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5,972 Repositioning Cruise Reviews

This was my husband's third and possibly final cruise. We had tried a trans-Pacific cruise on Celebritiy's Millenium and then a Pacific Coast/Sea of Cortez cruise with Holland America. My DH informed me that if this cruise was ... Read More
This was my husband's third and possibly final cruise. We had tried a trans-Pacific cruise on Celebritiy's Millenium and then a Pacific Coast/Sea of Cortez cruise with Holland America. My DH informed me that if this cruise was not any better than the previous two, he was not going to cruise anymore. I am happy to say that the Azamara Journey was a terrific experience (I knew it would be since I had cruised on this ship twice before) but was thrilled that my husband agreed with me. FOOD; The most important part of the cruise for my DH is the food, and the Journey did not disappoint. We tried all the options: Prime C, Aqualina, Main Dining Room, Windows Cafe, the Pool Grill, and room service. Great quality and selection is available in the Main Dining Room, and the specialty restaurants are top quality. The chilled seafood platter and seared foie gras in Aqualina are fabulous, and the lava cake in Prime C is its signature dessert. Because we were in a Continental Suite, our butler Pravin also served us hors d'oeuvres and shrimp every afternoon. We took advantage of the complimentary dining in specialty restaurants for suite guests, but the $15.00 per person service charge for non -suite guests is well worth it. The Journey also offers Connoisseur Dinners a few times each cruise, and we also took advantage of this. Chef Singh made a wonderful dinner for 10 of us (using Prime C large back table for location) and Boris, the sommelier made some great wine pairings to accompany each course. The charge for the Connoisseur Dinner is $60.00 per person. One new feature of the Azamara Club Cruises is the addition of complimentary wine with lunch and dinner. I was afraid that the wines would be of poor quality, but I was pleasantly surprised. We had everything from French Chardonnays to Oregon Pinots and Chilean Malbecs. In addition, each night the ship offers an additonal bottle of a red wine and a white wine that you can purchase for half-price. We did this some nights and were very pleased with the choices offered. ACCOMMODATIONS: Because we were in a Continental Suite, we had ample space for everything. There is lots of storage in the cabin, two closets, and an extra-large bathroom, including tub, not shower. The Elemis products are great, especially the bath and shower gel. I don;'t think a suite is necessary to be comfortable on the ship, but it's nice if you have it. The extra-large balcony with table, two chairs AND lounger was especially nice to enjoy beautiful views. LECTURES: We had great lectures for all tastes. For the adventurous, there was Nigel, an outdoors enthusiast who shared videos of his most dangerous moments in the wild, as well as some footage of pandas. For the gardeners, we had the President of the American Horticultural Society who showed beautiful slides of plants and gardens. For the seacruisers, we had a few presentations by (sorry can[t remember his name) an expert who gave the history of the sea trade and some famous women pirates. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to one of the two shows presented by the five-member Cabaret Cast entitled :"Sing It and Swing It". It was ably performed,but we thought the best entertainment was provided at the Cova Cafe by Dan Daly and his great voice singing the classics and by the Kristin Lee trio up in the Looking Glass. Her voice is a dead-ringer for Pasty Cline and she is versatile enough to sing country, the Louis Armstrong classic "It's a Wonderful World", and pop. SERVICE: The Hotel Director Heike appeared to be everywhere at all times. She runs a tight ship and the results are spectacular service delivered with a smile and grace. Our butler Pravin was amazing and seemed to appear whenever we needed anything. He was assisted by Alvin and Juan who kept our cabin spotless, Wherever you are on the ship, the staff is friendly and helpful without being phony. It certainly adds to the whole experience. SHIP: The ship can have as many as 700 passengers, but on our trans-Atlantic cruise there were 600. We enjoyed the spaciousness and lack of "cattleherding" mentality. The main areas used by passengers are the Cabaret Theatre (for evening shows and lectures), the Looking Glass (for wonderful viewing and some activities), the Cova Cafe (specialty coffees and teas, in addition to the evening piano playing by the talented Dan Daly), and the Pool area with Outdoor Walking Track. The ship is in very good condition, and while we were in port we noticed painters painting the exterior and workers revarnishing the wood rails and loungers (some of the most comfortable we have ever experienced). It is a clean and inviting environment. PORTS OF CALL: Normally a trans-Atlantic offers relaxing days at sea with ports of call that are minor distractions, but this itinerary offered some great ones. Our first stop was in the Azores and Punta Delgata, then on to Gibraltar, Cartagena, and La Palma, Mallorca, before reaching our final destination of Barcelona. We enjoyed all of the ports of call, and the ship's tours were reasonably priced and significantly lower than the ones from previous cruises I have taken with Azamara. ACTIVITIES: We took advantage of the many activities offered during the cruise including the Team Trivia contests, the Musical Challenges, and the Battle of the Sexes. In addition, there were craft classes, bridge games, and yoga classes. There was so much planned everyday that we had a hard time deciding what to do. OVERALL: I would unhesitatingly reccommend the Azamara Journey for anyone who wants a lovey cruise experience with personal service, good food and wine, and a smaller ship. The average age of the passengers was 60 - 70 years of age (though there were some younger couples), and there were no children on our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We booked this cruise, because we did a similar cruise on the Emerald last year and enjoyed the sea days and European ports. This was our 9th Princess cruise, but first on the Grand. Embarkation: We booked our own air and flew to Ft ... Read More
We booked this cruise, because we did a similar cruise on the Emerald last year and enjoyed the sea days and European ports. This was our 9th Princess cruise, but first on the Grand. Embarkation: We booked our own air and flew to Ft Lauderdale with stops in Las Vegas and Nashville. A little excitement as we had to abort the landing in Fort Lauderdale due to a plane still on the runway. After a safe landing, we picked up our luggage and contacted Hyatt Place for their shuttle. After a 15 minute wait, we were picked up, told that Hyatt Place was overbooked, and was taken to Hyatt Place South, a new hotel. All worked out fine. The next morning we walked around for a while, picked up 18 cans of Budweiser for me and 12 cans of Heinekens for her. After repacking our suitcases, we took the hotel shuttle to the Grand. We had a 15 minute wait in the Aloha Deck line, vice Platinum line and boarded about 11:30. Everything smooth and uneventful so far. Our cabin was A742, which was the aft most cabin on the Port side, Aloha Deck, which worked out great for us, as we were near the aft pool and the two hot tubs and just under Horizon Court. I was glad to find that WiFi had a good signal in our cabin. In fact, the only problem with the cabin was a loose tile in the bathroom, which was fixed a day later. During the cruise, we noticed quite a bit of carpet replacement and were even asked if we would mind the carpet being replaced in our cabin. We declined due to the smell of the glue. Though, it is obvious the Grand is due for an overhaul, most things seemed to be in working order and we noticed quite a bit of maintenance effort. Itinerary: One thing we are taking from this cruise is how well the weather cooperated. We knew going in that the Atlantic can be quite rough this time of year, but we experienced calm seas the entire trip and only encountered a slight drizzle in London the Sunday after we had disembarked. We didn't use the pool, but did use the Spa up until we were in the North Atlantic. Also, we did 10 laps around the Promenade Deck each morning on the sea days. The trip around the bow on the Emerald Deck was a bit windy, but broke up the monotony. I found I could jump and let the wind carry me a few feet. That was fun. In the Gym, I was a bit upset to find that the treadmills didn't open up until 8;00 AM and people staked them out. But, I would just use the elliptical until one opened up, so wasn't a problem. We enjoyed all the ports, but avoided the ship's excursions as they were way overpriced. We took private tours in Greenock (Loch Lomond and Sterling Castle) and Cobh (Blarney Castle, Kinsale, Cork, and Cobh) and on our own in Bermuda, Dublin (St. Patrick's Cathedral, Guinness, and downtown), and Falmouth (Castle and downtown). We did break down and buy a Princess excursion to Rouen, which was delayed a couple of hours by the strike. Food: Since we are vegetarians, we were a little concerned, but every menu had great offerings, so no problem. For the first time, we bypassed formal night and had dinner in the Horizon Court. That worked out surprisingly well. Entertainment: We didn't attend any production shows. Didn't seem worth the effort to get a seat 30 or 45 minutes before a show. We saw a magic show that we felt was ok and a comedian that wasn't. We saw two movies on MUTS, so can cross that off our to do list. Blankets and popcorn were provided. Vista Lounge was a poor option for movies and I only tried it once. We found Skywalker Lounge to be a quiet place for afternoon reading. Disembarkation: Went smoothly for us. As we were staying at the Heathrow Hilton, we requested early disembarkation. I think the trip only took a little over an hour. The Hilton worked out great for us, as it is only a six minute walk from Terminal 4, reasonably priced with a full free buffet breakfast. The Heathrow Hilton will definitely be our choice on any future trips to London. This was our best cruise to date. Again, we had good weather, calm seas, and not nearly as cold as we had prepared for. We are flying back to London in the Fall for a return Transatlantic to take advantage of our round trip airfare. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Grand Princess Transatlantic Trip Review April 2010 I am delighted to report how much we enjoyed our first transatlantic cruise. We crossed on the Grand Princess and it was our first time on a Princess cruise. This is our 6th cruise out ... Read More
Grand Princess Transatlantic Trip Review April 2010 I am delighted to report how much we enjoyed our first transatlantic cruise. We crossed on the Grand Princess and it was our first time on a Princess cruise. This is our 6th cruise out of Port Everglades but all the others have been to Caribbean destinations. We read in the Princess Patter about a nice couple from Texas who were honored by the captain as the "Most Traveled Passengers" with 644 sailing days with Princess. The couple in second place had 625 days. How fortunate they are. I have read the excellent reviews on our transatlantic crossing by fellow passengers billco and DrJohn and highly recommend them. I will try to give my impressions without too much repetition. We booked this cruise because we now have time to do more traveling in the spring and fall. And because we live within an hours drive of Port Everglades we wanted to travel beyond the Caribbean ports we had already visited. We have wanted to do a repositioning cruise and this itinerary appealed to us. This would be our first visit to Ireland, but we have traveled by car in Scotland, England and France. Embarkation: It was very smooth. We hired a car service to drive us to Port Everglades which was cheaper than leaving our car in the parking garage or offsite long term parking. We arrived around 1:30 pm and there were no particular delays getting on board. Our cabin was B232. We picked an inside cabin because we thought a balcony wouldn't get used in the cold stormy North Atlantic and with all those sea days we could see the ocean from the Lido and Promenade Deck and save some money. But for the ports of call I did miss a balcony view. B232 on the 11th deck forward was an inside cabin with opposing mirrors giving the cabin a spacious ambiance. We had plenty of drawer space and our bags fit easily under the bed. We both found the bed more comfortable than expected. I had faxed a request for an egg crate but it wasn't there and wasn't needed. There was only one 110v electrical outlet but we were prepared with extension cords and multiple plugs to charge our camera and laptop batteries. We had room in the small refrigerator for a bucket of ice which our hard working room steward kept filled. The bathroom was adequate except I prefer a hand-held showerhead but the showerhead provided worked well enough. In the beginning the shower's temperature valve delivered only lukewarm water but we complained and it as immediately fixed and we had plenty of hot water after that. I would have preferred a cabin closer to the stern but we were late making our booking and took what was available. This forward location was nice because it was close to the front elevator bank giving quick access to the large theater, the exercise room and forward hot tubs. We did not use the adult sanctuary which cost $10 per half day. The front elevators also gave us easy access to the excellent hamburger + hotdog grill and excellent pizza station on the Lido deck. I did noticed only minor maintenance efforts that seemed routine to me and I took no particular notice of signs of aging or wear and tear. The ambiance was classical browns which I preferred over the gaudy pinks on newer ships. Itinerary: Sea Days: I was amazed the weather was so nice on the entire trip. I had expected heavy seas and was delighted the seas were so "slight" to use the captain's term. To keep us busy they had Photoshop, Excel and Word computer classes which were $75 for a 4 hour package or $25 per class. The instructor did a excellent job and sometimes full classes had to turn away passengers because of limited space. They also had other things like fruit carving which we enjoyed and cocktail demonstrations. Every day they had a classy afternoon tea and there were two wine tasting classes which were full in spite of the extra cost. The Princess Patter was always full of things to do. We were never bored. Titanic: I was very pleased that on April 15th in the afternoon the captain came on the PA system and somberly announced that we were approximately 134 miles from the position where the Titanic sank on this day 98 years ago. We were iceberg free. Another nice feature I was surprised to find was the excellent Promenade Deck which was well used and very enjoyable. It gave exercising walkers 360º views. Toward the bow you went up some stairs (ladder in ship's terms) to the level of the Emerald Deck where you had access to the very tip of the bow. What a grand view it was albeit sometimes windy. This was the first ship I have been on that offered this unique tip-of-the-bow view to the passengers. Bermuda: the ship docked at the King's Wharf (also known as the Royal Navy Dockyard) at the far western end of the island which required a one way $4 ferry ride over to the capital of Hamilton. We walked around Hamilton and up to Fort Hamilton which was free and offered nice views. To return to King's Wharf we decided to take the public bus which made the trip in about 50 minutes and gave views of the long gone railway line. There is an impressive fort at King's Wharf that is worth a visit. If you wanted to visit St. George at the eastern end of the island and don't want to pay for a taxi ride or risk a traffic jam delaying your return, there are high speed ferries leaving and returning to King's Wharf. Greenock: We purchased the excursion into Edinburgh with a tour of the famous castle and time for shopping. No gloves or winter hats were for sale. It was a comfortable 2 hour bus ride and the excursion guaranteed we would be sure to return to the ship before sailing. Dublin: We purchased the Princess excursion with included a city tour and time for lunch on our own. We had our best on-shore meal at a pub near Trinity College. Cobh and Cork: We purchased the Princess bus tour that included Blarney Castle. It included an almost inedible lunch at a country hotel. I don't recommend it. Falmouth: The Princess excursions we wanted was booked. We rode the tender into Falmouth and walked around. We visited the maritime museum which was very nice and there was a discount for Princess passengers. Le Havre: We booked the Princess excursion for a 1.5 hour bus ride to historic Rouen but after boarding the bus we were advised that the loud continuous horn blowing was due to a impromptu French truckers strike blocking the port entrance. The French on strike? Who would expect that? After a while we were allowed to return to the ship and were offered refunds. Originally the shuttle to downtown Le Havre was $5 each way but the ship offered it for free once the French truckers decided to unblock the port of Le Havre. We rode downtown and did some window shopping. Le Havre is a very nice modern city rebuilt after near total destruction in WW2. The window shopping was fun and the citizens of Le Havre were very nice. South Hampton and disembarkation: We disembarked without difficulty and our luggage, put out the night before, was waiting for us in a warehouse. We took a taxi over to the Hertz rental car office. We had to wait on the curb until they opened their doors at 9:00 AM. Our first stop was the Titanic museum which we felt was not worth the money. Next we visited Fort Nelson where they had an excellent live fire demonstration of a 25 pound gun. We spent the next 5 days driving around Cornwall. We were happy the Icelandic volcano ash that shut down Heathrow for several days had past and no flight delays were experienced by the passengers going directly to Heathrow or by us a week later. Food: It was excellent. Both in the buffet on the Lido deck and in the formal dining rooms. We had no desire to pay extra for the specialty restaurants but I am sure they were also excellent. This was the best food we have ever had on a cruise. I especially want to praise the pizza counter and hamburger grill. The pizza was great and the hamburgers and cheese burgers were always cooked to order. They would also grill sausage and bratwurst to order. Entertainment: We don't like having to show up 45 minutes before a show to get a seat and the early shows were always a full house. But we did attend some of the 10:15 PM shows and we were always entertained. We saw several movies on MUTS and it reminded me of going to the drive-in as a child in our Desoto convertible. Blankets and popcorn were provided. Blankets were provided and always necessary at night. We found the Skywalker Lounge, which is the handlebar of the shopping cart look of the ship, to be a quiet place for afternoon reading or sending emails on our laptop or just enjoying the fabulous view. Regrets: Just after leaving Bermuda the ship's store had a sale of gloves and watch caps. They quickly sold out. At the most northern end of the sea crossing and visiting Edinburgh, I dearly wished for gloves and winter headgear. I envied fellow passengers who brought ski parkas and winter gear. While suitcase space was limited and heavy coats take up a lot of room, I regret not packing gloves and winter hat. We did pack in layers, even bringing long underwear, but I would have been more comfortable with my winter coat that I left behind. In conclusion this was our best cruise so far in our limited cruising career but we look forward to our next cruise on the Grand Princess. We enjoyed our days at sea and would go on a long transatlantic cruise with Princess Cruises again without hesitation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We approached this long cruise with great anticipation. We are people who can spend days just hanging out and amusing ourselves and yet love to explore new places. With that in mind, we felt that the combination of a Transatlantic and a ... Read More
