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999 Holiday Cruise Reviews

This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.) We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things! As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time). I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :))))) All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :) Looking back now that I am older and wiser now Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
My husband and I are a couple in our late 50's and this was our second cruise. We drove to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton resort along the seawall. This was good value for money in December (~$100) and we would ... Read More
My husband and I are a couple in our late 50's and this was our second cruise. We drove to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton resort along the seawall. This was good value for money in December (~$100) and we would recommend it at that time of the year. We got to the cruise terminal around 11:30am on the 23rd and were able to go through processing and board straight away; had lunch in the buffet restaurant and then went to find our cabin. This was our first Christmas cruise and we weren't sure what to expect. Our only disappointment was that there was no Christmas church Service but it was fun on Christmas Day to listen to the little kids try to decide where Santa and his sleigh actually landed on the ship ! Our cabin steward, Peter, was great and quickly brought us some wine glasses and made room in the small refrigerator for a bottle of champagne we brought on board. He kept our cabin spotless the entire trip. We had early dinner in the Monet dining room and were pleased with both the service and the food. Although our seating was for 5:45pm it actually worked well for us. Between ordering, eating and relaxing, we found that we were there most evenings until about 7:30pm. One caution - when the ship is at capacity, most tables for 2 are in the middle of the aisles and it takes a while to get used to having people passing by on both sides throughout the meal. By day 3, we hardly noticed them. We had a cabin at the rear of the Verandah deck with an oversize balcony. Nice balcony but the trade-off was the noise from the Lido deck until the early hours of the morning. From the deck plans it looks like you're under the pool, and we knew that closed at 11pm. What we didn't realize was that there's about 20ft with tables and chairs between the pool and the rear of the ship and the 24hr pizzeria is nearby. Oh well, we'll know better next time. In Jamaica, you need transportation to get from the port to the main shopping area. If you don't take an official tour, we'd advise taking a cab from the port rather than a minibus if you're on your own. The minibuses wait until they have a full load, and then the majority vote rules on where you actually go. Cabs are more expensive (around $25 to downtown) but you have more control. You don't need transportation in Cozumel or Grand Cayman unless you want to go outside the town. Onboard, we only went to one show so can't comment on those. Lots of places to just sit and listen to live music and have a drink. We paid the surcharge and went to the Steak House one evening for dinner. The food was really good but the portions are huge and we couldn't finish the main course - my husband had the smallest steak - 18oz prime rib and I had the filet mignon and lobster tail. We had waiters rushing to our table to make sure there was nothing wrong ! We really enjoyed this cruise and would recommend it as good value for money.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
This was our tenth cruise and our second one on the Sapphire Princess. We sailed on this ship when it was new in 2004 and enjoyed it very much so we were interested in doing this longer cruise over the Christmas and New Year holidays. My ... Read More
This was our tenth cruise and our second one on the Sapphire Princess. We sailed on this ship when it was new in 2004 and enjoyed it very much so we were interested in doing this longer cruise over the Christmas and New Year holidays. My husband and I are in our sixties and live on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. We usually have long flights to join cruises in Europe and the US but this time it was only a seven and a half hour flight to Singapore where we stayed overnight in order to see the Christmas Lights. The next morning we took a short one and a half hour flight to Bangkok for our operational overnight stay that we had booked with Princess. This turned out well because our transfers went smoothly and the Menam Riverside hotel in Bangkok was a pleasant place to stay. We had the advantage of being able to check in with Princess at the hotel so that embarkation was a breeze the following day. It took about 3 hours to get to the port but this took longer than usual because of road works. Once on board we found our cabin on Caribe deck and were happy to see that we had a large balcony with nice blue mesh chairs and flooring. The cabin was nicely laid out with good storage space and plenty of coat hangers. The shower was quite small but manageable. We met Marvin, our cabin steward, who looked after us very well for the duration of the cruise. We unpacked our suitcases before muster and then joined our Cruise Critic friends in the Oasis bar. We had already met some of them at the hotel but now we were able to match more names to faces. We were all excited to be at the sailaway together and were looking forward to our 20 day cruise! The ship is large and beautiful. It's one of the Grand Class ships and carries 2800 passengers. The dEcor is classy and elegant with lovely artwork and a pleasing color scheme throughout. I won't go into too many details as a full ship's review can be found elsewhere on this website. It takes a while to explore the ship fully and find your way around but we had been on this ship before so it was easier for us this time! We had opted for anytime dining rather than the traditional dining and I'm glad we did because it was fun eating in the various restaurants and also convenient to eat at different times. We usually booked ahead when we had figured out our plans for the day but sometimes we changed times and it was no problem. Sometimes we ate with friends or on our own and at other times we joined a big table where we met some interesting people from all over the world and from all walks of life. We rotated between the Pacific Moon, Savoy, Vivaldi and Santa Fe restaurants in the evening. In the morning we sometimes had breakfast in the International dining room and at other times we ate buffet-style in Horizon Court. On port days we ordered breakfast in our cabin and ate on the balcony. The restaurant and the room service was consistently good. On occasion we enjoyed afternoon tea in the International dining room. One time when we were at afternoon tea a passenger was being rude to one of the waiters. He told the waiter he was stupid and this irked me because the waiters are often trying so hard to give good service. I loved it when my husband defended the waiter and told the passenger that he would be more likely to get good service if he wasn't so rude! The food was very good everywhere on board and there were only a couple of meals we didn't like. We usually had a drink on our balcony at sailaway and then ordered wine at the dinner table. We occasionally ordered drinks at the bar or in the lounges. The entertainers were not as good as on our last Sapphire Princess cruise but the production shows with the talented singers and dancers were very good. Lenny Windsor, the comedian, was quite amusing and we also enjoyed the dynamic singer Caron Kate Blackwell and her husband, comedian Marty Allen. The best band of all was Deep Blue who managed to get everyone dancing and having fun. What a talented group! They usually played in Club Fusion or around the pool deck. The captain was Attilio Guerini. The cruise director was Sammi Baker who was quite a live spark around the ship. Her assistant Sam was a wonderful teacher for the dance classes together with Tom who also organized the virtual golf team competition on some of the sea days. We went once to the bingo and also to the wooden horse races on a sea day and it was good fun. After attending one of Brad Coates rather uninspiring lectures on Achieving Personal & Financial Freedom in mid-life we decided to free ourselves of him before the next lecture! Christmas Day Santa arrived in the Atrium on Christmas Day. We listened to the announcement that he would be arriving by helicopter to give the children their presents! There were Christmas carols in the Atrium on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. It was fun joining in and watching the children receive their gifts from Santa. The snow machine was an excellent idea and really helped to get everyone into the spirit of things. New Year's Eve A fun time for everyone! We had dinner with friends and then got changed out of our formal dress to attend the pool deck party where Deep Blue was playing. We danced the night away and brought in the New Year with our friends and other passengers. Now to the ports and what we did there. Koh Samui We joined four of our Cruise Critic friends on a private tour, Mr.Ung's Magical Safari,in Koh Samui. We travelled in a jeep which was a bit bumpy but made for some good fun rides! We visited the elephant, crocodile and monkey shows before going on an elephant ride along a winding path through the forest. We managed to get some great photos of us on the ride. We went to a waterfall and gardens before having a delicious Thai lunch at a scenic viewpoint high up in the mountains. We all enjoyed the day and had a lot of laughs together! Singapore We had been to Singapore before so we decided to explore the Tanglin Rd area and the Botanic Gardens, which are lovely and have some beautiful orchids as well as other tropical plants. On the way there we were invited into the newly opened St. Regis hotel and had an interesting conversation with the assistant manager. She introduced us to the butler who took us around the hotel and showed us the bedrooms. They were absolutely lovely and the bathrooms had a plasma TV on the mirror next to the bath - quite an innovative idea! It was a hot day so on the way back from the gardens we called into one of the shopping centers and had a cool drink before catching the shuttle back to the ship. Vietnam We had booked the Ho Chi Minh City on your own tour with Princess. We drove through little villages with run-down shops and houses. It was interesting to watch the people in cone shaped hats riding bicycles and mopeds and going about their daily business. In about two hours we arrived in HCM. I've never seen so many motorcycles on the road all hurrying to get to their destination without stopping to let anyone across the road. We managed to survive by just crossing over and letting them go around us otherwise we would never have got to the other side! Shopping was fun at the markets! We bought shirts, pants, sunglasses and hats at absolutely ridiculous prices! Finally we went up to the rooftop lounge of the famous Rex Hotel for a well- deserved drink! The buffet up there was quite cheap and the food looked good but we weren't hungry enough so we decided to wait until we got back on board. Kota Kinabalu Another private tour booked on the internet with KK tours by one of our friends. Henry was our guide and he spoke good English. First he took us to the water village which was situated in a sea of mud with rubbish everywhere! The houses were on stilts and living conditions were poor and far from sanitary! I thought of my own very comfortable home and was thankful I didn't live there! It was an interesting experience! The next stop was a Chinese temple where we took photos. Then we arrived at the Monsopiad Cultural Village to see the headhunter's house of skulls and the traditional cultural show. It was all very interesting and I would recommend this tour to anyone else. Darwin It was a very hot and humid day so we just went into the city for a look around. We took a taxi to Mindil beach and walked along the sands( no one swimming here because of the deadly box jellyfish!) It was New Year's Day so there wasn't too much happening. We were glad to get out of the heat and back into the ship's air conditioning! Cairns We live in Queensland so we had been here before. We decided to go to the little tourist town of Port Douglas with the Princess tour bus. It was another very hot day so we walked along the main street to Four Mile beach for an hour or so and back to the Old Court House hotel where we sat upstairs on the verandah and had a light lunch and a cool beer. The pretty coastal drive was about 40 minutes each way and we were back on the ship by 3.00pm. Airlie Beach We were lucky with the weather again! After a quick shower at the start it turned out to be a beautiful day. We decided to visit the markets first and then we explored the town. It had changed for the better since the last time we were there. A lagoon area and a boardwalk had been added as well as more sand on the little beach. Luckily we missed the floods that came just after our visit! Brisbane We stayed on the ship as we live just a one hour drive from here. We had the ship to ourselves for the day apart from a few others who probably lived there too. We sat around the pool, read our books and had a nice lunch. It was a very relaxing day! Sydney We were lucky to get a late disembarkation time as our flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast didn't leave until 1.30pm. It was very well organized and on time but we had to wait almost an hour for a taxi as there were two other ships docked in Sydney that day. But that was fine as we had plenty of time before our flight home. Summary On this ship you can really " Escape Completely" as they say in the Princess ads! There were many sea days when you could either do your own thing or join in the many activities provided. We had a fabulous time but we didn't feel as though we had to join in everything. We used our balcony a lot and enjoyed watching the sailaways before dinner. Meeting up with new friends from Cruise Critic really enhanced our cruise and we hope to meet some of them again soon. We met some people who were rude to the staff and complained about everything but you will always get those unhappy people on cruises or anywhere you travel - just move away from them! We met some lovely people on board and all were enjoying the cruise as much as we were. We saw some parents who let their children run around unsupervised on the ship at night but we also met some very polite children who were well controlled by their parents. I wish Princess would stop young children from running around in the bars and lounges late at night. It annoys other passengers and it's also dangerous when drinks are being served. We are looking forward to our next cruise on the Sapphire Princess when she sails from Sydney to Los Angeles in April. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
I will make this short but am open to further questions from anyone interested. The ship was amazing from a technical and size perspective but slightly less elaborate in decoration then some of the regular cruise ships I have been ... Read More
I will make this short but am open to further questions from anyone interested. The ship was amazing from a technical and size perspective but slightly less elaborate in decoration then some of the regular cruise ships I have been on.(not a complaint just an observation) On the whole it was a remarkable ship! The food was very good as we ate in the Britannia Room but do highly recommend the Chef's Gallery as this was stellar. Book early and often for the various nights there. Todd English was..well not so great. The food was good but the overall feel and service was not close to that of Ocean Liners on say Celebrity. My advice is book the Chef's Gallery in lieu of Todd English and as a bonus it is free. Our room was comparable to other cruise staterooms and was always very well cleaned. We had a sheltered balcony and although you could not see out when sitting, it was very roomy. I thought this a better value then decks 8 and 9 which appeared to have a very obstructed view from the lifeboats even though those were glass balcony's. The shows were mixed and I would say overall disappointing compared to other ships. Cunard needs to really improve this end. It would be my biggest complaint. They did have a few very good ones but on average....average. Staff was very friendly and accommodating and getting on and off a ship of this size was pretty coordinated and easy. The Itinerary for 15 nights was great with 9 stops starting in Ft. Lauderdale, Panama, Bonaire, Granada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts, Tortola and St. Thomas. Overall I loved being on this "Ocean Liner" and would go back tomorrow despite the shows. However we did seem to pay a fair bit less then others and it seemed to be the higher one paid the more they complained! We thought the Value was very very good based on other cruises we took. We paid less this year for 15 nights then one last year with Celebrity for 10 nights so thought it very good value. Might simply be the time and economy helping us here. The age was older and on average I would say 60's which I think was lower due to the Holiday season as we did see a fair bit of Families on board! I would also say that this is a pretty formal ship so go prepared to wear the formals or be turned away as some found out! Also we had your handful of usual rude and miserable guests on board and again for the life of me...."Why do these people insist on traveling?" I guess they just want to spread their miserable little existence around for the enjoyment of the rest of us?? So many things to mention but in ending...I would rate this a 9 out of 10 based on my experience of 8 cruises with various lines and would recommend it highly! Cheers and Happy Sailing! Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was an amazing cruise! It was our second time with NCL and our 4th cruise. We stayed at La Pavilion the night before the cruise, it was a elegant fancy hotel with a rooftop pool and hot tub and PB&J at 10:00. We checked out ... Read More
This was an amazing cruise! It was our second time with NCL and our 4th cruise. We stayed at La Pavilion the night before the cruise, it was a elegant fancy hotel with a rooftop pool and hot tub and PB&J at 10:00. We checked out the French Quarter and had early dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, the food was pretty good, but we found Bourbon Street and the rest of the french quarter inappropriate for our children (nude ladies in windows, signs for "Big Ass Buckets of Beer" so we didn't stay for long Embarkation: We packed fairly lightly compared to some other people we saw, so we got to the lines quickly. the staff were quick and we got through the whole thing in 20 minutes because we were latitude members and got to skip the long lines. When we got on the ship we were offered free fruit juices and wine. Dining: We ate at Windows for dinner every night and almost every day for lunch, i don't know what other people are talking about the food was delicious and the staff were amazing! The kids went to Raffles for breakfast and lunch bythemselves, we went once for lunch and breakfast - for breakfast there is your typical food eggs, omelets, cereal, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, bagels etc, and for lunch there is salad, pizza, pasta, carving, vegetarian selection, meats, soups and a deli counter. The Bier garden had hamburgers and mashed potatoes and unfortunately we only figured out that Henry's Pub had soft pretzels and popcorn on the last day. Blue Lagoon was a comfort food restaurant, it was usually busy, we only went once for french fries and hot dogs. For christmas at window's for dinner we had turkey and mashed potatoes and yule logs for dessert - delicious! We missed the Chocoholic buffet because we were too tired Entertainment: The Second City was funny, the Broadway and radio shows were okay and the magician was excellent! The christmas show was good too, the Kids Club did a performance. The Ship: the pools were usually packed and at night the hot tubs were very popular, we only went swimming once, there is an Asian theme and the whole ship had christmas trees and big ginger bread houses around. The Cabin: On the small side but cozy, our TV had problems, the bathroom was good, an actual shower instead of a curtain shower, our kids had a connecting room and their bed needed to be separated into two, we got an egg foam pad so our bed was really nice. Our stewards - Jovito and Herbert are amazing!!! They were always on time and made a variety of towel animals for us. Disembarkation: We used express, a LOT faster, had dinner at Window's at around 8:30 and we got off the ship at around 9:30. It was surprisingly fast and only took us 10 minutes!!! We loved this vacation, and the bad reviews are very untrue. It is an amazing ship and the staff are wonderful. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on the NCL Sky. Husband, son(16) and I flew into Ft Lauderdale on Friday - rented a car for the 3 days before left on the Sky on Monday 11/24. Did the tourist thing around Miami for three days. ... Read More
