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999 Holiday Cruise Reviews

My husband and I decided to escape on Princess this Christmas holiday. We have never been away for the holiday. We thought Hawaii, the beauty of the islands and the warm weather just might be the ticket. (No. VA.) We were not disappointed. ... Read More
My husband and I decided to escape on Princess this Christmas holiday. We have never been away for the holiday. We thought Hawaii, the beauty of the islands and the warm weather just might be the ticket. (No. VA.) We were not disappointed. Everything Princess created for this holiday sailing was something that delighted our spirits. Santa even showed up with gifts for the children. It even snowed in the piazza. That's a remarkable sight. Princess is our cruise line of choice. We were not disappointed. We have been on several different ships with Princess, never the Sapphire. We liked the style of the Sapphire very much. New to us were several dining rooms to choose from. Smaller rooms. Decorated differently. Although the food was the same it felt as if you were dining in a different restaurant. With anytime dining this allows us the freedom to choose whatever we feel suits us best. Great option! We chose the Santa Fe first. Because we are early birds we go to dinner early and retire early. So, one of the first things we did was to check on each of the dining venues available to us as anytime diners. We decided on the Santa Fe. Because this is part of what we enjoy on our cruises we like to make our selection early. In the end, since there were a great many families on board we learned selecting early to be helpful. There proved to be more competition for early dining. At the restaurant (shortly after embarking) we were greeted by a most helpful young man who selected a dining table for us. Little did we realize how fortunate his choice for us would be. What a difference our waitress and her assistant made to our trip. We felt as if we were dining in her home. The service was excellent and the kindness, attention to our needs, and professional style could not have been better. This detail set the theme for the rest of the trip. Our cabin was perfect. My husband has difficulty walking especially up and down stairs. Our first ocean view balcony although somewhat small was very clean and comfortable. With the balcony adding to the space this allowed enough area to relax in quietly breathing in the fresh sea air. Our attendant did an outstanding job keeping the cabin perfectly clean and tidy adding to the comfort. He never intruded in our quiet time but magically appeared to refresh our premises while we were away. We always enjoy talking to the other passengers. The addition of the families was very special. Lots of little one to watch as well as the older youth. I'm uncertain whether it was because of the holiday or maybe the beautiful weather we encountered in the Hawaiian islands but the tone of the atmosphere was delightful! This trip is in the winter in the northern hemisphere. The winds can be a bit strong on the islands this time of year. Although the Pacific was gentle the wind affected our getting into port in Kaui. Our only disappointment. An island we were looking forward to seeing. The captain tried but he just couldn't safely enter. So, he sailed around the island so we could see a special area that you can't see by car. Then he ventured out to another island close by so we could see that before sailing on. Honolulu was amazing decorated for Christmas! We forgot about the holidays given it was just the two of us (65 & 70). This brought it back. Oahu is a port with a full day. Princess arrives early and departs late. A great opportunity to really drink in the port. I wish this was possible with all the ports. That would be so much better!!! This day we were able to see the other side of the island and spend the evening in Honolulu. We tendered in Maui. That was fine too. Nothing could have spoiled this sailing for us. The big island only gave us time for one item on our list which was the tropical gardens. We were driven by cart to the depths of the garden and back when we were ready. Not much walking and plenty of benches. For us an outstanding choice touching the beauty of the island! The on board lectures were interesting .. history of the islands and its people. The shows great. Their female Zumba instructor (Zumba new to me) was fantastic. That was set outdoors .. even better. Did a walk for the cure. All great for the waist line! Everyday at sea there are so many things to choose from it is difficult to fit in a nap or balcony time . My advice ... get going! Take the family out for the holiday or any other opportunity. Enjoy the Princess style it is well worth the expense. We find by choosing Princess we receive the quality we are looking for and can do more cruises. We have wonderful memories. Great nights rest. I am not an employee ... I'm a fan of what is offered by Princess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We stayed the night before at the Ft. Lauderdale airport Hilton. Hotel was just O.K. and there is nothing in walking distance so you are stuck eating at the hotel which is overpriced. They really tried to sell their van service to the ... Read More
We stayed the night before at the Ft. Lauderdale airport Hilton. Hotel was just O.K. and there is nothing in walking distance so you are stuck eating at the hotel which is overpriced. They really tried to sell their van service to the port but we found for the 4 of us a cab was less money and more comfortable. Once at the port, it only took about 30 min to get on the ship. The ship itself is beautiful, our room was ready when we boarded at noon. Only problem I have with the outside window room was the bunk bed was over the queen bed and I kept hitting my head when I got in and out. Otherwise there was enough storage space for 2 teenagers and 2 adults. And now for the important part...the food! We find that the food on HAL is probably some of the BEST food on most of the cruise lines. This ship was no exception. We also found the service to be very good and we never had more than a 5 minute wait with the anytime dining option. The activities on the ship were good, not great. We have found that this is the only thing lacking with HAL. We assume that due to the average age on most cruises are older, that they don't have many options for family activities during holiday sailings. We enjoyed the Eastern Caribbean route. In Puerto Rico we all did the Segway tour and had a great time. At all the other Islands, we took cab/van/open bus tours. None were booked through HAL. All in all, we had a great time cruising on the Nieuw Amsterdam and are looking forward to next years cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We drove down to the cruise. We stopped in Fort Pierce, FL the evening before. Left about 11 am and got to the port around 1 pm. Parked the car in an area parking facility that was much less than the $20 a day for parking at the port. ... Read More
We drove down to the cruise. We stopped in Fort Pierce, FL the evening before. Left about 11 am and got to the port around 1 pm. Parked the car in an area parking facility that was much less than the $20 a day for parking at the port. We entered the building and showed our passports and the cruise document. Upstairs to a long, long line. The line had at least 25 agents working but it still took about 35 minutes to reach the counter. Counter process was quick, just fill out health questionaire, show the credit card and soon we had gold seapass cards. We skipped the photographers near the gangway and proceeded down the gangway to the ship where we were greeted by several people offering drinks--both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. They also had an area for children to be signed up for their safety bands. We took the glass elevators up to deck 9 and found our cabin. The cabin was nice. I am a big person so the room (or lack thereof) wasn't too big a problem. There was no way for more than one person to get past however. Our room steward stopped by to talk with us but he didn't get to as the cruise director was on the loud speakers reminding everyone about the safety drill. We were able to meet him after the safety drill. Celebrity means business about the safety drills. Our name was checked off the master list of passengers. Another passenger was told he could not bring his drink into the Celebrity Theatre. We arrived before the drill started; those alarm bells should wake up the soundest of sleepers. The drill didn't require passengers to bring life jackets. The crew on stage demonstrated how to put them on. All and all probably the shortest drill I have attended. We dined every night but formal night in the Anytime dining room (the upper level of the Metropolitan restaurant). Had no wait for a table for two each night. The service was the best the first night from a waitress from Serbia and went down from there. Food quality was generally excellent. The last night, Christmas night, was the worst as service went. They were serving a 7 course dinner which I wondered if it didn't throw things off a bit. We did not get bread or water for several minutes after we arrived. There was also great delay in taking our order; far more than the past evenings. I saw several staff arguing with each other. Again, something I had not seen on the other nights. Lunch we ate at the Caribe restaurant. There were lots of choices for food from Asian to Caribbean to hotdogs to a salad bar. No need to go hungry on this ship. Dinner here had no variety from one night to the next and closed up early. There wasn't much offered late night either. My brother prefers to travel on Princess with its lido restaurant open just about 24 hours. One thing both of us agree on is the lack of insulation from the jogging track above. Your eating and all of a sudden a bang bang bang from above. We finally figured out it was someone jogging. Getting off and back on the ship in Key West and Cozumel was easy. Upon your return, staff had cups of drinks available as well as a ice cold towel. It was very much needed. On board, you had to empty your pockets like at the airport. I had my cell phone on me and set off the alarm when I walked through. Put the cell phone in line to be x-rayed and went back through and all was well. The entertainment was very good. The two shows in the theatre were excellent and there was a variety of music in various lounges. I wish the jazz band had played more; the only time I heard them was when I went to the show. Disembarkation was easy too. Put your designated number on the luggage and put it out before 11 pm the night before. We were to meet at 7:30 in one of the lounges and then proceed to the gangway. We were off the ship in a matter of seconds after hearing the ding of your seapass card. The longest wait was at the luggage carousel waiting to get our luggage. On to the customs folks who wished us happy holidays, took the form, and said we could proceed. By 7:55 we were back at the car for the ride home. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We sailed on the Constellation December 17, 2011 Southern Caribbean. Appearance: Ship was well maintained and looked great. Staff: The crew was friendly and helpful. Wait staff were professional. Everyone you passed in the hallway ... Read More
We sailed on the Constellation December 17, 2011 Southern Caribbean. Appearance: Ship was well maintained and looked great. Staff: The crew was friendly and helpful. Wait staff were professional. Everyone you passed in the hallway said hello. Officers circulated freely and engaged passengers. Overall, outstanding. Entertainment: Theater entertainment was a mixture of production numbers and guest performers. The production cast of 15 singers and dancers were wonderful and the staging excellent. The guest performers were varied in entertainment value, but for the most part were enjoyable. The bands that played in the various venues around the ship did a fine job. Notable were the a'capella group and the string trio. The cruise director, Sue Denning, did an outstanding one woman show and she was a delight throughout the trip. Food: The food was acceptable. It definitely was not up to the standard of sister line Azamara and our recollection is that it was not as good as that on the Solstice and Eclipse. Health: We heard of a few cases of gastrointestinal infections. Nothing was said about it and I didn't notice any extra cleaning of handrails etc. Overall: It was a good trip and we booked another Constellation trip for June. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Let me preface this review with the fact that I was a travel agent for 18 years prior to 9/11 but this was only my second cruise. I'm aware of the different types of travelers and what was important or unimportant to me might be ... Read More
Let me preface this review with the fact that I was a travel agent for 18 years prior to 9/11 but this was only my second cruise. I'm aware of the different types of travelers and what was important or unimportant to me might be different for you. I decided that staying home for the normal holiday family drama was not in the cards for me and decided to book a vacation that would be relaxing and didn't involve much stress. A cruise was the perfect choice. I waited until 3 weeks prior to departure to book and still got a good fare and was even upgraded. These cruises are an amazing feat of timing and organization. 2000 guest and 900 staff have to be fed and entertained. I was impressed with the positive and friendly attitudes of all of the staff. It really is amazing considering the sheer volume of humans that roll through a ship week end and week out. Our cabin 4247 was a typical cruise ship cabin. Everything is tiny, but it was adequate. You can stow 4 full-size suitcases under the beds and we managed to unpack all of our clothes in the closet and drawers provided. If you care nothing about the room other than a place to sleep, book a cheap cabin and spend your money on excursions. If you like to spend private time alone, book a stateroom with a balcony. If there are more than 2 of you, it's cramped. I shared a room with my 18 year old son and it was easier than I thought it would be. We really were only in the cabin at the same time to sleep. I enjoyed "Freestyle Cruising" and the choice of restaurants. It was nice to be able to go to the 7 Seas or 4 Seasons for a sit-down dinner without a reservation and whenever I felt hungry. It was also nice to get my new-found friends together for dinner and not be stuck with assigned dining companions. Cruise ship food is what it is. They are cooking for 2000 people, 3000 if you include the staff. They are also trying to accommodate a multitude of palettes. There was typical American fare as well as a selection of Indian cuisine on the buffet and the salad bar had a great selection. Hamburgers and hotdogs could be found everyday at the buffet as well as freshly grilled on the pool deck in the afternoons. There is an icecream bar in the main buffet as well as soft serve in the aft buffet. That seemed to be a hit with everyone as there was nearly always a line. The 7 Seas main dining room is on the 5th deck aft and the food and staff seemed more accommodating than it's sister MDR, 4 Seasons, which is on the same deck mid-ship. We also ate at the French restaurant, Le Bistro, one night (dress up night) and the service was fantastic. Although the table next to us brought an over-tired toddler to a 9PM dinner and she cried which spoiled the atmosphere. (Don't bring your baby to a French bistro at 9PM!) The White Party: I don't know if it's like this on every cruise, but the first hour is open to everyone including children. The dance floor was a mosh pit of pre-teens. They had to leave after an hour, but then it was 18-22 year olds who were basically standing there not dancing, so no one else could dance either except of the edges of the dance floor. I had heard this party was on the pool deck, but on our cruise it was at Dazzles and really too small a venue to hold everyone. Smoking: If you smoke you are limited to very few places. The Promenade deck and port sides of the pool deck and deck 12. No smoking in any of the restaurants or bars and there is no cigar bar. You can also smoke in the casino. As of January 2012, no smoking in your cabin unless you have a balcony. Casino: Total snooze fest! Shore excursions: Keep in mind that you will not see very much of your destination ports on a cruise. You will see port shopping at port prices. The cruise line does not force you to purchase their excursions, but they do make you fear booking with other vendors. If you book with them and are late returning they will hold the boat, if you book elsewhere they say they will leave you if you are late. You also pay 30-50% more booking through the excursion desk and they are reluctant to refund money if the excursion was a disaster. If you book on your own and pay by credit card, you'll have a better chance of getting your money back if the experience was terrible. My best advice is to check with the concierge desks of local high-end resorts for recommendations. It might cost you a phone call, but you'll save money in the end. Many islands have large tour operators who can offer all of the same adventures. The internet is also your friend and reading reviews is helpful. Cocktails, beer, and wine: I found the prices to be comparative to US restaurants. A glass of wine with dinner $15, martini $14, drink of the day $8. If you like wine I believe you can bring it aboard but must pay corkage of $10. It is still cheaper to pay corkage than double the price of a bottle of wine which is what all restaurants do including cruise restaurants. They will tag your bottle and it goes to a cellar and will be available to you no matter what dining room you are eating in. Tips and Tricks: Water, tea, coffee and milk are the only free drinks. At breakfast there is OJ, cranberry and apple juice but they turn that off after breakfast. If you like juice or soda, buy the softdrink pass for $70 per person, OR you can bring your own. You are allowed to bring aboard cases of water or sodas with your luggage. A large bottle of water on board is $7. This really only works if you are driving to your port. The number one piece of advice I can give to anyone traveling whether on a cruise or otherwise is relax and smile. Your attitude will be reflected back to you. Kindness and respect is the international currency. If one thing goes badly, take a deep breath and wait for it to pass. If you meet new people who are constantly complaining that everything is awful, avoid them. Attitudes are contagious. Bottom line, we had a great time, made new friends, saw new places and would go back again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Background: my wife and I booked an 8 day Caribbean cruise on the Holland America (HAL)Westerdam since this was our first Christmas without our grown children. We have cruised on Carnival and Norwegian several times, but this was our first ... Read More
