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304 Holiday Cruise Reviews

DH, DD and self were on the Millennium 7 night Holiday cruise from 12/23/07 to 12/30/07. Overall we had a wonderful time, someone once said 'I don't think you can ever have a bad cruise', but the ship was definitely ... Read More
DH, DD and self were on the Millennium 7 night Holiday cruise from 12/23/07 to 12/30/07. Overall we had a wonderful time, someone once said 'I don't think you can ever have a bad cruise', but the ship was definitely overcrowded and the level of service we expect from Celebrity (we are Select Members) was lacking. 12/22/07-We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before and spent the night at the Renaissance. We weren't overly impressed with the hotel. We were stuck in a smoking room in what was advertised as a non-smoking hotel. Also, the gym was very lacking in the weight department, some free weights and some type of weight machines my DH and self had no clue on how to work. For our DD, disappointment in the pool and hot tub was closed for repair. Why they chose the week before Christmas to work on the pool, I'll never know. 12/23/07-Embarkation was relatively painless. It took us 35 minutes from leaving the shuttle to sipping our champagne. It would have been shorter as our paperwork was filled in on-line, but they had us fill out a health questionnaire at the counter. Once on board, we went up to the grill for the first of many hot dogs and fries for DD. At this point, there was hardly anyone on board and we felt it was our own ship. How quickly that changed! Muster drill was fine, always remember safety first! At this point we realized just how crowded this cruise was to be. People everywhere, I know this cruise was a holiday cruise, but we took a holiday cruise in 2004 which was nowhere near as crowded as this one. 12/24/07-DH and self up early to walk on the jogging track. We love to walk in the morning as the sun rises. We were walking as the ship pulled into Nassau, Bahamas. We purchased tickets through Celebrity for The Pirates of Nassau Museum, which is just a short walk from where the ship docked. We can't say enough how much we enjoyed Captain Blah Blah and the Museum! He was hilarious and very informative as was the museum itself. We highly recommend visiting the museum. After touring the museum, we went back to the ship and enjoyed the peace and quiet with everyone off the ship. We actually found loungers by the pool in the shade! DH and self had dinner reservations at The Olympic Restaurant to celebrate, belatedly, our 12th anniversary. Needless to say, the service and food were impeccable. I dream of the goat cheese and chocolate soufflEs. They are my favorite. I especially enjoyed the Chocolate SoufflE as on other Millennium class ships they only offer the Grand Marnier SoufflE. After dinner, we collected DD from Fun Factory and then on to bed. 12/25/07-Christmas! Tried out the gym first thing in the morning. My only complaint with the gym, it's not "officially" open until 7:00 am. DH and self are early risers and like to get our workouts over early. Machines were nice, slightly different then what we are used to, but they did the job. After breakfast, we took DD to Kid's club for crafts and to await Santa's arrival. DH and self went to Guest Relations to reactivate my Sea Pass card which mysteriously stopped working the night before. This actually happened three more times throughout the cruise. Never could figure out why. Anyway, while we were there, the Cruise Director came on the PA saying radar had picked up a mysterious looking object. They played it up very nicely for the kids. We picked our DD up for lunch and found Celebrity had given all the kids her age a wonderful over the shoulder book bag. We were very impressed. After lunch, we went to the pool to find DD who had gone up with her new best friend. We had a hard time finding a chair without a person or a book/magazine in it! We eventually found our DD's stuff right next to her new best friends' parents and spent some time swimming. Hi Alan and Marsha! DH went to art auction while DD and I watched the King of the Millennium contest. We used to love the art auctions, but not anymore. DH had picked a few items to bid on and after several hours sitting in the Rendez-Vous Lounge; the auctioneer still had not gotten to them. The auctioneer was hawking the more expensive selections the ship had. Needless to say, we never attended another auction. No amount of free champagne is worth it. DH and self went to The Martini Bar before our first meal in the Dining Room. Hi Togi! It's a small world, because lo and behold who is at our table but our DD's new best friend and parents. Enjoyed a nice meal with all our tablemates-Willie and Avis along with Alan, Marsha and Marni. Waiters brought a cake and sang Happy Birthday for me. Very nice. 12/26/07-DH and self up early for morning walk as we pulled into San Juan. Ship docked at new pier with fancy awning type thing that came awfully close to ship. Decided to make this a sea day for us and enjoyed the pool without all the screaming kids. DH heard there were 1800 kids on the ship I thought I heard 800 kids. Either way, there were a lot of kids. If you didn't get in a hot tub before 9:00 am, think twice about it. At times there would be 20 kids in one hot tub. Too many germs! After a relaxing day by the pool, stopped at The Martini Bar for a quick cocktail before dinner. Since DD's new best friend was sitting at our table, she joined us for dinner. Nice meal and then to bed. 12/27/07-DH and self took a Yoga class in the morning as we pulled into Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic. Ship was docked at a pier right next to a factory spewing out dark smoke throughout the time we were there; not very tropical. As a family, we took the Bayahibe Beach Break, which was changed to the Coral Canoa Beach Hotel and Spa due to work at Bayahibe. After a short bus ride, we arrived at the resort which was very beautiful and well maintained. We had our choice of the pool or the beach chose the beach which was lovely. The beach was filled with people from the excursion as well as guests from the resort. Warning! The clientele at this resort was European, if you go here expect to see some topless bathing. At the edge of the swimming area were some artificial reefs. The same type Mike Rowe (sp?) made in an episode of Dirty Jobs. DH spent a long time exploring them. The only downer for this excursion was the trip back to the ship. The majority of the people made it back to the rendezvous spot by the appointed time. We sat on the bus as 10 minutes went by after the departure time, then 20 minutes and we still hadn't left. Many of the passengers were grumbling to leave. Finally, one woman went to the organizer and asked why we hadn't left. It turned out a couple had had their picture taken by the resort staff and the delay in leaving was to wait for them to purchase their pictures. Needless to say, this didn't sit well. Eventually, we left the couple there. Rightly or wrongly, the couple did not return to the bus in a reasonable time-should all those that did, have to wait and wait for them? A lot of grumbling for both sides was heard on the way back. I did see the couple later in the voyage, so I know they made it back to the ship in time. Cleaned up and went for our normal cocktail at The Martini Bar and then on to dinner. After dinner, took DD to room while DH and self went to Casino to use our Select Member coupons in the Casino. It was considerably cooler in the Casino although not sure why. Anyway we broke even and went to bed. 12/28/ 07-DH and self up early to walk. Got DD, ate a quick breakfast, and then waited in the theater for tender to Labadee, Haiti. Able to get on first tender of day, therefore, able to get some nice loungers in the shade in the first beach on the left. Enjoyed some peace and quiet until everyone else got off the ship and crowded the beach. DH explored some formations in the ocean before everything got disturbed. The family then explored the island. On opposite side of where ship anchors, seas were very rough and warnings posted everywhere. Due to the rough seas and warnings, no one was swimming. We got to see a few zip liners go by, but the winds must have picked up because they cancelled the rest. We paid to do the water park. Not worth it. My advice, don't bother with it. You only get one hour in the park, which they are very strict about. While it's fun, it surely is not worth the money. After the disappointing water park, took a tender back to the ship and enjoyed some peace and quiet by the pool. Stopped at The Martini Bar before dinner, again. After dinner, we were all tired from the day, so went to bed. 12/29/07-At sea-DH and self up early to work out. DH sat at two chairs while I started to pack and fed DD. DD and self took over the seats while DH went to eat. At this point, it was 8:00 am. Seats all around us had magazines, books, etc. on them to reserve them. As mentioned, either DH or self was sitting in our two chairs from ~7:00 am we saw no one sitting in those chairs. As the day wore on, tempers were flaring. The Pool Butlers were very reluctant to remove anything from a chair, even though it was obvious no one was sitting there. Not helping the situation was the washer/dryers for the pool towels had broken over night so towels were hard to come by. Why one person has to take 10 towels is beyond me? I know I've seen this all over the boards, but why do people have to save seats in the shade and in the sun, without using either for several hours? Or save seats at all? And why can't cruise personnel do anything about it? It is so obvious at 8:00 am, when so few people are in the pool/hot tubs, not all the chairs having stuff on them are actually being used by people and are only being saved. It's a never ending problem that I'm not sure will ever be resolved. Tempers were flaring throughout the day; we observed several arguments in our area alone. Adding insult to injury, they ran out of the plastic cups used around the pool deck. Several officers' and security personnel were walking around, but their presence didn't help people's feelings. After a day like this, we skipped dinner, of course after leaving our tip envelopes on our plates as we didn't see our waiter/assistant waiter. We wandered the ship nibbling on sushi, pasta, and salad, whatever we could find. We picked up DD from kid's club, finished packing, placed our suitcases out, and went to bed early. 12/30/07-Back at Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. Disembarkation was no problem for us-our flight (through Celebrity) wasn't until 4:10 pm. We were in no rush to leave, but eventually we had to. Spent several, several hours in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. Word of warning, they do not let you check in until 3 hours before your flight. So we sat in the check in area until 1:10 pm at which time we were able to check our luggage in. Positives-The Olympic is always a wonderful experience and well worth the $30.00/person charge. The Pirates of Nassau Museum was very informative and Captain Blah Blah was real funny. Labadee, Haiti. I came into this cruise expecting this to be the weak point of the cruise. How wrong I was! It was a beautiful peninsula, with a lovely beach/cove. Don't be afraid to explore the island as there are more beaches than you think. Avoid the water park and the slide, just lame attempts to get your money. Not worth it. Our Sommelier in the Dining Room, sadly I can't remember his name. Togi the Martini bartender was very nice and mixed excellent drinks. Cepepec assistant stateroom attendant. He always greeted us with a smile and a "How are you?" He kept the room up very nicely. Kudos to all the staff, never met one that wasn't pleasant. Negatives-Too many people! On our plane trip back, people from other cruises made the same comment. It appears that all cruise lines overbooked for the Holiday cruise. We have taken a prior Holiday cruise in 2004 which was nowhere near as overbooked as this one, especially with all the kids. The first day or so, we told our DD not to go in the adult only hot tub, however, when you have 20 or so kids crowded in these hot tubs with no one stopping them, and all her friends are going in them, who are we to say no? One time in the T-pool, I told two kids that this was an adult's only area and they weren't allowed. I even pointed at the sign that indicated you needed to be 18 years old to be in the pool, but they looked at me like 'what do you mean I can't be here? I'm a kid I can go wherever I want!' By the end of the week, there were smokers and kids all throughout the T-pool area. I avoided it, even though it's usually my favorite place to relax. Rudeness was another big negative. People seemed to have forgotten their manners once they got on the ship. They were cutting in line, rushing to get in the elevator before you could get out, saving seats, taking more 20 towels for one person, you get the picture. It was so nice to finally get home and not have to deal with people. Again, overall we had a wonderful cruise. In fact, we've just booked on the Solstice for 03/15/09, eager to try the new ship. Our itinerary includes a stop in Labadee, Haiti; we will definitely stay there longer and explore all this wonderful place has to offer. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
The 2008 Thanksgiving Mexican Riviera cruise out of Los Angeles was a mad house. This is a large ship, the largest I've been on with Princess, and there was not enough room for everybody because it was packed to capacity. There was a ... Read More
The 2008 Thanksgiving Mexican Riviera cruise out of Los Angeles was a mad house. This is a large ship, the largest I've been on with Princess, and there was not enough room for everybody because it was packed to capacity. There was a line for breakfast, lunch and dinner no matter where you went including traditional dining every single day! In fact there was always a line everywhere (photos, shops, everywhere). I've never seen this on a Princess ship. I was glad that I loved retreating to my huge aft balcony a lot because it was the only place where I could find enough room! I was on the Ship for 3 days before my nameplate showed up! When I asked the purser to get me a name plate he said that was easy to do but it took him three days! No so easy after all I guess. I had also requested egg crates for the bed but my Steward insisted that I didn't and that there were none left. We had to insist strongly before we got our egg crates. I know my TA faxed the request. Our room was okay; the drawers were broken and had to be messed with to get them closed. The beds seemed smaller and shorter than on other ships but this is my first balcony room and I am used to mini suites so I was in bathroom shock for the first few days. I wrestled with the shower curtain but it often won and wrapped itself around me as if it were my new lover! I finally dealt with the overly amorous curtain by keeping it opened most of the way, which created a small lake but with enough extra towels that was easier for me to deal with! Around the middle of the cruise I noticed that many of my toiletries were empty. The brand new deodorant was depleted, the brand new Elemis products that I had brought explicit for this cruise were empty, my moisturizers were empty, my facial soap and oils were almost empty, my toothpaste was gone, and all of my lipsticks were broken and smashed down. My perfumes were empty, and my sunscreens were depleted too. This was the creepiest experience I had to date on a Princess ship. Clearly my room steward did not like when I complained about not getting the towels I asked for (remember the lake) and not getting our patter one night. I can not think of any other reason why this happened, I did not stiff him and I did not put in any formal complaints. beware of hostile room stewards, I am calling Princess on this guy today! This is my second Mexican Riviera cruise this year and I notice a big difference in the quality of food no new menus here and it just doesn't taste very good. My traditional dining room table assignment made me crazy the first night because I was surrounded by families who let their kids run like banshees through the dining room. One child kept coming up to my table with her dripping nose sniffing my food. Yikes. I asked the Maitre d to change our table. He asked me to come and talk to him every day about whether a table opened up. Gee this is not my idea of a relaxing cruise. I had no intention of complaining again because that makes it worse for me and I can't relax. We switched to anytime dining after the first night. This was the first formal night and there were tons of people everywhere taking formal photos and milling about and I couldn't find anyplace to stand. We got into a line to take a formal photo and it took forever to get to the front. The photographer was being very professional but we always look goofy in this kind of shot. Anyway, by the time we were done, there was a 45 minute wait for anytime dining. It was this way every night. I almost gave up and went to the Buffet but I complained one last time to the purser's desk about our seating and the Maitre D John Paul changed us to the International Dining room and we got a fantastic table for 8 with the best group of people we have met on a cruise so far. We really enjoyed getting such a good (and diverse) group of people, it made dinner so fun. We were always the last table to leave every single night! No meals were real standouts, and none were real stinkers either. The Turkey dinner was rubbery, but I met someone who had a juicy piece so I guess there was some inconsistency. I tried the Fajitas and I hated them with their melted cheese on top and too few pieces of Chicken. There was no ripe fruit on the trip either, no berries except Strawberries, and only the Pineapple was tasty. We couldn't get a reservation at any of the specialty dining rooms because of the massive crowds. . The new waffle bar was good; one of the girls at our table had to get the name of the waffle mixture because she loved it so much. I'm not much of a foodie so I really don't care as long as they have sorbet at desert. I love their sorbet. They are getting the new dinnerware in a few cruises, but no new menus yet! We all suggested that they bring out the waffle bar in the afternoon with the Ice cream (3:30 HC) because those waffles with Ice Cream would be to-die-for. Maybe it's not such a good idea! The chair hogs were out in full force. Although half of the lounges were empty of people much of the time, they were marked with towels and magazines and nobody seemed to care. We asked for help getting a chair but the response (which I heard over and over) is "Madam there is over 700 kids on the ship and we cannot do anything about it". I really doubt it was the children's ideas to save the chairs. I got aggravated and disappointed at paying such a high price for a specific cabin which of course immediately created in me higher expectations for everything. I realize this is a dumb thing to do, and I did really LOVE the huge aft cabin (E735). For a cruise that I take so often (sometimes 2-3 times a year) I have to say that the best one I've ever taken was the one that I paid the cheapest price for because I had no expectations. We did some different excursions this time including snorkeling with sea lions at Las Calates in PV. For some reason they decided to combine the kids' Sea lion encounter with our snorkeling adventure and I ended up getting kicked by 15 children while I felt guilty because I wanted to push them all aside. I paid and extra 75 for the experience, they paid 10. I hated having to be with 15 children since as a teacher I am programmed to watch out for their safety and certainly not ram them aside so I can have my turn. Not what I signed up for, not what I wanted, and not what I paid for! Furthermore, we missed many of the other activities like kayaking, hiking, and snorkeling. Unfortunately, we didn't miss the lunch! All in all for the $174pp we paid through Princess, it was not worth it. Do it independently and skip the Sea lion stuff! I did not complain verbally to Princess because I can't stand the excursion director (who I know from prior ships) so I just wrote up a note and dropped it in their comments box and within 2 hours there was a note in my (finally labeled) room mail box. Princess offered me a 25% discount on this excursion because they were not supposed to combine the tow groups! While this was a nice gesture, I still paid a lot of money for something other than what was advertised. I call that bait and switch! We did a good tour in Mazatlan to the mountain towns of Concordia and Copala which was very interesting. We could only understand about half of what the guide said (Maria), but it was enough to really enjoy. We went to Todos Santos in Cabo and that was pretty interesting. Our guide spoke impeccable English and was very knowledgeable about Baja Mexico, the ride to Todos Santos was beautiful and we saw many whales blowing and breaching from the busall on the Pacific (and none in the Sea of Cortez). The infamous Hotel California is supposed to be in Todos Santos but I don't think it really is. Still, we ate there and they did play the Eagles song over and over and the food was pretty good. The prices in Todos Santos were outrageously high, just like in Cabo; we were not going to pay $20 for a junky fake Hotel California Tee shirt! We would have liked to see more of Todos Santos and less of the shopping opportunities there, still the tour was nice and I would recommend it. The entertainment was good, don't miss Steve Morris, he is a riot! One of the reasons I repeat this cruise is because I love his comedy and he is usually on part of the cruise. He gets the audience singing and involves us in his comedy and it's really fun. His shadow puppets are the best I've ever seen. Bohemian Rhapsody will never be the same for me! Disembarkation was a bummer if you didn't choose walking off with your own luggage. There were few reps around to answer questions and lots of families going wherever they thought they could get off the quickest. It didn't seem like many people were following instructions, and instead they were making up their own rules. I heard one man say" I am an American and I want to get off this boat now!" At least I didn't hear any name calling! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We first sailed on the Majesty OTS Thanksgiving weekend 2007 and truly enjoyed the experience. This time, not so much. Though our staterooms were much better (Superior Oceanviews on deck nine), the cruise was not as enjoyable mostly due to ... Read More
