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999 Holiday Cruise Reviews

First things first, we loved this cruise! We are frequent sailors with Celebrity so some of the comparisons will be with our previous experiences. We began our journey with a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Miami. Hate flying and ... Read More
First things first, we loved this cruise! We are frequent sailors with Celebrity so some of the comparisons will be with our previous experiences. We began our journey with a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Miami. Hate flying and our flight didn't change that view. Everything was OK though as the flight was on time. It was a $22 flat rate taxi ride from the airport to the cruise dock. We arrived early for boarding (around 11 am) and found registration to be quite easy with no waiting what so ever. Unfortunately, not within the cruise lines responsibility, we could not board immediately. The ship was undergoing inspections by both the Coast Guard and Immigration so we were asked to take a seat and wait for official clearance. Less than an hour later they were cleared and we could board. Again, an easy process and quite quick. We had our photo taken for the Sea Pass and were given a glass of Rose Champagne. The rooms were not ready but that was to be expected since we boarded two hours before the suggested time. It gave us time to explore the ship and it's common areas. We had never sailed with Azamara and this was also our first small ship adventure. My first impression upon entering the ship was the ceilings were standard eight foot heights. If you love the soaring atriums and massive open spaces, a small ship like this is not for you. I quickly acclimated though and grew to love the smallness. One of our first visits was to Michael's Club which is on the tenth deck aft. On Celebrity, Michael's Club is a very nice bar with live entertainment. On the Journey Michael's Club is a very nice library but no bar. There was a grand piano which was occasionally used by passengers and as practice by one of the performers. This room was simply lovely with seating in club chairs and sofas and tables upon which you could play games. The book selection was great and the books were filed alphabetically by author. Best selection and best organization I have ever encountered on a ship. There was always a good selection of books available. Very impressive! Michael's Club was also used for various meetings like the Cruise Critic party, the Officer's Cocktail party, some religious gatherings (it was Christmas), and a meeting place for the Connoisseur Dinners (more on those functions later). Windows Cafe is the name of the buffet area located on deck nine aft. It was open for open for lunch and had the only operating bar at that time. We took a break, had a light lunch and a glass of wine while we waited for our room to be ready. The buffet is small but very adequate for a small ship. No trays, simply stacks of plates which you loaded from various stations. It worked on the scramble system where you pick the food station you desire. For the entire trip there were never more than three people in front of me. The food selection was fairly broad and I thought the quality was quite good. There was always a salad station, a cheese station, a dessert station, and a carving station. At breakfast there was cereal, fruits, eggs, a toasting station, an omelet station, and a waffle/french toast station. Full breakfast service lasted until 10 am and a Continental breakfast continued until 11. One of the great things was their coffee machines. There were four of them all located on deck nine. You could choose from regular or decaf coffee, double coffee (cafe american), or expresso from six different buttons. We always had the regular double coffee and it was excellent. The coffee machine also had a spigot for hot water for preparing tea with a selection of bagged teas with milk and lemon available. Next to the coffee machine was another machine with ice and water. And a third machine which had four spigots dispensing iced tea, orange juice, lemonade, apple juice, fruit punch and a tropical blend fruit drink. Only four spigots, so the choices varied with iced tea the only one which was always available. All these machines were available 24 hours a day. By the time we finished lunch, an announcement was made that cabins were now ready. Azamara follows the good policy of very few announcements. Once a day (at noon) was the Captain's report followed by the Cruise Director reporting on the days activities. Our cabin was on the seventh deck forward very near the forward elevators. We were worried about noise from people gathering at the elevators but were never bothered. The cabin was 172 sq ft with a 42 sq ft balcony which is a pretty standard size. It was well furnished and comfortable. The bathroom was quite small with limited counter space but with enough cabinet space to hold our various necessities. There were bottles of Elemis shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion for our use. I have had small verandahs before but this one was made smaller because the furniture took up most of the floor space. There were two chairs and a 2' x 3' table which was just too large for the space. To stand at the railing you had to move a chair to make room. The furniture would have been perfect had the verandah been twice the size. Azamara advertises every room comes with a butler. After a while, ours came by to introduce himself and cover some information on our ship. We found the service to be excellent but the butler concept is really just a cabin steward in a better uniform. He was easy to reach via his cell phone and any time we needed something it was quick and easy to call. Our luggage was delivered in stages over several hours. There was more than enough storage space for our needs. The closets come with removable hangers and there was drawer storage in one closet and also in the desk. Azamara runs their dining room on open seating, no reservations required, and country club attire. We were tired after our red eye flight so we skipped the dining room and went to one of their speciality restaurants for a glass of wine and an appetizer. We didn't have a reservation but they gave us a seat at an upright table which worked perfectly. The speciality restaurants are side by side on the tenth deck aft. Prime C is a steakhouse; Aqualina is Mediterranean. The food in both was excellent and we had several meals there throughout the cruise. Because the ship is small, it is easy to get around. The ship's lounges were also miniature versions of the Cova Cafe and the Martini Bar but perfectly adequate for the smaller number of passengers. The Cova Cafe always had snacks available when open. The Martini Bar was an evening operation only. Both had live entertainment at various hours via a guitarist, a harpist, and a pianist who rotated between venues. The ship's main showroom was called the Cabaret and it too was small but nicely furnished and comfortable. It was basically one level with a show floor that doubled as a dance floor. Entertainers were good but limited by the size with no sets or costume changes for the performers. All together the entertainment was just good not being any where near the variety or extravaganza of the larger ships. So if you desire high level entertainment, the Journey is not for you. We were happy because we more enjoy the entertainment in the small lounges where you can converse over beverages. The main dining room is a single story, prettily furnished room which is supposed to hold the entire passenger load in a single seating. I thought the food and service was anywhere from good to excellent. But the room just seemed to be too busy and not conducive to relaxed dining. The food variety was quite good but I felt they needed more wine servers. Being open seating, you walk up to the maitre de and tell him the type of table you want, i.e., a single, table for six, etc. There was never more than a ten minute wait and that was only once at the popular 8 pm. The Martini Bar was at the entrance to the dining room and was a good spot to either wait for a table or for dining partners. As Elite members of the Captain's Club we received a schedule of events in our room. I was impressed as we attended the Captain's reception, the Officer's cocktail party, the Cruise Critic party, and the Captain's Club reception that each event had waiters with trays of hors'douevers and servers with cocktails and an open bar. Very nice. Plus the hors'douevers were excellent. Also excellent were the daily savories provided by our butler. We had this service previously on Celebrity and were totally unimpressed. So we delayed ordering thinking it would be the same. Big mistake. The savories were actually small servings of appetizers from the speciality restaurants and included things like tiger prawns, foie gras, grilled salmon, pate, and even slices of lobster. We will order every day next time. There were ten sea days on this cruise and each sea day there were two events we loved. Each sea day at 10 am there was a cooking demonstration and at 1:30 there was a wine tasting. The cooking demonstration was done in the Cabaret show lounge by the head chef from the speciality restaurants and mainly featured items from those menus. Delicious samples were served at the end. The wine tasting was done by the cellar master and consisted of five tastes from a specific region. We covered France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Pacific Northwest, and other regions. An excellent idea well presented and informative. In conclusion we loved the ship and the cruise. It was an upscale cruise for the food, wine, and a very nice group of passengers. We will certainly be looking for more sailing opportunities with Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Christmas/New Year in New Zealand with the teenage children Departed December 23 2008. Sydney - New Zealand - Sydney 14 nights Inside Large Staterooms - 4015 & 4017 2 adults with 2 teenagers (DD 15 & DS 13) ... Read More
Christmas/New Year in New Zealand with the teenage children Departed December 23 2008. Sydney - New Zealand - Sydney 14 nights Inside Large Staterooms - 4015 & 4017 2 adults with 2 teenagers (DD 15 & DS 13) Rhapsody of the Seas delivered it all for our group. Friends asked afterwards, "What went wrong", and we were able to honestly say - "Nothing". Adults and teenagers all enjoyed different aspects, with lots for everyone to do. Here is a rambling, and hopefully accurate recollection of our time on board, and off it. Cruise Objective After years of hectic "family visit holidays", my main aim was to quickly forget what day/time it was, and to just be relaxed. This was achieved by day 4, where I had already forgotten which ports we would be calling at, let alone what I had planned to do in each port. Obviously cruising is for me. Itinerary We have always wanted to "holiday" in New Zealand - not just visit. This seemed to be an excellent selection, as we had a "taste" of each area of coastal New Zealand. To do it by car would have meant a rushed trip with no relaxation - or just doing a small segment of what NZ has to offer. Day 1 - 23 December 2008- Sydney. Embark 12 noon Arrived 11 AM. Long line already formed. Getting on board was a breeze, though a little bit daunting as we were dropped off at the terminal with lots of luggage. Next time we will organize luggage tags (from TA??) before we arrive-this was the only issue for us. Being in Sydney night 1 suited us Aussies as well as those from OS, as we could leisurely see the sights of this wonderful city without the normal rush. Berthed right next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, our dining table overlooked the Sydney Opera House, with a view similar to the expensive 5-star restaurants adjacent to the ship. Day 2 - 24 December 2008 Depart Sydney 6.30 PM Day spent shopping - and being based right in the heart of Sydney was a bonus. Very busy as the last shopping day before Christmas. Seemed the shoppers were mostly businessmen who had forgotten to buy their wife a Christmas present. Sailing through the heads of Sydney Harbour is a wonderful experience - it seems to possess a strong "Aussie-feeling". Similar I suppose to those from US seeing Statue of Liberty etc. Day 3 25 December 2008 - Cruising Food, more food, and then some more food. DS discovered the Solarium pizza bar was still open at midnight. Different from the normal Christmas atmosphere, but DW had managed to sneak on a few surprise presents so we had a crowded pressie exchange in the confines of 4015. All the children got to meet Santa, no matter what the age. Santa handed out gifts (RC merchandise), which was well received. Day 4 26 December 2008 - Cruising This was the day that I decided that I could not, or should not, do all the food options on a 14 day cruise and survive. Day 5 27-Dec Bay Of Islands, New Zealand Arrive 9:00 AM Depart 6:00 PM This was the only port on the trip where we were tendered. Easy disembarkation, well organized by the RCL staff. We were on Tender 1, and when we arrived on shore at wharf 10 minutes from Paihia, the "transit" bus had not arrived yet. This was our first experience of "New Zealand Time", which is even slower paced than "Aussie Time". No problems with this, we just sat back and looked at the scenery for 10 minutes. Some got a little irritated, but then ......... We had pre-booked a jet-boat ride (Exitor) to Hole in Rock at 12 noon via the internet, so we stopped in at the tourist information centre for a look-see. Others had booked other cruise options, such as Dolphin excursions. Our trip was great fun, and luckily for me the waves were not as extreme as some of the more adventurous had hoped for. The scenery was magnificent and the sun came out for a truly spectacular experience. Sorry for those in earlier and later trips where it was raining but that is why waterproof clothing is supplied!!! There was a helicopter service next door to the information centre, so we parted with NZ$240 for each of the children to go on a 20 minute ride to see the sights - which they loved. Great value tour as the helicopter is straight up and over the islands - no wasted time "getting there". Good to book as you arrive as we could see if the weather was fine enough for a good ride. Across the road from the centre was a local market which had locally produced handicrafts. Well priced, especially for those from US, who had a very positive exchange rate. If in Paihia, head up the main street to the "Burger bar/Restaurant" - friendly service, great burgers and lovely NZ wines. Rhapsody tendered to Paihia, a very small town, which is the "hub" of the tourism for Bay of Islands. We were told of a previous cruise not sure who) had tendered to the township of Russell, which is accessible by small ferry from Paihia. No one at Russell knew they were coming, so the small shop at Russell was over-run and sold out of food by 10.30 am. The tourism operators at Paihia, who could see the ship, and told to expect a couple of thousand people, were left wondering where everyone was. Rhapsody had obviously organized things better. Day 6 - 28 December 2008 - Auckland, New Zealand Arrive 7:00 AM Depart 6:00 PM We berthed in downtown Auckland and decided to just cruise the city sights. Could have done Lord of Ring Tour, vineyards etc but were looking for relaxation. This is when we visited the 328 meter Sky-Tower, where grown men weep from fear of heights and not the place for me to visit for relaxation. Was it the glass-floored elevator that worried me most, or the glass floored section of the 320m high viewing deck, or the cafe where one could enjoy a cup of coffee whilst viewing those who choose to jump off a perfectly safe structure with only a thin steel cable attached to them. Following that experience I needed a good lie down so we went back to Rhapsody about 3PM. Day 7 - 29-December 2008 - Tauranga, New Zealand Arrive 6:00 AM Depart 5:00 PM We pre-hired a car from a major company who offered full insurance. Other companies supplied cars dockside but we were not willing to take the risk with a large excess. We wanted to do our own thing and stop where we were having fun. We drove to Rotorua, which is an easy drive for those used to driving on the left, though roads twist and turn through the hills. We saw the thermal springs and mud-pools, along with a Maori cultural centre. We then experienced the "Zorb", which is a large (about 3 meter high ball), which you climb into along with a few buckets of fresh water, and then you are rolled down a big hill. Definitely one for the young ones, and it looked a similar experience to being in a front loading washing machine. Another adventure from the people who brought you bungee-jumping and jumping from seriously tall buildings. Day 8 - 30 December 2008 - Napier, New Zealand Arrive 11:00 AM - Depart 6:00 PM Napier is a wonderfully quaint town. It is known as the "art-deco" town - as it was wiped out in the 1930's by earthquake, and completely rebuilt with many of the major buildings, and houses done in this style. Great wine-tasting and architectural tours, though we chose to relax over shopping, coffee and wine-tasting at a local bar. (I loved the New Zealand coffee shops!) A big thanks to the tourism people from Napier - they really turned it on for the ship. From the free shuttle buses all day with very interesting commentary, to the farewell featuring vintage cars, jazz band and locals dressed in "1930's outfits. They obviously respect and appreciate the tourism dollars. Day 9 31 December 2008 - Wellington, New Zealand Arrive 9:00 AM Depart 6:00 PM It is known as "Windy Wellington" and it did not disappoint. Most walked from the docks into the city centre for a trip on the cable car, which featured spectacular views. This was followed by a visit to the NZ Museum, "Te Papa Tongarewa", which heavily features the Maori and Islander cultural heritage. A truly great interactive museum with admission by donation. Followed by a New Years Eve celebration on board - I have been told I had a good time. Day 10 - 01 Jan 2009 - Christchurch, New Zealand Arrived 7:00 AM Depart 6:00 PM First stop on the South Island, after a reasonable stable crossing. The ships shuttle is the way to go here as the port is about 20 minutes from the city centre. Quiet on New Years Day, but the major sights were still open. We went to the Antarctic Centre next to International Airport - which was very worthwhile. We booked in for the extra "Backstage Pass Tour" which was really interesting as we got up-close with the penguins. Then it was off to the city centre to look at the beautiful architecture, especially the Christchurch Cathedral - reminiscent of English cities. Missed the Gondola ride as DS & DD were busy checking MySpace and chatting to friends back home via internet. Day 11 - 02 January 2009 - Dunedin, New Zealand Arrive 7:00 AM Depart 6:00 PM Dunedin is another great port - another one of the NZ "mini-cities" towns that are very beautiful. We got a local bus (NZ$2.20) from Lyttleton Port, which dropped us at the Cadbury Chocolate Factory (Closed on that day!!!) We walked for 5 minutes to the tourism centre, and booked a tour of Lanarch Castle - well worth the effort. Scenery was breathtaking. Others raved about the Albatross Tour, Vintage Rail Tour, Gondola etc. Day 12 03 January 2009 - Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound, Milford Sound, New Zealand First Sound 8:00AM Depart Last Sound 5:30 PM Dusky Sound, which is only accessible by the sea, is unbelievably beautiful. I personally felt Doubtful was even more beautiful, and then it was off to Milford, which was the icing on the cake. Those who were on the cruise who had experienced Norwegian Fjords said they were as beautiful as anything they had seen. We were told that the Sound's are best when raining, due to the waterfalls. We experienced sunshine, rain, and hail - so we got to see all the variations. I did not know what to expect from the Sounds, as I was unsure how far we would be able to travel into each one. I was astounded by the way the Rhapsody slipped into each Sound, and easily navigated itself through, which was made possible by the extreme water depths within each Sound. For those who have been to Milford Sound via the "road option" - yes we easily made it past the large waterfall near Milford, did a quick "U-Turn" and headed out again. Unbelievable is the best word to describe that day. My 13 year old son even acknowledged the beauty of the area - and then he headed back to the teens club. Everyone I spoke to said it was best to finish on the Sounds, because after that, everything else seems a little ordinary. Day 13 - 04 January 2009 - Cruising Day 14 - 05-January 2009 - Cruising Day 15 - 06 January 2009 - Sydney, Australia Arrive 6:30 AM Off the boat, into the Hotel apartment, surfaced after completing 13 loads of washing to do some sightseeing. Food/Service I am on a 6 month diet following a wonderful time at the "manipulative" hands of Josephine, the world's most wonderful waiter. By day 2 she knew exactly our food preferences and was suggesting suitable dishes for each of us. I use the plural as she often delivered a second entrEe or main course, "Just in Case". Josephine was instrumental in making our cruise memorable. It is a rare day when DW suggests that we "top-up" the tips, but she did so on a few occasions for Josephine. Our children have even made comments re the poor service, compared to Josephine, we have received since the cruise. I made the mistake of telling another cruiser how good Josephine was. He was quite put out, and immediately rebutted with how his waiter was even better. Great RCL service was not just experienced on our table. Windjammer food was good quality - do not expect 5 star though. It has a reasonable variation considering we are on a ship with over 2,000 passengers. I loved the Omelette Bar for breakfast, where DW had her 2 fried eggs done just the way she likes them, and you could choose from selection of ingredients for your Omelette. Noticed on New Years Day the most popular one was "Omelette with everything Mate". Heard a few complaints re the very important and life threatening food issues - such as "I like my muffins toasted for longer - I complain every day and they will not listen to me" etc etc. I wonder what they would be like on a tour of an "exotic" country. Life is an adventure - live it. Lunch in the dining room on sea days featured the "Salad Bar". Great quality salads including prawns (shrimps), smoked salmon etc. Chef prepares them how you like them - very popular as a "light-option" whilst retaining quality ingredients. Diet suggestion - do