Had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on the NCL Sky. Husband, son(16) and I flew into Ft Lauderdale on Friday - rented a car for the 3 days before left on the Sky on Monday 11/24. Did the tourist thing around Miami for three days. We stayed at the Best Western in North Miami in the Bayside Marina. Location was great - just north of South Beach and 15-20 minute drive to Port of Miami. There were several other people we met in the hotel that were booked on a cruise. Picked this hotel from recommendation of other cruise critic reviews. Older hotel recently renovated. Continental breakfast was okay. Hotel restaurant was great - on the marina. Would definitely stay again. Dropped rental car off at the Miami Int'l airport. Cab fair from MIA was set a flat rate of $24. Lot's of road construction around the drop off area for the rental car companies. Got turned around - was late checking in and Avis charged us another hour at $39. Did call Avis and complain because of the road construction, etc. Got a credit back for the $39. Embarkation was easy. We arrived at 11:15 - paper work processed quickly. After passport check, etc. was put into a holding area with many other people. They didn't start boarding until 12:00. That went pretty quick. Rooms were not ready until 2:00 - so had plenty of time to have lunch and find our way around the ship. You could tell the ship was an older ship - but was very clean. This was our second cruise. First was with Carnival. Was sort of dissappointed in the room size. Had a balcony. Size of balcony was just fine. Room was somewhat smaller than that we had on the Carnival ship, especially the bathroom. Shower was really small - but we were okay. We were across from the crew service area but never heard any noise. Short walk to elevators. Cabin 9233 - mid ship - great location. Staff was great. Cruise director - Matt - was funny. Shows were good - the comedian was kinda lame. No complaints at all about room stewards. They kept our room changed and cleaned in am and pm. We didn't pay the extra to dine in Cagney's or the Italian restaurant. They wanted $20 pp extra. Previous reviews indicated $10 pp - maybe they charged more because of the Thanksgiving week. Food was okay in the buffet lines, seemed to have almost the same everyday. Dinning room was different - great food and great service. Never waited more than 10 minutes. Love the freestyle dining though. Husband and son went to breafast bar every morning - I had room service. They were prompt with time requested. Ports of call were good. Didn't book excursions until we got on the ship on Monday 11/24. Waited in the lobby for the excursion desk to open - was first in line. Great Stirrip Cay, NCL's private island, was wonderful; but you better get out there early. Lounge chairs and umbrellas go really fast. Walked right off the ship onto the tender boat. Waited just a bit for the boat to fill up before leaving for the island. The beach was a bit crowded - but had a great day. Debarkation was quick too. We put our luggage out the night before so we didn't have to drag our bags through the hallways with many others. Just kept a bag with morning essentials and change of clothes. We didn't get off until 9:00 or so. Took cab back to MIA and then rented a car to drive to Ft Lauderdale. It costs us about $15-20 more for the rental car and the cab to MIA than had we taken the NCL shuttle to Ft Lauderdale - our flight didn't leave until 4:15 from FLL to Atl so we didn't want to hang out at the airport all day. Overall cruise was great - will definitely travel with NCL again. P Fountain - Atl, GA Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We took a Thanksgiving cruise on the Navigator of the Seas, and based on the other reviews, were a little worried. However, whatever problems RC has in the Mediterranean seem to have been resolved for the Caribbean. We had a great time. ... Read More
We took a Thanksgiving cruise on the Navigator of the Seas, and based on the other reviews, were a little worried. However, whatever problems RC has in the Mediterranean seem to have been resolved for the Caribbean. We had a great time. We are experienced cruisers, having previously been on Celebrity, Princess and Holland America. Navigator completely outperformed both Princess and Holland America. Embarkation was quick and easy we were able to get on before noon, with no lines, and with the cabins being ready by 1:00 p.m., and luggage arriving by 4:00 p.m. in plenty of time for even the early setting people to get dressed. The cabins were much larger than comparable ones on other ships, with plenty of space for clothes the built-in closets helped significantly in finding places for shorts, shirts, etc. Food all times in all venues was good much better menus, and much better quality than Princess, for example. And the menus were extensive enough that everyone in our group from the grandparents on restricted diets, to the mid-40s parents trying to lose weight (believe it or not, even on a cruise) to the pre-teens and teens always found something to eat. And the buffets were good enough in quality that you could go there for dinner and not be disappointed. We spent one night at Chops, the steak restaurant, and it was good (it should be for an extra $25pp). The person who had the veal chop said it was the best she'd eaten anywhere. One note unlike some cruises, Navigator did not offer a lot of food choices late at night. No big deal for us since we were full after the late seating dinner, but those who like to have a substantial nosh or almost a second dinner late forget it. There is some food, but it is limited in nature. The staff was incredibly friendly (everyone had a smile and a hello throughout the ship in fact, if you walked by someone else's cabin attendant, they made sure to greet you) and customer service oriented. Anything we asked, the first response was either an unqualified "yes", or at worst a "we should be able to do something for you". Lots of special requests by us all satisfied. A small vignette to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the customer experience I was in the gym, and was walking over the trash can to throw out a tissue. A staff member was walking the other way with a trash bag in her hand, saw my tissue, stopped and opened her bag so I could throw out my trash without having to walk the extra 5 steps. This type of service was replicated everywhere. Speaking of the gym it was one of the largest I had seen on a ship, with a really good complement of weights/benches/machines and LOTS of treadmills/ellipticals. Which was a good thing the ship's gym was busier than the gym at home. The quality of the shows was only fair the "review" numbers were creative, but the quality of the singers was only fair. There didn't seem to be as many things to do at night and lots of fun things seemed to be aimed at the early seating people and not replicated for those with the late seating. Our kids had a great time we didn't see them. They didn't use the kids clubs for much, but there is enough to do that they found friends and engaged in their own activities. The one nice option is the late night option it goes from 10 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. later than most other ships. We would definitely take Royal Caribbean again. (BTW, Navigator is a beautiful ship, with the idea of the Royal Promenade as a central place pretty cool). The most important things to us good food, fun activities for the kids, lying out in the sun (didn't see much problem getting pool deck lounges), great service all were there for our Thanksgiving cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was the third NCL and fifth cruise overall for DDP and me. Previously we have cruised on Celebrity to Alaska, NCL Sun to the Western Caribbean, Atlantis (aboard X) to the Eastern Caribbean and this past April aboard NCL Jade on the ... Read More
This was the third NCL and fifth cruise overall for DDP and me. Previously we have cruised on Celebrity to Alaska, NCL Sun to the Western Caribbean, Atlantis (aboard X) to the Eastern Caribbean and this past April aboard NCL Jade on the Atlantis/Alexandria/Istanbul Eastern Med voyage. This was our first trip to the Mexican Riviera. Joining us were DDP's Mom, Stepfather, Brother, Sis-in-Law and step niece (14 yo). This was the parent's second cruise and the rest's first. Precruise We departed RDU aboard Delta on Friday afternoon and with the exception of a 45 minute delay departing Atlanta had an uneventful flight arriving at LAX around 9:30pm. I had prearranged a Karmel shuttle($81 for private van for 4) from the airport to the Doubletree in San Pedro ($80+taxes/fees=$101 per night via Priceline). Karmel took a little bit longer to get to us than I had hoped, but traffic at LAX was crazy. We left the airport right at 10:15 and pulled up to the Doubletree about 20 minutes later. The rooms were nice though they must have some sort of mildew or other odor problem in the lobby as the air there was perfumed with something. Didn't bother me, but anyone with issues related to perfume might have a problem checking in. We signed up for the Doubletree's complementary shuttle to the airport right after checkin. They start their shuttles at 11am and run every 14 minutes. The only ones that had room for all seven of us was the first one so that's the one we took. Saturday morning, DDP and I took the complementary Doubletree shuttle into downtown San Pedro and had breakfast at the Egg and Waffle - very tasty - unusual dishes. DDP had a Beef Stroganoff omelet and I had a Sombrero - it was a tortilla topped with potatoes, chicken ranchero sauce, eggs and of course cheese - be sure to ask for some of their salsa - it like every thing else was very tasty. It had been our plan to order a waffle to share, but the meals were so big, we canceled that order. If we are ever there again, we will split a plate so we can try the waffles. After breakfast, we walked to the Von's Grocery store which was one block away and purchased sodas, tonic and limes to carry on board. We then called the Doubletree and the shuttle picked us up about five minutes later. Embarkation We all loaded on the Doubletree Shuttle and left a few minutes before 11am and were at the embarkation hall no later than 11:05, we were allowed to immediately register - there were no lines at that point. We then were sent(11:20am?) to an area with chairs to await boarding. They said it would be about noon. We went ahead and took our group embarkation picture since the two parental units were going aboard with the special assists. They got to wait in the area with the "suites". Sometime before noon, they started letting folks go through security and with the exception of making us go to "that line over there" just as we were getting to the end of the line we were in, it was uneventful. We boarded, had our glass of welcome aboard champagne and since DDP and my Deck 10 room wasn't yet ready, headed to Deck 12 to use our welcome aboard "buy 2 get 1 free" cocktail coupon. We were having our first margarita at exactly 12:30. The others who had mini suites on Deck 11 were allowed to drop their stuff off at the room and then they joined us. Ship & Cabin Despite other reviewer's concerns with a lack of cleanliness and wear and tear, we didn't see any signs of anything beyond what would one expect on a not-brand-new ship. Throughout the week, the maintenance folks were painting, varnishing and cleaning. Two or three times I saw them cleaning carpets and on one of our port days we got a notice that they would be cleaning our balcony. DDP and I were in a BA on Deck 10 and the other folks had two minis on Deck 11. All were what was expected. Our steward and stewardess were friendly and helpful but not overly so. We had to ask a couple of time for them to refill our ice bucket but it was done quickly. The folks on Deck 11 spoke highly of their stewards - they apparently provided superior service…for which I understand they were financially rewarded! This was the first time we had experienced the three compartment bathroom. On Jade, we were in an inside and only the shower was separate. While the concept of a separate toilet room is a good one, I don't think its execution fulfills the promise. As a six foot seven inch tall, 300 pound guy, I would have preferred to have the extra three inches that the door takes up - especially given the door stops short of the floor so it doesn't really provide much separation from the sink area. Entertainment The show the first night was disappointing - it was basically a few of the singers from around the ship being introduced and singing a song. However, the Andrew Lloyd Weber show the second night was very entertaining. We also enjoyed Second City's stage show but the adult version held later in the week wasn't nearly as funny. As always, the funniest shows were those that involved the other passengers - The Newlywed and the Perfect Couple shows were both a hoot and a half. Cruise Critic Meet & Greet We had a small but active roll call on Cruise Critic. I contacted the Star's Group Coordinator and they provide us with a meeting space on our first sea day. We had about 10 folks show up to put names to faces. We were joined by the Hotel Director, the Food & Beverage Director, the Restaurant Manager and the Housekeeping Manager. They spent close to an hour with us answering everyone's questions. It was interesting to learn that they read Cruise Critic - the Hotel Manager remarked that they pay attention to it and mentioned Ocean Dreaming's recent upsell to the Penthouse. Ports & Excursions DDP and I have determined that we enjoy being on our own while in port so we did not take any of the ships excursions. However, other members in our party loved the America's Cup in Cabo, a daylong snorkeling -booze cruise in Puerto Vallarta, ziplining and a city tour in Mazatlan. In Cabo, DDP and I took it easy and let everyone else line up for tender tickets, we waited until open call, which was about 1pm (we docked at 11) and then wandered around town, bought a tshirt or two and headed back to the ships ahead of the crowds. I had tried to get a group together to do a snorkel trip on Yael but couldn't get enough to make the trip. In Mazatlan, DDP and I taxied ($4 if you catch it on the street, we were quoted $8 inside the port gates) to the cathedral - it's really interesting - hints of European cathedrals but so different - I had never experienced statues of the Saints being dressed in REAL clothes! We then walked back towards the ship making a stop at the restored theatre. After our morning of "culture" we took advice from others on Cruise Critic and walked to the dock and took a small boat ($2RT) across the channel to Stone Island. There we tried to grab a chair at Carmelita's or Malaoy's - we weren't sure which we had chosen, alas, after we sat down and ordered a beer we realized that we were at Pipi's a small restaurant in-between the big boys! Oh well, we enjoyed our day, swimming, sunning, shading under their umbrella, eating cerviche', grilled garlic shrimp and drinking 6 Pacificos (total bill was $37) - of course the margaritas next door at Malaoy's looked mighty tasty! Next time we will pay closer attention before we sit down. After a wonderful day, we walked back to the ship using our return ticket to cross the channel. It takes about 30 minutes total both directions to and from the ship. Very easy walk but for anyone who needs assistance it might be a little tough - getting in and out of the little boat is hard. In Puerto Vallarta, DDP and I along with some friends we had met onboard at the nightly "Friends of Dorothy" get-together, shared a cab ($12 for all 4) from the port to downtown where we walked along the Malicon. This is a great walkway along the beach with sculpture, incredible sandcastles folks are building and at one point tower dancers. After crossing over the river, we stopped at a beachside place and had margaritas…really STRONG margaritas but very enjoyable ones. At this point, DDP and took a cab back to the ship, picked up his parents and cabbed to a restaurant that friends from San Diego who vacation in PV recommended. Ay Charumba sits above PV with a great view. We sat under a roofed terrace enjoying the view, homemade tortillas and salsa (I actually watched the cook chop for about 30 minutes making a fresh batch), delicious food and oh, yeah, those margaritas again. DDP had a whole snapper ($20) that was simply grilled while I had the best shrimp fajitas ($18) I have ever tasted. The parents shared a lobster and shrimp special. It was about 80 bucks but it had three lobsters and about 24 shrimp on it. It would have been enough for all four of us! I But they ate it all and couldn't stop talking about finally getting a really good lobster - she had tried them on the ship and wasn't satisfied. Either of the dishes DDP and I could have easily served two. After lunch, we taxied to the nh Kystal Hotel, where at the recommendation of other Cruise Critic folks, I had made reservations for massages. Wow, what a fantastic way to spend $40 a person! Seventy five minutes of bliss. If we had of wanted to stay and enjoy the hotel's pool we could have, but instead since it was close to six o'clock, we headed back to the ship. Hard to say which was the better day - Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta - but both were definitely wonderful ways to spend the day. Food After cruising on several NCL ships, we have determined that while the food in the main dining rooms is very good and one doesn't' have to spend any extra, we enjoy budgeting to spurge with some meals in the specialty restaurants too. This trip we ate in the Asian one once - I had the fusion meal while DDP and niece loaded up on AYCE sushi. Everyone enjoyed the meal; the hot and sour soup was especially good. They have changed the ice cream dessert from how it was served on Jade. There it was simply the ice cream, albeit interesting flavors. On Star, the ice cream was wrapped in pastry - uncooked it seemed- rice maybe? Anyway, it didn't add anything to the flavor and the texture was a bit un-nerving. Next trip it will be the tapioca for me! We enjoyed dinner in Soho twice - once as a substitute for LeBistro from our anniversary package (thank you Restaurant Manager Monique who we met at the meet and greet for arranging that) and again as our final dinner on board. What a surprise Soho was. Others on this site have talked about how terrible it was, however, we found it to be one of the best meals we have had whether on a ship or not. DDP had the rack of lamb twice it was so good. I had the veal chop the first time and the filet the second. Both were great but the veal chop especially so. Not to be missed appetizers include the tuna tartare dish and the scallops with guacamole dish. While the cheese tray was tasty, the other desserts left something to be desired. The service here was top notch - some of that may be due to the fact that the restaurant was relatively empty and because Monique had stopped by our table to say hello. We used our 2-4-1 coupons the first night in Cagney's and had a good meal. Both the service and the food were better than it had been in Cagney's on Jade. We lunched in Versailles once and had two dinners(including Thanksgiving) in Aqua. All were very good. For Thanksgiving, they had a traditional dinner along with other choices. After an early dinner, we went up to the Garden Market and grabbed a few slices of freshly roasted turkey, some cranberry sauce and some sliced bread and treated ourselves to a turkey sandwich later in the evening…just like at home. This was one of our few visits to the buffet. Due to the amount of children on board, it was a madhouse so when we did visit, we tended to zip in, grab something and take it either back to our balcony or out on the pool deck to eat. The ship offers balcony cabins and above access to Aqua for breakfast each day except the last. We took advantage of this - its part buffet - fruit, yogurt, pastries, lox, etc combined with a menu you order from - the menu includes omelets, eggs Benedict, meats, potato sides, pancakes and French toast. It was a nice perk as it was much quieter than other venues - well except Cagney's I guess…some day I will make it into a suite and get to try that out! Issues I can't say enough what a great job the crew and staff did to make the trip enjoyable given the number of guests. However, there were a few missteps, which I hope were caused by being overwhelmed by the numbers. DDP's step father lost his cane in security during embarkation. It wasn't realized until after they were aboard ship, so the desk had them fill out paperwork and said they would return it to him. After not hearing from them, prior to going ashore in Cabo, I inquired at the desk how to say "cane" in Spanish as we planned on buying a new one. The lady at the desk asked why I needed to know, after explaining the lost cane, she said hold on a minute, disappeared and came back with the cane. It had been in lost and found the whole time despite having his name on it and filling out the paperwork. For our final dinner in Soho, the seven of us were seated at a table that would have best seated five but they were full that night, so they couldn't move us. Similar small issues happened throughout the trip - nothing terrible, just annoying. Disembarkation I had lots of trepidation about this aspect, given the horror stories of others from recent cruises. Thankfully, our worries turned out to be for naught. We were scheduled to dock at 7 with expectation that express departure would commence before eight. After lugging our and the elderly parents luggage on the way out, we elected to use the new BAGs program. What a joy it was. For $19.95, the ship, through BAGS, an outside vendor, checks you in with your airline, provides your boarding pass and a luggage tag. You put this tag on your luggage on your bag the night before, set it outside your door before bed and don't have to touch it again until you get to your home airport. DDP and I usually use our roll aboards and never check luggage, but if you need or want to do so, this is the way to do it! One thing to know, the tag they give you onboard won't be the actual luggage tag - it apparently gets it to BAGS and then they put on the correct one. This worried me a bit…for no reason thank goodness. We arrived in San Pedro early, they started tying us up before seven, and about 7:15 they started requesting (deck by deck) all non US citizens to make their way to the lounge for immigration clearance. No one else had to go through customs on the ship. The rest of us could either wait in our rooms or in public areas. About 7:30 they announced that those who had chosen express debarkation could make their way to the two gangways. This was a bit crowded, the elevators were a nightmare, but since we didn't have bags it wasn't bad for us. We started to leave about 7:50 and were off the ship by 8:25. Customs was a breeze - hand them the form, hear "welcome home" and through the door we went. The prearranged Karmel shuttle was scheduled for 8:30 but we had to call once we were outside and it took about 15 minutes, we arrived at LAX shortly thereafter and were through security and at the gate at 9:35am for our 1pm flight! Shucks - we could have slept in. In the future, I would probably try Primetime Shuttle - they had tons of vans lined up and waiting when we arrived to port so they might have been quicker and I wouldn't be in such a rush to get off the ship. Summary All in all a great cruise! The price couldn't be beat - unfortunately, everyone else and their mom and kids thought so too! The ship, food and service were fine. The ports were enjoyable but not too much work. While I doubt we do a thanksgiving cruise again because of how crowded it was, I highly recommend NCL and Star! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background Information Here is my best attempt at writing a review for my families Thanksgiving cruise on the Carnival Glory. We sailed on Saturday November 22-Saturday November 29th. I actually booked this cruise through a TA and was ... Read More
