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999 Holiday Cruise Reviews

San Juan: In order to avoid the risks associated with winter weather in Canada we flew to San Juan on Friday (no stress, no mess). We stayed two nights at the Embassy Suites in Dorado Del Mar which is about 30 minutes west of San ... Read More
San Juan: In order to avoid the risks associated with winter weather in Canada we flew to San Juan on Friday (no stress, no mess). We stayed two nights at the Embassy Suites in Dorado Del Mar which is about 30 minutes west of San Juan. I highly recommend this particular Embassy Suites location (see later that this location is not to be confused with the San Juan location) a)at $125 an night for a suite that comfortably slept 4 (you could do 5) and included breakfast, it is a great value b)it has its own golf course, tennis courts, pool, a small beach and is close to many other big beaches c)they provide the names of taxi drivers who will meet you at the airport d)there are two rental car locations nearby Our favorite activity in San Juan... the Hike to Lamina falls within the El Yunque National Forest. A bit hard / time consuming to get to but well worth the effort. Bring a bathing suit and take a dunk at the bottom of the falls. On return we also decided to avoid the rush and stress of catching a flight the same day and chose to spend Sunday in San Juan. This time we stayed at the Embassy Suite in San Juan (Isla Verde, near the airport) . We would not recommend this Embassy suite location. a)At $ 360 This room was almost 3x the price of the other location b)They were very disorganized. We did not get our room until 8:30 PM despite the the 4PM room availability we were promised upon arrival and that was clearly posted. When we finally did get the room there was no bedding on any of the beds. It all seemed like a comedy of errors. c)The usual courtyard area was not as well appointed as it usually is. It was more like a bare floor with some tables and chairs.. d)The pool water was very cold and the hot tub was under repair. e)There is a casino that opens up to the courtyard area that took away from the usual family atmosphere of the Embassy Suites locations. Boarding: Based on feedback on the cruise critic website we headed to the peer and arrived just after 12:00 Noon.. The taxi convoy into the peer was a bit long but not outrageous. Once at the terminal it took a grand total of 20 minutes from the time we unloaded our luggage from the taxi to the time we were on board the ship. I was impressed by the logistics as well as the number and attitude of the staff present during the boarding process. This first impression of everything being well organized with a very informed and helpful staff turned out to hold true for the rest of the cruise. The State Rooms: Once on board we had a quick lunch and proceeded to explore the ship, locate all of the attractions and count the bars (lots). Our rooms were ready at 2:00PM as promised. My wife and I travelled with our two teenaged daughters and my 82 year old father. We had booked one Junior suite and two inside cabins. The Suite was our common spot but the girls and my dad slept in their inside cabins. I highly recommend getting a separate cabin for the teens, if you go with an inside cabin near your own cabin it is not that much more money and in my opinion well worth it. All of our cabins were at the very back of the ship on level 7. Having a Junior Suite at the back was great because of a bigger deck but we did find it a bit bumpier than a cabin towards the center of the ship. The Cabins on this ship are much roomier than comparable ones we had had on Disney Magic. I also recommend a junior suite, it is as big as a good sized hotel room and has a decent sized bathtub / shower and loads of storage space. The Ship and Amenities: The Adventure of the Seas is very nice with great amenities and plenty to see and do. Our favorite activities were the Rock climbing wall and the Games room. Some reviews had said that this ship is showing its age... I disagree, yes the carpets are a little dirty in some spots but really nothing to complain about. The pool deck area was busy on sea days but there are a number of different nooks with sun or shade and we were always able to find a spot. Sometimes we would hide from the kids in the adult only Solarium area which is very well laid out and beautifully decorated. They don't lock the doors so the kids can find you if they need to. What impressed me the most were the staff.. From 60 different nations, highly motivated and seemingly happy. With such a large ship on what is probably one of the busier weeks of the year I had expected long line ups and crowds at popular activities and locations. This was not the case. Shows: The ice shows were amazing. Short and sweet and very well performed. We had read that getting tickets would be difficult but that was not the case. We turned up 15 minutes ahead of the appointed 10AM time on Monday morning and had the tickets within 3 minutes. Again I found the logistics to be well tuned and the staff quite friendly. The main shows were good but not as good as the ones on Disney Magic. Bars: There are lots of different bars each with different atmosphere. Our favorite pre/post-dinner drink spot was the Crown room on the rear of Deck 14 overlooking the pool decks. The drinks are reasonably priced. The bar staff very friendly and helpful, special mention goes to Jamal who was working the Solarium bar during our week (Bar staff apparently rotate among the many bars every two weeks) . He brews the best Long Island Ice tea I have ever had... highly recommended if you want to spend a few hours in a semi "medicated" state. The Food: I have to admit that with 2000+ guests on board we boarded with "realistic" expectations for the food. Our expectations were exceeded. Based on a suggestion in one of the posts we had pre-booked (via RCDL website) our "departure dinner" at the Portofino restaurant at 8:00PM. This was a perfect way to start, seeing Old San Juan all lit up as we pulled away was really nice. The menu was very interesting, the food outstanding and the service very attentive. Well worth the 20$ extra fee. We ended up booking a second dinner at Portofino for later in the week. Here again I had expected based on previous experience that this would be difficult to do since in the last two weeks leading up to the departure date the web site seem to indicate that the restaurant was fully booked. To the contrary I just called down to the front desk on Monday morning and I was able to book for later in the week. After enjoying our first meal at the restaurant we told ourselves: Maybe we should not have had the restaurant meal on the first night, now we will be disappointed with the Main dining room food. We were wrong, the Dining room menu and food were also very good. Always plenty to choose from including a number of "normal items" (my daughters words" and more adventurous items. As to be expected of a cruise the service was excellent. Our waiter and assistant waiter always would provide tips and suggestions. They also seemed generally concerned that we enjoy everything we ordered. On one or two occasions where one of us did not like what we had chosen, the waiter would offer and bring us a different choice. First class food and first class service. The menu varies from night to night but I highly recommend the Lamb Shank on Tuesday or Wednesday... Wow... As good as I have had in any $100+ a head restaurant. Even the Head waiter spent a bit of time with us each evening with information about upcoming menu items, events or tips for the ports of call. When he heard that my wife was a fan of Spicy Indian food he arranged for a specially prepared "pimped up" dish to be provided on the Friday. Nice touch. Room Service: On Christmas morning we had decided to order room service for breakfast. There is no extra fee for this other than a tip for the person who brings you the food. When the food had not arrived at the indicated time I called down to see what the problem was. It turned out they had misread our time request, they apologized and we had our food less than 10 minutes later. The food was as good as in the dining room, the only limitation was the selection. I recommend room service breakfast once or twice as a treat but I think the Windjammer is great for its variety. Service in the Windjammer was surprising. There are lots of staff roaming around and someone will bring you coffee and juice within seconds of you sitting down. The main dining room is also a very nice alternative for breakfast. They have a good variety including Eggs Benedict and a very nice Smoke Salmon plate. Ports of Call: Our cruise included 4 ports of call: Aruba, Curacao, St Maarten and St Thomas. We did a combination of outings offered by the cruise and our own planned beach days. I recommend consulting the ports of call boards on the CruiseCritic.com site. You can get valuable tips and find something that suits you. I also found it useful to consult the travel web sites of each island to research the beaches. http://www.aruba-travelguide.com/beaches/beach-2.html#playa http://www.curacao.com/ActivitiesEvents/Beaches/Beaches.aspx?lang=en http://www.st-maarten.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=35 http://www.vinow.com/stthomas/beaches_stt/ In some of the ports of call we pre-booked outings with the ship. The best value was the Pirate Cruise at Aruba. A nice half day aboard an old wooden sail boat. The snorkeling was ordinary (bobbing in the water with 75 other tourists) but the atmosphere on board and the rope jumping at the end was amazing. I you are looking for one day of big waves (body surfing, boogie boarding) I highly recommend Dawn Beach at St Maarten.. Not for the faint hearted. Photo Shoots... Of all the "extra services" offered on board, our favorite was the daily photo shoots. Every night around dinner and at very port of call there are several photo shoots that are set up to take photos of you and your family. They use a variety of backdrops and settings. They will take as many pictures as you want. The photographers are professional (not all the same level) and they are using high end cameras and lights. The shoots themselves are free and you only pay if you buy photos. The photos are not cheap but when you consider the quality of the photos and that you only pay for shots you like it is not so bad. We had a good 60 different photos taken and ended up purchasing 5 8x10" photos for $20 each. They have kiosks on board where you can see, crop and select your photos. Conclusion... We were very pleased with this cruise, this ship and this itinerary. We would recommend to any one who is looking for a great family vacation. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My 85 year old mother and I set sail on December 21, 2008 on the Mariner of the Seas. What a beautiful, elegant ship! The service was top notch. Everyone was falling over themselves to take care of us. Our Promenade cabin was lovely. The ... Read More
My 85 year old mother and I set sail on December 21, 2008 on the Mariner of the Seas. What a beautiful, elegant ship! The service was top notch. Everyone was falling over themselves to take care of us. Our Promenade cabin was lovely. The view from the large window was great. It felt like looking down on a busy street. We ate in the Rhapsody in Blue dining room for all our meals, except for hitting the buffet in the Windjammer when we first got onboard. Breakfast and Dinner were wonderful. Lunch grew boring. Same choices everyday. Our waiter was Mark from the Philippines. He was great. Our cabin steward was a lady named Smorty. We called her Smarty Pants! I just can't say enough nice things about the people on this boat. The shows were amazing. We had two ice shows. One was Circus themed and the other was a Holiday Extravaganza. The comedian on the last night was so funny we were crying. I don't think I have ever heard my mother laugh so hard! We will definitely cruise with Royal Caribbean again. I do have three complaints. 1. A passenger had a huge, hairy, dirty-looking dog that she said was a service dog because she has diabetes. I have never seen an uncontrolled service dog in my life. The thing drug the lady because it did not walk next to her. During breakfast one day it got loose in the dining room. The animal came and laid it's head on the table next to me. Scared the daylights out of me. The waiters were running around like the three stooges trying to catch it because it didn't have it's harness on. There was no vest identifying this animal as a service dog. I like dogs but not romping around my food. 2. The computers and internet connections were so slow they ate up the money in my prepaid account. It took me twenty minutes to get signed in and read two emails. I won't waste my money on that anymore. I wanted to email my children and grandchild for Christmas. 3. I went to a seminar at the Shipshape Spa only to find out after one hour that it was a sales pitch for a $700.00 toxin cleansing program. I missed some other things I wanted to do to go to this seminar. I never imagined they would try to sell me something like that on a cruise. I am now educated! Other than that we had a fabulous trip. Coco Cay was lovely, St. Thomas and St. Maarten were beautiful. I found some lovely little shops to take my friends to when we go there in March on another cruise on another cruise line. I booked that trip in September and this Christmas cruise 10 days before the ship sailed! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We began our journey in Buffalo with air purchased through the cruise line, yes we flew the day of sailing. To make a long story short, we missed our connection in Philadelphia due to weather, and ended up at the pier just in time to watch ... Read More
We began our journey in Buffalo with air purchased through the cruise line, yes we flew the day of sailing. To make a long story short, we missed our connection in Philadelphia due to weather, and ended up at the pier just in time to watch the ship sailing off into the night. Beautiful! If you run into trouble en route to the ship, I urge you to call Carnival. Because I called while we were in Philadelphia to let Carnival know we would likely miss the ship, they put us up in a really nice hotel in San Juan, and let us know who to call to book a flight to St. Thomas the next day. This was all done painlessly on my cell phone while we waited for our new flight in Philadelphia. San Juan - our hotel was just lovely - the Condado Plaza - I would recommend it for a pre-cruise stay, which I will definitely do before my next trip, no more day-of flying for me! Our flight to St. Thomas was with Cape Air on a 9 seater plane. The flight was wonderful! What a thrill, and it almost made up for missing the sailing ;) Basically a half hour sightseeing flight. My hubby and I just loved it! After a short cab ride to the pier, we finally saw the Victory - and even though we were all scared of hearing the "toot toot" from the horn just before we got there, she was still tied up when we happily rolled up the gangway. I believe there were 200 - 300 people who missed the sailing, so we watched many people follow our path all day long. St. Thomas - we didn't do anything! We boarded at 2:30, and weren't about to set foot off the ship again that day!!! The Victory - What a beautiful ship! We absolutely loved the color schemes and designs of the public areas. The "seas of the world" theme lent itself to beautiful blues, greens and golds. There are tubes covered in tiny white lights that snake around the ceilings which make the ship festive. Joe Farcus said in the design video that they were inspired by electric eels - don't worry, they don't look like eels! I found the colors and decorations elegant and lovely. The ship was constantly scrubbed and cleaned, and most surfaces were simply gleaming. Of course there were some areas where several years of wear were evident in carpets, for example, and I believe she is in for some refurb in the near future, but you certainly won't suffer any if you go before that work is done. Others had warned about "seahorse bites". Boy oh boy, did I fall victim! The seahorses at the foot of each stairway railing were quite decorative, but for the somewhat accident prone, just watch your step! (DH can't figure out how I did it). Staff and Crew - We really liked Malcolm as director. We found him genuinely funny, not corny, and very entertaining. He also kept the Bingo and the announcements to a minimum, which made for a nice atmosphere in our opinion. Although this coming week will be his last on the Victory, so if you're cruising in 2009, you won't have him anyway. Squishy, the assistant CD walked with us on the On Deck for the Cure, and was great to chat with. Otherwise, we didn't see many entertainment staff. The room stewards and wait staff were just as good as we have always had, and some of the bartenders were especially friendly and chatty. On-board: I have to admit, we didn't make it out to any bars, which is out of character, but when you read our daily activities, you'll understand why! There was a latin band, karaoke, some jazz nights with the orchestra, a classical pianist, a solo guitar act, a duo (replacing the Music... bands?) and a calypso duo. The Orchestra was wonderful. I thought the dancers were the most coordinated and talented we've seen so far. The female singer has a tremendous range, and I enjoyed most of her songs, definitely the most talented female we've had on our three cruises. The male must have been sick at first, because I wasn't impressed during the first show, but was blown away by the second. Livin' in America and Vrooom are fun, high energy shows with great costumes and fun music. They were nice, enjoyable evenings. Christmas: Decorations on the ship were lovely, traditional, and certainly not obtrusive. There was also a large menorah lit every evening, but there was no ceremony involved as far as I could tell. There was a lovely Christmas show with the singers and dancers and a very few children from Camp Carnival - each age group performed a song or dance. Santa Came, the Captain gave a greeting, and at the end, many staff came down with candles and everyone sang Silent Night. It was a lovely, moving experience. We gave all our servers and stewards a little extra cash in a holiday card, and a box of chocolates for each of them. They were all pretty surprised and happy to receive them, and it was nice to give a gift on Christmas. Passengers and cruise atmosphere - this was the most low-key cruise we've ever been on. There weren't many people on-deck at any time of day. The lido buffet was very busy around 3:00 every day when people returned from shore. The shows were pretty much full every night. While talking to Squishy (Assistant CD) he told us that most cruisers on this itinerary are there for the ports of call, so not many participate in on-board activities or games, and the night spots aren't as busy. Case in point - there were 9 of us who completed the On Deck for the Cure. As I mentioned, there were only a couple Bingos on board, hardly any special activities and the advertisements and announcements seemed to be at a minimum, which was really nice. It seemed less "camp-like" and more relaxed than other cruises we've done. Food - yum, yum, yum! We did not enjoy the food on the Triumph last year, so we were wondering about the food on her sister, the Victory. I really loved the food. Nearly everything I ate was absolutely delicious. Stand-outs were certainly the chilled cucumber soup, the Taste of Nations Mediterranean on Lido, the soups at the Yangtze Wok, the Sushi bar, appetizers at the Past Guest Party and Seafood Medley in the main dining room. The only so-so meal I had was Chateaubriand, and that's because we raise our own beef so it's hard for plain old American beef to compare ;) Let's get on to the ports of call!! (those that I actually made it to!) Dominica - we did a private tour through bumpiing tours with the owner Levi Baron. It was only $60 per person for a 7 hour tour - the Roseau Valley Best. We hiked to Middleham Falls (I felt that hike for three days!), visited the Titou gorge, Middleham Falls, Wotten Waven Sulphur Springs, the Botanical Gardens and did snorkeling at Champagne Reef. The tour was phenomenal. I have never seen a place as breathtaking at Dominica. It's very undeveloped, and you're truly in the rainforest here. It's my idea of paradise with mountains, valleys, waterfalls, rivers and lush green as far as the eye can see. Levi was terrific, and I would HIGHLY recommend his tours for anyone travelling to Dominica. Remember, in the rainforest it rains - they average an inch a day. We were soaked all day, but it didn't dampen the awesome tour! www.bumpiingtours.com Barbados - we booked a helicopter tour through Horizon Helicopters. They are relatively new, and are located near the airport. The nice thing about Horizon compared to the competition is that your tour is private, so DH and I were by ourselves with the pilot and no other passengers. The tour was very interesting, we encircled the entire island, and the pilot gave us a lot of information on the land and history. After Dominica I didn't find Barbados as beautiful, but the cliffs and coastline were very impressive, and the helicopter experience was once-in-a-lifetime. It was very windy, so we were pretty queasy by the last 10 minutes or so, and glad to touch down!! The tour also included a visit to the Barbados Concorde Experience which is an interesting exhibit for anyone interested in aviation. You get to go through the Concorde and learn a lot of the history of aviation in the Caribbean. DH really enjoyed it. We hired a taxi which came back to pick us up at a pre-arranged time. Some more rain today, but luckily after we landed. www.horizonheli.com and www.barbadosconcorde.com St. Lucia - booked the Land and Sea to Soufriere through Carnival. We loved the tour which visited a fishing village, several lookouts spots, drove through a banana plantation and visited a drive-in volcano (cool!) and the botanical gardens. Our guides were fantastic, enthusiastic and gave a lot of information on the land, history and culture. The Gardens were tremendously beautiful. There's plenty to see and do on St. Lucia, and lots of lovely places to stay. I would certainly go back for a week-long vacation. We then boarded a catamaran for a delicious creole lunch and 2-3 hour cruise, a highlight was breadfruit casserole, which tasted like a baked mashed potato with cheese. The rum punch was free flowing, and there was calypso Christmas music playing. The shoreline was beautiful, and I felt perfectly relaxed and contented. We stopped to swim and saw some nice fish life. It was another windy day, and we had a few showers. It was the perfect way to spend Christmas. Antigua - this island seems very developed with homes and businesses most closely resembling those we're used to at home. The landscape is much flatter than the other islands, it's drier, and there are more fields with agriculture and pasture. We did another ship tour - hike, snorkel and kayak eco-tour. We took small boats for about 45 minutes to great bird island. The ride was WILD! It was very windy again, and we got soaked on the fast ride. It was very James Bond though, and we loved the rush. We walked up to the top of this nice island which had a bit of vegetation, definitely a desert island. There were cool rock formations to look through down to the ocean. We snorkeled for awhile, but the waves were so big the bottom was really worked up which made it murky. One thing we weren't pleased with was that after our snorkel, we were told to throw our equipment back into these bins where we got them, and the next group was on their way down to get them. ick. I'm sure the salt water keeps germs down, but I'm tempted to get my own equipment for future. We then boated back to a somewhat sheltered area among mangroves for kayaking. The water was rough, and it was not exactly relaxing to fight our way around the stands of mangrove! The guides were friendly enough, but didn't explain much. They definitely show signs of doing this every day like clockwork. We did a very similar tour in Grand Turk last year which was phenomenal due to the