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2,163 Holiday Cruise Reviews

The embarkation was relatively smooth. We did pre-boarding on-line and things moved quicker than I expected. The room wasn't ready quite on time but we waited in the lounge for the 45 minutes. The cabin was small, as to be ... Read More
The embarkation was relatively smooth. We did pre-boarding on-line and things moved quicker than I expected. The room wasn't ready quite on time but we waited in the lounge for the 45 minutes. The cabin was small, as to be expected but adequate. There was enough room for clothing and the bathroom held toiletries for three. The shower drain was slow one afternoon and it was corrected immediately. The room was kept clean by Dede who was polite and helpful. We could hear some noise at night but we go to bed early(10:00). One night when the music was very loud at 2:30 in the morning, we complained and the situation was rectified. The cruise staff went out of their way to make up for the inconvenience. My 16 yr old daughter really enjoyed the O2 club. She managed to stay entertained and never complained of being bored. My husband and I never went to a dance club or the America show but we saw the PG comedy shows and they were pretty funny. Teing Fu, comedian/juggler is not to be missed! It's rated a PG show but I think it is more PG-13. The Illusionist was so-so. It had misogynistic tones and even an S&M edge - not my taste and not for kids. One tour was canceled (I can't even remember what it was now) and the other tour we took was the Rain Forest in San Juan. It was enjoyable though not as rural as I thought it would be. The beach at St Thomas was a long taxi ride though it was nice. St Maarten, Dutch side was run-down, the French side was okay - nothing special. Grand Turk was a great beach - walking distance from the boat. The Emerald steakhouse was wonderful. The staff was great and the food superb - well worth the extra $30. I enjoyed having coffee every morning delivered via room service. The breakfast buffet was nice but I didn't care for it for lunch. Granted, I am a picky eater but I really didn't care for any of the lunch offerings. They were just okay. I am not a big fan of buffets anyway. The dinners were hit or miss. The staff was wonderful but the meals were just okay. Presented wonderfully, but lacking in flavor and quality. The bread was good, so was the cappuccino. The spa staff were talented but did give the hard sell for their products which I didn't appreciate since the spa prices were so high anyway. I don't drink but my husband does. I thought the drink prices were outrageous. $9.75 for a Margarita (after 15% tip) at dinner. I thought that was high. If you drink, plan for it in the budget. The shops were not impressive. I didn't go on the cruise to shop but thought that there would be a little more to see. The photographers on deck 5 could be a little annoying but I did enjoying getting some nice photos taken. Overall, we had a very nice, relaxing time. Good value for the money, except for the price of the drinks. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We stayed the night before at the Ft. Lauderdale airport Hilton. Hotel was just O.K. and there is nothing in walking distance so you are stuck eating at the hotel which is overpriced. They really tried to sell their van service to the ... Read More
We stayed the night before at the Ft. Lauderdale airport Hilton. Hotel was just O.K. and there is nothing in walking distance so you are stuck eating at the hotel which is overpriced. They really tried to sell their van service to the port but we found for the 4 of us a cab was less money and more comfortable. Once at the port, it only took about 30 min to get on the ship. The ship itself is beautiful, our room was ready when we boarded at noon. Only problem I have with the outside window room was the bunk bed was over the queen bed and I kept hitting my head when I got in and out. Otherwise there was enough storage space for 2 teenagers and 2 adults. And now for the important part...the food! We find that the food on HAL is probably some of the BEST food on most of the cruise lines. This ship was no exception. We also found the service to be very good and we never had more than a 5 minute wait with the anytime dining option. The activities on the ship were good, not great. We have found that this is the only thing lacking with HAL. We assume that due to the average age on most cruises are older, that they don't have many options for family activities during holiday sailings. We enjoyed the Eastern Caribbean route. In Puerto Rico we all did the Segway tour and had a great time. At all the other Islands, we took cab/van/open bus tours. None were booked through HAL. All in all, we had a great time cruising on the Nieuw Amsterdam and are looking forward to next years cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We drove down to the cruise. We stopped in Fort Pierce, FL the evening before. Left about 11 am and got to the port around 1 pm. Parked the car in an area parking facility that was much less than the $20 a day for parking at the port. ... Read More
We drove down to the cruise. We stopped in Fort Pierce, FL the evening before. Left about 11 am and got to the port around 1 pm. Parked the car in an area parking facility that was much less than the $20 a day for parking at the port. We entered the building and showed our passports and the cruise document. Upstairs to a long, long line. The line had at least 25 agents working but it still took about 35 minutes to reach the counter. Counter process was quick, just fill out health questionaire, show the credit card and soon we had gold seapass cards. We skipped the photographers near the gangway and proceeded down the gangway to the ship where we were greeted by several people offering drinks--both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. They also had an area for children to be signed up for their safety bands. We took the glass elevators up to deck 9 and found our cabin. The cabin was nice. I am a big person so the room (or lack thereof) wasn't too big a problem. There was no way for more than one person to get past however. Our room steward stopped by to talk with us but he didn't get to as the cruise director was on the loud speakers reminding everyone about the safety drill. We were able to meet him after the safety drill. Celebrity means business about the safety drills. Our name was checked off the master list of passengers. Another passenger was told he could not bring his drink into the Celebrity Theatre. We arrived before the drill started; those alarm bells should wake up the soundest of sleepers. The drill didn't require passengers to bring life jackets. The crew on stage demonstrated how to put them on. All and all probably the shortest drill I have attended. We dined every night but formal night in the Anytime dining room (the upper level of the Metropolitan restaurant). Had no wait for a table for two each night. The service was the best the first night from a waitress from Serbia and went down from there. Food quality was generally excellent. The last night, Christmas night, was the worst as service went. They were serving a 7 course dinner which I wondered if it didn't throw things off a bit. We did not get bread or water for several minutes after we arrived. There was also great delay in taking our order; far more than the past evenings. I saw several staff arguing with each other. Again, something I had not seen on the other nights. Lunch we ate at the Caribe restaurant. There were lots of choices for food from Asian to Caribbean to hotdogs to a salad bar. No need to go hungry on this ship. Dinner here had no variety from one night to the next and closed up early. There wasn't much offered late night either. My brother prefers to travel on Princess with its lido restaurant open just about 24 hours. One thing both of us agree on is the lack of insulation from the jogging track above. Your eating and all of a sudden a bang bang bang from above. We finally figured out it was someone jogging. Getting off and back on the ship in Key West and Cozumel was easy. Upon your return, staff had cups of drinks available as well as a ice cold towel. It was very much needed. On board, you had to empty your pockets like at the airport. I had my cell phone on me and set off the alarm when I walked through. Put the cell phone in line to be x-rayed and went back through and all was well. The entertainment was very good. The two shows in the theatre were excellent and there was a variety of music in various lounges. I wish the jazz band had played more; the only time I heard them was when I went to the show. Disembarkation was easy too. Put your designated number on the luggage and put it out before 11 pm the night before. We were to meet at 7:30 in one of the lounges and then proceed to the gangway. We were off the ship in a matter of seconds after hearing the ding of your seapass card. The longest wait was at the luggage carousel waiting to get our luggage. On to the customs folks who wished us happy holidays, took the form, and said we could proceed. By 7:55 we were back at the car for the ride home. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We sailed on the Constellation December 17, 2011 Southern Caribbean. Appearance: Ship was well maintained and looked great. Staff: The crew was friendly and helpful. Wait staff were professional. Everyone you passed in the hallway ... Read More
We sailed on the Constellation December 17, 2011 Southern Caribbean. Appearance: Ship was well maintained and looked great. Staff: The crew was friendly and helpful. Wait staff were professional. Everyone you passed in the hallway said hello. Officers circulated freely and engaged passengers. Overall, outstanding. Entertainment: Theater entertainment was a mixture of production numbers and guest performers. The production cast of 15 singers and dancers were wonderful and the staging excellent. The guest performers were varied in entertainment value, but for the most part were enjoyable. The bands that played in the various venues around the ship did a fine job. Notable were the a'capella group and the string trio. The cruise director, Sue Denning, did an outstanding one woman show and she was a delight throughout the trip. Food: The food was acceptable. It definitely was not up to the standard of sister line Azamara and our recollection is that it was not as good as that on the Solstice and Eclipse. Health: We heard of a few cases of gastrointestinal infections. Nothing was said about it and I didn't notice any extra cleaning of handrails etc. Overall: It was a good trip and we booked another Constellation trip for June. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Have just returned from our fist ever cruise over the xmas period on the Ventura. only booked it 2 weeks before sailing, so got a very good deal. Overall the ship is fine,but there are a few things that I think PO could look into. We ... Read More
Have just returned from our fist ever cruise over the xmas period on the Ventura. only booked it 2 weeks before sailing, so got a very good deal. Overall the ship is fine,but there are a few things that I think PO could look into. We arrived in Barbados somewhat late due to the flight being delayed for over 2 hours (thomas cook). Bye the time we got to the port, it was already dark, and the checkin queue was quite long, not what you need after a 9 hour flight. The cabin was fine, but had to go and eat wearing the same clothes as we had travelled in as cases did not turn up till a few hours later.The Waterside is ok, but I think the trays are a waste of time, because if you get salad, soup and dinner all in one go, the already luke warm dinner is going to be cold time you eat it! And why do they put the soup at the end of the buffet selection? We was told on our paperwork we had freedom dining, but card in the cabin said we were on 1st sitting on a table of 8. We prefer smaller tables so after querying this at the restaurant was told freedom was full, but was given a table for 2.So that was ok. We did not find out till 2 days before the end of the cruise that the Beechhouse did waiter service evening meal, but its the same menu every night, and they only serve about 50 at a time, so you have to queue well before 6 for the 6.30 opening time to make sure of getting a seat. Only used it once, but it was good, all freshly cooked , so no complaints On the first day at sea, I did not go on deck till quite late, and could not find a sunbed in the sun anywhere, ,ended up in the shade at the back of the ship. Think you needed to put your stuff on a bed about 6am, if you wanted to be near a pool, even though they say no reserving of sunbeds, nobody takes any notice, and I never saw any staff removing items, as stated they would. The entertainment was a bit hit and miss, to much singing and dancing, and you needed to get in the Havana early to get a decent seat, or you ended up behind the walls! not being able to see much at all. Why have they got stupid partitions, or why are they not lower? Yes I do agree the staff are not as friendly as other ships ive been on, and I dont think one of our dinner waiters smiled once the whole time he served us. Also on the first 2 occasions I ordered steak, was not given a steak knive, and when I mentioned it on the 3rd occasion, Mr Grumpy said I should have asked for one! We had a day at Catalina Island, which is just a beach with a few tacky shops, but has a huge BBQ cooking area, which the ships crew are supposed to use for the lunch. But by 1pm, there was no sign of any BBQ being prepared, so if you wanted anything to eat , it was back to the ship (a tender job). We found out later that the hygeine officer had visited the cooking area before we all went ashore, and was not satisfied with it, so no BBQ! So they knew before we all went over, but there were no announcements made on the ship telling us. Would I go on the Ventura again, only if it was a bargain price, but prefer other cruise companies Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Boarding in Miami was highly efficient. The kiosks really speed up the process. Our stateroom was ready for us. It was a good start for our Holiday cruise. Overall the stateroom service was always prompt and well done. We get the ... Read More