Background Information Here is my best attempt at writing a review for my families Thanksgiving cruise on the Carnival Glory. We sailed on Saturday November 22-Saturday November 29th. I actually booked this cruise through a TA and was pretty happy with the cost of the cruise considering it was a holiday week. I was traveling with my DH, 2DD, Mom and Dad, Brother and Sister-in-law. We booked three inside guarantee cabins. Since we were leaving out of Port Canaveral, we decided it was more coast effective for us to drive the 12 hours than to fly. Of course we had booked this a year or so out in advance and that was before gas had gone up to $4/gal. Thank goodness it was cheaper by the time we left. About two months out from the cruise my brother and his wife decided they wanted to fly and contacted the TA. Carnival was not going to guarantee them a flight at first, but after a week or so they did get a flight. It was around $1000 for the two of them, ouch! We got our room numbers about six weeks before we sailed. We were all in the front of the ship. My mom was not happy and nervous because she gets sea sick easily. I didn't really care where we were as long as I was on the ship. My brother complained a little too because we are past guests and we had all hoped for an upgrade. I guess you have to be a high spender to get that. Hotel Info (if any) We stayed at the Radisson Resort at the Port and would absolutely recommend this to others. I loved the idea of getting to leave our car there and there was a free shuttle to take you to the port. We left VA Thursday after I got off work around 3:45. We were going to drive until somewhere in GA, but as we got further and further and the DD's were sleeping we toyed with driving all the way. It would put us at the port at 3:30. I decided to call the hotel around midnight and asked if they had any rooms. The guy at the front desk was very nice and said that our room was ready and that since we were getting in after 3 AM that he would just do an early check in for us. That was great and we drove in and got there right at 3:30. This saved us an extra nights hotel pay. The beds were okay, I didn't quite get the whole sleep number bed thing, but I wasn't complaining. We slept in the next morning and went to the Omelette Station for breakfast. We decided to just see what was around us that day. There was a cold front passing through Fla. and it was very chilly. We had not packed for such chilly weather, so we actually wound up buying some warm clothes that day and I am glad we did. We visited Ron Jon's where I searched for over thirty minutes for a t-shirt. My family was getting annoyed. There were just too many to choose from. We decided to head back to the hotel and to let the girls swim. It was cold and windy, but the pool was heated so my DH and dad took the DD's swimming. I sat bundled up on the chair and took a few pictures. The pool area is beautiful and the bar service was great. I would stay here again for sure. Very clean and reasonable rates. You sign up for a shuttle time and for the most part it was on time. I think our shuttle was five minutes late but that was because of traffic at the port. Service and Dining I do have to say that the service does not seem to be as good on this ship as my past cruises on Triumph and Sensation. There were many times that getting a refill was hard because the dispensers only had water instead of lemonade or whatever. The hot chocolate was out often as well. I was able to get that about half the time. I only ordered room service one time. It took a long time to get the food, around 45 minutes for a grilled cheese. By the time it was there, it was cold and soggy for whatever reason. So after all that wait I ate about four bites. The pancakes on the buffet were always cold and tough. I am not sure why I kept getting them, but I was hoping for better each time. I seemed to get bagels and fruit for the most part and this was always good. The bacon was very greasy, but that is just my personal preference not to eat very greasy food. We usually did not get anything from the lunch buffet and opted for either the burgers, pizza or deli. Everytime we waited in the buffet line we found that the food was not something that we liked. The burgers, hot dogs, pizza, and deli sandwiches are good and were always fresh. My biggest gripe about the Lido deck is the desserts. They always look so good and then you get them and they have little to no taste. So I stuck with the ice cream, always a safe choice. The dining room was another experience. We were in the Platinum dining room on the back of the ship. We had very rough seas for two days and being on the back with the vibration from the engine and the roughness of the waves made it quite interesting. Carnival can not help the weather so I am just making a note of our own experience. We were on the upper level and I loved where our table was. Very easy to find and close to the exit and a bathroom. DD's can not sit through any meal without going to the bathroom at least once. I found the food to be wonderful. Most of the people at our table would order multiple starters of entree's and everyone seemed to be pleased. Our waiter seemed to struggle a bit. It seemed as if he only had three tables. Two were larger tables that had around 8 people each and one was small with two people. These two people were right beside us and were very nice. They had the best service by far. They had wine and drinks ready for them every night. We had to struggle to get water. Their food was there first and always correct. Their desserts were always right and not melted. I guess serving two is much easier, but come on lets be fair to all the tables. The other big table seemed to get refills easier than us as well. Not sure what that was all about. Our waiter was nice and was very kind to our kids, but this was the worst service we have had on Carnival. A lot of our table ordered something with ice cream and it was always melted by the time we got it. So that was disappointing. I ordered a souffle one night and had to wait 10 minutes to eat it because the waiter did not put the cream sauce on it. The small table had the same dessert and immediately had the cream sauce. Still the food was great, but service could have been better. Still better than me having to cook. Shore Excursions We usually opt not to do any excursions through Carnival. They are too expensive in our opinion. We just do our own thing. In Nassau, we walked around and went to the Straw Market. That was an experience. I am not sure I would do that again. It was very crowded and most of the vendors had the same stuff. I did not think the prices were all that great either. A lot of cheap knock offs that they would ask $75 dollars or more for and you could talk them down, but you could get them cheaper on the streets of New York. We then came back towards the ship and got a taxi and it took us over the the Atlantis. What a nice place that is. I wish we would have spent more time there. I recommend seeing that to anyone. In St. Thomas, we were late getting there because of a small medical thing in Nassau plus rough seas. I think we were about 2 1/2 hours late. We got a taxi/pick-up with benches to take us on an island tour. I think we paid $20pp. We had the oldest pick up on the island. We were on this with some people from SC and they were fun company. Our driver really wasn't that great, but we made the trip fun anyway. St. Thomas is beautiful from high up, but getting there is soo windy. My sister in law was not feeling too good by the time we did get to the top. I just enjoyed the scenery and being on land that was not rocking so hard. We had very, very rough seas for two days and this was a welcome change. Our last port was St. Maarten. I wanted to do the beach so me and SIL took the water taxi over and got two chairs and umbrella and many frozen drinks. We had a great time just people watching and enjoying the sun. The rest of my family got a taxi and did a 4 hour tour for $30pp. They enjoyed it, but the thing I heard the most about was their stop at Bikini beach. Apparently there were some women there who were not old and saggy. My DH, brother and Dad were very chatty about this. I tuned them out. I was stuck looking at saggy old men in speedos. Yuk! Stateroom We were in room 2224, 2228, and 2214. Our room was 2224 and had two doubles pushed together to make a king. It also had two beds from the ceiling. Our room was clean and nice. I like that the bunks can be put away during the day. Our suitcases fit nicely under the bed and the storage was adequate. I am glad I brought extra hangers because there were not enough at all. The beds were very comfy, just as I remembered. Our room steward did pretty well. I was a little curious why we didn't always get new drink cups though. I had to wash ours out in the sink several times, but that is minor. The kids loved the towel animals. I am glad the bathroom had all the little shelves. A word to the wise, bring your own hair dryer. I did, but my mom did not and she had a hard time with holding the button down the whole time and the dryer was very weak. We were in the front of the ship under the Amber Palace stage. We were not in the room very much except for showering and sleeping. However, one night I was in the room while a show was going on and if you were trying to sleep you would have major problems. Very loud and booming music. I have mentioned about the rough seas and I will mention it again because you could hear the waves crashing on the hull of the ship in all of our rooms. My mom was in room 2214 even further to the front and her room was awful. The drawers would slam open and close with each crash of the wave. The movement seemed much worse in there as well. She was sick in her room the first two days. Not fun for her. I would not recommend this room. It was clean, but not sure about the location and the deal with the drawers. My brother was in 2228 and his room was clean also, but still loud from the stage. On a side note, we were across the hall from the most annoying child ever. The baby cried from early morning until night. There wasn't a time where you wouldn't walk down the hallway and hear it. Now I have kids, but I seriously considered calling the pursers desk to see if they could say something to the parents. There was no reason for them to allow the crying to go on that loudly and constant. I know you think I am nit picky on this, but this was not normal. They were very inconsiderate to the others around them. Even my kids commented on the crying. Still this is not on carnival, that is on those parents. I hope they read this and feel embarrassed. There were others on the hallway who felt just as annoyed with them. Children's Clubs Camp Carnival is one of the main reasons we like Carnival. The kids love it. The only complaint I have at all is the time on sea days. You can take them in the morning from 9-11:30 or 11:45. I wish they would take into consideration those that do sleep in. We usually didn't even get to breakfast until 10 or so and that put the kids getting there at 10:45. It would be better if it was more like 12:30 or 1:00. We don't expect them to keep the kids all day, but sometimes the morning seemed like it wasn't worth the effort and the kids would complain that they weren't there long enough. I only have good things to say about the staff. Entertainment The shows were good. One show was cancelled due to rough seas but was made up later in the week. The Rock Down Broadway ended on this cruise and the new show was debuted on this cruise as well. I think they were good for cruise ship entertainment. We saw all the comedy acts and enjoyed them. I did not like the Just an illusion show, but everyone else did. I think I was tired and just ready to go to bed. I did like the Carnival Legends show, but others said it was the worst. I thought it was funny seeing the passengers up there trying their best. I am not sure what the other people thought the show was going to be. There was always something to do or see. I was happy. Disembarkation My parents insisted we do the self-disembark. We had a long drive home and they wanted to be first off the ship. Well we were late getting to port because of engine trouble. People were anxious to get off and catch flights. The lobby area on 3rd floor was a mad house. It was hot, crowded and full of rude pushy people. I was separated from my husband twice and they tried to separate me and my kids once, but I got pushy right back. There was a group of elderly asians that were the most forceful and pushy. I found them to be quite rude. People were stuck on the elevator because there was nowhere to go in the lobby. The staff did the best they could given the situation, but I was frustrated. I don't think this is the norm, but it was not fun. Once we were finally cleared, the line moved fairly quickly considering. I did not know we would have to take our luggage down escalators. This was fine for me, but my DD's were scary with their luggage. I was a nervous wreck thinking that they would fall. Once off the ship, everything was smooth sailing haha. Really this was the best disembarkation we have had. The waiting in the lobby was hectic, but unusual I think. Summary Overall, I had a great cruise. The weather was not ideal. Very cold in Fla. when we left and windy for two straight days. They had the barf bags out and all. A lot of people were sea sick. I usually get sea sick, but I tried Bonine this time and ginger capsules and was fine. I felt a little ill one night right at bed time, which was also the roughest night by far, but once asleep was fine and better by morning. Just make sure to take the pills before you get on the ship and continue. Once you are sick, there is not a lot you can do. I liked the Glory and really liked being able to drive to the port and the hotel situation. The service was not as good as previous cruises. Crying baby was not fun to be around. Wish we had the golden dining room, more mid ship. Lido desserts need to have flavor. They need to refill beverage stations more often. We did not get a soda card because I had read on here that it was fountain drinks that were flat. I noticed around the second day that it was all can drinks, so in hindsight I wish we had purchased one. Sometimes drink service was slow during the shows, sometimes not. I don't know what makes the difference with that. Dining room service could have been better, but food was great. The only midnight buffet was mexican and wasn't all that great. We ate a couple of things, but the rest was bland. The chocolate buffet was pretty good, but the chocolate fountain was dark choc. and bitter. I like milk choc. so I didn't like those things. The milkshakes were great. Go to the coffee shop near the casino and order one. We did not realize they had those until the last day. Probably a good thing because they are expensive, but tasty. I would stay away from the rooms we had. You should probably stay away from the casino as well. We had fun, but lost a lot of money in there. Haha! Wish the seas had been calmer at the beginning, but coming home the seas were very calm. I mentioned the engine trouble, one night the captain stopped the ship for three hours for them to work on the engine. I think the Glory may be having some issues. Lots of delays lately, mostly medical, but I wonder if sometimes it had been mechanical. I am just saying, if you have been reading the boards for the Glory there have been a lot of issues lately. I am ready to go again. If you have any questions I will be happy to answer them. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My family occupied four cabins on the Legend during Thanksgiving week. There were 10 of us. I had my own balcony cabin on the Empress deck. My parents were down the hall in a suite. My brothers and their families were in oceanview cabins ... Read More
My family occupied four cabins on the Legend during Thanksgiving week. There were 10 of us. I had my own balcony cabin on the Empress deck. My parents were down the hall in a suite. My brothers and their families were in oceanview cabins on the Riviera deck. The layouts and storage spaces in the cabins were very good. This was my first cruise and I guess I anticipated a lot less space in the cabins. I was pleasantly surprised. The embarkation process was relatively painless. My brothers and I had flown into Tampa the night before the cruise and we all stayed at the Embassy Suites/Westshore by the airport. The rooms are very large and the kids loved the pool, manager reception and breakfast buffet. We had booked a cruise package on the hotel's website that included transportation for two adults/room on a shuttle to the port. We left the hotel around 12:30pm and we boarded the boat right at 1:30pm when the rooms were available. It was pretty much perfect timing. My parents drove up from Sarasota and arrived at the port a little after the rest of us. Since they had VIP check-in, the got on board at the same time we did. All os us dumped some stuff in our cabins and met up in the Unicorn Cafe on Lido. Everyone got something different, since the Lido really offers such a big variety of food choices. The deli, the asian food, the grill (the cheeseburgers and onion rings are really quite good) and, of course, the dessert bar were all favorites for lunch during the week. After lunch, mom, the SILs and I headed to the spa to make appointments. Okay, they only had one person working the appointment desk and the computer apparently wasn't working right. After 25 minutes in line, we were next up and the woman tells us that we all need to leave for the muster drill. We said that unless she was going to give us numbers to get back in the line afterward, that we weren't leaving without appointments. We got them and she was apologetic about the wait times. She gave us the at-sea special for late afternoon after Grand Cayman because there weren't any times available on the sea day that weren't during dinner. If you use the spa, be warned that Elemis makes their staff do a VERY hard sell on products after your treatments. It is actually to the point of being offensive and takes away some of the relaxation that the treatment gave you. I was offered a $375 product option or a $572 product option and they seemed shocked when I said no and kept pushing for me to buy at least some of it. Muster drill was quick and painless. Ran into much of the rest of the family since they were in the same muster zone. After the muster, went to the cabin where my bags were waiting outside my door. I unpacked everything got it all stowed away. I went and walked around the ship to see where things were located. After a moderate tour, I realized there was way too much to cover and I would just have to discover it during the week. The ship's main lobby was decked out for Christmas/Chanukah already. I know my parents thought the ship's decor was a bit on the gaudy side. I guess I've spent too much time in Vegas. it was pretty much what I expected. The highly patterned carpets and overly ornate fixtures reminded me a lot of Vegas hotels. Met the family in the Truffles dining for the late seating. Our servers were Carlos and Harold and they were absolutely fantastic. They did tricks for the kids on the nights we brought them and Carlos gave great recommendations on the food. On the night my mother ordered the plain boring tiny chicken and veggies on the spa menu, Carlos "accidentally" brought the wrong chicken dinner that had a wonderful sauce. My mom was eating it when Carlos brought out that sad little spa plate and offered to take the other chicken away. I thought she might stab him with the fork. After that, we all trusted his recommendations. Occasionally, if he thought there was something we needed to try, he would just bring out another entree, appetizer or dessert and plunk it on the table. Room service deliveries, which I did a few times for breakfast, were always at the time I specified. It was nice to sit on the balcony in the morning with a pot of coffee. GRAND CAYMAN We pulled into Grand Cayman in the rain. By the time we got off, it had pretty much stopped. I had planned to scuba dive at Stingray City through a dive shop called Divers Down. My dive buddies (who I met through cruise critic) and I got to the dive shop only to find out that the dive had been cancelled due to rough water. We walked down the street to Eden Rock and rented equipment to do our own shore dive. We had a very nice dive and then took our equipment back to the Legend, dumped it off, changed clothes and went back to shore for lunch. All in all, a very nice day. COZUMEL Cozumel was a two-tank scuba dive day with Sand Dollar booked through Carnival. There were a lot of people and it took a while to check us all in. They ended up putting us in taxis to take us to the dive shop. We had two great dives. They broke us up into groups of