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1,783 Repositioning Cruise Reviews

Arrived in Barcelona 2 days before the cruise and stayed at the Hotel Universal. 4* property and properly rated, excellent staff, great breakfast buffet, terrific location (metro and bus stops in front of the hotel, 1/2 mile to Las Ramblas ... Read More
Arrived in Barcelona 2 days before the cruise and stayed at the Hotel Universal. 4* property and properly rated, excellent staff, great breakfast buffet, terrific location (metro and bus stops in front of the hotel, 1/2 mile to Las Ramblas and 3/4 mile to the port.) great rooms, free internet, nice bar, roof top pool and terrace, the complete package. Barcelona the city is interesting but over-rated, great history, terrific restaurants, good public transportation, but petty crime is a major problem. Embarking at 12:30 was a breeze and staterooms were available upon boarding. Luggage arrived before 2:00. Beautiful new ship in perfect condition. Loved the decor and extensive art work. Others have been critical, but we thought it was well done, tasteful, understated and set the tone we were looking for. The stateroom, a VD had plenty of storage space, was well laid out, nice use of color, wonderful bed and deep veranda. Temperature controls worked well. We had 2 excellent stewards (Irwan and Abdul), no issues the entire 20 days. Won't spend any time on the ports, all interesting in their own way, no negative issues. Liked Valencia and Lisbon by far the best, others will have a different perspective. The staff in every area met or exceeded our expectations. Although we were in open dining we had the same table in the MDR each night and the 2 guys (Kerti and Pande) were perfect. The bar staff knew us after a couple of days and were always on the case. The issue that really put a damper on this cruise was the Code Red the last 12 days. (9 of them sea days) A complete pain. This greatly impacted our enjoyment. The Spa was closed, no hydro-pool, no hot tubs, steam/sauna rooms closed, library closed etc. The Lido restaurant was a complete foul-up. Never had a hot meal because of the congestion, multi-station trips for silverware, beverages, everything being hand served by staff, over-crowding, just poor in every area. We could never get out of Code Red, the staff worked long hours cleaning everyday but the cases kept piling up. The senior management staff on the ship starting with the Captain did a poor job of communication, gave false information, failed to enforce the rules of containment and became invisible near the end of the cruise. This cruise had the potential to be a "10" ended up being a "7". Will we sail HAL again, yes, but not short-term. Far too many of their cruises go into Code Red, they need to figure out why and correct the causes. I know that Noro/GI is common in the general population, but this was one sick ship with 200+ passengers confined to their staterooms and at least that many more with acute cold like symptoms. We did not get sick by the way, no colds and no other problems. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Route: 14 day cruise starting in Harwich, England - Le Havre, France - Cherbourg, France - Cork, Ireland - Akureyri, Iceland - Reykjavik, Iceland - Sydney, Nova Scotia - Boston. 1. General Comments: An interesting cruise through the ... Read More
Route: 14 day cruise starting in Harwich, England - Le Havre, France - Cherbourg, France - Cork, Ireland - Akureyri, Iceland - Reykjavik, Iceland - Sydney, Nova Scotia - Boston. 1. General Comments: An interesting cruise through the stormy north Atlantic. This was the ship's repositioning cruise from its Baltic runs to its New England trips. Our itinerary was to include St John's, Newfoundland, but a "regular Arctic low pressure storm" formed on the route we were to take from Iceland. This made for a 250 mile detour around the storm and an early arrival in Sydney. My wife and I are frequent floaters and were not bothered by the stormy waves and winds, but enough was enough. The Caribbean it wasn't. The ship was nearly full with 2,046 passengers and 850 crew. While the majority of passengers were American, there was a good representation of European countries. There appeared to be very few first time cruisers. As this was school time, few children were on board. We booked a junior suite on the tenth deck. Details below. We also used My Time dining, and it worked perfectly. The cruise wound up with seven, instead of six, sea days. The Captain announced when we could see whales; a few of us did (I saw two). Remember that this is an Atlantic crossing. We had to change clocks forward one hour for France and turn them back six times enroute to Boston. 2. Travel to England and Embarking: We made our own plane arrangements and arrived in London three days before the cruise. We did use an RCL hotel (Guoman Tower) and the RCL bus to the port in Harwich (a 2 hour trip). You must stay in an RCL hotel if you want to use their bus; otherwise, you are on your own to get to Harwich. The hotel was fine, close to subway and next to both the Tower Bridge and the Tower. An RCL representative was available for some hours starting two days before the cruise. Having done Sea Pass check-in on-line got us through the check-in procedures very quickly. We were on board by noon in time for the usual lunch in the Windjammer and in our cabin around 1PM. One suitcase was waiting for us in the cabin; the other did not arrive for a couple hours. 3. The Jewel of the Seas: An attractive ship. Our junior suite was perfect for the two weeks. Plenty of storage space and nooks, a walk in closet, and bathroom with a tub shower. The cabin has a small safe and a small refrigerator (mini-bar, which we did not touch). There is a TV that receives movies, CNN, FOX, ESPN, shipboard activities, and other channels. You get a daily planner in your cabin the night prior. You need to read it carefully as there are next to no announcements on the PA system. The Captain does his noontime report from the bridge, and there may be one announcement in the afternoon about the evening's show. There is no newspaper; you have to get your news off the TV. There are maps at each elevator bay. The elevators are quirky; often you push the button and watch the elevator go right past your floor. There is a huge children/teen area and programs for them. I defer to others with children to comment on this part of the ship. 4. Meals: Food in the Windjammer buffet - which almost everyone uses for breakfast and lunch - is good. There are plenty of choices at both meals, and you can eat as much or as little as you want. It is a bit hurried, though, and not a place for a slow meal. The dining room's food was very good, well-prepared, and well-served. We only used it for dinner, although it is available with open seating at breakfast and lunch. Again, you have to pay attention to the daily ship's program concerning where lunch is served. The Windjammer or the dining room may be closed, or they may both be open. You have to read. We used My Time dining - 7PM - and RCL got it right. The area for this dining was organized with plenty of tables for two, besides the usual tables for four and more. We would arrive pretty much on time and were always seated immediately. While we were shifted around a bit, we had only three sets of waiters for the 14 days, and this was all in the same area. Thus, the waiters did get to know their guests and their preferences. Our waiters would advise us when they thought dishes were not up to par. Food portions are of respectable size, and if you don't try to eat all the courses everyday, you should not do bad weight-wise. The wine list is respectable, and wine is available by the bottle or glass. We had made reservations on-line for the Portofino specialty restaurant. Excellent food, wine, and service. Well worth the extra charges. There are other food outlets around the ship as well as plenty of bars; you cannot go hungry or thirsty. Because of the mob scene in the Windjammer one noon, we lunched in the Seaview Cafe. Sandwiches and fries were not bad; no extra charge. At the session of "ask the Captain and his staff," we learned an interesting item. RCL ships usually only resupply at the beginning of their runs; in our case it meant that we loaded up in Harwich and had no resupply for 14 days which, according to the hotel director, is about the maximum number of days a ship can go. So, bananas ran out, pineapples became iffy, and margarine ran out. Even the Schooner Bar ran out of Drambuie. 5. Dressing for meals: For this 14 day trip it was three formal nights. A good number - perhaps half - of men at formal nights were in tuxedos or suits; some who did not want to dress up just did not appear for these meals. Considering how the ladies dress up for these meals, I suggest more men who served in the military obtain miniatures of the medals they were awarded and attach them to their tuxes. It's permissible to do so, and the medals do add some color to our basic black tuxedos. Scheduling of the formal nights was odd. We expected they would all be on sea days. Wrong! Two were on port/shore excursion days, and only the third one was on a sea day. 6. Shore Excursions: A word of advice: make your shore excursion reservations on-line! Otherwise you will either have to use the not-so-user-friendly on board TV system to make your reservations or stand in line on board at the excursion counter. The on-line billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you don't need the ship's tour office. RCL's tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ship's staff, you have support when there is a problem. When making my on-line reservations I ran into one tour that was marked "check on board." I went to the tour desk right after we boarded. Yes, the tour was running. I was able to change around a couple of tours with no problem. These charges and adjustments all appeared on our ship's account. The adjustments for all the cancelled shore excursions when we did not stop in St John's were quickly added to the ship's accounts. There was an Icelandic gentleman on board who lectured on all aspects of Iceland (history, geography, etc) before we arrived. His first session was so interesting that for his second session the theater was packed. Everyone commented on how pleased they were to have heard some, or all, of his lectures. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, lectures, bridge, bingo, etc, etc. Don't forget the rock climbing wall, though because of our weather, I don't know if it was ever open for use. Most days the poolside chairs were lashed down. Some hardy souls continued to use the hot tubs and the pools. On the other hand, the adult solarium pool was quite busy, possibly because it is enclosed. The bits of the evening shows we saw were fine; we heard good reports about them in the Windjammer. The down side appears to have been that the theater was packed every night, and seats were being taken up to 45 minutes before the show. Park West, the bane of many cruise ships, did not have its contract renewed by RCL. Thus, there were no art auctions. This was not a problem as the ship has plenty of art all around the public areas. Instead of art, though, there is plenty of advertising by the ship's spa, which appears to be a franchise. The casino was of good size and the payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. Duty-free liquor on board was reasonable; you order your liquor and it is delivered to your cabin the day before disembarking. If you are flying, though, how do you take it home? There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have your picture taken by the ship's photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. There are various venues for night owls. 8. Tipping: Not a problem if you sign up for the recommended amounts (for cabin steward, waiter, asst waiter, and head waiter). The amounts are charged to your shipboard account; you receive vouchers and envelopes before the last night on board. Put the vouchers in the (pre-addressed) envelopes, and hand them out. You're done. You only need to tip separately (cash) the person who brings your room service. Your bar bill automatically adds 15 percent. My Time dining raised a question that the Guest Services desk did not really answer. I asked how we tipped the wait staff when we had different staffs. Their solution was for us to tip the staff that waited on us at the last night. "They will take care of it." I hope so, and it may be so. Our nightly table was recorded in the computer, so it would not have been difficult to determine how often which wait staff waited on which passengers. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise, anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos, etc) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. You can track your account on the ship's TV channel. On the last morning you receive a paper final statement of your account. 10. Disembarking in Boston: Your bags have to be out at 11PM, and breakfast is early. You can wait in your cabin until it is time to leave. We ran about an hour late because the customs/immigration officers were late. Added to that was that pier side safety regulations prevented passengers from moving in the baggage area while baggage was still being unloaded and stacked in the building. Immigration procedures were handled on board in the dining room, and customs was handled pier side. Once the officers were set up and the baggage handling was completed, disembarking went pretty quick and smooth. 12. Conclusion: This was an interesting trip. We had a great time in London adjusting to the time difference; the weather was sunny and pleasant. Stops in France and Ireland were equally pleasant. Iceland was fascinating, cold, and a bit wet. Yes, we have our certificates for having crossed the Arctic Circle. As I mentioned at the start, the trip from Iceland to Nova Scotia was long and windy, with high waves (and that was *not* going through the storm!). Nova Scotia was wet. From there to Boston we had to go through another storm. Sigh... Are we glad we made the trip? Definitely yes. Would we do it again? Probably not. Would we take the Jewel again to someplace calmer and warmer? Yes. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@satx.rr.com. Fred Groth San Antonio, TX Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We found that this experience was both more and less than expected. Good stuff--Crew were fabulous!! Best ever Soda free- but not mixed correctly in fountains. Big shows were fabulous. Cold refridgerators in stateroom-no minibar stuff in ... Read More
We found that this experience was both more and less than expected. Good stuff--Crew were fabulous!! Best ever Soda free- but not mixed correctly in fountains. Big shows were fabulous. Cold refridgerators in stateroom-no minibar stuff in the way. Not so Good--- VERY noisy ship. Everything creeks and groans more than any ship we have been on. The officers do not seem to consider the comfort of the passengers when it sets it policies for maintenance. Every night loud banging and water spray noises from pressure washing etc. We were told they would not stop even though we could not sleep. We were moved to another part of the ship but there were other sounds there so we ended up with a separate inside sleeping room...Not the ship for those with sensitive hearing!!!Also, twice they had a loud get together in the central atrium area which you could hear all the way up the lift shaft at 11pm . We use a scooter and for the tour we couldnot take it so I asked for an electric cart to take my husband down the long pier to the snorkel boat in St. Maarteen. The shore staff person told me there was no help and that we were on our own. After we got to the boat we were told that there is a service by the port for $1.00! She should have known that, it is her job after all. That walk was a struggle and very exhausting for my spine damaged husband. We also found out that we could have borrowed a wheelchair so that I could push him! Food---The gourmet menu in the rotation dinning was basically the same stuff but with slightly different seasonings etc over and over. Also the waiters fuss over you way too much so we ate at the buffet most nights. Problem is it is not a buffet for dinner! It is also only open for two hours and if you want to see the early show and not eat late you have no choice but hot dogs or room service! At least that was good, though limited in choices. Deck 3 and 4 have narrow bottlenecks where there are bars and photo shops in the walkway. Daytime adult fun was limited. We had trivia and game shows but only a few days...TV in the room showed the same movies and comedies both weeks. A change on the second week would have been nice....   Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We booked this cruise for 23 days, but Princess considered it two back to back cruises. That had its advantages and disadvantages. The first cruise, on the 18th of Sept, that went to Vigo Spain, Lisbon Portugal, La Rochelle France, and St. ... Read More
We booked this cruise for 23 days, but Princess considered it two back to back cruises. That had its advantages and disadvantages. The first cruise, on the 18th of Sept, that went to Vigo Spain, Lisbon Portugal, La Rochelle France, and St. Peters Port embarked with no problems. We had sailed on the Grand before, but still wanted to familiarize ourselves with the ship again before heading for the Horizon Court for lunch. It was like coming home. Later that day and all the next day I noticed that there was a long line at the purser's desk. I asked what that was about and was told that they were all cancelling their automatic gratuities. Talking with our room steward, he said that is a common occurrence when the ship leaves Southampton (the Grand's homeport). I just wonder how many people under-tip or don't tip at all. Anyway, the stops were great except for St. Peter's Port which was cancelled due to high winds. We encountered some strike problems (nothing violent) in La Rochelle, but the tours finally went on. One returning bus was delayed by the strikers and didn't get back until 2 hours after our scheduled departure. I expect the Captain wasn't very happy! On the 25th we departed for the crossing to Ft. Lauderdale...the second back to back cruise for us. Most of the Brits had disembarked and were replaced by primarily Americans and Canadians. We stayed on board to avoid the embarking crowds. I guess the embarking was a nightmare with down computers and too many people arriving at the terminal at the same time. The ports were the main reason we booked this cruise. We went to Bergen, Norway, Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, two stops in Iceland (we swam in the thermal pools there!), and on to Sydney, Nova Scotia. It rains 300 days a year in Bergen, but not that day. The only rain we got was in Nova Scotia. INTERNET: Those of us who get free internet were told that we were supposed to get 500 minutes of internet, but in actuality, we only got 400 minutes and even that was a struggle as the system deleted any usable minutes when we started the second cruise and then deleted the entire account. We worked, without much success, with the manager of the Internet Cafe and the Captain's Circle manager, Lola. It was very frustrating, to say the least. DINING: We had traditional dining in the Botticelli dining room with some great table-mates. The service was impeccable, but I found that the food selections had gone downhill from the Princess cruise we took last summer and the eight others that we had taken in the past. As the Grand is usually home-ported in Southampton, maybe the menus changed to accommodate that clientele. Not sure. The food in the Horizon Court was good, but it is always a hassle to find a table. LOUNGES: Our favorite lounge was the Wheelhouse Bar. The place is quiet, intimate, and with great service. They also make great martinis! I just wish that they could have found more peanuts to put on the table. The Skywalker Lounge was a great place to read and just watch the water go by. It was quiet during the day and I understand it was even quiet at night on this trip. Every evening they served tapas and discounted drinks of the day to Platinum and Elite members. Loved that. STATEROOM: Our stateroom, this trip, was an inside one on the Baja Deck. It was perfectly adequate, but we had to ask for a blanket as just the sheet was too cold and the comforter was too warm. Edgar, our room steward, provided great service. ENTERTAINMENT: We passed on some of the entertainment. A couple of times the cruise director, Billy London, had to cancel performances due to the rocking of the ship and schedule something else. Most of the entertainment was adequate to good in my estimation. The ship is old and falling apart. The maintenance crews were busy, but nothing was down enough to inconvenience anybody. You can see lots of wear and tear which is why the ship is scheduled for a 6 week, $60 million dry dock this spring. The Captain stated that we will not recognize the ship when she comes back out. We are looking forward to the first trip out of dry dock. I believe it is scheduled to head back to Southampton on 5 May. NOTE: I noticed that there were more short-tempered passengers on this cruise than on others that we had taken. Spouses were at each other and even strangers were getting testy with other strangers. Most of the passengers were veteran cruisers so there was no explanation (or excuse) for it all. The "Walk-off's" had congregated in the Michelangelo Dining Room for debarkation. When they finally allowed the first group to depart one older man pushed his way to the door and someone pushed him. He came up swinging and apparently connected with the person who pushed him. The fight only lasted seconds, but seems to be typical of the temperament of the people all during the crossing. Maybe these people need to fly next time. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
I think of transatlantic cruising as an opportunity to nibble around the edges of Europe while reducing the major hassles: only one long flight, and minimal packing & unpacking -- only our independent 8 night pre-cruise stay in London ... Read More
