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

2,163 Holiday Cruise Reviews

This is a review of our cruise on the Carnival Victory in December 2011. Before I start let me tell you something about us so you can see the kind of people we are. I cruised with my girlfriend. I am 38 and she is 43 and her son is 14. ... Read More
This is a review of our cruise on the Carnival Victory in December 2011. Before I start let me tell you something about us so you can see the kind of people we are. I cruised with my girlfriend. I am 38 and she is 43 and her son is 14. We have been on 3 Carnival Cruises before on the Carnival Conquest at Christmas 2009 (Western Caribbean) and Carnival Glory at Christmas 2010 (Eastern Caribbean) and Carnival Magic in 2011 in the Med. We enjoyed all of those cruises so were really looking forward to the Carnival Victory Cruise in a part of the Caribbean we have never been too before. We live in a small island called Guernsey in the Channel Islands which is in between the UK and France. The island is a UK Crown dependency although we do not like to think as ourselves from the UK. We are Guerns ! This is a 100% honest review and as much as I love Carnival and its product I am not going to say Carnival is amazing and the staff are the best and the food was perfect etc. There were some good and bad points on this cruise and we will write them here. Please remember these are our opinions which we are entitled too. Here goes! We left from Gatwick airport to fly to Charlotte in North Carolina on the 24th of December. We then transferred to San Juan airport on the same day getting there at about 22:30. We got our luggage quite quickly and got to the taxi rank first so we got to the Sheraton Hotel in old San Juan within a few minutes. It only cost $22 which we did not think was bad at all. The hotel was ideal for what we wanted. Its not 5 star but there is nothing wrong with it for a few days stay and of course it is right opposite the cruise terminal so on the 26th we just had to get our luggage and cross the road. It must have taken 5 minutes in total. Once inside the terminal we had our bags searched, I assume they were looking for rum runners! We got through the check in process within minutes and on the ship really quickly. This must have been one of our faster embarkations (admittedly we have only ever done 3 before !) We were on Lido soon after 14:00 eating our lunch. We were not able to get into our stateroom until after 14:30 but that was not a problem by the time we finished lunch. We were in balcony stateroom 7346 which is on the Empress deck. The room is tired and I think it is fair to say are other parts of the ship are too. I know I have high standards so maybe its just me. Carnival Victory was put into service in 2000 so I guess its bound to look tired in places after several hundred thousand people have been cruising on her. One thing that makes the stateroom look tired is the CRT television still in the room. It works still works perfectly fine but just to look at it instantly looks old. I assume its only a matter of time before Carnival Victory goes into dry dock for a refit and these will be swapped out. We never went to breakfast in the dining room so we can't comment on that. We had breakfast on Lido. This was one an area that I was surprised about as there always seemed to be queues. The Carnival Victory is the smallest Cruise ship we have been on and therefore has less people on it but there were always queues for food. It did not seem to matter what time of day you went to get food there were queues. This really annoyed me and I ended up one day just not eating breakfast as I hate queuing. The next day I did get breakfast on Lido and thankfully there are trays on Lido ! Woo hoo! There are no more trays on Carnival Magic or Dream (i believe) and I personally think this is a real pain. The breakfast was the usual Carnival offerings which is absolutely fine. Generally all the food on Lido was good. We were assigned to the Pacific dining room for our evening meals. We had a brilliant waiter called Antoine from the Dominica. He looked after us really well. The food is fine. I would not say its excellent but it certainly is not bad. It seems to us that there is less variety on menu but maybe that's just us? I have a wheat allergy and so I follow a Gluten Free diet. I let Carnival know this before we sailed and sure enough I got Gluten Free food. I am very grateful that they do serve Gluten free food but I have to say that the Gluten Free bread and Pizza is horrible. I assume that the bread and pizza base are made following the same recipe which leaves a horrible sort of baking soda in your mouth. I noticed this in food in the UK a few years ago but these days Gluten free bread etc. in the UK has really improved. Lets hope that Carnival change their recipe soon. Thanks for trying though Carnival. The first night on the ship is a bit strange as Carnival Victory leaves port at 22:00 so there is no assigned dining. Instead dining is any time so you just turn up to eat as and when your ready and then you are assigned a table for that night only. One tip though is that the safety briefing is at 21:30 so eat early enough so you can still attend which of course is mandatory. NOW having said that we turned up for the safety briefing at about 21:20 as we did not know where our muster station was so we went early to find it. The safety briefing started at 22:00 ! It was finished by 22:10 ! That was so annoying. Standing round for it to start. In our opinion this is NOT advertised enough so first timers do not know what they have to do and when. On previous ships the safety briefing was pointed out much more. I know its boring but it has to be done. This pretty much sets the trend for the whole ship for the while cruise. The time for an activity is just a guide! If something is due to start at 15:00 it will probably start later ! The shows on the ship were nothing special. I say that because this is our 4th cruise and well the shows are pretty much the same as the other 3 we have already seen. That's not to say they are bad they are just repetitive. We did find this ship to be very friendly in terms of the crew and staff. Some people have said that the kids are noisy on this cruise but while we did see some of this to a degree it was no worse then on any other cruise. I would not worry about this. The 31st of December was of course New Years eve. There were quite a few events going on around the ship. There was a pub crawl too which was a first for us on a ship. There was also a conga in the restaurant on one of the nights too. It seemed like everyone on board was on Lido just before midnight. It was amazing to see so many people in one place on the ship. The Carnival staff served free champagne for everyone about 10 minutes before midnight. The cruise director Karl with a K stood in the middle of Lido and sang and did the count down. At midnight the captain sounded the ships horn and everyone cheers and shouted etc. That was weird in a nice way. So many people all celebrating the same thing in one space. I guess you just had to be there. Karl was the British cruise director and he is very funny. He does a very good job in terms of being seen around the ship and also with announcements. Not too many and enough to keep you informed. Not too many sales announcements! One night Karl did a show of his own with some singing and magic tricks etc. I can only assume he must have been an entertainer at some point in his career. This is a ships review so I am not going to say much about the islands we visited, Barbados, St Lucia, St Maarten and St Thomas. We got to all islands on time and generally left on time give or take 15 minutes. How do we size up our cruise? Well queues for food is guaranteed at just about any time! Generally these are not too bad and are not a show stopper. Events do not usually start on time but again we on holiday so not a problem really. Food is fine throughout. People friendly. Islands beautiful. The ship is nice and small and you never really feel crowded. We loved this cruise. With 4 islands and only 1 sea day that is great. We had a lot of travelling to do from the UK but it was well worth it. I would definitely like to do this cruise again. Next cruise The Carnival Breeze in Europe. Can't wait! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was our third Christmas cruise, but our first actually leaving on Christmas Day. Since we left on Christmas, we returned on New Year's Day, which meant this was actually not a "Christmas" cruise to most of the ... Read More
This was our third Christmas cruise, but our first actually leaving on Christmas Day. Since we left on Christmas, we returned on New Year's Day, which meant this was actually not a "Christmas" cruise to most of the passengers, it was a "New Year's" cruise. In the past, all of our holiday cruises have been Christmas-themed, since Christmas was in the middle of the cruise. This year, the focus seemed to be New Year's Eve, which I thought was unfortunate, since that was the end of the last evening of the cruise. (Also, New Year's celebrations tend to dissipate quickly - once midnight passes, there is not much else to do.) This was also our third Norwegian ship - our first cruise was on the Spirit, then the Dawn and this year, the Pearl. All have different personalities, which is a combination of the crew, the passengers and the itinerary. This cruise had a very different vibe than past cruises, and I'm not sure which of the factors influenced it the most. There were a lot more large family groups than earlier cruises, and there seemed to be more international travelers than before. The net result was that the other passengers seemed less out-going than previously, which is not a reflection on the cruise line, but is a question that is worth asking when booking. For example, our Cruise Critic Meet 'n' Greet last year had 40 people that said they would attend and we had 22 or so actually attend. This year, we had 18 say they would attend and six attended - and four of the six were my family. This was not a cruise of people that wanted to interact with their fellow passengers! Also, this may have been a cruise with a lot of first-time cruisers - I heard more whining than usual, which usually means expectations are not being met, which usually means rookies. On to the ship itself - I enjoyed the Pearl. She has a similar layout to other Norwegian ships we've sailed, and it is pretty easy to find your way around. As with all the cruise ships I've been on, it looks huge, but it is pretty easy to get from end to end. The crew was adequate but not consistent. Our room stewards were excellent. Our concierge was amazing. The senior staff (whom we met at the Meet 'n' Greet and at the Latitudes party) were most gracious. That said, the bar wait staff seemed very tentative - it was easy to get your first drink, but after that, service dropped off considerably. While this saved me money on my bar tab, I would like to have more than one drink during an hour-long show. This was inexplicable to me because on the Dawn last year, each bar we visited would have a waitress "adopt" us and serve us every evening. We rarely had a dry glass before someone asked if we would like another. The restaurants were good to excellent. We visited Le Bistro, Cagney's, Teppenyaki, and Mi Cocina. All were very good, and worth the added cover charge. We also had dinner in both main dining rooms, which were also good. Except for a quick stop for ice cream, we avoided the buffet. We would go to the Blue Lagoon for a quick snack. We ordered room service once, including the new 24/7 pizza service. My wife said the pizza in the buffet was better than the $5 room service pizza. In all, it was a good cruise, but not a great one. I was disappointed in the service levels in the bars, although the room stewards and restaurant servers were excellent. I was confused by the low energy of the passengers - which is not Norwegian's fault - simply because we had done two holiday cruises and the people seemed much happier and friendlier. I suppose spending an entire cruise waiting for NYE and midnight is an issue, and also, the number of rather large family groups tends to lessen the ability (or desire) to meet other people. Everyone did liven up for the countdown, but at that point, we were eight hours from disembarking. The countdown on the pool deck was fun - we were one deck higher, looking down, but there were a lot of people there. The Captain counted down the seconds at the end of 2011, the hotel director smashed an ice sculpture of 2011 to end the year, and the party began to disperse. (We didn't get champagne, since all of the servers were on the pool deck, but we found the smaller party inside the ship in the atrium on the way back to our room, and they still had champagne.) As a New Year's cruise, there was no discounting on the prices, which were higher than we had paid in the past. I would not do a New Year's cruise again, as I don't think it is worth the extra money. Excursions: We had stops at Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. All are below, except Great Stirrup Cay, which is not on the list. Great Stirrup Cay is NCL's private island. There are a variety of activities, bars, and a buffet. We spent the day snorkeling, which was quite enjoyable, as the island is stocked with fish, so there was plenty to see, even at shallow depths. A major advantage of the private island is that everything is either included or charged to your room key. We booked all our excursions through NCL. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We boarded Freedom of the Sas on our first cruise. The ship was full as it was the Christmas sailing but the ship definitely didn't feel crowded at any time. Embarkation was relatively quick and easy took just over 30 minutes to ... Read More
We boarded Freedom of the Sas on our first cruise. The ship was full as it was the Christmas sailing but the ship definitely didn't feel crowded at any time. Embarkation was relatively quick and easy took just over 30 minutes to get onboard. The ship was well maintained, cabins were cleaned regularly and staff were very friendly and welcoming. Quite a number of staff made a real effort to learn your name and the cruise director, Allan was always entertaining. We opted for an interior stateroom and enjoyed turning the tv on first thing in the morning to watch the ships webcam (on the front of the ship) to enjoy the view of the port before we disembarked - just like looking through a window. The captain, Tor, was always very bubbly in his addresses each day always quoting "Bing Bong" which made me laugh. The food all round no matter where you at was tremendous. I have never eaten and drank as much in my life. The weather was kind to us and there was one night at sea when it was a bit rough but nothing major. The ports we visited were great, and we booked some ship excursions in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Labadee was lovely asthisisaprivate part of Haiti. It was obvious from the market place which is located in the area that the sellers we desperate to sell you something and although they're very nice they were really, really pushy. Falmouth was interesting as we had been on Honeymoon in Jamaica so had done all of the tours then and loved them and the people. I found Falmouth to be my least favourite port. A lot of money has been spent improving the port and the initial area is nice to walk around. Once you pass the gates of the port though we found it an uneasy shopping experience and it didn't take us long to return to the ship. It is obvious that this is a very deprived area of Jamaica in comparison to Ocho Rios and we felt quite vulnerable which I have only ever felt in Delhi, India. If you decide you want to do something in Jamaica - Dunns River Falls and Dolphin Cove are fantastic and the majority of people in Jamaica are lovely, just not enamoured with Falmouth. Grand Cayman was brilliant and we had no issue with boarding the tender. We went on the Turtle Farm and swim package booked through the ship- id give it a miss and go to see the Stingray's instead. Although it was ok. Cozumel was another favourite of ours. We did the Island Highlights and Shopping and loved it! The people we met were fantastic and it was the best port for shopping. About 3 miles(turn left out of the port) away is the central shopping district and I would have loved even more time to shop in the area- the port area had lots of cheap gifts too. The days art sea were good too as there was so much to do and we loved sitting in the cantilever jacuzzi looking out over the ocean. Shopping on board wasn't bad and a few bargains were to be found but most of the items we more expensive than you would buy at home despite being duty free etc etc. They constantly plug Diamonds International which became a standing joke between my husband and I. Out of curiousty he had looked at a watch which was the "Cheapest price he would find" - I googled it and found it $500 saigh away, lol. Don't fall into this trap! Dress code surprised me a little as they didn't really enforce this - on formal night we seen people in the dining room in shorts? The drink prices are what you would expect c$6 for a beer and $9 for a cocktail. Water is always a question- you can get cups / glasses of water in numerous places on the ship but if you want a 1L bottle of Evian it's 4.50 from your minibar. On the whole we had an amazing time and cannot wait to cruise with Royal Caribbean again. On a seperate note - if anyone is thinking of booking with Virgin Holidays Cruises, don't bother. Their Rockstar service is RockBottom! We had a huge amount of mistakes despite having a correct itinerary - Ie they gave the hotel the wrong dates and the hotel cancelled our room as a no show! And we never got any of the RockStar perks. Book with Royal Caribbean directly! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Enjoyed the Royal Caribean Enchantment of the Seas holiday cruise out of Baltimore that departed on Christmas Eve and returned on New Years Eve, with stops in Port Canveral and Nassau. We traveled with extended family and had several ... Read More
Enjoyed the Royal Caribean Enchantment of the Seas holiday cruise out of Baltimore that departed on Christmas Eve and returned on New Years Eve, with stops in Port Canveral and Nassau. We traveled with extended family and had several cabins. I thought the on-board activities were excellent. I do not cruise much, so I don't know what to compare it to, but I felt like the activities had something for everyone, including bingo , trivia contests, karaoke, casino tournaments, movies, live performance, pool games etc. The activities staff was high energy and engaged well with the guests. The one compliant I had was from the teens in our group, who were too old for the children's activities, and too young to go to the casino. It is a difficult age to keep happy on a cruise. They spent most of the time doing karaoke, pool/hot tub, playing their own card games, and going to the live performances. The entire staff on the ship was excellent and eager to serve us in any way they could. Our cabin steward, waiter, and bar tender were all very attentive and seemed always available. All other staff we interacted with was very pleasant and eager to help. Once I was carrying three drinks from a bar to a table in the next room, and a waiter stopped to help even though I had already paid (and tipped) the bar tender. The only shore excursion to comment on was the sail and snorkel in Nassau, which was a good experience. It was a short walk from the ship to the sailboat. There were 60 guests but we did not feel crowded and had plenty of time to snorkel. It turned out to be a combination snorkeling trip and booze cruise, as we had plenty of rum punch and music on the boat ride back to the ship . We were an hour late getting to Nassua so some of the other excursions (Atlantis tour in particular) were cancelled.Our third destination, Coco Cay, was canceled due to high winds which made for more disappointment among some passengers. We arrived as scheduled on a sunny Wednesday morning and stopped within half a mile of Coco Cay, where we could see the island. After a 30 minute wait, the captain came on to announce that we were unable to disembark due to unsafe conditions, with the winds of 30 knots+ and 4' waves from the North (?). After breaking the news, the ship then proceeded toward Baltimore at a slow pace, and we had three full days of on-board activities and no other stops while on the way back to Baltimore. While I respect the captain's responsibility for our safety, this was very disappointing as you would think that they frequently get high winds out in the ocean and that they would have access to the island regardless of the wind direction. The dining was a good experience. We never waited to be seated for dinner and had the same table with a different menu each evening. The food was nice but not exceptional. The sea bass that I ordered the first night was overcooked and dry. The beef entrees seemed to be better and the lobster on the final night was a nice treat. The service was outstanding and made up from some of the food issues. Our wait staff was very pleasant and attentive, making sure each evening that we were happy with the service and asking what else could be done to make our experience more enjoyable. We attended many of the live performances and they were generally well done, including a holiday variety show on Christmas night that included a variety of Christmas and Chanukah performances. There was a variety show featuring broadway tunes that was entertaining, but I did not recognize many of the songs. Two comedians and a ventriloquist rounded out the headliner performances and they were very funny, especially the two comedians, who each offered a "family show" and a separate late night adult show. I liked how the cruise line was not afraid to include "R-rated" material on board and provided the warnings in advance for those with young children. Overall it was a very pleasant experience. The ship was at capacity for passengers. There were lots of people around at times, but I never felt over-crowded on the pool deck or at the buffet. The highlight was the variety of entertainment and activities, and the low point was the inability to go ashore a Coco Cay. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Two cabins, 2415, Cove Balcony and 2455 Inside double Boarded 12/26/11 Western Carib 6 day Arrived at the pier 10:30 am, used Lighthouse Parking. Easy drop off, porters widely available, dropped off luggage and went inside terminal. ... Read More