not do the Caesar Salad every day and think you will lose weight. Our room service attendant (Akmed?) was very efficient and friendly. New to this position, he handled it extremely well, and even managed to put up with DD's & DS's instant daily mess in their cabin. Dining Table We had a great group of people on our table, ranging in age fro 13 to early 70's. Phil & Barry from Melbourne, who are known as Felix & Oscar, along with their lovely wives "Isles" and "Ginnie", Martin from Germany, Rob from Queensland made up the table along with DW, DD, DS and I. Interests and experiences were diverse, which made great conversations over the 14 nights. Their company made dinner and experience, not a chore. The children loved dining with us, and enjoyed the stories from the "oldies", mainly because they are made to feel welcome. Alcohol Prices. The big whine recently has been the alcohol prices, as they are in US dollars. RCL is not responsible for the Aussie $$$ crash against the $US. They also have done their menus months ago, and they are for all of their boats - therefore impossible to easily change. Therefore - all drinks on the menu are expensive when converted to Aussie Dollar. RCL have responded with many 2-for-1 offers , Beer offers and "Drinks of the Day". These are publicized on the Daily Compass and are great value. We purchased Rum based cocktails for US$8 for 2 drinks - very good value. Our dining companions had a daily timetable (Thanks to Felix)of which bar to be at to get the specials. A good way to save cash, and try some new drinks. Duty Free RCL were offering about 20% off list price - and easily beat the other duty free shops we looked at for alcohol. My DD saved money on perfume. Purchased large bottle of her favorite perfume for less than small bottle normally costs. We also saved money on a Guess handbag. These were apparently essential items that she "needed", so at least I saved some $$$. Things I would like to see to make this trip even better •More New Zealand wines and food. The area is known for its fantastic wines and food, at reasonable prices etc etc. Why not include more local wines and feature some NZ specialty food, even for just 1 night, or a NZ specialty dish each night. •Better Internet access. Currently, forget it. Use internet cafe's in New Zealand. NZ$1 for 15 minutes was normal pricing we saw. Everyone with a laptop, which we had, were trying to get Wi-Fi - and complaining of cost/speed. •Upgrade to Royal Suite. Well, you gotta hope! Things I learnt. •If you believe "It is all about ME", then maybe cruising is not for you. RCL have to take into consideration what the majority of passengers want. They have the experiences of the millions of passengers that have cruised with them. •Too much underwear is never enough. •No one should (but some might) complain if you wear the same outfit twice. •Do not leave your black dress-shoes at home. Brown deck-shoes look stupid with a suit. (I refuse to show anyone my formal "portraits" as I looked stupid! •Do not be amazed by the behavior of anyone. •Some people are never happy. •Some people are way too loud. •Hire a tux and shoes on the boat if you want to go formal - especially on a long cruise (3 formal nights). Saves packing tux, 3 shirts, formal shoes. •You need to sit back, let it flow, have fun, talk with those at your dinner table, say hi to people you have never met before and make the most of it. •A cruise is always better than being at work. •RCCL will always drop the price just after you pay final payment, or sell out if you decide to wait for cheap rates to come out. •DW and DD are always right, even when wrong (knew that before the cruise, but just had it clarified again) •And finally, Josephine is the best waitress in the world - no matter what anyone else thinks. That's it - I can thoroughly recommend this cruise, but then, there will be some that are unhappy - as there always is. I'm happy - but I'm back at work. DW has just emailed me an itinerary for April 2009 Galveston to England cruise - she must have had a good time too. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Christmas Cruise Review Dec 20 - 30 on the Princess Emerald. Embarkation and Rooms: We arrived at the port via our hotel shuttle and spent a bit of time in line in a big warehouse. The whole process didn't take long and was ... Read More
Christmas Cruise Review Dec 20 - 30 on the Princess Emerald. Embarkation and Rooms: We arrived at the port via our hotel shuttle and spent a bit of time in line in a big warehouse. The whole process didn't take long and was pretty painless. It was much like at a ride in Disneyland. Lots of people but moved along fairly quickly. We were issued our cards and before long were in our cabins. We had C406 and the boys had an inside across the hall C408. We were pretty much smack dab in the middle of the ship. The room was certainly big enough. The closet was huge and also the cabinet with the safe had additional shelves for storage. The bathroom was fine and again, more than enough space for all our stuff. We never had a problem with the size of the shower or the shower curtain contrary to what I had read often on this board. We had a balcony, partially covered and would say that I would not cruise without one. We spent a lot of time on our balcony. We really enjoyed watching from our balcony as we came into ports in the morning and also sitting and enjoying the views leaving the ports. We also enjoyed having a drink or coffee on our balcony and just being able to relax a little and enjoy the warm weather and fresh air. Ship: The ship is simply beautiful. Having never cruised before, I can't compare but I thought it was stunning.......and, well really, really big. It took me several days to figure out what was where and which way to go to get there. The staff that take care of the ship do a wonderful job at keeping everything immaculate everywhere. It was nicely decorated in the main areas for xmas and they had a nice display for when Santa arrived for the children as well as snow "falling" on xmas eve. Pools, MUTS, Gym: We had three sea days and I was up early (as usual) to find a pool lounger on all of those days. It was very interesting to be up at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. relaxing with my book and watching the chair hogs scout out their spots. These were not people choosing a chair for themselves. They were reserving 4, 6, 8 chairs, throwing a towel or a pair of shoes on the chairs and then disappearing for hours. Understandably, there were a lot of families on this cruise, but does every family member really need a chair? Maybe they should all get up early and get there own and actually use it. The first day was at the very back of the ship which is a fairly quiet area and pretty peaceful. The other two days I choose a lounger near the MUTS screen, once on a lower deck and once on an upper deck. It was nice to be able to watch a movie while laying in the sun. This is a very, very busy area. I literally felt like a sardine......it's an obstacle course to get through the chairs and people and there is no room between the loungers. We did not sit and watch a movie in the evenings but often walked by and there were lots of people enjoying the big screen. I think the MUTS is a pretty cool idea. I went to the gym on a couple of occasions when it opened at 7:00. There were lineups and it was quite busy. I thought that it was nicely equipped and maintained. Decided to just walk outside on the Promenade deck after that. The track that is on the top deck of the ship is a nice feature, but it was too narrow and short for my comfort. It felt like you were always bumping into or trying to avoid other people. Also, way too hot up there for me. There were lots of people using it throughout the day. Dining: We had the late seating in the dining room at 8:30. I have to say that the meals we had in the dining room were absolutely wonderful. All the food was just so good and nicely prepared. I had several of the fish dishes and all were fantastic. Some of the favorites were the seafood stew served in puff pastry, grilled rack of lamb, sea scallops on ratatouille, French onion soup - yummo!! Also the king crab was delicious as well as the lobster. The lobster tail was served with two or three massive prawns which were to die for. There was lots of variety of appetizers, salads, soups and desserts in addition to the "always available" menu. I would definitely say the food on this cruise was far superior to any 5-Star All Inclusive that we have been to. We almost always had breakfast in the DaVinci dining room. You could always order things like bacon & eggs, pancakes, etc from the menu. There was a different breakfast feature each day. Eggs Benedict one day, an asparagus and fontina cheese omelette another day, and so on. Also, as soon as you were seated a waiter would appear with a tray of fresh pastries. I am having withdrawal from the fresh, warm donuts sprinkled with sugar. We tried breakfast once or twice in the buffet but were obviously spoiled from the dining room as the food in the buffet was only what I would say mediocre at best. We also had the odd snack from the buffet, but honestly, the food is so much better in the dining rooms there wasn't much point in eating at the buffets. We also had lunch a couple of times in the Wheelhouse Bar, very nice fish & chips. The other thing I have to rave about is the afternoon tea. My younger son and I stumbled on this quite by accident, but I must say, sure glad we did. Tea is served in the DaVinci Dining room every day from 3:30 - 4:30. There were a few times we missed due to being in a port, but this became one of our favorites. Very formal, white glove service and some very interesting table companions each time. Tea would be served and then trays and trays of delicious little sandwiches, pastries, and the absolute best scones I have ever had. Fresh and warm, served with jam and clotted cream. It was my son that couldn't wait to go to tea every chance we could. I also had a few lunches from the International cafe. They had a nice selection of salads and sandwiches. I found it somewhat frustrating that one day, these items would be "free" and then the next day, the items had a charge. There were items clearly marked that were extra such as the gelato and chocolate dipped strawberries but the lunch items were a guessing game. The coffee here was also pretty good. This is the only place on the ship that actually uses real cream for coffee. Everywhere else on the ship they use milk. I am a diehard coffee drinker and found the coffee practically undrinkable anywhere else. Coffee in the dining room was okay.......but I just don't like milk in my coffee. The coffee card was a good deal for me and I would recommend it. I think I went through three of them. Shows/Casino: Unfortunately, we made it to only one show. A comedian in one of the lounges. He was quite funny and we enjoyed it. We are not much into shows and we found the times were just a bit inconvenient for us. We found the early shows too early to get to and of course having the late dinner, we missed most of the late ones. If I were to cruise again, I think I would choose anytime dining. I think dinner at 7:00 would be ideal for us to take in a few more of the shows. The 6:15 seating is too early, and 8:30 was just a bit too late. We usually spent an hour or so in the casino after dinner. It was never really too busy and it would be nice if they would have a better selection of slot machines. I felt most of the ones they had were pretty outdated. Princess Cays. Nice enough beach. Nothing too special here. St. Thomas: We had nothing planned for St. Thomas. We ended up taking an island tour by a nice local guy. Spent two hours or so with him and saw some of the sights. We also walked around on the strip with the shops. I suppose if you like jewelry and watches, you would enjoy this port. We walked just one block back off this strip to a little convenience store to buy some juice and had a lady in her jeep stop to tell us that we were not in a safe area. She was very adamant about us not being in the area we were in. For me, this was the least impressive port that I visited. Dominica: I had booked a tour to go river tubing with Antours. We spent some time touring some of the island and then went to the river. This was so much fun and I'd recommend doing this to anyone. I think some were expecting a lazy relaxing float down the river, but it was actually pretty hairy in some places - what a blast! We went back into town after, but it was so busy as it was Christmas Eve. I have to say though, I thought the local people in Dominica were the friendliest, nicest people of any of the ports we visited. Grenada: We had an island tour booked with Mandoo Tours. A very pretty island and some very interesting history here. Mandoo is extremely well educated and probably knows more about the politics of my own country than I do. He talks constantly while driving the vehicle, but wow, this guy knows his stuff. He is a very, very interesting man. I bought lots of fresh spices on the island to take home. Bonaire: By far, this island has the most amazing snorkeling I have ever done. The water is so beautiful, clear and warm. So many beautiful fish and we also were able to see several sea turtles. We took a water taxi to Klein Bonaire for a few hours. There is nothing on this island, not even a washroom (I think) but it is a great place to snorkel or suntan on the beach. The port area was so clean, pretty and so well kept. The shop keepers were pleasant and for a change didn't hound you buy stuff. Of all the ports on the cruise, this was my favorite and the only one I would want to visit again. Curacao: Hmm. Mixed feelings here. We went into the shopping area for awhile. Holy Knock-Off Ville. After wandering around a bit, we ended up going back and getting towels/bathing suits and took a cab to Kon Tiki Hotel. The beach there goes for awhile and there are several hotels along this area. Pretty average beach, somewhat disappointing really. Other Things: I actually liked the picture taking stations set up in the evenings. We went several nights for family photos and ended up with some very nice pictures. The pop card for kids or teens is a must I think. I can't remember exactly how much, but somewhere around $40 for the 10 days. My kids also ate at the burger place and the pizza place and said it was pretty good. The ice cream card is also a good idea. My kids met a lot of people their age and had a very good time with their new friends. I guess this is true as they usually did not get back to their room until the wee hours of the morning. They would usually be sitting at the back of the ship visiting or in the nightclub as I did check on them to see where they were and what they were up to. I didn't notice any bad behavior by the kids on the cruise as some people have mentioned. Generally, I thought they were pretty well behaved. Other than the last night when they were several boisterous groups around the ship, but it really just seemed to me that they were saying their good-byes to one another. I also have to mention the dress code. I know this can be a touchy subject but something that really ticked me off. I had read repeatedly on this forum that people would be turned away from the dining rooms if not dressed appropriately. Well, I can certainly say that on this cruise there was NO dress code whatsoever in the dining room. The first night there were several people in line wearing jeans, T-shirts, sloppy runners, etc. I figured that because there were so many problems with many people just barely getting to the ship due to the terrible storms that they had relaxed the dress code for a day or so. I know also there were several who had not received their luggage till very late or not at all. No, this was the norm the entire cruise. These are not designer jeans I'm talking about. Frayed, dirty looking jeans, leggings, washed-out ill-fitting t-shirts, shorts, ipod earphones stuck to their ears, etc. I thought we were going to a hot-dog eating contest somewhere - that's how bad these people dressed. Rant over. All in all, we had a good time and it was a really great experience and we saw some great places. Would I do another cruise? Probably not. As silly as it may sound, I found this a "hectic" vacation. Not really relaxing at all. I felt that I was constantly looking at my watch. The ship is beautiful and huge, but it felt claustrophobic in a way compared to what I am used to. I love to walk a lot and just going around the promenade deck for my twice daily walks just is not too exciting after the first 3 laps. I missed the tranquility of a beautiful, un-crowded beach. Relaxing in a lounge chair reading and enjoying the great weather without people stepping over me. Just things like that. However, I do think for those that haven't cruised and are considering it, you should try it at least once. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Eight of us, ranging in age from 46 to 86, had a terrific vacation onboard Coral Princess from LA to Ft. L over the holidays. In Princess's parlance, the cruise "met our expectations," which is to say that we expected to ... Read More
Eight of us, ranging in age from 46 to 86, had a terrific vacation onboard Coral Princess from LA to Ft. L over the holidays. In Princess's parlance, the cruise "met our expectations," which is to say that we expected to have a fantastic time, and we did. After this, my third cruise with Princess (the others to Mexico and Alaska), I observe that Princess offers a total experience much greater than the sum of its parts, thus my 3s and 4s on the poll with an overall rating of 5. Very few parts of their cruises knock my socks off, but each cruise has been a vacation highlight. I really enjoy the journey, the whole scene onboard, and the chance to see new places, albeit very briefly. While it might not be my first choice for a vacation for just the two of us, it's an unbeatable way to travel with a large group, especially when it includes such a wide age range. I'll write this partly from my own observations, part from the aggregate experience of the eight of us, and another part from the experience of a four-person subset: my brother, his wife, my wife, and me. Our smaller group is my main source for bias: emphasis on fitness and good health, time with each other, seeing new places, learning new things, and experiencing the ship. We walk every morning, get additional exercise in the fitness center almost every day, take the stairs always, eat well (and most of us lost a pound or two), get plenty of sleep, enjoy each other's company, find private times for reading and writing, too, and aim to learn as much as we can about the places we're going. Embarkation in San Pedroa breeze. L and I had an Enterprise rental from LAX with a free drop-off in downtown SP, a 5-minute shuttle from the port terminal. I dropped L off with our bags at 11:00 and then circled back to drop off the car and return to the port. By the time I was back, the bags were checked, and we proceeded through the nonexistent lines for ticketing, waited a bit for our boarding group to be called, and headed onboard. (Others in our party joined later, including some with travel difficulties from the NW. Princess held the ship for two hours waiting for some with weather delays. Apparently about 10 caught up to us in Huatulco.) No problem with our Trader Joe's bags filled with wine bottles for the eight of us (since others were coming direct from the airport). Once again, Princess seems to have this process figured out. Oh, there was a problem with my cruise card, some mixup with my brother and me, but that was good for a laugh, and they got it straightened out. Public Rooms: beautiful, comfortable, clean, not crowded, opportunities for alone time as well as group gatherings, nice bars, game room, library, etc. Cabin: comfortable bed, cozy bathroom (we like them and we were glad to have remembered a nightlight), terrific Caribe balcony aft a few cabins from the midships bumpout. To rate a 5, we'd have to pay more, and I'm not really interested enough in a cabin to do that. Fitness and recreation: As I said above, we took great advantage of this. Among the four of us younger folks, we took only a handful of elevators during the entire trip, took Pilates and yoga, used the fitness center, met on the Promenade Deck for morning walks, etc. It rates 4 only because we're all used to excellent fitness facilities, and Princess's are very good. To be a 5, there'd have to be a wider variety of exercise machines, a refurbished aerobics floor, advanced yoga and Pilates, co-ed sauna, and a more welcoming spa staff. But again, we're happy with a 4. Enrichment: We heard two lecturers. The first, someone with an entertainment and talk-show background, was ill-prepared for a lecture on the Maya. L and I left after 5 minutes. Others in our group left about 5 minutes later, while a couple stayed for the duration: "I wanted to hear it all, so I could tell you how bad it really was." We weren't surprised that someone scheduled to give talks on 1) the Maya, 2) stress, and 3) communicating with teenagers wouldn't be much of an anthropologist, archeologist, or historian. The other lecturer, an academic, provided very good presentations on the canal and Mexican music (as well as others that we didn't catch). Belying our academic bias, we didn't mind his pacing around the stage, but rather enjoyed his more scholarly approach to the topics at hand. Some in our party noted that the theater on Oceania would have been proportionally SRO for such talks. Again, the Princess clientele has broad interests, and enrichment is clearly not highest on the list. We're okay with a 3, since we all read lots anyway. Dining: Again, Princess delivers a high quality product, and I'm regularly impressed with their consistency. The food is really good, but it's not great, and that's fine with me. As a group, we were very satisfied. A number of us would prefer spicier, more ethnically-varied cuisine, but I won't hold my breath for fresh tortillas, falafel, pad thai, and other more savory fare to supplant the staples of traditional dining. We're fans of the early seating, a great carefree chance for all to gather at the end of the day, and many dishes (soufflEs, lobster and crab, NY strip steak, shrimp fra diavolo, cold soups, etc.) were big hits. They're very accommodating and helpful for folks with food allergies or vegetarians, too. Our travel agent had provided vouchers for the eight of us to have a night at Sabatini's. It was great fun and very good, but I doubt I'd do it again. Service: As on our other cruises with Princess, service rates a 5 easily. Our cabin steward