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519 Holiday Cruise Reviews

We were on the 5 day Thanksgiving sailing on the Ecstasy out of Galveston. There were 6 of us (me, DH, DD-13, DS-11, DS-19 & DS-22). All but the 2 oldest sons have sailed 5+ times before. I do a lot of homework and planning prior to ... Read More
We were on the 5 day Thanksgiving sailing on the Ecstasy out of Galveston. There were 6 of us (me, DH, DD-13, DS-11, DS-19 & DS-22). All but the 2 oldest sons have sailed 5+ times before. I do a lot of homework and planning prior to cruising so I usually know what to expect and am not easily "surprised". Such was the case with this cruise. Our last 2 cruise experiences were on the Conquest, a much larger and newer ship. I made sure that everyone was aware of this so that they didn't "expect" the Ecstasy to be as fancy as the Conquest. Also, we've been to both Cozumel and Progresso many times so we also knew what to expect on shore. Acknowledging these things ahead of time helped shape our cruise experience as our expectations were reasonable. Embarkation: Usually, we spend the night in Galveston prior to the cruise, but this time we just drove in from our home town (60 miles SE of Dallas) the morning of the cruise. We arrived at the EZ Cruise parking lot around 11:30. We were eating lunch on the Lido Deck by 1pm. Needless to say, embarkation was a breeze! The Ship (in general): As mentioned, our last 2 cruises were on the Conquest. I knew that the Ecstasy was a bit older and smaller. At first, I felt a tinge of disappointment as the Ecstasy doesn't quite have the "wow" factor of the Conquest. However, it was in no time at all that we warmed up to this wonderful ship. This might sound strange, but even though the ship is smaller, it actually felt less crowded, especially around the pool area. On the Conquest, a lounge chair around either of the main pools was sparse. On the Ecstasy, we never had a problem getting a chair around the pool, or a table for lunch or a decent seat in the main theatre. The pools were a little dated, but we don't ever use them so this wasn't a big deal for us. All the other kiddos were enjoying the pools though! The hot tubs were small. And there is not a hot tub in the spa . I did miss that. The Ecstasy should be getting the Waterworks upgrade soon so this will vastly improve the pool areas. Common Areas: The common areas were typical. There were several bars & discos. We never went to any except on Thursday to catch the Cowboys game. Our 2 oldest sons thoroughly enjoyed the bars and clubs and often were getting back to the room after 2am. Can't complain about the casino as we were able to break even by the end of the week! I read a post somewhere on this board about the ceilings being low ... this wasn't a distraction for me. Again, even though some of the areas are smaller, they were not crowded. This was a huge plus for me as I like a little elbow room. Rooms: We stayed in balconies our past 2 cruises & prior to that we always had window rooms. This time we just got 2 inside cabins. We were in M255 & M251. We did not regret this at all. We've been to Cozumel and Progresso several times & we knew we wouldn't spend much time in our cabins. The money we saved on cabins allowed us to feel better about splurging on other activities during our cruise that we usually don't do. I do wish our cabins were more midship though. We were in the far aft of the ship. Our rooms were clean and comfortable. Our room steward, Ernesto, was the best! He was very attentive and did so good with all of our kiddos. I didn't find any difference between the rooms on the Conquest vs Ecstasy. Dining/Food: Only thing missing was the Fish & Chips station - which, actually, I didn't miss at all. I found all the food options & quality on the Ecstasy comparable to that of the Conquest. They even had the sushi bar (even though it was not listed in the Capers except on the 1st day). The sushi station is outside the casino. In the mornings, the lines in the back of the Lido deck would get a little backed up, but there were never lines by the pool stations. The buffet lines were exactly the same (for breakfast). Never any lines for the omelet station The lunch buffets were the typical buffet variety. And of course, there was the 24 hour pizza and ice cream. There never was a lack of good food! The first night, our waiter seemed to be a bit cranky & we thought uh-oh, this is going to be a long week, but he must've just had a bad day because the rest of the cruise we had a wonderful dining experience. Denis & Eduardo did a great job taking care of us. I have no complaints other than the fact that I think I gained about 5 pounds! We ate all dinners except 1 in the main dining room. A note on the food quality and variety: I always try to keep in perspective that the staff is having to serve thousands of people - all with different preferences. Given this, I think overall Carnival does a great job. I don't expect every dish to be of 5 star caliber. I do expect the food to be of good quality and variety - in line for what I paid for my cruise. Thus, I am rarely disappointed! Entertainment: This was one aspect that I found lacking. Our cruise director's 2 acts were the highlights for us. He can play the fiddle and juggle. The comedians were not very good at all. I found Jerry Torres to be absolutely offensive. There was a show by a Russian couple on the last night. I didn't make the show, but I hear they were good. The shows on the Conquest and other ships were definitely of higher quality. The shows on the Ecstasy were not on par with what I expected thus I was disappointed. Debarkation: Again, a breeze. We just hung out on the Lido Deck until our number was called & then the lines were moving pretty fast. We were back to the EZ Cruise parking lot around 11ish. Progresso: We love Progresso! I know this port is highly controversial & many people are disappointed with it. We find it absolutely charming! We took the double decker bus tour (45 minutes). We sat on the top of the bus. My husband is about 6'3". It was a hoot watching him have to duck under the electrical wires over the streets! After our bus tour we went to the shopping market for a little while and bought some souvenirs. We then headed to the beach. We ended up at Buddy's. We got massages ($60 for 30 minute massages for 4 people), went on a banana boat ride, and ate and drank to our hearts content. They had great bar specials & the food was excellent. Cozumel: We did the all-inclusive at Mr. Sancho's. We loved this place! We rode horses, ATVs and jet skied. Great food and drinks. Next time, we probably would not do the all-inclusive option but it was nice to have run of the bar and grill since we had 4 kiddos with us! Definitely 2 thumbs up to Mr. Sancho's!!! Fellow Cruisers: Since we sailed over a holiday, there were lots of multi-generational families on board. Lots of kids (no problem for us). I was surprised by how many past passengers were on board. Carnival did a good job of trying to ensure activities for people of all ages. Overall Rating: All in all we had a wonderful cruise. I would definitely sail on the Ecstasy again. Our 2 oldest sons also said they would sail the Ecstasy again. Our 13 & 11 year olds really liked the Conquest better, however, I take their opinions with a grain of salt! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Saturday morning, Nov. 22nd, I awoke at 5AM in Atlanta, GA to a frigid temperature of 20 to go catch a bus to the train station to then get on a plane to Ft. Lauderdale where I would leave for my longest cruise taken yet...8 days! My ... Read More
Saturday morning, Nov. 22nd, I awoke at 5AM in Atlanta, GA to a frigid temperature of 20 to go catch a bus to the train station to then get on a plane to Ft. Lauderdale where I would leave for my longest cruise taken yet...8 days! My husband and I were very excited since 2 of the 3 ports were to places we had not been (Panama and Costa Rica). The other port was Cozumel which we love. It was quite chilly and windy in Ft. Lauderdale when we set sail but I was happy to be headed out to sea! Day 2 was pretty overcast most of the day...a little bit of a bummer since I love the sun and was looking forward to going back to Atlanta a few shades darker. We were pretty lazy this day...we took a little tour around the boat and checked stuff out but pretty much laid around all day either in the cabin or a chair on the deck. Our first night to dinner we met Kat and Mike and hit it off...they were great. From then on we always had something to talk about at dinner with the 2 of them. The best thing about dinner however, was the bar waiter, Karel Zimmerman...he was a real cutie pie with a great smile and personality to go along with it. Day 3 was in Cozumel and it was beautiful! Every other time we have went to Cozumel we rented a jeep and drove around, this time we just went to a beach and soaked up the sun. Day 4 was another yucky weather sea day...ugh...by now I had found the Habana bar which I loved...it was a cigar bar so I could smoke in there and it was near our dining room. I loved the salsa type music they played. Day 5 was Costa Rica...we did book an excursion here through the cruise line...we just hopped off the ship and found a bus to jump on for $20 pp. We got to ride down the coast line which we saw rainforests, slothes, and stopped at a little fruit stand thing and then got to stop at a little beach for some shopping also. We went to the banana plantation which was pretty cool too. The whole trip was about 3 1/2 hours...definately worth the money, Carnival had the same type of excursion they were charging about $60pp for. I have found in the past that you get better deals if you just get off the ship and then pay for stuff. Day 6 was Panama and we did book our excursion through the cruiseline, only cause we were afraid it would book up. We went through the Panama Canal! Again...a very nasty weather day...it rained almost the whole day. We did not realize we chose the rainy season to travel...make sure you check on that before going anywhere...lol. Going through the canal is something I am glad I can say that I have done but would not do again. The ship port is on Colon which is the crappy part of Panama...the bus ride to get on the Ferry to go through the canal was 2 hours...each way and our tour guise must have been new cause she did not speak very well. Going through the lockes was pretty cool but after 2 it was kinda like ok...ready to go. Day 7 another crappy weather day...just overcast, not rainy atleast. We took advantage of the huge screen out on the lido deck this night...we watched Transformers. It was a little windy but was nice to lay out on the open deck and watch. Day 8 was beautiful so I managed to get 2 sunny days out of the trip...I was up pretty late in the 70's dance club the night before (which was alot of fun...there were more crew members on the dancefloor than guests...it was nice to see them relaxing) so we laid in the sun all day and watched football on the bigscreen until about 5...then we finished the FL vs FL ST game in the Players Bar...GO GATORS!!!! A few things that I don;t remember what day they were...lol... The comedians were funny, I didn't make it to any of the shows, the casino was always hopping and the night club was alot of fun! The dinner in the dining room was a little repetative but was good. Our waiter, asst. waitress, and cabin steward did a great job and of course Karel made sure I always had a Cosmo in my hand at dinner and while in the casino! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Trek to the point of embarkation, south from Orlando, save $22 and take Toll Road 528 to I-95 and get off the FL Turnpike. Travel time is the same and there's more amenities. Night prior to cruise, recommend the Embassy Suites, ... Read More
Trek to the point of embarkation, south from Orlando, save $22 and take Toll Road 528 to I-95 and get off the FL Turnpike. Travel time is the same and there's more amenities. Night prior to cruise, recommend the Embassy Suites, Airport for spacious rooms and complimentary cooked to order breakfast. Through airportreservations.com, parking is $7/night vs. $20 at the Port. The hotel is 8 miles away. Shuttles are available for $10 person or take a cab for $25. Embarkation - arrive by Noon for 4 pm sailing and expect 30 minute process. Gets longer the later it gets. Attempts to bring alcohol on board will result in the items being confiscated until the end of the cruise - you will get caught. You may bring water bottles and sodas in checked luggage - this I recommend for various reasons. The cabins have small refrigerators stocked with ship drinks (at high prices) but the crew will empty their stock out at your request and you can use the fridge. Ship exceeds expecations. It is clean, modern, well laid out, easy to navigate. Compared to other cruises, the cabins are smaller, but the bathrooms are larger, which makes a huge comfort difference. The showers have sliding glass doors and there is room to move around in the bathroom without feeling cramped - kudos to the architects on that move. The fitness center exceptional and free. Rock climbing wall is great (and hard), tennis courts, basketball courts, golf cage - all very nice.Dining is poor. Two free restaurants and 1 buffet. There are 8 specialty restaurants charging $10 - $30. Without the surcharge, do not expect quality food or service. The entertainment was just "fair." The Second City improv rocks and was the saving grace. There were some jugglers, good but lame. The comedian was OK - but there was only one. Most of the shows lasted only 45 minutes. No pool deck parties. No limbo contests. No midnight buffet parties. Other cruises I'd been on offer many events thru the "at sea" days but not this one. Excursions - book these yourself through outside vendors for better experiences and lower costs. Cruise Critic posts provide so much information that with little homework, it's easy. My oldest son and I went diving in Honduras (Subway Watersports), Belize (thru ship), and Cozumel (Dive Paradise), while my wife took the younger kids on other excurions. The only time we went thru the ship was in Belize because the dive site is so far from Belize City that the only way to reach it is to use the ships vendor, Hugh Parkley's Dive Connection. The land rover tour throught he jungle and mountains can only be booked through the cruise ship (she tried directly and was re-routed to the ship.Kids clubs were good. We have two in the 8 - 10 range and one in the 10 - 12 group. They were quick to make friends and actually requested to go to the club each night. My wife and I welcomed that which gave us a little freedom to enjoy a quiet dinner, drinks, or a show. The clubs are free except during port times and after 10:30 pm. Our teenager made friends as well and claims he had the best vacation ever. On this topic, I would agree with cruise ratings that it is one of the best for kids. Service was good. The cabin stewards were friendly and did a great job. They always would acknowledge you even though they were so busy. Staff at the bars and the reception desk were great. Personnel in the "free" restaurants" though were not as cordial and often difficult to understand. The one time we ate in a specialty restuaurant and paid the $20 per person fee, our waitress was exceptional...again, to get good food and decent service, it comes at a cost. I would recommend checking your stateroom folio a day or two ahead of the end of the trip. I did and had no issues. However, the reception desk was overwhelmed on the last day for those not checking in advance. Disembarkation was the best of the 4 cruises I've done. We did the "express" and carried off our own luggage starting at 7:15 am. In doing this, we didn't have to put our luggage out the night before or wait in lines. In fact, there was no waiting at all...simply walked off the ship, to customs, and out the door. Limited here only by as fast as you can walk. Fabulous. We had a great time largely because of what we made of it. We went for the destinations and excursions that we booked, not for the food or cruise ship entertainment. Next time, I will take a deeper look at the restaurant offerings and any additional charges that may apply. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I just returned from a Thanksgiving week cruise with my wife on the NCL Star. The ship departed Los Angeles, and made stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta (in that order). THE GOOD: We had a balcony cabin on a upper ... Read More
I just returned from a Thanksgiving week cruise with my wife on the NCL Star. The ship departed Los Angeles, and made stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta (in that order). THE GOOD: We had a balcony cabin on a upper floor. Definitely worth the extra money. There was enough room on the balcony for the 2 lounge chairs NCL provided. It was a pleasure to get some sun and read on our own balcony instead of heading down to a pool deck. At night we would stand on the balcony and look at the endless black night and sea. Occasional shooting stars would appear each evening, and the sunsets were great too. Other highlights were the Dolphins, Whales, Flying fish, and two 6 foot Sharks that we saw from the balcony. The cabin itself was a nice size. Roughly comparable to a hotel room we had in Manhattan recently (NYC is notorious for small hotel rooms, but a cruise ship room that size is good). The cabin (and ship) were clean and well maintained. The BINGO was really well done and fun (although quite expensive). And the jackpots were significant. Often well into the thousands. BINGO was played in a nice theater/bar called the Spinnaker Lounge. The BINGO was the highlight our days at sea. Always got your adrenaline up, etc. The daily trivia games were also fun to play in, and complete against other cruisers. They were also a highlight of our days at sea. Murray the Magician was a good illusionist, and was pretty funny as well. And the Chinese acrobats were very good. The Stardust Theater that he and other shows played in during the week was very nice. The breakfast buffet was more than adequate (in spite of bad reviews we had read). Likewise the food in the main dining rooms was fine as well. Was it the best food I have ever eaten? No. But was it bad. Absolutely not. The debarkation was easy and did not take excessively long. The cruise director was very good and his staff was decent as well (with a few who were noticeably better than others). In general the whole crew/staff of the ship were very nice and helpful. The spa treatments (we had massages, and she had a facial as well) were excellent. Self parking by the ship was great. You literally park less than 100 yards from the ship! A pleasure to have such a short walk from the car to the embarkation, and back. Even during a holiday week, we never felt extremely crowded. Best meals were the "Surf & more surf" (Basically Lobster, scallops, mussels, and shrimp), and the Turkey Scallopini. The ships styling/motif was nice. Not too loud and tacky, not too soft. Nice colors, paintings, furniture, etc. Cabo had nice beaches and water. Puerto Vallarta was a nice and interesting city to walk around, when you take a cab to the Malecon and start from there (heading towards the Guadeloupe Church). Horseback riding on Mazatlan was nice too. THE BAD: NCL charges you constantly for every little thing (and some big things) resulting in a MUCH higher on board bill than you could ever anticipate. for example, it is inexcusable that NCL is charging for soda with meals in the dining rooms or other restaurants. HOW can they think it is acceptable to charge passengers who paid thousands of dollars to cruise, $2 per soda at meals! Those sodas should absolutely have been included! They also offer an obscenely expensive ($50 per person) unlimited fountain soda plan. That is $100 per couple in sodas. Not worth it, when all we wanted was 1 soda at dinner and/or lunch per night. And note that the soda plan is for fountain sodas. The sodas they served at dinner were in cans, so they may not have even been included! Totally unacceptable. The BINGO ran from $29-$129 per game, depending on which type of paper or handset you chose to buy. VERY expensive. The ship says they have Wifi in public spaces. Saying that implies that if you have your own laptop (as we do) you will be online for free. WRONG. They charge over $100 for 250 mins. Their cheapest plan is $55 for around 100 mins. Both charges are way too high. The up charge at the specialty restaurants is probably not worth it. We went to the French restaurant 1 night (Le Bistro). it was ok. But food in the dining rooms was comparable and included. And the Versailles dining room was the physically nicest dining room (or room of any kind!) on the whole ship! They push the duty free shopping (especially the jewelry) too hard. The ships photographers take loads of pics, and the charges are pretty high is you want any. Earlier I mentioned that the massage at the spa was excellent. But they are charging 2.5-3x what a spa in L.A would charge! 2 out of the 3 ports we visited required tendering to shore. And the cruise had 4 days at sea out of 7. They could easily have made it 4 land and 3 sea, by including Ensenada, or Acapulco. Embarkation came with very long lines, and was much less efficient that debarkation. Exiting the self parking lot in your car was a nightmare. Took an hour to get off the property. TV in the room was adequate, but could have used a handful of additional channels. We mainly watched CNN. That works for us because we're News junkies. But probably wouldn't be enough for most people. The people in cabins next door to you can smoke in their cabins, on the their balconies, etc. There should be separate smoking sections, to house the smoking cabins. It seemed that every time you went out to enjoy your balcony, a smoker would come out next door and ruin the air on your balcony. This happened at all hours, from both sides! In general dinner portions (most notably the size of the Lobster tails) were on the small side. In Cabo we went to Medano beach (and so did virtually all other cruisers in town that day). This made for a crowded beach, full of peddlers constantly trying to sell us stuff. Aside from the horseback riding (which we bought from Randi's Happy Horses, not from the overpriced cruise excursion shop) - there was nothing else about Mazatlan that seemed worth doing/seeing. SUMMARY: A mostly enjoyable cruise, that unfortunately nickel and dimed you with constant and obnoxious "up charges". Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This is the 6th Thanksgiving cruise my sister and I have taken, out of a total of 16 cruises on various lines. We had lunch in Miami and then joined the line for embarkation. From this we learned to get to the port before noon, unless we ... Read More
