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5,964 Repositioning Cruise Reviews

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
Ever since our 1st cruise, we have the cruise bug, having done the Transatlantic to the Caribbean aboard the Oceana, we re-booked for 2009, same cruise, we love it, food, service, entertainment, can't fault it, on the 2009 cruise we ... Read More
Ever since our 1st cruise, we have the cruise bug, having done the Transatlantic to the Caribbean aboard the Oceana, we re-booked for 2009, same cruise, we love it, food, service, entertainment, can't fault it, on the 2009 cruise we met Sue Holderness from the green green grass what a lovely lady had many a conversation with her and photos, she left my mum a letter in her room with a signed photo. We also made friends with Maureen & Billy from Manchester, we happened to get sun loungers next to them everyday! only sorry we never got their address to keep in touch, we did not know what to do for this hol and did not fancy a normal package hol so we have just booked a cruise for December 2011 on the Azura can't wait Ed Stuart and Roy walker were great as were the headliners as usual, sorry we missed the Freddie Mercury tribute as we heard he was great, we went to see Rob Boyd who was also very entertaining. I must add that the staff and the entertainment staff were all very friendly and helpful, they all work extremely hard and for long periods of time, some away from their family's for many months. The waiters in the dining hall the Adriatic in our case, Mario and his team were great, could not do enough for you and were always very friendly, they make your hol that bit more special. Just hope the Azura will be as good, can't wait to try. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Transatlantic Crossing - E928 Booking Debbie and I have taken quite a few cruises over the years, with Thomsons, Airtours, NCL, Ocean Village, and P&O, mainly in the Med and to the Caribbean. What should we do this year? Well. we ... Read More
Transatlantic Crossing - E928 Booking Debbie and I have taken quite a few cruises over the years, with Thomsons, Airtours, NCL, Ocean Village, and P&O, mainly in the Med and to the Caribbean. What should we do this year? Well. we have previously completed two transatlantic cruises, one on Airtour's Sunbird (now Thomson Destiny) and the second on P&O's Oceana, and we really enjoy the lazy days at sea, so why not do it again. The next question is who should we cruise with? Should we go with P&O or should we try someone new? So it was time to get the brochures, surf the cruise web sites, and visit Cruise Critic for the reviews and forums. We finally settled on another cruise with P&O, and chose Oceana as we had such a good time on our last cruise. We booked via the internet and got a fairly good deal with a nice amount of on board credit to help pay for our drinks etc. We don't get too hung up on whether we got the cheapest deal after all there can only be one cheapest fare on each cruise! We were happy with what we paid. We requested an inside cabin with second sitting on a table for 8 in the main restaurant. We have always enjoyed formal dining far more than the informal type we experienced on OV. About 3 months before our cruise I e-mailed P&O to book the free coach transfer from Gatwick Airport to Southampton and booked the airport parking. This would allow us to get off the aircraft at Gatwick and drive straight home on our return. Travel and Embarkation Finally, after the normal shopping for posh frocks and all the other essential items for a two week cruise, it was time for the off. We left home early to try to beat any queues on the M25 and arrived at Gatwick ahead of schedule, left the car at airport parking and headed inside the terminal for breakfast. Then it was off to join the queue for the coach transfer to Southampton. This was a little chaotic - no one knew which way we were supposed to queue and no one to ask, so a queue formed both ways from the coach stop. The coaches turned up on time and off we went with only a slight detour due to a crash on the M27. We arrived at the new cruise terminal at Southampton and were surprised at how nice the new terminal was. We were given a coloured boarding ticket and waited for our colour to be called. The embarkation process went like clockwork and before long we were smiling nicely for the photographer as we boarded the ship. First Impressions There were 1982 passengers booked on our cruise and we were told that the ship was more or less full. Oceana can take more passengers but it depends on how many cabins have the third and fourth berths occupied. We found our cabin (D204), freshened up and went up to the Plaza for lunch and a drink. Our first impressions of Oceana are always good - the stunning atrium, the cleanliness, the friendliness of the staff - and today was no exception. Our cases arrived quickly (we hadn't seen them since they were loaded on the coach at Gatwick!), we unpacked and then went off to our first sailaway to the delightful sounds of the Police Brass Band. We cast off from the quay at around 5 pm. Cabin D204 is an inside cabin on D deck (deck 8) It was configured as a twin but can be changed to a queen size if that is what you want. There was enough space for all of our clothes and our suitcases fitted neatly under the beds. The bathroom was of a good size as was the shower, which for me is good as I need a lot of room! The cabin contained all we needed - Fridge, TV, Tea making facilities, Safe, Radio, Hairdryer, Telephone Complementary toiletries and Lifejackets. Although there was no natural light we both find it very comfortable and we tend not to spend too long in the cabin anyway. Our cabin steward was very thorough and anything you requested he provided - for example extra teabags, ice, water, etc. The cabin was cleaned and tidied in the morning and the beds turned down in the evening. Dining We ate in the main Adriatic restaurant every evening and did not try the select dining restaurants. We were very impressed with the quality and service provided by all the team, nothing was too much trouble. There was a good wine selection and we had a mixture of house carafes, and bottles of Rose and Red wine. All were very nice and very reasonably priced in my opinion. We were on a table for eight, three married couples and two sisters. We all got on very well and the conversations flowed nicely. We took our breakfasts in the Plaza most days and sometimes ate out in the sunshine. Again a very good selection was on offer, from cereals, fruit and yogurt through to a full English cooked breakfast if that is what you wanted. Lunch was again a casual affair either at Cafe Jardin or at the Plaza. Cafe Jardin was not a select dining venue during the day and I would recommend it as a quiet, classy place to have lunch. Drinks As mentioned above, I thought the drinks and wine prices were reasonable - pub prices, in my opinion, and without the extra service charge you get on American ships. You would pay far more at an hotel bar. Ports of Call Madeira - we opted for an open top bus tour and a trip to the flower market Antigua - we joined with another couple from our table for a taxi tour of the Island via Shirley Heights and ended up on a nice beach for a couple of hours. A great day! Tortola - The best day yet, we joined another couple from the ship for a day at Cane Garden Bay Beach by taxi. It was $10 per couple each way - not bad. What a beach - fresh coconut pina coladas, dolphins swimming in the bay, pelicans diving for fish, warm sea, and warm sunshine. Wow! St . Maarten - We pre-booked an internet tour with Bernard's Tours which was quite good with stops at the airport beach (it is great to see a jet passing only feet above your head), a trip to the beach, a nature stop to see sea urchins star fish etc, a trip to the capital and market. It was good but we had a bit of waiting about at the start of the day waiting for passengers from other cruise ships. St. Lucia - After shopping at the new cruise terminal we joined a taxi minibus tour to an ecology style walking trail with the chance to try original traditional foods and the odd rum or two! - the tour also stopped at a beach and a market. Barbados - On the morning of our departure we took a short taxi minibus tour via the island capital, the highest point, an old sugar cane factory, a few posh hotels and the Governors house. It was OK but a bit rushed! Days at Sea We found the days at sea very relaxing, there was a full programme of events going on throughout the ship that you could join in with if you wanted to, but there was no one twisting your arm. If you wanted to do nothing or just read you book you could - so we did! We found there to be enough sun beds for those that wanted them. There were busy times and if you went onto the sundecks on a sunny day at 12 noon you probably would struggle to find sun beds where you wanted them. My advice is to get yourselves organised, pick out where you want your sun bed in advance, and amble along there a bit earlier! Debbie went along to the series of talks on "The history of Cruising", which she found extremely interesting. I hit a few golf balls at the regular golf competitions at the golf simulator - chipping, putting and driving - quite good fun now and again. Staff All the staff that we came across on the cruise were polite and smart. Our table waiters and wine waiter were very pleasant and helpful, as was our cabin steward. We often had a drink before dinner at Explorers bar and by the second or third day the waiters knew what we were going to order as we arrived - great service! Entertainment The guest celebrities on board were Ed Stewart, Roy Walker and Sue Holderness. We went to see Sue Holderness give a brief talk which, although interesting in parts, was mainly clips from her TV shows. Roy Walker was quite entertaining with jokes and anecdotes. We went along to see most of the theatre shows which were all high quality and the normal mixture of show songs, tribute style rock songs, and musicals. Disembarkation We stayed on board until our transfer was called to take us to the airport in Barbados. This all went very smoothly and our flight back to Gatwick onboard a Thomas Cook aircraft went without hitch. The most disappointing aspect was all the rubbish left by people leaving the ship. There were flights leaving throughout the afternoon and early evening. As it got near to the time that the flight transfers were due, people dived into the toilets to change and freshen up but, as their suitcases had already left the ship, there was nowhere to pack their leftover toiletries dirty clothes etc., so many people abandoned their bits and pieces in the toilets. There was stuff everywhere, shoes, underwear, toiletries, etc. etc. I think that P&O could have done more to alleviate the situation - provide more day cabins for changing and showering, provide more receptacles for things being dumped, have more people keeping the public areas clean. Likewise disembarking passengers should have been more mindful of how they were leaving the ship for the next passengers. New passengers were arriving as we left and they cannot have had a very good first impression. Positives A well run ship which offers good value for money, great good quality food & entertainment, and friendly & helpful staff. We visited great ports and had good weather. Well done P&O. Negatives Negatives are: the state of the public areas / toilets on the last afternoon of the cruise, the chaotic queues at Gatwick airport waiting for the coach transfer, and the lack of enough seats on the promenade deck. Overall A brilliant cruise overall with the positives greatly outweighing the negatives, good quality food, accommodation and entertainment. I can't wait for my next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We had the pleasure of sailing on the Dream for it's transatlantic voyage October 2009-November 2009. The new ship was nicely appointed and the staff, for the most part, were very warm and energetic. There was a sense of excitement ... Read More
We had the pleasure of sailing on the Dream for it's transatlantic voyage October 2009-November 2009. The new ship was nicely appointed and the staff, for the most part, were very warm and energetic. There was a sense of excitement throughout the ship's crew, which is to be expected. I'll be brief and sum it up: Food: Regular cruise fare; for great food you must visit the steakhouse,well worth the $30 pp Service: Lots of missed/wrong orders in the dining room, almost like they had not figured out how to get it right just yet. The last night was a very rocky one on the Atlantic so the last night's meal in the dining room lacked a bit. Room service was within 30 minutes most times and the room steward was attentive. Space: Nice decoration throughout the ship, but space was at a premium at the buffet and poolside. It was very difficult to find a table on Lido deck at any given time, a huge drawback from the lager ship models. This theme has repeated for us on every ship over 100,000 gross tons.... Also, I'm sure the pool will be standing room only on the Caribbean voyages. Spa: Shall I say wow?! The spa was very nice with new amenities not on most of CCL's ships. These amenities came at a price, you must buy "membership" to the spa to enjoy it's full potential or stay in a "Spa Room". The spa also had a "Mud Lounge" which was a private experience with a sauna, rain shower, and all the body care needs you could stand, $135 an hour I think. Camp Carnival: There were only a few kids on the ship so they had the run of the place, not sure how it would work at full capacity. Cabin: We were in a suite, nicely appointed, similar to other suites on other CCL ships. Three problems: the sliding closet doors derail easily, the LCD TV was too high, thus you could not see clearly in bed (poor angle), and the whirlpool doors would slide and bang loudly in rough seas. Otherwise, pleasant room. Upon arrival in NY, we were quickly debarked so the party could begin, wish we could have been included in some way, oh well. Overall, this was a great experience and the length afforded us the ability to make life-long friends! We're already booked for the Magic TA! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
This was our first 14 day cruise and our first Transatlantic. It was like two cruises in one. The first part of the cruise we did the British Isles and we hit a port just about everyday. We had beautiful but cool weather and rain only on ... Read More
This was our first 14 day cruise and our first Transatlantic. It was like two cruises in one. The first part of the cruise we did the British Isles and we hit a port just about everyday. We had beautiful but cool weather and rain only on one day. Our pictures came out great. The tours were ok but there was a lot of busride time. The sites we went to were in France, including the US World War II Cemetary and some small towns along the Normandy area. All of our tours went well except the one in Scotland when we went to Edinburg. The tour guide was very disorganized and we lost two people. It included lunch but that was in a hotel and the food was hotel fare. As far as the ship was concerned, the food was outstanding, the service outstanding, the ship was clean, and we absolutely enjoyed Perry Grant each night after the main show. The entertainment for the most part was very good but there were a few nights where the main entertainment was filler, if you get my drift. So we always went back to Perry Grant and we assured of a fabulous show with him as well as great music. Couple 69 danced and Joyce, as always, was there. He also had a number of other groupies and although he repeats his jokes (he yelled about Cruise Critics.com one night) he is always a hoot. We got his DVD but it does not do justice to his in person talent. Anyway, the downside to the Constellation we thought was that the rooms are a bit dowdy. They need new carpet and the storage space is pretty minimal. Bathrooms are nice and the cabin service is excellent. We had a Ocean View with balacony but used the balcony infrequently on this cruise. Room service was excellent and very punctual. They really tried to pull out all the stops for this group of passengers as we have been on other cruises on Princess and Holland where the service was terrible. No so on this cruise. They knew they had an audience with some means and they intended to make us happy. Another downside I thought were daily activities. There were not as many activities as we had experienced on other lines like Princess. This could have been because the pool area was too cold to use so everything had to be inside. I accidentally happend upon the Bridge Tour and that was excellent. If you can get a Bridge Tour I highly recommend it. No other cruise that I know of has allowed a Bridge Tour. We met with the Captain several times and he was very personable. I thought the stores were low on merchandise but they did have some sea day sales. The transatlantic crossing from Scotland to Iceland is not for the faint of heart. The seas were rocking and rolling and while I found that really cool, others on board were not as amused as I was. The crossing from Iceland to Canada, at times, was also a tad bumpy. There were some general updates but the info was few and far between. Also we had no CNN or other news contact via TV and the internet was really slow and quite expensive. So be prepared to be cut off from the outside world. In any event, I would highly recommend the Constellation, she is a beautiful and fine vessel and she is going into dry dock next year, I believe for a makeover. In many public areas, however, it looked like she had had a makeover recently since that carpet looked great. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Onboard life-I like the less announcements policy a lot. Rarely do you hear announcements exception being the Captains noon update. Staff knows your name, drink, food preferences within a few day of boarding, which is a miracle in itself ... Read More