Boarding in Miami was highly efficient. The kiosks really speed up the process. Our stateroom was ready for us. It was a good start for our Holiday cruise. Overall the stateroom service was always prompt and well done. We get the idea that this would be a crowded cruise from the first lunch buffet in the Sun and Sea restaurant. It is much easier to get a nice table with good view on the Deck 10 area upstairs from the buffet line. The disadvantage is that you would have to carry everything except lemonade and ice tea upstairs. The Asian food station is the best feature of the buffet, but you would have to be patient with the line. This is something that happens a lot in this cruise. We try to take it in stride and not let it dictate how we enjoy our holiday. All the staff we met on board were courteous and helpful. We appreciate their hard work. The dining room waiters try to entertain us most nights, in addition to getting our multiple courses correctly and quickly. We have most of our meals in the dining room to avoid the crowds at the buffet. It is a very well run dining room even if sometimes the food is just ok. The best choices we tried include crab cake, lobster tail, fish. The beef is hit or miss with regard to being medium rare as ordered. We were disappointed that sushi from 5:30-8:00 was available only on the first and last night of the cruise, not every night as it was during our Alaska cruise on Carnival. The Lido deck gets really crowded with deck chairs hard to come by. We are so glad to have our own private space in our balcony. It is very peaceful and relaxing to sit there. The room itself is quite spacious with a sofa. There are lines again at the Gym because the number of equipment is inadequate for the crowd size. However, there was no wait when we went between 5-6:30 pm before dinner time. We just got our senior discount kicked in, and we did not travel with any young ones. There were kids everywhere on this trip due to the time period. We had late seating dining. Overall, the large number of kids did not bother us. I wish there were more mature activities besides the usual contests, bingo, dance party, karaoke. I miss the ship talks (not the advertising kind), galley tour (with no charge), nature or history presentations that were available on our previous cruises. I don't know if this is due to the crowd. We enjoyed the beach at Grand Turk. It was a beautiful day. We were not so lucky at Half Moon Cay. The tendering to go from the ship to the beach on smaller boats took a really long time because of the crowd size and the weather. We rented a half shell and did our reading in the rain. The BBQ lunch there was quite adequate, with multiple stations to cut down on the waiting time. The beach had very soft sand, with a lot less current than the Grand Turk Beach. It is a perfect beach for the kids. At Nassau, we woke up with the sunrise view over the luxury homes on Paradise Island. We took the water taxi to Paradise Island right off the terminal. The crew kept us on board breathing fumes even though the boat was already almost entirely filled. It got a little ugly. We took a nice walk to the Cloisters and the Garden at One and Only Ocean Club. The beautiful scenery was so peaceful and quiet, with no vendors to try to sell you anything. We then went to check out the awesome waves at Cabbage Beach and went into Atlantis to walk around. We checked out the luxury yachts from all over the world at the Marina. The Marina Village is a nice place to sit outside also. We then take a shared taxi back to Nassau. The early afternoon traffic was bad, but the driver was very pleasant to us. We browsed at the Straw Market and the Bay Street shops. We did more shopping on board than on shore. It was still a rather good day at the port. Now we know more about everything here if we come back in future for a Bahamas vacation. The two Vegas Style shows were great, very well designed, with lots of costume changes. The two singers were better than the other vocal performers on the ship. On one night comedy was the only available evening performance. It was in a lounge so it can be hard to get in due to the crowd size. They should have the show in the big hall. On another night, the performers were recruited from the passengers to provide the entertainment. The ones chosen were quite talented. The guitar and piano players that perform in the bars and lounges were ok, not a big draw for us. Getting off the passengers off the ship in Miami was also ran efficiently. Breakfast was also available in the dining room to help ease the crowd at the buffet. Overall, I think the staff on board did the best they can for us to have an enjoyable vacation. I have a suspicion that we are starting to get a little less for our money, but these cruises are still a great deal. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was our second cruise and our first in 12 years. We chose the HAL Eurodam due to its ports-of-call and overall rating. We traveled with our three sons whose ages range from 22 to 15. We had a great time due to HAL, the weather, and ... Read More
This was our second cruise and our first in 12 years. We chose the HAL Eurodam due to its ports-of-call and overall rating. We traveled with our three sons whose ages range from 22 to 15. We had a great time due to HAL, the weather, and the destinations. We stick close together as a family so our kids didn't take advantage of the youth programs. Our main activities on the boat consisted of eating, going to the shows, playing shuffleboard on deck 3, and playing games in the Explorations Cafe on the upper deck. The quality of the entertainment was great. In addition to song and dance, there were excellent comedian and a magician shows. We didn't use the pools or pool areas at all but got our share of water on the excursions. The Explorations Cafe/Crow's Nest were popular spots without being overcrowded. My wife and I attended one fun cooking session in the Culinary Arts Center and one historical presentation. Although we didn't take advantage of many enrichment activities, the ship provides a full range of activities from morning through the late evening. You will not go hungry on this ship. Although I can't compare the food to other ships, HAL gave me more than I expected. We mostly ate in the Rembrandt where the meals, especially dinner, were very good. (You won't go wrong if you stick mostly to the Rembrandt.) We ate in the Italian Canaletto once where the food was good but not exceptional. The Lido restaurant was a typically crowded buffet but it was convenient when we were in a hurry and the food was decent. There were several high teas at 3 PM which we didn't need to go to, but we took advantage of them to eat even more. There was also one major dessert buffet at 11 PM, and you could usually get late-night snacks in the Lido. We had good experiences with all four ports of call, and fortunately, the weather was on our side. Grand Turk is a rather impoverished island but the cruise terminal is very modern and hopefully provides good revenue to the island. Old San Juan was my favorite and is a great place to spend the day. We've been to St. Thomas and St. John before, but you can't go wrong with another visit to the Virgin Islands. Finally, Half Moon Cay was a great place to spend the day. Service on the ship was excellent. We interacted with dozens of the ship's staff and did not have one unfriendly experience. Our room was kept clean, and we had no problems with sheets, towels, etc. Be advised that many of the staff do not have a good command of the English language. This could be frustrating at times especially if you're trying to communicate important or critical information as we needed to. If you have special needs such as dietary requirements, I'd recommend bringing information in writing and be as detailed as possible. We've been told that HAL generally attracts an older clientele. On this Christmas cruise, there was a great cross-section of ages; everyone from babies to seniors, and there were many inter-generational groups. Although we did most things as a family, there are plenty of opportunities to meet and get to know other people. To sum up, we had excellent service and food on board the Eurodam. I would recommend both HAL and the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Let me preface this review with the fact that I was a travel agent for 18 years prior to 9/11 but this was only my second cruise. I'm aware of the different types of travelers and what was important or unimportant to me might be ... Read More
Let me preface this review with the fact that I was a travel agent for 18 years prior to 9/11 but this was only my second cruise. I'm aware of the different types of travelers and what was important or unimportant to me might be different for you. I decided that staying home for the normal holiday family drama was not in the cards for me and decided to book a vacation that would be relaxing and didn't involve much stress. A cruise was the perfect choice. I waited until 3 weeks prior to departure to book and still got a good fare and was even upgraded. These cruises are an amazing feat of timing and organization. 2000 guest and 900 staff have to be fed and entertained. I was impressed with the positive and friendly attitudes of all of the staff. It really is amazing considering the sheer volume of humans that roll through a ship week end and week out. Our cabin 4247 was a typical cruise ship cabin. Everything is tiny, but it was adequate. You can stow 4 full-size suitcases under the beds and we managed to unpack all of our clothes in the closet and drawers provided. If you care nothing about the room other than a place to sleep, book a cheap cabin and spend your money on excursions. If you like to spend private time alone, book a stateroom with a balcony. If there are more than 2 of you, it's cramped. I shared a room with my 18 year old son and it was easier than I thought it would be. We really were only in the cabin at the same time to sleep. I enjoyed "Freestyle Cruising" and the choice of restaurants. It was nice to be able to go to the 7 Seas or 4 Seasons for a sit-down dinner without a reservation and whenever I felt hungry. It was also nice to get my new-found friends together for dinner and not be stuck with assigned dining companions. Cruise ship food is what it is. They are cooking for 2000 people, 3000 if you include the staff. They are also trying to accommodate a multitude of palettes. There was typical American fare as well as a selection of Indian cuisine on the buffet and the salad bar had a great selection. Hamburgers and hotdogs could be found everyday at the buffet as well as freshly grilled on the pool deck in the afternoons. There is an icecream bar in the main buffet as well as soft serve in the aft buffet. That seemed to be a hit with everyone as there was nearly always a line. The 7 Seas main dining room is on the 5th deck aft and the food and staff seemed more accommodating than it's sister MDR, 4 Seasons, which is on the same deck mid-ship. We also ate at the French restaurant, Le Bistro, one night (dress up night) and the service was fantastic. Although the table next to us brought an over-tired toddler to a 9PM dinner and she cried which spoiled the atmosphere. (Don't bring your baby to a French bistro at 9PM!) The White Party: I don't know if it's like this on every cruise, but the first hour is open to everyone including children. The dance floor was a mosh pit of pre-teens. They had to leave after an hour, but then it was 18-22 year olds who were basically standing there not dancing, so no one else could dance either except of the edges of the dance floor. I had heard this party was on the pool deck, but on our cruise it was at Dazzles and really too small a venue to hold everyone. Smoking: If you smoke you are limited to very few places. The Promenade deck and port sides of the pool deck and deck 12. No smoking in any of the restaurants or bars and there is no cigar bar. You can also smoke in the casino. As of January 2012, no smoking in your cabin unless you have a balcony. Casino: Total snooze fest! Shore excursions: Keep in mind that you will not see very much of your destination ports on a cruise. You will see port shopping at port prices. The cruise line does not force you to purchase their excursions, but they do make you fear booking with other vendors. If you book with them and are late returning they will hold the boat, if you book elsewhere they say they will leave you if you are late. You also pay 30-50% more booking through the excursion desk and they are reluctant to refund money if the excursion was a disaster. If you book on your own and pay by credit card, you'll have a better chance of getting your money back if the experience was terrible. My best advice is to check with the concierge desks of local high-end resorts for recommendations. It might cost you a phone call, but you'll save money in the end. Many islands have large tour operators who can offer all of the same adventures. The internet is also your friend and reading reviews is helpful. Cocktails, beer, and wine: I found the prices to be comparative to US restaurants. A glass of wine with dinner $15, martini $14, drink of the day $8. If you like wine I believe you can bring it aboard but must pay corkage of $10. It is still cheaper to pay corkage than double the price of a bottle of wine which is what all restaurants do including cruise restaurants. They will tag your bottle and it goes to a cellar and will be available to you no matter what dining room you are eating in. Tips and Tricks: Water, tea, coffee and milk are the only free drinks. At breakfast there is OJ, cranberry and apple juice but they turn that off after breakfast. If you like juice or soda, buy the softdrink pass for $70 per person, OR you can bring your own. You are allowed to bring aboard cases of water or sodas with your luggage. A large bottle of water on board is $7. This really only works if you are driving to your port. The number one piece of advice I can give to anyone traveling whether on a cruise or otherwise is relax and smile. Your attitude will be reflected back to you. Kindness and respect is the international currency. If one thing goes badly, take a deep breath and wait for it to pass. If you meet new people who are constantly complaining that everything is awful, avoid them. Attitudes are contagious. Bottom line, we had a great time, made new friends, saw new places and would go back again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Background: my wife and I booked an 8 day Caribbean cruise on the Holland America (HAL)Westerdam since this was our first Christmas without our grown children. We have cruised on Carnival and Norwegian several times, but this was our first ... Read More