This is the 6th Thanksgiving cruise my sister and I have taken, out of a total of 16 cruises on various lines. We had lunch in Miami and then joined the line for embarkation. From this we learned to get to the port before noon, unless we have VIP status. It took us approximately one hour in line to actually board the ship. We were delighted that the mandatory practice drill didn't require standing on the outside deck. The ship is large and has quite a number of passengers. We had initially reserved a balcony cabin in June, as we watched the cost go down during the next few months, we were a little upset that suites were going for less than what we paid for a balcony and there was no automatic upgrade commensurate with our payment. We contacted the travel agency used and were upgraded to a mini suite....The difference between a balcony and mini-suite (as far as we could see) is a bathtub. So, unless you require a bathtub the value is not worth the cost. (Regular suites receive VIP goodies and concierge services, etc...mini suites do not) We immediately went to reserve dinners in the pay restaurants for the week. We were informed that reservations were only allowed for the current evening and the next and they could not accommodate reservations for the entire cruise. HMMMM. On day two, we remembered the reading on cruise critic about the mystery dinner and attempted to make reservations...it was already sold out. I don't remember even seeing it advertised in the daily paper...I didn't meet anyone who had participated so can't even provide a second hand recommendation for you. We then went to the Spa to obtain weekly passes. $75 for the cruise was a bargain! Day use is $20 each. I witnessed folks being turned away during the week because the Spa was at capacity. The value for this activity is well worth the cost and probably the BEST value offered on the ship. It allows the guest a free locker and to take advantage of the co-ed room with the thalassotherapy pool and heated ceramic loungers, or go gender-specific with an oceanview sauna, steam, individual whirlpool tubs, icy-cold plunge pool and padded chaises. Iced water and teas and juice are available at no extra charge during the use of the Spa. An additional comment is that for the number of passengers on this ship, additional heated ceramic loungers would have been beneficial for passengers. Generally there was a wait unless you used the Spa at dinner time. We ate at the Japanese steak house the first evening. It was fun and the food delicious! (We did note that bean sprouts were removed from the side dishes as on other NCL ships) On Monday were were torn between the CC meet and greet and the Texas Hold'Em tournament. We had our gifts in hand and luckily meet a couple with wrapped gifts in the buffet. We asked if they we attending the CC meet and greet and asked them to deliver our gifts. We also provided them with our stateroom number. We received a phonecall stating that the DC and Salem witch gifts delighted the recipients....but no information to collect our gifts. LOL!! So looks like someone's brain was on vacation mode. We are still chuckling about that!! The Texas Hold'Em tournament began at 11 am and was well attend. I believe we started with 9 tables. It ran until 2:30 pm with the last 6 players chopping the prize proportionate to chips in hand. Entry was $60, add-ons available for $60 and rebuys and half-time for $60. It was alot of fun and we missed the best sun. NCL should consider an evening tournament on the first sea day. We ate at Cagney's steak house, which was great. We did note that the assistant "waitresses/waiters" did more work than the assigned waiter/waitress........and we Hand-cash tipped appropriately. Roatan: We did not schedule a formal excursion for this port. We departed the ship and witnessed a couple negotiating with a taxi drive for a tour of the island. When their negotiations were complete, we asked the other passengers if we could join and then negotiated a lower price. So each passenger paid $25. The tour of the island was excellent and the young driver knowledgeable. We had read that on a previous cruise to this port there was a civil disturbance and folks couldn't go to shore. It turns out that the private electric company had planned an increase in electric rates. The citizens closed all roads. The rate increase prevented. We should try that in the US!!! We asked to be dropped off at the West end beach...to our surprise the driver said he would come back for us when he finished the tour for the other couple. The beach was actually a private beach which offered restrooms, dining, drinks and a multitude of locals who wanted to provide massages. Once you said no to each and every one, that was it. There were also many children trying to sell junk to you. It was a good wake up call to see how fortunate and spoiled we are here in the US. Our driver came back and located us and we asked him to join us for lunch... and learned more about Roatan and how many of the goods and food come to the island from the mainland. Much development is being done on the island by foreign companies...in ten years there will be more resorts on this island than Cozumel. My sister had read about the good quality and inexpensive hammocks to be purchased in Roatan. The driver drove us to the store accompanied her in the store as she made her selection and carried it out to the cab. It must have weighed 25 pounds and was made of better materials than those hammocks offered on the beach. She paid US$20 for a hammock that for the same quality in US would be over $100. The driver then took us to a local grocery store where we purchased Honduran coffee beans the cost about $5 per pound. That evening we ate at the Italian restaurant...again worth the cost, at the time we wanted, attentive staff and away from the masses of folks at the dining rooms. Portions were good, the roll to your table salads was a treat. Again, we noted that the "assistant" waitress worked more and the cash tip was handed to her. Belize: We booked on line with Major Tom and the Fun Team for the tubing through the caves excursion ($40 US much less expensive than the ships excursion). Cash payment was requested when we joined the group. The team met us at the port and drove us to the site. Major Tom himself provided the small group (about 30) with an oratory history of the area which revealed his love of the country. THIS WAS THE BEST EXCURSION I'VE EVER TAKEN (ziplining is a close second) OUT OF 16 CRUISES. Individuals are equipped with spelunking lights and tubes. You walk an even but rocky path to the cave entrance. We came upon a termite nest and were encouraged to "taste" them as a source of protein should ever we appear on "survivor". LOL! They tasted like woody mint! What a treat and who would have dared if not on this excursion??? The guides were well informed and repeatedly offered to carry tubes for folks during the hike up to the caves. You are led through the caves, sitting in the tube, with your feet under the arms of the person in front of you. The guides do most of the work, paddling along as they point out images on the walls. At one point the guides ask you to turn off your spelunking lights...it is dark in there!! We also saw bats...only a few flying around, a few finds of past Mayan culture and growing crystals that looked like a blanket of snow! At the end of the tour there is a rope swing for those that dare jump into the river. On the drive to and from the caves there was one stop to pick up necessities. On the ride back one could order a meal for $6...chicken rice and salad...excellent value for the money. I was very impressed with the safety standards imposed by this tour and will use Major Tom to arrange other excursions in the future. That evening we ate in the Asian restaurant. Delicious!! The dumplings were fantastic, the shrimp salad was wrapped shrimp over a bed of shredded carrots and cabbage, the lo mein and Singapore noodles a meal in themselves, the main entrees excellent...and when it says HOT and Spicy it means hot so that your lips burn!! The cream brulee and the tapioca desserts were wonderful and the persons next to us had the banana pancakes that they raved about. This fare was better than the steakhouse, but lacked the entertainment of the chef. Again, the "assistant" waitress did all of the work and the cash tip handed to her. Cozumel: We've been here numerous times and decided to book with the ship to go to Xcaret. We were only disappointed in the short time we were allowed to be here. We did the river swim (unfortunately, if we had been in Cozumel prior to Belize cave tubing we would have been thrilled)tanned at a cove and had lunch delivered to our loungers. Get the platter for two..great and inexpensive $27 including sodas). We didn't have time to see all that this park offered. I recommend it if you are in port for 12 hours or so. Four hours for this excursion cheats yourself and forces many choices to be made. It takes about 45 minutes each way for the ferry, so keep this in mind. We will take the ferry over to the mainland next time on our own and spend the day at one of the beaches. We dined at Cagney's for our Thanksgiving meal and again enjoyed steaks cooked to perfection! We did witness an extraordinary demonstration of rudeness to a passenger after the casino closed. We went up to the Blue Lagoon (fish & chips, soups are great, macaroni and cheese- horrid, deserts were great). The head waiter or manager of the Blue Lagoon approach a customer and asked him if he was on break and reminded him that he couldn't eat at the Blue Lagoon!!! When the passenger informed him he was a passenger the NCL guy demanded his passport!!! We were in Shock!! The passenger listened to this guy's lecture for about 15 minutes (we were waiting to be seated during this exchange and completely ignored.) The next day we ran into the passenger and asked if he had complained. He laughed and said that security had approached him to report that the NCL guy had filed a harassment complaint against him. We provided him with our cabin number if NCL wanted to further investigate. We were never contacted. That incident fulfilled any need for drama on the cruise. LOL! The last port was the NCL stirrup key. We've been here before and knew to walk over to the rocks, rent floating pads ($12 for 1 $18 for 2)to lie on and tan. The water is gorgeous!! It is cramped, however most folks took later tenders over so ours wasn't even full to capacity. Swimming was fabulous here, away from the maddening crowd. The last evening we ate at Le Bistro and were very very disappointed. The escargot was served in a hot plate with the escargot cold!! The whole meal, with the exception of the dessert sucked! Service was also less than expected. We choose the wrong restaurant for the last night. From this experience we deduct that the food is microwaved and not cooked to order. I do not recommend Le Bistro, the Blue Lagoon food was much better. We had breakfast coffee and rolls delivered each morning to our cabin....there is nothing more satisfying then starting the day with coffee and a view of the vast ocean! For a small tip, the pleasure is great. I hadn't been on a NCL cruise in over 18 months, so lost any casino points I may have been able to carry forward. So if you have substantial points remaining on your account make sure you join another NCL cruise within 18 months, or don't play slots the last night of the cruise. Unlike other cruise lines, Casino at Seas on NCL doesn't provide trinkets like ball caps, tshirts, key chains etc that you obtain on other cruiselines for your play. Like other cruise lines, if you're a chronic slot player, your drinks in the casino are taken care of and you may get comped a dinner in a gourmet restaurant then based on points you are provided some on board credits towards your account. By an approximation, it seems that you are rewarded with .005% of your play...definitely notVegas or Atlantic City! What was different on this cruise is that activities (sexy legs, hairy chest, belly flop etc.) weren't provided and the daily listings weren't very helpful....done in fine print. Although I did note that lectures on the Mayan culture was offered, which is a step up in enrichment activities offered by NCL. We made it to a few shows only, Sharkbait- graduates of circus clown school were great at juggling and offered a "class" the day after the show that was appreciated. The on-board cast shows were entertaining, they offer two great aerial/body acts that make attending worth it. Bingo wasn't that well attended, probably due to the cost...It was entertaining to see the bowling alleys...again not very affordable if you had a number of children with you. I think it would be about $50 for a family of four....better off getting a spa pass for the week. We choose to walk off with our luggage late...there was no benefit to walking off with our luggage at the late hour...there were lines and lines to get off the ship, then to go through immigration. Of course, we didn't have to pack until after the casino closed the last night! We had bid on a hotel in Miami on priceline and took a taxi to the Miami Mart airport hotel ($51). My sister caught up on her sleep then took the free shuttle to the Miami airport. Quite easy. I stayed for a few days and was well pleased. The hotel offers 24/7 room service, a buffet lunch and dinner (expensive after a cruise...$11 pizza and coke delivered to my room ended up costing $28 after tax, imposed gratuity and imposed delivery charge) and a swimming pool. The juccuzzi was not working. The structure is 15 stories and staff are attentive and pleasant. I was worried when obtained at that price for naught. Next to the hotel is an import/export retail/wholesale mall. Two floors of small shops with great bargains. Most stores were offering 50% off labeled costs. Less expensive if you were purchasing in bulk. I was delighted to purchase jewelry similar to that offered in Cozumel for less expense than even aggressive bargaining would have gotten. I will definitely come back to this hotel, if just for theshopping offered next door! There is a Starbucks and an Au Bon Pain located in the mall, which are open during weekends. Overall, NCL has changed or eliminated some of its fun activities, the gambling was as expected (table games begin at $5) blackjack and slot tournaments are offered during the cruise, the Spa is a definite value and the gourmet restaurants offer a free from the crowd dining experience for a price. The itinerary for this cruise was great. Yes I will cruise with NCL again when the price is right...and will never pay more for a mini-suite than a balcony. I believe any future cruise with NCL will be on a ship with less passengers. Overall it was a delightful cruise....how can anyone not enjoy a cruise? Feel free to contact me. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Ship Info Even though the Norwegian Star is not a big as the new monsters they are building nowadays, don't be fooled, this is still a very big ship. It is a Panamax ship. The areas of the ship are divided by three sets of ... Read More
Ship Info Even though the Norwegian Star is not a big as the new monsters they are building nowadays, don't be fooled, this is still a very big ship. It is a Panamax ship. The areas of the ship are divided by three sets of stairwells/elevators - Forward, Mid, Aft. At the front of the ship we find the Bier Garten on Deck 14, the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 12, the Stardust Theater on Decks 6 and 7, The Carousel and Martini Bars on Deck 7, and the Casino on Deck 6. In the middle we find Cagney's Steakhouse and the Star Bar on Deck 13, the Market Cafe and La Trattoria (at night), and the poolside bar and grille on Deck 12, Internet Cafe on Deck 9, Endless Summer on Deck 8, Ginza and Teppanyaki on Deck 7, The Soho Room, Gatsby's, The Havana Club, Le Bistro, and Aqua on Deck 6, and the Atrium with the Purser's desk and the Java bar on Deck 7 between the staircases. Aft, we find the kid's club on Deck 13, the gym, the kids' pool and slides, the ice cream stand on Deck 12, the spa on Deck 11, the Galleria shops on Deck 7 and the Versailles dining room on Deck 6. There are other public spaces like the Cinema, the Library, the board rooms, but I didn't use them. This was my 2nd time aboard this ship in the past 3 years. I did not see any noticeable difference between how the ship looked 3 years ago and how it looks now. The only difference I noticed was that there are now two poolside Blackjack tables. Don't confuse this with swim-up Blackjack like there is at some Vegas hotels. Keep in mind that every week, another 2,500 or more new passengers get on this ship and there is very little time to clean the ship between the time the last set of passengers disembarks and the next set of passengers embarks. Maybe once a year or even less often than that, the ship will be taken out of service to be dry-docked and they can then work on the superficial things more thoroughly. I found the ship to be very clean and very well maintained considering that it is now 7 years old. Before the trip, I read that some people found the ship to be worn out. So during my time aboard, I began to look for evidence of this. And I did find SOME spots that did show SOME signs of wear. Where the carpet inserts into the metal trim on the steps, in some spots it had separated. The trim was also quite scuffed on many steps. In the hallways where the cabins are, I also noticed a few areas where the wood grab rails was worn. I did not find any of these to be so obvious that it detracted from the overall appearance of the ship nor did I find that any of it suggests any lack of maintenance on the part of the crew or the cruise line itself. Many years ago, my wife and I took this same trip aboard the Song of America. Even then, that ship was already 15 years old and that ship really looked worn out. The Norwegian Star wasn't even close. Interestingly enough, it wasn't until the final night aboard that I saw what I felt was a poorly maintained, or neglected area. It was the card room up on deck 12. I took my kids up there to play some board games with their cousin and there were dozens of drink glasses and plates from people who probably brought food in there from the buffet or from the pool deck earlier. We were up there for a good hour and a half and I never saw a single staff person come in to even check the room or clean the mess. Also, the chairs were badly stained in there. Nowhere else on the entire ship did I see anything else like this. One thing I found to be pleasantly surprising, was the lack of cigarette smoke inside the ship. The only two places I noticed smoke was in the Havana Club and in the Casino. I do like to smoke cigars, but I limited that to the Havana Club, then just one night out on the tiered deck near the Bier Garten well after the deck party in Puerto Vallarta had ended and everyone was gone and there was no one left to be bothered by it. The Norwegian Star is not glamorous or elegant along the likes of Crystal, Cunard, or Celebrity, but its dEcor is not as Las Vegas neon flashy as the Carnival ships (I have cruised on 8 of those). It is modestly decorated, with some hints of art deco finishes. I'd say it's trying to look more elegant than it is. Not a deal-breaker though. Activities This cruise was during Thanksgiving week. That meant there were an unusually large number of kids on the ship, because so many school had the entire week off, so families took advantage. One of the kids' club staff said there were 850 kids, and that they had never seen such a large number of kids since the ship went into service 7 years ago. That's probably 1/3 of all the passengers that week. Because of this, the kids' club staff had to expand their activities into some of the conference rooms near the Spinnaker Lounge. This also meant that the kids' activities were more crowded into cramped spaces and my kids were less eager to spend time doing these activities this time around. With the kids spending less time doing their activities, that meant the adults spent less time doing adult activities. What can you do? Blame the cruise line for being too popular for families for Thanksgiving week? Three years ago, we almost had to drag our kids out of the kids' club and it was one of the reasons we gladly booked this ship a 2nd time when the opportunity came up. Service One of the reasons I have been on 15 cruises is the service. With the Freestyle Cruising philosophy, some believe service is sacrificed. Given the flexibility Freestyle Cruising offers, my personal experience on this specific trip was that the service level remained high. EVERY reasonable request was accommodated, from getting extra pillows, to putting sodas obtained with the soda card in larger glasses, to getting extra lobster tails one night in the Aqua dining room. One drink waiter recognized me and every time, he just brought me the can along with a glass of ice. This reduced the frequency that both he and I needed to go through the routine, making it more convenient for both me and for him. It's small details like that which reinforce the service level. I did not find the frequency of other waiters asking me if I wanted to buy a drink to be to the point of being annoying. For those who do not drink alcohol or who do not drink a lot (like me), this may be perceived as being too pushy, but they are trying to make a living, and there are plenty of other passengers who have no problem draining their wallets to enjoy their drinks, so there is a reasonable assumption that if you are approached, especially since they don't know one way or the other, that you may actually want a drink. So let's be realistic and let's be fair to them. Shore Excursions This being the fifth time I have done this route, my family and I did not book any shore excursions. Stateroom Our stateroom was cabin 5026 - Deck 5, Forward. This location is very close to the front stairwell and elevators. There is a partition that separates the waiting area for the elevators from the cabins. This partition keeps nearly all the noise from the deck above from being heard at the cabins. Considering that the Casino was right above us, and that the lower level of the Stardust theater was also above us and slightly forward, we could not hear any noise, even during the shows with the doors to the theater wide open. If someone heavy was walking adjacent to the Casino, we would hear that, but that is no different than being below another passenger deck and hearing everyone walking above. The stateroom was identical to what we had three years ago. There were two lower beds, one upper, and a 4th, rollaway which would be brought out when the room was turned down each night. During the day, when the room was made up, the 4th bed would be collapsed and stored underneath one of the lowers creating a small walking space. For 4 people, these accommodations can be tight, especially if all 4 are trying to get dressed when the 4th bed is out between the other two. Carnival's cabins have two uppers, which does ease the cramped feeling and their cabins are larger. This is not impossible to live with, but the space planners should have kept this in mind, especially for a cruise line that is trying to attract families. Two upper berths would work out so much better. I don't know why, but for some reason, I found the bathroom in the cabin to be ridiculously small, especially considering that I spent 