Chan, and our dining room servers Christen and Adrian were simply outstanding. They clued into us well, and we all had a great time with them. We appreciated Adrian's nightly recommendations (including his nonverbal disapproval when we'd ask about some non-recommended dishes), Christen's enthusiasm for the less expensive wines on the list (my favorite a CaliterraChileanred), and Chan's attention to every detail. L's vegetarian need to vet any "stealth meat" (e.g., chicken stock) was dealt with very attentively and discreetly by Adrian, also. On an earlier cruise, our niece, who is highly allergic to nuts, was treated royally. She cited "the food" as her favorite part of the cruise. So our expectations for Princess are high, and they delivered again on Coral. Entertainment: Several of us are connected to the performing arts, and we mainly assume that cruises are great employment opportunities for our students. And that's clearly the case. We were also pleasantly surprised by the featured performers we sawsinger, magician, and comedian. Again, nothing floored us, but we enjoyed the few shows we caught. Shore excursions: This was a mixed bag. Some of our group had terrific excursions out of Puntarenas, the train/boat combo and the river rafting, and one had a positive experience in Cartegena. Seven of us took the Cartegena by Land and Sea, and it wasn't a very good experience. Princess later reimbursed us for 75% of the tour costs, due to bus overcrowding, lack of attention to older members of the group, and the guide's lack of communication and knowledge. Clearly, the tourism infrastructure was strained by having three ships in port at the same time. Cartegena is beautiful, though, and motoring around the harbor (albeit in full sun) was very cool. Four of us caught a cab for beach time in Aruba nice walk, a quick swim, and happy-hour drinks at a beach bar. Perfect. We'd avoided the long disembarking lines that day by dallying over lunch in the buffet and waiting till we could just walk right off, still with enough time to walk the town and get some beach time. The shore highlight for me was our non-Princess excursion with Turansa during the Puerto Quetzal day. Guide Lionel and driver Wilfrido took the eight of us on a 7-hour tour of Antigua, a place not to be missed. I recommend Turansa highly for their pre-tour communication, the guide and driver, and the chance to see colonial marvels in a spectacular location. And for $48 per person, including gratuities and ccard fee, it way undercut the cruise line's price for a busload. With just the eight of us, we were never rushed nor ever in herd mode. The canal daywow!! Okay, I know that at least a couple of our CC friends from the roll call thought it was kind of boring, but for anyone with a bit of engineering or history nerdiness, it was a jaw-dropping time. Coral Princess ghosted its way toward the canal just as sunlight hit the skyscrapers of Panama City, and we gaped at the Bridge of the Americas. Once in the locks, we wandered all of the various vantage pointsCaribe fore- and afterdecks, Horizon Court (a cool feature of CP's layout up in the bow on Lido Deck), La Patisserie (which provided below-lock-level views), and our balconies, as well as a dining room lunch by the windows as we cruised Lake Gatun. Most of us had read the McCullough book, had seen films about it, and attended the onboard lecture on it, so seeing it for real was truly spectacular. We're happy to be nerds. The ship: Coral is my favorite of the three I've cruised (Star to Alaska, Sapphire to Mexico). Its layout is terrific, never feeling crowded even on our overbooked holiday cruise, and finding each other onboard is easy. I'm interested to try a smaller ship (Royal, maybe) next time. Disembarkation: easy and efficient, as we've come to expect. Next time we disembark in Ft. Lauderdale with afternoon flights, though, I'll hire a driver for our group and spend some time around the city before heading to the airport. Our airline (Delta) at least, didn't allow us to check in till three hours before the flight, so we had a lot of waiting time both before and after check-in. Other great stuff onboard: coffee card at La Patisserie for morning lattes, soda cards kept us hydrated with soda&lime, blackjack tournaments with a terrific casino staff, a wacky film trivia contest that featured refilmed scenes starring CP staff, dancing to Geraldo Osa's trio, formal nights, New Year's Eve celebrations in Universe Lounge and Lido deck, champagne balcony breakfast, lots of time just to hang out with each other, and of course amazing tropical weather. And probably my favorite thing to do just sit or roam the ship, watching us make our way toward the next port. It's no surprise that many of us put down deposits toward next cruises! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
On 12-20 we boarded RSSC Mariner in Los Angeles to go South along the Mexican Riviera and through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale. Having read a few negative reviews, we were a little apprehensive. The apprehension continued, when ... Read More
On 12-20 we boarded RSSC Mariner in Los Angeles to go South along the Mexican Riviera and through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale. Having read a few negative reviews, we were a little apprehensive. The apprehension continued, when boarding and check in were pretty unorganized and long lines had formed leading into the Constellation Theater. The ship had arrived a few hours late from Australia, and therefore boarding was delayed. Add to that the fact, that wi-fi in the terminal wasn't working, and check in had to be done in the Theater. Some people were pretty upset, but what's a cruise line to do? After checking in, we took the elevator to the 10th deck where we were greeted and asked for our cabin number. Just as we gave the information one of the stewardesses walked past, heard our suite number and said "Mr. & Mrs. DeRose, welcome aboard", We were amazed since she had obviously memorized the suite numbers and names she was responsible for. Maria Cecilia then walked us to our cabin, and said "You've been on this ship, so you are familiar with it, but are there any questions I can answer, or is there anything I can get for you?" Now that's service! She was among the best stewardesses we ever had, if not the best. Our suite was nice and spacious with a walk in closet, safe, flat screen TV and plenty of room. We ordered a bottle of Ketel One for the room and it was delivered within a couple of minutes. Since RSSC is now all inclusive, they only deliver the bottled liquor on request, which is fine. After a few Margaritas in Cabo, we had room service dinner and it didn't take long at all to get it. In Huatulco we ordered room service breakfast for between 7:00am and 7:30am and it arrived promptly at 7:00am, even before our wake up call. Normally we ate breakfast in La Veranda. The food was very good. Although Eggs Benedict weren't on the menu, I ordered them a couple of times and they were delivered with a smile. Signature is still fabulous, but difficult to get into. When our reservation increased from 2 to 5, they did their ultimate and finally were able to accommodate us. We ate at Latitudes twice. The food was good and we enjoyed it. By the time this review arrives on Cruise Critic, Latitudes will be gone and it will be replaced by Prime 7. The ship is in dry dock now. All the staff was very well trained, friendly and went out of their way to make sure we had a great cruise. I can't say that a single person was ever the least bit unfriendly. The Captain, officers, staff and crew were all very nice. Entertainment was really good and we enjoyed most shows. The shows were split between before dinner and after dinner, which made it pleasant to pick one or the other. They also had some shows in the Horizon Lounge, after dinner, which was nice. Since this was our 4th trip along the Mexican Riviera and through the Canal, there were some ports where we never got off the ship. In Huatulco we had gone on the snorkel cruise and ATV ride before, so this time we tried the rafting. We really enjoyed that. In Puntarenas we had enjoyed the zip lines before, so we decided to do that again. This time I did some research and we did it independently. We went to Turu Ba Ri Adventure Park. Initially there were 3 of us from the Cruise Critic Board who planned to go to Turu Ba Ri, but as the cruise went on, 2 others joined us. I emailed Turu Ba Ri and they immediately confirmed the new number of people. On arrival we were picked up in a van at the end of the pier by our guide Carol. The drive took about 1 1/2 hours because of construction on a bridge. The park is fantastic, with clean facilities and friendly people. As part of the package we got 2 activities and lunch. We chose the Canopy Tour and Nature walk. Rappelling, Horseback riding and other things are available. Then we all decided to add the "Superman" cable. It's a 1 km straight line and your speed is around 50-60 mph. It was incredible fun. The nature walk in the park was very enjoyable even though we are not the "nature" types. There were beautiful plants, butterflies, some Iguanas and other "critters". Turu Ba Ri exceeded our expectations and we all highly recommend it. One thing very important is that you should be in good physical shape, as it involves quite a bit of walking and stair climbing. Pricing is very competitive. Our lunch was very good, too. Then to finish it all off we took a couple of rides in a tram to get from point A to point B. Carol and her driver took us back and this time the bridge was open and it only took about an hour. If you'd like more info on Turu Ba Ri, you can Google them and there are several videos on Youtube. You can also contact them direct at info@turubari.com. We had been to Cartegena a couple of times, and again decided to stay aboard. You may be able to tell by now that for us the ship is the destination. In Grand Cayman we did the ship snorkel tour and it was lots of fun. Disembarkation was very organized and pleasant. Everything would have been perfect if the infamous airlines hadn't messed things up on the way home. I took 16 hrs from Fort Lauderdale to OC, California. We didn't have Regent air, so they had nothing to do with that part. So, after the negative comments I just wanted to reassure everybody that "Regent is back". We've been on all of the Regent ships from The Diamond on, so we have something to compare it to. We've also been on all the other cruise lines and just as before, Regent is our favorite. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Back to Back on the Voyager of the Seas 9/20 and 9/24 I just returned from this wonderful ship for fourteen days. I am going spend a while trying to bring you up to speed with my thoughts. I arrived in Ft Lauderdale a day early and was ... Read More
Back to Back on the Voyager of the Seas 9/20 and 9/24 I just returned from this wonderful ship for fourteen days. I am going spend a while trying to bring you up to speed with my thoughts. I arrived in Ft Lauderdale a day early and was glad I did. I heard horror stories about flight delays and weather issues from lots of people. I stayed at the Embassy suites near the port. A very nice property and a short taxi ride to the pier. Embarkation was a breeze mostly. I arrived at 1030 am and a porter grabbed my luggage as soon as the cab stopped rolling. I walked right up to the platinum and diamond line and was given a visit by the upgrade fairy. I was escorted to a waiting area and was on ship slightly before eleven. Being visited by the upgrade fairy is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is who wouldn't want a JS over a D2. The curse was it was only for my first leg of four days and then I had to repack and move. When I tried to decline the upgrade I wasn't allowed to because my cabin had been given away already. So for four days I have a great suite in a wonderful location. The remaining ten days near the end of the ship in a smaller cabin. It had a punished feeling about it. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth but I would have much preferred not to be in JS at all. I know I was given that upgrade because I complained that RCCL had lowered the price to half of what I paid. The reduced price was last minute deals only and my sailing was inside thirty days so I was left with no options but to complain. This review is about the ship and not about ticketing policy of RCCL. I will leave that issue where it belongs and that is behind me. I did learn that there is no value in booking in advance in a slow economy. I picked this sailing because I had been on the Mariner in July and I love the Voyager class ship. The Navigator did not let me down. The Royal Promenade is truly beautiful. Much had been said on the cruise critic boards about the stabilizer issue on the ship. I for one could not tell any issues at all. On the return trip from Cozumel to Florida and on to PR, there were issues. The outside decks were closed at one point due to very high winds and rough seas. I am not sure what the term relative wind speed is but it was registering 80 knots on the tv channel. The seas where reported at as much as twenty meters. Stabilizers or not, you are going to feel that. Captain Bang told me that he normally can use four engines and coast in on time but was forced to run all five and was a little behind. He did a great job explaining to everyone what was happening and keeping everyone reassured. I know everyone on these boards praises captain Johnny for being the guy but for my money Captain Bang is just as good. He and his lovely wife came to our mix and mingle and were very pleasant. He along with myself were a little disappointed that less than half of the people that signed up actually bothered to show up. He is very busy and took time to visit and answer any questions. Several people missed out on a real treat. Both of my cabin stewards did a fine job. I had the excellent service we are all accustomed to. Plenty of silly towel animals and mints on my pillows. My second cabin, 9368 had a slight septic odor most mornings. It usually went away after the shower had been run for a while. It wasn't bad enough to complain about but it was noticeable. The shower was great. I loved the glass doors way better than the curtains in the radiance class ships. It was like showering in a barrel. If I had one complaint it would be the water pressure in the sink. It is almost non-existent. It can be a challenge to shave when you can't knock the whiskers off your razor. I did not ever really notice any brown or yellow water so many have talked about. Perhaps because I never filled the sink up, I only had 14 days at sea. I am not sure with the lack of pressure that's long enough to fill the sink up. I will say that I usually have a glass of water on the side with my evening cocktails and sometimes there was a difference. Some nights it was fine, other nights I ordered bottled water. The food in the main dining room was as you would expect it to be. Not once did I ever leave there thinking that was an amazing meal. To be very fair, I never left hungry either. I understand that they are cooking for 3000 people with very different taste and desires. Overall I think they did a fine job. There was no up-charge steak and there was lobster tail on the ten day voyage. I think they called it a seafood plate. Chops and Portofino's never disappoint. The service and the food were excellent as always. They did not do a murder mystery night this voyage because they were otherwise sold out every single night. With good reason too. They continue to be the best value at sea to me. I can not comment about the spa as I did not ever use the services. The gym was great. Service through out the ship was amazing. I have to give a major thanks to a few people. Darryl in the sky bar for always knowing my name and having a drink for me. Even when on Coco cay. Great job and thank you. Renoldo and Mr Blake at the two poets pub went above and beyond the call of duty night after night. They always made me feel like I was the most important passenger on the ship while serving 3000 others. All things considered I would say the ship looked great. Sure there is some dings and dang's here and there but what ship doesn't? Everywhere you look somebody is always cleaning. I did have some rust spots in my bathroom but nothing that would make me not want to stay on the ship. Besides the ship is scheduled for dry dock this month and I sure it will emerge spotless. Tendering in Coco Cay was a bit of a nightmare. We didn't actually get on to the island until 1230. When we did get there it was amazing. It is way nicer than Labadee. With the issue of tendering, it makes me question these bigger and bigger ships. It seems to this novice that even though the ships are doubling in size they don't seem to be adding any more exit points on them. Now on to the entertainment. This like food is very subjective to the person writing the letter. So keep in mind this is only my opinion. Well mine and most of the people I hung out with. The ice show, wow! How can they do that on rough seas and half a rink. Simply incredible. My hat goes off to the performers. El Gaucho and the Juggler that performed were great. I would pay to see them again. I did not attend any variety shows so I can not comment on that. The comedian, I believe his name was Rick Corso? I would say, don't waste your time. It was a tired old act that was chopped full of dated material that wasn't that great in the 90's. His best bit was when he was doing voices or imitations of others. That was to short and has been played to death on comedy central. As with every cruise there is the staple of shows that we all attend. The love and marriage show, The quest and liar liar. As you can imagine the success of these shows is directly attributable to the cruise director hosting them. In the case of my two cruises I would give them a generous grade of D-. I can only imagine how hard it has to be for the CD to keep things fresh and interesting. It has to be difficult to make every show something special. Every vacationer wants to believe that their cruise was special and different from every other one. Perhaps I am wrong but if as the CD you don't want that same thing for your guest, you have the wrong job. In this case I think Ricky Mathews has the wrong job. I think he is better suited to host an all male review show somewhere. It is clearly where his interest lies. Never have I seen contestants in belly flop contest forced to dirty dance prior to beginning the game. Clearly some where not happy about it and one withdrew from the game. During the men's sexy legs contest it was the same thing. Sexy dance and rub your stuff in the judges face. I found it very disturbing that underage contestants were encouraged or allowed to participate. Some of the judges were clearly unhappy about that as well. Picture if you can a couple middle aged ladies that were chosen as judges. Thinking they would be cheering and clapping for men with hairy legs. Next thing you know there is a pre-teen boy standing on her chair grinding on her. If that last paragraph probably make me sound like a prude but let me say nothing could be further from the truth. I understand that requirement in the quest show, it is after all for adults only. Grown men dressed as women is an understood part of the game. I just don't understand who's benefit that was for in every other passenger contest. There was a show that the cruise director and activity director clearly were into and enjoyed participating in. It was called Fountain. Eight or nine people dressed in togas walked on stage with a picture of water and preceded to spit that water in each others faces for about 15 minutes. Lets call it one of those art things I don't get. Overall I did not feel Ricky or Mitch really enjoyed their jobs. The Love and Marriage show was rushed through and lasted twenty minutes. Not one original question or response. The contestants sat back to back as questions were asked as the youngest couple clearly shared answers. The Liar Liar show was so canned. Every single response was read off of a card. It had a bad Jr.High school production feel about it. To end my entertainment review on a positive note..... The 70's street party show was good. Never have I seen a more dead on performance of YMCA by the village people. I am not going into any great detail about the ports. They are seldom the reason I sail anyway. How many different Saint Something Islands can you visit and really know where you're at anyway. After awhile they are just twenty different Diamond International stores crammed between t-shirt shops. I never fail to be amazed at how many different ways the ships shopping director can use to describe the same hundred stores. Every single one has better selections and better prices than the other 99 do. I usually seek out a good restaurant and beach chairs somewhere. I leave the shopping to people that really believe they are getting a bargain. Speaking of bargains..... has anybody else noticed that the cruise lines have been telling us for twenty five years there's only ten years worth of tanzanite left in the world? Yet once again, Sara Michelle sang the song.... generational stone...... almost gone....going to be really valuable one day.....Ten years left..... Shameful. The islands and beaches never fail you. They are always beautiful and usually plentiful. There is never a short of taxis to take you to one. We did arrive in San Juan Puerto Rico at 330 pm ships time. By the time you get to the pier that doesn't leave time for anything but shopping or drinking. Most of the people I met were very careful to be back on ship by dark. I assumed they knew something I didn't and I followed their lead. Disembarking was great. The new procedure is the best thing to come along in a long time. I actually overslept till about nine. I walked straight to the P&D lounge and was told I could leave anytime. I walked straight off to claim my bags. It is a little congested at customs and the taxi line but that is not Royals fault. Overall, I rate the this cruise and the ship very highly. I would do it again in a while. If show's and entertainment are a big part of your plans maybe you should wait for another staff to take over and run things. If you only care about beautiful ships great service good food and a great captain, book this one Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background Information - we were a party of two adult couples and this is our fifth cruise together during the Christmas period. We have previously cruised with Carnival, Costa, Celebrity and Princess. This review is essentially of the ... Read More