Background: my wife and I booked an 8 day Caribbean cruise on the Holland America (HAL)Westerdam since this was our first Christmas without our grown children. We have cruised on Carnival and Norwegian several times, but this was our first time with Holland. As a scuba diver, I wanted to take this cruise so that my wife would see my favorite Caribbean island, Bonaire. Pre-cruise- we originally booked directly through HAL for a Superior Guaranty balcony suite for $1,299. We upgraded from a Superior balcony to a Deluxe balcony room after receiving an Holland email offering a $199 upgrade. (Great upgrade!). Ft Lauderdale: We flew Southwest airline (bags fly free!) and stayed overnight at the Sheraton FL Beach resort ($65/nt Priceline) located about 1 mile from Port Everglades. Tip: reserve wine and champagne online from Total Wine & More Ft Lauderdale and pickup your order on the way from the airport or to the cruise terminal. Embarkation: an easy taxi cab ride ($20) from the Sheraton to Pier 19 at Port Everglades where the Westerdam (and many other ships) was docked. Curb side baggage support was good, but keep an eye on your box of wine/champagne. We only waited 10 minutes in the "Priority" line to check in and immediately boarded the ship. Cabin: We splurged for a Deluxe Verandah suite on the Rotterdam deck (7th floor) and across the hall from the Neptune Lounge. The cabin was clean and available to us as soon as we boarded the boat at 12noon. The suite was very large (5-700ft) with seating for 6 adults inside and outside. The other benefits of the deluxe suite included the dual sink, bathtub & shower, separate dressing area for my wife, daily flowers and fruit, FREE laundry and dry cleaning and daily breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill. Neptune Lounge- the lounge was across the hall from our room and was available from 7am-8pm daily. The concierge's Margaret and Jane were very helpful with everything from dinner reservations, excursions and hand carrying our wine to the main dining room. Initially, we were very concerned that the other suite guests would be snooty, but we were pleasantly surprised. Dining- my wife and I enjoyed breakfast in the Pinnacle grill, especially the lox and bagels! We prefer the main dining room (MDR) versus the Lido deck and the MDR food was fantastic compared to NCL! The service was fast and friendly from the Maitre D, waiter (Kosi) and Wine waiter. We really enjoyed the formal night (dress varied from sport coats, suites to tuxedos) and the food was fantastic. Entertainment- we really enjoyed the entertainment variety on HAL, from classical violin's, piano bar, casino, to the Vista lounge. Ports- we enjoyed the 4-wheel jeep ride excursion on Aruba, particularly since it rained that day and was fun driving through the muddy water. We walked around downtown Curacao and then rented a car for $52/day from Budget car rental in the Renaissance hotel next door to the cruise port. We toured the back roads of the Curacao island and enjoyed the small beaches and Boca National Park. As expected, Bonaire was the best of the three islands since its the best scuba diving. Summary- we really enjoyed our first cruise with HAL and will definitely choose HAL again in the future. We consider HAL to be much classier than Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and HAL appears to be focused on serving you rather than up selling you. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My partner and I are frequent cruisers (20+) and enjoy the low stress that comes with cruising once on board. This was our first Princess cruise, we have sailed mostly with NCL. We are middle aged and most of the people on this cruise ... Read More
My partner and I are frequent cruisers (20+) and enjoy the low stress that comes with cruising once on board. This was our first Princess cruise, we have sailed mostly with NCL. We are middle aged and most of the people on this cruise were in the 45+ age range. With this being a holiday cruise, there were kids, but not as many as we thought there might be. Most of the entertainment this cruise centered on the holidays and would not be typical of the regular weekly sailings. I would consider the Grand Princess a small/medium sized ship and on the older side (built 1998). I will post some pictures or a link on the Princess boards soon. The recent renovation centered on the main atrium (Piazza) and Sancuary, thus some ware can still be seen in other parts of the ships. The elevators are on the slow side throughout the ship, more so forward and aft (remember going down steps is easier than going up, so be prepared or be patient). It always seems that these size ships are at times difficult to navigate from floor to floor (can't get there from here type issues) and can be a challenge. For some reason I got the impression that the elevators and steps were on opposite sides/reversed than what I was used to on other ships and that caused me to get confused about which direction was forward and aft...probably just me??? The staff on this boat I found to be extremely friendly, always smiling faces and very accomidating. I only found the International Cafe to be the one place where the staff behind the counter appeared to be less friendly than the rest (open 24 hrs, maybe reason why???) Embarkation was very organized and started about 12:00 p.m. We were there early and they had a seating area where we could sit until they were ready. Our bags were at our room by 3:00 p.m. and we were pretty much unpacked before muster. Disembarking was also well organized and you have to be out of your room by 8:00 a.m. There are places throughout the ship where you can wait based on your luggage tag color. I would suggest doing early morning walk off with your luggage or choosing one of the earlier colors. There is a sit down breakfast, as well as the buffet area available that morning. There are many bars on the ship, but we primarily hung out at Crooners, the martini bar and Vines the wine bar. Most martinis' are in the $8 range. Wine by the glass can cost from 7 - $8. There is a 'Happy Hour' from 4 -- 6 p.m. where basic 'well' liquor drinks are $3.99 (for example rum and coke) and only the dark rum brand looked decent (cruzan), we didn't know the other brands. Evening entertainment was veried. There was a string quartet or pianist in the main lobby/piazza each night. We did not see any of the main shows in the evening but heard that a few of them were not the best quality. Movies under the stars is a nice change of pace for something low key in the evening. The ship casino is on the small size and the slots are very tight and don't really even pay enough to let you play a while, better off playing tables. The Lotus Spa (deck 15 forward) outdoor pool (over 21 only) was where we hung out most of the day. It is a quiet relaxing area with some lounge chairs that offer some shade. There are about a dozen lounge chairs available and are usually occupied by 7:00 a.m. so get up early and grab your spot. We enjoyed being able to have easy access to the locker areas with robes and extra towels as well as hot tea and flavored waters. The spa's outdoor pool area also has men and womens separate steam and sauna, but is kind of odd to have them separate when they are all in the same open outdoor area. There are no showers in the men/women locker areas of the spa, only outside to rinse off after use of the steam/sauna. We enjoy more robust spa facilities; this one was on the low end. The exercise room had lots of equipment, but was on scale with the ship...smaller than most. The Sancuary is directly above the spa pool, presumably to allow easy access to the users of the Sancuary area. I am sure this boat's area is smaller as compared to other newer ships. We did not use it, but got a tour the first day. There are no cabanas for personal use, only for massages. There are a few dozen lounge chairs, 90% in shaded area and another 10% in full sun. Since the ammenities didn't seem all that different from the spa pool area directly below, we saved our bucks and just hung out there. We had an inside cabin and were very satisfied with the layout and daily upkeep. The room steward was very efficient and always freshened up the room in a timely manner whenever we put the 'refresh room' card in the door slot. From what I understand none of the rooms were updated in the last dry dock. The mattress is very firm and the toilets don't always flush on command. I found the in-room safe to be a bit tricky to work at times since the knob didn't always turn when it should, seemed like turning it very slowly did the trick. We found the food in general to be of a higher standard than on NCL or Carnival. We ate most of our meals in the main dining areas since we prefer sit down service versus buffet. We utilized anytime dining and only had to wait a few times with a buzzer for a max of 10 minutes. The dining staff is very efficient and we found one dinner server to be exceptional (Kitipong in Michaelangelo) and requested his area each night. There were two formal nights, but we chose not to dress formal but instead dressed business casual and were still able to eat in the main dining room. There were folks going in shorts and T-shirts some nights and not being turned away...I still think people should at least dress in pants and a nice top in the evening. Alternate dining was very good. We ate in Sabatini's one night and the food was fantastic and well worth the $20/person cover charge. The menu in Sabatini's has changed and is now a traditional 4 course dinner menu. The new pizza shop Alfredo's in the piazza was very good (no charge). The food and pastry at the International Cafe also in the new piazza area was also very good and a great place to grab something small 24 hrs a day (no charge). I heard that some other Princess boats have Gelato at the International Cafe, however this boat does not. The Vines wine bar in the piazza has a nice selection of wines to sample by the glass and the staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. The open seating area of the piazza allows you to enjoy your food/wine while watching the entertainment happening in the central area. The internet area is also in the piazza (very slow uplink compared to other boats we have been on). There was also a nice afternoon tea service daily at 3:30 p.m. in one of the main dining rooms with sandwiches and pastries (no charge). Our southern cruise stopped in Aruba, Curacao and Princess Cay. We didn't use any of the ships excursions and went out on our own. Aruba is great beach and shopping day. I recommend taking the public bus straight up a block from the cruise terminal ($2.50 roundtrip and run frequently up and down the main hotel zone road) and going to Eagle beach. Food and drinks on Aruba are expensive so be prepared or stop at a store on the way and take your own drinks and snacks. We were not real impressed with Curacao. Most of the nicer beaches require a long and expensive taxi ride (we went to Porto Marie, 30 -- 45 ride and $90 roundtrip for two). The town area is charming to look at from a distance but not as clean and robust as Aruba (just our opinion). Princess Cay (cruise line's private island) was ok for spending some time at the beach. Water was much cooler than Aruba and a bit rocky vs. sand in the water. All the same prices for drinks as the boat and had outdoor barbeque food. We got back on board and had lunch on the boat since we are not the hot dog/hamburger type eaters. Overall the cruise was very relaxing and the service was great. For an older, smaller boat the ammenities were good and the newly updated piazza/atrium area has added some nice touches. If you're looking for more robust modern ammenities, you might want to look into a newer and larger ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I've read many reviews of this ship, some ok, some good, some not so good. Here is my pinion of this ship and the ports of call. First, the ship is actually quite nice. I liked the decor and the renaissance themed art. It was ... Read More
I've read many reviews of this ship, some ok, some good, some not so good. Here is my pinion of this ship and the ports of call. First, the ship is actually quite nice. I liked the decor and the renaissance themed art. It was easy to get around and had everything I would want on a cruise ship. The fitness room and spa was nice, never had trouble getting to the cardio or weight machines. While we never went into any of the pools or hot tubs, there were plenty of them, though the pools were a bit small and frequently crowded with yelling kids, but that's to be expected I suppose. Fortunately this ship features the Serenity Lounge on the stern, that is for adults only and has its own bar, hot tub, and lots of hammocks and lounge chairs - but it was full most of the time. We were able to spend some time there and it was most relaxing! Being gamblers, we spent a LOT of time in the casino. The slots are no more or less loose than any land-based casino I've been to, and there are plenty of table games to play. I would have liked to see some newer slot games, as the machines are rather old, but they are still fun. We were able to rack up our 1500 points on day 2 of the cruise so we drank free while in the casino 9and playing) the rest of the cruise. the trick to this is, once you hit your free drinks, just play the penny machines at the lowest bet when you want to drink, and you'll be spending as little as 9 cents, yes 9 cents, gambling while getting $8 to $10 drinks free! The food at the mermaid grill was typical buffet fare - ok, nothing special. The Normandie Dining Room food was a little better, usually well prepared, good variety, and promptly delivered. We elected the anytime dining and never waited longer than 5 minutes or so to be seated. The final night of the cruise we got lobster and prime rib and had all we wanted! David's steak house, however, is a MUST EXPERIENCE! The food, the service, the decor, absolutely rivals any of the finest eateries we have here in Boston! And THAT'S saying something! Our cabin was nice, nothing special, but again, suited our needs nicely. The cabin steward was very nice and always took care of us. We never met a rude or inattentive member of the crew, everyone was great. Now, here's the one BAD aspect of the cruise. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT TAKE THE BLUE LAGOON SHORE EXCURSION in Nassau! If I could, I would have sued for false advertising! The description is a "luxurious, private white sand beach with great luncheon and drink availability". Ok, not even CLOSE! There is chain link fence running along the dock into the water and oil spill looking booms roping off the swim area, which is tiny! The food is advertised as 100% Angus beef burgers, but I can assure you unless the server's name was "Angus", there was no Angus to be seen, only dried chicken, cold rice, and hockey-puck like hamburgers. I was completely disappointed with this excursion and, to top it off, Carnival charges $90 per person for this, while you can get it on line for a mere $50 if you're NOT a cruise ship passenger. HUH??? Yes, you must book this through the ship so Carnival can apparently get their commission. When I brought my concerns up with the shore excursion desk, I was told "we have to get in touch with the trip provider". Now, if I book this trip through Carnival on the ship, why do they have to contact ANYONE else in order to make it right? We were told it was a 4.5 hour excursion, and it ended up being 2.5 at best, but only an hour for us as we left early it was so bad. All I asked for, was a refund of ONE of the tickets . . .I figured whereas we did go on the excursion I should at least pay for what I did "use" of it. I figured it would have been a nice gesture for Carnival to refund basically just half of the price, as we only got about half of what was promised. In stead, I got a letter from the assistant shore excursion manager telling me he was passing along my concerns to the tour operators and was sorry my excursion sucked, but please continue to sail with carnival. Having dropped over $3000 in the casino, I would think a lousy $90 refund would have been not too much to ask for - after-all, they would have gotten in back in a slot machine anyway! All in all, it was a good trip, a good time and pleasant experience. But, again, a reminder, DON'T BOOK EXCURSIONS TO THE BLUE LAGOON!!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Embarked on the WindStar's Windsurf for their Yachtman' Caribbean from Dec 24, 2011 through Dec 31, 2011 out of St Maarteen. Overall, this was an outstanding cruise. The wife and I have never been on the Windstar line before, ... Read More
