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We arrived at the port of Civitavecchia on Nov 15th for a cruise starting on Nov 18th. What a wonderful little port town to stay in and to visit the market and walk around with the locals. We stayed at the Hotel Bramante and beautiful ... Read More
We arrived at the port of Civitavecchia on Nov 15th for a cruise starting on Nov 18th. What a wonderful little port town to stay in and to visit the market and walk around with the locals. We stayed at the Hotel Bramante and beautiful small 14 room hotel that treated us like we were part of their family. When we embarked we were amazed at how many people had booked the entire 33 day cruise. It was a memorable cruise with ports of historical value that will be ever present in our minds. To see the buildings and ruins of the past thousands of years and be comforted by the return to the safety of our ship. Some of the places that we visited were pretty disgusting in Egypt. Thank goodness we saw the pyramids and the sphinx, as we will never return to Egypt. We could not believe that they were pushing their garbage into the "blue" Nile river. The Grand Princess could use a little face lift but they were working hard on redoing floors and public areas while we were in various ports. Never having been at sea during the Thanksgiving Holiday (American) nor the preparatory Christmas season we were both surprised and wonder-struck by what the ship staff accomplished in the over night periods. This total cruise was above and beyond our expectations in every way possible from the ports of call to the staff and the festival spirit of the ship. Would we do it again without Egypt - yes in a heart beat. PS B748 beautiful colors and an awesome balcony. There really are no negatives about this cabin. Back of the ship great evening views and leaving ports. Super for taking pictures. Slept like a log for 33 nights:) Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
(This is a long report!) October 2009. This cruise was booked back in April 2008. Tony (an airline pilot) was able to bid and get November for his vacation dates. However, this spring, there were lots of complications with his company ... Read More
(This is a long report!) October 2009. This cruise was booked back in April 2008. Tony (an airline pilot) was able to bid and get November for his vacation dates. However, this spring, there were lots of complications with his company and his annual leave. I won't go into the details, but will say that after careful consideration, Tony requested a leave of absence. We waited anxiously for two weeks to hear from the company. Tony checked his work schedule for November and saw that he did indeed get approval. I was so excited about this but also (like Tony) upset that he would take a hit on his paycheck in November. However, we decided it would be worth the loss of monies because we had not taken a real vacation together since October 2006 (our Celebrity Zenith Bermuda cruise). Also, Tony has never cruised in the Mediterranean, or a transatlantic cruise. Many of our cruise friends were happy to hear that Tony was able to go. I met many fellow cruisers on our Cruise Critic (CC) roll call board. In addition, about two dozen friends from previous cruises were also going on this cruise with us. It was nice to have a good mixture of friends, old and new, on board with us. I also met fellow cruisers at a few pre-cruise get together luncheons, both at my house and in Atlantic City. 1 November 2009, Sunday: After 1.5 years, our trip and cruise was finally here! Tony drove me to Dulles International where I met up with my friends Carolyn and Mark, Barb, Carol, Glenn and Sharon, and Glenn and Carol. This group of friends would be our table mates on the cruise. Also at the airport were new friends Doug and Lynn, Susan and Caryn, Mary and Terry. Tony had to work, so he dropped me off early before heading to National airport. Tony would arrive on the 4th. We all met at Gordon Beirch for drinks before the flight. We flew on United #966 and had a good flight. The food was lousy - Air France (one of my favorite airlines) has better food. Wine cost $6, but I got one complimentary after flashing my employee/spouse airline card. 2 November, Monday: It was a beautiful morning in Italy, although it didn't last too long. We landed 20 minutes early, got our luggage, and met up with our driver just outside of the customs area. Eight of us were staying at Hotel Giardino (Glenn and Carol at Hotel Golden). Prior to leaving the airport, all of us tried to get euros from the ATM machine, but we had no luck. Fortunately Carolyn and I had euros on hand to pay the driver. We managed to get our entire luggage into the van (tight squeeze) and 45 minutes later we arrived at our hotel. All of the guys carried our luggage up two flights of stairs to the lobby. My room was ready, as well as Carolyn and Marks, so we let the rest of the group store their luggage in our rooms until theirs was ready. My room, #26, was very nice. It had twin beds and a small balcony facing the street. Thick glass windows kept the majority of the street noise at bay, especially at night. There was more bathroom space than my room, #32, in 2007. A hair dryer is provided in the bathroom, which I had to hold the button to use. Giovanni and Davide were on hand each day and helped with my dinner reservations. Katie was on holiday and I was sorry I missed seeing her this time. We all headed out, got money from an ATM machine, and I went my own way for the afternoon to Trastevere via the Ghetto quarter. The day turned cloudy with a little rain now and then. It was great to be in Rome again. It's such a vibrant city! This day I wanted to explore the area of Trastevere. I took photos along the way and walked along the smaller streets of the area. I watched an older man playing with his two dogs. He used a bottle cap as a toy that one dog would chase and fetch. Clothes were hanging out windows to dry, so typical a street scene. I had lunch at Al Fontanone. I told the owner I was a repeat customer and he was happy I returned. I had a delicious pasta dish with white wine. Empty restaurant when I arrive, full by the time I left. It started to rain when I walked out the door. I headed back to the other side of the Tiber River and walked around the Campo dei Fiori and even found via di Grotta Pinta, where about 50 of us cruisers would meet for drinks on our last night in Rome. This area was the location of the Teatro di Pompeo and most of the buildings (in a curve) sit atop of the theatre. "The inner curve of the theatre is faithfully echoed by the shape of the buildings of Via Grotta di Pinta, one of the most remarkable examples of urban continuity in Rome. Parts of the theatre's walls still exist in the basements of the buildings of the area." (http://www.romanhomes.com/your_roman_vacation/quarters/giulia-argentina-vittorio.htm). Back at the hotel I met up with Mark, who, despite the heavy rain, wanted to walk around the area. I went with him and we saw a couple of interesting sights: A bank, which parts of a 145 a.d. temple to the emperor Hadrian are incorporated; and the church of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, which was designed by Borromini. It's an outstanding and unique example of Baroque architecture. It was built in 1633. We also walked by the pantheon. My shoes were completely soaked half way through our walk but I enjoyed having Mark tell me about these sights. I made dinner reservations at Gioia Mia Pisciapiano for our first evening in Rome with my group. I had dined here on two previous trips to Rome and it's one of my favorites. The restaurant was crowded, as usual, with people being turned away with no reservations. For my dinner, I started with an artichoke salad followed by Spaghetti alla carbonara, and finally flan for dessert. Everything was very good. With a few carafes of wine, the bill came to 21 euros per person. 3 November, Tuesday: I made plans to visit Ostia Antica with Glenn and Carol. After breakfast at the hotel, I met up with Glenn and Carol at the Barbarini metro, which was located between both our hotels. We took the metro to the Piramide stop. We walked to the the market in Testaccio. I always love visiting and taking photos of markets. After, we headed to Volpetti (Via Marmorata 47), a wonderful gourmet meat, cheese, and wine shop. I had three sandwiches made (with olive bread, proscuitto, and buffalo mozzarella) for our picnic lunch at Ostia. We took the metro to Ostia, which took just 23 minutes along with a 10-minute walk to the entryway of Ostia. It rained all morning long. We walked along the ruins and when the sun finally came out, we ate our sandwiches. Carol had purchased some slices of pizza that we also enjoyed. Once the sun was out, we truly enjoyed the sights at Ostia. The amphitheatre was quite impressive, as were the mosaic tiles in the Baths of Neptune. The main road in Ostia is about a mile long, but we didn't walk the entire distance. After our visit, we headed back to Rome and stopped to see the Colosseum. The area was filled with tourists and Italians dressed as gladiators. The sun was just beginning to set, so I snapped a few photos before walking back to the hotel. Glenn and Carol went to their hotel via the metro. For dinner, all of us dined at Hostaria Romana, via del Boccaccio, 1. Just like dinner the night before, I started with spaghetti carbonara (recommended on a couple of reviews) followed by Veal a la Romana, thinly sliced veal with proscuitto and mozzarella on top. We all shared four liters of white and red wine (total 22 euros per person). This was a restaurant that had a few good reviews, with one comment: Get to know the waiters, as they usually take care of the locals first. I had no problem, as our waiter flirted with me all night. It was a fun place and we all had a great time. The restaurant walls are filled with graffiti and some of us added our names, although space was limited. I even peeked behind one of the framed photos on the wall only to find every inch of space written upon. After dinner, we walked to the Trevi fountain to find many people out and about. I bought some gelato for a late night snack. Delicious! 4 November, Wednesday: Tony arrived this morning. I booked a car service for him, which was expensive for one passenger but I felt it would be the best for him. He arrived at breakfast time and got to meet some of our friends before they headed out for the day. I had computer problems - a huge virus problem - so Tony worked on it for a short while before we headed out. I had tried for two days to get my computer to work. No luck at all. It was so frustrating that I wanted to throw my computer out the window. Tony and I spent the morning together walking to Piazza Republica to visit the Roman museum and Baths of Diocletain. I was absolutely amazed at the size of the baths. In the museum, we saw interesting artifacts. Tony was tired so we went to the hotel and I went out to buy panini's next door at a grocery type store. After lunch, I went out and bought 2 bottles of wine and limoncello for us to enjoy in our cabin on the ship. I went to the one wine shop that I knew about and picked up the 1.75 liter bottles of wine. I had made arrangements to meet up with fellow cruisers for drinks at 6pm, so Tony and I headed to the bar with friend Barb. We had purchased bus tickets but when we boarded, we couldn't get our ticket validated. The bus was packed! About 35 people met at the Grotta Pinta lounge. My friend GB (editor of www.italiannotebook.com where four articles I've written have been published) had introduced me to his friend Sveva, who owns the lounge. It's set where the pompey theatre was located. Her club was 1 to 2 levels below ground and we many of the theatre's existing walls and arches were exposed. I invited GB to the event and we had a great time talking. He thought it was great that all of the cruises got together for the evening. Sveva served a lovely selection of antipasti. Drinks were 10 euros each. Tony and I enjoyed the food (and had plenty) that I asked Sveve to call the restaurant I booked and cancel our reservations. Heading out after, it poured like crazy as we walked back to the hotel. Carol had remained at the hotel due to a foot problem. We had her join us in our room for some wine and talk. 5 November, Thursday: I woke up to a beautiful and sunny morning. I was sorry we had so much rain the other days. I had time make a quick visit the market at the Campo dei Fiori. It was a brisk walk to the campo. I had some good photo ops, especially since it was sunny. I also bought a few souvenirs. I ordered a bus service to pick up 39 cruise passengers. I provided this service two years ago and it was a great way to get to the port at an inexpensive price. The last time the bus parked down the street. I discovered that that the bus wouldn't be able to park in the same area, as there was ongoing road construction. Giovanni, who worked at the hotel, called the company for me to find out if they could park right outside the hotel. Nope! They would be parking on the upper end of the street next to the Piazza Quiranale. While Tony and the rest of the group moved the luggage to the bus, I stood waiting at the original pick up point. I was able to divert 4-5 taxis to the new location. One taxi driver refused to take his passengers to the new spot stating it would take a long time to travel around, so they had to walk. Fortunately the couple had little luggage. We were on the road about 35 minutes later than planned, as three people had not shown up. We waited as long as possible. I found out later that the taxi that arrived to pick up the three women was 45 minutes late. They ended up getting to the port (not sure if it was the same taxi) at a cost of $300. About an hour later, we arrived to Civitavecchia. Everyone was excited to see the Equinox. After I tipped the driver, we sort of stood around not sure if we should leave the luggage or carry it to the entrance of the building. We decided to carry our own luggage. Once the luggage was dropped off, we headed inside, filled out a couple of forms and stood in line. Check in was easy, except Tony and I were not handed our sea pass cards and I was told we needed to go to the specialty counter. At first I thought, hmmmm, did we get upgraded? No, I was told I owed $30 for the cruise. We had received a discount to our booking (military discount) and the $30 was supposed to be credited back to our account. Apparently Celebrity didn't see this discount and therefore, it looked like we owed them $30. This was later resolved by Claudio Berry at guest relations. After the usual group photo at embarkation, we stepped inside the Equinox along with a glass of champagne. This is always a nice touch. Tony and I dropped our luggage off in our cabin, met our friend Carolyn to meet the restaurant manager to change our dining tables. We had checked our table cards and discovered our group of 10 was split into three tables. We did link our booking numbers months in advance, but there's usually a glitch for some people with the dining tables and schedules. We got on the wait list for a table for 10. Lunch at the oceanview cafe was very good. There was a nice selection of foods: Pizza and pastas, hot stations, Indian curry dishes and rice, fish, salads, breads, fruits, lots of dessert choices, etc. As I read online, the cafeteria style-trays were no longer available. I think this was much better, as it helped me to keep the food portion down on plate. Some of us walked around the ship after lunch checking the various decks, bars, pools, gym, etc. The Equinox is a beautiful ship. We have never sailed on a new ship, so it was a treat to see everything in perfect condition. The Equinox left dry docks in July 2009 with its first official sailing in August (and sea trials in between). By the time we got on board, the Equinox had about 6-7 sailings under her belt. Every space was well laid out and beautifully decorated. At the staircase, on each level, were pieces of artwork. Some I did not like at all - too contemporary for me. I met up with Alana at guest relations. I had been corresponding with her for a couple of months about setting up a luncheon for a large group of cruise critic members, as well as a couple of other events. Being an inaugural cruise, we wanted a special luncheon. We were in touch throughout the cruise and even became friends. She offered a bridge tour for us (Tony was very happy!) and even said we would be her guest one night for dinner at one of the specialty dining rooms. This was a nice surprise for us. We would meet later in the cruise to finalize the luncheon once she finalized other functions onboard. Back in our cabin, we met our room attendant, Marcello. He filled us in about our room, boat drill procedures, etc. Marcello was very nice and provided great service. Any time we need anything, he was quick to respond and always with a smile. When we requested a couple of items to be pressed, we were late in giving the items to Marcello. No problem, he said, he would take care of it. And he did. Another time I requested extra appetizers for an afternoon cocktail gathering with my tablemates and Marcello came through again. He chatted with us throughout the cruise and talked we talked about his family, his dog, and his life onboard the Equinox. We tipped extra at the end of our cruise, as he deserved it. Our cabin: We were booked in room 1259 a C2 concierge class category. I decided to 'splurge' with this C2 category. At the time of booking, there wasn't a big difference in price between a standard balcony cabin and the concierge balcony cabin. Cabin 1259 is on the Sky Deck and is located port side, towards aft and near the elevators. I liked the idea of being close to some of the important parts of the ship: Library on the same deck, the pool area two decks above (Resort); the outdoor bars and Oceanview cafe three decks above (Lido). The gym and sky lounge were located on the forward area of the ship, so we had a longer walk. Our bed was located next to bathroom. People on cruise critic talked about wanting their bed close to the balcony door, as they like to sleep with the door open to hear the ocean waves. I prefer the sitting area next to the balcony, which helps, in a way, to extend the living area onto the balcony. There wasn't a lot of counter top space for all of our things. I ended up putting my extra things in my suitcase for storage under our bed. The room could use more shelving and counter top space and also more hooks to hang things. We had a sofa that turns into a sleeper. Against the wall was a nice flat screen tv where we could view our photos that were taken while on board the ship. It also swivels so that one can watch tv while in bed. Options were: News, movies, CD's show, the web cam located at the front of the ship, and even a list of our onboard expenses. The bathroom was compact, but laid out nicely. There were lots of place to store things. The shower stall had curved glass doors to make the space larger, along with a great shower head. In our room were fresh flowers and a bottle of champagne. The concierge class perks were nice to have, especially the comfortable bedding and pillows. I slept well each night. We also enjoyed the foot rests on the balcony. Balcony: Small but we enjoyed our time sitting with drink in hand enjoying the sea view. After the life boat drill (5:15pm and no need to bring our life jackets - that was a first for us), we joined many of the cruise critic members for our sail away get together. I would say about 150 people showed up. It was great fun to finally meet people in person after chatting online for 1.5 years! Tony and I met up with friends David and Larry, and their friends Glenn and at the martini bar. It was great to see them again (third time cruising with them) and they FINALLY got to meet Tony. The martini bar was a fun place to stop by for a drink. On the counter is a 'sheet' of ice, so the glasses remain cold. In the other section of the bar was a counter top with bar stools. On the counter were bottles that were shoved in shaved ice to keep chilled. Our dinner was scheduled for 8:30pm. It was a little late for us, mostly because we never got out of the dining room until at least 10:30pm. The menu had a very good selection of foods to choose from. On the left side of the menu were the "Always Available" items. These were dishes that were always popular and I found it a nice touch on Celebrity's part to have them on the menu every night: Escargot, shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, caprese salad, Caesar salad, salmon, NY strip, and a nice selection of side dishes. Crème brulee was also available every night! On the right side of the menu was the menu for the evening. For my first dinner on board, I enjoyed the crab and avocado appetizer, creamy lobster bisque, and an excellent lamb shank. The shank was very large and I couldn't eat it all. The lobster bisque was not good at all and the ONLY item I ate on board that I didn't like (although the lobster bisque in the Murano restaurant was excellent). The quality of the food on this cruise was wonderful. Off to bed right after dinner, as it was a long day. Tony and I came back to our cabins to find two bottles in our room plus a plate of delicious chocolate covered strawberries! They were from Alana and Ken (guest relations manager). Very nice!! More about on the food on board: Buffet food: Very good. Good variety of food. No table trays, but it all worked out. Foods consisted of: Breakfast: Everything you could imagine! Smoked salmon, pickled herring, eggs any way you want, all kinds of cereals, fruits, cheese, bacon, sausage, potatoes, pastries, waffles, etc. Lunch: Indian curry dishes, various rice and couscous, chicken, beef, taco area, pizza and pasta station... Sushi: Just okay. There was a better variety on the Zenith when Tony and I went to Bermuda. However if anyone goes to the Silk Harvest restaurant, definitely order the sushi. It was great. Ice cream bar: Good selection every day, including sorbets and low fat ice cream. The mango sorbet was my favorite. My friend Carol loved the coconut sorbet. Grill: Burgers (tasty but I've had better burgers), hot dogs, chili, fries, onion rings, along with a variety of sides and pasta salads. Pizza and Pasta station: I didn't have any of the pasta, but did try pizza one time. There was always a variety to choose from and very good. 6 November, Friday - Marseille Our first port day was in Marseille. During my research, I found many people saying, "Get out of town and head to Provence." I was in Provence only a few months ago and wanted to see the sights of Marseille. We headed to town with friends Glenn and Carol via the cruise shuttle bus ($15pp). The shuttle bus drops people off next to the old port where many yachts and sail boats are docked. After stopping at the tourist office (I left map and notes in the cabin) we took the local bus (#60) to the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica, located at one of the highest point in Marseille. The interior was beautiful, especially the ceilings with the gold mosaics. Along the walls were various paintings of ships and planes, as well as model ships hanging from the ceiling. Outside the views are fabulous! You can see the Chateau d'If off the coast, and all of Marseille. Back down again (save your bus ticket, as it's good for 1.5 hours - you'll have enough time to take the bus to the Basilica, visit, and return to the port), the guys went to the maritime museum, while Carol and I window shopped. I wanted to buy some soaps and pick up some jarred patEs. The museum was apparently small, as we met up with Glenn and Tony within 20 minutes. The area east of the tourist office is a lively French-African quarter. Many shops carried various cooking spices, tagine baking dishes, colorful materials for dresses, etc. The many small restaurants that we passed by smelled wonderful! I saw many gypsies walking the streets in their colorful outfits. We wandered through a market area, which was filled with exotic fruits and vegetables. We continued to the old quarter of Marseille just wandering the various streets. One corner had a sign, which was a memorial for the Jews that had been deported during WWII. We even saw a building, one of the few that survived the bombings in 1943, which was "a curious mix of gothic and renaissance styles built in 1535 for a sheet merchant...during the reconstruction work after the war, it was moved as a single piece on jacks and rotated by 90 degrees, to perfectly match with the new street layout." Back at the port area, Tony and I caught the shuttle bus back, while Glenn and Carol did more shopping. On board, we had a light snack of sushi at the oceanview cafe and then some wine in the cabin. Dinner: Antipasti sampler from the Tuscan Grill restaurant, sea bass with asparagus in a light cream sauce, and some decadent chocolate dessert. 