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Unfortunately, my wife and I had to cut our back to back cruise of 1/10 thru 1/24/2009 short due to a death in the family and fly home from Fort Lauderdale this past Saturday. At our insistence, our daughter and son-in-law continued ... Read More
Unfortunately, my wife and I had to cut our back to back cruise of 1/10 thru 1/24/2009 short due to a death in the family and fly home from Fort Lauderdale this past Saturday. At our insistence, our daughter and son-in-law continued onboard for the second week. But let me set the record straight by our experience on this our 34th cruise - having sailed previously with Royal Caribbean (Diamond Plus Members); Celebrity; Holland America; Carnival and NCL. I many respects, we found MSC Orchestra comparable to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and most certainly hands above Holland America; Carnival and NCL. To begin with, embarkation was flawless - took less than 15 minutes. Debarkation equally as efficient. This ship is FABULOUS, perfect size unlike the vehemoth floating cities RCL is introducing. Our cabin was luxurious, balconied on Deck 15 facing forward overlooking the bow of the ship - cabin steward and assistants more than accommodating and efficient - morning room make up completed within 30 minutes of our leaving for breakfast. Food was typical cruise food - one expecting gourmet should try the ilk of Crystal and PAY for it! Don't know why there is any criticism of lines for the casual dining at the buffet in La Piazzetta - there were NO lines (certainly not out to the pool) - there are six identical stations within that venue which allowed for easy access to the typical variety of breakfast fare - the same is exactly true for lunch. We had breakfast in the dining room only once but found the convenience and atmosphere of the La Piazzetta more appealing for breakfast and lunch (especially at the outdoor dining tables aft). We had late seating in the Villa Borghese Restaurant which proved to be a pleasant experience each evening - our waiter and assistant were most accommodating with impeccable service and special requests were executed flawlessly, notably nightly plates of a variety of cheeses awaiting us each evening. Again, the dinner menus were typical of RCL and Celebrity with some interesting and DELICIOUS departures such as succulent Rack of VEAL; absolutely delicious leg of lamb - not to mention the awesome lobster tail, of which we had 3 servings - and more if we wished. The formal entertainment, in the most gorgeous theater at sea that we have ever seen, was all European, mostly Italian, were all quite unique and not the typical revue type shows. Other evening entertainment, in addition to beautiful dance music in the abundant lounges, lead by the young and very friendly Italian Cruise Staff, was HILARIOUS and the FUNNIEST and MOST UNIQUE programs I have ever witnessed on any of our previous cruises. One in particular was a "beauty" contest for Mr.Orchestra which had the standing room only audience in an absolute frenzy of gut splitting laughter. Earlier negative comments on CruiseCritic.com referred to the "stare". Well, I looked for the stare and could not find it. Remember the adage "you only get what you pay for" - in the case of MSC ORCHESTRA it is not true - YOU GET MUCH MORE! DonDonTheCruiserMon Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Service This is the area where Celebrity still continues to excel and even amaze me as a customer. The service throughout every aspect of the ship was nearly flawless. Every detail, from the politeness of the servers to the way they served ... Read More
Service This is the area where Celebrity still continues to excel and even amaze me as a customer. The service throughout every aspect of the ship was nearly flawless. Every detail, from the politeness of the servers to the way they served your drinks and food made it so special. We boarded the ship and received the champagne greeting, and since it was early we ate buffet/grill[ which was pleasant. However, the first area where we received excellent service was in changing out dinner seating assignment when boarded. Of course it would have been better if Celebrity had gotten our table request for 4 right from the start, but the change process was painless. The assistant maitre'd was set up in an area outside the dinning room. When I explained to him that we had two children and that we thought it would be better for the other passengers if we were seated at our own table, he was able to immediately assign us another table. Once we got to our table on the first evening, the waiter, Rosario from India, was wonderfully friendly and very helpful with recommendations. Next, we met our Sommelier who was the best we've ever had with Celebrity. Not only was he very friendly and helpful, but extremely knowledgeable about the wines that were on board and able to make recommendations in all price ranges. In bars and lounges the cocktail wait staff were extremely friendly and efficient. I don't recall every having to wait for a beverage. Our cabin steward did an excellent job of keeping our room tidy and neat. We didn't have many requests, but any special room service requests or needs were met promptly. Food The food was for the most part excellent. We attended almost all of the evenings in the ship's two level Cosmopolitan restaurant. Celebrity offers fixed traditional seating in this, their main dining room. We tried the late seating on this cruise so that we could enjoy a more relaxed less rushed schedule when getting ready for dinner. We liked the later schedule. I enjoyed all of my appetizers, soups and salads. I especially loved the escargot appetizer, consomme soups, and variety of salads. I also had an excellent spring roll and puffed pastry. The entrees were for the most part very good.I enjoyed a charrasco style steak. I also enjoyed several chicken and fish dishes. One night, three of us had the veal, and though it was a hit with my husband and son, I thought it was a little institutional. Also the Chicken Saltimbocca was stuffed with tons on spinach and the sage was indiscernible. I like the sage to be the dominant flavor in this dish. Though it wasn't terrible, they should have called it chicken stuffed with spinach, not Saltimbocca. On this particular cruise we dined more often in the buffet/grill area for lunch than we have on previous cruises. Since the ship was not completely full, the smaller amount of passengers made these areas much easier to navigate than on other cruises that were at full capacity. We enjoyed the burgers and tacos from the grill as well as the salads and entrees in the full buffet area. All of the food was flavorful and with a wide variety, there was always something that I liked. In the evenings they offer pizza, pasta and an international station. The international station replaced the sushi bar which used to be offered every night. Now instead they have Stir Fry, Indian or Indonesian, or Sushi. This was a bit of a disappointment to the sushi lovers who could only get their fix every third night, but probably a welcome change for those who are not sushi fans. For sweet lovers they had wonderful dessert as well as hand scooped ice cream at no extra charge. Ship and Amenities Overall, I love the size, lay-out and amenities of the Celebrity ships. This ship features a 2 level theater, cinema/conference center, casino, a piano bar, martini/champagne bar, disco and small Rendezvous lounge for quiet music and dancing. We enjoyed the disco/observation lounge during both the night and day. This area was actually one of concern to me as the disco had been redecorated several years ago as the "Bar at The Edge of the Earth" for the joint venture that Celebrity had with Cirque de Solei. One of the main problems with that redecoration was that the draped fabric inhibited the views. While most of those decorations remain in place, Celebrity did remove the most obstructive drapings, thus re-establishing the panoramic views in this room. The ship also has a spa and work-out center and an indoor Thalossotherapy pool. Outdoors they have to swimming pools and four hot-tubs. The indoor pool and spa area are adults only, so we spent our pool time in the out door areas. There were plenty of different public spaces. Nickel and Diming You to Death For the most part Celebrity is pretty good about not charging for extra things that I believe should be included in the cost of the cruise. This ship has one small specialty restaurant with a $30 up charge. However, we were more than happy with our service and food in the main restaurant, so we did not feel a huge need pay the extra charge and dine there. Those that choose this option raved about the experience in the Normandie. There were a few offerings by Celebrity of which I thought the prices were a bit excessive. The least expensive wine offered by the glass was a white wine for $6, with most of the by the glass wine running in the $8 to $12 range. Beer ran at least $5, and call brand mixed drinks were $8. One evening I ordered a call brand vodka on the rocks for my husband and was given and charged for a double though I didn't order a double. The wines with dinner were both pricey and generally very good. In that atmosphere, I didn't mind paying a bit extra for the wines as they came with such great and knowledgeable service, but I felt the wines by the glass should have been priced a little bit lower. The other aggravatingly over priced item was the cost of a shuttle into town at several of our stops. The "nominal" charge was $10 per person. I thought that was very high even for a round trip, so I never purchased the fare. However, I heard from another passengers that this was each way and you cold only purchase a round trip ticket. For a family of 4, that is $80 just to get into and back from the port city. Either way whether it was $40 or $80, it was still way too much. Most of these ports were reachable by walking (about a mile or so), so depending on the weather we either choose to stay on board or make the long walk into town. There were a few extra activities that were offered for a small charge. They had a "Round the World" wine tasting and a "Wine Appreciation" wine tasting that were both offered at $10 per person. We attended and enjoyed both of these events. Also, we bought two soda cards at $5 a day for my son and husband. My daughter and I choose to forgo the soda cards as we didn't think we'd have more than two a day. However, the two soda cards we purchased for the guys seemed to work no matter who ordered the sodas, just as long as one of the card holders was present. Also, on Celebrity, the regular coffee in the buffet is free; the fancy coffee in the Cova Cafe is available at an extra charge. I enjoyed one cappuccino one afternoon, as the $4 charge didn't seem like too much for a small splurge. Destinations One of the biggest surprises of this cruise was the wonderful ports of call we visited. I had done quite a bit of research on the ports and had actually made tour plans and decisions before the trip. Barcelona was our embarkation port, and I would say to try to arrive in Barcelona at least a day or two before your cruise. We very much enjoyed the city it multitude of art, culture and history. Our first port of call was Malaga. This was a city in which we had planned to go into town and see a few of the sights near the port. Had the weather been better than cold and windy or the shuttle prices been a bit more in line with what I was willing to pay we probably would have gone into town for a few hours. However, since we'd been up late from the night before, and didn't feel like fighting the cold and the wind, we choose to view the city from the comfort of our balcony. Our next port of call was the beautiful Island of Madeira. This small garden isle provided us with many sights and landmarks right in the port town of Funchal. We first walked into town from the port which took about 10 -15 minutes. The city is known for its many gardens and we visited two. Then we stopped by the local church where we checked out its unique Portuguese Knot-Work ceiling. We did a little souvenir shopping for things like T-shirts, embroidered items, and Madeira Wine. Then we took a taxi up to the touristy area Monte where we enjoyed some of the gardens and then took the famous guided wicker toboggan ride down the mountain. After the ride we walked down the narrow streets back into town and to the ship. Our next stop was the Island of Lanzarote where we took our one and only ship's tour. I had done enough research to know that the port was not near anything to see, and that the island's main attractions was the Timanfaya National Park which can only be toured, for the most part, by motor coach. We chose the tour that took us not only in to the exciting "Fire Mountain" portion of the park, but also included a camel ride around the volcanic sand dunes that give the island part of its unique landscape. This tour was fantastic. People of all ages enjoyed the short camel ride. Nearly everyone on the coach was amazed at the formations left by the eruptions on the island that occurred in the 1730's. Because the island receives so little rain, only 1.3 centimeters per year, the volcanic areas are barren and other-worldly looking. The tour also included a brief stop to see the area where the lava from the eruption met the sea and a stop at the unique vineyards planted in volcanic soil and surrounded by semicircular rock walls. I would highly recommend this tour, as national park was definitely one of the most strangely beautiful places in the world I have ever visited. Tenerife was our next stop in the Canary Islands. Keeping our budgets in mind, I had planned a walking tour of the town Santa Cruz de Tenerife with stops at several museums. The city provided a free shuttle bus for cruise passengers, but had requested that it be for elderly or physically limited passengers. It seemed many people were taking the shuttle, but in order to work off all our big meals we choose to walk into town. Our ship was the fourth in line, so we had quite a walk just to get into the port area. Once in town, we found the tourist information booth and got directions to the first museum. The Regional Military Museum of the Canary Islands was located about a mile from the center of town. This free museum featured exhibits on the famous British defeat at the hands of the Spanish during a poorly planned attempt to take the island. The museum featured an Oil Painting of the famous British captain, Lord Horatio Nelson, who let the attack, loosing his arm and the cannon that fired the shots that wounded him. Next we did a little window and souvenir shopping in the famous shopping streets of Santa Cruz. Then, we headed over to the Museo de Hombre, a geological and archeological museum of all the Canary Islands that features extensive exhibits, (mostly in Spanish) of all the flora, fauna and civilizations of the Canaries. Our favorite part was exhibit of Canarian native Guanchen Mummies. Our final stop before making our 5 day journey across the Atlantic Ocean was Santa Cruz de la Palma. We were so exhausted from walking all over Santa Cruz de Tenerife, we thought we might just enjoy Santa Cruz de la Palma from the comfort of our balcony room. It was a little rainy all day and being tired and sore I thought I'd take it easy. Had the shuttle been a bit more affordable, the four of us might have ventured into town. Other passengers that did make it into town reported that this was the most charming and beautiful of the cities we visited in the Canaries. After our sea days crossing the Atlantic we spent our final day in St. Maarten. We kept things simple by walking into Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. We enjoyed a snack and some drinks at a beach front cafe. The kids and I enjoyed swimming at the beach and we also picked up some inexpensive souvenirs at the shops in town. Embarkation The embarkation was very easy as we had already printed out our express boarding pass. All we needed to do was show our passports and our credit card for our on board spending account and we were set. Our luggage arrived at our room early and I was able to unpack most of it before we even sailed away. Disembarkation I wish I could say that our disembarkation was as pleasant as our embarkation. Our ship had many passengers who were non-US citizens. When entering the US they are required to submit to a finger print scan and a digital picture. Celebrity did not do a good job of briefing them on this procedure prior to our arrival in San Juan. Surely Homeland security knew to expect many non-US passengers disembarking from our ship, but they didn't have nearly enough agents assigned to handle the extra time needed to process these passengers. We were in no big hurry as we were spending the night in San Juan, but it was a bit frustrating that we stood in an un-air-conditioned terminal for over 45 minutes just waiting to clear through. It also didn't help matters that many of the passengers complained and argued with the agents about the entry policy, rather than just getting it done as quickly as possible. Perhaps too, Celebrity could have been more informative to the foreign passengers about this process during the disembarkation talk. Entertainment Overall, the entertainment on this cruise was very good. The ship provided music and entertainment in almost every genre. Generally the quality was very good, with a few noticeable exceptions. The two headliners, Singer ,Jack Walker, and Comedian, Fred Klett, were very good. I had seen Jack Walker on my Infinity Cruise in 2005. He is a first class operatic/pop tenor who performs pop, Broadway, and classical pieces much in the line of Russell Watson, Michael Ball, and Michael Crawford. He performed two shows which were some of the entertainment highlights of this cruise. Fred Klett performed his comedy act on the latter half of the cruise. His observational family oriented comedy was fun for all of us. He had all of us laughing pretty hard. His act was clean and for the most part focused on what life was like growing up in a