enthusiasm of the guide who practically jumped in the air with glee each time he saw a creature to show us. In all, we didn't have a bad day in Antigua, but nothing we saw or did would entice us to return. St. Kitt's - what a great way to end the trip! Another absolutely beautiful island. The buildings and homes were lovely here. Roads were well-maintained and drivers were courteous. We booked the Scenic Rail Tour through Carnival ( you can't book it privately). There was a 45 minute bus ride to the train with a very friendly, knowledgeable guide who showed us many towns and landmarks. The train itself is a narrow gauge double-decker train. There are 5 cars, and each holds maybe 20 passengers. You can sit up top in an open air covered car or below at tables in air conditioning. they do not over pack the cars, so there's plenty of space. It was very windy again (surprise) so it was a very shaky ride! They provided drinks, little coconut cakes, a travelling choir and informative narration. It was a beautiful trip with acres of sugar cane, scenic mountains, old sugar mills, busy little towns and farmers working in the fields. There were kids running alongside the train, and in every town people waved and smiled at us. Maybe it's because the government has told them that this is what paves the roads and builds the hospitals.... but regardless, it makes a great impression, and they are definitely hospitable to tourists. Where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean sea meet you can actually see the waves crash against each other in a wild frenzy. That was something to see! There are many historic sites, museums, hiking trails and places to visit in St. Kitts, so I will definitely be back here as well. www.stkittsscenicrailway.com Coming Home - we enrolled in the Lex program. For $20pp Carnival takes your luggage from the pier to the airport and checks it to your final destination. They also print your boarding pass and give it to you the night before you disembark. We did this because we had several hours before our flight, and since we missed San Juan on embarkation day, we wanted to wander a bit. Disembarkation could be nicer. After a week of excitement and luxe treatment (hey, this is luxury for us!) we felt pretty unceremoniously booted off the ship, bags in the hallway, waiting in the lounge to be told to line up, then standing in line to get off the ship. Oh well, I guess a super expensive line might have a fancier send-off, but it's a small trade-off for the great prices on Carnival I guess :) We walked down the paseo de la princesa which had a neat "Earth From Above" photo display on, then headed along the pathway at the base of the wall to the foot of El Morro. There were loads of cats here which added a sort of quirky ambiance! They collect donations to feed the cats. Again it was super windy, and we enjoyed rolling seas and big waves. Walking through old San Juan was lovely with beautiful Christmas decorations on many buildings. Getting to the airport was great, as we breezed through security straight to the gate, although the lines weren't long at all, so we wouldn't have had much trouble anyway. Our flight arrived and departed 40 minutes late, and the plane was practically falling apart! (US airways). Three luggage compartments popped open during takeoff and landing, and my hubby had to close several during the flight that opened above our heads. My seat wouldn't stay upright, and the light above my seat was smashed. Made me very optimistic about the safety of the plane! The pilot told us he was late because before they left Philadelphia the equivalent of the check engine light kept lighting up so they had to get it checked out. I was very uncomfortable on that flight. We found that our connecting flight was leaving concourse F, and we were landing in concourse A, and would have 10 minutes to get there by taking a shuttle. While rushing to concourse F, we looked on the departures board, and saw beside our Buffalo flight "Cancelled". Oh No! After another visit to Special Services, we got on an 8:30 flight to Buffalo. Ok, another 2 hours, no problem. We finally got to Buffalo and.... no luggage. Filled out some forms, and headed home, pretty exhausted. After crossing the boarder painlessly, and making it across the windy skyway bridge (do you notice a weather trend here?) we got to my parents house 22 hours after getting up that morning. Phew! the next day, we got a call from the airline around noon that they had our luggage, and were sending it by truck that evening. So DH and I headed home, and our luggage made it to my parents' where we'll pick it up later this week. Phew. So I've initiated my claim for our extra little flight to St. Thomas, some huge taxi fees, extra meals, and a smashed digital camera that didn't survive the flight home in our carry on luggage. It wasn't the best way to end the trip, but in all we had the very best time we could have hoped for. I absolutely loved this itinerary, and would do it again in a heartbeat. The Victory was probably our favorite ship for decor and atmosphere, as well as food. It was the perfect way to spend Christmas, and we loved every minute from the moment we boarded the ship to the moment we got off. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My wife & I left San Juan on the Caribbean Princess on December 21 for a cruise to Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Tortola and St Thomas. I believe the ship delayed leaving port so that a few customers might make it to the ship from their ... Read More
My wife & I left San Juan on the Caribbean Princess on December 21 for a cruise to Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Tortola and St Thomas. I believe the ship delayed leaving port so that a few customers might make it to the ship from their delayed flights (due to poor weather). Boarding the ship was the easiest and most friendly experience we have had in our three cruises ( others were with Carnival and Royal Caribbean). The line of new passengers went along swiftly and we arrived in our cabin in no time at all. Our luggage was delivered shortly afterwards. We could get spoiled this way ! The cabin showed some aging but mostly only in terms of decor and styling and was much more than adequate. It was clean and the service by our Cabin Steward was excellent. The shower water was HOT and pressure was excellent. We had been upgraded to the Lido Deck and it was wonderful, top of the ship! We chose the "Anytime Dining" and only had a problem on Christmas Day evening getting into a dining room for the 8 o'clock sitting. If we had requested reservations a few days earlier we would not have had the wait (90 minutes). Otherwise, the Anytime Dining was an excellent choice for us. We also enjoyed the Buffet in the Carib Cafe, especially the Seafood Night. The ship had a very good selection of modestly priced wines as well. It was our third cruise and I think the seas were a little rougher than earlier times as the ship rolled more. Some folks took offense to that, but it did not bother us at all. We loved the Crooners Lounge and the service there by Yuri and Joseleo was super! With the possible exception of NYC and Boston's North End, the Caribbean Princess had the best pizza I have ever had. You sure don't expect that on a cruise in the caribbean. The STAR of the show however was the Caribbean Princess's Shopping Consultant, Jennifer. I attended her first day lecture while my wife sunned as I was just strolling along the decks. I listened and got a number of tips. Several days later I bought my wife a tanzanite ring in Antigua. 12 hours later, we noticed a diamond had fallen out of the setting. I brought it to Jennifer and she immediately said "not to worry." She managed to get it completely repaired and all the stones re-checked by dinner the next day. Thanks Jennifer! The few negative aspects of our trip had to include the service staff at poolside. Several days they totally ignored my wife to the point of being rude (servicing the people lying next to her and ignoring her). Another comment involves not the ship but the companies running the shore excursions. We went on the bus tours of the islands and we would have appreciated more time at the individual sites for picture-taking and shopping. Otherwise, the tour people were quite pleasant and knowledgeable. We understand the Caribbean Princess goes to dry dock in a week or so. With some remodeling and enhancements, we would certainly consider a return trip aboard this Princess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Ecstasy 5-night 12-27-08 New Year's Cruise! Headed to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton on the Seawall and ate at The Spot. There was lots of fog all day, all evening and even into the early morning of departure, but ... Read More
Ecstasy 5-night 12-27-08 New Year's Cruise! Headed to Galveston the day before and stayed at the Hilton on the Seawall and ate at The Spot. There was lots of fog all day, all evening and even into the early morning of departure, but the sun came out and we were ready to cruise! The ship was in port before 8 am. We arrived at the ship at 11:15, walked straight up the stairs, through VIP and were the first two people through the photo line and onto the ship - Wow! We of course went to the Lido deck and were handed a glass of champagne, come to find out, the classes were almost bottomless until muster drill - fun. We called and texed our friends and family, took some photos of the trays of champagne that kept coming and coming, dropped my husband's Blackberry phone into the ocean accidently (we have insurance) then went to our cabin E-244 to dress for 1st night's dinner. I left $5 and a note asking our cabin steward (who we never saw and that's okay with me) to leave me an extra pillow and a blanket. When we returned to our cabin, both items were there and he also kept our "stuff" iced down all 5 days. At dinner, we were assigned a booth for 6 people, all were our age, one was a honeymoon couple on their first cruise and feeling motion sickness, they left during appetizers and we never saw them again. Unfortunately, we did see the other couple again, we went to the maitre'd and asked for a table change after missing the next two nights at dinner. We thought of the NCL commercial where the man keeps talking and talking and talking, well it was something like that. Anyway, the maitre'd moved us to a beautiful table and we very much enjoyed our last dinner there. We tipped him on the last night by the way. Even though the sun was shining through our cabin window, we slept 11 ½ hours the first night, after going to bed at7:30! That's unheard of, I guess we really did need some rest. We got up the first day at sea - ahhh - had breakfast on the Lido, read and people watched on the aft area in lounge chairs, had an early lunch and watched some Sunday afternoon football which was showing all around the ship. Tonight was elegant night and we had the prime rib, pumpkin soup, cherries jubilee, all were wonderful, we walked around the ship and went to the cabin to prep for Cozumel. Got up for breakfast again on the Lido as we pulled into lovely Cozumel. We did the Dune Buggy Tour leaving at 10:00 and loved it, they prepared and served us food on Playa Bonita consisting of guacamole, salsa, chips, chicken, beer, soda and water. We walked the beach, picked up some sand and shells and relaxed. We returned to the ship and had the sushi; we always look forward to the sushi and sometimes the sake too! We turned in early to prep for Progreso. Before you say anything about Progreso, we LOVE Progreso, we have friends there and it's one of our favorite ports of call. In Progreso we stayed all day long on the beach, eating, drinking, visiting, buying fun stuff and enjoying the heck out of the day! I got a massage on the beach as usual, it's always a treat and we had an awesome day. We ate in the Panorama Grill for two reasons, 1- the dreaded table mates, 2-didn't want to dress for dinner. The food in the Panorama was okay that night, but nothing to write home about; once we had our ice cream, it did however fill the void in our tummies. We went to the show tonight for the first time, the comedian Brian Tassell was good and our cruise director Steve Cassel did a wonderful juggling act. He is a multi-talented man and very, very well spoken and polite. We saw him many times around on the ship. We went to our cabin, watched TV and fell asleep by 10pm - sweet. New Year's Eve at sea, went up for the yoga class, breakfast in the dining room - I always love that, had salmon, bagel, turkey bacon, 2 eggs and coffee. We went to the gift shops to spend our on board credit which WAS on our sign and sail cards at arrival - nice. I bought some T-shirts, a coffee cup, some earrings and other little things. The sea was like glass until about 11:30am, it was so eerie and beautiful at the same time and remained calm all the way back to Galveston. Ate a light lunch, walked around the ship, went to the specialty coffee shop on the promenade and had latte's and the carrot cake. We returned to our cabin and our customs info was there along with party hats and blow out horns for the festivities later. I spent some time filling all the customs paperwork out while thinking of what to wear to our last night, New Year's Eve dinner without the "dreaded" table mates. We had clam chowder, rib eye steak, apple dessert and the cheese assortment - excellent! We also took our own bottle of wine we brought with us and it was opened and served nicely and at no extra charge, maybe because it was NY Eve. The New Years celebration parties were held in several areas, and again the almost bottomless champagne glasses were passed around on large trays. There was food, music and specialty champagne's if you cared to purchase them. At midnight, the Captain came on the speaker and did the 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1- countdown and blew the ship's horn. It was all very fun. With all our luggage (and we intentionally packed less than ever and did just fine) we were the second and third people off the ship and headed for customs. We were off the ship and in our car by 8:30am. We have a 6 hour drive ahead of us but as we were leaving Houston, I received a phone call from Carnival, I had forgotten ALL my hang-up clothes in the closet! How could I have done that? I've never done that, but at any rate the lady said I had two options. 1-they could ship them to Miami and they would mail them on to me or I could come back and pick them up. I told her I'd come right back and be there in about an hour, she told me where to come and I thanked her. We returned to the port, I handed security my sign and sail card and told them my story, they had me sit and wait. The nice lady took my sign and sail card and went to find my clothes. After about 30 minutes, she returned with my clothes and a smile on her face. I thanked her for all her trouble and we headed back towards Galveston again. Excellent cruise in every way - way to go Carnival! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
In this review, I'm going to mainly focus on aspects of the cruise or ship which were not 100%. Some are very petty complaints and barely deserve a mention, but to some may be more of an issue than to myself. I won't go into what ... Read More
In this review, I'm going to mainly focus on aspects of the cruise or ship which were not 100%. Some are very petty complaints and barely deserve a mention, but to some may be more of an issue than to myself. I won't go into what we did at each port, but I welcome any questions. Background: My wife and I are both 39 and we have been on 2 other Regent cruises before - the PG and the Navigator in the Med. This is the third cruise we've taken with our children, the other 2 being short 4 day cruises on Disney. This is also the first time we've been away from home and family for the holidays. Overall, the cruise met our high expectations and was excellent in most every way. We would gladly do it all over again, and are planning a trip to Alaska on the Navigator in 2010 with our children. To us it felt like things have gone a little south since we were on the Navigator 2 years ago, but other than the Portofino restaurant, we really could not put a finger on just what. I attribute most to just being in our head and knowing that there is now a new owner. I don't think things have changed for the worse as drastically as I've read about. The thing everyone talks about is the vibration. 2 years ago we had a midship cabin and did not notice the vibration in the room at all. I only noticed it during the shows and in the Portofino which are both aft. This trip, our cabin was aft, deck 9, and we felt the vibration whenever the Navigator was in motion. It was a low level vibration. Nothing that would wake you from sleep. It only bothered me in the bathroom and I think that was because it was hard floor as opposed to carpet. The vibration in the Stars lounge and Portofino was not at the high level I remember from 2 years ago. At night, the cabin squeaked from numerous locations. It was not loud enough to keep us from sleep. However, when docking in the morning, the aft tunnel thrusters made a horrendous vibration that woke everyone up. The staff everywhere, with one exception, were fantastic. They were always in good spirits and did their best to fulfill requests. In some areas, they were understaffed as I will note below. The one exception was when my wife was in a fitness class and an older woman came in late. The instructor would not allow her to join the in-progress class and told her to wait until the next class. My wife found this to be a bit rigid considering this is just a CRUISE after all and everyone is on vacation. At our gym back home, people come and go from classes as they wish. Our cabin stewardesses were Pitchie and Jonaliza and they were incredible. I'd leave her messages on post it notes if we were leaving before seeing her, and my requests were always taken care of quickly and accurately. From getting a new DVD player for the room when the old one broke, to keeping the fridge stocked with Corona and Fanta. They also had to bring in an extra bed each night for us, as well as take it out the next morning. The room and bathroom were kept spotless despite my deposits of sand everywhere from the snorkeling gear. Of course, service varies from person to person. Service was spotty everywhere during breakfast and lunch. Sometimes there would be 5 people waiting on us and I'd have coffee served before I even sat down. Other times, I'd be half way through my meal before getting a drink. The problem just seemed to be lack of staff. Once I got someone's attention, service was quick. Service out by the pool seemed slow too. The pool deck bar staff and waiters were overworked. I'd like to mention that any time Ben was the bartender and I walked up to the bar, he served me immediately. But many times no one was behind the bar. And it never seemed that busy around the pool except at lunch time. When sitting next to the pool, it could be 10-15 minutes before a wait staff came by to take your order. Sometimes I'd try to flag them down with no luck, and just go up to the bar myself. Dinners were the exception. We never had slow service for dinner in either restaurant. If there were problems at dinner, I may have missed them as we almost always ate with others and I get so distracted by conversation that I'm not aware of service delays. The Portofino restaurant was disappointing, but only because we are comparing to what we remember. I think we are in the minority. I liked it 2 years ago when the one area of the restaurant was set up with hors d'oeuvres and wines from various regions of Italy with a poster showing you the region and explaining the growing conditions, grape type, etc. Then, you went into the other part for dinner and the Maitre' De Roberto and one of the waitresses, nicknamed Mona Lisa, would sing. Now the anti-pasta is set up buffet style which I did not care for. Food is very subjective, so I won't put much time into reviewing it. I will say that of all the meals, we only had one not liked. And that had more to do with misinterpreting the description than the taste or quality. One thing that struck me as odd was that the hash browns were those rectangular frozen kind. Regent should know better for something so simple to make as hash browns. I really enjoyed the selection of cheeses they offered after meals for lunch and dinner. The wines were all very nice and there were plenty of alternatives offered from regions all over the world. I can't imagine anyone finding something they would not enjoy. The alcohols offered at the bars were top shelf and there was a large selection. For example, 4 single malt Scotches were offered - Macallan 12 year, Glenlivet 12 yr, and Glenfiddich - the other I can't remember. My favorite spot on the ship was the Navigator lounge. It was never crowded or busy and the Italian Espresso machine became a good friend. There was only one incident where we were really annoyed. We had booked the Atlantis Tourist sub ride on our own for 10:30 am, with check in at 10:15 at their office which is less than a 10 minute walk from the pier. Because we left Ft. Lauderdale an hour late and the currents were stronger than expected, we anchored off GC very late. The first tender did not leave the ship until 10:00 and takes 8-10 minutes to get to the dock. We were some of the first in line, but they announced that only people who booked tours through Regent were allowed on the tenders. We, along with a few other people complained that the tours would wait for the Regent group, but us with independent reservations would be late and some had cancellation fees, etc. This was not really the major issue though. The major issue was the mass confusion and how no one seemed to be in charge and no one was being allowed onto the waiting tender. The guys on the tender were calling for people to get on board, yet those on the ship kept us waiting. One Regent employee told me not to worry that the sub would wait for me. I knew this was not true. The woman who had announced that only Regent booked tour groups were allowed on the tender looked frazzled and did not know what to do and made other vague statements that made it seem like maybe she could fit us on. I finally asked her outright - are you going to allow us on this tender or not? She said that she did not have the authority to make the decision. There was a mass of people now waiting to get on, and more coming down. So they eventually let us and everyone else get on the tender. I was not so much annoyed with their Regent first policy, but that they did not seem clear if it was going to be enforced or not, and with the general confusion of the entire disembarkation process. Other minor things I noticed: In some parts of some hallways the floors are uneven. There was a terrible garbage smell just as you entered the hall to the aft deck 9 suites. It never went away, and I never complained because we only quickly passed that area. I imagine the cabins closest to the end may have smelled it even in their cabin. The barrier between our balcony and the next was loose and banged all night, but was fixed the next day after we left our stewardess a note. Now that I'm done with the complaints, I want to reiterate that this cruise was excellent and overall I left with a feeling that Regent is still a top of the line, 5 star cruise line. There are so many little things that were positive that made the trip special and overshadowed the few small negatives. The gingerbread houses with candy and cookies set about the ship. The staff who made special efforts to interact with our children and make them feel special. The flexibility of all the restaurant staff in fulfilling special orders. If you are reading this review to help decide if you should take a Regent cruise or not, I say without hesitation, YES, take the cruise. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We took our first cruise on December 21, 2008, on the Carnival Legend. We had no idea what to expect and tried to go into the experience with an open mind. First off, we waited in a fairly long line to board, which was longer than ... Read More