Two cabins, 2415, Cove Balcony and 2455 Inside double Boarded 12/26/11 Western Carib 6 day Arrived at the pier 10:30 am, used Lighthouse Parking. Easy drop off, porters widely available, dropped off luggage and went inside terminal. All but one of us were Platinum, escorted quickly through security and into Platinum lounge. There was a small delay to boarding but enjoyed the new lounge and the time went quickly. By noon we were escorted through the terminal and were on the ship! Champagne was being handed out to all and we climbed the stairs for our first buffet lunch. The three kids (ages 20, 19 and 17) headed directly to Mongolian as the line was short. I helped myself to the Indian buffet (my favorite!) and hubby headed to the main line. No lines or crowds this early and we were handed our second glass of champagne, we were on the ship and ready to enjoy! After lunch we found our way to Red Frog Pub, to say hello, lucky for us we were the first to arrive, so had our picture taken and posted to John Heald's blog. All the staff in Red Frog are so friendly and helpful, quickly learning our names and making our favorite drinks. They even named one for me, the Spicy Magic Mojito! Wish I had one right now.... Rooms were ready by 1:30 and we made our way down to our Cove to drop off our excess baggage. The Coves are a nice surprise, very roomy and well thought out, and even though there was a slight rain, we were able to sit outside and enjoy watching the pier activity. Normal storage, desk area, and bathroom, but updated and very clean. We had a sleeper couch for our third person and two standard chairs and table as found on all our previous Carnival cruises. In fact, I will say that the decor in our cabin could have been from many other cabins we have frequented over the years. Very familiar and comforting! I was slightly worried as the Coves are located on level 2 and the thought of all that stair climbing early in the a.m. to get my coffee was going to be a downside, but I was pleasantly surprised the next morning when there was coffee and continental breakfast on deck 5 by the Ocean Plaza! This became my early morning hang out as it was never busy and was a short climb while blurry eyed and on the hunt for my caffeine jolt. Also offered was juices, water, fresh mini-waffles, plus fruits, cereals and various egg dishes. Another plus in this area every afternoon was sandwiches (around the corner is a salad/sandwich bar) and in the evening martinis and munchies with sushi being served in the same area at 5pm which is right near the Red Frog. The buffet was typical Carnival food but with added additions of many more stations, plus the sandwich grill, pizza station, Indian station, and a grill. Plus on sea days, on 5 there is also an outdoor bbq, a nice alternative again in a convenient mid-ship area. No one will go hungry on this ship as there are so many offerings! I think Deck 5 was my favorite deck on the ship, what with the entertainment, food offerings, hot tubs and Red Frog all in one place, plus a Fun Hub and Casino, so much going on! As we had already dined in the steakhouse in November on this ship (highly recommended with wonderful service) we tried the Italian resturant which is upstairs from the buffet. Again we were presently surprised, great service and good food, a nice combination and declared very yummy by the entire family! The staff on the ship made a big effort to make sure everyone had a wonderful time. Our table in the Southern Lights was serviced by Ovidiu, Mircea and Adrian, three great waiters who made our dining experience over the top, and I felt the new menu items were a nice touch. We also enjoyed the table magician that stopped by most nights, he made us laugh and we enjoyed his "magic" tricks! One of our big disappointments was the football games that seemed to overtake the outdoor big screen, as on our previous cruise we enjoyed munching on popcorn under the stars while we watched movies, most nights two or three football games were played and the announcement were that a movie would be played "after the game was over". I didn't mind football being played, I just wished it wasn't being played so much on the big screen, and would have liked a little variety in that area. The Serenity area is a great addition, the downside is that when the ship is full, so is this area, so most days it was a long wait to get a chair or lounger so didn't get to spend as much time up there as we wanted. We are not "show" people, so didn't spend anytime in those, we did visit two of the comedy shows, which were good, but very packed, there was a lot of people standing to watch them. The guitar players Timmy and Will were great and played requests as much as possible. Singing along with Timmy was another fun highlight in the Red Frog and we enjoyed our times in there with familiar songs. The pools were over run while we were there, but to be expected over a holiday and at full capacity. It was nice to have the hot tubs in Serenity for some quiet time away from the kids. I thought even though there were 1400 kids on board, they were kept happily entertained and there was lots to do for many ages. Our family enjoyed the slides, putt putt and were going to try the ropes but had not brought the required closed-toe shoes, be aware that those are needed if you are looking forward to that adventure. New Year's Eve was an extra Formal plus party evening, with different music being played all over the ship. Hats and noisemakers were handed out in our cabins during the dinner hour and champagne was handed out in every venue. I really enjoy the family atmosphere while cruising over NYE! All in all the cruise was very restful and enjoyable. Not even being delayed for disembarkation by fog could put a dent on how peaceful we felt as we left the ship. Although I feel Carnival and the Port staff will need to change how they handle what happens when this large of a ship is delayed and people trying to leave the ship rush to make their flights as this did make a mess at the end. We luckily only had a short drive and found our shuttle quickly and were on our way home quickly and without problems. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We were quite apprehensive booking a cruise: our usual mode of travel is to pack light, head to Europe, rent a car and see where the wind takes us. For several years we've listened to (dedicated cruiser) friends talk about how much ... Read More
We were quite apprehensive booking a cruise: our usual mode of travel is to pack light, head to Europe, rent a car and see where the wind takes us. For several years we've listened to (dedicated cruiser) friends talk about how much they love it, but we always felt it probably wouldn't be for us. How wrong we were! When holiday plans in the Yucatan with other friends fell through last July, we went back to the drawing board. We considered everything under the sun - a cold-weather city break in Europe, eco-lodging in Costa Rica or Panama, a quick zip across the Pacific to Hong Kong or Singapore, or South Africa. And the cruise. Putting all the pieces together, the cruise just made the most sense at the time, and more than once we said to one another and to our friends, "well, if we don't like it, we can survive anything for a week, and the weather's practically guaranteed to be good." Amex in hand, we booked it. Went for Aqua Class on the advice of the travel agent at American Express (who, when she learned this was our first cruise, said, "You're setting the bar awfully high") and we were glad we did. Flew down to Miami a full day in advance, cashed some points and bunked into the Conrad. Rental car from the downtown Hertz location, and we took off exploring Miami for a day and a half. Two quick plugs -- had lunch at the Segafredo cafe at Bal Harbor Shops (we always seek out Segafredo cafes in Europe, and this one didn't disappoint), and dinner at Jaguar in Coconut Grove. Both were great. Breakfast at the Conrad in the morning, then an hour walk on the beach, return car, and off we go on the grand adventure. Relatively quick check in (about 1:30 pm - could have gone earlier, we now know), and met the couple in line in front of us. They made the vacation! We ended up having dinner together twice on board, in San Juan on that shore day, and hanging by the pool as well. Attended the Connections event and met another great couple and a family of four - we became a little group throughout the cruise. And it was a great time. The dining in Blu made a big difference we think. The food was good, but the atmosphere really made it. Only figured out that they served breakfast on day 4, so missed that the first half of the cruise. Did specialty dining in Tuscan Grille and Murano. Both were good - not spectacular, but definitely passble. the night we ate in Murano, there was a loud band playing in the bar outside, and the music clashed notably with the background music being played in the restaurant. It detracted from the experience, but wasn't a total killer to the experience. Great wine list at Murano, BTW. Also enjoyed the Aqua Spa cafe. Nice healthy alternatives. I actually lost weight on the cruise! Did our own thing on the port days. Nothing pre-planned. We think we missed something in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin. it was fine, but not the destination we expected. Really glad we went to St. John on the St. Thomas stop. it was beautiful. There was a real rush for the chairs at the pool -- descending into what I dubbed "Chairgate" when one woman sought the intervention of three personnel. A very loud argument ensued - which made many people uncomfortable. One morning I arose before 6 am -- and was able to get the last of the beds for two by the pool, and a few chairs for the rest of our crew. Also, the poolside crew didn't enforce the adult pool occupancy rules - and when pressed on the topic, said that it was because of the number of children on the vessel. While we love children, it would have been nice to have had the rules enforced. We wanted to use the spa, but essentially couldn't because it was occupied by groups of young people who occupied it from 10 am and didn't get out til the end of the day. The entertainment was decent -- a bit on the cheesy side, and as we seemed to be at the end of a contract period, some of the singers were exhibiting audible vocal fatigue. Also, found it quite odd that the string trio would be playing selections from the movie Titanic -- or is that some inside joke that I'm not in on? FInal analysis: I've never been more relaxed in my life. We've booked a short 5-day'er at the beginning of April - not S class ship, so we'll be in C1, (or is it C3 -- highest Concierge Class) and we'll be looking forward to trying cruising without the benefits of AQ. Will be interesting to see how the impact of Blu, etc, will be on our experience. But we're hooked. See you on the seas! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My family of 4 children, ages 11-14 and 2 adults sailed to the Bahamas on Carnival Fantasy in December, 2011 Christmas cruise. We have sailed a half dozen times on Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. Although a relaxing cruise, we ... Read More
My family of 4 children, ages 11-14 and 2 adults sailed to the Bahamas on Carnival Fantasy in December, 2011 Christmas cruise. We have sailed a half dozen times on Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. Although a relaxing cruise, we would not select again for the following main reasons: 1) The food. Breakfast and lunch were fine at the buffets. Dinner detracted from the experience. Our poor waiter was so overwhelmed by all his tables and new assistants that the service was poor. The food was surprisingly bad - even foods that are relatively easy to prepare. How can you botch a cheese cake? Answer: be too cheap to include any cheese - tasted like a bad sponge cake. On a six night cruise, 3 meals were fine and the other 3 were poor. Service was slow. Kids couldn't get refills on "bottomless" soda. Some nights hard to get refills on water or another slice of bread if the meal was delayed. Menus and food were disappointing. I'm a diabetic and have enjoyed sugar-free desserts most recently on Princess. In 6 nights I enjoyed only one dessert. We didn't starve - but we didn't really enjoy the meals. Carnival has skimped too much from the dining room budget. Major problem. Wouldn't sail again. 2) Camps. We were told our 11 year old camp is in a 9-11 year old camp. NOT TRUE. The camp is 6-11 most of the time. There is simply no way our 6th grader is going to camp with 1st graders. I looked at the camp schedule, there was really nothing he would have enjoyed anyway. In the other camp 12-14, we had 3 children. 2 passed, and 1 did everything. They all said the games were lacking, e.g. the basketball NBA video game is from 2007, there is nothing from after that on board to play. Nothing great - doesn't seem like there is any real effort. 3) There isn't much to do in the Bahamas. Freeport is basically a waste. We went to the beach on our own in Nassau (the Sheraton Hotel - $5 taxi, and $25 beach fee - both per person) and had a nice afternoon. Key West is completely overrun with tourists - a shame because when I went 20 years ago it was special. 4) Entertainment: the carnival dancers were great - when they performed (2 nights and a holiday show in 6 evenings). The other three nights there was a terrible blues singer from New Orleans, and C-rated comedians. However, the costumes and enthusiasm of the carnival dancers was wonderful on the nights they performed. [Note the theater of this old vessel has poles, and the balcony slopes very little making it hard to see from the 2nd row upward - want to get there early to watch]. Staff is nice, ship is in great shape for 20+ year old vessel - little noise or shaking. Showers are hot, nothing bit us. Only issue is with public bathrooms being dirty - but the boat is small and it is easy to get back to your room. There was also an odor in a few of the hallways. Rooms are fine (we were interior - no problems). No lines of any significance except for laser tag. Convenient port to our home in Atlanta. Charleston port is inefficient takes over an hour to get in and it is easier to take your own bags off the boat than let them remove them. Candidly, if they would fix the food, it would be fine for the money - as it is, I would spend more on airfare to cruise elsewhere. It isn't bad and you will have nice memories with your family. It just isn't special - and that's a shame because we would cruise annually out of Charleston if we enjoyed it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Flew from Manchester to Athens. a number of passengers were carrying huge quantities of of in-cabin baggage that overhead lockers were full in no time. that's when the bickering started. we had had a disappointment as we were ... Read More
Flew from Manchester to Athens. a number of passengers were carrying huge quantities of of in-cabin baggage that overhead lockers were full in no time. that's when the bickering started. we had had a disappointment as we were supposed to do a double leg back-to-back cruises, d115+d201. 2 days prior to flying, we were told d201 cancelled due to adonia needing to go to dry dock for minor hull repairs (ok- it happens, but no explanation from P&O direct). embarkation was all right, & our cabin was roomy, & baggage delivered efficiently. i asked the senior purser reason for d201 cancellation & was content - a straight answer with rationale.ship has 700 passengers, traditionally furnished without casino/art auctions/other nonsense. easy to find your way around, & quite a relaxed, old-fashioned uk cruise style. several bars / good use of space / quiet areas / excellent library. crew seemed well-organised. food in the pacific restaurant was excellent, good variety. buffets in the conservatory were standard, good variety, average quality. activities on board were very limited, you would have expected some craft/painting or similar classes; but - no - nothing...it seems excursions were expected to take people off the ship. entertainment on board was mediocre. we had booked 4 excursions - all cancelled on board due to 'lack of numbers'. so i read a lot & my wife watched films. some stops the towns are interesting, but most are working ports. ashdod stop had previously been cancelled & 2 days in haifa instead. then stops at alexandria & port said were cancelled (understandable) & substituted with kusadasi & messina. then, force 10 storm off la goulette cancelled that stop & substituted with 2 days in malta (we didn't have a problem with that as we realised the extra day was new year & could watch the fireworks!) but a number of passengers were at their 'final straw' stage. the staff were pleasant, but the officers seemed to be avoiding passenger contact. although we had no real issues & most were minor, there was an undertone of discontent amongst the passengers. lack of alternative activites did not help, & p&o (since being absorbed into the carnival 'family') has lost its' focus on passenger care & communication especially. it has tried to retain uk-style in its' ships, but its' management has gone the way of airlines - cram 'em in, turn'em round philosophy. just to add insult, they turfed us off the ship early, & we sat in the bus in a 'holding pen' at naples airport because they didn't stagger the disembarkation. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We cruised with NCL and Royal Caribbean pre-children and loved it. I was so excited when i discovered Disney did cruises and we could take the girls! Did the Disney Magic around Europe last August and I thought it was great (food was a ... Read More
We cruised with NCL and Royal Caribbean pre-children and loved it. I was so excited when i discovered Disney did cruises and we could take the girls! Did the Disney Magic around Europe last August and I thought it was great (food was a little underwhelming but on the whole great service and great entertainment too). I recommended Disney cruises to my family and so for Christmas my parents spent over £20,000 taking the whole family on the Mexican Riveria cruise on 26 December. My parents had a cabin with 2 little portholes on deck 1 - so noisy as it was next to the engine room. All 4 cabins were on different decks (1, 2, 6 & 7) - we were originally on different tables at dinner. Service in the restaurant was interesting to say the least. Our waiter was lovely but rarely got anyones order correct. At the character breakfast not one breakfast order was correct - in fact she then turned up with plates full of bacon, sausage etc. and turned it into a buffet (which is not what we wanted!!). The assistant waiter was so sweet but obviously very nervous - shaking hands, sweating a lot (in fact this dripped on my brother -in - law!!). My bill included 7 wrong drinks orders - he often made us sign the receipts the next day as he couldn't work them out on the night. It wasn't very complicated as we only had one or two drinks each!! it wasn't just the waiting staff though. it took 2 calls to guest services and 2 further phone calls to finally get my safe fixed (day 5 of the cruise). Thought PV was awful, Cabo San Lucas was nice though. When I asked the morning of the PV port stop if there was a public beach nearby, I was told not to go to the public beach as there was no lifeguard and that I should have booked the beach excursion. I then answered that wasn't it a little late to book it - the response was 'it's full anyway!!" completely pointless conversation! By the way the public beach was very good - and there was a lifeguard Disney!! We did have a lovely cruise but I was disappointed and embarrassed that this wasn't the experience we'd had last year. Also disappointed that 3 of the shows were exactly the same as last year, another show was a hypnotist (of no interest to a 5 year old) and then they showed The Muppets movie in the theatre one night - that's just plain lazy! I have booked to go on the Fantasy next September and to be honest I wouldn't have booked it if i'd have been on this cruise first. Disney - sort out your service. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
After having a fantastic freestyle cruise on Spirit of America in the Hawaiian Island I decided to go NCL for a second time when we went on a Christmas cruise. My big complaint about this cruise is basically - the ship! NCL really needs ... Read More