8 days on this ship 3 years ago. I am 6'1", and it was an exercise in contortion to get in to you-know-what. What made it worse, is that there is a privacy sliding door which reduces the elbow room even more. The privacy door could work if the bathroom was larger, but in this case it's useless. The bathroom on an airplane almost seems spacious compared to this. For 2 people, the cabin is just fine, even for 3. With the 4th, it is definitely more tricky. Think of it like going camping almost. With 4 people in a tent, there's not much room when everyone is in there at the same time. Everything is tight where you sleep. Dining OK, so here's what is often the signature of cruising - the food. I've been on 15 of these now, twice on the Norwegian Star. I'll try to keep it simple. The buffet at dinner is worse than I remember it was 3 years ago. The dining room food quality was very good, as good as it was 3 years ago. The Blue Lagoon had more choices than I remember 3 years ago, and so did room service. The quality and service at Cagney's Steakhouse was superb. Again, in my opinion, it is on par with the likes of Ruth's Chris. For $20, it's a steal. Treat yourself at least once. They may be charging a surcharge but I can't see this as being a profitable venture given the quality of the raw materials alone. It was the only premium restaurant we ate at during this trip. Last time we also ate at Le Bistro and it was also superb. The first night out was the most difficult to deal with. I believe too many people did not know how the Freestyle Cruising works, and too many of them swarmed the dining rooms expecting to be seated easily right around 6:00, including my party which was 9 people. That made it harder, and for the sake of the kids, we just went up to the buffet on Deck 12. All the kids were happy, none of the adults were happy. For a couple, this would be a lot quicker and not really a hassle. By the second night, I did not notice any long lines at all. It seemed like everyone got the hang of it. Children's Club I've already mentioned the kids' club before. We were on this same ship 3 years ago and then it was an excellent program. I would recommend if you are coming with kids, to maybe not go Thanksgiving week or any other holiday that might bring a larger-than-normal number of kids. The attention the staff can give to 850 kids is not as good as it would be to let's say, half that number. And yes, the cruise line knew in advance, and did bring extra staff for this. But they still had to spread out into non-kids' club areas of the ship. Entertainment We saw some of the shows. Again, I've been on 15 cruises now and have seen a lot of shows. I found the Cirque Pacific show to be very well done, and Romano Frediani was outstanding. The other shows, Band on the Run, and the Music of the Night were quality shows, but having seen so many, did not rock my world. There was a crew talent show one afternoon and the final act, "Fountains", was hilarious. There are YouTube clips of it from other sailings. Disembarkation Since we were traveling with a handicapped person (my father-in-law uses a walker), we were given priority disembarkation. We waited in the Carousel Lounge less than 5 minutes and were off the ship and at the curb in no time. Here's where NCL's responsibility stops and the Port of Los Angeles' begins. Getting the car out of the parking lot back to the curb to pick up everybody else was a nightmare. There were only 3 booths to pay the parking toll, and 2 huge ships disembarking at the same time. It must have taken me 45 minutes to inch my way through the line to get out. Complicating the matter was everyone else who was parked between where I was and the exit blending in. How do I get mad at them? It's not their fault they got lucky and parked closer to the exit. Summary Overall, this is still a nice ship with good facilities and premium dining available if you choose to step up on occasion for what 2 hands of Blackjack would cost you. Now that we've been on this ship twice in the last 3 years I would spend my money on another ship just for a change of scenery and try something new. I would still recommend this ship for anyone who has not yet been on it. The Mexican Riviera ports are more well-developed than they were 25 years ago when I first visited them. I like the Freestyle Cruising concept, but I do think that NCL still needs to fine-tune it some more so there is less confusion among the passengers. NCL is trying to differentiate itself from the other cruise lines. It is not trying to be Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princes, HAL, or Celebrity. Freestyle Cruising is what makes it different. For those who want the Princess experience, stick with Princess, as you won't get it on NCL. For those who got stuck with NCL during Thanksgiving and hated it because it wasn't Holland America, blame your travel agent for talking you into it, and blame yourself for agreeing to it, don't blame NCL. If all the cruise lines were the same, there would be one gigantic cruise line with 200 ships in its fleet. Oh yeah, isn't that called Carnival Corp??? Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Embarkation - landed at airport at 12:15 and had our luggage at baggage claim by 12:30. We bought our tickets through Carnival and we waited 30 minutes inside before they transferred us outside. The first bus was full so we waited 30 ... Read More
Embarkation - landed at airport at 12:15 and had our luggage at baggage claim by 12:30. We bought our tickets through Carnival and we waited 30 minutes inside before they transferred us outside. The first bus was full so we waited 30 minutes for another bus to arrive. The transfer which should have taken 10 minutes took over 30 minutes because we had to wait for other buses to unload. Security was disorganized and took 40 minutes. The part of the building they do security is very small and we were all squeezed in there like sardines. Once we got through security, we went in to the HUGE part of the building and it took less than 15 minutes to check in (hmmm, maybe switch the security and check-in areas around?). We were on the ship shortly after 2:30 and headed to our room 2404. It is below the gallery but in general wasn't too noisy. The room was ready and we dropped off our stuff and headed for lunch. This was probably the most frustrating part of our trip. There were 3,500 people trying to eat all at once. We could not find a place to sit, they ran out of plates and silverware, lemonade, etc. Life boat drill next. Dinner in Posh restaurant was good that night and we did the Camp Carnival session to do the paperwork. They give you a big clunky cell phone you have to carry around for anyone 5 and under and they would ask quite often to see it throughout the week to make sure you had it. Too tired for any entertainment but the comedian that night was Diane Ford. Day 2 - walked on the track in the morning and laid out. The sky was overcast most of the day. Our kids hung out in Camp Carnival most of the day. Dinner in Posh was good again. We caught the main show which was "Big Easy" which was o.k. We did keep the kids in Camp Carnival late so we could catch Diane Ford's Rated R show @ 10:30 p.m. She was good. We were happy to see Carnival make these shows earlier as they often are not until mid-night. Day 3 - arrive in Cozumel and beautiful and sunny. Breakfast lines were very long. Hindsight we wished we had done room service this morning. We made our own reservation at Dolphin Discovery prior to sailing. Me and my 9 year-old did the dolphin swim and my husband and 5 year-old son did the dolphin encounter. The reservation was for 11 a.m. and I wasn't even thinking that the ship's time would be one hour later. Good thing we caught that so our reservation was really noon ship time. We took a taxi to Chankanaab Park. The taxi would be free if we had paid for four individuals but since my 5 year-old was free, we had to pay our own taxi which was $10 one way. When we arrived, my 9 year-old and I rented gear and snorkeled first and saw some great fish and also a sting ray. The cost of the dolphin discovery for the four of us was $375 (youngest free). The waves were strong so it was hard for my husband to balance him and my 5 year-old at same time. My older son and I loved swimming with the dolphins. We got to do the dorsal fin and toe push. I was amazed how easy it was to do. There was a large lady in our group and those two dolphins even got her up in the air. You can take cameras with you so be sure to have a waterproof one with you for great shots. We got wrist bands for free drinks at Senior Frogs or Carlos and Charlie's. We took a taxi in to town cost $10 and headed to Senior Frogs. I was at the SF in Playa six months ago and it was pretty tame. After we sat down, we realized this was not going to be very kid friendly. We ate and drank quickly and dashed out to avoid having our kids see too much more drinking. Carlos & Charlie's down stairs would have been the tamer option. We shopped in town and bought tequila that was $5-$10 cheaper a bottle then it was when we had just been in Playa six months earlier. We also bought vanilla and took taxi back to ship, $8 ride back. Dinner in Posh again. That evening we caught the magician Puck. He was good right up until he did the "swallow the razor" act. Thank goodness Camp Carnival kids did not attend that night. Day 4 - it was a day at sea. There was note in Capers saying you could do laundry for $15 a bag. Our cabin steward knew nothing about it but I showed him the paper. We did two very stuffed bags of laundry for a total of $30. Since we only packed four days of clothes, we were counting on this offer that we had seen on our last cruise. We had breakfast on Lido and walked on the track. It started to rain and pretty much did not let up all day. Kids were in Camp Carnival the entire day except afternoon because they made teddy bears and my kids have enough stuffed animals. The rain let up in the afternoon and we played basketball and putt put as a family. Dinner in Posh followed by comedian/juggler Michael James who was good. Day 5 - arrived in Limon, Costa Rica. It was overcast and rained off an on. We booked our sloth sanctuary excursion through cruise line because I had read the Limon wasn't that nice. We were smart and ate an early breakfast to avoid the long lines on the Lido and got off the ship for our 11:30 tour. Nice bus took us to sanctuary. Tour guide was excellent. Upon arrival we watched short video and had your picture taken next to a sloth. We then walked through the rain forest and got some great pictures of flowers and a blue crab. You could hear cars driving on the road next to us so it might not be as authentic as you would want it to be. Next we did a canoe ride and saw a caiman (like an alligator), several birds, sloths in trees, and a lizard. Next they gave us a plate of fruit and we got to see the baby sloths. I bought coffee and nuts and a few other souvenirs. The bus took us back to the boat. It was raining when we got back. We stopped at the market right across the street and bought salsa and a billfold. Coffee would have been cheaper at the market vs. the sloth sanctuary. We did not have bug spray on in the rain forest. Might have been good to have some as my son did get bit by a mosquito on his ear. Quite surprisingly no one else had any bites but the owner claimed no one needed any repellant. I would say pack it. Dinner again in Posh and caught show "Jump, Jive & Wail" which was good. Day 6 - arrived in Colon, Panama. Booked Panama Canal tour through cruise ship. Did room service breakfast card night before for 6:15. Even tough Capers said room service could be delayed by one hour, it arrived at 6:20. All tours leaving for excursions before 10 a.m. had to meet in the Victoriana Lounge at 6:45. They made us sit in lounge until 7:30. Bus driver said it would take 1 hour 20 minutes to get to Pacific side but it was more like 2 hours. It was very misty and humid out but bus was nice and new. The drive was gross - lots of litter along the side of the road and dogs running wild but glad my sons got to see it. We got to the ferry that took us through the canal, it was already packed. We got inside seats on the 3rd deck. The cruise director warned in his excursion talk that lunch served this day might not be that good and boat might be crowded but eventually people would get bored with the locks and move inside. WRONG. The food was quite good: kabobs, spicy cut up hot dogs, fruit, banana muffins, pasta, potato squares, and free sodas (equivalent of Shasta in the states) and water. Beers were $2 each. There was a local lady on board selling souvenirs and snacks. We did by a map of the canal for $5 and you could get your picture up front of the boat next to the locks for $10. As for people moving, forget it. If they did, they would leave their stuff on their chairs and go walk around the ferry. The ferry was way too crowded. There had to be 300+ people on it and we were crammed in like sardines. Because my sons had a hard time seeing what was going on since we were shoved in the middle seats, they got bored quickly. We found out that the rainy season in Panama is April - December. We were very disappointed that Carnival would pick this itinerary when they know it is the rainy season. Definitely do your homework before you take a cruise as the cruise line certainly isn't looking out for you. The excursion cost $800 so I am definitely going to write Carnival for a refund (yeah, that will do me a lot of good but it is the principle of the matter). It finally started raining and people squeezed up under the covered middle section of the boat. Although we got soaked, it was our only chance to get a view of the canal. They are widening the canal so ships like Freedom can sail through it come 2015. My advice would be to wait until then and do the Panama Canal from the privacy of your balcony. The bus ride back probably took 1 hour and 15 minutes. Thanksgiving dinner in Posh and then caught show. Cruise director Todd Wittmer did his Top Ten funniest questions they have ever been asked and comedian Michael Panzeca did an act. Both were excellent. Day 7 - day at sea and finally some sun. They finally publicized the laundry promotion for $15 a bag so we did another bag of laundry. We had breakfast on the Lido, walked on the track, and laid out and read. We had pizza and fish/chips for lunch. A quick cloud burst cleared the deck but it quickly got sunny again and we got great deck chairs to watch some college football on the outdoor theatre. We are originally from Nebraska so we got to see the Huskers take on Colorado. It was awesome! Dinner in Posh. Show that night was "Ticket To Ride" a tribute to Beatles and it was excellent. Caught Rated R show of Michael Panzeca at 10:30. It was standing room only so get there early. Again very good. Day 8 - a very sunny day at sea. We had breakfast on the Lido, walked on the deck, laid out at the adult pool. There was a disembarkation show this day but we did not attend as we knew they always play it on TV which they did so do not waste your time going. We had the pizza and grill for lunch and then took the boys swimming and did the water slide in the afternoon. This was one complaint I had was that Carnival had security guards monitoring the adult pool (to make sure kids were not in it) and they had a guard watching the pool under the theatre but they did not have one down by the slides. Our 5 year-old went down the slide several times and I stood at the bottom to wait for him. There were four boys about 11 or 12 at the bottom and they would splash the kids as they were coming down the slide. I told them to stop three times. They would walk away for a minute and then be right back splashing again. Even though the pool next to the slide says "kids must swim with adults," apparently no parents were present for these rotten boys. Finally I yelled "I am not going to tell you boys again" and I think they got the hint that I was about to explode. We went to the Camp Carnival talent show and then I played chess with my son on Lido until dinner again in Posh. We put kids in Camp Carnival and took walk on deck. Came back to the room and packed. Disembarkation - we had breakfast in the dinning room and did not have to wait. If you get off the ship unassisted you could do so at 7:30 a.m. We had a late flight so we were in no hurry. We got off the ship about 10:30. This actually worked out well because our luggage was about the last of it sitting there so super easy to find. Took only 15 minutes to go through customs. We found the bus to transfer us to airport which took only 15 minutes. Our flight wasn't until 3:30 and American only lets you check in 4 hours in advance so we had to kill 30 minutes outside before we checked in. We had lunch at Chili's to kill more time. We didn't realize that the Fort Lauderdale airport does not let you go to your gate until 2 hours before you flight. We would have stayed longer in Chili's had we known that. Flight to Atlanta and then back to Wichita was on time. Our son threw up on the car ride home from the airport. Not sure if anyone else got sick. I stayed home with him one day from school and he actually felt pretty good by lunch time so not certain what bug he picked up but it only lasted 12 hours. Overall the trip was good. Camp Carnival staff was excellent. This was our 7th cruise and probably the best room steward (Jose) and wait staff (Prasit & Arnold) we have ever had. Cruise Director was good and entertainment was definitely above average. Food overall was good but went down hill as the week went on. They ran out of lemons and oatmeal by the middle of the cruise. Usually do the spa but didn't do it this trip - massage was over $160-$180 so just too much for my blood although I noticed they really started to discount quite heavily towards end of the cruise. Costa Rica excursion was good but it too was the rainy season like Panama (however Costa Rica sounds like it is always the rainy season) so again just very disappointed that Carnival would pick this itinerary at this time of the year. We have done Carnival the last two times now so we may try another cruise line (one Carnival does not own) just for a change for next year. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I finally convinced him to take a Christmas Market riverboat trip up the Danube in last December, and this year, he agreed to spend Thanksgiving on a cruise ship. I did loads of homework on the lines and ships, and concluded this might be ... Read More
I finally convinced him to take a Christmas Market riverboat trip up the Danube in last December, and this year, he agreed to spend Thanksgiving on a cruise ship. I did loads of homework on the lines and ships, and concluded this might be the best match for us. Nothing's perfect, but this came fairly close. EMBARKATION: We live in Florida, so we opted to drive 4.5 hours that morning. We arrived earlier than we thought, and believed we could not embark until after 1PM, and wanted to avoid the rush, so we stopped at Total Wine to get some provisions. We boarded about 2, and were literally whisked aboard, with a friendly greeting from all we met. Nice beginning. We found our cabin (inside), and it was set up as twins. Eventually, our steward appeared, and we requested the change. We also asked the refrigerator to be emptied. Eventually, all these came to be. To say our steward was discrete was an overstatement at times. We had directions to call his pager if needed. We found leaving notes didn't work (the bedside light was out two days), but then mid cruise, things snapped together, and things went well from there on. We had check some Coke Zero and Coke in their cases taped together as part of our luggage. It did not make it to our room with the bags. Later we went to the purser's desk, and it was there all beaten up. (We did tip the porter well to take it) so let that be a lesson to all... DINING: Here, the report gets spotty. There was good, there was very good, and there was "ih." We were in anytime dining, and found that once you learn the ropes it was a breeze. Come before 7 or after 8:30 or make a reservation, and there was little waiting. We always asked to be seated at a large table, and met lots of interesting people, and had great conversations. In the dining room, the biggest disappointment was "fillets", two over tenderized rounds of meat. Didn't care much for the offerings on Caribbean night either. And the final seafood night the crab legs were not King unless they were harvesting babies. Not that it was inedible, just not "right." We had two dinners in Cafe Caribe, one was the cold seafood buffet, the other the "rice taffle" night. The buffet was okay, but not small forks or crackers. The lobster claws were supposedly scored, but I lost two nails in the attempt, and my husband had little better luck. The crab was the full backfin lump which was tricky to extract with a big fork, but doable. The shrimp were nice. Just not up to the hype we'd heard. The other night, Thanksgiving, was their regular "rice taffle" night. This is an outstanding Dutch/Indonesian offering where all kinds of delicious small things were offered to be eaten on a plate of rice. Their version was served on "creole" rice, and was mostly very hot (spicy) to the point of inedible stews. Okay, karma was going to make me celebrate traditional Thanksgiving, because they also had carved real roast turkey. The gravy was oddly spiced, and the mashed potatoes tasted like a combo of white yams and potatoes, but the sweet potatoes were there as well as the cranberry, so it was as traditional as it was going to get. The best treat of all was getting up in the morning and going to the international cafe. As we approached the pastry display we were greeted with a cheery "Buon Giorno" and some incredible delicacies. My fave was chocolate croissants, but the almond were great too. The danish were as light as a feather, and donuts were like little pillows. Such a choice! These along with cappuccino (DH had a double espresso) was heaven. The coffee card was not pushed on this trip, but do get one. For $27 you get 15 specialty coffees or smoothies (no alcohol). As they cost $3 on up, it's a deal. Later on we'd have juice and maybe an egg (okay DH indulged in lox and a bagel loaded more than one) in the Horizon, but we'd take them back to Caribe to eat. Just across a small lobby toward the back, and there's plenty of room when Horizon is jammed. ENTERTAINMENT: We both loathe crowds, so we made no particular effort to go to the theatre (we popped in watched, but not our thing). Tried to see the Pop star competition, but it was also crowded! Entertainment in the piazza was always nice. The sting quartet was wonderful, and the steel drummer was great too. Caught Epiphani a couple of times and enjoyed them on deck. We don't dance, so didn't go to those venues. Did enjoy trivia during the day. Seems we were playing for luggage tags when other games like Wii bowling had champagne and tote bags as prizes. And I cannot believe that someone got 40 of the 44 mostly obscure questions in the travel trivia contest in the evening. Do they change questions week-to-week? Our favorite hangout was the Adagio bar next to Sabatini's. The bartenders there are fabulous, it's quiet and non-smoking, they have a pianist for entertainment, and for us it's the perfect spot. We tried almost all the drinks, and the tiramisu martini is like drinking the real thing! The cooking demo was serious and silly, as the head chef demonstrated some dishes, and the maitre d' did the parody. After, we went on a tour of the galley, tho we had to wait in the lobby for some time before someone came to get us. The tour clarified some of the problems we saw in serving, but when you are cooking for 3000+ some efficiencies must take place. The tour was self guided in a bunch. If you missed the demo, it was rerun forever on the TV, as was the shopping/port orientation. Now that is one you can really miss. There is very little practical info shared, just a big hype for shops that advertise. They propose a VIP shopping card for $25, which gets you small gifts in several shops. Of course they try to upgrade you, or interest you in more once they get you in the shop. If you are traveling to buy, do homework at home first. St Thomas ain't what it used to be. I used to come home with six bottles of great stuff no one had heard of. Now, due to the airline policies on liquids, there's no market for it. All we found were brands we can get locally, for less. Much more interesting things on St Maartin had we known to buy more there. There was a definite lack of concrete information about anything but the cruise excursions, so do your homework on these boards to find out about your destination. DEBARKATION: This was also a breeze. they give you colored/numbered tags, and after breakfast you wait in one of the lounges 'til they call it. You find your luggage, breeze through customs, and you are out. The hardest part was finding a porter, and they come fairly quickly. OVERALL IMPRESSION: We found the staff very friendly and attentive. Our cabin was fine. The ship is beautiful, and easy to navigate. Everything runs well considering the number of people involved. The food was a bit disappointing at times but not awful. We feel a bit ripped by the fuel surcharge since the only thing that prevented our rebate was one day when it went over $70. Cruisers after next week get it. But all in all we got what we were looking for on this cruise, and my dear husband found it enjoyable enough to put a deposit on another, so all's well that ends well! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background Information: This was our 7th cruised and third with Royal Caribbean International. My wife and I are early 60's and we were cruising alone. We selected this cruise on Grandeur of the Seas strictly because it was over the ... Read More
