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Sail Date: November 2014
Have just returned from this cruise, billed to visit New York and Bermuda (both with overnights in port) before finishing at Port Canaveral, then Miami. We were diverted because of bad weather on the Atlantic, calling first at Madeira ... Read More
Have just returned from this cruise, billed to visit New York and Bermuda (both with overnights in port) before finishing at Port Canaveral, then Miami. We were diverted because of bad weather on the Atlantic, calling first at Madeira instead, then New York (2 days late), missing out Bermuda altogether. It's my guess that the majority of passengers booked this cruise on the strength of it visiting Bermuda; most people from the UK have been to Madeira (probably a number of times) so an afternoon call there (because that is all we got) was no substitute for the loss of an overnight in Bermuda. The first mistake Celebrity made was that a few passengers were actually notified of this change in itinerary at check-in, although what good it did is anybody's guess because they didn't say we could cancel and get our money back! Most passengers didn't even know of the itinerary change until they learned it from others once on board. The 2 day delay in arrival in New York meant that we lost money on theatre tickets and Top-of-the-Rock tickets we had pre-booked. I make no suggestion that Celebrity should have compensated us for this loss but I found out later (when it was already too late) that a number of passengers who ranted at Guest Relations on the first day were allowed to use the telephone on board to re-arrange their theatre tickets etc. No-one told us we might do this. Mistake no.2. The third mistake Celebrity made was that, even though the weather is not their fault, it has been a tradition on cruise ships that, if passengers are disappointed by not making a port, something is done on board to make them feel a bit better about it - like a special party, free drinks, or (dare I even utter the words) a nominal refund! They did nothing extra, apart from announce proudly that our stay in New York would be extended by 2 hours until 8pm the second day - no use whatever to go to the theatre for instance. Midnight would have been worth something but no. We've travelled on Eclipse twice before and had a wonderfull time; Equinox too, twice. But this time, the food was just the same as before - the menus haven't been changed in at least two years (and then, not for the better) and the regional additions to the Favourites Menu included Irish Stew and Chicken Tikka Masala - hardly what you would associate with sophisticated dining, since you can order them in any pub in the UK! Even the lamb was lacklustre - even tough and grisly at times - but even an expression of discontent was not enough to get the Assistant Maitre d' to visit our table. In the past, the faintest whiff of unhappiness with the food would have them in fits to please you but not this time. Mistake No.4. We dined in Murano one night. In the past, we've thoroughly enjoyed the food and skilled service but on Eclipse, the service was inexperienced and as if learned from a script. A potato croquette was served in a upside-down plastic glass as an "amuse bouche" and we nearly laughed out loud. I have a whole bag of them at home in my freezer! Even the pastry around the Diver Scallop Wellington style was soggy. Sadly, not an experience I want to repeat. Mistakes Nos 5 & 6. Poached eggs cold in middle and improperly cooked in the Oceanview Cafe on three occasions. Again, a complaint brought no follow-up from Guest Relations, as it would have done in the past. Mistakes 7 & 8. One upon a time, I used to say that the thing that marked out Celebrity from other lines was that, if a passenger complained, provided there was some justification, they would not be content until that passenger was pleased again. It seems to me that the bean-counters have been at work, trimming things here and there, cutting corners and changing the protocols regarding how to be "nice" to a disgruntled passenger. Is it time to start looking elsewhere for the quality and standards that Celebrity claim to offer but repeatedly failed to do on this cruise? Read Less
Sail Date: October 2014
This was our first ever cruise and I must say it was an experience of a lifetime and it won’t be our last. If you have never cruised before there were a number of things to consider before booking the cruise. Type of Cruise The biggest ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise and I must say it was an experience of a lifetime and it won’t be our last. If you have never cruised before there were a number of things to consider before booking the cruise. Type of Cruise The biggest decision you must make is to determine the type of cruise you want. This 15 night “Caribbean Isles – Southampton to Barbados” cruise involved 9 days at sea and 6 days visiting 6 Caribbean islands. If you would prefer more than a few hours on the beach or maybe an overnight stay on an island this trip is not for you. Daily, when docked, you exited the ship at 8 - 9am but had to return by 4.30 – 5.30 pm as the Azura sailed by 6.00pm at the latest. Rough Weather Another point to bear in mind is that sailing from Southampton, even in this huge 150,000 ton ship still meant the risk of stormy weather and at times a heaving ship. I passed on one evening meal on day 2 and my wife felt poorly until Day 4. During this time the ability to walk on deck is limited. The Azura has a promenade deck on deck 7 but hasn’t any deck that allows you to walk completely around the ship. Sun and heat Sunbathing was not an option until Day 6 and our departure from the Azores so if sunbathing is you “raison d’etre” then be aware of this limiting factor. Booking We booked the cruise only 3 weeks before departure. We were reeled in by the good value on offer but by booking late we could not chose our deck or cabin, we gained no onboard spending credit and lost the ability to chose where we ate each night, an option called “Freedom Dining”. Medical P&O site gives little guidance but recommends you visit the UK Government website dealing with foreign countries & their specific diseases. I rang P&O customer services are they said there was no mandatory requirement to protect yourself for this cruise. I decided to get jabs for protection against Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid and as these can last up to 15 years or so if they are not of use on this cruise I will find them useful for future travels. What to bring A shower cap, toothbrushes & toothpaste and a corkscrew bottle opener are recommended. P&O unusually for cruise lines allows passengers to bring drink onboard from the islands the ship visits but few shops sell corkscrew bottle openers. Flip flops, sun hats & glasses and swimming trunks are a good idea but like sun tan lotion, after sun, antiseptic creams and most other things, are available at normal prices on board. Cabins We booked a cabin with an outside window and were delighted with the allocated cabin, a mid-ship cabin P248 on Deck 7. I’d like to thank our hard working and very friendly cabin steward Michael who cleaned twice a day and delivered fresh crisp towels, the ships Horizon newsletter and chocolates nightly. In hindsight I’d probably pay the extra for a balcony next time but several of those travelers with balconies claimed not to use them much. Laundry is self-service and there was a room on Deck 7 with a washer, a drier, iron and ironing board. Powder tablets are sold in a shop on board for 60p. A payable laundry service is also available. Meals Breakfast & daytime eating Food is available 24 x 7 at self service restaurants on deck 15 where it alternates from the Venezia to the Verona and back, as they close, clean, re-stock and reopen them. The Peninsula Restaurant provides a waiter served, open seated, breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea if that’s what you’d prefer. Open seated means that as you enter they staff check if you are prepared to share a table and just sit you with the people around you in the queue. The Aqua Bar & Pizzaria provides snacks, pizzas, chips etc by the pool on Deck 15, all at no extra cost. Evening Meals – the Peninsula Restaurant We were delighted with the food and service we received in the Peninsula restaurant, where we sat on a table for two. Yes, we missed the banter the travelers enjoyed with each other on the eight seat tables but on the plus side it allowed us to focus on the food which nightly was varied and of the highest quality. The food was beautifully presented and served piping hot and within minutes of ordering. We had a great relationship with our waiters Welber & Alvin, not to mention our wine waiter Lester who made us feel rather like a “lord and lady” rather a “Mr and Mrs”. I compared the eating experience, to our family, on our return as similar to sitting down to the office Christmas evening dinner for 15 nights on the trot. We were allocated a second sitting slot by P&O but the Peninsula’s Manager managed to amend that to a first sitting by Day 3. It’s a numbers game for the restaurant management as people allocated sitting seek to switch times in both directions. On this occasion they were able to facilitate us. The first sitting was 6.30pm while the second is 8.30pm most nights. The only extra charge for the evening meal was the wine which we drank nightly and cost between £15 -20 per bottle and came chilled. If, as many nights we didn’t finish the bottle it was kept for us to enjoy the next night. I’m no expert but I thoroughly enjoyed Chilean white Chardonnay Reserva, Vina Mar, Casablanca Valley (£15.95) and it become our wine of choice for most of the cruise. We saw no need to use the two restaurants where you had to reserve a meal and pay extra to visit. “17” costs an extra £28 per person and Sindhu costs £15 extra per person. The standard and quality of the food in the Peninsula was fine for us. Black Tie Dinner Events The cruise involved four Black Tie dining evenings which all took place before we reached the Caribbean and are optional though most passengers partake. We found it fun to get dressed up and P&O uses the event as an opportunity to sell photographs. Throughout the Atrium and the restaurant’s the ships photographers seek to capture that magic moment when you both look at your best. One can view the picture at £11.80 as a snap that on its return to land will rarely see daylight or you can view it as a cheap way to get a portrait shot of both of you “glammed up and looking hot”. We bought two pictures over the course of the trip but I’d guess the photography team took as many as 30 snaps. If they halved the price I’m sure they’d sell many more pictures. God knows they must shred 95% of all pictures taken at the end of the cruise. Also why not supply a soft copy with/ instead of the hard copy? It’s of no further use to P&O once the cruise is over but people would probably show it to their family & friends on Facebook which might provoke more interest in P&O cruises. Throughout the cruise we had Sailaway parties as we left each port and a Caribbean night in the restaurant when even the waiters went Caribbean. At Antigua we left port, in the gathering darkness, with a US ship alongside and the “Best of British” sailaway party saw the upper deck festooned with Union Jack bunting, hundreds of passengers waving Union Jack flags and singing songs from Ireland, England Scotland and Wales. It was similar to the atmosphere and scenes captured on the “Last night of the Proms”. Quite what the bemused Americans made of it was anyone’s guess but we were partying away and singing loudly until the island and its US boat became a distant glint on the skyline. On Board Activities We found the days at sea just perfect for us. Our routine was to rise by 7.00 am, have a hearty breakfast and join at 8.00 am a group of fellow passengers for a one mile walk round the ship which took about 20 minutes. We then took coffee & a croissant in the Peninsula restaurant where we chatted away to fellow passengers, all more experienced cruisers than us, before enjoying a bit of sunbathing. By 12 noon you could have found us gathered in the Planet Bar on deck 18 where an Azura choir (circa 50 passengers) was formed on Day 1 and rehearsed an hour a day until performing in the ships atrium on Day 8. The Azura Choir I must pay special tribute to Ms Emma Alexander, Assistant Entertainments Manager who along with Robert, the Azura pianist made our cruise experience entirely special by investing their immense talents in the voices of this bunch of knackered older singers. Emma chose and led us through 12 songs that ranged from touchingly sentimental to stridently regimental, from loud to soft, from solo to four part harmony. Standing on heaving decks and tilting furniture Emma displayed incredible control and brilliant communication skills and really took the choir to tackle arrangements we had no right to attempt. I believe she is moving onto the new liner Brittania in 2015 and will be Azura’s loss. Other Activities Similarly the ships entertainment team organized an Azura’s Got Talent competition which involved rehearsals and a show as well as an Azura’s Strictly Ballroom competition, firmly based on the BBC format. Both led to passengers getting a chance to perform on the Playhouse stage and watched by an audience of several hundred who applauded warmly their efforts. Still more daily activities were football, golf and basketball on Deck 19, line dancing, ballroom dancing, card sessions, art classes, lectures on the islands yet to visit and of course work outs in the gym or spa sessions in the Oasis Club. The casino & one armed bandits in Brodies provided alternative options for people with different interests. The library on Deck 6 also provided WIFI at a price and a table in that area offered free books left by other passengers. A book & magazine shop on deck 6 provided fresh reading material and the ship publishes a daily UK/ World newspaper which you could collect for free from that area. The Playhouse theatre, the Malabar and the Manhattan on Deck 7 all hosted daytime sales sessions that P&O portrayed as educational sessions. For example a 10.00 am session on “Arthritis & Back Pain Solutions” in the Malabar bar is actually an opportunity for the Oasis Spa Acupuncture therapist to sell her skills to passengers. Similarly the information sessions on the various islands are hosted by the Sales Team members who seek to inform / sell you the P&O trips available and press home the fear of missing out as trips may be fully booked when we reach the island in question. However there were events of a purely informative nature with interviews with the ship’s captain and other staff along with “behind the scene” visits to the kitchens or staff-only areas of the ship. Sunday Service On both Sundays the ship’s Polish captain led the Church Service which was held in the Playhouse Theatre. A broadly Christian affair it was a mixture of readings and hymns and was particularly moving on the Sunday before Poppy Day when we reflected on our good fortune to be alive when sailing the seas was for pleasure and not for country. We finished each service with the first verse of “God Save the Queen” which reminded both of us of the British’ness of the P&O line and actually added to our enjoyment of the experience as we are from Ireland. The on board shops had rolling sales events focusing on watches & jewelry one day, clothes the next, alcohol and cigarettes another day and so on. The ship has an art gallery and art to sell at prices from a few hundred pounds to several thousands and they ran a few seminars on aspects of art for those interested. Evening Entertainment The Evening Entertainment was varied and each night multiple activities were on offer. Jazz in the Planet Bar and the Glass House, West End style shows with the excellent Headliners, Comedians, ventriloquists, impersonators in the Playhouse, singers in the Malabar Bar, movies up on the large outdoor TV screen on Deck 15 & 16, Ballroom dancing most nights in the Atrium and more we never got to! We found several performances in the Playhouse of visiting performers got filled quickly so we tended to arrive 20 minutes before the show to get seats. You cannot reserve seats. It’s all a first come first served basis. Newspaper Each night a Horizon daily activities ships newspaper was slipped under your cabin door which detailed the numerous activities going on the next day. It was more than sad not to receive it on our next to last day as it signaled P&O’s lack of interest in us as passengers even though we remained such for another 14 hours. P&O Trips The P&O Trips Ashore which we took were a major disappointment in two of the three occasions. Pass to Fairview House, St Kitts - £19 each. The driver was excellent and told us about the buildings we passed on the 15 minute drive and the house upon arrival was a restored plantation owner’s house. The guide spoke for about 10 minutes in the reception room and left us all to wander for the next 3 hours. Truthfully we looked forward to the tropical gardens but there just wasn’t that much to see. Some exhibits detailed on a sign the full latin name of a plant or shrub but behind the sign only a stump stood! The sugar cane example was dead. The whole garden took about 10 minutes to walk around. Perhaps the time of year might have meant less was in flower but there wasn’t much of a garden anyway. My own was bigger! Waterfall & Gardens St Lucia £45 each was an even bigger disappointment. We travelled in a packed coach with tiny seats and a struggling air conditioning unit for over an hour and a half around hairpin bends and up and down hill and dale to reach a very ordinary waterfall. The fall of 30 feet is far from spectacular and the appearance of concrete and chicken wire as part of the waterfall made it almost un-photographic. The pool