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1,107 Repositioning Cruise Reviews

We have just returned from 3 weeks on the Costa Classica sailing from Dubai to Singapore. It was a bit like the Curate's egg - good in parts. We have cruised with Costa before, but on a newer ship and we found the Classica very basic ... Read More
We have just returned from 3 weeks on the Costa Classica sailing from Dubai to Singapore. It was a bit like the Curate's egg - good in parts. We have cruised with Costa before, but on a newer ship and we found the Classica very basic and ferry-like (definitely not Italian-style!) and not really suited to expectations of modern cruising. The main plus points were the itinerary - fantastic (see more below) and we liked the evening entertainment (except for the few nights that they showed videos!). They had a good classical duo, two acrobats/aerialists, an illusionist, a ventriloquist, various singers, and excellent crew show and a couple of production shows, which were OK but a bit thin with just one singer, three male dancers (until one got injured and then there were just two!) and six female dancers. BUT - the air conditioning in our cabin, along with many others we heard of did not work properly, despite repeated complaints and efforts to repair it, which made for a very uncomfortable time indeed in such a warm climate. It was probably because it was an old ship, but apparently there have been problems with cabins in some areas for months and (since it wasn't fixed) these will doubtless continue as Classica does her Far Eastern itineraries. Some cabins on our level (Deck 4) got flooded - at least we escaped that! The food was generally poor, and I am not a fussy eater! The buffet was also totally inadequate and poorly designed, and overcrowding in the area was exacerbated by maintenance that shut one of the two exit areas for most of the cruise. There was also no food available after 9 pm apart from pizza on Deck 9 and room service (at a charge). Also no free tea, coffee and water after 9 pm, which is totally outrageous. The service in the restaurant was very poor and the food was badly presented and sometimes poorly cooked. Our waiter was the worst we have ever had (and since 'gratuities' are compulsory there is no opportunity to reflect that in your tipping!). His English was poor, he got orders wrong and then argued with you, then went off and argued with the assistant waiter, and some evenings was in a real strop, while other times he appeared to be high as a kite. The cost of drinks was prohibitive; we bought a package of wine and water and got a 20% discount with our Costa Club membership, but it was still a very high price for very indifferent wines. My husband also had one beer, costing EUR5.18 (including compulsory 15% service charge). The sun lounger issue was the worst I have ever seen. We went up on deck very early (cabin too hot!) and one morning at 6.20 there were 12 loungers already reserved in our favorite shady area, although they remained unoccupied for hours. By 7.30 you were lucky to get a lounger in a shady spot, although there were very few people actually in occupation! Guest Services, with a few notable exceptions, were pretty unhelpful, as they tend to be on Costa. We had a problem with the disappearance of my husband's spectacles (which I am putting in more detail in the Answers section). The English Speaking Host, who was Italian, was rude, aggressive, unhelpful and unreliable, although at least he made Guest Services look relatively good! The excursions were very expensive for what appeared to be pretty mundane trips. The port information for those looking after themselves was diabolical - the so-called maps had no scale, no indication of where the ship would be and one (Fujeirah) was actually incorrect. Any request for information once we left the Middle East was met with 'We have never been here before, we don't know'. Isn't it there job to find out if they don't know? Plus there was a port shuttle in a couple of places, but Costa didn't seem to know that, or if they did, didn't see the need to inform passengers!! Anyway, back to the destinations, which were the real highlight! We mainly did our own thing - and it is the first time we have taken no ship's excursions in all our cruising trips! DUBAI. We flew to Dubai for one night prior to embarkation. Having read on this site that you weren't allowed in your cabin until 8pm on the day of embarkation we booked an evening Desert Safari trip via the Internet and that was really good. By the time we got back at 9.30 pm we were able to embark immediately with no waiting. The next day we took a taxi back into the city to look at some of the museums and shopping areas that we missed the previous day. FUJEIRAH. Really not much to see here. Paid EUR6 each for a shuttle to a local shopping centre (one supermarket, a cafe, money changing and a few shops). We walked to the fort and museum from there, which wasn't too far, except that Costa's map was wrong! MUSCAT. Took a taxi tour with a Russian couple and the highlight was the Mosque (one of the biggest in the world). We also saw the royal palace, a fancy hotel, a couple of viewpoints and were dropped off at our request at the souk, which was within walking distance of the ship. MUMBAI. I have to say that Costa's organization of our immigration here was first class, with limited queuing, although how people managed to get that far without an Indian Visa I am not sure? The first day we walked to the Taj Mahal hotel for a drink, found an optician to make my husband a new pair of glasses (the English speaking host Nick was supposed to have found out about local opticians, but obviously hadn't and disappeared on a trip instead.). We then took the ferry to Elephanta Island, which we really enjoyed, came back and went the the Prince of Wales museum (which isn't called that anymore) and then had another drink at the Taj Mahal while waiting for the glasses to be ready. We then walked back to the ship. It was