I think of transatlantic cruising as an opportunity to nibble around the edges of Europe while reducing the major hassles: only one long flight, and minimal packing & unpacking -- only our independent 8 night pre-cruise stay in London and Portsmouth required changing hotels. While Princess waved its bus passengers into priority embarkation queues in Southampton, the rest of us waited in hour+ long lines outside the terminal in chill wind despite priortity boarding passes (platinum members). It was the worse embarkation I've endured in 28 cruises! This was the first time our luggage made it to the cabin before we did! We were very happy with our decision to book a mini-suite -- to us it's worth the extra cost to have the additional space since we can enjoy being in our cabin. We gained a 3-cushion sofa, small table, extra storage space, and a tub in the bathroom (handy for hanging hand laundry). For dinner we usually choose 1st traditional dining, and we found our 6 tablemates enjoyable. The food was tasty, but I couldn't rate it very good because it usually arrived only warm -- rarely hot -- and diminished in quality from sitting in the warming dishes too long. Since the veggies wtih dinner amounted to a garnish than a "serving," our waiter obligingly provided extras on request. At breakfast and lunch we enjoyed the "sharing tables" in the dining room. It was a tough choice between the dining room and buffet, because I also enjoy the greater variety at the buffet, especially the nice salad bar at lunch. The afternoon tea rates a special mention -- fresh & hot raisin scones are not to be missed! We read on Cruise Critic to be sure to catch lecturer John Maxtone-Graham, so we knew to get the to the theater early to have a seat. Scheduling the 2 lecturers back-to-back in the morning was unfair to both speakers, and led to having to be in place more than 30 min. in advance of the program. We always enjoy the production shows with lavish costumes and talented singers and dancers. As on our prior cruise on the Star Princess, we were baffled by the decision to put a production show Motor City in the small Vista Lounge (terrible sight lines), and put solo performers in the bigger Princess Theater. It was hard to appreciate slight of hand card tricks from 30 rows back! The Vista Lounge is terrible for movies, too -- passengers sitting in the higher single chairs block the view of those on the lower sofas, and nobody can see from behind the columns, or from the side alcoves! The juggler had to look up to make sure the objects he threw didn't crash into the low-hanging lights. The Vista Lounge doesn't work well for anything. There were a lot of activities offered during the day. I would have liked a Scrabble get-together, but this ship lacks a game room (just 4 tables off to the side in the casino). Two small jigsaw puzzles were set up in the library, but there was only seating for 2 people at a time. Too bad the people who design ships don't seem to understand what space is needed! I did enjoy the daily Sudoku sheets, still miss the NY Times newspaper they used to print for us. I liked the chef's demo in the Princess theater and the fruit & veg carving demo in the atrium. It's 3 for 3 -- I was also timed out on Princess' cruise satisfaction survey before I had the chance to finish! Armed with info from the internet, we did sightseeing in Lerwick, Shetland Islands on our own: a walk to Ft. Charlotte and then to the Town Hall. The town hall has beautiful stained glass windows with important characters from the islands' history. The setting in Akureyri, Iceland was so beautiful with the trees in autumn color and the water as smooth as glass. We took a free city bus uphill to the botanical garden, the walked back downhill to the modern church and pedestrian shopping area. There were "photo ops" set up for tourists with giant trolls, a group of polar bears, and a little Viking. I regret not getting out of the city to see the Godafoss waterfall. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Stormy North Atlantic crossing on the Jewel Overview: We had cruised on the Jewel before - through the Baltic s in 2006, so we knew what to expect. However, our expectations were exceeded. If anything, RCCL have upped ... Read More
Stormy North Atlantic crossing on the Jewel Overview: We had cruised on the Jewel before - through the Baltic s in 2006, so we knew what to expect. However, our expectations were exceeded. If anything, RCCL have upped their game since our previous Jewel experience and our first trans Atlantic crossing was overall an exciting adventure. From the highly visible Master of the vessel Captain Stig Nilsen, through his Officers and crew, we enjoyed a quality cruise experience marred only by the disappointment in not being able to dock in Newfoundland. As the cruise was scheduled to sail around Iceland and through some notoriously unpredictable North Atlantic seas, we were comforted when we learned that the Captain had been born and raised in Nordic waters! His experience of North Atlantic waters proved to be particularly beneficial when in the interests of passenger safety and comfort, the Captain had to change course and skillfully navigate the ship around the fringes of a major storm that had developed off Greenland shortly after we left Reykjavik. Embarkation: We had pre-arranged an RCI transfer from Heathrow airport to Harwich. We were met by an RCI representative in the arrivals hall. Ours was a relatively early flight so we were asked to wait in a waiting area with our luggage until sufficient other passengers arrived to connect with the transfer bus. After about a ninety minute wait we were directed to a coach for the two hour journey to Harwich. On arrival at the pier we were ushered through to a priority embarkation area reserved for Platinum, Diamond and diamond Plus Crown and Anchor members. Embarkation formalities were speedily processed and we were on board within fifteen minutes of arriving in Harwich. The Ship: The Jewel is a beautiful ship. Now over six years since it's launch in 2004, she is still in remarkably good condition showing only few signs of wear and tear. She is spacious, clean, well appointed and well maintained. Although we had booked some ten months prior to the cruise, we had only managed to secure a balcony cabin virtually at the front of the ship starboard side. We were a little apprehensive having such a forward cabin especially as we had been warned of potentially high seas as we crossed the Atlantic. We normally prefer a much more centrally situated stateroom. We need not have worried as, even while sailing through the storm after leaving Reykjavik and the high seas that ensued for the following three days or so, the ship proved to be remarkably stable and we did not experience any more notable rocking and rolling in our forward situated cabin than anywhere else on the ship. Our balcony cabin was what one would expect on a ship of this nature. The bathroom is incredibly small but ingeniously designed and once one gets used to the cocoon like effect of shower, it is more than adequate. However, we are amazed that some of our overly obese fellow passengers who sailed on this specific cruise, could even fit in the shower which effectively is not much bigger than the capsule used to rescue the trapped miners in Chile. We did not get much use out of our balcony this cruise, partially because of the inclement weather during the latter half of the cruise but also because we were surrounded by chain smokers - above, below and to both the left and right of our stateroom! We really recommend that RCI reconsider its current smoking policy that prohibits permits smoking in a stateroom yet, inexplicably, permits the habit on balconies! For reformed non-smokers such as my wife and I, it effectively negates the benefit of a balcony stateroom when there is a constant stream of cigarette smoke wafting across the balcony as we experienced on this cruise. Dining: For a mass-market cruise line, we found the food on the Jewel to be generally good to very good. We understand dinner menus on RCI ships are pretty standard but apart from the typical fare that did not vary from day to day, we always found there to be sufficient alternatives to keep us interested. We had elected the "My Time" dining option in the Tides dining room for evening meals. The special area set aside for My Time diners was well managed and organized. We generally like to dine fairly late (after 08h00 p.m.) which means we usually miss the rush and we only had to wait more than a couple of minutes for a table on only one occasion of the twelve nights we dined there. Meals generally were well prepared, attractively presented by attentive waiting staff. The only downside of My Time dining is that one can never be guaranteed a seating in the same area each night which makes tipping a bit of a problem as one is often served by different teams of waiting staff. We had four different teams during our 14 night cruise. Still, we assume the waiting staff pool their gratuities. If not, we guess if all diners gave to their last set of waiting staff, tipping would even out in the longer run. In the Windjammer, the alternate buffet style restaurant, we found the food to be more than satisfactory in range, quality and presentation. It tends to be a bit of a scrum at breakfast and lunch times unless one is prepared to dine either very early or very late to avoid the crowds. Seating is always a premium at peak times. Even when we only went to lunch well after the peak dining period, we found seating to be very scarce - often exacerbated by somewhat selfish diners who continued to occupy tables to read or play cards after they had clearly finished their meals. We had dinner in the Windjammer on two nights and were surprised to find how many people seemed to prefer the very casual dining option. Meals were generally OK but when items run out a no replacement policy seems to prevail. On the one evening we noticed a lovely prime rib being carved medium rare just the way we liked it. However, by the time we had finished our starters, the prime rib had run out and no alternative was provided. There were three formal evenings on the cruise but we found that the majority of diners tended to ignore the recommended dress code often pitching in casual attire even on formal nights. We really believe all cruise lines should reconsider their formal dining policies and go the way many of the more up market cruise lines, such as Oceania and Azamara, have gone by adopting a smart casual dress code throughout their cruises. Passengers who like to dress up should be encouraged to do so whenever they like leaving the rest of to enjoy the casual ambience of a country club casual atmosphere. In particular, for those of us who have to travel long distances to link up with a cruise and therefore have restricted luggage capacity, the option of not having to pack formal wear would be very helpful! Entertainment: For the first time on a cruise (this was our seventh), we actually thought the entertainment on offer was pretty good! The hard working entertainment team under the able direction of an energetic and affable Cruise Director could not be faulted for effort and enthusiasm. Nightly shows were invariably better than we have come to expect on cruise lines and some shows, in particular the female impressionist and a musically versatile country and western singer, were especially good. The show orchestra was excellent and one could almost always find an entertainer, singer or ensemble performing at various places on the ship. Fitness and Recreation: We made good use of the fitness centre particularly on the additional unscheduled cruise days necessitated by the change in course to bypass Newfoundland. The centre was well equipped and maintained and one seldom had to wait for a treadmill or exercycle, even at peak times. However, we were disappointed there were no change room facilities at or near the fitness center. We found such to be welcome facility on other cruise lines as after an early morning workout, one could then proceed directly for a shower and clean up prior to breakfast without having to schlep back to one's stateroom - often at the other end of the ship. Destinations: The main purpose of our vacation was to visit relatives and friends in Canada. We had a choice of either flying direct to the States (very long and exhausting), or to break our journey by flying first to London. We were then faced with the no brainer dilemma of deciding whether to fly or cruise across the Atlantic. Needless to say, it did not take us too long to discern that a cruise would be the better, more relaxing and enjoyable option! We chose the Jewel primarily for it's itinerary and were not disappointed. We only took one ship excursion - in Reykjavik, and, as we enjoy touring new destinations on foot wherever possible, we did our own thing in the other ports of call. We find this generally to be a good way to get the "feel" of a place we have not visited before. In Le Havre and Cherbourg, we just walked the quaint city centres. We have been to France many times before so did not find any of the tours offered to be of much interest. Of course, we would have loved to revisit Paris (one of our favourite cities) had we docked for a longer time. However, the day excursion to Paris that was offered, half of which was to be spent on a tour bus, just did not seem to be attractive! Cove was delightful. We took a train to Cork but frankly found Cove to be of much more interest with, inter alia, its beautiful cathedral and famous Titanic walk. The obligatory black stout (in my case a Murphy's as we wandered into a typical Irish pub that served the local brew in direct opposition to the more famous Guinness) was especially enjoyable after a long walk through the town. In Akureyri, we were met by a niece who had emigrated to Iceland some twenty years ago. She gave us the grand Akureyri tour including visits to the beautiful, if small, Godafoss Falls - literally the Falls of the Gods and then the interesting Laufas turf covered settlement that has recently been restored that gives a good indication of how the settlers in the 18th/19th century lived. We thought Akureyri was a particularly beautiful part of the world, an area that reminded us a lot of Scotland. The ship's tour of Golden Circle outside Reykjavik was both good and not so good. The highlights were the Strokkur geysers that erupt on average every four to five minutes (very impressive), and a visit to the Gulfoss (Golden) Falls - apparently the highest Falls in Europe with a double cascade of 105 feet. It reminded us a little of a mini scaled version of the more famous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The negatives were a grossly overcrowded bus (55 passengers!) and sub standard refreshments that consisted of half a polony sandwich, a dried out pastry and a cup of undrinkable lukewarm coffee - this after the ship's tour brochure publicized that the tour included a lunch. We complained but got a distinctly hostile reaction from an unhelpful guest relations desk. We subsequently did get an apology about the misrepresentation of what the tour offered from the Guest Relations Manager, which was appreciated. Disappointingly, we missed docking at St John's in Newfoundland. As a result, our next port of call was Sydney, Nova Scotia. We had booked a ship's tour of the Cabot Trail but we cancelled this after our negative experience in Reykjavik. It rained quite heavily during the day we were in Sydney so we were not too unhappy that we had cancelled the short Cabot Trail trip. Sydney is a lovely little town that one can easily walk in a couple of hours. It has a strong Scottish heritage. One van see the Scottish influence everywhere but, somewhat incongruously, it has adopted the fiddle as it's musical instrument of choice. The bagpipe still abounds but definitely plays second fiddle to the fiddle!! Service: Service throughout the ship was friendly, courteous and efficient. Our cabin attendant, a delightful West Indian lady Michelle, kept our stateroom clean and well equipped at all times with unobtrusive attention to our needs. Disembarkation: Disembarkation was an absolute shambles, quite the worst we have ever experienced on any cruise anywhere. Despite the valiant efforts of the guest relations department to pre-plan and schedule what was always going to be a tricky process, many passengers completely disregarded the guidelines that had been fully communicated to them to facilitate a smooth disembarkation procedure. The chaos started with a requirement by the US immigration authorities to complete immigration procedures for all staff and passengers on board prior to authorizing the disembarkation process to commence. To ensure that the authorities saw those passengers who had early flights etc first, passengers were asked to present themselves in accordance with a pre-assigned numbered sequence. Needless to say this did not go according to plan with passengers generally pushing and shoving to get to the front of the queue regardless of the number they had been assigned. The result - inevitable congestion and frustration. The same problem reasserted itself when the go ahead to commence disembarkation was finally given. When we finally were allowed to disembark some ninety minutes behind schedule, we then experienced a further incomprehensible delay of almost an hour in the luggage collection area of what must be one of the worst cruise terminals anywhere. The nett effect was that, even though we had booked a ship transfer from pier to the airport, we only arrived at Logan International barely in time for check in for our midday flight to Canada. Concluding comments: Since our previous cruise on the Jewel in 2006 we have sailed on the other two brands in the RCI stable viz, Celebrity and the semi luxury Azamara, both of which are marketed at the more discerning traveler. We were thus expecting a cruise experience of somewhat lesser standard in terms of quality and service than that we had enjoyed on RCI's so called premium brands. However, even though it is clear the Royal Caribbean brand is pitched at a more mass market level, we were more then happy with our overall cruise experience on the Jewel, an experience that despite the stormy weather we encountered in the latter half of the cruise, in most respects exceeded our expectations. When we booked the cruise we had no appreciation that the crossing would be at the height of the North Atlantic hurricane season! We were somewhat astonished to see a chart on board that indicated we would be most likely to hit the back end of a hurricane off the cast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in September. Had we taken the trouble to research the historical weather patterns more closely it is highly probable we would have opted to cruise the North Atlantic a month or two later. It is sobering to reflect that our specific crossing fell directly between two major storms; one that hit Nova Scotia about ten days before we docked at Sydney and the other that devastated St John's in Newfoundland a week after we completed our crossing. We can thus be all the more thankful that due to the skill of the Captain and crew, we completed the crossing safely and in retrospect, with minimal discomfort. Overall a most enjoyable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Summary: Overall the ship, service and staff (everyone who you meet would always say hello or a greeting) are top notch and we enjoyed this experience on being on an Ocean liner rather than being on a Cruise ship while crossing the ... Read More
Summary: Overall the ship, service and staff (everyone who you meet would always say hello or a greeting) are top notch and we enjoyed this experience on being on an Ocean liner rather than being on a Cruise ship while crossing the Atlantic. On the whole, the transatlantic cruise was an enjoyable experience, but I would most likely not repeat this itinerary in the near future, based on a couple of reasons. The first point is that I prefer to have the opportunity to visit a few port of calls during our time onboard. The second reason is that as the Cunard cruise line is very traditional and too formal (i.e., the need to be in a business suit for the duration of the cruise during dinner time) for my liking as I personally like a little less formality when cruising (if it is just a couple nights I actually look forward in dressing up, but every night, it becomes a chore). Passengers: We were a party of six, consisting of myself, DW, DD's (ages 6 and 3, respectively), DFIL, and DMIL. There was a promotion when we booked that third and fourth passenger under 17 years old could sail for free on this itinerary. As the result we noticed that there was a fair number of kids on the cruise. Pre-boarding: We flew to London a week before to see the city before boarding the ship on August 28. During our stay in London, we were able to take in a few attractions (London Eye, Themes river cruise, and Legoland in Windsor), historical landmarks (Buckingham Place and Hampton Court Palaces) and some shopping (Harrods). Embarkation: As DFIL and DMIL are Cunard Diamond World Club members, we were able to check-in via the priority line and were able to get processed, photographed and issued our ship ID cards within 15 minutes. We then passed through the security screening before being allowed to step onboard the QM2. As it was past noon time we were able to go to our cabins before heading to Kings Court for lunch. As we arrived later (approximately around 1:30 PM), it seems that there were no issues with large groups of cruise passengers waiting to be processed. At 4 PM we went to the Spa on deck 7 for the required reporting to the muster stations, wearing of the life vests and safety review. Twenty minutes later we finished and returned back to the cabin to store the life vests and walked the back of the ship to watch the sail away. We actually left the port 10 minutes early at 4:50 PM, just behind and ahead of a couple of P&O ships and the RCI Liberty of the Seas who were also in Southampton. Cabin: We had a Portside Oceanview cabin #6016 on deck 6 that sleeps four. The cabin was situated near the front of the ship just ahead of stairway A. It was configured as two beds on the bottom and two dropping down from the ceiling. I ended up sleeping on the upper bunk for most of the cruise with my older DD and DW sleeping on the other upper bunk. The younger DD always slept on the bottom bed. Whereas the upper bunk beds were firm and comfortable, we found that the lower beds were a little lumpy and showing signs that they needed to be replaced. We found that the beds on the HAL ships that we sailed most recently on werethe most comfortable in comparison to the QM2 beds. Our cabin steward was Ireneo and he was very good in keeping the cabin clean and making the beds and the daily night turndown service (loved the chocolates). It seemed that Ireneo was always working, when we would go to the cabin. Given that he seems to have a lot of cabins to upkeep, I was not surprised that we didn't get any towel animals. The In-laws had an Aft Portside Inside cabin #4202 on deck 4 (that also can sleep four) which was just behind stairway D. Food/Dinner Service: We were assigned to table #99 (seating for six) in the lower Britannia Main Dining Room (MDR) deck 2 for first seating at 6 PM. Our waiter was John and his assistant Randy. John would handle to meal orders and were able to accommodate the kids' needs and wants. Randy served the desserts and the after dinner beverages. The kid's menu did not change, but given the number of choices available on the menu, the kids were able to find something to eat. On most nights I ordered the beef courses while my DFIL ordered the fish dishes. DW tried the Spa menu selections and found them not to be too much different from the selections on the regular menu. The meals in general were good but not inspiring in comparison to other cruise lines. The desserts I found were ok, but not very exciting. For our 10th anniversary, we were given small cake that was made on the day of and it was very good. Other than going to the MDR, we spent most of our lunches and breakfasts at the Kings Court buffet on deck 7. The Kings Court is composed of four serving areas: Carvary, Lotus (Asian), Italian, and a Grill station. During breakfast the Carvary and Italian stations would serve selections that would make a full English breakfast, while the Asian would have some similar selections with the addition of fried rice or Congee (rice porridge). The Grill would serve made to order omelets & eggs, pancakes, and waffles. The selections for breakfast did not change throughout the cruise. For Lunch, the Carvary would have a daily selection of meat that would be