We approached this long cruise with great anticipation. We are people who can spend days just hanging out and amusing ourselves and yet love to explore new places. With that in mind, we felt that the combination of a Transatlantic and a Greek Isle B2B cruise would be a perfect adventure for us. And for the most part it was. For some background, we cruised on NCL twice before and have also cruised on RCCL, Disney and Princess. We have also traveled extensively on land trips. We are both retired and are enjoying life. For this cruise, we were a part of a large and active Cruise Critic group. The people we met and shared meals and adventures with were the best and made the trip wonderful. We met our fellow cruise mates at sail away parties planned by one of our members. We had a great Meet and Greet (well, actually two) that included visits and presentations from Captain Mikael Hilden and seven other top officers. It was a pleasure to have them attend our gatherings. We had also arranged for two group dinners on the TA and one on the Greek Isles portion. For these events we were given a quiet side room in the Grand Pacific dining room so we felt we were in our own private restaurant. The room was set up with tables for four and six, so we could actually have conversations with our new friends. They were all wonderful experiences and we had the chance to get to know our fellow cruisers. I had put together a website for the cruises which allowed people to connect for bridge, canasta, scrabble and other games and tours. We also met people who had seen our posts and website, but had not joined in. I was amazed at how many people are part of the Cruise Critic community, even when you don't "see" them. One disappointment was that some of our friends we were supposed to meet on the Greek Isles cruise couldn't make it to the ship because of the volcano in Iceland and the subsequent havoc with the airlines. We missed you! Cabin: We splurged this time and had a penthouse suite, which was an excellent choice for this particular journey. My husband uses a mobility scooter so we had a handicapped AE suite that worked very well for us. It was only a little larger than a regular balcony HC cabin, but it had a much more luxurious feeling. We had lots of nice storage space, a Lavazza coffee maker, a large (32"?) flat screen TV and an overall nice ambiance. The bathroom was a typical HC one, but with nicer finishes. There is only a shower with lots of grab bars and it's at the same level as the floor - no tub. It worked very well for our needs. Our deck was narrow, but had nice chairs and was the perfect perch for watching the wake. The aft location allowed us to use it even in the middle of the Atlantic since it was sheltered from the wind. Suite Perks: The priority embarkation and disembarkation, priority tender tickets, snacks in the afternoon, breakfast (always) and lunch (sometimes) at Cagney's, and just the "special" treatment made the upgrade so worthwhile for us. Ruth was our concierge who greeted us warmly each morning and Maxi was our ever elegant and helpful butler. We probably didn't utilize them as much as others, but it was just extra nice having them check in on us. It was our first suite and we loved it. Food: I tend to have the philosophy that any meal I don't have to cook is a good one. We ate at both main dining rooms, Le Bistro, Tequilas, Orchid, Blue Lagoon (our favorite for lunch) and Cagney's. We didn't dine in our room since the HC units did not have a table and we wanted to be out anyway. We tried the buffet a couple times for lunch (good) and once for dinner (not so good). I must say that we had only that one really disappointing meal, many good ones and perhaps two "wow" ones. Our favorite meals, though, were those we shared with our new friends - where we really didn't notice the food. Most of our breakfasts were at Cagney's, where we enjoyed the quiet, the service and the company of other people there. The service in all restaurants was friendly and efficient and we enjoyed the interaction with the staff. Activities: Keep in mind we had nine sea days out of fourteen on the TA leg of the trip and only one (the last day) on the Greek Island part. We brought lots of books along to read, which was a good thing. My husband signed up for bridge with our Cruise Critic friends. I planned to wander, read, watch movies, relax and see what other activities piqued my interest. This is where NCL missed the boat, so to speak. The only programs available on the in-room TVs were news (MSNBC, Fox and BBC), sports (ESPN and some European channel) and the usual collection of NCL infomercials. No free movies, not even TV reruns. You could purchase movies for $12.99 (!) each. No problem, I thought, our suite has a DVD player. Let's see what movies are available for that. Well, uh, no more DVD's available for the suites. Corporate decision. Okay, what about movies outside? Well, no movie theater - three movies were shown in rotation in the atrium on the big screen there. And the three movies were Up, Michael Jackson's This is It and a Star Trek movie. That's it for nine sea days. And shown in a large noisy public space with vendors hawking the various promotions of the day and people wandering through having their own conversations. There were a couple language classes offered - and hour or so each, the shopping talks and trivia. Otherwise the activities consisted of pay-to-play things like bingo, wine and martini tastings, the casino - and not much else. There were the usual evening shows and evening entertainment, but this doesn't help for the long sea days. The library is available, but I heard there was a rush the first day to get the limited supply of material. I'm just glad I packed a lot of my own. The planned activities works for a seven-day port intensive trip, but is really disappointing for a long journey. As I said before, we are pretty self-sufficient and able to amuse ourselves pretty well - and we did Just be forewarned and bring along your own activities when you go on a long cruise. Ports and Tours: How great is it to be able to sail from New York to Venice then on down to the Greek Isles in one trip! We enjoyed the ports, some more than others. It was overcast or drizzly or very windy (a shear gale in Mykonos) in many of the ports, normal for this time of year. We especially enjoyed the cruise tour that took us to Seville from Cadiz. It dropped us off, and then told us when to be back. It was a perfect way for us to see the town at our own pace. We were less enamored with the cruise tour in Lisbon. It was supposed to be a level 1 tour (which was supposed to mean some walking, mostly sightseeing and suitable for everyone). It was great until the end when we were told that the "grand finale" was a long trek (at least a half mile straight down) from the castle to the port on a street that had slick cobblestone steps and no handrails. A third of the tour members had to sit in the bus for almost an hour waiting for the others to make the trip. When we reported to the excursion desk that this was probably not appropriately labeled, we were greeted with accusations that perhaps we had not read the description properly (we had) and that all tours require some walking (that's fine, we can walk, just not down the side of a mountain). They eventually begrudgingly took off 15%, but acted as though we had done something wrong. We hadn't even asked for a discount, we only wanted to let them know. Otherwise we did our own private tours or just went out and wandered. We did enjoy the opportunity to see a lot of different places in a short amount of time. Overall we had a wonderful time. The ship is beautiful and the staff for the most part helpful and friendly. We made several friends we will keep in touch with and hopefully cruise with again. Will we do another Transatlantic - absolutely. Will we do it on NCL? Perhaps. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Transatlantic Miami- Hamburg on board Constellation, right before Dry-dock Pre cruise stay: Miami Intercontinental, very good choice which I can highly recommend for a pre cruise stay in Miami. It is right next to Bayside Market- Place. ... Read More
Transatlantic Miami- Hamburg on board Constellation, right before Dry-dock Pre cruise stay: Miami Intercontinental, very good choice which I can highly recommend for a pre cruise stay in Miami. It is right next to Bayside Market- Place. If you stay longer before your cruise starts and you are fancy about beach and sunbathing, a Hotel in Miami Beach would be more handy! A bit pricy, but well worth the money in my opinion. As I don´t get tired from the view of a port packed with big ships, I asked for a room facing the port of Miami. The staff at the hotel and most of all those at the front desk were very attentive and helpful and the room I got was not just facing the port, it was also "overlooking" it, as the room was on the 24. floor! Could not have started out better! As the most reviews I read start with the embarkation- I will follow this path. Usually and on all my cruises with X- embarkation was a breeze. Not so this time. I have no idea why- it was zoo right from the moment I left the cab. It was the first time I embarked a X- vessel in Miami. As bigger ships start out of Miami I am sure it has nothing to do with that- just a mere coincidence I suppose. After an hour or a little less I made the first step on board the Constellation after 7 years and enjoyed my welcome "champagne" - well it tasted more like sparkling wine to me, but I am not much of wine or champagne enthusiast. As I read comments about the "sloppy maintenance " of the Millie- Class ships it is obvious that one takes a closer look. I am definitely not the " lift every carpet- you may find at least something to complain" kind of person, so traces of wear and tear are not bothering me at all. Overall I found the ship, with only a few exceptions, in good condition, very well kept and as always on board a X- ship- spotless clean. I booked a regular veranda cabin, ( Kath. 2A ) aft. - very close to the aft Lobby stairs and elevators. Great location. The cabin itself was in need of a refit. The carpet was stained, one door of the closet was not working properly. As the ship went right into dry-dock after our Transatlantic Cruise that will no longer be an issue- as all the cabins get a refit. My last two cruises were with the brand new Solstice so I wasn ´t sure myself if the difference between brand new- and eight years old , would be extreme. Well, it was not- there was a difference , of course, but I found the public rooms of Connie in excellent condition. In fact I thought the carpets in the landings in every one of the three staircases must have been replaced lately. What really needs a total refit is the Top- Deck - Jogging Track floor. If one just gets a look at this particular deck- one might thing the ship is soon to enter Alang for Scrap. I always enjoyed sailing out of Miami, so I really looked forward to Sail Away. Big Bummer- A heavy thunder storm hit us right when were about to leave port. I got soaked wet, but still stayed on the outside decks. The boat drill was a very quick one- because of the ongoing embarkation of passenger who ´s planes arrived late or wasn´t on time. After the "zoo" at load off stations at the port and chaos there I feared my bags would not show up in my cabin- well I got them, late, but just in time to get unpacked before the first dinner! One of the most exciting moments of a cruise always is the first evening, when I meet the dinner companions for the upcoming cruise. I choose the traditional dinning- in my case always 2nd seating. Well to avoid " surprises" I ask for at least a table for 6- and if possible, international group. Much more interesting to chat we people from all over the world than just with you own citizens. Anyway this time I was seated with a couple from Germany - as it turned out we could not have had more fun during each and every dinner! I looked forward to every dinner! Entertainment - I saw two shows in the theater, both were very good. I finally had the chance to see the famous Perry Grant. He performs every evening in Michaels Club. Never, ever I saw this great lounge so packed as when Perry Grant was in there. There were passengers standing in the doorway of Michael´s Club - even well in the photo shop, to see or hear him. When Rob Wheatley introduced him on his only performance in the Theater he described him as a mix of some comedian ( sorry forgot the name) and Judy Garland. There are just two options; whether you like Perry or you can´t stand him. There is nothing in between. I opt. for the first and liked his shows, great jokes, great songs. I still chuckle when I remember: " Can you please turn on this little ball?? " Thaaaaaaaaaaank you- ah he adores meee! " " Oooh I think am going through the change - again... ...... and so on and so forth! The Cruise Director, Rob Wheatley was great, very friendly and always took his time to greet , meet and mingle. He and his assistant together were priceless. Dining Experiences: That's said in a few words - great- as always with X. Great in the main dining room. Outstanding good in Ocean Liners. The new elite perks are much better than in the previous years. I like the laundry coupons and free internet minutes most. Other than that- the coupons are arranged in the way " buy something THEN you get something! And one has to notice the laundry coupon is just washing and folding - no pressing- for that " extra service" you have to pay. The team in the Martini - Bar and in Cova Cafe cannot be praised enough. Elli - if you read this- you provided us with the best Martinis - ever, always served " in style" and along with a nice chat! Cova staff- the same, a pleasure to enjoy my tea´s there. The Crossing- the weather was okay during the first two days- very windy but no rain. After we passed the Bermudas it got worse and worse by the day. Nevertheless I enjoyed these calm and relaxing days immensely. If you are forced to stay inside - that's when the pro´s of the Millennium Class of ships against the S- Class get obvious. No loud background music all over the place ( very annoying on board Solstice) After eight days at sea in a row we finally made landfall- Le Havre - France, had to skip Paris due to the ongoing cold I caught. Instead I walked a bit in Le Havre. Nice city, almost everything in the city is within walking distance. X provided a shuttle bus- no cost. Next port of call was Dover- well the famous White Cliffs were quite visible from the place where we docked. Again had to cancel London, so I just walked through Dover. Also a very British and charming little city. Well worth a visit and walk. The last stop was Rotterdam / NL . Very interesting BIG City- nice walkways, some interesting buildings! Excellent Tourist Center, with great possibilities for information's! Sailing out of Rotterdam was a real thread after the unhappy Sail away out of Miami. First of all the nice scenery. Then, as a tradition in Rotterdam, a Shanty - Choir sang for us and made this " Good bye" unforgettable . " All good things have come to an end" - so the last sea day was here, once again I enjoyed the "old Constellation" , made pictures from the interior and especially from the rooms and decks that get a completely new layout! A last dinner and a goodbye to new friends, tablemates and from an exceptional friendly staff! I love the tradition of singing Auld lang Syne after the last Formal Dinner! Debarkation in Hamburg was a very rushed one. At about 8 am everyone had to be disembarked. As I understood the ship had to get prepared for the Dry Dock. Well it almost looked like the where rolling up the carpets behind us. We docked in Hamburg Altona- which is not jet finished, so our luggage stood piled up in a big tent. All a bit disorganized. Far to less cabs on hand for so many passengers. For that I blame Hamburg not Celebrity- Cruises! I can recommend a Transatlantic Cruise to everyone who enjoys being on a ship for several sea days and look for a relaxed way to come from Europe to the US or visa verse! It is absolutely not to recommend for those who look for the most sightseeing possibilities one can put into two weeks. Michael Bayer Mai 2010 Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
It takes time to sail a transatlantic itinerary, but if you can fit it in, you'll enjoy the luxury of traveling slowly. In today's world we constantly strive to do everything fast, but some things can only be appreciated when you ... Read More