Background: my wife and I booked an 8 day Caribbean cruise on the Holland America (HAL)Westerdam since this was our first Christmas without our grown children. We have cruised on Carnival and Norwegian several times, but this was our first time with Holland. As a scuba diver, I wanted to take this cruise so that my wife would see my favorite Caribbean island, Bonaire. Pre-cruise- we originally booked directly through HAL for a Superior Guaranty balcony suite for $1,299. We upgraded from a Superior balcony to a Deluxe balcony room after receiving an Holland email offering a $199 upgrade. (Great upgrade!). Ft Lauderdale: We flew Southwest airline (bags fly free!) and stayed overnight at the Sheraton FL Beach resort ($65/nt Priceline) located about 1 mile from Port Everglades. Tip: reserve wine and champagne online from Total Wine & More Ft Lauderdale and pickup your order on the way from the airport or to the cruise terminal. Embarkation: an easy taxi cab ride ($20) from the Sheraton to Pier 19 at Port Everglades where the Westerdam (and many other ships) was docked. Curb side baggage support was good, but keep an eye on your box of wine/champagne. We only waited 10 minutes in the "Priority" line to check in and immediately boarded the ship. Cabin: We splurged for a Deluxe Verandah suite on the Rotterdam deck (7th floor) and across the hall from the Neptune Lounge. The cabin was clean and available to us as soon as we boarded the boat at 12noon. The suite was very large (5-700ft) with seating for 6 adults inside and outside. The other benefits of the deluxe suite included the dual sink, bathtub & shower, separate dressing area for my wife, daily flowers and fruit, FREE laundry and dry cleaning and daily breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill. Neptune Lounge- the lounge was across the hall from our room and was available from 7am-8pm daily. The concierge's Margaret and Jane were very helpful with everything from dinner reservations, excursions and hand carrying our wine to the main dining room. Initially, we were very concerned that the other suite guests would be snooty, but we were pleasantly surprised. Dining- my wife and I enjoyed breakfast in the Pinnacle grill, especially the lox and bagels! We prefer the main dining room (MDR) versus the Lido deck and the MDR food was fantastic compared to NCL! The service was fast and friendly from the Maitre D, waiter (Kosi) and Wine waiter. We really enjoyed the formal night (dress varied from sport coats, suites to tuxedos) and the food was fantastic. Entertainment- we really enjoyed the entertainment variety on HAL, from classical violin's, piano bar, casino, to the Vista lounge. Ports- we enjoyed the 4-wheel jeep ride excursion on Aruba, particularly since it rained that day and was fun driving through the muddy water. We walked around downtown Curacao and then rented a car for $52/day from Budget car rental in the Renaissance hotel next door to the cruise port. We toured the back roads of the Curacao island and enjoyed the small beaches and Boca National Park. As expected, Bonaire was the best of the three islands since its the best scuba diving. Summary- we really enjoyed our first cruise with HAL and will definitely choose HAL again in the future. We consider HAL to be much classier than Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and HAL appears to be focused on serving you rather than up selling you. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Embarked on the WindStar's Windsurf for their Yachtman' Caribbean from Dec 24, 2011 through Dec 31, 2011 out of St Maarteen. Overall, this was an outstanding cruise. The wife and I have never been on the Windstar line before, ... Read More
Embarked on the WindStar's Windsurf for their Yachtman' Caribbean from Dec 24, 2011 through Dec 31, 2011 out of St Maarteen. Overall, this was an outstanding cruise. The wife and I have never been on the Windstar line before, and after cruising many other large ships decided to try this out. We both agreed that as long as we can help it, we will never do another large cruise ship again. Since this was Christmas week, the demographics of the boat were somewhat different as there were some families, but the boat primarily was primarily filled with "older" couples in their late 40s to early 60s (we are in our early 30s). Even though the boat was "booked" at capacity, I think like 312 or so, the entire week we always felt that we had the boat to ourselves. The largest "gathering" of people typically occurred during the port talks in the evenings and had about 40 or so people in the lounge. We never found it difficult to find a lounger outside or get a table to ourselves at dinner, or find a spot to just sit alone when we wanted to. And on the flip side, if you wanted to be social and sit with others, that was not an issue either. To be honest, there were not that many "recent" reviews of Windsurf out there and I was a little nervous about booking. However, now I am a little nervous about writing this review because I don't want others to find out how great it was! FOOD: The food overall I would classify as one notch about a large cruise line. My wife is vegetarian and never had an issue finding dishes she could eat. They are all typically marked with a V on the menu and after Day 1, the crew knows and remembers your preferences. For such a small boat you have a couple different places to eat. "The Restaurant" -- Basically your main dining room, in which you could eat anytime between 7pm and 9pm. The menu changed each night. There was someplace called "Degrees" that you could eat at, but we never did. You could also eat outside at their 2 "special" restaurants which required a reservation. We ate at "Candles" one night, basically a steak house menu, and ate on the aft portion of the boat outside. It was nice to be outside, but did not think the food was any better then what was inside. They just brought out whatever the vegetarian option was from the inside menu for the wife, not a big issue. For breakfast we would always go to the Terrace which consisted of a good sized/optioned breakfast buffet along with a short menu to order from. For lunch, we would always stop by the "Yachtclub" and grab some sandwiches which we would bring ashore with us. CABIN: For a small boat, the cabin was of ok size. We thought we would miss having a balcony, but did not since you are really rarely in the cabin. So the bottom 3 decks are basically all cruise passenger cabins and seemed to be based on class of pay. Deck 3 was all the suites (basically 2 rooms joined together), Deck 2 was normal sized cabins, and Deck 1 was normal sized cabins. When I originally priced out the cruise, of course 3 were the most expensive, then 2, then 1. We ended up in a cabin on deck 1, don't see any reason why I would want to spend more money to get a cabin on deck 2 as they are all the same. Maybe you upgrade to deck 3 for a suite if you want more room, but since you spend so little time in the cabins and there are no balconies, deck 1 made the most since to us. Overall the cabins were always very clean (along with the rest of the ship). The ship actually had just completed a refit 2 weeks prior to us coming aboard, so there was lots of new carpet, etc. Ship looked great, not aged at all. DAY 1: Arrival to St Maarten / Ship Departure We arrived into St Maarten on Saturday Dec 24 on USAir from CLT. Not a bad flight arriving around 220pm. The boat left at 7pm and they asked you to be onboard by 6pm, so we just took a taxi from the airport to the port. Cost was $20 for the 2 of us. No issues, only took about 30 mins to get to the port. Would say this method was less expensive than the cruise ships prearranged transportation and not difficult. All you had to do was get your luggage and walk outside. Checking in seemed to be very informal compared to other cruise lines. You walked onboard, they checked your name, then at one station they provided you paperwork to fill out. Then you would go into the lounge, fill out the paperwork (they provided free fingerfood and drinks), and then you would go drop off the paperwork at another station, they would take your picture and then you went to another station to get your room key. Sounds complicated, but was pretty easy and stress free compared to waiting in large lines with other cruise lines. That night was pretty uneventful, we did the lifeboat drill, ate some dinner, watched the boat leave, and then went to bed. Day 2: Tortola / Jost Van Dyke Arrived at Tortola's Soper's Hole at 10am. Last tender back to the ship was 530pm, so plenty of time on shore. With it being Xmas day, there was not a lot of activity on the island and cabs were just not around much. We ended up going to "Nani Cay" which was probably not one of the better beaches, but its location near a main road and cab stand gave us a better option of getting back to the boat. Soper's Hole is also home to Pursers Rum (misspelled?) and we drank some painkillers at the bar. The boat left Tortola around 6pm and arrived at Jost Van Dyke at 7pm. Last tender back to the boat was at midnight, so plenty of time to hangout of Foxy's which was great. The boat tendered us in to the side that Foxys was on, so made it very easy to get to. And the good news is that the Captain decided to change up the itinerary (originally supposed to depart Jost Van Dyke at midnight and go to Virgin Gorda) and decided for us to stay overnight at Jost Van Dyke until the following afternoon so we could enjoy the beaches here as well. Day 3: Jost Van Dyke / Virgin Gorda Tenders ran from early morning to 3pm on Jost Van Dyke so plenty of time to experience the island and the beaches. We walked from the little town that Foxys is in over the mountain to the beach that Soggy Dollar Bar is out and spent the day. It was a very hilly walk over there and took about 35 mins, but worth the views (and we took a cab back, only $10). Beach was great, got some chairs and drinks and watched all the boats come and go into the area. That evening we went back to the boat and enjoyed the sail over to Virgin Gorda. We anchored near the Bitter End Yacht club and went ashore to the club that evening. A pretty cool place overall with some neat bars. Lots of private boats anchored in the harbor and their crews and passengers ashore having a good time. Day 4: Virgin Gorda Tenders started at 8am and went through 450pm. The tenders went in a triangle from the boat to Bitter End Yacht Club, then to Prickly Pear Island, then back to the boat. Prickly Pear is a small island that the Windsurf I guess rents and they through a beach BBQ on it that afternoon. The island and beach are pretty nice, the boat brings over all the water toys (kayaks, sailboats, etc) and you can use them on the beach. The one thing they do not do is bring you over to the main island (say if you wanted to go see the baths) but they do have an excursion for $49/person to do this which gets you about 1 to 1.5 hours there). So we decided to try to go ourselves and it ended up being pretty easy. You tender to the Bitter End, then go to the reception for the hotel, have them organize a cab on the main island to meet you where the Bitter End's free tender service drops you off. So you take the Bitter Ends free tender service to the main island and then a $25 cab each way to the baths. So it was really not that difficult, just had to ask some questions on how to do it, but you save half the price and you can spend as much time at the baths as you would like. Day 5: Basseterre, St Kitts Tenders started at 8am and last one was to the boat was 530pm. We had been to St Kitts before and were not that impressed. Granted you are forced to enter through the port at Basseterre which is very touristy and oriented to cruise ship passengers. Locals try very hard to get your business for cabs and to take pictures with Monkeys. We ended up taking a cab to the other side of the island (facing Nevis) and went to the beaches there. Not horrible, and St Kitts is a very beautiful island, but would rather go somewhere else. The entry into the island kind of spoils the experience. Day 6: Les Saintes, Guadelope Tenders started at 8am and last one from ashore was 345PM. This was really the "gem" of the trip. Very small French island and the local population do not care if you are there or not. We got off the tender and walked around the little town then hiked over to one of the beaches. The walk there and back took about 1 hour total, 30 mins each way. On the way back we spent some more time in the town and literally caught the last tender to the boat. While we walked, others rented scooters and saw more of the island. Looked like this would have been a pretty good option as well as there was not much traffic or people around. Day 7: St Barts Tenders started around 10am and last tender back to the boat was midnight. I had high expectations for the island but was a little disappointed. It was neat to anchor were we did among all the high private yachts (including the largest in the world) and just see all the money! But, the island was very crowded, probably in anticipation of New Years on the following day and there were literally no rental cars or scooters available to rent. In addition, the island is VERY expensive. A cab to a beach on the other side was like 25 euros one way. We ended up just walking to "Shell Beach" about a 10 min walk from the port. Nice beach and lots of shells. Certainly not the highlight would think St Barts is best when it is not super busy unless you enjoy that type of thing. Day 8: St Maarten / Departure Boat arrived at some point in the morning and everyone was required to be off by 845am. Since we had until ~300pm to be at the airport, we rented a car in the port that could be returned to the airport and just drove around the island. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
OK first let me say we where very worried after reading so many negative reviews. This was our first cruise that had freestyle dining and the tips "forced" upon you. Most reviews we read stated that the employees where lazy and ... Read More
OK first let me say we where very worried after reading so many negative reviews. This was our first cruise that had freestyle dining and the tips "forced" upon you. Most reviews we read stated that the employees where lazy and don't expect anything extra. I must say as a experienced cruiser we where pleasantly surprised. The Sky isn't the best ship we have been on but it was a blast. The Positive things: The food was nothing like we expected according to prior cruisers and their reviews. We ate everywhere except the pay places like Cagneys and the Italian place. Everything was always fresh and hot. There was a large variety from vegetarian,Indian,Asian and others. We ate at the buffets inside and pool side. Excellent burger and that type fare. Our room was small but was kept clean and neat (9345) They have 24 hour room service that is included unless you order pizza (5$ for large) Drinks are like most high price and easy on the liquor. (We carried on our own vodka and rum) Btw way in to types of ways to test their checking. They caught neither. They constantly are cleaning and picking up you plates and replacing silver/napkins. Their organization for exiting the ship was some of the best we have seen.Their private island Stirrup Cay blows away other private islands we have visited by a long shot. All newly built buildings, bathrooms, kitchen/buffet etc. Food on island was ribs,chicken,burgers, hotdogs and all the other fruit and side dishes. I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the point. We was pleased with our experience and will be back. Negatives: The ship is layed out really weird and cut up. Not sure why this is. But we are not that difficult. To wrap this up let me add unless you are a pain in the ass type traveler or one of those people that can never be pleased or maybe your a billionaire and used to 200$ a plate meals every day I would ignore the majority of the previous negative reviews. After using this site for the last several years to review ships prior to travel Ive found most negative comments to be 90% B.S. Check them out and have a great time. We will be going again soon. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Little did we know the true meaning behind the name of this beautiful ship when we boarded her on Christmas Eve. But all was to be revealed to us on the final day at sea. As for the beginning, this was our 5th cruise overall, and our 2nd ... Read More