family of 10 kids. The kids liked him so much they pooled their spending money and bought his DVD to take home. The Celebrity singers and Dancers performed three full scale production shows and one or two numbers in some of the other shows. Their first full scale show featured mostly Broadway and Movie numbers. I felt that this show was just "OK", some parts very good and others kind of boring. Their next show was "Night of Stars" which featured songs of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century like Cher, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Nat King Cole, and Frank Sinatra. However the set was rather one dimensional, the choreography overly simple and almost amateurish at times, and the singing a bit forced. I think the singers and dancers did fine with what the material they had to work with, but this show was just not at the level one would expect from a cruise line like Celebrity. However, the Celebrity Singers and Dancers redeemed themselves with their final production show. This show featured a multitude of Broadway numbers including ones from Gypsy, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Wicked, Mama Mia, Hair Spray and The Lion King. All of the songs seemed to fit the singers' voices much better than the pop songs in the previous shows. They also had an opportunity to portray the characters from the shows rather than imitate a famous star. Character interpreting seemed to be one of their strong suits in this show. Finally, the costumes for this show were much more elaborate and fitting to the different Broadway shows. During the "Lion King" finale they nearly replicated some of the puppet costumes and sets from the original show. I really enjoyed this show as did most of the audience which they demonstrated through a standing ovation at the end. The other entertainers included and a'capella group, string quartet, a jazz/dance music ensemble, a piano player in the Michaels club, and a crew talent show. The singing group was pretty entertaining. They performed several times in the theater and in the smaller venues on the ship. The guitar player usually played on the aft lounge on the back of the ship. We were able to enjoy his music from our balcony. We didn't have too much of an opportunity to listen to the ensemble as we just didn't spend too much time in the lounge they played in. I should also mention that the Celebrity singers and dancers performed songs in the intimate Michaels club. Unfortunately, I was again too worn out from daytime activities to attend this event, but several other guests raved about the performance. The smaller venue and songs of their choosing really gave them an opportunity to show the quality of their voices. The other passengers also said one of the dancers was just as good as the singers. The string quartet was made up of a group of recent graduates from the University of Indiana School of Music, who looked to still be in their teens but were apparently a bit older. What a treat their music was in the dining room on formal nights. They also performed in the Cova Cafe and presented two concerts in the Cinema. The party band on this cruise was one of the best we've had a sea. "Frontliners" was from the Philippines, like the bands on our Hawaii and our Alaska cruise. They provided fantastic cover music for all of the theme parties from the 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond. They had two male and one female singer, all with broad vocal ranges. We had a lot of fun listening and dancing to them mostly at the theme parties held in the Revelations lounge. Our main complaint about the band was that they didn't play often enough pool side. During our warm sunny sea days they only did one 45 minute set. During our final Sail-a-way from warm sunny St. Maarten, they did not play at all. On previous cruises we have very much enjoyed hanging our on the pool deck en listening to the band play as we sail off into the sunset. With so many choices there seemed to be a type of music for everyone. Activities In addition to the entertainment, the ship provided many daytime activities to keep the passengers time occupied both on sea and port days. The games included Trivia, Battle of the Sexes Trivia, Name That Tune, Pictionary, and Pool Side Game Team Games. They also had a guest lecturer on the music business and Broadway. They had food demonstrations, wine tastings, margarita tastings, and even Martini tastings. They had movies in the cinema and also played those same movies for free in room. They had a water color artist teaching art classes. There were art auctions and fitness classes. There was so much to do, there was no way one could attend all the activities. It was nice meeting with fellow passengers and hearing about their different experiences. One passenger showed me her fan that she had hand painted in the water color class. Another shared with me how much he liked the paella and sangria making demonstration. I did not get to attend as many activities as I would have liked too because they seemed to conflict with some of my other plans. Some other passengers expressed the same feelings about the activities, so I don't know if we were off schedule or the activities were off schedule. In the evenings they had more theme parties than I can remember from previous cruise. They had the 50's & 60's party, a Disco Party, a White Night (which really wasn't much of a theme party at all, just fun music and dancing), and a Caribbean Deck Party. Most of these events were held in the Revelations lounge, and during these times the ship usually featured additional entertainment on other parts of the ship. Another fun activity was their ballroom dance contest. Male and Female passengers auditioned to compete in a "Dancing with the Stars" type competition. They rehearsed all week with a ballroom dance partner from the Celebrity Dancers, and then competed in a dance off one night in the Revelations lounge. I enjoyed watching the couples rehearse through-out the week, but again missed the dance off due to just being a bit to tired to attend. They also had two nights of Karaoke in the lounge. There were many participants, including my self, and a large crowd there to enjoy the performances. The activities staff was even nice enough to play my own discs that I had brought with me. Their own collection of Karaoke was rather limited and included no Broadway songs. Several other passengers also borrowed my discs. We were very pleased with this accommodation , but the limitation with using my own discs was that they were not able to change the key on these songs. However, our first disappointment with the karaoke was that the second night of Karaoke was only for one hour. The hosts told us that they were planning on having one more, longer evening of Karaoke, but that event never materialized. Those of us, that are diehard karaoke performers, were disappointed that they did not host another evening of karaoke, especially when the first two evenings had proved so popular. We just thought that on a 14 night cruise they would have more than two nights of Karaoke. This also brings me to my other area of disappointment: the passenger talent show. As a singer and dancer, I always sign up for the talent show, and on all but one cruise, they have had enough participants to stage a show.However, on this cruise, they had what they called their "Starring You" awards show. The show was only for passengers invited to participate from the ballroom dance contest and the best three Karaoke performances. They also presented a trivia and a best photo award. I was chosen to compete in the "Best Live Performance" category against two other passengers who had also sung at Karaoke. They did a great job in showcasing the participants with a full audio and technical rehearsal. However, my disappointment came from the fact that this format excluded so many other passengers from having a moment in the spotlight on the big stage. I know there were two other men who participated in Karaoke would have loved to perform in the talent show. There also may have been other passengers that were wonderful singers or dancers but were not invited because they did not participate in Karaoke or the ballroom dance contest. Sail-a-way The only reason I put the "Sail-a-way" into a separate category is because this was absolutely the highlight of our Hawaiian and Mexican cruises, and such a disappointment on this cruise. Our Alaskan cruise only had one big sail-a-way party, the first night when we left Vancouver, simply because the cold sometimes rainy weather was not conducive to sitting up on the pool deck and listening to the band. On our warm weather cruises the band played great music every day as we sailed away from our port. Usually the sunset, scenery, music, drinks, and fellow passengers combined to make these events the highlight of the cruise. However, on this cruise even when we had beautiful weather leaving our last port of call they ship failed to schedule the party band to play live music by the pool. Kids Program The kids program for this cruise was fantastic despite the fact that there were only 6 children registered in the program. There were three pre-school age children who only came in the Fun Factory occasionally to play with their parents or grand parents. In the older kids category, they had my two children age 10 and 12, and one other 12 year old boy from Australia. One might expect that they would not keep the program fully open when they have such a small amount of kids on the cruise. However, they kept the same hours as on all our previous cruise, generally from 9 to 5 with a break for lunch and 7pm to 10pm in the evenings. My kids had fantastic time in the club, perhaps because they could pretty much pick what they wanted to do. Often they choose to play board games or video games, but they could also watch movies are do crafts with the counselors. Accommodations Our room on this cruise was absolutely wonderful. We had cabin 7199, a corner Family Veranda room. This was the first cabin that we've ever had on a cruise that was really ideal for four people. We had nearly twice as much closet space and storage draws as we would have in standard balcony cabin. The beds were very comfortable and the full king size bed with easy in and out was a vast improvement over the Family Verandas on the Mercury. One of the nicest features of this room was the huge oversized balcony. We were afforded fantastic views of every port as we sailed away. I rarely noticed any excess motion in this room, also an improvement over the FV rooms on the smaller Mercury. Celebrity usually reserves these rooms for families of 4 or more, however they will sometimes make the available for two if there are not in demand from families. Evening Dress Codes and Packing For this cruise Celebrity had three formal nights. It appeared that most passengers enjoyed dressing on these formal evenings. If passengers chose not to dress formally there were plenty of options for them including the casual dining area, pasta station, pizza, international stations, and room service. I don't recall seeing anyone dressed extremely casually on the formal nights in the dining room. For the rest of the evenings the dress was "smart casual and above." On these evenings I saw passengers dressed in mostly very nice smart casual to very dressed up but not quite formal. Women wore very nice slacks outfits or dressy dresses. Men generally wore dockers to dress slacks with generally casual collared shirts including prints, stripes and solids, with or with out jackets. There was one group of younger people (maybe late 20's) who really stood out as under dressed in jeans or cargo pants with flip flops and hoodie sweat shirts on the smart casual. They did wear dark suits with ties on all but one formal night. They were not turned away from the main dining venue but I would have felt very out of place had I dressed so casually on what is called "Smart Casual". They were definitely the exception to the mode of dress on this cruise as most passengers tended to dress very sharply in the evenings. We truly enjoyed dressing up on most evenings, especially the formal nights. The small mistake that our family made on this trip was over packing. We had a little trouble figuring out what clothes we would need as the weather in Barcelona was cold and we weren't sure what to expect on the Atlantic crossing days. It turned out we brought too many dress sweaters for my husband as he generally was able to wear short sleeves or lighter weight shirts in the smart casual evenings. My son actually probably planned the best as he wore mostly short sleeve shirts and then added a solid blue blazer on smart casual evenings. My daughter and I did not wear every evening outfit we packed, and probably could have saved some space by planning on repeating some of the casual evening outfits. Changes There were a few things that had been changed since our last Celebrity cruise that I found to be a bit disappointing. The smallest item was probably the lack of cloth placemats in the buffet trays. This had no real affect on my cruise, but I noticed it. The next noticeable change was the availability of sushi in the evenings only every third evening. The Grand Midnight Buffet was supposed to be replaced by two events: A grand brunch buffet and a "Staring You" party with carving stations and snacks. The brunch buffet did not compare in any way as a substitution for the grand mid-might buffet and they never held the "Staring You" reception. Another noticeable change was that they no longer had bar waiters coming into the dining room for beverage service. We really noticed this change the first couple of nights because it took some time for our sommelier to handle this for us. One night our waiter was very late in taking our dinner order because he was handling a Martini order for another table. However, once everyone got into the swing of things our sommelier came to the table with our sodas, and other passengers seemed to get their martinis in the bar before dinner rather than the dining room. Another change that I didn't like was the "Starring You" show mentioned earlier. I think the traditional passenger talent shows, bad performers and all, is much better than this format. Captains Club and Cruise Critic Activities I was very pleased with the number of Captains Club activities, though on this type of cruise I think that most of the passengers were Captains' Club members. We attended the Senior Officer's Cocktail one afternoon and one of three Chardonnay Blending seminars. However, we did not attend the Captains Club Formal night because of the expected overflow crowd. From what we heard from people who did attend, they tried to have everyone enter through one door and show their sea pass in order to get in. When the line got too long and stagnant they opened up another door to allow everyone in. However, the coupons and discounts offered to captains club members really weren't any thing but sales pitches for items or treatments that the cruise line was trying to sell. It would be nice if Celebrity offered something of real value to its loyal passengers. The cruise director was also very helpful in organizing activities for Cruise Critic members. We had our first little party on the first Sea day where we were greeted by the Cruise Director and some of the activities staff. They also held another get-to-gether for us another day and even offered us a bridge tour and early access to the day they offered visits to the Helipad. We were pleased that the Cruise Director and staff were so eager to do a few small extra things for our group. Conclusion We had a wonderful and memorable family vacation on this cruise. We had many positive experiences that definitely outweighed the negative ones. Perhaps the best part of this cruise was the friendships we made with fellow passengers. However, after all of our previous Celebrity cruises we have felt that nothing could equal the Celebrity cruise experiences. With the few minor flaws on this cruise, I would have to say that though Celebrity would probably still be my first choice, I would definitely consider cruising with another line for the right price, itinerary, or ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Caribbean on the Veendam In this world of political correctness and a hyphenated society I guess I should call this critique the Caribbean on the Carnival/Holland America Veendam. The passengers may have had a few more motorized wheel ... Read More