six for the dives and each group had an assigned videographer underwater. They sold the videos to anyone who wanted them and will ship them to the states. They gave us a preview and the quality was phenomenal. They brought us back to the port by boat where I stopped for beer and chicken wings at Fat Tuesdays with my dive buddy for the day, Ren. BELIZE I booked cave tubing in Belize for myself and my brothers and their families. We went with Major Tom. There were way too many people, since Carnival had cancelled its tubing excursion after the recent mishap with their vendor. It took an hour for them to check everyone in and get us on our way. We stopped at a local grocery to pick up water and snacks and proceeded to the caves. The water was cold, but everyone had a really good time. Our guide, "George of the Jungle," was very good. Butts Up is our new favorite saying. The tubing ran late and Major Tom was at the buses shouting for them to get on the road and get us back to the port. We got there at the deadline for tendering back. Belize is a very long distance tender. ROATAN Roatan is an absolutely beautiful port. The water there is fantastic and the reefs are spectacular. This was another two-tank scuba dive for me booked through Carnival. The dive shop takes very good care of you and has very nice facilities. Giant grouper swim through the reef and the "wall" is really something to see. My brothers and one SIL did the discovery scuba here. They actually got to see a sleeping nurse shark, which was pretty cool. I was sorry we didn't have more time at this port and can definitely see going back there for a nice lazy week of hammocks and diving at some point in the future. The nieces (4, 7 and 9 y/o) weren't that keen on Camp Carnival at the beginning. By the end, they were much happier there and had made some friends. I wouldn't say that they raved about it and it often seemed much more like daycare than a camp with age-appropriate activities. However, there were some things that they definitely found fun. We didn't really attend a lot of the ship activities. We were too wiped after our excursions. We met at the cocktail lounges before dinner and at various other times. The grownups also spent some time in the bars later in the evenings. Billie's Piano Bar, which isn't that easy to find, is practically empty most nights. In part this is because the location is bad and, in part, it's because the entertainer isn't very good. He's a super nice guy, but he absolutely butchers some songs (ask him to play "Devil Went Down to Georgia" if you want a good laugh) and sings like he has marbles in his mouth. It's a good place to find seats and have a few cocktails. The Dreamteam sports bar is kind of weird because the ship doesn't get ESPN channels so they rarely have anything other than a random soccer game on the many tv screens unless there are sports on the major networks at the time you're in the bar. We aren't really clubbers, so we didn't hit Satchmo's or Medusa's. The casino was very smoky and pretty empty most of the times I went through there. I did play some slots on one day and ended up down about $20. It was up and down. I just didn't know when to say when. I have to say that Carnival exceeded our expectations. I will admit that our expectations were not tremendously high, but we were pleasantly surprised and I think all of us would sail with Carnival again. It was fun running into each other and all of our new friends on the boat. While we didn't have our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with everyone cooking, we did have everyone together in the same place for Thanksgiving, which is something we haven't had for a long time. With all of us together at dinner and after hearing the horrible news out of Mumbai earlier in the day, we all had lots to be thankful for on the Carnival Legend. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Valor 11/23 - 11/30 We flew in from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at 10:00 and took a Carnival Shuttle to Miami. The shuttle people met us right at the foot of the escalator from our terminal and let us to the meeting place. We ... Read More
Valor 11/23 - 11/30 We flew in from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at 10:00 and took a Carnival Shuttle to Miami. The shuttle people met us right at the foot of the escalator from our terminal and let us to the meeting place. We didn't leave FLL until about 11:15 though. Embarkation was easy, got in, checked, registered and on the ship. We met the rest of our party on floor 3 until our rooms were ready. Smooth sailing for the most part, some rocky times during the night. Had an issue where the ship was listed to fix something at about 11:30 on the second night. The aft lido pool overflowed at the time and that had to be handled as well. Grand Cayman- took a cab to the Reef Grill/Sea Grape Beach. Great time. $4 pp cab. We also walked around the area. No charge to enter beach but the food and drinks were expensive. Beautiful beach though. Weather was great as well. Roatan Island, Honduras- booked an excursion through Carnival to take us to Tabyana Beach. What a beautiful beach! All the amenities are there for your convenience. Honduras is a poor area but very lush and beautiful. Belize - At this point we were tired and had some sunburn. We walked around the port area and did not venture past the gates. We ate at the Lizard restaurant/bar and did some shopping. Met lots of people at lunch, including some who were on the Legend. We heard there were some great flea markets outside the gates and that people were very friendly to them. Cozumel - Took a cab to Paradise beach. We got there early, about 10:30. Great food. The guacamole was excellent, as were the drinks. This is a very family friendly beach. Parasailing, water trampolines, jet ski's, kayaks, massages, etc. Water was beautiful. Our dinner staff was awesome. Our head waiter, Toly (Anatoliy) was very caring and had a sense of humor. He even performed some magic for us. We were a table of 8 friends and kept him on his toes! J Our steward was also great, Norman. He memorized our schedules and when he can come into our rooms. We had a plumbing issue our first day, the water in the shower was not draining quick enough. It was resolved within a matter of hours. Piano Bar is a lively place. Rockin' Ron (or Rick?) knows how to entertain. The place was hopping all night. Sushi bar....yummy.... Java Cafe...yummy.... Chocolate buffet last sea day...yummy... Food was great every time. We ordered coffee and salmon every morning through room service. We ate and showered, got ready for a more dressed breakfast . J The gym was also very nice. Lots of machines, never packed. Tried out the sauna and steam room. Not bad at all. Enjoyed myself J Heard great reviews about Camp Carnival from the people who had kids there. Everyone said their kids didn't want to leave the camp. Debarkation...we were group 2, early flight people. We had an 11:20 out of Miami. We got up at 6:20 and the ship was docked already. We were called at 7:10 or so and off the ship before 8. Made it to the airport with enough time to nap in the terminal and wait for the flight! This was our second cruise with Carnival. We love it and cannot wait to go back! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background Information: We are a married couple in their 30's on our 11th cruise, 2nd on board Royal Caribbean. We are normally Celebrity or HAL cruisers, but decided this would be a good opportunity to try the big RCCL ship, Liberty ... Read More
Background Information: We are a married couple in their 30's on our 11th cruise, 2nd on board Royal Caribbean. We are normally Celebrity or HAL cruisers, but decided this would be a good opportunity to try the big RCCL ship, Liberty of the Seas. After we booked and paid for our vacation, we had some difficult economic changes, but decided still to enjoy our cruise. A major priority was enjoying ourselves without spending too much money on activities, excursions, or other temptations. I was expecting lots of activities and a fun younger crowd, which is what we got. I was not expecting high quality personal service, delicious food, or quiet places to relax, so I was surprised when I got that too! Travel Arrangements: We did the cruise line air and flew out of South Bend, through Detroit, to Fort Lauderdale on Northwest. Because of the cruise air, we did not have to pay for our checked bags (cha ching - a savings of $50). We took a cruise line transfer bus from FLL to MIA. Unfortunately had to wait almost 2 hours for this bus, but we made it to the ship on-time. Note to others - have your transfer paperwork out and ready. We did E-docs, but thankfully I printed the entire E-doc package. They made us give them that piece of paper to confirm our transfer arrangements, on other cruises they had our names on a list, no need to show the transfer vouchers. Embarkation: There was a short line (maybe 20 minutes) at the pier. We went through security and baggage screening first and then got checked in. Priority check in line for suites and Platinum/Diamond members. We used that and were in and out in 5 minutes. I was traveling with a passport card and they acted like they had never seen one before. After some delay I just decided to give them my paper passport which they scanned and we were on our way to the ship. Our stateroom: Number one tip for Liberty - bring a deck layout with you. There are none available on board except the ones by the elevators. You'll need the ship layout! We chose a Promenade Family stateroom (I know, we only have two people in the room) but RCCL let us book the room and I am glad we had the extra space. It was like having a suite without the extra expense. What I didn't like was there was only one switch which controlled all the cabin lights. There were reading lamps at the bed, but otherwise it was either pitch dark or surface of the sun bright. The view from the 8th floor of the promenade was awesome. We looked out on the ben and jerry's, the floating bridge (where all the entertainment happens), but we could see the entire length of the promenade. Good for scoping out lines or just for people watching. Speaking of people watching - if you stay in a promenade room you MUST close your blinds. Everything you do in the room, the whole room, can be seen by your neighbors. I can't count the number of times in seven days that we saw things that should be kept private. Upon entering the room there is a large bathroom with single sink and bathtub/shower combo. My husband and I are both big boned and we had no problems using the tub. It was long and deep, but not too wide. Soap bar (yuk) and Shampoo dispenser (good quality stuff) were provided. Shower was nice and tall, no ducking to get under the showerhead (Yay!). I recommend you bring your own soap and hair conditioner. Just off the entry hall was a small bedroom with wardrobe, nightstand, and two bunk beds. This room also held the overhead announcement speaker. The room would be great for extra guests, even adults. Reading lamps AND overhead lamps provided, a curtain serves as the door. A large living room with double wardrobe, sofa (pullout bed), chair, and window seat came next. A nice LCD TV was provided. It had hookups for video input, but no ability to change the channels except for pre-programmed channels, so we could not use the TV to view movies or play video games. TV was typical cruise fair - TNT, AMC, CNN, music channels, movie channels, and kids channels. In-Room movies were available for $10.95. Room service also available through the TV, most items for free. A small mini bar was under the TV - no alcohol, pop and snacks only. There was also a desk with lots of drawers and shelves (nice hair dryer in the center desk drawer), but not too much room to sit in the chair without running into the bed. Small vanities and lights provided, but no magnifying or makeup mirror. The bed was an oversized queen with nightstands and reading lamps on each side. The bed was super comfortable! There is also another window seat on this side of the cabin. A curtain divides the bed area from the sofa area and TV can be turned to either side. Nice surprise-when the announcement channel is not being used for, well, announcements, a nice Jazz mix plays on that channel. We also had a WALK IN CLOSET! Every girl's dream. This Promenade family room was HUGE. So I'm sure you're wondering, can you hear the noise from parades and such? The answer is YES, and it's very loud, and the lights are bright, and parades happen after 11pm, but they are over within 30 minutes, so you'll get over it and go back to bed. I loved the room, but another little note was there was no clock on the phone. If you must know the time, wear a watch with glow in the dark hands or bring a lighted travel clock. They have a wake-up call service, otherwise we would have slept until noon. Activities: There is so much to do, you can't possibly get bored. There were over 1000 kids on the ship and I swear, we never saw them. You can have a completely adult experience on board, or enjoy family activities. My big tip for you is to go to the activity as soon as it starts - if you are there a few minutes before it begins, you'll have no problems with lines. Here's what we did to make the cruise enjoyable: Martinis (20% each day in a different bar); Wine Tasting at Vintages (Coupons for discounts and BOGO from the Crown & Anchor); Reading on promenade deck - if you go around AFT of the restaurant it is really quiet. The library was well-stocked and underused; Hanging in the Solarium and cantilevered whirlpools; Casino slot machines and $1 minimum table games; Trivia and other misc. activities staff; Working out in the gym - the equipment is top notch and gym was not crowded before dinner (5-7pm time); Ice Show - you MUST go to the ice show. It was better than CATS. I wanted to see it again and again and again. Tickets are distributed days in advance. If you go early to the ticket distribution, you'll have no problems. Get to the rink 30 min before the show and sit facing the "stage" near the floor for the best seats at the ice show; Production Shows-comedians, theater song and dance shows; Hanging in the lounges - there was a great guitarist on board; Thanksgiving NFL football games - on the stateroom TV and On-Air Club; Ice Skating - I would recommend saving all your extreme activities (skating, climbing, flowrider) for the last day. It wasn't busy and you don't want to ruin your vacation with a broken body part! MANY people were in casts or splints by the end of the vacation. We also tried the "twenty" late night dance club in the Solarium. It was all crew with a bad DJ, so not worth staying up late for. It could have been really cool, but just didn't work. Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle - we received some small free gifts, had some fun intros to other members, and RCCL gave away three prize packs. Service Our cabin steward, Alberto, was Awesome! If you put the white card in your door when you leave for breakfast, it will be clean and fresh before you come back. Same with evening turndown service. Alberto always had a friendly greeting for us and remembered our names. They were very respectful of the DND blue card in the door. Our dining room table was changed on the second day, thankfully! Not only did we have great new tablemates, the servers, Nacibe and Jovenito, were great. Very attentive and personal. Not too much explanation about the food, no wine recommendations as they are also your sommelier, but an enjoyable dinner. Personal preferences were remembered. It took us a while to find a bar we liked. We enjoy a bit of elegance or at least a personable bar server. We found it in Garrett at the Casino bar. The smallest bar on the ship, but he made us feel special! Vintages was also nice. The servers had wine recommendations and always brought canapes with the wine. Wines were around $40 with gratuity. Peligrino and Evian are also available for purchase. Shore Excursions We did our own thing, not through RCCL. Ship was late into San Juan due to rough seas, so we didn't get off. St. Maarten we took a taxi to Dawn beach. The taxi's try to get a full load of passengers, so flash a good tip ($5) and they will take off right away. Dawn beach we got chairs and umbrella for $10. Snorkeling gear was $10 (excellent snorkeling). Beautiful clean beach was not too crowded. $.75 Carib beers and great lunch $10-$20 made for a great day. Taxi ride was $15 each way. Labadee was Beautiful. We started at Dragon's Breath Beach. It was rocky and water was dirty, but we had some nice shade under a tree. The sand was full of shells and I found a few nice treasures to bring home (including a full size conch). There were very few vendors other than RCCL "labadoozie" pushers. The drink was very tasty, but for $6.95, I only had one. We moved in the afternoon to Barefoot Beach - very small, but much nicer for swimming and walking. Lunch on Labadee was typical cookout fare. Bathrooms were nice and clean. The area workers were kind of rude, but it's Haiti and things have been bad there, so I can hardly blame a bit of attitude toward us tourists. A UN helicopter flew over the beach and reminded me of the difficulty they had after the hurricanes. I also heard reports of kids begging at the Labadee gate for food or coins. Dining Our C&A coupons included a free Johnny Rockets experience. The food was great, service was awesome. We sat outside in a booth facing the sea. I enjoyed the Boca burger and the onion rings. We had malts too which were delicious and worth the $4.95 each. We ate at Portofino, $20 each. The food was delicious, but nothing "special". Same food was served at dinner or lunch in the dining room. What was special was celebrating our anniversary overlooking the San Juan night skyline as we departed (I timed it just right so that we started eating as we pulled away from San Juan and finished as we left the island behind). Reservation was for 9:15 for you fellow hopeless romantics. The desert at Portofino was soooo good. Save room. We tried everything for breakfast and lunch: room service, dining room, Jade (just part of the regular buffet), and Windjammer. If you like curry, which we do, it's available at breakfast and lunch in the windjammer and at dinner each night in the dining room. The quality of the food was outstanding, much better than I expected. You can find pastries and coffee/tea all day in the Promenade Cafe (chocolate croissants were delicious. Pizza, antipasti, desserts and panini are found in Sorrento's all day. One thing I missed was fresh made waffles for breakfast and fresh made sandwiches for lunch. Neither was available anywhere on the ship. We also like sprinkles, the low fat yogurt by the kids H20 zone pool. The cookies (room service) were also delightful. Dinner was very good. Thanksgiving dinner was standard fare on Thursday. Other days there were two beef, two fish, two vegetarian, and two other meat dishes. Veggie meals were curry and/or Italian. Soup, Salad, and Appetizer were all very good. Breads were delicious. Coffee/Tea after dinner with desert was very good. No baked alaska parade, but some meaningful presentations of the chefs and the wait staff that were memorable. The water on the ship tasted like chemicals, so I was glad for tea and lemonade. Disembarkation Was remarkably smooth. The ship got in to MIA at about 3am. They want you out of your room no later than 8am. You wait in a lounge for your color (6:15-9am debarkation). They give you times associated with each color and all color tags were available if you wanted to switch to an earlier/later time. Full breakfast was available on debarkation day, just not room service. Once color is called you go down and off the ship. Then you pick your luggage off an airport style conveyor, go through customs, and you are done. The longest part was finding the luggage. No lines anywhere else. We got on a transfer bus (again-make sure you have your paper voucher) and headed to FLL. Overall impressions: You can definitely tell that the ship was designed by marketing people, not by mariners. There are very few views of the sea and even the outside decks are designed to draw you back into the ship for spending and shopping. There were lots of things to do for free, but it sure felt like all the "fun" stuff was stuff you had to pay for. It was a really big ship, and it's not laid out so that you can get from place to place without an effort. I commented that it would be good to decide what you want to do first, then find out how to get there. With only two staircases and two sets of elevators, it can get a bit confusing. RCCL is a great line for all kinds of people. I saw all ages, races, and backgrounds of people. You can find your niche and do your thing on the Liberty of the Seas. It's an affordable way to enjoy a cruise vacation. Although there were some things I didn't care for, there is not a thing I would do differently. It was a great ship, with great food and great service. Made for a great vacation. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We booked our cruise on the Sapphire Princess to give us a chance to get to know our future son-in-law as well as to celebrate Thanksgiving. As so many others do, we left a day early to avoid last minute snafus. Fortunately, nothing ... Read More