Onboard life-I like the less announcements policy a lot. Rarely do you hear announcements exception being the Captains noon update. Staff knows your name, drink, food preferences within a few day of boarding, which is a miracle in itself to me, since I rarely remembered even my table mates' names until after the first week. One of the things that was quite impressive that I never noticed before was Celebrity's attention to people with disabilities. We had a nice couple onboard who were deaf, Celebrity made available to them interpreters anytime they needed it for shows, excursions, etc. People who had a physical disability that confined them to a wheelchair were treated like the VIP's that they should. We did have a day or two of rough seas, which wasn't totally expected since it was a transatlantic cruise in September. The ship obviously tried its best to minimize the rocking, was really impressed though how the crew/staff handled the passengers concerns. They tried to keep people from focusing on the movement and suggested simple but effective solutions to make it as smooth/comfortable as possible. One suggestion for cruise travelers. Find a cruise line you like and stay with it. These was my 10th cruise with Celebrity, and appreciate the perks they offer repeat visitors. Galley tours, backstage tours and even a bridge tour as well as meeting the senior members on the staff, really make you feel like they value your business, and I appreciate that. Crew-Seems genuinely happy and integrated- From talking to various members, found that ~ two weeks they have a get together in the lounges for crew only, really sense that this helps to bond them. Master and Hotel Director are respected and admired for their work, they talk the talk but more importantly they walk the walk, and lead by example and this same spirit flows to the rest of the crew. The hotel director Christian was astounding with his attention to detail, personality, and recall. He's a great asset to the Constellation, Celebrity and RCL shareholders. One thing also I thought worth mentioning, the crew seemed to genuinely respect the leadership of Celebrity up on the corporate level as well. One of the singers was telling me during a backstage tour that they appreciated that the fleet wide recycling effort (Save the Waves) they did onboard, any profits generated went to the crew recreation fund, and heard on several occasion from more than one staff member that "they take good care of us here". Spa-Went for a few massages while onboard and all where quite good. Found though was better booking the day I needed them rather then in advance as usually could save 30% off listed prices. When I tried to negotiate a deal upfront for package of 10 best they could do is 20% off, so glad I waited and got the 30% off almost daily special. It is riskier as they generally don't offer the larger discount on sea days, but on this cruise they did several times. Was happy too that after telling the first "therapist" that I wasn't interested in creams, lotions, products they sell, they left me alone and stopped recommending Excursions- Thought they were good, and used the time well. Think I took four or five while onboard. All I thought had a good host, well versed in the local history of the spot visited. I was glad also that they weren't trying to point you to a store for shopping. Always been a pet peeve of mine to pay for a tour and have them spend the time bringing you to their colleagues shop instead of concentrating the focus on the local sights (unless of course it's a shopping tour). Dining-Overall give it 4.5 stars out of 5. The buffets are good and plentiful. San Marco dining staff attentive. Absolutely love their presentation and attention to detail on every plate. I don't think I eve r waited for a course in 14 days, always served promptly. I also-liked that the waiter Justo suggested his favorite choices from the nightly menu, as well as desert. If he noticed you didn't seem to be enjoying you're entree, he would suggest a different entrEe, as he wanted to genuinely see you go away happy. Only complaint I guess I had was the NY strip steak, at our table of 12 at least a dozen were ordered over the course of the two weeks, but all were tough and stringy. Maybe it was just a bad batch we had. -Soups were delicious, our table devoured the fresh bread every night, and deserts were excellent and original. Enjoyed the Michelin type service of the specialty restaurant as well, food there was EXCELLENT, service EXCELLENT, atmosphere and attention to detail EXCELLENT. Reminded me of a two star Michelin restaurant I visited in Toulouse a few years back. Most cruise ships know how to dress up an entrEe, but Celebrity takes it a step farther and has a great way of turning even something as simple as a salad or bread course into a culinary treat for the eyes and the palette. That takes some finesse that they pull off. Embarkation: Took the bus option from Celebrity to Harwich and arrived at approx 2PM, embarkation was a breeze and was on the boat by 3PMs. This was my second time at Harwich and both times embarkation was easy and stress free. Noticed though that the train stopped right at the Harwich terminal, so next time I might try that from London instead of the 2.5 hour coach ride, since I heard they have non-stop trains from London on cruise days. Cabins- Are what I've grown to expect for Celebrity. Clean, Smart Design, and well maintained. Towels changed out twice a day as needed. Beds generally made up promptly in the mornings after you leave and turned down at night while at dinner. Always a few chocolates on the pillow and fresh flower bud or two in the room as well. Had the greatest stateroom attendant for my cabin, a nice man named Newton. His smile and attention to even the smallest detail was there every single moment I was onboard it felt. I always look at miniscule details like the paint on the railing and deck chairs even though on this cruise it wasn't used much, but you could see that things were maintained even in parts that might not be seen or used all that much. I admire that attention to detail, as I think it reflects back on the bigger picture. Price- ROI (return on investment) EXTRAORDINARY. I don't see how Celebrity does it, provide top notch service, food, ships and still works out to about $100/day, which in most cities, you would be lucky to find a moderate at best motel room for with no food or entertainment included. Entertainment: Overall pretty good,. On a positive note, the Voicemales which were an A cappella group were quite good and personable. The voices were good. Movies onboard were recent first runs. The shows by the Celebrity singers/dancers in the Celebrity Theatre were good as well as the young talent has a lot of enthusiasm and spirit and put on a full enjoyable show. You could tell they worked well together. Did try the comedy show, but came across as bland and a bit too bland for my taste. Perry Grant's, performances in Michaels lounge were enjoyable to his audience, but was really just wasn't to my tastes. Was really surprised though what a big following he has. Onboard. Thought the entertainment staff was excellent, full of energy, funny and they obvious enjoy there work. Disembarkation : Easy, quick and organized. Ship arrived well before our scheduled 7AM arrival and was on the pier, cleared from customs with my luggage before 9:30. Overall-5+ stars out of 5+. You see what you get, an unforgettable first class vacation where you really are treated like an honored guest on the ship. The negatives were inconsequential compared to the positives compared to other cruise lines I've experienced, and will sail again with Celebrity without a doubt. In my experience the difference with Celebrity is they are a learning organization, that strives to continually improve. They experiment and learn and grow. To me it's not all about who has the newest/fastest /largest ship or the latest bells and whistles of the day onboard, it's about quality, and Celebrity is quality. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We flew from San Diego to DC and then to London. Two hour bus ride to the ship. Checkin was very smooth, took only minutes. We were on the Sky Deck, category CC. Room was very nice and the cabin service during the total cruise was ... Read More
We flew from San Diego to DC and then to London. Two hour bus ride to the ship. Checkin was very smooth, took only minutes. We were on the Sky Deck, category CC. Room was very nice and the cabin service during the total cruise was excellent. We asked for extra wash clothes and tissue and every day we had the addition wash clothes and we also received enough tissues for the entire cruise. Everytime we left the room it was made up when we returned. The location of our room was very good, midship and on deck 9. We only had to walk up one level to be in the cafe. The food in both the cafe and main dining room was very good with a good variety to choose from. The service in the main dining for dinner was also very good. The ship had a nice wine selection and we had wine almost every night. The cruise was port intensive the first week and most of the second week was at sea, which was very rough. The North Atlantic can be rough and was during our crossing. There were a few nights with many empty seats in the dining room and show room. The main shows had to be cancelled on a couple of occasions do to the rough seas. The onboard ship activities were a little weak during the days at sea. Because of the weather it was impossible to have any outside activities. Spent time playing Bingo, with an entertaining lead that was name 'Captain Bingo' (Alfredo from Argentina). Most of the tours were well organized and we enjoyed the tours that we took. The weather for most of the first week was very nice fall weather, sunny but cool. We had only 1 day of rain the first week. The tours in St. John's, Newfoundland were cancelled because we were almost 5 hours late arriving due to the storms at sea. We chose this cruise for two reasons, the ports of call and Celebrity Cruise Lines. The ports for the most part were very interesting and we enjoyed the tours we took in the ports. Celebrity did not disappoint. This was our fifth cruise with them and we have always enjoyed our experience with them. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
After 3 days in London, we arrived at the port in Southampton around 1045. Check-in went very quickly and we were allowed to board the ship at 1100. I was amazed they let us board so early; most of the cabins were not ready. We ate ... Read More
After 3 days in London, we arrived at the port in Southampton around 1045. Check-in went very quickly and we were allowed to board the ship at 1100. I was amazed they let us board so early; most of the cabins were not ready. We ate lunch up in Horizon Court and that was the last lunch I ate there the whole cruise. Something I ate did not agree with me and I missed the first dinner in the dining room which had a wonderful menu. The Crown Princess is a beautiful ship, but not a good one to do a northern crossing on. The weather was bad enough to keep the outside decks closed for the most part. It was too cold to use the pools or stay outside for long. You really knew there were 3100 people on board in the public areas. Entertainment on board was very good. Movies shown were fairly new and many to choose from. An excellent group, Indigo, played all types of music; in Crooners lounge Sammy Goldstein did a credible job on the piano. In the piaza Rita Mustaine played an excellent selection of songs on the piano; the Crown Qunitet tended to mangle the music they played. The comedians on board were ho-hum and some jokes were quite racey. The cruise staff were excellent. Neil Chandler and his staff had plenty of fun activities going on. Because of weather we ended up missing 3 ports and Halifax was substituted for St. Johns. The staff did an excellent job of rearranging activities so we never had a boring day on board. Food on board was pretty good and there was always a selection to choose from. I personally didn't care for the food in the Horizon Court although the service there was very good. We ate most of our meals in the dining rooms. For dinner we had traditional seating and had the best wait staff. They worked so well and complemented each other so we were served quickly and efficiently the whole trip. For breakfast and lunch we had mostly good service. I was a bit disappointed in the scrambled eggs at breakfast as they seemed to be made from instant eggs. On sea days the Wheelhouse had a pub lunch and it was very popular. We made it to one on the last sea day and the fish and chips and shepard's pie were delicious. The Crown Grille had the best filet and onion soup I have ever eaten. The International Cafe had light meals (salads, quiche and desserts); gelato was $1.50 for 3 big scoops; beverages there had to be purchased. Best was the fresh baked cookies. Seating was difficult to come by since people would sit and read or just visit with each other. One area that was a bit disappointing was the tour desk and staff. They seemed to be a bit disporganized when it came to the tours in getting people off the ship and to the proper tours. They seemed to be a bit short-handed when it came to that. The itinerary was interesting but not one I would choose to do again. We went from Southampton to Stavanger and Bergen, Norway, Lerwick/Shetland Islands (missed because of weather), Torshavn/Faroe Islands, Akureyri (missed because of high winds) and Reykjavik/Iceland, Nuuk and Nanotarlik (missed because of icebergs) in Greenland and St. John, Newfoundland was replaced with Halifax, Nova Scotia because of high winds. The ports we did get into were very interesting but very cold. If Princess were to do this itinerary earlier in the season it may be better. I still enjoyed myself. Disembarkation in New York City was a little crazy. We were in our assigned lounge and our color was called to disembark but they never announced which gangway we were to use and there was no one to direct us. But we found our luggage with no problems and were on our way to the airport in less than an hour. I believe the Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn is one of the easiest to get through. We really enjoyed Captain Nash's daily updates. He was very personable and made sure the ship and everyone on board were kept safe. We were very disappointed in missing the ports but we understand the captain's reasons for not visiting them. In Reykjavik, Iceland we took the Golden Circle tour. We went to the National park and then on to the geysers and Godafoss Falls which were spectacular. We had an excellent bowl of lamb stew at the snack bar at the falls. We also visited a geothermal electric plant and got a quick tour of the city.Nuuk, Greenland was very cold and pretty. We had to tender and the pier was not very much--just a narrow walkway up a metal ramp and steep steps. It was extremely difficult for any handicapped people. The town itself was very charming. The buildings were quaint and well-maintained. It was just like a small fishing village from the previous century. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
The cruise.. in a nutshell.. Flew to NYC, and then got on the big bird, 777, to London, man that beast looks big, especially when you sit in row 42 of 43 rows.. LOL. Tiny seats, no leg room.. the body curves so you really don't have ... Read More
The cruise.. in a nutshell.. Flew to NYC, and then got on the big bird, 777, to London, man that beast looks big, especially when you sit in row 42 of 43 rows.. LOL. Tiny seats, no leg room.. the body curves so you really don't have much legroom on the window seat, but we figured it beats the 5 seats in the middle... let the time warp start! The sun was up and then it was DOWN and then it was UP. We moved our watched up SIX hours today... We arrive at Heathrow, the passport check went very quickly.. then we got our luggage, pretty easy... and found our van for the trip to Dover.. nice trip over.. saw a bit of the landscape in England, looks like any other place really.. some like Nebraska.. rolling hills... rainy day. Arrive at Dover, cruise terminal, we check in and sit for 3 hours.. heck had we known this we would have given up all our luggage and done something in Dover, it looks like a small place.. Around 2 PM we finally get on the ship, but not to our room, not until around 2:30.. the lifeboat drill is at 3:30.. so we hang out until then... did a bit of unpacking. room is great, lots of good shelves and drawers, no problems there... scads of room and plenty of hangers.. just right actaully. Ship is nice, big and clean..... immediately we notice the ages, we are YOUNG very young.. really young, VERY young.. and we are thinking this may not be a good thing.. LOL. Looked like the average cruising age for this trip was in the 70 to 75 range. And we found out 400 on the ship had been on the ship for 12 nights already, with the Baltics cruise, which we hear is wonderful... maybe one day, but not for a couple of decades.. LOL. We find the Garden Cafe and get a bite to eat, food looks good enough... we are really tired, so we skip the first night of entertainment, which we heard later was a good comedian... . The Freestyle cruising is different. you eat when you want, but to go to the Tzars palace you must dress up a bit, (no jeans)... mostly we went to Azure, same food, and shared big tables, which is very interesting when you eat with Americans, lots of Canadians and mix in some Europeans... kind of fun. Fish... first night on the ship I ordered the Red Snapper, it was so tough I couldn't get a knife into it.. really I had no idea one could cook fish long enough to make it like a rubber ball, our table of 8 was very impressed with it.. we all played with it. Our waiter didn't think it was very humorous and he took a long time to bring me a replacement dish.. this was my first impression. The two nights they offered Lobster (tiny tail) it was very tough, the second time one the waiters asked me how my food was, so I told him, " my lobster is very tough".. so he kindly brought me another, which was also very tough, so hubby got three lobster tails that night. The fish was generally very overcooked. the fish and chips in the Blue Lagoon was very good. This is how tea works. the doors open at 3 PM you file in and sit wherever you want.. and everyone is served at the same time.. we enjoyed it, the little cucumber sandwiches are really tasty... the English however noted that this is not how high tea is served.. no gloves ect.. for us it was fine. Never did meet our steward in person, we saw several in the halls, but never did one introduce himself... (Carnival cruise we met our Steward three times the first day and we were given a card with his name and number in case we needed anything). Room was kept very clean and nice, we didn't get to enjoy many towel animals though.. we got two rabbits and a snake in our 11 nights.. we are funny we enjoy those little extra's.. Room service: one night we skipped the big restaurants and they had coconut cream pie, later on I was hungry for it.. and we called for it and we were told, "sorry it is not on the menu"... (doesn't it all come from the same galley)... so we didn't order anything.. the room service menu is set in stone, never changes... so next day at the Garden Cafe I enjoyed a nice piece of Coconut Cream Pie......... it wasn't like I asked them to make ME a coconut cream pie, it was already being served in the two nice dining rooms. Free style dining, pros and cons...... con you never get the same waiter even if you go to the same table two nights in a row.... pro you eat when and where you want... we enjoyed sharing most nights... depending on the menu's we would decide to eat in a dining room or the cafe. Tzars is nicer, but we found the service to be very slow at times... Azure quicker. The entertainment, we heard a lot of complaints about it, but we personally found it to be OK, all fairly enjoyable, the dance shows were really great and the Cirque show the last night is one not to miss, very well done even in very rough seas. The seas were very rough at times, and it was bit nauseating, so we drank water, and skipped the alcohol, and I took off my damn scopolamine patch it was making me very dry.. and I did just fine without it.. but now I know, we can both handle very rough seas, I was really amazed at no one lost their balance, but the staff was good to help folks out if they needed it, carrying their food etc... The side to side roll and up and down of the ship was quite evident at times.. you'd sit in the theatre with the curtain closed waiting for a show to start and the curtain would sway significantly from side to side.. Stay well hydrated and just keep eating.... I did feel badly for two young sisters, they were in the dining room at lunch and clearly green with sea sickness, so the waiter offered gingerale, and then collected $1.95 for each one... now I realize the ship needs to make $$ and they can't help the rough seas, but really it seems like they could have just let them have two free cans of gingerale. The conversations were interesting.. one day we sat with a French lady, and it was hard to understand each other, but we had an interesting conversation about many things. Some of the cruisers were very well traveled, they have been everywhere twice! In fact many seemed bored with the ports of call, they prefer the days at sea... many read all the time, saw Kindles everywhere.. and people playing cards, dominio's etc.. some never left the ship at all. Each port was interesting, Iceland wasn't as interesting as I had dreamt, but the Blue Lagoon was a big highlight for us... we only had about 90 minutes there, but it really was enough. Lerwick was sweet, quaint. Halifax was very, very interesting, it was nice to do a half day of exploring on our own, we covered a lot of ground on foot, and boy we felt it. The next day was nice getting on a bus and going to Peggy's Cove, had a wonderful narrator who was born and raised in Nova Scotia, and she loves her city... that is a one beautiful place, and the rain Gods were kind to us, it poured rain all the way over, stopped when we arrived, and started again as we left. The seas there are fascinating to watch, and the huge smooth rocks very cool to walk on. Then the city tour the hop off and on buses was nice, we just sat and listened to our narrator talk about the city... Halifax is a very livable city. Canada is nice, and the people are very nice. Iceland we did a gray line tour, at a much cheaper price than what NCL offered... and in Lerwick we just walked around, in Halifax we booked two NCL tours which were comparable in price to Gray Line. One of the big highlights was getting up very early and watching the Statue of Liberty as we sailed by her... really it gives you a feeling for what our forefathers saw as they traveled into NYC to immigrate here.. of course not on a great ship such as ours.. but still pretty neat... We slid under one of the big bridges, it really looks like you won't make it under, very cool to see... and then to watch the sun rise up over New York City.. way cool... the pics don't do it justice. A great trip, no big problems, we had jet lag for days, and shared a cold back and forth a bit... and at times the trip was a bit dull, but enjoyable.. The ship was exquisitely clean, and they sprayed our hands before entering the buffet or any restaurant... nice. The cruise lines are big on getting you to book another cruise or put down a deposit.. at once of the events. the cruise director asked for a show of hands on how many put down deposits or rebooked.. and ONE person raised their hand.. it was rather telling. The speciality restaurants, if you walk by them, no one is dining there... and we noticed every day they had a special for them, buy one get one free, etc.. they really don't get any business to speak of and those who did use it