After having a fantastic freestyle cruise on Spirit of America in the Hawaiian Island I decided to go NCL for a second time when we went on a Christmas cruise. My big complaint about this cruise is basically - the ship! NCL really needs to refurbish The Star in every way. I could not believe this ship was only a little over 10 years old, so clearly it just has not been maintained in that 10 years. It was just plain tatty. The carpets were worn, pulled up and dirty. The walls, bannisters and most surroundings were in disrepair and worn. I thought the buffet looked little better then a high school cafeteria and every washroom I used on the ship, aside from my cabin, had doors that the locks were broken. It was a joke among us female passengers that you had to check for feet under the stalls to avoid walking in on someone. I have been on a number of ships at Christmas and have always been overwhelmed by how beautifully decorated they are. It would seem however that NCL thinks "Dollar Store" cardboard cutouts and paper garland is just fine. The nicest room on the ship, The Versailles Dining Room which could have looked amazing and enhanced everyones Christmas experience, was decorated with cheap, cardboard skateboarding elves. I think the cruise industry is one where posh, not tacky is the watchword for ship presentation but The Star obviously does not agree. We had a mini-suite, which was large, with a lovely balcony and bathroom, but again, all just seems, old, outdated and not maintained. We also treated ourselves to a spa day and although I have no complaints about the technicians treatment, the spa just is not up to snuff in relation to the costs. If I am going to pay high end prices, I don't want to be put into an old, thread worn robe that should have been retired 5 years ago. I did however think the food was good on the ship and had an amazing New Years Eve dinner at Cagney's. Service and food were both very good there. Service however did not match the food elsewhere on the ship. We ate 3 times in one of the two main dining rooms before switching to the 2nd dining room. Not only did freestyle seating not work but it was like a giant gong show every night. Even after waiting 45 minutes to be seated first night prompted us to make sure we had reservations the other nights, we always were waiting to be seated and felt like we were inconveniencing the dining room staff. In the Versailles we were not once asked if we even wanted a drink. The staff poured water in silence, asked for our meal order and basically did not say another word all evening. I have never been treated so coldly on a cruise by the wait staff. Service was definitely improved in The Aqua but only marginally. One of my cruise mates feeling was that NCL just wanted everyone to dine in one of there additional charge dining rooms and maybe that is indeed the case. All that being said and done however, my 2 companions and myself were determined to have a good time and what The Star did excel at, in my opinion, was entertainment. The shows were among the best I have ever seen on a cruise ship and the show band, Midnight Revue and Sean the Traveling Troubadour were outstanding. Also the Cruise Director and her staff tried very hard to make sure everyone was having a good time. Would I travel NCL again, probably not. There are just too many beautiful, well maintained, more modern ships out there to risk being on a second rate one. Yes the entertainment was good, but I love cruising because for a reasonable price I have always felt I was treated like I was special, whether in the lowliest of inside staterooms or a suite. NCL fails both at surroundings and service. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We have cruised disney before and loved it. That is why we booked again but I have to say we were dissappointed. We were on a waiting list for a suite but were never called. We ended up in a cat 4A. we were required to pick a check in ... Read More
We have cruised disney before and loved it. That is why we booked again but I have to say we were dissappointed. We were on a waiting list for a suite but were never called. We ended up in a cat 4A. we were required to pick a check in time and it only allowed a 230p and a 300p. When we arrived at 230 the photographers were gone and we missed our picture(thats a big deal to us) we keep all of our welcome pics for our children. The food on the previous cruises wonder magic was unbeleivable. Fresh warm every meal. Plenty of fruit and salads.This cruise we had 5 in our party. every night we had to ask for the bread that was served with dinner. They brought enough for 3 people. They gave us bagels one evening? not sure why. With the exception of the final night in the royal palace The food was cold hard and flavorless, It was a shocker because in the past it was so terrific. The dream is very chopped up. Hard to find remy palo and meridian bar. The rooms were same as in past.dont look different.The photographer was sparce couldnt get too many pics. the pics that were taken were unflattering as is if they were snapped by a person off the street. The crew in the past esp at dinner ect did tricks with the kids and they became used to that, The servers were good but impersonal.I imagine they work very hard and maybe dont have the time. Not sure. The pool areas are swamped with children and the pool for adults was tiny. we enjoyed castaway great as always, The magic is my favorite ship. spacious flows nicely warm crew. Many many pics alot of excursions. All in all just dissapointed in the dream expected a special experience for new years. Wont travel it again. we may do the fantasy and see how that ship turned out. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
As noted above, this was our first cruise with Carnival. We chose this short four-day cruise over New Year's as a good way to test the waters, and get some fun in the sun. It was myself, my wife (who celebrated a birthday on the ... Read More
As noted above, this was our first cruise with Carnival. We chose this short four-day cruise over New Year's as a good way to test the waters, and get some fun in the sun. It was myself, my wife (who celebrated a birthday on the cruise), and our 12-year-old daughter. We traveled with friends; a family of four, first-time cruisers, with two children. Having cruised on Holland America, Princess, and Norwegian multiple times, I set my expectations for Carnival -- I thought -- accordingly. We flew in to Jacksonville, which was not a problem. It seems that the vast majority of Fascination cruisers drive to the port rather than fly. As we unfortunately learned upon our return, the small size of Jacksonville's airport and lack of frequent flights can be a problem if flights are cancelled. There certainly aren't the plethora of options that stranded fliers might find in say Orlando, Miami, or Ft. Lauderdale. Getting a van to the pier was easy and the ride for seven cost $45. As is known, the terminal at Jacksonville is a temporary structure. That said, it serves its purpose fine, as the only ship using it is the Fascination. It is small and for reasons still unclear, the time it took for us to clear security, complete check-in, and board the ship was the longest we've ever encountered. The check-in staff were not overly efficient, and the whole process took nearly an hour. By contast, boarding the Epic -- more than twice the twice -- took 10 minutes, door-to-door. As soon as we entered the ship, the "missing little things" started to show. There were no people waiting to greet you on board; no one handing out daily schedules or maps, or even offering to help you find someplace on board. I have to note that during the ENTIRE cruise, I did not hear one single announcement from the captain; not one. In fact, I can remember no announcements other than those from the Cruise Director, Jen, and they were always for bingo, dance parties, etc. Being a sold-out New Year's cruise, it was crowded -- particularly as we boarded -- but we were surprised to find an available table in the Coconut Grove buffet area as we waited for rooms to be readied. From this meal, it was obvious that the food was to be substandard at best. The lines were very long and the food was high-school cafeteria quality, and that is being generous. The ship, I must admit, is in very good shape. She does not show her advanced age and the crew does an excellent job on maintenance. We sailed on the Norwegian Spirit earlier this year, and that ship is younger, went through a more-recent renovation, and still appeared MUCH older and in worse-repair than the Fascination. Kudos to her team. We had an oceanview cabin, category 6B, on the Main Deck. We were pleased with the overall size. The third bunk folded up against the wall and was not too intrusive when open. Princess still has the best layout we've seen (other than a sofabed), with their third and fourth berths that fold up and away into the ceilings. The bedding and mattresses were TOP NOTCH. Very nice and comfortable, so kudos again to Carnival. Bathroom was large and functional, nothing more. I never did get fully accustomed to stepping on a huge "soft spot" in the floor when you enter the bathroom; an artifact of the marine toilets, I suppose. What the room lacked was a hair dryer (though our steward was able to secure one), a fridge, a clock (hello?!), writing pad and pen, and a coffee maker. They chose to take up much of the desk area with an assortment of canned soda and bottled water, which is not complimentary. I would have prefered to use that space for a coffee maker, or just leave it open. We asked the steward to remove the sodas, but they remained there for the entire cruise. Aside from the glaring omission of a clock, what the room really needed was a thermostat. The room was very cold and when we looked for a thermostat, all we could find was a vent knob on the bottom of the air diffuser on the ceiling. It basically allows you to turn the flow of air (one temperature) on or off. As it was, we had to close it off to try and warm up the room (which didn't really help -- we ended up using extra blankets at night to stay warm. With the air off, however, it made all of the noises made in the hallway and in neighboring rooms VERY loud. I usually love sleeping on ships, as the hum of the air system is usually so loud and constant, that it drowns out all other noises. Not so the case on the Fascination. Not only were we cold, but we heard every hallway conversation. Also, a minor point, but it would be great if Carnival invested in small rubber stoppers to stick onto the insides of the closet doors. They now are bare, and whenever one of the three closet doors close, there is a loud "bang"...the sound of doors banging in other cabins was very noticable, and it seems some cheap rubber bumpers would be an easy fix. We had the traditional fixed dining (early seating) in the Imagination dining room. Our server was good, but the table was small, with seven of us put at a table meant for six. The food in the main dining room was much better than on the buffet, but it was still of very poor quality. None of the meals we had there was more than average, and most were below standard. Biggest complaint about the dining room, however, is the noise. It was, by far, the loudest dining room we've ever had on a ship. I suspect it had to do with the relatively low ceilings, but it was impossible to hold normal-level conversation across the table and that ruined whatever ambiance the room has. The other main dining room is exactly the same configuration, only midship vice in the rear, so I'm sure the sound there is just as bad. As noted, aside from sushi -- the times for which change daily -- there are no eating venues aside from the buffet and main dining room, and the main dining rooms only serves dinner -- no breakfast or lunch. The buffet at breakfast and lunch was very crowded and the food often inedible. The breakfast selections are very basic, and the salad bar at lunch was wholly unappetizing. Pizza is always available, but it was freezer-quality and not enjoyable. On our day in Freeport, we took a Carnival excursion but weren't returned to the ship until after 6:00pm. We thus missed our dinner (which was the captain's formal night) and had to eat in the buffet. I have to say that that meal was truly disgusting. The selection was meager and the food was of embarrassingly poor quality. Even a simple hamburger would have been nice, but the grill is only open during the afternoons. The ship is fairly easy to navigate, given its small size, and motion was not a problem for us. Reaching some areas of the ship was frustrating, as not all elevator banks go to the higher floors, and the galley serves as a natural barrier between the two dining rooms. Still, it is easy to get around. Elevators were sometimes hard to get, but there were never too many flights of stairs to climb, so no big deal. Despite her obvious abundance of balcony cabins, I have to give Fascination BIG points for the amount of deck space and readily available deck seating. With four+ decks with outdoor space, it was never hard to find a lounge chair or simply a place to enjoy the outdoors. The top-deck minigolf and jogging track were also quite nice, as we enjoyed the adults-only Serenity area. The pool was adequately sized. As always, the lone hot-tub open to children was often overflowing. Activities on board were adequate. We participated in many of the trivia and game shows. The cruise director staff was plentiful and always busy, and the cruise director did a good job. Jen is definitely "unique," but she works it well, and her personality seems to match the Fascination's. That is a compliment, by the way. I liked her work. They did put on a New Year's Eve balloon drop and pool-side party, and they did a very nice job. It was fun and well organized. Entertainment was good to average. We attended the family-friendly comedy shows, and they were fun. We didn't have an opportunity to attend any of the adult-themed shows. We attended both "Vegas-style shows," and they were classic cruise ship fare. Again, compared to our other cruises, though, they were high-school vice Vegas-level quality. For disembarkation, we were pleased that Carnival offers the option of walking off with your bags or having them remove your luggage. We had a noon flight, which we thought would give us plenty of time. As it was, our steward left us luggage tags to put us in an earlier disembarkation group, as noon is their cutoff time for determining an "early flight." Originally we were in Group 17, but we were moved to the earlier Group 2. We toyed with the idea of taking our own bags, but decided against it -- we later regretted that choice. We were at the dock before 0700, and as we dressed for breakfast, I discovered that our flight had been cancelled. I reached the airline, only to find that the only option of getting out that day was aboard an already-overbooked 1045am flight. We rushed to let our friends know -- who were on the same flight. By the time we found them and they got through to the airline, no more seats were available and they were bumped until the next day. Hence, my comment about the lack of flights into/out of Jacksonville. We were now faced with the daunting task of getting off the ship as soon as possible, hoping to make the earlier flight. Guest Services on the ship were understanding when I explained what happened, but they confirmed that there was nothing they could do to get our bags out of Customs any earlier. They said we would have to wait on the ship until all of the "walk-off passengers" were cleared; that would not be until around 0930. Against recommendations, we did exit the ship with the walkers. When we cleared Customs -- without our bags -- a VERY helpful terminal worker pulled us aside. I explained our situation, and she had us wait in the boarding area. She explained that the bags were all in a separate area of the terminal, under Customs control, and there would be no one over there until they were done clearing all of the walkers. This is when we realized just how many people had elected to walk off -- they just kept coming and coming. While waiting, a very nice Customs agent asked about our situation, too. After about 15 minutes of waiting, the head of the terminal and a great Customs agent came and got us and escorted us to the area where all of the bags were being held. They allowed us to retrieve our bags and then did another inspection. With that, we were clear and literally ran outside to grab a waiting cab. Thanks to the outstanding help from the terminal and Customs officials, we made it to the airport with about 15 minutes to spare. We cannot thank them enough. I know all of this does not apply directly to our Fascination experience, but for what it's worth, I would recommend you walk off with your own bags if possible, and I'll vouch for the helpfulness of the crew in Jacksonville. Overall, I'm not sure if we'll do another Carnival cruise. I know they sell on their price point, and had we not paid a huge New Year's premium for this cruise (more than three times the cost of non-holiday Fascination sailings), I might feel otherwise. That said, the dismal quality of the food and lack of alternate food options weighs quite heavily in my dismissive tone against Carnival. Barring a truly superior price advantage, I do not see us repeating the Carnival experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was our family's second cruise, the other being on NCL Jewel. We have traveled quite a bit outside of cruising. I have no bias for or against any specific line. When we booked we were looking for a Christmas cruise vacation ... Read More
This was our family's second cruise, the other being on NCL Jewel. We have traveled quite a bit outside of cruising. I have no bias for or against any specific line. When we booked we were looking for a Christmas cruise vacation which would give us at least 9+ nights and good value.After seeing the kids sail free promotion, MSC fit our itinerary and budget. We booked the b2b and sailed Dec 16-30th. We are a family of 5 and my husband's family joined us on this cruise - 10 in total. We had 3 superior balcony rooms on deck 11. It wasn't until after we booked that I read the predominantly negative reviews. It made me quite fearful, but we decided to approach the trip with an attitude of gratitude for the opportunity to travel at Christmas, see new places and be somewhere warm. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale 2 days before the cruise and stayed at the Renaissance. It was a convenient location and okay as far as accommodations. The rooms definitely need updating, though the lobby is nice. The fitness centre is way too small. The best part is the concierge room which gave us breakfast,and snacks in the evening. It was a nice place for the family to just sit and visit. Embarkation: We took the hotel shuttle at $5 per person, maybe a 5 minute drive. We arrived around 11:45 and found embarkation very well organized and easy to navigate. I would say it took us an hour from parking lot to room. When we boarded we appreciated that there were people greeting us and someone to escort us directly to our room. She also took us to get our daughter's life jacket and kid's club information. Ship: Overall, we thought it was a lovely ship. It was decorated for Christmas, there was Christmas music playing and the overall upkeep and cleanliness was very good. We were in room 11175 with 4 people. The upper berth was good but with the couch pulled out in the evening it was near impossible to get to the balcony or desk drawers, Storage I thought was a little less than the Jewel, but the bathroom storage was better. Our biggest complaint about the room, which is one of our only complaints, is the bedding. Good grief is it bad. The sheets and blankets are just terrible quality (no duvet) and the "pillow" is the worst I've ever encountered at any hotel (it's small chunks of foam). This would be an easy fix for MSC. The bathroom shower is gross with the tile grout being nasty and the shower curtain always sticking to you. We also had a t-shirt ruined because they use bleach to clean and we were drying a shirt on the clothes line and it fell, causing a bleach stain. Not a huge deal, but worth noting not to dry clothes on the line. The balcony size was good and the chairs were nice. We liked the location of the room and it's ease of access to other decks. We have a "no elevator rule" just to get a bit extra exercise. Smoking: This is a problem for nonsmokers. MSC accommodates smokers unlike most places or businesses in North America. There are spots on the ship including the port side of the pool deck, and a few of the lounges which are really overrun with the smell of smoke. We tried to go to the logo shop but it was off a lounge which allowed smoking and we had to leave. This was a big negative for us. Fitness Centre / Spa - We used the fitness centre every day. It could be a very busy place. Typically I went when it opened (6am). If you were there early or at an off time, it was fine. The atmosphere is lovely at the front of the ship. Being on the treadmill and sailing into a port when the sun was coming up was definitely a highlight for me. The selection of machines is okay, but there aren't enough to meet demand. There were only 6 treadmills and 2 of them broke part way through our first leg and they weren't ever fixed. This caused a lot of problems, particularly when people decided the 20 minute maximum didn't apply to them. What is with people who think rules are for everyone else but not them? I never used the spa services but they offered good sales on port days and toward the end of each week. Service: Outstanding. We have no complaints. We loved our waiter, Suweda, and his assistant. He went above and beyond for us. Being on the b2b we were so glad to remain at the same table all 14 nights. Each night he did a trick for the kids or taught them how to fold an animal napkin. They were attentive for water and wine and automatically brought me decaf after dinner and my husband "leaded".We learned a lot about our servers by talking to them and being friendly. Our waiter has a 3 month old daughter he's never met! They work early in the morning until late at night with few breaks. We really appreciated how hard they worked to make each evening special. Beyond the MDR, almost every employee we met was friendly and helpful. Our room steward, Roberto, was awesome. We loved his service, smile and eagerness to help. Sometimes there were language barriers but for the most part, every person was eager to smile, say Merry Christmas, and engage in conversations. They really like to share about where they are from and their families. Yes, we saw customers treating the staff like garbage. It was terrible. We tipped both our waiters and our room steward substantial amounts because they were excellent, they deserved it and we wanted to be generous at Christmas.Hearing announcements in 5 languages didn't bother us at all - frankly it`s amazing to see people so fluent in many languages. Food: It was fine. There were some very good dishes and some okay and a few that weren't very good. If we did send something back, or just didn't eat it, our server was always good to ask how he could remedy the situation. The Christmas eve dinner was really nice and included free champagne (as did the Captain`s dinners) The formal nights were more formal than NCL and you saw a number of men in tuxedos. It was really nice.There were more casual nights in the MDR than I expected. The buffet was a little chaotic. The best advice is to use the back area, it`s much quieter. The worst time to eat is lunch so we usually skipped it and had a slice of pizza later. We also really liked the `tea time`offerings of sandwiches and scones or cookies. There is always something available. Animation team: Loved this team. They made ship life really fun. We took part in pool side games & contests & line dancing. A couple of us won stuff in silly contests. We went to a Christmas night game that was hilarious. They also offer a stretching and aerobics class pool side every morning which was very good (and popular). We did it a couple of