We took our first cruise on December 21, 2008, on the Carnival Legend. We had no idea what to expect and tried to go into the experience with an open mind. First off, we waited in a fairly long line to board, which was longer than expected. The staff was friendly and things proceeded at a reasonable pace. Once on board, we immediately tipped our room steward as suggested in many reviews. Personally, I don't know if I would do it again as our steward acted like it was expected. He didn't say much nor did he ask if we had any special needs/requests. That was my first disappointment. He just wanted us to sign his paper that he had explained things to us. Of course, he didn't explain anything. Our room was an extended balcony over the life boats. The room was bigger than we expected, very clean, and comfortable. After the steward opened the fridge, it was up to us to empty it and keep those items until the end of the cruise. The fridge NEVER got any of our drinks cold. I kept cans of pop right next to the coils and still, barely cooled. There was no adjustment for the temp. At least we had a fridge and brought our own drinks. We carried on a big case of water, 2-packs of soda, and a pack of ice tea. We had no problems. Most was in our bags except the case of water. As long as the bottles are unopened, you could bring them through security. They did not check closely. We set off to explore the ship and wait for our luggage. Getting around on the ship is easy and the staff is very helpful if you need directions. The lunch buffets were very busy and crowded. We explored the upper decks and even met people from our home town! Small world! The ship was very clean and spacious. We didn't feel crowded in most public spaces. We had our mandatory muster to the life boats. This went smoothly except for a few rude people who shoved us down the stairs with no apologies. Perhaps I'm too old fashioned, but an overall theme was rudeness amongst the guests. Our first dinner was great! The food was good and our table-mates were delightful. We seemed to be matched up perfectly as we had common interests. Then we discovered, it was simply by room numbers. LOL! Go figure! I had the black forest dessert which was absolutely delicious and I highly recommend it. If you are a chocoholic like me, you'll be stuck with the chocolate melting cake most nights. There was a killer chocolate raspberry pie at lunch one day that was to die for good! Don't miss it! Our drink "steward" at dinner was Vladimir. He was wonderful and had a great personality. After one night, he had our names and drink choices down pat. It was great! I loved the Carnival punch, no alcohol. I now understand why many people want the punch returned to the "free drink" list. It's great! Compared to a river cruise I took in Europe, the food was good but not fantastic on the Legend. We found our best food in the main dining room, so we had many of our breakfasts there. It was not crowded and the food was better, much better. The lunch buffets were always crowded and the food wasn't really hot, temperature wise. Our biggest lunch time disappointment was the unruly children running about the place. We were appalled that parents, albeit only a few let their children run wild. And I mean wild! Our day at sea was pleasant. There are lots and lots of things to do, depending on your interests. The Vegas style evening shows were fabulous and shouldn't be missed. My husband enjoyed the comedy, especially the late night comedy. I missed several shows because the slight rocking of the ship put me right to sleep! The ships are not "stand still" smooth. You will have some roll and rocking. Not bad, just enough that you feel like a drunk trying to walk around! I noticed that most people had "the patch" behind their ears and heard of only a few that was really sick. We both did just fine and didn't need the patch. Our first port was the Grand Cayman Island. We had booked an independent tour. The ship announced that their snorkeling and Sting Ray excursions were canceled. We had to go ashore and contact our independent tour. We began to panic a bit trying to figure out how to contact them. I politely asked a nice lady at a jewelry store if I could possibly make a local call. She was very kind and dialed the number for us. I spoke with our tour company and we were canceled, too. As I understood, the government will close down the reefs, etc when the seas are too rough. So we spent the day wondering town, going through shops. Pretty much what we expected, touristy yet interesting. We went back to the ship for lunch and stayed there. Our next port was Cozumel where we booked a Carnival excursion to the Tulum Mayan Ruins. It was interesting. The trip included a 30 minute stop at the tour company's rest stop, aka tourist store. The tour of the site was okay, but not much detail and hard to hear the guide as we were in bus sized groups. We had about 1 1/2 hours on our own to explore (not nearly enough time) and then be back to the bus. There were also shops set-up at the bus staging area, prices were quite high. Carnival did provide a snack and cold bottle of water which was very nice on the ride back. We had wanted to take a private tour of Tulum, but the time in port and the length of the tour were too close. I had read on other sites about people in a panic to not miss the ship, so we opted for a ship-led tour. As we left our anchorage, the ship was turned around and starting to leave as a tender boat raced up. A few passengers and a ship's officer boarded. I'm sure those passengers were thankful that they were with a ship's officer! Our next port was Belize on Christmas day. We booked a private tour with the "Action Boys of Belize". Our tour was for the zip-line and cave tubing. Carnival did not offer either one because of the recent death of a tourist on a cave tubing trip. To our delight, we were paired up with a tour guide, Peter, just my husband and I. This was a complete surprise! We quickly saw why others have said not to leave the tourist area unattended. Belize is very rough and life is quite basic. We made our drive through town and out into the countryside. The land is beautiful and Peter kept us informed throughout the hour plus drive to the site. Upon arrival we learned that the zip-line was down. I later quizzed our guide and learned that the zip-line has been closed for quite some time. He offered several options including an extended cave tubing trip, a visit to the zoo, and lunch. We took the longer cave tubing which ended up being a MUST do! If you are going cave tubing in Belize, make absolutely sure you take the two cave option or insist on it. We were the only people in the first cave. Absolutely peaceful and beautiful! The enjoyed the slow and easy float through the cave as Peter talked to us about Mayan history and much more. We also enjoyed some silence to listen to the eerie water dripping down in the cave. Pretty cool! We then entered the area between caves and witnessed the perils of booking with the cruise company, aka bus groups. OMG! Peter told us it can take up to an hour to get that sized group into the water. I have no idea how many guides they had compared to people floating, but it didn't look good. Our trip through the second cave was rushed because of the tons of people pouring in from the bus groups. This cave also has the shallower water, hence, the "bottoms up" phrase. Going through the first cave was well worth the extra walk and it's a truly must do. We did not opt for the zoo or lunch stop, we wanted to get back to the ship. Because the zip-line was shut down, Peter gave us a discount which was very fair. We ended up giving most of it back in a tip because the trip and service were absolutely wonderful! I highly recommend the Action Boys of Belize! Our last stop was the Island of Roatan, Honduras. We took Carnival's adventure snorkel and kayak trip. The trip guide/owner was originally from Chicago. He did a great job driving us from the port to his place of business. There we were divided into two groups of about 12-15 people each. We chose to snorkel in the morning and kayak in the afternoon. The snorkel was our first and I felt very safe. Because we were beginners, one guide stayed by my side the entire time. I think there were at least 3 guides in the water and one in a kayak. My husband saw a lobster that was huge having antennae as wide as a car hood! The afternoon kayak wasn't anything special, but still enjoyable. One big thing I learned about shore excursions is to talk to the shore excursion staff. We chatted with a young man about the options in Roatan and asked what HE would take if he were going ashore and didn't want to be crowded. He suggested the tour we took and he was right on the money! Our last sea day was relaxing yet disappointing because we'd be back to port soon. It was nice to be spoiled by not cooking or cleaning for a week! Over all, we may do another cruise, but not over the Holidays. The ship was clean, well kept, and enjoyable. As many would say, you get out of it what you chose to. All in all we had a good time and enjoyed the ports of call. The majority of people we encountered on the ship were friendly, kind, and a delight to chat with. The sites and ports were amazing and made for a wonderful break from the snow up north! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Eurodam New Years Eve Holiday Cruise 2008-2009 (Dec. 27, 2008 - Jan. 3, 2009) First time HAL cruisers. This was our second New Years Eve Holiday cruise in a row. Last year we sailed on the Grand Princess. My wife and I are 50 and we ... Read More
Eurodam New Years Eve Holiday Cruise 2008-2009 (Dec. 27, 2008 - Jan. 3, 2009) First time HAL cruisers. This was our second New Years Eve Holiday cruise in a row. Last year we sailed on the Grand Princess. My wife and I are 50 and we booked 4 cabins. We traveled with our four daughters (ages 15 - 21) and my parents. There were just over 2,000 guests on this cruise. HAL was definitely a cut above Princess. Previous reviews: I had read the reviews for the past several months of Eurodam sailings. Several negative reviews made me worried that the ship would be crowded, the service in the dining room poor, the food pedestrian and the front desk staff cold and stern. All such reviews were wrong. Our cruise was fantastic. None of the Negative Nancy's was accurate. The boat never felt crowded, the food was excellent and ¬all staff were as friendly and accommodating as can be. Embarkation: arrived at 1:30 pm. No wait. Efficient loading of luggage and friendly HAL porters. The staff who hustle you through the security (remind me of hospital volunteers) are a bit crotchety. Entire process from arrival through room key to stepping on ship was 20 minutes. Our luggage made it to the rooms before 4 pm. Rooms: Our staterooms were ready within 15 minutes of boarding. We went to the Lido and had a pleasant lunch. The size of our veranda stateroom (balcony room) was reasonable and seemed to be about the same size as Princess' mini-suite we booked last year. There was more than enough closet space. The previous review telling us about the drawers under the bed was helpful b/c we never would have found them. They are under the dust ruffle. Ask the steward to empty the mini bar or do it yourself and you have a fridge. The bathroom was clean and the shower/bath combo worked well and had plenty of pressure and hot water. The sink is very small. The soaps and beauty products were complimentary and were of high quality (the signature line from the spa). The inside staterooms of our children also had plenty of storage but didn't have a tub - only a s shower. The balcony was nice with two chairs and a table. The stewards were great. Always timely and never intrusive. The room was clean and we always had ice in the bucket and clean wine glasses. Safe worked well. Room for the suitcases under the bed. The towel animals were a bit creepy (one was hung from the wall like a voodoo doll. Nice cloth robes provided. Two plugs on counter/desk and one in bathroom. Plenty of lighting. Closets are in hall along with cabin door and bathroom door. Congested area. Full length mirror in closet. Lighting is bad in that area. There is a lighted magnifying mirror on desk. Insufficient amount of lighting at mirror over desk for makeup. Dining: Lido: The lido dining for breakfast and lunch was very good. Breakfast has a great omelet line (the cook remembered my particulars egg whites, well done, cheese after the omelet was turned—by the second day of the cruise. Several stations for made to order eggs or for pre-cooked items. Lots of fruit, lots of salads, delicious pastries, and fresh squeezed OJ and Grapefruit juice. Coffee in the lido was as good as one could expect for mass-brewed coffee. It was freshly brewed and was very drinkable. The aisle-ways were tight by virtue of an added row of tables. Lunch had a nice variety including, pasta, taco and thai bars. Rembrandt: We had open seating. We made reservations for 6 p.m. the first night (have to make them for 5:30 but we were told we can come at 6 p.m.). We enjoyed our Dining Steward, the Asst. Steward and our Wine Steward so much, we asked and the Manager on duty to make us a standing reservation for that table each night, which he promptly did. The service by our Stewards and the Managers could not have been better. The food was also fairly good, always hot and exceeded our expectations. The variety was good, quality high, desserts tasty and there were always options for some vegetarians in our group. Previous reviews had dampened our expectations. The atmosphere was unrushed and we never had to wait for anything. We always looked forward to dinner. Canaletta: Made reservation for the specialty Italian restaurant. No extra charge. Food was ok. Service was great. No complaints but wouldn't do it again. This restaurant is a cordoned off part of the lido in the evening. Pools: There are two pools on the ship. One has a movable glass roof and gets pretty warm. The rear pool has a large deck and plenty of chaises. Even though the cruise was full and lots of sun - had no trouble finding chaise lounges. The bucket of beer is a good value poolside. Drinks: The drinks are made with a jigger glass so it is difficult to get a stiff drink. There is an extensive wine list and the prices are reasonable. We also brought several bottles on board as well as vodka and rum. Also, we bought liquor in port and never had a problem bringing it back on board. I don't think they actually care if you bring liquor on board at a port. There are plenty of bars on the ship. Fitness: The fitness center is huge. There are about a dozen treadmills and as many ellipticals and recumbent bikes also. There is a complete cybex circuit and free weights. Yoga and other classes fill up so book them the first day. You can usually squeeze in though at the last minute. $11.00 charge for each class. Entertainment: The shows were fun and the singers and dancers were very talented. Well worth attending. The cruise director Shane Michaels was the best. Very personable and always had something going on. Casino: The casino staff was primarily Eastern European whereas the room stewards and dining stewards were primarily Indonesian. The staff was personable and professional. The blackjack tables got very crowded. Blackjack was played with shoes of 8 decks of cards. No continuous shuffle here. There were three $5 tables but they were usually full. If you want to play $5 table or want to play along with someone in your group, you will have to go at an off hour. The $25 table usually had an opening. The slots, as expected, take your money and don't pay well at all. Ports: Aruba was not a very nice port. The docking area was pretty gross. Many shops were closed up. Curacao was very nice. It is disappointing that the only thing the ship will tell you about the ports is where the authorized shopping stores are (obviously a fee is paid for that plug) and what shore excursions are available from HAL. No other info is available about the port. There should be maps or other ways to learn about the island provided on board. Do you own research and read blogs before you board the ship. Half-moon Cay - HAL's private island. Ok beach. There are no umbrellas and the ship says the chaise cabanas (the shade covers for the chaises) are sold out. For $15 they can still be found on the beach. Snorkeling is poor from shore. There is concrete poured in places under the sand. It is buried. I cut my foot on the concrete. The buffet barbecue was not too good but we didn't expect any more either. . Bring your walking shoes - long walk from dock to beach. There is a shuttle at the dock. We enjoyed it though. Internet: $0.75 per minute. $3.95 one time activation fee. Wireless throughout ship. Still that is expensive. There was supposedly phone service at international roaming rates but I couldn't get a Verizon blackberry to work with it. Families: We had heard HAL was for more senior cruisers. There were more seniors than on Princes but there were plenty of all ages on board. Also lots of teenagers were on the boat. Many multi-generation groups. Not too many little kids on board. Nice mix. New Years Eve parties were in almost every venue on the ship. Nice way to find "your crowd." The boat rocked and vibrated. Nothing unexpected. Our cabins were close to the front. Disembarkation: Simple and quick. It seemed as though anyone could get off when they wanted. All luggage was available in the terminal, regardless of your departure time. We did Signature Express Baggage service. The bags are taken directly from the ship to the airport and checked through all by HAL. $15 per person. We were given our baggage tags and flight boarding passes the night before departure and didn't have to deal with carrying heavy bags in Fort Lauderdale Airport. DO THIS ON YOUR NEXT CRUISE. Also, transport to the airport was by boarding the free bus to the airport car rental center; then hopping off and boarding the equally free bus to the terminal. All told this took 15 minutes from ship terminal to airport terminal and it was free.No cheating here Broward County provides these free buses. Overall we were very pleased with the quality of the ship, the food, the staff and activities. We enjoyed the Eurodam and its crew thoroughly. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Where to start, where to start ... We cruised on the beautiful Emerald Princess 12/20/08 to 12/30/08. There were three of us traveling together; myself and DH (BB cabin C743 / Caribe deck) and a friend in a separate cabin (OV cabin L103 ... Read More
Where to start, where to start ... We cruised on the beautiful Emerald Princess 12/20/08 to 12/30/08. There were three of us traveling together; myself and DH (BB cabin C743 / Caribe deck) and a friend in a separate cabin (OV cabin L103 / Lido deck). All three of us have cruised a number of times, at many different times of year on a variety of cruise lines. This was the first time the three of us have ever cruised together and it was the first time any of us cruised over the Christmas holiday. The ship is beautiful and the areas we frequented were immaculate. The attitude of the entire crew was outstanding! They were friendly, helpful, smiling and always, always, always went the extra mile to make sure we were having a memorable cruise. EMBARKATION: We went through the maze of finding the ship at Pier 18 and the parking garage near Pier 2. It was all sort of chaotic at the drop-off area until the parking garage shuttle bus returned my DH to the curb where my friend & I were waiting. Once he (finally!) returned and we had only our carry-on bags left, everything went very smoothly. Our cabins were ready when we arrived so we dropped off our carry-ons, put our name on the list for the Chef's Table (already wait-listed), signed up for the Ultimate Ship Tour and got a bite to eat in the Horizon Cafe. By the time we returned to our cabins we had already received our luggage. [A note regarding the parking mess ... FLL is really a nice port to leave from so please don't get the wrong impression. They are building new parking garages in the advent of the Genesis class ships. During this construction phase it's just a little crazy when there are 9 big ships and 2 little ones in port at the same time. Once the garages are complete things will be hunky-dunky again. If you don't drive your own car to the port the parking thing really doesn't even affect you at all.] STATEROOMS: DH & I were in the very last cabin on the starboard side. We wanted our favorite cabin, C753 which faces aft, but even booking a year out we weren't able to get it. We enjoyed C743 though and would definitely book it again. Our cabin was kept spotless by our steward(ess), Noawarat (pronounced Nora), who was an absolute delight. She worked really hard but always had time to stop what she was doing and ask how our day was, where we had gone, if we needed anything, etc. We had an endless supply of fresh ice and our room was so cold you could probably have hung meat in it. Just the way we like it after a day in the Caribbean sun. ULTIMATE SHIP TOUR: All I can say is ... wow-WoW-WOW !!! What an experience! They will do this tour for a maximum of only 12 passengers so if you are interested sign up early. I'll admit that it isn't exactly cheap ($150 per person) but to us it was worth every penny and then some! I won't spoil all the surprises that are in store for you by writing about it here but if you like to see "behind the scenes", you will definitely NOT be disappointed!! Okay ... I'll spoil one surprise and it includes champagne and canapes on the bridge and a photo with Commodore Guiseppe Romano. And did I mention you get to climb on the funnel! Or go UNDER the stage in the Princess Theatre?? [Note: take closed-toe shoes to wear or you might not get into some of the more interesting areas.] ANYTIME DINING: We had a standing 8:15 reservation at a corner, window table in the DaVinci dining room (Table #433) with Roberto and Oksana. They were a cracker-jack team that made every dining room meal a cause for celebration. Roberto quickly got to know our tastes and gave us excellent recommendations. On the very rare occasions that our selection wasn't all we thought it could be, he gave us his million dollar smile and quickly brought us something different to try. Oksana was a breath of fresh air and her positive attitude, her quick wit and her laughter charmed all three of us instantly. SABATINI'S: Great food, great service. This isn't a complaint, exactly, but if I could make a suggestion it would be to allow you to pick what appetizers you want instead of insisting you take all of them. The spectacular seafood and the fine service are a good enough draw to bring people back again and again - the multiple "courses" and the "show" just aren't all that necessary after the first time. I asked for the option but was told that it wasn't an option and that instead, just leave what I didn't want. I did but we could have done the meal in half the time if we'd been allowed to just order the yummy foods that we wanted and be done with it. An enjoyable occasion nonetheless. CROWN GRILL: My momma always said, if you can't say something nice then don't say anything at all so let's just say this was the worst disappointment of the entire cruise and leave it at that. I know others have had fabulous meals and great service in the Crown Grill and we're really glad for you. Honest we are. Unfortunately we had neither. Maybe it was just an off-night. A really, realllllly off night. CHEF'S TABLE: We got "picked" but it was cancelled because of heightened precautions due to noro. They were hoping that it could be rescheduled but by the time the food service restrictions were lifted it was too late. Having already done this on the Caribbean Princess we were only mildly disappointed. We'll just have to keep cruising Princess so we can do it again sometime!! SANCTUARY: The most incredible place to relax and unwind on the planet. There is a surcharge to use this very tranquil, "adults only" area but we would gladly have paid any amount they asked. They also charge a small service charge to bring you lunch & snacks, which we were more than willing to pay. If this bothers you or you don't like a quiet-zone, laid-back style, then Sanctuary won't be your cup of tea. For us, Sanctuary and it's tremendously