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2,163 Holiday Cruise Reviews

The Thanksgiving (November 27-December 12, 2013) voyage of Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas, while not a Turkey, gave fewer reasons to give thanks than it might have. For approximately two hundred passengers, the San Diego ... Read More
The Thanksgiving (November 27-December 12, 2013) voyage of Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas, while not a Turkey, gave fewer reasons to give thanks than it might have. For approximately two hundred passengers, the San Diego embarkation got off to a rocky start. On the previous cruise, Legend of the Seas was reportedly unable to recover a tender and had to leave it at its Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, final stop. When the unlucky two hundred (some Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society Diamond members among them) came to check in they were told they could not be accommodated on the cruise due to a lack of lifeboat capacity. First shocked and then angry they were mollified when clearance came that we could sail without the tender. (That boat was ultimately recovered successfully when we arrived in Cabo two days later) For the rest of us embarkation and check-in was normal, not too slow and not too fast. However, starting out with over ten percent of your passengers (some of the prestigious variety) angry or anxious is not a good thing. This was a Crown & Anchor Society “Member’s Cruise” so prestigious passengers were the norm rather than the exception. For some lesser types, a feeling of second-class citizenry was palpable during the entire sailing. Legend of the Seas is (by necessity because we were transiting the Panama Canal) the smallest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. Bigger ships won’t fit. It is, as a result, “quirky.” The Windjammer Buffet is significantly undersized and, therefore, always crowded. The walking/jogging track, however, at a full quarter mile in length is perfect. Many but not all of the in-cabin safes are unusual in that, rather than entering a code of your choosing for access, you must “swipe” a major credit card for access. That means you have to (otherwise unnecessarily) carry a credit card in addition to your SeaPass card everywhere you go. But don’t put that credit card in the same pocket because its magnetic stripe will eventually render your SeaPass card unusable. What were they thinking choosing credit card safes on a cruise ship? Legend does not have an outside fantail bar, devoting that potential space to an underused quiet deck outside the health club on deck nine and a mostly ignored rock climbing wall on deck ten. The wine staff is virtually invisible in the dining room. If you want a bottle of wine, you have to ask your waiter to get one of them to stop by. Some people liked the fact that they weren’t solicited to buy wine; I didn’t like it. Royal Caribbean lost a lot of revenue on this cruise as a result. Instead of buying one bottle of wine every other night, I bought only one during the entire cruise. Had I been able to, I would have purchased at least six more bottles giving Royal Caribbean a minimum of $250 more of my money. The only tender port, Cabo San Lucas, started out as a nightmare of failed debarkation logistics. Guests were forced to wait for too long to disembark and some crowding and shoving resulted. The crew was ill-prepared for unruly passengers who became impatient and exacerbated the situation. The same thing happened at our Puerto Quetzal stop that didn’t require tenders. Training will help here but they need to get on with it. The senior staff is very helpful. Maitre’d Rodrigo worked to find me a table with other solo travelers and Food & Beverage Manager Silvio Ghigo quickly acted on my request to add tables on the smoking side Viking Crown Lounge veranda to match up with similar tables on the non-smoking side. The junior staff is not so accommodating. In Cartagena the maintenance staff was power washing deck ten forward of the rock climbing wall. Elderly passengers were slipping and sliding on sudsy water flowing over the walking track. I asked both a deck steward and a climbing wall attendant to place some of the yellow “caution” cones at the wet places so people would step more carefully. Both told me that wasn’t their job. I found an officer down on deck nine who got the cones. When my pocket was picked in Cartagena (both foolish and careless on my part) I had no cash for a taxi back to the ship, I inquired of three separate Legend of the Seas Tour Guides and Tour Bus Drivers if I could hitch a ride home. “No, you didn’t buy a tour from us so we won’t/can’t help you.” Fortunately a fellow passenger (George, God bless him) stepped off one of those busses and loaned me $20 so I could get back to the ship. The Guest Services representative confirmed to me that since I did not purchase a Royal Caribbean tour I would not be entitled to a ride even though I had been robbed of my money. Later, I mentioned to Keith Williams, the Cruise Director, that Royal Caribbean should consider a possible policy change in such a situation. He wrote it all down and implied that someone would get back to me but no one did. The Senior Officers (Master Kjell Nordmo, the Staff Captain, and the Hotel Director Francois Wache, etc., are mostly aloof). Captain’s daily noontime public address announcements failed to contain interesting tidbits of real information as is, in my experience, the main reason to stop what you are doing and listen. Also, inexplicably, public address announcements are not audible on any television channel in the cabins. If you are in your stateroom and want to hear what is being said, you must step into the passageway to listen. On the talent side, Musical Director Filmer Flores delivered great shows with the most memorable performance being his solo night of classical offerings in the “That’s Entertainment Theater.” Singer Aaron Libby of the ‘singers and dancers’ is a standout. Multi-talented piano man Chuck in the Schooner Bar draws an appreciative crowd but must fight to be heard due to sound that bleeds in from the musicians playing on the adjacent Centrum Stage. The glass doors between those two venues will not stay in the closed position. Headliner entertainment was very good, led by Broadway show tune singer Michelle Murlin and variety act “Los Pampas Gauchos” who were a hoot. Foreigner’s Domenick Allen rocked the house. Cruise Director Williams doesn’t go overboard with too much personality as many of his peers do. For me, at least, he sets the perfect tone. He is at a disadvantage here, however, as his ship offers smaller and fewer venues. The final night’s “Broadway Showtunes” performance was underappreciated by guests who mostly didn’t recognize the mostly obscure selections the performers had chosen to sing. Too many guests in the “That’s Entertainment” show lounge were rude to those same performers, choosing to leave their seats and exit the theater during applause for the final number and before Cruise Director Williams made his closing remarks. There is nothing the Royal Caribbean can do about rude patrons. One strong disappointment was the port lecturer who was, to put it kindly, in way over her head. I had many conversations with fellow passengers who compared her to other lecturers on other ships and found her wanting. She read her lectures from a word-for-word script where many passages seemed to be lifted from web pages and then haphazardly pasted together. I love great shipboard lectures and none were offered here. Dining Room food and service is, as you would expect, good to very good but never great. Windjammer fare is just OK. Steakhouse Chops, on the other hand, is excellent (on both evenings I tried it) with the porterhouse outshining the strip steak. Izumi’s “hot-rock” table-top grilling concept is fun and the sushi there is very good. Izumi was severely underused by guests and I suspect it won’t last long. The Chef’s Table experience is amazing with five fine wine pairings and just the right amount of pomp and circumstance. Chef Rudy delivers a Royal meal and you can see his pride on both the plates and his face. All three specialty restaurants can be enjoyed for a discounted price of $115 per person if you buy the “Dining Package.” If purchased separately, the three will set you back $145 or more. I found “My Time” dining room service to be curt and impersonal but at the late 8:30 seating one deck below I felt both welcomed and valued. I did not dine at the early seating nor did I try room service. Late in the cruise I attempted both breakfast and lunch in the main dining room but gave up due to long lines at the doorway. We became aware of the fact that the Norovirus boarded Legend of the Seas on Day Ten of this cruise. By Day Thirteen we were in full Code Red mode with all serving tongs, beverage dispenser buttons, ice bins and more being handled exclusively by crew members. As we departed Cartagena on Day Thirteen, the unofficial word on the ship was that 98 passengers were down with gastrointestinal distress as were 40 members of the crew; just over five percent in each category. No official specific information was forthcoming (as is the practice on Cunard) so these numbers could not be verified. I was, again unofficially, told that at one point sixty cabins sported the yellow “quarantine” magnets above their doors. Having been through this twice before on ships (Cunard’s Elizabeth and on Celebrity), it is my opinion that these outbreaks are mostly the fault of fellow passengers who fail to observe proper sanitation and hygiene. However, Legend’s outdated beverage dispensing equipment and a completely unacceptable Windjammer and pool deck ice dispensing process could and should be eliminated to reduce clear points of preventable risk. (Dispensing ice from plastic bins with passengers dipping their glasses, both new and used, or handling the communal ice scoop would be a health-code violation in virtually every U.S. jurisdiction and would not be allowed) Early in the cruise, both crew and passengers, from my observation, all but ignored the ubiquitous Purell dispensers early in the cruise. Later it was “too late.” Crew members were poorly trained on gloved-hand procedures as I witnessed several using their gloved hands to smooth mussed hair, scratch noses, rub eyes or lean on unsanitized surfaces and then use that same hand to serve food or distribute utensils, cups or glassware. Again, proper training is lacking. In fairness, however, kids’ center staff and even musicians were serving food at one point and perhaps cross training those folks is not normally required. I don’t know. Twenty foot swells and gale force winds greeted the passengers on the next to last sea day out of Cartagena. Pools were closed (the Solarium pool was drained), sea sickness bag holders graced every staircase landing and decks were mostly abandoned due to high winds. Some passengers were sickened while others were exhilarated. I felt sorry for those already suffering from gastrointestinal distress on those heavy seas. On this fifteen day cruise, tuxedos and evening gowns were much in evidence on the three “Formal Nights” (Day Two, Day Eight and Day Fourteen—all sea days). There were fewer dress-code scofflaws on this trip than I have experienced on other Royal Caribbean sailings with shorts, caps, tank tops and bare feet rarely appearing where they should not be. Besides the three “Formal Nights” there were four “Smart Casual” nights in the mix with all other nights being some variation of “Casual.” Legend does not have guest-accessible laundry facilities but does run a $30 “cram all you can into this paper bag” special along with regular 48 hour laundry and dry cleaning service. Wi-Fi signals are, by cruise ship standards, strong and acceptably fast if you bring your own laptop, and, by the standard on all cruise ships, too expensive. Passengers who used the ship’s computers on Deck Eight complained of very slow speeds on what they called “outdated” equipment. Smoking is allowed in the casino but, while you must pass though the casino on Deck Four to get to the That’s Entertainment Theater, the air handling equipment spares you from too much secondhand exposure. Also, you can walk up to Deck Five and then back down to Deck Four to avoid the Casino smoke on that route if you wish. Royal Caribbean did a stellar job of finding live NFL and college football broadcasts to play in the Schooner Bar, on the Big Screen at the pool and on the stateroom televisions. First run movies were offered free of charge on the latter two venues as well. Channel offerings include CNN International (not the U.S. channel, unfortunately) and Headline News but no Fox News or MSNBC nor any of the four major broadcast networks. This cruise departed San Diego stopping in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; transited the Panama Canal; and then stopped again in ColÏŒn, Panama; Cartagena, Columbia; concluding in Fort Lauderdale. There were seven sea days. Much is written elsewhere about ports so I will leave those details to others except to recommend that excursions should be considered mandatory for Puntarenas and ColÏŒn as those port areas are unappealing in every way. Most of us commented that there wasn’t that much to do on sea days and while I agree, I will credit that in part to the small ship’s lack of venue opportunities. Trivia competitions were usually oversubscribed for the size of the Schooner Bar and seats in the Centrum for before dinner entertainment were hard to come by. Trivia teams are limited to six members. On the first day I found myself, as a solo traveler, locked out since I would be the prohibited “number seven” on any team