7 November, Saturday - Barcelona Tony and I did a day trip via rental car with friends Bruce and Gail. I had met them two years earlier on my Galaxy Mediterranean/Black Sea cruise. Bruce and I had organized two tours to Yalta and Odessa. The four of us were the first off the ship. We grabbed a taxi (got ripped off, as the driver told us there was a 20 euro minimum. We asked a guard back at the port about this minimum and we were told there was no minimum) and went to the downtown Avis rental agency. Our first stop of the day was to Poblet, an hour away from Barcelona. It's located among vineyards and the fall colors were hitting their peak. The grapes had already been picked. Poblet is a monastery and is one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in the world. It dates from the 12th century. In order to visit the monastery, you need to book the guided tour. Of course it was in Spanish, so we were given English brochures. We visited various parts of the monastery, including the beautiful courtyard. It rained briefly as we left and headed to Tarragona, a beautiful seafront town. The town has many Roman ruins, including an amphitheatre and aqueduct. The four of us enjoyed lunch while sitting at Plaza Fuente. The buildings in the plaza were colorful. There were lots of cafes so we just picked one that had lots of diners. I had a delicious salad with breaded/baked goat cheese, walnuts, apples, etc. Tony had a cured meat sampler. We had a little time to walk around before getting back in the car, so we split up. Tony and I found the remains of an outdoor market. People were packing up for the day and I could see many empty vegetable/fruit bins. You know me: I love my markets, so I was sad that I missed this one. Back in Barcelona, we dropped off the car. We were charged extra for the gas, as we couldn't find a gas station anywhere. A quick metro ride to Las Ramblas, we didn't have time to enjoy the area. We walked to the location of the shuttle bus but we were not allowed on board. The last complimentary bus left and the personnel on board didn't have tickets to sell to us. I suggested to them we get on board and when we got to the ship we would be willing to have our room cards charged for the bus ride. No, they were not agreeable. We hailed a cab and were whisked back to the ship within minutes. And we were about the last onboard the ship. Dinner: Oysters Rockefeller, a wonderful mousse patE, osso bucco. November 8, 2009 Sunday - Palma de Mallorca For Palma de Mallorca, I hired a guide to take 19 of us on a tour of Palma and Valdemossa. Our guide (I have forgotten her name), was a charming woman. She started the tour with a city highlights. We drove around town and headed to the 14th century Bellver Castle located on hill overlooking Palma. Unfortunately, it was closed. In fact, most of the sights in Palma are closed on Sundays. The La Seu Cathedral, also 14th century and founded by Jaime II, is located near the historical quarter and port area. A French Gothic style building, it has the largest rose stained-glass window in the world, larger than the one in Notre Dame in Paris. When we arrived, the sun was hitting the rose window, which reflected the colors into the building and against the walls and columns. It was beautiful and very colorful. Our guide said she had never seen these colors before and was also amazed to see them in such a heavenly place. We arrived at the perfect time. Above the main alter is a wrought iron canopy, designed by Gaudi. The choir stalls are made of walnut and was an impressive sight to see. We had time to walk around the historical quarter. The streets were small, yet charming. We walked to Plaza Mayor and saw a few Gaudi-type buildings. Near the Cathedral is a lovely garden area with fountains. It reminded me of the fountains and gardens in Granada Spain. Back in the van after a quick bathroom break at a cafe, we drove to touristy Valldemossa just 30 minutes away. Located in the hills, Valldemossa is a lovely small town. Unfortunately, with all of the souvenir shops, some of its charm is gone. Everyone split up for an hour and Tony and I headed away from the stores so I could take some photos of the buildings. Temperature dropped quite a bit and it rained off and on. After a quick look in the stores and a couple of purchases, we were back in the van and on our way back to the ship. Our guide entertained us with a Spanish song. She was a good guide and we enjoyed our tour. This evening was our first formal night. Everyone dressed up and the men looked especially handsome in their suits and tuxedos. Women wore either cocktail dresses or dress pants with elegant tops. Tony and I went to the martini bar to meet up with friends for a drink before dinner. Dinner was very good. I had the beef carpacio to start (sliced ever so thin) and the rack of lamb for my main entree. Excellent! Assorted cheese platter for my dessert. This evening was also the Captain's Welcome, which took place in the theatre. Champagne was served for the usual toast. His senior officers were on stage and introduced. After, we saw the variety show, which was very good. November 9, 2009 Monday - Cartagena This was our forth port day and I know people were starting to get tired of being on the go every day. Fortunately, Cartagena was an easy port to visit. Located further south on the coast of Spain, the ship docked right in front of town among the many sail boats in the harbor. It was a sunny, but breezy day. We had a full day, so there was no need to rush off the ship. Tony and I met up with Glenn and Carol around 10:30am after breakfast. We began our tour at the top of the hill, which is the location of an old fortress. There's an elevator that you can take to get to the top, or you can take the stairs. On the way up, we could see an old bullring that was being refurbished. Up top the wind was blowing, but the views were great. There was not much to see inside the fort but we did get to read about the history of the fort. From the viewing platform, we could see the ancient Roman amphitheatre. There was a separate fee to get inside, so we didn't bother. The views from above were adequate. We located the bathroom half way down from the fort. Horrible!! No electricity, no lights, and the toilets were clogged up. It was almost worse than the bathrooms I encountered in the Ukraine and China! We window shopped on the main pedestrian street and walked passed the city hall building. Cartagena is a beautiful city and very clean (Tony thought Marseille was very dirty). Many of the buildings had beautiful wrought iron balconies. The four of us met up with our dinner mates, who were snacking on various Spanish tapas. In fact, they ordered too much, so the four of us had a light snack along with some delicious sangria. At a nearby grocery store, Tony and I picked up some bottled water for the cabin and headed back to the ship. It was just an easy relaxing day for us. We went over to Jane and Ray's cabin for drinks before dinner. We continued at the Martini bar with Glenn and Carol, who enjoyed the martini flight. This was the first Celebrity cruise that I didn't order the martini flight, although it looked delicious. Dinner: Curry chicken salad in a pineapple 'plate', French onion soup; and beef short ribs on top of mashed potatoes and served with carrots and green beans. November 10, 2009 Tuesday - Our first sea day I talked to Alana the night before to discuss the luncheon for the cruise critic members. She told me she wanted me to meet the executive chef, Steve van der Merwe, to go over the special menu. I was very surprised and told her it told her it wasn't necessary, that whatever was on the menu would be fine. She insisted! With Alana, I met Steve, Ludwig Lozano (food and beverage manager), and Lorenzo Davidoiu (restaurant manager). Everyone was very nice and it was a pleasure to meet all of them. Lorenzo told me that they all wanted to make sure the luncheon group was taken care of and happy with the results. We were, but more on that later. I met Tony and we enjoyed a wonderful brunch at sea. Apparently Celebrity has stopped having the traditional midnight buffet. There were two brunches on this cruise, which I found to be a nicer event than the midnight buffet. Who wants to eat at midnight after finishing dinner at 10:30-11:00pm? Everything was delicious and the food was beautifully displayed. Later, Tony and I window shopped - or I should say Carol and I did, while Tony and Glenn talked and talked and talked. We also took some dance lessons in the grand foyer. There were probably two dozen dancers. At 2:00pm, a large group of us participated in the cabin crawl. There were probably a couple dozen hosts that allowed guests to check out the cabins. This was the first time I did this and had fun. I got to see some of the aft cabins, which had larger balconies. I also got to see one of the suites, which had a jacuzzi on the balcony. Very nice! I could see myself out there in the jacuzzi with a drink in hand. In the late afternoon, Tony and I met up with Mark and Carol at the sky lounge for drinks. This became our usual hang out with other Elite Celebrity members. Speaking of Elite status: I need to add here about some of the perks we received on board, thanks to a few staff members: On our second evening on board, I found in our cabin two 'elite' cards ("Exclusive Lounge Access"), and 'elite' coupons on our bed. Celebrity has three levels for Captain's Club members based on the number of cruises taken: Classic, Select, and Elite. This cruise would give me the 3 credits I need to become an elite member. Elite status gives extra perks, to include complimentary laundry, internet access, various cocktail parties and other private events. Tony and I were, to use his phrase, prematurely elevated. From 8am to 10am elite members can enjoy continental breakfast with champagne, mimosa, or cappuccino; or from 4pm to 6pm, cocktails and hor dourves. Since the number of elite members was quite large on this cruise, the meeting place changed from Michal's Club to the sky lounge on deck 14. Drinks included champagne, wine, martinis, etc, along with tasty canapEs / appetizers. In addition, on the same evening we received the cards/coupons, there were two bottles of wine - one from Alana and the other from the hotel manager - on the dresser. There was also a plate of chocolate covered strawberries! The next night, a bottle of wine was delivered to our room from Simon Weir, who is the hotel manager, thanking me for my help with planning a few on board events. This was such a treat for Tony and me. Dinner: Crispy spring roll; some sort of puff pastry (I have a photo of it but don't remember what was inside!), and filet mignon. My filet wasn't cooked properly and after three returns, I gave up and ate the last one delivered to me. Fortunately filets are tender, so it still tasted fine. November 11, 2009 Wednesday - Lanzarote, Canary Islands For our day in Lanzaorte, Tony and I rented a car with Bruce and Gail. The rental agency was located on the peer near the ship, which was very convenient. The port area is pretty far from the town of Arrecife, so anyone wanting to get around needs to rent a car or hire a taxi service. Heading out, our first stop was the small town of Yaiza. I had asked the young woman at the rental agency how long the drive would take to get to Yaiza just to get an idea of the size of the island: it's always hard to judge by looking at a map. She told me about 40 minutes. We were there in 25 minutes. The island suddenly shrunk and I realized we would be able to see more than planned. In fact, we got around quite easily. Yaiza is a pretty white-washed town in the middle of nowhere. All the towns seemed like in the middle of nowhere. The island is volcanic in origin and many of the areas looked like the moon or some other planet in a far away galaxy. I had read online that part of movie Planet of the Apes had been filmed here. Plant life is scarce and only once in a while I saw a palm tree out in a field of lava rocks all alone. The lava is of various colors, from a dark charcoal to a rust color. The four of us visited the small church in the center of town (at Plaza de los Remedios) and walked along the main streets. Colorful bougainvilleas hung over white walls or in gardens, along with large cactus plants. It was interesting to see the contrast of the white-washed building, the dark color of the lava, and the colorful bougainvillea. Some of the buildings even had green shutters and balconies. Moving on, we next drove west and stopped along the coast just south of El Golfo at Los Hervideros. There was no beach area but only cliffs, caves, and even a lava bridge. At another stop, we walked a short distance to see the green lagoon. We could see it in the distance and decided we didn't want to walk the entire distance. I had seen pictures of the green lagoon and was surprised at how small it was. Continuing on, we stopped by the "camel stop" where tourists were taking short rides on camels around Timanfaya National Park. There must have been 50 camels! Some were at rest in a long row, while the others took their passengers for a short ride. Each camel held two people, one on each side of their hump. What a sight! Our next stop was at a winery. It was a small one, Bodega Rubicon, located across the street from another winery with its parking lot filled with three tourist buses (at Bodega La Geria). Gail and I had a chance to taste a couple of the white wines. They were light in body and not too dry. The winery has a self-guided tour of their facility. There were a few rooms to walk through, including one that had thick glass flooring where you can look below to see original foundation. Hungry, so the four of us had a light snack at the restaurant attached to the winery. We shared a delicious grilled octopus and white wine. We sat outside under the large trees and enjoyed our food. We had time to stop at Tias, another lovely white-washed town with a tall church tower. I picked up a small ceramic plate, typical of the island. We were back on the ship around 5:15pm. Bruce and Gail had the early dining, so we needed to get back in time for them to get ready. They enjoy dancing before dinner. Before dinner, Tony and I met up with Glenn and Carol for drinks at the Martini bar. It's a great area to be because lots of people come to this particular bar for drinks. We had a chance to talk to David and Larry too. Tony and I were invited to dine at the specialty restaurant, the Silk Harvest, with eight other friends. Silk Harvest is an Asian restaurant that serves Chinese, Thai, Japanese, etc. Everyone was divided into groups for easy ordering. The waiter had us select from the appetizer, entrEe, and dessert section. When he brought out our appetizer, he brought extras for us to try. He did this for the entrEes and dessert! Our meal lasted 3 hours! Everyone enjoyed the food, but we ate way too much! Some of the food we ate were: Chicken spring rolls with a sweet Thai chili sauce, shrimp and scallop shumai, cream cheese wontons, BBQ pork ribs, salt n' pepper ike & ebi (squid and rock shrimp), lotus chicken lettuce wraps, a wonderful assortment of sushi, red curry duck, pad thai, salmon and scallop stir-fry, silk fried rice; then dessert: caramelized bananas, assorted ice cream, etc. I think we ordered most of the foods on the menu! Note to self: Order ½ the amount the next time! Bonnie and Rich had champagne for everyone, which was a lovely touch to our evening. I think most people waddled back to their cabins and crashed. November 12, 2009 Thursday - Tenerife, Canary Islands Tenerife was our last port day before sailing across the Atlantic for six days. What a huge contrast between Lanzarote and Tenerife. Lanzarote has hardly any plant life, as it's mostly lava. It must be a newer island compared to Tenerife, which is very mountainous and very tropical. We woke up to blue skies and views (from our balcony) of the mountains and town of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Tony and I spent the day again with Bruce and Gail. We walked to the car rental place and discovered we could have taken the Celebrity shuttle bus to the end of the pier. We didn't realize how long it would take to walk. The rental office was hidden in the port area, which we had to ask a police officer for directions. Bruce did all the paper work, while the three of us waited. We were not given the exact location of the car, so the four of us split up to find it. I'm heading back to Tenerife next November 2010, so I won't have any problems getting my car. Our first stop was to the town of La Laguna. We missed the exit off the highway and had to make a few u-turns. Some of the signs are easy to spot, others aren't. After driving in town for about 10 minutes, we found the entrance to an underground parking lot. La Laguna is a colorful town with a lovely old church in the center of the historical area: The Church of Our Lady of the Conception, which dates back to 1511 and was the first church built on the island. The tower is from the 17th century. After about an hour in town, we drove to Puerto de la Cruz, located on the north side of the island. This is a busy resort city. We found a little place for a simple lunch outside under the umbrellas. Gail, Bruce and I enjoyed the sangria while Tony had a beer. I had a dish of fried calamari, fries, and a salad. Tony had a sandwich. I purchased a couple of items before our next stop, La Orotava. La Orotava is located up in the mountains south of Puerto de la Cruz. It was getting late, so our visit was very quick. La Orotava has beautiful wooden and wrought iron balconies, and the buildings are painted in various colors. The streets are narrow and quite hilly. We made a mad dash to get back to the port. This was the one day we didn't want to miss the ship! This was our last port before sailing across the Atlantic. We didn't have any problems at all getting back. In fact, it took only 25-30 minutes to get to the port. Bruce returned the car keys and the rest of us went back to the ship. Our evening was the same as most evenings; Drinks up at the sky lounge, dinner in the main dining room (delicious food always), and then off to the evening show. We saw the comedian Jeff Stevenson, who was alright but not that funny. November 13, 2009 Friday, Day at Sea Friday the 13th, inaugural crossing, and my first time crossing the Atlantic. Hmmm, sounds like the making of a movie. What to do at sea? Many things. I started my day participating in the battle of the sexes game. It was lots of fun, but I didn't stay the entire time. Tony and I were offered a bridge tour by Alana. She was a gem. I was allowed to invite my table mates to the bridge. For the tour, we met at one location and were escorted in. There were probably 15 people total and the tour lasted about 15-20 minutes. We were allowed to see one section of the bridge, as the rest of the area was off limits. After lunch, I took some dance lessons in the early afternoon in grand foyer with a bunch of other people. Mark and Carolyn joined in. Tony danced for a few minutes but his new 'bionic' knees didn't allow him to be flexible, so Carolyn and I took turns dancing with Mark. And in the late afternoon, I took some Latin dances. The lessons were short but fun. In the evening, Tony and I had some photos taken. It was the second of our formal nights. There were several places to have pictures taken but we just went to two. We met up with friends at the martini bar for drinks before dinner. For dinner, I had the beef carpaccio, served with a Dijon aioli, arugula salad and parmesan shavings and the duck for my entrEe. Both were excellent. I have to say that one of the nicest things about being on a transatlantic cruise and heading west was the fact that we gained an hour almost each night. There was no jetlag to speak of like flying home from Europe. It also helped us with our late dining where we could sleep in a little longer the next day or stay up later in the evening. November 14, 2009 Saturday, Second Sea Day I have been so happy cruising across the Atlantic. I was worried we would have rough seas, but so far, it's just been a slightly rocking motion. I started my day working out in the gym for a short while and then walked around the deck a couple of miles. At 11:00am, there was a wine tasting seminar in the dining room on deck 3. This was for Captain's Club select members. The tables were set with four glasses per guest, two whites and two reds. Unfortunately, there was no written material as to the names of the wine. We did find out later that these wines could be purchased in the dining room and were very reasonable in price compared to the regular wine list. Had we known about this from the beginning of the cruise, I'm sure Celebrity would have sold many more bottles. In the afternoon, Tony and I went to listen to David Perry talk about The Golden Age of Liners. We actually attended three lectures during the cruise. David was passionate about maritime history (http://www.linerlore.com/) and it clearly showed during his talks. He was very informative and quite passionate about his love of ships. We missed the first one, which was about the Titanic. One such ship he loves is the SS United States, which is in jeopardy of being destroyed. He pleaded with the passengers to sign a petition to save and restore the SS United States. So, I'm passing the information on. Please go to http://www.ss-united-states.com/ and http://ssunitedstatesconservancy.org/SSUS/blog/ and help save the USS United States. In the early evening, Tony and I met up with Bruce and Gail and their friends in the sky lounge. There were close to a dozen other airline pilots and some flight attendants. The interesting thing was that there was no overlap of airline companies. We met up with this group several times. For dinner, I had a delicious starter of stuffed ravioli (Tony had the patE) and then I believe a skirt steak with a chimichurri sauce and fries. Some of the evenings we went to the theatre to see the shows, some nights we just went to one of the lounges to listen to music. 