Background Information: This was our 7th cruised and third with Royal Caribbean International. My wife and I are early 60's and we were cruising alone. We selected this cruise on Grandeur of the Seas strictly because it was over the Thanksgiving holiday and price for a Ten day cruise. Our itinerary was two sea days, San Juan, St. Maartin, St. Kitts, Antigua, Tortola and Two sea days. We booked our cruise through a Travel Club travel agent, Category H and were assigned stateroom 3114 Large Oceanview Stateroom and requested and received main dinning. We were assigned table 18 in the Gatsby Dinning Room. Travel To Port and Embarkation: Travel to Port of Tampa was and easy 2 hour drive, the road signs to the Port and Ship Terminals were easy to follow. We arrived at the port around 12:15, the cruise departed on a Monday. Grandeur of the Seas was the only ship in the port but there was very heavy traffic around the entrance to the cruise terminal. We received blank luggage tags from the porter at the terminal curb and quickly filled those out and turn our luggage over to the porter. Going thru security the couple in from of us in line was stopped at the carry on luggage x-ray machine and directed to table that was line with confiscated bottles of alcohol for a physical search. The check in line was about 15 minutes long, we had completed RCI online check in process on their website, and had our Set Sail Pass. The check in process was less than 30 minutes, from arriving at the terminal to entering our cabin. Ship information: Grandeur of the Seas is a Vision Class small and twelve years old but it appeared to be very well maintained. The following Grandeur of the Seas Facts are from the RCI web page Gross Tonnage 74000, Length overall 916 feet, Breadth 106 feet, Max Speed 22 Knots, eleven decks. One thing I found interesting the Captain said that the Grandeur was 25 feet below the waterline and 110 feet above the waterline. Why does it turn over? It was easy to get from one point on the ship to another, very little wait for elevators. The cruise was full and I would estimate that 80% of the passengers were over 50, seen very few young children and I would guess less than 20 teens. Stateroom: Our cabin 3114 is listed as a Large Oceanview Stateroom and it anything but large, but that normal for RCI. There was also a noticeable vibration when the ship was moving, but nothing that would keep you awake at night. There was adequate closet space and ample room under the bed to store luggage. Our room attendant introduced himself to us on our initial arrival to the cabin. He always kept the cabin clean and tidy and we had towel animals on the bed at night after dinner. Activities: Lot of activities going on, especially on the sea days, every activity had lots of people attending, and it seem that there was always two things going on at the same time that I wanted to attend. There was the usual over priced Art Auction that blocked the Centrum on deck 4 every sea day. Bingo was crowded. The evening shows in the Palladium Theater seem to fill up quite quickly and if you wanted to attain you had to get their early for a seat. We show up on time for the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception in the South Pacific Lounge and it was completely pack with no were to sit. Again I think this had to with the age of the passengers. Service: The service we received ranks was pretty good not the best that we had, but far from the worst and I would give it a 4 on a scale on 1 to 5. There was a problem with the Dining room which I'll cover it the dinning section. Everyone from the lady that checked us in at embarkation, Pursers Desk, to the towel attains on the poll deck were amazingly pleasant and conscientious. Shore Excursions: We only had one RCI excursion and that was in St Maartin. SM86 St. Maartin Island Tour, 2 ½ hour tour that crossed over to the French side of the island. This tour was very inexpensive; it was the first RCI excursion that I ever felt cheated when it was over. All it is is a bus ride (large bus) form the tourist tarp on the Dutch side of the island to the same type tourist trap on the French side. No island history or geographical information was provided; a number of schools and the island flower were pointed out a number of times. One would have been better off hiring a cad for a lesser price. Dining: We had main seating for dinner and ate half of our breakfasts, lunches and all our dinners in the Gatsby Dinning Room the rest were in the Windjammer Market Place.. We also had a indulged ourselves at the Solarium Cafe late at night after the windjammer was closed. The quantity, variety and quality of food all over the ship was again pretty good. I would rate the quality of food on a scale of 1 to 5 a solid 4 for the quality of food only. In the Gatsby Dinning Room our waiter was Edwin and his assistant was Godfre we had a table for 4 very near the front of the dinning room. Main seating was at 5:30 and that seemed to be earlier than all the other cruises we've been on. The dinning room staff was very attentive and remembered each of our peculiarity each night. The first three nights the dinning room was full and it took over two hour for dinner. On the fourth night on the dinning room was less crowed and dinner was only 1 ½ hours. I don't contribute this long time to the waiters, but to some problems in the kitchen. The Windjammer was a very popular place and was always crowed, tables were bused quickly as soon as dinner were threw. Food was always fresh and hot. Entertainment: I attended all of the evening shown and found was above average for a cruise ship with the exception of the comedian Chas Elstner he was pretty bad. The Cruise Director, Simeon Baker was above average and the Singers & Dancers were really enjoyable. The Liars Club and Love and Marriage Game Shows were a big hit. Disembarkation This was the worst debarkation we experienced in our six prior cruises. We had an 8:45 call time for our color baggage tag but were not called until almost 9:20. It took another 40 minutes to get threw the custom line. I believe this is a problem with the US Customs and not Royal Caribbean Summary: Prior to departing I had review this cruise on Cruise Critic and read all the reviews that I could find on the Grandeur of the Seas and had a pretty good idea of what to expect. We had a real good time on this Cruise, service was good, weather was great, and food was OK. We would take this cruise again next year if it were available. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
After sailing on Carnival twice, Holland America once, this was our first time on NCL and we were not disappointed. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier at 11:30 AM via an off site shuttle service (United Parking - near ... Read More
After sailing on Carnival twice, Holland America once, this was our first time on NCL and we were not disappointed. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier at 11:30 AM via an off site shuttle service (United Parking - near MIA)...it was half the price of parking at the Port of Miami and stress free. The port parking area is under construction and is crazy on cruise days. NCL seemed very organized in their systems and we were on board by 12:30. Dining.....Probably our only disappointment with this cruise. In the past, we have always been impressed with the main dining areas. We ate at Tsar's Palace, which certainly had a great feel for a formal dining room, however since it was "freestyle", there was never a themed evening in the dining room. No waiter performances, no piano playing, no Captain's dinner. We like those features, so not having them was a disappointment. Also, the meals were just OK, nothing spectacular. Our theory was that the "cover charge" places had to be worth the price, so maybe that is why the "free" areas like Tsar's Palace and Azura were just OK. I read some other reviews about long wait times...but we did not experience this at all and it was a full cruise for Christmas. NCL does a nice job with the TV screens letting you know how crowded each location is. The Garden Cafe has great selection.....Breakfast and Lunch were always great. Many stations, many options. We also went to the Blue Lagoon quite a few times....kind of like a TGI-Friday's kind of menu.....not bad........Wings, Chicken Fingers......."Comfort Food" they call it. It's open 24 hours. We never went to any of the "cover charge" locations, but other guests said they were great. Entertainment - We went to every show....all of which were pretty good. Again.....not spectacular...but enjoyable. Dressing Up? Part of "freestyling" is letting you wear what you want, when you want. Ofcourse there are some dress code rules, but as a guest, you have many options. My wife and I brought some dressier clothes, thinking there would be a formal night/Captain's Dinner, but there never was one. Some choose to get dressed up really nice and others opt for some jeans and more casual look. NCL does a tremendous job of keeping the Jewel sparkling clean. The staff is not intrusive at all and made a great impression. Disembarkation was the best I have ever been a part of. They let you pick the time you want to exit the ship. No feeling rushed off, nor do you feel like the service changes on that final morning. Ports of Call......since we had already done these stops before (Grand Cayman and Cozumel) we didn't book excursions through the ship. You can get great deals as soon as you get off the ship. Cabin - We had a balcony for the first time and loved it. Spend the extra money, it's totally worth it. Great Cabin and the bedding and shower live up to all of the hype. All in all......NCL's Jewel is a great ship. I had to chuckle at the post before discussing the "chair hogs". Very true. If you want a chair on a "Day at Sea" you are going to have to send your spouse up to Deck 12/13 pretty early...Otherwise, you will be out of the sun. Their so-called "30 minute" rule is not enforced. Chairs were covered in towels, yet they remained empty for the majority of the time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We just returned from a very nice 4 day Caribbean cruise on the Century. We are Select on X mostly due to RCI cruises, plus one on the Xpedition (our favorite cruise ever). This was our first cruise on a "regular" X ship and we ... Read More
We just returned from a very nice 4 day Caribbean cruise on the Century. We are Select on X mostly due to RCI cruises, plus one on the Xpedition (our favorite cruise ever). This was our first cruise on a "regular" X ship and we were looking forward to comparing it to RCL and Princess (where we are Platinum). DW and I had an aft port Deck 9 Concierge Class stateroom and DD (19) and DS (17) and their friends had a nearby inside and an OV on Deck 8. On this short vacation time cruise, the age and composition of our fellow passengers seemed about the same as on Princess or RCI—mostly couples in their 40s and 50s, some honeymooners, a decent number under 21, and not a huge number of the older crowd. Embarkation—A+— After arriving at the Port of Miami around 12 noon (we're lucky, we live around 20 minutes away) , everything went very quick and smooth—the fastest we have ever got on a cruise ship. We picked the Select line as slightly shorter than the Concierge Class line, and we were on the ship within 10 minutes. I unfortunately missed the CC gathering. Ship—B+a very nice easy to find your way around layout, which seemed very similar to the Coral and Island on Princess. The carpet colors are a bit odd looking with lots of colored circles, but we liked the eclectic artwork. The ship never seemed crowded anywhere—a big difference from RCI especially. I got decent wireless Internet service on my laptop in my room about 80% of the time. There are plenty of bars and entertainment venues with plenty of seating and never a long wait. There was a nice "secret" balcony all the way aft on Deck 9 out a side door where you could watch the wake. There seemed to be very little vibration while in our stateroom this may have been the first time I've been on a cruise ship and couldn't tell when we were leaving from or arriving in a port. The ship was very clean everywhere (no odd smells either) but does look a little tired. Lots of stained carpeting and rust spots, and some refinishing work is needed (our balcony railing and a lot of others needed a good varnishing, some dings and wear in various places (such as seat panels falling apart in the theater) but all in all not too bad. The four Princess ships we've been on (which are all newer) seem better maintained. We didn't use the pools or hot tubsbut it seemed that they closed down much earlier each night compared to Princess. Stateroom—B+basically, an average, not huge, but decent balcony stateroom. There is enough storage space for any length cruise. On this cruise, Concierge Class was only $30/pp more than a regular balcony room, and we thought it was worth it. All of the perks for Concierge Class (fruit, canapEs, etc. raised the grade from B to B+) were delivered without having to be asked for (the tote bag is quite nice). The shower with the upgraded showerhead is the best we have had on a ship. The curved-ended beds and pillows were quite comfortable—we're not small or short and still had plenty of room. Two big improvements over a regular Princess balcony stateroom—being able to get a full breakfast (see below) in your room every day, and having a decent sized table on the balcony to eat it on. The flat screen TV was nice, but there wasn't much to see on it since the TV satellite was mostly out (see below). X also sometimes repeated the same movies several times a day, instead of mixing them up more with more variety like Princess. ButPrincess doesn't have pay per view options. The Deck 8 forward OV stateroom and inside our kids had were nice—they especially liked the huge window in the OV. One downside from Princess—the Sky Suites seem to be the most comparable product to the Princess mini-suite, but they appear to be considerably more expensive on equivalent sailings and itineraries. Service—A in the staterooms, B+ at Murano, B- in the MDR, B+ and elsewhere. Our steward (Hector) was seen only at the beginning of the cruise, but we had no complaints with his work. He kept the room tidy and spotless and the room was always cleaned by 9:00 AM—something we're not used to. We did have a bathrobe and a X beach towel disappear from our room before we left, and left him a note about it, so hopefully we won't be charged for them. Our MDR waiter (Roy) and his assistant were OK but nothing special. Food seemed to take an inordinately long time to make it to our table as opposed to others, and ice cream arrived half-melted more than once. Anything we didn't like (not much) was promptly replaced. What was missing was the kind of MDR service we've gotten used to on Princess and RCI—like the waiters remembering our drink and coffee preferences and not having to ask again for either one after the first night, and being a little more involved than just mechanically dropping off menus, taking orders, and dishes and retrieving them. Maybe they are just too busy now for a significant personal touch, but we have enjoyed it elsewhere. It's not just the short cruise experience—we have had much better MDR service on the Majesty OTS. We had a nice experience in a couple of the bars. The ice bar in the Martini Bar wasn't working properly, but the drinks were great, as was our waitress, Zora. Both DD and my children didn't think the crew in general was as friendly as the ones on other ships we've been on (not a lot of "hellos" or "Merry Christmases) as you walked by them, but no big deal. Note—the Xpedition had the friendliest crew of all. Food—B to B+ in the MDR, A in Murano, B- to B in the buffet. Although it's obviously a subjective analysis, we thought the MDR food was slightly better than on Princess and a lot better than RCI. Although quite tasty, as noted by others on CC it's not really gourmet dining (a lot of fancy names for dishes but fairly run of the mill starters, entrees like roast turkey, lamb shanks, spaghetti carbonara, etc.), but a good selection, prime rib and steak were prepared as ordered, seafood and pasta dishes were especially delicious and nothing was less than good. Portions have apparently gotten smaller, but who cares if you want more, they'll bring it. Desserts were only fair to good but Princess and RCI are also mediocre there as well. We were hoping that the Century's coffee would be better than the syrup swill served as coffee on Princess, but it wasn't much of an improvement (we never made it to the Cova Cafe). Murano was the best specialty restaurant experience we have had on any ship—it beat out Chops and was better than anything on Princess. Superb food and service, and it was fun to watch certain items be made tableside, like the MDR in the Good Old Days. The foie gras (if you have a nearby cardiologist) and rack of lamb were great, the cheese course was very well presented and quite good, and I had a perfect Grand Marnier soufflE, which Princess doesn't do well. We did not like the buffet layout at all—some long lines developed because of it, and there were shortages of ice and utensils that held up things. The food was OK but nothing special. The sushi and pizza and the outside grilled items weren't bad. We didn't eat there at night. Princess has a goofy buffet arrangement but you get used to it after awhile and we think it has much better food and much more available in the wee hours. A friend of mine who was also on this voyage (who spends so much time in RCI buffets that we call him the "King of the Windjammer") agrees that RCI's buffets have the best food and layout of all' As stated above, we tried room service for breakfast. The first day it arrived 15 minutes after the scheduled time, but with a call in advance that it was coming, and it arrived hot and the order mostly correct (one extra omelet). The second day was a disaster, but not entirely X's fault. Some bozo put down the wrong stateroom number (ours) on their order card. When we were called (at around 7:00 AM, an hour and a half before we wanted breakfast—arrgghh!) to confirm a couple of things, something didn't sound right, as they kept asking about things we hadn't ordered, like cereal. DW tried to tell them over the phone what we really wanted, but they didn't seem too interested. The woman that DW talked to actually delivered the order later, and it turned out to be totally different from our actual order, and only then did anyone notice that the order was for 4 people (not the 2 of us) and under a different name. We just had her leave the food anyway, our real order never arrived, and we didn't care for what was brought after we opened and sampled it, so we made do with some great smoked salmon and hot gooey cinnamon rolls from the buffet, sitting in the back open area with a beautiful view. No problem there. We had breakfast once in the MDR, and it was good and fast. Select Perks—B+. The Captain's Club party had better hors d'oeuvres and watered down drink choices than Princess' or RCI's frequent traveler parties. The Elegant Tea was very nice—quite tasty scones, finger sandwiches and desserts. Princess welcomes the masses for a daily budget version of afternoon tea, X's is for frequent travelers only and is far nicer. A friend of ours was denied entry for wearing a (nice) T-shirt. We're glad we went. The only downside for tea snobs like us was the use of tea bags, but we can certainly live with that. The Select coupons are generally useless—nothing useful to us except the extra Internet time. X is way behind RCI and Princess here. Entertainment—B—Liverpool Nights and the Taste of Broadway show were decent—some talented singers and dancers, although there were some "tastes" in the latter show that seemed a bit odd, like arguably secondary numbers from major shows. We also saw a singer (Karen Saunders) who was OK, and the Michigan Avenue acapella quartet was enjoyable. The house rock band was fair at best and tried some numbers that were abysmal (Folsom Prison Blues?) The Hemisphere nightclub was a good venue but wasn't heavily used, even though this was a fairly young crowd. Princess rules here, at least on the bigger ships. Random Notes—the casino is well laid out and we had fun on video poker and the slots. This was the busiest place on the ship and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The lack of numerous PA announcements and in your face pushing of wine tastings, art auctions, etc. like on Princess and RCI wasn't missed at all. A BIG plus here for X. The biggest problem we had with the ship is that (unlike Princess and RCI) it seemed to be missing a sports bar type venue with large screen TVs, which me and my friends love. This was made worse by the fact that the TV satellite was broken almost the entire trip, so no football on Saturday or Sunday. Mutinies have resulted for lesser offenses. We lived with it, and it certainly didn't ruin our cruise, but watching a football game in a bar on a cruise ship (or in a sports book in a Las Vegas hotel) with a bunch of screaming maniacs is one of my favorite things, and it was sorely missed. Disembarkation—A+— We carried off our own luggage, so we were able to wait in the Cova Cafe at 6:45 AM and get off the ship 15 minutes later and be in our car by 7:20 AM—WOW!—but we only did this so I could get to work on time today. BOO! All in all, a very nice cruise, and we would definitely sail Celebrity and the Century again. This was a worthwhile step up from RCI, other than the fewer frequent cruiser perks. On the other hand, partly due to the fact that Celebrity seems to be more expensive for comparable cabins and itineraries, Princess will probably remain our first choice on the longer cruises. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation : very easy we arrived at 10:30am , parked in the lot, carried luggage to a porter and went inside and were one of the first to check in. We were on the ship at 11:30am walked around as rooms were not ready went to the ... Read More
