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2,163 Holiday Cruise Reviews

Review of the December, 12, 2011 sailing on The Majesty of the Seas from Miami. The Majesty of the Seas is my favorite. A small ship, I think, feels more like classic cruising. Better service results from a better crew to passenger ... Read More
Review of the December, 12, 2011 sailing on The Majesty of the Seas from Miami. The Majesty of the Seas is my favorite. A small ship, I think, feels more like classic cruising. Better service results from a better crew to passenger ratio. Less time in lines to get on or off, and far fewer lines on board. This was my forth cruise on Majesty. The last one was a year and a week before, so I got to see a year of differences. The ship is looking a bit more worn. While I understand that the Majesty is scheduled for dry dock, most of things I saw were just a simple lack of general maintenance. More things were broken and left that way. For example: Water jets in the hot tubs. Only the bubbles worked. Major dents from a tender. More rust showing in many places. Many lights around the ship were out, including the pool deck. Most of the windows were dirty. My cabin window was foggy from salt build up on the outside. Leaking fire hose connections Broken elevator buttons Don't get me wrong, I do think that she's in good shape for her age. I think most of the issues in dry dock will be to update the styles. Not my area of expertise, but the 1990's chrome look is dated I guess. Just a thought for future designs, a choice of classic design will need less updating over the ship's life. With no new ships on the way, I have to think RCL will keep her going for at least a few more years. When she must be retired, I hope you will bring another smaller ship to Miami. The biggest omission is closing both of the hot tubs at 11 PM. When the ship is refurbished, I understand that they can not put in any new ones. That's a real shame. But please make the two huge to compensate. And there is NO technical reason that they need to be closed at the same time. Each should be totally independent. As crowded as the Majesty hot tubs are you have to realize you need more space and more hours. The pools are ice cold. When people from Chicago say they're too cold, you KNOW they're too cold. And the highs were in the 80s so we can't blame the weather. There are huge amounts of free heat available from the engine room. USE IT to heat at least one of the pools. And throwing the ice sculptures in the pool just adds insult to injury (and also looks lazy). I hope for the day that all smoking is banned from all ships. But in the meantime, cigars on the pool deck this time were bad. I was smelling some 100 feet away while at dock. I don't know where you can put them, but the pool deck isn't working. I brag that the service is better on the smaller ships. This cruise was no exception. Dining room, cabin, all excellent service. My cabin was spotless twice a day. One problem with a clogged shower drain was fixed quickly. Entertainment was down a notch this time. The dancers a year ago, especially Pete and Nicolas, had a lot more spirit. They were dancing around when talking to passengers even when they weren't officially 'on'. This year it was like they were waiting for a signal to entertain, then they danced. Then they left the party. They were friendly, but not the usual outgoing ice breaking party starters I've seen before. Last year it really felt like they enjoyed making us enjoy the cruise. This year it was just part of the job. I got the impression this was the second string. Again, not bad, but not as good as before. No one grabbed my attention this year enough to point them out. About the music. I totally understand that the pool area is made for the Caribbean music. But after a couple days, I've had more than enough Bob Marley. Please let some of the other bands play at the pool. The rock and latin bands were quite good but I only got to hear them in passing. Let them have a few hours at the pool. Bar service at the pool in the evening was lacking. I would have been happy to have another beer, but no one came around for hours. If the bar is open, why not have someone walking around to take bar orders? Thanks for the second ice cream machine. You have a hit here. Make it your own. Try getting blue cones with a logo. In the quantity you use, it should be practical. About the refurb coming up. There's what seems to be a lot of wasted space on 12 above the Windjammer. I get the impression that the priority on the last refurb was to add space to the Windjammer but the space above was just defaulted to be more tanning area. Think about doing an adults only section here with a bar and hot tub. Add some shade. This space would give an alternative to the noise of the pool area. On food, Windjammer was good, as usual. One suggestion, leave some yogurt out at all meals, along with the fruit. Many of us eat a little in the evening as a healthy alternative to desert. For the dinners in the dining room, all was good, except the NY Strip Steak. It was dry and tasted like it had been under heat lights for hours. I understand that when serving that many people at once there's no way to serve fresh off the grill, but this time it was worse than I remember it last year. And last year it was pretty bad too. You might want to omit NY Strip from the menu. The sliced steak was good, just too fatty. But I asked for more and I got it quickly, so no complaints there. The best meal was the lamb shank. A classic done very well. Our early arrival at Key West and the resulting REPEATED announcements to come to Immigration check ruined my day. I was up late the night before and this was just too early. When I got back and tried to get back to sleep, the announcements just continued. When you have to do something like this, use technology. When someone hasn't come, use an automated phone system to call the cabins. Once everyone in the cabin has checked in, stop calling that cabin. Let the rest of us sleep. Of course, where people are already awake, like the public areas, you can continue to announce. I'm sure you have heard it before. The two ports of call are backwards. Key West is a nighttime town. That's where we should have stayed until midnight. Nassau at midnight just seems like killing time in a cheap parking space. The dock we are at in Key West does not block Malory Square's view of sunset, so I don't think that's the excuse. Please consider making Key West the first night of the 4 night. Then Immigration and Customs are back to being the same time, in Miami, when we all have to be awake anyway. Again, overall, a good cruise. I will be back aboard the Majesty. But I think I will need to wait until the dry dock before scheduling my next one. I hope it will also return some of the spirit that was missing on this cruise. Thanks Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We arrived in SJU on Saturday and we were booked into 2 hotels due to issues. Caribe Hilton and the El San Juan. We are dinner at a Tapanyaki restaurant at the El San Juan. Better restaurants in the El San Juan vs Caribe. Arrived ... Read More
We arrived in SJU on Saturday and we were booked into 2 hotels due to issues. Caribe Hilton and the El San Juan. We are dinner at a Tapanyaki restaurant at the El San Juan. Better restaurants in the El San Juan vs Caribe. Arrived around 12:30 and dropped off luggage. Was told it would be there in 2 hours. It arrived in 3 and we were able to unpack prior to the life boat drill. Other family didn't get their suitcases until 8pm. I am not sure if it was because we were on deck 2 vs. deck 7. Embarkation was long. I stood in the line for priority "Diamond/Emerald" status. The person put you in other lines. I stood in a line with 2 people in front of me. The person checking in must not have had correct paperwork or something since it took forever. Nor do I think she had priority status. I felt you were just put in a line. The other family had 2 separate check ins and finished before the person in front of me got to the desk. I made a comment and was told the ship didn't sail till 8. I said yes I know that but our group had checked in and we wanted to do a group picture which didn't happen. It took me about 25-30 min to check in. Lifeboat drill went on without a hitch. We had early seating dinner. When we got on board we saw our party was on 2 different levels for seating at 2 tables. We went immediately to the main dining room to get it changed. We were put at a table that was crowded. Our head waiter saw the issue and I walked up to him and explained. The next night he moved us to another table where we had more room. Rooms: they were set up as a couple. My sister had 3 in a room and needed the beds separated and the other pulled down. Our connecting door wasn't open. My cabin had the beds together also but my niece and I kept them together. My sister said they should know know how to set the rooms by the reservation. Isn't someone checking this out? Photography - Photography was bad. Pictures were not centered and they charged the same amount for a 5x7 as a 8x10. Photographer came around the table each night and after 10 cruises we didn't want singles. He made a remark which I didn't find amusing. My BIL asked how his day was and then was told this long dissertation about how he bartended the crews party and got in a fight with someone and only had 3 hours of sleep and on and on. Totally uncalled for. When we got off the ship they pounce on you to take a picture. I wasn't feeling well and told them but they just don't listen. Also they had a sailors cap they were putting on people. My niece who is a germaphobe said that grossed her out. Pictures of the last dressy night were not put up until 2nd seating the night before we were leaving. My niece asked about 5x7 instead of 8x10 picture of her and her sister. She was told no and bought it and then her Mom told her yes they can do it. My other sister bought a table photo and had extra copies made. She was told it would be ready at 11. My niece went down at 10:45 and the workers had no clue. She came to the room about 11:30 with no pictures. Nothing was ready. She said people were yelling where are my pictures and wanting refunds. People were cutting in line and the workers did nothing to say please go to the end of the line. Announcements - We were usually at breakfast by 7:45. Towards the end of the trip did we hear the Captain say "good morning" etc like they have in the past on other ships or the same ship. Was disappointed. No announcements of BINGO BINGO BINGO taking place. They had mixing drinks and some other thing going on the deck when we were at sea. They said there is cha cha lessons inside but felt they would have had a bigger crowd if they did it by the pool. People will always come up. The last 2 years I bought the "Make A Wish" tee shirts. This year they had it up and no one knew it was going on. I didn't even think they did the walk around the deck. No announcements were made saying come and get your tee shirts. Entertainment - Trivia was either at 5 or 8. We could never do the 5 since we had dinner at 6. Felt there wasn't stuff to do after 8. Everything happened after 10 which we didn't stay up for. They had Suduko at 10:30 most days but we were already at the beach. Unexpected Boys were great. We did the welcome show to see the comedian which started at 10:15. By 10:50 he still wasn't on so we got up and left. Cruise Director was annoying and not funny at all. Same jokes just different lines by him. Saw "El Gaucho" before so had no desire to see that act again. I heard the female comedian was good but didn't go to the show. Onboard Shopping: As a retail person this needs help. So much potential could be had. My niece said they should have a "candy" store where you can buy candy etc. Book selection on the ship was terrible if you wanted to buy a book. Suites seating on deck: Someone pointed out whey don't they have cushions on their chairs? Why isn't there seating for Diamond/Diamond Plus and above on the ship. We had seats early that morning but the ship didn't seem very crowded. Johnny Rockets - totally disappointed. We got there about 12:15 and by 1:20 still didn't have food. It took half and hour to get our shakes. We had 3 people who were getting massages at 2 and had to leave without food due to how late it was. I guess a cook and the milkshake maker didn't show up. The manager came by and apologized that no one told us what was going on. We were credited the amount. The ranch dressing that is served with the fries was so watered down. It looked like which water and totally unappetizing. Windjammer - people were friendly. Our asst waiter took our egg order daily. We said it would be nice to have a ice cream machine in the windjammer closer to the cookies. No one wants to walk completely outside to get it especially when you are sitting all the way in the back of the WJ. Was nice when waiters asked what beverage could they get you. Dining Room - Our waiter - Joseph and our Asst Waiter Paola were great. We kept asking to get more bread from Paola. Bar Staff - the girls in the Champagne bar are awesome. We were up there every night before dinner. They knew us by name and were extremely friendly. The young man in the Casino bar was also very friendly and had a good time there after dinner. Debarkation - we went to deck 4 for the priority departure for Diamond/Emerald. We were told at 8:15 we would be leaving in 5 min. That was more like 15. No issues getting off but we had trouble finding our luggage for neon green #39 and #69. Caught a private bus to the Caribe where we had a day rate room till we left for our late afternoon flight. Instead of going to Dominica it would have been nice to be overnight in St. Maarten. Also we were told they were not getting a refund when the price dropped on cabins. We did get a ship credit last year. We decided not to book our Annual cruise on the ship for next year and will wait to get the lower prices. We don't like the itinerary for the Adventure. We heard the ship is going in for overhaul in 2014. It can't come soon enough. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I like to start out with the Pro's of this cruise: Expensive ticket price but caught a good sale so I liked the price I paid. They also gave us VIP check in because my husband is Active Duty Military. Overall great food but the dining ... Read More
I like to start out with the Pro's of this cruise: Expensive ticket price but caught a good sale so I liked the price I paid. They also gave us VIP check in because my husband is Active Duty Military. Overall great food but the dining room had better dining than buffet style. The entire dining staff, stateroom attendants and bartenders were amazing! Fairly smooth sailing. They also had a great holiday show. Cons: FIRST when I called to inquire if the online ship map was to scale the person from NCL lied. Deck 10 room 0106 is in fact the smallest style room (2.5' x10' less). So for the same price I was guided in to picking the smaller of the two room choices. I verified with my neighbors during the cruise of the sizes vs my initial options. SECOND the entire cruise experience seemed confused and not so organized. I called guest services 6 times during the 3 day cruise, of that 4 times during the day it FLAT OUT was never answered (ohh and I waited while it rang)! I had to go down to the guest services desk which was NOT at all busy. The entire upper level staff was curt and would constantly cut you off to answer the question they think you were asking. Several times I received contradictory information when asking questions because the initial answers did not pan out. THIRD our stateroom smelt like mildew BIG time. It was mainly the bathroom but the smell hit us when we walked in. When we got home MOST of our clothes WREAKED! Every single thing in my luggage (unpacked on the ship or not) wreaked when we got off the ship. Because the closet was right across from the bathroom we all smelt pretty bad on the drive home. Ironically my swim top smelt like chlorine inside the zip lock bag...lol I didn't notice my clothes smelled in the room but when we left the ship on the third day WOW my shirt was eeewww mildew smelly! FOURTH, I realized quickly that some things were discouraged on NCL Sky that is advertised as available. For example I did not receive a menu for room service (not the only one), nor did I receive one after telling guest services that I did not have one and wanted to see the menu. They said I have to call, they will tell me, when I did they said call back (NEVER ordered room service). Our parents had a menu in their room. Another example is carrying your own luggage off the ship. We did not fly so we could easily carry our three bags off, but were constantly told we HAD to check luggage off ship yet in the newsletter it stated it was optional but vaguely worded. Finally second attempt trying to reach guest services at 7pm they said it was optional and that we may actually carry our bags off. It sure didn't seem that way with the constant barrage of people reminding us we HAD to. FIFTH, we booked a shore excursion to tour forts and a museum. It was severely rushed to say the least but liked the tour. We also booked the hippo water slide (FUN!) but they shut it down nearly 2 hours early! So total waste of money. SIXTH con, we found a big roach in our stateroom. Sadly we had never brought food in the room and this last night I had just brought back a fruit plate, needless to say no so hungry after hunting down a cockroach. Perhaps this is why they discourage room service. I have been on another cruise and ordered constant food, never seeing a roach, big time EEEEwwww NCL! NEVER AGAIN, If I were a first time cruiser I would honestly never cruise again period. Since I am not, it will cruise again... just not be with NCL. Overall not worth what they charge. Thank goodness for Royal Caribbean! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My overall rating for Viking is a 95 out of 100 but with no other river cruise to compare it too. That being said we were fairly worried about the water levels on the Danube prior to out departure of this trip. We departed from Orlando ... Read More
My overall rating for Viking is a 95 out of 100 but with no other river cruise to compare it too. That being said we were fairly worried about the water levels on the Danube prior to out departure of this trip. We departed from Orlando on Dec 16Th with air booked through Viking Air. Although we took the scenic route from OIA to Detroit to Amsterdam to Budapest. All went well and all of our connections went as planed. We arrived in Budapest airport and were greeted by Viking Prestige staff after retrieving our luggage and were loaded on buses to the ship. We were greeted on the ship with an abbreviated buffet lunch and were allowed to our room (123) one hour prior then stated @ 2:00 PM. Our room was new and modern as compared with any ocean cruise that we had taken. We were on the bottom deck (the cheep seats) but the only difference was the size of the window compared with any other rooms with the exception of the suites. Food was generally very good with the exception of a couple of meals that we didn't prefer and we ordered the optional ( standard) steak which was a very good option. Salad dressings were watered down and could use improving but the baked goods and breads were very good. The crew was very good and service was for the most part exceptional. Our cabin steward was great and we did not have to ask for anything in the entire 11 days on the ship. The cruise director was fantastic and very entertaining. All cruise activities were well organized although limited as compared to ocean cruising. The tours that were included were very good and the tour guides that were used were very informative and professional. We had a couple of guides that I would say were exceptional. The one optional tour we took was the Mozart Strauss Concert and I did not think it was a good value for the money! We thought it was to take place at a "Theater" with real acoustics etc. but it was not. Others that I talked to were disappointed with this tour as well! The weather on the cruise was as expected during the winter months and the Christmas markets were very nice but we are not big shoppers. The food and wine at the markets were the highlight for me.Of course during Christmas day and eve, the markets and shops were either closed or closed early. We met many wonderful people on the ship and found this type of cruising very intimate and a great way to meet new friends. Water levels were very low prior to leaving on our trip and towards the end of our trip our ship was having difficulty getting under some bridges do to high water levels( go Figure)! Obviously water levels change very quickly on the Danube. We also went through many "Locks" which was very interesting and different! Our return trip home was from Nuremberg Germany to Paris to Atlanta to Orlando. Although very long we had no problems and all our connections went smoothly and with no loss of luggage. This was a very good trip and I would highly recommend river cruising and I would highly recommend Viking. Happy Sailing, Frank & Lynn Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Where do I start, there isn't enough space here to fill in all of the fantastic highlights of our Cruise on Allure of The Seas. We were a little apprehensive about what a cruise would entail but trusted our friends who have cruised ... Read More
