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6,048 Repositioning Cruise Reviews

WE booked this cruise hoping for a great rest with good food, great entertainment and meeting new friends. We were not disappointed in most ways! We loved our trip and would definitely do it again! ROOM: Our room was fantastic! Very ... Read More
WE booked this cruise hoping for a great rest with good food, great entertainment and meeting new friends. We were not disappointed in most ways! We loved our trip and would definitely do it again! ROOM: Our room was fantastic! Very quiet and the balcony was very spacious. The shower was also very spacious for a cruise ship and I especially enjoyed the therapeutic shower sprays. I truly would have liked to take them home with me!! I found many complaints on CC about drawer/closet space and found this NOT to be the case for us! There was plenty of room and we utilized the underneath of the bed. As long as you don't bring your entire closet from home most would do fine. SERVICE: This subject has good and bad! Our room attendant was FANTASTIC, and we were very pleased with her room service and her quick response to any and all requests! The service in the main dining room and BLU did leave me a little unhappy. I think the main problem is the tipping. When the crew knows they are already getting the gratuities, the "extra" is not always done for the cruiser! When you have the same waiter and assistant waiter each night, and they are waiting for the gratuity at the end, the service IS much better! BLU: This was one of my biggest disappointments for the cruise. The wait staff is still "learning", and having to ask 5 times for a cup of tea, was disappointing to say the least. The food choices for breakfast were wonderful, but when it comes to dinner, that was a different story. My husband enjoys the basic meat and potatoes, which was very limited in BLU. I have celiac disease, so I was very excited to eat in BLU, hoping for many wheat free choices. They tried to offer wheat free, but I got sick both dinners I ate in BLU, so I ate in the specialty restaurants, and in the main dining room, with better results. I highly recommend BLU for breakfast, but the limited choices for dinner left both of us wanting MORE... ENTERTAINMENT: I found most of the entertainment to be wonderful! There were a few "bummers", but on the whole, the entertainment was very enjoyable. We had many choices of entertainment during the long days at sea, and felt the cruise director did a good job also. One reason we chose Celebrity was for the entertainment, and we were not disappointed!! EMBARKATION AND DEBARKATION: Both were excellent and very quick! For us, Celebrity really knows how to get you on AND off!! ENRICHMENT: We had great speakers on this cruise. I especially enjoyed the "Titanic" lectures! Yes, I said Titanic!! Very interesting and full of new information. The more of this, the better for me!! SPA: I used the spa quite a bit. The PERSIAN GARDEN was not as great as I had hoped. The facilities on the Infinity were better, but I did enjoy watching the ocean go by as I laid on the heated chairs and sat in the sauna! I enjoyed my facials and massage. Although the prices are extreme, at least I received wonderful services from knowledgeable spa staff. I wish one of the cruise lines would make the spa treatments a little less expensive and would train the spa staff to STOP trying to force us to purchase "Elemis" products to take home! If I want something, I will ask!!! SHORE EXCURSIONS: We only used Celebrity for one of our shore excursions, and it was fine. The guide was repetitive and a little boring, but I did enjoy the destination. The cost was very reasonable. PUBLIC ROOMS: Most of the public rooms were not only beautiful, but luxurious in look and feel. The only public area that needs a MAJOR change is the jazz bar area outside of the Murano! It looks like DEATH and is VERY, VERY dark!!! I have no clue why this room looks so dismal, but Celebrity needs to change this immediately! You can't even see the person sitting next to you!! Good thing this area is for "listening", because it is not good for anything else! CASINO: This casino was well equipped with good machines and I really enjoyed the NO SMOKING!! I never saw the manager, but the staff does a superb job!! I actually came home with a little more than I started with, so that in itself might push me say only good things about the casino...... FOOD AND DINING: I was not completely happy with the food on the ship. Besides the remarks I already made about BLU, I felt the food on Celebrity has gone down. I did feel the food in the Speciality Restaurants was exceptional!!! Qsine was not only very tasty, but really fun! Be prepared to spend 3 hours eating!! We were having a wonderful meal (10 of us) and noticed we had been sitting for 3 hours and we all wanted to see the show that was beginning in 10 minutes. They let us go to the show, and then return for our dessert, which was FANTASTIC!!! Qsine is well worth it, and would most definitely do it again! Get a reservation early as towards the end of our cruise they were FULL!!! The speciality restaurant food tastes more like what used to be the food served in the main dining room. I am not sure why the cruise lines needed to change the quality of the food in the main dining rooms, but if you really loved the old meals, eat in the speciality restaurants on Eclipse! Just add their price towards the cost of the perfect trip!! The food was not terrible, just ordinary in the main dining area. BISTRO on 5 WAS FANTASTIC!! For $5, this is a must!!! The crepes were excellent, and they even offer a gluten free crepe for those who needed them! All in all, most of the food was good, but GREAT in all the speciality restaurants and Bistro! WE LOVED OUR TIME ON THE ECLIPSE! We found new friends (thanks Nancy and Sam), enjoyed the entertainment and got rested on this transatlantic cruise, but wish they would have put out the stabilizers more often for easier walking on the sea days. I am still on the fence about Aqua Class. If the price is similar, I would probably chose it again mainly for the shower!! I sure loved the shower!! The Eclipse is beautiful and I would definitely try it again! Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We booked this cruise as it fitted the dates and thought we would try P&O for the first time. All in all it was a very pleasant trip with only a couple of issues being dining allocation and front desk staff(see below) Transfers ... Read More
We booked this cruise as it fitted the dates and thought we would try P&O for the first time. All in all it was a very pleasant trip with only a couple of issues being dining allocation and front desk staff(see below) Transfers from Gatwick to embarkation in Southampton were provided by P&O and was all very well organised. Embarkation was relatively swift and cabin was ready. Our cabin steward (Noel) appeared from nowhere and was very helpful. We noticed that we were allocated to 1st sitting Club dining on a table of 10 when it had already been confirmed with P&O reservations that Freedom dining was selected for us. So off to reception we head to be fobbed off in a VERY condescending and arrogant manner by a certain male reception staff member (I can understand grumpy reception staff at the end of a cruise but not on day one!!) We then spoke to the restaurant manager who stated that P&O reservations simply could not confirm Freedom dining, and a gesture we were offered the 2nd sitting on a table of 4 for just the two of us and by a window to boot. Probably the best thing about this cruise was the food and our waiters (Johnathan and Sajeev). We have cruised on various lines and P&O was certainly the best so far. We found no need for Shindu or 17. If there was no option we liked for a starter they would offer a modified main course or items not even on the menu. WOW you certainly don't get that on NCL! Buffet was often busy but we never really had a problem finding a seat. Food was always hot and offered many different choices. The ship itself was lovely with only a couple of niggles being that it was often hard to find a quiet spot to read due to the numbers on board and the joy of walking around the promenade deck is not possible on Azura. Our inside cabin was adequate for two and we certainly have seen smaller. We did not partake in may excursions but if you have the chance take the Ultimate Antigua tour. It seemed pricey but it was a hoot. All day with Zip lining, beach, catamaran, snorkeling, lunch, swim and an open bar. Worth every penny! The entertainment was generally good but some of the production shows were a bit lacking. It seemed that there were too may performers trying to be both singers and dancers when they were only really good at one or the other. To conclude we would thoroughly recommend P&O and Azura just be prepared for a busy ship due to 3100 passengers. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Just returned from our first transatlantic cruise on board Azura.we travelled down from Bolton on eavesway coaches (very good)checking in didn't take long at Southampton. azura should have left on the Friday evening but sailed ... Read More
Just returned from our first transatlantic cruise on board Azura.we travelled down from Bolton on eavesway coaches (very good)checking in didn't take long at Southampton. azura should have left on the Friday evening but sailed Saturday morning instead due to bad weather and rough seas,(the captain made the right decision)we choice to do freedom dining which work out very well for us,we went for our evening meal in the meridian restaurant at about 7.15 each evening and always got a table for two(tables are very close to each other,ask for quite table for two)on the first few days we had breakfast and lunch in the peninsular restaurant which was very nice. the weather wasn't very good at first so we played shuffleboard and watched films on the sky screen (with our thick jumpers on)Halloween night the sea was awful so stayed in and had room service(so did the rest of the ship)4 days later we reached our first port of call was the Azores (should have been tenerife) we really enjoyed it did our own thing. and we got a good send off when we where leaving the pilot boat did the water spraying which was nice.another 3 days at sea and the weather started to get better, did some swimming in pools.watched more sky screen. started using buffet for breakfast and the pool side grill for lunch.our favorite restaurant was the Italian trattoria (excellent) the Caribbean islands st kit ts,st Lucia.Grenada,Antigua and Barbados were great,the people a little over powering but you get used to it, the beaches are wonderful.the hotels look very nice but every thing else is very run down. we choose to do our own thing and not use p&o trips( works out a lot cheaper by doing your own trip, but research it first) we didn't do the wine packages as the house wine worked out cheaper, and to contact home we used p&o free email service (you set it up before you go)the entertainment was very good.( lots for older people)if you like shopping there are lots of offers. sunbeds (hard to find any near pools) cabin r729 inside 4 doors away from terrace pool which is handy so you can pop out to see what weather is like.flight back was with Thomas cook and you did get free drinks and food. to sum this holiday up excellent. the cabin, food, entertainment service ports of call, the ship. we will do transatlantic again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We arrived Venice 20 Oct, stayed at the Marriott near the airport. Took the ALILUGUNA to St Marks or bus to Piazza Roma. No negatives at all re the hotel, except that next time will stay in city. Took VIATOUR guided tours 21 ( (Walking ... Read More
We arrived Venice 20 Oct, stayed at the Marriott near the airport. Took the ALILUGUNA to St Marks or bus to Piazza Roma. No negatives at all re the hotel, except that next time will stay in city. Took VIATOUR guided tours 21 ( (Walking tour of Venice, plus guided canal ride), 22 (tour of Murano, Burano, Torcello) Oct, always very satisfied. Boarded ship 23 Oct, embarkation was fine, and relatively quick. Ship is very clean, and well maintained. We stayed on thru NY, so got to know many staff members. Marrianne and her partner, our room stewards were very efficient. We tipped them every friday. We always use the soda plan, so glad they still have that. First leg with excursions was Split (Historic walking tour), Corfu (Scenic Island and Flavors-Bella Vista and Distillery), Santorini ( Charming Oia Village-sunset and shopping), Mykonos (Scenic views-Taverna restaurant and church), Crete (Pottery and Vineyards-pottery and distillery), and back to Venice. All tours were enjoyable, tho we felt the time in Santorini was less than adequate. The view is the thing here, but arrived @ 4, left at 10PM. We ate at Orchid Garden, and Tequila as well as Grand Pacific and Magenta. All good meals, staff friendly, efficient. Back to Venice, took monorail to P Roma. Found out later there was a free NCL shuttle. Massive amount of shopping 30 Oct around Rialto. Reboard was done smoothly, tho we cut it close, arriving back at 3:30. They announced a 2 for 1 deal at the specialties for all lattitudes members, and We made use of it, eating at Orchid 3x, Tequila 2x, Cagney's 3x. I like Orchid the best, Grace Salva M'D, runs it like a top. Had multiple entrees every night. My wife likes Cggney's, extra $ well worth the attention and better food. Then went to Malaga (Marbella and Banus), Cadiz (Stroll), Lisbon (Scenic), and Azores (passed on excursions, walked around town). Re Malaga, more time should have been given to shop in Marbella, and less in $$$$ Banus. The Cadiz stroll was fine for us, but lots of folks could not do the walking. I like this tour the best. Had time to shop, saw the fish market, awesome!!! Tho Azores needs to work at more interesting tours. Realize the crossing has lots of smoking Europeans, but we think Carnival does better in allocating space for them. On deck 12, we were restricted to only the starboard side, with lots of folks, but space on the port side was available if you wanted to smell smokers. We did not. They also have to do better with babies in the Jacuzzis, as saw a naked kid come out of one, and a 1 yr old come out of another. Potty trained, not!!! Anybody think those waterproof diapers keep everything in? They also restricted folks being able to take their own food in the Garden Cafe, am guessing to cut down on spreadable sickness. Still saw men coming out of the bathrooms who never washed their hands. Carnival has the little napkins near the doors. I took to using the paper towels, and opened the exit doors that way. They ended up propping all bathroom doors open, a little tacky. The actual crossing was fine. Capt kept us informed about efforts to avoid the bad weather. Only had about 1 1/2 day of really bad weather. Was intimidating to see a huge wave crash against the windows at lunch, in the stern of the Grand Pacific !!! We were fine. Heard there were some injuries, but they continually told people to hold onto the railings (some still did not), and you could have meals delivered to your room, if you felt unsteady. The entertainment was very good. Especially liked the folkloric program. Liked Fourever, and Claire Maiden, as well as the in-house troupe (Jeremy, Jasmine, Chris). They added afternoon jam sessions for the crossing, a great idea. In conclusion, the ship was fine. We had not cruised with NCL in 1 1/2 years, and hoped it had same high standards. Staff were all very friendly. Saw numerous time of staff personally helping cruisers. Will definitely do NCL again! Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We feel the things are changing in the cruise industry due to costs and the resulting containment. Right now we are on a three cruise test. It started with the Celebrity Summit in September on a Canada, NE cruise. We have been celeb ... Read More
We feel the things are changing in the cruise industry due to costs and the resulting containment. Right now we are on a three cruise test. It started with the Celebrity Summit in September on a Canada, NE cruise. We have been celeb devotees with 11 cruises but we did have a 4 year absence before this one. unfortunately it was a culinary Titanic. Step 2 was the Carnival Spirit on October 4 to Mexico for 8 days. Embarkation was almost a disaster in that we forgot our passports. The Carnival people could not have been nicer but they could not let us board but since we are San Diego locals they helped us contact our son who delivered the passports to us.Other than that embarkation was smooth as silk. The cabin was large I thought for a window cabin and nicely appointed. The cabin steward,Kutek,was super the whole trip. Dining was a superb experience in many ways. First we have been on board the Spirit twice before and had a favorite table. I asked the Matre'd Fernando if it was possible to get it. He was able to arrange this from the second night on. WOW I have never said this about a Matre"D before The food was wonderfully prepared with great sauces. The Coq Au Vin, Beef stroganoff and their sauces were super. Had Veal(yes I said VEAL!) parmigiana that was out of this world. Carnival was clever they served Maine (yes MAINE)LOBSTER AND 3 LARGE SHRIMP on the second night. Sure set up a positive mood for the rest of the trip. The soups were the best I have had on a ship with very nice salads that were full size. The table service on by Harleen was terrific.We did not use the buffet much but it was good. The entertainment was very good and professional. They sure did not skimp on the appearances of the singers and dancers in production shows. We had plenty of activity in using the pool and hot tubs as well as trivia games and craft opportunities. One short fall was the lack of movies on this cruise The ports were Acapulco, Zihuatanejo and Manzanillo. We have been to all of these before and did not go ashore but took advantage of the ship facilties in stead.I was glad to hear that Carnival will be changing the itinerary to a 9 day to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, La paz and Cabo and will look forward to them on this ship. One thing I should note that was most pleasing Carnival on this cruise does not ask you to change the clock since we only had one time zone change. We just kept using ship time ALl in all a terrific cruise that leaves me wanting more from Carnival and forsaking my Captains club elite status with Celebrity-Beleive me there was no comparison. Embarkation was a revelation on the Spirit they again suprised me by allowing those of us who carry our bags on and off to leave first. Hoi;y Crow These people did so many things right it was mind blowing. Well Step 3 is on December 5 on the Holland Oosterdam and I will report on this after the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
This was an amazing cruise for my husband and I. We are not new to cruising but this was our first Transatlantic cruise. We booked our air and pre cruise through Celebrity, I found it so easy and worry free. We placed our luggage outside ... Read More
This was an amazing cruise for my husband and I. We are not new to cruising but this was our first Transatlantic cruise. We booked our air and pre cruise through Celebrity, I found it so easy and worry free. We placed our luggage outside our door in the hotel never saw it again until it arrived at our cabin. We stayed at the Guoman Tower Hotel the Tower of London was right outside our window the room was large and service was excellent. It didnt take us long to get on the ship and we were able to go to our cabins. We were in the Aqua Class cabin 1533, nice cabin and close to the elevator and not to far from the relaxation room which we loved to go in. Our cabin steward was excellent and so was his assistant they always went above and beyond. The buffet set up is the best I have seen on any ship, having stations works wonderful. The food on the buffet was good, loved the wheat pasta served daily. We then went back to our cabin and our lugguge was there so we unpacked before the drill, plenty of room for clothes and plenty of room in the bathroom too. Not sure why people said there is no room and we brought 3 large suitcases and 2 carry ons. We went to the spa area and the gym was great we didnt go as often as we thought but then again we were on vacation. After the drill we had a CC party where we wore hats because we were called the "Mad Hatters" Everyone was friendly and we had a great time. We went to dinner at Blu, I know people have their own opinion on food, it was amazing and the service.....above the rest. If you complained about the service than you must be too hard to please Im sure. The food was excellent and it was always cozy and a bit romantic in the back where we ate mostly. We were tired that night and just relaxed after dinner and turned in early because we were going to Paris tomorrow!!!Paris: Took the ship excursion and it was excellent, Nov. 1st is a Holiday so that was a plus for us. There was no traffic and the city was not crowded. It rained days before we got there, today sunny and it hit 70 degrees it was a beautiful day. We also took the boat ride for a scenic ride and it was amazing. People were very friendly and I didnt want to leave after a few tears my hubby promised he would take me back.....that put a huge smile on my face. Don't think that the ride to Paris is so long, it was really a nice ride to our destination.Normandy: This was a very emotional day for my husband, his father arrived in Normandy 3 days after the invasion. It was cloudy in the am when we arrived at the cemetary, the sun came out and shined on us for the rest of the day. Walking on the beaches make you think.......of how so many people gave their lives....as I said emotional day. But a MUST DO!!!!Vigo: Santiago de Compostela, this was truely amazing and we witnessed a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Pope was to arrive in two days the church was cleaned from top to bottom and they had lighting in the church and people have never seen the inside so bright and beautiful. The tour guide was amazed herself saying over again to herself, I am so happy to be here today to see this. We were also able to touch and see things that have been closed off to tourist for years and years. It was amazing and it was 73 degrees what a beautiful day. I did hear people grumble on the ship on why we stopped in Vigo and didnt get off the ship.....well...we had an amazing time. Azores: This was so beautiful words just can't describe...we did a tour around the island and a wine & cheese tasting......very nice.There were 2 sea days in between these stops, after Azores, we had 6 days of sea days.......ohhhh I miss them. Paul and I played Bocci and had so much fun, then we watched the glass show, I respect them more now great work and talent. We walked around the ship, it is the most beautiful ship I have been on.. We did have one rough day at sea but it was fun we went to the solarium and the pool was so so warm. We were being tossed it was so much fun, didnt realise it till the next day, that was a work out we were both sore..but well worth it. We had perfect weather and we spent time on our balconies and we were very lazy. While many said the shows were great, we only saw one as much as I love Celebrity, I am never to fond of their entertainment. I would prefer seeing some comedians and maybe some more up to day shows. But like I said many enjoyed the shows. I did love the Titanic Lecture, I felt like a child being read a bedtime story only to wait for the next day to hear more. He was excellent but I was told he was leaving so lucky again to experience that. We did use the Persian Gardens, liked the steam room except the guy who thought he could sit there.....with an open towel.....he was eventually asked to towel up or leave. I didn't think the heated loungers were warm and the sauna felt like it wasnt on but the steam room was really nice and we used that a few times. The martini bar was busy and our favorite place the Molecular Bar......(hey Thomas you are the BEST) go there you will find yourself going back every night. We ate breakfast in BLU and I miss my poached eggs on rye toast,mmmmmmmm smoothies,fresh squeezed OJ. It was so hard to leave, this beautiful ship.....We did go up for sushi almost every day...very good from 5:30 - 9:30. We are going to book another Transatlantic for 2012 ( I already have 2 cruises booked for next year.) I met many wonderful people on this cruise....many from CC......This cruise was a dream.....Dorene Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Travel to port: We took a train from London's Waterloo Station to Southampton (31 pounds per person)and shared a large taxi in the rain to the ship. Stateroom info: We booked a Concierge Class stateroom all the way aft facing ... Read More
Travel to port: We took a train from London's Waterloo Station to Southampton (31 pounds per person)and shared a large taxi in the rain to the ship. Stateroom info: We booked a Concierge Class stateroom all the way aft facing the stern on Deck 10 with a verandah, and especially enjoyed the peace and sun in the mornings, reading and just watching the ship's wake. The stateroom (same size and layout for all verandah rooms)was excellent - plenty of room, nice sitting area, small dressing table, minibar/fridge, large flatscreen TV, very comfortable bed, roomy bathroom with many drawers & cupboards, and a curved, glass shower - best shower I've seen on a ship. The steward and his assistant were tops and our room was always made up well before midday. Dining: We opted for early fixed seating dining, table for four with our travel companions. Had outstanding and professional service from waiters and wine steward - never a wait, never a problem. We have traveled a great deal and lived in a major city for decades, and you could not find better service than this in the best restaurant anywhere in the world. The food was terrific, always with numerous tempting choices. Celebrity has the portion sizes just right, and the presentation was quite attractive. We had breakfast and lunch most days in the ocean view buffet and found typical cruise line offerings, with additions like baked beans and bangers at breakfast for the many British passengers. We sampled Qsine one evening but I wouldn't go again - it was a bit trendy and gimmicky by design, and the service was so-so ... for the helfty surcharge, I'd choose the elegant experience we had in Murano on a previous Celebrity cruise or would try the Tuscan Grill if I felt the urge to branch out from the wonderful dining room choices. Entertainment: Celebrity's core entertainment is top notch - three huge production shows with acrobats, excellent singers & dancers. A British woman who has performed at London's West End theatres was great as well. Some of the other performances were average, but there was a great variety. The huge theater was always packed and the ship was lively all evening - people dancing in the main atrium area or watching the bartenders put on a show in the Martini Bar. Lectures: The surprise hit was a 3 part series on the Titanic that kept the full theater spellbound - the 45 minutes flew by each time. It was so popular that Carl, the speaker, added a Q&A on the last day. Carl is on the cruise staff and is, in my opinion, a great candidate for a future cruise director. Port information: For the two Normandy ports we booked tours, Le Havre (tour to Honfleur and Deauville) and Cherbourg (tour to WW sites including Omaha Beach, cemetary at Coleville and St Mere Eglise) and they were fine, not outstanding. No tour in Vigo, Spain in favor of strolling around which we regretted since the entire town seemed to be under construction with blocked streets, noise, dirt, etc everywhere. No tour in Ponta Delgada, Azores and we enjoyed exploring on foot (easy access right off the ship), visiting the market and relaxing in a sunny square near the cathedral - a lovely port of call. Disembarkation: Long line to get off (people apparently ignoring the scheduled departure time) plus a 45 minute wait at the luggage carousels which seems to be our usual fate in Miami - Ft. Lauderdale is so much simpler with the luggage grouped by tag number in a big area. Next time, we'll do the walk off option. Summary: I've been a Holland America fan for quite a while and took this sailing due to the itinerary. I have to admit I am a convert to Celebrity for most future cruises based on the top quality of the food, service and entertainment we experienced. The ship is modern European in style with beautiful decor and a dramatic atrium, though I do miss the complete promenade and clipper bow of classic style ships. I also think HAL has an ideal formula for the library/internet/coffee cafe where I like to spend mornings at sea. However, we have come to realize that Celebrity's Captain's Club repeater benefits are outstanding with discounts for internet and laundry - our friends who are Elite members had even more goodies. We will no doubt book HAL again some time in the future but Celebrity certainly has a winner in their new Eclipse - if they deliver this level throughout their fleet, they'll be hard to resist as our number #1 choice. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Sailing out of Athens is not my favorite port, and true to form the baggage handlers broke the strap on my new suitcase. HAL was really good about it and tried to fix it but could not. Embark was smooth, but with no Mariner´s lunch ... Read More