Embarked on the WindStar's Windsurf for their Yachtman' Caribbean from Dec 24, 2011 through Dec 31, 2011 out of St Maarteen. Overall, this was an outstanding cruise. The wife and I have never been on the Windstar line before, and after cruising many other large ships decided to try this out. We both agreed that as long as we can help it, we will never do another large cruise ship again. Since this was Christmas week, the demographics of the boat were somewhat different as there were some families, but the boat primarily was primarily filled with "older" couples in their late 40s to early 60s (we are in our early 30s). Even though the boat was "booked" at capacity, I think like 312 or so, the entire week we always felt that we had the boat to ourselves. The largest "gathering" of people typically occurred during the port talks in the evenings and had about 40 or so people in the lounge. We never found it difficult to find a lounger outside or get a table to ourselves at dinner, or find a spot to just sit alone when we wanted to. And on the flip side, if you wanted to be social and sit with others, that was not an issue either. To be honest, there were not that many "recent" reviews of Windsurf out there and I was a little nervous about booking. However, now I am a little nervous about writing this review because I don't want others to find out how great it was! FOOD: The food overall I would classify as one notch about a large cruise line. My wife is vegetarian and never had an issue finding dishes she could eat. They are all typically marked with a V on the menu and after Day 1, the crew knows and remembers your preferences. For such a small boat you have a couple different places to eat. "The Restaurant" -- Basically your main dining room, in which you could eat anytime between 7pm and 9pm. The menu changed each night. There was someplace called "Degrees" that you could eat at, but we never did. You could also eat outside at their 2 "special" restaurants which required a reservation. We ate at "Candles" one night, basically a steak house menu, and ate on the aft portion of the boat outside. It was nice to be outside, but did not think the food was any better then what was inside. They just brought out whatever the vegetarian option was from the inside menu for the wife, not a big issue. For breakfast we would always go to the Terrace which consisted of a good sized/optioned breakfast buffet along with a short menu to order from. For lunch, we would always stop by the "Yachtclub" and grab some sandwiches which we would bring ashore with us. CABIN: For a small boat, the cabin was of ok size. We thought we would miss having a balcony, but did not since you are really rarely in the cabin. So the bottom 3 decks are basically all cruise passenger cabins and seemed to be based on class of pay. Deck 3 was all the suites (basically 2 rooms joined together), Deck 2 was normal sized cabins, and Deck 1 was normal sized cabins. When I originally priced out the cruise, of course 3 were the most expensive, then 2, then 1. We ended up in a cabin on deck 1, don't see any reason why I would want to spend more money to get a cabin on deck 2 as they are all the same. Maybe you upgrade to deck 3 for a suite if you want more room, but since you spend so little time in the cabins and there are no balconies, deck 1 made the most since to us. Overall the cabins were always very clean (along with the rest of the ship). The ship actually had just completed a refit 2 weeks prior to us coming aboard, so there was lots of new carpet, etc. Ship looked great, not aged at all. DAY 1: Arrival to St Maarten / Ship Departure We arrived into St Maarten on Saturday Dec 24 on USAir from CLT. Not a bad flight arriving around 220pm. The boat left at 7pm and they asked you to be onboard by 6pm, so we just took a taxi from the airport to the port. Cost was $20 for the 2 of us. No issues, only took about 30 mins to get to the port. Would say this method was less expensive than the cruise ships prearranged transportation and not difficult. All you had to do was get your luggage and walk outside. Checking in seemed to be very informal compared to other cruise lines. You walked onboard, they checked your name, then at one station they provided you paperwork to fill out. Then you would go into the lounge, fill out the paperwork (they provided free fingerfood and drinks), and then you would go drop off the paperwork at another station, they would take your picture and then you went to another station to get your room key. Sounds complicated, but was pretty easy and stress free compared to waiting in large lines with other cruise lines. That night was pretty uneventful, we did the lifeboat drill, ate some dinner, watched the boat leave, and then went to bed. Day 2: Tortola / Jost Van Dyke Arrived at Tortola's Soper's Hole at 10am. Last tender back to the ship was 530pm, so plenty of time on shore. With it being Xmas day, there was not a lot of activity on the island and cabs were just not around much. We ended up going to "Nani Cay" which was probably not one of the better beaches, but its location near a main road and cab stand gave us a better option of getting back to the boat. Soper's Hole is also home to Pursers Rum (misspelled?) and we drank some painkillers at the bar. The boat left Tortola around 6pm and arrived at Jost Van Dyke at 7pm. Last tender back to the boat was at midnight, so plenty of time to hangout of Foxy's which was great. The boat tendered us in to the side that Foxys was on, so made it very easy to get to. And the good news is that the Captain decided to change up the itinerary (originally supposed to depart Jost Van Dyke at midnight and go to Virgin Gorda) and decided for us to stay overnight at Jost Van Dyke until the following afternoon so we could enjoy the beaches here as well. Day 3: Jost Van Dyke / Virgin Gorda Tenders ran from early morning to 3pm on Jost Van Dyke so plenty of time to experience the island and the beaches. We walked from the little town that Foxys is in over the mountain to the beach that Soggy Dollar Bar is out and spent the day. It was a very hilly walk over there and took about 35 mins, but worth the views (and we took a cab back, only $10). Beach was great, got some chairs and drinks and watched all the boats come and go into the area. That evening we went back to the boat and enjoyed the sail over to Virgin Gorda. We anchored near the Bitter End Yacht club and went ashore to the club that evening. A pretty cool place overall with some neat bars. Lots of private boats anchored in the harbor and their crews and passengers ashore having a good time. Day 4: Virgin Gorda Tenders started at 8am and went through 450pm. The tenders went in a triangle from the boat to Bitter End Yacht Club, then to Prickly Pear Island, then back to the boat. Prickly Pear is a small island that the Windsurf I guess rents and they through a beach BBQ on it that afternoon. The island and beach are pretty nice, the boat brings over all the water toys (kayaks, sailboats, etc) and you can use them on the beach. The one thing they do not do is bring you over to the main island (say if you wanted to go see the baths) but they do have an excursion for $49/person to do this which gets you about 1 to 1.5 hours there). So we decided to try to go ourselves and it ended up being pretty easy. You tender to the Bitter End, then go to the reception for the hotel, have them organize a cab on the main island to meet you where the Bitter End's free tender service drops you off. So you take the Bitter Ends free tender service to the main island and then a $25 cab each way to the baths. So it was really not that difficult, just had to ask some questions on how to do it, but you save half the price and you can spend as much time at the baths as you would like. Day 5: Basseterre, St Kitts Tenders started at 8am and last one was to the boat was 530pm. We had been to St Kitts before and were not that impressed. Granted you are forced to enter through the port at Basseterre which is very touristy and oriented to cruise ship passengers. Locals try very hard to get your business for cabs and to take pictures with Monkeys. We ended up taking a cab to the other side of the island (facing Nevis) and went to the beaches there. Not horrible, and St Kitts is a very beautiful island, but would rather go somewhere else. The entry into the island kind of spoils the experience. Day 6: Les Saintes, Guadelope Tenders started at 8am and last one from ashore was 345PM. This was really the "gem" of the trip. Very small French island and the local population do not care if you are there or not. We got off the tender and walked around the little town then hiked over to one of the beaches. The walk there and back took about 1 hour total, 30 mins each way. On the way back we spent some more time in the town and literally caught the last tender to the boat. While we walked, others rented scooters and saw more of the island. Looked like this would have been a pretty good option as well as there was not much traffic or people around. Day 7: St Barts Tenders started around 10am and last tender back to the boat was midnight. I had high expectations for the island but was a little disappointed. It was neat to anchor were we did among all the high private yachts (including the largest in the world) and just see all the money! But, the island was very crowded, probably in anticipation of New Years on the following day and there were literally no rental cars or scooters available to rent. In addition, the island is VERY expensive. A cab to a beach on the other side was like 25 euros one way. We ended up just walking to "Shell Beach" about a 10 min walk from the port. Nice beach and lots of shells. Certainly not the highlight would think St Barts is best when it is not super busy unless you enjoy that type of thing. Day 8: St Maarten / Departure Boat arrived at some point in the morning and everyone was required to be off by 845am. Since we had until ~300pm to be at the airport, we rented a car in the port that could be returned to the airport and just drove around the island. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
OK first let me say we where very worried after reading so many negative reviews. This was our first cruise that had freestyle dining and the tips "forced" upon you. Most reviews we read stated that the employees where lazy and ... Read More
OK first let me say we where very worried after reading so many negative reviews. This was our first cruise that had freestyle dining and the tips "forced" upon you. Most reviews we read stated that the employees where lazy and don't expect anything extra. I must say as a experienced cruiser we where pleasantly surprised. The Sky isn't the best ship we have been on but it was a blast. The Positive things: The food was nothing like we expected according to prior cruisers and their reviews. We ate everywhere except the pay places like Cagneys and the Italian place. Everything was always fresh and hot. There was a large variety from vegetarian,Indian,Asian and others. We ate at the buffets inside and pool side. Excellent burger and that type fare. Our room was small but was kept clean and neat (9345) They have 24 hour room service that is included unless you order pizza (5$ for large) Drinks are like most high price and easy on the liquor. (We carried on our own vodka and rum) Btw way in to types of ways to test their checking. They caught neither. They constantly are cleaning and picking up you plates and replacing silver/napkins. Their organization for exiting the ship was some of the best we have seen.Their private island Stirrup Cay blows away other private islands we have visited by a long shot. All newly built buildings, bathrooms, kitchen/buffet etc. Food on island was ribs,chicken,burgers, hotdogs and all the other fruit and side dishes. I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the point. We was pleased with our experience and will be back. Negatives: The ship is layed out really weird and cut up. Not sure why this is. But we are not that difficult. To wrap this up let me add unless you are a pain in the ass type traveler or one of those people that can never be pleased or maybe your a billionaire and used to 200$ a plate meals every day I would ignore the majority of the previous negative reviews. After using this site for the last several years to review ships prior to travel Ive found most negative comments to be 90% B.S. Check them out and have a great time. We will be going again soon. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Left our house at 11am for the 1 1/2 hour drive to Galveston and when we got there we parked our car in a lot. Had RC had alerted us via numerous avenues, we would have just driven directly over to the Convention Center for processing. ... Read More