We first sailed on the Majesty OTS Thanksgiving weekend 2007 and truly enjoyed the experience. This time, not so much. Though our staterooms were much better (Superior Oceanviews on deck nine), the cruise was not as enjoyable mostly due to the crew. In the course of a three-night cruise, one of our party of six (DH, me, my mom, DD, DG and a family friend) was denied boarding, one was falsely accused of smoking in her room and the spa receptionist insisted our appointments were for 4:00 not 4:30 - argh! However, in our nine cruises, we have learned to handle the big stuff (flight home and taxi to the airport for FF who was denied boarding; ask stateroom attendant why housekeeping supervisor thought DD was smoking in her room - turns out SA had turned in room 9558 but HS called room 9578 - note the HS never apologized) and blow off the small stuff. We like the design of the Majesty, a smaller ship with a more intimate feel. It is nice to have some of amenities RC is known for such as Johnny Rockets and the rock-climbing wall. However, the spa locker room is a joke: there were six lockers but no keys to lock them with, one toilet, one shower, and a tiny steamroom (think three or four people). No sauna. No ambiance. Just a place to disrobe before your spa appointment. When the ship was refurbished, they should have expanded the spa and locker rooms. The ship had all the usual RC activities: belly flop contest, Love and Marriage, etc. We went to all three evening shows. First one was good but SRO - there is not room for all of the guests so why do they combine the first and second seatings on the first night? We left but watched in our room later. "Signed, Sealed and Delivered" was entertaining - singers and dancers are talented. Juggler on last night and he was fun. Ports were good. Coco Cay - we got lucky and had a warm, sunny day. The water was cold but the hammocks and loungers were perfect. This is a delightful island. Nassau - weather not quite as nice but still enjoyed the water park at Atlantis. Got a room at the Comfort Suites (which included four Atlantis armbands) for $220 total. Nassau needs to fix its taxi system - just take us where we want to go when we want to go. I had to exit the first taxi (van) and tell the driver if we didn't leave now, we would find another way. Who wants to waste 15 minutes waiting for other people? The driver complied but was not too friendly about it. We enjoyed the dining room for breakfast and dinner. Service was top-notch and food was fine. Nothing to write home about but certainly edible. Windjammer was a disappointment - fish was not tasty. Room service was excellent. Our DG, age 8, registered and went to the Adventure Ocean on Friday night. Unfortunately, all the activities were the same as last year so she spent the rest of the cruise hanging out with us. The final insult of this cruise was disembarkation. We were assigned Group 2, and supposed to leave between 8:15 and 9:00. We went to our departure lounge on deck five and notice the line wrapped the entire length of deck four. When we went to join the line, we were told it started on deck seven so two and one-half hours later, we finally exited the ship at 10:00. Lessons learned: 1. Make sure everyone's documents are in order. 2. Get a written spa appointment card. 3. Think twice about repeating a cruise - even a good one. 4. SMILE and have fun anyway - it's your vacation. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My girlfriend and I are in our early 30's. We sailed the Mexican Rivera on the Norwegian Star November 22nd thru November 29th. We took the same Thanksgiving cruise last year on the Star. Last year the cruise was 8 days and had a ... Read More
My girlfriend and I are in our early 30's. We sailed the Mexican Rivera on the Norwegian Star November 22nd thru November 29th. We took the same Thanksgiving cruise last year on the Star. Last year the cruise was 8 days and had a slightly different itinerary. As a ship, I like the Star. This was my 19th cruise and my fourth with NCL. This is my fifth cruise this year - three with Norwegian, one with Celebrity, and one with Princess. Three were short weekend cruises and two were weeklong cruises. My favorite ship that I've ever been on is Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas, which I took in 2002. FOOD I'm a vegetarian. The food on the Star, in general, was mediocre. * BUFFET: The selection of vegetarian food on the buffet was poor. I really like that Princess has the 24-hour buffet - this buffet was often closed between meals during the day and closed for the night at 9pm. Why so early? My favorite buffet food was the pasta station and the Indian food. The cookies were absolutely great. They are using a completely different recipe then they did last year - they were exceptional. We did not see an omelet making station when we went to the breakfast buffet. I am always very disappointed that in the buffet area there are no cold non-caffeinated drinks other then water and milk available. They have the juice in the dispenser at breakfast. Why take it away? Celebrity offers lemonade and fruit juices all day long. If I ordered a pizza at home and got what was on this buffet, I would send it back. Is great pizza really that hard to make? Why can't any cruise lines do it? To be fair the Star's pizza is not the worst cruise pizza I have had. * DINING ROOM: The wait wasn't usually bad, however, we did have to wait about 30 minutes to be seated a couple of times. A couple of nights the service was extremely slow with very long waits between courses - but the other nights were good. The service at Versailles tended to be better then the service at Aqua. The food was plated beautifully but it didn't taste nearly as nice as it looked. Many of the vegetarian options are curries. I love curry but not every night. Why can't they make a hot vegetarian soup instead of these cold fruity ones? Royal Caribbean knows how. Does anybody really like cold soup that much anyway? Last year the Mexican and Italian restaurants were free. We went to both of them last year and were not that impressed. This year you had to pay at both like all of the specialty restaurants. From what I overheard from people who went to them, they still aren't good and defiantly not worth paying extra. This change was disappointing and made the dining rooms busier. The dress code seemed to be much more lax this year compared to last. It made the dining room look unprofessional. I heard some angry people complaining that they could not get in with shorts. My opinion is if you want to dress like a slob, go to the buffet. If you want to go to the dinning rooms, have some class. Nobody is asking you to wear a suit and tie. * BLUE LAGOON CAFE: They changed the menu since last year and had even less vegetarian options. I asked to get one of the sandwiches on the new menu without meat. I was told that they were already made and they could not do that. I would have liked to be able to get a veggie burger at this diner. If they are going to have a diner restaurant like the blue lagoon, why can't they have diner quality food? I don't understand why you have to get your own drinks at a place where they take your order and bring you your food? The French fries I got were really bad. Seriously, how hard is it to make French fries that are crispy and delicious? I would love it if I could get restaurant quality mozzarella sticks on a cruise. I haven't yet. * ROOM SERVICE: We were very impressed with the new room-service menu. Last year it was all cold, stale foods. This year the food came very quickly - freshly made, warm and perfectly cooked. They didn't make any mistakes. The guy that delivered it was always nice. I will say that I wish they had an awesome grilled vegetarian sandwich like the one that Princess has, but this was good anyway. * POOL SIDE FOOD: We didn't eat much out there. The hamburger buns by the pool and buffet were completely stale. Every one was throwing them away and just eating the meat out of the middle. ENTERTAINMENT/PRESENTATIONS/MUSIC We went to at least one show every night. One day we saw 3 shows. We were much more impressed with the shows on this cruise then any other recent cruise. We really enjoyed the comedy group Second City, the juggler Romano Frediani, the Chinese acrobats and the acoustic guitar/singer Jana Seale. The magician Murray wasn't bad. We had a hard time getting seats at several of the shows because the cruise was sold out and they only had one show several times. One show we came about 20 minutes early so we could get seats. My girlfriend has a broken leg and can't stand well. The cruise staff were saving seats for their other cruise employee friends. We asked if we could have two of the seats and they said they were saved for their friends. I don't think a single paying passenger (especially one with a broken leg) should have to stand because there are not enough seats while the staff sits in them. The cruise director Paul Scally was really nice. Last year our cruise director on this ship was Ricky Matthews who was awesome. Paul wasn't as good as him, but he was much better then most other cruise directors. It was obvious that he was trying real hard to do a great job and he was. ROOM AND STATEROOM ATTENDANT We had a balcony. We had the curtains and door open almost the entire time we were in the room. It was great to have fresh air and the sounds of the ocean. The room was clean, seemed to have new carpets, etc. I did have to put a couple of paper shimmies into the ceiling and wall to try to make it a little quieter. Our stateroom attendant was the worst I've had on a cruise. We didn't have any towels of any size the first day, even after requesting them. We did not have washcloths or hand towels until the third day. I had to ask him for bathrobes, which we were already supposed to have in the cabin. When he delivered them, they were without the belts that keep them closed. He never introduced himself. When I first asked him a question in the hallway he said that he wasn't the attendant for our room until another attendant corrected him. He did keep the room clean. DAY 1 - EMBARKATION This process was incredibly smooth and easy. We arrived at the port at noon. It took us about 30 minutes from arriving at the pier to getting on the ship. Our room was ready about an hour after getting on the ship. I like that they are finally offering Champaign when getting on the ship like other cruise lines. It unfortunate that this is the last drop of free alcohol I got for the rest of the cruise. That would not be the case with the other lines. DAY 2 - SEA DAY The first day at sea had pretty rough water. We took motion sickness pills. This night was the first formal night, which only a few people dressed for. Most people in the dining room were just wearing jeans and t-shirts. Other lines have a "captain's cocktail party" where you see the captain and get free drinks for 45 minutes or so. NCL has nothing like this. Other cruise lines also have a "repeat customer" appreciation party in the evening during the cruise. This cruise line has it at 1pm on the day after embarkation - too early to really enjoy free drinks. Seems like they offer it just so they can say that they did, but don't really want people to go. Compared to Princess and Celebrity, and for many other reasons, it is very clear that NCL does not appreciate its repeat customers. DAY 3 - CABO SAN LUCAS The tender system was horrible. Because we didn't get to the port until around 11am and were only at port for a few hours everyone wanted to get off at the same time. It took a couple of hours to get off of the ship. We eventually begged our way off before our turn so that we wouldn't miss our dive boat. We dove with Manta Dive Shop. We dove with them last year too. I'd highly recommend them. DAY 4 - MAZATLAN We were able to just walk off the ship with no problems. We reserved a trip with Randi's Happy Horses after reading about her on cruise critic. We would recommend this trip. Randi and Tony were really nice. We took road and water taxi's to get to Tony's family's horse ranch. Every one was great. The horses are really calm and easy to ride. The ride through the palm tree forest and by the ocean was beautiful. We liked the food and beers at Victors. It cost us around $25 for 2 meals, one appetizer and a couple extra beers (our first drinks were included in the tour). DAY 5 - PUERTO VALLARTA Last year we found a nice hotel called NH Krystal on accident while we were walking along the street. It was really nice. We went back this year. It's about a 15 minute walk from the ship. They have beautiful swimming pools with great $5 piña coladas and $4 bottles of beer from the swim up bar. The ocean access is also great. We swam in the pools and ocean for several hours. DAY 6 - SEA DAY - THANKSGIVING Very rough waters. My girlfriend felt sick all day even with the motion sickness pill. They decorated the entire ship for Thanksgiving (and the next day for Christmas). It was nice. We went to Aqua around 8pm. They said it would be an hour wait. We wanted to make it to the show. They told us to come back at 10:30pm. When we came back they treated us like we were an inconvenience coming too late. Right after we began eating 3 different people came up to tell us they were closing the galley so to make sure that we knew we couldn't change anything on our order. My girlfriend felt really uncomfortable and hardly ate her food just so we could get out of there faster. Not what I envisioned for our Thanksgiving dinner together! DAY 7 - SEA DAY I ate breakfast in Versailles. I ordered the eggs benedict without the meat, little pancakes, and hash browns. It was incredible. I actually ordered a second entire meal and ate them both. For lunch we went to the blue lagoon. Fortunately I was still a little full from breakfast. DAY 8 - DISEMBARKATION It went really smoothly. We ate breakfast in the dining room. There was no line to get off of the ship. It was pretty perfect. Really as good as it can get. The cruise director was standing there saying goodbye as we got off. I thought that was a nice touch. FINAL THOUGHTS At no fault of the cruise line, there were way too many kids on board. The problem is that parents stop parenting on a cruise and the kids are free to be wild and bad. With this many kids they started to get extremely annoying. One think that I found irritating was that during every show there would be lots of groups of people looking for seats and making people get up to let them in throughout the full length of the show. Maybe they should make it a rule that if you can't get there within five minutes after the show starts, you can't see it. I am not saying you shouldn't be able to go to the bathroom and come back. I love to go on cruises. The only reason I keep going on NCL has been because of the excellent rewards from the NCL credit card. It was not hard to earn free cruises. Effective January 1, 2009 they are changing that and I will have no incentive to go NCL. If I am paying full price, I don't see why I would ever choose to go with NCL again. Princess offers anytime dining which means you eat when you want, with whom you want. That was one of the things I liked about NCL. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My husband and I booked this cruise in February 2008 and took the trip during Thanksgiving week. I will begin with the positives: -The service was incredible. Our waiters were wonderful, sweet, attentive, great at their job, and even ... Read More
My husband and I booked this cruise in February 2008 and took the trip during Thanksgiving week. I will begin with the positives: -The service was incredible. Our waiters were wonderful, sweet, attentive, great at their job, and even provided us with some brain teasers and tricks on most of the nights. They couldn't have been better, in our opinion. -The shows were wonderful. We really enjoyed having a show to attend each night before or after dinner. The entertainment was obviously not the best we've ever seen in our lives, but they did a great job and we were entertained. -The casino was fun, despite losing a bunch of money! The dealers were pleasant and we enjoyed our time there. -Our cabin steward was nice, attended to our requests, and left us with a new "towel animal" each night during turndown service. Now for the negatives: -The ports of call were terrible. Nassau is a dump. St. Maarten (on the Dutch side) is a dump. St. Thomas looked decent, but we did a snorkeling excursion and didn't get to see much of it. But we did take the skyride to Paradise Point and the service and cost were not worth it. The view was nice, however. When we got to the top, we intended to eat at the restaurant and watch the sunset, but we were informed that the power was out and they couldn't serve us. So we asked for our money back for the skyride and they gave it to us. -We booked all 3 of our excursions on the first day of our cruise right after embarkation. However, 2 of the three were cancelled due to "lack of interest". When we booked a second excursion to replace one that was cancelled, THAT was cancelled also!!! So we were forced to do our 3rd choice in St. Thomas. We have been snorkeling in Hawaii and Jamaica and let me tell you, the snorkeling in St. Thomas is a distant third. NOT WORTH IT!!!! Do not do the "shipwreck cove" snorkel excursion, it's not worth the money. We also did the "lagoon kayak" excursion in St. Maarten and it was sub-par as well. The water was beautiful, but the view was marred by the fact that there is nothing but squalor and shantys along the beachfront. -The deck and beach chairs were a huge pain. We wanted to sit outside on the sea days, but when we went up to get some chairs, we found entire families had saved chairs with their towels, books, shoes, etc. and then left. One person would be sitting there with 5 or 6 chairs saved. It was ridiculous. We had the hardest time trying to find chairs in the sun because people were rude about "saving" chairs for their family or friends who were off eating or in the pool or wherever. -As a young couple (25), we got bored on the ship. We would have loved to see more comedy shows, take some dance classes, or even see some movies. The Amber Palace would have been great to show movies on a big screen. We found ourselves bored after the show was over and we had nothing to do except gamble. So we slept a lot. This cruise is ok if you have a family or if you are an older couple. We just expected more adventure and more activities. The Glory does an OK job of having lots of activities to participate in. However, if you are a young couple, you will get bored. You will only be able to gamble for so long. After that, there's not much to do to hold your interest. We rated the cruise a 6 out of 10 because the staff was nice and accommodating, the food was pretty good, and the ship was clean. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
First of all, I'm not normally compelled to write an online review. Second of all, this will most likely be part of a letter being sent to RCI (as our room steward chose not to give us the ship's questionnaire our last night ... Read More
First of all, I'm not normally compelled to write an online review. Second of all, this will most likely be part of a letter being sent to RCI (as our room steward chose not to give us the ship's questionnaire our last night onboard)... Check-in and embarkation went great. I was traveling with my 83 year old mother who is on a portable oxygen concentrator and in a wheelchair, along with my 82 year old aunt (her sister), a second cousin and a brother onboard the Voyager of the Seas. The RCI staff in Galveston could not have been any more pleasant and helpful. We used EZ Cruise parking, but that's for another review. We arrived about 10am, hoping to board early as we did on Carnival last Christmas. First little snag we ran into was the checkin clerk sent us to the side to have a seat until they were ready to board the ship. (Keep in mind, my mother is on oxygen - highest setting which is 6/lpm and a battery life that is limited on her machine). I kept watching people go up the stairs and elevator, and nobody else seemed to be congregating where we'd been sent. When asked again, a staff member told us they were not boarding yet. But we continued to watch dozens of people walking through the hallway and disappearing into the walkway toward the ship. I decided to go into the hallway myself where I asked someone if the ship was ready to board - he said yes, they've been boarding for a while now. Ugh. Once onboard, we were told to wait in another area as the staterooms were not ready. I was quite anxious to see if Mom's oxygen cylinders and concentrator had been loaded, so asked a crew member if I could peek in her room. He was very sweet and walked with me to check. As planned, CareVacation had placed everything in the room. Whew. We went to the 11th floor buffet (Windjammer) and were very impressed with what we saw. It was beautiful. Snacked a little there, and began plans for dinner. We had heard a lot about the delicious burgers and marvelous fries and onion rings at Johnny Rockets. For $3.95, you get the WORST hamburger and onion rings imaginable. Was not fit to eat. Strike one. Later that evening, my cousin and I went to one of the bar areas on the promenade and waited for an eternity for someone to ask for our drink order. After finally getting up and finding someone ourselves, we enjoyed watching people wander around the beautiful 5th floor shopping area. Was really impressed with the beauty of the ship. The rest of the cruise, we experienced an inattentive staff at nearly every turn. At breakfast in Windjammer Cafe, not ONCE did any staff member take the initiative to approach us to ask for our drink requests. It is not an exaggeration to say we had to seek out someone every time we went in there. Most frustrating. The dining staff in La Boheme was superb. Our waitress and asst waiter were outstanding. Used our first names frequently, which was a nice touch. However, the food was an embarrassment. Sure did miss the food we enjoyed last year on Carnival Conquest, especially the molten chocolate cake. Yummy. Nothing like that on Voyager. The food was bland and often cold. Steaks were tough and chewy. But the service was superb in the dining room. Room service food was marginally better than the regular food outlets. THe only edible hamburger on the ship was through room service, but it arrived quite cold after a 50 minute wait. THey forgot the chips for our sandwiches (big deal, I know), so we enjoyed those as dessert after another 20 minute wait. Finally we met our room steward on the third day. Third day? Yes, third day. The room was musty smelling and the hallway reeked of cigar smoke most of the time even though we were in a hallway where all the rooms had non-smoking symbols on the doors. Glad we had a balcony so we could get fresh air. Our room steward did an ok job on cleaning, but lacked personality - didn't even leave us a towel animal until the fifth day. Not that a towel animal is a make or break deal. But it is a nice little touch. Spa staff was the best I've experienced on a cruise ship. We went horseback riding in Grand Cayman, and afterward I had spasms in my upper back from an old auto accident injury. One of the massage therapists (Tessa) got me right in and did the most amazing deep tissue work I've ever had. The next morning, I awoke a new person. Thanks, Tessa! We were also snubbed by a preoccupied crew member at the Cafe Promenade, where the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream beckoned to us on a daily basis. The boy was too busy flirting with the cute little teenagers and couldn't be bothered to wait on us post-20 year olds. His shift mate was a young woman with far more patience than I have. She was doing all the work, bless her heart. Getting off the ship was another chore. They made us wait in a crowded bar area where folks decided it was a good time to light up the cigarettes. Keep in mind, mother on oxygen and in a wheelchair... hmmm. Not a good combination. Looking around the area, which was the holding area for ALL the wheelchairs and people needing assistance, there were other people in respiratory distress. I asked a crew member if they were allowing smoking, and we were told we could move to another area. We gathered all our bags and moved into a dining room. If not for the help of a sweet little crew member who saw my distress, we might still be trying to get out of there. It was by no means a disastrous cruise, and we did enjoy the ship very much. But overall in my list of preferred cruise lines, RCI is at the bottom of the list behind Carnival, Princess and Norwegian. Once you could corner a crew member, they were nice enough. It was cornering them which proved to be exhausting. We'll choose Carnival next time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We boarded MSC's Poesia with an open mind. I have read many poor reviews, but we paid a very reasonable price for an 11 night Christmas family cruise, and you shouldn't expect to get champagne if you pay only for sparking wine! ... Read More