craved on demand. The Italian station would have various pizzas available along with different type of meats and veggies prepared in a Mediterranean style. The Asian selection would have a soup and noodles and some veggie stir-fry. The Grill would serve sandwiches and burgers (always had a line-up during the lunch hour). We also went to eat at the Lion Pub as it had a pub menu that they served from noon to 3 PM everyday. We also went of afternoon tea on most days (3:30 to 4:30 PM), where brewed tea, various finger sandwiches, desserts and scones (with butter and jam) would be served with live entertainment in the form of a string quartette, a harpist twice and a dance band. One day we also tried the self-serve tea which was located Entertainment: During the first couple of days, DFIL was able to get hold of some tickets to watch a couple of shows in the Planetarium (Illusions Theater). It was an interesting experience to be able to watch shows on the creation of the universe and the exploration of life on other planets in the middle of the ocean. At night time the Illusions would then show regular movies. I was able to catch Sherlock Homes at 10:30 PM on the last night before we arrived in New York. I was able to attend a couple of the song and dance presentations, listened to a theater show singer and take in a play performed by RADA. I missed the first day's entertainment and skipped the Violinist. Laundry: It was a welcome surprise that on QM2 there are several self-serve laundry facilities located throughout the ship on several decks and fore and aft of the ship. The ship even provides complementary laundry detergent in self-dissolving single use packets. At each laundry station there are usually three pairs of washers and dryers along with a couple of irons and boards. They are opened from 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM everyday. Since the kids were always waking up early, I was able to get to the laundry stations first thing in the morning (during the three times I washed our clothes) and didn't have to wait for a machine to be available. On the second last day of the cruise, there was an offer for laundry service by the ship for $30 and up to 30 items of clothing, so long as it fit into the laundry bag. Given that self-serve was free and on previous cruises the cost was $20 for a bag of laundry, we didn't bother taking up on the offer. Children's Program: On the first day, we signed up both kids for the children's program and the older DD attended the program for a couple of days before deciding that she wanted to follow us instead. The younger DD did not attend the program as she was not interested in any of the activities that were being offered. In all, the program was not very well organized as there were only two age groups - Ages 1 to 5 and 6 to 17. Being that older DD just only turned 6, she was the youngest in the group and as such not a lot of activities were geared towards her age or interest (in DD opinion it was to much boys oriented stuff). Disembarkation: As the ship time was being adjusted almost every night throughout the cruise, my kids who were still on London time was waking up earlier and earlier. On the morning when we were to arrive into New York, they woke up at 4:45 AM (ship time) and luckily were able to see the statue of Liberty as we sailed by the monument at around 5 AM. Leaving the ship was a very easy process, as we followed the In-laws and were able to leave immediately shortly after the 8:30 AM (when we needed to leave the cabins). After giving back our ship ID cards to security to scan, we then left the ship to pick up our luggage and clear US immigration at the Brooklyn port. We then took a cab into Manhattan were we stayed for two additional days before taking a short flight back home from LaGuardia. Additional Notes: As Transatlantic cruises go, this one was uneventful other than some rain during the first couple of days out from Southampton. Before this cruise, QM2 was in Hamburg, Germany and as such during the noon time announcements there were German and French announcements in addition to the Commodores updates. Due to weather fronts, the QM2 would need to skip a port on her next cruise destination (New England and Canada) and stay overnight in New York before heading directly to Boston, MA. Even being a full ship, it didn't feel crowded and in fact that the indoor covered pool (deck 12) was never full was a bonus as DD and I were able to swim a couple of times without bumping into people all the time. During the formal night dinners, I noticed that almost 90% of men were in Tuxes and women in proper dresses. This is the first time I have seen the dress code being followed so closely. The staff was not very pushy about getting drinks, taking pictures or going for art auctions and this made the cruising experience much most pleasant. As I stated previously, all the ship's staff were very kind and courteous and would also greet you as they passed by in the corridors. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
My DH and I had a wonderful time on the Eurodam. We are a married couple and are "seniors". This was our first Transatlantic Cruise. We have done recent cruises on Celebrity, Princess and HAL. Celebrity is our favorite with HAL ... Read More
My DH and I had a wonderful time on the Eurodam. We are a married couple and are "seniors". This was our first Transatlantic Cruise. We have done recent cruises on Celebrity, Princess and HAL. Celebrity is our favorite with HAL placing second. However, all three lines a very similar and we have enjoyed all the cruises. We flew from JFK to Amsterdam two days early. Since we had already "done" Amsterdam, we checked our large bags at the Amsterdam Airport and immediately took the train to Antwerp. We spent 24 hours in Antwerp. Everything we wanted was in walking distance from Central Station. Central Station is the prettiest train station I have ever seen. The diamond museum and the diamond district were easily walked. The city has a beautiful zoo right next to the train station. We walked to the Hilton. The following day we checked our carry-on at the train station and continued our tour of Antwerp. The Jewish quarter was fascinating. There is an excellent tourist office right in the station. That night we returned on the train to Amsterdam and stayed at the airport Hilton. The next day we easily retrieved our bags from the lockers and went to the ship. We had purchased transfers because the embarkation was to take place about 15 miles out of town due to the Sail In. Embarkation was a nightmare. It took us over two hours to board the ship. It was extremely noisy and you could not hear the numbers as they were called. We had a large interior cabin on the Upper Veranda deck and it was lovely. There was plenty of storage space. The room and the beds were comfortable. The service was excellent; the cabin stewards were friendly. In fact, we were greeted pleasantly by all the staff all the time. We had only one problem with poor service and that was in the Canaletto restaurant. Our stewards were always working from early in the morning until late at night and they did a great job even granting special requests. The buffets were excellent; the food was fresh and well presented and there was a great variety. But the crowds were awful. It was very difficult to find a seat at breakfast and lunch unless you dined very early or very late. I thought the MDR menus were strange and there was not enough variety. One day there was a mushroom appetizer, a mushroom soup and a mushroom entrEe. The next day there was another mushroom entrEe. Maybe they got their mushrooms on sale. There were a few days when the chicken and steak on the menu was very similar to the chicken and steak on the alternative menu. The rolls were good but there was little variety in them. You had the same rolls every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, MDR or buffet. When the food at the MDR was good; it was very good. The lobster and Dover Sole were delicious. But much of the food (including the beef) was just ordinary. When food was covered with sauce there was way too much sauce. Order your sauces on the side. A salad with crab meat had one small piece of crab on it. The desserts at dinner were awful! My favorite meal in the MDR was high tea. That was delicious and the small pastries there were excellent! We ate once in the Pinnacle Grille and the food was ordinary; the beef was just as mediocre as in the MDR. We would not return to the Pinnacle. We had several lunches and dinners at Tamarind. The food there was very good except for the chocolate cup that was flavored with chili. We did not try the grill or Slice. There were several extra buffets served by the pool but these were also crowded. Canaletto was just ordinary. The service there was the only poor service we had on the entire cruise. Te servers were curt and just going through the motions. Only go there if the MDR menu has nothing you can eat. The ship is beautiful. We loved the wrap-around teak deck and the deck chairs there. The Exploration cafe on the Observation deck is a great idea and is beautiful and relaxing except in the early afternoon when they have activities up there. HAL should move the loud activities to another part of the ship. The cafe contains a well-stocked library and computers and lots of sofas and lounge chairs. It should be for quiet contemplation. Eurodam is well maintained. There are no signs of wear and tear and the crew is always polishing and painting and sweeping. We purchased a full-cruise pass to the hydro-pool. We would not do that again because there was so much to do elsewhere that we had to force ourselves to go up and change to use the pool. I thought the pool and the heat lounges were fun but once or twice is enough. If you decide to try this, see if you can purchase a one day pass and upgrade to full pass if you like it. My husband said the gym was satisfactory; I preferred to walk on the Promenade for my exercise. There were lots of activities during the day. We thought we would be bored but we were not. We especially enjoyed the computer classes. There were also movies, games, cooking classes and dance classes. There were interesting travel lectures. The evening shows were fair except for the two male comedians. By now you know that we had a rendezvous with Hurricane Earle. We missed our last two ports. We observed the crew doing extra drills on deck during this time. The captain and the cruise director did a great job keeping us informed during this time. There were repeated updates on our TV screen. We had a "Good-bye Earle" party on the last day of our cruise with open bar and all the lobster and crab you could eat. We spend the last part of our cruise "hiding" from Earle and peaceful Cape Cod. We were not allowed to disembark because of INS rules. I was disappointed in the gift shop. It was not well-staffed during the day time and I thought it could be larger. There was a very limited selection (except for the big ticket items like high-end jewelry. The day we stopped in St. Anthony, there were tons of HAL cruisers crowded into a small drugstore buying sundries and candy. . I cannot emphasize how hard the crew works. We saw out dining room waiters on duty most days for lunch and dinner at the buffet and at night in the MDR. These folks (and our cabin stewards) were well- deserving not only of the tips that were added to our shipboard bill but of extra tips besides. We overhead some people saying that they were not going to tip the crew because we missed our last two ports and HAL was not compensating them for it. That is appalling. This was a TA cruise. Our favorite port was Edinburgh. We did a tour of Edinburgh and the Tattoo Fest. We purchased these through the ship's shore excursions at an exorbitant price. We live and learn. We will surely return to Scotland and tour on our own. We loved Iceland and St. John's. The other ports, Kirkwall, Torshavn, Greenland and St. Anthony were very low key and interesting. We toured Iceland with a private group and toured the other ports on our own. The scenic cruising on Prins Christian Sound was beautiful. Disembarkation in New York was smoother than embarkation. We purchased transfers for both embarkation and disembarkation. We had long waits on the bus both times. Overall it was a lovely relaxing cruise. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Just completed my 5th Queen Mary II westbound crossing (had done the same many years ago on the QE II one time as well) While the experience can never compare to the QE II I have enjoyed my crossings, as I love being at sea. Last year ... Read More
Just completed my 5th Queen Mary II westbound crossing (had done the same many years ago on the QE II one time as well) While the experience can never compare to the QE II I have enjoyed my crossings, as I love being at sea. Last year we were upgraded to the Princess Grill, and the experience was superb, so we booked Princess for this year and were upgraded to Queens. My expectations for the dining experience were high, but was I in for a let down. We were on the first trip where they made some changes, as far as I am concerned downgrades. there was a A la Carte menu every night, which was cut down to 3 nights, when the Maitre De saw my displeasure, he told me if I didnt see anything on the menu lunch time to let him know. the nights of A la Carte the menu was bigger but there were still cuts, portions were smaller, must of the plates were delivered cruise style, and the wait staff, though great were very overworked. I know everyone is trying to save money, but this is not where it should be done, and again I should not have had to feel that it was a downgrade from the Princess grill of the previous year (I am sure that has gotten worse as well) The bottom line is the grills are the top of the line, and the guest's should be treated as such with spectacular food and instant service. While I probably would go again in the future, I cant even see the point of paying for the Queens Grill (their feeling is if they can upgrade someone, and they like it they will go for the higher one the next time, which we did, and we were let down. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Voyage of the Vikings 2010- 35 Days This was my first cruise over 10 days and didn't really know what to expect. It was perfect! Embarkation was slow,but smooth. Luggage was delivered inside staterooms very quickly. Ship is ... Read More
Voyage of the Vikings 2010- 35 Days This was my first cruise over 10 days and didn't really know what to expect. It was perfect! Embarkation was slow,but smooth. Luggage was delivered inside staterooms very quickly. Ship is older but in ok condition. Staterooms all have a couch as well as beds. Plenty of closet and draw space. TV position isn't the best. If there are huge waves and you have a cabin in the front of the ship you will hear and feel the slap of the wave, as I expect you will on all ships. Appreciated the special grill luncheons out by the pool. Food only got better as the cruise progressed. Excellent food and a variety at every meal--don't miss the waffles for breakfast with fresh berries! I preferred dining in the Lido-you could sample each of the entrees, appetizers, etc., without having a million plates in front of you, as presentation is important with HAL.Also, if another diner at your table ordered an additional entree after completing the first, then the whole table had to wait until that person was finished to get dessert and coffee. (I can't explain why I was in a hurry...) HAL offers soda drink cards for fountain beverages-you save about $1 per soda. The Coffee Bar in the Explorers Lounge also offers coffee cards--these are only a good value when one can use the card for a large daily special (this changed when the staff person changed). Spa is small-offers warm tile loungers, steam bath and hot tub. Last two weeks the the smaller steam bath didn't work everyday. There is a free sauna. I purchased the spa pass and was generally one of two using the facilities at a variety of times during this cruise. There are only 6 tile loungers, so with a younger group of passengers it may get crowded. Others reported enjoying the nightly shows. There was also a different movie offered each day at different times to accommodate passenger schedules. The Captain kept passengers informed daily at minimum and advised when approaching views that passengers would enjoy (sometimes the evening before the actual approach. He also shared information he gathered about other ships in port, etc. This was something I wasn't use to hearing and really appreciated during this cruise. Interesting lectures were provided and then televised. Cooking classes were also offered. Not many "active" planned activities on this cruise. "Golf" was it besides "Trivia" everyday. The Explorer's Lounge has a variety of board games to borrow/use; and offered a sign-up to find fellow players. Going through Prince Christian Sound, a guide provided verbal information for the whole duration! This was one of the highlights of the cruise for me. Staff are friendly and respectful. They work very hard to ensure passengers are comfortable and enjoying themselves. Ports that required tendering were painful. If you weren't on a ship's excursion the wait was very long. The staff that managed the "tickets" weren't forthcoming with the truth. One female staff in particular, was quite condescending when speaking with passengers--We passengers restrained ourselves and didn't dispose of her in the ocean! Recommend that you avoid cruises that require a number of tender ports. The weather was cool and foggy until we reached Copenhagen (at night anyhow) the foghorn was required frequently. It is difficult to describe the cruise-the views were surreal and I felt like I was visiting another planet. Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. My favorite ports were the small communities in Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland and Norway. Everyone should have the opportunity to visit these countries. The larger ports were like visiting any metropolitan area in the summer...crowded and too much to see without the time to take advantage of being in the cities. Passengers were gifted with whale (different types), porpoise, dolphin and sailfish sightings! Glorious days at sea! Smoking is only allowed in staterooms, outside and in the casino. The casino slot machines just ate money--one jackpot in 35 days! If you are a gambler stick to the tables. It is a blatant lie that "the payouts are the same as Las Vegas."..and the casino staff kept repeating it like a mantra. Disembarkation was orderly and smooth without any incidents. It was a great cruise--both the itinerary and the Maasdam met all of my expectations and more!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
After a wonderful cruise on Jewel across the Atlantic and visits to Brussels, Whitby (UK), York, Nottingham, Peterborough, and Reading we finally arrived in Southampton to board Queen Mary 2 for our return crossing of the Atlantic. We had ... Read More
After a wonderful cruise on Jewel across the Atlantic and visits to Brussels, Whitby (UK), York, Nottingham, Peterborough, and Reading we finally arrived in Southampton to board Queen Mary 2 for our return crossing of the Atlantic. We had travelled on QE2 on a number of occasions (the last one being in the 80's) and were very much looking forward to Queen Mary. We stayed at the DeVere Hotel the night before so we were well rested before the crossing. We returned the car to Enterprise the morning of the trip and they took us to the ship with all of our luggage. After a very uneventful check in procedure we finally got onto the ship at around 12.30 (our scheduled check in time was 2.30 but no one seemed to mind that we were early). We found our cabin (a B2 balcony on deck 5) and within minutes the luggage arrived and we unpacked. We then set out to begin the exploration. We were a little alarmed to find that the wall decorations on Deck 5 was the entire story of the sinking of the Titanic!!!. Overall the ship impressed us immensely, the level of decoration, the polished woods and the wall panels really took your breath away. The entire ship was beautifully decorated even to a higher standard than we remembered relative to the QE2. There was never a delay for the elevators which were more than enough for the ship. There were more than enough bars to suit any taste from the Champagne bar to the English Pub. We were somewhat quick to discover that Cunard was very different to the US cruise lines in that the staff did not really want to know who you are, what your name is and what you like to drink. We have become so used to the levels of friendliness by the staff and officers on the US cruise lines that we felt that this was a little "stand offish" by the crew and officers. The pursers desk was understaffed every time we went there, with long lines and very disinterested staff. We ate in the early seating of the Britannia restaurant and found the menu to be considerably inferior to, for example, Jewel of the Seas, which we took on our Eastward crossing. The service was very friendly and efficient in the dining room but, interestingly enough, we were asked to vacate our table by about 7.45 so that it could be prepared for the next sitting. In our entire cruising experience (some 30 cruises) this was the first time this had ever happened. The breakfast sitting in the main restaurant was quite exceptional in that the food was very good and if you did not feel like socialising you could get a table for 2 just by asking. They set out many tables for four and would give them to a couple on their own. There were many alternatives for lunch and we tried many of them including the Golden Lion English Pub. We only tried the Kings Court once and it became known by many passengers as "the feeding trough". We did try Todd English's Restaurant once but we were more than disappointed in the choice of dishes (there was no salad course) and the way dishes were put together was beyond our comprehension. For example, my wife had grilled sea bass and it was served on a bed of corn with rice as an accompaniment - all starch with no green veggies. I tried their Creme Brulee but could only eat half, it was tasteless. At the end my wife and I decided to have a cup of coffee as we did not think they could mess that up; they did- it was only lukewarm!!. A total disaster. We found the internet service to be very good and the enrichment series and concerts to be exceptional. They had three principal lecturers and a series of classical music concerts by a pianist and a string quartet. Much, much better than Royal Caribbean on their crossing. We went to the passenger talent show just to see whether it was as good as the one on the Jewel. We were not disappointed. A young lady with an exceptional voice sang the Sarah McLaughlin song "Angel" beautifully and a 76 year old man sang "My Way" with an enormously strong and melodious voice. The entire ship was beautifully decorated and it was only let down by the food standards and the friendliness of the service personnel both in the bars and the restaurants. The formal nights were duly attended in dinner jackets and evening dresses but, again, the food was not up the dress standards. The one thing we did find useful, after five weeks away, was the self service laundry on each deck. Disembarkation was again uneventful except that the tour desk put a leaflet in your cabin listing their transport services to the various transportation hubs. They listed, for example, a town car service to LaGuardia with a limit of two suitcases at a cost of $145 or you could take the coach for $40 each. Because we had four suitcases we decided to take a taxi to laGuardia. We got outside onto the concourse and we were approached by a limo driver who took us to LaGuardia for $58 total including all of our suitcases. He told us that his company had a contract with Cunard and he could not understand why they would charge $145 for the same trip. I guess it is profiteering gone mad. Will we undertake another crossing on the Queen Mary? I don't really know. It fell well below our expectations, other than its appearance, but I guess when it is compared with the hassle of a transatlantic flight it might be preferable despite its drawbacks. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