too late for our first sitting dinner, so we went to the buffet, which didn't open until 8 and then was overcrowded with people and not enough food or staff. The second day we took a taxi (driven by the very helpful Tony) to see the other bits we wanted like the Queen's Necklace, Ghandi's house, the hanging gardens, Dhobi Ghat, etc. An excellent trip. GOA. Filthy port, probably the worst I have ever seen. Bulk coal and brown stuff (that turned out to be sugar) were in great piles on the dock . It had rained and the mixture of water and what I presume was coal dust did not do much for our clothing. We got a taxi to a nearby beach and hired a boat to take us snorkeling, which was very enjoyable, even if visibility wasn't fantastic. THE MALDIVES. Beautiful! Tendered ashore and then avoided the expensive boat trips to tourist islands, took a $2 taxi ride (with a group of 6 Australians) to the other side of the island and took a ferry (USD1 for four people one way) to a local island. As it was a local beach, we had to cover shoulders and thighs, which was a bit odd, but the sea was beautiful to swim in with coral and loads of fishes. COLOMBO, SRI LANKA. Took a taxi tour of the city and area with a couple from Belgium, including a stop at the Galle Face hotel for a beer (less than half the price on the ship!) PHUKET. First day we stopped at Patong and tendered to the beach. It was a bit late to organize trips as we didn't arrive until the afternoon. We hired a couple of sun loungers and had a swim (and another beer - even cheaper!). We then had a walk round the shops and bars before going back to the ship. The ship moved overnight to an anchorage at Deep Sea Port (to the east of the Island) and we had to tender ashore again. We took another taxi tour with our new friends from Belgium, including the Wat Chalong temple, Phuket Town, Chinatown, shopping, Cape Promthep viewpoint and a stop at a beach for a swim and another beer. PORT KLANG. We weren't actually in Port Klang, but in the Star Cruises terminal about 20 minutes away, which rather sabotaged our plans for the day. The fact that there were no money changing facilities didn't help either (none on the ship for currencies for most of the places we visited). But it was nice to have the ship nearly to ourselves for an afternoon to swim and take our choice of sunbeds! No food was available between 2.30 and 4pm, however, which was a blow as I hadn't had any lunch before I briefly went ashore! We were threatened with a EUR1000 fine if we were late back (allegedly by the port authority, according to Costa), but I noticed the excursions were well over an hour late back, and I rather doubt they were all fined - so what was that all about? SINGAPORE. Spectacular arrival in Singapore and we moored under the Sentosa Cable Car. We had a whole day and night before we had to disembark and we took advantage of our position to spend the day on Sentose. I visited Singapore on business in 1995 and I couldn't believe the changes in the place. Sentosa looked like a huge building site! We went to Underwater World, Dolphin Lagoon (worst dolphin show we have ever seen, although the pink dolphins were lovely), the Merlion and had a swim. Disembarkation the next day was very easy as we were on our own and going to a hotel; we just had breakfast, collected our hand luggage from our cabin, walked off through immigration, collected our luggage, went through customs and into a taxi. We then had two more nights in Singapore before we came home. Hope I haven't waffled on too long. In summary, we saw some amazing places all of which we enjoyed. If the ship had been comfortable it would obviously have been even better!! Would we travel with Costa again? Don't know. Certainly not on an older boat, unless the itinerary was truly unique, when we might consider it I suppose. And at least I had no problems with gaining weight because the food wasn't good - I have actually lost weight! Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
this was our first trip with MSC and sadly it will be our last one. We have cruised before half a dozen times, with royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess. and have really enjoyed these and have spent more than one holiday on each. we ... Read More
this was our first trip with MSC and sadly it will be our last one. We have cruised before half a dozen times, with royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess. and have really enjoyed these and have spent more than one holiday on each. we thought that we would give MSC a try. The itinerary was great and the time at sea and of course the crossing to brazil. to start with before we had left home, no tickets had arrived, or baggage tags for embarkation. the night before we left home, i had to get my agent to email to me the tags, and i printed them off , and we took tape with us to stick them on when we arrived in Venice. Embarkation was a nightmare. i had book in on line, and had a boarding pass for my husband and i. This was a complete waste of time. We stood in line for hours, without drink or food, there just was no organization at all. before that we arrived at the port and had to get our luggage from the coach, and move our suitcases to the warehouse to be put onto the ship, no one helped and there were no trolleys. Onboard the ship, our cabin was good, and spotless, the service in the cabin was great. although there are no provisions for 24 hour nourishment. the ship is beautiful, the pools spotless, and plenty of deck loungers. but not well organized. on the upper deck it is difficult to walk round the deck as it is too narrow. There is smoking all over the place, one side of the deck and one of the bars and wherever you walked you smell cigarettes. There was buffet breakfast, which was not bad, and also restaurant breakfast as well. Lunch was very good, but no juice, or coffee, only water. the waiters had very little English, but tried. dinner was not good, we had great table companions,which made the trip, bearable. There