We booked our cruise on the Sapphire Princess to give us a chance to get to know our future son-in-law as well as to celebrate Thanksgiving. As so many others do, we left a day early to avoid last minute snafus. Fortunately, nothing happened! Our flight on Southwest Airlines was smooth all the way, and they did their usual great job with pre-boarding, etc. I'm disabled and use a scooter to get around, so I'll also base my comments on how well Princess does with disabled passengers.. Embarkation at the San Pedro harbor was the best ever. I would suggest, though, that if you have a GPS unit, program it with all your addresses before you leave - it just makes things go easier, especially if you're not familiar with the area. There was only one negative about Embarkation/Debarkation and I'll mention it now. We all know about the fuel surcharges and the "will they/won't they" that's been going on. We were told that Princess would refund the fuel surcharge provided the price of oil didn't go over a certain point over the prior thirty days. In our case, it did -five cents a barrel over on one day (election day). Princess was under no obligation to refund any of our money but it would have been priceless in terms of PR if they had. There were no lines when we arrived at 2:00 p.m., and we literally breezed through check-in. We'd heard that Princess had new rules for debarkation in place, but you could have fooled us. We were up with the chickens only to sit with other sleepy people in a lounge waiting to get in line... remember the drill? Our cabin was C302 on the Caribe Deck and it was phenomenal. Since I'm disabled, we were put into a handicapped cabin and for the first time ever, I didn't scrape my knuckles on the door trying to get in. When I asked, I was told that there were only 10 cabins for handicapped travelers - nothing to be proud of for Princess. Ours was immaculate and our cabin steward very attentive. My daughter and her fiancE had an inside cabin on Deck 14 and they both said they'd book it again - they had easy access to swimming pools, deck chairs, and the buffet as well. There were always deck chairs available, not only in the adults only section, but with the other areas as well. Another plus was the elevators. We've gotten used to waiting in line, going up to get one going down, etc. etc. etc. With the Sapphire Princess, we very rarely had to wait and only once had to wait for a second car. Please let RCL in on your secret!!! We chose the "Anytime Dining" plan and made reservations at Sabatini's for my husband's birthday on the 27th. We chose the Pacific Moon Restaurant the first night out and it was not a good experience - so bad that we asked for the Maitre 'd. We'll never know what he said to our waiters, but they became unbelievably surly - to the point where we got up and left midway through our entrEe, having been there for almost 90 minutes already. We spoke with the Purser's office about it and they called the next day, asking us to plan to visit the Savoy Dining Room the next night, and ask for the Head Waiter. We did, and if you want our recommendation, ask for Table 242 and Mihaila. From that day on, our service was impeccable and we really enjoyed talking with her. In fact, we cancelled our reservations for Thanksgiving to spend it with her. The food was great and the service impeccable. It would have been easy to overdo Thanksgiving and turkey, but they struck just the right note. We were so pleased that we left her one of the largest gratuities we've ever given and did it happily. She and her husband, a chef onboard, will be leaving Princess next spring to return to Romania, and I'm sure she will be missed. This experience alone is why we prefer not to pre-pay gratuities - and it's our opinion that service has declined since cruise lines began the practice. The entertainment was good, the ports as well. Wendy's fiancE is in the Navy and Naval personnel are not permitted to leave the ship during port calls, so we were concerned about that, unnecessarily. There were all kinds of things going on for him to do. In Puerto Vallarta, we booked a taxi tour that we had arranged ourselves. We asked to see the "real" PV as well as the tourist areas and thoroughly enjoyed our day. In Mazatlan, we took a late-morning trek ashore to do a bit of shopping. Much of the merchandise is similar to other ports in Mexico and the Caribbean, but we thought their prices were higher. It could also have been that we're just more discerning about our purchases. Make time for a stop at the blue tent just outside the pier exit. They offer massages, hot stone treatments, etc. and I only wish I had left an extra hour, the masseuse was that good. Even with a $10 tip, her charges are less than half that of the spa onboard. My husband and daughter had intended to do an ATV adventure in Cabo San Lucas, but he developed a serious case of "Montezuma's Revenge" so they stayed aboard ship. She did not feel comfortable taking a cab alone to the site, and while she hadn't wanted to miss it, she found plenty to do instead. I had also planned to stay onboard because this was a tendered port and I wasn't sure how it would be with my scooter. One of the big draws on the Sapphire, for us at least, was the at-sea time. There were only the 3 port calls, and in between plenty of time for leisure, but plenty of time for other things as well. If one is bored with this itinerary, it's their own fault!! We liked the formality in dress, although there were plenty of options if you didn't care for that. What man doesn't look great in a tux!!! We've done enough cruising that he invested in one online several years ago, and it's more than paid for itself. All told, we would recommend this cruise to others, but with reservations. We got the feeling that we were "nickel and dimed" throughout. We're not big drinkers, and don't drink a lot of soda either. With Royal Caribbean and Carnival, we've been used to water, tea, coffee, and other "free" drinks being readily available. Not here. When he asked, my husband was told that he could get a cup of coffee at any of the bars onboard. The first time he did, however, he was given a bill for $1.50, and when he asked, was told it was "special" coffee. That special coffee came from a normal, ordinary coffee pot, and he swears that it tasted just like all the other "free"coffee he drank throughout the trip. Basically, if you wanted anything "free" to drink, you had to go up to Deck 14 to get it. If we sail with Princess again, we'll bring our own! There were other little things that are free elsewhere. That said, this is a lovely way to spend a holiday and a nice tradition to start. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. In fact, we made a deposit for 2009. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My fiance (24 years old) and I (27 years old) sailed on the Thanksgiving Cruise, Monday through Friday. This was our 3rd cruise. We first sailed with Carnival Miracle and then Carnival Destiny. One of the main reasons we chose Royal ... Read More
My fiance (24 years old) and I (27 years old) sailed on the Thanksgiving Cruise, Monday through Friday. This was our 3rd cruise. We first sailed with Carnival Miracle and then Carnival Destiny. One of the main reasons we chose Royal Caribbean was due to the feedback that "going Royal" is taking a step-up. After having an unpleasant experience with Carnival Destiny, we decided to give RC a chance. The first thing I must mention is that the Carnival Destiny was built in 1991 and RC Majesty of the Seas was built in 1992. Though, the Majesty of the Seas looks 10 times better than the Destiny. The decor was of better quality and class. It was not "bright" and tacky. Now on the Carnival Destiny, it was terrible as the ship's condition was the main factor as to why we had a horrible time. Therefore for a ship of this age and in such great shape, I can only imagine what the newer ships look like. The crew and staff of RC was very nice. I was impressed and taken aback by how nice they were. Carnival is known as the "Fun Ship" but I truly believe of the 3 cruises, this one by far gets the better rating in terms of the ships crew and their friendliness. In regards to additional tips, here is some things I noted to help all of you: Do not book a room on the 8th Deck near the Club. I would be pissed if I had a room here, because this is where ALL the traffic is at from 11pm-3am. The noise from the people walking to and from the Club would annoy me. I believe the room numbers were 8500. Please seek out the layout of the ship, and avoid getting a room their. Also, make sure you attend the Game Show "Quest". After being on 3 ships, the activities begin to look the same, but "Quest" was absolutely hilarious. I laughed so much that my voice was gone the next day! And please do enter yourself in the free giveaways. So many people sign up, but don't show up for the actual give-away. We were lucky to win a Spa Treatment after 30 names were called! We were excited about that! In regards to Ports, this time my fiance' and I decided to freestyle this one. We usually do intense research looking for excursions, but this time we decided to do it differently. Though I wish we had something set up for Nassau because although the Atlantis is nice to see, we were bored after a while. We did do the Kayaking in Coco Cay, and that was nice to do. Overall, I would do RC again. I would love to try out a bigger and newer ship due to my pleasant experience on this older ship. Though I will admit that as a young couple, we did find ourselves comparing the activities with Carnival. Both my fiance' and I agreed that in regards to activities, Carnival wins the cake! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My wife and I were on our 16th cruise sailing from Ft. Lauderdale on Thanksgiving Day for 10 days visiting St. Lucia, Tortola, Barbados, St Kitts, Martinique and Half Moon Cay. This was our second trip on Holland America and we are both 45 ... Read More
My wife and I were on our 16th cruise sailing from Ft. Lauderdale on Thanksgiving Day for 10 days visiting St. Lucia, Tortola, Barbados, St Kitts, Martinique and Half Moon Cay. This was our second trip on Holland America and we are both 45 years old. This review will be detailed for those that want specific information. We stayed at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa prior to the cruise. They have a restaurant called 3030 which is one of the top places to eat in Ft. Lauderdale. We had a fantastic meal at 3030 which was one of the highlights of the trip. My wife also used the Marriott spa for her seaweed wrap. The cost is cheaper than you will pay on the Noordam and includes a message jet bath which the ship doesn't. I set this up in advance and my wife loved it. The Marriott has a private beach and a tropical pool which were both excellent. A great start to a vacation. Ports: We really enjoyed all the ports and particularly enjoyed the "Boat Yard" beach in Barbados and Cane Garden in Tortola. The Boat Yard is $4 per person by cab and provides a free ride back to the ship. Entrance cost is $15 per person, includes chairs, umbrella, choice of free drink and unlimited use of non motorized beach items. In Tortola we got off the boat and found a 30 person taxi waiting. He was charging $6 per person for Cane Garden Bay Beach. We spent 5 ½ hours at Cane Garden and found plenty of taxis for the return trip ($6) back to the ship. Chairs are $5 per person and several friendly vendors will set you up right on the beach (umbrellas were $10). The beach has plenty of shade if you don't want to pay for an umbrella. We had lunch at Sharkys on the beach which had a great lobster salad and cold beer. Embarkation: We arrived at the pier about 1:30 pm at the same time as a few buses from the airport. We found a line out the front door and thought we were in for a long wait. This was because the metal detector and x-ray machine are at the entrance which actually worked better. The line moved fairly quickly and the only snag was with the medical questionnaire. The lady whom handled it was rude, didn't give instructions until you were at the point where you needed to have it filled out and just a pain in general. Not a big deal and we quickly filled it out while in line before getting to the check-in counter. Note: even when filling out everything on line "before" hand, you still have to have the immigration form in your cruise documents signed. They then write completed on line across the top. The whole check in took about 30 minutes and because it was after 1pm we were able to go directly to our cabin and drop off carry on bags. Crew: I will say that we have seen several different types of crew members over the years. We have had crew members who do what is required only and those who go above and beyond especially with automatic tipping. The Noordam Cabin Stewards, Waiters, Assistant Waiters, pool and cleaning staff are all from Indonesia. Your bar staff is from the Philippines and your officers are mostly Dutch. All crew members are highly trained and it shows. We never heard the word 'NO" and herd "Yes" to all request. I had very high praises on the comment card and to some supervision about this very hard working crew. They smile all the time and will accommodate special request with a smile. Just ask if you want something and give them a little notice in the dining room and it's done. Service really makes HAL and out of 1900 passengers on board, 1300 were repeat customers. Many people have had comments about extra tipping, the extra cash given to an employee stays with that employee. The automatic tipping is pooled and distributed based on a formula. I was told that as long as you left the "service charge" as they call it alone, the crew kept the extra cash given. Cabin: We booked a "guarantee" inside and were upgraded to a large inside. The cabin had 3 separate closets, tie holder mounted to the door, shoes shine basket (for free shoe shine) a safe plus plenty of space, once you placed the life jackets under the bed. Note there are two drawers under the end of the bed that pull out. You can easily place suitcases and life jackets under the bed to allow for more cabin space. The cabin has a hidden dirty laundry hamper located in the chair under the vanity/desk. You pull the seat top off the chair and place dirty laundry in it. It seals up and the chair slides right back under the vanity/desk. You also have a full mini bar located to the right of the vanity with the same pricing as the other ship bars. On the left of the vanity/desk a hidden compartment has a hair dryer and extra glass for wine or champagne (a bottle opener and cork screw are provided with your ice bucket). The hair dry only plugs into the vanity and can't be used in the bathroom. Two Hal robes are provided and are a nice touch and so are the full size bath towels. HAL uses Elemis spa shampoo, body wash, conditioner, lotion and soap (replaced daily). They don't use those stupid wall mounted soap and shampoo dispensers. Beds were fantastic and the room was keep spotless. Pool and Deck Space: Plenty of deck chairs padded and non-padded. Chairs were always available at both pools and plenty of chairs were available in the shade. No signing out towels with a limit (like RCI...so stupid) you just help yourself. This includes towels when going ashore which are not signed out with a threat of being charged if you don't return them. Other lines need to take note here, we are adults and don't need to sign out a towel. HAL gets points for having towel stations all over the ship. You don't have to go down to the pool to get towels from the upper decks (like RCI). They also have towels at the hot tubs and on the Promenade deck #5. The pool and decks are clean and trash is removed quickly to avoid stuff blowing all over (NCL is famous for this one). I was very pleased with the efficient deck staff and their wiliness to get water or tea for seniors. General Areas: Spotless and public bathrooms have cloth hand towels which keep the restrooms clean. No paper towels anywhere and plenty of hand sanitizers. Bars and common areas have comfortable seating, the recliners are located in the observation lounge, great leather seating in Library/Coffee bar. In the stairwells between decks is some very nice art work of the different HAL ships though the years. Outside the shops on deck #3 is a touch screen interactive map showing ship location and other information about the ship. Food: This one is subjective but this is my opinion. The Noordam Lido has the same concept as you see on Costa and Carnival with the newer ships. The use of food stations which include a sandwich bar, pasta and pizza, salad, dessert and ice cream, Asian and sushi station and a hot food station. They have the stations located on both sides of the ship when in full service. They also have a taco, fajita, hamburger and hot dog station by the pool. What is different here is the execution. You are served most of your food and several things are cooked at the food station limiting people handling items and keeping food fresh. All plates are served covered to keep food hot until you return to your table. In the mornings most stations cook eggs, make toast and have basics along with the specialty items. This keeps lines down because you have multiple egg stations going at the same time. They have three special breakfast items daily plus all the basics. They have a great waffle station and an eggs benedict station which had some nice combinations. During the day, tea and water are served table side so you don't have to get up for a refill. Juices are available from 6am to 6pm at the ice cream station (just ask the attendant). Free fresh squeezed orange juice is available in the morning which is not the case on most lines. I found limited lines and the Lido staff assists with carrying trays and keep lines moving. This concept is less of a buffet and I found the food quality to be very good. Plus not as much food sits out and people handling items is kept to a minimum. The dining room food was on a 20 day menu cycle which gives better variety on longer trips. The lobster was excellent because we asked in advance for it to be steamed not broiled. The prime rib and all steaks were very good. The Coho salmon was good and the Noordam uses large shrimp not the mini shrimp used by other lines. All the deserts were lighter (less sugar) than I have seen on other ships. The sugar free items were pretty good and the ice cream selection was nice. Fresh fruits were top notch! We did assigned second seating and had a table for two (plenty of them) and had fantastic service. I didn't notice any major waits for the "as you wish dining" but didn't use it. We also skipped the specialty restaurant Pinnacle Grill which I never saw even close to full. Over all food was very good. Spa/Gym/Pools: The gym was very nice, good sized with most of the standard equipment, classes and a great view. A nice touch is the cold towels available in the refrigerator after your work out. The Spa is very nice and the girls are very friendly. We only used the hydro pool and the relaxation room (a hidden gem with a great view and chairs that will make you fall a sleep). The sauna and locker rooms are complementary and so is the gym. The hydro pool can be purchased with packages or just used at a rate of $20 a day. That includes use of the robes, slippers, showers and changing area. We choose the day pass and it was nice, but, I would not get the whole week. Pools are not sea water and the main pool (top) was closed and opened according to weather conditions. The whirlpool closest to the spa has foot jets and seats that fit the body. Entertainment: The Vegas acts were very good and vary from cruise to cruise. We had a comedian, classical pianist who did magic and a juggler. The dancers had nice sets and a great theater and several production shows. Two male dancers destroyed some classic songs and several of the female dancers where a bit chunky (which was something I had seen in other reviews and made me laugh). Over all it was fine and we went to most shows. The crew also has a show which is popular. Overall this is a great ship and I found numerous people under 40 whom where trying cruising for the first time. It is true that most of the ship is over the age of 55, I found the older group to be fun, interesting and respectful. So this ship is a winner for all ages Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Hi Friends! Well, here is the much anticipated review of the Valor! What a great Thanksgiving! I cruised with a my college buddy, JT. SATURDAY NOV 22: Pre Cruise: South Beach Hotel Final Score: Ohio State 42, Michigan 7. (an old ... Read More