As someone who was really, really excited about cruising a new ship on it's maiden voyage I can not tell you how much I was looking forward to a royal time. Shipboard Entertainment: The ship's decor is beautiful! In fact ... Read More
As someone who was really, really excited about cruising a new ship on it's maiden voyage I can not tell you how much I was looking forward to a royal time. Shipboard Entertainment: The ship's decor is beautiful! In fact there are many instances on the ship where NCL went to extremes to get it right - the Cirque Dreams & Dinner for example, is by far the best show on the high seas. Combine a very good three course meal with the cirque performers and you get a dinner show that is family friendly and exciting. Nothing on the high seas comes close. This is a definite must for those cruising the Epic The Legends in concert is very good as well. Having seen the Legends show in Vegas the show on the Epic was of the same quality just shorter. In Vegas you'll see 7-8 performers doing 2-3 songs. On board we had Tina Turner, Madonna and Elvis. All were good performers and all did 4-5 songs with Elvis doing the most. This wasn't a cheesy show but a well performed show. No extra fee. Blue Man Group did an hour show. I hadn't seen it before and enjoyed it. I was told by a casino worker from Vegas that the BMG was only 10-15 minutes shorter than the Vegas show - but the Vegas show costs $100. On board the Epic it's FREE!! This was my first time seeing BMG and it was an enjoyable show. Second City improv performances - I enjoyed the group. There were 6 performers 4 guys and 2 girls. I thought that the brunette, skinny balding guy and larger guy were the funniest. If you like improve than you'll like this. If you don't like improv you may want to pass on this one. No extra fee The Murder Mystery show was ok. If you like Second City then you will like the murder mystery. The food was good for a fixed lunch menu. I wish the actors would have stuck to a script rather than done as much improve but overall it was an enjoyable 90 minutes. Additional charge. O'Sheehans: It is located on deck 6 mid ship. It has the looks of your neighborhood Beef O'Brady's (an American Sports Bar). You can get breakfast 24/7 as well as excellent , fish & chips, sandwiches and desserts. If you're looking for comfort food than this is your place. My personal favorite was the fish & chips. The fish was FRESH and fantastic, not the frozen fish sticks. I could go on and on about this restaurant - there wasn't really anything I didn't like at O'Sheehans. Most importantly is the staff who were working there. After 2 days one of the waiters, "Ricky", would greet us by name when we entered and would wave at us if we were walking by. He remembered our drinks and what we had ordered the day before as well. He was friendly, outgoing and really made our visits to O'Sheehans memorable. In fact we filled out two (2) comment cards, which we turned in, complementing the excellent staff and food for O'Sheehans. Now realize that this is a sports pub/restaurant. There is lots of ambient noise from the 2-story atrium behind, the casino at one end and the adjacent bowling lanes. If you're looking for quiet and cozy this is not the place. However if you're looking for comfort food, smiling faces and a place like Cheer's - O'Sheehans is the place to be. Surprisingly this is a no fee eatery. La Cucina: This Italian specialty restaurant was well worth the $10 cover charge. You go to deck 15, thru the buffet area to the very front of the ship and walk down the stairs. It has a nicely decorated entrance and inside if very cozy - lots of stone, trees, faux library books, etc., We were seated at the window in the very front of the ship. We observed several pods of dolphins, turtles (my wife said seals) and birds. It was a wonderful and romantic atmosphere. My wife and I weren't pleased with the dinner rolls, calamari or minestrone soup (the calamari was better at O'Sheehans). The assistant maitre' de did everything to make us happy. We had the Margarita pizza and we LOVED it! If you like a true Italian pizza, like you get in Rome, then go to La Cucina. Given the appearance of La Cucina and the service I would definitely return to this restaurant. The churaassioro restaurant, Moderno, was a pleasant surprise. This is NCL's version of Texas de Brazil. Our waitress was friendly, pleasant and provided us with excellent service. The "gaucho's" who brought the different foods around to the table were efficient. This was a very good dining experience and we enjoyed it as much as the Texas de Brazil. My only complaint is that I ate too much of the various meats before they came around with the filet mignon! considering the price for this restaurant I would definitely do this again. Our final specialty restaurant experience was Tappanyaki - the Japanese show/dining experience. The servers were friendly and efficient. The chef was nice. My only complaint is that I was tasting garlic the remainder of the night and the next morning. My impression of this restaurant was one of having been there, done that but not likely to return. Manhattan Club. The larger of the two no fee MDR the Manhattan Club is located in the rear of the ship. The dEcor is nicely done with lots of earth tones and wood. We dined in here twice, breakfast and lunch. On each occasion the service was slower than the other places that we ate and the food was not on the same level of the other areas of the ship. Legends in Concert played in this venue but we had seen them and we weren't about to fight the crowd. In a conversation with crew we learned that the galley that serves the Manhattan Club is located on deck 4 so the wait staff has to walk up and down. I guess that explains the longer wait for food. Taste. The smaller of the two MDR's located on deck 5 right under the casino. Taste has bricks and more color than the Manhattan Club. I think it pushes the envelop in color and I really liked it. The service was good and the food was better than what we received in the Manhattan Club. My only dislike about Taste is the seats in the open area that look upward to the casino and the 7th floor. Looking down on the diners it looks nice, however, seating there and looking up wasn't very comfortable and we asked to be moved. Of the two MDR's I preferred Taste to the Manhattan Club. The casino is rather long and unlike other cruse lines has dealers at their two (2) poker tables. There is an abundance of table games and this was the first time I can remember playing Pai Gow at sea (would have preferred an automatic shuffler). Table limits ranged from $5 to $25 and there were more than enough dealers present. The slot machines where placed throughout the ship with new slots in addition to the older 3-reel slot machines. My wife made the comment that she felt like this was a real casino rather than a "ship casino". As someone who has spent too much time on land based casino's I concur with my wife. The Epic's casino has a feel of Harrah's in A.C. My biggest complaint about the casino was the number of smokers on this cruise. While playing in the daily poker tournament there were a few players who couldn't stay away from the cigarettes for more than 10 minutes. One of the machines that my wife seemed to like was on the end and located right next to a cigarette receptacle. I kept wondered why she tolerated the smokers there but that machine was one of a few that actually gave her some profits. Unlike other ships there really isn't a lot of public outdoor space in which to walk, watch the water or to sit. Deck 7 leads outdoor where there is a jogging track but the presence of the lifeboats doesn't allow you to sit or relax. On Deck 15 there are the side rails but the back of the ship consists of Spice H2O and a pair of hot tubs in the ships corners. There is amphitheatre seating at Spice and the pool raises to a dancing area where they had a "Jersey Boy" group performing the first night. Unfortunately the weather was too cold and windy for me to spend too much time. They sounded really good and appeared indoors on other nights. The rock climbing walls and repelling walls are located on deck 15 towards the back and near the water slide exits. It seemed that whenever I was on deck there was at least an inch of water that was splashing out of the water slides. It was difficult to walk in that area without getting your shoes wet. According to workers..."we told them {NCL} they need more drains." The rock walls themselves are relatively short compared to those on RCCL. The repelling wall was a letdown as it took longer to put on the gear than it did to come down. For those who have never done rock climbing it's easy enough and should be fun. If however, you're looking for a challenge you may be disappointed. One of my disappointing encounters was going to deck 17 to try the Epic bounce, a bungee/trampoline. I got in line at 5:05 and watched 5 cruisers jumping. When it was my turn the worker in charge had me get on the scale and said, "I'm sorry but the limit is 200 pounds. (I weigh 230) It's a ship's safety rule." Having done the exact same bungee 18 months earlier at a vacation destination on land (and weighing in at 225) I know that the bungee could handle my weight but it was now 5:50 and after waiting 45 minutes I was upset. "How come there's no sign?" I asked. All I got was a shoulder shrug! So adults beware if you are 200 pounds and above don't bother standing in line. To NCL - Post a darn sign will you? Considering that this ship has around 5,000 passengers I expected a larger feeling ship. There are basically 5 public area floors, Decks 5, 6 & 7 along with decks 14 & 15. While I didn't feel cramped I was surprised at how difficult it was to find quiet spots on the ship in which to relax and watch the water. The fact that this ship has no library demonstrates that NCL was striving to maximize the entertainment and bar spaces. The color combination/decor of all the areas was nicely done. This is not the bright gaudy ships that you see with Carnival nor is it the bland colorless boring type of ship. It had a trendy feel. In my opinion I thought that Deck 5 was really a wasted/incomplete deck. Upon entering the ship I observed the 2-story screen (a wow factor) and a coffee bar. Unfortunately due to the layout of the atrium we were unable to find seats to sit and enjoy our lattes. In addition when movies or the world cup soccer was being played on the 2-story screen it was LOUD! I missed having a relaxing place to sit and enjoy a coffee and cake. The front desk was right across from the screen and it was packed with cruisers from the moment we arrived and throughout most of the cruise. Moving forward on Deck 5 was the Park West art gallery and Le Bistro along with the photo gallery and internet area. The cabin that we booked a deluxe family balcony for our maiden Epic cruise was very pretty. The color scheme and initial impression created that WOW effect when we opened the door. However, after using the cabin facilities I quickly learned that while it may be pretty to behold I was not completely comfortable with the toilet/sink privacy and the lack of space to walk around. Our cabin was not completed as we had no air conditioning and were unable to use our shower for the first two days of the cruise. This cabin also had a tub but there was no stopper. We put in several work orders at the front desk and after 4 days of complaining we just gave up. The lack of TV programming was surprising as well - only 10 channels were available; two being cartoons/Nickelodeon, two were Skynews, and Skynews Sports, two were ship related (view from bridge and ship information), BBC, MSMBC, CNBC and a channel of pre-recorded sitcoms (Friends/Scrubs). No movies unless you wanted to pay $12.95 each. Since I have written about the cabin short comings at length on other threads I will not beat a dead horse. I will say that unless and until cabin changes are made in the future I will not rebook on the Epic. An interesting concept with the photos in that they use facial recognition software. You turn over your room keycard to the photographer at the time of photos. When you go to view the photos, you swipe it and your accumulated photo's pop-up. In addition the printed photo's are in plastic envelopes in a pocket identified by decks and each cabin has its own folder of photos. This eliminates the need to constantly look for photo's night after night. Nice touch. On each cruise I have been on my wife and I look back as to what our WOW moment was. Some WOW moments have been the ships, our cabins and the views. On other cruises it was the itinerary or an excursion. We were disappointed because what we anticipated as being a WOW moment; sailing from Southampton on an inaugural cruise, and sailing into NYC on a maiden voyage, turned out to be nothing more than a "delivery cruise". This TA was no different than any other NCL cruise we have taken. The time and frustration in dealing with the front desk in order to correct the problems with our cabin detracted from our overall trip experience; especially since the problems should have never been allowed to slip thru the cracks if the company had taken the time to perform a proper "punch list". Considering all the pre-sailing hype that NCL did promoting the Epic I felt jilted. I will remember the excellent service that the staff of O'Sheehans provided. We will also remember this as an entertainment cruise that has set the standard for other ships to live up to. The Cirque Dreams & Dinner show is not only the most unique but finest dinner show on all the high seas. BMG & Legends do a fine job of living up to their land based shows. Second city does an admirable job as well. I give the crew of the Epic )with the exception of the front desk personnel) huge applause for their hard work, dedication and professionalism. It was refreshing to see their smiling faces wherever we went. You could tell this crew was the best of the best! Heck, I even saw smiling pit bosses in the casino! The ship itself I give a thumbs up for the entertainment value and innovations such as the cirque dinner show, the numerous water slides, the ice bar and a "real" casino. However, I still find it disconcerting that NCL would rush their flagship to market. It was a mistake to allow this ship to sail without crossing all their t's and dotting their i's. I would expect most of the problems that I encountered during my cruise to be ironed out and corrected in the future. The ship is new and exciting however my disappoint remains. I doubt if I will remember this cruise on the Epic as "special" or inaugural. Instead I will tell people that I sailed on NCL's newest ship: The GPIC - Guinea Pig Inaugural Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
In June 2010, we embarked on a 12-day cruise on Disney Magic to the Northern European capitals (see another review for this experience). As the time approached for our cruise, Europe was experiencing periodic airport closures due to the ... Read More
In June 2010, we embarked on a 12-day cruise on Disney Magic to the Northern European capitals (see another review for this experience). As the time approached for our cruise, Europe was experiencing periodic airport closures due to the pesky unpronounceable volcano on Iceland. We weren't too concerned about not making it over there to begin with, but did not relish the thought of getting stuck on the way back due to jobs and other commitments. A little research determined that the QM2 embarked on a 6-day westbound transatlantic voyage on the day after our Disney cruise (disembarking in Dover) was completed. I contacted Cunard and booked a low-price inside cabin on a guarantee, with the hopes that we would get an upgrade. We had already planned to rent a car for a day and stay overnight at Heathrow after leaving our other cruise, so we changed the car rental, booked a Hilton in Southampton on Hilton Honors points and decided to end our vacation with our first transatlantic voyage. We are veteran cruisers and world travelers (QM2 was cruise number 17), mid-fifties, no children. I have some disability issues, walking with a cane or occasionally using a travel wheelchair. Pre-cruise booking experience: The agent at Cunard was very helpful and courteous. He did not guarantee that we would have an upgrade, but was optimistic. Our fare seemed very reasonable as insurance to get us home ($2200 total) in case of airport problems. By comparison, we had originally booked a shore excursion to Berlin on the Disney Cruise when we were in Warnemunde that was going to cost us almost half this amount! Needless to say, we canceled out of the Berlin trip and took a much cheaper excursion, now that we were adding on to our trip expenses. Embarkation in Southampton: We were told to arrive at the ship by 3:00 pm, for staggered embarkation based on our cabin level. We got there a little early, thank goodness. The ship was docked at the Mayflower docks, which are apparently inferior to the docks that are normally used (occupied by a P&O ship). The lines were horrendous, even in the disabled line. We were not upgraded, unfortunately, and proceeded on board after over an hour in line. A nice attendant helped us find our room (4198 - very far aft, inside cabin, port side) just in time for us to grab the life jackets for the safety drill. Room experience: Our inside cabin seemed adequate, with plenty of storage space. We had a small bottle of champagne on ice, which was nice for first-time Cunard cruisers. However, later that first evening and on the second night, we found out the truth about room 4198. This room is located above the bandstand in the Queen's Room. The music was quite loud and we noticed some minor vibration. A call to the purser's office did get results and they turned down the volume on the band music until it finally stopped at 12:30 am. On the second night, we returned to our room to the sound of loud music again, this time accompanied by the worst vibration we have ever experienced on any ship. Apparently, room 4198 is positioned perfectly to pick up vibrations from the azipods; these vibrations apparently increased significantly when the ship went to a faster transatlantic speed after clearing the ship traffic around England. Another call to the Purser's office got results, to Cunard's credit. A Purser came to our cabin almost immediately, evaluated the vibration and offered to move us that night. It was now after midnight and we were in our sleep wear, so we agreed to move in the morning. We wish we had moved during the night, because the vibration was almost enough to shake you out of the bed and the bathroom was a nightmare (extreme vibration in a closed space that shook you to the bones). The next morning, the Purser's staff quickly and efficiently helped us move to another inside cabin 6005, far forward on the starboard side. This room was very nice and quiet and we didn't mind the ship movement. Kudos to Cunard, unlike our experience on Disney that required multiple complaints before action was taken. Ship experience: The QM2 is gorgeous, in our opinion, with immaculate public spaces and lounges and beautiful works of art. The captain is quite personable and we loved his jokes every day with the noon report. We liked the shipboard history museum plaques (located all over the ship), spent time in several lounges (favorites: Chart Room and Sir Samuel's), and enjoyed the Illuminations planetarium (it was a dated show, but a planetarium at sea is incredibly cool). The weather was quite chilly on this voyage, so we spent almost all of our time indoors. Our cabin attendants (first and second cabins) were somewhat indifferent. We saw our attendant for our second room one morning and said hello and he barely spoke to us, running down the hall to work on cleaning rooms. The shops were nice, with an interesting variety of items for sale, including a good one-day sale on QM2 shirts and hats. The eight bells ceremony was fun every day at noon and we also liked the tradition of paying honor to the victims of Titanic when we passed near its location. One other very positive thing: The shipboard internet was very quite fast and reliable, when compared to other cruise ships we have been on in recent times. The prices were reasonable and included thirty free minutes if you signed up the first day. Apparently, they had upped the bandwidth for the system on-board to ensure good reception for the World Cup games. Two sad notes: We did hear a "code alpha" on the public address system during the night (third night out) and found out that a gentleman passed away during the night in a cabin on our same deck (mid-ships). We also had to return to the Southampton docks right after leaving them, because a crew member had become critically ill right after sailing out (we heard it was a heart attack). Food and beverage experience: We had early seating in the Britannia and had a great table with two other couples on the upper level near the center. The food ranged from adequate to quite good, with very unobtrusive service. The soups were the best thing on the menu, but we also enjoyed a couple of the entrees, especially the pork and beef. The portion sizes are reasonable. We ate in the specialty restaurant, Todd English, one night and had an excellent dinner. They charge $30 per person for this experience. Wine prices all over the ship were very high (glass and bottle), but the selection is quite nice. Our wine steward in Britannia was a charming character and he have some good recommendations and we attended a wine tasting (mostly boring commentary). The bar staff was good, but seemed overworked. We had lunch twice in the Golden Lion Pub and really loved the fish and chips and Ploughman's lunches. The pub was packed with World Cup game viewers, but was still a great experience. The King's Court was massive (the buffet service on deck 7). We only had breakfast there every day and thought it was merely adequate, with the same English-type breakfasts. Don't arrive too late in the morning, as you will spend your time trying to eat your breakfast while the staff mops the floors and vacuums the carpets under your feet. Entertainment: We are inveterate show-avoiders on most cruises so we cannot speak about the shows, but we did enjoy the music in the Chart Room, particularly the jazz trio and the harpist. We did not attend any lectures, but some of them looked interesting, particularly the ones on ship navigation. We also avoided the casino, although it looked quite nice. There are lots of good places on board to sit and read a book or play board games. Debarkation: This was not fun. We had booked a bus transfer to LaGuardia airport and were advised that we would leave the ship by 8:15 am. The line was long to get off the ship and there were no porters available in the terminal to help move bags. I ended up pushing my own wheelchair with two bags in it and dragging another, while my husband pulled the two big roller bags from the terminal to the bus (quite a distance). I was not a happy camper and probably turned the air blue with my commentary. Lots of elderly people were struggling with their bags with no help available. Shame on the Port of Brooklyn - apparently many of the porters were off for a five-day holiday weekend (July 4th). Once we got to the bus, we sat on board for almost an hour before leaving for the airport. Overall: We would definitely do another transatlantic voyage or minimum-stop voyage on the QM2 and know which cabins to avoid. I'm not sure I would do a conventional cruise on this ship with lots of ports, as the embarkation/debarkation experiences were not the best.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Trans Atlantic Celebrity Century Cruise Critique May 20, 2010. Got to Miami two days early to avoid travel woes. Thought we'd enjoy Miami Beach but parking too much hassle and weather intermittent rain. We had planned to do laundry ... Read More