times after being in the fitness centre and it was a great way to start the day.Join in the fun with the entertainment team, they are a blast. Entertainment: We saw all of the shows the first week. We thought the overall talent was very good and the shows were entertaining. The music throughout the ship was often very nice too. Ports: Key West: We walked around, bought a skim board at Ron Jon's for the kids to use at our subsequent beach days and also had a lot of fun sampling hot sauces at Peppers of Key West. Cozumel; Granddad & DD went on the ship's dolphin swim & ride. According to my DD it was "the best day of her life". It was also a good value. The rest of us went to Paradise Beach. The kids loved the water toys. It's an excellent facility and I'd go back anytime. Roatan: We hired a private tour (Jonathan from Rony's). Wow wow wow. We loved Jonathan. He was our guide but we also had a driver. I hadn't realized how much service we would get.He arranged every detail of the day, gave us great information on the island, and accompanied us everywhere, including sitting with my daughter while her hair was braided at the beach.He even went into two stores with my husband and 16 year old to try to find black pants for my son when he found out I`d left them at home. I can`t say enough about his service! We did the extreme zip line adventure at Pirates of the Caribbean (fantastic), did a grocery stop, did some shopping, & did a beach stop for lunch and swimming & got my DD hair braided. There were a lot of vendors but when you said no, they were respectful. We were at Bananarama and there was only one ship in port and it was busy - I wouldn't want to go if there were more ships. Montego Bay: We booked through Jamaica for a day and did the Sunset Beach resort. St. Thomas: We went to Emerald Beach and had a wonderful time. Though there`s no water toys, it`s beautiful and quiet. We heard later that the more popular beaches were packed. Ours was really quiet. We were in front of the Best Western but they wanted $10 for a chair so we moved down and bought a bucket of beer from the next place and they gave us a discount on the chair. Lunch was fine. After the beach we took our stuff back to the ship, changed then walked around the shopping area. It`s a bit of a hike and frankly unless you want jewelery, I wouldn't bother. I`d stay at the beach a bit longer. San Juan: Loved this port. We did our own walking tour of the fort and explored the old town. We did some shopping and had a fantastic lunch at a restaurant that I can`t remember the name, but it`s the original home of the pina colada. Nassau: We had intended to go to the British Colonial Hilton, but when we got there, they wouldn't sell us day passes because the hotel was too full. So, we just walked up to the public beach (Junkaroo). This was the worst beach we``d been to. It`s dirty, the scenery isn't appealing and there was a lot of glass in the sand. The only interesting thing was watching ships come into port and do u-turns and back in. That was cool. If we went back to this stop, we`d find a much better beach. As it turns out the weather was cool that day so we just shopped a bit before heading back to the ship. B2B info - MSC does this very well. We got to keep the same cabin, cards, table assignment. If you are on the next sailing you meet in a lounge and wait for a little bit then they escort you off the ship as a group and essentially turn right around and walk you back on. Painless and easy. On the turnaround day we had the pool deck almost all to ourselves and only my kids were in the pool for about an hour - it was glorious. Drink packages: Very good prices and value. We bought a soda (learned after you can bring soda on board), a beer package and the premium wine package. Okay, here was a problem - we paid $51 more for the premium package than did my in-laws for the regular wine package. Guess what: same wine. We got ripped off big time. There was no difference in the lists. We asked 4 people. I let it go, but it was a lot of money wasted. On board we bought 3 peter pan packages - one for each kid and that let them get nonalcoholic drinks when they wanted. We also bought a cocktail package 12 for the price of 10. You do pay 15% tip on the package if you buy it on board. Kids: This is only my opinion and experience. If MSC offers kid`s sail free, they are promoting themselves as a family friendly cruise line. They were, in general, very accommodating and accepting and wonderful with our kids. But, the spaces designed for the kids and the kid`s program itself are not up to where it could be. It`s particularly bad for 13-17. All they were offered is to play Wii for one hour during our dinner seating and dancing at 10:30 at night. Seriously, dancing at 10:30. So, my DD only went a couple of times because it was pretty lame. The room for the 7-12 year olds is really small. MSC really needs to rethink how they approach kid`s programs. I will say, they did a nice job of the Christmas day activity. It wasn't there fault that some parents wouldn`t line up appropriately. Each child did get their own gift from a really amusing looking Santa. Random: Christmas - I emailed the company ahead of the trip to ask about the availability of Christmas church services. Unfortunately they only offered Catholic Mass. Based in the US, it would have been appropriate and welcome, as we talked to others who agreed, to offer a Protestant service for Christmas. Also, before we went I kept reading that the ship didn't change it`s clocks in ports - they do. We had a couple of time changes. And Yes, some of the times in port are very short. Tipping - Our family of 5 for 14 nights paid $588 in auto charges and we tipped substantially extra on top of that and thought it was appropriate and deserved. We heard and saw a lot of people getting their auto daily tips taken off.I think it`s disgraceful and punishes people who are working incredibly hard. Overall: I thought MSC exceeded our expectations, particularly because of the negative reviews we read before going. We had a 14 night holiday cruise vacation at a price which couldn't be touched on any other line. We had a lot of fun, met wonderful people, saw some beautiful places and enjoyed really nice weather and beaches. It was a wonderful family Christmas vacation. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
It's hard to know where to begin, so let me just start from the beginning. We are seasoned Cruisers, have been Cruising with various Cruise lines for the past 20 years. My first Cruise was as a child of 17 with my immediate family ... Read More
It's hard to know where to begin, so let me just start from the beginning. We are seasoned Cruisers, have been Cruising with various Cruise lines for the past 20 years. My first Cruise was as a child of 17 with my immediate family of 4. As we aged, spouses came along, then came grandkids. At present we are a group of 11. Myself, my husband and three children ages 12, 10 and 7, my sister and her husband and two babies ages 2 and 1. The head of the family of course being my Mom (60's) and Step father (70's). I chose the Allure of the Seas absolutely on ship itself. It was the perfect fit for our families - something for everyone! Embarkation was a breeze. It's amazing how this has evolved over the years. I remember lines hours and hours long or waits in "herding stations" waiting to be called by group number when it was time to board. No exaggeration, we pretty much walked on. First impressions of the ship were grand in all shape and form. The promenade is beautiful!! We explored further with our next stop the Boardwalk. We went up from there stopping in Central Park then up to the Sports deck. WOW is the best adjective I can use! Breathtaking and amazing! The ship was clear, new and just eluded nothing but good times ahead. Our room was on the Boardwalk. An absolutely perfect location. We had a block of 4 rooms side by side. My parents, my sister and her family, and my family with 2 rooms. I can't describe the pure joy I felt when we discovered our 2 rooms were adjoining - something we've never had in the past! We've always just connected by using the outside balcony. Something that obviously isn't conducive to a family with kids our ages. In the past it's always been my daughter and I sharing a room and my husband sharing with the boys. I'm so happy these new ships are finally realizing the importance of creating rooms that connect!!! Our rooms were beautiful.. new and impressive. A large washroom and a king size bed! My only complaint is the closet. Although the space was there (and lots of hangers! yippee!) I found the doors to the closet very hard to operate. The fact the couch was immediately in front added to the frustration. Of course in small quarters there are always compromises to be had. In the Allure, the closet lost out to the large washroom and king size bed. Fair enough!One of my first measures of business on board was booking shows. I had tried for the past month to do so on the RCI website but had little luck and lots of frustration. The site is user unfriendly and has lots of wrinkles to iron out. I was able to book at few shows, but not the ones I wanted. Onboard at the Customer Service Desk I was told that all Ocean Aria and Chicago shows were totally sold out. Grrr... I find it rather hard to accept that only a small percentage of Cruisers are able to be seated at these shows. Perhaps it would make sense to add more shows to the agenda. My parents were extremely disappointed to have missed out. Dining. This has to be one of my favourite topics of discussion amongst forums like Cruise Critic. Here's my two cents: Windjammer - Although I'm not a fan of cafeteria/buffet style eating, I believe RCI has is nailed it with the Windjammer. Although repetitive, there is pretty much every option under the sun. Much appreciated in the drink selection and international food selections. We ate here most mornings and some lunches. Adagio "my time" dining - This is where we ate 8 nights out of 9. We are a family that prefers to dine in a dining room, family style with table service. Our wait staff was fantastic. Very friendly and totally on the ball. They had milk out for the children, bar service for my brother in law who prefers beer, and multiple wine bottles on hand so were were never without. Very impressive. Food quality was good. Obviously much better than I am able to produce on a nightly basis for my family. I wouldn't say great, solely because no one meal blew me away. I like most dishes, but didn't care for a few as well. Not something I'll criticize since individual tastes vary. I will say that over the years we've noticed a decline in dining room meals. What was once the "place to be" is now simply a nightly option. Meal variety has been reduced, we think to entice Cruisers to try other dining options. Pay options that is. Fair enough, but still disappointing for those of us who like the simplicity of the traditional dining room. Specialty dining - We did a little.. Izumi and Rita's Cantina for lunch, both of which we tremendously enjoyed. Kids and adults alike enjoyed it the same. Vintages for afternoon wine and tapas was also much enjoyed. This became my mom and sister and I's favourite spot for female bonding. We love wine, and tapas style of eating. My only complaint here is that service was mediocre at best. Not because the waiters weren't friendly, they were, they were simply over tabled. I only every saw 2 waiters at one time and the place was always packed. My husband and kids also indulged in Johnny Rockets and loved every last bite. We wanted to try a specialty dinner option but had tremendous difficulty booking. Chops and the Italian restaurant were completely booked the entire Cruise! The only option that was available to us was the Samba Grill. This was definitely our worst dining experience of the Cruise. We arrived at 6pm, just as the doors opened. We were greeted politely and introduced to the way bbq operates. We all enjoyed our starter salad buffet as well as the soup course. Infact I'll go so far as to say the black bean soup was one of my most favourite meals of the Cruise. Not being huge eaters, the meats started to get very overwhelming. It seemed to never end! Now I realize a lot of Cruisers want large portions of food for their money, but we place equal value on service, dining experience and food quality. The food quality was there but service and dining experience lacked. Our night ended with a $550 bill. I think the thing that left the most sour note in our experience was that they charged us for 11 people. I have an easier time accepting the 2 year old as she did sit in a chair and eat dinner (although let's be real, maybe 5% of what was offered to her), but they also charged us for the baby. $25 for the baby to sit in her stroller and drink her bottle and eat a few cheerios. I'll also add the restaurant was at 50% capacity while we dined. Boo RCI! I thing charging a baby is in very poor taste. That marked the end of specialty dining for us.Show and venues - The only parties in our group who went to any shows were my parents. It was hit or miss for them. They like some, some not so much. Remember of course they were unable to secure seating for Ocean Aria or Chicago. The rest of us caught a bit Ocean Aria as we walked the Boardwalk in the evenings. What we were able to see was fantastic. Sports Deck - Absolutely phenomenal. We all used the Flowrider, the basketball court, ping pong, zip line and rock climbing. One of the best things the ship offered. My kids were in heaven!!! The kids activities were excellent for my younger 2. They loved Adventure ocean and the staff had to be some of the nicest people we're ever met. My only complaint was the programs offered for my son. At 12 he's in the 12 to 17 group. They say the organize by 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 but we never saw this happen. He's a social kid, but couldn't integrate into the teenage social circle. Oh well, he still managed to have a great time on his own and hanging out with us. Bars and nightlife - We absolutely loved the piano bar! Henry Saxby was awesome.. this is where we spent most evenings. The staff was wonderful as well. David is by far the best server around ;-) We also frequented the Casino which we also enjoyed, as well as other bars around the ship. We so wanted to lover the British pub but couldn't stand the smoke. It's was VERY smokey and unbearable, especially if we had the kids with us. We never stepped foot in any of the ships shops! Ports of Call - We are a definite minority, but we much prefer the ship itself that where it stops. We love having the pool and sports deck to ourselves! We only got off in St.Thomas for a bit of shopping and then again in Labadee. We loved Haiti - a great beach day!! We didn't zip line or use the roller coaster but we enjoyed watching everyone else. This has to be the best Cruise ship private islands there is. Fitness and Spa - I'm embarrassed to admit, but we never made our way to the gym. Instead at least half of our party used the running track instead. It was perfect! One of the best tracks we've seen. Being that is was exclusively dedicated to the track meant we didn't startle or scare any other Cruisers who may happen to be lounging on chairs or taking in the view. Bravo Allure! My sister was the only one that went to the spa. She had a massage and said it was absolutely wonderful. What else.. i'm sure I'm forgetting a lot. Let me conclude that disembarkation was also a breeze. We choose to walk off on our own and had no trouble whatsoever. We loved our vacation, did not want it to end, and we will definitely book again on the Allure. Cruising is the best vacation for our extended family! Cheers, Jill Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Background I sailed with my entire family. Mom, Dad, sister, BIL, niece (11) and nephew (5). Mom, Dad and I are Elite and my sister achieved the status by the end of the second week. We sailed for two weeks, 12/17 and 12/24. This was my ... Read More
Background I sailed with my entire family. Mom, Dad, sister, BIL, niece (11) and nephew (5). Mom, Dad and I are Elite and my sister achieved the status by the end of the second week. We sailed for two weeks, 12/17 and 12/24. This was my 27th and 28th cruise on Princess and 5th and 6th on the Crown. This was our first experience sailing at Christmas. Flying to Fort Lauderdale We live in San Diego and drove to Los Angeles so we could take a non-stop flight to Fort Lauderdale. We spent Thursday night, 12/15 at the Embassy Suites South at LAX. It is convenient to the airport and we parked two cars at the hotel for the 2+ weeks. The hotel takes you to the airport and picks you up. There are many hotels at LAX that provide this service. I would never stay at this Embassy again. It really needs to be re-furbished and the rooms are tired and outdated. We took a Virgin America flight and it was very nice. The hardest part was check-in at LAX. That was a MESS!! But the flight was great. The in flight entertainment is so nice because each seat has their own screen. It makes a 5+ hour flight so much nicer! Pre-cruise hotel We spent Friday night, 12/16 at the Renaissance by the pier. The rooms are great and I would definitely stay here again. It is across the street from Walgreens and we were able to do some last minute shopping the night before the cruise. Our room rate included breakfast. The food was good but the restaurant is very small and we had to wait awhile to eat. The lobby was a madhouse with everyone leaving for ships. We took a shuttle to the ship. It was very convenient but we paid $35 to take us the ½ mile to the pier! That was an expensive ride but we would have needed at least two taxis so we decided to go for the convenience. Embarkation The previous sailing had Norovirus outbreaks so boarding was delayed. My Mom had booked the Bon Voyage Experience for her close friend and her husband but unfortunately it was cancelled. Mom was disappointed but we would rather board a ship that had been disinfected. We took our time getting to the pier and arrived around 2. Check-in was at the convention center directly across from the pier. We arrived when a bunch of other folks did so there were some lines. Once we checked in, we were asked to take a seat in the bleachers. Princess had brought in lots of chairs and there were tons of folks sitting around waiting for the boarding announcement. At 2:30 the announcement was made that in-transit and Elite passengers could board. Well Princess did not control the crowd and tons of folks starting running to the pier! Many of the crowd were first time cruisers and it was a bit scary for us because my folks are elderly and my Dad walks with a cane. I was concerned that someone was going to knock him down. Not a great start! So it was chaos during embarkation. We did bring wine onboard. Hulagirl was nice enough to give me some wine boxes they had used to bring wine to Fort Lauderdale. They didn't need the boxes anymore because they had one of the Winecheck carry on containers. So we were able to pack 8 bottles of wine. We placed luggage tags on the boxes along with cases of water and we gave them to the pier porters. Everything arrived just fine! We also had some wine in our carry-ons. Absolutely no problem!! This is one of things I LOVE about Princess. I understand most cruise lines either limit the wine or completely disallow it. Cabins My folks were in a suite and had the same cabin for both weeks. My sister, BIL and nephew and my niece and I had adjoining balcony cabins during the first week and moved to insides for the second week to save some money. We were all on Riviera deck. I will never book on this deck again. Every morning we heard the deck attendants moving and dropping chairs. Sometimes it was as early as 6:30am. And the night of the deck parties was extremely noisy. It sounded like there was a herd of elephants jumping up and down over our cabins. It was especially bad the second week. The party continued until 12:15am. We had gone to bed because we had an early excursion in Belize and had to be on a tender around 7am. I am not sure why Princess planned the deck party for a night prior to a 7am port call. It would have made more sense to plan it for a night prior to a 9am port call. I did end up calling down to Passenger Services a few times during the 2 weeks to ask them to have the deck attendants be more careful moving furniture. Passenger Services was very nice and even called me to find out if the noise had decreased. But unfortunately they really didn't do anything about the problem. We had booked Riviera deck because that is where the mid-ship suites are located. Because of the noise issues, I do wonder why Princess put the suites on this deck. On some of the older ships, the suites are on Caribe deck. That is so much nicer because there aren't any noise issues and the balconies are much deeper. The Riviera deck balconies are very narrow and the furniture on the balcony is a bit cramped. Princess all I can say is who did that deck planning!?!? LOL! The cabins are in good shape. Mom and Dad's bed in the suite was very nice. It was a pillow top mattress. But the rest of us had those old hard mattresses. I understand that Princess is slowly replacing these old worn out mattresses. I can't wait! Room Steward We all had Dax Supan from the Philippines. What a nice young man! He was very attentive and always had a smile on his face. He made some towel animals that the kids loved. And every night he made sure that Mom and Dad had wine glasses and ice. On turn around day, Dax told us to place all of our stuff that was in drawers and on shelves in our suitcases and to leave all of our clothes hanging in the closet. He moved everything to our new cabins for us. That really helped us since we had to get off the ship for immigration and there was no way we had time to move everything ourselves prior to disembarking. Overall Dax really took good care of us. Dining Room Staff We started the two weeks at late traditional dining but decided that we wanted to eat a little bit earlier since late seating was at 8:15. We talked to Neville Saldana the Maitre D' and he was very accommodating. Neville is by far the best Maitre D' I have had the pleasure of sailing with. He was very visible and very interested in making sure everyone was having a great dining experience. He moved us to the DaVinci dining room where