Sailing out of Athens is not my favorite port, and true to form the baggage handlers broke the strap on my new suitcase. HAL was really good about it and tried to fix it but could not. Embark was smooth, but with no Mariner´s lunch featured nor any express lines for suites or 4star Mariners. The Westerdam is in great shape and one of HAL´s most attractive ships. The crew were excellent as was the food and entertainment. The superior suite in my opinion is a better choice than the deluxe. The Neptune lounge really doesn´t justify the difference in priceto me. The space and the bathrooms in the superior are perfect to me. Room stewards were terrific. Open seating was great and hats off to an excellent dining room staff. The ship was in code red for 2 days on the transatlantic portion which puts more pressure on the LIdo (which it doesn´t need). Room service is the best bet for breakfast and always delivered hot and on time. The food on the Med portion of the trip was much higher quality than the transatlantic but this is to be expected with the difference in cost per day to sail. Overall, I would rate this ship one of HAL´s best, however these change with the crew changes. When booking a Med cruise bear in mind there can be alot of walking from the ship into town if you don´t book a ship´s tour. HAL doesn´t always provide ship to town transfers if the pier doesn´t provide them. The Mariner´s lunches were held later in the cruises as there were 1,600 Mariners on this cruise. HAL has the highest return percentage. The Chef´s dinner was one of the best on any HAL ship. Depark was fine unless you were flying out that day. Never a smart idea unless you have a later flight. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
My wife and I took this cruise primarily in order to experience a transatlantic. Some of our friends who have cruised several times had told us that it would be too many days on a ship. We found that not to be the case. I could have stayed ... Read More
My wife and I took this cruise primarily in order to experience a transatlantic. Some of our friends who have cruised several times had told us that it would be too many days on a ship. We found that not to be the case. I could have stayed on longer! Celebrity has done most everything very well on this new ship. Public areas-They are numerous,comfortable and attractive. The Team Earth area, however, seemed to be the least used and the point of it (ecology)while important could be done some other way to reach more passengers. The Celebrity Theater, where the talks were given, is not easy to find but the talks were interesting. The live shows in the main showroom where very good, especially Lindsay Hamilton's singing and Greg Scott's violin playing. The exception was the first production show. It was too loud, wild and full of bright flashing lights. The modern music in it was not enjoyable to many of the passengers I talked with. The whole show was not right for the mature audience. The MC of every evening's show was professional and clever. The casino was well equipped but as with all cruise lines I have been on,it had bad odds for the players. The man in charge of the electronic poker tables was pleasant and knew his job. The poker tables did have a problem. The electronic readers did not read your room card until you had inserted it 3 or 4 times. The main dining room was modern in design with chrome as a main feature. We had a table for eight in the middle of the main floor. Our service was good. Most of the food was fine and some exceptionally good. We did not eat dinner in any extra pay rooms. We did have lunch once in the Bistro. The crepes were OK but we did not feel a need to go again. Breakfast in the main dining room has always been one of my favorite aspects of any cruise. The food and service were good. For breakfast the buffet was good also. The one evening we tried the buffet for dinner. We were not thrilled. Only half the stations were open and it seemed they didn't want you eating there. Staterooms were attractive,well planned and had just enough room for storage of our clothes because we did use the cabinets above the beds. The beds and pillows were comfortable. The bathroom space was well planned and the shower was big enough for average folks. Our attendant was cheery and performed her job well. The spa was enjoyed by my wife except she said the person who worked on her had little personality. Ports-The biggest downer was the shore excursion to Paris. With the limited time to see the city, much of it was wasted on an overcrowded area for lunch, a river cruise that added little to what we saw and heard while on the bus and the usual stop at a souvenir shop. We took a private tour of the Normandy beaches an loved the experience. People we talked to who took the ship's excursion were not as pleased. We did not get off in Vigo,Spain. In the Azores we walked around the town and found beautiful churches, interesting shops and pleasant cafes. All in all, Celebrity has a winner with the Eclipse and six days crossing the Atlantic went very quickly! Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Eclipse was great. I loved the ship and the cruise as a whole. Qsine was a fabulous experience and we spent nearly four and a half hours there. Thank goodness our reservation was for 6.30pm! Of course Eclipse is very similar to Equinox ... Read More
Eclipse was great. I loved the ship and the cruise as a whole. Qsine was a fabulous experience and we spent nearly four and a half hours there. Thank goodness our reservation was for 6.30pm! Of course Eclipse is very similar to Equinox although I preferred her interior design. It was nice to see the Scottie dog sculpture outside in the Ensemble Lounge. I remember that from when I was on Galaxy and it was like seeing an old friend. I loved the way the tree in the atrium (right way up this time) swayed as the ship rolled. The public areas in general as with the rest of the ship are beautiful. There are plenty of nice areas to sit outside if you are not using a balcony. Two favourite spots were the Lawn Club where there is some soft seating and the Solstice Deck. Both these area can be very windy though when the ship is under sail and if this is the case the furniture will most likely be tied down, especially the Solstice Deck. If it is warm enough and you like the wind in the hair feel these areas are great. Overall the meals in the MDR were very good, but just couldn't even hold a candle to our Murano experience. For the small supplement it was a wonderful meal with great service. Tuscan was also great with super service, but I think as it was toward the end of the cruise my appetite was beginning to wane. As is always the case all that good food had me hankering for a cheese sandwich. I wanted to mention S2 cabin 2129. Oh boy, was that a noisy cabin. I was very sorry I swapped from 1A 9215. The thundering of the carts overhead at all hours woke me up and kept me awake on a few occasions and after one particularly bad night with much noise I rang Guest Relations to ask if they could just put me somewhere else to sleep, even if it was an inside cabin. After initially feeling unloved with their delayed response in which they gave me the run around and fobbed me off with an excuse as to that delay they did finally come up with a satisfactory resolution and were very concerned to check on how I was doing, which was appreciated. However I am still kicking myself that I upgraded. The cabin is beautiful and very comfortable, but the noise overhead in that particular area of the ship is not. I did understand from one of the Maitre d's that carts with pneumatic wheels may be used in future as it is a known problem. Service from everyone on board was as usual first class, from our butler to those seen around the ship cleaning and polishing. The bar tenders were excellent as were the servers in the Ensemble Lounge and Martini Bar. We had some nice port stops, but as this was more a cruise for rest and relaxation I am not going to write a detailed review of those. We saw Paris and the British D-Day beaches (Juno, Sword and Gold), had a walk around Vigo which I found to be a really enjoyable place to visit and a four wheel drive around the island in our stop in Ponta Delgada, Azores which was fun. I love transatlantics for their sea days. I know it might not be for everyone, but I find nothing better for clearing the mind than sitting on the balcony or at the aft bar having a drink and watching the sea go past. We lucked out with very good weather. We had quite a lot of sunshine and it was reasonably warm except for a day as we neared Florida when there was a distinctly cool nor' easter that kicked the water up to the north of us. For the most part the ship had a gentle, but pronounced roll. Just right to remind one of being at sea and not just on a floating hotel (not that I have ever felt like that about this class of ship). So a lovely time with great friends and plans for another cruise next year on Solstice. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Celebrity does it again. First time on these new ship's Great job on a very nice class ship. Many things to do and see for a 15 night but 7 day at sea journey (crossing the Atlantic). So many choices of food and ... Read More
Celebrity does it again. First time on these new ship's Great job on a very nice class ship. Many things to do and see for a 15 night but 7 day at sea journey (crossing the Atlantic). So many choices of food and style's of dining that one hand to be happy busy or what ever you wished to be. Even though the cost adds up we did all of the specialty restaurants and some even twice. They were the highlight of the eats on the ship and not just the food but the service was what we have so much enjoyed about Celebrity. We almost tried select dining but chose late seating in MDR and it was not what we have come to expect from Celebrity. We traveled with another couple who have never cruised and wanted them to experience the MDR. Marginal at best and we are not picky people. Therefore I truly believe that the hiring of outstanding waiters and assistants has lagged behind the addition of new ship's, in the MDR for the most part. Lets face it with the addition of 5 new ship's they have had to increase there personal by at least 40 percent if my math is correct. I do not believe that Celebrity is simply cutting cost, but they are having some growing pains. Wine cellar is really nice place to go before dinner. We spent many nights. Pools are wonderful. Shows good. Blue was outstanding service and only $5.00 extra. Ports were nice. Disembark was a little slow but it always is when they reposition due to customs and Coast Guard inspection. Saw many old faces from previous cruises. FYI the best secret is use the direct luggage transfer if you are flying Southwest. As soon as you leave customs they load it on a truck and you don't touch it again till your home. Huge line at airport for checking. We had a CS and it was really nice, perfect size for a long cruise but a little high in price. I am sure with the fleet growing there will be some better deals to come and Celebrity will catch up on service. All in all a great experience and look forward to another trip on these big new ships. Always Celebrity Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We embarked from Venice. Arrived at the port terminal at 11:30AM, and were on board by noon. No Problem. Our suite was beautiful, everything we expected and more. We particularly enjoyed the perk of being able to have breakfast and ... Read More
We embarked from Venice. Arrived at the port terminal at 11:30AM, and were on board by noon. No Problem. Our suite was beautiful, everything we expected and more. We particularly enjoyed the perk of being able to have breakfast and lunch in Cagney's. The breakfast and lunches were wonderful. We had dinner in five specialty restaurants and enjoyed each of them. We really enjoyed the French Bistro, and went there twice. Cagneys was good, and the Italian restaurant was OK, but the menu was lacking creativity. We had a dinner in our room one night from the Asian restaurant. Our butler service was outstanding that night and for the entire cruise. We ate in the main dining room the rest of the nights, and experienced no problems. The food was good, well presented, service was good, and deserts were outstanding. The ports we visited were good, we had done them before, and didn't use any NCL tours. We took the Hop on Hop Off bus in each port. Enjoyable. Attended two shows on the ship and enjoyed them. We visited the casino each night and enjoyed ourselves there. The casino people, dealers, etc. were really very nice. We experienced one stormy day at sea, rough seas, etc, but it wasn't that bad. That night, we at in our room from the Asian restaurant. No sense having to get your balance every 10 steps. The captain kept everyone well informed and and I believe he handled the ship and the situation well. I heard and read a lot of negatives about the cruise, mainly from the die hard Cruise Critic members. They seemed to have a lot to say about everything. Maybe we're easy to please, but we've been on Crystal cruises, Holland American, Costa, Seabourn, Celebrity and this cruise was just as good as any of them. The ship was immaculate and the workers were very amiable. Like any other cruise, they try to sell you, but I didn't think there was any pressure. We got off the ship as easily as we boarded, there was a slight delay that had something to do with the luggage, but it was worked out and didn't upset anything. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this cruise at a 9. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and would go again. We are unhappy that the Gem is no longer doing Transatlantic cruises. Hopefully it will return. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
As always I will preface this review with the rejoinder that these are my thoughts and mine alone. Others on the same cruise may disagree with me as may any who read this. Pre-cruise. We originally booked this cruise in the ... Read More
As always I will preface this review with the rejoinder that these are my thoughts and mine alone. Others on the same cruise may disagree with me as may any who read this. Pre-cruise. We originally booked this cruise in the winter of 2010. It would be my wife's and my 2nd transatlantic and on our favorite cruise line - Celebrity. However, things sometimes have a way of getting in the way. Because of long term health problems, my wife opted out of the cruise. After much discussion with her and family, I decided that I would continue on the cruise as a single. We live 3 ½ hours north of Boston. I drove there and used a Park/Sleep/Fly arrangement at the Embassy Suite Logan Airport Hotel. Using Celebrity's air program I was able to book a non-stop flight from Boston to Rome and left Boston on the 27th arriving the next morning in Rome. The flight was uneventful and the service was very good. Meeting up with 4 other folks from Cruise Critic we had pre-arranged a cab to our hotel, the Hotel Parlemento. Located in the heart of Rome, midway between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, it was an excellent choice not only for its' location, but also for its amenites and superb staff. I played tourist over the next 3 day, both on my own and with new found friends from Cruise Critic (C/C). One of the C/C group was extremely involved in planning for the group. She had arranged bus transportion from Rome to Civatecchia and on Sunday morning, October 31st, C/C members staying around the city made their way to our hotel where the bus showed up promptly. The drive to the port was uneventful and took about an hour. The weather was gray, wet and a bit gloomy. We arrived at the ship about 12:30. Check-in and first impressions. After leaving the bus and turning our luggage over to porters, we made our way into the cruise terminal. Although a bit busy, the lines moved quickly. The check-in folks were pleasant and efficient and I was onboard by 1:15. I headed immediately to my cabin (7286) for a quick look-around. The cabin was ready, so I quickly unpacked my carry-on and headed to the Oceanview cafe for lunch with friends. My initial impression of the ship was that it was beautiful and well laid-out. My opinion would not change over the cruise. This class ship, while large, is easy to get around and has good a "good" flow to it. Cabin. I was booked in Cabin 7286. This was a category 1A located on Sunrise Deck (deck 7). Its location was directly across from the amidships elevators, starboard side and being on the aft angle of the "hump", it had a rather large, deep balcony. The bed was situated near the balcony, which IMO made for easier movement. As a single traveler, I had no complaints about the size of the cabin, nor its' storage capacity. Having said that, I think a couple who didn't pack carefully, would find storage a bit limited for this two week voyage. The closet was smaller than I am used to on other ships and had no enclosed drawers (but again, as a single traveler, storage was more than adequate). On the same side of the room as the closet was a couch and small table. Celebrity had moved the safe from this closet to one of the drawers located on the opposite side of the cabin. There was a dresser like piece of furniture that contained 4 drawers and was where the small refrigerator and adequate safe were located. A small dressing table and mirror were attached. Above this was a 32" flat screen televesion set. A large (queen sized) bed completed the furnishings. (This bed could be separated into two twin beds). Above the bed was a large storage area and there was plenty of room under the bed to store suitcases. Individual reading lamps were located on either side of the bed. The room lighting took a little getting used to but once learnt, was easy to use. A nice feature is a dimmed night light that stays on in the bathroom. All in all the room is extremely comfortable. As mentioned earlier the balcony was larger than normal because of its' location on the angle of the hump. It was the depth of the balcony that increased the size from that of the "normal" sized balconies. There were two chairs and a round table. I would spend a couple hours a day out there with a glass of wine and my Kindle, just enjoying life at sea. My steward and his assistant were as good as any I have had in over 20 cruises. They patiently explained the workings of the lighting to me (twice). One afternoon, realizing I had locked my key in the room, I called reception and the assistant was up (from his break I am sure) within 5 minutes with a smile and his key. They always greeted me by name and and task I asked of them was done quickly and pleasantly. Food. Food is too subjective a subject for me to discuss in detail, but I will say that while I feel that the quality of food has declined (throughout the industry) over my years of cruising, I never once experienced hunger pangs. I love the layout of the Oceanview Cafe as compared to the "normal" buffet line on other ships. With many stations located throughout, there were rarely any lines. Mornings saw "eggs to order" and lunches "pasta to order" amongst many, many, many other choices. I was seated at a table for eight on the main level of the Silhouette Dining Room for my early dining. Other members of the table were people from the C/C group. Two would leave us on the 3rd night as they decided that early dinner was not to their liking, especially on the ports portion of the cruise. Our waiter and his assistant were friendly and efficient, but busy and did not interact with the table to any extent. I also ate at the Bistro on Five, Murano's and Silk Harvest. It was in the latter two (upcharge) dining venues that the former quality of food and service were re-vitalized, IMO. The food at both of these venues was superb and that was matched by the service. I enjoyed the experiences of both tremendously. Entertainment. I only went to 3 or 4 of the evening shows. The production shows were not really different than others I have seen over the years. I believe the only truly different thing is the enthusiasm of the performers. On this trip, they were OK. Most of my evenings were spent with friends enjoying other entertainment offered throughout the ship. It was varied and pretty good. The cruise director, Dru Pavlov, and his staff were busy, entertaining and approachable. One hiccup occurred on Veteran's/Remembrance Day. Announcements were given that instructed the veterans of a function in their honor would be held in the Observation Lounge at 10 a.m. When we arrived some function or another was being held and we were directed to a side room where some chairs were set up. A crewmember was coming in and out. Nothing happened. Phone calls were made. A half-hour after the designated time as most of us vets were preparing to leave, the assistant cruise director came in and said this would do at all and directed us into the Observation Lounge where coffee and water was served. Another 10-15 minutes and Dru and the Captain arrived. Dru gave, what in my opinion, was a poorly conceived, hesitant, extrempraneous speech thanking us for our service. For the most part, the veterans just sat around doing what we do best, exchanging stories. I have never felt the need to be recognized for my service, but I was offended at the lack of respect shown by the ship's staff in the one particular meeting. Ports of Call. We visited Livorno, Italy, Cannes, France and Barcelona, Cartegena, Cadiz and Tenerife (Canary Islands), Spain. It was a great itinerary. A bit port intensive, there was only one sea day the first week. When my wife was originally scheduled for this trip, we had booked tours with other C/C folks in Cannes, Barcelona and Tenerife. However, I canceled those tours to allow couples on the wait list to enjoy. I would just meander around the different ports. No plans had been made for Livorno. Good thing and the weather was wet, cool and damp the entire port visit. The rest of the voyage would see sunny skies and increasingly warmer temperatures as it progressed. Cannes - I just walked around, enjoying the sites and souveneir shopping. Barcelona - Two C/C couples and I went on a walking tour of Las Ramblas and other areas of the city. We stopped at the WalMart of Europe (El Cortes Inglese) and picked up some wine, then walked deeper into the city to a Gaudi building. We enjoyed a fantastic "all you can eat" buffet luncheon at a cafe' called La Vac Paca. We meandered back down Las Ramblas enjoying the street actors and the sites in general. Cartegena - Again, I headed out on my own enjoying the sites of this lovely town. I soon met up with friends from the ship. One of the couples and I headed for a view from the fort overlooking an old bullring and the city in general. Transportation to and from the ship was provided. Cadiz - In my opinion, this was the hidden gem of the trip. The two couples from my Barcelona sojourn and myself were joined by two single ladies from C/C and we headed off on our own walking tour. I was on a mission to find table linens for my wife. Once that was accomplished, we visited the Cathedral and "downtown" area of Cadiz. The two ladies became separated from us, so the 5 of us headed off on a walking tour around Cadiz. What a beautiful city on the sea this is. We walked around the complete seawall in about 3 or 4 hours of leisurely walking. We stopped at a seaside taverna for calamari and cold, cold cerveza. It was a wonderful day. Tenerife - I had been there the previous year, but once again I headed out on my own. It was a Sunday and the vast majority of the shops were closed. I sat around having a couple of beers and people watched for a couple of hours then headed back to the ship. Although this was a port intensive cruise up to this point, I had not overtaxed myself with tours. I walked, shopped and enjoyed at my own pace. Not a bad way of seeing these cities. Cruise Critic. We had a very large C/C contingent aboard. So large, that we had two Cruise Connection get-togethers. We also had a cabin crawl, bar crawl, gift exchange and slot-pull (where we doubled our monies - thank you very much). These get togethers were spaced throughout the at-sea part of our cruise and helped fill the days at sea. As I mentioned before the ship itself is beautiful and easy to get around. There were plenty of lounge chairs available around the pools and decks above it. The lawn club is interesting and a quiet place to relax and just enjoy. There were daily glass-blowing shows (where 3 of our C/C group won 4 of the give-a-ways over the cruise (including a vase won by myself). There were daily lectures from various experts. Trivia, bingo and other cruise staples were available. If one is interested in rock-climbing, ice skating, etc., etc. this is not the ship for them. However for a day that one could be as busy as they wanted or as relaxed as they cared to be, this is the cruise. As with all good things, this too had to end. Fifteen days after it started it ended in Port Everglades, Florida and it was here that things went awry. Disembarkation, while good for some, was horrible for others. Because Royal Caribbean has designated what used to be Celebrity's pier to house the Oasis and Allure of the Seas. Unfortunately on the date we arrived, the Allure came into port. The Equinox was delegated to an old, woefully inadequate terminal. There were two or three other ships in the port as well (on a Monday), making the pier area quite congested. Customs, as seems to be usual in Florida, was understaffed. Add this to the fact that this was the Equinox's first visit to the United States this season and all the ingredients for a massive mess were in place. Apparently, the initial folks off had no problem. I was scheduled off at 8:30 and that is exactly when I was called. However, it started slowing down almost immediately. It took me the better part of an hour to get off the ship, get in line for baggage pickup and clear customs. AND, it only got worse for those after me. There was blame to assign all around. Customs for their usual understaffed, officious personnel.Celebrity for not having any personnel explaining the backup to those folks in line. Other passengers who didn't feel waiting in line was part of their package and others who thought they could get off ahead of their scheduled time only to find out that their bags were still on their original schedule (These folks could be found just outside the luggage area, milling about, waiting on their luggage. According to some folks I have talke with since luggage was hard to locate, was not in designated areas and/or luggage tags were missing. All in all a not so great ending to what was a fantastic cruise. IMO, only a couple of glitches on this cruise. There were many, many excellent things on or about this cruise. Foremost amonst them are the wonderful folks I met and friends I made from the C/C boards (and others). I would recommend Celebrity to anybody considering a cruise. I would highly recommend the "S" class ship for the amenities it offers. And, if you have the time put them both together on a transatlantic cruise - you won't be disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Celebrity's loyalty program allows you to reach 'Elite' level faster than any other cruise line. This level provides the cruiser with use of the Elite level lounge with 2 hours of complimentary drinks and appetizers each ... Read More