15 November 2009 Sunday, Third Sea Day The Celebrity Today reminded passengers to set our clocks back an hour last night, so I planned to enjoy another hour in bed. However, I decided to get up at my usual time and exercise outdoors. I walked about 2 miles on the track. Eight laps is equal to a mile. It was an overcast and humid day. There were lots others out exercising, while the gym was filled almost to capacity. Today was the special cruise critic luncheon. I had plans to meet up with Jane and Alana at 11:30am to set up the dining room tables and raffle ticket table. Alana informed me that the entire 3rd floor in the center would be for our use only. I was very surprised but then again, I wasn't. The Celebrity staff went out of their way to accommodate us. About 150 people attended the luncheon, which everyone enjoyed. The staff did a great job. The food at the luncheon was excellent, as I knew it would be since I had gone over the menu with the chefs: Appetizer: Wild mushroom vol-au-vent - Dark truffle cream and demi-glace sautEed mushrooms served in a delicate puff pastry Soup & Salad: Creamed sweet corn bisque - with cilantro oil and crab flakes; or Baby mixed green salad - with tomato slivers and balsamic vinaigrette EntrEe: Roasted Atlantic salmon -di puy lentils, curried vegetables and frisee; or Classic French Pot-au-feu - slowly braised beef shoulder and succulent root vegetables; served in its own braising broth with fresh horseradish sauce, Dijon mustard, cornichons and pickled pearl onions. Dessert: Warm chocolate - hazelnut pudding. The chefs did a great job and even came out to greet the guests, including Lorenzo the restaurant manager. I think that made everyone happy that the chefs took time out of their very busy day to chat with the guests. Most people, if not all, participated in the raffle. Tony's ticket was pulled and he received a water color print of the Vatican. The luncheon ended at 1:30pm, just in time for Captains Club members to attend a special celebration in the sky lounge. Having the cruise critic luncheon on this day was the only error in the planning. At the special celebration, there were several food stations: sushi, a fruit carving station, fresh made crepes, etc. Tony and I, and others from the luncheon, were full from lunch to enjoy the food, so we had a drink or two, which were passed out to the guests. The captain and some of his staff were on hand to enjoy the event. In the afternoon, I went to guest relations to get an updated invoice and ask a couple of questions. I overheard one of the employees, Bianca, stating she needed to find bubble wrap and tissue paper. I told her I had both. She was surprised when I offered to give her what I had. I used the tissue to roll some of my clothes in my suitcase to prevent from wrinkling, and since I didn't buy any ceramics on this trip I didn't need all of the bubble wrap. I dropped off the wrap/tissue a short while later. Soon after on in the room, there was a knock on the door and there was Marcelo with a bottle of red wine. I asked who was it from but he wasn't sure so he started to dial cell phone. I noticed in my "inbox" an envelope. It was a thank you note from Bianca! What an unexpected treat! For dinner, Tony and I, along with our dining mates (Carolyn, Mark, Carol, Glenn, Sharon, Barb, and Carol - Glenn flew home from Cartagena to go back to work) ate in the Murano restaurant. We had 6:30pm reservations, as we knew the dinner would last at least two hours or longer. Tony and I were the first to arrive and we were shown to the private dining room, which seats 10 people. All around the room were racks filled with bottles of wine among the crystal and fine china. It was a beautiful setting and quite elegant. Service was impeccable but not stuffy. Sharon treated Tony and me to a bottle of wine as a thank-you for helping her with the trip. This is what Tony and I ate for dinner (menu item descriptions were taken from Celebrity's web site): I had... Pan Seared Foie Gras Heirloom Tomato Confiture, Duck Rillettes in Feuille de Brick, Roast Ginger Sauce & Toasted Hazelnuts I love foie gras and I really enjoyed this excellent dish. I did ask about the caviar on the menu, as it stated, "Market Price". The waiter told me $120 per person! Maybe next time. Maybe not! Creamy Maine Lobster Bisque Leek and Shallot Flan, Cognac Cream & Crispy Sweet Yellow Corn Beignets I had the lobster bisque in the main dining room, which I didn't like at all. This soup in the Murano was ten times better. Even though it was cream-based, it wasn't overly rich. Pan Seared Filet Mignon Larratte Pommes PurEe, Honshimeji Mushrooms, Haricots Verts, Green Peppercorns and Cognac Cream Sauce Prepared Table Side Excellent filet! One of the waiters prepared my filet table side, which was entertaining. Tony had... Diver Scallop Wellington Style Black Truffle Emulsion & Spinach Fondue Wild Mushroom Cappuccino Porcini Gelato Mushroom Crusted Rack of Colorado Lamb Sweet Peas & Roasted Lamb Jus Tony enjoyed everything he ate, especially the lamb. Everyone else also enjoyed their meal and our evening together. Oh, we did start our meal with an amuse bouche. After dinner, we had a wonderful selection of cheese. My friend Bonnie had told me to ask for the cheese course, but I had forgotten. Our waiter brought out the cheese on a cart, which I was happy to see, and everyone had a nice sampling. For my dessert, I had the orange soufflE, although I didn't eat it all. Light, fluffy, and filling. This was a fabulous dining experience and everyone enjoyed their meal. I will definitely make reservations at the Murano for my next cruise. For the $30 per person supplement, it was worth every penny. I'll definitely get the foie gras again but will have the lamb for my entrEe. After dinner, we went to the sky lounge and watched the Celebrity dancers perform. They were very good. 16 November 2009 I woke up to another beautiful day. It was warm and as we crossed the Atlantic, the humidity level rose. The weather was warm and many people wore shorts on deck. There were many out at the pool every day enjoying the warm weather. I was not looking forward to returning to winter weather. The ocean was very flat this day. After exercising, I headed to the glass show, which was done by the Corning museum of glass. I stayed long enough to watch the men make two items - a large bowl and an odd-shaped vase. I met up with Carolyn and we walked around the ship taking pictures of the various rooms, bars, and restaurants. The Equinox is such a beautiful ship. All of the public areas were beautifully decorated, although I didn't like some of the modern art. We had another evening of drinks with the aviator friends in the sky lounge before dinner. They were a nice group of people. For dinner, Tony and I enjoyed dining at the Tuscan Grill (TG) with Alana. The day we got on the ship and met Alana, she told us she would take us to dinner as her guests. We met her at guest relations at 6:20pm and headed to the restaurant. The TG is located aft of the ship with wonderful window views (entire back side) of the ocean. GT is not as refined as the Murano, but is an "upscale steak house with an Italian influence." Service was very good. Some of the foods we enjoyed were the Calamari Fritto Misto served with a marinara sauce and lemon garlic aioli; Pomodoro e Mozzarella di Bufala; salad with a nice round of breaded goat cheese. Tony had the Cioppino (a seafood stew) and mixed grill for his entrEe. Since I had the filet mignon the night before, I decided to have fish: Branzino Toscano Grigliato (Grilled Sea Bass) Grilled vegetables, garlic mashed potato and basil pesto. We enjoyed the gelato for dessert. Along with dinner, I had the bottle of Toscana that we received from Bianca delivered to the restaurant for us to enjoy. We had a very nice time with Alana and talked about many things, including her busy job onboard the ship. As a thank you to Alana for her hard work in helping me coordinate the onboard events, I gave her a gift of one of my photographs, which I framed. She was thrilled! Once dinner was over, Alana went back to work. Her day never ends. Tony and I went to the main dining room to sit with our friends while they were finishing their dinner. Carolyn and I had talked about getting the group together in one room to have drinks. We all brought wine on board to enjoy in our cabin and still had a lot left. For Tony and me, we had a lot because we kept getting bottles as gifts and we were enjoying the evening drinks at the sky lounge with the other elite members. Six of our friends had cabins next to each other, so they opened up the partitions between the cabins and turned the balconies into one long one. They had their cocktail hour while Tony and I had dinner with Alana, but since they had wine left, we planned to have a cocktail hour in our cabin another day. 17 November 2009 I decided my last two days at sea would be very relaxing, instead of trying to attend the trivia games, dance lessons, lectures, etc. Tony and I started our day having brunch with Glenn and Carol. This was the second special brunch that Celebrity served during our cruise. What a spread of food! Name it, they had it: Carved beef, smoked salmon, gravlax, peel/eat shrimp, crab claws, eggs benedict, all sorts of fruits, salads, lunch entrees, assorted breads, etc. There were chocolate fountains with different fruits to use for dipping, along with many other desserts. I did really well and stuck with the various fish and seafood. For the rest of the day, I sat outside on deck 12 near the pool area and in the shade enjoying the ocean view, reading my book or magazines, and going over my photos. Tony headed off to meet his fellow veterans at the passport lounge. The only thing I did want to do was to see the talent show, but it was so relaxing to sit in my lounge chair that I didn't bother to go. I sat next to Sandy and her husband, fellow cruise critic members, and we chatted for a while. I didn't want to leave the pool area, but we were on a mission: To finish the wine we had left! Tony and I ordered some canapEs and a cheese platter for our late afternoon cocktail hour with our table mates. Nine of us squeezed in sitting where we could and enjoyed the wine and snacks. We pretty much finished off the last of the wine that we had. We enjoyed the sunset as we had our drinks. This was our last formal night. For dinner, lobster was on the menu! The tails were small so some of us ordered a second one. Typically, I've had overcooked lobster on cruises, but not this time. It was tender and delicious. It was served with a scallop and shrimp risotto and a side of asparagus. Dinner ended with the dining staff doing their usual baked Alaska show and serve; however, they didn't carry any. I suppose having them flambEed was too dangerous to carry through the dining room. The evening show was outstanding - a Cirque du Soliel-type show with a contortionist (it was almost too much to watch as she pretty much turned herself inside out, bending backwards completely where she could place her feet at her head and even beyond), acrobatic performers flying around in the air above the stage and audience using various ropes and wires. One couple performed together with the man holding the woman with a single hand her entire weight. However, even more spectacular was when she held the man entirely on her hipbones while doing a backwards handstand. Truly amazing. November 18, 2009, Last Sea Day It was our last day at sea and on the beautiful Equinox. Another beautiful day. I sat in the same area as the day before reading my book or magazine. At pool side, there was a sea trials competition for those that entered the ship building contest earlier in the cruise. I believe they had about a week to build their ship and get it ready. There were four entries. One looked like a cruise ship! All sorts of material were used: Wine corks, paper cocktail umbrellas, empty jam containers, cotton balls, tin foil, empty butter packets, and empty plastic water bottles. During the sea trials, each ship had to be able to remain afloat, sail as is, and sail with extra weight (full soda cans). One builder was very clever and had a section of the ship that came off and had 'storage' space inside for the cans. One ship I saw I knew would immediately turn over. It was actually fun watching these adult men with their toys. The cruise ship won. I grabbed lunch and brought it back to my chair. I just didn't want to leave the pool area. In the afternoon, we were invited to Bruce and Gail's room for a glass of champagne or wine, followed by drinks in the sky lounge before dinner. Despite sounding like all we did was drink on the ship, we enjoyed what we had, never gained weight, and never got drunk. I called Alana to say goodbye and she asked that I come see her at guest relations. Alana gave Tony and me a beautiful glass etched paperweight. This will always be a special memento of our cruise. For dinner, most of us had the prime rib. Oh, so good! And to end the evening, crème brulee. I finally got to dance. After having martinis in the sky lounge and not much going on, we headed back to the room. On the way, we stopped by one dance club/bar, which was always empty. We were with a new friend, Steve, who we met in Cartagena along with his wife. She was asleep in bed. Tony sat while Steve and I danced to a couple of disco songs. Other things we did during our sea days: One day we had a tour of the engine room - or at least one area of it. Glenn and Carol joined us. It was fascinating to see all the equipment that kept the ship running smoothly. I went to a digital photography talk with Carol. I should have walked out. I was hoping the young woman would talk about something that I didn't know about with digital photography, but her lecture was too basic for me. Part of the problem was that the young woman lacked the experience of talking in front of an audience. And having English as a second language was clearly difficult for her to convey what she wanted to say. I sat there correcting her in my mind. I felt bad for her - she just did a poor job. Even a few friends that were there told me that I could have given a much better lecture. Dan, how do I get a job with Celebrity? We didn't go to all of the evening shows, but the ones we did, we enjoyed. The comedian was 'okay'. Good broadway shows. The show on the 17th was fabulous. November 19, Arrival in Florida and Disembarkation My group and I were hoping to get off the ship by 8:30am, but we were delayed. This was the first time the Equinox was docking in the USA, but even worse, the ship had to dock at a different terminal. The new and humongous Oasis ship was docked at the larger terminal - the one we should have gotten. Getting off the ship was the worst we've encountered in all of our cruises. I can imagine many port terminals becoming obsolete due to the larger ships being built. Port authorities need to get on the ball and revamp the ports. Once off the ship, it was very crowded in the terminal. Glenn and I got separated from the others, so we went ahead and grabbed our luggage. Sharon was back on the ship, as she left a jacket in the room, but got outside in time. She was frantic. Later in the van to the airport she told us she had called Glenn, who didn't sound right. Not wanting to tell her until she got home, he finally told her he had a massive heart attack while playing golf in my own city! He's doing fine now, but poor Sharon! She was a mess that morning. At the airport, Tony went through the regular line with me, instead of going through the airline employee line. Because of his new knees, he had to go through a longer security process. And he didn't even think about what he packed - our delicious mojo rojo and mojo verde sauces we got in the Canary Islands - in his carry on bag. I thought he packed them in his checked bag. So, some Miami airport employee probably took them home to enjoy. The flight home on Jetblue was very nice. I was impressed with the employees on board and the variety of snacks. Smooth flight and we were home back at Dulles in about 2.5 hours. Hugs and kisses goodbye, everyone went their separate ways. A friend of ours picked us up at the airport. It was pouring outside and it was cold. A quick drop off of our luggage and we headed to Angie's house to pick up Lucy. As always, she was so excited and happy to see us. She had a blast at Angie's house with two adults, twins, two dogs, and a cat. Angie said Lucy would go to her bed long before the rest in the evening, as the two dogs and kids kept her active all day long. Home now. This was an incredible cruise! From the beautiful ship, fabulous customer service from Alana and the other staff, the delicious and well-prepared foods, the friendships that blossomed, old and new, to the smooth crossing on the Atlantic, and wonderful ports, we were so pleased. Five days after getting home, I booked a very similar cruise (I should have booked onboard but just didn't get the time to talk to the sales person). Like being on an amusement park ride, I got off and was ready to jump back on again. So, I booked the 15-night cruise on the Equinox for next October 2010. This time, my friend Louisa will be coming with me. This will be her first cruise, so she's in for a treat! We will visit three ports that were on this cruise (Barcelona, Cartagena, Tarragona) and three new ones (Florence, Nice, Cadiz - with Cadiz being the only new port for me), plus we'll have seven days at sea crossing the Atlantic, rather than six. My fingers are crossed for another smooth sailing. I loved, loved, loved being at sea and not having to get up every morning to tour the ports. It was a floating resort with so many choices. Next time, I will do more of nothing. I am already meeting new cruise friends on Cruise Critic and we have lots of fun things and tours to look forward to. Monica PS: I just booked the 30 October 2011 transatlantic cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
After 10 years of travelling on 4 star cruise ships and last year on Silversea, we decided to splurge and try the "yet to be built Seabourn Odessey". Travelling from Australia to start your cruise from an overseas port can be a ... Read More