Where do I start, there isn't enough space here to fill in all of the fantastic highlights of our Cruise on Allure of The Seas. We were a little apprehensive about what a cruise would entail but trusted our friends who have cruised with Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean before. From the start we were well at ease with the efficient and friendly check in and boarding process. We made the mistake of trying to check-in online on the day of departure but this facility was only available up to 3 days prior to departure but not day of departure. Once aboard we were amazed by the sheer size of the ship, the brochure and web site do not do it justice. You have to see it to believe it. We quickly found our state room which was conveniently located on Deck 7 Aft. Deck 7 was convenient in that a lot of activities we were interested in were on Deck 5 and Deck 6 and it was easy to walk up and down the stair cases. We soon found out that the lifts were very busy, particularly at peak times like breakfast, lunch and dinner and that you often had to wait 5 or more minutes to catch a lift go to higher floors. Highlights of the cruise for us were dining & bars, boardwalk, shows and fitness facility. Dining & bars: Adagio dining room which provided 5+ star meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner and a fantastic waiter and assistant waiter who went above and beyond to make our dining experience so special. The food was exquisite and couldn't be faulted. Our travel companions stated the meals were the best they had ever experienced cruising. We also enjoyed 150 Central Park (excellent fine dining) and Chops Grille (excellent steaks). Boardwalk: Shopping, snacks, pizza, music, coffee, cupcakes, champagne what more could you want and more. Shows: Chicago, Ice Games, Aqua Theatre, live comics, Blue Planet to name a few, don't miss them. Book online and book early, some of the shows were booked out 3 weeks prior to our departure which means waiting outside the show for 30+ minutes prior in the hope of getting a seat due to a no-show! Fitness: The gym facility was fantastic with a superior range of fitness equipment and classes. There is also a running track that is very nice as you can see the water whilst jogging or walking. You better head to the gym for a workout each day so you can enjoy the dessert guilt free. Some final tips to ensure you have a great cruise, make sure you do some online research before you go, it will make things much easier. Join the Crown & Anchor Society, there are many free benefits that come with being a member. If you enjoy some of the day spa services these are very good but staff will pressure you intensely to buy beauty products which are very expensive. As stated the variety of shows are excellent, book early (before you cruise) and make sure you check daily cruise planner in your room for extra events going on during the day & night, there are so many things going on you will never be bored. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Our 3rd Celebrity Cruise and 2nd time on the Solstice. Flew in the night before. Boarding was on time, rapid and painless. Excellent cabin on the hump with a very large balcony. Great, efficient service by our room steward throughout the ... Read More
Our 3rd Celebrity Cruise and 2nd time on the Solstice. Flew in the night before. Boarding was on time, rapid and painless. Excellent cabin on the hump with a very large balcony. Great, efficient service by our room steward throughout the cruise. Ate in the MDR on all nights in the late seating. Again, great service by our waiter and assistant waiter with professional and efficient service. Food quality varied with some great dishes and some just average. Many more young children on board, almost certainly because it was a holiday cruise. The cruise line never enforced the adults only rule for one of the outdoor pools so we generally stayed in the covered pool area which was quiet. Got to meet the new ship's master, Captain Gerry, during a sail away bridge tour offered during this cruise for $75.00. Captain Gerry had joined the ship this cruise, but has been Master of several other S class ships. For the bridge tour about 20 of us came on the bridge before sail away from St. Maarten, got to watch the Master brief the officers and then got to watch the Staff Captain maneuver the ship out of port. The ship's master spent 45 minutes with us answering questions about the ship and Celebrity. A great experience. The on board musical groups, including the ship's orchestra, were generally excellent. The specialty acts ranged from a great juggler, to a really terrible singer/mimic. The only comedian on board was there for one night at 12 MN. During the "liar's club" ship activity the Staff Captain revealed himself as an excellent "straight man" comedian. The ship's Master played his guitar and sang during the last night show and had a great voice. We were late getting into San Juan and arrived a dusk due to high winds. We toured on our own in San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Martin and had a great time. We took the ship sponsored Zip Line tour in St. Kitts and I highly recommend it. The Solstice has had problems with gastroenteritis/noro virus outbreaks this year. During the cruise immediately preceding ours, the ship was on "lock down" and guests could not touch utensils in the Buffet. We had no such restrictions on our cruise. Unfortunately during the last night of the cruise (Christmas Day), one of my family members developed severe GI distress. I was informed by the responding nurse practitioner that there had been an outbreak of many cases of GI distress that night, and that 3 separate medical teams were responding throughout the ship. Needless to say this made disembarkation particularly difficult. I wonder if the latest GI outbreak was due to noro virus or food poisoning. In any case this seems to be a recurring problem on the ship and needs to be dealt with. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We sailed on Christmas Eve Day from FLL. We were in no big hurry to board; as we had Owners Suite so we figured "hey, this will be a breeze"......NOT. Arrived at terminal @ 2:45 p.m. the line to get inside the terminal was 100 ... Read More
We sailed on Christmas Eve Day from FLL. We were in no big hurry to board; as we had Owners Suite so we figured "hey, this will be a breeze"......NOT. Arrived at terminal @ 2:45 p.m. the line to get inside the terminal was 100 yards long, no kidding. I stopped one of the RC employees and inquired if this was the only line. "yes, it is not our fault this is Customs and you must enter through this one line. OMG! We arrived at our Suite at 4:10 p.m.; sailed 20 minutes later. Now RC let me help you out here. If TSA has figured out how to work with the airlines and provide First Class, Crew and wheelchair customers a dedicated line why the SAM heck have you not figured it out. Once on board we went by Suite lounge to check it out...... Let me give you the cliff note version. On Liberty you will have one person serving 35 Suites (we asked him later on during the cruise just how he did it). The 35 Suites had over 100 guest! The lounge was ~35 FT X ~25 FT.; seating for 25 at best. You get the picture. At 5 p.m. when the lounge open for cocktails and free eats; it looked like Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving. On staff was the attendant and one support person to pour drinks (6 type to choose from, nothing more). The Owner Suite was clean and plenty of room. Suite room attendant was always on top of every thing we asked for and gave us hints as to how to get around the ship; staying out of the crowds. Food service in restaurants was good and plenty of options breakfast, lunch and dinner. We did not use the speciality restaurants. However, we did enjoy Johnny Rockets; the team covering the restaurant were very on top of everything. We can't help with the shore excursions we simply chose to not go; the tendering process in Belize looked like something from our boarding process so we said "NOPE not again". Overall, the ship was clean and friendly staff; except for most of the bartenders. Most of those guys could take a refresh course on PR 101. Once back at FLL we drew the last set to depart 31 out of 31 groups. No problem with us as we had no plane to catch; we prayed to not repeat the boarding. We were initially set to depart at 10:20 a.m..........try 11 a.m.! We did not get to our car till 12:30 p.m.! What a MESS! In 2005 and 2007 I took my children and grandchildren on a 4 day Disney Wonder cruise. I secured my wife and I an Owners Suite, each time, and had the "families" on outside cabins. RC Executives do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a Suite on a Disney cruise; so you can see from start to finish how you should treat guests paying for the privilege to be in these type accommodations. I promise you you will learn something that may help your efforts to have guest come back for another RC cruise. We had plans to talk with RC, while on board about a South America cruise next holiday season. We changed our mind. Ho Ho Ho Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We arrived at the port in San Diego at around 11:30 a.m. and though there was a line we were aboard the Oosterdam in good time. We didn't have to wait for our cabin like on other ships. We went straight to our cabin, dropped off our ... Read More
We arrived at the port in San Diego at around 11:30 a.m. and though there was a line we were aboard the Oosterdam in good time. We didn't have to wait for our cabin like on other ships. We went straight to our cabin, dropped off our stuff and headed for the Lido deck. The food was ready and waiting for us. My luggage was in the cabin when we returned from lunch, but my companion had to wait until 4:45 p.m. for hers. The cruise to Hawaii took four days and was relaxing except that we did not receive any water in our stateroom the first three days. We thought that they didn't provide it in the stateroom anymore, until there was two bottles in the room on the fourth day along with a receipt for three bottles that we never received. I couldn't find the cabin steward so I returned the water to the front desk and requested that no more be left in the stateroom for the rest of the cruise. The next day we returned to the stateroom to find a bottle of water with a receipt for two more bottles. Once again I took the water to the front desk and requested our bill be corrected, which it was. When I returned to the cabin I left the cabin steward a note requesting the removal of all items in the mini bar so we were not charged for anything else. He complied. As I stated, the cruise to Hawaii was relaxing, but on the cruise back it seemed as though the number of children doubled in size. I was told by another passenger that most of them were children of the crew, which I could not substantiate. I certainly hope that Holland America does not risk the loss of paying customers in this way. The unsupervised children took over the pool and all three of the hot tubs. At one time there was an elderly person with a noodle in the deep end of the pool and the kids were jumping in the water on both sides of him. Another time a child in the hot tub was splashing people as they practiced line dancing. The aft pool is for adults only, but it is outside and the air temperature stayed in the 50's and 60's. The aft pool should be for the children; it is even decorated for them. The shore excursions were organized and informative. The food in open seating was excellent on some nights, but bad on other nights. Service after the first night was excellent. We had Gede as our server after the first night and we requested him every night until the end of the cruise. We took a cruise to the Panama Canal a couple of years ago on the Zuiderdam and was very impressed with the food. I guess your can't judge by cruise lines, you have to judge each ship on it's own merit. The shows were good, especially the Oosterdam singers and dancers. I would have liked to see more of them. We were scheduled for disembarkation between 9:50 and 10:00 a.m. but were called around 9:10 and went directly off the ship. Easiest disembarkation ever. When I returned home I checked my credit card account online and was again charged $12.03 for the mini bar, that was empty since day four. Never again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
For background, DH and are in our late 30's. We were traveling with our daughters, ages 8 and 10. We were also with my parents and aunt/uncle, all in their late 50s-early 60s. This was our first time on HAL, but have sailed on 12 ... Read More
For background, DH and are in our late 30's. We were traveling with our daughters, ages 8 and 10. We were also with my parents and aunt/uncle, all in their late 50s-early 60s. This was our first time on HAL, but have sailed on 12 previous cruises (2 on Royal Carib, 1 on Norwegian, and 9 on Disney). This was our 3rd consecutive Christmas cruise, although the two years prior were both on Disney. I've listed our review of the specific details below, but all-in-all, we thought the cruise was just ok. Nothing was terribly wrong, but nothing was great either. I had heard that HAL catered to an older, more "low key" crowd, but we just felt like there was an overall lack of energy or fun on the ship and we could hardly even tell in was Christmas. Ship/Cabin The ship itself, as well as our cabin, were well laid out and clean. We had two connecting VD cabins on deck 4 and found them adequate for two people in each room, but we would have been miserable if all 4 of us had shared one cabin. We liked that the balcony divider between the two cabins opened. We also really enjoyed the Crow's Nest on deck 10. It was the best public space on the ship. We also appreciated the sliding cover on the midship pool, since we had a lot of rain. The fitness center was one of the nicest I've seen at sea and seemed to be well used, although not too crowded. Dining The Lido was a nice buffet and generally speaking we thought the food was pretty good. The main dining room was also nice, but nothing special. Usually I have at least one dish on a cruise that I think is spectacular, but that didn't happen, although most things were good. Our service was efficient, but not especially friendly. Ports We loved all 4 of our ports (Half Moon, Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire). We did an off-road Jeep tour of Aruba that was the highlight of our trip. Our excursion in Curacao was cancelled due to rain, but HAL refunded the cost with no hassle. Entertainment This is probably where we were the most disappointed in the cruise. We found very few activities onboard that were fun or interesting. Generally speaking, most of the music around the ship was targeted at a much older audience and we often didn't even recognize the songs. There were a ton of technology classes that seemed popular, but they didn't teach anything we didn't already know. I barely cook at home, so the Culinary Arts center wasn't of interest either. It was so bad that we ended up buying a deck of cards and playing in a conference room one night. The highlight of all the entertainment was the Talent Show that the Club HAL kids put on. We smiled and laughed and had such a good time watching them! Kid's Club (Club HAL) All in all, I think Club HAL was pretty good. After 9 Disney cruises, my kids expectations are pretty high, so they would say it was dull, but it met my expectations and was similar to what we experienced on NCL. Both of my kids were in the "Tween" group which was 8-12 year olds. There were 250 kids on our sailing, but only 50 in the Tween group, although I never saw more than 25 kids in the Club at a time. Most of the staff seemed attentive and interested, but my kids said they seemed happy to get rid of the kids when it was time to close. The activities were pretty basic - mostly video games and arts & crafts, but my kids made some friends and had fun. The highlight of the week was the Talent Show. All the kids from ages 3-12 were invited to participate. They did magic tricks, dances, skits, and sang songs. My kids loved participating and it was so fun to watch!! Christmas As I mentioned above, this was the 3rd year we sailed for Christmas. In all fairness, the past two years were on Disney and no one celebrates anything like Disney. However, we really felt like we missed the entire holiday on this cruise. It felt very "un-festive." Don't get me wrong, the ship was decorated, there was a tree in the lobby, and the crew wore Santa hats on Christmas day, but generally speaking, Christmas Eve and Christmas day weren't any different than any other days at sea. I certainly didn't expect HAL to have all the Christmas activities that Disney has, but something was missing. After some thought, I really think this is much more related to the passengers than anything HAL did or didn't do. The HAL crowd simply isn't the "festive" type and I felt it on our cruise. Summary So the ultimate question in a review is "Would you do it again?" For us, the answer No. The only way we would sail HAL again is if it was a very port-intensive itinerary and we got a really great price. We definitely wouldn't sail with HAL at Christmas again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Carnival Magic Dec 18, 2011 - Dec 26, 2011 Me and my wife went with 10 relatives Cabin 6491 aft over the Spotlight Lounge (deck 5) (wife review) We booked a family vacation on the Magic for Christmas. The first thing that struck me ... Read More
Carnival Magic Dec 18, 2011 - Dec 26, 2011 Me and my wife went with 10 relatives Cabin 6491 aft over the Spotlight Lounge (deck 5) (wife review) We booked a family vacation on the Magic for Christmas. The first thing that struck me was how large the ship was. I have cruised on the Conquest and the Ecstasy before and this ship dwarfs them both. As we were boarding I experienced first hand the new way that Carnival is taking photos. Instead of everyone standing in line at the door of the lobby they was a large area before the gangway with 10-15 photographers taking pictures. This resulted in a 5 minute wait instead of the 1hour wait that we had previously experienced. We tried the "Any Time Dining" option this cruise. While we loved that we could watch the ship cast off from port without being late for dinner, we found that on "Sea Days" if we were not in line early (Up to 20 minutes on "Elegant Night") there would be no tables left and we would receive a pager letting us know when a table opened up. Also we missed getting the same waitstaff every night. We really have been spoiled by the level of personal care that Carnival staff provides. The Magic also has a secret. The Italian restaurant (Cucina del Capitano) was open for lunch with a free build your own pasta bar. This little restaurant is worth finding early on. The pasta was delicious and we ate there everyday for lunch. I may kick myself later for telling everyone this. The place is almost empty for lunch. They give you a paper with your choices on it. You can choose linguine, penne or bow-tie pasta shape. A selection of 5 different sauces, and about a dozen or so additions (spinach, onions, mushrooms, chicken, and the like). They also include a piece of bread and/ or lasagna (which in itself was a meal). I hope they include one on ever ship in the future. Unfortunately not everything is perfect. Our room (6941) was directly above the Spotlight Lounge. You could here the karaoke until midnight. Of course this was not as bad a my cousins room which was directly above the Vibe night club (open until 2 a.m.) Lesson learned. Always pack ear plugs. The Serenity deck (adults only) was a wonderful place to be on port days. It is directly in front of the slides and even though it might be adults only, anyone on the top of the stairs waiting to slide down can see the entire Serenity area. Also there is no noise barrier. The screams of delight coming from the children in the Water Works area can be heard on the Serenity deck which makes it decidedly less Serene. Neither of these were as annoying as the basketball court being located directly above the Italian restaurant, Cucina del Capitano. The constant banging and shaking of the ceiling and walls might have driven us away if the food had not been so addictively good. I hope they close the court before they start serving dinner. If i was paying $12 a plate, I would be very upset at that noise. The ports were beautiful and while we didn't do any excursions we found something to buy in every port. I am happy to see that carnival has continued with the comedy club idea. The comics were wonderful and funny. Comic Mutzie kept all his shows clean and family friendly and even encouraged the kids to come back to the late show. The other comedians however got a little racy for my taste during the "family friendly" shows. If I had brought children, we would have left, but they were fine for adult humor and I did enjoy them on that level. Over all the ship was clean and easy to get around. The staff was friendly and willing to bend over backward to meet our needs. Special thanks to: Ernesto (Room Steward) and his team (deck 6 aft). They always left our room sparkling and well made. Stefanie (Trivia Hostess), who let us play along, even when it was just 4 of us. And Eli (Sports Director) who talked me into doing the Sky Course. Twice! ========================================== (husbands review) Overall Experience: This was my 3rd Carnival Cruise, out of Galveston, TX. Drove to port, no flights. Parked at Lighthouse Parking with our online reservation. Covered parking! Being Christmas week, there were fewer children than we expected so there was minimal elevator playing and hallway running. Easy to get around ship once you've learned most stuff is on Lido or Promenade with indoor restaurants on 3 or 4. We booked late and got late dining so we switched to anytime dining. It seemed okay at first until you realize that it really means to go at anytime but you will be eating at the pace of the slowest table within your waiters group of tables. If the guy at the table next to you orders three appetizers, you will be waiting for him to finish before getting your meal since they serve everyone together. Anytime does not mean at your pace. December and no jacket needed, used, or brought! Makes for lighter packing for Onebagers. Still not much tropical music about the ship. Carnival does not realize that we are on vacation and expect to hear different music to signify that. There was less spam flyers in the daily Fun Times newsletters than last year. Only 1 or 2 pieces per newsletter (as compared to 3 last year). The big screen was only useful for the morning show and nighttime movies. The daytime movies were extremely hard to see on lido deck, but they did show up much better on the lido cam on the tv channel in the room, although they did not broadcast the movie sound track, idiots. The ship changed one port the same morning it was to dock due to weather. Cruise booked excursions were refunded. Another reason to book excursions through the cruise line is so they hold the boat until you get back on it. There were no elevator campers this trip but I did help out a kid on a scavenger hunt. I never did see her again to find out how it went. We were told a tip that the Italian restaurant was free at lunch so from that point on, we barely hit lido buffet as we hit the sit down restaurants for breakfast and dinner. Things I am glad I took: $20 waterproof watch which always works well. Clocks were sporadic and sometimes difficult to see around the ship. I constantly used my watch to match up with what was happening on the schedule for the day, which Carnival has perforated so it can be easily torn off, folded up, and stuffed in your pocket. Took my own vacuum insulated mug again, ice last over a day in this thing! Cheap polarized sunglasses sure made outdoor ping pong playable. Watch out for the facial suntan lines though! Packing cubes for clothes worked well again. They allow the luggage to be duffels or divided how I want, not how the luggage is divided during manufacture. Travel Insurance was used this time! Not by me but by a couple relatives who were diagnosed with bad medical condition a month before cruise. Cancel Any Reason is pricier but worth it if there's a chance you need it. Always get travel insurance, even if you don't add Cancel Any Reason. I always take some wire hangars to help dry out wet clothes or air out smokey nightclub clothes (which wasn't an issue this time, minimal smokers in the nightclub). Took my trusty fold-able mesh dirty clothes basket. Works every time. Room stewards can move it and move it back when vacuuming if needed