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Cruise Review: Day 1: Barcelona - Flew out the day prior on a "red eye" to Barcelona. We arrived in around 8:40am. The Barcelona airport has to be one of the most modern airports I have ever been too. Very nice airport and easy ... Read More
Cruise Review: Day 1: Barcelona - Flew out the day prior on a "red eye" to Barcelona. We arrived in around 8:40am. The Barcelona airport has to be one of the most modern airports I have ever been too. Very nice airport and easy to get around, so there is no problem for those who do not have the Spanish Language down. Please keep in mind that the Barcelona Bag service is very slow compared to most major airports in America. It took about an hour to get our bags. This was mentioned as a common thing for this airport. I tell you this for folks who are planning drivers to pick them up or when taking private yours. We left for our hotel - The Renaissance Hotel at the Barcelona Airport. The hotel is only about five minutes from the airport. We took a cab - which there is a minimum charge from the airport per our driver. You pretty much can get ripped off when going to your hotel from the airport. Planning ahead better, the hotel does free pick up service to the hotel from the airport. The hotel was great and English speaking friendly. The service is very nice and the rooms are very nice. Be careful with late night TV if you have children. They have channels that go into adult programming without any pay per view. It is just their TV. The food at the hotel is expensive, but typical for a hotel. Location of the hotel is no where near any attractions or other places to see anything. It is best to take a cab into town. I highly recommend this hotel. I would give it a 4 star rating and they have 10 euro transfers to the cruise port. Once at the hotel, we rested some to prepare for a tour. www.barcelonadaytours.com. I checked many different tour companies and individual guides and I choose these guys. Carlos was our tour guide. I recommend everything about Carlos and his tour company. Very friendly and spoke English very well. He was extremely professional. After two days of tours with him, he was like a family member. He was always on time for all our tours. Our first tour was a four hour tour of Barcelona. Carlos picked us up from the Hotel and took us to see many of the cities site. He toured at our pace. He knew we wanted to see the most in the time we had, he did just that. We started with a tour in the Olympic park. He let us take pictures or access the restroom whenever we needed. We stopped at the city center building in down town - there was an incredible art exit and a beautiful coliseum in this building. We left from there to drop by the castle on the hill that overlooks the cruise port along with other Olympic park sites. The views were amazing. Barcelona is very clean for a port city. You could see the pride Carlos took in his city. After this, we took off for La Sagrada Familia Church. The church is absolutely amazing take on Gothic architecture. We did not want to go in, so we did a walk around tour. There is a lot of traffic here, so take all of the advice about putting money and ids on a money belt or in your front pocket. As we were warned many times about pick pocketers, we did not have any issues. We do know of one couple that a person asked them if this was his water, while the other took a purse that was on the other side. Just use common sense and you will be fine. We went to Park Guell and took a walk through of that with photos. We went down Las Rambles where we saw all of the street activity. It was a very fun area. Lots of things to see or do. Our tour guide then took us back to the hotel on time. The cost for four for the four hours was 69 euros each. Excellent price! We rested some more at the hotel and then took off to see Tablos Flemenco show on the Ramblas. We took a cab to show which cost us about 20 euro. The show was fantastic. There was a small stage and very intimate feel. The dancers were amazing along with the music. Kids may be bored with it. If you like dancing, then you will like this show. It is very powerful. The 7:15 show was the middle one. We then took a cab to Cal Pep for dinner http://www.calpep.com/english/index_eng.html. This is a highly reviewed restaurant. It is very popular for lunch and dinner. Definitely get reservations and sit in the back room. It only holds about 20 people very snug. There is no menu. They serve you a series of interesting taplas. The food is very fresh and allows for a slow and wonderful meal. If you are picky, you might not like it. If you love food adventures - this is your place. It was an awesome experience. English friendly too. We took a cab back to the hotel. Note about Food : Do not worry about food in Barcelona. Talpas bars are everywhere. Remember that they eat the big meal for lunch around 1-3pm. Dinner typically does not start until after 8:30pm. It typically consists of Talpas. Talpas - meaning the top - simply means appetizers. Much like you choose sushi from a menu, talpas are the same way. Sometime you just sit down and they bring food to you. Tourist area restaurants are more expensive. Day 2: Barcelona We got up for a 9 hour tour with Carlos. He picked us up at 9:30. We went to take a tour of the Cava (Champagne) plant. The facility was huge. They sell product all over the world. It is the best tour of a facility that I have ever been through. You go through the whole process and actually have a ride through near the end prior to the tasting. Highly recommend this if production or wine fascinates you. We left the wine and headed for the Montserrat Mountain. It took about an hour. Near the top, our tour guide gave us time to explore the town. It is a small village and church that is situated on the side of the mountain. It was a little overcast for a bit, but we were above the clouds. Definitely take the train to the top so you can see a 360 view of the mountain. Beautiful views that alone are worth it. Another thing many people do is listening to the children's choir at 1:00. They were not singing that day due to the wedding. I am not Catholic, but the Black Madonna story is very interesting. The food at the food cafe is actually pretty good and not too expensive. Good lunch stop. We then headed back into town and visited the finshed Gowdy church closer into Barcelona. It was beautiful also. A fantastic day that cost 99 euros each for four people. Note on tipping. Tipping is given as a gratuity and is not always expected. 7-10% is standard if the service was really good. We tipped Carlos much more in appreciation of his services. After we got back, we rested and went to a very nice restaurant recommended called http://www.botafumeiro.es/indexen.htm Botafumeiro. It was very nice and the service was very good. The food is very fancy and there is a menu. It is English friendly. The food is expensive and much of the seafood is based on market price. Note... My family loved it. The problem I had was the King crab is served cold, not warm with butter. Not my favorite, but still, everyone else liked it a whole lot. We took a cab back to the hotel. Day 3: Starting the Cruise We slept late and made arrangements to take the bus to the cruise terminal. We left about 15 minutes after 11:00 am. The port process was extremely smooth. They took the bags right from the bus and put them on the ship. You walk just a few step and you are in the terminal. The terminal is very organized and nice. They opened up the ship and started calling groups on the ship within about 15 minutes from getting there. You simply go with your group and get on the ship. Very easy process. There is even a spot to get euros in the terminal. Once on the ship, you have free roam except for the cabins. The cabins were ready at 3:00pm. The ship is huge and beautiful. This was the 10 year celebration of this ship. There was even a birthday cake given out for the celebration. The ship was recently in a fix up. The ship still feels new to me. I love the promenade on the 5th floor. We had a balcony cabin 7626 which looks back from the ship on the little "hump" that sticks out. A little larger balcony. The rooms are similar to other RCL balcony cabins. Very little sign of wear. Check this out - NO MORE LIFE PRESERVERS NEEDED DURING MUSTER DRILL. You just go to your spot and they do the announcements. Little lengthy due to the requirement to have it in both English and Spanish. We ate at the late seating at 9:00pm. We had Wilmar and Manual. They provided excellent service the entire cruise. They would try to help with any special request they could. The dining room is amazing. The bottom two floors of the dinning room are for regular eating guest. The top floor is for My time dining guests. This is where you set up a reserved time to eat. We love this ship! Day 4: Day at see Simply slept late to catch up on sleep and played in a Casino that kept taking our money. Due to this, we did not play much. Day 5: Napoli We did the full day excursion to Sorrento and Pompeii. Absolutely amazing trip. Pompeii was huge. I always book my excursions through the cruise ship. I know many others do not, but there is something very secure for us to go through the ship. There is a simple guarantee of getting back to the ship on time. I have seen too many folks waving as the ship left them at a port. There is some driving with this excursion. If you get car sick easily - avoid going to Sorrento. Lots of winding roads. Beautiful views! You will walk in Pompeii - definitely uneven paths. Day 6: Rome Amazing day in Rome. Full day Imperial Rome Excursion. This was awesome. Definitely walking with uneven paths. This seem to be the most work for a tour. The Coliseum was amazing. You get to see the Forums - walk through them. You get to see tons of buildings and ruins. You end the tour with a great trip to the Vatican. You can take flash photos in the Vatican. No chance to see the Michelangelo Painting unfortunately. (God and Man finger touch) It was not part of the tour. Great tour! Lots of bus time and it is the longest tour of our trip. Day 7: Florence and Pisa Another full day great tour. Awesome tour - lots of walking - through the city with a lunch. Beautiful cathedrals and historic buildings. Lunch is good to and is provided. Pisa has to be experienced. It sticks out in the small town of Pisa. There is a lot of bus time on this, but definitely worth it. We had some nice shopping time. There were some great Italian purses shops and other leather shops here. We got a Italian Leather purse in one of the nice stores. Day 8: Monte Carlo, French Riviera Tour, Eze, Nice Half day bus tour of the French Riviera. The views were amazing. This was mainly a bus tour with picture stops. You see a lot and travel up and down the mountains. If you get car sick easily, you might want to watch this one. Lots of winding roads. You get to spend about an hour and half in the town of Eze which is one of the hill top towns. Very pretty. Day 9: Marseilles - this was changed... The port was change due to a possible port strike in Marseilles. We stopped at a different port, but still took the same tour. We did the Cassis tour which was a lot of fun. The highlight had to be going to the top of the mountains for pictures and looking down on Cassis. We spent about two hours in the town of Cassis for free time. This was nice. We did a little shopping. Ate some Crepes. Lots of local tourist hanging around. Nice little cafes. Day 10: Back in Barcelona The Debarkation went the best ever. They give you the time and you can hang out in your room instead of random places. Prior to your time, you head to the given area where they will lead you out and through customs. No issues with getting luggage. The hotel had a van out there to take us back to the Marriott. We waited about 20 minutes for the bus - no problem. Cost 10 Euros each. We left out early evening using a cab to walk down the Rambles. At the north end, there is a Hard Rock Cafe. We ate there and had a good time. We took a cab back to the hotel for about 20 Euros. Day 11: Flying back home Show up early!!!! The lines can be long and wacky - especially if you are using Air France. I used the ticket machines - they only have 3! If I would of waited in line, I would not have made it with in the 3 hours. The airport was very nice, just understaffed. We got back safely. This was one of our favorite cruises! It was not meant to be relaxing. We "hit it and get it" so we can see as much as possible. We spent just over 1000.00 for the two of us on the five tours. It was a trip of a lifetime. We are excited about taking a Easter Med cruise next time so we can hit Venice. We loved France a lot! It is a much cleaner country. Too much graffiti around Italy. Barcelona - definitely spend two days there if possible. It is a beautiful city. Be sure to use www.BarcelonaDayTours.com. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Crown Princess November 21-28, 2009 Captain: Marco Fortezze Cruise Director: Ron Goodman Maitre d'hôtel: Jean-Francois Ferat Executive Chef: Giuseppe Pollara Our journey started early on Saturday morning from Charlotte to Fort ... Read More
Crown Princess November 21-28, 2009 Captain: Marco Fortezze Cruise Director: Ron Goodman Maitre d'hôtel: Jean-Francois Ferat Executive Chef: Giuseppe Pollara Our journey started early on Saturday morning from Charlotte to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived on time in FLL around 10:00. We grabbed a taxi and headed to the ship. We got there around 10:30, filled out the health form, got our group number and waited. The embarkation process started around noon and since we were in group 2 we were on board shortly after. We found our cabin, grabbed some lunch and then explored the ship a little. We had initially requested first seating, but were given Anytime since first was full. We did meet with the Maitre d' and we were able to change to first seating. As it turned out, our table mates were not that great so we went back to Anytime. Cruise Critic Meet and Greet At 2:00 we headed up to Skywalker's for our Roll Call meet and greet. We had quite a few people show up and we met Marlene and Steve (nanapapa23) and Marianne and Bob (bmdlover). We found out we were all going to Nachi Cocum in Cozumel so we decided to share a cab. The Ship The Crown is very beautiful and clean. The dEcor is not any particular style, but is elegant. All public areas, lounges, and passage ways were always clean. Nothing looked "old or worn". Restrooms were all very clean. Our Cabin We had a balcony cabin on Rivera Deck, 611. Our cabin was nice, our beds were put together to make a queen size and it was very comfortable. Our balcony was a nice size and had two chairs and a small round table. The shower is quite a bit smaller than the showers on Carnival and it took some getting used to. I checked out the showers in the spa, but they weren't much bigger so I opted to use the one in the cabin. Towels are a little rough. I had requested the egg crate mattress and feather pillows before we left and they were already on the bed. Our Cabin Steward, Samuel, was wonderful! When we met him I asked for a top sheet under the comforter and extra towels. When we came back from dinner, we had them! Our only complaint is that the cabin temp stayed between 75-80 degrees, which made sleeping difficult. We bring a small fan because all ships have decreased the air flow to cabins, but it was so hot we had to get another fan from housekeeping, after much complaining. Our cabin was very close to the adult pool and the Outrigger Bar so we used that pool most times. We just had to walk to the end of the hallway and out the door and there we were. There was a boy in the pool on the first day, but after that I didn't see anymore kids in it. There are several pools around the ship which is nice. We found the pool from the spa which is under the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is very nice and relaxing. It's an area above the Spa Deck and is covered. Has very nice lounge chairs and very quiet. It costs $10 for a half day. Entertainment There were two comedians, Rollin' Jay Moore and Phil Tag. Both were funny, but Phil Tag was a lot funnier than Jay Moore. They also had a hypnotist, Michelle Van Ree, who was pretty good. The first night they had her in the Explorer's Lounge which was way too small for her act. The lounge was full and people were sitting in the aisles and on the floor all the way up to the stage. It was quite a safety hazard. The bar waiters couldn't walk through and at one point, because the stage is so small, Michelle was walking to the edge and teenage boy sitting on the floor at the stage stood up at the same time and she almost fell over him. The last day they had her give a 4:00 performance in the Princess Theatre which is where she should have been the first two times. It was a much better performance. Another act was Lianna Hay who did an act with hula hoops...very good. I don't remember ever being able to things with my hula hoops that she could do! The production shows were What a Swell Party, Destination Anywhere, and Motor City. We saw the first two and they were okay; we missed Motor City because we wanted to see Phil Tag's first performance which was at the same time. They did have the production shows on two different days so you still see it if you missed it the first time around, which I thought was nice. These shows were also not your typical cruise shows like the Broadway medleys and '60s or '70s shows, which was a nice change. They also had an International Crew Show which we enjoyed. They had some of the crew from around the ship, a bartender, a bar waiter, the Captain's Circle Hostess, and others who sang, played the drums, etc. all of them were very good. The Food The food selection in the dining rooms was not very good in our opinion. Breakfast was not very good and one morning my scrambled eggs were burned. How do you burn scrambled eggs! After that we ate our breakfasts in the buffet. Lunch selection in the dining room was not up to what we were used to either, so back to the buffet for that. The two buffets served different items so you had a great selection to choose from. The only problem with the buffets is the way they are laid out...it gets very confusing as to which side to start from and it gets very congested at times. Thanksgiving Day was our second formal night and although a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner was on the menu, it was also lobster tail night. As