Trans Atlantic Celebrity Century Cruise Critique May 20, 2010. Got to Miami two days early to avoid travel woes. Thought we'd enjoy Miami Beach but parking too much hassle and weather intermittent rain. We had planned to do laundry on ship until we found out Celebrity didn't put laundromats on their ships. We exercise aboard and decided we'd need more tees. Headed to Goodwill downtown and found the cleanest best run Goodwill we'd seen. Tees were 99 cents but I was IDed as staff at the AIDS benefit. Embarcation. One hour to get through security, passport check, fill out forms, but everyone was efficient and friendly. Got to lunch and was served the toughest slice of beef I've ever had, hope Celebrity stops buying rodeo bulls. Luggage got to room quickly, wife's first naturally. Met Hector our cabin steward,friendly and took care of several small requests promptly. Dinner first night in Grand dining room good meal and Roy and Laura waiter and asst. were pleasant and bent over backward to fill all requests. Second day just exercised AM and vegged PM. Chateau Briand at dinner was great, obviously didn'tcome from a relative of yesterdays cow. Show was an international theme dance production, very good. Third day exercised, the exercise equipment is not adequate for the number of people trying to use it. Guess they want to reserve space for what really keeps you healthy, acupuncture and massage. Noticed they were automatically adding tips to on-board account, had that stopped at service desk. Internet is 65 cents a minute down to 50 cents on some packages. The info brochure admits its slow and wants you to disable security and pop up blockers, think I'll skip that. 4th&5th days, at sea weather partly cloudy and little cool, but pleasant. We haven't gotten into any activities except exercise, overeating, and a little sun bathing. On celebrity's robe policy. They provide robes to use on the cruise to some cabins, balcony and above I believe. However, they got a fantastic deal on some robes from Japan, I think. Unfortunately, if you're over 5'6" or have a waist 35" or larger, you'll be afforded the same privacy and comfort you got from the gown you received on your last hospital stay. No chance of getting larger size. Am having hard time distinguishing between tipping, gratuity, service charge, and entitlement. Celebrity now has a policy of adding twelve dollars per day to each person's bill. I'm not sure if the money is for corporate use or the ship staff. I prefer to determine my own tipping policy. Three days after being assured by the service desk that my account would be corrected, it hadn't been. Only after angry confrontation with Marcia at desk was the problem resolved, at least for now. Free wi-fi at Solmar shopping mall in Ponta Delgado , nice shops, restaurants, and clean rest rooms. You can see their sign from the ship when docked. Split a 3 hour taxi tour with another couple. Saw Fire Lake, hot springs, and Furnas; driver's English passable, the island is beautiful. Arrived Lisbon 10am Sun, weather beautiful and port gorgeous. Decided to take ship shuttle to old town and do tram tour. Everything went well until we got off to shop and sight see, the next tram was supposed to come 20 to 40 min later. Ninety minutes later no tram, had to get different colored tram back to starting point. Back at square one 3 trams lined up empty and idle, decided not to start over, and settled for the half tour we got. Ship docked at Santa Apolonia terminal, it turns out Apolonia is also a train and subway terminal on opposite side of street. If had it to do over would have taken a subway to end of line and back. It was still agreat day. Other guests used yellow double decker buses and cabs, both reasonable and covered a lot of sights. Cadiz today, free wi-fi at marine terminal (Termina Maritima Metropolitana) at end of ship's pier. Took red double decker bus which circled the city, easy on and off. Walking was also nice, short distances and a lot to see. Enjoyed the city. We haven't been to our six o'clock dining room seating the past two days. In port lunch is so late that dinner comes too early. The Island cafe reserved dinner was good and the area a lot quieter than main dining room. Tonight Mediterranean buffet with going away music and dancing around pool, that was fun. Feel guilty about deserting Roy and Laura, they're great. Malaga today, went on terminal and lady at Malaga Tour bus desk told me bus stop 7 was a ten minute walk away. Forty five minutes into walk wife was getting testy, took wrong turn left, should have gone right toward beach. Every egress except one is blocked by construction barriers. Double decker bus took a one+ hour circuit. The most interesting stop was Castillo de Gibralfaro easy to get lost in turrets and wall walkways, great views. Show tonight was Celebrity dancers, we really liked all three of their shows. Overall entertainment and activity staff were good. Had a good day. Last day at sea, exercised-not too crowded now. Packed afternoon. Also spent time getting another Celebrity pop-up charge removed. They booked and charged us for shore excursions in Barcelona without us requesting them. First trip to desk Mr Alvro assured me would take care of within a hour. Second trip to desk, three hours later Debia removed in five minutes after telling her I wasn't leaving until problem was resolved. I dislike having to be confrontational to solve problems, but nothing else works with Celebrity's front line staff. Overall we had a good cruise, we enjoy days at sea and liked all the ports. The ship staff was friendly and always greeted us. No one tried to push drinks at us excessively. We were an older crowd of experienced cruisers and most knew how to make the most of the ship. I would suggest to Celebrity if they ever refurbish a ship again that they invest in some sound suppression insulation. The noise between cabins was too noticeable and the engine/prop noise in the Grand dining room made conversation difficult. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Traveling with extended family filling 3 different grade cabins on transatlantic voyage from New York-Southampton. This ship is amazing and huge however, I feel that with the ship being so large you lose that more personal feel that you ... Read More
Traveling with extended family filling 3 different grade cabins on transatlantic voyage from New York-Southampton. This ship is amazing and huge however, I feel that with the ship being so large you lose that more personal feel that you seemed to get from traveling on QE2. The staff food and cabins were all what I would expect form Cunard with all three being equally terrific. What I did not like was the actual layout of the ship with dead ends and no go areas and very few inside seats with views of the sea which is very unlike the QE2 which had inside deckchairs/loungers were you could sit for hours in front of picture windows and relax as the world goes by. Instead the only sheltered seating with sea views that we could find was in the buffet food court with a few tables having sea views (these were always taken). Equally disappointing was the entertainment, I don't really know how to describe it other than very poor, my wife and I tried to watch several shows attended the nightclub and watched bands all with the same result, us leaving and walking on deck. The children enjoyed the zone area where they could go and spend hours doing various activities, it was also a godsend to us as keeping them entertained with the shows etc. would have been impossible. Embarking and disembarking was a breeze and I thought the price of drinks and services were acceptable. If you are quite happy reading a book or lounging around relaxing as I am this is a for you Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We booked this cruise to celebrate a birthday and because we have always enjoyed sailing on the Grand. It was our 43rd sailing on Princess and 8th on the Grand. Embarkation We used Princess Air and flew to Ft Lauderdale. Princess ... Read More
We booked this cruise to celebrate a birthday and because we have always enjoyed sailing on the Grand. It was our 43rd sailing on Princess and 8th on the Grand. Embarkation We used Princess Air and flew to Ft Lauderdale. Princess transportation to the ship was terrible - at least a 45 minute wait for a bus, the Princess reps meeting passengers at the airport were frazzled (one exclaiming that they had three ships in and that was too many for them), we had to take our carryon luggage in the bus rather than have stored underneath and reclaim at the terminal (rolling onto a plane and stowing overhead is easy, carrying on and not having overhead storage on a bus is ridiculous), bus had to circle the terminal then wait to unload - took over two hours overall and next time we'll take a taxi. Then there was a very long line to go through security screening and when we got to check in were directed to the Emerald deck line as only one preferred line was set up. Reaching Platinum or Elite loyalty levels won't do much to ease the pain for you when you check in at Ft Lauderdale. Our Cabin We had booked a guarantee and our room assignment was made a few days after booking in the category booked (E227) and never changed. When we arrived at our cabin we found there no elite minibar setup, no elite amenities in the bathroom, no ice in the frig, no mattress topper we had requested, and no letter with info about elite benefits on the Grand. Everything finally got straightened out after a few days but it was an unfortunate way to start a voyage. We did get a big laugh at the patch in the carpet right next to the desk - the very obvious patch that was held in place with rusty staples. It was something we never expected to find on a Princess ship. We have read other reviews that complained about the lack of maintenance on the Grand but had never experienced it so directly. Itinerary This 15 day itinerary started with two days at sea - and we quickly realized it would not be a warm weather crossing! We had thought we would get some deck time and sun at sea but temperatures in the 60s and cold breezes discouraged that activity. Although the weather for our stop in Bermuda was forecast to be cool and even rainy, it was warm and sunny and we did a quick walk around onshore and then spent the afternoon in the Lotus pool and sunning on deck. And that was our last day spending any time on deck or in a pool or in a spa. The ports were great. We did ship's tours in most ports except Falmouth where we joined the CC group from our roll call and in Cobh where we have been before. In Greenock we did the Falkirk Wheel tour (highly recommended), in Dublin the Guinness Museum (and tasting), in Cobh we wandered around and got Irish Coffees at Kelly's, in Falmouth mostly riding around seeing the countryside with the CC group, and in La Havre we had checked in and were sitting in the Princess Theatre at 6:45 am for our tour to Versailles when the announcement was made - there was a local strike and the buses could not leave the port. There was a lot of confusion and uncertainty about what would happen next but eventually we were told we could cancel if we wanted to or wait to see if the strike would stop and the tours could go. Since we had booked a full day tour with a 3 hour bus ride each way we realized our tour might become just a 6 hour bus ride! We joined the line of those at the shore excursion desk waiting to cancel when a shore excursion rep announced we could just put our tickets in the box - no need to stand in line. Nice idea! About an hour later some tours left but ours was officially cancelled. But - an announcement was made that the shuttle to downtown Le Havre would be complimentary (originally sold for $5 each way per person) so that was a pleasant surprise. We went into town and walked around looking for the little train that did a sightseeing tour. However, the information office was closed for lunch (where we were supposed to get tickets) and the train did not run again until late afternoon so we just enjoyed the beautiful spring flowers and square and fountains, etc. We liked the ports so much we booked for next year already. Food As usual food and service were good to excellent depending on venue. Our TA had sent us vouchers (birthday celebration) for both Sabatini's and The Steakhouse so we enjoyed them both. Table 64 in the Michelangelo became our regular dinner table and our waiters were totally super excellent! We only did pizza and burgers once on deck, just too cold to be comfortable. Entertainment We've seen all the production shows before and since they had new cast members onboard this cruise we thought best to pass on seeing them. The other entertainers were pretty good but not so great (or bad) to be memorable. MUTS was not a viable option due to weather so many (good and new) movies were shown in the Vista showroom (a lousy place to show movies). Unfortunately the Princess Theatre was not available during the afternoons for movies since the cast was practicing. The usual cruise staff directed events such as trivia and game shows and bingo were held - often. We did enjoy the art auctions. We also have learned to get to the library early and it was packed on embarkation day - looked like half the books went out in a few hours. We had plenty of time to read some good books. Because of the weather most people were inside so it was pretty crowded and hard to find a comfortable place to read outside of our cabin - but we did find the wedding chapel was quiet on some days! Disembarkation We had booked Princess Air with transfers to the airport so were up and ready to go for our expected 7:30 am departure. At 7:15 we were going into the Platinum/Elite disembarkation lounge to wait when we heard our luggage tag color and number was announced. About 20 minutes later we were on the bus on our way to Heathrow! It was the best disembarkation ever... All in all it was a good cruise. The 8 days at sea did get a little boring for us and we think we'll book a later Transatlantic with a more southerly route next time just for hopefully warmer weather (actually we booked the Crown May 2011 while on board). If you like trivia and game shows etc you might absolutely love this itinerary! The Grand is showing a lot of wear and tear but is a comfortable size (when it is not too cold to be on deck) and the crew for the most part is super. . Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Kentish cruiser.I take your point with the embarkation and disembarking. It was a complete shambles and I feel that this needs to be addressed by MSC. We have only cruised with P&O but previously had quality 4&5* holidays in ... Read More
Kentish cruiser.I take your point with the embarkation and disembarking. It was a complete shambles and I feel that this needs to be addressed by MSC. We have only cruised with P&O but previously had quality 4&5* holidays in Europe, the US and the Caribbean. The Ship was immaculate and constantly being cleaned and maintained. Cabins were as you would say "compact and bijou" but again immaculate. Our cabin was outside part obstructed view. We did however only book a standard inside, so the upgrade was much appreciated. The bar and restaurant staff were very pleasant,efficient and always ready to please.The majority of them were from the Philippines, Malaysia, some from Peru and Madagascar. We ate our breakfast in both the buffet (for outside eating) and the main restaurant. Yes again I agree it wasn't always easy to get milk for your tea but persevere and if the tea is cold ask for another. Dinner in II Covo restaurant, 2nd sitting. The food on the whole was good with plenty of choice. If you didn't like your first option the waiter was always willing to change it for you. South African wine was lovely at $9 a bottle. I was surprised at the bar prices. I think being in dollars made a big difference. Some of the drinks were cheaper than in our local pub! Ports of call were cut short but remember we were delayed in Cape Town and had to make the time up. Entertainment in the theatre was very good although in some of the lounges it was very third rate. I don't go for the Butlins type of silly games and always found an alternative venue. I know you can't please all of the people all of the time and if you did life would be very boring but you have to ask yourself one thing. How much did you pay and was it value for money. Our cruise was £1049 and with British Airways flights I think it was a raving bargain and I wouldn't hesitate to book with MSC again. If you wants 5 star quality book a 5 star ship and pay the money. Happy cruising Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Our first cruise was with HAL nearly 20 years ago. Our experience was so positive that we remained exclusively loyal to them for many years & many cruises. We only strayed to take specialty cruises on expedition ships or traditional ... Read More
Our first cruise was with HAL nearly 20 years ago. Our experience was so positive that we remained exclusively loyal to them for many years & many cruises. We only strayed to take specialty cruises on expedition ships or traditional river cruises. About a year ago, we started to explore our cruising options beyond HAL. We were seeking an upper-premium product so we decided to try both Azamara & Oceania. We chose 14-nite transAtlantics on each - westbound Barcelona to Miami on Oceania Regatta (Nov/09) and eastbound Miami to Barcelona on Azamara Journey (April/10). This was our first experience with transAtlantics as we usually prefer port-intensive cruises. But our investment (or risk) would be minimal & we'd get an excellent impression with so many days at sea. I previously reviewed our Oceania cruise at http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=61359 so these comments will focus on our Azamara experience, although direct comparisons are inevitable. EMBARKATION We made independent air (FF) and hotel arrangements & stayed 1-nite pre-cruise at Sofitel Miami. We took a taxi to the cruise port about 12:30 pm & were efficiently processed by shoreside staff. We traded our passports for our Azamara Seapass, swiped our credit card & proceeded to board Journey. Once across the gangway, we were welcomed with a glass of sparkling rosE. Since staterooms weren't ready yet, we went to Windows to check out the embarkation buffet. We grabbed a slice of pizza & were barely seated when a server appeared with complimentary wine. Off to a good start! We soon learned that our sailing had only 491 pax (70% capacity) with 404 crew. Pretty similar to our reverse sailing last fall on Oceania Regatta which had 520 pax (76%) with 397 crew. STATEROOM We intentionally booked an identical verandah room in the identical location (swapping port for starboard) as we had on Oceania Regatta a few months ago. It was conveniently located on the 7th floor near the forward elevator. Other than the sounds of crashing waves, our room was very quiet. The room was configured much the same as Regatta with ample closet space, drawer storage and a large floor-to-ceiling mirror. Perhaps it was the dEcor, but the room was not as bright & airy as on Oceania. Our bed was in rather poor condition & nowhere near as comfy as those we've had on either Oceania or HAL. The mattress had obvious dips & depressions. Bed linens were luxurious & in excellent shape. We knew to expect a tiny bathroom so there was no surprise. It was functional & clean although the shower curtain showed signs of mildew along the bottom edge & the shower drain was sluggish. Some towels & facecloths were frayed & in dire need of replacement. Elemis soap & toiletries were replenished as we used them. The 40 sq ft verandah was noticeably smaller than on Regatta. Who knew what a difference 10 sq ft could make? Balcony furniture was 2 upright chairs & a glass table that seemed inappropriately large for the very tiny space. The privacy barrier between balconies was made of opaque glass that had gaps of about 6-8 inches at each edge. This was not sufficient for total privacy. It was impossible to sit outside & not be visible to our neighbors from some angle. But the weather on this crossing was so poor that we rarely had the opportunity to use the balcony. We had cool temps & overcast skies for most of the trip. The Captain did all he could to outrun back-to-back storms after leaving Miami but we still experienced angry seas with 15-22 ft swells for several consecutive days. DINING Food is an important aspect of cruising for us. While we don't cruise specifically for the food, we won't sail on a line that has mediocre food. After reading many reviews about food on Azamara, we set our expectations lower than Oceania but higher than HAL. This made sense since HAL caters more in the larger mass market while Oceania fancies itself as the cruise line for foodies. Even with lowered expectations, we were disappointed with the food on Azamara. Our dining experience on Journey ranks close to the bottom of our 27 cruises. Not only did Azamara fail to reach the level of Oceania, in our opinion they did not even come close to HAL. We were disappointed in the main dining venues: . ordinary menus with limited selections . obvious repetition of ingredients . indistinct flavors with many items tasting similar . heavy use of salt to enhance flavor . little evidence of fresh herbs, spices or seasonings . sauces & gravies (and some soups) had starchy consistency . poor execution of many items: overcooked or undercooked . hot food often served lukewarm . less choice cuts of meat & fish for principal entrees . no fresh berries, only soggy defrosted available . very limited cheese selections . homemade ice-creams & sherbets often contained ice chips. But there were bright spots: . Smoothie Bar in Windows . fresh squeezed OJ & mouth-puckering lemonade . tasty burgers & kabobs, albeit very greasy, at Pool Grill . special themed nites in Breeza (Spanish Tapas, Asian Stir-Fry & Indian Curry) . Cova Cafe is a little gem for specialty coffees & tasty tidbits . food presentation was consistently superb in MDR . complimentary wine with lunch & dinner. Bottom line, dining on Journey was hit-or-miss for us. Over time, we learned how to increase our odds of a better meal. Apparently the trick was to make the right selections! We did manage to have a few good meals but they were the exception. I realize that food is subjective & palates vary greatly. I also appreciate that food on any cruise line can vary from ship to ship & even from sailing to sailing on the same ship. Maybe the food we had on Journey was not representative of Azamara. Maybe there were provisioning problems on this transAtlantic. Maybe the food budget was reduced & lower quality items had to be substituted. Maybe the galley crew were exhausted or out-of-sync. And maybe it's unfair for us to make an assessment of Azamara food based on a single sailing, but we trust our own palates & instincts. YMMV. SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS We were entitled to 2 guaranteed reservations at each of the 2 specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina, at a price of $15 pp per meal. Since we had no prior status with either Azamara or Celebrity, we were unable to make reservations on-line before the cruise. So we made it a priority upon boarding. We were surprised to learn that both restaurants were operating on a fixed schedule: early (6:00-6:30 pm) or late (8:00-8:30 pm). We tried several times to make a reservation at either restaurant for 7:30 pm. No can do. Nevertheless, we were eager to try them so we accepted the pre-set times. We enjoyed both specialty restaurants. Elegant atmosphere, attentive service, creative menus, flavorable food. We preferred Aqualina over Prime C. ON-BOARD ACTIVITIES Journey offered many games & activities for our 9 sea days. Golf putting, shuffleboard, ping pong, social bridge, bingo, team trivia, arts & crafts sessions, improv acting classes & ballroom dance lessons. Captain Theodorou even taught a jam-packed room of eager passengers to dance the Greek Korba. Opa! There were culinary demos, afternoon tea, wine & martini tastings ($), food & wine pairings ($), photo & computer workshops ($), wellness seminars & fitness classes. There were 3 enrichment lecturers on-board, making for diverse & interesting presentations. Recent movies were available on in-room TV but the rotation schedule made it virtually impossible to watch many during normal waking hours. Azamara still has an Art Director on board. He gave a few presentations & staged several silent auctions. On Azamara, loyalty has its privileges. Members of Le Club Voyage were invited to participate in a range of published & unpublished activities, including galley tours, bridge tours, engine room tours, Happy Hour, cocktail parties, connoisseur dinners, wine & specialty coffee tastings. Since this was our first Azamara cruise & we had no prior history on Celebrity or RCCL, we were excluded from these events. However, because of our involvement with Cruise Critic, we did receive invitations to the galley, bridge and engine room tours. Azamara arranged a couple of Meet & Mingle sessions for CC members. They trump both Oceania & HAL for hosting these events. Cruise Director Tony Markey announced that our group of 60+ was the largest they had on board this year. We enjoyed complimentary cocktails & hors d'oerves and met several senior officers. Hotel Manager Heike Berdos attended both CC parties. She's the real deal - very approachable & around the ship constantly. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in what CC members had to say. ENTERTAINMENT Who said a small ship can't deliver top-quality entertainment? Kudos to Azamara for providing excellent after-dinner shows in the Cabaret Lounge on Journey. There was a featured vocalist, pianist, violinist, guitarist, comedian as well as several performances by an Azamara 5-member resident cast. All superb. Pre and post-dinner music was provided by a harpist, guitarist, cabaret singer & musical trio. There was also pre-show ballroom dancing as well as an after-hours disco. SHORE EXCURSIONS We are independent travelers who tend to make our own shore arrangements. However, on this cruise we had a generous OBC so we chose to take a few ship excursions. Journey shorex team was among the best we have encountered on any ship. They were well informed, enthusiastic & helpful. And unlike many shorex staff who become harried on tour day & bark out orders to passengers, the Journey staff remained easy-going & helpful throughout. We took 2 shore excursions that were excellent. Interesting itineraries, informative tour guides, great value for money. PUBLIC ROOMS We thought Journey was clean, nicely appointed & well maintained. It has the underpinnings of a great ship. But it seemed to lack the warmth & vibrancy on either Oceania or HAL. Something intangible was missing. In our view, Journey needs a bit more love & careful attention to the little details. Journey has the same footprint as Oceania R class ships, yet there are noticeable differences in how the space is used. The casino on Azamara is larger & slot machines take up space that Oceania uses for its delightful Martinis Bar. Azamara does have a bar near the casino, but with a large screen TV & uncomfortable seating, it lacked the ambiance that Martinis exudes on Oceania. Cova Cafe is a lovely addition on Azamara. It is the perfect hang-out where we enjoyed many a specialty coffee & light meal. There is nothing similar on Oceania. The on-board shops are virtually identical on both lines, although the nod goes to Oceania for better product selection & merchandising. On Azamara, the Art Director had a desk on the 5th floor opposite the Cova Cafe. Art works were often displayed for sale around this area, as well as in the hallway outside the casino. The ship photographer & his photo gallery were also located here. This gave a slightly cluttered & commercial feel to the overall area. The Library was our favorite room on Oceania. On Azamara, it was still lovely but something was missing. It's as if nobody really cared about this space. Furniture was often scattered haphazardly about the room, seating was mismatched & lighting was poor. The "take a book, leave a book" section was usually in disarray, permanent books were often misfiled & there were no subscription magazines. The Library felt more like a forgotten rec room than the elegant space it can be. Looking Glass on Azamara is Horizons on Oceania. This is the spot where passengers gather to enjoy forward vistas thru the panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows. But on Journey, the centre views are somewhat obstructed by equipment for the on-board band. Nearly half of the windows were blocked by a grand piano, large speakers & synthesizers. But to their credit, Azamara hasn't converted outside public space on the top deck into revenue-producing private cabanas as Oceania has done. So the best forward vantage points are still available for all to enjoy. But neither Azamara nor Oceania can come close to the wide-open public spaces on HAL, its gorgeous wrap-around teak promenades and unrestricted bow access for scenic cruising. DISEMBARKATION We experienced a well organized disembarkation off Journey. As on Oceania, breakfast hours & menus were limited. We were instructed to vacate our room by 8:30 am & wait in a public lounge for disembarkation. This was in marked contrast to HAL where breakfast is not restricted & all passengers can remain in their rooms until they disembark. We arrived in Barcelona at 6:00 am & disembarkation began about 7:30 am. As independent travelers, we had the option of several timeframes to leave the ship. We chose 8:15 am. The Hotel Manager & Cruise Director were waiting on the exit ramp to bid farewell to departing passengers. Nice touch. We retrieved our luggage inside the terminal & grabbed a taxi to our onward destination in Barcelona. FINAL THOUGHTS We have mixed feelings about whether we would sail Azamara again. We like many of their future itineraries as well as their focus on destination enrichment. We're thrilled with the included amenities & we're now members of Le Club Voyage with all its rights & privileges. We love the small ships & have rarely sailed with a friendlier crew than on Journey. There is much to like about Azamara. Yet we hesitate, primarily because they failed to deliver on an important aspect of cruising for us. We can't ignore our disappointment with the food in virtually all dining venues on Journey. Maybe it would be better on another Azamara ship. So we'll continue to watch the future roll-out of Azamara & maybe we'll hop aboard again. Either way, we wish them success going forward. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
The overall trip was a real blast transatlantic plus Greece.I had bred having some medical problems looking forward to this trip kept me going.the ship is just as good looking as a year ago when we went on the 10 day Caribbean ... Read More
The overall trip was a real blast transatlantic plus Greece.I had bred having some medical problems looking forward to this trip kept me going.the ship is just as good looking as a year ago when we went on the 10 day Caribbean cruise.because of the longer trip we went with the mini suite Which is only marginally larger but the bathrooms were livable. The Trip from NY was very smooth considering the Stories of the fall ta.we started by booking tours with nil.in Lisbon my wife had been looking forward to Fatima.we were told to be at the assembly for 9:15 it was a half hour before we were called and forced to wait in a very stifling hallway .when we got to the front it turned out the employees line of those on shore leave were holding us up.next the was a race in the town that diverted us.next the tour guide decided to take us to tourist trap for one hour.when we got to the shrine she informed that only30 minutes were left for what the trip was about.the others on different buses had at least 1 1/2 hours.When we complained they gave 15 percent off.when we pointed out this was not acceptable and if they did not do better we would cancel the Greek tours they naturally did nothing for us. The tour people want sell and take no responsibility for there actions.when we got to Mekinos I had wanted to to go to Delos but the white caps convinced us of the folly.Naturally the scheduled tour took place.The level of discomfort of those inboard was severe.the care of customers not on there list. Last year there were self service laundry.this year none.last year the specialty restaurants had special price days this year none.we don't remember no free entertainment chanells on tv. The food to me was mostly ok to good. in three weeks we went to several restaurants several times Keeping in mind if you did not like it order 2 others .And if you did order them anyway.the deserts could be improved.the help at the meal seemed always helpful happy and willing to go extra including at the free dinning. At the end in Venice it was a fine mess.the pileup leaving wilt luggage was not controlled.we left at 9:15 there bus showed up at 10:15.we get to the airport for there booked flight at 11:00 and find Out there are no agents untill12: so every one is in one huge line. One last thing several passengers had asked if there would be duplicate bridge on board.they were assured yes.I ended up being that person at no pay. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Cruise Critic Review: Navigator of the Seas April 10, 2010 TransAtlantic : Miami to Rome Roger007 They say getting there is half the fun. I can't wait for the other half. Having had many TAs before (3 eastbound, 1 westbound) and 3 of ... Read More
Cruise Critic Review: Navigator of the Seas April 10, 2010 TransAtlantic : Miami to Rome Roger007 They say getting there is half the fun. I can't wait for the other half. Having had many TAs before (3 eastbound, 1 westbound) and 3 of which on the NOS, we made reservations to arrive the day before. Booked a non-stop Indy-Miami AA flight that would arrive mid afternoon. Unfortunately the airlines did not cooperate. Our flight was over four hours late taking off from Miami. We decided to make other plans and changed flights to Indianapolis-DFW and DFW-Miami. Arrived DFW with plenty of time to spare and have a good dinner. Our second leg reminded us of Murphy as the pilot determined after all passengers were aboard and belted in that one engine was a quart low on oil. I guess the mechanic had to go to the store and buy some because it was over an hour later before we took off. Got to Miami after 10 (to find our luggage had preceded us on our original flight). Exhausted we found a home at Fairfield Airport South. Excellent lodging, friendly and accommodating staff and comfortable bed. Day One: After a moderate but filling continental breakfast, we boarded the 11am shuttle to the Port and the NOS. Embarkation took at most 15 minutes from bus to ship. Smooth. Since rooms were not yet opened, we lunched at the Windjammer. As usual, space was at a premium. A wide variety of food was available. Some have complained about the quality of the food. We found it satisfactory and quite acceptable. At 1pm we entered our rooms luggage. A major disappointment with RCI/NOS has been and continues to be the Wireless Internet Connection. It is costly (.65/minute regular cost) but I would not argue if the speed was commissurate with the cost. It took me three tries to get the online log in to finally work. Then when I did connect after 15 minutes of charges I managed to actually achieve about 3 minutes of work. Once I was disconnected three time due to "connection reset." Of course I never got anywhere but RCI charged me 10 minutes and $3 for the experience. Another time I waited (I timed it) nearly 8 minutes for a page to download. All this time the clock is running and RCI is getting my dough. This is either a SHAM or very poor technological control. Every time I return I fully expect RCI to have corrected this embarrassing condition. Every time I am disappointed. Every time I note this disappointment on my critique to RCI. Every time nothing happens. One time too many and I may not return. Certainly other lines have solved this technical problem and all else being equal, it might be a future deciding point between cruise lines. A second major disappointment is the new dining hours: 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm. As Goldilocks would have said: Too early and too late. So consequently, we ate at the Windjammer (and once at Chops). We really did not miss the main dining room: it was far quieter at the Windjammer, the food was just as good, the dining room attends were friendly, the buffet selection offered a wide array of choices and the dining timing were flexible. It is not unusual to gorge oneself on food on cruises and gain 10-15 pounds on a voyage, eating at the Windjammer allowed us to control portion sizes and not fall into the gain 10-15 category. My wife and I said this is one cruise where we might actually lose pounds; the typical four course meal (plus cheese plate) at the Main Dining room encourages stuffing oneself and we have decided against it. Other items. Trivia and Sail Away party were fun and well portrayed. The main performance was satisfactory—comedian and dance team were fine. The Sail-away parade late at night was well attended and energy and enthusiasm was quite noticeable. The 70's Party was fabulous and full of high energy passengers and staff. Day 2: As is our tradition, we had room service serve breakfast on our balcony every morning. Delivered was on time and correct. Started Matt's Ultimate Trivia in the morning. Our team fun but boy is it was competitive. I guess I must be like Ken Jennings and start preparing a year in advance. Cruise Critic's meet and mingle had to be moved several times each time to a larger room. Several hundred attended. I must give RCI credit, horsd'oeurves and champagne were served and some very nice door prizes and gifts given. This compares most favorably to previous M&M's we have been to. Disappointment 3: Last year on the NOS TA, in the Viking Lounge, each sea day had an international buffet with a chef preparing a country's specialty on different days (German, French, Spanish, Italian, etc). We really enjoyed the variety and the opportunity to taste test ethnic cuisines. This TA it was listed in the Compass we showed up and found out it was a typo. We guess they discontinued the practice due to cost constraints. Too bad. It was a great addition to the TA and others missed it as well. Disappointment 4: Customer service. I ventured to the Excursions to buy a Barcelona package. After 15 minutes in line I was told they were closing from 1 to 3. Why? I don't know. At least 5 staff were in the area. Were they all going to take lunch at the same time? Please somebody remind RCI that they are here to serve us at our convenience and not vice versa. Certainly splitting staff so some could go to lunch while others continue service clients is not too much to ask, especially during prime time periods like the afternoon. Guest Relations always had a line fifty feet back and staff were in the back room but no one ever came out to help. Heck of a way to run a railroad (or a cruise line). Loyalty (future ship cruises) were always packed and guests were turned away. Disappointment 5: It is the little things that count and which have disappeared. No mints at night on the pillow. No daily newspaper. Still the towel animals (Occasionally). Prizes have been downgraded to the point where plastic key chains and laminated luggage tags were first prizes being fought over by overly zealous passengers. I remember wine seminars for loyalty members; not on this cruise. Disappointment 6: The number of crew that had poor grasp of English and whose English was very difficult to understand was large. This is indicative or poor staffing practices. I have heard that RCI pulled the best and sent them to the Oasis of the Seas. RCI must understand that they do not have just one ship but twenty and they must provide adequate levels of quality to all ships. Disappointment 7: The Navigator of the Seas is a grand old ship and we have had many fine times on it. But She is starting to show her age. Carpet stains, rusty spots, paint chipping on patio furniture, wood paneling cracks in the Windjammer, lots of broken chairs swivels in the key lounges (Ixtapa, etc...). The wicker dinning chairs in the Windjammers legs are coming unraveled. What particularly irked me was the jogging track. She was worn in spots down to the core. She needs to be cleaned up to redeem her statelessness. The care you take shows and RCI's care of the NOS shows many oversights that weigh upon a customer's overall view. Disappointment 8: In all the times we have rounded the tip of Spain we have yet to pass by the Rock of Gibraltar during daylight hours. This trip was no exception. The Captain said it would be twilight during passage; 6am it was totally dark and the hundreds that showed up for the passage were extremely disappointed. Since it is a major tourist highlight, why can't RCI schedule passage during the daylight hours? That alone would be a major selling point. Disappointment 9: In the past several special events have been held in conjunction with the specialty restaurants, notably a murder mystery dinner theatre and a wine tasting dinner. These were not held this time. In the past these have added to the ambience of the ship and were solely missed. Disappointment 10: My time Dining was announced with huge fanfare by RCI. The first night we went and investigated and was not impressed. Discussions with other guests who used it proved we made the right decision not to use the service. True, you can dine at anytime and that flexibility has economic value. But the service is structured that once you sign up you must use it thereafter. Not only that but you are charged complete tips ($9 per person per meal) even if you skip a meal or two. The tips include the steward and he is included even if you do not use wine. Now I do have a degree in math and $18 in tips at a 15% tip rate means the dinner was being valued at $120. Even at 20 percent, it comes close to $100. The food is good but not that good! I did notice the Main Dining room was not even close to being occupied and many tables were empty. RCI must change its policy . Disappointment 11: We were platinum (to be diamond for our next cruise) and received a Platinum Cruise and Anchor booklet. We used two coupons (laundry and internet). Had to ask for the second because they only brought us one. Hardly anything of value (lots of 2 for 1 or 10% off but nothing free or special for their valued loyalty level customers). This is not the way to treat frequent cruisers and is not a method that will create goodwill and word of mouth from their most valued customers. Entertainment: We had a comedian, the RC singers and dancers three times, a comedian magician, singer, violinst. The ice shows. All in all we felt the entertainment was of high quality and the audience seemed to enjoy it. We saw the ice saw twice; it was the same show we saw in 2009 TA. Great show but should change it yearly instead of every 3 to 5 years. In addition, being a TA, numerous speakers were on board: an historian, a geneaologist, an astronomer. We found these delightful and educational. The typical art history lectures and auctions with free champagne were abundant, well frequented but few buyers were to be found for the multi-thousand dollar art works shown. The Icelandic volcano through a wrench into the featured performers, several could not get off the ship and several could not get onto the ship (at the Canary Islands). Fortunately the numbers balanced and those held over volunteered for extra performances which were outstanding. Typical ship fare (Battle of the Sexes, Majority Rules, Karaoke, Name that Lyrics, Love and Marriage, Family Feud) were held and with great audience participation. Always delightful and entertaining to see your fellow shipmates made fools of him/herself. I do wish that the Battle of the Sexes would revert back to the older Family Feud format instead of the Physical Childish challenges they had on this trip. Save that for the teens. At least have a modicum of mental challenge. Food: You can see the cost cutting here. Options were more limited than we had seen in the past. Quality was barely acceptable. Certainly quantity was available but presentation and style seemed to be lacking. My wife enjoyed the JADE Asian food selection and ate this dining section exclusively for lunch and dinner. I do wish the Windjammer opened at 6pm rather than 6:30 pm as the late opening collided several times with theatre productions. Shore excursions/Disembarking. We visited Canary Islands, Barcelona, French Riviera and Livorno (Florence) prior to our final stopping point at Civi (Rome) on April 24. Only Ville on the French Riviera was a tender stop; all others were docks. On and off for all the excursions were quite quick. Plus: Six hours of time changes occurred on this cruise. Rather than do so in the middle of the day (12 to 1 as in previous TAs), they occurred at night (3am). One less hour of sleep a night but at least the afternoon was not shortened and all activities could go on. Others were not so enamored with the change, such as the wait staff as they didn't have much time to between meal setups. As passengers we preferred the time change occurring between 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. Another plus: We had read about the Novovirus and getting sick on the ship. On our last year's TA, both my wife and I came down with horrible cases of the virus and it ruined our vacation. We took no chances and brought an arsenal of medicines this year. Surprisingly, the ship was very healthy. I saw and heard very little coughing or sneezing or any other flu symptoms. Hand Sanitizers were everywhere and it appeared what programs they had implemented worked very well. Kudos to: Matt Sole (Canada), Cruise Director; Richard Edward Activity Manager (Trinidad); Jorge Cutino (Mexico City), Activity Staff; Lauren Kalis (South Africa), Activity Staff; Vicki , Activity Staff were all in their own right entertaining, hilarious and got passengers involved when hosting an event. Diana Radu (Romania), front desk clerk was extremely helpful, patient, knowledgeable and a delight to talk to about world issues. Overall: We enjoy TransAtlantics—for the price you cannot beat what you get. But each year it is less and less dramatic as in previous years. Right now if I had to make a decision, I would hesitate and probably not sign up for another TA next year. RCI needs some new itineraries and ports. I probably would sign up if they had a Circumnavigate the British Isles but nothing is on the agenda for next year. A Eastern Seaboard Northern Atlantic might be a challenging adventure that would capture my attention. But how many Azores and Canary Islands can you take? What about a North Africa (Casablanca, Algiers, Tunisia) venture? RCI take note. Try some exotic ports to breath some fresh air into the TAs. All in all, even though I had more disappointments than pluses (being a veteran cruiser and TAer I am naturally more critical than a rookie would be), the cruise was excellent. Lots of R&R. Lots to do. Made a lot of new acquaintances. Last TA for a while until new Itineraries appear. However, looking at possible Trans Pacifics. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