It takes time to sail a transatlantic itinerary, but if you can fit it in, you'll enjoy the luxury of traveling slowly. In today's world we constantly strive to do everything fast, but some things can only be appreciated when you slow down and enjoy the passage of time. Appropriately, the Grand Princess cruise of April 9-24, 2010 was called the British Isles Passage. We'd sailed transatlantic a year ago on NCL and wanted to see how a crossing with Princess would compare. The Grand Princess is one of their older ships, built in 1998. She'd show her years, but be well maintained. The crowd would be what could graciously be termed "mature". Filling fifteen nights with quality entertainment might be a challenge. The weather would vary, more cool than warm, and the seas could possibly be felt. The food and service would be good, the cabin - comfortable, and all in all we'd have a good cruise, with the chance to see that area of the world for the first time. That's what we expected - and for the most part that's what we got. This was our fifth Princess cruise, so we felt at home - confident there'd be no surprises. Yes, the Grand is older and it's interesting for repeat Princess passengers to see the first ship in her class, having sailed her sisters further down the evolutionary line. Considering that she has hosted tens of thousands of guests over the years she looks great, but you can see the high mileage if you look around. Most obvious is what twelve years of salt air and sea spray can do to balcony dividers. The corrosion was evident everywhere out there. It's hard to fault her for design flaws - such as a non-existent midship stair tower - that would be corrected in ships built later. Call it character. She's a comfortably sized ship with adequate public space. Adequate, that is, when everyone spreads out. Instead they hogged the indoor seating, and ventured out to the open decks - where I guess they were afraid of suffering frostbite in 52-degree air - only rarely. In fact, The Sanctuary, where you can pay extra for outdoor privacy was deserted. No surprise, because after Bermuda most everyone stayed inside. But I enjoy any weather warmer than a New England winter so while they were warming chairs in the Atrium I was bouncing a basketball, looking out over the ship's wake, and celebrating - believe it or not - a wind-assisted hole-in-one on the miniature golf course. Don't sail a transatlantic expecting your fellow cruisers to be spring chickens. We were quite obviously among the younger passengers, even though the half-century mark is not far off for us. They like it warm; they go to bed early. They ride scooters and use wheelchairs and walkers and canes. The cruising clichE is "overfed and nearly dead", for a reason. But, they have the money - and the time - for these itineraries and you've got to give them credit for getting off the couch and getting out there. Our adventure began in Fort Lauderdale where four other ships left port just before us. After two sea days we called at Bermuda on Monday. Monday evening we began the crossing with a long stretch of sea days that wouldn't end until the pace of the cruise shifted at Greenock, Scotland the following Monday, when we'd begin visiting a new port each day thereafter: Dublin and Cobh in Ireland; Falmouth, England and Le Havre, France and Southampton, England, where the cruise would end. We had a roomy mini-suite on Dolphin Deck. The bathroom had a tub, and that meant a comfortable showering experience compared to the usual coffin-sized shower stall in other cabins. There was a separate sitting area with a couch, chair and coffee table - extra space you appreciate on a 15-night sailing. The balcony was fully exposed to the sun, and because we chose a cabin on the starboard side we had the sun on our side as we sailed eastward across the Atlantic. Our Cruise Director, Billy London is obviously a firm believer in the delegation of responsibility. I saw him at the Captain's Circle Party, the farewell event in the Atrium and on his morning TV show. That's it. Oh, and once having dinner with the Captain in the steakhouse. Is it just me, or should the crew never be allowed to dine with the guests, no matter their rank? I digress. Billy left all the heavy lifting up to "number two, Stuey Stu", his deputy. He was omnipresent. There was a full schedule of entertainment daily but most of it did not appeal to me. I skipped the Huber Marionettes and anyone described as a "singing sensation". I still want the hour Kevin Devane stole from me with his amateurish, unfunny "comedy" set. My time would have been better spent sleeping. Greg Moreland, a "magician", lamely attempted an act using joke-shop props like the linking rings and the knot that slides off of the rope. Your typical birthday-party-and bar-mitzvah guy could do better. We avoided the production shows - been there, done that. And I'm sorry, but I couldn't get excited about daytime activities listed in the Princess Patter such as Paper Airplanes, Elevator Roulette and Come Down and Talk About Your Grandchildren! What's next, tic-tac-toe? Many nights we entertained ourselves in-cabin by ordering room service and playing Scrabble, or watching recent movies on TV. There were lots of those, most recent and all free, from Avatar to Crazy Heart to The Blind Side. The music was good. Tempo Quatro from Hungary kept things lively with their peppy, accordion-based tunes. Funky party band Flare was often heard out by the pool or in a lounge for evening dancing. Dan Hodge held court nightly in the Promenade Lounge and Bar, the Grand's Piano Man. They all superbly set the cruise to music. Food aboard the Grand Princess was as good as it was plentiful and ubiquitous. We enjoyed it all, from the burgers and pizza by the pool to the Horizon Court buffet to the free soft-serve cones and root beer floats at the ice cream bar to our nightly, second-seating dinner in the Botticelli dining room, served by Alejandra and Andrey, two of the ship's best. Rafael, our big, comical Mexican teddy bear of a headwaiter should be proud to have them on his team. There was a new menu every night of the cruise and, honestly, there wasn't a bad dish in the lot. Prime rib, lobster tails, lots of shrimp, more beef, excellent pasta, hot and cold soups, fish, and salads - all at the correct temperature and in quantities sufficient to choke a horse. The weather. Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it! The North Atlantic in April is not the Caribbean Sea in August. I don't know what some of my fellow passengers were expecting, but I sure overheard a lot of complaining. I don't know why. The seas were as smooth as a millpond, and I don't hide indoors when the temperature is below 60 with anything more than a puff of breeze. I didn't bring a scarf, or gloves, or a parka. I swam in the outdoor pool. I sat on my balcony every day of the crossing; though I must admit it got too chilly to stay long as we neared Scotland. We had only a little rain. I was prepared for worse, given the bad winter Europe had this year. But it was fine. The cruise was divided into two distinct portions: The Crossing and The Ports. The Crossing allowed plenty of time for naps, reading, movies, going for a walk, air hockey in the arcade and lingering over breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Ports was a five-day grind, one after another, with early starts and long days thanks to the extensive shore excursion schedule we'd set up for ourselves. Our ambitious agenda featured a trip to Edinburgh on Monday out of Greenock, a day with Over the Top tours into the mountains during our Tuesday in Dublin, Killarney and county Kerry during our Cobh call Wednesday, a cliff walk around The Lizard, the most southerly point in England on Thursday from Falmouth and - the pièce de rEsistance - a long ride into Paris from Le Havre on Friday. All were ship's tours except for Dublin. All the guides were good except for Manus from Over the Top. He was friendly and funny, but he'd seen all this a thousand times before and didn't seem to remember that we had not. It's a long, two-hour ride from Greenock through Glasgow and into Edinburgh, where the highlight was Edinburgh Castle and some free time along Princes Street after lunch. So much to see and so little time - our visit was just a teaser, and I'd love to go back someday and fill in the gaps. Because of the distance to the city the pace of the tour was nuts. The visit to Holyrood Palace turned out to be no more than a bathroom break. Our Cruise Critic roll call group organized the tour with Over the Top on Tuesday that took us along the coast to Powerscourt Gardens, into the Wicklow Mountains and to the town of Laragh for lunch (where, incidentally, a bowl of hot beef and Guinness stew will set you back almost 12 euros), then to the monastic ruins of St. Kevin's at Glendalough before heading back to Dublin via the Wicklow Gap. The green hills of Ireland are only a half-hour out of Dublin. We saw a lot, but I wish I'd seen more of the city itself. Again, you'd need at least a few days to do it justice. Cruises are great for covering a lot of territory but in no detail. Think of it as a sampler - to build your list of places to return to. Wednesday we were headed for the hills again, this time to see the Lakes of Killarney from Aghadoe Heights and to drink in the Victorian splendor of Muckross House, where the queen herself spent two nights of her reign. We shopped for souvenirs in Killarney after lunch, good touristy fun. The yellow blooms of gorse painted the hillsides. At first, I thought it was pretty but when I learned it was a thorny, invasive species I began to view it as a blight on the landscape. The winds howled but the sun shone Thursday in Cornwall along The Lizard, a steep and winding path along the rocky seacoast that turned out to be my favorite excursion. Lunch was at the Witchball. The sign out front said, "Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy", so I knew I was among kindred spirits. They served us fish & chips and a dessert of strawberries with clotted cream - an authentic Cornish delight. We shopped for serpentine stone, had a pasty from the world-renowned Ann's Pasty Shop and bought Cornish sea salt at Retallack's butcher shop. Falmouth was a tender port, and the ride back to the ship in one of the Grand's lifeboats made me feel like I was inside a Maytag during the rinse and spin! The sea had become rough and the boat cut through the waves with the grace of a hockey puck. We held on, my wife beginning to turn green, as water began pouring in! The thing leaked like a sieve. The sea seeped in around the window frames and gushed from an area overhead. "Don't they have a better boat than this to send out on tender duty", I wondered. Back aboard, I gave the boat number to the Purser's desk and suggested it was time for some maintenance - but they would hear none of it. They said it must have been a shore side tender and completely disregarded the report. Take my advice: if you sail the Grand and it becomes necessary to abandon ship, avoid lifeboat number 19. Then it was Friday - and the big disappointment of the week - Le Havre. We sat in the Princess Theater at 7:00 A.M. waiting for our tour to Paris to disembark. After a three-hour ride we'd be treated to a tour of the City of Light followed by a cruise on the River Seine including lunch. I'd done my homework, reading Eiffel's Tower by Jill Jonnes over the winter. Around my wife's neck was the tower in pendant form, a Christmas present given in anticipation of seeing it first-hand. We couldn't wait to go - but the dockworkers in Le Havre had other plans. They were on strike. As horns honked and a pile of tires burned their picket line blocked many of the tour buses from entering the port area. It ended by 9A.M. but for us it was already too late. The Grand Princess tour staff disseminated confusing and conflicting information over the loudspeakers but in the end - the tour was cancelled. We were left to roam the streets of Le Havre. We browsed the shops, we ate pastry, we had lunch, but it was no April in Paris. So the goal remains elusive - but not abandoned. We'll get there someday, but thanks to a French labor union it won't be in 2010. The cruise ended on that sour note the next day. London made up for it, almost. We had arranged a post-cruise stay through Princess for a single night - all our schedules would allow. That was the other setback we encountered during the voyage. We were informed midway through the cruise that the hotel we had booked was "full" and that we'd have to be moved. I wasn't happy, but the deed was done - they insisted we couldn't stay at the Crowne Plaza - but would stay instead at the Millennium in Mayfair. On disembarkation day I learned that not everyone was switched, because the Crowne Plaza was the first stop and plenty of passengers got off. But you go with the flow, roll with the punches and make lemonade out of the lemons - clichEs, yes - but words to live by when traveling. The hotel was not nearly as handy to things as the Crowne would have been but our room was clean and ready for us when we arrived shortly after noon. We bought our tickets for the Big Bus open-top tour of London from the concierge and set off. It was warm and sunny, and we saw all the sights from our upper-deck seats. A cruise on the Thames was included in the price. We boarded after threading our way through the crowd around the London Eye and sailed under all the famous bridges in the direction of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Back on the bus, we closed the tour's loop and rode back to our starting point. The hotel was convenient to one thing - and a very important one - food! Dinner that night was at The Audley around the corner on South Audley Street, with pub food and hand-pulled local pints in a convivial atmosphere right out of the Victorian era. You place your order by stepping up to a long, beautiful old hardwood bar. One of my favorite meals of the trip was Sunday breakfast at Richoux, also on South Audley. Imagine: cozy tables set in a turn of the last century setting and Belgian waffles, back bacon and a pot of great coffee for company. Oh, my wife was there too. Sorry - that meal held my attention. I want to go back. At noon a car picked us up for the drive to Heathrow where our flight would depart - on time, half-full and without incident, even though the UK's airports had reopened only days before, after the Eyjafjallajokull volcano's ash cloud kept people on the ground all over Europe for the better part of a week. We had ample time to enjoy the ship and not enough in the ports of call, but we are happy with how we chose to spend our time each day. We enjoyed the Grand Princess and all it had to offer, and our list of places to which we must someday return for a more leisurely visit is now longer. Our horizons broadened, our perspectives altered - we returned home with a little more of the world now considered familiar territory. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We cruise with Holland America because of its tone. As seniors who enjoy quiet, contemplative moments as well as good companionship and the pleasures of travel, we find HAL to offer both in just about the right amounts. This was our first ... Read More
We cruise with Holland America because of its tone. As seniors who enjoy quiet, contemplative moments as well as good companionship and the pleasures of travel, we find HAL to offer both in just about the right amounts. This was our first trans Atlantic cruise (except for a New York to Bremerhaven passage with our children many decades go) and the eight sea days out of Fort Lauderdale were one of the trip's highlights. Bottom line: we enjoyed the trip and would do it again. The Eurodam's passenger complement of 2100 was larger than we're used to, but it almost never seemed crowded. There was almost always ample space to pursue whatever activity we had in mind. The ship was immaculate and the service up to HAL's well known standards. Our cabin steward was never under foot but always seemed to know when to move in and do his thing. We had the pleasure of meeting a dining room steward from a previous cruise and enjoyed his service. All that said, we do have some criticisms of the Eurodam. (1) The casino straddles the entry way to the main theater on one deck, making it difficult to avoid both the smoke and the activity. We appreciate the importance of the casino to many passengers and to the company's bottom line, but much prefer its being off to the side, as on the Rotterdam, for example. We also support strongly a no-smoking policy ship wide. We and several of our new friends suffered respiratory problems throughout the cruise due, likely, to the second-hand smoke that made its way far beyond the casino. Fortunately, HAL is surveying the smoking issue. (2) The library was smaller in relationship to the ship's size than those on other HAL boats. Its position next to the Crow's Nest results in a mixing of readers with nappers, to the disadvantage of the former. (3) While the HAL cast and stage band were superb - great young talent - the headline entertainment left a lot to be desired. The hammered dulcimer, for Pete's sake, and a Liberace wannabe. Two lecturers on geopolitical topics were very bad - given 30 minutes of Internet and PowerPoint, I could have whipped up a lot better myself - and the piano bar guy really sucked. Couldn't play; couldn't sing. HAL should do better entertainment wise, as is, I believe, widely recognized. We don't cruise for the food and try our best to maintain a healthy diet on board. But we found food and preparation quality to be generally quite good. A dinner at the Pinnacle is still freshly and fondly in our memory. The ports of call selection (originally 16 with Rome repeated) was a major attraction to us. To visit Greek and Roman history throughout the northern Med was a perfect trip. Unfortunately, Iceland's volcano resulted in a change of itinerary and the dropping of one port (Corfu) in order to accommodate passengers leaving and arriving, but the important stops remained. Quality of excursions and guides were at the mercy of the travel gods and, indeed, varied all over the lot, but we got what we came for for the most part, and will review only the most egregiously bad. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We recently completed a transatlantic on Celebrity's Constellation from Miami, Florida to Hamburg, Germany, and could not be happier with our experience. After disembarking, we stayed on in Germany for 10 days, using rail passes to ... Read More
We recently completed a transatlantic on Celebrity's Constellation from Miami, Florida to Hamburg, Germany, and could not be happier with our experience. After disembarking, we stayed on in Germany for 10 days, using rail passes to travel through the country. We only got home a week ago, and are already searching for another transatlantic cruise for later this year -- that's how much we enjoyed it. But, I will start at the beginning: Pre-cruise boarding: We started in Naples, Florida, so we rented a car one-way and drove it to the Miami International Airport and dropped it off. Then we took a cab to the port ($24 set fee), so getting to the port was a breeze. This saved us a lot of money and worry, as we did not have to leave our car parked somewhere for so long. Embarkation: A breeze. We arrived around 1:00 p.m., and dropped our bags at the curb. Even though we had not received our bag tags, we filled them out with the porter, attached them to our bags, and in a matter of minutes we were headed inside. (This was a different experience than when we left out of Miami on a prior cruise with Carnival.) There was no line to wait to go through the scanners, and not many people in front of us when we completed our pre-boarding paperwork. I should note, that we carried on 2 bottles of wine (as permitted on Celebrity's website, and saw a number of other passenger do so as well) with no problem. Our Stateroom: We booked a balcony stateroom, and requested (and received) a room on the starboard side of the ship (8th floor). This was the sunnier side of the ship as you head eastbound, and I wanted to be able to use the balcony if weather permitted. Our room was in really good condition, with only some minor aging evident in the bathroom. I should note that the Constellation was going into dry dock once we arrived in Hamburg, and although some of the exterior of the ship was in need of some TLC, the interior was spotless and beautiful. Activities: It's funny how easily you can fill up your day on the ship. I was worried we would be bored, but neither my husband nor I ever were. There were lectures you could attend, all kinds of internet, language and food based classes, as well as the usual spa, gym, bingo, casino, and art auction events. In addition, as we were traveling with a group, we were able to tour the bridge, galley (it was really fascinating seeing how large the kitchens were, and see and hear how they manage to prepare over 13,000 meals a day), engine observation room, and backstage of the theatre, things we had never done on past cruises. Fellow passengers: The passengers on the cruise were 99% older than my husband and I (we are in our 40's). While it seemed like this was everyone's first transatlantic cruise, most the people I met were truly experienced cruisers, having been everywhere and seen everything. They were a really interesting bunch, full of information about places I want to see/go. Food: Now for the important information, THE FOOD. Oh. My. God. While the food is typically very good on every cruise, both my husband and I agree that the food was the best we have ever experienced. The quality of the food never wavered throughout the 13 days, and the presentation of each dish at dinner and at the Aqua Spa dining always looked like something you would see in a magazine. They had sushi rolls and sashimi, unbelievable risotto