much as I wanted turkey for Thanksgiving, I really wanted lobster so that's what I got. It was a small lobster and came with prawn. I ordered two lobster tails and that was enough. It was very good. I don't particularly like desserts on the ships, but the soufflEs are good as well as the crème brulee. I had a sorbet two different nights and they were both good. The prime rib was very good, and I got the broiled chicken breast one night which was also good. While in Cozumel, we and our new Cruise Critic friends decided that we would have a "family" Thanksgiving dinner together, so we all met at the International Cafe around 7:00 and shared Thanksgiving dinner together at DaVinci's Restaurant -- another great thing about Anytime dining. We really enjoyed our dinner and time with them. We never got around to the grill for hamburgers or hot dogs or the pizza, but those items looked good. We did get ice cream a couple of times and it is next to the pizza near the pool. Grand Cayman Our first port was Grand Cayman and we didn't leave the ship this day because we have been there several times and have done everything there is to do. It was a beautiful day, however, and we enjoyed the quite and having the pool to ourselves. Roatan, Honduras Roatan was our second port and we've been here a couple of other times, too, but this time we went to Mayan Princess. We were able to get a taxi for $20 per person round trip and then it costs $10pp for a day pass. This place is gorgeous! We got there very early and since it took a while for others to begin showing up, we pretty much had the pools to ourselves for a while. For your $10 you have use of all the pools, the showers, restrooms and the beach. Food and drinks are not included. We swam around in the pools most of the day and just enjoyed the calming beauty of the place. We had asked our driver to pick us up around 1:00 which worked out perfectly since that's when everyone began coming in and the quiet and calmness was gone. Cozumel, Mexico We and our new found friends, Marlene & Steve, and Marianne & Bob, met right after we docked and grabbed a cab to Nachi Cocum. We had the best time. We were among some of the first there and got chairs and umbrellas along the beach to begin. Just at the horizon was a very dark sky and we knew the storm was heading our way. We hung out on the bead a while and then gradually we all ended up in the pool and hot tub. We had all brought our things into the dining area just before the storm hit. And I do mean storm. That was one of the worst storms I've seen a long time. Very strong winds blew the rain into the dining area and the staff at Nachi Cocum herded us all into a room and gave us dry towels and water to drink. Once it began to slack off a little, we went back to the dining area and the staff began bringing out guacamole, salsa, and chips - and of course all the drinks we could handle! We ordered lunch and more drinks and we had a wonderful time with our new friends. I couldn't think of a better way to wait out a storm. I'm just sorry for all those whose first time it was there because Nachi Cocum can be so much fun when the sun is out. It's a beautiful place and usually a very relaxing day. There were quite a few kids there and they eventually ended up the small hot tub despite the sign that reads "Adults Only" in both Spanish and English. Nevertheless, we had a great time with our friends and the staff did a great job of making it enjoyable. Princess Cays I had been looking forward to Princess Cays since the last time we were supposed to stop there; Hurricane Wilma rearranged our itinerary and we missed this island. Well, I guess it' just not meant for us to see it, because this time the winds were at 25-30 knots and the water was too rough for us to tender. So we had an extra sea day that was too windy to lay around the pool. We hung out for a while and decided to begin our packing. Good thing...the zipper on our large suitcase was broken! Oh my gosh, I frantically started trying to get everything into our two carry-ons and trying to decide what could be left behind when Mike had a great idea. I always lock the luggage with cable ties and fortunately had some with us. He punched holes in the edge of the bottom and the edge of the top of the suitcase and threaded the cable times through. They held up through the ship's handlers and the airport handlers so cable ties make great redneck locks for your suitcase! Disembarkation This process was one of the easiest we've had in 20 cruises. You were given a location to meet on the last day, for example, we were to meet in the Wheelhouse Bar at 8:30. There were other colors and numbers there, too, and when our color and number were called a staff person walked our group down to the exit. We were off very easily and all the luggage was grouped together by color and number and very easy to find. We got a cab and headed to the airport and were there by 10:30. Our flight back to Charlotte left at 1:00 so we had some time at the airport. Our flight was a tad early and we had a smooth flight home and got in about 10 minutes early. All in all this was a great cruise. We loved the ports and the ship; and our new CC friends! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We have just returned from the most wonderful cruise on the NCL Jewel. It was a 7 day Thanksgiving Cruise to the Western Caribbean. We have been to most of the islands so the ports were not important to us. We just wanted to relax, meet ... Read More
We have just returned from the most wonderful cruise on the NCL Jewel. It was a 7 day Thanksgiving Cruise to the Western Caribbean. We have been to most of the islands so the ports were not important to us. We just wanted to relax, meet people, eat and have fun. The Jewel did it all. It is a beautiful vessel. The staff is very friendly and attentive. You couldn't pass a staff member without them saying "Good morning or have a nice day." The cabins are adequate in size. The beds were comfortable. The cruise staff were so much fun. So many activities and with the free style dining you were able to attend everything. The entertainment was excellent. Don't miss any of the shows. They were all worthwhile. We especially enjoyed Matilda and Patrick. A great comedy team with a Jamaican Dummy. We love trivia and they had a game called "Shout it out Movies" led by Daniel. It was so much fun and for sure Daniel will be a future Cruise Director. The food was okay and always available. We especially appreciated the help we received from the guest services director Carolyn, who helped to try and resolve a problem we had with Sky Auction, who was our travel agent. For some crazy reason our trip was advertised as one that included gratuities,however, after booking online Sky Auction charged us again for the gratuities and when we tried to contact them by phone(WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE, ONLY VOICEMAIL AND THEY NEVER CALL YOU BACK)to make sure we were only being charged for gratuities one time. Unfortunately Sky Auction did not fix the problem but charged our credit card again for gratuities. We also asked them to upgrade our cabin since the price had dropped $350 since we booked the cruise. They said they could upgrade our cabin if we paid $200 more and were unable to help us because the lower price was for new bookings only. So now we had paid 3 times for gratuities and still had an inside cabin. We checked with Carolyn, the guest services manager, and would you believe they had no record of any gratuities being paid at all and they were going to be charging us a 4th time for the gratuities. Carolyn was so helpful and tried her best to deal with Sky Auction but she also got no where. She deleted the 4th charge from our bill after speaking with American Express who verified that we had been billed 3 times already. The problem is now in American Expresses' hand's to dispute the charges. I hope they have better luck contacting Sky Auction than we did. We cannot believe how badly Sky Auction was handling this matter after all we are good customers that have used them 20 times before. Next time we book it probably will be directly through the cruise line unless we get some satisfaction from American Express. By the way the cruise director was wonderful. His name was Que. He is from South Africa. He is very charming and always friendly. He helped us out when I lost my water wallet that had all my valuables in it including my room key. He has a wonderful staff. Will sail with NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We flew to Rome on Monday and spent three nights there. Then we were escorted to the Port of Rome for our ten day trip. The ship is so beautiful. It was the 11th cruise my husband and I have taken and this was the most beautiful ship of ... Read More
We flew to Rome on Monday and spent three nights there. Then we were escorted to the Port of Rome for our ten day trip. The ship is so beautiful. It was the 11th cruise my husband and I have taken and this was the most beautiful ship of all. Our cabin had a balcony, which we have gotten use to inn the last 5 cruises. The staff was excellent. We had wonderful bathrobes waiting in our closet. The bathroom was large and every well accomadated. The nicest one we have found so far. The bed was very comfortable. Overall we loved this ship. The food was excellent. Reviews on this board had us worried about the food. But, it seems they have gotten a new chef from France recently and he did a wonderful job. Each night we were able to have escargot if we wanted it. We had duck, lobster, lamb, prime rib, etc. The portions were huge. The salads were very unique each evening. One thing, you did not get to eat in the dinning room at lunch. That was different for us. But, the buffett was the best I have ever seen. The selections were excellent and I am sure no one went hungry. For the first time ever I did not mind eating at the buffett. The entertainment was no so good. The usual type of entertainment and nothing to rave about. The ports were great. Ephesus was the main attraction. We chose a private tour for that as well and Athens. Used the ship's shore excursions for all other ports. The tours became a little of the same after a while. All of the Greek Islands were basically the same sites. They were beautiful, but after a while the ruins got to all run together in our minds. Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast were my favorite. Things that were not as great as other ships...they seem to no longer make the little animals out of the towels for your room. I noticed this on the last two Princess cruises as well. The photos of you coming on the ship and off were poor. The gladiator and Roman had on tennis shoes. Who wants a picture with the Roman wearing tennis shoes? Not us. There was no meet the Captain personally. He was on the stage at the theatre and spoke to everyone as a group. What's up with that? It use to be so nice to get your picture taken with the captain. No more. And the champagne was awful with no appetizers like you usually have. It was not a party at all. But, I don't want to be negative. The cruise was wonderful. The staff was excellent. The ship is just beautiful. I would go on it again. The ports were great. We had not been to any of them except Rome and Naples and even enjoyed repeating those. I would highly recommend the Solstice. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Hi all....back from the Ruby yesterday (it was our tenth cruise: Norway, Mariner, Zenith, Oosterdam, Liberty, Grand, Millennium et al)...and I have to say it was one of the best cruising experiences we've ever had. Embarkation was ... Read More
Hi all....back from the Ruby yesterday (it was our tenth cruise: Norway, Mariner, Zenith, Oosterdam, Liberty, Grand, Millennium et al)...and I have to say it was one of the best cruising experiences we've ever had. Embarkation was remarkable - we got to Port Everglades at 1.30pm and were expecting the usual shuffling lines and (im)patiently waiting around, but I kid you not, from stepping out of the cab to stepping into our stateroom took less than 5 minutes!.... Stateroom was lovely - Mini Suite on Dolphin deck (D727) uncovered balcony, which concerned me slightly pre-cruise - but I ended up loving it...enjoyed chatting with folks above me - and lots more sun than i'm used to on a balcony!...would definitely go open again Food - despite the excellent embarkation lunch buffet in the Horizon (short ribs and creamy mash yum yum yum!) - we were initially disappointed with the meal arrangements - we were anytime dining for the first two nights but the service was poor and the food was bland to average - we switched to the Cafe Carribe for the remainder of the cruise and it was the best decision of the holiday - Cafe Carribe food was delicious, different theme every night and the service / waiters and overall mood of the place was superb..... ...elsewhere dont miss the Hot Dogs on the pool deck ...and the delights of the International cafe in the Piazza....including the delicious Ice dream ($1,50) three mixed scoops on an ice cold dish - hit the spot every time Entertainment was an eye opener....to be honest we dont usually bother with the cruise shows, not really our thing ...but we loved the entertainment on the Ruby....highlight was the comedy Hypnotist Tim Tripp who did a cracking show in the main theatre and then an hilarious adults only Midnight show in Club Fusion...didnt finish till almost 2.00am and the place was in hysterics at what the volunteers (victims) got up to! ...I was going to take part - I'm so glad my wife stopped me ..........the Ventriloquist show was also hugely entertaining...and the Crew Show was a very pleasant surprise - featuring some Benny Hill'esque comedy from the entertainment staff ...corny but great fun Excursions were very expensive (is this the case with all lines now?) but we love the Catamaran trips so took two - Honeymoon Beach at St John ...gorgeous.....and half day Champagne snorkelling and Turtle encounter at Barbados...both of which supplied me with memories that will sustain me throughout the damp cold grey UK winter ...........however the Catamaran and and snorkle trip in Antigua was a big let down - there was just too many people on it - should definitely have split the crowd onto two craft - and the snorkle spot was a fish free zone!.....whatever, by my reckoning 2 out of 3 aint bad and I was soon sitting in various shack bars in Antigua swigging cheap cold beer and discussing cricket with the locals Disembarkation was again a breeze...we'd booked the Fort Lauderdale CarrieB tour to take the sting out of going home and waiting around an airport all day (great move btw..v much recommended) and we were swept off the ship and onto the tour coach at 8.30 without so much as a backward glance So there you have it - ....add the splendid 3 days pre-cruise stay in Hollywood beach to the mix, together with the almost perfect weather every day for the entire holiday - meeting some lovely fellow cruisers and two hassle free transatlantic flights.....and you can see why Im now sitting here green with envy at anyone who's currently on - or will shortly be sailing on the beautiful Ruby Princess. Bon Voyage to all ..... Karl Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We have cruised on RCI and Princess and had some reservations about Carnival in the area of being a party cruise line for teens, somewhat dated ship design, overcrowding and cheap. We booked a suite to make the best of the choice however, ... Read More
We have cruised on RCI and Princess and had some reservations about Carnival in the area of being a party cruise line for teens, somewhat dated ship design, overcrowding and cheap. We booked a suite to make the best of the choice however, managed to stay within budget. Do not pass up a suite as they are gorgeous and the decor and quality of materials are perfect. VIP means very little except you can go to the the VIP lounge to check in. We were late so there was no line up anyhow and while the VIP area was nice it added little real value for us. I assumed we would have VIP on our sea pass but Perks are reserved for Gold and Platinum Cruisers, mainly Floridians who can hop on a cruise for a pittance. Here we go: Ship: excellent the decor is quite different with a lot of optical enhancements but we really liked it compared to the more subdued decor of other cruise lines.Layout is good and since we were on deck 7 Empress it was 2 decks up or 2 down for most activities. Elevators are fantastic as we don't remember ever getting an elevator on the Crown Princess. Food:Not as much variety in the Red Sail. But really how much do you need. Oriental was terrific and Deli options looked great but we did not try it. Fish and Chips Aft upper level of Red Sail is a hidden Gem for this old staple an a few variations. Golden Dining room is really nice we were right by the Stairs on Lover level so were close to all the waiters show times. If you are lucky enough to get Anthony a terrific guy from India you will enjoy the dining experience. Food was just warm and I give it a pass due to the number of plates they have to serve otherwise it would be unacceptable and would go back. For the most part I found the food quite bland and meats always seemed very rare. Cabin: Suite is large and twin sinks are cool but have less value than you think in a small bathroom. Whirlpool tub was fantastic and fittings were in like new condition(I have to assume these are not the originals but cannot see any mention of internal refurbishment)? Lighting options are a great for different moods. Balcony is wider but I thought quite short but enough room for 2 chairs and small table and a lounger. Entertainment:Great shows and singers were fantastic. Pool activities seemed a little lacking and the team did not have as much enthusiasm as were are used to. Ryan the director does not get as involved in the activities and seems to focus on asking guests to reinforce they are having a good time! Ports: Little to add other than they can be whatever you want but Roatan was a big disappointment with the new facility offering little of interest so we booked a beach trip that was terrific. Would recommend it but be careful going to other than Carnival as place is quite scary So in summary Glory was better than we expected but food needs to be upgraded. Staff are fantastic and there was always someone to clear tables that to us after Princess seemed a real treat. Waiters, Cabin Steward (Max) are friendly and unobtrusive as are the dining room Staff. Subjectively: Carnival 8/10, RCI 7.5/10 and Princess 6/10 Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Having not been on an NCL cruise in almost 8 years I was a little unsure what to expect. But we were eager to get away from the cold of NE Pennsylvania and a have a nice break after the Thanksgiving holiday. Overall, I was extremelly ... Read More
