fort Lauderdale on the Solstice on the Dec 28th,, 2008. Having cruised on two other Celebrity holiday cruises, both 14 nights, I was familiar with the long ... Read More
This was our 4th Celebrity holiday cruise and probably our last. We sailed from Fort Lauderdale on the Solstice on the Dec 28th,, 2008. Having cruised on two other Celebrity holiday cruises, both 14 nights, I was familiar with the long standing quality of the line. On this particular holiday cruise, I saw a much different side of Celebrity. First, there is no getting around the fact that Solstice is a real beauty. Modern in every way, she is clearly the most breathtaking lady on the high seas. Solstice could evolve into a remarkable ship, if and when she grows up and becomes a proper lady. She is fresh from the shipyard with a crew still attempting to gel and get their act together. The Celebrity management team seems to be in the middle of a paradigm shift, searching for a way to stay profitable in a very tough economy. And that seems to be the root of all that is not so wonderful about Solstice. Clearly, Celebrity, like other travel companies, is struggling to maintain its core repeat customers and targeting mainstream first time cruisers with respectable incomes. In a way, Solstice is an experiment at sea as management attempts to redefine cruising while staying profitable in a challenging economy. I'm guessing some of their innovations are just not going to cut it. STATEROOM: The cabins, nearly all with verandas, are spacious and loaded with easy to use technology. We loved this about the ship. With flat screen TVs and an interactive entertainment system complete with pay and FREE movies on demand, the intentions are right on target. Our Concierge Class cabin included a remarkably comfortable bed with luxurious linens, towels and an ultra modern bathroom. Make sure you take advantage of the "pillow menu". I loved the full body pillow! We had a cabin on Deck 12. All Concierge and Verandah cabins have adequate closet and drawer space and an ample size veranda. We were situated very close to the pool mid-ship, so we enjoyed an exceptionally smooth sailing. Service from our stateroom attendant was good but the benefits of upgrading to a Concierge cabin are becoming increasingly questionable. Gone are the days of feeling "special" when booking a Concierge Class cabin. The upgraded linens and bathroom amenities were nice, but didn't justify the $1,000 additional expenditure for the upgrade. We could care less about the nasty tasting canopies and the complimentary bottle of champagne. The reality is that all veranda cabins are the same size. It's the extra touches and the location that separate a Concierge Class cabin from a standard veranda. If you want to spend extra dollars on this ship, upgrade to a suite and enjoy the larger cabin and butler service. We wished we had a butler on this cruise, because when it came to dinner reservations, trying to make arrangements on our own was challenging. DINING: - The ship offers five alternative dining options, all which charge an additional fee ranging from $5.00 - $25.00 per person. We dined at Blu, Silk Harvest, Tuscan Grille and Bistro on Five. Each was enjoyable and offered a quality dining experience. We especially enjoyed the Asian fare at Silk Harvest and the excellent fillets and Italian dishes at Tuscan Grille. We couldn't say the same for the main dining room. In fact, we found our one night at Grand Epernay was far from acceptable. It was the classic "we smelled the fish coming" and when we tasted it, even the tartar sauce couldn't hide the strong fishy taste of our Mahi. - To enjoy a good meal on Solstice, plan to pay extra because the main dining room misses its target. It was nowhere close to the high quality of food and outstanding selections we'd grown to expect on a Celebrity. Clearly food quality has taken a hit as the company trims expenses and monetizes every part of the cruise experience. The main dining room attempts to present an image of a fine dining experience. From the stories I heard from other passengers, they are failing miserably. Perhaps stepping back to the basics would give this beautiful dining area justice. Why not good old chicken, steak, Mexican and Italian dishes done right, rather than fancy entrees that just don't sound appetizing and miss their mark when it comes to tasting good? - The buffet on deck 12 is adequate but far from memorable. Many items are still not marked leaving guests wondering which mystery meat or salad they are about to select. Worst of all, the offerings seemed to never change, making for a buffet experience that is both boring and disappointing. It doesn't take long to surmise that if you want to experience truly good food, you are going to have to pay extra for it...plain and simple. - Solstice is NOT prepared for capacity sailings. On embarkation day, hundreds of passengers were angry because either they were booked at the wrong seating or they were unhappy with their table assignments. At one point, security had to be called to calm an angry customer. And breakfast and lunch buffets during our holiday cruise were always crowded and plagued with lines. (If Celebrity can't please customers with designated seating times, perhaps they should take a chapter from the NCL playbook and consider moving to Free Style Dining. EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION: - Smooth and amazingly brisk. No problems here. We were on the ship and in our cabin in less than 20 minutes. Unlike other sailings we've been on, leaving the ship was equally painless and well organized. High marks for getting on and off the ship. Too bad we were anxious to get off? POOL & OUTSIDE DECKS: - During peak vacation periods on Solstice, plan on jumping out of bed by eight AM if you want a remote chance of securing deck chairs. Towels had to be replenished by 9:30. It appeared all 2850 passengers on board, pale and determined sun seekers, marked their spots on decks 12 & 14. This reminded us of a pack of dogs marking their territory then guarding their spot in the sunshine. On our first sea day, we made the mistake of sleeping until 10AM. My wife resorted to paying a pool butler to secure two chairs in the sun. (Silly us- thinking we could actually sleep- in on our vacation). - While the hoards scouted hard to find spots to tan, half a football field of green grass was empty on the top deck, aft. The only live lawn at sea was an interesting "out of the box" idea in some boardroom, but in reality it is a terrible waste of space. It was used by only a few who bothered to play Bocce or Crochet, truly two of America's most popular past times....NOT. - There is an interesting display of glass blowing next to the struggling grass. Again, an innovative idea but underutilized. If even 50% of this space was used as an alternative sunning spot, the need to hoard deck chairs forward and mid-ship might disappear. - We were disappointed that Solstice did not include a deck where we could walk completely around the ship like many other vessels. Instead, walking was confined to a very small walking track around the pool. With the hoards of passengers at the pool, navigating around others just wasn't worth the effort. PUBLIC SPACES: Aside from the pool and deck areas, public spaces on Solstice are magnificent and well planned. We seldom felt crowded or claustrophobic in most of the inside spaces. They give the appearance of a contemporary yet luxurious ship. Only the buffet on Deck 12 and the sundecks made us want to jump overboard and swim to an unpopulated island getaway where thousands of bodies of all sizes and proportions were not lined up like bacon ready to be fried. ENTERTAINMENT: Overall, Solstice provided above average entertainment in the main showroom. The typical Broadway reviews had a fresh new spin and a clone of Cirque de Ole was a fresh and innovative departure from the normal cruise ship fare. The showroom features state of the art production tools that make the shows vibrant and contemporary. Plenty of seats in the main showroom too, which tells me many passengers missed some good shows. The ship also features a smaller venue called Solstice Central, featuring comedy. After being annoyed every day from the masses on the decks, we would have loved to have found some levity from a good comedian. But again, in what can only be an attempt to keep passengers up late drinking and gambling, the comedian never performed before 11PM and some nights, as late at 12:45. Hate to be a party pooper, but we don't care to hang out in the lounges and drink all nights, so we and others were just out of luck. As I said earlier, it's all about monetizing every minute of the day to increase revenues. Keeping passengers up an extra hour or two can't hurt bar sales, the shops and of course, the Casino. We walked through the Casino and it seemed modern, clean and very adequate. - Kudos for the LIVE MUSIC! Unlike many other cruise lines which rely on prerecorded music in their showrooms, Celebrity DOES spend money on talented live orchestras. Whether it was providing live music for the singers & dancers during a show in the main theatre, or entertaining around the pool on New Year's Eve, the Celebrity Orchestra was fantastic THE PORTS: We choose the Solstice for the shipboard experience rather than the ports. - San Juan: How many more times must we waste a day in San Juan? Am I missing something here? We find the beaches in San Juan among the ugliest in the Caribbean. Surely Celebrity can find a more innovative port than San Juan. I recommend staying on the ship in San Juan and taking advantage of actually having your own deck chair and some personal space. - St. Kitts: Absolutely beautiful. If you're a beach person, hire a taxi and spend the day at a beautiful and sparsely populated beach. We NEVER book tours on the ship as we find them significantly more expensive and always crowded. The last thing we wanted was to more "herding us around like cattle". No thank you. - St. Marten: Another nice stop. We shared a taxi with some other passengers and spent the day at Orient Beach. The beach chairs were inexpensive, there were plenty of places to grab a drink or have some lunch and of course, lots of naked sunbathers. THE VERDICT: A beautiful ship with a friendly crew, however: We will NOT book another 7 day cruise on Solstice during high season, especially not over the holidays. Remember, we have taken several 14 day cruises on Celebrity and loved them. I think the shorter cruises and lower price tags turn the ship into a more mass market product which is not for us. Who wants to get up early just to throw a towel on a deck chair? No thank you. We sincerely hope Celebrity takes some actions to prevent overcrowding. It's just not relaxing when you feel like you are part of a herd of cattle. They will also need to make their main dining room offerings more attractive and enhance the quality of the food. Get back to basics. Celebrity is driving us and many other past customers, to their more upscale product, Azamara Cruises. And frankly, I think that just might be their strategy: Making Celebrity a more mass product by cutting expenses, and sailing at over capacity whenever possible. For those of us who still look forward to the relaxation of being on the high seas, be prepared to pay more in search of an upgraded product. Perhaps we will meet you on Azamara, OR on a different cruise line that values its repeat customers with a loyalty program that actually has rewards and perks that mean something. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My wife and two children (ages 8 and 11) just returned from the 12/28/2008 New Year's sailing and we had a wonderful cruise.  This was our 9th cruise; 4th time with children (5 w/Carnival, 2 w/Princess, and 2 w/NCL) - all of our last ... Read More
My wife and two children (ages 8 and 11) just returned from the 12/28/2008 New Year's sailing and we had a wonderful cruise.  This was our 9th cruise; 4th time with children (5 w/Carnival, 2 w/Princess, and 2 w/NCL) - all of our last five cruises were with Carnival.  We are Carnival "loyalist" because their product fits our budget and we believe they truly provide a very good vacation value. We had a fun and memorable cruise experience on the Freedom, even though the live music entertainers (the alternate club band "Lifeline" and Reggae island band "Eclipse 1") were disappointingly below par compared to last year's New Year's Cruise on the Miracle.  