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5,873 Repositioning Cruise Reviews

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
Background There was 5 of us on this cruise, myself, my wife and 18 year old daughter, plus my in-laws. This was our 5 cruise and third Transatlantic cruise. We had a outside stateroom on deck 2 mid ship and my in-laws had a balcony ... Read More
Background There was 5 of us on this cruise, myself, my wife and 18 year old daughter, plus my in-laws. This was our 5 cruise and third Transatlantic cruise. We had a outside stateroom on deck 2 mid ship and my in-laws had a balcony stateroom on deck 6. Travelling & Embarkation We travelled from Edinburgh to Barcelona via London City airport. It was a very early start with a 6:30 flight out of Edinburgh, but we all seemed to get up with spring in out step as it was holiday time. We arrived in Barcelona at 12:30 and were met just outside baggage collection by the RCI rep, who pointed us in the right direction of porters; this was the last we saw out luggage until we were on the ship. There was a short 20 min bus ride to the port where we were sped through the check in process. Having now attained Platinum status we were very lucky to join a very short queue and within 30-40 mins we were on the ship. After a getting slightly lost, we found our stateroom which was still in the process of getting ready. Sammy our stateroom attendant met us, what a nice guy. Nothing was a problem for him, and always seemed to be smiling as we met him coming and going. The Ship & Crew Having been on both the Mariner and Explorer; we all had a basic idea of the layout so it didn't take us long to to figure out where everything was. We knew that the Windjammer was going to busy so we headed for the Promenade Cafe on deck 5 for a few snacks. The ship it's self is still looking like it just came out the dock. Everywhere we looked someone was polishing or cleaning something. We can't praise the staff and crew highly enough, everyone we passed in the corridors had a smile or a nod to acknowledge we were there. I'll give a special mention to our Waiter, Judith and her assistant (who for the life of me I can't remember his name), plus Ray our Head Waiter, honestly the best Head Waiter we've ever had. Normally in the past we've found they only show face, smile and move on, but this guy took the time to speak to all of us. We would regularly meet him in the Windjammer always taking the time to chat. I'll also mention the bar tenders we got friendly with. Richard in the Theatre, who only after the second night knew what we were all drinking. One more was in Vintages (and I'm truly sorry I never got his name). Again he knew what I was drinking and before my bum was on the seat he was over handing me my drink, now that's service. At this point I'll mention our Cruise Director and his staff, Kieron Buffrey was for me just about right. Not in your face and subtle, which I don't think went down well with our American friends. Once again thank to the CD staff who after my wife wrote to Kieron arrange for my daughter to do a backstage tour as she is studying stage management and lighting in the theatre at collage. He had a great partner in Cuddy who managed to bounce off Kieron just nicely. I hope he makes a CD in the future. For me the only cloud on the silver lining was Captain Bang, for us he was as dully as dish water. His daily announcement were tedious, all we seemed to here was hear was his name then a became garbled with long periods of silence. I'm sure in person he's a very interesting person but on the stage of pubic speaking a small improvement is needed. Ports We didn't have many ports of call on this cruise, which is one of the reasons we choose it. The first up was Cartegena in Spain. The ship had never been docked here before so it was bit of an adventure for guest and crew alike. We did manage to get on an open top bus trip for €13 each, taking about an hour for the tour. Very nice and condensed city full of naval history. After the tour we took a stroll up to the shops. After 2 days at sea we arrived at the port of Ponta Delgada in the Azores, where we had 16 hours to kill. We've never organized a tour via the ship as we can normally find something to do. With this port we really struggled. The tourist information desk should be done under the trade descriptions as they weren't helpful at all, telling us most of the buses were off or broken. So we had to fend for ourselves. The town it's self is very compact and we managed to wander through the small streets taking in the all the sites and sounds. After returning to the ship for some lunch and a change we went back off the ship and struck lucky. It seemed we were there on the day all the Christmas lights were being switched on. It truly magical place, full of marching bands, Santa and kids playing. Our last stop came after 6 days at seas and we arrived in the port of Nassau in the Bahamas. After a small delay waiting for another ship to dock we got off and headed for the hotel Atlantis. Having been to Nassau in the past we knew where to go and how to get there so no time was wasted. We wandered round the hotel checking out the aquarium and casino, then headed back to the main town for a drink at the local Hard Rock Cafe. It was then back to the ship and prepare for the big off load at Fort Lauderdale the next morning. The Sea Days As I've said before we choose this cruise because of the amount to days at sea, which for us the must relaxing time you can have. In total out of the 12 days 8 of them were spent at sea. The only down side to this was the weather wasn't the most favorable, it was warm but for the most part overcast. To say the sea was lumpy would be a small understatement, for at least 2 days it was pretty rough, so much so when we looked our stateroom window it wasn't unusual to see the sea hitting it. We did spend this time doing all the stuff around the playing golf and roller blading and ice skating etc. The rough waters didn't stop us have a great time; sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth. We were just lucky on all the port days the sun was shinning. Entertainment This was a real mixed bag for us. We though the RCI dancers done a good job working under the conditions they do. However some of the star turns were a bit poor. Darren Day was really bad and never seemed to connect with the audience. Brenda Cochran tried very hard and has some real talent but I don't think the theatre was big enough for her voice. The real star turn was Mr Nobody (Yacov Noy). His three legged man was just classic. We did manage to see 3 showings of the Ice Dancing and we all still watch with open mouths how these people to do the things they do. With leaps, jumps and back flips it's all very cool. We just managed to stand up on the ice when the ship was moving all over the place how they do it is beyond me. Food I can't really do a review without mentioning the food. Overall it was really good. The choice within the Windjammer is amazing, if you can't find something you like you must be a very picky eater. Somethings could have been hotter. I do feel like people behave extremely badly and can be very rude within the Windjammer. Pushing in when queues have been formed, loading plates up like all the food is going to run out. I've always subscribed to you can go up as many time as you like, don't waste good food. We ate every night in the main restaurant, and there wasn't a night gone by that I couldn't find something to eat. The steak was always done the way I like it. I never walked away thinking hmm I need more to eat. In fact most nights I thought that was a lovely meal, and I don't have to do the dishes. Disembarkation We were very lucky that managed to be one of the last one off the ship, and also being Platinum member we had access to the our own waiting area, which was in the restaurant on deck 4. This made for a more pleasant experience than sitting in the theatre. By the time we got off the ship there were only a few cases left in the hall so we could spot our luggage without any problem. Clearing immigration was only a problem as some people seemed think it was a good idea to fill in their green cards when they arrived at them immigration officer. On the whole we were on our way to the airport within an hour from getting off the ship. Overall In conclusion this was a very enjoyable cruise, well worth the money we spent. Will we be doing another cruise, you better believe it, and will we choose Royal Caribbean, most defiantly yes, they tick all the right boxes for me. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My husband and I booked this cruise nearly a year earlier because we planned to take our 10 year old grandson with us and we live in Texas and he lives in New Jersey. After we worked out the logistics, we booked a mini suite and looked ... Read More
My husband and I booked this cruise nearly a year earlier because we planned to take our 10 year old grandson with us and we live in Texas and he lives in New Jersey. After we worked out the logistics, we booked a mini suite and looked forward to an enjoyable cruise. After making our final payment we watched in dismay as the cruise prices tumbled. What started out as a much looked forward cruise was turning into a nightmare. Prices continued to drop and our aggravation and anger continued to grow since NCL seemed oblivious to our complaints. Finally, after much negations between us, the line, and our travel agent, and a reasonable upgrade fee, we were reassigned an AB Penthouse, two bedroom, two bath with butler service. Now we were in the right frame of mind for a cruise. Having arrived in Barcelona a day early, we took a cab to the dock and our luggage was immediately portered away .We were directed to the embarkation area. Although there were lines for regular cabins we went straight ahead to suites and VIPs and were attended to right away. After receiving our key cards we were escorted to an anteroom where we were greeted by the concierge, met the Hotel Director, and our Butler showed us our way to our suite. Best embarkation ever!!!! STATEROOM Our stateroom was great and provided all three of us with privacy. This would be ideal for a family since the second bedroom sleeps three and the living room/dining room combination is quite roomy. Our stewardess and steward kept our quarters neat and clean and always stocked with fresh towels and toiletries BUTLER We thought we died and went to heaven. What can you say about someone who anticipates your every wish? Ice, drinks, snacks, whatever. And our grandson was ruined for life with cookies and milk before bedtime, movies for the DVD player and juice and soft pretzels for his snacks. TREETOP KIDS CLUB Our grandson (10) couldn't have been in better hands. There were several counselors on staff and always being with the kids. They played tons of games, had dinner together occasionally, saw shows, and even had a pajama party. On sea days they were open from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Our grandson had the best time ever and never wanted to leave. DINING and RESTAURANTS Suite guests have the availability to breakfast and lunch in Cagney's, the steakhouse. The menu is diverse and the food delicious. The Garden Buffet was always busy with good reason. The food was very good, with great variety and presented well. The Blue Lagoon was good too, with the promised "comfort foods". All the other restaurants were "extras" at $15 to $25 each. They did run promotions of ½ price, but this was not advertised, you had to ask each day. The Bistro, French has been and continues to be excellent. Cagney's steakhouse for dinner was also a very pleasant surprise. It was also excellent. We enjoyed the food at La Cucina (Italian) and the Tapas bar is fun and very good value, with complimentary appetizers provided with your drinks. The Japanese Teppanyaki was noisy, and not worth the $25 charge. The food was bland and disappointing. Room service was very prompt and hot and tasty. ENTERTAINMENT Ray the Cruise Director, was one of the best in this position we've met. He was personable without any "haughtiness" and his entire team exhibited a true camaraderie. This attitude infects the passengers with a great experience. The Big shows were also a big cut above the others ships we've sailed. The entertainers' voices were very good and the dancers were excellent. The other shows - Comedians, 2ndCity, Vocalists, and instrumentalists were OK. PORTS Ville France is a charming small French coastal town. Its main allure is the ease to get to Monte Carlo and Nice. We took the local bus (1 euro) to Monaco (about a ½ hour ride along the coast). Just walking around Monte Carlo and seeing the Casino, the Hotel Paris and all the designer shops are worth the visit. Livorno is the gateway to Pisa and Florence. We visited the Leaning Tower and a few other churches in Pisa then off to Florence. We got great photos of the city and visited the Museum Academia (Michelangelo's David, It is Magnificent!). After Several more churches and a little shopping, we stopped for the best gelato we ever had, then back to the ship. Civitavecchia is the port for Rome. We were there on Wednesday and were able to arrange to be at the Pope's audience at St. Peter's. Then after hitting the highlights (Trevi, Spanish Steppes, Coliseum and much more) we visited the Cappucine Monastery. If you've never seen this, you must. It is a VERY different sight you'll never forget. Corsica is the birthplace of Napoleon. It is a quiet city (Accacio) and was a welcome respite after the non-stop tours for the first three days of this trip. Malaga was also quiet. We arrived early and most shops were still closed. It was pleasant to simply walk around the downtown area and get a feel for the local culture. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We arrived in Genoa the night before the cruise and stayed at the Best Western, we had been in Geneva visiting family and took the train to Genoa so that we arrived quite late and very tired which was too bad as Genoa would have been a ... Read More