After 10 years of travelling on 4 star cruise ships and last year on Silversea, we decided to splurge and try the "yet to be built Seabourn Odessey". Travelling from Australia to start your cruise from an overseas port can be a very expensive exercise, but almost 2 years before the Odessey was built we booked our cruise on the inaugural Transatlantic crossing as we thought it would be a special 6 star experience with some added highlights as it was the first time it crossed the Atlantic. To say the cruise was a disappointment is an understatement. Whilst the staterooms were spacious and comfortable and offered decent facilities, the rest of the ship was a let down. Corridors were often lined with laundry trolleys for most of the day, carpets throughout the corridors and public areas were badly stained (looked like the cleaning product bleached the stains), carpets had been patched in many places (badly and this is in a ship that was barely about 4 months old. How could this happen? We also felt that the ship lacked artwork throughout, furnishings were dull and there was a mish mash of different carpets in areas that didn't blend in well with the colour scheme. It is always nice to see scuptures and paintings around and we missed this. There was also a distinct lack of sofas/chairs scattered around that offered a quiet place to sit or wait for friends. The theatre was badly planned. What could have been prime seating next to the aisle centre to the stage was blocked by large columns, and the timber stage floor was a dark brown flat stain finish that was scuffed and looked grubby. During the second half of the cruise we booked the exclusive and supposedly very upmarket private spa area for a cost of $300. No one informed us that the pool was initially freezing then emptied, the day beds and all outdoor facilities were covered with soot and some facilites were not in operation. We asked for a refund as did 4 others that we knew of. This was a huge disappointment as we had planned to use the spa on the Crossing. The rear of deck 4 had no ambience. Cushions on the outdoor furniture were stained and most days were missing altogether. Much more could have been done to brighten it up. A photo shoot was being conducted on board for the first 10 days of the cruise and paying guests of Seabourn had to watch from the sidelines whist the main pool and whirlpool was taken over by photographers/models etc. Various other locations around the ship were also out of bounds on various days. This was not acceptable and we should have told this was going on as the shoots went on and on for hours and hours each day. Hello -----we were paying guests who couldn't use the facilities. We also found out that the photo crew/models/hangers-on had been allocated much better staterooms than we had and we felt that in the interests of good customer service, this shouldn't be so. Our stateroom was located next to a service area and after the first couple of days of not being able to rest due to metal grinding through to 7 pm we asked to be moved to a quieter cabin. To cut a long protracted story short, our request was denied. Apparently there was no spare rooms. 4 days later and by this time the noise was driving us crazy and we continued to request a quieter room. Then whilst we were at breakfast on the 5th day, our belongings were moved to a disabled room without our knowledge. The disabled room was awful. Our things were moved back to our noisy cabin. Then after we let management know that we were unhappy with the way they were handling things, they "found" an empty cabin. We were shown an identical room on the next floor up, same location, same everything. The cabin was full of the models/photographers baggage and had been empty of guests for the whole 5 days we were requesting a move. NO SPARE ROOMS !!!Meanwhile another couple on deck 4 were upgraded to a quieter room due to similar noise we were experiencing. NO SPARE ROOMS!! The day after we changed cabins, we were preparing to go on tour when a huge noise rumbled through our room and water started pouring into our bathroom and under the door. Outside, the roof had caved in after a water pipe had burst. We missed our tour, we were soaking wet and very unhappy. It was beginning to be a nightmare. Our room had a mouldy smell for the rest of the cruise, carpets were lifted up outside in the corridor, noisy fans were working most of the day to dry out the carpets, the roof was being repaired and pieces of carpet were being cut out and patched with old carpet pieces that didn't match. It was, and looked dreadful. Nice relaxing cruise so far !!!! We felt that senior management treated us poorly and were lacking any compassion. The rest of the cruise was uneventful but the Hotel Manager ignored us for the rest of the cruise and seemed unconcerned about what had happened. Our friends who travelled with us were very unimpressed and will not sail Seabourn again. After returning home we have corresponded to Head Office and we have been given a discount on a next cruise, but to be honest, we would have rather been treated like valued guests on the cruise we were on at the time. Seabourn needs to lift their game. We probably will not be able to use the discount so we have ended up with nothing but a bad experience and a depleted bank account. Shame on you Seabourn. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We were excited to do our first "Transatlantic" cruise. We booked the GRAND PRINCESS because the rates were excellent, and we wanted to go to multiple continents. We visited, Rome, Cannes, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Morocco, Canary ... Read More
We were excited to do our first "Transatlantic" cruise. We booked the GRAND PRINCESS because the rates were excellent, and we wanted to go to multiple continents. We visited, Rome, Cannes, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Morocco, Canary Islands, Brazil(biggest disaster at any port EVER!), Barbados, Dominica and then finally Florida. The trip was long, but enough fun that we have already booked another "transatlantic" cruise for October. EMBARKATION: I rate it a 10 out of 10! All was perfect, and for that I am grateful. ROOM: Although part of the great rates required an obstructed view, the view AND room was fantastic! Try to get E411!! This room, although obstructed (so great rates), it is roomy and the view was good too! We had a wonderful steward who actually took time to do the "extras" which we had not received in the prior 4 or 5 cruises. FOOD: RATED 9 our of 10. The food was also excellent!! I am one of those "PAINS" when it comes to food. I have celiac disease, so no wheat of any kind, and every meal was excellent. They really worked with me, and I had a great experience! For that I was very grateful! The only problem we incurred with the "food" was a night in the Italian restaurant. The food was more than FABULOUS, the service was VERY prejudicial!! Our waiter, while being wonderful and helpful with us, treated the neighboring table like they were the DEVIL in disguise! They happened to be a gay couple with their daughter and they were treated so bad I got up and left the table!! I complained with no change, and I also complained to the purser, with no change or apologies. In today's world this ignorant attitude should not be allowed to show on a cruise ship!! These people paid for their cruise, like everyone else, and should be treated like everyone else! I was SICKENED by the treatment of this couple and their daughter!!!! ENTERTAINMENT: RATED: 0...THE ENTERTAINMENT ON THIS SHIP CAN'T EVEN GET A 1 OUT OF 10!!! THE ENTERTAINMENT WAS WORSE THAN HORRIBLE!!!! PRINCESS...get a grip! We will not re-book with Princess because of the LACK or credible entertainment! CRUISE DIRECTOR: RATED 10 OUT OF 10!! Fantastic! This guy did a daily trivia on the TV, get games every night and even let the passengers give a Christmas Singing Program which was the best entertainment of the 21 days! DEBARKATION: ANOTHER 10 OUT OF 10! All went very well and in great order. The only problem was MY mistake. I forgot I had a piece of fruit in my purse and boy did I get scolded by immigration people! I will never do that again! PORTS: All were great EXCEPT Brazil!!!! HORRIBLE, THE WORST, DISGUSTING...ALL are not enough to tell you how horrible this place was! My very worst EVER!! Passengers were mugged and hurt badly!! DO NOT GO! Not only do they make you get a Visa for $500 (couple), but they do not have control of the docks where Princess docks. So...people got broken arms, needing stitches etc. from muggings!!! All in all liked the transatlantic (especially the crossing the equator pool party) and look forward to do another, but I will NEVER go to Brazil again!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
This was our second time on QM2 (the first was 5 years ago in her maiden season) and we requested - and got - "our" old cabin. We had expected to see some signs of wear but this was limited to the cabin doors having settled a ... Read More
This was our second time on QM2 (the first was 5 years ago in her maiden season) and we requested - and got - "our" old cabin. We had expected to see some signs of wear but this was limited to the cabin doors having settled a bit, allowing light to bleed through the bottom of the doorframe (easily fixed by placing a bolster across the doorway!). She remains a beautiful ship. We were disappointed at the number of places where it is still possible to burn tobacco and had to breathe in the fumes even outside the main entrance to the Britannia restaurant on Deck 2 Stairwell C, where it reeked of old ashtrays. Hopefully Cunard will follow P&O's lead on this disgusting habit and confine it to more limited areas. The food was excellent, as always, but the entrees at dinner were now of a proper portion size. Five years ago, they were very small (even our waiter then commented on one particular meal and brought us another portion to bulk it up) so well done to Cunard for sorting that out. I think they've dropped the surcharge on the Chef's Galley for the evening sittings - we couldn't get a table at all, so make a booking as soon as you board if you want to try and get dinner here. We didn't go to Todd English on principle, there are plenty of other places to eat well without paying again. We didn't experience any of the problems that travellerqueen experienced regarding afternoon tea. We enjoyed this twice in the Queen's Room and didn't have to wait more than a couple of minutes for a table, and didn't see any queues to get in. We ate in King's Court four times and the only time we had to queue (for no more than 5 minutes) was at the servery doing the Canadian thanksgiving meal. Yes, you have to jockey for a table if you are not prepared to walk more than 10 feet from the servery, but if you're not so picky, the only problem we had was choosing which table to sit at. Some of the bars seem to have an exclusive drinks menu but we found that you can still order drinks advertised elsewhere at the same prices. We'd recommend the Chart Room and the Commodore Club in particular. We felt that the entertainment in the theatre was nowhere as good as 5 years ago, but if you get the chance to do the "backstage tour", do it! As a part of this, they play Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody while demonstrating the capabilities of the stage and lighting equipment - fantastic. On our last voyage, we had to queue to get into the Planetarium (once for an hour, but given the popularity of the attraction and the number of seats available, this was no big deal). However, they've now changed to a ticketing system, and tickets are available behind the Illuminations theatre from 0900. Even late in the afternoon, there seemed to be plenty of tickets left. The higher up the deck levels you are, the more you pay for your sailing. We saw inside a cabin on Deck 11 - it was identical to our cabin on Deck 5 (which, being lower, also is affected less by pitching) so why pay more? Speaking of pitching, we sailed through a Force 8 practically the whole time (it went down to Force 6 for a few hours). There was no rolling and little pitching. We actually had a bumpier ride on the flight over to New York! We passed through the art gallery several times and recognised several original pieces of "art" from the Oceana last year...... Apparently they're going to close the Winter Garden because it's underused - mainly only for the art auctions. Certainly we never saw anyone there outside of auction times. One thing I would strongly recommend to everyone is a day pass in the Canyon Ranch Spa. Absolute bliss. All the treatments are ridiculously expensive but you can just sit by the spa pool and use the saunas all day for much less than a 4-hour ticket to Bath Spa. We can't wait for our next voyage! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
This was our second Med - Trans Atlantic cruise, third cruise in a row on Princess, and tenth cruise. DW and I are in our 50's. We did this cruise to celebrate her retirement. I unfortunately still have to work. We had originally ... Read More
This was our second Med - Trans Atlantic cruise, third cruise in a row on Princess, and tenth cruise. DW and I are in our 50's. We did this cruise to celebrate her retirement. I unfortunately still have to work. We had originally booked a northern route T/A but switched to this itinerary due to scheduling conflicts at work. An added bonus at work on switching was we sailed with several couples from last year's Med - Trans Atlantic on the Emerald. For our pre-embarkation stay we flew to Paris for two days. In Paris we saw the sights. We also had dinner in the Eiffel Tower, took a Seine river cruise, and saw a Moulin Rouge show. Paris is truly a magical city and we really wish we had an extra day or two to spend there. Our flight to Venice from Paris was short and uneventful. We were met by a Princess rep at the airport and quickly ushered to a shuttle bus for our short ride to the dock. The Princess rep was very helpful. One thing I found at the airport in Venice was the exchange rate for Euros was much better than what I paid at the airport in Los Angeles. Embarkation was a breeze. Since we arrived around 1530 hours (local time) there were no lines. We basically walked right on the ship. One thing I noticed about boarding was there seemed to be, in my opinion, more crew members to assist passengers in finding their way to their accommodations. The Ruby Princess was a truly magnificent ship. The ship was clean in every respect. The crew was outstanding and always had smiles on their faces. They always seemed willing to go the extra mile to assist passengers. The captain (Tony Yeomans) was always visible and very approachable. Twice DW and I rode an elevator with him and enjoyed pleasant conversations on both occasions. The Cruise director James ) was very professional as well and seemed to do a good job keeping us entertained. DW and I were cruising with a large contingent of fellow cruise critic members. Our group was known as the "ruby Stars." Our meet and greet was well attended. The captain and several other ships' company showed up. We also had several other events that were also well attended. As far as dining goes, we had second seating traditional in the Botticelli dining room. The Botticelli was a very nice venue. Our waiter Gabriel and his assistant did an acceptable job in making sure we enjoyed our dining experience. The food was very good to excellent. I did however send two main courses back because they seemed a bit cold to suite my taste. We enjoyed Sabatini's and the Crown Grill. Both were very good but not great. We also enjoyed Ultimate Balcony Dining and found it to be outstanding. The lobster tail was the biggest I've ever seen. I enjoyed the suite perk of breakfast at Sabatini's. It was a very nice experience and the food was quite good. The mimosas were a great way to start the day. Food in the horizon court and Cafe Caribe was your typical buffet food. Nothing great but there was a good variety to choose from. I did note that Cafe Caribe was always crowded during dinner time. The choices offered seemed to be very tempting. The International Cafe was good and Vines served good sushi & Tapas. The Trident grill served great hamburgers and hot dogs. Pizza on the pool deck was also a great way to add on the extra weight. We had a PH suite (R408) and enjoyed all the perks that came with being a suite passenger. Our cabin steward Angelito was very good and did his best to ensure we enjoyed our stateroom. My only negative outlook regarding the suite was the size of the balcony. It is very narrow and with the upgraded wood furniture it seemed rather cramped. As far as onboard entertainment goes, we saw two production shows that were quite good. Several of the princess singers were great. We also enjoyed a couple of shows in the Explorer's lounge that were also quite good. During the cruise there was a variety of entertainment in the Piazza. All were quite good. The fitness center had a wide variety of equipment and was always well utilized by passengers. I only had to wait once for a treadmill. I also visited the thermal suite and noted the temps of the steam rooms varied and sometimes seemed not hot enough. I also noted this in the steam and sauna rooms in the men's locker room. DW made very good use of the salon and massages services and enjoyed all the treatments she received. She told me all staff members were friendly and very professional. Yes she did purchase some products after the usual sales pitch but we all know it's coming before we go there. The boutiques were staffed by friendly and professional crew members who were very helpful. I thought the selections in the various shops were good with the exception of the souvenir shop that had set out Caribbean items shortly after we left Venice. DW and I did several private excursions with other CC members that were all very nice. The highlight of the excursions for me was standing inside the Coliseum in Rome; truly a memorable experience. We also did two ship sponsored excursions that were very well run. During the six day crossing there were many things to do. It was also nice to just relax and recover from the port intensive portion of the cruise. Overall, the cruise was a great experience. I would not hesitate to sail with Princess again nor would I hesitate to recommend the line to a friend. I may not however choose this itinerary again as it has been cut to 16 days with the removal of Florence and Lisbon as ports of call. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
This is my quick review of the Ruby Princess Transatlantic that started in Venice 10/07 and landed in Ft Lauderdale 10/25. We have sailed on Princess 21 times and 8 times on other ships. There were 8 in our group-2 from CA, 2 from RI and ... Read More
This is my quick review of the Ruby Princess Transatlantic that started in Venice 10/07 and landed in Ft Lauderdale 10/25. We have sailed on Princess 21 times and 8 times on other ships. There were 8 in our group-2 from CA, 2 from RI and 4 from FL. The FL people opted to leave Sun 10/4 on USAir from Tampa to Philly changing planes after a 4 hour layover to Venice. I wanted to minimize the chance of our luggage being lost. We each checked one large bag and each had a carry on. Needless to say, they lost one piece from each couple that found it's way to our hotel on Tuesday. The flight was in coach and not too bad except for the man and his wife who reclined the seats before we took off and we had no room. The cabin attendant had to ask them to sit upright while we were eating and then they slammed them right back down. We stayed at the Hotel Molino Stucky and booked early enough to receive a promo of 149 Euros/night. Later were were offered and "Executive" upgrade for 59 Euros/night and we took it as it included a wonderful champagne breakfast plus hearty appetizers for lunch and dinner along with unlimited cold drinks, beer, wine and some liquors. The hotel staff was wonderful and very helpful in locating the traveling luggage. The rooms were rather large with very spacious bathrooms and the bed were comfy. The Molino provides limited transportation to St Mark's and P. Roma and we did use that a few times. They also have a taxi from Murano that will take you to a glass factory where they almost badger you into buying overpriced glass items. Had we known, we would have taken the vaporetto and gone on our own. It took them 45 minutes to call a water taxi back to the hotel. We bought a 72 hour Vaporetto pass online before we left and you get a discount and a voucher to turn into a ticket in Venice. The 1st night we went right to St. Mark's square and took in all the beauty there. No pickpockets were seen and no one approached us. We did find a few rude Venitians who don't consider themselves Italians. In a market, we checked out and was waiting for a bag and when I asked for on the lady screamed at me they were 10 cents....how did I know? We took a vaporetto ride from one end of the Grand Canal to the other just to soak in the sights. It was awesome. We took in the Secrets of the Doges Palace tour that we pre-purchased on line and it was fabulous. We also did a ship's tour "The nighttime tour of St Mark's Basilica" and it was worth every penny we paid. We boarded the ship at about noon on Wednesday and used it as home base. The ship is beautiful and her crew is wonderful. We had Captain McCharming-Capt Tony Yeomans. Having been on the sister ships, we didn't do too much exploring of the ship. We did enjoy the new Elite/Platinum lounge in Skywalkers each night. We also spent a lot of time in the Piazza people watching and using the International Cafe for coffees and goodies. The Chicken salad is awesome and don't' pass up the shrimp! Our cabin steward was one of the best we've had and he made our stay memorable. Always smiling, any requests answered promptly. The other passengers were mostly an older group of travelers. I never saw such a collection of scooters and rolling walkers in my life!!!! Some of them were quite rude-pushing on elevators before passengers got off etc. I often wondered how they got around Venice which is a walking city and getting on and off vaporettos requires a lion heart!!! Naples was beautiful and we had a private driver take us to Sorento, Positano, Amalfi and Revalo. Beautiful little towns. The weather was perfect while Venice was hot and humid. We had a guide to take us to the Herculanium-awesome. Rome was a marathon tour with Stefano of Romecabs. He is wonderful and I highly sing his praises. We saw things that I only dreamed of. The fountains, the Colloseum, the churches etc .... truly sensory overload! Florence was a rainy day and we had ponchos to get around and our private driver also had umbrellas. We did the Leaning Tower and it is a beautiful building even in the rain. We drove to the town center and visited the leather market. You could gently bargain but the stuff is still not cheap. We could not get in to Marseille due to high winds (60mph) and rough seas - 21 ft. Sounds scary but it really wasn't. We enjoyed another sea day to rest. Barcelona again had us in a bus with a private driver and guide and we concentrated on Segata Familia. The church is an emotional experience and I'm not that religious but was moved to tears. WE sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar and I was a bit disappointed! I remember reading the Iliad in school and remembered the "Pillars of Hercules" and was expecting two giant rocks guarding the entrance. Only one big rock. I'm told there is another rock on the African side but we didn't see it. But is was amazing to see Africa on one side and the windmill farms on the Spanish side. Lisbon brought another private tour and we saw all the statues of Prince Henry the Navigator and explorers. Of course we stopped in Belem for the tasty pastries! Ponta Delgada took our hearts away. We went with Amazing tours and it truly was amazing. Beautiful country-peaceful, clean and friendly. We will go back that again. We went to the top of the mountain and saw the crater lakes. Awesome times three. After Ponta delgata, we have 6 nights at sea and we needed them to recover from the hectic pace we set for ourselves. The sip provided entertainment and of course the casino was always open. The food on the Ruby was better than good bordering on great. They were trying out several new menu items-most were good with one clunker as in anything new. We ate in the DR for all meals except for a rare deviation for waffles for breakfast or Pizza for lunch. We had fixed early seating and our server Alex caught on to like and dislike quickly and made appropriate suggestions. After the first night, we didn't have to ask for tea-it was waiting for us. Great service. All in all it was a trip of a lifetime and we are planning to do it again next year. I will pack differently-taking more capris and fewer long pants. My touring shoes were comfy but I developed blisters on my swollen feet from the shoes worn on the ship for dinner. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Ship Info Having already sailed before on Emerald and Star looked forward to the latest trip on the Ruby. The ship is a large one, but with plenty of places to find your own special space. Travelled with my wife and another couple ... Read More