These musical venues should have been much better considering that this was a New Year's cruise, which is significantly more expensive than other cruise sailings in the year.On Christmas Day (12/25) we flew down from New York to Miami, rented a large SUV from Budget and then drove 20 minutes to the Four Points by Sheraton Miami Beach, where we stayed three nights (12/25 - 12/28) in a beautiful mini-suite (free upgrade) with a partial ocean view. We started our first full day (12/26) enjoying a complimentary buffet breakfast; then we enjoyed the hotel's pool, Jacuzzi and beach front, all located on their beautifully landscaped grounds. The second day (12/27) we spent most of the day enjoying South Beach. Our favorite restaurant for breakfast was the Front Porch Cafe (1418 Ocean Drive) and dinners at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (Bayside Market) and Big Pink (157 Collins Avenue at 2nd Street). On the day of our cruise, we drove our Budget rental SUV to the Port Everglades 17th Street Budget drop-off location at 9:45 a.m. and then took two taxi cabs to Port Everglades ($10/each cab); arriving at the port at 10:30 a.m. We were physically on the ship by 11:30 a.m. and didn't have to wait in line for anything! Well done Carnival!! Many times during our 100% occupied cruise, we found ourselves saying, "where is everybody?" The ship was so big that there was plenty of room for all passengers to enjoy their vacation without seeing large groups of people, except in the buffet areas during peak breakfast and lunch periods. We found the staff and crew to be extremely friendly and all of them greeted you and smiled as you passed them in the corridors. Our room steward (Riviera #1274) was just fantastic and was very accommodating to our requests (i.e., remove the contents of the mini bar from the refrigerator). Although he was not very visible, he always knew exactly when to tidy up our cabin, which he did several times a day. Everything was done to perfection, including creative towel animal creations. Our cabin was very spacious for a family of four and the bathroom/shower was equally sufficient as well. We also enjoyed the flat screen TV, along with the additional channels that were added since our last cruise. As for the rest of the ship, it was always glittering and sparkling clean as expected. The foods in the buffet areas were great for a quick and convenient breakfast and lunch. On sea days, we had breakfast in the main dining room, where we enjoyed waiter service along with a bagel, cream cheese, lox, capers and red onion and/or eggs benedict. We also enjoyed these other delicious alternative dining options (and late evening snacks): 24/7 Pizzeria, Deli, Fish and Chips, Grills, sushi bar and 24/7 unlimited frozen yogurt and ice cream machines. We had a lovely booth (#573) in the Posh Dining Room overlooking the lower level and our waiter (Agran) and his assistant (Miriana) graciously tendered to our needs every night with big smiles. We found the overall quality of the food to be on par compared to our previous Carnival cruises. However, we have noticed that the quality of the food has been on the decline over the past five years. We always looked forward to the dessert portion of our meal, when the dining room lights would dim/shimmer, upbeat music would begin to play and the passengers and waiters would then dance and sing in the isles. Carnival did not let us down and provided a "fun and exciting" dining experience every night At night we enjoyed listening and dancing to the Freedom Showband, who were just awesome and had a great sound. On our previous New Year's cruise on the Miracle, the club band "Music Manila" did an outstanding job in entertaining and rocking the house every night and entertaining all of us on New Year's Eve on the Lido deck. Unfortunately, Freedom's club band "Lifeline" needed a lifeline, as they were not a "tight" sounding band and their vocals needed much improvement. Unfortunately, the Reggae island band "Eclipse 1" lacked a live drummer and consisted of just two lazy, tone deaf musicians who made no effort to connect with or exchange words with any of the passengers throughout the cruise. The two productions shows "Ticket to Ride" and "Big Easy" were well performed and very entertaining, as well as the Carnival Legends and the juggler act. Both comedians, Derrick Eason and Dana Tison were also very funny and entertaining. The classical music trios were top notch and a pleasure to listen to, especially during Tea Time in the rear of the Posh Dining Room on sea days. The Freedom Showband was one of the best bands we had experienced on any cruise and on New Year's Eve we were fortunate to see and hear them play big band standards up close and personal in the main lobby in front of the main bar. On a daily basis, at 6:30 a.m., my wife and I would work out in the health club and never had to wait for an elliptical trainer or treadmill. We were very impressed with the treadmills, which were equipped with individual LCD flat screen TVs, providing many channels to choose from, including the "Today Show" starring cruise director Lenny Halliday and his assistant, Josh "Big Sexy"- both of which were entertaining and funny throughout the cruise. The water slide was very nice and there were plenty of lounge chairs at pool areas to choose from at 6:30 a.m. (LOL). As on most ships, you really need to get up early to find lounge chairs that are situated near the pools. The miniature golf was nothing to write home about, but it was "free" and it entertained my two children. We had great weather every day and enjoyed all three ports. Since this was our first time in Key West, after getting off the ship we walked a few blocks and then purchased tickets on our own for the one and a half hour Conch Tour Train ($86), as it was much cheaper than Freedom's price for the same tour. This was a very informative tour and we highly recommend this for first timers to Key West. We then sampled some Conch Fritters and did the "Duval Crawl", which means we strolled down Duval Street and went shopping for souvenirs. After reading so many positive Cruise Critic posts, experiences and reviews about Captain Bryan's Buccaneer Stingray City Excursion in Grand Cayman, prior to our cruise we booked via email the 3-hour catamaran tour ($39/adult; $27/child) and we were so glad we did. The Buccaneer snorkeling trip takes you to the World Famous Stingray City Sandbar, Coral Gardens and the Cayman Barrier Reef for great snorkeling experiences. Snorkeling gear and life vests are provided, as well as free non-alcoholic refreshments. A few months prior to our cruise, we also booked the Cool Runnings Dunn's River Falls excursion on Carnival's website ($236) and were glad we did. This tour was the highlight of our cruise excursions and it was worth every penny. The crew of ten consists of several female dancers, a D.J., bar tenders and a captain. Unlimited non-alcoholic beverages are served on the way to the falls and Red Stripe beers and rum punch are served on the way back to the ship as well as the non-alcoholic beverages. Climbing the falls with the tour guides was challenging and fun...we had an awesome time - No Problem Mon!! On the way back, the dancers encouraged all to participate in several line dances to great loud sounding tunes, which we greatly enjoyed. Since we had a late afternoon flight, we elected not to do the "self assist" debarkation process as we had done on prior cruises. We found the debarkation process to be very organized and stress free. We waited on the lido deck until our number was called around 9:45 a.m. and we were on the Carnival chartered bus to Miami Airport by 11:00 a.m. All in all, it was a fantastic cruise and vacation. The itinerary was excellent, the weather was good and the seas were always calm. For the most part, the food was good, but not great. The passengers and staff were friendly, polite, and pleasant for the most part. I'd certainly recommend the Freedom and a New Year's cruise on any Carnival ship - it's worth the extra expense. And now it's time to begin my search for our next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My husband and I did the 12/27/08 sailing of the Elation out of San Diego and had a fantastic time. We didn't know what to expect of a New Year's Eve cruise, but Carnival certainly gave us a very festive, fun time. We ... Read More
My husband and I did the 12/27/08 sailing of the Elation out of San Diego and had a fantastic time. We didn't know what to expect of a New Year's Eve cruise, but Carnival certainly gave us a very festive, fun time. We drove from Phoenix to San Diego on 12/26/08 and did a "Cruise and Snooze" package with the Comfort Inn at the Harbor. For $70.00 (tax included) per person we received lodging for 1 night in a very clean, newly remodeled, small room; breakfast; free parking for 5 nights and a shuttle to and from the Port of San Diego. We highly recommend this package. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the port at 12:30 pm on 12/27 and were on board in 45 minutes or less. We were greeted on the ship with bottomless glasses of champagne, which was served throughout the boarding process. I don't know if this is standard procedure or just something special for the New Years cruise. Which ever the case, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Our stateroom was ready at 1:30 and our luggage was in our room when we returned from the Lifeboat Drill. Our cabin Steward was Roy and he was fantastic! He greeted us by name every time he saw us and was very friendly and accommodating. We never had to wait for our room to be cleaned - it was always cleaned by the time we got back from breakfast. The ice bucket was always filled and we loved the towel animals every night. We thought that the buffet meals in Tiffany's needed some improvement. There was a good variety for lunch and breakfast, but the food was hardly warm. We ate dinner at Tiffany's one night, as we missed our early seating in the dining room, and the food selection was very limited and not very appealing so we opted for pizza and a salad. The dining room food was very good and the selections were interesting and appealing. We chose the lobster and shrimp for the formal dinner and it was excellent. The lobster was a 5oz Maine lobster served with 2 large tiger shrimp. They were cooked perfectly and they were served hot. We enjoyed all our meals in the dining room and have no complaints. We sat at a table for 11 and we enjoyed meeting our dinner companions. We brought our own bottle of wine to dinner on two occasions and were only charged one $10.00 corkage fee. We were a bit confused about the formal/elegant dress code. It seemed that anything was acceptable. We saw a male passenger dressed in cargo shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and sandals. On casual night there were several male passengers wearing baseball caps and t-shirts. If Carnival isn't going to enforce the dress code then they should just do away with it. Because it was a New Year's Eve cruise many passengers dressed up on the elegant night (2nd night) and on New Year's Eve. We thought that the entertainment was great with a good variety. We thoroughly enjoyed the shows put on by the Elation dancers. There was always something to do. In fact, many times there were several things we wanted to see/do that were scheduled at the same time. We're not big gamblers so after losing our allotted amount we didn't go back to the casino. Stu, the Cruise Director was fantastic and "Fun Dude" was hilarious. They did their jobs very well. We didn't spend much time in the bars and clubs as most of them allow smoking. We really wanted to listen to some of the music in those areas, but stayed away because of we are non-smokers. It would be nice if Carnival had more non-smoking bars with entertainment. Carnival put on a fantastic New Year's Eve party. It was held in the Mikado Lounge and they provided live music with dancing on the stage. They passed out hats, noisemakers and free champagne around 11:30 pm and did the countdown at midnight. The Mikado was totally packed, and a good time was had by all. I don't know how long the party lasted as we went to our room at 12:30 a.m. as the next day was the end of the cruise. The party was a perfect ending to an almost perfect cruise. Debarkation was delayed by fog. We got into San Diego about an hour late because it was very foggy and the ship was going very slow and sounding the foghorn every few minutes. We didn't debark until 12:15 p.m. and were on the road to Phoenix at 1:00 p.m. We really enjoyed this cruise and would do this itinerary again. After reading several reviews we didn't know what to expect of the Elation. The decor is dated, but everything appeared to be in good repair and clean. Way to go Carnival Elation!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Lovin' the Freedom 12/20/08 I will admit after reading several negative reviews I was a bit worried. However, I do think every vacation is what we make of it. We are heading out of town me, dh, dd 17, and ds 13 from Indiana. ... Read More
Lovin' the Freedom 12/20/08 I will admit after reading several negative reviews I was a bit worried. However, I do think every vacation is what we make of it. We are heading out of town me, dh, dd 17, and ds 13 from Indiana. Bad weather was predicted and we were keeping our fingers crossed to get out of Indy on the evening of the 19th. The kids weren't as I say "pleased" with being away from their friends for 13 days but oh well life goes on. They also had me started out on the negative. We booked through a online travel agency whom we've used the last three out of four cruises.(Cruise Value Center) and since we booked within the sixty days we had to pay full price at booking. Thank heavens the money we paid went directly to Carnival or we could have been up the creek.........we booked a inside gty and ended up in cabin 2464 on the main deck. For spring break this past year we had the gty and got on the lido deck that was awesome. Anyways cabin 2464 was towards the back and we had a great steward named Amy. It is the first time we have had a female but she did a excellent job for us. The kids were normally in bed too late for room service until she came back in the afternoon but we were very happy with the services she provided. We left her a gift bag full of goodies and our Christmas tree we had brought along. Getting on the ship: we flew into west Palm Beach on friday evening and drove down to the Hilton at the airport for a good nights sleep. Our flight arrived light so we did not get to bed until about 1am. the kids were exhausted after getting up for school at 6am so we decided to let them sleep until 9:30 or 10"ish". We got up got ready and headed to drop off our rental car at the airport. Unlike last cruise there was no wait at the airport for the free port shuttle and were on our way in no time. When we arrived at the port we had to get luggage tags since CVC had went out of business and failed to send them to me and for some reason I was unable to print online. Once in the LONG line outside it was a breeze. I really thought it would take forever but it moved quickly and we were having lunch within the hour. Food: we had our first lunch from the deli(which we loved on the Liberty) and were quite pleased. We managed to visit there several times during the week either for lunch or late night snack since they are open until 11pm. We got the early seating as requested and were at table 355 in the posh dining room. Our waiter was GREAT!! We called him Suki (his name was Sukatiawm) and his asst Andrew who was just there for the 2nd week did a great job as well. We have NEVER had a wait staff get to know & remember all of our names. they would call us by name in the dining room or anywhere else we saw them on board that was amazing to us. Like I said we were impressed with both of them as well as our bar waitress who just started from thailand Nareerat. Our table was lower level and a table for four. I was so bummed as my hubby & myself were hoping to have "others" to chat with to relax and get to know. I did go and request a larger table and after waiting in line they informed me requests were only for early/late changes etc. No big deal but they could have been nice about it. It worked out actually we were not in a booth so we had a open table with a space between another family from Florida. We got to know them quite well and hung out with them in the casino and lounge areas. it is fun to hear about other peoples lives etc........ it made our dinners more enjoyable. I am sure we had more conversation that we would have if it was just us and the kids since they could not understand why we refused to pay forty cents per text message for them to text uncontrollably