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19,330 Senior Cruise Reviews

Starting off with some of the positives, one has to keep in mind that the 12 day cruise to 6 ports of call was a real bargain so perhaps expectations should not have been too high! However, there was really no excuse for the many still ... Read More
Starting off with some of the positives, one has to keep in mind that the 12 day cruise to 6 ports of call was a real bargain so perhaps expectations should not have been too high! However, there was really no excuse for the many still unresolved problems since this ship had been sailing since March of 2015. Ours was a spur of the moment trip and there was nothing much left in room categories so I opted for a guarantee room, something we had never done before. Unfortunatley we were below a club and pastry shop and next to some loud motor so I will not bore you with the loud noises and vibrations that disrupted our nightly sleep. Unless you are a heavy sleeper, do not choose room 3020! The Anthum has some amazing technology and although a ship of this size should have had more than one real "broadway production," (Rock) the small venues all over the ship were good. There was also have an ample variety of things to do at all times but compared to Norwegian, was light on the "big" entertainment especially for a 12 day cruise! May I note, there was also a full scale performance called "The Gift" which was edgy, and avant-garde, but only appealed only to a small percentage of the travelers. When Norwegian lines had their ignugural sailing out of NYC they pulled in the "cream de la cream" of staff knowing first impressions are key!! Experienced people from their other ships, who knew the drill, were brought into NY. RC did the exact opposite, pulling in the most inexperienced. Many were not only new to their job but of course new to the ship. This is a formular built for disaster. I was surprised to see that a server in one of the specialty restaurants was a bus boy in the buffet during the day! Were these staffers trained? If so, was barely evident The customer services line were hours long each day because the complaints were rampant. Not only were these reps painfully slow in taking care of passengers, but OFTEN gave wrong information. Seemed like Instead of checking, they would rather give an answer that was incorrect and misleading. This is CUSTOMER SERVICE RC! The constant complaints might have not been earth shattering by themselves, but when they began to multiply, it started to create a lot of angst and pretty soon what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation turned out to be very stressful. The disgruntled passengers were many. The dynamic dining was a bust because no one knew what they were doing. If you didn't make a reservation well in advance, (who knew at what time and at what "unknown" restaurant you would want to eat at 2 months in advance?) you couldn't get a table between 7-8:30pm and would be stuck at the Windjammer buffet. (which was really only fair on a good day) The wait staff in most of the restaurants were highly inexperienced and often at the beginning folks could wait up to 1 hour to get served. People would sit for long periods before the dirty dished were cleared. The food was never hot! I watched one night at "Chic," where our waiter brought out our complete dinner, and served our entree (sitting on the tray getting cold) after we finished our soup and salad. I guess he wanted to save a trip to the kitchen! Table clearing in the windjammer was poor. There was a crazy system of two people (much need manpower) that would each carry one bottle of sanitizing spray. The clearers would not clear until this process took place and there were only a few sprayers!! Some of the wait staff spent entirely too much time chatting with passengers. These young people must be better trained as to appropriate behavior especially when the restaurant was so busy. On most days many "busers" seemed mesmerized as the tables sat with dirty dishes. They seemed to forget what they were there for. Clearing was so important because getting a seat during rush hours was VERY DIFFICULT. Windjammer's biggest problem is that they ran out of a food item on most days. Unbelievably, half way thru the trip they ran out of ice tea and started making it in small batches, I think to avert mutiny! The the menu selections were always the same, little creatively for sure! We did have a lovely and delicious dinner on out last night at Jamie Oliver's. We had heard so many negatives re their "ordinary food," that we walked in with low expectations. I am a NY foodie ( altho live in southern CT) and were pleasantly surprised. Our waiter , was terrific and the food was excellent. Best meal in 12 days! We are experienced cruisers (sailing the gamut from luxury to moderate) but this was our first experience on RC. We were so looking forward to pleasurable trip because sometimes, the convenience of sailing from a port near home, where air transportation is not needed, is a big plus, I will report in defense of RC, according to many of the folks we met on board, (who were all diamond members) this experience was highly unusual for this line. Many were so displeased with the Anthum, that they couldn't wait to disembark and said they would never sail on RC again. Like labor, one soon forgets the pain if it is a means to an end! I know management knew of the great discontent but the proof will be in the pudding as to how quickly RC will rectify their many problems! Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
We have travelled worldwide and vacationed a lot. But never cruised, For my 60th Birthday we decided we would try it. After considerable research and lots of friends recommending Holland America, Cunard, Princess, we opted for midsize ... Read More
We have travelled worldwide and vacationed a lot. But never cruised, For my 60th Birthday we decided we would try it. After considerable research and lots of friends recommending Holland America, Cunard, Princess, we opted for midsize luxury with Regent. I liked the all inclusive idea. We added a 5 day land tour also booked with Regent which subsequently we regretted as it would have been better to do land tour first and end on a high of luxury cruise ship, rather than be disappointed even by 5 star hotels. and a bus with guide and others was not what we wanted. Next time we would still cruise with Regent but hire a car and do our own tour. Regent booked and included flights from Orlando, met us in the Vancouver air baggage claim and that was last we saw of our bags until we reached our suite onboard. A private car took us from air to ship terminal. The TSA were still there but were not as annoying as usual. Champagne welcomed us on board, and as it is my favourite drink when mixed with cassis, Kir Royale,we started as it continued for 7 days, free booze throughout trip including wine with all meals. The room was big with a balcony, I would not travel without one. The service was exquisite. Food knockout. We breakfasted in bed every day, and it was about 3 days before we got hang of order card so we ended up with 4 breakfasts every day for the 2 of us. Scenery is fantastic on Inside Passage, and we saw whales, dolphins,seals, and went on some excursions which took us even closer to blue glaciers. All well organised, no queues as we were about 500 folk on a 700 ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
This was our second cruise on the Pearl and found it to be just as enjoyable and the first time. We flew out of Minneapolis, were it had been below zero for almost 5 days..... After arriving in Miami, we boarded a bus to take us to the ... Read More
This was our second cruise on the Pearl and found it to be just as enjoyable and the first time. We flew out of Minneapolis, were it had been below zero for almost 5 days..... After arriving in Miami, we boarded a bus to take us to the Pearl. We traveled with my sister and her husband and this would be their first cruise.....It also was my sister's birthday that day and I had called ahead and had her room decorated....GREAT job to the staff of the Pearl. The Pearl is a great looking ship and was just as impressive as it was last year. Boarding was a snap (well, the Latitudes and VIP lines get longer every year, in fact, it would have been quicker to go thru the regular lines) and soon we were on board drinking a welcoming glass of champagne. After finding our rooms, and checking out the birthday decorations, we headed up to the Garden Cafe and had our first of many snacks. The ship was held up for an hour because of a technical problem, but soon, we were sailing....It's always a fun to sail down the channel and wave at the people on shore. FOOD: The Garden Cafe has a wide variety of food to pick from...Meats, salads, breads, soups, ICE CREAM...The quality is on par for a ship buffet and I can't imagine anyone complaining about nothing to eat there....I prefer eating in the main dining room, but when called for the buffet is a great alternative....I did have a few breakfasts there and the made to order omelets were great....and all the FRESH fruits were outstanding. The Summer Palace is where we ate most of our meals. I like the service and attention. The menu seemed to be scaled down a bit from last year, but it still had many selections to choose from and we weren't disappointed on any meal. The overall food quality has taken a step down, but is still equal or better than most medium priced land restaurants. We did have a portion of lobster on two difference evenings, even though they were only half a tail, they were prepared very nicely. On one night the lobster was mixed in with shrimp, scallops and mussels....Very tasty....They do have some items on the menu that can be picked any time...mostly chicken, a small steak, pasta dish which works if you don't like any of the daily specials. We didn't eat at the Indigo, but it serves the same menu. I didn't try the Blue Lagoon (the 24 hour restaurant) but did hear some complaints on the service and food. The Great Outdoors buffet is a great place to grab some food and eat on the fantail of the ship....a scaled down version of the Garden Cafe. I didn't eat at any of the extra charge restaurants, by choice, but they did seem to always be full...and I did hear some complaints that they weren't worth the extra money...but then again, I heard raving reviews...so I guess it's a personal preference. The Ship: The overall appearance of the Pearl was outstanding. Sparkling clean but with some wear and tear showing. There a many places on the Pearl to just get away from everyone...Little nooks and crannies, but resting on the 7th deck lounge chairs seemed to be what I liked best....On the 3rd day out, Captain Lars made an announcement that there was a small outbreak of a GI virus and he was taking steps to contain it. The buffet was shut down to self-service and was manned by ships personnel. They did all the serving from that point on...even pouring coffee for everyone. "Wash your Hands" became a daily announcement and must have worked, because there never was a major outbreak of the virus thanks to a quick and well managed plan. Because of the shift of food staff to the buffet line, the service in the dining rooms did slow down, but the longer wait was well worth not having the virus spread. I really had to salute the Captain and the crew for the quick response and professional way they handled the outbreak. The Muster drill was the quickest and smoothest drill I've every had...We were in and out in less than 15 minutes....Very professional again....Shopping on the Pearl can be expensive...lots of high priced jewelry, my wife did look at a ring (Russian Alexandrite) for $45,000..NOT:-)...they did have their daily discounted items, so I guess there were things for everyone to buy... Entertainment: SHARKBAIT is a still one the best shows on the high seas....Funny, fancy juggling, old jokes, but very entertaining. They did two shows and then did a juggling class....Don't miss it... DAVID NASTER was the comedian. He did a preview show the first night and we really didn't like him... BUT...when he did his full show later in the cruise, he was fantastic....very funny and picked up on things that had happened during the cruise....which made it even funnier. Second CITY wasn't as good this year in my opinion....they lacked the funniness and quick wit that the group had last year. JEAN ANN RYAN COMPANY did the same shows that they did last year and I didn't like them then and they weren't as entertaining a second time around. The dancers were talented, but didn't have a very good show to perform. The productions aren't geared to the age of most of the passengers, the dancing seemed to be repetitious and lacked the punch that you get from a Jean Ann production. The husband/wife gymnasts were good, but how may times can you watch the same thing over and over....They did star in the Garden of the Geisha, but it got to be too drawn out.....Talented yes, but boring after awhile. The female singer was off key a lot and the male singer's voice kind of grated on the ear drums after a while. I was hoping they would have changed the shows after not liking them last year on the Pearl...But since I can't sing or dance, I guess I Shouldn't be so critical....NCL's shows have been suffering over the last 4 years...maybe it's time to take a second look at the entertainment.... CREW The crew of the Pearl couldn't have been more pleasant. From Captain Lars down to the pots and pan scrubber....People will complain that they didn't get good service at times....but I never felt like I wasn't getting my monies worth of attention...One complaint I had was that I didn't meet my room steward, I even went looking for him, but the room was always clean and we had towel animals almost every night...Our room steward did miss out on a $20.00 up front tip though (since I couldn't find him)....but of course he got his regular tip at the end of the cruise....We did have a most delightful young lady in the Summer Palace and couple of times and she got an extra tip also....The crew works hard and long hours and deserve an extra tip if they go out of their way to be of help and service. Ports Roatan: Roatan now has a Diamond International store right at the dock...It was their grand opening...like we need another one?....anyway, we did shop at the local flea market and was followed by the little kids begging for money. We did sit down to have a drink and one little boy followed us out to the end of the dock....The police were there almost immediately and dragged him away...But he was waiting for us when we came back into the street...He was supposed to be in school and wasn't allowed near where liquor was being served. There is a lot of new stores being built near the dock and I'm sure will hurt the locals that are selling there now. Belize: I did the Old Belize River and Al Tun Ha Mayan ruin....I've done it in the past and since my brother-in-law wanted to see some Mayan ruins, we spent the day on the river and ruins. We did get to see monkeys, crocs, manatees, Iguanas, bats, lots of birds so it was an enjoyable day. Cozumel: Shopping for Grand kids..T-shirt heaven...My sister and her husband did the Segway tour and really enjoyed it.... Great Stirrup Cay: A great way to relax and get ready to pack to go home. Get there early to get a decent chair and space. The ship served a nice picnic lunch and had one of the bands from the ship playing music. A nice walk around the island, wading in the water, grabbing a hamburger, and then getting back on the ship to pack the bags....a very relaxing day. Overall cruise: This was our 21st cruise and second time on the Pearl...I've always said, there is no such thing as a bad cruise, some are just better than others....well this was better than others...The ship was clean and well managed, the weather was great, the ride was the smoothest we've ever had, met lots of nice people, great memories, 7 extra pounds (which are disappearing). Cruising still has to be one of the best ways to travel...We will be booking for our 4th cruise to Alaska in 2010 or sooner if the right cruise comes along....Happy Cruising. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Our Trip started from O'Hare airport in Chicago, on the 15th of Jan., when the Temperature was a "bracing" -16oF. We were SOO happy to be heading to warmer climes We flew Cruise Air, as we got a very good deal on airfare, ... Read More