Ship Info Having already sailed before on Emerald and Star looked forward to the latest trip on the Ruby. The ship is a large one, but with plenty of places to find your own special space. Travelled with my wife and another couple in Balcony cabins on the opposite side of the ship so we could enjoy shared views of sunrise/sunsets and ports. Liked to people watch on deck five around the Piazza with Vines (winebar) our favorite. We tried to get a seat by the window to watch the waves when we were not taking in the parade of ship entertainment including pianist, violins, gymnasts, and singer dancers. Ship Activities Enjoyed the naturalist lectures and other ship lecturers. Took in a few ship shows when we weren't too tired from the extensive sightseeing days and even found the time to lose a little in the Casino. With lots of sea days across the Atlantic we had a chance to unwind and do lots of reading. Nothing better than a good book and watching the ocean...or even a mediocre book and doing the same. Service Always friendly whether from the room steward, the folks at the bars or in the dining room. It felt like coming back home after the long days of seeing cities we had only dreamed of getting to see. Stateroom Room enough for us to relax and store the tons of luggage that we brought with us. Having a balcony again helped us with another place to sit and watch port and sea. Dining We had late seating traditional dining. We found the food to be varied, well prepared and nicely presented. We ate twice in the Crown Grille and felt that the meal there was very good with matching service. We ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch. And found the pizza selection and quality much improved over our last trip with Princess. On this trip we also tried there pub style food in the Wheelhouse Bar to be a nice change of pace. Getting On/Getting Off The Ship Getting on was very smooth and easy. Getting off another matter as we reported as directed to the Explorer Lounge at the time called for and then waited at least 1/2 hr. before beginning to get off the ship. Luggage while color coded as usual was really a jumble of numbers. It took a long time to find our luggage. Used ship transfers in Ft. Lauderdale and that seemed to take a long time too. We left early enough so that any delays were frustrating, but did not impact our getting to our flights. Entertainment Production numbers were great with excellent cast and production. The Princess theater had all of the hi-tech bells and whistles to make the show sizzle. Also liked the mix of movies on TV/Open Deck and Princess Theater, though it was somewhat hard to understand the dialogue outdoors. Visually that screen was very sharp and clear. Shore Excursions All except one were informative and met our requirements. The one had a guide who was not easy to understand and did not provide much information except to keep saying that Pisa was the best. And his coming from Pisa would explain his repeated promotion of his home town. Took a private tour with Rome-In-Limo for Rome. Vincenzo (Vinnie) was great!! He got us close to all of the sights, was a good though fast driver, and helped us understand the city before us. With only 1 day in Rome he saved us time and in fact we probably got to see twice as much as a ship tour. He found a nice restaurant that fit our need for casual, but authentic. The day was long, but after throwing in the coin at the Travi Fountain we hope to come back to Rome!!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We sailed on the Ruby Princess Trans-Atlantic Venice to Ft. Lauderdale 10/07/09. This was our third year doing the Princess Trans-Atlantic on this route, the first two years on the Emerald Princess. We spent three nights pre-cruise in ... Read More
We sailed on the Ruby Princess Trans-Atlantic Venice to Ft. Lauderdale 10/07/09. This was our third year doing the Princess Trans-Atlantic on this route, the first two years on the Emerald Princess. We spent three nights pre-cruise in a junior suite at the Al Ponte Antico Hotel in Venice. While it is very expensive, I can say that when we return to Venice we will stay in the same place and room. The hotel is just down from the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal and the terrace where one can eat breakfast or have drinks in the evening has a million dollar view. Matteo and his staff greet you like members of the family and cater to your every whim. Breakfasts are exquisite. As an aside, one of our bags didn't arrive when we did and Matteo made sure that his staff kept checking on it. The suitcase was delivered to our room the second night. We had a number of excellent meals I thought were worth mentioning. We had dinner one night at the Osteria Santa Marina and another at the Alla Borsa. We had eaten at both before and enjoyed them just as much as on previous visits. We also ate at the Osteria Barababao which was very enjoyable. The first two were more expensive than the latter. We are a little different from some cruisers in that we don't go to the casino or to any shows . We were in A753 (a category OS) aft starboard-side. We had cruised in the same cabin two years ago on the Emerald and loved it and this year was no different. The cabin is large with a dining area, large sitting room area and bedroom with the usual bathroom for suites on Princess. The balcony is very large with room for a table with four chairs and two lounge chairs with a table in between. We had a sailaway party with approx. 16 people and had plenty of room for everyone. Our cabin steward Angelo was outstanding. We had breakfast every morning we could in Sabatinis. The service, menu, and ambiance are wonderful. Marius and his staff were more than excellent. We began every morning with a Mimosa and proceeded to the delectable items on the menu. The Eggs Benedict were better than anything I had eaten in a dining room before. The waffles were outstanding served with whipped cream and essentially we found we could get whatever our fancy was for breakfast. We ate a few lunches in the Cafe Caribe and Horizon Court. We found the food there to be good for a buffet where many people are being fed. Not Princess' fault but we always found that we ate too much because there were too many choices. We only ate dinner in the dining room four nights; the remainder of the 18 nights we ate in either Sabatinis or the Crown Grill. I don't remember the names of the two anytime dining rooms, but we ate one night in the one on deck 5 and I was unhappy enough that I wrote a letter to the Maitre D'. The waiter and his assistant told us repeatedly to keep the cork for our bottle of wine so we could keep it for another night. We did not go to the dining room at closing time and there were people coming in after us so I thought we were being unduly rushed - not a fine dining experience. The other nights we ate in the deck 6 dining room with Godwin as the Maitre D'. He is a wonderful asset to Princess. He remembered our name from two years ago and made sure that we had a very nice table with great service. The food in the dining room was good, in fact, better than I thought it was on previous cruises. We did find that we like the ambiance in the two alternative restaurants better. We do not get the "Sabatinis Experience" when we eat there, but rather order what we want to eat. After the first time the staff understood that was how we liked it and we had no problems. We also found that the menu can be flexible. We found the service to be absolutely wonderful in both venues. Thanks to the efforts of one of our fellow passengers Gail we were able to do the Chefs Table one night. We had done it two years ago and it was once again a wonderful evening. I am so impressed with the galley operation and cleanliness! The appetizers in the galley and the food served at our table were outstanding.. For those who have not tried this, I recommend it. The visit behind the scenes is in itself worth the cost. Our favorite lounge is Adagio and that's where we went every evening before dinner. The pianist was outstanding and the little plates with olives and cheese breadsticks were wonderful. The place was never crowded and was a perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely cocktail before dinner. The only shipboard activities we participated in were Trivia games. There are plenty of opportunities for that. One of the sea days I think there were 5 separate trivia events. We did only one per day. The internet service was good. We were all the way aft and had good wi-fi reception in our cabin and even sometimes on the veranda. We spent a couple of afternoons at the Sanctuary. I think it's the best spot to spend an afternoon on a sea day. The lounge chairs are wonderful and the lunch menu is delicious. I had my hair done a couple of times and the service was good. Nobody tried to sell me anything. My husband had a pedicure and likewise no attempts were made to sell him anything. We took two Princess tours. We did the Elite tour of the Amalfi Coast which we had done before. We actually had the same guide as last year. He was wonderful and the tour was great. We love the Amalfi Coast and we love Le Sirenuse Hotel where we had lunch. We had 14 people traveling with us and essentially could do what we liked. We took the Princess tour to Cinque Terre and also enjoyed that. We had a little rain and the winds were such that we couldn't travel by boat between some of the villages, but we still had a good time. For the other ports we had private tours. In Civitavecchia due to a miscommunication we wound up tourless. We were extremely fortunate to find Stefano, a driver/guide at the entrance to the port. For a very reasonable price we had an absolutely fantastic tour for just the two of us to Rome. Stefano is a Roman who whisked us in and out of traffic, managed to find parking places close to everything we wanted to see and took us to an absolutely wonderful restaurant for lunch. While it was a tourist restaurant up front we sat in a back room and had a marvelous lunch without ever seeing a menu. In Barcelona we went on a private tour arranged by one of our shipmates with Pepito Tours. We visited Girona and S'Agaro. Jose was our guide and the tour was excellent. Girona is a splendid medieval city which I think most people don't get to see while on a cruise and S'Agaro was a beautiful seaside resort on the Costa Brava where we saw beautiful vistas and had a wonderful lunch. In Lisbon we had a private tour through Alliance4Drive with Karla as our driver/guide. She did an outstanding job guiding us through the Tile Museum, the Alfama District and Castle of St. George, the main square and the Belem District. Lisbon is such a beautiful city! We stopped at the cafe that serves the signature Pasteis de Belem. Next year Princess has eliminated this city as a stop and I think that's a shame because it is such a wonderful place. This year we only had a half day as opposed to the full day the two prior years. In Punta Delgada we had one of our most interesting experiences. We had arranged for a cab to drive us around the island. John was waiting for us when we disembarked and we proceeded on our tour. We had been to Sao Miguel before but hadn't seen much. Our tour took us all around the island to see it's geological splendors, its tea plantation and its magnificent trees and flowers. We had perhaps the most interesting lunch we've ever eaten. Near the town of Furnas there are hot springs where people cook in holes around the hot springs. Our lunch at a local restaurant was cooked in one of the holes in a large pot. It was a delicious stew of various meats and vegetables. The temperatures throughout our voyage were in the low 70s. The seas were quite calm including the 6 days of the trans-atlantic crossing. Only one night did we do some rocking and rolling but it was in the middle of the bight. We missed the port of Mrseille due to high winds caused by the Mistrals off the Alps. Despite the fact that the winds approached 70 mph and the seas were around 40 ft., we were running with the seas and experienced no rolling and the skies were a brilliant blue. We had a splendid time on this cruise. We liked the 18 day itinerary and despite the fact that it is very port intensive in the beginning , the days crossing the Atlantic do give you an opportunity to rest and relax. I do have to say that by day five in the crossing we were beginning to feel ready to be home. I think Princess does a wonderful job especially considering that they are catering to over 3000 people. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We chose this cruise primarily for itinerary. Having done the Med a few times before, we were very interested in the transatlantic portion, and being able to relax after our hectic pace in Europe. As we love Rome, we chose to fly in a few ... Read More
We chose this cruise primarily for itinerary. Having done the Med a few times before, we were very interested in the transatlantic portion, and being able to relax after our hectic pace in Europe. As we love Rome, we chose to fly in a few days early and spend 3 nights there. Stayed at the Artemide which was local walking distance to everything and was fantastic. We then took the train to Venice, to spend one night there prior to boarding the Ruby. Unfotunately our train ride was more eventful than we liked. We traveled with another couple, and sometime during the 4 1/2 hr ride from Rome to Venice, our friends camera bag disappeared right from under his seat! The camera wasn't the big worry, he had three weeks worth of medication in that bag!! To make a long story short, a very wonderful pharmacist in Venice was able to replace the meds in 24hrs. Whew! After staying at the Locanda Vivaldi one night prior (fab hotel) , we boarded the lovely RubyPrincess late afternoon on the Wednesday. At that point, we stayed on board to wander and explore. We used the Princess Water Shuttle tickets provided to go back into Venice the next morning. We had a minisuite on Dolphin deck. Enjoyed having the extra room but can't seem to get used to the totally exposed balconys on this class of ship. Common/Public Rooms Lots of places to meet and mingle, nowhere seemed crowded except the ever popular International Cafe. Adiagos, Crooners, Wheelhouse, all great spots to linger with a drink. We enjoyed the outside area of Adiagos where you could sit and stare out to sea. Beautiful. The Princess Theater is a little small, and I guess that's why they repeat the Production Shows over 2 nights. The casino was nice, we didn't spend alot of time there. Dining We had second seating and had fabulous staff. Meals in the dining room were usually good to sometimes great. Unfortunately it was the only time we could say that. The Horizon Court was a huge disappointment. Very little selection in my opinion for lunch. Soggy sandwiches wrapped in saran wrap (I've never seen this before!)At least you could get a decent salad. We tried the dining room for lunch one day and again experienced the soggy wet bread. Specialty Dining Had a nice meal in the Crown Grill. And the Ultimate Balcony Dining was the best experience, would recommend to anyone. Sabatinis was a disappointment though. Entertainment Production shows were well done. I thought for 18 nights they could have squeezed an extra show in there - we had three. There was a pretty good comedian. MUTS had lots of good movies to choose from, but we only went once. They had the White Hot Deck party and Ruby Ball also. Ports The magic of Italy, what can I say. We loved Venice, and having spent time in Rome prior, we chose to go to Tivoli the day we docked in Civitavecchia. We enjoyed Tivoli very much. In Naples, we did a private tour to the Amalfi Coast and it was outstanding. Certainly a highlight of the trip. In Florence we walked around on our own in the pouring rain, the only bad weather day in the trip. We missed Marseilles due to high seas and winds, so had an extra sea day. Barcelona is beautiful and we enjoyed Gaudi's as well as strolling Las Ramblas. Lisbon - oh how disappointing to be there only a few hours, how I wished we had more time there. And Azores was a quaint beautiful stop before we headed out to sea. The transatlantic portion was 6 days, and that meant about 2 too many for us. We got a little restless by day 4. There were activities on board during the sea days and venues seemed to be busy most of the time. As the weather was beautiful for the crossing, with calm seas and sunny warm days, we were able to enjoy the outdoor areas, by the pool, mini golf, etc. We overall enjoyed out trip, but I don't think another transatlantic crossing is in our future!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
First the good... The ship is almost new and in good condition, clean and sort of attractively decorated. The service is excellent, the crew does speak english for the most part and they appear very polished in starched white uniforms. ... Read More
First the good... The ship is almost new and in good condition, clean and sort of attractively decorated. The service is excellent, the crew does speak english for the most part and they appear very polished in starched white uniforms. Service staff always greets passengers and they are warm and accommodating. Cabins are OK, not great. Now the so so... Entertainment and activities are below average to poor. Deck space is crowded and lounge chairs are in short supply with most chairs sitting for half the day "reserved" with a towel on them and no passenger in sight. Bottle necks are everywhere, especially in the "cafeteria". The mens and ladies steam room and sauna area are very European in their layout with clear glass doors offering full views of nude passengers of the opposite sex. Alcoholic beverages are insanely expensive, with a mixed drink at $10 and a beer at $9. The big problem... THE FOOD!!! Do not fall for the oh it's Italian food line. I'm Italian and please let me assure you that this food is no more Italian than McDonald's. Sadly enough the food served by MSC is just plain cheap, nasty food with very little choice period. You know you're in trouble when every day the lunch buffet begins with sawdust dry burgers and hideous pink hot dogs and then it goes down hill from there. For dinner the dining room is your only choice for dinner. There is NO "Lido Deck" buffet option. Please get this straight. Everyone at their assigned table for dinner every night with night after night of inedible food. Perhaps this is where I should tell you I am not some picky gourmet type. Yes I like great food, but hey if I'm hungry average will do the trick. MSC's food is just plain BAD and if you think you can make it through a cruise that appears to be a "deal" by compromising food, think again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Having thoroughly enjoyed several previous cruises, including trans-Atlantic "repositioning" cruises, we booked a 17 day repositioning cruise on the Poesia without a second thought. In researching the port itinerary for the trip ... Read More
Having thoroughly enjoyed several previous cruises, including trans-Atlantic "repositioning" cruises, we booked a 17 day repositioning cruise on the Poesia without a second thought. In researching the port itinerary for the trip we came across numerous reviews on Msc generally and the Poesia in particular - practically everyone of which was strongly negative. We sailed in October 2009 and, with negative reviews spanning the period from May of 2008 (launch date) through September of 2009, went sought refuge in denial - "It can't possibly be as bad as they say", "They must have improved that by now" and so on. Denial of course, turned out to be wishful thinking. I cannot think of a single negative comment contained in other reviews that we would not emphatically endorse although that is not to say that everything was bad. The ship itself was and is excellent and our balcony stateroom was on a par with other carriers we have experienced. Cabin housekeeping and service likewise were both excellent and, if these items were all a cruise offered, we would rate this a four or a five. Unfortunately, every other aspect of the package was somewhere between mediocre and downright awful. We like to walk, especially on sea days. If your pleasure is to treadmill at $30.00 per hour then the Poesia might be just what you are looking for. The Promenade Deck (deck 7) was available on just one day of the trip. Every other day parts of it were closed off for bunkering the lifeboats, washing the deck, painting and other obscure maintenance tasks. In any event the, the deck does not go completely round the ship and requires either a repeated U shaped walk or cutting through the rear stairwell to complete each circuit. The Jogging Track on deck 14 was a travesty. By 7:00 am it was so littered with sun-chairs and bodies, staking their claim for another day of cancer cultivation, that it was impossible to walk around without having to step over such obstacles or waiting while a deckhand, with a fresh stack of sun-chairs, threaded his way between the broiled bodies. Unless you are a tour fan, don't rely on Msc providing any assistance whatever on the port stops. No information in the daily sales promotion sheet delivered to the cabins, no maps, no list of features, no restaurants, no highlights, nothing at all except a flat "No." to any question asked about off ship activities. Moral: Expect to be treated like a second class citizen if you intend to do your own thing in port. Worst of all however, is the entire food service management or, more accurately, mismanagement. Wrong orders, room temperature milk for cereals, strange 15 to 20 minutes total lapses in service, slow water refills if you were one of the lucky ones that received water in the first place, undrinkable coffee, uncooked potatoes, meats that seem to actively fight back, salads awash with half a cup of water and on and on. Soups were generally passable to good and we did have one good dessert. Msc is a proponent of Fixed Dining - that is to say, you are expected to dine with the same folks every evening for the duration of the trip. All we typically wanted was a main course choice and possibly a dessert. with eight people on the table debating their wine choices and then discussing each of the five or six courses that seemed necessary to their existence, dinner typically took two hours and was simply an appalling experience. The only alternative to this zoo is "Slices of Pizza" from the buffet that is otherwise shutdown for the day. After three seemingly interminable nightmare dining experiences in the restaurant, we opted to live on pizza for the rest of the trip. Ironically, there was an upside to the astoundingly poor restaurant operations - we both lost two pounds on the trip! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