Little did we know the true meaning behind the name of this beautiful ship when we boarded her on Christmas Eve. But all was to be revealed to us on the final day at sea. As for the beginning, this was our 5th cruise overall, and our 2nd w/ Royal Caribbean. Previously we'd been on RCCL's "Sovereign of the Seas" and on the Celebrity "Century" & Celebrity "Millennium". I can now report that the "Jewel of the Seas" is by far more luxurious and breathtakingly beautiful than any of the others. We were awestruck at the glittering chasm of the 7-story atrium in the center of the ship. On decks 4 through 10, there are numerous viewing platforms and spacious glass elevators offering glorious views up, down, and in every direction imaginable, each level tastefully trimmed in the classic Christmas style. To further stimulate the multi-sensory experience, each floor contains a sitting or reading area which allows you to rest or read quietly while Christmas carols & soft piano music echo upward, calming the soul. The ship is very well laid out and easy to navigate. Radiating out from the center atrium, most of the public areas are quickly accessible and near at hand. The Schooner Bar, The Safari Club, and the cleverly placed Cinema are just some of the attractions that share Deck 6 with the Casino and the Coral Theater. There is also a billiard room, complete with hydraulic self-leveling billiard tables. High up on deck 13 amidships, overlooking the pools and the bow of this luxury liner, the Hollywood Odyssey is another lovely evening hideaway to sit in before the disco crowd arrives. But our favorite night club was The Safari Club, far astern on deck 6. This richly appointed and cavernous room features warm earth tones, oak and cherry wood throughout, soft and romantic lighting, and the coziest private corners anywhere on the ship. Of the many swimming pools and whirlpools, we frequented the Solarium's whirlpool and large salt water pool every single day and thoroughly enjoyed the therapeutic and relaxing waters. Its close proximity to the Windjammer Cafe made it a popular but not overcrowded location for many. It also helped that children under 16 are not permitted in the Solarium pools. We didn't use the nearby Spa, but it certainly looked first rate and well furnished for those who did. There was a mini-putt golf course on the sun deck, ping-pong tables, the rock climbing wall, shuffleboard, and so many other places to recreate and have fun. Food was excellent, generous, always available and easy to find. At the Windjammer Cafe, the menus featured a wide variety of American, European, and other ethnic offerings, all of which were tasty and fresh. Especially scrumptious was the chicken curry, the Christmas Turkey Dinner, the strawberry whip dessert, and a low-fat passion fruit pie. Breakfast too was abundant and hearty. Our only issue with the Windjammer was that all of the buffet islands were located together in the center of the room, which kind of forced everyone to crowd together as they helped themselves. There wasn't a food line per se, and it just required a bit more caution, patience, and courtesy than had it been arranged otherwise. The Windjammer Cafe itself is a place of great elegance; spacious, with very upscale tables & chairs, fine wood and brass furnishings, linen napkins, plentiful window seating, and a helpful and alert staff. It truly felt like being in the main dining room. It made the Celebrity Century's Islands Cafe look something like a very nice Ryan's Steakhouse or other cafeteria. We only ate in the main Dining Room once, that being Christmas Brunch. Lovely room, wonderful personalized service, and again, very good soup, steak, and Mahi Mahi entrees. Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room are open seating, and you order off a menu, whereas the Windjammer simply had more choices. Never used the specialty dining rooms but they too looked spectacular. Embarkation and disembarkation: Wow! Fastest, smoothest, easiest experience EVER! Better than Ft. Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, or Miami. Maybe it was just because it was Tampa, maybe it was a new system they've created, but we were parked across the street and on the ship within 30 minutes. Getting off was even faster. Literally within 15 minutes of being called from the Coral Theatre waiting place, we were in our car and on the road by 8:30 am. Doesn't get any better than that. The Song and Dance troupe shows were slightly disappointing as a whole. One called "City of Dreams" was downright ridiculous; outlandishly silly costumes, nonsensical thematic flow, and it even degraded into moments of rap & hip-hop. A full one third of the audience had walked out before the blithering spectacle was half over. The other show, a standard sort of cruise ship Broadway revue, was much better received and done with more taste. But Celebrity Cruises definitely does this sort of entertainment better. On the plus side, "The Temptations" tribute band was first rate and a highlight of the cruise. Los Pampos Gauchos was also a fantastic hit; high energy drumming, dancing, and stunts, all laced with bawdy Latin flavored comedy and audience participation. Perfect show for a cruise ship! Our room was a 9th deck stateroom with a private balcony. Gorgeous spacious room, no problems whatsoever with plumbing, HVAC, or anything of the sort. I'm a light sleeper and easily awoken, and although we could hear the beat music from the pool deck, it never kept me awake. What did disturb me were our neighbors on the adjoining balconies. One side was a bunch of chain smokers, the other side a rambunctious and talkative family with kids. I called security at 2am to tame the latter group, and the warnings were effective. But I won't bother with a balcony ever again. We didn't get our money's worth out of it. You can't control who you get stuck next to, and too much noise comes in even when the door is closed. (Note to people in 9068: Learn how to behave yourselves in public before you go on another cruise!) Now for the Christmas miracle. At some point during the last full day of the cruise, the diamond stone from my wife's engagement ring fell off somewhere in the ship. As she went into hysterics, I spent two hours retracing our steps from the previous evening and morning's activities. The Coral Theater, the Cinema, the Windjammer, the Safari Club; I went over every spot with a fine tooth comb and flashlight. But no luck. I finally went to Guest Services, Lost & Found, etc...and reported it. I told them I needed a Miracle. She was only able to offer the services of some security personnel who volunteered to go over our stateroom as closely as possible, something my wife had already done. I accepted. Three Indian and/or Nepalese gentlemen proceeded to turn the stateroom upside down and inside out, and finally, after 20 minutes, far in the corner under the upturned couch, they FOUND IT! My wife burst into tears and so did they, thrilled that they were able to help us recover our lost treasure, our Jewel of the Seas! They were rewarded for for going above & beyond the call of duty. This could have been a tragic loss for us, but these gentlemen were our heroes! We have no hesitation in giving this lovely and elegant ship our highest recommendation. We'll certainly consider it again in the future depending on where she's going. But to be honest, I think we might be through with the typical Mexican and Caribbean ports of call. They're just not all that interesting anymore. I think it might be time for the Baltic or Mediterranean Sea this summer..!!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Pre-cruise: We flew into FLL two days early and instead of staying at the usual pre cruise hotels, we rented a car and drove 45 minutes (in traffic) down to Miami's South Beach and stayed at The Miami Loews Hotel. Our stay was ... Read More
Pre-cruise: We flew into FLL two days early and instead of staying at the usual pre cruise hotels, we rented a car and drove 45 minutes (in traffic) down to Miami's South Beach and stayed at The Miami Loews Hotel. Our stay was fabulous! Great location, awesome service, great pool and beach area. My only tip...get a room with a balcony, otherwise the rooms are a bit small. Embarkation: Husband dropped the 3 of us off at the cruise terminal at 10:45, then he returned the rental car (rental car place gave him a complimentary ride to the cruise ship terminal). I handed off luggage (1 large suitcase per person and one bag of snorkel gear) to the porter and filled out the "health" forms. We waited in the platinum, elite & suites lounge...husband arrived 15 minutes later. We checked in at noon and then boarded immediately. The ship: We had been on the Emerald 2 1/2 years ago...we thought the ship was still in fabulous condition. We had a balcony cabin forward on deck 15 and our boys had an inside cabin forward on deck 14. We requested egg crate for the bed and bathrobes. We did anytime dining in Michelangelo dining room. Our waiter was Romeo Gonzalez from the Phillipines...he was awesome. We loved the pizza and did get 1 pop card and the boys the UKP cards. A tip for the UKP cards: you can get rootbeer from the bar and then go to the ice cream counter and get a scoop of hard vanilla and make a float. We thought the food varied from awesome (lobster and prime rib) to bizarre - we don't eat frog legs and sweet bread (aka brains and glands). The Horizon court and Cafe Caribe were good, and afternoon tea is fun. We ate in the Crown Grille once and it was good, but c'mon, food is definately plentiful and probably would not do it again. We saw a few shows, our favorite were the two Beatles music shows - they were awesome and not to be missed. Comedians were good and the production shows were...so-so. We were pleased that the crew did not push drinks as much as we have seen on other ships. We thought the ship was decorated nicely for Christmas and it was neat that Santa was around and thought the snow in the atrium was cool. We thought the crew did a great job keeping plates out of the hallways and the elevators were quick. There were 416 kids on board and most behaved well. It was interesting that the Emerald uses hand held devices to scan your cruise card when entering your designated muster drill area - no escaping muster anymore. The Ports: Princess Cays: we booked a bungalo...accommodates 4 people. We enjoyed it and thought it was worth it. It was nice to get out of the sun, wind, crowds etc. The snorkeling was very good. St Thomas: We have been here before and so we decided to go to St John on our own....We took a taxi to Redhook Ferry ($44 for 4 of us), the ferry to St. John ($24 for the 4 of us), a taxi to Trunk Bay ($42 for the 4 of us), paid to get into the park ($8 for 2 adults), then found out it was too rough and windy to snorkel and swim. Paid for a taxi back to the ferry, ferry back to St Thomas, and taxi to the shopping area. We wandered the shopping area and walked back to the ship...I think I would have just done a ships excursion. Dominica: We used AL Dive. 2 of us did a 2 tank, 2 locations dive...and 2 of us did 2 location snorkeling. It was incredible and would definately use them again. Grenada: We used Eco dive Grenada and 2 of us did a 2 tank, 2 locations dive and 2 of us (my 12 year old's first dive!) did intro to diving and a 1 tank dive. It too was incredible. We also wandered the market and picked up some spices. We loved Grenada. Bonaire: we had made arrangements to rent a car thru Hertz...well Hertz did NOT show up. Instead we made plans to dive with VIP diving. They were drumming up business outside the pier. And it worked out well, but I would avoid Hertz car rental in Bonaire. Aruba: I tried to rent a car before hand and had a tough time since it was Christmas that day, so we were just going to wing it. Well when we arrived, from our balcony we could see a car rental place at the pier so my husband hurried off the ship and rented a jeep for $100 cash and we spent the day touring the island, stopping at beaches, snorkeling, eating at Senior Frogs, getting a Starbucks mug, etc. We had a great day and loved Aruba, however because it was Christmas 99% of the stores were closed. It was ok for us cuz we are not shoppers, but something to keep in mind. Complaints: We were disappointed that Princess no longer gave platinum members a complimentary glass of champagne. And our pet peave is...babies (in diapers) in the pools...Princess' rules prohibit diapered kids in pools, but parents don't listen and crew does not enforce, same thing with under aged kids in the hot tubs with out a parent there. It's really not the kids fault, more like the parent's fault. Also saving seats/chairs in the Princess Theater, Club Fusion, Explorer's Lounge and by the pools. To those adults who put towels, shoes, magazines, sunscreen and oh yeah the potato bag chip clips to "reserve" chairs....you all suck! There is a couple of different ways to approach this issue. 1. Don't do anything about it and just silently complain. 2. Tell security and watch them do nothing about it. 3. When in Rome do as the Romans (and just join 'em). Or 4. Stand up for your right to sit in an empty seat and pack your boxing gloves. (security actually had to break up a fight poolside over this matter). Disembarkation: This was the first time we "walked" off the ship with our luggage...it went great. Post Cruise: For post cruise we took a taxi to the airport and rented a car and drove down to Key West for 3 nights. We stayed at Casa Marina. It was a very nice resort, just a few quirky issues (like a yapping dog in the room next to us). We absolutely loved Key West and the 4 hour drive was doable. After 3 nights in Key West we drove back to Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the B Ocean Hotel for 1 night and then flew home the next morning. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We flew into Fll on December 23rd and stayed at the Fairfield Inn. We knew that the Crown was suffering from the NORO Virus and would delay embarkation while they disinfected the ship. My husband, my daughter and my 15 year old grandson ... Read More
We flew into Fll on December 23rd and stayed at the Fairfield Inn. We knew that the Crown was suffering from the NORO Virus and would delay embarkation while they disinfected the ship. My husband, my daughter and my 15 year old grandson had a leisurely breakfast and sat out by the pool until about 12:15 when we took the shuttle to the port. We arrive around 1:15, went to the head of the line (we are Platinum) and walked right up to the check in counter. We waited about 5 minutes until they called our number and boarded quickly. We were slightly hungry by that time and since we were on a lower level went straight to the International Cafe where we partook of chicken salad and gelato - yummy. We took our time before checking out our balcony cabins. We had a beautiful sail away view right from our staterooms on the Lido Deck. Had never stayed on the Lido before but really enjoyed it. The weather in FLL was the best we have encountered. Christmas Eve we went to the Princess Theater and enjoyed a short program and met Lisa Ball, CD, again! Midnight services were held for those that wanted to attend I wanted to but unfortunately I was in bed asleep! We enjoyed the band elements and got to talk to Marlon Webster (Malo) on several nights - a friendly energetic guy! His music added a lot to the carribean atmosphere. We also got to know Laura of Chile who worked the International Cafe and Coffee Bar area. Nice and friendly. All the staff was working extra hours and disinfecting constantly. I liked the restroom doors (public) propped open so you didn't have to touch them going in and out. We only went to Horizon Court twice and though there wasn't a lot of food out, it was plenty. The food servers were in front of every station and were gloved. We never touched the silverware, plates, food, etc. Everything was handed to us. That was okay with me. We enjoyed dinner in Michangelo in the evening. Christmas Day was special for the children with Santa visiting and all the children receiving gifts. The only thing we didn't enjoy that we have in the past was the karaoke. In the past we heard good to great singers. This time Princess should have had a GONG to hit!! Our weather was wonderful everyday and the seas were calm. We ziplined in Honduras with Victor Bodden and had a great time. It took a little courage to make the first step off the platform but after a couple times we were okay. The monkeys and macaws are fun to see and play with. The beach at the port was small but nice and the restaurants (open air) had a lunch special of jerk chicken, rice and beans which was very tasty. In Grand Cayman we were the only ship in that day and it was quiet and uncrowded. Nice. We had lunch by the ocean in an open air restaurant called Breezes. We stayed aboard at Belize and Cozumel. Been to Cozumel before and don't care for the armed military everywhere. Anyway, it was great to relax by the uncrowded pool those days. We really have to commend Princess for all their hard work trying to keep the ship sterile and contend with sooo many passengers. The staff was all so friendly and nice even though they were overworked. It wasn't until Thursday that we went from Code Red to Code Yellow. On Saturday the ship was back to Code Green for the New Years Eve passengers. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I have only traveled on one other HAL cruise, the Eurodam in spring, 2010. After that cruise to the Carib, I think I would have said I wouldn't travel HAL again...the rumors that they cater to an older, even geriatric, crowd seemed ... Read More