we had a standing 7:30 reservation at table 488. This dining room in used for the 5:30 early seating and then opens for anytime dining at 7:30. The only challenge we faced was trying to enter the dining when the doors open. Almost every night there was a large group of folks lined up and we had to navigate our way through the crowd. We had the dining room team of Melinda Ambrusics and Elena Andonova. OMG they were ABSOLUTELY the BEST team I have ever experienced!! They are very attentive, sweet and caring. They were always right there when water or wine glasses were empty. They knew the drink orders and the drinks were always waiting for us when we arrived. They spoiled the kids by even cutting their meat and making them feel very special. Melinda and Elena are both quiet and never disturbed our meals. I HIGHLY recommend anyone that is sailing on the Crown to request their station. You will not be sorry! And if you do sit with them, be sure to tell them that Jamie said hello! Alternative restaurants and food in main dining room Our travel agent gave us vouchers to use for Sabatini's. We had decided we only wanted to do one formal night each week so decided to go to Sabatini's on the first formal night of week one. Overall I was not impressed at all and did not care for the food. I had the new chicken dish and found the sauce was overwhelming. Everyone agreed with me and I don't think we will return to Sabatini's on future cruises. The second week we went to Crown Grill on the second formal night. It was very good but wow it is a lot of food!! My steak was OK -- not fabulous but better than the dining room. But the sides -- yum! Especially the corn casserole. And that black and blue onion soup -- WOW!! We do like Crown Grill and normally visit this alternative restaurant at least once during our cruise. I thought the food in the main dining room was pretty good. Some nights the menu was STRANGE!! Caribbean night we all looked at the menu and ended up ordering pasta or something from the "always available" menu. My favorite part of the menu is always the pasta. The pastas on Princess Ships are WONDERFUL!! And Neville ordered macaroni and cheese for us many of the nights. Now I could eat that every night as my entrée -- it is that good! Christmas decorations and activities The ship was beautiful!! When we boarded on 12/17 we were so impressed by the Piazza. There were garlands hanging from all of the rails and a large tree on deck 5. But on 12/24 it got better!!! They brought in gingerbread houses, a sleigh and additional decorations. It was so nice. There were other trees all over the ship including a live tree in a bucket on one of the upper decks. During the first week there were Christmas carols playing all over the ship, including a stateroom channel that showed a fireplace while carols were playing. But it was during the second week that the activities kicked into high gear. Since Christmas Eve was turn around day, the staff was trying to fit in all of the activities while folks were settling in. The staff sang Christmas carols in the Piazza while it "snowed"..........I was impressed!!! But for some reason Lisa Ball did not read "Twas the night before Christmas" for the kids. Not sure what happened. Midnight mass was celebrated in the Princess Theater. I planned to go but was just too tired to make it. On Christmas morning, my niece and I took my nephew's Santa gifts up to Adaigo and placed them under the tree. We had stayed in our Christmas pajamas and were wearing our Santa hats!!! I had recommended we go up there because the bar is always quiet in the morning and we could tell my nephew that Santa came to the ship. I guess Santa needed a drink so that is why he left the presents in a bar!!! LOL! The Head Waiter from Sabatini's saw us and brought over some orange juice and coffee! He knows me because Dad and I go to breakfast there every almost every morning since Dad is a suite passenger (Mom is not a breakfast person and I am the lucky replacement for Mom!!). As we were opening gifts people started arriving for trivia so we stayed. We didn't win but had fun. After trivia, my sister and BIL took the kids to the Piazza. Santa was there and the kids could go sit on this lap. Each child was given a stuffed animal. Very nice touch! In the afternoon there was a Christmas show in the Princess Theater. Somehow we all missed it! I was bummed when I saw it on the Reflections video. It looked fun. But we did make it to the gingerbread house contest. What a blast!!! There were about 30 teams. We were in Club Fusion and each team had a station with a boxed kit. On "GO" we opened our kit and began the decorating process. We had about 45 minutes to complete our house. They had pre-made icing that we could use so we didn't have to mix our own. We brought extra candy with us and I must admit our house was the best!! Overall it was a lot of fun. That night was a formal night and the ship was very festive. There was a special menu in the dining room and there were actual lit candles on every table. Overall Christmas on board was very special and I would not hesitate to do it again. Even given that there were 800+ kids on each week's sailing. The kids were well behaved and did not cause any problems. Ports We have finally learned to not use the ship excursions!! We now booked independently and pay less for what typically is a better excursion with more amenities. Here goes........... Week 1 -- Curacao and Aruba Curacao My sister, BIL and kids walked off the ship and hired someone to take them to the Hato Caves and the distillery. I forget how much they paid but they really enjoyed their time ashore. Mom and I walked to over the floating bridge but it was open (meaning you could not cross the river) so we had to take a ferry. It was very crowded with both tourists and locals and we found that the locals were not very friendly. We walked around downtown for maybe 30 minutes and went back to the ship. Aruba It POURED!! This is my second time to Aruba and the second time it poured!! My sister had booked the Jolly Roger pirate ship independently. We still had a great time even though it rained. They took us to two snorkeling sites that had wrecks below. And we enjoyed the rope swing. We had all the rum punch we could drink and lunch (just OK). And there was another boat out with us that had the folks that booked via Princess. They paid more and did not get lunch!! Week 2 -- Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize and Cozumel Grand Cayman My sister and niece booked a Stingray City tour through Captain Marvin. They loved it. And there were only 9 people on the boat because an RCCL ship was 4 hours late to port (they picked up some refugees) and those folks didn't make the tour. Mom and I once again walked around and did some shopping. We had a bite to eat at Breezes. I bought my favorite Tortuga Rum Punch prior to re-boarding the ship!! That is the best punch in the entire world! Roatan The whole family took a Victor Bodden tour. My sister, BIL, niece and nephew went horseback riding. It was strange because our guide pulled the van over to the side of a road where the horses were standing. No stable at all. The horses looked a bit worn but they all had a great time. While they were riding, the guide took Mom, Dad and I to Half Moon Bay. It was OK -- nothing special. The pier area is wonderful. It was built by Carnival. When we returned, all of the girls did some shopping and ended the day at Fat Tuesday's. In retrospect I wish we had just gone to the Mahogany Bay beach. It is right next to the ship and looked nice. Hulagirl and her family went there and really enjoyed it. Next time! Belize My sister, niece, nephew and I went cave tubing and zip lining with Major Tom. Once again we booked independently and paid less and lunch was included. We paid $89.50 for all of that! Tom met us at the pier and we had a small group of 10. We got to the zip lining and tubing place prior to the big buses from the ships (there were two NCL ships there with us). That saved us from waiting in long lines for zip lining. I highly recommend Major Tom. He personally joined us on the tour and told us a lot about Belize. It was a great tour. Cozumel My sister, BIL, niece and nephew went to the beach. Mom, Dad and I did some shopping and went to Pancho's Backyard. Yum!!! Great margaritas and food. We were docked downtown and went to the one near the ferry terminal. I highly recommend Pancho's! There were 7 ships in port that day include the "Behemoth of the Seas", aka Oasis of the Seas. So there were at least 20K+ passengers roaming the town. It was busy! Entertainment We had seen all of the shows. I am ready for some of the new shows that are now on other Princess ships. We did go to "What a Swell Party" the first week and "Motor City" the second week. I enjoyed both. On the second week we had a GREAT comedian, Phil Tag. I highly recommend him if you have a chance to see him. Very funny! James Michael was on-board too. He was good too but Phil was funnier to me. Most nights we had dinner and just hung around. We did watch some of the football games on MUTS. That was fun! Most traveled passenger lunches Yes lunches!! I was invited both weeks and these meals were a huge highlight for me. The first week I took my Dad and we sat with a very nice family from Quebec. Our host was Jo-Ann the future cruise consultant. Each guest gets a picture with Captain Nash. The food was out of this world!! Dad had halibut and he said it was the best meal he has ever had onboard. I had the rack of lamb. The second week I took Mom. Hulagirl also went with her family and requested that we sit together. We had a blast sitting with them!! The Chief Engineer and his wife sat with us and we learned about many aspects of the ship's operation. The food was decadent! Mom and I both had the filet with stilton cheese. And the appetizer was a yummy pasta dish. Dessert was a sinfully rich chocolate cake. And I forgot to mention that they pour nice wine! Thank you Princess for spoiling me and my parents!!! Challenges The cruises were great but there were a few challenges. A few I already mentioned.....noise, mattresses. But our biggest challenges came during the second week. My folks and I are elite passengers. And my parents were in a suite. As elite passengers we were entitled to one mini-bar setup each week. And my parents were entitled to a second set-up each week since they were in a suite. We are wine drinkers so we take Princess up on the option to switch the mini-bar for a bottle of wine. The first week my folks only got one set-up. They didn't know you have to ASK for the second one.....HUH!?!? Is Princess hoping people either don't know about the second one or forget to ask??? So the second week my Dad went Passenger Services to ensure they got 2 set-ups for the second week and the missing set-up from the previous sailing. And we had decided we didn't want our normal chardonnay but instead wanted to order bottles of Riesling. Well we were HASSLED!!! It took many phones calls to passenger services and room service to try to resolve both the request for the suite second set-up and the request for a different and CHEAPER wine. You would have thought we were asking for the moon. First off, the majority of the folks we talked to had no idea that an elite passenger in a suite is entitled to 2 set-ups. We were repeatedly told that was not true and that our request would be escalated to guest relations. I was so frustrated that I finally packaged up my entire mini-bar set-up and took it to a head waiter in the dining room at dinner to ask for a bottle of Riesling. And the head waiter in the dining room had no idea you could exchange the set-up for wine! We finally got it resolved by talking to Neville the Maitre D' and we got all the set-ups and the Riesling! I suggest that Princess advertise that you can exchange the set-up for any bottle of wine up to a certain price point. Wouldn't that be easier? And it would allow passengers to select the wine they enjoy! There was one incident that I want to mention that happened when we tried to board a tender in Belize. As an elite passenger, I am allowed to go directly to the tenders when I am ready to go ashore. We had to be on one of the first tenders since we had an early excursion and as we boarded we joined one of the ship's tour groups. A nasty young man questioned whether we were on the tour. I told him that we could go ashore when we wanted and showed him my black elite card. My sister heard him make a smart remark about "who do they think they are". Well I thought it was a dead issue until that same young man saw me in Cozumel and proceeded to hassle me. I was at Pancho's Backyard and as I was trying to leave the restaurant he came up behind me and shoved me as I was trying to negotiate a long line of customers waiting for their tables. Thankfully my folks were in the restroom and not in his path. This guy and his GRANDMOTHER (who claimed she was also elite?!?) continued to hassle me to the point where I was afraid it would continue to escalate. Many in their party (including grandma) were very drunk so I can only assume he was too. But wow -- what a jerk!! The only reason I mention this is that maybe Princess could inform people that elite passengers are able to join tenders whenever they want. That might prevent situations like I experienced. Elite passengers -- beware! Other ship personnel Lisa Ball was the cruise director. She is nice and I did see her quite a bit talking with passengers. The rest of the cruise staff was OK -- nothing memorable. The passenger services desk was great. It is nice that they have finally trained the staff to understand customer service. Marko and James were especially nice! Marko even sent me chocolate covered strawberries as an apology for the cabin noise issues. Now that is a wow to me! Other miscellaneous thoughts We did deal with two weeks of Noro-virus. Thankfully no one in our group got sick. But it was all around us. The people across the hall from my niece and me and the people next door to Mom and Dad were infected. It was amazing to watch the staff wear masks into their staterooms and then take everything out of the stateroom in red bio-hazard bags. Overall it was just a minor inconvenience in the delayed boarding times (both weeks) and in the dining areas because you could not serve yourself any food. We had rough seas the first week. We were eating in Sabatini's' (deck 16 aft) when the ship hit a major swell. Wine glasses and dishes went flying!! That was a first for me. Later that same night Captain Nash told us that we were going to experience even rougher seas and it was the first time he has seen a gale storm warning in the Caribbean in 20 years! Mother Nature was kind to us and luckily the seas never got worse. I was amazed at the number of people who complained about the Captains warning and felt he was deliberatly scaring people. Really?! Would it have been better to not tell people and potentially have objects flying around cabins and people getting hurt? We are on the ocean and the seas don't always cooperate. And that is not the fault of Princess. I think Princess and Captain Nash did a GREAT job of preparing us for what could have been a tough night. Disembarkation Disembarkation was painless (with the exception that we did not want to go home!!). We had breakfast in the dining room and went to the Platinum/Elite/Suite lounge. Since we were staying overnight in Fort Lauderdale we were one of the last groups to disembark. We spent the night at the Hilton Marina. Nice hotel but I prefer the Renaissance. The best part of the Hilton was that it was close to the water taxi which we took to Las Olas that night. The next day we had an 8:30am flight on American back to LAX. We were regretting that time since the previous night was New Year's Ever!! In the end it was so sad to leave the fabulous Crown Princess and I wish I was still onboard!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I have never written a cruise review before, but wanted to write a detailed one, in appreciation for all the great tips and information I have learned from reading previous reviews here. Here goes my very long review! We went on the 2 ... Read More
I have never written a cruise review before, but wanted to write a detailed one, in appreciation for all the great tips and information I have learned from reading previous reviews here. Here goes my very long review! We went on the 2 week 17Dec11 -- 31Dec11 roundtrip cruise on the Sapphire Princess from LA to Hawai'i to LA (H149). Overall we had a wonderful time, and just loved this cruise. Cruise Director Dave Carson was great (more on him later), and many of the activities, TV shows, and movies were themed around Hawai'i, which made the cruise feel so special. My husband and I live just 70 miles north of the cruise terminal so we drove and parked our own car (total parking bill at the end was $168). We pulled into the parking lot at 1:30 pm and were sitting in our room by 2:15 pm. We have only cruised 3 times total on Princess so we have no special status or expedited lines, but the whole embarkation process was very smooth and easy. We wanted to carry our medium-sized luggage with us onto the ship as we could easily manage it ourselves, but were not allowed to do so. We were only permitted to carry our backpack and small duffel. However, our luggage was waiting outside our room by 4:30 pm, so it was not too bad. We were able to get a mini-suite on the Dolphin (Deck 9) for less than the original cost of a balcony room. We had booked a balcony room in December 2010 via an internet travel agent, and checked on the price monthly via e-mail all year long. We changed to a mini-suite when the price dropped sometime in the summer. The mini-suite was very nice, especially the spacious bathroom. However the bathtub was set so high, I think it might be difficult for some people to get in and out of. While the mini-suite was nice, it was only a little bigger than our previous regular balcony staterooms on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas or on the Carnival Splendor. The Sapphire Princess mini-suite has a sofa where I could sit comfortably and read or watch TV. In a regular Sapphire Princess stateroom, one has to either sit on the bed or in the single chair in order to read or watch TV. I would never bother with a mini-suite on the Mariner of the Seas or the Carnival Splendor as their balcony staterooms feel very spacious to me and come standard with a comfortable sofa, coffee table, and chair, but I think the mini-suite is more of a "necessity" for me on the Sapphire Princess (lol!). Our cabin steward was great, and kept everything in tip-top condition for us. We originally had fixed time dining at 8 pm in the International Dining Room, but our whole table was moved 2 days later at the request of our tablemate due to some extremely loud and unruly children seated next to our original table. Princess assigned us to fixed 8 pm dining in the Vivaldi Dining Room. It is a shame neither the parents nor Princess made any attempt to control these children, but to Princess' credit, they did move us with no hassle. I have multiple food allergies and am vegetarian, so the travel agent notified Princess of this at the time of the booking. I also spoke to the Food & Beverage (F&B) Supervisor in both the International Dining Room and the Vivaldi Dining Room, and they could not have been kinder or more understanding about meeting my multiple and very specific dietary needs. After 2 days of the special food they prepared for me, I asked if I could have Indian vegetarian food (which I love) instead, as I was not really enjoying the other food. Mind you, there is always one vegetarian entrée on the menu, but Indian food was never on the menu. F&B Supervisor Adrian Trifas in the Vivaldi Dining Room was so kind and helpful and assured me it would be absolutely no problem. I was always provided with 2 separate Indian lentil/vegetable preparations, rice, raita (yogurt salad), papads (rice wafers), and Indian flat bread. I could not eat this much, so I requested they eliminate the papads and Indian flat bread. After 2 days of this, I asked Adrian if the lentils/vegetables could be toned down in the spice level as they were a little too hot for me. Again, I was met with nothing with kindness and an immediate accommodation of my request. They never repeated the lentil/vegetable dishes, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the delicious food they made for me. My husband (who is not vegetarian), ordered off the regular menu, and enjoyed a variety of dishes including the hot soups, cold soups (served like smoothies), the escargot, the lobster tail, steak, etc, etc. We selected a table for 8, and were blessed to be assigned really lovely and charming table mates. The other 3 couples were quite different from us, but we really looked forward to seeing them every night at dinner as their delightful company really enhanced the whole cruise experience for us. My husband and I both agreed the desserts were actually better at the Horizon Court buffet than in the MDR, as the cakes and tarts seemed too dried out in the MDR. Soft serve was available up on deck during the day but regular ice cream was only served in the MDR. I tried 2 or 3 of the ice creams but was very disappointed in the non-premium quality, compared to what we had 2 years ago on a previous Sapphire Princess cruise. While we did not enjoy our June 2011 cruise on the Carnival Splendor very much due to the relentless blasting of music at an extremely high volume everywhere on that ship, at least they served Haagen Daaz in the MDR (or something that tasted like it), but the Sapphire Princess ice cream was a big disappointment to me. I ended up ordering the sorbet most nights and was happy with that. We also went to the British style pub lunches that were offered 3 or 4 times during the cruise. Although there was nothing vegetarian on the menu for me, my British husband greatly enjoyed these meals which reminded him of the "old country", so it made me happy. We ate breakfast and lunch every day at the Horizon Court Buffet or the Pizzeria. I always only have a toasted bagel and tea for breakfast so I was fine, but my husband said he was a little tired of the breakfast selection by the end of the 14 days. The lunch selection seemed more varied, and always included a vegetarian pasta dish, as well as rice and one vegetarian Indian