were no jugs of water at table, after the first night we were told that the captain had said that only bottled water which had to be paid for was to be served. this was also the case with coffee, no after dinner coffee. The menu looked ok but the food was cold, and often not very good. There is no buffet alternative on this ship for evening meals. they do have a place where you have to pay $30 each cover. There are no drink stations onboard, only at breakfast and for one hour at tea. There is no free ice cream, on an italian ship, we thought we would be on pizzas and ice cream both of which had to be bought, one scoop for $2.50 we did not find out where the pizza place was. entertainment was good the team really worked hard, and it showed. the shows were probably the best we have seen. The excursions had to be booked onboard, and they were all good, with the exception of the last day when the coach went without us. disembarkation was a nightmare. even worse than embarkation. we had to be out of the cabins for 7 am even the ship did not dock until 9am as planned. because we were going on an excursion we were to be off the ship early. however it was after ten thirty, before we could start coming off and then everyone was off the ship in one go. it was bedlam. We lost a case which had been put in the wrong color section, so spent an hour looking for it. all in all it was not an expensive cruise, but they need to have trained staff, and for english people the language is a major problem, as they announce each language and it takes forever. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My wife and I are 50 year olds in good physical standing and have been on 20+ cruises on HAL, CCL, NCL, and RCCL, as well as a few others. We were on the first sailing of the Zuiderdam out of Fort Lauderdale cruising to the Panama Canal, ... Read More
My wife and I are 50 year olds in good physical standing and have been on 20+ cruises on HAL, CCL, NCL, and RCCL, as well as a few others. We were on the first sailing of the Zuiderdam out of Fort Lauderdale cruising to the Panama Canal, Nov 9-19. This was to date our most expensive cruise and our second on Hal and we were expecting a lot. Our first Hal cruise was on the Westerdam to Alaska and it was possibly our favorite cruise of all we had taken. We enthusiastically encouraged our close friends to join us on the classiest line we had experienced. We started to worry as we heard that 7+ day cruises in the school season had a large percentage of elderly couples and the entertainment was geared toward them. We found this to be true and the average age of our fellow guest had to be in the 70's. Ok no problem...we like older people too, though the ship rolled up its sidewalks precisely at 10pm. We were often one of 2-3 couples in the nightclubs. The previous sailing from the Mediterranean to Florida had serious norovirus issues and this started our dream vacation on a very sour note. Our cruise would be delayed until 12 at night while the crew scoured the ship, we would have to find entertainment for 4 in Florida. Our travel agent never told us of any problem, but I had heard of the problem thanks to Cruise Critic. Many fellow cruisers were unaware of the delay as well. There is no reason HAL could not have sent an email directly to me, they have my email and they have shown no problem in the past inundating me with sale ads and junk mail. Why on the most important aspect of my cruise would they not communicate direct? When we got to Fort Lauderdale an HAL agent told us check in would begin at 7 pm. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 9 am and proceeded to spend the next 10 hours in a rental car and a local casino. Upon arrival at the port we were informed they were running a bit behind and that we would be bused to a convention center where 1400 of our fellow guest had already gathered. These people were unbelievably patient and waited over 2 more hours until the first busses were called for guest to be brought back to the ship. Some guest had been there 14 hours before they finally headed back to the dock. For us the wait would continue as a very disorganized transfer of the 1400 began. We had bus 32 and it would be after 12:30AM before we would finally make the ship. We were happy to hear the lifeboat drill would take place the next morning, unhappy to hear that we would miss our first port, Half Moon Cay. We were given a $75 per person room credit for our troubles. Finally at 2 AM we hit the bed having been up 22 hours. The ship was nice and laid out well, very easy to navigate and our room was centrally located 2 doors form the main elevator bank. But unfortunately lines were to be a problem for the first half of our trip. Code red handling procedures were in affect, which meant hands off most things for the passengers. In the buffet the lines were horrible, the food mostly overcooked I presume to minimize food borne problems and with so many elderly needing help with getting to their table, very understaffed. In fact the singers and dancers and even one of the ship staff's wife were called into service. While most seemed happy to pitch in, I heard several say this was not what they signed up for. The crew worked their butts off for 5 days and who knows how many days before and we appreciate their efforts, however its not what I paid for us premium dollars for. It was 5 days before I saw a medium rare cut of meat, saltshakers on the tables as well as any other condiment, or the buffet without long unmoving lines. So now we have a bad taste in our mouths so to speak, it becomes very difficult to see this cruise as anything other then a mess. The spa was closed, hot tubs, the library, the ping-pong tables, the basketball court.... many things but not the casino!!! Are you telling me I'm more likely to get sick from handling a basketball them I am from sitting in a casino, handling chip, slots, close quarters et al. On the 2nd day we are informed that one of the guest has taken ill and will need to be