I approached. Trivia is “progressive” so if you don’t find a home early, you have a tendency to be left out for the balance of the cruise. The Canal transit was, for most, both the reason to book this cruise and the highlight. Many passengers who rose early to grab the best viewing spots later commented, however, that they could have easily slept in. It turns out that if you closely observe one lock experience, frankly, you could skip the others if you wished. Those of us who were fascinated by the intricacy of both the Canal’s construction and operation were rewarded with insightful commentary from a local narrator that Royal Caribbean brought on board. He offered up just the right amount of public address information, neither weighing us down with constant chatter nor failing to anticipate a detail about which we might be wondering. He made up for a sub-par destination presentation that day before by our on-board lecturer. Given the choice, I personally would not choose to sail aboard Legend of the Seas again. But, I would transit the Panama Canal again. Since the new wider Canal that will accommodate larger vessels won’t open for another couple of years, I am told that Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor loyalists have only the Legend available for Canal transits. Maybe they ought to consider trying another line for this itinerary to see what the competition has to offer. I am sure that Royal Caribbean would be happy to welcome them aboard a Celebrity ship even if their points won’t count. I am told that Crown & Anchor privileges will be available to them but, given how these Diamond and Diamond Plus members seem hooked on Royal Caribbean points, I suspect shifting to a different brand may be unthinkable to them. For me, I wish Royal Caribbean would take a look at what hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and others do: make their frequent cruiser program points inclusive of all their brands (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara). They would likely have all my cruise business if they would do that. And, I would be a Diamond Plus member (instead of not quite Platinum) by now. Until then, I have divided my purchases (78 nights at sea in 2013) trying various providers from Royal Caribbean to Carnival to Princess to Cunard to Celebrity to SilverSea. Some folks don’t know what they’re missing and I suspect that is the way Royal Caribbean wants it.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We finally did our our first cruise to the Caribbean, Jamaica, Grand Caymans, and Cozumel. We left from San Antonio the 23rd to spend the night in or near Galveston. We thought we had a hotel in Houstonbut it didn't turn out so we ... Read More
We finally did our our first cruise to the Caribbean, Jamaica, Grand Caymans, and Cozumel. We left from San Antonio the 23rd to spend the night in or near Galveston. We thought we had a hotel in Houstonbut it didn't turn out so we continued into Galveston. After going over the bridge we found a Howard Johnson just off of 45. The Hotel was nice and we found out that we could park our vehicle there for the week for FREE. they gave us a placard to put on the dase and security watched our vehicle. There was transportation arranged for us by the company that charged for parking. It cost us 5 dollars per person round trip. This saved us a ton of money. I have to say that the boarding of the ship went smothly and without incident. We did run into some imagration problems cincerning the crew andthat delayed our sailing by about an hour. The first few days of sailing was rough. The weather was raining at first but we did sail during winter so that was to be expected however it was still enjoyable. Our first port was Jamaica, beautiful weather. Not knowing what to do and doing a lot of research I found a tour guide named Admiral SA. I found him on Cruise Critic and was highly recommended. We are not much water people and wanted a tour of the island. The Admiral did not disappoint. He took us all around the island and showed us plenty of sites and gave us a historical overview. We went to one of the best Jerk Chicken and Pork on the island and it was delicious. He did take us shopping however it was ok. Shopping at the port was better with the prices cheaper. I highly recommend the Admiral and he will customize an excursion for you. The one port that we were looking forward to was Grand Cayman but due to rough waters we had to bypass it. Needlessto say we were highly disappointed. However the crew was fantastic, and had everything ready for us. They did an amazing job. At Cozumel, we did the shopping thing. I did buy a watch at a great price. After that we had made reservations at Mr Sanchos. We had a blast, all the food and drinks for $45 a person. It was everything that everyone said. It was a beautiful day and the water was nice and clear. They had parrots and eguanas for the kids and lots of things to do. It was a relaxing day after spending all that time on the water. All in all the cruise was awesome and the crew made everything great. Out waiter for dining was Michael Jackson from Jamaica and his assistant was Kelly. They were both great. Our bar tender was Velacko (n8t sure if I spelt it right), and he was great. I would highly recommend the cruise. The shows were awesome and kept us well entertained. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
My mom and I decided to let the nice people at Royal Caribbean make Thanksgiving dinner for us, and so we set forth on a cruise to the Caribbean for Thanksgiving. We have sailed 5 times from Bayonne, Nj. This was our first time leaving ... Read More
My mom and I decided to let the nice people at Royal Caribbean make Thanksgiving dinner for us, and so we set forth on a cruise to the Caribbean for Thanksgiving. We have sailed 5 times from Bayonne, Nj. This was our first time leaving from Baltimore, and Baltimore was not nearly as well-organized as Bayonne. My almost 92 year old mom needs a wheelchairfor the long distance to board the ship. In Bayonne this was never a problem. In Baltimore, Mom had to walk so far to get to the wheelchair that she was exhausted. Once we were on the ship we went to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch and then to our cabin. We had a Junior Suite. We were very pleased with the closet space and especially with the drawer space. Hooray! We had someplace to put our clothes. We had a nice table for 2 in the Main Dining Room with friendly people sitting next to us. Our waitress, Sharon, and her assistant waiter, Alberto, did an outstanding job and helped to make dinner a lovely experience each evening. Our cabin steward, Dan, also did an excellent job. We would like to commend Ricardo and Lourdes at Guest Services for their assistance when Mom needed a wheelchair during stormy weather. We loved listening to music in the lounges after dinner. It is a lovely way to end the day. We enjoyed our cruise and are ready to pack our bags and sail again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
My husband and I booked this 4 night cruise to get out of hosting Thanksgiving for our family this year. We left Los Angeles on Wednesday, 11/27/13 with easy boarding. The ship looked nice, no obvious signs of wear and tear for an ... Read More
My husband and I booked this 4 night cruise to get out of hosting Thanksgiving for our family this year. We left Los Angeles on Wednesday, 11/27/13 with easy boarding. The ship looked nice, no obvious signs of wear and tear for an "older" ship. We are both foodies - love great food - and we couldn't find it on this cruise. We were so disappointed in everything that we tried. The executive chef is from Scotland, perhaps that is why the food was so bland(?). We dined at the Crown Grill one night and even that was blah. We were served an abundance of food, but that didn't make up for the lack of flavor. Aside from very boring food I was extremely put off by Princess for not having a single representative at our meet & mingle. Granted Princess does not host these as the other lines do, but the only other time that we sailed on Princess there were several officers who came and greeted us. No one at this one. The icing on the cake - the biggest insult and the nail in the coffin against Princess for me is that I had brought this oversight to Princess' attention in my comment cards and here it is well over a month later and nobody has responded to me. The heck with you Princess! I'll spend my money on Royal Caribbean/Celebrity from now on. You don't need me! I don't need you! Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Technically, this was my second cruise with P&O-but the first was on the Canberra in 1992 so I can't really compare this trip to any P&O ships. This was my ninth cruise and also my 50th. birthday cruise. To say I was a little ... Read More
Technically, this was my second cruise with P&O-but the first was on the Canberra in 1992 so I can't really compare this trip to any P&O ships. This was my ninth cruise and also my 50th. birthday cruise. To say I was a little disappointed would be an understatement. I have been planning this for nearly two years and I was really looking forward to it, but as the trip started, I became aware of a few problems. These were minor glitches, but they made the trip less enjoyable. As with my previous reviews on this website, I am going to split the review into catergories starting with.... Embarkation/Disembarkation. P&O (along with Princess) have this process down to a fine art and all of the details had been worked out beforehand. I travelled on a scheduled flight from Gatwick and had to recalim my baggage in Barbados but the charter flight passengers from Birmingham and Manchester had their baggage handled by P&O so the next time they saw their bags, they were outside everybody's cabins onboard. After passing through Barbados Immigration, we were taken to a large shed-like building to get our cruise cards. All of the P&O staff were extremely helpful, the entire process was very quick and I was on the ship in no time at all. It was the same in reverse..Superb arrangements with P&O taking your bags to the airport with loads of very helpful and friendly staff to guide you on your way. If only all of the cruise companies were like this. Brilliant! Demographics. According to who you spoke to, the average age of the passengers was around 66. In my opinion, I would put this figure a little lower to around late 50's/early 60's. There were several families with children aboard but not many-I estimate that there were less that fifty kids (I don't count teenagers-only under 12's). The ship was not fully booked. Azura can carry 3,600 but again depending who you spoke to, there was about 2,750 onboard. This meant that the ship was around 76% full meaning that almost two decks were unoccupied. This was comfimed by my cabin steward (Inacio) who told me that of the cabins he was responsible for, almost a third were empty. This resulted in the ship being very quiet and one of the reasons I was disappointed with the trip. I will elaborate in my section "Conclusions" at the end of this review. The passengers were exclusively British. Apart from the crew, I only heard one foreign accent. I would have expected a few Americans or Europeans but Azura is targeted at the British market. The only foreign voice I heard was a German Swiss guy called Paul who sat at the same bar as me. The ship and it's staff. This ship is big! A little too big in my opinion. As I have said in "Demographics" above, this made the ship feel empty. When we docked in St. Lucia, I was on an excursion and when we got up in the mountains looking down at the main town, the biggest thing we saw was the ship. In fact it was the biggest thing on the entire island! I think that cruise companies need to rethink their policy of building bigger and bigger ships and start building smaller, more intimate cruise ships. P&O have another ship coming online in 2015. This ship is the "Britannia", and at 142,000 tons, will be P&O's biggest-Azura is 115,000 tons. The lower order of the crew (waiting staff and cabin crew) were almost all Indian with a handfull of Filipinos. Additionally, the Indian crew were (almost) all male. I only met a few female crew members who were Filipino. I was told by some of the senior staff that because of the recent tornado in the Philipines, a high percentage of the Filipino staff went home to look after family members who had been affected. The staff were extremely attentive, very helpfull, very friendly but they seemed to be a little stand-offish and didn't seem to want to interact with the new passengers. The ship itself was spotless. The decor in the public areas was in neutral colours-beiges, muted browns/reds/blues etc. and in my opinion a little too beige. The decor in the main public areas needed to be spiced up a little with a splash of colour here and there. My own cabin was an Oceanview with a partially obstucted window. This made the cabin very light and airy and was kept immaculate by my cabin steward. Also, throughout the entire cruise, the main public areas of the ship had piped music fed through the ships speaker systems. This music was Reggae. I am aware that the overiding type of music in the Caribbean is Reggae, but how many times do I have to listen to "Young, Gifted and Black" played at mealtimes? Food and drink. The food on offer was top notch. I was in the Oreintal restaurant on traditional dining first sitting at 6.30pm. I was on a table of eight. Two gay guys George and John, Two Welsh sisters, a mother and daughter, a bloke called Jeff and me. They were very friendly and we had a great time. The fly in the ointment was Jeff. He is a Brummie who now lives in Hartlepool. All Jeff did was