Having not been on an NCL cruise in almost 8 years I was a little unsure what to expect. But we were eager to get away from the cold of NE Pennsylvania and a have a nice break after the Thanksgiving holiday. Overall, I was extremelly pleased with our experince on the SKY. She may be an older ship, but having recently refurbished, she showed no signs of wear. Sure, she isn't the biggest and she is missing a lot of the bells and whistles....but one thing she does have is a really great price tag!! For just over $200 we spent 4-days and nights floating around the carribbean and loving it!! Try and find a place in South Florida (or anywhere) that will do that and include all meals and entertainment!! YOU CAN'T! I have read a lot of the negative reviews and do what I did...try it out yourself. You won't be disappointed! My partner and I travelled with several other couples. Most of us agreed that the ship was nice...but some prefer the Atlantis cruise where couples of our type are catered to. I found the staff, crew & ammentities just fine. I found the food, for the most part, to be quite good. Sure...it wasn't 5-star...but it was by no means diner fair. Definitely try the prime rib, the rack of lamb, the 8oz sirloin (add bleu cheese crumbles!) & the seafood and more seafood pasta (w/ Lobster tail). And remember...you're on vacation...order seconds...or mix and match entrees. I don't think there was one meal where we didn't order almost one of everything amongst our group. Sure...you could pay extra and go to one of the 'specialty' restaurants...but I don't know why you'd want to! The food was definitely better than I expected. My only major complaint was the slow service in the main dining rooms. Becuase it is freestyle, you run the risk of hitting the restaurant at it's peak time. Dinner took over two hours on two occasions...but we were a group of 10 and we had no where to go! It was worth the wait. Another minor complaint...Freeport.....BORING...Either book an excursion or stay on board and pretend it is a day at sea! All things considered, I would do the same cruise tomorrow! Worth every penny! And hell, it beats the 6" of snow we got over the weekend! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
My apologies for the length of this review, but I have based many vacation selections on these postings and I would not want anyone to miss the Queen Mary 2 experience because of an unfair evaluation of this cruise. My husband and I have ... Read More
My apologies for the length of this review, but I have based many vacation selections on these postings and I would not want anyone to miss the Queen Mary 2 experience because of an unfair evaluation of this cruise. My husband and I have done ten cruises in ten years on NCL, Holland America, Regent, and Celebrity with the most recent on the Constellation's New England/Canada two-week trip in September. We always get a balcony cabin and now that we are retired are constantly on the lookout for great deals. A mailing from Cunard last May caught my attention. The Caribbean Delights 12-day cruise seemed to be a great bargain and a chance to experience the Queen Mary 2 while seeing some new ports. It was comparable to what we paid for similar accommodation on the Constellation. I don't like to fly, so leaving from NY or Bayonne is my first choice. Embarkation was fairly smooth. We drove from NJ and parked in the lot next to the dock for a total of $263 for 12 days. A car service from our home would have been about the same. We arrived in a little over an hour and after 45 minutes in line were checked in and onboard by noon. My first impression was that this is a very elegant ship. The biggest surprise was that we were allowed to go directly to our cabin on Deck 11 as soon as we boarded. No waiting in the dining room until 2:00 with all our carryon bags as on other ships. The other surprise was that our bags were promptly delivered within the hour. Our glass balcony cabin was nicely appointed and similar in size and layout to Celebrity. I had read that the hull balcony cabins can be hot in the tropics and you can only enjoy the view if you are standing up, so I am glad we opted for the glass balcony which we used almost everyday. We took a quick look around and grabbed some lunch in the "Kings Court" buffet which to the first timer is a confusing and disjointed arrangement of 4 separate food areas. It took several days to figure it all out. We unpacked and looked forward to three days at sea to relax and get to know the ship I had read and heard so much about. The sailaway was magical with the beautiful lights of Manhattan receding as we toasted our adventure with the small bottle of champagne provided in our room. We also brought two bottles in our carryon as allowed, which were enjoyed during the trip. Despite a small map in our cabin, and larger ones posted around the ship, there are many sections of the QM2 which are difficult to find, including the Queens Room and the G32 nightclub in the back of the ship because of a curious arrangement of levels on Deck 3, but that was part of the fun exploring on the first day. The other problem is the surprising amount of things to do while at sea and not enough time to do them all. Rows of tables by the windows along walkways on Deck 3 held a variety of board games and jigsaw puzzles, or offered a place to watch the ocean streaming by at close to 28 knots. A beautifully appointed library and book store in the front of the ship had comfortable chairs and couches with a view out the front of Deck 8. I envy those who had the time to enjoy it because I barely made it halfway through the first book I brought with me. We toured the Canyon Ranch Spa, but did not use the facilities. The prices were high and there is a $40 charge to use their Aqua Therapy Centre. My husband enjoyed the golf simulator with daily free competitions and prizes. He also thought the gym well-equipped. One of the big events in the Queens Room is the daily formal white-glove tea at 3:30 with fresh warm scones, little sandwiches, and pastries to ruin your appetite for dinner. The evening brings dancing in the largest ballroom at sea. We have little experiences with formal dance, so I persuaded my husband, along with several hundred fellow passengers to attend the cha cha class given by the resident professional dancers. My visions of "Dancing With the Stars" were dashed when he dropped out after a few minutes because it was too complicated. We ended up watching on the sidelines at the formal balls held during the trip as many experienced dancers took to the floor with a live band and a singer crooning hits from the past. I particularly enjoyed watching the "male hosts" who are brought on to dance with the single women needing a partner. They got many of them up and dancing who might otherwise have been forced to just watch. We went to the G32 nightclub once, and there was a large crowd enjoying the live music, but it is one of the few places where smoking is allowed and we left after a short visit. The Planetarium had some great shows and we were sorry we only had time for two of them. Also, we were able to fit in only one lecture by Peter Quartermaine on the history of the QE2 which we found interesting. The shopping was a little too upscale for our pocketbook. Didn't see anyone buying the Hermes ties at $160 a pop, but I heard from someone that a gentlemen did buy his lady a $25,000 trinket in the jewelry shop. Enjoyed the covered pool on the first day and the two open ones once it got warm. Tough but not impossible to find a lounge chair on sea days. The casino slots were not paying and I frankly got bored after a few nights of dealing with tokens in the machines and very little reward for my effort. I have become lazy using the ticket-only slots in Atlantic City and scooping up a bucketful of quarters is a pain in the neck when you want to change machines. The final Bingo was poorly attended despite the $1900 jackpot won by a single person. We ate every meal except one at the 8:30 late seating, which we chose because we don't like to rush getting ready for dinner after spending all day in port. My disappointment at being seated at one of the last tables in the back of the second floor of the beautiful Britannia Dining Room was short lived. Our six tablemates from Great Britain and Canada (by way of Scotland) were so entertaining and such wonderful dinner companions that we hardly noticed the location after the first night, and regretted leaving them for the one night we ate at Todd English. Britannia offered a wide selection for dinner including a Canyon Ranch Spa selection with calorie and fat grams listed for the diet conscious as well as several vegetarian offerings indicated with a "V". Not every dish was to our American taste, and we learned to stay away from their attempts at Italian entrees. For the most part the beef and lamb were exceptional, while several of the fish offerings were just ok. The chicken tended to be on the dry side and required additional gravy. I particularly enjoyed their version of Thanksgiving Dinner with turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings because I did not spend all day in the kitchen preparing it. The desserts were tempting and by the end of the cruise we were having trouble buttoning our clothes. We also enjoyed breakfast in Britannia when we had more time, since port days were hectic in the Kings Court with everyone trying to get out. Todd English is the specialty restaurant and it certainly was a wonderful experience even at $30 a person. I had what I consider the best filet mignon in recent memory. Cristobal was our first stop and one of the reasons we chose this cruise. My husband's great-uncle worked as an engineer on the Panama Canal and we have some of his pictures of the early construction. As we approached the port I was amazed to see more than twenty tankers and cargo ships lined up waiting for their turn to approach the Gatun Locks. Although the QM2 is too large to transit the Canal we signed up for a ship's tour that is a partial transit by ferry boat. A bus ride of a little over an hour on their new highway brings you to the dock where you embark on a fascinating ferry ride through the Pedro Miguel Locks and the Miraflores Locks. I have read many descriptions of transit by cruise ship, but on the ferry boat you really experience the rising and lowering water levels. We were in the lane next to an enormous cargo ship that dwarfed our little boat. A new canal is being built parallel to the existing one and should be finished in two years. It will be big enough to hold ships which cannot fit in the current locks. We ended up in the Pacific Ocean with a view of Panama City in the distance. Since reading "A Path Between the Seas" I had a greater appreciation for the years of hard work (and Congressional bickering) that went into the construction of the Canal. Also, after driving through Colon on the bus I would agree that it is not a town that you want to wander through on your own. Be aware that the rainy season in Panama extends from May through November. We experienced a few downpours but when the sun came out it was hot and humid. Curacao was new to us and we chose to do the Kayak and Snorkel Tour offered by the ship as we had to be back on board by 1:00. It was very windy and we had a difficult time paddling the boat in the open water. The snorkeling was good, but not great. We had no extra time to explore the town, but we feel it was not the prettiest island of the trip. Grenada was also a new port for us. We chose the Catamaran and Snorkel trip and had a lot of fun on board the "High Time" with some good snorkeling and lots of rum punch. Several of our dinner companions enjoyed tours to the spice production areas where they purchased spices to bring home. Barbados was one of our favorite stops. We took a taxi to Payne's Bay and with our own snorkel equipment were able to swim out to the same spot where the tour boats anchored to swim with the turtles. It was a wonderful experience. The large turtles are fed by the guides and seem comfortable swimming around with dozens of people in the water. The island is clean and the people kind and helpful. St. Kitts was also a new port for us and competes with Barbados as one of our favorites. We chose the Nevis Sailaway despite its hefty price tag. We went by catamaran to the nearby island of Nevis. Great snorkeling and a barbeque on the beach were included. Unfortunately, all the palm trees on the beach had been stripped of their palms by a blight caused by trees imported for the nearby Four Seasons Hotel. It detracted from an otherwise beautiful location. Tortola is a part of the gorgeous British Virgin Islands. We had been there on a previous cruise and went to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. This time we chose to take a taxi to Brewers Bay where we spent the day relaxing on the Beach and watching the pelicans dive for lunch. The snorkeling was disappointing as the water was too cloudy to see much. The taxi driver returned for us at 3:00 as promised and we reluctantly ended our last day in the tropics. Just a short comment on the entertainment. Many of the late seating shows were at 10:30 and frankly it was tough staying awake after eating a big meal and a full day of activities. There were some hits and some misses. While I felt the big production show "Viva Italia" was awful, "Apassionata" was quite good. The individual acts were talented and tried hard to entertain a sluggish audience. Our cabin attendant did a wonderful job of looking after us. After explaining that I required a top sheet between the duvet and bottom sheet she made sure that the bed was made up that way. We usually did not have time before dinner to try the lounges, but my husband enjoyed The Golden Lion Pub because of the great beer selection. I appreciate that the drink servers do not pester you in the theater or lounges if you do not want anything from the bar. One waiter in the Queens Room put a cocktail napkin down on the table after I indicated we did not want anything, explaining that would let the other servers know we had been approached so they would not keep asking us if we needed anything. Much different than the hardsell on other ships we have been on. We experienced calm seas and were amazed as the ship cut through the water like a knife through butter, but we also heard many tales of the horrible transatlantic crossing that 400 of our fellow travelers experienced the week before. It was labeled by the Captain as the roughest the ship had ever experienced, but several brave souls remarked that it really wasn't that bad. We enjoyed Captain Nick Bates and his daily updates with a humorous quip for the day. The crowds at his book signing ("A Pinch of Salt") attest to his popularity with the regular Cunard crowd as well. My biggest complaint would have to be the 5 formal and 4 semiformal nights on a Caribbean vacation. There are alternatives for those who don't want to dress, but the majority of passengers were decked out in ballgowns, jewels, and tuxedos. It's fine for the days at sea, but really two much after a tough day at the beach. Our biggest disappointment was the disembarkation, which was not totally the fault of the Cunard staff. Our group was forced to wait almost two hours past our scheduled departure time because of "technical difficulties" and when we finally got off could not find a porter or cart to help with our five very heavy bags. By 11:30 the departing passengers were competing with the newly arrived for assistance and we ended up maneuvering the bags across the terminal and loading them into our car ourselves. Despite that unhappy ending we would definitely sail with Cunard again. We went into this trip with a sense of discovery, without some of the expectations that past passengers may have from other sailings and enjoyed our experience immensely for what it was -- a great time on a great ship. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
This was our seventh cruise and the third on Princess Lines. Our goal was to go through the Panama Canal and this fit our plans perfectly. We had a mini suite on deck nine that was beautiful! We live near Ft.Lauderdale so travel was ... Read More
This was our seventh cruise and the third on Princess Lines. Our goal was to go through the Panama Canal and this fit our plans perfectly. We had a mini suite on deck nine that was beautiful! We live near Ft.Lauderdale so travel was not a problem. We arrived at the ship at noon and went right aboard. After lunch at the buffet we returned to our room and found our baggage already there (super fast). We found the ship to be in excellent condition, clean and neat, and we felt the help wanted us on board! We were not pressured to buy extra things like pictures or other services. We liked that after a recent cruise on NCL. Room & Room Service: Our room was large with 2 tvs and a full bath, a nice balcony with four chairs. Our room attendant "Roland" was outstanding! No complaints. Dining & Food ~ We had the anytime dining and ate most of our meals in the Bordeaux Dining Room. I am a seafood nut and I was not disappointed! I had my share of lobster tails, mussels, crab and other seafood delights. I also had the Fillet Mignon's (medallion's) which were available every night. My wife had the beef Wellington and rack of lamb and said they were delicious. There was a wide variety of deserts! Kudos the the dining staff. The head chef and some of his assistants came to our table several times to ask if we were satisfied. We were! Entertainment ~ Overall the entertainment was good! The singers and dancers were excellent. We also watched a football game in the ships lounge on three large wraparound screens. I will not comment on the Ports of call except the Panama Canal. Each port had the usual shopping and tours. We toured Cartagena & Ochoa Rios on our own with the local buses (Much cheaper that the ship tours).. Panama Canal ~ We were up at 5:00 am to watch the approach to the Canal Locks. Transiting through the locks to the Ga tune Lake was something that everyone should get a chance to do in their lifetime. It was awesome! Disembarkment ~ It was a breeze we were off the ship and home by 10:00 am. OVERALL ~ It appears to use that Princess is making a sincere effort to woe travelers. It worked with us and we will return! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We cruised the Western Caribbean on Crown Princess over Thanksgiving, 2009. This was our fourth cruise after three previous cruises on Royal Caribbean. The ship is newer than others in their and other cruise lines' fleets - and very ... Read More