Background Information - we were a party of two adult couples and this is our fifth cruise together during the Christmas period. We have previously cruised with Carnival, Costa, Celebrity and Princess. This review is essentially of the ship and not the itinerary as we did not sign up for any excursions and stayed aboard in all but one of the ports. However, since you are unlikely to be signing up for the same cruise I think you will find the information here about "Eurodam" itself of more use. The embarkation was interrupted by a fire alarm which resulted in a longer than usual line prior to entering the terminal. However, once inside the lines were very short and fast moving and check-in was a breeze. In our experience, this is as good as it gets, and kudos to Holland America for a very well managed embarkation process. Once aboard "Eurodam" it quickly became apparent that this ship is in a different class to the Carnival, Costa and Princess ships we had tried before. At the time of this cruise, "Eurodam" was approximately six-months old and absolutely stunning. The ship is beautifully fitted out and immensely elegant. The decor and lighting have obviously been very carefully designed and the effect is both warm and soothing - the complete opposite in fact to the experience that Carnival appears to strive for, where the emphasis is to provoke a reaction wherever possible. I have no objection to the design of the Carnival ships, but we as a group were certainly glad that Holland America had been allowed to go in a completely different direction by the parent company. We had adjoining staterooms 7118 and 7120, on the "Rotterdam" deck. The staterooms were typical in terms of dimensions, but again the quality of the decor and materials was first class. The bathrooms had a tub which also doubled as a shower. While smaller than an average bathtub at home, it was nonetheless a luxury that we very much appreciated. There is plenty of storage space, including drawers that are built into the bed, and three closets. Because we had adjoining staterooms, our cabin steward opened the door between the two verandas, which gave us a very large space outside to enjoy. It should be noted that the adjoining veranda doors on "Eurodam" are positioned on the rail-side of the veranda, and not the cabin-side. This is a very nice feature because when the partition is opened it gives the impression of one large veranda and one long railing. Most other ships have the partition door on the cabin-side and not the rail-side. The floor of the veranda has an imitation wood/teak effect which is very effective. It is much more attractive than the blue plastic veranda floors that we had been used to on previous ships. While still on the subject of the stateroom I should mention our cabin steward, who was absolutely wonderful. Both friendly and discrete he never disturbed us and always found exactly the right time to clean and service the stateroom. The level of service throughout the ship was excellent in fact, and during our 7 days aboard Eurodam we never had any problems with the crew. At 86,000 gross tonnes (a measure of the volume of the ship incidentally and not it's actual weight) "Eurodam" is slightly smaller than many of the new mega-liners built by Carnival, but much of the difference here is in passenger accommodation. There are fewer staterooms on "Eurodam" and a smaller passenger complement, but the public areas and facilities were very similar in scale to larger ships we have experienced. The ship has most of the features that regular cruise-goers expect, including well-equipped staterooms, state of the art public rooms, exercise facilities, cafes and bars, communication/internet facilities, shops/boutiques, theater and other entertainment venues. Most notable is the excellent shop, and also the pool/lido deck area, which has a retractable roof that is closed at night. This area is very nicely presented, with palm trees and cabanas which are available for hire. There is no big screen, which is probably a deliberate decision by Holland America to reduce the noise and stress levels poolside. It certainly worked because this area was always very pleasant. As well as the large screen, the designers of this ship omitted to include a card room and self-service laundry facilities. We like to play cards and were able to find a number of places aboard that were a suitable alternative so the card room was not an issue. Neither was the laundry facility, although on a longer cruise this would have been a factor. Elsewhere on the ship, the main "atrium"/lobby area amidships is very elegant and spans three decks. The stairs here are made of triple-plated glass and the lighting has been designed to highlight this. The effect is stunning, although stepping onto a glass staircase does seem strange at first. As a frequent gym-user, the quality and availability of the gymnasium equipment is an important factor to me, and this was one of the few areas where "Eurodam" did not excel. The gym was relatively small and crowded, and the equipment, while new and contemporary, was not very effective in my experience. Overall the gym was not a particularly pleasant place to spend time. I did not sample any of the classes or pay-services so cannot comment on these. The Rembrandt dining room was superb and the wait for a table was never more than a few minutes. In fact, we were able to secure our favorite table on the lower level more often than not. The food was excellent throughout, as was the selection. There is a world of difference in quality between Holland America and Carnival, despite the latter being the parent company. The only time we had a wait of more than a few minutes in this dining room was the last formal night of the cruise, which was XMAS eve. Both of the premium restaurants, Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind, were first-rate and worth the premium ($30 if I recall).Our preference was Tamarind slightly because the service was exceptional, but neither could truly be faulted. The main theater on the ship is large but not particularly well designed and there were sightline issues in the majority of the seats. The quality of the shows themselves was adequate, but we have seen better on Princess and Carnival, and this was one of the few disappointing aspects to Eurodam. There are a plenty of bars and lounges aboard Eurodam and it was very hard to pick a favorite because they were all good. We did spend quite a lot of time in the "Crows Nest" and "Explorations Cafe" because this was where the many of the group activities took place. The book and DVD library was also in this area, and was exceptional. However, as is often the case on cruise ships in my experience, the lounges and bars were overly air-conditioned. The casino appeared reasonably well equipped but not particularly outstanding. I say this because I don't frequent casinos and so am not well qualified to judge the facilities at hand. We did not sign up for any activities or excursions on this cruise so I cannot comment on these. Additionally we had visited most of the ports on previous Caribbean cruises so did not venture off the ship, except in St Maarten. On Caribbean cruises we tend to place high importance on the ship and less importance on the itinerary since most ports are relatively similar in our experience. The price of drinks aboard this ship was pleasantly low and because we did not sign up for any excursions, our final bill came to approximately $600 per person for the 7-day period. This made for a very good value overall from our perspective. Disembarkation was smooth. We opted to take our own luggage off the ship which required an early start to the day, but we were off the ship and on our way with no fuss at all.. In summary, Eurodam is a superb ship, with first-rate service, accommodation and food. It is undoubtedly the best ship we have experienced since we started cruising regularly in 2004. However, it should be noted that this ship might not appeal to the teenage/twenty-something cruisers as much as the Carnival and Royal Caribbean fleet. If you are not in that particular demographic though, I would recommend this ship without hesitation. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Princess Elite passengers spent pre-cruise night at LAX Airport Marriott. We found a better rate through AAA for the same hotel that Princess uses and were able to use the Princess "airport" transfer from the HOTEL to the ship. ... Read More
Princess Elite passengers spent pre-cruise night at LAX Airport Marriott. We found a better rate through AAA for the same hotel that Princess uses and were able to use the Princess "airport" transfer from the HOTEL to the ship. If boarding in Ft.Lauderdale a cab is the way to go...less than $20 to the ship includes a stop at "Total Wine" on the way. The Coral Princess was decorated for Christmas with holiday music playing in the atrium. Our balcony cabin E210 was ready when we boarded at 1PM. Our category "BG" was the lowest priced unobstructed balcony at the time of our booking on a "guarantee" basis seven months prior to sailing. We did not get upgraded. The Horizon Court was well stocked for the hungry travelers. Pizza was available on deck 14 and burgers and hot dogs on deck 15. The only fault I could find with the food in general was weak coffee and watered down juice. I switched to tea which had lots of different choices. We had second seating traditional at 8:15 PM which was wonderful. The new menus are great with lots of choices. The always available steak went away (tornados still available) and the fettucine alfredo was not as good as in the past. The caesar salad is still available every night, with anchovies on request...yummy. There were three formal nights on each 14-day cruise. You can expect lots of children on any Christmas/New Years cruise. We had 350 minors, mostly teenagers who were not very well behaved, ignoring most of the rules and roaming the ship in groups of ten or more. Our second cruise which began on 1/6 had 26 well behaved children. We only took part in one shore excursion"Colonial Granada and Las Isletas Boat Ride" out of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. It was a long bus ride (4 hours plus) for a so so meal and a 45 minute boat ride. A total waste of time and money. We went mainly for the "cruising" and not the ports. Our favorite ports were Huatulco and Aruba. The highlight of this trip is the Panama Canal and of course the beautiful Coral Princess. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My boyfriend and I took the holiday cruise to Hawaii. We'd taken the Panama Canal cruise the Christmas before and really enjoyed getting away for the holiday! This cruise seemed extra special in that it covered both Christmas and New ... Read More
My boyfriend and I took the holiday cruise to Hawaii. We'd taken the Panama Canal cruise the Christmas before and really enjoyed getting away for the holiday! This cruise seemed extra special in that it covered both Christmas and New Year's. It was about $1,000 more, but since my business is closed for the holidays - I didn't need to use much vacation. Since we live near LA, it was also great not to have the luggage limits the folks who flew experienced. Our start was a bit rocky! Literally! Shortly after we took off, we encountered VERY high winds and waves. Even though the cruise was sold out, so many people were sick that the dining rooms were very sparsely populated. This leads to my first piece of advice. The BEST cure for seasickness is Ginger pills. I was first offered them on a catamaran on the Great Barrier Reef. I didn't feel sick at all and NO side effects. They sell them in the gift shop - but next year I'll buy them ahead of time. I did feel a bit scared the first night. The ship tossed and shuddered something awful. I kept waking my boyfriend because it felt like the ship would turn over. There were a lot of Brits, Scots and Canadians on this tour. It was a nice change from the South American crowd on the Panama Canal tour. South American travelers do not seem to discipline their children at all. We had so many experiences with rude children talking and playing noisy videogames during the performances with them. The kids on this trip were a lot more well-mannered. The biggest negative was something I noted the first few days - and officers on the ship seemed to know what I was saying. I'm not sure why, but the staff serving in the 6th floor Personal Choice dining room are FAR SUPERIOR to the staff on the 5th floor. We ate on the 5th two evening meals and one lunch. All three times the waiters were slow and rude. I wondered if a cruise where you're on the ship so long would get boring. It didn't (but do bring lots of reading materials and crossword puzzles, etc.) It was so nice to really relax. There were also lots of activities and good entertainment - lecturers, movies. My only gripe was that a lot of the Trivia and games were in the Wheelhouse Bar. It is a smoking bar and reeks! I took a class in how to make a lei (on the way back). If you think it would be interesting buy a skein of eyelash yarn and another of decorative (nubby) yarn. The four ports were wonderful. Second suggestion. In each port I booked a rental car. It was way cheaper than taking the tours and we got to see what we wanted to see and at the pace we wanted to see it. Here's an example. In Kauai, we decided to tour Waimea Canyon. The shore excursion was $59 each. Our rental car was $67. When we got to the canyon (and we made a fun stop at a suspension bridge in a little town on the way) we saw the Princess shore excursion bus and the people we'd dined with the night before. They looked really bummed. The whole canyon was obscured with clouds and fog. They left. My friend and I hung out a little longer. Twenty minutes later the clouds and fog cleared an we had amazing views and rainbows. Later we stopped at a blowhole and a little restaurant on the shore. Our friends returned to the ship in disappointment. We had similar experiences in Oahu and on the Big Island. We'd reserved a car in Maui, but since we hadn't paid in advance we canceled it and went on a whale watch. We saw 18 whales. (this was the tour by the Whale study group - not a commercial group. Really great. The holiday celebration for Christmas was pleasant. Not too over the top. On New Year's eve it looked like it might be disappointing. The atrium area was so crowded you couldn't move and they were planning to drop balloons on our heads. Whoopee! However, when that was over, we were told to go outside. We were sailing by the Aloha Tower in Honolulu! We could see fireworks all over the entire island. It was beyond belief. The tower had a huge display and there was another huge one at Diamond Head. But, there were dozens of smaller displays that went on for 40 minutes or so. We had a front rail seat. It was breathtaking and I was impressed at the organization that it took to have us there at precisely the right time. If this tour is repeated next year = GO. We lounged around on the way back. The entertainment was mostly fantastic. They had musicians who played all kinds of music and a juggler that solved a Rubik's cube while juggling in under 5 minutes. A lecturer from NOAA was really interesting and had great slides. One comedian was a little poor - but hey, its free, so we went back to the room. We could have lived without Mexico, but it was nice to touch land again. I'm trying to book an Alaska Cruisetour for this summer. This cruise on the Golden Princess is really fantastic. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO) DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior ... Read More
EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO) DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior we sailed on the old Noordam from Rio to Valparaiso on our honeymoon. We were excited to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (New Year's Eve) by doing this itinerary again. The added bonus of Antarctica, which had always been a dream for us, made this a cruise we'll never forget. AIR - HAL arranged the air from Vancouver to Valparaiso, and Rio back to Vancouver. We were booked on Air Canada flights from Vancouver to Toronto and then Toronto to Santiago. It snowed the night before we left Vancouver which caused several flight delays. We were extremely lucky our flights were not delayed at all. We landed in sunny warm Santiago on time at 12:30 PM, a 5 hour time difference from home. We went through two separate lineups - one to pay the $132 US each reciprocity (airport) fee and then through customs. A HAL rep greeted us in the luggage claim, checked off our names and then guided us to another HAL rep to a waiting bus. Our checked luggage was put on a truck that went to the ship and was delivered directly to our stateroom. It took about an hour from landing in Santiago until we were on the bus. The drive to Valparaiso was 1.5 hours. After check-in at the terminal we bought 2 bottles of wine which were free to take on board on embarkation day. We then went through security and onto another bus which drove to the ship. We arrived too late for our embarkation picture to be taken however we were able to get one made up with a picture taken later in the cruise. We just had enough time to drop our bags in our stateroom, freshen up and grab our life jackets for the lifeboat drill. It was 1 hour before sailing - which to us was cutting it way too close! SHIP The ship was decorated throughout with colourful Christmas trees. The front office was decorated with fresh flowers and poinsettias which looked quite festive. The tree lighting ceremony took place at 7:30 PM the first night and Christmas carols were sung. There was a nativity scene on the lower promenade level atrium and a few Christmas trees with white lights which were quite pretty. The lower atrium had a mirrored wall reflecting millions of colours. The main dining room was decorated with stars hanging from the ceiling and white poinsettia garlands around the upper inside. STATEROOM Our stateroom was 3345 - just steps away from the lower promenade atrium (and right beside the self-service laundry). This was the quietest stateroom we'd ever been in and we never heard any noise from the adjoining staterooms, above, below or the laundry room at all. The stateroom was quite spacious with 2 large twins put together, a love-seat and chair. We each had our own closet space as well as a closet for coats, shoes etc. There was storage space under the bed for our luggage. We were surprised to see that we didn't have a mini refrigerator. The washroom was average size with adequate storage space for our personal toiletries. The wall-mounted hair dryer got too hot after 20 seconds. Luckily there was a portable hair dryer (in HAL bag) in one of the dresser drawers to use instead. We were somewhat disappointed that we only received one canvas HAL bag this cruise. On the Explorer cruise we took 10 years ago, we each received one HAL canvas bag, rain poncho, small Spanish dictionary, small South America guidebook, mini binoculars, journal and wooden pen. SERVICE Outstanding. Our stateroom was attended to by Agus and Ikhwan who were quite efficient and not intrusive. HAL seems to have cut their staff as they seemed to be responsible for a great many staterooms. The same also seemed to apply in the dining room. DINING - We chose second seating dining at 8 PM at a table for two. We opted for formal dining as it was a holiday cruise. DH grumbled at first at the thought of bringing a suit, shoes etc. but next time will consider renting a tux, not to mention the extra luggage space that will be saved. Our waiter was Paul and his assistant was Theodor. Our wine steward was Dino and his assistant was Joseph. All men were quite pleasant the entire cruise and never stopped smiling. The maitre'd always stopped by our table each night, called us by name and would inquire how our day and meal was (how he remembered everyone's names we don't know.) The meals were excellent and nicely prepared. We enjoyed the chilled soups whenever they were on the menus. A latte, cappuccino or hot chocolate could be ordered after dinner at no extra charge. It was disappointing to note that some men and women wore jeans on formal and smart casual evenings (obviously they hadn't read their Welcome Aboard literature which clearly stated no jeans). Anyone paying this amount of money on a cruise can at least afford a pair of dark pants don't you think. The maitre d' should have gently reminded these people to either change or suggest eating in the Lido Cafe instead, but it seemed he didn't want to rock the boat. We once skipped dinner in the dining room and went to the Lido Cafe - where anything on the menu was the same as the dining room anyway. Then you could see what you wanted to eat in advance. We ate breakfast in the dining room just once. Several times we ordered in-room dining where the meals were always delivered on the dot. At the Lido Cafe there were a number of make-to-order stations for eggs benedict, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage. You name it they had it. Some days it was hard to decide what to have. For lunch in the Lido Cafe there was a great variety of pasta and sauces, wraps, grilled sandwiches and salads to choose from. We tried to avoid eating where people served themselves - not everyone used the hand sanitizer or used the tongs. The pool area had a few kinds of greasy pizza slices; also at the Terrace Grill you could order a hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger or hot dog. PHOTOS Each 8x10 picture cost $14.95 - pretty steep and the price adds up. Many photos were not bought - perhaps many more would have been bought if the price and size was reduced. Almost every night the ship's photographers were set up to do portrait or green screen photos. They were also visible on deck during scenic cruising and at the various ports. SHOPS Just a few "dam" souvenirs and the usual expensive jewelry. There were few people in the shops the entire cruise. The souvenir South America T-shirts were a bright cayenne pepper colour which we never saw anyone buying. Also for sale were light jackets with an Antarctica patch sewn on and these didn't even have a hood. CASINO This was one of the smallest casinos we'd ever seen on a cruise ship, and hardly anyone ever in it. There were penny slot machines with no one ever sitting at them. We usually enjoy the slot machine tournaments but there didn't seem to be much interest so we didn't bother. BINGO We never bothered to check this out. GYM We never bothered to check this out. SPA Did not use however DH had his hair cut for $25 and they did a nice job. ART AUCTION We never bothered to check this out (not