Celebrity's loyalty program allows you to reach 'Elite' level faster than any other cruise line. This level provides the cruiser with use of the Elite level lounge with 2 hours of complimentary drinks and appetizers each evening. The Elite level passenger also receives 90 minutes of free Internet use and 2 bags of laundry washed and folded complimentary. Beyond the above Celebrity provides wonderful meals whether at assigned seating or at 'select' or anytime seating. Our cabin was 1401. A C2 cabin of 190 sf and an over-sized balcony of approx. 60 sf. We picked this cabin because it was near the ship's aft and because of the extra 6-9 sf of balcony. A fruit basket, fresh flowers, and evening appetizers were provided. Cabin and dining service was at the highest level. The singers and dancers in the main show room were some of the most talented that I've seen on the high seas. From Cherbourg we toured Mont Saint Michel. The tour director on our bus was a French woman who spoke impeccable English and who had the most wonderful presentation for the entire 7 hours. As with other large cruise ship's, stability on the ocean was excellent. In summery, Celebrity provides an excellent cruise experience and the 'Eclipse' is a wonderful ship. Southampton was our departure port. It is a 2 hour train ride from London's Victoria Station. Jury's Hotel was inexpensive and only a $10 taxi ride from the port. Le Havre is not a great city to tour but it is a good jumping off point for tours of the Normandy beaches. Cherbourg was only toured by bus on the was to Mont Saint Michel. Vigo, Spain is a pretty town with a beautiful bay. Tours to Santiago de Compostela can be booked from this port. Ponta Delgada is a cute town with friendly people in the Portuguese Azores. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Warning: Most of my journals are long and include pre-cruise information. Skip down to October 31st if you want to by-pass the Rome portion of my journal. 28 October 2010, Thursday Louisa and I met up at Dulles international airport - ... Read More
Warning: Most of my journals are long and include pre-cruise information. Skip down to October 31st if you want to by-pass the Rome portion of my journal. 28 October 2010, Thursday Louisa and I met up at Dulles international airport - Tony and Lucy (our dog) dropped me off. I had purchased a neat hand scale to weigh my bags. With the airlines charging for overweight luggage, I wanted to be sure I didn't go over the limit and pay any luggage fees. I was traveling with a large 29" spinner suitcase and a carry-on bag. Louisa was sure her bag was over 50 pounds. A man saw me hook up the scale to her suitcase and said he was interested in seeing it. I asked him if he could lift the suitcase for me. Sure enough, it weighed 55 pounds. Louisa moved some things around and I added a few items to my carryon bag. After check-in, we had drinks at the bar near the gate. Larry and Anne (from Kauai) joined us. They had arrived from LAX and were on our flight. We had a nice time with them. They bought our drinks, which was a nice treat. Thanks! We had also ordered fried artichoke hearts with aioli sauce, which hit the spot. There were several other cruise critic members on our flight, so we chatted with them at the gate. We encountered lots of turbulence during the first portion of the flight. It smoothed out once we started to cross the Atlantic. A flight attendant came up and I showed her my USAirways ID card to see about getting some complimentary wine. She looked at my seat number and said, "32B and C, yes, we know about you, the Captain told us." A friend of mine is a captain for United and Tony had contacted her to see if she was flying our flight. She sent a letter to the captain on board asking if he could help us out. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine. Later during the flight, the captain came up to me and introduced himself. We talked for about 10 minutes. It was nice of him to take the time to chat with us. Our flight landed about 20 minutes early but the taxi to the gate seem to take forever, reminding me of the taxing at Charles de Gaulle in France. After a quick check-in with customs and gathering our luggage, we met up with John, who had arrived from Boston. I hired Stefano from Rome Cabs to take five of us to Hotel Parlamento in Rome. The price was right: 60 euros plus tip for all of us. It took about an hour to get to the hotel, as we hit rush hour in Rome. Hotel Parlamento (Via delle Convertite, 5) was in a great location: Close to the Trevi fountain, Spanish Steps, and around the corner from via del Corso, the famous shopping street. Just half a block away is a bus station, at piazza San Silvestro. The hotel has a tiny elevator, so it took a while to get all of the luggage up to the 3rd floor. Then there's one flight of stairs to the hotel lobby. Our room (#94), one flight up from the lobby level, had a view of the inner courtyard. It was very quiet at night, so I didn't mind the lack of views. The room was small and a tight fit with our luggage, but Louisa and I arranged the room so that we could walk around. Twin beds, on the soft side, were comfortable. Lighting was poor but I wasn't surprised. Most hotels I've stayed in while in Europe seem to use low wattage. The room had a flat screen tv., a small table, and end tables next to the beds. The bathroom was a nice size with a large counter top space. Lighting could be better but we had a window for light and fresh air. Small shower and bidet. Next to the lobby/check-in area is a small breakfast room. And on our floor, there's a doorway to the rooftop terrace. Some of the rooms have direct access to the terrace. This was one area we used during the late afternoon or evenings, enjoying a glass of wine or two, or to simply sit and write in my journal. Since we were staying just three nights, we didn't unpack too many things. We headed out and explored our area. For lunch near the Spanish steps, Louisa and I enjoyed a tasty 10-euro antipasti buffet at Ristorante ala Rampa. You fill your one plate up for the 10-euro price. I had fresh mozzarella, meatballs, grilled eggplant and zucchini, white bean salad, calamari salad, marinated octopus, sautEed spinach, etc. Everything was delicious and I actually had too much on my plate. There were many other choices to select for lunch. The Spanish Steps were packed with people sunning themselves, as it was a beautiful sunny day. I went inside the church at the top, Trinita dei Monti. It was my first time there. Not as spectacular as other Churches' in Rome. The weather was on the cold side, so I was glad that I brought my London fog heavy jacket. We walked along via del Corso and window shopped. Fancy shoes, boots, and elegant dresses were on display. Later, we met up with John on the terrace for some drinks before dinner. For dinner, we dined at Colline Emiliane (via degli Avignonesi, 22, 00187 Roma, Italy +39 06 481 7538)?, which was located about a 15- minute walk from the hotel. It's a small restaurant located close to two other favorites of mine (Gioa Mia and Hostaria Romana). I enjoy finding local restaurants that serve authentic cuisine. Colline Emiliane serves classic Bolognese dishes. I was hoping they would have lasagna Bolognese, like I had in Bologna a few years ago. It was served with green lasagna, which was heavenly! This restaurant didn't have it but the menu had many other great choices. The three of us shared a couple of plates of mortadella and proscuitto. Both were excellent and sliced ever so thin. I had the tagliatelle alla Bolognese, which was delicious, along with a side dish of sautEed spinach and garlic. John and Louisa enjoyed their meal. With house red wine, our bill came to 27 euros each. On the way back to the hotel, we swung by the Trevi fountain, always a crowded scene with people tossing their coin (or two) into the fountain for a future return to Rome. Back at the hotel, we ran into Christine and Paul, so the five of us had some drinks on the terrace, including some limoncello that I made and brought with me. It was an easy day for us, but relaxing. 29 October 2010, Friday, Rome Italy What a beautiful day! Last year in Rome it rained a lot. This morning was clear and crisp. I slept well thanks to half of an ambien pill. The wine and limoncello the night before might have helped too. The hotel serves a simple breakfast that includes fruit, yogurt, croissants, cheese, crackers, cereal, coffee, tea, and juice. It was just enough to get you going for the day. The breakfast room is pretty small, but it seemed to work out okay with people arriving at different times. The owner of the hotel, an older gentleman, invited my friends and me to some wine and snacks later in the afternoon on the terrace. There were a dozen of us at the hotel that were going on the cruise. This was such a nice offer. Today was a day of Churches. First Louisa and I visited the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, which is a crypt with displays of many bones and skulls (over 4,000 Capuchin friars). There were four or five rooms. Many of the bones were made into shapes and designs, which hung on the walls and the ceilings. It's probably not a place for everyone. Next we headed to Santa Maria della Vittoria, a Baroque church, where the famous Bernini statue of St. Teresa of Avila is located. I had missed this church last year, as Tony and I had arrived at the wrong time - it was closed for lunch, so I was glad to be able to see the exquisite and sensual looking statue. St. Teresa is about to be pierced by an angel's arrow, the symbol of God's love, or so I'm told. Heading south, we had lunch at Trattoria Monti (Via San Vito, 13a, Tel: 06.446.6573), a nice local restaurant. It's close to the Santa Maria Maggiore. I had the rigatoni with pecorino cheese, minced sausage, and black pepper. The pasta was perfectly 'al dente' and delicious. Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the largest churches in Rome. It has a beautiful coffered ceiling, thick columns and wonderful mosaic tiled flooring. The last church of the day was San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains). I had been here before, but wanted Louisa to see Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses. We headed back to the hotel, walking past the Colosseum, Roman Forum and took pictures along the way. Louisa and I headed to the terrace for our afternoon wine party with our friends. Roberto served red wine and chips/crackers. We ended up drinking four carafes of wine! It was getting colder as the sun began to set. We invited a young woman to join us. Cate was sitting outside at another table. I also invited her to join us for happy hour the next day with the cruise group. For dinner, Louisa, Christine, Paul, John and I had dinner at Gioia Mia (Via degli Avignonesi, 34, tel 06.4882784), my forth visit there. Packed as usual and fast service, as the owner likes to turn the tables to take the many customers. Reservations are a must! Louisa and I shared a � liter of white wine. We all shared a plate of antipasti. All of us ordered the papparadelle alla gran duca (wide ribbon pasta with ham, mushrooms, cream, tomatoes and cognac), which was excellent, very flavorful and one of the house specialties. 18 euros per person. After, we walked to the Trevi fountain and stopped in a couple of stores and sampled some liquor. Back in our room, the five of us had some wine before retiring for the night. 30 October 2010, Saturday, Rome Italy It was another beautiful day in Rome. Having been here several times, I decided on another easy going day. After breakfast, Louisa and I headed over to Trastevere. On the way over, we swung by Piazza Navona, which was quite active with tourists and street vendors, as well as visited the market at Campo dei Fiori. It was also crowded with food vendors. It made me wish we stayed in an apartment so we could cook some Italian dishes. In Trastevere, we walked around the area, did a little window shopping but didn't buy anything. Clouds started to roll in and it got cooler. For lunch, we dined at Roma Sparita, which was recommended to me two years ago by my friend GB (editor of www.italiannotebook.com where I have several articles published). When I had asked him for restaurant recommendations, he told me, "If you want to eat in Trastevere, ONLY do Roma Sparita!" Just a few months ago, I was watching No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. He had dined at this same place! The name of the restaurant was never mentioned, but his review was so interesting that I searched his web site and found out it was the place my friend recommended to me! Located in the corner of a simple piazza and next to a church, we dined al fresco. Louisa and I ordered fried, stuffed zucchini flowers, which had mozzarella and anchovy inside (should have ordered more!). I had the tagliolini cacio e pepe, which was a pasta dish with pecorino cheese and pepper served in a crispy parmesan cheese bowl. Simply delectable! Louisa had the fettucini with mushrooms, which was also very good. Completely satisfied with our lunch, we walked to the Santa Maria in Trastevere church before heading back over the Tiber River. Louisa had enough of walking, so we took a taxi to the hotel. The ride was welcomed. After our rest in the hotel room, we walked to La Curia di Bacco near the Campo dei Fiori for our pre-cruise get together with fellow cruisers. I had set up a happy hour for 50 people (about 40 showed up) that included antipasti and wine. Everyone had a great time. Food was fine, but I've had better antipasti at other bars, but it served us well, as we needed a large place to take all of us. For dinner, my same dinner group dined at La Sagrestia (via del Seminario, 89. Tel: 06 67 97 581). I think I had one of the best meals in Rome on this trip: Seafood pasta that was baked in parchment paper. It had calamari, shrimp, clams, mussels, and lobster. It was in a very light red sauce. The seafood was tender (the lobster didn't taste right, so I avoided eating it) and the linguini cooked properly. I also had an appetizer of bruschetta with a tartufo spread. With wine, it was 20 euros per person. Another walk past the Trevi fountain, Louisa picked up a bottle of limoncello for the cabin. More drinks on the roof top terrace. A nice end to our time in Rome. Tomorrow we head to the ship for our 15-night cruise. 31 October 2010, Sunday, Rome Italy It was time to pack up and head to the ship. Louisa and I did most of the packing last night. Of course, we didn't unpack too many things anyway. I didn't sleep well, as I was concerned about the bus service I hired to take 39 of us to the port. I wanted things to run smoothly, unlike last year's problem. When I got up, I used Louisa's phone and re-confirmed the pick up time. I was told, "Yes, the driver will be there at 11:30am." I corrected her saying I requested an 11:00am pick up time. The breakfast room was crowded with us cruisers having our last breakfast and others just checking in to the hotel. We met Debra and Tom, who had arrived from their hotel, so they joined us for breakfast. Mr. Chini didn't charge Debra and Tom, saying they were my guests. I found all of the employees at the hotel to be friendly and provided very good service. In fact, after showing Debra and Tom our room, they said they would stay at Hotel Parlamento. They didn't like the service where they stayed. Debra and Tom helped us take our luggage downstairs. At one point, Tiziano told me, "Come see me before you leave. I have to kiss you." What a flirt! He was one of the younger men at the hotel. Downstairs all of the cruisers were waiting for the bus. Thank goodness everyone showed up. Everyone was chatting up a storm and at one point, I saw a woman look out her window wondering what the noise was all about. Apparently the building holds two hotels and apartments. It had been raining all morning, but at least the weather held out until today. I took Debra and Tom to the nearby grocery store to buy some wine to have while on the ship. On the way back, I ran into Tiziano who said, "Don't forget, I need to kiss you goodbye." I'm all smiles. Upstairs, I said my goodbyes to the staff and Tiziano got his kiss. The bus was parked a block away at the bus area, so everyone had to haul their luggage. It took a while for the driver to load all suitcases and had to open another compartment to add the last five pieces. Note to self: If I use this company again, the maximum number of people should be 34. An hour or so later, we arrived at the port. It continued to rain. Not long after, we checked in and were on our way to the ship. It was very windy and rainy, so not a nice start to the cruise. On board, we received the standard glass of champagne, a nice touch. This was Louisa's first cruise, so I was quite excited for her and so was she. She loved our room (cabin 9261) and the views from the balcony. Surprisingly, our room was ready. We met our room attendant, a very quiet man from Thailand. Our cabin is in a very good location: near the elevators, port side for a sunny balcony (although it was hot most of the day), and just four decks below the ocean view cafe. It was also a concierge class cabin, so a bottle of champagne was sitting on the table in an ice bucket. After lunch at the ocean view cafe, I took Louisa around to see some of the ship. The Equinox is in excellent shape, still looks brand new. At 3:30pm, many of us gathered at the ocean view bar for our early sail away party. It was very cold and windy, so we moved to the sky observation lounge. Being Halloween, many wore masks. I made masks for Louisa and me but ended up not wearing them. I saved mine for next year's cruise. The sail away party was lots of fun. Many people showed up and the bartenders couldn't keep up with our drink orders. The muster was at 5:15pm. Louisa and I went to Michael's club, same location as last year for Tony and me. It lasted just 15 minutes and then we were back in the room. Dinner was at 6pm, which I wanted to try. After two days, Louisa and I felt it was just too early for us so we switched to late. For dinner I started with the crab Louis with avocado, the caprese, the mushroom cappuccino soup and then the prime rib. Oh my, the cut of meat was huge! I could only eat half of it and I like to eat. It was a great dinner to start this cruise. Later, we ran into Tom and Debra at the Quasar bar. They were dressed in Halloween costumes. We had drinks in their cabin. They had a large balcony, so we stood outside for a while. The wind was really blowing and you could see swirls of water in the air. The ship was rocking but it was a fun rock. We had a fun night. 1 November 2010, Monday - Livorno, Italy What a miserable day! It rained all day long! I hired a private tour company (Tuscan Sunshine Tours, 50 euros pp plus tip) for the day to take eight of us to Lucca and Pisa. The company's name didn't help. We docked at 7:00am and were off the ship by 7:30am (Louisa and I ordered room service for breakfast). In my group were Larry, Anne, Elizabeth, Eric, Laura, Jeff, Louisa, and me. Franco drove us to Lucca, which was about 30 minutes away. It was just drizzling when we arrived in Lucca. Too bad for the weather - Lucca is such a beautiful city to enjoy in the sunshine. Franco started our tour with a visit to the Cattedrale di San Martino, a church located on the south-east side of town. I loved the smaller columns on the fa�ade of the building, as they are in different designs: candy striped, checkered, zigzag, floral, knotted, and even plain. Inside, you can see a painting by Tintoretto, the Last Supper, which was done in the late 1500s. Franco took us for a short walk down a few narrow streets (in the rain!) to Piazza Napoleone. Surrounding the square were large trees, very pretty, but not so in the rain. Walking north, we visited San Michele and San Frediano, two other important churches in Lucca. Nearby is the Roman theatre, now a beautiful oblong shaped piazza. People were setting up booths for various shopping products. Also going on in Lucca was a large comic book convention. Apparently this yearly convention is quite popular. Many young kids were dressed in costume of their favorite comic book character. I have a photo or two of the piazza from several years ago - it was a sunny day, so I wasn't overly disappointed that I missed out on some good photo ops. The group split up for a few hours. By then it stopped raining and all of us were hopeful. Louisa and I stopped at a bar for a snack before heading up to walk along the town walls. Lots of people were biking and walking their dogs, but it began to rain again. Louisa and I just couldn't stand it. Instead of our original plans to buy a panini and eat on the go, we decided to go to a restaurant I had been to before. I also decided not to climb the Guinigi tower (it has a tree growing on the top). Along the way we stopped in a leather store, where I purchased a beautiful purse. On display were the materials that the owners used to make their purses, belts, wallets, jackets, etc. It was nice to know I purchased a hand-made product. By now, it was pouring! Louisa and I ran into a ceramic store to wait out the rain. It did not let up at all! We stayed long enough for me to buy a small ceramic bowl. There were may beautiful things in the store. I love Italian ceramics! Knowing the restaurant was just one block away, we made a mad dash to Trattoria da Leo (Via Tegrini, 1, tel 0583 492236). We were drenched. My shoes and socks were completely soaked and my umbrella as well. It was great to be in a warm and inviting restaurant. The waiter gave us napkins to sop up our wet socks, so we were very grateful. Our lunch consisted of local soups, which we felt would be the best on the menu to warm us up. And they did. My soup, minestra di farro, was made of faro and spelt, close in taste to a lentil soup. It's a local Lucchese specialty and was full of flavor. Louisa had a soup that was similar to a split pea soup. We shared a side dish of baked fennel that was topped with parmesan cheese. Simply made yet wonderful. With a half carafe of wine, our lunch was 12 euros each. We sat for the longest time not wanting to leave the warmth of the restaurant. We headed back to the van and fortunately for us it was just drizzling. We got back to the van early but the rest of the gang was already there. I guess they had enough ot Lucca and the rain. Our next stop was to Pisa. I wasn't interested in going there but a few wanted to climb the tower. Louisa and I were done for the day and decided we would just sit in the van while the rest toured Pisa. Franco was kind to us and took us for a short drive showing us the area and marina in Pisa. I saw a sign for Livorno and was temped to ask him to drop us off at the ship but decided that would cost him extra in gas. Back in Pisa, he bought us hot tea at a cafe where we sat for a while. On the way back to the van, Louisa and I walked by the tower and took the obligatory photograph. On the way a young Italian said to me, "Ciao sexy." Smiling, I said, "Louisa, did you hear that guy?" "No." When I told her she said, "Wow, you must be desperate." She thought I meant one of the guys who were selling umbrellas. "No! The good looking Italian!" We both laughed. As we drove back to the port, the clouds began to break up and we could see spots of blue sky and a rainbow. I had collected everyone's money and paid Franco. Happy to be back on board the ship, we changed out of our wet clothes and got ready for the evening. Dinner tonight: Escargot, salad with gorgonzola, chicken saltimbocca; cigar tres leches for dessert. Later we met new friends Ken and Victor and Rob and Carlos at the martini bar. 2 November 2010, Tuesday, Cannes France A cloudy day today but I think everyone on the ship was thankful it wasn't like yesterday. Most of the tours from Livorno to Cinque Terre had been cancelled, so those tourists were very disappointed in their day. I wonder what they did instead. Louisa and I had breakfast in the cabin again, as it was another early wake up call. I booked a private tour for eight people (Louisa, me, Debra, Jon, Alan, Anita, Dennis, Virginia) to visit a few hill towns. Dennis wasn't feeling well and remained on the ship, but Virginia still joined us. Everyone met near the passport bar before boarding a tender to get to Cannes. Our guide, Alain, met us and whisked us away for the day. We had a nice drive from Cannes to Nice as we drove along the coastal road. Beautiful sailboats and yachts were docked on various places. Money showed everywhere in these towns. Still fairly early, the towns quietly woke up. As we arrived in Antibes, Alain asked us if we wanted to see the outdoor market. We voted for no, as we wanted as much time in the hill towns. I told Alan we didn't want to do any shopping. I ate my words. While at one of the stoplights, I looked to the left and saw a small kitchen shop and in the window display was something Louisa and I had used in Provence last year: Acrylic lemon presses. We were at dinner one night and our meal was served with sliced lemons that we could press and pour onto our fish. We looked everywhere for these presses and even asked the waiter if we could buy them. He said no, so anytime we were out shopping, we kept an eye out on this nifty gadget. I couldn't believe my eyes! There it was in one corner of the window begging to be purchased. As Alain continued through the light, I quickly turned to the others and asked if I could have 5 minutes so I could purchase the presses. I jumped out with my wallet and walked quickly to the store, bought a set and ran back to the van where it had pulled over and out of the traffic lane. I was thrilled that I finally had one in my hands. I should have bought two sets, but didn't think of it at the time. If I had more time I would have browsed the store, as it had lots of neat items. Passing through Nice and a quick stop for photo ops, we headed to a lookout point for Villefranche. Along the way we passed Elton John's house...or I should say one of his homes. At the lookout point, Alain told us it was a pick up joint for gays. Interesting bit of information. The views from above were excellent. Villefranche is a beautiful port town, very colorful, and hidden in a small curve of the coast line. We were getting anxious to see some hill towns, so Alain took us to Biot. Before getting to the center of town, we stopped at a glass factory. This area is known for its glass with little bubbles. A defect in the glass-making process is their signature design. Some of the pieces were gorgeous but also very expensive! None of us bought anything. Biot is a very small yet charming medieval village. The town was pleasant to walk around and it wasn't crowded with tourists. In the center is the Place des Arcades, where you can sit and relax. Next we drove to Vence, just 19km away. Larger than Biot, it had a lot of charm too. There were cafes at the Place ClEmenceau and a church across the way. We spent about an hour here walking around the town. 4km away was Saint Paul-de-Vence. This was one place I did not want to see, as I had read it was a beautiful tourist-trap village. I wanted picturesque, delightful, small, and characteristic. Alain, during our email correspondence, kept assisting that it was a town not to be missed. I had told him no thanks, but during our drive he asked the entire group, so we ended up going there. Yes, it was a picturesque town but there was no charm due to the many shops and shop signs down every street and tourists. I did manage to head off from the main street and was able to take some photos that I was hoping to take. It seemed that Alain kept pushing the shopping. I suppose he didn't realize were not the typical tourists that wanted to shop. We wanted to see the towns themselves. Our last stop was my absolute favorite, Tourrettes-sur-Loup. This perched town was beautiful and what I expected for a French hill town. It was a quiet place with very few tourists, as well as some shops (although not obtrusive). The main street is the Grand Rue that begins at the parking lot, goes through the village and to the other side. I found delightful scenes around every corner. Too bad that it was an overcast day. We encountered some sprinkles, but nothing like yesterday in Italy. This is definitely a town I would like to see again in the sunshine or to even spent a night there. Lunch consisted of simple panini's while standing under an arch while it rained. At least it rained briefly. The main restaurants were expensive and we didn't want to take a lot of time at lunch. Back at the port we thanks Alain for the tour. He did a good job but next time I hire someone I will stand my ground about where I want to go. I don't think anyone stepped inside a shop in Saint Paul-de-Vence. Tonight was the first formal night. There were three on this cruise. Around 5pm, Louisa and I met up with friends Bruce, Gail, Sharon, Jack and others in the observation sky lounge for happy hour drinks. For dinner, Louisa and I had switched from early to late dining. We sat with Christine, Paul, Harvey, and Connie. 