home. I know I was a much BETTER teenager to point out lol OOPS back to the actual FOOD...... we found something each evening that we found delightful. The lobster(all 6 my dh had and the 2 for me yummy). Chateaubriand mmmmmmmm filet dd was too done but sent back and second one fine. Steaks seem sometimes to get "too cooked" but they will just bring another and I was not cooking so it was even better. Kids loved the melting cake every day and I was happy to have baked alaska & my 13 yo thought it was 'cool" to have expresso. (even though it is nasty he told his sister but was trying to bug me). Kids Activities: our 17 yr old always has enjoyed the teen hangs. She will sleep in and run of fto hang out with kids her age and has been happy to do so. My one complaint is they have absolutely NO ACTIVITIES for her next year. Once you are 18-pre 21 they do not have meet & greets , games, socializing or nothing which I find odd. I heard tons and tons and tons of people complaining about this throughout the cruise. they are not at the age for everything "organized" but they need a movie night, meet & greet, games, or karaoke to still feel included in my opinion. I hope Carnival does something about this because I feel they will lose lots of cruisers if not. Common Areas: the layout of the Freedom is identical to the Liberty and we LOVE it. There are plenty of places to sneak away to read or chit chat. I love the larger ships for this fact. Entertainment: my favorite thing on the ship was the lido big screen!! They have so many opportunities to use this that I think they could do way more with it. I was very surprised they did NOT show any Christmas movies at all. I figured we'd see the polar express or Santa claus or something ...... but nope. They have it on during the day with photos while the Caribbean bands/groups play music which is a nice touch but I wish they would have late night movies and stuff maybe someday. We normally enjoy spending alot of time in the piano bar...... this cruise it was not so happening so I was alittle disappointed. Not much of a crowd any night so it was alittle boring but I did enjoy watching karaoke instead. the lady in charge of both the family & individual karaoke does a wonderful job. Be sure to comment card her because I heard everyone with comments get promotions or raises or something like that. We enjoyed the Beatles show, and Legends as well as Percy Crews the comedian absolutely hilarious!!(I hope we can see him again another time.) We went to the Welcome Aboard show, the Christmas Show on the 26th(the boat was rocking so much they had to cancel it on Christmas) & Sea Feud where I finally won my first Carnival gold medal lol. Besides that we didn't make it to the lounge. Fitness area: I didn't personally use it but my husband enjoyed working out daily. He loved the sauna and steam rooms as well. His one complaint was why do men just think they should come in these places totally naked and sit down right by you and strike up a conversation? I am not sure if the ladies is the same way but I would have been uncomfortable as well. Ports: two new ports for us this time. Cozumel was wonderful as it was last time for us. Our family LOVES Paradise Beach it is so relaxing and fun for the kids. The food and service was good and the kids enjoyed the free access to email thank God they limit it to 15 minutes so they could check myspace or facebook HAHA. Several kids did get "stung" by miniature jellyfish I believe in the waters here. They had vinegar up at the bar though for any discomfort. The weather was amazing I think in the 80s and it was cloudy when we first arrived and it rained for maybe an hour but the rest of the day was beautiful. I will take sunny & 80+ on December over snow and wind chills in Indiana any day. Costa Rica- we booked a private excursion of white water rafting with a another family from our roll call. We used Danillo Hall (from C.R. boards) and were very very happy with the excursion. We had not gotten our confirmation back before we left so I sent an email from cozumel and said we would be there if he still had room and there he was with a sign for us. His van was full but had two others families private taxis to follow him for the tour it was great. We paid $85 per person. Carnival does the same tour for $115 per person and they cannot bring the tour bus down to the rapids entrance so they had to walk I'd estimate a mile or so DOWN the road to ge there. I would have been pissed. It was a wonderful excursion and we all had a great day. We learned about their culture and the banana plantations and were satisfied with the day. It is a very poor country so please follow advisory and do not go out on your own by foot. Both taxi & tours seemed the safe bet to me. Panama- we really were not interested in seeing the panama canal as we wanted to 'go to the beach' for our holiday. We booked on our own a day at the Panama Sol Melia hotel. They have the most amazing pool area. It is three tiered you can jump off the cascading waterfall thing to below and we just relaxed here all day. It was $99 for the night. Bad thing they hardly speak ANY english at all. the website says they have free kayaking, ziplining, basketball, and volleyball....... yes it is all there but the ziplines have not worked for two years, nobody EVER came the entire day for us to use kayaks, and the bball & vball were just okay but nothing to write home about. We were there for relaxation so it was fine for us. I think we will plan something else next time or probably just skip this port. To be honest with you we had a great time and were happy to get away. Others may not have enjoyed it as much as us but honestly that doesn't really matter to me. I will still read reviews and take it with a grain of salt because every one has different tastes. i look forward to cruising again with Carnival in the near future. I can't wait to make my countdown clock which I can check daily and obsess over reading everything on Cruise Critic. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our second quadrennial graduation cruise with both of our daughters. (We should be done after this one.) The last time they were both graduating, we went on a Celebrity Cruise. Our travel agent persuaded us to go on the Eurodam. ... Read More
This was our second quadrennial graduation cruise with both of our daughters. (We should be done after this one.) The last time they were both graduating, we went on a Celebrity Cruise. Our travel agent persuaded us to go on the Eurodam. We were skeptical because my husband and I are 51 are our daughters are in their 20's. We thought of Holland-America as cruise line for those age 70 and up. Not during a holiday week.  It was perfect for our family. We loved it. In fact, it was clear that this ship was geared toward an older crowd and we all appreciated it. By going during the week of Christmas, there were many families but most had kids who were age 20 and up and I think most of them managed to find each other during the course of the week. One caveat about this review: We tend to be very easygoing. That means that things that might bother others don't bother us.We were very impressed with the Eurodam and Holland-America. We arrived around 1:30 and it was crowded at the port. It was somewhat chaotic for us because we were missing one piece of luggage and we had to go shopping to outfit my husband before coming to the ship (we arrived the night before - highly recommended for a winter cruise coming from a northern climate and a snowstorm). My girls and I were tearing apart shopping bags and putting the clothes into a new duffel at the port. Everyone was understanding. There was a long line to embark but it kept moving. This is in contrast to other experiences we have had on other lines. The wait didn't bother as long as the line kept moving. We were able to get into our rooms immediately and some of our bags were already there when we arrived. (Alas we never got the lost bad and we had Delta ship it back to Detroit - the front desk was great about helping us with it as was our travel insurance company. The travel insurance made the lost bag a good story to tell. We recommend buying the insurance.) We had adjoining staterooms on the 8th deck with verandas. We had booked guaranteed staterooms in the front of the ship with the possibility of an upgrade. We definitely got the upgrade and ended up just below the Lido deck and just aft of mid-ship. The staterooms were quite spacious and had a lot of storage. In addition to the drawers under the bed, we had storage above our couch, although our daughters' room did not have this extra cabinet. We also discovered that the closets could be converted to allow for more shelf space and less hanging space because some of the shelves folded up. They also give you plenty of wooden hangers. One tip: if you don't use them all and it gets rocky one night, put them on the floor of the closet or they will tap as the ship sways and you may not be able to sleep. The furniture in our room was very comfortable, including on our veranda. We were docked across from a Princess ship in St. Maarten and it was clear that the furniture on our verandas was much nicer than on the Princess ship. The lighting in the room was a little odd, although I really loved the reading lights over the bed that could be adjusted to many positions. The room was extremely quiet. We never heard sound from either adjacent room or in the halls. Our daughter asked if we could hear the music she was playing for an hour one evening. Not a note. Likewise, I was concerned that it might be noisy being just below the pool or the Lido buffet. The only time it was a problem was when the ship was rocky and something was making a noise from above. It wasn't so loud that we couldn't sleep. The only true complaint was that the room didn't have a clock. If you want a clock, bring one with you. The bathroom was the best we have seen on a cruise. It was nice to have a tub and the water pressure was incredible with excellent fixtures in the shower. In general, since the ship is brand new, everything looks fresh. We thought the furnishings around the ship were very well done. Very classy. Not glitzy but comfortable with a contemporary feel. We found all of the common areas to be done in relaxing hues and with furniture that was inviting and comfortable. Check out the art on the ship. The contemporary art is quite interesting. In addition, look at the photos the old Holland-America ships. It was poignant for me. My grandfather came to the U.S. on the Noordam in 1903. It was not so luxurious for him. I think he would have approved of the upgrade. We thought the food was wonderful and we are usually pretty critical of cruise food. It was some of the best food we have had on a cruise and it was very consistent. We ate breakfast and most lunches in the Lido buffet. At breakfast, be sure to check out the specialties of the day in the "entree" line and in the omelet line. You can have Eggs Benedict served in about 6 varieties daily. The muesli is great if you like that (I do). The orange juice is fresh-squeezed. The only disappointment is that they do not have a great variety of fruit. We were all hoping to have tropical fruits like guava, papaya and mango each day at breakfast and, as far as I know, they never had them. Not that we ever went hungry. One thing that we found out during the cruise, is that in the Explorations lounge on the 11th deck, they have cinnamon buns everyday that are like Cinnabons. Unreal. And on our cruise they did a cooking demonstration for the cinnamon buns and gave out the recipe. We did not eat in the dining room for lunch. We did eat at the grill on deck and they have every type of burger you could want (including fish and lamb). Really good. In the Lido they have a great salad bar every day and a good sandwich bar. They had hot entrees that were good. But we like eating the daily variety of Asian food that they served. I knew it was good when I saw members of the crew eating it for lunch since you know that the menu doesn't vary much week to week. The Lido is open pretty much all of the time for snacks like ice cream and dessert and other items like Mexican food and Italian food. On the last night they had mussels on the hot bar at about 5 pm. They were one of the best things I ate that week. One thing that's great is they don't nickel and dime you on the food. The ice cream was all free. Not so on other ships. Also, most nights they had a late night snack in the buffet. I think we went once or twice, although mostly to look, since I'm a bit of a "foodie", I wanted to see what they were serving, even if I didn't partake. We ate dinner in the dining room each night and we thought the food was excellent for a cruise. There was nothing that anyone ordered that wasn't at least very good and most was excellent. The lamb chops and prime rib were served as ordered and were as good as in any steak house. They had special menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas (as well as a special midnight buffet on Christmas Eve)and they were very good with items like goose and pheasant on Christmas Eve and Filet Mignon and lobster tail on Christmas. The evening we were in Tortola we opted to eat at the barbeque on deck which was a nice break from the heavy meals, not that we lacked for anything to eat that evening either. We had "as you wish" dining. We enjoyed it and ended up eating pretty close to what would be second seating, as it turned out. You could reserve a time to eat each night and if you want to do that, I recommend doing that when you get on the ship to be sure you get the time and the table size you want. We would have liked to have shared our table with other people so we could meet people. We were only able to do that once. If you want to do that, tell them when you make reservations that you have, say, four in your party but you would like to sit at a table for eight. We did eat at the Pinnacle Grill one night. It is absolutely worth the upcharge. We thought it compared more than favorably with the upscale steakhouses that are in major cities. It was clearly the best meal we had on the ship. We didn't eat at Tamarind, although we heard only mixed reviews from those who had. During the day, we very much enjoyed being on deck. The ship was full but there were plenty of deck chairs. We don't use the pool that much so we couldn't comment. The hot tubs were fine. The one curious thing was that the pool that had the cabanas and the padded deck chairs was the family pool. On other ships, that was the adult pool. There were so few kids, it didn't really matter. It was