We arrived in Genoa the night before the cruise and stayed at the Best Western, we had been in Geneva visiting family and took the train to Genoa so that we arrived quite late and very tired which was too bad as Genoa would have been a lovely city to discover. We cabbed it to the port at noon and were on board and in our wonderful stateroom by 1:00 pm. This was all very efficient and smoothly accomplished. Off to a great start. We were not scheduled to sail until 5:00 pm so we took some time to familiarize ourselves with the ship and unpack as our luggage had arrived very quickly. Our stateroom, with balcony, was considered to be a suite but it was just a large room. No complaints there, it was roomy and bright with more than ample storage, the closet was a walk-in and there were so many drawers and shelves that we were unable to fill them. No need to push luggage under the bed as there was lots of room to stack it in the closet. The bathroom was small but efficient with a vanity and a narrow version of a full size tub. What a bonus!!!! The ship itself was sparkling from stem to stern, and it remained that way throughout the cruise. This was a fact remarked on by many passengers, it was just a beautiful ship. We sailed away from Genoa right on time to the strains of Andrea Bocelli singing "Time to Say Goodbye" (in Italian of course) this became a theme as we left each port, we kind of liked it. We tend to choose our cruises by itinerary and not by cruise company and this was no exception. The weather and the itinerary were wonderful and even the five days at sea as we crossed the Atlantic were sunny and warm. We took city tours in both Barcelona and Casablanca and loved both cities and felt that the tours were well worth it. In Tenerife and Funchal we walked to town and poked around on our own, something that we enjoy doing and find it a break from the regimentation of tours. Once in the islands we did a Catamaran snorkeling expedition in Barbados which was wonderful and a beach day in Antigua, we spoke with some who had done the swimming with the Rays and were sorry that we had not chosen that as they were very enthusiastic. We did Charlotte Amelie and Old San Juan on our own and loved both places although Old San Juan was a bit crowded and frantic in the downtown area. I have focused on the positives of the cruise and I have done so because we truly enjoyed it but I do feel that some consideration must be given to the negatives. The food on board the Lirica is not the best, I don't think that it was as bad as some would have you believe but they certainly do not know how to cook meats or fish. There was not a lot of focus on spices and meals came out mostly bland and overcooked. There was however, a great focus on fruits and vegetables and the soups for the most part were delicious. There were many passengers complaining about the food and threatening to withhold their gratuities, which would be unfair as the wait staff were wonderful and it is certainly not their fault that the food is not up to par. There should have been no reason to go hungry however and I think that given all of the positives, the food issue should not ruin your vacation. I personally felt that the fact that there was no casual alternative to the dining room after 6:00 pm and that they closed down the coffee and tea at times, was a much bigger issue. I have never been on a cruise where there was not at least coffee, hot tea and iced tea available at any time. It was also very uncool to be clearing the tables in the dining room and taking away your plates while you were still eating your breakfast. I think the wait staff is instructed to do this and it is bad form. There were a few Italian staff on board and it would not be a mistake to send a few of them to charm school, one in particular who worked at reception, just about everyone had her number and tried to avoid dealing with her. Disembarkation was easy although we were kept waiting for over an hour for our color to be called, there was no explanation but I suspect that the problem lay mostly with American customs and clearing the ship. I don't know if I would recommend MSC and the Lirica to anyone but I will not say that we would not go again if the itinerary was right. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
The ship is absolutely beautiful. The public rooms are simply and tastefully furnished, sleek and very stylish. There are a number of delightful bars and lounges throughout the ship, some bars have music; others offer peace and quiet. ... Read More
The ship is absolutely beautiful. The public rooms are simply and tastefully furnished, sleek and very stylish. There are a number of delightful bars and lounges throughout the ship, some bars have music; others offer peace and quiet. There are a few shops, but the choice of the merchandise is poor and expensive. There are two main restaurants and two á-la-carte restaurants. There is a large theatre on two levels. The seats are spacious and comfortable and wherever you choose to sit the view is good. The Musica is a dream to travel in - there is hardly any motion as she glides effortlessly through the ocean. Health/Safety/Hygiene - this area concerned me greatly - the safety drill was a nonsense and did not appear to me to be taken seriously. The event was planned half an hour before the first sitting dinner on the second day. Several guests left before the drill was finished, no doubt to get ready for dinner. Others appeared to be falling asleep whilst the drill was conducted in 6 languages and others just chattered amongst themselves. I dread to think of what chaos and mayhem there would have been in the eventuality of a real emergency. There was a big outbreak of a chesty type flu on board, passengers were going down with it from quite early in the cruise. This was a particularly nasty bug, both myself and my husband were affected by it in the last few days if the cruise and two weeks on we still both have it. The speed this virus went around really opened my eyes to the importance of hygiene standards. To help reduce the spread of viruses and infection I think that there could have been better use of hand sanitizers. The ship was equipped with hand sanitizers, but not enough of them. For instance they were not located at every entrance to the restaurants. We have been on other ships where it has been obligatory to use the hand sanitizers on entering the ship from port and entering any eating area. It is my feeling that MSC were only paying lip service to any ruling that states that they must provide hand sanitizing units. Dining - this was without doubt my biggest disappointment. The food was the worst I had encountered on any cruise ship. I was not looking for haute cuisine or fine dining just good Italian tucker, similar to what we had previously experienced on the Opera and Lirica. The food style on the Musica is not Italian; it was a multi cultural mish-mash - one night Oriental, another Spanish, another Mexican and so on all intermixed in a European fusion, for instance one night a choice was sweet and sour pork served with mashed potato. Meat was generally tough, on one occasion the waiter asked why I had not eaten the pork,I told him it was too tough and he said that I should have killed the pig first! Another time the waiter agreed with us that the steak was only fit for shoe leather. Generally speaking the food was not cooked well, it was always served tepid and with a total lack of presentation. The only thing that made going to dinner worth while was our delightful table companions who always seemed to make us laugh, usually about the food. I still have the picture in my mind of an escargot starter, it was unimaginatively called escargot in pastry and when it arrived at looked like a Cornish Pasty, only instead of the meat filling it had two lonely snails tucked in the pastry. The service in the restaurant was also poor, although there were a few waiters who were worth their weight in gold. We found one Romanian waiter who was great and we aimed to get a table in his area for lunch and breakfast when ever we could. A vast number of the waiting staff were new with little or no silver service experience. We were also told that some of the chefs were new - this may explain the poor food but does not excuse it. The food in the buffet was just ok in as much that you could help yourself to exactly what you wanted, but it was always cold by the time you got it back to your table. The buffet was always busy and generally a complete bun-fight. We did not try any of the á-la-carte dining options, feeling that if the food was in general poor was it going to be any better if we paid $30 a head extra for it? Activities & Entertainment - The entertainment team worked very hard organizing stretching exercises, aerobics and various games and demonstrations throughout the day. In the evenings there was plenty going on to cater for all musical tastes ranging from classical to rock. There were also a number of fun events, Miss Musica, a Grease evening, tropical parties on deck, etc. The shows in the theatre were not to my personal taste but a lot of people that I spoke to really enjoyed them. Excursions - There is an excursions office on board where you can book tours. The staff have very little knowledge about the tours or the destinations that you are about to visit. On the whole the excursions were very expensive, especially in the Europe. We were familiar with most of the European ports and were happy to do our own thing. Some destinations had a hop-on hop-off bus: we always find that these tourist buses are a good way of familiarizing yourself with a new area. They often go to the same places as the excursion bus and are a fraction of the price. The South American ports were new territory to us and we felt that we would be safer to go on the organized tour. We booked half days trips for Recife, Salvador and full day trips for Rio and Sao Paulo. The only tour worth doing was the full day in Rio which took in all the main sights (albeit in the pouring rain) - The half day tours in Recife and Salvador were poor value for money. Disembarkation at Santos was embarkation in reverse - complete mayhem. We had to vacate our cabins at 7am. At 11am we were still waiting in one of the ships lounges to be allowed off the ship. By 11.30am we were pushing and shoving with everyone else to find our luggage, there were people trying to get from one end of the baggage hall to the other, all going in different directions struggling with cases (no trolleys). As our flight to London was not until 18.15 we had decided that it would be a good idea to book a full day Sao Paulo City tour with lunch which would terminate at Sao Paulo airport in time for us to check in for our flight home. The excursion bus did not leave the cruise terminal until almost midday, the guide told us that there would not be enough time for the tour, she would take us to a restaurant for lunch and then straight to the airport. Having paid $75 each for this excursion we will be expecting a refund from MSC. In summary this was a 19 day repositioning cruise starting in Venice and calling in to Bari, Malta, Malaga, Funchal and Tenerife, Recife, Salvador, Rio and finishing in Santos. We were attracted by the interesting itinerary and the 6 day Atlantic crossing. Being a repositioning cruise at a good price we expected there would be some new staff joining the ship but we had no idea that it would be so many (rumor has it that it was 400+) and we did expect them to have had some basic training. It seems that the 19 day cruise was their training. The ship although too big for my own personal taste, is elegant and beautiful and extremely comfortable. The big let down for me was the food and service, which was just not good enough and therefore although the actual cruise was good value for money the food and service spoiled the holiday. 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
Having enjoyed a cruise on the Costa Med in 2007 that left from Venice, Italy and hit ports in Italy, Greece and Croatia, my friend Jim and I decided to try a longer transatlantic Costa Med cruise in 2008 that started in Savona, Italy and ... Read More
Having enjoyed a cruise on the Costa Med in 2007 that left from Venice, Italy and hit ports in Italy, Greece and Croatia, my friend Jim and I decided to try a longer transatlantic Costa Med cruise in 2008 that started in Savona, Italy and ended in Santos, Brazil. While some things could be improved, we had another great time overall. We flew from New York into Genoa, Italy on November 26 where we stayed at a Costa-arranged hotel called the Bristol Palace. Our large, spacious room and its modern bath were very pleasant as were the bar and reception area. We had an excellent dinner at one of the finest restaurants in Genoa, Zeffirino, that was located a couple of blocks down the street. Then we then were picked up on November 27 by a Costa-arranged van for our hour-plus transfer to the port in Savona. Unlike some other drivers we've had, the van's driver was polite and did a great job getting us to the port on time. He earned a tip from us. Unlike last year in Venice, embarkation at Savona could have been a bit smoother. The departure hall was very tightly-packed and our United States passports caused quite a stir for the Costa staff. They were quite anxious to confirm that we held valid Brazilian visas. We had arranged them at some expense through an expediter that Costa suggested called Zierer Visa Service so that wasn't a problem and we were finally allowed to board the ship. While other reviewers have also noted it, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that the design and style found on board the Costa Med are stunning. While most of the ship has Italian roots, parts of it are modeled after Asian (Roero Wine Bar) and Egyptian (Osiris Theater) influences. Even on my second cruise, I kept noticing new details, like winged cherubs on the ceiling on one bar, every day on board. The Atrium is particularly stunning with its colorful floating sculpture and glassed-in elevators. One of the exciting features about the Costa Med is that it attracts mainly European passengers while most of its staff still speaks decent English. Life on board feels different than it would on a different line in the same family like Carnival where most of the passengers speak English. Along with Jim and I, there was only one other United States citizen on board out of about 1800 passengers. Since this cruise was for 17 nights but was affordably-priced like most repositioning cruises, we decided to book a Panorama Suite. It was well worth it for the top-notch bathroom and spacious veranda. The bathroom had two granite sinks and a real Jacuzzi bathtub with shower. Last year's bathroom, like most I've used on board other ships, featured only a narrow, coffin-like shower. The veranda had four chairs and seemed to take up about half of the aft of the Costa Med. Our Cabin Steward, Florence, did an amazing job keeping the Suite clean throughout the cruise. Our Butler, Desmond, had to cover 11 other suites on the Costa Med so he didn't do much except deliver a fruit plate to our room each day. The Suite did benefit from a few other nice small touches like enhanced bath amenities, terry cloth robes, advance copies of the main