6pm was just too early for us. Dinner: Beef carpaccio and rack of lamb. Lamb is one of my favorites! 3 November 2010, Tuesday - Barcelona, Spain Ah, finally, sunshine! In fact, we had sunny days the rest of our trip. I didn't have a lot of plans for Barcelona since I had been there several times before. I just wanted to enjoy the sights of the Gothic quarter and Las Ramblas. Louisa and I took the local bus to town, as it was too far to walk from where we were docked. Celebrity had a shuttle service for 6 euros round trip, but the bus was half the price. We ended up waiting a little longer but chatted with a few people in line. The bus dropped us of next to the Columbus monument and we walked up Las Ramblas. Nearby on the left is Placa del Rei, a beautiful square with lamp posts designed by Gaudi. In the center of the square is a large fountain where people can sit and enjoy this spot. As we walked along Las Ramblas, we saw several human statues already at work and others getting set up with their makeup and clothing. We saw some interesting ones: A headless chef, a Yoda-like character that floated in the air (easy to figure out), an invisible man with floating sunglasses, a fruit stand, a baby in a carriage (annoying guy) and the creature from the movie Alien - he scared a little girl into crying as he leaned towards her. One section of Las Ramblas has several flower stalls with lots of colorful flowers and plants. There's also a bird market but that was further up the street. On the left past the Leicu metro is the fabulous mercat (indoor market). With so many people in town the market was hard to walk around. It seemed like every type of fruit, vegetable, meat, and seafood were on display. Some of the shops had cured ham hanging from the ceiling. They looked wonderful. I purchased a few ounces of the tasty meat to snack on. Off Las Ramblas on Calle Ferran, there is a great place for tapas: Mikel Etxea (#15). On display on the counters were numerous types of tapas to choose from, several of which were served on slices of toasted bread. We had chorizo topped with brie (baked), zucchini slice topped with a potato croquette and roumalade-type sauce, a mixed seafood salad with green and black olives, meatballs in a thick red sauce, and skewered chunks of pork (my favorite), along with some red wine. It wasn't cheap but the food was very good and filling. Later we did some window shopping, bought a couple of items, walked by the Cathedral (under partial scaffolding), and then headed back to the ship. Onboard in the theatre we caught the last half of the flamenco show, which consisted of three dancers, a lead male singer, and a male guitarist. They were very good. Our usual evening on the ship started with happy hour at the sky observation lounge, which lasts between 4pm and 6pm. As a new Captain's Club Elite member, I was able to enjoy complimentary drinks, 90 minutes of internet access, laundry service, and other perks. Louisa enjoyed the happy hour too since she was booked in my cabin. Entertainment of the night was a card magician. He was very good. Dinner: Oysters Rockefeller, seafood risotto, pate, and stuffed sole with vegetables topped with a tiny amount of black caviar. 4 November 2010, Wednesday, Cartagena Spain This morning (68 degrees and sunny) the cruise critic group met at the passport bar at 9:00am for our 'cruise critic connections party.' Although many of us already met at the sail away party, this was the official get together. About 60 people showed up. The staff served coffee, tea, juice, and pastries. We had about 45 minutes before everyone split up and got off the ship for the day. I had talked to my point and asked for a second get together later in the cruise, knowing that 45 minutes wouldn't satisfy people. Cartagena is an easy port to visit, but we were docked away from the town center. The Queen Elizabeth was docked in front of the town center, where we were docked last year. There was complimentary shuttle service to the center of town. For some reason we couldn't walk to town on our own. Maybe it was because of the roads and lack of sidewalk, but as we drove, it didn't look dangerous. I decided on a very relaxing, do not much of anything for this port. This cruise, being port intensive in the beginning, was beginning to wear on me and since I had been here before, I wasn't worried about 'seeing it all.' Cartagena is a clean city with palm trees, beautiful architecture, and a pretty pedestrian street. Along the street is city hall, shops, bars and restaurants. At the bottom end of the pedestrian street is the town hall. A few of us walked inside just in time for a short tour. The building had been restored. It was amazing to see the "before" photographs. One room had three large chandeliers and tapestries with coat of arms on the walls. It was quite colorful. The front entrance leads to a beautiful marble split staircase with a rich red carpet runner in the middle - elegant and regal looking. We did some window shopping and admired the wrought iron balconies and marble tiled fa�ade of the buildings; and we stepped inside one church. Being a small town, we kept running into cruise friends. For lunch Louisa and I had some fried calamari and marinated mussels along with a glass of sangria that went down too quickly. Debra and Tom had joined us, as we sat outside, people-watched, and had a good time talking. Dinner: Crab fritters; seafood risotto with scallops, shrimp and mussels. After dinner, we hit the martini bar for some drinks. 5 November 2010, Friday, Cadiz Spain 75 degrees and clear. Cadiz was my favorite port to visit on this cruise and it was my first visit there. Many cruisers opted for tours to Seville (1.5 hours away) but I had been there a couple of times, so I wanted to enjoy something new. The town of Cadiz juts out on the Atlantic Ocean at the end of a narrow peninsula, making it a compact town to walk around. There are large promenades along the water, as well as fortifications. There are many small pedestrian streets to wander around with lots of shops, bars, and restaurants. Parts of the area reminded me of the small streets in Seville with its white washed buildings, wrought iron work, and colorful bougainvillea spilling over the balconies. A bunch of us walked to town and headed to the cathedral. I purchased a combination ticket that included a visit to the crypt and nearby museum. Part of the interior of the cathedral is in restoration. I climbed the cathedral's bell tower for great city views. From above you can see the cathedral's yellow tiled dome. The building itself is of Baroque design and is made entirely of stone. The interesting round-shaped domed crypt contains the tomb of Manuel de Falla, an Andalusian composer. The museum is pretty small but had striking paintings, sculptures and massive song books. More tapas for lunch. A friend recommended a place in the center of town called Las Flores. Nearby is a flower market and a block away is the main market (which we missed seeing). Louisa and I shared a some tapas: fried calamari, empanadas, and meat/potato croquettes. We enjoyed sitting outside in the shade. Inside the restaurant, many men were standing at the bar eating fried seafood and smoking their cigarettes like a chimney. After lunch, we took a walk through the market, which must have closed an hour before. There were still people cleaning up their booths. Nearby was a restaurant with a Moorish style interior. The owner came out and asked if we wanted to have lunch. I told him we were admiring the interior. He was getting a little too friendly with me and put his arm around me and asked Louisa to take our photo. We walked along side the water on the wide promenade, passing a couple of beaches and an area with modern sculptures. In one area was the El Parque GenovEs, a lush garden with sculpted trees and fountains. It's a place to sit, relax and enjoy the peacefulness of the gardens. Having walked all day long, we cut through town and passed a lovely large square before getting back to the ship. The special drink of the evening was mojitos. At the mast bar, Louisa and I sat and had a round while wearing pool towels around our shoulders. It had gotten cold and windy. Marco, the bartender, flirted and joked with us. Being a little too windy, we went to the pool deck away from the wind and sat with Cheryl, Emily. They too were drinking mojitos. We had a fun time with them. Dinner tonight: Spinach turnover, petit filet mignon (huge!), and a Caesar salad. After dinner, a bunch of us met at the ensemble lounge for drinks (Christine, Paul, Debra, Tom, Larry, Nancy, John, Louisa & me). It's a nice area on the ship with comfortable chairs and with performers doing jazz. Lucky for us, we got to set our clocks back one hour. It's great to cruise east to west, as we gain back time slowly and arrive home without any jetlag. 6 November 2010, Saturday, First Day at Sea Being a 'port intensive' cruise, everyone was so happy for our first sea day. There's always lots to do on a ship but you can choose to do just a little or cram it all in. Celebrity has a new format for their list of events, which looks like the t.v. guide, so it makes for easy reading and to see if there are any overlaps of events. I started my day by walking outside on the 'track' for 45 minutes. Eight laps equal a mile but I added a few rounds of the upper deck to get some stair-climbing in. I did this on during the sea days and was happy I came home one pound lighter! I ate and drank what I wanted but didn't go overboard. Our second cruise group get together was at 10:30am at the passport bar. It was a good turnout. Some people chose to meet later for a camera talk, which I arrived after lunch. I had gotten a list of people together who wanted to meet up and talk about their cameras and get some pointers how to take better pictures. Several people had emailed me saying they were looking forward to my lecture! It wasn't a lecture but a forum, although I certainly appreciated the compliments. For lunch, I enjoyed the brunch that Celebrity serves. Lots to choose from (except no crab claws this time). In the afternoon, about 90 people participated in the cabin crawl where we visit some cabins to see the various layouts, larger balconies, and suites. Of course, in the suites, you could hear people sigh, ooh and ahh. Some day! This was the largest crawl I've done; I created three groups of people and staggered them by 5-10 minutes. This way the hallways weren't packed with one large group. It was a lot of fun. One suite had glasses of champagne and snacks. Having some on board credit to spend, Louisa and I went to the spa to make reservations to have massages, which we made for later in the week. Outside the spa area two young women were giving complimentary 5-minute massages. That was such a tease, but nice. The Sky observation lounge was crowded with elites enjoying happy hour. Dinner: A mouse patE; shrimp, scallop and avocado salad; stuffed chicken breast, which was breaded and served with green beans and carrots. It was Nancy's birthday, so we celebrated in her cabin with Larry and friends. 7 November Sunday, Tenerife, Canary Islands Today was 66 degrees and clear, although it sometimes felt cooler. I had booked a rental car but later canceled the reservations, as I decided to take the tram to La Laguna in the morning with a visit to Santa Cruz in the afternoon and not mess with parking and filling the car with gas. However, I regretted not keeping the car, as 99% of the stores and restaurants were closed being a Sunday. Friends Bruce and Gail joined us, and their new friends Mary and Don. Celebrity provided shuttle buses from the ship to the entrance of the port, otherwise, it was a 15-minute walk. At the tram area, we had to buy our tickets from a machine and had some difficulty. It turned out the machine was broken, so we had to jump the tracks to buy our tickets. I went over, bought mine, and went back to the other side. Don was the last to buy tickets, as he allowed another couple (Diane and Murray from Canada) to step in and buy theirs. I turned to Mary, "Oh look, Don is being nice and allowing that couple to buy their ticket before him. He'll probably miss the tram." In the next minute, the tram was coming towards us and it was moving fast! The doors opened and I got on board, while Louisa walked up to the front (from the outside) to tell the driver to please wait. Don and Bruce began to jump the tracks to our side. Seconds later, the doors began to close and I realized the rest wouldn't get on the tram in time, so I moved quickly to get off. Nope, the door shut in my face, I couldn't open it, and the tram began to move. So, there I was leaving the station looking at my friends through the window. I began to laugh and I waved. Diane and Murray were on board and realized at that moment what happened - had they bought their tickets last, my group would have made it on board with me. I could have gotten off at the next stop and walked back but decided to chat with my new friends. I knew the others would eventually catch up to me. La Laguna sits way above sea level so it was much cooler than in Santa Cruz. Diane and Murray talked to me while I waited for the rest of the group at the end of the line. I thought they were going to tour around with us but actually they decided to wait with me until the rest of the group arrived. I thought that was very nice of them. Our visit to La Laguna was pleasant. The town is listed as a world heritage site by UNISCO and was once the capital of Tenerife. Much of the architecture in town is of Mudejar design, which is a combination of European and Muslim design. The buildings are colorful and the walls of the entrance ways are tiled. I was hoping to catch the 10:30am tourist office walking tour but many places were closed. The rest of the group arrived after 10:30am, so it was too late. I figured out later that there probably wasn't a tour that day. We walked around the town, visited the oldest church, Iglesia de la Concepcion, (mass was in session), stopped for drinks, and visited the indoor market. I had lost my sunglasses the previous day (I always bring two pair of sunglasses but didn't on this trip), but I was able to find a pair at the market for 3.90 euros. Cheap but stylish! Outside the market were many people enjoying their Sunday afternoon. There were kids on bikes, people hanging around talking to friends, and shopping for food. The town came alive in the afternoon. Last year I saw a dog poke his head out of the corner of a second story window. He was people watching or just getting some fresh air. Well, I saw him again! Same window, same corner. I guess the owners keep that window open for him. Most of the stores were closed but I was able to purchase some local sauces (mojo rojo and mojo verde) at a souvenir store. They are tasty sauces that you can use for cooking, spread, or dip. Last year Tony had packed the jars that we purchased in his carry-on bag, forgetting about airport security. Of course, they were taken away. I was so upset, but they were inexpensive. When he works (airline pilot) he's able to bring home liquids in his bag. He just forgot they were in the carry-on. I made sure these jars were nicely wrapped and packed in my checked bag. We all had lunch at a small Turkish restaurant. The food was tasty and quite filling. In fact, Louisa and I should have split a sandwich. After, we took the tram back to the port and walked back to the ship. We decided it wasn't worth walking around Santa Cruz since everything was closed. Being the last port before sailing across the Atlantic ocean, we made sure we got back to the ship early enough. Don't want to miss the ship at this port! Back on board, several of us went to Erick and Jen's cabin (small suite with a large corner balcony) for a sail away get together. They ordered several platters of food from their butler but Louisa and I only had a couple of small bites. We had plans to dine at the Silk Harvest and knew we had to go easy on the food. It was a pretty sail away from Tenerife. Beautiful sunset. We looked out knowing we had seven days ahead of us at sea. Nice! Dinner: As I said, I knew we had to eat lightly during the say. This restaurant you must go hungry and early. Last year, ten of us had 8:30pm dinner reservations. We all waddled back to our rooms after 11pm. I made reservations for 6:30pm, which was perfect. Louisa and I dined with our original dinner mates John, Jane and Tony, and Jen and Kevin. All of us were eying certain dishes on the menu but I zeroed in on the sushi. Our waiter said, "If you will allow me, I will choose for you. You will enjoy 90% of the menu." And we did: Pork ribs, spring rolls, shumai, cream cheese wontons, salt n' pepper ike & ebi (squid and rock shrimp), chicken lettuce wraps, a wonderful assortment of sushi and sashimi (my favorite), red curry duck, salmon and scallop stir-fry, etc. Assorted desserts including caramelized bananas. Everyone loved the variety of foods. The chef came out too to make sure we were enjoying our dinner. It was a filling dinner and I took a well needed walk around the ship afterwards. There won't be a Silk Harvest on the Eclipse next year (my cruise next fall 2011), which is a shame. It's such a popular place and the food is some of the best on the ship. Qsine is replacing this restaurant, which is a contemporary tapas-like place where customers will order their food via an ipad. Celebrity is certainly going with today's technology flow. The entertainment of the evening was the "Flava" of the Med, which was held pool side. There were lots of dancers and singers performing various Mediterranean music: French, Greek, Italian, etc. It started close to 11pm, so we didn't stay long. Sea Days People have asked me, "What do you do on a ship with so many days at sea? Don't you get bored?" Not at all! You can relax the entire time or you can dive into all of the activities and lectures the ship has to offer. Many people bring books (or kindles) to read, some bring board games, but the best part is getting to know your fellow cruisers, which can turn into lasting friendships. For me, I would work out in the morning, walking the track for 40-45 minutes and then have breakfast. Later I would participate in an activity or two or listen to a lecture. Other times I would write in my journal or read my book. And of course, many of us enjoyed the nightly happy hour in the sky lounge. Since we did have six sea days, I'll just do a quick write up of each day: 8 November, Monday, At Sea Everyday on the ship there is always a sale at the stores. Today was "Mediterranean Market shopping." Most of the items were cheap souvenirs. Instead, I bought a clear plastic cocktail tumbler that light up at the bottom. I had seen them last night at the Flava party, in which fruity, frozen drinks were served. I figure I could use it in my office and pretend I'm on a cruise ship someplace. I organized a bridge tour for some friends. The tours are short, about 15 minutes, but always interesting to do. For a cruise critic group event, we had a wine tasting party at 2:30pm. Those that participated brought a bottle of wine (per couple) from their hometown. Louisa brought a nice dry chardonnay wine from Virginia. It was a lot of fun! There must have been 20-25 bottles for everyone to try. We were given the sky observation lounge for an hour and the staff provided wine glasses and bottle openers. About an hour into the event, the area was taken over by trivia players, so we gathered the bottles and moved to a corner of the room to continue our party. Formal night again. Dinner: Tuna carpaccio, French onion soup, and Duck a l'Orange. Evening entertainment was the dazzling Cirque du Soleil show with acrobatic performers flying around in the air above the stage and audience using various ropes and wires, extravagant costumes, and a contortionist, which always makes me cringe. She was amazing. The show was very similar to last year and with the same Wow factor. 9 November, Tuesday, At Sea Morning exercise routine and breakfast. 11:15am lecture in the theatre: "What do Astronomers do?" I really enjoyed the lecturer. Noon - lunch in the dining room with friends. It's nice to sit and be served, rather than go through the buffet at the ocean view cafe. I found the food in the dining room to be much better than at the buffet, although there's a wider selection to choose from. Window shopping at the stores. I bought a blue topaz ring, 50% off. Bought a different one another day. 2pm cruise critic group gift exchange in the Quasar bar - everyone brought a gift from home ($15 limit). I brought a Maryland recipe book. 4:30pm cocktails with Bruce and Gail in their cabin with their friends. Lovely rainbow outside. Clocks turned back 1 hour. Dinner: Steak, baked potato and green beans. 10 November, Wednesday, At Sea Morning exercise routine and breakfast. 10am Lecture "The Berlin Airlift" - very interesting and I learned a lot. 11:15am - lecture "The Moon" - Fine, but didn't stay entire time. Met friends for lunch in the dining room. 1pm - Captain's Club Celebration in the sky observation lounge with food and cocktails: Prime rib, sushi bar, crepes, fruits, etc. 2pm cruise critic slot pull. Everyone that participated ($15) ended up with $29. Exciting to watch and participate. 6:30pm. Dinner at the Muranos specialty restaurant ($35 supplement): Dinner was just as wonderful as last year. This is the place to go for fine dining with elegant service. I reserved the small wine cellar room, which has a table for 10 people. It's set off from the main dining room, so we had some privacy. The dinner group included Louisa, John, Tom and Debra, Erick and Jen, Harvey and Connie. Dianne and Doug had canceled, as they were not feeling well. Our waiter started our evening with the amuse bouche, a small fried, breaded crab ball. When it comes to cruising, everyone knows it's okay to order more than one appetizer, entrEe, or dessert in the dining room. I didn't think this was possible at Murano's. However, I was told that yes, you could ask for a second appetizer. Instead of asking for two, I asked the waiter for a larger portion of foie gras. He said that the portions were the same size, but that he would serve me a double portion. I was a happy woman! This melt-in-your mouth delicacy was served with a filo pastry filled duck rillettes, equally delicious. For my soup, I had the lobster bisque. The waiter set down the plate, already garnished, and poured the bisque into the bowl. I really liked the special small touches they provided during our dinner. Service is impeccable. Next I had the rack of lamb, coated with a mushroom crust. I sampled a small variety of cheese from the cheese cart and orange soufflE for dessert. Everyone had a great time and enjoyed the atmosphere and food at Murano's. Clocks turned back one hour 11 November, Thursday, At Sea 10am Veterans Day/Remembrance Day. This was a fiasco. I had requested that Celebrity have an event for Veterans Day/Remembrance Day, like I did last year. I asked if the cruise director (CD) could give a speech and provide a place for veterans to be able to spend time together. Nothing was posted in the Celebrity Today flyer, and I only heard about the time/location from another passenger. Because of the lack of announcement, attendance was small. Everyone that showed up waited in a conference room next to the Observation sky lounge that had chairs set up along with a podium. About 20 minutes later, I made a phone call to the onboard event coordinator asking when the CD would arrive. He showed up 10 minutes later. We were moved to the lounge, but still waited. By 10:45am, I needed to leave; the CD still had not started the event. I found out that the CD gave a poor speech, certainly nothing that made the veterans feel appreciated for their services. Many people were upset. I think Celebrity should make November 11th a standard event on board their ships and show the respect veterans deserve. Louisa and I attended the Elite wine tasting event. There were four wines to sample, two reds and two whites. This was a repeat event, as the Captains Club hostess screwed up the original event by having it in the Tuscan Grill dining room. What was she thinking? There were over 700 Elite members on board the ship and the dining room probably held 200 people. Last year it was held in the dining room. Many of us were turned away at the door, and quite rudely. After a few of us talked to the Concierge at guest relations, he apologized and assured us there would be a second one and that he would personally escort us to the dining room. 3:30pm Another cruise critic event was the pub crawl. Not sure how that went, as I didn't attend. I believe it's a poker game/drinking event. 5pm was my massage. I felt like a noodle when done. I wish massages weren't so expensive, otherwise, I'd have them all the time! 12 November, Friday, At Sea Today was the second brunch. Lots of the same foods as the first brunch, but a few additions, to include a delicious chicken pot pie. 4:30pm cocktail party in our cabin. Bruce and Gail, who I have sailed with three times now, always invited me to their cabin for drinks, so I wanted to play hostess for them and some friends. Louisa and I ordered some canapEs, and picked up some cheese/crackers and other goodies from the ocean view cafe. Christine and Paul (their cabin was next to ours) ordered food from room service, so we had a nice spread of food. We had our room attendant open the partition on the balcony between cabins for extra room. 13 November, Saturday, At Sea The seas: Three days ago, the captain told us that he would be changing his course due to the tail end of the weather from the last hurricane in the Caribbean. He also stated that the swells could get as high as 12 feet, which seemed like nothing at all to me. Anytime I looked out onto the ocean, I tried to figure out the height of the waves and swells; however, it was really difficult to do so, especially being so high up on the ship. We ended up heading in a south-west direction and skirted Cuba before hitting Florida, about a 250 mile difference from the original course. I loved the rocking of the ship and didn't find it uncomfortable, except to say everyone swayed left and right as they walked down corridors. I loved lying in my bed being rocked to sleep each night. Today the captain said it would be the worse of the three days and recommended that women not wear high heal shoes. It was formal night, so I don't think woman listened to the captain. I did hear that some people were seasick, but really, it wasn't anything serious. Galley tour 10:00am. A glass of champagne is served to start the tour, which lasted 20 minutes or so. This is always fun to do, as you can watch some of the cooks in action. Cooking competition followed in the theatre. Two cruisers competed with chefs helping them to cook their dishes. Skipped the elegant tea (3:30pm). Formal night - Lobster for dinner! 