Caribbean on the Veendam In this world of political correctness and a hyphenated society I guess I should call this critique the Caribbean on the Carnival/Holland America Veendam. The passengers may have had a few more motorized wheel chairs and a few less children but for the most part, the passengers were what I would have expected on a Holland America cruise. There were a lot of gray hairs, elegant dresses, tuxedos, good shows and sumptuous dining. However, you could see the Carnival atmosphere creeping in every so often. T-shirts and blue jeans were seen frequently in the dining room in the evening. However, let me start at the beginning. Since we live in Tampa, we arrived at the cruise terminal at 1:00 pm so that our cabin would be ready by the time we embarked and it was. The embarkation process took about ten minutes and we went straight to our cabin to deposit our hand luggage before heading to the Lido deck for our first meal. The timing could not have been better because when they announced that the cabins were ready, the passengers waiting for their cabins disappeared and there were plenty of good tables available in the Lido dining room. We had sailed on the Veendam before so our stroll around the ship after lunch had few surprises for us. We noticed, however, that a number of changes had been made, all for the better. We stopped by to see the Maitre De to see if we could get late assigned seating since at the time of our booking only open seating was available. There was no late assigned seating available but we were put on the waiting list. Although were had open seating the first night out we did get assigned seating for the rest of the cruise. We then retired to our cabin to rest up for the lifeboat drill. We were disappointed in the "tub" in our bathroom. Having sailed on the Prinsendam last year in a cabin with a six-foot bathtub, the little tub we found in our bathroom can be best described as miniature. It did make a nice shower. After a little rest it was time for the lifeboat drill. Our cabin was number 318 on the lower promenade deck and it was just steps to our lifeboat station which made the lifeboat drill a snap. Stairs and I don't get along too well anymore. On Monday we arrived in Key West at noon. After a quick trip ashore to get some things we had forgotten to pack it was back on board to enjoy the quiet ship. We retired to the Crows Nest to enjoy the departure from Key West over a couple of cokes. It wasn't until we got our bill at the end of the cruise that we realized that we had to pay state tax on the drinks. I guess that Florida needs the money. On Monday night we had our first production show, "Hits of Broadway". It was one of the best shows I have ever seen on our many cruises. The singers and dancers were talented and full of enthusiasm. We also found Laree at the piano bar. This became our favorite hangout each night after dinner. A group of us became regulars for the rest of the cruise. Tuesday was a sea day and the sea was just a little rough. While the roll was not excessive it made walking in a straight line challenging. There was a host of things to do on board and everybody managed to stay occupied. The evening show was the usual at-sea magic show with nothing new. I would have preferred to see the crew show which was scheduled for 11:15 pm, however, that was a little late for us. Wednesday found us in Belize City. If you like scuba diving or Mayan ruins, you could have a great time in Belize. We chose to forgo the tender ride to shore and enjoyed a quiet day on the Veendam. We took in the movie Mama Mia for the second time, not exactly the entertainment you would expect on a Holland America cruise. We went up to the Lido deck for the pool party and thought we had been transported to a Carnival cruise ship. We quickly made our exit to a quieter venue. Thursday found us at Santo Tomas, Guatemala. After a stroll around the displays on the dock we returned to the ship for another quiet day reading and enjoying a drink in the Crows Nest. The evening entertainment was another outstanding show by the Veendam singers and dancers. Our port of call on Friday was Costa Maya, a throw away stop if ever there was one. Lee Bayless was a great comic and we really enjoyed his show. Then it was dinner, a little sing along at the piano bar and off to bed. Saturday was another quiet day at sea and the debarkation on Sunday was quiet and quick, so much better than on the bigger cruise ships. My biggest disappointment on the cruise was the Cruise Director, Eric Holland. He must have begun his career with Carnival because he must have thought that his audience was a bunch of ten year olds. He should leave comic to comediennes and get rid of the pirate outfit. He came off as phony as a three dollar bill. While the food was adequate, after awhile there was a sameness about it that detracted from the dining experience. I missed the waiters balancing a tray of eight servings on one hand over their heads as they approached the table. And the light sticks on baked Alaska night was laughable (another Carnival innovation?) We have a 22 days cruise on the Rotterdam coming up the middle of April which we had booked before the Veendam cruise so we will have another chance to see if Holland America has completely transitioned to the Carnival family. If they have, it looks like Princess has taken over the number one spot in our cruise parade. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
The Ship...Exterior. Beautiful. Very stable, and maneuvers easily in tight spots, as we have witnessed in some ports. The outside deck plans were user-friendly with one minor exception. Would have been nice to be able to walk ... Read More
The Ship...Exterior. Beautiful. Very stable, and maneuvers easily in tight spots, as we have witnessed in some ports. The outside deck plans were user-friendly with one minor exception. Would have been nice to be able to walk completely around the ship, without having to go up and down stairs, or through doors. For casual walkers around the ship, this was a nuisance. There is a running track, but only covered the fore area of ship. Views from different parts of the ship were excellent. Outside walk on Deck 3 limited to side of ship, (port & starboard), no access for views from bow, or stern. Still, a nice walk nonetheless. Lots of deck chairs, although at times some were bundled up, and not available to use, which we thought was a little odd, especially in the sunny warmer days,(this is just a minor point). Good variety of amenities, like basketball court; golf area (netted); golf putting area; three swimming pools (more soaking than swimming); 5 hot tubs (2 indoor); waterslide (very cool!); lots of deck areas; pleasing to the eye. Interior...It's a Carnival ship. Not conservatively decorated! Not a single spot was missed! Spots everywhere. Pink and black, and a host of other colors. Visually very stimulating. For some, maybe too much! Lots of elevators (glass included). Stairways everywhere to keep you fit! Promenade Deck 5 was interesting, as there were shops (actually only two), a casino, coffee bar, a couple of entertainment areas strictly for younger guests, the Red Carpet Disco with super visual and audio equipment, piano bar and at the stern the El Morocco lounge, which is very tastefully decorated. There is also a Formal Shop, where you can buy flowers, or rent tuxedoes (etc). The Spectacular Spectacular (main theatre, forward) was awesome. The sound system rivals the best land-based theatres. The lighting and stage props were also awesome. The two main dining rooms (Decks 3 & 4) being the Gold Pearl (aft) and the Black Pearl (midships) were roomy, comfortable, and yes, visually stimulating. Lots of little nooks and corners where one can rest, or sit. The main lobby (Deck 3) was well arranged with a dance floor, with band stage on one side, and a full counter bar on the other. Off to one side is the Hotel Lobby desk (Purser), and the Excursion Desk. The hallways to the rooms were extra wide, and did not feel cramped, as you walked along. Three laundry rooms were the target of many guests during the cruise, but when you found the empty wash machine, all went well. The Spa (Deck 11), and the gym are awesome. In high demand, timing was everything in obtaining a cardio machine (elliptical, or treadmill). Views were stunning! Well equipped Library, with many games to be lent out, after signing for it. Deck 9 is the location for the main buffet, and several smaller eating venues (grill; Tandoori; pizza etc). My wife is a vegetarian, and she really liked the variety available, the most of any cruise ship thus far. Service...AWESOME!! All crew & staff were marvellous. After travelling on the same ship for 57 days, we became extremely aware as to how hard each and every crew/staff member works, day in and day out! There were no exceptions. Be it room service, or room attendant, to dining room staff, to cooks and chefs, to entertainment on stage and behind the scenes, to engineering, to administration, and of course, to the navigational staff. There were ports of call, and nature talks by Dirk, (excellent!)as well as technical talks (computer-related)by MickeyLive!, which were very informative and entertaining as well. There were table magicians who came to your table, and impressed the diners with their magic. A very nice touch during the dining experience! We were extremely impressed. Announcements were clear. Dining experience...very, very good! Good presentations, and tastefully presented. At times, the selection seemed a little boring, but during the 57-day cruise, that would not be surprising! We still enjoyed each and every meal. Embarkation/Disembarkation...some times a little quirky, and seemed logistically to be awkward (not using two different ramps for different needs, especially when passengers were going out on excursions had to line up with those disembarking the cruise-as this ship did multi-cruises, back to back, and many stayed on ship). This problem should not arise again, as the ship is now doing 7-day cruises, and everyone disembarks at end of each cruise. Staff and crew were very friendly and helpful at all times. There have other reviews for you to read. We are submitting ours to try and give a balanced review. We realize nothing is perfect, and there were some little hiccups here and there. But not enough to warrant criticism. We have travelled with 5 other cruise lines, (11 cruises thus far), and can honestly say we enjoyed our experience with Carnival, and in particular, the Splendor. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
We returned last week after a wonderful 15 day cruise from Barcelona to Miami, with stops in Alicante and Almeria, Spain, and four Canary Islands. On both cruises, we had the best food and the friendliest service we've had over the ... Read More
We returned last week after a wonderful 15 day cruise from Barcelona to Miami, with stops in Alicante and Almeria, Spain, and four Canary Islands. On both cruises, we had the best food and the friendliest service we've had over the past 30 years of cruising. Embarkation - both in Sao Paolo and Barcelona, embarkation was a breeze; on-board in less than five minutes, with plenty of staff to assist. A welcome glass of bubbly, a full lunch in the Windows buffet, and into our stateroom by shortly after 1 PM, although we had arrived before the designated time twice. On the most recent cruise, our luggage was in the room quickly and we were fully unpacked and into cocktails before the 4:15 lifeboat drill. Stateroom - we had a Sky Suite both cruises, which is a delight if available and affordable (we were upgraded for free the first cruise). Plenty of room, storage, good (but not great) in-room TV, excellent wireless internet access (for a fee), and fine service. I was surprised to read the review by Keefy, who had limited butler contact or amenities. We saw our butler at least daily (Pras), he was quick to respond to requests for extra ice, TV problems, laundry service, as were Ravin, the assistant butler and Michael, the assistant. Our flowers and fruit were changed periodically, as appropriate. Be certain to order the daily "savories," a beautiful and tasty array of four appetizers, available daily in the late afternoon. They were a highlight of both cruises. And room service breakfast has a menu surpassing most restaurants in selections, presentation, and quality. Don't miss it! Bathroom was adequate; we'd have liked a medicine cabinet but plenty of room under the sink. The rubber mat in the tub slips and slides if you don't push down to set the vacuum cups, but improves safety when you do. Toilet tissue was very thin; next trip we would bring a couple of rolls. The Elemis toiletries were excellent. Dining - Discoveries had a menu and presentation as good as the specialty restaurants on most lines. We especially enjoyed the crab cocktail, Caesar salad, combined broiled and thermidor lobster, and cherries jubilee, but there were excellent choices every meal. Service was exceptional, with friendly, patient, cheerful and helpful wait staff no matter where we sat. The Maitre d' knew us by name, always took us to a table for two when requested, and checked on our happiness regularly (Garan from Macedonia). Probably due to a change in chefs between our two voyages, Aqualina was the better specialty restaurant last spring, and Prime C this time, but both would have been $100+ a couple ashore for the quantity and quality of the food. Friends traveling with us ate in them most nights, but we enjoyed Discoveries so much that we limited ourselves to the three "free" nights in the specialty restaurants. Windows, the buffet site, has more choices than on other cruise lines, although the variety seemed a little less this time than last spring. Entertainment - fair to good. A magician, Alan someone, was average at best. The best shows were the three with the very talented and energetic five singers/dancers who comprise the onboard troupe. Don't miss the "Twisted TV" review which pokes wonderful fun at TV viewing. The last show, "Swing", was the weakest of the three production shows. Don at the piano nightly near the Cova Cafe was wonderful - excellent musician, fine conversationalist, and always entertaining. The harpist was very good, but harp music is not my favorite. We didn't go to the nightclub for dancing, but others seemed to enjoy it. The orchestra was exceptionally talented for a ship this size. Cruise staff - Contrary to Keefy's impression, we found Sue Denning, the Cruise Director, pleasant, available, and entertaining. She always had a "hello" even when in a hurry. Her daily TV introduction to activities is worth watching, although Kelsey, the Activities Director, tends to be too cutesy and interrupts too much. The entire staff of Journey are the friendliest, most cheerful, and respectful of any cruise we've been on; always stop what they're doing to smile and say hello. Spa - we thought the spa was good if not excellent. My wife had a facial and a pedicure and I had a deep massage. Prices were high but not outrageous, and staff was pleasant and capable. The gym/exercise room was very good for a ship this size. Shopping - limited, a little high-priced, but pleasant helpful staff. Casino - Ellen and I enjoy low wager gambling, and this was the best. As a small ship, it has only five blackjack dealers, and we got to know each of them and they us, asking after the spouse when only one of us showed up. Cheers to Madeline from Glasgow, Nina from Minsk, Jack from Capetown, Margaret from Australia, and Svetlana from Alberta (originally from Ukraine). Ports - Barcelona deserves a page of its own. Don't miss it. Best way to see it with limited time is to take the tourist buses which run on three intersecting lines with unlimited on and off. Alicante was pleasant but not outstanding, ditto for Almeria. We particularly enjoyed the free museum in the latter which houses the comical, realistic papier mache figures from their annual festival. The Canary Islands are outstanding. We worried about stopping at four of them, but each island is so individual in geography, views, and highlights that we would have enjoyed even more. Disembarkation - not as smooth as embarkation, but not bad. They should have signage to indicate where each color of baggage (matching the tags we applied the night before) were located, but we had our bags within five minutes. Unfortunately, porters didn't arrive until a few minutes after we dragged our carry-ons and four large bags through the line. Friends traveling with us have sailed Oceania a couple of times and thought Azamara equal, but with better service. We hope to find another itinerary on Azamara which appeals to us for a return. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
First things first, we loved this cruise! We are frequent sailors with Celebrity so some of the comparisons will be with our previous experiences. We began our journey with a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Miami. Hate flying and ... Read More
First things first, we loved this cruise! We are frequent sailors with Celebrity so some of the comparisons will be with our previous experiences. We began our journey with a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Miami. Hate flying and our flight didn't change that view. Everything was OK though as the flight was on time. It was a $22 flat rate taxi ride from the airport to the cruise dock. We arrived early for boarding (around 11 am) and found registration to be quite easy with no waiting what so ever. Unfortunately, not within the cruise lines responsibility, we could not board immediately. The ship was undergoing inspections by both the Coast Guard and Immigration so we were asked to take a seat and wait for official clearance. Less than an hour later they were cleared and we could board. Again, an easy process and quite quick. We had our photo taken for the Sea Pass and were given a glass of Rose Champagne. The rooms were not ready but that was to be expected since we boarded two hours before the suggested time. It gave us time to explore the ship and it's common areas. We had never sailed with Azamara and this was also our first small ship adventure. My first impression upon entering the ship was the ceilings were standard eight foot heights. If you love the soaring atriums and massive open spaces, a small ship like this is not for you. I quickly acclimated though and grew to love the smallness. One of our first visits was to Michael's Club which is on the tenth deck aft. On Celebrity, Michael's Club is a very nice bar with live entertainment. On the Journey Michael's Club is a very nice library but no bar. There was a grand piano which was occasionally used by passengers and as practice by one of the performers. This room was simply lovely with seating in club chairs and sofas and tables upon which you could play games. The book selection was great and the books were filed alphabetically by author. Best selection and best organization I have ever encountered on a ship. There was always a good selection of books available. Very impressive! Michael's Club was also used for various meetings like the Cruise Critic party, the Officer's Cocktail party, some religious gatherings (it was Christmas), and a meeting place for the Connoisseur Dinners (more on those functions later). Windows Cafe is the name of the buffet area located on deck nine aft. It was open for open for lunch and had the only operating bar at that time. We took a break, had a light lunch and a glass of wine while we waited for our room to be ready. The buffet is small but very adequate for a small ship. No trays, simply stacks of plates which you loaded from various stations. It worked on the scramble system where you pick the food station you desire. For the entire trip there were