We boarded MSC's Poesia with an open mind. I have read many poor reviews, but we paid a very reasonable price for an 11 night Christmas family cruise, and you shouldn't expect to get champagne if you pay only for sparking wine! The ship is quite superb! It is among the best I have ever sailed on, public rooms were attractive and in very good taste, and kept immaculate. Cabins were kept beautifully clean, and are spacious and more than adequate. We encountered very heavy seas on more than one occasion, and this large vessel coped well with the conditions. We were on a winter cruise, but did note that the lack of open deck space might be an issue in a warmer climate where more time would be spent outdoors. The food onboard was very hit and miss. As other reviews suggest, if your taste is conservative (steaks, lobsters, roasts) then go elsewhere, but if you are prepared to try the Italian flavors, the risottos, pastas, soups and salads were generally quite good. I would say, however, that whilst we always managed to find something fit to eat, none of the meals would really rate as much more than adequate. Getting really hot food seemed virtually impossible, with the exception of breakfasts in the main dining room. MSC prices are initially inviting, but onboard drinks and extras mean that overall it's not as cheap as it seems. Mineral water is charged for, which I had expected, but the excessive charges soon accumulate, although the euro exchange rate is hardly MSC's fault, and that is partly responsible. We allowed our son just two tins per day of his favorite soft drink, but that alone put £70 on our bill at 2.8 euros a time. We did learn to buy water ashore, and chill it in the minibar which we had asked the maid to empty, but alcoholic drinks could not be brought onboard, and were sold at astronomical prices. A gin and tonic set me back 5.8 euros, and wines too were charged at high prices. A beer package, which was 14 glasses of 40cl of lager, was 59 euros Our son, aged 14, didn't attend the kids club as he was the only English speaker on day one, and didn't go back, but he did eventually meet other teens and have some fun. Many other little charges contribute to the bill. We were able to walk rather than use shuttle buses, but at 7 euros for a five minute drive, I'm glad we're able bodied. We rarely take shore excursions, (as the are usually an expensive rip-off on every cruise line afloat) but MSC even charge 50 cents for the photocopied port maps usually given out free of charge. The entertainment was also hit and miss. Singers in the bars were little better than poor pub karaoke standard, with one exception. Frequenze Retro, the gypsy jazz band who played every night in the wine bar, were quite exceptional, and possibly the best onboard band I have ever seen. We have cruised with several lines, and unfortunately can't recommend MSC for us. The prices of better quality lines such as Cunard and RCL may initially seem more, but MSC get the cash from your pocket in the end. If, however, you don't drink, are not too fussy about your food, and don't need transport ashore, you just might manage a bargain cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My mother, my brother and his friend and I cruised on the 5 night Christmas cruise. I have been on 5 cruises (Celebrity to Russia and Baltic, Caribbean, Western Med and Oceania to South America, plus a river cruise to Eastern Europe). My ... Read More
My mother, my brother and his friend and I cruised on the 5 night Christmas cruise. I have been on 5 cruises (Celebrity to Russia and Baltic, Caribbean, Western Med and Oceania to South America, plus a river cruise to Eastern Europe). My mother has also cruised on Crystal and Seabourn. We have never cruised for shorter than 10 days. This was my brother's first cruise. We decided to try NCL because of the "Freestyle" dining where we could eat when and where we wanted. The number of specialty restaurants was also very appealing. In addition, the abundance of Asian food, including Shabu Shabu is hard to come by or non-existent on most lines. My brother likes to dress casually and we decided Celebrity would probably not work for him. We thought considering everything NCL was our best option. Embarkation: This was a nightmare. It took a least an hour just to get to the check in desk. We had all our paperwork and quickly got our SeaPass. Not sure why the lines moved so slowly. It was the most unorganized embarkation I have experienced. Once onboard we went up to the Garden Cafe (Tsar's was already closed) because the cabins were not ready. As soon as we sat down the announcement came that the cabins were now ready. We were not impressed with the choices in the cafe. I chose a bunch of different items but it was all unappealing. Stateroom: We were in BA 10168 Aft. I received a call a few days prior to the cruise asking if we wanted to upgrade to a mini suite for $320. I really wanted to try the aft location so kept my original choice. We were very pleased with stateroom location. The room was a little smaller than on other lines. The colors were also not to our liking (purple and orange sofa, orange and pink carpet, blue drapes, you get the idea). But the layout was good. There were two large pillows on each bed. The safe was large and very deep. We requested two lounge chairs for the larger aft balcony which took 3 requests. The balcony was the best part of our cruise and lived up the positive reviews on Cruise Critic. It was an added plus that not once did we smell anyone smoking. This was a great worry of mine prior to the cruise. The bathroom is divided in 3 sections: Shower with door, Sink, and toilet with glass door. The bathroom feels smaller because of the separate compartments. I think the door for the toilet might be unnecessary. There was also a glass ashtray attached the wall in the toilet area. Could have done without that too. The toilet area is very small and anyone over six feet must feel very squished. The best part about the bathroom was the dispenser of Elemis lavender hand wash next to the sink. I loved the soap! It was so soothing. As for the rest of the cabin, the telephone is in a strange place on a table near the sliding glass door. The closet had over a dozen hangers which was a nice surprise. The television was an old CRT 13 inch. It was very hard to watch. I usually don't watch much TV on a cruise but the size of this one made it nearly impossible. Crew: The crew was very professional and eager to please. When our stateroom attendant introduced himself he added that he was responsible for 32 staterooms. Our room was cleaned promptly everyday. I really liked the wheel outside the room that you can turn indicating Do Not Disturb, Make up room, or turn down. Our fruit bowl was replenished everyday but once the bananas were soggy they were not removed. The crew were vigilant in the sanitation of spritzing everyone with germ cleanser. They even have the dispensers in the elevators. Entertainment: We went to 2 ¼ shows. I say ¼ because we only saw the last 15 minutes of Band on the Run which was more than enough. The theater is a nice size but the stage is so small. They also do not have tables between the seats like they do on Celebrity. We also saw the Second City show which was pretty good. Cirque Bijou was ok. It was mostly dancing and singing with some acrobatics. There was one very talented and very thin young woman who was essentially a contortionist. The other performers just sort of danced around her. Celebrity used to have the traveling Cirque de Soleil show. The Celebrity show was far superior. The crew and captain joined at the last show singing the gooey "We are Family". However, it was nice to see the captain and senior officers. Food: This is so subjective but here are our thoughts. We only ate in the specialty restaurants, Garden Cafe and Blue Lagoon. As I already mentioned the Garden Cafe was unappealing for Breakfast or Lunch. Eggs were watery, Eggs Benedict too cooked, and selection of cheeses was very poor. The smoked salmon was just ok. The lunch items were more varied but again just couldn't find much that I liked. For our first night we had dinner in Cagney's. I had the twin lobster tails and everyone else at our table of four had the Surf and Turf. The meal was good but the service was lacking. Our waiter accidentally pushed all the sautEed mushrooms off my mother's plate while removing the lobster from the shell. I am not faulting him. However, he did not bring any additional mushrooms as they were now on the table and my mother's wine glass. He also did not clean up the mess. The Cagney fries were soggy. The Kahlua Crème Brule was excellent. I finished it in 5 seconds. The next day we had lunch at Blue Lagoon. It was not good. Won Ton soup had no taste. The chef salad was embarrassing. Very small and the ham was too fatty. My mother had the stir fried pork which she said was just ok. We had dinner in Le Bistro that night. It was a great disappointment. I had read such positive reviews of this restaurant and I was very much looking forward to it. The Escargot was nothing special. The Foie Gras appetizer was good. The frise salad was uninspiring. Just some frise with a tiny bit of fig and a smidgen of Roquefort. Main courses were both terrible. Chicken with stuffed Foie Gras was almost inedible. My mother had the Duck for but had to send it back. She ordered the steak instead. We have eaten in many French restaurants and were not expecting Michelin stars but Le Bistro was probably the worst "French" food we have ever had. The food did not actually seem very French. The Chocolate Napoleon for dessert was good. The nicest part of the meal was that we had a seat near the window and could see the ocean. We visited Le Bistro on the last day for the Jazz Brunch. They have items that you can serve yourself (quiche, salmon, French toast, Caesar salad) and then you order a main course or two if you wish from the al a carte menu. I had the filet with prawns which was very good. Everyone else seemed to enjoy the meal. The best food for us on this cruise was in the Asian restaurants. Both the Mongolian Hot Pot (Shabu Shabu) and the Chin Chin (Chinese food) were excellent. We also had sushi one night. They don't have hand rolls (temaki) on the menu but you can request it. The Shabu Shabu was delicious. Ports: This was only a 5 night cruise with 2 ports, Cayman and Cozumel. Tendering in Cozumel was a zoo just to get to the tender. It seems about 90% of the people were doing their own thing in Cayman so everyone was going to the tenders at once. It took over 40 minute in very crowded hallways and stair wells just to make it to the tender for the 5 minute ride to shore. We had not been in Grand Cayman since 1981. I think it was much nicer back then. We visited 3 or 4 of the shopping arcades and then went to lunch at the Ritz Carlton. It was very windy and raining by the time we reached the hotel. The Ritz was wonderful. We ate at 7 which is on the beach but indoors. My mother had the penne pasta and I had the chicken curry with mango chutney. Both were delicious. As it was blustery outside we walked around the hotel and browsed their two shops. We had some trouble getting a taxi from the hotel back to port. Finally flagged one of the mini-buses down. When we returned to ship my brother told us his Stingray excursion was cancelled due to the weather but not until they brought them all ashore and tried to sell them an alternate excursion. My brother and his friend ended up drinking in Cayman for part of the day. His friend had been looking forward to the Stingray encounter since she was six years old. She was very disappointed but I clearly understand if it was not safe to go NCL did the right thing. The next day we visited Cozumel which thankfully was not a tender port. We got off the ship without delay and took a short taxi ride to Dolphinaris. This was our first dolphin encounter. The entire experience was very positive. Dolphinaris personnel are extremely professional. The entire program was well organized. Each participant was fitted for a life vest. Then we were given a locker for our clothing and personal items. Cameras are not allowed in the pool area but I knew that before booking. The pool area is quite large and right on the ocean. We had 60 minutes with the dolphins doing a kiss, handshake and belly ride. Afterward you can buy photos that they will put on a disk. The first 5 photos (just the dolphins) are free. Four photos of kiss, ride were $67. There was also a video of our encounter for purchase but we did not watch it. Our admission to Dolphinaris was booked online. $238 for two people. After the dolphins we walked all the way back past the dock to calle 6 where we had lunch at Guido's. The food and ambience in the courtyard were wonderful. I had the lasagna and my mother had the snapper. We also had freshly made Pisco sours. They were almost as good as the ones in Chile. When we finished lunch we walked the gauntlet past all the shopkeepers back to the ship. Actually we did not think the shops were too aggressive. Most of them were pleasant. Our last day on the cruise was at sea and was very relaxing. On our first day I had purchased one of the downloaded newspapers (New York Times) for $3.95 each. Unfortunately the equipment was not working on our last day to download any of the newspapers so I read my book and relaxed on the balcony. Disembarkation: A breeze. Did express walkoff. We use the Heys luggage which is small and light. Both my mother and I were stopped and asked separately if we had ALL our luggage! It is amazing how much can fit in the small HEYS carryon. In summary, in the future NCL will probably not be our first choice. It was a pleasure to eat when and where we wanted but the food quality and choices were disappointing. NCL excels in the Asian food department which is not surprising given the 50% ownership by Star Cruises. The Jewel is not that old, yet the stateroom dEcor felt dated. A refurbishing could change the entire feel of the cruise. A toned down interior with white and blue or maroon would be more soothing. I would suggest making Azura a bar instead of a restaurant. The bar areas on deck 6 are just too chopped up. The lobby on the Jewel is atrocious. Anything they can do to change it would be an improvement. We did not use the spa but liked the prices. They were willing to do a flat iron for $15 instead of the full $75 if you did not want a wash. The Fitness Center is a little too small. It is nice it is open 24 hours. The pool area was very crowded and we did not use it. There is a lot of promenade space on the Jewel. I think this makes the interiors feel narrower and smaller. It was odd in Cagney's to have the promenade outside where people could walk by. The large aft balcony, lavender hand wash and large pillows were the highlight of the cruise for me. We had a good time on the cruise but it was not a great time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We drove down to Miami from Virginia, stopping at Cocoa Beach for the night before continuing on to the port. We stayed at the Best Western in Cocoa Beach, which was fine, and reasonably priced. We arrived at the Port of Miami around ... Read More
We drove down to Miami from Virginia, stopping at Cocoa Beach for the night before continuing on to the port. We stayed at the Best Western in Cocoa Beach, which was fine, and reasonably priced. We arrived at the Port of Miami around 10:30am, which seems to be a good time to get there. Parking was very easy (although somewhat expensive). They do take credit cards at the lot across from the pier now (apparently, they used to only take cash). You have to pay up front, $20 per day). I dropped on my wife and kids and luggage and went and parked the minivan. We had the luggage tagged and then proceeded to embarkation. For some reason, the porter tagged our luggage using a yellow highlighter, so one of our bags didn't make it to our room later because it couldn't be read (duh!). Embarkation was very smooth - we were through the process and in the holding area shortly after 11am. We were not allowed on the ship until shortly before noon. When we got on board, we were greeted with glasses of champagne and shown where to store our carry-on luggage before our cabin was ready. We then went to the Garden Cafe to grab some lunch. The buffet was fine - not spectacular, but not bad. About what we'd expect our first day. We then went out to the pool area to look around and then walked around the ship to try and familiarize ourselves with it. I checked out a book from the library at that time. After we'd looked around, the kids went swimming while my wife and I people watched and waited for when we'd set sail. I must say, that looking out at the lines waiting to get into the garage, I was glad we arrived early. The ship has a "sail away" party on deck, which a Caribbean-themed band and drink specials (we didn't try the special drink, but the price wasn't anything special - $8.50, which included a souvenir "glass" that was actually plastic). We opted for the bucket of beers, which is 6 beers for the price of 5. That was a special all week, in all the bars. I would recommend bring along a bottle opener if you are a beer drinker, so that you can open them at your leisure. If you don't finish all the beers in one sitting, you can take them back to your room and store them in your refrigerator. Overall, we thought the prices for alcohol were not too bad, although we'd stay away from the souvenir glasses, all of which are plastic. Overall, we were underwhelmed by this cruise. We had not cruised for more than 10 years, and this time we brought our three boys, aged 15, 11, and 8. They made their own friends on board and did not partake in the kids programs, so we don't have a review on those programs. We hated the fact that we were constantly being hounded to buy more stuff, both on the ship and on Great Stirrup Cay. Every show began with a pitch to buy scratch-off type strips that went for 5 for $20 at first and then 6 for $20 later in the week. If you must buy those, definitely wait until the end of the week, when they start throwing in lots of inducements like t-shirts and such. We decided that the "Freestyle Cruising" concept is not for us. Even though set seating times do force you to plan, we liked the idea of meeting and eating with other people every night at dinner. On other cruises, we found it a good opportunity to discuss what we liked and didn't like about ports, excursions, shows, etc. We really missed that interaction this time around. We also grew tired of the Venetian and Aqua, both of which served identical menus, which changed little, day-to-day. The ambiance in the Venetian is really nice, however. If you have the opportunity to sit in the rear of the restaurant in the morning for a sit-down breakfast, you won't regret it - the view off the stern is really nice. We ate at two of the fee-for-eat restaurants on board: Salsa and Le Bistro. Salsa we found to be average, although our waiter was excellent, very funny and performing magic tricks for the kids. Le Bistro we ate at by ourselves, having sent the kids to the Blue Lagoon, which has pub-type food that kids love. We liked Le Bistro - the food was well prepared, and the chocolate fondue for dessert was heavenly. It was, however, the only meal we had all week that really filled us up. If you're worried about gaining weight while sailing on the Dawn, you'd have a hard time doing so. The portions at the restaurants are pretty small, and at the Venetian and Aqua the service is slow enough that you'd definitely think twice before ordering more of something, even though I'm sure you could if you wanted to. The Chocoholic Buffet was not as great as it sounds. The lines were quite long, and most of the desserts were OK, but not elaborate or exotic by any means. We ate lunch each day either at the Garden Cafe buffet or at the hamburger-hot dog buffet on deck. Those days were were in port, we ate in port. And speaking of ports, we would never again go on a cruise that requires tenders for more than one port. If we had not been scheduled for a shore excursion in Samana, we might never have made it off the ship. As it was, we were 45 minutes late getting off. We went to Cayo Levantado, which was beautiful. The snorkeling was not very good, however, just as a word to the wise. The beach was very nice. The kids ate at the hamburger buffet that was maybe a little pricey for what they got, but I figured I wasn't in the DR to eat American pub food, so I went to the other little cafe-type restaurant and ordered the fish, which they said was their specialty. It took awhile (could have been two Presidente beers worth), but I wasn't disappointed. While I have never eaten a fish presented with the head and tail still on, it was truly delicious. I was forced to buy another Presidente to go with it - what choice did I have? Before I go further - absolutely, positively DO NOT buy the bottled water on board ship before going ashore. You can easily buy $1 bottles wherever you get off, whereas they want $2.50 to $3.50 on board. Our next port was St. Thomas, the shopping mecca of the Caribbean islands. If you have not booked a shore excursion, I'd encourage you to take a quick taxi ride into town rather than shopping at the Havensight Mall, right next to the pier. The shopping in town is much better. If you plan to go to Magens Bay beach, which we did, don't bother booking the shore excursion - you can do the exact same thing yourself for quite a bit less. You just hop aboard one of the taxis that go there constantly, at $8 per person each way, and then just relax on the beach. You can book a shore excursion called "Magens Bay Beach Getaway," that involves exactly the same taxis going to exactly the same beach, with nothing more than that. Taxis go back to the ship every 10 minutes or so so there's no way you could ever miss the ship as long as you didn't cut it too close. The view from the top of the hill going to the beach is spectacular. You'll want to take photos, so have your camera out and try to sit on the end of the taxi seat. The next port is Tortola, which has a pier. We booked the Virgin Gorda Baths and Snorkel, which we were really looking forward to because we honeymooned in Virgin Gorda at a resort right next to the Baths. Unfortunately, the weather was such that our safety could not be assured on that excursion, so they took us to Norman Island for snorkeling (at $10 less per person), after giving everyone the opportunity to cancel. The snorkeling at Norman Island was very good, even if the weather was still a little iffy. On the way back they gave us rum punches that were more rum than punch, and we got back to the ship maybe a little tipsy! The final port was Great Stirrup Cay, after a day at sea. Even though NCL seems proud it has owned its private island for 30 years, it amazes us that they never seem to have noticed that GSC is too small for such a large number of guests. If you have not booked a shore excursion, you have to get a tender ticket for each member of your party, beginning at 7:30am. If you are not in the first couple hundred, you will wait and wait and wait to get ashore. And when you get there, you will have to scrounge for a decent chair and a little patch of sand to put it on. We were packed in like sardines. And to make matters worse, NCL charges $25 to rent a large float for the kids to play on - a float I seriously doubt cost $25 to begin with. And they wanted $29 to rent adult snorkel equipment and $15 for kids. They only rent them "by the day," even though you realistically cannot use them for more than about 3-4 hours. Oh, and the water was freezing cold - there's no way I was going to get in there to snorkel. One huge bright spot - the entertainment was fantastic. The Jean Ann Ryan company of singers and dancers were amazing - the acrobatics were stunning and the singing and dancing were superb. The Second City show is not to be missed - it is really hilarious. The magician was very good, as well, but the comedian has seen better days. Overall, the ship was clean and well laid out. The staterooms are decent sized, and the bathrooms are as well. We booked last-minute, so we had an inside stateroom (actually two), and we were quite satisfied with them. We never actually met our stateroom steward, which is much different than on previous cruises. Because of the automatic tipping policy, I don't think the staff have a lot of incentive to "go above and beyond." Our deck waiter, Ryan, did though, so we gave him a separate tip. We opted out of the automatic tipping policy, preferring to give our own tips. This can be done by visiting the reception desk on Deck 7. They were quite alarmed at our decision, and made us sign a form. We gave our cabin steward a separate tip for each stateroom. Because we had a long drive back to Virginia, we opted for the Express Disembarkation, which required us to take our own luggage off the ship. We were notified around 7:20am that we could disembark, and by 7:45, we were in the car and on the road. Very quick and painless. We had a very nice time on this cruise, mostly because we were warm while all our friends back home were freezing! But we are concerned that Norwegian is becoming (or has become) the new Carnival - an emphasis on mediocrity at a good price. We probably will go back to Royal Caribbean next time we cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Poesia Xmas 2008 Embarkation in Genoa was the usual organized chaos we have come to expect from MSC. Our scheduled sailing time was 16.00, so we arrived at 15.00, having checked in on-line. With MSC Club priority boarding we expected to ... Read More