14 November, Sunday, At Sea Breakfast in the elite lounge. Third/last cruise critic party in the late morning. Lots of hugs and "great to meet you" comments. At least a dozen Hobgoblins will be cruising the Eclipse next October 2011 with me. Lunch in the restaurant with Louisa, Tom, and Debra. Pool-side the remainder of the day. 15 November 2010, Monday I woke up at 6:30am and felt sad. The cruise was over and it was time to vacate our cabin and ship for new passengers. As I opened the curtains, another cruise ship was just pulling in. There were four ships total, so I knew it would be a busy morning. Louisa and I had our last breakfast at the ocean view cafe. Lox and bagel for me. We said our goodbyes to friends that we saw. Group 19, 8:25am. Instead of waiting in the Tuscan Grill with the other elite members, we went to the dining room with Christine and Paul. Getting off the ship was very easy, but it took a long time to get inside the terminal. Apparently there were only three customs agents handling two ships in one large terminal area. Many people complained about the long wait and also having a hard time finding their luggage. Luggage was placed in the wrong numbered area. Fortunately for Louisa and me, we found ours in the right spot and at the end of the group of luggage. Very easy to see. Unfortunately, a wheel was missing from Louisa's newly purchased spinner suitcase, which made it difficult for her to pull it. Erick, Jen, Louisa and I shared a taxi to the airport. We asked the man at the curb for a van, but he squeezed us in a large car. The taxi driver was very upset, but it wasn't our fault. He took the long way to the airport, making a right turn and down the road that hugged the port, rather than going straight, which we all knew, and told him so. He said, "Do you want to tell me how to get there?" What choice did we have? The ride was about $18, so the longer route didn't add to the cost too much. Still, it was upsetting. On the way to the airport, as we were on I-95, we saw a man on a bicycle peddling between the two right lanes! We were all stunned to see cars swerve over to avoid hitting the man! He must have been on drugs. Check in took a while. I was hoping that I could flash my USAirways employee ID card to avoid the $25 luggage fee but it didn't work out. It's a shame that a large company like USAirways doesn't take care of their own employees and dependents. The flight home was so full and the overhead bins were full that they took my carry on bag and had it checked (and about 20 other passengers too). I had to scramble before handing it over and took out my valuables and shoved them in my large bag/purse. The flight home was fine. We landed at Washington National where Louisa took a taxi home and Tony picked me up. Summary: Great, great cruise! I loved the ports, loved the sea days, and enjoying meeting new friends. We were all disappointed in the weather in Livorno and Cannes, but were happy for the sunny days on all other days. If I ever do a cruise again from Rome (Civitavecchia), I most likely spend a few day outside of Rome. Having been to Rome several times now, I'd like to spend time elsewhere. My absolute favorite port was Cadiz. It was such a beautiful city. I definitely want to return to the French Riviera and visit more hill towns. Tourrettes-sur-Loup was my favorite town. Well, that's it for now....until my next cruise next fall. I'll be sailing on the Celebrity Eclipse out of Southampton, England to Miami. The itinerary will be Le Havre, Cherbourg, a day a sea, Vigo Spain, a day at sea, Ponta Delgada (Azores), and six days at sea. I'll be spending four nights in London prior to the cruise. I can't wait! Monica Pileggi www.luvtotravel.homestead.com/home.html PS: I hope to get my photos online soon. When I do, it will be on this site in the travel gallery: www.pileggiphotography.com Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Air--Normally we do our own, however cruise air with Star Clippers (SC) was MUCH better even with the $100 pp custom air (3 days before and after cruise). Saved over a $1000 from what I was seeing. Official taxi voucher from Lisbon ... Read More
Air--Normally we do our own, however cruise air with Star Clippers (SC) was MUCH better even with the $100 pp custom air (3 days before and after cruise). Saved over a $1000 from what I was seeing. Official taxi voucher from Lisbon airport to old town was more than expected--total 21E-but included tip and luggage, and didn't have to hassle with driver. Not bad after a long overnight airline trip. Stayed at ZuzaBed B&B--only 4 rooms. Great! Luis was an awesome host. Check reviews on Trip Advisor. He gave us excellent local information for our Lisbon adventure. Recommended. Lisbon is very walkable if you are in good shape. Lots to do and see in compact area. Did take the tram to Belem--recommended. The trams going up to the Castle were very crowded-I can see how people get pick-pocketed. We walked--no problem. Ate a lot in Bairro Alto--lots of small local restaurants. We liked the Alfaia Wine Bar. The Napoleao Wine market had a great selection of wines. Took the ferry across the bay for lunch at Porto Final--a neat OLD place on the water. Royal Clipper was docked about 5 minutes from Zuzabed. Boarding started at 4 PM. Went smoothly, greeted by Captain and some crew, drinks and appetizers in Tropical Bar. We have been on the Royal before, so no surprises. Ship was in great condition and they constantly worked on it. The crew was always attentive and friendly. After dinner when we returned to our cabin that first night, the leeboards were up and the portholes closed. We did some rolling the next couple of days due to the remnants of Atlantic hurricanes—on the way to Morocco and then on to Tenerife. Not bad, some people fell over in their chairs during meals, and some glasses/plates fell off tables. A couple of people did get some bruises, but I think that is all. We felt fine. In port, we talked to some people on the BIG ships and they had the same issues with the rollers. The rest of the time at sea was pretty calm. Casablanca was the first port. Two tours offered, one of Casablanca and the big mosque, and one to Rabat. Or, you could do it on your own. We chose Rabat (the political capital) at 35E pp, based on my research and our likes. Drove through the countryside, went to the Royal Palace, Mohammed V Mausoleum, Hassan Tour, drove by the Chellah, and walked the Kasbah des Oudayas. Very nice a/c bus, tour guides, and info. Clean city. Less than 4 hours. Recommended! That night we sailed for Safi. The main point of going there was to get people on the tour buses for Marrakesh-- about a 3 hour drive each way. We elected not to go on the tour. We walked around Safi with another couple—not impressive, and fairly dirty. The flies were awful in port, and those flies stayed with the ship for DAYS!! Safi is known for its pottery, but I was not impressed. For some reason, we did not go to the port of Essaouira that afternoon (which was scheduled). Apparently, that had been known by the crew at the start of the sailing, but they never let us know that. Last year's TA also skipped that port. That was my one major disappointment of the trip. I had done a lot of research on the town and some of my friends who have been there said it was really great. Just wish they had let us know in advance. Oh well, I got over it. The Marrakesh buses arrived about dinner time after a 12 hour trip. Most of the people I talked to were not too excited about the trip and said it was too long and the market was too much of a zoo. Tenerife was the last port before all the days at sea. We elected to stay in town, no tour. Had plenty to do. We really liked it. Very clean. Walked all over, visited an internet cafe (our last fix for 11 days), the old town was very nice, had lunch at Mojos y Mojitos which had an outdoor area on the street. About 6-7 cafes lined up here on a walking street. The promenade along the waterfront is a nice stroll, and there is a vertical garden. The ship is docked right there at the bottom of town by the promenade. Easy. Nice day! Recommended. At sea was relaxing, a lot of reading to catch up on. We saw plenty of Kindles, etc, and the library had quite a few books. We did not get bored. The crew had plenty of activities—Spanish lessons, a marine biologist, other lectures, ship tours, Captain talks, films, contests, talent shows, exercise classes, mast climbing, and some other wild and crazy stuff. Food was fine, no water sports (of course!) except the pool. We used the treadmills in the gym quite a bit. Germans, Brits, Americans, Canadians, French, and Spanish were the major passengers (in that order, I believe) with other countries represented. I did not have a problem with smokers and I am sensitive to that. As this was our 5th SC cruise, it reconfirmed the guests are very interesting, intelligent, and well travelled. We met a bunch of cool people!! We sailed, but mostly motor sailed due to the light winds—remember, the Captain has to keep to a fairly tight schedule. Most people understood this. Light layering of clothes with jeans worked well in Lisbon, Morocco, and Tenerife. Bring a light windbreaker, also. After Tenerife it was shorts and swim suits! One rainy day at sea, it was in the middle of the trip and we needed it for a change. The only currency we used during the whole trip was USD and Euros, but also charged a few things. Arrival in Barbados was fun as they tucked us between other huge ships in port. Make sure you are on deck for this (actually for all arrivals and departures)! We have been to Barbados before, but we still stayed for three days. Had to rest from the cruise! Taxi was 30 BD ($15) to our hotel the Peach and Quiet. Car rental was $70 inclusive per day from Courtesy Car Rental (we just did one day). Eat flying fish while you are there--great—no bones and not too fishy tasting!! It was a wonderful trip. RECOMMENDED! Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We have just completed our seventh cruise with NCL and it was our third time on the Jade. Combined with 4 cruises on other lines, for a total of 11 cruises, I feel qualified to make a review. We choose NCL because of its freestyle ... Read More
We have just completed our seventh cruise with NCL and it was our third time on the Jade. Combined with 4 cruises on other lines, for a total of 11 cruises, I feel qualified to make a review. We choose NCL because of its freestyle concept. Take note: FREESTYLE does NOT mean FREE!! Freestyle applies most commonly to the dining experience. You can choose the time at which you have supper and you choose whether you share a table with others. In the main dining rooms, dress is resort casual (i.e. no jeans, shorts, t-shirts or sandals, and definitely no bathing suits) at dinner time, so, gentlemen, you can leave your tux or suit and ties at home, and, ladies, forget the fancy evening gown, shoes and handbags. You simply don't need any of it unless you WANT to wear it. We also choose NCL because of the people who work on board. We have always had truly outstanding service from our waiters and stateroom attendants, and this trip was no exception, The Reception Desk staff also gave us tremendous service. In fact, every crew or staff member we encountered gave us great service. We were greeted with smiles from every employee we encountered on board. I don't understand why so many people complain about the terrible service they get on NCL ships; we've always found it professional, courteous and friendly. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for other cruise lines we've sailed with, however. As on other cruise lines I've cruised with, there are specialty restaurants and they, like NCL, have nominal fees. Those fees cover the main menu, and if you want something a little more extravagant from the same menu a surcharge may apply. Alcohol is never included, and tips are not included. Specialty coffees may not be part of the price, and in fact, any alcohol, soft drinks or specialty coffees that you order anywhere on the ship are at an extra charge. If you read the information on the NCL site, in the brochure, or on the menu itself (they are available at the reservations desk for you to read and they are on display in the Crystal Atrium and near Teppanyaki) you will find this information in clear black-and-white print. No surprises. Your cruise cost includes your accommodation on board, and includes meals you have in the main dining rooms, the Blue Lagoon and Garden Cafe. Room service is also included, but it is a good idea to tip the waiter/waitress who brings it to you stateroom. The cruise fare never includes alcohol, soft drinks or specialty foods/coffees anywhere on the ship. At dinner, certain juices, such as cranberry juice, may be an extra charge. Cruise fare does not include your airfares, pre- or post-cruise hotels, or transfers between the airport and hotels to the ship, unless you book a package that includes these items. All of this is clearly explained on the site and in the brochure, but you must take the time to read it. Your travel professional should also be able to provide this information to you, but you may have to ask for it. NCL, like all cruise lines, offers shore excursions, spa/salon, photo and laundry services among others. As with other cruise lines, NCL charges for these services, so NCL is not out of line in doing so. How much you pay varies from company to company, but no one obliges you to buy anything on-board. It is your choice, so you can't complain about what you spend. Keep in mind that your cruise, regardless which company you cruise with, becomes expensive due to your purchases on board. I know people who've spent over $US1200 on alcohol alone during their cruise. You can join them, or you can keep onboard expenses to a respectable minimum, or eliminate them altogether, by purchasing carefully and responsibly. No one forces you to buy anything on board, and no one scolds you if you don't. It isn't a fast-food restaurant that intimidates you into super-sizing. In this respect I am not a good client for cruise companies since I severely and radically keep such purchases to the absolute bare minimum, if I buy anything at all. To me, the point of cruising is to enjoy the ship and all it has to offer, and to visit the ports. I read the brochure and check the website, so I know what is included and what is not, and thus I make informed decisions about spending on board. Now you know, and now you, too, can make informed choices. Everyone complains about the US$12 tip that is automatically charged to your on-board account each day. I have absolutely no complaints about it whatsoever. It saves me the trouble of calculating how much to tip and to whom I must give the tip. I usually tip individuals for the outstanding service they give in addition to the daily charge. Anyway, if you tip the traditional way, you'll pay that much or more, so why complain? To lower the tip rate is extremely cheap and petty, and not to leave tips at all is rude and inconsiderate. The choice is still up to you. The food and beverage service I found to be top rate. Since I am on a sodium-free and cholesterol-free diet, the maitres d' and the chefs in the Grand Pacific were extremely accommodating in providing such a menu. Everything was excellent, and I am a particularly fussy eater anyway when it comes to food choices. So if I can find something good to eat, you can, too. Except for "Elements!" I saw none of the shows. "Elements!" is essentially magic show meets Cirque-du-Soleil meets the ballet. It starts with sound effects for a thunder/lightning/rain storm. I was not particularly impressed by the show and found myself rather bored with it. I felt the magic show to be rather amateurish and it was easy to see how the "illusions" were performed. The dancers, though, did their best to save the show. It was the final number about winter and snow that really pulled the show together. It was more impressive that all the rest combined. The Norwegian Jade began its career as the Pride of Hawai'i. In 2008 it was removed from its Hawai'ian runs, re-furbished and re-christened as the Jade. As of this writing, it sails the Mediterranean year-long. It has retained its original dEcor of Hawai'ian and Polynesian themes which are blatantly out-of-place where it sails. Once you get used to the Hawai'ian and Polynesian images on the exterior walls on Deck 7 and on the interior staircases, and throughout the Grand Pacific dining room as well as the oversized flowers above the elevators on Deck 7, you realize the dEcor of the ship is not what makes your cruise an enjoyable experience. It is every individual working on board from the wait-staff in the various restaurant venues to your stateroom attendants to Reception Desk staff to the casino staff along with every other employee that really make your stay on the ship the wonderful experience it should be. So, sit back, relax and enjoy your cruise, being thankful and appreciative that you can take such a vacation. Stop looking for things to complain about because you ruin your vacation and that of others; if you don't like it, don't cruise and don't travel - just stay home. Our cruise was a 7-day Mediterranean, Barcelona round-trip. We ported in Monte Carlo, Livorno (the port for Florence and Pisa), Civitavecchia (the port for Rome), Naples and Palma de Mallorca. Five ports in 7 days becomes a little hectic, but we enjoyed our cruise anyway. We went ashore in all of the ports, mostly in the mornings, and spent the afternoons on the ship. Monte Carlo is, in my opinion, worth visiting if only to see the beautiful homes, the marina, the palace and the church. Walking the quaint streets and stopping for a coffee and a croissant was charming, even in the rain. .From here you can take a train into France and stop at St-Tropez, Cannes or Nice. Or you can take a shore excursion to Eze and visit the perfume factory. Whatever you do, Monte Carlo is beautiful. Livorno, our next port, is a gateway to Florence and Pisa. Having been to both places several times, we opted to stay in Livorno this time. There is very little to do here, in my opinion, so we spent our time walking around and shopping, which was our intention. If you choose to go to Florence, you can visit the Accademia di Belle Arte (book a tour to avoid the line-ups to enter), the home of Michelangelo's Statue of David. You can find replicas of the statue scattered throughout the city. Be sure to visit the Duomo, and if you go to the upper hills you can get some great photos of Florence. If you are looking for leather goods, anything from shoes to handbags to briefcases, this is the place to shop. It may be pricy, but the quality is worth it. You can also find extremely good quality shirts and ties here. In Pisa, be sure to visit the church and its Baptistry as well as the Leaning Tower. If the Tower is open, you can get some splendid shots of Pisa. In Civitavecchia, we decided to take the train into Rome. The ticket cost is 9 euro which gets you return fare Civitavecchia to Rome. The same ticket allows you to take the bus and metro in Rome for an unlimited number of trips. It is an extremely good value for money. The must-sees here are Saint Peter's Basilica (for which I recommend a tour of some kind if you don't want to spend 3 hours waiting in line), Saint Peter's Square, the Coliseum and Circus Maximus among other sites. Naples - what can I say? If you don't go to Sorrento, Capri or Pompeii, or visit the castle, or if you don't climb Vesuvius, being in Naples is, in my opinion, utterly a waste of time. There is absolutely nothing to see or do. Everything is under construction or ought to be, and it was exactly the same 4 years ago. On this visit, it was worse because there was a garbage collection strike (which we'd been warned about) and it was cold, windy and raining. We found what we were looking for and headed directly back to the ship, which is probably the best place to be. Naples is one city where you have to be very careful, not only of pickpockets but of the drivers. It seems there is no traffic code, and if there is it is not respected. They will stop very short of hitting you if you are daring enough to try to cross a street. The driver will look at you as if he didn't see you and it wasn't his fault. But you must cross the streets if you want to get anywhere, so be warned. To be fair, there are very few places in Italy that I truly like visiting. I chose this cruise not for Italy especially, but for Monte Carlo and Palma. Palma de Mallorca is typically Spanish and is strongly Catalan. It has some beautiful sites to see and just walking the streets is a fine way to spend your time. In part I chose this cruise to be on a ship and I was extremely satisfied with that experience. Though we'd spent the month of February 2010 on this ship, it was a welcoming feeling getting back on-board. The check-in process was simple and smooth, and was handled very efficiently and very professionally by a pleasant young man named Pablo. After completing our check-in, Pablo directed us to the boarding area and we were able to board the ship immediately. As our stateroom was not yet ready (you can usually access your stateroom at about 2:30 pm), we went to Grand Pacific, one of the included dining rooms, for lunch. After lunch, we had about 30 minutes to wait for access to our stateroom, and we spent some of this time re-exploring the ship. We really enjoy sailing on NCL, and we will be back on board another ship very soon. NCL caters to our needs and satisfies what we need in cruise ships. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Background Information: My review describes the Silver Spirit on her 14 day transatlantic voyage from Lisbon to Bridgetown, Barbados, October 2010. I flew from Sydney to Lisbon and had 4 nights at the Hotel Avenida Palace. This ... Read More
Background Information: My review describes the Silver Spirit on her 14 day transatlantic voyage from Lisbon to Bridgetown, Barbados, October 2010. I flew from Sydney to Lisbon and had 4 nights at the Hotel Avenida Palace. This hotel is stunning. The public rooms have beautiful stained glass windows and magnificent chandeliers. My single room was a good size with 2 twin beds, a decent sized bathroom and the location was excellent. Easy walk to the main squares and next door to the railway station to Sintra. If I had the opportunity in the future, I would definitely stay at the Avenida Palace. A Cruise Critic get-together had been organised at the Marriott Hotel for the night before embarkation. This function was well attended and we all had a great time getting to know each other. This set the scene for an excellent cruise. Travel To Port of Embarkation: Embarkation was quick and easy. Charlie and I checked out of the hotel and got a car to the port at around 12pm. Our luggage was taken immediately and we were shown where to check-in. From there, it was a short walk to the ship where we were welcomed onboard and had our picture taken. A number of CC friends arrived around the same time and after a short wait, we had a very nice lunch, the first of many, in The Restaurant. Ship Info: I loved the ship. My favourite place was the Panorama Lounge which has incredibly comfortable armchairs and a lovely outside area with lounges and day beds. I also loved the Bar. Our group of 10 met there every evening for drinks. The only place I didn't like was the spa/gym area. The spa, in my opinion, was way too big and the gym, way too small. The area aft with the spa was lovely but there is a $25/day charge for it. The pool area is nice however the running/walking track is very short unless you walk the whole deck and on hot sunny days was very difficult because of all the lounge chairs in the way. I don't worship the sun so I didn't use the pool area, although I had several nice lunches at the tables on the pool deck. The pool deck did get crowded particularly on the sea days. The Observation Lounge was beautiful but very under utilised. It's almost like you forget it's there and seems to be more like a private lounge for the Silver Suites. It was a lovely venue for a get-together for all the passengers who were continuing on the Barbados round trip. If I remember correctly, we had 465 passengers on board. We also had a get-together for all the CC members who had registered on the roll call. This was held in Stars and was a morning tea affair. Hotel Director, Paolo, had organised for invitations to go out the previous night and we had 28 people attend. Roll call meet and greets are a fantastic way to meet fellow passengers. Stateroom: For the first time ever, I had a balcony and I loved it. This was due to Silversea's very reasonable single supplement of 125% (which probably won't happen again at anytime soon!!). My suite, 610, was lovely. The bed and pillows were so comfortable that most mornings I didn't want to leave my bed. I loved the TV screens in the mirrors and the ability to watch a movie on demand - a choice of over 400. The bathroom was fabulous with the full length bath and rainforest shower head. The tap and basin were a little odd but once I got used to it, was fine. The balcony was fabulous, much wider than I expected and the chair and foot stool were very comfortable. I often had a Bellini and cheese platter out on my balcony. It was great. My butler was Andung/Indonesia and my cabin attendant was Dalfon/Philippines. They were both very nice. I was not asked if I wanted the unpacking service, so I unpacked myself. I had been in my room for several hours before Andung came to offer me the toiletries (I chose the Ferragamo). I really didn't need a butler, I'm such a low maintenance cruiser but he was very pleasant and always brought my breakfast on time and with a smile. After my long bus trip back from Marrakesh, Andung had drawn a bubble bath for me. When I walked into my bathroom, there were lots of little battery-operated candles and heaps of bubbles. It was a gorgeous surprise. Dining: I thoroughly enjoyed the food. I had one dud meal on the cruise and it was the Kansas beef. I asked for it rare but it came pretty much with its heart still beating - it wasn't nice at all. Everything else was yum. I had breakfast in bed every morning. We often went to the Restaurant for lunch and later in the cruise, La Terrazza, for lunch. I tried every option for dinner: The Restaurant, La Terrazza, Seishin, Le Champagne, Stars and the Hot Rocks grill which we re-named the Hot Rocks Cafe. The Restaurant: interesting menus and lots of seafood which I love. Also the lamb chops were brilliant - from Australia (of course!). Desserts (and I'm a huge dessert fan) were spectacular. La Terrazza: I had my best ever pasta dish there. It was long pasta in a cheese and pepper sauce and it was to die for. I dined at LT 3 times and each time I had this delightful meal. LT was great for lunch as well, there is a lovely al fresco area on the aft deck (bigger than the other ships) and the buffet area has plenty of room to manoeuvre and choose food. I don't normally do buffets on cruise ships because they tend to be like cafeterias but this was very orderly. Seishin: the night we dined at Seishin, it was full, no spare tables at all. I chose the degustation menu for $40 