We cruised the Western Caribbean on Crown Princess over Thanksgiving, 2009. This was our fourth cruise after three previous cruises on Royal Caribbean. The ship is newer than others in their and other cruise lines' fleets - and very comfortable, both in and out of the staterooms. Almost every crewmember could not do enough for us - a friendly and helpful bunch, although the staff in the retail shops could have used some training in customer service. The main dining room is tastefully decorated, furnished, and very comfortable - I can say that the food and the service on this ship was top notch! They had a fantastic kids program, which our boys (ages 9 and 6) loved, and they wanted us to take them there everyday - which gave us a nice break to lounge by the pool or grab a meal for some adult time. My experience on Princess leads me to believe that their target demographic is a slightly older crowd; and although the kids program was great, it was an afterthought to keep up with the demand for families. Additionally, the deck staff did not monitor the kids by the pools like Royal Caribbean did for both safety and the enjoyment of the pool area by others. I was a bit disappointed in the on-board entertainment options as the shows and daytime activities were targeted to older adults. I am 42 years old and am not a fan of Cole Porter, nor do I have an interest in attending seminars on arthritis, acupuncture, or personal computers for the beginner. This was my parent's first cruise and they loved it! I can't wait to go on another cruise with them and the kids- it was a great family vacation. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Wow...where to begin? I thought things would be more complicate than they were and was happy to be wrong. I want to personally commend Suzan Kent at Princess for all her cheerful and informative help. Thank you Suzan. You are a jewel in ... Read More
Wow...where to begin? I thought things would be more complicate than they were and was happy to be wrong. I want to personally commend Suzan Kent at Princess for all her cheerful and informative help. Thank you Suzan. You are a jewel in the Princess lines crown. Embarkation was far faster and easier than I had expected and we were aboard in matter of 20 minutes or so with the only real delay being that we showed up later than we had planned. (1pm) Our stuff got to our room without a hitch and in a reasonable time. We had an inside cabin on Baja deck (11) and it was roomy and comfortable. Our Cabin steward was Luis and he was EXCELLENT and always cheerful and helpful. If you get him you will do well. Muster drill was no big deal and over with quickly so that we could get on with the sailaway. My wife and I stood on the Sun deck and watched us exit the port as we called our 3 grown sons to say we had arrived safely and would call them when we got back. From then on the phone was nothing but an alarm clock, and good riddance. We went to the Horizon Court for a late lunch and the Rockfish they served was delicious. I recommend that you go in and wander around the area before grabbing your plate so you have some clue where everything is as with 50 or 60 people all trying to get their food it can be a little confusing. Once that is done you should be able to navigate it without a problem. There is nothing not good in there, though some things may not be something that appeals to you personally. Like your Mama told you as a kid, "Take a little of everything and try it and then go back for what you liked." I did and found favorites all over the place. BTW, for my fellow Southerners out there, they DO indeed have grits on the breakfast buffet. Look for 'em. We discovered that we liked the tables right at the front of the ship, especially for breakfast which we made at sunrise every day of the cruise. WELL worth it! We were also able to sit there and watch (and photograph) a huge rainbow that the ship actually sailed through. That became a highlight for us. Dinner we had anytime dining in the Bordeaux room and they were great. I HIGHLY recommend table 67 where the three guys there gave us the best and friendliest service I have ever had ANYWHERE. They are outstanding! Two of the guys are named Arnel and Pepe and I apologize for forgetting the third man's name because these fellows DESERVE to be commended by name. Be sure to tip them well. They will deserve it. I did my part to decimate the lobster population on the nights it was offered and the baked Alaska on the last night was delicious. I also recommend the "Love Boat Dream" which is a "death by chocolate" treat. Steaks were excellent as was the seafood. Try the escargot too. I did, and it was very good. I'd eat it again anytime. By all means take any of the dance classes offered while aboard. James and Natasha were a blast and they even helped an uncoordinated guy like me pick up the beginnings of the Cha Cha. DEFINITELY go to the port shopping seminar and get that coupon book. It's worth it just to get the Del Sol bag that changes colors in the sun and all te freebies that Jay gives away. The 2nd full day at sea we had some 5-7 ft seas and you could feel it a bit, but it was nothing serious. It rocked us to sleep every night and that was good. Unless you are someone who is ordinarily subject to motion sickness, (In other words...you can't even a read a book while riding in a car.) you should have no problems at all. We didn't. Looking out at the Caribbean as we sailed along I was reminded of the classic last part of Stephen King's "The Shawshank Redemption" where Red speaks of the blue of the Pacific in his dreams. I can tell you that that beautiful blue Caribbean water will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life. As I sit here typing this I can still see it in my mind and wistfully wish I was there still. The shows were good. We saw Adrian Zmed, Carl Strong, and the 60's dance party and enjoyed them all. Oh! A very special note of excellence to the WONDERFUL classical trio that played in the atrium. The piano, flute and violin were amazing. Your rendition of the Ave Maria was so beautiful that I found myself hearing the Latin prayer as you played. I encourage everyone to take the time to just sit and enjoy these 3 lovely and talented ladies whenever you have a chance. The various shows and displays in the atrium where very good. I recommend the one with all the bartenders. Be sure to volunteer to get those free drinks. The appletini I got was worth the silliness I had to perform. I would highly recommend the Island Princess to anyone who has a chance to sail on her. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
This holiday I enjoyed in November was for one week. I never experienced a cruise holiday previously but do like holidays of a 'difference'. Being Irish, don't like to go to the 'Irish Pub' scene. This cruise ... Read More
This holiday I enjoyed in November was for one week. I never experienced a cruise holiday previously but do like holidays of a 'difference'. Being Irish, don't like to go to the 'Irish Pub' scene. This cruise surprised me as this company 'Celebrity Cruise Ship'welcomed me like the Queen. Through the next week I exerciesed the same courtecy. The Cruise ship was a holiday in itself. The destinations were equally exciting, Every Morning I looked out at a different City. -- Could not get better as I travelled to these cities while I was dined and wined it luxury and style. The Entertainment, variety, quality, enjoyment I cannot express. I came home but unfortunately I needed another rest/holiday. I found it particularly difficult as when everything is organised and done for you for 7 days it did take a couple day to adjust. All the staff were so enjoyable. Love it so much. Loved the food and entertainment so much. Just go Just go Just go Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
November21st-30th Background: I traveled with my partner Jimmi (jmcal123). I am a lifelong cruiser (#35) on everything from Crystal to Carnival. While I am not loyal to any one line, I tend to favor Royal Caribbean and Princess. This was ... Read More
November21st-30th Background: I traveled with my partner Jimmi (jmcal123). I am a lifelong cruiser (#35) on everything from Crystal to Carnival. While I am not loyal to any one line, I tend to favor Royal Caribbean and Princess. This was my choice for cruises because of the itinerary (two new ports) and ship (new class of ship for me).We also were able to combine my platinum discount with the AZ resident special and the FCC I had, so we ended up with a decent deal with some onboard credit as well. We were joined by a friend that we have travelled with twice on the Caribbean Princess and two of his friends. While there are many positives about this cruise, there were a few disappointments as well, enough for me to mention them, but not to deter me from Royal Caribbean in the future. We are very much looking forward to our Oasis cruise next September. Fortunately, our biggest issue happened immediately upon boarding the ship and we were able to put it behind us within a few hours. So with that being said, take my opinions with a grain of salt, as you should with any review that you read online. Pre-Cruise: We drove the 5 hours from Phoenix to San Diego and arrived midday on the 20th. Having been to SD many times, we chose the Sofia Hotel on Broadway about 2 blocks from the Pier. We have stayed at the Sofia before and would recommend it to anyone, especially at the $88/night we found it for on Expedia. It is a steal at that rate. After spending 3 meals on land, I again realized the value of a cruising vacation. Meals are expensive, even when you are paying attention to price. We spent the morning on Mission Beach for a run, before heading to Coronado and then to the ship. We used Mission brewery parking and paid $9/night for the cruise and there was ample service to and from the cruise port. Embarkation: For those who have not used the cruise facilities in San Diego, they are some of the worst out there. We were docked next to the Oosterdam and there were plenty of people to crowd this area. We had waited until 1 to go and park, so we did not board until 2 PM and it was still busy. Once through the initial chaos, it was easy to actually board. I understand now that San Diego and CCL have invested some money into building a new green pier which should improve this process immensely. Anyone who questions about water and alcohol, we checked a bottle of vodka and a case of water with no issue. Cabin, the issue, and Sail away: Our reservation for the Radiance was about 16 months old, but did not book the ship until May. Cabin selection was wide open aside from the "bump", so ended up with an E3 balcony cabin, 7566. The cabin was exactly as expected with typical dEcor, plenty of room for us and a comfortable bed. The issue we had was with the balcony, more specifically, our view from the cabin. It appears that just about every balcony cabin on deck seven is obstructed by the cover of the life boat. So there is no looking down from your balcony, just looking out. It was funny, when I first went out on my balcony, I was blinded by the reflection of the light off of what I thought was a barge or something next to the ship... little did I know that that was our view. After becoming really irritated with realization that this was our view, we called our travel agent and sent picts to him to describe our balcony. I was going to call guest relations, but wanted to be sure we did not accidentally book an obstructed view balcony. After connecting with RCI corporate, our travel agent was informed that we were in a 100% non-obstructed balcony cabin. She also mentioned that there may be other cabins available and to contact Guest Services as there is nothing that could have been done from the corporate side once we board the ship. On my first visit to guest services, I spoke with a guest service representative about my complaint. Her first and immediate reaction was: " Just so you know the Radiance of the Seas has been sailing fully booked the past few sailings." At this point, I was only trying to find out if there was a cabin to switch to like the land representative said there may be. I asked if I would be able to speak with her manager and she walked away into the guest service office and returned to tell me that that her boss had stepped away and that her computer was locked so there was nothing she could do right now. So I asked to be contacted by the supervisor. The woman scribbled my name at the bottom of a loose sheet of paper and that ended our first interaction. As I walked away, I became extremely irritated with the condescending treatment I received from her and the lack of importance put on my request, being added to a loose piece of paper with everything from beds needing to be put together to a crib being needed did not make me feel like my issue was taken in any regard as important. Several hours later, I again returned to the guest service desk and again asked to speak to the manager. By this time, I had learned who I should be speaking to and asked for her directly. Instead, her assistant came out to "deal" with me. I again explained the issue I had with this stateroom. She told me that the ship was indeed sailing full and that a room change could not happen. We continued this conversation about our room and she continued to say that RCI considers a 100% non-obstructed balcony view a 180 degree left to right view and did not account for moving up or down. That this was a decision made by RCI corporate and that they knew it was an issue and have adjusted their description for it. With this description, I argued and still believe that I did not receive what I paid for. In fact, to be technical, the balconies in between the "bump" and dining room "bump" do not even have the 180 degrees promised because of the "bumps". My argument was that considering the timeframe I was booked, had I been able to find this information out, I would have either booked a higher category stateroom or lower as I do not feel this cabin was suitable for the description given to it. I further brought to her attention the service we had received earlier in the day with her employee. After about 20 minutes of pushing the blame onto RCI corporate and saying that additional training was needed for her staff, she offered us a bottle of wine for our inconvenience and she said we would be contacted if someone should decide to leave the ship during the cruise. At that point I walked away from the situation, we were sailing and that was what mattered at that point. It got cold quick and sail away was definitely a little different from a Fort Lauderdale, San Juan, or Miami departure. But it is beautiful and the San Diego skyline is very pretty at night. We stayed out as long as we could and then headed in to the warmth of the ship and we were finally heading to the warmth of the Mexico. Cruise Critic Get together: We did not have a particularly active roll call, but we had quite a few sign up for the meet and greet. Unlike others I have been to, this one was very organized and led by the cruise director. While it was nice to see him come to the get together, it was a very much sit and listen rather than mingle and get to know your cruise critic members, so we left. I much prefer the casual get together where you chat and not deal with raffles, prizes, etc. Cabo San Lucas: The tender process for Cabo was long. We waited about an hour to get off. It is surprising that RCCL does not have a priority tendering process for Diamond cruisers. It was just unorganized as we walk all over the ship and there were people cutting in line. I have been to Cabo many times and we just wanted to find cheap beers on the beach. The weather was beautiful... sunny in the mid 80s. We took a water Taxi ($5) over to Medano beach and a short walk later we were at "The Office"... a cute little restaurant with tables in the sand and with decent prices and really good food. We spent several hours here drinking and in the water before heading back. It was a great relaxing way to spend the day. We did walk around the tender area, found $2 Coronas and were one of the last tenders back to the ship. This turned out to be a wonderful day that I would repeat again in a heartbeat. Mazatlan: Going into our stop at Mazatlan, the city has ranked amongst my least favorite that I have visited. Jimmi has been hounding me to go horseback riding and I did not want to go to the Golden Zone, so we spoke with Randi and booked her Happy Horses. She was easy to meet off the ship and we were on our way to Stone Island. We were berthed with the Oosterdam, so Randi had two groups going out. So we ended up at a restaurant on the beach for about 2 hours before we got to ride. It was a little long as we did not want to get wet by going in the water before the ride. That being said, lunch was fantastic. We rode for about two hours on a deserted beach. It was great. Jimmi had a mishap in that he fell off the horse while dismounting while trading horses at the halfway point. After the tour, we hung out at the closest bar and had Coronas. I had to get my fill so I did not pay $5 for Coronas on the ship. We figure out that we do not need to go horse riding again (OUCH!). But there is still something about Mazatlan that I just do not like. Personal preference I am sure, but I would suggest Randi's to anyone who enjoys horse riding. Puerto Vallarta: Our day started out with the Splendor mishap #1. We were fortunate to both have front row seats and not get injured. While running up on the track, we noticed that the Splendor was going to be parking in what seemed to be an impossible parking spot so we walked down to the helipad to watch. It turned out that the spot was too small. We saw the angle and the speed and it seemed inevitable at that point. The railing from the Splendor wrapped around the railing on the Radiance and tore off. Not a big deal really, but the guy standing a foot away from me ended up with the railing in between his legs. It was interesting that RCI had crew waiting for this, almost as it was expected. The screamed everyone to get off and it was over. Shortly after, we hear the now common Echo Echo Echo. The captain then announced what happened and the Splendor tried again. It was announced later that there were 2 injuries onboard related to this accident, but I could not see how as we saw everything that happened. We had plans to go to blue or green chairs, but just never made it. We walked through town and again found a bar for lunch and beer. Our restaurant featured tableside made salsa and it was excellent. If you noticed, there was a theme in our port stops... find a restaurant and bar, and enjoy the scenery. Manzanillo: This was the ship's maiden call on Manzanillo and I should have done more research for this stop as the ship did not have much to offer. We originally planned on doing the turtles, but read a couple of things on CC that made us choose not to. I figured I would go down to the exit and find some information about the port. I ran across the cruise director and I asked him what he suggests to do here. He said that the best bet is to walk to the end of the pier and ask the locals. So, apparently he had not done his homework either. We just went down to the shuttle and paid the $4 for the round trip to downtown. We spent a few hours downtown and headed back. There were no beaches close by and not much of anything close to the port area. In hindsight, we should have done the turtle tour. Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: What a pleasant surprise this port was. Beautiful beaches and a great market area, the only problem was the limited time we had in port. We had a bad tender spot on our first attempt, so we went down early and were on a tender by 7:15. We walked through the port area and got to see the fish market. We chose Los Gatos for the day and it was a great choice... probably the highlight of the trip port wise. We had chairs at a restaurant and service all day. We did have a little issue with the cabs trying to rip us off on the return to the port area, but went with it... it was $3 to get there and $5 to get back. We had a few minutes to walk though the market area and then it was back on the ship. It was HOT and the tender line was long. Food: After reading my review of the Emerald Princess I can almost say the same thing here. Again, food is completely subjective and I am trained chef, so can be picky. I found food to be good to very good. The dining room was standard and I thought was significantly better than our Elation cruise in September, but choice wise a step down from the Emerald and Princess in general. I never went hungry in the dining room, but there were a few nights the menu just did not jump out at me. Some of the highlights... the soups were outstanding. The Chilled were some of the best I have had. The Ice Cream was fantastic. I think I had Almond Butter Ice Cream with my dessert 5 out of the 9 nights. We did not care for our Turkey dinner. I wish I had chosen something else. We thought the Windjammer buffet was very good. We ate all breakfast and lunches here and were always pleased with the quality, choices, and temperature. The afternoon snacks were also a very good treat. I like that they have food here just about the entire day. We ran into lapses on the Elation where there was only pizza or sandwiches. Overall we were quite satisfied with the dining options; though looking back our company in the dining room overshadowed our dining experience. Also, the pizza is not very good. Princess blows everyone else out of the water on this one. Portofino: Portofino has become our favorite dining experience on a cruise ship. The food and service are consistently outstanding. When making reservation, make sure you do not have other plans for the night. All plates are made to order and if you order the same appetizers, you will most likely not get them at the same time, but a different one. We chose just about all of the appetizers on the menu between the 5 of us and the highlight was the lobster risotto. This is one of the best dishes I have had on any ship. The seafood skewer is beautiful and tasty. My favorite dessert is also in Portofino. The White Chocolate Brulee is to die for. It was a 2.5-3 hour dining experience, but it was wonderful. Dining Room Service: Normally I would group this with service in general, but our dining room service was beyond accommodating and seemed to go out of our way to serve us. We chose My Time Dining and there were five of us. After a member of our party talked to the head Waiter, we were told we can have the same table if we came after 8. With all the kids and families on this trip we were more than happy with this setup. Our servers were great and we had them for 7 of the 9 nights. They even arranged for us to have soufflE on the final night because we missed it when we went to Portofino. As usual, MTD was a success for us and are very happy to see it rolling out to all cruise lines. I have never been a fan of being forced to eat at certain times with people I may or may not like and did not sail RCCL because their lack of this option for years. Bar Service: Bottom line is that RCI is a bit overpriced. The positive is that they do not measure shots like Princess and Carnival, but you pay extra for that. The fact that on a Mexican Riviera cruise is charging $4.95 for a Corona is ridiculous. I thought that we would try to save a few dollars by ordering buckets, but a bucket of 6 Coronas and they just charged me for $30 plus tip... so instead of saving a few dollars I ended up with warm beers! Entertainment: If I have sun, pool, ocean, and a good book I am more than satisfied. Throw in a bucket of beers and life does not get much better for me. We did not go to any of the organized entertainment except what we say in the atrium during cocktail hour before dinner. We really enjoyed our company and spent hours just chatting in the windjammer, on the pool deck, or in the dining room and we had a blast. We hope that we get to sail with our new friends again. Because we traveled in a group we did not really meet many new people which is usually the case. Either way, we enjoyed our self made entertainment and laughed until our sides hurt. Pure word of mouth was that the show with the salsa dancing was extremely well done. We stayed out late one night and closed the bar down which was a lot of fun. People tend to stay up late on the formal nights. Ship: Aside from the above mentioned issues with the balcony, the ship is gorgeous and I love the size. It should be mentioned that our friends we in a balcony cabin on deck nine and still had the white lifeboats in sight, but had a better view. The ship holds the people well and has activities throughout the ship. We never had a problem finding a chair, and chair saving did not seem to exist. We loved the Solarium pool and napped there on occasion. We did think that the faded fake plants should be replaced with live plants, but we enjoyed the area. The pools were warm after the 1st day and extremely warm on the way back. Weather: It was just about perfect. Sun was out midday on day two and did not go away until the last day. This is typical for this cruise, but it was HOT in the ports. Loyalty Program: Aside from the Balcony discount, RCI's program is just awful. I just turned elite on Princess and the perks you get there are significant compared to the coupon book placed on your bed. I will never cruise a line for a loyalty program, but RCI has not put forth much to change my mind on that. RCI Response: Upon returning to Phoenix, I wrote a letter to RCI corporate about my experience in my room and with the guest relations department. The woman acknowledged that this is a common complaint and that they were looking into the reclassification of the 7th floor balconies. She offered us a small OBC for our Oasis cruise. I was not looking for anything, but was told that they would follow up when any decisions are made on this. I was pleased with this response and hope that adjustments are made to the guest relations issues we had on this cruise. While it made up a good portion of this review, it did not bother us after 6 PM on day one. I am happy that it was promptly addressed upon returning. Bottom Line: We seem to be in a Princess then Royal pattern and we like what both have to offer. We are sailing on the Island Princess in March and have the Oasis booked in Sept and we are very much looking forward to both. While we were disappointed in our cabin, I should have done more research and suggest the same for anyone sailing on the Radiance class ships. We still like the Caribbean more than the Mexican Riviera, but with the pricing so low on the West Coast and an easy drive for us, I would do this cruise again in a second. We really enjoyed our trip and the company was very special. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We arrived at the port of Civitavecchia on Nov 15th for a cruise starting on Nov 18th. What a wonderful little port town to stay in and to visit the market and walk around with the locals. We stayed at the Hotel Bramante and beautiful ... Read More
We arrived at the port of Civitavecchia on Nov 15th for a cruise starting on Nov 18th. What a wonderful little port town to stay in and to visit the market and walk around with the locals. We stayed at the Hotel Bramante and beautiful small 14 room hotel that treated us like we were part of their family. When we embarked we were amazed at how many people had booked the entire 33 day cruise. It was a memorable cruise with ports of historical value that will be ever present in our minds. To see the buildings and ruins of the past thousands of years and be comforted by the return to the safety of our ship. Some of the places that we visited were pretty disgusting in Egypt. Thank goodness we saw the pyramids and the sphinx, as we will never return to Egypt. We could not believe that they were pushing their garbage into the "blue" Nile river. The Grand Princess could use a little face lift but they were working hard on redoing floors and public areas while we were in various ports. Never having been at sea during the Thanksgiving Holiday (American) nor the preparatory Christmas season we were both surprised and wonder-struck by what the ship staff accomplished in the over night periods. This total cruise was above and beyond our expectations in every way possible from the ports of call to the staff and the festival spirit of the ship. Would we do it again without Egypt - yes in a heart beat. PS B748 beautiful colors and an awesome balcony. There really are no negatives about this cabin. Back of the ship great evening views and leaving ports. Super for taking pictures. Slept like a log for 33 nights:) Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Came aboard Mon. at 1:30 after a flight from WA DC and hadnt eaten. Rapid check-in and we went to deck 10 and had a real nice lunch, lots of food and a Calypso Band which was too loud but we arent complaining. Left the dock at exactly 5 PM ... Read More
Came aboard Mon. at 1:30 after a flight from WA DC and hadnt eaten. Rapid check-in and we went to deck 10 and had a real nice lunch, lots of food and a Calypso Band which was too loud but we arent complaining. Left the dock at exactly 5 PM and headed to Freeport arriving at dawn and a georgeous sunrise. Stayed aboard because it was 25 min to town. Left at 5 PM again for Nassau arriving at dawn. Downtown Nassau is a filthy mess and if they want me back they should scrub the streets which were black, greasy dirt. The Casino was beautiful but the boats taking us over were filthy and over loaded and I got wet.(Nassau filth again) The Casino has the most beautiful aquarium in the world too. Sailed again at 5 pm promptly for Horshoe Cay, NCL owns half of it. Arrived at 7 AM and went ashore for a picnic and snorkeling. That was beautiful but they had hamburgers cooked by a hockeyplayer who thought well done was the only way you can cook one and it had to feel like a hockey puck. My fav. food is a hamburger too but I couldnt eat it. The experience aboard ship was pretty much a 10. Service was excellent, people polite and very helpful, food was good for a family cruise, coffee was excellent although they only serve 1 brand. The cruise director was from England, obnoxious and seemed to be on a good drug as he never shut-up but the shows were good quality and fun. Thanksgiving dinner was understandably,turkey out of a can but better than going hungry, service great. Reccommend it for 1st timers to find out if they like it, not worth it to have a window as you cant see anything at night anyway. Kids welcome and we didnt have any problems with them, well behaved and seperate from adults a lot. GO! Try it out! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We really enjoyed sailing the Ruby Princess, but not for the reasons we thought we would. It had been about a year since we last sailed on Princess Cruises, our last sailing on favorite ship Caribbean Princess. Since then we had sailed ... Read More
We really enjoyed sailing the Ruby Princess, but not for the reasons we thought we would. It had been about a year since we last sailed on Princess Cruises, our last sailing on favorite ship Caribbean Princess. Since then we had sailed on several other cruise lines, some not as great, some about as great and one greatly less than wonderful. We are on a health management program that required we follow certain guidelines and hoped we would be able to on the ship. What we found were plenty of good, healthy options aboard Ruby Princess that worked well with our program. What we did not count on was a deadly combination of two factors that drove us off our plan: Fabulous food and an equally fabulous, helpful crew. We just were not counting on either being as good as they are. As a result we went far off our plan, have no regrets and nothing but nice things to say about both. This ship truly blew us away in most all areas so let's get right into it Embarkation A breeze. We entered Pier 2 at Port Everglades about 11:00 and were on the ship by 11:30, in our aft balcony stateroom by 11:40. Very nice. Food As mentioned, fabulous. What made it difficult to stay strictly on our plan was Maitre d' Jose who just could not do enough for us. From a personal phone call upon embarkation, to his personal commitment throughout the cruise, this was a first for us. It seems more the norm for Maitre d's and other dining room management people to stop by tables occasionally during a cruise. This man was really into being sure we had a good time and did what it took to see that happened. The ship Beautiful. As this was a holiday cruise the ship was decorated quite tastefully and was spotlessly clean throughout the voyage. The familiar basic layout of the ship mirrored other Princess ships so we felt at home and enjoyed the new features added, especially the International Cafe offering a nice variety of light meals and snacks throughout the day plus some fabulous coffee selections. The crew Again, fabulous. From our cabin steward to electricians and maintenance people met in random encounters walking the halls, everyone seemed so happy to be there doing what they do. It was really refreshing to see. Not that other lines do not have happy people on board there working, they do, the crew on this ship just seemed so over the top happy to be there that it was a real pleasure to see. Itinerary This was the perfect ship to miss a port when we could not stop at Princess Cays for safety concerns about the tender operation in high seas. It was a great day to spend in our stateroom for the most part even though a revised and updated activity schedule was promptly distributed and featured plenty for everyone to do on the ship that day. Disembarkation We needed to get off the ship early for our drive back to Orlando and got just that, off the ship and on the road before 8am. Very nice. I like that they keep it simple and their "silent disembarkation" without a bunch of annoying announcements was pure heaven. Some highlights: Internet Access in-cabin- Decent. We had an aft balcony cabin, all the way at the back of the ship, probably about as far away from the Internet Cafe as possible and got a signal. A low signal but it worked. Others I talked to, closer to the center of the ship, had signals much better. I chose to go sit at the International Cafe, within view of the Internet Cafe on deck five, to connect. Very good signal there Motion in the Ocean- We sailed away under rough sea conditions and a rain storm. I can not remember sailing on rougher seas since a transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 but this ship handled it well. Our aft balcony stateroom on the Baa deck was rocking and rolling all night long that first night. Lisa always takes Bonine for this purpose, forgot to take it until we were well under way and had no problems but I would suggest a more midship location for those who experience motion discomfort...and a note to take precautions before getting on the ship Quality of the food- It is difficult for me to believe that the cuisine on this ship could be rated anything less than remarkable but as I have said many times before, food is such a subjective thing that I suppose it could happen. Our experience as noted earlier: fabulous. For those with food issues, look forward to your sailing on this ship; they really try hard to make it work for you. Dining room issues: None. Best advice: see the Maitre d' once on the ship no matter what. I think this is going to be a new rule for us, just something we do. Knowing the Maitre d' proved to be richly rewarding for our dining experience. These people really do want us to have a good time, we just need to give them the chance to make that happen Clientele- Short cruises on lines that don't do a lot of them often draw the curious. I know we had never sailed Celebrity until the Century offered shorter cruises so we could give them a try. We saw and talked to a lot of people just like that. Nice people who were regular guests on other lines, trying Princess for the first time. It might have been just luck but I did not talk to anyone who was not blown away by the Princess experience. I also talked to a number of repeat Princess guests, all mostly happy to be there. Front desk personnel- Bob from Tulsa had experienced less than wonderful service from the Pursers desk on a different Princess ship and was concerned. Bob, relax, this was one of the best bunches of Pursers desk staffers I have ever seen. I did have some issues with my bill, a double charge that was just a mistake and a charge for something I did not buy. Both were handled quickly and efficiently. I could not have asked for more. Past Guest perks- Sailing on Princess a bunch in the past had earned us Elite past guest status which was fabulous. From complementary laundry, to a priority disembarkation lounge and very accessible Captain Circle host, this program is a real winner, I think the best of the bunch. A couple we talked to while waiting to board who had not sailed the ship before had booked this one and the next two sailings for a total of 22 days on the ship. We happened to see them the last day at breakfast and were happy to see that they really enjoyed the ship. Princess past guests can be a really vocal group and don't hesitate to mention something they don't like. This couple thought there should be more places to sit and "people-watch" but were solidly loyal Princess fans who had tried other lines and said they "always come back to Princess". I can sure see why. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