restaurant menus and one free meal in the pay restaurant. You should definitely book a Suite if bathrooms or verandas matter to you. Another exciting feature about the Costa Med is that it offers an excellent wine list at affordable prices in its main restaurant, pay restaurant, and in its wine bar. There were thirty to forty full bottles available, mainly from Italy but also from other leading wine countries like France or Spain, for about 20-25 Euros per bottle. One of our wine waiters in the pay restaurant and wine bar, Tatiana, was extremely attentive and knowledgeable. If you love wine like we do, then this is a great line to try out. The main restaurant was very good. While we never were awake in time for Breakfast there, we did have most of our Lunches and Dinners there. Each Dinner featured at least three Appetizers, three Soups, two Pastas, four or five Main Courses, one or two Salads, a Cheese platter, and then four or five Desserts to choose from. While the food wasn't quite as good as on our previous Uniworld, Windstar or Oceania cruises, it was still very good. On both of our Costa cruises, I was impressed that the Maitre D' made an effort to seat us with other passengers who spoke English and were roughly our age. We had three charming young ladies at our table this year. Two from Germany spoke enough English to be a lot of fun. And our Waiter, Benjie, who's a 7-year Costa veteran, did an amazing job handling his 24 passengers. The pay restaurant, Club Medusa, was very good too. We ate two Dinners there. It wasn't expensive or crowded. Some of the food items on a Michelin-starred Chef-selected menu were outstanding like the tomato bacon onion soup; others were just odd like one fatty beef shank main course I didn't enjoy. The buffet restaurant upstairs was at best good. Some of the food on the steam trays wasn't hot or fresh. The hot dogs, pizza, salads and desserts were fine. It was very difficult to get beverage waiters to take our order. So we mainly ate at the main restaurant downstairs. One area that could be improved a lot is the main stage. At least half of the shows we saw were mediocre at best. The eight-person on-board dance troupe did a good job as did a couple of singers but it was almost cruel for the Cruise Director to force some of the bar entertainers, like a talented piano soloist, Demetrio de Bellis, to take their turn on the main stage. The best show we saw was from a local Brazilian dance company, Interarte of Salvador, that was on board for one night only. Yet another exciting feature about the Costa Med is that it offers four to six bars with live music each night. The same entertainers who struggled on the main stage excelled in these smaller venues with room for 50 to 100 passengers. Most notable were Tango Trio, featuring a violinist, pianist and accordionist who were amazing and featured each night in the Roero Bar, and a couple of solo performers, Flavio and Dino, who did terrific jobs on their keyboards and on Dino's guitar in the Dionisio Bar. The solo performers both earned tips from us. And Flavio rewarded us by giving us his most recent CD. The Laundry on board did a great job with laundering my jeans and dress shirts and dry cleaning my blazers and dress pants. The Certificate of Crossing the Equator, signed by the Captain, that appeared in our cabin after we crossed it, was a very nice touch as was tooting the ship's horn when we crossed. I wish someone had warned us, though, about how easy it is to get sunburned when you're near the Equator. Jim and I suffered a lot from only an hour and a half out on our veranda that day. The Internet Cafe on board lost its satellite connection about halfway through the cruise so we lost our ability to access the Web for email or other sites. We were able to occasionally get email through our cell phones when we were close enough to shore. The new Costa Club card that I carried, for frequent Costa travelers, was supposed to lead to a 20% discount on service in the Internet Cafe, Laundry or Mini-Bar that never materialized on my final statement. Nor has Costa answered an email I sent over ten days ago on that point. We also had some difficulty getting an Excursion that Costa cancelled in Barcelona credited on my statement. It took visits to three different desks to get it done. And prior to the cruise, Costa needed prodding by CruiseCritic.com to admit that its unilateral switch from Dollars to Euros for our Excursion costs, months after we booked them in Dollars in advance on the Costa web site, left a bit to be desired. Costa needs to do better at customer service at its Reception and Excursion Desks. Since many of the ports on this repositioning cruise aren't regularly visited by Costa or other cruises, I'll only make a few comments on them. Along with several Excursions, we used the paid Costa Shuttle Bus service several times to get from the port to local sites of interest. I was quite impressed by Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. It may have been hundreds of miles away but it fondly reminded me of all the other cities I've seen in Spain. We had an excellent steak lunch there at Casa Carmelo on the waterfront. I thought the part of Fortaleza, Brazil where the Shuttle Bus dropped us was squalid with men sleeping on the streets and many empty buildings. Yet the shopping mall in Recife, Brazil where the Shuttle Bus dropped us was very affluent. We had an excellent buffet lunch at the Skillus chain restaurant. One of the young ladies from the kitchen adopted us since she spoke the best English there. And she earned a tip from us. We had an amazing lunch outdoors at Jardim Das Delicias in Salvador, Brazil featuring seafood stew served in a large bubbling pot. And the Excursion we took that night in Salvador to see a local dance troupe with gymnastic flair was excellent. The Jeep Excursion we took to Corcovado and the Rainforest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was outstanding but a bit long. Unless you love beaches, I wouldn't recommend visiting Brazil with Costa or otherwise for another five or so years so that it can build up its tourism infrastructure a bit more. After killing a couple of hours on board waiting, our disembarkation on December 14 in Santos, Brazil went smoothly. We were able to claim our luggage, clear Customs, and get on our Excursion bus that toured Sao Paulo, Brazil and then took us to its Airport for our flight back to New York. We had a great experience with arranging our two separate flights here using the www.vayama.com website that specializes in international travel. While we wondered in advance if a 17-day cruise would be too long and if we'd be eager to get home, that wasn't the case here. We really enjoyed sleeping late, eating at the main restaurant, and enjoying the wine and live entertainment in Costa Med's bars a lot. We'd definitely travel on the Costa Med or a different Costa ship in the future. 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
Overall, we enjoyed the transatlantic cruise on the Voyager of the Seas very much and would do it again. In addition to the ships features and quality of service, we enjoyed traveling and sightseeing with passengers of a good range of ... Read More
Overall, we enjoyed the transatlantic cruise on the Voyager of the Seas very much and would do it again. In addition to the ships features and quality of service, we enjoyed traveling and sightseeing with passengers of a good range of ages (albeit skewed towards retirees), from a diverse group of backgrounds (ethnic, geographic, and political), and with a variety of family structures (couples with an elderly inlaw, newlyweds, and GLBT families alike).. A few areas for improvement are noted below. Embarkation Embarkation was smootheven better than our experience boarding the Majesty of the Seas at RC's homeport in Miami. The staff was friendly, the embarkation facility was comfortable, and the process was efficient. I especially appreciated that I wasn't feeling like the baggage handlers were pressuring passengers for a tip situation that I felt when I embarked in Miami. All of our baggage arrived just a few hours later. Stateroom We did a guarantee rate, and was in an inside stateroom on deck six. The beds were comfortable and had enough blankets to keep us warm. Though we had requested that the beds be put together, we found it to be separated on our first day. We ended up rearranging the beds ourselves. Being relatively low and centered made the rocking less noticeable (good because I was prone to sea sickness). We packed light (considering it was a 15-night cruise) so there were adequate storage for both of us. However, some of the doors for the storage were beginning to get loose and sagged. It rarely felt crowded, even when we ordered room service. The cabin attendant was not as friendly as others we've had (though he wasn't unfriendly either), but he was responsive. When we asked for the clothes line to be replaced, it was done by the next time we were back. Also, when we asked him not to leave the lights on after making the bed, he made sure not to do so again. Shows We greatly enjoyed the performances by the ship's singers and dancers, as well as the performances by the ice skaters. The ice skaters were phenomenal and it was just amazing what they could do in such as small space (especially while the ship was rocking). We only wished that they had more musical reviews by the singers and dancers since they only did two. They did also perform during the parades, but it can be hard to see the performance because there usually were so many people in the Royal Promenade and the performers were usually on the bridge. Food As usual with Royal Caribbean, we liked the food on the ship. It wasn't the best that we've ever had, but it was very good for the price. And although we were on for 15 days, the food had enough variety that it didn't get old. We frequently indulged by having multiple desserts during dinner. On a typical day, we went to the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch, and then went to the dining room for dinner. We wished we knew how good the lunch options (especially the salad bar) was in the Carmen dining room sooner. The midnight buffet was not as impressive as past cruises I've been on (where they've done "chocolate extravaganzas"). However, I did appreciate that there were a lot of fruits, which made it healthier. One complaint is that the soft serve ice cream machines on deck twelve were frequently out of service (a significant problem since one of us has a sweet tooth for ice cream). Though we complained to the manager, he did not seem to really care and gave us a somewhat flippant response. During the 15-day cruise, the soft-serve ice cream was probably only available for a few days. We especially appreciated late night (up to 2 am) availability of the Cafe Promenade, which served pizza, sandwiches, fruit, and desserts. When we stayed up, this was a great place to get a small snack so we're not starving late at night. Activities Going on a transatlantic cruise, I thought that I may get boredI was wrong. There were plenty of activities on the ship and at the end of each day, we often wondered where all the time went. We worked out, played in the sports court, learned a dance, listened to lectures, ice skated, or mini-golfed when we were on the ship. As much as we can, we went to see Mimi (one of the lead singers) performshe just had such a great voice. Our one complaint would be the movies hosted in the screening roomthe facility was way too small and it was just too frequently packed. Though we tried a couple of times, we never were able to make it inside. It was surprising since the screening room was hard to find (just below La Scala). GLBT-Friendly Atmosphere There was a sizable contingent of GLBT passengers (and staff) who were all welcomed and made to feel at home on the ship. We were surprised how many passengers showed up for the FOD meetingsthere ended up being three different times to accommodate everyone's varying schedules and preferences. Other passengers were very welcoming and we had no problem presenting ourselves as a same-sex couple. Even during the dance lessons, we slow danced together and no one batted an eye. At Port We made a point to engage in sightseeing at each port. Not everyone does (we were guilty ourselves of having slept through a port on our last cruise). This time, we walked quite a bit around each of the cities (and helped burn off all the extra calories we were consuming). None of the ports were boring. The ship had ports of call in: Cartagena (Spain), Funchal (Madeira), Canary Islands, Nassau (Bahamas), Miami, and Galveston. Cartagena - a great city with very interesting old ruins. We highly recommend seeing the roman amphitheater and going to the old fort for great views of the city. A large family of peacocks also reside in the old forta nice treat if you've never seem peacocks. While docked, there was a renaissance fair going on, so we were also treated to medieval music and folks in period garb. Madeira - a great place to sample and buy Madeira. It was our first time trying Madeira and we found it to be robust and delicious. Well worth the time to sample and buy some to take home and enjoy. The honey cakes make for a good item to bring to the office. A little dry by the time we got back, but it was fine if you dunk it in a little coffee or milk. Canary Islands - We initially intended to the beaches, but we didn't end up spending too much time exploring the Canary Islands since it was somewhat rainy and cold. Here we found an interesting monastery that was celebrating its 500th anniversary by displaying art and antique instruments and tools. After a few hours, we went back to the ship and stayed (since there was a long walk back to the dock). Other guests told us later that the other side of the island was sunny and had amazing landscapes. I suppose we'll have to catch that next time we take this cruise. Nassau - We ended up visiting the straw market and snorkeling while in Nassau. We also recommend going up to the old fort, where you will be treated with a view Nassau's cruise docks. It's possible to walk to the fortplan for a 20 minute walk. Miami - Unfortunately, getting through customs was a big hassle and there was a lot of confusion because it was unclear if people who were staying on needed to fill out forms. We were givin conflicting instructions by members of the crew, but also saw customs officers giving conflicting instructions. Moreover, it was clear the two hadn't coordinated with each other. We were supposed to get off around 8:00 AM, but we didn't get out until 11:00 AM due to the confusion. Some friends of ours ended up being 4-hours delayed, so they stayed on. Galveston/Houston - We ended up signing up for the ship organized excursion for a tour of Galveston. During the excursion, we drove through parts of Galveston, saw the rocket center, and parts of Houston. Hurricane Ike had just hit a few months prior and it was clear that the community needed more help and had more work ahead of them to fully recover. At Sea Captain Patrick Dahlgren did a great job and made key decisions that made the 6-day voyage across the Atlantic more pleasant. A storm front in the northern Atlantic and we would have crossed through parts of it had we maintained our planned course. The Captain took us further south and because of that, we enjoyed relatively calm seas and warm weather that was conducive to relaxing on the ship's pools on deck 12. We definitely appreciate the Captain's decision for it made the cruise much more pleasurable. Activity-wise, I've explained what we ended up doing already. So I'll just leave this with a few suggestions: (1) participate in the Olympics - it was a good way to meet others and it's a lot of fun during the ocean crossing; (2) do the walk-a-mile - it's a nice workout, you get to enjoy the seascape, and you even get rewarded if you do it often enough; (3) wake up early - try to catch a sunrise and you'll be rewarded with a majestic view; and, (4) stay up late - go to the helipad in front of the ship late at night, and you can see so many stars. Also, note that during the ocean crossing, you'll gain an hour on most nights (at least going westward). So feel free to stay up a little, maybe go to the disco, and know that you'll get about an hour back anyway. Disembarkation Disembarkation was pretty easy, though expect to wait. Keep a book or a magazine with you to keep you entertained while you're waiting. And the airports are pretty far from Galveston so make arrangements for a shuttle ahead of time. Taxis can be very expensive. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Overall, we enjoyed the transatlantic cruise on the Voyager of the Seas very much and would do it again. In addition to the ships features and quality of service, we enjoyed traveling and sightseeing with passengers of a good range of ages ... Read More
Overall, we enjoyed the transatlantic cruise on the Voyager of the Seas very much and would do it again. In addition to the ships features and quality of service, we enjoyed traveling and sightseeing with passengers of a good range of ages (albeit skewed towards retirees), from a diverse group of backgrounds (ethnic, geographic, and political), and with a variety of family structures (couples with an elderly inlaw, newlyweds, and GLBT families alike).. A few areas for improvement are noted below. Embarkation Embarkation was smootheven better than our experience boarding the Majesty of the Seas at RC's homeport in Miami. The staff was friendly, the embarkation facility was comfortable, and the process was efficient. I especially appreciated that I wasn't feeling like the baggage handlers were pressuring passengers for a tipa situation that I felt when I embarked in Miami. All of our baggage arrived just a few hours later. Stateroom We did a guarantee rate, and was in an inside stateroom on deck six. The beds were comfortable and had enough blankets to keep us warm. Though we had requested that the beds be put together, we found it to be separated on our first day. We ended up rearranging the beds ourselves. Being relatively low and centered made the rocking less noticeable (good because I was prone to sea sickness). We packed light (considering it was a 15-night cruise) so there were adequate storage for both of us. However, some of the doors for the storage were beginning to get loose and sagged. It rarely felt crowded, even when we ordered room service. The cabin attendant was not as friendly as others we've had (though he wasn't unfriendly either), but he was responsive. When we asked for the clothes line to be replaced, it was done by the next time we were back. Also, when we asked him not to leave the lights on after making the bed, he made sure not to do so again. Shows We greatly enjoyed the performances by the ship's singers and dancers, as well as the performances by the ice skaters. The ice skaters were phenomenal and it was just amazing what they could do in such as small space (especially while the ship was rocking). We only wished that they had more musical reviews by the singers and dancers since they only did two. They did also perform during the parades, but it can be hard to see the performance because there usually were so many people in the Royal Promenade and the performers were usually on the bridge. Food As usual with Royal Caribbean, we liked the food on the ship. It wasn't the best that we've ever had, but it was very good for the price. And although we were on for 15 days, the food had enough variety that it didn't get old. We frequently indulged by having multiple desserts during dinner. On a typical day, we went to the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch, and then went to the dining room for dinner. We wished we knew how good the lunch options (especially the salad bar) was in the Carmen dining room sooner. The midnight buffet was not as impressive as past cruises I've been on (where they've done "chocolate extravaganzas"). However, I did appreciate that there were a lot of fruits, which made it healthier. One complaint is that the soft serve ice cream machines on deck twelve were frequently out of service (a significant problem since one of us has a sweet tooth for ice cream). Though we complained to the manager, he did not seem to really care and gave us a somewhat flippant response. During the 15-day cruise, the soft-serve ice cream was probably only available for a few days. We especially appreciated late night (up to 2 am) availability of the Cafe Promenade, which served pizza, sandwiches, fruit, and desserts. When we stayed up, this was a great place to get a small snack so we're not starving late at night. Activities Going on a transatlantic cruise, I thought that I may get boredI was wrong. There were plenty of activities on the ship and at the end of each day, we often wondered where all the time went. We worked out, played in the sports court, learned a dance, listened to lectures, ice skated, or mini-golfed when we were on the ship. As much as we can, we went to see Mimi (one of the lead singers) performshe just had such a great voice. Our one complaint would be the movies hosted in the screening roomthe facility was way too small and it was just too frequently packed. Though we tried a couple of times, we never were able to make it inside. It was surprising since the screening room was hard to find (just below La Scala). GLBT-Friendly Atmosphere There was a sizable contingent of GLBT passengers (and staff) who were all welcomed and made to feel at home on the ship. We were surprised how many passengers showed up for the FOD meetingsthere ended up being three different times to accommodate everyone's varying schedules and preferences. Other passengers were very welcoming and we had no problem presenting ourselves as a same-sex couple. Even during the dance lessons, we slow danced together and no one batted an eye. At Port We made a point to engage in sightseeing at each port. Not everyone does (we were guilty ourselves of having slept through a port on our last cruise). This time, we walked quite a bit around each of the cities (and helped burn off all the extra calories we were consuming). None of the ports were boring. The ship had ports of call in: Cartagena (Spain), Funchal (Madeira), Canary Islands, Nassau (Bahamas), Miami, and Galveston. Cartagena - a great city with very interesting old ruins. We highly recommend seeing the roman amphitheater and going to the old fort for great views of the city. A large family of peacocks also reside in the old forta nice treat if you've never seem peacocks. While docked, there was a renaissance fair going on, so we were also treated to medieval music and folks in period garb. Madeira - a great place to sample and buy Madeira. It was our first time trying Madeira and we found it to be robust and delicious. Well worth the time to sample and buy some to take home and enjoy. The honey cakes make for a good item to bring to the office. A little dry by the time we got back, but it was fine if you dunk it in a little coffee or milk. Canary Islands - We initially intended to the beaches, but we didn't end up spending too much time exploring the Canary Islands since it was somewhat rainy and cold. Here we found an interesting monastery that was celebrating its 500th anniversary by displaying art and antique instruments and tools. After a few hours, we went back to the ship and stayed (since there was a long walk back to the dock). Other guests told us later that the other side of the island was sunny and had amazing landscapes. I suppose we'll have to catch that next time we take this cruise. Nassau - We ended up visiting the straw market and snorkeling while in Nassau. We also recommend going up to the old fort, where you will be treated with a view Nassau's cruise docks. It's possible to walk to the fortplan for a 20 minute walk. Miami - Unfortunately, getting through customs was a big hassle and there was a lot of confusion because it was unclear if people who were staying on needed to fill out forms. We were givin conflicting instructions by members of the crew, but also saw customs officers giving conflicting instructions. Moreover, it was clear the two hadn't coordinated with each other. We were supposed to get off around 8:00 AM, but we didn't get out until 11:00 AM due to the confusion. Some friends of ours ended up being 4-hours delayed, so they stayed on. Galveston/Houston - We ended up signing up for the ship organized excursion for a tour of Galveston. During the excursion, we drove through parts of Galveston, saw the rocket center, and parts of Houston. Hurricane Ike had just hit a few months prior and it was clear that the community needed more help and had more work ahead of them to fully recover. At Sea Captain Patrick Dahlgren did a great job and made key decisions that made the 6-day voyage across the Atlantic more pleasant. A storm front in the northern Atlantic and we would have crossed through parts of it had we maintained our planned course. The Captain took us further south and because of that, we enjoyed relatively calm seas and warm weather that was conducive to relaxing on the ship's pools on deck 12. We definitely appreciate the Captain's decision for it made the cruise much more pleasurable. Activity-wise, I've explained what we ended up doing already. So I'll just leave this with a few suggestions: (1) participate in the Olympics - it was a good way to meet others and it's a lot of fun during the ocean crossing; (2) do the walk-a-mile - it's a nice workout, you get to enjoy the seascape, and you even get rewarded if you do it often enough; (3) wake up early - try to catch a sunrise and you'll be rewarded with a majestic view; and, (4) stay up late - go to the helipad in front of the ship late at night, and you can see so many stars. Also, note that during the ocean crossing, you'll gain an hour on most nights (at least going westward). So feel free to stay up a little, maybe go to the disco, and know that you'll get about an hour back anyway. Disembarkation Disembarkation was pretty easy, though expect to wait. Keep a book or a magazine with you to keep you entertained while you're waiting. And the airports are pretty far from Galveston so make arrangements for a shuttle ahead of time. Taxis can be very expensive. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We traveled from our home to San Diego by car and flew out to Ft. Lauderdale on Sat. We spent the night in a motel and the next morning we were met by our daughter who lives in West Palm Beach. We spent the morning with her and then ... Read More
We traveled from our home to San Diego by car and flew out to Ft. Lauderdale on Sat. We spent the night in a motel and the next morning we were met by our daughter who lives in West Palm Beach. We spent the morning with her and then shuttled to the ship for boarding. When we got to the Infinity there was a huge line down the street and around the corner of the building. We checked our bags and got in line. After 2 1/2 hours of standing in line and moving at a snails pace we finally boarded the ship. We initially booked a balcony room on the 6th deck but had upgraded to the 9th deck a week before the cruise. We entered our cabin 9197 and were pleasantly surprise as to the large size room we had and huge veranda. The room was the last one on the port side at the rear of the ship. Whatever you do, do not take a room on the 9th deck at the rear of the ship. The deck above us was the restaurant with a wooden deck and from 5AM to 10 PM the noise was terrible from the scraping and banging from the chairs and tables. After complaining for five days they offered us another room next to ours. (Our neighbors next to us also were moved to another room.) This room was much smaller so they finally said we could sleep in the new room and use the big one for day use and the large veranda. This worked out fine. The veranda provided an excellent location for going thru the Panama Canal. Our first port was George Town, Grand Cayman and we took a tour that we booked thru the ship. It was an excellent tour of the Island and we learned a lot of the history of the island. The tour was The Best of the Caymans. The next port was Cartegena, Columbia. We went ashore there and only did a little shopping and was back aboard ship in two hours. I purchased a Panama Hat which I had wanted for some time. From there we headed for the Panama Canal. I had gone thru the canal years ago from the Pacific to the Caribbean so this was the trip in the opposite direction. We spent the whole day on our veranda taking pictures and thoroughly enjoyed the passage in spite of some rain squalls. If you have not been thru the canal before I highly recommend it. It is a fantastic sight and the history is wonderful. On to Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We took an outstanding tour, The Pacific Train, Boat and Bus Adventure. The highlight was a boat ride on a river to see the crocodiles and birds. The train ride was aboard one of the oldest small trains in Costa Rica. It was a noisy bumpy ride but was a lot of fun. We saw the back country and back yards of number of shanties. Huatulco, Mexico was our next port. We went ashore and walked around town . We came across a street restaurant with an open kitchen to the eating area and stopped in. The food was excellent and so was the cerveza! Two more ports, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas where we went ashore for a little shopping but did not do much. Back to ship. Rating the meals in the main dining room, I can only say fair. Most of our meals were only luke warm and one dinner the fish was half raw. We had lobster one evening where they only gave us 1/2 a tail and some of the lobster at our table was very soft like mush. This was our 8th cruise and we were not happy with the main dining. We did eat twice in the specialty restaurant, S.S. United States. The food there was outstanding along with the personal. The room stewart, waiters and all the people working on the ship were outstanding. I didn't go to any shows but my wife did and she thought they were excellent also. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Sanitation: poor. We departed Venice on Oct. 23, 2008, for the 17-day cruise and it wasn't until Oct. 27 that passengers were notified the GI virus had infected passengers on the preceding cruise. By that time the virus was ... Read More