with scallops and shrimp, the most delicious fish (Chilean Sea Bass, Halibut, Salmon), jumbo shrimp EVERYWHERE, Osso Bocco, a Pizzeria, Patisserie, and even a Healthy Dining Location (Aqua Spa) adjacent to the indoor pool/solarium (for when you are tired of gorging yourself). And of course, the desserts....crème Brule (my favorite) was available EVERY NIGHT, tiramisu, soufflEs, panna cotta, ice creams/sorbets/gelatos. I should note that all breads and ice creams/sorbets/sherbet are made fresh on the ship (and included flavors such as red wine sorbet and cinnamon ice cream - delicious). And if breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all the extras were not enough, there was a brunch in the main dining room held every so many days, served with champagne and mimosas....accompanied by a string quartet and grand piano player. Molto elegante. And they gave you champagne at every corner...when you board the ship, when you stop into a shop, when you tour the galley, EVEN when you appear for the muster drill....etc. mmmm. Entertainment: The entertainment on the ship is the typical cruise entertainment. There was a fabulous string quartet in the bars, and the usual orchestra/dancers/singers/comedians at night in the showroom, etc. One night the showroom entertainer was the guy who sang on the television series "The Love Boat" and he actually sang the theme song you heard at the beginning of each episode. Come on, sing along....."the loooooovvveeeee booooaaaatttt...soon will be making another ruuuuuunnnn....the looooooovvvvveeee booooooaaattt, promises something for everyone.......I couldn't stop giggling while he sang Funny. All kidding aside, he was really quite good. On another night, there was a comic/magician, Carl Andrews, who was also very good. And another comic (who's name I can't recall) who was very funny. We missed the first broadway musical show, but heard rave reviews from other passengers. We learned on our backstage tour that the company that provides the shows was being replaced, so the entertainment should be markedly different on future sailings. Gym: Like all ships, there is a gym, but the one on this ship was quite large, with around 20 treadmills lining the front of the ship. HOWEVER, unlike any ship I have ever been on there was a WAIT for the machines. And I mean you seriously had to line up and wait for the treadmills. I have NEVER seen that on a ship before (or any gym, for that matter)! Bunch of crazies!! I was told that it would thin out (no pun intended) as the cruise progressed, but it never did. And even though we had very smooth seas, the ship did move up and down/bow to stern. When it moves up slightly when you are running on the treadmill, it's like you are running uphill, then downhill as the bow lowers again. It's probably really good for your workout, and probably really bad on your knees. Unique Qualities to a Transatlantic Cruise: Since Europe is 5 hours ahead of Florida, we had to move our clocks forward nearly every other day. It's like daylight savings time every other day. And when we went from France to England, we had to move our clocks backwards, then forward again when we headed to Amsterdam. In short, you lose 5 hours on your cruise....Note to self, the transatlantic westbound cruise actually lasts 5 hours longer J Ports/Excursions: We did not participate in any cruise organized shore excursions; my husband and I traveled independently at each port. Our first port of call, after spending 8 days on the water, was La Havre, France. Here, a lot of our fellow passengers went to Paris (2-3 hours away on a train). We opted to visit Claude Monet's home in Giverny. We walked to the main train station in Le Havre, took the train to Vernon (via Rouen). Giverny is a gorgeous place and the location of where Monet's Water Lilys and Japanese Footbridge were painted. We were lucky enough to be there when all the tulips were in bloom. Really, words, nor our pictures describe how gorgeous a place it is, as well as all the surrounding hamlets that line the train's path. Highly recommended! Our second stop was Dover, England. From this port you can visit London (again, nearly 3 hours to get there), but we opted to visit Leeds Castle, somewhere we had never been and wanted to see. We traveled to Bearstad by train, then took a bus to the castle. The grounds are enormous, very park like, and again, gorgeous. We were also able to spend some time in Dover, which is a very cute British town, with the Dover Castle perched above the city and the famous White Cliffs of Dover. After Dover, we arrived in Rotterdam, Netherlands. It is a very modern city, having only 3 major buildings survive World War II. It is full of really interesting architecture. The cruise line provided a bus to the Rotterdam city center, and they give you an interesting tour of the city. Again, we left via train and headed to Amsterdam. You can buy a ticket from the machine, but you need all coins. To buy a train ticket, you buy from a clerk upstairs and they too only accept cash, so make sure you have plenty of euros with you. Amsterdam was a very busy city, lots of bikes (be careful, or you will be run over). Here we were able to tour the Anne Frank House (loved it), and play tourist viewing the canals, wooden shoes (yes they really wear them), and seeing all the Amsterdam "unmentionables." We took a fast train to get to Amsterdam (past windmills), but a slower train back that took us through tulip fields. As my husband described it, it "looked like someone painted the ground." Service: The service we received was fabulous. Our room attendant always addressed us by our last name (and we don't have an easy name to remember or say), and our waiter was GREAT (Julian) - he was always smiling, whether you saw him at breakfast or dinner. The captain on the ship (Captain Gerry) was very engaging and approachable. He would stop and talk with you at dinner, in the gym, wherever you ran into him, and we looked forward to his midday updates, with his words of wisdom from his "Chinese friend." I should also mention the great service we received from the event coordinators (especially Sebastian) as they were SO pleasant and friendly, and played a big part in making our cruise really special. Crossing/Weather: I just read the review of the German traveler on the same ship, and he indicates that it rained when we left port in Miami, but I do not remember this. I was probably eating. All and all, I thought the weather on the crossing was great. And I have to admit that I was a little concerned how rough it would be, as my husband gets seasick. But it was so much nicer than I had hoped. In fact, my husband had been taking ½ bonine 2 times a day, but quit taking it altogether later in the cruise, as the seas were so calm (especially once we got near France). We did have 2 days when the swells were between 7-10 feet, but other than that they were less than 3 feet. It was cold in Dover and Le Havre, but a little milder in Amsterdam. We were able to sit in the sun on our balcony, run outside on the deck, and I watched several people sunbathing throughout the cruise. Disembarking: As the prior reviewer indicated, we had to be off the ship early, as the Constellation was going into dry dock. As the Captain explained, we arrived in Hamburg on a river, and the tide needed to be high enough for them to take the Constellation further up the river from where we disembarked, and turn the ship around to be placed in dry dock. A lot of passengers complained about the early disembarkment, but we knew it before getting onboard (they should have known as well). Our luggage was easy to find, we waited in line for a cab, and headed to the train station to continue our adventure in southern Germany. A couple more points: We brought only dollars onboard and exchanged money on the ship. The exchange rate was fractionally higher than $1.40 per euro. At the time, the dollar/euro was trading around $1.34 - so the rate of exchange was SO reasonable. The internet is slow to connect, so writing an email offline, then sending online still ends up costing about $5-$7. OK, that's it. It was a great experience, and if you like to cruise, I would highly recommend a transatlantic. And if you like to eat, I highly recommend the Celebrity Constellation. Bon voyage! Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
This was our 30th cruise, and our 2nd transatlantic with Celebrity. It was smooth sailing all the way, including serve, staff, entertainment and the seas themselves. Our cabin was so comfortable and we both enjoyed sitting on the balcony ... Read More
This was our 30th cruise, and our 2nd transatlantic with Celebrity. It was smooth sailing all the way, including serve, staff, entertainment and the seas themselves. Our cabin was so comfortable and we both enjoyed sitting on the balcony at night. Neither of us are "sleepers" but the comfort of the beds and the gentle rocking of the ship made us sleep much more soundly! Entertainment calendar was full and we had to make some choices, therefore missing some quality events. Shirley Jones was pure delight, and that lady can still belt out a tune! We found the shows to be of excellent quality, and the performers outstanding. Only dud was a "comedian" who seemed to shuffle across the stage as if he couldn't remember what he was going to say. The band has some world-class musicians, particularly the alto saxophonist. Yes, the acapella group was frequently off key, but they tried. Even Bingo was well-run. Of course the beautiful casino took up a quantity of our time, and the 2 cent machines had a voracious appetite. We found the staff at the buffet area very accommodating and were usually on hand to help us find a table and even carry our food to it for us. The Silhouette dining room is beautiful, with our wait staff eager to serve. Yes, it took a few minutes to get to our table, but the short wait was worth it, and what's the hurry in the middle of the ocean? Food throughout the ship was very good, and served hot. (We had sailed transatlantic last fall on a new Carnival ship and the food was always cold, and broccoli served at every lunch and dinner!) The tours we took were well-organized, with comfortable buses and knowledgeable guides. If you have vertigo, be careful which ones you take in Nice! Since we had been to most of these ports before we headed off to take the local double-decker sightseeing buses, which were fun and you can ride around and around to see the sights you missed the first time. Back on board, the tour desk staff was very helpful. The Concierge went out of his way to help us when the computer lab was down, which seemed to happen frequently. Through him we were able to send some important Emails. Both embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze. Our bags were at our cabin before we even finished a lunch at the Ocean Breeze cafe, and were easy to find when we got off the ship. We are eagerly looking forward to our next cruise with Celebrity! Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
The Equinox is an exquisite ship in every way. It is a five star plus luxurious floating hotel, huge in every way. A transatlantic is different from a regular cruise because there are many more days at sea. We couldn't dock in the ... Read More
The Equinox is an exquisite ship in every way. It is a five star plus luxurious floating hotel, huge in every way. A transatlantic is different from a regular cruise because there are many more days at sea. We couldn't dock in the Azores due to rough seas and that added two days to the at sea days. The port stops were shorter so that it was difficult to do the amount of things in port that we have done on a Mediterranean cruise. However, the transatlantic cruise was delightful and much more relaxed. I loved deck 12 with the spa and the Aqua Spa Cafe (organic bread and jams) and the partially covered deck rooms with couches and the open part which was a little cooler. There was almost always entertainment up there as well as throughout the ship. The Europeans hang out up there, Germans, Brits, etc., because they love the sun and hot tubs and the spa. They never get enough sun at home so they take advantage of every opportunity. A lot of Europeans were stuck on the ship because they couldn't get flights back home due to the volcano in Finland. Their cruises were very extended. I met people from all over the world on this cruise. There were fifty seven languages on this cruise and it was totally full with 2800+ cruisers and 1400+ crew. A lot of people were doing back to back cruises and got on at Fort Lauderdale to do the transatlantic and stayed on in Rome to do an Eastern Med cruise with the Greek isles, etc. The service was so good it was incredible and the food was amazing in every dining venue. The Silhouette main dining room is gorgeous and the structure is like the inside of a whale with the white columns looking like whale ribs. We didn't do any specialty restaurants because the main dining room, the ocean view cafe and the Aqua Spa Cafe were more than enough and garlic and a lot of sodium make me sick. In the Silhouette they made my food to order and I remained healthy the entire trip. I found Lisbon very slummy and I was warned about using public transportation there. Cadiz, in Andalusia, southwest Spain was gorgeous and very easy to see. It is a Moorish, perfectly preserved town surrounded by Atlantic waters. Barcelona was great and it was May Day and everyone was on the Ramblas. Villefranche was where I sprained my ankle due to broken streets. It is beautiful too but in need of construction work. It was a Sunday and there was a car race in Monte Carlo and that cut out a lot of public transportation options and ability to get around so we couldn't do much there and were very limited time wise. The next day was the last stop, Rome. We stayed two nights in the Ambasciatori Palace on the Via Veneto and it was wonderful. I got to see all of Rome in two days in spite of hobbling around due to the sprained ankle and I am so glad that I did it. I love Rome. The entertainment and enrichment programs on the ship were spectacular with many shows and lectures each day. They even had their own Cirque Du Soleil show which was incredible. They also have glass blowing from the Corning Museum with educational classes and demonstrations. I won a beautiful large blown glass bowl in the shape of a shell at one of the shows. We didn't play croquet on the grass but a lot of people did. There were so many activities, great activities, on this boat that when you chose one you missed three others. The children on the ship seemed to be having a great time in the Fun Factory. It was an amazing social experience. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
After many weeks of research, debate, and planning, we finally decided on this Celebrity Equinox Transatlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Rome, followed by an additional week in Rome, (preceded by a long weekend in Fort Lauderdale). ... Read More
After many weeks of research, debate, and planning, we finally decided on this Celebrity Equinox Transatlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Rome, followed by an additional week in Rome, (preceded by a long weekend in Fort Lauderdale). We were taking our yearly major vacation, as well as celebrating a milestone birthday, so the trip needed to be special and unique. We can't imagine making a better choice than this cruise. Booking: We booked through American Express, using many points and cash, because AMEX provided at least one category upgrade and other perks. We booked a veranda stateroom on Deck 7 in the middle of the ship. The location was perfect with the entrance to the corridor just off the Team Earth space overlooking the Atrium. Loved it. Fort Lauderdale: Stayed the weekend at the W Hotel, right on the beach. Got upgraded to a 1400 sq. ft. suite which was actually in the condo tower of the hotel. It was very luxurious and at first we thought it was a bit over the top in size for just a weekend, but then it rained all weekend, and we were happy to have so much space to hang out. The service was top-notch. Though the main lobby/bar (under the pool- literally and visually) was packed and hopping on Saturday night with a great DJ and lots of PYTs drinking and dancing the night away, the same space was a quiet, comfortable space for coffee in the morning, or for reading in the afternoon over a glass of wine. Major bonus: Acura is previewing its new SUV, and offered reserved chauffeured rides to most anywhere within a 5 mile radius. We used this free service to get to the Galleria, and more ly - to the Equinox on cruise day! Embarkation Day We had read several reviews that suggested arriving LATER on embarkation day than the masses. We took this advice (we were in no hurry to leave the W) and arrived around 3:00PM to an empty terminal. We walked straight to the check-in desk and then immediately onboard. The entire process took about ten minutes. The sheer size of the terminal, with thousands of seats, let us know that we made the right decision. Instead of waiting in what had to be a noisy crowded hall for hours, we enjoyed a great lunch at a beachside cafe, made some last minute calls, and read the morning paper. We were greeted on board with glasses of champagne and were soon on our way. The Ship Equinox has been described many times in previous reviews, so I won't repeat except to say that despite all of our research and belief that we knew what to expect - Equinox is bigger, more beautiful, better designed, and frankly, just more fabulous than we expected. Wow is the word. The Cabin After spending the weekend in 1400 sq. ft. of luxury at the W, we prepared for a big letdown in our 200 sq. ft. veranda cabin. No worries, it was perfect. Comfortable size, big balcony, just the right amount of storage, spacious bathroom, big flatscreen TV, modern fabrics and finishes. Our luggage was delivered within an hour. We unpacked and were relieved that all four bags fit under the bed. We filled the closet, overbed bins all the drawers, and the bookshelves. Perfect fit. BTW, the balcony/veranda was much larger than we expected with comfortable chairs and plenty of room to walk around. There is a great selection of movies available; but the surprise was the music catalogue. They had everything. We never used our iPods in the cabin as intended. The Experience Let me preface this by stating we had never taken a cruise before. Many friends and fellow travelers were quite surprised that we chose a 14 day transatlantic on a luxury ship as our first, but we decided that if we were going to do a cruise we'd go all the way. We also wanted the many sea days to allow us to actually relax, recharge, and be able to enjoy the whole experience. We typically vacation in major cities, fully booked all day and night, and we wanted frankly, a big chill of a trip. No stress, no rushing, no email, no responsibilities. We were not disappointed. Celebrity delivered on every count. Every crew member encountered over the two weeks was professional, kind, and courteous. We wondered how they could maintain such good spirits, especially after so many straight days at sea, and with fellow passengers sometimes acting like spoiled brats at best, and rude idiots at worst. Two thumbs up for the crew, and to Celebrity's HR Dept. Our room attendant, Frank, was unobtrusive while always taking great care of the cabin and every request. We were actually surprised at the low-key demeanor of the staff. There was no high pressure hard-selling of drinks by the pool waiters, no pressure to buy trinkets, no rushing - ever, nothing