different from our experience on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. This ship doesn't have all of the bells and whistles that other cruise ships have. Our younger daughter said she would rather go without the rock wall that she might climb once in favor of nicer amenities on the ship. That sums up the Eurodam quite well. One amenity that I really enjoyed was the Culinary Arts Center. I really liked the Food Network-style cooking demonstrations. It was part of the reason we chose this ship. Get to the demos on time. They are pretty short, maybe half an hour. A good break from the sun on a sea day. We also spent a lot of time in the gym. It was a very good facility and it generally had more than enough equipment, except maybe the first morning. The equipment was high quality and all of it worked. The sap was nice, although we didn't pay to use the pools that were available. Those who did said they were great. At night we went to the shows. The shows were a bit over-produced for our taste - a lot of special effects that sometimes got in the way of the singing. The theater is very nice. Again, very comfortable, not glitzy, but classy in its style. Our girls went to the club each night to hang out with the other 20- somethings. (Be sure they carry ID. They carded and they wouldn't always rely on the ship room key pass to see if they were over 21 - which they both are.) We also went to the Piano Bar a lot. We weren't fond of the layout of that room since there weren't many seats around the piano and the others were somewhat distant. However, it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Bob has left the ship by now so they should have a new "piano man" who will hopefully be as much fun as Bob. We thought the service on the ship was outstanding. The crew had a very positive attitude and were great from top to bottom. I'm not sure that Shane, the cruise director, ever sleeps. It's clear that the captain and have set a good tone for the crew. The crew is very engaging and hard-working. We liked that we actually had a team of two cabin stewards who were very efficient and friendly. They actually knew one another in Indonesia. The other aspect we think is terrific is that most of the service crew is either from Indonesia or the Philippines. We thought that having only two cultures made for a more cohesive team and that there were few cultural problems among the crew members, especially since it is clear that the anyone regardless of their background could be a waiter or a steward. On other ships, people of different nationalities were stratified into certain jobs and we found that offensive. On Holland-America, they celebrate the cultures by serving food from Indonesia and the Philippines and by having a crew show, our week, by the Indonesian crew. One other touch that was nice. It was Chanukah the week we were on the ship. Each night the arranged for a menorah so we could have a candle-lighting and they served potato latkes (with incredibly good applesauce) as is traditional. They also gave out Chanukah gelt (chocolate candy) and dreidels (traditional tops) one evening. A lot of people went each night for the candle-lighting. We didn't do any shore excursions, although we signed up to parasail but it was too windy. In general, we weren't interested in what they offered on this cruise. We really liked the itinerary because we had two full days at sea and then two half days between Grand Turk and Tortola. If you like to be on the ship, this itinerary is a really good mix. Finally, I enjoyed the Walk for the Cure for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It was also a very nice touch. All in all, I would highly recommend this ship. However, if we were to go back when it wasn't a a holiday, we would probably travel with friends just to be sure that we aren't the only ones under 70 on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Well let me start out by saying I have noticed there is a large difference between short cruises and long cruises. The two short cruises we have taken one with Carnival and this one have been a much poorer quality than the long one we ... Read More
Well let me start out by saying I have noticed there is a large difference between short cruises and long cruises. The two short cruises we have taken one with Carnival and this one have been a much poorer quality than the long one we took. That said in comparison to our Carnival cruise this one was much better but still lacking in many ways. Overall you cannot beat cruising for the value. You get hotel, food, entertainment, childcare, and transportation at an unbelievable price. However I think NCL is cutting a few to many corners and dropping the ball in the customer service department. Now specifically the SKY experience. I loved the port of Miami. It was very easy to find and we stayed at the Holiday Inn Port side and were able to see our ship come in. What fun that was. Boarding was a breeze. The crew who checked us in were awesome I wish I could have taken them on the ship with us and gotten that kind of service the entire trip. We were greeted with Champaign but no map of the ship and I had to hunt down a Freestyle Daily. The cabins were not ready till precisely 2pm. We were able to drop off our stuff much earlier in the Dawn. Cabin: Cabin was sufficient for a short cruise but much too small for a long one. Bathroom was tiny. Storage was very limited we kept most of our stuff in suitcase under bed. The beds were very comfortable and room was clean. We did meet the cabin steward and gave him a stocking on Christmas. Entertainment: We found the ship-produced entertainment to be not nearly a good as on the Dawn. The stage was very small because of the size of the ship and the dancers and singers were not as good. The hired entertainment was very good, as we have found on all of our cruises. Rich Purpura the comedian was very funny and Dave Morgan guitar player singer was excellent. The Christmas Eve party was poorly planed and not overly festive but better than the St. Patrick's day party on the Dawn. The poolside band was ok but not nearly as good as others we have heard. The evening parties were not poolside they were inside which made them less fun I think. Kids Crew: Staff very friendly. Daughter complained that children were poorly behaved and this interrupted activities. We did not have a lot of time to participate because it was a holiday cruise. Food: Food ranged from excellent to poor. Appetizers were often better than meal. We did not eat at any specialty restaurants. Service in main dinning areas was very very slow and unorganized. They had plenty of staff but could not get anything done. We had a very hard time eating a complete meal without missing most of the evening activities. We often ate our meals in parts and often missed dessert entirely. We only ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Meals were acceptable but not great. What you would expect form a buffet. It was very hard to get an early lunch nothing was available until noon. All restaurants and the buffet closed by 10 or 10:30. The Longboard bar was the only place to get food after that. Their menu was the same as the Blue Lagoon on the Dawn but the food was terrible in comparison. Overall ship: In very good shape for its age. As with all NCL ships it takes a while to figure out. Pool area was sufficient for size. Hot tubs were fairly hot and open late. Coffee bar is in a poor location. Much of the ship is under used and NCL should look at rearranging things. Clean and bright I did not mind the Hawaiian feel. Port: We were not impressed with Nassau and would most likely not go back there. Our Sailing excursion was canceled the first day because of high winds. We did not leave Nassau to go to the private island because the next day was to be windy as well. The captain secured us a slot to stay in Nassau an extra day. There were 3 NCL ships there. They did not announce this very well and we were all settled into the hot tub before we knew. We may have went back out had we know sooner. Excursions: Because our self-booked excursion was cancelled we booked the Atoll Island snorkel through NCL. This was very poorly run and the age and swimming requirements were not adhered to. Many of the people on this trip were not able to swim well enough. That aside we did enjoy the reef and were impressed with what we saw. The weather was poor but at least we were able to snorkel. We have taken 2 NCL excursions and booked our own and have found booking our own or exploring on our own to be a much more rewarding experience and a better use of our time. Christmas: We were on the ship for Christmas and Hanukkah and found it to be lacking in festivities. There were about 8 Christmas trees and at least that many Ginger bread houses but we did not see a Menorah anywhere. There was very soft Christmas music being played in only one of the restaurants. They did have quite a few activities happening on Christmas Eve however due to the very slow dinning service it was hard to attend more than one. They had caroling which we missed due to dinner then a Christmas party which was more big band dancing than Christmas and a Midnight service, which we did not attend. On Christmas Day they had Santa and Gifts for all the children in the Kids Crew including the teens. This was nice. There was very little else happening Christmas day different from any other day. Medical office: My daughter did become ill on Christmas night. We took her to the medical office after 11:00, which was nice they were open. They gave her an injection to stop nausea, which must have worked because she was fine till the next morning. They were not overly informative or personable but it was a free service, which I did not expect. I did have a hard time reaching them using the automated phone. Leaving the ship was uneventful. We had gray tags because we drove and wanted to take our time leaving. We waited till there was little to no line and got off. The process was a little slow but ok. We were happy to discover Customs did not care that we purchased much more alcohol than allowed. For Christmas gifts of course. We expected to be charged and were not. Things I missed from previous cruises: Coffee mugs at coffee bar, Dinning dress code, can do attitude by staff, food after midnight, large dessert selection in buffet, music on pool deck, spa pool, more days, Blue Lagoon food (longboard was awful), Mexican food, good theater with big stage and good shows. Things I enjoyed: meeting CC friends, Teen smoothie pass (best value NCL offers), longer hot tub hours and more hot tubs, Dave Morgan, comedian, no snow, Tortuga Rum!! I try to be optimistic and find the best in things. Had this not been a Christmas cruise I would have felt we got what we paid for and had a good time. Being a holiday cruise I feel NCL was lacking. I also feel their overall customer service was lacking. The layout of the ship, poor dinner service and all the activities being offered in a 4-hour block make it very hard to enjoy the total experience. We love the Freestyle aspect of NCL but we found on this cruise Freestyle was very limited and you had to choose between dessert and evening activities. We will be exploring other Cruise lines for future Cruises. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We had booked a air/cruise through a local agency. Our flight was out of Terminal 5, Heathrow to Miami. We were met at Miami International by a rep from Azamara and as we were the last ones thru customs, we left the airport immediately. ... Read More
We had booked a air/cruise through a local agency. Our flight was out of Terminal 5, Heathrow to Miami. We were met at Miami International by a rep from Azamara and as we were the last ones thru customs, we left the airport immediately. A swift and smooth transfer to the Miami Wyndham airport - my only crit of that is that it is far from anything, so were confined to the hotel. The next morning buses were arranged for our transport to the ship, our checking in went smooth and in no time boarded the ship, to be greeted by someone handing out drinks. We were told our rooms were not ready, would be shortly and if we desired could leave our hand luggage to be delivered to our rooms, which we declined. We were told that dinner first night would be at a set time, which we were asked what time suited us etc. we took 8 p.m. for our convenience. We went upstairs to Windows for lunch, which at the time was pretty busy, not surprising as Discoveries dinging room was not open. Even tho, it was no problem to find a table and already meet new "cruisers". it was time for us to go to our stateroom, we were more or less off center forward and found the rooms as we expected. We were aware that the bathrooms were a tad small, but over the 16 days had no problem with the size of the shower space etc. Did find that the carpets looked tired, but for us everything was clean, neat & tidy. When we walked in discovered that the beds had not been made up into a double, but we soon met our assistant "Ever" who said no problem, which we found was always the case, and when we returned after dinner, all sorted. out. Found the ship very easy to navigate We had a problem with the Aircon, realizing on the first day sailing it was not working "properly", we complained to our Butler, who said would report it, in a few hours it wasn't so we then at the CC cocktail party met Philip Herbert,Hotel Director, and within a short while he had everyone running around. Our main reason for doing this cruise was to sail thru the Panama and to be away for the festive season, Our only gripe was that we had two days one was Xmas Day and one Sunday,when we were in ports, which we felt was a waste, do realize that itineraries are difficult at the best of times. We were pleased with the different venues for eating, even tho they say only twice at the Speciality Rests. We had no problem in booking 2 more for Prime C which we loved. We also alternated between Breeze /Windows and the Main Dining Room. My hubby loved the sushi upstairs and I had one of my best pan fried salmon there. We did in the main eat our Breakfast and lUnch out on the "aft" of Windows and when we ate there in the evenings, we were under the stars. Yes there were problems with the hot water and for us from the UK, we do like our Tea Hot and in a Tea Pot - another minor gripe. Towards the end they "ran" out of Butter, that should not happen, I also found had trouble getting honey , used to look for the little pots, but then realized there were always glass jugs by the Tea/Coffee - so that was no problem. We knew that the entertainment was going to by Cabaret Style - only one did we think was a waste. Loved listening to Dan in the Cova Cafe, and found his show good as we did Sue's, the Cruise Director. Joined in a few times in the trivia quizzes in Cova Cafe, which always made me laugh. The sun beds on decks were wonderful. Yes at the beginning some people reserved seats, which to me is ridiculous, if no one ever did, one would always get a bed!!! We personally, found the officers and crew friendly and chatty, they have job to do and do it as best as they can. Not all passengers see things the same and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Did on the odd occasion feel the ships movement, when I did, ate some Ginger, which I took aboard with me - I am normally not a great sea traveller, but had no problems on the Journey. There is quite lot more I could write, if anyone wants to know something from our perspective, please don't hesitate to ask. We would definitely cruise again on the Journey and her sister Quest (which we have not yet been on). We go cruising for the ports and if the itinerary suited us would not hesitate to book Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