Our Trip started from O'Hare airport in Chicago, on the 15th of Jan., when the Temperature was a "bracing" -16oF. We were SOO happy to be heading to warmer climes We flew Cruise Air, as we got a very good deal on airfare, $1,200.pp. We were afraid at that price, Celebrity would have us on poor flights. Nothing could be further than the truth, 1 stop in San Francisco , and then direct to Auckland on Air New Zealand (13hrs). A very nice airline. Arriving in the "City of Sails"at 5:30am. Very shortly transported to our hotel..again Cruise line arranged , (To keep our great airfare we needed to use their pre-cruise hotel)The Langham. A beautiful classy older style hotel, but in the middle of the city, not too near the tourist area. They do provide a free shuttle into the more "active" areas. We were allowed to check in immediately , we were afraid we'd be in "Limbo" as their normal check in was 2pm. In fact we were offered their breakfast buffet free, which we were to get free the next morning also(Considered to be the best in Auckland.. $37.Nz pp) Slept most of the day..we're old folks ! Packet handed to us upon arrival informed us that we would be given a 2 ½ hr bus tour of the city as our transfer to the ship so we didn't do anything else about sightseeing, as I said we were very tired Were pleased with Celebrity thus far with our treatment. The next couple days...were..well not as nice, the Embarkation was very smooth, our bags had preceded us on a truck that morning, and we were CC and Capt. Club, so went to the short line, virtually no line. I was to have a wheelchair if needed as we had an accessible cabin..though I use a cane and did not have a chair. Felt walking wasn't too bad...until we had to go up the gangway which was very steep. Was exhausted as I stepped aboard, said to my DH..."sorry I didn't take that chair " (Promptly they got me into one and to our cabin..and left the chair for my use for the duration of the cruise ). Bags arrived a little late, we didn't eat ,as we'd had a light lunch at a stop on the bus tour. Then early seating in the Dining Room. We'd gotten a note saying they'd moved us to a different "better" table, which was right at the head of the stairs next to the piano...if that was better ??? Traffic going by to every table all night, and looking into the kitchen, literally no ocean view.. Could have complained as CC and Capt Club was to have priority seating, but let it go, wasn't a big deal. Meal was fairly good, but not memorable to keep in mind what we ate. Our table mates were pleasant and from enough of a variety of backgrounds and places to make the talk interesting Then after the opening show as we returned to our cabin, my DH stated he wasn't feeling up to par. So we hurried back to cabin....the beginning of 2 long days The whole evening he was distressed with the "tourists revenge", and it became obvious the next morning he wouldn't be able to do our first tour...to Rotorua..from Tauranga, said I should go anyway...but was showing some symptoms also. I called the Desk to report his illness, (as that is impressed upon you strongly in a paper you must fill out)They said he must go to the Medical at 9am when they opened and I decided to call someone who was on our private tour with us, to have them cancel both of us (at no cost thank heavens). After a long while I received a call from the Dr. Suggesting I too should report to medical. My Dh was dehydrated enough that they gave him a "Drip". Was running a fever. HE was to be sent back to cabin after the drip was empty, and quarantined for 48hrs, It was decided I was to be also, but probably not really a case like his, so only 24hrs. She also stated that "You aren't the only one..." to him. Wherever this came from, whatever caused it...We never received a DR. Bill from the Celebrity. I've had to use a medical dept before on a ship, and the bill was very high for very small services (Pills etc) Was expecting a large bill. Strange isn't it?? So Our first 2 days were spent sleeping mostly, for my DH and, when feeling better laying on our HUGE deck, or reading. Our cabin (7212) was an Aft accessible cabin and the balcony was 13'x21', cabin about the same size. It was really great to have that room during those 48hrs. Can't Imagine an inside room for 48hrs I spent most of my day after my quarantine, with him, except to go to the Cruise Critic meeting. It was nice to meet the folks on our Roll Call, but NO members of the staff of the ship attended except the Cruise Director, and another of the Activities Staff Surely different from the Azamara one when ALL the staff came including the Capt. At one time or another, and answered questions I also got to get our lunch at the Ocean Breezes Cafe, and a very nice waiter carried the tray all the way to our cabin, and out to the table on the balcony. Before this we'd done room service, and I ordered from the dining room menu...lamb shank was excellent.(.DH had broth ) 2nd day was an At Sea Day so we missed no more ports or tours. Napier N Z was OUR first port of Call. Almost didn't get to go there until the front desk called the DR. To ascertain my DH was actually off quarantine and free to take tour (Med. Dept. wasn't open yet ) We toured with Hawkes Bay Scenic Tours, and John Hanlon was marvelous. He loves his city and surrounding country, and it shows in his tours. The Art Deco buildings in town were very photogenic The winery tour and countryside, very different from home, and the view from MT. Te Mata breathtaking...watching hangliders soaring over the highest spot in New Zealand. Being a photographer himself, he knew the best sites to stop at Wellington, we'd decided on a quick 2 ½ hr tour with Wellington Rover...was NOT as good as expected, driver was late to pick us up, and then drove like a madman all over to try to make up time, (so he'd not miss his next tour) and very short Photo op stops. (After asking how long they'd be stopping, I usually just stayed on bus, as I have trouble getting in & out of vehicles like these mini buses). He was supposed to take anyone who wanted to go to ship, or they could spend time in town...after all but 1 couple elected to stay in town...he refused to take them back to ship It would "take too much time." Christchurch We'd elected to do a private tour in ALL ports we visited, the exchange rate made their prices very attractive, plus personal service and small groups. Here we went with "Explore Canterbury" run by the Lyttletown Shuttle service to Akaroa for a harbor cruise on the Black Cat cruiseline, and scenic tour of the Akaroa Peninsula . It was a great tour, saw many of the Hector's Dolphins, seals, sea caves etc. Akaroa is a little seaside town with a French touch, quaint houses in the style of seaside France. Beautiful views and great commentary by "Dermot", our guide. Dunedin here we went with the "Back to Nature" tour Co. We were mostly pleased, but Ian, our guide was newly back from retirement and got behind occasionally, and also spent time doing a photo or two of his own, kinda slowed us down. We'd elected to do the Royal Albatross Centere, (A disappointment, mostly videos and talks...only 3 birds in sight from their viewing area, sitting in the grass or on nests. Was supposed to be peak viewing season.) For 30$ NZ a waste of money to me. The Yellow Eyed Penguin reserve was better, except for people who are any way handicapped, you can't get to the birds (I did get to tour their "Hospital for Penguins" so saw them more close up than the others did ) These penguins are very endangered, and the reserve is trying to help that situation. First we toured around town a bit...saw the Train Station...very classic & beautiful, and Cadbury's Chocolate factory. And the"Steepest street in the world!" You know there are NO straight or level roads "Down Under"...at least in New Zealand!! That evening we left to sail to "The Sounds"...but in the middle of the night...the wind whistled and the ship started tossing back-forth AND side to side, and rain poured. The Capt. reported at 8am...74 knots an hr winds (near hurricane force) so ...we missed the first sound, couldn't get in...and proceeded to the next Sound..and as the "Grand Buffet" was scheduled ,for lunch, we all tried to eat. My DH collected a plate for me as I didn't feel I could handle the tossing deck AND a plate. The buffet seemed to go over pretty well with the others...I had no idea what all was set out. The next sound was also impossible to enter...so we decided to nap, as keeping our balance was nearly impossible. Suddenly the PA system announced we were already into Milford Sound, and we rushed to our rear balcony, each grabbing a camera, and DH also his binoculars (the ship's ones are useless). The Sound leaves one almost speechless, (for me an impossibility) Cliffs towering 2,000' over Millennium...cloud topped because of the storm. One of Nature's Wonders ! Because of that tropical storm, we were treated to Milford Sound at it's most Spectacular...100's of waterfalls, from tiny rivulets to a roaring cascade, everywhere you looked. When the sun would peek out you'd get some great sun/shadow photos. A private tour boat near the cliffs ...looks like a tiny toy as it sails near the waterfalls, on my photos you can hardly see it's there. We watched the whole trip through the sound from our aft balcony, no crowding at the rail, sitting on our deck chairs right at the railing! The experience was amazing, and so are the Photos! Then on to Australia...2 days "At Sea". After those very long tour days in N.Z. we needed the rest. We had our first formal night, (we'd been in quarantine for the first) was during these 2 days. I have to say my DH looked pretty sharp in his rented Tux, BUT a word to the wise...the shirts (2) neither one was the size we'd arranged for, one was wearable so he wore it both the formal nights left, the shoes a size too small, which he suffered thru the first night but wore his own black shoes the next one! And the tie was "floppy". Still it was his first time in a tux, , the last formal night we celebrated his 70th BD. Food was NOT as it used to be, (adequate would be generous, but company convivial)...and service quite good so we enjoyed the evening. Melbourne, again we had arranged for a private tour guide I found after much searching, for someone to take us to the 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Rd. The Ship's tour was very pricey, and the other large companies' available tours left before we could leave the ship. I found a "We'll do the tour YOUR way" guide, in Jeff Richardson.australia-touristguide.com.au. In the end we added 2 other couples from the ship, and had a full 10 hr day. The drive along "The Road" was spectacular..The views, the Apostles and Colors Wow! and much cooler than the 114oF that greeted us in Melbourne! We had a wonderful tour and took MANY photos. Jeff had offered us an evening tour around Melbourne and a trip down Lygon Street, the center of dining in Melbourne. So after a quick shower, and fresh clothes (cool ones) we braved the evening and night tour of the city. What a great city, huge parks everywhere, much entertainment going on..in the middle of the week, including the Australian Open Tennis Classic (In that temperature!!) Thank the Lord for Air conditioned vans & Restaurants! Lygon Street was very interesting and great Italian food. It was a great evening, a highlight of our cruise. Day 2 in Melbourne we spent aboard the ship...too hot for me! After 1 day at sea, we arrived in Sydney, 5:30am. My DH went up on top deck to record our arrival but was too late to see anything but the docking. I went out on Our Balcony...marveling in the views...the "Coat Hanger" harbor bridge right off our balcony, and just a peek around the divider presented the Opera House to the right. We needed to eat fast...another private tour to the "Blue Mountains" and we were due to meet the "Anderson Tours" bus at a few minutes after we were allowed to depart the ship. The bus had passengers from hotels etc., and were waiting for us 2 couples from Millennium, I street off the dock. Our first stop was Featherdale Wildlife park, allowed about 1 hr there, got to pet/feed the Koalas and Kangaroos, and see many of the very different species from "Down Under". Next a stop at a park for "Billy Tea" and Boomerang lessons for those who wanted them! My DH took my place so he got 2 lessons...sorry but he was dismal at both tries (he does frisbee so great too!) Then on to Lunch at a Country Club, served family style, (included in tour) and we spent 3 hrs or so at "Scenic World" in the Blue Mts., taking their gondola ride to the floor of the Jamison Valley, right under the 3 Sisters rock formation. Our Guide "Bob" took us on a walk thru the temperate rainforest, on a boardwalk, explaining the Flora & Fauna...mostly Giant ferns and Eucalyptus trees. We were to ride the "worlds steepest cog railway" but JUST before we were to board, it jumped a cable up on top, and we had to return to the gondola and wait for a turn, we were therefor late for the last part of our tour, a riverboat cruise to the Circular Quay. We did finally catch another boat and ride it back, along the Parramatta River, under the bridge, past the Millennium..after a hot day the cool breeze on the front of the ferry was most welcome, and great views of Sydney. Arriving too late to dine in the MD, we opted to finish our packing, and order Room Service to eat on our soon to be missed balcony. It was a magical evening, as the whole harbor was lit up, from the bridge, the Opera House and all the ships bustling around. It was a Saturday, and dinner boats and Dancing Hall boats sailed past. Crazy People climbed to the top of the Harbor Bridge IN THE DARK! We could see their flashes going off ! What a wonderful ending to what was in the greater sense a really "Grand Adventure." Too bad it didn't end on quite such a high note...Celebrity put us all who flew out that day, on a bus to the airport...at 7:45am...no matter when your plane left! Now Sydney Airport has very few places to sit until after you check in, and you can't check in until 3 hrs before flight. OUR flight was 3:05pm...so there we were with our bags, and several other couples from Millennium trying to kill several hrs until we could at least get rid of the luggage! This was NOT well done of Celebrity especially for a CC cabin and a Capt Club elite member (one of our fellow waiting passengers). They said we could have signed up for the tour of Sydney at $69 (no credit for our free transfer w/air) or hire a taxi to take us from a hotel where we could probably PAY to drop bags for a couple hrs. What hogwash...cruise over..sweep them out the door with the trash! Flights were good though long...weather a bit warmer at home, adventure over. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
    We were not impressed. This was our sixth Cruise but the first from a UK port. Whether this was the reason or not we are not sure.     The Balcony Cabin was very good and very clean. The staff were all very good and ... Read More
    We were not impressed. This was our sixth Cruise but the first from a UK port. Whether this was the reason or not we are not sure.     The Balcony Cabin was very good and very clean. The staff were all very good and attentive.The food was overall abysmal, certainly the worst we have had on any cruise ship. It is the very first time I have been on a cruise and not had a decent steak in the restaurant. The Windjammer Buffet was not very good either. The presentation of the food was pathetic and the same every day very little variation.      They seem to do some very strange things. Although there were nearly four passengers they closed half the Winjammer and only used one side most of the time, consequently there was a shortage of tables. Why ? no one seemed to know.       One day whilst in the Med they stopped the use of balconies so they could be cleaned.......why not do this in cooler climes when the balconies were not being used ?       Also while in the Med on a beautiful day the closed part of the pool area for CLEANING and Varnishing !!!!!       The cost of everything was very expensive ( $6.50 for a can of Buds...almost a fiver)$29.99 for 1 hour on the internet.       They must actually have got embarrassed at on stage as they were charging $12 for a trip into Livorno town and decided to refund $4 and charge only $8.       We only met one couple on the ship that were satisfied customers ( and we strongly suspected that was because they had a relative working onboard)       We were on the Grand Princess last year wnd the difference was remarkable it would have been difficult to fault anything on that ship.        By the way we agree with the Daily Telegraph reviewer, there are only lifts at the front and rear of the ship and it is a hell of a long walk to get your meals if you are not situated near the rear.        Maybe just too big !!!!!!!              Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Trip notes:   Landed at Heathrow. Toured airport several times. Once by Hertz bus and several passes in rented car. Rented Ford Mondeo, diesel with manual shift. The usual initial discovery of instrumentation and controls was enhanced ... Read More