Poesia Xmas 2008 Embarkation in Genoa was the usual organized chaos we have come to expect from MSC. Our scheduled sailing time was 16.00, so we arrived at 15.00, having checked in on-line. With MSC Club priority boarding we expected to waltz straight on board. Hope springs eternal! In fact we got our cruise cards right away, but were then given a boarding number and asked to go into a waiting room full of hundreds of passengers. No thanks. We went off for a drink in the bar in the terminal. Twice. We finally boarded at 16.15, having waited for ten minutes for security. Someone told me we eventually set sail at 18.00. First impressions of the ship were as expected, with everything ship-shape as it should be on a six month old ship. She really is a magnificent vessel. The public rooms and staterooms are tastefully decorated, and everything is pristine. I witnessed officers and crew alike, constantly running their fingers over every flat surface in a hunt for the slightest speck of dust. Our balcony stateroom on deck twelve aft was nicely furnished, with a reasonable size shower room, and very comfortable. Unfortunately it suffered from terribly unpleasant vibration at eighteen knots plus in a rough sea, gale force 8. Others reported vibration from their cabins in that same area. One phoned reception to complain and the Chief Housekeeper came to investigate. They should have sent the Naval Architect who designed the darned thing! The Grappolo d'Oro is a nice bar with Italian snacks (chargeable)where they serve a good selection of quality Italian wines, that are not on the regular wine list. There is also a knowledgeable sommelier (the only one on the ship) to discuss our wine choices. The passenger mix is predominantly German, with many Italians, Brits, a sprinkling of Yanks and then lots of other nationalities. We travelled on her sister ship Musica a year ago and had a great time. Unfortunately, since then cost-cutting accountants appear to have taken over the helm, and examples of penny-pinching abound. There is a 4 Euros minimum internet charge, 4.40 Euros to log on to the GSM phone system, plus call charges on top. No tap water is served at table in the restaurant - you must pay through the nose for bottled. The "speciality" restaurant (really just a section of the buffet with tablecloths on) has an 18 Euros supplemental charge, and guess what? - a supplement of 8 Euros on top of that if you want shrimp! 10-15 Euros to watch a year-old movie on your TV? The orange "juice" served for breakfast appears to be the "nectar" type, i.e. 25% juice and 75% sugar water. You can buy freshly squeezed juice: nearly 4 Euros for a small glass. A photocopied city map from the tour office? 50c! A pizza in the evening? 7 Euros. A free daily newsletter with news and sports results from home? You must be joking! At the Captain's Cocktail party, only the four drinks on the waiter's tray are available, and they wait till the room is half full before serving you any drink, so as to cut down on consumption. You can't even buy a drink whilst you are waiting, as the tills are not open. But the nickel and diming is at its absolute worst in the buffet at lunch. The ice and hot and cold water machines are shuttered and padlocked like Fort Knox, in case you try to get a free glass, and there is a notice on the water dispenser warning "It is not permitted to fill your own bottle", for when the vault is unlocked during the breakfast buffet. The food budget has been cut to the bone. On the first Gala night, thin slices of fillet of beef were the only steak option. The same on another Gala night. In fact all the steak choices were thin slices, rather than a whole steak. I have recently come off Oceania line where you could have a 32 oz Porterhouse every night, Cardiologist permitting! When lobster was served it was only half a tail from a small specimen. No smoked salmon is offered on the breakfast menu. The buffet menu at breakfast and lunch appears virtually identical to the fare on offer in the restaurant. There is nowhere to eat from 2.30 until your dinner service in the main dining rooms, unless you pay. The buffet re-opens at night as a paid for pizzeria. The food in general is very tasty, with excellent breads and patisserie. Do not expect gourmet cuisine or any prime cuts. One day the roast of the day in the buffet was meatloaf. Some of my tablemates had a problem with the temperature of the food as served, complaining "It's not hot enough." I asked for a bottle of Tabasco to be set on the table, and invited them to use that instead of sending the plate back They have never had an orchestra on MSC in recent years, which means the theatre shows are performed to recorded music. Don't expect epic productions like on Celebrity or Cunard, but the entertainment is just about OK. The "Atlantis" show is well executed. We saw an excellent magician, Martin, and a superb shadow lamp exponent who produced the most amazing shadow characters with just his hands. There is very little to do on sea-days or half days at sea if it's cold or raining, unless you fancy a multi-lingual quiz or bingo. There are amateurish ad-hoc "shows" performed by the cruise staff in various lounges. They are a bit of a laugh and help you while away the time whilst waiting for the next port of call! There are umpteen TV channels with about four broadcasting news in English; Sky, CNN, CNBC, Russia Today, but otherwise, only pay TV films. We had poor weather most days, so no sunbathing. We longed to be able to watch the old re-runs of Lucy, Bonanza, Frasier, and The Beverly Hillbillies etc. that seem to be on a permanent loop on other lines. Some of the Purser's staff seem to have a "no can do" attitude. There are something like twelve to fifteen red-clad girls on the front desk, some of whom seem to have been specially selected for their stupidity. Perhaps a brain with a flair for languages is balanced by a deficiency in the part of the brain that deals with common sense! There is virtually no Concierge service available, as the whole set-up seems geared to selling you expensive ship's tours at 40-109 Euros a pop. A simple request to the front desk for a paper print out of a single page railway timetable from a specific website was met with every excuse why this was not possible, including: "You can see it in the Cyber Cafe" "There's no printer there" "You can get it on your laptop" "I don't have a printer" This proved an insurmountable task for the receptionist. I got the print-out myself in minutes from an internet cafe in third-world Egypt. It took five visits to the accounts office to claim my 200 Euros on-board credit promised by my travel agent, and it eventually appeared in two instalments of 100 Euros, days apart. In the wine bar, there are a number of flat screen TV's. I and one of the staff were watching cricket on one screen. A "Purser Cadet" appeared on the scene, demanded the remote control, and proceeded to change the TV to the ship's promotional channel showing exactly the same programming as the other TV's. Apparently, it's "impossible" to watch a sports channel, as all the screens must show the MSC propaganda videos simultaneously in perpetuity. The wi-fi connection is patchy, slow and expensive, so we didn't bother after an initial attempt in the cyber cafe, as the cost was 25 Euros an hour. I had no signal in my stateroom, 12180. We were surprised that the excellent cabin stewards seemed to know when we were home, because we were never disturbed by them barging in to "do" the room. I wondered if they had CCTV surveillance in their pantry, but it turns out when you put your key card in the slot to turn the cabin lights on, it also illuminates a little amber warning light above the door to show the room is occupied. Don't buck the system by leaving a business card in the slot when vacating the room, otherwise you'll wait all day to get your room serviced! Some passengers had an issue with tipping, as all tips are pooled between the whole crew and around 40% goes to management, who are already on decent money paid in Euros with pensions and European-type employment contracts. The third world staff on ten month contracts who need the money, supporting extended families at home are thus short changed. Many of the bedroom stewards and cleaning staff come from Madagascar. MSC must have found they will work for less than Filipinos. However, if you go to the cash desk to remove the automatic tips, there is a notice: "Staff are not allowed to receive their tips directly in cash". You betcha! See if they turn down cash. They did not! All in all, MSC provides a pleasant enough cruise experience, better than the Carnival and Costa ships we have travelled on. We enjoyed this voyage, which was very reasonably priced for a Christmas cruise. However, following the changes, MSC is not for us either. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The cruise started out perfect on Sunday, December 21, 2008 with an effortless check-in and debarkation from San Juan but things changed by the next morning. Monday, December 22, 2008, the shore excursion to St. Thomas was excellent ... Read More
The cruise started out perfect on Sunday, December 21, 2008 with an effortless check-in and debarkation from San Juan but things changed by the next morning. Monday, December 22, 2008, the shore excursion to St. Thomas was excellent but returned to the cabin to find our toilet not evacuating properly (slow to flush). We did not report this problem immediately because we thought just an isolated incident with everyone possibly utilizing the facilities, since most of the shore excursions were returning to the ship. Tuesday, December 23, 2008, this morning the cruise started to go down hill rapidly.... The cabin toilet facility would not work, so reported incident to Cabin Steward. Returned from day in port to fine toilet working properly, so continued with going to dinner at the Pacific dining room. 2015 hours, Pacific Dining room, table 419 met by our waiter, who never introduced himself by name or country of origin, appeared he really did not care to be serving us tonight. Asked for a wine list, which was not produced until after the first course and the bottle ordered did not appear to almost the end of the main course! Service was slow and level expected attention, quite lacking (much better service obtained on the Carnival Valor, with a waiter that was not only a gentleman but an entertainer)! Wednesday, December 24, 2008, once again the toilet facilities in our cabin stopped working and had to report this incident to our Steward. Proceeded to our shore excursion on St. Lucia and returned to the ship by 12 noon to find the cabin facilities operational. Proceeded to spend the remainder of the day on the Lido Deck enjoying the sunshine. Greeted by a big screen television, which could barely be seen from the sun glaring on the screen. The movie was depressing, something to do with Sissy Spacek suffering from Dementia and being befriended by an orphan girl (not very uplifting during the Christmas holidays). Once the movie went off no entertainment followed but advertisement for the shore excursion movie to purchase in the photo gallery. What ever happened to live bands on the Lido Deck? Finally an entertainer emerged to play a kettle drum to pre-recorded back ground music. Where were the Cruise Director and his FunShip entertainment staff??? Would have loved to use the hot tubs but unfortunately they were completely occupied by children (no adults present only kids), I thought this violated Carnival Cruises' safety rules? Christmas Eve, Pacific Dining experience was a repeat of the previous days by a lack of service. Ordered two single glasses of wine to received them at the end of the main course, and this was only after sending the waiter and assistant waiter to locate the wine order! Almost forgot returned to the room to once again find the restroom facilities not functioning properly. By this time it became apparent the toilet would not be fixed properly while at sea, so utilized the facility only in emergencies and relied on the public restroom for the remainder of the cruise. The remainder of our days on the ship were nothing extraordinary and the highlights were the shore excursions. Sunday, December 28, 2008 arrived at the San Juan airport at 1400 hours, after going on a rainforest tour, to find ourselves standing in line five hours with US Airways trying to check in for our flight home. Needless to say, once we were face to face with a ticket agent at 1900 hours, we were finally informed our flight was delayed until 2100 hours but unfortunately we would not be able to make our connecting flight home from Charlotte. All efforts to be rerouted to other major airports to make connecting flights were fruitless and ended up flying to Charlotte and spending the night in a hotel. Monday, December 29, 2008 arrived at Charlotte airport to once again be greeted by a check in line! To make this short we did get home but 12 hours past our original scheduled time, which resulted in us missing one day of work, long distance calls to family to advise of the delays and additional airport parking fees. All these arrangements were made by Carnival Cruise lines, so I must hold them responsible for the poor air service on a airline that is ranked lowest in customer satisfaction! Carnival arranged for Delta airlines to take us to the port on Sunday, December 21 but to save a buck placed us returning home with USless Airways. Basically, I now need a vacation from the vacation we took during the Christmas Holidays, thanks to the Carnival Victory! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was my family's (husband, two sons in their 20's and daughter,14) 3rd cruise, and while it had its good points, Carnival wasn't nearly as nice as Royal Caribbean (Eastern Caribbean) or Celebrity (Alaska). We went ... Read More
This was my family's (husband, two sons in their 20's and daughter,14) 3rd cruise, and while it had its good points, Carnival wasn't nearly as nice as Royal Caribbean (Eastern Caribbean) or Celebrity (Alaska). We went over New Year's, departing 12/28 and stopping at Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, and Roatan. We'd read some very positive reviews of the Legend, and the fact that Carnival allowed us to use our credit card "rewards points" to pay for a substantial portion contributed to our choice of this cruise. As far as cost, other than the ability to use rewards points on Carnival, I don't think there is a very significant price difference. Even with the rewards points, this was not a cheap vacation so if I had it to do over again I'd choose a different line. Embarkation: Excellent. Well run, prompt and pleasant. Cleanliness/maintenance of ship: The ship is very attractive and the support staff is wonderful. Everywhere you turned there was a smiling worker cleaning something. There were some signs of wear in the ship's furniture, carpets, etc., but overall it looked really nice. Our stateroom was also clean and attractive, about average size for a 3 person room with a balcony. My sons' room had a whistling sound coming from the door to their balcony. They called maintenance and within minutes someone came and fixed it. Dining: Our dining room waiter and his assistant were a high point of the cruise so charming and cheerful they made an otherwise substandard dining experience fun and enjoyable. The dining room is extremely noisy and crowded much more like a busy deli than a fine restaurant. The fact that they gave the food fancy, names ("delice de la ocean" for example) did not disguise the the mostly mediocre fare. There was some type of steak served each night. The ribeye I ordered the first night was covered with gravy that made the dish taste reasonably good, but the meat was tough. My husband described it as "a steak you get for $11.95 at a chain restaurant." I didn't order steak thereafter, but other family members did, with mixed results. The lobster tail served on the 2nd night was also just o.k. a bit chewy and not much flavor. After that I stuck with basic choices like shrimp and butter sauce, which was quite enjoyable. Our waiter promptly and cheerfully brought something else if we didn't like what we ordered, so overall I was happy. My family had a much lower opinion of the food. They'd absolutely loved the elegance and food quality on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, and were really disappointed this time around. Food outside dining room: As with all cruises, there was a ton of food served throughout the day. Lido deck had the breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, a hot dog and hamburger station with fries, onion rings and fixings, a deli that was open most of the afternoon/evening, and 24 hour pizza and soft ice cream stations. The deli was a high point really tasty hot pastrami sandwiches. I also liked the salad bar at lunch. Hot breakfasts were a low point. I stood in a short line for an ok custom omelette one morning, but all of the other hot food items looked unappetizing. There were round, flat, potato disks that looked like an inferior imitation of tater tots, some grey meat in gluey white sauce, etc. I'm a person who genuinely enjoys the breakfasts you get as part of your room rate at places like Hampton Inn, and Comfort Inn, so when I tell you that much of this food looked too gross to eat, that's saying something. There were lots of people happily chowing down though, so maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked. I very much enjoyed the fresh fruit and whole grain bread each morning, so even at breakfast there were good options available. Here too, my family had a less favorable opinion. My sons felt that the Lido deck food was generally equivalent to a college cafeteria, and sometimes not even as good. Overall, if you're looking for the high quality, beautifully presented food they have on other ships, you'll probably be disappointed, but if you're happy with reasonably tasty food served cheerfully you'll be fine. One Food Experience With No Redeeming Qualities: The only midnight buffet I visited on this trip was on New Year's Eve. I recalled the special "grand" midnight buffet presented on one night of each our previous cruises (one had huge intricate ice sculptures, elaborate fruit and vegetable carvings so beautifully displayed that passengers were invited in beforehand to take photos, with freshly carved lamb chops, and platters of jumbo shrimp and cold lobster tail...) Since it was New Year's Eve, I hoped for something a bit special on this cruise also, although Carnival's description of a "mini gala buffet" let me know not to expect anything too grand. The New Year's Eve "mini gala" was a truly pitiful display: "2009" was carved in ice with a couple of small veggie/fruit carvings. The steam table food looked too vile to even consider tasting some kind of broccoli/cauliflower combo in white sauce, sad looking pasta and a couple of other unappetizing items. Carnival did provide complimentary champagne along with some very loud music to bring in the New Year, but in my opinion the "gala celebration" was really third-rate, Spa and Fitness: The fitness room was beautiful one of the nicest features of the ship. Equipment was well maintained and there were enough of the popular machines to go around. My daughter and I took a yoga class which was excellent and we were charged a very modest fee of $10 each. I wish there were more classes offered at various times both on sea days and on port evenings/early mornings. There is also a complimentary sauna and whirlpool which I didn't take advantage of. My daughter and I also booked spa treatments a mix n match package of mini facial, and mini massages of hands, feet, scalp, neck and shoulders reasonably priced at around $100. My daughter's technician was very good, but mine was one of only two staff members on the entire cruise who was not particularly pleasant or helpful. Her idea of a scalp massage was to move the palm of her hand in a circular motion on the top of my head while gazing into the distance with a glazed expression. With the right technician the mix n match treatment could be very enjoyable, and it was even more affordable on port days. I gave the fitness and recreation a rating of 3. The fitness room was great but the "recreation" was lacking. Excursions: Unlike other cruises, Carnival provided almost no information about their destinations other than the location and type of Carnival-approved shops in port. I'm not aware of any seminars by Carnival about the culture or environment of these countries they basically just gave you a map of shopping destinations. Both on and off the ship you are inundated with fliers and announcements and promotions for Diamonds International to the point that I would never, ever consider buying anything from them. As a general rule, it costs a lot more to book tours through the cruise line as opposed to doing things on your own or through a private company. There are advantages to booking though the cruise line, of course: 1) If there's a delay and you don't get back until after the scheduled ship departure, the cruise line will wait for a tour booked though them. They will otherwise leave without you. I wouldn't recommend taking a private tour that finishes close to the time you are scheduled to be back on the ship. 2) There are risks involved with taking a tour with an unknown guide, both in terms of safety and also of the quality of the experience. It is perfectly appropriate, even desirable, for the cruise line to warn you of potential risks and to let you know that they take no responsibility for private tour companies. However, I feel that Carnival goes beyond appropriate warnings in discouraging participation in excursions that are not provided through their company. WARNING BELIZE POLICY: The real reason I took the time to write this review is so others can hopefully avoid the situation faced by my family when we went to Belize. The ship arrives in Belize at 8:00 a.m. and departs at 5:00 p.m. This is a shorter time than it appears. Carnival (and I believe all other lines as well) must use tenders in Belize. The first tender goes to Belize at 8:00 (getting you there in around 20 minutes) and the last tender leaves Belize at 4:00. However, CARNIVAL WILL ONLY LET PASSENGERS WHO'VE ALREADY BOOKED TOURS ONTO THE EARLY TENDERS. If you have not booked a tour, you must wait until AFTER 9:30. THEN, you must go somewhere to get a ticket and WAIT SOME MORE until it is your turn to take a tender. This can take an additional 1/2 hour or more. As a result, unless you've booked a tour you will lose 11/2 - 2 hours of port time in Belize. Instead of a full 9 hour day you will have only around 5 hours. My family had read about cave tubing in Belize (described by many as a highlight of their trip) and we planned to use a private company for this excursion. Carnival used to run a cave tubing tour, but no longer does. We were told by the excursion desk representative that this was because of "an incident" which occurred with a passenger from another cruise line. When we asked the representative if the private tours ran for 7 hours like the Carnival tour did, she nodded and said, "Yes. It's a full day." (Actually the private tour was only around 4-41/2 hours. Others from our ship went on it and loved it, but we learned this too late.) We didn't receive information about Carnival's tender policy until very late on the night prior to arrival in Belize. At that point it was too late to book a Carnival tour of any kind and (we incorrectly believed) they would not let us off the ship in time to take the private cave tubing tour. The Purser's desk representative, unfortunately, was the other indifferent, unhelpful staff member on the ship. He said he couldn't help us get off the ship earlier and he clearly saw no problem with the ship's policy of telling passengers late on the night before arrival that their port time would be reduced by 20% unless they'd booked a tour for the following day. Debarkation: A nightmare and a safety hazard. We chose to "self-assist" which means that we took our bags off the ship ourselves instead of putting them out the night before and having the crew take them down for us. We thought this would be faster. Instead, all of the self-assist passengers were called at the same time. Everyone was backed up to the point that when we got off the elevator at the proper floor there was no where to go. People kept coming off the elevator, with more and more of us crammed onto an overheated landing, each with all of his/her luggage, unable to go upstairs or down. The amount of time we stood there (around 40 minutes) wasn't all that bad, but the conditions were horrible and frightening. There was no staff member in sight, so no explanation of what was going on. We had no idea of how much longer it would take. It was difficult to breathe and I'm surprised that no one passed out. My son was wedged into a corner and when we finally started moving he was far behind the rest of the family. When he got downstairs and tried to catch up with us an attendant began yelling at him, telling him he was "cutting" and had to go to the back of the line. My husband's verbal response to this was.....unpleasant. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Well let me start out by saying I have noticed there is a large difference between short cruises and long cruises. The two short cruises we have taken one with Carnival and this one have been a much poorer quality than the long one we ... Read More