Left our house at 11am for the 1 1/2 hour drive to Galveston and when we got there we parked our car in a lot. Had RC had alerted us via numerous avenues, we would have just driven directly over to the Convention Center for processing. After spending 2 1/2 hours waiting in a line to board with no information regarding a delay in boarding the ship, we were then escorted onto buses for processing 10 minutes away from port at the Convention Center. Found out there was a norovirus scare on the last voyage, but that info came through the rumor mill, and not through any information from RC staff. Shameful!! Good thing were are all able bodied persons (2 teens and us, in our 50's) because it was appalling what RC put the disabled, elderly and massive amount of young children/parents through. We took a taxi (we paid the fare) back to the port to avoid another 3 hour bus/transportation wait. Finally, made it on board 4 hours late and went to supper at our 8:30 seating, when the ship finally departed. No apologies from staff or crew. I will have to say right off the bat that our room attendant, Rosa, and our evening waitstaff were brilliant and that's the truth. As far as the food was concerned I am not expecting much, as we know that "food for 3000" is a tall order. But honestly, we were beginning to think that the "norovirus" was not to blame for illness. Food temperatures were suspect, especially in the "Windjammer". My husband started playing the "Can u guess what that is" game when it came to the food in the Windjammer, and I have to say on most occasions he was right on. I finally explained to my evening waitstaff that the food was "off" temperature and they should be concerned if there was, in fact, a virus on board. I never again, nor did anyone at my table, recieve any food that was not piping hot. Here are a few things that I was disappointed with, that are simple fixes, especially because we had a good enough time to start planning to "skip" Christmas again next year: The ship itself needs a little sprucing up, i.e, carpeting stretched, if not replaced altogether. Painting in common areas, especially the adult pool. The "Holiday" decorations were amateurish and ,unfortunately, disappointing. Windjammer food was adequate, but we are paying a premium, so be considerate of your paying passengers. Food and service were better in the dining rooms at breakfast and lunch. Us "American Babyboomers '50-60-70 somethings" could use a lively place for before and after dinner coctails and dancing. The Viking Crown Lounge is a real snoozer. It could be used more efficently. Night after night, I was a little jealous of the latino crowd with their "Bolero" nightclub. However, I would not want to cramp the style of the '20-40 year old' crowd in the DragonSlayer nightclub. The Onboard production shows (with the exception of the fabulous Ice Show) and the Cruise Director (sorry, Paul Rutter), were flat. Paul seemed to be on "auto pilot" and the cast of the production shows in my humble opinion were less than High School grade; again, no offense. The "guest" entertainment, especially Nick the Magician and the piano player were very enjoyable. Disembarkation was slow, and blamed on US Customs, which quite frankly, was an unfair insult to them, as I thought once you made it out of the ship and into a line, went quickly. Hope this was helpful, and not too long winded! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Little did we know the true meaning behind the name of this beautiful ship when we boarded her on Christmas Eve. But all was to be revealed to us on the final day at sea. As for the beginning, this was our 5th cruise overall, and our 2nd ... Read More
Little did we know the true meaning behind the name of this beautiful ship when we boarded her on Christmas Eve. But all was to be revealed to us on the final day at sea. As for the beginning, this was our 5th cruise overall, and our 2nd w/ Royal Caribbean. Previously we'd been on RCCL's "Sovereign of the Seas" and on the Celebrity "Century" & Celebrity "Millennium". I can now report that the "Jewel of the Seas" is by far more luxurious and breathtakingly beautiful than any of the others. We were awestruck at the glittering chasm of the 7-story atrium in the center of the ship. On decks 4 through 10, there are numerous viewing platforms and spacious glass elevators offering glorious views up, down, and in every direction imaginable, each level tastefully trimmed in the classic Christmas style. To further stimulate the multi-sensory experience, each floor contains a sitting or reading area which allows you to rest or read quietly while Christmas carols & soft piano music echo upward, calming the soul. The ship is very well laid out and easy to navigate. Radiating out from the center atrium, most of the public areas are quickly accessible and near at hand. The Schooner Bar, The Safari Club, and the cleverly placed Cinema are just some of the attractions that share Deck 6 with the Casino and the Coral Theater. There is also a billiard room, complete with hydraulic self-leveling billiard tables. High up on deck 13 amidships, overlooking the pools and the bow of this luxury liner, the Hollywood Odyssey is another lovely evening hideaway to sit in before the disco crowd arrives. But our favorite night club was The Safari Club, far astern on deck 6. This richly appointed and cavernous room features warm earth tones, oak and cherry wood throughout, soft and romantic lighting, and the coziest private corners anywhere on the ship. Of the many swimming pools and whirlpools, we frequented the Solarium's whirlpool and large salt water pool every single day and thoroughly enjoyed the therapeutic and relaxing waters. Its close proximity to the Windjammer Cafe made it a popular but not overcrowded location for many. It also helped that children under 16 are not permitted in the Solarium pools. We didn't use the nearby Spa, but it certainly looked first rate and well furnished for those who did. There was a mini-putt golf course on the sun deck, ping-pong tables, the rock climbing wall, shuffleboard, and so many other places to recreate and have fun. Food was excellent, generous, always available and easy to find. At the Windjammer Cafe, the menus featured a wide variety of American, European, and other ethnic offerings, all of which were tasty and fresh. Especially scrumptious was the chicken curry, the Christmas Turkey Dinner, the strawberry whip dessert, and a low-fat passion fruit pie. Breakfast too was abundant and hearty. Our only issue with the Windjammer was that all of the buffet islands were located together in the center of the room, which kind of forced everyone to crowd together as they helped themselves. There wasn't a food line per se, and it just required a bit more caution, patience, and courtesy than had it been arranged otherwise. The Windjammer Cafe itself is a place of great elegance; spacious, with very upscale tables & chairs, fine wood and brass furnishings, linen napkins, plentiful window seating, and a helpful and alert staff. It truly felt like being in the main dining room. It made the Celebrity Century's Islands Cafe look something like a very nice Ryan's Steakhouse or other cafeteria. We only ate in the main Dining Room once, that being Christmas Brunch. Lovely room, wonderful personalized service, and again, very good soup, steak, and Mahi Mahi entrees. Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room are open seating, and you order off a menu, whereas the Windjammer simply had more choices. Never used the specialty dining rooms but they too looked spectacular. Embarkation and disembarkation: Wow! Fastest, smoothest, easiest experience EVER! Better than Ft. Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, or Miami. Maybe it was just because it was Tampa, maybe it was a new system they've created, but we were parked across the street and on the ship within 30 minutes. Getting off was even faster. Literally within 15 minutes of being called from the Coral Theatre waiting place, we were in our car and on the road by 8:30 am. Doesn't get any better than that. The Song and Dance troupe shows were slightly disappointing as a whole. One called "City of Dreams" was downright ridiculous; outlandishly silly costumes, nonsensical thematic flow, and it even degraded into moments of rap & hip-hop. A full one third of the audience had walked out before the blithering spectacle was half over. The other show, a standard sort of cruise ship Broadway revue, was much better received and done with more taste. But Celebrity Cruises definitely does this sort of entertainment better. On the plus side, "The Temptations" tribute band was first rate and a highlight of the cruise. Los Pampos Gauchos was also a fantastic hit; high energy drumming, dancing, and stunts, all laced with bawdy Latin flavored comedy and audience participation. Perfect show for a cruise ship! Our room was a 9th deck stateroom with a private balcony. Gorgeous spacious room, no problems whatsoever with plumbing, HVAC, or anything of the sort. I'm a light sleeper and easily awoken, and although we could hear the beat music from the pool deck, it never kept me awake. What did disturb me were our neighbors on the adjoining balconies. One side was a bunch of chain smokers, the other side a rambunctious and talkative family with kids. I called security at 2am to tame the latter group, and the warnings were effective. But I won't bother with a balcony ever again. We didn't get our money's worth out of it. You can't control who you get stuck next to, and too much noise comes in even when the door is closed. (Note to people in 9068: Learn how to behave yourselves in public before you go on another cruise!) Now for the Christmas miracle. At some point during the last full day of the cruise, the diamond stone from my wife's engagement ring fell off somewhere in the ship. As she went into hysterics, I spent two hours retracing our steps from the previous evening and morning's activities. The Coral Theater, the Cinema, the Windjammer, the Safari Club; I went over every spot with a fine tooth comb and flashlight. But no luck. I finally went to Guest Services, Lost & Found, etc...and reported it. I told them I needed a Miracle. She was only able to offer the services of some security personnel who volunteered to go over our stateroom as closely as possible, something my wife had already done. I accepted. Three Indian and/or Nepalese gentlemen proceeded to turn the stateroom upside down and inside out, and finally, after 20 minutes, far in the corner under the upturned couch, they FOUND IT! My wife burst into tears and so did they, thrilled that they were able to help us recover our lost treasure, our Jewel of the Seas! They were rewarded for for going above & beyond the call of duty. This could have been a tragic loss for us, but these gentlemen were our heroes! We have no hesitation in giving this lovely and elegant ship our highest recommendation. We'll certainly consider it again in the future depending on where she's going. But to be honest, I think we might be through with the typical Mexican and Caribbean ports of call. They're just not all that interesting anymore. I think it might be time for the Baltic or Mediterranean Sea this summer..!!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Just got back from our Xmas Getaway on the Thomson Dream. Having previously sailed on the Dream last year we thought, yeah lets give it another go. Following a comfortable trouble free First Choice flight from Gatwick to Bridgetown ... Read More
Just got back from our Xmas Getaway on the Thomson Dream. Having previously sailed on the Dream last year we thought, yeah lets give it another go. Following a comfortable trouble free First Choice flight from Gatwick to Bridgetown Barbados we arrived at the port. Went through a trouble free checking in process and was escorted to our pre booked inside cabin on deck 7 fwd. The cabin was as expected and was spotlessly clean. On our previous cruise on the Dream we had an outside cabin and these are much more spacious then the inside cabins. The cabin was very warm and it was clear the air conditioning wasn't working correctly. We had exactly the same problem on our previous cruise so i called reception and a logged a request to have it checked out. Heard nothing for 24hrs and it was unbearable at night. Called reception again and requested a fan for the room which we received within the hour. We kept the fan running 24/7 throughout the 14days as the air conditioning problem was not resolved. The air conditioning problem was inherent throughout the ship especially in the restaurant and in the theatre. The restaurant has open dining on non formal nights and we felt all they wanted was to get you in and out as quickly as possible making no effort to pair you up with other couples. To our dismay we dined alone the majority of the time even though made repeated request to share a table.The food was plentiful but basic with little variety. Chicken and beef was the main ingredient to most of the dishes. We didn't see a prawn for the whole two weeks and the deserts were very bland. There is know doubt they have cut back on quality. We cruised on the Thompson Spirit in October and had far better choice of menu. Since October the cost of drinks on board has increased by more then 20% with a pint of larger now costing £3.50, a spirit £3.70 and a can of coke £1.70. The shows in the main theatre were excellent with a different show for the the 14 nights. The cast where incredibly talented and had so much energy and enthusiasm. Sadly the ship hasn't undergone a refit and lounges were tatty and well worn. The public toilets were clean throughout and worked !. There were a few smells on certain decks but nothing like there was on our previous cruise on the Dream. To sum it up, would i go back on the Dream ? NO !. Thompson portray the Dream to be the best in their fleet and rate it 4*. Well all i can say is stick the the 3* Spirit, Celebration and Destiny Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We just got back from our first Cruise. My Partner of 17 years and I met a couple of friends from Germany in Miami on Christmas Day. Here is our review. Embarkation: TSA security was rude, and rounded everyone like cattle. They ... Read More