First time with MSC on repositioning cruise. The MSC homepage offered a going nuts in Brazil promotion and many people had taken advantage of the ridiculously low price. I booked cruise only and flew London Gatwick to Venice the day ... Read More
First time with MSC on repositioning cruise. The MSC homepage offered a going nuts in Brazil promotion and many people had taken advantage of the ridiculously low price. I booked cruise only and flew London Gatwick to Venice the day before. Nice hotel and stay, then next day went to Piazzale Roma bus station for free shuttle to ship. I had used the express booking online and found this a complete waste of time, the queue was slow , it was quicker in the regular check-in. On the ship by 12.30 p.m, the cabin was ready, and was instantly impressed by the ship's condition, the cleanest one I've ever sailed on. This is an account of what happened next. Went for lunch and there was no tea or coffee just water. At tea time there was no tea or coffee just water. Had 7 course dinner no tea or coffee you're getting the picture. MSC wanted you to buy tea or coffee the whole of the cruise. This infuriated very many of the passengers I can tell you. They also wanted you to buy bottled water with all your meals. The prices for these extras was extortionate There was water and ice available from the drinks area so most people filled their own bottles. Tea and coffee were available at breakfast and tea time only At the end of these times around 10.30 a.m and 4.45 p.m drinks machines were closed. Then later completely drained of the hot coffee,water, and milk this was in most people's view despicable Why didn't they let passenger drain it off. This one action was the constant topic for most of the British passengers. The other minor irritation was the announcements in 7 languages I was prepared for this however going to the theatre for 7.15 p.m became 7.30 on most occasions. The shows were OK but I've seen much better. Coming back to the ship cleanliness it bordered on the paranoid and one day at buffet lunch with not many diners the waiters outnumbered us and cleaners were around our table during our meal I don't want my meals with the cleaners thank you can't it wait till lunch is finished. I've devised the MSC mission statement as follows " Cleanliness before customers" I've not had this irritation on other cruises MSC are 3 star against RCCL/Celebrity/Princess/NCL (only my opinion) If there was another repositioning bargain I might be tempted but I think I'll stay with the above cruise lines In case I forget the weather was fabulous all the way I've had a summer holiday in October/November GREAT Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Overall we enjoyed the cruise, the ports and transatlantic crossing. There's plenty to eat and activities galore. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, we were not able to dock in Marseille. We'd recommend the cruise to ... Read More
Overall we enjoyed the cruise, the ports and transatlantic crossing. There's plenty to eat and activities galore. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, we were not able to dock in Marseille. We'd recommend the cruise to anyone. We are however not as glowing of some specifics of the cruise as some posters. A summary of specifics follow: Cruise Highlights The following on-board sights were especially memorable: Departure from Venice, transiting through the Straits of Gibraltar and entry into Lisbon. Overall, the employees were friendly and helpful, especially the waiters and waitresses in the Wheelhouse Lounge and Crooner's Lounge. Venice Embarkation While Princess had some sixteen check-in counters, there were only three security scanners. Consequently, we stood around for three hours waiting for our boarding number to be called. Ft Lauderdale Disembarkation All passengers were requested to leave their staterooms by 8:00AM to allow for cleanup. We then waited in a public area for three hours waiting for our turn to officially disembark. Our scheduled departure time was 1.5 hours later than scheduled. Stateroom We had an interior stateroom midship on the Baja deck. It was quiet and well-sized. I would have hated to have had a room further down the hall adjacent to the dish washing area. In walking past that section, you could frequently hear the loud clattering of dishes in the hallway. We also talked to a passenger who boarded at Barcelona and was assigned to a stateroom beneath one of the lounges. After considerable complaining about the noise, he was moved to a different stateroom room in Venice. Public Areas The SkyWalkers lounge was excellent for a quiet reading location and great view. In general, the public entertainment areas for shipboard events and showrooms are generally too small to accommodate 3100 passengers. Consequently, the Princess Theater and the Explorer's Lounge have the same shows multiple times per day over a couple days. Also, the Piazza is woefully inadequate for events such as the Captain's reception. Entertainment The major entertainment was fairly good, especially the comedians and solo singers who were very good. In general, the lounge entertainment was merely "acceptable". An exception however was the rock group "Junction 21" which was very good. Unfortunately, the timing of entertainment in the various venues was awkward. Most of the performances are scheduled at the same time and the entertainers took breaks at the same time, making it difficult for passengers to enjoy the wide variety of groups and a full evening sampling of the different entertainers. Food and Dining You could eat at anytime. We especially enjoyed mid-day snacks consisting of ice cream, cookies, pizza and hot dogs (what a combo!). In the evening, we usually ate in the Michelangelo dining room. The food ranged in quality from excellent to average. It seemed that dining room service was better earlier in the evening. Perhaps as the evening progressed, the staff was getting tired. We tried the Cafe Caribe on the German and Curry buffet nights. Both meals were disappointing. "Movie Under the Stars" We attended one of the movies at night for an authentic theater experience. You need to arrive early to claim a "good seat". The theater event includes a lap robe, popcorn, cookies and milk. Information Desk In general, the ship's information desk was dismal. They gave incorrect information as to when we were passing Gibraltar. Additionally, they were unable to provide any useful information on the upcoming ports. Money My advice is to bring your own shore spending money. The ship's on-board ATM charges a minimum of $6 (or $8) for ATM withdrawals. Transportation in Ports If you are traveling as independent passengers (i.e., not scheduled on a Princess cruise excursion), each passenger is charged approximately $8.00 per person per port for bus transportation from the dock to the town center in several of the ports. Considering the overall cost of the cruise, this seems excessive. In several of the ports, the bus transport was necessary since the ports are large industrial areas lacking other transportation options. The bus drop-off points were located conveniently near rapid transit options and information centers with return schedules maintained throughout the day. Cruise Director James Ibrahim, the cruise director, seemed both patronizing and immature. The ship's "The Early Show" is intended to be an important source of information for passengers. Unfortunately, the television program was frequently frivolous and superficial, lacking quality information concerning ports and events on the ship. You had to intently listen through the whole program to filter significant information from the blather. Communication It used to be that passengers would get a daily news summary of current world events. Princess does not provide that. The assumption is apparently that we will access the internet or watch the news on the television. This however is not always possible. During the Atlantic crossing, most network channels including CNN were not available on the cabin televisions. As for the computer center, it is quite small for the size of the ship, and it was not always easy to access a computer. Also, the cost of accessing the internet promotes cautious, careful use. Laundry The ship has numerous high quality, self-service laundry rooms spread throughout the ship. Most of the laundries are small (2 washers/2 dryers). Our experience was that they were frequently very busy. The machines were efficient. We were able to dry a full load of jeans, t-shirts and socks in one drying cycle. You need to plan a couple of hours minimum depending on how long you have to wait for the machines. The change machine did not work one day, so I'd recommend you come prepared with plenty of quarters. Each machine costs $1.50 (quarters only). You can also purchase soap and fabric softener. The laundry room also had two ironing boards and Rowenta irons with automatic shut-off timers. In this day of luggage weight restrictions, there is no need to pack a personal steamer. In closing The above commentary is intended as an open assessment of the cruise. Overall, the cruise was enjoyable, relaxing and worthwhile. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We sailed on the Oceania from Southampton to Barbados with 5 stops along the way. P&O were very professional, the coach transfer from Manchester Airport went without a hitch, check in at Southampton was very well organised and we had ... Read More
We sailed on the Oceania from Southampton to Barbados with 5 stops along the way. P&O were very professional, the coach transfer from Manchester Airport went without a hitch, check in at Southampton was very well organised and we had to wait for only about 15 minutes before we boarded the ship and got into our cabin. We had booked a balocny room but upgraded to a mini suite as it was our honeymoon. The room was lovely, 2 patio style doors leading to a double balcony that you could see the sea from your chair, plenty wardrobe space, a jacuzzi bath, separate roomy shower and separate toilet and sink. The 2 TVs needed upgrading and the channels were very limited, especially when we lost the signal in the middle of the Atlantic! The balcony was well worth the money and we would always have one on future cruises - it was lovely to sit out and watch the world go by and provided somewhere to hang my bikini out to dry! The cabin steward did all that was asked of him and we rarely saw him which was good in that he got used to our habits and cleaned when we were out and about. The food was wonderful. Plenty of it at any time of the day. We visited the Cafe Jardin for evening meal which was £4.95 per head and well worth it for a change of scenery and lovely food. This restaurant also served lovely lunches and breakfasts although the menu only changed 3 times over the 2 weeks and it would have been nice for it to change more frequently. The other chargeable restaurant, The Horizon Grill, was £7.95 per person and was the only restaurant outside. We ate there twice under the stars and the food was lovely however the drinks service was slow as just one bar steward looked after all tables and there was no bar in the restaurant. When we got closer to the Caribbean and the weather got hot it was a frantic hunt to find a sunbed. You had to be on deck before 8.30am to guarantee you would get one and this is probably my biggest complaint. To be fair, the ship is not usually at sea for so long so 2,000 sunbeds are not always required but it was very early to be up and out! By 3pm the sunbeds were empty and you could snooze for the last couple of hours of daylight. The talks on the ship whilst we were at sea were very interesting, entertainment was good and the guest speakers were very entertaining. The Cruise Director Rob Boyd was a star! Alcoholic drinks were reasonably priced and we experienced no issues boarding the ship from any port with duty free alcohol purchased on land. Bottles of spirits in your cabin were cheaper than Tesco and bottles of wine with dinner were around £12-£15 and they kept them until the next evening if you did not finish them. Soft drinks were pub prices (£.50 for a large Diet Coke) and small cans of mixers were 75p which were served with all shots or in your cabin (they were on offer in the cabin, buy 9 get 3 free!). We were on the second sitting for dinner and the food was gorgeous. 5 courses every night and the portions were just the right size so that you could squeeze it all in. Lunch in the Adriatic restaurant was a daily delight for us - the Plaza, the buffet style restaurant, was a little chaotic for us and we prefer a proper meal on a plate! Sitting with different people at lunch time was good and we met some very interesting people who shared their travel stories. We did opt for a table for 2 sometimes at Breakfast as you don't always want to make small talk that early in the morning. We also had room service Continental breakfast a few times which was delivered on time, hot and just as we had ordered it - this was a complimentary service. The trips we did were very well organised and the disembarkation process was faultless. We booked all of our trips through P&O and although I am sure we oculd have got them cheaper on land, they wouldn't have been so well organised and easy. The on board shops sold perfume, jewellery, a little Channel make up and lots of watches. There was also a shop that sold clothes, chocolate and snacks, sun cream and some toiletries. We had to leave our cabin at 9am on departure day and there were optional trips at our final port of call. Overall we had an amazing honeymoon and loved cruising - we were at the travel agents 5 hours after landing back in Manchester looking at brocchures for 2011! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
My husband and I took the Transatlantic cruise on the Carnival Dream. This was 16 days/15 nights, leaving Rome, stopping in Barcelona, Malaga, Mallorca, the Canary Islands, 5 days across the Atlantic, then 2 days in Bermuda and ended up ... Read More
My husband and I took the Transatlantic cruise on the Carnival Dream. This was 16 days/15 nights, leaving Rome, stopping in Barcelona, Malaga, Mallorca, the Canary Islands, 5 days across the Atlantic, then 2 days in Bermuda and ended up in New York City. We had already planned on a trip to Greece in October and this one-way passage back to the USA ended up being such a good deal we couldn't pass it up. We booked the trip in May thru Carnival on the Early Saver program for the October 2009 cruise. We embarked from Rome at 7:00 PM. We used the very easy train from the Rome Termini train station, which cost about 14 E., I think. Give yourself time though; it's quite a walk in the station from the central station to the gate. Walked a little at the end in Civitavecchia and got the free shuttle to the ship. Virtually no wait to embark. Luggage showed up in about 2 hours. Cabin: I liked our cabin #9470, an inside stateroom. It's aft on the port side- one short walk to the steps up one flight to the Lido deck for breakfast and lunch, out the back door to the sunset deck for the adult pool and hot-tubs. No negatives about the cabin- liked the fluffy robes, shower is bigger than other ships I've sailed on, loved the temperature setting on the shower (you set the temperature on the right and it keeps that for the trip-I want one!), plenty of storage space, really comfortable mattresses. A different towel animal every night. Room was quiet. People who had balconies seemed happy, but we always go with the cheapest cabin. Dining: We choose late dining at 8:15. I go back and forth on this. I hate having to wait till 8:15, but 6:00 is simply too early. The one or two times I opted out and we went to the buffet line, it's just too hectic; my husband likes the table service. One night in Bermuda everyone ate at the anytime dining and that also seems too hectic. Had nice tablemates in the dining room (both main dining rooms look the same) but 15 dinners was too long a time to sit with the same people. They should have a shake-up mid-way thru a long cruise and reassign everyone. Probably 90% of people would welcome a chance to sit with new people and no one's feelings would get hurt. Food: The food in the DR was very good, if not great. Seafood, chicken etc was better than steaks, which were not A+++. Desserts were good and so were appetizers. A really good crab cake, soups very nice. Breads not great; the same rolls and breads every night. The Lido buffet- Like most buffets, it's a bit of a zoo, especially on "port" days when everyone wants off the boat at the same time. Staff tries to keep up with the tables and does a good job. Coffee machines often out. And they put cups and glasses together so the flow around the beverage area is a little congested (grab cup, walk around people getting juice only, get back in to get coffee, etc.) Breakfast at Lido- everything you could ask for. An omelette section where you could also get fried eggs. Really good Danish and nice little cinnamon rolls. Bacon, potatoes, scrambled eggs, cold cuts, ham, lots of fruit, waffles, pancakes, French toast. Lunch on Lido. Lots of hot and cold choices in the buffet lines. In addition, there are 5 separate places to order from on the Lido deck. Pasta bar is inside above the buffet lines, and seating is upstairs. In addition, there are four separate food stations outside next to the pools. There is a 1) Mongolian Wok in the buffet area. 2) Pasta bar (usually about 20 minute wait after you put in your order, but were very good. Seating area there also. Loved the 3) Tandoori Bar outside on the Sunset adult pool area. They actually have a real tandoori oven and make the chicken and breads right on deck. Great tandoori chicken every day, along with another stew-like meat dish, vegetables, chutney, and great breads. A great opportunity to try Indian food. 4) Deli with good Ruebens, corned beef, etc and the 5) Grill with burgers and hot dogs. I really wish they had an option for a smaller burger. There's a lot of waste, because people get the burger and only eat a few bites. They could do a mini-burger or slider option. Dinner on the Lido: Almost always looks good and often served the same entrEe for dinner as in the dining rooms. A good salad selection, good desserts, always a carving station. There is also a little area on 5 deck called the Wasabi. Every afternoon from 5-7 or so it served some finger foods- mostly sushi but sometimes Italian (olives, cheeses, breadsticks), Greek,( feta, tzaziki, olives, etc). Most people never notice it. The Dream The ship was planned well, I think. The "traffic" seemed to flow pretty well, but this cruise was mostly older people, so there was lots of reading, afternoon naps, etc. The atrium are has nice sofas, and I didn't think the decor was too tacky. It's bright, but not gaudy. I do think the main pool will not be big enough with a full ship, including lots of kids. There is no pool for children, no kiddy pool, etc. The water slides were great; 2 tall ones, 2 medium and 2 kiddy size. Maybe the plane is for small kids to putter around in the water slide area. However, with 500 kids on board- Pandemonium! Liked the hot tubs; nice and warm. Nice outdoor screen for movies. They'll give you a blanket but you have to pay for popcorn. That's a little cheap. Never saw the Camp Carnival area, but the few teenagers did seem to enjoying the two areas for teens. Saw them doing a scavenger hunt and one day I peeked in and saw a young teen boy getting his hair braided by three girls-he looked pretty happy! Spa- I did go up to the spa for a massage and facial. This is a very nice area. The treatment rooms run along the outside , so you are on the massage table with a great view of the ocean. The "thermo" pool looked nice, but it's not very big. I assume the "spa"rooms are nice. Loved the mostly smoke-free ship. Sometimes smoky on the covered area just outside the Ocean Plaza in the middle of the ship on 5th deck. Casino- We don't gamble so can't comment. Entertainment; The dancers and singers did the three shows that will be performed on the week long cruises. The final show is great, with break dancers, acrobats, etc. The other two shows were also good, but I kind of miss the old "show tune" format geared to older folks. For our 15 night crossing, Carnival brought in other entertainers who were mostly good; a violinist, not great magician, good juggler, etc. Also some comics and singers. Didn't take any shore excursions. All in all, we thought Carnival was as up-scale as Princess and Royal Caribbean and surpasses the Norwegian cruise we took a year or so ago. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We are two retired Canadians ages 68years, This was our 8th Carnival Cruise. We flew into Rome from Toronto direct flight two days prior to embarkation and this flight set the beginning of a wonderful cruise. Stayed near to the Airport ... Read More