Well let me start out by saying I have noticed there is a large difference between short cruises and long cruises. The two short cruises we have taken one with Carnival and this one have been a much poorer quality than the long one we took. That said in comparison to our Carnival cruise this one was much better but still lacking in many ways. Overall you cannot beat cruising for the value. You get hotel, food, entertainment, childcare, and transportation at an unbelievable price. However I think NCL is cutting a few to many corners and dropping the ball in the customer service department. Now specifically the SKY experience. I loved the port of Miami. It was very easy to find and we stayed at the Holiday Inn Port side and were able to see our ship come in. What fun that was. Boarding was a breeze. The crew who checked us in were awesome I wish I could have taken them on the ship with us and gotten that kind of service the entire trip. We were greeted with Champaign but no map of the ship and I had to hunt down a Freestyle Daily. The cabins were not ready till precisely 2pm. We were able to drop off our stuff much earlier in the Dawn. Cabin: Cabin was sufficient for a short cruise but much too small for a long one. Bathroom was tiny. Storage was very limited we kept most of our stuff in suitcase under bed. The beds were very comfortable and room was clean. We did meet the cabin steward and gave him a stocking on Christmas. Entertainment: We found the ship-produced entertainment to be not nearly a good as on the Dawn. The stage was very small because of the size of the ship and the dancers and singers were not as good. The hired entertainment was very good, as we have found on all of our cruises. Rich Purpura the comedian was very funny and Dave Morgan guitar player singer was excellent. The Christmas Eve party was poorly planed and not overly festive but better than the St. Patrick's day party on the Dawn. The poolside band was ok but not nearly as good as others we have heard. The evening parties were not poolside they were inside which made them less fun I think. Kids Crew: Staff very friendly. Daughter complained that children were poorly behaved and this interrupted activities. We did not have a lot of time to participate because it was a holiday cruise. Food: Food ranged from excellent to poor. Appetizers were often better than meal. We did not eat at any specialty restaurants. Service in main dinning areas was very very slow and unorganized. They had plenty of staff but could not get anything done. We had a very hard time eating a complete meal without missing most of the evening activities. We often ate our meals in parts and often missed dessert entirely. We only ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Meals were acceptable but not great. What you would expect form a buffet. It was very hard to get an early lunch nothing was available until noon. All restaurants and the buffet closed by 10 or 10:30. The Longboard bar was the only place to get food after that. Their menu was the same as the Blue Lagoon on the Dawn but the food was terrible in comparison. Overall ship: In very good shape for its age. As with all NCL ships it takes a while to figure out. Pool area was sufficient for size. Hot tubs were fairly hot and open late. Coffee bar is in a poor location. Much of the ship is under used and NCL should look at rearranging things. Clean and bright I did not mind the Hawaiian feel. Port: We were not impressed with Nassau and would most likely not go back there. Our Sailing excursion was canceled the first day because of high winds. We did not leave Nassau to go to the private island because the next day was to be windy as well. The captain secured us a slot to stay in Nassau an extra day. There were 3 NCL ships there. They did not announce this very well and we were all settled into the hot tub before we knew. We may have went back out had we know sooner. Excursions: Because our self-booked excursion was cancelled we booked the Atoll Island snorkel through NCL. This was very poorly run and the age and swimming requirements were not adhered to. Many of the people on this trip were not able to swim well enough. That aside we did enjoy the reef and were impressed with what we saw. The weather was poor but at least we were able to snorkel. We have taken 2 NCL excursions and booked our own and have found booking our own or exploring on our own to be a much more rewarding experience and a better use of our time. Christmas: We were on the ship for Christmas and Hanukkah and found it to be lacking in festivities. There were about 8 Christmas trees and at least that many Ginger bread houses but we did not see a Menorah anywhere. There was very soft Christmas music being played in only one of the restaurants. They did have quite a few activities happening on Christmas Eve however due to the very slow dinning service it was hard to attend more than one. They had caroling which we missed due to dinner then a Christmas party which was more big band dancing than Christmas and a Midnight service, which we did not attend. On Christmas Day they had Santa and Gifts for all the children in the Kids Crew including the teens. This was nice. There was very little else happening Christmas day different from any other day. Medical office: My daughter did become ill on Christmas night. We took her to the medical office after 11:00, which was nice they were open. They gave her an injection to stop nausea, which must have worked because she was fine till the next morning. They were not overly informative or personable but it was a free service, which I did not expect. I did have a hard time reaching them using the automated phone. Leaving the ship was uneventful. We had gray tags because we drove and wanted to take our time leaving. We waited till there was little to no line and got off. The process was a little slow but ok. We were happy to discover Customs did not care that we purchased much more alcohol than allowed. For Christmas gifts of course. We expected to be charged and were not. Things I missed from previous cruises: Coffee mugs at coffee bar, Dinning dress code, can do attitude by staff, food after midnight, large dessert selection in buffet, music on pool deck, spa pool, more days, Blue Lagoon food (longboard was awful), Mexican food, good theater with big stage and good shows. Things I enjoyed: meeting CC friends, Teen smoothie pass (best value NCL offers), longer hot tub hours and more hot tubs, Dave Morgan, comedian, no snow, Tortuga Rum!! I try to be optimistic and find the best in things. Had this not been a Christmas cruise I would have felt we got what we paid for and had a good time. Being a holiday cruise I feel NCL was lacking. I also feel their overall customer service was lacking. The layout of the ship, poor dinner service and all the activities being offered in a 4-hour block make it very hard to enjoy the total experience. We love the Freestyle aspect of NCL but we found on this cruise Freestyle was very limited and you had to choose between dessert and evening activities. We will be exploring other Cruise lines for future Cruises. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our 3rd cruise and our 2nd with P&O - the previous one being on Arcadia in Feb 2008. The flight to Barbados was comfortable and on time. Although it was a ThomsonFly charter,the aircraft was actually a First Choice plane. ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise and our 2nd with P&O - the previous one being on Arcadia in Feb 2008. The flight to Barbados was comfortable and on time. Although it was a ThomsonFly charter,the aircraft was actually a First Choice plane. Even though we had booked the cruise some 18 months earlier, we could not get an upgrade but even so, the plane was very comfortable with plenty of legroom and OK food. The transfer from the airport to the ship was excellent - (P&O seem to have got this sorted really well) - straight from the plane to a coach and then straight to the check in shed at the cruise terminal. Check in there was quick and we were soon on the ship. What a monster she is. Not really a pretty sight and it would be impossible to describe Ventura as a ship in the traditional sense - more a gigantic floating hotel. We soon found our cabin on C deck. This was compact and functional, clean and well equipped with tea and coffee machine, fridge, good hairdryer, interactive TV on which you can also view your account, comfy bed and good temperature control. The one surprise was the balcony. It was huge and contained only 2 ordinary chairs - like you might find in a works canteen and a small table measuring about 15 inches square. This was on a balcony measuring about 8 feet by 9 feet. Therefore most of the balcony was a waste of space. The balcony cabins on the ship are tiered and therefore if we sat at the front of ours, people in cabins above could see us and also we could see those on the deck below us. It was also easy to overhear conversations taking place on balconies around us. So it wasn't very private. The "bathroom" was very small. We were happy with just a shower but this wasn't overly large either!! However, hot water was in abundance - full marks for this. Senim, our cabin steward kept the place spotless throughout the entire voyage. There was ample hanging and storage space. We were supposed to leave at 20.00 but an announcement told us that some people had yet to leave the ship for the UK as their flight had been delayed and so our revised sailing time was given as 23.30. We all attended the compulsory lifeboat muster but really no one knew if everyone from cabins had attended as no one took our name or cabin number on arrival at the muster station. I thought this was all a bit casual. We had something to eat in the Waterside buffet restaurant which was nice and then our cases arrived at the cabin so it was unpacking and an early night. Our first day was a sea day on the way to Antigua. This was our first encounter with the dreaded sunbed saga. As we were towards the aft of the ship we preferred to sit on deck somewhere in that vicinity. We soon found that space was at a premium and that sunbeds were so tightly packed that it would have been difficult to actually sit on one unless you climbed onto it from the front. This then meant that you were literally cheek by jowl with the person on the next bed to you. We identified an area with a little more space on deck 19 but when we tried to get up there we found our way blocked by locked doors and gates, passages which led nowhere and a lift which went to that floor but when you got out of it you could not get through the door onto the deck. Eventually this deck opened and there was a scramble for beds in that area. It turned out that deck 19 was the Cirque Ventura area where there had been bungee jumping etc and also they had 3 big trampolines. However, all that was left was the trampolines - the rest of the "cirque" had been demolished and was being given over to sunbeds. To be honest, for the number of times the trampolines were used during the trip, they could easily get rid of that as well to free up more space for people to sit. We can endorse everything others have said about the sunbed situation on this ship. You had to be up at 08.00 to get a bed with some room around it. On Christmas Day all the beds were taken at the Terrace Pool by 07.15. Everyone knew there was a no towels rule for reserving sunbeds but to be honest, you had to ignore it otherwise you would not have been able to find anywhere to sit. The first evening was the Captain's welcome party but all that happened was that he came and spoke to the assembled guests and then left. There was no moving around in the cocktail party sense like we have had before on Arcadia and the QE2. Our next port of call was Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands on Christmas Eve. Lots of people were looking forward to this and we had booked a snorkeling trip. However, on arrival, we were informed by the Captain that it was too windy to take the ship alongside the quay and therefore this visit was cancelled. There was a lot of disappointment. We got our money back for the cancelled trip but somehow we were not satisfied and somewhat suspicious as to why the ship did not berth at Grand Turk. However we were in no position to question the Captain's judgment. Christmas Day was a sea day and the following day we moored off Catalina Island, an island owned apparently by P&O. It is situated just off the south east corner of the Dominican Republic. The ship moored with an anchor and a cable from the stern to a mooring dolphin. Passengers were ferried to the island's beach by tender. We decided to remain on board and I was on deck 19 when I heard a loud bang. On looking out over the rail, there was nothing to see but all of a sudden, the mooring dolphin "exploded" with a pall of smoke and the cable to the ship tore apart and whipped back to the dolphin. The ship then began to drift away from the island. A bit scary but things were soon in hand. Given that the call at Grand Turk was cancelled due to the weather, we did not see a great deal of improvement in the weather and sea state at Catalina Island. Indeed, some passengers were left bobbing around for 45 minutes in tenders on the return journey to the ship and many were not happy. The following day we were due in Tortola, BVI. We were looking forward to this, not having been there before. We took on the pilot and then there was an announcement that the ship would not be calling there after all due to the weather so we continued on to St Kitts. By this time, passengers were not at all happy. The next day we were due at St Kitts and having arrived and almost berthed, the Captain announced that we would not be calling there after all due to the weather. A near mutiny was evident!!! We were told that the ship instead would go straight to St Lucia, arriving there late afternoon. Again, we could not see any difference in the sea state between Catalina Island and St Kitts harbor - if anything, St Kitts was a lot calmer. We were told that the winds we had experienced were unusual. However, this is just not true. There is a period of what the locals call "Christmas Winds" which affect mainly the northern islands and are not infrequent at this time of the year. The question we and a lot of others were asking was why these ports were put on the itinerary if Ventura could not berth in those conditions. Of course the Captain has the last word but P&O are responsible for putting together the itinerary and they should see that it is suitable for the ship they are using. We do know that other ships berthed at these ports. The fact is that Ventura is simply too big and unwieldy to put in at some of the smaller more exposed islands. We managed to call at all the remaining ports on the itinerary - St Lucia, St Vincent, Dominica and St Maarten. We went on organized trips in St Lucia and Dominica and felt that they were good value for money. We had opted for freedom dining. We found this worked well as we preferred to dine around 19.00 which was perhaps earlier than a lot of people. We ate in East once which was very nice and in Whites twice, including Christmas Day evening meal. Very good. The food in the main freedom dining restaurant, the Cinnamon was generally good although some steaks were a bit tough. The service was good and pleasant - better we thought than on the Arcadia. We didn't drink in all the bars but we did like the Metropolis which has a great moving mural of a city scape at night - it changes each evening ie Sydney, London, Hong Kong etc. We felt that some of the other bars were a bit public - like drinking in a corridor. We are not great people for shows but those who did go to them came away with mixed reviews. To be honest, the star performer was held out as Scott Bruton who had made the final 12 in the X Factor. We thought he was poor on that programme so this was not a great draw for us. Some people were disgusted with the comedian. In all we felt the range of entertainment in the evenings was pretty boring. The ship could do with a a good triad jazz band performing in the pub or in the Tamarind Club to get people up and dancing. On one evening in the Tamarind, the dance band struck up and played for about 30 minutes and then when people were just getting in the mood for a dance, they stopped playing and we were invited to play Mr and Mrs!!!!! The best entertainment of the whole trip was the New Year's Eve party on deck at the Laguna Pool. Excellent DJ, excellent music, excellent atmosphere. I think that people had had so many disappointments with the cancelled ports that they were determined to have a good time!! The Great British Sailaway from St Maarten was also good fun. The ship was tastefully decorated with Christmas trees etc and generally people dressed up in the evenings even when it was smart casual. There were 3,000 passengers including several hundred children. The children never bothered us and I think that the facilities for them on the ship are very good. We were not disturbed with any rowdy behavior but we did hear that 2 people had been "arrested" for violence and that one had been taken off the ship at St Vincent. Overall, we made the best of things and enjoyed the trip and we had really good weather. Would we go on Ventura again? No. And there were a lot of people saying the same. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This is a review of the Aurora, operated by P & O during the Christmas 2008 Calypso Cruise to the Caribbean. We (2 parents 55ish with 2 children 21 and 24) have cruised with P & O before and did the same or similar cruise at ... Read More