even for the free glass of champagne LOL). LIBRARY We rented a few DVDs ($3 each) to watch in our stateroom on sea days - "Message in a Bottle" and "Pirates of the Caribbean - World's End" which was aired on TV just after we watched it of course. SHOWS The one and only show we went to in the Queen's Lounge was a comedian named Tom Sutton from Britain. He was one of the worst comedians we'd ever heard. His material was either political or quite dated - references to Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie. Some people walked out of the theatre and I wished we had done the same - we should have chosen to do our laundry instead. DRINKS We purchased a card for $56 which entitled us to 10 cocktails. The frozen (strawberry or lime) margaritas were the best and ended up being $1 cheaper than you would pay individually. MOVIES Among the movies we saw in the Wajang Theater were the "Dark Knight", "Swing Vote" and "Christmas Vacation". These movies were broadcast on TV the following day. LAUNDRY $2.00 (8 quarters) for the wash cycle and the dryers were free. We found the best time to do laundry was after dinner otherwise everyone tried to go there at the same time, usually on sea days. CRAFTS Creative Christmas Crafts class hosted by the party planner who explained that HAL had not hired a crafts person this cruise. She brought a large plastic container filled with construction paper and glue she'd gotten from the children's area! Her suggestions were to either make a wreath out of hand prints (no thanks) or a Santa to hang on our stateroom door. Some ladies walked out at this point (I wished I had) but I stayed, made a lame looking Santa that I would have been embarrassed to hang on our stateroom door. I didn't attend any future crafts sessions. PORTS We had visited each port on our previous South America cruise. The only shore excursions we took were in Punta Arenas, Falkland Islands and Rio de Janeiro. Puerto Montt The tender took about 15 minutes and docked near the Angelmo artisan market (about 30 artisan stalls). We walked about a mile to the Paseo Mall. The mall had 3 levels with a food court including KFC and Pizza Hut, and on one level there was a tiny McDonalds kiosk selling ice cream. Ladies take notice - when going to the bano (bathroom) - take your paper first from a giant roll before going into a stall as there was no paper provided inside. The mall also had a large supermarket called Full Fresh where we bought pisco in a dark Easter Island decanter and Artesano pisco sour which was already mixed. We walked back to the Angelmo artisan market selling hand-made woolen caps, scarves, jackets etc. We had bought a lot of this stuff 10 years ago so we only bought a few postcards. Punta Arenas Patagonia Experience - Otway Bay tour (we did this 10 years ago). The bus ride was about an hour and we stopped a few times to see rheas by the road side. The weather was overcast but did get a bit sunny. There was a large parking area (a few people had come in taxis), washrooms, a small cafe and a few souvenir kiosks. It was about a mile walk along roped boardwalks out to the Magellanic penguins. We saw many penguins, which marched in comical lines down to the water. A viewing platform was available to see the penguins in the ocean. A trailer back on the pier sold woolen hats, sweaters, gloves and souvenirs. I bought a woolen alpaca hat (flannel lined) with ear flaps for $5, a souvenir penguin mug and a book on Antarctica. That alpaca hat was the best $5 purchase I ever made when we cruised in Antarctica!!! We split the cost of a taxi ride into town for $10 with another couple. In the middle of town was a square with a statue of an Indian with a golden toe - if you touched it legend states you'll return again some day (and here we were!). Around the square were a number of handicraft tables. DH bought a hooded alpaca sweater and a hat. Ushuaia, Argentina Very picturesque with the snow capped mountains all around. We docked at 1 PM and the wind blew fiercely as we walked off the ship. We went through a security building then out to the town. We walked along San Martin, the main street, with several souvenir shops. We stopped at Laguna Negra, a chocolate shop which had a little cafe in the back where we enjoyed bottles of Cape Horn pale ale. Cape Horn We were out on deck at 7 AM where it was windy and overcast to witness passing the tip of South America. We thought there was supposed to be a monument with an albatross but we didn't see one. Antarctica cruising (December 23) It was quite foggy and snowing lightly (how often can you say you've been on a cruise and it snowed?). We could just make out the mountains and the ice made it quite an awesome thing to see. We saw our first penguins far off on land in the distance. People wore an odd assortment of footwear - from flip flops with socks to high heel sandals. A group of people came on board from Palmer Station to give a slide presentation of the research they do which was quite interesting. In a corner of the Crow's Nest was a "Base Camp" which was a tent recreating the Shackleton Antarctica adventure. Maps were on display of where we would be cruising in Antarctica. A TV played a DVD of the movie "Shackleton" over and over. DH and I watched the 2 hour movie one afternoon with a tango class in the background so it was hard to hear some parts of the movie. This base camp should have been set up in a small room elsewhere on the ship. Antarctica cruising (December 24) A beautiful morning with spectacular views of icebergs as we retraced the route we went the day before, which was completely different without all the fog. Many people remarked this was a surreal experience seeing this and it was so awesome to describe. We passed by the Argentina and Chile research stations. In the afternoon we went up on Lido deck aft for the "Penguin Dip" in the pool. It was cold though the pool water was warm. Waiters were ready with cups of hot chocolate as we came out of the pool. Certificates of this event were delivered to our stateroom a few days later. Antarctica cruising (December 25) We started the day by seeing Adelie penguins on an iceberg! The sky was clear and blue but cold. We stayed out on deck until 10 AM - rushed in to have our pictures taken with Santa in the Queen's Lounge - then went back out on deck. We saw the Esperanza research station belonging to Argentina. About 42 people live there with 2 school teachers, and the children are considered part of the Argentinian school system. All the dining room staff wore Santa hats and most people dressed formally for dinner. We passed by Elephant Island just before dinner - DH went outside and took pictures but we were not close enough to see any elephant seals. Sundown was 11 PM and sunrise 4 AM. Stanley, Falkland Islands We had originally planned to do OBT Sparrow Cove and were wait-listed on the Volunteer Point Penguin tour. The night before we got confirmation for Volunteer Point. We got onto the tender at 6:45 AM, and the water was so choppy we almost didn't make it to the dock. If it had been any worse they probably would have discontinued the tender process. There were 48 people on our tour and we went in groups of 4 in Land Rovers (these are shipped to the FI, but the tires are specially ordered from the UK). Our guide and driver was Neil, born in the UK and now a resident of FI. Apparently he had been waiting since 6:15 AM for us to arrive (we were an hour late), and apologized for not shaving LOL. Neil told us about the FI war of 1982 of which there were still land mines in the ground but were roped off. He said when a cruise ship is in, everyone pitches in do driving - lawyer, doctor, dentist etc. All education is free in the FI and tuition and expenses is paid if you further your education in the UK afterward. Medical and dental expenses are also free. The countryside was pretty bland, bleak and very windy. Part of the way was off-road and quite bumpy in some spots. At Volunteer Point there was a small portable with toilets and info. Bag lunches were provided consisting of a ham or cheese sandwich, bottle of water, roast chicken chips and an apple. We had 2 hours to see the penguins. Ground rules were don't run, let anything flap, talk loudly and stay outside the ring of stones which served as a perimeter for the penguins. Inside the ring of stones there were a number of baby penguins still with some of their fluff. Wardens wearing bright green fluorescent vests ensured that everyone obeyed the rules. The king penguins we saw were awesome! They just stood there and posed while we took close-up shots. Down at the beach, the water was a tropical turquoise blue and the sand a very fine white powder like talc. There were king and gentoo penguins here. This was the most incredible experience to see these animals up close. The only other place in the world to see king penguins is on South Georgia Islands. Our tour guide let us off close to the whale bone arch where we walked back to the tender. We only had 30 minutes so we went into Capstan Gift Shop, a really nice gift shop selling penguin souvenirs, cards, DVDs, glassware and all kinds of things. Buenos Aires, Argentina We were awakened at about 12:30 AM by the captain announcing over the PA of "bright star, bright star, cabin XXXX" which sounded like an emergency code of some kind. We asked our dining room waiter about this and he said a female passenger had had a heart attack and passed away that morning. It was sunny and warm. It was mandatory to take a shuttle bus from the ship to the cruise terminal as the ship was docked in an industrial area. We walked up to the Florida pedestrian mall which stretched for 6 blocks and branched off another 6 blocks. We took a taxi to the Recoleta and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and then walked back to the ship. The Filipino crew show was awesome to watch - we don't know when they ever found the time to practice! Montevideo, Uruguay The cruise director announced over the PA that docking would be delayed by one hour so all tours would depart an hour later. Some people complained of this as we had only traveled about 87 miles from Buenos Aires the previous evening. The cruise director explained that the appropriate arrangements had to be made so that the husband of the deceased passenger could disembark with her body. It was overcast and a bit cool. We walked up the street where shops were just opening. Many buildings looked old and rundown, and the streets and sidewalks were uneven. DH collects stamps so at the main post office he bought a first day cover of Ano Polar Internacional canceled with a penguin stamp. The fellow who helped us apologized for dressing so casually - as it was New Year's Eve the custom around mid-day was that people threw their old calendars, day-timers and water from buildings at people below in the street!!! We later watched as a bunch of people getting on and off a bus got drenched with water. We were careful crossing the street but a few seconds later we both got wet - I just looked up, smiled and waved to the people laughing. I looked like something the cat dragged in LOL as we walked back to the ship. At a small wine store across from where the ship was docked we bought a bottle of Maria Zarranz MEtodo Champenoise Extra Brut wine from Uruguay ($25 US) which we used to bring in the New Year that night. We received a congratulatory card from the captain for our 10th anniversary. In the dining room we found New Year hats at our table. The New Year's Eve Gala Dinner included caviar and seafood cocktail and lobster. For dessert there was a chocolate tower filled with mascarpone mousse and crème de cacao and had Happy New Year 2009 in gold lettering. The maitre'd brought a small cake with a candle on it (white icing with chocolate cookie crumbs on the outside and devil's food on the inside) and he and our waiters sang a lively Filipino tune, wishing us a happy anniversary. We had the cake delivered to our stateroom. All of the public lounges were decorated with paper streamers and sparkly confetti. We went to the Queen's Lounge around 11:30 pm which was already half full at this time. We picked up blowers and noisemakers as we went in. We got a good seat off to the side, and each table had 2 balloons, black top hat and star confetti and paper ribbons. It was quite noisy with everyone blowing their horns and turning their noisemakers. Waiters made the rounds with free champagne 20 minutes before midnight. The stage had been converted to a dance floor with rails at the edge so people wouldn't fall off. Big screen monitors on each side of the lounge counted down the time to midnight. At midnight the whole lounge erupted with noise and a net of balloons was released from the ceiling. What a mess was left on the floors throughout but of course was all gone the next morning. New Year's Day We had New Year's Day brunch at the Pinnacle Grill ($30 each). We'd never eaten at a restaurant on a ship with a cover charge. There were about 25 people who came and we were offered a glass of champagne at the door. The buffet area was set up in the back and consisted of various seafood (jumbo shrimp, crab legs, herring, salmon and caviar), cold cuts and cheese, roast beef and salads. Breakfast items such as omelets were made to order. A dessert tray consisted of assorted squares, pastries and freshly dipped chocolate strawberries. White and red wines were served. DH had 5 servings of caviar. We were so stuffed we went back to our stateroom and rested for the afternoon. Went to the Dessert Extravaganza at 11:30 PM that was set up on tables around the pool. There were ice sculptures, a chocolate fountain, a few crepes stations and quite an assortment of pastries. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil We were out on deck at 5 AM as we sailed into Rio, past the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf. We chose the 8 hour Rio Extravaganza tour for both days in Rio for these reasons: (1) in case the weather didn't cooperate one day, (2) we were guaranteed seeing the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf and (3) safety - we'd read it wasn't very safe to be roaming around in Rio (even by taxi). The first day it was about 33 degrees and humid. We drove to Sugar Loaf first. We were glad we were on a tour as we bypassed everyone standing in line for tickets. The tram stopped at one level where you got off, took pictures and then went to the next level. Our tour description stated lunch at a seafood restaurant but was at a barbecue restaurant instead. A number of tour buses were already there and we sat at a table for 10. We helped ourselves to the salad bar. Platters of food were brought to the table like rice, puffy cheese puffs, fried bananas and french fries. Huge skewers of meat (lamb, beef, pork, sausage and chicken) were brought around and were sliced onto your plate with a huge knife (careful not to move LOL!!!) Dishes of vanilla soft serve ice cream with fruit cocktail were served for dessert. Corcovado. The tram ride was 20 minutes through the Tijuca Forest with lush greenery on both sides. There were chachaka trees with large yellowish hanging fruits. It was quite an amazing incline when we arrived at the station. Again we were glad we were on a tour and bypassed the crowds. We boarded a narrow elevator (only 5 people at a time) then up a few escalators (the highest in the world?). There were a few souvenir shops all selling the same little statues and souvenirs. Back at the bottom of the tram station there was a Hard Rock Cafe kiosk. DH wanted to buy a ball cap but they would not accept US dollars (he bought one later at a HRC kiosk in the terminal where the ship docked). We bought a poster of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf signed by the photographer for $82 US. Our bus drove past the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches which were packed. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (disembarkation) We waited in our stateroom for our ticket (luggage) number and colour to be called for our tour. At the end of our tour, we would be dropped off at the airport. It was overcast and cooler which was a bit of a relief. Our tour bus was full and we went to the Corcovado first. It was quite windy and raining slightly when we got there. Once we got up to the top we were told the elevators weren't working as the winds were too high (felt like a hurricane). We walked up the few steps to the Corcovado. It was completely misty in some spots. Our lunch stop was at a different barbecue restaurant where the food was essentially the same as the day before but just as good. Our tour guide phoned ahead to Sugar Loaf in case the trams weren't operating. They were - it was windy with intermittent rain. We drove past the beaches again, completely deserted this time. We were dropped off at the airport around 5 PM. Everyone's luggage from the ship had been put onto trolleys but not in a totally secure area. Our flight to Miami was not until 10:15 PM but we got in the ONE lineup for international flights anyway. It took 90 minutes to get to the first security desk. An AA rep had our e-ticket printouts. Then we waited another 30 minutes to check in our luggage. We were given boarding passes for all 3 flights (Rio-Miami, Miami-Dallas Ft. Worth and DFW-Vancouver) however for the first flight to Miami we did not have seat assignments and were told to deal with the AA rep at the gate before boarding the plane. We went through security into a confusing mess of people. Half a dozen other people at our gate were also without seat assignments. We never thought to check our flight status on the Internet on the ship and we could have averted this confusion altogether. We managed to get home safely with all our luggage intact. Overall, we had an awesome vacation and would do this itinerary (especially Antarctica) again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Carnival Legend 12/28/08 - 1/4/09 Western Caribbean RT Tampa, FL Background: Here is a little background about me and my experience cruising. This was my 30th cruise, and 18th on Carnival. I have also cruised with Royal Caribbean, ... Read More
Carnival Legend 12/28/08 - 1/4/09 Western Caribbean RT Tampa, FL Background: Here is a little background about me and my experience cruising. This was my 30th cruise, and 18th on Carnival. I have also cruised with Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, NCL, Majesty, and Premier. This was my first cruise over New Years, and I really enjoyed that part of the trip. We traveled with a group of 6 on this cruise: my parents, grandmother, great aunt, my sister and myself. Overall, this was one of the better cruises I have taken. In my opinion, the 7-night and longer Carnival product is one of the best in the industry, and certainly on par, if not better with RCI, Princess, and HAL. My last cruise on HAL was a relative disappointment compared to this trip. I'm not going to hit on the itinerary much, as we've been to each of the ports of call multiple times (Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, and Roatan). Embarkation: We arrived at the Port of Tampa at around 11:30am. Since we are Platinum guests, we proceeded to the VIP Check-in area where we were checked in and escorted aboard the ship. From the time we arrived at the pier to the time we were on the ship was no more than 15 minutes. Service: Service on board was tremendous all week. Our cabin steward was one of the best I've had. Service in the bars and lounges was prompt, courteous, and friendly. Many bartenders knew my name and my drinks by the 3rd day of the cruise. Service in the main dining room was very good as well. Though not as personable as some servers, our waiter team brought our food out in timely fashion without mistakes all week. The bar service in the Main Dining Room was extremely good as well - my Aunt "must have" a can of Coke with dinner every night, and the bar server made sure the Coke was waiting in her spot every night. The Maitre'D was extremely friendly and personable. He made it a point to visit our table every night, and we were impressed by that feat. Finally, service in the Supper Club was exceptional. I ate two nights in the Golden Fleece, and the service we received from our team of waiters, led by Katarina was second to none. Cabin: My sister and I shared an interior cabin, a 4D cabin #7270. It was adequate for 2 people. The beds were very comfortable, and it was kept clean all week by the room steward. It was pretty much exactly what I had expected. My parents had a balcony cabin #7244. The had a nasty odor in the room for the first two days, but after a few complaints to the Pursers' Desk and a couple of visits from the Purser to check out the odor, they were moved to another room. We were all very impressed with the responsiveness and caring that the Purser's Desk showed during the whole process. They had stewards move my parents things down to the new room, and provided them with a substantial on board credit for the inconvenience. The grandmother and Great Aunt stayed in cabin 7260 - a 8G, wheelchair accessible cabin with a HUGE balcony. This worked great for the two as the room really made life easier for both of them. Cabin 7260 has a balcony that is 3 times the size of a standard extended balcony room, as does cabin 7258 on the Legend. We had 7258 the last time we were on the Legend, and I recommend that room over any non-suite cabin on the ship! Entertainment: Entertainment was solid all week. I didn't go to many of the shows, so I can't personally comment on them, but some of my family did go and seemed to enjoy them. The comedians during the week were hit and miss. A couple were great, but one guy bombed. There were plenty of activities going on throughout the ship at all times it seemed. Since there were only two sea days, they seemed to fly by. Cruise Director Shawn Bussey had everything in line, and was very friendly. Nightlife: Since this was my second time on the Legend, I knew basically what to expect from nightlife on this ship. There is plenty to do, but it's generally not as lively as night as a Conquest-class ship would be. Nightlife activities included the Piano Bar (and the piano player was abysmal), Satchmo's (my favorite - great band playing 80s music), the Casino (I stayed away), and Medusa's Lair (the club / disco - never seemed to get going on this cruise). The layout of the Legend is not very conducive to match the level of nightlife found on other Carnival ships simply because the main "Club" is located on the aft part of the ship while the other venues are forward. More people seemed to be out on formal nights, and with the exception of New Years' Eve, the ship was relatively dead. Food: I'll break the food up in