never more than three people in front of me. The food selection was fairly broad and I thought the quality was quite good. There was always a salad station, a cheese station, a dessert station, and a carving station. At breakfast there was cereal, fruits, eggs, a toasting station, an omelet station, and a waffle/french toast station. Full breakfast service lasted until 10 am and a Continental breakfast continued until 11. One of the great things was their coffee machines. There were four of them all located on deck nine. You could choose from regular or decaf coffee, double coffee (cafe american), or expresso from six different buttons. We always had the regular double coffee and it was excellent. The coffee machine also had a spigot for hot water for preparing tea with a selection of bagged teas with milk and lemon available. Next to the coffee machine was another machine with ice and water. And a third machine which had four spigots dispensing iced tea, orange juice, lemonade, apple juice, fruit punch and a tropical blend fruit drink. Only four spigots, so the choices varied with iced tea the only one which was always available. All these machines were available 24 hours a day. By the time we finished lunch, an announcement was made that cabins were now ready. Azamara follows the good policy of very few announcements. Once a day (at noon) was the Captain's report followed by the Cruise Director reporting on the days activities. Our cabin was on the seventh deck forward very near the forward elevators. We were worried about noise from people gathering at the elevators but were never bothered. The cabin was 172 sq ft with a 42 sq ft balcony which is a pretty standard size. It was well furnished and comfortable. The bathroom was quite small with limited counter space but with enough cabinet space to hold our various necessities. There were bottles of Elemis shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion for our use. I have had small verandahs before but this one was made smaller because the furniture took up most of the floor space. There were two chairs and a 2' x 3' table which was just too large for the space. To stand at the railing you had to move a chair to make room. The furniture would have been perfect had the verandah been twice the size. Azamara advertises every room comes with a butler. After a while, ours came by to introduce himself and cover some information on our ship. We found the service to be excellent but the butler concept is really just a cabin steward in a better uniform. He was easy to reach via his cell phone and any time we needed something it was quick and easy to call. Our luggage was delivered in stages over several hours. There was more than enough storage space for our needs. The closets come with removable hangers and there was drawer storage in one closet and also in the desk. Azamara runs their dining room on open seating, no reservations required, and country club attire. We were tired after our red eye flight so we skipped the dining room and went to one of their speciality restaurants for a glass of wine and an appetizer. We didn't have a reservation but they gave us a seat at an upright table which worked perfectly. The speciality restaurants are side by side on the tenth deck aft. Prime C is a steakhouse; Aqualina is Mediterranean. The food in both was excellent and we had several meals there throughout the cruise. Because the ship is small, it is easy to get around. The ship's lounges were also miniature versions of the Cova Cafe and the Martini Bar but perfectly adequate for the smaller number of passengers. The Cova Cafe always had snacks available when open. The Martini Bar was an evening operation only. Both had live entertainment at various hours via a guitarist, a harpist, and a pianist who rotated between venues. The ship's main showroom was called the Cabaret and it too was small but nicely furnished and comfortable. It was basically one level with a show floor that doubled as a dance floor. Entertainers were good but limited by the size with no sets or costume changes for the performers. All together the entertainment was just good not being any where near the variety or extravaganza of the larger ships. So if you desire high level entertainment, the Journey is not for you. We were happy because we more enjoy the entertainment in the small lounges where you can converse over beverages. The main dining room is a single story, prettily furnished room which is supposed to hold the entire passenger load in a single seating. I thought the food and service was anywhere from good to excellent. But the room just seemed to be too busy and not conducive to relaxed dining. The food variety was quite good but I felt they needed more wine servers. Being open seating, you walk up to the maitre de and tell him the type of table you want, i.e., a single, table for six, etc. There was never more than a ten minute wait and that was only once at the popular 8 pm. The Martini Bar was at the entrance to the dining room and was a good spot to either wait for a table or for dining partners. As Elite members of the Captain's Club we received a schedule of events in our room. I was impressed as we attended the Captain's reception, the Officer's cocktail party, the Cruise Critic party, and the Captain's Club reception that each event had waiters with trays of hors'douevers and servers with cocktails and an open bar. Very nice. Plus the hors'douevers were excellent. Also excellent were the daily savories provided by our butler. We had this service previously on Celebrity and were totally unimpressed. So we delayed ordering thinking it would be the same. Big mistake. The savories were actually small servings of appetizers from the speciality restaurants and included things like tiger prawns, foie gras, grilled salmon, pate, and even slices of lobster. We will order every day next time. There were ten sea days on this cruise and each sea day there were two events we loved. Each sea day at 10 am there was a cooking demonstration and at 1:30 there was a wine tasting. The cooking demonstration was done in the Cabaret show lounge by the head chef from the speciality restaurants and mainly featured items from those menus. Delicious samples were served at the end. The wine tasting was done by the cellar master and consisted of five tastes from a specific region. We covered France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Pacific Northwest, and other regions. An excellent idea well presented and informative. In conclusion we loved the ship and the cruise. It was an upscale cruise for the food, wine, and a very nice group of passengers. We will certainly be looking for more sailing opportunities with Azamara. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Panama Canal November 2008 Background info - My wife and I are in our mid 50's. We have been on 26 cruises on various lines with most having come on Royal Caribbean. This was our second Celebrity cruise. This was our second full ... Read More
Panama Canal November 2008 Background info - My wife and I are in our mid 50's. We have been on 26 cruises on various lines with most having come on Royal Caribbean. This was our second Celebrity cruise. This was our second full transit of the Canal. We left from DFW on October 31st on American Airlines to San Diego. We were on time leaving and arriving. On thing that was notable to me, on arrival in San Diego our luggage actually beat us to the carousel. Precruise: We stayed in the Holiday Inn on the Bay while in San Diego. We had a room that overlooked the bay and had a good view of the cruise terminal. The staff was some of the best we have ever dealt with, very knowledgeable and helpful. As we had arrived in the early morning our room was not ready the hotel kept our luggage. We found most everything we needed was with in walking distance from the hotel. Our room location afforded great views of the cruise ships sailing out so we had a sail away party each evening. We ate dinner at Anthony's Seafood, which was just across the street from the hotel. It was some of the best seafood I have ever had. On our second day we took the Old Town Trolley tour. We loved it. The drivers were all great and had very good presentations. We chose this tour because you could hop on and off at different places. You really had a good look at what San Diego had to offer. It was a great way to decompress before the cruise. Embarkation: This is an area that really needs some work. It took approximately an hour and a half to get on the ship. We experienced extremely long lines and a very slow line to get on the ship. And this after we had gotten our Sea Pass card! The glass of champagne was of course enjoyed as we came on the ship. Sail away was very enjoyable on this cruise as we had family watching and waving from a neighboring pier. Ports and tours: Cabo San Lucas - This was a tendering port, that of course, makes things interesting at times. Our shore excursion was to Todos Santos. It was a long trip, with the highlight being lunch at the Hotel California. This is the hotel of the Eagles song fame. Had one of the best meals of the entire trip. But, that was not worth the trip. We were late returning so there was no chance for any shopping. Acapulco - This was our second time to be in Acapulco. It will be our last time. We saw the cliff divers and visited a silver shop. This port has lost its charm and IMHO this port needs to be replaced. Huatulco - This was the biggest surprise of the trip. We had no excursion planned and just walked around the port shops. It is a beautiful little town with beautiful beaches. Punta Renas - We love Costa Rica! This was our 4th time to visit this wonderful country. And it didn't disappoint us. We took the Ultimate Costa Rica shore excursion. It was a wonderful tour. The bus driver and guide were the best we have ever had. This was a tour of the Cafe' Britt coffee plantation and roasting facility. The Britt guides were fantastic. We loved their presentation. We had a great lunch and their coffee is great. As we left to return to the ship it began to rain. This was the only time on this cruise we any weather at all. It is an all day excursion but very much worth it. Panama Canal - This was a great day. We spent the day sitting on our balcony and watching. It was beautiful weather for cruising the canal. And it helped that we were on the shaded side of the ship. We were lucky that we had a ship going through the locks at the same time as we were so we were able to see much of the workings of the canal. We had a great narrator as well. We later were told that people were up and sitting in the Constellation Lounge at 4:30 a.m. This was the day that we had the Celebrity Brunch. This is the replacement for the Midnight Buffet, or so I was told. It was a big disappointment. I guess my expectations were set too high as it seemed to be very hard to get around and the food was nothing spectacular. Cartegena Columbia - We did the Best of Cartegena shore excursion. This is a beautiful city, but, not one that I would like to go back to. No matter where you went the street vendors were there in droves. If you made eye contact you couldn't get away. They literally hounded everyone. It was incredibly hot here. We had come prepared with bottled water from the ship, but it was not enough. Take lots of water if you go. Disembarkation: We used the Celebrity Luggage Valet service. This was well worth the price. Total time from the call for us to get off the ship until we were in the bus to the airport was a whopping 20 minutes. Everyone in Ft Lauderdale was on their A game. Very quick and easy. Our flight home to DFW on American Airlines was on time. Overall impression: The Captain ( Capt Demetrius) is fantastic. This was our second time with him and it was great. He has a great sense of humor and it really shows. The crew was great as well. Extremely friendly and very professional. We had a Concierge Class cabin back amongst the big suites. Our room stewardess, Myla, was the best we have ever had. We are not the most demanding people, but we never wanted for anything. She was fantastic. We used Room Service several times. They were very prompt and the food was good. Food in the Oceanview Cafe was varied and very good. No issues at all. However food in the dining room was not quite up to our expectations. Mind you we never went hungry, but, the menu choices left a lot to be desired. Our waiter, Alvin, was very good. But his assistant, Natividad, was not very much help. Ship: We loved the Infinity. This was the last cruise before dry dock. It really needed it. It was showing lots of wear and needs some TLC. Hopefully it will get it. The entertainment was the best we have ever had on a cruise ship. The Celebrity Singers and Dancers were phenomenal. The fly in entertainers were wonderful also. We hated for this cruise to end. It was great. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We just returned from 15 spectacular days aboard Silver Shadow. Everything was in top shape. We embarked at San Pedro, CA, essentially the cruise terminal for Los Angeles. We had chosen early embarkation since we had to vacate the hotel at ... Read More
We just returned from 15 spectacular days aboard Silver Shadow. Everything was in top shape. We embarked at San Pedro, CA, essentially the cruise terminal for Los Angeles. We had chosen early embarkation since we had to vacate the hotel at Noon anyway. Arrived at Shadow about 12:30 and our cabin, a Silver Suite, was ready. And it was lovely. Clearly showing the recent renovation, it had new carpeting and drapes, as well as upholstery and new flat screen TV's. We enjoy the extra space a Silver Suite provides, and on a long cruise such as this one, especially with most days being sea days, it is well worth the extra expense. We had dinner twice in La Terrazza and twice in Le Champagne. The other nights we ate in the Dining Room. All the meals were quite good. The new arrangement, apparently an experiment, in Terrazza has a guest chef presenting their cuisine. The chef for this cruise was Suzanne Tracht from California and, frankly, her cuisine is nothing special. On the second night we dined there, they also had the Terrazza favorites side by side with the guest chef's concoctions and that was a welcome change. Le Champagne is intimate and worth the extra cost, but just barely. The Dining Room food was creative and well presented, and our waiters - Sabi and Dennis were outstanding. We ate in their area each evening we dined in that venue. Breakfast and lunch we usually had at The Terrace cafe (the name for La Terrazza during the day) and that buffet was well done. Also ate at poolside several times and had the world's best hamburgers there. Because this cruise was a re-positioning cruise and the highlight was transiting the Panama Canal, port stops and shore excursions were nothing special with stops in Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, Guatemala and Colombia. Again, nothing to write home about, but that was not the point of the cruise. The transit through the Canal was fascinating, accompanied by expert commentary and cooperative weather. There was quite a bit of entertainment, including dancing productions that were quite well done. And on the farewell evening, when the Captain indicated that he knew folks would be back on Silversea and he introduced the crew - about a hundred of every occupation on board paraded in to a rousing standing ovation. He's right; the essence of Silversea is its remarkable crew members. That's what has kept us coming back for this our third cruise on Silversea. They get it right, down to the smallest detail. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Although I'd heard the phrase "crystallized" many times before our cruise, I did not truly capture its meaning until we were back at home in Vancouver and shocked into reality. By way of background, we are in our forties, ... Read More