I am an avid cruiser who cruised with my family on the Equinox for the 4/19 Transatlantic. I tend to prefer small ships so I am tough sell on larger ships and larger lines and I will admit this right out of the starting gate. That said, I ... Read More
I am an avid cruiser who cruised with my family on the Equinox for the 4/19 Transatlantic. I tend to prefer small ships so I am tough sell on larger ships and larger lines and I will admit this right out of the starting gate. That said, I am open minded and we all very much enjoyed ourselves and the Equinox exceeded our expectations. Detailed information is below. I will not go into the ports as we have been to them many times before and while we always manage to find new things, I will add that to the port section at a later date. Besides...this was transatlantic so the ports were not the real focus and the ship was. Boarding the Equinox in Fort Lauderdale was easy. The only slowdown was when boarding the ship you are waiting with 500 passengers on the gangplank who are lining up to take the central elevators to their rooms. Normally we would have walked forward or backward to the other elevator banks however we had a wheelchair with us and were instructed that those elevators were best during embarkation. So we waited about 35 minutes in total to board the ship and get to our rooms. Time about 1PM. We were in a Celebrity suite, Cabin 1110 and it was beautiful. Walk in closet, adequate bedroom and a nice sized living room with an L shaped couch focused towards the sea and the 52 inch flat screen TV. Everything was new and clean and we instantly fell in love with our cozy cabin. We do indeed spend lots of time in our cabins so this was important to us while sailing on a large ship. Once inside, we heard nothing but the sea when we opened our door and were perfectly located right by the Library and central Atrium which always had people in them. The only drawback to our cabin was we could not hook up a DVD player to the TV in the living room and we like to catch up on our TV shows on DVD, especially with so many days at sea. They did have free on demand movies however most we had seen already and celebrity needs to increase the selection. Big rub with Celebrity on this cabin is that they still charge you for bottled water?....so Aqua Class which costs 1/3 the price gets free water but "luxury suites" as they deem the top 20 suites on each ship do not? Something needs to change on this. I bought the water package and made great use of it however I found this a bit strange. Elite benefits were excellent as we were all elite members from many past cruises. Our cabin stewards were mediocre and special requests for more chocolates or replacing room service ordering forms never materialized. Butler was very helpful and set up for several cocktail parties we had and he was very attentive. Buffet restaurant was well laid out and the quality of food was surprisingly good for such a large ship. That said, apparently most of the buffet food is "pre-processed" according the chef and they just cut open giant sealed plastic bags and heat or fry except for the salads etc. I appreciated their honesty about that as they said how could we cook all this for 3000? I wonder what the salt and fat content of these processed foods are, but alas...we are on vacation so I am not going here. We could always grab a turkey sandwich or a vegetable curry or a pizza, something for everyone. Boarding day however it was a madhouse with no tables and we experienced this several times during lunch on our trip. When it was too busy we paid the $5 per person fee at the bistro on 5 and had delicious soups, sandwiches and salads and crepes. Delicious, quiet and unhurried and we always enjoyed our lunches here. For us this was a find because apparently the $5 cover puts off most people. Sushi from 5-9PM was lots of rice (might as well eat bread!) with mediocre fish and if you eat sushi regularly in NY or LA or Tokyo....skip this, mass market at best and you can do far better at a cheap mall Japanese sushi restaurant. We ate at both the Silhouette restaurant and Blue restaurant. We liked the atmosphere better in blue and the plates and overall presentation of things. That said, during our cruise, we found blue to be a bit slow with their service and special requests (sauce on the side etc) were not followed on several occasions. Taste was good and most food was fresh. That said, we had excellent servers in Silhouette and we found the very good food coupled with service was, for us, better in the main dining room. Everyone loved that the left side of the menu had "old favorites" available all the time. Many people at our table were having shrimp cocktails and escargot every night. We found the meats FAR better than the seafood as far as mains. Specialty restaurants we booked Murano three times and loved it each time, the goat cheese soufflE was sublime. Here the Dover Sole was excellent. I cannot comment on Lobster Tails as we do long weekends in Maine and I am biased to sweet fresh main lobsters none of which these frozens can compare to. Upon our request Murano had the entire meal served in 1 ½ hours...which suited us fine as we don't like long meals. Tuscan Grill had excellent service however we found the food very mediocre and it seemed to empty out towards the end of the cruise as more and more people figured this out. We did not try the Asian themed restaurant. A note on restaurants is that all guests are assigned the main dining room EXCEPT Aquaclass guests....beware if part of your "group" is Aquaclass....this is problematic if you want to all eat together as they are automatically in Blue. Reservations at Blue are upon availability and while suite guests have priority and can get in most times...other cabin classes have a tougher time. If blue is full, then you have to try to get them into the main dining room which can also be difficult if your table is full.....You can see the challenges. Ultimately this was worked out very well within two days by the Maitre'D...but it did take some time for us to get it all figured out and next time we would either all take Aquaclass or regular and no inside cabins etc. Something to think about for group planning. Staff onboard were all friendly and nice. The captains announcements repeated lots of information which was posted by the customer relations desk on deck 3....and on the TV you could always see your location. The Captains English was not clear and this turned into a another 15 minutes of noise everyday by the time all languages were covered. Most people just wanted to know if weather was going to be smooth or not. Everything else, I feel, was lost. Martini bar was fun and at times very lively. For quiet time before dinner we went to the Molecular bar hidden behind the atrium on 5. Here they infused cocktails with fresh herbs and mint and rose petals etc, and each drink was really a masterpiece. As you can tell, we liked it here very much. The ship was gorgeous and we enjoyed walking around and even the big green lawn. Entertainment was all the time and as far as we were concerned too much. We like a quiet ship and there was music in the central atrium ALL the time and then dance classes with more music, when the music wasn't going on live. The pool had calypso music twice per day.... I think this was because people like a lively ship, for us we just like to hear the ocean and the quiet and wind... and we felt Celebrity should cut back a bit on the entertainment. Acafellas the men who sing together were off key, but they tried and most people wouldn't notice. The production shows were awful....I mean really bad... but this is my opinion and BOTH times I rode up in the elevators with people who told me how wonderful they thought they were...I have seen better high school plays. I did however like the comedian ventriloquist who was very creative and talented. I also liked the casino which took our money regularly but provided hours of enjoyment. I also liked the hot glass show which I found quite informative. Surprise of our ship was Ms. Shirley Jones who gave three performances and was EXCELLENT and answered audience questions about the movies she has been in + her leading men.....and told all kind of "back when" stories which everyone loved. She was a very interesting entertainer and a very welcome surprise in the muck of entertainment mediocrity. We waited to see guest services, book shore excursions, see the cruise consultant and we waited to get off the ship 45 minutes in Cadiz and an hour in Lisbon, we waited for tables at the buffet and waited to get into the dining room for our 8:30PM seating. The waiting is something that we have a hard time getting used to coming from many small ship cruises, but by the end we were more on top of things and learned to come a bit later or eat earlier etc to avoid the crowds. Each ship has a vibe and you have to learn it, big or small ship. Debarkation was effortless in Civitavechhia and Celebrity accomplished what I consider a miracle with how smoothly it all went without someone screaming over the loudspeaker...and that day the ship was actually quiet...ahhh. Overall, we were quite impressed with the Equinox and the way Celebrity has improved. This had been our first cruise on them in a few years as we had two poor experiences few years ago and decided to try other lines. We have booked two more Back to backs in January based upon our experiences and we look very forward to trying the ship out again. Value for money, we thought this large ship is the best in its class out there at this time. There really is something for everyone. I wish everyone wonderful sailing. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We left NYC on a Saturday afternoon. All went well. The embarkation was organized and there were minimal frustrations. That was not so with disembarkation (noted later). We weren't shown to our room, but that was ok. We knew how to ... Read More
We left NYC on a Saturday afternoon. All went well. The embarkation was organized and there were minimal frustrations. That was not so with disembarkation (noted later). We weren't shown to our room, but that was ok. We knew how to find it. A pre sailing meal was easy to find and lines were minimal. Sailing from NYC is always exciting, and this one was too. We were in a DD ocean view. The price was right and we have seen the Atlantic on other crossings. Most days were nice on the crossing, so a veranda might have been useful. We have cruised on Oceania and Celebrity before so we were curious to see how NCl compared. Generally the food was good. The disappointing fact is that the food in the main dining rooms were not at the quality level of other cruises, and also that of the specialty restaurants. Freestyle gets a little lost in that equation. On cruises we look for quality not quantity. Its some how disheartening to know that you have to pay $50 for two to have an exceptional meal. Buffets were a nice surprise though. The ship is beautiful and well designed but with some inherent flaws. The Theater holds a large number of people but without aisles on both sides people must move by everyone in the row to get in. And NCL holds open seats for the suite and villa people even if they don't attend the show. So some people are sitting in the aisles while 50 seats are left empty but unavailable. Movies...the movies (only 3) were show in the atrium which also serves as a shopping mall and bar. So it was hard to hear and concentrate while people were buying watches and beer next to you. There were only pay movies in the rooms. TV...very limited satellite stations...... Bingo... a necessary evil. NCL gives out free bingo cards to get people into the session. The assistant Cruise Directors then calls you "bingo stalkers" when you show up for the free game card. It was said in a somewhat comic vein, but it still hits home. The assistant cruise director tended to be more annoying than entertaining. Casino...friendly and play was available for all dollar and skill levels. Entertainment...sometimes very good and sometimes just good...ship cast shows were good not great. Ship's special parties were what you would expect and not too much more. Having entertainers available for Q & A and general discussions are a great idea. State room....DD Ocean view was comfortable while not huge. Stewards were fantastic! Our room had a couple of broken pieces of furniture and maintenance was slow to repair them. Dining Room service...staff ranged from good to excellent. I still think staff are different when they know their service only to you determines the gratuity. Freestyle means no assigned dining staff. Freestyle is over played. Freestyle tends to = a la carte. Not much in freestyle is free. If there was a love boat, this is the a la carte boat. IE bowling at $5 per game on a rolling sea is quite pricey. Drinks were not pushed to the extreme as on other ships. This voyage tended to over promote scratch type lottery tickets and other simple gambling devices We didn't do much on the way of excursions, so we'll leave that to others. Embarkation was amazingly disorganized. I'm not sure if it was the Venice authorities or NCL. But they left a large number of guests waiting early in the morning for the buses to the airport. They actually kept calling for additional groups to disembark before they were letting people off the ship. All in all a nice cruise on a nice ship. It was a great cruise but well worth the price. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We booked this cruise about 7 months in advance. Someone on our roll call alerted us that our cabin on the aft and was able to get it that day when I contacted our ta. We went one day early by flying into Ft. Lauderdle. Used Ambassador ... Read More
We booked this cruise about 7 months in advance. Someone on our roll call alerted us that our cabin on the aft and was able to get it that day when I contacted our ta. We went one day early by flying into Ft. Lauderdle. Used Ambassador limo to get to Conrad Miami, which were all stellar. Would do it all over again. The ship was well maintained. Thought it looked great for 10 years old. I was very impressed that they had complimentary scrapbooking class. I loved going and the quality was great. There were only 3 ports of call to Hamburg. First was LaHavre and took ship's tour Paris on your own. It was a long bus ride for the 5 hours. We had been before so just visited our favorite cafes and shops. Next, Dover, where we toured Canterbury and Faversham on a private tour which was outstanding. Rotterdam was last port before Hamburg, we took the shuttle provided by port to train station where we took train to Delft. Loved Delft! We had a C1 aft. It was really the best. Loved the size of the balcony and had a wine and cheese party one night with two other couples. Our room steward was wonderful. The food started out great, but declined in the MDR after 4 nights. The Oceanliners was okay, really thought the Normandie on Summit was more of a speciality venue with superior service & food. The food in Aqua Spa was very good. Room service was prompt and good. The waffles were a huge disappointment. This was one reason we wanted to go on Celebrity. They were outstanding on Summit. The buffet was okay . The standard quality and variety. Loved Perry Grant and the guest piano player from Julliard. The Latin show was also very good. Guest Relations in all fairness had their hands full because of the volcano, but they were very under-staffed on the last night at the desk. At 10 pm they had 2 people and a huge line of people. The problem was airline changes were posted on guests doors around 9 pm. Disembarkation was without incidence. We waited in Concierge area and didn't even have to go through Immigration. Hamburg personnel were great. There was a shortage of wheelchairs with only 6 for the whole airport. Our flights were all changed because of the volcano. We did have complications without tickets just a paper from Guest Relations for Choice Air. Next time I want more because in Paris almost was denied boarding without ticket just boarding passes. Entertainment was what we expected. Loved Perry Grant in Michael's Club. Dining in MDR was great first four nights then declined. It was the quiet of food. Oceanliners was just okay. It was not as good as Summit. Waffles were terrible! Tried more than once and didn't improve. Aqua Spa was good as always. Room service great in morning with CC menu. Guest relations under staffed on last evening. In light of volcano and flight changes they needed all windows open. Disembarkation was smooth. We didn't even go through immigration. Shuttle to Hamburg was fast and very nice. Flights home were complicated because of flight cancellations. Almost denied boarding in Paris because we didn't have anything but a piece of paper fom Guest Relations for Choice Air. Celebrity has not kept it's level of quality of food and service up to four years ago. Really feel RCCL is just as good except for food presentation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
OVERALL SUMMARY OF CRUISE: Excellent service, great cabin, good food, so-so shore excursions (especially the organization of ship-sponsored shore excursion waiting areas and gangway queues). Will not hesitate to come back to Princess, ... Read More
OVERALL SUMMARY OF CRUISE: Excellent service, great cabin, good food, so-so shore excursions (especially the organization of ship-sponsored shore excursion waiting areas and gangway queues). Will not hesitate to come back to Princess, although on a different ship. Would rely less on ship-sponsored shore excursions in the future in favour of taking the shuttle into ports or taking independent shore excursions. It's really too bad that I couldn't rate the cruise overall as 4+, because while the ship-sponsored shore excursions left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth to the point of making the cruise experience undeserving of a 5... I still think that it was excellent and deserved more than the 4 that I put on paper. Now that I got the summary out of the way--please feel free to read on if you're interested in the details. It might be approaching novel length, though, so please bear with me. PERSONAL BACKGROUND: We are a group of 3 adults travelling with a couple in their 60s-70s as well as their 75-80 year old friends. This was our third cruise with Princess, and our second with Star Princess--the first being an absolutely perfect South America cruise around Cape Horn in January 2009. (I also took a cruise to the Caribbean on RCI's Enchantment of the Seas in August 2000, and my 2 relatives who came with me took a chartered cruise on Seabourn Legend to the Mediterranean in May 2001. So everyone in the group took four cruises overall.) This particular sailing happened from April 24 2010 to May 12 2010, and was a repositioning cruise for the Star Princess from the Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) to the Baltic region of Europe (Copenhagen, Denmark). While it was possible to combine this sailing with a Copenhagen roundtrip sailing (which is actually the first Star Princess Baltic cruise for 2010), we didn't do so because none of us are retired and we (especially myself) did not have enough vacation time to take a 28-day cruise. CRUISE DEMOGRAPHIC: Many of the people that we saw on the cruise were 60+ years old. While I did see some babies (and was slightly surprised to do so because, at age 29, I thought I was the youngest person on the cruise), they were very much in the minority. But given the cruise's length, itinerary and the fact that it was in a time where most children in the world are in school, the demographic mix didn't surprise me. PRE-CRUISE: Given that we were flying to the United States and knowing the lengthy security inspections that take place for any flights to the US, we didn't want to risk missing the ship at Fort Lauderdale and having to catch up to the ship in Europe by plane (which would have resulted in a massive headache given the recent volcanic ash situation). So we booked one night at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport & Cruise Port Hotel. It was quite near the Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood International Airport where our flight arrived, but not that close to city areas. However, since all we needed was a place to stay in rather than exploring the city of Fort Lauderdale, our needs were met perfectly. The room was comfortable and clean (if a bit small), and had a view to the pool area. We paid about USD145 for the room, not including continental breakfast, and the cruise transfers (which cost USD9 per person). We found this hotel without reading through the Cruise Critic forums for hotel suggestions, and I later found out that there were numerous cheaper hotel rooms to be had around Fort Lauderdale. One lesson learned--I need to pay much closer attention to the forums from now on when I look for pre-cruise hotels. And we would most definitely stay at least one night before embarkation day at the port of embarkation in the future. EMBARKATION: Thanks to our one night pre-cruise stay in Fort Lauderdale, we were able to catch an early shuttle to Port Everglades before the 12pm embarkation and line up while the embarkation lines weren't too long (we weren't Platinum members on Princess and therefore didn't have preferred check-in). There was a slight computer glitch in preparing our cruise cards, but the issue was resolved reasonably quickly and we were on the ship at about 12:15pm and we were able to relax and explore the ship while waiting for our luggage. Compared to our previous cruises where we didn't do a pre-cruise stay, it was much more comfortable for us. CABIN: We stayed at Cabin B518, which was a balcony cabin at the passenger-only Baja deck located