This is a review of the Aurora, operated by P & O during the Christmas 2008 Calypso Cruise to the Caribbean. We (2 parents 55ish with 2 children 21 and 24) have cruised with P & O before and did the same or similar cruise at Christmas 2007 on Oriana. The ship was described to us as a sister ship to Oriana but a little bit nicer with such pluses as the Cafe Bordeaux. It is a nice ship; the cabins (outside window Deck 5) are fine with plenty of hanging and drawer space. I had great difficulty working out the bow from the stern directions and which deck had which facility. This in spite of a pocket guide and schematic maps every 30 yards. Accommodation: The cabins are well sized, comfortable and equipped with double/twin beds, TV, fridge and reasonable bathroom. Some have shower/baths and others showers only. Beds are 3 feet wide and 6 feet 6 inches long. There is plenty of support but they are not firm. On Board facilities: Internet: The internet room is on Deck 13 by the Crows nest bar and is a pleasant airy room with 12 desktops and 2 laptop dedicated desks which are provided with UK 12 amp power sockets. The ship has a very restricted wifi which operates only in the Internet room and next door in parts of the Crows Nest Bar. It is fairly fast downloading emails and uploading to the internet. I would say that it is adequate but could be simply improved if it were made available on a wider basis through other areas of the ship. The charges are standard across the fleet and the pay as you go is 30 pence per minute, pre paid plans are available which can reduce this cost to 16 pence, but you do need to buy 4 hours of connection time. Reception: The reception area is on Deck 5 and operates from 7am to 9pm. Restaurants: We ate on second sitting in the Medina Restaurant and found the accommodations comfortable although some tables near the end walls/bulkheads suffered from a lack of room between the back of the chairs and the wall. I suppose this is a problem for the waiters rather than passenger, but I did notice it and think it worth mentioning. The waiting staff is charming as expected but some seem less fun than others and this may, of course, be shyness but it was very noticeable. The level of service is just ok. The head waiter comes to the table most evenings but we have had meals that were returned partially eaten through the meat being tough or the fish being overcooked and these incidents aroused no action whatsoever by this person. This is the absolute opposite of our previous experiences on P & O and was commented upon fairly widely by passengers. He came on the penultimate night and made his enquiry, he was horrified to receive complaints from 4 of the six diners and he wrote them down on a scrap of paper. It did not convince us that he was going to raise the issues with the Chef. When he passed by some 30 minutes later I asked what the Chef had said, the response was totally unconvincing and I seriously doubt if he reported the matters. The other general restaurant is Alexandria and I have no experience of that. Afternoon tea is served in the Medina from 4 to 4.45 pm and is very pleasant. There is a choice of a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, teacake and crumpets. They only toast the crumpets on the top, so you will end up with a soft underside. We tried for two weeks to explain but they kept coming out undercooked or charred. We also tried the Marco Pierre White facility which attracts an additional payment which varies depending upon what time during the evening you dine. We paid £3.95 each and it was certainly worth it for the food. The restaurant is the Cafe Bordeaux which is above the casino and surrounds a stairwell, one side of the restaurant has the main corridor of the Promenade Deck running alongside; quite bizarre but the food, wine choice and service were absolutely excellent and much better than the main restaurant. Depending upon your table position you may well hear a lot of extraneous noise from these sources. We also took breakfast and lunch at the Cafe Bordeaux and it was absolutely delightful. Some of the best food available on board and good service. There is a buffet restaurant on Deck 12 called the Orangery and they serve all three meals there and afternoon tea on a self serve basis. They also hold themed buffets on evenings and these vary from British, to Italian, to Asian to Indian buffets. I only tried the Indian and would not repeat the process. Other P & O ships have held these evenings and operated a reservation process which ensured a smooth progress of diners through the starter, main course and dessert stations. Aurora did not and the resulting 60 person/20 minute queue for main course was the direct result. The choices offered were not all there to be had and the curries themselves seemed very watery. I am no chef but I do know curry. I raised the lack of reservations with our ineffectual head waiter and was told that it is fleet wide and it enables many more people to be served. I don't believe this as it makes no sense. An additional facility is found on the stern deck on 12 and is called The Pennant Grill; a small surcharge will provide a nice steak or fish dinner in the warm evenings of the Caribbean. I did not use it but reports were mostly favorable. Late night service is provided by the Cafe Bordeaux but no food is displayed, sandwiches and Fries with Mayonnaise are among the very limited choices and one cannot get a toasted sandwich. Tea and coffee are available but a charge is made for peppermint tea which comes by way of a nasty teabag with very little flavor. There are 3 levels of dress acceptable by P & O on board for dining purposes; they are Formal (Black Tie), Semi Formal which is trousers, smart shirt and a jacket (no tie required) and Smart Casual, which is identical to Semi Formal except no jacket is needed. These are pretty standard but it is now permissible to wear Jeans to dinner! Bars: There are several bars catering for broad tastes on board. The Crows Nest is at the bow on Deck 13 and has panoramic views. Trouble is that smoking is allowed in the port half and the air handling system cannot stop the smell pervading the entire room making it unpleasant for the non smokers. There are other bars but none has the style of the Crows Nest, I know that smoking is not allowed in the sport bar called Champions nor Andersons on deck 7 Pools: There are three pools, 1 is exclusively for children and is part of their club area, the other two are on deck12 and are the Crystal and Riviera. The Crystal pool is set amidships and has the benefit of a retractable roof; the other is set towards the front of the ship and is open to the elements. The center pool has two hot tubs which are well used. The Children tend to use the Crystal pool which does have an effect on the clarity of the water. It was luminous green one day after treatment following one of the very regular quality tests. The pools are a reasonable size but are just over 1 meter deep. It is not easy to swim in such shallow water. If the ship encounters any swell, a wave sets up and the water flows forward and aft or side to side, shipping great gouts of water and spray from the pool itself onto the surrounding decks. If there are swimmers in the pool, they undertake a very exciting but perilous ride in or on this wave as it crashes into the end of the pool. Quite often the pools are netted to prevent passenger use; this is very frustrating especially in sunny weather. There seem to be plenty of sun beds around the pools and on the Sun Deck above the pool. Those at the Crystal Pool are a sturdy metal and mesh construction whereas the others are the nasty white plastic ones beloved of package holidays. There are also some white plastic chairs which are fairly comfortable. On the Promenade Deck you are spoilt by teak steamer chairs with attached foot rests and cushions, they also have plastic recliner chairs for the less fortunate. There is a spa which to my unpracticed eye seems to offer the usual beauty and health treatments. The charges seem reasonable and the staff is very professional. At the front of Deck 7 is a great theatre which is used for most show, there is a "ballroom" called Carmen's at the rear of that Deck, which has seats around a dance floor and is more for passengers dancing. Most of this takes place to CDs which is disappointing to some. Overall the entertainment was not very good other than Richard Digence, who was as hilarious as he always is. Tom O'Connor is OK but his act is as old as his suit, Stuart Gillies has a nice tan but should stop checking his comb over when he passes a reflecting window. Jimmy Nairn should stick to what he is best at, whenever he discovers exactly what that may be. Caravan was a very good and talented group as were the steel band. There was a female singer who I did not see but she received rave reviews from people to whom I spoke. The Entertainment Officers were a mixed bunch; one of the senior female blondes was so full of herself as to be approaching obnoxious. She needs reminding that we pay her wages and she is there to make sure that we enjoy ourselves. Most of the males are good but one of them is the worst DJ in the world. They all seem to operate on a what we say goes basis, and that can irritate the calmest of passenger. On the Food and Beverage side there seems to be a malaise among the staff, dishes lay around uncollected in the Orangery Buffet and on the outside tables, I have never known that before. Whether P & O have reduced staffing levels or it is an apathy that has set in, it needs to be addressed. Many waiters expressed dissatisfaction with "the management" and told me that they were considering transferring ships. What on earth is happening? The deck and drink waiters are all very attentive and I believe that they now work to sales quotas per shift. This may explain why they are so keen to attend you. This malaise may stem from poor senior management or perhaps the blame lies with the middle managers, I do not know but I do know that there are problems which need attention. Sports and gymnasium, there is a well equipped gym on Deck 11 and quoits, golf, shuffleboard, table tennis and soccer take place on 12 & 13. Overall I think that standards of service and food quality on board have dropped since last year although the Aurora is a new experience for me, I think it unlikely that I will repeat it although I will continue to use P & O. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
M V Braemar Christmas Caribbean Cruise 22/12/08 - 08/01/09 Gatwick was typical chaos but Miami was surprisingly problem free, taking only 1 hour from plane to transfer bus. We joined a ship that had been extended in the ... Read More
M V Braemar Christmas Caribbean Cruise 22/12/08 - 08/01/09 Gatwick was typical chaos but Miami was surprisingly problem free, taking only 1 hour from plane to transfer bus. We joined a ship that had been extended in the middle and generally upgraded everywhere in Summer 2008. It had been on several bedding down cruises since then but there was little comment on cruise review web sites as to how these changes had been received. Fred Olsen seems to get very little web comment and it's internet room on board was virtually empty on all my visits - may be something to do with the abnormally high average age of it's passengers. The weather in the Northern Caribbean was stormy force 6 with a 3 meter swell and overcast for the first week. This had it's affect on health and moral. Poor weather restricts deck activities as well as the head count at dinner. Several injuries were recorded. The first ports of call where Nassau (the town itself was very disappointing) and Montego Bay (Not a nice place). The main sunbathing deck with very small pools was totally overcrowded when the sun came out - we retreated to our balcony. The weather in the second week improved a bit - force 4 and 2 meter swell. Unfortunately for many, the Flu outbreak worsened. It also included two of the best ports of call, Aruba and Curacao in the Dutch Antilles off the coast of Venezuela. Delightful ports with gaily painted buildings designed in old Dutch style, well presented shops and both places that we will return too. Santa Marta in Columbia was also interesting. No evidence of their famous drug trade! The weather continued to improve a little bit as the week went on. St. Georges in Grenada has improved enormously over the last decade, despite or due to two bad hurricanes. A new marina and Harbour have been built and also a new relocated cruise terminal and shopping centre. Avoid the water taxis to Grand Anse Beach in choppy weather as they are very difficult to climb into and they try to pack 16 people in to a small boat and delay leaving until full which can involve a wait of over half an hour both ways. The smell of leaking petrol cleared my sinuses. Bridgetown Barbados has a well organized Cruise Terminal and Port and taxis are available for the mile or so trip into town. The private buses are great fun on which to travel about. 1 US$ gets you a trip up the west coast with the locals to Hole Town. Also, sharing taxis is commonplace but not as cheap as you think. Bargain hard! This west coast is well developed to quite a high density and rather commercialized but the local roads can barely cope resulting in many traffic jams - which gives plenty of opportunity to gaze at all the famous hotels. Castries St Lucia and St. John's Antigua were forgettable experiences, the latter due to the very restricted 4 hour stop. We have been to Antigua before and Nelsons Dockyard , on the other side of the island is a must if time permits and circumnavigation of the island by catamaran is an unforgettable experience if you get time. So, last few days at sea with sun and reasonably calm seas cruising up to Key West, a lovely Port at the bottom end of Florida with a super town centre and well worth the visit. Finally, an early morning arrival back at Miami with 20 hours of travel (and waiting around) to look forward to. First the plus points ... It's cheap to cruise this The Fred Olsen Line with all the bargains available, including free upgrades. We landed up in a suite and Premium economy aircraft seats for £2300 each for this 18 day Christmas cruise although don't expect 'luxury'. The prices on board were in British pounds, an advantage over the Dollar charging ships when the £ only buys $1.43. This rate, charged for cash changing on the ship stayed the same every day, even when the Dollar sank to $1.35 to the £. Bar prices and restaurant wines (£13 for a decent bottle) were cheap compared with others we have been on. You could also buy English bottled beer - Spitfire and draught Stella Artois. The Filipino staff are a delight - always smiling, greeting you by name, remembering what you drink, making you feel important. They made our holiday. What an asset to the company! Unfortunately, the bad points outnumber but many of these were not down to Fred Holstein or the Bromide crew. The average age was noticeably higher than we have experienced in the past, even at Christmas - 75% of passengers was 70+. The Fred Olsen 78 - 90 club! We thought that elderly American cruise passengers were rude on previous trips (Insignia & Diamond Princess) - until we experienced a few days a sea with the British counterpart. We suspected that whole community centers for the elderly had been forcibly removed from Basildon and placed on this ship. Seriously, the heavy pre-Christmas discounting seemed to have attracted some strange people! Statistically, a third of the passengers where from Lancashire, a third from Yorkshire and 50 % from Essex (Well it felt like it!). This ship had more cruise snobs and moaners per deck than any other we have experienced. - those that holiday once a year on a cruise, moan about everything, swear that they will not come again - and then announce that this is their 5th. time on the ship. - those that have sailed with all the top notch lines in the best cabins, although are mysteriously camping out in a basic inside cabin on deck 2 One of the reasons for choosing this cruise line was due to recommendations from some friends and the thought that, with 18 days at sea, they would serve some good traditional British food occasionally. i.e. Roast Beef. We were rather disappointed. The food is adequate 'Torquay Hotel food', prepared by mass catering chefs in conjunction with their checked accountants. For example, chicken and pork were always available because they are cheap and were often reheated (sometimes with an additional sauce). Beef was rarely available in any form. The one steak was part 'cooked' in the basement main kitchen, reheated in the holding kitchen on deck 8 and served ... In this time, it had lost it's will to please and totally lacked any normal British accompaniments i.e. chips, onions, roasted vegetables etc. However, in fairness, their Beef Wellington was good. Desserts were mostly disappointing, with excessive use of Creme fresh cream, Jelly, Moose. No Apple pie or other traditional desserts, no custard, rarely any ice cream. But they did have bread & butter pudding several times - to use up the old bread. Christmas and New Year dinners lacked style, substance and flavor and served with miniscule portions, both sadly disappointing. The smell of diesel oil, particularly on deck 5 Starboard and often in the air conditioning in our cabin was very noticeable and unpleasant. So Fred Olsen, my scores out of 5. Food 2.5 Sometimes quite good but often disappointing Food Service 4.5 Restaurant excellent. Palm Cafe mediocre Cabin Comfort 4.0 Most normal cabins are disappointingly small but comfortable. Balcony suite was good. Cabin Service 3.5 OK Free champers & fruit on arrival for us Bar Service 4.75 Always good to the point of brilliant Entertainment 2.5 Have experienced far better. My own appearance in one show was brilliant Both lectures were boring! Internet 0.5 Don't bother. Too slow. No wi-fi connections TV 2.0 Poor world news, poor daily info Cruise info / daily letter 2.0 Poor, amateurish and cheaply sourced Tours 2.0 Only did one which put me off. Used taxis Laundry 4.5 Dry cleaning very efficient Summery A cruise line for those on a budget, offering good value for money. Very popular with the elderly and those from the Northern Counties and Essex. Despite extension and refurbishment, the ship falls well behind P & O, Princess and others in terms of amenities and comforts but it does charge much cheaper prices and leaves tipping to the discretion of it's passengers. It's relatively small size - 988 passengers - is an attraction. Choose your cruise itinerary carefully, as many Caribbean ports are scruffy and uninteresting. Coach tours are typically pricey and rarely offer good value. Have the guts to hire a taxi (very affordable with 4 people) and do your own thing with the drivers help and knowledge. Do not bother to smuggle your own spirits on board. The cabin prices are duty free .i.e. £15 for a liter of Jameson's Irish whiskey! Bring plenty of books and treat yourselves to a balcony cabin to avoid the crowds. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My Wife and I booked this cruise to celebrate our 20th anniversary.Our problems started when we arrived at Pearson International Airport in Toronto.WE made it through US Customs in 10 minutes .We had time to get a meal before our plane ... Read More
My Wife and I booked this cruise to celebrate our 20th anniversary.Our problems started when we arrived at Pearson International Airport in Toronto.WE made it through US Customs in 10 minutes .We had time to get a meal before our plane left at 10:30am .We arrived at the gate for our plane well before it would be boarding.At 945am we saw airport security set up a table at the walkway to the plane and proceed to bodily inspect each and every passenger including young infants.The plane finally left the gate and departed for Orlando at 1230pm,2 hours late.I called the Carnival hotline to let them know this was happening.They said they would let the ship know we would be late arriving.They also said trasportation to the ship would be available upon our arrival.We arrived at Orlando Airport at 310pm saturday December 26 2009.We saw no one from Carnival there so I called the hotline again.They put me on hold as they checked the status of the ship.When they came back they said we could not get on the ship and they would arrange for us to stay in Orlando and meet the ship in Cozumel on Monday.We had to pay for the Hotel and our meals and would be given an onboard credit when we arrived on the ship.We spent 2 cold nights in Orlando instead of enjoying our cruise.On Monday dec 28 2009 we left Orlando at 9am for Houston the after a 2 hour stop over we boarded another plane for Cozumel MX.We arrived in Cozumel at 2pm.We paid for a shuttle to the ship.We walked past the stores near the dock to the security gate.No carnival rep was there as promised so we had to wait while the security personal filled out a form for us.We then walked our 4 suitcases down the dock to the ship and waited for 20 minutes while security on the ship made arrangements for us to board.At 4pm we walked on board and got our cards at the pursers desk for our room.No one helped us with our bags to the room.We had a quick shower then looked around the ship before going for dinner.Our table reserved for us had been given away so they sat us next to the kitchen entrance.Next day we got a crd under the door that said we had our booked table back.Wrong,they goofed! They put us at another table again!We found that the door between the balconys moved a lot during the night so i jammed the rubber door stop in it.The people in the room next to ours smoked a lot.We are none smokers.The galley of the ship is above the room we were in so yes we heard a lot of noise all night.I have sent a letter to Carnival asking for a refund of our cruise that we did not enjoy at all.We have sailed with Carnival 8 times in the past and this is the first time they let us down. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
I have cruised on RCL and Princess numerous times. This time it was a family cruise and since my youngest sister has 2 young children we selected Carnival for the kids program. It was Thanksgiving week and as expected the cruise was full ... Read More
I have cruised on RCL and Princess numerous times. This time it was a family cruise and since my youngest sister has 2 young children we selected Carnival for the kids program. It was Thanksgiving week and as expected the cruise was full and there were many children on board. That was no problem at all. Having been a volunteer in youth organizations for many years, children never pose a problem for me. The problem with this, the worst cruise ever, was with Carnival Cruise Lines and the Liberty ship. First of all the ship's common areas felt cramped and closed in. The decor was garish. The dining room looked hideous in tacky red and gold. My balcony cabin was very nice. And after the first day I was so happy I had that balcony. On prior cruises I enjoyed the common areas very much and spend very little time in my cabin. On the Liberty my cabin was where I spent most of my time. There was one overwhelming theme on this cruise - lack of attention to detail. The staff seemed like they wished they were anywhere but on that ship. And I could relate because by day three I wanted to get off! I am not a demanding or needy cruiser. At one point I made a simple request of my cabin steward. I told him that I didn't really need him to make up the room until later but I needed some ice. He told me to go and get it from the cart in the hallway. The cruisers seemed totally "herded" in all areas. The food lines were horrific - 20 minute wait in the buffet was typical and if you wanted to get something from the burrito bar or deli you had better be prepared to spend at least 30 minutes waiting. The layout of things on the ship was inefficient. Instead of having several small stations with food items they had long cafeteria style stations so if you just wanted to grab a box of cereal and a banana, for instance, you had to wait in a long line behind people who were loading their plates up as if it were their last meal. And who could blame them? It was obvious they didn't want to wait in that line again so they loaded up everything on their tray that they could. The shows were mediocre at best. They kept referring to "fun" activities - I couldn't find any. At night the lounges and the disco were empty. The piano bar entertainer was so lame. This was a full ship and the entertainment was so bad that people just went back to their cabins. I thought maybe this was a ship for people who just come on a cruise to eat and sleep. The cabins were nice and the food was good. So that is all I can say that is good about this cruise. I knew that Carnival was not the class of cruise that Princess is but I had no idea how bad it could be. I couldn't wait to get to the ports of call just to get off that ship! I am not a cruise snob but I am never cruising with Carnival again. It was the K Mart of cruising. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
I would first like to begin by saying that our trip on the Ryndam overall was a good. We had a great time and met some wonderful people. My partner and I took this cruise on the suggestion of friends who wanted us to try HAL. We have taken ... Read More