Although I'd heard the phrase "crystallized" many times before our cruise, I did not truly capture its meaning until we were back at home in Vancouver and shocked into reality. By way of background, we are in our forties, fairly well traveled and this was our 5th cruise in less than 3 years. Our previous cruises were with HAL, Disney (with our young daughter), Carnival and Cunard. Our expectations were high but they were all fully met or exceeded. To exemplify this, our special story about members of the staff and crew who will go out of their way to satisfy a request: Halfway through the cruise my husband decided to purchase a set of shocks for his car through a specialty store in LA (don't ask me why). The idea was to have the box delivered to the terminal so that we could fly it back with us to Vancouver. We spoke to Gabor, the Concierge, who not only suggested the best way to accomplish this, but took it upon himself to make all the necessary communications with Crystal's agent in LA and arranged every aspect of it, including following up to update us on the progress. The end result, the box containing four shining high performance shocks was delivered to us on board the morning of disembarkation. Many thanks to Gabor and his team who passed the test with flying colors! Embarkation and Disembarkation We arrived at the terminal shortly after 12:00 noon. We were shown to a waiting area set up with chairs and given a color card. Wait was approximately 40 minutes. Once on board we were greeted by Susan who walked us to the dining room. All in all painless and the beautiful Salmon entrEe with the glass of C Champagne were a great introduction to what was to come. Disembarkation morning - everything was going smoothly until the paging started for a couple of ladies who apparently did not know they had to go through the customs inspection before they would let anyone off the ship. Apparently one of them had to be fetched from her cabin where she was still asleep! It took a while to get that done and by the time we were allowed to leave the ship there were more than a few nervous people who were afraid of missing their early flights. This created a long line and substantial congestion. The Ship The Symphony is a beautiful ship which is constantly being cleaned and maintained to the highest standards. The maintenance crew is efficient and unobtrusive -case in point: the entire midship staircase carpet was replaced in a few days in a way that was not disruptive to the passengers. The affected areas smelled of the carpet glue for short periods of time but the installers worked quickly and without interfering with the comings and goings of the passengers. The public areas are beautiful and decorated in understated good taste to please the majority. One area that could be improved upon is the Starlite Club. There are a few too many club chairs there and trying to move them or reorient them is a bit of a challenge, mostly when there is a full house. Also, the fact that the open side of the lounge is a thru way results in the performance or lecture taking place being disrupted by peoples' chatter and laughter as they go by. The Avenue Saloon is one of my favorite venues, particularly due to Colin Salter's piano. The downside is that smoking is allowed and when there are more than a couple of people lighting up the air becomes a real problem for non-smokers. We are not fussy and can tolerate some smoke but had to leave on a couple of occasions because of it. On a side note: thanks to Colin for playing "my" song every time he saw us come in. There are no crowds or lineups anywhere although some of the venues are very well attended depending on what's going on and you might have to look around for an empty seat. Our cabin on Deck 8 was adequate in size and we had the small sofa as a bit of a bonus - I understand how the sofas are missed by many. The closet and drawer space was also adequate and by moving the life vests off to the back all our clothes fit well. Here is the one and only gripe: the HUGE obstruction. There simply is no view at all from that cabin and we will not choose this type of accommodation ever again. Having an unobstructed view (if a balcony is not possible) is a must for us. In addition, the humongous tender hanging outside the window was routinely being maintained/worked on so we had to continuously close our curtains to avoid having a maintenance person looking in on us! This severely impacted our enjoyment of time spent in the cabin. Caveat emptor, the cabin was described as "limited or extremely limited view", the reality is that there was NO view whatsoever and the cabin was very dark. I do take some responsibility for having chosen this type of cabin knowing that there was an "obstruction" but we ended up with what must have been the worst of them all. We made our feelings known to the concierge in that not all E cabins are equal and that there is a certain amount of misrepresentation by Crystal in that regard. The Food We live in Vancouver, a city of Foodies with a strong, international cuisine atmosphere. There is one comment I make to everyone I tell about our cruise. Food on each and every Crystal venue is of the highest quality, be it the Lido, the buffets, the main Dining Room, Prego, Silk Road, tea, etc. It is all about choices and you can do no wrong. We had not one bad meal, anywhere on board. By the way, I have tried to replicate the burgers from the Trident Grill - so far unsuccessfully I might add. We did dine at Prego twice - the Beef Carpaccio is to die for, so is the famous Mushroom Soup. Tiramisu, the best I've had on land or water. Tea in the Palm Court or at the Bistro was very enjoyable, particularly the Amadeus Hot Chocolate. The Service There is nothing I can say that has not already been said on this board about the level of service. From our friendly, efficient room stewardess Kristel who brought ice for us each night after one such request, and badly needed band-aids from her own supply thus saving me the trip to the shop one evening, to spotless service from our waiter Gabriella, assistant Henri and wine steward Johannes. Worth a special mention, Ivo our Head Waiter, who went out of his way to create a memorable Chinese birthday dinner for my husband and who makes the best Spaghetti Bolognese I've ever had (tableside or not). Needless to say, the Crystal experience would not be the same without the Lido guys - Sonny, I really didn't need the 4 Margaritas you brought me during sailaway from Cabo but I sure enjoyed them! Entertainment Varied and rich, thoroughly enjoyed the production shows but loved the entertainers. What a great new talent Philipa Healey is, Jimmy Travis is a hoot. Full Sail is great and I'm still trying to figure out how mind reader Marc Paul knew what he knew…just to name a few. The special interest lecturers were knowledgeable and personable, always at hand for a chat. Andrew Steigman kept us informed about the history of the places we were seeing and his recount of the history of the canal was very interesting. Nigel West had spot-on, timely talks. Sorry we did not catch any Fred Plotkin's lectures but we did attend the Wine Tasting events - Sommelier Pasquale outdid himself when the anticipated 30 participants turned into almost 150. Fellow Passengers We met many lovely people including our sponsors Jackie and tablemates. As has been said in this board, the Matre D' does a fantastic job matching people up for dining. We also had the pleasure of sharing our table with Steven and Stacey (dance instructors) one evening and with Nigel West another one. We were almost too late for the CC cocktail party as I was not feeling well for a short while but had the pleasure of meeting a few fellow CC'rs. It came as a surprise that the vast majority of the passengers were repeat Crystal cruisers but I'm not surprised anymore as I hope to become one myself soon. It's worth noting that given the size of the ship you are bound to see people you've met all the time. Ports of Call Old Cartegena is a lovely, well preserved town with many, many street vendors; we took a tour of the cathedrals and the guide was knowledgeable and spoke good English. It was a holiday in Colombia that day so many commercial establishments were closed and there were not too many people around. The Canal was obviously the highlight of the cruise; a tremendous feat of engineering and ingenuity - we wished Crystal made stops in Panama City, a sentiment shared by others we met but there may be good reasons not to. Acapulco and Cabo. We decided not to take any tours as we usually like to get the lay of the land by walking around whenever we are new to a place. In this case we feel it may have been better to take the excursions as there is very little to do/see in the port areas. We also had an unpleasant encounter with a man who acted very aggressively toward my husband when told that we were not interested in what he was selling. He threatened my husband with calling the police so that he would "know what Mexican jails are like" and with calling his buddies to teach him a lesson. We walked away from the situation and made our way back to the ship. Memorable Moments Too many to list but to name a few: walking around the Promenade deck in the afternoon hand in hand; breakfast on the Lido Terrace aft deck; dancing and sipping Champagne Bellinis in the Starlite Club; contentedly napping on a lounge chair on one of the aft decks; all in all wonderful memories and experiences. We'll sure be back for more. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background There was 5 of us on this cruise, myself, my wife and 18 year old daughter, plus my in-laws. This was our 5 cruise and third Transatlantic cruise. We had a outside stateroom on deck 2 mid ship and my in-laws had a balcony ... Read More
Background There was 5 of us on this cruise, myself, my wife and 18 year old daughter, plus my in-laws. This was our 5 cruise and third Transatlantic cruise. We had a outside stateroom on deck 2 mid ship and my in-laws had a balcony stateroom on deck 6. Travelling & Embarkation We travelled from Edinburgh to Barcelona via London City airport. It was a very early start with a 6:30 flight out of Edinburgh, but we all seemed to get up with spring in out step as it was holiday time. We arrived in Barcelona at 12:30 and were met just outside baggage collection by the RCI rep, who pointed us in the right direction of porters; this was the last we saw out luggage until we were on the ship. There was a short 20 min bus ride to the port where we were sped through the check in process. Having now attained Platinum status we were very lucky to join a very short queue and within 30-40 mins we were on the ship. After a getting slightly lost, we found our stateroom which was still in the process of getting ready. Sammy our stateroom attendant met us, what a nice guy. Nothing was a problem for him, and always seemed to be smiling as we met him coming and going. The Ship & Crew Having been on both the Mariner and Explorer; we all had a basic idea of the layout so it didn't take us long to to figure out where everything was. We knew that the Windjammer was going to busy so we headed for the Promenade Cafe on deck 5 for a few snacks. The ship it's self is still looking like it just came out the dock. Everywhere we looked someone was polishing or cleaning something. We can't praise the staff and crew highly enough, everyone we passed in the corridors had a smile or a nod to acknowledge we were there. I'll give a special mention to our Waiter, Judith and her assistant (who for the life of me I can't remember his name), plus Ray our Head Waiter, honestly the best Head Waiter we've ever had. Normally in the past we've found they only show face, smile and move on, but this guy took the time to speak to all of us. We would regularly meet him in the Windjammer always taking the time to chat. I'll also mention the bar tenders we got friendly with. Richard in the Theatre, who only after the second night knew what we were all drinking. One more was in Vintages (and I'm truly sorry I never got his name). Again he knew what I was drinking and before my bum was on the seat he was over handing me my drink, now that's service. At this point I'll mention our Cruise Director and his staff, Kieron Buffrey was for me just about right. Not in your face and subtle, which I don't think went down well with our American friends. Once again thank to the CD staff who after my wife wrote to Kieron arrange for my daughter to do a backstage tour as she is studying stage management and lighting in the theatre at collage. He had a great partner in Cuddy who managed to bounce off Kieron just nicely. I hope he makes a CD in the future. For me the only cloud on the silver lining was Captain Bang, for us he was as dully as dish water. His daily announcement were tedious, all we seemed to here was hear was his name then a became garbled with long periods of silence. I'm sure in person he's a very interesting person but on the stage of pubic speaking a small improvement is needed. Ports We didn't have many ports of call on this cruise, which is one of the reasons we choose it. The first up was Cartegena in Spain. The ship had never been docked here before so it was bit of an adventure for guest and crew alike. We did manage to get on an open top bus trip for €13 each, taking about an hour for the tour. Very nice and condensed city full of naval history. After the tour we took a stroll up to the shops. After 2 days at sea we arrived at the port of Ponta Delgada in the Azores, where we had 16 hours to kill. We've never organized a tour via the ship as we can normally find something to do. With this port we really struggled. The tourist information desk should be done under the trade descriptions as they weren't helpful at all, telling us most of the buses were off or broken. So we had to fend for ourselves. The town it's self is very compact and we managed to wander through the small streets taking in the all the sites and sounds. After returning to the ship for some lunch and a change we went back off the ship and struck lucky. It seemed we were there on the day all the Christmas lights were being switched on. It truly magical place, full of marching bands, Santa and kids playing. Our last stop came after 6 days at seas and we arrived in the port of Nassau in the Bahamas. After a small delay waiting for another ship to dock we got off and headed for the hotel Atlantis. Having been to Nassau in the past we knew where to go and how to get there so no time was wasted. We wandered round the hotel checking out the aquarium and casino, then headed back to the main town for a drink at the local Hard Rock Cafe. It was then back to the ship and prepare for the big off load at Fort Lauderdale the next morning. The Sea Days As I've said before we choose this cruise because of the amount to days at sea, which for us the must relaxing time you can have. In total out of the 12 days 8 of them were spent at sea. The only down side to this was the weather wasn't the most favorable, it was warm but for the most part overcast. To say the sea was lumpy would be a small understatement, for at least 2 days it was pretty rough, so much so when we looked our stateroom window it wasn't unusual to see the sea hitting it. We did spend this time doing all the stuff around the playing golf and roller blading and ice skating etc. The rough waters didn't stop us have a great time; sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth. We were just lucky on all the port days the sun was shinning. Entertainment This was a real mixed bag for us. We though the RCI dancers done a good job working under the conditions they do. However some of the star turns were a bit poor. Darren Day was really bad and never seemed to connect with the audience. Brenda Cochran tried very hard and has some real talent but I don't think the theatre was big enough for her voice. The real star turn was Mr Nobody (Yacov Noy). His three legged man was just classic. We did manage to see 3 showings of the Ice Dancing and we all still watch with open mouths how these people to do the things they do. With leaps, jumps and back flips it's all very cool. We just managed to stand up on the ice when the ship was moving all over the place how they do it is beyond me. Food I can't really do a review without mentioning the food. Overall it was really good. The choice within the Windjammer is amazing, if you can't find something you like you must be a very picky eater. Somethings could have been hotter. I do feel like people behave extremely badly and can be very rude within the Windjammer. Pushing in when queues have been formed, loading plates up like all the food is going to run out. I've always subscribed to you can go up as many time as you like, don't waste good food. We ate every night in the main restaurant, and there wasn't a night gone by that I couldn't find something to eat. The steak was always done the way I like it. I never walked away thinking hmm I need more to eat. In fact most nights I thought that was a lovely meal, and I don't have to do the dishes. Disembarkation We were very lucky that managed to be one of the last one off the ship, and also being Platinum member we had access to the our own waiting area, which was in the restaurant on deck 4. This made for a more pleasant experience than sitting in the theatre. By the time we got off the ship there were only a few cases left in the hall so we could spot our luggage without any problem. Clearing immigration was only a problem as some people seemed think it was a good idea to fill in their green cards when they arrived at them immigration officer. On the whole we were on our way to the airport within an hour from getting off the ship. Overall In conclusion this was a very enjoyable cruise, well worth the money we spent. Will we be doing another cruise, you better believe it, and will we choose Royal Caribbean, most defiantly yes, they tick all the right boxes for me. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My husband and I booked this cruise nearly a year earlier because we planned to take our 10 year old grandson with us and we live in Texas and he lives in New Jersey. After we worked out the logistics, we booked a mini suite and looked ... Read More