dish. The staff at the Horizon Court were so friendly and genuinely helpful in bringing us beverages and immediately clearing up tables. They procurement dept did not plan too well though as they ran out of lemonade on about Day 11. Good thing my husband had brought his own individual serving packages of Crystal Light with him. The Horizon Court was congested several times though, and I think both sides of the buffet could have been opened up more often to alleviate the crowding. Only thin crust pizza is available in the Pizzeria, and it is excellent and actually better than most land based pizzerias I have been to. Cheese and pepperoni pizzas are always available, and they rotate a signature pizza of the day (sometimes vegetarian and sometimes not). I was a little apprehensive about the condition of the ship as the Sapphire is scheduled to go into dry dock in mid-January 2012, but I was pleasantly surprised at the excellent condition of all the public areas and the very nice condition of our mini-suite. Cruise Director Dave Carson was amazing and put together a really special Hawai'i themed program over the 14 days, which really enhanced the whole cruise experience for me. His knowledge of the islands, the culture, the Hawaiian language, and Hawaiian music is extensive and he said he had been travelling to the islands for 20 years. It really showed, and I think Princess would be doing a disservice to passengers on any Hawai'i cruise without a Cruise Director who is knowledgeable about Hawai'i and who does not prepare Hawaiian themed activities. My husband and I participated in multiple activities, and on several occasions, we had to make choices between 2 equally tempting things scheduled for the same time. We never paid extra for any activity as the ones we went to were all free. An activity I especially enjoyed was the ribbon lei making class on the outward journey, and a real orchid lei making class on the journey home (orchids were picked up in Honolulu). Dave Carson gave progressive ukulele lessons daily on sea days, and our dining companions who took his classes said he was a wonderful teacher. Dave Carson also gave wonderful hour long port lectures on each island, prior to our arrival in Hawai'i. His in-depth knowledge about the islands was evident, and we never once had to suffer through any of those ridiculous shopping "tips" during his port talks. The ship was unable to dock in Kauai due to bad weather, and Dave provided an impromptu 1.5 hours of excellent and informative commentary as the captain cruised us around both Kauai and the forbidden island of Ni'ihau. Debbie from Canada, one of Dave Carson's staff members, was another standout and was so knowledgeable about Polynesian culture and led many of classes. She is also an excellent hula and Tahitian dancer, and offered daily classes on sea days. Students from Debbie's and Dave's classes put on a very nice performance the last night of the cruise. Naturalist Pat Kramer gave excellent talks every sea day on Hawaiian culture, movies filmed in the islands, whales, the attack on Pearl Harbor, Polynesian navigation, the flora and fauna of the islands, etc, etc. Her knowledge, enthusiasm, and un-stilted, natural speaking style made us look forward to her presentations. Completely un-Hawaiian related, but thoroughly enjoyable, attorney Michael Bishay gave intellectually engaging and fascinating presentations every sea day on different criminal cases. We learned a lot about legal issues and had some of our notions about the law challenged in a super interesting, non-dry, and non-boring way. His presentation style is very audience interactive, and we loved his talks. I give presentations very often for work myself, and although I am nowhere in Michael's class, I can recognize a superb presenter when I hear one. If he is ever speaking on your cruise, do not miss going to his presentations! I loved how Cruise Director Dave Carson arranged for many of the TV shows and movies to reflect the Hawai'i theme. There were shows on Hawaiian language lessons, multiple documentaries on whales, volcanoes, formations of the islands, movies about the attack on Pearl Harbor, about the young Princess Victoria Kai'ulani, etc, etc. There were even re-runs of the old show Magnum PI which was filmed in Hawai'i, for nostalgia's sake. There were also multiple non-Hawaiian themed movies which were pretty new which I wanted to see, but which I had no time to see either in the Princess Theater or on TV, as we were too busy with all the other fun things we were doing. One of my "rules" on any cruise vacations is that I must get a treatment at the spa during every sea day, so that I can truly relax. Thanks to previous reviews I read here, I only made a few appointments via internet for the first 4 days of the cruise, and waited for the deals to begin. Well the deals started on the third day and saved me big bucks. Thanks to all previous reviewers! Some involved getting a treatment at 8 am, but most of the deals involved getting treatments at whatever time I wanted and were 50% - 60% off the normal treatment price. Some of the deals were advertised on flyers sent to every cabin, some were offered to me by the masseuse for a future treatment, and some I got just by asking at the spa front desk. We went to all of the production shows, the comedy acts, the ventriloquist, the juggler, and the special evening singing acts. We were able to see a new performance every night, and really enjoyed ourselves. Some were definitely of a better quality than others, but overall we had a great time. We opted for the disembarkation where we would handle our luggage ourselves. We were told to wait in a lounge at 8 am, but due to a hold-up by US Customs, were not allowed to get off till 8:40 am. Once we got the all-clear however, everything went very smoothly, and we arrived back at our own home by 10:15 am. While there were some things we definitely did not like, overall we had a fantastic time and loved our visit to the islands. Cruise Director Dave Carson's Hawaiian themed program really enhanced our cruise. While on board, we signed up for a future cruise and put down a deposit. We can hardly wait to begin planning our next Princess cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Review of 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 Carnival Pride Cruise out of Baltimore to 'Florida and the Bahamas': I would like to set the tone from the outset of this review that I was very happy with my cruise on the 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 ... Read More
Review of 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 Carnival Pride Cruise out of Baltimore to 'Florida and the Bahamas': I would like to set the tone from the outset of this review that I was very happy with my cruise on the 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 Carnival Pride out of Baltimore to 'Florida and the Bahamas'. It was the most relaxing and fun vacation I have had in years. Carnival spoiled me, and I would cruise with them again. However, just so you know, this was my very first cruise and I have nothing to compare it with. I cruised solo, so my perspective may be quite different from most who have cruised before. This review may help those who have never been on the Carnival Pride, or those who have never cruised, or for someone thinking about cruising solo for the first time. And another FYI: my review is a long read, with in a ship log style, so if you do not have time to read all of it, that would be completely understandable. Caveats out of the way, here we go.................. It was one of my all-time favorite vacations. Easy drive there, easy embankment, nice state-room, balcony, great service by most of the staff, wonderful entertainment, relaxing serenity deck, plenty of food, and most of all a grand comfortable ship. It is a great product in a great location for me. I have shared my photos and videos with friends, coworkers and family, and have recommended the Carnival Pride for their next vacation. I cannot wait until I am aboard again! Here are just three questions from the online 'Carnival Exit Survey' I was emailed to take after I got home, along with my answers to them: Did anything happen during your cruise that surprised you in a negative way? I did not like the poorly organized Nassau Excursions on the pier. I did not like the David's Steak House service on New Year's Eve - the waitress could not speak English very well, and it was very difficult to communicate with her. I Did not like the Pizza Cafe, as there was no one there to take my order, and when he finally showed up, there were too many kids butting in line. The TV in room was old and hard to see. My bed was too hard and made my back stiff in the mornings. The 'Singles Meet and Greets' were poorly organized and poorly attended. Did anything happen during your cruise that surprised you in a positive way? Housekeeping staff was excellent, especially Angel on Deck 8. I really liked the Adult Only Serenity Deck, just need to try preventing 'all' kids off of it at 'all' times. I really enjoyed my balcony, but did not like the one side that had spaces big enough for those on the balcony next to mine to see into my room. The Taj Mahal Shows were very entertaining, as well as most of the comedians. The Normandie Restaurant staff was excellent, especially Edwardo(sp?) who told me he had been with Carnival for nearly 15 years, and was very professional and friendly. Would you like to recognize members of the Carnival team who went out of their way to make your experience special? Angel -- My Room Steward on 8th deck -- he was always around and ready to please. Eduardo(sp?) my usual server in Normandie - he was a true professional who was very friendly and always made me feel comfortable dinning alone. Eric - Assistant Entertainment Director - funny and organized. The Waitress in Ivory Lounge - competent and very friendly. Jennifer the Karaoke Lady - who was very friendly and organized. Casino Helper guy who assisted me with cashing out my winnings. All of the Library Internet Helpers. With all of that said, below is my personal daily ship log (with likes and dislikes) in chronological order. 1ST Day Sunday Christmas 12-25-11: I left my house around 10:45 am and drove down I-95 from Wilmington, DE, arriving at the Baltimore, MD Port around Noon (about 1 hour-15 minutes). There was some holiday traffic, but it moved well, as many just passed me while I drove most of the way in the far right slow lane. The exit (#55) to the port off I-95 was the first right after the Baltimore Tunnel. I took the first left at the first light, but I must warn you that there is no sign at the light for the Port. Once in the Port Parking Lot I moved swiftly to the double car lanes to drop off checked luggage, but had to wait about twenty minutes behind 10-15 cars in front of me. Once past luggage drop off, I chose the cash parking line as there was no one in front me there. However, the credit card choice to park had about 15 cars and a long wait from what I could tell. I found a good parking spot near the middle and made my way into the terminal, through the security line(snuck in booze with no problem), and then waited in a long line that moved quickly for check in. Once I was parked, it took about 30 minutes to make it onto the ship. It was quite fast considering all the people in front of me. Once on the ship (after a long up hill gangway) about 1:00pm, I followed the line of people in front of me into the Normandie Dinning room on the same level (Deck 3). It was almost like they shoed us into it. I ate a nice lunch (Pasta) with several others at a long table near a big window. I went to the Library after lunch to purchase my Internet Time (4 hours -- of which I only used about 2.5 hours the entire cruise). About 3:00pm I went to my state room (8168) to see if it was ready. They were in the room finishing it up. My big luggage bag was outside my room, and was carried in by my Steward (Angel). He spoke great English and was very friendly and helpful throughout the entire cruise. I saw him almost everyday, sometimes two or three times a day on my floor. My safe did not work, so he called for help and a maintenance guy had it fixed in about an hour. That was the only problem I had with the room the entire time. The shower was plenty big and the water plenty hot. Everything worked well, but the TV was old and hard to see with my middle aged eyes. The extended balcony was everything I thought it would be and I got plenty of use out of it, just relaxing on it and taking great pictures coming into and out of port of calls. The room was plenty big for just one person, and should also be for two people. I would not want to be in it with any kids though. The bed was a bit hard for me, but the pillows were big and puffy. I took a short nap, unpacked and went to a nice dinner in the main dinning Normandie Restaurant, seated by alone at one of those small tables for two along the upper level center rail. After Dinner I went to the 6:00pm show in the Taj Mahal Theatre. Cannot remember which one it was, but they were all good. Afterward, I went to the Ivory Piano Bar and sang along with Roger the Piano Man, who was very good, but had to laugh a few times at his Asian accent singing Elton John songs, and other such soft rock artists' pop tunes. Most people sitting at the bar and in the lounge sang along with him as well. So, it was fun. After that I attended the late Adult comedy show, and sat and drank with two single ladies. We laughed a lot at Eric the Assistant Cruise Director, but I must warn you, he is by far the raunchiest of all the comedians (5 in total I believe). I finished up in the casino with a nightcap and won some money on the slots (came out ahead for the entire cruise on both slots and poker). I met some young fellows at the casino from Canada, and another one in the U.S. Army on leave. I bedded down around 2:30am exhausted from a long, but unique, Christmas Day. 2nd Day Monday 12-26-11: Woke up around 10:30am, ate a continental breakfast (I ordered it from a menu card that I hang on my door knob each night) received from room service earlier in the morning (bagels are small and danish is dry, but the rest is great, especially the fresh fruit). I showered, and then checked my sign and sail account on the TV. Put away the rest of my packed items. Sat on my extended balcony for awhile, then went to lunch (Spaghetti with meatballs -- very good) around 12:30pm in the Normandie restaurant, and sat with 3 couples (we all talked about our first night on board, none of which did what I did). I then explored every level of the ship and took photos of each deck. I laid out on the Lido Deck Serenity Pool area (about 68 degrees outside and a little windy). About 4:00pm I went down to my room and took a one hour power nap. I woke up and showered again before dressing up in my suit for the first 'Formal' night in the Normandie restaurant. I was seated alone again around 6:45pm, and eat a wonderful meal of crab-cake and prime rib (asked for a second crab cake and received it). Ordered the famous Chocolate Melting Cake for desert and it is everything it is billed to be, and then some. I went back to my room after dinner and changed out of my suit and tie and into a collared pull-over, and slacks. I attended the late Vroom Show in the Taj Mahal, and it was the best of all the shows, imho. I went to the Singles Meet and Greet at the Atrium Bar -- what a waste of time. There were about eight people there, and it broke up about a half hour later. I was asked by one woman to go dancing in the Beauties Dance Club, but responded to her that I do not dance much, and off she went without a chance for me to offer an alternative option. Maybe I should have followed her -- oh well, there were other opportunities to come that were much better ;-) I then went to the Starry Nights Lounge for Karaoke, and was pleasantly surprised by all the talented guest on the ship who could actually hold a tune. Finished up the night in the casino where I lost at Poker, but won at the slots to finish ahead for the night. I was in bed by 1:30am or so. My state-room (8168) was right under the Lido Deck Stage, so I had to use ear plugs some nights due to the loud thumping and chair dragging right above my bed. Not a big problem though, as long as you have ear plugs. 3rd Day Tuesday 12-27-11: I got out of bed around 9:30am. I checked my sail and sign card account, then sat on the balcony and ate the continental breakfast I received earlier that morning via room service. The outside temperature was already 72 degrees. I starting writing this log on the balcony, but did not finish it until a few days after the cruise ended. I went down to Guest Services to clear up a discrepancy I found on my S&S card account(they fixed it quickly), and then went to the library to check email. I ate lunch on the Lido deck Deli around 12:30pm (Had the Grilled Ham & Cheese -- it had not been not heated up long enough, but was edible). I laid out on the Serenity Deck by the pool until around 2pm, then went over to the Apollo Pool to watch the hairy chest contest( It was kind of funny, but tacky as expected, and of course the wrong guy won, imho). I went down to the Taj Mahal around 4:00pm and watched the Wedding Game (very entertaining and funny). I went to the Photo Gallery and purchased three of the photos taken of me by Carnival; the main portrait they take during embankment, and from the first two dinners, including the formal ($11.50 each). I took a quick nap on my balcony, then down to the 7:00pm Juggler show in the Taj Mahal. It was one of the America's Got Talent Contestants last season, and he was very good, not to mention hilarious). I went to the Internet Cafe for a short check on email (was expecting something important in my inbox). Had a quick dinner in Normandie around 8:45pm (Fried Chicken and Mash Potatoes -- not very good). I went to the Butterfly Lounge to see the 9:45pm Adult Comedian Show (a middle aged comedian who looked, and sounded, like Dice Clay (he was very funny). Ended the night at the Perfect Game Sports Bar watching an NBA game, and won $40 on the bar top virtual poker game. I was in bed and asleep by midnight. 4th Day Wednesday 12-28-12: I woke up at 6:00am to the 'room service guy' knocking at my door, and eat the continental breakfast before going down to the deck 3 gangway for the 8:30am Port Canaveral Excursion to the Kennedy Space Center (very organized and interesting tour, but a lot of walking). I especially liked seeing the Hubble 3D IMAX movie). Had lunch at one of the park's cafeterias and was back on ship around 4:00pm). I went to my room and sat on my balcony as it was such a nice day out, and took photos of the port and was able to zoom in on the Kennedy Space Center with my camera. My balcony was a nice way to rest my weary feet after a lot of walking that day. I took another shower and went to my 6:00pm reservation at David's Steak House. I ordered the spinach salad, which was really good, and then had the surf and turf (4oz of tender filet, and two succulent lobster tails). I had two glasses of fine Cabernet Sauvignon to wash it all down with. The only alcohol I had that night. And I finished with the biggest slice of cheese cake I have ever been served that I could only eat about half of. David's Steak House is a must on the Pride. It is at the top of the ship with large windows overlooking the ocean. The service that night was impeccable, but no so on the last night, as I will explain later. I went to the Taj Mahal for the 7:30pm Trivia Competition Show (guessing songs on a few notes). It was very entertaining. I met a nice woman there and we teamed up to come in nearly last place, but it was a blast. We stuck around for the Liars Club Show (really just a knock off of the old truth or consequences TV game show). That was not as entertaining, but we stuck it out through the end. I went back to my room early, watched a pay per view movie and was asleep by 11:30pm, only to be awakened just after midnight to loud thumping coming from above me. Apparently there was a midnight rock it out party on the lido deck stage that lasted until 3am. I put in a pair of ear plugs that allowed me to drown out the late night revelers. In addition to the thumping there was some chair dragging above my room on the lido deck at all hours during the entire cruise, but it didn't bother me too much. If you are on the 8th deck (Panoramic), make sure you bring ear plugs to sleep. 5th Day Thursday 12-29-12: I got up around 7:30am to the knock on the door by room service bringing my daily continental breakfast. I showered and packed a small backpack for the quickly back to the ship in beachwear and flip flops, making it ba'Nassau Bus Tour and Beach' Excursion. I left the ship earlier than I needed to, as I set my clock to Atlantic Time thinking Nassau was on it, but I was informed later they were still on Eastern Time. So, I was the first one off the ship, as I walked up the long dock, then up the long pier to the terminal. Once I realized my ship excursion tour guide was no where to be found, I walked all the way back to the ship to find several tour guides now just outside of the gangway with signs directing a thousand or so shipmates to each respective excursion. It was chaos, but eventually they put it all together and walked us in different lines to the terminal and to our respective buses. After that bad experience, my tour and beach day were great. My Nassau Tour was informative, and the beach was nice. However, be warned that the guide will ask for tips when you depart the bus at the beach, and then again later at the terminal at final drop off. The Poop Deck Restaurant next to the beach had good 'Conch Chowder' and sandwiches for lunch. They dropped us off at the terminal around 3:30pm, and I walked over to the Green Turtle Sports Bar about a block away to watch the Notre Dame Bowl Game. I drank there with some Locals until about 9pm when they reminded me I had to be back to the ship before 9:30pm. I walked very ck just in time before the ship set sail again. I changed out of my beachwear and into my nightly garb and went to the Ivory Bar for another sing-along with Roger the Asian Piano Man. I left there after another great sing-along with a packed lounge, and went to the Butterfly Lounge for the team competition. I teamed up with a woman a little older than me, and a married couple in the 30s sitting near me. At one point the women had to take their bras off under their shirts and the men had to take off our shirts and wear their bras onto the stage. There were several bare chested men with bras all lined up on the stage competing for the grand prize. Some middle aged Asian fellow won the competition (a bottle of Champagne) by doing some pretty crazy acts on stage. It was a lot of wild drunken fun that night. Stayed at Butterflies for the Karaoke All-Stars singing with the Ship Band at Midnight, but only stayed a little while due to the sudden realization I had not had any dinner yet, so I stumbled back to my state-room for a very late supper via room service. I fell asleep around 1:30am after a very long day and night. 