Embarkation : very easy we arrived at 10:30am , parked in the lot, carried luggage to a porter and went inside and were one of the first to check in. We were on the ship at 11:30am walked around as rooms were not ready went to the Versailles and had a nice lunch. Luggage arrived at 3PM right after lifeboat drill. Cabin; We were in balcony 10730on the aft end the balcony was as advertised on cruise critic it is 90 sq. ft. big for a common balcony so this was nice since we usually book a suite. Stewards were absolutely great of course we have found this to be the norm for NCL. First day at sea: attended cruise critic meeting it was well represented by all key officers expect the Captain it was really a nice gathering -where we meet some really nice fellow cruisers also knowing the officers made it nice for the rest of week greeting them in the hallways or at dinner. Food: tried the Aqua, Versailles, Cagney's, Ginza, buffet, Blue Lagoon. The new balcony cabin breakfast at the Aqua restaurant is one the best improvements NCL has made in it offers a buffet with fruit, pastries, cereal, juice, milk, toast etc. and you can order from the breakfast menu. We also had one dinner at this restaurant it was excellent with great service. The speciality restaurants were excellent I especially like the Ginza and Sushi. Service was excellent on one day at the Ginza and on the last day at sea the service was very slow. The buffet is where the NCl Star needs to improve I thought it was the worst in the NCL fleet ( we have said on the Sun ,Spirit, and Pearl)I rate this buffet as bad there was no omelette station in the mornings and the food was not appealing the fruit and salads were good. The other thing I noticed that on other NCL ships we sailed on the ice cream bar was open until 10PMthe Star closed at 5PM. The Blue Lagoon was fantastic just like the Spirit great wings, fish and chips, and cheese cake- the wong tong soup and tomato soup are both very good. We never used room service. Service: overall service was excellent on a ship fully packed for xmas with over 800 kids onboard. Entertainment: No real comedian act on board. Jean Ryan shows were good.Live music ok need a better dance type band I thought this was a week point. No craft demonstrations or passenger talent contest (one of the crew told me these activities are being done away with), trivia was good.One problem was the ship scheduling entertainment in the Red Lion Pub at the same time as football bowl games it created a few bad situations. I spoke to the cruise director about this. Also I thought there should have more caroling on board by the entertainers/crew on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.christmas decorations thru out the ship were beautiful especially the ginger bread house and town in the main atrium. Ports: Ports were fantastic. We enjoyed each port Solomon's Landing great lunch place in Cabo in Mazatlan was . NCL tour to El Quielte in Mazatlan was fantastic with mexican folkloric dancers, mayan fire dances, horse dancing etc., and a great lunch- In Vallarta we hired a private car and shopped and saw the city and went to Cocos Paradise for lunch thisabout 40 mins. out PV great waterfall zip lining and swimming you spend the whole day there easily. That night we took the Pirates ship excursion a really nice big part open bare entertainment etc. Our 24/25 year old boys went and really enjoyed it. Disembarkation was a breeze we off the ship by 8:30am we pulled into our driveway in San Diego at 10:30am Overall I thought the Star was really lacking in the overall entertainment/crafts package that we have experience on other NCL cruises. The buffet really needs to looked at with improvement in mind. The fact that the Star does not have an aft outside area for passengers off the buffet is really bad we look forward to that feature on other NCL ships. Would we cruise on the Star again yes would it be our first choice in NCL-no because of the ship layout(no aft outdoors area and very small pool area) and buffet design. Big Gren Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Arrived in Miami, sailed (if you'll pardon the pun!) through check-in and was on the ship in a matter of minutes. We were starved so we headed to the buffet while waiting on our room to become available. We were a little ... Read More
Arrived in Miami, sailed (if you'll pardon the pun!) through check-in and was on the ship in a matter of minutes. We were starved so we headed to the buffet while waiting on our room to become available. We were a little disappointed in the quality of the food and the atmosphere of the Garden Cafe, but we're happy to be there. We found our room to be quite pleasant even though small. We had a balcony so the room did not seem as cramped as it would have otherwise. Our adult daughter was with us and when the soft bed was out, we had wall-to-wall beds. But a small room is to be expected on a ship unless you're fortunate enough to have the garden villa suite. The carpet was a little dirty and in need of replacing but, otherwise, everything was good. We then explored the ship, and as on other ships, you "can't get there from here." You have to learn which elevator to take to get to your destination. We dined at the Teppanyaki restaurant the first night. It was just mediocre for my husband and me but our daughter enjoyed her meal. We also ate at Le Bistro, the French restaurant, and Salsa, the Tex-Mex restaurant. We considered those quite average also. The Buffet seemed to go downhill as the cruise went on. I must say that the Cheese Tortolini at the Venetian was quite good as were the breakfasts we had there. Service was great at all venues. Our room stewards were great, very accommodating. (Hello Jose and Romel) We always enjoyed the towel animals. One thing that I was disappointed in was that if you went on an excursion, there was no time left for shopping. As we had never been to these destinations, we chose the tours over shopping but would have liked to do both. The excursion into the countryside in Samana was a really rough ride but we enjoyed seeing the flora and fauna and learning about the people. I must say that it was a little disconcerting to see that the "shotgun man" in the tour truck was literally "carrying a shotgun." The tours on both St. Thomas and Tortola were good with all the beautiful scenery. Our daughter chose to go to Magen's Bay to the beach which she said was quite nice. On arriving at Great Stirrup Cay, the cruise line's private island, my husband and I chose to stay on board as all the activities involved the water. My daughter said that the water was cold and that we didn't miss anything by staying onboard. Our favorite part of the cruise was the shows. The Jean Ann Ryan Company was spectacular, very professional. What's up with all the photography? How many pictures does a person want taken on a cruise? Just say No! Disembarkation was easy. We chose to carry our own luggage so we ate breakfast and leisurely took our time as we had a late flight our of Miami. We were off the ship in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, customs took our jam we had bought in Samana. This was our second sailing with Norwegian. The first was on a new ship in Hawaii. Would we sail with Norwegian again? Maybe. We decided that if and when we went on another cruise that we would go back to Royal Caribbean, so we'll see. I don't really have a lot of negative things to say about Norwegian. We had a pretty positive experience both times. Our disappointment in the food was the biggest negative factor of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Parking was great just across the street from the ship. We took some of our smaller luggage (roll-ons) and went in to check in. This went very smoothly and soon we were boarding the ship at around 12:30. Once aboard we were told we ... Read More
Parking was great just across the street from the ship. We took some of our smaller luggage (roll-ons) and went in to check in. This went very smoothly and soon we were boarding the ship at around 12:30. Once aboard we were told we couldn't take our luggage to our room (that was ok) but we would have to check it. Well, they had only two luggage tags left (they were already out of them at a really early time) so we made up our own. The really good thing is our luggage (all of it) was among the first to arrive at our room (Good for them!) After a nice buffet lunch, we proceeded to our rooms around 1:30, took our luggage in and proceeded to tour the ship. The ship is just beautiful and very tastefully decorated, especially the atrium which had fantastic holiday decor (a Christmas tree, a large gingerbread house poinsettias, etc. All could be viewed from many floors above this open area. Dinner in the dining room the first night and the next three were just great. Our waiter Kwasi couldn't have been more friendly and helpful, especially since we had a 5 year old with us. Our family table consisted of folks with different food requirements (2 vegetarians, and another with a health issue) but all were able to find something they could enjoy. The selection on the menu was quite good and the food overall was great! Now the not so good - We all lined up the second day at the appointed time to get off the ship in Key West. The line which snaked up several floors did not move at all for some time. (Ok, maybe the ship hadn't cleared customs) No announcement was made for the delay, and over a half hour later, the line started to move but VERY SLOWLY!! Several people we talked to missed their Cruise tours which had left without them. Hopefully they got reimbursed but, in any event, they still missed what they had wanted and signed up to do. Getting back on the ship was not much better. Another 20 minutes or so to get back on (which was tough since our 5 year old needed to go "potty".) We have never in our previous 12 cruises experienced these kind of delays. (RCL - something you should definitely try to improve) The rooms (we had a Junior Suite for 4) was large enough and had loads of storage space, some of which we never used. The bathtub was a nice addition for our grandson who did use it twice. We ate breakfast and lunches in the buffet which were very family friendly. Food selection was quite good even though it was sometimes hard to find a table for 6. One other thing we must mention - the smoking allowed in lounges and in the casino. As non-smokers we could not enjoy MOST of the lounges at night because of the smokers. We understand that RCL is catering to a younger crowd than we usually travel with, but why encourage them by allowing them to smoke in so many places,turning off those of us who don't smoke and want to enjoy the lounges and casinos? For that reason, we probably would not travel again on RCL ships; Celebrity and Azamara, both owned by RCL, have designated areas for smokers which do NOT include the lounges or casinos. We truly hope RCL will change and correct some of these problems. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Overall, an enjoyable cruise. We (my spouse, 15 year old daughter) and I drove to Galveston and parked our car. Galveston still looks damaged from Hurricane Ike and as one of the first post-Ike cruises, it was clear that the City ... Read More
Overall, an enjoyable cruise. We (my spouse, 15 year old daughter) and I drove to Galveston and parked our car. Galveston still looks damaged from Hurricane Ike and as one of the first post-Ike cruises, it was clear that the City both had a lot of clean up to do and had to work on their parking / traffic control procedures. We (wisely as it turned out) avoided the city / cruise suggested parking and went with a lot just across the street from the Terminal (EZ Cruise Parking - $50 for the 7 days). Fortunately, we have an elevated status with RCCL...it took some folks 4 hours to park their car and get onboard...ship departed 90 minutes late and never made up the time until the last day and returned on time. D1 level cabin was a bit disappointing...turns out that ours was a bit smaller than normal. Cabin service was okay...again had the wrong age for our daughter so she got the wrong Kids' Programme until we straightened that out...and had to ask for the towel animals which we've always enjoyed. We found lots of evidence of previous occupants...nothing gross, but clearly there wasn't much of an effort to get the cabin in tip-top shape. First sea day was stormy - good selection of activities though sparsely attended. My spouse and I were 2 of the 4 who showed up for the Meet & Mingle event. Voyager crew tried to make the best of it...but this ended up being the most effort they made. We ate at Portofino's - the "Wine Pairing" dinner very excellent including awesome service. Unfortunately the Murder Mystery dinner was oversold and sold out else we would have ate there twice. We had fair service for our dinners...waiter and assistant barely spoke English and attempts at several other (European) languages failed. Took them 5 nights to get our standing drink orders right not just us, the others at the table had the same issue. But their attitudes were good and they tried. Food wasn't up to the normal excellence either...we ended up eating in the Windjammer for Breakfast and Lunch - better selection, fresher, tastier. Spouse and kid ate at JR Rockers they liked it too. The Cafe on level 5 was good for a quick snack. Bar service throughout the ship was first rate. Entertainment guest celebrities and regular crew was very good. While not what we would pay / go to see in our town, we really enjoyed all. Other than the first day, the other two sea days activities weren't as robust as we expected. There was no organized bridge past the first day (nor an instructor), no golf pro (despite a golf simulator), no midnight gala buffet. Overall, the "at sea" activities were disappointing... Our daughter had a great time with the 15-17 year old organized activities. Again, very high marks for that aspect of our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
As our only other cruise experience was a mere 8 months ago, we thought we'd give an inexperienced cruisers review for other newbies. We sailed out of Miami on Christmas Eve. Our flight arrived at 8:05 am and the first bus to ... Read More
As our only other cruise experience was a mere 8 months ago, we thought we'd give an inexperienced cruisers review for other newbies. We sailed out of Miami on Christmas Eve. Our flight arrived at 8:05 am and the first bus to the port departed at 10:30 but we easily found Alfonzo at baggage claim who quickly helped us, even with our bags, to the right door and even helped us with our transfer arrangements, even though he was there for a different ship. Check in was quite quick and took little time. The ship wasn't ready for embarkation so we sat in the lobby for about 30 minutes until we were allowed on board around 11:30am, but we were met with champagne on deck 6 when we stepped on board. The rooms weren't ready until 1pm, so we sat on deck and drank a Bahama Mama and read until the rooms were ready. We carried on our clothes and essentials and only checked our dive gear. Miami was cloudy and rainy so not much sun on departure day. There's not really a grand atrium on Century, so if you're looking for something like the Grand Foyer from Titanic, you'll be a bit disappointed. The main atrium is on decks 5 and 6 and emcompasses the coffee bar, the three small shops and the staircase. Our room was a Century Suite, which was FANTASTIC. If you can splurge for it, it will make your cruise. Our suite was aft on deck 10 and the balcony was easily half the size of our room. The only thing that may deter you from the century suite is that it's directly below the bar/deck that's near the buffet and if other passengers are at the railing, they can see you below. That being said, our butler, Ezio, was amazing and so attentive. We were met by a bottle of champagne chilling in the room. Ezio had champagne chilling and brought tea and hor'doeuvres everyday. We didn't really use him to his full potential as we are a teacher and work in retail, so we're not used to having a butler. Our dinner seating was the early seating at 6pm. Our table was 525 and was two tables away from the captain's table, but he ate at the later seating, 8:00pm, so we never saw him at dinner. As an unsophisticated cruiser, I find it odd that you can't get cokes or tea or even beer at dinner service. But I'm learning that's the culture and you just get over it. The service was done by Vanja, from Croatia. Service was a tad slow, but not for the lack of her working, I just think it took a long time to get the food from the massive kitchens to the tables. I mostly at beef, except the last night, I chose the phyllo dough, artichoke, and pecorino cheese dish which was my best meal in the main dining room. I haven't found the food on either cruise fantastic, but there certainly are massive amounts of it available any time of the day. My travelling companion found that the soups were her favorites and my favorites were the cheese courses. Christmas Day we chose to eat in Murano, the specialty restaurant, which was a nice treat as we are not normally formal dinning type people. The service was the nicest part of the meal. The twice baked goat cheese was amazing and the tastiest thing on the ship. Marcia got the Steak Diane, which was prepared at the table and I got the scallops and lobster. Hers was better than mine as most seafood, I found out, on a cruise has been frozen. New cruiser...lesson learned. The cheese course was my favorite course during that dinner. Also, skip the soda package and drink the lemonade at the Island Buffet! The ship didn't feel crowded, even at meal times. You could almost always find spots at the pool and on the upper pool deck, save for the last day at sea. But NCL was much worse as far as crowding around the pool. Poolside service wasn't aggressive or pushy, but was available whenever you needed them. There are two pools and 4 hot tubs, but the pool was too chilly for me as I am a wuss. The casino was fun and not too crowded and was smoke free. No big payout for either of us, but it's fun to sit and waste a few dollars doing something different. I did notice that there was not a lot of waitstaff in the casino for the slots, so if you wanted a drink you had to go the bar and get it. Shopping was ok for us on board. We are tchochke shoppers and we like to find candy that's not available at home. Very few tchochke's and junk and no candy. Marcia got some nice earrings and I got a fossil watch, but that's about it. I can't comment on the spa or gym as I prefer reading and NOT exercising in any way, shape or form when I'm on vacation. Debarkation was a little weird as the Port of Miami changed things when we arrived. Normally, you go out with your luggage "color" group (we were green and set to debark at 8:40). But Miami decided that they needed ALL of the luggage off the ship before anyone could debark. So we were about 50 minutes debarking, but those assigned for earlier departures had to wait almost 2 hours before they could leave. Not the ships fault, but annoying, nonetheless. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
It was a delightful trip and interesting to be away over Christmas. I flew down to Florida and stayed at the Hilton on the Beach in FLL; on the 18th we boarded the Voyager. I must add, that for a chain hotel, the Hilton was delightful ... Read More