After 18 months of anticipation, we finally boarded Solstice! Info - We are DINK's in our 40s. Ok, one of us, the other one is lying. This was our 13th cruise - we cruise X and RCCL exclusively. Pre Cruise - We spent 2 ... Read More
After 18 months of anticipation, we finally boarded Solstice! Info - We are DINK's in our 40s. Ok, one of us, the other one is lying. This was our 13th cruise - we cruise X and RCCL exclusively. Pre Cruise - We spent 2 nights at the Hyatt Pier 66. Nice property with excellent service. We enjoyed sunset drinks at Pelican Bar. The pool was pretty crowded but this was the Saturday before NYE so that is to be expected. The workout room is quite small for a resort of this size but equipment was fine. I had a manicure for $50 (sigh, I can get one at home for $15 but it wouldn't have lasted the cruise) and had a shampoo/blowout for over $100 - way too much and she took over an hour and a half. I can get a shampoo/cut and dry for about an hour - I was climbing the walls towards the end and finally told her I HAD to leave. She was very nice but it just took too long! Gratuity is automatically added there. We were fortunate to have a Tower Room that faced the port so we could watch the ships leave and watch them come in - yep, we got up early enough to see several arrive although JUST missed Solstice. Checked out and took a cab (actually a nice SUV, lucky us) and arrived at the port around 11 am. EMBARKATION: Very smooth. We arrived early on purpose so had to wait for about 30 minutes. Once they opened it up, we were checked in quite quickly. Definitely among the first onboard around 11:30. THE SHIP: Visually stunning. I can really find nothing to complain about regarding the ship. The decor is tasteful, varied and soothing. It will be hard to find a way to fully experience the ship in 7 days. We didn't so darn it, we'll have to go back. POOLS: Aquaspa is my favorite lounging place for sea days and quiet mornings. This was no different. From the various loungers, cabanas etc to the placement of the whirlpools to the pool (ideal temperature - never fear, it is NOT cold), it is a lovely place. Chair hogs ruled on this sailing (New Years, whattaya expect?) but we found chairs before 9 am quite easily. After 10 am, good luck. Being a ghost, the pool is not my scene although I like going in the afternoon to listen to the band and enjoy the sun. This was the most crowded pool deck I have ever seen - not a chair to be had. However, again, holiday sailing and a large percentage of passengers who were sungods and goddesses as well as MANY children. I was pleased to see that security was vigilant about enforcing the no children policy in the Aquaspa. DINING: I found the Grand Epernay to be stunning. We had a lovely table (#241 - great location). Service was a bit slow the first 2 nights but they rallied later. The food was fine - not fine dining cuisine but very nice. Not a bad meal. We requested escargot and our maitre'd made sure we had it beginning Wednesday and again on Friday and Saturday. We ate in Tuscan Grille and Muranos. Both are very nice but I would return to Tuscan Grille over Muranos. I enjoyed the service in Tuscan provided by Slobadan and Luciana - if they are your servers, you are in for a treat. Muranos had a mistake on our charge - we had prepaid for specialty and he brought us the bill, not only for us but also for our tablemates who were in a suite so they were also supposed to be free. It took him 15 minutes to bring back the corrected ticket. Not the end of the world, but evidence that they are still working out some kinks. We had brunch at Bistro "For" 5 and had an excellent meal. It was virtually empty and our wait was brief - they do cook to order so our waiter told us it would take about 15 minutes. That was acceptable. Other cruisers we spoke with had mixed experiences - some had great service and food, others waited an hour for their food and finally left. Again, I think as the crew gets in sync things will be fine. LOUNGES: Michael's seemed too sedate and boring for us but others enjoyed it. Ensemble Lounge - we tried twice. The first time it was busy and it took an hour to get a drink. The second time we went in around 11:30 and there were only 2 people at the bar. The bartender never came over to us so we left. I think it is a nice venue for pre dinner drinks when dining in the Specialty Restaurants but didn't feel compelled to seek it out. On the flip side, it was the favorite lounge of others we met. Martini Bar was usually hopping and great fun. It is centrally located and between the main dining room and the casino so it is easily crowded. There was a quite large Latin passenger base on our cruise and the Sky Lounge was mainly the Latin lounge most evenings so we did not venture there except for Captains Club and Cruise Critic functions. It is nice, your standard lounge similar to the ones on M class ships. Quasar was small and we just popped in to look at it - I think it was really packed late night but with a huge amount of young people on the sailing, we didn't have it on the To Do list. LAWN CLUB AREA: We liked it. It's a lovely area with seating. This is where the cigar smokers went but with the wind it was never much of an issue. We liked to go grab a mid/late afternoon drink at the Sunset Bar and enjoyed it very much. We watched a small part of the Hot Glass show - it was interesting but 20 minutes was plenty for us. The complete show is listed as 2 hours. SPA: Glad I was onboard early - I still stood in line for 40 minutes to make an appointment. I really wish X would provide Captains Club members the option to pre-book spa appts - even if its just Elite members. It is silly to stand in line and it's also so hard on the spa personnel since people can be so rude. It shouldn't be hard to make this easier. The spa is lovely - the Relaxation Room is nice and since I had a Captains Club coupon, I could access the Persian Garden once. It was peaceful since I was the only one in there but not worth paying for and I think the PG on M class is much nicer. CONCIERGE CLASS ROOM: The room is efficient. The bathroom is greatness. My husband is 6'5 and could maneuver in there quite well and was very pleased with the shower. The shampoo conditioner body wash lotion are of good quality and lemongrass (mmhm) We found closet space to be fine but I'm an efficient packer. Our safe froze up twice but they fixed it in a timely manner. The interactive tv was great and got the seal of approval from the IT professional husband. It was great to access the photos and keep track of our account - the music channels were great and we enjoyed the bridge cam. Husband prefers M class CC rooms because they are more square and it was a tight fit for him to walk around the bed. Our balcony was quite deep (probably 15 feet) since we were on the hump - with the couch by the window so it was harder to see the actual ocean from the bed than we are used to. We had room service breakfast one day and it was pretty blah. CASUAL DINING: Food at the Pool Bar was always good. Aquaspa food was good. The sushi in Oceanview was excellent both times we tried it. Pizza was good. We eat breakfast early to avoid the crowd and never had problems. Waffles, omelettes fresh! Silverware is now at all the stations so no issues there. We never had table issues. The only flaw I saw was in the afternoon after the lunch is closed and before tea is open, the pizza/pasta station is combined in one line and it was long. We came back onboard one day and stood in line for well over 30 minutes. If you wanted pizza, you still had to stand behind all the pasta people. If you wanted pasta, vice versa. They should separate it and make it 2 lines. SERVICE: With very few exceptions, we had outstanding service. Most of the staff was friendly and eager to please. Our cabin attendant and assistant were mainly invisible but appeared whenever we needed them and did a great job. CAPTAINS CLUB: Our Elite party was a bit of a bust. It was at 11 am pre arrival in san Juan. Due to a medical emergency, we got into San Juan at 11:30 instead of 2 pm so all the senior officers were on the bridge. Perfectly understandable. Our disappointment was that since we did not know we would be arriving so early, we completely missed the approach and watching from the deck as we approach the Fort had been something we looked forward to. We missed it since we were in the lounge and unaware of how early we would be arriving. The regular party was fine, albeit a bit stuffy and too long. GALA BRUNCH: No more midnight buffet which to me is not a bad thing. They had a brunch which was outstanding. We enjoyed it very much - look for the chicken pot pies, they were fresh and hot. ENTERTAINMENT: I very much enjoyed Solstice. I have seen several Cirque du Soleil shows and this was quite on par. I recognized many of the "acts" but felt the performers were very strong. I should also admit that I work in entertainment so I am pretty hard to please. We also saw the late night comedy show of Louis Johnson and I enjoyed his act very much. CASINO: This was our only real "disappointment" and had nothing to do with Celebrity. There were 2 gambling groups on board, as well as a large group of passengers who apparently did not go to dinner. We could never get a table past 7 pm to play AT ALL EVER. The slot machines were the tightest I have ever seen on 13 cruises - I don't always ask to win (ok that's a lie) but I would like to at least play for a while on my donation. I would put $100 in and never hit a thing. No thanks - I prefer to donate more slowly than that! :) Had I been able to play at the tables, I might have recouped some slot money but it was impossible. DISEMBARKATION: We were at 8:45 and were off within 5 minutes. The easiest I've seen. SOLSTICE IN GENERAL: Will we cruise Solstice again? Yes. Will we choose her OVER M class? Not really. We will probably forgo holiday cruises again. Although we had a great time, there were issues with unruly children and out of control partying by the 16-25 age group. Since there were so many large family groups on board, it seemed like security was challenged by many things but overall did as well as they could. There was a diversity of cultures onboard and sometimes it appeared to negatively impact others enjoyment. I heard more passengers complaining than ever before - while some may have been warranted, sometimes it seemed to be nitpicking. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I have to admit this cruise was chosen based on itinerary, itinerary and itinerary. In fact there are very few cruise lines that would have turned me off based on a ship when looking at such a port intensive schedule of Katakolon-Olympia, ... Read More
I have to admit this cruise was chosen based on itinerary, itinerary and itinerary. In fact there are very few cruise lines that would have turned me off based on a ship when looking at such a port intensive schedule of Katakolon-Olympia, Pireaus-Athens, Rhodes, Cyprus, Alexandria, Crete, Marmaris and Naples. In any event, I was prepared for things to be different after reading so many negative reviews posted mostly by Americans, and was surprised it was not as different or problematic as I feared it might be. Then again, I have never had a truly "bad" cruise, so maybe my standards are flexible. We traveled with my two older stepkids, both of whom have contributed to this review. One draw of this cruise in addition to the itinerary was that kids sail free, but the catch is that they have to be in a room with two paying passengers so you are in essence waiving the 3/4 fee. Embarkation- We embarked in Genoa which has a beautiful cruise port building, but unfortunately was not the one we used. Just like many other companies, MSC offers online check-in.... and just like most of the lines that do this, it means nothing as far as being able to wait in some type of priority or express line. Actually, the checking in part only took about 15 minutes of waiting in line, but then you are assigned a number to be called while you sit in a large waiting area. The convenient part about this is that while you wait you can book your excursions, beverage packages, spa treatments and kids club memberships. None of these things can be booked in advance online as with other cruise lines, so it was helpful although a bit hectic and loud. We booked excursions for Turkey, Egypt and Naples only... I am fluent in Greek so I prefer we navigate ourselves in the Greek-speaking ports. We did not buy any soda or wine packages because they all had limited amounts of beverages rather than the unlimited type soda cards you see on most lines. Also, because we were US citizens we were given a free bottled water package. I had heard about before because as was later confirmed, there is no ice water served at meals. One thing I noticed which bugged me was that they print your room number on your key card. Apparently MSC is run by the same people who label their house keys with their home address in case they get lost. Nationality- I will start with languages.... more than half of the passengers spoke German, with about 20% Italian, 20% English and the rest spoke French. I must say that the crew, particularly for such a young staff, were excellent in their ability to communicate with most passengers. With the exception of one Ukrainian bartender who spoke no English, I did not have any trouble communicating on the ship. Because of my appearance most people started off assuming