My husband and I booked this cruise nearly a year earlier because we planned to take our 10 year old grandson with us and we live in Texas and he lives in New Jersey. After we worked out the logistics, we booked a mini suite and looked forward to an enjoyable cruise. After making our final payment we watched in dismay as the cruise prices tumbled. What started out as a much looked forward cruise was turning into a nightmare. Prices continued to drop and our aggravation and anger continued to grow since NCL seemed oblivious to our complaints. Finally, after much negations between us, the line, and our travel agent, and a reasonable upgrade fee, we were reassigned an AB Penthouse, two bedroom, two bath with butler service. Now we were in the right frame of mind for a cruise. Having arrived in Barcelona a day early, we took a cab to the dock and our luggage was immediately portered away .We were directed to the embarkation area. Although there were lines for regular cabins we went straight ahead to suites and VIPs and were attended to right away. After receiving our key cards we were escorted to an anteroom where we were greeted by the concierge, met the Hotel Director, and our Butler showed us our way to our suite. Best embarkation ever!!!! STATEROOM Our stateroom was great and provided all three of us with privacy. This would be ideal for a family since the second bedroom sleeps three and the living room/dining room combination is quite roomy. Our stewardess and steward kept our quarters neat and clean and always stocked with fresh towels and toiletries BUTLER We thought we died and went to heaven. What can you say about someone who anticipates your every wish? Ice, drinks, snacks, whatever. And our grandson was ruined for life with cookies and milk before bedtime, movies for the DVD player and juice and soft pretzels for his snacks. TREETOP KIDS CLUB Our grandson (10) couldn't have been in better hands. There were several counselors on staff and always being with the kids. They played tons of games, had dinner together occasionally, saw shows, and even had a pajama party. On sea days they were open from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Our grandson had the best time ever and never wanted to leave. DINING and RESTAURANTS Suite guests have the availability to breakfast and lunch in Cagney's, the steakhouse. The menu is diverse and the food delicious. The Garden Buffet was always busy with good reason. The food was very good, with great variety and presented well. The Blue Lagoon was good too, with the promised "comfort foods". All the other restaurants were "extras" at $15 to $25 each. They did run promotions of ½ price, but this was not advertised, you had to ask each day. The Bistro, French has been and continues to be excellent. Cagney's steakhouse for dinner was also a very pleasant surprise. It was also excellent. We enjoyed the food at La Cucina (Italian) and the Tapas bar is fun and very good value, with complimentary appetizers provided with your drinks. The Japanese Teppanyaki was noisy, and not worth the $25 charge. The food was bland and disappointing. Room service was very prompt and hot and tasty. ENTERTAINMENT Ray the Cruise Director, was one of the best in this position we've met. He was personable without any "haughtiness" and his entire team exhibited a true camaraderie. This attitude infects the passengers with a great experience. The Big shows were also a big cut above the others ships we've sailed. The entertainers' voices were very good and the dancers were excellent. The other shows - Comedians, 2ndCity, Vocalists, and instrumentalists were OK. PORTS Ville France is a charming small French coastal town. Its main allure is the ease to get to Monte Carlo and Nice. We took the local bus (1 euro) to Monaco (about a ½ hour ride along the coast). Just walking around Monte Carlo and seeing the Casino, the Hotel Paris and all the designer shops are worth the visit. Livorno is the gateway to Pisa and Florence. We visited the Leaning Tower and a few other churches in Pisa then off to Florence. We got great photos of the city and visited the Museum Academia (Michelangelo's David, It is Magnificent!). After Several more churches and a little shopping, we stopped for the best gelato we ever had, then back to the ship. Civitavecchia is the port for Rome. We were there on Wednesday and were able to arrange to be at the Pope's audience at St. Peter's. Then after hitting the highlights (Trevi, Spanish Steppes, Coliseum and much more) we visited the Cappucine Monastery. If you've never seen this, you must. It is a VERY different sight you'll never forget. Corsica is the birthplace of Napoleon. It is a quiet city (Accacio) and was a welcome respite after the non-stop tours for the first three days of this trip. Malaga was also quiet. We arrived early and most shops were still closed. It was pleasant to simply walk around the downtown area and get a feel for the local culture. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We arrived in Genoa the night before the cruise and stayed at the Best Western, we had been in Geneva visiting family and took the train to Genoa so that we arrived quite late and very tired which was too bad as Genoa would have been a ... Read More
We arrived in Genoa the night before the cruise and stayed at the Best Western, we had been in Geneva visiting family and took the train to Genoa so that we arrived quite late and very tired which was too bad as Genoa would have been a lovely city to discover. We cabbed it to the port at noon and were on board and in our wonderful stateroom by 1:00 pm. This was all very efficient and smoothly accomplished. Off to a great start. We were not scheduled to sail until 5:00 pm so we took some time to familiarize ourselves with the ship and unpack as our luggage had arrived very quickly. Our stateroom, with balcony, was considered to be a suite but it was just a large room. No complaints there, it was roomy and bright with more than ample storage, the closet was a walk-in and there were so many drawers and shelves that we were unable to fill them. No need to push luggage under the bed as there was lots of room to stack it in the closet. The bathroom was small but efficient with a vanity and a narrow version of a full size tub. What a bonus!!!! The ship itself was sparkling from stem to stern, and it remained that way throughout the cruise. This was a fact remarked on by many passengers, it was just a beautiful ship. We sailed away from Genoa right on time to the strains of Andrea Bocelli singing "Time to Say Goodbye" (in Italian of course) this became a theme as we left each port, we kind of liked it. We tend to choose our cruises by itinerary and not by cruise company and this was no exception. The weather and the itinerary were wonderful and even the five days at sea as we crossed the Atlantic were sunny and warm. We took city tours in both Barcelona and Casablanca and loved both cities and felt that the tours were well worth it. In Tenerife and Funchal we walked to town and poked around on our own, something that we enjoy doing and find it a break from the regimentation of tours. Once in the islands we did a Catamaran snorkeling expedition in Barbados which was wonderful and a beach day in Antigua, we spoke with some who had done the swimming with the Rays and were sorry that we had not chosen that as they were very enthusiastic. We did Charlotte Amelie and Old San Juan on our own and loved both places although Old San Juan was a bit crowded and frantic in the downtown area. I have focused on the positives of the cruise and I have done so because we truly enjoyed it but I do feel that some consideration must be given to the negatives. The food on board the Lirica is not the best, I don't think that it was as bad as some would have you believe but they certainly do not know how to cook meats or fish. There was not a lot of focus on spices and meals came out mostly bland and overcooked. There was however, a great focus on fruits and vegetables and the soups for the most part were delicious. There were many passengers complaining about the food and threatening to withhold their gratuities, which would be unfair as the wait staff were wonderful and it is certainly not their fault that the food is not up to par. There should have been no reason to go hungry however and I think that given all of the positives, the food issue should not ruin your vacation. I personally felt that the fact that there was no casual alternative to the dining room after 6:00 pm and that they closed down the coffee and tea at times, was a much bigger issue. I have never been on a cruise where there was not at least coffee, hot tea and iced tea available at any time. It was also very uncool to be clearing the tables in the dining room and taking away your plates while you were still eating your breakfast. I think the wait staff is instructed to do this and it is bad form. There were a few Italian staff on board and it would not be a mistake to send a few of them to charm school, one in particular who worked at reception, just about everyone had her number and tried to avoid dealing with her. Disembarkation was easy although we were kept waiting for over an hour for our color to be called, there was no explanation but I suspect that the problem lay mostly with American customs and clearing the ship. I don't know if I would recommend MSC and the Lirica to anyone but I will not say that we would not go again if the itinerary was right. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Having enjoyed a cruise on the Costa Med in 2007 that left from Venice, Italy and hit ports in Italy, Greece and Croatia, my friend Jim and I decided to try a longer transatlantic Costa Med cruise in 2008 that started in Savona, Italy and ... Read More
Having enjoyed a cruise on the Costa Med in 2007 that left from Venice, Italy and hit ports in Italy, Greece and Croatia, my friend Jim and I decided to try a longer transatlantic Costa Med cruise in 2008 that started in Savona, Italy and ended in Santos, Brazil. While some things could be improved, we had another great time overall. We flew from New York into Genoa, Italy on November 26 where we stayed at a Costa-arranged hotel called the Bristol Palace. Our large, spacious room and its modern bath were very pleasant as were the bar and reception area. We had an excellent dinner at one of the finest restaurants in Genoa, Zeffirino, that was located a couple of blocks down the street. Then we then were picked up on November 27 by a Costa-arranged van for our hour-plus transfer to the port in Savona. Unlike some other drivers we've had, the van's driver was polite and did a great job getting us to the port on time. He earned a tip from us. Unlike last year in Venice, embarkation at Savona could have been a bit smoother. The departure hall was very tightly-packed and our United States passports caused quite a stir for the Costa staff. They were quite anxious to confirm that we held valid Brazilian visas. We had arranged them at some expense through an expediter that Costa suggested called Zierer Visa Service so that wasn't a problem and we were finally allowed to board the ship. While other reviewers have also noted it, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that the design and style found on board the Costa Med are stunning. While most of the ship has Italian roots, parts of it are modeled after Asian (Roero Wine Bar) and Egyptian (Osiris Theater) influences. Even on my second cruise, I kept noticing new details, like winged cherubs on the ceiling on one bar, every day on board. The Atrium is particularly stunning with its colorful floating sculpture and glassed-in elevators. One of the exciting features about the Costa Med is that it attracts mainly European passengers while most of its staff still speaks decent English. Life on board feels different than it would on a different line in the same family like Carnival where most of the passengers speak English. Along with Jim and I, there was only one other United States citizen on board out of about 1800 passengers. Since this cruise was for 17 nights but was affordably-priced like most repositioning cruises, we decided to book a Panorama Suite. It was well worth it for the top-notch bathroom and spacious veranda. The bathroom had two granite sinks and a real Jacuzzi bathtub with shower. Last year's bathroom, like most I've used on board other ships, featured only a narrow, coffin-like shower. The veranda had four chairs and seemed to take up about half of the aft of the Costa Med. Our Cabin Steward, Florence, did an amazing job keeping the Suite clean throughout the cruise. Our Butler, Desmond, had to cover 11 other suites on the Costa Med so he didn't do much except deliver a fruit plate to our room each day. The Suite did benefit from a few other nice small touches like enhanced bath amenities, terry cloth robes, advance copies of the main restaurant menus and one free meal in the pay restaurant. You should definitely book a Suite if bathrooms or verandas matter to you. Another exciting feature about the Costa Med is that it offers an excellent wine list at affordable prices in its main restaurant, pay restaurant, and in its wine bar. There were thirty to forty full bottles available, mainly from Italy but also from other leading wine countries like France or Spain, for about 20-25 Euros per bottle. One of our wine waiters in the pay restaurant and wine bar, Tatiana, was extremely attentive and knowledgeable. If you love wine like we do, then this is a great line to try out. The main restaurant was very good. While we never were awake in time for Breakfast there, we did have most of our Lunches and Dinners there. Each Dinner featured at least three Appetizers, three Soups, two Pastas, four or five Main Courses, one or two Salads, a Cheese platter, and then four or five Desserts to choose from. While the food wasn't quite as good as on our previous Uniworld, Windstar or Oceania cruises, it was still very good. On both of our Costa cruises, I was impressed that the Maitre D' made an effort to seat us with other passengers who spoke English and were roughly our age. We had three charming young ladies at our table this year. Two from Germany spoke enough English to be a lot of fun. And our Waiter, Benjie, who's a 7-year Costa veteran, did an amazing job handling his 24 passengers. The pay restaurant, Club Medusa, was very good too. We ate two Dinners there. It wasn't expensive or crowded. Some of the food items on a Michelin-starred Chef-selected menu were outstanding like the tomato bacon onion soup; others were just odd like one fatty beef shank main course I didn't enjoy. The buffet restaurant upstairs was at best good. Some of the food on the steam trays wasn't hot or fresh. The hot dogs, pizza, salads and desserts were fine. It was very difficult to get beverage waiters to take our order. So we mainly ate at the main restaurant downstairs. One area that could be improved a lot is the main stage. At least half of the shows we saw were mediocre at best. The eight-person on-board dance troupe did a good job as did a couple of singers but it was almost cruel for the Cruise Director to force some of the bar entertainers, like a talented piano soloist, Demetrio de Bellis, to take their turn on the main stage. The best show we saw was from a local Brazilian dance company, Interarte of Salvador, that was on board for one night only. Yet another exciting feature about the Costa Med is that it offers four to six bars with live music each night. The same entertainers who struggled on the main stage excelled in these smaller venues with room for 50 to 100 passengers. Most notable were Tango Trio, featuring a violinist, pianist and accordionist who were amazing and featured each night in the Roero Bar, and a couple of solo performers, Flavio and Dino, who did terrific jobs on their keyboards and on Dino's guitar in the Dionisio Bar. The solo performers both earned tips from us. And Flavio rewarded us by giving us his most recent CD. The Laundry on board did a great job with laundering my jeans and dress shirts and dry cleaning my blazers and dress pants. The Certificate of Crossing the Equator, signed by the Captain, that appeared in our cabin after we crossed it, was a very nice touch as was tooting the ship's horn when we crossed. I wish someone had warned us, though, about how easy it is to get sunburned when you're near the Equator. Jim and I suffered a lot from only an hour and a half out on our veranda that day. The Internet Cafe on board lost its satellite connection about halfway through the cruise so we lost our ability to access the Web for email or other sites. We were able to occasionally get email through our cell phones when we were close enough to shore. The new Costa Club card that I carried, for frequent Costa travelers, was supposed to lead to a 20% discount on service in the Internet Cafe, Laundry or Mini-Bar that never materialized on my final statement. Nor has Costa answered an email I sent over ten days ago on that point. We also had some difficulty getting an Excursion that Costa cancelled in Barcelona credited on my statement. It took visits to three different desks to get it done. And prior to the cruise, Costa needed prodding by CruiseCritic.com to admit that its unilateral switch from Dollars to Euros for our Excursion costs, months after we booked them in Dollars in advance on the Costa web site, left a bit to be desired. Costa needs to do better at customer service at its Reception and Excursion Desks. Since many of the ports on this repositioning cruise aren't regularly visited by Costa or other cruises, I'll only make a few comments on them. Along with several Excursions, we used the paid Costa Shuttle Bus service several times to get from the port to local sites of interest. I was quite impressed by Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. It may have been hundreds of miles away but it fondly reminded me of all the other cities I've seen in Spain. We had an excellent steak lunch there at Casa Carmelo on the waterfront. I thought the part of Fortaleza, Brazil where the Shuttle Bus dropped us was squalid with men sleeping on the streets and many empty buildings. Yet the shopping mall in Recife, Brazil where the Shuttle Bus dropped us was very affluent. We had an excellent buffet lunch at the Skillus chain restaurant. One of the young ladies from the kitchen adopted us since she spoke the best English there. And she earned a tip from us. We had an amazing lunch outdoors at Jardim Das Delicias in Salvador, Brazil featuring seafood stew served in a large bubbling pot. And the Excursion we took that night in Salvador to see a local dance troupe with gymnastic flair was excellent. The Jeep Excursion we took to Corcovado and the Rainforest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was outstanding but a bit long. Unless you love beaches, I wouldn't recommend visiting Brazil with Costa or otherwise for another five or so years so that it can build up its tourism infrastructure a bit more. After killing a couple of hours on board waiting, our disembarkation on December 14 in Santos, Brazil went smoothly. We were able to claim our luggage, clear Customs, and get on our Excursion bus that toured Sao Paulo, Brazil and then took us to its Airport for our flight back to New York. We had a great experience with arranging our two separate flights here using the www.vayama.com website that specializes in international travel. While we wondered in advance if a 17-day cruise would be too long and if we'd be eager to get home, that wasn't the case here. We really enjoyed sleeping late, eating at the main restaurant, and enjoying the wine and live entertainment in Costa Med's bars a lot. We'd definitely travel on the Costa Med or a different Costa ship in the future. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I am a Diamond, almost Plus, member and cross regularly on RCCL's larger ships and the QM2. I decided to cross the Atlantic on the Independence of the Seas rather than the Navigator, my favorite ship, because it was a first time ... Read More