three categories, because they deserve to be recognized individually. Truffles Dining Room: We were seated for late seating at a table of 6 during this cruise, just as we had requested. We dined in Truffles 5 times for dinner. The food was among the best I've had in the Main Dining Room. Carnival seems to be constantly improving the quality and presentation of their food in the main dining room. Appetizers and Soups were wonderful. The Ceasar Salad was the best I've had on a ship. The entrees were great - I love the seafood. Desserts were very good as well. We also enjoyed one lunch and two breakfasts in the Main Dining Room. I especially enjoyed the breakfasts, as the Eggs Benedict was wonderful. Golden Fleece Supper Club: We set our reservation the day we embarked for New Years' Eve. As mentioned before, the service was phenomenal, as was the food. Everyone in our party ordered steaks, and they were all cooked perfectly. I ordered the Crab Cake, Ceasar Salad, NY Strip, and Cheesecake. The NY Strip was probably the best I've had - even better than strip's I've had at Ruths Chris, Charley's in Tampa, and Bones. My sister and I were able to dine for a second time in the Supper Club on the last night of the cruise since I won the Past Guest Trivia Contest during the Past Guest Cocktail Party. This was nice, as it afforded us the opportunity to eat with some friends we had met during the week. On this second trip to the Golden Fleece, I ordered the Crab Cake, Lobster Bisque, Filet Mignon, and Apple Tarte. Again, the filet was wonderful. I HIGHLY recommend dining in the Super Club. It is WELL WORTH the $30pp cover charge. Lido (Unicorn Cafe): I ate the majority of my breakfasts, and most of my lunches in Lido. The breakfast consisted of typical buffet fare - cold and warm entrees along with omelet stations and made to order egg stations. I'm not a huge breakfast fan, but I did miss the Eggs Benedict and Belgian Waffle stations that were on the Oosterdam on our last cruise to Alaska. Lunch in the Unicorn was broken up into several different areas. There was the grill (hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, etc), Asian Food, Taste of Nations (different theme every day), The Carving Station, Deli, Pizza, and Salad Bar. I tended to eat primarily from the grill, Asian, or Deli. Food in the Lido was solid - nothing exceptional, but all quite good. Service up here was good as well. Debarkation: I had VIP debarkation due to my Platinum Card, but did not take advantage of it. We just put our "1" debarkation tags on our bags, slept in, ate breakfast in the main dining room, and walked off the ship at our leisure - around 9:50am. New Years Experience: This was my first New Years cruise, and I was a bit skeptical as to how it would be. I for some reason felt that it may be a little "cheesy," but I was not disappointed. Upon embarkation, bar servers handed out free champagne all afternoon to guests. They also did this on New Years' Eve as Midnight approached. On the 31st, there was a balloon drop in the Atrium. There were hundreds of passengers in the lobby to witness the countdown and the balloon drop. This was a pretty cool experience. After the balloon drop, the party shifted up to the Main pool deck for a Lido deck New Years Party. They had bands, music, and an all out festive atmosphere. Video of the ball dropping in NYC was projected against the retracted roof over the pool. Everyone had a blast New Years Eve, and I wouldn't hesitate cruising over New Years again. Miscellaneous / Ports: We had perfect weather for the whole cruise - it was in the 80s - 90s for the whole trip (other than Tampa). We went scuba diving in Cayman (shore dive from Eden Rock), Cozumel (shore tour through Carnival - excellent), and in Roatan (shore tour through Carnival - Anthony's Key - phenomenal). If you are into diving or snorkeling, this is a GREAT itinerary. We were in Belize on New Years Day, so I did not have a tour booked so I could recover. I took the tender into town, didn't see much and returned to the ship where I watched Bowl Games all day in the sports bar! It was the most relaxing day of the cruise for me. It did seem to be a bit crowded at times. There was somewhat of a difficulty finding an open chair on the sea days due to the perfect weather. There was also a fairly long line that built up every night before dinner. This was primarily because it was a sold-out New Years' cruise - including the 3rd and 4th berths. In conclusion... This was a GREAT cruise. I highly recommend Carnival for anyone, and especially the Carnival Legend. The Legend is one of my favorite ships in the Carnival fleet, and probably one of the best laid out ships afloat today. I wouldn't hesitate in cruising over New Years again. Can't wait for my next cruise on the Carnival Sensation this March! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We arrived in Miami the night before. Took Royal Caribbean transfer to the hotel and again from hotel to pier the next day. Miami Hilton Biscayne was nice. View of cruise pier from our hotel window. Buffet breakfast is a little pricey. ... Read More
We arrived in Miami the night before. Took Royal Caribbean transfer to the hotel and again from hotel to pier the next day. Miami Hilton Biscayne was nice. View of cruise pier from our hotel window. Buffet breakfast is a little pricey. Transfer to the pier went fine. A little confusion at the pier as to where the luggage went, but it was all sorted out fairly quickly. We arrived at the pier about 11:30. Hardly any lines. Those who were in lines were people who did not have documents out or did not do on-line check in. Things went smoothly for us and we were onboard in no time. We went straight to the hot tub and were soaking in lovely warm bliss all by ourselves. Liberty of the Seas is a lovely ship. There were 4000 passengers, but you could find places that were private. Olive and Twist was one of our favorites. It gets crowded around the elevators and the doors that lead out onto the pool deck. Lots of children on board which would have been fine with us, but where are the parents? One day we watched a group of children having "races" on the elevators. This went on for over 1/2 hour-no parents in sight. Of course the children were slowing the elevators down for people who really wanted to use the elevators for getting to another deck. But.....this is a big ship with many people on board. Are your elementary age children really safe unsupervised? I wouldn't have felt comfortable when mine were that age. Labadee was relaxing. The market place was a little intense. They are definitely hard sell. You really have to just ignore them and if you are interested in something and they don't want to take your price-walk away. I offered to pay $5 for a wooden bowl. The vendor wanted $20. I walked away and had 3 other vendors following me with the same bowl and quite willing to sell it for $5. Take lots of $1's with you. You will need them for tips. Lots of $1's for tips is an understatement on Jamaica. I've never seen so many people with their hands out and/or passing tip jars. The trip to the banana plantation is very interesting. Included in this tour is a trip to a water wheel which is a big tourist trap. As soon as you get off the bus a local links up with you to show you the water wheel, but then they expect you to purchase some of their wares. We only spent a couple of hours on Grand Cayman since it was New Year's Eve. We took the submarine ride which was definitely interesting for us since we don't snorkel or dive. New Year's Eve on ship was fun. There were parties in several locations and you could choose which suited your tastes best. We went to the Olive or Twist. There was a dance band there. Didn't get crowded until about 11:30. Free champagne etc. Actually we had free drinks up there several times. They didn't seem worried about asking for your sea pass. In Cozumel we went to Tulum Mayan Ruins. It is a long trip to get there, but fascinating if you've never seen Mayan Ruins. The ferry over is definitely the "vomit comet." There is no outside seating, the windows were fogged over so you couldn't see the horizon. These are usually my way of preventing sea sickness. I decided to try to keep my eyes closed and hoped that would prevent me from getting sick. I was OK, but could hear the sounds of many unfortunate people around me. My husband who never gets sea sick said that it was obvious that the crew was used to people getting sick and were prepared with paper towels and buckets. Food on board Liberty of the Seas was certainly adequate and presented very nicely. Our waiters Tyrone and Ramone were wonderful. Overall-it was a great cruise. It think my husband and I prefer the smaller ships, but Liberty is very nice. One strange downside-several of the decks don't go all the way through so you have to go up a deck, across ship, and back down to get to some areas. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was a repositioning cruise (Ft Lauderdale to Santiago transiting the Panama Canal). Our cruise was quite heavily discounted on account of the costs of one way fares back to the US from Santiago. We had a Veranda cabin but I seem to ... Read More
This was a repositioning cruise (Ft Lauderdale to Santiago transiting the Panama Canal). Our cruise was quite heavily discounted on account of the costs of one way fares back to the US from Santiago. We had a Veranda cabin but I seem to recall that inside cabins were selling for as little as USD600 per person for the two week cruise in the month or so before we departed. This was our first Celebrity cruise, but will definitely not be our last. With the cruise being so heavily discounted, I fully expected that Celebrity would need to cut some corners somewhere along the line, however this was NOT our experience and it was very much a four plus star cruise experience across the board. In no particular order Pre - Cruise Hotel to Avoid America's Best Inns Ft Lauderdale Sth. A nightmare and with any luck will have been closed down by the time this goes to print. Check out the reviews on Trip Advisor for the gory details. Embarkation and disembarkation smooth and well organized on both ends. Appreciated the nice touches such as ice cold faceclothes, bottled water, etc while we waited to embark. Lots of staff around to assist and a very warm welcome. Fellow Passengers Primarily from North America and generally in the 70+ age range. We met several lovely passengers who were well into their 80's as well. Entertainment Was very much tailored to the age profile above, particularly the singers/vocal entertainment. Was not that great from our perspective, but the oldies seemed to really enjoy it! Cabin Verandah cabin was well appointed and spacious. Only complaint is that the layout is such that you can't access the closet if someone is in/needs to use the bathroom, as the doors sort of open into each other. Just a bit annoying, that's all. Got used to it by day 13! Cabin Steward Excellent and unobtrusive service. Gym Much of the equipment was not in good working order approx 1/4 of the machines with "out of order" notices on them at any given time and a bit too much mirror gazing by some of the staff, when they were there. The lack of staff presence was also a problem when the air conditioning went off unexpectedly (as it was prone to do) however the Spa ladies were always helpful in tracking down someone to fix it. Shore excursions we didn't do any personally as we were travelling with our own group, however the other passengers seemed to speak quite highly of the ones they'd done. The prices as well we found were much more reasonable than what we'd become accustomed to paying on Princess. Internet Bought a package at the usual shipboard rates and was pleasantly surprised with how well it all worked. Found both the internet cafe and wireless connections to be reasonably good esp compared to the connections on Princess. THe chap in the Internet Cafe was excellent and very helpful and patient to those who were not quite comfortable with the technology. A credit to Celebrity, this guy would stay on well past his official leaving time to help others out. Activities a wide range of things to do if you were so inclined, and a great Cruise Director/activities team, with heaps of energy and enthusiasm and a real "can do" attitude. Food Quality was generally excellent, esp AquaSpa Cafe, which is the best kept secret on the boat with its heathy eating menu and beautifully presented meals. The buffet was okay but not adequately staffed (you could not help yourself as there were staff "servers" on all but the salad bar) ie the pasta bar had only one server and so even if you just wanted a bowl of plain spaghetti, you had to wait behind all those in front of you who were ordering customized pasta toppings etc. We tended to avoid the buffet for that reason, although as mentioned above the food was generally excellent with great variety. On the positive side, they did have waiters come and take your full tray from you and carry it to your table for you, which was a nice touch. There were some problems in the Main Dining Room on a couple of nights, which seemed to be management issues rather than issues with individual staff. There was apparently a "change of senior staff" early on in the cruise and things got a bit better after that. Kids Club There were only nineteen kids on this cruise and in one word, FABULOUS! A highlight of our experience with Celebrity. Truly wonderful staff who clearly loved their jobs and made sure our kids had a great time despite the small numbers. I can't speak highly enough of the Kids Club team on our cruise and hope that Celebrity realizes what a great group of people they have there. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Arrived at the port around 2pm for a 14 day back to back cruise. Embarkation was organized and quick with virtually no waiting. Had an inside state room which was nicely laid out with a sofa, glass coffee table, HD plasma TV, elegant ... Read More
Arrived at the port around 2pm for a 14 day back to back cruise. Embarkation was organized and quick with virtually no waiting. Had an inside state room which was nicely laid out with a sofa, glass coffee table, HD plasma TV, elegant drapes in front of the bed. Room was very small but felt bigger than it's size because they sacrificed closet and dressing area for more living area. I travel extremely light with only one carry-on bag yet our closet seemed very full with hardly any clothes in it. Washroom was more tiny than expected with reduced counter and shelf space but was very functional with nice decor. For someone who spends little time in the cabin and basically uses it for sleeping it was perfect. The ship was opulent and extravagant with lots of glass and chrome and a modern decor. The ship is hugely bigger than most other ships but I was surprised that it didn't actually feel that much bigger. There was a large mall area called the promenade which had a multi-story high ceiling and a 33 foot wide hallway. Within the promenade was a coffee shop, pizza parlor, and a bunch of shops, etc. I only used the promenade to get pizza after the buffet closed at around 10pm so to me it seemed like wasted space. I was disappointed that the buffet closed so early ... I was used to fattening up with a bedtime buffet snack on previous cruise ships but here I was restricted to pizza and pastry in the promenade. The deck did not seem crowded for the entire 2 weeks on board. There was never a problem with finding a good deck chair. There were very few people saving deck chairs with their towels ... maybe because they charge you $20 if you lose one of your towels. Charging you for lost towels is probably a good way of preventing that annoying practice of people saving the best deck chairs but not even using them. When towels are handed out they are recorded to your stateroom. You can change your towels as many times as you want. The ship seems more logically laid out than what I am used to on a big cruise ship. Hallway routes seem to be direct and you don't have to follow a convoluted path when going from point A to point B. The children's pool area is amazing! ... I think better than the adult main pool. There are creative water falls, and wading areas and splashing areas yet there is enough to keep the adult parents happy as well. If I was a kid again I certainly would enjoy this area. The adult pool encircles a central platform where organized games are played. There is some stadium-type levels with deck chairs on each level which is nice because then more people can have a view of the pool while sunbathing. My best surprise was the exercise area. I like to work out every day especially with body building exercises and this ship's gym was much better compared to other ships that I've been on. There was a free weight area, a good variety of those universal type machines, lots of elliptical trainers, stationary bikes and treadmills. There was even a small boxing ring. Usually the place was not crowded except just before dinner. The rock climbing wall and the Flow Rider surf pool was something new to me on a cruise ship. Tried them both. They were a good thrill but the novelty wore off quickly. Would be better if I was a kid. The food was excellent. The main dining room was 3 stories high and huge. It had a more warm decor than the rest of the ship. The service was top notch. However, we usually ended up having dinner in the more casual buffet where you could load your plate with how much and whatever you want. Breakfast at the buffet was very crowded so that twice we were required to be seated with someone else. Go early if you don't like crowds. The theater was absolutely beautiful! The evening shows were top notch in production and talent. There was a live 13 piece band and the acoustics were awesome including the earth-shaking bass speakers. The themes of the show varied each night. Unfortunately I found the shows to be boring in typical cruise ship fashion - singing and dancing to songs that I've never heard before which eventually becomes monotonous . Also it seemed that the rest of the entertainment on the ship didn't really start until later in the evening past 9 or 10 o'clock. On my Princess cruises, the entertainment seemed to start earlier in the evening which is perfect for old guys like me who don't stay up late at night. The ice show was a real treat. Not to be missed. All the seats are very close to the ice giving an intimate feel with the performers. The skaters probably fell more often than normal but only because of the rocking of the ship. Those ice skaters are amazing - not only artistically talented but also true athletes. Don't be fooled in the end by the delightful cruise director...he is a better skater that he lets you initially believe. To me the ports were typical of the Caribbean. Either you get nice beach and lush greenery or you get to tour around an old impoverished town and check out little known historical sites. The worst part of the cruise was at the end. They have what is called an Express Checkout. It's advertised in a way that makes you think that if you don't mind carrying your bags then you can get off the ship easily and quickly. Wrong. Very disorganized. You are herded like cows into the ice arena. Then it's every man for himself. Everyone there has the same idea of getting off the ship quickly. People jockeyed for position, tempers flared. I got yelled at by 2 groups for cutting into the line but the line was so disorganized that is was impossible to know where the line was. Eventually got off the ship by 9 am but this was a harrowing experience. Hopefully they've improved the process by now. This ship was awesome. The cruise was as good as what I expected and equal my experiences with Princess. With regard to the Independence of the Seas, I would say that the entertainment was a little worse, the public areas were a better and the food and service were equal to the big Princess ships. I would say that overall, the two cruise lines offer almost identical cruising experiences. Belize. Followed a walking tour of the town which I downloaded off the internet. Heartbreakingly poor town. Very sad. Nicest people on earth living there; warm and friendly. Costa Maya. Nothing really there, just some shops. Found some nice beach chairs under a canopy on the rocky beach and watched the waves coming in. Cozumel. Lots of cheap booze and nice beaches. San Juan. Beautiful place with an old historic downtown. Great for walking around and getting interesting pictures. St. Thomas. Good shopping stop. Pretty town. Took a nice, interested walking tour of the town. St. Maarten. Dutch side of the island is nicer. Cab rid there is 20 minutes, costs $7 per person and offers some dramatic views of the island. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Me, my husband and two teenage daughters (14 and 15) decided to spend the holidays on the Carnival Glory. The trip started out pretty rough as there was an ice storm in the Northeastern US so many planes were stranded and unable to make ... Read More
Me, my husband and two teenage daughters (14 and 15) decided to spend the holidays on the Carnival Glory. The trip started out pretty rough as there was an ice storm in the Northeastern US so many planes were stranded and unable to make their schedules. We ended up spending 14 hours in airports before finally getting into Orlando. The cruise line booked our airfare so we were at the mercy of Carnival in getting flights set. Carnival booked us at the Airport Crown Plaza in Orlanda for the night but we were dissapointed when we checked into the hotel and found two full size beds. Now, my husband and I are not "big" but it was an uncomfortable night. Regardless of our travel difficulties, we all decided to have a great cruise! The embarkation onto the Glory was outstanding. It only took about 45 minutes from the time we got to the terminal to getting onboard the ship. This was a HUGE improvement from a Carnival Conquest trip we took in 2006 where it took 4 hours to board. Apparently, someone thought that they could sneak drugs into the US so everything came to a standstill. The cruise director, Butch, was outstanding. The shows and entertainment NEVER dissapointed and we enjoyed all of the onboard activities. We visited 3 ports on this trip. They were, Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maartin. While in Nassau we went on the Blackbeards stingray, beach party trip. It was HORRIBLE. The beach was infested with sand fleas, the stingrays were held captive in a large caged area and all of them were mutilated by removing their stingers and teeth. Unbelievable! All of the guests that went on this excursion complained and ran the store out of non-itch creams. Pretty much everyone that went on the excursion spent 3 days scratching the bites. Mental note: Always take bug spray. St. Thomas was a blast. We chose to do the parasailing and it was wonderful. Afterwards, we visited the linen merchants and made a slamming deal on a new lace tablecloth! In St. Maartin, we did the America's Cup Race. We were the crew on the Canada II and had a great time. I would strongly recommend this tour. We were lucky enough to be seated with a family from Wisconsin for the 8:30 sitting and we all made a deal on the first night to try something we hadn't had before each evening. We all stuck to this and really enjoyed our culinary adventure on board. The staff were incredible and our head waiter was the best! I can't remember eating better food on a cruise ship. We had a balcony room with the drop down additional bed so there were 4 of us in the cabin. REALLY too crowded and by the end of the cruise we were all pretty sick of each other. We are sailing on the Freedom in March of 2010 and have booked a seperate inside cabin for our teenage daughters. I would highly recommend the Glory to anyone interested! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We (lw and neighbor couple) sailed out of Seattle on July 3rd. Embarkation was a breeze. Lunch for Mariner members was a delight. We were in our cabin shortly and soon up on deck for sail away. Of course sailing out of Seattle requires a ... Read More