attentive staff of Somchai, Joy, Stephen, Suriya, Hardika and the ever-flowing iced cucumber water made a wonderful cruise even better. SHORE EXCURSIONS: PRINCESS CAYS ~ We had already experienced Princess Cays in a pretty red bungalow by the sea so on this cruise we opted to stay on the ship and enjoy Sanctuary. ST. THOMAS ~ Been there, done that so we stayed on the ship and enjoyed Sanctuary. DOMINICA ~ "Flower Garden & Creole Cooking". The second WoW of the cruise. There were a mere seven of us who signed up for this tour. We spent several hours with our guide, Josie, visiting the homes and gardens of residents on the interior of the island. The owners of these properties graciously welcomed us into their homes and gave us the opportunity to explore their tropical flowers; from vast gardens to small greenhouses. We were then treated to a delicious lunch, prepared especially for us, 2,000 feet above sea level at Exotica Cottages, one of the finalists of the National Geographic Change Maker awards. I highly recommend this tour if you want to really see the local heritage and culture and participate in an honest "show, tell and taste" experience. GRENADA ~ We had been to Grenada 20-some years ago so we decided just to get off and explore the area near the dock instead of doing an organized tour. Most everything was closed on Christmas, which we expected, so we snapped some interesting photos of what appeared to be bombed out buildings, bought the requisite spices and quickly returned to our haven back on the ship, Sanctuary. BONAIRE ~ Maybe not the most spectacular port of all times but definitely not the worst either. We found it to be very clean and the residents were extremely friendly. We scouted out some unique & unusual souvenirs and then had a delicious lunch of spicy, cold shrimp with an avocado/chili sauce and ice cold beer in an open-air, waterfront cafe! Yum. CURACAO ~ Once I finally get it posted you can read the full review of this wonderful shore excursion over on the Curacao board but suffice it to say that cooking some culinary classics in Angelica's Kitchen is an experience that you just have to try when visiting Curacao. Ok. I take that back. Not EVERYbody should try this. A while back someone on Cruise Critic openly admonished these wonderful ladies for pairing Cheese Doritos with one of the appetizers. Puh-leaze. If it was you that complained and you are reading this ... shame on you. You either weren't listening to the story or you just didn't get it. This is a fabulous, awesome, unique excursion. If you go, tell them Seapixie says hello and thanks for the memories! SHOWS: Crooners, followed by a long leisurely dinner, is our preferred evening entertainment so we only went to one of the shows in the Princess Theatre. It was a production show and it was very, very good. We didn't go early or have anyone save seats for us yet we ended up with great seats in a perfect location and had excellent service. A very enjoyable part of the evening for us and one we would highly recommend. Truth be known, if the Crooners waiters didn't shake such darned good martoonis we probably would have gone to the theatre more often You might want to take a sweater or light jacket as the Princess Theatre was a little chilly, even by our standards and we like it cold. CASINO: Last of the big spenders, we generously deposited $5 to the cause and had a lot of fun doing it. We were only playing the quarter slots but ended up with about an hour's worth of entertainment for our five-spot. CHILDREN: We don't have any children so we can't comment on Princess' children's programs but they must be pretty good. We were told that there were just over 700 "Under 18's" on board but you wouldn't know it by us. Perhaps our shore excursions didn't appeal to families with little ones and then we DID spend a lot of time in Sanctuary where children aren't allowed but even at dinner or in the open deck areas, we just didn't notice them. DISEMBARKATION: How very sad that they make it so easy to disembark. Why-oh-why can't they make this procedure last several long meaningful hours including a leisurely lunch, a couple of hours by the pool and a shoulder massage (LOL!). Seriously, if you have to disembark from a wonderful, amazing cruise, at least Princess makes the process as painless as possible. We waited in our assigned space until our color was called. There were only a couple of ships in port so we were docked at Pier 2 this time, near the parking garage. Because of that it took only about a half an hour from the time they called out "Gold 3" to the time we were in the car, bags loaded, and on our way home. Thanks for the memories, Emerald Princess! We are counting the minutes until we set sail on the spectacular Ruby Princess next Christmas! Seapixie ~ Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
As we approached Ventura after the long but comfortable flight from London Gatwick Airport to Barbados airport, the first view of the ship gave the impression of a multistory block of flats, but this view was soon to change after we ... Read More
As we approached Ventura after the long but comfortable flight from London Gatwick Airport to Barbados airport, the first view of the ship gave the impression of a multistory block of flats, but this view was soon to change after we embarked. The one thing that P&O Cruises do exceptionally well, are their transfer arrangements in Barbados. Luggage is transferred directly from the aircraft to your cabin. Coaches meet you near the aircraft steps and swiftly convey you to the ship, similarly at the end of the cruise luggage is transferred from the ship to your final airport destination and customs and immigration formalities are completed on-board prior to disembarkation. This saves a lot of hassle at the airport both on arrival and departure. On entering the ship, we were extremely pleased to find that she was tastefully decorated in rich colors, with a feel of spaciousness. There were plenty of comfortable chairs and settees, ideal for curling up and spreading out with a book. Traditional P&O style elegance abounded. All public spaces inside were spotlessly clean and remained this way throughout the cruise. On this cruise, we had chosen a balcony cabin on deck 11, port side. The cabin was compact and comfortable. There was good storage space and the added bonus of having tea and coffee-making facilities in the room was appreciated. The bathroom was adequate with excellent toiletries provided and the large fluffy towels were changed twice daily. There was an ample supply of hot water. There is an excellent interactive television system that offers many choices- from television channels to ordering in-cabin room service and to choose free and pay movies. You can shop, gain information - look at your on-board account and many other actions from this facility. Guests should also be aware that this service also acts as your messaging system. The comfort of the bed was average; it certainly did not have the "wow" factor. The covering was a flimsy duvet, which was not large enough to be tucked in and more often than not ended up on the floor. There is a good air-conditioning system, and there is adequate lighting and a refrigerator. Bathrobes are not provided on board, except in mini-suites and above. The balcony, of adequate size was furnished with two upright chairs and a very small low-level table. There was absolutely no privacy on the balcony as owing to the construction of the ship, the majority of balconies on decks 9, 10 and 11 are tiered --be aware of this fact when booking - we could look down to those below and they could look up at us. Additionally because of the design of the ship, conversations could clearly be heard from balconies three or four cabins away. The room was maintained in an excellent condition and serviced twice daily. There are three formal dining rooms on board - two for "club dining" - 1st and 2nd seating and the third for "anytime" dining. There are also other various specialist and casual dining venues. We found the food to be consistently of a high quality in all dining venues -plenteous and varied and especially designed to the British palate in the main restaurant and casual style buffet. The only disappointment was the very limited choice of breads. In the main Restaurant, dinner was well presented and expertly served. Great care is taken to cater for guests who have dietary requirements. Unfortunately breakfast in the main restaurant lacked any presentation skills whatsoever - breakfasts looked as if they had been just thrown on a plate. Yoghurts should be served in a dish and not presented in the container itself. The ship had over 3000 guests on board and never once, even on sea days did we have to queue or wait for seats in the self-service buffet. Dishes were replenished often and hot food was hot and cold food was cold. There are no free juices, other than at breakfast time. Free tea; with lots of different blends and coffee are available here 24 hours a day. There is a full and varied programme of entertainment, outlined in the Daily Newspaper - The Horizon. There is something for everyone. We found the production shows and most of the guest entertainers to be excellent offering professional and varied programmes. For a ship of this size, the Cruise Director and his limited number of staff did a great job. They were highly visible all over the ship, a pity the same could not be said of the officers, and gave the impression of being a most happy and caring team. Even on days when ports of call were cancelled due to bad weather, within a reasonable time, additional entertainment was arranged and relayed to guests. They are to be congratulated! There are the usual on-board shops offering a good selection of goods and usually at competitive prices, do be aware that the shop selling those items that you may have forgotten to bring with you, is, if they have not run out of goods, fairly expensive. There are free launderettes on board, but you have to purchase soap powder from this outlet. They charge 50p for 2 concentrated soap tablets. There is a luxurious spa offering various treatments and therapies. They do offer specials and details of these are messaged to you through your in interactive cabin television as are shop "sales" as well as being advertised in the daily newspaper. There is a well-equipped gym. Internet facilities are available. Although expensive - take advantage of the packages available and the special offers advertised. Specials are also available for the speciality restaurants. There is an excellent and knowledgeable Shore Excursion Team and tours bought from the ship are reasonably well priced and good in content. Occasionally, some tours do not reach their expected standards and to which they have no control - they do however listen and investigate and take appropriate action. There is a Future Cruise Consultant on board, who is most anxious to sell you a future cruise. Beware! She quoted us a price for the same itinerary and on the same ship next Christmas at a cost of £8600.00. We were horrified at this cost. We went next door to the Internet centre and checked P & O`s web site and found the same cruise, although in a different grade of cabin, but in a grade on the same deck with the same facilities, and almost next door to the one that she quoted for £4300.00. We returned a few days later to her, after having again checked our facts and confronted her with our information. You can guess her embarrassment. We asked her to check again and guess what? You are right. Obviously someone who works on a commission basis? We had originally booked the Christmas and New Year Cruise on the Oceana for 2009. However after a number of months, having paid the deposit and received confirmation - P&O cancelled the 2-week cruise and extended it into a 4-week cruise. We were offered a transfer to the 4-week cruise at a supplement - but as we could not get time of work had to decline. We were offered very minimal compensation if we were to book a further cruise with P&O within a specific time frame. We asked to be transferred to the Ventura but were told that P&O would not honor the price available at the time of our original booking, even though they had the advantage of having our deposit for some 5 months. The price had risen by £1000.00 - we did however receive our deposit back in full. Gone it appears are the days of honorability. Administration on the ship and Head Office leaves a lot to be desired. We had a query re on-board credit. The ship e-mailed their Head Office on 21 December and followed the query up with further e-mails - no response was received by the time we disembarked on 2 January and thus we did not receive the credit due to us. Additionally notifications originating from the Pursers Office were In-correct - especially in respect of disembarkation - these had to be withdrawn and re-issued on a number of occasions. Likewise in respect of the 1st edition of the Port information issued in respect of St. Vincent - the information provided actually related to the Azores - what a waste of paper, time and money - more attention to detail is required in this department. The Ships`s photographers do and good job and produce fine quality photographs, together with an excellent DVD of the cruise. Individual photographs tend to be expensive, but again packages are available. This was a Christmas and New Year Cruise and the ship was discreetly and sensitively decorated. There were excellent festal activities. There were, I understand over 700 children on board. This being the case P&O are to be congratulated on their programmes and organized events for those guests as they were very seldom seen and certainly not heard - most well-behaved and a credit to their parents and staff. The facilities for kids and teenagers are outstanding. Dress Code on the ship fell into 3 categories - formal, semi -formal and smart casual. It was pleasing to not that the majority of guests adhered to the dress code especially on formal evening. Following this cruise however, the dress code for this ship and the Oceana fall into only 2 categories - Formal and Smart Casual. There are numerous bars and other venues for drinks throughout the ship. Quiet bars, energetic bars or pool bars. Drinks are well-presented or excellent quality (except at the Captains Cocktail party - where they appeared to lack in alcoholic content) and were reasonably priced. There is a comprehensive wine list again not overly priced. The currency on board is the British Pound. In keeping with the P&O tradition, gratuities are extended on the final evening of the cruise by way of cash in envelopes. Although if you opt for Anytime dining, your gratuity for the waiters in this regard is added to your on-board account. Do be sure that you bring enough sterling for these gratuities. We had planned to withdraw cash at a facility at Gatwick Airport but it was out of order. Fortunately we had enough cash to cover the gratuities, as the Pursers office do not cash personal cheques. There are 3 modest sized swimming pools (one of which is reserved for adults) on board as well as a number of Jacuzzi's. Whilst there are large deck areas with sun beds, there are insufficient sun beds or space for the number of passengers on this ship. - There is just not the amount of required space and beds are so tightly squeezed together and you have to climb on to the sun bed and then sit on it. It does not help when passengers reserve sun beds for hours with their towels and then come along and remove their towels and walk away not having even sat in them. One morning at 7.45am all sun beds were occupied by towels and yet no sun worshippers. P & O do not have a policing policy on this issue - they need to adopt one - this was one of the major factors of discontent on this cruise. A suggestion as to how this might be alleviated is that the upright chairs on balconies be removed and replaced with reclining chairs, like those on the promenade deck. Many guests occupying such cabins would quite possibly tend to spend more time relaxing there than to fight for a sun bed on the open decks. Excellent reclining chairs are provided on the promenade deck. However as the ship has a strict no-smoking policy inside the vessel - many smokers tend to congregate on the starboard side of this deck as it is within easy reach of the bars, entertainment areas, restaurants and night club for their smoke. More ashtrays are needed and those broken need to be fixed and all need to be emptied more often than they are now. This deck also needs to be cleaned more regularly. Some guests on deck 8 - starboard aft, complained about the smoke drifting up from this deck and on to their balconies. They also complained about the noise experienced from these cabins during the early hours of the morning, when smokers from the night-club gathered on this deck. Noise was a constant problem when late night revellers were returning to their cabins in various areas of the ship when the discotheque closed at around 4.00am. There were reports that there were a number of fights on board and those guests were locked up in the brig, but we never witnessed any such fights or any real drunkenness. Unfortunately on the first week of the cruise, the weather was not kind, rain, winds and high seas. This resulted in the ship not being able to dock at 3 of the ports of call. The ship handled well during these conditions whilst at sea. However, it was disappointing that we missed these important ports of calls. Obviously something to do with the size of the ship and its design as guests on other cruise ships and on those of a similar or larger size had no port cancellations. She appeared to the able to dock when in the Caribbean but not at those ports at the edge of the Atlantic. As our fare had included port taxes and charges, it will be interesting to see if P&O refund these to the passengers as they would not have had to pay them and we did not avail of these services. The foregoing are thoughts and/or suggestions and are by no means complaints. They are also designed to assist others when planning their cruise vacation, as to some things that they may wish to consider. In all, we had an excellent cruise and would certainly travel with P&O again. P & O market the ship more towards families, but we feel that the Ventura is suitable for all, couples singles as well as families. We thoroughly enjoyed the traditional P&O experience and would recommend them without reservation. Well Done to all those who made this possible. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I began planning this cruise while my husband was deployed so I had plenty of time to read just about every review of the ship as well as each port we visited. I have to say that I believe that this was the main reason we had such a ... Read More
I began planning this cruise while my husband was deployed so I had plenty of time to read just about every review of the ship as well as each port we visited. I have to say that I believe that this was the main reason we had such a wonderful time. We drove in the night before and arrived at 11am at the port. From the time we got out of the shuttle to sipping our first drink was 30 minutes. Smooth and easy. All of the employees we encountered were helpful and smiling. We got to our room around 1:45 and was very happy to see that our deck was huge and the room was exactly as promised. If you can get the 9A do it. It's worth the money and it's quiet. The dining room was wonderful. Food was varied and good. Service was amazing and we were greeted every night by every server by name. We had two elegant nights in addition to New Years and most of the people I encountered were dressed in very nice gowns and suits and tuxes. We did eat at the Supper Club one evening and I can assure you that it is worth the $30 per person. The food was amazing and the service top. The shows were fun and entertaining. One evening the comedian didn't show up because of schedule mishap, but other than that we had a good time. The Legends show on the last night was hilarious. The gentleman who sang Frank Sinatra was as good (if not better) than many professionals out now. We won at the casino (only $300) and enjoyed it very much. I saw security move several patrons who were smoking in the non-smoking section of the casino and bar area right next to it. One end of the bar was smoking and the other non. I didn't have any issues with smoking like others have reported. I never saw people smoking on the port side of lido deck and my husband and I spent a lot of time out there. Deck chairs were hard to come by if you showed up after 10am, but I asked one of the men working at the towel stand and within 15 minutes he brought out 10 more. The New Years deck party was the highlight. I would estimate between 2500-2800 people on the Lido and upstairs dancing and partying. It was fun and loud. The horn blew at midnight and you could hear the other ships at sea blowing theirs as well. We didn't get to bed till the sun was coming up. The only negative was the long lines getting off the ship in Belize. Weather was slowing down the tendering for excursions and people decided that this (the weather) was Carnivals fault. I have never in my life heard such language coming out of the mouths of adults with children present. I would be ashamed to speak like that with a group of sailors and marines. Overall the cruise was a hit. I would do it again in a minute and that makes it 2 for 2 for Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My husband and I, our 4 kids and my daughters fiance just got back for the December 28th sailing of the Carnival Victory. This is our 4th New Year's family cruise and the second one in the Caribbean. We flew into San Juan ... Read More
My husband and I, our 4 kids and my daughters fiance just got back for the December 28th sailing of the Carnival Victory. This is our 4th New Year's family cruise and the second one in the Caribbean. We flew into San Juan from Toronto early Sunday morning and boarded the ship at 1:30 pm. The embarkation was quick. We had booked 2 balcony cabins and 1 inside cabin. All the cabins seemed smaller than on previous cruises and the 3 boys sharing the balcony cabin were cramped but we expected that. The cabin service was excellent. We found the food to be very good in the dining room and to avoid line-ups ate breakfast there every morning as well. It was fine. Lunch was usually on the Lido deck late afternoon after returning from island visits and we had some problems with lines. The service in the dining room for the dinners was excellent. The waiters seemed to have problems getting our breakfast orders correct though. We found the entertainment to be good to very good. The acoustic guitar player was excellent. Ports: St. Thomas. We took a taxi to Coki Beach and would not recommend it. Dominica - We booked a private tour with bumpiingtours.com. Everyone of us thought this to be one of the best tours ever. I cannot say enough goods things about this tour. Every minute was fun. Barbados - We did the Mount Gay Rum tour in the morning which we found interesting and then took a taxi to Lobsters Alive in the afternoon. The beach was beautiful and we all enjoyed it. St Lucia - We booked the Cosul tour because of recommendations on CruiseCritic.com boards. We were very disappointed with it. Everyone of us felt ill by the end because of us having to sit at the back of a large van and having to endure many hours of driving twisty roads. Our driver was boring and had little to say. The waterfall viewing and volcano visit were nice but not worth the long long drive to see them. It was a huge disappointment to us. Antigua - We took a taxi to Dickensen's beach. The beach is beautiful and 2 kids rented a jetski and 2 kids went horseback riding along the beach. A fun day. St. Kitts - We walked off the ship and booked a tour from a taxi driver. It was relatively inexpensive and after the tour we were dropped off at Cockleshell Beach and picked up 2 1/2 hours later. A great final day. New Year's Eve was celebrated onboard. In typical Carnival fashion free champagne was offered all evening and the party was fun. There have been comments on previous postings of the rudeness of the "locals". We saw evidence of this on several occasions and even had to call security on board the ship once because of very obnoxious behavior of 2 women in the cabin beside my daughters cabin. All in all though Carnival does a great job of putting together a great package for a family travelling over a holiday period. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My wife and two children (ages 8 and 11) just returned from the 12/28/2008 New Year's sailing and we had a wonderful cruise.  This was our 9th cruise; 4th time with children (5 w/Carnival, 2 w/Princess, and 2 w/NCL) - all of our last ... Read More