Trip notes:   Landed at Heathrow. Toured airport several times. Once by Hertz bus and several passes in rented car. Rented Ford Mondeo, diesel with manual shift. The usual initial discovery of instrumentation and controls was enhanced by being on wrong side of car. Had to have Hertz tell me trick to get into reverse. Drove to Maidstone in mild rain. Barb provided guidance via screams.   Surprisingly we arrived at hotel, but had to wait till noon for room. First room was nice, but not available till 3. Room they gave us was not up to par, noisy end of hall, not updated. I requested that we get first room and kept luggage in 2nd room till 3pm. Rain had stopped but day remained cloudy.   Went to downtown Maidstone. Traffic is a maze. Thank God for roundabouts. Found several sites but did not tour. Returned to hotel to check in. Got recommendations for eating and parking downtown. Returned to town for fish and chips.   Toured Maidstone. It had small core section of "old town" Tried to get into bishops house it is closed to public and now used only for wedding receptions. Toured carriage house, price was right free. Second day was sunny but cool. We went to Cantabury cathedral in AM and Leeds castle In the PM.   Drove to Dover saw ship dock, dropped off luggage dropped off car walked to ship   Embarkation: This was our first NCL experience on the Jewel. waited in queue, was quite crowded. NCL passed out information regarding the prior cruise having a norovirus outbreak so they were busy cleaning the ship. Ship was spic and span when we finally got to our rooms around 1:00 PM. Cabin was nicely appointed bed quite comfy with duvet coverlet. Mini bar in room but you need to pay for everything. Tv included Fox news and EsPN and the BBC, they also had an assortment of movies available. Didn't meet any of the cabin stewards immediately. All the help is very friendly. Liked the idea of the toilet being separated by the sink so two could use the bathroom at once. Actually had a shower door instead of a curtain and that was nice. Room also had hairdryer that actually worked quite well and vanity. Lots of mirrors to check yourself out and room for clothing. Dining: Liked the idea of freestyle dining Tsars Palace (sit down ) was usually average or above on most items. Didn't care much for the garden cafe buffet as it was always crowded and there was no law and order to anything. You always find guests who push and shove and cut in the lines. The first five days of the cruise they had to plate the food because they were afraid of the norovirus or the swine flu scare. The specialty restaurants we didn't try as my husband preferred not to pay for the service charges in the restaurants. There was a good cafe called Blue Lagoon which had comfort foods of home and had the best hot wings. It was a pleasure having lunch there or even breakfast although the menu was limited. The service was usually good in all restaurants. All wait staff were courteous. Shopping: shopping onboard there was always something to occupy my time ...the bijou boutique sold everything for 10.00 and was next to the library...was only open at night. There are some good perfume and liquor duty free buys but other than that you are probably better off shopping in ports. Port of call and excursions: I have to say they saved the best for last as Stockholm was a very pleasant surprise. Although the prices are high the excursion to the Vasa Museum is well worth it. The port does have a hop on hop off bus but this is one port we decided to do with the ship. The sail in and out of the port is the most beautiful with islands of wildlife, small fishing villages and sailboats, quite idyllic and peaceful. Stockholm is a clean and well laid out city. I only wish NCL had stayed a little longer.   WARNING: Russia requires a visa unless you are with a sanctioned tour group meeting certain requirements, i.e., in-country less than 48 hrs. etc. Visa costs $130 plus S&H, so canned tours end up less expensive then doing it on your own. In addition to NCL, there are private tour companies that are sanctioned, but you need to booking advance. St. Petersburg: Since we had been to this city before we knew what we would see again. The ship's tours are quite expensive so we opted to do a private tour on our own after reading cruise critic members recommendations and I am so happy we did that. We booked with Alla Tours and they were wonderful, a small group of 14 together in a Mercedes minibus with an English speaking guide named Valya, (who knew her history). The tour was 300 Dollars per person for two days of full touring and included everything even two lunches one a sitdown and the other a box lunch - a two and one half hour tour of the Hermitage, the St. Catherines Palace, Peter and Paul fortress, the Church of the Spilled Blood, Peterhof gardens and hydrofoil ride back to the city, Yusopav's Palace, St. Isaac's Cathedral, of course a shopping stop. Note: vip...book this tour before leaving home. they will send you the required forms for a visa (necessary in Russia), your tour tickets and confirmation. When arriving in Russia, the customs officers will require a passport, copy of passport, your tour documents, landing card (given by ship) and your Russian visa (supplied by Alla or other tour company)...you can print these on your home computer..once you see how much money you save you will be very happy. The guides use a headset system and she has a microphone so you can hear all in the museums and palaces, vip, as they are very crowded especially the Hermitage Museum. A nice touch also was the gift they gave us at the end of the tour. Warnemunde (Berlin port)...we didn't take the Berlin tours, too far away and too much time on trains..Instead we took a train right from the port to Rostock about a 20 minute pleasant train ride. You then get on a tram and it takes you into the middle of the city. Nice outdoor farmers market along with a very helpful Tourist Information office with bathrooms. Nice cobblestoned streets with a lovely Lutheran church (St. Mary's)...try one of the hotdogs or sausages from one of the many vendors..or a nice pretzel. There is an internet cafe on one of the main streets, its in a building with an arcade. Copenhagen: Beautiful city, again we took a bus into the city from the port. About a 20 minute walk I would guess. Very expensive city if you are planning on eating or purchasing souvenirs. We opted for a nice canal ride which lasted about 40 minutes. Watch out for bicycle lanes in the city, don't get in their way or they will call you stupid, as I found out. Tallin, Estonia. What a nice old city very easily walkable from the port, lots of cobblestoned streets, this is where I bought a lot of souvenirs although the prices could have been better. Still cheaper than the other ports. Old town is very accessible, but the Upper town you would be wise to take a bus or taxi as its quite far away. Helsinki, Finland: This is one other port we took a tour. Based on some other comments from cruise critic we decided that we wanted to go to Porvoo, the 2nd oldest city in Finland to see the wooden houses..the second part of the trip was to a horse farm (they raise horses for racing) and the owners let you into their home for homemade cake and coffee. Very laid back and pleasant experience. Unfortunately the drive out there was 40 minutes each way so it took a chunk of time out of the excursion. Helsinki, again you can get the Hop on hop off bus ...if you go downtown the Rock church is a must see, along with the open air market. I visited here about 7 years ago and remember the prices were better then. Entertainment on Board: some of the shows were very good, among the ones I would rate the highest are the comedy show, the Russian violinist and the Cirque De Soleil type of show. We didn't think the magic show was very good but kids do like it. The tricks were not very imaginative. All in all, the entertainment is above average. Bars/Lounges: We didn't utilize these so I cannot comment on them.  Conclusion: My main comments would be that all in all the Norwegian Jewel lived up to my expectations. While lines like Cunard and Princess are probably a step above, Norwegian is a good value for the money spent. I would have no qualms taking another Norwegian cruise line tour...My only big complaint are the four sea days but the itinerary worked well. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
I'm a very fussy cruiser. When the cruise lines ask for an evaluation at the end of a cruise, I always have a list of problems and ideas for improvements. I had only good things to say at the end of this one. Our embarkation and ... Read More
I'm a very fussy cruiser. When the cruise lines ask for an evaluation at the end of a cruise, I always have a list of problems and ideas for improvements. I had only good things to say at the end of this one. Our embarkation and disembarkation were the fastest we had ever experienced. The ship is beautiful from floor to ceiling. The floors are stone tiles arranged in beautiful patterns throughout the ship. The furniture was stylish and in excellent condition. The carpet was soft and appeared new. The ship was shining and spotless. The art work in the stairways was fun and clever. We made many trips to the 14th floor to walk down each of the stairways to see the sculptures, glass, paintings, tile mosaics, etc. at each landing. I recommend doing this. Also, there are automatic doors everywhere. If you're a little munchkin like me, you have a hard time opening the heavy doors to get outside, so this was so welcome. There are so many separate areas on the ship that we never got the feeling of crowds. Any lines that we experienced were very short, except for the single exit from the main theater. We just sat and chatted until the line went down. There was no wait in the food lines as multiple venues were available. I've read a lot of complaints about the food, but we were very satisfied. The presentation was beautiful. The food was tasty. The strip steak was tender. The other diners at our table agreed. The food was not heavily salted. The servers were top rate. The shows were wonderful. There were 3 comedians who made me laugh out loud. The ice show was just amazing, as were their costumes. But is was the singers and dancers that blew me away. They were much better than I had ever seen before. Such high energy! Beautiful costumes! And the singers could really belt out those tunes! WOW! There was quite an even spread of ages, from young families to older couples. The linens were unusually nice. The towels were thick, soft and fluffy and the sheets were smooth and rich feeling. As return passengers, we received coupons that covered our entrance to Johnny Rockets, gave us $10 in gambling money and 2 buy-one-get-one-free drinks. The cocktail sellers were unobtrusive. They walked the aisles, but were very low key. I appreciated that. I hate having the drink sellers in my face all day long. I just want to relax! Our cruise was to Mexico, but we never got off the ship. (We would love a cruise to nowhere and back, with no port fees! We just want to cruise on the boat.) The purpose of our cruise was to relax and we were able to do that. We were not so scheduled that we had rush here and there. We'll be back, for sure....   Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
We did back-to-back Western followed by an Eastern Caribbean Cruise, because we enjoy cruising on the Disney Magic. Obviously, we are what you would call Disney fanatics. During the first week we went with friends, and stayed for the ... Read More
We did back-to-back Western followed by an Eastern Caribbean Cruise, because we enjoy cruising on the Disney Magic. Obviously, we are what you would call Disney fanatics. During the first week we went with friends, and stayed for the second cruise. I would rate this as our best ever Disney Cruise. Embarkation was a snap, and we were on board the Disney Magic at noon. The staff on the entire ship truly made us feel at home. The weather is prefect for those who enjoy low humidity and temperatures ranging from the middle 60s to the very low 80s. I could believe the improvement on the food and menu. I would have to say that the menu and food quality was superior to Celebrity Century, which we had cruised on earlier during the year. On lobster night you actually got a whole lobster. The food was never cold and seasoned appropriately. Because the Disney Magic has a quiet pool for adults, a coffee house for adults, exercise equipment just for adults, etc., you never really noticed the kids, who made up 40% of the 2000 passengers. During the second week we received treats before every meal, because we a staff member recommended us for this. There was no extra charge at all. The category 11 inside stateroom for two people is more than adequate. We normally go inside cabin so we can cruise an extra week. In addition, an inside cabin is nice and dark, and you can always get some extra sleep in. Normally, my day consisted of the following: 6:10 a.m., get up; exercise for 1 hour in the spa area; then a 30 minute swim in the adult pool; followed by 10 - 20 minutes in the whirlpool. After cleaning up we would have a late breakfast at Luminare's. The rest of the day we would enjoy the Cove Cafe area, and of course either do some reading or attend various adult sessions put on by Disney. It is my impression that very few people really take the time to enjoy all the Disney Magic has to offer. We were so rested and relaxed after two weeks, we signed up for another back-to-back cruise for the same time next year. Once again we received a 10% discount for booking on board, and will receive $200 in credits for each week. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Princess cruises informed us on the Friday day before we left to let us know the ship was delayed due to bad weather, so we were impressed with that as we were meeting friends in Sydney from England who were going on the same cruise. The ... Read More
Princess cruises informed us on the Friday day before we left to let us know the ship was delayed due to bad weather, so we were impressed with that as we were meeting friends in Sydney from England who were going on the same cruise. The only thing we didn't like was how much cheaper they got the cruise to us a mere $1000 don't know why this is?. Anyway the departure of the boat was supposed to be 4pm but it sailed out at midnight so that was a shame as we were looking forward to seeing Sydney Harbour in daylight. When we saw the Sun sail in,it was like Wow for us first timers, The first couple of days the sea was a bit rough so we explored the ship and thought how well kept it looked, we loved the theatre's and entertainment, the bars especially the Atrium bars for cocktails before dinner. We were in the Regency restaurant for 2nd sitting, our waiters were fabulous and attentive and funny. We thought the food was fabulous and so much to choose from, different choices every night, loved the crab, lobster and prawn nights and so easy to eat no breaking up claws. The Horizon 24 hour restaurant had plenty to choose from too for breakfast and lunches ect. Their was a problem on board with the norovirus infection but we thought the captain handle it very well, and yes I suppose it was a problem to some people having to clean their hands all the time but it never bothered us. Overall we loved it and are looking forward to our next cruise on Dawn Princess to Hawaii in April 2010. We did scenic cruising around Milford Sound, Doubtfull Sound, Thompson Sound ect. The scenery was magnificent and beautiful, but we didn't see much wildlife a few seals and dolphins. The weather was overcast and showery. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Here is my writeup of the 5/8/08 trip, we had a wonderful time! First off, the itinerary really makes this cruise - the port stops were AWESOME! That is why we chose this cruise and we were not disappointed. This was our fifth cruise. I ... Read More
Here is my writeup of the 5/8/08 trip, we had a wonderful time! First off, the itinerary really makes this cruise - the port stops were AWESOME! That is why we chose this cruise and we were not disappointed. This was our fifth cruise. I had just retired from my career with the Federal Government. When our cruise took place, the US Dollar was VERY weak - it took $1.56 to buy One Euro. Since then the exchange rate has improved a great deal (almost 20 percent better). Here are just a few tips from our cruise: Check-in - Almost perfect. We arrived promptly (after an excellent bus tour of Rome) and were checked in within 10 minutes. Room- the room was large and clean. We booked the Superior Interior stateroom and at 172 square feet, it was generous in size. Our only complaint was the old TV set but that is now what we cruise for! Food - Good to very good. We have had better but our food was acceptable in choice, taste and quantity. No complaints at all. The ship - now shows its age a bit but still has class. The two-story glass walls in the dining room were particularly nice and the ship is large enough not to feel crowded. Service - All service was very good to excellent. Our waiter and busboy were wonderful and our room steward was very good. No complaints at all. Entertainment - a strong point for Royal Caribbean and no exception here. Fun Dinner shows and good music everywhere. RCL knows how to entertain! Enrichment - I attended a very nice class on digital photography for free, very nice! Now, the strong point and the reason we took this cruise is the itinerary and it was Outstanding! Italy and Croatia are wonderful places to visit. Here are comments on each place we visited: Portofino - this was the most beautiful stop on the cruise. The highlight is to get off the ship and climb the hill to Castello Brown. It opens 10 AM and costs 4 or 5 Euros admission and is well worth it just to see the view of Portofino harbor from there. The lighthouse (El Faro) is just OK and is quite a hilly walk. We would not walk onto the lighthouse again. The Church of San Giorgio is along the way and is free, worth a quick look. There is a viewpoint to the right/north of the church with a long look down to the water and you can see some pretty good sized fish near the shoreline. If you have not purchased Euros yet, there are two real banks there in Portofino and they take your ATM card. We did that and our bank only charged a transaction fee of about $3 with a good exchange rate. As you know, Portofino is a place where you have to ride a Tender to get into town. The seas were calm for us so we had no problem getting in. In heavy seas you will be out of luck, they cannot operate the Tenders in heavy seas and that would be a sad occurrence, this is the most beautiful port we visited. Livorno - We had a one hour delay getting into the port. Apparently, there was a container ship slow to clear out of the port and it delayed all the cruise ships. We took the "Taste of Florence" excursion and really enjoyed it. All the excursions SHOULD be good here, with one caveat described below. All excursions started off about 1 to 1.5 hours late, then just before we reached Florence there was a bad traffic accident that stopped or delayed traffic. We sat in out bus an extra hour and finally went into Florence about 2.5 hours late. We were lucky, our guide delayed our return to the ship by 1.5 hours and it worked out well. The wife and I had a great time and after the 1-hour tour we had lunch and walked over to the Pitti Palace and were overwhelmed by the paintings and sculptures! One caveat mentioned above: the one hour late arrival of the ship plus the one hour delay caused by the traffic accident caused problems with one excursion - the Exclusive Tour of Pisa and Florence. That tour had tickets to the Uffizi Museum for a specific time and had to hurry through their museum visits. The people were very disappointed. Other than that everyone enjoyed their tours. On the second day in Livorno, we took the trip to Lucca and loved seeing the old walled city. Other tours would be fun too. Messina- Almost everyone wanted to go see Taormina and those tours all sold out right away - book early! We were delayed about an hour on this city because of high winds/waves getting into the harbor at Messina. Almost everyone's excursions were cut short by an hour. Taormina is fun, we really liked the old Greek Theater and the narrow streets. Split, Croatia - what a wonderful place! Truly beautiful! Get your Croatian money (Kuna) from an ATM machine or bank in the old town. The exchange rate was about 4.64 to the US Dollar. We took the excursion to Salona and Trogir. Salona was just a bunch of rocks and disappointing but Trogir was a beautiful old walled Medieval city on a small island wonderful place!! The palace in Split is also incredible and fun to explore. Croatia is so clean and affordable. Be sure to visit an Internet Cafe if you wish to save big money checking your email. 