NCL PEARL - Dec. 09 (Eastern Caribbean) We went to our honeymoon to the incredible NCL Pearl. It´s our first cruise and definitely our way to cruise. We loved freestyle cruising. We decided when to eat, when to sleep, when to visit ... Read More
NCL PEARL - Dec. 09 (Eastern Caribbean) We went to our honeymoon to the incredible NCL Pearl. It´s our first cruise and definitely our way to cruise. We loved freestyle cruising. We decided when to eat, when to sleep, when to visit shops, when to do whatever we wanted to.... EMBARKATION / DISEMBARKATION Very very fast, altough I thought that as for Miami Port, it would be slow. Not at all, It was hardly 10 min, and we were onboard the ship. Disembarkation was about 5 min and 5 min of customs, so it was pretty quick. FOOD Amazing!!!! We went to the buffets and a la carte restaurants, (GARDEN CAFE; SUMMER PALACE; BLUE LAGOON; INDIGO; SKY HIGH GRILL) Amazing food, clean. Eventhough it was the same food almost all days, there was plenty of things to choose that I hardly chose the same for two days.... Summer Palace, real good. Extra-charge: We went to Teppanyaki, Cagney´s, Lotus Garden and Le Bistro... All of them were amazing. Excellent service. Excellent food. They really are worth the extra cost. Choose the new package, I think it was 4 specialty restaurants for $50 bucks.... It´s really a must. SERVICE Excellent, way to go.... we were on our honeymoon, also ask for the honeymoon package, with strawberry´s and champagne, spa mandara massage and cake party. It was really good. The only thing we didn´t say was animal towels, so I kind of missed that. SHORE EXCURSIONS Samana,DR. We went to Cayo Levantado, incredible beach. The people selling stuff there are kind of desperate to sell, but you just have to continue walking or just tell them NO THANK YOU... Beach is really good and also piña colada! Some people told us that is better to go to Cayo levantado, if not, don´t go anywhere else, it´s really bad and nothing to see in town.... St. Thomas USVI Excellent, great shopping. We didn´t took a excursion, we went on our own to the town, and made some shopping... Really great place. Maybe on another trip we will go to the beach... Tortola BVI We took the Beach Break tour.... they take you to a small scenic drive and then 4 hours to the beach. It´s good, maybe because we got some rain, but it was just good, maybe better things to see. Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas Excellent beach, music, piñas coladas, beers, buffet barbeque from NCL (included) so it´s real nice... great crystal water beach... a must see. ACCOMODATION Mini-Suite (a must), it definitely worth the extra 150 bucks.... you get a tub and larger bath. Also, on the 11th floor and close to most things... It´s really great. We are looking forward on cruising on NCL.... As for now, NCL EPIC 2011. We really want one on 2010, but we both work, so it´s hard... Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This was our 5th cruise on Princess, first on the Crown, and out first over Christmas cruise. We had sailed over Thanksgiving before so felt we knew a little bit of what to expect. We live in Florida so embarkation was just 3 hours down ... Read More
This was our 5th cruise on Princess, first on the Crown, and out first over Christmas cruise. We had sailed over Thanksgiving before so felt we knew a little bit of what to expect. We live in Florida so embarkation was just 3 hours down the turnpike and parking the car at Port Everglades. FYI parking is up to $15 per day now. No big deal, we were through the terminal in no time. Very efficient. If you haven't parked there before drive through the drop off area first and leave your luggage then go park. Makes things much easier. The ship was totally decked out for Christmas. Extensively and tastefully done. We were concerned about the trip not being "Christmasy" enough...but that was not an issue. Santa was there for pictures and Carolers sang as we came on board. Very Nice. I figure that many reading this have done Princess before so I thought I would focus on holiday things that might be different or stuff we saw or experienced or learned for the first time. The Holiday: First there were a ton of families on board and I heard there were over 500 kids. Christmas was well represented. The had Carolers, and Christmas cookies at the international cafe. The had Christmas trivia (I won) :), holiday religious services, and a special production show(featuring the singers and dancers doing Christmas songs). They had holiday themed backdrops for formal pictures. They played Christmas movies on the in cabin channel and Movies under the stars. They even had a channel in the cabin with the "Yule Log" so you could have Christmas music playing in your room. The Gingerbread house building contest was a blast to watch and those who participated seemed to have a great time. The even read the "Night before Christmas" in the atrium and made it "snow"! Our concerns about it not being "Christmasy" enough were definitely put to rest. Other stuff: The rest of the cruise was what we always experience on Princess. Good food. Good Service, and a well maintained and clean ship. We did have dinner at the Crown Grill and it was fantastic. Quick tip...ask for the fillet encrusted with blue cheese...its not on the menu but they will do it, and it was awesome. Also you can order anything on the menu that you want in any combination. I got the fillet AND the lobster tail. Also don't miss the Smore dessert thing, I forgot the actual name but I loved it. We chose anytime dining which we like but had the longest wait times for a table for 2 that we ever had. About 20 minutes each night...No worries, lots of big families on board. But I do think this system of allowing for reservations in the anytime dining room is weird. As soon as people make reservations its no longer "anytime". Id like to see them use one dining room for reservations and keep one truly "anytime" The food in the dining room was very good. Up to par with what we have come to expect. Strangely, they did not have the crab legs any night, but did have lobster/beef wellington night on Christmas eve. (I got both :)) The horizon court and Cafe Caribe were both very good. We liked the Seafood buffet on the very first night...the cold crab claws were very good. On Christmas day we chose to eat in Cafe Caribe and it was very good. Although this was the last night of the cruise and we growing tired of stuffing ourselves I had one more round in me and the carved turkey and trimmings were awesome. (although they didn't have stuffing which I thought was odd.) We were also surprised as friends of ours sent us the Champagne balcony breakfast...it was very nice. It would be nicer if they let you select some of the items. For instance my wife wont eat the smoked salmon so it was kind of a waste. oh and lastly on food, don't miss the pub lunch at the wheelhouse on sea days...very good fish and chips. Ports: We skipped Grand Cayman due to weather...a little disappointed but no big deal really. In Roatan we docked at Mahogany bay, which is new shopping village and beach area. It wasn't overly impressive but clean and safe. We didn't do anything in Roatan as my wife wasn't feeling well and weather wasn't great. Cozumel: We've been many times but this was the best ever. First it was the only really nice sunny day we had...and good thing as we booked a private beach excursion at Nachi Cocom. If you want a quite beach day, all inclusive...this is the place to go. I had read a million great reviews of it here on CC and let me add my voice to the choir...terrific. Princess Cay was Christmas day and the weather was less than perfect and we had been so we skipped it this time. Normally we go and do enjoy it. Sorry so long, hopefully my review will help some on here as others reviews helped me. Happy Holidays Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My wife and I were celebrating our 20th anniversary. We chose Carnival because in all honesty it gave use more for the money. Food it was very good. the lido deck well its a buffet and they did have some tasty dishes up there. Our ... Read More
My wife and I were celebrating our 20th anniversary. We chose Carnival because in all honesty it gave use more for the money. Food it was very good. the lido deck well its a buffet and they did have some tasty dishes up there. Our dinning room was excellent every day from starter to the soups and deserts. And of course the main entree. What really help us was our waiter would recommend most of the food. I sometimes would ask how the steaks were he would reply its very tough Mr. Jay. As I said before the soups were fantastic cream potato was very good. Oh the cream Brulee was to die for. Now going back to the lido deck the burgers were always fresh and tasty. Pizza was ok if you got a freshly bake one. Allot of fruit, I can't get enough of fruit. One thing I must say about the lido deck many people complain about the lines and rudeness of other passengers. I for myself and my wife never seen it except on sea days. Which would be expected. On those days the lines weren't that long maybe five min. There pasta bar was great also. Coffee on Carnival was good. Service was outstanding through our cruise. Our waiter Austin was the best. His recommendation were always right on. He would refer us by our first names which was a first for me nice touch. His side kick was filling our beverages and keeping fresh bread in our grasp. Ken the maitre d was an entertaining gent and a cool voice. Room service was always on time even on the last day at 6 am. Can't forget Noor our cabin steward friendly and kept our cabin very clean. And the towel animals were there every evening. Love those little chocolate mints on our pillow. Going back to the lido deck I found that the employees up there were always friendly and keeping the tables clear for other people. Entertainment was ok I guess, nothing to write home about. The young lady who sang in the production show can really sing.. The fellow lead singer not impressed with him. During the Motown tribute he was just awful I thought. The dancers were ok I guess. Break dancers were very good. Never went to see the piano bar to smokey for us. Todd Whitmire my personal opinion. He just doesn't make himself more visible to us the passengers. He can always hear him through the intercom and see him on TV whoopee. This was supposed to be the Fun Ship. He's not that fun. Kenny Rush is still the best cruise director out there. I know he's with RCC. The laser shows were interesting and good to view. Going back to the production show they had one called dancing in the street. This by what our CD is the best show out on sea. Again not impress to much with any of the singers some of the dancers were good. Though at times off on there timing. The Dream ship is a very beautiful ship but at times the layout a little confusing. After a few days you get the hang of it.Atrium on this ship was beautiful. Christmas decoration and all. Love the retro pics all over the ship very different. I know the ship in only a few months old but I must say the cleanliness was very good. Excursions were very good also. A day in St. Martin was just awesome with our tour guide Slim. Never maade out there in St. Thomas due to one of us not feeling up to a day of sailing. I was really looking forward to that. Maybe next time. Conclusion this was a very good cruise for my wife and I. It met and went above our expectation. You really can't ask for more than that. This was our first Carnival cruise and we will be back some time. BIG THANKS FORM US CARNIVAL. SEE YOU SOON. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Another fantastic cruise on Celebrity! This was our 3rd time with Celebrity and our 2nd time on Century itself. Refurbished? It was hard to tell where they did it because the ship looked just like we remembered it from 1999. Absolutely ... Read More
Another fantastic cruise on Celebrity! This was our 3rd time with Celebrity and our 2nd time on Century itself. Refurbished? It was hard to tell where they did it because the ship looked just like we remembered it from 1999. Absolutely beautiful everywhere: Clean and like new carpets; shiny, spotless and well maintained public areas, very professional, courteous and friendly staff, gorgeous intimate clubs with fantastic bands, and stunning high quality theatrical productions. We went on the Christmas week 5-night cruise, and the Christmas decorations were plentiful, tasteful, of a highly refined quality, and not overdone or gaudy. Everyone from the Cruise Director to the Islands Cafe wait staff said "Merry Christmas" to us every chance they got. No fear of offending anyone with a heartfelt "Merry Christmas" greeting on this ship! All of the classic Christmas carols and singing was heard throughout the ship and the Christmas Eve show was sweet, funny, and very traditional. Just a wonderful experience! We even had groups of sweet little children caroling in the hallways as they practiced for their little spot in the performance! Very sweet, and once again, traditional! Food? Once again: Top Shelf! Best in the industry. We ate most of our meals in the Islands Cafe and still received personal service at each of the many food stations, whether it was sushi, stir fry, breakfast omelettes, or any of the many other tasty options, the lines were never more than 10-12 people, and they handled everyone with punctuality and professionalism. We even had roast duck, coconut chicken, and salmon teriyaki right off the buffet one night, and they were all sensational! The Christmas Eve "Tree-Trimmers Buffet" was also an orgy of chocolate treats, traditional cookies, cakes, fruits, all presented complete with ice sculptures, fruit sculptures, and all sorts of decorations that touched our hearts and made us smile. Then Christmas Day was another level yet again with a bountiful brunch of breakfast foods, traditional Christmas dinner, such as roast turkey, leg of lamb, roast smoked ham, dozens of hot and tasty vegetable dishes, all topped off with an infinite and scrumptious variety of cakes and desserts of exquisite taste and freshness. Entertainment: We saw three top quality Broadway style shows each with gorgeous and versatile performers. From night to night they moved effortlessly from Irish step dancing, to Cabaret style song and dance routines, and then to multi-lingual vocal performances for the "Dance Around the World" show. We've seen Broadway shows, and London Shakespeare stage plays, and in our opinion Celebrity's shows are truly state of the art for quality and variety. We also saw two comedians, James Stephens III, and Thien Fu, the masterful comic juggler. Top notch performers both! Ports: 8 hours in Key West, a fun town which needs no elaboration here, except that we saw something new: The Butterfly Sanctuary far down on Duval St. And then we had one full day in Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island. A beautiful island with a hidden treasure: Pedro St. James Plantation. This is a historical estate dating back to 1780 which is now a small restored house with lush gardens, a friendly and wise elderly naturalist who loves to explain the flora and fauna, and a cute little visitor center with a multi-sensory and very entertaining theatrical presentation. (Beginning with a rousing hurricane sequence where the theatre and its audience are coated in fine misty spray). Tip: To get there from Georgetown: Walk along Harbor Ave. and go about 2 blocks past Cardinal Ave to the bus depot on the right instead of taking a taxi. We paid $3.50 per person to get to the Plantation instead of $25.00 taxi fare, and it's just a 15-minute ride. Getting on the ship and getting settled was easy, and efficient. Complimentary Champagne greets your outstretched hands as you set foot on the ship. Disembarkation was the smoothest of any of our 4 cruises. Small crowds waited quietly and sadly in the lounges as they called each group by color code, and we were off ship and back on the street within 20 minutes. We were asked to switch cabins with some other people who needed a bunk bed, and we were given chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne for complying! Truly a sweet and special cruise on the finest cruise line in operation today! Celebrity treats you like Royalty!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Crown Princess Caribbean - Dec 12-19, 2009 We were on the December 12 -19th sailing of the Crown Princess for a 7 day Caribbean Cruise from Fort Lauderdale. We had sailed on the Crown in February 2008 on a 14 day Caribbean B2B but what ... Read More