Hi Friends! Well, here is the much anticipated review of the Valor! What a great Thanksgiving! I cruised with a my college buddy, JT. SATURDAY NOV 22: Pre Cruise: South Beach Hotel Final Score: Ohio State 42, Michigan 7. (an old fashioned Beat down!) Sunday NOV 23: Embarkation We arrived at the port of Miami at 10:30, and at 11:30 were some of the first on the ship! Lido buffet was awesome! If you're ever first on the ship, check out the raspberries and blackberries in the fruit cocktail on Lido! I did not know about that! (Sorry if you were on the ship this week... I took a lot of the raspberries... oops.) During the afternoon, we watched football on lido, got Fun Ship Specials, and even met some Cruise Critic members at sail away! It was partly cloudy and warm enough. At Dinner we sat with Brandon and his mom and sister, and a mother/daughter from Florida via ohio! The Welcome Aboard show was fun! The bars were hopping! We are stoked for a great week! Monday NOV. 24 Sea Day Sunny and Warm! We headed up to Lido around 8:30 for breakfast... lines not too long. We like to eat in the back of the ship... not crowded, fresh air, nice views... Ate too much food! Eggs, bacon, pancake and syrup, yogurt, 2 grapefruits, and maybe even some raisin bran. We then collect several cups of Passion-Guava juice for "drinks" later that day! (We ended up doing this more than once.) Hung out on Lido all day, SURVIVOR, ran on the track, pizza, cheeseburgers, and Rum-Runners! Formal night #1: Captain's Cocktail: in the back lounges... Late seating dinner: Lobster tail night. Yum! The show was nice, but we'd seen it before on the Destiny! (Night Club Express... with the talking couch.) Went to see Ron in piano bar, but it was too SMOKY! Yuck. Went to Karaoke instead. Midnight comedy show. Tuesday NOV 25: Grand Cayman! After a quick breakfast on Lido, we tendered over to Cayman, and took a $4 taxi ride to 7 mile beach... Sunny and Warm! We walked the beach, snorkeled near the Marriott, (we had our own snorkeling equip.) and then taxied back to Georgetown for free Rum Cake samples at the Rum Cake store! Yum! Went back to the ship around 2:30 to beat the long lines that we knew would appear for the tender. Headed up to Lido grill for a few hours of relaxation, music and sun! We ended up eating way up on Sky Deck near the slide. Great views all around! (and not quite so loud like it is down near the pool.) Past Guest party was this night in main lounge. After dinner...Karaoke that night. Fun times! Disco not too crowded, Piano bar too smoky. Yuck. Wednesday NOV 26: Isla Roatan, Honduras Scheduled time to dock: NOON. But from 8:30 to Noon, the sail-in is awesome! The ship passes by several islands... mostly on starboard side... ship docks with island on port side. There were a few sprinkles when we got to the island. We walked off the ship and found a family going to the "West Bay" beach (same as Tabyana... there was a bar where we went: Banarama) round trip was $15.00 per person. If you've never been to a 3rd world country, you're in for an eye-opener. Everyone was very nice! But it is very poor... They said that the kids skip school on days a ship comes, so that they can hawk bracelets for a dollar... (I bought 3!) The ride up and over the hills was beautiful! RAINFOREST! Beach admission was free. Beautiful beach! Many vendors walking and selling... but very nice people! Walk along towards where the ship excursion takes people for wonderful snorkeling! (you'll see where... look for the breathing tubes!) Our taxi driver waited all day for us... we headed back to the ship when a big rain came around 5PM (Ship sailed at 7.) Thursday NOV 27: Thanksgiving! Belize! Another SUNNY and warm day! Tender was about 4 miles off shore due to the Barrier reefs. Beautiful tender ride to the mainland... It was like a free excursion! Loved it! English speaking country. We took an hour taxi ride around Belize City, just to look around, and when we stopped in a little store, we ran into a couple of mission girls from the states... They told us a sweet spot to go to!... We took a water taxi ($11 round trip on the San Pedro-Belize Express) to "Caye Caulker"... one of the barrier islands. What a great decision that was! And what luck to run into those girls! The boat ride was about 45 minutes long, and another beautiful ride! This island was awesome! No motorized vehicles... just electric golf carts. Wonderful snorkeling... and there were small outfits that would take you out in their boat if you want to snorkel the barrier reef itself. We just snorkeled off the small beach near "the Lazy Lizard"... There were a few other bars, and places to rent. One lady we met said she goes there for a couple months at a time! Rent = $300! It was a quiet little paradise... great for relaxing, reading, and at night maybe some guitar around a fire on the beach... We had to head back to Belize city at 2:30, so we could catch a tender going back to the ship. That was sad. Back on board they had Football on the big screen on Lido deck, so we watched the Cowboys while eating a late lunch from the grill... even watched from the hot tub! Wow. What a great Thanksgiving! Friday NOV 28 Cozumel Guess what: Sunny and Warm!!! We had an excursion scheduled for this morning: Deluxe Snorkel and beach Catamaran. (Thanks to our On-Board-Credit!) We sailed to our snorkel spot (5 minutes away), snorkeled for about 30 - 40 min... which was plenty.... Beautiful fish! Then on to a private beach... (Just south of Paradise Beach!) We played on the water trampoline and got free beers and margaritas! The ride back to the ship was fun! We danced to music and had more beverages! We just wished the excursion had lasted longer... so much so, that we took a taxi ride back to Paradise Beach! We heard a rumor that we would have to spend $10 on food or drink, but we just walked in and found chairs... We still had our bracelets on from the excursion and were tempted to walk the 100 yards down the beach where we could drink more for free, but we'd had enough by that time. It was sunny and hot! Another great day. Back on board, we headed up to Lido, got more burgers from the grill, and headed up to Sky Deck for some sun and music before sail away. We were docked next to "Freedom of the Seas" (Is that still the biggest cruise ship?) We were also next to the Conquest. After hot tub and sunset and sail away, we got ready for dinner. We were happy that it was not our last night on the ship! I think this was the night of the other production show... "Far from Over." (Might have been Thursday night!????) Anyways, the show was brilliant! All about the 80's! (midnight comedy show also) Saturday NOV 29: Day at sea. Sunny and WARM! Hooray! After a relaxing breakfast on Lido, we headed up to find spots high above the pools to take in all the action, and views of the Caribbean! It's best to listen to Ipods before Noon, when the calypso band starts in. Either that, or move to the back of the ship... But we enjoy watching all the action, the flirting college kids, and activities... such as the Hairy Chest contest! Haha! A very relaxing day, we had to make more drinks to use up our supply... didn't want to be taking that home... After a full day of sun, it finally clouded up around 5PM? We reckoned it was time to pack... then we'd be free that evening to relax. After dinner we went to the "Carnival Legends Show"... the same show for 2 years now on the ships... Maybe it's time for a little change? At least new characters? But it was still fun and funny. And almost standing room! Afterwards, we headed up for one last slice of pizza, (and one last Pina colada while watching Terri Jo: the musician near the Casino.) We were her little 2 -man fan club all week! She's great! Sunday NOV 30: Debark. RAINING! Haha. We didn't care. (we did feel sad for people just starting out though.) We stayed in our rooms until maybe 8:45. Then headed up to Lido for breakfast. We took our time, and waited until 10:30 or so when they started making last call.... Then we headed down, and walked right out! No hurry, no hassle, no fuss! Easy debark that way, and a good breakfast. A few notes about our trip: A. While hanging out on Sky Deck all those afternoons, there was this one little girl that would run Full-Speed up all those stairs, go down the slide, and do it again! Over and over! It was hilarious! We would yell at her... "Go Go Go!" or "Here comes Speedy!" We chatted with her family. Very nice. B. Being Thanksgiving week, the ship was full of kids. The camp Carnival director told us over 900 kids were on board! But us, being country boys, like all the action on the ship! On our previous cruise (which was in January), there were hardly any kids... Boring! C. Service was great, as always on Carnival D. We had an inside cabin. Every morning we would turn the TV to channel 40: a live feed from a camera on Lido... That's how we checked the weather status! E. Food was great as well. Loved those Shrimp cocktails every night! F. Some of the movies on Lido: Transformers, I am Legend, Spiderwick, some movie about high school boys learning Ultimate fighting?, and a few others. There were movies every night at 8 and 10... except Thursday: football! G. The same little kids were in the hot tub every afternoon when we wanted to get in. (NO Hot Tub in SPA on this ship.) But we got in anyway. But where were the parents? These kids would splash us, take my buddy's drink, etc. What the heck? Anyways, I teach 4th grade, so I was OK. It was just kind of funny. Those crazy kids! A couple days we ended up going to the AFT hot tubs... Adults only! H. We ended up meeting a lot of fun people on the cruise! Hello to all of you! The Best Thanksgiving Cruise Ever! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This is a combined review of consecutive cruises starting with the Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona of Nov 22nd, 2008 and the transatlantic crossing to Galveston on Nov 29th. I have completed 18 cruises with Royal Caribbean and am a ... Read More
This is a combined review of consecutive cruises starting with the Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona of Nov 22nd, 2008 and the transatlantic crossing to Galveston on Nov 29th. I have completed 18 cruises with Royal Caribbean and am a Diamond Plus member. Prior to the cruise, I stayed at the Continental Palacete Hotel which was wonderful. Their 24 hour buffet which includes beer and wine was greatly appreciated! Check in was exceptionally fast and as it was after 1.00pm, I was able to go straight to my cabin - 9690, a corner aft cabin. Our first port was Villefranche where we tendered. I took the local bus to Nice for 1 euro each way. Livorno was the next port. As I have previously visited Florence and Pisa, I took the Royal Caribbean canal boat ride around Livorno which was interesting. Rather than go into Rome from Civitavecchia, I took the Royal Caribbean excursion to Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano. Tom Cruise was married there. It was a good excursion and I enjoyed it a lot. In Naples, I walked around and visited the National Archaeological Museum (costs10 euros). I highly recommend visiting this museum. I also walked all the way up to the Castel Sant' Elmo where for 3 euros, you get a wonderful view of the city and Mount Vesuvius. In Palermo, I walked around the town ending up at the Catacombs. 1.50 euros to enter. There are hundreds of bodies on display and it is quite creepy. Certainly not a place to take kids! We had a day at sea before returning to Barcelona. As we were there for the day, we did a private tour to Montserrat which was fantastic. We were given our new Seapass cards prior to the end of the cruise and our cabin steward moved the luggage so the changeover was easy. For the transatlantic crossing, I had Junior Suite 7694 in the aft. Our first port was Cartegena, a lovely small town that had their Christmas festival going on. Friendly people and a nice place to just walk around and explore. They handed out free liquor samples in 50ml bottles (which Royal Caribbean kept for you when you got back onto the ship!) In Madeira, we had a private tour that included a wonderful lunch near Camacha followed by Madeira wine tasting. Our next port was Santa Cruz in the Canary Islands which like Cartegena is small and easy to walk around by oneself. Then, we had six relaxing sea days before arriving in Nassau, then Miami and finally Galveston. These were two wonderful cruises and I enjoyed both of them. I have 11 more cruises booked (10 with Royal Caribbean and 1 with Celebrity) so you can see that I like Royal Caribbean. They provide a great product at a great price. The Concierge lounge is certainly a perk that keeps bringing me back. It's not just the free drinks but also the wonderful atmosphere talking to everyone each night. Here are a few comments in no particular order: • Bill Brunkhorst was the Cruise Director on both cruises. He is one of my favorite cruise directors and it was a nice surprise to find him onboard. • The crew on Voyager are terrific especially my cabin stewards Ray from Costa Rica and Elimar from the Philippines. Concierge Martin Sanchez did a good job considering there were 480 Diamond and Diamond plus members on the transatlantic crossing. • The ice shows are amazing - I went three times! I am always so impressed with the jumps and spins that they do while the ship is moving. A very talented group. • In most ports, one is able to walk into town but in some ports, Royal Caribbean provide shuttles - Livorno ($12), Madeira ($12), Miami ($15 to Bayside and South Beach). In Civitavecchia, the port provided a free shuttle. I would like Royal Caribbean to either provide free transportation or at least inform passengers before the cruise of these extra expenses. Many passengers were upset about docking far from town and being forced to pay for transportation. • Royal Caribbean hosted Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle parties on both cruises. There were well over 200 of us on the transatlantic cruise. Cruise Director Bill attended both events and I even won the fabled Wave Mouse in one of the draws. I do greatly appreciate Royal Caribbean's support of Cruise Critic. • If you go to Madeira, look out for the local drink called Poncha - rum with honey and lemon. It is fantastic and is especially good if you have a sore throat (or think you might get one!). 8 euros for a litre bottle. • Smoking was still allowed in the Casino all the time and on balconies. I wish they would stop the smoking on balconies. I had a pipe smoker on the balcony beside me and it affected my enjoyment of my balcony. Also wish they would restrict smoking when trivia (and other events) are held in the Schooner Bar and other lounges. • In addition to the usual parties and events, Royal Caribbean hosted a party for just the Diamond Plus members. It was nice to receive that extra recognition. • Food in the dining room was very good. I enjoyed Portofinos on both visits. Windjammer for dinner was excellent but I sometimes struggled with the choices at lunch. • We cleared US immigration in Miami which was a slow process but certainly made things easy when we docked in Galveston - we just walked off the ship there. • Certainly a highlight were the excellent lectures held during the transatlantic crossing. Ronald Bowers' Hollywood Murder lectures were exceptional. I do hope Royal Caribbean continue these on transatlantic crossings Thank you Royal Caribbean for two wonderful cruises. The more I cruise, the more I realize that it is the people you meet that defines your cruise experience and makes cruising so enjoyable. Long may the Concierge lounge continue! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We were very apprehensive as we flew from Buffalo to Washington DC then to Frankfurt Germany and finally to Basel, Switzerland to board The River Symphony from Grand Circle Travel. However, all our tension eased as they promptly delivered ... Read More
We were very apprehensive as we flew from Buffalo to Washington DC then to Frankfurt Germany and finally to Basel, Switzerland to board The River Symphony from Grand Circle Travel. However, all our tension eased as they promptly delivered our luggage to the room that would be our home for the next week. We loved floating north on the Rhine viewing the countryside and towns from our room or on the deck (although chilly. Our directors were top-notch, the food was first class (every meal and what choices, our cabin was spotless....My husband was especially impressed that we had the choice of joining the tours offered or just staying on board or walking to town on his own if his arthritis was bothering him. All in all, we can not say enough about this wonderful trip and all the ports--Kayersburg, Riquewihr, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg, Speyer, Heidelberg, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Brugge....all with their wonderful Christmas markets. I know I forgot some but we have many very fond memories of this trip! (We purchased the post-extension to the trip and traveled by bus from Ansterdam to Brussels and train to Brugge) We are now looking at the Danube! Hopefully soon. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Arrived in FLL the day prior to the cruise, and stayed at the Sleep Inn (Dania).. We have stayed there before, and for the price, including shuttles to the port and from the airport, and a hot breakfast in the AM, as well as a clean room, ... Read More
Arrived in FLL the day prior to the cruise, and stayed at the Sleep Inn (Dania).. We have stayed there before, and for the price, including shuttles to the port and from the airport, and a hot breakfast in the AM, as well as a clean room, we return there on each sailing from FLL! Our friends from the UK picked us up at the airport, and we spent the afternoon at the Sleep Inn, and shopped at Publix, as well as dinner at the Kings Head Pub.. Quite good! In the AM, we dropped the ladies off at the ship at 1130 AM, then returned the rental car to the airport... We then took a cab back to the ship, and were all onboard the ship by 115 PM.. The lines were long at embarkation, but moved quite quickly.. After 'brunch' at the Lido, and a drink or two, we went to our cabins on the Verandah (aft). We had 8448 and our friends had 8442, both category 9A! The steward (Ellsworth) stopped by, introduced himself, and graciously opened the balcony partition as we had requested thru our PVP! Ellsworth was probably the BEST cabin steward we have had on any previous cruise. Our kudo's to him..!! He certainly was highlighted on our 'comment card'! Muster drill was a breeze, and most passengers made it there in a quick and orderly manner. Cabins: I really can't say enough about the 9A's... We viewed the 'side' 9A for the first time and were thoroughly impressed.. Very nice, and almost two times the size of a regular balcony cabin, altho' the balcony was not near the size of the 9A aft-wrap that the DW and I occupied! The connecting balcony (with the partition opened), gave us a 65 foot long balcony! Heaven! Dining: We had late seating, and for some reason were assigned to the center DR, the Chic! We are normally assigned to the aft DR, but it really made no difference. The four of us were assigned a booth table (172), and were a tad worried, but the cushions were quite supportive, and we enjoyed the experience. Wait staff was wonderful (Andrej), and the beverage service (Marina from Croatia) were GREAT!.. (More kudo's on the comment card)! The food was really GREAT, altho' we received a cold (hot) dish on an occasion or two, and were offered to have it replaced. We had two entrees on two evenings! The lobster, which was an entree split by the DW and I was on the the 'iffy' side, but the wife loved it...! I have seen them cooked better..! All in all, probably an 7/8 out of 10 for everything! Lunches in the DR are wonderful... Never made it to breakfast there.. Breakfast on the Lido is 'run of the mill', tho pretty good... Was actually looking for corned beef hash, but never did find it... Fish and Chips was really good... A tad 'greasy', but really tasty! Had fish & chips (fries) and fried oysters.. Just couldn't bring myself to try the Octopus... ACKKKK! Sun King was excellent, altho' probably only half full... Next cruise, we will probably NOT do the Supper Club, but we heard that CCL is discontinuing the option in February, anyhow..! Service was wonderful, as well as the food... Really didn't think I could eat a 24 oz steak, but I did!!! Deli was GREAT! Ate there several times for lunch... Grilled Reubens were my favorite! Mongolian Buffet was quite crowded all the time.. We opted out, as we do Mongolian quite often at home, and 'standing in line' is not high on my list! Room service was pretty quick on most occasions.. They 'post' in the Capers when the service may be slow.. I tried several things, and everything was good. No complaints..! Tuna salad is great, as well as the sliced beef.. Entertainment: Lenny Halliday was our CD.. Seems to be quite good..! Can't comment on the 'shows', as the wife and I are not 'late-nighters'... We enjoy a cocktail or two after our late dining time, then relax on that huge balcony... (after a quick trip to the Casino to donate a few $$$) Excursions: Key West was our first stop, and the reason for the cruise... DW had never been there! Thus, we opted for the Old Town Trolley Tour... We had thought about doing the 'Hop On - Hop Off' feature, but decided to dod the entire route, then go back to Duval Street on our own.. We all enjoyed the Tour, even tho' I had been to EYW probably 5 or 6 times previous! We all had a nice time, as well as a 'pit' stop at Sloppy Joe's.. DW and I stayed on the ship in Grand Cayman, as we have been there before.. Our friends made a short trip into town (a tendered port), but seeing the prices on trinkets and souvenirs, decided to return..! We relaxed on that BIG balcony for most of the day! Ocho Rios was where the wife and I were married in 2004.. We opted for a 'private' tour with Marva Shaw, and had 'Lion King' for a driver/guide. Quite a wonderful day, visiting Shaw Park Gardens (where we were married), then Fern Gully, the Jerk Center for lunch, (YUMMY), then a bit of shopping.. NOTE: Avoid the 'local craft market', unless you can deal with really 'pushy' vendors.... ACKKK! The CCL recommended shopping areas were fine!! Disembarkation: (Getting off the ship).. Was really worried from all the previous reviews we had read! We were assigned #12, and we placed the tags on our bags..! We went to breakfast on the Lido at 730 AM, even tho' we were not required to vacate our cabins until 830 AM. We had a leisurely breakfast, and good conversation... Our # was called at around 905 AM... We were off the ship, and at the airport by 1030 AM! There was no problem getting our of customs... The problem was 'getting a cab'..!! With 7 ships in port that day, cabs were few and far between..! Most people waited for anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to be accommodated.. Naturally, this is not in Carnival's control..! MY observation: After the poor reviews, we were somewhat concerned, but I truthfully believe that by 'following the suggested guidelines', anyone sailing the Freedom will have a wonderful time. A cruise is 'what one makes of it'! We 'go with the flow', and enjoyed this cruise as much as the others! ps: The decor was fine.. Very interesting in fact! The crew was always smiling and friendly, and all in all, sailing is still a very good value for the money! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
12/20/2008 Thru 12/27/2008 Cruise Review: Carnival Liberty 7 Night Western Caribbean Ports of Call: Miami, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, Jamaica Room: 7299 Cat: 12 Who are we? We are newly married in our late ... Read More