I was Italian, and my "Io no capisco l'Italiano" might have confused them further because I pronounced it too properly for someone who doesn't speak the language. Neither DH or the kids had problems either, but I think the kids really did learn how helpful it is to speak several languages. As far as the actual nationalities of the passengers, I would say that nearly two thirds of the passengers were German, the rest being an even mix of Italians, British, French, American and Chinese. The crew was mostly Italian in the entertainment and managerial staff, and Southeast Asian in the dining room and housekeeping crew. The Poesia is a brand new ship, sailing only since this past April, so many of the crew had never worked on a ship before but it did not seem to show. The Ship- Not what you would expect.... from what I had heard about MSC I was afraid it would be over the top with Vegas-style glitz, however with the exception of the Zebra Lounge and the stairwell carpets, I found most of the decor in the public rooms to be understated.... neutral tones in the dining room, muted pastels in many of the lounges... one exception was the Carlos Felice Theater, where purple seats looked a bit like a Barney explosion, but for the most part it did not have the tacky feel I had feared..... which brings me to The Cabin- We were in a balcony cabin on Deck 12, and an escort was assigned to help us find our room. The cabin was just big enough for the 4 of us but would not have held 4 adults comfortably. I would say bigger than NCL but smaller than Carnival.... probably most comparable to RCL. The love seat opened into a bed and there was a wall bunk that folded down at night for the 4th person. Matthew "called" the bunk which was just fine with Lizzie. The decor with its black and red bedspread was a little sharp, very Italian designer looking but not too over the top. The beds were comfortable and I did not wake up with any back pain as I often do when sleeping in cheaper beds. In order to save energy, MSC has a system rigged into the rooms where if you don't have a card inside the power slot, the lights will shut off after 5 or 10 minutes. Each room also has 2 US (110) and 2 EUR (220) power outlets at the desk . I brought a plug adapter so we were able to use all of the outlets. The bathroom was also on the small side, again comparable to RCL for those who are familiar with it. Very good water pressure and temperature in the shower. One minor annoyance was the shower curtain that stuck to you while showering and the fact that MSC doesn't provide washcloths for some reason. Also, the bathroom is not ventilated and has no fan which means it gets more wet than usual during a shower. An odd regulation, smoking is not permitted on balconies but is allowed in cabins. We were only one deck below the smoking section on Lido and I am a "drinking-only" smoker so it wasn't much of an issue, but still a strange rule. The room had a minibar fridge with some room for your own items where I kept some Baily's and small bottles of water. There is confusion about what you are and are not allowed to bring on the ship with respect to beverages... there may be a written rule about all beverages, alcoholic or not, but I did not see any enforcement of this, in fact any water bottles we bought in ports we were allowed to bring right in. There seems to be a major control issue on board with beverages, bringing me to the next category- Dining Choices- 1. Buffet- We had our first meal in what they call the Cafeteria, which was very convenient to our room being right up the stairs. Lunch time had a pizza section, grill, and hot buffet section with different types of pasta, meats, potatoes and vegetables. There are NO self-serve beverages, and the only drinks which are included at lunch time are coffee, tea and water which are brought to you by the waitstaff. The water comes in tiny glasses of about 3-4 ounces... kind of like we had in elementary school. During breakfast you can have one of 5 or 6 different kinds of juice but again, they are served to you by the waitstaff in the little glasses. I can understand why there is some control on this because I have noticed on other lines that the greatest waste appears to be with beverages, but I think the small glasses OR no self-serve would have accomplished this goal well enough. Anyway, we didn't eat many meals in the buffet except breakfasts and that was only because of the convenience. Lunches we mostly ate either in port or occasionally in the dining rooms where they had open-seating except at dinner time. One should note that there is NO buffet service at dinner time.... you eat in the dining room or you pay for alternate dining or room service. The room service menu is all cold options and the restaurants are a la carte rather than one price. We didn't use any of these choices except once in a while the evening pizza which is 6 Euros for an 18 inch pie. On formal evenings there would be a late-night buffet which we didn't attend, and other nights there would be what the program listed as a "buffet" in the lounges but it was a lie... just a few waiters walking around serving hot hors d'oeuvres with drinks. There is also free afternoon tea every day in the Buffet... you wait on line for your tea or coffee, and there are a few different types of sandwiches and desserts available self-serve style. 2. Dining Room- As I mentioned earlier, there is no ice water served in the dining room, so all beverages except coffee must be purchased. We had our voucher for free bottled water which was really only enough for two people per meal, so we would end up buying a second bottle for the kids. They didn't like the Pellegrino that Peter and I ordered so we got them the non-carbonated equivalent. There were many course choices for meals, both at lunch and dinner.... these included appetizers, soups, salads, pasta & rice and main courses. One of the major complaints I have seen in reviews are with the food quality, and while I must admit the meals were nothing to write home about, they certainly weren't inedible. Since even the QE2 Princess Grill occasionally disappointed me on the final transatlantic with frozen french fries and American cheese-food, I don't think I can criticize the Poesia in their European style of cuisine. I think the food preparation is just done in a way we are not used to.... for example, the lobster was served cut in half with marinara sauce over it. This is probably common in parts of continental Europe, so I think when booking MSC or any European based line you have to remember who their passenger base is. As I said earlier I knew going in that this cruise experience, especially the cuisine, would be different and of course I was not disappointed in that expectation. Entertainment- We didn't take part in most of the entertainment except the trivia quizzes and we even won a couple, but from what people told me the live entertainment was very good. I had some issues with trivia, as those of you who have sailed with us before know, with the official answers being wrong (i.e. the Smithsonian, not the Louvre, is the world's largest museum) however I was again impressed with the crew and their ability to conduct these quizzes in several languages. As far as activities are concerned, there is not a lot of information in the programs and some things are not listed at all. Some events have ambiguous names and you don't have any idea what they are talking about such as "Mime Mix" and "Coffee Game" with no descriptions. The kids advise that the arcade is very expensive at one Euro or more per game, with each game lasting less than a minute. Also the pools and jacuzzi close at 7pm The in-room television seems to incorporate some cultural stereotypes. The only thing in English are news stations.... movies are all in German and sitcoms are in Italian. It is a very nice flat-screen TV and has ports for a portable DVD, but not useful if you are the type who likes some down time in your room while waiting for dinner or for your kids to get ready. Additionally, there are local stations such as a webcam on the bow, another on the Lido deck so you can see how crowded it is, but for the most part we used the TV for the navigational channel to see where we were on the map. They also have a pay-per-view movie service but those are rather costly at 14 Euros each. Internet service is available in your room with an Ethernet cable, or wireless in various public areas on the ship. I paid 80 Euros for 250 minutes which was plenty for 11 days, particularly with such a port-intensive itinerary. Some of the ports were only half-days though, so it was helpful to have the service. I did not visit the Library, however Peter did and found it lacking.... no periodicals and all books were novels with no history books or reference books such as atlases or dictionaries. Service- Dining room service was excellent... polite, punctual and never any problems with orders or special requests. The room steward on the other hand, not so much. Ice was never brought to the room unless I chased him down, and our glasses kept disappearing. Each time I would use a glass it would get taken without being replaced with a clean one. This may have to do with their obsessive beverage control issues. Also, if on occasion one of the kids was still in the room when he came by, even for just five minutes, he would never come back to see if he could clean the room. To his credit, he did fold all of the kids' clothes when they left them around, and I feel bad he had to deal with their disorganized habits. Attire- We were never given a list of expected attire prior to the cruise, other than that there are generally two formal nights on an 11-night cruise. In actuality there were 4 formal nights, 2 informal and the rest were casual. We only participated in two formal nights because we didn't bring enough to wear and didn't really feel up to dressing up after long intensive port days... on those nights we stayed in the room and ordered pizza. Ports and Excursions- This is where MSC shines.... hardly any lines getting on or off the ship and good quality excursions for the most part. We were early birds for the ports that we did free-style and sometimes the first ones out. The only complaint I had was the chaotic assembly for the Egypt excursions, but I think this was just because there were so many people who booked them. Katakolon- we rented a car and drove to Olympia, spent about two hours at the ruins, then came back and spent the rest of the time in town shopping and having lunch on shore with a view of the ship. It was one of my favorite port visits this cruise and the kids enjoyed it as well. They loved taking pictures of the stray dogs and cats which are prevalent in little towns like this. Athens- we took the Metro to the Acropolis where we spent about an hour or so, then walked to the 1896 Olympic Stadium, then took the Metro to Likavitos mountain where we climbed to the top. Yes, that is right, we climbed all the way because I couldn't remember where the blasted elevator was... oh well, it was good exercise and we really earned the overpriced meal we had in the restaurant. You want to leave the city about an hour before all aboard call, because of the time it takes to get back to Piraeus as well as the walk to the ship from the Metro station. Rhodes- my favorite island, in fact my third time here and unfortunately it rained all day. Tried to rent a car but no one was open since we pulled into port at 7am, so Lindos was out. Instead we walked around the Old Town and had lunch at a gyro place, which is the Greek equivalent of fast food only much better. This is a very good shopping venue and the Old Town also houses a medieval castle which is worth seeing. If you ever do make it to Lindos, there is another Acropolis, smaller than the one in Athens but you can ride donkeys to the top. We didn't go there this trip but I have done it before. Alexandria- we did an all day excursion which took us to the pyramids, sphinx, papyrus institute, mosque and ended with a Nile dinner cruise. Very good excursion except for the harsh wind and extremely pushy vendors at the pyramid site. I recommend bringing some spare change because the vendors will be very persistent. Also keeping your head down while you walk helps with both the sand and the soliciting. I see why the women wear veils, my hair was a horrible mess from the wind and sand by the time we got back to the ship. The Nile dinner cruise had excellent food and entertainment, a good way to end the tour. Limassol- canceled due to weather, had a day at sea instead. As a result MSC added the port of Messina to what was supposed to be one of only two sea days later in the cruise. Marmaris- we did a ship excursion where we took a boat trip and saw tombs carved into mountains, then went to the ancient city of Kaunos. Spent an hour or so there and our tour guide was very knowledgeable. Many of the guides in Turkey know several languages so there is never a communication problem. After seeing the ancient city we then came back and had a large lunch, ended with shopping downtown. I bought a couple of small handmade rugs and the kids bought some knick-knacks. Crete- again tried to rent a car but no one was open so we hired a private taxi for 100 Euros. We went to the Palace at Knossos, Zorba's tomb, an olive oil factory and fields, Greek Orthodox Church, then he brought us to Lion Square where we ate what would be our last Greek meal. I lost it a little bit on the gypsies who kept coming to our table to beg for money, but I felt responsible as the designated Greek to tell them off. I swear I really am a good Christian otherwise, but we had just given all of our change to some little girl who played the accordion, and I thought that three panhandlers in less than a minute was ridiculous while trying to eat. Messina- we chose the Mt. Etna tour which ended up being a bust, it rained the whole day so we spent about twenty minutes looking at some volcanic rock and a half hour in town shopping. About an hour drive each way for less than an hour of touring. Naples- in spite of the rain, a very good tour of Pompeii... I had no idea how big this city was or how well preserved so much of it would be. Definitely worth seeing no matter what the weather is. We also had a pizza lunch in town... a little pricey at 55 Euros for four individual pizzas, two beers and two sodas, but the pizza as delicious so it was well worth it Miscellaneous pros and cons- In the spirit of being positive, the pros first.... for example in spite of the limit on free beverages, the drink costs are relatively cheap and don't charge an automatic 