Crown Princess Caribbean - Dec 12-19, 2009 We were on the December 12 -19th sailing of the Crown Princess for a 7 day Caribbean Cruise from Fort Lauderdale. We had sailed on the Crown in February 2008 on a 14 day Caribbean B2B but what attracted us to this itinerary was four new locations not visited and a very attractive price. We booked in July and looked forward to the December departure. We were pleased to be accompanied by two friends who were on their first cruise. Not taking any chances with winter weather, we left Halifax on Dec 11th and had no problems reaching Florida on an Air Canada flight via Toronto. We had chosen the Comfort Inn near Sawgrass Mills for an overnight which gave us an opportunity to do some pre-cruise and Christmas shopping. We rented a car at the Hollywood airport and were at our Hotel by 2:30 p.m. Off to Sawgrass until 7:00 p.m., then dinner at Cheddars which was a block from the Comfort Inn. After a complimentary breakfast on Saturday we re-packed the car and made our way to the beach at Lauderdale-by-the Sea for a stroll and to enjoy the quiet ambiance of this quaint area just north of Lauderdale Beach. The town square was nicely decorated for Christmas. We visited a few shops before heading to Port Everglades at noon to drop off our luggage. There were five ships including RCL's Oasis of the Seas departing that day. Traffic was heavy but we managed to rid ourselves of the luggage not to be seen again until we arrived in our cabin. We made a quick trip back to the Airport to return the car intending to take a shuttle back to Everglades. We were disappointed to learn that Avis didn't provide a shuttle to Everglades so we hopped a cab ($20 for 4) and were at the Crown in less than fifteen minutes. The weather was quite nice (partly sunny and low 80's) through most of the day. As afternoon progressed, the skies began to get increasingly cloudy. The embarkation was very quick and smooth. In all of fifteen minutes, we were in the Piazza of the Crown. Of course, the first thing we noticed was the decorative and festive Christmas dEcor. Even before heading to our room on Baja, we decided to head to Horizon/Caribe for lunch and embark on a walk to re-familiarize ourselves with the Ship. It's amazing how much you forget from cruise to cruise. We met our room steward, Edgar, who worked with quiet efficiency throughout the cruise. We unpacked. I tried to make a connection for a Chef's Table reservation but no luck. The call for the muster drill came and off to the Wheelhouse Bar we went. Upon returning to the cabin, back to the telephone and this time we managed to get our name on the Chef's Table reservation list. Never having done a Chef's Table but having read so much about it, it was a goal to be part of this experience on this cruise. We no sooner arrived on Deck 15 for the Sail Away, the Captain made an announcement that festivities were being moved inside because of heavy wind and rain. We were sailing away in darkness anyway, so we were not too disappointed. After a bit more ship exploration, a visit to the Sail Away Buffet in Horizon, we were off to the DaVinci Dining Room for our first dinner. Prime rib and pork luau were two of the main choices. The Princess Theatre beckoned at 10:15 pm for the first show with magician James Michael. There was a pleasant surprise on getting back to our Cabin. The mailbox contained a note that we had been chosen to be interviewed tomorrow at noon for the Chef's Table. Day 2 - Sunday - At Sea Each day started with a visit to the International Cafe on Deck 5 for a brewed coffee. I had purchased a coffee card on last years cruise on the Coral. Princess recognizes the punches not used on the card for future cruises. I enjoyed at least two large coffees each morning on the Cruise, used up two punches for specialty coffees and have five more punches for a future cruise. Not a bad deal at all. Cruise Critic Friends www.cruisecritic.com http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1004584 We joined the Crown December 12 Western thread in late July. A group of forty or more participants had become cyber friends by the time sailing day rolled around. We were a diverse group ranging in age from 30's - 70's from US, Canada, Germany and Wales. We had agreed to meet on the first sea day for a chat and some participated in a gift exchange. Sissy, our MC and organizer had printed badges and arranged for the Captain to drop by. In many ways, these meetings are like getting reacquainted with old friends. Captain Fortezze arrived at 11:45 a.m. He made some welcoming comments, answered questions and posed for pictures. The hour sped by too quickly but already we had become cruise friends for the next six days and hopefully some for the future. About thirty of a potential fifty CC friends made the gathering. We had to leave at noon to make our Chef's Table Interview. The interview was conducted by the maitre d'hotel. He informed us that there would be two Chef's Tables on this cruise and we were in line for the second one. Our friends and travel companions from Nova Scotia were also selected and we were informed we would be joining six other folks on Wednesday evening. I found out later that Marlene & Shannon, tow other CC friends made the first chef's table. Our first lunch was in the dining room and table mates included Ken from Vancouver, Mike from Chicago and the same couple from Knoxville, Tennessee we had met at muster drill. We have had so many pleasant dining experiences with folks from all over the world. There is an interesting thread here on the message boards where many dining room horror stories are told. Some of our fellow cc'ers do have some rather unpleasant table mates we've learned. It would be interesting to know if cruisers are trending away from "traditional dining" and doing anytime dining now. Many cruisers seldom come to the main dining room and prefer a "buffet experience". To each his/her own. Tonight is the first of two formal nights for this cruise. We had pictures taken prior to Dinner at 8 in DaVinci. Halibut and twin tenderloins were our main choices this evening. A wonderful couple from New Jersey were our table mates. "What a Swell Party" in the Princess Theatre followed dinner. Day 3 - Monday - Grand Cayman: Monday was a sunny day for arrival at 7:00 a.m. at Georgetown. If you wish to go ashore you must tender here. We arrived on shore at 9:30 a.m. Not having any planned excursions, we simply walked out to the Main Street and made contact with Edgar Brown Tours for a two hour excursion for $10 pp. We were in a very comfortable small bus with about 12 others. We toured the capital, visited the Rum Factory for rum samples and cake, the dolphins, a place called HELL, a beach walk for 15 minutes and delivered back near the terminal by 1:00 p.m. After lunch and drinks at Margaritaville, some shopping, we caught a tender back to the Ship at 3:00 p.m. A stop at the International Cafe for the famous plate of three different gelatos hit the spot. There are at least seven different gelatos to choose from. Three scoops are only $1.50. What a way to cool off after a hot day on a Caribbean island! Mama Mia (the movie) was playing on the Deck 15 while the ship sailed away. Dinner choices in the DaVinci were turbot, shrimp diavolo and slow cooked roast beef and gravy (this is part of the new Princess Menu which features a different comfort food each day). Much to our surprise, two of our table mates this evening were two fellow cruise critics who hadn't made the initial Sunday gathering. We recognized each other immediately proving once again what a small world we live in. Day 4 - Tuesday- Roatan, Honduras: Clocks went back an hour today so we welcomed the extra hour of sleep. The Crown was supposed to dock at Mahogany Bay, the new cruise terminal but didn't. It was another day to tender. In hindsight, we would not have seen the Downtown area had we not tendered. Poverty is rampant here and in full view to experience. Always one of the saddest aspects of visiting and experiencing local culture, the sights you see and information you receive on local life makes one most thankful for one's life opportunities. We hooked up with a local tour operator for $20 pp. There were 10 of us in a van. On the ride to Parrot Bay Resort, Percy our driver, told us of the local culture, his family and local personalities. We relaxed for two hours at a very quiet, private beach. Admission, chairs, a drink, and shade were included in our tour. Lunch (fresh fish & chips) on the beach was tasty and very reasonable. We were back on the Crown at 3:00 p.m. Reservations tonight were in the Crown Grill. One of two alternate dining choices for $25 a person, this is an experience not to be missed. I'm sure there were at least ten courses in all. Scallops and fois gras, shrimp bisque, onion soup, giant prawns, an array of veggies, filet mignon, ribeye, New York striploin, lobster tails, and a multitude of desserts. Wow! We brought our own white and red wine to accompany the meal. Cecilly was our waitress. She was great and even enjoyed a taste of our wine. We have been to Sabatini's on other cruises but I prefer the Crown Grill. There is still that rack of lamb I have not tried. The Deck Party planned for tonight was brought inside because of rain. Day 5 - Wednesday - Cozumel: Finally we would dock (International Pier) after tendering for the previous two stops. Cozumel would have eight ships in port today. Three from Carnival, the Aida, Disney Magic, RCL Independence and Norwegian Dawn. Cruisers were evident everywhere. The first folks we met when we arrived ashore was a couple we recognized from our neighbourhood who were on the Carnival. The terminal had lots of shopping, attractions and picture opportunities. We found a taxi for 6 of us ($5 pp) which brought us to Paradise Beach. There was no extra charge for chairs and shade on the beach. It was crowded and you were expected to buy drinks and have food from the bar. We shared a bucket of five cold beer. Lots to do and great water temps. We stayed for two hours and caught a taxi from the beach to the downtown for $10 pp. Did some shopping and found an internet cafe before getting a taxi back to the International Terminal. For the amount of time we had, shopping was every bit as good at the International Terminal as it was downtown. We had been warned to eat very sparingly today because we would be doing the Chef's Table tonight at 7:00 p.m. Reflecting on last night at the Crown, we really had no need for much food anyway. I'm not sure if other cruise lines have an equivalent of the Chef's Table but I'm positive the experience could not be any better. There are a number of very good postings on this site about this experience. There is one review that is a classic. It captured every small detail, and flavour in a humorous but informative presentation. I have posted a link to it at the end of my review. Every Chef's Table has the same format and essentially is the same menu so it is tried and true. You meet at the International Cafe for a short gathering before being led through the Main Dining Room in uniform to the delight and astonishment of fellow diners. Once in the Kitchen you can watch meal prep, ask questions of the maitre d'Hotel and Executive Chef who are with you for the whole evening. Mssrs. Ferat and Pollara were delightful hosts. While in the kitchen, you are taken to a special area for canapEs and champagne (blue crab margarita, a pate with apple chutney, mini pizzettes with goat cheese and roasted new potatoes with sour cream and caviar). The Captain and other senior staff also joined us for champagne. Can you blame them! We then lost our uniforms and were taken to a corner of the DaVinci Dining Room to a large table of ten set with a huge floral centerpiece, wine crystal, china breadsticks and menus. A specially selected white and red wine flowed freely throughout the meal. Brandy and ice wine followed dessert. The first course was a lobster and asparagus risotto followed by a raspberry-lemon sorbet drenched with a flavored vodka. Roasted veal shank and veal tenderloin carved tableside with lobster tails was the main course. This was accompanied by a tray of vegetables. Baked camembert with pine nuts and port reduction and walnut bread was served. This was followed by a dessert tray of chocolates and berries. Not to be outdone, there was a second dessert course of an iced amaretto parfait, vanilla plume and brandy snap tuile served in a bowl of well words cannot describe this presentation so we'll leave the surprise ending! There was more but you do get the idea. We were then pictured as couples with our hosts and then as a group, each couple was given the Princess Cookbook (which was autographed) and the other a long stemmed rose. Needless to say, we closed the dining room that evening. We also lost an hour on the clock. Day 6 - Thursday - At Sea: On Thursday morning we noticed there had been heavy rain and wind overnight, however we awoke to sunshine, 80 plus and sun most of the day. Had a relaxing day in the sun, broken at noon for the English pub menu in the Wheelhouse Bar. This is new and a popular feature. I think it might be available on sea days only. We had to wait until past 1:00 pm to get in. English-style fish and chips, a ploughman's pie, bangers and mash are three of four selections. Served casually with beer available, I recommend you do this at least once on the cruise This was our second formal night of the cruise. Lobster, king prawns, Cornish game hen, New York Strip were a few menu choices. After Dinner we enjoyed comedian Carlos Oscar in Princess Theatre and visited the Casino. Day 7 - Friday - Princess Cays: We had never visited Princess Cays (Bahamas) before and would have been sorely disappointed to have missed this stop. High winds often prevent a stop here and today was no different. It was past 9:00 a.m. before the Captain determined he would allow tenders ashore. We were the first passengers (behind crew) to step foot on the beach. It was a rough tender ashore but the destination was worth it. We had our pick of chairs/location on the beach. Less than one third of the passengers came ashore that day. The day can be as busy or as relaxing as you wish. We chose to stay close to our chairs on the beach, enjoy a sumptuous buffet at noon and have a few beach strolls. Staff come ashore with food including salads, ribs, hotdogs, burgers, fresh fruit. We wore our "Santa" hats on the beach to add to the festive atmosphere and get some great souvenir Christmas pictures. A storm was predicted and moving in on us so the Captain decided to call us back to the ship for 2:00 pm rather than 3:30 p.m. We managed to get a final hour of sun on Deck 15 before it was time to go pack our luggage. Dinner (Landfall Theme) in DaVinci that evening featured the traditional Tom Turkey, NY Strip, barramundi and other goodies. We enjoyed the company of a couple from Boca, Florida. During dinner there was a most spectacular display of lighting that is not often seen. High winds and rain whipped the ship most of the night. What a way to remember a most delightful Crown cruise. Other notes: The disembarkation went very smoothly. Princess has a dining room breakfast service which is a nice touch for the final day. We were off the Crown by 9:30 am and at the Airport by taxi 15 minutes later. Check-in was quick and our flight to Halifax via Montreal was on time and uneventful. Many other cruisers were caught in a northeaster snow storm and flights to New York/Washington and other points were cancelled. Some of our cruise critic friends didn't get back home until Tuesday. This was our first cruise in a month other than February/March. We lucked in with great weather for traveling and on the cruise. We had not been at any of the destinations before. We find a 10 day cruise to be a good length but in this case (Christmas season) the seven day itinerary was perfect. Cruises are great vacation travel value. Looking forward to a Mediterranean cruise next. Here's the link to the Chef's table Review by Theora (Feb 22/09) and posted on March 27, 2009 - It's a great read. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=956179&page=4 Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This was my first cruise ever. I travelled alone so my opinions are based upon myself only. This was also the Christmas cruise, 19 - 26 December which made it even more special. All through the cruise you were reminded that Christmas was ... Read More
This was my first cruise ever. I travelled alone so my opinions are based upon myself only. This was also the Christmas cruise, 19 - 26 December which made it even more special. All through the cruise you were reminded that Christmas was close. Staff members with Santa hats and Christmas music being played throughout the ship are just two examples. Saturday Day One I was met at the airport by the transfer agent, taken to the cruise ship terminal and proceeded with the in clearance. Check in was fast and I was on board getting my bearings. My first meal choice was roast beef which was very good as were all meals during the trip. The ship was under way at 8:00 PM. My Hawaiian adventure begun. Sunday Day Two I chose to eat breakfast at The Skyline Restaurant, one of the main restaurants. The menu provided a vast selection. Service was prompt. I got there early and had no trouble getting a seat. In fact, I was lucky enough to get a window seat. I watched the ship pull into Maui. The ship anchors here for an overnight. Lots of opportunity to sight see as well as shore excursions. I did not book any shore excursion as I had an extra three days in Honolulu and booked various excursions there. I took one of the free shuttles into town. It drops you off at one of the shopping plazas. Lots of great video of the scenery to and from the ship. This is an excellent opportunity to buy any forgotten items. I make this point because some of the people who took the shuttle were going for this very reason. Service so far is great. The staff are pleasant and it does not feel they have to make an effort to be courteous. Time to relax. Monday Day Three A very relaxing day. Still in Maui. The weather was hot and sunny. I made my way off ship to test my internet connection as I brought my laptop with me. The ship offers internet for a fee for use in the internet cafe, or if you bring your own computer, you can access the world wide web from any public area on board. The ship got under way at 1800 hrs for Hilo. I checked out the Second City comedy act. A great show, however; it was toned down because there were children in the audience. There were two shows that evening, but I attended the first show so I can not comment on the second show. Tuesday Day Four Arrived in Hilo, the youngest of the islands. Again took a shuttle to see the sights which includes the shopping plazas. After awhile, along the way, we got to see the Kilauea Volcano. Narration is provided on the loud speakers so you know a little bit of the history of this most impressive sight. Wednesday Day Five Kona Hawaii. The ship tendered off the coast. You need to take tenders into shore. Kona has everything right from the pier so no need for shuttles however they are available. Some more strolling and then back to the ship. Thursday Day Six Christmas Eve on the island of Kauai. It rained that day but not a downpour. First time it rained since the start of the cruise. Booked the Lazy J Steakhouse for dinner that night. It's one of four speciality restaurants on ship. You have to pay a surcharge to eat there. It was well worth it. I booked early to take advantage of the ship's activities later in the evening. This included a visit by Santa Claus. He was very well received by the children who were on board. Incidentally there were approximately three hundred children travelling with their families. Lots of Christmas activities could be done such as carolling or decorating ornaments. Friday - Day Seven Last full day. Ship sails at 1400 hrs to Honolulu for an 0800 hrs arrival. I got a disembarkation lecture the day before. Pretty easy as you have the option to carry your own luggage off the ship. Or alternatively, you may choose a time convenient to disembark and have your luggage taken care of by the porters. Overcast again today and a light mist falling. Still quite warm. A farewell barbecue was served at the Aloha Cafe Lanai. Cruised past the Napali Coast, very scenic and got some great video. Last supper on board was, amongst a vast array of other choices, turkey. Saturday - Disembarkation Walked off with my own luggage. No lines, no fuss. Taxis waiting to take you to airport or hotels. Checked in right away at the Aqua Aloha Surf. Not much to write about. It's a place to stay. Two blocks to the beach. Loads of tourists here and walking around is tricky. I can not say enough to compliment the service from all staff on board. It was a full ship and the entire staff performed with the utmost of professionalism . I overheard some of the staff comment that there were two thousand five hundred passengers. I read previous reviews of this ship, but I can happily say I did not experience any of the negative things that were mentioned. This is a great way to see the Hawaiian Islands and either after or before the cruise you may have an opportunity to see Honolulu and the surrounding area. So ended my first cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My wife and I sailed on the Norwegian Spirit's Christmas cruise as a way to change our usual Christmas routine. We may have found a new holiday tradition. This was our first cruise, so we did a lot of research before and after ... Read More