I am a Diamond, almost Plus, member and cross regularly on RCCL's larger ships and the QM2. I decided to cross the Atlantic on the Independence of the Seas rather than the Navigator, my favorite ship, because it was a first time crossing for this ship and I thought it would be fun seeing all the new stuff RCCL has put on this basically English market outfitted ship. The Independence is very large but so well designed that you do not notice the large numbers of people. It is a new ship with large flat screen TV's and unique to the Independence, a very good hot water kettle in the room with tea and coffee. I do wish RCCL would put such a quality kettle in all the rooms on their ships. I had a rear facing D1 balcony cabin which was just wonderful. The same size as most D1 cabins, the rear facing cabins have, generally, a balcony three time the size of traditional balconies. I was on the 10th floor and right next to me were two wonderful regular RCCL travelers from Florida. We enjoyed talking a lot on that crossing. The advantage to being a Diamond on RCCL is that they do a lot for those who are loyal to this ship line. No other cruise ship line does as much as RCCL for in the mornings they have a lounge open specially for Diamonds and those Plus which has a great breakfast. The two concierges they have on the Diamond level try to work issues out and do the best they can when sometimes very arrogant Diamond members make unreasonable demands. RCCL also has a cocktail time from generally 5-8:30pm where Diamonds and Diamond Plus members can meet and have a good time while having a drink or two provided by RCCL. No other Cruise Line comes even close to doing this for their loyal customers! I so hope RCCL never changes this policy for it is the primary reason so many of us return to RCCL given some of the manifest other issues they do not seem to be able to address such as the lesser than average food in their dinning rooms, etc. The primary reason I am writing this is to send along a compliment to RCCL for so many times all I hear are stories finding problems with the cruise lines. On this crossing the ship stopped in Vigo, Spain, and against better advice I ate oysters on shore. I thereupon, a day later, became so ill that for the first time, ever, I called the medical facility on the ship at 2am and said I was so bad I could not ever walk down to their facility. They immediately sent someone up with a wheel chair and brought me down to see the nurse and the Doctor. The nurse was from Romania and was just wonderful and the Doctor was Canadian and really knew his business of taking care of very sick travelers. They gave me fluids via intravenously and a shot, etc. After a period of two hours I was well enough to go back to the room and because RCCL is very conscious of the virus that can become a problem with other travelers on the ship, I was quarantined for two days. I was fine with being quarantined because even though I thought my problem was food poisoning the Dr. wanted to make sure I had nothing else that could cause problems with everyone else on board. For the next two days they sent my meals to my room, called me regularly from the infirmary, from guest services and from the Diamond lounge to make sure I was ok and doing better. They sent free of charge all the gatorade, bottled water I needed and gave me free Internet wifi in my room for my laptop and I watched all the movies I wanted as a gift from the ship. I am somewhat discerning about medical care and I can tell you that rest easy if that is something that causes you concern about going to sea. If you are on a RCCL ship, their standards are very high and they take that responsibility seriously. RCCL also sent me a cruise credit for a future cruise because I missed part of my crossing being quarantined. Cruise credits are nice things to have for you keep being rewarded by RCCL the more credits you receive. So, what started out as a short note seems to have gone on but if anyone wants to ask me any questions, please just email me at: rennyga2000@yahoo.com Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Seventeen days on the Zuiderdam - a very nice experience. There have been several reviews of this cruise, so I will try to comment on just a few pertinent areas. First: The noro virus. Some people have written that the ship remained ... Read More
Seventeen days on the Zuiderdam - a very nice experience. There have been several reviews of this cruise, so I will try to comment on just a few pertinent areas. First: The noro virus. Some people have written that the ship remained silent about this problem for the first week or so of the cruise. I remember it differently. I specifically remember an announcement on embarkation day that there had been some cases of intestinal disorder on the previous cruise and advising passengers to take the appropriate precautions. There was also a written note to that effect in our suite. After 3 or 4 days, it became clear to the medical staff on board that the virus was still with the ship. There were announcements every day from that point on about the situation and reminders to be sanitary, wash hands, etc. I spent a day and a half in quarantine and felt that I got excellent, professional treatment. Every member of the crew pitched in and helped, particularly in food service where, because of the virus, passengers were not allowed to touch anything until it was on the plate. This was particularly cumbersome in the Lido Buffet. As a result lunches were not very enjoyable. I thought the officers, crew, and medical staff did everything they could to deal with this problem. The CDC calls this virus the second most common contagious disease(next to the cold.) The presence of such a virus in an enclosed environment presents most difficult challenges. I applaud the crew for their hard work and great attitude while dealing with this problem Two highlights: The quality of food at dinner time on this ship was as good as, or better than we have experienced in something over a dozen cruises. I have always thought that Holland America provided good, but not great food. They exceeded my expectations on this cruise. Every evening meal on this 17-day cruise was excellent! We enjoyed the meals in the main dining room and had three dinners in the Pinnacle Grill. The food in either venue was consistently outstanding. The Pinnacle Grill quality was slightly better and the service there was as good as I've seen. We have enjoyed wonderful meals on Crystal and Regent. Our experiences on this cruise were just as memorable. What a great surprise! The other highlight was the quality of the singing and dancing troupe on the ship. These young folks were more talented than any I have seen on a cruise ship. In a cast like this, I usually find one singer with great talent while the rest are just supporting. This cast had 4 singers, and each one was tremendous. The dancing and showmanship of the entire cast brings a smile to my face even now. One "lowlight": "As You Wish Dining" doesn't work very well on Zuiderdam. Indeed, we began to refer to it as "As the Zuiderdam wishes dining." We tried advance reservations. (They don't take reservations during the most desirable dining times - so if you want a reservation you must eat before 6 or after 8:30.) We tried showing up "when we wanted to dine with whom we wanted" (as the ads say). Each appearance at the restaurant was an adventure. We were shown to tables that were already occupied. We were told that there were no tables for four, only to get to the room and see several empty tables for four. Then, on other nights everything worked very well. There may be a way to make this system work. If so, Zuiderdam hasn't discovered it. Although a problem, it was overcome by the outstanding food we enjoyed once we were seated. One final comment. I'd read in various reviews that the decor of the Zuiderdam was rather gaudy. This must have been mitigated in the ship's most recent drydock. We felt that the ship was very tastefully decorated and had no complaints at all in that regard. Summary: The cruise was excellent despite the nagging presence of the noro virus. The outstanding attitude and amazing hard work by the crew is what made the cruise enjoyable despite the big challenges they faced. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
This was my second repositioning cruise and it was great! I opted for the 30 day version thus allowing me to really see Europe. I flew from SFO to Frankfurt Germany to visit some friends in Germany (which was great), I then took the ... Read More
This was my second repositioning cruise and it was great! I opted for the 30 day version thus allowing me to really see Europe. I flew from SFO to Frankfurt Germany to visit some friends in Germany (which was great), I then took the train to Montpellier (I love the 200mph trains!) to stay with some other friends in a little town called Aspiran in the South of France. From there I took the train to Barcelona the day before getting onboard the Emerald Princess. I stayed at the Grand Marina Hotel which is right on the water at the cruise ship piers, it's a 5 star hotel and it's beautiful! The week that I was there the city was having the end of summer festival which was great, there were live bands playing right in front of the hotel, lots of great music and culture going on. The Emerald Princess was (the Ruby Princess has just been launched, November 2008) the newest of the Grand class Princess ships being built in 2007 and its beautiful! Most everything was clean and shiny. The only area that looks worn is on the top deck where the golf course Astroturf is a bit worn. I had an outside cabin on the Emerald deck with a great view between 2 life boats and it was clean and well maintained and the cabin steward was great. The public rooms are great and the ship is easy to navigate. The Princess Theater makes watching the entertainment great wherever you may be sitting. I used the internet cafe almost everyday and rarely had to wait for a terminal. The Food Since I have food allergies I eat both breakfast and lunch at the Horizon Court everyday. For breakfast I usually have fruit and hot cereal of which there is always an abundant supply of fruit, my favorite being the papaya of which you may have to ask for. The fruit was always fresh, ripe and delicious. For lunch I made a huge salad of which there was always a great selection of veggies to choose from. I like to put cranberry sauce on my salad and the Horizon Court staff always made sure I had some everyday. One thing I have found on cruise ships is that you can ask for almost any food item and the staff will get it for you, they almost never say no! One of the great things about this style princess ship is that the Horizon Court is in the back of the ship with plenty of inside seating as well as on the very back you can sit outside on the deck overlooking the pool and the ocean while eating on the bar/railing that has built in stools to sit on. As long as it isn't raining I dine here for every breakfast, lunch and snack for the whole cruise, it's wonderful and scenic (I was on the Golden Princess out of San Francisco on a Mexican Riviera cruise and did the same). For dinner I have always eaten in the Botticelli restaurant at the later seating. This way I don't have to rush to dinner and have the same waiter and table mates each night. All the dinners were great every night. I order a special salad, sautEed vegetables and a yam for each night, while choosing between the various fish, lamb and chicken items. For dessert I either had a bowl of berries, chocolate cake (that they made without eggs for me) or they made me an Apple Tart Tatin. Like I said if you ask they will make it for you. The head waitress and crew were always friendly and efficient, getting me everything I asked for. The Service I found the staff to be very helpful - it seemed every time I turned around there was someone with a name badge asking if they could get me something. Everyone from the Passenger Services Desk to the Deck Crew was willing to go the extra mile to help. My cabin steward had my cabin clean and well stocked all the time and she was always around most every time I was going to or leaving my cabin. The Entertainment The Emerald Princess Dancers did a good job with their shows and the impressionist, special singers, comedians, Lester and Willy (I've seen them on 3 other Princess cruises) and magicians were fabulous! The theater is great from just about any seat and one should be aware that if you sit up in the very front, of which I did for the magician, you have a chance of being asked to come on stage and participate with the performer. The other entertainment was in the Explorer Lounge where I saw the juggler, a comedian and the singer, all the shows were great. Lotus Spa and Gym I hit the gym almost every afternoon - I lift weights rather than do cardio so there were no real problems waiting for the machines. The equipment was enough for me to do maintenance workouts. I was there at 4-5pm and there was never any waiting for equipment. Everything was clean and worked! In the mornings I walked the Promenade deck for an hour everyday at sea to burn some extra calories so I could eat more chocolate cake and since I never use the elevators, I didn't gain a pound on this trip! Excursions I booked tours through Princess for peace of mind regarding schedules and getting back to the ship on time. If it's a Princess tour, they'll wait for you if it's late getting back to the ship. We were always right on schedule, arriving spot on time at every port. We only tendered at one port (Cannes) and it was a breeze, no waiting in line. We were given assembly times for our pre-booked tours and they were orderly and we got off the ship without too much delay. All in all the process was organized and smooth. Disembarkation On the mornings of disembarkation I usually get up eat breakfast and find a nice lounge chair either on top deck if it's nice or down on the promenade deck and wait there for my time disembark. Princesses new disembarkation procedure works beautifully when CUSTOMS has their act together, which they didn't at all. They showed up with 2 agents to handle 3100 passengers. Then they stopped all disembarkation to check some luggage, they finally got 2 more agents and got things going, although it was slow. We all ended up getting off the ship 2 hours later than scheduled, fortunately my flight was at 12:40pm so I had about 45 minutes of time to spare. I heard some people saying they were going to miss their flights because of the delay. I always make sure my flights are later than earlier on disembarkation day. Summary Being on the ship for 30 days was wonderful! As with all other Princess cruises that I have been on, this one was equally enjoyable, you know what you're going to get on a Princess cruise. The staff is always helpful and friendly, the ships are always clean and nice, the food is always great, the atmosphere is always casual and relaxed, the entertainment is always professional and varied, everything is usually always on time and the price is always competitive. I'm already planning my next few cruises (Hawaii in January on the Golden Princess, South Pacific in September on the Star Princess) and yes I will definitely cruise with Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We decided to look for a cruise either to or from Australia in 2007. After searching several sources we decided to book the 30 day cruise on Dawn Princess from San Francisco to Sydney. Even though it was a year in advance the cruise ... Read More
We decided to look for a cruise either to or from Australia in 2007. After searching several sources we decided to book the 30 day cruise on Dawn Princess from San Francisco to Sydney. Even though it was a year in advance the cruise critic roll call had already been very active with a group that had booked a cruise from Australia to the US that had been cancelled. By the time the ship sailed we had some 100 cruise critic folks chatting on line. I volunteered to obtain meeting space and time on the ship for the group to gather 4 times during the cruise. The group name was DAWN DOWN UNDER and we had some name tags and pins available for purchase. To say this group created a lifetime of memories would be an understatement. Our portion of this trip consisted of recruiting 6 other local couples to travel with us. These of people we have travelled with in the past at one time or another. The plans for the trip included a 3 day visit to San Francisco and the surrounding area. I had researched a wine tour that several DAWN DOWN UNDER people booked that they told me they enjoyed. Since my sister-in-law who lives in California is dating a native of the San Francisco area we arranged to have a special sightseeing period with them. The highlights included lunch outside of Sausalito, dinner on the pier at Scoma's, walking the "hills" with stops along the way for wine and Irish Coffee. One afternoon we had lunch in Chinatown. We even got to have drinks at the Top of the Mark with a friend who was in town on business. One of the original organizers of the DAWN DOWN UNDER cruise critic group had booked rooms at a small hotel for less than $100 per night that included meal credits. Since this was during the Oracle convention it was an incredible bargain. She also arrange for a tour bus to take us from the hotel to the pier for a nominal cost. The sail away was picture perfect. After 2 days at sea we had the DAWN DOWN UNDER gift exchange. Some 30 couples from all over the world gathered at 4 PM in the bar reserved for our group. A great time was had by all. After 5 sea days we arrived in Honolulu. We spent most of the day on board ship as we planned to spend two weeks after the cruise back in Honolulu. We did arrange to have dinner with friends of our daughter who was in the Army in Honolulu. They took us to the time share we would be staying after the cruise so I could drop off some very heavy luggage for them to store until we arrived. We had one couple in our group who convinced us to sign up for something Princess calls Chef's Table later in the cruise. This turned out to be one of the highlights of this cruise. I just read another review in cruise critic and this is what prompted me to chime in with our highlights. The next port of call was Kona on the big