it fell into was tiny and tricked away into a stream heading off to the right. Hundreds of other tourists streamed in and out as we struggled to understand why we had been taken to this location. A few donned swimwear and stood in the small pool while the water fell on their heads & shoulders. It was a massive disappointment. However the “Garden” was equally unimpressive when we got to it. Owned by the restaurant owner we were about to visit it consisted of a path past some thoughtful religious quotations which weaved its way down and up a small incline and contained some wooden structures and a pond with fish in it. Less than a minute away was the restaurant and its owner who provided what has to be the smallest and meanest subsistence I have ever received on any tour. The small plastic plate was no more than the size of a saucer and its contents were 4 in number and paltry in content. One chicken wing each was part of it. The drink was a very watered down juice of some sort. He invited us to buy beers and drinks but I don’t believe he got any takers. There were only one photo stop where we could exit the coach just to take pictures and the other photo opportunities were only accessible if you sat on the right side of the coach. Taken in its entirety the £90 paid for a bone rattling 3 hour journey to/from a non-site and be fed morsels of food was a complete rip off of £90. No sales staff appeared at the sales desks that night that I could find and probably just as well. I completed my customer questionnaire and invited contact but have not had any to date. Coast to Coast Tour – Barbados £39 each proved to be a reasonably good tour in that it did what it said it would and took us across the island visiting the beaches (10 minute stop), a church (20 minutes) and a refreshment/ photo stop where at 10.30am we drank a rum cocktail. The driver was informative and good humored and we enjoyed the 4 hour outing. My Cruise DVD - £16.95 I purchased the DVD but would not advise others to do so as the DVD is largely a marketing tool for P&O including pre-recorded clips on the ship & the islands. The unavailability of the DVD until the second last night of the cruise is a mystery as so little of the actual cruise is included in the end product. Very little of our actual cruise features in the DVD. There are some video clips from the Sailaway parties but largely of the back of people’s heads. The captain’s speech is given prominence with again the back of people’s heads. The excellent stage shows are shown without actual audio but a homogenous general overriding music track. The Azura Choir’s performance of 40 minutes is brutally edited down to 8 minutes and leaves out all the four part harmony and several decent performances.It also excludes the thanks given on camera by the choir to Emma and Robert. This is despite me being told by the Photography Team on their desk that it would all be included but as an extra on the DVD. Not so. Flight home from Barbados We were coached from the Azura on Saturday at 12.30 to the airport and flew to Manchester on a Thomas Cook A330. The plane sat three rows of three passengers across the main body of the craft. The width of the seats was extremely narrow forcing passengers to crush together. The flight was 8 hours long. No headphones were provided as, apparently the Manchester to Barbados customers had taken the headsets with them. We’d paid for two allocated seats in a two seat section when we booked the cruise as my wife has severe back problems and would need to walk about but Thomas Cook changed the plane type so we were trapped by a third person who fell asleep snoring loudly and restricted us to our seats. In summary we had a fantastic holiday and were sad to be going home. There were opportunities for P&O to make it a perfect holiday but though they fell short I’d give them another chance.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
We were fortunate enough to sail on Oasis of the Seas' first transatlantic cruise. The weather and seas could not have been better. Many have already commented that the ship is so large one can always find a quite spot in spite of ... Read More
We were fortunate enough to sail on Oasis of the Seas' first transatlantic cruise. The weather and seas could not have been better. Many have already commented that the ship is so large one can always find a quite spot in spite of 5000 passengers and 2000 crew sailing along with you. Our spot was after if the ship on either decks 11, 12 or 14. We found that the various food venues affered a variety of foods and dining experiences. We generally preferred the dining room when we just wanted a leisurely meal; although we ate at several of the other venues. The Park Avenue Cafe was usually crowded and had the feel of a cafeteria. The Wipe out cafe and the a solarium Bistro had the advantage of sitting outdoors in one's bathing suit. Personally I found the food selection in the dining room to be less appealing on the Oasis compared to our cruise in March '14 on the Freedom of the Seas. The Windjammer also had a very different setup from Freedom. There were plenty of choices, but it took a while to figure out where the foods were that we preferred. It was not our favorite place to eat. Because we were traveling east, we had to account for 6 hours of lost time before we reached Barcelona. The hours were subtracted for 6 consecutive days at noon. Everyone was relieved to get that extra hour back before the end of the voyage. We went to just about all the evening entertainment and found it to be top notch. Only one night would be considered typical cruise entertainment. I assume because this was Oasis' first transatlantic there was a great deal of confusion with scheduling reservations for shows. Hopefully they have their system worked out for the return trip in Oct. We had signed up through roll call to sit with a group of 15 people for our evening dining.. After about 6 days we decided we wanted a quieter venue and was able to change our table to the main floor next to the piano. This was a good move for us since we finished out a table for 6 which allowed for easier conversation. We only docked at one port on our journey. That was Malaga. We chose to stay in port and ride the hop on hop off bus. It was easy to find since one of its stops was just a block north of the location the dock shuttle stopped. Purchase of tickets was at the stop. Because my husband uses a walker we did not get off at any of the stops, but ther seemed to be several that would have been interesting. Our cabin was very adequate. We found the storage space ample, and with the entry door opening out, we were able to leave my husbands walker near the door and out of the way. We had a balcony on the starboard side. We didn't want to sit in the sun, so that worked fine for us. We had shade a good deal of the day because of the overhang above the 14th deck. Embarkation and disembarkation both went very smoothly. The longest wait we had was waiting for a taxi in Barcelona getting off the ship. My husband simply sat on his walker with the luggage near the taxi stand, and I walked through the queue. All in all, it was a great cruise. The ship is beautiful with lots of activities to keep one occupied for so many days at sea. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
Royal Baltics and Transatlantic 9/2/14-9/27/14 Embarkation We got on the ship quickly with plenty of time to settle in and explore before muster. The ship was the same as it had been last year when we spent a month on it; large and laid ... Read More
Royal Baltics and Transatlantic 9/2/14-9/27/14 Embarkation We got on the ship quickly with plenty of time to settle in and explore before muster. The ship was the same as it had been last year when we spent a month on it; large and laid out well but still lacking a full promenade deck outside. We went to trivia and quickly found some partners who were good, although Ken was the star player. We won our first trivia and got water bottles, I figure by the end of the cruise we might be able to build a raft of water bottles! Muster was quick and very small and I was surprised how few people there were at muster, not realizing what a small number of people were checking in from Berlin. This was a weird cruise in that it was sold many different ways. Some people embarked in Copenhagen three days before Berlin, some in St. Petersburg, and many embarked in Copenhagen 9/10/14 for the transatlantic. Our dinner was OK, in spite of asking for a large table for 8-10, we were put at a table of 4 and ate alone since our table mates were off in Berlin. We didn't leave Berlin until 10:30 PM. The following day we changed our table to a larger one for 8 and all of our friend joined us at early seating and this became the highlight of the cruise in many ways. On turnaround day we changed our table of 8 to a table of 10 and that undoubtedly became the highlight of everyone’s cruise. We all looked forward to dinner each night, and maybe gained a few pounds too, afte rall food taste better when shared with good friends Problems in the Cabin I Woke up the first morning ready to embrace the day. I had been on the Royal last year for 30 days and experienced some issues so I was ready to embrace a new and improved ship. This was not quite the experience I had. The toilet in my room (A718) was clogged first thing the morning, and you know how that goes when you are traveling. This caused extreme discomfort to us and I spent the morning calling for help. Just like last year, nobody came to fix the toilet until I called 5 times, not my favorite way to start a cruise. We had to vacate the room and race to use the public bathrooms, then to the front desk to ask for help in person, this being the most effective method of eliciting help on this ship. Good grief, I swear I am not doing anything different on this ship than I do on others so I don't understand what the problem is. Could it be related to the power blackout we had yesterday right after we boarded? Problems on the ship Some cruise critic friends took my rear facing deluxe balcony C743 (from last year’s cruise), the infamous soot room, and were beside themselves with how bad it smelled, how much tar was on their balcony, and how unusable it was. Please beware that the issues around the sooty aft cabins, and the plumbing problems still exist. If you have booked any of the aft cabins beware that there has been no fix. Laundry service was another problem, taking 3+ days from the beginning of the cruise, and throughout the cruise the time grew longer, usually 5-6 days. Having spent 10 nights in Berlin pre cruise, I had lots of dirty clothing and was not expecting to encounter this kind of delay. To add insult to injury, close to the close of the first segment of the cruise (the Baltics) they offered a “stuff a laundry” bag promotion where everybody could get as much laundry done as they could fit in a bag for $20. This probably caused more delays for us elite members who were getting our laundry done as a benefit. I refrain to call it free because we spend a lot of money taking a lot of cruises to gain elite status. Trivia and other Games Otherwise the Cruise staff was excellent. The Cruise Director Lisa Ball was fantastic; she was very involved in all aspects of the shipboard activities and even called trivia. We really enjoyed her presence and appreciated how involved and active she was, truly a team player and in no way full of herself like some CD’s can be. Lisa really set the bar high for me! Food/Dining experiences-- Main Dining Room We had the best dining table ever, seating for 10--infamous Table for 10 group--and we were close to the back with decent views of the water. Our table was filled with good friends, people we have cruise with before and got along with well, my dear friends joined us for the Transatlantic portion and they got along fabulously with the rest of the group, becoming instant family. I cannot tell you what a difference the right mix of people make for a successful dinner group. So what if we were loud and raucous every night. We spend each night laughing till our tummies hurt (really) and generally being so jovial that we were infectious. Most of the tables around us became louder and looked like they were having as much fun as we were. Laughter was breaking out all over the place. Yes one of our neighbors look like they were suffering being close to our loud and joyous table, and they looked grumpy and bent out of shape much of the time but I suspect this was how they were all of the time, independent of our proximity. ☺ Our tablemate B (not his real name) started this kleptomaniac routine, which he performed throughout the entire 25 day cruise. He was imitating some lady we had talked about who was on a world cruise and had tried to steal all of the dinnerware, utensils, and whatever else she could get her hands on until she got caught. B would casually start stuffing utensils, sugar containers, plates, glasses, and more, often while the head waiter Arkie (short for Arkadius) stood talking to us about what we did that day, or any special orders we asked for. We laughed and laughed every time Bob did this shtick, as he slowly and surely made all the dinnerware disappear. Then he would stand and all the stuff would fall from his clothing causing all of us to squeal with joy and laughter! No matter how many times he did this, we could not stop laughing at it. B should be a comedian! Our waitress D (short for Dorota) was fantastic, as was her assistant waiter Zoran. Zoran was not around as much as D, I guess he was getting the food all the time, Princess has changed the way the wait staff works and I was told its normal to not see the assistant much. D really put up with us in such a perfect manner; sometimes she faked being stern when we were having food fights, or just being loud and noisy, and other times joining in as if she was part of our group and she was! Our neighbors had appointed her “Queen” of the dining room staff and she regally wore her the crowns they brought for her. She was incredible in her manner and perfect at negotiating large, loud groups! We all loved her dearly. I always order extra vegetables for each night. Initially I had grilled Asparagus and Spinach steamed with garlic brought to the table every night. My tablemates were quick to agree that this was a very good thing, generally the dinner plates do not have many veggies on them and we all loved the extras. As the cruise went on they first ran out of Asparagus, then they ran out of Spinach. I asked for Broccoli instead and it always came steamed with garlic, I think garlic makes everything taste better. During the Baltics portion of the cruise our fixed dining time was 6pm, and during the transatlantic portion, we were supposed to come at 5:30, although we always showed up between 5:45 and 6pm. The only negative to dining at the traditional early seating is that we always missed sail always. The trade off was well worth it, late dining was between 8 and 8:30 and that was just too late for all of us to eat, digest, and get to sleep for early ports. Sabatini’s We went to Sabatini’s to celebrate our friends wedding anniversary on one of the formal nights. We actually dressed for it, although you don’t have to dress formally on formal nights to dine here. We had our infamous Table for 10 group and started at 7pm and we did not finish until close to 11PM, that’s how much fun we had! The food was excellent, with a few exceptions, and service was great too. Food always tastes good when accompanied by good friends and good service. Horizon Court Buffet At the beginning of the cruise the HC is incredible, do try to make it up there on day one for lunch because you will be amazed at the variety they have there, including 4 carving stations. We often went up to the massive buffet at 11:25 am, a perfect time for Ken to grab breakfast and me, lunch, timing being everything here. I always grabbed some yummy grilled veggies, wild rice and asparagus, some lean brisket or other lean meat, Roasted Chicken, and a veggie salad with lo cal dressing. There were many healthy options in the Buffet, no need to feel deprived if dieting. I really enjoyed eating at the HC for Breakfasts and lunch, but really hated it at dinner. The dinner options were far less abundant than the options during the day. Half of the Horizon Court was closed, or refashioned for Fondues or the Crab Shack. The grill area was always closed, no yummy fresh grilled veggies or meats for dinner were ever available, although they always has several carving stations opened. At dinnertime nuts and dried fruits and lot of veggies and meats were plentiful but as the cruise progressed they seemed to run out leaving less options. I tried to make a trail mix to take with me on port days as a snack, don’t forget to bring ziplock baggies for this. At 5:30 pm there is always an array of deli meats and sandwiches which can be used to make sandwiches for the next days port visit, if you are so inclined to do that this is the place. On several occasions we brought the infamous table for 10 group to the HC, we even found a table for 10 and this became our alternative dining spot although we only ate here twice because of late port visits or because we wanted to see a sail away. Formal Nights On our first formal night, we dressed for it but hated to as we always do! I noticed that lots of people did not dress for formal nights, many choose to eat at the Buffet. I think we ended up dressing for every formal night except the last, mostly because one of the 10 enjoyed it so much and we wanted to make her happy! Man Overboard During one of the last sea days there was a surprising “man overboard” announcement and we were all asked to go back to our cabins for a head count. Everybody did this pretty quickly and mostly hung over the balcony railings looking for whomever had jumped ship. Our room Steward came by and noted we were in our cabin. Meanwhile I