seemed to be a problem. Nice. One of the most impressive aspects of this cruise was how clean the ship was at all times. Crew members were constantly cleaning. Day and night. Even cleaning outdoor glass railings in the rain. The ship was spotless. Food We were booked in Silhouette for the late seating; 6:00PM is far too early for us to have dinner. We booked a table for two instead of a common table of ten. At first we thought we might prefer sitting with strangers at a big table, but in the end we were glad that we chose a two-top. The couples at the tables on either side of ours became fast friends, and we all looked forward to seeing each other at dinner every night; sharing stories, advice, planning to attend events together, and sharing bottles of wine. Perfect. The food was exceptional from day one to day fourteen. We ate dinner in Silhouette most nights and were rarely disappointed. Lots of choices, meats always cooked as requested, wonderful appetizers, great salads, good soups, and again - great staff. Our waiter and his two assistants (Tamara and Aleksander) were wonderful. Our sommelier was fun and provided good advice and perfect service. It was nice that unfinished bottles were stored until you wanted to finish them, and could be sent to any of the dining venues by request. We also ate breakfast at Silhouette a couple of times, and highly recommend the Express Breakfast there on port days. We also ordered breakfast from room service which arrived hot and on time. Typically we had breakfast from the buffet stations in the Oceanview Cafe. The Oceanview was the spot for decent sushi in the afternoon, late-night pizzas, and lunch almost every day. The variety was welcome, we never had a problem finding a table, and the crew as always was on the ball. We dined in Murano for my partner's birthday and it could not have been better. The food, including an amuse bouche of salmon mousse, escargots in puff pastry, fois gras, the thickest, perfectly grilled lamb chops, filet mignon, lobster tail, a fantastic cheese course selected from a beautiful cart, and delicious desserts was more than worth the surcharge. A meal of this quality would have cost us $300 back home, here it was $60. Service was as good as it gets. Bravo to the chef and staff at Murano. We had fantastic savory and sweet crepes at Bistro on Five, and had cappuccinos every afternoon at Bacio and gelatos there too. We ate lunch at the AquaSpa Cafe one day and had burgers at the Mast Cafe on another. We attended food tastings and a paid wine tasting, all were fun and good. Drinks We opted not to buy any of the drink packages. We wish that they offered a package that included wine, beer, and cocktails because we like it all. Buying a separate package for every liquor type would have cost thousands. As it was, we drank plenty. We highly recommend the Martini Sampler at the Martini Bar. I won't describe it except to say that we innocently ordered two on the second night of the cruise, and quickly made many new friends at the Martini Bar. The preparation and service of the Sampler is quite a spectacle. Jaws dropped, including our own. The best $37 spent in a long time. Speaking of drink prices; cocktails were excellent with generous pours at half the price of similar drinks at the W. Very reasonable. I can honestly say that this trip was made even better than it had to be by a great member of the crew, Marko, a bartender in the Sky Lounge. Celebrity should be grateful that Marko is there because we definitely spent more and enjoyed evenings more because of Marko. He provided great drinks, fun conversation, perfect service, and made us and the many regulars at his bar feel like we were all old friends hanging out at our neighborhood bar. Even when we only had coffee, it was a better experience at "Marko's bar". We were warned that this cruise would be more sedate than the Caribbean cruises, with an older, more sophisticated crowd, and this was the case. We were half the age of half the passengers, but loved it. We met some incredibly interesting people of all ages from all over the globe; world-travelers with lots of stories to tell. Though the disco and bars were not packed after midnight, we found enough younger passengers and some who were young at heart to have a blast whenever we wanted. Got to give it up to hard-partying (and incredibly well-dressed) Italian women, and the never-stop-dancing group of ladies from Mexico City who made some of the nights even more fun. There were people from so many countries, due in part to the many flights cancelled by the volcano, that if you are even remotely social you could have met many fun people and had a great time. Actually, anyone who could not or did not have a great time on this cruise probably should have just stayed home. Activities We enjoyed the shows that we saw, though we missed more than we attended. We regretted missing some, but we were just being lazy. One of the best and most surprising things about this ship was just how easy it was to find quiet places to read or nap or just chill. With thousands on board, we never felt crowded, never felt rushed, never waited an unusual time for anything. There are musical groups all over the ship all the time, but they are easy to avoid if you want peace and quiet. BTW, we never heard a thing while in our cabin. Sound isolation is outstanding. The gym was big, well-equipped, and using it was mandatory considering how much we ate everyday. The spa was beautiful. We splurged on a couples massage, facial, and reflexology multi-hour experience. It was very relaxing, but perhaps we are spoiled by Bliss Spas, because the treatments were not up to our expectations. Many others loved it though, so maybe it's just personal preference. The Corning Museum of Glass shows were very good. If you've never seem artistic glass-blowing, you should love it. If you been to the Hot Shop at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, you won't be blown away. Either way, it's worth an hour of your time. We're not gamblers, but we spent some time in the Casino at the slots and watching the regulars. It's entertaining even if you don't gamble. The shops were very nice. We only wish the Men's store had a larger selection. We were happy to find that prices on everything, from cocktails, to souvenirs were NOT outrageous and, in fact, were usually much less than we expected. There is so much to do and so many venues to experience, that we intend a return to Equinox just to get to all the things we missed. Ports We enjoyed Lisbon, Cadiz, Seville, Barcelona, Villefranche, and Monaco. I won't describe these days except to say that getting off and on the ship was easy and seamless. We enjoyed every port and city. The only negative was that the amount of time on shore was always too little. We'd prefer dropping a port and allowing more time in the others. We do know from our quick tastes that we will return to Seville and Barcelona soon. We travel quite a bit and are very comfortable striking out on our own. We're not tour bus types, and found it easy to get where we wanted to go in each city. We used local subways and trains in most places, and even rented bikes for the day (5 hours) in Seville. Rome Reaching the port Civitavecchia was almost a disappointment. We were ready for Rome, but not ready to leave Equinox - even after two weeks. We could do a back-to-back in a heartbeat. We took the shuttle from the dock to the port entrance and then walked our luggage the ¼ mile to the train station. Try to buy tickets on an Express train to Rome; we were at Termini Station in a flash. The station is busy and crowded, but nothing compared to NY's Grand Central, so no need to be intimidated. We made our way to the taxi stand and were at our hotel, the St. Regis Grand in five minutes. The hotel is a Cesar Ritz original, grand without being ostentatious, and ideally located. We were upgraded to a suite, complete with butler service. Gorgeous, spacious, luxurious with perfect service about sums up the experience. Recommended??? This was our first major cruise, so the only references we have to compare it against are our other travel experiences. Overall, we LOVED the Equinox; the ship, the crew, the food, the experience. Compared to our vacations to Paris, London, Vancouver, Playa del Carmen and just about every major American city, there is no comparison when costs are considered. This cruise, including our drink tab, spa bill, excursions, extras, and tips costs much less per day (less than half) than any significant vacation we've ever taken. Just our hotel in London cost more for one week than the total costs of this 14 day cruise. This cruise wins, hands down, when comparing value. We are checking our calendars already planning the next Celebrity cruise. We hope to return to Equinox. Furthermore, without exception, every seasoned cruiser that we met on Equinox told us that the ship was the best they'd experienced. Even some who had been on 30, 40, even 72 cruises, all said Equinox was the best, especially the best value compared to Silverseas, Oceania, Seabourn, or some of the others that costs 2X or 3X as much per day. We think that Celebrity has two new devotees who will be returning sooner than later. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We were told that Celebrity reads the Cruise Critic reviews so here are my comments about the CC slide show of the changes that were made: In Phase 1, Slide 5, mention was made of the repair of the "huge hole in the cement" ... Read More
We were told that Celebrity reads the Cruise Critic reviews so here are my comments about the CC slide show of the changes that were made: In Phase 1, Slide 5, mention was made of the repair of the "huge hole in the cement" (underflooring, covered by carpeting)which was a minefield every time we entered and exited the dining room. I hope they made the same repair on Deck 2, which badly needed it. No mention was made of noise abatement in the dining room, which is unfortunate. It was so noisy it was hard to to place our orders with our waiter, nevermind converse with our tablemates. On the couple of occasions that the P.A. system was used near the end of dinner, the sound level was physically painful and we simply left. In Phase 3, Slide 4, I noticed that the same tacky cheap-motel looking formica vanity and bed-side tables are still in place. The hinges in our vanity were broken, making it unusable -- I hope they were repaired. Slide 6 shows the newly refurbished (and renamed) Cova Cafe. On our cruise we were there every evening enjoying either the outstanding string quartet or the piano entertainer. If this remains a venue for music performances those new high-backed chairs are going to be a problem! Slides 5-6 show the replacement of the Conservatory, which was a delightful light, airy space that took advantage of being at the top of the ship, by the Tuscan Grille, with a "signature rough-hewn wine country steakhouse." In the slide it looks like a cave, and certainly won't entice me! We've certainly enjoyed steak restaurants in light, airy surroundings on cruise ships in the past, i.e. our cruise on Azamara Journey to Antarctica. One other note: we had Celebrity book our air transportation -- with the first port being 8 days from departure, we wanted to know that the ship would be held for us if our plane was late. We arrived in Miami mid-morning of departure day to find hundreds of Celebrity/Royal Caribbean passengers already crammed into a small area near the carousels. They had already been waiting for hours for buses to the terminal. The mountain of luggage was so large we were unable to leave our large suitcases and had to take them to the buses ourselves. There was no place to sit, a serious hardship for many passengers. Buses began to arrive when we had been there 2 1/2 hours. Champagne and a string quartet on embarkation didn't make up for the bad taste in our mouths from our airport experience! We are experienced cruisers, having sailed many times from Miami with "lesser" cruise lines, and have never experienced such a mess at the airport. We are not likely purchase transfers from Celebrity again unless it seems absolutely necessary. At the end of the cruise when we docked in Hamburg, they scheduled all passengers to depart *very* early, we assumed so that the ship could go into drydock to begin renovations. (It was fun to watch the lifeboats scurry away while we were waiting to debark.) We were among the last groups scheduled to leave at 8:15. At 8:00 it was announced that all remaining passengers should leave PDQ (despite having been told that no public announcements would be made). Getting out of the terminal was a nightmare: Finding our luggage was no problem, but Celebrity appeared to not have considered egress through the gate, and there were too many passengers leaving through a small space. We were repeatedly told to stay to the left and to hurry up to reach the bus to the airport. (The word "please" would have gone a long way.) In fact, the buses departed from the right, so we had to make our way through the large group waiting for cabs, and once we got to the bus departure area there seemed to be no rush. We arrived at the airport before 9 a.m., a good 6 hours before our flight (scheduled by Celebrity) to Frankfurt. (Celebrity scheduled no excursions in Hamburg to keep us occupied.) We watched several other Lufthansa flights leave for Frankfurt, and when ours was delayed it looked for awhile as if we might miss our connection to the U.S. Both the embarking and debarking experiences were unpleasant enough to that we have reconsidered cruising to/from ports where we do not feel comfortable making our own airline and transfer plans. It was part of our decision to cancel a TA scheduled for the Fall. The best part of our pre-post travel experience was that Celebrity booked our return travel on Lufthansa. We flew steerage, but we were treated well! Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We left Spokane at 0 dark thirty to fly into Ft Lauderdale the day before our cruise and checked into Hyatt Place North as recommended by members on Cruise Critic. We stocked up on wine at the nearby wine store as HAL allows any amount of ... Read More
We left Spokane at 0 dark thirty to fly into Ft Lauderdale the day before our cruise and checked into Hyatt Place North as recommended by members on Cruise Critic. We stocked up on wine at the nearby wine store as HAL allows any amount of wine and champagne in your room. Really appreciate that rule! After serving us a full breakfast the next morning, Hyatt Place took us to the Port at 10:30 and we sailed thru pre-boarding in a matter of minutes. Since the Westerdam had just come out of dry dock, our cabins were ready for us. We deposited our hand luggage, admired our room and balcony, asked Denis (our cabin guy) for a corkscrew and wine glasses, and headed to the Lido for lunch. The crew in the Lido and outside deck were such a pleasure! There was nothing they couldn't do for you and thought of it before you did usually. Very attentive but never in the way and this continued for all 20 days! We requested the late seating for dinner (8pm) and 6-8+ table size. There were 10 of us and we laughed, shared stories and food, (What is that you ordered?) and generally had a wonderful time. Dining was a highlight. The food and service were wonderful and the company from all over the U.S. and Canada was great! Our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet was set for 11:00 the next day (our first full day at sea) but HAL double booked the Crow's Nest and moved us to a meeting room on the Promenade deck which wasn't large enough as we had over 100 Cruise Critic Members signed up. HAL thought it would be OK as not everyone shows up. The Officers couldn't move about the room any better than we could as it was truly jammed. HAL re-booked our Meet and Greet for the next available time in the Crow's Nest and served us complimentary Mimosas served with lots of apologies. Never under estimate Cruse Critic Members! They also gave us early entrance to the buffet lunch in the galley. This was something new they were trying and judging by the lines behind us and later, it was a huge success. No first hand report here as I got claustrophobia in the galley hall before actually entering the galley so excused myself and my husband all the way back out. At dinner that evening we were told that the galley was gleaming with stainless steel appliances, food was delicious, and you took your buffet meal out to sit in the Pinnacle Grill Dining area, which is sumptuous. The Pinnacle Grill is the 5 star restaurant that charges an extra $20. per person and serves truly 5 star cuisine with service to match. We ate there with 2 other couples from our regular dining group one night. My husband had the flaming Steak Diane and I had the Fillet Mignon. We had 3 flavors of Creme Brulee (coffee, chocolate, and caramel)for dessert since my husband had just been in a cooking class earlier in the day where they were making Creme Brulee. It was truly a wonderful evening. At some point on a dress up night we had a wine tasting party (again for more than 100 people) in a penthouse suite. Our Cruise Critic hosts were a hard working young couple with a 6 year old daughter and her Au Pierre and it made for a lovely experience. It was right after our 1st port of call,in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, which includes Blandy's Wine Lodge, and a lift to the top of the mountain where you are 20 yards from people's terraces on the way up. Great Madeira wine and wonderful views. Next stop, Cadiz, Spain - We have been to the fascinating old city of Cadiz 4 times and we have been lost 4 times. We love Cadiz! It's historic old buildings are wonderful and we are always sure we will not get lost "this time". Great city to lose yourself in! Almeria, Spain - Why take a tour when the Alcazaba Palace (2nd in size only to the Alhambra) is minutes walking distance from the port? Pretty impressive and the views are breathtaking! Ajaccio, Corsica, France - lovely relaxing day just touring the town at our own pace. Postcards are .40euro and postage to U.S. is .85euro, so keeping our 90 year old mom informed is not cheap. Civitavecchia, (Rome), Italy - Courtesy bus shuttles take you to Civitavecchia where you can walk quite a few blocks to the train station and take a train into Rome which takes about 1.25hrs. This is an awesome experience. Don't get off at the 1st stop which is St. Peters Square if it is Wednesday, as the Pope is holding audience and it is packed with people. Go to the second stop and then catch a bus.....I'm lost. We had a lovely couple from Cruise Critic to guide us to the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, several other places, and back on the bus, then the train, and since it was a Holiday in Rome, we had to go around something to get to the shuttles back to the ship. We will forever be grateful to Cruise222 for our day in Rome. Naples, Italy - This was one of the more enjoyable walking cities. We have awesome pictures of my husband and I sitting a table with wood blocks under the legs of the "downhill side" of the table and chairs at a restaurant where no English was spoken and we don't know Italian. The menu of the day way fish or beef...we got that part. We were served wine and course after course until finally the main course (fish for my husband and beef for me) came. We were so stuffed and the bill was still only the advertised 10euro per person. Fun times! Messina, Sicily - Another very relaxing day just touring the town at our own pace. Oh, we did need to restock some of our wine supply here. Wine quality - excellent. Prices - extremely low even with the disadvantageous $ to euro that we had then. Sarande, Albania - We just walked around town, amazed at all of the fairly new unfinished construction of hotels or high rise apartments. I think this is a new summer retreat for wealthy Europeans or that is the plan. It is a beautiful setting. Split, Croatia - Our favorite day of all! When you get off the tender, cross the street and enter the Diocletian Palace. The Palace itself is not just an historical ruin but is part of the fabric of the city of Split with numerous working businesses within the actual palace walls. Keep looking up, the architecture above you is outstanding. The Diocletian Palace is one of the best historical sites in Europe. So much we can't explain, you have to see it to believe it! Finally, Venice, Italy - We spent 5.5 hours on Monday in Venice just trying to find our hotel, (Rezidenca del Doge) for the next day. It was worth the effort. Both our bathroom and our bedroom had windows that opened and you were looking out at a quiet intersection of smaller canals. Since the next day when we actually checked in, we would become virtual prisoners here by the rain, we were grateful for our spacious (by European standards) accommodations. Briefly, we returned home. Venice to Dublin - Trinity House Hotel was very good to us. They kept our larger suitcases while we took a train across Ireland to Galway, (Sea Breeze Lodge outside of Salthill is awesome!) the Cliffs of Moher, Ring Forts, and Dunghiare Castle. 2 more Days in Dublin at the Trinity House before Aer Lingus took us to Orlando and the Hawthorne Suites by Wyndham. The Hawthorne Suites took care of us wonderfully for a very reasonable price ($76.) The next day SWA flew us back to Spokane. Email me if your have any questions about any of our stops or HAL. I'll try to help if I know the answers. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