I would first like to begin by saying that our trip on the Ryndam overall was a good. We had a great time and met some wonderful people. My partner and I took this cruise on the suggestion of friends who wanted us to try HAL. We have taken many cruises in the past on several different cruise lines and are big fans of Celebrity. I really had no expectations as we boarded the ship. I knew the ship was older and would not have all the bells and whistles of the newer ships, but we went on this cruise wanting to give HAL a try. We booked a suite on the Navigation Deck. Room 24. I was very impressed by the spaciousness of the suite, the abundant storage space and the huge veranda. The cabin however was a bit warm for us and our cabin steward explained the room would cool down once we left the port of Tampa. Okay. We unpacked and went to lunch at the Lido buffet. I got bad vibes just looking at the food. I had a salad and the lettuce was brown (we had just boarded!) and the food overall not at all appetizing. Okay...dinner will be better. It wasn't. We ate in the dining room only twice during the cruise. It was mediocre to say the least. The service was good but because of the food quality, we ended up eating in the Pinnacle Grill for 5 of the 7 nights. The Pinnacle Grill is the specialty restaurant on board where you pay a service charge of $20 per dinner. I have to say the food and service in the Pinnacle Grill was spectacular! Fine steaks, great seafood, superb wines and I cannot say enough about Anne and her wait staff. They truly made you feel welcome and special. We loved it so much that we ate breakfast there every morning. Truly exceptional. Make reservations immediately upon boarding the ship however, as there is a maximum to the number of guests served per night. Back to the air conditioning. To make a long story short, our room and the adjacent room where are friends stayed, Cabin 22, did without AC for practically the whole cruise. DO NOT BOOK THESES CABINS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. There is nothing that can be done to remedy the problem. We complained and we were pacified but were never told there was a problem with these rooms until we finally met with the ships hotel manager after being treated very rudely by a supervisor at the front desk. We were told it was an old ship and the way the AC system was built, the cabin was at its maximum comfort level. They supplied us with electric fans but it was still unbearable sleeping and changing for dinner. To make up for the inconvenience, we were given a dinner including wine and drinks, service charged waived. It was a nice gesture but it still did not make up for the sleepless nights. Spa facilities are excellent. The staff is great and the massage and accupuncture treatments were fantastic. I also worked with a personal trainer at the gym (Meg) who really helped me with my chronic aching back. She was a life saver! Cabin steward Victor was superb. Very friendly and very attentive. The room was always immaculate. Room service overall was poor. I ordered room service twice and both times waited 45 minutes to get my food delivered to the room. We went to the theatre only one night. It was a Broadway review and it really was done well. So, I had a great time overall but don't think I will book myself on one of the Dam ships again. I've been spoiled by Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Overall, the vacation was fantastic, but I have to admit I was not impressed at all with NCL and will likely not sail with them again. Embarkation was fairly easy, they had to send us to 3 different lines because their key cards were not ... Read More
Overall, the vacation was fantastic, but I have to admit I was not impressed at all with NCL and will likely not sail with them again. Embarkation was fairly easy, they had to send us to 3 different lines because their key cards were not working, but it did not take that long and we were on board in under 30 minutes - very nice. The ship is very nice and very clean. I liked the layout of the ship and the cabin was fantastic - excellent bathroom - best I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The shower was great. The activities were limited it seemed compared to other ships with not as many things going on, but that may have been to being at so many ports of call. The biggest problem on board was the customer service - it was lousy at the two free dining rooms. Freestyle dining did not work very well for us as every time we wanted to eat we had to wait at least 30 minutes or so. We were told we could not make reservations unless we were in a party of 6 or more which was unfortunate. The food was definitely not up to par - poor choices and horrible desserts (very stale). I could live with hamburgers and hot dogs if service was good, but the waiters were very bad - they were down right rude to us at times, never smiling, very unfriendly. The same went for the room stewards who never made up our room till late at night even with the make up room sign on the door. We finally complained on day #3 (definitely something not in our nature to do, but it was really bad). After that the room stewards were very nice and had things done quickly. We also had a meeting with the restaurant manager Monica who was very nice and made sure we had reservations even though there were just two of us. She was great. I think they make things uncomfortable for you in the free dining rooms to get you to pay for the specialty restaurants...not sure. The ports of call were all great - had NCL tours in Pompeii (Excavations), Rome (Rome and the Vatican) and Florence (Splendors of Florence) which were all great although they could cut out the lunch on the full day tours as that was a waste of 2 hours that could be spent touring instead. The shows were pretty good, loved the singers and dancers, did not attend the magician or comediens. Disembarkation was very very easy, off the ship before 6AM to catch an early flight. Overall great trip, but would not go with NCL again due to the customer service unless the reates were really good. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
After waiting enthusiastically for months to take our Carnival Dream cruise, we embarked from Manhattan, New York for what we believed to be 8 glorious days aboard Carnival's newest, largest, most highly anticipated cruise ship, The ... Read More
After waiting enthusiastically for months to take our Carnival Dream cruise, we embarked from Manhattan, New York for what we believed to be 8 glorious days aboard Carnival's newest, largest, most highly anticipated cruise ship, The Dream. The embarkation went smoothly enough. It took about an hour to get onto the ship. Because the cabins were not available, cruise guest were directed to the Lido deck where we could get lunch. We immediately went to the Mongolian station where we waited in line for over an hour to get food. The food at this station was very good. The area inside was crowded so we had to seat outside which was cold. We then went to our cabin which was very nice and clean. As people began to file onto the ship, space began to slowly become an issue. It slowly began to feel crowed with nothing to do. It was clear the planners seemed to overlook the fact that it was cold outside therefore people, some 4,500 plus crew would be wandering around inside, bumping into each other. By the end of the second night, it was obvious that the staff had overlooked the 18-20 yr olders as there was absolutely nothing planned the entire 8 days for this age group. A friend had an 18 yr old who showed up for a meet and great which was supposed to be planned (it was listed in the cruise caper), but noone, including activity crew showed up. Therefore, they just ran lose, drank ed liquor and got in trouble. She tried to talk to the Cruise director, Tood several times leaving written requests, but he never responded. This lack of response seemed to permeate the cruise ship. Crew members were rude, seemingly tired and overworked. While this was a ship twice the size, 130,000 tonage as one of their regular size ships, 80-90,000 tonage, the crew appeared to not reflect the increase in number of cruise guests. Often our cabins were cleaned after we returned from late dinner seating which was after 9:30pm which would include getting ice, clean drinking glasses, etc. Getting ice and drinking water were indeed a nightmare!!! Of course, if you wanted water in your cabin you could buy it for almost $4 or wait 45 minutes to an hour for room service. Often we did not receive a cruise caper, so you would find out that something happened after the fact. The food was one of the two biggest disappointments of the cruise. Other than the Mongolian station, the food simply did not taste good. The lines were always long no matter where you tried to get food. The pizza was awful. The food in the two restaurants (I ate in the Scarlet restaurants some evenings) was simply not good. As the days past, the number of people eating in the restaurant began to dwindle. One night I asked for a fruit salad (it was on the menu) and simply asked to not have pineapples (as I am allergic) to be removed. This would have left watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe. I was told that this could not be done because the food it "pre-prepared". My last night I tried it again, asking to have some red sauce removed from my shrimp plate and was again told it could not be removed. The sauce completely changed the taste of the shrimp. We ate at Scarlet's 5 of our 8 nights, not one of the night did we get offered tea, juice, even alcoholic beverage until after dinner, during desert. This was only after we asked. Drink order were never taken!!!!! Our table guest just gave up and stopped eating in the restaurant. Between 2:30pm and 6pm, it seemed that hot foods became scarce. However, until 2:30 or 3pm you could get the Mongolian food if you choose to stand in line for over an hour to get it. And, even at that the food station closed down at that time regardless how long you had been in line. I witnessed daily arguments between guest and crew over this fact. Room service had a limited menu, cold and again took nearly an hour to get it. Only continniel breakfast in your room. In short, the food, taste and service was sub par. The second disappointment was the entertainment. The shows were just not good. I did not go on a cruise to see break dancing, ventriloquist acts. The dancers were slow and just not good. This was not my first cruise, however it was my first carnival cruise. So, I had some sense of what I thought I would experience. Please note, the cruise had two comedians during the first 3 days who were very, very good. At this point, I'm speaking of the Encore theater entertainment. However, the other acts were also sub par. I am sorry, but I just don't have the words to describe it. The buzz around the ship was its level of disappointment. You could always judge by the majority of seats being empty, always more seats empty than occupied. One night there was a big party on the Lido deck. For the first time during the cruise it was really full. It was fun even though the music selection was not good. After about 2 hrs it ended. The planner immediately started this "Laser show" which was consistently not good. The laser show lasted about 25 minutes just long enough to clear out the crowd. This was one of the warmer nights, you would think folks would hang around for the show and listen to the band. The reason is because the laser show and band was awful. It was one of the bahamas port nights and good planner would have kept with the theme, perhaps Bahamian or island music, but no, a bad band playing rock music. Often the cruise seemed to lack coherent, just poor planning. I don't recall one crew member, other than the spa staff who seemed to pay attention to the guest, other than trying constantly to sell me a drink. I observed a waiter serve alcoholic beverages to a table of kids I know where under 21 yrs of age. Because the ship has 14 decks, the elevators were the means of getting from deck to deck unless you choose to walk the stairs. They were always slow. The ship is big and beautiful without a doubt. The service, friendliness of the crew, food and entertainment is indeed sub par. This was a Thanksgiving Holiday cruise. which means it extended into the beginning of the Christmas holiday. I expected the ship to reflect at a minimum the thanksgiving holiday, at the most a Christmas tree.....something that reflected the Holiday. Absolutely nothing!!! We went to the restaurant that night, again nothing. they had turkey on the menu, but I guest I expected the planners to take into account that it was Thanksgiving, maybe wear a pilgrim hat, crave a turkey, put a piece of thanksgiving decoration on the table, play holiday music.....nothing happened!!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
After 10 cruises on (in order of preference) Disney, Princess, Celebrity, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines, this trip disappointed us most. Our NCL Hawaiian experience was less then stellar, but we thought we would give NCL one more try ... Read More
After 10 cruises on (in order of preference) Disney, Princess, Celebrity, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines, this trip disappointed us most. Our NCL Hawaiian experience was less then stellar, but we thought we would give NCL one more try as we wanted to split our vacation between a cruise and a trip to New Orleans, and our choice from N.O. was NCL or Carnival. I doubt we will ever choose NCL again. It was not a bad trip, just poorly managed, which can make you cranky and even angry if you let it. Other cruise lines - yes, including Carnival - in our opinion (and that of our frequent-cruising companions) offer a better cruising experience then NCL. That said, as long as you manage your expectations you can have a good time. Also, the ship is attractive, clean, and fairly well maintained. Just remember, you are not booked on the SS Ritz Carlton, but the SS Motel Six. Be prepared to be nickeled and dimed, and don't expect NCL to be prepared for eventualities. It seemed as if they are unfamiliar with the concept of "contingency planning." "Free style" cruising, i.e. dining when you want and dressing up or down as you choose, means a very casual approach. If you are looking for glamour on the high seas, from the passengers or the crew, this is not the cruise line for you. Few passengers dressed up on formal night. There is no self-service laundry on board and the laundry service, which is very expensive, was not returned in the time promised - plan accordingly. As a November 2009 column by Spud Hilton in the San Francisco Chronicle noted, the vacations we talk about most and remember best are the ones that were most problematical. We'll be talking about this one for quite a while. Here are some quick tips. 1. Arrive at and leave the ship late to avoid waiting in lines. 2. Manage expectations (see above). This is not the Ritz. While well meaning, the officers and crew seem not trained nor empowered to solve most customer service issues nor implement contingency plans. 3. Either bring enough clothes to last the cruise or wash them out yourself. 4. Drinks are not cheap, and bringing booze aboard is prohibited. Keep track of your charges daily to avoid surprises on the last day. 5. Eat less by avoiding the buffet. It even saves time to go to the main dining rooms for lunch. You also can choose a couple of the appetizers (they're small) instead of an entrEe. 6. Expect adequate but not fine dining (see tip #2). 7. Your room steward can do many things for you, but can't guess what you want - ask. 8. Arrive early in order to get a seat at shows and lounges. 9. Spend several hours on line a month or so before the cruise to read reviews, and to plan and book excursions. 10. If you need a fridge, your travel agent must arrange for one. 11. CDC and our medical doctor advised us to be sure our vaccinations were up-to-date, get hepetitis and typhoid vaccinations. Malaria pills not needed but suggested we wear long pants and sleeves, hats and socks and shoes (not sandals) and apply deet bug repellent if going on rain forest excursions. 12. New Orleans is cool in November and ports of call warm, windy, and wet. We did not arrive at the pier until 2:30, as recommended by another Cruise Critic. There were no lines to check in or board. Our stateroom was ready when we got there. Notes: While it appears you can touch the ship from the taxi drop-off point, the distance you have to zigzag, often up steep ramps, before you check in and actually get to our cabin is a long, long way. That's New Orleans' fault, not NCL's. Let a porter take all but your carry-on and don't try to drag a lot of luggage on. PROBLEM RESOLUTION THROUGH AVOIDANCE The C in NCL certainly does not stand for contingency planning. Nobody and no activity seem prepared to deal with the unplanned or unexpected. Crowd management and contingency planning don't exist. The staff, while well meaning, is not skilled on managing the public. They handle conflict and failures by avoidance. When reporting a problem, big or small, expect to be told to see someone else. When we arrived at our cabin it contained documents concerning our excursions and shipboard credits, we needed to take care of in the main lobby. When we got there, we found half the ship there too. Yet, not all desk stations were manned, disagreement between crew on how to fill out forms, and lines clash with each other. What a stupid mess. There's no reason to have people log in for the shipboard credits unless NCL is hoping you'll forget to claim them. Passengers and staff ignore ship rules such as adult-only areas. We have been on four Disney cruises and never had a problem with unsupervised children (obviously, we don't mind kids or we wouldn't have been on a Disney cruise). On this cruise: kids seemed to run wild, pushing, fighting, screaming everywhere. When reporting that I was unable to make a ship-to-shore call after trying for 30 minutes, I was put on hold by crew for 20 minutes only to be told, "I can't connect either, maybe you should try tomorrow." That was on Thanksgiving. And the crew didn't know comms were down? When a hand-written note addressed to us was delivered, asking that we call the front desk concerning an unidentified problem, I called and was immediately told she didn't know what the note was about and asked if I had any problems. When I said no, I was told to just ignore the note. PORTS OF CALL COSTA MAYA is reportedly built as a cruise-ship destination, some distance from a hurricane-flattened village the ships don't want you to see. Debarkation forces you to trek past Diamonds International and dozens of shops, many just like the next, and their barkers, in a shopping and pool/bar village restricted to cruisers. We self-toured to a small hotel-restaurant with a few casitas, Maya Luna, operated by a Dutch expatriate, Carolien. They have a private beach and welcome a limited number of day visitors. Contact Carolien@hotelmayaluna.com for more information. She was attentive and friendly, and prepared an excellent, huge lunch of pineapple halves stuffed with a kind of shrimp-chicken curried jambalaya. Zow! Two big lunches, a couple of beers, a margarita, and a heaping plate of just-made guacamole was less than $40. We came for the snorkeling, but the weather let us down. It's a good spot, if somewhat distant from the port - casitas had groups of scuba divers checked in, and we could have waded out to the reef. BELIZE has a harbor so shallow that ships must anchor miles from the dock. Private tenders, faster than the ships', carry you ashore to another mini-mall centered on a Diamonds International store. Ours was one of four white-sided boxes moored out. We chose the Lamania and New River Safari, a bus-boat tour to a Mayan ruin. The seven-hour excursion provided about two hours at the ruins, including time for a tasty, locally prepared buffet lunch. We spotted howler monkeys, skeeters, and on the speedboat run back, several orchids in the jungle along the river. Due to unpaved and very muddy paths, suggest hard-soled shoes (not sandals). Boat is fast moving and windy on the river, but dry. GUATEMALA had us docked at a container pier, with a warehouse nearby set up for vendors. Routine souvenirs - post cards, magnets, pseudo-local wares and a few real ones - were much more expensive than in Mexico. As we walked past one booth, the vendor saw me point at a carved-stone necklace. "One dollar," he exclaimed. As we wheeled about for a closer look, he claimed he told us $21. He kept dropping his price, finally to $10, as we turned our backs on him. My husband found a hand-decorated pen covered with colorful cloth and iron-burned bark for $2, and at the same stall, I spotted a wooden fan for $4. My husband offered $5 for both and was denied. I put the fan back. The vendor got $2 for the pen and we got back to the ship. Friends on a tour and shopping excursion saw their bus was being tailed by a pair of motorcycle police. They officers asked where the excursion was headed, and said they'd escort it out and back to the ship. They were not allowed off the bus - no shopping. I guess Guatemala doesn't want any cruisers murdered, as happened to a passenger off our ship the month before. After sunset, a handful of dancers and musicians lined the docks to see us off, and a couple dozen longshoremen sat on truck bumpers to watch. Nice touch - the dancers, that is. AT COZUMEL, all beach and dive excursions were canceled by operators due to wind. But we had to walk half a mile down the dock, and through a maze of ill-labeled staging points, to learn the bad news. When we asked NCL representatives about rescheduling us on a land excursion they were no help. Hard to believe NCL was not aware of weather cancellations before allowing debarking. Why in the world NCL didn't try to post someone on the gangway to tell us we can't imagine. We had to trek back with our duffels full of snorkel gear and wetsuits. We asked when we boarded about reimbursement, were told to ask at the excursion desk. Guess what desk was unmanned? Once again avoiding any unhappy guests. Coz has two ship docks, one for several in a downtown, and ours, which held only us. I can't imagine how crazy that other pier would have been. Then again, maybe those cruise lines are organized. LIFEBOAT DRILL Let my husband describe it: "I'm a retired Coast Guardsman, and I was appalled at the sloppy and offhand way the crew handled the drill. The labeling in the cabins doesn't explain that, although there are five lettered lifeboat stations on each side of the Promenade deck, each of those is divided numerically four or five times. So how do you know which to approach? Check the letter and number on the vest. Then search for a clipboard-size sign stuck on a pipe over the rail (not always facing so it can be seen) whose code matches your vest. "Irresponsible crew - The crew do not have bright, easily seen identification as on, say, Disney or Carnival ships. Crew in the halls and at the stairwells should be pointing people in the right direction and checking their vests to ensure they're headed there, but those I passed were mostly standing around. One was leaning against a stair rail where he couldn't watch people on the other side of the double stair. The crew on the lifeboat - or Promenade - deck where we were sorted for mustering were no better. Half were yakking with each other. No, that's not accurate: more than half. "The vests, the boat deck - You are asked to carry your vest to your station. That might make passing through the ship marginally easier for the drill than if you donned the vest. In an emergency though, with listing, confusion, possible flooding or smoke, and darkness, I think it's safer to wear the thing from the cabin. Other cruse lines require it. Maybe they want you to watch the crewmembers demonstrate donning the vest. At my station, a 6-4 crewmember told his under-five-foot associate to demonstrate. Nobody could see her! No roll call was taken. Passengers were not lined up or moved back from the rail to allow passage for people trying to reach their stations. We were not called to silence while instructions echoed down the main deck unintelligibly. "If a Coast Guard inspector had been aboard, he would have had the authority and duty to cancel the cruise unless the crew could do their jobs right. And you as passengers have a right to expect proper instruction and an efficient operation that demonstrates that, when an emergency occurs, the crew can actually function. This one could not." CABIN Our balcony cabin was adequate. While smaller then other balcony cabins we have had, with only a chair and hide-a-twin sub-loveseat to relax on, there was room under the bed for our suitcases. Since picking up a nasty intestinal bug, Campylobacter, on our last NCL cruise we always wipe down our rooms with Clorox disinfecting wipes when we first get in. Don't forget the remote and telephone. I also bring dish soap to wash the room glasses. (I know it sounds silly but read how many reviews tell of intestinal issues ruining their cruise.) The cabin appeared cleaner then some we have been in. The bathroom was a good configuration, and with the exception of the shower floor tiles, clean and attractive. The shower had a glass door rather then the "stick to our backside" shower curtain that most have. Another glass slider made the toilet private. The shower temp was "set and forget," and