noticed a beach ball like red thing floating in the water off the port side of the ship, by this time Captain Sagani had turned the ship around and we were heading back the way we came. A tender boat was lowered into the water and I saw it heading straight for the red ball then suddenly it turned and started going away from it. I could not believe this, I grabbed the phone and called passenger services and told them to tell the captain that the red floating thing was off the port side at 11 o’clock. After a few minutes, the tender boat turned and headed straight for the red thing and in quick time they determined it was nothing more than a fishing marker. Captain Sagani came on and told us that the passengers and crew were all accounted for, complimenting us on one of the quickest counts he had ever seen, and also thanking the passenger who called and directed them to where the red ball was. I hope I was not the only person who called. Meet and Greets (2) We had two M&G’s, the first one was during the “Most Traveled lunch” and only one staff member showed up and he was very late. That staff member was the Safety officer and he was hijacked by several people who were having soot issues, poor guy he did invite questions! The second M&G was more crowded and a few more crew members attended including the CD. Both were in Club 6, not terribly conducive large groups and lots of folks had to stand or sit on the floor during the introductions. I know I missed this because I was sitting in the center part of the room and all the activities took place close to the bar area, which is also the smallest area! Ports and Princess Tours We did one Princess tour during the 25 day cruise, and this was in Kristiansand, Norway. We did a cruise through the Blindleia Passage to Lillesand, a cute and charming little town which was quite scenic. The cruise was nice but the guide was not very exciting and I just didn’t feel any passion or love from him, something I notice that good guides always have. The town was mostly closed, not only because it was early in the day but also because it was late in the season and most residents were there for the summer only. Finally, we only had a half hour to visit this place and it was not enough time to walk through the narrow lanes of the town, so we didn’t see much of it at all. The excursion was not worth the money we spent on it at all! Other than that, we only did private tours. Disembarkation Disembarkation was quick and easy, especially since we booked a transfer to the airport with Princess. We left our room by 8:30am and waited no more than 20-30 minutes in our appointed meeting place before we got off the ship. Immigration was quick and easy, and our luggage was neatly placed in its proper area and we found a porter who hauled our 3 pieces to our transfer bus and off we went to La Guardia. Unfortunately our driver was unable to take us to the departure area of the airport, he grumbled some excuse and dumped us at the arrival terminal and we had to schlep our luggage upstairs to find the proper check in area. This was a mess and most of the folks just grabbed their luggage and dragged it up to the proper place, like us. I did notice that the excuse our driver made, that his bus was too high, there were no restrictions on height up at the departures area and we had been duped by a lazy, know-nothing bus driver!   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
Our on board experience was a huge disappointment and afar cry from their adverts and brochures. Indeed even a far cry from past on board experiences. The ship looked badly worn and neglected, especially carpets and furniture. Sewerage ... Read More
Our on board experience was a huge disappointment and afar cry from their adverts and brochures. Indeed even a far cry from past on board experiences. The ship looked badly worn and neglected, especially carpets and furniture. Sewerage smells seem a recurring problem. Service in the Britannia Restaurant was below standard. Service was very slow and meals took over 2 hours from start to finish with long gaps during which they tried to keep diners happy with endless bread rolls. The dress code was not enforce and at night we encountered many passnegers who dressed like from a Council Estate. Staff appeared demotivated and and in a bad mood. Ship felt like Titanic. A museum piece rather than a luxury vessel. Please don't waste your money on Cunard. Try Celebrity Cruises instead if you are looking for a luxurios experience. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
Summary: First ever Atlantic crossing for us, was serviced well on a nicely appointed ship. Seeing the open ocean (versus Caribbean) from a low deck ocean view cabin was breathtaking. Recommended. Detail: We'd sailed twice before with ... Read More
Summary: First ever Atlantic crossing for us, was serviced well on a nicely appointed ship. Seeing the open ocean (versus Caribbean) from a low deck ocean view cabin was breathtaking. Recommended. Detail: We'd sailed twice before with Celebrity with no disappointment. Although at the end the length became slightly monotonous, we love days at sea (versus in port), so it was fine. The weather was much better than expected for early May (chilly on deck, but the solarium (covered pool) made that nearly irrelevant). On board activities (other than a moderately interesting historical lecture series and a few recent movies) was as tedious as ever, but we seldom pay attention to those things, anyway. Main dining room service was impeccable, meals there and elsewhere on board were good. Price was excellent for the length of cruise, ignoring the need to pay for an air return to the U.S. from the U.K. Only real negative was the constant emphasis on hand sanitation and denial of direct access to beverage stations, forced by an outbreak of novovirus aboard during the prior leg. After a federal inspection, beverage station access was relaxed, however. Loved the ship -- considerably better than for the two Carnival cruises we've taken. The transatlantic itinerary ensured that there were very few children (mostly middle-aged and older couples, with a surprising number of older singles) -- which appealed to us enormously. No water slides or splashing around in the hot tubs. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
The Constellation sailed on a 15 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Amsterdam. The intermediate ports were Lisbon, Le Havre, Dover, and Zeebrugge. We enjoyed the smaller ship and thought the Connie was in good shape for its age. The ... Read More
The Constellation sailed on a 15 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Amsterdam. The intermediate ports were Lisbon, Le Havre, Dover, and Zeebrugge. We enjoyed the smaller ship and thought the Connie was in good shape for its age. The weather was windy and rainy as we hit the northern ports, so that detracted some from our enjoyment of the cruise. The big difference between this cruise and the other six transatlantic cruises we have taken was the entertainment. On those other cruises the entertainment has been fair at best, but this one was different. We had two very good male singers and one good female singer from London's West End. The comedian was funny and the comedic juggler was a stitch. Singers and dancers were good, but the best shows by far were the classical music shows (even though I am not a big fan of classical). The concert pianist was Brooks Aehron from London. He was not only great on the piano, but was funnier than the comedian. He let us know at his second show that Celebrity was trying something new - the presentation of a young future star of the classical music world. On this cruise he accompanied Andrea Amat, an incredible young flute player. Her "Flight of the Bumblebee" was amazing. Hope that Celebrity keeps this program going. The only shows we did not enjoy were the magician (standard stuff with no comedy) and four girls who did Beatles music (they were OK, but would rather have four men). We missed the violinist but were told that he was very good.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
My husband and I had the worst cruise in 25 years of cruising. We were due to leave Southampton on 20th December but the Captain announced that due to heavy storms we would have to stay in port overnight and leave the following afternoon. ... Read More
My husband and I had the worst cruise in 25 years of cruising. We were due to leave Southampton on 20th December but the Captain announced that due to heavy storms we would have to stay in port overnight and leave the following afternoon. We have subsequently discovered that we believe the delay was due to technical problems with the ship, bearing in mind this ship had a 2 day breakdown on the previous cruise, and a further breakdown on the following cruise. So because we were late leaving, our stop in Madeira was cancelled and our first stop would be Barbados after 11 sea days. We actually sailed past Madeira half a day later than scheduled so we could have had a stop there. The P&O ship Aurora left Southampton on the day we were due to leave so how did that ship weather the storm.? We could have left on time we were sure if the ship was mechanically fit. The first week onboard was a nightmare, the weather was awful and a lot of passengers were seasick, me included, I couldn't wait to reach a port, any port. The captain announced that we were only going to be able to have three and a half days port stops instead of the scheduled seven stops. We emailed Fred Olsen to show our disappointment and eventually the port stops were extended a bit, but still only 4 and a half days, everyone was disgusted. On top of all this people were so upset at having to pay £2 a day to have their dining time changed, it is an absolute ripoff. People should ask for the opposite sitting to the one they want because it is a money spinner for Fred. Then they closed one of the bars for 4or5 daysto redecorate it, can you beleive this. The next bombshell was workmen turned up and started moving a companionway on two decks. There was drilling and sawing all day for days on end, and tarpaulin coverings which looked so shabby, So many people complained that they stopped daytime work and started nightwork on both decks.You couldn't make it up. So many people couldn't sleep with the noise that the workmen went back to daytime work. It was so disrespectful to all the passengers onboard, no compensation was offered, not even a complementary bottle of wine on each table. Can you imagine it, sitting on deck, or eating lunch on deck and looking at men working on your deck and the one below, I could go on and on about our total disappointment with this cruise, the food was very average, not up to previous Fred Olsen cruises. We have cruised with P&O, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Princess and never ever experienced anything like this. We have used Fred Olsen cruises for years, we are gold members, and have always recommended them as good value for money and really lovely waiters, cabin crew and reception staff, in fact all the crew have always been exceptional, but since old Fred handed over to young Fred it has all gone to pot, it is such a shame. I really think because of all these cutbacks and lack of consideration for their passengers enjoyment that their days are numbered. We are very upset by this and so are many other Fred Olsen passengers that we know. Bring back original Fred please. I would never cruise on the Black watch again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
Overall I found the Celebrity Reflection a very nice ship - modern, clean with a lovely, soft-toned décor. With regard to the food, I enjoyed the variety and freshness of the food in the buffet. The times we ate in the dining room I was ... Read More
Overall I found the Celebrity Reflection a very nice ship - modern, clean with a lovely, soft-toned décor. With regard to the food, I enjoyed the variety and freshness of the food in the buffet. The times we ate in the dining room I was less than impressed - each meal I had was so-so, nothing to write home about. (However, as anytime diners we never waited long to get seats in the dining room which was good.) Consequently, my preference for a lot of meals was actually the buffet - fresher and more variety as I have said. We didn't try any of the specialty restaurants. I found the coffee everywhere onboard terrible!! There was plenty to do onboard. We played trivia a few times and enjoyed it but thought that more effort could have been made to organize groups of six - sometimes people are reticent to go up to strangers themselves and ask to be part of a group so maybe staff could help coordinate this a little more (if some folks don't want to be part of a group they could just say so and remain apart but I think it's more fun to be part of a group.) I have been on other cruises where miniature golf is offered and I missed not having that option on this cruise. There is so much grass on the Reflection you would think some of it could be used for a small golf course - it gets people socializing and is a lot of fun. As mentioned above, I think there is actually too much space allotted to grass on the Reflection which could be used for other activities (e.g. miniature golf, etc.). Also I could not understand why so much space is allotted to a basketball court - it was hardly used on the cruise as far as I could see (I am a walker and passed by it several times each day). I would say the average age on our cruise was 60 years and older - hardly the demographic that plays basketball! Again, a wasted use of space as far as I could determine. I was bothered quite often in certain areas of the ship by cigarette smoking. I do not think it should be allowed at all on any ship for safety reasons let alone in as many areas as it was permitted on the Reflection - I am sure not every smoker onboard is totally responsible and the possibility of a cigarette starting a fire is a real possibility - for this reason plus the offensive smell I think it should be completely banned. One thing I found strange in the buffet was the cutlery which was wrapped in dark blue napkins - it consisted of a knife and fork of normal size plus a huge spoon. Why not a normal sized spoon that can be used for stirring coffee, eating desserts such as ice cream and so on. This was a small thing but something I found very peculiar. Every day I had to look for a smaller sized spoon to aid with eating my meals. The only thing a large spoon is really good for is eating soup so it would be good if a smaller spoon could be included in the blue napkin cutlery. As mentioned in my first paragraph, overall I really enjoyed the ship, especially the spaciousness - never overcrowded in the elevators, always fairly easy to find a lounge chair on deck in a good area. I also found the staff very courteous, pleasant and hard working. If the negative points I have outlined above could be improved upon,8121 I wouldn't have had much to complain about. Thanks for a lovely cruise! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
OK, well, there was nothing really bad about the QM2, but I still came away from the cruise feeling dissatisfied. I am 60 y/o. I would guess the average age on this ship was probably 80 y/o. I mean there were probably 90 year olds plus ... Read More
OK, well, there was nothing really bad about the QM2, but I still came away from the cruise feeling dissatisfied. I am 60 y/o. I would guess the average age on this ship was probably 80 y/o. I mean there were probably 90 year olds plus roaming around this ship....no kidding. That's great, because when I'm 90, I hope I'm still inclined to jump on a ship and travel across the Atlantic. So, not really knowing whether my problem with this cruise was the ship or the itinerary, I thought I'd just give you my impression of the QM2 and leave it at that. First, the ship is laid out in a way unlike any other cruise ship I've ever been on. Yes, there's a small central atrium, but most "go to" spots are at either end of the ship or on deck 7, 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11. Get the picture? That's right, it's kind of spread out and almost hidden in a way. Get off elevator A on deck 9 and walk around to the right and "presto" you're in the Commodore Club. There's no real special entry or sign there to let you know it's there. In fact, if you had turned to the left, you'd have been walking past staterooms. For those of us who've cruised on other ships (including Cunard's Queen Victoria), the lay-out of the Mary is unusual. That doesn't mean it's bad, mind you, just, let's say, different. It's obvious that the QM2 specializes, and expects you to take advantage of, the regular dining rooms for all meals. The buffet seemed to be an afterthought on this ship, and somewhat of a disappointment. They only open one or two of the food stations every three hours. So, if you are used to finding food at one corner of the buffet, you may find it closed the next time you visit the buffet. The food was OK both in the dining rooms and the buffet, but they still seem to be stuck in that old, bland British fare that, fortunately, the UK is pulling itself out of. Still, with an older clientele sailing on this ship, I'm sure the Chef would get more complaints if he tried to "rock the recipe boat"(pun intended) and introduce more contemporary offerings. They had 2 soft-serve ice cream machines in the buffet. One that didn't work well and the other that didn't work at all. I think the highlight of the buffet was the "Chef's Galley". This is a specialty sandwich area of the buffet that serves really decent burgers, hot dogs and designer sandwiches throughout the lunch hour. Service....what can I say. It's the Cunard. How could you ask for better service? The crew that work on these ships seem pleased to be there. They are happy to help in any way they can, and genuinely care about you while you are a guest on their ship. I have yet to find a Cunard crew member that is anything less that professional and congenial. With that being written, let me just mention a crew member on the QM2 that, I feel, is truly exceptional. His name is Atilla (from Hungary) and he is the Assistant Dining Room Manager. The man is a machine. I mean he never, never stops. One minute you'll see him on the lower dining room floor picking up dirty plates, and (honestly) literally, the next minute he'll be seating some people at the table next to you. He is, without question, the most phenomenal worker I've ever seen on any cruise ship. What's more, the smile never leaves his face the whole time. He will absolutely captivate you if you are at all into noticing how hard service people work on these ships. We are not keen on attending the shows in the theater on any ship we sail. They seem to all have the same idea of what's entertainment, and I think another Cruise Critic reviewer said it best when he described it as one step above a high school musical. This transatlantic voyage, however, had 3 or 4 lecturers on board during the daytime, that seemed to captivate all travelers across the age spectrum. Kudos to Cunard for choosing people to speak that so many of your guests would love to hear. Cunard is known for providing laundry rooms on each deck for its passengers(unlike Celebrity and Royal Caribbean...booooooo to you).Thank you, Cunard! These little rooms have 2 ironing boards and 4 washers and 4 dryers (all for free including detergent). OK, so why did I have this feeling of lack luster after the QM2 cruise was completed? I'm thinking that the journey was really one of utilitarian nature. I was sailing from one place to get to another. I should not have expected to be mesmerized by the ports of call, the scenery or tropical weather any more than I would be taking a commuter train between New York and Washington,D.C. This cruise got me whare I wanted to go in comfort and without distress. What more could I ask?   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