complained they would try to get a 7PM reservation but they could only get a 6:15 or 8PM slot, so when they would arrive at say 8 PM they would be the ONLY diners, the guess is it has to do with staffing.. We heard Cagneys' had tough steaks, but that Mama's pasta is delicious. The Garden Cafe does stay really busy and then you have those travelers who seem to show up at 0700 for breakfast and then they set up a table for dominos near the window and never move till the sun sets. We saw one couple (two people) setting at the same window table for 8 every day... this is OK when the place is not busy, but during dining times they should give it up .... The food is fairly bland, but tolerable, the older folks couldn't get enough salt to come out of the shakers... (we found it to be salted just fine). The chilled soups are good and offered daily. The vegetable consume was wonderful on a rough sea day. The cappucino/latte machines are great. The lounges are nice, as is the entertainment they provide, the Spinnaker lounge is really nice, too bad it's used for everything from bingo to trivia, it'd be nice to just be able to sit and relax in there and lounge around a bit. The dance troupe is wonderful, I was surprised they didn't utilize them more in the entertainment.. I think in the 11 nights we saw them three times. It was interesting to hear conversations about the stars... the hypnotist talked about his "Vegas show".. and all his CD's.. it makes one wonder why is he in the middle of the Atlantic selling his CD'sx for "half off"... Everything with NCL seems to have a selling point.. the Chinese medicine guy (from Brazil) ended his talk about Chinese Medicine selling his "special formula's for life"... After a while it makes you not want to go to a lecture because you feel like it's going to be a marketing scheme for something. The $25 laundry bag is costly! Not having a guest laundry is definitely a way to make more $$$ off your guests.... we packed enough to last. The cabin had plenty of room for everything. The Showers are great!! no curtain, rather a nice door, so you don't have a wet bathroom everyday. Plenty of good bathrooms all over the ship, and very clean and nice. We noticed in the last three nights of the cruise the staff became much more friendly and conversational... in the first nine nights they were just doing a job. and many looked rather worn down... The crew entertainment on the last night was hilarious!! And we missed the Liars club, we heard it was also hilarious. NCL didn't get our $250 for another cruise, but we'd use them again, this cruise was unusual in that it was repositioning 11 night trip, so the clientele will be older as not many in the 40 to 50 age range can take off that long from life. If you prefer a cruise with no or very few kids this is the one.. we saw maybe 12 children on the ship, and about that many teenagers. The chocoholic buffet is a must go, as it is some of the best dessert you will get on ship.. the souffles were good, but most of the desserts were not worth the calories, especially the jello type cheesecake, not the touted New York Style cheesecake which is clearly is not. The ice cream is good and can be had at anytime in the Garden Cafe. And my one big complaint is when we would go to a lounge to enjoy a show, the waiters would come along and take our drink order, often we would order Ice water, they would smile and say OK and never come back. one night we had three different waiters take our drink order and finally one gal brought us ONE glass of water (no ice) to share... One guy during trivia actually brought us water on the first try and we got a $5 tip from me... he was so pleased and he gave us great service all through that event. The waiters should bring whatever you order, as we may then order a real drink later.. or we may give them a real tip for water.. but many assumed incorrectly. Also if they put a napkin down in front of you, that seems to be a signal to other waiters, of "don't bother they aren't ordering real drinks"... Iceland's port offered 15 minutes of intenret for $2.. $3 for 30 minutes.. NCL is slow and costly. Really this is about ICELAND .. (not listed in the offering).. we stopped in Reykjavik.. do the Blue Lagoon.. it's wonderful!!! We did the city tour in the am.. and Blue Lagoonin the afternoon.. via Gray Line.. the cost was much more reasoanble and we felt very safe.. The port building at Reykjavik has internet for $2 for 15 and only $3 for 30 minutes.. very useful.. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We started off feeling like we were stranded in the airport at Gatwick. Once we got through customs and into the terminal building there was no NCL person to be found. We wanted to take the NCL bus to the port, I had contacted NCL prior to ... Read More
We started off feeling like we were stranded in the airport at Gatwick. Once we got through customs and into the terminal building there was no NCL person to be found. We wanted to take the NCL bus to the port, I had contacted NCL prior to our departure and was assured that our name would be put on the "list" to reserve space on the bus for us. I went to the airport information desk and had the NCL representative paged, and got no response. Since there was no answer to our page I went and enquired about taking either a bus or train to Dover, none would have made it to the port on time. I was almost ready to take a taxi to the port when I decided to have the rep paged again. This time the page went out to "the Norwegian Cruise Line representative" and a rep showed up in about 5 minutes. She was about 5'3" and holding her NCL sign at chest level! She explained that she was looking for another couple, I suggested that my husband hold the sign up in the air for all to see but the offer was declined so we stood there while she ran around looking for the missing people. We stood waiting for over 1 hour, she finally found the missing couple in another terminal. Our coach left around 12:30 and so by the time we arrived at the ship there were no lines to check in and we were at our cabin in no time. Our cabin was on deck 4, forward. It had a porthole. It is hard to describe here but the porthole was recessed and the water got into the porthole and spun around in it like a front loading washing machine. The noise was terrible. After 2 sleepless nights in the cabin we were moved to a cabin on deck 8, thanks to the efforts of John O'Hara the hotel director. There were many people on this cruise who seemed to have no regard for other passengers. I have read here that the Garden Cafe (buffet) staff didn't bus the tables fast enough and at times this was true, the staff was busy talking to each other and weren't moving very fast. This is true of a lot of companies...if the boss isn't around then slack off a little. My complaint would be not of NCL but of the people who seemed to think it was perfectly okay to sit at a table during peak times (while others were carrying around plates of food looking for a place to sit) and bring out needlepoint, dominoes, books or cards. The food was okay but we knew that we were not going to get gourmet meals...we went for the itinerary which is what attracts us to NCL in the first place. We ate in Mama's Italian restaurant on one night, the rest of the time we ate in Tsars Palace for dinner. We usually had breakfast and lunch at the buffet. We are not picky and always found something to our liking. Cookies and ice cream seemed to be a big hit with all of the passengers. We went to most of the shows and enjoyed them. We bought a spa pass for the 2 of us, $169 for the cruise. Single passes were available for $20 per day or $50 on port days and the port day pass was only good from 8 - 2 pm. We enjoyed the heated loungers and the large spa tub although it did need a good scrubbing by the end of the cruise. Watching the sunset from the front windows of the spa was really a treat. Lerwick, Shetland Island was our first port. The pier was right in the town and since we were exhausted from our first night in the "washing machine room" we did not have any tours booked. We walked along the streets and window shopped, we also took a lot of pictures of the quaint little houses about the town. Our second port was Rekjavik, Iceland. We booked a ship tour to the Blue Lagoon Spa.We had a very informative guide who told us the history of Iceland and explained much of what we were seeing on the way to the Blue Lagoon. I think it took about 45 minutes to get there. When we arrived at the Blue Lagoon we were given plastic wrist bands similar to thick wrist watch straps. This wrist band got you through the turnstiles and also doubled as the key to your locker. We were told that it was necessary to take a "naked" shower prior to entering the lagoon but there was no attendant to enforce this. Everyone that I saw obeyed the signs and took a "naked" shower. The lagoon itself was very nice, the water was an odd milky blue colour and in some areas of the lagoon the water was a little hotter than others. In a couple of places on the perimeter of the lagoon there were crates that had long ladles for scooping up silica mud to put on your face. There was also an area that had a waterfall as well as an area that had a steam bath and another with a sauna. We were in the water about 1.5 hours and really enjoyed our stay. On the way out there is a gift shop that sells all kind of products made from the minerals and mud from the lagoon. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We chose Costa because of the itinerary; the first time that they had sailed into New York. We started in Savona where embarking was frankly shambolic! It took over 3 hours to embark with no announcements as to what was taking so long. ... Read More
We chose Costa because of the itinerary; the first time that they had sailed into New York. We started in Savona where embarking was frankly shambolic! It took over 3 hours to embark with no announcements as to what was taking so long. Once on board we were very impressed with the 10 deck atrium and the public areas on the Atlantica are very impressive. English speakers were definitely in the minority with the rest of the guests being Italian and French. This didn't bother us but where a film would be shown in English in a small meeting room the Italians and French got comfy seats in the theatre and inexplicably the muster/safety video on the TV was never shown in English! There were some lectures (about NYC, the history of the Atlantic crossing, etc) on sea days which were very good but again not all of them were done in English. The lectures and films were subsequently shown on the TV in the cabin but again the English version was missing. You could pay to watch a film in your cabin but at Euros 8.95 we thought it a bit steep especially as the films weren't that good anyway. The cabin was of a good size with plenty of wardrobe space and generously sized comfortable bed. Cabin steward service was excellent. Our only problem was that (as we were on late sitting for dinner) the water wasn't as hot as we would like in the evenings, but was fine in the mornings. We were a little disappointed with the food on the Atlantica. It was not very tasty and sometimes wasn't particularly warm but it was plentiful with lots of choice. We ate at the Club Atlantica (which inexplicably turned into the Tuscan Steakhouse half way through the cruise with a different menu and was always shown in the "Today" magazine as fully booked - we think it was solely for the use of Costa Club members then). We weren't impressed with the Club Atlantica; the food was cold - served on cold plates which is a particular bug bear of mine - and we didn't feel it was worth the Euros 20 per head extra it cost, but it was our wedding anniversary and with a nice bottle of fizz we had a very nice evening. Service in the main restaurant was excellent if a little rushed (the waiters would clear plates of those who had finished before the others had finished). The waiters were friendly as you would expect. The buffet restaurant was a bit of a nightmare at first with a lot of shoving and pushing by (I have to say) the Italians, but over time they did calm down and it was quite civilised. The buffet food was OK but again nothing special really. The desserts were particularly disappointing - they looked different but seemed to taste the same. Traditional Afternoon Tea served in the Cafe Florian was nice especially as you were able to get your tea in a proper cup rather than the plastic ones in the buffet. We had breakfast once in the main restaurant and it did make a nice change to be served and the eggs benedict were excellent (as were the breakfast muffins). The entertainment was a mixed bag really. The usual glitzy shows in the theatre which aren't our thing although the Tenor Alberti Jelboni was excellent. We never watched the entertainment in the Piazza Madame Butterfly because the quiz/games/competitions were geared solely for the Italians and it didn't look like any English was spoken at all. The Corello Lounge was not very popular but the band that played there at the beginning of the cruise were excellent. The pianist in the Atrium bar was excellent as were the classical trio in Cafe Florian. You really could wander around the ship and take your pick on the music being played. We usually settled for the Atrium bar and we were well served by the Head Barman Joel. Ports of call were good being Barcelona, Lisbon, The Azores and then the wonderful arrival into NYC which although earlier than billed (4am rather than 6am) was a wonderful experience. The atmosphere on the boat as we entered the harbour was magical. Sailing out of New York at dusk is something I would recommend and was worth the whole trip on its own. We then went to Newport Rhode Island which we loved; a great place to wander around. The next stop was Charlottetown on Price Edward Island which we were not impressed with at all (it should have been Boston but they had to change it before the Cruise). We ended up in Quebec City which was another nice place to wander around. Most of the English speaking excursions were cancelled because the numbers were too low which disappointed some people but we prefer to do our own thing so this didn't worry us but many of the English speakers were not happy about this. The port information provided was not that good (we have received much more comprehensive information on other boats which would give more details about getting taxis, etc. The port information Cost provided was simply about the history of theport). Our only real problem with the cruise was the price of the drinks at Euros 7 (which included a 15% service fee which was put on every drink). There was also a Euro 10 service charge per cabin per day which meant that it was not necessary to tip any of the staff at the end of the cruise. This meant that our tips (being the service charge on each drink and the daily charge) came to over Euro 300, so you didn't really feel like tipping any individual staff members All in all we enjoyed our Cruise on the Costa Atlantica. Would we choose Costa again? Well quite frankly we are not particularly loyal Cruisers having been on four different cruises with four different companies, so it is the itineraries that attract us rather than the company. If Costa had an itinerary which we fancied doing we would sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Bottom Line This is a very long review, so for those who want to skip to the bottom line, here it is - I very much enjoyed my cruise on the Jewel. As noted below, there were a few minor negatives, but they were far outweighed by the ... Read More
Bottom Line This is a very long review, so for those who want to skip to the bottom line, here it is - I very much enjoyed my cruise on the Jewel. As noted below, there were a few minor negatives, but they were far outweighed by the positives. The ship is nice, the itinerary was excellent (other than missing a port), the staff was great, the entertainment was good (with Le Cirque Bijou being outstanding), and the food was good to excellent. Background My friend Linda and I are in our 50s. This was my 9th NCL cruise (16th overall), Linda's 9th NCL cruise (15th overall). We booked the Jewel primarily because we wanted to try a Trans-Atlantic sailing (lots of sea days) and the itinerary was very appealing. Reservation, Pre-Cruise and Embarkation I booked this cruise directly through my PCC at NCL about a year ago. He was very helpful and professional, answering all of my questions in a timely manner. I reserved a BA cabin with a $100 per cabin OBC. Soon after I booked, prices went down significantly and a new NCL promotion was in effect. A quick call to my PCC gave me the choice of a price reduction or a cabin upgrade from my original BA cabin to an AF for the same price. In addition, my OBC would increase from $100 to $300 if I opted for the AF. I did so. A couple months later, I received an email promotion from a cruise TA that I have booked through several times in the past. Their offer matched NCL's pricing but doubled the OBC. Despite my positive dealings with my PCC, I couldn't pass up this offer, so I cancelled my direct booking and rebooked through the TA, retaining my AF cabin but now with $600 OBC. Finally, another two months later, American Express was offering a $100 OBC if you paid for the cruise with an Amex card (which I normally do anyway). An email to the TA confirmed that I was qualified for this additional OBC, giving me a total of $700 OBC - wow! We decided to fly to London on Thursday 9/17 (with the cruise embarking on Saturday 9/19). The overnight flight would get us to Heathrow on Friday. Through our CC roll call, we had arranged to share a transfer with three others (Len, Mike and Wendy). Our flight included a stopover in Dublin, where we encountered mechanical problems with our plane, delaying our arrival in London. When we arrived, we couldn't find Jeff (our driver). Fortunately, I had purchased an unlocked cell phone with a UK SIM card, so I was able to call Jeff and figure out where he was waiting for us. Having the phone also allowed us to communicate with Mike and Wendy, who were waiting for us with Len at a local hotel. Once Jeff picked us all up, we headed over to Dover, where we were all staying at the Best Western Churchill. Linda and I opted for the Best Western Churchill because of its location right on the water with a clear view of the White Cliffs of Dover and its proximity to the pier (a quick, inexpensive cab ride the next morning). There were a couple of bad reviews of the Best Western on Trip Advisor, but we chose to ignore them, figuring the price was right ($115 for the night) and it was only one night - how bad could it be? It turned out fine. The hotel is certainly not modern or luxurious but it was perfectly adequate, and it was centrally located for everything that we wanted to do (visit Dover Castle, walk around central Dover, walk along the waterfront, and view the Cliffs). After quickly checking in and putting our bags in our rooms, we headed to Dover Castle (short cab ride from the hotel). We spent a couple hours there and enjoyed exploring the castle and getting great hilltop, panoramic views of Dover and the English Channel. It was a brisk, downhill walk back to the hotel (with a brief stop at a convenience store to pick up soda). After taking a breather at the hotel, we headed back out to explore Dover, looking for a good place to have a local meal. We ended up at the Park Inn where we had a nice, casual dinner in a pub atmosphere. The next morning, we called for a cab to take us to the pier. With five of us sharing the ride (plus all of our bags), we ordered a mini-van, which was not a problem. It was a quick ride to the pier, where our bags were quickly taken by the porters. They were so fast that they ran off without waiting for a tip. We made our way through the check-in process, which didn't take long at all (maybe 10-15 minutes). Then, we sat in the waiting room, waiting for our color to be called. That took all of 10-15 minutes. We were on the ship before noon. As we embarked, we were greeted by crew members (including a couple of officers) along with free glasses of champagne. Our cabins weren't ready yet, so Linda sat in the atrium while I ran around the ship taking photos. Half an hour later, I rejoined Linda and we went to the Azura dining room for a nice sit-down lunch. Our bags were delivered to our cabin very quickly (fastest that I can ever recall), probably around 2 or 2:30. I was completely unpacked before the muster drill at 3:30. Sailaway was great since we got spectacular views from the ship of Dover, the White Cliffs and the English Channel. The Ship I liked the dEcor of the ship. However, if your preference is understated elegance, the Jewel might not be your cup of tea. The ship is also well maintained with very few signs of wear and tear. The worst that I encountered was one public bathroom that was not very clean. Early in the cruise, Hotel Director John O'Hara invited us to