and it was huge. 8 or so courses and I thoroughly enjoyed each course. With Seishin, although I liked the food, it was a case of been there, done that so won't go again next time. Le Champagne: the theme for our night was "Flavours of the Fall" which included mushrooms of various types and truffles. Venison was the main course and I hadn't eaten it in a long time because I felt it was like eating Bambi, however, this venison was so tender that I quickly forgot all about Bambi and got stuck into it. I was glad to have tried Le Champagne but I won't do it again. Stars: Dining at Stars started at around 9pm or so. I cheated and had some dinner in my room first so wasn't all that hungry, however the little dishes of tapas were yummy and well presented. We had a table of 8 and we were fairly rowdy (in fact everywhere we dined we were rowdy). I don't remember anything about the singer - maybe I had too many Bellinis! Hot Rocks Cafe: I loved this venue. We dined here several times and each time I had the Aussie lamb chops and the Madagascar prawns. It was so much fun cooking the food on the hot stone plates. One night it was very windy but that didn't stop us having fun. A lovely afternoon tea service was held daily in La Terrazza offering all types of tea (or coffee). One afternoon there was an incredible chocolate buffet. It was delightful. Service: Lunch service was always excellent however the dinner service in The Restaurant was a little lack lustre for Silversea. I think this may have been because we always had a table of 10 and it is difficult to wait on a large table and perhaps there just isn't enough waiters. However on our last night, it took nearly 3 hours to eat. On the subject of drinks, the service in the Bar and Panorama Lounge was always excellent. All the staff members were friendly and would do their best to provide your request. Activities: Besides all the eating and drinking, trivia was my favourite activity. My team was focused and we did very well because we had a variety of nations represented: Australia, USA, Canada, Bahamas, England and Ireland. During our sea days across the Atlantic, we had trivia twice a day and I never missed it. I also got hooked on Bingo and played it every day. There were a lot of other activities like language classes, enrichment lectures, boat building (go Bernard!), fitness classes (I only did one in the whole 21 days and that was a stretch class!). I found that most of my time was spent relaxing and chatting with my new found friends. Port & Shore Excursions: I enjoyed my shore excursions in Tangier (Cap Spartel) and the full day trip to Marrakesh. Although the bus ride is long, don't miss Marrakesh. It was fascinating, especially roaming through the medina, seeing the tiny alleyways and shop fronts. The major problem there is the hawkers, they never leave you alone and are constantly in your face. One guy followed me the whole way and kept telling me he was sure I was a movie star! Very corny but it gets annoying so be prepared. I did the fire mountains tour to see the lunar and volcanic landscape in Arrecife. It was so amazing. There was a camel ride which was lots of fun as well as a visit to a winery to view the unorthodox method of grape growing on the mountainside. There was also a wine tasting. In Tenerife, I did the tour to the Orotavo Valley and Puerto De La Cruz. We had a few stops for photo opportunities and a walk around the town which was right on the water. On the way back to the ship, we stopped off at a beautiful Orchid Garden. It was in Tenerife that our dear friend Charlie was taken off the ship and to hospital. He was very ill in intensive care and I was able to get frequent updates from the Hotel Director as the ship was in constant contact with the hospital. I'm pleased to say that Charlie is doing much better now but we sure did miss him and his sense of humour. Six glorious sea days across the Atlantic, sunny, warm and calm. Next port of call was Antigua. Since I'd already been here some years ago, I didn't do an excursion. Instead, a group of us wandered around the town but came back to the ship because of a huge downpour. As we had been following Hurricane Tomas, we were unable to call into St Lucia so Dominica was the substituted port. It rained very heavily in the morning and in the afternoon I got off the ship and bought a fridge magnet. We were docked out of town because this was an unscheduled stop - I think it was one of the Royal Caribbean ships that was docked in town. Entertainment: For the first time ever on a cruise, I only went to one show and that was Aquarius. I enjoyed it immensely because I love the music from that era. I didn't make any of the other shows because we were always too late - our dining usually finished around 1030pm and then a few of us would go to the Panorama Lounge for more cocktails and dancing with the DJ playing his favourite playlists - although it got a bit boring because he played the same thing nearly every night. After reading RonMathMD's review of this cruise, I have to disagree that they were the youngest on the ship. Two in our group were in their late twenties/early thirties and were always in the Panorama Lounge each night dancing to the music. Disembarkation: I didn't leave the ship as I was doing the next cruise, round trip Barbados. Disembarkation was very sad as all my friends (except for PhilipB) had to leave. During our next 7 days, Philip and I continually talked about how much we missed them. Summary: When summing up my experience, what comes to mind is not that the gym was crap or the suites not wide enough, it was the remarkable people that I met. I want to thank all my Silver Spirit friends for their wonderful friendship during those 14 days. I will look back fondly and remember our good times. I hope that we will have the opportunity to sail again in the not too distant future. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Background: Having travelled on the Whisper in the spring this year we wished to see just how well the dry dock refit had worked out. More of that later. This was a 12 day transatlantic crossing, departing Southampton and heading to ... Read More
Background: Having travelled on the Whisper in the spring this year we wished to see just how well the dry dock refit had worked out. More of that later. This was a 12 day transatlantic crossing, departing Southampton and heading to New York via Fowey (UK), Waterford (Irish Republic), St John (Newfoundland, Canada), Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada)and Newport (Rhode Island, US). Best of all, 4 full days at sea between Waterford and St John. The ship had approximately 270 odd guests, so about 75% full. Ship's Company: Master - Captain Cataldo Destefano Hotel Director - Norman Rafelson Cruise Director - Don Fluke Guest Relations Manager - Saskia Harm Shore Concierge Manager - Scott Kinney Executive Chef - Lionel Lavergne Restaurant Manager - Ali Yilmazturk Guest Entertainers - Michael Victor, Judy Carmichael Guest Lecturers - Corey Sandler, Alastair Bruce, Thomson Smillie Bridge Instructors - Chris & Tammy Moll Internatioanl Hostesses - Carla & Soraia Singers & Dancers - Sophie, Charlotte, Brandon, Gemma, Cameron, Irina & Alex Embarkation: Very straightforward, arrived at the Southampton Cruise Terminal at about 12:45, no one else there. In fact the Whisper was the only cruise ship in port. Checked in by the lovely Charlotte and on the ship in less than 5 minutes. Photos taken at reception and told that our suite would be ready at 14:00. Decided to go and check and found it was ready, so took possession and went for lunch. Look and feel: The Whisper now looks spic and span and has more of a feel of how she would have been when first entering service. All the soft furnishings in the suites have been renewed, the mattresses were changed, all the carpeting was changed throughout the ship, restaurant chairs recovered & re-varnished. The furniture on the pool deck has been renewed and a set of banquettes added between the two spa pools and the back of the pool deck. The furniture at the back of the Panorama lounge is new. Both these are cane based tables and chairs with deep cushions and are more comfortable than the wooden ones they replaced. A fixed awning has been attached over the section between the bar and grill on the pool deck, to provide additional cover for the pool grill in the evening. A further fixed awning is now above the outside section of the Terrazza, providing cover, but meaning that you cannot sit outside for either breakfast or lunch and be in direct sunshine. I happen to prefer the back of the Terrazza the way it was, but I suspect opinions will be mixed. One addition in the suites is an alarm clock/Ipod dock and speaker. The dance floor in the Panorama has been completely cleaned (to remove the horrible deep black marks made by the flamenco dancers earlier this year) and the band stand has been moved across the room. Entering the Panorama its now on the left side. This leaves the area by the bar free for serving. Seems to work ok. The only oddity that we noticed was the pattern on the carpet on decks 5, 6 and 7 in the main public areas, it had a large wavy design, and when the ship was moving I suspect that looking at will make any slightly nauseous person feel somewhat worse. All in all the refit worked well (and it was needed). Staff in general: Much more like the SS service of old, with some returning from the Spirit, and those who were new earlier this year now up to speed. Bar staff were superb, especially Oliver in the Grappa, Edourdo (?sp) in the Main Bar, and the Pool bar guy. The waiting staff were very good all round, with Ali Yilmazturk absolutely outstanding. Food: The Restaurant: Did not use for breakfast. Had lunch on the Galley Lunch day (too much food as ever, but well done) and once for a special occasion which was excellent. Dinner was generally good to very good. The menu is still missing the old SS wow factor, but we ate well most evenings, exceptionally well on a couple of occasions and I only had to send one meal back. (a big improvement over the previous cruise) La Terrazza: Ate breakfast most days and the food selection was good, plenty of fresh fruit (although the mangoes were not ripe), and the service was excellent. It was never crowded, mainly because the ship was not full. Also ate lunch here most days, generally good to pretty good, the freshly made pasta was always excellent. Service again very good. Avoided for dinner as we do not like or agree with the change away from regional Italian dinners. The current menu is too samey. La Champagne: Have never eaten here, nor seen any reason too yet. We live in London and can eat at Michelin starred restaurants when we please and I have not yet seen a menu in La Champagne that lives up to that standard. Shouldn't put anyone else off though, just our opinion. Pool Grill: Occasionally had fresh fish for lunch, which was always good, and ate here one evening with the Hot Rocks concept. It was a cold evening, but we had a good time, the rocks worked well and the food and service were excellent. I do not think that there were ever more than 6 to 8 people here in the evenings on this cruise, mainly because of the weather. It will work much better in balmier climes. Wines: Generally an ok selection, with some gems. Firstly they ran out of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and also had no new world Chardonnay, which annoyed quite a few people. But there were other SB's, from Chile and France, there was some old world Chardonnay, there were two Reislings from Alsace, one a very good Hugel, and there was a pretty good selection of reds, including some Barberra. The head sommelier, Lukas, was pretty knowledgeable, and were his wine waiters, and always ready to help with something else if you did not like the days choice. I admit that the provisioning could have been better, and they could have found a more oaky Chardonnay from the paid list for those disgruntled aficionados, but there was plenty of choice if you looked and especially if you took the time to have a conversation with the sommelier. Overall Food & Wine: It is obvious that the budget has continued to be trimmed, apparent in food choices and the level and range of wines, but it is still pretty good. Not quite 5* but it does reach 4 and 1/2*'s. Entertainment: The cruise director, Don Fluke, was clearly barking. His Trivia questions and general trivia handling were weird to say the least. Other than that he was pretty professional. The singers and dancers were very, very good, especially when they were under pressure to perform on a stage that was moving with a 6' swell. Two shows were cancelled and moved because of poor conditions and those guests who complained about this really had no appreciation of how difficult or dangerous the conditions were. This was exacerbated by there only being one guest entertainer on board for the crossing instead of the published two. Never did find out what happened to the other one. The two guest entertainers, one a tenor and the other a pianist were both good and generally up to the usual SS standard. Each did two shows. The bar duo were good without being obtrusive and the SS band were perfectly ok. Enrichment: The guest lecturers were all very good, but Alistair Bruce, the voice of Sky News for Royal and major occasions, was outstanding. The bridge lecturers, Chris and Tammy Moll, were also very good. They were extremely professional and rather nice people too. Other Guests: A good mixture from the UK, US, Australia and a few Europeans. Happy to dress up and enter into the SS spirit. At least 175 Venetian Society guests, including a couple with 1,000 days - wow. They got flowers and a gift, having probably paid for a large chunk of the ship. Some smokers, two pony tails, one an aging hippy. Two British ladies of indeterminate years, who just happened to monopolise the two gentlemen hosts. Ports: All the ports were well worth visiting, especially those on the North American seaboard, but I do not intend to review them here. Shore Excursions: Did not use any, the desk staff were good, and I believe most people enjoyed the ones taken. Generally they are expensive, but they do look after you well. Disembarkation: Ran rather late, about an hour or so, but this was mostly due to US Customs. Once cleared, everything was speeded up and the whole process functioned well. No complaints really. Gripes: The lack of NZ Sauvignon Blanc mentioned above. This is popular, especially with the Brits and its just poor provisioning not to get it right. The Charity charge and wrist bands. This is just SS being particularly bone headed and stupid. The lack of ship's tenders in Newport. This was forced on SS by US Customs crawling all over the ship and crew for hours, apparently this was the first time in 4 years that the Whisper had been in a US port. The port tender, the good ship Amazing Grace, was used, however the schedules got messed up, and instead of a half hourly service there were waits in excess of an hour. Not handled well by the crew, but partly out of their hands. On arrival into New York some fool (probably Don Fluke) played Sinatra's New York, New York on the open decks (no problem), but also through the internal pa system at high volume and at 06:30. Those that had tried to lie in were not amused. Overall: A good cruise and itinerary and nice to see the Whisper back up to speed with the normal SS service. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
After multiple Princess cruises, we decided to try our first Transatlantic. This was the longest cruise (14 days) we've ever taken, but after a year of personal stress, we were looking forward to some interesting ports and plenty of ... Read More
After multiple Princess cruises, we decided to try our first Transatlantic. This was the longest cruise (14 days) we've ever taken, but after a year of personal stress, we were looking forward to some interesting ports and plenty of rest and relaxation. Having read previous reviews of Transatlantic cruises, we knew chances were good we might miss ports. As such, we chose to only book Princess tours which ended up working to our overall advantage. This was my 18th Princess cruise, and my husband's 16th. I was pleasantly surprised that the passengers were a good mix of age groups, although there were very few children. About three weeks prior to the trip, we were informed that we had been upgraded to a full suite from our category AC mini-suite. This was a wonderful surprise which I am sure also helped considerably in our enjoyment of the trip. We arrived at the dock in Southampton by private car, and while the lines were a bit long, they moved fairly quickly. This was the first time we had departed from the new cruise terminal. It seems to have plenty of check-in desks and also had multiple security lines prior to boarding the ship. I believe this helped in the speed upon which we were able to board. This was our second trip on the Crown Princess, so we were already familiar with the layout. As we were fairly early, we chose to go to the Horizon Court for lunch. We immediately noticed a change from our trip on Princess last year: You no longer pick up your own silverware. It is on the table. Also, drinks are provided by the staff in the Horizon Court. Later in the trip, we also had staff carry our trays and assist us in finding a place to sit. Overall I think this is an improvement from the way things used to be handled. There was also signage indicating the entrance and exit to the buffet. After lunch we returned to our suite where we were met by our cabin steward, Chai. He did an excellent job of taking care of us the entire trip. Our luggage arrived fairly soon after and we were able to unpack prior to muster. Again, we experienced another change from previous cruises: cruise staff were at the doorway to the muster station where they scanned your cruise card. Other than that, muster was typical Princess, handled in the comfort of the common areas. We sailed shortly after our departure time of 5 p.m., following two other ships. Our first port was the next day in Falmouth. Our Princess tour was good, with an excellent guide and driver. Even the Cornish tea we had was handled well for such a large group, with everyone served in a reasonable amount of time. We then had plenty of time to explore and take photos of St. Michael's Mount. Because Falmouth is a tender port, returning to the ship was a bit of a nightmare with very long lines. This is just a limitation of this particular port, and unfortunately many of the tours all arrived back at the same time. We departed and sailed for Dublin, Ireland. Weather in Dublin was overcast and eventually cold and rainy. We took the Princess tour to Malahide Castle and then an Irish pub for an Irish coffee. This was the only tour we felt did not live up to Princess' normal quality. The guide wasn't very good and as it was Sunday, the Irish pub was packed with locals making it almost impossible for a bus load of tourists to be served. This was our least favorite stop. Due to gale force winds in the Irish Sea, we overnighted in Dublin and did not depart until the next evening. The stop in Belfast was scrapped and we headed toward Iceland. Although we were prepared for rough weather, we honestly didn't experience anything we felt was overly rough. Days at sea were spent relaxing, watching movies, and making new friends. We had actively participated in our roll call and attended both meet and greets. Many people went to a lot of work to make these events exceptional, creating buttons and name tags. The cruise director, Sam, attended the first one, and Captain Nash and one of the other officers attended the second one. I appreciated that they recognized the Cruise Critic group and took the time to attend. Captain Nash was very personable and open to questions. He also advised us that Princess does read Cruise Critic and passes on information to the ships' staffs. Unfortunately, winds continued to plague our trip and the stop in Iceland also had to be cancelled. We could see Reykjavik and three attempts to enter the port were made, we just couldn't enter due to gusty winds. The ship did exchange entertainers, but the decision was made to go on to Greenland. We were fortunate to pick up our ice pilot as we encountered various icebergs in and around Greenland. Many people were upset about missing Iceland. It should be understood, however, that if the harbor pilot of a port will not take the ship in, there is nothing the captain or Princess can do. Ultimately, it is the port's decision. After rough seas, we were blessed with nice weather and were able to do a day of scenic cruising in Greenland. Princess really worked at making this experience special, stopping near a village, dispatching a tender to retrieve some glacial ice and take pictures of the ship. This was an extra, unexpected, but greatly appreciated, bonus. Our stop in Qaqortoq was another tender situation. Lines were long returning to the ship, but logistically there just wasn't much that could be done as this is a very small village. Our final stop was St. John's, Newfoundland. This port is missed many times because of weather, but we were graced with getting into port. We had a fabulous tour and enjoyed plenty of time to explore the area near the dock. The people of St. John's were very hospitable and made our day there special, even sending the local mounted police to the dock. This was my favorite port with its history and fabulous buildings and views. Since this was our first fourteen day cruise, we took the opportunity to eat in a variety of venues. Hands down, our favorite was Sabatini's. This was our first experience with Sabatini's and we will definitely be back. First, as part of the suite benefits, we had breakfast each morning in Sabatini's. The wait staff, from the head waiter down, were exceptional. They worked as a team and made you feel extra special each morning. The menu wasn't anything extremely special and stayed the same throughout the trip. But the service made our mornings start out on a positive, stress-free note. The one evening we ate dinner there was also exceptional. The food was excellent with a large variety, primarily seafood, and more of the fabulous service. Be sure to save room for the espresso creme brulee ... it is awesome! We also ate at the Crown Grille and were rather underwhelmed. This used to be our favorite on Princess ships, and for some reason the food isn't as good as we remembered. We ate plenty of pizza (always good), had gelato and ice cream, enjoyed a lunch in the International Cafe, and used the benefits of our suite by ordering room service. Suites have their own room service staff, and these individuals were fabulous. Always very pleasant and efficient, even setting the coffee table with a tablecloth and utensils before leaving. We tried some of the new room service items (lasagna and chili) and they are a good change. Lunch in the dining room was overall better than the dinners, although I'm not quite sure why. We also ate twice at the Wheelhouse Bar for "pub" food. I wish Princess would move the pub food lunches to the Crown Grill where you could have a "real" table. It seems this has become very popular and the lines are always long. Even with fourteen days on the ship, we still never ventured to Vines or had tea. I think Princess does an exceptional job of giving you options and we definitely never went hungry. We also went to Skywalkers several evenings before dinner for drinks and appetizers. We saw several of the shows and they were good. The International Crew Show is always the highlight of any Princess cruise and this one was excellent as well. Diane Cousins was superb and the other comedians we saw were OK. Regardless, there was plenty of variety on the ship. The one evening we went to Skywalkers for music, it was pretty dead and we didn't stay long. The best evening was the party in the Piazza. We had experienced this last year on the Island Princess and knew not to miss it. Streamers are handed out and thrown and the live band played some pretty good dance music. Overall the cruise staff did a pretty good job providing things to do and had good positive energy. I have to admit we spend a lot of time in our cabin, so we try to book the most space we can afford, especially on a long cruise. The suite was fabulous and we were fortunate for the upgrade. On this particular itinerary, having a small balcony was not an issue as we didn't spend much time out there relaxing, just taking pictures. I was surprised that we had internet access throughout the trip, albeit slow at times, but we still had very few connection problems and could get on sometime each day. The crew of the Crown Princess are overall a happy and friendly bunch. I believe the tone of the Captain has a lot to do with this. Throughout our great adventure, Captain Nash did his best to keep a positive outlook and spread a bit of humor on the situation. I think that attitude affected the entire crew. Disembarkation in New York went very well. We used the Elite lounge to wait for our color and number to be called. It did take us awhile to find our luggage, but we procured an excellent porter who literally whisked us through immigration and customs and onto a waiting bus. We used the Princess transfers to LaGuardia and arrived in plenty of time for our afternoon flight. Overall, we really enjoyed our first Transatlantic. We went with an expectation of rest and relaxation knowing the Crown Princess staff would take good care of us. They exceeded that expectation, especially in outstanding suite service (much better than our previous suites). Although ports were missed, the ones we made were very good. We saw things we wouldn't normally see on the more "common" cruises. I would recommend this cruise for anyone interested in lots of ship time and the possibility of seeing something different. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was our first cruise since 2007,the last one being Canada/NE on the Constellation. This was our 3rd cruise on this ship, and we've loved the ship, and the ambiance. On arrival at the port, we had a short wait, and were allowed on ... Read More
This was our first cruise since 2007,the last one being Canada/NE on the Constellation. This was our 3rd cruise on this ship, and we've loved the ship, and the ambiance. On arrival at the port, we had a short wait, and were allowed on board about noon, but the staterooms weren't ready until about 1pm. Our stateroom attendant, Schubert, was excellent, looking after every detail, and responding immediately to whatever question we had. We also enjoyed the special little touches offered to elite travelers. Some have said the appetizer bread was stale, but it doesn't take long for those little squares to dry out. The champagne was cold, and the coupons were much appreciated. Our waiter, Augusto, was also excellent, and his assistant..Lorena? was very good, as well. They were both very personable, and made dining a pleasure. The food....not so much. It was OK, but I noted that the dinner served on our return flight had more flavor than any of the meals in the dining room. Little things seemed s bit "off",such as the shrimp cocktails being served in a small dessert dish, rather than the cocktail dishes used previously. Nothing big to complain about, just a slight feeling of cut-backs. My husband has difficulty walking very far, so we can't comment on the entertainment, and we only did one tour, but it was great. A lady on the Cruise Critic roll call arranged a tour of the Amalfi Coast with Sorrento limousine service and it was very enjoyable. Our driver/guide, Girardo was very accommodating and informative. There were just 7 of us on the tour, and after an unexpected hour spent in Sorrento, and a visit to beautiful Positano, Girardo took us to a charming, noisy, delicious tratorria, Where we tasted various Italian dishes, and wines. It was a highlight of our tour. Because of time constraints, we didn't have much time to spend in Amalfi or Rapallo, but it was a splendid day. Rapallo, but it was a lovely, memorable day. As an added note, the refurbishing was well done. All in all, we enjoyed the cruise very much. The disembarkation was smooth and efficient, in spite of a long wait in line for boarding passes. We had a 10am flight, and made it with time to spare. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We used Princess Air so we embarked in London at Victoria Station. Princess was unsigned but fairly easy to find - the place is a bus station and reminded me of US Greyhound stations. But we got the bus and the ride to Southampton was ... Read More