After 20+ cruises it's time to submit a review especially after reading all the whining about this cruise. We do not fly and normally sail with Princess and NCL. We sailed to Southampton via the Crown Princess for 2 weeks and it was ... Read More
After 20+ cruises it's time to submit a review especially after reading all the whining about this cruise. We do not fly and normally sail with Princess and NCL. We sailed to Southampton via the Crown Princess for 2 weeks and it was delightful. The day we arrived in Southampton we transferred to the Breakaway for the 7 day T/A to NYC. This ship is amazing. The entertainment is outstanding. We booked directly through NCL as we always do. The agent told us 2 things up front: This is not a normal port for NCL (which explains any boarding confusion in Southampton) and this was the T/A to get the ship to NYC. The hoopla would commence there and not before. Those complaining about this & that should be ashamed given what was paid for this trip no matter what category cabin you paid for. Yes, there are design flaws and the cabins are teeny tiny but the showers are to die for. The ship has so much to offer for all ages. Since the weather was a factor only indoor activities could be appreciated. We are 65+ yrs old and found all the entertainment to be great. Rock of Ages was fun, Burn the Floor was incredible. Slam Allen was great. Second City was very good as usual and Graffiti Classics was a hoot. The food was just ok but then all cruse food is only ok unless you are willing to pay for the extra tariff restaurants. There is no perfect ship or cruise line. If there were we would all be on the same ship. We met the CEO Mr.Sheehan on 2 occasions. In the 5 years he has been at the helm he has done his best and has our vote of confidence. The lights in the cabin are controlled by inserting your key card. After locking myself out only once I realized all you had to do was put something like a piece of cardboard in the slot. We used our Princess key card from the week before. Since we live in Florida it is not likely that we will be on the Breakaway again but the Getaway will be home ported out of Miami and we will we booking a cruise on that ship in the future. -- Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
We had a great t/a cruise on the Reflection. It is a beautiful ship, it has a great art collection, the public rooms are also comfortable & cheerful. There are also great little "hideaways" on the ship as well. The food in ... Read More
We had a great t/a cruise on the Reflection. It is a beautiful ship, it has a great art collection, the public rooms are also comfortable & cheerful. There are also great little "hideaways" on the ship as well. The food in the main dining room kept up the standard of excellence, with great variety and wonderful staff. We chose select dining, those waiters were outstanding! The ports were very interesting, with a good selection of excursions, & in Liverno a ship sponsored bus to Florence on your own. When we disembarked the ship in Rome, we flew to Berlin. Spent 3 nights in Berlin, then flew from Berlin to Frankfort. From Frankfurt we were flying direct to the USA, our "home" airport. At the Frankfurt airport the passport police gave us a hard time because we had no stamp showing where we entered Europe. They wanted proof of sailing, & we had noting in our carry on. One of the policemen knew that Italy does not stamp passports when you enter via cruise ship. So he talked the other policeman into letting us proceed to our flight. So if you are planning to visit Germany, be sure you have proof of sailing as you leave the country! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
Wow! We had a fabulous time aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. This was our first cruise so did not know what to expect. It certainly lived up to our hopes and dreams. Thought cabin was nice and roomy (although reading on here it was ... Read More
Wow! We had a fabulous time aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. This was our first cruise so did not know what to expect. It certainly lived up to our hopes and dreams. Thought cabin was nice and roomy (although reading on here it was smaller than other cruise lines). We did have a balcony and did think balcony was small (not cruised before so maybe same on other ships). Restaurants again found good most of the time. Service seemed to deteriorate by the 6th day. Ate in Cagney's Steak House and thought this was amazing (although had to pay $30 per person extra). Entertainment was good - although very disappointed with Rock of Ages. Burn the floor was exceptional. Disappointed with the Ice Bar too - and having to pay to go in it. Being a transatlantic cruise and being on the ship 7 days by day 5 was looking forward to getting off - so will try a stopping cruise next time, Again found service charges confusing and bit expensive $12 per person per day, then extra service charges on every drink. We did find out (when it was too late for us) that we could pay less if we asked! After reading other reviews on here we are definitely going to try other cruise companies. Overall for our first (of many) cruises it was good! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
While I would agree with several other reviewers on the beauty of the ship, my food poisoning and ensuing quarantine ruined what might have been a more favorable review. And, I think the lack of customer service, coupled with food ... Read More
While I would agree with several other reviewers on the beauty of the ship, my food poisoning and ensuing quarantine ruined what might have been a more favorable review. And, I think the lack of customer service, coupled with food poisoning, is something others should consider. At the dining room, early seating, I was served seafood newburg, with three mussels (presumably as decoration)that had their shells closed. Of course I did not eat those mussels. However, the mixed seafood had lots of already shelled mussels in the sauce. Four and a half hours later, I became drastically ill, vomiting with severe cramps. I called the medical center, thinking they should know about the food poisoning. They asked me to come right over, saying they could help. Instead of wanting to help, their goal was to enforce a legal quarantine based on their preferred diagnosis that I "gastrointestinal" illness that would be contagious. When we attempted to argue that I only had food poisoning (I had none of the other symptoms of gastrointestinal illnness), the nurse would not budge, but said if I felt fine in the morning, I could see the doctor, and if I was well, he could release me. Of course, the Breeze management would rather confine me with a wrongful diagnosis than admit to food poisoning. The next morning I was fine and went to the medical center. After waiting 45 minutes, the doctor refused to see me, I was told to return to my room, and could return 24 hours later to be released from the quarantine. FYI the quarantine was notified to everyone, the cabin steward, the dinner waiter, any deboarding use of the card, etc. all were informed I could not leave my room. When I attempted to order food by room service, my choices were limited to jello, clear broth and saltines. Needless to say, the next 24 hours were awful, both for me and my partner. Before we left the ship, we left a written letter at customer service asking for at least some recourse and/or an apology. We received no response on the ship, nor have we heard anything since. We took the cruise with another couple, and all in all, had a great time ... but this was less because of facilities offered by Carnival. On the 5 day crossing, we played bridge everyday ... but this was organized by other passengers, not Carnival. We used the Spa center for massage and facials, and this was outstanding. The entertainment the first night of the cruise was excellent, the second night good, but the remainder wee not up to the typical Carnival standard ... mediocre at best. Although the tickets were of course cheap, we expected something nice for the Breeze's maiden voyage across the Atlantic. In terms of food, the burgers and burritos were both fantastic. The rest of the food was good (ignoring the food poisoning) at pretty much what we would call standard Carnival. In conclusion, the food poisoning and wrongful quarantine put a cloud on the whole trip and I think it is unlikely I will take a Carnival trip again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
I should start by saying I wanted to love Reflection. After all, it's a bigger version of my favourite ship, Celebrity Eclipse. But bigger negatively impacted the experience in a few critical ways. See below for more. Embarkation: ... Read More
I should start by saying I wanted to love Reflection. After all, it's a bigger version of my favourite ship, Celebrity Eclipse. But bigger negatively impacted the experience in a few critical ways. See below for more. Embarkation: When I say WORST EVER, I really mean it. And that includes the spring break-time Carnival cruise I took a long time ago with a ton of very drunk people in line for an hour. This was an hour and a half in a hot, airless line, with no information and no Celebrity staff there to help sort the lines out. Lines were not logically placed and as a result, people were quite confused and embarkation took an hour and a half from the time we got inside the hall. CRAZY. And not a good way to start a cruise. Cabin: AQ is same as the Eclipse/Equinox, just with different artwork on the walls. A few changes - they've changed the drawers, so there are 3 instead of 5 (making two much deeper, but not as useful for two people sharing). They've changed the bedside tables and those are much more useful now as they're closed cubes (my stuff forever fell off the old gray ones). And in the bathroom, there is no glass door on the chest anymore - it's now open. They've replaced the hairdryer model, making it easier to use. Otherwise, amenities are similar to other AQ rooms on the fleet. Room Steward was Ozy and was the best we've had to date. Social areas: The biggest impact to social areas has been in the Sky Lounge, which was made much smaller to accommodate the Reflection suites. IMHO, this was a poor decision. It makes the Sky Lounge much, much smaller and rather than all those lovely windows, it's only got windows on two sides - and feels claustrophobic. On the plus side, there seems to be no more smoking in Sky, which is a plus. Captain's Club: On our cruise, we had nearly 2000 captains club members (inclusive of high-level RCCL). Because of the huge numbers of cruisers combined with the tinyness of Sky, the usual Elite drinks hour was modified significantly. Now, we could go to most any bar, using a ticket/voucher system, 3 per person per day. That seemed like a good idea at first, but quickly we realised that we missed the opportunity to socialise with other Elite members - and every bar was packed beyond belief as a result of all these people with free vouchers. I heard non-Elite members complaining about it as well. The morning Elite breakfast was as always fantastic - they have sorted out previous issues with not enough wait staff present and got some tremendously personable staffers to handle those activities. Evica was a particular standout - cheery smile and attitude every single day. Kudos to Chandru, who dealt with all of this crazyness - and the sheer volume presented - with aplomb and grace. He worked hard to make everyone feel welcome and special - which was no mean feat given the restrictions imposed on this cruise with space and the number of cruisers he needed to touch. Restaurants: We usually eat in Blu, but the additional influx due to the AQ suites meant the restaurant was PACKED every night. Even with an early eating time, it was almost impossible to get a good table unless you showed up at 5:30p. The waitstaff was impeccable - kudos to Marina and to Jose in particular, and Johnnie is as debonair a maitre d' as you could ask for. Murano: as always, my favourite experience. Fantastic food, and Mariyana was easily the best server I've had anywhere in any restaurant in the world. She made it an outstanding experience. Tuscan Grille: We'd given up on this after the past few cruises of mediocre food. Exec Chef Alana has changed things on this ship and really taken the level of food up a notch and Tuscan was no different. The Porch: Would benefit from some additional "meal" salads such as cobb or nicoise - that said, it was the ONLY place to get potato chips on the entire ship and a relatively sane haven during lunchtimes, and the food was good. Try the carrot cake cupcake. Mast Grill: Menu continues to shrink here. This cruise saw the removal of onion rings. BOOOO. But awesome cheeseburgers, and I still wish they'd bring back the nachos. Bacio: Always good staff here and lovely coffees. The pastries are nice but don't taste as good as they look. :) Oceanview: Same as the other ships - but very ugly colour scheme. Artwork: More photography on this ship than previous cruises. HIDEOUS, AWFUL, DISTURBING video art outside of Blu. I had nightmares after I watched it all the way through. If you have kids, strongly suggest you not let them watch. Other artwork more pleasing, including the Roberto Cavalli-esque foyer on the way to the specialty restaurants. Celebrity Life: Great Zumba instructor for this cruise. Pool aerobics were a bit laughable - the sweet girl who led them obviously had no idea her land-based moves would never work in an aqua environment. Entertainment: I wish Celebrity would offer a better selection of TV channels and free-to-view movies. Even airplanes offer better?! Aqua Spa: Great improvement to numbers of beds in Persian Gardens. Good hair technicians (I got a colour and a keratin treatment). Disembarkation: Swift, but we were one of the first groups to go. Not sure how later groups fared as they for some reason unloaded ALL THE BAGS from all the groups onto the conveyor at 7:30 a so it was hard to find bags, to put it mildly, then - I can't imagine what it was like an hour later. Overall: Communication tends to be Celebrity's greatest flaw. Some more detailed conversation with us regarding the engine issue that caused us to miss a port (tenerife) would have been welcome - though they did the right thing and returned our port taxes. And the embarkation debacle should have been addressed.I do want to say that for the first time ever, we had a decent experience in Guest Relations with Jole - she was friendly, approachable and got things done. Great experience, staff even more friendly and lovely than previous ships - but I'll go back to my beloved Eclipse for my next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
A good cruise experience, we love Atlantic crossings and we loved Venice, Italy. The worst stop was Casablanca; we are too Western in our taste and do not have the adventure spirit to enjoy the stop; Casablanca was dirty, disorganized and ... Read More
A good cruise experience, we love Atlantic crossings and we loved Venice, Italy. The worst stop was Casablanca; we are too Western in our taste and do not have the adventure spirit to enjoy the stop; Casablanca was dirty, disorganized and traffic seemed dangerous. Recent labor actions left buses abandoned in the streets with broken windows. Tour staff on the ship want to sell tours; do not look for much help if going independent-do your research before traveling if going independent (on your own when touring). Naples Taxi drivers represented a disheartening gauntlet; especially in Naples, make your arrangements prior to arriving in Naples. Venice is very easy to do while on the independent self directed tour mode (don't miss Burano and Murano), Vaporetto are excellent and economical, water taxis are for the wealthy among us. Barcelona was excellent for going it alone; easy to use public transportation; Los Ramblas and market should not be missed. Funchal, the tour bus was a economical and efficient way to get a quick tour of the Island; we stayed aboard and took both routes in the same half day. Anytime dining, service levels below regular dining; however, great opportunity to meet different people. Sick Bay: out of pocket, you file your own insurance, two routine visits about $300; that included meds for a cold that was turning into a upper respiratory problem. Kudos to the Captain for avoiding rough waters from Sandy as long as he could, the ship altered course several times and changed the itinerary from Azores to Funchal, nice surprise, to avoid rough waters. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