Sanitation: poor. We departed Venice on Oct. 23, 2008, for the 17-day cruise and it wasn't until Oct. 27 that passengers were notified the GI virus had infected passengers on the preceding cruise. By that time the virus was spreading on our cruise and hundreds of passengers became ill. The extensive but belated efforts to encourage hand washing should have been initiated the first day we boarded and passengers should have been IMMEDIATELY informed of the virus danger. Being sick or weak from the illness for nearly one-third of the cruise took much of the enjoyment out of our trip. And it was insulting to hear the repeated announcements that such shipboard virus outbreaks are common. They are not, and this was the first cruise we have been on where there was such an outbreak. It was amusing that we were diverted from our scheduled port stop at Half Moon Cay because another Holland America ship was there, and instead docked at Nassau, where four or five cruise ships from other cruise lines were docked. Apparently infecting them was of no concern. Food: inconsistent quality. Sometimes the beef was wonderful, other times it was so tough it couldn't be cut with a knife. The veal would be good one time and awful the next. The baked goods (as cookies) were only fair. The dining room food often arrived cold (as did the room service coffee) and service was very slow. Overall the food quality was not nearly as good as on our previous cruises. Passengers: there were more poorly dressed passengers than we have ever seen before (such as one man wearing a tee-shirt in the dining room on formal night). Perhaps because of airline luggage restrictions cruise ships may have to entirely give up on any dress code. There seemed to be less courtesy among the passengers than usual, perhaps because of the virus. Entertainment: very good variety and quality. Embarkation/Debarkation: Both were very poorly organized. Hurriedly dumping 1,800 passengers into a processing building which had only two immigration inspectors to handle us was ridiculous. Apparently Holland America wanted to begin a belated thorough disinfecting process ASAP before the next cruise passengers boarded. One report was that their scheduled morning boarding was delayed until 11 p.m.! (I wonder if the cleaning helped?) Laundry service: slow, and my $80 shirt had a hole punched in it. The cost for unlimited service was $120! But with no self-service laundry, there is not much alternative (unless you enjoy wearing dirty clothing or spending a lot of time washing in your cabin). On-board shops: average. Prices of course are almost always better for the same items in the ports, if you can find them. Cabin: The heating/cooling vent in the ceiling blows directly in your face, and if you have sinus problems this can be very uncomfortable. We taped it partially shut to divert the airflow. Our cabin was on the Navigation Deck, immediately below the Lido Deck swimming pool and outside bar dining area at the stern of the ship. The deck of our balcony was constantly soaked with water, apparently from the crew washing the deck immediately above us. The noise from the cleaning crew moving tables and chairs on the Lido Deck woke us up daily between 5 and 7 a.m. I would not recommend this cabin location, and wave motion would have been less felt on a lower deck. The cabin furnishings were worn, dirty and needed replacing. The bed was very comfortable. The day before we docked two crew members (not our room steward) knocked very briefly and then barged in on my wife in bed before she could reply, to empty the refrigerator. Interior stairways: They only have about a 10.5 inch horizontal surface, and can often cause mis-steps/falls. Poor design. Port stops: Average; it would have been nice to have visited Mykonos, Rhodes or Santorini. But of course we knew the itinerary in advance. Venice was great as always. Crew courtesy: excellent, under difficult circumstances. Both the cabin and dining room stewards are greatly overworked, probably another sign of cost-cutting by Holland America. Our hard-working cabin steward, for example, was responsible for about 30 cabins. Summary: Will we cruise Holland America again? Doubtful; probably back to Cunard. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
We sailed HAL for the first time on the Zuiderdam, transatlantic, Venice - Ft. Lauderdale. It was the cruise from "Hell" for us. Embarkation of 1800 folks was chaotic.. hurry and wait, hurry and wait.. Just imagine folks ... Read More
We sailed HAL for the first time on the Zuiderdam, transatlantic, Venice - Ft. Lauderdale. It was the cruise from "Hell" for us. Embarkation of 1800 folks was chaotic.. hurry and wait, hurry and wait.. Just imagine folks in a warehouse with 10 - 20 counters checking you in and my wife and I with advanced "registration". The number of people on canes, walkers and "scooters" was impressive although we are not of that disability.. we appreciated the older folks who dared the transatlantic crossing. Our basis of comparison was six other cruises, including a transatlantic cruise on the QE II before she was purchased as a hotel. We even bought Carnival stock during the cruise, thinking that we would take advantage of the rumored discount if you owned Carnival stock for our future cruises. As we finally entered our stateroom (not ready when we boarded - but Lido Buffet allowed us to sit and have lunch and buy the $200 wine package) we noted, casually, a letter of "welcome" telling us about previous incidents of "norovirus" and advising us to wash hands frequently from day one. By day five, the buffet had saran wrap closing it in, all trays, silverware, etc. were handed to the guests by ship employees; all salt and pepper was removed and meal service in the dining room slowed to 1 1/2 to 2 hours (including breakfast).. public restrooms were considered off limits and "code red" was in effect. Our $250 thermal package which included the spa pool and thermal rooms were closed and we watched them scrub and clean these areas due to an out of control virus.. Rooms that reported the norovirus were specially handled with masked employees - cleaned and sanitized.. it was reported there were 300 passengers who fell to the virus. Our problems occurred when my wife was tossed into the bathtub during the one day of rough seas with "possible cracked ribs" according to the ship's doctor and the last six hours of the cruise when both of us contracted the norovirus. The nurse came twice during the night, administered a shot and medication to me and scolded my wife for waiting so long to report the symptoms. The virus was a severe case of "Montezuma's Revenge" that I've had in Mexico. It was as if a hand was grasping my intestines and squeezing them with the resulting diarrhea and vomiting for 4 hours. Since it was at the end of the voyage our stateroom was quarantined prior to disembarkation and we were gather with others separately and I was wheeled off the ship, through immigration, customs and onto the bus to Ft.Lauderdale airport where I was wheeled through Ft. Lauderdale, Cincinnati and St. Louis Missouri airports. I was absolutely debilitated and I had trouble holding up my head. We followed up with HAL in Seattle. We had already deposited and schedule our transatlantic crossing on the Eurodam for April, 2009 and have requested full refund of our deposit and reimbursement for costs of getting to departure gates at the various airports in November, 2008. We're anxious to see how HAL recognize our "pain and suffering" during out sixth cruise. We did find many experienced travelers on HAL, the ones we interacted with, were disappointed and said this was not up to HAL standards. Perhaps staff is less available given the cost cutting. Our cabin person confessed that he no long was responsible for 15 cabins but rather 30 as of this crossing. Our stateroom was cleaned and readied by 4 p.m. daily. I'm afraid that this Zuiderdam experience has queered our future sailings. We will think long and hard before we take any other cruise during our lifetimes. We have heard recently that the Regency Cruise Lines is expensive but worth the extra - no "nickle and dime" pestering for drinks and extras as we felt was the case on the Zuiderdam. Our ship board charges amounted to over $2,000 in addition to the cruise and air costs. We learned that many others paid far LESS for similar ship accommodations which was disappointing since we had deposited and reserved six months in advance and thought that we had be treated well. Little did we know that certain charter groups from Canada especially, were attracted by extreme bargain cruise and charter air prices. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Background: Married, early 60's, numerous annual cruises on multiple lines from Carnival to Seabourn. We took a standard suite. There really are no Balconies. Short version: Positives: Best food on the sea's, spacious ... Read More
Background: Married, early 60's, numerous annual cruises on multiple lines from Carnival to Seabourn. We took a standard suite. There really are no Balconies. Short version: Positives: Best food on the sea's, spacious beautiful suites, good entertainment, all wine, spirits, or sodas are included anywhere onboard. Negatives: Very poorly designed, old ship (see more below). Dining service was poor both in delivery and charm. Old and very stuffy clientele. This ship is for a certain type of person (see summary). They advertise WiFi but it is unusable. Details: Boarding: Very good, but not quite up to other premium and luxury lines. We boarding in Europe which is always faster and smoother than in the US. Stateroom: It is an all suite ship. There are no balconies on this ship. Balcony means your window opens with a bar so that you not fall out. The suites are all the same except a few special suites. They are large, well laid out and are in excellent condition. Certainly the nicest physical aspect of the ship. Service: Friendly and excellent, but do not expect the nice mix of nationalities seen on other lines. They are almost all white and mostly European. Generally they lack that polished professional service touch, but are trained to attend your every need. If you enjoy the variety of personality of the staff and talking to a staff from various origins, this is aspect of cruising just does not exist here. They also have an "aristocratic air" that they share with huge number of repeat customers. Dining: There is no question that this is the best food on the seas in the main dining room. They use nothing but the highest quality products and have an incredible chef. Oceania is only line with Chef's as good or better, but they do not have this food budget. However, the service was irratic at best. Only rarely did they bring the correct items for every course, and many on the staff have an attitude that the British seem to like, but it will appear very stuffy to many Americans. There appear to have plenty of service members, but they wander about somewhat chaotically resulting in a very irratic performance. Do not expect the polished waiter you are used to on your favorite line. But in the end, the food overrides everything. Entertainment: Actually very good for such a small ship. Good guest entertainers, excellent enrichment speakers, and very high quality ship entertainers. Active daily activities. Ship and Common areas. It is an old ship that is poorly laid out. Very low ceilings throughout (less than 8 feet) which means if you are 6'4' you have to duck in the hallways. At 6' I could not use the treadmill without touching the ceiling. Low ceiling in the large dining room is particularly unattractive. The lounges are nice and the open bar on the top deck is inviting. Remember that it a very small ship, so there is no wandering about. The pool area was never used by anyone because of design. Very high exhaust noise on back half of open decks with noticeable diesel odor. Family: Strictly an adult ship. Best if you fit in the average age of mid to late 70's. Value: Fair, but some of what you pay for is just to keep "Joe six-pack" off. There is no added value to selecting a suite above the lowest 4 level suite that I could detect. If you are will to pay to travel with older people with a very aristocratic air about themselves, the value goes up on this ship. Key Question: Will we take Seabourn again? Probably, but not until a try a few other Luxury class lines. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
I am a Diamond, almost Plus, member and cross regularly on RCCL's larger ships and the QM2. I decided to cross the Atlantic on the Independence of the Seas rather than the Navigator, my favorite ship, because it was a first time ... Read More