It was a delightful trip and interesting to be away over Christmas. I flew down to Florida and stayed at the Hilton on the Beach in FLL; on the 18th we boarded the Voyager. I must add, that for a chain hotel, the Hilton was delightful and had not only a lovely dining area overlooking the ocean and pool, but great food. I was pleasantly surprised. Santa left us cookies and candies and a lovely passport folder. Many suite doors were decorated. One suite was apparently done to the hilt. Having never sailed on Regent, Voyager, just out of a major dry dock work was to be under my scrutiny. Because I am so 'wedded' to Seabourn, I couldn't imagine that it could be as nice. Different and good, but not as nice. Well it was. Embarkation was a breeze and I was given a wheelchair assist through the process. I did not need one once onboard. Disembarkation was a mess attributed to the slowness of the luggage handlers off-loading. We got off early, but later, I understand it was a zoo as all colors were called at once. The decor and layout of the ship was very good, lots of nooks and crannies for reading, napping, and card playing. We did all three a lot. The top deck with the pool, jacuzzis and Veranda Cafe and Pool Grill were very crowded on sea days and to be avoided. However, on the port days, I didn't get off (except for a brief trolley tour in Curacao and it was ok.) The 'show theater' had a balcony and i even watched 'Mama Mia' in it. Always cold, the best entertainment was the Crew Capers the last night. The crew is mostly from the Philippines and performed folk dances and singing. I found out my favorite crew member (Manny of Room Service) was the star and choreographer. Otherwise, the entertainment was pretty poor and to be avoided. Christmas Eve there was carol singing in the atrium and a holiday show that was ok, including the numerous children on board who sang carols. Actually the many children had onboard programs and were not annoying to me at all. I even found the team in the scavenger hunt trying to find 4 crew to pose for the YMCA logo quite amusing.The dumb parents who took toddlers in diapers in the hot tubs were just that, dumb. I did see cool towels being passed about in the afternoon. There were lots of activities, always a tea time with music and a 'quiet tea' in another spot. Nice idea. I played Trivia once. It was difficult and the first day, came in second with a score of 6. the winners got 7/15. I mean, who knew that Melanie of the Spice Girls was the first to put out a single record? Besides, the afternoon time, 4:00 was inconvenient to my nap times. I am looking to the blood sport of Trivia on the Legend Crossing in November. The library was very good and belatedly I found out I could have gotten the NY Times delivered daily (for a fee, of course). There was a huge computer room and a coffee nook as well. While there were DVDs available, there was a large on-demand selection of movies of which to avail. Loved the 'Bee Movie', great humor for adults. The TV channels left much to be desired. FNN, CNN, ESPN, and TNT. Never set foot in the spa, gym, casino, or boutiques. Listened to one of the enrichment lecturers on TV replay, interesting about Obama and the challenges he faces nationally; missed part II of the international dilemmas. Smokers seemed rare and there was a cigar room. Never went in there, either. The food was very good, varied with lovely presentations. The main dining venue is the Compass Rose, large and serving all 3 meals. Two specialty restaurants, Signatures which is to be 'cordon bleu' and Prime 7, a steak house. Both were smaller and more intimate. We ate at both twice and were pleased. On time we joined a table of 6 others and that was fun. Room service is always my favorite, breakfast with a great omelet was the treat. Bar service at the pool was fine, but they can't make a BBC like Nelson on Seabourn. I switched to the Blue Hawaii, a drink from my past, and a virgin Madras, which I learned was cranberry and grapefruit juice without the vodka. The weather was lovely, soft bouncing on some nights. People complained, but I had two balsa angels on a narrow shelf and they never moved, nor did the apple perched atop a narrow dresser top. Speaking of the dresser, the layout of the suite with a balcony was delightful. Bigger than Seabourn (not including the balcony) and with a huge walk-in closet and bathroom with both shower and tub. And, the sofa was large enough to stretch out and actually nap comfortably. It did, however, lack a comfy throw to ward off the a/c chill. The table was enlarged with a plastic top for dining. That was a bit wobbly, but we managed. The bed was great, with a comfy duvet and I actually had real 'Turkish' towels! The itinerary was ok, because I have been to most of the islands and to me they are all alike and with not much to buy. My partner wandered off in most ports and in Aruba found a grocery store and we had good Edam cheese on which to nibble. He found St Lucia grim and the others fair to poor. Many of the tours were more vigorous than I could do or care to. The one trip, deep sea fishing, was closed before the cruise started. Embarkation was a breeze as was disembarkation, after the hour wait because of slow teamsters unloading the luggage. We had a car waiting, and were charged some extra time, but it helped to make our early flights. From checking out of the ship (9:40) to my gate at FLL was 40 minutes. But we were off in the first crush. I did not book another cruise onboard, but with the right itinerary, would certainly go again. ABOVE ALL, WE FOUND THE COURTESY AND FRIENDLINESS OF THE STAFF TO BE 5***** Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Embarkation The morning of the cruise we drove down from Tampa to Miami, we live in Tampa, and arrived at the pier about noon. We had rented a one way rental from Avis, so we had to drop off our luggage and then return the rental. When we ... Read More
Embarkation The morning of the cruise we drove down from Tampa to Miami, we live in Tampa, and arrived at the pier about noon. We had rented a one way rental from Avis, so we had to drop off our luggage and then return the rental. When we arrived at the pier our luggage got tagged by the baggage person and was whisked away to the ship. We thought we were going to have to be with our luggage more, so our plans changed and both of us drove to drop off the rental and we enjoyed a nice leisurely walk from Avis to the pier. It's a little over a mile and took about 30 to 40 minutes to walk. I really enjoyed walking over the long bridge to the pier. Once we got the check-in area we waited in line for about 15 minutes and check-in was smooth and simple. I forgot to one important question about my account status, but that was my fault. More on that later. After we checked in we did stop by the Pier Coordinator on the off chance upgrades were available, they weren't, so we proceeded to the ship. Ship The Jewel is in great shape and since this is the only class of ship we've been on, I really don't have any other RCCL comparison, our other cruise was on the Radiance in 2005. Since this was the Xmas cruise we thought there would be more Xmas decorations, but overall it was done nice. The main decoration was a very long table of Gingerbread houses which were just excellent. Lots of detail and different scenes from one end of the table to the other. I like the class very much, but do want to experience the other ships that RCCL has to offer. Room We were in an D1 7534, which was a good room with an extended balcony. It's forward on the ship's starboard side. Only negative was the location was Starboard which is the smoking side of the ship, so deck 5 being the walk around deck had a lot of people smoking below our room and that was not pleasurable at times. With being forward we did have a close stairway and elevator bank, but did a lot of walking to get to the aft, windjammer and tides, along with other places nearer the Centrum. Not a big deal as we needed the exercise, just wanted to note that there is some walking and stair climbing to do when your forward. Ports Labadee We didn't expect much from this port, but had an enjoyable time. We got off and walked to the main beach that faces the ocean. To me that is a real beach and really enjoyed watching the waves come in. I was disappointed that they wouldn't let people swim freely in this area and only kept people in a very isolated area and didn't let anyone enjoy the surf. Probably a liability/risk issue, but it was a damper for me. We watched folks do the zip line and that looked like lots of fun. We passed on that as we thought the cost for the one zip, yes there is a small starter, was too high, plus we were going to do Zipline in Jamaica, so we saved it for another time. The area was nice. We liked walking around and found our way to the new hammocks and spent a couple of hours enjoying those. We then went over to have lunch at one of the barbecue areas and watched some of the entertainment. They were local dancers and musicians. We aren't shoppers, so didn't really mess with the flea market area or the other shopping areas. Nice island, but we liked Disney's Castaway Cay better. Cartegena No planned excursions for us here, but we wanted to go into town to see some of the sights around town. Didn't have any interest on the other tours outside of the town. We hooked up with a Taxi driver at the pier terminal and he took us around for about 2 hours. It was nice and the driver walked with us as we walked around town and provided history and information on the Old City. He also took us to a couple shops, an Emerald store was nice as we got to go to the back, upstairs, room to watch the jewel maker work. We wished we knew more about Emeralds as we would've like to have gotten a nice emerald jewelry item. The town was nice and it was a perfect day for the short stay at Cartegena. Panama Canal Our goal for this stop was to stay on the ship and just enjoy going through the canal. We got up early for the first trip through and made our way to the deck 5 bow section, where the helicopter landing area is. We picked a spot and watched as we came through the entrance area. The sun rose and it was a perfect morning to come through. The trip was a little slow going through. I had been there back in 1986, so it was interesting to see what has changed, but DW had never been, so her experience was new. We both really enjoyed it and really appreciate the engineering marvel that it is. They had a Canal person on board talking about the canal and the history as we traveled through, which was great. Once we got through we spent the day in the Gatun Lake area, where we anchored and enjoyed the day in the sun. In the afternoon we then went back through the canal. We then arrived at Cristobal Pier where we hopped off and walked through the shopping area that is setup in the building on the pier. It was nice as it was low pressure and they sure had some great items. Jamaica - Montego Bay First shore excursion for us. We signed up for Chukka Canopy experience, which is a Zipline tour. It started at the pier where a driver picked us up and drove about 30 minutes up into the mountain area near Montego Bay. They had setup an area where we all got our Zipline gear and then headed out. It's a walking, climbing, and zipping experience which is just want we wanted. The forest was great and guides were a lot of fun. There were 6 different zip lines. Two of them were short little hops to get from one stand to another, but the long ones were really very nice. Only real negative was that it had advertised a rope bridge and we didn't do that at all. They also apparently had 3 or 4 more ziplines that are only offered to hotel guests as they say there isn't enough time for cruise guests. The tour ended and a few folks got some food and did a little shopping at the make shift shop they had. Our drive back to the pier was nice and the driver even offered to take us to Montego Bay if we wanted, but everyone opted to go back to the pier. That was the end of our day as we had no interest in going to Montego Bay. Grand Cayman A very busy day for us as we had booked two shore excursions. Sting Ray city in AM and 2 Tank Scuba dive in the PM. The day started early as we had to be at the pier by 7:15 AM. We arrived on time, but then sat around for about 45 to 50 minutes waiting for, well I don't know, but the operation didn't seem to have it's act together at the pier. Sting Ray city is on the opposite side of the island from the pier area, so we all hopped into a bus and were drive, about 20 minutes, over to where the boat was located. We then hopped on to the boat and began a 20 to 25 minute boat ride out to Sting Ray city. When we arrived we were the third boat to get there, would have been first if we were on-time. The boat Captain had a problem with getting the boat to anchor and almost ran into a sail boat that was already anchored. We hopped in right away and had tons of fun with the Rays. Feeding them, Holding them, and just having fun playing with these amazing creatures. I wasn't really impressed with one of the guides as he wasn't offering any information about the sting rays and kept singing the same "we will we will rock you" song over and over. I think he thought he was trying to make it fun and lively to help encourage people to get in, but it was annoying to me. If people didn't want to do it, then it was there loss, but there are better ways to help encourage people to get in and enjoy the experience. We then headed back, but I felt we were rushed as the other two boats were still there when we left, so us being late starting cut the experience short, even though they said we would get the full experience. The ship had different add ons with the sting ray experience, so on the drive back we made a couple of stops to drop people off at other locations. Once back to the pier we only had about 50 minutes until our next excursion, so shopping at Grand Cayman was cut short. We were also forced to have to baby sit our dive bag as the RCCL excursion guy said they would have a place for our bag, but they didn't, so we had to stay with it. The scuba trip was a great. We again hopped into a bus and were taken a brief drive to the pier where we got organized to get ready to dive. Again we were late as it took longer to get ready, there were 24 of us diving, as apparently the ship never sent over the equipment list and they had to handle that one by one once we got there. The boat ride to the dive site was short and we hopped in and enjoyed a nice 30 minute dive. I think with the size of the group and being late, this bottom time was reduced, but we still enjoyed ourselves. Our second stop was about 45 minutes later, have to be on the surface between dives, but they only offered water. A snack or more drink options would have been nice. The second dive was again 30 minutes and we were brought to the surface early as we were running late. We all surfaced at about 4:20 and the last boat back to the ship was at 4:30. We knew they wouldn't leave, but it was a rush to get off of the boat and back to the ship. All in all we had a great excursions, but the day was not smooth and I blame both RCCL and the excursion company. By the way, when they tell you Sting Rays don't bite, well they kind of do if you stick your thumb up while feeding the suction is really strong and the abrasive plates the rays have for chewing can do some damage. Disembarkation We were part of the late group to get off as we had our own ground transportation. We enjoyed a nice breakfast and then headed off of the ship. The line to get off the ship and get through customs took about an hour, longer then I had expected, but was uneventful. Got our luggage and then I headed off to Avis to pick up the rental car. Unfortunately, Avis had problems and I had to wait about an hour and half until a car was ready. All in all the two one way rentals was worth it as it saved us over $100 on transportation costs. Summary We had an outstanding time on the cruise. It was a great length, 10 days, and well balance of sea days and port stops. The ship crew was just excellent. Our cabin steward was decent, however he had to be told that we were C&A members, but he did a great job keeping the room always ready for us. Our waiter was outstanding as was the assistant waiter. We purchased the gold wine package, so we always had wine for us during dinner. The meals were good and offered great selections. I don't consider myself to be food critic, so didn't really find too much fault with the food. DW commented that some of the deserts were bland in flavor. We love the Windjammer as breakfast and lunch offered great variety and good food. We also tried out the Seaview, which was good as well. The ship activities were very diverse, and we had fun doing Bingo, Trivia and some of the talks. The only down area were the type of entertainment they offered. While they were generally enjoyable, I felt they were bringing out a lot of older entertainers and lacked some younger/newer talent. I also wanted to comment on the Cruise Director, Joff Eaton. He is an interesting person and we found him to be very accessible and visible throughout the cruise. His staff was excellent as well. I mentioned earlier that I had forgotten to check on our account status. The on-line TA that we transferred too was to give us prepaid gratuities and OBC, but it didn't happen. When we found out, near the end, the ship personnel were helpful in doing the research and even allowed us to call the TA free from the ship, but we had to take care of it once we got back. It all worked out, but the lesson learned is to check when getting there so that if there is a problem it could get fixed. We definitely recommend the Panama itinerary and the Jewel of the Seas. We are anxious to get to our next cruise and hope to do more cruising with RCCL. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the ... Read More
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the cruise dropped TWICE. The first I feel was due to the economy and the second to fill the ship. The first time our cruise was not paid off yet and Carnival was kind enough to adjust our price. The second time our cruise was paid in full and Carnival was kind enough to give us an onboard credit for the difference. Later, Carnival dropped the fuel surcharge and gave us onboard credit for that. It would be an understatement to say that Carnival and our agent were very accommodating with our booking. Please note that you must keep up with the price of your cruise and call and ASK for the discount/credit - it DOES NOT happen automatically (except for the fuel surcharge)! Airport to Cruiseport taxi was just $24. Embarkation - We arrived Christmas Day and were the second family there and only waited about 20 minutes before we were shuffled through and awaiting to board. We were on the ship about 30 minutes later. This was a great experience compared to past experience. The Inspiration - My first impression was very clean and well maintained! We do not drink but still found the "welcome aboard" complimentary glasses of champagne a nice jester but eventually got tired of saying "no thank you" due to the many, many offers. We walk around the ship to get oriented and I suggest everyone do the same. You are not able to walk front to aft on most levels/floors so learning the maze if very helpful. Stateroom - Our cabin was roomy even with 2 kids (14 & 10). The beds were very comfortable! Bathroom was basic and watch out because the hot water is HOT! Sometimes we could not mix enough cold water in. Our cabin was ALWAYS well taken care of. The towel animals prompted me and my daughter to go to the demonstration on how to fold them. Room service was prompt and tasty. Food - We ate most breakfast and lunch meals at the buffet and found it quite pleasing. We did eat one breakfast in the dining room and the Eggs Benedict was awesome! For the evening meals we ate in the dining room. We sat with the most amazing family from Virginia! We couldn't wait each night to get to see them again! We know we will see them again some time down the road! OK back to the food. The dinner meals were delicious! Everything prepared nicely. The appetizers were all great. Main dishes were hard to choose from so I ordered two and the waitress was happy to bring both (she was very kind, informative and delightful!). On lobster night my son ate two entire meals. The Chocolate Melting Cake is the ultimate dessert! It is hard to order anything else, but try them all. If you want to see how challenging it is to feed over 2,000 three meals a day take the Galley Tour. (It should be mandatory for those that discredit the food in their reviews!). This ship has a FREE sushi bar that opens around 5:30 pm each afternoon. Get there early - the line gets long quick but it's worth the wait! Entertainment - Maybe not Vegas quality but you are not paying $100 a ticket. The singers were very talented as were the dancers. The orchestra put out a big band sound with only 8-10 musicians. The shows were put together well. The magician was good and the comedian was even better. We did not attend the late version of the comedian and appreciated the Cruise Director's warning that it was not appropriate for kids. Karaoke was fun. Trivia was also. For the kids - AWESOME! The ship offers many things for kids and it looked like all the kids were enjoying them! (This cruise has a lot of kids onboard so if this is something you don't care for - find another cruise) Formal Night - We had the onboard credit so we rented tuxedos for me and my son. If you do this, do it online before you go or first thing on the ship. There inventory is small and they may run out of your size. We met the captain and went to the dining room where just like every night Wilson (our Maitre' d) welcomed us. Cozumel - This was the second cruise to Cozumel for the wife and I so we were able to plan our visit better. We went to Chankanaab National Park and snorkeled. I have heard there are better places off shore to snorkel but this was our first time and this place was perfect for us. Beautiful fish, some nice coral reef and other things to do inside the park also. The taxi was $10 and admission was $49 for the four of us. Snorkel gear and life vest were $15 each to rent. We returned to the ship for a late lunch and then in to town for shopping. We had experienced the hounding of the store workers last trip so this was short and again unpleasant. So we went back to the pier and bought our stuff then got back on the ship. Disembarkation- Very quick and easy! Do the one where you take your own luggage! Show up early as they start before the time given. In summary, we had a great time! This is a 3 star cruise ship and you cannot expect it to compare with a 5 star. For the price this is an AWESOME cruise, do not hesitate to book this cruise. I found it to be nothing like some of the negative comments in a few of the previous reviews. If I had to complain about anything it would be the constant solicitation of having your picture taken. A simple "no thank you" took care of each. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise and an experiment for us to see what it is like to travel on one of these "monster" ships. This was our tenth cruise and our third with Royal Caribbean (RCL). This was a Christmas cruise and ... Read More