I have only been cruising for about 9 years but I have over 200 cruise days so far. Most of those have been with Holland America. Although some things have gone wrong on some cruises, I have generally been very happy with Holland America ... Read More
I have only been cruising for about 9 years but I have over 200 cruise days so far. Most of those have been with Holland America. Although some things have gone wrong on some cruises, I have generally been very happy with Holland America until this cruise. I embarked on a 42 day cruise on the Maasdam on October 19 and it turned out to be my worst cruise ever. We quit using the dining room as it would take up to three hours to finish a meal because of the lack of staff. The Lido staff became very overworked and some even quit during the cruise. They advised they usually serve about 200 guests in the Lido and because of the slow service in the dining room they were now serving up to 500 per meal. We were served with many chipped plates and bowls and lipstick was observed on some of the water glasses they gave us. To correct this they had the water server inspect the glasses and when he found a dirty glass they would not rewash it but would use a dry towel to wipe it off. The air conditioner in our room (and many others) didn't work properly, so they put a fan in our room, but all that did was move the hot air around. I see from past revues that the Maasdam has had air conditioning problems for years, but apparently Holland has chosen to ignore the problem. Our veranda light wouldn't turn on, so we could not use it to read in the evenings. I complained to the hotel manager and he gave me an unbelievable story about how it was against coast guard regulations to use my veranda light after 7:00p.m. He did say that at the next port, I could buy a lamp to put on the verandah and Holland would provide me with an extension cord. (Just what I wanted to do, spend over $16,000 for a verandah and then be told that I have to buy a lamp.) I spent a great deal of time and energy proving that the hotel manager didn't know what he was talking about and when I confronted him with the proof, he changed his story and said he thought our room was one of the rooms on the ship that had a posting on the door saying the veranda light could not be used. I then spent more time checking every door on the ship and there was no such sign on any door. I later contacted the front desk and they confirmed there were no signs like that on the ship. One of the biggest problems on the ship is the fact that my wife is a recovering alcoholic who very much values her 30 plus years of sobriety. Because of the understaffed dining room, we ate most of our meals in the Lido, and my wife usually had a dessert after dinner. After a few days of eating the dessert, my wife took one bite out of a piece of cake, gave the cake to me to try and with one bite, I knew the cake was loaded with rum. We brought this problem to a Lido officer, and he advised us that the vast majority of the desserts in the Lido have alcohol in them as do the fruit cups. We told the officer that Holland needs to put signs in front of anything that has alcohol in it so recovering alcoholics and young children aren't unknowingly given alcohol. The officer agreed with me and I know he took the problem to his superiors, but no signs ever appeared. Although they were nice enough after that to let my wife know which desserts contained alcohol and many times they all did. Upon completion of the cruise, I complained to Holland America about the problems with the cruise, and I got the feeling that once they got my money, they could care less about what happened on the ship. I especially complained about the actions of the hotel manager, saying that in my opinion, there were only two possible explanations to the manager's story about the coast guard not letting me use my verandah light. Either he was outright lying to me or he knew nothing about his ship. I advised Holland that in either case, he does not deserve to be the hotel manager. All Holland had to say about the matter was that their hotel manager was quite capable. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
The VOS is one of the older RCCL ships and is scheduled to be refurbished soon. It is quite attractive and its overall appearance is good. We enjoyed its smaller size, making it easier to negotiate than the mega ships. It is maintained ... Read More
The VOS is one of the older RCCL ships and is scheduled to be refurbished soon. It is quite attractive and its overall appearance is good. We enjoyed its smaller size, making it easier to negotiate than the mega ships. It is maintained impeccably clean in every public area and in the cabins, although it is somewhat shabby in places and clearly showing its age. Some of this is to be expected, such as the frayed edges of carpeting, and does not interfere with functionality or with our enjoyment. But other evidences of wear are unnecessary and result in discomfort, such as the lounge chairs on Deck 10. (Deck 10 is where passengers who do not wish to sit near the noise and crowds of the pool sit.) These chairs are old and worn with webbing that is ripped or stretched so that one finds all their weight resting on metal crossbars. It becomes necessary to "try" many, many chairs in order to find one that is comfortable, then move the usable chairs order to position several together. The chairs around the pool (Deck 9) have been replaced and are fine. There are sufficient chairs for all guests, but many of them are unusable. Ventilation throughout the ship was a problem. During the first five days the entire ship, public areas and cabins were excessively warm. I am usually cold, always needing a sweater and even I was too warm. Thereafter, we found most of the ship adequately air conditioned and comfortable, although some people in neighboring cabins still complained of the heat. Toward the end of the cruise, the theater and casino were, again, uncomfortably warm. Air conditioning workers were very active and visible in many cabins. Most of the crew was hard-working, conscientious, and eager to please. Despite their efforts, the quality of service was lacking due to severe understaffing and lack of supervision. When a request was made, "the buck was passed" to someone else. For example, when we received an erroneous charge, I went to Guest Services and was told to contact Housekeeping, who told me to contact Guest Services, who told me to again contact Housekeeping. Eventually the Deck Supervisor became involved and our bill was corrected. There were several such incidents, especially in Dining Services, and almost all problems were resolved, or somewhat resolved, but it did take much of our time and effort. It also required much time and effort on the part of already overworked staff. Being so under-staffed, one can understand why several of them tried to pass things off to someone else. Although we had read poor reviews about the VOS, the price of this particular cruise much lower than the other Transatlantics and sowe thought we'd try it. Early in the cruise, we made the decision not to allow the poor service to detract from our enjoyment, and it did not. We enjoyed the cruise and aren't at all sorry we took it. Overall, the VOS needs much improvement in order to come close to the standards of RCCL. I thought it important to write this review so that those who may be booked on a future VOS voyage have the option of adjusting their expectations so that they will not be disappointed. Following is a department by department description of our impressions. Dining Services This was by far the area most in need of improvement, as the following selected examples demonstrate. Having special dietary needs, we contacted RCCL prior to the cruise, as did our travel agent, and RCCL had assured us that there would be "no problem." As instructed via email by RCCL, immediately after boarding we went to see the dining room matre d' to confirm that these needs were being met. We were sent back and forth between the Head Waiter and a few others in the Dining Room and were continually told that there was nothing they could do for us, regardless of what we had been told by RCCL, a poor way to begin a cruise. Finally, in desperation, went to Guest Services and the matter was satisfactorily resolved in a matter of minutes. We were exceptionately fortunate for dinner. We had My Time dining, sat at the same table every evening, and our waiter and assistant were excellent! However, the kitchen was disorganized and unprepared to serve the number of guests on board, resulting in waiters often needing to wait for food on long lines in the kitchen. This created a domino effect with the assistant waiters needing to fill in by doing the waiters' work and, therefore, not being able to do their own. Everything then gets backed up. One evening we were in the dining room for two hours, waiting over an hour between our appetizer and main. At lunchtime guests have the option of dining in the main dining room or in the Windjammer buffet. We tried the Dining Room once and never saw our waiter; the assistant waiter had taken our order and, after waiting more than 75 minutes without being served, we left and ate in the Windjammer buffet. One evening the kitchen ran out of both the "chef's selection" appetizer and main courses at 6:15 PM, resulting in backups from the needs of many to reorder, several guests becoming angry, and, again, a 2-hour dinner. Extra tables are placed in the Dining Room in order to accommodate more guests for which the dining room was designed. One breakfast I was seated on a ramp and concerned that my chair would tilt backwards! There are tables blocking aisles and at the base of staircases, resulting in difficulty passing and in those seated in such places being jostled by those passing by. There were far fewer waiters and assistant waiters than we have seen on other cruises. Although they worked very hard and literally ran back and forth to the kitchen, their number was insufficient to adequately serve all the guests. Moreover, we never saw any senior officer supervising in any dining room, and those who were supervising missed many problems, mistakes, and omissions in service. On several days, there were additional specialty buffets poolside. These were not announced in the daily Compass, the newsletter listing all on-board activities. One day I overheard talk of one of these buffets and called Guest Services to inquire about it. I was told that, since it was not in the Compass, they were unaware of it. It seems that the only announcement of these "surprise" poolside buffets was the Cruise Director's regular 10 AM announcement. Unfortunately, ship-wide announcements cannot be heard in cabins or on balconies, so guests spending this time in cabins or on their balconies are unaware of these activities. It seems that even Guest Services is unaware of them, as well. One day we went to the Windjammer buffet for lunch at 12:30, the height of lunch time. One entire side was closed and the buffet line on the open side extended into the foyer. I asked one of the Windjammer "leaders" why half the buffet was closed at this busy time when the line was long. He looked surprised when I brought this to his attention and apologized. The full buffet was opened within 10 minutes. Although no staff noticed this, and they should have, they were responsive and quick to rectify the problem. During the last three days several food items were missing from the breakfast buffet in the Dining Room. When we requested one of these items, we were told that it was toward "the end of the cruise" and so they had "run out." When we questioned one of the supervisors about it, we were told that it is normal to run out of many of the food items at the end of the cruise. We never before have been on a cruise where several food items had been exhausted three days before the end. Thank goodness for the My Time dinner staff because their professionalism, hard work, and desire to serve helped to soften our breakfast and lunch experiences. The quality of the food was adequate. Cabins We had a junior suite and were fortunate enough to have an aft cabin on the end with a large balcony that wrapped around the side. Because our room and our balcony were so comfortable and delightful, we found that we spent much more time there. The lounge and deck chairs (4) on the balcony were mesh and extremely comfortable. The room had plenty of storage space and, best of all, a real soaking tub in the bathroom. The cabin attendant was attentive and eager to please; we never had to request anything more than once. However (and this was no fault of his), he had so many cabins assigned to him and he was new to the position, being required to attend many morning "meetings." This combination of newness, meetings and a large number of cabins resulted in our cabin being cleaned between 1 and 2 PM every day. Laundry The first day that we sent laundry, we received back someone else's. The following day we did receive our own. However what was promoted as "Wash and Fold" service was really "Wash and Stuff into Bag" service. Our clothes were creased beyond imagination and unwearable. Our cabin attendant took the clothes back and had them redone for us, returning them the next day (most of the staff really tried their best), more than 3 days after we sent our laundry. The next time we sent a bag of laundry in, it was again returned creased beyond wearability. At that point, we just gave up. But we received our own laundry back! Hooray! Spa and Fitness Center The spa staff always was professional, polite, pleasant, and extremely helpful. I had one "signature"spa treatment which were excellent. The steam-room and sauna were fine. The locker room area was stuffy, hot, and poorly ventilated, making it unconducive to use the steam-room or sauna. My husband observed that the restroom in the men's locker room was always wet and dirty. The fitness center was much too small for the number of passengers. There was a total of 8 treadmills, 7 ellipticals, 3 stationary bikes, approximately 8 machines (no 2 of any kind), 3 benches, positioned directly in front of the weights making it difficult to obtain weights when someone was using a bench, and a tiny area for classes. More often than not, it was necessary to wait to use equipment. The area was so small that the equipment was crowded together and there was a claustrophobic feeling. Because of the overcrowding in such a limited space, the entire area was usually stuffy and smelled of sweat. Moreover, in addition to the 2,000 passengers, several crew members used the fitness center as the crew gym, I was told, was the size of a closet and even more poorly ventilated. Future Cruise Sales The staff was polite and very helpful. We were interested in looking at some future itineraries, but there was no available literature that we could take and browse at our leisure. There were only two hard-cover notebooks with the RCCL itineraries in plastic sleeves and for use only in the department, and one similar notebook for Celebrity, for which we has to ask. This was within a day or two of embarkation and we were told that they "ran out of brochures." Guest Services Overall, the Guest Services staff was amazingly professional and polite, even in the face of angry guests shouting at them. For the most part, I found them to be helpful, if not consistently efficient. During the last day of the cruise, a day when people have multiple questions, at 9 AM there was a line of 14 people and only two Guest Services staff at the counter. They did not send questionnaires requesting preferred disembarkation times and we were arbitrarily assigned a time of approximately 8:55 AM even though we had a 10:45 AM flight out of Miami (we were docking in Ft. Lauderdale)! This information was provided in our on-line check-in. We could have been assigned a disembarkation time of 7 AM. Clearly, departing at 8:55 would result in our missing our flight. At that point, the lines at Guest Services were so long that we opted for Express Departure, enabling us to leave the ship at 6:30 AM, but carrying our own luggage (despite the fact that my husband has a leg in a cast). Other Departments The Casino staff was professional, very friendly, and helpful. This certainly encouraged spending time there, which we enjoyed. We appreciated that the Cruise Director was low key, not trying to convince us that we were having a great time and not intruding by making frequent loud announcements. The music around the ship was fine, but. we would have appreciated the opportunity to listen to classical music, especially before dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed the production shows and several of the other entertainers. A few of the evening shows were quite bland, but others were really excellent and varied. The Photographers were professional, non-intrusive, and produced great results. Unfortunately, a batch of photos was "lost" and ours was among them. In the future, we will shy away from the VOS in favor of other ships. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