This ship is not comfortable for a trans Atlantic crossing. Compared to last year's crossing on the Solstice this one required my wife to take to our room and was like a cork in the ocean and add this to the extra 2 days to get to the ... Read More
This ship is not comfortable for a trans Atlantic crossing. Compared to last year's crossing on the Solstice this one required my wife to take to our room and was like a cork in the ocean and add this to the extra 2 days to get to the Azores. Besides being slow, it is also old although well maintained. Beware the rear cabins because the engine vibrations will drive you crazy. Activities were sparse but they do have a beautiful library. In fairness there were about 500 people on board and 400 crew. The entertainment was good considering and I do enjoy the ubiquitous Ms. Hamilton and her West End Cabaret. The Harpist seemed tired throughout the 2 weeks and the comedy was passable. The Stateroom was dated and had the smallest balcony I have ever seen. The bathroom likewise. Selection of TV programming was very small and the TV didn't swivel to a right angle to the bed. Now lets get positive and why I have booked again but this time for the quieter waters around St. Barts and St. John. in February. The service is to die for. No problem they couldn't fix. Nikki at the purser's desk was the best at her job I've ever seen (30+ cruises). Steward was very attentive. The friendly wait staff always anticipated your wants and needs and were there just as you were about to ask but were not intrusive. Evening meals were very well done, one overdone salmon fillet in 14 dinners and creme brule every night if you wish--not a bad percentage. The two complimentary wines were from a different country each night for a week. Most were very nice but if you wanted something else then the price was about half of other ships. Breakfast and lunch was also well prepared in the main restaurant. Room service had a good selection and was promptly delivered. The buffet was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment in quality and selection although my wife loved the smoothies with breakfast. I've read about the poor coffee and they were right however I switched to lattes and was happy. No Children--no children's program. Shore excursions were like any other cruise. Both getting on and off the Journey was a breeze with only 500 people on board. The free air from Toronto to Miami and back from Barcelona made this an incredible good deal. Finally the thing that made this cruise so special was the other passengers. This was the most interesting, friendly group that we have ever sailed with and I would like to thank all those that I met. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale two day before sailing. We started the cruise on Saturday night with a pre-cruise cocktail party at a great place. Boarding was a breeze. I was in my room in less tham thirty minutes, with a drink in my hand, ... Read More
I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale two day before sailing. We started the cruise on Saturday night with a pre-cruise cocktail party at a great place. Boarding was a breeze. I was in my room in less tham thirty minutes, with a drink in my hand, and food on my table. 2104 is a great stateroom. On 4/19/2010 the group gathered at the back of the ship. We had a wonderful time meeting again after our gathering the night brfore. The fun started at once. We moved from the back of the ship to our Cabin Crawl. We roamined the ship, drinks in hand full of laughter and good cheer. The Crawl was another great event. The ship is a work of Art. the rooms, the dinning area's the coffee shop, the Bristo. the Martini bar. the glass blowing show. The Tuscan Grille was divine. We had an extra day at Sea due to a storm that stopped the ship from docking in the Azores. There were no complaints. We continued to eat,drink and be merry. The Ports of call were really nice. I choose to stay on board for the last stop. I went to the Spa and indulged myself. Overall the cruise was wonderful . the thing that made the cruise outstanding was the group. the conversations the time spent just enjoying other people. Leaving the ship was just as good as boarding. As I started my second cup of coffee, a very nice lady walked over and said, you number was just called. Have a safe trip home. What a wonderful experience, from start to finish X is the BEST. The entertainment was excellent. The shows! some of the best I have seen during my thirty-four sailings. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
An avid history buff, cruiser, and romantic I booked this cruise based on itinerary and price. $1500 per person for a 21 day transatlantic AND full Med cruise was just too good to pass up. We took the Cruise Connection bus from Orlando to ... Read More
An avid history buff, cruiser, and romantic I booked this cruise based on itinerary and price. $1500 per person for a 21 day transatlantic AND full Med cruise was just too good to pass up. We took the Cruise Connection bus from Orlando to the port (as we have several times) and as usual we arrived refreshed, relaxed and ready to go. Embarkation was effortless (unusual for Ft. Lauderdale but a welcome surprise) We loved our cabin (regular inside) which was in the rear of Deck 8, one down from Lido. Can't say enough great things about the crew. Service was the best on any ship. Opted for one of the 40 spa packages that included hydrotherapy pool access and got my money's worth every night. Transatlantic was uneventful. We passed the day at the Microsoft classes and cooking demonstrations and happily crashed every evening after dinner (we liked late seating big table best) The shows we did see we liked. We also enjoyed the free movies. Once we got to the island of Funchal the fun really began. The day we arrived the weather was perfect with high temperatures in the 70's. Everywhere we went on the cruise the locals told us that the day before it was in the 40's and rainy, we were literally bringing spring from Florida to Europe. We had decided to pre-book top of the line tours through HAL at most ports and all but one were outstanding. My only complaint was people who did not read the description of the tours and were ill equipped to deal with the exertion needed. (causing major disruptions on two of them). We went on the botanical gardens tour of Funchal and adored it. The scenery was exquisite. We took a bus tour to Seville and fell in love with Spain it's people and culture. We arrived during the Festival de Avril and all the ladies were out sporting their festive Flamenco Finest. The next day we visited Granada and the Al Hambra. If you do, you WILL walk over a mile down hill and up hill just to get to the entrance. Next up was Corsica and the only tour in my life I've ever walked out on. The guide was boring and extremely inconsiderate marching the group up to the alter in a non descript little church while people were praying and standing there lecturing in english for over 20 minutes. We walked back to the ship through the delightful town of Ajaccio enjoying coffee and pastry on the way back and an amazing Farmers Market. HAL has no artificial rules about taking food or drink back onboard which was a wonderful surprise. The chef even took a group shopping with him for fresh ingredients for dinner. The remaining ports of Rome (Civittavechia)where a festival celebrating their patron saint blocked passengers from 5 ships and delayed sailing of all was a classic right out of Roman Holiday. Naples where we toured the Amalfi Coast and a traffic jam delayed our return and the sailing, Messina where we followed the footsteps of the Godfather, and then the incredible surprise of Sarande Albania with it's mountain top panorama overlooking the Harbor, the Island of Capri, and turning around to the mountains reminiscent of the Teton valley while sipping a cappuccino and enjoying a pastry captured on film and forever in my mind. Next day Split Croatia and a wonderful boat ride to a picnic lunch. The capper for me was the next morning Sailing into the Grand Canal in Venice past Piazza San Marco dodging gondoliers and vaparettos along the way. Our excursion to Burano and Murano was amazing as well. The cruise and service was amazing. Next day disembarkation was effortless and we were on the first bus to the airport. Then the fun REALLY began. We got to the airport in a rainstorm and when I got to the Aer Lingus counter for my flight via Dublin to JFK was given a letter...we're sorry Due to volcanic activity Irish airspace is closed and your flight is canceled. Time for a quick decision. I looked to the counter next to Aer Lingus at the Delta clerk and asked if she had any direct seats left to New York. "I have 2" she said, "they're sold I said handing her the credit card I had thoughtfully paid in full prior to sailing, and who I had notified prior to sailing that I would be on the cruise. It took 2 tries but cleared. Once I read the letter outloud to the 150 or so folks behind me (most from my ship) to help the haggard clerk out, I stepped over to the curiously empty Delta counter and asked ok, how bad is it? She sheepishly looked up from the computer and said "$4,400 each one way Venice to JFK Welcome to business first on Delta." Time to pause and think...I have 40 euros I had planned to use for Guinness during the layover in Dublin, I'm coming down with a cold, I have 149.9 pounds of dirty laundry, no cell phone service, no internet, it'a raining and my (see planning ahead)travel insurance bought from Vacations to Go with the cruise through a third party expires at midnight...Sorry honey I'm going home. We get on the plane (at least we didn't pay extra for the luggage!) and I asked the flight attendant, excuse me I usually don't fly in the front of the plane but I want to know what I'm entitled to. "when did you purchase your tickets?" 20 minutes ago I replied. She stopped the other two flight attendants and said "Ladies whatever these two want they get, they just bought the fuel to JFK! After completing the proper documentation and submitting it the Travel Insurance paid it's maximum $6k and Aer Lingus through Travelocity refunded the $1200 for the original flights so I spend about $800 plus the cost of Ins. for the flights. Based on this experience we sail on Maasdam in a week. I hope it meets expectations. I'll let you know. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Background We embarked on a 22 day roundtrip of the Caribbean from Southampton. In our party was myself, wife and ten year old son, in addition to my step-son and his partner, both 29. We have cruised a number of times with our son, since ... Read More
Background We embarked on a 22 day roundtrip of the Caribbean from Southampton. In our party was myself, wife and ten year old son, in addition to my step-son and his partner, both 29. We have cruised a number of times with our son, since he was born. Travel To Port of Embarkation For the first time we took the Eavesway coach from Manchester which was a revelation. Being the main driver normally it was really nice to be able to relax into my holiday immediately. No problems with luggage but leaving from a service station on the M6 did require some booking of a minibus. Ship Info Oriana was the first ship we ever sailed on. She is a lovely small vessel (~1800 passengers) with a really small friendly atmosphere but P&O's trademark large amount of public rooms. We have travelled RCI in the past and found the 3,000+ ships to be terribly large and impersonal. Our preference in hindsight is Oceana, which does have more public spaces without a significant increase in passengers. Oriana is classically good looking thought with a real stepped stern. Stateroom We always go for a basic inside twin with bunk bed for the boy. You're not in it enough to need much more. Good facilities, plenty of room, well tended by the steward. Recent upgrades mean there is an LCD tv and improved linen. Dining We found that the formal dining had improved, although it has always been good, just on this occasion we found the dining room food to be excellent. The conservatory buffet leaves me a little cold though and I'm never really interested in eating there for lunch and breakfast. Nothing wrong with it just I'm not bothered about a cooked lunch but you can't really get a good sandwich either. The staff captain invited us to Oriana Rhodes one night and that was fabulous. It really is a chance to try out some fine dining for £15 each. The service and food there was excellent. A real experience. Kids meals are good, although adults often need to be stopped from stealing food for themselves. The food is vailable only for kids for 45 minutes out of 24 hours, can't they have a break from eating for once. Children's Clubs Kids club was ok. It didn't adhere totally to the timetable but I think this is because it was really the first cruise in the ramp up to summer and family cruising. There were about 90 children on board. Our son used to love the 5-8s but doesn't like the 9-12s as much because it lacks structure, with kids free to wander in and out. he would rather stay in place with lots of activities, which doesn't happen. This stopped him making friends as quickly, although by the end of the cruise he was happily asking to stay there all day. Youthies are a universally lovely and supportive team. Entertainment P&O have taken on board feedback and really upped the amount of quiz-tye entertainment on offer (used to just be an individual quiz at 5:15) for those who are not as interested in shows. These were really good, led by a great Ents team. One of the great sides of the Oriana is the dedicated cinema which we have traditionally used a lot (Why don't other ships have this, rather showing films in the afternoon in the theatres). This had a lot of good, recent films on. We don't normally take in the shows because we're not really musical people but often check out other acts. On this cruise Roy Walker did two comedy routines which were actually excellent. I didn't know he used to be a comedian before Catchphrase so was pleasantly surprised. Service Service as always is excellent with all the waiting, bar and cabin staff being very polite and helpful. Our waiter was frequently giving us 2 starters each when we couldn't decide. Entertainment staff and Youthies were also very good. Ports Ponta Delgada in the Azores was a revelation. We took a taxi to the crater lakes and were amazed by the beauty of the place. If the weather is bad you can't see anything though, so don't book the P&O excursion and just get a taxi. 40 Euros for about 3 hour trip. We went to St Kitts and again got a taxi around the island for $15 each. Nice air-conditioned mini bus. The taxi rates and booking is really structured by the tourist information office. Went to the UNESCO heritage site Brimstone Hill fortress which is an amazing place with terrific views. On the way you stop at a Carib place and can buy authentic batik shirts which are great. ST Lucia we did the Land and Sea excursion which is on a Catamaran with snorkelling, and a bus tour back via the botanical gardens. If you book this get off the ship early so that you do the land bit early and sea later. We were stuck the other way around and would have preferred to sail back at leisure. Grenada I did a snorkelling tour of the Underwater Sculpture Park which was amazing. Wife and son did a tour which was by most accounts fairly dull. ST Vincent again we did a taxi tour through the rainforest and plantations. This of all the islands was the least touristy. My step son and partner caught the ferry to Becque, another island which was apparently all beautiful sandy beaches. Barbados was the place we liked the most which was a surprise. All the islands were quite samey - volcanic, black beaches and fair amount of poverty. Barbados is not volcanic so is the first one you see that really looks like the caribbean. It is more built up though and a bit americanised. Finally Madeira was lovely as usual. Warm, green, lovely sea food Disembarkation Got off smoothly at Southampton. We had been given the wrong disembarkation cards to get our coach though and found Tracy on the reception desk downright rude when it came to getting the right ones which she refused us. Summary This was a wonderful cruise. I thought I would be bored with so much travelling but found it very relaxing with plenty to do. Only one thing spoiled it and that was our fellow passengers. A large proportion were elderly of whom a significant amount were extremely rude and horrible to children. I never saw the kids being rowdy or anything but frequently saw other passengers reprimanding kids for not letting them go first and once hitting a child with a stick. One woman demanded I give the last Muffin from my son's plate to her because she wanted it, despite it being the only thing he would eat for breakfast and the huge range of alternatives available to her. There was apparently a lot of grumbling about children but lets face it Oriana is a family ship, advertised as such, and there are alternative P&O ships that are adult only. I have seen ships with 300 kids on board and they have been a bit rowdy, this wasn't at all. To be fair there were more lovely older people (probably grandparents) who very very kind and interested in the children. I don't think its necessarily old people either, I just think that a proportion of people who can afford to cruise when they retire (I doubt I'll be able to) have been wealthy, rude and used to getting their own way all their lives. Otherwise this was a wonderful cruise and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We have been sailing on various cruise lines the last five years in an attempt to discover a favorite. We have not completed our "experiment" but believe we have found it. Our voyage on the Seven Seas Mariner exceeded our ... Read More