1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise and an experiment for us to see what it is like to travel on one of these "monster" ships. This was our tenth cruise and our third with Royal Caribbean (RCL). This was a Christmas cruise and the ship was full: about 3,500 passengers, including over 1,000 non-US citizens, and 1,500 crew. There were loads of families with ages from infants to very senior citizens. We booked a cabin with verandah on the seventh deck. Details below. In contrast to previous cruises on RCL and others, our request for a table for two at dinner was honored; we were on the mid-level of the three-level dining room. The cruise had three sea days which were very relaxing. 2. Travel to Florida and Embarking: We made our own plane arrangements but used the RCL pre-sailing hotel in Orlando, the Doubletree at Universal, and the RCL bus to port. Cab from the airport to the hotel, including tolls, baggage charges and tip, came to $50 and took about 20 minutes. Hotel was fine, but the first glitch appeared the next morning. RCL has no representative at the hotel; you just receive a sheet of paper at check-in telling you to be in the lobby at a certain time the following morning with your bags. People gathered in the lobby and started drifting out the door toward a bus that turned out to be the right one. My wife and I noticed that everyone in line had preprinted tags on their luggage - except us. It turns out that since we received our RCL travel documents via e-mail, there was no way we could get paper tags for our suitcases. The bus driver seemed to understand the situation and segregated our luggage from the others. On arrival at the pier (a 45 minute ride), while everyone else went in the terminal to process in, we had to fumble with the porters (and an RCL rep) to tag our suitcases. It worked, though, and our bags arrived at our cabin around 5PM, the same time as other cabins around us. Having done Sea Pass check-in on-line got us through the check-in procedures very quickly. We were in our cabin by 1:30. The usual lunch was being served in the Windjammer and Jade areas. One interesting item to note if you order a drink before the ship sails: you will find tax on your bill. A small reminder that you are still in the US until the ship sails. 3. The Mariner of the Seas: What a large ship! And somehow it works! The cabin was a bit small for the two of us - should have reserved a mini-suite. However, there was enough storage space for unpacking clothes. Suitcases fit well under the bed. The closet could have been larger, but we made do. We join others who complain that the shower is very small. My wife is 5'2" and weighs under 100 lbs; she banged her elbows during her first shower. We got the hang of it. The cabin has a small safe and a small refrigerator. There is a TV that receives movies, CNN, ESPN, shipboard activities, and other channels. You get a daily planner in your cabin the night prior. You need to read it carefully as there are very few announcements on the PA system. A 4-page summary newspaper is available in the library. It takes a while - days - to get a handle on what is where on the ship. You receive a map sheet after boarding, and there are maps at each elevator bay. The elevators are quirky; often you push the button and watch the elevator go right past your floor. There is a huge childrens/teens area and programs for them. I defer to others with children to comment on this part of the ship. While the ship's staff will sell you stamps for your mail, do not look for postcards of the ship. There are none. And the ship's shops only had postcards for stops for previous cruises - none for this cruise. Do nose around the front of the ship on Deck 11, I believe, as there is an unadvertised spot that lets you see the bridge. You don't see all of the bridge, but you do see the Captain's seat and the array of electronic equipment in front of him...very similar to an airline captain's seat. There is a diagram and chart explaining what you see. 4. Meals: Food in the Windjammer and Jade buffets - which almost everyone uses for breakfast and lunch - is good. There are plenty of choices at both meals, and you can eat as much or as little as you want. It is a bit hurried, though, and not a place for a slow meal. There is no self-service coffee in this area; you have to ask for it. The dining room's food was very good, well-prepared, and well-served. We only used it for dinner, although it is available with open seating at breakfast and lunch. The main seating is at 6PM, and the meal is paced so that you are out of there before 8PM. The second seating is at 8:30. Food portions are of respectable size, and if you don't try to eat all the courses everyday, you should not do bad weight-wise. The wine list is respectable, and wine is available by the bottle or glass. I only had one meal - Christmas Day - in the dining room that bombed. The menu described the dish as "beef and veal tournedos." There was no veal on my plate, the beef was definitely not a tournedos cut, and the meat was quite leathery. Other than that one slip, no complaints about the dining room, and service there was excellent. We had made reservations on-line for the Portofino specialty restaurant. Excellent food, wine, and service. Well worth the extra charges. There are other food outlets around the ship as well as a goodly number of bars including a pub and a wine shop. You cannot go hungry or thirsty. Due to the number of passengers, the Captain's reception is now held in the Promenade. You still get your glass of champagne but no place to sit. In fact, there are very few places to sit in the public areas; if you want to rest your feet, you need to grab a table in one of the bars. 5. Dressing for meals: For this seven day trip it was two formal, one casual or Caribbean and four casual. Most people did not bother with doing anything different for "Caribbean." A good number - perhaps half - of men at formal nights were in tuxedos or suits; some who did not want to dress up just did not appear for these meals. Considering how the ladies dress up for these meals, I suggest more men who served in the military obtain miniatures of the medals they were awarded and attach them to their tuxes. It's permissible to do so, and the medals do add some color to our basic black tuxedos. 6. Shore Excursions: A word of advice: make your shore excursion reservations on-line! Otherwise you will either have to use the not-so-user-friendly on board TV system to make your reservations or stand in line on board at the excursion counter. The on-line billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you don't need the ship's tour office. RCL's tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ship's staff, you have support when there is a problem. As the Captain said, "we do not leave anyone behind, but we do leave on time." Those "standard" 4-page sheets on each stop with a map and recommended stores are hard to come by. They are not available at Guest Services, and the shopping person does not have them with her unless you attend her lecture in person. We did find, though, that the sheets are available at the gangway when you leave the ship. Coco Cay is the same as every other line's "private beach" in the Bahamas. Been there, done that. Enroute to St Thomas we were informed that as we were returning to the US (ie, the Virgin Islands), from the Bahamas, everyone on board would have to go through US immigration whether or not they would get off the ship. At the last moment it was announced that there would be no immigration to deal with. It could be that the immigration staff was stretched thin that morning; we were four cruise ships in port. St Thomas is attractive and was a pleasant stop. Had a couple rain showers while there. St Maarten deserves another visit due to a unique problem when visiting on Christmas Day. By law, all stores in both the Dutch and French sides are shut. A small shop area at the pier - inside the control point - was open as well as a couple restaurants and some street merchants in Marigot on the French side. The island is attractive, but it would be more interesting to see some people moving about. We were again four ships in port. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, lectures, bridge, bingo (for serious players!), etc, etc. Don't forget the rockclimbing wall. And do not forget the ice skating rink. There are times that you can practice skating, and you should try and get tickets (they are free, but are needed) to see the ice show. The show is not of super quality, but remember where you are: on a ship in the Caribbean. You can tell that the skaters, even with all their rehearsals, still have problems with the small size of the rink. The evening shows were fine; the performances by the ship's troupe were very good, and the two comics - one a juggler - were fun. The casino was of good size and the payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. Duty-free liquor on board was reasonable; you order your liquor and it is delivered to your cabin the day before disembarking. If you are flying, though, how do you take it home? There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have your picture taken by the ship's photographerspricey, but a good souvenir. There are various venues for night owls. 8. Tipping: Not a problem if you sign up for the recommended amounts (for cabin steward, waiter, asst waiter, and head waiter). The amounts are charged to your shipboard account; you receive vouchers and envelopes before the last night on board. Put the vouchers in the (pre-addressed) envelopes, and hand them out. You're done. You only need to tip separately (cash) the person who brings your room service breakfast. Your bar bill automatically adds 15 percent. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise, anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos, even bingo) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. You can track your account on the ship's TV channel. On Sunday morning you receive a paper final statement of your account. 10. Disembarking: Your bags have to be out before midnight, breakfast is early, and you have to be out of your cabin by 7:00 and in one of the designated waiting areas. Your bags are color coded. Disembarking starts around 7:00, and the announcements are made only in the waiting areas. Strong recommendation: Use the RCL "Luggage Valet and Onboard Check-In Service" for $20 per person. You receive special bar coded tags for your luggage. Put them on your bags, put the bags outside your cabin door, and you do not see the bags again until you land at your final airport. The catch? This is only for certain domestic airlines flying out of Orlando, you have to travel all the way on the same airline, and this is only good within the US. You also receive e-ticket boarding passes which also give you the luggage tag number. You arrive at Orlando airport and can go straight to security and on to your gate. At the gate, do check with the counter personnel if the e-ticket passes are OK. The clerk told me, "sometimes the bar codes are OK and sometimes they aren't." It only took her one minute to print off the regular boarding passes for the entire trip. We did see at our home airport that the barcoded tags we put on the bags must have been an identifying code for airline personnel at Orlando as the "regular" airline luggage tags (with the number printed on our e-tcket pass) were also attached. Again, the system worked. Downside to this system: You have to get up way early. We were the first ones off the ship at ca 7:10, zipped through immigration, got on a bus around 7:20, left the pier at 7:35, and arrived at Orlando airport at 8:20. And our flight out of Orlando was at 1:20. Thankfully, Orlando airport is pretty comfortable. 12. Conclusion: While not an outstanding cruise, it was certainly pleasant and well worth repeating. The ship's staff did provide briefings with slides and videos of the new Oasis ship that will start sailing in December 2009 (6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew). The Mariner is a good, smaller, example of what the new ship will be like. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@satx.rr.com. Fred Groth San Antonio, TX Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background: We have been on 10 other cruises, mostly in the Caribbean. We have cruised on NCL, RCCL, Princess, and Celebrity before this Carnival cruise. We have come to expect a certain tone and level of activity on board ships, with ... Read More
Background: We have been on 10 other cruises, mostly in the Caribbean. We have cruised on NCL, RCCL, Princess, and Celebrity before this Carnival cruise. We have come to expect a certain tone and level of activity on board ships, with which to compare our recent Carnival experience. We found our cruise lacking in almost every category except for shore activities, which we arranged for ourselves. Flight Info: We flew from Bellingham, WA, to San Diego on Allegiant Airlines. That turned out to be a lucky break for us, as the day we left (12-21-08) Sea-Tac was snowed in and many flights were cancelled. We spoke to many people on the ship who said that friends and family members missed the cruise because they couldn't get out. One man said he flew his wife to meet the ship in Acapulco to the tune of over $1000 US. Bellingham is about 80 miles north of Seattle, and we had a few empty seats on our flight down. Something to keep in mind if the weather outside is frightful in the northwest. On the return, San Diego was fogged in and our outbound flight was cancelled due to weather. We left the next morning after staying at the Sheraton at our expense. Hotel Info: We stayed in SD on the cheap, at the Dolphin Inn (http://www.dolphin-motel.com/bry/dolphin/home.html), across from the San Diego sports fishing dock where the charter boats moor. Our bare-bones, small room was $66 a night, which included a continental breakfast. The place was really cute and the staff was very helpful. When we had difficulty finding a van-sized cab to take us four miles to the ship, the owner and his son loaded our luggage and us onto their private cars and drove us there. They wouldn't accept a tip for the service. We will always be grateful and will stay there again. By staying there, we were also treated to the sight of a returning sports fishing charter boat that returned from Mexican waters with about 200 yellow fin tuna and wahoo, including 61 tuna over 200 pounds each. That was something to see! Embarkation: Excellent. It was POURING rain in San Diego (This coming from people who live north of Seattle), and we were drenched when we arrived to embark. The process was extremely smooth. Staff provided us with extra bag tags, as the rain had soaked through ours and they were falling off. We dried off on a big tour boat next to the ship, and were ushered quickly through the arrival process and onto the ship. Surprisingly smooth. Ship Info: The Spirit seemed like an older ship, though it was launched in 2001. It had everything our other cruises had, except for much spirit, oddly enough. I guess we would have to say it was adequate, which was a bit of a disappointment. We like a good bar at night for instance, so were disappointed to learn that the funnest bars were the crew bar, which we couldn't get to, and the Karaoke bar. The stewards, waiters, and other staff were very nice, but there was no cohesive spirit of fun. We had been expecting a "fun ship," and couldn't find fun on board. Celebrity has martini bars with flair; most ships have live bands that play on the pool deck, creating a lively atmosphere; Celebrity usually has quartets that play around the ship. Carnival Spirit had a couple older guys perched on stands above a bar in the center of the lobby and above the casino bar, playing electric guitars and singing solo. Strange, and seemingly cheap. Stateroom: We had a standard inside cabin which was fine. Our steward Lito did a great job, with towel animals every night and excellent service. The only weird thing about the cabin was that you had to swipe a personal card through a reader on the safe to open and close it. While this was safer than using a room card, it wasn't as safe as a combination keypad, as you needed to keep another card out of the safe to get into the safe. If people used a credit card, they couldn't leave it in the safe, where it would be safe. Dining: Great staff, adequate food. This was the first cruise we have been on where most nights I didn't find an item on the menu that I really wanted for dinner. One time pasta was cold, one time a flat iron steak was rubbery, and most times the food was good but not great. Breakfast in the dining room was a tad lacking. They had a butter substitute on the tables, for instance, rather than butter. Out of the four days we breakfasted in the dining room, they only presented the pastry basket once. At dinner, no bread basket on the table; they would come by at the beginning and serve a roll or two. And no breadsticks, which we loved on Celebrity. These are picky little things and we probably sound like snobs, but it was the little things that differentiated this cruise from all the others. Excellent Warm Melting Chocolate Cake and Bitter and Blanc. The highlight of dining was the Supper Club, where the service was fantastic, only surpassed by the high cuisine. The Lobster Bisque was one of the finest tastes I've every experienced. Ashlie Dias, the Executive Chef, was a master, and a really nice guy. Activities: If you love trivia, you'll love this cruise. Our itinerary included four days at sea, and we checked every day for the activities. Mostly it was trivia, it seemed. There was a waterslide on board, which was open only two days out of seven. We found it open on Christmas, and had a blast going down it over and over as we pulled into Acapulco. It was open on the second sea day also. Lots of fun if you lay down in a luge position. If you see the slide open, take advantage of it as it might not be open again. There were no educational activities on board. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
To start, we missed our embarkation in Miami due to the unusual weather we had in Vegas. We met up with the ship in Cartegena, Colombia, the second port of call, after we decided to take a diversion trip to Epcot while the ship sailed ... Read More
To start, we missed our embarkation in Miami due to the unusual weather we had in Vegas. We met up with the ship in Cartegena, Colombia, the second port of call, after we decided to take a diversion trip to Epcot while the ship sailed towards Cartegena. We were told we could not board the ship in Labadee, Haiti, the first port of call, since it was a privately RCI owned island. I wonder why not? In the future, we will plan our cruises away from the Holidays. We were told that this cruise had up to 800+ children which was a minor annoyance since we are a pair of DINKS and travelled with another couple that left their children at home. The kids, including teenagers, were running rampant (in packs) at times. The most annoying part was that every night, they clogged the entire staircase on the 12th deck leading up to the disco/bars on the 13th deck (we had to use this route because the SeaView Cafe is located on deck 12 which we frequented). RCI ship security is way too nice in comparison to our hotel security here in Vegas. To be fair, there were some well behaved kids. This is our first RCI cruise. We have cruised on Carnival once and Princess five times. So, I can only compare RCI vs. our experience with Princess. SHIP: -Very nicely laid out. -Central elevator very elegant. Can see both inside and outside of the ship. -Rock climbing wall and miniature golf course were highlights. -Higher quality gym equipment in comparison with Princess. -Library is too small IMO and poorly located in the centrum where it is noisy. -Computer center is too small IMO and poorly located in the centrum. CABIN (#2005): -Inside cabin. Very nicely appointed and laid out. Nicer than Princess. -Sizeable in comparison with Princess. Small love seat and coffee table. -Nice shower with glass/plastic enclosure. -Overall, IMO, nicer than Princess. -Cabin 2005 is noisy since crew quarters are behind it. Several times, the crew was playing loud music with a heavy bass beat from 11 pm and on. Had to call security a few nights to have the music turned down. DINING: -Dining room food on par with Princess. The NY strip from Princess was tastier and available every night (not sure about RCI since we only dined in the dining room three times and out of the three, it was only offered once. -Buffet offered quality food on par or even better than Princess. Too bad buffet not open 24 hours like Princess (we like to hang out with friends late night and chat). This alone is a major CON for us. -We still favor "Anytime Dining" that Princess offers. -Service charge for late night usage (gratis on Princess). -Coffee was bad. But same on Princess! -Free lemonade! -Soft serve ice cream in the buffet. -Limited late night food. Sea View Cafe (salads, sandwiches, soups) only opens till 11 pm and Solarium Cafe (pizza & hot dogs) only till 1 pm. ENTERTAINMENT: -Production shows on par with our experience with Princess. -Disco. DJ did not seem to play a variety of music to inspire various taste to dance. Though he did take requests. Not much happening here. At one point, he was clapping to his own music without anyone on the dance floor. I guess since this is a Holiday cruise, most families stayed together? -Ping pong paddles are plastic molded units that have a textured plastic hitting surface (no rubber surface). Lack of ping pong balls available. -Separate movie theater (nice) but not recent first run movies like Princess. CONCLUSION: We still favor "Anytime Dining" that Princess offers when we feel like being served and liked the convenience of the 24 hour buffet as well. It is too bad that RCI does not offer this. The cabin is nicely appointed vs. Princess. Everytime we travel with Princess, the cabin steward makes it a point to remember our names. Our steward on the Jewel did not once address us by name. Perhaps I am being a little picky here. We still favor Princess for all future cruises. The one exception is that we may want to cruise on RCI's Oasis of The Seas due to it's sheer size and novelty. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
BACKGROUND: Total of 9 cruises (four this year alone) and 5th with RCI but this is our first holiday cruise. Travel To Cape Liberty: We left on a slushy/snowy day and opted to use a car service for the 60 mile trip to the port. The ride to ... Read More