and they don't have to touch your dirty clothes. Empty it into a trash bag and fold it back up to pack dirty clothes for the trip back home. We also took carry-on sodas and champagne as allowed by the Carnival FAQs. These are items we probably would not buy on board anyhow so it just added to make the trip more enjoyable and help us to want to book future cruises knowing they are acceptable on this cruise line. Thank you Carnival for allowing them! Please allow small liquor quantities as once my starters would run out, I would be MUCH happier to purchase additional drinks from the ship bars than I do now. Glad I took a minimal sewing kit. Never thought I'd actually use it. I keep a needle and black thread thread inside the cap of a seam ripper. Takes up no space at all! Things I could do without next time: Soap. I really have to learn to use the shampoo and soap in the showers on board. It may not be labeled aside from being yellow and green but our friends swear by it and even fill up empty bottles with it to take back home. And using the on-board soap will lighten my luggage load as well. Again, did not get a chance to use the Frisbee. It may stay home at some point. Think I will quit taking my reversible pullover shirt and opt for a normal shirt in its place. It's great that it can be worn two different colors but it is heavy cotton and really hot. May not be a problem in colder climates but in colder climates I would also probably prefer sleeves. Things I wish I took: One extra short sleeve shirt. Turns out one shirt I took had a button come off. Not a problem since I take a very mini sewing kit. Unfortunately, while trying to sew the button on, it fell down and I could not find it. My wife found it a couple days later under the bed. Don't they vacuum under the beds? Plus or minus and extra shirt does make a difference for OneBag travelers though. Embarkation: Got up way too early, and got to port around 11am driving, stopping to eat breakfast along the way. Ship was already boarding and we never had a wait. Once on board, walked directly over to guest services to get a hole punched in your ship card so you can hang it on a lanyard, which is handy if your shorts do not always have pockets. Then headed up to Lido deck for buffet lunch and to wait out rooms opening up to passengers. They were giving out free glasses of champagne! We parked it there with our OneBag luggage until staterooms opened up. Another person said they had only seen this on Christmas and New Years cruises. Why do we OneBag it? Because having too much luggage is more hassle than is needed. I also want to ensure I have my essentials for vacation. FYI: nobody cares about your stuff as much as you. Don't believe me? Go watch some videos of "cruise luggage" on youtube. Since International Law changed last year, they do not require people to take their life vests with them to the 3:45pm muster drill. Few cruise lines still require it, but not Carnival. Decor: Like the Ectasy, the Magic has lighting around the atrium and promenade walkways that change colors. It really is mesmerizing to watch the colors change at night. The casino has a top hat carpet print and good thought put into it as a whole with a 'magic tricks' theme. The casino and lighting in the Spotlight Lounge are the neatest things to look at on this ship. Each stairwell on each floor has a different piece of art prints, nothing fancy or special here. The Magic overall has a wood and aqua glass decor. I expected it to make me feel more like 'magic', but to me, the decor is plain drab and uneventful. Hope future ships have more oomph put into them than this rich 70's retro steal. Stateroom: Just what you would expect. Fridge was locked which was okay for us. We didn't need their overly prices minishots. Steward kept my cooler of soda filled with ice after I asked him. Why did I have to ask? the Ecstasy had mounted door magnets to hold them open. Why did the newer Magic revert back to rubber doorstops that move around on the floor and get in the way? Could always use 5 extra hangars than they provide. Good thing we bring some. We did the new (as of Nov 2011) default standard $13 per person per night tip that gets shared among all crew members and automatically put on your bill when you board (or prepay). We also tipped our room steward himself some extra the night before we got off the ship. He always kept the ice bucket and cooler full and the bed had towel animals nightly as we requested on the first night. Found out the wait staff, stewards, etc may only get paid tips (as in the automatic tips they add to your room). They really do try hard for the extra tips they get. Tip them cash to ensure they only have to share it with their assistants (who do half the work you never notice). We try to keep our toiletries bag hanging or on a shelf so the stewards do not have to hassle with them while cleaning the bathroom each day. It speeds them up and they do not have to touch your personal items that way either. The safes on the Magic keypad operated. They do not need a card with magnetic strip like the Conquest did. The empty gift card I took for the safe did not go unnoticed though; it was used to turn on our lights and power. That's right, the Magic has a card slot that they want you to use your room key for so when you leave and take it with you, it'll automatically turn off power outlets and lights. It is a simple contact switch and does not matter what type of card you stick in it. We put up a wreath on our door with the removable sticky clips. Since we could not do our annual drive around to look at Christmas lights, we walked around each stateroom floor to view door decorations. The higher floor up we went, the better and more elaborate the door decorations were. Apparently, more experienced guests stay on upper floors. One door had a wreath with battery operated leds. There were many stockings on doors and some tinsel and wrapping paper doors. As I said before, go with friends, the more the merrier, seriously, even if you are newlyweds. You'll always walk with or by somebody you know. And try to get staterooms on the same floor next to each other. Talk to everyone. Everyone is on the cruise to 'have fun', so there is your opener. Make a friend every day or at every meal. Or just sit there and eyeball them until they say something. :) Menus: The 'available everyday' menu no longer has the shrimp cocktail. I was very disappointed. On a better note, the 'available everyday' is now printed and you can read it, this was not so in the past. The dining restaurants display dinner menu throughout the day so you can check it before dining. The menus had color and minimal art at the top for Christmas dinner. On this cruise, restaurant breakfast times were 7-9 or 8-10 depending on port days, check your newsletter the night before! Breakfast menu was the same every day as we ended up getting up in time (are you serious? yes) to make the open seating restaurant for all of them this trip. We hit lunch in the Italian restaurant every day I believe, and forgot about regular restaurant lunch. The buffets had the same food every day from what I could tell (one burgers, one wok, one pizza, deli, etc). The restaurant provides a quieter environment than the buffets and you can let the waiter do the food hunting for you. The sushi spot was good and easy to find on this ship as you always walk right by it, available 5pm-8pm. It only had a long line the second night. 24 hour food? Yes if you count the self-serve ice cream/yogurt and tea/coffee/hot chocolate/lemonade/water despensers. I was not awake an entire night to verify the rest. There were two elegant nights and neither of them was Christmas Eve or Christmas. At anytime dining, you walk up, tell them your room number, they put it in a computer and it prints out your names on a receipt the staff gets so they can call you by name. Seems like a waste of paper to me. If everyone at anytime dining wants to dine early, there WAS a long line a couple times and pagers handed out, just like at a restaurant in your local city. Elevators: Brand new ship, there was at least two spots (elevator/floor) that did not ding to alert you of an elevator opening. Pay attention and twirl often! Other than that the elevators on this ship are smooth! Despite extra passengers, it was rarely a long wait for elevators. Sometimes an elevator was display X showing it was out of service but twice on this cruise, an elevator disappeared! What? Yes, it did not display a floor number or an X. We never did find out what that meant. One time it was blank on one floor, then we hit the stairs and it showed a 2 on the next floor. One HUGE improvement on this ship over the others is that one step out of an elevator is a huge black floor number on the carpet so you know where you are! This is also on the stairwells! I think the elevator also spoke which floor it was on but I paid more attention to the carpet numbers. Events and entertainment: Why does Carnival continue to feature EXPENSIVE art on a 'family' fun cruise? They are missing their target market somewhere. If I was into expensive, pricey art, I would not go on a cruise to buy it. We went to the art auction last cruise so we knew better than to go to that again and waste our time with 1 glass of champagne. We became regulars of daily trivia and the bean bag contest once my wife got wind of the trophy being a ship on a stick. She had to win one being a renaissance participant with all food being 'something' on a stick. The trivia host was pleasant and there were other trivia regulars too we got to know. Jewelry: Who goes on a 'family fun cruise' to buy expensive, pricey jewelry? Next. Photos: How do they make money throwing out 20 pictures of every person of every cruise? True some people will buy some but to put them all on display and throw out ones not purchased a shame. Good to see that they also have a digital kiosk to help people find their pictures, FINALLY. Now if they would quit printing them until people decide to want them, they could do more useful things with deck 4 than display photos. Nightlife: We learned on previous cruises to avoid the silly crew shows. We watched part of one illusionist show. The show part was great but the magic part of his act was like amateur hour. I can't believe Carnival let this guy do his magic part of it. He really needed to practice a LOT more on his outdated stage tricks. You could see or tell what he was doing! We did not stay for the end of his show. We did go see the nightly comedians in the other lounge instead. I hit the Vibe nightclub every night which mainly played 80's and club hip hop. This DJ sucked and refused to play everyones requests. Maybe he played a couple but I overheard people saying he wouldn't do theirs. Many times people walked up to the dj booth to request something only to find out he was not even in there. He sure did leave his booth a lot. This is an adult only nightclub. The DJ was playing censored versions of songs! Hello?! Carnival needs to get rid of this guy. Latin night had 6 dancers the first hour and was DEAD the entire rest of the night. Not sure if the DJ didn't want to play normal music or if it is a Carnival rule that they must have this totally crappy club night. I walked by every hour or so and NOBODY was in there. Mind you, there are bartenders and wait staff in there who are trying to make a living. Maybe one day, cruises will start to have better dance clubs that play euro music. Security enforced their Carnival rules of: #1 Age 18+ only. #2 No drinks on the dance floor. #3 wear shoes on the dance floor. #2 is kind of stupid since they designed Vibe with standing tables ON the dance floor. It is STILL funny to watch them "Spill Stalking" as security drops their head and walks around the spilled drink on the dance floor. They pick their head up for a moment to try to signify to another officer to call housekeeping to come mop it up. Then the head goes back down and they circle the spot. This process repeats until it is cleaned up. The piano bar and bands: Carnival has an issue with piano bars. What is the need to amplify them until your ears bleed? These are generally smaller rooms than a lounge and a piano is plenty loud! Amplify the vocals if you must but lay off the piano and other music being amplified to annoy the staterooms directly below it! That is how loud the piano bar on the Magic and Ecstasy were. My relatives had trouble sleeping because of it. This piano guy seemed to have an actual list of songs he could play and was somewhat limited. Like other Carnival ships, the band was Asian again. There was also a guitar player who accepted this Christmas cruise and did not memorize or bring holiday song lyrics with him. #FAIL He asked for help with many songs. A guitar player can always play a chord or two and get by with traditional songs but to not even print up a copy of lyrics for himself was stupid. He mainly played in the pub. This pub also charges for food? They had a separate pub menu and their own beer brand, no big deal. It would be better if cruises were all inclusive for all food and coffee bars. The 'family fun cruise' just became a 'squeeze every last drop of credit out of the family you can so they have a terrible time and spend the next 5 years paying for it and go with another cruise line next time'. Excursions: We did not do any excursions and stayed in the tourist traps. Why do these places only have pullover prints and Hawaiian button down shirts? Would it kill them to have decent looking button downs? 4 ports and not a single public beach available. Guess Carnival is trying to squeeze more money by forcing beach excursions. Are other cruise companies doing this too? Debarkation: FYI first timers: Please do not rush down to exit the ship ASAP. This crowds the walkways and stairwells. They WILL call out each floor, one at a time, to leave the ship. There will not be a traffic jam from the people leaving the boat. Everybody will normally get off MOST ships between 8:00am and 11:00am. If you fly, plan for a late afternoon flight back to be on the safe side. Since we got up early enough, we have time to eat breakfast before they start calling self-assist people to debark first. We ate breakfast and met more new people we had not seen on the ship before. Headed back to the room and since we onebag it, invoked our luggage into backpack mode and left. No wheels or heavy huge bags to drag us down. With passport and customs slip filled out the night before dinner, went through the line to customs. Since most people are now getting passports, there is a short wait in lines through customs. Got on the waiting shuttle back to the car and headed home. Onebag Outcome: Still loving this method. If you are unfamiliar with this method, do a web search for onebag. Even though we bring along a cooler for sodas, it folds up for the trip back. It is extremely wonderful to have our luggage on our backs and zip down the stairs and around people with their giant luggage. And for most of them, they also have another bag or two that they checked the night before and will have to hunt it down at the terminal once they get off the ship, but not Us. The backpack was still a joy to use compared to the traditional hand carrying or wheeling tip-overs. Popular onebag luggage companies: tom bihn, mei, red oxx. We will probably go on the Magic again simply because we can drive to port. I wish it was prettier on the inside to look at though. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I use a wheelchair, but I can walk some, just not long distances. Embarkation was a breeze, and we could go right to our cabins immediately instead of waiting in public areas for a couple of hours. That was a plus. Also, we could eat ... Read More
I use a wheelchair, but I can walk some, just not long distances. Embarkation was a breeze, and we could go right to our cabins immediately instead of waiting in public areas for a couple of hours. That was a plus. Also, we could eat lunch right away, and there were always plenty of crew available to help us with getting lunch trays and get us iced tea or water. I walked through the buffet line since it was a short distance and uncrowded. I really like the idea Princess has for there to be a one-way direction through the buffet line, one entrance and one exit. It helps keep people from breaking in line, as they often do on other cruise lines. I loved getting my breakfast coffee and juice brought to me at my table on Princess, something that other lines don't do. I also enjoyed the fact that there were tables specifically designated for wheelchairs (scooters and walkers, canes, too) because it was sometimes hard to find a seat with a wheelchair. The best meal was the first night's prime rib, which my husband said was in the top five prime ribs he had ever tasted. During most meals I found something that was really delicious, but a few times the food was just okay, not great. Our servers worked their butts off and we gave them special monetary recognition for that at the end of the cruise. Both the buffet area and dining rooms were themselves clean; but I once found lipstick on a water glass that looked fresh. That was the only time anything food-related was not satisfactory. As far as excursions go, my husband and I did every one of our excursions locally, most of which were identical to tours offered by the cruise line but at local prices (lower) and with the same service quality. We saw Princess bags on other people's arms who did the same excursion as we did, but we paid a local person. We pride ourselves on giving our money to the local economy instead of to corporations, and saving lots of money in the process. Our stateroom attendant must be new to this because he never had our room done before 1pm, it was never really all clean, he forgot to give us washcloths, soap, and there were days he did not vacuum because the day's sand would still be on the carpet the next day after he had been there. I can warn other people not to get room Caribe 312 because it's right between the laundry room and the crew's luggage storage and cleaning cart hallway. The noise from the crew banging the carts and luggage against the wall where my head was on the pillow made the wall visibly vibrate, waking me up several times during the first and last nights. The crew had no idea how loud they were, but I could feel every hit against that wall. There was no noise in my room from the laundry next door. The entertainment variety was almost none at all. Singers and dancers, That's pretty much it. There were two nights of comics, when the theatre was packed, but the other nights we didn't even bother to go out after dinner because we were not interested in singing and dancing shows night after night. The dangerous juggling was entertaining, but it only lasted 15 minutes. We wanted to see acrobats, magicians and more comedy, as we have experienced on other cruise lines. We didn't think we would like soft serve ice cream in vanilla or chocolate choices only, but we did because it was so smooth, not icy. We are used to a selection of four real homemade ice cream choices on other cruise lines. Princess really shines on immigration and disembarkation. Instead of calling the name of a missing person on the public address system when they don't show up for immigration, Princess hunts the person down. There's always one or two who don't think the rules apply to them, and sleep through immigration, making everyone else late for flights. This was the easiest disembarkation ever. Since we have been on 12 cruises before this one, we were comparing the events and experiences between Celebrity, NCL and Princess. We prefer Celebrity by far and we probably won't cruise with Princess again unless the itinerary and price make it too good to pass up. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I'll preface all this by saying I didn't particularly want to take this cruise. Christmas away from home sounds (and is) depressing. But the in-laws wanted to take the cruise. They're both walker-bound and it was their ... Read More