We just got back from our first Cruise. My Partner of 17 years and I met a couple of friends from Germany in Miami on Christmas Day. Here is our review. Embarkation: TSA security was rude, and rounded everyone like cattle. They appeared to be so disorganised and barely could function. Once we got passed the TSA and into the NCL Check in lines, it was much better, and I think it took us about 20 minutes to get checked in and on the ship. First Hours: We got on board about 1pm, and the rooms wouldn't be ready for a couple hours, so we wandered around the ship taking it all in. We stopped at a bar by the pool for a drink and then made our way to the buffet for some lunch. Food was good, all staff was very friendly. We chuckled every time we saw the washee washee man! (a person outside every restaurant that sprays your hands with sanitiser before entering). Stateroom: We had a balcony Stateroom because we smoke. The room was small, but storage was brilliant. we unpacked everything and put the suitcases under the bed. The bathroom was big enough and very clean. Towels, and soap and shampoo were all available and clean. Water pressure was surprisingly good and about what I get at home in San Francisco. Dining: Freestyle dining was a breeze, we never waited for any of the restaurants except for the last night (New Years Eve) Breakfast was at the buffet every day and had something for everyone. All food was good, and exceeded our expectations. drinks: One of the worst parts of the cruise, the drinks were expensive, usually between 6 and 8 dollars per drink. Add up for two drinkers over a week, well NCL made out with us.... But this was expected before hand, so we planned on it. Neighbours: On the cruise we had non smokers in the next balcony. I can appreciate some people dont like smoke, but we paid for the balcony because we could smoke. Every time we went out there and our next door neighbors were there, they would stomp off their balcony and Slam, not just close hard, but slam their sliding glass door. This became an ongoing gag as the cruise went on. I didn't feel bad because they were loud and obnoxious people anyway. Sometimes when we were not smoking, but the guy on the other side of us was smoking a cigar, we heard the same door slamming.... they probably thought his smoke was from us. NCL should offer non smoking sections for those people, but still I dont feel bad because of their behaviour... Excursions: Great Stirrup Cay, we snorkeled. Fun, laid back day. This is an island owned by NCL, so all their drink prices and such apply here. Ochos Rios, we did the Dunns Rivers Falls climb. Crowded, but fun.... I was not impressed with the people of Jamaica, rude pushy and always have their hand out to ask for money. Wont be going here again. Also very anti Gay, so we were not at ease in this place. anyway, glad we did it, but will pass in the future. Grand Caymen: We spent the day on the beach, crowded, but relaxing. Cozumel Mexico: We were supposed to go on the tuulum ruins tour, our friends got on the boat, we missed it, so NCL credited us the cost, and we found a small place with a private beach, food, massages, and snorkeling. The colors of the fish were amazing here, as was the service and cheap food and drink. Actually glad we missed the boat. Our friends said the Tulum ruins were crowded, they took 2,5 hours to get there and 2.5 hours back, so they spent most of the time commuting. We were relaxed and at ease when they got back. Activities: Entertainment was great. liked it all. Bingo was 39 dollars, a ripoff, this irritated me. Also the Deal or no Deal game, 19 dollars, fun but still felt taken advantage of after playing. Pub Crawl: 25 dollars for about an hour of fun.... dont fall behind, this was a fast moving event. Nice way to start the evening. New Years Eve bash: Great fun, people really got active after the drinks started flowing. All in all, we loved it. Still dont like their drink prices, or the pushy photo sales plugs, and the spa people trying to up sell you other services. The staff is great and make you feel special. We knew the extra prices going in, so we planned on the expenses and had a great time. We also met many other gay couples and the cruise was very mixed, so we felt at east.e Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We did a back to back on Carnival Glory covering Christmas & New Year. Carnival came highly recommended to us. Our only previous experience was with Royal Caribbean this is my only comparison points. I have to say firstly, I love ... Read More
We did a back to back on Carnival Glory covering Christmas & New Year. Carnival came highly recommended to us. Our only previous experience was with Royal Caribbean this is my only comparison points. I have to say firstly, I love cruises and visiting different ports. We visited many posrts on this cruise and we were delighted with the places we visited. I will sepearte my review on different areas. Embarkation: This was relatively quick. They have a lot of people to get on board so you should expect to wait. We did back to back crusies, so on our date of changeover, we went to Miami and returned via VIP check in. That was a great experience. We waited a long time on the deck to actually get onto the ship. This was a sign of things to come. Stateroom: We had an ocean view on the 8th floor. The room was fine. There was plent of space for us to unpack for 3 people for 2 weeks. The room was alway clean and tidy. Our stateroom Steward, Constantine was amazing. He did a wonderful job and I cannot prsise him enough. Ship Layout: It took me a while to get used to how the ship was laid out. There are so many bars and rooms around the ship, we constantly had to refer to maps for help. Food: This is where the complaints start. One word to sum up the food, Awful. This let down the whole experience of the cruise. Nothing was hot. At breakfast, everything was barely warm. The toast was a joke. It was done on one side and cold. If you could be bothered to wait for an omelette, that was hot as it was cooked to order. Lunch was worse. The food at the buffet was cold and disappointing. They have a small grill area where they do burgers, hot dogs, fries etc. I would guess a lot of people would rather have this option for lunch. The lines were so long you didn't want to wait. The times I used the grill option, fries were stone cold. The pizzeria was ok. They really don't want to give you more than one slice of pizza. The saving grace for the ship was the Mongolian Wok. If you want it, you will have to stand in line for a long time. This was a great. The guys who work there are amazing and they never stop. We ate in the platinum dining room for dinner. The food again was always just better than cold. It seems to be down to the system they use getting the food from the kitchen to the tables. We got a better view of this on our 2nd week. As an example, I timed how long it took from the dishes being placed on the waiters station to it being served to guests. The food sta there for an incredible 12 minutes 20 seconds. I repeated this each evening and the quickest it reached guests was 5 minutes 24 second. Remember, this food is already plated and ready to be served. Even if it was piping hot when it left the kitchen, it wouldn't be by the time you got it. I have no upsides of our evening dinner experience. We used the steakhouse for 2 nights. It was well worth the $30 charge to get good hot food. We found ourselves buying fast food on our port stops just so we didn't have to face the poor food on Carnival Glory. Emabrkation at Ports: They must do this so ofeten that it should be seamless. Every time you wanted to come back to the ship you had to line up. In Cozumel we waited in line for 35 minutes. If you don't want to wait in line, you have to return at least 2 hours before the due time. This means you have less time at the islands. OnBoard: It states clearly in the "Fun Times" each day that guests are not permitted to reserve deck chairs. Staff will remove items if they have not been used for 30 minutes. This is not the case. On Sea days, if you do not have chairs by 7:30am, forget it. On our last sea day. 16 chairs wer reserved from 7am 3 people used them until about 11am when some more people showed up. At no point were all beds used. My idea of a relaxing holiday is having to fight for for chairs. Carnival should enforce the policy they say they have. Also, you cannot avoid the photographers. When you walk from the promenade to the dining room, you are accosted by at least 5 photographers trying to get you to stand in front of a tacky backdrop. Entertainment: It was ok. The only one I really enjoyed was Justin Illusion. The others were very samey and nothing spectactular. The crusie director, Josh has 3 things he says all the time: "Folks", "Give you a quick heads up" & "As it pertains to". He was ok, but constant messages on great deals that we shouldn't miss were boring. I am not on a cruise to buy some overpriced art that wouldn't sell anywhere else. Overall: The food is the big let down. Have low expectations and and you won't be disappointed. The ship looks and feels dated. Carnival focus on "fun". If they focussed on some other areas highlighted, maybe people would have a better experience. The beast part of being on the Glory was the staff in the Atrium Bar, Evie and Gladys. They were wonderful and always polite and happy. I will never cruise with Carnival again due to this experience. I didn't get value for money. I do understand that others cruise with Carnival a lot. I would say, try other cruises, you'd be surprised how poor carnival actually is. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Pre-cruise: We flew into FLL two days early and instead of staying at the usual pre cruise hotels, we rented a car and drove 45 minutes (in traffic) down to Miami's South Beach and stayed at The Miami Loews Hotel. Our stay was ... Read More
Pre-cruise: We flew into FLL two days early and instead of staying at the usual pre cruise hotels, we rented a car and drove 45 minutes (in traffic) down to Miami's South Beach and stayed at The Miami Loews Hotel. Our stay was fabulous! Great location, awesome service, great pool and beach area. My only tip...get a room with a balcony, otherwise the rooms are a bit small. Embarkation: Husband dropped the 3 of us off at the cruise terminal at 10:45, then he returned the rental car (rental car place gave him a complimentary ride to the cruise ship terminal). I handed off luggage (1 large suitcase per person and one bag of snorkel gear) to the porter and filled out the "health" forms. We waited in the platinum, elite & suites lounge...husband arrived 15 minutes later. We checked in at noon and then boarded immediately. The ship: We had been on the Emerald 2 1/2 years ago...we thought the ship was still in fabulous condition. We had a balcony cabin forward on deck 15 and our boys had an inside cabin forward on deck 14. We requested egg crate for the bed and bathrobes. We did anytime dining in Michelangelo dining room. Our waiter was Romeo Gonzalez from the Phillipines...he was awesome. We loved the pizza and did get 1 pop card and the boys the UKP cards. A tip for the UKP cards: you can get rootbeer from the bar and then go to the ice cream counter and get a scoop of hard vanilla and make a float. We thought the food varied from awesome (lobster and prime rib) to bizarre - we don't eat frog legs and sweet bread (aka brains and glands). The Horizon court and Cafe Caribe were good, and afternoon tea is fun. We ate in the Crown Grille once and it was good, but c'mon, food is definately plentiful and probably would not do it again. We saw a few shows, our favorite were the two Beatles music shows - they were awesome and not to be missed. Comedians were good and the production shows were...so-so. We were pleased that the crew did not push drinks as much as we have seen on other ships. We thought the ship was decorated nicely for Christmas and it was neat that Santa was around and thought the snow in the atrium was cool. We thought the crew did a great job keeping plates out of the hallways and the elevators were quick. There were 416 kids on board and most behaved well. It was interesting that the Emerald uses hand held devices to scan your cruise card when entering your designated muster drill area - no escaping muster anymore. The Ports: Princess Cays: we booked a bungalo...accommodates 4 people. We enjoyed it and thought it was worth it. It was nice to get out of the sun, wind, crowds etc. The snorkeling was very good. St Thomas: We have been here before and so we decided to go to St John on our own....We took a taxi to Redhook Ferry ($44 for 4 of us), the ferry to St. John ($24 for the 4 of us), a taxi to Trunk Bay ($42 for the 4 of us), paid to get into the park ($8 for 2 adults), then found out it was too rough and windy to snorkel and swim. Paid for a taxi back to the ferry, ferry back to St Thomas, and taxi to the shopping area. We wandered the shopping area and walked back to the ship...I think I would have just done a ships excursion. Dominica: We used AL Dive. 2 of us did a 2 tank, 2 locations dive...and 2 of us did 2 location snorkeling. It was incredible and would definately use them again. Grenada: We used Eco dive Grenada and 2 of us did a 2 tank, 2 locations dive and 2 of us (my 12 year old's first dive!) did intro to diving and a 1 tank dive. It too was incredible. We also wandered the market and picked up some spices. We loved Grenada. Bonaire: we had made arrangements to rent a car thru Hertz...well Hertz did NOT show up. Instead we made plans to dive with VIP diving. They were drumming up business outside the pier. And it worked out well, but I would avoid Hertz car rental in Bonaire. Aruba: I tried to rent a car before hand and had a tough time since it was Christmas that day, so we were just going to wing it. Well when we arrived, from our balcony we could see a car rental place at the pier so my husband hurried off the ship and rented a jeep for $100 cash and we spent the day touring the island, stopping at beaches, snorkeling, eating at Senior Frogs, getting a Starbucks mug, etc. We had a great day and loved Aruba, however because it was Christmas 99% of the stores were closed. It was ok for us cuz we are not shoppers, but something to keep in mind. Complaints: We were disappointed that Princess no longer gave platinum members a complimentary glass of champagne. And our pet peave is...babies (in diapers) in the pools...Princess' rules prohibit diapered kids in pools, but parents don't listen and crew does not enforce, same thing with under aged kids in the hot tubs with out a parent there. It's really not the kids fault, more like the parent's fault. Also saving seats/chairs in the Princess Theater, Club Fusion, Explorer's Lounge and by the pools. To those adults who put towels, shoes, magazines, sunscreen and oh yeah the potato bag chip clips to "reserve" chairs....you all suck! There is a couple of different ways to approach this issue. 1. Don't do anything about it and just silently complain. 2. Tell security and watch them do nothing about it. 3. When in Rome do as the Romans (and just join 'em). Or 4. Stand up for your right to sit in an empty seat and pack your boxing gloves. (security actually had to break up a fight poolside over this matter). Disembarkation: This was the first time we "walked" off the ship with our luggage...it went great. Post Cruise: For post cruise we took a taxi to the airport and rented a car and drove down to Key West for 3 nights. We stayed at Casa Marina. It was a very nice resort, just a few quirky issues (like a yapping dog in the room next to us). We absolutely loved Key West and the 4 hour drive was doable. After 3 nights in Key West we drove back to Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the B Ocean Hotel for 1 night and then flew home the next morning. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I traveled on 12/18 for 8 nights on the new Carnival Magic out of Galveston with 16 family members; 12 adults and 5 children ages 6 thru 13. This was a Christmas cruise so the ship was packed with over 4700 guests so there were long lines ... Read More