15% gratuity. In eleven days we spent an average of 7 Euros each day per person on drinks. Also, the auto-tipping was less than most lines at 66 Euros for adults and 33 Euros for children. There were some nice touches, like fresh fruit in your cabin every night, bathrobes, and a large assortment of board games and puzzles for the kids. Many of the stores were inexpensive, in fact Lizzie found a swimsuit for under 15 Euro. Some of the negative things, many services were extremely disorganized, sparse or non-existent. No one was ever in the internet cafe to help, the photo gallery was closed 90% of the time so we never saw our pictures (probably a good thing if they are overpriced like most lines, but again we never could find out) and changing our dining time to late seating was a complete disaster. In this case I was assigned a number like they do at the deli, and after waiting a half hour my number was finally called. I got up there and was told that they were closing because the maitre-d had to be elsewhere.... meanwhile about 50 other passengers were pushing ahead of me and being really rude. Finally I spoke up and said "everyone is cutting ahead and I am getting upset." I was then taken inside and given my later seating, but after feeling like a heel for throwing a little bit of a fit. Disembarkation- There is no self-assist, but because US citizens had to wait for the return of our passports after we had handed them in a few days earlier, it was probably a moot issue. I didn't like handing in our passports but in the long run it gave us an advantage.... because we didn't have to wait in the dreaded Barney-splashed Carlos Felice Theater with hundreds of others. Those picking up passports got to wait in the much smaller, quieter and less crowded Moulin Rouge. Passing them out was a bit of a debacle, we sat back and watched while everyone waited in line for the staff to find their passports in one of several boxes. When almost everyone was gone I sent Peter up to get ours among what little was left. I would say we were off the ship by 10:30am. Finding a taxi was a little tricky and it was pretty cold for Italy. They had transfer buses to Genoa airport but they were not advertised at all so we didn't know about them until disembarkation day. Also, it would have been 15 Euros per person rather than the 28 we paid for the cab. Final thoughts- All in all I would take this cruise again... but would be better prepared next time. I would definitely pay the extra for a balcony when cruising along so many of the islands. In fact one of the most memorable moments for me was when we pulled out of Crete and the sun was shining on the balcony as the ship sailed along the north coast of the island... I sat out there feeling somewhat sad, knowing this was the last time I would see Greece for at least another year, maybe longer. Sure, I probably made it worse for myself listening to Greek music as we sailed but it is one thing I will never forget, bittersweet as it was. I think every cruise should have at least one of these moments that stands out from the rest, thereby making it a success. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our 3rd cruise and our 2nd with P&O - the previous one being on Arcadia in Feb 2008. The flight to Barbados was comfortable and on time. Although it was a ThomsonFly charter,the aircraft was actually a First Choice plane. ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise and our 2nd with P&O - the previous one being on Arcadia in Feb 2008. The flight to Barbados was comfortable and on time. Although it was a ThomsonFly charter,the aircraft was actually a First Choice plane. Even though we had booked the cruise some 18 months earlier, we could not get an upgrade but even so, the plane was very comfortable with plenty of legroom and OK food. The transfer from the airport to the ship was excellent - (P&O seem to have got this sorted really well) - straight from the plane to a coach and then straight to the check in shed at the cruise terminal. Check in there was quick and we were soon on the ship. What a monster she is. Not really a pretty sight and it would be impossible to describe Ventura as a ship in the traditional sense - more a gigantic floating hotel. We soon found our cabin on C deck. This was compact and functional, clean and well equipped with tea and coffee machine, fridge, good hairdryer, interactive TV on which you can also view your account, comfy bed and good temperature control. The one surprise was the balcony. It was huge and contained only 2 ordinary chairs - like you might find in a works canteen and a small table measuring about 15 inches square. This was on a balcony measuring about 8 feet by 9 feet. Therefore most of the balcony was a waste of space. The balcony cabins on the ship are tiered and therefore if we sat at the front of ours, people in cabins above could see us and also we could see those on the deck below us. It was also easy to overhear conversations taking place on balconies around us. So it wasn't very private. The "bathroom" was very small. We were happy with just a shower but this wasn't overly large either!! However, hot water was in abundance - full marks for this. Senim, our cabin steward kept the place spotless throughout the entire voyage. There was ample hanging and storage space. We were supposed to leave at 20.00 but an announcement told us that some people had yet to leave the ship for the UK as their flight had been delayed and so our revised sailing time was given as 23.30. We all attended the compulsory lifeboat muster but really no one knew if everyone from cabins had attended as no one took our name or cabin number on arrival at the muster station. I thought this was all a bit casual. We had something to eat in the Waterside buffet restaurant which was nice and then our cases arrived at the cabin so it was unpacking and an early night. Our first day was a sea day on the way to Antigua. This was our first encounter with the dreaded sunbed saga. As we were towards the aft of the ship we preferred to sit on deck somewhere in that vicinity. We soon found that space was at a premium and that sunbeds were so tightly packed that it would have been difficult to actually sit on one unless you climbed onto it from the front. This then meant that you were literally cheek by jowl with the person on the next bed to you. We identified an area with a little more space on deck 19 but when we tried to get up there we found our way blocked by locked doors and gates, passages which led nowhere and a lift which went to that floor but when you got out of it you could not get through the door onto the deck. Eventually this deck opened and there was a scramble for beds in that area. It turned out that deck 19 was the Cirque Ventura area where there had been bungee jumping etc and also they had 3 big trampolines. However, all that was left was the trampolines - the rest of the "cirque" had been demolished and was being given over to sunbeds. To be honest, for the number of times the trampolines were used during the trip, they could easily get rid of that as well to free up more space for people to sit. We can endorse everything others have said about the sunbed situation on this ship. You had to be up at 08.00 to get a bed with some room around it. On Christmas Day all the beds were taken at the Terrace Pool by 07.15. Everyone knew there was a no towels rule for reserving sunbeds but to be honest, you had to ignore it otherwise you would not have been able to find anywhere to sit. The first evening was the Captain's welcome party but all that happened was that he came and spoke to the assembled guests and then left. There was no moving around in the cocktail party sense like we have had before on Arcadia and the QE2. Our next port of call was Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands on Christmas Eve. Lots of people were looking forward to this and we had booked a snorkeling trip. However, on arrival, we were informed by the Captain that it was too windy to take the ship alongside the quay and therefore this visit was cancelled. There was a lot of disappointment. We got our money back for the cancelled trip but somehow we were not satisfied and somewhat suspicious as to why the ship did not berth at Grand Turk. However we were in no position to question the Captain's judgment. Christmas Day was a sea day and the following day we moored off Catalina Island, an island owned apparently by P&O. It is situated just off the south east corner of the Dominican Republic. The ship moored with an anchor and a cable from the stern to a mooring dolphin. Passengers were ferried to the island's beach by tender. We decided to remain on board and I was on deck 19 when I heard a loud bang. On looking out over the rail, there was nothing to see but all of a sudden, the mooring dolphin "exploded" with a pall of smoke and the cable to the ship tore apart and whipped back to the dolphin. The ship then began to drift away from the island. A bit scary but things were soon in hand. Given that the call at Grand Turk was cancelled due to the weather, we did not see a great deal of improvement in the weather and sea state at Catalina Island. Indeed, some passengers were left bobbing around for 45 minutes in tenders on the return journey to the ship and many were not happy. The following day we were due in Tortola, BVI. We were looking forward to this, not having been there before. We took on the pilot and then there was an announcement that the ship would not be calling there after all due to the weather so we continued on to St Kitts. By this time, passengers were not at all happy. The next day we were due at St Kitts and having arrived and almost berthed, the Captain announced that we would not be calling there after all due to the weather. A near mutiny was evident!!! We were told that the ship instead would go straight to St Lucia, arriving there late afternoon. Again, we could not see any difference in the sea state between Catalina Island and St Kitts harbor - if anything, St Kitts was a lot calmer. We were told that the winds we had experienced were unusual. However, this is just not true. There is a period of what the locals call "Christmas Winds" which affect mainly the northern islands and are not infrequent at this time of the year. The question we and a lot of others were asking was why these ports were put on the itinerary if Ventura could not berth in those conditions. Of course the Captain has the last word but P&O are responsible for putting together the itinerary and they should see that it is suitable for the ship they are using. We do know that other ships berthed at these ports. The fact is that Ventura is simply too big and unwieldy to put in at some of the smaller more exposed islands. We managed to call at all the remaining ports on the itinerary - St Lucia, St Vincent, Dominica and St Maarten. We went on organized trips in St Lucia and Dominica and felt that they were good value for money. We had opted for freedom dining. We found this worked well as we preferred to dine around 19.00 which was perhaps earlier than a lot of people. We ate in East once which was very nice and in Whites twice, including Christmas Day evening meal. Very good. The food in the main freedom dining restaurant, the Cinnamon was generally good although some steaks were a bit tough. The service was good and pleasant - better we thought than on the Arcadia. We didn't drink in all the bars but we did like the Metropolis which has a great moving mural of a city scape at night - it changes each evening ie Sydney, London, Hong Kong etc. We felt that some of the other bars were a bit public - like drinking in a corridor. We are not great people for shows but those who did go to them came away with mixed reviews. To be honest, the star performer was held out as Scott Bruton who had made the final 12 in the X Factor. We thought he was poor on that programme so this was not a great draw for us. Some people were disgusted with the comedian. In all we felt the range of entertainment in the evenings was pretty boring. The ship could do with a a good triad jazz band performing in the pub or in the Tamarind Club to get people up and dancing. On one evening in the Tamarind, the dance band struck up and played for about 30 minutes and then when people were just getting in the mood for a dance, they stopped playing and we were invited to play Mr and Mrs!!!!! The best entertainment of the whole trip was the New Year's Eve party on deck at the Laguna Pool. Excellent DJ, excellent music, excellent atmosphere. I think that people had had so many disappointments with the cancelled ports that they were determined to have a good time!! The Great British Sailaway from St Maarten was also good fun. The ship was tastefully decorated with Christmas trees etc and generally people dressed up in the evenings even when it was smart casual. There were 3,000 passengers including several hundred children. The children never bothered us and I think that the facilities for them on the ship are very good. We were not disturbed with any rowdy behavior but we did hear that 2 people had been "arrested" for violence and that one had been taken off the ship at St Vincent. Overall, we made the best of things and enjoyed the trip and we had really good weather. Would we go on Ventura again? No. And there were a lot of people saying the same. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Pre-cruise: We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in San Pedro for one night pre-cruise. The Crowne Plaza is about a 20-25 minute ride from the Long Beach airport, but the hotel doesn't offer an airport shuttle. However, we had reserved ... Read More