We used Princess Air so we embarked in London at Victoria Station. Princess was unsigned but fairly easy to find - the place is a bus station and reminded me of US Greyhound stations. But we got the bus and the ride to Southampton was enjoyable. Embarkation was quick and easy thanks to the special counters for Platinum passengers like us. We were on the ship in a very few minutes. We had picked B622, our room steward was Oliver, and he was great. We put him to work right away, however, as we wanted robes, and a pad to soften my wife's side of the bed, and a new lampshade for my bedside lamp which was equipped with one which didn't let enough light out to read by. He got it all done quickly and was helpful throughout the cruise. Perhaps the ship didn't sail full, for room stewards usually are too busy to be helpful. Entertainment: On our first night we shared a table for 6 in the Anytime Dining room and were fortunate enough to sit with two other couples that we liked from the start. We ate with them for the rest of the cruise and it was quite a bit of fun. Normally we enjoy meeting new people at dinner, but we haven't met such compatible people for many cruises. I put this under entertainment because our dinner companions were excited about the pianist, and the juggler, and the ventriloquist. We did not see any of them, and except the Maxtone-Graham lectures entertained ourselves. I can't recommend Maxtone-Graham highly enough. If you are on a cruise where he is speaking, skip lunch if you have to, but listen to his presentations about pre-cruise ocean liners. He is a very engaging speaker and knows his subject well. Ports: Bergen was somewhat of a yawn. The Bryggen section (old town) was somewhat interesting. We took a boat tour of the fjord but it was nothing to write home about, despite the fact that I seem to be doing that now. If I return to Bergen, I'll just walk around instead of taking a tour. Norway is quite expensive. If only the Euro would collapse.... Lerwick in the Shetlands was a star port for us. My wife is an accomplished knitter, the Shetlands are famous for their wool, and in Lerwick is the #1 supplier of it, Jamieson and Smith (hope that second name is right). We found their establishment was an easy walk from the ship, and spent quite a bit of time there - enough to buy quite a bit of wool so my wife can knit a particular multi-color sweater than caught her fancy. We ate lunch in a hotel restaurant for a million dollars but it was good food. In London I was struck with their street categories. In Lerwick I found a "close" that was about 3 feet wide which may be a record for a tiny public passage. Torshavn in the Faroes was also a good place to walk around. They don't have any native trees, but created a small forest around a stream as a park which we enjoyed. At the top of the park was an art museum, which they opened 2 hours early so that we could see it. We had a very good conversation with the manager of the gallery about all sorts of things - from Faroese art to what immigration problems they might face if they joined the EU (and fishing problems, which is what has kept Iceland out and made Greenland quit). It is a real pleasure for us to have a good conversation with someone in one of the ports. Pack a lunch from the ship, however, or be prepared to have the shrinkage from your wallet be greater than the expansion to your waist from eating there. Our first port in Iceland is one I can't spell but its up top just a few miles below the arctic circle, and rhymes with Tipperary. Great port. Last trip to Iceland we just walked about the capital. Bad move. This time we took a tour to the Godafoss waterfall - incredible. Saw the old time turf houses, and the botanical garden. Great tour, book it yourself when you get off the ship. After a sea day we visited the capital, which I also can't spell. Took a tour to bathe in the Blue Lagoon, which was wonderful. Nice hot water, sauna, waterfall to stand under. They use geothermal heat for power and this lagoon is the overflow from one of the power plants. There were hundreds of people in it. Nice mud to pack on your face, if you're into that sort of thing. Food was expensive, even in the cafeteria. Now the sea days really picked up. We altered course to skirt some serious bad weather and went through a gale, I think. On prior cruises the cabin TV had a channel which shows where you are and gives somewhat current wind speeds, temperatures, and wave heights. Not so on the Grand Princess and what they did have was disappointing, and not informative. Perhaps the only drawback to the cruise (other than spending quite a bit on the internet). Our last port call was Sydney, in Canada. It rained. Best I can say is they were happy to see us - had a very well organized pier building with many, many vendors. I got a used book about the Oxford English Dictionary for $5, and examined but didn't buy, about 100 cds of Cape Breton music. It's pleasant enough but not my cup of tea, so to speak. I'm a blues and old-time mountain music kind of guy. Cape Breton music is a big deal in Sydney and there was a 50' fiddle on the pier. Ate at a chain to get out of the rain, first cheap meal on shore on the whole trip. I needed new shoes as the sole was coming off my right one, and so to my wife's pleasure I actually suggested we go shoe shopping. Got a good pair, but they were not locally made - I could have bought them in any city in the US I imagine. Still, I needed shoes and they had them. Real estate in the outlying regions around Sydney is incredibly cheap - I saw good looking houses, with power, going for well under $100,000. I imagine everyone is moving to the city. Good place to retire to? More sea days and the weather warming quickly as we went south. My sea days are pure luxury. Room service brings breakfast (and as it true of most cruises, can't get the order right so you have to overorder to be sure you get what you want -there is an icebox in the cabin to store extras) I bought quite a few pictures to go through (and took hundreds more) and spent some enjoyable hours working with them. Lunch was often taken up in the cafe - better selection and better view -walk a mile around deck 7 (3 times round) except when the gale was blowing by, catch a Maxtone-Graham lecture, meet our companions for a pre-dinner drink and show 'n' tell of the day's activities, a nice long dinner with some good wine, read a bit and so to bed. The time passes so pleasantly that sometimes I hope we won't be able to land at the next port. (We did reach them all. Last year we missed the Canadian port due to the weather) Princess Survey: I too filled it out at length spending some time on it, and it was really annoying to have the final screen say the survey was closed. A really stupid error on Princess's part. Food: I liked it, and the waiter's wine suggestions were excellent. I hear that more subtle tastes than mine find fault with cruise food - and sometimes it really is messed up, but you just send it back and get something else. Luckily I must have done enough times round deck 7 for I only gained 2 pounds on the trip. Warning: the cheesecake is too dry. In retrospect I wish I had dined up on deck 14 a few times, but eating with our shipboard friends was such fun that I just skipped it. Sometimes the best food on the ship is in the informal cafe. I never heard anyone praise the quite expensive speciality restaurants. The "pub lunch" was quite good, and had a long enough line every noontime that we tried it only once. All in all I had a great time, and transatlantic cruises are considerably less expensive than other routes. Recommended. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Background Having undertaken a couple of eastbound southerly route transatlantic crossings before, my wife and I decided to join this westbound northerly sailing from Harwich (UK) for a change. We were particularly attracted by the ... Read More
Background Having undertaken a couple of eastbound southerly route transatlantic crossings before, my wife and I decided to join this westbound northerly sailing from Harwich (UK) for a change. We were particularly attracted by the published itinerary which included stops in Le Havre and Cherbourg (France), Cobh (Ireland), Akureyri and Reykjavik (Iceland), St John's NF and Sydney NS (Canada) before disembarking in Boston (USA). It subsequently transpired however that the call into St John's was missed due to bad weather (see below). Travel to port In consideration of the variety of potential causes for flight disruptions which arose in the months leading up to the cruise (volcano eruptions, airline staff disputes and threatened airport closures etc) we thought it prudent to position ourselves in Harwich a day ahead of the cruise. Accordingly we flew to Stansted airport and completed the 46 mile road journey to Harwich by private transfer (I'm still trying to fathom out why that cost us more than our 314 mile flight from Edinburgh did). Pre-cruise Hotel We stayed overnight at the Premier Inn which was clean, comfortable and convenient for a supermarket to pick up those inevitable last minute provisions we somehow believe that we just could not do without on the ship. The adjacent Mayflower restaurant offered a good variety of reasonably priced pub style food for dinner and a choice of healthy, or not so healthy, breakfast options for those who could not wait for the Windjammer to open onboard at noon. Embarkation Embarkation at Harwich was extremely well handled. Having checked-in online and printed off our Set Sail passes beforehand, the check-in procedure took no longer than it takes to swipe a credit card. Issued with our Sea Pass cards, which serve as your stateroom door key, your identity card for getting on and off the ship and your charge card for onboard purchases, we were allowed onboard the ship by about 11:00am, our stateroom was available by 1:00pm and our luggage was delivered by 2:30pm. Ship info The ship itself is one of our favourites in the fleet and has been highly maintained throughout to preserve its appearance and charm. The Centrum area in particular is quite stunning from all angles (remember to look down on it through the glass observation window in the Crown & Anchor lounge on deck 12), the decor and furnishings in the Schooner bar and Safari Club on deck 6 are a delight to behold and the glass covered Solarium area on deck 11 offers the facility to read or relax on a lounger regardless of the weather. The Seaview Cafe on deck 12 offers a good choice of casual style made to order snacks and meals as an alternative venue for lunch or a late night supper. Stateroom Due to the popularity of this cruise, the best stateroom available when we booked in December 2009 was a solitary E2 balcony which we gladly accepted purely and simply to ensure a place for us onboard. However, after final payment date, a few more staterooms opened up and we were able to upgrade to a junior suite instead. The additional space and storage this afforded us was most welcome on a 14 night sailing. Our stateroom attendant team did a great job maintaining the place to our liking and constantly replenished the toiletries, tissues, tea & coffee tray and ice etc as required, without having to be asked. Dining Back home we would never think of going to the same restaurant for dinner 14 nights hard running and, as such, we adopt a regime onboard which we call 'My Time and Place' Dining - some nights Main Dining Room, some nights Windjammer, some nights Chops Grille and some nights Portofinos. We were assigned to a full table for 10 in Tides dining room deck 4 level and were fortunate insofar as everybody got on really well with each other and the service was good. The down side to the MDR nowadays is that the dinner menus are pretty much standard across the fleet and have not varied in recent years. As such, they tend to lose interest and appeal after a while. Serving food whilst it remains hot also seems to be difficult to achieve when serving so many meals at the same time. In contrast, the food in the Windjammer is usually warmer and includes choices over and above that on the MDR menu of the day. Pity they closed the doors at 9:00pm on this sailing (on some European itineraries it stays open longer to fit in with the lifestyle of those accustomed to having a siesta in the afternoon and eating later at night). We have found that 'Chops Grille' and 'Portofinos' food and service can vary from one ship to another but on this sailing they were both excellent. Activities Apart from the usual recreational activities as listed in the daily compass this particular cruise added a couple of unique events. Firstly, a fellow passenger had suggested to the Cruise Director that, since the ship would pass close by Plymouth UK on the 390th anniversary of the Mayflower having set sail from there laden with a group of disgruntled separatists intent on setting up camp in America, the cruise line should mark the occasion in the form of some onboard gatherings and talks on the subject for those interested in the alleged similarities between that sailing and ours. Personally I do wonder how one could compare the two. Mayflower took 66 days to get there - Jewel of the Seas did it in 14 days. Mayflower carried 102 passengers with a crew of 25-30 - Jewel of the Seas carried 2501 guests with a crew of 842. Mayflower colonists suffered greatly from diseases like scurvy due to lack of shelter and conditions onboard ship - Jewel of the Seas paying guests could expect nothing worse than acute indigestion and perhaps a bout or two of alcohol intoxication. The other event came as a surprise when Captain 'Stig' announced that on the night before arriving in Akureyri the ship would cross into the Arctic Circle and accordingly King Neptune would board the ship then to assist him perform the traditional ritual of initiating those onboard who wished to be inaugurated into the Ancient and Honourable Company of Blue Noses as is customary on such an occasion. The initiation ceremony required having ice and cold water dropped down your back, knocking back a shot of grog in one go and having your nose painted blue at the end. The Captain (who claimed to be born within the Arctic Circle to the North of Norway and was therefore exempt from initiation) had mischievously brought along two different sizes of ladle for dispensing the ice and water (a regular size for the passengers and a jumbo size for his executive officers). A formal certificate to commemorate the event was presented to everyone as a keepsake. For the benefit of those who have not set eyes on King Neptune before, he looks just like a crew member dressed in drag and threatened with termination of his contract if he refused to do as he was told. Itinerary change Due to the presence of an Arctic Low Pressure Storm in our intended path from Reykjavik to St John's, in the interest of passenger and crew safety and comfort, the Captain made the wise decision to alter the ships course and avoid the worst of the storm. In so doing however, the required diversion added 300 miles to our journey which, in turn, necessitated cancelling the visit to St John's. To his credit he hosted a special presentation the next day to fully inform the passengers of his reasoning in this regard and was commended by all present for doing so. It was suggested that if the original course had been maintained we could have encountered waves of 13-14 metres in height. By changing route we got off with seas in the region of 6 metres or so as we sailed through the night. A refund of the recoverable port fees was automatically credited to our onboard account in the circumstances. Ports of call Le Havre (weather good) - this is primarily the setting off point for visiting Paris and the majority of tours offered from here reflect this. It is quite far however and can be exhausting. If Paris sounds like a journey too far, closer by is the lovely port of Honfleur for those who prefer a more relaxing time. Having been to these places before we opted to stay onboard this time and made good use of the Solarium whilst the ship was quiet. Cherbourg (weather fair) - the landing beaches of Normandy are the most popular tour from here and never fail to tug at the emotions of all who visit to pay homage. However there are a few places of interest to be discovered within Cherbourg itself, the highlight for us on this visit being 'La CitE de la Mer' maritime museum which houses an aquarium, an exhibition of numerous deep sea diving vessels spanning many years and, last but not least, the French Navy's first nuclear missile-launching submarine 'Le Redoubtable' superbly preserved and open to internal inspection. It is situated directly adjacent to the main cruise terminal building which, itself, contains a number of interesting artefacts reflecting its connection with notable sailings from there in years gone by. Cobh (weather fair) - The fact that the ship berths directly alongside the town centre it encourages you to do nothing more than walk off the ship, find a good pub and eavesdrop on the inimitable Craic between locals whilst supping a pint or more of Murphy's draught ale. The Heritage Centre on the quayside gives a good insight to the history of Cobh and its links with the Great Famine, Ellis Island immigration processing centre and, of course, the Titanic. Also on the quayside is the train station from where they run a regular service into Cork. Coach tours can also be arranged to visit other nearby visitor attractions including Blarney Castle with its infamous stone which purports to give all who kiss it 'the gift of the gab'. Akureyri (weather good) - Upon first sight, I could have sworn that we had docked somewhere in the North of Scotland. The scenery and landscape is very similar. The town itself is quite small but we did come across a couple of places worthy of a visit. We climbed the 112 steps to the Akureyrarkirkja church on the hill for a look inside and to admire the view from its grounds over the town and the fjord it stands on. We also visited the botanical gardens which, surprisingly for its geographic location, included some lush vegetation and species of plants that would not survive in my own garden back home. For those wishing to see further afield, coach tours were available to take in the surrounding countryside and the waterfalls, craters and bubbling hot and smelly mud fields etc that it had to offer. However, judging by the people we spoke with who had gone on this tour, the majority of time was spent driving to and from these sites with nothing of great interest between stops. Reykjavik (weather heavy showers) - In contrast to the charm and homeliness of Akureyri, we actually found Reykjavik dull, dismal and depressing. We had taken the local tourist board shuttle bus from the pier into town hoping to find some impressive buildings, broad streets and upmarket shopping precincts etc that you associate with capital cities around the world. Nope! - We didn't find any I'm afraid. Mostly tacky souvenir shops all selling the same items. Things were not helped by the fact that the heavens opened the minute we stepped off the bus and it looked set to stay that way for some time. We persevered for about half an hour before deciding to catch the next shuttle bus back to the ship. Coach tours to some more waterfalls, hot springs and steam vents etc were available as was the option to visit the Blue Lagoon and wallow in geothermal water along with the bacteria of countless others who have been there before you. Sydney (weather fair with occasional showers) - As s result of the aforementioned itinerary change the ship arrived here half a day earlier than planned offering the opportunity for us to sample the local nightlife in town. However, since it started to rain heavily, we decided to stay onboard till the morning. Next day we picked up a map from the tourist information desk and set off on a suggested walking tour which took in many of the oldest houses, some of which are now preserved as museums. Disappointingly, many of the surrounding properties on the route are in a dilapidated state and project the image of a rundown area. The main street too lacked appeal and atmosphere with little in the way of decent shops. That said however, we did enjoy are time there and, being Scottish, are pleased to have set foot in Nova Scotia. We shall always remember the friendliness and politeness of the locals who go out of their way to assist you find your way around. The drivers too are the most courteous I have come across anywhere in the world. If they sense that you may wish to cross street they will stop and wave you over, regardless of whether or not you are near a crossing. Sea Days (weather typical for the region and time of year) - The majority of sea days were on the bleak side with high winds, mist and rain which somewhat curtailed outdoor activities. By night the mist turned to fog which thwarted any chance we may have had of seeing the Northern Lights in the skies around Iceland. Apparently the fog did eventually clear and they were visible at 3:00am on a couple of nights but, alas, we were in a deep slumber by then. Disembarkation Disembarkation was preceded by US Customs and Immigration inspection of all passengers. In this instance not being an American worked to our advantage as they had set up a separate stall for 'aliens' only, who were few and far between on this cruise. Was surprised at how the process on this occasion was less stringent than that we are usually subjected to when arriving by air - no finger prints taken, no questions asked and no having to show tickets to prove our intention to return home. Due to an apparent problem unloading luggage from the ship, disembarkation did not start at the predicted time and, when it did start, the so called express walk-off took an eternity because of the inability of the majority of people to manage their own luggage down the sloping gangway. Fortunately we were in no rush to get off since we had arranged for an overnight stay in Boston before returning home but the possibility of this happening again should be kept in mind when planning onward travel arrangements. Post cruise in Boston (weather glorious) - Thanks to some really good information posted on Cruise Critic North American Homeports board -East Coast Departures forum before leaving home we were able to decide where to stay and what to do in the time we had available. Because of its close proximity to Black Falcon cruise terminal and good transport links for getting around town and to the airport we chose the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel with late check-out facility allowing us use of the room right up until we needed to leave for our early evening flight home. The Old Town trolley tour was ideal for us since we were able to join it directly in front of the hotel and could get off and on as we wished at the various stops along the route. Our ticket also included a harbour sightseeing cruise which offered a different perspective of the city. Summary We thoroughly enjoyed this crossing particularly because it afforded us the opportunity to sail in new waters and see new places we would not have contemplated travelling to by any other means (Akureyri, Reykjavik, Sydney and Boston). The Jewel of the Seas is a fabulous ship and Captain Stig Nielsen, his officers and crew were fantastic. The crystal block presented to us for having attained our 30th Crown & Anchor cruise credit whilst onboard will serve as a great memento of the good times and experiences we had. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Grand Princess 9/25/2010 Transatlantic Crossing Summary. This is our seventh transatlantic crossing but the first time we took the Arctic Circle route. Given the unpredictable nature of North Atlantic weather, we were very ... Read More