We (lw and neighbor couple) sailed out of Seattle on July 3rd. Embarkation was a breeze. Lunch for Mariner members was a delight. We were in our cabin shortly and soon up on deck for sail away. Of course sailing out of Seattle requires a long cruise through the Strait of Juan de Fuca before hitting the open seas. Impressions: Crew: very friendly and eager to help. Steward even complied with our request for more hangers. Cabin: well cared for and clean even though it appeared they had taken some room from the "C" cabins to make more room for the Lanai cabins. Since this was an upgrade, no complaints. Food: outstanding. We ate almost all meals in the dining room. the service was great and the menus offered enough variety to please most anyone. Anyone complaining about there not being enough food simply didn't ask the waiter for a little extra. For our group, we were very complimentary of the size of servings as they did not make you feel overstuffed. My only complaint is, HAL and other cruise lines simply haven't figured out how to cook been unless you go to the added cost restaurant. The seafood and duck were particularly tasty. Entertainment: it would be a mistake to mention entertainment without a word for the string quartet. This group of ladies from Ukraine certainly entertained well. It made for a fine calming evening. The other entertainment on board was also worthy of praise. The trio playing dance music and jazz was quite accomplished. the guitarist and piano bar added entertainment for many. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the on board show cast of singers and dancers. the singers could all hit their notes in rhythm even though some better mike technique would have made the opening night show more enjoyable. These nine people plus the Hal Cats and the string quartet entertained in the show room all but two nights. In my opinion, the best show cast I've heard on board, even from larger ships. public rooms: I would be remiss if I didn't mention the joys of visiting the explorers lounge. It was always a busy place for everyone from young people playing card games and board games, to computer users, crossword solvers and readers. Such a change from the times when you had to search for the library and they hope for a time it was open. Loved the lounge. Geography: we were on our second Alaska cruise in two years and were pleased as we were before. The ports are fun to visit with plenty of things to see. The two stops this year we didn't see last year were the Hubbard Glacier and Sitka. The captain of the Rotterdam got us so close to the Glacier it felt as if we were feeling the sound of the calving. Absolutely marvelous. Sitka is a true delight, seeing the historic Russian settlement in an environment intentionally kept free from as much tourist paraphernalia as possible. Final thoughts: If HAL is losing it, as some suggest, we haven't seen it. We enjoy the size of the ships, the attentive crew, the art on board and the ability to relax and have a great vacation. The only reason we will choose another cruise line is if HAL doesn't got to a port we really want to see.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
We are a couple in our early 40s and this was our 11th cruise. Our past cruises have been with Royal Carribean and Celebrity. This was our first time on Azamara Quest. Our cruise left September 24th 2009 from Barcelona and ports of call ... Read More
We are a couple in our early 40s and this was our 11th cruise. Our past cruises have been with Royal Carribean and Celebrity. This was our first time on Azamara Quest. Our cruise left September 24th 2009 from Barcelona and ports of call included Monte Carlo, Portofino, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Split, Ravenna, Koper and overnight in Venice. The Quest is a beautiful ship - she is small but that made it nice with regards to meeting others. Because it was such a port-intensive cruise, we didn't care if there was much entertainment on board. If you are the type that wants a mega ship with lots of onboard activities, this is not the ship for you. The advantage of a small ship was that she could get into smaller ports and when we did have to tender, the line-ups were minimal. We had a Sunset Veranda balcony - if I were to do it over, I would have gotten a regular balcony. The Sunset Veranda was an in-hull balcony with only one lounge chair and one chair. If you were sitting you couldn't see the ocean. Not worth the extra money in my opinion. The cabin was of average size but had plenty of room to unpack and store our luggage. The food was spectacular on this cruise - among the best we've experienced. We had heard excellent reports of the food at the specialty restaurant Prime C and thus we went there twice - we were not disappointed. This is a very nice itinerary - highlights for us were Portfino, Sorrento (Amalfi Coast), Split, and of course, Venice! In Portofino we did a hike to San Frutuoso Abbey, which while strenuous, gave us spectacular views of the Italian Coastline. We took the ferry back from the Abbey to Portofino before returning to the ship. In Sorrento we hired a local limo driver to take us on a drive up the Amalfi Coast -wouldn't recommend driving it yourself unless you are used to heavy traffic and hairpin turns. Plus, you will want to look out of the windows! He also was able to take us to a great place for morning coffee and a gorgeous restaurant right on the cliffs for lunch. Since he was local, he was able to give us a lot of information that you might not get on a bus tour. In Split we walked around Koper for a few hours and then hopped on the local bus for a 30 minute ride along the Adriatic to Piran. Highly recommend going to Piran and the public transportation is clean and inexpensive. I would say that about Slovenia in general. Spotless, with friendly people and cheap beer! Piran has a real Italian Riviera feel to it and is absolutely gorgeous. Not to be missed. We added three extra days on in Venice and were glad we did - there is so much to see and do that overnight is not enough! To summarize, we enjoyed both the ship and the itinerary on this voyage and would recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was our 2nd cruise for my wife and I... Our first one was also with Carnival, back in May 2007 on the Liberty. The Valor is a nice ship. Of course we didn't get the "wow factor" we had on our first cruise because ... Read More
This was our 2nd cruise for my wife and I... Our first one was also with Carnival, back in May 2007 on the Liberty. The Valor is a nice ship. Of course we didn't get the "wow factor" we had on our first cruise because we already knew what the ship looks like. The Valor is very well kept, always clean... There's crew people taking care of the ship's look all the time. I prefer the flashy look of the Liberty, but the Valor was nice too.... EMBARKATION We flew from Montreal to Miami early in the morning. We arrived in Miami at 10am and took a cab to the port (flat price of 24$) + tip. The embarkation process took a while because we had to wait for our number to be called in order to board the ship. By the time we arrived at the cruise port and when we were finally on board took probably 1.5h I guess. There was lots of people arriving at the same time. DINNING We had late seating dinner in the Washington dinning room. The food was excellent on the Valor. No concerns there.... We ate seafood almost every night, good steak, filet mignon, etc... Also, we went to Scarlett's steak house, the upscale restaurant that you have to pay 30$ per person. That was well worth every single dollar spent. What an amazing experience! The service is incredible... And the food, WOW! Nice romantic time... Food was cooked perfectly, and the presentation they did is simply incredible. We never had such beautiful plates anywhere on land restaurants. The lamb that my wife took was presented so nicely! WOW WOW and WOW.... Desserts at Scarlett's.... Another big WOW! Take the Chocolate Tarte.. You will get surprised! Amazing and a delight for a palate! DEBARKATION Went like a charm... We decided to take the option where Carnival takes care of the luguages. You need to put them out by midnight and they give you a numbered tag. Then in the morning all you have to do is to relax, take a coffee, eat breakfast and simply wait for your number to be called. We had no wait line and we out right away when our number got called in. At 8:30am we were already out of the ship in a cab to the airport... and our flight back to Montreal was only at 2pm... Waste of time at the airport. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Nov 21, 2009, Embarkation, smooth as glass. Arrived at the airport, met by cruise personnel, didn't have a reservation for a transfer but they accommodated us. Arrived at the ship, "checked in" and boarded the ship. We ... Read More
Nov 21, 2009, Embarkation, smooth as glass. Arrived at the airport, met by cruise personnel, didn't have a reservation for a transfer but they accommodated us. Arrived at the ship, "checked in" and boarded the ship. We were early so it was the buffet for us. The pizza was yummy and the ice cream better. Went to our room, first time we have had a sky suite and the room and balcony was lovely. Carlton was our butler and he took care of making sure we had what we needed right away. Simon needed some shirts pressed and he took them, had them done and when we returned the next day, they were hanging in the closet. Guest relations was helpful when our safe didn't work. First night as dinner, wow, great table, great waiter (Renato), great assistant waiter (Ulisses, brand new), great maitre'd (Melvis). MOst of all the tablemates we had were incredible. We enjoyed there company every night of the cruise. I am a very picky eater and so Renato made sure I had something I liked every evening. Between he and Melvis, I could never had gone hungry. Very efficient. Loved it, and can't say enough. The formal nights were impeccable and the desserts lovely. Thank you Celebrity for making sure we had Renato and Ulisses to take care of us during dinner. We only used the cruise line shore excursions once and it was good. This was in Cannes, and we went to Galimard perfume factory (very interesting experience) and to St Paul de Vance, beautiful walled city in France. The other cities we had booked private shore excursions but they were flawless. We used Rome in Limo, Rome cabs, and AP tours and I would recommend any of them. The prices were comparable to the cruise line and we only had 6 people. We only attended one show due to the fact that we had late dinner seating and didn't care to attend a show before dinner. The cruise critic party was very nice, food, drinks and good company. The Captain's Club party was very good, entertainment, food, etc. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The Amalfi coast and Sorrento, one of the most beautiful places we have been. Withour tour guides we saw more than we could have ever dreamed. Rome, WOW, Pompeii, unbelievable...For disembarkation, we took a post tour with the ship which then returned us to the airport. Lovely and wonderful We made friends that will last a lifetime and we will most definitely cruise with Celebrity again. Again, Renato if you read this, thank you for attending to my food needs and for being a great waiter!!! You helped make our dining experience delightful every evening! Ulisses, you will make a great waiter, keep smiling and talk sometimes. Melvis, thank you for attending to my menu choices and for making sure I had what I wanted to eat!! Thank you Celebrity!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Our trip started on the Friday before we were scheduled to leave. We live in the Tampa, FL area and drove down to Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the Holiday Inn. I was skeptical, at first, but the hotel appears to be new and not one that ... Read More
Our trip started on the Friday before we were scheduled to leave. We live in the Tampa, FL area and drove down to Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the Holiday Inn. I was skeptical, at first, but the hotel appears to be new and not one that they have purchased and remodeled. The rate was $185 and included tax and the following: parking for the duration of the cruise, transportation to and from the port and a full breakfast buffet for 2 adults (my son ate free because he was under 12). We will definitely stay with them again with this same package. We had scheduled our departure on the shuttle for 11am on Saturday morning. We left at 11am, straight up! Excellent. The driver was a bit fast and erratic, but other than that we arrived safely at around 11:20 am. We had upgraded to a suite and were shown to the "VIP" area. Not impressed. Seemed like the regular line was moving as fast or faster and we were told to take a number and be seated. Needless to say, it did go smoothly, but no perks here. We were on the ship and eating by 11:45 am. The room was not ready until 1:30 pm so I made my way to the shore excursion desk to book the Behind the Scenes tour of the ship. It was $95 per person and was conducted on the last sea day. It is a 3 1/2 hour tour, in depth, with all of the heads of the departments. Very interesting and educational. Now that I have done it, will not do it again. There are other perks along with this so I do recommend it if you have an interest in seeing the bridge an interacting with the Captain and coming away with some memorable photos that THEY take as cameras are not permitted due to the sensitive nature of all that they are sharing with the small group of 16 that are permitted on the tour. Go right when you board or you will not get a spot. It fills up fast. Our suite was great. I am writing on another thread about it as well, but it was the first cabin, starboard, right above the bridge. We LOVED the cabin, but I can see where others may not. There is a window that overlooks a front deck area where other passengers gather when coming into port, but we were not bothered by it. We just kept the curtains closed. The balcony is not the larger balcony that comes with other suites, but again, we were not disappointed. Only the three of us so it was big enough. Storage space was abundant- we didn't use it all. Bathroom was great with two sinks and a full size bathtub. There were notes of having trouble with hot water in some other reviews of this cabin, but we did not experience this. We are a family that goes to bed around 9:30-10:30 and are out of the cabin by 8:30 am. Noise, for us, was not an issue. If one was to sleep in, however, it could potentially be an issue with housekeeping, but I think that goes for any cabin. We would definitely choose this cabin again. The entertainment on this ship was excellent. The two "broadway" style shows were absolutely stunning with props and costumes. On the backstage tour, we were told that one of the costumes in the Big Easy show-tribute to New Orleans- cost $450,000. The costumes are straight out of Vegas and it is obvious. I can't say enough about this show. It was uplifting fun and something I would pay to see on Broadway. They will be keeping this show on this ship for 5-7 years so it is more likely that Carnival would change the ship in that port on that route verses the show- cheaper to do that is what we were told. The other Broadway style show was Ticket to Ride which was a Beatles tribute. Again, excellent, and we didn't even get the entire show due to the ships movement. The comedians were good, and the juggler was funny if you like dry humor. Mixed reviews on Wee Jimmy, the Cruise Director. I enjoyed him, but his humor is a bit hokey. My husband couldn't stand him. A bit disappointing was the Bingo. Carnival is charging $20 for ONE game of Bingo verses the 3 that they used to give. This is just one of the areas where passengers will feel the pinch of Carnival trying to save. I did not play Bingo on this cruise. Usually I play 2-3 times. One game is a tease to me and hardly worth my time out of the sun so I passed on this one. Lots of trivia on the cruise. A bit annoying, but again- costs them nothing to do it. The only prizes that they gave out were the little "Ships on a Stick". No champagne or extras this time around. I do believe that the food was better on this Carnival cruise for us. We traveled on the Glory last December and it seemed that everything had a sauce of some sort. Not this time. It was great. Dining room and Lido deck. My husband enjoyed the Indian food line and I pretty much stayed with the conservative items that I recognized- hot dogs, fries, salads. The usual are still available- pizza, deli (fresh hot/cold sandwiches), coffee shop, outdoor grill. They did a chocolate bar in the afternoon. I am with the other reviewer on this one- not impressed. There were no midnight buffets or anything of that sort on the Lido deck- again, feeling the pinch. The ports were Cozumel, Costa Rica and Panama. Won't do them again. Cozumel is a given on almost any of the cruises that we have been on and I don't mind that port, but Costa Rica and Panama are poverty ridden countries that I do not care to visit again. Costa Rica moreso than Panama, but still both were oppressed and dilapidated. You expect some of that when visiting these countries, but it really is bad and not really something we care to revisit. It definitely gave us something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day. Had I thought about it, I would have taken school supplies or something down there to them. I really did not realize how desperate they were down there. The Panama Canal was interesting but lots of stairs to climb and very crowded on the observation deck. We did see one ship go through which was plenty and then we were on our way to Portobelo. In both Costa Rica and Panama, we booked our tours offline. In Costa Rica we booked through Oscar Brown tours and it was ok. There was no food on the tour so be sure to grab some boxes of cereal or take baggies and carry some food with you on the tour. We did the Tortugo Canal tour and it was cool. We saw sloths and howler monkeys along the way. In Panama we booked through My friend Mario and the experiences were both good. We did the visit to the Canal and then to Portobelo and then to the beach. We were on comfortable, air conditioned buses in both cases. They do pack the tours though, so be sure to confirm your rate is based on the number of folks that are going on the tour with you. With My Friend Mario, our tour guide, Elvis was great and had bags of chips and beer and water for everyone. On the other in Costa Rica we just had drinks. Just something to note as you are out on the tour for the full day. Shopping is not good in either of these ports so I would fore go it. But then again, I am not a shopper for touristy type things which is all that I saw in both locations. Plenty of that here in Florida. We did the self assist when we disembarked and it was a breeze. We were up at 5:30 as we pulled into port. Had breakfast at 6am and were off of the ship at 7am. We were on deck 9 and were suppose to wait for them to call our deck, but they do not check so we went down for the deck 2 self disembarkment process and were off the ship in no time. We called the Holiday Inn and the shuttle was there within minutes. Excellent experience. Overall we would sail Carnival again, but different ports are definitely on the horizon for us. Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Explorer of the Seas Thanksgiving Cruise (8 nights) Bayonne, Port Canaveral, Nassau, Cocoa Cay, Bayonne November 21-29, 2009 Let me start by saying that as this was my first RCCL cruise, it was a great cruise. Even with the slightly ... Read More