I'll preface all this by saying I didn't particularly want to take this cruise. Christmas away from home sounds (and is) depressing. But the in-laws wanted to take the cruise. They're both walker-bound and it was their 50th anniversary, so I had to take one for the team. I tried, honestly, to keep a positive outlook. I kept hearing I'd be treated like royalty and all about how magnificent the food would be. So honestly, by the time we arrived to board, I was optimistic in my expectations. I was amazed at how creatively Royal Caribbean turned it all into a disaster. It was like they were inspired to wreck the vacation. I'll never sail with them again, and I would suggest that nobody sails with them. The ship itself should be seized by the Coast Guard, towed offshore, and sunk by naval torpedo fire. We got there to a confused train-wreck of people who were denied clear communication by the agents at the terminal. Arriving at 12:40 PM, we were told by the porter that things were "slow" that day and we may as well go have coffee and come back "in a couple hours." So we rode over to a McDonald's and had lunch, and waited the time with patience. We got back to the terminal to find no progress, only a bunch of buses and nobody telling us doodly squat about what was going on, but we were told there had been a contagion on the ship and the delay was because the ship was being disinfected. Yeah, right. I got four different stories from three different agents before someone finally told us "they're doing everything at the convention center." Well, if I'd known that I would've simply ridden over to the convention center. For Pete's sake, the McD's where we had lunch wasn't but a mile from the San Luis where they were doing all this! But anyhow, we had a very difficult time getting mom-in-law onto a bus (she's got terribly arthritic knees) and then rode to the convention center to find nothing short of pandemonium, and nothing better to eat than SACK LUNCHES. That should have been a huge warning flag to just go home and forget this debacle, but by this point we were all in. We got registered easily enough and choked down the awful sack lunch sandwiches while again we waited until my patience ran out and I found another agent (they seemed none too bright or interested in being helpful) and got my in-laws to the bus. But mom-in-law wasn't able to board the bus to head back to the terminal. Her knees were shot by this point. They wanted to call a taxi, but were told no they could not do that. Finally they told my wife and me to take our son and head on over to the terminal and they'd get there somehow. By this point, it was late and our son (who is only 2 years old) hadn't had a nap all day and was cranky. Mind you, this was about 7pm and we were supposed to have been boarded six hours prior. So we got on the boat. It was our scheduled dinner time, but they decided to have a drill instead of feeding us. After an injury sustained in 2007, I get around on a cane and had been too long on my feet, and collapsed to the deck during the fire drill. In any event, they decided then to feed supper to people but my wife and I were so disgusted by then that we simply repaired to our cabin with me muttering "never again" and far other more dire imprecations. And so ended Day One, debarking at about 8:30 pm to begin the cruise. Breakfast and lunch were uninspired, and I learned at breakfast that they were always looking to gouge an extra buck from us however they could when I was greeted by a man running an orange-squeezer, who asked if I wanted fresh orange juice. Silly me, I asked for three, one for me, one for my wife, and the third for our son. They delivered them to our table and I was pinged for thirteen dollars, I think it was. In any event, the breakfast was little better than I could have gotten at any IHOP ashore. We ate lunch once at Windjammer, which was, kindly, uninspired. The lunches available at Rhapsody in Blue were better, but again, nothing to make me write home. Bleh. The suppers, I have to say, were magnificent, one and all. Now, before you all go thinking I'm just a negative person here, I've got to say that the lady we saw at our breakfasts, "Eliana," was really sweet and friendly, and our waiter at supper, "Reynaldo," was tremendous, as was his assistant, "Maamar." They all really seemed to love our kid and were the soul of courtesy and brilliant service, and we offered gratuities accordingly. But at the end of the day, only one of the three meals offered was really amazing to me. There were a couple times I was tempted to go to Johnny Rocket's, but after paying this much money to be on this boat, I was really peeved at paying even more to get a burger and a malt, and so I never darkened that door, nor any other "pay to eat" place on the boat. As an aside, this ship was rife with children and toddlers, and the kids' menu at supper time seemed only to have chicken tenders or macaroni. Surely this four-star dining room could have done better than that, yes? By the second day, the norovirus panic was out again in full force, but none of us grew ill. Later, we would talk with a young man whose tale horrified us. He was sharing a cabin with his grandmother, who was subsequently diagnosed with the virus. They quarantined her to her room and evicted the young fellow, offering him no accommodations for two nights. I decided then and there that if I grew ill with anything less than Ebola, there was no way in the world I'd go to the medical spaces about it. My heart went out to this guy whose Christmas cruise was ruined by the high-handed behavior of Royal Caribbean. Mind you, many ships docked at these ports, and I had opportunity to talk with passengers from the other ships. NONE of them reported norovirus issues, not even Carnival's Magic, which shares a terminal with Mariner of the Seas. This tells me the ship is the problem, despite "Captain Per" insisting incessantly that the passengers were to blame. But if we all come from the same population pool, why was only one ship infested, hmmm? By then I doubted (and still doubt) that they did much of a job disinfecting this ship, and I think I'd have been happier riding a rowboat to these destinations. My in-laws were remarking often about how much better they'd been treated on Holland America on their several cruises with that line. By then, I'd decided I'd never again sail with Royal Caribbean. But the hits just keeeeeeep on comin', you know. Another thing that had begun to irk me was the closed-circuit TV, much of which seemed to be indoctrination and brainwashing about how lucky we were to be cruising with Royal Caribbean. One commercial that notably irked me was one about "Freedom of the Seas." A hot blonde in a green bikini told us just about hourly about some surfing ride on that ship that was one of a kind and the best of the best. I started seeing the subtext as "Don't you see what a great time you'd be having on a ship that doesn't utterly suck?" The details are immaterial, and I think I've given you enough of a sampling of it that you get the picture. We docked back at Galveston again but RCI was far from done mistreating us. Not by a longshot. We waited patiently and forever in the Bolero Lounge for them to bring wheel chairs for my in-laws to debark the boat. As best I could tell they were the very last ones to be afforded wheelchairs. Once in the terminal, instead of letting them keep the wheelchairs, my in-laws were unceremoniously deposited into a pair of folding chairs to wait for a porter to come after our luggage. I find it sad that the most courteous people we found that day were our porter and Officer Kubiak at Customs. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean lost one piece of our luggage. It was nowhere to be found when my wife went with the porter to round up our items. So the next day, I get a call from them saying they had a piece of our luggage. Now, I've had airplanes misplace luggage before and when it happens, they deliver it to my door at no charge. Even the most ghetto airlines like Delta provide that amenity when they screw up. Royal Caribbean, not so! Oh no, I was told my choices were either (A) come get it between the hours of 0900 and 1200 at a travel agent in Texas City, or (B) give them a credit-card number to pay for delivery to my door! "Royal" indeed! Yeah, I was royally Pee Ohed, and royally screwed by these clowns. Frankly, if you read this review and then choose to sail with these clowns, you are a masochist. For me, never again. It'll be snowing in hell a hundred years before I ever again board a Royal Caribbean boat. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This cruise from Nurnberg to Budapest was threatened to not take to water due to the low water levels on the Danube in the late fall of 2011. Fortunately rains fell the week before we were to cruise, though Viking cruise line's ... Read More
This cruise from Nurnberg to Budapest was threatened to not take to water due to the low water levels on the Danube in the late fall of 2011. Fortunately rains fell the week before we were to cruise, though Viking cruise line's carefully worded information seemed to threaten that whether one cruised or not was the chance one takes upon booking??? That should have been due warning about the integrity of the Line, but it took more bumps to really recognize the lack of quality on this line. The food was poor. Despite the assertion that local foods and recipes would be featured we found it impossible to get a soft-boiled egg at breakfast, the cheese selection was very poor, no brotchen, no schwarzbrot, and the coffee was weak (more Norwegian-American) than European or Starbuck's. Generally however, breakfast was the best meal. Dinner was 4 courses. The salad was always a joke. The entree was only acceptable if one ordered the standard menu of steak/chicken/salmon and baked potato, but how local is that? The soup was never piping hot, and I believe it may have been the cause of sickness on the ship. Many cruisers were sick on this boat. Staff were sick too. I have never been so violently sick for so many successive hours. Generally I am a very healthy person. I think the kitchen and cook need to be replaced. The serving staff varied from competent to surly. The house wine was drinkable, free, and flowed with dinner. The outings at each port were accompanied by knowledgeable guides. I was unable to make every outing due to sickness and am generalizing here. The hotel staff were attentive and had to do extra cleanup due to sickness to be sure. If you know Europe at all, you are better off on your own along the Danube. You can eat better and stay better for less than half the price and a little internet research will guide your historical/architectural quests quite sufficiently. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My wife, son (age 16) and I decided to take this cruise over the holidays, as none of us had ever seen the Panama Canal. Despite having been on 5 previous cruises as a family, this was the first time we'd cruised anywhere in the ... Read More
My wife, son (age 16) and I decided to take this cruise over the holidays, as none of us had ever seen the Panama Canal. Despite having been on 5 previous cruises as a family, this was the first time we'd cruised anywhere in the Americas. Also, the Island Princess, a so-called Panamax ship, was the smallest ship we'd ever been on, as we'd previously sailed on Royal Caribbean Radiance- and Freedom-class ships, the Golden Princess, and the Celebrity Constellation. So for us, it was a new region, a new time of year, and new class of ship. The ship. The Island Princess was in good shape, as it had apparently been in drydock for a refresh in the fall of 2010. The public spaces looked fine and were kept clean throughout the trip, and the exterior of the ship, aside from rust stains around the anchor ports, looked very good. We had a mini-suite (D712) near the back of the ship, and that turned out to be a good choice for both a stable ride and its fully-covered balcony. Other than the sofa bed (more on that later), the cabin was in excellent condition. Embarkation. We normally try to get on the ship as early as possible so we can wander around before the crowds arrive. This time, however, we couldn't do that, because the ship had picked up some refugees floating in the Caribbean on the way into Fort Lauderdale and docked several hours late. Despite this, we still got aboard about 1:00 p.m. Princess deserves considerable credit for its humanitarian operations, and was impressive in making up for the subsequent delay. Our bags were in our room by 2:30 p.m. -- the fastest they'd been delivered on any cruise we've taken. Cruise Days 1-2. The cruise started with two sea days, the second of which was fairly rough (15-foot seas). A fair number of passengers and crew got ill, and service times suffered a bit in the main dining room. We weren't affected much, because we had a smoother ride in the back of the ship. I heard a persistent rumor that the ship was having trouble with its stabilizers, but there was no official announcement. The rough seas resulted in the pools being closed, and I watched one spa empty most of its contents onto the deck after a swell. We'd opted for the anytime dining, and always requested to share a table. This worked very well, because we ate with different groups each night and met some very interesting people. I recommend that you still make reservations, though, as that guarantees you'll be seated quickly, and we always got served more quickly on the nights we had reservations. I don't know if the dining rooms operate this way intentionally, but that's how it worked out for us. My wife and I ate in Sabatini's on the first formal night, and I would say the dinner was worth the additional charge (plus, my son was freed to roam with his new buddies and spared one night of coat and tie). On this cruise, Princess also offered a pub lunch with live music in the other specialty dining room on sea days, and we found that to be very good. We probably only hit half the shows on this cruise, and I would characterize the talent level as OK. Our other dining mates were highly critical of the dance shows, but we didn't see any of those. Of the comedy acts I saw, I'd say they were passable, with the exception of one juggling act that seemed just weird. Aruba. This was a very short stop (4 ½ hours), so we didn't sign up for a tour. My wife and I settled for walking around the area around the port, which was unremarkable. In retrospect, we probably should have gotten a cab and gone to one of the nearby beaches, which the rest of the passengers found to be very impressive. Cartagena. Based in Cruise Critic reviews, we had hooked up with another couple and booked a tour via Lee Miles. Lee is an American who also runs a jewelry store in the city, and he arranges tours using a variety of guides. Our guide, Roberto, was very good, and we had the advantage of traveling in a much smaller group than the normal oversubscribed ship tours. Cartagena is a very interesting city with a lot to see, but the street sellers are pretty aggressive. Going in a small group with a local guide mitigates this problem quite a bit, and I'd recommend this approach. A significant number of passengers seemed frightened of Colombia and stayed on the ship, but I'm convinced Cartagena is fine for a day tourist. If you don't want to spend the $50-70 per person for a custom tour, you can just get a cab to the old part of the city and wander through there. Several of our dining companions did just that, and they were very positive about it. Panama Canal. I try to avoid ship tours for the most part, but ship tours were the only option if you wanted to get off and do anything. On this itinerary, the ship transited the Gatun Locks, parked in Gatun Lake, discharged passengers on tours via tenders, and then went right back out and docked at Colon. The ship did not "cruise" Gatun Lake as advertised, which resulted in minor grumbling from some of the passengers. Here's a tip for watching the lock transit: go to the back of the ship. It's uncrowded, you don't have to look through the plexiglass wind deflectors up front, and you get much closer to the lock doors opening and closing. On the Island Princess, you can go to any one of four decks on the back and get a great view of lock operations, and not battle the crowds on the front of the ship. We'd decided to book the expensive ship tour that put us on separate ferry that transited the entire canal. Once we got on the bus, we discovered that the bus's sound system had a problem and delivered mostly high-volume static (the fact that several speakers had been forcibly ripped out of the bus ceiling probably didn't help). This did not stop the guide, who never shut up during the entire 75-minute ride to the ferry dock. We could not understand a single thing this man said, and the entire ride was like running an industrial saw in a lumberyard. We ended up on a ferry with several hundred other people, which sounds bad but was actually comfortable. The ferry served a nice lunch during the transit, and we got to see the Miraflores Locks operate in a way that we couldn't see from the cruise ship. The ferry featured another commentator who never shut up, but at least he had speakers that worked. Nonetheless, there was no reason that he had to try to berate the passengers into singing "Feliz Navidad" with him as we docked in Panama City. Then, of course, we got back on the same bus with the same screwed-up sound system with the same guide who never shut up the entire bus ride back to Colon. I request that Princess tell this tour company to tone it down -- a lot -- particularly since the passengers have no other choices. Puerto Limon. Since this was Christmas Day, I was wondering what would be available. I ended up booking a tour (of sorts) with Okeydokey Tours to go to the Veragua Rainforest. I'm not sure I'd call this a tour, because the booking consisted of us getting into a small van with a friendly driver who dropped us off at the Veragua visitor center and drove us back when we were done. He was a good guy and I liked him, but he certainly wasn't any sort of tour guide. Veragua was OK, and the guide we had there was enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable (Okeydokey did not arrange this tour; Veragua is like a theme park where you buy your ticket at the door). But, it was over an hour's drive from the port on pretty nasty roads, and I suspect that going to the canals or whitewater rafting would have been a better choice. Perversely, we didn't see a single interesting bird in the entire rainforest, but got to watch two large green parrots fighting on a corner of a building next to the dock. It being Christmas Day, it wasn't worth walking in the town around the port, as it was very quiet. However, there was a big area for people selling various things right next to the dock, and the merchandise there was surprisingly interesting. My wife ended up getting a foot massage and pedicure for $15 from a lady in one of the stalls, and I suspect that was one of the best deals we got on the trip. Ocho Rios. Here, we used separate ship's tours, both of which went pretty well. My son and I went zip-lining, which was highly enjoyable, and my wife took an aerial tram over the rainforest. As opposed the the Panama Canal tours, the guides were unobtrusive and the number of passengers manageable. As we got back to the ship, we noticed a maintenance team welding up something under the ship, presumably the errant stabilizer. This gang looked like the sort of people you'd send to blow up an errant asteroid and save the earth -- buff skin divers, lots of high-speed equipment -- so it seemed that the rumor that the ship was having some mechanical problems was correct. To be fair to Princess, whatever the problem was probably didn't have a significant effect on the cruise, so I won't criticize them for not putting out an announcement. One problem the ship's complement did cure was taking care of a bad allergic reaction my son suffered when we got back on a Ocho Rios. He had run up against something ashore that caused a very severe rash, and so we got to use the ship's medical facilities. We are indebted to Dr. Deon Venter, the ship's doctor, and his assistant, Matt, for getting things under control and following up with my son multiple times prior to us disembarking. The Island Princess has a very good medical staff and facility, and the treatment my son got there was as good (and quicker) than what we would have gotten at home in the States. Disembarkation. This was quick and painless, as was the Princess-arranged bus transfer to the airport. Miscellaneous comments and summary. Due to my son's rash, I spent the last night of the trip on the sofa bed, which I discovered to be nastily uncomfortable. I guess 16-year-olds can sleep on anything, but 53-year-olds don't sleep well on crooked steel frames that telegraph through a thin mattress. Since returning, I have seen other complaints about this, and I can confirm that at least one sofa bed on the Island Princess is unacceptable as a bed. Nickel-and-diming continues on cruises (and everything else) and this trip was no exception. We were charged for orange juice served after 11:30 a.m. (and who thought up this policy?) and were constantly solicited for bottled water prior to disembarking at the ports. I defeated the latter by bringing my own water bottles, and we also avoided paying ship prices for laundry detergent by bringing aboard our own. However, exercise classes were reasonable at $10 a session, and my wife found the spa prices to be tolerable. Princess has installed something called "The Sanctuary" on the back of many of its ships, which is, as far as I can tell, a limited-entry sunbathing area that you have to pay extra to use. Maybe this is worth it to somebody, but my impression of The Sanctuary is that it is like lounging around in the fake-plant section of an arts-and-crafts store. Astroturf, plastic shrubbery -- what's all this about? Maybe some other reviewer can explain the attraction. The lectures Princess offered on the cruise were informative. One was given by the cruise director and covered the history of the cruise industry and current trends, and I thought it was very good. Another lecturer (a former State Department and World Bank employee) gave a series of lectures on the ports, and they were generally well-done. Otherwise, we liked the ship and the cruise. Princess has opted away from giant multistory public spaces, and various areas on the ship, while impressively decorated, retain a human scale and are comfortable. Despite the ship being at full capacity (2200 passengers), it never felt crowded. Our cabin steward, Alvin, was effective and unobtrusive, and likely would have done something about the sofa bed had I discovered it and mentioned to him. Every crew member that we encountered seemed very expert at their job. My last bit of advice is that if you take a Christmas cruise, try to bring something to give the people serving you on a holiday. I live near Washington, D.C., so I brought a set of White House Christmas ornaments to hand out to the cabin steward, Christmas day tour guides, etc. I don't pretend to think that this would make up for their being away from their families (and working), but I believe they appreciated the gesture. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We arrived in Galveston around 11:45 AM. We walked in the terminal...no lines, through security...no lines, then up to the counter...only 1 person in front of us. Just like that, we were on the ship!!! This was amazing, since EVERY ... Read More