I have only traveled on one other HAL cruise, the Eurodam in spring, 2010. After that cruise to the Carib, I think I would have said I wouldn't travel HAL again...the rumors that they cater to an older, even geriatric, crowd seemed true and it was disappointing that the social life on the ship seemed to end at 10pm, and you spend extra time walking behind wheelchairs and walkers much of the time. This cruise was different, probably because it was the holiday week, 12/18-12/26. More families and younger children...didn't make the night life better but the ship felt a bit more alive. Ship was very heavily decorated for the Christmas holiday...poinsettias everywhere...glad I didn't have the job of watering them. It was very festive and the ship's crew made it a point to remind us it was Christmas- even though it didn't really feel like it. Weather was a bit cool, windy and gray heading out to sea but by the time we arrived at first port of call, Grand Turk, weather was more in our favor. Also in San Juan, St. Maarten, Tortola and Half Moon Cat in Bahamas on Christmas Day. Ship is nice, food was ok- not great and I don't like the cafeteria line concept on these ships...The Solstice class at Celebrity has a more fun and functional buffet design with their food islands...these HAL cafeteria lines seem very old fashioned and time consuming. Entertainment on the ship was pretty weak...went to a few of the shows but really didn't think they did a very good of selecting and scheduling the acts. Evening pool party was canceled after 2 drops of rain, instead of closing the roof of the pool, which they did after everyone went away. Our cabin was in the spa-class...on the 10th deck...and way up to the front of the ship. Since the seas were a bit rough the first few days it felt like we were tossed around a bit...but we survived. Was often too windy to spend any time on our balcony but we got more use from it after the first half od the cruise. Cabin locale was convenient to the spa and to the Lido deck for breakfast/lunch buffet. Room service menu is very dull. Used a couple of activities events planned by the cruise line, and they wer pleasant- have had better but no complaints. After this cruise I might consider HAL again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This is a review of our cruise on the Carnival Victory in December 2011. Before I start let me tell you something about us so you can see the kind of people we are. I cruised with my girlfriend. I am 38 and she is 43 and her son is 14. ... Read More
This is a review of our cruise on the Carnival Victory in December 2011. Before I start let me tell you something about us so you can see the kind of people we are. I cruised with my girlfriend. I am 38 and she is 43 and her son is 14. We have been on 3 Carnival Cruises before on the Carnival Conquest at Christmas 2009 (Western Caribbean) and Carnival Glory at Christmas 2010 (Eastern Caribbean) and Carnival Magic in 2011 in the Med. We enjoyed all of those cruises so were really looking forward to the Carnival Victory Cruise in a part of the Caribbean we have never been too before. We live in a small island called Guernsey in the Channel Islands which is in between the UK and France. The island is a UK Crown dependency although we do not like to think as ourselves from the UK. We are Guerns ! This is a 100% honest review and as much as I love Carnival and its product I am not going to say Carnival is amazing and the staff are the best and the food was perfect etc. There were some good and bad points on this cruise and we will write them here. Please remember these are our opinions which we are entitled too. Here goes! We left from Gatwick airport to fly to Charlotte in North Carolina on the 24th of December. We then transferred to San Juan airport on the same day getting there at about 22:30. We got our luggage quite quickly and got to the taxi rank first so we got to the Sheraton Hotel in old San Juan within a few minutes. It only cost $22 which we did not think was bad at all. The hotel was ideal for what we wanted. Its not 5 star but there is nothing wrong with it for a few days stay and of course it is right opposite the cruise terminal so on the 26th we just had to get our luggage and cross the road. It must have taken 5 minutes in total. Once inside the terminal we had our bags searched, I assume they were looking for rum runners! We got through the check in process within minutes and on the ship really quickly. This must have been one of our faster embarkations (admittedly we have only ever done 3 before !) We were on Lido soon after 14:00 eating our lunch. We were not able to get into our stateroom until after 14:30 but that was not a problem by the time we finished lunch. We were in balcony stateroom 7346 which is on the Empress deck. The room is tired and I think it is fair to say are other parts of the ship are too. I know I have high standards so maybe its just me. Carnival Victory was put into service in 2000 so I guess its bound to look tired in places after several hundred thousand people have been cruising on her. One thing that makes the stateroom look tired is the CRT television still in the room. It works still works perfectly fine but just to look at it instantly looks old. I assume its only a matter of time before Carnival Victory goes into dry dock for a refit and these will be swapped out. We never went to breakfast in the dining room so we can't comment on that. We had breakfast on Lido. This was one an area that I was surprised about as there always seemed to be queues. The Carnival Victory is the smallest Cruise ship we have been on and therefore has less people on it but there were always queues for food. It did not seem to matter what time of day you went to get food there were queues. This really annoyed me and I ended up one day just not eating breakfast as I hate queuing. The next day I did get breakfast on Lido and thankfully there are trays on Lido ! Woo hoo! There are no more trays on Carnival Magic or Dream (i believe) and I personally think this is a real pain. The breakfast was the usual Carnival offerings which is absolutely fine. Generally all the food on Lido was good. We were assigned to the Pacific dining room for our evening meals. We had a brilliant waiter called Antoine from the Dominica. He looked after us really well. The food is fine. I would not say its excellent but it certainly is not bad. It seems to us that there is less variety on menu but maybe that's just us? I have a wheat allergy and so I follow a Gluten Free diet. I let Carnival know this before we sailed and sure enough I got Gluten Free food. I am very grateful that they do serve Gluten free food but I have to say that the Gluten Free bread and Pizza is horrible. I assume that the bread and pizza base are made following the same recipe which leaves a horrible sort of baking soda in your mouth. I noticed this in food in the UK a few years ago but these days Gluten free bread etc. in the UK has really improved. Lets hope that Carnival change their recipe soon. Thanks for trying though Carnival. The first night on the ship is a bit strange as Carnival Victory leaves port at 22:00 so there is no assigned dining. Instead dining is any time so you just turn up to eat as and when your ready and then you are assigned a table for that night only. One tip though is that the safety briefing is at 21:30 so eat early enough so you can still attend which of course is mandatory. NOW having said that we turned up for the safety briefing at about 21:20 as we did not know where our muster station was so we went early to find it. The safety briefing started at 22:00 ! It was finished by 22:10 ! That was so annoying. Standing round for it to start. In our opinion this is NOT advertised enough so first timers do not know what they have to do and when. On previous ships the safety briefing was pointed out much more. I know its boring but it has to be done. This pretty much sets the trend for the whole ship for the while cruise. The time for an activity is just a guide! If something is due to start at 15:00 it will probably start later ! The shows on the ship were nothing special. I say that because this is our 4th cruise and well the shows are pretty much the same as the other 3 we have already seen. That's not to say they are bad they are just repetitive. We did find this ship to be very friendly in terms of the crew and staff. Some people have said that the kids are noisy on this cruise but while we did see some of this to a degree it was no worse then on any other cruise. I would not worry about this. The 31st of December was of course New Years eve. There were quite a few events going on around the ship. There was a pub crawl too which was a first for us on a ship. There was also a conga in the restaurant on one of the nights too. It seemed like everyone on board was on Lido just before midnight. It was amazing to see so many people in one place on the ship. The Carnival staff served free champagne for everyone about 10 minutes before midnight. The cruise director Karl with a K stood in the middle of Lido and sang and did the count down. At midnight the captain sounded the ships horn and everyone cheers and shouted etc. That was weird in a nice way. So many people all celebrating the same thing in one space. I guess you just had to be there. Karl was the British cruise director and he is very funny. He does a very good job in terms of being seen around the ship and also with announcements. Not too many and enough to keep you informed. Not too many sales announcements! One night Karl did a show of his own with some singing and magic tricks etc. I can only assume he must have been an entertainer at some point in his career. This is a ships review so I am not going to say much about the islands we visited, Barbados, St Lucia, St Maarten and St Thomas. We got to all islands on time and generally left on time give or take 15 minutes. How do we size up our cruise? Well queues for food is guaranteed at just about any time! Generally these are not too bad and are not a show stopper. Events do not usually start on time but again we on holiday so not a problem really. Food is fine throughout. People friendly. Islands beautiful. The ship is nice and small and you never really feel crowded. We loved this cruise. With 4 islands and only 1 sea day that is great. We had a lot of travelling to do from the UK but it was well worth it. I would definitely like to do this cruise again. Next cruise The Carnival Breeze in Europe. Can't wait! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We boarded Freedom of the Sas on our first cruise. The ship was full as it was the Christmas sailing but the ship definitely didn't feel crowded at any time. Embarkation was relatively quick and easy took just over 30 minutes to ... Read More
We boarded Freedom of the Sas on our first cruise. The ship was full as it was the Christmas sailing but the ship definitely didn't feel crowded at any time. Embarkation was relatively quick and easy took just over 30 minutes to get onboard. The ship was well maintained, cabins were cleaned regularly and staff were very friendly and welcoming. Quite a number of staff made a real effort to learn your name and the cruise director, Allan was always entertaining. We opted for an interior stateroom and enjoyed turning the tv on first thing in the morning to watch the ships webcam (on the front of the ship) to enjoy the view of the port before we disembarked - just like looking through a window. The captain, Tor, was always very bubbly in his addresses each day always quoting "Bing Bong" which made me laugh. The food all round no matter where you at was tremendous. I have never eaten and drank as much in my life. The weather was kind to us and there was one night at sea when it was a bit rough but nothing major. The ports we visited were great, and we booked some ship excursions in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Labadee was lovely asthisisaprivate part of Haiti. It was obvious from the market place which is located in the area that the sellers we desperate to sell you something and although they're very nice they were really, really pushy. Falmouth was interesting as we had been on Honeymoon in Jamaica so had done all of the tours then and loved them and the people. I found Falmouth to be my least favourite port. A lot of money has been spent improving the port and the initial area is nice to walk around. Once you pass the gates of the port though we found it an uneasy shopping experience and it didn't take us long to return to the ship. It is obvious that this is a very deprived area of Jamaica in comparison to Ocho Rios and we felt quite vulnerable which I have only ever felt in Delhi, India. If you decide you want to do something in Jamaica - Dunns River Falls and Dolphin Cove are fantastic and the majority of people in Jamaica are lovely, just not enamoured with Falmouth. Grand Cayman was brilliant and we had no issue with boarding the tender. We went on the Turtle Farm and swim package booked through the ship- id give it a miss and go to see the Stingray's instead. Although it was ok. Cozumel was another favourite of ours. We did the Island Highlights and Shopping and loved it! The people we met were fantastic and it was the best port for shopping. About 3 miles(turn left out of the port) away is the central shopping district and I would have loved even more time to shop in the area- the port area had lots of cheap gifts too. The days art sea were good too as there was so much to do and we loved sitting in the cantilever jacuzzi looking out over the ocean. Shopping on board wasn't bad and a few bargains were to be found but most of the items we more expensive than you would buy at home despite being duty free etc etc. They constantly plug Diamonds International which became a standing joke between my husband and I. Out of curiousty he had looked at a watch which was the "Cheapest price he would find" - I googled it and found it $500 saigh away, lol. Don't fall into this trap! Dress code surprised me a little as they didn't really enforce this - on formal night we seen people in the dining room in shorts? The drink prices are what you would expect c$6 for a beer and $9 for a cocktail. Water is always a question- you can get cups / glasses of water in numerous places on the ship but if you want a 1L bottle of Evian it's 4.50 from your minibar. On the whole we had an amazing time and cannot wait to cruise with Royal Caribbean again. On a seperate note - if anyone is thinking of booking with Virgin Holidays Cruises, don't bother. Their Rockstar service is RockBottom! We had a huge amount of mistakes despite having a correct itinerary - Ie they gave the hotel the wrong dates and the hotel cancelled our room as a no show! And we never got any of the RockStar perks. Book with Royal Caribbean directly! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Two cabins, 2415, Cove Balcony and 2455 Inside double Boarded 12/26/11 Western Carib 6 day Arrived at the pier 10:30 am, used Lighthouse Parking. Easy drop off, porters widely available, dropped off luggage and went inside terminal. ... Read More
Two cabins, 2415, Cove Balcony and 2455 Inside double Boarded 12/26/11 Western Carib 6 day Arrived at the pier 10:30 am, used Lighthouse Parking. Easy drop off, porters widely available, dropped off luggage and went inside terminal. All but one of us were Platinum, escorted quickly through security and into Platinum lounge. There was a small delay to boarding but enjoyed the new lounge and the time went quickly. By noon we were escorted through the terminal and were on the ship! Champagne was being handed out to all and we climbed the stairs for our first buffet lunch. The three kids (ages 20, 19 and 17) headed directly to Mongolian as the line was short. I helped myself to the Indian buffet (my favorite!) and hubby headed to the main line. No lines or crowds this early and we were handed our second glass of champagne, we were on the ship and ready to enjoy! After lunch we found our way to Red Frog Pub, to say hello, lucky for us we were the first to arrive, so had our picture taken and posted to John Heald's blog. All the staff in Red Frog are so friendly and helpful, quickly learning our names and making our favorite drinks. They even named one for me, the Spicy Magic Mojito! Wish I had one right now.... Rooms were ready by 1:30 and we made our way down to our Cove to drop off our excess baggage. The Coves are a nice surprise, very roomy and well thought out, and even though there was a slight rain, we were able to sit outside and enjoy watching the pier activity. Normal storage, desk area, and bathroom, but updated and very clean. We had a sleeper couch for our third person and two standard chairs and table as found on all our previous Carnival cruises. In fact, I will say that the decor in our cabin could have been from many other cabins we have frequented over the years. Very familiar and comforting! I was slightly worried as the Coves are located on level 2 and the thought of all that stair climbing early in the a.m. to get my coffee was going to be a downside, but I was pleasantly surprised the next morning when there was coffee and continental breakfast on deck 5 by the Ocean Plaza! This became my early morning hang out as it was never busy and was a short climb while blurry eyed and on the hunt for my caffeine jolt. Also offered was juices, water, fresh mini-waffles, plus fruits, cereals and various egg dishes. Another plus in this area every afternoon was sandwiches (around the corner is a salad/sandwich bar) and in the evening martinis and munchies with sushi being served in the same area at 5pm which is right near the Red Frog. The buffet was typical Carnival food but with added additions of many more stations, plus the sandwich grill, pizza station, Indian station, and a grill. Plus on sea days, on 5 there is also an outdoor bbq, a nice alternative again in a convenient mid-ship area. No one will go hungry on this ship as there are so many offerings! I think Deck 5 was my favorite deck on the ship, what with the entertainment, food offerings, hot tubs and Red Frog all in one place, plus a Fun Hub and Casino, so much going on! As we had already dined in the steakhouse in November on this ship (highly recommended with wonderful service) we tried the Italian resturant which is upstairs from the buffet. Again we were presently surprised, great service and good food, a nice combination and declared very yummy by the entire family! The staff on the ship made a big effort to make sure everyone had a wonderful time. Our table in the Southern Lights was serviced by Ovidiu, Mircea and Adrian, three great waiters who made our dining experience over the top, and I felt the new menu items were a nice touch. We also enjoyed the table magician that stopped by most nights, he made us laugh and we enjoyed his "magic" tricks! One of our big disappointments was the football games that seemed to overtake the outdoor big screen, as on our previous cruise we enjoyed munching on popcorn under the stars while we watched movies, most nights two or three football games were played and the announcement were that a movie would be played "after the game was over". I didn't mind football being played, I just wished it wasn't being played so much on the big screen, and would have liked a little variety in that area. The Serenity area is a great addition, the downside is that when the ship is full, so is this area, so most days it was a long wait to get a chair or lounger so didn't get to spend as much time up there as we wanted. We are not "show" people, so didn't spend anytime in those, we did visit two of the comedy shows, which were good, but very packed, there was a lot of people standing to watch them. The guitar players Timmy and Will were great and played requests as much as possible. Singing along with Timmy was another fun highlight in the Red Frog and we enjoyed our times in there with familiar songs. The pools were over run while we were there, but to be expected over a holiday and at full capacity. It was nice to have the hot tubs in Serenity for some quiet time away from the kids. I thought even though there were 1400 kids on board, they were kept happily entertained and there was lots to do for many ages. Our family enjoyed the slides, putt putt and were going to try the ropes but had not brought the required closed-toe shoes, be aware that those are needed if you are looking forward to that adventure. New Year's Eve was an extra Formal plus party evening, with different music being played all over the ship. Hats and noisemakers were handed out in our cabins during the dinner hour and champagne was handed out in every venue. I really enjoy the family atmosphere while cruising over NYE! All in all the cruise was very restful and enjoyable. Not even being delayed for disembarkation by fog could put a dent on how peaceful we felt as we left the ship. Although I feel Carnival and the Port staff will need to change how they handle what happens when this large of a ship is delayed and people trying to leave the ship rush to make their flights as this did make a mess at the end. We luckily only had a short drive and found our shuttle quickly and were on our way home quickly and without problems. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Background I sailed with my entire family. Mom, Dad, sister, BIL, niece (11) and nephew (5). Mom, Dad and I are Elite and my sister achieved the status by the end of the second week. We sailed for two weeks, 12/17 and 12/24. This was my ... Read More