BACKGROUND: Total of 9 cruises (four this year alone) and 5th with RCI but this is our first holiday cruise. Travel To Cape Liberty: We left on a slushy/snowy day and opted to use a car service for the 60 mile trip to the port. The ride to the port was smooth and uneventful and we arrived at the entrance to the port at 12:20 PM. However, there was only one lane of traffic to the terminal and it was another 65 minutes before we left the car with our luggage. EMBARKATION: Lots of people checking in at the same time. Security and the RCI check-in process was a slow process - over 2 hours. Muster drill was already in progress when we boarded the ship. STATEROOM: D2 balcony. Very clean. We are heavy packers (5 suitcases + 2 carry-ons) and still managed to stow all our clothing and in the closet and drawers. Four empty suitcases fit nicely under the beds. The bathroom was small but functional. The sliding shower doors are so much better than the curtain! SHIP INFO: The ship seemed too large on the first day but we became comfortable very quickly. There was a big tree in the promenade and pointsettias and wreaths in some areas, but definitely not as many holiday decorations as I expected to see based on the rhapsodic descriptions of holiday cruises on the this site. Automatic hand-sanitizer dispensers were available at the entrance to all the dining venues and at the gangway and staff was present to ensure it was used. This should be a standard feature on all ships (absent on Enchantment in October and Brilliance in November) as there are still an amazing number of women who fail to use wash their hands after using the restrooms (I'm sure the same applies to men). We missed the retractable glass roof in the solarium (available on Brilliance). DINING: There were many choices at all meals. Taste was good or very good, not 5-star, but certainly nothing to complain about. We had breakfast in the dining room only twice (Day 2 and Day 11) and went to the Windjammer the days because we like to get the day started off quickly. The waitstaff in the Windjammer will bring your preferred beverages to your table. We had lunch in the dining room only once - it was excellent and the salad bar was superb. Had a late lunch one day in Johnny Rockets while ship was in port -great fun and the food was wonderful, although we had no room for dessert. Otherwise, lunch was only fruit or a small sandwich from Cafe Promenade. We opted for late seating and had all our dinners in the dining room except for the evening when we were seated at the Captain's Table. ACTIVITIES : Dave Chapman is an incredible cruise director with a great sense of humor. His "Morning Show" routines were very funny and not to be missed. The Love & Marriage Show is always great, especially the couples who have been married for the longest period of time. Despite our middle-age status, we had fun trying to rock-climb and ice-skate. We are not pool people or sun worshippers, so I don't have any first-hand knowledge of "chair hogs", but based on other behavior patterns, I'm sure there was no shortage of this species on board. The Screening Room (movies) was very small for such a large ship . It would be more appropriate to run the movies continuously instead of just 2 or 3 times a day, particularly on sea days. The library does not have a great selection of books (Princess is much better) and again, it seemed to be too small for the number of passengers on board. SERVICE: The crew was incredible - always smiling and doing everything possible to ensure all passengers have an unforgettable cruise. We received stellar service from our cabin steward (Cesar) and dining room waitstaff (Premikumar and Venis). Dean and Oana in Windjammer always remembered we preferred green tea. Luz in Guest Relations, Dwayne from the Bar Staff, and Runi (Loyalty Ambassador) were also outstanding. The entire crew was extremely friendly and upbeat, although they were surely missing their families at this time of the year. ENTERTAINMENT: We attended many (but not all) of the evening shows in the Palace Theatre and enjoyed the ones we did see, including The Happenings, Antonio Salci, Beatlemaniacs and two RCI productions - Fast Forward and Vibeology. The ice shows are not to be missed. We avoided all those bars/lounges where smoking was permitted (Maharajas Lounge, The Chamber, Dizzy's Jazz Lounge) unless completely unavoidable (e.g. Catholic Mass was held in Maharajas despite multiple requests for a change of venue). RCI should reconsider their smoking policy and make all public lounge areas non-smoking just as Princess did. Smoke permeates even to non-smoking areas - e.g. the Schooner Bar (directly adjacent to the Casino) and mid-Royal Promenade area near the staircase to the Casino. Latin Rumba was usually in the non-smoking Aquarium Bar and they were very good. Passengers: There were 3502 passengers and over 1200 crew members. I don't have the exact breakdown, but passengers from the US were in the minority on this cruise - many Europeans, primarily from the UK. Lots of kids and teenagers but only a few disruptive groups (always the same kids). There were also many rude, thoughtless passengers suffering from entitlement mentality. Grand Prize to the man who instructed his children to block entrance to the elevator "to make it look like it's full so no one else can get on. " Second Price goes to the man in the second row of the icerink who made a fuss because an elderly couple was holding a front row seat for someone who went to the restroom, jumped over the the seatback to stake his claim (needless to say, there were many other seats available); and then several days held three front row seats for over 20 minutes until his wife and daughters came barreling into the ice rink, shoving people out of their way. Third Prize to all those who left their open strollers (including strollers) in the hallways at all times, blocking doorsHonorable mentions to the many people who left plates of half-eaten food on the floor at the elevator banks, insistently pushed the "door close" buttons while others are trying to board and held the elevator doors so that they could discuss the day's plans with their friends. PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS: After an exhausting 12-night Mediterranean cruise on the Brilliance in December, we decided to take it easy on this sailing and just relax. Labadee, Haiti: Sunny, 82°F . Went ashore for only a couple of hours as we are not into sunbathing or watersports. San Juan, PR: Sporadic showers, occasional downpours, 82°F. Christmas Day, thus no ship excursions (cruiseline-recommended shops were open). This was not a problem for us as we visited our family but there was a lot of grumbling from passengers as originally, this was to be a sea day. Philipsburg, St Maarten: Sunny, 82°F. Took a water taxi from the pier to the town pier - good shops, great food (coconut shrimp, conch fritters, jerk ribs, fresh hand-made chocolates) . Took ship excursion "Natural Wonders" - the description is more exciting than the tour itself. Basically a visit to a small zoo and bus tour. Roseau, Dominica: Sunny, 83°F. Not much to see near the port. Took a quick walk to the Anglican cathedral and then back to the ship. Bridgetown, Barbados; Sunny, 86°F. It's Sunday and we were informed that apart from shops in the terminal, everything is closed in town. Happily shopped for T-shirts for the family. Antigua: Rainy, with several downpours, 82°F. Booked the "Rainforest Canopy"excursion because the last sentence in the description was "this is for the faint-hearted." That was a typo - the word "NOT" was omitted. Only one of us enjoyed the ziplining! Disembarkation : Quick and smooth with luggage in hand and through Customs/Immigration by 9:35 AM. SUMMARY: Great cruise despite the behavior of some passengers. Explorer is a beautiful ship and is in good condition. Not having to fly during the holiday season (or worry about luggage weight limits) is a big plus, well worth a couple of rocky days at sea. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My fiancee and I went on our very first cruise on 12/29/2008 en route to Catalina and Ensenada. We've never been to either of the cities. A bit of background: We're from the Bay Area, in our mid-20s and both working ... Read More
My fiancee and I went on our very first cruise on 12/29/2008 en route to Catalina and Ensenada. We've never been to either of the cities. A bit of background: We're from the Bay Area, in our mid-20s and both working professionals. We cruised out of Long Beach on Monday, would return on Friday. We wanted to do something fun and different for New Year's, so we figured we'd go on a cruise. My family lives in Southern California, so we decided to cruise after visiting them for the holidays. Embarkation: Handed off our two big pieces of luggage to the porters, handed him $4 for his trouble. Carried on meds (I have type-I diabetes) and electronics. The embarkation was not as smooth as it could have been, but this was not a personnel issue; it was a passenger issue, with several people bottlenecking by acting as if they have never been through security checkpoints. Lots of people taking a generous amount of time putting their items through the metal detector. Lots of kids in line as well. Initially, we both thought there would be lots of young adults our age on the cruise, but this was not the case. There were lots of families and a 40+ crowd. Guards won't even let you bring bottled water into the lines. They were chewing out people on cell phones as well. A little bit antsy for my liking. I had done the FunPass option online, so checking in was easy once past the security checkpoint. However, our dinner time was changed to 8:15 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. as was requested and confirmed (better for my diabetes), and the registration clerk told me to check in with the maitre'd on the ship. I didn't really like having to seek out another person on a place I've never been on it would have been much more convenient to have the clerk punch my request in the computer and the maitre'd could accommodate the request that way. However, I didn't complain one bit and we got ready to get on the ship. After waiting in a few more lines, and taking really bad forced pictures, we got on the ship. After walking around a bit, I found the maitre'd area and he said we would know later if he could change the meal time. So now I had gone through two Carnival employees to change a meal time that was switched unknowingly to me and still did not have an answer. I didn't play my diabetes card, but I was close to doing so. A few hours later, a card was put in my room letting me know that I would be able to eat at the time I requested. Thanks guys. The ship itself is a bit confusing walking around. I think it took us around 3 days to get the lay of the land. Some floors stop mid-ship and you have to go up a set of stairs in the room area to reach the next level; was very confusing. The rooms: So the whole ship feels like a 1970s Vegas hotel, and the rooms do as well. The bed is quite comfortable felt like a king size. Pillows were good as well. However, the rocking off the boat felt in our room (on the Riviera (bottom floor) toward the rear) was unbearable at times. I would highly recommend to anyone to stay midship if possible and away from the lower floors. In speaking with my travel agent, he said I would not really feel the rocking on the lower floor, but he was false in his assessment. There is a safe in the room, but mine was buggy. It worked initially, but then locked me out. Had to get Carnival personnel to fix it, which they promptly took care of decided to not use safe after that. As others have said before, there is only one electrical outlet, so bring one of those one-to-three outlet plug-ins; don't bring a surge protector as that is too bulky to pack and you won't need it. Also, bring a battery-powered alarm clock, as there is no clock in the room. There is no fridge in the room, but they do put soda and water on the table (water was $4 for a liter size, soda was $2/can) The ports: Catalina was very nice. We were recommended to rent a golf cart and ride around town by several past cruisers. Carnival doesn't offer this excursion, but it's simple enough to rent one. There are two places that rent the carts for $40/hour with a $40 deposit. The cart renters may try to push a buy two hours ($80), get one hour free, but you don't need this. One hour is plenty to drive around and see most of the scenery. Only do the two hours if you want to stop at Wrigley, etc. and visit. Otherwise, just get the hour. Trying to walk all of Catalina (with the hills, etc.) would be lengthy rent the cart. Ensenada is fine despite what I had heard. I felt more unsafe in places like downtown Berkeley, San Jose and San Francisco. If you go to the shopping area, there are lots of taxis/shuttles that will take you for $2 per person each way. The distance from the ship to the shopping area is 2 miles, so the shuttle/taxi is worth it. There are lots of people who will try and sell you stuff, but they are not pushy. Just say, "No gracias" and they will be on there way. Unlike many parts of the states, these people are trying to earn your money, rather than look for handouts. We went on a winery tour, which took us to two wineries in the countryside about 40 miles away from the ship. Cost was $40/person. We left around 11:30 a.m. and got back about 3:30 p.m. (You don't get lunch, but there is bread at the wineries, I recommend eating a brunch beforehand so you do not starve.) The bus was in good condition with a bathroom on board. The tour guide was very friendly and spoke good English. She gave a history of some of the parts of Ensenada, so not only did we get to try wine, we were getting a tour of the town and countryside as well. Food on the ship: Good food, but as not as great as many people claim. Dinner rotates every night, and you can of course order food not on the menu if something does not tickle your fancy. We had a good table of people (8 people per table) and had some good cordial conversation every night. People watching at the buffet may make your hurl. Many purge themselves with plates of fries, ice cream and dip every food item in either syrup or butter and top with bacon. People eat pile 1,900 calories on the plates at 3:30 p.m. and will go eat another one at 6 p.m. And then be back at 9 p.m. for more "snacks" and then come at 11:30 p.m. for two slices of pizza. Absolutely disgusting. Entertainment: Pretty good live music by a couple of different acts: one cover band, one acoustic guitar playing guy, a pianist and one swing band. There is a main show offered every night and it is put on twice a night. Usually it's a song and dance production, but one night they had comedy and a magician. The comedians do a PG routine, and then will offer R-rated shows later that night or the next nights. Our comedians weren't very funny trying really hard to get laughs, but hey, they are cruise ship comedians. The singers were pretty good, but there were only 3 singers; the rest of the cast was forbidden from singing and only lip-synced and danced. That was weird. Basically every passenger wants to go to these shows, so if you don't come at least 15 minutes early, your seat will suck. Also, there are columns in several places that can block your view. Sign-and sail cards: A very convenient feature so you don't have to carry cash. Doubles as your room key and on-board credit card. Tips are included in prices of alcohol and soda. Beer is $5 for a 16 oz bottle. Soda is $2 can. (Tip is 15 percent, excluded in my figures) Annoyances: Biggest one were the drink servers in the lounge areas. You will get no fewer than three of these people coming to you every 7 minutes asking if you want a drink. Will prepare you well for Ensenada. Disembarkation: Do the self-assist one and you will be off the ship within 20 minutes after you are called. If you do the other traditional disembarkation, you have to leave your bags out the night before, and must wait until after all self-assist passengers are off. You can also get off when they call the first floor, despite what floor you may be on. (Carnival has no way of telling the difference of what floor you are on.) Homeland Security took our declaration forms but did not check baggage; was very prompt. Overall, a good time despite some of my nits. Would like to see more of Mexico in the future, so a 7-day may be on the horizon. Would want to do this in better sunnier weather so we could spend more time on the deck and pool area. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was our sixth cruise, the second on the Grand Princess. We chose it primarily because of the interesting Caribbean itinerary, and for the fact that we got to spend both Christmas and New Year on the ship. It was 14 days, visiting 9 ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise, the second on the Grand Princess. We chose it primarily because of the interesting Caribbean itinerary, and for the fact that we got to spend both Christmas and New Year on the ship. It was 14 days, visiting 9 ports. This is not a review on our flights or on the islands we visited, this is about the ship itself. It is long, but full of information. We are not big complainers, and we tend to believe that many cruisers are too picky or expect too much. On this category of ship, you cannot expect 5 star dining. At best, 3+ is our overall rating for Princess, RCCL and Celebrity. But, I do not have to cook or clean, and service is generally good. We are very fortunate to be able to enjoy a cruise, so we always try to look at the positive side of things. This time, it's a little different... It all started when we arrived at the cruise terminal. Since we flew in the day before the cruise, we arrived at the terminal at around 11:00am. Thank God! We were able to get a seat inside the terminal and have a ticket that should have allowed us to board at around 12:30-1:00pm. We had to wait until 3:00pm to board, apparently there was a coast guard inspection going on, but wasn't this ship on dock for one complete week prior to this cruise? There were about 1500 passengers waiting outside the terminal building, in the sun, for a few hours due to this supposed inspection. Having sailed on the Grand about 6-7 years ago, we knew that this ship is the best looking one on the outside, but the inside is definitely not spectacular. Having read all the reviews and knowing that this ship is now 10 years old, we were expecting to see signs of wear. Well, the Grand is definitely showing its age. Although it is kept clean, chairs, sofas, balconies, carpets and various areas would surely need refurbishment or replacement. The cushions on the chairs in all bars and lounges are so soft, I almost fell on the floor the first time I tried to sit on one in the Explorer's Lounge. Our cabin was on Caribe deck 10 portside, so we had a larger balcony (10'x10') which was nice. They install rubber tiles on the balconies, but ours was missing all the surrounding tiles so we had a nice view of a rusted balcony. The chairs had probably not been cleaned for months, so we did it ourselves. I do not particularly enjoy resting my arms on sticky chairs. Our cabin attendant was the worst we had on all 6 cruises. All he could do was change the towels, make the bed and vacuum. After 5 days of constantly asking for ice, my husband had the good idea to give him $10., and from then, we always had ice. Let me tell you this is the only extra tip he received, and on all previous cruises, we "extra tipped" very well the cabin attendants. Since this was a two-week cruise, I was curious to find out when the bed sheets would be changed, so we made a small mark on the sheets and pillows. After 9 days, they still had not been changed, so we went to the Purser's desk to find out if they expected to change them? We were told it should have been done on the 7th day, so the gentleman at the counter called room service and just said "Can you please have the sheets changed, thank you." not even mentioning that it had not been done. 24 hours later, nothing was changed. We went back to the desk, but this time I was not polite and requested that this matter be escalated to the Manager. An hour later, our bedding was changed. I do not expect to have my bed sheets changed every day, but once a week is not excessive... The power went off one evening in the cabins located on our floor, our shower head fell off the wall, and a whole bunch of cabins had no air conditioning for one day. The worst event was that the bow thrusters did not function for half of the cruise. This meant that they had to rely on tug boats to push the ship on the docks. However, in St-Vincent and Antigua no tug boats were available so we had to anchor and we were taken ashore by the tender boats. Then, we were not able to sail away from St-Thomas in the evening, apparently the tug boat had a mechanical problem! Therefore, we stayed overnight in St-Thomas, and don't believe they let us go ashore for the evening, it would have been too much trouble... The next morning, the tug boat was miraculously repaired, so we were able to sail away. Of course, since we were late on our itinerary, we could not go to La Romana, so we had an extra sea day instead. To compensate for the inconveniences, Princess offered compensation in the form of dollars on our shipboard account. This was granted to all passengers two days prior the end of the cruise, and was not refundable. We were quite happy about it, we had spent a little more than expected so this cleared our account. The food was good overall in the dining rooms, in our opinion Princess does better than RCCL. We chose Anytime dining, which meant that we had to wait at least 30 minutes every night to get a table. If you are willing to share a table, and have dinner at 6:00pm, you will not wait. But we wanted tables for two, and had dinner around 8:00-8:30. So depending on what you want, you will have a seat or a pager. You can make reservations on the DINE line, but you have to call at 8:00am sharp every morning. And of course, we always forgot and by 8:20 they are out of "reservable" tables. We are not complaining, we do prefer the little wait for a private table. The quality of the service varies from one table to another, but is basically efficient. As far as the Painted Desert is concerned, in our opinion it was not worth the extra $40. I ordered filet mignon, medium rare, and it was served well done. I returned it, asking again for a medium rare, and this time got it fully rare, barely a little grilled on the top, and it had a big strong white nerve in the middle. When your only job consists of cooking steaks, how come you do not know the difference between rare and well done? But we had ordered a good bottle of wine, and Elena our waiter was the best. So we had a good time, but would not pay for this again. Sabatini's is good, but if you do not want to be stuffed with food, tell the waiter you are not in a rush. Otherwise you will eat in an hour, the equivalent in calories of two dinners in the regular dining room! As far as the islands are concerned, we mainly made our own arrangements. I will not bore you with all details, but will recommend the following tours: Aruba: ABC Tours (www.abc-aruba.com), we did the 3.5 hours Safari Jeep tour which brought us to see the most magnificent views we have seen in the Caribbean. Warning: This tour is extremely BUMPY!!! The Jeep takes you completely off-road, and I mean off-road! Not adviseable for everyone, but soooo beautiful! We booked online without any problem. St-Vincent: Hazeco Tours (www.hazecotours.com), we did the Darkview Falls tours. It is one full day, they pick you up at 9:00am at the pier and take you back at 4:00pm. Our guide was the sweetest person, and gave us lots of information on the island. Only warning: the lunch is not good, but the tour is well worth it! Do not try to book online, you have to call them directly. Antigua: We had booked with Princess for the "five-star catamaran tour with lunch". Hi Hi Hi, the guy NEVER showed up at the pier and they could not locate him!!! So they offered us a different catamaran tour which is "Circle Antigua" offered by Excellence Tours, and it was the BEST tour we could have. You go around the island on a motorised catamaran (do not expect sails), they take you to a small island for a good lunch and snorkeling, and take you back to the pier at around 4:00. Warning: when they get to sail on the Atlantic Ocean, it gets really bumpy, but this lasts only about 20 minutes. Just be advised in case you tend to get seasick, but it really lasts about 20 minutes so it's not too bad. Overall this was a great cruise, as far as itinerary and celebrations are concerned. We very much enjoyed the fact that we celebrated Christmas and New Year on a cruise ship. The food was good, the overall service was medium (not bad, but the worst on our 6 cruises), the shows were sooo amateur (the crew talent show was the best one!), the ship definitely needs to be refurbished. Would we sail again with Princess, yes. Would we recommend the Grand? Well, if you like the itinerary and price, then yes. But be aware it is worn out, and technical problems could arise. Would we sail again on such an old ship? Well again, if the itinerary was interesting and the price was good, we would consider it, but our next cruise will certainly be on a newer ship where we can get more dining options and cleaner spaces. Happy and healthy New Year to all cruisers! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

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