join him on the bridge. Captain Hoydal graciously welcomed us and spent quite a bit of time talking to us, telling us about the ship's operation and answering our questions. We also took part in the "Behind the Scenes" ship tour, which was complimentary for Platinum Latitudes. The tour was supervised by Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown. I'm pretty sure the regular fee for the tour was $55. The tour lasted for almost 3 hours. We started in the Art Gallery with a welcome from the Hotel Director, John O'Hara. Then, we proceeded to the bridge, where the Captain gave us a very detailed tour and entertained questions. Next came the Stardust Theater and a tour of the backstage area, including the dressing rooms and the stage itself. Then, we were taken through the laundry room and the environmental systems area (waste management). Next came a tour of the provisions area, where all of the food is stored and processed (meat cutting, vegetable cleaning/cutting, etc.), followed by a walk-through of the actual galley where the meals are prepared. It was a fascinating tour but its length and physical demands (lots of walking and standing with no chance to sit down) should be kept in mind by anyone considering it. Also, the group size (approximately 20) occasionally made it difficult to hear the guide. Stateroom We were booked in 11002, a starboard AF mini-suite, pretty much identical to the AF that we had on the Gem a year earlier. We were very pleased with the location and accommodations - spacious, plenty of storage drawers, roomy closet with lots of hangers, spacious balcony, coffeemaker, a safe that was eye-level, a desk with two chairs (the hair dryer was stored in one of the desk drawers), a roomy sofa that could be made into another bed if needed, a small (old-style CRT) tv, a small coffee table, a curtain that could be drawn to separate the tv/sofa area from the beds, a bathroom with a full tub, and a mini-fridge that was stocked but still had enough room for the bottles of soda that we had carried on. We were originally intending to have the steward empty the fridge but we decided that it really wasn't necessary. We picked 11002 because it was the last AF on the starboard side and it was under the spa, which (to me) meant the likeliness of noise would be close to zero (this proved to be true). We also thought that 11002 would have only one neighbor, which also reduced the chance of noise. However, we didn't know that there were several cabins forward of our cabin that were used for crew members. In fact, Darin Wyman (our Cruise Director) was right next door! As it turned out, noise was never a factor at all. Since 11002 was all the way forward, it did lead to lots of walking when we wanted to do anything at the stern of the ship (mainly dining in Tsar's Palace or the Great Outdoors, or going to the Galleria Shops). However, for our purposes, it was still a convenient location since it was below the Spinnaker Lounge and above the Stardust Theater and Jewel Club Casino (all places that we frequented). The two beds had been prepared as a single bed. We asked the steward to separate the beds and it was done later in the afternoon. We also requested extra towels to be supplied throughout the cruise - no problem there either. Two bathrobes were hanging in the closet and two beach towels were laid out on the bed. The bathroom was partitioned into three sections. On one side was the toilet, separated from the rest of the bathroom by a sliding door. In the middle was the sink area with several small shelves on the wall, probably adequate for most people's toiletries. A liquid soap dispenser is mounted on the wall. There is also a shelf under the sink with a built-in trash bin. Also mounted on the side wall is a Kleenex dispenser. On the left side of the bathroom is the tub. The tub is very deep, so getting in and out of the tub may not be as easy as at home. There's a clothesline above the tub and the tub has a 3-part sliding door, not a curtain. The tub's water controls might be a little tricky to some: instead of a cold water knob and a hot water knob, there is just a single water knob (on the left) for water pressure. The temperature of the water is controlled by a knob on the right, with the temperature indicated in degrees Celsius. Our steward was courteous and professional throughout the cruise, although he never did introduce himself to us - something that doesn't bother us at all but I know is important to some. He also made quite a few towel animals for us - not something that makes or breaks a cruise for us but still fun. I think we ended up getting five towel animals. We also received chocolate mints on our pillows every night. We were so happy with our steward that we gave him an additional tip at the end of the cruise on top of the automatic gratuity. Muster Drill The muster drill was held at 3:30pm, right before sailaway. Our muster station was in the Stardust Theater. It was quick and easy and took only 15-20 minutes. OBC There's always a little apprehension as to whether one's OBC is going to be accurately credited. I had printed out email confirmations from my TA indicating the exact amount that I should be receiving. Fortunately, this proved unnecessary because in our cabin on embarkation day were NCL statements accurately detailing all of the OBC credits that I was expecting. Latitudes There were 1400 Latitudes members on this cruise! Because of the number of people involved, they split up the group and held two Latitudes parties in the Spinnaker Lounge on different days. Ours was held on Friday (almost a week after embarkation, much later than usual, which seemed odd but I assume there were scheduling conflicts). The officers were introduced and the Captain welcomed us aboard with a few brief remarks. Drinks and hors d'oeuvres were served and there was a raffle for several prizes. As Platinum Latitudes members (neither of us actually qualifies but several years ago, we both purchased Freestyle Cruise Rewards onboard a Dawn cruise and, at the time, the purchase included an upgrade in Latitudes status), we were also invited to a Latitudes party for Silver, Gold & Platinum members. This party was held on Sunday (9/27) but we had a scheduling conflict and couldn't attend. Linda and I both purchased $250 Cruise Rewards for future bookings. As long as you know you will cruise within four years, it's a deal that's hard to pass up since you get $100 immediate OBC for your current sailing and the $250 will serve as your total deposit for a new cruise (for most cabin categories). We also asked for and received Jewel Latitudes pins from the onboard cruise consultant in addition to an unsolicited badge holder/lanyard. Other benefits that we received as Platinum Latitudes members included: complimentary dinner in Le Bistro with a bottle of wine, a complimentary "Behind the Scenes" tour, early tendering in Lerwick, early disembarkation in Reykjavik and Halifax, complimentary "fill the bag" laundry service (offered twice, which we used once, normally a $25 service), and VIP disembarkation in NYC. Cruise Critic Activities We had a very active CC roll call and kudos to Len, Margie, Kit and Tony (among others) for putting in all the time, effort and cost (mainly Len's wonderful lanyards and CC member id badges) in organizing our CC activities, including the Meet & Greet, a gift exchange, Murder Mystery Dinner, Cabin Poker Crawl, and Farewell Dinner. Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown was instrumental in many of these events, serving as the ship's main contact for group events. On our first sea day, we held the CC M&G in the Spinnaker Lounge (bumping a session of Bingo). We had a tremendous turnout - probably between 90 and 100 attendees. It was fun to meet many of those who attended, finally getting a chance to put a face to the screen name. Quite a few staff members and officers attended the M&G. Refreshments were provided. Following the M&G, we held the gift exchange, which was a lot of fun. It served to really loosen up the crowd and gave us our first chance to interact with one another. Len coordinated the Murder Mystery Dinner, which ended up being held in Tsar's Palace. The name of this murder mystery was the Eternal Cruise (for those who had participated in the past and didn't want to repeat it). The ship's staff set this up specifically for CC because the regular MMD on this cruise was held in Cagney's and a fee was charged for it, whereas the CC MMD was held without a surcharge. The Cabin Poker Crawl was held on our second sea day (Tuesday). The CC members who were interested in participating met in Bar City, where we divided into two groups. We toured an inside cabin, an oceanview, a balcony, an AF mini-suite, and an AB suite (all cabins belonging to participating CC members). At each cabin, a card was dealt (each time from a new deck) to each attendee, so at the end of the crawl, each attendee had a 5-card poker hand. At the beginning of the crawl, each attendee who wanted to play the poker aspect of the tour anted up $10 to the pot, which would be split between the high and low poker hands at the end of the crawl. We had 12 players for a $120 pot. Following the crawl, we all reconvened in Bar City, where we revealed our poker hands. The high and low hands then split the pot. This was a great, fun activity since it allowed us to see five different categories of cabins, CC members got to have fun together, and there was money to be won. The CC farewell dinner was held following our port stop in Halifax (Monday, 9/28) in Tsar's Palace. Again, we had a good turnout (probably 50-60 people). TV Here's the channel guide for the ship's tv: 21 - Onboard Information 22 - Navigational Information 23 - Bow Cam & Announcements 24 - Safety 25 - Shore Excursions & Cruise Rewards 26 - Destination & Shopping 27 - Onboard Activities 28 - Fox News 29 - BBC Entertainment 30 - ESPN 31 - BBC Knowledge 32 - TVE 33 - BBC World News 34 - New Release Movies 35 - Feature Movies 36 - French & Spanish Movies 37 - German & Subtitled Movies 38 - Spa Information Some of the stations faded in and out depending on the ship's reception (weak signal, poor signal, no signal). Channel 34 showed recent movies, not what I would call "new releases" but fairly recent (within the past 3 to 6 months). Channel 35 showed older movies but some still worth seeing, especially if you failed to see them in their initial release. Here are the recent releases that were showing on Channel 34: The Proposal, Star Trek, State of Play, Angels and Demons, Earth, Fast and Furious 4, My Life in Ruins, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past The channel cycled through these eight movies (in the same order) throughout the day and throughout the cruise. Here are the featured movies that were showing on Channel 35: 21, August Rush, Bella, Chaos Theory, Charlie Wilson's War, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Definitely Maybe, Enchanted, Fool's Gold, The Best of Hannah Montana, I Am Legend, Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, Leatherheads, Mad Money, Made of Honor, Michael Clayton, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, P.S. I Love You, Run Fatboy Run, The Bucket List, The Forbidden Kingdom, The Great Debaters, The Holiday, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Vantage Point, and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins As with Channel 34, Channel 35 cycled through these movies in order 4-1/2 times during the cruise. Some of the movies were also shown in the Fyzz Lounge. Dining There are numerous places to eat onboard. Here's how the dining venues break down on the Jewel. Included, no reservations recommended Azura (Main Dining Room) Tsar's Palace (Main Dining Room) Blue Lagoon (almost 24/7 comfort food) Garden Cafe (buffet) Great Outdoors (buffet) Room Service Surcharge, reservations recommended Le Bistro (French/Continental) - $15 Cagney's (Steakhouse) - $25 Sushi and Sake Bar - $15 Chin-Chin (Asian) - $15 Mongolian Hot Pot - $15 Tango's (Tex/Mex) - $10 Mama's Kitchen (Italian) - $10 Teppanyaki (Japanese hibachi) - $25 Miscellaneous Tapas Bar (free tapas with the purchase of a drink) Java Cafe (free dessert with the purchase of a specialty coffee) We dined in most of the venues. Azura is the smaller of the two main dining rooms. Tsar's is quite large. We had three dinners and one lunch in the main dining rooms. All of the meals were good but not exceptional. Linda specifically enjoyed the chilled soups. The buffet was quite good (for a buffet) in that there was a large selection of items, including salads, soups, breads, meats, poultry, pizza, pasta, hot dogs, burgers, carvery station, wok station, Indian food station, sandwich station, desserts, self-serve ice cream, and self-serve espresso/cappuccino machine. At breakfast, there was also an omelet station. We had most of our lunches in the buffet and enjoyed the food we had. We never had dinner there. There does tend to be a problem finding an open table in the buffet but it never took us longer than a few minutes to find an unoccupied table. Also, they seem to run out of glasses too quickly. Tables were cleared and cleaned promptly. The Blue Lagoon has three different menus - breakfast, main menu (served for lunch and dinner), and a late night menu (a shortened version of the main menu). We ate there several times and enjoyed the potato skins, wings, Chefs salad, fish and chips, and cheeseburger. They offer mild and hot wings. I ordered the hot and enjoyed them but still think they should be hotter. I seem to recall that they were hotter on previous NCL cruises. Breakfast was good. I had the "Full House" breakfast (2 eggs any style, bacon, sausage, baked beans, sautEed mushrooms, and hash browns), substituting a ham and cheese omelet for the 2 eggs. Both the service and the breakfast were good. We ordered room service several times, usually as a wake-up meal on port days. They were always punctual, calling 5-10 minutes before delivery. The menu is a little more extensive than it used to be (noted additions include an angus burger and eggs all day) but I do miss the chocolate mousse. We had meals in almost all of the specialty restaurants - Le Bistro, Cagney's Steakhouse (twice), Chin-Chin, Tango's, Mama's Kitchen, and Teppanyaki (twice). All of our meals in the surcharge restaurants were good to excellent. The service was excellent, too. Food and Beverage Manager Michael Harris often stopped by our table in the dining rooms to ask how we were enjoying our meals. We were fortunate enough to have a meal in Teppanyaki with some of the staff, including Hotel Director John O'Hara and Cruise Director Darin Wyman, among others. It was great to get to know Darin just a bit on a personal level. He struck us as thoughtful, engaging and very passionate about his job. They offered 50% off the surcharge at Chin Chin and Mama's for reservations between 5:30 and 6:30 on port days. They also offered $5 off at Cagney's, also on port days for early seatings. We took advantage of all three deals since it fit our schedule. A minor note: since the discounts being offered are 50% off and $5 off and no longer just 2-for-1, single diners will have no problem qualifying for the discounts. In the past, 2-for-1 didn't offer any benefit to single diners since they really couldn't eat two meals and the ship wouldn't recompute it as 50% off. We had absolutely no problem getting reservations to any of the restaurants. We booked most of them over the telephone. They allow reservations for same day and next day. As Platinum Latitudes members, we were allowed to book an extra day in advance. I know that many people don't like the idea of paying a surcharge for dining on a cruise ship and I can understand that viewpoint. Also, no one is happy that the surcharges have gone up over the years (with the Italian and Tex-Mex restaurants imposing surcharges after initially being included). But my approach is that I price the cruise and then budget extra for dining surcharges. If I still feel that the total price is a good deal, I book the cruise. To me, even with the higher surcharges, the specialty restaurants are worth it. In addition, our sizeable OBC more than covered all of our surcharge dining. We were disappointed that we weren't able to obtain copies of the entire cruise's dinner menus for the main dining rooms in order to strategize our dining plans for the week. We asked at the main reception desk in the atrium but they weren't available (as they have been on some of my previous NCL cruises). Later on in the cruise, I asked the Restaurant Manager Mihaela Mocan, who had greeted us several times during the cruise in the restaurants, for a copy of all the menus. She was gracious enough to do so, sending a full copy of all the dinner menus to my cabin. I do think, however, that having them available at reception for anyone's perusal should be routine. Mihaela was also kind enough to obtain and give Linda the recipe for the mushroom soup that is served in Le Bistro. We were very surprised to see how empty all of the surcharge restaurants were. Despite the fees, they have always been somewhat busy on our previous NCL cruises. Teppanyaki, in particular, struck me because it has always been one of the toughest restaurants to book, but not on this cruise. I'm willing to bet that you could have gotten a reservation at any of the surcharge restaurants for almost any time of your choosing or simply showed up without a reservation. For those who are interested, they offered two special meals during the cruise - a Jazz Brunch in Le Bistro for $15 and a Taste of India lunch in Chin Chin for $15. Late-night snacks are served in the casino around 11:30 pm. The Chocoholic Buffet was held at 10:30pm in the Garden Cafe on Monday, 9/28. Activities Chances are you won't be bored on the Jewel. The ship offers most of what you would expect on a cruise ship and probably much more - bingo, port and shopping talks, art auctions, excursion briefings, portrait sittings, spa treatments, casino gambling (in addition to slot, blackjack and Texas Hold 'Em tournaments), internet cafe, Latitudes party for repeat cruisers, VIP Latitudes party for Silver, Gold and Platinum members, onboard shopping, yoga, tennis, trivia sessions, shuffleboard, lectures, fitness classes, wine/martini/margarita tastings, card room, video arcade games, Wii in the Fyzz Lounge, karaoke, golf putting competition, ping pong, basketball, country line dancing, White Hot party, disco dancing, towel folding demo, aerobics, singles get-togethers, etc. There were also meetings for Friends of Bill W. and Friends of Dorothy. I'm sure I missed some other activities, so be sure to peruse your Freestyle Daily thoroughly. NCL "U" sessions included: "Shetlands to Empire" lecture by Jim Forrester; New World Wine/Cheese Tasting ($15); European Beer Tasting & Food Pairing ($18); The Art of Making Sushi & Sake Tasting ($15); "Iceland Emerges" lecture by Jim Forrester; The Art of Infused Vodka and Martini Tasting ($15); "Great Conveyor Belt" lecture by Jim Forrester; Old World Wine Tasting ($15); "Canada's Rock" lecture by Jim Forrester; Global Beer Tasting ($15); "The Blueness Province" lecture by Jim Forrester; and "Drifting Continents" lecture by Jim Forrester. For those who are interested in more active participation or simply enjoy watching your fellow passengers have fun, you can sign up for the Murder Mystery Dinner (this time offered in Cagney's for a fee, limited to 64 participants); or check out any of the audience-participation games: the Newlywed Not So Newlywed Game; Liar's Club; Majority Rules; The Perfect Couple; Dancing with the Stars; or Where in the World Am I? No Qwest on this sailing - I'm guessing it was omitted because of the older demographic. The game room was very active on this sailing. In fact, at times there was a need for more tables and chairs. This is when the Latitudes Room next door would have come in handy but the Latitudes Room has been converted into the Lifestyles Room and was being used as a satellite sales location for the Galleria Shops. The game room was well stocked with games and the staff sponsored bridge games (held in Tango's) and Scrabble (no room that day in the Game Room so we relocated to Tsar's Palace). I met several people playing Scrabble and got together with them to teach them how to play mah-jongg, a great way to spend a couple spare hours on a sea day. The Game Room had several mah-jongg sets but we had to go through a couple of them to put together a complete set. The Library was also quite busy with lots of readers. In fact, reading could be seen throughout the ship, in the lounges and in the windowsill sitting areas. CD Darin Wyman, in response to the clear need for reading spaces, even designated certain areas of the ship as DMZ (Designated Malacophonous Zones), such as Le Bistro from 7am-4pm or Tsar's Palace from 7am-2pm. The Library also supplied daily written trivia quizzes, crosswords and sudoku puzzles. Bora Bora Spa According to the spa's promotional flyer, the spa