My wife and two children (ages 8 and 11) just returned from the 12/28/2008 New Year's sailing and we had a wonderful cruise.  This was our 9th cruise; 4th time with children (5 w/Carnival, 2 w/Princess, and 2 w/NCL) - all of our last five cruises were with Carnival.  We are Carnival "loyalist" because their product fits our budget and we believe they truly provide a very good vacation value. We had a fun and memorable cruise experience on the Freedom, even though the live music entertainers (the alternate club band "Lifeline" and Reggae island band "Eclipse 1") were disappointingly below par compared to last year's New Year's Cruise on the Miracle.  These musical venues should have been much better considering that this was a New Year's cruise, which is significantly more expensive than other cruise sailings in the year.On Christmas Day (12/25) we flew down from New York to Miami, rented a large SUV from Budget and then drove 20 minutes to the Four Points by Sheraton Miami Beach, where we stayed three nights (12/25 - 12/28) in a beautiful mini-suite (free upgrade) with a partial ocean view. We started our first full day (12/26) enjoying a complimentary buffet breakfast; then we enjoyed the hotel's pool, Jacuzzi and beach front, all located on their beautifully landscaped grounds. The second day (12/27) we spent most of the day enjoying South Beach. Our favorite restaurant for breakfast was the Front Porch Cafe (1418 Ocean Drive) and dinners at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (Bayside Market) and Big Pink (157 Collins Avenue at 2nd Street). On the day of our cruise, we drove our Budget rental SUV to the Port Everglades 17th Street Budget drop-off location at 9:45 a.m. and then took two taxi cabs to Port Everglades ($10/each cab); arriving at the port at 10:30 a.m. We were physically on the ship by 11:30 a.m. and didn't have to wait in line for anything! Well done Carnival!! Many times during our 100% occupied cruise, we found ourselves saying, "where is everybody?" The ship was so big that there was plenty of room for all passengers to enjoy their vacation without seeing large groups of people, except in the buffet areas during peak breakfast and lunch periods. We found the staff and crew to be extremely friendly and all of them greeted you and smiled as you passed them in the corridors. Our room steward (Riviera #1274) was just fantastic and was very accommodating to our requests (i.e., remove the contents of the mini bar from the refrigerator). Although he was not very visible, he always knew exactly when to tidy up our cabin, which he did several times a day. Everything was done to perfection, including creative towel animal creations. Our cabin was very spacious for a family of four and the bathroom/shower was equally sufficient as well. We also enjoyed the flat screen TV, along with the additional channels that were added since our last cruise. As for the rest of the ship, it was always glittering and sparkling clean as expected. The foods in the buffet areas were great for a quick and convenient breakfast and lunch. On sea days, we had breakfast in the main dining room, where we enjoyed waiter service along with a bagel, cream cheese, lox, capers and red onion and/or eggs benedict. We also enjoyed these other delicious alternative dining options (and late evening snacks): 24/7 Pizzeria, Deli, Fish and Chips, Grills, sushi bar and 24/7 unlimited frozen yogurt and ice cream machines. We had a lovely booth (#573) in the Posh Dining Room overlooking the lower level and our waiter (Agran) and his assistant (Miriana) graciously tendered to our needs every night with big smiles. We found the overall quality of the food to be on par compared to our previous Carnival cruises. However, we have noticed that the quality of the food has been on the decline over the past five years. We always looked forward to the dessert portion of our meal, when the dining room lights would dim/shimmer, upbeat music would begin to play and the passengers and waiters would then dance and sing in the isles. Carnival did not let us down and provided a "fun and exciting" dining experience every night At night we enjoyed listening and dancing to the Freedom Showband, who were just awesome and had a great sound. On our previous New Year's cruise on the Miracle, the club band "Music Manila" did an outstanding job in entertaining and rocking the house every night and entertaining all of us on New Year's Eve on the Lido deck. Unfortunately, Freedom's club band "Lifeline" needed a lifeline, as they were not a "tight" sounding band and their vocals needed much improvement. Unfortunately, the Reggae island band "Eclipse 1" lacked a live drummer and consisted of just two lazy, tone deaf musicians who made no effort to connect with or exchange words with any of the passengers throughout the cruise. The two productions shows "Ticket to Ride" and "Big Easy" were well performed and very entertaining, as well as the Carnival Legends and the juggler act. Both comedians, Derrick Eason and Dana Tison were also very funny and entertaining. The classical music trios were top notch and a pleasure to listen to, especially during Tea Time in the rear of the Posh Dining Room on sea days. The Freedom Showband was one of the best bands we had experienced on any cruise and on New Year's Eve we were fortunate to see and hear them play big band standards up close and personal in the main lobby in front of the main bar. On a daily basis, at 6:30 a.m., my wife and I would work out in the health club and never had to wait for an elliptical trainer or treadmill. We were very impressed with the treadmills, which were equipped with individual LCD flat screen TVs, providing many channels to choose from, including the "Today Show" starring cruise director Lenny Halliday and his assistant, Josh "Big Sexy"- both of which were entertaining and funny throughout the cruise. The water slide was very nice and there were plenty of lounge chairs at pool areas to choose from at 6:30 a.m. (LOL). As on most ships, you really need to get up early to find lounge chairs that are situated near the pools. The miniature golf was nothing to write home about, but it was "free" and it entertained my two children. We had great weather every day and enjoyed all three ports. Since this was our first time in Key West, after getting off the ship we walked a few blocks and then purchased tickets on our own for the one and a half hour Conch Tour Train ($86), as it was much cheaper than Freedom's price for the same tour. This was a very informative tour and we highly recommend this for first timers to Key West. We then sampled some Conch Fritters and did the "Duval Crawl", which means we strolled down Duval Street and went shopping for souvenirs. After reading so many positive Cruise Critic posts, experiences and reviews about Captain Bryan's Buccaneer Stingray City Excursion in Grand Cayman, prior to our cruise we booked via email the 3-hour catamaran tour ($39/adult; $27/child) and we were so glad we did. The Buccaneer snorkeling trip takes you to the World Famous Stingray City Sandbar, Coral Gardens and the Cayman Barrier Reef for great snorkeling experiences. Snorkeling gear and life vests are provided, as well as free non-alcoholic refreshments. A few months prior to our cruise, we also booked the Cool Runnings Dunn's River Falls excursion on Carnival's website ($236) and were glad we did. This tour was the highlight of our cruise excursions and it was worth every penny. The crew of ten consists of several female dancers, a D.J., bar tenders and a captain. Unlimited non-alcoholic beverages are served on the way to the falls and Red Stripe beers and rum punch are served on the way back to the ship as well as the non-alcoholic beverages. Climbing the falls with the tour guides was challenging and fun...we had an awesome time - No Problem Mon!! On the way back, the dancers encouraged all to participate in several line dances to great loud sounding tunes, which we greatly enjoyed. Since we had a late afternoon flight, we elected not to do the "self assist" debarkation process as we had done on prior cruises. We found the debarkation process to be very organized and stress free. We waited on the lido deck until our number was called around 9:45 a.m. and we were on the Carnival chartered bus to Miami Airport by 11:00 a.m. All in all, it was a fantastic cruise and vacation. The itinerary was excellent, the weather was good and the seas were always calm. For the most part, the food was good, but not great. The passengers and staff were friendly, polite, and pleasant for the most part. I'd certainly recommend the Freedom and a New Year's cruise on any Carnival ship - it's worth the extra expense. And now it's time to begin my search for our next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My husband and I did the 12/27/08 sailing of the Elation out of San Diego and had a fantastic time. We didn't know what to expect of a New Year's Eve cruise, but Carnival certainly gave us a very festive, fun time. We ... Read More
My husband and I did the 12/27/08 sailing of the Elation out of San Diego and had a fantastic time. We didn't know what to expect of a New Year's Eve cruise, but Carnival certainly gave us a very festive, fun time. We drove from Phoenix to San Diego on 12/26/08 and did a "Cruise and Snooze" package with the Comfort Inn at the Harbor. For $70.00 (tax included) per person we received lodging for 1 night in a very clean, newly remodeled, small room; breakfast; free parking for 5 nights and a shuttle to and from the Port of San Diego. We highly recommend this package. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the port at 12:30 pm on 12/27 and were on board in 45 minutes or less. We were greeted on the ship with bottomless glasses of champagne, which was served throughout the boarding process. I don't know if this is standard procedure or just something special for the New Years cruise. Which ever the case, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Our stateroom was ready at 1:30 and our luggage was in our room when we returned from the Lifeboat Drill. Our cabin Steward was Roy and he was fantastic! He greeted us by name every time he saw us and was very friendly and accommodating. We never had to wait for our room to be cleaned - it was always cleaned by the time we got back from breakfast. The ice bucket was always filled and we loved the towel animals every night. We thought that the buffet meals in Tiffany's needed some improvement. There was a good variety for lunch and breakfast, but the food was hardly warm. We ate dinner at Tiffany's one night, as we missed our early seating in the dining room, and the food selection was very limited and not very appealing so we opted for pizza and a salad. The dining room food was very good and the selections were interesting and appealing. We chose the lobster and shrimp for the formal dinner and it was excellent. The lobster was a 5oz Maine lobster served with 2 large tiger shrimp. They were cooked perfectly and they were served hot. We enjoyed all our meals in the dining room and have no complaints. We sat at a table for 11 and we enjoyed meeting our dinner companions. We brought our own bottle of wine to dinner on two occasions and were only charged one $10.00 corkage fee. We were a bit confused about the formal/elegant dress code. It seemed that anything was acceptable. We saw a male passenger dressed in cargo shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and sandals. On casual night there were several male passengers wearing baseball caps and t-shirts. If Carnival isn't going to enforce the dress code then they should just do away with it. Because it was a New Year's Eve cruise many passengers dressed up on the elegant night (2nd night) and on New Year's Eve. We thought that the entertainment was great with a good variety. We thoroughly enjoyed the shows put on by the Elation dancers. There was always something to do. In fact, many times there were several things we wanted to see/do that were scheduled at the same time. We're not big gamblers so after losing our allotted amount we didn't go back to the casino. Stu, the Cruise Director was fantastic and "Fun Dude" was hilarious. They did their jobs very well. We didn't spend much time in the bars and clubs as most of them allow smoking. We really wanted to listen to some of the music in those areas, but stayed away because of we are non-smokers. It would be nice if Carnival had more non-smoking bars with entertainment. Carnival put on a fantastic New Year's Eve party. It was held in the Mikado Lounge and they provided live music with dancing on the stage. They passed out hats, noisemakers and free champagne around 11:30 pm and did the countdown at midnight. The Mikado was totally packed, and a good time was had by all. I don't know how long the party lasted as we went to our room at 12:30 a.m. as the next day was the end of the cruise. The party was a perfect ending to an almost perfect cruise. Debarkation was delayed by fog. We got into San Diego about an hour late because it was very foggy and the ship was going very slow and sounding the foghorn every few minutes. We didn't debark until 12:15 p.m. and were on the road to Phoenix at 1:00 p.m. We really enjoyed this cruise and would do this itinerary again. After reading several reviews we didn't know what to expect of the Elation. The decor is dated, but everything appeared to be in good repair and clean. Way to go Carnival Elation!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Lovin' the Freedom 12/20/08 I will admit after reading several negative reviews I was a bit worried. However, I do think every vacation is what we make of it. We are heading out of town me, dh, dd 17, and ds 13 from Indiana. ... Read More
Lovin' the Freedom 12/20/08 I will admit after reading several negative reviews I was a bit worried. However, I do think every vacation is what we make of it. We are heading out of town me, dh, dd 17, and ds 13 from Indiana. Bad weather was predicted and we were keeping our fingers crossed to get out of Indy on the evening of the 19th. The kids weren't as I say "pleased" with being away from their friends for 13 days but oh well life goes on. They also had me started out on the negative. We booked through a online travel agency whom we've used the last three out of four cruises.(Cruise Value Center) and since we booked within the sixty days we had to pay full price at booking. Thank heavens the money we paid went directly to Carnival or we could have been up the creek.........we booked a inside gty and ended up in cabin 2464 on the main deck. For spring break this past year we had the gty and got on the lido deck that was awesome. Anyways cabin 2464 was towards the back and we had a great steward named Amy. It is the first time we have had a female but she did a excellent job for us. The kids were normally in bed too late for room service until she came back in the afternoon but we were very happy with the services she provided. We left her a gift bag full of goodies and our Christmas tree we had brought along. Getting on the ship: we flew into west Palm Beach on friday evening and drove down to the Hilton at the airport for a good nights sleep. Our flight arrived light so we did not get to bed until about 1am. the kids were exhausted after getting up for school at 6am so we decided to let them sleep until 9:30 or 10"ish". We got up got ready and headed to drop off our rental car at the airport. Unlike last cruise there was no wait at the airport for the free port shuttle and were on our way in no time. When we arrived at the port we had to get luggage tags since CVC had went out of business and failed to send them to me and for some reason I was unable to print online. Once in the LONG line outside it was a breeze. I really thought it would take forever but it moved quickly and we were having lunch within the hour. Food: we had our first lunch from the deli(which we loved on the Liberty) and were quite pleased. We managed to visit there several times during the week either for lunch or late night snack since they are open until 11pm. We got the early seating as requested and were at table 355 in the posh dining room. Our waiter was GREAT!! We called him Suki (his name was Sukatiawm) and his asst Andrew who was just there for the 2nd week did a great job as well. We have NEVER had a wait staff get to know & remember all of our names. they would call us by name in the dining room or anywhere else we saw them on board that was amazing to us. Like I said we were impressed with both of them as well as our bar waitress who just started from thailand Nareerat. Our table was lower level and a table for four. I was so bummed as my hubby & myself were hoping to have "others" to chat with to relax and get to know. I did go and request a larger table and after waiting in line they informed me requests were only for early/late changes etc. No big deal but they could have been nice about it. It worked out actually we were not in a booth so we had a open table with a space between another family from Florida. We got to know them quite well and hung out with them in the casino and lounge areas. it is fun to hear about other peoples lives etc........ it made our dinners more enjoyable. I am sure we had more conversation that we would have if it was just us and the kids since they could not understand why we refused to pay forty cents per text message for them to text uncontrollably home. I know I was a much BETTER teenager to point out lol OOPS back to the actual FOOD...... we found something each evening that we found delightful. The lobster(all 6 my dh had and the 2 for me yummy). Chateaubriand mmmmmmmm filet dd was too done but sent back and second one fine. Steaks seem sometimes to get "too cooked" but they will just bring another and I was not cooking so it was even better. Kids loved the melting cake every day and I was happy to have baked alaska & my 13 yo thought it was 'cool" to have expresso. (even though it is nasty he told his sister but was trying to bug me). Kids Activities: our 17 yr old always has enjoyed the teen hangs. She will sleep in and run of fto hang out with kids her age and has been happy to do so. My one complaint is they have absolutely NO ACTIVITIES for her next year. Once you are 18-pre 21 they do not have meet & greets , games, socializing or nothing which I find odd. I heard tons and tons and tons of people complaining about this throughout the cruise. they are not at the age for everything "organized" but they need a movie night, meet & greet, games, or karaoke to still feel included in my opinion. I hope Carnival does something about this because I feel they will lose lots of cruisers if not. Common Areas: the layout of the Freedom is identical to the Liberty and we LOVE it. There are plenty of places to sneak away to read or chit chat. I love the larger ships for this fact. Entertainment: my favorite thing on the ship was the lido big screen!! They have so many opportunities to use this that I think they could do way more with it. I was very surprised they did NOT show any Christmas movies at all. I figured we'd see the polar express or Santa claus or something ...... but nope. They have it on during the day with photos while the Caribbean bands/groups play music which is a nice touch but I wish they would have late night movies and stuff maybe someday. We normally enjoy spending alot of time in the piano bar...... this cruise it was not so happening so I was alittle disappointed. Not much of a crowd any night so it was alittle boring but I did enjoy watching karaoke instead. the lady in charge of both the family & individual karaoke does a wonderful job. Be sure to comment card her because I heard everyone with comments get promotions or raises or something like that. We enjoyed the Beatles show, and Legends as well as Percy Crews the comedian absolutely hilarious!!(I hope we can see him again another time.) We went to the Welcome Aboard show, the Christmas Show on the 26th(the boat was rocking so much they had to cancel it on Christmas) & Sea Feud where I finally won my first Carnival gold medal lol. Besides that we didn't make it to the lounge. Fitness area: I didn't personally use it but my husband enjoyed working out daily. He loved the sauna and steam rooms as well. His one complaint was why do men just think they should come in these places totally naked and sit down right by you and strike up a conversation? I am not sure if the ladies is the same way but I would have been uncomfortable as well. Ports: two new ports for us this time. Cozumel was wonderful as it was last time for us. Our family LOVES Paradise Beach it is so relaxing and fun for the kids. The food and service was good and the kids enjoyed the free access to email thank God they limit it to 15 minutes so they could check myspace or facebook HAHA. Several kids did get "stung" by miniature jellyfish I believe in the waters here. They had vinegar up at the bar though for any discomfort. The weather was amazing I think in the 80s and it was cloudy when we first arrived and it rained for maybe an hour but the rest of the day was beautiful. I will take sunny & 80+ on December over snow and wind chills in Indiana any day. Costa Rica- we booked a private excursion of white water rafting with a another family from our roll call. We used Danillo Hall (from C.R. boards) and were very very happy with the excursion. We had not gotten our confirmation back before we left so I sent an email from cozumel and said we would be there if he still had room and there he was with a sign for us. His van was full but had two others families private taxis to follow him for the tour it was great. We paid $85 per person. Carnival does the same tour for $115 per person and they cannot bring the tour bus down to the rapids entrance so they had to walk I'd estimate a mile or so DOWN the road to ge there. I would have been pissed. It was a wonderful excursion and we all had a great day. We learned about their culture and the banana plantations and were satisfied with the day. It is a very poor country so please follow advisory and do not go out on your own by foot. Both taxi & tours seemed the safe bet to me. Panama- we really were not interested in seeing the panama canal as we wanted to 'go to the beach' for our holiday. We booked on our own a day at the Panama Sol Melia hotel. They have the most amazing pool area. It is three tiered you can jump off the cascading waterfall thing to below and we just relaxed here all day. It was $99 for the night. Bad thing they hardly speak ANY english at all. the website says they have free kayaking, ziplining, basketball, and volleyball....... yes it is all there but the ziplines have not worked for two years, nobody EVER came the entire day for us to use kayaks, and the bball & vball were just okay but nothing to write home about. We were there for relaxation so it was fine for us. I think we will plan something else next time or probably just skip this port. To be honest with you we had a great time and were happy to get away. Others may not have enjoyed it as much as us but honestly that doesn't really matter to me. I will still read reviews and take it with a grain of salt because every one has different tastes. i look forward to cruising again with Carnival in the near future. I can't wait to make my countdown clock which I can check daily and obsess over reading everything on Cruise Critic. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our second quadrennial graduation cruise with both of our daughters. (We should be done after this one.) The last time they were both graduating, we went on a Celebrity Cruise. Our travel agent persuaded us to go on the Eurodam. ... Read More