24 minutes for about $2.25 is a bargain. Venice - What can I say, an awesome place! We were very disappointed we had to pay $35 each for water transportation from where our ship was docked to St Marks Square. What was worse is that our water transport did NOT go down the Grand Canal. If you want to do this, you will have to ALSO buy a ticked on the Water Bus called the Vaporetto. The cruise ship gave no advice/help at all in telling us where to find the stations or how to buy tickets their. We are very disappointed with them for all but forcing us to buy their shuttle water bus tickets. Otherwise, Venice is superb. We took the 2 hour boat ride "Panoramic Venice" and enjoyed it but once again, no Grand Canal!! We went thru the Doge's Palace on on own and I enjoyed the Naval Museum. Dubrovnik - this one is close to Portofino on the most beautiful place we visited! Change money in the old town - banks are plentiful and obvious. The thing to do is walk the walls and do so right away, take an early shuttle (another $5 charge RCCL does not tell you about and the distance is too far and hilly to walk). Get into old town as early as possible and walk the walls right away before it gets hot. The cost is 50 Kuna for adults - that is $10.80 each. Food prices here are much cheaper than Italy and you will want to buy lunch here. Naples - High winds meant we had to try twice to dock. We were delayed 1.5 hours here and the weather was bad so excursions to Capri were cancelled. We went on the Amalfi Coast Drive / Pompeii tour and loved it. The Amalphi coast is incredible and the lunch they provided was EXCELLENT (so was the wine). Pompeii is one of the top attractions in all of Italy and it did not disappoint us at all. Unfortunately, it rained pretty hard while we were there but we still had a good time. Rome - we arrived early in the morning on Day 1 - and took the optional city bus tour. It was well worth it - we drove through Rome and stopped for 45 minutes at the Vatican but obviously had no time to go into any buildings. It was still a great experience. Prices in Italy are TERRIBLE, the dollar is way down from what it was. We had a lunch in Florence and it cost the two of us 32 Euros - that is over $50 Dollars for pizza, a large Coke and a large beer. All in all, the trip was fabulous because of the port calls. The ship was acceptable, especially the beautiful dining room. The food was good but not great. The entertainment was very good. The ship shows its' age. We were disappointed at the costs of shuttle buses ($35 in Venice, $5 in Dubrovnik, $5 in Livorno if you wish to see the town), and $85 each way for Rome to the Port (not counting the Rome city tour which is an extra $35 and worth it). I bought the soft drinks option but it set me back a total of $89.70, which I think is too high. Be prepared to be hit up for extra charges!!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
I had always wanted to go on a cruise to the Greek Islands and finally my wife and I decided to celebrate our anniversary by taking this 12 day cruise from Venice to Rome aboard the Grand Princess. We flew to Venice two days early to stay ... Read More
I had always wanted to go on a cruise to the Greek Islands and finally my wife and I decided to celebrate our anniversary by taking this 12 day cruise from Venice to Rome aboard the Grand Princess. We flew to Venice two days early to stay in one of our favorite cities. It was great to roam around Venice and get over jet lag before boarding the ship. EMBARKATION Getting to the port in Venice is really pretty easy. You can either take a bus or a water taxi. We took the water taxi from St Marks and were delivered right to the port area. You have to walk about 500 yards to the baggage drop off area. Venice is a bit different than other ports in that the baggage drop off area is some distance from the actual place you get on the ship. It is not marked well, but if you keep asking you will get directed to the right area. After you drop off your bags you walk back over to the actual embarkation terminal. Check in was pretty easy and we were allowed on the ship after about a 30 minute wait. SHIP I had read some reviews that the Grand Princess was getting old and a little long in the tooth. I completely disagree. Yes, she is 10 years old, but was in great shape and she is a really well designed ship. We never felt crowded, even though the ship was full. There is plenty of space on deck and the public areas are really nice. The only suggestion would be to have a card room for use in the evening. We loved the movies under the stars. Played on the putting green and never had a problem getting a deck chair around the pool or in the covered pool area. I could go on and on about how well I think this ship is designed. Our cabin was an inside room and was just fine. The only thing I could wish, was that they had more drawer space. Storage was good, but could have used a couple more drawers. Had a desk,chair and table and the space was fine. Bed was comfortable and the room service was fine. Not great, but adequate. The only area that Princess needs to work on is the service at the Purser's Desk. Staff was friendly, but often gave out wrong information. It was like this was their first cruise to the area. Loved the internet service. FOOD Loved the anytime dinning. Never a problem and we actually were seated at the same table most of the cruise. Always was able to find something I like loved the Pina Colada soup! Buffet service was very good as was the pizza. Did not try the room service. Ate at the steak house and it was exceptional. Well worth the extra charge. PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS This is why you take this cruise. We actually had 10 ports of call. You get to overnight in Venice and get off in Rome. In between you get to visit Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon, Athens, Mykonos, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Santorini, Naples and get off in Rome. Dubrovnik and Corfu were nice visits I would not care if I went there again, but we had a pleasant time. In both places were just went into town and wondered around. Took a boat excursion in Dubrovnik which was great to see the city from the water. Katakolon is the stop for Olympia. We were going to take the train there, but missed the early one and then decided to just shop and enjoy the town. People who went to Olympia said it was nice. In Athens we took a Princess tour to the Parthenon. Great tour, good guide a not miss attraction. After leaving Athens, you stop at Mykonos, one of the magical Greek Islands. We took the shuttle into town and just wondered around. Found a great bakery. Then we rented a car and drove all over the island. It was easy to rent a car and the roads and directions are not bad at all. Next stop was Kusadasi. This is the stop to enable you to go to Ephesus. This was one of the places I was really looking forward to and I was not disappointed. Took the Princess tour and it was great. Our guide was fantastic and also was our guide at Ephesus. he was one of the best guides I have ever had. Enjoyed the shopping when we returned to the ship. Great port of call. From here you go to Rhodes. Great walled city to walk around and just enjoy. No need for a tour. Easy walk from the ship. Then it was off to Santorini. Probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We spent about half the day just walking around and then hired a cab to tour the island. Worked out great. As great as Santorini was, Naples is the opposite. Take a tour and get out of the port area. Just a depressing port and dirty city. The countryside is great and if you haven't been to Pompeii, do go there. One of the reasons were chose this cruise was we were in every port at least a full day. No half day stops as some of the Greek Isle cruises. Great cruise. ACTIVITIES ON BOARD Since you are in port almost every day, the daytime activities are limited. We found that fine. The evening entertainment is typical cruise line fare. Some good, some not so good. We did enjoy the shows, especially the Beatles tribute band. Cruise director gave good port talks and they were repeated on the TV, if you didn't want to go in person. SERVICE Overall good. In the dining room our servers were excellent. Room steward adequate. Purser's desk needs work. Captain's Circle rep very helpful. Guys in the computer could not have been more helpful and friendly. As others have said the coffee in the buffet is terrible. DISEMBARKATION Probably the best I have ever had. The ship gets into port at about 4 am. We were off the ship and in our waiting car, by 8:00 am and some friends were off and took the train and got to the airport to catch a 10:30 am flight. They got off the ship a 6:45am! Could not have been smoother or easier. SUMMARY This is a great cruise. Great ports, very nice ship. I have been on probably 30 cruise and this may be the best ever! Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Firstly, we had a great holiday. The crew and our fellow dinner guests were super.  The ports fantastic. The entertainment really good.BUT there are things you need to know and which, I'm sad to say, RCI don't seem to want you ... Read More
Firstly, we had a great holiday. The crew and our fellow dinner guests were super.  The ports fantastic. The entertainment really good.BUT there are things you need to know and which, I'm sad to say, RCI don't seem to want you to know! UNSEEN COSTS1. Any drinks other than straight coffee or tea, with your evening dinner, are charged! 2. BUS Transfers out of port ARE OPTIONAL.  Every port has taxi's, buses, hire cars or trains for you to use, and at far less cost than the official transfer from the ship. Do it yourself by asking for the location of bus and train stations, they won't tell you if you don't ask. The locals are also VERY helpful. All transport seems to use ONE WAY tickets and there is no reduction for buying a RETURN. This gives you the flexibility to come and go as you please.3. You can opt to pay the TIPS to your cabin attendant, waiter etc in envelopes supplied on the last evening of the cruise.  To do this just choose the CASH option when you book.  Once you give your credit card details they will take the set amount (117) in US$, which is bad for us Europeans.4.  When you come to pay your final bill, the Purser's office only accept UD$ or a credit card.  Euros have to be changed into US$ first!  Again not so good for us.5.  Most of the complaints I heard were from people who hadn't done any research as to what to expect.  More fool them.  Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We are senior citizens and have been on 9 previous cruises. Our previous agendas have been in the Caribbean. Most of our cruises have been with RCCL. Our first cruise (1991) was with NCL and the ship was named Starward with 700 passengers. ... Read More
We are senior citizens and have been on 9 previous cruises. Our previous agendas have been in the Caribbean. Most of our cruises have been with RCCL. Our first cruise (1991) was with NCL and the ship was named Starward with 700 passengers. For us, the first cruise was the best. As we had never been to Alaska, we found that the Millennium would bring us there and we could disembark in San Diego,Ca. That would allow us to visit the ship that I served on, many years ago the USS Midway. We flew from Dallas, TX non-stop to Vancouver, where we finally boarded the ship. That was after passing thru Canadian immigration and then going thru U.S customs prior to boarding. Unfortunately Canada had cancelled (Sept 1) the "US Direct" program, which caused delays in arriving at the dock to board the ship. Once our luggage arrived, we were surprised at how large our stateroom was. Very spacious and more than adequate storage space for our two week cruise. We found out the first night, that the bed was very comfortable. Following muster, at the lifeboat stations, we explored the ship to get our bearings. The Millennium was a well laid out ship with plenty of elevators. Public areas seemed clean, with no evidence of significant wear and tear. Our itinerary was: 5 Alaska ports, Seattle, San Francisco, Catalina Island, and disembark in San Diego. Passengers included many europeans and some orientals. Of interest to us was the extensive disinfectant stations throughout the ship even when boarding the ship. Must work as no reports of illness. The dining experiences were nothing special. Of note was that most meat dishes were overcooked which made the beef tough and the seafood rubbery. There seemed to be more repetition in meals than on previous cruises. Three deserts were offered, with one always chocolate based. This ship had the worst coffee with most of it undrinkable many times tasted burnt. The breakfast and lunch buffets were standard fare. The entertainment on the ship was average, except for a great guitar/singer musician and a wonderful electronic xylophone performer. A couple of good groups kept the dance floors active. Our favorite excursion was taking a boat tour out to view sea otters ,seals, eagles and especially the whales they really performed for us with their tails waving prior to diving. Cruising up to see Hubbard glacier was very impressive. The ship was able to get very close and then turned 360 degrees so all could see. Sounded like thunder when the ice broke off (calving). Missing items on the cruise was the midnight buffet and the dance hosts for the single ladies. Once we arrived at San Diego, debarkation went very smooth and quick. We collected our luggage and were on our way. In retrospect, this cruise went rather well, from our flights to our time on the ship. However, our preferences are warm weather cruising we love the Caribbean Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My DH (age 66) and I booked this cruise to celebrate my 60th Birthday. It was our 10th cruise, 6th on Carnival. We chose this itinerary because we sailed it last year on the Triumph and loved all the ports. First of all, we had ... Read More
My DH (age 66) and I booked this cruise to celebrate my 60th Birthday. It was our 10th cruise, 6th on Carnival. We chose this itinerary because we sailed it last year on the Triumph and loved all the ports. First of all, we had VIP boarding since we splurged and booked a Category 11 suite. We arrive at port around 10:00 and boarding was a breeze. VIP boarding is all it is said to be. No waiting in lines and first on the ship. We were enjoying lunch on the Lido deck around 11:30. The Liberty is a beautiful ship from the lights in the atrium to the dining rooms. It is in great shape and shows little wear. The crew keeps it spotless. CABIN: Our cabin was spacious. So much closet and drawer space. I don't know how we will ever go back to a balcony cabin. The bathroom was huge with a bathtub and two sinks. Also there were two sitdown makeup areas with large mirrors and drawers. It was totally worth the extra expense. The location was fantastic with hardly any noise and was easy to get to since it was right by the glass elevators and the atrium. FOOD: As usual we enjoyed all the meals. We dined in the dining rooms as well as on the Lido deck. The deli, Fish & Chips restaurant, Pizza and Grill were all delicious. Great choices. SERVICE: Our head waiter and assistant waiter were the best. They provided a birthday cake and all sang "Happy Birthday". We never had to wait for a course, and they remembered our preferences. Our Cabin Steward was also amazing. He helped us when we locked ourselves out of our cabin and always remembered to keep our ice bucket full of ice. The cabin was always immaculate. The entire staff and crew were very attentive. ENTERTAINMENT: This is one area that we have not checked out much. We dine at the late seating and after our shore trips and large meals, we usually go into a food coma. Can't stay up that late. We do enjoy the trivia games and bingo during the sea days. PORTS: First of all, we were disappointed that Grand Turk was replaced with Nassau. Grand Turk is a beautiful Port but we can understand that the people are having a harder time getting their lives back together after Hurricane Ike. I believe we were the last cruise scheduled this year to Grand Turk so the people will have all winter to rebuild their homes. Half Moon Cay is the most beautiful place on earth. The water is crystal clear and the sand has the consistency of sugar. It is idyllic. On St. Thomas we took an island tour and really learned alot about the people, flora and fauna. The scenery was breathtaking especially looking out to the British Virgin Islands in the distance. San Juan has all the old charm of the past centuries. We took a walking tour of Old Town and visited many of the shops. Nassau was also a great shopping destination. DEBARKATION: This by far was the easiest debarkation we have ever experienced. We self-debarked and were off the ship and in our car by 7:45. Since we drive to port, we like to get on the road quickly for our long journey home. No problems here. SUMMARY: The "FUN SHIPS" of Carnival are advertised mostly for the young and middle aged cruisers. We have always felt at home with Carnival and even more so now that we are in our sixties. It just goes to show that no matter what age you are a Carnival Cruise is the best vacation ever. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