We arrived in Galveston around 11:45 AM. We walked in the terminal...no lines, through security...no lines, then up to the counter...only 1 person in front of us. Just like that, we were on the ship!!! This was amazing, since EVERY cruise we have ever been on has been an hour minimum in line. We had one heavy carry on that we kept with us, so we were stuck carrying it around since the rooms were not ready. They said they would not be ready until 1:30, but they were ready just before 1:00. Our Cove Balcony room was great! We had the two twins pushed together to make a King. We had a couch, which converted as a bed at night. Another bed came out of the ceiling above the couch. Plenty of storage. Didn't realize it until Day 4 that there were two huge drawers below the couch/bed. Two closets for hanging clothes, another closet of just shelves. The vanity had 5 more smaller drawers, and some small shelves on the other side of the safe. There are also 2 more small storage on either side of the King bed. We used the bottom of their stocked mini frig to store some of the sodas we brought. I was really worried about the Cove Balcony. It was great! I loved being so close to the water. No issues with the chairs getting wet or us getting sprayed on. The life boats above us shaded most of the day sun, but we did get evening sun. It rained one day, and we were able to sit on our balcony and didn't get wet...because of the life boats being there. Only downside of the Cove Balcony is when your neighbors slam their balcony doors. They don't mean to do it, they just close hard, so you have to make an effort to close it softly yourself...really loud and not fun at midnight. The beds were very comfortable. Did not wake up one time with a back ache. However, once I got home, the back aches started up again. I need a new bed! They have a blow dryer in the room, but it's not so great. I will bring my own next time. I liked that the TV now has the menu for the entire week to view. It was nice not having to go up to the dining room each day to see what they were having that night. Oh, and no clocks in the rooms, and only two outlets. No issue with noise from our room. Loved that were were very close to elevators, and the laundry room($3/wash and $3/dry). Our room guy, Antonio, called us by name every time he saw us. I'm pretty easy to please with food, and here are my reviews... Went right to the Lido Deck to try the Mongolian Grill, since I read so much about how long the lines get. Only 3 people ahead of me. The food didn't blow me away, but my daughter loved it. The rest of the cruise this place always had long lines, but my daughter liked it so much she waited in the line. Lido Deck was always clean(so was the entire ship), and the staff was so friendly. Didn't meet one rude employee. Burrito Bar: LOVED it!!! The beef had such a good flavor. It reminded me of Mission Burrito. Pasta Bar: Loved it, too. We almost didn't eat here, because I didn't want to pay. The last day in the dining room breakfast, a lady told me how great it was, and that we shouldn't miss it. We went there for lunch(FREE), and loved it. You got your choice of 3 pastas, 4 sauces(I mixed alfredo and Bolognese) and had grilled chicken. It came with a salad and bread as well. Should have gone earlier in the week. Desserts: I'm not a big dessert person, so nothing really blew me away as far as desserts on the Lido Deck. On the last day, they did have a chocolate fountain, with fresh fruit that was pretty good. Homemade sandwiches: LOVED them! Usually had about 10 people in line, but worth the wait. They had a nice variety. Hamburgers/Hot dogs: HUGE hot dogs. I liked that you could get them with chili and cheese(melted). The french fries were great. I never did try the hamburgers, but my son liked them. Pizza: Didn't really like the pepperoni flavor, but loved the cheese pizza. Like that the crust was thin. Ice cream: We got our monies worth with the ice cream machines!! Drinks: They had lemonade, which my kids loved. They also liked the hot chocolate. I'm a big coffee drinker, but the coffee always seemed to have a little soap taste to it, especially when I had it delivered for room service. I'm a BIG tea drinker, so I didn't care for the "instant" tasting tea, but loved that they had hot water and Lipton tea packets, so I made a fresh cup, and added ice. I liked that they had yellow, blue and pink packets to choose from. If you are a tea drinker, they had flavored tea packets to choose from. Cups are small, so I would suggest bringing your own larger insulated cup. MDR: We did the dine at your own time, and loved it. They made an effort to seat us with the same wait staff each time. We loved our wait staff, Zhasminia, Rolando and I Dewa. Loved the food. Yes, I'm one of "those people" who order two entrees each meal. I'm not a big dessert person, but I loved the desserts, especially the Bitter and Blanc. My favorite food was the flat iron steak, and the gravy that came with it. Anyone have Carnival's recipe??? Shows: I'm not big on shows, so I did not go to any of them, but my daughter and husband LOVED the comedy guy Marcus Monroe. They weren't too impressed by the other big shows. This is our 7th cruise with Carnival, so they all seem alike to us now. Went to Nohoch Kay in Costa Maya, since there was incredible reviews, but it was just okay for us. Food was cheap, if you didn't get the AI, and they had free WiFi, which my kids loved. The lady that gave massages was GREAT! Shopping was not cheap here. The cheapest water shoes we found was $23. Those same shoes in Belize was $9. In Cozumel, we just did some shopping, since we have been there 5 times. We did shopping DT, and our big mistake was buying something in the first few shops. Start shopping about 10 shops back for better prices. A shot glass at one of the first stores was $3, while the same shot glass about 10 stores back was $1. Cab ride was $7 total to get DT. They have a Starbucks there. Didn't care for Belize too much. Ate at the Thirsty Turtle, and hated the food, and it was expensive. If you like knock off shopping(La Coste, etc.) you will like this place. Price were pretty good. $20 for a LaCoste polo type shirt. LOVED Roatan: Loved that it was NOT flat land. We went ziplining with Clip N Zip, and had a blast. Be careful buying tshirts. We came home with one shirt that had one sleeve 2 full inches shorter than the other sleeve. So, look for flaws before you buy. The people were so friendly, and not pushy at all...I'm talking about the shopping outside the main shopping area. Prices outside the main shopping area was cheap. $5 for tshirt outside, but $10 for same shirt inside main area. Internet: Internet on ship was a little slow. It was $29 for 45 minutes. I don't remember about the other plans. Oh, and it's $3.95 hook up fee. Ship shopping: They had a candy store that sold by the pound that was less than I expected. My kids loved this place. The price for alcohol was great on the ship. I'm not a smoker, but cigarettes were about $2/pack. Make-up was cheap. I pay $50 at home, and they had exact kind for $34. They sell lots of perfume, but I didn't look at those. Debarkation: We did the self assist, and walked downstairs when called, and only had about 20 people ahead of us. Going through customs did not take that long either. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My husband and I (mid 40s) wanted to try a Celebrity cruise. We booked a quick trip that had us at sea on Christmas day (this was a first for us). We thought it would be a nice treat to "get away from the hustle and bustle of the ... Read More
My husband and I (mid 40s) wanted to try a Celebrity cruise. We booked a quick trip that had us at sea on Christmas day (this was a first for us). We thought it would be a nice treat to "get away from the hustle and bustle of the holidays here. We have cruised many times, but this was our first on Celebrity. We read up ALOT on this ship and really appreciated all of the great reviews and "live from" reports that everyone had posted on cruise critic. Because of all of these, we were aware that this was an older ship. We found her to be LOVELY ! The decor was very nicely done - not super glitzy, very tasteful . embarkation: pulled right up to unload, very nice porter was right there to help. My husband went to park across the street in the garage and was back in five minutes. Once inside, they had check in lines divided into categories. We were directed into the concierge line as that was our room type. Our line was not particularly long, but seemed to take forever. I did notice that the line next to us had no one in it. It was for select and elite members. Because of our cruises on RCCL we were also select on Celebrity. however, I did not know to mention that to the person who was directing traffic-live and learn. Once we got our key card, things were zippy fast and we were on the ship in just minutes. We were very impressed with the service and staff on board. They seemed to go out of their way to make sure you had everything needed. Everyone was always so pleasant and smiling. There were lots of little "touches" that made this cruise seem so special- like the welcome aboard champaign, the ice cold wash clothes when returning to the ship after your day in port, etc. Room: we had a balcony room as this is always my preference. The balcony was probably one of the smallest we have had, but definitely suited our needs. The room was clean and comfortable . Our suitcases did not fit under the bed this time ( just a hair too big) and that surprised me until I remembered this was a new set that we had not used on a cruise before. We were able to store them in the closet no problem, but that meant I lost precious shoe space!!! :) I will remember to use the other luggage on my next cruise. The bathroom was small, but just what we expected. Our room attendant was Oscar and he was excellent! Activities: we had pre booked a couples massage for Christmas day and it was really nice. They were however about 25 minutes late taking us back which seemed a little unusual. There was some obvious tension between some staff members that we noticed while we sat next to the reception desk. This was the only time we used the spa area. We did participate in some of the computer classes that were offered. We took photoshop I II & III while on board. The staff member that did the class ( I believe his name was Sandy) was very patient and thorough. We also attended the cooking demo, the Christmas eve event, and a few other things. They had a nice variety of things offered (we just didn't have enough time to do them all) Pools: we never really used them, just walked thru those areas often. The adults only are seemed really nice and relaxing, however the music at the other pool was always very loud. It seemed like everyone was always having fun. Food: we ate at the Olympic for the first two nights. I CANNOT say enough about how amazing this was. The food was out of this world and the service was even better than that! The third night we returned to the ship too late for our late seating dinner time, so we ate in the buffet. It was ok. On our last night we finally made it to our table in the MDR. We had late seating which always seems to work better for us. We ended up with a terrific family of four as table mates....really sorry it was the last night before we got to meet them, they were so much fun. The food in the MDR was very good as was the service that night. We did go to the brunch that is done on the sea day....kind of a mad house, people everywhere, no order to any lines, kind of crazy, but there was a nice selection of food and it was very good. We did use the room service every morning to have coffee and croissants delivered. Always delivered on time and always by the smiling Frances. She quickly became our "coffee angel" and we loved her! Entertainment: the few shows we saw were just alright....typical cruise show quality. But the acapella group (Metro park I believe the name was) were fantastic. We saw them multiple times around the ship. The comedian was very funny too. Excursions: in Key West we chose to just walk around on our own- no planned excursion. You are only in port until one, so it was a very short day. In Cozumel we booked the Tulum Ruins tour. It was a very nice tour. However it consumes every bit of your time in port. All of the shops at the pier were closed by the time we returned. Also that particular day, the ferry ride over to Playa Del Carmen was EXTREMELY rough. This made for lots of sea sick passengers :( Disembarkation: on the last morning, we went to the MDR for a quick breakfast at seven. We were supposed to meet in the platinum lounge (martini bar) at 7:45. We arrived in the lounge a few minutes early. Within five minutes we were told by a staff member who was in charge of that area that it was our time to disembark. Within five minutes we were off the ship and gathering our luggage (with the porters help). I would say we were at the curb in another four minutes. This was the fastest I have ever gotten off a ship and cleared customs. Celebrity sure has this down to a science. Overall we really loved our first Celebrity cruise and look forward to trying some of the other ships they have to offer Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Part I - Precruise A. Inception We are avid Caribbean cruisers. Last year, we spent Christmas and New Year's in the Caribbean on the Celebrity Mercury (which, sadly, sailed for the last time under that name in February 2011) and we ... Read More
Part I - Precruise A. Inception We are avid Caribbean cruisers. Last year, we spent Christmas and New Year's in the Caribbean on the Celebrity Mercury (which, sadly, sailed for the last time under that name in February 2011) and we wanted to do it again. We looked at all cruise lines, but settled again on either Royal Caribbean or Celebrity (the only lines we have cruised on) because of their itineraries and schedules. We prefer to drive to the East Coast for our cruises (last year's holiday cruise left from Baltimore), but that just wasn't an option this year. B. Cruise Critic We use the community chat boards on Cruisecritic.com extensively for cruise port hints and information. This review is my way of sharing. Thank you to everyone who shared in their reviews and roll calls. C. Choice of Route Our route was out of Fort Lauderdale to Aruba, Curacao, Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. This is our first time to Grenada and Barbados and we are excited to be headed there. D. Choice of Cruiseline and Ship We selected Celebrity as it is affiliated with Royal Caribbean. We are __ members in the Celebrity club. Galaxy is a 91,000 ton ship with has 11 decks. Capacity is 2,034 passengers plus a crew of 999. They are very proud of the 2:1 passenger to crew ratio. It was launched in 2002, is registered in Malta and has a CDC score of 98. E. Choice of Airline This was pretty easy. We picked the cheapest, most direct flight from Milwaukee to Fort Lauderdale. We could have also flown into Miami. Air Tran was reasonable and was a non-stop flight. Flying hints: 1. Don't fly if you have a choice. I suggest driving if you can. 2. Go non-stop if you fly. Each connection increases the possibility of lost luggage and additional flight delays. 3. Consider flying in to your departure port one day early. This can be a major stress reducer! (For this cruise, because our son would have had to miss another day of school if we had left a day early, we left the day of the cruise. Yes, I was very, very nervous until we landed in Fort Lauderdale!) 4. Don't select your airline seats without first visiting SeatGuru.com. They have detailed airplane seating plans and hints about each seat for almost every plane flown by major airlines. F. Choice of cabin Generally, the lower your cabin and the more central its location, the less you will feel the movements of the ship. We love rocking and so did not mind being closer to the front of the ship. We always stay in inside cabins (unless something strange happens) because it is nice to be able to sleep in without worrying about the sun shining in the window. A recommendation to anyone in an inside cabin is to bring a clock. It can be very disconcerting to wake up and have absolutely no idea what time it is. We were in cabins 7067 & 7063. My husband and I were in one and our 16-year-old son and his uncle (a first-time cruiser) was in the other. G. Price We went to a local Travel Agent who specializes in cruises (as we always do for cruises). The cost, because it was over the holidays, was high at just over $1500 per person. The flights were just under $2000 for all four of us including an added charge of $24.00 to choose our seats early. As I wanted us to sit relatively together, it was worth it as we all got rows with no middle seats. H. Passports My husband, son and I all have passports and encountered no problems. My brother-in-law has a passport card and he had no trouble either. I. Insurance We also purchased travel insurance because we never know when our son might wind up in a cast or one of our aging parents might have a health crisis. J. Prebooking Excursions We booked all of our excursions on our own. I am an avid planner and researcher and enjoy this sort of thing. I booked a lobster lunch cruise on Antigua for myself (my guys did not want to go) and a deep sea fishing excursion for my guys (husband, son and brother-in-law) and three others who we met on the Cruise Critic roll call in St. Maarten. More on those later. K. Packing We packed for 3 formal nights (rented tuxedos for the guys and I brought nice outfits), and the rest at various levels of casual (non-jean pants and nice shirts for all of us). Additionally, we brought enough clothing to cover us during the day for 14 days. This is less than you think because clothing rarely gets really dirty and we tend to re-wear clothes a few times before it goes in the "to be washed at home" luggage. Among the most helpful "extra items" we packed were: power strips for each room (usually, there are only 2 outlets in the room and we have lots to charge), alarm clock, shoe rack, bug lotion, sunscreen ranging from 100 to 15 spf, highlighters, beach bag, and water shoes. We also brought Christmas decorations for each room, as well as Cruise Critic door signs printed off of the roll call lists. Part II - Embarkation A. The Port We flew into Fort Lauderdale and arrived at 1:00pm in plenty of time to catch our 4:30 pm departure. You have a choice of buying transfers from Celebrity, catching a taxi or hiring a car. After exploring these options we decided to hire a car to the Port Lauderdale pier. The car we hired was from GO Airport Connections. He decided to hire a car rather than risk a taxi because we had 4 people and 6 pieces of luggage. I was afraid we wouldn't find a taxi willing to take all of us and would have to split up. It was a short, 5-minute drive from the airport to the port. The cost was approximately $50 with tip, but it was worth it. B. Security Processing and Boarding We arrived at the pier at 2:15pm and there was no wait for security screening. Once through, there were separate lines for Captain's Club (CC) and non-CC passengers by deck. All lines were basically empty and fed into a table of folks processing your boarding documents. Assuming you had already completed all the documents requested online, signing in and getting room keys (which is also your cruise ID, and ship credit card) took no more than 5 minutes. There was a quick wait for the initial cruise photo (which can be skipped). Up an escalator and our cruise cards were quickly data encrypted with our images at one of two stations. Once they handed us our cards we found ourselves on the 3rd floor main lobby of the ship. It took a total of 20 minutes from the time we arrived at the pier to our arrival in our cabins. I later spoke with people who had arrived earlier and they told me it was a cattle call with massive groups of people waiting at each phase of the embarkation process. I was glad that we missed that. C. Explore The Cabins We were in cabins 7067 & 7063, side-by-side, inside category 9 cabins in the middle. The cabins are 170 square feet and were set up for my husband and I to sleep in one big bed and my son and brother-in-law to each have their own. The bathroom has enough room, and the shower was very nice. Our bathroom had a reasonably large shower (no bath), hair dryer, large mirror, sink, toilet, and some pretty decent storage. Something new since the last time we were on a ship: a nightlight we could use in the bathroom or main cabin. We used it in the bathroom so we wouldn't have to turn the lights on at night. Hangers and robes were provided in the cabin, as was a welcome gift: a canvas shopping bag. The room safe is located in the closet, along with several more drawers for organizing your stuff. The desk featured a number of informational brochures including that day's event newsletter "Celebrity Today". The cabins also have a TV, thermostat, phone (but no clock, although you can set your phone for an automated wake-up call), and a mini-bar (small refrigerator). Our mini-bar was locked upon arrival, but we asked that it be unlocked and emptied so that we could keep water in it. Having signed up for the Connections party, we received invites to the following day's gathering. Being members of the Captain's Club, we were also given invitations to a number of different events during the cruise. Our stateroom attendant, Doris from Honduras, and her assistant, Elvis from India, did a wonderful job throughout our cruise. D. Tour of Ship and Search For Food We found sustenance in the Seaside Buffet on the deck 10 for a 3pm buffet lunch. We were hungry, having not eaten much that day because we had left the house so early. The ship is well laid out with ample sets of stairwells and elevators. I tried to take the stairs as much as possible (and pretended that this was sufficient exercise to cover my food intake). E. Lifeboat Drill/Sailaway About one hour prior to leaving port, we participated in the mandatory lifeboat drill. The drill went smoothly and lasted 20 minutes. We are very happy at the changes that have been made in the muster drill as we no longer have to get our lifejackets and wear them to the muster and we no longer have to stand outside waiting for everyone to show up. Instead, we sat comfortably in the theater and watched a demonstration of how to use the lifejacket and an explanation of the safety procedures. F. Dinner -- 8:30pm Late Seating We selected the late seating. We were seated at table 525 with seating for 8 at a circular table on the upper floor (5) of the San Marcos Restaurant, next to the balcony overlooking the 4th floor. With the exception of the first evening, our server, Tale from Macedonia (great-great-great-nephew of Alexander the Great!) and his assistant, Gulshot from Russia, did a very good job throughout our cruise. On the first evening, Tale's assistant was Aleksandra, who was not fast enough or organized enough for the work. The meal was paced so slowly that the evening dragged on and we left the dining room after 11pm. We did not complain because we decided we would let them have one more night. The next night, Aleksandra was gone, replaced by Gulshot. Tale explained that Aleksandra was new and although she had much experience in restaurants at home, she wasn't prepared for this type of work. She had been reassigned to a smaller set of tables so she could get up to speed in an easier area. The two-story restaurant has a seating capacity of over 1,300 passengers at each seating. Of note: jeans, t-shirts, tank tops, swimsuits, robes, and bare feet are prohibited in the San Marcos Restaurant at all times. Shorts are permitted at lunch only. On the first evening, I did notice one long-legged woman arrive for dinner in short-shorts. She was escorted out and asked to return when she was dressed appropriately. Part III - Food! Celebrity has a good reputation for their cuisine. The meals met our expectations. There was good variety. There are 3 specialty restaurants on the ship--Ocean Liners (French/Mediterranean) for $40 per person, the Tuscan Grille (Italian Steakhouse) for $30 per person) and the Bistro on 5 (creperie) for $5 per person). The Bistro was also open for breakfast and lunch. We did not feel the need to eat at any of the specialty restaurants for dinner because the food in the main dining room was sufficient. A. Always Available We were informed the first night, that the following items are available every night at dinner and could be found on the left side of the dinner menu: Appetizers: Shrimp Cocktail, Escargots, Antipasti; Salads & Soups: French Onion Soup, Lobster Bisque, Caprese Salad, Caesar Salad; Entrees: Salmon, Chicken Breast, Sirloin Steak; Desserts: Cheesecake, Apple Pie a la Mode, Crème Brulee. B. Our Favorite Breakfast Items The Constellation has added a "poached egg" station where you can get a variety of different poached egg passed breakfasts, including eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine. I got a variety which was an English muffin covered in caramelized onions and cream cheese with a poached egg. It was amazingly delicious. C. Our Favorite Lunch Items The turkey burger at the Seaside grill was yummy. The French fries are always tasty and are double fried. D. Our Favorite Appetizer The avocado and crab appetizer the first night (although lump crab would have put it over the top). My husband loved the Duo of Smoked and Pickled Salmon. E. Our Favorite Soups French Onion soup was outstanding! All of the chilled fruit soups were yummy. We also liked the baked potato soup. F. Our Favorite Salads They were all good. What are great are the salad