12/20/2008 Thru 12/27/2008 Cruise Review: Carnival Liberty 7 Night Western Caribbean Ports of Call: Miami, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, Jamaica Room: 7299 Cat: 12 Who are we? We are newly married in our late 30's with no kids from Tampa, Florida. In our business travel we like to stay with the Hilton family of hotels. In our weekend getaways we love the Ritz Carlton's in Florida. We enjoy excellent food and service when we go out but fine dining is not a must. We both love to play golf but took the Holidays off this year to go on a cruise. You don't have to join the conga line on the Lido deck to have fun on Carnival. We have categorized our review for your ease of jumping from subject to subject. Packing: Go to a couple of websites to find a packing list. The extension cords with multiple plugs are essential. Read below for booze and wine packing. Embarkation: Parking is a little slow so be prepared to wait 20 minutes to get into the parking garage. The embarkation is pretty seamless considering the amount of people trying to get on board. The staff giving directions doesn't really know where to send and seem somewhat confused. Bringing liquor and wine on board. We drove to our cruise so we packed 7 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of vodka plus all the mixers for the vodka. Also, we brought on our own water. Highly recommend bringing whatever you can fit into your suitcases. Do Not Carry any of these items on with you - checked luggage only. We were VIP passengers so we breezed right through the check in - VIP check-in is not very well marked it is a private room behind the standard check-in. Boarding in Miami is at 11:30am we understood it wasn't until 1:30pm. Stateroom 7299 (Cat - 12): It is a great room and well worth every dime we spent on the room. More cabinet, drawer and storage space than you could ever need. The bathroom was very nicely sized with 2 vanities and dressing area was right off the bathroom. The bed seemed like it was going to be very uncomfortable but we had many good nights of sleep. They do have DVD player in the room but they don't tell you that on any website. It is much nicer than the royal junior suite on Royal Caribbean. The deck was exactly double the normal balcony suite. Our room was located in the middle of the ship so when seas were rough we did not notice as much. The seventh floor (empress) is perfect with floors above and below so it is as quiet as possible. The floor is good for reaching all destinations promenade is 5th and lido is 9th. Food: Harry's Supper Club is a must if you like the fine dining experience. We have gone 4 times on our 7 day cruise. I would compare it to a Ruth Chris' steakhouse. They did charge us a corkage fee of $14 for the bottle of wine we brought ($30 per person each night for dinner). Every steak was superb and the overall dining experience was fantastic. Breakfast can be ordered via room service; we started every morning with continental breakfast and coffee on our balcony. Room Service was always prompt. The dining room has open seating which was fine. The buffet at Emile's was very good with an omelet station and egg making station so it didn't seem like a buffet. Hamburger's and hot dogs from the grill hit the spot for snacks and the deli did the same for grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. The pizza was much better than it looked and it is highly recommended. We did formal dining almost every night but spent one night in the room watching our DVD's and having pizza brought down from the pizzeria. Room service does not have pizza or the grilled food on their menu (basically no hot food). The ice cream (not soft serve) was excellent in the dinning rooms for lunch and dinner. They do have a new "open seating" policy that you can select. If you do not want to be seated with people that you do not know, and want to eat anytime, you should choose this option. On-board Activities: The casino was nice with a very accepting staff. The table games were kept at pretty low limits - Blackjack $5 and Roulette at $1 and it was pretty large considering. It is a smoking casino, so don't plan on wearing your clothes a couple times after being in the casino. It is very simple to find the smoking and non-smoking areas of the ship. You must get to the jogging track early because it will be very busy on sea days. The exercise room was well appointed but very crowded. The treadmills do have televisions attached. We would recommend exercising at off times. Everyone reserves beach chairs on deck you must get their early if you would like secure a chair on your favorite deck. The pools and spas are quite small so if you are looking to lounge in a pool go at off times. They have a "don't save deck chair police" but nobody enforces it! Go down early and save a chair with a towel and book...if not, by 10:00am you will not have a seat. Cozumel: You can book your excursions outside of Carnival for a cheaper experience. We did not participate in an excursion in Cozumel but did visit a restaurant in Cozumel. La Choza was fantastic. It is located a couple of blocks off the main shopping area in a new location. They were very warm/friendly and the food was fantastic (Fish Fajitas and Steak/Shrimp Fajitas). It is listed on "Trip Advisor" for dining in Cozumel and we were very pleased with everything they offered. The town is clean and very easy to get around. The people are very friendly and the shopping is good. Grand Cayman: We booked an excursion on-line; the Sea Doo (wave runner) experience ($180 for 2 bikes). It was about a 15 minute bus ride which was pleasant ($5 per person each way). The ride was a bit rough due to some high winds but it was very enjoyable. The bikes were new and well kept. The Sting Ray portion was interesting with a lot of tourists. You should not miss this! The stingrays are huge and very tame. A must see! Ocho Rios, Jamaica: This is not a great destination point for a cruise - The town is dirty and the people are extremely aggressive. We did not book an excursion but I did hear from people that went to Dunn's River Falls that it was quite boring. We did hear that the shopping is good but I would shop at other destinations because of the aggressive people! Debarkation: Not bad.....You can order room service in the morning and wait for your number to be called...nothing else to do but follow the rules. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My DH and I are in the mid 40's-50's and as a Christmas present to each other decided to take this cruise because for the first time in years we didn't have any relatives coming to our house for the holidays. We arrived in ... Read More
My DH and I are in the mid 40's-50's and as a Christmas present to each other decided to take this cruise because for the first time in years we didn't have any relatives coming to our house for the holidays. We arrived in San Diego after a huge freak snowstorm nearly stranded us in the desert! San Diego was sunny but a bit chilly. We used the Park and Go lot which wasn't right at the dock but they had good shuttles and for only 10 bucks a day was well worth it for those who drive to SD. Embarkation was very fast and orderly. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits. We had a nice lunch in the Lido and were in our cabin by 1:30. Well, we had a great view of the LIFEBOAT. When they say fully obstructed view I guess you have to take them seriously. I could see a bit of the promenade deck. Hubby (who is 6'1") said he could see just fine but I think he was just rubbing it in because I am short. During the lifeboat drill, as we were chatting a nice lady said to my husband, "Are you Lapidary Lady?" "Um, no but I think that is my wife's screen name on Cruise Critic," he replied. We had run into RuthandJohn who were absolutely WONDERFUL companions to us throughout the cruise! (Not to mention they are top-drawer trivia players!) It was fun to run into other people from the Rollcall right away, and then again when we had a meet and greet up in the Crow's Nest on the second day. We hadn't been paying attention to our dining and ended up with the As You Wish dining. It was okay. You had the option of dining by yourselves at a table for two, or with others if a large table was being seated. We met some nice people, but didn't develop any good friendships as it was all very transitory. We ended up the second half of the cruise eating with RuthandJohn at the eary sitting. Big thanks to the manager of the Vista Dining room for accommodating us! The ship had beautiful decorations, including a whole gingerbread town that smelled wonderful each time we walked by it. It was constructed in the Explorations Cafe by the pastry chefs...it even had a train! Our cruise director Cory was nice but seemed kind of, well, inexperienced. Maybe he is new, but he seemed a bit stilted and flustered at times. Whomever he had "announcing" Santa's arrival needs to take some serious lessons in how to sound convincing. There were probably at least 100 retired school teachers on board who could have done a more enthusiastic job. The crew and stewards really did their best to be friendly and helpful....A++ for their efforts. We had a nice whale watching cruise with free drinks, chips and salsa for our Cabo San Lucas excursion.(and actually SAW some whales!Not just a tiny spout far off in the distance.) Cabo seems very new and a happy place to visit. The tenders over were a grown-up version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, ( Or would that be Senor Frog's?) They were very rough, and we kept bashing into the platform while waiting to load more passengers. We eventually got away and things improved....it was a picture perfect beautiful day. Saw some interesting sights, like a huge green iguana wearing a Santa hat that was available for pictures, (for a price) and heavily armed policia walking around with automatic rifles, (whom I doubt would be available for posing for pictures, but then again, I didn't ask.) The "Bargains" weren't that much of a bargain. T-shirts were $11.00,(almost Free said the sign,)the vanilla extract I bought was rather pricey and the eelskin leather belt was right up there in price with what I would have paid for the same thing in the mall back home. Mazatlan was hot and humid. They did have a shopping trolly to safely transport shoppers from the dock to the shops. There was huge mariachi statues with a real life sized mariachi band serenading us as we disembarked, but as it got hotter everyone seemed to disappear. My hubby enjoyed the sea kayaking but they were done in a few hours, and spent the rest of the time (another 2 hours)standing around fending off rather aggressive street vendors instead of being allowed to return to the ship. The next day was Puerto Vallarta. Hubby had a blast doing the zipline throughout the jungle. He highly recommends this excursion! I stayed onboard and enjoyed the ambiance of the ship (...and the airconditioning). There was a lady on the dock with a beautiful Macaw to pose for pictures with, and a Walmart and a Sam's Club right across the street for those people who interested in seeing the same stuff offered for sale at home in a foreign land! (Actually, people getting gifts said they had better prices on the same touristy stuff than the street vendors did.) The two sea days home were nicesaw lots of dolphins and whales when we passed by Cabo again. The last night we had some rough seas...had to excuse myself from the Mariner's brunch rather hastily when I unfortunately caught sight of the horizon doing wild things. The lady at the medical dispensary gave me some Bonine tablets that fixed me up but soon we saw wooden trays holding seasick bags conveniently placed near the elevators so I knew I wasn't the only one. I recovered so quickly I was able to enjoy the Chef's Dinner with the Baked Alaska that night. We got really cute little glowsticks to wave around during the show. We were really sad to say goodbye at the end of the cruise especially to our new dear friends. We became such good friends they decided to book the 15 day Hawaiian cruise with us for next year! This was truly a wonderful cruise and a great way to spend Christmas Thank You HAL!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Splendor review, Dec. 20-27, 2008 Our group included my wife and me (40's), a friend (20's), and our two kids, 9 and 12. We have only cruised once before, on the Disney Magic in 2004. Overall, the reaction of all five of ... Read More
Splendor review, Dec. 20-27, 2008 Our group included my wife and me (40's), a friend (20's), and our two kids, 9 and 12. We have only cruised once before, on the Disney Magic in 2004. Overall, the reaction of all five of us was excellent, and we all had a great time. EMBARKATION: this was the weakest point of the trip. Disney handles this so much better. We arrived at 1:00 and were on board in a little over an hour, but the kids did not enjoy the long, hot waits. But we did not let it dampen our enthusiasm. STATEROOMS: we were on Deck 2 in outside view staterooms. We saved some money by changing our booking from a large window to double porthole rooms, located just a few doors away. We decided early on that it wasn't worth it to us to pay for the balcony because you spend little time in your room. The views were not great, but it really felt like you were on a ship, and the portholes achieved the goal of letting us know it was morning and providing a quick check of our location. We were below the theater and did have some noise from the show props moving around before and after the show, but not as much noise as I expected, and not a problem. Also, we had a lot of noise from the side thrusters as we were pulling into port and this disturbed our sleep sometimes. But a little ship noise only added to the experience. STAFF: High marks go to all of the staff for friendliness and service. SHIP: Overall, very clean, with crew members constantly cleaning and polishing. With 3,500 guests on board, that is no small task. I personally did not like the Las Vegas-like dEcor, but it does accomplish the goal of transporting you to another type of place, and by the end of the week I was used to it. As noted in many reviews, the dEcor included a lot of pink and it appeared that they tried to decorate almost every inch of the ship. It was kind of weird actually. We did like the corridors, which had a 1940's art deco look. I have read reviews about elevator problems. We never saw any elevators out of order. Also, the sliding roof over the pool worked fine and was open the entire trip, except when some rain showers occurred in La Romana, when it was quickly closed. SPA: My wife and friend did the spa, but not me. They gave it mixed reviews, with some parts excellent (massages and the special whirlpool) and others not so great. The seaweed wrap was a waste of money and the spa receptionist was not overly friendly. Generally, the staff performing the services were friendly, but they did not go out of their way to ensure a superb experience given the inflated prices. FOOD: Overall, excellent. How they can feed that many people and do it well is amazing. The Pinnacle was very good, but not a whole lot better than the main dining room, and I would skip it next time. The kids loved the 24-hour pizza (very tasty) and ice cream and the room service grilled cheese sandwiches. Not all of the food was spectacular, but I am not picky and overall it was excellent. ENTERTAINMENT: The main shows were first rate. My kids loved being able to sit in the front row of a Broadway-type show. We felt the productions were better even than on the Disney Magic. We also saw a hypnotist and juggling act, which were also very good. The comedian was so-so. The lounge acts (typically duets) were good, a little cheesy, but this is a mainstream cruise ship after all. The piano bar was excellent. The Cool and the Red Carpet dance clubs could have done better with the music selection. Overall, no complaints at all except the lounges and clubs seemed empty at times and some things closed at 10 p.m. The Library was a nice addition to the amenities where you can borrow books and board games, although the hours were so limited that we never took enough advantage of it, and it would help to have board games available 24-hours. Also, we were disappointed at the lack of shuffleboard. KIDS PROGRAMS: My 9-year old was in the 9-11 group in Camp Carnival and loved it. She made new friends and liked being able to pick and choose activities and get to them on her own. She liked that several of the activities were in the disco. My 12-year old was in Circle C and did not like it very much. You had to get there early to get a spot in some of the activities (Wii and PS2). That's a tough age group to satisfy. But he did enjoy a few events with them. Part of the problem may be that we heard that there were over 1,000 kids on board, the most ever so far for the Splendor. SAN JUAN: We started with a horse-drawn carriage ride, which we located on our own along the pier. It was $65 for 30 minutes for 5 people, which was pricey, but there is not much time in this port, so it was a good way to get a quick look around. Then we walked all over, and enjoyed the locals selling crafts in booths. Also, look for the free rum in the port... Overall, we thought Old San Juan was a neat cultural experience and I wished that we had more time there, but it was getting late and the kids were tired of walking, so the short visit was ok if you have small kids. Felt very safe there. ST. THOMAS: We booked Coral World and Magen's Bay Beach through the ship. Enjoyed both, although again, felt like we did not have enough time. Such is life on a cruise ship, however. Coral World is no Sea World, but is just a local attraction and not fancy. But the kids loved it, including the iguanas walking around and the lorikeet bird enclosure, where they land on your arm and drink from a cup of nectar you hold. We noticed that Coki Beach next door was very packed. But there were 5 ships and about 12,000 passengers that day, so it was all crowded, including Magen's Bay. LA ROMANA, DR: Great stop. We booked Altos de Chavon in the morning through the ship, and the Countryside tour in the afternoon through the ship. Altos de Chavon was really quaint with spectacular views. The tour guide didn't leave enough time for shopping. The shopping there was unique with some very nice hand-made local items. The countryside tour was especially notable and fun. We really liked giving our kids a brief view of life in a foreign country, which you really don't get in ports like St. Thomas and Nassau. The drive through the sugar cane fields was really great, and the kids loved eating raw sugar cane right from the field. You go in an open air jeep and the ride is wild and exciting. We even got stuck in the mud once (fortunately, there was rum on board). La Romana was probably the highlight port of our trip, and about as good as you can get on a cruise vacation in terms of getting a quick taste of local life. We felt very safe there, although we did have a local guide to watch out for us. He was great, and spoke French, English, Spanish and Russian. NASSAU: We booked the Atlantis Aquaventure through the ship. Although very expensive, it gave us a glimpse of Atlantis and allowed us to swim there. We spent most of the time on the huge lazy river, and then did a quick walk through the Dig and the grounds. The lazy river was fantastic, with warm water and lots of crazy waves. The smiles all around made me think that the money was worth it. The time there was definitely too short. FT. LAUDERDALE: Our flight did not leave until mid-afternoon, so we booked the Everglades tour through the ship, which gives you not only the Everglades, but also a bus ride to the airport and the handling of your luggage. We rode on airboats and saw several alligators, birds, and a cute raccoon, so it was worthwhile and a good ending to the trip, especially if you have time to kill before your flight out. It also made the debarkation very easy. Overall, it was a wonderful week. Yes, it was expensive, but we saved money on a porthole room, kept the alcohol consumption reasonable (that can really add up) and avoided the casino. I might like to try a smaller ship and different cruise line next time, but we have no regrets at all with the Carnival Splendor. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our first time cruising with MSC. We've previously cruised with Princess and Royal Caribbean, and had such a great time that when we found this Caribbean cruise with MSC for such a great price, we couldn't pass it up. We ... Read More