removed by helicopter back to land. We were on the top deck as the Coast Guard crew flew a helicopter right to the front of the ship, hovered for many minutes as a crewman was lowered to the deck and then the patient elevated to the copter. This was an example of our finest working with civilian ships and executing a difficult maneuver with hundreds watching. Well done by both air and ship personnel. On the 3rd day, at 3am, a loooong blast goes off in my ear, finally the Captain comes on and say this is not a drill.... there is a fire in the forward boiler room...oh boy now what, do we prepare to abandon, do we roll over, do we get our life vest out and on.... we chose to roll over. No sooner do I fall asleep and second blast goes off.... the fire is in the wind box and there is not supposed to be fire in the wind box, but the fire crew is on the scene, passengers are not to worry yet, he will get back to us. I roll over again, fall asleep again, and am blasted awake again to be told the fire is under control, and we can go back to bed. The next morning no more is said, that I heard, about the fire, except that many passengers never heard anything.... how that was possible I will never know as the speaker was literally at the guests head. Good things, yeah there were a bunch as well. The ships dancers and singer were excellent, some of the best we have seen and the 3 production performances were wonderful. Paul Tanner, an impressionist was a breath of fresh air and finally brought some life into the crowd. The comedian was forgettable. The guest talent show had heart if little talent. There was but one band that we could listen too and that was Jenny and the Halcats who performed daily and followed a theme for most nights, Motown , 60's, 50's etc. The trio was just not for me, Moon River and all, nor many others it seemed judging by the crowd, and while the piano guy could play...he sure couldn't sing and that made me uncomfortable. We really like the ports being younger we were able to do thing our fellow guest were not. Aruba we horseback rode with Rancho la Ponderosa, we were picked up at the ship and returned at the end of the excursion. Our trail took us over the mountain and down to the water on the rough side of the island, it was beautiful and took 2-3 hours on the trail 4-5 hours overall. The cost was $55 per person if you booked online. The horses were allowed to run many times and the views spectacular. We were given a local beer upon finishing the ride, with the tips we paid $130 total. Curacao we rented a car from Avis right at the port, $55 for the day we were two couples so reasonable. We went up the coast towards the Westpont and stopped at a resort and scuba dove, a shore dive, as Curacaos coast is perfect for this. The cost was $40 for 2 tanks, and gear for one. We had brought one set. The other couple paid a $5 fee, which allowed use of the facilities and chairs etc, it was near Santa Cruz. Diving was very good, and snorkeling was also. In Gatun Lake we had the highlight of our trip, which was a ship excursion to a Embera indigenous tribe via bus and then dugout canoe. This is a tough excursion due to a 45-50 minute dugout ride and slippery walking in several places, but if you can handle it, it may be among the most incredible events of your life. The village is legit, not faked and the people really live there and for the most part live off the land, there apparently are several villages that may be used, and you may not get ours but the simple lifestyle was evident and a loving people made us feel very welcomed as we entered their world. The most beautiful children you ever saw, and the 70 or so who made this trip would all be quick to bring them back with us if we could. This excursion was $99 and well worth the money, the canoe ride alone was worth it. As we pulled in the ladies of the village were cleaning tilapia along the riverbed, this was to become our lunch along with fruit and fried plantains...it was fantastic. In Costa Rico we prebooked with Oscar Brown and went Zip lining at Jungle Resorts. Along the way Oscar shared his culture with us and stopped several places to show us views, sloths, fruit and other sights unusual to Americans. He did a good job and we felt safe with him in what may be for some an unsafe feeling local. This was $70 per person including the zip line. The zip line was fabulous, 12 lines vary lengths from 75 yards to 270 yards. This took 4-5 hours and I would do it again. We saw sloths and very small red frogs as well a thick lush jungle, both from below and above. He has a website called oscarbrowntours. Total with tips was $160, although other tours only were much cheaper, we really wanted to try zipping. Our room was a nice obstructed view with a sitting couch. The shower was good with no smells and although the flush had a mind of its own and seemed to go off when it wanted to we had no real problems. The small refer kept nothing cold, only cool. The AC worked great. We had 2 stewards who had 32 rooms and worked very, very hard. They kept the room clean and organized and we saw them doing the little things like sanitizing door handles and wiping down handrails in the hall. I don't know how they kept up with 32 rooms. Richard Dietrich provided information most days and we found them and him quite enjoyable. His help was appreciated on the Embera excursion and the info he provided on each port and its history was great. While we didn't make many of the actual talks we listened to them conveniently in our room. Our waiters and assistant were good and they tried their best in trying situations. But for the first 5 days the food was poor, over cooked and dry, no seasoning and salt and pepper was rationed out in small square packets, the kind you get in a picnic pack. No bread on the table, no butter, no sugar or cream. The selection seemed limited, being a beef man the lack of good steak or roast was a serious concern for me. There was a strip steak on the alternative menu, but for the first 5 days our