talk all of the time about anything and nothing. We wouldn't have minded, but his speech was very blurred and most of the time we couldn't understand a word he was saying. On the last night before we all left, Jeff didn't turn up and we all breathed a sigh of relief (it later turned out that Jeff had gastrointestinal problems). On the first sitting, the restaurant was virtually empty all of the time. I estimate that over 50 tables were unoccupied the entire trip-and that was just on one side of the restaurant. The second sitting was a little better with around three quarters of the tables full. An alternative was the "Freedom Dining" restaurant Meridian. There was always a queue to get a table and I heard of waiting tilmes of over an hour. The menus were exactly the same as the other two resaurants, So why didn't P&O put some of the "Freedom" diners in the other two restaurants? It makes sense to me. The buffets-Verona and Venesia-also had great grub. Lunch and dinner offerings were very varied and very good food indeed. One part of Venesia turned into a trattoria in the evening offering Italian cuisine with a (very small) charge on some of the menu. My only complaint on the buffet was breakfast. This was permanently "Full English". Just how many fry-ups can you eat in two weeks? There was cereals/fruit/yogurts and kippers/smoked fish on offer as an alternative but a little variation would have been welcome. The beers on offer were Stella, Carling and Boddingtons on draught with a large, varied selection of premium bottled beers, along with all of the usual spirits, cocktails and champagne. Prices were a little dearer with the Stella at £3.75 a pint. In my local, I'm paying £2.90 for Carling. Refreshingly, there was no "automatic gratuity" added to your drinks bill. On past cruises, an automatic tip of 15% was added to your purchases and there was nothing you could do about it. P&O don't do the automatic tip-Hurrah! It's about time the rest of the cruise lines did the same. There were three speciality restaurants-Sindhu (run by Michelin starred chef Atul Kotcher), the Glass House and XVII-appropriately on Deck 17! There were cover charges of between £15/£28 per person depending on which restaurant you went to. I had first-hand reports of these restaurants and all of them were very good to fantastic. Entertainment. There was the usual in-house troupe "Headliners" doing musicals etc. in the Playhouse Theatre. I didn't see a show-I'm not a show person. Reports from those who did were all "very good". There were a number of guest acts onboard. I'll start with Miss Gemma McDowall-a Liverpool singer with a very powerful voice and at only 20, has a bright future in front of her. She mainly did 60's/70's songs and her shows were very well attended. BUT, inbetween all of the songs, she carried on talking a bit too much. Apparently, she was a resident singer at Ricky Tomlinsons' club (of The Royal Family fame) and all she kept on saying was "..I was a singer at Ricky Tomlinsons.." and "..Ricky Tomlinson said this.." and "..Ricky Tomlinson said that..". Additionally, she kept on about Cilla Black trying to compare herself to Cilla with "..do you think I look like Cilla?..". And to cap it all off, she rattled on about her boyfriend all of the time and the fact that she was on "Stars in their eyes" or "Britains got talent" or some other TV talent show-I didn't need to know any of this. People were starting to complain. All I can say is that Miss McDowall needs curtail her comments about Ricky Tomlinson, her boyfriend, Cilla Black and the TV shows she was on-she kept calling Cilla a "chipmunk". Miss McDowall does not look like Cilla-Cilla has red hair for starters. There was a Neil Diamond tribute act. I did see one of his shows and he does look and sound the part. However, the singer kept on saying things like "Neil Diamond wrote the next song for.." and "Neil Diamond wrote this in..." We know that Neil Diamond wrote the songs you're singing-you're a Neil Diamond tribute act. I wouldn't expect a song by The Stranglers or "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" by The Smiths! Acts like this just need to get on with the songs-I for one would have enjoyed the show a lot more. There was a Kenny Rogers singer along with a Dolly Parton tribute. The Kenny Rogers guy was good but I can't comment on Dolly Parton. There was also a magician/comedian-again I can't comment as I didn't attend a show. The highlight of the entertainment was a Mr. Pete Finlay. Mr. Finlay is a retired Flight Engineer on the Concorde aircraft and has flown countless times on Concorde all around the world as the Chief Flight Engineer. He gave four lectures on Concorde-the development of the plane, the crash of the Air France Concorde, the rival planes that other airlines tried to produce and the future of supersonic passenger aircraft. On this last lecture, Mr. Finlay outlined a British company-Reaction Engines-who are currently developing an engine to power a Hypersonic (that's Mach 5 or beyond) passenger aircraft to get from London to Australia in four hours! Reaction Engines have got the financial backing of the EU and the European Space Agency and expect to be producing a prototype engine in a couple of years. Mr. Finlay is an extremely articulate lecturer and is a delight to listen to-P&O need to get more people like Mr. Finlay onboard. His lectures were very well attended with "standing room only" on some occasions. The islands and excursions We visited St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Maarten, St. Vincent, Grand Turk, Tortola-British Virgin Islands, Grenada and of course Barbados. We were supposed to visit Antigua but due to quite severe weather conditions including a 60/70 mph. crosswind, the captain couldn't get the ship in port and after five or six attempts decided not to try again. Antigua is unique in the Caribbean as the entrance to the main port has a deep water channel which is only 90 metres wide. The ship is around 40 metres wide which means there isn't a lot of spare room to manouvre. The excursions I chose were quite enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the Concorde Exhibition in Barbados, a rum distillery in St. Lucia and botanical gardens in St. Vincent-despite the fact that in St. Vincent we were caught in tropical rainstorm and got drenched. The rest of my trips were Best of/Highlights of various islands. P&O (like other cruise companies) make a daily charge to your account. This is for gratuities for the staff. In this case it was £3.50 per person per day (including kids). I had mine stopped as I don't like to be told who/when/how much I'm tipping. Additionally, as I am a "cash only" passenger, I placed around £900 on my account at the start of the trip. The day before Barbados, I asked when I could close my account only to be told it was already too late as I had to close my account by 6.30 pm. I did argue that I was a "cash" customer but the reception assistant was adamant. I eventually spoke to a deputy Pursar who extended my time until 10pm. I went to reception at around 9.45 to close my account only to be told by another assistant that "I could close it anytime" so I left my account open. I did go back at 10.45pm. and spoke to (yet another) assistant who then said that 6.30pm. was the original time and that the rest of my deposit was "lost". By now I'm getting angry (I'm not a patient man). I suggested-quite loudly and forcefully-that if I didn't get my money back (around £260), that when I got back to the UK, I would sue P&O in the Small Claims Court in my home town. I also suggested that I would be looking for damages and costs for this action. This did the trick and I got my money back. A warning to "cash only" passengers-P&O will make your life difficult. Make sure you get your money back as they won't hesitate to keep it. On a personal note, as the ship wasn't full, I asked if I could upgrade to a better cabin-even a balcony- only to be told that this "wasn't possible". Considering that I knew that a lot of the balcony rooms were unoccupied, I thought that it was a little unfair. Why leave them empty if they're not being used? I know that a lot more passengers also asked for an upgrade only to be told the same thing. Also, as I have to plan things well in advance due to my work shift pattern, I was disappointed to hear of all the offers-P&O calls them "getaway prices"-to get people on the cruise. As a single traveller, I have to pay a lot more than two or more occupying a cabin. I heard of passengers paying £600 to £900 for the cruise including flights! Conclusions. All things considered...4 out of 10. P&O must do better. The fact that the ship was not fully booked didn't help. The cruise didn't have the fizz or buzz of a busy ship and the atmosphere onboard wasn't there. It seemed as if the staff were "going through the motions" and didn't seem to be interested. This spoilt my trip and as I have previously mentioned, I had been planning this for nearly two years, and I was very disappointed. Would I reccommend? Errrrmm...No. P&O need to try a lot harder. I WILL give P&O another chance in the future, but it won't be on the Azura. As a Post Script to this review, two or three days before the end of the trip, we were hearing rumours about the Christmas cruise which sailed on December 14th. Apparently the ship was fully booked BUT there were 700 (THAT'S SEVEN HUNDRED) kids onboard. Anybody that booked the Christmas cruise hoping for a quiet trip has made a huge mistake. I for one (along with a great many of my fellow travellers) were delighted to get off the ship before all of the kids showed up! An update to this Post Script (I wrote this review in December with additions in January)....Since writing this review, I have been contacted by several people who travelled on the Christmas cruise which left Barbados on December 14th. They tell me that the number of kids on this cruise numbered at only around 200-250. The rumours (and the staff) on the cruise I was on said 700 and yet the passengers who were actually on the trip said 200 to 250. I will leave the reader to make up their own mind.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We began our tour with two nights in Prague in the Czech Republic. We had a walking tour on the first day. We asked Balosch, our cruise director, for a dining suggestion for a restaurant for dinner and he gave us an excellent one that ... Read More
We began our tour with two nights in Prague in the Czech Republic. We had a walking tour on the first day. We asked Balosch, our cruise director, for a dining suggestion for a restaurant for dinner and he gave us an excellent one that featured wonderful Czech food. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Prague as part of the cruise package. It was comfortable, the breakfast was excellent, and it was centrally located. We then drove to Nuremberg where we boarded the ship. Using Nuremberg as a port was a bit of a challenge since it's not really suited to as many ships as it handles. There is only a rough single lane road and it is used by all of the cruise buses. Sometimes a bus that is entering must back up quite a way to allow another ship to leave. The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas. The staff was very welcoming and tried to accommodate all requests. We found the beds to be quite hard and many other passengers felt the same way. We asked for a foam topper to make the beds more comfortable. Our cabin steward changed out the room in no time. We found the cabins to be small. They were supposed to be 170 square feet, but when my husband marked them off they were quite a bit smaller. Since it was winter, we had quite a few bulky clothes. There were not enough hangers to accommodate our clothes and the storage was inadequate. A few hooks on the wall for coats would have freed up some closet space. Breakfast was quite good and you had the choice of ordering from the menu or going to the buffet. Because of the tight space, it was a bit of a crush to go through the buffet, but once we got the timing right, it was fine. Lunch was also either from the menu or a buffet. Dinner was adequate, but nothing really was outstanding. Considering the price of the ticket we did expect a little higher quality in the food. The wine was free flowing, however, and always was local vintages. Erlebnis, the specialty restaurant, was a real treat. It accommodates 24 people and is a chef's table experience. The chef greets you and explains the courses that are available. You can actually see him work while you are dining. We were able to dine here twice and each time was a treat for the eyes and the mouth. Several times local entertainers were brought on board. They were always excellent. Many times we were greeted at the ship after a day of shopping and sightseeing with a lovely glass of mulled wine. Really hit the spot after being thoroughly chilled by the cold weather. Several times, other ships were tied up to our ships so we had to exit our ship by walking through the other ships. From our cabin we were also able to see the cabins of the other ship. From what we could see of the cabins and public areas of the other ships, the Amabella ship was comparable. The stops on our trip (Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau/Salzburg, Melk/Vienna, and Budapest) were all excellent. Most of the time you could walk off the ship and into the town. The ship always provided maps and personnel to answer any questions as you left the ship. The walking tours were excellent and you are provided with audio devices so that you could hear everything the tour director was saying. Our cruise director gave a commentary on the one day that we spent just cruising. Since everyone has a sliding glass door, it was very enjoyable to sit by the window sipping mulled wine and seeing the world go by. All in all, it was a terrific trip and the problems we encountered were minor in nature and easily addressed. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