offers: heated mosaic lounge chairs, a thalasso therapy pool, steam rooms, sauna, Japanese plunge pools, Jacuzzi tubs, tropical showers, and relaxation areas. Various passes for the spa were available - 11-day pass for $99 (individual) or $165 (couple); 1-day pass for $20; port day cruise pass (8am-2pm on all port days) for $50. For those interested in spa treatments, here's their main menu: Teeth whitening - $149; ionithermie - $159 (one 50-min session) or $399 (three 50-min sessions); oxydermy facial - $169; La Therapie hydra-lift facial - $119; aroma spa seaweed massage - $195 (half-body) or $259 (full body); absolute spa ritual - $265; Mandara hot stone heaven - $145 (50 min) or $195 (75 min); acupuncture - $150 (first treatment) and $125 (follow-up treatments); aroma-flex - $119; couples float massage - $179; deep tissue massage - $129; Swedish massage - $119 They ran $99 specials during the cruise ($99 for any one of the following): hot stone massage; La Therapie hydra-lift facial; Swedish massage; Ionithermie inch loss treatment; lime and ginger exfoliation with massage; milk wrap with massage; back massage with reflexology on the feet; and fire and ice manicure and pedicure combo. They also ran a special for combining certain treatments (you mix and match) - 3 for $99; 4 for $119; or all for $129. The services included: European mini facial; pro collagen eye treatment; conditioning hair treatment; scalp, neck and shoulder massage; moisturing hand spa; and foot and ankle massage. Lastly, they offered a special combo deal of mini-treatments (20-min versions of the more expensive, longer treatments) - 3 for $99 (you mix and match). The mini-treatments included: scalp massage; hand and arm massage; foot and ankle massage; back massage; mini-facial; hot stones back massage; and milk wrap. Please note that an 18% (not 15%, as with bar tabs) service charge is automatically added to all of the above fees. Shows There was a show every night in the Stardust. On embarkation night, there was a Welcome Aboard Show, hosted by the Cruise Director, Darin Wyman. It wasn't really your typical Welcome Aboard Show since it wasn't used to preview some of the acts that would occur later in the cruise. The show was a quick welcome from Darin, followed by a stand-up comedy act by Tucker, who was pretty funny. Tucker offered a second show on the following night in the Spinnaker Lounge. There were three production shows in the Stardust Theater - Band on the Run, Country Gold, and Le Cirque Bijou. All were presented by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. I enjoyed them all for the most part. I thought the singers and dancers were enthusiastic and talented. Le Cirque Bijou was by far the most impressive, with the acrobats displaying eye-popping stunts of strength, timing, flexibility, agility and balance. This is a show not to be missed. Other shows presented in the Stardust Theater included: Buddy Wachter on banjo (okay); Los Locos Ole (comedic duo, eccentric humor, not exactly mainstream, not well received); Hypnotist Dr. Scott Lewis (fairly traditional, Vegas-style hypnosis act, generally funny); Chantz Powell (young pheenom, extremely talented singer-dancer-trumpeter); Comedian Jeff Harms (long-time actor/comedian, still pretty funny, especially with his interaction with the audience); Dorothy Bishop (singer, who had to catch up to the ship in Halifax when we missed docking in St. John's, Newfoundland; good voice but stylistically may not appeal to everyone). Most of the individual Stardust acts put on second shows later on in the cruise in the Spinnaker Lounge. Two other shows were presented in the Stardust - the International Crew Show and the Passenger Talent Show. The crew members were quite good, especially considering they are amateurs. The passengers were also pretty entertaining. Kudos to CC members Rita and Barry, who performed in the show (Rita sang and Barry did a stand-up routine). Following the International Crew Show, the officers and many of the crew staged their Norwegian Way finale. Following the Passenger Talent Show, Fountains was presented as a finale. Word was that Fountains was not going to be presented on this sailing, but numerous requests by CC members convinced them to perform it. It was greeted with uproarious laughter and much applause. Music in the Lounges There were numerous musical acts performing throughout the ship - 4 Strings Quartet in the Atrium, pianist Constantine Dragulyov, the Alambre Trio, Kenosis and Carrie Stone. These groups offered a very diverse selection of music, with a little something for almost everyone's taste. It was clear, however, that the music chosen by the groups was done so with this sailing's demographic in mind, i.e., skewing towards an older audience. Casino/Gambling The casino offers what you would expect: table games (blackjack, craps, roulette, three-card poker, Let It Ride, and Texas Hold 'Em) and slots (pennies on up), including video poker. There's also that game that seems to be incredibly popular for a reason that eludes me - The Tumbler - you drop your quarters/tokens in, trying to cause the machine to push a prize into the prize chute. There are a couple of blackjack tables at poolside. However, they were never put to use during our sailing since the weather was chilly throughout. There is also a blackjack machine up in Spinnaker Lounge. The advantages of the blackjack machine is that it still pays 3-to-2 for blackjack (whereas the $5 table in the casino pays only 6-to-5), it stands on all 17s (whereas the dealer hits a soft 17 in the casino), it uses a 6-deck shoe without a continuous shuffler (unlike the casino), and there's no smoking allowed in the Spinnaker. The casino also runs tournaments for blackjack, slots and Texas Hold 'Em. The casino was not very busy at all, even on sea days. Many of the tables were empty. Occasionally, the $5 blackjack table was full but that was it. The Tumbler, however, still attracted a decent crowd. Signing up for the Casinos at Sea card qualifies you for accumulating points as you gamble, points that equate to dollars off your shipboard account. You need a minimum of 25 points to get $25 credited to your account, but the points are also allowed to carry over to your next cruise if it's within a year. There is no fee to obtain the CAS card, so it's worth signing up for. When you do so, you also receive a coupon book for specific casino promotions. For instance, for $10, you can obtain $20 in slot play. Linda used that coupon and parlayed the $10 into $75 or so. Another coupon serves as a first-card ace at the blackjack table. A third coupon serves as a $10 match play coupon at a table game. There are several other coupons in the coupon book. If you're planning to gamble anyway, sign up for the CAS card and get the coupon book. Some of the coupons are actually worthwhile. Executive Casino Host Che Alapa Ap was kind enough to comp us drinks one night and, later on in the cruise, comped us a meal in Cagney's. Ports and Shore Excursions In Lerwick (a tender port), we booked an NCL excursion - Scalloway Castle and Shetland Ponies. It was a good excursion, showing us much of Lerwick and the countryside. We got to spend enough time at the castle and plenty of time checking out the ponies. Following the excursion, we walked around the town of Lerwick, right near where the tenders docked. We walked around Fort Charlotte and up and down the 2 or 3 main streets of Lerwick, in and out of many of the shops. For Reykjavik, 8 of us from the CC roll call booked an independent tour of the Golden Circle, which included a visit to Thingvellir National Park, the Geysirs, Gullfoss Waterfall, the Hellishaedi Geothermal Power Plant, and a quick tour of downtown Reykjavik. This was an all-day tour, lasting from 8:15 to about 5pm. Thingvellir was geologically fascinating since we were walking around the area where Iceland is slowly splitting apart (but growing since the rift gets filled in), where the North American and Euro-Asian tectonic plates meet. The Geysirs and hot springs were also fun to view. Gullfoss Waterfall was beautiful and the power plant reinforced one of the more interesting facts about Iceland - i.e., how it generates much of its electricity at very low cost by harnessing the geo-thermal power that it sits on top of. One major disappointment was missing the port stop of St. John's, Newfoundland. The harbormaster in St. John's closed the port to traffic because of high winds. In Halifax, we didn't book an excursion. Linda, Len and I walked along the waterfront until we reached the Halifax Casino, which we checked out briefly. We then turned around and returned to the ship, with a detour at a local supermarket to pick up soda. At the end of the cruise, we were again fortunate enough to be invited to the bridge to view our sunrise entry into New York Harbor. Despite having to get out of bed before 5am, we were thrilled to take advantage of this opportunity. A huge thank you to Hotel Director John O'Hara and Captain Hoydal for allowing us this privilege. Service Our steward was excellent. The staff at main reception was courteous and attentive. The wait staff throughout the ship was eager to please. Smiles were commonplace. I cannot say enough about the officers and staff members who went out of their way to cater to our CC group. Captain Hoydal was very gracious and made time for us despite his extremely busy schedule; Hotel Director John O'Hara was incredibly accommodating; Cruise Director Darin Wyman always had a welcoming smile; Food and Beverage Manager Michael Harris made sure that we were cared for; Executive Casino Host Che Alapa Ap was a pleasure to deal with; Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown provided excellent service; this is all in addition to the aforementioned Restaurant Manager Mihaela Mocan, who supplied me with the dinner menus and Linda with the soup recipe. Conclusion I would absolutely sail on the Jewel again and would recommend her to friends and family. Of course, there's always the caveat - if you're someone who loves traditional cruising with fixed dining times, assigned tables, and assigned tablemates, it might not be for you. But, for me, Freestyle is still the way to go. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
EMBARKATION We boarded the Emerald Princess in Copenhagen. The boarding process was simple and efficient, considering the number of passengers involved. The total time to board was around one hour. One annoyance was that Princess ran out ... Read More
EMBARKATION We boarded the Emerald Princess in Copenhagen. The boarding process was simple and efficient, considering the number of passengers involved. The total time to board was around one hour. One annoyance was that Princess ran out of coffee and water in the waiting area. We were able to access out cabins as soon as we boarded which was a pleasant surprise. CABINS Our cabin was an interior on the Baha deck. From the time we arrived there were problems. The suction for the commode did not work. It was repaired on four different occasions. We experienced a loss of ventilation for a twelve-hour period during the second night on board. After four days of problems and numerous calls to customer service, we were able to reach someone in authority who moved us to another cabin on the Aloha deck. The new cabin had no problems. Talking to other passengers we discovered that numerous cabins had problems with their commode suction. The Emerald Princess is a new ship. Problems as described above should be a rarity. SHIP LAYOUT/CONDITION One of the most egregious problems encountered during our cruise was the ship's lack of public area spaces. With over 3200 passengers on board and the inability to use the outside decks due to weather, there were people everywhere. The public areas seemed to be the same size as the Diamond and Sapphire Princess. Both of these ships have 750-800 less passengers. In order to get a good seat for shows and lectures in the Princess Theater and the Explorers Lounge, one needed to arrive a full hour prior to the event. On other ships that we have sailed, arriving thirty minutes ahead of time was more than adequate. One last observation: getting to the Bottecelli Dining Room was nearly impossible. Many folks needed the entire cruise before they found their way to the space. Poorly laid out at best. Finally, the temperature inside the ship was far too warm most of the time. I heard more than a few complaints about the heat. SERVICE The ships crew was staffed by people from 42 countries. Cultural differences were evident. Our cabin attendant and dining room waiters (Philippines) were superb. Friendliness and service was consistently excellent. This cannot be said about the Horizon Buffett. Many of the wait staff were form Eastern Europe. Service ranges from excellent to downright poor. Many staff members displayed "attitude", especially during the breakfast time. Many days we had to get our own coffee and juice while the waiters stood around and watched. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment offered was poor at best. The production shows were definitely not geared to mature audiences. We walked out of two of the three shows presented. There was an opera singer who was OK and the requisite Magician. The only saving grace was the comedy and (lecture) of Kevin Hughes. He was excellent! Other lecturers put us to sleep. The lady who did the port lectures spoke at length on the history of the area but offered little practical advice (i. e. where to exchange money, transportation, shopping etc.) PORT CALLS The ports selected (Oslo, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Reykjavik, Greenland, and Newfoundland) were excellent. However, the time in many of the ports was so brief, that there was little time to explore on one's own. Additionally, tendering in Edinburgh and Greenland was an adventure by itself. We waited over an hour in line waiting to tender back from Greenland. Due to weather, we missed St. John's Newfoundland altogether. While severe weather in the North Atlantic is not unusual this time of year, Princess might have had a contingency plan in place such as maybe a stop in Bermuda or Princess Keys. FOOD The food on board was not up to Princess standards. We cruised on Golden Princess to Alaska in July, and the food was noticeably better. The main dining room vegetables were consistently undercooked. Desserts ranged from outstanding to not editable. The Horizon Buffet was average at best. A noticeable exception was the Pizza Bar and Hamburger Line. Both were very good. However, since both places were exposed to the elements, one didn't eat there very often. DEBARKATION The debarkation process could have been improved by placing a crew member in each assembly area to keep traffic flowing and passengers under control. There was a great deal of pushing and shoving in assembly areas. We were told to be available for leaving the ship at 7 AM but were not allowed to go ashore until 7:45 AM. OVERALL IMPRESSION We will cruise Princess again but never on Emerald Princess or any other Princess ship this large. It just wasn't worth the hassle. Other smaller Princess ships are more to our liking. I do not recommend this ship to anyone that is uncomfortable with large crowds. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
we wanted a good getaway and spotted this unusual itin and at a great price we could not refuse the weather was as expected for end of summer beginning of fall in the far north of this route we had cool weather and windy nites a couple ... Read More
we wanted a good getaway and spotted this unusual itin and at a great price we could not refuse the weather was as expected for end of summer beginning of fall in the far north of this route we had cool weather and windy nites a couple of drizzly days with a cold wind but we were prepared with a sweater etc we missed a couple of ports due to rough seas at the docking and anchoring ports but it was expected we would possible miss one or two the captain gave us a cruising day for one port and a first time cruise of a fjord in Greenland as far into it as the charts allowed which was a spectacular substitute for a small nothing port the crown princess is a beautiful ship but quite large 3000 pass crowd control was very well done considering the ports only one port was time consuming getting into the port via tenders but not the fault of the ship it was due to the port not being able to handle such a large ship but it worked out the returns were better the food was very good the horizon court was fine i think adding 25.00 p/person or more for specialty restaurants is gouging the passenger after all we have already paid for food and lodging in the cruise fare the cabin inside baja deck was adequate in size and very tasteful with excellent cabin service even with the few days of rough water the ship did not feel we were being hit with high waves it was almost as smooth as a carib cruise in calm water a few passengers were upset we missed 3 ports and had substitutes but as a seasoned cruiser we understand the captain has the right to alter the ports or sequence of ports as he feels he must to ensure the safety of the passengers and the ship one port was eliminated due to a large drifting iceberg that got stuck right in the middle of the anchoring area for ships so we could not go close to it as the ship could have been damaged due to 90 percent of the burg is under water i thought the captain was overly cautious on some ports but i feel he made the correct decisions all in all it was a wonderful experience Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was our 26th cruise, 2nd transAtlantic. 13 with Princess; 13 divided among Carnival, Disney, NCL, RCCL, Paul Gauguin. We flew non-stop from ATL to CPN and paid a second visit to the Marriott on the river. $40 cab ride from the ... Read More
This was our 26th cruise, 2nd transAtlantic. 13 with Princess; 13 divided among Carnival, Disney, NCL, RCCL, Paul Gauguin. We flew non-stop from ATL to CPN and paid a second visit to the Marriott on the river. $40 cab ride from the airport. Centrally located to most major attractions and a 10 minute walk to the main train station. Since we'd been to Copenhagen previously we visited sights we'd missed before such as the National Museum and Church of our Savior. Executive level amenities are well worth the additional krona. This is a typical Marriott, i.e., clean, spacious rooms and helpful staff. Embarkation was less than 30 minutes from taxi drop-off to unlocking our balcony cabin. We've always been Princess fans and I couldn't understand the negative comments from other CruiseCritics but this time we experienced some of the issues first-hand. BTW, we're still Princess fans and have booked two future cruises. Most (if not all) of the problems arose because there are 3,000 passengers on a ship designed for 2,500. This creates crowding in all public areas, specifically the Horizon Court buffet and any performance venues. If you want a decent seat, take a book and plant yourself 30-40 minutes early. And plan your breakfast for off-hours when it's not so crowded. We had a table for 2, early dining in the Boticelli dining room. The service was extremely slow and after the third night - when it took an hour and 15 minutes to get our entree - we didn't go back. Three strikes and you're out. The waiter seemed to be working very hard but there was no cohesive teamwork between him and his assistant. Enjoyed the Wheelhouse Bar pub-grub and Vines Wine Bar. The Vista Lounge, present on many other Princess ships, has been superceded by Fusion Nightclub. The way it's arranged, it can't be used as a venue for the Capt. cocktail party (champagne only this time) or the returning cruisers' Capt. Circle parties. These were held in the Atrium and it just wasn't worth the crowding and hassle. We only dressed for one formal evening and plan to shun these events in the future. We also will stick to Princess' smaller ships unless it's an itinerary we can't refuse. But all in all, we had a great cruise. The captain did an admirable job navigating thru 2 North Atlantic storms, one with 80 mph winds and 21 ft. seas. Luckily, we do not suffer from seasickness. We missed St. Johns, Newfoundland due to weather and this created 7 straight days at sea. Princess did a great job of scheduling a variety of movies during sea days in the Princess Theatre as a diversion. Reykjavik, Iceland: Probably the highlight of our cruise. The ship has a "Golden Circle" bus excursion which we had signed up for. However, we didn't relish being stuck on a bus with 40+ people for 8.5 hours, so we decided to rent a car from Hertz at the regional airport. Great decision! We managed to see all the major sights in the Reykjavik area and had no problem navigating the roads. They were all paved but had no shoulders and we only saw one guardrail all day. The topography is pretty barren and created by volcanic activity. Thingvillir National Park is memorable for being able to walk down the tectonic plate between the continents of N. America and Europe. Also the site of the world's first parlaiment approx. 900 AD. The highlight was Gullfoss (Golden Falls) a spectacular waterfalls for which pictures do not do justice. The geyser area was not as impressive as Yellowstone's; however, Geysir is the namesake of all geysers throughout the world. There was some spectacular scenery in the highlands on the ride back to Reykjavik via Selfoss. We caught the last Hertz courtesy van back to the dock with minutes to spare. Would love to return to Iceland for a longer visit. Qaqortoq, Greenland. Never did we think we'd ever visit Greenland. The approach with a full moon and our first iceburg sighting of the day was quite memorable. We were tendered to Q-toq and (thanks to other CruiseCritic reviews) knew to hit the one and only gift shop first thing. We scooped up our souvenirs and spent the next 3 hours exploring. The houses are brightly colored and climb up and down the streets surrounding the harbor - and so did we. Quite different from any place we've ever visited. Mostly Inuits but some Danes and other Europeans as well. We had selected a nice French cabernet and some local beer at their grocery but were crestfallen to learn there are no liquor sales on Sunday. The sail-away down the channel was spectacular. At dinner, the Capt. announced that they had spotted a large iceburg 1/2 nautical mile away and he thought photos or videos would be a nice souvenir of Greenland. What a treat! It was a distance from the ship and was hard to estimate as to size but it was approximately half the size of the Emerald. We did a complete 360 around the iceburg so everyone could see. With the setting sun as a backdrop, it was quite a sight indeed. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