Background I sailed with my entire family. Mom, Dad, sister, BIL, niece (11) and nephew (5). Mom, Dad and I are Elite and my sister achieved the status by the end of the second week. We sailed for two weeks, 12/17 and 12/24. This was my 27th and 28th cruise on Princess and 5th and 6th on the Crown. This was our first experience sailing at Christmas. Flying to Fort Lauderdale We live in San Diego and drove to Los Angeles so we could take a non-stop flight to Fort Lauderdale. We spent Thursday night, 12/15 at the Embassy Suites South at LAX. It is convenient to the airport and we parked two cars at the hotel for the 2+ weeks. The hotel takes you to the airport and picks you up. There are many hotels at LAX that provide this service. I would never stay at this Embassy again. It really needs to be re-furbished and the rooms are tired and outdated. We took a Virgin America flight and it was very nice. The hardest part was check-in at LAX. That was a MESS!! But the flight was great. The in flight entertainment is so nice because each seat has their own screen. It makes a 5+ hour flight so much nicer! Pre-cruise hotel We spent Friday night, 12/16 at the Renaissance by the pier. The rooms are great and I would definitely stay here again. It is across the street from Walgreens and we were able to do some last minute shopping the night before the cruise. Our room rate included breakfast. The food was good but the restaurant is very small and we had to wait awhile to eat. The lobby was a madhouse with everyone leaving for ships. We took a shuttle to the ship. It was very convenient but we paid $35 to take us the ½ mile to the pier! That was an expensive ride but we would have needed at least two taxis so we decided to go for the convenience. Embarkation The previous sailing had Norovirus outbreaks so boarding was delayed. My Mom had booked the Bon Voyage Experience for her close friend and her husband but unfortunately it was cancelled. Mom was disappointed but we would rather board a ship that had been disinfected. We took our time getting to the pier and arrived around 2. Check-in was at the convention center directly across from the pier. We arrived when a bunch of other folks did so there were some lines. Once we checked in, we were asked to take a seat in the bleachers. Princess had brought in lots of chairs and there were tons of folks sitting around waiting for the boarding announcement. At 2:30 the announcement was made that in-transit and Elite passengers could board. Well Princess did not control the crowd and tons of folks starting running to the pier! Many of the crowd were first time cruisers and it was a bit scary for us because my folks are elderly and my Dad walks with a cane. I was concerned that someone was going to knock him down. Not a great start! So it was chaos during embarkation. We did bring wine onboard. Hulagirl was nice enough to give me some wine boxes they had used to bring wine to Fort Lauderdale. They didn't need the boxes anymore because they had one of the Winecheck carry on containers. So we were able to pack 8 bottles of wine. We placed luggage tags on the boxes along with cases of water and we gave them to the pier porters. Everything arrived just fine! We also had some wine in our carry-ons. Absolutely no problem!! This is one of things I LOVE about Princess. I understand most cruise lines either limit the wine or completely disallow it. Cabins My folks were in a suite and had the same cabin for both weeks. My sister, BIL and nephew and my niece and I had adjoining balcony cabins during the first week and moved to insides for the second week to save some money. We were all on Riviera deck. I will never book on this deck again. Every morning we heard the deck attendants moving and dropping chairs. Sometimes it was as early as 6:30am. And the night of the deck parties was extremely noisy. It sounded like there was a herd of elephants jumping up and down over our cabins. It was especially bad the second week. The party continued until 12:15am. We had gone to bed because we had an early excursion in Belize and had to be on a tender around 7am. I am not sure why Princess planned the deck party for a night prior to a 7am port call. It would have made more sense to plan it for a night prior to a 9am port call. I did end up calling down to Passenger Services a few times during the 2 weeks to ask them to have the deck attendants be more careful moving furniture. Passenger Services was very nice and even called me to find out if the noise had decreased. But unfortunately they really didn't do anything about the problem. We had booked Riviera deck because that is where the mid-ship suites are located. Because of the noise issues, I do wonder why Princess put the suites on this deck. On some of the older ships, the suites are on Caribe deck. That is so much nicer because there aren't any noise issues and the balconies are much deeper. The Riviera deck balconies are very narrow and the furniture on the balcony is a bit cramped. Princess all I can say is who did that deck planning!?!? LOL! The cabins are in good shape. Mom and Dad's bed in the suite was very nice. It was a pillow top mattress. But the rest of us had those old hard mattresses. I understand that Princess is slowly replacing these old worn out mattresses. I can't wait! Room Steward We all had Dax Supan from the Philippines. What a nice young man! He was very attentive and always had a smile on his face. He made some towel animals that the kids loved. And every night he made sure that Mom and Dad had wine glasses and ice. On turn around day, Dax told us to place all of our stuff that was in drawers and on shelves in our suitcases and to leave all of our clothes hanging in the closet. He moved everything to our new cabins for us. That really helped us since we had to get off the ship for immigration and there was no way we had time to move everything ourselves prior to disembarking. Overall Dax really took good care of us. Dining Room Staff We started the two weeks at late traditional dining but decided that we wanted to eat a little bit earlier since late seating was at 8:15. We talked to Neville Saldana the Maitre D' and he was very accommodating. Neville is by far the best Maitre D' I have had the pleasure of sailing with. He was very visible and very interested in making sure everyone was having a great dining experience. He moved us to the DaVinci dining room where we had a standing 7:30 reservation at table 488. This dining room in used for the 5:30 early seating and then opens for anytime dining at 7:30. The only challenge we faced was trying to enter the dining when the doors open. Almost every night there was a large group of folks lined up and we had to navigate our way through the crowd. We had the dining room team of Melinda Ambrusics and Elena Andonova. OMG they were ABSOLUTELY the BEST team I have ever experienced!! They are very attentive, sweet and caring. They were always right there when water or wine glasses were empty. They knew the drink orders and the drinks were always waiting for us when we arrived. They spoiled the kids by even cutting their meat and making them feel very special. Melinda and Elena are both quiet and never disturbed our meals. I HIGHLY recommend anyone that is sailing on the Crown to request their station. You will not be sorry! And if you do sit with them, be sure to tell them that Jamie said hello! Alternative restaurants and food in main dining room Our travel agent gave us vouchers to use for Sabatini's. We had decided we only wanted to do one formal night each week so decided to go to Sabatini's on the first formal night of week one. Overall I was not impressed at all and did not care for the food. I had the new chicken dish and found the sauce was overwhelming. Everyone agreed with me and I don't think we will return to Sabatini's on future cruises. The second week we went to Crown Grill on the second formal night. It was very good but wow it is a lot of food!! My steak was OK -- not fabulous but better than the dining room. But the sides -- yum! Especially the corn casserole. And that black and blue onion soup -- WOW!! We do like Crown Grill and normally visit this alternative restaurant at least once during our cruise. I thought the food in the main dining room was pretty good. Some nights the menu was STRANGE!! Caribbean night we all looked at the menu and ended up ordering pasta or something from the "always available" menu. My favorite part of the menu is always the pasta. The pastas on Princess Ships are WONDERFUL!! And Neville ordered macaroni and cheese for us many of the nights. Now I could eat that every night as my entrée -- it is that good! Christmas decorations and activities The ship was beautiful!! When we boarded on 12/17 we were so impressed by the Piazza. There were garlands hanging from all of the rails and a large tree on deck 5. But on 12/24 it got better!!! They brought in gingerbread houses, a sleigh and additional decorations. It was so nice. There were other trees all over the ship including a live tree in a bucket on one of the upper decks. During the first week there were Christmas carols playing all over the ship, including a stateroom channel that showed a fireplace while carols were playing. But it was during the second week that the activities kicked into high gear. Since Christmas Eve was turn around day, the staff was trying to fit in all of the activities while folks were settling in. The staff sang Christmas carols in the Piazza while it "snowed"..........I was impressed!!! But for some reason Lisa Ball did not read "Twas the night before Christmas" for the kids. Not sure what happened. Midnight mass was celebrated in the Princess Theater. I planned to go but was just too tired to make it. On Christmas morning, my niece and I took my nephew's Santa gifts up to Adaigo and placed them under the tree. We had stayed in our Christmas pajamas and were wearing our Santa hats!!! I had recommended we go up there because the bar is always quiet in the morning and we could tell my nephew that Santa came to the ship. I guess Santa needed a drink so that is why he left the presents in a bar!!! LOL! The Head Waiter from Sabatini's saw us and brought over some orange juice and coffee! He knows me because Dad and I go to breakfast there every almost every morning since Dad is a suite passenger (Mom is not a breakfast person and I am the lucky replacement for Mom!!). As we were opening gifts people started arriving for trivia so we stayed. We didn't win but had fun. After trivia, my sister and BIL took the kids to the Piazza. Santa was there and the kids could go sit on this lap. Each child was given a stuffed animal. Very nice touch! In the afternoon there was a Christmas show in the Princess Theater. Somehow we all missed it! I was bummed when I saw it on the Reflections video. It looked fun. But we did make it to the gingerbread house contest. What a blast!!! There were about 30 teams. We were in Club Fusion and each team had a station with a boxed kit. On "GO" we opened our kit and began the decorating process. We had about 45 minutes to complete our house. They had pre-made icing that we could use so we didn't have to mix our own. We brought extra candy with us and I must admit our house was the best!! Overall it was a lot of fun. That night was a formal night and the ship was very festive. There was a special menu in the dining room and there were actual lit candles on every table. Overall Christmas on board was very special and I would not hesitate to do it again. Even given that there were 800+ kids on each week's sailing. The kids were well behaved and did not cause any problems. Ports We have finally learned to not use the ship excursions!! We now booked independently and pay less for what typically is a better excursion with more amenities. Here goes........... Week 1 -- Curacao and Aruba Curacao My sister, BIL and kids walked off the ship and hired someone to take them to the Hato Caves and the distillery. I forget how much they paid but they really enjoyed their time ashore. Mom and I walked to over the floating bridge but it was open (meaning you could not cross the river) so we had to take a ferry. It was very crowded with both tourists and locals and we found that the locals were not very friendly. We walked around downtown for maybe 30 minutes and went back to the ship. Aruba It POURED!! This is my second time to Aruba and the second time it poured!! My sister had booked the Jolly Roger pirate ship independently. We still had a great time even though it rained. They took us to two snorkeling sites that had wrecks below. And we enjoyed the rope swing. We had all the rum punch we could drink and lunch (just OK). And there was another boat out with us that had the folks that booked via Princess. They paid more and did not get lunch!! Week 2 -- Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize and Cozumel Grand Cayman My sister and niece booked a Stingray City tour through Captain Marvin. They loved it. And there were only 9 people on the boat because an RCCL ship was 4 hours late to port (they picked up some refugees) and those folks didn't make the tour. Mom and I once again walked around and did some shopping. We had a bite to eat at Breezes. I bought my favorite Tortuga Rum Punch prior to re-boarding the ship!! That is the best punch in the entire world! Roatan The whole family took a Victor Bodden tour. My sister, BIL, niece and nephew went horseback riding. It was strange because our guide pulled the van over to the side of a road where the horses were standing. No stable at all. The horses looked a bit worn but they all had a great time. While they were riding, the guide took Mom, Dad and I to Half Moon Bay. It was OK -- nothing special. The pier area is wonderful. It was built by Carnival. When we returned, all of the girls did some shopping and ended the day at Fat Tuesday's. In retrospect I wish we had just gone to the Mahogany Bay beach. It is right next to the ship and looked nice. Hulagirl and her family went there and really enjoyed it. Next time! Belize My sister, niece, nephew and I went cave tubing and zip lining with Major Tom. Once again we booked independently and paid less and lunch was included. We paid $89.50 for all of that! Tom met us at the pier and we had a small group of 10. We got to the zip lining and tubing place prior to the big buses from the ships (there were two NCL ships there with us). That saved us from waiting in long lines for zip lining. I highly recommend Major Tom. He personally joined us on the tour and told us a lot about Belize. It was a great tour. Cozumel My sister, BIL, niece and nephew went to the beach. Mom, Dad and I did some shopping and went to Pancho's Backyard. Yum!!! Great margaritas and food. We were docked downtown and went to the one near the ferry terminal. I highly recommend Pancho's! There were 7 ships in port that day include the "Behemoth of the Seas", aka Oasis of the Seas. So there were at least 20K+ passengers roaming the town. It was busy! Entertainment We had seen all of the shows. I am ready for some of the new shows that are now on other Princess ships. We did go to "What a Swell Party" the first week and "Motor City" the second week. I enjoyed both. On the second week we had a GREAT comedian, Phil Tag. I highly recommend him if you have a chance to see him. Very funny! James Michael was on-board too. He was good too but Phil was funnier to me. Most nights we had dinner and just hung around. We did watch some of the football games on MUTS. That was fun! Most traveled passenger lunches Yes