My wife and I sailed on the Norwegian Spirit's Christmas cruise as a way to change our usual Christmas routine. We may have found a new holiday tradition. This was our first cruise, so we did a lot of research before and after booking (we booked in March), however, we booked based on departure city (New Orleans is an hour's flight from Dallas), rather than ports of call. We will change the emphasis next time. My original goal was to sail from Galveston, which would have been a half-day's drive, but if we have to fly to a port from Dallas, it doesn't really matter which US port it is. We chose this cruise because after we decided to look into cruising, I signed up with all the major cruise lines for information. Within about ten minutes, an NCL representative called us to discuss our options. That was the beginning of their treating us as special customers, which I appreciated. Since they don't sail from Galveston, she mentioned New Orleans, and that's how we picked the cruise. The Spirit is the oldest ship in NCL's fleet, but it doesn't seem old. I was surprised at how small it seemed on-board (walking from one end to the other was not that difficult) and how large it seemed from the dock in port. "Small" is not a good word, but it didn't seem overwhelming. We had a balcony stateroom on the ninth deck with a queen-sized bed. It actually was roomier than I expected - to the point that you could just stay in the room for a while and not get claustrophobic. My wife and I are a wee bit larger than average, but didn't have major problems moving about. Also, it was quieter than hoped - the floor doesn't have major activities below or above. One minor nit - if you want to hear the announcements from the crew, you have to be in a public area or have your room TV on the NCL internal channel. I loved the channel because it was the rolling GPS map of our location with speed and weather information, but the soundtrack was Christmas carols. While this makes sense on a Christmas cruise, they were some pretty dreary carols. The one solution was to turn the sound down, but then you missed the announcements. I would have preferred having a speaker in the room for crew announcements, especially since we were awake all the times they were made. That was an interesting phenomenon - I suppose it was arriving in port and the noises around the arrival, but we woke up early each day. We would ask for a wake-up call, but rarely needed it. It's a good thing to be up early if you have port excursions, but we found ourselves going to bed much earlier than on dry land and waking up much earlier than we usually would on vacation. We tried three of the "extra fee" specialty dining rooms - Le Bistro, Cagney's Steakhouse and La Trattoria. They were all good. I had duck at Le Bistro and there was duck in the main buffet the next day, but it was still worth the extra price. For the money, I think La Trattoria was the best value. The osso bucco was excellent. Our fellow passengers seemed mostly friendly - without assigned seating, it is pretty easy to keep to yourselves all day if you prefer, but even with over twenty-five hundred on-board, we tended to see the same people consistently. I think those with similar tastes in excursions will tend to meet up regularly, since their schedules mesh. We also had our share of clueless parents, but there is not much the ship's crew can do about them. Seriously, if there is a show in the Galaxy of the Stars, could you take your crying baby and loud discussions somewhere else? My major complaint about the Galaxy of the Stars is that it is trying to be too many things - it's a bar, an observation deck and a small showroom. There were any number of people there because it was the "observation deck" who were drowning out the show with conversation. If you are going to have shows, they need to be in enclosed, dedicated spaces (like the Stardust Theater) and if you are going to present 18+ material, you need to keep the kids out. I didn't see the age limits enforced, even when the shows were marked "18+ only." Port excursions were fair to excellent, and reviewed below. Disembarkation was painful because even though NCL paces your exit from the ship (and lets you choose the time), US Customs at the port of New Orleans doesn't seem to realize that 2500 passengers made need more than seven or eight lines to exit in a timely manner. It took a while to get to the point where we could collect our luggage and pass customs. Unlike an airport, you pass customs and immigration simultaneously. I was used to going through immigration, then picking up my bags and going through customs. In New Orleans, we got our luggage first and only made one stop. It just took a long time to get to that point. All in all, this was a very good experience - the crew was friendly to very friendly, our cabin steward was invisible but dedicated (rooms are made up twice a day with fresh towels), the food was good (and plentiful) and you could do as much or as little as you would like. We looked in some of the other room options as we walked the ship the last day as those rooms were being cleaned, and I'm not sure I would want to be in a smaller room than we had. However, I was very happy with our stateroom. We'll be cruising again, probably even before next Christmas, although next time, we'll choose based on destinations and not on origination port. I'm pretty sure we'll stay with NCL - we were very happy with all the aspects of our cruise, before and after getting on the ship. The second port was Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala. We had originally decided to take this day off and stay on the ship to explore, and in retrospect, that would have been a better way to spend our time (and money.) We took the Amatique Beach Resort excursion, and I suppose if you are going to a beach resort that touts it's pool, you should be suspicious. There is a boat ride to the resort, and the boat's crew was very uncommunicative with the passengers, which I thought was a bit strange. The resort does have an amazing pool, including a swim-up bar. The drinks were not included on this tour, so we were lucky we had cash. (Here, as in all the stops, prices were in American dollars.) The lunch was very good, and people around us went back for seconds, so I suppose it was all-you-can-eat although it was not advertised as such. On the boat ride back, the engine sputtered out a couple of times. One of our fellow passengers said we coasted in on fumes - we were actually running out of gas. Again, the crew did not say anything to the passengers. This trip was not worth the money, especially when compared to the previous port's beach break. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My husband and I had never cruised before this trip, so we did not embark with expectations. We started planning our vacation in March of 09, which seemed a bit premature, but we wanted to be away for the holidays, and were not sure how ... Read More
My husband and I had never cruised before this trip, so we did not embark with expectations. We started planning our vacation in March of 09, which seemed a bit premature, but we wanted to be away for the holidays, and were not sure how fast the cruise would book up. We booked directly with NCL, and our cruise representative, Mari, was incredibly helpful! She helped us choose a stateroom, and it was a great choice! Overall, this was a great experience, and we loved it so much, we put down a $250 deposit towards another cruise. The crew was over-the-top nice and very accommodating. They, to a person, were friendly, and they made us feel very pampered. The only annoyance were the constant sales pitches by "Ian" the shopping rep for Diamonds International! But...we totally ignored him, and all was good. Here are my helpful hints: Bring a bar of soap. The liquid shower gel is adequate, but it really doesn't make you feel like you cleaned anything! There is liquid shampoo, too, but I didn't use it. If you hate the smell of Lavender (like I do!), bring a second bar for use in the sink. If you forget, you can buy a bar at the Pharmacia in Costa Maya. :D Bring mosquito repellent, and bring anti-itch gel or cream. (You can buy Caladryl in Cozumel, but it doesn't work as good as the Benedryl gel I have at home.) Our stateroom, 9530, was forward on the port side of the ship. It was the first BE stateroom after the BD staterooms. We loved the location. It was very near the elevators, but not too close. It had much less wiggle than the aft rooms would have had. Also, deck 9 is very quiet - no restaurants or activities on this deck or the one above or below. Something we would not have known to consider, but which is really important if you are a light sleeper. Our room was "cozy," but we had plenty of room for our stuff, and we never felt cramped. Since this was a first cruise, I didn't know what clothing would be appropriate, so I totally over-packed - two 28" suitcases, a 26", as well as two camera bags and a laptop bag. I had packed wire hangers and the closet had 15 wooden ones installed. There were plenty for our clothes. (Yay, Cruise Critic members for that suggestion!) Inside the closet, there were cubby holes for clothes as well as a top shelf and a small safe for valuables. There was a small set of drawers under the TV as well. MORE than enough room for everything we had with us! (I could have packed more, but a. I didn't need half of what I did pack and, b. my husband would have killed me!) After unpacking, I put the 26" inside a 28" and put both 28" suitcases under the bed, where they fit perfectly. The bed was comfortable, and the couch and desk and chair were very useful. We LOVED our balcony! It was a peaceful retreat from the hustle & bustle, and we loved waking up and photographing sunrise in our pjs. It was a great spot to look at the stars, also. Opening the drapes and watching the ocean sail by was very soothing and a great way to unwind! The bathroom was "cute." The toilet and shower are each behind sliding glass doors with a sink area in the middle. Again, cozy, but enough room to move comfortably. The only negative is the hair dryer. It is one of the Elisseo dryers which you find in most European hotels. They blow air, but if you have curly hair like mine and want to straighten any part of it (like my bangs), resign yourself to a week of bad hair. I had asked on many boards before we sailed about using my 1850 watt dryer, and I was told it would blow the circuits. I left it home, but I did bring my flattening iron. I was never brave enough to plug it in, though! The room only has a few outlets, and all except for one are 220. The one that is 110 clearly says "Not for Hair Dryers." My husband uses a CPAP, so, again, thanks to previous travelers posting, we knew to bring along an extension cord. It worked perfectly. Whatever you budgeted, add 50%. My husband expected to spend about $500 on the ship. I expected $1,000. I was right for a change. (I usually totally underestimate what things will cost.) It is easy to forget they are billing you $12/per person/per day service charge, and those $6.50 & $7.50 drinks add up. We ate in the specialty restaurants three nights. We visited La Trattoria, Le Bistro, and Cagney's - and all were excellent. We also paid $100 for 250 minutes of Internet time - and we used all except for about 10 minutes. There are only three places on the ship where your wireless laptop can be used - Deck 12 Internet Cafe, Decks 7 & 8 (The Grand Centrum). If you just want to check email or Facebook, you should probably just use their computers in the Internet Cafe. There are about 10 terminals, and they rarely get used for extended periods. Most people would come in, check email or whatever for about 20 to 30 minutes, and then they would leave. I had a lot of digital photos I wanted to upload and share with family at home, so my laptop was the only way to do that - plus I needed it for storage of the images. Bring some patience. There were 2,500 people on our cruise, but other than embarkation day and disembarkation day, it really never felt like there were that many people on board. If you do go to some of the shows, you might find it a bit crowded, but again, relax. Take a deep breathe and remember you are on vacation and not punching a clock. Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala - We had heard scary stories about banditos in Guatemala, and the cruise staff who had a briefing about the ports also cautioned against wandering off on your own. In retrospect, I would have skipped this excursion. We booked Amatique Bay and BBQ. You have to travel there by a small boat, and it is a little scary. The captain of the small boat and his helpers did not talk to us at all - even to explain why the motor kept cutting out (on our way back to the Spirit). We found out from another passenger that it appeared they were running out of fuel! It is hard to believe this tour is run by Gray Lines! The resort is very pretty, the pool is great, but the water on the beach is muddy. One passenger we talked with said she took her snorkel mask and went to the beach but decided against going in. The pool is very free-form, and there is one end more suited to children with water slides, while the far end has a swim-up bar and is more adult oriented. The swim-up bar was a great place to hang-out and meet other cruisers. Make sure you have cash, though, since they do not take credit cards at the bar. The all-you-can-eat buffet is very good and has great variety. The only negative are the bees. They look like yellow jackets, but are not aggressive stingers, although they are everywhere! Most annoying - especially when you are trying to eat. We had to fish them out of our food and drink repeatedly. Yuck! The port at Santo Tomas is very industrial - lots of containers waiting to be loaded onto cargo ships. At the very far end, though, there is a building with shopping, which would be as far as I would want to travel if I did this port again. Again, make sure you have cash, because it is a real chore to use a credit card. In fact, I made one purchase, and then I gave up, which is a shame, because the merchandise is high-quality and desirable. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
The Liberty is a beautiful ship, so bright, colorful and cheery. The crew were amazing, they were good at what they do. We got greeted so friendly right from stepping out of the taxi at the pier. I love the layout of the ship, just had a ... Read More
The Liberty is a beautiful ship, so bright, colorful and cheery. The crew were amazing, they were good at what they do. We got greeted so friendly right from stepping out of the taxi at the pier. I love the layout of the ship, just had a few problems with getting lost now and then but that makes it fun. The atrium was decorated beautifully for Christmas with garland, lights and trees. Our room stewards were awesome, our head steward was Rgo and he was great, we kept forgetting our room number and whenever he saw us would laugh and say 1324 and point us in right direction. Our room was always cleaned and the towel animals were very nice every night. Our dining room waiter Jorge was great, so attentive and funny. Butch the Cruise Director was fantastic, he sure knows how to get a crowd going and in the mood to have fun. He even pulled our daughter up on stage one night it was hilarious. The food in the dining room was excellent. The only thing we were a little displeased with was the dinner buffet in Emilos. We felt there should have been more staples in the evening for dinner like meats, potatoes, veggies etc not just the theme night foods. One night we never even had dinner because there just was nothing that we fancied on the buffet besides salads and fruit. The grille food was fantastic, burgers, chicken etc. The deli foods were great also. The pizza was not too bad either. My nephews enjoyed the kids clubs. Soon as the clubs started we never saw either of them till dinner time, heck a couple nights my 12 year old nephew was the last one to go to bed. The last night of the cruise my 17 year old nephew didnt come in till 5am he said they had a party and then after it ended all the kids just hung out. Overall the ship is an A in our eyes. We would certainly sail Carnival again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009

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