dressings. The Celebrity signature dressing was very tasty and definitely had anchovies in it. G. Our Favorite Entrées I was partial to the lamb the first two nights. I truly believe Americans do not eat enough of this delicious meat. The steaks were delicious and very flavorful. The fish dishes were delightful. I really enjoyed the mushroom pasta (it had a much fancier name--Pappardelle con Funghi). I heard that the turkey and all the fixins that was offered on Christmas was wonderful. I enjoyed the chicken kiev on another evening. H. Our Favorite Desserts A "sandwich" made of chocolate macaroons and chocolate sauce was to die for. My husband loved a panna cotta flavored with Pernod and Absenthe. I liked the Grand Marnier soufflé and my husband loved the After Eight mint cake. I. Buffet There is an excellent sushi bar in the Seaside Buffet on late afternoons (starting at 5:30pm). The Indian food is particularly wonderful. The pasta bar was very busy and I liked what I got there. Also, there are little sandwiches offered in a late lunch/early dinner timeframe that was very tasty. J. Room Service Room service took a little while (15-20 minutes on average), but was the food was very, very good. I particularly enjoyed the Celebrity Club Sandwich so much I began to crave it. This made going home especially difficult. Part IV - Entertainment A. Movies All the movies were shown in the Cinema. They were mostly releases from about a year ago. We did not watch any movies in the Cinema. B. Shows The Celebrity Theatre is gorgeous, with comfortable seating and good sight lines. We did not see any shows in the theater. C. Casino Large casino filled with the usual. We did not use the casino. D. Spa I booked a deep tissue massage during the port day in St. Maarten. It was very nice; I had a masseuse who was on her third day on the ship (she had spent time in training beforehand). Now, for someone who wants to relax, it would have been a great massage, but for me, I want someone to work on the knots in my muscles (which can and should be painful). I didn't really get that, but it was very relaxing. After the massage, the masseuse tried to sell me packages of products which I declined. She was not pushy at all and took my "no, thank you" in stride. During my massage, there was also a crew muster practice which meant that there were announcements and sirens during about the first third of my massage. I wasn't angered, but I wished someone would have rescheduled my appointment around it. I received a happy surprise when I got to the front desk afterward when they offered me another massage for free later in the cruise to make up for this one (which I had already paid for). The second one was wonderful and very relaxing. E. Outdoor Pools and Hot tubs. They were busy all day when we were at sea. One pool had a few basketballs and a hoop on it so that you could practice dunking like Michael Jordan. The pools are chlorinated salt water. The hot tubs are fresh water. There are fresh water showers near each pool and hot tub. F. Indoor Pools and Hot Tubs The thalassotherapy pool was the indoor pool. It is only for guests 16 years of age and older. It was quite warm and felt great. On each of the longer sides, it had places where you would sit on bars that were arranged to be in the shape of lounge chairs (I am not doing it justice, but it was very comfortable) and bubbles of cooler water bubbled all around you. I wasn't sure what its use was at first, but it turned out to be incredibly relaxing. On the shorter sides were showers of water like faucets where water fell out at varying degrees of speed (depending on which you were under). I stood under one and it was like a water massage on my neck and upper back. Very nice. There are fresh water showers near the pool. These showers are incredibly hot. G. In-room TV There were a number of closed-circuit ship channels and satellite stations (Global CNN, ESPN, Eye on CBS, Sky News, and a few others) available on the TV in the cabin. Pay-per-view movies were also available. You can also order room service and check your current account on the TV as well. Part V - Cruise Critic Get-Togethers A. Sailaway Party As a group, the Cruise Critic folks had arranged (on the boards) to get together at sailaway at the Mast Bar on Deck 11. About 20 showed up and we had a great time. I think that if I were to do it again, I would recommend the Sunset bar instead because it has a more closed-in space. Some cruise critics I met later in the cruise said they hadn't been able to locate us at the Mast bar. B. Connections Party We signed up for the Cruise Critic Connections gathering on the Celebrity web site. We received an email confirmation that a party would take place. Upon our arrival in our cabin we received an envelope containing an invitation to the party, set for 10:00 am on Sunday (our first day at sea). At the appointed time we arrived at Michael's Club. In total, about 40 folks attended. We had a great time meeting and greeting our fellow cruise critics. Light refreshments were provided. The Captain, Cruise Director and the Captain's Club Manager were in attendance. The Captain said he disliked the moniker Cruise CRITIC and instead said we are Cruise FEEDBACK people. He said he appreciated anything we had to say and hoped it would be DURING the cruise and not AFTER. C. Slot Pull We had also arranged a slot pull (which I had to miss because I was ill). The idea behind the slot pull is that the group meets in the casino and everyone puts in a set amount of money and then gets a certain number of pulls on the slot machine. The entire group shares in the winnings. They arranged additional slot pulls each sea day (except Christmas Day) at 2pm. I encourage everyone to have these on their cruises. They were a lot of fun! D. Cabin/Poker Crawl We also arranged a cabin crawl on the third sea day (after Curacao but before Grenada). We started in the 9th floor library and had 19 people participating in the poker crawl and a few others walking with us. We visited both inside and outside (side veranda, rear veranda and port hole) rooms. The coolest room was the Presidential Suite where our hosts let us look at everything in their 1,100 square foot cabin. Part VI - Health Concerns A. Smoking Smoking was permitted only in the Reflections Lounge (Deck 11, Port), Mast Bar (Deck 11, Port & Starboard), Pool Deck and Sundecks (Deck 10, Port), Open Deck (Deck 4, Port) and Seaside Cafe Bar (Deck 10, Port where pipes and cigars were also allowed). Although we are very sensitive to smoke, we could not detect any smoke smell in our cabin. We did not observe anyone abusing the smoking privilege. They had every right to smoke in various areas of the ship, and unfortunately they did. B. General Cleanliness of the Ship In a word: impeccable. You could not take a stroll without witnessing some type of cleaning going on at all hours. The ship was constantly being cleaned: floors, walls, fixtures, everything! C. Viruses I found myself incredibly sick our second day at sea. I remained in my cabin all day and was tended to by my husband and our wonderful stateroom attendant, Doris. She brought me toast, tea and apple juice. She instructed my husband to purchase a Gatorade for me to replenish my electrolytes. She stopped in occasionally to see if I needed anything. She was very kind. I ventured out the next morning to have breakfast (a banana and muesli and more apple juice). I avoided being near others or touching anything. By the afternoon, I was feeling much better. Unfortunately, my husband came down with the same illness late on the third day (after our stop in Aruba). It laid him up in the cabin for the full day in Curacao, but he was better during the at sea day between Curacao and Grenada. I also heard from others on the Cruise Critic list who had endured the "24-hour bug," too. E. Seasickness We had rough seas on our way from Fort Lauderdale to Aruba (the second day when we were in fairly open water). It did not bother me, but there were seasickness bags out all around the ship just in case some of my fellow cruisers were not as lucky. We did have rough seas on other days, as well. Part VII - Ship Notes A. Ship and Crew We were very impressed with the ship and crew and they were all very friendly and competent. The ship and furnishings were in very good shape. She was very clean. B. The Shops There was something on sale each day. Realize that if you forget something, you can buy it on the ship, but necessities are expensive. Deodorant, mints, dental floss, M&Ms are all available, but not at a price you might want to pay. My advice: remember to bring the essentials, even if that includes M&Ms! C. Internet Service The good news: there are plenty of computer terminals with internet access on the ship. The bad news: it costs about 53 cents per minute. You can get your cost down to around 35 cents a minute if you buy a bulk of minutes. I continue to hope that Celebrity will rethink the pricing to find the price point at which the computers will be 75%-to-85% utilized. Passengers will be happier, and Celebrity will end up with more net income, rather than having a wasting asset on board. D. Children Our ship had 150 children on board, 70 being teenagers. They behaved very well. Part VIII - The Ports We visited seven great ports. We set up excursions ahead of time with highly-recommended tour operators at 2 of these ports and did our own thing at 5 ports. A. Oranjestad, Aruba Aruba is a part of the Netherland Antilles. It is an island of stunningly beautiful beaches. Located only 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is only 75 square miles in size. The official language is Dutch, but almost everyone also speaks English and Spanish. We had planned to spend the day at either Palm or Eagle Beach (both come highly recommended), but it was raining quite hard all morning and so this scuttled our plans. My husband and brother-in-law did spend time in Oranjestad and found a nice little "hole in the wall" place which served cold beer and tasty schwarma. They were there with a local named Armando and the owner. They also picked up some Caribbean/Hawaiian shirts as well as some t-shirts. I stayed on the ship and enjoyed the ability to nab a chair in the sun (when the sun came out in the afternoon). B. Willemstad, Curacao Also a part of the Netherland Antilles, Curacao is not as famous for its beaches as Aruba. However, Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one look at it tells you why. This is exactly what you expect a Caribbean city to look like with its bright, Easter-egg colored buildings. In the morning, we walked through Curacao, visiting the floating market and walking the packed and small streets. The fort is well-developed now (it wasn't the last time we were here) with lots of high-end retail shops and some bars and eating establishments. The floating bridge was great to walk over, even though it was moving at the time (it made our sea legs seem all too real). In the afternoon, we went to Cabana Beach near the Seaquarium. It was a nice, little beach. The prices for food were steep since it is part of the Kontiki Resort, but we just enjoyed the sun. It cost $20 for the taxi each way to the beach (for 3 people) and $3 per person to use the beach. A chair cost $5 to rent, but no one ever asked me for money for that. It rained for part of our stay on the beach, so we just enjoyed a few hours of sun and sand. It was enough to whet our appetites for what was to come. Be warned. The ship will leave without you. Rumor has it (I heard it from several sources) that we left a family of 6 waving and yelling at us on the floating bridge as we left Curacao. If you think you might be late, take your passports and credit cards without and be willing to pay and arm and a leg to get to the next port. C. St. Georges, Grenada This was our first visit to Grenada. Grenada, known as the "spice island," is part of the Lesser Antilles' Grenadines and is part of the British Realm. My husband and son visited Great Anse Beach all day. After mailing my Christmas cards (I had 51 cards and mailed them for $39 with beautiful stamps I obtained just inside of the pier at a wonderful little post office stall), my brother-in-law and I went in search of spices. First, we tried walking to the Market Square and got hopelessly lost, so we decided to take the local "buses" to Guyanve to see the Dougaldston Estate which is famous for its spices. For US$2.00, we hopped a #5 bus (really just a large passenger van that, at times, held up to 19 people) for the 30-40 minute ride to the Estate. They dropped us off on the main road near the estate (and a beautiful stream where some Grenadians were doing their wash). We walked into the jungle on a path and a small boy (maybe 6 or 7), sent by the ladies washing their clothes, came to show us the way. I tipped the small boy US$1.00 for being our guide. He seemed surprised, but grateful. He led us to a run-down building with large trays of a spice drying in the sun. Had I been less surprised about my surroundings (I had expected something much more commercial and touristy), I would have smelled the cocoa drying in the sun. We were the only tourists there, and we went into the building where one of the ladies did her demonstration of the various types of spices they process--bay leaves, all spice, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, cocoa, vanilla, cloves--and then we could buy some. Each packet (a good-sized amount) was US$1-2.00. We loaded ourselves with spices and then bought some water, grapefruit soda (called "Ting") and ginger beer. All of the spices were sealed and as long as we don't open them before we go into the US, we are good with US agriculture. After getting directions to the nearest bus stop, we started walking again through the cocoa-scented jungle to the road. We were followed by some friendly stray dogs and a saw a few not-very happy goats tied up near the road. Right after we got to the main road, we caught a bus. About 5 minutes into the ride, I realized we were going the wrong way. I mentioned this to my brother-in-law, but we decided to go with the flow. The flow took almost 2 hours to the end of the route and back to St. George's. It was a great, though sometimes harrowing, experience and we saw a lot of the coast and the people of Grenada--all for US$2.00 per person. It was probably the least expensive tour of the island that anyone from our ship had all day. Upon our return to St. George's, we stopped at a local supermarket and bought some local rum. It was less expensive than at liquor stores and was just as good--two small bottles for US$7.00. I also stopped in the Duty Free store and bought some Nutmeg Syrup for US$5.00. There was free (but slow) WiFi at the pier. My husband and son went to Grand Anse Beach via water taxi (directly from the pier, US$4.00 each way per person). Grenada was the only location where we had to go through a magnetometer and put our bags through an x-ray machine just to get onto the pier. This was in addition to the same thing once we got back on the ship. I am not sure why this was. D. Bridgetown, Barbados This was also our first visit to Barbados, which is also a British Leeward Island. The pier is a combination cruise pier and working cargo pier. We were docked pretty far down the pier and the cruise line offered free shuttle buses for us so that we did not have to walk down the pier. We walked through the pier shops and took a taxi to the Hilton Beach (US$7.50 per person). All of the beaches are publicly accessible in Barbados, but at first the Hilton wanted to charge us US$80 for each person to use their chairs, an umbrella, and the pool, as well as have lunch. After some discussion with the man who handled the chairs and umbrellas in the area, we got two chairs under a palm tree for nothing. He helped us out; I tried to find him later to tip him, but he had disappeared. The beach at the Hilton was under a red flag which meant that there should have been no swimming, but with the waves so strong, it was irresistible. There were many people out in the water, and the lifeguard was very attentive. After a couple long rounds of bodysurfing by the three guys in our group, we were ready to return to the ship. We used the freshwater showers, dried off, and went through the hotel lobby and got a taxi back to the pier (US$4 each person). Again, there was free (but slow) WiFi at the pier. We bought some aged Mount Gay Rum (made on the island), Banks Beer (also made on the island) and rum cake (a local version made, you guessed it, on the island). E. St. John's, Antigua I had booked an outing in Antigua with Creole cruises--a lobster lunch and snorkeling outing. I had given them my credit card number to hold the opening, but I decided to pay in cash because I got a 10% discount, so instead of US$130, I paid US$117 for myself. We were picked up on time (9:45am) by Captain Glen on the dock outside of the Exotic Antigua store just off the pier. There were already about 16 people on the ship from local resorts and I and two fellow cruise passengers joined them. We took a 10 minute speed away into the Caribbean Sea and then were served non-alcoholic drinks, then had another 25 minute speed into the Atlantic Ocean and to Bird Island, part of the nature preserve which has between 22 and 24 smaller islands around Antigua (the numbers kept changing). I got off here with about 10 of my fellow passengers. We decided to explore this lonely, lovely beach instead of snorkel. I am really quite bad at snorkeling and was glad for this option. The beach was wonderfully deserted. I walked up and down the beach, talked with many of the other passengers, and watched the young mate, Mario, clean up and get ready to cook our lunch. We were able to drink freely of the water, juice, rum punch, and beer that they had brought, all served with a smile by Travis, another mate on the boat. No alcoholic beverages before snorkeling, but since we weren't snorkeling, we were fine. A few other boats stopped by and disgorged their passengers, but it was still a beautiful and peaceful beach. After lunch of four different salads, wood-fire grilled spiny lobsters, a bottle of white wine for each of the four tables, and a perfect macaroon to top it all off, most of us embarked on a short nature walk. Warning: Wear sneakers or hiking shoes. There is a difficult climb up a rocky path with few footholds. I and many of my fellow passengers made it wearing crocs and flip flops, but it was not easy. The walk was worth it because the view from the top of the island was unbelievably beautiful. The opposite side of the island is rocky and craggy, not like the side we had been on. It was a perfect ending to our day on this island. After we were all aboard and everything was cleaned up on the island, we stopped at Maiden island where some people went in to see an amazing array of starfish. I did not go, but I hear they were many colors and sizes. We arrived back at the dock at 4:10pm, a little later than the promised 3:45pm, but in time to reboard our ship by 4:30pm. F. Philipsburg, St. Maarten St. Maarten/St. Martin is an island owned by two different countries: the first section by the Netherlands and the second by the French. My husband, son and brother-n-law joined 3 others recruited from the Cruise Critic boards in a private deep-sea fishing excursion with TaylorMade cruises. I had contacted them through the internet, and had paid a $100 deposit to hold the date and time. The cost was US$117 per person. I hear the trip was fun, although not fruitful. The waters were very choppy, so the ride was bumpy and the only fish caught was a large barracuda by my son. G. Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas There were 4 ships in port (that I saw) on the day we were at this US Virgin Island. Everywhere we looked was packed. We docked at the Havensight Mall. Remember to take a photo ID with you on shore because you need it to get back on to the pier. We walked to the taxi stands at the outside of the mall and got a taxi (SUV) for the 8 of us (we had friends with us) for $8 each to Magen's Bay Beach. The entrance fee to Magen's Bay is another $4. The beach is beautiful and it was packed with people, but we did find a place to sit. With chairs at $5 each with a $5 refundable deposit when you return them, we parked them near some overgrown shrubbery and enjoyed our day. This is truly the most beautiful beach I have ever been on (okay, it is a tie between this beach and Waimanalo Beach in Oahu, Hawaii) and we had a great time. The taxis were $8 to get back to the ship after our wonderful day I. Days At Sea Between ports, we had six at sea days. Our first at sea day (just out of Fort Lauderdale) had us following the northeastern coast of Cuba all day. It is a bigger island than I thought. Toward the end of the day, we swung a hard turn south and passed between Cuba and Haiti (the island of Hispanola) and then past Jamaica and into the Caribbean Sea. The second at sea day put us directly into the Caribbean Sea all day on our way to Aruba. The day at sea between Curacao and Grenada was very windy and the seas were rough. Because we were going directly into the waves, the stabilizers did not work. They only work when the waves are coming from the side. We learned this because we were invited to tour the Bridge on our second sea day. This was our first time and it went really fast--only 20 minutes and we asked a lot of questions. A few interesting notes from the Bridge tour: a) There is a person on watch at all times. When we asked what he was watching for, the answer was small boats and cargo containers that had fallen off of container ships during rough weather. b) The captain is in charge during all docking and undocking activities. Even if a pilot is brought on board to advise and "takes the con," the captain can override any decision that the pilot makes. c) The ship can pull into areas where the clearance under the ship is only 1-2 meters. It has to move very slowly, but it can and does manage. d) The ship's propellers move independently and can turn 360 degrees. The ship can move sideways, if necessary. Each propeller also has its own engine directly within the propeller case and there is room for 2 people, if needed, in each propeller case. e) 60% of the energy created on board is used to run hotel systems like computers, vacuum cleaners, lights. Only 40% is used to propel the ship forward. Additionally, 30% of the overall energy is used to run the vacuum system used for the toilets. J. Speakers/Entertainment I have never spent much time on the speakers on past cruises--their topics never really interested me. However, during this trip, Dr. Jim Rowe was presenting on each sea day about Caribbean culture and nature. The timing of the presentations wasn't great (10am) because other things interrupted us (the Cruise Critic meeting one day, the Bridge tour the other); however, they were replayed on the internal television stations often and we were able to watch all of them. He was a very interesting speaker and both my husband and I enjoyed his informative speeches. We also enjoyed the song stylings of the 4-man a cappella