pressure was great. The balcony was very small and the large amount of paint chips covering the deck remained there the entire trip (I must admit, I never asked they be cleaned off). Problems with the bathroom were our major cabin issue. The shower drain clogged. The toilet would not flush, and even after repair had delays of up to two minutes after pressing the flush button. Water in sink ran brown while brushing teeth one day (a medical officer assured me "it won't hurt you"). The room and hallways smelled bad the entire trip. The sink also drained slowly until my husband pulled out the plug and adjusted a nut and screw. Minor cabin problems included: the telephone, which needed replacing. Its keys stuck and no instruction cover or key identification was on phone. Safe buttons were worn down and illegible, requiring a visit by a ship's officer to ID keys noted on instructions. Our TV's cable had a ruined connector that kept falling out, and it displayed interference from a battery-operated fan. We needed a foam bed pad for the very hard bed; the stewards got us one overnight. A steward left wet towels on bed, leaving a soggy mess. In the head, soap and shampoo dispensers were left empty on the same day; As with any ship, you should ask your steward early for what you want - extra blanket, pillows (soft, or firm?), towels, mattress padding. They try when you ask for help, and usually deserve at least the recommended tip. The sitting area between the bed and the balcony had an upholstered upright (dinner table) chair, a wobbly coffee table, and a settee that opens to a third twin (our "queen" was two singles shoved together, a very common practice). A desk with one shallow drawer sat under a large mirror with sidelights adequate for makeup. The balconies are small, but had two comfortable mesh chairs and a floor-tile size table. The teak rail (in need of sanding and a fresh coat of polyurethane) mounts at a comfortable height above a thick glass safety plate instead of metal rails or wires. The overhead of the balcony needed rust relief and some paint of its own. PUBLIC AREAS Public areas seem sized for smaller people than most Americans. Perhaps the spaces were designed for the crowded conditions Asians abide (the ship was built for the Asian market before being transferred to NCL.) For example, the waiting areas for the main restaurants crowd into the elevator and stairway lobbies, which makes for a lot of elbow banging and 'scuse me's, and trying to maneuver around people who should know better than to sit or sprawl all over the stairs. And in the casino, one ceiling was so low my husband had one-inch clearance between his scalp and the spy-camera bubbles. The atrium is nicely decorated, and planted with a variety of silk and plastic flora. A large space in the center holds different shopping specials every evening - gold or silver chains by the inch, faux jewelry, designer watches, logo clothing. Elevators are a bit small, as are their lobbies (see dining). Stairs have nice carpeting and sturdy handrails, with Asian art mounted in niches on landings. DINING Based on the fact we had been disappointrf in the numerous premium restaurants we ate in on our past NCL cruise, and the reviews I had read concerning the Spirit's, we only ate in the free dining rooms. We found both Windows and Garden restaurants' food was adequate but below the quality of other cruise ship dining. We ate at all different times, early and late; except for three dinners, we didn't have to wait for a table. The most we ever waited was 30 minutes. As this is something we expect when we go to a restaurant at home in San Francisco, we were not upset by the wait, just the lack of crowd management. Although pagers were given, they didn't work if you moved beyond a minimal distance from the restaurants, which are located at the bottoms of stairways at elevator doors. Staff is at a loss as how to deal with problems. Notes: 1. Main dining rooms were all but empty at lunchtime, making them a good alternative to the buffet. 2. Room service was fast but selection very limited. You'll be called a few minutes before breakfast deliveries. We were glad for that, because on three mornings, they were 15-30 minutes early, and we had to scramble to be presentable. 3. Raffles buffet is fine for hot breakfast and lunch. 4. Chocolate buffet was beautiful but nothing tasted good. No crowd management. 5. Poolside food horrible - go into Raffles unless you're shirtless. 6. Poolside drinks much more expensive then other cruise lines. To avoid constant harassment from drink servers, keep a filled glass beside you when sitting by the pool. We were told that all the food (with the exception of the food cooked in front of you) is cooked in the same kitchen on deck six. The exception was the desserts, which were made to look good and stand the test of time but lacked intensity, texture and, often, sugar. One dinner in the Garden dining room took 62 minutes from seating to delivery of the entrees. That's absurd and unacceptable. In the offensive and intolerable category: Two nights we had plugged up saltshakers. When I told the waiter, he picked it up, shook it over his wrist, and said it was "just slow." On a properly trained staff, the waiter promptly answers, "Yes, sir," and gets a replacement without question. Do they also put their thumbs in the soup if you say it's not hot enough? ENTERTAINMENT The Spirit is a smaller boat with limited space for the number of people on board. The live shows are held in the theater, which fills early. The lounges are few, small, and multi-functional. The only lounge with a dance floor is used as the bingo hall much of the time. We didn't see a crew show, but saw a very good Cajun performer with his band in the showroom. The magician did big illusions as well as sleight of hand. But a huge tween boy in front of us kept bouncing around so we couldn't see what was going on. We asked him to sit still, and briefly said why, but he (and his father) ignored us. We left early. Second City performed a full showroom review, which we enjoyed, and a lounge "teaching show," which our friends said was OK but not as good. Dominating the lounges: Arvin and Emily, a Filipino couple with a keyboard and outstanding voices that are nearly pitch-perfect, could do any song and make it sound like the original. I also liked the Caribbean band at the pool. A guitarist and pianist who both sang (separately) were also good. Actually, they all did tunes mostly from '65-'85. We caught one film; it was on six or eight wide-screen TV monitors in the comfortable Maharini Lounge (multi-use again). The picture quality was merely fair, and varied from stretched too wide on some screens to cropped top and bottom on others. How about setting up all the monitors to the same standard, and maybe checking the cable connections here, too? Friends aboard with us like seeing films during the day, but, with no theater, they were disappointed. There are far fewer on-board activities then other cruises. Other then shopping information, there were no presentations on the areas we would be visiting. Disembarking Because we did not have a flight that day, we choose the last disembarking time, 10:15. We went to breakfast and returned to our cabin until 10:15, even though the last group had been called for disembarking at 9:45. The stewards were eager to move us out. We were among the last to leave, walking off with no wait, had no problem finding a porter, and cleared right through customs in minutes. We had no problem getting a taxi to our hotel. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We cruised on Princess Cruises last September to Alaska. While we loved Alaska and the itinerary, we were not impressed by the Coral Princess. Everyone has always raved about Princess so we decided to try again, this time in the Southern ... Read More
We cruised on Princess Cruises last September to Alaska. While we loved Alaska and the itinerary, we were not impressed by the Coral Princess. Everyone has always raved about Princess so we decided to try again, this time in the Southern Caribbean for 10 days on the new Ruby Princess. Once again we were disappointed. Embarkation was fine....long lines, but they moved pretty fast. Our room was ready when we arrived. There was no champagne on boarding, just information about a scavenger hunt of some sort. The Ruby is just the same old ship design....nothing new or innovative. The bathroom and especially the shower was still very small. The balcony room we had was adequate and the beds were comfortable. One complaint with the Princess designed balconies is the tiering style. Instead of seeing the water directly below our balcony, we looked down into the balcony below us. We were on the 11th deck, so no one above us looked down, but privacy is definitely an issue. Also, a constant complaint of mine, lots of smokers who love to pollute the fresh air on the balconies. One feature we enjoyed was the "Movies Under the Stars". At night covers were put on the lounge chairs, blankets and popcorn were passed out, and you could relax and watch a movie up on deck. It was especially fun to watch the football games on the huge screen. Food was edible, but just the usual stuff on the buffet. After 10 days, it was tiring to see the same old stuff everyday. There was not much variety. Some cruises we have been on have omelet stations, stir fry stations, delis and other options to spice the buffet up. Not this one....very boring and it seemed that at least one side was always closed making for long lines and crowdedness in the area. The design of the seating for the buffets is meant to make smaller intimate areas but it just didn't work. There were too many barriers to try to make your way through carrying food. Waitstaff was not friendly. In fact, we saw many being very rude to the elderly passengers. Granted, this cruises average age was probably 80 something, but the rudeness was uncalled for. Dining room food was better than the buffet. On several nights it was excellent....what one would expect on a cruise. But several nights, it was hard to find something to choose on the menu. Plates were not presented as well as they could have been and service was very slow.We chose the anytime dining, and would recommend that you call ahead and make a reservation as it gets crowded. They pass out "beepers" and you have to wait. One night we waited over 40 minutes, then missed the show. We did not get to see many shows. Because of the large senior population on this ship, the early show was impossible. People were in the small theater an hour before the show just to get seats. The shows were sometimes repeated the next night. People raved about the hynotist show, but we were not able to get seats at either show. If you are patient and can sit and wait an hour you will see the show. We did not have that patience. We chose this cruise because we liked the intinerary....all islands we have never been to before. After 9 cruises, it becomes difficult to do that. We were disappointed in our tour in St Thomas....tours are very expensive, and this "Views of St. Thomas" was awful. Unairconditioned trucks, tacky stops, and a guide who we could not understand. The "state of the art" tram up the mountain was old, broken down, and definitely NOT state of the art. Dominica was not a nice place to walk around. Many passengers got off, and came right back on the ship. Locals were unfriendly and tried to rip people off on the cab ride to town. One couple told us about the driver charging $1 to get to town ( which is really only one small street), and then wanted $10 to get back to the ship. The dock was in the middle of a working truck yard and was dangerous to manuver your way through. The other ports of Princess Cays, Grenada, Bonnaire, and Aruba were all very nice. Princess Cays offered many water activities. Bonnaire was friendly, although the beaches are all coral and not great for swimming. The mangrove tour was very interesting. Aruba was gorgeous, and felt very safe. Don't head to the beaches until afternoon, as the winds whip the sand around. Lots to do in this port. Disembarkation was not easy. The typical wait to wait deal. Crowded lounge, then wait to get to customs, wait at customs, etc. You expect this but there were many delays in this ship's processes. Not run smoothly. Overall, we had a good time, but will probably stay with other lines for a while. I think Princess attracts many repeat cruisers who are very loyal even when things are not as they should be. Until they start complaining or going with other lines, things will stay the same. Work needs to be done on friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. Perhaps, the seniors who are so loyal, should try other lines, like Celebrity or Royal Caribbean, to see how they should be treated. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My husband and I took the cruise together from 12/19-12/26/2009. Overall we had a very nice time, but in some ways we had to make the best of it as the service of a large number of the staff was not good at all. Embarkation was rough. We ... Read More
My husband and I took the cruise together from 12/19-12/26/2009. Overall we had a very nice time, but in some ways we had to make the best of it as the service of a large number of the staff was not good at all. Embarkation was rough. We could not get into our cabins immediately and had to take our carry on luggage with us to lunch. The service for lunch in the Grand Pacific was extraordinarily slow and I did not get all of the food I ordered. The food we got was very good. Our key cards worked fine as key cards, but not for the onboard account and when we went to the desk to get them fixed, both my husband and I were chastised about putting them near magnets which neither of us did. The cards didn't work from the moment we got them. The first night was rough. The seas were very rough (which I know no one can control) and many people got sea sick. It took the staff until the next day to put out vomit bags and by then everyone was fine. My husband and I didn't sleep very well that night due to the high waves. The first sea day was nice. We did a wine tasting and a beer tasting. The wine tasting was not very good. The sommelier was knowledgeable, but the location was overflow dining for the Garden Cafe so we had a hard time hearing about the wines over the crowd. The beer tasting was a lot of fun. The bartender was excellent and we all had a good time and they were pretty generous with the beers. We also went to the art auction where we enjoyed a free glass of champagne and saw some great paintings. Most were well over our budget point. We ate in the La Cucina restaurant which was a specialty restaurant with a $10 additional cover. The food was excellent. The second day was spent in the Orlando area. We took the shuttle to Historic Cocoa Village and did some shopping. Unfortunately on Monday a good number of the stores were closed which was unfortunate. We did buy some excellent Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar from a shop called From Grapes and Olives. We ate dinner in Teppanyaki back on the ship which was another speciality restaurant and probably one of the best ones on the ship. There was $25 cover charge per person, but it was a good show and good food. We then ended up at Great Stirrup Cay which is NCL's private Island. If you go, stay on the boat. We did enjoy parasailing, but honestly it wasn't really worth the trouble of leaving the boat. We had to take a tender boat from the boat and it took hours to get everyone off the boat who wanted to get off. We were in the "first come first serve" line for tickets when it opened and we still ended up on the fourth boat out. I do not know how others snatched up the better tickets. The food for the island barbecue was cold and terrible and the island was insanely crowded. Getting back on the boat was even more difficult. We were given no instructions other than to wait until the boat was docked, but since we sat down below there was no way to tell when it was docked. It was a very uncomfortable trip. We ate this night at Le Bistro where we both had the duck which was excellent. This really was an excellent place to eat and I would go there again. Then we did go to Nassau where we participated in the stingray adventure which was pretty neat. The island we went to for the stingray show was quiet and sunny and we had a lovely day. We would have liked to have more time in the Bahamas than in Florida. We ate in another specialty restaurant-Orchid Garden, which was okay. It isn't worth the cover charge and I don't recommend it. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we were told we could not get dinner reservations until after 9 PM. This was not entirely true. We were frustrated by this fact because we were told we could not make a reservation until the day before. My husband went as soon as the reservation desk was open and they were booked. He can be very persuasive and got us a 6:30 reservation at Teppanyaki for Christmas Eve, but we were still going to have to wait until 9:00 for Cagney's on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve Day was a fun day at sea. We had a martini tasting at Shaker's Bar which was another great time with the head bartender. They are very generous with the alcohol and we really enjoyed ourselves. We also bought a painting at the art auction (no more champagne though) and ate at Teppanyaki again. Christmas Day at sea was not very much fun. There were very few activities scheduled that were of interest to us (as you can tell-tastings and art). They had game shows and Bingo and a toga party-none of which suited our interests. It was too cool to sit outside and read and we were left with nothing to do. We did have brunch at Le Bistro which was again excellent. We took a long nap and prepared for our late dinner at Cagney's. We met some friends for drinks before and we spoke to the manager and got into dinner an hour earlier than our reservation. The food at Cagney's was good-not as good as Le Bistro though. Our friends ordered prime rib and it was tough. I had lamb chops which were also rather tough and a little overcooked, but overall the food was good. Dessert was delicious. Cagney's also has a $25 cover charge per person. Throughout the cruise we also ate at Grand Pacific and the Garden Cafe and Blue Lagoon for breakfasts and lunches. We never went to the Magenta because it was always insanely crowded. They do have a sign board posted everywhere which indicates how crowded each restaurant is at all times which is helpful. The food at Grand Pacific is good but the service is terrible. It is slow and some servers are truly rude and unpleasant. The food at the Garden Cafe is okay-it is a buffet. Eating after 8 AM will mean a long wait and overcrowding. About halfway through our cruise they started serving people at the buffet which was annoying as we had to wait in long lines to eat. We also typically got up for the early breakfast at 6:30 which they stopped providing without notice. The Blue Lagoon service was good sometimes and awful sometimes and slow always. The food there is okay. Coffee on the ship was consistently good wherever we ate. We then ended up at Great Stirrup Cay which is NCL's private Island. If you go, stay on the boat. We did enjoy parasailing, but honestly it wasn't really worth the trouble of leaving the boat. The guides did a great job and were very entertaining, but they were not shy about asking for their tips! We had to take a tender boat from the boat and it took hours to get everyone off the boat who wanted to get off. We were in the "first come first serve" line for tickets when it opened and we still ended up on the fourth boat out. I do not know how others snatched up the better tickets. The food for the island barbecue was cold and terrible and the island was insanely crowded. Getting back on the boat was even more difficult. We were given no instructions other than to wait until the boat was docked, but since we sat down below there was no way to tell when it was docked. It was a very uncomfortable trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
I am a first time HAL cruiser. I've previously cruised on Princess and MSC. Eurodam is a relatively new ship. I've booked a balcony cabin on deck 5 Veranda. Cabin was roomy, clean, and well appointed. It's roomier than other ... Read More
I am a first time HAL cruiser. I've previously cruised on Princess and MSC. Eurodam is a relatively new ship. I've booked a balcony cabin on deck 5 Veranda. Cabin was roomy, clean, and well appointed. It's roomier than other ships that I've cruised. The bathtub is a nice addition and my 7 year old used it often. The food quality was not as I expected. The presentation was very good. But there was always something missing in the execution and the taste. For example the consistency of gumbo soup was too watery, like chicken noodle soup. Lamb chop would have been excellent except they were overcooked to almost well done. Lobster was cooked okay, but was not too fresh as it was darkening on the edge of the meat. I've also dined at Tamarind specialty restaurant, and it's the same experience. Good presentation, but poor execution. The chicken satay was overcooked and too dry. The szechuan shrimp would have been excellent, but there was too much batter. Batter was undercooked as well as the shrimps. The beef filet ordered on the last night was done very well, medium rare as ordered, and the quality of the meat was excellent. Wine stewards in the main dining room was MIA. They never showed up until repeatedly asked for them, and not until the appetizer was already served. The dining room always looked busy and understaffed. The servers were scuffling around, but the food was never on time. I had As You Wish Dining option. I dined at Rembrandt main dining room four times, and placed in four different corners with different wait staff. The first wait staff was very good. They were courteous, attentive, and provided the classic dining room experience. The other three staff members were indifferent, clueless, and just terrible. And I've never seen Maitre'D in the dining room. In other cruises Maitre'D is often seen going from table to table greeting diners and making acquaintance. But I've never seen him in any dining rooms during the week. Eurodam is a large ship, and it has about a dozen public areas, or lounges. Somehow about 1/2 of the public areas were not staffed until after 5pm or so, and they were vacant. On the other hand the casino was always crowded 24/7. The pool was overcrowded. There are about 100 lounge chairs on Lido pool. About 1/3 of the chairs were empty, but someone put a book on it to "reserve" the chair. The overall theme in the ship was too much subdued. My cruise was the Christmas week, but the ship was just dead. I've expected some holiday spirit, music, and entertainment, but there was just nothing. One day around 8:30pm after dinner I've walked through the entire ship. There wasn't single live music playing, or entertainment offered. The kids activity was so so. Three of the Club HAL staff were well mannered, nice, courteous, and good to the kids. But there was this one girl, obviously out of place, rude and ill mannered with gum chewing like a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas. The printed daily schedule delivered every day was not very organized. It was just hard to read and to figure out what's going on throughout the day. Both Princess and MSC had all the activities organized in a time table so you know exactly what's going on where with one glance. To summarize, I would give this cruise a B-. There wasn't a single epic failure, but there were enough of those small annoyance and disappointments that affected overall experience in a negative way. I will probably not select HAL for the next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009

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