EMBARKATION: easy with RTF. OV room nice -Steward good. Weather: stank. I usually get a balcony room but glad I got OV. Balconies were closed most of treat I o due to very rough seas. Couldn't use pool due to weather. This was not a ... Read More
EMBARKATION: easy with RTF. OV room nice -Steward good. Weather: stank. I usually get a balcony room but glad I got OV. Balconies were closed most of treat I o due to very rough seas. Couldn't use pool due to weather. This was not a tropical vacation. We never saw the sun. Most active cities (hairy leg contest, etc ) cancelled due to weather. I went to bot tubs, fitness center most of trip. I d I did 2 massages on port days- deep discount. Steam room was not working most of trip. Our excursion in Bahamas was a nightmare. We were scheduled to do a private beach day. The operators took us despite rain showers. We got in a squall, rocking boat , getting rained on,- cold! They did a tourney tho g and asked for tips while going on nightmare boat ride. So wrong!they took us out to get their tips! AFTER 2 hours of misery they took us back to port and refunded our money. But they Got their tips! That's 2 hours I will never get back.I forgot name of excursion but its very popular. Due to weather, we couldn't port in Little Stirrup Cay. I was looking forward to that. Instead we diverted Freeport.not my favorite, so stayed on boat for cheaper massage. Food was good- went to Magnolian Wok daily,as well as made to order omelettes. ENTERTAINMENT DE T. W E LIKED Motown and Divas. Disembark: We were FTF and had early flights a due to some security issue, did not get off boat until 10ish.Cruise before us was 4 hours late and we didn't start. Boarding til 2. If you like no frills and small boats this cruise is for you. We go on bigger boats usually. We did Magic in Auguast and doing NCl Epic in March. We like more activities and dining choices. I would recommend this for those who want to snooze and cruise. We not go on A WINTER CRUISE AGAIN.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We arrived in Auckland 3 days early to look around and was not disappointed it is a lovely place, come time to board the ship I was a little disappointed in the time and conditions that it took to get aboard very slow and very hot and ... Read More
We arrived in Auckland 3 days early to look around and was not disappointed it is a lovely place, come time to board the ship I was a little disappointed in the time and conditions that it took to get aboard very slow and very hot and uncomfortable , but once on board things started to change the cabin was great quite roomy and the décor was lovely very quite no noise at all even one rough night of weather and very little wind noise. The staff are fantastic right down to the lads that attend to the toilets they are so happy go lucky they truly enhance the trip our dining staff were so good I had my head waiter choose my meals for me and I was never disappointed. If I have a sour note I felt the entertainment left a bit to be desired the theatre shows were very average compared to other cruises that I have been on I walked out on three shows and I have never done that before, the smaller acts around the ships bars and so forth were quite good it was just the main entertainment. Specialty dinning was lovely Silks was a little spicy for my taste but the two others were great over all yes I would do it again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We decided to take the family on a last minute cruise over Thanksgiving, and I had narrowed my choices to NCL Epic and Glory. Given that we were taking four of my children, the Epic (while slightly cheaper) would cost us more due to ... Read More
We decided to take the family on a last minute cruise over Thanksgiving, and I had narrowed my choices to NCL Epic and Glory. Given that we were taking four of my children, the Epic (while slightly cheaper) would cost us more due to specialty restaurants (which I look forward to trying sometime in the future with NCL). Plus I was eager to experience the Funship 2.0 upgrades for the first time….so I broke my own rule of not sailing the same ship. I considered Glory having Funship 2.0 a quasi new ship anyway. Embarkation: Miami….ughhhh. Really missed Ft. Lauderdale after our experience in Miami this sailing. I choose Safe Parking to leave the car, and arrived at 10:15am so we could hopefully be at the port/waiting to board at 10:45am. Shuttle arrives at 10:30am…all good…except driver is dropping off passengers and won’t take newcomers. Ok…why? So we (and others) wait and wait. Finally the same shuttle bus shows up and drops off passengers…and again will NOT take on new customers. Tensions rise now that everyone has been waiting for 30-45+ minutes. Then a 15 passenger van shows up…and is asking who is sailing Carnival. Since we have been waiting the longest---we grab him. The fill the van – and we leave a lot of other folks sailing on different lines. It was exactly 1 hour after we arrived in the parking lot. Fortunately Miami terminal was moving quickly and we were onboard eating Guy Burgers around 12pm. We loved Guy burgers and their French fries. The Glory: We had sailed her before a few summers back for a quick Canada trip. This is our first cruise with the kids without extended family…and my son’s first (two of my girls were so young on our first cruise with RCCL that they don’t remember it at all). Ship was clean, the food was average to good in the MDR. We had a fabulous wait staff – got lucky to find them on the first night of anytime dining – Yudi/Hendro from Indonesia. They really made our week enjoyable and had a great time with our kids. Went way above the normal to satisfy us and take care of the kids – lots of fun dancing with them and joking around. I wish the Glory had changed their menus during our cruise…but we were a week early. Food was good – nothing spectacular. For breakfast I enjoyed the Blue Iguana burritos a few times….and we did enjoy the sea day brunch for the first time. This time they made it easier to redeem your free drink….it was awful during our last Carnival cruise (took an hour the last sea day!). We did not do the Emerald steakhouse this cruise….or the Taste Bar. We only made it to one new 2.0 show – Divas. It was good – I was expecting a lot worse based on the last few years of 2.0 rollouts. We saw the family friendly comedian twice – he was good. They had a magician who went through the MDR and had a late night show in one of the lounges….Chris – he was GREAT! The sea days were very windy and cloudy. We were able to find chairs no problem. MUTS were Iron Man 2/3, Bourne Legacy, and Monday Night football….maybe another movie or 2. We had sun in Cozumel and Grand Cayman, we missed Belize due to high winds and Roatan was rainy all day. Past guest party decent – the drinks were dished out and strong – did get a few Twilight Zone’s brought to us in lieu of what was on the server trays. Cruise Director was good and funny…the staff seemed to be having fun and were enjoyable. Ports: Cozumel – did taxi ride to Playa Palancar again. We were the first one’s there. There were 6 ships in Cozumel that day, and pretty soon even Palancar beach was getting crowded. I have never seen so many snorkel boats at Palancar/Columbia reef…there must have been 40 at one time. My kids have never been snorkeling, so we grabbed the local snorkel boat and went out around 1pm, when most of the ship excursions had left to return to their ships. Great sunny day – and while the reefs are relatively deep (25 to 45 feet), we could see and enjoy everything. Great food at Palancar too. Roatan – since we missed Belize due to high winds (it was crazy watching NCL trying to tender – we saw one successful tender launch and those folks on the top deck got splashed by the waves/wind. We tried to anchor at least twice but threw in the towel. We had a nice private snorkeling/island tour Goff Caye booked, hated we missed it. Since the weather forecast a week out showed rain and more rain, I held off an early booking with SouthShore zip lining….because I wanted to do a combo package with the beach. We docked and it was a steady rain. We took our time and when it became a light drizzle we got off the ship and we made our way through the gates/outside Mahagony Bay. We found a SouthShore rep and they got us a driver to take us to the zipline. This was our first time and it was a great experience. Grand Cayman – two of my girls are horse girls, so they and my wife did a great private excursion with Coral Stone Stables. This was a beach/swim with the horses – and they LOVED it. The photos are crazy – in how deep they were and how far out they were from the beach with the horses. My other daughter dragged me and my son to Stingray City – with Stingway Sailing (Chip was our captain). Grand Cayman had 4 ships – and it was a major zoo at the terminal. It took us some time to hook up with Stingway Sailing. Due to waves/winds, the ship’s canceled the same excursion tours. Chip said he was out there at 7am and while the waves were high, he thought it was ok based on his experience. We all decided to go for it and we were glad we did. We were the only boat out there for awhile. I kinda freaked out when the stingrays were crawling all over me – but it was a great experience. Such beautiful water! The barrier reef was too wavy – so he took us to another snorkel spot – and it was actually pretty good – nice color and very nice fish. Plus we had a dolphin visit us and we were snorkeling with it for 5 minutes…pretty cool. Debarkation: Miami – uuuggghhh again. We had luggage tag 29 since we drove (someone else in the hallway mentioned they had number 34). It was 10:15am and our number had not been called yet! Usually they are kicking us off the ship at 9:30am. We decided to go ahead and head down. The terminal was very busy—and it did not take us too long to get our luggage off the conveyor belt. However, the 5 or 6 lines to go through passport control were LONG. It was 1 hour from leaving the ship to being outside waiting for our Safe Cruise parking shuttle. How I miss Fort Lauderdale after that experience. Luckily the Safe Cruise Parking driver found us in the masses and we were promptly delivered to our car. In the future, if just my wife and I and we drove, we would make sure we each had a carry-on and would do self-assist so we could be in our car on the road back to NC at a more reasonable time.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We planned for a family reunion on a cruise ship so no one would have to host Thanksgiving at their house; no cooking, no cleaning, no entertaining, and plenty of distractions. Fifteen of us in 7 cabins. We love each other...in small ... Read More
We planned for a family reunion on a cruise ship so no one would have to host Thanksgiving at their house; no cooking, no cleaning, no entertaining, and plenty of distractions. Fifteen of us in 7 cabins. We love each other...in small doses. ;-) I chose Carnival over RCC because of the price per cabin advantage I received. I chose the Magic for the waterworks, rope course, and size. I chose the Magic over the Breeze for the itinerary. I chose an Ocean Suite for the balcony and the whirlpool tub in the bathroom. We flew into Houston the night prior to the cruise and stayed overnight in Galveston. We barely beat the massive ice/snow storm as flights after ours were getting cancelled. We arranged transportation through the hotel shuttle. A short stop by the local Walmart allowed us to get last-minute items we didn't want to pack--sodas, straw hat, Lysol wipes/spray, pool toys, etc. The weather channel in the hotel showed a huge storm in the gulf between us and our first port, Mahogany Bay. The rain and wind prevented us from walking along the shoreline across from the hotel. Check-in could not have gone smoother. The hotel shuttle took our family to the port at 1100. My family went through the "express" lane; my mother had arrived at the port 15 minutes before us and I was sure that I would be able to get onboard and wait for her. We had no lines and went straight through security and right up to the Sign and Sail desk; as I got my S&S cards, I got a text that my mom was already onboard! Gold Star for Check In. We went straight up to our deck, but the corridors were not open yet--they were still cleaning the cabins. We went down to the atrium to gather/plan lunch. It couldn't have been more than 15 minutes before our cabins were ready. We dropped off our luggage and made a beeline to the Cuchina del Capitano--lunch is free, dinner is $12/person. We wanted to get there on the first or second day (before the rest of the ship realized that lunches were free). Lunch was good. Remember that storm I saw on the weather channel? We found it. There is a reason why they have hand rails in the corridors. It felt like airplane turbulence that would not stop. Our family were OK, but it got to my sister and my nephew. Sleeping through it was no problem...it probably helped. The 2nd day wasn't any better. My son leaned over the balcony rail (we were on the 7th deck mid-ship)) and pulled his head back soaking wet from the ocean spray as the ship bumped through the 8-ft swells. Cruising through storms=no bueno. We arrived in Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan (Honduras) at around 7:00 am. We purchased the Ultimate beach Package (8-11 am). I watched from the balcony as the rain came in waves and the lightning flashed in the sky. I took my tickets to the excursion desk, but they had already cancelled all water activities and refunded patrons. We bought plastic ponchos and walked through the shops. Harley T-Shirt ftw! We tried the Steakhouse and paid the $35/person surcharge. I cannot begin to describe who good that meal was. My normal haunts are places like The Olive Garden, Applebees, Golden Coral, etc. I went in expecting those, I sorely underestimated the cuisine. Definitely on the to-do list next time. Our MDR waiters (Sinat, Fritz, and Biliana) in the Southern Lights dining room were a riot. We came to have fun, they did not disappoint. Again, I expected Golden Coral and got more than we thought we would. By the time we go to Belize, we finally saw the sun poke through partly cloudy skies. We went on an ATV tour (got muddy), cave tubing (cleaned up), and zip lining (dried off). Butts Up excursions took good care of us even though our tender was running late (we did not book through Carnival and therefore had to take the later tenders). We not not have time to do any shopping at the port, but I didn't mind. Our last port of call was Cozumel, Mexico. This time, we did book through Carnival to go on the Mayan ruins of Tulum. We took a high-speed ferry to mainland Mexico in very rough seas. I knew it would be an adventure as they started handing out motion sickness bags before everyone was seated. For several people, the bags were well utilized. We went to Playa del Carmen to catch a bus to Tulum. I don't know if it was the bright sunshine, the roller coaster ferry ride, or the European flair of the buildings, but folks, if your itinerary includes Cozumel, you have to go to the mainland! As we drove through town, I saw at least a dozen activities I would like to try on our next visit. Tulum was OK. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Cruising back to Galveston was smooth, comparatively speaking. We enjoyed the rope course, miniature golf, waterworks, and spa activities. The illusion show was muy bueno. We went to the family comedy show [thumbs up]. The slot machines were extremely tight, but the blackjack tables allowed me to break even. Debarkation was nearly as quick as embarkation. My son had a 11:20 flight from Bush Intercontinental Airport to be the best man at a wedding. We have VIP privileges (because of the cabin class rather than anything I have done). We left our cabin at 7:30. We were off the ship by 7:50 and waiting for the shuttle by 8:05. Ironically, we waited longer for the shuttle than the time it took to get from our cabin to the shuttle stop. Overview: I am not sure we will cruise out of Galveston again. The cost and inconvenience of getting there can be reduced if going to a different port. I am probably not going to cruise across the Gulf of Mexico in the winter again. I would like to try it again in the summer (maybe from Miami?). Carnival gets a thumbs up for cleanliness, friendly crew, and cost/experience ratio. I did not take into account how the size of the ship (and negotiating the flights of stairs) would affect my arthritic knees. I spent more time in the whirlpool tub than on the balcony, but I blame the weather equally. The swimming pools were small (both of them). The jacuzzis were always crowded. We always found empty chairs on the Serenity deck. The only time we couldn't find an open chair on the Lido deck was during one of the contests. Again, the weather played a factor for most of the cruise. While in Cozumel, we docked next to the Carnival Sunshine. That will probably be our next ship. ;-)) Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We were on the Thanksgiving cruise. This was the first cruise for my husband, DS (12) and DS (5) and my second Norwegian cruise. I'll start with the negative first. The weather was awful, but that had nothing to do with the ... Read More
We were on the Thanksgiving cruise. This was the first cruise for my husband, DS (12) and DS (5) and my second Norwegian cruise. I'll start with the negative first. The weather was awful, but that had nothing to do with the ship.....it was all about Mother Nature. We couldn't tender to their private island because of the wind and waves so we headed right over to Nassau. Our excursion was canceled due to the weather so we went to the atlantis resort to walk around. We were in cabin 8728 - a mini suite with a large balcony. The room was plenty for 4 of us. The balcony was huge, the bathroom was amazing and the bed was soooooo comfortable. Yes, we felt the rocking of the boat, but we got used to it. Our cabin steward was SHAKE. He is now preparing the Getaway for its maiden sail, but he was amazing. The towel animals were so cool. The kids club was fantastic. My 12 year old has cerebral palsy and they were wonderful with him. My kids hated to leave every night. We purchased the week long spa package. GET IT!!!!!!!! While we were waiting to board, they set up a table in the lobby and we purchased it right there. Loved it!!!! The food was great....lots of choices. You most certainly will never be hungry. Beware....you will be nickel and dimed for everything. We had two bottles of wine one night, that was it and all the little things added up to over $1200. So make sure you budget in for the little things. The ship is beautiful and we can't wait to go back. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We did our second consecutive Thanksgiving cruise with HAL on the Westerdaam and we have come away from both extremely pleased with the ship, its service personnel, its itinerary and especially the food. In over 15 years of ... Read More
We did our second consecutive Thanksgiving cruise with HAL on the Westerdaam and we have come away from both extremely pleased with the ship, its service personnel, its itinerary and especially the food. In over 15 years of cruising...mostly aboard Princess, we switched to HAL two years ago after dealing with an extremely unpleasant maitr 'd aboard the Grand Princess. While Westerdaam is not nearly as glitzy as any of the Princess ships, she comes across as a regal and dignified aging dowager, wise and self-assured and gracious to all. The food, though not nearly as varied as the food on the Princess ships, was appreciably better in quality and preparation. The dining room filets were really filets rather than overcooked hockey pucks we found standard on Princess. We also found the dining room steaks to be equal quality to those we had at Le Cirque, one of Westerdaam's specialty restaurants. The dining room wine list was not as extensive nor as pricey is the wine list at Le Cirque but the reasonably priced dining room wines were descent and enjoyable. On our most recent trip we encountered extreme cautions to prevent an epidemic of Noro virus which has plagued, not only HAL, but most of the cruise lines sailing out of Fort Lauderdale. The cautions must have been effective because I was aware of no widespread outbreak of illness of any kind. Two years ago when we returned to Fort Lauderdale we also avoided a Noro outbreak but we saw numerous other ships flying quarantine flags. I did not notice any quarantine flags flying when we returned this year. Our cabin stewards on both voyages were very attentive, generally available and quick to respond to our requests. On this cruise Westrerdaam had a very good selection of reasonably-priced excursions. As an experienced Scuba diver in my earlier years, I decided to try the SNUBA excursions which is billed as a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving. It really is more like scuba diving because you breath through a regulator but you're attached to an air hose connected to a tank which floats on the surface. The hose is about 15 feet long so it limits your depth to less than that. It's a great way to try out scuba but as a former diver out found it quite limiting and much prefer regular scuba diving. As I recall, the cost was about $100 which included 45 minutes of snorkeling and 45 minutes of snuba...very reasonable for the time and quality instruction. Overall, our experience with HAL and the Westerdaam has been very positive and I would have no hesitation in recommending HAL to a friend. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
This was the first 7-day sailing out of the US for the Sunshine, so it was loaded with loyal repeat cruisers. Over 200 passengers were Platinum. On top of that, it was a Thanksgiving cruise, and my 3 kids had the whole week off, so the ... Read More
This was the first 7-day sailing out of the US for the Sunshine, so it was loaded with loyal repeat cruisers. Over 200 passengers were Platinum. On top of that, it was a Thanksgiving cruise, and my 3 kids had the whole week off, so the ship was loaded with kids. Not a typical week at all. The weather was bad all week, so the seas were rough, especially on the first and last full days. As the former Destiny, the first cruise ship over 100K tons, the Sunshine has enough size to minimize the motion. It was never difficult to walk, and items were not sliding off flat surfaces, but some people felt seasick, just the same. We had just been on a cruise off Novia Scotia that was worse, so it did not bother me or my family. The second Fun Day at Sea was much better, and the sun even came out for a while. That day and the morning in Jamaica were the only times we saw the sun. That being said, it was not cold and did not rain much, so you could still relax in the pools and hot tubs on the lido deck with protection from the wind, and enjoy the new water slide. Wind, sometimes increased by the forward motion of the ship, complicated miniature golf on the top accessible deck. I give Carnival credit because we did not cancel any of our port visits, as many other ships had to do that week in the Caribbean. We also did not strand anyone in a port because the tenders could not bring them back, as I heard happened in nearby Belize that week. The worst that happened is that we anchored on the south side of Grand Cayman instead of in the Georgetown harbor in the SW corner of the island. The tender ride was just as short, but the Spotts Bay alternate cruise terminal is in a residential area so you have to take a taxi to really do anything. There are resorts and a public beach within walking distance, but I did not know that at the time. Anyway, the weather was too rough to want to go to a beach. The food was the standard Carnival 7-day cruise menu, which I love, with the addition of tom turkey on Thanksgiving night. My fourth Thanksgiving on Carnival. The turkey is good but you don't get to see the whole thing and carve it up the way you want, as you would at home. You also have to turn down a nice steak to order the turkey. Actually, they would bring you both, of course, but I feel like a pig doing that! The cruise director's entertainment staff did a yeoman's job of entertaining passengers who were inside the ship more than they probably expected to be that week. All three of the young women running the trivia and karaoke were affable and effective. For us as well as a crowd that grew every night, the highlight was the ship's rock and roll band with lead singer Criss Cain, right out of college on his first contract. His voice was phenomenal, and he energized the crowd to dance for hours from his stage in the new Ocean Plaza in the middle of the promenade deck. We skipped a lot of the production shows just to see his whole sets. Alas, Criss's Sunshine contract is over, but he has started another one on another Carnival ship. At first I thought it was a cheap maneuver that Carnival renamed the ship. I would not have even gone on it had it not been in New Orleans, one of the easiest ports to get to for us. After being on it for a week, I can see why they renamed it. The interior was very significantly redone. Not just remodeled but redone. For example, while the highest cabins were on deck 10 previously, cabins were added to the front of the ship on decks 11 and 12, and a new deck 13 was put on. Actually they call it 14. Thus, the weight should be higher than 100,000 tons now. Some of the differences, I noticed on the website before the trip, but most of them I didn't notice until we got there. Several times I thought, they couldn't have changed that. I must be remembering it wrong. But later in the week I found a deck plan of the old Destiny, and found that all of my suspicions were actually correct. The midship dining room where we ate on the Destiny, is now a single level dining room, unique among Carnival ships. On what used to be its second-level, they have substituted a library bar/game room, the piano bar, the up-charge steak place, and an up-charge sushi place. The atrium bar is round and in the center of the atrium, rather than triangular and up against the glass elevators like it used to be. Our cabin was steps away from that bar, which was my favorite place on the Destiny. Our cabin was a strange configuration, being on an outside wall but not having a window or porthole. I did not remember there being cabins on deck three before. It was a great location. When we entered the main show lounge in the front of the ship, I thought it had been reduced from three decks to 2. Well, that is why. They removed the bottom deck and stuck some cabins in under it. A Carnival ship designer realized that the forward main lounge space went unused after the second show every night. A large space in the new restaurant in the back of the Lido deck would also go unused after dinner. The Destiny's disco took up prime space on the promenade deck. The designer realized that the Destiny disco's space could be reused as is the highly successful Ocean Plaza on the dream class ships. The three-level show lounge on the Destiny was too cavernous a space for a nightclub, but if it were reduced to two decks, it would be more intimate, the designer thought. Instead of having fixed seating, the bottom floor could have seats that are moved away after the last show to reveal a larger area on which people could dance. The Cuban restaurant already has great ambiance for salsa dancing. The idea was pitched to superiors and made it up to the top. As a result, on the Sunshine, late-night dancing is now held alternately in the back of the Lido deck (in the Cuban restaurant) or in the front of the fourth deck. Without taking up any permanent space. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Took the 6 night 7 day cruise on the Breeze. Went to Turks, Jamaica and Nassau. Had a wonderful time. Very few lineups for food, only for morning omelette. Loved the steak house, sushi and red frog. But the "free" dining room ... Read More