I had been anxiously awaiting the transatlantic cruise for months and it was finally here! We spent 3 amazing days in Paris, no snobby or unfriendly Parisians were encountered, and 2 in London. Even though the itinerary of the ... Read More
I had been anxiously awaiting the transatlantic cruise for months and it was finally here! We spent 3 amazing days in Paris, no snobby or unfriendly Parisians were encountered, and 2 in London. Even though the itinerary of the transatlantic cruise said Paris (Le Havre), the city of Paris is 2 1/2 hours away by train or bus! No way was I not seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night! We arranged for our own transportation to the Harwich Terminal and it took a good 2 hours from London. The train stops right at the Terminal so next time that will be the method. The check in was a breeze and we were off! I was disappointed by the cabin, so small, and it was a balcony on the 6th deck. The beds are horrible!! Those egg crates for padding that they try and appease you with are just as bad. Room service was punctual but was never hot when it got to our room. Our attendant was exceptional as was all the service throughout the trip. The crew make the experience since you're spending practically 24/7 together. The ship is showing its' age. I was disappointed with the entire cruise. Amazing with the 3 other reviews on the same ship, we could have such different experiences. The food was ok at best and the only good meal was the Parade dinner. The entertainment was ok, the activities were the same. The bingo king was obnoxious while he took he was being cute. The shore excursions were varied and well organized. I'm not sure if the excursions at St. John, NF were cancelled because of the bumpy ride or the fact that we left Reykjavik 3-4 hours late! We were on board before departure time (remember they'll leave you behind) and we saw bus after bus pull up and watch as it snaked through the port building to get everyone back on board! What a joke! The sea were high between Scotland and Reykjavik and then onto Canada. The dining was sparse a couple of nights and the entertainment cancelled. I felt that the quality of the Celebrity cruise had slipped since our last cruise. While you think you'd be treated differently, the specials offered on board were better than what they offered their repeat customers. Shame! Some cabins lost their luggage for the entire trip from the Celebrity transfers out of Heathrow airport. We had to lend them some of our clothes because Celebrity had only given them complimentary laundry services at the time. Can you imagine a 2 week cruise with the clothes you wore on the plane? Yikes!! I chose this cruise because of the Celebrity name, the ports and because it was my husbands' first trip to Europe. However, it will probably be my last cruise with Celebrity. Outside of the amazing service and crew it was just an ok ship with ok food and entertainment.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was our 6th or 7th Princess cruise, and we're up to 75 days or so, consquently they gave us a bottle of champagne when we arrived at our cabin (well, a coupon for one waiting for us in the dining room). Vacations to Go, our ... Read More
This was our 6th or 7th Princess cruise, and we're up to 75 days or so, consquently they gave us a bottle of champagne when we arrived at our cabin (well, a coupon for one waiting for us in the dining room). Vacations to Go, our travel agent, had a bouqet sent too, so we left the dock on the first day feeling quite special. But, lets not get ahead of the story. First we have to get to Copenhagen. Princess's first air booking for us from San Francisco to Copenhagen required about 26 hours in transit. We declined and they booked us a SF-London, London-Copenhagen schedule of about 14 hours, and we elected to arrive a day early hoping to work off some jet lag, and see the town. No problems. In the afternoon of our second day we took a cab to the docks and got on board the Emerald in under 30 minutes. It is probably best not to arrive with the Princess transfer crowd if you want quicker embarkation. We had balcony cabin C 501, which we booked way back when the economy was collapsing, and so we got a great cabin at a great price. Our balcony was double sized and, weather permitting, we enjoyed it. No problems whatever with the cabin, and Eric, our steward was personable, friendly, helpful and we were able to keep our eccentric schedule with no difficulties. We did not find the ship crowded, nor the public spaces cramped. But we had a double balcony and spent a lot of time in the cabin. We dislike controlled seating, and opted for the open dining rooms for almost all meals. Quite quickly we discovered that eating at 8 meant you could almost always just sail in through the door and get a table with no delay. Since our sense of time was in confusion due to moving through a lot of time zones to get to the cruise, 8 was as good a time to eat as any. Normally we accept a table with whomever shows up at the same time and we met some interesting people. The last few days we found two other couples who were good company and ate with them each evening. On our last Princess Cruise we took to stopping at Vines for a glass of sparkling wine and a snack (free) before dining. We did it again on the Emerald and Jorge, our waiter, was another highlight of the trip. Vines was offering free tapas and sashimi, which was quite good. The food in the dining room ranged from acceptable to very good - they had a "home cooking" entre on most menus and I usually went for that. I find on cruise ships that there are often eccentric ideas about what the fancier dishes are and how to prepare them. One tip: they had no cocktail sauce for the shrimp cocktails, and the "American sauce" which is ketchup, was sparingly applied I always got a side of sauce, and a bottle of tabasco and mixed to taste. I tried getting horseradish but it had no bite so I gave up on it. Upstairs was the cafeteria (Horizon Court) and a smaller area called the Caribe or something like that. It had excellent food - really better than the dining room often. We would lunch there and at least once diner there. We don't like cruise ship entertainment & have no comment about the shows. My wife felt the opera singer, who performed in the central area of the ship one night, was not very good. This I know from nothing, as Tom Lehrer said. The magician was magical, we liked him. We took only one tour. That was in Dublin and we went to Powerscourt gardens because I have been reading Jane Austen novels and everyone is always in the great house or walking in the shrubbery or garden and I wanted to see one. It was great, the tour guide was at least so-so, par for the course. Otherwise we just got off the ship and wandered around the ports. Oslo was our first port, and my first chance to buy a charger for my computer, as I left this indispensaible item at the Citigarden motel in San Francisco the sleepy morning we flew out. We grabbed a cab, had several adventures and got the item. Then we walked the port area, had one of the most expensive lunches in human history, visited the Nobel Peace center (before they announced Obama's prize, but they were doing a Martin Luther King to Obama display so that should have been a tip off.) The weather was good there, and in every port except St. Johns, Newfoundland, which was skipped by the ship due to gales. Edinburgh was next. We anchored in the Firth of Fourth near the famous bridge - in itself worth the trip just to say the name. There is a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge in SF, in use there as well. Tendered to the dock, bussed to the city. To my complete surprise we ate at a Spanish restaurant, which was quite good, enjoyed a book store and a hardware store (got an indoor/outdoor thermometer) and walked to a large park & museum area where some Nigerians were singing a gospel trance song for a very long time, which did not prevent a bagpipper from doing his thing, all to the background of jackhammers installing the new streetcar line. Charles Ives eat your heart out. Belfast was overcast, and notable to me for the incredible heart attack inducing breakfasts and lunch menus. Nice ferris wheel by the city hall. We rode on its counterpart in Copenhagen. (Very dull at night, Copenhagen is not much to see from the air after dark). In iceland in retrospect we should have taken the tour or rented a cab and gotten out of town. I wish I had seen the Golden Circle attractions. Worse yet I visited the post office and spent a fortune on year sets of stamps for my collection. Despite the currency collapse recently, prices were high. Qaqortoq (pronounce the q's as k's) was marvelous. The place is big for Greenland but at 3200 residents, small for the world. It was easy to walk the town, and between the brightly colored houses and the rock carvings scattered everywhere, not to mention the lake, there was much to see. We visited several local grocery stores and my wife got what seemed to be a popsickle with a licorish coating. The town boasts a Thai restaurant, and I can now say that I have eaten reindeer at a Thai restaurant in Greenland. It was good, but the joint was absolutely jammed and service, while pleasant, was slow. While dining we looked out the window and saw people standing in a line. We were a block or two from the pier & couldn't figure out what they were doing. After lunch it turned out that not everyone who tendered in was enjoying the local culture, gaily painted houses, and art work, and having spent 15 minutes ashore were now waiting for the tender. We went up the hill to another grocery store, saw some folk art murals, and a boy of about 10 years with a brown dog, green pop bottle, and blue hair. When we finally had to leave we were welcomed at the tender dock with hot soup and no line. On the way out we saw a couple of icebergs which had inexpicably drifted into the bay. The gales were great. The ship itself hardly rocked in gale force winds and officially rough seas. We don't get sea sick, apparently, but this was not a proper test. I think only one thing fell off a table while we were dining. I went to deck 5 and photographed waves breaking against the windows of the future cruises office - one did every few minutes and it was a challenge to snap the shot but I got a couple of good ones. Disembarkation had its moment of confusion as we tried to find our luggage in the huge shed where customs was, but aside from some time in line, no problem. We were flying out in the afternoon so we took the Everglades and Flamingo Park tour. Excellent. I would skip the alligator show at the Everglades unless you are into old-time southern roadside kitsch, but the alligator we saw in the wild was a airboat trip highlight. Flamingo gardens offers a tram tour. Skip it, the narration is quite bad and the tram badly in need of maintenance (carts pulled by a tractor like thing). But flowers everywhere and the flamingos must be seen to be believed. So we saw them. Next trip on the Norwegian Jade in January. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
B2B Barcelona / Venice Grand Med 12 days Sep 25, 2009 Venice / FLL Transatlantic 18 Days Oct 7, 2009 Princess Air: Routing - All Flights NWA + KLM. SFO / Detroit / Amsterdam / Barcelona. There was 2-hour layover in DTT and 90 min ... Read More
B2B Barcelona / Venice Grand Med 12 days Sep 25, 2009 Venice / FLL Transatlantic 18 Days Oct 7, 2009 Princess Air: Routing - All Flights NWA + KLM. SFO / Detroit / Amsterdam / Barcelona. There was 2-hour layover in DTT and 90 min layover in AMS. Luggage was booked SFO / BCN and boarding pass with all seat numbers were given at SFO. All flights were on-time. AMS: There were self-serve kiosks for transfer (if one did not have seats for AMS / BCN). Longish walk from arrival gate to Immigration / Security. Be sure to stand in non-EU Lines! Took about 20 minutes. The nice attractive security lady asked me to open the carry-on, took out the travel umbrella and opened it. Took out the electronic luggage scale asked what it was. Then these 2 items went through the scanner again. At boarding a check-in lady went through the boarding line and took away many (including mine) carry-ons and tagged them and checked them. We got it at the regular carousel in BCN. BCN: We knew we would need carts because DW has an injured shoulder. We had between us 4 pieces of regular luggage (3 bottles of wine and chargers etc. take up space), and 2 carry-ons. We saw 2 small carts and were thinking of taking them downstairs to the carousel when a nice person tells us "Baja"and pointed and we see tons of regular luggage carts. We got 2 carts and exited. Princess Staff were right there and we gave our luggage to be loaded into the luggage bus and were led to the pax bus. At the port, there was security check first (20 minutes) and then check-in. We got our cabin cards and went next door to the Duty Free Shop that had good Spanish wines - bought 3 bottles and a simple corkscrew and charged them. Inside the Ship: We went to our cabin (JJ Inside for first leg then BA for TA). The cabin steward Cerry came over as we are opening the door, greeted us by name, and opened the cabin door. Luckily, he was to be our steward for the full 30 days because the BA cabin was on the same deck 5 or 6 cabins away. We went to the Cafe Caribe for light lunch and then to the Sanctuary. We were disappointed that the Sanctuary is open only till 4:30pm so we did not make a reservation. Port Sightseeing: We had a very active and sophisticated Roll Call with Ann & Ramah continually updating the Spreadsheet. So for some ports we had joined our CC members and some were with Princess. Monaco: We just walked toward town. Finding the escalator was tricky. Naturally the main attractions were Grace Kelly related. Then we joined with another couple and took a cab to the Casino. But they would not let me in without an ID. We went to the casino next door and then walked down (about 30 min) back to the ship. Caution: remember to memorize some landmarks - we got lost in Rome and almost did not find our tour van. Rome: We booked the Princess Train to Rome and walked to the Basilica and looked for the Vatican Museum. There was a big line but there were many agents for guides offering entrance without waiting in line. We bargained the price down from 40 euros pp to 35. The agent gave us a slip with the price and took us to a guide who took us to a small office where we paid. There were about 12 of us with that guide and we by-passed the lines. The museum was very very crowded. We did not take a guidebook. To appreciate the Sistine Chapel one needs a diagram of the ceiling! Afterwards we went to the Basilica (no lines now). We then wandered around trying to get to the Spanish steps and then made our way back to the train station. Naples: We just took the ferry to Capri, went up the cable car and wandered around. Try the small alleys away from the shopping street. We got 3 bottles from a small grocery store - the Barolla was excellent but the Monticello was disappointing. There are restrooms where the cable car comes up. Athens: We joined the tour arranged by CC member Kathleen and it was excellent. Istanbul: We booked the Princess Bosphorus with lunch. Very good value - gets sold out quickly. Ephesus: We joined a tour arranged by Allen and it included the terrace houses which is a must. Remember to take bottled water - no food or drinks available after you enter the gates. Artemis Pillar - is it a hoax? Avoided carpet weaving. We did not go to the leather factory either - though others said that the leather jackets were a good buy. Venice: Princess After-Hours Tour of St. Marks. Expensive but worth it. Exclusive look at areas normally closed to tours. Got valporetto pass on first day. We has 2 nights on the ship. We found ATMs at both ends of Rialto Bridge - one did not accept foreign cards. The other one did. Rome City Tour: Arranged by CC member Dorothy (&Joe): Marco of Romeconnection was superb. My Italian Lira dropped at Trevi brought me back after 40 years. Will the Euro dropped now bring me back? Remember to go down to the edge of fountain to throw your coin. Dorothy & Joe - may be we should have thrown some coins into your cabin to get us together on another cruise! Naples: Joined CarolynR tour with Fabrizio (Allarounditaly). Great guy. Fabulous Lunch Barcelona: Sagrada Famila with CarolynR. As soon as we docked, 4 of us got a cab to Sagrada (20 euro total with tip). So we got there and were in the front of the line for the ticket office to open. Toilets are under the Sagrada (if needed). Join the line immediately for the elevator - gets longer and longer. 2 (or maybe 4) euros for the elevator. What a marvel. We read about how it took 100 years to build many of the cathedrals - Sagtada will take 50 years. From Sagrada took a cab to Las Rambla. We strolled the Las Ramblas, ate lunch, went to the market off Las Ramblas, then took cab back to ship. Cabs were hard to find at Las Ramblas. Food: Rome - pasta with white truffle (20 euro - the most expensive pasta on the menu) but such a wonderful delicate taste. Athens: I asked the tour guide - she recommended Lamb Fricassee. The heavenly sauce. After I told her what I thought, the tour guide said it is a specialty in that restaurant and she always orders it. Naples Fabrizio's choice of the restaurant near Positano perched on a hill with a magnificent view and a 6-course lunch to match (only 25 euros with wine). Murano - wandered into a restaurant with a courtyard. Superb fried seafood platter - one of the best fried calamari. Las Ramblas - cannot be in Barcelona without trying Paella Marinara. On the ship: lamb chop, Pate (at breakfast in Cafe Caribe), and omelets with Jalapeno. Ship food was very good but not memorable. Our waiters - Napoleon and Sunil were excellent. And on the first leg - Maitre D' Generoso (so special) and cheerful Istvan (Headwaiter) made each dinner a joy. They both left the ship in Venice. Our tablemates on the first leg were a honeymoon couple from Spain - and we enjoyed our Spanish dinner wines with them. Ruby: Our first time on this class of ship. Sailing into Venice watching from the deck - all teary-eyed pax. Captain Charming Tony Yeomans -- if you write your memoirs title it "Parallel Parking The Ruby Princess". We all held our breaths as the captain maneuvered it between 2 docked ships in Venice! Skywalkers: We were regulars here especially for sailaways. Vinod always welcomed us. The appetizers - especially freshly made carpaccio and guacamole. Do not miss going through the Rock of Gibraltar from a high deck. Vines: About 20 of the 30 evenings we were here before dinner. On our first evening, Florian the Sommelier gave us a warm welcome and we were hooked. Florian knows his wines. And then there was the sashimi and ceviche superbly crafted by sushi chef Sajid for us. Oh! What a treat! We ordered wine by the glass and also by the bottles. Our favorites - Luce $90 with gratuity (for our taste it out-classed Opus) and our regular pinot noir Calera - a great value at $40. The Piazza and the aft end of Ruby are different from the Grand Class Ships- the views from the golf link is great. Memorable Interactions: We get back from Rome and were walking to our cabin. A cabin door opens and a hand thrusts a bottle of Champagne into my hand and the door closes. I keep walking to our cabin a few doors away wondering. There are 2 glasses of champagne in it. DW tells me - it was Raymond (and Pam). We laugh and drink it in the balcony. We are going to the Coop in Venice and run into our Steward Cerry. So I ask him if we can get him anything - embarrassed he says "Some Mints". We bring mints and some chocolates in a nice small light transparent plastic container. He looks at it and says - "I will take it home - my family must know that I have nice pax." We meet a couple in Horizon Court. The wife tells us that they are enjoying the cruise. But they have a worried look. Her husband left the hearing aid batteries on their kitchen table. He has only one battery left and they are on these excursions and cannot get batteries. I tell them we will look for the batteries in Lisbon our next port. That evening we find a sample battery and a note in our mailbox. So in Lisbon, we find a watch store. No -- they don't have it - then I point to my "ear". "Ah" says the guy and comes out and points further down the street. We try another pharmacy - she points and says "Up". I tell DW there are only apts. above the stores and no stairs. DW says she saw stairs. So we cross the street and push a slightly open door. There are stairs. We go up and we are right in front of a Hearing Aid Store! We give the batteries to the couple late that evening. Next day we run into the couple -- she hugs DW and starts crying. She says "Now - my husband can hear." We tell her that she had faith in 2 total strangers and her faith led us to the store. She says it is Mitzvah. They send us flowers. Cabin Get Togethers - wonderful wine and appetizers and conversations. Thanks to everyone on our Roll Call that made the whole trip so memorable. Each one has to find what gives them joy and bring that way of life to their cruise. Enjoy. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