We had always wanted to cross the Atlantic on the QM2 and planning started for our transatlantic crossing and side trips to the UK, US and Canada about a year before. We arrived at the cruise terminal (QEII) in Southampton around ... Read More
We had always wanted to cross the Atlantic on the QM2 and planning started for our transatlantic crossing and side trips to the UK, US and Canada about a year before. We arrived at the cruise terminal (QEII) in Southampton around 11.30 and as we had priority as Queens Grill passengers we were quickly checked in. We were then shown into a large embarkation hall and told to wait for our number to be called. The Cunard representative in fact missed the fact that we were priority boarders and when we questioned it, we were shown to another area. In the end total embarkation time was just over half an hour and we were in our stateroom just after 12pm. Our stateroom was very impressive and in fact the best accommodation we have ever had on any passenger vessel. It was incredibly spacious and the separate area for luggage was most welcome so that we could hide away all the luggage and associated clutter. We also used our balcony quite often as the weather was generally good. The Butler service was brilliant and Edwin could not do enough for us. We had breakfast in our room for all but two mornings and were able to order tea, coffee and snacks at anytime. Food overall in all the restaurant locations we tried was excellent. Most times we ate in the Queens Grill for dinner and had lunch in the Golden Lion Pub or the food court. We also had dinner in our room one evening and also tried high tea in the Queens Lounge a couple of times which is highly recommended. The only downside was trying to get an acceptable quiet table in the Queens Grill. Initially we had tables close to a waiter station or next to a squeaking door. I cannot say the Maitre d" was particularly helpful, but in the end we found somewhere reasonable. I believe this issue was exacerbated by the ship initially coming from Hamburg where 1000 German passengers embarked - good tables were therefore at a premium. The formal nights were enjoyable and we made the most of the opportunity of dressing up. The entertainment was varied and we particularly enjoyed the talks by the various experts in their field and the RADA shows. The crossing itself was very calm and for most of the time the Atlantic was like a mill-pond. The weather was also very warm and the various swimming pools were in use for at least half of the crossing. Coming into New York and the Brooklyn cruise terminal at around 5.30am was very special and a fitting end to our journey. Our balcony was on the port side of the ship and so we had a wonderful view of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. Disembarkation at the Brooklyn terminal was painless and we were away around 9am by utilising priority disembarkation. Taxi's seemed in short supply and there were a number of limo drivers touting for business. We eventually got a cab to the Times Square area for a fare half of what the limo drivers were quoting. Our back-up plan would have been to call Northside Cars Brooklyn 7183877520 or 7183872222, who I understand offer a fast reasonable service for pretty much the price of a yellow cab. Finally it is worth noting that our booking in Queens Grill was made through a US based travel agent and we saved around $2000 in relation to the fares quoted in Australia for the same crossing. The regional pricing policy employed by Cunard/Carnival is in my view absolutely disgraceful and pressure should be brought to bear to encourage them to stop it. If the Australian fares had been only available to us we would just not have booked and instead arranged a business class fare from London to New York and some extra days in New York City. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
My husband and I returned to the USA, on the Queen Mary II,after a visit to the UK. We had travelled to the UK on a repostitioning cruise and the Queen Mary was our only choice for returning by sea. We cannot say we were disappointed. ... Read More
My husband and I returned to the USA, on the Queen Mary II,after a visit to the UK. We had travelled to the UK on a repostitioning cruise and the Queen Mary was our only choice for returning by sea. We cannot say we were disappointed. That would not be fair. However, we were not overly impressed, either. We are very seasoned cruisers and feel that we are well qualified to make a judgement of the ship. The entertainment we cannot fault. We both enjoyed the RADA troup and their story telling workshop along with the various productions that they did. They were a very talented group of young people and the whole experience with them was one of the two highlights of the crossing. The other highlight was the talk given by P.D. James who was most entertaining, and amazing, given her age. We attended several of the shows, namely the concert pianist, the two production shows, comedian, and the trumpet player. All were very entertaining. Our cabin was pleasant with nice bedding and a inconspicuous cabin steward was kept everything immaculate. The balcony was redundant as the weather was not for sitting out in. As it was the type of balcony we had made it impossible to see out when seated on the chairs provided. It was really a "standing only" balcony. The down side of the crossing for us was the food. We only ate two nights in the Britannia restaurant and we were amazed on the first night that the waiter did not introduce himself nor even say "Hello." Our water glasses were never re-filled. As we are British by birth we know that water with a meal is not usual, but it is very usual for Americans and a large percentage of the passenger base was American. Two nights we ate in the King's Court and the food was exceptionally mediocre and service non-existent. On Royal Caribbean ,if you eat in the casual restaurant for dinner, some effort is made to make the experience a little special with the wait staff bringing drinks to your table. On Princess they set the table with mats and cutlery. No extra effort was made on Queen Mary II. In fact, the wait staff were conspicuous by their absence and many tables were left uncleared. The meats were overcooked and the potatoes undercooked. (Should it not be the other way around?) We did, however, eat in two of the $10.00 per person eateries and the food was very good in both of them. The Carvery, however, suffered from inexperienced service and, again, no water refills. However, the Lotus restaurant could not be faulted. The food was excellent(we ate there twice), and the service was charming and very efficient. Hats off to that area!. Would we travel on the Queen Mary again? Probably not, if there is another choice i.e. a repositioning cruise. Failing that we would certainly plan our trip around the pricing as currently the service and food do not justify the price that we paid for the experience. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
1. Introduction. 1.1. Background and why we did this. Cruise food -- what a controversial topic! Everyone has an opinion about the food on a cruise. After all, other than the cabin accommodation and actual ship movement, food is just ... Read More
1. Introduction. 1.1. Background and why we did this. Cruise food -- what a controversial topic! Everyone has an opinion about the food on a cruise. After all, other than the cabin accommodation and actual ship movement, food is just about the only thing included in the price. Besides, everyone has individual tastes and likes. Furthermore, everyone has a different level of gustatory experience -- some have dined in the best establishments around the world, while others always cook their own meals. Even the cruise food reviews are quite variable. Some reviews rave about the wonderful food while other reviews seem to indicate that ptomaine poisoning was a daily occurrence. 1.2. What we did. To try to address this controversial subject, four of us decided to do a fairly rigorous joint review of the food on a cruise. We chose the Norwegian Epic on a trans-Atlantic repositioning cruise. We sailed on 2012-Apr-14 from Miami and enjoyed 11 days on the way to Barcelona. We were most fortunate that this large and impressive ship was half-empty, so perhaps we had more than the usual amount of personal attention. Considering that Epic has 21 different food outlets, we had our work cut out for us. Accordingly, we created a disciplined review technique and did our best to visit as many restaurants as possible in 11 days. Each of us had a review sheet for every meal and recorded our findings right at the table. We broke the meal experience into 13 different scored factors as explained in paragraph 3 below. We often photographed the servings. All four of us did our scoring as independently as possible. We did our best to evaluate each meal as a stand-alone, not by means of a comparison to other ship-board meals. In other words, we tried to do our scoring using an absolute scale such that the same scoring technique could be applied to a super fancy formal dinner with the Queen or to a quick sandwich at a street corner barbeque pit. For each meal, the maximum possible total score was 100 points. At the end of the voyage, we summarized the scores, analyzed everything, and reached some conclusions about the food. 1.3. Who we are. The four of us are close friends who have traveled extensively together. We are two couples, all over 60 (but not by a lot), from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. We are all in relatively good health, all things considered, with no dietary restrictions at all. We are all retired now, but our previous occupations include an engineer, a technical writer, a teacher, and a nurse. 1.4. Our qualifications. Why is our review any better than the other dozens of cruise food reviews? First, we enjoy and have experienced dining in anything from very high-end establishments to greasy spoon dives. All of us cook our own meals from time to time, and we have a bit of professional chef training among the group. We have all cruised before. We have experienced five different lines on 16 cruises, not all together. Our review process is disciplined, repeatable, and transparent. It is explained fully in paragraph 3 below -- we tried to avoid qualitative opinion as much as possible in preference for quantitative facts. 2. Results Summary. 2.1. Overall conclusion. We were pleasantly blown away by the food; it greatly exceeded our expectations. We have been on five different cruise lines and enjoyed the NCL "freestyle" form of food service the best. When the opportunity arose, we returned to our favorite outlets. The staff developed a personal relationship with us and treated us like individuals. Some meals were among the best we have ever experienced, but even the worst were significantly better than the average world-wide restaurant. Bravo, NCL and Norwegian Epic, job well done. 2.2. Numeric score summary. The numbers prove our conclusion. Overall, we experienced 124 "person-meals" at 14 different food outlets. The average score for all the restaurants was 88.06 out of a possible 100, a very high score. This shows that the food on board Epic is very good, much better than many land-based restaurants. The table below shows the average score for each of the restaurants we visited. Rankings Placing Outlet Average 1 Le Bistro 98.63 2 La Cucina 98.50 3 Moderno 97.25 4 Cagney's 90.25 4 Shanghai 90.25 6 Manhattan 89.38 7 Teppanyaki 87.75 8 Cirque Dreams 87.00 9 Garden Cafe 86.43 9 Taste 86.43 11 Great Outdoors 85.25 12 Spice H2O 85.00 13 Wasabi 84.75 14 O'Sheehan's 80.67 2.3. Restaurants Visited and Exceptions. Clearly, we visited only 14 of the 21 outlets on board Epic. Even 11 days were not enough to visit all. Some outlets such as the crew's messes were off-limits to us. We looked at but did not eat in the Haven dining room where the Haven suite guests can get away from the unwashed herds. Nonetheless, we made a concerted effort to hit as many outlets as possible, including the Cirque Dreams performance dinner and the Spice H2O outdoor snack bar. We made multiple visits to all the restaurants we reviewed, with 40 person-meals in Garden Cafe, 28 in Taste, eight in Manhattan and Le Bistro, and between six and two in the rest. 2.4. Results Accuracy. Statistically, our analysis shows that the maximum score awarded was 100, the minimum was 68, and the standard deviation was 7.39. In other words, all four of us generally agreed in our scoring. As a validation of our technique, we did the same evaluation at a local mid-range restaurant, with a resulting average score of 80.8. We did find that our scores increased as the cruise progressed, but part of that trend is because our visits to the more preferred restaurants were concentrated at the end of the cruise. We found a potential problem with our results in that some of us misinterpreted the scoring definitions. Accordingly, our conclusions are based only partly on the numbers, and rely for confirmation on the notes and pictures we made during the meals. 2.5. Our Personal Impressions. Numbers tell only part of the story, particularly with something as subjective as food. Accordingly, we have some individual impressions of the food. 2.5.1. AW. In my opinion, Epic has done an extremely good job of providing food for the passengers. Feeding even a couple of thousand people three times a day is no mean feat, but the fact that they feed about five thousand month after month on a ship and aiming at a very high quality level simply amazes me. On this cruise, I had a couple of the very best meals I have ever experienced anywhere. Even the meals I enjoyed the least were still very good. I was disappointed at the extra cost for some of the outlets, but then I am known as a cheapskate at the best of times. To counter that, the restaurants that do not charge extra are perfectly fine in my opinion. I would be very happy to avoid the extra cost places. On the other hand, in most but not all cases, I was glad to pay the extra cost since the dining experience was exceptionally good at the special places. Overall, I would take another cruise on Epic simply because of the food. 2.5.2. EW. The overall gastronomic experience was great -- I enjoyed it all. The enormous variety of food overwhelmed me a bit in the beginning. Everywhere we went, the serving staff were extremely courteous and always smiling. Was that because there weren't very many passengers? I can't understand how anyone can say the food was terrible -- even the lowest rated meal was far from inedible, and we did not get ptomaine poisoning even once! 2.5.3. HF. I found all of the restaurants, including the buffets, to be of very high quality and easily on a par with most land-based restaurants. I feel that some of the extra-cost restaurants did not offer additional value for the money, with respect to special ambience, service, or food choice and quality. I was impressed with the buffet in the Garden Cafe because of the variety of foods offered and because of the myriad healthy choices available. I particularly enjoyed the attentiveness and helpfulness of the serving staff who seemed genuinely interested in us as individuals. 2.5.4. PF. This was such a neat adventure. Having the opportunity to taste many different styles of food from different countries was an enlightening experience. It was great just planning where we would go and when, trying to make sure all the different restaurants were covered. Once having tried a particular style, I enjoyed the discussions on whether we should try to get there again. I especially enjoyed visiting a number of the restaurants particularly Garden Cafe and Taste to try other items on their menus. Our theatre meal at Cirque Dreams was unique with the 'show' taking place right in front of us or even directly over our heads. The ambience in some of the restaurants with the ocean just outside our table window, sometimes with waves splashing the window, helped to make the meal even more enjoyable. I found that most of the specialty restaurants had wonderful dedicated staff who would go out of their way to explain the meal, the ingredients and anything special about the preparation. All were most attentive and I always felt welcome and 'special' in their restaurant. It was even special to have the different chefs come to explain why certain things were done in a particular way for a particular restaurant. At times I felt a little uncomfortable about filling in the forms as we were eating but I understood the need to write it down promptly so we did not get confused or forget. I am sensitive to capsaicin (pepper) but I had little difficulty with spices or foods that would irritate my digestive system since I was told ahead of time if something might be too hot for me. I did try a few hot things and knew that if the staff said it was hot or not I could trust their opinions. The ambience for most meals added greatly to the pleasure of eating in a particular place. The staff made me feel important and most of the time if they were seen in a different location they would recognize me, smile and sometimes comment. All in all it was a positive adventure. 3. Methodology Summary. 3.1. Score Sheet and Explanation. The score sheet we used is described below. In essence, we broke each meal experience into thirteen separate factors, as described below. Each scorer rated everything completely independently, without any significant discussion among us. In addition, the maximum score was defined to be the best meal or dining situation ever experienced anywhere. In other words, the scoring was to be an absolute measurement, not a comparison against other restaurants or meals on board Epic, or even on any cruise ship. The scoresheet had space for numeric scores as well as written notes and comments. 