My wife, ten year old granddaughter and I sailed with RCI for the first time on October 19, 2008. We had previously sailed on Diamond Princess (30 days), HAL's Volendam (14 days) & Statendam (14 days). The first impression of ... Read More
My wife, ten year old granddaughter and I sailed with RCI for the first time on October 19, 2008. We had previously sailed on Diamond Princess (30 days), HAL's Volendam (14 days) & Statendam (14 days). The first impression of the ship docked at Circular Quay in Sydney was WOW!!!!!. We went on board a little earlier than the advertised 1530. There was no waiting at Customs or at the ship's check in counter. I had previously completed the on line Sail away pass. We were on board within 10 minutes of arriving at the dock. Brilliant. We had upgraded at the last minute from a balcony state room on 7 deck to a junior suite on 8 deck. For the extra few dollars we had much more state room space, a refrigerator & pay mini bar (free on HAL) a bath tub as well as a shower & a larger balcony. For us, money well spent. The state room was well presented & clean on our arrival. On exploring the ship after our arrival the WOW factor was every where but especially in the Centrum (Atrium on some ships). Dining experience. The WOW factor suddenly disappeared. Our first meal was in the Windjammer Cafe. The WOW factor extended to the room per se, however the furniture was somewhat ordinary with little padding on the seating, the tables crammed in making it a little difficult to move with plates in hand, especially when there was a sea running. The prepared food was plentiful but to a standard no better than an Australian shopping mall food hall. It was certainly not up to the standard one expects from an International cruise ship. The use of plastic dishes was also not what we are used to, although one could argue that a health & safety issue was being addressed. The second night we dined in the one and only dining room on board. The food here was exactly the same as that served in the Windjammer, only with limited amounts on each serve. Each dish also came with the Chef's recommended serve of veg. The wait staff were very poorly trained, ie, reaching across tables to serve & recover crockery. Again, one does not expect that sort of service on an international cruise ship. That was the one & only time we went to this regimented time dining room. My wife & I far prefer the "any time dining" that we experienced on Princess & HAL. I do not criticize the wait staff, but I do criticize the hotel management for not providing the staff with the appropriate training. Entertainment. The theater also attracted the WOW factor until one sat down on a hard & often loose seat. The production shows were quite good although no where near as good as we had experienced on our 3 previous cruises. Our granddaughter frequented & loved the "Kids Club" where she was entertained by very competent & apparently well trained staff. The pool area also had the WOW factor until one noticed or sat on the furniture. The complimentary soft serve ice cream machine was well appreciated by the adults as well as the kids on board. The itinerary of the ship was very limited due to the ports available in the South West Pacific region. Therefore the excursions were very limited. Having said that, we did enjoy a relaxed time ashore doing our own thing. The big criticism expressed by many was the price of drinks & shopping on board. All prices were in USD & of course the aussi had dropped to around 66 cents at the time of settling our on board accounts. RCI of course was in no way responsible for this issue, however management may think about parity when at sea, particularly as much of the beer was purchased in Sydney at AUD wholesale prices with no duty or GST being payable by RCI. Overall despite my criticism, we enjoyed the cruise. However, I am not sure I would cruise with RCI again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
To begin with there were five cities, four countries, three historical eras, two continents, and one ship - the Grand Princess. This cruise began Venice, a leading renaissance era city, visited the heartlands of Greek history, and ... Read More
To begin with there were five cities, four countries, three historical eras, two continents, and one ship - the Grand Princess. This cruise began Venice, a leading renaissance era city, visited the heartlands of Greek history, and concluded in Naples and Rome - central to Roman culture. Included in the tour were Italy, Croatia, Greece, and Turkey, located in Europe and Asia. Ports of call included Venice, Dubrovnik, Athens, and Naples. This review describes both the Grand Princess itself and the ports that we visited on this cruise and is written from the perspective of a single, 60-something male cruising as a solo traveler. I am an experienced traveler who has visited nearly 30 countries. The Grand was my third cruise. I have organized my comments under several general headings to facilitate finding areas of interest to individual readers (and to maintain my own sanity). Embarkation: I flew United Airlines and Lufthansa from Washington, DC to Venice to begin this vacation. United has implemented an Economy Plus program that provides a bit more leg room than the standard cattle car economy class passage. The difference was amazing and allowed me to actually sleep for several hours on the flight, which was an important benefit. I noticed that, for the first time in several flights this year, that there were a significant number of vacant seats. The recession and decline in air travel was very apparent. United and Lufthansa were efficient, effective, and timely. I arrived at my hotel with minimal delay and discomfort and checked in without any problems. I elected to stay at the Hotel Centrale in Mestra as a cost containment strategy. The hotel was very economically priced and offers the standard business class amenities of an European hotel. My rate of 103 Euros included a very basic breakfast that consisted mostly of coffee and rolls. This was fine as far as I was concerned. There was a more elaborate buffet available for 10 Euros additional. The hotel staff was very helpful and all spoke excellent English. The Centrale is in a business area within Mestra and there are numerous restaurants and shopping opportunities in easy walking distance. I am by nature a warm-blooded person and appreciate a warm hotel room more than most, but this was over the top even for me. Leaving the window open did not seem to help and I spent a rather uncomfortable night. The hotel was very centrally located on a bus line that was approximately 20 minutes from Piazza Roma in Venice (the juncture with the Vaporetto lines and a most desirable location). I bought a combination Vaporetto and bus ticket at the airport on my way in for, I believe about 15 Euros for one day. This allowed me to use the bus (a stop is just around the corner from the hotel. Use the Number 7 bus or any bus with Venice on its placard to get to the Piazza Roma). Despite the fact that it was rainy and a bit chilly I had an excellent time in Venice. The weather seemed to reduce the crowds. There was a minimal line for the Doges Palace and for the Basilica and I was able to see both on my free afternoon in the city. I also did some souvenir shopping near the Rialto Bridge. I found an excellent selection of small gift items for reasonable prices as well as very helpful sales people. I also was able to locate some fantastic gelato, which is a waist expanding hobby of mine. The next morning I caught a cab to the airport (30 Euros) and met the Princess reception staff. I had purchased a Princess transfer and found that to be an really helpful choice. The Princess people at the airport were very helpful, welcoming, and efficient. Within minutes I was on a bus and on my way to the ship. The trip was uneventful and Princess took care of everything very efficiently. Embarkation was very efficient. I had completed my embarkation documents online before meeting the ship and I highly recommend this approach as it greatly facilitates boarding. There are cafe facilities at the embarkation point in Venice and its possible to get a soft drink or something stronger (if you desire) while waiting to board. Princess uses a numbered group system and the gang way posts the group number, making it very easy to see when your group is up. The security process was very smooth and processing was rapid. I will never become totally comfortable with the requirement - found in many European countries - of surrendering your passport to inn keepers (including the Princess staff) but everything turned out okay. Within an hour of arriving at the terminal I was in my cabin and unpacking my carry on luggage (my bag arrived a bit later. There were stories about people whose luggage never did show up, but that didn't happen to me). Princess really seems to skimp on its disaster drill, held as required shortly after embarkation. Passengers are given minimal direction on getting to their muster station, which is not collocated with the life boats. There was a demonstration of how to put on a life jacket, but passengers were not required to attempt to don their own life jackets and the group was quite large, which means that some people were fairly distant from the demonstration and probably couldn't see very well. Cruise ship life jackets can be fairly complicated to put on correctly and trying to do so in a situation in which they are actually needed could be chaotic. I know that life jacket drills are onerous and I certainly don't enjoy or look forward to them myself, but they really are necessary and Princess ought to think more carefully about how they approach them. The sailing schedule was such that passengers had the option to go into Venice from the ship on the afternoon before we left port. I'm not sure that many took advantage of this opportunity since the trip was advertised as being about a half hour each way and the need to be back on board for the muster drill and dinner caused a time squeeze. Never the less Princess automatically added - and charged for - a vaporetto ticket. I heard that refunds were being given at the Pursers Desk for unused tickets, but this was not advertised and I did not have time to check for myself. The Ship The Grand Princess is a Bermuda - registered vessel that is 951 feet long, carries a crew of 1150 and has the capacity to house and transport 2600 passengers. As you can see, the Grand Princess is a large cruise ship, significantly larger than any I have cruised on in the past I found the Grand Princess exceedingly confusing and difficult to navigate. There are several reasons for this. For one, all vertical access points do NOT include both stairwells and elevators. If you like to walk the stairs for single or two deck movements you have to be very careful in finding the proper exit point. Second, directional signs are exceedingly poor. The deck schema diagrams are tiny and very hard to read. There are no fore an aft signs, making it nearly impossible to tell whether you are going forward or aft. Third, some decks are inaccessible from some elevators and stairs. You literally can't get there from there. I was on the ship for 12 days and got lost (again) on the final day going to the disembarkation point. Princess should do a much better job with signage. I hate to think about the results of an emergency, with people careening around the ship trying to get to their muster points and unable to tell which direction in which they are going. There are many comments and complaints about the elevators on the Grand both in reviews and among passengers frustrated with their slowness. My only suggestion is: "leave plenty of time to get from one point to another". I always allowed 20 minutes, for example to get from my cabin on Deck 11 to the dining room (deck 5, I believe) or to the gangways (decks 4 and 5, depending). Overall the ship is in excellent condition and in better shape than newer vessels on which I have cruised. The dEcor is a modernistic one that uses light wood trim both in the cabins and in the passageways. Art and decoration is minimal, which is fine with me. I don't go on cruises to behold great renderings in velvet portraits. I chose an interior cabin (I am seldom in it other than to sleep and I appreciate the blackout conditions, which are great for naps!). The cabin was big enough for one person and the storage was excellent (drawers as well as shelves, lots of hangers). The television is on a shelf rather than on the desk (not so on some other ships) and there was lots of room to place things if you were organized and neat. The shower worked very well and there was lots of room to store things in the bathroom. Princess uses single serving packets of shampoo and conditioner that nearly defy opening by anyone who doesn't have talons for nails. I learned to open them BEFORE getting my hands wet; otherwise the result is a wet, frustrated cruiser trapped in the shower and ripping futilely at the packages, hoping that eventually they will yield. Princess provides excellent television coverage including very helpful port information. Our port information authority was Rusty Wilson who was knowledgeable, well organized, and personable. He consistently provided useful information in a format that was helpful. Dress Life aboard the Grand was more informal than I expected and so I miss packed for this trip by bringing along a couple of dress shirts, a sport coat, and ties. I never wore the ties and would have been very comfortable without either the coat or the dress shirts. Few passengers dressed up at all for dinner (other than formal night). Dress for men was generally sport or polo shirts and casual trousers. Women primarily wore casual pants and blouses or knit tops as well. There were a significant number of jeans wearers (of both sexes) at dinner. As usual I rented a tuxedo, including shoes for formal nights, of which there were two on this 12 day cruise. There were a significant number of tuxedos and more formal dresses at these events, but there were many men in suits and some in sports coats as well. The Amenities The Grand has some significant amenities for its passengers. There are several pools, both indoor and outside on the decks. Hot tubs accompany the pools. Passengers also have access to a spa area that provides a range of services. The indoor pool area is quite nice and includes a fairly large number of tables that are frequently used as overflow for the dining room. There are bars located in all pool areas for refreshments. As mentioned elsewhere, the ice cream parlor is located just off of the indoor pool area. The grill (which was commented on favorably by several passengers with whom I spoke) is also located in this area. The mezzanine area of the indoor pool has been named the Conservatory and has sliding doors to a deck area. On this cruise the Conservatory was fairly lightly used. It provides a great location for reading or (as used by many of the people I saw) a quick nap. The Grand's exercise suite is small and crowded. It includes about a dozen Cybex treadmill machines as well as ellipticals and some weight equipment. A separate room provides space for classes, including spinner classes. The work out area does not appear to be monitored by staff. The cruise staff offers a number of basic yoga and stretching classes. The Crew Most of the Grand Princess' officers are Italian. The crew is more diverse than others with whom I have sailed. Princess seems to do a better job providing opportunities to women and there was at least one female senior officer (this is relatively speaking. Women are still vastly under represented among management on the Grand. There also seemed to be more women performing a wider range of duties than on other cruise ships. Without any doubt the Grand's strongest asset is its crew and staff. I can think of only one instance when I met a Princess employee who was not helpful, courteous, friendly, and welcoming. No group of over a thousand people is wholly exceptional and the Princess staff on board the Grand certainly made mistakes (who among us does not?); however, all of them made passengers feel that they were individuals and important. If I were to take another Princess cruise it would be because of the quality of their on ship personnel (such is definitely not true of the Princess customer service staff