6th Day Friday 12/30/12: I woke up early again for some reason. The bright sunrise blasted into my room around 7:00am and my balcony was calling me to watch it with a cup of tea. Room service arrived about an hour later, which I ate on the balcony while we pulled into Freeport. I showered and was off the ship around 10:00am. I did not have an excursion purchased for Freeport, so I just walked around the dockside straw market and took some photos. I went back to the Library to check email around noon. The Mermaid Grille Buffet lines were too long again, so I ate a late lunch on the lido deck Deli again (Reuben and slaw), then a quick swim in the Poseidon Pool. I laid out on the Serenity Adult Deck until about 2pm., before heading back to my balcony, as we left port around 3pm. It was so sunny and warm that day that the photos and videos of leaving port came out phenomenal. It was the most relaxing afternoon of the cruise; while sitting on my balcony watching us leave port and making our way back out to sea again for the long trip back to Baltimore. I went to an early dinner at Normandie(Tilapia -- overcooked), and that deliciously famous chocolate melting cake with two ice creams this time, and a cappuccino as I was not drinking after last night's Nassau Drunkfest! Went to the Taj Mahal Theater at 8:30pm to see the Jazzin Show, and although not as good as the Vroom Show, it was very entertaining, with some very good dancing. I went to the 9:45pm Adult Comedy show and met a couple of single ladies, as we watched what I thought were two only moderately funny comedians, with an hour break in between them. The last comedian was announced as being on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I was back in my room late and fell asleep around 3am. 7th Day Saturday 12/31/11: I was out of bed around 9:30am. I ate some leftovers in my fridge from a previous room service(s) for breakfast, as I forgot to fill out the breakfast card last night. I reviewed the debarkation handout and watched the TV version as well, then showered and went down to the Library to check email again. I went up to the Lido Deck Apollo Pool as there were very few kids up there for some reason, and laid out there until about 1:30pm. I tried getting a late lunch in Mermaids Grille, but only the Pizza Cafe was open. I stood in line for a few minutes before a bunch of kids came running up to the counter and butted in line again, so I went back to my room and ordered room service (Cornbeef on Rye and Chips, with some assorted chocolate chip cookies -- yummy). I sat on my balcony for an hour or so. I went down to the casino to cash out my winnings around 3:30pm, and then I purchased the Voyage DVD at the Photo Shop. I went to the FAIRWELL Party (free drinks -- and they were 'not' watered down) in the Taj Mahal and sat with the two single ladies I met the night before. The three of us then went to the Starry Night lounge for Karaoke until about 8:00pm. I went back to my room to pack and leave my checked luggage outside my room, and to change into more formal wear to rejoin the two ladies at David's Steak House for dinner for a 9:15pm reservation (the service was very bad this time there as the waitress could not speak English well -- but the food was superb -- had the excellent spinach salad again, and a 14oz New York Strip I could not finish, even with no desert). After Dinner I went up to the Lido Deck Stage for the New Years Celebration, and back to my room not too long after to get a good night's rest before debarkation the next morning. 8th Day Sunday New Years Day 01/01/12: The alarm went off early at 6:30am. I got up with another well deserved hangover, took a long hot shower, got into whatever clothes I had left over, and went down to the Normandie Restaurant for my first hot breakfast of the cruise. I came back up to the room and packed my carry-on bag, and was out of the room by 8:45am and down to one of the debarkation waiting areas(I chose the Taj Mahal as it had a big movie screen with ESPN providing highlights of the bowl games). My Zone 7 was called earlier than scheduled (around 11am), and I walked to the gangway, down it in a long but quick line, through customs very quickly, and found my checked bag quickly, and rolled it out to my vehicle in the parking lot; all in less than an hour. I was on the road before noon, but I would be remiss if I did not warn you about the poor signage for I-95 northbound drivers. The left hand turn you need to make does not have a sign posted to instruct you to do so at the traffic light. Just know when you come upon the first traffic light to turn left to make your way to the I-95 North entrance ramp. It's almost like a u-turn headed back the terminal. The drive home was as easy as the drive down, making it from Terminal to Home in about and hour and fifteen minutes. If you live within driving distance of the Baltimore Port, it is a no-brainer to book a cruise out of it on the Carnival Pride. I may try Royal Caribbean (RCL) out of Baltimore next, to compare the two. I don't know though, as it will be hard to beat the PRIDE for me! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My son and I boarded the Carnival Glory on Dec. 18/11. This was immediately following a cruise on Disney's new Dream ship. We were complete Carnival fans but The Disney Dream upped the Playing field.This was our second Disney cruise ... Read More
My son and I boarded the Carnival Glory on Dec. 18/11. This was immediately following a cruise on Disney's new Dream ship. We were complete Carnival fans but The Disney Dream upped the Playing field.This was our second Disney cruise and we finished our 9th cruise with Carnival since Dec. /08 ! A little about myself and son. My son is 16 years old. He has cystic fibrosis and is immune compromised. his goal is too reach platinum before he is 17 years old ....His 10th cruise is booked for March / 2011. He is gonna make it if the new changes don't come into play before then... Me, a single parent with a severe knee injury that required two surgeries in the past year and a knee replacement in March and after our cruise. I use a wheelchair/ scooter and had an accessible cabin.... Now, to our review: We boarded the Glory at around 3pm on Dec. 18/11 . We flew in from Orlando after exiting the Disney Dream. My son I went directly to our cabin to unload carry ons and medical equipments , medications and to do aerosol treatments and chest physiotherapy. These are both life-substaining therapies . We were in for a surprise. Inside my son found a bag of medications . Complete with needles in the closet. On the night there were needles toppers , wrappers and tags. Inside the stand were garbage , with crumpled papers....My son took the meds down to guest services. guest services immediately called up and said they were sending someone to talk to me. And check the room. House keeping floor manager came in and viewed the rooms. He found more wrappers and needle toppers on the carpet and mirrored cabinet. He apologized and said the room would get a good cleaning AFTER we went for supper! I non the less thanked him. It was obvious the stands of cabinet hadn 't been wiped down or the closets or selling, etc....Room wasn't vacuumed properly either. The room Steward came in and blamed it on his assistant. Also said there was a coast guard inspection so they were busy. he said , this was not good and left. He too promised a good cleaning while we went to dinner. Not impressed. 3pm and plenty of time to get the room clean. My son being immune compromised was exposed already from someone who was obvious sick as well. This is not Carnival from our previous 7 cruises. Next I stepped into the bathroom. My son had found more meds in a drawer and had taken them to guest services.... The toilet was disgustingly dirty. I blew a lid and called guest services again. My son was not using this bathroom and potentially putting himself at risk....This is when it hit ceiling! cabin Steward had the nerve to come into the room , yell and demand I NOT contact guest services as they were coming down on him. I put my hand up and told him to stop. That my child's life was more important then his job and told him to leave. I called guest services and told them what the cabin steward just said.....told guest services they were very lucky it was a 16 years child with medical knowledge who found the meds and needles because had it been a small child, the circumstances could have been fatal..... The room was cleaned after we had gone for dinner. Supervisor came by later to check the room and apology once again. I told her I felt awkward and uncomfortable with this room steward. He had been completely in the wrong . We had to keep him however and we all just avoided one another the entire 8 nights. The steward was spoken too and written up. He acknowledged his wrong doing and told to give us 110 percent the. Rest of the cruise. I will admit he did and there were no room problems, except for when we changed cabin for the second leg of our cruise. he gave us dirty looks and would not help us move any back. We had friends help and let it go..... Want honesty folks? I removed his gratuity. His lack of regard for my child spoke volumes.... The rest of the cruise during the first leg was extraordinary , especially for my son Jacob. My son last year wanted to take the behind the scene tour. I couldn't walk and he wasn't 18 years so , he was told to come back when he was older....Guess they didn't realize CF was fatal and that tomorrow was not a given...... Anyway, a friend of Josh, the cruise director heard the story. Debbie contacted Josh and explained the situation. Josh arranged some incredible things during this b2b cruise. He created extraordinary memories and made a sick child, laugh , love and live it up! He reserved front row seats for "Rock On", after the show he took him on stage and introduced him to the singers and dancers and arranged to have a professional photographer take pictures! Next Josh introduced Jacob to Cesar the stage director. They let Jacob sit in the perch above the stage to watch the show from behind the curtains and see how it comes together , during the later seating. The course of the next two weeks Jacob got to meet the captain in the bridge. Everyone was shocked when the captain gave Jacob his hat! More photos were taken and jaws dropped when the captain invited Jacob to watch the ship pull out of port. Unheard of before by all accounts. Jacob was told he was welcomed back at any time!!!, My son had a grin ear to ear.....he had a bad two months with two hospitalization and a chest infection which wouldn't clear. Josh , took him away from all that. From doctors, hospitals and painful procedures......I can never thank the crew of the Glory. the good trumped the bad.... During the second leg of cruise we moved to cabin 2470 . It was huge with two picture windows but with severe vibration problem which caused things to dance off tables and stands and one night a 6 foot plastic light panel off the ceiling and half over my bed as I lay sleeping !!!! Carnival gave us all along the. Back of the ship a percentage off our next cruise and and an onboard credit. it was so bad noise wise , that sleep was impossible. The rattling and banging was almost unbearable. Engine problems were to blame and I guess Carnival knew the New Years cruise was an expensive one and gave without anyone asking ! Happy New Year !!!!! I personally didn't care for the new menu. Mind you the food was good and delicious and IMO better then Disney cruise lines but i missed the old stuff. Why fix what was not broken? at least to me anyway.... The entertainment was awesome.I loved the shows , Rock On and Living in American. I got a second heaping doing b2b ! My son Jacob got to do the morning show live with Josh the cruise director , his assistant Misty and Deyonce. They are making a copy for him. The New Years celebration was awesome. I loved the free champagne , the balloon drop for a free cruise and the countdown party on the lido deck. My son got to go on stage for the countdown and help throw out beads ! forgot to mention Ziggy, he too was part of Josh's team and helped to create the magic...The Christmas show as usual made me cry. Especially the staff when they come with lighted candles..... I loved our port of calls. St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San Juan.....the hills and mountains, all I could think of was the the song " The Hills are alive with the sound of music" . They were all so festive and beautiful during the Christmas holidays. For excursions in St. Maarten we did a 5 hour island tour on ATV's. We did both sides of the island and did popular beaches etc. I felt completely safe here... In St. Thomas we did a Sea turtle excursion to Christmas Island. Snorkeled over a shipwrecked and swam with turtles swimming by or feeding at the reefs. This was well worth every penny! In San Juan we did our only Carnival sponsored excursion . It was called San Juan favorites and we loved going to the Rainforest with an amazing and beautiful waterfall and then the forts. This was a favorite of my son 's although he felt we needed more time! Our tour guide Charlos was very knowledgeable and made excursion that much better... in Grand Turk and this being our third visit to the port we just did Margaritaville and the beach. Took some time to Send emails and pictures compliments of Margaritaville..... Our western intinery was nice as well. In Cozumel we went to Chankanaab Park. We did the Sea lion and Manatee interaction/swim. We were suppose to do the Dolphin dive as well but were given wrong times and we had we done it it we would have missed the ship. We were give a voucher to donut again it the next year. It is a good thing we had a cruise booked or we would have been out of luck! This is unusual for this park to do this. Been three times and they are usually very organized. During the sea lion interaction the photographer never showed up....lost what would have been beautiful shots.... A tip for taxis , watch your fares. Some drivers double your fare and then take tips on top. One tried this on us, but haven been in Cozumel seven times , I knew better! In Ocho Rios we did the Grande Sunset Resort. It was an all inclusive . Beautiful grounds, pools beaches, water toys , food drinks...all included. It was priced reasonable but be careful, my son had his IPhone 4 stolen. It was his fault for setting it down, but at the same time we were never a foot away from our bags when it was taken. Make sure you are insured. We were and can replace the phone...not my son's pictures but at least his phone... In Grand Cayman we did sea wavers to Sting Ray City , Rum Point Beach and across the waters at speeds of our own choosing . This was my son's all time favorite. The next day we hurt like , there were no tomorrow! However, Jacob wants to do it all over again. Hmmm"....not me! Lol This is the end, these are strictly my own opinions. In the end the good balanced the bad and it was an enjoyable cruise. I found a few cranky staff in room service and other areas but it was Christmas and they weren't with family and most likely wanted to be home. Understandable ! Thanks Carnival for making dreams come true and making this one of my son's best a d most memorable Christmas! Charley and Jacob Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We went on the Christmas Getaway sailing from Barbados. This was not a cheap option, but we chose it due to the excellent itinerary. The Thomson Dream is not as bad as I expected, but the holiday was let down by a number of factors, this ... Read More
We went on the Christmas Getaway sailing from Barbados. This was not a cheap option, but we chose it due to the excellent itinerary. The Thomson Dream is not as bad as I expected, but the holiday was let down by a number of factors, this was mainly the quality of the food, service and entertainment. The good points first, the ports of call were fantastic and we arrived on tome every day and were not diverted or abandoned any ports. The check in process was fairly smooth and efficient, although we were delayed so I think this may well be why we did not experience any delays in checking in. The cabin was of a good size and clean and comfortable. The bathroom was pleasant and toiletries provided. The breakfast in Sirens was always well presented and hot as was lunch and afternoon tea. The bad points, the entertainment was appalling, the main lounge had a group called French Melt, they were out of tune and the lead singer spoke broken English and sounded worse that a cat in agony. The Caribbean duo in the main lounge were good but sang exactly the same songs in the same order for 14 nights. In the Oceans Bar, the group were better but it was impossible to get a seat unless you missed meals and sat all night. The main show lounge did not live up to the normal Thomson standard, the shows were very boring and the performers appeared to be simply going through the motions. The guest acts were a joke, on a 2 week cruise they had 2 comedians, both as bad as each other. This was a disgrace on a special cruise. The food in the buffet restaurants was generally good, however, the selection available late at night was poor and the first week they served you everything and you felt a bit like Oliver Twist asking for some more. The main Orion restaurant was very poor in terms of quality of food and service. On New Years eve it took 30 minutes to get a drink, the staff were rude and unwilling to help. The food was very poorly described on the menus and often did not resemble the food you ordered. Steak was offered once in two weeks and it was more often pork or chicken, with a the over use of spinach. The size of the portions were what you would expect in an OAP home, not on a cruise ship, it was not like it was high quality food they were giving you! I find it very difficult to believe that Thomson's do not enforce rules on their cruise ships, for example, on other cruise lines, under 18's have to be out of the public areas by a certain time, on this ship children as young as 4 or 5 were casing chaos in public areas after midnight. On the days at sea it was a very boring experience, the day time activities were rubbish and every sun bed was reserved from the crack of dawn even if not used, no policy was apparent for resolving the reserving of sun beds, this must be looked at on a small ship with limited outside space. The cabin had very poor air conditioning, I reported this to reception on 3 occasions and nothing was done about it, eventually they admitted a problem and gave us a complimentary bottle of cheap wine! Watch your bill at the end of the cruise, they appeared to be giving people on board credit then taking it off in the second column of the bill, check it carefully before you leave the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We had the most horrible travel experience of our lives on the Avalon Panorama Christmas cruise in December of 2011. From beginning to end, this trip was a nightmare. Avalon began by making a mess of our airline reservations. Had to pay ... Read More
We had the most horrible travel experience of our lives on the Avalon Panorama Christmas cruise in December of 2011. From beginning to end, this trip was a nightmare. Avalon began by making a mess of our airline reservations. Had to pay a penalty to cancel their airline reservations and make our own. When we finally got aboard the Panorama in Nuremberg, we were herded like cattle into the main room where we had to wait interminably to be assigned our rooms. This was after a very tiring bus ride from Prague to Nuremberg. When we were finally settled in our cabin, we found that the elevator didn't work on the ship, and we are both senior citizens and found it very difficult to get around on the ship because of this. We were promised ethnic food aboard and that never materialized. The food service was like a cattle call. It was impossible to order only one course and have it served in a timely way. After arriving at Regensburg, we were given a heads up that we might not be able to go down the river due to the water level. That is exactly what happened, and we were driven all over by bus and missed the ports we were promised and were at last driven to Bratislava, not on our itinerary, and not to Vienna where we were supposed to end our cruise. I had purchased several extra days in Vienna, and had also purchased tickets to the Spanish Riding School over 14 months before the tour. We had to leave the tour after being taken to Bratislava in order to be in Vienna for the performance we had so looked forward to. The tour director, Robert, refused to help us get an extra night in Vienna, so we had to telephone directly to the hotel and they extorted 259 euros for that extra night. Then they charged us an extra 100 euros to stay in the same room for the extra nights. Avalon knew in advance that we wouldn't be able to sail down the river. Other cruise lines informed their passengers before leaving their homes and gave them options. Avalon did not do this even though they knew we couldn't have the cruise we paid for. We had purchased travel insurance and could have recouped all of our money had we known in advance that we couldn't sail down the river. Avalon has refunded two days of our cruise, but that doesn't even begin to repay us for the terrible bus rides, loss of several ports we were promised, and their general uncaring about the passengers' needs. We spent most of the time on crowded buses and in my opinion were robbed of what was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime cruise. My warning to future river cruisers is to book with anyone but Avalon. Viking informed their passengers ahead of time and I was told that other cruise companies did the same. Avalon did not!!!! Also, don't bother with trip insurance. I bought expensive trip insurance and tried to collect for the extra costs in Vienna due to trip interruption, and have heard nothing from the trip insurers. I feel that we were treated unfairly by Avalon and they have been giving us the runaround since we got back about what they were going to do to rectify this situation. A group of passengers on this cruise have been emailing back and forth, and the general consensus is that Avalon owes us four days worth of repayment due to the lost portions of our trip. They have told us that they need four to six weeks to "investigate" this situation. Why? They know what happened. Also, I was informed that those of us who wrote letters to Globus and Avalon would be treated differently from the rest of the passengers. Is this fair? I don't think so. My advice to any would-be river cruiser is to AVOID AVALON LIKE THE PLAGUE! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Transportation: we drove from Indiana to New Orleans to catch the cruise. Going down, terrible rain resulted in a 14 hour trip. After the cruise, the weather was fantastic and because it was New Years Eve, the roads were empty - no ... Read More