singing group 545 Express. They were fun and their takes on traditional Christmas sons, including their rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas" which somehow morphed into "(I bless the rains down in) Africa" by Toto were well-done and creative. We also enjoyed an evening listening to the folk singing of Jefferson Ang, a talented young man. Part IX - Tipping The service personnel on Celebrity receive meager wages and rely on your tips for income. While Celebrity says it is customary to offer gratuities to the ships personnel who service you on the voyage, it really is expected, and it's something you should figure into your cruise budget. Our tips were paid on our cruise charge at US$11.50 per person per day. During our last cruise, we had asked our server and stateroom attendant if they received all of the gratuities from the cruise charges and they said yes (we were worried that a portion would be withheld by the cruise line, but that is apparently not the case). We did tip extra to everyone for their good work. On our evaluation, we also included the names of people who had gone that extra mile for us. We have heard in past cruises that this is a great way to recognize people and it can result in a monetary bonus for people whose names are written down often. Part X - Captain's Club On this cruise, we were select members and so we received a "Welcome Letter" which invited us to a cocktail party, a "double jackpot" time in the casino, and a future cruise presentation.If you have taken a previous voyage and are not a member of the Captain's Club, sign up. It's free. Benefits include a CC express line at Embarkation, priority disembarkation, some small cabin welcome gifts, very minor casino, wine and spa discounts, a $20 "all you can fit in a cleaning bag" coupon to launder your clothes, two complimentary pressed items, a cocktail party, a "behind the scenes" tour, and a one cabin upgrade, whenever possible. Some exclusions apply. Part XI - Disembarkation and Customs A. Disembarkation Disembarkation ("exiting of the ship at the end of your cruise"). Breakfast was served in cabins, on the buffet, and in the restaurant. Disembarkation went smoothly. Earlier in the week, everyone completed surveys which were used to prioritize passengers. Clearly those folks needing to catch plane and train connections or who were on escorted tours in Fort Lauderdale had highest priority. Captain's Club members had priority within their color group. Color-coded Disembarkation luggage tags were issued to all cabins, and passengers were instructed to place the tags on their luggage and put it outside their cabins prior to 11:00pm Friday night. We were self-disembarking which meant we carried all of our own luggage (not easy with 4 backpacks, 4 carry-ons and 2 checked bags (larger bags) and only 4 people. But we made it. We met on the 3rd floor at 7:45am after breakfast and were off the ship, through customs and immigration and outside the pier by 8:30am. B. Customs US citizens are permitted 1 liter of alcohol and $800 worth of Duty Free goods per person. If under the limit, all you needed to do was to declare the total value. Anything greater had to be itemized (declared) and a duty paid, if requested. C. Transportation Options to Airport There were transfers available through the cruise line which would take you on bus to either of the local airports--Miami or Fort Lauderdale, taxis were available, and hotel shuttles. We chose to hire a car to meet us. I called them early in the morning with our approximate pick up time and he was there waiting for us when we left the ship. We stowed the luggage and ourselves for the quick trip back to the Fort Lauderdale airport. It was an effortless way to get there. D. Fort Lauderdale Airport Upon arrival at the airport, we proceeded to the AirTran check-in. It took us less than 15 minutes to turn in our bags and less than 10 minutes to clear security. AirTran charges $20 per checked bag (of less than 50 lbs) for the first checked bag per person; $25 for the second. We checked 2 bags on the way home, one each for my husband and myself, for a total of $40. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Choosing to spend a week with Royal Caribbean durringg thee holiday, was a good idea for my wife and I. We were picked up by a shuttle service at our Baltimore suburban home for a short 20 minute ride to the port. Check in was quick and ... Read More
Choosing to spend a week with Royal Caribbean durringg thee holiday, was a good idea for my wife and I. We were picked up by a shuttle service at our Baltimore suburban home for a short 20 minute ride to the port. Check in was quick and easy. We were on the ship in less than 30 minutes. We did not have to touch our bags from our driveway until they arrived at our state room. The ship was decorated tastefully for the holidays including most of the religious preferences. Santa made several appearances throughout the ship at different times. There was a special showing on Christmas morning for pictures and gifts from Santa, sponsored by Royal Caribbean. Christmas dinner in the main dining room was a good mix of traditional holiday meal favorites nicely presented and prepared. Our waiter and dinning staff were excellent. They provided us with as many items as we cared to eat or taste. We shared a table with other couples, meeting and chatting about different cruises, all up for a different kind of holiday experience. We ate all of our meals in the main dinning room for the service and pampering. We grabbed an occasional snack from the Windjammer when pool side. The ship is aging but in good condition and well maintained. Our state room was well appointed and comfortable. Our stateroom attendant was exceptional, providing just the right amount of room care and amenities. The shows were tastefully creative and entertaining with a holiday presentation on Christmas eve. All of the performers had professional experience. They were all enthusiastic, costumes were colorful, dancing was chorographed well, energetic and fun. One of the excursions was cut short by bad weather in Coco-Cay. We had good weather in Cape Canaveral and Nassau. Our overall opinion of this cruise is great. We would do it again, and we would recommend it to others. There is a lot of negative noise out there on the web about this line and the staff of the Enchantment Of The Seas. One can find disappointment in anything if one looks close enough. Happy Cruising to all other happy cruisers ! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Sailed on the Jewel of the Seas 12/24-12/29/2011. Family of three: 2 adults and our 10 1/2 year old son. Flew into Tampa (from Baltimore) on the morning of cruise and took a taxi to the port. Easy. Checked our luggage in with a porter ... Read More
Sailed on the Jewel of the Seas 12/24-12/29/2011. Family of three: 2 adults and our 10 1/2 year old son. Flew into Tampa (from Baltimore) on the morning of cruise and took a taxi to the port. Easy. Checked our luggage in with a porter and were through registration and on board before noon! Port of Tampa was easy to navigate and plenty of people there to help and point you along the way. Had a decent buffet lunch as soon as we boarded and explored the ship until we could get to our rooms (which was around 1 PM). Ship is a nice size, big enough to have lots of different spaces- but easy enough to figure out and get around. Ship is well kept/maintained. Crew seemed very friendly and made a point to always say hello and smile. Also- pool waiters remembered our names- nice. Cabin was clean and we had an excellent room steward named Carlos. The only thing I didn't like about our room was the carpet seemed kind of old and could stand to be replaced. Especially in the area near the balcony door. I was glad I brought slippers! plenty of storage for a family of 3. I felt the dining room food was only ok. Service was excellent- our head server was named Sixto and he was from the Phillipines. He knew all our names by the end of the first dinner. Our assistant waiter had our preferred drinks waiting on the 2nd night. Service was great....food just wasn't amazing. We did try a specialty dining room- Chops. It did NOT impress. The food was nothing special. We have tried specialty dining on Disney- and that was amazing. We have tried the steakhouse on Carnival- and it was excellent. The RCCL specialty was not worth it- rather disapointing. Entertainment was good. The theater is lovely and comfortable. Lots of great seats. Having a movie theater on board was nice, too. We booked our own independent shore excursions in both ports and that worked out well. Enjoyed both ports. Our son seemed to like the kids programming. Only complaint I have is that it is not open enough. We had late dining- so he couldn't really go after dinner. Two of the nights he opted to eat in the Windjammer so he could go to club instead of formal dinner. That was fine. We also gave him permission to sign himself in and out (not sure how old they have to be to do this) and that worked out well as we avoided the "crush" of getting kids in and out of club. They had a Santa on board and he gave out gifts to all the kids on Christmas. Late flight out of Tampa- so we spent the day at the Florida Aquarium (you can walk there from the ship). That was a nice way to spend the day- they even stored our luggage for us- no problem with that. All in all, an enjoyable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Family enjoyed the Christmas cruise on the Eurodam. We had perfect weather the entire week. I was afraid of sea sickness and went prpared for the worst. Only one night I took a half a Bonine to settle my stomach. The cabins were very ... Read More
Family enjoyed the Christmas cruise on the Eurodam. We had perfect weather the entire week. I was afraid of sea sickness and went prpared for the worst. Only one night I took a half a Bonine to settle my stomach. The cabins were very nice , we stayed in an obstructed view cabin. We enjoyed our early morning arrivals looking out the window. Other mornings we went out to te deck. Going in and out of Puerto Rico and St Thomas was an incredible view. The staff was lovely. Our stewards Wawan and JoJo knew our names the first day. My teenage daughter loved the towel animals. She even went to the towel folding class and bought a book on how to. As many people have said the beds are excellent, but you might want to take a pillow. We really enjoyed the meals in the MDR and the Tamarin for lunch was fun. Again the staff was attentive and first class. On the formal night my son ordered 2 escargot appetizers, had the other three courses with 2 deserts. The arrival of the baked Alaska is hysterical. Some people commented that it's ridiculous but I don't think the staff minds at all marching around the dining room. The Lido was fine but a zoo. I was really excited for the late night Desert Extravaganza but the MDR desserts were so much better. If you like the English tea you'll like the Extravaganza. The English tea wasn't very good they ushered us in cafeteria style, and gave us no choice in teas it wasn't the experience I hoped for. The entertainment we enjoyed was the juggling/comedian was hysterical, the magician, a nice young man playing the guitar in the Owls nest where we would go play family games and read. My teenager spent all her time in the library.The only real disappointment was the policy on Hal that 12 year olds are grouped with 8 year olds in Club Hal. My son is turning 13, 1/11 and they wouldn't budge on the policy to put him with his 15 year old sister. My son had one look at the kids that are 8 years old and wouldn't go back. Also my daughter then refused to do anything. We ended up doing the family activities with my son. The more out going teens were hanging out on the boat together. If you have a more reserved child like my 15 year old this set up didn't work. It was difficult when we went to adult activities. The 12 year old wanted to go with us, so we took him. The islands were a lot of fun , perfect weather helped, see other reviews to read about them. We will go back to Hal but probably when the childen are grown. I felt the kids missed out a little on this trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This is my third cruise but first with Royal Caribbean; the others have been with Celebrity so that is what I can compare to. This 7 night cruise out of NOLA was average to below average compared with my experiences on Celebrity. ... Read More
This is my third cruise but first with Royal Caribbean; the others have been with Celebrity so that is what I can compare to. This 7 night cruise out of NOLA was average to below average compared with my experiences on Celebrity. Embarkation- We arrived at the port around 11:30 and it took about 30 minutes from the time the taxi dropped us off to the time we were on the ship. It went very smoothly. Ship Appearance- Even though the Voyager of the Seas is an older ship, she looked just fine. I didn't notice much wear and tear. The decor was not always to my liking, lots of pastels, but the quality was okay. The one thing they could improve on was that many of the chairs were not that comfortable. The ship was decorated for Christmas. One of the other noticeable issues of this ship was the long wait for elevators. As much as possible I recommend taking the stairs. You could be waiting for an elevator for 15 minutes sometimes... Stateroom- We had an inside stateroom on deck 9. The room was small, as expected but had adequate storage. We found putting our empty suitcases under the beds worked best. The couch was not very comfortable to sit on (shallow with a low back), but luckily we were only in the room to sleep. Our room had a flat screen TV, and looking in other rooms it seemed some had older televisions so maybe they are changing them out when they break. Service- Our stateroom attendant was very friendly. He took good care of the room and left us towel animals every night except the first night. I asked him for extra towels and ice on the first day and he delivered them everyday after that without being asked again. We had My Time dining, so our waiters were different every night. Some were better than others- we had a few that we placed a drink order with and the drink never arrived. Food- The food was very disappointing. I am not a picky eater at all, but there were some nights I struggled to find something to eat on the MDR menu. They didn't have much variety, usually offering 4-5 dishes to choose from with one being an Indian dish. I had pork, chicken, steak, veal, pasta- and none were very good. The Chicken marsala was particularly bad- like microwaved chicken covered in brown gravy. The one dish I did like was the Onion Tart we had on the first night. The Windjammer was okay, but the selection was the same EVERY DAY! No variety. We went to Portofino one night. The service was attentive, but I didn't really care for the veal dish I ordered. I wish they had an outdoor grill like Celebrity has. Also I wish they had drink stations near the pools like Celebrity. When you are in your swimsuit you don't want to walk into the buffet to get a glass of water. Entertainment- The entertainers were talented, but some of the material they chose was bizarre. The broadway and movie music shows picked some of the most obscure songs to perform. We had 3 comedy shows. The first one was really bad, I forget his name. We had another guy named Milt who was pretty funny and Yakov Smirnoff (yes, that guy from the 80's). We left the juggling show early- it was pretty bad. There was also an Elvis show that was okay, although he spent a lot of time roaming the audience. The ice show was interesting, we had two, one for Christmas and then a regular show. None of the ice shows we went to were filled. It is pretty amazing what they can do with a small ice surface and it being on a moving ship. Excursions- We took the Maya Ruins Express tour in Cozumel. It was incredibly disorganized. And at the end they dropped us at the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel which deposited us 3+ miles from the ship, with only 30 minutes to get a taxi and get to the ship. I don't understand why they would take ~100 people on this excursion and then just dump them on a ferry with no guide to meet them at the pier. The ruins themselves were interesting and the view to the sea was gorgeous. So overall, we had great weather and enjoyed relaxing, but I think if I cruise again I will go back to Celebrity. There were just too many things that I didn't like about VOS and Royal Caribbean to spend that amount of money again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My wife and I have just returned from an 11 night cruise to Nth Queensland on the Rhapsody. Embarkation was acceptable except check in line was long and those people who could not get shelter from awning had to stand in rain. First ... Read More
My wife and I have just returned from an 11 night cruise to Nth Queensland on the Rhapsody. Embarkation was acceptable except check in line was long and those people who could not get shelter from awning had to stand in rain. First impressions were good, the public areas were tastefully decorated and beautiful artworks around the ship gave the ship a good vibe. Stateroom was acceptable but were showing signs of age and wear. Rooms are apparently being updated in dry dock in March 2012.Anyway it was only a place to sleep and shower to us, no big deal. Windjammers was good, food always fresh and plentiful. You would be hard to please if you couldn't find something to satisfy. We met many new friends whilst sharing a table here. We dined in the main dining room most nights and found the food of great standard. Thank you Linda for introducing us to the great idea of having dishes of interesting unordered main course meals on our table of 9 being placed in the middle of our table for us all to tryEntertainment was fantastic. Thank you to Anthony Michael in the Schooner Bar for a fantastic repertoire of songs. Great musician and vocalist and a great venue to finish off the evening. Great to get to know you. The main theatre shows were entertaining and varied. To our room attendant Danial Tomagla, thank you so much your service was first class. Cruise director Anna Bass did a great job and was always approachable and jovial. The seventies night you did was a real hoot. Our favourite daytime place was the adults only inside pool area. Relaxing music and a great snack bar for all day grazing. All in all great cruise, great ship, great food and entertainment. Will we cruise with RCI again, you bet we are already planning for 2012 Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I booked early saver, with little to no help from The Carnival Vacation Planner. He took my order. I did get upgrades and onboard credit it was work but worked out in the end. I booked a balcony room on the 8th floor, with a room right ... Read More
I booked early saver, with little to no help from The Carnival Vacation Planner. He took my order. I did get upgrades and onboard credit it was work but worked out in the end. I booked a balcony room on the 8th floor, with a room right across the hall for my daughters and mother. I did take an upgrade to an aft room with extended balcony just down the hall from my other room and on the same (odd) side of the ship. They changed my room to the other side (even) not that much father however it did change the muster station this stressed my 13 year old out, mom and the 20 year old didn't care. Carnival did let the 13 year old move to my room to make her more comfortable. The room steward made the bed, gave new towels and emptied trash daily. I meet him on day three, in the past I have meet my room steward on the first day and knew who was cleaning my room. The head waiter worked very hard, he didn't have any help his two assistants did not want to be there. The head waiter wrote down every order and couldn't deliver them to the correct person. I wouldn't book floor eight again. You can here every chair move on the Lido(pool area)deck. They move every chair and clean the deck very late (early morning) daily, difficult to sleep. I had a very good time on this cruise, I enjoyed all the ports, Miami was very easy on and very easy off. The casino staff was nice and enjoyable.(no I didn't come out ahead) I thought it would be nice to get ten cruises in with Carnival and get VIP status, I'm not real sure what it will get me. I will still look at Carnival cruises although since my first cruise with Carnival I think the service drops every year. So I will start shopping other cruise lines more. I still believe there is no better vacation for the cost. Cruising has something for every body in the family we are ages 13,20, 44,45 and 72 we all enjoy this cruise just not as much as past cruises. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
As I sit down to write my review of our Grand Princess holiday cruise, I first have to ask myself what did I want from this cruise? What I wanted: - Relaxation -- time away from work, with no phones or computers - Fun in the sun (a tan ... Read More