A new cruiser and new-ish to these forums, this is my review, for good or bad! For me, like the curate's egg - the cruise was good in parts. Ports of call: I booked the trip based on the itinerary published in the brochure. This ... Read More
A new cruiser and new-ish to these forums, this is my review, for good or bad! For me, like the curate's egg - the cruise was good in parts. Ports of call: I booked the trip based on the itinerary published in the brochure. This was subsequently changed and substantial port changes were made from 14 - 27 October. F.O wrote that the Canadian authorities had advised that this sector was in breach of legislation protecting registered ships engaged in coastal trading. They had apparently vigorously disputed Canada's interpretation but said that they were not able to gain any concessions from the authorities. This did make me slightly concerned about how a company with F.O's reputation and experience could be caught out by such legislation at such a late stage in the process, how could they get it so wrong? After all, this had been planned for how many months. Bite the bullet, I thought, and make the best of it. I enjoyed most of the ports of call that I was able to go on, norovirus and ports cancellations preventing me from going ashore at Shelburne, Sydney, St Pierre and Miquelon and St John's, NF. Overall as some of the smaller ports of call had 'closed down' for the winter, more judicious planning would have given us more shore time at places like Bar Harbour, Oak Bluffs and Lunenburg where there was a lot to see and do. Sunny and warmer weather certainly would have added to the small town charm of the smaller ports in Canada - Cornerbrook, Baie-Comeau, Gaspe, Digby - though the welcome and hospitality of local people, waiting to host us even in cold and breezy conditions, was really heart warming. Tendering procedures were sometimes tediously long with F.O booked trips taking priority over we lesser mortals who had privately arranged our own excursions. So I missed one early and privately pre-booked trip in Bar Harbor and a planned bus tour of Martha's Vineyard was curtailed. I got ashore early at Lunenburg by booking a F.O tour at the last minute. I think it was here that others, who had to wait for tenders to get them into this beautiful area, were not called until early afternoon, then they had to be back on board for a tea time departure so they decided not to leave the ship. What a shame as this is a stunning area to visit. Maybe the cruise would have found better weather and sea conditions had it been possible to maintain the original schedule and if it had started a few weeks earlier. Public areas on the ship: Public areas were very clean, good looking - if in somewhat 70s' decor - and well maintained though at times it was difficult to get a 'window' seat in the library or the walk through area to the Morning Light pub - first come, first served! The Morning Light pub? A bit lacking in character and somewhat divided up by high backed benches and all 'curtained in', claustrophobic given the large area, but there was generally plenty of room there for a sit down. There were other areas on Deck 7 where sofas and easy chairs were available and the library of course (if you didn't mind snoring!) And it was enjoyable to hear the Trio playing in one of the seating areas there. The bars I used the Lido and Observatory bars mostly, sometimes used the Marquee Bar for afternoon tea. The Lido and Observatory both have a reasonable view of the outside world. It is a bit of a do to get to the Observatory and Marquee bars if you are at the 'wrong end' of the ship. Staf:. These lovely people made my time on board. I was really impressed with the ship's wait-on, bar and cabin staff, and pay particular commendation to the 3 waiters on table 107 in Ballindaloch, the Palms staff, the Lido and Observatory bars staff and my cabin stewardess Ong. They were really great, always friendly, cheerful and caring as were the majority of staff engaged in day to day chores around the ship. Reception staff were rather less cheery, a little bit forbidding, maybe instructed to maintain a certain distance and reserve, as was one of the senior European staff I had dealings with, whose manner was brusque and intimidating, perhaps to bat off complaints? Who knows? Entertainment: What I saw of the evening entertainment was good and varied but some performers had the edge. What stood out for me was the Balmoral Troupe and the Crew's Show - excellent. What a talented crowd they are! Day time entertainment, card games, darts, deck games, carpet games, quizzes and lots of people were participating and having a good time. A personal preference on my part is not to do games but I was quite happy with a book and a people watch! But there were some interesting lectures and the Arts and Crafts classes seemed well patronised as did the dancing. For singles travellers: I am very used to solo travelling, others less so, so my comments here are based on chats with other singles who were looking for introductions to like travellers. Not all of these have access to PCs so please bear with me if I am reporting their views. Arrangements would have benefited from a little more forethought and care and attention. After all, this line prides itself on being 'all about the people'. The growing demand from singles in the holiday market should be one that companies might respond to in a positive way. Several basic and achievable proposals were brought to the attention of the Entertainment/Cruise Director to try to introduce single travellers, maybe just to dine or maybe to team up for outings. (What was in place was not working). He agreed but nothing changed during the course of the 6 weeks. Maybe it was out of his hands but several passengers remarked that they felt rather let down by the apparent lack of care and cohesion especially when it was part of programmed events in the Daily Times. It was also remarked that cruise hosts should be more 'age appropriate' to the average age of guests, it could be too much like Blue Peter. Food and Drink: I am a real foodie. The food was OK overall but the main restaurant served tiny portions from the menu except for a number of notable occasions, such as the lamb shank and Beef Wellington nights. The buffet was more generous. It was rather less exciting than I had been led to expect but mass catering and economic constraints are undoubtedly a factor. Cruise food always had a reputation of being excellent, maybe that was in the good old days or maybe my expectations were too high. It sometimes looked better than it tasted. It didn't stop me eating it though as anyone else doing the cooking is a bonus! For me, there were some high spots in the 2 restaurants where I ate most of my meals. I loved the roast dinners and the Palms Buffet nights where the staff dressed up in costume. The stir fry cook there made some great dinners and there was sometime a queue for his cooking - your meal could be cooked to your taste and I thought that was super. The fresh omlettes were delicious in the moring as were the late supper fish and chips. Drinks prices were reasonable too without the surcharge sometimes levied by other cruise companies. Accommodation: The ship, whilst common areas are a bit spiffy, still has some shabby and well worn cabins, one of which I was allocated. I did not think that this was worth the money I paid, nor would I expect my B&B guests in my home to occupy such poorly re-furbed bedrooms. I had an older cabin on Deck 4. It had new-ish soft furnishing but was well worn in the bedroom and the bathroom with really poor refurbishment of the fixtures and fittings, screws holes left un-Polyfilla'ed, bathroom shelf rails loose, the bath really looked unwholesome with a stained bottom and anti slip strips that were partially peeled off, paintwork that had been given a lick and a promise - all things that would have taken a couple of hours at most to fix and look well cared for. Sickness: Infections can and do occur all too frequently in establishments where large numbers of people congregate for any length of time but on this ship Norovirus made its presence felt again after having been on board on the British Isles cruise earlier in the month. There was also a nasty throat and chest infection that has followed people home, with serious repercussions in a couple of cases I heard about. As well there is what seemed to be a viral ear infection (or streptoccocal bacterial infection, take your pick) that continues to plague us, I now have both of those a week after coming home. All part of the risk of travelling with so many people at such close quarters, I know. Regarding NV I think that any efforts made by management to restrict the spread - isolation, hand washes everywhere, closure of self serve buffets, washing down of banisters, lifts' handrails etc and the fumigation of cabins after release from 'custody' - might have been somewhat snookered by the less than hygienic habits of some passengers. I'll leave that to your imagination. It has been suggested elsewhere on the forums that we oldies are less than careful in our personal care -not me, matey - but I now understand why such comments are made. I lost much of the third sector of the cruise to sickness, isolated for over 48 hours and then a further self chosen isolation for a further 20 hours. Believe me, the after effects of the virus are enough to dampen one's enthusiasm for partying so I was rather glad to get some air at Cobh and to arrive back home 2 days later. To add insult to injury the coach driver on the way back from Dover - Victoria locked the toilet and said it was for single use only - we weren't sure if he meant that was only for one person to use or if it was only for Number 1s - who dared ask after that? God forbid that one of us really DID need to use it! Noxious fumes in cabin: What really made me anxious - as a single traveller - was not only contracting NV, though that was bad enough, but what happened in my cabin in the first week of October. I had the heating switched on and fell asleep whilst reading, then awoke briefly and registered this smell, fell asleep again (at least I hope it was sleep), woke again and the smell was stronger, enough to get me off the bed with a pounding violent headache and dizziness, the former lasting for a number of days. It was coming through the aircon vent. I switched it to the cold position immediately. I reported it to reception by phone, checked to see that the couple in the next cabin was OK, went on deck to get fresh air, then went to Reception in person and demanded that they make a log of it. I heard nothing else so eventually went to see the Guest Relations officer. You can take your pick of the reasons given for the fumes: 1) It is caused by routine maintenance, the engineers say it will clear soon (reception) 2) the engineers know there is a problem and are working to fix it (reception) 3) the ship was bunkered the day before in port (?was it) and the fumes were as a result of that and/or (GRO) 4) the fumes were not in your cabin, they were in the corridor and this happens when the door to the engine room is left open (GRO) This problem, as I reported it, was denied verbally and in writing by the GRO, who inferred that I was making it up to get a free upgrade. (I should add that I had asked for an upgrade when I went to see him on the first occasion and even offered to pay so that I could get a fresh air flow in the cabin - he said that no upgrade was available, unpaid or paid. Instead he offered me a cabin on deck 5. I saw no benefit in going from one sealed box to another so declined). Make what you will of that. This has happened on the Braemar too, according to another poster, so maybe it is an accepted part of being aboard a ship. If it is, it's potentially very dangerous, the immediate and long term ill effects of exposure are well documented, especially from bunker fuel fumes, as I have since discovered. My overall review is this cruise varies between excellent and downright frightening! As I said, I was a first timer - would I go again? That is very doubtful. I am quite put off. I am not a whinger about the smaller things in life, but this was a substantial investment for me in terms of money and time, having got over a health scare earlier in the year, I was determined to try to push into life all those things that I never had an opportunity to do before - but it didn't come up to the mark. As a single passenger I paid a lot of money for this cruise, £6000, and certainly expected a 4* service, if not a little more, judging by the Fred. Olsen brochure's description and many passengers' complimentary reviews. The fact that I was subsequently offered the cruise for £3400 does grate. Was it value for money at £6000? For me, definitely not! Nor would it have been at £3400. I am disappointed by parts of the cruise (maybe the ship/itinerary planning more than the 'cruise') but the port days were very enjoyable in the main and I met some really pleasant travelling companions. I had anticipated cruising - and with F.Olsen for their UK departures - as a new holiday-ing phase in my life as I get older and less enthusiastic about DIY flights and touring. I am having to think again. I know that there will be many who had a great time, I only wish I had been one of them. My overall marking is 1 and the reason for this is based on GRO's lack of care and concern over the 'fumes' incident and the his intimation that I was making it up to get a free upgrade. This is a pity as it detracts completely from other areas where far higher grades have been awarded and the overall mark suffers as the result of one man's action Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We are Josie & Al, mid-sixties, essentially retired, living in Houston TX. This was our fifth cruise together in just over two years; the previous four were with Princess. I've been on approximately 40, although my last Royal ... Read More
We are Josie & Al, mid-sixties, essentially retired, living in Houston TX. This was our fifth cruise together in just over two years; the previous four were with Princess. I've been on approximately 40, although my last Royal Caribbean voyage was in 2002. Now that they've become more competitive, we were anxious to try them. We booked the cruise a year prior to sailing, and anticipated this adventure from that time on. We had always wanted to experience a transatlantic cruise, and at under $1000/pp including airfare, it was an offer we couldn't turn down. This will be a pretty comprehensive review, so please bear with me. Each component will be rated from * to *****. EMBARKATION ... ****. With approximately 3700 passengers to process, the terminal at Southampton was large and well-staffed. We arrived about 3:00, two hours before departure, and snaked through the line in about twenty minutes. We were a bit apprehensive about leaving our luggage outside virtually unattended, but it all got aboard, and was delivered to our stateroom promptly. The cruise was essentially sold out. THE SHIP ... ****. The Independence is a Freedom-class vessel, one up from the Voyager class, and below the new Oasis of the Seas. It was launched last year, and is in pristine condition. Despite its size, we found it easy to get around, and had it figured out in about an hour. The Royal Promenade (Deck 5) makes it feel less crowded, although passengers were really packed in during scheduled events there ... you can only disperse such a mass of humanity so far. There are two quaint eating establishments, the Promenade Cafe (pastries, sandwiches, etc.) and Sorrento's (pizza, Italian salads and desserts). Coffee, tea and snacks are available 24/7, and there is no additional charge for food. They're both wonderful. The pool deck (11) is massive and very pleasing aesthetically, including two cantilevered hot tubs extending 12' beyond the ship, and a large area dedicated to children's use. We discovered two glaring omissions, however. One was the lack of an indoor pool (or at least a retractable dome), which precludes use in cold and inclement weather (Europe in November certainly falls into this category). The other was no outdoor food venue, save for a self-serve frozen yogurt machine. With the adult pool area forward and the Windjammer Cafe (buffet) aft, one has to traverse the length of the ship in order to grab a bite, then take it all the way back. The Sports Deck (12) contains the rock wall, mini-golf course, basketball court and the new Flo-Rider. OUR STATEROOM ... *****. We booked an inside guarantee (generally a Cat. Q, the least expensive accommodations) and were pleasantly surprised at an upgrade to a Cat. N ... still inside, but in a terrific location. We were in #3615, on Deck Three, mid-ship, close to the art gallery, the main floor of the dining room (where sit-down breakfast and lunch were served daily), the ice rink (Studio B, also used for other activities ... the ice is covered with a removable floor) and the On-Air Karaoke venue. We were concerned with the proximity to these potentially noisy places, but heard absolutely nothing. It's a great area (just a few staterooms, in a location where the ship's movement is minimal) ... and it connects to 3613 (again, we heard zero). So if you're planning to travel on the cheap, and will have need for adjoining staterooms, book these! They're away from the rows and rows of cabins on the upper decks, and just a few steps from pretty much everything. We often walked the two flights up to the Promenade and theatres. THE PASSENGERS ... *****. Americans were definitely in the minority. The majority were British, with significant numbers of Canadians, Asians, and Europeans. It was an exhilarating experience sailing with such a diverse group of people. This being both a lengthy trip, and a time when children are in school, the number of kids was limited to 128. Most were pretty much invisible, and those who were seen were hardly heard ... a total non-issue. THE STAFF ... *****. I've excluded the dining room employees here, as I'll cover them when I address the food-related matters. We found everyone to be congenial and eager to help. The folks at Guest Services were as good as I've ever encountered, and our stateroom steward(ess), Desena, a lovely Jamaican gal, was absolutely perfect ... available when needed, in a stealth mode when appropriate. No complaints whatsoever with any of these folks. The Cruise Director can play a huge role in the overall enjoyment of a voyage. Ours was Joff Eaton ... probably the best I've ever come across (the memory is fading, but I don't remember anyone quite as good ... perhaps Graham Seymour; but if there's any difference, it's minimal). In addition to the usual qualities, we found him quite approachable, eager to please, efficient and very much in charge. We saw him every morning at our progressive trivia contest, and continued to return solely because of him ... we had absolutely no shot at winning. He actually made losing fun! His staff likewise performed