waiter shied us away from it stating they were not good so far, I suspect because they had to serve it well done. It had been 2 years since our Alaska cruise and the food was among the highlights of the trip and we had bragged extensively to our friends about what to expect. What a disappointment and with 20 cruises themselves they said they couldn't wait to get off the "dam" ship. In fairness the food did get better the last 5 days but first impressions are so very important and theirs was not good. Disembarkment was chaotic and the line wrapped around the whole ship for the 9:00 - 9:30 times. Our luggage tag was blue but was located under the pink tag color, so who knows, maybe someone's colorblind. We heard through others that HAL had offered a refund or a different sail date to those who chose not to go on this cruise, we were never offered this. Given an opportunity I'm sure I would never want to follow a norovirus cruise again, there was just to much frustration involved for a guy who hates lines. The price we paid was for a premium cruise of a lifetime, what we got was far less and if not for a few of the staff and the ports it would have been a complete failure. For now, both couples are turned off on HAL and will stay away. Of course if a good prices comes along I reserve the right to change my mind. I suspect the following cruises will be fine and the experience will be better for most. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We decided to splash out on an Owner's Suite for this crossing and paid a significant premium for the privilege. Perhaps I should say up front that we had a really good time aboard Navigator, despite the somewhat critical comments ... Read More
We decided to splash out on an Owner's Suite for this crossing and paid a significant premium for the privilege. Perhaps I should say up front that we had a really good time aboard Navigator, despite the somewhat critical comments that will follow! For us, the lesson was that if one wants a cruising experience commensurate with an investment of some $6000, then Navigator (and RCI) is not the appropriate choice. For a fraction of what we paid, we could have had just as good a time in comfortable balcony accommodations. Check in was effortless, and very efficient. We were very impressed that RCI was able to process almost 3000 passengers without long delays. Arriving on board, there was no assistance offered in finding our suite; neither were any welcome drinks offered. The ship is beautiful, and well maintained. Despite its size, it is easy to "navigate" one's way around without getting lost. Our suite, the Fiji Suite, was nicely appointed, and really spacious. There is enough closet and packing space for a household! The bathroom was stocked with premium toiletries, and a bowl of fresh fruit was awaiting us on the dining table. A bottle of complimentary mineral water was placed on the bar counter. Neither the fruit nor the water were replaced during the duration of the 12 day cruise, and on one afternoon, we received a cheese plate that was available from the room service menu. We received an access card for the small concierge lounge on Deck 9, and an invitation to the daily complimentary cocktails and snacks in the Ixtapa Lounge on Deck 5. This was the sum total of the privileges we received for booking an Owner's Suite. Our greatest disappointment was the level of indifference with which we were treated. We most certainly did not wish to be fawned upon, but some personal interaction with senior crew members would have been welcome. The "concierge service" throughout the cruise was lacking. One one occasion, we entertained guests in our suite, and asked the concierge to arrange some snacks (from the complimentary room service menu). We were informed that this would cost $350, despite the fact that we ordered wine and drinks from the ship's bar! Eventually we called room service ourselves, and our order was delivered at no charge! The concierge, Xavier, seemed disinterested and not inclined to make any effort - maybe fatigue from a season of cruising in the Mediterranean. Food...The food was of a reasonable standard (but not remarkable), in both the Windjammer Cafe and the dining room. We never had difficulty finding a table in the Windjammer during breakfast and lunch. The lunchtime menu and made-to-order salads in the dining room were excellent - perhaps the best meals we had on board. Dinner menus were somewhat repetitive in the dining room, but the food was palatable. Our waiter and assistant waiter (Glennifer and Serdar) were excellent,and were willing to go to great lengths to please. The Head Waiter, Ashton, was also wonderful. Standards have slipped, though - but quite understandable given the massive global food price increases over recent times. Getting tea and coffee outside Windjammer opening hours was a challenge and an irritation - getting early morning coffee meant a trek to Deck 5 (if we did not make our own in the suite). The star of our cruise was the bar waiter in the Ixtapa Lounge, Mark Lyttleton, who is a shining example of outstanding service. Activities and entertainment...We saw all three production shows, which were good. The highlight, though, was the special performance of "Ice Dancin'", the ice show, for Platinum and Diamond Crown & Anchor members. Wow! It was great. We enjoyed the gym facilities. Other activities were quite low-key, and influenced by the awful weather conditions across the Atlantic. (For "operational reasons" RCI decided to change our route from what was originally advertised when we booked, and the more northerly route resulted in a cold and windy crossing). We found the Cruise Director and his Assistant to be rather indifferent, and the daily video clips advertising activities on board to be reminiscent of a Butlins Holiday Camp (UK members will know what I mean). The activities staff didn't show much initiative or innovation in tailoring activities in the light of the bad weather. On a positive note, The ship's master, Captain