at their corporate office, some of whom seem to feel that their life would be perfect if it were not for those pesky customers). On board staff were exceptional in remembering my name. Those who realized I was a solo cruiser went out of their way to make me feel included and at home, which is so extremely important when you are traveling alone. My steward -Leonila - as well as the bar staff at the Promenade bar and the dining room staff in the Botticelli were very efficient, personable, and (in addition) kind. I will always remember them fondly. The Passengers The demographic on this cruise seemed to fall in the 50 to 55 range and was clustered close to the mean. There were few older and very few younger cruisers. I saw a handful of small children, including one couple with a toddler and a new born. While the Grand offers facilities for teens and preteens I saw none on this cruise and the areas set aside for these passengers were empty any time I walked past them (the time of year and its conflicts with the school year very likely could be the cause of this). It seems to be a characteristic of the Grand at least on this cruise that there were very few solo and/or single cruisers. There is a significant difference between the two categories. Solo cruisers (for purposes of this review, anyway) are persons traveling alone. Single cruisers are unattached cruisers. There were a significant number of "single" cruisers on this cruise but few were traveling alone. Princess does little or nothing to create opportunities for solo cruisers to connect. Other lines make an effort to seat solo cruisers together at dinner, which creates a venue for conversation and at least lets people get to know each other. Princess does not. There was one event for solo cruisers; three people showed up (this is not the line's fault. It is an outcome of passenger demographics I think, but something to be aware of if you are traveling alone). There were two singles events. I went to the first one. No one else showed up. I didn't attend the second one, which was held in Skywalker's lounge, the retro disco venue that no one ever visited for any reason as far as I could tell. None of this is meant to denigrate the Grand passengers. As a group the Grand passengers were a jolly group and pleasant at all turns. On other cruises I have occasionally met people or groups of people who were downright obnoxious (the Holland America Westerdam entertainment staff, for example, does a song poking fun at their passengers sense of entitlement called "get out of my way" sung to the tune of "I did it my way"). I met no one on the Grand Princess who was unpleasant or rude. It's also important to remember that each cruise is different in terms of it's passenger social network. On this particular cruise passengers tended to be less social. That may not be true of all cruises. The Food Sadly, the Grand's food is not the equal of its staff and crew. The food is considerably better than the wormy biscuits and stale water served to ships crews in the 18th century, but the difference is not sufficiently great to make a remarkable difference. I chose the traditional seating because the consistence of dinner partners offered by this approach is often more comfortable for those traveling alone. Dinner offerings were very uninspired and were obscurely described. The wine list was economical, but (on the other hand) there were no really interesting wines available. There was minimal recognition given for those who were more calorie aware. Other lines that I have cruised have made significant efforts to offer lower calorie choices. Princess is unaware of this alternative and could easily be dubbed the "lard line" for their lack of awareness of healthy eating. Food at the Horizon Court was significantly more interesting and at least as good as the main dining room's fare. As a result we had significant defections from traditional seating and at least one night only one person showed up for our table of eight. The Horizon Court offers 24 hour service. The dinner buffet is available until quite late, followed by a late service and then by a limited service until six in the morning. The food during the day is consistently good. Over all the food served on the Grand seemed bland and repetitive. There were a significant number of complaints among passengers about the quality of the food. The layout of the facility, however, detracts from the food. Rather than configured as an outward facing service that keeps diners in the dining room itself, the Grand's configuration is contained between steam and service tables. This creates incredible crowding with diners trying to use service counters that are facing each other and then twining around each other to reach the alternate counters. The result is chaotic, especially at breakfast when many people are not totally aware, for one reason or another. Seating is also a problem. There was seldom room in the dining rooms and finding a seat was always a problem. I am not entirely sure why and I spent some time trying to determine the source of this problem. The wait staff is diligent in clearing empty tables and there seem to be a fair number of tables available. All cruise lines find corners to edge in extracting the greatest possible revenue from their passengers. Princess is no exception. Their practice of charging for ice cream is one of these corners. It appears that ice cream was available for free at certain times (when the seas run high; when the albatross sings in the mainstays, something like that I suspect Har! Har! Har!). I never found it. There is an ice cream parlor located prominently in the pool area that sells ice cream for a very reasonable price ($1.50 for two scoops, generously served). There are also many different toppings. The Grand offered sugar free ice cream; however, over the course of the cruise there were two flavors: vanilla and chocolate. A bit of imagination in the flavor department for those of us who are sugar impaired would be appreciated. The Grand offers two specialty restaurants: Sabatini's and the Painted Desert - a steak and chop house. Other passengers reported enthusiastically about these venues and in fact much of our defection at dinner resulted from passengers skulking away to these restaurants for improved sustenance. I cannot and do not blame them. I also did not make use of room service and did not talk to anyone who did. The menu seemed very limited and seemed to consist only of continental breakfast types of things. The Grand makes room service available 24/7. I rarely saw dishes sitting outside of cabins, which suggests either that the service staff was very efficient in picking them up or that no one used room service. Coffee and tea are available from refreshment stations located in the corners of the dining rooms. The layout for these stations makes it easy for passengers to bunch up and crowding can occur. The crew serves coffee on request and is fairly prompt with this service. I take along a thermal cup that I can fill up when entering the dining room. Mine has a hook-like handle that allows me to hang it on my belt, leaving my hands free to carry plates, books, and other things useful at meals. Services The Grand offers the typical services available on any cruise ship and they are - in all instances - unexceptional. There are numerous boutiques offering items for sale. I have been on other ships where the diversity of interesting products was significantly greater and where there were better price points on products. Princess attempts to offer special sales and offerings, but these are generally clustered in the Atrium and just make it harder to get through that area. There were no bargains. Toward the end of the cruise there was a "special sale" in one of the dining rooms. The offerings were mostly tee shirts from ports not visited on this cruise and that were, therefore, left overs. Like all cruise ships the Grand has a complete photography service and takes lots and lots of pictures of passengers, hoping they can be sold. Princess seems to offer more formal portrait opportunities than some other lines; however, I found their photographers to be less proficient than others I have encountered, both in terms of creating interesting photos and from a technical stand point. As an example, my eyes were closed in some of the pictures they took and posted. These formal sitting portraits should have just been discarded. Also, Princess' photo vendor has implemented a truly outrageous photo reproduction policy. My experience has been that photo vendors generally provide a blanket copyright waiver for physical photos taken by shipboard photographers, permitting passengers to take the physical copies of their shipboard photos to a commercial photo scanner back home. The vendor on the Grand was charging $50 per print for a copyright waiver. The Grand offers a very efficient Internet access program that is available 24/7. Service seems quite fast. Printing services are very reliable and there is onsite help portions of the day. The technical support staff seems very knowledgeable and friendly. There are plenty of workstations and I never had a difficult time finding a computer from which to check email or print boarding passes. There is also WiFi service available on the ship, at least in the computer center, which serves as a hot spot. Access may be more widely available than that. The Entertainers There was the usual raft (pun intended) of jugglers, magicians, singers and dancers and their skill was about on a par with other cruise lines. There are two performance venues. The Vista Lounge is a club sort of venue where smaller shows are held, while the Princess Theater is larger and seats more people (all pretty standard). There were several entertainment groups imported for the cruise, which ranged from wretched to excellent. Princess often deploys piano players and small groups around the ship for musical entertainment in the bars. These groups and individuals were probably the best entertainment offered on the cruise. Lectures and Classes Princess is known for its educational programs and during sea days there were many and varied offerings. The programs on offer included lectures (Rusty Wilson was good; the other guy was a bit less so. His presentations didn't always fit with their titles and his Power Point slides were far, far too full); computer classes (ranging from Photoshop to Microsoft office products); dance (I took rhumba and line dancing classes and no one got hurt!); and a wide range of crafts and arts. The classes that I took part in were excellent. I did not hear any comment one way or the other from my fellow passengers. There was also a cooking demonstration and a galley tour on the second sea day. The tour was cursory and the cooking demonstration was interesting, although judging on the quality of what came out of the kitchen possibly inedible. The Ports This cruise offered access to a range of interesting ports (which was my reason for scheduling the itinerary in the first place). The large number of ports resulted in a different stop nearly every day with sea days both on the first day and the next to last day. A number of passengers commented that they would have been happier with an additional sea day and perhaps one less port. We were fortunate in having good weather throughout the trip (with the exception of my rainy pre-cruise day in Venice) and so did not miss any ports do to unsafe conditions. Given the lateness of the cruise (late October and early November) this could have been a problem. The following paragraphs briefly summarize my experiences in each of the ports Dubrovnik - This is a lovely and friendly city, the old part largely surrounded by medieval walls. Because Croatia isn't part of the EU prices were reasonable while the merchandise selection was surprisingly good. The old city is relatively small and shopping is primarily on a single main street with short excursions up narrow side streets available. While there were numerous restaurants in the area I spoke with no one who visited any of them and ordered no Croatian food myself while in Dubrovnik. There are several very nice gelato shops on the main street and the gelato, while not as creamy and flavorful as that found in Rome, was quite good. I took the Walk the Walls shore excursion which was interesting but moderately physically challenging (there are many steps on this walking tour, some of which are very uneven). Other tours visited nearby sections of Croatia, but I didn't speak with anyone who took them and cannot comment. Corfu - I visited Corfu town only. The ship docks about a mile and a half from the old town and walking to it is very easy on flat streets with good directions from the Port Consultant. Old town Corfu consists of narrow streets - many accessible by foot only - with lots of small shops and what I have been told are excellent restaurants. Some passengers with whom I spoke visited the Monastery on a tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. I visited the old fortress (there is also a new fortress, but it appears to be an active military installation). The old fortress includes lots of steps and little explanatory information. It sits on a headland and when I was there the wind was both terrific and cold. Corfu is a definite return visit for me as soon as I get the chance. Katakolon - This small town is the gateway to the ancient Olympic site, which is a drive of roughly half an hour away. Katakolon is a very small town with a population of two or three thousand. There are few cabs and - other several blocks of shopping along the main street - little to do in town without having booked an excursion. The Olympic site is well marked but the ancient buildings are largely gone and the crowds were significant. There is a small museum at the site which is a worthwhile visit. Excavation at the site has been performed for many years by German archeologists and the museum appears to be staffed by Germans as well. They bring their usual Teutonic efficiency and lack of good cheer to this job. We visited the site on a Sunday and it was crowded, even in the morning. Fortunately the ancient site is quite large and tourists tend to congregate in the most popular areas (the running stadium and a couple of the more famous temple sites), leaving significant areas where its possible to get away and get a sense of the past. Athens - I took a long, day long tour in Athens that visited the Acropolis and Parthenon (of course) as well as several other local sites (which were drive bys), including the Archeological Museum, the temple of Zeus, Hadrian's arch, and the stadium built for the first modern Olympics. The tour included lunch at a hotel that was reputed to consist of "authentic Greek foods". Wine was also served. Following the tours our group (along with many other Grand groups) were set loose in the Plaka. This is reputed to be a restored 19th century shopping district and sounds very quaint. In practice it appears largely to be a fairly large cluster of shops that cater to tourists. In terms of visiting Athens it is worth noting that the hike up to the Acropolis is fairly steep and (again) includes worn steps where the footing can be tenuous. Also note that the Parthenon is being restored (this is a long term project and has been underway for many years). As a result large parts of the building are covered with scaffolding. There are, however, excellent views from the Acropolis that cannot be equaled anywhere in the world Mykonos - Mykonos is a small island with reputedly wonderful beaches (I did not visit them). Mykonos town is picturesque and is made up of narrow winding streets, many of which bear no name. It is almost impossible to find your way around the town. I spent some time looking for the maritime museum only to find that I had walked past it several times. Its sign is very small and obscured by a tree. It didn't matter anyway; the museum wasn't open (despite its advertised hours of operation). Mykonos is very much a beach and recreation place and hours are arranged in recognition of the fact that many people spend a lot of their daylight hours doing things other than shopping or visiting museums. Accordingly, shops open somewhat later and some sites are open only during evening hours. Mykonos is reputed to be an early jet setter destination, although I saw neither jets nor jet setters while visiting it. The folks running the stores, however, definitely had the "I've seen one too many tourists" attitude. There was little friendliness or courtesy in the shops, where the primary attitude seemed to be "give me your money and get out of my way". Attitudes may have been different outside of Mykonos town, as they were almost everywhere else that we visited in Greece with perhaps the exception of some people in Santorini. Kusadasi - Kusadasi Turkey is the gateway to Ephesus, which is an incredible ruin well worth seeing. Our tour included a stone house reconstructed on what was believed to be the site of the last home lived in by the Virgin Mary and the tomb of the apostle John. The later is in the ruins of a basilica and offers little to see. The ruins are however, in a small town a bit off the path and offer a chance to get a little better look at Turkey. Nearly all the tours included in their itineraries a stop at a carpet factory. This was not listed in the formal itinerary as far as I can remember and was not elective. Our stop occurred at the end of the tour when we were rather tired and generally hot and thirsty. The carpet merchants offered refreshments (as is customary in Middle East) and the sales pressure was gentle but continuing. Fortunately the shops are within walking