This was our first time cruising with MSC. We've previously cruised with Princess and Royal Caribbean, and had such a great time that when we found this Caribbean cruise with MSC for such a great price, we couldn't pass it up. We had decided earlier in the year that instead of gifts for Christmas, we would take our teenager daughter and son on an unforgettable Christmas cruise instead. We all had a great time. It was well worth it. We arrived at our Ft. Lauderdale Marriott hotel the evening before departure, so we had a leisure morning, and taking a walk we discovered that we were close enough to the MSC Lirica dock that we could actually walk over to the check in station...let me state right up front that my family is the adventurous, do-it-yourself type, and we didn't consider it a big deal for us to walk a few blocks to the ship with our luggage. We had packed light and our luggage was on wheels. Others might want to get the cab or whatever, but this worked fine for us. The check in process was a breeze, which I was happy about since I had missed the Express Online check in deadline, but it turned out that it didn't matter. The regular check in line was just as fast. They took our credit card info and made each of us a cruise card and we were headed to the ship, where we were escorted by a crew member right to our cabin. That was a nice touch. We had an inner cabin, which we chose because we figured that we would be spending a lot of time outside and not inside. Even though there were 4 of us, we found the cabin to be spacious enough for us with plenty of storage cabinets. The kids got the bunks, and we never had to mess with them...the cabin steward was very attentive to turning the beds up (back into the wall) for us when we left in the morning, and had them turned down for the kids when we came back at night. The cabin steward was excellent at keeping our room neat and organized for us. The bathroom was pleasantly big enough for us as well. The shower stall was pretty small, but there was always soap, shampoo, body wash, and fresh towels. We never once had to ask the steward for towels. No matter what time of the day it was or how many showers we took, the towels were always picked up and replaced. There was also a hairdryer built into the wall, which I wish I had known about as it would have saved me space in my luggage. I didn't need to bring mine. We found right away as we started checking out the ship that we could have saved our hotel lunch expense and eaten right on the ship, as there was a welcome buffet from 12:30 to 4:30 PM that we weren't aware of. We had been given confusing information prior to our cruise about mealtimes, what to wear, and we figured we would just find out when we got there. We found out that we had been given 2nd dinner seating, even though we had requested first. We went to talk to the Maitre'D about it right away when we got on board, but they just told us they would put us on a waiting list for 1st seating and let us know. They never did fix it for us. We didn't like eating late too much, but we had such an awesome waiter (Bambang from Indonesia) that it made it all worth it. He was the BEST! He had such a great attitude, smiling and laughing, joking with us and the kids all the time, that we looked forward to going to dinner and seeing Bambang. He really treated us and everyone at his tables well. He was a joy. CLOTHING: We had been told that no jeans, shorts, flip flops, or T-shirts were allowed after 6 PM on deck or in the restaurant. Being American, that's mostly what my kids wear, so we went out and bought slacks for my son, and my husband packed an extra jacket and tie for dinner. It was all not necessary. We saw people in jeans and T-shirts in the restaurant every night, and even on Gala night, when you are supposed to dress up in formal attire, there were people in casual clothing. They definitely don't enforce their rules, and as a result, we had clothes that we brought and never wore. We enjoyed getting dressed up for formal night, even though when packing for the trip we thought it was a big bother. It was fun after all. FOOD: Their food quality was all over the map! We had some really outstanding menus and awesome dishes that left us waddling out of the restaurant feeling like we had eaten a whale, but we also had some foods that were underwhelming. I used the salt and pepper shakers with a heavy hand, which was fine. The absolute worst was the scrambled eggs in the restaurant on the morning of disembarkation. Really, how do you mess up scrambled eggs? (Could NOT eat them. It was like they had stretched them out with flour or something and they were like paste, and tasted like cardboard. Awful.) Having said that, the menus for the 5 course dinner were different every night and there were excellent choices in these categories: Appetizer, soup, salad, pasta, and main entrEe. After that, of course, dessert. The portions were perfect...the appetizer, soup and salad were small enough that you didn't get too full for the main course, but by the time you ate the pasta, it was pushing it. Then the main course put you over the edge. There was always fresh fruit. My favorite new food was the chilled soups that they offered every night....Mmmm, they were truly excellent! We ate in the restaurant every night of our cruise, and of course, missed the midnight buffet because we were already too stuffed. The only complaint I had about dinner was that the assistant waiter rarely kept our water glasses filled and we were always thirsty. Eventually I asked him to fill my wine glass with water as well so I would have two glasses available. We had intended on buying some type of coupon book for the Cokes, since we knew ahead of time that soda needed to be paid for, but since nobody ever told us how to buy them, we decided to just skip it and make it a soda-free cruise for the kids and they were okay with that. We just drank water at dinner, and the coffee, juice or milk provided at the other places. We never missed the soda after all. I think we bought one Coke the whole cruise. For breakfast, we usually chose the buffet on Deck 11, since the breakfast times in the restaurant didn't always work for us. The buffet food could be generally described as adequate.... Nothing special, but there were always plenty of choices, from eggs and bacon to oatmeal, muesli, fruits, bagels and more. We decided to try the restaurant one morning for breakfast to see if there was anything different offered there, and they had eggs benedict, but pretty much everything else was the same. We often missed lunch because we were out on excursions, and found that when we returned to the boat, we had very limited selections for food by about 4 PM. Lunch had a very short window in the restaurant, from about noon to 2:30 PM. By the time we got back from a day in port and no lunch (we did snorkeling trips) we were famished, but our selection was limited to pizza, or burgers and hot dogs every single day. No variation there. We usually had a little something from there to tide us over until our 8 PM dinner. There was always coffee available, so I drank lots of coffee. We took advantage of a few of the shows in the Broadway theatre for entertainment, and they were pretty good for classical music. We actually wish we would have gone to more shows, but we ended up spending time with the kids watching movies, playing cards, working out in the gym, or just strolling on the decks. There was always music in the lounges, and various games and entertainment in the morning and afternoon. The ship was kept immaculate by the staff. We bought all of our excursions on board the first day, having done our research ahead of time at home and knew what we wanted to do. Though everyone spoke with a foreign accent on the ship, they were generally very helpful. We had a great time in Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Cayo Levantado with our chosen excursions. We did the snorkeling, Sting Ray city (which was the kids favorite) and the El Limon Waterfall/horseback riding tour. We were sorry that we missed our chance to go to the private island with its white beaches, but we hadn't realized that it was an "either/or" choice. By choosing the waterfall, we chose not to go to the island. We went to Samana, Dominican Republic by boat, and from there took a bus ride into the interior of the jungle, where we got on the horses and were taken to the waterfall by Spanish speaking guides. It was raining and muddy and we got pretty dirty, but it was a great time. The horses looked like they could have used an extra bale of hay, and we were NOT told ahead of time that our Dominican guides who led us along that steep, rocky path do NOT GET PAID, but only survive on the tips we give them. I wouldn't have known, except for the fact that people started gossiping in our group about it. I confirmed with the tour guide, and it was true. I didn't have small bills, so I had to trust that the larger bill I handed out was going to be divided fairly amongst the youngsters that took care of us. So, here's a tip: Have some small bills handy for tipping at all times! Our excursion got back too late to make a separate trip to Cayo Levantado, so we could only view the white beaches from the deck of the ship, and we were sorry. It looked gorgeous. Disembarkation was the only thing that I felt was not handled well. We were kept waiting for what seemed like an interminably long time in the L'Atmosphere lounge, until our color group was called. Here's another tip: The ship can set you up with a taxi to the airport, but they charge $22 per person. We knew from our taxi ride when we first arrived in Ft. Lauderdale that the trip only costs about $13. We walked back to our hotel and called a cab from there, saving us about $75! Not only that, but when we were walking to the hotel, Bambang came walking up behind us and carried my luggage for me! What a guy! All in all, our family had a great time, the ship was comfortable, the crew was kind and fun, the price was too good to pass up, the food was plentiful enough, and we have great memories that will last a lifetime thanks to MSC. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
• Pre-cruise - we stayed at Le Dauphine in the French Quarter. What a great find! It is a quirky layout over three buildings, with two little hidden pools and several beautiful courtyards. Despite being one block off Bourbon Street, the ... Read More
• Pre-cruise - we stayed at Le Dauphine in the French Quarter. What a great find! It is a quirky layout over three buildings, with two little hidden pools and several beautiful courtyards. Despite being one block off Bourbon Street, the hotel was quiet. The hotel staff were all friendly and helpful. It was only $99 a night with our CAA/AAA card for our sons' room, and $116 for our boutique style room in the building across the street. • Embarkation- we left our luggage at the hotel after checkout and had one more lunch in the French Quarter. We then had the bellman call a cab to take us to the ship. We got there around 2, and basically walked right on, with about a 5 minute line to check in via the Latitudes section. We picked up the soda cards in the port building, and went to our cabins, which were ready. We went to the main desk to sign the consent to allow our 20 year old to drink wine and beer, plus to re-align the boys into the same room. We also booked our specialty restaurants for the first two nights. • First impressions - the recent drydock was very evident. The carpet was new, everything was clean and sparkling, and we saw very few areas that showed wear. • Our cabins were 11538 and 11536. They were adjoining, but we never had the door between the two unlocked. We were on the 11th deck, upgraded from 8 on the NCL summer sale. They had full showers with doors rather than curtains, lots of storage, and new beds with real mattresses and boutique hotel bedding. The only thing that didn't look new was the sofa and chair upholstery. Everything was spotlessly clean and our stewards, Juan and Julia, did a good job of keeping it that way and keeping amenities stocked. We had a greater variety of towel animals on this ship than on other cruises. Our only complaint was that we were right under the workout facility. We didn't think this would bother us, but it did. You know those signs at fitness centers that ask people not to crash the weights? Imagine being one floor down from weights being dropped on the floor. We weren't in the cabin a lot, but there were a few times that we were bothered by people working out at 2 am or 5 am. I am surprised that they don't restrict the fitness center hours when there are cabins directly below. • The Ship - as mentioned, everything was bright and shiny after the Spirit's recent drydock. It is a great smaller ship - easy to get around, but with everything needed for a comfortable vacation at sea. The only awkward spot we found was around the main reception desk, where traffic from reception, restaurant reservations, and the excursions desk often caused crowds. The library/internet space was very nice and I noticed that many people have started to use the library as an informal book exchange. There were many paperbacks on the shelves that hadn't been stamped as being owned by the ship, and I think people just dropped off books of their own when finished and chose new ones. With all the packing restrictions, this is an idea that works really well. We also used the ship's laundry service for the half-price pressing on the first sea day and they did a great job. I also had occasion to visit the medical center and although this is a place most people don't want to visit on vacation, I can tell you that it was professionally managed, very much like a walk-in clinic in Canada. The nurses were compassionate and very helpful. • Restaurants - we ate in all of the specialty restaurants except Teppanyaki, and loved all of them. We had no problems getting reservations. The only problem we had was on Christmas Eve, when we wanted something more traditional and decided to eat at Windows. We waited in line, but when we got to the front, they told us they were closing early to get ready for the chocolate buffet. There were three people working at the door, and nobody bothered to come back in line to tell us the restaurant was closing early and we would likely not be seated. Miffed, we ate at Trattoria that night and had a great dinner, but while at the desk the next day on another issue, my husband mentioned that the Freestyle Daily and the restaurant availability TVs didn't note the early closing, and without any complaint, our Trattoria charges were dropped from the bill. Best dessert by far is in Shogun - a wonderful pancake/caramel sauce/banana concoction. We had fabulous service in all of the specialty restaurants and a good meal with great service in Windows on our last night. • Entertainment - I hate to pan young entertainers who are working hard, but we thought the ship's production company was at a high school level at most. It was very disappointing. Second City was great, and we saw both their shows. The duo at Champagne Charlie's (sorry, can't remember their name) was really good and you could see people gravitating to Champagne Charlie's whenever they were performing. • Ports of Call - this was the big positive surprise. I always research and book excursions well in advance. On this itinerary, nothing really stood out and we thought we'd play it by ear. The ports of call were far beyond our expectations: o Costa Maya - the area around the port has been set up to be similar to the beach/pool area at an all-inclusive, with lots of lounge chairs, several restaurants and many shops. The beach isn't great, but the pool was fun and we had no problem grabbing a chair. This is a great alternative to paying for a beach excursion. Oh, and the bathrooms were fabulous, much better than anything similar in parks in Canada. o Guatemala - Santa Tomas de Castillo - at the last minute we booked a ship's excursion and took the boat tour of the bay around the ship and the port area. The tour guide was great. I really like it when you get a guide who is proud of his or her country and eager to share. The water in the bay was a clear deep green and we saw a lot of wildlife. The only negative was that after the guide told us about the Christmas celebrations (celebrated on Dec 24th in Latin America) and suggested we go into town, several families from his tour decided to grab a cab and check out the city. We got a van to share with another family. The driver wanted $30 EACH for a 10km trip - $210 total. We negotiated it down to $20 each, but finally just walked away. We met several families who were also disgusted by the greedy cab drivers right in the port area. My husband and sons then walked out of the port area and found a driver who drove them into town and stayed with them for three hours. Including lunch (they bought for him) they spent $75. They ate at Safari, the restaurant suggested by our tour guide, and said the food was very good. They saw very few people from the ship in town. What a shame. More realistic cab drivers or even a shuttle service would encourage more tourists to go into town and spend money. o Belize City - Once again, last minute we went to the excursion desk and booked the Belize City tour and airboat ride at the nature preserve. This was done by a company called Bak-a-Bush tours and was hands down, the BEST excursion on any cruise we've taken. We can't say enough about how well run this excursion was. The city part of the tour is basically done on the way to the airboat ride. The guide gave us lots of information on Belize and my husband said he's surprised she isn't working on radio or TV. She had perfect enunciation. The airboat ride literally blew us out of the water. One of my sons has taken eco tourism courses at university and he said the company would rank near the top in measures taken to protect the environment on their tour. We went right into the swamp and I added about 15 birds that I'd never seen before to my birdwatching list. The people on our tour ranged from kids aged 7-8 to seniors and everyone was ecstatic over how much fun we had. The "first mates" who maintained safety standards, pointed out birds, and gave us information on the lagoon were so cute and so much fun. o Cozumel - We've been to Cozumel several times and wanted to just walk around on our own. We had lunch at a spot called "Mr Chiles" and the food was good and a lot cheaper than the chain restaurants closer to the pier. After my husband and I went back to the ship, my sons walked away from the touristy part of the city and sat down at a bar. To their surprise, the owner's wife had just brought him lunch and offered them some of her home cooking. Despite two years of high school Spanish, they can't speak Spanish, and the owner's wife spoke little English, but they all sat in the shade and had lunch together. At the end, they offered to pay, but she made it clear that they were her guests and sent them on their way. • Disembarkation - we packed light so we knew we'd be fine carrying our own bags off the ship. We closed our cabin doors at 8:25 and at 9:00 we were at the New Orleans airport. That's right. We walked out the door, off the ship, through customs, shared a van with another family ($12 each) with a driver who also gave a commentary along the way, and in 35 minutes we were at the airport. We saw more NCL and customs staff in the terminal than passengers! Overall, this cruise surpassed our expectations by a huge margin. The ship, service, and food were wonderful, and the ports were a very pleasant surprise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We took the Christmas cruise on the Jewel, Dec. 21-26, 2008. My overall experience was great and I would definitely sail with Norwegian again. Pros: The staterooms: When we initially arrived, it seemed like space would be ... Read More
We took the Christmas cruise on the Jewel, Dec. 21-26, 2008. My overall experience was great and I would definitely sail with Norwegian again. Pros: The staterooms: When we initially arrived, it seemed like space would be limited, but the storage was awesome. We kept finding new places to stash things. The bathroom was great but I could definitely see how the toilet situation could be difficult for a very tall person. You may have to sit sideways because knee space was tight. The shower was better than what I've experienced on Royal Caribbean. More spacious (2 smaller people can fit together) and generally more luxurious. Be prepared to bring ear plugs or a fan if you are a light sleeper because on nights when we had rough seas, the hangers all clattered together in the closet making it difficult to sleep. The bed was pretty comfortable, no complaints there. The food: We found the food to be enjoyable almost every meal. The buffet was surprisingly good (Garden Cafe) and I always found something good to eat, although we only tried it for breakfast and lunch. We ate all our dinners at Tsars, except Christmas night we had Cagney's (very delicious). Tsars was always a positive experience, great food and great staff. From family members who tried Azura, the other main dining room, I heard awful things about the wait. It seems to be commonplace with other reviewers as well. The disembarkation process: Just pick the time you want to leave and it's as easy as that. We didn't wait much except for the customs line. The Mayan Ruins tour in Cozumel: Although the ferry ride was rough and it took awhile to get there, this excursion was really a cool experience. The box lunch/snack provided by NCL, however, was pretty pathetic and you should expect to buy food from the various restaurants outside the entrance to the ruins. The staff: We never encountered rudeness during our cruise and quite often, we had wait staff who were extremely personable and polite. We rarely saw our room stewards but when we did they always greeted us and were very friendly. A few nights we felt it appropriate to leave a larger tip for the staff because they had done such a good job of accommodating us for showtimes, large parties, etc. The shows: We saw the Second City production (comedy, similar to Whose Line is it Anyway?) which was funny. We also saw the Cirque Bijou which was quite impressive but it seemed that some of the routines kept repeating themselves. However, that did not detract from the overall show and we were definitely wowed. Get to the shows a bit early (20-30 mins) if you don't want to hunt for a seat. Cons: The chair hogs: I hate to harp on this again, but I have to wholeheartedly agree with the other reviewers. The second and last "at sea" day was a madhouse. We got out to the deck at 9:30 and had to search diligently for 2 chairs. We found two singles that were not together but we carried one over and it was fine. However, the vast majority of the chairs had towels (but no people) on them. We watched several sections of chairs and no one ever came in the hour or two we took notice. Also, we overheard one large family talk about how they came out at 7am just to put their things on a group of about 10 chairs and had only filled maybe 6 of them by lunchtime. It was really frustrating. I hope NCL enforces the 30 minute rule in the future. The Port of Miami: Okay, this is not really applicable to the ENTIRE port, but if you have never been there before, a few tips. We apparently did not prepare very well and had no idea where to go once we were at the port (we drove from central FL). You need to get to Terminal B if you want to just drop passengers off and if you want to park, you need to go to Parking Garage C. This was in no way clear if you did not obtain directions in advance. The signs were not even listing our cruise ship under the terminal rosters. When parking, a simple rule is just stay to the left. Eventually you will need to veer left to enter the garage and many people tried to go around and ended up cutting in at the last minute. We arrived around 12pm and the parking situation was a nightmare. We waited in traffic for probably an hour or so. All things considered, we had a really fun and relaxing experience!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

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