Took the 6 night 7 day cruise on the Breeze. Went to Turks, Jamaica and Nassau. Had a wonderful time. Very few lineups for food, only for morning omelette. Loved the steak house, sushi and red frog. But the "free" dining room was also fabulous and our waiter was great! Also "free" Blue Iguana and burgers by the pool. Also very good. Lots to do on the ship. The comedian was fabulous. My girlfriend is the mother of a stand up comedian and she was very impressed. The drinks were good, same prices as a home in Canada but I don't drink much. The tours were good. Visited a garden in Jamaica and the falls. Also a glass bottom boat in Nassau. Got the stars houses pointed out as part of the tour. The after cruise visit to the alligator farm was a highlight. Only downside: the internet. bought the 29 dollar package but unlike when I was on Holland America, you are not told when your minutes run out, they just go to by the minute Also a half hour was added when none of my devices were on. However, if using an Ipad,make sure to TURN IT RIGHT OFF at the end of each session. I did get money back for the internet though but I would advise, DO NOT use the ship's internet. Find a cafe in port or just leave those blackberries at home and socialize with your companions!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Along with 6,190 other guests and some 2,800 crew, my wife, son and I have just completed a magical cruise aboard "the world's largest ship", the Allure of the Sea's. Only mention the numbers because we also spent ... Read More
Along with 6,190 other guests and some 2,800 crew, my wife, son and I have just completed a magical cruise aboard "the world's largest ship", the Allure of the Sea's. Only mention the numbers because we also spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Disney World with some 100,000 others on each day and could not move! When you then factor in the two days at Disney World cost me MORE than a week at sea, the "World's Largest Cruise Ship", (sorry, we were constantly reminded of this all week), wins my vote hands down!!! OK, firstly, the shows! My wife and I are regulars on both Broadway and the West End in addition to taking in numerous shows on annual Vegas trips and the Allure offers many that are at least the equal. Chicago and the special effects laden, Blue Planet along with two ice-shows, (How to Train Your Dragon and the superb Ice Games), Aqua shows, (Madagascar, (a must for the kids), and the unbelievably breath-taking OceanAria are just awe-inspiring! You then take all the other on-board entertainment, (zip-line, flow-rider, a host of other sports activities, the music, the comedy), and the week passes at a very unfair pace as within no time at all, it's all over! The Activities team is awesome, even if Ken Rush was a little tiring by the end of the cruise - sorry Ken, just tone it down a little and you will be as enjoyable as many of your other RCCL peers - oh, and there is no "I" in team! Albeit a little out of sequence, I wish we had had one or two US Congressmen or Senators aboard our ship who had to go through the same disembarkation process we did. As ever, RCL were superb the way they organised off-loading 6,300 people, but to US politicians, you should be ashamed as to the impression your hard-pressed Border Control folks left us with about the US. 6 poor souls who did their best to clear us, but given that they only looked at our passport photo-pages and then at us, why did it take 75 minutes from stepping off the ship to clearing immigration? OK, rant done, back to the positives. We had a well-appointed Junior Suite on Deck 9 mid-ship which despite everything that was going on, was remarkably quiet. It was kept wonderfully clean and tidy by our cabin attendant Hardier, despite our, (9-year old's in particulars), best efforts!!! My wife absolutely loved the walk-in cupboard and is already asking for one at home!!! The food, overall, was excellent. Chops Grille, 150 and Giovanni's were exceptional, with the staff and quality of food being way over and beyond at the first two. The Park Cafe is superb for lunches and the hot dog stand is super cool! Windjammer is as it is, given it caters to the masses and was not bad. Special mention however must go to both our waitress, Alison, and her assistant Leylani, in the Adagio restaurant - they're two VERY special RCCL people who went out of their way to help and get anything we wanted. Given Adagio caters for 4,500 to 5,000 people across two nightly sittings daily, there is a lot about quality and service many of London's supposedly finer 5-star hotels could learn about when they come to delivering charity events, weddings, bar mitzvah's and the like!!! Some cautionary words, and sorry about this Royal Caribbean, be very careful when "shopping" aboard. The prices are much higher than what you can get elsewhere, especially their "special offers". I looked at one watch which was retailing for $700 in their 25% off "promotion" that sells for around £300 in a regular jewellers back in London. The excursions are very expensive and with a little research and planning, can be done at a fraction of the price yourself. Yes, RCL will tell you the ship will leave if you don't get back on-time if you are NOT on their excursions, but just a little planning and allow yourself time to get back to the ship and you you will save yourselves a lot of money!!! Finally, special mention for Captain Jonny. This was our 5th RCCL cruise and 6th in total and never have a I met a more wonderful and hugely enthusiastic, (given his 38 years, 19 as captain), skipper. He just loves meeting passengers and going around his ship, he asked me THREE separate times during the week how the cruise was going and for comments. His "Ask the Captain" hour towards the end of the cruise was very I informative, not at all boring, (given the types of questions posed by some cruise "junkies"), and his routine was the equal of many a stand-up comedian - a truly, truly wonderful captain who so very obviously loves what he does and interacting with as many of his guests and crew, (you should watch his daily log on the in-room TV). To him in particularly, and to Alison, thank you for a very special and highly memorable vacation - we are really looking forward to sailing with you again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We have been on cruises before, but years ago. We have taken Princess, Cunard, Royal Caribbean. The stateroom on this cruise was nicer and larger than we expected. The food on some nights, however was inedible. We were on the ... Read More
We have been on cruises before, but years ago. We have taken Princess, Cunard, Royal Caribbean. The stateroom on this cruise was nicer and larger than we expected. The food on some nights, however was inedible. We were on the "traditional seating" plan. The menu items sounded wonderful, but the resulting meals served were far below what had been described. The food seemed to get worse, nightly. One night our table ordered the lamb chop/braised veal. I ordered the chop to be done rare. It was so well done that I couldn't cut it. It was like shoe leather. Our other table mates had the same problem, although they didn't order their lamb rare. It was dreadful. The next night they had leg of lamb on the menu. I had to ask our waitress three times to check to make sure I could get a rare to medium rare piece. She finally assured me that that is what I would get. Instead it came out grey. I did send it back that night and got a rare steak instead. One night I was served duck. Again I asked for it rare. It didn't happen. It was horribly over sauced and well done. The last night was Christmas. Both my husband and I ordered the starter "Jumbo Shrimp, Diver Scallops, and Craw-fish. The craw-fish was absolutely inedible. It tasted like water-soaked cardboard and was still frozen in the center. The shrimp were very small. At Walmart I buy a bag of this size for salads (medium) and the scallops were the size of a small fingernail. It was all awful. Next we had the starter of foie gras pate. It was not foie gras. It was, however edible. Then we had the butternut squash soup. There was no seasoning. It was so bland, you could feed it to a baby. Terrible. We both ordered pastas that night, because we hadn't had much luck with the meat. My husband took 2 bites of his Fettucini Alfredo and pushed it away. I had a Crispellla with cheese sauce and bacon. You could have used both for wallpapering a room. The desert was good. The buffet is a cafeteria. If you get there when they first put the food out, it's not too bad, but it gets old in the steam table pans, pretty quickly. The eggs are hard, the pancakes tough and the ham curled. The best food was my midnight hamburger, room service breakfast (rolls and fruit) and the Wheelhouse pub day fish and chips and the International Cafe (where they charge for tea and coffee and much to my husband's chagrin also for ice cream). Their salads were quite good. Their Panini Sandwiches not so much, according to my better half. I think he used the term "truly dreadful". The tea was pleasant but nothing to write home about. We don't like loud music, so we couldn't use the pool area. All our age group (over 50) seemed to run for cover when the concerts and movies started. We didn't want to pay $10.00 per person for half day $20.00 for a full day, to go to the quiet pool (did not see the charge advertised on the web site, but I might have just missed it). We would only have spent maybe an hour on two at the most so it wouldn't have been worth it. We did sit on the promenade deck, but there was no service there. At least it was quiet. The Wheelhouse and Crooners bar were both fun. Really nice music for us older group. The staff is very nice. The library was very small and not set up for small groups who were looking for an indoor quiet area. The shows were good, but we had to stand for a couple, because the theatre is not large enough for the ship. Everything was geared at selling you something. My husband said that he felt like he was on a floating shopping mall. Not our thing. If the cruise had been any longer, I think he would have jumped overboard. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Just returned today from a 4 day xmas cruise to the Bahamas on the Sky. We're a family of four, and this was our 4th NCL cruise, first time on the Sky. On this cruise, we were accompanied by our parents who have sailed several times ... Read More
Just returned today from a 4 day xmas cruise to the Bahamas on the Sky. We're a family of four, and this was our 4th NCL cruise, first time on the Sky. On this cruise, we were accompanied by our parents who have sailed several times previously. Overall, the Sky cabins could use some work, but we enjoyed our cruise... how can you not!? 4 days was the perfect amount of time on the Sky. As always embarkation and debarkation went smoothly. We were on the ship within 15 minutes of arrival and headed straight for the dining room for lunch. Why more people don't eat in the dining rooms more often mystifies me... we were one of about a half dozen tables for lunch on the first day. We immediately relaxed to the smiles and superb service of the wait staff. Food was very good to excellent. We brought a bottle of wine on board for each night of the cruise to go with dinner. Everyone enjoyed the entrees in the main dining rooms... lowerlights were the Thai shrimp and gnochi... but the salmon with tarragon butter sauce was a highlight. We ate one night at Le Bistro, and it was sensational! Beef tenderloin was cooked to perfection and the creme brulee was to die for! The ship itself was nice but is showing its age in spots. We enjoy this size ship though. Every cabin was full on the ship, yet it didn't feel overly crowded. Entertainment was... entertaining. The Vegas show had energy, and the comedian projected his good time onto the crowd. The main show venue doesn't have the best seating or sightlines: stick to the lower level if you want the best view. By far, the most disappointing aspect of the cruise was our deck 9 oceanview cabin. The window was covered in stains (I know it's hard to keep these clean), the shower had no water pressure (squirted maybe two inches from the handheld nozzle), the shower water temperature could not be regulated well (no help from a call to the service desk), and the bathroom stank of urine during embarkation (cleaning our the hold?). Cabins on the Jewel-class ships are much nicer and better designed. We stopped in Freeport, Nassau, and Great Stirrup Cay. I see no reason to go back to either Freeport or Nassau, but GSC was super. Very relaxing time on that Island. We headed past the first (overcrowded) clump of loungers and landed on some loungers sprinkled upon a grassy area. Absolutely one of the best days we've head on any of our cruises! A little food, some pina coladas and the ocean at our feet. Would I travel on the Sky to the Bahamas again? I don't think so, but the cruise was enjoyable nonetheless. Food was great, and we'll definitely do Le Bistro and GSC again. NCL staff was uniformly friendly and accommodating. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