slightly behind the middle of the ship. The Baja deck was sandwiched between two other passenger-only decks (Aloha and Caribe decks), so there was very little exposure to noise compared to decks closer to public areas. We were quite excited to have a balcony for this cruise because, for most of our cruises (except the chartered cruise on Seabourn Legend that I didn't go to), we stayed in an inside room. Besides the obvious advantage of a full view of the ocean--which allowed us to take in the wonderful sail-in in Lisbon and the beautiful coastlines of Oslo on sailaway--we had considerably more storage space than when we were in an inside room. For starters, the closet wasn't as near the bathroom door compared to an inside room on the Star Princess. Secondly, there was an additional floor-to-ceiling storage cabinet which proved extremely handy for storing shoes. So I think we are very likely to get a balcony cabin for future cruises. We were also fortunate enough to not live close to smokers next to or above us, so we were not subject to cigarette smoke. (While we saw an ashtray in the cabin balcony below us, we never noticed the passengers living there smoking in the balcony.) The room was always kept impeccably clean, with towels and bathrobes promptly replaced and with the pillow chocolates provided every day. The one flaw that I could find with the room was the third-person pullman bed, which folded up into the ceiling of the cabin during daytime. As the person who used that bed, I must say that it was about as comfortable as the bed I used when living in a university residence--the mattress seemed a little too low, and the safety railings made the bed seem cramped. As for the common complaint on the Princess CC forums that Princess's mattresses are too hard--while I did find it harder compared to other hotel beds that I've slept in, what made the situation a little different in my case is that I actually sleep on a hard mattress at home and do prefer firmer mattresses, so I'm not quite sure if requesting an egg crate would have made sleeping in the third-person bed more comfortable. PUBLIC ROOMS: Many of the public rooms have a subdued, wooden decor, but are still fairly well maintained. The same cannot be said for one staircase platform on the Promenade Deck (Deck 7) and between the Aloha and Lido decks (Deck 12 / 14 respectively--Princess doesn't have a Deck 13)--for some reason, there was this seemingly tile-shaped piece of wood that seemed to be slightly dislocated when I stepped on it. Perhaps Princess might need to look at this and do some proper maintenance, because it may cause a bit of a hazard for people who try to use the stairs. Since the sailing was full, I expected a certain degree of overcrowding in the public rooms. The most serious case of large crowds was during elevator rides, as well as during large-scale shows in the Princess Theater and in the Vista Lounge--usually I would find the room at least half-full 30 minutes before the show, and a packed house was pretty much expected 15 minutes into the show. On the other hand, although all the chairs in the Piazza was normally occupied with people drinking coffee, checking their computers, reading or playing cards by 11am--I always tend to find room to sit near the Vines Bar. Not sure if it was tacky of me to sit in the Vines Bar, though, when it wasn't open... ENRICHMENT AND ENTERTAINMENT: One of my favourite things to do on this cruise was to attend the port lectures during sea days--I attended all of the port lectures, or watched them on the onboard TV, for all the ports except Copenhagen (which we disembarked on anyways). The port lecturer, Patrick, was truly informative and funny, and explored the history, main attractions and cuisine of each port as well as the historical relationships between each of the ports. So I learned something and was quite entertained. Thank you so much, Patrick! As for the night time entertainment: For the production shows, I watched the Welcome Aboard show, which was a fascinating experience because I had never watched it. Sandwiched the musical / dancing numbers there was an introduction to the various features of the ship, which may merely be review to most of the passengers on the ship who seemed to be past Princess passengers. The quality of the dancing was fine, and the singing was great to mediocre--the mediocrity resting mainly on some of the male lead singers. I recall having watched Words and Music, Ports of Call and Destination Anywhere on my previous cruise on the Star Princess, so I skipped those in favour of variety entertainment such as a comedy magician (whose name I've unfortunately forgotten) and an absolutely fabulous pianist called Linda Gentille. Movies Under The Stars was also open during this sailing. They showed movies premiered during July to November 2009 such as Avatar, Up, The Blind Side and Julie & Julia. I didn't quite attend the MUTS showings proper because the weather across the Atlantic and especially around the North Sea was too cold for most people to go outside--but I did enjoy a viewing of a silent-film version of Phantom of the Opera in the hot tub, which I will get to reviewing next. I also saw several movies in the in-room TV. POOLS, SPAS AND FITNESS: Except for the first few warmer days of the sailing, the outdoor pools weren't that well attended, and for good reason--it was simply too cold and windy to go outside for a good part of the cruise! I'm a bit of an oddity though--some might even say that I'm a little crazy--in that I like to soak in a hot tub in relatively cold (although not zero-degree) weather. I enjoy the contrast between the cold air and the warmth of the tub. Here's the rundown on the hot tubs and pools that I had tried--in general, the quality was a mixed bag and perhaps Princess can do a check-up on the hot tubs, because the jaccuzi jets were somewhat weak in most of them. Outdoor pool / hot tubs on Lido Deck: The hot tub on the left side of the MUTS screen is less hot and the jets are somewhat on the weak side, while the other hot tub is very hot and the jets were very strong. Easily the best rarely-used (due to cold weather) hot tub on the ship. Never tried the pool due to the weather. Indoor pool / hot tubs on Lido Deck: The hot tub near the clock had weaker jacuzzi jets than the one further from the clock. Both were usually occupied during daytime and nighttime. The indoor pool was heated most of the time and wasn't very crowded, but there was one instance where the water wasn't properly heated. Lotus spa / hot tubs on Sun Deck: Never tried the pool, but both hot tubs had lukewarm water and very weak jacuzzi jets when I tried them. Aft pool: Usually my favourite pool on Princess ships, it was either closed or it was too cold / windy to go to them on this cruise. The one time I braved the cold to go in and take a dip, the water was at a reasonable temperature, but I still returned to the indoor pool to do most of my swimming. As for the gym, it was fairly small, but I found that there was at least one treadmill / elliptical machine available the few times I went. Weight machines were also commonly used. If anyone does exercise using exercise balls, you might be out of luck--I didn't see any exercise balls in the gym during non-fitness-class hours, which were the hours where I used the gym. FOOD: Food in the main dining room (Amalfi) was reasonably good. The fish and seafood was prepared quite well, although according to some of my dining companions the fish became fishier as the cruise progressed. Beef and steak dishes started out as either overcooked or too tough, but to Princess's credit, both the meat quality and cooking improved over time--I found the quality of the beef medallions on the "Alternative Choices" menu more consistent than most of the other beef and steak dishes, although it might have been a result of timing. I wish the same quality improvement applied for the clear soups--the soups tend to be consistently oversalted. There was a distinct lack of cooked vegetables, which we were more accustomed to compared to salads. Dessert was consistently good, especially the Menage a Trois late in the cruise. The buffet offerings were a little hit-or-miss, especially the burnt breakfast bacon--but I did enjoy the piping-hot fried scallops as well as the cooked vegetables which the main dining room lacked. Also, I enjoyed the tropical fruit selection, although the melons seemed to be on the raw side on the first few days. Pizza was also good. We never got around to trying Sabatini's or the Crown Grill. As for the coffee--the complimentary coffee tasted rather awful. The freshly brewed coffee in the International Cafe was excellent, if a bit hot--I enjoyed them mostly on sea days, because I tried one while the ship was docked in Vigo, Spain and was charged 7% VAT tax. The cakes in the International Cafe was always great! I tried Afternoon Tea twice on the ship--I really loved the scones! SERVICE: I cannot say enough about the excellent service that we received from the ship. First there was Eric, our cabin steward, who was always friendly and kept our cabin clean and stocked with fresh tiles. There was also the staff at the Amalfi dining room--Devan the head waiter, Alex the waiter and Ryan the assistant waiter--always amicable and recommending various dishes to our table. Finally, much kudos to Aska, the manager at the crystal boutique who always have great recommendations on crystals and Russian handicrafts (especially matryoshka dolls). DISEMBARKATION: Since only about 800 passengers were leaving the ship on May 12 (while the remaining passengers continued with the Copenhagen roundtrip Baltic sailing), disembarkation was a very smooth process. The Princess Theater was only 1/3 full, compared to the packed house it was when waiting for ship-sponsored shore excursions. PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: Speaking fo shore excursions, this was an area where we found very mixed. We took ship-sponsored shore excursions for all the ports, just like we did for our wonderful South America cruise on the Star Princess, and our experience with the excursions ran the gamut from excellent to disastrous. One particular issue is the ship's organization of tour waiting areas and the ship's management of gangway queues. 1) For the shore excursion to Santiago de Compostela--the meeting place was changed from Princess Theater to the Explorer's Lounge at the last minute, without any notification in the stateroom or in the daily newsletter, because Princess Theater could simply not house enough people who wanted to go on ship-sponsored shore excursions. Thankfully Princess later placed any meeting place changes in both the Patter and in the staterooms. Having said that, there were a few shore excursions (not ours) where the new meeting place was the casino, and frankly the casino was too smoky to be a proper meeting location, especially for people sensitive to cigarette smoke. 2) For another shore excursion (couldn't remember if it was the one in Belgium or the one in the Netherlands), the shore excursion announcer asked *each bus* to head to the gangway in order. When this happened, people who were more behind in line all stood up en masse to head to the gangway in front of the people who had actually lined up in front of them in the Princess Theater. The announcer really should have called *each row in each bus* to head to the gangway because if you allow tour passengers to head to the gangway without any regard to line-up order, that kind of diminishes the point of lining up early to get a nice spot in the bus. (And given the number of people taking ship-sponsored shore excursions on this cruise, you will need to line up about 20-30 minutes before the designated meeting time to get a nice spot.) Or maybe I'm just being nitpicky about order? Now that I'm done with the rant, I'll present a brief rundown of the ports in the order we visited them: 1) PONTA DELGADA, PORTUGAL--Took the Furnas Valley Hot Spring and Botanical Garden tour. The botanical gardens was very lovely and the hot spring was interesting, albeit a little smaller than I expected. The uphill ride to see the view of an island was a bit of a wash though, due to rain. This was a good excursion overall. 2) LISBON, PORTUGAL--Took the Best of Lisbon tour and experienced a spectacular sail-in. Visited the Jeronimos Monastery (interesting monastery building made of limestone), the Maritime Museum (which showed the development of ships and nautical navigation in Portugal) and the town of Alfama (an old town in the Middle Ages; interesting but rather run-down). The one downside was the much longer than expected wait to get to the ship from the pier, because all the tour buses came in approximately the same time, and the Portuguese port authority couldn't handle the volume of passengers; additionally, it was a Sunday. 3) SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SPAIN (via Vigo)--Took the Santiago de Compostela tour and saw the outside of the cathedral, as well as explored the town. Given that 2010 was the Holy Year, the security and the lines made it difficult for us to visit the church, although the church would probably take hours to visit because Santiago de Compostela is tied with Rome and Jerusalem as one of the top pilgrimage destinations. The town itself was very charming, with lots of seafood restaurants which we unfortunately didn't get a chance to try. I would like to come back in the future to Santiago de Compostela on a land-based trip outside of the Holy Year, this time with more time to explore the church. 4) LONDON, ENGLAND (via Dover)--Given the size of London, you would only see an extremely brief glimpse of it on a one-day ship excursion. That was what we got--but what a glimpse indeed! We took a sightseeing cruise to the Thames River, then rode the London Eye observational ferris wheel. Both offer spectacular views of the city of London. Then after a lunch break with a delightful 3-course meal of salmon pie, beef shank and creme brulee with English tea, we visited the Westminster Abbey, which turned out to be an amazing albeit congested visit. The guide, David, was wondeful and hilarious. I would absolutely not hesitate to visit London again on a land trip, because it was that good. (As for why we visited London instead of going to Dover instead--this is because 2 people in our group had never visited London before, and would very much like to see it.) 5) PARIS, FRANCE (via Le Havre)--Like London, a big city which is impossible to see all of on a cruise shore excursion. But like London, we did take one anyway--specifically to see the Louvre and eat lunch at the Eiffel Tower. We had the opportunity to see Italian paintings in the Renaissance period and French paintings during the movement of Romanticism, as well as see famous works of art such as the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa--it was fabulous. Then we ate lunch at the Eiffel Tower--the lunch quality was all right (but did not expect the baguettes to be as hard as a solid rock), and the views of Paris, though good, wasn't nearly as good as what the London Eye had to offer. We rode through the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-ElysEes in the bus, but I did wish for a few seconds that we could get off at Champs-ElysEes. Thanks to this excursion, I fell in love with Paris and a one-week trip there is now on my bucket list. 6) BRUGES & GHENT, BELGIUM (via Zeebrugge)--great towns that offer a historical look at Belgium and some very charming views on the river. We visited the St. Bavo's Cathedral in Bruges and took a walk there. Afterwards, we went to Bruges and had lunch (loved the smoked salmon appetizer and the plate of eclairs, cookies and macaroons!), then we enjoyed a 30-minute cruise through the canal. Finally we bought some souvenirs--notably some excellent Belgian chocolate. 7) AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS (via Rotterdam)--unfortunately there was a garbage strike in the city of Amsterdam, which I found out started as a 1-day strike on April 30th, and then restarted on May 5th. If Princess warned passengers about potentially being unable to see the inside of the church in Santiago de Compostela, they could absolutely have warned passengers about the impending garbage strike in Amsterdam because of the health and safety issues involved. The garbage strike, combined with rainy weather, made the 1-hour canal cruise less enjoyable than it could have been. Fortunately the trip wasn't a complete wash because the lunch had some of the best fries and bread I've ever eaten on the trip, and the shopping was wonderful. 8) OSLO, NORWAY--very mixed weather; we had sun, cloudy skies, rain and even a bit of flurries during sailaway. We first visited the Open-Air Folk Museum, which was only okay. But the trip got progressively more interesting with visits to the newly under-construction Holmenkollen ski jump ramp and especially Vigeland Park, where we had the opportunity to see some beautiful sculptures from Gustav Vigeland. The sailaway featured some great views of the coastlines and small islands in Oslo. 9) GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN--we took the West Coast Islands tour. The views were beautiful--and that was about the nicest thing I could write about it. The guide was completely unprofessional--did not explain the itinerary, lacked a clear idea about where the washrooms were, failed to wait for people using the washroom before going off on her walk with the other passengers (which may lead to people going to the washrooms being left behind), and could only respond with "the shops were not open" when asked about free time for shopping (which was in the Princess shore excursion booklet). To put it bluntly, Princess really needs to stop using the services of this particular guide. (For more information: we were group C1 on the 8:30am-12:30pm session of the tour.) FINAL WORDS: For those who read to the end of my review--thank you so much for sticking with me! Hopefully I haven't bored you to tears. Transatlantic cruises, especially repositioning cruises, are a great way to see various European cities. This trip was an eye-opener for me, considering that I've never visited Europe prior to the cruise. It is definitely for older cruisers, however. (Which says very strange things about my travelling age... because I equally enjoy this trip and 2 independently-planned land trips to Japan where I definitely travelled and shopped like a woman in her mid-to-late-20s.) I won't hesitate to go on another Princess cruise again in the future on a different ship, perhaps visiting the Mediterranean. Having said that, I will likely rely less on ship-sponsored shore excursions in the future. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
The Good - This was our 20th cruise, 10th on Princess and 5th on the Grand. The first 15 days were spent crossing the Atlantic, visiting Bermuda, Scotland, Ireland, England and France. Other than the fact that we actually spent our days at ... Read More
The Good - This was our 20th cruise, 10th on Princess and 5th on the Grand. The first 15 days were spent crossing the Atlantic, visiting Bermuda, Scotland, Ireland, England and France. Other than the fact that we actually spent our days at sea and on shore palling around with a lot of the couples we had met on Cruise Critic, our experience wasn't much different from those reviews previously posted by Billco and Dr. John. My DW and I enjoyed several of the cruise activities such as Bingo and the Horse Racing. We also participated in the Slot, Poker Pro and Blackjack tournaments. For the most part, there were always a lot of people in the casino and it was sometimes difficult to find a slot machine that wasn't being played. All in all, we really enjoyed the first fifteen days of the cruise and were giddy to start the next half. The second half of the cruise was different from the first as we went to the warmer climates in the Mediterranean. All the ports we visited were exceptional. We especially enjoyed the quaintness of Cadiz, Alghero, Cannes and Gibraltar. We also loved our time in Florence and Rome. The Bad - As mentioned in previous reviews, the beds on this ship need replacement really bad. So, for the first nine days on the ship, we had to endure constant changes to our bedding by our room steward and housekeeping staff until they finally found a combination of things that let us have a restful night's sleep. The Ugly - First off, let me say, we met some very lovely British people on the second half of this cruise. While I am not condemning any one person or group in particular, there were several things that made the first half and second half of the cruise seem like night and day. The first fifteen days of this cruise was comprised of 90% American and Canadian and 10% other nationalities. Of this, there were a total of eight children on board, all behaving very well. The second fourteen days was comprised of 90% British and 10% other nationalities. Of this, there were over one hundred and sixty children on board, a lot with little or no parental supervision at all. This was very evident particularly during the Newlywed Game Show. There were at least 10 children who were loud and running all over the stage making it hard to hear or see the show itself. No one, including the cruise director's staff emceeing the show did a thing about it. After leaving Southampton, we noticed the long lines at the Purser's office for several days. Upon inquiring what this was all about, we were told by one of the crew that the lines were the British passengers canceling their tips. We later learned from our room steward that over half of his room tips had been cancelled. How this affected us was in the drop off in service to everyone in the dining rooms and buffet. This was really obvious during the last week of the cruise as one could tell by the attitude of the crew they weren't very happy campers. In addition, several of the Slot, Blackjack and Poker tournaments were cancelled or the prizes were reduced due to lack of interest. Most of the time, one could literally walk around the Casino and pick any machine to play. The most disturbing thing we noticed was the un-cleanliness of a number of passengers that had joined us in Southampton. Using the elevators and smelling someone that hadn't taken a shower in several days was not very pleasant. During the last two days of the cruise, the ship was on Code Red with Norovirus. If I had to bet, I would surmise it had to do with the number of people that avoided using the hand sanitizer dispensers outside of the dinning room and buffet. Prior to the outbreak, I had mentioned to my DW that I had never witnessed such poor hygiene compared to other cruises. My last issue happened during the Final Jackpot Bingo session. Prior to the jackpot game, the Bingo caller named a game she wanted to play (as all callers do), but she was literally jeered and cussed at by some of the people in the audience because they did not like her choice. Being loud and belligerent they held up the game and refused to play until she changed it to one they liked. After the final game, she actually broke down crying because she had been so humiliated. Overall, we were very happy with our cruise and glad we made the journey. On the other hand, we will try to do a little more research about some of the people who we will be traveling with in the future. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010

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