distance of the port. The walk, however, is through the bazaar. While there are some good buys there (I bought quite a nice belt) the shop keepers work very hard to snag tourists. Browsing is not an understood concept there and bargaining is fierce (and useful). If you don't intend to buy it is probably best to keep walking because - once inside - it can be quite hard to get free again without a purchase. Rhodes - Rhodes was one of my favorite ports of call and definitely one that I wish to visit again. Once again I elected not to schedule a tour and instead just walked into old town, which is a very easy walk from the port. The Palace of the Knights of St John is a very worthwhile visit and includes an excellent museum. It is possible to gain access to the city walls near the Palace for a small fee (I believe 4 Euros) and the walk around the walls is a unique experience, allowing views of small side streets and gardens that are not otherwise available. The Palace also has public water closets (marked as "WC" in Greece). It's worth noting, however, that in men's WCs the commodes do NOT always come equipped with seats. Directly outside the Palace is the street known as Knights Way (or also by the name "The Street of Tongues). Old buildings used as headquarters by various groups of knights with lovely little courtyards line this street and the cobblestones appear to be original. It is well worth a look. The people of Rhodes are terrific, despite the fact that the old town is a booming tourist market. There are numerous small squares lined with little cafes where it is possible to sit in the sun, have a drink of cola or wine, and watch life go by. If non-tourist purchases are on your agenda its my understanding (based on discussions with the crew) that you can obtain better selection and prices in the new market area. This appears to be just outside the old city walls and can be reached by walking left out of the port area rather than right (which takes you in short order to a gate into the old city). Some passengers from the Grand booked a tour to the Rhodes Acropolis. Word of mouth about this site was that it was a pretty strenuous climb and offered little of note. I heard no comments about other shore excursions. Santorini - I am not sure whether it was because I was tired by this point in the cruise or whether it just doesn't offer much of interest, but I could have skipped my visit to Santorini and been very happy. I scheduled a shore excursion to Oia (pronounced Ea with the emphasis on the E), which was basically a drive through the country (on high mountain roads with very sharp drop offs; Santorini is an island of very high cliffs and very sharp drop offs) and a stop at a winery (at 8:30 in the morning, where we were offered wine tastings). We were dropped off in Oia and given half an hour or so on our own to walk the town. Oia is a lovely little town, much nicer than Fira, the capital. Following our visit to Oia we were loaded back on the bus and driven into Fira, where the guide led us to the center of town, given cursory directions on how to get back to the ship, and then released the group. Fira offers what appears to be very nice and creative shopping, particularly - it seems for jewelry. There are two methods of getting back to the ship, which docks at the foot of the cliffs on which Fira sits. The cable cars are the more comfortable way down, although the line for the cars can be quite long. I caught the cars back in the middle of the day, long before the Grand or the other ships at dock were to sail) and waited approximately 40 minutes. Others who waited until later in the afternoon reported that they waited well over an hour. There are also stairs that lead to the port and its possible to walk down them. The stairs appear to be very shallow steps with long platforms, which could make for a very uneven and tiring stride (it's a LONG way down to the bottom). In addition, the stairs are used by donkeys carrying passengers UP to Fira, so you must share the steps with the donkeys and their by products as well. Given the alternative, my first thought was "bring on the cable cars" and I never regretted it for an instant. The ride up the cliff via donkey appeared to be an interesting trip. I spoke with one passenger who said she was a life-long rider. She said that the ride up was the most interesting thing that she and her husband had done on the cruise and that it was absolutely terrifying. Naples - I scheduled a tour of Pompeii that also included a visit to the Archeological Museum (I was getting pretty tired of archeological museums by this point, but what the heck) and lunch at a pizzeria. There was also a stop at a cameo factory where we got a very brief demonstration of the cameo making process and a chance to buy (big surprise there) cameos. The two hour tour of Pompeii covered only a fraction of this very large site and only a portion of the most significant buildings. Were I to go again I would most likely just walk to the station, catch a train to Pompeii and do the tour alone. It is possible to rent audio tour guides that would make the visit more meaningful. There is a bookstore at the site, which was not open during our Sunday visit, as well as many vendors who have tents set up near the exit. Vendor prices are outrageous. Tour books sold by the vendors, for example cost 18 Euros; the same book was for sale at the Archeological Museum for 8 Euros. Lunch at the pizzeria was excellent and the wait staff was hilarious. We were served small traditional pizzas, a salad and bottles of wine. Dessert was a sort of rum cake and a chocolate confection that was exceptional. The Archeological Museum was definitely worth the trip because it contains many of the artifacts removed from Pompeii, including many of the mosaics. There is a nice museum shop; however it had little material available in English. Disembarkation I had an early flight and was a bit worried about Princess' ability to get me to it on time (it helped that Princess had booked the flight and that I had a Princess transfer. In instances where travel has to be integrated I am a big proponent of using a single vendor so that responsibility can be easily determined in the event something goes wrong). I need not have worried, although I did have to get up at a quarter of four in the morning. The transfer off ship was seamless and quick and I was at the airport in Rome with time to spare. My flight home on United was excellent and on time, although very long (about 10 hours to Dulles, outside of Washington). In conclusion I book cruises on an itinerary basis rather than based on the cruise line providing the service. On that basis I had an exceptional time. Would I book another cruise on Princess? You betcha (whoops; the election is over) if they were going where I wanted to go and especially if it were one of the smaller ships. Otherwise, I wouldn't book a Princess cruise for the cruise experience myself. I know this is a rather long review and may contain details irrelevant to some. I hope that it is useful reading and enhances your cruise or assists you in making an informed choice. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
We are a couple from south Florida who booked this cruise as an (early) celebration of my 60th birthday. Because of a small inheritance, we had some extra money, so we really "splurged" on this cruise! We flew business class ... Read More
We are a couple from south Florida who booked this cruise as an (early) celebration of my 60th birthday. Because of a small inheritance, we had some extra money, so we really "splurged" on this cruise! We flew business class from Miami to Zurich to Venice, and booked a deluxe suite on the Zuiderdam in the stern of the ship with a huge, wrap around balcony. We flew into Venice a couple days early and stayed at a great B&B near St. Mark's Square. It was great to have extra time in that magical city, but it wasn't near enough. We boarded our lovely ship at around 13:30 Thursday, October 23rd. It was a little disorganized and, although we went to the shorter line for suite check-ins, it didn't really matter because there was a huge line for the security scans. No matter. Even with the long line, it only took us about 20 minutes or so to get aboard. Although it was close to 14:00, a staff member greeting us as we boarded said that our rooms weren't ready. So, we went up to the Neptune Lounge to wait. But when we reached there, they cheerfully informed us that, of course our suite was ready and escorted us to our room. What a room! We'd had an SS suite before on the Westerdam, and the SC cabin was similar, but with some nice additions. Six roomy closets, half with optional shelves, cabinet space all over the room; a dressing room with a three-drawer vanity; and a huge balcony! I practically lived on that balcony. I don't know if we would have gotten so much use out of a side balcony because it was cold and stormy during some of the trip. But our completely covered balcony was out of the wind and weather if you didn't go over to the side section. I'd never had a wake cabin before and found the sound of the water hypnotic. It sounded like a waterfall (Niagara?) and I found my eyes closing too often as I sat out there and gazed at the water. The room was in good shape, though there was a slight stain on the carpet. Our cabin steward, Dedi, was fantastic, going beyond the call of duty several times during the cruise. The sailaway in Venice was breathtakingly beautiful. We enjoyed it from the Crow's Nest as we met our fellow Cruise Critic cruisers from our roll call. We had an extremely active roll call and about 60 of us showed up at the Meet and Greet. It was great to have "friends" aboard whom you'd been "talking" to online for ages as we all anticipated our upcoming cruise. Sorta like having a ready-made family aboard. It really increased our enjoyment of the cruise to have friends to hang with on shore excursions and on the ship. The hotel manager, Mark, was very welcoming to us. He attended both the first Meet & Greet, but also our second one on our first sea day. Then he surprised us with a special luncheon for CC'ers at the Pinnacle Grill. What a treat that was!! HAL has a reputation for good service, and it lived up to its reputation as far as we were concerned. We had great service in the dining room with waiter Ali and assistant waiter, Kadek. They were so sweet and went out of their way to anticipate our needs. All the crew, especially those that worked in food service, were working double and triple time because of the extra burden of being under Code Red for most of the cruise. Yet, almost every one of the crew and staff we had any dealings with were unfailingly polite and professional. We had no complaints whatsoever about the service on the Zuiderdam. We really disliked what they've done to the Crow's Nest - adding the internet cafe and library. Why would anyone put a library and nightclub in the same room?? It has completely destroyed the ambiance of the Crow's Nest, which used to be our favorite place to enjoy a drink and do a little dancing. Adding the screening room was a nice touch on deck 3, but we never got to see a movie there because the seats were always taken. There also seemed to be fewer shops with fewer choices than we had seen on the Westerdam in March 07. We both found the food to be excellent in both the dining room and lido. Loved all the ice cream choices - totally free. Nothing feels like "vacation" as an ice cream cone. And, of course, the scrumptious bread pudding with vanilla sauce!! Pinnacle Grill was great for dinner and breakfast. We didn't see as many shows as we normally do. Part of that was because the entertainers were sick with Noro virus. But mainly the problem was the change of time for the shows. We had fixed dining at 8pm. In order to see a show, we had to go to the 7pm one, which was just too early for us, especially days we were in port. We used to enjoy the 10 pm shows very much, so were disappointed with the change of times. Again, can't figure the logic of whomever made that decision. We greatly enjoyed all the ports: Dubrovnik, Corfu, Sicily (Taurmina), Rome, Cartegena, Cadiz, and Madeira. The only complaint I had about the ships tour in Rome was that we couldn't hear the tour guide on the headsets. Combination of static and a heavy accent. We used CC - especially our roll call - to guide what we did at each port. Our fellow cruisers were informative and helpful. Yes, I got the noro virus despite taking all precautions, but, thankfully, it was while we were making the crossing, so I didn't miss any of the ports. The medical staff, the Neptune Lounge, and our cabin steward all were wonderful about taking care of me and making sure we had everything we needed. Didn't like getting sick, but at least had a great room to be quarantined in! Used the spa a lot, and the quality of their services (massages, seaweed wraps, etc.) was great! Love the wrap around promenade on the HAL ships. Loved the piano bar, cigars under the stars. Too many things to count, and this review is already long. We had a fantastic time on our "cruise of a lifetime." We might not be able to afford to go all out again, but are already planning a Hawaiian cruise on the Zaandam - probably in a regular balcony room. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Background: We took a standard balcony. Married, early 60's, with numerous annual cruises on multiple lines from Carnival to Seabourn. We selected this cruise for the itinerary, not the ship or line. Short version: Celebrity ... Read More
Background: We took a standard balcony. Married, early 60's, with numerous annual cruises on multiple lines from Carnival to Seabourn. We selected this cruise for the itinerary, not the ship or line. Short version: Celebrity remains and excellent choice in the so-called "mass marketing" cruise lines. Positives: Service and guest care, room, and itinerary. Negatives: Dining room closed for lunch, major reason to avoid. Fixed dining only in dining room. Specifics: Boarding: (4/5) Pretty standard and efficient considering most guests were there an hour or more prior to earliest time. Keep in mind that on all larger ships you can go right on with no waits by showing up about 1.5 hours after the earliest listed boarding time. Stateroom: Everything you would expect for a ship of this class with excellent service in every regard. Well maintained stateroom that was of average size for this class ship. Common areas: Not the best use of some space, but clean with no excess wear. Again, excellent service. Entertainment: Quite variable guest entertainers with lots of comedians. Staff entertainers and orchestra were average for this level of ship. The itinerary was so busy that there was little time for shipboard entertaining during the day. Itinerary: (5/5) Many guest like ourselves were on this particular ship for the outstanding ports of call for anyone interested in World History. Food: (3/5) We rarely ever eat in the cafeteria as we can do that at work; however, the dining room was only open for 2 or 3 lunches on the entire 14 day cruise which will probably keep us off Celebrity in the future. Breakfasts were good, but again not available everyday. Dinners are fixed seating (6:15 or 8:45) which is always risky depending on the table. Food was slightly above average for this class ship. Good , but rarely memorable. No one at the table had a bad meal, but all agreed that the food was pretty average in terms of quality of materials and preparation. Service was outstanding! Family: Celebrity is probably not the line of choice for younger children. Celebrity Captain's club perks: (1/5) Nothing notable for multiple return customers. We will be a higher level with our next cruise, but even that has nothing of value offer. Most important question: Will we book another Celebrity Cruise? Certainly not our first choice, but this is our first choice to recommend to those in our age group who have never cruised. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Review; Carnival Freedom / Western Mediterranean Cruise October 1st thru 13th, 2008 GROUP: Five seniors with past cruise experience (2 to 6 cruises each). SHIP: Outside cabins were comfortable and spacious, plenty of storage space and ... Read More