Bang, was visible around the ship throughout the crossing (including in the gym), and communicated regularly. It would have been good if his officers had followed his example. During the cruise, it transpired that our rather bumpy ride was exacerbated by the fact that one of the two stabilizer sets on the ship was out of action. The motion caused one of the large closet doors in our suite to come off its hinges, and we were kept awake on several nights with drawers banging. In conclusion: we had a very enjoyable 12 days, but mainly due to the company of great people, and the hard work of a few outstanding crew members. It was most certainly not value for money, and although I steadfastly refrain from making comparisons with other cruise lines, RCI's premium category services are very poor indeed, by any standards. It lacks finesse and attention to detail, despite pricing that compares with premium cruise lines. Maybe a mid-priced balcony cabin in future, but never again a suite! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Personal Background We are a couple in our sixties, who have cruised 13 times, using Celebrity, Costa, Festival, Royal Caribbean, Airtours, NCL and MSC covering The Med, Caribbean, canaries and the Baltic. After a great Caribbean cruise ... Read More
Personal Background We are a couple in our sixties, who have cruised 13 times, using Celebrity, Costa, Festival, Royal Caribbean, Airtours, NCL and MSC covering The Med, Caribbean, canaries and the Baltic. After a great Caribbean cruise on MSC Lirica, we were really looking forward to our first transatlantic crossing, and first visit to South America. Travel to Port Flew to Venice, Marco Polo with BA. Good flight. Embarkation Embarkation was an absolute nightmare. Not all passengers from the flight to Marco Polo airport at Venice were able to get onto the first coach. We were successful, leaving the airport at around 11.30am, reaching the port terminal some 30 minutes later, we joined hundreds of passengers waiting to hand over their luggage to porters. This took around another 30 minutes. This was the easy part, as when we reached the main terminal building to check onto the ship, there were even more people! No organized form of queuing, just every man for himself. We eventually got onto the ship at around 2.30 pm. Stateroom As we got onto the ship we were escorted to our cabin. The cabin was fantastic in every respect. Bright, well lit, comfortable, very clean and with a nice balcony. Our cabin steward introduced himself and I raised a couple of issues, regarding no facecloths and frayed handtowels. (NB Bath sheets were first class). Flatscreen TV, but only 4 channels, although you could pay for English language films. NB During the transatlantic crossing there was no reception of any TV broadcasts.! Ship Info The ship was beautiful in all respects, lounges, theatre and pool decks. Modern, colorful and spotlessly clean. Dining We used the cafeteria Gli Archi for a late lunch and were surprised to find the only drink available was iced water. Coffees or tea had to be purchased from the bars.NB There were drinks machines, but they had been covered up and taken out of use! Modern colorful and spotlessly clean! Lifeboat drill was carried out on the second day of the cruise in Bari at 6.00pm, although we were not due to sail until 7.00pm and passengers could still have been ashore. We were happy that we had been allocated to main seating for dinner in the L'Oleandro restaurant. Main seating was 6.30 pm, with second seating at 9.00pm which was too late for most of the passengers that we spoke to, as the show in the main theatre was always after dinner, at around 11.30 pm. The food was generally pretty average, and main courses generally disappointing! The menus read well but often the food fell short. We like hot dishes to be served hot, and our regular dinner waiter and assistant always obliged, but during open sitting in the restaurant for breakfast and lunch we had to demand that our food be hot! On the Lirica, we took advantage of the wine package, which was any 10 bottles from a list of 14 different wines. On Musica you could buy a package of 7 wines, one each of the 7 listed, so we went for the wine list. There seemed to be a high percentage of new Brazilian staff on the ship, who appeared to be still under training, this meant standards at breakfast and lunch were very variable. For example, when offered fruit juice at breakfast I asked for tomato juice, only to be met with blank stare. I was eventually brought two glasses of passata (Tomato cooking sauce). The assistant maitre D' remedied the situation. At dinner on the first evening we asked for a jug of iced water. This was duly supplied and we served ourselves. On the second night we requested the same and were told by our waiter that he was not allowed to bring us iced water. I asked for the asst maitre D' and he told me that he was following the instructions of the new Maitre D', that there should be no "jugs" in the dining room. I requested a meeting with the Maitre D' at the reception desk. I was told that he would contact me. Failing to be contacted by him, I approached him in the dining room, and asked whether, "no iced water" was his policy, or the policy of MSC. He told me that it was MSC policy. I also asked the policy on tea and coffee after lunch/dinner, as we had been requesting and receiving tea or coffee after meals but many fellow passengers were being refused. He said that tea and coffee should be available. (NB espresso and cappuccino had to be paid for) Several days into the cruise the issue of iced water, and some passengers not being offered or in fact refused coffee and tea after meals was still a major bone of contention amongst the English speaking passengers, so I asked if reception could email these issues to MSC head office in Naples. The receptionist was concerned by my request and suggested a meeting with Giuseppe Pane the Hotel Manager. I met signore Pane on the 7th day of the cruise, along