We have been sailing on various cruise lines the last five years in an attempt to discover a favorite. We have not completed our "experiment" but believe we have found it. Our voyage on the Seven Seas Mariner exceeded our expectations by a wide margin. I'm definitely not a cheerleader personality but it's difficult not to be enthused about our recent experience. We have sailed on other Premium and (so-called) "Six Star" Luxury lines with excellent service, but the level provided on this voyage was above all that we had experienced in the past. All requests were performed immediately, competently, and with a smile. An example: I dropped my laptop and needed some super glue to repair a crack in the case. Not finding any in the sundry shop, I took a chance and stopped by the front desk to see whether they had any. They did not, but said they would check and get back to me ... by the time I walked back to our cabin, the carpenter was waiting by the door with the glue. I'm not a bar-fly but did enjoy aperitifs before dinner at the various cocktail venues. By mid-voyage each knew my special preference in preparation. Dining service at all venues was equally excellent. What I find nice is that this service is all rendered with no expectation of gratuities. The Seven Seas Mariner is the best ship we have sailed on to-date. The layout is easy to navigate without any port?/starboard? confusion and the atrium is a design coup ... the glass elevators and cantilevered spiral staircase were impressive to an engineer like myself. The passenger space ratio appears optimal, even with a full sailing. Mariner is the only ship I have been on where, at the breakfast/lunch buffet, there is no problem finding an empty table. Further, the tables are well spaced and no fancy footwork or gyrations are required to get to one's seat. Our (standard) cabin, while not the largest we have stayed in, made-up for this architecturally with an excellent layout. My wife being a late riser, I commonly have to creep around and dress in the dark, sometimes with surprising results ... my all-time blunder was later discovering that I had put my shorts on backwards. The roomy walk-in closet allowed me to dress in the light. Dining on the Mariner was truly an enjoyable experience in all sit-down venues. Service was superior and the cuisine excellent. We have always preferred open seating, and this was handled very efficiently ... we never had to wait more than two minutes to be seated. Tip: Walk-up also works at Signatures and Prime 7. We stopped by a few times on the way to Compass Rose to check availability and were ushered to seats on three additional occasions due to cancellations or no-shows. We ended-up eating in Signatures four times and Prime 7 thrice, which was actually too much because the menu only changed once during our voyage. A comment about the new "Elegant Casual" dress code is warranted. For myself, this was a very large PLUS. Packing a tux, suit, blazer, and appurtenances for formal, semi-formal, and informal nights has always been a drag ... putting them all on, even worse. Tip: wearing a tux does not make the food taste better. Packing only one blazer made life much easier and orders of magnitude more comfortable. My estimate is that 3/4 of all men wore jackets every night and the decorum was quite elegant ... and civilized. Being a "Cruise Critic", I cannot submit a review sans criticism. With one significant exception, the area of shortfall on our voyage was in entertainment and enrichment. To be fair, one should not expect a Las Vegas song and dance extravaganza on a small ship, so such omission was not a surprise. The disappointment was in enrichment lecturers which were: 1) An ex-military social aide speaking about his experiences at the White House and 2) A chap describing his system for securities investment, both with books to sell. I'm sure some folks enjoyed the White House "tabloid tidbits" and others were interested in attempting to double the value of their portfolios, but it just wasn't my cup of tea (but with many sea days, attended anyway). The exception was a group of Napa/Sonoma winemakers from the Louis Martini, Sbragia, and Turnbull wineries. They brought their best products and presented a series of wine tasting seminars on the various factors involved in the growth of grapes and the production of fine wines. The information was excellent, as were the wines they provided. It, however, did not stop there: known as "Private Reserve", they also make up a band that played late night music in the Horizons Lounge, well attended and enjoyed by many listeners and dancers. "Joie de vivre" is the best way to describe Private Reserve, who enjoy both life and work to an extent that all of us would envy. Wine making is their business and they do not make these appearances on frequent or regular basis. We were just fortunate to have booked this voyage upon which they happened to appear. Most shore excursions are included and, of course, well attended. The excursions were excellent, short notes of a few are: * Funchal: The "Portuguese Bobsled" ride down the hill on the city streets among auto traffic was fun. * Scenic Cadiz and Flamenco: The "scenic" part was enjoyable when, arriving at the beach seawall, we discovered nude sunbathing was popular. * Malaga: The excursion to the Alhambra at Granada was at extra cost but well worth it. We had made an earlier land visit and actually stayed within the walls of Alhambra, never knowing the full story of the site. This was explained well, and in full detail on this excursion. * Marseilles: Avignon and the Popes' Palace and des Baux ... impressive and much more in scale and magnitude than we had expected. So, with almost everything included, I wondered what one does with the generous shipboard credits? My wife, of course, had the answer ... make the on-board shopkeepers happy, which was accomplished. We are not "spa folk", but one of the ladies in our group decided on that option and had her hair done along with a facial and pedicure. Although covered by OBC, even she was a bit startled when she received the bill for $420 ... wow! I have changed my mind about the significance of the all-inclusive experience, which everyone knows is really is not free. One common topic of discussion is grumbling about signing chits, which is a bad argument because it is a normal procedure at all country club or similar organizations. However, aboard ship, all-inclusiveness simplifies and circumvents some great social issues: "Should I buy this new acquaintance a drink?" or "Is it my turn to buy the wine?" become non-issues. I have also read complaints on other boards that the late evening social scene aboard ships is limited or non-existent. This was not true on our voyage, where cabaret and dance venues were lively and well attended. It's my opinion that cruisers would not be financially damaged by the cost of an after-dinner drink but think twice and just elect not to have them. However, if it is included, why not attend and take part in the convivial social scene existing aboard ship, joining new acquaintances instead of remaining a stranger who happens to be sailing with other strangers. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
This was a perfect cruise for us to get away from Cold and Snow! Valuewise? A $$Bargain$$. Heavenly weather suited us perfectly; as we wanted to 'Soak up Sun' then get out and about amongst the locals at every port of call. ... Read More
This was a perfect cruise for us to get away from Cold and Snow! Valuewise? A $$Bargain$$. Heavenly weather suited us perfectly; as we wanted to 'Soak up Sun' then get out and about amongst the locals at every port of call. Firstly, we were perhaps NOT typical of our fellow shipmates. Being 50-ish put us at the younger end of the guest list..but we loved it!! PRINSENDAM guests on Grand Voyages typically 'know their stuff' and appeared to be savvy cruisers and worldly beyond words. Add to this the ship's officers and a staff that acknowledge their clientele's expectations and we feel we recieved a 1st Class cruise. Such a deal. Now remember; we are 'active'. We sky-dive, we motorcycle/backpack, we have a 'Go-fast' boat, we stay out late at home etc.; so this Trans-Atlantic gave us a chance to quietly unwind at sea from our workaday world and yet snoop independently ashore, as we did no group ShoreExcursions. No belly-flop contests, no Metallica on the Muzak on this cruise, go elsewhere for that. Embarkation: 9/10. I would suggest arriving the night BEFORE departure. We did not, and damn near missed the ship. My fault. Dumb. Maybe book a day-early Flight# and don't cut it close if you leave from miserable weather locales? Prinsendam Airport Staff saved our buns, thanks ladies! Sail-away cocktails and hor d'oveurs on the Lido Deck fantail Deck were great! Trip/Cruise Insurance? Maybe not a bad idea, IMHO. We learned something. Ha! Cruise Director: 10/10. Tom Faulkner. You rascal! They can make or break a cruise. Hard working guy....and good. Cruise Consultant: 10/10. Tina Falkner. What a coincidence. So nice. Thanks for the wine, Tina. Trans-Atlantic and St.Barts: 10/10. The weather was to die for. Add the StBart's Sailing Regatta before our very eyes was niffy for us sailors aboard. As we had hit most Carribean Isles previously, we hiked and walked and gawked at the Mega-Yachts in town for the Regatta. Days at Sea consisted of 'It's 5 O'clock Somewhere' around the Main Pool and HotTub. Few pool or Hottub-users, Prinsendamer's are sunners and readers it seemed. Plenty of Deck lounge-chairs every day poolside. Nice. We've been on cuises where that was a real problem. Service and Dining: 9/10. I rarely ever give a 10/10 for anything (because I just don't); so a 9/10 is a great compliment by me, wife sez 10/10. Dining Room Table-for-8 #161 had very good service and location-wise. We are not gormands by any means, but the food was certainly of better quality than on any other cruise lines we have sailed with. Officer's Tina and Norm kindly joined us for Dinner on 2 occasions and picked up the Merlot Mega-Wine $tab$. Now how neat is that? Lido Buffet was where we took our Noonish meals/snacks and wife loves Room-service breakfast; we did not dine in the Uber-classe Pinnacle Grill. Those who did related it was a fabulous venue and meal. Was the wait-staff strained to keep up? Ours were wonderful, but had to hustle; but as Cruise-ships ARE money-making enterprizes certain fellow cruisers felt HA maybe cut back a little too much on Dining Room staff. Service personnel at the library and Front Desk etc. were so nice. Not a grumpy face to be seen. Public Rooms: 9/10. I baffled me why a few other reviewers felt the PRINSENDAM was not spiffy. It was in my estimaton. OK, it isn't new, it doesn't have that new car feel. Good, I didn't want to cruise in a new car. it's Old World charm made it relaxing and comfy. New carpet was installed around all elevator/foyer areas during this cruise; so maybe that addressed legitimate concerns from previous guests. Sanitation and staff wipe-downs and cleaning were 1st-rate sez my wife (an RN for decades). Paint and Teak decks looked A-OK to me. Cabin: 8/10. Here's why. It would take a Penthouse or Veranda Suite to get a 10/10 from me. And newer high-end vessels simply have all-balconies, all-suites etc. Our Deck #7 stateroom had a 4' X 4' window overlooking the Promenade Deck, w/ 1-way glass and right 'round the corner from the outside doorway. Perfect for our needs and $$$. Certain guests literally could NOT handle their engine-room lower inside stateroom. Period. But you get what you $$pay$$ for, No? Newer stateroom configurations might have solved such issues. Dunno. Great pillows/linen on our bed. Our bathroom was newly re-done. Very spiffy. Lounges and Bars: 9/10. Talk about great bartenders and wait-staff. The bartender and table hostesses make the bar, right? Very perky and entertaining and skilled. I bought the $75 wine-cards to take care of house wine/beer needs Poolside and elsewhere. A similar mixed-drink swipe card avail as well. Saves a few bucks. Gil was our Main-Man up in the Crow's Nest after Dinner, at close down time and during certain Cocktail events. Our appetite was whetted 'round the window view tables served by the OceanBar cocktail staff. So handy to people watch and then head straight off to Dinner a few steps away. Complimentary hor d'ouvers were #1. Nice. Explorers Lounge near Casino had big-screenTV tuned to ESPN usually. Handy, small little nook. Now about the Sea-View Bar at the Stern (rear). 0/0. Whyso? Ya literally couldn't FIND the darn thing! Re-configuring the Decks during drydock put this area in Limbo-land. Too bad, as we would have liked to read and sip on a cool 'umbrella drink' back there occasionally. A few solitary types liked it I guess. And handy for the Penthouse Residents.(See Deck-plan). Keep in mind now that the clientele that return to the PRINSENDAM are certainly not the drunken Bubba-types one finds on booze cruises. A nice wine before meals and meeting new people over a drinky-poo make for enjoyable conversation times for us. The ambiance of lounges reflected the guest's preferences/sensibilities in the nicest way...except for the Sea-View's access issue, but no big deal. Entertainment: 8/10. We did NOT take in all the Showroom events. The ones we did were fine. Taste and Style ranged from Lite Opera, Adiago Strings, The FourSeasons cover act and a Jazz combo. Dance floor band 'did it all' for the Ballroom dancing and lite Rock-n-Roll numbers. Buddy at the piano in the Crow's Nest Lounge up Top made for cocktail hour'Entertainment'. Puckish humor and great repetoire made the times there memorable. That the officers made it the Nightcap spot-to-be kinda sez it all doesn't it? Lectures/Activities: 9/10. Thank goodness for Frank and Dave!! Frank helped immensely because we are Independent Snoopers. Frank is HAL's walking/talking Encyclopedia for Shore Excursion info. His experiences and Dave's various lecture presentations added much to the cruise. How lucky PRINSENDAMer's were to have them for their 'Answermen'. Thank-you HAL. Trivia Contest, Bingo time and Crafters personnel were more than up to the task. Shore Excursions: Dunno. Never went on any!! We were OFF on our own, by motorcycle or train or hiking, but we waved to the buses as they went by. Users reported them as A-OK. Some bi****ing as they paid $$$ for same stuff we saw for $14.49. But then walking issues/mobility makes tour buses perfect for some. Destinations: 9/10. St Barts/Carribean. Perfect weather. With Bucket Regatta for Mega-cruisers in town it was a quick look at the Rich n Famous close up. Yachts to die for. I will rate them all 9/10 as we like ALL places for different reasons. ie DeathValley gets a 9. So do Rainforests for us. Madiera. Lovely volcanic island where we took Cable-car gondola up for harbor view,backbacked. Then off to adorable restaurant 15 Miles West of Funchal (Santos Antonio)for open-hearth lunch of homemade bread and grilled chicken and Pitcher of Sangria with a view to die for. Tangier, Morocco. Dunno. We were hit by a Force 10 Storm and 30ft waves and couldn't dock. Ha!! The ship handled it extremely well. Great for story time back home afterwards. I kinda enjoyed it actually. Almeira,Spain. Nice city to backpack in. Up to Moor Walled fortifications above town and stroll thru the backway streets and hang with the local fisherman and drink local beer and talk shop with them in a streetcorner 'tapas bar' far from the crowds. Found EXCELLENT geologic fossils and semi-precious gems crystals near the dock. Neat for me. Tours went to the Alhambra of course. Isbiza Island. Backpacked to Top of Town Fortress.for great view and then grilled sardines, calimari and beer streetside. Then we're outa here. St Tropez, France. We rented a BMW motorcycle and headed off along the French Riviera. Spent most of our time near Grimaud. A nifty village with sensational views and castle and wine country vineyards. Then down along the coastline. Traffic was not bad. We would pull over, eat/drink and hike, take pics then tootle off for another gaze at paradise. WAY too short a stay. A 3-nite possibility. Barcelona,Spain. Wow!! My wifes 'fave. Strolling the Ramblas Blvd, the Miro, Gaudi museums and fantastic architectural artwork allround made for great urban hiking extravaganza. Cable-car to mountaintop and buses in town let us hit it all. PRINSENDAM wisely overnighted here. Coulda been a 3-nighter for even more walkin' and gaukin' in our opinion. Livorno, Italy. (Pisa). We took train to Pisa. 6 Euros@ 60mph! What's not to like? Light rain made it unique. No crowds, period. Fun little jaunt. Others went to Florence for the museums, or Lucca. Coulda spent 3 days here too. Rome, Italy. Here's where our 3 weeks came to an end. Darn. We took train from Port (Civitacheccia) to Rome's TrainTerminal. 21 Euros/pp. Walked from ship to train station 1/4mile.(only 3 suitcases). Then 3 glorious days in, yes, Roma, Italia!! Actually saw fellow PRINSENDAMers after we checked into our hotel and headed out on foot. NOW FOR THE WEIRD PART...We(and 4,200 others)got stuck in Amsterdam's Airport Sleeping on Cots for 5 Days/Nights account the Iceland volcano closed European Airspace before we got home. Ha!! Ha! and ha.... but we got free accomodations courtesy of Dutch Red Cross and a free look at Amsterdam and some good Heineken beer etc. There were no rooms within 100 miles of Amsterdam...for NO one!!. KLM Airline personnel were most helpful thru it all. Now would having 'cruise insurance' given a partial reimbursement? I dunno. But what a way to end a cruise. Amsterdam and the tulips and Spring flowers were wonderful. It will be HAL for our next extended cruise for sure. FINAL ANSWER: 9 out of 10. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Started the cruise by selecting a Thompson flight upgrade to premium seating UK to Barbados. This was money well spent as the holiday really started with the dedicated service offered by the airline crew, the 10 hours or so seemed to pass ... Read More
Started the cruise by selecting a Thompson flight upgrade to premium seating UK to Barbados. This was money well spent as the holiday really started with the dedicated service offered by the airline crew, the 10 hours or so seemed to pass in fairly reasonable comfort, one small gripe was if you wished to put your seat right back for sleeping, the person behind me complained that she could not sit and read properly. Transfer to Ventura was done in style, straight from the aircraft to coach and through a fast check in at the port, with our baggage not being seen until we got to our cabin. We had a balcony suite with a separate room for sleeping and a comfortable lounge with sliding doors to the spacious balcony. On arrival we opened the door to fresh flowers, fresh fruit and a bottle of very cold champagne. The cruise was as good as any we have been on, the food in all of the ships many restaurant's was above the quality found in most UK eating out places. We paid £15 extra each for a meal in P&O's famous Marco Pierre White restaurant and reckon this to be as good as eating gets, much better value than the £150 you can spend in a down town Chelsea eatery. The evening entertainment in the ships theatre was very good apart from one night when the a 'comedian' invited in from Cunard tried to invent his own form of flat sailing jokes, we followed the queue of early departures after 20 minutes. The bars on Ventura offer all cocktails and beers at reasonable prices,I recommend the cocktail of the day, for the price of a pint of beer you can enjoy a drink that would cost a fortune on land. Our big gripe on the cruise was the terrible British habit of guests placing towels on the sun deck chairs, most mornings after breakfast we found that by 9am all places were taken with more towels than people on deck. P&O staff seem to be of the opinion that this is normal on all P&O cruises. We have cruised with other Cruise Lines and found that after 15 minutes the deck staff remove personal effects from deck chairs not being used. Day time entertainment on deck was available in the two main pools to much cheering and banter, we elected to find a quieter and more relaxing pool at the front of the ship. On the whole we found Ventura an exellent ship and would book again if my wife elects to 'towel up' at 6am every morning and reserve our deck chairs. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