lunches!! I was invited both weeks and these meals were a huge highlight for me. The first week I took my Dad and we sat with a very nice family from Quebec. Our host was Jo-Ann the future cruise consultant. Each guest gets a picture with Captain Nash. The food was out of this world!! Dad had halibut and he said it was the best meal he has ever had onboard. I had the rack of lamb. The second week I took Mom. Hulagirl also went with her family and requested that we sit together. We had a blast sitting with them!! The Chief Engineer and his wife sat with us and we learned about many aspects of the ship's operation. The food was decadent! Mom and I both had the filet with stilton cheese. And the appetizer was a yummy pasta dish. Dessert was a sinfully rich chocolate cake. And I forgot to mention that they pour nice wine! Thank you Princess for spoiling me and my parents!!! Challenges The cruises were great but there were a few challenges. A few I already mentioned.....noise, mattresses. But our biggest challenges came during the second week. My folks and I are elite passengers. And my parents were in a suite. As elite passengers we were entitled to one mini-bar setup each week. And my parents were entitled to a second set-up each week since they were in a suite. We are wine drinkers so we take Princess up on the option to switch the mini-bar for a bottle of wine. The first week my folks only got one set-up. They didn't know you have to ASK for the second one.....HUH!?!? Is Princess hoping people either don't know about the second one or forget to ask??? So the second week my Dad went Passenger Services to ensure they got 2 set-ups for the second week and the missing set-up from the previous sailing. And we had decided we didn't want our normal chardonnay but instead wanted to order bottles of Riesling. Well we were HASSLED!!! It took many phones calls to passenger services and room service to try to resolve both the request for the suite second set-up and the request for a different and CHEAPER wine. You would have thought we were asking for the moon. First off, the majority of the folks we talked to had no idea that an elite passenger in a suite is entitled to 2 set-ups. We were repeatedly told that was not true and that our request would be escalated to guest relations. I was so frustrated that I finally packaged up my entire mini-bar set-up and took it to a head waiter in the dining room at dinner to ask for a bottle of Riesling. And the head waiter in the dining room had no idea you could exchange the set-up for wine! We finally got it resolved by talking to Neville the Maitre D' and we got all the set-ups and the Riesling! I suggest that Princess advertise that you can exchange the set-up for any bottle of wine up to a certain price point. Wouldn't that be easier? And it would allow passengers to select the wine they enjoy! There was one incident that I want to mention that happened when we tried to board a tender in Belize. As an elite passenger, I am allowed to go directly to the tenders when I am ready to go ashore. We had to be on one of the first tenders since we had an early excursion and as we boarded we joined one of the ship's tour groups. A nasty young man questioned whether we were on the tour. I told him that we could go ashore when we wanted and showed him my black elite card. My sister heard him make a smart remark about "who do they think they are". Well I thought it was a dead issue until that same young man saw me in Cozumel and proceeded to hassle me. I was at Pancho's Backyard and as I was trying to leave the restaurant he came up behind me and shoved me as I was trying to negotiate a long line of customers waiting for their tables. Thankfully my folks were in the restroom and not in his path. This guy and his GRANDMOTHER (who claimed she was also elite?!?) continued to hassle me to the point where I was afraid it would continue to escalate. Many in their party (including grandma) were very drunk so I can only assume he was too. But wow -- what a jerk!! The only reason I mention this is that maybe Princess could inform people that elite passengers are able to join tenders whenever they want. That might prevent situations like I experienced. Elite passengers -- beware! Other ship personnel Lisa Ball was the cruise director. She is nice and I did see her quite a bit talking with passengers. The rest of the cruise staff was OK -- nothing memorable. The passenger services desk was great. It is nice that they have finally trained the staff to understand customer service. Marko and James were especially nice! Marko even sent me chocolate covered strawberries as an apology for the cabin noise issues. Now that is a wow to me! Other miscellaneous thoughts We did deal with two weeks of Noro-virus. Thankfully no one in our group got sick. But it was all around us. The people across the hall from my niece and me and the people next door to Mom and Dad were infected. It was amazing to watch the staff wear masks into their staterooms and then take everything out of the stateroom in red bio-hazard bags. Overall it was just a minor inconvenience in the delayed boarding times (both weeks) and in the dining areas because you could not serve yourself any food. We had rough seas the first week. We were eating in Sabatini's' (deck 16 aft) when the ship hit a major swell. Wine glasses and dishes went flying!! That was a first for me. Later that same night Captain Nash told us that we were going to experience even rougher seas and it was the first time he has seen a gale storm warning in the Caribbean in 20 years! Mother Nature was kind to us and luckily the seas never got worse. I was amazed at the number of people who complained about the Captains warning and felt he was deliberatly scaring people. Really?! Would it have been better to not tell people and potentially have objects flying around cabins and people getting hurt? We are on the ocean and the seas don't always cooperate. And that is not the fault of Princess. I think Princess and Captain Nash did a GREAT job of preparing us for what could have been a tough night. Disembarkation Disembarkation was painless (with the exception that we did not want to go home!!). We had breakfast in the dining room and went to the Platinum/Elite/Suite lounge. Since we were staying overnight in Fort Lauderdale we were one of the last groups to disembark. We spent the night at the Hilton Marina. Nice hotel but I prefer the Renaissance. The best part of the Hilton was that it was close to the water taxi which we took to Las Olas that night. The next day we had an 8:30am flight on American back to LAX. We were regretting that time since the previous night was New Year's Ever!! In the end it was so sad to leave the fabulous Crown Princess and I wish I was still onboard!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I have never written a cruise review before, but wanted to write a detailed one, in appreciation for all the great tips and information I have learned from reading previous reviews here. Here goes my very long review! We went on the 2 ... Read More
I have never written a cruise review before, but wanted to write a detailed one, in appreciation for all the great tips and information I have learned from reading previous reviews here. Here goes my very long review! We went on the 2 week 17Dec11 -- 31Dec11 roundtrip cruise on the Sapphire Princess from LA to Hawai'i to LA (H149). Overall we had a wonderful time, and just loved this cruise. Cruise Director Dave Carson was great (more on him later), and many of the activities, TV shows, and movies were themed around Hawai'i, which made the cruise feel so special. My husband and I live just 70 miles north of the cruise terminal so we drove and parked our own car (total parking bill at the end was $168). We pulled into the parking lot at 1:30 pm and were sitting in our room by 2:15 pm. We have only cruised 3 times total on Princess so we have no special status or expedited lines, but the whole embarkation process was very smooth and easy. We wanted to carry our medium-sized luggage with us onto the ship as we could easily manage it ourselves, but were not allowed to do so. We were only permitted to carry our backpack and small duffel. However, our luggage was waiting outside our room by 4:30 pm, so it was not too bad. We were able to get a mini-suite on the Dolphin (Deck 9) for less than the original cost of a balcony room. We had booked a balcony room in December 2010 via an internet travel agent, and checked on the price monthly via e-mail all year long. We changed to a mini-suite when the price dropped sometime in the summer. The mini-suite was very nice, especially the spacious bathroom. However the bathtub was set so high, I think it might be difficult for some people to get in and out of. While the mini-suite was nice, it was only a little bigger than our previous regular balcony staterooms on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas or on the Carnival Splendor. The Sapphire Princess mini-suite has a sofa where I could sit comfortably and read or watch TV. In a regular Sapphire Princess stateroom, one has to either sit on the bed or in the single chair in order to read or watch TV. I would never bother with a mini-suite on the Mariner of the Seas or the Carnival Splendor as their balcony staterooms feel very spacious to me and come standard with a comfortable sofa, coffee table, and chair, but I think the mini-suite is more of a "necessity" for me on the Sapphire Princess (lol!). Our cabin steward was great, and kept everything in tip-top condition for us. We originally had fixed time dining at 8 pm in the International Dining Room, but our whole table was moved 2 days later at the request of our tablemate due to some extremely loud and unruly children seated next to our original table. Princess assigned us to fixed 8 pm dining in the Vivaldi Dining Room. It is a shame neither the parents nor Princess made any attempt to control these children, but to Princess' credit, they did move us with no hassle. I have multiple food allergies and am vegetarian, so the travel agent notified Princess of this at the time of the booking. I also spoke to the Food & Beverage (F&B) Supervisor in both the International Dining Room and the Vivaldi Dining Room, and they could not have been kinder or more understanding about meeting my multiple and very specific dietary needs. After 2 days of the special food they prepared for me, I asked if I could have Indian vegetarian food (which I love) instead, as I was not really enjoying the other food. Mind you, there is always one vegetarian entrée on the menu, but Indian food was never on the menu. F&B Supervisor Adrian Trifas in the Vivaldi Dining Room was so kind and helpful and assured me it would be absolutely no problem. I was always provided with 2 separate Indian lentil/vegetable preparations, rice, raita (yogurt salad), papads (rice wafers), and Indian flat bread. I could not eat this much, so I requested they eliminate the papads and Indian flat bread. After 2 days of this, I asked Adrian if the lentils/vegetables could be toned down in the spice level as they were a little too hot for me. Again, I was met with nothing with kindness and an immediate accommodation of my request. They never repeated the lentil/vegetable dishes, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the delicious food they made for me. My husband (who is not vegetarian), ordered off the regular menu, and enjoyed a variety of dishes including the hot soups, cold soups (served like smoothies), the escargot, the lobster tail, steak, etc, etc. We selected a table for 8, and were blessed to be assigned really lovely and charming table mates. The other 3 couples were quite different from us, but we really looked forward to seeing them every night at dinner as their delightful company really enhanced the whole cruise experience for us. My husband and I both agreed the desserts were actually better at the Horizon Court buffet than in the MDR, as the cakes and tarts seemed too dried out in the MDR. Soft serve was available up on deck during the day but regular ice cream was only served in the MDR. I tried 2 or 3 of the ice creams but was very disappointed in the non-premium quality, compared to what we had 2 years ago on a previous Sapphire Princess cruise. While we did not enjoy our June 2011 cruise on the Carnival Splendor very much due to the relentless blasting of music at an extremely high volume everywhere on that ship, at least they served Haagen Daaz in the MDR (or something that tasted like it), but the Sapphire Princess ice cream was a big disappointment to me. I ended up ordering the sorbet most nights and was happy with that. We also went to the British style pub lunches that were offered 3 or 4 times during the cruise. Although there was nothing vegetarian on the menu for me, my British husband greatly enjoyed these meals which reminded him of the "old country", so it made me happy. We ate breakfast and lunch every day at the Horizon Court Buffet or the Pizzeria. I always only have a toasted bagel and tea for breakfast so I was fine, but my husband said he was a little tired of the breakfast selection by the end of the 14 days. The lunch selection seemed more varied, and always included a vegetarian pasta dish, as well as rice and one vegetarian Indian dish. The staff at the Horizon Court were so friendly and genuinely helpful in bringing us beverages and immediately clearing up tables. They procurement dept did not plan too well though as they ran out of lemonade on about Day 11. Good thing my husband had brought his own individual serving packages of Crystal Light with him. The Horizon Court was congested several times though, and I think both sides of the buffet could have been opened up more often to alleviate the crowding. Only thin crust pizza is available in the Pizzeria, and it is excellent and actually better than most land based pizzerias I have been to. Cheese and pepperoni pizzas are always available, and they rotate a signature pizza of the day (sometimes vegetarian and sometimes not). I was a little apprehensive about the condition of the ship as the Sapphire is scheduled to go into dry dock in mid-January 2012, but I was pleasantly surprised at the excellent condition of all the public areas and the very nice condition of our mini-suite. Cruise Director Dave Carson was amazing and put together a really special Hawai'i themed program over the 14 days, which really enhanced the whole cruise experience for me. His knowledge of the islands, the culture, the Hawaiian language, and Hawaiian music is extensive and he said he had been travelling to the islands for 20 years. It really showed, and I think Princess would be doing a disservice to passengers on any Hawai'i cruise without a Cruise Director who is knowledgeable about Hawai'i and who does not prepare Hawaiian themed activities. My husband and I participated in multiple activities, and on several occasions, we had to make choices between 2 equally tempting things scheduled for the same time. We never paid extra for any activity as the ones we went to were all free. An activity I especially enjoyed was the ribbon lei making class on the outward journey, and a real orchid lei making class on the journey home (orchids were picked up in Honolulu). Dave Carson gave progressive ukulele lessons daily on sea days, and our dining companions who took his classes said he was a wonderful teacher. Dave Carson also gave wonderful hour long port lectures on each island, prior to our arrival in Hawai'i. His in-depth knowledge about the islands was evident, and we never once had to suffer through any of those ridiculous shopping "tips" during his port talks. The ship was unable to dock in Kauai due to bad weather, and Dave provided an impromptu 1.5 hours of excellent and informative commentary as the captain cruised us around both Kauai and the forbidden island of Ni'ihau. Debbie from Canada, one of Dave Carson's staff members, was another standout and was so knowledgeable about Polynesian culture and led many of classes. She is also an excellent hula and Tahitian dancer, and offered daily classes on sea days. Students from Debbie's and Dave's classes put on a very nice performance the last night of the cruise. Naturalist Pat Kramer gave excellent talks every sea day on Hawaiian culture, movies filmed in the islands, whales, the attack on Pearl Harbor, Polynesian navigation, the flora and fauna of the islands, etc, etc. Her knowledge, enthusiasm, and un-stilted, natural speaking style made us look forward to her presentations. Completely un-Hawaiian related, but thoroughly enjoyable, attorney Michael Bishay gave intellectually engaging and fascinating presentations every sea day on different criminal cases. We learned a lot about legal issues and had some of our notions about the law challenged in a super interesting, non-dry, and non-boring way. His presentation style is very audience interactive, and we loved his talks. I give presentations very often for work myself, and although I am nowhere in Michael's class, I can recognize a superb presenter when I hear one. If he is ever speaking on your cruise, do not miss going to his presentations! I loved how Cruise Director Dave Carson arranged for many of the TV shows and movies to reflect the Hawai'i theme. There were shows on Hawaiian language lessons, multiple documentaries on whales, volcanoes, formations of the islands, movies about the attack on Pearl Harbor, about the young Princess Victoria Kai'ulani, etc, etc. There were even re-runs of the old show Magnum PI which was filmed in Hawai'i, for nostalgia's sake. There were also multiple non-Hawaiian themed movies which were pretty new which I wanted to see, but which I had no time to see either in the Princess Theater or on TV, as we were too busy with all the other fun things we were doing. One of my "rules" on any cruise vacations is that I must get a treatment at the spa during every sea day, so that I can truly relax. Thanks to previous reviews I read here, I only made a few appointments via internet for the first 4 days of the cruise, and waited for the deals to begin. Well the deals started on the third day and saved me big bucks. Thanks to all previous reviewers! Some involved getting a treatment at 8 am, but most of the deals involved getting treatments at whatever time I wanted and were 50% - 60% off the normal treatment price. Some of the deals were advertised on flyers sent to every cabin, some were offered to me by the masseuse for a future treatment, and some I got just by asking at the spa front desk. We went to all of the production shows, the comedy acts, the ventriloquist, the juggler, and the special evening singing acts. We were able to see a new performance every night, and really enjoyed ourselves. Some were definitely of a better quality than others, but overall we had a great time. We opted for the disembarkation where we would handle our luggage ourselves. We were told to wait in a lounge at 8 am, but due to a hold-up by US Customs, were not allowed to get off till 8:40 am. Once we got the all-clear however, everything went very smoothly, and we arrived back at our own home by 10:15 am. While there were some things we definitely did not like, overall we had a fantastic time and loved our visit to the islands. Cruise Director Dave Carson's Hawaiian themed program really enhanced our cruise. While on board, we signed up for a future cruise and put down a deposit. We can hardly wait to begin planning our next Princess cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My son and I boarded the Carnival Glory on Dec. 18/11. This was immediately following a cruise on Disney's new Dream ship. We were complete Carnival fans but The Disney Dream upped the Playing field.This was our second Disney cruise ... Read More