I rented a "Grande Suite"! A surprise for my wallet! $$$!, and one for my daughter on Christmas! We opened the door of this "palace" and yes, it is spacious and looked pretty clean... Although shabby furniture screamed ... Read More
I rented a "Grande Suite"! A surprise for my wallet! $$$!, and one for my daughter on Christmas! We opened the door of this "palace" and yes, it is spacious and looked pretty clean... Although shabby furniture screamed of the 80s and had seen better days. Some of it was so old that furry stuff stuck out of the seams run down leather upholstery. Was it leather?... Your call! My daughter noticed a layer of dust on the cocktail table legs. Suddenly aware of our environment, we took a closer look. Dust everywhere covered all of the furniture like a nice velvet blanket. The phone, the decoration above the bed, the shabby crooked lampshades, everywhere! Windows and mirrors had fingerprints that were not ours... There were splashes of liquid (yuk) on walls, doors and inside drawers and the carpet was full of stains. The bed skirts looked like they had spent a day trampled by some cattle. We looked at each other in dismay and called housecleaning. While we were talking to a charming state room manager, my daughter ran into some lump on the inside of the bed... AN OLD EARPLUG! No kidding! I thought it was a candy! It looked promising from where I was standing... We were guarantied a clean room, clean sheets and we thought this would be the end of it... We went our merry way to take a tour... It gets better... We walked out and took the elevator. Someone had obviously thrown up there and it took me two days and lots of complaining to finally have this taken care of. For two days, it became a habit to meet other passengers with their clothes all the way up to their noses to cover the smell and not puke. Around the ship, constant smells of putrefied water or garbage... Where is all this coming from?... 24th December 2013! Christmas Eve! Lunch time. We decide to stand in line for the "Mongolian Wok". BAD, BAD decision! It took us no less than 2 hours to get to the front of the line, and then... large plates had been replaced by small bawls and there was no more food on the trays! Dealing with an angry hungry mob was what was in store for the staff behind the counters... Miraculously, plates came out of nowhere and food reappeared on trays! We tried to change lines several times during that ordeal, but all of them were just jammed with passengers as well. We realized that this was just the way it was on Carnival Imagination for every single meal. Breakfast is served around the pool, an old pool with greenish scary water, and it would not be too bad if... for more than 2,600 passengers, there were more than ONE toaster! Suddenly, as you are happy you made it through the line (a real victory!), holding your plate full of steamy food and fried eggs, there it is! Stopping everything! The ONLY toaster that takes for ever and can only toast 4 pieces of bread! On ONE side only! Be prepared to eat your fried eggs... cold! Why Carnival did not ask us to bring our own toaster? Your guess is as good as mine! Dinner time! "Pride Dining Room Allows you to dine at your leisure anytime between 5.45pm -9.30pm" (SIC) This is what it says in their daily "All Kind of Deliciousness" schedule... Finally! Maybe some service! A line again? They wouldn't dare... or would they?... Let's see... Hungry passengers filled the hallways in a 40 minute line to... get a... pager! No joke! It is true. Then, we were "free" to roam "leisurely" around the entrance of the dining room, clog the hallways and staircases for another hour or so until the buzzer reminded us that we had come here to eat! We then entered the dining room and although there were about 12 empty tables around us, there were no servers, so.. Guess what? More wait! Servers, although friendly, were scares and extremely busy. Obviously overworked and understaffed. I had no clue that the main entertainment was "the food lines" on Carnival Imagination! The only resort if you wanted to avoid these small "inconveniences" that would eat half your vacation time was to eat at what Carnival Cruise calls "All American", where lines were smaller and I understood why very quickly. The food was horrific. Some pale imitation of what our neighborhood McDonald has to offer. Dry tiny pieces of chicken nuggets, in some sauces that had no name... accompanied by French fried by name only. Ah! Let's be fair! Their coleslaw was delicious! Entertainment! Most of it was done in the pool area! Bingo, trivia, children's activities, St Jude's hospital charity fund raising and all! So, if you wanted to enjoy the pool (filled with greenish water and in need of major repair) and pool games, and eventually nice pool music, you also had to put up with ear-piercing loudspeakers that would cover any other sounds around you, even if you had no inclination for any of these activities. Just yell! The night shows were great! And singers and dancers amazing! Let's be honest! Trivia was at times held in an area across the bar. Not enough tables in that long stretchy area to sit us all. You ended up standing, writing in your hands, or sitting on stools at the bar, even if you did not want to drink, or smoke! Children and all! I went to the "Service Desk" several times to see if we could see any improvement only to be told that it was just about normal to waste about 4 hours in line every day if you want to eat! Lots of apologies that did not translate into $$$! But in a tray of chocolate covered strawberries! Wow! I decided to relax and take advantage of the Jacuzzi that came with the room. Surprise! It did not work and I could not empty my bathtub as the system to remove the plug was also broken! I just had the time to jump out of my dirty water to let the plumber in. He took care of the sink as well that was clogged since day one... I almost forgot the electrician who showed up to fix the light that did not work in the closet and since we were not provided with a flashlight, we could not see our safe! This is of course in between the endless parades of "managers" who showed up by pairs like good soldiers to "see" the state of our predicament. I was told: our Jacuzzi is "fixed" (sic)... ugh... not really... one spray only! Just enough for one toe! for 3 minutes and then... Nothing! I gave up! I walked out on my balcony in search of a semblance of sanity around this ship, it was nighttime, windy and nice... I wanted to read... The light did not work... Moral of this story? On Imagination, do not forget to pack your Clorox wipes, bring your plumber and your electrician along, do not forget your toaster and BE PATIENT! I have rarely seen so many people so overworked as our staff on this ship. They never stopped working but you still had entire areas with tables filled with dirty dishes and full ashtrays, dirty rails, empty sanitizers (rarely available). The staff all looked worn out. It was pitiful. Often, we had to pick up dirty dishes off the tables to make space for us to eat. Back to slavery, only a modern version of it. I talked to one of the staff on our lunch line and she said she was working 80 hours a week! 8 months in a row, no day off!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This is my first post on Cruise Critic so I really can't be very discriminating, but giving a blow by blow would be counterproductive. This was our third cruise and the longest we have ever taken. To make reading this more interesting ... Read More
This is my first post on Cruise Critic so I really can't be very discriminating, but giving a blow by blow would be counterproductive. This was our third cruise and the longest we have ever taken. To make reading this more interesting I'm posting under what I feel is important to know about the cruise in terms of my own interests; Karaoke: For me this was a huge surprise. After screwing up the courage to do it on the first night, I went up to the mike every other time there was a session. I realized that some of the songs were hopelessly out of my key. I also realized that although I think I have a good voice, some people have amazing voices and really know how to sell a song. I also realized that listening to others sing is a real community builder and such a community formed. I believe I was the first person on the cruise who proposed a duet to another passenger. It was great fun. Others followed suit. All of the people who sang became part of a Karaoke community. We acknowledged one another elsewhere on the boat. Interestingly enough, people I met in other activities, gave me the honour of attending to hear me. The common theme on many of these posts is that those who participated enthusiastically got the most out of any activity. I was particulary struck by this at the Quest scavenger hunt. Some people just sat in chairs waiting for the others to do something. What fun is that? If that's all you're going to do, why are you sitting there? I guess on that principle, I led the Sabbath services the first week. People coalesced around their common activity and another group of 'cruise connections' was formed. Other activities that I did included Trivia. A great group of people got together there. Some people memorize the answers to the questions from one cruise to another, so it's not likely that you'll win, but the intellectual activity is fun. Also, don't be shy about teaming up with others. Frequently our team name was 'Total Strangers' because we were at the beginning. Another piece of advice to bring to this column is that if you intend to skate and are driving to the embarcation, bring your own skates. My wife always brings her own skates and for the first time I brought my own. I'm not a great skater, but there was a real difference when you skate in skates that fit! In general I found the shows by the visiting entertainers more interesting than the in-house staff, which is not to say that I didn't enjoy all the performances. My favorite was the acapella group playing off of Jersey Boys. They were super. Also, I can't believe anyone found the food anything other than superb. We're mainly ovo-lactate vegetarians and we found plenty to eat that was great. Our room concierge was super as well. My fondest memories got to the social staff Gabriel, Helmie and Bas became real friends. I would be super happy to see them on another cruise. Although I don't feel I had a personal relationship with Leigh and Erky, the social director and second-in-command, I certainly felt they were also doing a great job. If the Explorer was staying in Bayonne, I would be sorely tempted to repeat the cruise another year. We'll probably wind up booking Royal Caribbean out of Florida in the future as the Quantum doesn't have an ice-skating rink. Half a week after getting off of the boat in what was truly a grueling procedure, I still have a glow about the trip. If this is retirement, bring it on! Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Even though we've been on 15+ cruises (including 3 Thanksgiving cruises), this was our 1st Christmas cruise.The ship was lovely - decorated with a lots of poinsettias and a huge tree on the promenade deck and greenery in the MDR, but ... Read More
Even though we've been on 15+ cruises (including 3 Thanksgiving cruises), this was our 1st Christmas cruise.The ship was lovely - decorated with a lots of poinsettias and a huge tree on the promenade deck and greenery in the MDR, but that's where it ended. We've never seen such grouchy RCI crew members. They were sad and grumpy - obviously not wanting to be working on a holiday cruise. A crew member told me that she would prefer spending Christmas with her family than working. That was probably a very true statement, but I really didn't want to start feeling guilty for making her work during the holiday. While walking through the MDR on Christmas Day, I said " Merry Christmas" to a ship officer. The reply given was a very loud GRUNT! Thankfully our room steward, head waiter and assistant waiter in the MDR were very friendly and welcomed us with smiling faces every day. We didn't feel that the on-board activities were anything special for the holiday - just your usual belly-flop contest and disco parties. The trivia contests were the usual topics like 80's music and Michael Jackson music. The ship did offer a Christmas carol sing-a-long, but it was held at 11:00PM. I don't know about you, but I'm usually winding down by that time of the evening. Then, if you were lucky enough to be walking through the Promenade deck at 7:45AM on Christmas morning, you could grab a drink of spiked eggnog. Santa came for a visit on Christmas day but they hid him on deck 3 in Studio B. And if you didn't get the kids there before 11AM, you missed the whole thing. There was "ask the captain questions" time on Christmas day, so we asked why there was no Christmas music played on the ship. The answer was that they didn't want to offend anyone, Isn't that why people go on a "holiday cruise" during Dec 25th - - to experience everything the season offers The whole world celebrates Christmas in one way or another. It's a shame RCI felt it offensive to offer some Christmas spirit/cheer on Christmas! Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We sailed on the Christmas Cruise to a sold out ship. Literally every cabin in the ship was booked. Embarkation and Debarkation were smooth and easy. But lines for everything else was an issue. The food was amazing! Really enjoyed the ... Read More