As I sit down to write my review of our Grand Princess holiday cruise, I first have to ask myself what did I want from this cruise? What I wanted: - Relaxation -- time away from work, with no phones or computers - Fun in the sun (a tan would be nice too) - Spending time with family - Visiting new places - Not having to worry about what to make for dinner, not having to make dinner, and no cleaning up Well this cruise met all those expectations with a grade of 100% A+!!!! However, I know that Cruise Critic readers are looking for more than my personal needs from the cruise. I know when I read reviews I want to know about the food, the cabins, the ship, the entertainment, etc. So, I will write this review with the Cruise Critic audience in mind. There's some good and some not so good. But please keep in mind that overall this cruise met my needs and expectations of what I wanted with a grade of 100%! PRE CRUISE: We flew in on Wednesday (3 days early) just in case of bad weather and flight delays. We flew into Miami (it was cheaper) and picked up a Budget rental car. We easily drove the short drive from Miami airport to Ft Lauderdale. We stayed at the Embassy Suites on 17th Street in Ft Lauderdale. This was a great decision and I highly recommend it to others. There was room for all 4 of us in the room. The staff were all very personable and provided good customer service. The pool area was nice. The hotel was generally in good repair and kept clean. What made it ideal is that the location was perfect. There was a Publix grocery store and lots of other stores to walk around just 1 or 2 blocks from the hotel. We ended up returning the rental car after just 24 hours, as we didn't need it. You can pick up a Budget car in Miami and drop it off at the Quay on 17th Street (3 blocks from Embassy Suites) with no drop off charge. Everything we needed was easily accessible from the hotel. We did a lot of walking, but public transportation (a bus, a trolley, and even a water taxi) would've been available if we needed it. There are lots of small and large restaurants within walking distance. We had pizza one night from a place next to Publix and Chuck's Steak House across the street was a good choice with a great salad bar and reasonably priced entrees. The only thing negative about the hotel was that the breakfast wasn't as good as at other Embassy Suites we have stayed at. Embassy Suites had self service laundry facilities on some floors, so we were able to do some laundry before checking out. It is $2 per load and you can buy single service laundry detergent in the hotel gift shop. One of my favorite things about the hotel is that we had an excellent view of the port from our window. We slept with our curtains open. Each morning when I woke up, I could look out and see which ships were in port that day. When the Ruby Princess arrived a day early from dry dock, I was so intrigued that we walked from the hotel down to the 17th street bridge to see her at the port. On Saturday morning, it was fun to look out of the window starting very, very early and watch all the ships sail in and wonder which one was the Grand Princess. EMBARKATION, HOLIDAY SPIRIT, and THE SANCTUARY: We chose to take a taxi from the Embassy Suites to the port. I suppose we could've walked, but it would've been a very long way with luggage to Pier 21. We called the taxi in advance and were glad we did. It was a bit hectic down in the hotel lobby with some people just off ships trying to check in and others trying to connect with the transportation companies they had arranged. The taxi option worked well and was about $12 for the 4 of us and all our luggage. It would've been cheaper but we got stuck in traffic between the port entrance and Pier 21. Right before we left, I read on Cruise Critic all about the Sanctuary on the Grand Princess. My daughter and I really wanted this, so we decided to arrive very early at the port to try and get this first come first serve reservation at the Sanctuary. We left the hotel at 9:50 a.m. and arrived at Pier 21 at about 10:10 a.m. By the time we left our luggage with a porter and walked upstairs to the check in area, there were about 50 people in line for check in right in front of us. They had us sit in rows of chairs and let us know that each row would go in order to the counter when it opened. However, those in suites and with elite status had separate rows of chairs and they understandably would go before us. I was still confident that we would be okay reserving the Sanctuary. I have read other reviews that say people were on board in their rooms by 11:30 a.m. They didn't even start checking us in until Noon then they said that the elite were being held in a pre boarding area until Noon too. So, it was about 12:15 p.m. when we boarded. Unlike other cruise lines, Princess does make the process easy. If you pre-register your credit card online, you don't have to show it again. You simply show your passports and boarding passes and they give you the room cards. After getting our cards, we did not have to go to a holding area. We walked right on board the ship. There were two entrance corridors onto the ship. They were divided by room number. We went down the one that matched our room number. I think it went to the mid to aft area of deck 5. We thus did not enter into the atrium. I believe that the other corridor did enter at the atrium. This is where the first disappointment of the cruise happened. When we have cruised on other cruise lines at Christmas, there is a wow factor when you first board at the atrium. In the past, we have been amazed by the splendor of holiday decorations, with being greeted with "Merry Christmas" and a complimentary glass of champagne of mimosa, and by the overall welcoming feeling. This did not happen when we first boarded Grand Princess, and in some ways it set the tone for the cruise. I have read in other reviews (and I have to agree) that the staff on the Grand Princess does not always make you feel welcome. We were greeted by staff in elevators who herded us in rather rudely and told us we must go to our stateroom. It felt cold and certainly not welcoming nor in the Christmas spirit at all. At this point, we saw no decorations. My daughter and I told the elevator lady that we did not want to go to our stateroom as we wanted to go and reserve the Sanctuary. She agreed to let us off at the upper deck and for my husband and son to go to our staterooms. At the Sanctuary, there was only one lady only was in front of us at the Sanctuary desk. We saw her confirm a reservation. Then it was our turn. The gentleman making Sanctuary reservations rather abruptly told us we were too late. He said that they are only able to pre-reserve a percentage of the chairs for the week and that the only other way to reserve a chair was to show up at 8 a.m. on the day you want it and see what is available. This was let down number two. However, in retrospect, I don't think we would've got our money's worth out of the chair reservation for the week anyway. We never had any problem at all finding open chairs either in the sun or shade on any deck. This surprised me with it being a busy holiday cruise. But any time we wanted a chair on deck, we were easily able to find 2 or 3 together. Plus, the weather was so perfect and the sun so strong that after just 1 hour in the sun, it was enough and time to go in. THE WEATHER AND SEA CONDITIONS: It could not have been more perfect. Every day was in the low 80s with mainly sunshine. The seas were mainly calm, except for Monday as we headed south from Princess Cays toward Curacao. It was quite choppy Monday afternoon and evening. I needed a double shot of Bonine and my sea sickness wrist bands that night. This was the only time that I heard the Grand Princess creak and groan. It was a little scary. We were in the elevator and I swear I heard and felt it clang from side to side against the walls. Not fun. But overall, the weather was one of the best things about the trip. THE CABIN: We had reserved two mini suites (AA) next door to each other on Dolphin deck 9 mid ship Starboard side. This was our first time in a mini suite, but we always get a balcony. We like aft and corner wrap balconies best. We also like balconies in the sun, so Dolphin deck seemed perfect. The room was nice, but not as big as my mind had imagined for a mini suite. I did like the extra open closet hanging space and bathtub in the bathroom. The separate sitting area was nice to have, but it was weird to have two TVs right next to each other. You can't really have them both on at the same time. The TV channels were disappointing in comparison to other cruise lines. We didn't get Sky News as I thought. We also only got pre-recorded old episodes from the major networks. They did a good job with ESPN and sports events. CNN was the international version of the news and there was also HLN. The other channels were for movies and Discovery channel specials a little bit. Most channels were related to Princess cruises. What I missed was U.S. news and weather other than what HLN and CNN international offered. I had read reviews about the cabins being tired looking and in need of repair. I thought ours looked okay. The tile was a bit moldy in the bathroom and there were a few dings in the walls here and there, but nothing worse than most hotel rooms. The cabin steward kept the room clean and tidy. There was room under our bed for collapsible luggage. There was plenty of shelf space next to the closet area. Lighting and mirrors were good. There were more outlets than on other cruises. The bed was weird. I tend to sleep better on cruises than at any other time in my life. Not so much on this cruise. The bed itself and the bedding was fine, but the hump in the middle of the bed was weird. I think this is due to some sort of contraption they use to connect two twin beds together. It made it feel as if I was sleeping on a slant and rolling out of bed. I couldn't even tell that my husband was on the other side of the bed. I have not experienced this effect on other cruises -- maybe the other cruises weren't two single beds pushed together. I am not sure, but it was weird and I didn't sleep as well as I usually do on cruises. One thing that almost ruined our cabin experience was smoking neighbors. The hallway outside some rooms smelled badly of fresh cigarette smoke. Our neighbor one cabin over from the kids had smoking parties on the balcony almost constantly. The loudness of the smoking parties, the smell, and the noise of the smoker's coughing really affected our enjoyment of our connecting balconies. Up on deck, almost everywhere we went you could smell smoke blowing to you from one direction or another. I hope the new smoking policies will help this problem in the future. THE SHIP: I didn't find the ship as tired or run down as others have mentioned in reviews. Yes, the carpet was a bit threadbare around the edges, but other than that, I thought it was fine. I was even fine with the blue matting gone on the balconies. It wasn't a big deal. Some of the lounge chairs on deck were broken, but it made for humorous moments people watching passengers laughing through a collapsed chair or fighting with one to change the setting. No big deal. I did find the layout a bit odd. There was that mystery middle staircase that went to nowhere after Deck 7. How frustrating knowing that our cabin was just 2 decks up in the middle but we had to go all the way to the front or back staircase then down the hall to get there from the atrium. Weird. I liked the atrium area, but it wasn't as elegant or extravagant as other ships I have been on. The three smaller dining rooms instead of one larger one was okay. It made dinner more intimate but lacked the wow factor. I didn't like how you couldn't walk to the front of the ship outside of the Sanctuary without going up (or was it down) a deck. I really didn't like the Conservatory. It made me feel claustrophobic. It felt too hot and oppressive in there for me and for me it was a waste of space. I never did find an outside walking track other than the Promenade. The spa was nice. On day 3 they offered a special of a full massage, foot massage, scalp massage and facial for $139. It was easy to get appointments and the staff were all lovely. The massage and facial were the best I have ever had and there was no pressure to buy products. THE STAFF: Our room steward was friendly and tried very hard. He knew our names and always tried to find something to talk to us about. He seemed to struggle with English more than other cruise staff we have experienced before and would often giggle nervously when not sure what to say. We had to ask for our free glasses of champagne (and he did check our 21 year old's ID before giving it to her). We had to ask for robes in the room too, even though we had pre-requested them. We were told that he was not sure if any robes were available but would check. This surprised me. But we did get them in our room later that evening. Other staff that we encountered were not as friendly. When dealing with you directly, they were polite and did their job. However, we often came across small groups of staff standing around talking in their own language and not doing the tasks you normally see. When they saw cruisers approaching, some would stop talking and say hello, but not many. Sometimes we saw wait staff sitting at tables in the buffet or out by the pool eating food and dressed in their uniforms. I have not experienced this on other cruises. Honestly, I didn't get the vibe that we were wanted or appreciated to be there on the cruise. I often felt as if we were a problem just by existing. Isn't that a weird vibe to have on a cruise? For example, we went to the food demonstration on Thursday (2 days before the end of the cruise) and some of the staff sang songs like Happy Trails and Leaving on a Cruise Ship. It was meant to be tongue in cheek humor, but came across that they were sick of us and wanted us to leave already. The ice cream (popcorn during movies) staff often closed down earlier than advertised and gave a "so what" attitude when asked why. The staff in the shops were personable and pleasant. The dining room staff (Botticelli traditional early sitting) were efficient, professional, and nice but I would not call them friendly. They didn't attempt to get to know you on a personal level at all. We had the same waiters each night, but they never asked our names or where we were from. I tried to engage them in conversation about themselves or small talk, but they were all business. But they did a good job with meeting your food needs. It's hard to put into words, but the vibe from the staff just wasn't the same as on any other cruise I have been on. I don't think it was because it was Christmas and they were sad or anything. It was more of an overall attitude problem that perhaps needed to be changed from the top down. This seems on par with other reviews I have read recently about this ship. THE FOOD: No major complaints about the food. Some meals were good and some made us laugh at how bad they tasted. We were always able to find something and obviously never went hungry. I enjoyed the fruit plate available on the anytime menu. The salads and many desserts were good too. Not liking seafood or lamb, I felt my choices for a main meal were sometimes limited. But that's my problem, not the menu's fault. My husband loved many of the seafood entries. He especially liked the Halibut and Cod. My kids both loved the fettuccini so much they had it every night. We always enjoyed the soufflé, but giggled that they tasted the same every night even though they were supposed to be different flavors. The kids enjoyed Alfredo's pizza, but my husband and I felt it was not anything special. My son liked the international café and even the high tea (yes he is a 14 year old boy but went with a group of peers and they loved it). I only noticed that the British pub lunch was offered on two days. I erroneously thought it was every day. The first day they had bangers and mash (what I wanted), but it was not offered on the second day I went. I did have the chips and mushy peas, and the mushy peas were authentic British chip shop style and very good. Horizon court was a major disappointment for us. It felt very small, crowded, and very hot. I agree with other reviewers that the saran wrapped sandwiches are tacky. I also struggled to find some main entrée items that I liked at the Horizon court. The rolls, cheeses, fruit, and pasta dishes were okay. The number or items to choose from seemed much less than on other cruises. Perhaps I was spoiled by the vast buffets on my last cruises on Celebrity Eclipse or Carnival Splendor. On Grand Princess, the desserts are served by a staff member. I like the concept of not serving yourself. There is a sign that tells the list of about 10 choices, but then it is hard to figure out which is which. I don't think the staff member at the dessert station liked me very much or maybe others had the same experience. He often ignored me if I asked a question about what dessert was which. Sometimes he even turned his back to me for about 5 minutes. Why aren't the desserts labeled? Did anyone else experience this? The desserts themselves at the buffet were quite nice if you could figure out which one was which. At the back of the pool area there is a pizza place and a grill. The burgers and fries at the grill were fine. We only ordered room service once, and that was just my son. He said it came in just 15 minutes and he enjoyed the club sandwich and cookies a lot. THE ENTERTAINMENT: Billy London, CD, was funny when he was on stage, but that was the only time we saw him. He had good stage presence and the other staff seemed to like him. We went to the second night variety show and decided that we didn't need to go and see the juggler's main act. We did see both main venue singing and dancing shows. We enjoyed these a lot. The costumes, stage setting and props were very well done. We went to a couple of trivia contests. The female host was cranky, but the male trivia host was funny. The food demonstration and galley tour was a must see, except for the singing crew members telling you it's time to go home with 2 days left. My husband went to all art auctions and was happy with the art work but unhappy with the host. He has been to many art auctions and came away with the impression that the host was in over her head and making up things about the artwork that wasn't true. He thought she was bluffing her way through things and not doing a very good job. My 14 year old loved the teen activities, mainly because of the many friends he made. DISEMBARKATION: Our flight out of FLL wasn't until 4 p.m. so we decided to do a Princess tour of FLL. It was well worth the money and a great way to spend the day. We did the tour of FLL with the Paddleboat tour of the waterways and rich houses. We saw more of FLL than we had in our 3 days there the previous week. It was hot on the Paddleboat tour, but it was interesting. We were dropped off at the airport at about 1:10 p.m. We were glad we did the tour and had fun. As we were on a tour, we were directed to ignore our assigned disembarkation time and use the tour one. We had to be out of our cabin by 8 a.m. and had a meeting time of 8:15 a.m. in one of the bars for disembarkation. At exactly 8:15 a.m. a crew member escorted us off the ship with no lines or problems at all. Our luggage was the first to be seen in the big hall full of bags and was very easy to find. We then went through customs and put our luggage ourselves on the bus for while we were on tour all day. Hassle free! SUMMARY: As I said at the beginning of my review, I rate this cruise 100% because it met my needs and expectations for this vacation. However, there were some good and bad things about the Grand Princess that others may want to consider compared to their needs. In comparison to other ships I have sailed on, I was disappointed with the staff, the buffet, and the smoking. If given the choice between the Grand Princess and Celebrity's Eclipse (that I sailed on a couple months ago), I would choose the Eclipse. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My husband and I decided to escape on Princess this Christmas holiday. We have never been away for the holiday. We thought Hawaii, the beauty of the islands and the warm weather just might be the ticket. (No. VA.) We were not disappointed. ... Read More
My husband and I decided to escape on Princess this Christmas holiday. We have never been away for the holiday. We thought Hawaii, the beauty of the islands and the warm weather just might be the ticket. (No. VA.) We were not disappointed. Everything Princess created for this holiday sailing was something that delighted our spirits. Santa even showed up with gifts for the children. It even snowed in the piazza. That's a remarkable sight. Princess is our cruise line of choice. We were not disappointed. We have been on several different ships with Princess, never the Sapphire. We liked the style of the Sapphire very much. New to us were several dining rooms to choose from. Smaller rooms. Decorated differently. Although the food was the same it felt as if you were dining in a different restaurant. With anytime dining this allows us the freedom to choose whatever we feel suits us best. Great option! We chose the Santa Fe first. Because we are early birds we go to dinner early and retire early. So, one of the first things we did was to check on each of the dining venues available to us as anytime diners. We decided on the Santa Fe. Because this is part of what we enjoy on our cruises we like to make our selection early. In the end, since there were a great many families on board we learned selecting early to be helpful. There proved to be more competition for early dining. At the restaurant (shortly after embarking) we were greeted by a most helpful young man who selected a dining table for us. Little did we realize how fortunate his choice for us would be. What a difference our waitress and her assistant made to our trip. We felt as if we were dining in her home. The service was excellent and the kindness, attention to our needs, and professional style could not have been better. This detail set the theme for the rest of the trip. Our cabin was perfect. My husband has difficulty walking especially up and down stairs. Our first ocean view balcony although somewhat small was very clean and comfortable. With the balcony adding to the space this allowed enough area to relax in quietly breathing in the fresh sea air. Our attendant did an outstanding job keeping the cabin perfectly clean and tidy adding to the comfort. He never intruded in our quiet time but magically appeared to refresh our premises while we were away. We always enjoy talking to the other passengers. The addition of the families was very special. Lots of little one to watch as well as the older youth. I'm uncertain whether it was because of the holiday or maybe the beautiful weather we encountered in the Hawaiian islands but the tone of the atmosphere was delightful! This trip is in the winter in the northern hemisphere. The winds can be a bit strong on the islands this time of year. Although the Pacific was gentle the wind affected our getting into port in Kaui. Our only disappointment. An island we were looking forward to seeing. The captain tried but he just couldn't safely enter. So, he sailed around the island so we could see a special area that you can't see by car. Then he ventured out to another island close by so we could see that before sailing on. Honolulu was amazing decorated for Christmas! We forgot about the holidays given it was just the two of us (65 & 70). This brought it back. Oahu is a port with a full day. Princess arrives early and departs late. A great opportunity to really drink in the port. I wish this was possible with all the ports. That would be so much better!!! This day we were able to see the other side of the island and spend the evening in Honolulu. We tendered in Maui. That was fine too. Nothing could have spoiled this sailing for us. The big island only gave us time for one item on our list which was the tropical gardens. We were driven by cart to the depths of the garden and back when we were ready. Not much walking and plenty of benches. For us an outstanding choice touching the beauty of the island! The on board lectures were interesting .. history of the islands and its people. The shows great. Their female Zumba instructor (Zumba new to me) was fantastic. That was set outdoors .. even better. Did a walk for the cure. All great for the waist line! Everyday at sea there are so many things to choose from it is difficult to fit in a nap or balcony time . My advice ... get going! Take the family out for the holiday or any other opportunity. Enjoy the Princess style it is well worth the expense. We find by choosing Princess we receive the quality we are looking for and can do more cruises. We have wonderful memories. Great nights rest. I am not an employee ... I'm a fan of what is offered by Princess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011

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