This was our second quadrennial graduation cruise with both of our daughters. (We should be done after this one.) The last time they were both graduating, we went on a Celebrity Cruise. Our travel agent persuaded us to go on the Eurodam. We were skeptical because my husband and I are 51 are our daughters are in their 20's. We thought of Holland-America as cruise line for those age 70 and up. Not during a holiday week.  It was perfect for our family. We loved it. In fact, it was clear that this ship was geared toward an older crowd and we all appreciated it. By going during the week of Christmas, there were many families but most had kids who were age 20 and up and I think most of them managed to find each other during the course of the week. One caveat about this review: We tend to be very easygoing. That means that things that might bother others don't bother us.We were very impressed with the Eurodam and Holland-America. We arrived around 1:30 and it was crowded at the port. It was somewhat chaotic for us because we were missing one piece of luggage and we had to go shopping to outfit my husband before coming to the ship (we arrived the night before - highly recommended for a winter cruise coming from a northern climate and a snowstorm). My girls and I were tearing apart shopping bags and putting the clothes into a new duffel at the port. Everyone was understanding. There was a long line to embark but it kept moving. This is in contrast to other experiences we have had on other lines. The wait didn't bother as long as the line kept moving. We were able to get into our rooms immediately and some of our bags were already there when we arrived. (Alas we never got the lost bad and we had Delta ship it back to Detroit - the front desk was great about helping us with it as was our travel insurance company. The travel insurance made the lost bag a good story to tell. We recommend buying the insurance.) We had adjoining staterooms on the 8th deck with verandas. We had booked guaranteed staterooms in the front of the ship with the possibility of an upgrade. We definitely got the upgrade and ended up just below the Lido deck and just aft of mid-ship. The staterooms were quite spacious and had a lot of storage. In addition to the drawers under the bed, we had storage above our couch, although our daughters' room did not have this extra cabinet. We also discovered that the closets could be converted to allow for more shelf space and less hanging space because some of the shelves folded up. They also give you plenty of wooden hangers. One tip: if you don't use them all and it gets rocky one night, put them on the floor of the closet or they will tap as the ship sways and you may not be able to sleep. The furniture in our room was very comfortable, including on our veranda. We were docked across from a Princess ship in St. Maarten and it was clear that the furniture on our verandas was much nicer than on the Princess ship. The lighting in the room was a little odd, although I really loved the reading lights over the bed that could be adjusted to many positions. The room was extremely quiet. We never heard sound from either adjacent room or in the halls. Our daughter asked if we could hear the music she was playing for an hour one evening. Not a note. Likewise, I was concerned that it might be noisy being just below the pool or the Lido buffet. The only time it was a problem was when the ship was rocky and something was making a noise from above. It wasn't so loud that we couldn't sleep. The only true complaint was that the room didn't have a clock. If you want a clock, bring one with you. The bathroom was the best we have seen on a cruise. It was nice to have a tub and the water pressure was incredible with excellent fixtures in the shower. In general, since the ship is brand new, everything looks fresh. We thought the furnishings around the ship were very well done. Very classy. Not glitzy but comfortable with a contemporary feel. We found all of the common areas to be done in relaxing hues and with furniture that was inviting and comfortable. Check out the art on the ship. The contemporary art is quite interesting. In addition, look at the photos the old Holland-America ships. It was poignant for me. My grandfather came to the U.S. on the Noordam in 1903. It was not so luxurious for him. I think he would have approved of the upgrade. We thought the food was wonderful and we are usually pretty critical of cruise food. It was some of the best food we have had on a cruise and it was very consistent. We ate breakfast and most lunches in the Lido buffet. At breakfast, be sure to check out the specialties of the day in the "entree" line and in the omelet line. You can have Eggs Benedict served in about 6 varieties daily. The muesli is great if you like that (I do). The orange juice is fresh-squeezed. The only disappointment is that they do not have a great variety of fruit. We were all hoping to have tropical fruits like guava, papaya and mango each day at breakfast and, as far as I know, they never had them. Not that we ever went hungry. One thing that we found out during the cruise, is that in the Explorations lounge on the 11th deck, they have cinnamon buns everyday that are like Cinnabons. Unreal. And on our cruise they did a cooking demonstration for the cinnamon buns and gave out the recipe. We did not eat in the dining room for lunch. We did eat at the grill on deck and they have every type of burger you could want (including fish and lamb). Really good. In the Lido they have a great salad bar every day and a good sandwich bar. They had hot entrees that were good. But we like eating the daily variety of Asian food that they served. I knew it was good when I saw members of the crew eating it for lunch since you know that the menu doesn't vary much week to week. The Lido is open pretty much all of the time for snacks like ice cream and dessert and other items like Mexican food and Italian food. On the last night they had mussels on the hot bar at about 5 pm. They were one of the best things I ate that week. One thing that's great is they don't nickel and dime you on the food. The ice cream was all free. Not so on other ships. Also, most nights they had a late night snack in the buffet. I think we went once or twice, although mostly to look, since I'm a bit of a "foodie", I wanted to see what they were serving, even if I didn't partake. We ate dinner in the dining room each night and we thought the food was excellent for a cruise. There was nothing that anyone ordered that wasn't at least very good and most was excellent. The lamb chops and prime rib were served as ordered and were as good as in any steak house. They had special menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas (as well as a special midnight buffet on Christmas Eve)and they were very good with items like goose and pheasant on Christmas Eve and Filet Mignon and lobster tail on Christmas. The evening we were in Tortola we opted to eat at the barbeque on deck which was a nice break from the heavy meals, not that we lacked for anything to eat that evening either. We had "as you wish" dining. We enjoyed it and ended up eating pretty close to what would be second seating, as it turned out. You could reserve a time to eat each night and if you want to do that, I recommend doing that when you get on the ship to be sure you get the time and the table size you want. We would have liked to have shared our table with other people so we could meet people. We were only able to do that once. If you want to do that, tell them when you make reservations that you have, say, four in your party but you would like to sit at a table for eight. We did eat at the Pinnacle Grill one night. It is absolutely worth the upcharge. We thought it compared more than favorably with the upscale steakhouses that are in major cities. It was clearly the best meal we had on the ship. We didn't eat at Tamarind, although we heard only mixed reviews from those who had. During the day, we very much enjoyed being on deck. The ship was full but there were plenty of deck chairs. We don't use the pool that much so we couldn't comment. The hot tubs were fine. The one curious thing was that the pool that had the cabanas and the padded deck chairs was the family pool. On other ships, that was the adult pool. There were so few kids, it didn't really matter. It was different from our experience on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. This ship doesn't have all of the bells and whistles that other cruise ships have. Our younger daughter said she would rather go without the rock wall that she might climb once in favor of nicer amenities on the ship. That sums up the Eurodam quite well. One amenity that I really enjoyed was the Culinary Arts Center. I really liked the Food Network-style cooking demonstrations. It was part of the reason we chose this ship. Get to the demos on time. They are pretty short, maybe half an hour. A good break from the sun on a sea day. We also spent a lot of time in the gym. It was a very good facility and it generally had more than enough equipment, except maybe the first morning. The equipment was high quality and all of it worked. The sap was nice, although we didn't pay to use the pools that were available. Those who did said they were great. At night we went to the shows. The shows were a bit over-produced for our taste - a lot of special effects that sometimes got in the way of the singing. The theater is very nice. Again, very comfortable, not glitzy, but classy in its style. Our girls went to the club each night to hang out with the other 20- somethings. (Be sure they carry ID. They carded and they wouldn't always rely on the ship room key pass to see if they were over 21 - which they both are.) We also went to the Piano Bar a lot. We weren't fond of the layout of that room since there weren't many seats around the piano and the others were somewhat distant. However, it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Bob has left the ship by now so they should have a new "piano man" who will hopefully be as much fun as Bob. We thought the service on the ship was outstanding. The crew had a very positive attitude and were great from top to bottom. I'm not sure that Shane, the cruise director, ever sleeps. It's clear that the captain and have set a good tone for the crew. The crew is very engaging and hard-working. We liked that we actually had a team of two cabin stewards who were very efficient and friendly. They actually knew one another in Indonesia. The other aspect we think is terrific is that most of the service crew is either from Indonesia or the Philippines. We thought that having only two cultures made for a more cohesive team and that there were few cultural problems among the crew members, especially since it is clear that the anyone regardless of their background could be a waiter or a steward. On other ships, people of different nationalities were stratified into certain jobs and we found that offensive. On Holland-America, they celebrate the cultures by serving food from Indonesia and the Philippines and by having a crew show, our week, by the Indonesian crew. One other touch that was nice. It was Chanukah the week we were on the ship. Each night the arranged for a menorah so we could have a candle-lighting and they served potato latkes (with incredibly good applesauce) as is traditional. They also gave out Chanukah gelt (chocolate candy) and dreidels (traditional tops) one evening. A lot of people went each night for the candle-lighting. We didn't do any shore excursions, although we signed up to parasail but it was too windy. In general, we weren't interested in what they offered on this cruise. We really liked the itinerary because we had two full days at sea and then two half days between Grand Turk and Tortola. If you like to be on the ship, this itinerary is a really good mix. Finally, I enjoyed the Walk for the Cure for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It was also a very nice touch. All in all, I would highly recommend this ship. However, if we were to go back when it wasn't a a holiday, we would probably travel with friends just to be sure that we aren't the only ones under 70 on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We had booked a air/cruise through a local agency. Our flight was out of Terminal 5, Heathrow to Miami. We were met at Miami International by a rep from Azamara and as we were the last ones thru customs, we left the airport immediately. ... Read More
We had booked a air/cruise through a local agency. Our flight was out of Terminal 5, Heathrow to Miami. We were met at Miami International by a rep from Azamara and as we were the last ones thru customs, we left the airport immediately. A swift and smooth transfer to the Miami Wyndham airport - my only crit of that is that it is far from anything, so were confined to the hotel. The next morning buses were arranged for our transport to the ship, our checking in went smooth and in no time boarded the ship, to be greeted by someone handing out drinks. We were told our rooms were not ready, would be shortly and if we desired could leave our hand luggage to be delivered to our rooms, which we declined. We were told that dinner first night would be at a set time, which we were asked what time suited us etc. we took 8 p.m. for our convenience. We went upstairs to Windows for lunch, which at the time was pretty busy, not surprising as Discoveries dinging room was not open. Even tho, it was no problem to find a table and already meet new "cruisers". it was time for us to go to our stateroom, we were more or less off center forward and found the rooms as we expected. We were aware that the bathrooms were a tad small, but over the 16 days had no problem with the size of the shower space etc. Did find that the carpets looked tired, but for us everything was clean, neat & tidy. When we walked in discovered that the beds had not been made up into a double, but we soon met our assistant "Ever" who said no problem, which we found was always the case, and when we returned after dinner, all sorted. out. Found the ship very easy to navigate We had a problem with the Aircon, realizing on the first day sailing it was not working "properly", we complained to our Butler, who said would report it, in a few hours it wasn't so we then at the CC cocktail party met Philip Herbert,Hotel Director, and within a short while he had everyone running around. Our main reason for doing this cruise was to sail thru the Panama and to be away for the festive season, Our only gripe was that we had two days one was Xmas Day and one Sunday,when we were in ports, which we felt was a waste, do realize that itineraries are difficult at the best of times. We were pleased with the different venues for eating, even tho they say only twice at the Speciality Rests. We had no problem in booking 2 more for Prime C which we loved. We also alternated between Breeze /Windows and the Main Dining Room. My hubby loved the sushi upstairs and I had one of my best pan fried salmon there. We did in the main eat our Breakfast and lUnch out on the "aft" of Windows and when we ate there in the evenings, we were under the stars. Yes there were problems with the hot water and for us from the UK, we do like our Tea Hot and in a Tea Pot - another minor gripe. Towards the end they "ran" out of Butter, that should not happen, I also found had trouble getting honey , used to look for the little pots, but then realized there were always glass jugs by the Tea/Coffee - so that was no problem. We knew that the entertainment was going to by Cabaret Style - only one did we think was a waste. Loved listening to Dan in the Cova Cafe, and found his show good as we did Sue's, the Cruise Director. Joined in a few times in the trivia quizzes in Cova Cafe, which always made me laugh. The sun beds on decks were wonderful. Yes at the beginning some people reserved seats, which to me is ridiculous, if no one ever did, one would always get a bed!!! We personally, found the officers and crew friendly and chatty, they have job to do and do it as best as they can. Not all passengers see things the same and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Did on the odd occasion feel the ships movement, when I did, ate some Ginger, which I took aboard with me - I am normally not a great sea traveller, but had no problems on the Journey. There is quite lot more I could write, if anyone wants to know something from our perspective, please don't hesitate to ask. We would definitely cruise again on the Journey and her sister Quest (which we have not yet been on). We go cruising for the ports and if the itinerary suited us would not hesitate to book Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
After 18 months of anticipation, we finally boarded Solstice! Info - We are DINK's in our 40s. Ok, one of us, the other one is lying. This was our 13th cruise - we cruise X and RCCL exclusively. Pre Cruise - We spent 2 ... Read More
After 18 months of anticipation, we finally boarded Solstice! Info - We are DINK's in our 40s. Ok, one of us, the other one is lying. This was our 13th cruise - we cruise X and RCCL exclusively. Pre Cruise - We spent 2 nights at the Hyatt Pier 66. Nice property with excellent service. We enjoyed sunset drinks at Pelican Bar. The pool was pretty crowded but this was the Saturday before NYE so that is to be expected. The workout room is quite small for a resort of this size but equipment was fine. I had a manicure for $50 (sigh, I can get one at home for $15 but it wouldn't have lasted the cruise) and had a shampoo/blowout for over $100 - way too much and she took over an hour and a half. I can get a shampoo/cut and dry for about an hour - I was climbing the walls towards the end and finally told her I HAD to leave. She was very nice but it just took too long! Gratuity is automatically added there. We were fortunate to have a Tower Room that faced the port so we could watch the ships leave and watch them come in - yep, we got up early enough to see several arrive although JUST missed Solstice. Checked out and took a cab (actually a nice SUV, lucky us) and arrived at the port around 11 am. EMBARKATION: Very smooth. We arrived early on purpose so had to wait for about 30 minutes. Once they opened it up, we were checked in quite quickly. Definitely among the first onboard around 11:30. THE SHIP: Visually stunning. I can really find nothing to complain about regarding the ship. The decor is tasteful, varied and soothing. It will be hard to find a way to fully experience the ship in 7 days. We didn't so darn it, we'll have to go back. POOLS: Aquaspa is my favorite lounging place for sea days and quiet mornings. This was no different. From the various loungers, cabanas etc to the placement of the whirlpools to the pool (ideal temperature - never fear, it is NOT cold), it is a lovely place. Chair hogs ruled on this sailing (New Years, whattaya expect?) but we found chairs before 9 am quite easily. After 10 am, good luck. Being a ghost, the pool is not my scene although I like going in the afternoon to listen to the band and enjoy the sun. This was the most crowded pool deck I have ever seen - not a chair to be had. However, again, holiday sailing and a large percentage of passengers who were sungods and goddesses as well as MANY children. I was pleased to see that security was vigilant about enforcing the no children policy in the Aquaspa. DINING: I found the Grand Epernay to be stunning. We had a lovely table (#241 - great location). Service was a bit slow the first 2 nights but they rallied later. The food was fine - not fine dining cuisine but very nice. Not a bad meal. We requested escargot and our maitre'd made sure we had it beginning Wednesday and again on Friday and Saturday. We ate in Tuscan Grille and Muranos. Both are very nice but I would return to Tuscan Grille over Muranos. I enjoyed the service in Tuscan provided by Slobadan and Luciana - if they are your servers, you are in for a treat. Muranos had a mistake on our charge - we had prepaid for specialty and he brought us the bill, not only for us but also for our tablemates who were in a suite so they were also supposed to be free. It took him 15 minutes to bring back the corrected ticket. Not the end of the world, but evidence that they are still working out some kinks. We had brunch at Bistro "For" 5 and had an excellent meal. It was virtually empty and our wait was brief - they do cook to order so our waiter told us it would take about 15 minutes. That was acceptable. Other cruisers we spoke with had mixed experiences - some had great service and food, others waited an hour for their food and finally left. Again, I think as the crew gets in sync things will be fine. LOUNGES: Michael's seemed too sedate and boring for us but others enjoyed it. Ensemble Lounge - we tried twice. The first time it was busy and it took an hour to get a drink. The second time we went in around 11:30 and there were only 2 people at the bar. The bartender never came over to us so we left. I think it is a nice venue for pre dinner drinks when dining in the Specialty Restaurants but didn't feel compelled to seek it out. On the flip side, it was the favorite lounge of others we met. Martini Bar was usually hopping and great fun. It is centrally located and between the main dining room and the casino so it is easily crowded. There was a quite large Latin passenger base on our cruise and the Sky Lounge was mainly the Latin lounge most evenings so we did not venture there except for Captains Club and Cruise Critic functions. It is nice, your standard lounge similar to the ones on M class ships. Quasar was small and we just popped in to look at it - I think it was really packed late night but with a huge amount of young people on the sailing, we didn't have it on the To Do list. LAWN CLUB AREA: We liked it. It's a lovely area with seating. This is where the cigar smokers went but with the wind it was never much of an issue. We liked to go grab a mid/late afternoon drink at the Sunset Bar and enjoyed it very much. We watched a small part of the Hot Glass show - it was interesting but 20 minutes was plenty for us. The complete show is listed as 2 hours. SPA: Glad I was onboard early - I still stood in line for 40 minutes to make an appointment. I really wish X would provide Captains Club members the option to pre-book spa appts - even if its just Elite members. It is silly to stand in line and it's also so hard on the spa personnel since people can be so rude. It shouldn't be hard to make this easier. The spa is lovely - the Relaxation Room is nice and since I had a Captains Club coupon, I could access the Persian Garden once. It was peaceful since I was the only one in there but not worth paying for and I think the PG on M class is much nicer. CONCIERGE CLASS ROOM: The room is efficient. The bathroom is greatness. My husband is 6'5 and could maneuver in there quite well and was very pleased with the shower. The shampoo conditioner body wash lotion are of good quality and lemongrass (mmhm) We found closet space to be fine but I'm an efficient packer. Our safe froze up twice but they fixed it in a timely manner. The interactive tv was great and got the seal of approval from the IT professional husband. It was great to access the photos and keep track of our account - the music channels were great and we enjoyed the bridge cam. Husband prefers M class CC rooms because they are more square and it was a tight fit for him to walk around the bed. Our balcony was quite deep (probably 15 feet) since we were on the hump - with the couch by the window so it was harder to see the actual ocean from the bed than we are used to. We had room service breakfast one day and it was pretty blah. CASUAL DINING: Food at the Pool Bar was always good. Aquaspa food was good. The sushi in Oceanview was excellent both times we tried it. Pizza was good. We eat breakfast early to avoid the crowd and never had problems. Waffles, omelettes fresh! Silverware is now at all the stations so no issues there. We never had table issues. The only flaw I saw was in the afternoon after the lunch is closed and before tea is open, the pizza/pasta station is combined in one line and it was long. We came back onboard one day and stood in line for well over 30 minutes. If you wanted pizza, you still had to stand behind all the pasta people. If you wanted pasta, vice versa. They should separate it and make it 2 lines. SERVICE: With very few exceptions, we had outstanding service. Most of the staff was friendly and eager to please. Our cabin attendant and assistant were mainly invisible but appeared whenever we needed them and did a great job. CAPTAINS CLUB: Our Elite party was a bit of a bust. It was at 11 am pre arrival in san Juan. Due to a medical emergency, we got into San Juan at 11:30 instead of 2 pm so all the senior officers were on the bridge. Perfectly understandable. Our disappointment was that since we did not know we would be arriving so early, we completely missed the approach and watching from the deck as we approach the Fort had been something we looked forward to. We missed it since we were in the lounge and unaware of how early we would be arriving. The regular party was fine, albeit a bit stuffy and too long. GALA BRUNCH: No more midnight buffet which to me is not a bad thing. They had a brunch which was outstanding. We enjoyed it very much - look for the chicken pot pies, they were fresh and hot. ENTERTAINMENT: I very much enjoyed Solstice. I have seen several Cirque du Soleil shows and this was quite on par. I recognized many of the "acts" but felt the performers were very strong. I should also admit that I work in entertainment so I am pretty hard to please. We also saw the late night comedy show of Louis Johnson and I enjoyed his act very much. CASINO: This was our only real "disappointment" and had nothing to do with Celebrity. There were 2 gambling groups on board, as well as a large group of passengers who apparently did not go to dinner. We could never get a table past 7 pm to play AT ALL EVER. The slot machines were the tightest I have ever seen on 13 cruises - I don't always ask to win (ok that's a lie) but I would like to at least play for a while on my donation. I would put $100 in and never hit a thing. No thanks - I prefer to donate more slowly than that! :) Had I been able to play at the tables, I might have recouped some slot money but it was impossible. DISEMBARKATION: We were at 8:45 and were off within 5 minutes. The easiest I've seen. SOLSTICE IN GENERAL: Will we cruise Solstice again? Yes. Will we choose her OVER M class? Not really. We will probably forgo holiday cruises again. Although we had a great time, there were issues with unruly children and out of control partying by the 16-25 age group. Since there were so many large family groups on board, it seemed like security was challenged by many things but overall did as well as they could. There was a diversity of cultures onboard and sometimes it appeared to negatively impact others enjoyment. I heard more passengers complaining than ever before - while some may have been warranted, sometimes it seemed to be nitpicking. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