Grand Princess 9/25/2010 Transatlantic Crossing Summary. This is our seventh transatlantic crossing but the first time we took the Arctic Circle route. Given the unpredictable nature of North Atlantic weather, we were very fortunate to visit all our scheduled ports. The ports are unique and well worth seeing. We did have rough seas on the open water portion of the crossing but that is not uncommon for the North Atlantic. Background: We are an early 60s couple, recently retired and living in Brooklyn, NY. This is our 32nd cruise, mostly Holland America with a number of cruises with Celebrity, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean. We have cruised in the Caribbean, Alaska, Panama Canal, transatlantic and Hawaii. Pre-cruise. Normally, we book air on our own which is cheaper and more convenient. With an international open jaw (out to one city back from another), we used Princess' EZAir arrangements which worked out OK. Keep in mind that Princess charges a deviation fee each time you request a specific flight. Since the return flight we wanted was not available at the time and we had to book it after our outbound flight was booked, Princess charged us each $150 for the deviations, not $75 as they state in their booking material and website. We flew out from JFK to London Heathrow on Wednesday September 22nd on American Airlines 142 which is a daytime flight that arrives about 8:30 PM at Terminal 3. Due to reconstruction work in the immigration hall and a large number of passengers trying to get in ahead of a possible strike by immigration agents (later canceled), we had to wait about 40-50 minutes to clear immigration. From there we went to the baggage hall to reclaim our bags. In Terminal 3, there is a large sign board to the right as you come off the escalator/stairs that will tell on which luggage belt bags from a given flight will be. After exiting the baggage hall, we went directly to the Heathrow Express (follow the signage in the main arrival hall). American also offered Heathrow Express tickets for sale at the boarding counter for about $28 pp for coach service. The Heathrow Express trains leave from a lower platform reachable by ramp and elevator where you can buy tickets using credit cards or cash, £18. The trains leave every 15 minutes and take 15 minutes to arrive at Paddington Station, just north of Hyde Park. Go to the far end of Platform 1 for first class service and to be closer to the exit from the Paddington station. We reserved a one bedroom suite at the Darlington Hyde Park hotel on Sussex Garden, about 1/3 mile from Paddington for two nights. While it was expensive, the room was very comfortable and the hotel offered a full English breakfast and free Wifi (lobby only). On Thursday which was rainy most of the day, we did see little Venice which is the interchange point between the Grand Union Canal from the north and the Regent Canal which connects to the Thames. We picked a few books at Foyle's Bookstore on Charing Cross road. Although the rain put a damper on it, we did go to the Camden Locks market which had interesting stuff especially if you are into goth clothing and tattoos. Dinner Thursday, we ate at Kolissi which is a comfortable Greek restaurant near the hotel. We later found that along Edgware Road two blocks east of the hotel, there is an extensive Lebanese district which had a number of places to eat along with drugstores and supermarkets. Friday the 24th, we took a train from Victoria to Southampton Central. The cab from the Darlington to Victoria cost about £17 with tip. Note that taxis can be hailed on the street while cabs are arranged ahead of time for a fixed price. The usual train to Southampton leaves from Waterloo via Southwest Railway taking about 75 minutes for about £32 pp. We found that Southern Railway was offering an advance book fare to Southampton for £3.75 pp. This ride took about 150 minutes over a longer route. Once at Southampton, we walked our bags to the Novotel Southampton less than a quarter-mile away. The hotel is a modern 7 floor building which shares a parking area with two other hotels. We prebooked a room with queen bed and full English breakfast for about $110. Nearby are a TGI-Friday and Mickey D. There is an extensive shopping area nearby for anything you might need. That night, we met up with a group of people from cruise-critic on the Grand roll call for dinner. The dinner was in a medieval pub called the Red Lion in the old part of Southampton. Saturday dawned reasonably clear and we walked around town until 11:30 AM when we checked out and took a car service to the port. The car cost about £7 with tip. The Grand docked at pier 106, Mayflower Terminal, the farthest west passenger port. There was a very long line and no indication of whether there was a separate line for Platinum and Elite pax. We finally found that line after a 30 minute wait and we checked in shortly thereafter. Princess needs to add more service people on embarkation days. Unfortunately, the wait for others was much longer. We got our suitcases before muster drill and unpacked by sail-away. By comparison, disembarkation at Fort Lauderdale was simple and fast. With a noon flight, we were one of the last to leave but arrived at FLL with two hours to spare. Itinerary and Weather. The Grand Princess crossing was 16 days from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale along the Arctic Circle. We left Southampton on September 25th at 4 PM; Sunday transiting the Channel and North Sea; Monday, September 27th, Bergen, Norway (noon to 7 PM); Tuesday, Lerwick, Shetland Islands (7 AM to 5 PM); Wednesday, Torshavn, Faroe Islands (7 AM to 5 PM); Thursday, enroute to Iceland; Friday, October 1st, Akureyri, Iceland (7 AM to 4 PM); Saturday, at sea; Sunday, Reykjavik, Iceland (7 AM to 4 PM); three days at sea; Thursday October 7th, Sydney, Nova Scotia (7 AM to 2 PM); three more days at sea arriving Fort Lauderdale on Monday, October 11th at 6 AM. As for what clothes to pack, think Alaska with a one or two pairs of shorts and polo shirts. I did pack two Hawaiian shirts just for fun and found them useful. The weather was rainy in London while Friday night and Saturday morning in Southampton were clear and cool. The transit of the English Channel and North Sea was accompanied by gale force winds and rough seas (2.5 to 4 M or 8 to 13 foot waves) to very rough seas (4 to 6 M or 13 to 20 foot waves). Bergen was sunny and cool while Lerwick was partly sunny and windy. Torshavn was cloudy and rainy. For all three, the sea conditions were moderate (4 to 8 foot waves) which allowed for tender ops at Lerwick and Torshavn. The transit to Akureyri, Iceland had near gale force winds and rough to very rough sea conditions. For both Akureyri and Reykjavik, it was partly cloudy, windy with highs near 50 F. Seas were moderate. After Reykjavik, the weather was cloudy and windy with violent gale conditions and very rough seas to high seas (6 to 9 M or 20 to 30 foot waves) due to a strong low pressure system coming up to the Maritimes. As a result, the captain rerouted us through the Belle Isles passage into the Gulf of St. Lawrence using Newfoundland as a windbreak for our approach to Sydney, Nova Scotia. After Sydney, we sailed into a near gale wind from the south which made for rough seas. The last two sea days were calmer and warmer as we approached Fort Lauderdale. Monday when we disembarked was warm and sunny and our flight home was smooth with some cloudiness at JFK. However, Monday night in Brooklyn, we had severe winds, heavy rains and ½ inch hail that loudly rattled the windows, a rather dramatic ending to our vacation. The Ship. The Grand Princess was the first of the Grand class of ships and went into service in 1997. While the ship does show some wear and rust spots: that is not uncommon for ships of her age, she does not show the kind of wear and tear that some have described. She does not have the International Cafe nor Vines though these service areas are supposed to be added in the April; 2011 dry docking. To distinguish starboard (right) from port (left) on cabin decks, the hallway rugs on the port side have red background in the side trim (even numbered cabins) and the hallway rugs on starboard have light blue trim background (odd numbered cabins). The forward elevator lobby had red and dark blue trim while the aft lobby has light blue with light green trim. This color code scheme appears to apply for all Grand and Crown class ships. The mid-ship elevator lobby is U shaped with the bottom of the U facing forward. There are also two panorama elevators with glass walls mid-ship. Cabin. We booked a category AD mini-suite on Emerald deck. Since our cabin was at the stern, we did get some ship motion though not as much as cabins near the bow. While we were above the Vista Lounge, there was minimal noise from the shows below and they ended by 11 PM. The stern side thrusters made much more noise and vibration and served as a useful alarm clock when we entered port. The heating system worked fine in the cabin and around the ship. The TV channels were limited as expected due to being in high latitudes, however, the Grand does not have detailed routing information that other ships we have been on have. A general map plot showing expected position at local noon along a planned route and general weather conditions for the area was available, but real-time weather and sea states were not. Perhaps this is a software upgrade that can be done in dry dock. The mini-suite is 9 by 30 feet with a shaded veranda measuring 9 by 6.5 feet. The mini-suites are divided into a sleeping and sitting areas each with their own 26 inch LCD TVs. There is a small desk and fridge in the sleeping area and a couch with foldout bed, coffee table and a chair in the sitting area. There is plenty of open shelf space and adequate clothes storage with a walk in closet. The bathroom is full size with a tub and a good amount of open counter and shelf space. There are only two 110 AC sockets in the cabin by the desk. Bring an extension cord or power strip if your electronics use a wall wart charger, otherwise you can use only one socket. There is an extra 110 AC socket behind each LCD TV. The bathroom has Ground Fault Interrupter 110 AC sockets as well. The veranda had two loungers with a cocktail table on one side and two chairs on the other side of the veranda. Only the mini-suites on Emerald deck are covered, all the other mini-suites on Dolphin deck are fully exposed to the weather and the prying eyes of fellow passengers. Ports of Call. As noted above, Southampton embarkation was not handled well. Additional check-in staff is needed to reduce waiting times that exceeded two hours for some pax. Also in port that day were RCI's Independence of the Seas and P&O's Ventura. Due to the size of the Grand, we did not use the regular cruise ship port in Bergen but rather a cargo port in the south part of the city. We took part in a privately arranged tour of Bergen which was arranged by a cruise critic member. The tour included Fort Fjell, built by the Germans during World War II, a stave church, downtown Bergen and the Mount Floyen funicular. Fort Fjell located in a mountainous area south of the city was built to protect the sea approaches to German occupied Bergen and mounted three 11 inch naval rifles. The fortifications supporting the rifle installation was very extensive and was dug into the mountain. Our tour was pre-arranged and this facility is not yet open to the general public. The stave church was typical of early wood structures in Norway where they are much more familiar with boat building styles. Mount Floyen is about 1,000 feet high just north of the city and is easily accessible by funicular from downtown. It is also accessible by road if you are so inclined. While our timing was constrained by our noon arrival, if you can, it is best to go up Mount Floyen in the morning so the sun is not in your eyes/lens as you look at the city. We took a ship tour in Lerwick to a Shetland pony farm and to Scalloway Castle. The pony farm was interesting as the ponies (they are true horses though smaller) were bred for harsh climates and grow a very thick coat as protection. They are capable of carrying a full grown person though their feet may drag on the ground. Scalloway Castle was built by then island governor Patrick Stewart who mistreated the islanders to the extent that they eventually rebelled against him. There are also several wind generators that serves one fifth of the island's electric load. At Torshavn in the Faroe Islands, we just walked around the town; there is a nice park near the top of a hill that gives a view of the harbor. We headed back to the ship when it began to rain. In both Lerwick and Torshavn, tender service was used since we were unable to dock. This necessitated a lengthy wait for going ashore and returning. Not fun waiting in the rain. In both Akureyri and Reykjavik, Iceland, we took tours arranged by two other cruise critic members. Iceland is very geologically active since it is located on the midlantic rift and it has lots of volcanic activity. In Akureyri, we went first to Godafoss which is a large waterfall near the town where the Icelandic leader, Thorgeir Thorkelsson, decreed the island would convert to Christianity and hurled his pagan idols into the falls. Next was Namaskard which are hot sulfur pits and boiling mud pools. This area provides geothermal steam for electricity generation and hot water for heating. We then went to Lake Myvatn which is a popular warm water spa. The water is light blue in color due to the presence of cyno-bacteria. Afterwards, we visited Skutustadir which has large craters that were formed when lava overflowed the lakeshore's sodden ground. Finally, we went to Dimmuborgir or "Twilight Castles" with weirdly shaped lava formations formed by a lava lake that flowed over marshy ground and then cooled and receded. At Reykjavik, we did a version of the Golden Circle tour which included Thingvellir National Park located in a rift valley covered by lava and later covered by typical Icelandic vegetation of low birch, willow trees and blueberry bushes. The western wall of the fault is an approximately 120-foot-high cliff, under which the Althing, Iceland's lawmaking assemblies met from 930 A.D. onward. We then went to Gullfoss Waterfall or "Golden Waterfall" which flows down a series of cascades into a deep gorge. Nearby is the Strokkur Geyser in the Geyser area which has many hot springs. The geyser shoots a 60-foot-high column of hot water at frequent intervals. Iceland uses the volcanic heat source to heat their homes and to generate electricity. Our last stop was at the Hellisheidi Power Plant which produces about 280 MW of electricity from thermal hat water and steam. After three days at sea, we stopped at Sydney, Nova Scotia. Since heavy rain was forecasted for the day we were to arrive, we just walked around a bit visiting a craft fair in one of the churches and retreated back to the ship. Sydney has a dedicated cruise port but can only handle one ship at a time. The Costa Atlantica was also in port and they had to tender in until we left at 2 PM and the Atlantica could take our place at the port. The Pax and Roll Call. With cruise of this duration and routing, most of the pax are retired or close to it. I saw one or two children though they may have been more. Predicated on our experiences, about a third of the pax were from the British Commonwealth with the remainder being American with a few from other countries. The front desk staff told us that about 1,200 of the 2,500 on board pax were Platinum or Elite. While the weather did keep many pax inside, the Grand did not feel crowded the way the Caribbean or Crown Princess felt on bad weather days. Not having the Riviera deck and its extra 250 cabins does help. There was a CruiseCritic rollcall for this cruise which proved to be quite helpful and informative. Known as the Nordic Explorers, there were a number of members who chipped in to plan various activities ranging from pre-cruise dinner in Southampton; coordinating the meet and mingle meeting with Princes; tours of Bergen, Norway; Akureyri and Reykjavik, Iceland and other activities including trivia and various games. A hearty thanks to all those who helped to make these activities the success they were. Entertainment. We normally do not care for ship entertainment so we did not see some of the evening shows. We did catch Princess' newest show, the British Invasion which we did like though some of the music played was is from a later time period. Still, it is worth seeing. The Zach Bartholomew jazz quartet in the Wheelhouse bar was good and there was piano music played in the Atrium or at the Promenade Lounge during the afternoon and evening. As the cruise progressed, the evening entertainment seemed to diminish in quality. There were two lecturers for the days we were at sea. One was a financial adviser who spoke on various aspects of financial planning for retirement. She was mildly interesting. The second lecturer was the eminent maritime historian and author John Maxstone-Graham. He has written a number of books on the history of passenger ships including the Titanic. His lectures were well attended and seating was at a premium or non-existent if you came late. Mr. Graham spoke on the events on the Titanic, on the history of transatlantic crossings and polar exploration. His talks are informative and entertaining. Dining Service. Princess has a decidedly Italian tilt to their cuisine and those dishes are often the best choices. There is both traditional dining (5:45 PM and 8 PM in the Botticelli Dining room (Fiesta deck 6) and Anytime Dining in the Da Vinci Dining Room on Plaza deck (deck 5) and Michelangelo Dining Room (Fiesta deck). With Anytime Dining, you pick the time you want to eat and then deal with the line that may exist. A willingness to share a table generally gets you seated sooner. Breakfast and lunch is served in the Michelangelo Dining Room with open seating. While we have done Anytime Dining on other Princess cruises, this time we opted for early traditional seating. We were joined by a retired couple from Ohio and an American-British couple from Las Vegas. We had lively conversations and a good time was had by all. We had a table of eight but one couple showed up only once. Note that the Botticelli Dining room can only be accessed by stairs or elevators since it is at the aft end of Fiesta deck. The nearest restrooms are on Promenade deck (deck 7). For the our cruise, there were three formal nights, the first sea day, the second day after Reykjavik (possibly due to rough sea conditions) and the next to last sea day. The second formal night also had the Captains Circle repeaters party before dinner. Most men wore suits or tuxedos with a few just wearing sports jackets and no tie. The other nights were smart casual. Each dinner has a collection of small plates that include a salad, several hot and cold appetizers and two soups. There are five choices for main courses that change nightly; usually one or two selections of seafood, poultry, red meat and vegetarian. In addition, there are two pasta dishes, one of which is always fettuccini Alfredo (very good but very rich). Princess has four always available entrees that are the same each night, broiled salmon, broiled chicken breast, New York sirloin and a beef tournedos. A plain tossed salad, Caesar salad and a shrimp cocktail round out the always available selections. Lunch is structured with small plates and daily entrees, one of which is often an interesting salad. Breakfast is a standard eggs, breakfast meats and fruits with two specials each day. In general, we found the meals to be more flavorful but often more salty than we are used to, YMMV. The red meat dishes were usually tender though Princess tends towards the well done side. Seafood was good and fresh for the most part, since the Grand had been provisioning in European ports, some of the seafood was unfamiliar to us. The Horizon Court is Princess' buffet area on Lido (deck 14) which is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast and lunch choices are often more expansive than in the dining room, however, by the time you find a table and get your beverages, the food has often gotten cold. For that and other reasons, we usually preferred the dining room. Instead of trays and plates, Princess uses a large oval plate that can double as a tray; a good idea since they take up less space on the tables than trays and there is one less item for the pickup staff to clear and clean. We did not try the themed dinners which included Caribbean and German cuisines. Other than you have to wear some clothing, there is no dress code here. The pizzeria on Lido deck has very good thin crispy crust pies which are easily the match of most NYC pizzas. There are pizza Margarita and pepperoni and a special that changes daily. The afternoon teas (3:30 to 4:30 PM) were nice affairs, but the tea sandwiches and pastries were unremarkable and the timing did not always work for us, still you should give it a try. For Platinum and Elite pax, Princess offered a semi-private cocktail party in Skywalker's from 5 to 8 PM with appetizers and a special drink of the day. With over 1,200 pax at the Platinum or Elite level (and a number of freeloaders Princess' staff was not checking key cards), it was impossible to find a seat at 5 PM. We found out from others that after the first seating pax (us) left, seating was easier to find. While nice in concept, the execution needs some more work. We gave up on this after two days and went elsewhere for pre-dinner cocktails. After 8 PM, all well drinks and some specialty drinks are available for $2.99 each. Miscellaneous. The Grand was not full and there were a number of empty cabins. We found out from a fellow passenger that unoccupied cabins are coded with a blue label (for first-time pax to Princess) tagged Mr. Smith/Mrs. Smith with no first name or initial. This made it entertaining to figure out which cabins near us were empty. For this crossing, passports for non-EU residents were held by ship until after we left Sydney. This is the first time we experienced this in six crossings since 2000. This may now be an EU requirement so keep a photocopy of your passport or a passport card on your person when you go ashore. The UK has recently changed its currency to add anti-counterfeiting security features. Older currency without these features will no longer be accepted at most retail outlets and will have to be exchanged for newer currency at a bank. The Shetland Islands are part of the UK and use the same currency. Norway is not part of the EU so you will need either Norwegian currency (Norwegian Kroner) or a credit card for purchases. The same goes for Torshavn and Iceland. Icelanders will accept Euros or dollars at the current exchange rate. The UK is five hours ahead of US east coast (NYC) time, except for the transition to/from summer time which occurs at different dates for US versus UK. Norway is one hour ahead of the UK while the Shetland Islands and the Faroe Islands are on UK time. Iceland is four hours ahead of US east coast time and Sydney is one hour ahead. Keep you watches synchronized to ship time whether or not it differs from local time. I heard that several pax had missed the ship in various ports and had to catch us to us at the next port at their own cost. Gripes. What is a cruise review without a few of these! Southampton check-in is probably our biggest gripe as there were insufficient staff and/or service positions to handle the crowd of people at the terminal. I have heard from some UK pax that is a recurring issue at Southampton. Such overcrowding has not been an issue at their US terminals and Princess needs to resolve this quickly. There are 14 elevators on some of Grand class ships (Grand, Golden, Star and Caribbean), however, they are dispatched in a quirky manner. The four aft elevators do not serve the same decks. The two outer units serve decks 6 (Botticelli Dining Room) to deck 17 (Skywalker's Lounge). The two inner units serve decks 7 to 14 only. This means a long wait to go to/from the Botticelli Dining Room or Skywalker's to other decks since there are only two elevators available for those decks. This is a design flaw that was rectified in Diamond and Sapphire Princess pair built in Japan and on the follow-on Crown class ships. The four forward units operate as a group and have no issues. The mid-ship elevator bank has six elevators but only the four non-panorama units are linked together so only one unit answers a call for service at a given deck. The others in that four can pass through without stopping. The two panorama elevators are individually controlled so you may have to hit three call buttons to ensure that a unit will stop at your deck. This means that other elevators will also stop at that deck with no one boarding. At a minimum, Princess should reprogram the two panorama elevators to operate together as the other four now do. Ideally, all six units should be programmed to operate as a group for the decks they serve in common. The Grand has nine hot tubs, two forward in the Lotus pool area, four mid-ship on Lido deck two aft by the Oasis Bar on Sport deck and one in the teen area. Of the six working tubs in the Lotus and mid-ship area, none had functioning bubblers. The water was warm, but no circulation. I assume this will be fixed during dry docking. Useful Weblinks. For info on transfers from Heathrow or Gatwick airports to central London, from London to cruise-ports and general hotel info, this site is useful. http://www.londontoolkit.com Google Earth, an interactive global map that you can populate with all sorts of info http://earth.google.com/intl/en/download-earth.html To which you can add mappings of cruise ships worldwide, live plots most of the time. After downloading and opening Google Earth, click on Add, then Network Link and put in the following. For storm tracking in the North Atlantic, click on Add, then Network Link and put in the following, http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/download.php?Number=110283 For stand-alone ship tracking near shore, go here. http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/ Hurricane havens courtesy of the US Navy. http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/pubs.htm For information on how wave heights are categorized, see this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Sea_Scale If you have not yet gotten cruise insurance, this site may be helpful. http://www.insuremytrip.com/ Finally, some amusing observations on working on a cruise ship. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve2_8aDv0xE Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We chose MSC Poesia's transatlantic voyage because of its unique itinerary and early autumn sailing. We went with the attitude to "not sweat the small stuff". As I liked the size of MSC Lirica, which my ... Read More
We chose MSC Poesia's transatlantic voyage because of its unique itinerary and early autumn sailing. We went with the attitude to "not sweat the small stuff". As I liked the size of MSC Lirica, which my husband and I had sailing on previously, I was unsure how I would like the larger Poesia. I needn't have worried, as it wasn't an issue, as we never felt crowded on this beautiful ship. Prior to the cruise, we spent 2 nights in Hamburg and 3 nights in Lubeck, Germany. We enjoyed both and could have easily spent longer at each place. We caught the train from Lubeck to Kiel on the day of departure. We walked, with our luggage, to the wharf. We later discovered that there was a bus from the train station to the wharf. Embarkation. We received our luggage labels to complete at the wharf. As the hall was very crowded, we waited, in the sun, in the pretty park over the road. After awhile, we walked down the mall to find icecreams. When we returned to the hall, we embarked with group no. 19. Cabin My daughter and I found our inside cabin on 11th deck met our requirements. We liked the storage space under the beds for luggage, wardrobe space was adequate, bathroom, with shower, was better than on the Lirica. We used our own shampoo and conditioner, as well as soap. However, there was liquid soap and shampoo in wall containers. Management and Staff As on the Lirica, the Indonesian staff, both in the dining room and cabins, were excellent. We found the management much improved on the Poesia. Management was friendlier and more helpful, than on the Lirica. I didn't see one Italian shrug of the shoulders on this cruise. Food We ate well on this cruise. We ate mainly in the dining room for all meals. When in doubt, we chose Italian meals, which were always good. However, much to my surprise, the meat meals were also good. Icecream for desert is always a treat on Italian ships. I liked the Vegemite on the tables, and complementary iced water, coffee and hot black tea, with lemon, after all meals. The pizza was excellent. However, I'd have liked more variety. Entertainment We enjoyed the visual acts and opera in the beautiful theatre and the classical music in the foyers and lounges. However, I would have liked to have seen a little less opera and more musicals, which appeal to a broader audience. Later in Toronto, we went to Cirque Du Soleil's Banana Shpeel. Poesia's acrobatic acts were in a similiar class of unique entertainment. Our favourite daytime entertainment was The Champions Quiz, which had an english speaking co-announcer. Trivia was difficult, as it was hard to understand the english pronounciations of questions, especially on the open deck. Daytime entertainment is not MSC's forte. I would like to see more informative presentations, such as on ports of call (history, culture, etc.), rather than just selling their tours. Poesia's library needs more English books. An extra book of reference world maps and books on ports of call should be held in the library, not to be removed, for all to access. Ports of Call Cruise was chosen for its ports of call. - Copenhagen, Southampton, Le Havre, Vigo, Lisbon, Ponta Delgade, Azores Islands, Bermuda (overnight), New York (overnight). Due to a cyclone, we cruised to Boston (overnight) in lieu of Bermuda. We were disappointed to miss Bermuda, but understood the valid reason. Ponta Delgade, Azores was our favourite new port of call. Loved both overnights in Boston and New York. Disembarkation Disembarkation was a breeze, as we just sat on the top deck enjoying the atmosphere of being on a ship in the heart of Manhattan. We strolled off, when numbers decreased, walked along the waterfront to the ferry terminal and caught a ferry to New Jersey, then a lightrail to our accommodation in Jersey City. Things, which could be improved on MSC - longer times needed in ports of call. Le Havre - Demarkation was too shakey and embarkation was too steep here. I felt unsafe. 9 - 3.30 in Le Havre is just not enough time for independent travel. Saw two buses "MS Poesia" returning from Le Havre to the ship. Looked like crew on board, but passengers weren't advised of availability of these buses. Smoking - Broadway Show Quiz (excellent) was held in smoking allowed lounge - Pigalle Lounge, Deck 7. Our one and only visit. MSC needs to change its attitude on smoking, to meet many countries' modern thinking on the dangers of smoking. Things I love about MSC - unique itineraries and ports of call spotless beautiful ships two for the price of one special offers Australia in 2012 I do hope MSC cruises to Australia/NZ in 2012 and continues with all of the above. Would I recommend MSC to fellow cruisers? Yes, but I would explain their points of difference. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010

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