I am a Diamond, almost Plus, member and cross regularly on RCCL's larger ships and the QM2. I decided to cross the Atlantic on the Independence of the Seas rather than the Navigator, my favorite ship, because it was a first time crossing for this ship and I thought it would be fun seeing all the new stuff RCCL has put on this basically English market outfitted ship. The Independence is very large but so well designed that you do not notice the large numbers of people. It is a new ship with large flat screen TV's and unique to the Independence, a very good hot water kettle in the room with tea and coffee. I do wish RCCL would put such a quality kettle in all the rooms on their ships. I had a rear facing D1 balcony cabin which was just wonderful. The same size as most D1 cabins, the rear facing cabins have, generally, a balcony three time the size of traditional balconies. I was on the 10th floor and right next to me were two wonderful regular RCCL travelers from Florida. We enjoyed talking a lot on that crossing. The advantage to being a Diamond on RCCL is that they do a lot for those who are loyal to this ship line. No other cruise ship line does as much as RCCL for in the mornings they have a lounge open specially for Diamonds and those Plus which has a great breakfast. The two concierges they have on the Diamond level try to work issues out and do the best they can when sometimes very arrogant Diamond members make unreasonable demands. RCCL also has a cocktail time from generally 5-8:30pm where Diamonds and Diamond Plus members can meet and have a good time while having a drink or two provided by RCCL. No other Cruise Line comes even close to doing this for their loyal customers! I so hope RCCL never changes this policy for it is the primary reason so many of us return to RCCL given some of the manifest other issues they do not seem to be able to address such as the lesser than average food in their dinning rooms, etc. The primary reason I am writing this is to send along a compliment to RCCL for so many times all I hear are stories finding problems with the cruise lines. On this crossing the ship stopped in Vigo, Spain, and against better advice I ate oysters on shore. I thereupon, a day later, became so ill that for the first time, ever, I called the medical facility on the ship at 2am and said I was so bad I could not ever walk down to their facility. They immediately sent someone up with a wheel chair and brought me down to see the nurse and the Doctor. The nurse was from Romania and was just wonderful and the Doctor was Canadian and really knew his business of taking care of very sick travelers. They gave me fluids via intravenously and a shot, etc. After a period of two hours I was well enough to go back to the room and because RCCL is very conscious of the virus that can become a problem with other travelers on the ship, I was quarantined for two days. I was fine with being quarantined because even though I thought my problem was food poisoning the Dr. wanted to make sure I had nothing else that could cause problems with everyone else on board. For the next two days they sent my meals to my room, called me regularly from the infirmary, from guest services and from the Diamond lounge to make sure I was ok and doing better. They sent free of charge all the gatorade, bottled water I needed and gave me free Internet wifi in my room for my laptop and I watched all the movies I wanted as a gift from the ship. I am somewhat discerning about medical care and I can tell you that rest easy if that is something that causes you concern about going to sea. If you are on a RCCL ship, their standards are very high and they take that responsibility seriously. RCCL also sent me a cruise credit for a future cruise because I missed part of my crossing being quarantined. Cruise credits are nice things to have for you keep being rewarded by RCCL the more credits you receive. So, what started out as a short note seems to have gone on but if anyone wants to ask me any questions, please just email me at: rennyga2000@yahoo.com Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Seventeen days on the Zuiderdam - a very nice experience. There have been several reviews of this cruise, so I will try to comment on just a few pertinent areas. First: The noro virus. Some people have written that the ship remained ... Read More
Seventeen days on the Zuiderdam - a very nice experience. There have been several reviews of this cruise, so I will try to comment on just a few pertinent areas. First: The noro virus. Some people have written that the ship remained silent about this problem for the first week or so of the cruise. I remember it differently. I specifically remember an announcement on embarkation day that there had been some cases of intestinal disorder on the previous cruise and advising passengers to take the appropriate precautions. There was also a written note to that effect in our suite. After 3 or 4 days, it became clear to the medical staff on board that the virus was still with the ship. There were announcements every day from that point on about the situation and reminders to be sanitary, wash hands, etc. I spent a day and a half in quarantine and felt that I got excellent, professional treatment. Every member of the crew pitched in and helped, particularly in food service where, because of the virus, passengers were not allowed to touch anything until it was on the plate. This was particularly cumbersome in the Lido Buffet. As a result lunches were not very enjoyable. I thought the officers, crew, and medical staff did everything they could to deal with this problem. The CDC calls this virus the second most common contagious disease(next to the cold.) The presence of such a virus in an enclosed environment presents most difficult challenges. I applaud the crew for their hard work and great attitude while dealing with this problem Two highlights: The quality of food at dinner time on this ship was as good as, or better than we have experienced in something over a dozen cruises. I have always thought that Holland America provided good, but not great food. They exceeded my expectations on this cruise. Every evening meal on this 17-day cruise was excellent! We enjoyed the meals in the main dining room and had three dinners in the Pinnacle Grill. The food in either venue was consistently outstanding. The Pinnacle Grill quality was slightly better and the service there was as good as I've seen. We have enjoyed wonderful meals on Crystal and Regent. Our experiences on this cruise were just as memorable. What a great surprise! The other highlight was the quality of the singing and dancing troupe on the ship. These young folks were more talented than any I have seen on a cruise ship. In a cast like this, I usually find one singer with great talent while the rest are just supporting. This cast had 4 singers, and each one was tremendous. The dancing and showmanship of the entire cast brings a smile to my face even now. One "lowlight": "As You Wish Dining" doesn't work very well on Zuiderdam. Indeed, we began to refer to it as "As the Zuiderdam wishes dining." We tried advance reservations. (They don't take reservations during the most desirable dining times - so if you want a reservation you must eat before 6 or after 8:30.) We tried showing up "when we wanted to dine with whom we wanted" (as the ads say). Each appearance at the restaurant was an adventure. We were shown to tables that were already occupied. We were told that there were no tables for four, only to get to the room and see several empty tables for four. Then, on other nights everything worked very well. There may be a way to make this system work. If so, Zuiderdam hasn't discovered it. Although a problem, it was overcome by the outstanding food we enjoyed once we were seated. One final comment. I'd read in various reviews that the decor of the Zuiderdam was rather gaudy. This must have been mitigated in the ship's most recent drydock. We felt that the ship was very tastefully decorated and had no complaints at all in that regard. Summary: The cruise was excellent despite the nagging presence of the noro virus. The outstanding attitude and amazing hard work by the crew is what made the cruise enjoyable despite the big challenges they faced. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
First, I must say that this is only the second time we have cruised on Carnival.The first time was out of Miami some years ago. Carnival at that time had a reputation for appealing to the masses,rowdy/less discriminating crowd and on that ... Read More
First, I must say that this is only the second time we have cruised on Carnival.The first time was out of Miami some years ago. Carnival at that time had a reputation for appealing to the masses,rowdy/less discriminating crowd and on that cruise they lived up to their reputation.Enough said,we avoided sailing with them,and cruised many times with other cruise lines. In Oct 2008 we booked a Carnival Cruise thinking that since this was a transatlantic cruise things might be different.They were as far as the passengers go.We were right as far as avoiding the loudmouth crazies but the cruise left much to be desired. The best things first : Our Spa suite on deck 10 was very nice & spacious. One deck below the spa/gym/health facilities and our cabin staff were very good.But after so many days the same asian ethereal theme music which was even piped outside to the adjacent sun deck became a bit too much. Overall ship decor is OVERWHELMING to say the least, garish......It looks like someone went wild designing on a pink & black LSD trip , parts look like the decor in an old fashioned Chinese restaurant. Dining rooms as well. Wait until one sees the gigantic asian mythical creatures hanging over the spa pool! Speaking of dining.....we had requested early seating and were assigned late seating.It was a BIG hassle to get it changed. Food.....breakfast.....lots of stuff prepared ahead of time...poached eggs came out of a machine cookie cutter and were cool each time. Food...lunch.....none!! well,not quite....dining room is not open for lunch.....only the buffet... and not all parts are open for the buffet at the same time. In fact the buffet is openly encouraged for ALL meals.I suppose it's easier to have the passengers feed themselves rather then wait on them.Be careful walking if there is any moisture on the marble floors in the buffet..... Food..dinner...some very good,some just mediocre , nothing really excellent .....enough with the flat iron steak..tasteless, Tomato pasta sauce much too salty....not enough variety,too much repetition in the menu. The last several days of the cruise the dining room starting running out of stuff.....orange juice, grapefruit juice etc. The wait staff was satisfactory. Entertainment........DULL DULL DULL......Just one decent show. The others were nothing to write home about....the Cruise Director was a very young fellow named Goose..very obvious he had zero experience in that capacity. Give Goose the goose! It became obvious after several days that we didn't have to read the daily activity paper.Activities were the the same every day and repeated day after day on the cabin TV. The niteclub/bar music was ok,just that..ok Few areas on the ship to get away from noise.If the center skydome was open,the giant movie screen/music permeated out to the sun decks. BTW ...decking extremely slippery when wet...need some nonskid paint..maybe after the first lawsuit. Never saw the captain....the officer staff seemed to be non-existent. We'll stick with Celebrity Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
First, I must say that this is only the second time we have cruised on Carnival.The first time was out of Miami some years ago. Carnival at that time had a reputation for appealing to the masses,rowdy/less discriminating crowd and on that ... Read More
First, I must say that this is only the second time we have cruised on Carnival.The first time was out of Miami some years ago. Carnival at that time had a reputation for appealing to the masses,rowdy/less discriminating crowd and on that cruise they lived up to their reputation.Enough said,we avoided sailing with them,and cruised many times with other cruise lines. In Oct 2008 we booked a Carnival Cruise thinking that since this was a transatlantic cruise things might be different.They were as far as the passengers go.We were right as far as avoiding the loudmouth crazies but the cruise left much to be desired. The best things first : Our Spa suite on deck 10 was very nice & spacious. One deck below the spa/gym/health facilities and our cabin staff were very good.But after so many days the same asian ethereal theme music which was even piped outside to the adjacent sun deck became a bit too much. Overall ship decor is OVERWHELMING to say the least, garish......It looks like someone went wild designing on a pink & black LSD trip , parts look like the decor in an old fashioned Chinese restaurant. Dining rooms as well. Wait until one sees the gigantic asian mythical creatures hanging over the spa pool! Speaking of dining.....we had requested early seating and were assigned late seating.It was a BIG hassle to get it changed. Food.....breakfast.....lots of stuff prepared ahead of time...poached eggs came out of a machine cookie cutter and were cool each time. Food...lunch.....none!! well,not quite....dining room is not open for lunch.....only the buffet... and not all parts are open for the buffet at the same time. In fact the buffet is openly encouraged for ALL meals.I suppose it's easier to have the passengers feed themselves rather then wait on them.Be careful walking if there is any moisture on the marble floors in the buffet..... Food..dinner...some very good,some just mediocre , nothing really excellent .....enough with the flat iron steak..tasteless, Tomato pasta sauce much too salty....not enough variety,too much repetition in the menu. The last several days of the cruise the dining room starting running out of stuff.....orange juice, grapefruit juice etc. The wait staff was satisfactory. Entertainment........DULL DULL DULL......Just one decent show. The others were nothing to write home about....the Cruise Director was a very young fellow named Goose..very obvious he had zero experience in that capacity. Give Goose the goose! It became obvious after several days that we didn't have to read the daily activity paper.Activities were the the same every day and repeated day after day on the cabin TV. The niteclub/bar music was ok,just that..ok Few areas on the ship to get away from noise.If the center skydome was open,the giant movie screen/music permeated out to the sun decks. BTW ...decking extremely slippery when wet...need some nonskid paint..maybe after the first lawsuit. Never saw the captain....the officer staff seemed to be non-existent. We'll stick with Celebrity Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
This was my second repositioning cruise and it was great! I opted for the 30 day version thus allowing me to really see Europe. I flew from SFO to Frankfurt Germany to visit some friends in Germany (which was great), I then took the ... Read More