On December 20th, I realized that I hadn't yet made plans for our annual Holiday trip to the Caribbean. My husband works for a major airline, so we are used to last minute travel. Since I wasn't able to book a hotel room on one ... Read More
On December 20th, I realized that I hadn't yet made plans for our annual Holiday trip to the Caribbean. My husband works for a major airline, so we are used to last minute travel. Since I wasn't able to book a hotel room on one of our favorite islands, I thought that it might be nice to book a last minute cruise instead. It has been 9 years since I took a Caribbean cruise and I even though I prefer doing my own thing on the islands, time was running out and if I wanted a vacation, I needed to make a decision and fast. I learned that Carnival still had outside cabins available for their New Year's cruise that departed December 28th. I was very impressed with the ports that they were planning to visit, as I had never visited three of them: Dominica, St. Lucia nor St. Kitts. I has reservations about traveling with Carnival, as I never had in the past and had always heard that other cruise lines offered better service, food, etc. but I overlooked all of this and couldn't wait to board the Victory. I liked the decor of the ship, the theme was the Seven Seas of the World and each public room carried the theme of one of the seas. Very creative! Our stateroom was larger than the staterooms that I remembered from previous cruises and was very comfortable. There was lots of closet space and I enjoyed the bedding that was complete with a comforter and duvet cover. One of the best things about this cruise was the cruise director Malcolm Burns. He said that he reads the reviews, so I hope he sees this one. I don't remember even meeting the cruise director on previous cruises. They were like the "man behind the curtain" in most cases but Malcolm was very visible from the first day and took the time to greet guests when he walked around the ship. One could tell that he was truly in charge of all the ship's activities. I especially enjoyed the planning he did for our New Year's Eve Celebration. As a district-level administrator of a very large urban school district, I have planned many events over the years and hosted a week-long national conference with about the same amount of guests that were on-board the Victory. I was very impressed with Malcom's energy level and wonderful personality. He made everyone feel welcomed, special and above all, assured that they were having fun...who hoo! He honored our service men, police, firemen, nurses and teachers the first night, which I thought was wonderful and made everyone pledge to leave their problems at home and have a great time. I'm not one to do this and usually spend a lot of time on my laptop or Treo during vacations but he was so convincing that I did exactly what he said and turned off my cell phone (except for brief New Year's Eve calls) until the cruise ended. (Malcolm, I'm the lady who wore the lime green top and black flowing skirt at the New Year's Eve Party). Anyway, you did a great job. Thank you! Scuba Diving in St. Lucia was also fantastic! The coral was very brightly colored, which is rare for the Caribbean and the marine life was abundant. We saw eel, lobsters and even got inked by a jellyfish as he swam to get away from our camera flashes. Seeing this made the first day of the New Year very special. We spent the rest of the day watching USC beat Penn St., and had the sports bar all to ourselves. That was also very nice. I loved the choices of ports because each one offered unique experiences. Dominica offered hot springs, waterfalls and rainforests, Barbados, beautiful beaches, St. Lucia and St. Kitts scuba diving (I was amazed how much St. Kitt's looked like Hawaii) and St. Thomas, of course offered us the best shopping in the Caribbean. We ventured on our own in most ports and paid a taxi driver to take us where the locals hang out. We enjoyed curried conch, Chicken Roti, Rum Punch and other Caribbean specialties. Back on board, the comedians were good but seemed a little nervous when they did their adult shows. The piano bar was a fun hang-out as well as the salsa club. I'm not sure why the disco wasn't open a few nights and when it was, it was practically empty. I visited the fitness center and spa just about every day. The machines are plentiful and the room was clean. I would only suggest that they install a water cooler or give guests small bottles of water during their workouts. The only negative rating I have to give regards the food service. On other ships, I recall having several restaurants to choose from at any hour of the day. I also recall elaborate midnight buffets with a plethora of food from which to choose complete with beautifully carved ice, butter and chocolate sculptures. I didn't see any of this on the Victory. I don't ever remember paying for soft drinks on other ships but the Victory charges for soft drinks and juice if it's not during breakfast. I know that this sounds strange but we were hungry many times while on our cruise. We slept until about 9 (we were on west-coast time) and by the time we worked out, breakfast was no longer being served and it was too early for lunch. The only option we had was either the 24 hour pizza or burgers, hot dogs and fries. Rather than eat something un-healthy, we went without and ate in port. Tired after diving and other shore excursions, we sometimes missed dinner but it was nice to learn that the Mediterranean Cafe served the same meal that the formal dining room served. There was of course a line. The lines were un-bearable at times. I almost fainted in line from hunger one afternoon after scuba diving and not having breakfast or lunch. The line was so long that it took over 45 min. to get a meal. They really need to do something about this. Perhaps open more stations for food service would help. I'd also recommend serving Caribbean food during one of the dinners so that people could sample the culture. All in all, it was a great cruise and I would highly recommend it for those who are looking for a bargain and great ports to visit. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We took a 10-day family cruise aboard the Holland America Zuiderdam over Christmas. We had 8 adults and 3 children. This was the 23rd cruise for my wife and me and all of the participants had been on at least 2 cruises. In a word, the ... Read More
We took a 10-day family cruise aboard the Holland America Zuiderdam over Christmas. We had 8 adults and 3 children. This was the 23rd cruise for my wife and me and all of the participants had been on at least 2 cruises. In a word, the cruise was outstanding with one major exception. Let me cover that first. HAL needs considerable work on their "As You Wish" dining. Since we were a large group with 3 children, I wanted to ensure that "As You Wish" dining was exactly that. I was told by my travel agent AND Holland America headquarters that I would be able to reserve a standing time (at 6:30 PM). I even had a Cruise Critic staff member who was on the same cruise immediately before us tell us that she was sure we "would have no problem with a standing reservation". When we attempted to obtain this reservation, we were not only turned down flat, BUT we could not get any reservation between 5 PM and 9 PM on any day. THE ENTIRE DINING ROOM WAS HELD FOR WALK-UPS BETWEEN 5 AND 9 !! If we had known this, we would have opted for their standard seating of 5:45 PM. But, once we got on board, we did not even have this option because the standard seating was full. It was quite apparent that the individual Holland America ships make their own rules and are not governed by their headquarters. That problem notwithstanding, the cruise turned out quite well. The rooms were quite large and we had the largest balcony we have ever experienced. Our room steward and waiters were outstanding in all respects friendly, attentive, willing to help out whenever they could. (The assistant "maitre d's" were rather worthless, but I guess the ship needs them to shepherd the waiters.) The ship was beautiful and extensively decorated for the holiday season. Sculptures, paintings, and pictures were well conceived and pleasant. Zuiderdam underwent a major overhaul and reconditioning in the Spring of 2008 and it was apparent since everything looked new. The food was quite good although not as good as Celebrity and Princess. Selections were extensive and the quantity more than enough. The Lido restaurant (buffet) was very good. It was divided into specific areas for deli, pasta, main courses, desserts, etc. and even had an Asian cuisine. Zuiderdam entertainment was outstanding. In addition to the singers and dancers, they had a comedian, magic team, and a singer. The smaller groups performing in the lounges and bars were also quite good. The travel guide, Dr. Richard Detrich, was excellent and provided lectures on the history, people, and land of each of the ports we visited in addition to information on the Panama Canal. The cruise director, Johnny Quinn, was as good as I have experienced and "DJ Matt" as good. The fitness center was quite good except that about 25% of the treadmills were out of order during the entire cruise. The Kids' Club (Club HAL) was absolutely outstanding. The folks running it were attentive with unique activities (including cooking) and making it fun for the children. All in all, it was an outstanding cruise except for the unsettling experience of the "As You Wish" dining. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation: The Fort Lauderdale terminal was small and because of other ships in port and the shared area, close in parking was impossible to find. The lines moved quickly and the check in process was painless. Unfortunately if you ... Read More
Embarkation: The Fort Lauderdale terminal was small and because of other ships in port and the shared area, close in parking was impossible to find. The lines moved quickly and the check in process was painless. Unfortunately if you arrive before 1330h (1:30 pm) you will not have access to your stateroom and will be directed to the Lido deck/buffet. With the entire ship on the Lido, tables were impossible to find. Really a ZOO and needs to be fixed. The Room an Outside Veranda (deck 4) - TINY is the word. Lots of closet space. Toward the end of voyage last day, some sewage smell in the toilet. Restaurants and Service - I must say the service on this trip was one of the best we have seen. The Lido restaurant in particular was well managed and service was outstanding there and in the main dining hall. The Sommelier's knew their stuff and of course pushed their product well (they don't share the $11/day gratuity but make their money on the surcharges) Ports of Call: The cruise called at Half Moon Key, Aruba, Curacao, Panama (Cristobal), and Costa Rica (Puerto Limon). • Half Moon Key These private Islands of the cruise line are the most useless (and for them the most lucrative). We did not go a shore, and spent a quiet day with a good book. • Aruba - It is the shopping port of the cruise and we arrive on New Years day when 90% of the stores were closed except some of the Holland America associated stores. Why in the world would not they delay or moveup by a day our shopping port call??? Stupid!!!!! • Curacao - a nice port for site seeing - we chose a private tour with "Leo" and we have a separate review of this elsewhere in Cruise Critic. • Panama - The canal experience was nice, but it was like watching grass grow. Because of a delay it took us over 6 hours to make the approach and traversing the gatun locks. Our tours started at noon (should have started at 0930. The tours have to be arrange by the ship. Panama is a dangerous country - there have been reports of buses being robbed. In our case we had an armed guard with us throughout the trip to the Embera Village. This tour is a MUST see. • Puerto Limon - We took an outside tour from Okeydokey tours (Charlie Soto). Again these local guides are much better and more one to one than any cruise tour. Disembarkation: The luggage hall in Fort Lauderdale is small and has always been an issue. Long backup through customs. However we made it from ship to car in less than 1 hour, which for me is painless. One CAUTION, we bought an expensive watch on the ship. We were singled out in advance (a hole punched) in our customs form for a special inspection. BEWARE the Zuiderdam shares all purchase information with customs!!! Summary: Pluses of the Zuiderdam - +Very friendly crew who work as a team to provide outstanding service + Pinnacle Grill food +Main dining room and Lido service +Dr. Richard - his talks were outstanding and covered his favorite topic Panama +Wine - expensive but the Sommeliers' know their job. +Sanitation - Purell was everywhere. The ship was serious at elimination of Noro virus. +Cold towels and drinks when reboarding at each port of call Minues - - Bar service - you never know what you will get. - Embarkation holding cell - Lido deck. - Schedule of ports - could have made some changes to accommodate New Year closings. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My husband and I booked this cruise last January at a cruise show sponsored by our travel agent. We are in our early 50's and have cruised before (2 Carnival and 2 Royal Caribbean.) Stress levels have been high for us the past couple ... Read More
My husband and I booked this cruise last January at a cruise show sponsored by our travel agent. We are in our early 50's and have cruised before (2 Carnival and 2 Royal Caribbean.) Stress levels have been high for us the past couple of years, so our cruise goals were to "get away from it all" and relax and be pampered. Since activities and ports were not our prime concern, we chose this cruise primarily based on dates and ship amenities. We drove to Fort Lauderdale from the Charlotte NC area, leaving a day early and staying at the Cocoa Beach Doubletree (a "freebie" with my Hhonors points). We were quite satisfied with our overnight stay there. We had a good night's rest, a leisurely breakfast, and finished the drive to Fort Lauderdale. I had prebooked Park-n-Fly through the HAL website at a GREAT rate ($82 for the entire week). They were efficient and courteous, and we arrived at the port about 1:00. This was absolutely the fastest, easiest embarkation I have ever experienced. No lines - and we were not waylaid by photographers as we boarded. We were on the ship within minutes of being dropped off. Our stateroom (4081) was well-appointed and comfortable, a bit smaller than I had expected, but offset by a larger bathroom with a tub. The luxurious bed, soft comfortable robes and the wonderful Elemis toiletries provided were a great perk and very conducive to relaxation.. Even though this room is a "fully obstructed" (a lifeboat blocks the view), the floor-to-ceiling windows let in lots of light and quite a bit of seaview. Our room stewards Allen and Taufik were attentive and efficient - couldn't have asked for better. The Westerdam is a lovely ship, well laid out and easy to get around. Travelers who expect glitz and lots of activity (such as we experienced on our last cruise - RC's Adventure of the Seas) would be disappointed, but it was perfect for our cruise goals. Our favorite spots were the Crow's Nest/Explorations Cafe, the aft pool deck , and the quiet observation deck. We did enjoy participating in the trivia and bingo conducted by Jazzy, the DJ. We had fun, met some nice people, and won some "Dam Dollars" . On our first day we had bought a Thermal Suite pass ($250 per couple for the whole week) which proved to be a good value, as we did not spend much time in port We had main (early) fixed-seating dining, which was the upper level of the dining room. The table layout seemed crowded, and the long rectangular tables impeded socialization among tablemates. Food choices were good , with some entrees better than others (Mahi was passable, prime rib was very good, steaks varied in quality and flavor). I found their appetizers, salads, and soups to be excellent, and truly one could make a meal of these. The dessert menu offered some interesting choices, including a cheese tray. Our dining service team, Waiter Gusti and assistant Eca were wonderful, as well as our wine steward Antonio. We did breakfast and lunch in both in the dining room and the lido - the food was fine both places, with the dining room option offering the opportunity to meet and socialize with new tablemates.. We found the layout of the buffet to be a bit confusing, and the difficulty in navigation was worsened the "no tray" policy. We did okay working in tandem but I'm not sure how solo diners or those assisting children would manage. The best lunch was the hamburgers and fries from the Seaview grill - they were excellent. Our first port was Half-Moon Cay. We were the only ship in port. There were lots of family groups there; this was the most children I saw the entire cruise. We had pre-booked the Glass-Bottom boat excursion; the view was not as clear as I thought it would be, but we enjoyed feeding the yellowtails. We decided to go back to the ship early and enjoyed the thermal suite. After HMC, the seas became rough and the weather turned bad. I had a bout with moderate seasickness for the next a couple of days (this has never happened to me before). Even though I did not feel up to par, I was determined we would get off the ship at St,.Thomas, as we had pre-booked the Champagne Catamaran to St, Johns. We did get off the ship and visited a couple of shops, but we soon found out that the excursion would be able to go to St. Johns because of the weather. They offered a substitute trip or our money back; we too the money and ran - back to the thermal suite. We were in San Juan Christmas Day. It was raining and most things were closed, and we'd been to San Juan several times before, so we just stayed on the ship and relaxed. By the time we arrived at Grand Turk, I was feeling good again. We thoroughly enjoyed this port. There's not much to do there, but it's great for beach bums. We spent a couple of hours poolside listening to music and sipping drinks at Margaritaville, shopped for souvenirs in the shops, and then laid out on the beach under the palms. We found there to be adequate entertainment options in the evenings - and they were very good. We enjoyed the nightly shows, particularly the well-staged performances by the talented singers and dancers, several funny comic/variety performers, an excellent string ensemble, and Nathan at the piano bar. We would have liked to have seen some entertainment scheduledearlier in to day, such as a pool band mid-day or some strings or piano in the late afternoon. Our tablemates convinced us to go to the Pinnacle Grill on the final night. This was truly one of the most enjoyable dining experiences we have ever had. Service was impeccable. I had the fillet, my husband had the ribeye, and our friends had the surf & turf and the lamb - all were superb. We had the to-die-for chocolate soufflE for dessert and THEN the waiter brought out a delicious chocolate mousse cake (It was my birthday) with our coffee. The Pinnacle is not to be missed and is well worth the $20pp upcharge. This was the perfect capstone to an overall great cruise. Like embarkation, disembarkation was a breeze. Westerdam uses a "silent" disembarkation, with passengers leaving at pre-assigned times. Passengers can move about the ship as they wish until they disembark. No herding into lounges to wait interminably, and no crowded stairwells, etc. Customs was very efficient, and port personal were friendly and helpful. Park-n-fly came through again - their shuttles were waiting for us and handled a heavy crowd with courtesy and efficiently. In summary, I recommend Westerdam for those who want to relax and enjoy traditional cruising. I give Hal and\ A+ for efficiency and quality service, We will definitely do HAL and the Vista Class ships again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our 4th New Year's cruise with RCCL. It was our first time on Freedom, which has surpassed the Voyager as our new favorite ship. Our party consisted of myself,husband, daughter(15), son(17), son(5), and friend(17) We ... Read More