I traveled on 12/18 for 8 nights on the new Carnival Magic out of Galveston with 16 family members; 12 adults and 5 children ages 6 thru 13. This was a Christmas cruise so the ship was packed with over 4700 guests so there were long lines and slow elevators often...take the stairs and you will get some good exercise and will get to your destination faster! Collectively the adults have taken over 30 cruises on 4 different cruise lines so we have experience to offer a solid review. Let's start with The Good! The ship is huge, beautiful and modern with a large casino and a lot of activities to keep you entertained. The waterpark and sports area with putt putt golf and basketball were big draws and always had a crowd. There were many trivia games, karaoke, and other contests going on throughout the day for those wanting to stay indoors. The staterooms are comfortable and clean. I had a balcony room which was welcomed since we had four in the room, my wife and I and our 6 and 8 year children. We had one bathroom but other family members had 2 bathrooms which really came in handy when tight on time and needing to get showered. Our stateroom steward was terrific and was right on top of everything we needed. There are 5-6 Carnival channels and the options would be improved if ESPN was added as a channel to view. They have it in the casino so access is not an issue. Our kids went to Club Carnival a couple of times and they were so-so on the experience. They spent a total of 5 hours there over 2 days, mainly playing games and videos. There were around 700 kids on this ship and around 800 teenagers so kids were everywhere. This made it nice in some ways as many kids made new friends. On the other hand...there were 1500 kids/teenagers running around, including mine! The Bad...well, the food was a big disappointment. The service in the Southern Lights dining room was good at night but not so much in the morning. The breakfasts on the ship were very disappointing and I must admit you can get a better breakfast at any of the popular drive-thru and national chain breakfast joints. I ordered a traditional Eggs Benedict in the Southern Lights dining room one morning. It had obviously been prepared hours in advance of my ordering. The eggs should be poached and they were at one time, but the yolks were hard as they were probably prepared far in advance of my ordering them. The Hollandaise was void of all moisture and looked like someone tried to turn the top into a creme brulee as it was browned over completely...heat lamp destroyed this and it should have never left the kitchen. Another visit to this dining room brought us cold French toast, cold sausages and cold toast. With 4700 plus guests I know food needs to be prepped but serving cold food is poor management. Portions were smaller than normal so be prepared to order another. For example, the omelets may provide you 4-5 bites of total egg and contents. You can eat lunch in many places including the Marketplace buffets on the Lido deck, the Italian restaurant's pasta bar, the Southern or Northern Lights dining rooms, the 24 hour pizza station, the Oceanside BBQ (on non-rainy days) and a couple of other places serving deli sandwiches and burgers. The Prime Steakhouse and the Italian restaurant are open for dinner for a service up-charge. We dined at the steakhouse one night and it was good. The service was excellent and we appreciated the attention from the GM, sommelier and servers. The chef came by to say hello too which is a nice touch. The Ahi tuna tartare was the best dish I had on the ship. Flavors popped and everyone who did not order it wished they had. The rib eye was okay. It was called on the menu to have either a 14 or 18 spiced rub on it but it did not taste like it. I actually had to salt it which should have been done in the kitchen and the rub simply was not there. Two others ordered this cut of steak and agreed it was not seasoned properly. Those who ate lobster and filet all agreed their dishes were very good. The Italian restaurant was really good and for the $12 up-charge for adults and $5 for kids it should be considered for 3-4 dinners. It's that good and the other options are that underwhelming. You dine family style and our server recommended starting with all appetizers and salads which was perfect as you got to taste 10-12 different items. Each person ordered their own entrees and we all enjoyed our choices. You can dine at the Italian restaurant for lunch too without the up-charge! Most people assume an up-charge but there is not one and the food is better than any other lunch option on most days. You choose a pasta, protein and sauce and the chef prepares it for you, along with a good Caesar salad and focaccia bread. The Lido buffet was a disappointment too. Food was often repeated daily, lacked flavor and honestly was not as good as anything you would get from a national casual dining chain like a Friday's, Chili's or Applebee's. Lines were long and moved slowly at the more popular Mongolian buffet and the Tandoor bar. Food was better at these two locations but the areas were small and you would wait 15-20 minutes or better to get to the food, or the place to ask for food. The dining in the Southern Lights features 2 menus; an everyday menu and a daily menu. Out of 5 dinners eaten in this dining room, I may have eaten 3-4 items that I would consider good, well-prepared, flavorful. For the most part, the food here lacked flavor and seasoning. Portions were small so you often needed to order another to get full. The Oceanside BBQ was in one small area on the ship so lines were long and food was plain and simple and in my one experience there, it was overcooked/burnt burgers and hot dogs and cold chicken and pork tacos. Overall, the food was a huge disappointment and the worse we have ever experienced on a cruise. The service around the pool was not great and could have been good if there were additional servers. There are not a lot of shops on the ship, which is no big deal to me but I did hear others say other ships offered more specialty shops, etc. The Ugly...we were traveling over Christmas and were expecting the ship to be more festive in decor and events. With the exception of some garland around the 3rd, 4th and 5th floor lobby areas, and a narrow Christmas tree hidden around an elevator, the ship was lacking holiday spirit. We and many guests we met were very disappointed that Carnival did not offer some kind of Christmas service. I understand the need to be sensitive of people's religious preferences but to not even offer a non-denominational or inter-denominational Christmas-oriented service was hugely disappointing. Another ugly by Carnival was the showing on Christmas morning of infomercials on the huge screen around the pool on the Lido deck! It was Christmas morning and hundreds of guests are eating breakfast outside and they were showing infomercials! Four guests near us called guest services to let them know and we also let the server know and she called them too. After 30 minutes of being asked on Christmas morning to buy pizza ovens and brain power meds I went down to the guest services desk and asked if they could change the programming. I was told the cruise director was aware and he was calling A/V and they would change it. Well, of course they did not change it so everyone outside had 1.5 hours of infomercials on Christmas morning. What would have been so terrible about showing "A Christmas Story", "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"? Maybe blast some holidays music instead of pop and rock on Christmas morning? In conclusion, we had a great time being with family and getting off the ship for some cool excursions, but the poor quality of the food and long lines, combined with the much better experiences we have had before the Magic, we do not see ourselves ever sailing the Magic again. Big issue on 12/26 return as Carnival could not get guests off the ship in time so those arriving to leave that day were not in everyone's way. We were in Group 22 of 35 groups to exit the ship. We were told our group would begin exiting at 9:15. Wrong. More like 12:00pm. Then it took 1 hour to get the car to the terminal to load luggage. People trying to leave could not get into the parking lot to load their luggage as another 4000 guests were trying to arrive to get on the Magic. Bottom line...we left the stateroom at 8:30am and got luggage in the car at 1pm...4.5 hours to exit and get bags is inexcusable. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This is my third cruise, but my first time on Norwegian. Previously it was Holland America. I was attracted to Norwegian by the free style approach, and that part of the cruise was wonderful. I traveled alone and found the balcony ... Read More
This is my third cruise, but my first time on Norwegian. Previously it was Holland America. I was attracted to Norwegian by the free style approach, and that part of the cruise was wonderful. I traveled alone and found the balcony room very tiny, but in good condition, although for a recently renovated ship I was surprised who antiquated the TV was. Even the ship's stations came in poorly. I did enjoy the cabin , but wonder how two people fit in it with their luggage. The food was HORRIBLE. I tried four of the specialty restaurants and found the Italian to be the only acceptable one. I first ate at Cagney's the steak house. The steak was so tough, even the waiter could not cut it using the seat knife. I returned it, and the second one came out only slightly better. They had to give me a special chefs knife to cut it, but that knife finally worked. The second night I tried the Bistro French restaurant. I ordered the duck. It was one tough bird! It was overdone, and I sent that one back. The third try was La Cucina, the Italian one. At least this was acceptable. The rib eye was nothing special, but compare to the other two, it was heaven. I then tried the Asian style Ginza. The sushi was watery from being improperly defrosted. The shrimp dish was also returned. I finally ate in the main dining room. The food was not much better, but at least I did not have to pay extra for it. On the possibility that Cagney's had an off night previously, I foolishly ate their again. This time the fillet was tough as shoe leather. The couple sitting next to me both returned their food. The entertainment was not much better. Only the last night finally was any good. The piano player's singing in the atrium was so bad that I had to leave the area.The carpeting in the hallways was worn and torn. For a ship that was supposed to have been recently renovated, there is no excuse for worn out torn carpeting. Finally, all the elevators has this terrible smell emanating from them. It was so bad that many of use walked the stairs rather than deal with that terrible smell. On the positive side, free style cruising was wonderful as was the staff. The staff was fabulous. The cabin was cleaned twice a day, and everyone was very helpful. They all made you seem like they were genuinely happy to help you. If food an overall ship quality are important to you this star does not shine. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Just back from the 12/26 departure with my wife on the Carnival Magic out of Galveston. The ship was full with nearly 1500 kids on board. We are in our late 50's and didn't find the kids to be a problem. Overall an enjoyable ... Read More
Just back from the 12/26 departure with my wife on the Carnival Magic out of Galveston. The ship was full with nearly 1500 kids on board. We are in our late 50's and didn't find the kids to be a problem. Overall an enjoyable cruise, so I thought I would share my observations about the boat etc. Embarkation: No real problems, a little slower than we're used to but not bad. Ship: The Magic is a nice ship with a good layout. There are most of the features that are incorporated into the new generation of cruise ships, with a focus on a large number of small venues. The variety is nice, but many of the stations were undermanned, causing some lines at the more popular ones. The pool areas are not the largest for a ship this size and finding a place by the pool was impossible due to the ever-present chair hogs that are on every ship. Getting in the pools was out of the question anyway because the water was freezing. The expanded number of hot tubs was a nice touch. There are a large number of elevators and getting one was seldom a problem. Cabin: We had cabin #6501 a 9C extended balcony cabin on the aft. The balcony was a wrap-around and was really large. The cabin was typical for this type of room and was spacious with plenty of storage(3 large closets). This cabin is triangular in shape so the layout is a little different; the only bad point is that the built-in couch and the TV are on the same wall so you couldn't sit on the couch and watch TV. The one bad part to this room was the vibration. When the thrusters are used for maneuvering the whole room vibrates loudly. I assume other rooms do also as the vibration was by far the worst I've seen on the 10 ships I've been on. One other thing of note about this cabin is that it is directly over the Spotlight Lounge and sounds from there (primarily bass) could be heard at night. They were never very loud, nor did they keep us from sleeping, but they could be heard. Dining: I would rate the food quality in the MDR as average to slightly above average. My biggest complaint was the limited menu choices. I seldom had to worry about deciding between two things, and sometimes had difficulty finding one. I'm not a picky eater, but the choices were very mundane. The