We are two retired Canadians ages 68years, This was our 8th Carnival Cruise. We flew into Rome from Toronto direct flight two days prior to embarkation and this flight set the beginning of a wonderful cruise. Stayed near to the Airport probably not the best idea but worked for us. Took a Cab to the Hotel. Slept and went for something to eat. Next day up early and got a limo to Rome where we had another great experience. One of the ladies from our CCroll call had organized a tour with Romecabs and it was brilliant. Thanks again Sharon. At this point I would like to thank the whole roll call from CC for their friendship, and fun. It made the cruise amazing. On embarkation day we caught a limo to the Airport and picked up our first of many "super" excursions with Carnival. Although hectic at the Airport everyone was in a great humour.and we boarded our bus for a tour to the Popes summer residence and a restaurant in the countryside. This way we got to meet people before we even got on the ship. We arrived at the ship at 5.30p.m. Straight on and in our cabin by 6p.m. Sail away was 7p.m. so it was a little hurried. Our cabin was surreal. Never been in one like it. Huge balcony. We spent many hours on it when crossing the Atlantic which was like a mill pond. We thoroughly enjoyed our dining experiences in the Scarlett Dining Room late seating. Food was good and a different menu the whole of the sixteen days. Our talented Maitre d' Ken sang every night and sang once to us as we were on our 47th Wedding Anniversary. The waiters and waitresses sang and danced every night and we love the "Fun for All" and "All for Fun" We spent one night in The Steakhouse but much preferred the Supper Club on the Pride. However the food was excellent and well presented. Missed the dancing and music of the Supper Club. We ate in the MDR for breakfast. We like the ambience and meeting different people at breakfast but prefer just the two of us at dinner. All of the Port Excursions were booked through Carnival as too was the transfer from the Port of New York. We booked ahead and had paid before the cruise which helps with the Sail and Sign account. Each and everyone of the excursions were excellent. The buses in Europe are good and comfortable. The Carnival Dream is a "Dream" We loved the ship. Pristeen, easy to manage. The promenade Deck 5 is ideal for walking the ship outside and Deck 4 is a great addition and quiet.We never found the ship crowded, having said that we were not on the Lido for breakfast or lunch. Never won in the Casino or at Bingo but enjoyed playing both. There is plenty of activities and you can get involved in all or nothing whatever. Halloween was amazing on this ship. Got to thinking that some people had got half their luggage allowances in costumes. This was a great night and one of many. Cruise Director Todd and ASD James were visable for most of the cruise. The shows in the Encore lounge were all good. Carnivals entertainment is going up market. A beautiful soprano,violinist and tenor. Plus the shows. The comedy shows in the Burgundy lounge were well received. Our final thrill was to have John Heald on board from Bermuda to New York. He is certainly a wonderful ambassador for Carnival. We had tea time with him on our last sea day and he appears very genuine. The docking and transfers in New York were easy. This was a wonderful cruise and we cannot wait for the Carnival Magic hopefully to do it all over again.Bring it on. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
A little background to get started: We are a family of three (29, 24, and 2) who had been living in Italy for the past 2 1/2 years (my wife is Italian and our daughter - who just turned two for the cruise - was born there) and had ... Read More
A little background to get started: We are a family of three (29, 24, and 2) who had been living in Italy for the past 2 1/2 years (my wife is Italian and our daughter - who just turned two for the cruise - was born there) and had gradually become disenchanted with living there. Italy is a great place to visit and spend a few weeks but actually living there is another story and allows you to appreciate even more being able to live in the USA. Anyway... after going through all of the bureaucratic hula-hoops to get my wife's residency visa, we decided that it would be nice to take a cruise to the US instead of flying - we needed a vacation - and hence settled on the Carnival Dream out of Civitavecchia. The ports of call seemed interesting, it was a new ship, we thought our daughter would be best suited on a Carnival cruise, and Civitavecchia was not that far for us, given that we were coming from Sicily. After renting a car and driving up to Rome the day before, we got up in the morning and headed to Roma Fiumicino as we had to ship some stuff off to the US, and then took a taxi (actually a huge Mercedes van that could have fit 10 people) to Civitavecchia, which is approximately an hour from Rome via car. We were driven right up to the ship and boarding was incredibly simple. It literally took us 10-12 minutes from the time we entered the terminal until the time we were on the ship. We were onboard by 3:30 and took a little time to relax in the stateroom and then head out and meet some CCers at the Sunset bar and grab a bite to eat before getting back to our room (where our luggage had already been delivered), cleaning up, and then it was time for departure. Overall, most of the aspects of the cruise met my expectations, several exceeded, and unfortunately a couple fell short, and now I'll delve into detail about all of that. THE SHIP: The Carnival Dream is obviously a new ship; this was the fourth sailing following three Mediterranean journeys, and is definitely grandiose. On a side note, in Barcelona - the first port - it was docked next to the old Royal Caribbean Sovereign of the Seas, which had once been the largest cruise ship in the world and was actually the ship on which I did my first cruise when I was 11, and just towered over it). The decor was not overwhelming but added an elegant touch, which was nice, given that many people had complained about the last new Carnival ship (Splendor). The exception to that was the Lido buffet area, which didn't really jive well with me. I thought that the ship was designed quite well but there definitely did seem to be a problem with space in several areas, especially outside when the weather was nice and basically all days for breakfast and lunch in the Lido. With this push to continually build larger ships, someone needs to realize that regardless of how many decks you add, your outside space remains extremely limited, and architects can only increase that slightly by adding to the length and width of the ship. Therefore on a ship with 2000 or 3500 or 5500 passengers (i.e. the new Oasis of the Seas), the outside space still remains more or less equivalent to one deck. Many of the guests who had previously sailed with Carnival as well as much of the staff lamented on this very issue. One other consideration is that this was a Transatlantic sailing that generally played to an older crowd... I'm sure the space issues would be compounded in a Caribbean setting with a younger crowd. Overall I was pleased with the ship itself but people need to be wary of that fact that at times they will definitely note the 3600 passengers. STATEROOM: We were in a balcony stateroom (8F) on the Panorama deck and had no complaints whatsoever. The room was spacious enough for the three of us with a large bed, a sofa, sitting area, etc., and it was well designed. No space issues, no storage issues, and I thought the location of the room was perfect for us as it was very close the gym, easy to get outside and head to the Lido deck when we wanted to go enjoy the sunshine or go eat at the buffet, and close to the central elevators to get around the ship. No noise issues either. GYM/SPA: I'm into working out, natural bodybuilding, and personal training, and hence I did head to the gym basically everyday. The equipment that is there is new and definitely high quality, but the gym itself is limited by the space available and again, I feel that it could definitely be an issue with a younger crowd that is more physically active. The first few days it was packed, mostly with people who had no clue what they were doing and several who failed to practice proper gym etiquette (sitting on machines and talking, improper technique, improper gym attire). Furthermore, they need to invest in heavier dumbells and a free weight area would not be a bad idea. I understand that it's a moving ship but as long the heavier weights are utilized by guests who know how to workout, it's not a problem. I never used the spa services but from what I saw, it seemed nice but the products/services are overpriced. SERVICE: For the most part, the best part of our cruise. Maybe we were just fortunate, but I found the service on the Carnival Dream to be wonderful, especially for our 2 year old daughter who was treated so well by the vast majority of the staff and really assisted us in making it a pleasant cruise for us. Our stateroom steward and his staff were always available, took care of every request, and kept our room in immaculate condition, which can be difficult when a certain 2 year old is free inside! The dining staff did a fantastic job as well; we were in the Crimson dining room with "Your Time" dining (hence on the 4th floor) and always had fantastic service, starting with the hostesses and continued by the waiters/waitresses, their assistants, etc. One of the bar waitresses, Usanee, basically babysat our daughter after she was finished eating so that we could enjoy our dinner. Our comment cards were filled with praise for the dining staff. PORTS OF CALL: I will be brief here, as these are ports that will not be visited by the Dream again in the foreseeable future. Basically the ports that we thought were going to be the worst turned out the best and vice versa (with the exception of Bermuda, which we were expecting to be nice and was). Barcelona was okay but it's more of a city to visit for two or three days at a leisurely pace instead of just 10 hours or whatever. Palma de Mallorca was wonderful; very clean and lots to do and not too touristy (it probably is worse in the summer, but great for us). We did not like Malaga (Sunday/holiday and hence nothing was open) or Las Palmas in the Canary Islands (the city seems dirty and the beach was nothing great), and as previously mentioned, enjoyed Bermuda. CAMP CARNIVAL: In one word: AWFUL. The biggest disappointment of the cruise, without a doubt. I was expecting my daughter to have a wonderful time but she absolutely hated it. Yes, she is 2 years old and likes to have her mommy and daddy nearby, but the camp counselors were no good at all and did very little to interact with the younger children and get them involved. Kids who are 5 or 8 or whatever are able to independently play and organize themselves a little bit, but two year olds?!? The room itself seemed wonderful but they basically just sat the kids there and watched TV or had them do whatever, and often didn't follow the planned schedule that was given to us. Perhaps the counselors were so pathetic and lethargic because they were always out during the night getting plastered?!? This includes the Youth Director who I saw out one night and was so inebriated that she couldn't put a sentence together. Disgraceful. Needless to say, we stopped even attempting to bring our daughter to Camp Carnival after a week or so. POOLS/OUTSIDE AREAS/WATER PARK: Never used the pools or hot tubs (again, crowded) but did enjoy the water slides with my daughter, who after discovering them wanted to go basically everyday) but could only do the little ones because... well... she's 2. When my wife was there with us, I had a little liberty to enjoy the twister slides. NIGHTLIFE/SOCIAL AREAS/ENTERTAINMENT: Average, but that's kind of what I expected, given the older crowd on the cruise. I only stayed out after 11 PM or so on three occasions and just for a couple of hours (as my wife went to bed with our daughter), but it seemed that us "youth" always ended up at the Piano Bar. The Caliente disco was nothing great and the music sucked... never really spent much time in the Ocean Plaza. I'm not one for shows and entertainment - I tend to keep myself entertained pretty well - but I did see the hypnotist and then one of the main shows ("Dancing on the Streets", I believe). The hypnotist was amusing; the main show was average for my tastes but others enjoyed it. FOOD: I hope this is the last thing that comes to mind because I'm getting a little tired of typing, but here it goes... Overall, the food met my expectations and I get a little tired of reading complaints from people who are under the impression that every meal on a Carnival cruise should be like a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars or whatever. People need to realize that there are 3600 guests and obviously some of the ingredients are not going to be completely fresh as they have to keep them stored. With that said, the breakfast was fine at the beginning but they could have used a little variation; the only variation that I noted was that one day they had pancakes and then the next french toast. The Lido buffet lunch was not so great; often food was cold and undercooked. Towards the end of the cruise, we avoided it all together and would always go for the pasta bar, the burrito bar, or the grill. The pasta bar was good - yes, it's not Italy, but I thought it was fine for a cruise. The burritos were wonderful; at least for me, the best part of lunch. Room service was fine; nothing special on the menu, but always got there reasonably quick. I was happy with the dinner in the MDR (we went to the buffet the first night but then the MDR every night afterwards with the exception of one night in the Steakhouse). Some people complained about the lack of variation of the menu but it seemed okay to me. There were a couple of nights that dinner was not so great (but still edible); however most of the meals were tasteful, well presented, and of a quality that I was expecting. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. I'm sure that there are several minor details that I could have covered but I hope that I've hit most of the major points here. It wasn't a perfect cruise but it was definitely good and was certainly a great way to move back to the USA. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
EMBARKATION AND DEBARKATION 5.0 Embarkation was an overnight stop in Barcelona. I arrived late (as expected) and was handled quite efficiently. Debarkation was a Monday in Fort Lauderdale and was reasonably efficient; the usual weekend ... Read More
EMBARKATION AND DEBARKATION 5.0 Embarkation was an overnight stop in Barcelona. I arrived late (as expected) and was handled quite efficiently. Debarkation was a Monday in Fort Lauderdale and was reasonably efficient; the usual weekend chaos at FLL was absent. CABIN 5.0 Standard size and comfortable, although with an unusual L-shaped configuration. The bathroom has the standard size and layout, with a single medicine cabinet rather than double shelving. The mid-ships elevators have an odd, three-bank configuration, where a number of outside balcony cabins were replaced with scenic elevators. An expensive arrangement which doesn't work all that well. DINING 5.0 Main Dining Room Huge portions of bland American comfort food. Numerous choices, although no separate salad or pasta courses. Little excitement, few surprizes. If this is what you want, they do it well. Service was "average"- not bad, but didn't live up to the marketing hype. But formal nights were a farce, even though HAL is so uptight they even put it on the boarding pass (HAL may say that plaid sports jackets with orange polka-dot bowties are formalwear, but that doesn't make it so). Perhaps half actually wore something which was properly formal. Buffet Mostly cafeteria service, rather than true buffet. Pasta and desserts available to 1:00 AM, although I was usually the only passenger after midnight; the "midnight" buffet was already finished. A little more attention to detail is required- for example there was no holder for the bread tongs, they ended up being placed on top of the bread. Ample hand sanitizer stations were available, but there was no enforcement. Pinnacle Grill- Lavish presentation, but the food was not really much better than the MDR. Not worth the extra money. FITNESS AND RECREATION 2.0 Fitness Room. No one I talked to reported any difficulty with overcrowding. The equipment seems to be good quality and in good condition. For some reason, the scale is calibrated in kilograms. Do not expect many physical-fitness oriented activities. Although HAL has a reputation for "wheelchairs and walkers", I did not see many, and the ones I met had a positive, "can-do" attitude. But I saw a large number of very fat (BMI's of 50, maybe even 60) passengers. I'm a 60-year-old guy with a heart condition, but I felt like oneof the most active and energetic people on board. ENTERTAINMENT 2.0 Shows The comments I heard indicated shows ranged from good to mediocre. Cooking Displays I did not attend any cooking displays, nor did I hear any comments from those who did. Some were extra cost. Event Evenings There were two major evening events, a 50's night and a Black-and-White ball. Both were crowded for about an hour, then everyone left. Exciting only in comparison to other activity on board. Cinema Seating is comfortable but limited; signs are already posted about not bringing extra seats. ENRICHMENT 1.0 For a ship with 2000 passengers on a Transatlantic crossing, there was not much choice, although it seemed to be adequate for demand. The topics seemed generally interesting, although I admit I did not attend the napkin folding lecture. LGBT activities were scheduled almost every evening; also some sort of religious service every morning. I did not attend either, so I cannot provide any details. PUBLIC ROOMS 1.0 Apparently there is a problem with old people trying to dance and falling down, so the ship puts sticky goo on all the dance floors. This makes it very dangerous to dance until it wears off, about two or three days. But there isn't much demand, most people go to bed by 11 PM. Ocean Bar The house band is given music by HAL, and that's all they are allowed to play. Dreary, dismal stuff, at least a generation out of date. The group on this sailing was from Mexico and spoke limited English, so I am not sure how much flexibility they had regarding tempos and requests. They did play til 11:30 PM, but very few couples danced, the room was often empty. Queens Room A multipurpose room, used mostly for cooking demonstrations, rarely for dancing. The dance floor is a decent size, but normally occupied by extra seating. There were a few evening activities, once even until midnight. Crow's Nest A large, attractive lounge, used mostly as a piano (or guitar) bar; often reserved for private parties. Disco The DJ tried very hard to find out what music passengers wanted. But the busiest I ever saw the disco was 9 people- most nights, none at all. The disco bar is a smoking area for the casino. Library/Internet A decently sized library. Food available for purchase. Internet seemed to function at normal speed for a ship. Casino Operates on a semi-cashless system. The machines will take cash, but only credit your winnings back to your cabin account. Quite a few 1-cent and 2-cent machines. SERVICE 4.0 Not bad, but doesn't live up to the marketing hype. The Cruise Director did the usual shameless begging for inflated survey ratings; worse, partly-completed surveys disappeared from some cabins, including mine. SHORE EXCURSIONS Not evaluated. But there was no effort to decontaminate passengers or bags returning. Steam cleaning of carpets was not done until night. One woman actually boasted about bringing local food on board. The ship must be assumed to have been contaminated with any local microbes at every port stop. VALUE FOR MONEY 5.0 or 1.0, depending on your interests If you want "Florida Retirement Home" ambiance with huge amounts of food, then this ship is an excellent choice. But if "life begins at 10 PM", stay far away - you will be travelling with some of the most boring people I have ever met. Those with racial prejudices will be happy- passengers are white, servers are brown, blacks are not to be seen. The Oosterdam did not strike me as a happy ship. The corporate MBA's in Seattle need to stop worrying about the survey system which is obviously flawed, and spend more time on board. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We were the last to arrive on the ship as our flight which was inclusive did not get into Verona until late. Checking in was chaotic. The cabin we were given was very clean and a nice size. We found the food lacking in imagination and ... Read More
We were the last to arrive on the ship as our flight which was inclusive did not get into Verona until late. Checking in was chaotic. The cabin we were given was very clean and a nice size. We found the food lacking in imagination and were given very small portions. If we wanted water we had to pay for it. Tea and coffee was not offered. Only time we could get these was during the day at the restaurant by the pool. The shore excursions were planned for the majority of the passengers who were Germans. After much complaints we finally got an English speaker on the excursions. The shows were OK. The shops on board were expensive and service was hard to get. Internet was not working during the voyage and calling out was extremely expensive. If you bought alcohol from the shop it was put away until you were ready to leave. The crew was upset when we wanted to give the tips ourselves as they wanted to deduct it from the bill. Again it was messy business. Checking out was chaotic in the extreme and we were dropped off at the airport eight hours before our flight was due to leave. With hardly any seats and two cafes it became an exercise in patience and endurance. Will never use them again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We decided to try the new Dream as it was to be the "Pride of the Carnival Fleet" and because it was a trans Atlantic we thought it would have a seasoned, mature passenger group. On the point of the passengers, we were correct. ... Read More