Island of Hawaii. This is a place where we own a time share and have spent time there almost every year. We have a reservation to visit there in October of 2009 for two weeks so we just walked to the local outdoor Olympic size swimming pool and spent the day swimming in the fresh water. At dinner we all discussed what activities we had participated in during the day. Everyone seemed to enjoy their choice of shore activities during the entire trip. We shared photos and stories a lot. The next stop was supposed to be Christmas Island (Kiritimati) but the Captain explained that the harbor had not been dredged and marked and the docks had not been repaired and refurbished and he was NOT taking a chance of having tenders stuck on sandbars so we did a sail around. We brought along binoculars so we were able to see the deserted beaches with only a few people in isolated areas. The weather was beautiful. The Captain did "spin" the ship around so all passengers could view the small island. Five days from Kona we were on land again in Bora Bora. This was one shore excursion we felt was worth more than we paid. We did a helmet dive. We were the morning group and I understand that was the best choice. We were up close and personal with sting rays and hundreds if not thousands of beautiful fish. We bought the videos the underwater cameraman took even though we had purchased a top of the line Olympus underwater digital camera which had many still photos. This is one port we would love to visit again for a week or two. My wife prepaid for all the Pilates classes and went to most if not all of them. I went to a few free stretch classes with her and walked a lot of laps around the deck with her and walked the steps instead of the elevators to keep from gaining too much weight but still managed to go up a few pounds. The next port was Papeete. We wound up walking around near the ship to an internet cafe because I refuse to pay 75 cents a minute to use the ships internet. We decided on the spur of the moment to take a local cab around the sightseeing spots. A German couple had been waiting for somebody else to join them and share the cost of a sightseeing van. He spoke very good English and in fact worked for the American Military in a place the Army calls K town. His wife spoke very little English. We enjoyed sightseeing at our leisure and got to see a lot of the sights. Next was Moorea. We took the launch into town and then hired a cab to take us to a nice beach where we could snorkel. We brought our own snorkel gear. He arranged to pick us back up at a set time later that day to take us back to the docks. We met some very nice folks that were staying at the resort next to the beach and snorkeled the day away. Not quite as spectacular as the Bora Bora helmet dive but very nice. The next port was Raratonga. We signed up for a stroll through the woods searching for the rare Raratonga flycather. Our guide was the Park Ranger. He was a delight. We hiked up and down all the hills but never spotted our bird. Part of it may be because of some rude Germans who insisted on shouting and calling out all along the way. The nicer Germans we met insisted they must be East Germans!! Pretty bad when even your fellow countrymen are willing to classify rudeness as being a trait of a minority group! The next stop was American Samoa. The on board lecture was done by a very knowledgeable woman who had been there when the natives would shower the cruise ships with flowers from a gondola that travelled from on side to the harbor to the other high up in the hills on either side of the pier. The gondola is now just a rusted out pile of machinery. We had bowled with friends back home from Somoa and enjoyed seeing the sights. We walked all over. We stood outside one of the churches where we heard the children singing beautiful songs. As we left the church we saw a group of men preparing a fire pit to cook the meal after church. They had fish and breadfruit in the pit covered by wet leaves. They were dressed in the native dress (men in skirts?. We have photos standing around the firepit. We did a little shopping with US dollars. In Suva Fiji we opted to join several DAWN DOWN UNDER folks for a trip about an hour away at a resort with a nice beach. They had fresh water swimming pools. You could also rent boat rides and other activities. They had a nice open cafe with decent food and drinks. They arranged for a group of strolling musicians to parade around and serenade you. A nice lazy day. We did see lots of poverty on the ride out and back. The New Zealand stops were Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and the Fjordlands. We opted to take a hop on hop off bus to see the museum and other sights in Auckland. Windy Wellington we ate a wonderful lunch at the revolving restaurant in the highest building in New Zealand. What a view. We stopped to buy a couple bottles of New Zealand wines. We walked and took a cable car up the mountainside to a beautiful garden area. Christchurch was one place I had visited almost 40 years ago while I was single and in the Army. All I saw was the golf course and the airport! This time our group opted to visit the Antarctic center. It made for a very enjoyable day. We then strolled along the tiny river that runs through the center of Christchurch. What an unspoiled English speaking spot. I would love to revisit and spend more time there. The gardens are incredible. Every home has a flower garden. The weather was perfect. Denedin was a place our group booked a train trip out and back. We were late finding the train and got separated from out friends but got reunited at the various stops. The countryside was rugged and beautiful. The people were as friendly as anyplace in the world. This was the most expensive excursion we took but was fairly priced for all we got. Food and drink and sightseeing. The Fjordlands weather was perfect which we understand is unusual. It reminded us somewhat of the inside passage in Alaska in spots. Our arrival in Sydney came after a very calm crossing from New Zealand which is unusual. We had created a land travel package that included 3 nights in a hotel in Sydney with our friends and sightseeing to the Blue Mountains and around the harbor on a sightseeing boat. Now to describe "Chef's Table". One other couple in our group booked the same night as us. They are good friends we have travelled with often and in fact the wife is probably my wife's best friend. The other 6 people who joined us met at 7 PM with the Maitre De Neville. He gave us white smocks to wear in the kitchen and introduced us to our wait staff for the night. One of the best waiters on the ship if not THE BEST. As soon as we arrived in the kitchen we were given a champagne flute and the first of several appetizers. Almost before we could take our first sip we were informed the champagne was NOT up to the standards of the Maitre De! He immediately had a better champagne served. We were introduced to the head chef who remained with us for the next 3 hours. We watched the kitchen in action preparing to serve literally more than one thousands diners. When we left the kitchen area we were escorted to a table for 10 that was our home for the next 2 1/2 hours! We watched as dish after dish of food was presented to us and the Maitre De poured a variety of wines to match each dish. A whole lobster tail was an appetizer! The chef and his assistant prepared veal in front of us. We were offered a variety of sauces for the meat. Dessert was over the top. We were given photos that were developed while we dined. Each couple received a special hardbound cookbook from the chef. The chef pulled up a chair after dinner and drank an Alaskan beer!! He said it was almost as good as some German beers. (The ship had done an Alaska cruise just before the repositioning cruise). It turned out there had been a crew turnover of about 75% between the Alaska cruise and the repositioning cruise. Some other memories of this cruise include the fact that buying a coffee card was the best deal on the ship. You were entitled to a set number of specialty coffees (lattes, cappuccinos etc) but unlimited fresh brewed coffee. The coffee anyplace else on the ship was a poor excuse for coffee. We attended many of the lectures given by a young man from Tazmania. He entertained us with his jokes and lecture style. One of the best lectures was given by the ships Captain. He used slides from the Hubble telescope to take us on a journey through the Universe. The woman who provided information on each port of call was very good. The ship offered a variety of entertainment to satisfy almost all tastes. We were offered almost too many choices of activities during the entire cruise. Even the sea days could be filled with a variety of activities but of course you could choose to do nothing!! The average daily cost of a repositioning cruise is such a bargain that we may look for noting but repositioning cruises in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My wife and I were married this past August. We had been planning our honeymoon for over a year before I even proposed. Of course we had planned an amazing month long adventure with the crossing only being a small portion of it. As thing ... Read More
My wife and I were married this past August. We had been planning our honeymoon for over a year before I even proposed. Of course we had planned an amazing month long adventure with the crossing only being a small portion of it. As thing came closer to needing to finalize what we going to do, most of our trip had been eliminated for various reason, and the crossing became more of the reason to go to London than anything. After reading alot of the reviews on here we decided to take the crossing from Southampton to NY as we'd get just a little more time on the boat (an extra hour a day). After dealing with some transportation headaches getting to Southampton, and a horrible hotel stay the night before our voyage, we arrived at the dock. Not much to look at there, but you're not expected to. Our boarding time wasn't until 3pm but needed to be out of our hotel room by 11am so we figured we'd hang around the dock and maybe take a stroll into the somewhat nearby city for lunch. Didn't have time for that however as we went to check in and they sent us right on into the boat. That was a very nice little bit. Neither of us were really ready for the photo that was taken right before boarding the ship as we had that horrid night sleep and just disheveled. As soon as we set foot onto the ship it was breathe taking. Really big WOW factor. We were ushered to an elevator by some nice porters, and directed to where our room was when we reached our floor. The room was amazing for the amount of money we paid (I think it was $2k with a non-obstructed balcony for each of us) with a good bottle of champagne chilling in some water. We ha just stepped out to look at the port from out balcony when our porter knocked on the door with our luggage. This really countered a lot of other reviews I had read here. Once unpacked we headed down to the Golden Lion Pub to grab our drink cards (seriously a must for those who drink a lot of soda), which don't count for in room soda's by the way. There we met Sydnee who pretty much became our bartender from that moment on. Great guy with a good attitude. ~Dining~ When time for dinner came, we got dressed up and headed down to the dining room. We opted for the second dinner as we are both late people and the early dinner was just too early for us. That first meal honestly put a proved alot of the negative comments I've read here about the service. My wife and I showed up on time but were forced to wait until our table mates showed up to order. Normally not an issue, but they showed up right before the stopped taking orders (about an hour into dinner). We decided that we wouldn't be doing the dining room again at that point. The food was pretty darn good, but the wait staff was just too over worked. The Kings court was actually one of our favorite places. It was great for breakfast and afternoon tea. Occasionally we had lunch there and one night we did the "Chef's Galley," where they close The Grill and turn it into a demonstration kitchen. You have to make reservations for this, so do it as soon as get in your room. The menu is themed and different every night. My wife and I went to the Indian night, at which point we realized we didn't really care for indian. We tried to make reservations for the next night but it, and every following night, were completely booked. Another option is the Kings Court for dinner where they close off the different sections, except one which still offers buffet style, and they become small restaurants. We made a reservation for one of these but ended up not caring for the menu that night and went on to try the dining room again. This time the service and food were much better. The wait staff had even realized we were gone and apologized for the service the first night. We ended up eating in there every night after that.~Fun~ Being as we are both fairly young, it was somewhat hard to fin stuff to do during the day. This wasn't too much of an issue as we are both late sleepers. When we did wake up we would go to the pub, look through the shops (which are pretty good), go to the planetarium and/or a movie, or just explore the ship (I took about 800 photos) which is massive. The movie experience wasn't great. They were all movies one could get on dvd (and they were DVD's), and they had some issues getting it to play right from time to time. The casino was pretty fun for those that are into that kind of thing. My wife and I had more fun with the coin push machine more than anything. They seemed to have alot of gambling related events which might have been fun if our pocket books were fuller. Either way it was a good place to hang out, have a cigarette, and look out onto the waves. ~Weather~ The weather wasn't too great for outdoor events most of the time. It was cold and rainy and a few days into the journey we hit a terrible storm. Almost the entire ship stayed in their rooms that day. We had severe grade wave that rocked the ship pretty bad. Aside from that, as we were told my many that kind of storm was extremely rare, the sheer speed that the ship travels makes it hard to do much outside. Once we came close to the U.S., the weather warmed up pretty quick and sitting in the pool became reasonable. The theater shows were really much better than I had expected. The rock/opera medley they did was extremely good. The dance review was also great. We both wished they offered more though. The Golden Lion was another great place to hang out. We didn't have much of a chance to visit the other bars though as we had grown too fond of the Golden Lion. Like one of the other reviewers said, the Commodore's Club looks very much like 10 forward from Star Trek TNG. One night we ended up in the pub during a Karaoke night. Initially we were put off by it, as we aren't karaoke people, but a few minutes into staying there, we were singing along with everyone. It was honestly one of the best moments of the voyage. ~Cost~ The cost of onboard things was what we had expected. Generally it was over priced, but so is everything at Disneyland. The stuff at the duty free shop was pretty well priced though, and I regret not getting more stuff. The souvenirs weren't too bad. Buy them later in the cruise and you'll save a few bucks. The photos and dvd from the journey were pretty horrible though. Especially when you know they're just digital photos. If you buy multiple things though you do get a small break. If you are a smoker, the cigarettes are amazingly cheap (especially if you're from NY or CA). The booze was pretty pricey though, though not as baas I had expected. My wife doesn't drink or drive so I rarely have the chance to enjoy a drink while we're out. This was something I had been looking forward to while on the ship. I didn't get to do it too much though because the cost of a drink was a little high, aside from beer which I don't drink. We were worried after reading a lot of the reviews that our budget might be too small for the ship, but we walked away with only a bill of under $100. It can be done cheaper if you don't get the drink cards, $34 each, don't take any sodas from the in room fridge, go up to the purser right away and take off the automatic daily gratuity, don't charge anything to your room, and don't drink. Granted all of that is hard, but it can be done.~Final Thoughts~ All in all we both had the time of our lives. We knew we were going to need the relaxation of the voyage after our few days in London, and were very right on that fact. There was no real rush for anything. Initially I was pretty concerned with the dinner dress code thing, but that's really not that bad. All the staff was really great and friendly. The decor of the ship and rooms was fantastic. We are already planning another trip aboard the QM2 for this summer. The key to enjoying this voyage is to just enjoy it. Not many people today get the chance, or want the chance, to take this historic crossing. If you find something that does not appeal to you, find something else to do. A lot of people, including ourselves, get hung up in one area of the ship and forget that the thing is huge. Explore. As a final thought, don't let the adds fool you. There are plenty of younger people on the boat. We believed that we would be surrounded by 50+ year old people, but that was not the case. It was a good mix of ages, though yes, leaning towards the older crowd. There is a limited amount of purely young person activities though, but that is not this ship's target market. There is an arcade (remember those?), though we never were able to find it. -Jim Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.) We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things! As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time). I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :))))) All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :) Looking back now that I am older and wiser now Read Less
Sail Date October 2007

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