We sailed on the Christmas Cruise to a sold out ship. Literally every cabin in the ship was booked. Embarkation and Debarkation were smooth and easy. But lines for everything else was an issue. The food was amazing! Really enjoyed the Mongolian Wok and the Tandoori on the Lido Deck. For Dinner, we had late dining at the Gold Pearl. Our waiter, Dwain, knew exactly what we would want on every day. The Warm Melting Chocolate Cake was to die for. The lines for the food were long. We waited an hour and a half for the Mongolian Wok on the last day...but it was totally worth it. There were not as many activities as past cruises I have taken, but everyone in our group found some way to stay occupied at any given time. The cruise director, Eli, was funny and chock full of corny jokes, which we enjoyed. In Port Canaveral, we booked a Surf Lesson with the Cruise Line and really enjoyed it. We booked the Catamaran Sail and Snorkel excursion in Nassau, and because of the odd timing, the smack middle of the day, we were only able to spend about 30 minutes in Atlantis. The worst part was that when we got back to the ship, we were told that the trip was cancelled because of bad weather. However, we got a full refund, which was nice. So we spent the rest of the day in the Straw Market and roaming around Downtown Nassau. We have travelled this itenirary a few times and have learned that the best way to enjoy Freeport is to take a taxi to Taino beach and do any watersports there. DO NOT BOOK WITH THE CRUISE. What costs you $75, to parasail, in Taino will run you $100 something onboard. Overall, an enjoyable cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Good - Coco Cay was wonderful. Enjoyed swimming in the beautiful water. The Ship Director and Wife were very good. Our waitress was outstanding. Bad - Sewage smell in our bathroom and hallway. They tried to cover it up by spraying ... Read More
Good - Coco Cay was wonderful. Enjoyed swimming in the beautiful water. The Ship Director and Wife were very good. Our waitress was outstanding. Bad - Sewage smell in our bathroom and hallway. They tried to cover it up by spraying something, which helped a bit. The food was hit and miss, especially the breakfast being not so good. Powdered scrambled eggs. Lasagne at dinner was terrible. The Christmas Brunch was a disaster. Lines went on and on to try to get into the 9 am start. Prices varied for the same drink at different bars. My husbands's prescription sun glasses were stolen from a table we sat at in the bar. Went back to retrieve them and they were gone. Checked with guest services many times -- not there. The Ugly - Our brand new piece of Jeep hard side luggage had a huge dent and crack. We had to wait for almost an hour before they brought it to us. Apparently, they didn't want people to see it on the conveyer belt! The REALLY UGLY -Bed Bugs in Cabin 4060. I took photos of my leg and the bed sheet. Upon reporting this, today, I was told that I have to go through a long legal process for any compansation. Also was told by RCCL that the shorter cruises have more problems. Really? That's nice to know. I'm writing this to let people know of the problems they can encounter on this cruise   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
RATINGS (out of 10): Stateroom 'VA' veranda - 8 Ship condition - 9 Staff - 10 Food quantity/variety - 9 Food quality - 6 Itinerary - 10 Grand Turk catamaran/snorkel - 7 San Juan PR strolling - 7 St. Martin Orient Bay ... Read More
RATINGS (out of 10): Stateroom 'VA' veranda - 8 Ship condition - 9 Staff - 10 Food quantity/variety - 9 Food quality - 6 Itinerary - 10 Grand Turk catamaran/snorkel - 7 San Juan PR strolling - 7 St. Martin Orient Bay Beach - 6 Half Moon Cay - 10 Entertainment - 7 Spa Massage - 1 (one) Gym - 9 Poolside - 6 COMMENTS 1. My wife enjoyed her couples massage, but I felt that my masseuse was untrained. She did not work the muscles, but merely smoothed oil gently over my skin. She hardly touched my neck, which was the #1 area of stress/tension that I told her about. She asked if I wanted hot stones, but failed to mention the $20 extra charge. At the end, the up-marketing began in earnest, as they tried to sell many expensive oils and cremes. When it was all said and done, I felt like I had been ripped off. I've had far better massages for $50-60. 2. I would compare the food to a Golden Corral: Lots of quantity and variety, but the quality is only so-so. Best items were breakfast and the poolside french fries. Not what you could call gourmet. 3. The ship's regular entertainers were only mediocre, but the BB King band had some real talent. Each of the 6 band members held their own individually and as a group, and the 2 singers were outstanding. They will be on the ship until March 2014. I only wish they had actually played blues like BB King, rather than "Rhythm &" Blues. 4. The snorkeling would have been far better if they had done it in 10 feet of water instead of 30-40 ft. And it was about twice too expensive. 5. Fabled Orient beach is small, dirty and trashy. But at least you could get 6 Coronas for only $10. 6. By contrast the beach at Half Moon Cay was gorgeous: super clean, soft lovely sand, good swimming area, BBQ, etc. The clamshell umbrella was a good deal. 7. This was Christmas week, and they tried, but it sure didn't seem like Christmas. More like a "Happy Gingerbread House Holiday." 8. The staff were very friendly, helpful and hard-working. The service was excellent, albeit slow in the main dining room. But they were practically running non-stop, so no lack of effort... just a massive undertaking to serve so many people. BOTTOM LINE Enjoyable and relaxing, maybe an 8.5 score. But we're not sure we'll cruise again soon... will have to weigh cost & convenience vs. a land trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
The MSC Lirica is a medium ship, doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the mega ships but nether less is spotless and service was great. Our teenage family tend to go for an itinary that will engage the kids and this was ticked ... Read More
The MSC Lirica is a medium ship, doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the mega ships but nether less is spotless and service was great. Our teenage family tend to go for an itinary that will engage the kids and this was ticked the boxes. First the ship, seemed identical to the Opera we sailed on in August so new our way roun. This is an Italian ship so dinner is a 7 course Mediterranean affair, no steak, burgers etc but salads, pastas and seafood. With the size you do not get any speciality restaurants. For breakfast we always ate in the MDR not the buffet and was great the rest of the time we were off ship. There is a smoking bat at the one end of the Ship. As this was Christmas there was a great Christmas theme, however, the Xmas service was in Italian. If the shows are vital to you cruise enjoyment, choose another line as it is very Western European, not great from a Brit point of view but not high on my agenda. Arrived from Birmingham at around 7:30 into Dubai, immigration is slow but we will still on board for 10:00 am. The downside to this is disembarkment was at 4:00 am the following Saturday. Dubai Please note there is free wifi in the cruise terminal. We arrived early so took a taxi tour. The taxis are plentiful even for our party of 7. The taxi drivers are all tour guides. Negotiate your price. Typically 500 dirhams for 6 hours, 300 for 3. We visited the deira gold souk, the creek,the magnificent park Hyatt hotel, the Egyptian themed Raffles hotel,the palace,dubathe Flamingos and finally dropped off at the Dubai Mall to go up the Burj Khalifa. Tip pre book online, save yourself a lot of money plus choose a time of your choice. The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world and includes an ice rink, an aquarium and dancing fountains! All on board for 5:30. Abu Dhabi Again taxi tour 300 dirhams as the party wanted to get back for 2:00. The Mosque is fantastic and clothes are provided for women to cover up, cruise card will do as I'd, saw the Sultan's palace, the marina, the F1 circuit and Ferrari world. Sea day ; rained all day!!!!!!!!! Khor fakkan Had a fantastic day at the beach at the lovely 4 star Oceanic Hotel. Take the shuttle bus out of port. Then take the free shuttle bus to the Hotel. The day pass costs 65 dirhams per adult (12 and over) and must be paid in cash. For that you get free towels, sunbed and lounges on beach or pool and a fantastic buffet lunch including non alcoholic drinks. Free wifi in hotel. Never seen so many staff in a hotel. Free shuttle return at 3,3:30 and 4. Muscat Boat docks at Muttrah, old part of Muscat. As this was Xmas day we just wandered around the Souks bartering for fancy dress for New Year and the fish market. Easy to walk to keep the sea on your left 10 minutes. Remember Omani Rial is currency but euros accepted as normal currency, 1 rial is 2 euros. If you prefer taxi tour again plentiful waiting to be negotiated!!!!! Khasab Another favourite day. We pre booked a Dhow tour with Khourshem Tours. A full day visiting telegraph and seema Islands, lunch, snorkelling,equipment and towels provided and non alcoholic drinks cost 32 euros per person. Approx 17 on board. We saw bottle neck Dolphins close up and the Coral round the islands meant some great fish. Very chilled day, the 6 hours flew by. Dubai. For us the kids wanted to go to Wild Wadi by the magnificent Burj Al Arab and part of the jumeirah beach hotel. Wow what a view. Tip buy one get one free vouchers form the Dubai Entertainer are available on ebay for a few pounds.235 dirhams to get in. All in all fantastic taste of the Middle East .   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We had a family reunion on this cruise during Christmas week. There were 21 of us, and our family ranges in ages from 7- 86. Embarkation- This was a mess, and probably the worst part of the cruise. The line seemed to never end, and moved ... Read More
We had a family reunion on this cruise during Christmas week. There were 21 of us, and our family ranges in ages from 7- 86. Embarkation- This was a mess, and probably the worst part of the cruise. The line seemed to never end, and moved very slowly when we got there around 2pm. Some of our family arrived earlier around 11:30 am and did not have a problem checking in. Public rooms- All the public spaces on the ship were great! There was usually a wait for the fitness center, especially at sea days, and there was a 20 minute maximum to use some of the machines. Also, it was difficult getting chairs by the pool on sea days as well, but between the pool area and the Solarium (the adult pool), we could usually find seats. Cabin- We were on the 6th floor and had balconies. We were right above the lifeboats, but they did not block our view much. We had 10 rooms all in a row, and they were able to open up the balconies for us so we could walk from one room to another outside. We really enjoyed sitting out on the balcony each night. The room itself was about average size for a cruise. There were not a ton of drawers in the bedroom but the closet was spacious, and there was some drawer space in the bathroom. There was also a cabinet over the bed that we put our clothes in. Activities- Besides all the musical entertainment, there was not a whole ton to do on the ship. We did go a "Dancing with the Stars" type event, as well as a Not-so-Newlyweds game. There was also an adult comedy club which was enjoyable. There wasn't much to do at all during the day while we were at sea, so we hung out by the pool. Entertainment- All the shows each night were great! Because we went during Christmas week, there was a special Christmas show. In addition, we had 2 American Idol finalists perform one of the nights. Everyone was so talented on the ship, and we got to meet them for a Q & A session. In addition to the shows each night, there were 2 matinee shows on the days we were at sea. The bands around the ship were great too. We always tried to see Uncommon Ground, Top Shelf Duo, and the Vibes perform whenever they were scheduled. Uncommon Ground also performed as one of the matinee shows on the ship. Food (Opus)- Opus is the main (free) restaurant on the ship. The food was great, and our waiters were great as well. There are plenty of options for both the adults and kids. Food (Ocean View Cafe)- The food here was mediocre, but we went here often to have breakfast and lunch as well as snacks. The only negative thing was that the only foods available between 3-4 pm were pizza, pasta, and ice cream. Because these were the only lines open, they were extremely long during this time, especially on the days we were on land because people came back to the ship then. San Juan, Puerto Rico- We went on an excursion through Celebrity at this port. We were delayed getting to Puerto Rico, so we ended up being there from 4pm-11pm. Excursions had to meet in the Celebrity theater and it took awhile for us to get off the ship. We did the bus tour excursion, which was just ok. Old San Juan is very nice, but New San Juan is pretty similar to the United States with all the fast food and chain restaurants. St. Thomas- Once we got off the ship, we found a bus tour. The tour took us to some shopping areas, beautiful views from the top of the island, and to a beach. We got to spend some time in each of these places. St. Maarten- We went here on Christmas, so some of the stores were closed. Right outside the cruise ship is an area with shops and a couple places to eat. We took a cab and the driver gave us about a 1 1/2 hour tour of the island, and we then stopped at Orient Bay (a beach area) for about 2 hours. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013

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