This was our 4th New Year's cruise with RCCL. It was our first time on Freedom, which has surpassed the Voyager as our new favorite ship. Our party consisted of myself,husband, daughter(15), son(17), son(5), and friend(17) We flew from Massachusetts to Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 27th. We used GO Airport Shuttle. This company offers both shared and private service, no reservations needed. They have a desk right outside of baggage claim. We opted for the private van, no wait and held all the luggage! Approx cost was $135+tip. We were at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami within 30 min. Our rooms were not ready,so we checked our luggage and headed out for a walk. We went to Gloria Estefan's Bongo's for lunch. Do not go! It was overpriced and terrible, both food and service. We then walked to Bayside Market- easy place to spend an entire day and a variety of restaurants. The hotel was OK. The rooms were clean and comfortable. We had a view of the port and could see the Freedom when we woke up. Plenty of cabs available for the very short ride to the pier. Day 1,Dec 28th- arrived at the pier around 11. Check in for Platinum/Diamond had no wait. We had our seapass cards and directed to the next waiting area in under 15 min. We were then told boarding was to be delayed until 2pm!. We were also told they did not have a C&A lounge for Platinum/Diamond, as there were "too many people". This was disappointing, but the next announcement changed and boarding started around 12:15. We explored a little, found our diningroom table, then grabbed lunch in the Windjammer. The food was fine. Standard cruise buffet: Assorted salads, fruits, sandwiches, soups, hamburgers, hotdogs, a few hot dishes(always at least 1 vegetarian) and a dessert table. Staterooms: We had adjoining rooms deck 2 outside. This was our first time this low in the ship and it was fine. Porthole provides a good view, and the room was very quiet at night. The bedding was great!Not the Ritz, but better than any ship we've been on. Staff/Services: We had first seating in the Leonardo's dining room. Mustapha and Katey were outstanding. My husband couldn't decide between pasta and another dish on the first night. Mustapha served his dinner and each night brought a dish of the pasta for the table to sample. The cruise director Richard is in a class of his own. RCL should find a way to clone him! We have seen all of the usual shows, Quest, Love & Marriage. They are always entertaining, but Richard made them hysterical! Only minor criticism would be the cost of pictures. Maybe they could keep the price for individual pictures the same, but they should offer some type of package deal to those of us who like to buy a lot of pictures. Day 2-Our first day (almost 2) was at sea. I will say that the deck patrol were definitely visible and tracking the "chair hogs". This was a very welcome change from prior cruises. I watched numerous "hogs" return to find their towels or other items removed and someone else occupying "their" chair. We stayed primarily at the H2O zone and the flow rider. Both are amazing and entertaining. Day 3: Arrive in San Juan around 5pm. We walked around Old SanJuan, then took a short horse and carriage ride. Should we ever have this arrival time again, I would stay on the ship. There were 6 ships in port, way too crowded! San Juan has a few very interesting sites, but not in the dark! The ship does not offer any excursions either. Day 4: St.Thomas- We took a cab, which is actually an open sided safari type truck, to Magen Beach. Charge for cab was $8.00 per person. The beach was crowded, but beautiful. We stayed about 3 1/2 hours then made a quick walk through some of the stores at the pier. New years eve was great. The promenade was wall to wall people for the record setting 10,000 balloon drop at midnight. There was also a foam party on the pool deck. Day 5: St. Maarten- Again we picked up a cab at the end of the pier to Orient beach. Cost was $7.00 per person. For families afraid of the nudity warning, I wouldn't worry. While there is some, it is not overwhelming. Our 5 year old didn't notice and the teens were not mortified. Although it was a holiday, the stores at the pier were all open.Days 6&7 were sea days. We did everything from Bingo, Casino, and shows. Never got into the fitness center, but it looked nice. Intended to check out some of the boxing activities, but ran out of time. You really can't do everything! Food/Drink: We did not do the soda or water package. Our kids like the virgin pina coladas. We did the gold level wine package and liked each wine we tried. Did not try Chops or Portofino's' as we like eating dinner with the kids. Johnny Rockets, Sorrento's,and Promenade cafe were good and staff attentive. No complaints over any meal in the dining room or Windjammer. Used room service for breakfast wake-up call. They always call first, then deliver your order. Coffee is always nice and hot. Adventure Ocean: Our 5 year old loved it. He requested to attend all or nearly all of every session. He loved the science experiments and the art activities. The teens spent every night at Fuel/Living room usually back by 1:30- 2am. There is a 1am curfew, but frequently their "parties" would run later.Disembarkation: We had booked an excursion with RCL to the everglades with a drop off at Fort Lauderdale airport as our return flight was not until 6:50 pm. We were assigned a meeting time in Pharaoh's Lounge at 6:30am and we were off the ship by 7:30am and through customs and on the bus by 8:15. Unfortunately we were done with the entire excursion and at the airport before 2pm. Would not hesitate to recommend this ship to anyone. While we've never had a bad cruise, this one was fantastic!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Coral Princess Panama Canal 12-23-2008 to 01-06-2009 I recently returned from a 14 day Panama Canal transit where I was surprised by a rash of migraine headaches which completely disabled me and rendered me room bound for a good portion ... Read More
Coral Princess Panama Canal 12-23-2008 to 01-06-2009 I recently returned from a 14 day Panama Canal transit where I was surprised by a rash of migraine headaches which completely disabled me and rendered me room bound for a good portion of the cruise. Having said that, I cannot think of a better place to have a Migraine, the Coral staff was one of the best I've experienced so far. I got excellent room service and even was allowed to order some items off the main menu when I couldn't get out of the room. Lauren, the Assistant Cruise director, was the best, she made everything more enjoyable and everybody loved her. In spite of having some health problems on this cruise, I really had a good time and I learned a lot about how to travel better. I had a lot of misconceptions about some of the ports in Central America. I stayed back in ports that I otherwise wouldn't have and was pleasantly surprised at the small moments I found there. When I missed a port I made all my wonderful CC friends tell me everything! Strangers too. Our CC group was incredible; they all really made a difference for me. I made some mistakes and learned from them, always a bonus when traveling. The Coral is in good shape and if anybody is in E736 you will have the best room steward ever, Supatra. She took care of me like a mother. Our balcony room was a perfect place to watch the canal transit since it was the most aft corner portside; I even got to touch the canal sides a few times. Although I had a headache, we were gratefully not on the sunny side of the ship so I was able (after taking my migraine pills) to watch the transit from the bed and eventually go out onto the balcony. I had planned to go all throughout the ship while transiting but when I got sick I had to stay in the room and frankly that turned out to be wonderful as well. One note on this balcony; it is completely connected to the aft viewing area and not private at all. Anybody can climb onto your balcony and walk right in to your cabin so make sure you keep it locked. This only applies to the Emerald deck far aft balconies; all the other decks are not connected. Finally, only the Emerald deck aft port balconies are covered, all the rest are uncovered. I was not clear about this but we did not mind the privacy thing and were grateful for the shade. I took pictures of the balcony, if anybody is interested I'll post them on the Princess boards when I get them downloaded to my computer in the next few days. We enjoyed the ship so much because it was not unusual to walk through it and barely see a person. The ship was filled to capacity since it was a holiday cruise, but on this ship you hardly felt it. I never encountered lines during our traditional early seating in the dining room. We had a great diverse table which really made it interesting and the waiter was good if not great but our Junior Waiter Felipe from Chile was incredible, I can't praise him enough. We got there nightly at 6PM but often had to wait 30-40 minutes before our orders were taken and then things got rushed. Our table company was very good so it never was that big a deal, and I took my time eating anyway! We never encountered any angry or surly staff members all, I was struck by the happiness factor I encountered amongst all the staff. Nice. I liked but did not love all of the new menu items. I am somewhat picky, and frankly I don't really care that much about food so I am not a fair judge. I lost 9 pounds on the cruise so I am not complaining about it! I did have a wonderful Turkey dinner for Christmas. I heard that the executive head chef was on the ship and he created a Chef's table at the last minute, several of my friends were able to attend that and they raved about it. They also got to try Sabatini's Breakfast, which is normally reserved for Suite passengers only, and I think this was the trial run. Again, I heard good things. We ate one night at Sabatini's and they went above and beyond the call of duty in preparing my picky eater requests, bless them! I didn't feel at all like the pain in the rear that I usually feel like when I make all the special requests in restaurants and that was wonderful. The restaurant manager from South Africa was so nice. I loved his style, panache, and perfect attitude. The whole experience was fun and delicious. One thing I did notice was a reduction of security, particularly youth security. Last year I was on B2B Island Princess Canal transits during the holidays and there were a lot more visible security people present. I was told that there were undercover staff around but I didn't notice them controlling the teens much. Most of the kids were very well behaved and a delight to meet. There were a few permissive and somewhat aggressive families on the ship. I heard one large family kept calling the captain and asking him to move the ship closer to shore so they could whale watch, when they didn't get their way they threw a fit! They let their kids run wild, never a good idea on a ship as far as I am concerned. I saw things that shocked me regarding kids' and adults' behavior and I am a middle school teacher in LA Unified so you can imagine that I am pretty used to this. Parents, be very careful about how much freedom you give your kids here. I caught some youngsters "doing it" on the aft balcony at 4:30 am on New Years day, or rather they caught me as I was half asleep and looking for the line of ships waiting to enter the Panama Canal. Many parents innocently think nothing bad can happen on a self-contained ship. Think again about that private room for them and protect your precious cargo on cruise ships. Huatulco was wonderful, we took the Sail and Swim tour and swam in one of the bays and sailed around the others. We explored a cove and just floated around in the water with CC friends. As we swam back to the small boat a huge spotted Ray swam under us, it was so cool. The weather was perfect, the water was the same. You can easily do this town on your own, and a tour with Princess is also nice. You can walk to a great swimming beach right off the pier. There is plenty of shopping too. I missed my tour in Guatemala and was so bummed out that I made myself hobble out to the shopping area right off the ship with a raging migraine, I just had to buy something and I wasn't going to allow a headache prevent me. I pooped out quick but managed to get some beautiful woven purses at extremely reasonable rates ($4 each). It was worth it! Princess was generous and gracious enough to let me cancel my pre-booked excursion at the last minute without making me pay, or even making me go to the doctor. I really appreciated that, it made all the difference in the world. I also missed my private tour in Nicaragua, but was pleasantly surprised at the town of Porto Corinto. I was expecting it to be terrible, poor and filled with starving dogs and people but this was not the case. It was very cute; we caught a parade that was so interesting and different where they were carrying the statue of Mary through the streets and what a statue it was! I sat with my mouth open most of the time here, this is the kind of place where you get an authentic slice of the real locals, like it or not, but I really loved it! I bought a wonderful Chess set of the Conquistadors vs. the Mayans in ceramics for $30 bucks. I saw Crocodile purses for $35 and bought a wooden coaster set for $5! The prices were great, and the locals were very nice. Finally, I bought the best coffee beans here (I'm drinking it now) for $5 a pound. Wow. We did a tour in Costa Rica with Charlie Soto to the Tarcoles River; it was my 3rd and last time with Charlie. We had a large CC group and while it was enjoyable enough, there were some disappointing moments for some and there were quite a lot of us who didn't think we got what we were expecting or paid for. I might have been grumpy from the migraine medication which was turning me into a zombie. ? It was hot in Cartegena and there were 400 people on the "best of "tour so it was funny to see the massive line of buses, and soon we all descended upon the city like flies. But oh what a city, it is amazingly scenic and really not to be missed. The old city is gorgeous, narrow streets filled with colorful home and stores with balconies filled with flowers and flower boxes everywhere. I am certain I saw Carmine Miranda (and old movie star) walking down the street with fruit on her head. The views from La Popa Monastery were magnificent and we learned a lot about the history of the city from our tour guide. We even got to climb the fort and walk through the cave like passages. There was not enough time to shop for Emeralds yet I managed to buy one anyway. My only criticism is that there was not enough time to explore this fabulous port! Give us more time here Princess. Aruba was the only port besides Huatulco that I felt great at and didn't have to take Migraine medication. We arrived late and this was where I made a giant mistake; I got in line very early (an hour and a half before we got to port) because I had reserved a car and we were late and I was hoping to jam off the ship and grab my car late. We were 5th and 6th in line. About 10 minutes before we finally got to port, there were people cutting into line left and right and I started telling them to go to the back of the line and wait their turn. Needless to say, I was called mean names or ignored which infuriated me and hurt my feelings at the same time (not the best feeling combo) and by the time we actually disembarked there were 30 or more people in front of me. I could see the Princess staff with there hands full of complainers, and there was not enough security to manage the crowd which was getting aggressive. I missed my car anyway, and it was not worth the hassle and humiliation of being on that line. We walked around Aruba, hired a local to drive us to the Temple which was closed and went back to the ship early. One of my CC friends (hi Cathy) shouted to me from the ship as I was running off, she was wise to wait the 20 minutes it took to offload most of the passengers and next time that is exactly what I am doing! I don't mind making mistakes if I learn from them. After having some horrific experiences on past cruises with the hard sell at the spa, I broke down and got a message, which I sorely needed from all the tension of the migraines. This time I had a great masseuse, her name was Mai Mai and she was the best I ever had. ? She relieved me of all the knots and tension and I had to go back and get another massage the next day because it helped so much. Note to self, massages are much better than migraine pills on a cruise! We had an awesome trivia team and won a lot of games, so I have enough luggage tags to last a life time. We loved playing trivia on this ship, it was pack and fun and the staff that ran it was great. We participated in more stuff on this ship than any other we've been on, from game shows to Princess Pop star (go Amanda) and loved every minute. The shows were good to great although they were crowded and you had to get there early to get a seat. Also, there were some rude people who talked loudly during performances which bugged the heck out of me, and these people did this every night. Eventually, we stopped going to the shows to avoid this rude behavior. Manners do count. I took three pottery lessons on the ship during the first three sea days. I have taken Pottery lessons on several different Coral/Island Princess Cruises since they are the only ships that have a pottery wheel. I threw 14 pots but only had time to paint two, which is probably a good thing since I had to fly home. I love the pottery I made because I did it completely myself with only a minimum of help and they are both perfectly imperfect. Disembarkation was a breeze (just like embarkation) since we carried our luggage off on our own. We loved getting off the ship quickly so we had more time in Florida and got a full extra day of sightseeing. We spent three extra days in Key West (nice) and one in the Everglades (awesome) and I wish I had more time in the Everglades because I've never seen such a diversity of wildlife in one day including many different birds, rare trees and forests, American Crocodiles (much bigger than the Costa Rica relatives), and Alligators. We missed an Airboat ride because I had to spend some time picking up garbage dumped on the side of the road in the park. I couldn't believe people would throw trash in such a place and I couldn't just drive past it. It was well worth the extra time to drive to all the way to Flamingo (38 incredibly scenic miles) from the main park entrance out of Florida City because that is where we saw the Crocodiles, they were almost gone from the park (and south Florida) but are making a comeback. If you can, go to the Everglades. Pick up a few pieces of trash too! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Wow, Well this is my first cruise review but I have done thousand for hotels, so I will try my best. My cruise was from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires for Xmas and New Year with my two kids. Well Im going to write my review in parts, ... Read More
Wow, Well this is my first cruise review but I have done thousand for hotels, so I will try my best. My cruise was from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires for Xmas and New Year with my two kids. Well Im going to write my review in parts, and for my journal of each day check my blog: Embarkation: After a 3 days stay in Chile ( you can check here my blog: http://celebrityinfinity.blogspot.com/) I arrived to Valparaiso Port for a fast "check in" it just took me like 10 minutes, then I took a bus so I didn't walk like ... a lot, well I arrived in front of the ship and it was incredible the first time I saw it and it was incredible, well when I arrived to the ship I was escorted to my cabin with a champagne oh and my kids supposedly with orange juices but they were mimosas, well. Room: My room was 9009 and it was located Forward, near the elevators, When I enter the room I thought that it was going to be more little but not it was big, not so big, I also met my stateroom attendant, JosE from Philippines. The room was good I have a veranda of view to the port side, it has the pricey mini bar and the t.v. with channels in spanish, yeah for my kids, and a little bathroom. After this we decide it to go to a tour of the ship.Oh and I also understand why it is important the midship Overall Ship: It was big at the first time I was getting lost and tired, it´s an awesome ship, it has many things except that the things for kids are missing. I would said that this is more for adult, sorry for all parents reading this, but yes this is more for a couple. Oh when I go you will not know that it has more than 8 years, the only old thing I saw it was the hairdryer in the room that was really old. But well maybe it will be because it was in dry dock for 3 weeks. Food, Buffet, Ocean View : Well at the first days it was not so bad they also give very good mexican food, but all the days was almost the same thing, it was good specially the ice creams, try the banana with ron, It was not so bad, but at least they change some things, oh and their desserts were not so good as I expect. But well the good thing is that you can also eat in the AquaSpa that is healthier. or in the Trellis but is very early. The Trellis: A very good restaurant to have dinner, they always give you a different thing, thats what I like it, well the bad thing is that you need to get dress every day, oh and the formal nights were good, the 3 were one in xmas one in new year and the other the 2 of January, that the last one is the cool one. The food here its excellent. And my waiter Cristos was excellent, but Carlos that is for wine, that was the best person in all the cruise if you see him please tell him a big hello from Mexico. Activities: The activities were good, well the trivias were very bad and short, and some activities were never done. There was only one activity for families: Bingo, and I never won :( but well, they were some other activities but more for kids. Oh and about the Bingo, I like it very much, its very cool specially with the activity staff: Ezperanza, please if you see her tell her how is her spanish, also they were two more persons of Canada and Mayela from Mexico. Also the Enrichment Series they told me it was very good Children Club: Well for my 8 years old girl it was good the activity during the day but when it was the party well that was more as a free time, and guess what I bought the V.I.P Pass and I didn't use more than 50 dollars and it cost 200, well they also give you a xclub kit, that is like 40 dollars plus a Backstage in the Theatre and a Bridge Tour, that was very good. And for my 13 kid, well it was also like free time almost all day. He might not have a good time but he is more an adult so there was no problem. Entertainment: It was very good, the shows at night were incredible, also the Starring you wow I just love it. It was one of the things I really like, and this was for all persons, oh and I wish I could saw completely the Global Show, but my kids were sleeping and it was 11:30 p.m. so I go. Overall its very good the Shows and all the things Shopping: One word: pricey, except for the sales, The Emporium is pricey in almost everything, at least they have their 10 dollars things, the clothing was good and not so expensive. But the photos, o.m.g. 20 bucks for one photo, well minimum, you need to buy the ones from Xmas and New Year , plus the special elegant ones, thats like 60 dollars. Or more. But the photos were good. In Ports: To tender is the worst thing ever and each time it get worst, in Puerto Montt well not so many problem, in Punta Arenas we were at 7 Celsius and need it to wait like 30 minutes well for Punta del Este, very hot, and like 40 minutes, and just because they put 3 boats more. In Holidays: In Xmas it was good they give you a (I don't know how to say it) with a ... sorry I just don't know how to say it but it was good, very familiar. In New Year the worst thing for kids, my little girl I need it to take her to the Club in New Year and then I went to the Constellation and when I was getting to pass with my 13 years boy, they didn't have a paper to sign up so in the line I just heard the Happy New Year oh my god, I decide it to go to the Martini Bar with my second favorite waiter from Colombia, Karen a very good service, then we went to get my daughter and went to sleep... Oh and one thing its very disorganized, also there was some problems with a man that broke the nose of another men. Service: I think it was a very good service although I didn't heard the same from many persons, I loved the service from everyone, except one that was in the Guest Relations, she is from South Africa what a bad service she gave me, but the whole entire crew give me a very good service, well specially, like I say it Carlos and Karen, wonderful people, but Alan King was just wow, the best cruise director very funny, just the best person. Disembarkation: It wasn't so bad, I went off at 8:45 it was fast and kind of smooth. Well here was my long and long review, and I could continue, if you have questions just send me an email to oav1995@gmail.com its just for cruise things. Im just putting some ports, because CC don't have all In Punta Arenas I did a tour with the ship very good explanation but we didn't saw many penguins Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

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