This was my second repositioning cruise and it was great! I opted for the 30 day version thus allowing me to really see Europe. I flew from SFO to Frankfurt Germany to visit some friends in Germany (which was great), I then took the train to Montpellier (I love the 200mph trains!) to stay with some other friends in a little town called Aspiran in the South of France. From there I took the train to Barcelona the day before getting onboard the Emerald Princess. I stayed at the Grand Marina Hotel which is right on the water at the cruise ship piers, it's a 5 star hotel and it's beautiful! The week that I was there the city was having the end of summer festival which was great, there were live bands playing right in front of the hotel, lots of great music and culture going on. The Emerald Princess was (the Ruby Princess has just been launched, November 2008) the newest of the Grand class Princess ships being built in 2007 and its beautiful! Most everything was clean and shiny. The only area that looks worn is on the top deck where the golf course Astroturf is a bit worn. I had an outside cabin on the Emerald deck with a great view between 2 life boats and it was clean and well maintained and the cabin steward was great. The public rooms are great and the ship is easy to navigate. The Princess Theater makes watching the entertainment great wherever you may be sitting. I used the internet cafe almost everyday and rarely had to wait for a terminal. The Food Since I have food allergies I eat both breakfast and lunch at the Horizon Court everyday. For breakfast I usually have fruit and hot cereal of which there is always an abundant supply of fruit, my favorite being the papaya of which you may have to ask for. The fruit was always fresh, ripe and delicious. For lunch I made a huge salad of which there was always a great selection of veggies to choose from. I like to put cranberry sauce on my salad and the Horizon Court staff always made sure I had some everyday. One thing I have found on cruise ships is that you can ask for almost any food item and the staff will get it for you, they almost never say no! One of the great things about this style princess ship is that the Horizon Court is in the back of the ship with plenty of inside seating as well as on the very back you can sit outside on the deck overlooking the pool and the ocean while eating on the bar/railing that has built in stools to sit on. As long as it isn't raining I dine here for every breakfast, lunch and snack for the whole cruise, it's wonderful and scenic (I was on the Golden Princess out of San Francisco on a Mexican Riviera cruise and did the same). For dinner I have always eaten in the Botticelli restaurant at the later seating. This way I don't have to rush to dinner and have the same waiter and table mates each night. All the dinners were great every night. I order a special salad, sautEed vegetables and a yam for each night, while choosing between the various fish, lamb and chicken items. For dessert I either had a bowl of berries, chocolate cake (that they made without eggs for me) or they made me an Apple Tart Tatin. Like I said if you ask they will make it for you. The head waitress and crew were always friendly and efficient, getting me everything I asked for. The Service I found the staff to be very helpful - it seemed every time I turned around there was someone with a name badge asking if they could get me something. Everyone from the Passenger Services Desk to the Deck Crew was willing to go the extra mile to help. My cabin steward had my cabin clean and well stocked all the time and she was always around most every time I was going to or leaving my cabin. The Entertainment The Emerald Princess Dancers did a good job with their shows and the impressionist, special singers, comedians, Lester and Willy (I've seen them on 3 other Princess cruises) and magicians were fabulous! The theater is great from just about any seat and one should be aware that if you sit up in the very front, of which I did for the magician, you have a chance of being asked to come on stage and participate with the performer. The other entertainment was in the Explorer Lounge where I saw the juggler, a comedian and the singer, all the shows were great. Lotus Spa and Gym I hit the gym almost every afternoon - I lift weights rather than do cardio so there were no real problems waiting for the machines. The equipment was enough for me to do maintenance workouts. I was there at 4-5pm and there was never any waiting for equipment. Everything was clean and worked! In the mornings I walked the Promenade deck for an hour everyday at sea to burn some extra calories so I could eat more chocolate cake and since I never use the elevators, I didn't gain a pound on this trip! Excursions I booked tours through Princess for peace of mind regarding schedules and getting back to the ship on time. If it's a Princess tour, they'll wait for you if it's late getting back to the ship. We were always right on schedule, arriving spot on time at every port. We only tendered at one port (Cannes) and it was a breeze, no waiting in line. We were given assembly times for our pre-booked tours and they were orderly and we got off the ship without too much delay. All in all the process was organized and smooth. Disembarkation On the mornings of disembarkation I usually get up eat breakfast and find a nice lounge chair either on top deck if it's nice or down on the promenade deck and wait there for my time disembark. Princesses new disembarkation procedure works beautifully when CUSTOMS has their act together, which they didn't at all. They showed up with 2 agents to handle 3100 passengers. Then they stopped all disembarkation to check some luggage, they finally got 2 more agents and got things going, although it was slow. We all ended up getting off the ship 2 hours later than scheduled, fortunately my flight was at 12:40pm so I had about 45 minutes of time to spare. I heard some people saying they were going to miss their flights because of the delay. I always make sure my flights are later than earlier on disembarkation day. Summary Being on the ship for 30 days was wonderful! As with all other Princess cruises that I have been on, this one was equally enjoyable, you know what you're going to get on a Princess cruise. The staff is always helpful and friendly, the ships are always clean and nice, the food is always great, the atmosphere is always casual and relaxed, the entertainment is always professional and varied, everything is usually always on time and the price is always competitive. I'm already planning my next few cruises (Hawaii in January on the Golden Princess, South Pacific in September on the Star Princess) and yes I will definitely cruise with Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We decided to look for a cruise either to or from Australia in 2007. After searching several sources we decided to book the 30 day cruise on Dawn Princess from San Francisco to Sydney. Even though it was a year in advance the cruise ... Read More
We decided to look for a cruise either to or from Australia in 2007. After searching several sources we decided to book the 30 day cruise on Dawn Princess from San Francisco to Sydney. Even though it was a year in advance the cruise critic roll call had already been very active with a group that had booked a cruise from Australia to the US that had been cancelled. By the time the ship sailed we had some 100 cruise critic folks chatting on line. I volunteered to obtain meeting space and time on the ship for the group to gather 4 times during the cruise. The group name was DAWN DOWN UNDER and we had some name tags and pins available for purchase. To say this group created a lifetime of memories would be an understatement. Our portion of this trip consisted of recruiting 6 other local couples to travel with us. These of people we have travelled with in the past at one time or another. The plans for the trip included a 3 day visit to San Francisco and the surrounding area. I had researched a wine tour that several DAWN DOWN UNDER people booked that they told me they enjoyed. Since my sister-in-law who lives in California is dating a native of the San Francisco area we arranged to have a special sightseeing period with them. The highlights included lunch outside of Sausalito, dinner on the pier at Scoma's, walking the "hills" with stops along the way for wine and Irish Coffee. One afternoon we had lunch in Chinatown. We even got to have drinks at the Top of the Mark with a friend who was in town on business. One of the original organizers of the DAWN DOWN UNDER cruise critic group had booked rooms at a small hotel for less than $100 per night that included meal credits. Since this was during the Oracle convention it was an incredible bargain. She also arrange for a tour bus to take us from the hotel to the pier for a nominal cost. The sail away was picture perfect. After 2 days at sea we had the DAWN DOWN UNDER gift exchange. Some 30 couples from all over the world gathered at 4 PM in the bar reserved for our group. A great time was had by all. After 5 sea days we arrived in Honolulu. We spent most of the day on board ship as we planned to spend two weeks after the cruise back in Honolulu. We did arrange to have dinner with friends of our daughter who was in the Army in Honolulu. They took us to the time share we would be staying after the cruise so I could drop off some very heavy luggage for them to store until we arrived. We had one couple in our group who convinced us to sign up for something Princess calls Chef's Table later in the cruise. This turned out to be one of the highlights of this cruise. I just read another review in cruise critic and this is what prompted me to chime in with our highlights. The next port of call was Kona on the big Island of Hawaii. This is a place where we own a time share and have spent time there almost every year. We have a reservation to visit there in October of 2009 for two weeks so we just walked to the local outdoor Olympic size swimming pool and spent the day swimming in the fresh water. At dinner we all discussed what activities we had participated in during the day. Everyone seemed to enjoy their choice of shore activities during the entire trip. We shared photos and stories a lot. The next stop was supposed to be Christmas Island (Kiritimati) but the Captain explained that the harbor had not been dredged and marked and the docks had not been repaired and refurbished and he was NOT taking a chance of having tenders stuck on sandbars so we did a sail around. We brought along binoculars so we were able to see the deserted beaches with only a few people in isolated areas. The weather was beautiful. The Captain did "spin" the ship around so all passengers could view the small island. Five days from Kona we were on land again in Bora Bora. This was one shore excursion we felt was worth more than we paid. We did a helmet dive. We were the morning group and I understand that was the best choice. We were up close and personal with sting rays and hundreds if not thousands of beautiful fish. We bought the videos the underwater cameraman took even though we had purchased a top of the line Olympus underwater digital camera which had many still photos. This is one port we would love to visit again for a week or two. My wife prepaid for all the Pilates classes and went to most if not all of them. I went to a few free stretch classes with her and walked a lot of laps around the deck with her and walked the steps instead of the elevators to keep from gaining too much weight but still managed to go up a few pounds. The next port was Papeete. We wound up walking around near the ship to an internet cafe because I refuse to pay 75 cents a minute to use the ships internet. We decided on the spur of the moment to take a local cab around the sightseeing spots. A German couple had been waiting for somebody else to join them and share the cost of a sightseeing van. He spoke very good English and in fact worked for the American Military in a place the Army calls K town. His wife spoke very little English. We enjoyed sightseeing at our leisure and got to see a lot of the sights. Next was Moorea. We took the launch into town and then hired a cab to take us to a nice beach where we could snorkel. We brought our own snorkel gear. He arranged to pick us back up at a set time later that day to take us back to the docks. We met some very nice folks that were staying at the resort next to the beach and snorkeled the day away. Not quite as spectacular as the Bora Bora helmet dive but very nice. The next port was Raratonga. We signed up for a stroll through the woods searching for the rare Raratonga flycather. Our guide was the Park Ranger. He was a delight. We hiked up and down all the hills but never spotted our bird. Part of it may be because of some rude Germans who insisted on shouting and calling out all along the way. The nicer Germans we met insisted they must be East Germans!! Pretty bad when even your fellow countrymen are willing to classify rudeness as being a trait of a minority group! The next stop was American Samoa. The on board lecture was done by a very knowledgeable woman who had been there when the natives would shower the cruise ships with flowers from a gondola that travelled from on side to the harbor to the other high up in the hills on either side of the pier. The gondola is now just a rusted out pile of machinery. We had bowled with friends back home from Somoa and enjoyed seeing the sights. We walked all over. We stood outside one of the churches where we heard the children singing beautiful songs. As we left the church we saw a group of men preparing a fire pit to cook the meal after church. They had fish and breadfruit in the pit covered by wet leaves. They were dressed in the native dress (men in skirts?. We have photos standing around the firepit. We did a little shopping with US dollars. In Suva Fiji we opted to join several DAWN DOWN UNDER folks for a trip about an hour away at a resort with a nice beach. They had fresh water swimming pools. You could also rent boat rides and other activities. They had a nice open cafe with decent food and drinks. They arranged for a group of strolling musicians to parade around and serenade you. A nice lazy day. We did see lots of poverty on the ride out and back. The New Zealand stops were Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and the Fjordlands. We opted to take a hop on hop off bus to see the museum and other sights in Auckland. Windy Wellington we ate a wonderful lunch at the revolving restaurant in the highest building in New Zealand. What a view. We stopped to buy a couple bottles of New Zealand wines. We walked and took a cable car up the mountainside to a beautiful garden area. Christchurch was one place I had visited almost 40 years ago while I was single and in the Army. All I saw was the golf course and the airport! This time our group opted to visit the Antarctic center. It made for a very enjoyable day. We then strolled along the tiny river that runs through the center of Christchurch. What an unspoiled English speaking spot. I would love to revisit and spend more time there. The gardens are incredible. Every home has a flower garden. The weather was perfect. Denedin