with his assistant and the Maitre D'. He confirmed that it was MSC policy that no jugs of iced water were to be served on Musica and that no tea or coffee should be served after meals. The MD' confirmed that in fact tea and coffee were being served, and they continued to be served throughout the cruise. S Pane also confirmed that the MSC Lirica was in the Caribbean, and would be offering jugs of water, and free iced tea, fruit juice, tea and coffee. So the MSC offer appears to be inconsistent! Many English speaking passengers said that they would never cruise MSC again, and daily visited the accounts desk to cancel their tips. They were eventually able to do this when the ship reached Brazil. The only alternative dining venues in the evening were Il Giardino and the Sushi restaurant and they were invariably empty. Our table companions booked Il Giardino for 7.00pm. When they got there the restaurant was locked and a team meeting was taking place. They got in, and were the only couple dining that night. They enjoyed their meal, but at a supplement of $30.00 each, and with the same wines as the main dining room, but at a higher price. Entertainment The La Scala theatre was beautiful, we enjoyed 3 classical concerts, 3 bigger shows, and an illusionist. There were many lounges with live music. The Delicia Quartet were excellent. The entertainment team were busy during the day with simple deck games and quizzes, and at night with fairly juvenile competitions in one of the main lounges. There were four formal nights, with two of them preceded with a captain's cocktail party. Crossing the Line Ceremony was carried out the morning after the actual crossing. And involved around 100 passengers being christened with Champagne, tomato juice, milk, cream, flours and raw eggs. So be warned! Shore excursions We generally did our own thing, and enjoyed visiting, Bari, Malta, Malaga, Madeira and Tenerife. We were only in Recife for a morning, and that was long enough! The old town was very very poor, ruined buildings and people living on the streets. Salvador was smarter, the old town was quite attractive, but a couple of people had chains and watches snatched. We took a ship organized tour of Rio as we were disembarking that day, visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the beaches. Unfortunately the weather was very wet. Disembarkation We took the tour of Rio in the morning, as we had to transfer to Rio International Airport in the afternoon. We were told that our luggage would be kept separate and secure in the Port Terminal building, but that we could check our luggage before joining the tour bus. In fact we were taken directly from the ship to the tour bus. Fortunately when the tour was finished, we found our cases safely in the terminal building. We then had to carry our luggage a couple of hundred yards to the transfer coach through a wet and puddled car park. A couple of ships porters with trolleys would have been appreciated. Summary Would I cruise with MSC again? I doubt it! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
After our last Princess cruise, we swore we wouldn't cruise one of their big ships again, convinced that the onboard experience just didn't meet our standards. But we had reckoned without the one thing Princess does better than ... Read More
After our last Princess cruise, we swore we wouldn't cruise one of their big ships again, convinced that the onboard experience just didn't meet our standards. But we had reckoned without the one thing Princess does better than any other line: offer fabulous itineraries at very attractive prices. So here we were aboard Grand Princess for back-to-back cruises, 12 days roundtrip from Rome on a voyage which included two Egyptian ports followed by 21 days touching on three continents before landing in Florida. Heck, we figured, we can survive the line's weaknesses better this time because we know what to expect. Here's a summary of our impressions: Air arrangements: We used the Princess air program; our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt was cramped and uncomfortable, the connection time was alarmingly tight, but the hop to Rome and bus to the pier were efficient and comfortable. Getting on and off: Embarkation was smooth. Disembarkation 33 days later ran about 30 minutes late, the baggage hall was chaotic and the lines for Customs very long. Port Everglades is not a customer-friendly place to get off a ship. The Grand Princess: Lots of rust showing around the balconies, carpets and chairs were worn, at least one leak develop in the ceiling of the Promenade Deck, our shower died during the trip our cabin heat got stuck on 'cool.' The ship was kept clean, with two exceptions: Horizon Court windows (on Deck 15) were left salt-encrusted and not cleaned for six days after we went through a storm, and there were frequent smells of garbage and sewage in the aft end of the Princess Theatre. Itinerary: Superb. Going ashore: We took ship-sold tours in all but three ports. The chance to see the pyramids of Giza was perhaps the number one reason we chose the cruise and we were happy with the result. We booked the ridiculously overpriced Princes Grand Cairo overnight tour - $799 per person. (We now know why it's overpriced: people like us are willing to pay that much. However, unless you're planning another visit to see Egypt's fabled attractions, it's worth it). The tour gave us the usual places - Sphinx, Giza pyramids, Egyptian museum - plus the sound and light show, the step pyramid at Sakkara, a breakfast cruise on the Nile and a night at a luxury hotel. It was marred by a typical example of Princess sleight-of-hand, the Water Scam, wherein you're repeatedly told to buy bottled water on board only to discover it's freely available on your tour. We noted how well the tour staff mustered passengers to go ashore on all our tours, but they were virtually clueless when asked details of the tours they sold. Many passengers refused to buy tours, went ashore on their own, and