portions are small, but not bad except for the night chateaubriand was on the menu; the portion was embarrassingly small, two thin slices of beef, probably 3 ounces. My other complaint was with the baked potatoes, they were undercooked and hard as rocks. Without some begging the only toppings offered were butter and sour cream. This is a problem on every cruise line I've been on so Carnival certainly isn't unique in this regard. Service was good to very good, and the food was always hot, with only one exception. We ate in the Northern Lights Dining Room on deck 4, any time dining, we only had to wait for a table one time on the first formal night. We did not go to the buffet (we never do), but did try the deli which was very good and the Oceanside grill, which was OK, but the Mexican food was not as good as we are used to. We did not try the Steakhouse because it was completely booked before anyone boarded the ship and we didn't plan that far in advance. We did try the cucina del Capitano and found the food and service to be excellent. One word or warning, go hungry because the portions are large. Red Frog Pub: A wonderful place with the best service on the ship, excellent and plentiful staff. Great selection of beers even Caribbean brands (what a novelty). Entertainment: The entertainment on board was varied and for the most part good. We enjoyed Blood Power in the atrium and Will in the Red Frog. The singers and dancers in the theater were good but were handicapped by numerous technical problems with the lights and the music. One show stopped and started four times. The comedians were good, but the venue they were in, the Spotlight Lounge was far too small for the crowd and was always SRO and hot. One annoying thing was that the Fun Times often listed the venue where the entertainers would be incorrectly. We couldn't find where the midnight buffet on the last was listed at all. It may have been there but it wasn't obvious. Ports: We stopped in Costa Maya, Cozumel and Progresso. At Costa Maya we went to a fly fishing school with Nick Denbow and would highly recommend it. Snorkeling with Rosie Frury of Mystic snorkeling was the activity at Cozumel and it was fantastic. Rosie and her crew take good care of you and the snorkeling was at a leisurely pace, with three stops of progressively deeper water. We weren't sure what to expect at Progresso since so many people have a negative view of the place. The biggest problem was that the Conquest was there and docked at the same time. They just weren't set up to handle that many people. We went to the beach at the end of the pier and had a good time. The beach isn't nearly as bad as we were led to believe. The vendors are everywhere but generally were nice and would leave if you said you weren't interested. all in all a better experience than we anticipated. Debarkation: We were 3.5 hours late arriving due to fog and the port was a chaotic mess. Absolutely the worst we've seen in 11 cruises. San Juan, PR is much better than this. Baggage collection was poorly organized and there were no porters available. Lines for customs were long and we weren't able to get on the road until 1pm. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We embarked on the beautiful Brilliance of the seas at Dubai for a one week cruise and had a great experience from start to finish. Our check in was brilliant - we were in our stateroom barely half an hour after arriving at the terminal, ... Read More
We embarked on the beautiful Brilliance of the seas at Dubai for a one week cruise and had a great experience from start to finish. Our check in was brilliant - we were in our stateroom barely half an hour after arriving at the terminal, everyone seemed courteous and helpful, and soon the children were enjoying their lunch in Windjammers, the casual buffet restaurant. On a previous cruise, this process took over two hours and when we did get to go on board our stateroom was not yet ready. The only thing that did not seem right on embarkation day was the lacklustre emergency drill. No life jackets were used and I doubt the information given would have been useful in a real emergency. The Brilliance of the seas is indeed a beautiful ship with lots of space and activities, and although we liked the kids' programmes on offer, we found there were enough activities to enable us stay and play together. We enjoyed table tennis especially and our adolescent played this as well as football with the other children. The mini golf was another option our younger son particularly liked. There were many areas to sit or lie to relax and several nice places to take family photos. Sometimes we simply went for a walk around the ship and enjoyed the views. There were other activities going on such as swimming, rock climbing, jogging and basketball in a relaxed atmosphere. Despite the holiday season and many people on board, it did not feel crowded, even on the sea day. There was always somewhere to sit on deck and in the restaurants. We loved the international ambience and hearing many languages being spoken apart from English. Our accommodation was slightly smaller than on a previous cruise, but it was faultlessly clean and our stateroom attendant Nikki gave us a really personal service, by the time we were leaving we felt we had known her for ages. She was very helpful and friendly and could do any thing with her amazing towel animal displays. The most touching display was her heart shaped towels and pillows display with real red rose petals on our wedding anniversary. We had decided to keep this quiet but she saw a card in the room and decided to give us a truly lovely surprise, which we appreciated very much. She also brought in a vase of red roses. Now food. We had my time dining at the minstrel restaurant. The food was very good and there variety was impressive. Ferdi and Rigo, our waiters, were excellent and polite and anticipated our every need, making suggestions without any pressure. Windjammers gave us the casual option for breakfast, lunch and snacks, offering a wide variety of choices. Even though it is a buffet restaurant, the waiters were very friendly and would stop for a chat and offer to bring drinks. This friendliness seemed to the norm with all the staff we came into contact with. Even those who simply passed by us would smile and greet us. We could not help but feel special. The only thing I would wish for in addition to all this would be a dedicated 24/7 pizzeria. My children would have loved this. Back to food, room service is of an excellent quality and can be conveniently ordered on the interactive TV in the stateroom. Ports of call were interesting. This was our first visit to the Middle East and I was a bit concerned to read the ports were all cargo ports, but I was pleasantly surprised. Cargo ports indeed they were, but they were so beautiful. With the other ships and dhows and cranes and absolutely gorgeous mountainous backdrop in Muscat, for example, the views in the setting sun were stunning. Also, the port views from the balcony as we arrived at Abu Dhabi in the morning were beautiful. And Dubai...what can I say? We liked the free shuttle services provided out of the ports and sometimes into the cities and the malls. This was very welcome in Fujeirah especially where we were not exactly sure what to do, being the first port of call. We also used the taxis and the big red sightseeing buses. We did not do any of the suggested excursions but we enjoyed going about on our own. Back on board, the entertainment was very good, especially the evening shows and poolside parties. I think the timing of the first show at 7:30pm was not quite suitable for families with children who did not take part in the kids' clubs. The earliest we could get my time dining was 6:30pm and we had to rush on a couple of evenings to take them to the show they wanted to see at 7:30pm. The shopping seemed a little bit limited, in our opinion, and the photographers were very enthusiastic. We did find, though, that a few of the photos showed subjects out of proportion to the beautiful backgrounds, but we still managed to get some good ones to bring home, although those had all been taken by one photographer. Perhaps he could help the others... All in all, it was a delightful cruise. I nearly forgot to mention the library where I could get away now and then, and the well organised disembarkation process. We are very eager to cruise with Royal Caribbean again and are already making plans for our next experience with them.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We flew into Fll on December 23rd and stayed at the Fairfield Inn. We knew that the Crown was suffering from the NORO Virus and would delay embarkation while they disinfected the ship. My husband, my daughter and my 15 year old grandson ... Read More
We flew into Fll on December 23rd and stayed at the Fairfield Inn. We knew that the Crown was suffering from the NORO Virus and would delay embarkation while they disinfected the ship. My husband, my daughter and my 15 year old grandson had a leisurely breakfast and sat out by the pool until about 12:15 when we took the shuttle to the port. We arrive around 1:15, went to the head of the line (we are Platinum) and walked right up to the check in counter. We waited about 5 minutes until they called our number and boarded quickly. We were slightly hungry by that time and since we were on a lower level went straight to the International Cafe where we partook of chicken salad and gelato - yummy. We took our time before checking out our balcony cabins. We had a beautiful sail away view right from our staterooms on the Lido Deck. Had never stayed on the Lido before but really enjoyed it. The weather in FLL was the best we have encountered. Christmas Eve we went to the Princess Theater and enjoyed a short program and met Lisa Ball, CD, again! Midnight services were held for those that wanted to attend I wanted to but unfortunately I was in bed asleep! We enjoyed the band elements and got to talk to Marlon Webster (Malo) on several nights - a friendly energetic guy! His music added a lot to the carribean atmosphere. We also got to know Laura of Chile who worked the International Cafe and Coffee Bar area. Nice and friendly. All the staff was working extra hours and disinfecting constantly. I liked the restroom doors (public) propped open so you didn't have to touch them going in and out. We only went to Horizon Court twice and though there wasn't a lot of food out, it was plenty. The food servers were in front of every station and were gloved. We never touched the silverware, plates, food, etc. Everything was handed to us. That was okay with me. We enjoyed dinner in Michangelo in the evening. Christmas Day was special for the children with Santa visiting and all the children receiving gifts. The only thing we didn't enjoy that we have in the past was the karaoke. In the past we heard good to great singers. This time Princess should have had a GONG to hit!! Our weather was wonderful everyday and the seas were calm. We ziplined in Honduras with Victor Bodden and had a great time. It took a little courage to make the first step off the platform but after a couple times we were okay. The monkeys and macaws are fun to see and play with. The beach at the port was small but nice and the restaurants (open air) had a lunch special of jerk chicken, rice and beans which was very tasty. In Grand Cayman we were the only ship in that day and it was quiet and uncrowded. Nice. We had lunch by the ocean in an open air restaurant called Breezes. We stayed aboard at Belize and Cozumel. Been to Cozumel before and don't care for the armed military everywhere. Anyway, it was great to relax by the uncrowded pool those days. We really have to commend Princess for all their hard work trying to keep the ship sterile and contend with sooo many passengers. The staff was all so friendly and nice even though they were overworked. It wasn't until Thursday that we went from Code Red to Code Yellow. On Saturday the ship was back to Code Green for the New Years Eve passengers. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I have only traveled on one other HAL cruise, the Eurodam in spring, 2010. After that cruise to the Carib, I think I would have said I wouldn't travel HAL again...the rumors that they cater to an older, even geriatric, crowd seemed ... Read More
I have only traveled on one other HAL cruise, the Eurodam in spring, 2010. After that cruise to the Carib, I think I would have said I wouldn't travel HAL again...the rumors that they cater to an older, even geriatric, crowd seemed true and it was disappointing that the social life on the ship seemed to end at 10pm, and you spend extra time walking behind wheelchairs and walkers much of the time. This cruise was different, probably because it was the holiday week, 12/18-12/26. More families and younger children...didn't make the night life better but the ship felt a bit more alive. Ship was very heavily decorated for the Christmas holiday...poinsettias everywhere...glad I didn't have the job of watering them. It was very festive and the ship's crew made it a point to remind us it was Christmas- even though it didn't really feel like it. Weather was a bit cool, windy and gray heading out to sea but by the time we arrived at first port of call, Grand Turk, weather was more in our favor. Also in San Juan, St. Maarten, Tortola and Half Moon Cat in Bahamas on Christmas Day. Ship is nice, food was ok- not great and I don't like the cafeteria line concept on these ships...The Solstice class at Celebrity has a more fun and functional buffet design with their food islands...these HAL cafeteria lines seem very old fashioned and time consuming. Entertainment on the ship was pretty weak...went to a few of the shows but really didn't think they did a very good of selecting and scheduling the acts. Evening pool party was canceled after 2 drops of rain, instead of closing the roof of the pool, which they did after everyone went away. Our cabin was in the spa-class...on the 10th deck...and way up to the front of the ship. Since the seas were a bit rough the first few days it felt like we were tossed around a bit...but we survived. Was often too windy to spend any time on our balcony but we got more use from it after the first half od the cruise. Cabin locale was convenient to the spa and to the Lido deck for breakfast/lunch buffet. Room service menu is very dull. Used a couple of activities events planned by the cruise line, and they wer pleasant- have had better but no complaints. After this cruise I might consider HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011

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