Pre-cruise: We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in San Pedro for one night pre-cruise. The Crowne Plaza is about a 20-25 minute ride from the Long Beach airport, but the hotel doesn't offer an airport shuttle. However, we had reserved space on-line in advance for the four of us with Prime Time Shuttle service for $42 total. The shuttle was ready and waiting when we arrived! The Crowne Plaza itself is a very popular pre-cruise hotel. Though we arrived to the hotel at 11 a.m., and check-in was not until 3 p.m., our two rooms were ready for us. The concierge was the highlight of our stay, welcoming us warmly upon arrival and promptly giving me his business card and offering up his area recommendations (which I did use). After unpacking and quickly settling in, the concierge arranged a driver for us who would first take us to In-N-Out Burger, wait while we nibbled, take us to the Queen Mary back in Long Beach, then pick us up at the end of the day and drive us back to the Crowne Plaza in San Pedro. He promptly offered a driver who would do all of this for $65 total. What a bargain! With tip, we ended up paying $80 (or $20 per person) for this service. The Queen Mary tour is something I highly recommend for anyone interested in ghost stories or the paranormal. While the ship itself really has not been well-maintained, i.e. stained carpets, mildew smell in certain areas, paint chipped from walls, scrapes and marks on walls, and a basic look of a once-beautiful ship just kept for tours, it does offer a fun and engaging look at the ghosts and legends that make up her history. We opted for the "Haunted Encounters Passport" which entitled us to the self-guided tour (beware that if you are not good with directions, your feet will become weary from losing your way in the bowels of the ship), the "Ghosts and Legends" tour and the "Haunted Encounters" tour for a cost of $27.95 per person. The fee was well worth the tours of areas not open to the public for general browsing, as we were exposed to a doorway where a crew member had been crushed and has been known to still visit the space, the boiler room where a young girl's spirit visits on occasion, and various cabins where passengers had died - and have "come back to life" - over the course of Queen Mary's life on the seas. Dedicate 3-4 hours to ensure you have time to join in the guided tours as they do fill up fast! Once back to the Crowne Plaza, we asked the concierge for a good recommendation for dinner. He made no hesitation in recommending Raffaello's Ristorante in San Pedro. The valet drove us in a complimentary hotel van to dinner, where we were promptly seated simply by mentioning the name of our concierge (though we had no reservations and the place was packed!). The Italian food was very, very good with the mozzarella sticks being the table favorite! They really weren't "sticks" per se - they were really more like flattened pieces of cheese that had been lightly breaded and baked, and swimming in a very good marinara sauce. None of us finished our huge meals, probably because the chef sent us a couple of appetizers "on the house". After the meal, we ventured back to the Crowne Plaza, only a 4 block walk. The morning of disembarkation, we leisurely made our way to the lobby where we caught the Crowne Plaza's free cruise shuttle just before noon (the shuttle actually begins at 10:30 a.m.) and arrived to the port by 12:05 p.m. As easy as pie. Embarkation: Upon arrival, porters collected our luggage and we made our way through the check-in process. The check-in line was about 25-30 people deep, but moved swiftly. We were at the check-in counter within 10 minutes, proceeded through security, posed for our Welcome Aboard photographs, and stepped onto the ship by 12:45 p.m. Cabin: We booked an Inside cabin (#4461), midship, Category K, just down the hall from the Champagne Bar. The great thing about the location of this cabin was that it is located in a corridor as opposed to a main hallway. The result is absolute quietness from passersby, though we did hear the occasional footsteps from those above us in the casino. The size of the cabin was much larger than we were expecting, providing ample storage and closet space with a mini couch to sit and lounge without feeling cramped or claustrophobic. Be warned though that there was no mini fridge in this cabin. While not a big deal, it was a surprise. To see a tour of this cabin, click this link or copy and paste it into your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHOpnIHBIbU The Ship: Royal Caribbean really knows how to create a flow-positive ship that promotes ease of progression from one space to the next. Vision of the Seas is no exception. From the beautiful Centrum, to the public spaces such as the Schooner Bar, the Champagne Lounge, or the adults-only Solarium, Vision was filled with many spaces for simple relaxation - and that is exactly what we did. With three sea days, we found ourselves first exploring the nooks and crannies of the ship, then settling in to comfy lounge chairs from 10 a.m. until about 6 p.m. each night on Days 6 and 7, only taking breaks for a zip through the Windjammer Buffet, the Solarium Cafe, the hot tub or the restroom. The ship really lends itself to rest and relaxation, but also offers the fun stand-bys such as the Sexy Legs Contest and the Belly Flop Contest. Even in 65 degrees and an overcast sky, men will still dawn their hairy bellies and fall straight into the pool in order to win a ribbon. Being that this was a New Year's cruise embarking on December 28th, many holiday decorations adorned the Centrum, the hallways, and most public spaces. An elaborate gingerbread neighborhood filled the lower Centrum area in front of the waterfall, and Hanukkah banners hung from the upper decks. By Day 4, many of the decorations were removed in favor of New Year's decorations. New Year's was celebrated with a variety of entertainment options throughout the ship. We chose to ring in the New Year on the pool deck, alongside other partiers enjoying complimentary champagne and dancing to the sounds of Heat Wave, the ship's own calypso band who played Bob Marley tunes most of the night. Just before midnight, a countdown erupted and at the moment the clock turned to 2009, the captain blew the ship's horn for all to enjoy. It was truly a fun and party-like atmosphere that reminded me of the reason we wanted to be at sea to welcome 2009 - no need for a designated driver! Food: I must say that the food was the most disappointing aspect of this cruise. While I do not expect 5-star dining, I do expect flavorful food each evening in the Main Dining Room. The first two evenings, the four of us independently chose menu options that looked appealing based on the description. By the third evening, we were asking our fabulous Head Waiter - Rudolpho - what he did NOT recommend on the menu, as it appeared we were just making the wrong choices. No matter what we ordered from evening to evening, we were disappointed in bland-tasting food. The only love we truly had was for the garlic shrimp, the lobster, and the chicken with herbs. None of the pasta dishes were cooked correctly, the Asian tofu was extremely bland, the prime rib was overcooked and tough, and the Indian paneer was tasteless. We are all lovers of food, and not overly picky (though I'm a vegetarian, so I rely on the palates of my cruise mates for additional feedback) so it felt really unusual for all four of us to be so disappointed in the food. Vision of the Seas offers a few good options in the Solarium Cafe - Caesar salad, club sandwich, roast beef on focaccia, pizza options, whole fruit and fruit salad, hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries. Being a lover of pizza, my husband rates Vision's pizza somewhere between Sapphire Princess' and Carnival's (really just cheese on an English muffin). Additionally, soft serve ice cream can be had at the main pool deck, but it seemed as if they were running out of vanilla early on most days. Cafe Lattetudes offers a coffee card where you get a punch for each specialty coffee purchase, and after seven purchases, you receive one free specialty coffee. Additionally, as on many Royal Caribbean ships, with each specialty coffee purchase, you receive your choice of one of any of the pastries in the case. I had earned my free coffee by Day 5 and was still living the coffee high beyond that day. Next to Cafe Lattetudes is Ben & Jerry's offering a delectable array of milkshakes, sundaes, and simple scoops for a premium price. My husband highly recommends the Phish Food Milkshake for lovers of that dessert genre. Entertainment: We are not connoisseurs of big production shows and lean toward comedians, hypnotists, and magicians. We went to see Darrell Joyce, performing his late-night adult comedy, and wow was he funny! His story-telling could relate to most of the audience as he makes fun of everyday life experiences in a hilarious and "adult" context. The other comedian was good and the ventriloquist was a lot of fun. Due to a scheduling conflict we didn't see the magician, but we did see his assistant dress up as a call-girl on formal night. While my husband and I did not watch any, the selection of movies was pretty good: Wall-E, Indiana Jones, Get Smart, Batman and others. However, our friends said that the projector couldn't handle the compression rate of the movie, and the action sequences were very choppy. If you wanted to watch one of the movies in your cabin, you could do so in Spanish, French, German, or Italian, but not English. Ports of Call: Cabo San Lucas - We took a cab to Medano Beach and asked to be dropped off at Mango Deck, a bar/restaurant with service right there on the beach. Our early arrival to this port gave us the opportunity to find a good spot under a palapa with four chairs for our lounging. In no time at all, the loud thumping of music and obnoxious voice over a microphone was inviting beach-goers to drop trough for a shot of tequila, drop bathing suit tops for a shot of tequila, change bathing suit bottoms with the opposite sex for a shot of tequila, dance in a conga line for a shot of tequila, anything remotely embarrassing for a shot of tequila. And after joining the conga line, my husband found out that it was tequila and fruit punch. We quickly felt like we were in the middle of Spring Break festivities though it was late December and there were families with children present, alongside those aged 20-50. While we found this type of entertainment to be humorous, we didn't plan on such a loud and party-like atmosphere, and anyone with children should be warned about the profanity shouted repeatedly over the microphone. I am a former party girl myself, but this was over the top, and now being over 40, I guess I sound more like a grandparent than a fun-loving adult. Nevertheless, know what you're getting into, and if it's not for you, head next door to Billygan's where you get to enjoy Medano Beach without walking on the wild side. From Medano Beach, we cabbed over to Cabo Wabo to check out all the fuss about Sammy Hagar's nightclub. The club itself was extremely quiet, as it was only about 3 p.m. Only a few diners were nibbling on appetizers and drinking, and it was clear that the place runs on name alone. Service was shoddy with waiters hard to come by, and the food was overpriced. Don't plan on a free soda refill as you will be charged for each soda you order. The nightclub portion of Cabo Wabo is full of photographs of Sammy with various other musicians over the years ranging from Tommy Lee, Kid Rock, Van Halen, Iggy Pop and many others. I can easily see why this small venue would be ideal or even GREAT for a concert, but not for a remotely good dining experience. Visit it once, maybe take in a late-night gig, but don't expect much during the day. Mazatlan - We grabbed a cab from the pier and asked to be driven to Hotel Playa Mazatlan in the Golden Zone. Our plan was to again just lounge in the sun under a palapa and eat, drink, and cool off in the water all day. Our cab driver started driving us toward the Golden Zone, but passed the hotel and said he needed to turn around. When we arrived to our "destination", or so we thought, we found he had taken us to Diamonds International. We knew the drill at that point and simply walked straight through the building, making no eye contact, and out the other side about a half block from our true destination. We made it to the sand, but had to walk the equivalent of about two more blocks before we found any palapas or lounge chairs or beach service. We ultimately landed at Los Sabalos which is located at Hotel Sabalos, now part of the Ramada chain. The food here was the best! The drinks were strong, the guacamole was fresh, the tacos were flavorful, and the quesadillas were plentiful. The beach service started at 1 p.m. so we spent the first two hours just sunning our Pacific Northwest bodies until we could order some food and beverage. Once we did, we had wished we could place "to go" orders and show the Chef in the Main Dining Room on Vision some great examples of excellent food. I highly recommend this beach, and will return here next time we are in Mazatlan. Puerto Vallarta - We grabbed a taxi and headed to Los Muertos beach and the area next to Blue Chairs, now called Blue Seas. The restaurant adjacent to this area of the beach has changed ownership and unfortunately the food was simply awful. Our love of this beach day was the comfort of the chairs here. Look for the beige umbrellas and the mesh-like lounge chairs. Not only were the chairs ultra comfortable, but because they were made of mesh, the sand from your body would just fall through the ground rather than sticking to your skin. This is the best beach in Puerto Vallarta for people-watching, so if you'd like to relax with a good book, cool off in relatively warm water, and do it all over again and again and again with a diverse crowd, this is the beach for you! Disembarkation: Following two sea days at the end of the itinerary, we landed on disembarkation day. We opted for self disembarkation since our flight from Long Beach to Seattle was scheduled to leave at 11 a.m. Royal Caribbean has a new self disembark policy which enables all passengers (who are walking off the ship with their own luggage) to meet in the Centrum, Deck 4, at 7:15 a.m. and simply walk off the ship. The Centrum itself became tightly packed with virtually no where to stand, and disembarkation began about 10 minutes later than scheduled. After a halting of the process after about 20 passengers were allowed to disembark, Customs boarded the ship and had some conversations with crew that delayed us about another 10 minutes. Finally, we were able to disembark at close to 7:45 a.m. and were quickly off the ship and grabbed a waiting van. The sign next to the cab line indicated that the fare from the pier to Long Beach airport was a flat $45. When we arrived to the airport, the cab driver tried to charge us $48 and told us the $45 was just an "estimate". "No way" I said, and we gave him $50 allowing him to decide if his tip would be $5 or $2. We were nearly three hours early for our flight and headed home to snowy Seattle. In Summary: While this ship was smaller than other ships we have enjoyed sailing in the past, Vision of the Sea's layout, the hospitality of the staff, the ease of traffic flow from forward to aft, and the beauty of the ship itself, lead me to recommend this ship for short or long itineraries where relaxing is your number one goal. Get out there and enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click