flawlessly. If there's something that needs a bit of work, it's the daily telecast that runs continuously from midnight to noon. Joff and the Activities Director, Katie, summarize the day and preview what's ahead. Granted, they both have a sense of humor; but their schtick is just plain silly and immature ... this comment coming from a fan of The Three Stooges. It was an effort to watch it. ENTERTAINMENT ... ***. We've never been fans of cruise ship productions, and none of the three programs did anything to change our minds. The singers and dancers are talented kids ... but the content of all the shows was inane, as usual, probably in an effort to please 3700 passengers. The scenery and costumes, however, were dazzling, and their creators deserve high praise. As for the guest performers (lots of them ... remember, it's a 13-nighter), this is as subjective a topic as food. A quartet of tenors known as Teatro was adored by the crowd. We thought their voices were thin, the repertoire stale, and the harmony (what there was of it) elementary. By contrast, the impressionist, Sean O'Shea, received many negative comments ... we really liked him. The other entertainers were the usual nondescript singers, comedians, hypnotists, etc. There was also a pianist, Tian Jang, who brought down the house. Josie thought he was wonderful; my impression was that the masters didn't write their concertos to be backed up by a big band. If you liked Liberace, you'd love this guy. But in any event, we had something to see each evening. Unlike cruises in warmer weather, there was no Calypso/Reggae deck band ... with winds up to 108 mph across the bow, that's understandable. But those musical groups on board were outstanding, especially a Latin trio called Clave. The house orchestra (10 pieces) was excellent. There were also two ice shows, both really great. It still amazes me how those kids can work so well on the "small ice." DINING ... **. As usual there was plenty to eat in many venues. The Windjammer buffet was by far the best we've ever come across, both in terms of variety and quality. There are two mirror-image serving areas, each divided into many components ... meats (including a carving station), cold, hot, a "burgerama," desserts, salads, all with many choices. Adjoining each side is Jade, food with an Asian flair, including sushi, fried rice, stir-fry, curry ... pretty good stuff. After being introduced to such an array in the self-service area, one would expect it to carry through to the Main Dining Room. Unfortunately, such was not the case. We're veteran cruisers, and know full well that dinners are not the "gourmet feasts" as advertised, but rather good banquet-quality food. Still, we were disappointed. With an exception here and there, we found the menus very limited and lacking imagination. Preparation and presentation were at best ordinary, with most dishes exceptionally bland (which might explain why the wait staff was pushing the "fresh-ground pepper" whenever possible). Even the signature lobster dinner (actually a tail, served with shrimp) was subpar ... overcooked and delivered at close to room temperature. We actually had to ask for drawn butter. Desserts lacked creativity, and we often found nothing appealing enough to order. Ice cream was largely vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, most likely a concession to Ben & Jerry's, which has a shop on the Promenade. Service was inconsistent, at times bordering on the inept. Even when the station was not at capacity, there were inordinate waits between courses, salads brought before appetizers, soups and main dishes served lukewarm, long waits for tables to be cleared, staff whizzing by the tightly-packed-in tables, which proved very distracting ... in short, hardly the "Gold Crown Service" touted by Royal Caribbean. We were informed by a travel agent/passenger that about 40% of the staff was moved to the new Oasis of the Seas prior to this cruise, and that much of the kitchen personnel were new. Based on what we experienced, this would seem correct. Breakfast and lunch menus in the Main Dining Room were identical each day, but a buffet table was available at breakfast, and a manned salad bar was present at lunch. The augmenting of the rather ordinary daily menus with these selections is a nice touch ... if not for the fact that they kept running out of the more popular lunch choices such as shrimp, it would have worked perfectly. It's a great concept, but the execution needs work. PORTS OF CALL ... *****. I'm not going to devote much space to the stops. After all, what could be bad about Paris, other than the two-hour ride each way? But the tour was wonderful, and we did get that fabulous panoramic view from the Eiffel Tower! There was an issue upon our return to Le Havre, which literally and figuratively put a damper on the day. When we arrived back at the ship (along with at least 25 other coaches) we found exactly one gangway open ... and that was a pretty steep climb. There were people with physical disabilities who could not even attempt the embarkation. To make matters worse, it had become cold, windy and rainy. Only after a half-hour or so did two other gangways open. We did fill out a complaint form, and were credited with half the cost of the excursion ... a fair compensation; but it never should have happened. Our visits to Cherbourg, France and Vigo, Spain were lovely. We got to see the major attractions, and learned much about the cultures. But by far, the biggest surprise came at Funchal, Madeira. This is a Portuguese island, west of Casa Blanca, Morocco and north of the Canary Islands ... roughly the same latitude as Fort Lauderdale. If you think that it's tough driving in St. Thomas, it will feel like a straightaway in comparison. But every hairpin turn, curve, and close call with oncoming traffic was worth it. The views were absolutely incredible, the people as accommodating and welcoming as possible ... just a wonderful day. We stopped at a mountaintop restaurant to sample local wine, cheese and bread ... magnificent ambience. Madeira is a vacation destination for Europeans ... we can certainly understand why. The stop was an appropriate prelude to the upcoming six consecutive sea days. ABOUT THOSE SEA DAYS ... ***. If anything, it provided the opportunity to readjust from the jet lag, as we gained back an hour for five days, passing through the various time zones. We just wish that there were a few more activities ... but the weather gradually became warmer and calmer, and the deck was alive and rocking by the time we reached Fort Lauderdale. There was one huge nighttime party up there, which we enjoyed very much. The late-night buffet was spectacular. DISEMBARKATION ... *. There's nothing like enjoying a wonderful cruise, then having to wait over two hours past your scheduled departure time, with pretty much nothing to do. It does wonders for those with flights to catch and excursions to take. Royal Caribbean assessed total blame on US Customs, citing, (1) a necessary thorough health inspection, since the ship had not been in US waters for over 6 months, (2) the large number of non-US citizens needing to be processed, and (3) only ten agents on duty. I can accept all of that ... but this is hardly the first time that an RCI ship has encountered this set of circumstances. A simple caveat about possible delays for these reasons would have at least mitigated the anxiety experienced by many. We were being picked up by a dear friend ... thankfully, he's still that, although he was seriously inconvenienced. For the record, we were due off at 9:00 and reached our luggage at 11:15. CONCLUSION ... This deserves a mention: kudos to Royal Caribbean for its policy on smoking. In addition to the usual places, it is prohibited in staterooms (except on balconies), open bars (i.e. those direct walk-in venues), and even the casino (there's a small area of slot machines where puffing is permitted on certain days from about 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., but that's it). We often had to pass through the Casino Royale on our way elsewhere, and it was wonderful not to breathe in that stench. Overall, the trip was a marvelous experience, and we'd certainly do it again ... although likely with another cruise line. Royal Caribbean has brought us the concept that bigger is better ... but they need to tweak some procedures, all related to the number of passengers they attempt to accommodate at any given time. Lines for shore excursion assignments and ice show tickets (complimentary and ultimately unnecessary) were interminable ... and with a little thought and advance planning, these issues could easily be resolved. There were also two bookkeeping errors that took what seemed like an eternity to rectify. We opted for My Time Dining, which requires that all gratuities be prepaid, since RCI does not add them to your account as other lines do ... not a problem, except that they had no record of us paying them (about a year in advance, I might add). Only after I showed the Guest Services Supervisor the invoice from my travel agent did they notify corporate (everything goes through Miami) and correct the problem. The other involved a charge of $4.54 for a bottle of water from the mini-bar. We never took a thing from the fridge, and filed a dispute with Guest Services about five days before we disembarked. As of our leaving, the charge was still on our account. We were far from the only ones with similar problems ... inexcusable, given today's sophisticated accounting programs. Add to this our disappointment with the dining room food and service, and a look at another carrier is certainly warranted. If you've gotten this far, thank you. I trust that you've gleaned some valuable information ... but if you need more, please feel free to e-mail me at ... al@duffey.net. Smooth sailing! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Embarkation/De-Embarkation. Carnival had this down pat. We (Dennis and I)were at the pier at 12 noon, on this ship at 12:10pm and in the lido area by 12:15pm. We were pleasantly surprised. Cabin - Large, spacious but needed ... Read More
Embarkation/De-Embarkation. Carnival had this down pat. We (Dennis and I)were at the pier at 12 noon, on this ship at 12:10pm and in the lido area by 12:15pm. We were pleasantly surprised. Cabin - Large, spacious but needed attention. Phone didn't work, light switches that did nothing. We did miss the room controls for air/heat that other lines provide. Instead on the air vents in the ceiling are the flow valves to increase or decrease the amount of air you got. Ship - Overall it was OK. You can see and feel the age (10yrs) of the ship. We wish the hot tubs worked but all were closed off the entire trip. We felt that as a first time cruiser who has nothing to compare the experience with you would be happy. For seasoned travellers not so much. Corners were cut. Spa - This unfortunately was the worst portion of the trip. We walked into the treatment room and as you lay face down you see the tiles from the walls all separating from the wall. It looked like a basement bathroom that was being forgotten. Also, camp O is right above you so as that relaxing music is playing the teens are screaming, slamming the B-ball on the ground, and having a great time while you cannot enjoy the massage. The staff of the spa however were very nice and professional. Casino - Pleasant Shows - Entertaining. Nothing bad nothing outstanding. Dinning - Avoid the Lido at all costs. Just order room service and stick with the main dinning rooms. Unless you have children then by all means head to the lido. Because that's where you will find 1000 other children (No joke. Brad cruise director announced it on the overhead that this ship had 1000 registered 17 and under children) Lido food was not good, the ice tea machines didn't work and we watched as parents screamed at their kids to find a table for them. Main dinning was tasty food and excellent service. Pros's - Embarkation,de-embarkation, St. John (I think this is an underrated port.) Staff attitude and service. Con's - General Maintenance, Lido deck, Poor Spa facility Overall If you have children from 12 and under this may be a cruise for you. Camp Carnival seemed to keep the children very happy, entertained and busy. If you are going thinking you will relax ( As I did ) then avoid the ship. We had children running up and down the halls at 3am just banging on the walls and some peoples cabin doors for fun. Cruise Director would come on the PA in the mornings to remind people to be courteous but that did nothing. This was one part of the trip that I couldn't fault Carnival on. Carnival promotes fun for the family and that's what you should expect. They also will do whatever they can to get you to charge anything to your room. 6 drink servers asked myself and a few others within 5 mins if we wanted a drink. (i know they are on rounds but c'mon) We tried to avoid most of the sun decks and public areas and hang out on our balcony. With the weather so beautiful the entire trip this was the saving grace of the trip. I hope this review helps. Oh the reason why I went with carnival was that it fit the bill at the time. Needed a quick 4 day escape and they had the itinerary and embarkation port that worked for me. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Having read various reviews about the Independence, I felt compelled to write about her. I am not sure if some of the critics could have been on the same ship as me. All I can say is I am glad I did not see all the reviews before my first ... Read More
Having read various reviews about the Independence, I felt compelled to write about her. I am not sure if some of the critics could have been on the same ship as me. All I can say is I am glad I did not see all the reviews before my first sailing!! it might have put me off, thank goodness we sailed on this fantastic ship. SHE IS AMAZING,and so are her crew. I have nothing to compare her with, so my opinion is completely unbiased, and I wonder if some seasoned cuisers are to nit picky!! you can find a problem or complaint anywhere if you are looking for it. First the transatlantic crossing from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale, when I boarded the ship, her magnificence overwelmed me, I felt the tears of joy. The D2 STATEROOM 7666 was the same stateroom, (but opposite side of the ship to the 7366 on our return) The size took me by surprise, it seemed large, there was a large studio couch that makes into a bed if required, enough room for 4 people to sit on. a coffee table in front of it, an adequate desk/dressing table, with chair, a real kettle!!, flat screen TV, a large bed, lovely private balcony with a table and chairs, where I spent many a happy hour, on both journeys. An adequate bathroom with shower, yes, we were very happy!! Oh! I nearly forgot our fantastic cabin attendant, nothing was to much trouble. DINING, we do not like formalities, and enjoy very casual dining, the beauty of this on the cruise is, you choose, we dined just two evenings in the MDR, on the ship going to Fort Lauderdale, which was very enjoyable, but found ouselves being drawn back to the windjammer, and on our return to Southampton only ate in the windjammer. I have to say, the food was excellent, so many choices, beautifully prepared and presented, the quality was first class. The staff were very helpfull, and did their best to provide anything special you asked for, eg. my husband can only have soya milk. Our food was always hot, reading some peoples complaints about just warm food we noticed some people pick up a plate and wonder around the food stations, deciding what to have, so food cools down quickly when removed from hot plates etc. We walked around first, having decided what we wanted, we then picked up a plate, and went straight to our choice, then immediately to our table, so the food had not had chance to cool down. We really enjoyed the Windjamer, it was huge, and nicely decorated, with magnificent panoramic windows all round. PUBLIC AREAS, We enjoyed walking around the ship, even though the ship was full to capacity, with so many passengers, we were amazed the ship never seemed crowded, the pool deks were always busy, but I found a lounger or chair somewhere, the same on deck 12 above. We walked around deck 5 many times, and hardly ever saw anyone else. for us it was lovely not to feel crammed into spaces with lots of other people. The inside areas, are all beautifully decorated and furnished, and we enjoyed sitting in the various lounges throughout the ship. On deck five, the inside promenade deck was lovely to walk through, with shops and cafes, it was quite a social gathering place for a lot of people. I saw some of the shows, not all, but those I saw were very enjoyable. The ice skating shows were fantastic. COMING from Fort Lauderdale, on the first day at sea, in the Alhambra theatre the Captain introduced his officers, and asked if anyone knew where the first port of call was to be, someone shouted out don't care, everyone clapped and cheered, because to be honest with you, I didn't care either, I was on my floating bit of paradise, in the middle of nowhere, mentally totally lost in paradise. I loved the 6 days at sea, in the middle of the ocean, and almost felt sorry as we approached the Azores, Madeira, Vigo, and back into Southampton. We were very pleased the Captain was the same on both our transatlantic voyages. Captian Teo, we found him to be amusing on his daily announcements. He always spoke to people when he wondered through the public areas, and was very approachable, we spoke to him on several occasions, throughout our trip back to Southampton, and he was friendly, accommodating, and was willing to answer any questions, but gave the impression of always being very much in charge. A Captain who gave us confidence, who ran a tight ship so to speak!!, and whos crew seemed to speak very highly of him. Finally, I am very disappointed she is going back to Florida so late in November, otherwise we would have booked on her. We are booked on the Celebrity Equinox. But we have booked on the Independence to come back to Southampton in April 2010, sadly that is her last transatlantic, she is staying in Europe. Hopefully in the future she may be required to do transatlantic again, I will be the first to book on her if she does. I absolutley love her, and all she had to offer. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
To begin, this experience was top notch from the moment we landed in New York to our arrival back at the Heathrow airport 6 days later.Cunard gets top marks for efficiency. The transfers to and from the airports worked like clockwork. ... Read More
To begin, this experience was top notch from the moment we landed in New York to our arrival back at the Heathrow airport 6 days later.Cunard gets top marks for efficiency. The transfers to and from the airports worked like clockwork. Embarcation was fast and courteous, we were in our cabin by 12:20 and having lunch in King's Court 10 minutes later. By 1:30 all of our bags had arrived and our room stewardess had introduced herself. Our cabin was booked as"obstructed view" but we lucked out on this too. 8059 is between the lifeboats so we had an excellent view of the ocean. Our table in the Britiannia was #262 on the balcony overlooking the Commodore's table an excellent location for people watching. We were assigned a table for 6 and our dinner companions were very agreeable ( a fellow Canadian lady travelling alone, an American couple with whom we agreed early on not to discuss politics and a very charming well travelled lady now living in NYC but who is actually a world traveller). The food was a cut above what we had experienced on cruise ships and the portions were reasonable not enormous. We had dinner one evening at Todd English and while the room itself is very impressive I didn't find the food that much more enjoyable than the dining room. The shows in the "Planetarium" were worth seeing albiet somewhat short.The library is really impressive over 8000 books and big comfortable chairs overlooking the bow of the ship. The English Pub lunches are not to be missed and the afternoon tea service is really worth experiencing although the same scones and teacakes are served up on deck 7 in the King's Court, it's not quite the same as being served with a quartet of musicians and white gloved waiters. Although the pool areas are spacious and lounge chairs are abundant we spent more time on our balcony than on deck. Somethig we noticed right away was how quiet this ship is. Never heard noise from hallways or other cabins and could hardly detect the sound of the engines. Two minor criticisms, the internet is very sloooow and I wished they had small teapots in the King's Court (as a tea drinker, I hate tea bags in a cup)However those are petty annoyances compared to the overall first class experience. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009

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