My son and I boarded the Carnival Glory on Dec. 18/11. This was immediately following a cruise on Disney's new Dream ship. We were complete Carnival fans but The Disney Dream upped the Playing field.This was our second Disney cruise and we finished our 9th cruise with Carnival since Dec. /08 ! A little about myself and son. My son is 16 years old. He has cystic fibrosis and is immune compromised. his goal is too reach platinum before he is 17 years old ....His 10th cruise is booked for March / 2011. He is gonna make it if the new changes don't come into play before then... Me, a single parent with a severe knee injury that required two surgeries in the past year and a knee replacement in March and after our cruise. I use a wheelchair/ scooter and had an accessible cabin.... Now, to our review: We boarded the Glory at around 3pm on Dec. 18/11 . We flew in from Orlando after exiting the Disney Dream. My son I went directly to our cabin to unload carry ons and medical equipments , medications and to do aerosol treatments and chest physiotherapy. These are both life-substaining therapies . We were in for a surprise. Inside my son found a bag of medications . Complete with needles in the closet. On the night there were needles toppers , wrappers and tags. Inside the stand were garbage , with crumpled papers....My son took the meds down to guest services. guest services immediately called up and said they were sending someone to talk to me. And check the room. House keeping floor manager came in and viewed the rooms. He found more wrappers and needle toppers on the carpet and mirrored cabinet. He apologized and said the room would get a good cleaning AFTER we went for supper! I non the less thanked him. It was obvious the stands of cabinet hadn 't been wiped down or the closets or selling, etc....Room wasn't vacuumed properly either. The room Steward came in and blamed it on his assistant. Also said there was a coast guard inspection so they were busy. he said , this was not good and left. He too promised a good cleaning while we went to dinner. Not impressed. 3pm and plenty of time to get the room clean. My son being immune compromised was exposed already from someone who was obvious sick as well. This is not Carnival from our previous 7 cruises. Next I stepped into the bathroom. My son had found more meds in a drawer and had taken them to guest services.... The toilet was disgustingly dirty. I blew a lid and called guest services again. My son was not using this bathroom and potentially putting himself at risk....This is when it hit ceiling! cabin Steward had the nerve to come into the room , yell and demand I NOT contact guest services as they were coming down on him. I put my hand up and told him to stop. That my child's life was more important then his job and told him to leave. I called guest services and told them what the cabin steward just said.....told guest services they were very lucky it was a 16 years child with medical knowledge who found the meds and needles because had it been a small child, the circumstances could have been fatal..... The room was cleaned after we had gone for dinner. Supervisor came by later to check the room and apology once again. I told her I felt awkward and uncomfortable with this room steward. He had been completely in the wrong . We had to keep him however and we all just avoided one another the entire 8 nights. The steward was spoken too and written up. He acknowledged his wrong doing and told to give us 110 percent the. Rest of the cruise. I will admit he did and there were no room problems, except for when we changed cabin for the second leg of our cruise. he gave us dirty looks and would not help us move any back. We had friends help and let it go..... Want honesty folks? I removed his gratuity. His lack of regard for my child spoke volumes.... The rest of the cruise during the first leg was extraordinary , especially for my son Jacob. My son last year wanted to take the behind the scene tour. I couldn't walk and he wasn't 18 years so , he was told to come back when he was older....Guess they didn't realize CF was fatal and that tomorrow was not a given...... Anyway, a friend of Josh, the cruise director heard the story. Debbie contacted Josh and explained the situation. Josh arranged some incredible things during this b2b cruise. He created extraordinary memories and made a sick child, laugh , love and live it up! He reserved front row seats for "Rock On", after the show he took him on stage and introduced him to the singers and dancers and arranged to have a professional photographer take pictures! Next Josh introduced Jacob to Cesar the stage director. They let Jacob sit in the perch above the stage to watch the show from behind the curtains and see how it comes together , during the later seating. The course of the next two weeks Jacob got to meet the captain in the bridge. Everyone was shocked when the captain gave Jacob his hat! More photos were taken and jaws dropped when the captain invited Jacob to watch the ship pull out of port. Unheard of before by all accounts. Jacob was told he was welcomed back at any time!!!, My son had a grin ear to ear.....he had a bad two months with two hospitalization and a chest infection which wouldn't clear. Josh , took him away from all that. From doctors, hospitals and painful procedures......I can never thank the crew of the Glory. the good trumped the bad.... During the second leg of cruise we moved to cabin 2470 . It was huge with two picture windows but with severe vibration problem which caused things to dance off tables and stands and one night a 6 foot plastic light panel off the ceiling and half over my bed as I lay sleeping !!!! Carnival gave us all along the. Back of the ship a percentage off our next cruise and and an onboard credit. it was so bad noise wise , that sleep was impossible. The rattling and banging was almost unbearable. Engine problems were to blame and I guess Carnival knew the New Years cruise was an expensive one and gave without anyone asking ! Happy New Year !!!!! I personally didn't care for the new menu. Mind you the food was good and delicious and IMO better then Disney cruise lines but i missed the old stuff. Why fix what was not broken? at least to me anyway.... The entertainment was awesome.I loved the shows , Rock On and Living in American. I got a second heaping doing b2b ! My son Jacob got to do the morning show live with Josh the cruise director , his assistant Misty and Deyonce. They are making a copy for him. The New Years celebration was awesome. I loved the free champagne , the balloon drop for a free cruise and the countdown party on the lido deck. My son got to go on stage for the countdown and help throw out beads ! forgot to mention Ziggy, he too was part of Josh's team and helped to create the magic...The Christmas show as usual made me cry. Especially the staff when they come with lighted candles..... I loved our port of calls. St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San Juan.....the hills and mountains, all I could think of was the the song " The Hills are alive with the sound of music" . They were all so festive and beautiful during the Christmas holidays. For excursions in St. Maarten we did a 5 hour island tour on ATV's. We did both sides of the island and did popular beaches etc. I felt completely safe here... In St. Thomas we did a Sea turtle excursion to Christmas Island. Snorkeled over a shipwrecked and swam with turtles swimming by or feeding at the reefs. This was well worth every penny! In San Juan we did our only Carnival sponsored excursion . It was called San Juan favorites and we loved going to the Rainforest with an amazing and beautiful waterfall and then the forts. This was a favorite of my son 's although he felt we needed more time! Our tour guide Charlos was very knowledgeable and made excursion that much better... in Grand Turk and this being our third visit to the port we just did Margaritaville and the beach. Took some time to Send emails and pictures compliments of Margaritaville..... Our western intinery was nice as well. In Cozumel we went to Chankanaab Park. We did the Sea lion and Manatee interaction/swim. We were suppose to do the Dolphin dive as well but were given wrong times and we had we done it it we would have missed the ship. We were give a voucher to donut again it the next year. It is a good thing we had a cruise booked or we would have been out of luck! This is unusual for this park to do this. Been three times and they are usually very organized. During the sea lion interaction the photographer never showed up....lost what would have been beautiful shots.... A tip for taxis , watch your fares. Some drivers double your fare and then take tips on top. One tried this on us, but haven been in Cozumel seven times , I knew better! In Ocho Rios we did the Grande Sunset Resort. It was an all inclusive . Beautiful grounds, pools beaches, water toys , food drinks...all included. It was priced reasonable but be careful, my son had his IPhone 4 stolen. It was his fault for setting it down, but at the same time we were never a foot away from our bags when it was taken. Make sure you are insured. We were and can replace the phone...not my son's pictures but at least his phone... In Grand Cayman we did sea wavers to Sting Ray City , Rum Point Beach and across the waters at speeds of our own choosing . This was my son's all time favorite. The next day we hurt like , there were no tomorrow! However, Jacob wants to do it all over again. Hmmm"....not me! Lol This is the end, these are strictly my own opinions. In the end the good balanced the bad and it was an enjoyable cruise. I found a few cranky staff in room service and other areas but it was Christmas and they weren't with family and most likely wanted to be home. Understandable ! Thanks Carnival for making dreams come true and making this one of my son's best a d most memorable Christmas! Charley and Jacob Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
The good things: there was something for everyone and we are aged 13 to 80. We all liked the evening entertainment, particularly the gymnast and the comedian who did the impressions and some of us liked the singers and dancers. (meh). ... Read More
The good things: there was something for everyone and we are aged 13 to 80. We all liked the evening entertainment, particularly the gymnast and the comedian who did the impressions and some of us liked the singers and dancers. (meh). With a few exceptions (hey that lobster thermidor was really bad) we had a good time at dinner from opening night to the final Parade of the Baked Alaska (and for those of you who hate and avoid it, what can I say? We waved our napkins with the best of them.) The waiters were great and always remembered my cappuccino. We played Team Trivia every day and came-this-close to winning a ball cap. Some of us did that mile walk every day and I tried learning Tai Chi and the Hula - good instructors too. I meant to take the camera class and never got there but maybe next time. We all enjoyed dress-up (the grandchildren too) and looking at others who made the effort. Some pretty tiny dresses on some of those teen aged girls but at least one of us wasn't complaining... The not so good but not that big a deal: Rotterdam needs to redo the bathtubs as they are really grungy and that tall lady in the Office is grouchy. And the less said about the coffee...Also the wonderful Stryker the Piano Man needs a bigger room. That little bar area was over flowing every day just to hear him. And why couldn't we have more of the talented Adagio Strings - maybe tea time? Best travel tips from others: using a small transparent shoe bag over the bathroom door for odds and ends, bringing a magnetic white board for the door to leave messages for the rest of the family, and packing the thingy with the extra outlets for our BlackBerries, cameras and razor. That one teeny one at the desk is not enough. And we will all remember the other passengers: Bathrobe man(never seen in anything else), red sequined ball cap lady (never took it off but made it easy to spot our tour group) and best of all: sleeveless shirt man who always wore the same one every day...unless he had 14 identical ones. The Captain was memorable for his calm and in control announcements, even the one telling us about the fire....(which fortunately was just a little electric one in the Spa.)Grandson was disappointed he didn't get to get in the lifeboat. The stops were fine: Hilo, Maui, Honolulu. And kudos to the patient and wonderful crew. We agreed it had all been the best Christmas ever. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This 10 night cruise (19th Dec-29th) was only our 2nd cruise and the first time on the Pacific Pearl. What a fantastic time myself & daughter had. Being a real traditional Xmas person I was initially sceptical about spending it on the ... Read More
This 10 night cruise (19th Dec-29th) was only our 2nd cruise and the first time on the Pacific Pearl. What a fantastic time myself & daughter had. Being a real traditional Xmas person I was initially sceptical about spending it on the high seas & worried that Xmas would be a non event. I couldn't have been more wrong. The main areas of the ship were beautifully decorated in traditional Xmas style, the Xmas day menu options,festivities and religious services were perfect. Christmas day was spent snorkeling and swimming, bathed in sunshine on beautiful Dravanui Island - pure bliss. Crew: From our cabin attendant and waiters in the Waterfront Restaurant trough to the Cruise Director, I cannot praise the crew highly enough, they were fun, polite and nothing was too much trouble. They work tirelessly and always managed a genuine smile and greeting. The meals produced for the restaurant by the Kitchen crew were of very high quality, varied and delicious.We found absolutely no need to use the two on board paying restaurants, but friends who did said they were amazing. Cabin: We were on deck 10 with an uninterrupted sea views (thanks to a complimentary upgrade). The cabin was light,really comfortable beds, cleaned perfectly and adorned with new towel animals etc for a bit of fun each day. It was comfortable, well equipped & certainly spacious enough for 2 beds and two people. Shore excursions: Provided in Tonga and Fiji.The only disappointment was boxing day in Suva as most things were closed and there was little to do, but hey, everyone deserves a Xmas break. Throughout the cruise & on our excursions we were blessed with daily sunshine and lovely warm temperatures in the pacific, the rain was restricted to very late afternoons or through the night. We were also very lucky to be sailing in relatively calm seas most day. All in all a very pleasant cruise with great passengers from all age groups. Thank you to P&O would definitely recommend it & certainly would do it again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We flew out from M/C on Sat 3 Dec to Barbados without a hitch which is more than can be said for earlier flights on Fri and those from Gatwick who seemed to have major problems and delays. Embarkation was no problem at all and handled ... Read More
We flew out from M/C on Sat 3 Dec to Barbados without a hitch which is more than can be said for earlier flights on Fri and those from Gatwick who seemed to have major problems and delays. Embarkation was no problem at all and handled well. we didn't pre book seats and luckily my ife sat directly behind me so it wasn't a problem. Not sure its worth the £50 expense for the benefit Impressed with Ventura overall, although now showing a few rough edges to common areas. Balcony Stateroom was excellent in terms of quality and comfort. Sharon our steward was also very good and we got to know her quite well. Appears to be more bars, clubs, venues on board in comparison to say Celebrity Eclipse. Very good onboard drinks prices and like the fact prices are GBP without added tax etc. Overall v good entertainment - Headliners brilliant + Freddy Mercury tribute + Fogwell Flax as Sting +. Rest much of a muchness but still above working mens club standard. We chose freedom dining which was a great choice whether you wanted to share tables or be on a 2. We used White Room to celebrate wife's birthday....excellent. Also used Ramblas which was good but menu options a bit restrictive. Food quality and choice in main dining room very good but you had to be careful about combinations as sometimes you didn't get what you expected. Buffet breakfasts and lunch OK so slong as you could work out which restaurant was open when. Bit a bun fight due to high volume of diners on occasions especially port days..not to be unexpected. Biggest criticism was with passengers adopting typical sunshine/hotel mentality of sunbed booking at ridiculous times of the day. I'll swear towels were out at the crack of dawn on sea days with nobody in site other than a towel and a book. Hence not enough sunbeds or a quicker turnround of beds. By the end of the cruise you could see more and more passengers getting frustrated. Overall, brilliant experience and would have no hesitation on sailing with PO again Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