was a place our group booked a train trip out and back. We were late finding the train and got separated from out friends but got reunited at the various stops. The countryside was rugged and beautiful. The people were as friendly as anyplace in the world. This was the most expensive excursion we took but was fairly priced for all we got. Food and drink and sightseeing. The Fjordlands weather was perfect which we understand is unusual. It reminded us somewhat of the inside passage in Alaska in spots. Our arrival in Sydney came after a very calm crossing from New Zealand which is unusual. We had created a land travel package that included 3 nights in a hotel in Sydney with our friends and sightseeing to the Blue Mountains and around the harbor on a sightseeing boat. Now to describe "Chef's Table". One other couple in our group booked the same night as us. They are good friends we have travelled with often and in fact the wife is probably my wife's best friend. The other 6 people who joined us met at 7 PM with the Maitre De Neville. He gave us white smocks to wear in the kitchen and introduced us to our wait staff for the night. One of the best waiters on the ship if not THE BEST. As soon as we arrived in the kitchen we were given a champagne flute and the first of several appetizers. Almost before we could take our first sip we were informed the champagne was NOT up to the standards of the Maitre De! He immediately had a better champagne served. We were introduced to the head chef who remained with us for the next 3 hours. We watched the kitchen in action preparing to serve literally more than one thousands diners. When we left the kitchen area we were escorted to a table for 10 that was our home for the next 2 1/2 hours! We watched as dish after dish of food was presented to us and the Maitre De poured a variety of wines to match each dish. A whole lobster tail was an appetizer! The chef and his assistant prepared veal in front of us. We were offered a variety of sauces for the meat. Dessert was over the top. We were given photos that were developed while we dined. Each couple received a special hardbound cookbook from the chef. The chef pulled up a chair after dinner and drank an Alaskan beer!! He said it was almost as good as some German beers. (The ship had done an Alaska cruise just before the repositioning cruise). It turned out there had been a crew turnover of about 75% between the Alaska cruise and the repositioning cruise. Some other memories of this cruise include the fact that buying a coffee card was the best deal on the ship. You were entitled to a set number of specialty coffees (lattes, cappuccinos etc) but unlimited fresh brewed coffee. The coffee anyplace else on the ship was a poor excuse for coffee. We attended many of the lectures given by a young man from Tazmania. He entertained us with his jokes and lecture style. One of the best lectures was given by the ships Captain. He used slides from the Hubble telescope to take us on a journey through the Universe. The woman who provided information on each port of call was very good. The ship offered a variety of entertainment to satisfy almost all tastes. We were offered almost too many choices of activities during the entire cruise. Even the sea days could be filled with a variety of activities but of course you could choose to do nothing!! The average daily cost of a repositioning cruise is such a bargain that we may look for noting but repositioning cruises in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My wife and I were married this past August. We had been planning our honeymoon for over a year before I even proposed. Of course we had planned an amazing month long adventure with the crossing only being a small portion of it. As thing ... Read More
My wife and I were married this past August. We had been planning our honeymoon for over a year before I even proposed. Of course we had planned an amazing month long adventure with the crossing only being a small portion of it. As thing came closer to needing to finalize what we going to do, most of our trip had been eliminated for various reason, and the crossing became more of the reason to go to London than anything. After reading alot of the reviews on here we decided to take the crossing from Southampton to NY as we'd get just a little more time on the boat (an extra hour a day). After dealing with some transportation headaches getting to Southampton, and a horrible hotel stay the night before our voyage, we arrived at the dock. Not much to look at there, but you're not expected to. Our boarding time wasn't until 3pm but needed to be out of our hotel room by 11am so we figured we'd hang around the dock and maybe take a stroll into the somewhat nearby city for lunch. Didn't have time for that however as we went to check in and they sent us right on into the boat. That was a very nice little bit. Neither of us were really ready for the photo that was taken right before boarding the ship as we had that horrid night sleep and just disheveled. As soon as we set foot onto the ship it was breathe taking. Really big WOW factor. We were ushered to an elevator by some nice porters, and directed to where our room was when we reached our floor. The room was amazing for the amount of money we paid (I think it was $2k with a non-obstructed balcony for each of us) with a good bottle of champagne chilling in some water. We ha just stepped out to look at the port from out balcony when our porter knocked on the door with our luggage. This really countered a lot of other reviews I had read here. Once unpacked we headed down to the Golden Lion Pub to grab our drink cards (seriously a must for those who drink a lot of soda), which don't count for in room soda's by the way. There we met Sydnee who pretty much became our bartender from that moment on. Great guy with a good attitude. ~Dining~ When time for dinner came, we got dressed up and headed down to the dining room. We opted for the second dinner as we are both late people and the early dinner was just too early for us. That first meal honestly put a proved alot of the negative comments I've read here about the service. My wife and I showed up on time but were forced to wait until our table mates showed up to order. Normally not an issue, but they showed up right before the stopped taking orders (about an hour into dinner). We decided that we wouldn't be doing the dining room again at that point. The food was pretty darn good, but the wait staff was just too over worked. The Kings court was actually one of our favorite places. It was great for breakfast and afternoon tea. Occasionally we had lunch there and one night we did the "Chef's Galley," where they close The Grill and turn it into a demonstration kitchen. You have to make reservations for this, so do it as soon as get in your room. The menu is themed and different every night. My wife and I went to the Indian night, at which point we realized we didn't really care for indian. We tried to make reservations for the next night but it, and every following night, were completely booked. Another option is the Kings Court for dinner where they close off the different sections, except one which still offers buffet style, and they become small restaurants. We made a reservation for one of these but ended up not caring for the menu that night and went on to try the dining room again. This time the service and food were much better. The wait staff had even realized we were gone and apologized for the service the first night. We ended up eating in there every night after that.~Fun~ Being as we are both fairly young, it was somewhat hard to fin stuff to do during the day. This wasn't too much of an issue as we are both late sleepers. When we did wake up we would go to the pub, look through the shops (which are pretty good), go to the planetarium and/or a movie, or just explore the ship (I took about 800 photos) which is massive. The movie experience wasn't great. They were all movies one could get on dvd (and they were DVD's), and they had some issues getting it to play right from time to time. The casino was pretty fun for those that are into that kind of thing. My wife and I had more fun with the coin push machine more than anything. They seemed to have alot of gambling related events which might have been fun if our pocket books were fuller. Either way it was a good place to hang out, have a cigarette, and look out onto the waves. ~Weather~ The weather wasn't too great for outdoor events most of the time. It was cold and rainy and a few days into the journey we hit a terrible storm. Almost the entire ship stayed in their rooms that day. We had severe grade wave that rocked the ship pretty bad. Aside from that, as we were told my many that kind of storm was extremely rare, the sheer speed that the ship travels makes it hard to do much outside. Once we came close to the U.S., the weather warmed up pretty quick and sitting in the pool became reasonable. The theater shows were really much better than I had expected. The rock/opera medley they did was extremely good. The dance review was also great. We both wished they offered more though. The Golden Lion was another great place to hang out. We didn't have much of a chance to visit the other bars though as we had grown too fond of the Golden Lion. Like one of the other reviewers said, the Commodore's Club looks very much like 10 forward from Star Trek TNG. One night we ended up in the pub during a Karaoke night. Initially we were put off by it, as we aren't karaoke people, but a few minutes into staying there, we were singing along with everyone. It was honestly one of the best moments of the voyage. ~Cost~ The cost of onboard things was what we had expected. Generally it was over priced, but so is everything at Disneyland. The stuff at the duty free shop was pretty well priced though, and I regret not getting more stuff. The souvenirs weren't too bad. Buy them later in the cruise and you'll save a few bucks. The photos and dvd from the journey were pretty horrible though. Especially when you know they're just digital photos. If you buy multiple things though you do get a small break. If you are a smoker, the cigarettes are amazingly cheap (especially if you're from NY or CA). The booze was pretty pricey though, though not as baas I had expected. My wife doesn't drink or drive so I rarely have the chance to enjoy a drink while we're out. This was something I had been looking forward to while on the ship. I didn't get to do it too much though because the cost of a drink was a little high, aside from beer which I don't drink. We were worried after reading a lot of the reviews that our budget might be too small for the ship, but we walked away with only a bill of under $100. It can be done cheaper if you don't get the drink cards, $34 each, don't take any sodas from the in room fridge, go up to the purser right away and take off the automatic daily gratuity, don't charge anything to your room, and don't drink. Granted all of that is hard, but it can be done.~Final Thoughts~ All in all we both had the time of our lives. We knew we were going to need the relaxation of the voyage after our few days in London, and were very right on that fact. There was no real rush for anything. Initially I was pretty concerned with the dinner dress code thing, but that's really not that bad. All the staff was really great and friendly. The decor of the ship and rooms was fantastic. We are already planning another trip aboard the QM2 for this summer. The key to enjoying this voyage is to just enjoy it. Not many people today get the chance, or want the chance, to take this historic crossing. If you find something that does not appeal to you, find something else to do. A lot of people, including ourselves, get hung up in one area of the ship and forget that the thing is huge. Explore. As a final thought, don't let the adds fool you. There are plenty of younger people on the boat. We believed that we would be surrounded by 50+ year old people, but that was not the case. It was a good mix of ages, though yes, leaning towards the older crowd. There is a limited amount of purely young person activities though, but that is not this ship's target market. There is an arcade (remember those?), though we never were able to find it. -Jim Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
HAL used to be our favourite Cruise Line. We have cruised 9 times, last 3 of those with HAL. When we boarded ship in Copenhagen we noticed at once service had changed for the worst: we were the charges of very green (or very lazy) crew ... Read More
HAL used to be our favourite Cruise Line. We have cruised 9 times, last 3 of those with HAL. When we boarded ship in Copenhagen we noticed at once service had changed for the worst: we were the charges of very green (or very lazy) crew members. The once excellent food was pathetic, many "guests" were returning dishes after just tasting. Of course when something is bad there is a tendency to make you believe it's good by just saying so, and they told us ad nauseum how great the cheff and the food were. Only the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. The attendant kept on serving "guests" the wrong dish and his supervisor got mad at the "guests" not the attendant! The cabin attendant only changed bed linens under duress but was imaginative to invent excuses. As for Shore Excursions, they messed up ours for Scotland. And then,after crossing the No. Atlantic... along came Bill. Hurricane Bill, which was tame enough when it got (almost) near the Eurodam but was qualified by the Skipper as an active "force 5". Soooo, all excursions were cancelled and the beautiful Eurodam took us to small Canadian villages whose charms were either a shopping center or two blocks of shops. They were also cheap ports to dock in... We were told every day that everything done had been done to protect crew and "guests". In fact the overprotected was the ship which is really gorgeous: we "guests" (that helped pay for it) are proud of our deed. The Skipper skipped Sydney but allowed us a taste of modern Canada in lovely Halifax. With one day at sea before port and one after. When I say "the Skipper", I include the line which gave him his instructions. And we have already booked our 2010 cruise... with another line. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.) We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things! As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time). I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :))))) All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :) Looking back now that I am older and wiser now Read Less
Sail Date October 2007

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