3.1.1. Table setting. Maximum score 5. The equipment to consume the meal must be appropriate, ranging from six forks, five spoons, and four knives for a super fancy formal dinner, through to bare hands and paper napkins at a fast food joint. This includes plates, utensils, napkins, glasses and so on. 3.1.2. Seating comfort. Maximum score 5. If the diner is not comfortable, the meal experience suffers significantly. This factor includes things like chairs, table height, and space between tables. 3.1.3. Ambience. Maximum score 5. A pleasant environment definitely enhances the meal enjoyment. Furthermore, the ambience must be appropriate -- an Italian restaurant should look Italian! The surroundings, lighting, sounds, and staff clothing contribute to the ambience. 3.1.4. Presentation. Maximum score 5. If food looks appetizing, the dining experience is better. For this factor, we primarily looked at how the food was displayed on the plates or in a buffet. 3.1.5. Taste. Maximum score 20. This is the most important factor as shown by the high maximum score. Sweet things should be sweet, beef should taste beefy, and so on. This factor captures the scorer's opinion of the flavours of the meal. 3.1.6. Texture. Maximum score 10. Almost as important as taste, the feel of food as it is chewed and swallowed impacts meal enjoyment significantly. This factor assesses mouthfeel, chewability, tenderness, crunchiness, and similar textures. 3.1.7. Smell. Maximum score 10. The odour of food is a major part of taste, so we assigned a separate factor for this assessment. Smell also includes possibly obtrusive odours from the surroundings. 3.1.8. Food temperature. Maximum score 5. Hot things should be hot, but not too hot. Similarly, food should be warm or cold as appropriate. 3.1.9. Service. Maximum score 10. Good service is a significant part of meal enjoyment. The attentiveness and promptness of the wait staff is assessed here. 3.1.10. Cleanliness. Maximum score 5. This factor is sort of obvious, but must be assessed. Food service should always be clean. 3.1.11. Quality. Maximum score 10. Even with impeccable preparation and presentation, poor ingredients will detract from the diner's enjoyment. This factor captured our impression of the food "goodness". 3.1.12. Drinks. Maximum score 5. We deliberately didn't evaluate wines or other alcoholic beverages because they are not included in the meal. On the other hand, beverages like water, coffee, milk, juice and so on are definitely part of the meal. We rated the quality, temperature, quantity and the like. 3.1.13. Overall impression. Maximum score 5. Sometimes the whole is more than the sum of the parts. This factor allowed for that possibility. Here, we captured each person's own opinion of the entire dining experience. 3.2. Analysis techniques. Our analysis procedure had three components. 3.2.1. Statistics. Since the scores are numeric, we could do quite a bit of statistical analysis. Using a spreadsheet we calculated average, maximum, minimum, median, mode, standard deviation, and kurtosis for each meal, each restaurant, each day, each scorer, and for the entire data set. Rather than explain each measure here, you should simply do an Internet search for each measurement if you are curious. We used the various statistical measures to rank the restaurants and meals as well as to validate our scoring process. 3.2.2. Notes and photos review. Having done the number crunching, we then referred to the notes and pictures we made during the actual meals. That data helped us to truly determine what we collectively liked or disliked. After all, numbers tell only part of the story. 3.2.3. Consensus. We discussed the data and findings to reach a consensus. All four of us agree with the conclusions presented here. 4. Results details. 4.1. Breakfast. Since some restaurants were not open for breakfast, our choices were somewhat limited, though definitely not small. On the other hand, the extensive food selections at each facility made every morning an adventure. What different food will I try today? In the Garden Cafe buffet in particular, the chefs seemed to go out of their way to prepare the breakfast just the way we wanted. The large toaster in the Garden Cafe could have been hotter -- passing toast through multiple times was a pain. Probably because of the very small passenger load, we always managed to find a window seat, which definitely added to the ambience. At O'Sheehan's, the bowling alley was being maintained during breakfast, so the ambience was pretty bad! Taste was a very good choice for breakfast because of the attentive table service. We clearly enjoyed breakfast in Taste since we returned there four times! Overall, the average breakfast score was 87.48 points, even higher than lunch. 4.2. Lunch. Most of our lunches were taken in the Garden Cafe buffet; other locations were Taste, Wasabi, Spice H2O, and Great Outdoors. The buffet choices are numerous and each of us ate our fill. One feature particularly enjoyed was the ph? bar where one could select from a wide choice of food ingredients and herbs and have the soup served fresh and hot. In general, one can have as healthy, or unhealthy, a meal as one wants. The score of 86.43 for Garden Cafe, highest of all our lunch venues, is testament to the high quality of its offerings. Taste was a nice elegant change on some days when we just wanted to be served instead of serving ourselves. Our very first impression of the ship's restaurant food and service was obtained at Taste on boarding day and we were not disappointed. A polka band at Great Outdoors enhanced our German dining experience on day 10. Our final lunch was at Wasabi, the sushi bar where we noshed through several types of raw fish and other denizens of the deep. The average score for all 10 lunches (we had one lunch on shore in Ponta del Gada) was 84.68. 4.3. Dinner. As might be expected, the dinners we had were generally the highlights of the cruise food. The average score for all 11 dinners was 91.66, a very good score compared to all the world's restaurants. One recurring theme across all dinners was the quality of the breads. Without fail, we found that the various different types of bread were excellent. The freshness contributed to the quality significantly, on top of the large variety of breads. We commended the on-board bakers, another of those unseen but vital components of a cruise ship crew. The detractor for the dinners at most places was the extra cost. At a couple of dinners, we gladly paid the extra charge. Unfortunately, at a couple of others, we were inclined to ask for our money back. Clearly, the ship offers a very wide variety of dinner experiences, ranging from a self-service buffet through an extremely high-end formal dinner. We appreciated the casual Epic dress code and did not see anyone abusing the very relaxed rules. On the other hand, we did not see anyone exceeding the dress code -- we saw not one tuxedo other than on some of the wait staff! Finally, we quite enjoyed the attention given to us by the crew. The service was very good, even at the worst. In some cases, the wait staff knew us by name very quickly. That may have been a reflection of the ship being only half full, but we sincerely hope it was not because they realized we were doing a food review. 4.4. Taste. We enjoyed our first meal on the ship in Taste, and it was quite good considering the turmoil of the change-over day. Overall, Taste scored 86.43 and placed ninth of the 14 places we tried. Taste is the only restaurant where we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We enjoyed the ambience in Taste, depending on where we sat. The open center area was like being in an echoing bowl. The noise from around and above was very obtrusive, especially when the casino was open. The window seats were much quieter and definitely had a better view. Generally, the food was good and the service improved somewhat as the days went by. As a "mass market" outlet, Taste probably ranked just where it should. 4.5. Manhattan. This upscale main dining room looked very appealing, with many window seats and a band playing nearby. As we discovered, the band was a bit too nearby and loud for our enjoyment. When we requested seating somewhat farther away, the ambience became much better for us. At times, the service left something to be desired. We sometimes had a long wait for dishes to arrive, and sometimes they were not warm enough. Manhattan scored 89.38, a very good score in comparison with the rest of the world, but it ranked sixth overall on Epic. In general, we are of the opinion that Manhattan could have been better, though it was definitely not a bad place to dine. 4.6. Garden Cafe. We visited this restaurant the most of any on board. The score for Garden Cafe was 86.43 in a tie for ninth place. We had many meals here - five breakfasts and five lunches, totalling 40 person-meals. Overall, breakfast here was a pleasant way to start the day. Each meal had a large variety of food choices with the most popular being an omelet of various sorts, often with fried tomato on the side. We also enjoyed smoked salmon and shrimp as often as possible. All our choices were nicely done with no exception. The eggs were hot and runny (when wanted) and spice was seldom needed to enhance the flavour. We even tried the spinach benedict which was runny and delicious. Coffee started each breakfast and servers were usually quick to clear away used cups. Servers also brought around various juices (orange, cranberry, grapefruit and so on) during the meals. If one had any difficulty carrying a tray, a server was generally on hand to help before one really noticed needing any help. We generally sat at the bow overlooking the staff hot tub and the ocean ahead -- this clearly added to the ambience. A couple of times we did sit aft and port and once in La Cucina, which gave us a quieter dining place and a different ambience. Breakfast also included yogurt of various varieties and fresh fruit. Apples, bananas, pineapple, and oranges were among the many fruit varieties always available. The buffet setting allowed for great variety and an opportunity to speak to many of the staff. On entering the restaurant we were always greeted by smiling staff members, some of whom had worked in the different speciality restaurants the evenings before. They usually recognized us and gave especially welcoming smiles. The ocean view was fantastic and the table setting was comfortable. The tables were always appropriately set and equipped. We went to the Garden Cafe for 20 person-meals at lunch, our most popular lunch spot. Once again we had plenty of choices for food and the setting was quite pleasing. We enjoyed pork ribs, salad with feta cheese, meatloaf, beef stir fried vegetables and grilled fish. Various salads and soups were also part of a lunch time meal. We also tried the veal wellington, lamb stew and buttered chicken. All were generally done to a desirable degree. The beverage of choice was usually water or juice but iced tea was also enjoyed. Desserts included pecan pie and excellent ice creams: rum raisin, raspberry sherbet, vanilla, and chocolate to name but a few flavours. A variety of sauces were also available. Lunch was generally enjoyed and the view was wonderful even on one very rough day. Surprisingly, considering the number of meals we ate here, we took very few pictures of the food. In addition, we did not try the evening meal service in Garden Cafe -- we had simply too many other choices. Overall, as our most popular restaurant, the Garden Cafe was a resounding success, even considering the buffet nature of the place. 4.7. Le Bistro. This restaurant was simply spectacular. As a French-themed high end place, one would expect the dining experience to be absolutely top-notch, and it was. This restaurant was our definite favorite. We returned for a second evening here, and by then, the wait staff and ma'tre d's knew us by name! Three out of eight scores were 100, implying that this is the best restaurant ever experienced. Even the average score of 98.63 out of 100 is superb. The fantastic mushroom soup elicited much praise, as did the excellent breads. The roast pork had a fine earthy smell, and the cote de boeuf was delicately tender and beautifully presented. Similarly, the bouillabaisse was served piece by piece with an explanation. The only detractors were some noise from the bowling alley directly overhead and the artwork with advertisements. Still, those were very minor details that barely marred a beautiful experience, twice! We took lots of photos! 4.8. Cagney's. This high-end steakhouse was a good experience for us. The score of 90.25 was a tie for fourth place overall. We visited once for our final dinner on board. A flood in the Manhattan dining room meant that Manhattan and Cagney's and Moderno were disrupted for several days, but we managed to get a booking on the final day of the cruise. By then, our scores were being inflated a bit, and one of us had a slight cold, so our scores might be somewhat inaccurate. Nonetheless, our comments and pictures help allow for any possible inaccuracy. We were very pleased with the soups and appetizers, particularly the lobster bisque and Portobello mushrooms. At first, we thought the steaks were more tough than they should have been in an establishment at this level, but we eventually determined that the problem was actually the knives. Fairly dull steak knives gave a definite impression of meat toughness. All four of our knives were dull, to the point that we raised the problem to the head chef for Cagney's and Moderno. He agreed that it was time to replace the knives because they had been in use since the ship was commissioned. The ambience and seating comfort drew raves from us; the chairs were the most comfortable we encountered anywhere on board! Dessert was good all around. Overall, we found the dining experience in Cagney's to be worth the extra $25 per person, but barely. If Epic sharpens the knives, perhaps the score would be better. 4.9. Moderno. In this Brazilian churrascaria, the salad bar was a joy to use. Unusual items combined with beautiful presentation really enhanced our enjoyment. The meat presentation directly off the skewer was an entertaining addition to the very good food. Moderno ranked third and scored 97.25 points out of 100, an extremely good score. We did find that the meat delivery came too fast, but that means we should have showed our red cards to slow things down. We did find that the chicken was a little dry, but otherwise, the meats were top-notch. In all, this was an excellent experience well worth the extra cost, and enhanced by a visit at our table from all three chefs! 4.10. La Cucina. We had one dinner in this Italian restaurant. The ambiance was enhanced by the pillars, fake library, and nice music; the ocean view seating sure did not hurt! Unfortunately, the table was small and crowded for four. We enjoyed the Cucina salad and various antipasti including figs in a salad. Everyone enjoyed the many courses, from carpachia and ossobuco to the pizza Margherita with a nice thin crust. Our salads were colourful with various forms of lettuce and grains. The greens were crisp and colourful. String band music added to the Italian atmosphere. Our main courses included chicken parmesan, seafood fettuccine with tomato and mozzarella, and spaghetti carbonara. All of us agreed that the pasta was delightfully al dente, and that the various sauces were tasty and perfectly spiced. Most enjoyed the tiramisu for dessert. La Cucina scored an extremely high 98.50 out of 100, giving a ranking of second, just a fraction of a point out of first. This was a delightful dining experience for all of us. 4.11. Teppanyaki. There's nothing like a teppan grill for an exciting dining experience. Your chef stands at a large stainless steel grill and prepares your food right before your eyes and with great flair. Typically, the chef juggles his implements and the food with the greatest of ease then serves each diner individually. Teppanyaki puts this performance over the top. Our chef had great rapport with the diners, speaking to us as if we were old friends, all the while cracking jokes, flipping his tools, the salt and pepper shakers, and anything else that would make a noise. His overall performance was worth half the price of admission. This was a great fun meal but detractors included being seated with four other diners who didn't mingle well, noise and smells from the other grills operating (there were eight grills with three in use), and generally too much clatter. There was a good selection of foods including edamame beans and miso soup appetizer, lobster, shrimp, scallops, steak, seaweed salad, and so on. It is amazing that the chef can cook for eight people all at once and get all the orders correct but he did. The only downside was having to watch the beautiful scallops being overcooked. Teppanyaki would be great value at half the $25.00 per person we paid. The score was 87.75 for a ranking of seventh. 