Transportation: we drove from Indiana to New Orleans to catch the cruise. Going down, terrible rain resulted in a 14 hour trip. After the cruise, the weather was fantastic and because it was New Years Eve, the roads were empty - no truckers. We got home in a little over 12 hours. Hotel: We stayed 2 nights prior to the cruise at the Hampton Inn Convention Center in New Orleans. This is not your typical "chain" hotel. Local ambiance, great fitness center, breakfast was wonderful, self laundry, exceptional proximity to pier - we walked to it. Valet parking only - $29 per night. Less than a mile walk to French Quarter. Parking: We parked at Fulton Street parking garage for $12 per night for cruisers. It is a 1 block walk from the hotel to the parking garage. It is 2 blocks from the garage to the cruise port. Easily walkable with rolling luggage. Cruise Embarkation: So very easy - took perhaps 15 minutes to get registered, etc. Waited for about 15 minutes to be allowed on the ship - we were in the first group to board the ship. Went right to Windjammer and "camped-out" while we ate and explored the ship. Note: the stateroom hallways were blocked off 'till 1:00pm. We could explore all of the public spaces though. It was way too cold to use the swimming pools, but we saw a few brave souls in the hot tubs! Security/Luggage: Luggage did not arrive prior to first seating dinner. We got 4 of the 6 bags around 8pm. I packed a clothes steamer on one bag and held my bag. I scoured all of the travel documents and nowhere did it state that I couldn't bring a steamer - it says no irons. I was so angry that I didn't get my luggage because of this. The security people wanted to keep my steamer, I said No Way! I told them that I use it for medical reasons to steam my nose and they let me have it back. This is a completely stupid rule from RCCL and is a reason that I may not travel with them in the future. Cabin: Small, inside, no natural light. This is exactly what we paid for so we were not disappointed or surprised. There as so many cubbies and places to store stuff. Our family of 4, over-packed, and still fit everything in the small room. We stored our luggage under the bed. We took giant trash bags to keep our dirty clothes in. Made great use of the in-room safe. The coffee table was in the way so we just stored it in the closet and gained additional storage room by doing this. Took command 3 storage clips to hang on walls for extra storage but didn't end up needing them after all. Cabin Attendant: Wonderful! So nice. The first day he met us and even presented us with his business card. We got towel animals every night. He had to work extra hard because we had an accident on the bed. No problem, he took care of everything and told us not to worry about a thing. Food: MDR food was not so good on the first few nights but got better at the end of the week. Best meals were, Garlic Tiger Shrimp, Onion Tart, Angel Food Cake with Strawberries. Overall, the appetisers were great and the desserts were not so great. The main meals were hit and miss. Did not eat lunch in the MDR. Ate breakfast in the MDR 1 day - not so good, we preferred Windjammer for breakfast. Windjammer had typical buffet food. Totally enjoyed the french fries! Also, on one afternoon around 3pm they had chocolate croissants that were great - never saw them again. Promenade: learned late in the cruise that on level 5 during lunch they have lunch stations. We enjoyed the Nachos, Ribs, and Bananas Foster! Yum. The Cafe Promenade is open 24 hours a day. This place is really strange. You can self serve for drinks but have to ask for someone to give you muffins, pizza, pudding, etc. One guy who worked here in the morning was a total jerk - the only employee that we came across the whole week who was like this. MDR Service: Exceptional! No other way to say it. They work so hard to please you. Could not have been any happier! Best part of the entire cruise was the service we received from the MDR staff! Great Job!!!! Drinks/Ice/Ice Cream: Wish you could access water, tea, lemonade at more places around the ship. We drink tons of water and had to go to Windjammer or Cafe Promenade to get it. Also, we like ice in our stateroom - you get this through room service - sort of strange to do this. Coffee stations at the ends on floor 11 ran all day. We get up really early, like 4am, and had to go to Cafe Promenade to get coffee. Ice cream stations also at the ends of floor 11 - for some reason these are only open from around 11am to around 6pm or so. Bar service was good. Servers continually walk around the pool decks to get your order. Drinks were good - average price. Entertainment: Really bad. Most shows say that they were produced by the Cruise Director so perhaps he just isn't that great of a producer or something. Ice skaters were ok. Movie musical review was horrible. Last night performance was really bad. I've seen tons better at Club Med!!! On-board Activities: Sports court: Always busy, this place could use some love and refurbishment. They need drinking stations here. The water fountain is useless when the boat is moving the water just sprays in the air and not in your mouth. Rock climbing was the best. Basketball courts were always in use! The putt-putt is in need of renovations and is a bit dangerous when small kids don't know how to play. They can and do drive the ball from the putt-putt course clear to the rock climbing wall. They had a funky roller blading area that was never open when we went there. Demonstrations/Talks: We attended the napkin folding session - was pretty lame. The talk with the crew was really good though. Ice skating rink was cool, really enjoyed this. Santa came to visit, this was a nice touch and all of the kids got a little present while the adults got loaded on eggnog! Arcade: Always busy and fun. Children's club: Easy enough to register for, my son just didn't want to be there much - he went 2 times and had a good enough time. Getting off the ships for ports-of-call: Cozumel and Jamaica both have piers so it is easy and quick. Grand Cayman uses small boats and let's just say that RCCL needs to improve this whole process. First, you have to wait in line for an hour to get a "number" to get off the boat. Then, you have to go sit in a public space for over an hour before your number is called. We were in the 2nd boat to leave the ship and we didn't get off the boat 'till after noon! This should and absolutely could be a better experience for all. Disembarkation: We took our own luggage off the ship. They began letting this group off at 7:15am. We were through customs, met by the Fulton Street van, driven to the parking garage, in our van and exiting the parking garage at 7:36am. So easy! Would I cruise on this ship again? Probably not - we've been there done that now. If I ever cruise again it would probably be on one that has more ports of call like Alaska. With 3,600 guests and over 1,200 employees, it was a crowded cruise. Too much time waiting around and hideous on board entertainment. I was happiest when I was at the port of call. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
The cruise was a popular one for young families and there were many children of all ages on board enjoying the pools, whirlpools and decks. Although, this meant that the pool deck was almost unusable during the day, it did add to the ... Read More
The cruise was a popular one for young families and there were many children of all ages on board enjoying the pools, whirlpools and decks. Although, this meant that the pool deck was almost unusable during the day, it did add to the Christmas spirit for what is Christmas without children. Part of the fun was watching them enjoy themselves with their parents, particularly at the shows. On the whole, they were very well behaved. There were also a lot of families with adult children reuniting from different parts of the world to celebrate the holidays together. The ship, already beautifully designed was stunningly decorated from top to bottom. Services were also held to celebrate Hanakah. It was very inspiring. We loved the understated elegance of the ship although we found the layout confusing and we kept having to consult the ship guide to orient ourselves. A great deal of effort was put into the smallest design detail and the artwork throughout the ship is impressive. The quality is evident. Our balcony cabin was nicely laid out and efficient although a bit of a letdown since our view was obstructed by the lifeboats attached to the deck below (we were not aware of this when we booked the room). There was also a utility door for the crew beneath us that would slam shut several times an hour until it was adjusted when we reported it to the guest relations staff. They offered us dinner at the specialty restaurant of our choice as a recompense for the inconvenience. A gesture we did not expect and we enjoyed a lovely meal at the Tuscany Grill on Christmas evening (the onion soup is to die for). In the main diningroom, the table we were first assigned was on deck 3, completely in the back next to a busing station. We asked to be reassigned to a table for two the following night and we got a lovely table next to a window which we enjoyed for the rest of the cruise. The food was a bit of a disappointment and hit and miss. The salads and soups were not very good but the steaks and lobsters were perfectly done. The quality of the desserts were also uneven. The Baked Alaska served on Christmas Eve was the most disappointing. The buffet was a cut above others we have experienced with quite a few stations offering made-to-order dishes. The choices were excellent and would please health-conscious eaters to gourmands. We participated in several wine-tasting events and enjoyed them immensely. The quality of the wines was quite good and the fees for the events reasonable. The Riedel wine-tasting was the best of the ones we attended but we were very upset by the fact that Canadian passengers were not warned that they would not have the same benefits as other participants if they wished to buy the glasses. The literature says that the cost of the course can be applied to the cost of the glasses and we had read from other reviews that it was worth it. However, on this cruise, they did not have the glasses on board and would have to ship them which would cost Canadians custom fees of $30 negating any benefits. The seas were rough and we experienced a good deal of motion and vibration on the ship. I never did get my sea-legs. Many frequent cruisers commented that it was one of their roughest cruises. This was a bit surprising and we would have expected a ship of this size to ride more smoothly. We arrived late in San Juan, our first port of call due to the high seas and since it was already dark all excursions were cancelled. We did not venture far from the ship since it was raining and we were not familiar with the town. Our second port was St. Thomas which we enjoyed and after rapidly touring the area on board a safari bus we spent a couple of hours at Megan Beach. Unfortunately, we did not make several stops because there were so many other tour buses that there was not parking available. The excursion was very disappointing and not worth the money. We should have just paid a taxi to take us to the beach. That night, my husband had the misfortune of contracting what the medical staff judged to be the Norovirus and was quarantined to our cabin for two days. It took him another 2-3 days to fully recover from the experience so this really dampened our enjoyment of a portion of the cruise. He missed the next two ports of St. Maarten and St. Kitts. Of course I could not leave him alone for long so we did not visit those two ports. We did not eat or drink anything off of the ship so he contracted the virus on board. I have read the reviews of the Transatlantic crossing cruise and the previous pre-Christmas cruise and it seems that this virus was a serious problem on the Solstice. The support we received from the staff during the illness was inadequate and we were left more or less to fend for ourselves. Even the cleaning of the cabin was only done after repeated requests. We have yet to see how Celebrity will compensate us for this portion of our cruise. We found the entertainment on board to be very professional and enjoyed every show and activity we were able to attend. The crew were wonderful in participating in various activies and it was amazing how involved they became. All in all, we have a very positive memory of our cruise on board the ship and would do it again in a heartbeat. The shore excursions do need to be improved.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We have been on many cruises and most recently have done our last 4 cruises on Celebrity because we find that this company provides what we are looking for in a cruise holiday. Embarkation - a pleasant trouble free experience - no ... Read More
We have been on many cruises and most recently have done our last 4 cruises on Celebrity because we find that this company provides what we are looking for in a cruise holiday. Embarkation - a pleasant trouble free experience - no complaints here. Cabin - we were in a C2 cabin 9038 which I chose due to the irregular shaped balcony. It was a lovely cabin and the extra room on the balcony was fantastic, we had lunch there several times. The overhang is large but didn't bother us in anyway. The Cabin Steward and his assistant were very friendly and kept everything spic and span. Food - Unfortunately in the MDR we were not impressed (we were on Select Dining) The service was not very efficient, a lot of waiting on some nights between courses, and also the quality of the food was not the standard we have enjoyed on previous cruises (our last one being in the summer on the Equinox). We did eat in the Tuscan Grille and Ocean Liners, both were substantially better than the MDR and the service and food was excellent. We also ate in the Creperie on Deck 5 some nights and this too was a much more enjoyable experience - unfortunately the menu choice was rather limited. The food in the Sunset Grille was fine for breakfast and lunch but awful at dinner in the evening (hardly any choice - pasta or pizza it seemed every night). The layout of the cafe is much nicer on the Equinox too. I think the Christmas dinner in the MDR was the most disappointing for me, about the only edible thing on the plate was some turkey breast - perhaps the Americans don't really 'do' Christmas dinner. Entertainment - there were a few highlights. Perry Grant was entertaining in Michael's club (the Piano bar), one of the production shows was good and the Christmas show was nice. Unfortunately our 17 year old son and his 18 year old cousin were with us and this provided a problem which Celebrity seemed less than efficient at solving. Our son wanted to spend time with his cousin in the evenings, the place to go was the nightclub 'Reflections', unfortunately at 11.30pm they would tell anyone under 18 to leave. This meant our son came back to the cabin early and missed spending time with his older cousin. We did ask if the rules could be relaxed but although we were told someone would get back to us, nobody did. We were upset to find out from other parents that their children under 18 had managed to avoid being ID'd and were able to stay late at the club. We did complain again to the cruise director and she apologised and amazingly for the last 2 days of the cruise suddenly no one was told to leave the nightclub ... we did ask for this much earlier in the cruise and it is such a pity that we had to wait until the last 2 nights of a 14 night cruise for something to be done .. a shame for us Celebrity fans because our son ended up unhappy and saying it was 'his worst cruise ever'. Overall- our holiday was OK and we did enjoy the ports we visited and the staff on board (particularly the cabin staff and those in the speciality restaurants) were really friendly. We have been on the Constellation before but will not choose the ship again because we prefer the Solstice Class more. I don't like being negative about things and I have to say I did meet some lovely people on board but we would not sail on Constellation again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
The good things: there was something for everyone and we are aged 13 to 80. We all liked the evening entertainment, particularly the gymnast and the comedian who did the impressions and some of us liked the singers and dancers. (meh). ... Read More
The good things: there was something for everyone and we are aged 13 to 80. We all liked the evening entertainment, particularly the gymnast and the comedian who did the impressions and some of us liked the singers and dancers. (meh). With a few exceptions (hey that lobster thermidor was really bad) we had a good time at dinner from opening night to the final Parade of the Baked Alaska (and for those of you who hate and avoid it, what can I say? We waved our napkins with the best of them.) The waiters were great and always remembered my cappuccino. We played Team Trivia every day and came-this-close to winning a ball cap. Some of us did that mile walk every day and I tried learning Tai Chi and the Hula - good instructors too. I meant to take the camera class and never got there but maybe next time. We all enjoyed dress-up (the grandchildren too) and looking at others who made the effort. Some pretty tiny dresses on some of those teen aged girls but at least one of us wasn't complaining... The not so good but not that big a deal: Rotterdam needs to redo the bathtubs as they are really grungy and that tall lady in the Office is grouchy. And the less said about the coffee...Also the wonderful Stryker the Piano Man needs a bigger room. That little bar area was over flowing every day just to hear him. And why couldn't we have more of the talented Adagio Strings - maybe tea time? Best travel tips from others: using a small transparent shoe bag over the bathroom door for odds and ends, bringing a magnetic white board for the door to leave messages for the rest of the family, and packing the thingy with the extra outlets for our BlackBerries, cameras and razor. That one teeny one at the desk is not enough. And we will all remember the other passengers: Bathrobe man(never seen in anything else), red sequined ball cap lady (never took it off but made it easy to spot our tour group) and best of all: sleeveless shirt man who always wore the same one every day...unless he had 14 identical ones. The Captain was memorable for his calm and in control announcements, even the one telling us about the fire....(which fortunately was just a little electric one in the Spa.)Grandson was disappointed he didn't get to get in the lifeboat. The stops were fine: Hilo, Maui, Honolulu. And kudos to the patient and wonderful crew. We agreed it had all been the best Christmas ever. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This 10 night cruise (19th Dec-29th) was only our 2nd cruise and the first time on the Pacific Pearl. What a fantastic time myself & daughter had. Being a real traditional Xmas person I was initially sceptical about spending it on the ... Read More
This 10 night cruise (19th Dec-29th) was only our 2nd cruise and the first time on the Pacific Pearl. What a fantastic time myself & daughter had. Being a real traditional Xmas person I was initially sceptical about spending it on the high seas & worried that Xmas would be a non event. I couldn't have been more wrong. The main areas of the ship were beautifully decorated in traditional Xmas style, the Xmas day menu options,festivities and religious services were perfect. Christmas day was spent snorkeling and swimming, bathed in sunshine on beautiful Dravanui Island - pure bliss. Crew: From our cabin attendant and waiters in the Waterfront Restaurant trough to the Cruise Director, I cannot praise the crew highly enough, they were fun, polite and nothing was too much trouble. They work tirelessly and always managed a genuine smile and greeting. The meals produced for the restaurant by the Kitchen crew were of very high quality, varied and delicious.We found absolutely no need to use the two on board paying restaurants, but friends who did said they were amazing. Cabin: We were on deck 10 with an uninterrupted sea views (thanks to a complimentary upgrade). The cabin was light,really comfortable beds, cleaned perfectly and adorned with new towel animals etc for a bit of fun each day. It was comfortable, well equipped & certainly spacious enough for 2 beds and two people. Shore excursions: Provided in Tonga and Fiji.The only disappointment was boxing day in Suva as most things were closed and there was little to do, but hey, everyone deserves a Xmas break. Throughout the cruise & on our excursions we were blessed with daily sunshine and lovely warm temperatures in the pacific, the rain was restricted to very late afternoons or through the night. We were also very lucky to be sailing in relatively calm seas most day. All in all a very pleasant cruise with great passengers from all age groups. Thank you to P&O would definitely recommend it & certainly would do it again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click