After many years of cruising, this was our first Transatlantic crossing and our first Cunard voyage. January 4th weather was mild and seas were only moderate, this beautiful ship barely moved the entire time. She is very steady and solid. ... Read More
After many years of cruising, this was our first Transatlantic crossing and our first Cunard voyage. January 4th weather was mild and seas were only moderate, this beautiful ship barely moved the entire time. She is very steady and solid. Promenade was nice and wide for strolling or lounging. Interior was tasteful and elegant, no "bling-bling" here. Food was excellent, tasty, excellent variety, well-spaced buffet stations, no traffic jams although the bay window eating areas in the Kings Court buffet (Lido-style eating area) seemed a bit cramped. Brittania dining room was very nice, noticed several (large tables only/formal nights) had candleabras lit with real candles, nice effect. Entertainment was first rate, guest speakers were all very good, shows were well-done, high-caliber dancers. Library was staffed and well-stocked with large windows, excellent selection of books, adjacent to a very nice bookstore with many historic and classic maritime books. Bridge announcements at noon in English/German/French, tasteful and not intrusive. Balcony cabin was very comfortable and spacious. The actual balcony we had was partially enclosed as opposed to one higher up that would be free of sea spray, but still a large opening and a full-length view from the glass doors of our cabin. The ship was spotless, and that is very important to us. Shopping onboard was good, however the only thing I wrote up in the commentary was the "sale" tables displaying watches, t-shirts, rings, scarves, and such, which one often see on our American ships towards the end of a cruise. This was a bit of a disappointment to us and I feel Cunard resents this relatively new "Princess Cruises" influence. The most impressive aspect was the service. From the moment we boarded and were warmly-greeted by two rows of uniformed, white gloved staff, to the well-orchestrated disembarkation, everyone, the entire staff, were consistently polite, courteous and professional. Overall, very high marks for Cunard Line and the beautiful QM2! We'll be back! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Cruised 10th to 24th November 2011, roundtrip from Southampton UK calling at New York. No Ice Bergs spotted! Choosing this low season option we weren't sure what the weather would be like so packed for all eventualities. The Westbound ... Read More
Cruised 10th to 24th November 2011, roundtrip from Southampton UK calling at New York. No Ice Bergs spotted! Choosing this low season option we weren't sure what the weather would be like so packed for all eventualities. The Westbound crossing started off dry, cool and a little windy and as we approached the Bay of Biscay the sea got a little rough, with gale force winds across the decks, but being seasoned cruisers we enjoyed being rocked to sleep in our beds at night. Some delicate souls found it a bit too rough for two days then as we approached North of the Azores the sea calmed and the weather improved. Spent the one day in New York before completing the Eastbound crossing. The rain greeted us in the afternoon of our departure from New York then cleared and as we sailed for home the weather improved daily until we were sunning ourselves trying NOT to get burnt. We could not believe it. Good mix of fellow passengers from all parts of the world but majority on both crossing were from the UK. This was our second voyage on QM2 the first being in June when we went to the Fjords in Norway for one week. PROS: Beautiful ocean going liner, styled in the art deco manner with beautiful glass screens, different woods used throughout the ship, chandeliers. The ship is so well designed that you never feel there are two thousand fellow passengers at any one time, the most you see is during the life-jacket drill on day one, and if the theatre or cinema are packed to the roof, which would be most unusual because they have two shows every day. Food excellent in the Britannia restaurant for evening meals. Used Kings Court Deck 7 for buffet style breakfast and lunch. Also ate at Oasis one evening paying the $10 per head surcharge for the Asian Tasting Menu which was a good experience. Tried the King's Court Carvery a la carte menu once evening at $10 per head surcharge but personally we felt it was no better than Britannia. Service on board by all waiting on staff was excellent. Pursers Office and Tour Office were very efficient and dealt with all queries. Chart Room lounge, in an evening enjoyed a Jazz trio and on other evenings a resident pianist. CONS: TV channels in staterooms - choice was abysmal. Cinema - went to 3 showings, one was the opera Carmen in 3D - for us it was awful, made our eyes ache and gave me a headache, left after half an hour, the other two films we went to see, (1) Ghost Writer and (2) Friends with Benefits, not our cup of tea, (1) we have no idea what country it was taking place in, or the plot and it was so boring (left early) and (2) American film, couldn't understand what they were talking about they talked so fast, (again left early). Daily entertainment lectures, again not to our personal likeness, compared to other ships we found them quite boring, but we overheard others who enjoyed them so it is personal choice. Theatre, must say that the resident singers and dancers have improved slightly from when we saw them in June, (Same shows though, which was disappointing) but the brass section of the resident orchestra overpowers every time. Other acts in the Theatre, female singer, male pianist and American comedian. I hope this appraisal helps others to make their minds up to try out a beautiful friendly ship with lots to do on board if you want it, or plenty of places to relax and unwind. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
This was our 10th NCL cruise and first trans-atlantic crossing. The cruise left from Barcelona and we flew in a day early from NYC to be well rested before boarding the ship. Really did very little in Barcelona but roam Las Ramblas for ... Read More
This was our 10th NCL cruise and first trans-atlantic crossing. The cruise left from Barcelona and we flew in a day early from NYC to be well rested before boarding the ship. Really did very little in Barcelona but roam Las Ramblas for awhile and the Barri. Went to the famous market and had the best ice cream ever. The embarcation was the easiest we have had. We were led to the latitudes area and the procedure was over in about 5 minutes. The crew on the Gem were wonderful from the moment we stepped foot on the ship. There was a line-up of crew all smiling and welcoming. NCL is very diligent with sanitation and right from the start our hands were sprayed and the crew member said washie, washie!! This is silly, but fun. And immediately set the tone for the friendliness of this staff. We were told we couldn't get to our cabins until after 2 PM. So, we headed to a quiet place which turned out to be the Star Bar tucked away on a top deck. Great place to spend some time with no interruptions. Our cabin was an inside on the 9th deck. It was one of the largest we've had on NCL and we had tons of space for storage. We also loved the small refrigerator which our steward emptied for us as we were not going to use the drinks it was loaded with. I want to note, this was my first trip being a gold latitudes member. We had a large fruit bowl waiting for us on arrival. We were sent priority tender tickets and priority disembarcation tags. We didn't have to ask for anything as everything was taken care of and I appreciated this. Let me talk about the Gem a bit. She is a beautiful ship and very clean. The atrium, especially after recently experiencing the non atrium on the Zuiderdam, was very well done. It is not soaring like the Spirit, but lots of comfortable seating, ceiling and glass art and very dressed for the Christmas season. The public rooms, especially Spinnaker on the 13th deck, Bliss and both Grand Pacific and Magenta dining rooms are very comfortable and well presented. Bliss is something to experience with its bowling alley and beds for lounging. We spent some time in Maltings Bar and Magnums both of which were great for drinks and people watching. The specialty restaurants we experienced were La Cucina and Cagney's. We enjoyed La Cucina although I missed the "trolley" of olives, cheeses and salads they had in the past. Cagney's was what we are used to in a top restaurant in comfort and service. The food I can't comment on fairly, as we were both suffering from 6 days of storms on the open Atlantic and couldn't really enjoy the meal. I'll comment on our ports in another section, but I'll close with a comment on the crossing. It was a very stormy and difficult crossing. Lots of people were ill and spent lots of time in cabins. The ship never stopped pitching and making lots of noise. However, the Captain spoke to us every day with information and the crew was wonderful in attitude and their ability to take care of us while balancing on a pitching ship. I'd sail anytime with NCL, but I think for a trans-atlantic crossing, I'd do it a bit earlier than December. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Splendor of the Seas is as close as it gets to the perfect layout for a ship. Everything seems to be right where it belongs...I normally hate sea days and we had plenty but I loved them all. The food couldn't be better or more ... Read More
Splendor of the Seas is as close as it gets to the perfect layout for a ship. Everything seems to be right where it belongs...I normally hate sea days and we had plenty but I loved them all. The food couldn't be better or more plentiful. I've been on bigger and newer ships but this was just right for me. I mostly cruise on NCL (9 times) but I feel the more classy the ships become the more they are lowering the classic experience of cruising. NO formal nights or dress code...too much like a free for all-come as you are Karaoke party. This is why I decided to give Royal Caribbean a try. I loved the Dress Up and theme nights...it really helps to let new cruise patrons to learn the ropes and know what it's all about. While I can't fault the ship, the food, the staff, the entertainment or the itinerary I was saddened by the fact that Theater Etiquette has gone down the drain. When I'm in a theatre I don't like a Bar-free for all atmosphere...The constant Flash Photography was distracting, annoying and against all entertainment union regulations but the Cruise Director waved here hand dismissively and walked away and several of the MAJORITY tried to tell her to put a stop to it. Trying to watch a show where dozens of people have both their hand fully extend over their head holding a camera with the LCD screen blazing and flashing and flashing all over the theatre as well and standing up blocking the view and casually snapping flash photo's was just too ignorant...I don't blame the unsophisticated passengers I blame the cruise director for not putting a stop to it. My other one down side is apart from NCL cruise ships don't understand the needs of the single passenger...we are not a SPARE to be stuck in any old place...perhaps we don't want to be jammed in with strangers...If two can sit at a table for four why can't one sit at a table for two....What's the difference. Be more flexible! Let us enjoy our cruise and don't force us into groups we don't blend with. Let us meet people and perhaps eventually join them. I've had too many horror situations at large tables as a single and would rather be on my own. This however was a great cruise (repositioning)Portugal to Brazil and an amazing deal...all I can say is keep up the standards...let loners be loners if they want. Thanks you Royal Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Contrasts between getting there and getting back via the Airline Industry and the cruise experience on Azamara were marked. British Airways from Toronto to Barcelona via Heathrow were their abysmal worst. Aged 767 with non operative ... Read More
Contrasts between getting there and getting back via the Airline Industry and the cruise experience on Azamara were marked. British Airways from Toronto to Barcelona via Heathrow were their abysmal worst. Aged 767 with non operative Audio/Video and funny food (We were in World Traveller Plus- an upgrade) Once again we were not treated to a visit to the fabled Terminal 5 in Heathrow but, after 7 hours, bundled like upright cattle into a bumpy bus that took us from the plane to the vicinity of Terminal 5. We were then switched to another similar packed bus that drove us back , past our aircraft, to terminal 3. After cooling our heels in Terminal 3 and buying Tea and Scrambled Eggs for $30, we were taken by bus to our Barcelona Flight where we stood in the rain and boarded our plane up steep stairs. Once in Barcelona it improved, new Terminal, clean, modern,.efficient. Taxi to the Hotel Onix Ramblas through heavy heavy traffic, arrived at about 2 pm. Woke up at 9.30 pm with a need for food. Fortunately Barcelonians are night owls so that was no problem. Next day we took the hop-on/Hop off bus from Placa Catalonia round the city, time for 2 routes and then a visit for a coffee at the rooftop of Corte Ingles, wonderful. People so polite and civilized! Then a taxi to the Journey. I wrote last year that 'Azamara is great but its not Oceania', well I now eat my words. It was the most fabulous, relaxing experience ever, and we have done some cruising! The ubiquitous Philip Herbert, Hotel Director has improved the experience so much it ran flawlessly. The cabins were the same size, but towels were bigger, Fresh Fruit (spotty last year) was lovely, Fresh Flowers. The cabin staff helpful, pleasant and hard working, as were all the shipboard staff. Special mention to Bar Waitress 'Maria' from Columbia who instantly recognised us from last years cruise and was omnipresent day and night with her friendly, happy demeanour. What a lovely employee, so typical of the HR policy of Azamara!! The fo0od was exemplary whether in The Discoveries Dining Room, no fixed dining times, tables for 2 through 10 so you could sit as 2 for Breakfast and enjoy the company of others for Dinner. Absolutely no complaints about the waiters, Maitre D's and Sommelier, we never had anything but friendly respect and wonderful tasting, presented and timely meals. We dined at Windows on occasion also at the Prime C Steak House, service and cuisine extraordinaire, as good as the best on shore restaurants. We4 did not try Aquilina but hearsay said it was excellent. The ship was lovely, in good shape and kept in great order by the staff constantly cleaning. Our Ports of call were interesting. Alicante, we had visited before so stayed aboard and stay in the sun and read. Gibraltar, an odd mix of Spanish and the UK of 25 years ago, Marks and Spencer, British Home Stores and Fish and Chips plus some excellent Draught Guinness and Murphy's Stout. Madeira was wonderful as was a revisit to La Palma , Canaries. We did our own tours at all spots as the Azamara Tours are just not value for money in any way shape or form. I think that was the view of most passengers judging by the turnout for the tour buses. We did visit Coco Cay Bahamas. It looked lovely but as a company owned Island with catering from the ship and 'Made in China' artifacts on sale was not enticing enough for us. We stayed aboard. Fortuitous as a storm came over and the tenders returning to the ship emulated the most vomit inducing rides at an amusement park. The tender returning the catering supplies finally gave up trying to return supplies to the ship after some jettisoning of tomatoes and cutlery. I was astonished to see all the waiters etc leaping in very large swells, without lifejackets of any sort. The entertainment was, in my opinion, for a ship of Journeys size good. A wonderful Orchestra, Max on the Piano in the Cova,a talented Harpist and a solo guitarist gave you music 'wherever you went'. a special word has to go to the Entertainment Staff, Kevin Coyne, Oleg from the Ukraine,Craig from 'Yorkshire' and a lovely newcomer to Azamara Katie Foster who was dropped into her first cruise at the deep end putting up with us at our constant trivias and similar games. She was beautiful, talented and read 'The night before Christmas' at the Christmas concert in a manner reminiscent of a young Julie Andrews. We had 2 Cruise Critic Receptions, a Greek Dancing Lesson from the Captain, a Passenger Choir, A Crew talent night (They are very talented especially Shirley, a lovely singer from HR) a Passenger talent night, 2 magicians, a resident crew of singers/dancers. Great, great ,great. Disappointing was a female fiddler (Violinist would be a bit pretentious) she lacked stage presence or real personality and the programme was a bit awful. We weer warned by others after the first show, we went to the second and left as it was a bit painful. The cruise director, John Howell, was a bit insincere, forever praising the Captain and the Orchestra and droning on and on and on oozing insincerity. He liked the sound of his own voice and was obviously reading scripts of the company 'line' However he didn't interact too often with the passengers unless standing with a microphone telling us of how he was a star on Broadway incessantly. One complaint only- Azamara, your coffee is awful, often undrinkable. The rest was fab, fab fab. We will return, most, if not all I spoke to were of similar opinion. They did 'Launch' Azamara Club Cruises' on board- main opinion was "Why spoil a good thing' nothing is free, local wines complimentary etc makes prices go up. The suites get one thing, the rest get less, starts a class system that would shutdown the 'extended family atmosphere' . However it must be good as John Howell was extolling it to the rooftops every chance he had to lay his hand on a mike. We arrived in Miami in a rainstorm, debarkation was best organised9sed ever, however the storm was so bad Air Canadas incoming flight to Miami got diverted to Nassau, it finally arrived 8 hours late at 6 pm. The captain had exceeded his hours so they had to fly another crew down from Toronto. We finally got to Toronto at Midnight 15 hours after leaving the ship. Air Canada gave us a bag Of Potato Chips and 'Free' coffee. The bags all arrived however. What a wonderful cruise, if they don't increase their prices I may not return to Oceania!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009

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