4.12. Shanghai. We finally got our Chinese food fix at Shanghai's for a $15.00 surcharge. It struck us as too expensive for what amounts to dining in a large family-style Chinese restaurant not unlike those to be found in any city with a large Asian population. The decor was Asian appropriate -- lots of reds and blacks, decorations, pictures, etc. We didn't care for the "last supper" knockoff painting featuring a collection of young Asian girls in that famous setting -- just a bit too weird for us. Service was attentive, maybe overly so, but since the restaurant had hardly anyone in it they were probably just happy to serve us. We were going to order "combo number 4 plus all 4 desserts" but we ended up with six mains under staff urging. The items included Kung Pau chicken, beef broccoli, mahi-mahi, pork, stir-fried rice, and some noodle dishes. Overall, we found the items to be well prepared, hot, tasty, but nothing better than what one can find in the aforementioned family Chinese restaurants. For the price, one would expect to have items like dim-sum, whole fish floating in sauce, 5-jewel something, and so on -- specialty items in addition to the standard fare -- and a little less 5-spice powder. Plus some typical Chinese fruits (Lychee, Longan, and so on) for dessert. Oh, and the green tea was too weak and the crème br'lee too runny. Overall, we judged Shanghai to be as good as most Chinese restaurants we've eaten in. The score of 90.25 surprisingly gave a ranking of tied for fourth. In this case, our opinion clearly contradicts the scoring, so we lean toward the opinion side. 4.13. O'Sheehan's. This is NCL's attempt to provide a pub-like atmosphere. The place is large but separated into two areas on each side of the center aisle. Seating varies from sit-down tables to a bar to high tables and chairs. There's a bowling alley on one side. The morning we went for breakfast the pin-setter was going through some sort of maintenance cycle. Noisy, but only a few minutes duration, thankfully. Pub-style foods are served in napkin-lined open-weave baskets but why NCL would want to imitate low-end fare we can't fathom. There are lots of comfortable pubs that have better presentation of food than O'Sheehan's. The photo below shows how they serve fish and chips. The green stuff is supposed to be mushy peas but they're nothing like the real thing. For breakfast, one choice was some croissants and a turnover; the croissants could have been flakier and the turnover was skimpy on the filling. Not a great start to our day. Our other diners found problems too like over-buttered toast, greasy hash-browns, over-crisp bacon, powdery eggs. Coffee was excellent (Yay!!!). We scored O'Sheehan's as 80.67 which ranked the place 14th, or last. 4.14. Cirque Dreams. Since this restaurant is actually a circus performance, our experience here was a wonderful adventure. Although we all found it very crowded with hardly room to breathe, being very close to the performance floor was most advantageous for us. By the nature of the restaurant, the menu is fixed, and the meal is really secondary to the circus performance. Our meal started with prosciutto, cheese, and a delicate sauce. The presentation was appealing and all enjoyed the taste and texture. Our surf and turf main course was served efficiently. The shrimp was a bit chewy but the steak was medium rare and juicy. The dessert was three small sweets, beautifully plated and very delicious. The circus atmosphere was wonderful and the show left nothing to be desired. We were particularly impressed with the servers who maneuvered their way through the cramped areas, not interfering with the circus performance at all. This restaurant scored 87.00 and actually placed eighth, a surprisingly good finish for a restaurant that is mostly about the show. 4.15. Wasabi. Either you love sushi (cold rice and possibly seaweed wrapped around other ingredients) and sashimi (sliced raw seafood) or you don't. Wasabi shares space with the noodle bar and Teppanyaki. Seating is on stools at a long bar where one can look at the raw ingredients used and also at the chef who prepares everything. One sour note: there was some very nice flute music being played at the bar but louder music from the deck below took away from an otherwise enjoyable environment. The menu lists a number of individual items but, mercifully, lists combination plates having selections of different items that go well together. There are also some fully cooked items for those who are squeamish about raw fish. Our selections were prepared in front of us but, unfortunately, one cannot directly view preparation as the work table is blocked from view by the chef. Nevertheless, the final placement of food on the plates was right before our eyes. There is a very modern, clean, even sleek appearance to Wasabi that complements the neat, orderly presentation of the food. Overall we rated Wasabi as 84.75, but individual scores from 70 through 96 have much to do with one's appreciation for this type of food. Here is the Ruby combo: tuna, octopus, eel, cucumber, tuna. 4.16. Great Outdoors. This restaurant is primarily a fast food outlet for the pool area. We enjoyed a German-themed special lunch, with schnitzels, bratwurst, sauerbraten, spaetzle, and other German specialties. The score of 85.25 out of 100 places it 12th of 14 food outlets. The majority of our comments indicated that the meal was fairly ordinary compared to other German dining establishments. The buffet environment detracted from the ambience though the good band helped somewhat. We found the pork schnitzel to be delicate, and the Sacher torte awesome, but the sauerbraten was nowhere near "sauer". We did not take any photos at this meal. Unfortunately, this special meal might not be representative of the usual burgers and pizza at Great Outdoors. As shown by the score, this was not among our favorite restaurants, though a score of 85 is pretty good in comparison to all the world's restaurants. 4.17. Spice H2O. This outdoor cafe has a minimal variety of food, but that may be because we visited it late in the meal period. In addition, we had only two person-meals here, so this might be a somewhat inaccurate evaluation. Nonetheless, the sunshine and hot tubs added to the ambience. We can see that this would be a very nice place to escape from the hordes of kids on a normal cruise -- on ours, there were only 40 children out of 2000 guests. Spice H2O scored 85.00 points and ranked 12th overall, not particularly high. Even though the curry was tasty, a larger choice would have enhanced our enjoyment. The service here was very good from the attentive waiters. We have no pictures of the food at Spice H2O. 5. If We Were to Do This Food Critique Again. We enjoyed doing this review. Between the planning well before the cruise and the post-cruise analysis and report writing, we stretched the experience into a period of several months. We are convinced that the 13 meal factors are valid, though we would probably rearrange the scoring form somewhat. Similarly, we would separate the numerical scores from the narrative comments, simply for ease of manipulation and analysis. We might also implement the scoring on a smartphone or tablet, but good old pencil and paper worked satisfactorily for us. On the other hand, it appears that not all of us understood the previously defined scoring technique. In essence, each of us used somewhat different ways to establish how points were awarded or deducted. Consequently, we have had to lean on opinion rather than fact more than we desired for this report. For a number of reasons, we were unable to complete the report until a couple of months after the cruise. That meant our memories of the experience had faded a bit. If we were to do this again, we would concentrate on completing the review within a month of the end of the cruise and we would make absolutely certain that everyone agreed with and fully understood how the scores were to be assigned. By doing so, the review would become much more rigorous and scientific. Nonetheless, this whole experience was fun and educational. We learned that restaurant reviews are hard to do, particularly among a group. We will always look at any meal very critically now, mentally reaching for the scoresheet! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
We had a marvelous time the Ventura transtlantic- would have liked a few more warm days but thats just the luck of the draw. enjoyed the hassle free flight and journey to join the ship. CABIN- It was smaller than on RCI and beds seemed ... Read More
We had a marvelous time the Ventura transtlantic- would have liked a few more warm days but thats just the luck of the draw. enjoyed the hassle free flight and journey to join the ship. CABIN- It was smaller than on RCI and beds seemed smaller too but as you don't spend too much time in there it didn't matter. i enjoy sea days and sitting on the balcony listening to the waves and reading is most important to me, so as long as i can put my feet up and relax, then I'm happy! wardrobe area good size and toilet fine but wish p and o would get rid of the shower curtain. FOOD- You would have to be very picky not to find something you like to eat on this ship. we were on freedom dining and most days we would pop down and look at the menu for that evening and if nothing whetted our appetite we either had a buffet or went to the section of The Beach House that was converted in the evenings to waiter service. our meals also varied depending on what shows/entertainment we wanted to see.Also being on freedom dining as we had already paid our tips on our on board account we didn't feel the waiters/maitre de would worry if we didn't eat there as they knew their tips were safe. when we did eat in cinnamon they were always attentive and nice. ENTERTAINMENT- We enjoyed all the entertainment. we only saw the Headliners Theatre Co a few times but liked what we saw. The comedians and singers were all really good Rob Linacre we thought shone but CLEM CURTIS was simply brilliant. A mention too for The Ventura Orchestra, these were very good and certainly complimented the singers. TOURS- cant comment on here as did our own, will post review on port of call board. A lot of the crew were quiet, but that's not a complaint, rather that than 'over the top'!they were friendly and always said hello. LAUNDERETTE- this was really useful as I'm one of those who hates lots of dirty clothes around. its just a shame about some of the people who use them, a bit like the sun bed savers! A few occasions witnessed people being totally self centred. like the lady who put her washing in one machine and saw the next machine empty, so took one item out and put it in the empty machine to 'save' it while she went back to her cabin to get another load but in the meantime there were other people who came in to use the facility and couldn't. now my only gripe is the medical services- don't get me wrong i expect they do a good service for those in real need, but there should be a way to buy 'over the counter' medicines on board. i had a troublesome rash/prickly heat which started on 3rd day of holiday. i managed to get some calamine lotion in the shop which didn't do much good but as i thought it was the heat i thought i would have to grin and bear it. i only realised after we left the azures and it got cooler that my rash didn't change and as we were then constantly at sea i had to go and ask at medical centre about it and nurse told me to get anti histamine cream from on board shop but they said they don't sell it, went back to medical s]centre and was told is wanted any cream would have to pay £50 to see doc. needless to say i didn't bother. i was also annoyed as i feel it is either the air con or strong detergent being used on laundry as rash disappeared once home even though its been very warm here. ignoring my gripe with the medical centre i still had a great holiday if i could find out what caused the rash i would be back on board in no time. the ship and crew are great so get on board! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
This was a bargain opportunity trip, that was booked with no prior preference for doing another TranAtlantic. Saw the deal- booked it. :) This was cruise #72, and 4th TranAtlantic. This itinerery is not my preference, but my husband ... Read More
This was a bargain opportunity trip, that was booked with no prior preference for doing another TranAtlantic. Saw the deal- booked it. :) This was cruise #72, and 4th TranAtlantic. This itinerery is not my preference, but my husband prefers it. We spent 4 days prior in Rome, which is always a wonderful touring city. We took a CC arranged bus transfer, since my husband has some mobility issues which worked out excellent. In the past I have taken the cheap train. Embarkment was with a short wait and very organized. I had a large on board credit- that I was able to use, by getting the "My Time" dining on the ship. IF you want this at booking, you have to prepay the tips. This feature is not as well run as other lines. We were "tracked" into a time, at the same table for the most part. It certainly is not "freestyle. They keep you with the same wait staff, and hence the continued policy of individual tipping. It doesn't work well, in my opinion. But, food was good and survice was excellent, despite the appearance of being short staffed and looking overworked, which is another issue, I was conflicted about. I went to only a few shows, which were all good. We are Diamond, and with this status pretty ordinary- it was always over crowded at the events. In my opinion, it should be only open to those members and not extra "guests" that is sometimes complained about. The booking agent, included a very nice cocktail party and dinner for two, which we used in Chops. The wasted food, due to the too large portions, should be addressed perhaps? The ports were good and I toured independently in each. Livorno, I had a rental car, which I did require dock assistance getting back to the ship. :) The port area is NOT well marked. In Toulon, I went with a CC organized tour, which was excellent. In Barcelona- taking the city bus was superior to the ship bus. It dropped off right at the Christopher Columbus statue for half the price. :) The Hop on Hop off bus gives a great overview, which I've done before. I have never made the Azores due to weather/route cancellations. I have two more TranAtlantics booked next year- maybe. :) The 8 sea days, had me pretty bored, but the cruise overall certainly was very enjoyable anyway. The value of this sailing was excellent, but I would not have considered it, if it had not been. Disembarkment also went very smoothly. I had no problem getting a cab and making my 11:15am flight. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
Well, after all the worry after reading some of the reviews on this Cruise Line, we did actually go with an open mind. We where not dissappointed the ship was beautiful. After a very long flight we actually boarded just after 1pm plenty of ... Read More
Well, after all the worry after reading some of the reviews on this Cruise Line, we did actually go with an open mind. We where not dissappointed the ship was beautiful. After a very long flight we actually boarded just after 1pm plenty of time to unpack have lunch and a good look around. Everything on this ship is very expensively done the furnishings, decor etc are magnificent. Our cabin on Deck 12 was very clean and spacious and our cabin steward extremely good. We opted for the late seating for dinner as the early one was 6.30 a little soon for us, this was perfect as MSC did a show at 7.30pm for late diners so we saw the show before our meal. Every show was exeptional, we loved them all most could compare with a West End show they where so good. The Covent Garden Theatre is beautiful the nicest I have seen on any ship. We found the meals to be very good, plenty of choice and the Express Breakfast in the Main Dining Room was really nice. We have no cause to complain, yes the food on other ships is possibly better but for the price we paid the choice was very good and we enjoyed all. Our waiter Salvador was excellent. The Animation team worked really hard especially when we celebrated Crossing the Equator meaning that the pool had to be emptied and refilled and cleaned there was so much mess as people where Christened with Champagne, flour, milk, raw egg and last but not least Coco powder it really was quite a celebation!the ports of call where all good especially Rio and the Statue of Christ the Redeemer was magnificent. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and would have no hesitation in sailing with MSC again. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
We booked with NCL and this re-location transatlantic cruise primarily because it was the itinerary that we wanted. It was our first time trying the "free-style" sailing and for the most part was a good experience. We found the ... Read More
We booked with NCL and this re-location transatlantic cruise primarily because it was the itinerary that we wanted. It was our first time trying the "free-style" sailing and for the most part was a good experience. We found the crew to be friendly and doing what they could to make our cruise a good experience. We had most of our evening meals in the Seven Seas dining room. Service was good, however a little different not having the same waiters every night like one has on other cruises. The biggest disappointment came near the end of the cruise docking in Nynaeshamn, Sweden instead of Stockholm. We were mislead by our travel agent that the ship was docking in Stockholm. Nynaesham was an hour away and since we had to take a tender into port it made for a very short day. Anyone with NCL tours were given priority and were the first off the ship. Although Nynaeshamn was a quaint little town it was not Stockholm and we were not able to make it to our reservations that we had previously made. It seems Princess was docked right in the port of Stockholm where we thought we were to dockThe second downer was that a number of people got very sick the last evening on the ship. It seems everyone that had eaten their mixed seafood cocktail got a bad case of montezuma's revenge. I tried to find some pepto or even tums with no avail and was told they could not do anything without seeing their doctor. Not easy to do in the middle of the night. And not a good condition to be in with long flights the next day. There were several on our flight that were very sick... I had gone to the Garden Cafe early in the morning and asked for a banana for my wife but was ignored. Finally after some persistence a kind staff person found one for me.A big plus for NCL was their ice cream bar. We enjoyed that. The Cruise Critic group on the cruise was wonderful and we so enjoyed that. Big thanks to MickyAlthough we enjoyed our cruise as the ports of call were marvelous it is doubtful we would choose NCL again... Happy Cruising to you and yours Read Less

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