After spending 2 nights at the luxurious The Pillars Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, we set sail on 12/23/12. We arrived at the port around 1pm and were on board and in our stateroom in a quick and efficient manner. The stateroom was ready and ... Read More
After spending 2 nights at the luxurious The Pillars Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, we set sail on 12/23/12. We arrived at the port around 1pm and were on board and in our stateroom in a quick and efficient manner. The stateroom was ready and very clean. We had fixed seating at 8pm with a table of 6. Several times during the cruise there were events that we wanted to attend, for example, 'The Marriage Game" or Karioke, which started at 8 or 9 pm. On those nights we opted to eat at the Lido, as we knew we wouldn't be done with dinner in time to attend. The next cruise we will ask for earlier seating. The people we spoke with who had 'as you like it' seating complained of inconsistent service and wait times. The cruise director, Drew, was very witty and entertaining. We enjoyed the 4pm trivia in the Crow's Nest each day. At 6:30 there was pub trivia in the Northern LIghts lounge with DJ Reggie, who was also fun. The first stop was the private island of Half Moon Cay, which we had been two twice. The tender to the island was uneventful. The downside is that they like to have a full tender, which means sitting on the tender and waiting until it fills up. Not so much fun if there are some waves. We rented a Hobbie Cat and did some fine sailing. Lunch on the island was OK, consisting of burgers, salads, etc. We ended up eating very little and going to the Lido when we returned to the ship. The Captain opted out of stopping at Grand Turk due to the high seas, so the next stop was Samana, Domincan Republic, where we once again tendered to the island. Christmas Eve dinner was formal and festive. The crew gave an international caroling event in the Vista Lounge which was very nice and certainly put us in the Christmas spirit. The Night Before Christmas (Noordam version) was read by the cruise director, egg nog was in ample supply, and Christmas Eve was a very nice event. Christmas Day was equally nice, with Santa's arrival, more egg nog, good food. The decorations throughout the ship were gorgeous. We did a dive through the cruise ship excursion in Samana (Dom. Repub). Though the visibility wasn't very good and the venue was diving out of a 15 foot rowboat (with an outboard motor), our dive master David did a good job of adapting the dive to us novice divers. Bonaire was warm and lovely, and we did shore dives that we had arranged via the internet with VIP Diving. I highly recommend this outfit, as they do one dive master with 4 divers, and went out of their way to be accommodating & instructive. The dive sites were great with good visibility. Our dive master, Liz, was terrific! In Curacao we did a dive we arranged ourselves with Ocean Encounters. Not a good experience for beginner divers, as the ratio of divers to dive master was high, and the dive was geared toward the experienced diver. It was more like a 'cattle boat' experience, and we were basically on our own. Aruba dive was through Red Sail Sports. Good dive boat, good ratio of dive master to divers. They really wanted everyone to have a good experience, and took the time to help talk me 'down' on the first dive. New Year's was very festive in the dining room and throughout the ship. Good food, champaign at midnight, HAL cats in the Vista Lounge with balloons, countdown, streamers... Older more sedate persons had the option of sitting in the Ocean Lounge with the piano guy (who was very personable and good). The Northern Lights and Crow's Nest was lively. We met some really nice people and had a very enjoyable time throughout. A few younger (20-40's age) expressed feelings that the cruise was somewhat boring and sedate. We're in our late 50's and felt that it was somewhat laid back, but we felt we could be either partiers or sedate. HAL did a fine job of attempting to meet our needs, seeing that we were comfortable and pampered. Speaking of pampered, one thing I noted was the LACK of pushing product sales in the Spa. What a welcome experience! I hate listening to the 'sales pitch' when I'm getting a spa treatment. Thank you, HAL! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
There was four of us going on this cruise. My mother and her mother (my grandmother) were in one cabin. My boyfriend and I stayed in another cabin. Embarkation- We were on the ship within 20mins. of getting in line!! Cabins- ... Read More
There was four of us going on this cruise. My mother and her mother (my grandmother) were in one cabin. My boyfriend and I stayed in another cabin. Embarkation- We were on the ship within 20mins. of getting in line!! Cabins- Together we occupied cabins R11 and R19. R11 is a porthole in the fwd. starboard part of the ship. R19 is a interior "sideways" room in the fwd. starboard part of the ship. Our cabins were GREAT. The sideways room had a lot more room to walk around in the room. This factor alone made the room seem MUCH bigger. BEWARE: If the two beds are placed together in the sideways room then I think the room would seem MUCH SMALLER. Room Steward- What an amazing "team" of people!! Our rooms were clean and fresh. I loved coming in every night and having my bed sheets turned down. My pillows were fluffed, there was an amazing towel animal every night, and the beds are AMAZINGLY soft! We brought two of our own pillows just because I like my own and every night the steward would place our pillows on the bed. Food- The Lido was really good at times. The grill has extremely good hamburgers and the Wok is always a treat. I know I was on a News Year cruise but a lot of the food I thought was going to be on this cruise wasn't. The bacon mac-n- cheese was never on the menu in the main dinning room, nor the bitter and blanc, or cappuccino pie. However, we did have other foods such as chilled champagne soup (which was excellent). The 24-hour pizza was good and I NEVER went hungry. Room service was always quick and was good for a late night snack when I didn't feel like going to get pizza. We order breakfast to our room on port days which was a great idea. We were able to eat and get dressed. We were usually the 1st people off of the boat on port days so that we didn't need to spend the hottest part of the day on land. During the hottest part of the day we would come back to the boat and relax near the pool. We had plenty of time to shop and enjoy the beach. TV- Not a lot of channels but who goes on a cruise to watch TV? We enjoyed looking at the channel with the Lido camera. This allowed us to know how crowded the Lido was before we went searching for chairs. Rough Seas- Our 2nd to last night we had rough seas. I wasn't sea sick until this night. When you see the ship you can see how far up the porthole is from the bottom of the ship. This night the waves were covering the porthole window (the made a gurgling sound that made my stomach roll). I NEVER felt the ship movement until this night. Comedy Show- HOW FREAKIN FUNNY!!! I had such a good time! WARNING- Don't go to the Children shows and the adult shows. These shows are the exact same jokes with cuss words and sex added for the adult show. I still cannot figure out why they have not moved the shows in the Universal Lounge. The Forum Lounge is to small for such a large crowd. Every show people had to sit in the floor and stand. It's time to move the shows to a bigger spot!! The Shows- AMAZING! The lead singers were excellent and was very professional.There was nothing amateur about them. Debarkation- Went VERY smooth! We were off the ship and on the hotel shuttle within 15mins. of leaving the room. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was our tenth cruise with five cruiselines over a period of 14 years. We always choose verandah or mini-suite accommodation and have been happy with every experience so far. We had read differing views of Volendam but were prepared to ... Read More
This was our tenth cruise with five cruiselines over a period of 14 years. We always choose verandah or mini-suite accommodation and have been happy with every experience so far. We had read differing views of Volendam but were prepared to take the chance on a 16-day round-trip cruise, Sydney to New Zealand, for Christmas and New Year. What a surprise! This is the most gorgeous ship that measures up to, and often exceeds, some other high-end vessels. The decor is simply stunning in the Florentine style and lounge areas extremely comfortable and inviting. The only comparison we can make is Pacific Princess, also beautiful. We always begin the day with a light room-service breakfast, the only type usually available. Another surprise - a full breakfast menu for the first time, served on Rosenthal china with HOT tea and coffee. Also, we often eat lunch in the dining room, but we found the atmosphere and environment in the Lido buffet was quiet and spotlessly clean with genuinely friendly staff. Not the noisy mosh pit we've experienced many times! The Lido food was better than that offered by some dining rooms on other ships, especially the dreadful Rhapsody of the Seas, with a wide variety clearly separated into Asian, Italian, entrees, etc. We had pre-dinner drinks in the Ocean Bar every night and found the staff and service friendly. Music from jazz to modern was provided by the Neptune Trio, piano, bass and drums. It was a perfect background for a view of the sea or a whizz around the dance floor at the end of the day. Dinner in the Dining Room was always delicious. The food was prepared to perfection - the ship serves the best beef we've ever eaten - and variety unlimited. There's lots of duck and lobster, not offered routinely on many cruise ships, and service was impeccable. Our wine steward, Belinda from the Phillipines, was a joy to see each night and had good knowledge of the wines on offer. A string quartet played from the balcony during dinner. Christmas and New Year celebrations were just that, with staff going the extra mile to entertain us. Our final night in the dining room was remarkable, with waitstaff dancing into the room singing, twirling plates on poles, waving napkins, as well as the grand alaska (without the flambe, thanks to OHS). It was a bit sad to leave and that's our indication of enjoyment. We were particularly impressed with the fact that we had been allocated our requested table for two, something we have almost had to beg for on other ships where we have loyalty status. We booked for a special night in Pinnacle Grill to celebrate Le Cirque, an iconic New York restaurant which has authorised Holland America to provide dinners from its menu. For $59 a person, including matched wines, we had an extraordinary evening. It's the most beautiful restaurant at sea that we have found and a very, very special place. Following the principle of starting with two positive things before a negative, we must say the following: Our verandah accommodation (deluxe verandah is twice the price) was compact, but after the shock of entering a narrow space between bathroom and wardrobe where both doors can't be opened simultaneously, we settled in and found an abundance of storage (and I'm an over-packer) and must draw potential passengers' notice to the fact that there are two big concealed shoe drawers at the end of the beds. Also, it is a great pity that the open-plan casino spews cigarette smoke from the slot-machine area at one end and the bar from the other into the open walkway between show-lounge, Ocean Bar, shops and Piano Bar. The adjacent and barely divided Piano Bar is especially inviting and after trying it on day one we felt sorry for the excellent female performer there night after night with a poor early audience. Perhaps the smokers came later and took a regular three steps into the casino for a puff. Only 17% of Australians smoke and we manage to avoid it most of the time at home. Staff at the open-plan shop opposite the casino are concerned at the impact it has on their business and a glass partition might solve the problem, but might also deter the company's desirable impulse gamblers. We had one small problem when the ship was unprepared for the need for electric adaptors and were without for a couple of days. When an offer of lunch at Pinnacle Grill ($10 each) wasn't possible for us, the $20 was credited to our shipboard account by understanding Front Office staff. Take note, Princess Cruises! Embarkation from Sydney's Overseas terminal was unimpressive, as usual, for a landmark position, but disembarkation was well-managed. Again for the first time, room-service breakfast was not suspended at a time when it was most appreciated. We chose late departure of 8.45am and it was seamless. Congratulations, Holland America, for our memorable cruise experience - you will certainly be seeing us again, despite the rewards offered by our loyalty to other lines. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was our first cruise with Celebrity and our first Christmas cruise. We were excited to see how it would go and we were not disappointed. We took a shuttle from our hotel and arrived to our ship by 11:15. The embarkation process was ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Celebrity and our first Christmas cruise. We were excited to see how it would go and we were not disappointed. We took a shuttle from our hotel and arrived to our ship by 11:15. The embarkation process was a cinch and, as we were early, we were assigned a waiting area for concierge passengers. By noon, we were on board ship. We were greeted with smiling faces and glasses of champagne, a very nice start to our trip. We headed off to find some lunch and then toured the ship a bit, looking at the pools, the theater, the lounges etc. By 2pm, the rooms were ready. The room was a nice size, compact and efficiently set up. My bag arrived shortly there after but my husband's did not. As the afternoon progressed and the bag did not arrive, we started to be a bit concerned. We spoke to our steward who told us the bag was in "security" and we had to go retrieve it. Off we go to the first floor to find the missing bag. It turns out the bag was pulled aside because hubby had left his pocket knife in the flap of the bag, a knife which has travelled all over the world and never been an issue before.It was deemed a dangerous weapon and confiscated. This left us with a funny feeling as there are knives all over the ship and anyone could use them to stab someone else. They are way more dangerous than a small pocket knife. Off we then went to unpack his bag and go to diner. The ship was beautifully decorated for the holidays, the food was amazing and the service exceptional. Of particular note, were the maitre d's, two lovely young ladies, who were smiling efficient and very pleasant to deal with. Princess could learn from this cruise line as their maitre d's are surly and take themselves way too seriously. We had booked select dining and never waited once. The waiters were all happy, smiling and very eager to help us. We were sat in different areas and hence had different sommeliers. Suzanna was very good, knowledgeable and extremely efficient. Not so with a male sommelier, who made numerous errors with us and others around us. We did not try the other restaurants as we felt the food in San Marco was fine. We had lunch each day at the Seaside Cafe and found lots of options to please all tastes. The sorbet, made daily is amazing. The Christmas day brunch was fabulous at there were numrous stations to suit everyone. Really aprreciated the full roomservice breakfast in the concierge class which we used several times and ate on our balcony. The T pool is great as it is adult only. Lots of chairs to be found, rarely waited. To us on this cruise, the ports were less important as we have done them many times before. We were on this trip to rest and get away. We did go for a tour on Grenada, the spice island,looking at cocoa production, nutmeg and other fruits ans spices on the island. Very informative. In other ports, we simply went to the beach. I forgot that we were caught in a downpour in Curacao,on the floating bridge. We got soaked to the bone but, it was a warm rain so who cares...Orient Beach in Saint Martin was very disappointing. Very crowded, busy with motor sports stuff, para-sailing etc. Not one we would recommend if you want to be quiet and enjoy the sun and the sea. Of course, Magens Bay beach was wonderful. Activities on the ship. The Christmas eve caroling and the show in the theater were lots of fun because they were informal and all could participate. Otherwise, the musicals were great, the dancers full of energy.The acapella group were wonderful, the Arabesque Trio not quite so,as they were often off key. Beyond the Podium talks were also a nice change. Learnt lots of info about the Caribbean. We skipped many of the other entertainers as the comedy did not appeal to us. In summary, this was our 10th cruise, Princess, NCL, Carnival and now Celebrity.We would certainly sail again with Celebrity as we would with Princess who compare quite well. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011

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