We decided to try the new Dream as it was to be the "Pride of the Carnival Fleet" and because it was a trans Atlantic we thought it would have a seasoned, mature passenger group. On the point of the passengers, we were correct. Many were die-hard Carnival followers but a large group were multi line cruisers and all that we met personally were very nice, interesting and well traveled people. They are what made our cruise enjoyable. What was disappointing was the staffing, activities, and the overall engineering of the ship. Staffing: In order to cut cost Carnival has eliminated the "head/section waiter" in the dining room. This results is overworked, confused and less productive wait staff. There is no guidance and lack of training shows. Not once did I see a pepper mill or the table cleared in the proper manner after dinner and before dessert. Many nights orders for drinks were either never taken or when they were the drinks were not served until the meal was about over or not at all. On the Lido this really causes problems. Tables are left uncleared as waiters stand about talking with each other, in some cases for 30 minutes or more. The "guest services" personnel were easily confused unless asked a very simple question. They apparently were programed to answer only certain questions and if your question was not on their training list they were at a loss. Some tried, but most did not. Our steward did the minimal as did his first assistant. His second (a lovely young lady) however was excellent. When she joined him about day three, suddenly our throw pillows resurfaced and the ashtray on the balcony was cleaned. Until then I had been cleaning this myself. By day 10 there was a shortage of facial tissue for our room yet our table mates had half a dozen boxes each. We did have a large supply of bath tissue so we had a tissue swap. We found the CD Todd and his assistant Jamie to be the worse we have ever had on a cruise. They were much too busy socializing with family and friends to be bother with passengers and activities for them. If we (hundreds of us) had not been self starters we would have jumped ship out of boredom while crossing the Atlantic. And to on a 16 night cruise with only two production shows is unacceptable. They certainly under utilize their entertainment staff, but the staff does take full advantage of all the ship's venues. The ship has many engineering problems among which are the venting and lack of venting in one case. The Piano lounge which showed a designated smoking section in the rear of the lounge turned into an all smoking lounge by night 8 or so. But trust me that even as a smoker this was not enjoyable and I felt very badly for non-smokers. It was so bad I even stopped going in some nights because of the clouds of smoke that hung in the air. There is no venting system in the lounge and in this day of electronic marvels there is no reason for this "oversight". Many ships and airports (in Europe) have fantastic air systems that make it near impossible to see or smell the smoke. The other venting problem is the exhaust from the ship's funnel being sucked back into the cabins (deck 6 port) and the poor air conditioning system which leaves areas of rooms either very cold or hot, no even temperature,. Even the control in our cabin was a challenge. Many have complained about the lack of lounge space for the comedy shows. True, there was a problem, but it could have been easily solved by moving them to the show room and putting the passenger shows in the Burgundy. There was also very little use of the Disco and this was more than likely due to the floor which would be dangerous to dance on because of its slick surface and the DJ who preferred to stick to his programing and not take request from those who did venture into "his" room. We found the dinning room food better than expected but some meals were inconsistent from person to person. Desserts were lacking in imagination and taste; soups when good were very good but when not were cold and tasteless. They did try to pass off watered down tomato juice as they "were running out" -so we were told. Why not just take if off the menu? The poached eggs are made in oil, thus answering the question as to why they were like rubber. The Lido was not worth the battle as the set-up is not for large crowds. The Tandoor food was good but the staff was not customer service trained. Thank goodness for the Deli and its great staff, never a disappointment. I did meet up a few times with the engineers that were trying to fix the venting and hot tub problems and they said the ship was not ready to sail. Makes one wonder why it did. If Carnival plans to make more of this class ship, I strongly suggest they get the bugs in this one ironed out first...and there are bugs whether Carnival wants to admit it to themselves or not. This is not the ship it could be and as it floats today, not one to be proud of. One odd little item. Deck 4 Port side men's room opens the wrong way. Any gentleman standing there is in full view of a passerby when the door is opened. Smile! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We recently returned from a Black Sea /Med/Trans Atlantic Odyssey, including a four night package in Rome prior to embarking on this awesome adventure. Air and hotel were all part of the package with 38 days aboard the elegant explorer, ... Read More
We recently returned from a Black Sea /Med/Trans Atlantic Odyssey, including a four night package in Rome prior to embarking on this awesome adventure. Air and hotel were all part of the package with 38 days aboard the elegant explorer, HAL's venerable M/S Prinsendam We left Calgary on October 13th during a major snow storm, our normal 25 minute journey took an hour and a half but we left in lots of time so arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Because of the weather the plane had to be de iced so we were delayed about a half hour. We had a connecting flight in Frankfurt which was quite tight and by the time we passed through German immigration, we missed it and so were booked on another, about an hour and a half later. The Rome airport was a zoo, there was no sign of any HAL personnel who were supposed to meet us plus one of our bags was missing. By the time we realized this about an hour and a half had passed, so after talking to the airport authorities and finding that our bag had not accompanied us, arrangements were made to forward it to us at the hotel and thankfully it did arrive later that night. We were tired and cranky so took a taxi to the Visconti Palace Hotel, there we talked to the HAL rep who informed us that her duties ended when we were not on the flight. We tried to get reimbursed for the taxi, but to no avail, take it up with HAL was her final answer. The Visconti Palace is centrally located and within walking distance of the Spanish steps and Trevi fountain, The hotel puts on an excellent buffet breakfast hot and cold, and was included in the price. The rooms are quite nice and there is no noise from the street. The noise between rooms however is another matter, the walls are paper thin and even with TVs turned down, you can still hear it along with every shower and toilet flush. Hal put on an Italian dinner for the 7 of us who were partaking of the pre cruise package. It was held at a lovely restaurant just a short walk from the hotel, the problem was it was for 7pm on the evening of our arrival and most of us were nodding off at the table. We all got on well, which was great cos the next few days we would spend a lot of time together. The next day we were on our own and the 7 of us with help from the HAL rep organized a tour of Rome with some excellent stops at places where we would have the best vantage points for picture taking. It was very inexpensive and we all thought it was great. Next day we had a 7am departure time for our included tour of Siena and San Gimigano, the 20 seater bus looked perfect for a long day but after a while the lack of padding in the seats became uncomfortably obvious. The sights of Siena, the piazza the cappuccinos and gelatos and history were fantastic and lunch at a local farm was a delight. They made their own wine and everyone made purchases to take aboard the ship. Our long day was made even longer by 3 traffic collisions and grid lock on the way back to Rome. We eventually arrived at the hotel at about 8pm, so it was a quick pizza for us and bed. On this day we would visit the Vatican and it's environs, although this was considered out of season it was extremely crowded, we saw the Sistine chapel, and museum, all way too crowded for me, most of us had seen it all before so it's never like the first time, but well worth visiting none the less. Our last night in Rome and we dined at a lovely restaurant (the name eludes me) but good restaurants are not hard to find in Rome,the owner serenaded us along with opera that played in the background all evening, the food was good and a great way to conclude our visit to the eternal city. October 18th and our bus picked us up a little late but it was a Sunday and the journey to Civitavecchia took only an hour and a half, there in her berth, waiting for us was the M/S Prinsendam looking much the same as she did in 2005 when we were last aboard. Our cabin 452 was much the same too, except we had no balcony this time but a nice window and comfortably amid ship. The bathrooms had all been refurbished and were quite practical and pleasing to the eye, ours had only a shower but for us that's not a problem. There was a pull out sofa beside the king size bed, and the bed can be split on request. The room , apart from not being able to pass by if someone is using the stool at the bottom of the bed was spacious enough for us and made a great home away from home. The Prinsendam is showing her age some and we heard complaints of no hot water, phones and fridges not working and the like. Elevators were breaking down too but we still love this ship and it will be a shame when HAL eventually decides to let her go. Cut backs, and there have been some, are vehemently denied by the crew, company policy no doubt. Breakfast and lunch in La Fontaine dining room were painfully slow due to staff cutbacks, I'm told that room stewards now have twice the number of rooms to clean, yet on questioning head waiters and the like, "no cutbacks" was the ubiquitous answer though it's obvious that there have been. Those young and not so young men and women are truly overworked yet you would be hard pressed to read it in their faces. Cruise staff seemed to feel their days are numbered too and we're told that Prinsendam is the only ship in the fleet that has any dam dollar events and that that won't be for long. More enrichment programs will be added in their place, they say. Our on board travel guide Frank, was very knowledgeable about the history of each and every port of call and great to listen to, our other speaker George a former "diplomat" talked of what has gone on before to make the middle east what it is today and how the U.S.A. fits into the world as it is now and what it is becoming. As one might imagine it caused great debate. We called at some 21 ports over the 38 days and we enjoyed them all, some we had visited before, most we had not. We loved Istanbul and enjoyed our overnight stay there and Sochi Russia with it's warm weather and palm trees was a surprise, not to mention Stalin's dacha. Batumi Georgia and Gabes Tunisia gave us the most culture shock, both places dirt poor but interesting to wander around and they definitely made us appreciate home. We took only two ships tours, most of our tours were arranged through friends we'd met on CC and were booked months before we sailed, all were excellent, thank you Jennie and Linda. Suffice to say that after the busyness of our ports of call, we looked forward to another Atlantic crossing, a time to rest up and adjust to getting home again. One never knows what to expect crossing an ocean and I believe it was our 3rd day out of Madeira when we spotted a lonely sail boat heading for the Azores. For the most part it was very smooth with only a little wobble for two of the seven days we were at sea. We arrived back to reality and rain in Ft. Lauderdale, Grumpy stevedores and delayed flights but we made it home safely with new friends and wonderful memories and pictures, lots of pictures. All in all this voyage was all and more than we had hoped, and for those with the time to do it, I highly recommend the itinerary and the old but still warm and friendly M/S Prinsendam. Toeknee Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We just completed the 16 day transatlantic aboard the Carnival Dream, Carnival's newest ship. Overall the cruise was ok but nothing to write rave reviews about. Embarkation was smooth and easy with no difficulties. Our embarkation ... Read More
We just completed the 16 day transatlantic aboard the Carnival Dream, Carnival's newest ship. Overall the cruise was ok but nothing to write rave reviews about. Embarkation was smooth and easy with no difficulties. Our embarkation was in the city of Civitavecchia about two and half hours from the city of Rome. The staterooms are the same as other Carnival ships with the same amenities although they do have small flat screen televisions on this ship. In regards to amenities it is obviously an area that Carnival is saving money in. Very few. Small samplers of toothpaste, aspirin, hotel type soaps, nothing much else. They even took our bathrobes the night before the end of the cruise? I presume that they thought we might steal them. The Lido deck food and environment were for the most part very crowded and the food was often on the luke warm rather than hot side. I found the place to feel like an un cleaned cafeteria with many dirty plates on the tables. Many times it was so crowded that getting a table took as long as it did to go through the buffet line. Food in the main dinning room was good and the service a little slow but there was certainly and effort to make the experience pleasant. Entertainment in the main dinning room was minimal and only met the maitre d' once during the cruise. This area is very busy and the staff work very hard. The entertainment in regards to the shows was good although it was obvious that Carnival gave little thought in adjusting daily events for the folks who were on this cruise. By this I mean that this cruise was for an older generation as they are generally the only ones that have the time for a 16 day cruise in November. Without question Carnival lacked foresight in this area utilizing the typical Caribbean games and contests. Outdoor movie theater was very nice depending upon the weather. Really how many hairy chest competitions can you stand!! Seems there is a standard script for all Carnival cruises. Dance shows were very good. Comedy club is a great idea but Carnival despite having noticed a packed house on the first night with many people standing or sitting railings or what ever they could find, did nothing to bring in more seats. Other clubs were very good with the usual musical offerings. The library, well I was amazed to see it had so little to offer. Seriously I have more books in my personal library then Carnival had in its library. Most of the books in the library were reference materials. The Assistant Cruise Director was 24 but acted like a teenager. He might be more suited and would be qualified to work in the Camp Carnival section of the ship. Such a disappointment, the immaturity was appalling and it was very surprising that Carnival would place an individual of this capacity in a position of such responsibility, especially when the audience is a much more mature group of individuals. The ship did have a very good gym with modern equipment. One of the high points of the ship. Shore excursions were very high priced and crowded. We actually did not take them but hired a taxi next to the ship, paid half the price and saw alot more than the folks we talked to who did take the shore excursions. The cruise director seemed more worried about his parents vacation then serving as a cruise director. It was just really so nice to hear about Mom and Dads adventures and tours and even have them on the morning show. Speaking of the morning show, lacking in its content or lack of content and I would have been comfortable letting my children watch it is a cartoon substitute on Saturday morning. Probably what you might expect from a group of High School students although I would give them more credit. Scheduling changes caused us to transient the straights of Gibraltar at night and the arrival in New York which was scheduled for 0700 was moved to 0230 since the next day Carnival had its grand celebration for all of the tour companies and VIP's. So it was a big push to get everyone off the ship as soon as possible. Overall I felt that many of the Carnival staff worked very hard especially in the main dinning area. On a 16 day cruise they most certainly were overworked and it showed despite their best efforts. Cruise Director on the Dream was a not what I experienced on other ships and cruise lines. Really cannot say that I would ever cruise this line again. This cruise line offers probably the cheapest fairs, and the old saying you get what you pay for is exactly correct. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We flew from Spain to Rome, the train from Rome Termini Station to Civitacchia was efficient and cheap, costing about 5 euros each. Just remember to have your ticket punched at one of the machines on the platform before you get on the ... Read More
We flew from Spain to Rome, the train from Rome Termini Station to Civitacchia was efficient and cheap, costing about 5 euros each. Just remember to have your ticket punched at one of the machines on the platform before you get on the train. We then shared a cab with another group to the Port, OK it was more expensive than walking and cost 5 euros per person, but to me it was worth it. Embarkation was one of the quickest and most efficient we have experienced, well done to Carnival. Cabins as usual were perfect, we had a balcony on Upper Deck midship, this was a smart move as we did not experience any ship movement and it was quiet. A couple of people we met were complaining about the noise from decks below them from the theatre and discotheques, so be careful when you choose your cabin location. Now, on to the main event,I have never seen so many clinically obese and wheelchairbound people who moved around at snail pace in all my life, the average age of the passengers must have been about 70. So...why oh why, were we all subjected to 'Jeff the Fun Dude' who was the warm up comedian / compere in the comedy club and was anything but fun. He may have been fun at one of my children's birthday parties where the average age was under double figures but I felt here on The Dream he was my Nightmare, his jokes were the same every night, he was embarrassing to watch and insulted my intelligence by forcing me to listen to such drivel. However, the nightmare was worth it as the main comedians were exceptionally good as were the shows in the theatre. Food on the whole was very good, not exceptional though and not up to the standard we have previously enjoyed on the Liberty. Other than the steak and lamb, everything else was mediocre. My favourite dessert has always been the chocolate melting cake, one night I ordered it and it looked like slop, completely runny, when I mentioned this to the waitress I was simply told 'thats what chocolate melting cake is!' Wrong answer! One tip though for the dining room, if you like butter on your rolls, bring some of the packs from the Lido Buffet. The butter they serve in the main dining rooms has been whipped, my husband accurately described it as being 'like axle grease but with less flavour'. The morning show with Todd and James was dire, aimed at those with low IQ, in fact I would say that the whole entertainment crew was below standard. I went to the Murder Mystery shows which were obviously not rehearsed and very amateurish, a complete non event. The trivia quizes were fine as long as you were American and spent your days watching TV soaps and Football, if you are European like me then you didn't stand a chance! Ports of call were just OK but then I didn't expect much from them anyway, my husband and I live in Spain and had been to most of them before. One tip I would give is to do the Soller Train in Majorca on your own. As you get off the ship there is a bus stop outside, take Bus no 1 to the Placa Espanya cost 1.25 euros (the ship charges you 5 euros to take the shuttle) the Soller train is just off the main square and costs 10 euros to Soller. Fantastic train ride through the mountains and orange groves. From there you can take the tram down to the Port of Soller, this costs 4 euros each. The bus back to Palma costs 2.75 euros and goes from Carre De L'Esglasias just off the Harbour. Do everything early in the day as nothing happens in Siesta time, they all nod off for a few hours after about 2pm!! All in all The Carnival Dream was a bit of a disappointment, a lot more work needs to be done to get this ship right. I expected a much more professional approach, it just didn't happen. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
I called my husband on day 21 and requested that he pick me up at Port Everglades with an empty car. My mom and I live in Ft. Lauderale so we left with 2 suitcases and returned with 8. The trip over to Athens was tremendously stressful ... Read More
I called my husband on day 21 and requested that he pick me up at Port Everglades with an empty car. My mom and I live in Ft. Lauderale so we left with 2 suitcases and returned with 8. The trip over to Athens was tremendously stressful with my 80 year-old mother in tow. We left Miami with a connection in Toronto for London. My plane was delayed in MIa by 20 minutes; I had a 1 an 1/2 hour to catch the next plane. Do not connect in Toronto from US. It is a tremendous airport and we had to go through security and customs. Long story short, after running and huffing and puffing we got on the plane. The plane was about to take off and a very official lady with a walkie talkie said I couldn't get on. I looked at her and said I will miss my cruise and if you don't let me on I will have a heart attack. Anyways... We landed in London. Heathrow is not an easy airport either. Many people on the ship had similar stories of delays and lost suitcases. We arrived in Athens one day early as planned. Stayed at the Grande Bretagne and ate at restau reccommended near the square. Next morning went to the market and bought many spices at good prices,a little ouzo for the cabin. All ports were wonderful;can't detail them all. Weather was great. I was worried about Iskenderun,but it turned out to be a welcome adventure. I did a lot of research before the trip on each port. I do like to eat the local food. I did not eat much of the ship food ,only when I had to. Passengers of all sorts-a lot of old people. Good for them they are still traveling. Even many handicap people. The crew always smiling and friendly. The officers also personable. The German head chef had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed his demonstrations. The days at sea a bit boring. They should have music by the pool even if it is just a guitar player. Hey ask Justin Miller!!!!!!!The sea was calm on the transatlantic part. I enjoyed eating alfresco at the back of the ship.The entertaiment was for the most part the 70-80 age bracket and the singers had 4 shows that they repeated. I caught up on my sleep and enjoyed stress free days. I shopped in every port; but, I do enjoy it. I was adventurous and in ports did take local trains and buses. I never felt unsafe. This is my tenth med cruise will I go again? for sure. I will eat in different restaurants talk to different people and have a different experience. Will I travel on Holland America ? Of course. I pick my trips by the itineraries. They have great ones. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009

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