discovered they really weren't ready for exotic third-world places. The food: Dining room food quality was good, though freshness began to suffer as we neared the end of our journey. In the Horizon Court, I sensed the budget had been reduced: both quality and variety were down from our last cruise. At the The Painted Desert extra-cost steak house we paid $20 each for the worst service I've ever had on board a ship. The service: Other than that, excellent. On-board management: I made a list of about 20 glaring instances of sloppy management or inattention to detail, from poor training of front-desk staff to constant mistakes in the Princess Patter to poorly programmed elevators to Internet-center chairs exactly one inch too wide for the under-desk space into which they should have fit. We heard of several instances where the ship lost passenger documents or otherwise screwed up. If I'd performed that badly as an executive, I'd have been fired. Entertainment: Mediocre, with some exceptions. There were some good comedians, and the singer/dancers (who seemed to be in practice mode) tried hard, but most shows of all types featured constant hectoring of the audience to applaud more often and more loudly, as if the performers were amateurs at a kids' camp and not paid professionals. One of the lounge bands had difficulty singing on key. Cruise staff: Enthusiasm and dedication were outweighed by a belief that passengers need to be badgered several times a day with obnoxiously loud promotional announcements. The Deputy Cruise Director, the main miscreant, appeared to think none of us had been at school long enough to learn to read, thus requiring his bellowed exhortations to show up at one event or another. The deputy's boss seemed to have no control over his subordinate. Safety: For the first time in 38 cruises, I was left with some doubts. On our last night before getting back to Rome, driving hard through a gale, the ship was struck by a "freak wave." There were three loud crashes followed by complete loss of power with the vessel drifting in the swells. Power was soon restored and we limped toward port at seven knots, arriving nearly nine hours late. Beyond a reference to the freak wave, no real explanation of the crashes was ever given. We saw days later a large patch on the bow above the anchor; the captain was replaced when we reached Gibraltar: "normal rotation," we were told. Overall: As long as you accept that Princess is a second-class cruise line with very low basic fares to go with its outstanding itineraries, you won't be disappointed. This is our last Princess cruise, unless, of course, we see a trip that's dirt-cheap with ports that are irresistible. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Observations on this cruise: • Our waiter was just not up to par. We never really got to know him very well. He brought breakfast to our room on day 7 and did not even recognize us! In the past we wanted to take home the ... Read More
Observations on this cruise: • Our waiter was just not up to par. We never really got to know him very well. He brought breakfast to our room on day 7 and did not even recognize us! In the past we wanted to take home the waiters/waitresses. This time we hardly know them! • Our assistant waiter was never introduced and we still do not know his name. • All food seemed to be a lower grade than before. • Very little variety in food. • Food only marginally good. • Food better in Windjammer. • We were always last to be served. • Cold coffee was served to the entire table. • Once I ordered a steak medium-it came raw! They offered to bring me another but by the time they brought it they had all left to go off and dance for everyone. Of course, that meal was a total disaster. Three times I ordered beef-all three times it was chewy and lacking in flavor while the menu said it was Black Angus. It certainly was not the Black Angus I am accustomed to. • Window in dining room creaked continuously so loud that sometimes we could hardly talk. • Too much begging for approval rather than more attention to service. "Give everyone a big hand!" When the applause was not good enough they said we are giving you another chance for applause!!! I feel applause is earned not begged for. When you see a good show or receive good service praise becomes automatic. • Entertainment was only mediocre. In the past the shows have been wonderful, some even spectacular. This time we felt as if were in a local night club-very routine... • Our room temperature was perfect until the 7th night of the cruise. Then suddenly it became so cold we could hardly sleep. We had NOT touched the temperature dial but it was frigid. We called maintenance and they came to work on it. After that it became unbearably hot! We called again and they returned and worked on it. It was operational for about 12 hours then turned to cold again. We had no ability to adjust it... Finally, after five trips to our cabin they informed us that it was a problem with the door switch and they would not be able to repair it until the next day-our day of arrival in Tampa!!! • It was very difficult to get the daily news paper. The USA version was out within a few minutes; however, if you wanted a Canadian or British version there were always stacks of those. After a couple of days you would think someone would start to see a trend or maybe, just maybe someone would realize that this ship was full of US citizens... • Each morning the cleaners would start work around 5:00AM. Our cabin was directly below them and it was very noisy. We spoke to the desk about this and their reply was to get up and call us the next time it happened and they would speak to the cleaners. Why not just speak to them? Why did they want us to get up and call? Our overall observation was that this was a "watered down" version of RCCL-at least that is what we hope. It certainly was not what we had become accustomed too. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008

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