Explorer of the Seas Thanksgiving Cruise (8 nights) Bayonne, Port Canaveral, Nassau, Cocoa Cay, Bayonne November 21-29, 2009 Let me start by saying that as this was my first RCCL cruise, it was a great cruise. Even with the slightly rough seas, on the return two sea days, the trip overall was excellent and well worth trying RCCL as past guest of Carnival. I will preface my review by stating that I'm not going to (or try not to) compare RCCL and Carnival. As mentioned in a previous thread, I made a reservation with Vista Parking (20 Frontage Road) for $82.80 total using a coupon off their internet site. You pay one days charge of $10.35 in advance to hold the reservation. We were in the area two hours early so I dropped off my party at the Sheraton Hotel on Frontage Road to wait for the pickup by Bayonne Taxi and Shuttle. The Vista Parking shuttle dropped me back off at the hotel, which is a few blocks from the hotel. Bayonne Taxi and Shuttle arrived at 11:30, and we had a total of eight people making the trip for the cruise. The rate was $15.00 per person. We found out while driving to the port that BT&S is used by RCCL for their transport service, which cost $27.00pp! We arrived at the entrance to the port in around 10 minutes. Then the line of cars waiting to get into the port took another 30 minutes or so Upon approaching the van drop-off and embarkation area, it looks like mass confusion. The old buildings, tents, and shuttles caught me off guard. I was expecting a terminal like Miami or Port Canaveral. But looks can be deceiving. From the time we exited the shuttle, to check-in, to stopping for our departure photo, to catching the shuttle to the ship took all of 15 minutes. If all your paperwork is in order, the lines move very fast. We entered the ship on deck #1, and took the elevators to Windjammers for lunch. There was large variety of items to select from, and everything was very well prepared and presented. It took me a couple of days to get use to the Windjammer waiters clearing the tables in a timely manner, and checking to see if you wanted a beverage refill. We were then off to check out the ship, when they announced the rooms were ready. Our balcony cabin, category D2 on deck seven was large enough for two or three people with plenty of closet and ample drawer space. The bathroom was the right size for what it's used for. The ship was in great shape, and the crew were always cleaning or repairing something. I really didn't notice anything really worn out or broken. After checking out the ship it was off to the muster drill (no life vests), which was painless, then off for sail-away on Decks 11 & 12. We checked out Dizzy's first, which is great for sail away or just relaxing and taking in the view. We then went outside just in time to pass under the Verrazano Bridge. The first day was spent checking out the rest of the ship, unpacking, and then dinner in Windjammer's. The second day was spent lounging around the ship, hanging out in the library (one of my favorite places) and the hot tub. It was still a bit cool outside, so most of the time was spent participating in onboard activities. This was also the Captains Night and Formal Dinner, and everything went as expected with no problems or complaints. The third day was warm (off the Carolina Coast), so most of the time was spent outside by the pool. Lunch and dinner was in Windjammers. Most of the time, if I wasn't participating in an onboard activity or hanging out in the library or pool, I was in Schooner's. Even though I never thought of myself as a piano bar type of person, this was one of the best spots on the ship. Schooner's was also the location for a lot of trivia games. I spent more time here than in my cabin! Steve, Milan, Kevin and the rest of the crew in Schooner's are great!!! You guys said not to miss the ice show and you were right. This was a very well choreographed, professional show! The skaters, costumes and skating rivaled anything I have seen by Disney on Ice, Nancy Kerrigan or Stars on Ice. I had tickets for the first show and waiting stand by for admission for the second Friday show. Yes, it was that good. Day four we were in Port Canaveral and had great weather although it was cloudy most of the day. We spent the entire day in Magic Kingdom. The park was not really crowded. The one ride I did want to get on (Space Mountain) was down most of the day, even though it just had a multi-million dollar and a several month rehab. Fast Pass was a joke! We were in line at just after 9:00am, and the Fast Pass return time was already at 3:30-4:30pm. Needless to say we'd be gone by then. The parades, shows and music on Main Street have been updated to reflect the times and this generation, and there is entertainment in the streets (jump rope, hopscotch, hula hoops, hokey pokey dancing, etc.) with the kids to keep them entertained before the parades start. In Disney several us of noticed that the dancers and entertainers in the shows and parades were not the youthful teens that had been portrayed in the past. Several cast members could have easily been in their 30's and 40's! The Explorer only offered transport to the park ($33.00pp), and the normal price of the tickets would have cost $84.00 including taxes. This did save us around $20-$30 dollars from what cruise ships normally charge for this excursion. Day five was in Nassau and the weather was beautiful, and not too warm. I guess all cruise lines have deals with Diamonds International. The area just outside the pier was a mix of the typical souvenir and craft shops. The main strip looks like Rodeo Drive with Gucci, Rolex and Fendi. We picked up a few things and stopped at a local place for lunch. After dropping our things off at the ship, we hopped in a taxi ($4.00) to Atlantis in Paradise Island. The place is gorgeous and the aquarium is a bonus. The money spent to view the full aquarium was worth it, along with getting to tour most of the exterior beach areas. The casino (slot machines) was very, very quite (hint, hint). Day six was in Coco Cay which is a tender location. It was hot out on the beach. We spent most of the day lounging on the beach and splashing in the water before grabbing some of the BBQ, which was very good. We picked up more souvenirs in the craft shops and then headed back to the ship early. It was Thanksgiving, and I couldn't see how all those people were going to get back on the ship in time with three tenders, so we left around 3ish or so. Once back on board, we could see the wind and waves were kicking up a bit, so the Captain cancelled the remaining shore leave, as a majority of the passengers were still on the island. All made it back safely. Dinner was in the main dining room, with the Traditional Thanksgiving meal as one of the selections. Day seven and eight, what can I say. The wind and waves begin to get stronger and you really felt the boat rocking. I did take Bonine on the first two days, and again today. I didn't get sick, but heard of several people who did. Most of the time was spent in the library, Schooners or Maharaja's playing trivia, bingo, karaoke or piano sing along. Lunch was in the dining room, and I should have eaten lunch in there every day. I also checked out the Chamber during the day for dancing lessons and at night for the music, which were both comparable to land based locations. I forgot to mention that one of the crew had to be airlifted by the Coast Guard for emergency surgery, but is doing well now. This was one of the highlights of the cruise. You hear about it, but seeing it live is whole nother story. Debarkation even though was well organized; something on the pier threw a monkey wrench in the timing of getting the passengers off in a timely manner. We (Purple Tag, #1) were supposed to meet in the DR and be off at 9:30-9:45, but were delayed by about an hour. Once our color and numbers were called we went down to deck one to disembark (a few minutes), waited on the shuttle to take us to the terminal (a few minutes), waiting to disembark the shuttles (ten minutes). Once in the terminal, we had our luggage and were through customs in less than five minutes. The night before, I called Bayonne Taxi and Shuttle to confirm the pickup at the port, and they instructed me they had a Dispatcher and continual shuttles and taxis running from the port. After customs, we made our way to the taxi area, found the Dispatcher, and were loaded within 3 minutes. We had a 15 minutes wait, while they waiting for more passengers, but we pulled out with 4 people on board. The shuttle took 30 minutes or so to get back to the Sheraton due to a bridge opening in Bayonne/Jersey City. We were dropped back off at the Sheraton, and the Vista shuttle was there in 3 minutes once we called for a pickup. The parking rate and transports was excellent overall. Even though we were a short drive from the port, it was worth not having to worry about if they would be painting this week or not. As a note the rate to the pier was $15.00, while the return rate was $14.00. Taxi cab service would have cost $45.00 plus tolls, if we didn't want to wait for the shuttle to fill-up. The Wrap-up: Overall this was the best cruise I have taken so far. The staff, service, food, activities and accommodations met or exceeded my expectations. The Ice Show along with Comedian Freddie Roman were the best entertainment acts onboard. The Royal Caribbean Dancers and Singers were good, but something was missing from their shows. I don't know if it was the theme, timing, choreography or songs. That is my only little peeve, which really didn't bother me as I sat through all of them, while some people left. The theater was not crowded on the nights I went either. I expected the weather to be cool with possible rough seas the first two and last two days, so this didn't bother me much. It was well worth not having to fly to Florida! I'm already looking into the Explorer for next summer. She'll be like brand new just coming out of dry dock in January. The eight night cruise was the perfect length. Even though we relaxed the first two days, by the time we reached Port Canaveral, we were more than ready for our first port of call. Nassau and Coco Cay were great ports of call as well. Now I'm going to do what I said I wasn't going to do in the beginning. Carnival being the "fun ship" has "fun" activities for the young and young at heart constantly. Notice I did not say partying. The Explorer had a much more "mature (and older)" crowd and "mature activities" even with the amount of children on board. The activities were structured more towards "mature" and "family oriented" cruisers. Having cruised both lines, now believe that when deciding on a vacation if I want to have "fun" I can choose Carnival, and when I want to relax and enjoy my vacation I can choose RCCL. There will be other factors to determine which line or ship I choose, but the next one will be on RCCL. I forgot to sign up for the meet and mingle and once onboard didn't remember to inquire about it. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Mariner of the Seas- This was our very first cruise, we arrived at the port in LA around 1pm, and were onboard within 30 minutes. This was an easy and seamless process. If you want to start using the pool etc when you get on board then ... Read More
Mariner of the Seas- This was our very first cruise, we arrived at the port in LA around 1pm, and were onboard within 30 minutes. This was an easy and seamless process. If you want to start using the pool etc when you get on board then remember to pack a day bag, as you don't get your luggage delivered to your stateroom until later on. We had lunch in the windjammer cafe and this excellent. Our stateroom was bigger than I thought and the quality on bed linen etc was high. Our stateroom attendent for the week was Pamela, and she could not do enough for you. Each night we came back to bed folded down and an animal made out of towels etc, which was cool. Fresh towels if we had used them since the morning and ice bucket always full with fresh ice. The quality of food in the main dining room was of a very high standard and we ate there for dinner twice in the week on the formal nights- we had anytime dining. The rest of the time we ate in the Windjammer which was basically buffet style and there us breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner available there. The quality here was superb, everything was so fresh and selection was very varied, from asian cuisine to american cuisine. Ice Tea, Lemonade, Orange juice and tea and coffee are all free. I bought a soda package, which ended up being $48 dollars for the week, and was unlimited. The saved me a bit of money, as the soda's each were around $3.00 each. The waiters in the main restaurant were very nhard working attentive and professional, as well as in the windjammer, where they serve drinks to your table. Decking areas, pools were excellent, plenty of loungers and we got lovely weather in the high 80's whilst in Mexico. Captain Johnny was a very lively and entertaining Captain, I think his positive attitude rubbed off on the ship staff. The Ice show was amazing, and not to be missed, the night club was called dragons lair and very cool, although only used for a dance lesson by us. This was our first time cruising, and we will cruise again, and with RCC Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Pre cruise- flew to Barcelona via Easyjet from Liverpool the day before embarkation - had a good day in Barcelona despite being moved hotels on arrival- stayed at the H10 Marina - nice hotel not far from underground and buses - easy to get ... Read More
Pre cruise- flew to Barcelona via Easyjet from Liverpool the day before embarkation - had a good day in Barcelona despite being moved hotels on arrival- stayed at the H10 Marina - nice hotel not far from underground and buses - easy to get to the centre - on day of embarkation took a 10 mins taxi ride to the port - cost 21 euro Embarkation - checked in on line so checking in was smooth and we were on the boat by 12.45 - by the time we had been to the windjammer for lunch our luggage had been delivered - had inside cabin for the first time ( 3rd time we have cruised with RCI) perfectly adequate although I didnt like waking not knowing what the weather was like - our stateroom attendant Dennis introduced himself and kept the cabin immaculate (a sign of the times - no chocolate on the pillow at night and there is no midnight buffet) Food - ate in the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch - always plenty of choice -loved the omelette maker - food always warm and the service was good Magic Flute dining room- booked My Time Dining as the early sitting was full when we booked the cruise - found no problem with this as long as we booked in advance - by Tuesday we had reserved a table for 2 for the rest of the cruise at 7pm and this worked out perfectly for us - the food was as good as on previous cruises - the previous reviewer stated that lobster was not served - RCI normally serve this on a Thursday but as on this cruise Thanksgiving was on Thursday lobster was on the menu on Friday !! - quite a big deal was made of Thanksgiving on this cruise - 2 years ago we sailed Liberty of the Seas at Thanksgiving in the caribbean and it was hardly mentioned !! Shows - not bad - not keen on the production shows but liked the ice dancing show and the clown in the final sow - Mercedes the cruise director was good and very enthusiastic - Karoke in Cleopatras lounge not as well supported as on previous cruises - as for the music in the pub/bars - pretty poor - did however like High Notes - enjoyed the latin band and dancing in there - the parades in the Royal Promenade very good The ship itself is kept very clean - we enjoyed the gym everyday and as most of our tours were afternoon starts - we were able to use the jacuzzis and had them to ourselves most of the time which was great - the weather all week was good - the sun was out a lot and we saw no rain which was unexpected Leaving the ship - very smooth - had booked a transfer through the ship to the airport - $30 per person = we were were called off the ship at 8.15 - our luggage was on the belt for collection and we walked straight on the bus All in all this cruise was excellent value for money and highly recommended Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
To start off...embarkment went very smoothly. I went directly to the counter and got my sail and sign card....then you had to wait for your zone to be called, which took less than 10 minutes. My first impression of the ship is that it is ... Read More
To start off...embarkment went very smoothly. I went directly to the counter and got my sail and sign card....then you had to wait for your zone to be called, which took less than 10 minutes. My first impression of the ship is that it is very colorful. I did get dizzy when i first got on the ship and so did my step mom, but once we boarded and walked around a while, we were ok. We headed to the lido deck for the buffet. At first, it was hard to find the food. There wasn't a big selection for that afternoon. The food did not impress me at that time. We spent some of our time waiting in line to see the maitre de- Ken (Who was very polite and nice). We had to see if we could get a table for my dad to sit with us at diner. He told us that there was no room, but he would make arrangements to ask the people who were at our table to switch if they would like to. After that, we headed to our rooms. We were in room 10220 lido deck. We didn't see our cabin stewart at that time, actually we didn't get to see him until the second day...his name was Rodney. He never got to know our name and never called us by name. That night, the 1,400 children who were on board, decided they didn't want to stay in the kids clubs. Some children were running on our floors,soi put my head outside my door, gave them the eye, and after that i never saw then again. The food on the ship was nothing out of the ordinary...same as on most ships. The Steakhouse also didn't impress me, but this might be all due to the fact that im a picky eater. They do give you alot to eat there. The cruise Director Todd, kept everyone busy. He's just a pleasure to look at. I do have to say,The dream has the best looking crew i have ever seen on my past 8 cruises i have done. The weather was nasty going out of NYC...We had rain for two days, but as soon as we got there the weather got better. In Florida, I went to CoCo beach with the shuttle. It's 5 dollars each way. I walked on the beach...the water was pretty warm and my dad went for a swim. I also went shopping in Ron Jons and then we went back to the ship. In Nassau, it was very windy. We went to Atlantis, but what was supposed to be a ferry turned out to be a small banged up boat. They loaded about 75 people on a boat that could hardly hold 30 people. I really thought we would sink, but we did make it to Atlantis. Atlantis didnt impress me at all. They wouldn't let you on the beach unless you bought a pass. We went shopping in the town and then went back to the ship. Thanksgiving diner on the ship was not good at all. Not like the average Thanksgiving diner. I was disappointed in that and so was my dad and step mom. Freeport was very nice. We went to the beach by van . We passed the casino, but didn't go in. I rode the banana boat, which was a highlight of my trip. I was the only 51 year old, who had the guts to get on it. I was on it with three kids. The banana boat stopped in the middle of the ocean...the guy ran out of gas, so i spent 20 minutes trying to calm down the kids who were scared and starting to cry. I told them not to worry, we will be OK. They called another boat, and got us the gas and then we were on our way. We had the greatest waiters...SASA, MAXIMO- I called him tea man, and Ne mo-my dad nicknamed him Nicholas, because we couldn't spell his name or ever get it right. I'm glad I got to test out the hot tubs on the ship. I never got to go in the pools, they were too crowded. Some nights i would go back to my dads room To meet him for a show and he would have beautiful towel animals (he was on deck 9) I would be disappointed in what i got...i got all flat things, so i wrote on my comment card, that my room steward needs towel making class lessons. I think he could have taking some more time on what i got in my room but that didn't hurt my cruise. I still gave him an extra tip anyway. All of the activities and shows were fantastic...It would have been nicer to have one or two more shows going on in the afternoon. I especially loved the laser shows. The crew did the best they could with all the people they had to deal with on this sailing...and believe me...some of them were not so nice. They are all very hard workers and i appreciate all the stuff they have done for us. All and all, I loved my cruise and will definitely stick with Carnival Cruise Lines. Thank you Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
The start of our holiday was stressful as ever ... due to a 4.5 hour flight delay out of O'Hare, we missed our connection in Amsterdam! We made several calls to Celebrity during all of this to notify them of our status. When we ... Read More
The start of our holiday was stressful as ever ... due to a 4.5 hour flight delay out of O'Hare, we missed our connection in Amsterdam! We made several calls to Celebrity during all of this to notify them of our status. When we finally landed at BCN, they were waiting! Whisked us off in a private taxi and we jumped on board with only 5 minutes to spare ... carried on our own luggage to find a fantastic balcony cabin on the 8th floor :) Quickly walked around and found our way to the back deck for a glass of wine to enjoy the sail away. Wow, we were in heaven from that moment! We often spent time on the back deck for sail away and the waiters/bartenders were absolutely fantastic! Hello Charles! Everyday after 9-11 hours in port we were so happy to come back and enjoy a relaxing sail-away with our favorite waiters. Great place to have some sushi also as the sushi bar opened each day at 5pm. Everyone loved the sushi bar and took full advantage each day when they opened for a great, healthy snack. This ship and cruise was awesome. Every single thing about about it. The service and food were great. After we walked ourselves to death in every port ... we really were not motivated to dress up for dining room standards so we often dined at the casual dining area. GREAT CONCEPT! The sea bass was great ... service was too and we could enjoy in comfort at our pace. The entertainment was so nice every evening we did not want to spend much time dining ... casual dining was the perfect choice. We fell in love with the music of Franklin and the string quartet and also the Neptunes so we had quite busy evenings following them around! The shows were also very entertaining and often quite funny. The last day at sea we booked dinner at Murano. WOW. Fantastic! Good thing it was my last night or we may have eaten there every night! I find it quite amusing to read any negative reviews because I wonder if those folks were on a different ship than we were? We travel quite often on all different types of holidays ... and for the $ spent, wow, this was the bang of all for the buck. Great, great vacation! I can only think of two things to improve ... 1. The odds in the Casino 2. The spa prices Otherwise, I'd highly recommend Celebrity and the lovely Century. The travel itinerary was quite intense with only one sea day at the end. Even though we are very, very active ... by the sea day - we were beat! Lots to see and so little time! We took ship tours on two days to see St. PaulDeVence and also Cinque Terre as they were complicated to DIY. The ship's tours were quite enjoyable as they take the work out of it for you. The other days we DIY ... and while we saved some $ ... in the future, I'll rethink it especially in a port like Napoli. Wow, that place was crazy and a very long stressful walk to the Stazione ... and a very, chaotic Garibaldi Napoli Centrale. Here, I'd preferred a ship's tour - next time. All in all, this was an amazing vacation. I'm totally sold on Century for the future. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009

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