Review; Carnival Freedom / Western Mediterranean Cruise October 1st thru 13th, 2008 GROUP: Five seniors with past cruise experience (2 to 6 cruises each). SHIP: Outside cabins were comfortable and spacious, plenty of storage space and decent size bathroom. Food was good (average) at all eating venues which includes the dining room, buffet and specialty food bars. Staff for the most part was courteous and accommodating. Entertainment in the main theater and the lounges was enjoyable. Fitness Center has a decent amount of equipment and not overly crowded but wondered why the spin bikes are off limits. Casino was never overly crowded, staff was friendly and odds & payouts were equivalent to Vegas. We all agreed there were some things that could have been improved upon but overall the positives definitely outweighed the negatives. I recommend this cruise ship. TRANSFERS: Used Roma Shuttle at (www.romashuttle.com) for travel; airport/hotel, hotel/port, port/hotel, hotel/airport. Always on time and courteous. The four transfers for five people cost 68 euros (E 68,00) per person plus tip. I recommend and would use again. HOTELS: Stayed in Rome for 1 day prior to the cruise and 1 day after. Day prior reserved rooms at the Crowne Plaza St. Peter Roma (www.crowneplaza.com). The rooms were equivalent to U.S. hotels in size and service (E 162,00) and provided shuttle service to & from Rome sites. That day we visited the Colosseum, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Day after, reserved rooms at the Hotel Alimandi Tunisi (www.alimandi.it). Rooms with bath were of good size and the complimentary breakfast was excellent (E 172,00). Located 1 ½ blocks from the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel and a 2 mile walk to St. Peters Basilica. Each hotel offered free shuttle service to and from airport but their scheduling did not match our own. I recommend each and would use again. TOURS/ GUIDES: Booked tour guides (recommended by cruise critic members) via internet at 3 ports and being in a private van made the trips more personal with an itinerary tailored to our wishes. The other 5 ports were done on our own. Naples; (www.driveamalfi.com), e-mail (info@driveamalfi.com) Roberto di Palma was filled with area info as we drove along the Amalfi coastline and through towns of Positano, Sorrento, Amalfi and Ravello. Don't miss the lunch and limoncello at a family owned restaurant near Ravello. We stopped to take a 2 hour tour of Pompeii before returning to the ship. Cost per person; tour (E 110,00), Pompeii entrance & private guide (E 31,00). I recommend highly and would book again. Monaco; (Alpes Guides Interpretes), e-mail (sylvie.di.cristo@wanadoo.fr) Sylvie was so informative as we drove through and made stops in Monaco, Eze and Nice. She knew the best points of interest and where you could get the best views of the countryside. A stop at a local restaurant in a quaint enclave in Eze for a lunch of crepes is a must. On this tour we agreed to invite another couple to join us making a group of 7. Cost per person; tour (E 90,00). I would not hesitate to recommend this tour and would book it again. Livorno; (www.tuscanyinmypocket.com), e-mail (info@tuscanyinmypocket.com) Guido Sarzani was a great guide and historian of the area, plus very entertaining. He showed us around Florence, pre-purchased tickets for the Accademia (Michelangelo's David), drove us through the countryside of Tuscany and then on to Pisa. We stopped for another good lunch at a family owned olive grove/vineyard restaurant in Tuscany, toured their cellar and tasting bar. Before returning to the ship we visited the leaning tower. Cost per person; tour (E 94,00), Accademia (E 14.00). I very highly recommend and would book again. OTHER PORTS: Rome; stayed 2 days and used the hop on / hop off bus for the city sites and walked to the Vatican. The traffic is incredible and something to be experienced. Saint Peters Basilica is a must see. Dubrovnik; took the bus in the dock area into town and then walked the wall. Strolled around town ate some pastry from a local bakery and enjoyed the city. Venice; used the water bus (Vapporetta), to get around including going to St. Marks Square to tour the sites. We had a good time in Murano, watching the glass blowing, walking the residential areas and sitting at a cafe along the canal. Ship dock to the nearest Vapporetta station is about a 25 minute walk. Use the DM water bus when possible (it's the express). Messina; walked to the bus station (20 minutes) and took the local to Taormina. It was interesting riding with the locals but it turned out to be a 2 ¼ hour drive. This left very little time to tour this gem of a town or enjoy any of the local cafes. Although the round trip bus fare was only E 6,50, I think it might be better to use the ship excursion or deal with a cabbie just outside the dock area. In Taormina, visit the restaurant across from the bus station for a scenic view. Barcelona; caught the shuttle bus in dock area to Columbus Square. From here used the Hop On / Hop Off bus to Las Ramblas with its vendors, living statues and open market. Used the bus again to the La Sagrada Familia and enjoyed some very tasty sangria at a cafe across the street. The waiting lines for the bus can get long, if in a hurry there are many cabs running throughout the city. This was a first time visit to Europe and I think it was the ideal way to get a taste (glimpse) of what is offered in the way of history, art, architecture and the personality of these countries. We were told by each of our guides plus others that October is one of the best times to vacation in the area because of the ideal weather and although somewhat crowded, it is nothing compared to the enormous crowds of the summer months. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I would definitely recommend this cruise for the first time visitor to Europe. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
This was our fourth HAL cruise, and 17th cruise for me. We are newly retired seniors who love to travel and are usually flexible and can roll with the punches. Flying to San Diego was easy. The airport is smallish with lots of taxis ... Read More
This was our fourth HAL cruise, and 17th cruise for me. We are newly retired seniors who love to travel and are usually flexible and can roll with the punches. Flying to San Diego was easy. The airport is smallish with lots of taxis available. We stayed at Old Town Inn for three days before the cruise. We could walk to Old Town, its restaurants and the trolley. San Diego a great destination with lots to do. We visited the Zoo, Old Town, the Old Town Trolley tour and harbor Seal trip. We loved the tall ships which are near the Midway and the Cruise Terminal. We were so busy that we did not get to see the Midway this time, but promised it to ourselves for next time. Embarkation was a breeze. We were dropped at the terminal around 12:30 pm and by 12:45 were in the Lido. Carry-on bags were checked at the Lido where there was an attendant and we had tickets to re-claim our baggage. Got into cabin shortly after 1:00, rest of bags were delivered by around 2:00 pm. First I want to list all the plusses of this cruise! Most importantly: the crew and staff were GREAT! Always a smile and cheery greeting. These folks work very hard to make us happy. They must love what they do or they are awfully good actors! Secondly the size of the ship is good in some ways. There was very little waiting in line for anything. You could get a front row seat, or very close to front, for all the entertainment. Cabin a "verandah suite". The verandah is larger than on many other ships I 've sailed in. Lots of room for the compulsive over-packer. Four closets, with bars of varying heights and a safe. Nine drawers by the dressing table/desk. Two drawers in each of the two nightstands. It as more than enough room for the two of us. The safe is a bad design. Requires credit card swipe to open/shut. Had to carry that credit card with me. Bedding wonderful! Slept like a log every night. Location very quiet - over the dining room. By luck we got one of the few verandah suites with a shower instead of a tub. We've had the tub before - it is very small with very high sides. Difficult for someone with mobility problems to get into. Food: I don't cruise for the food. Cuisine for 6000 meals a day - or more- cannot be as good as I fix at home. But we could always find something in the Lido. Ate in the dining room only three nights. Never a problem on AYWD getting a table for two if we reserved for 5:15 or 5:30. Walked out of the Master Chef's dinner. The food was not that great, the service was slow. I'd much rather have good service than waiters waving napkins with sheepish smiles on their faces. We usually dined in the Lido. It is quiet, the food is almost the same as the dining room - alas, the desserts are not the same. You go through the line for your starters, then order the main course which is delivered to you by waiters. Ate in Pinnacle Grill for lunch one day. It was worth the price of $10 each - and we left a tip. For specialty restaurants I much prefer Celebrity's. Fruit selection never varied in the Lido. It would have been nice to see strawberries, other berries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, etc. No breadsticks! Bread and pastry not up to Celebrity standards. Waffles were generally soggy. But the eggs to order and the omelets were great! We ordered room service for two shore excursion mornings, and it was delivered very promptly to our surprise. Laundry: we found the $12 bags a great convenience. We could roll our dirties and stuff them in the bag. Our things were returned in 24 hours without paying for express service. We sent out two bags during the cruise. Alcohol: I thought drinks were expensive, but we could and did order a liter bottle of Canadian Club for our stateroom for $32. Entertainment: We skipped the singing and dancing shows. The ventriloquist was great. Craig Diamond as the funny magician and Stephen Kane as the piano man were very enjoyable. Those two helped make the cruise memorable. I appreciated the lack of announcements, but also appreciated Captain Consen's keeping us apprised of unusual events. We had to stop at Puerto Vallarta out of sequence for a medical evacuation. Captain Consen also apologized for some tender glitches in Cabo the last port day. Oasis: this is supposed to be a teen hang-out, but with very few kids on board, I got curious and snuck up to see the Oasis. What a neat retreat! There is a shallow pool with a waterfall and lots of lounge chairs that look a bit smaller than the standard adult chair. Shore excursions: In Puerto Vallarta we took the Yelapa and Majahuitas excursion. In Yelapa some adventurous types were led ashore to view a waterfall. My DH went on this and said that it took him only 10 minutes to get there, and when he arrived the waterfall was diminished by the presence of an odiferous men's banio. (That's bathroom!) Yelapa is a dump. The rest of us were put ashore on a beach with some beach chairs and umbrellas reserved for us. There was also pay as you go bar service. Then we were taken by boat to Majahuitas, which is a snorkel stop. Swimming here was great and I had my first experience with a sea kayak. Sitting in the kayak was most uncomfortable for an old gal with a bad back, but paddling the kayak was a cinch to this old boatwoman. In Mazatlan we took the Estuary Birdwatching expedition. That part was ok. I liked boating down the estuary and seeing the pelicans. But we were left on shore at an ill-tended "shrimp farm" which gave me the willies, and then loaded onto a flatbed with small wooden benches, pulled by a tractor. That part of the ride was excruciating. DH asked me why we paid to be tortured? This Toonerville Trolley took us to a beach, where we had a really nice Mexican lunch - washed down by Corona and lime. What's not to like about that? Then we had to board that horrid flatbed again to be returned to Mazatlan. In Topo DH took the excursion to Farrallon Island. He said it was great - lots of sea lions and good snorkeling. BUT the excursion was very expensive - $134 for less than 3 hours total, and there was not enough snorkeling equipment on the boat for everyone. Had I gone I would have been really angry if there was no snorkeling equipment available for me. We had booked other shore excursions on line but decided to cancel them. In Loreto we took a local taxi, which drove us all around for $20. Then we walked around the area by the Plaza. I t really is lovely with lots of shade and benches to sit, and nice restaurants. We ate fish tacos, and again drank cerveza with lime! Loreto is a beautiful, small port and I would gladly go there for a land-based vacation. The Mission museum and the church were worth a visit. In Pichilingue we took the free bus to La Paz. While not quite as small or picturesque as Loreto, it was a very do-able city. We walked along the Malecon, looked at all the sights, and wished we had our swim suits on to take advantage of the beach. On the dock in Pichilingue was a large and very nice assortment of Mexican vendors, selling everything a shopping tourist would want to take home. Despite good intentions, I did buy a silver bracelet and some vanilla. In Cabo we went on one of HAL's excursions, again, a waste of money. We took the catamaran which showed us all over the harbor, but there was no swimming or snorkeling. We could have hired a local boat to do the same and it would have cost a lot less. Cabo is another city I'd be glad to visit again. Our time in this port was limited and I wish we could have stayed longer. Ryndam has the best library we have ever experienced on a cruise ship. The library, Internet stations, game tables, and coffee bar are all sort of mixed up together. Actually a very good mix. The library was a great place to relax while sipping a cappucino (extra charge). I would sail Ryndam again just on the strength of the library. The Culinary Arts Center is a concept that is weak for me. I attended a cooking demonstration. We were given recipes. The demonstration often did not follow the recipe. Viewing is not good in the Wajang Theatre, so video screens have been installed. I thought I would have been just as well watching my tv at home. I also attended a very small hands-on class, for which there was an extra fee. Again, the recipes were poorly chosen and not followed. For example, the crepes were supposed to be mixed up a day ahead, refrigerated, then sauteed the next day. No way we could do this in a 90 minute class. Some key pieces of equipment were missing, for instance, a spatula to turn the crepes. And the instructor, the Pinnacle Grill Chef, could not find any sugar! He wanted some for the Gazpacho. Although I enjoyed this class for the good people who were in it, and the chance to eat our creations in the Pinnacle Grill for lunch, but I think HAL has a way to go in improving this cooking at sea concept. I am a musician as well as a hobby cook, and I use improvisation in both areas, but there is a difference between improvisation and disorganization. Bingo: One card is $10, three inseparable ones are $20. I really appreciate that HAL has a priest aboard for Daily Mass. On this cruise there were also non-denominational and Jewish services. On Board shopping was limited, but I am not a shopper and have vowed not to buy anything that has to be dusted or will wind up in a yard sale. Average age of Passengers was a bit older than we are, and we are mid-sixties. General attitude, manner, consideration and conversation of passengers was for the most part, absolutely delightful. Attire on formal nights was quite lax, especially outside the dining room, but this does not bother me a bit! Hot tubs were cold and this was a major disappointment to us. We did not use the pools. The Lido Pool area appeared quite crowded on sea days, but the Seaview pool did not draw as many folks. Unfortunately the lecturer was not good. She practically read each lecture from her notes. No dynamism. Disembarkation was easy. We chose the option of having our bags checked directly to the airline. After leaving them outside in the passageway of the ship; we didn't see them again until we picked them up at our home airport. There is a small fee for this but it is really worth it! I had asked for a disembark time of 9:00 am, and we got of a little later, got a taxi and were at the airport by 9:40 am. Taxi was $15, plus tip. Overall: it was an enjoyable, relaxing cruise, not perfect but good. I will certainly consider cruising with HAL again if the itinerary, timing, and price is right.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We are a 60 year old retired couple from Arizona who have been on 8 previous cruises none of which was on Carnival. We drove to San Diego and stayed at 3 different economy motels from the Hotels.com website and were very pleased with each ... Read More
We are a 60 year old retired couple from Arizona who have been on 8 previous cruises none of which was on Carnival. We drove to San Diego and stayed at 3 different economy motels from the Hotels.com website and were very pleased with each of them. We arrived two days early and stayed one night after the cruise to give us time to explore the San Diego area. We were impressed with the condition of the ship and enjoyed its amenities: the miniature golf, ping pong, and water slide were fun. The pool deck was where we spent the most time and we enjoyed sipping drinks and watching the varied passengers on board. We were surprised there were so many children on a November cruise but they were pleasant to watch enjoying their freedom. The service on this ship was superior to most we have experienced on other cruise lines. The employees always greeted us with a smile and our cabin steward Ronelo always greeted us by name. We were made to feel appreciated by our experience. That was not our experience on our last cruise in January on Princess. Now I'll talk about shore excursions. In Cabo we took a water taxi to Medano Beach and had an enjoyable time on a beautiful beach with nice warm ocean water. Lounge chairs and a beach umbrella were provided free at the beach and attentive waiters brought us drinks. This was an inexpensive and pleasant way to spend time on our 4th trip to Cabo. The water taxi was $5 per person each way. It was cheaper to buy a round trip - which we did but the taxi did not return at the appointed time so we had to pay another only $3 per person to return to the dock. In Ensenada we opted for the wine country tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. We came back with 6 bottles of premium Mexican wine for a very reasonable cost. Our stateroom was large and had a nice sized shower. We were not bothered by noise or excessive engine vibration as I thought we would being on a lower deck and at the aft of the ship. Food was excellent on this ship, among the best we have ever had on a ship. Our waiters were fine but a little hard to understand. We were seated at a table for ten with the most congenial folks we have encountered on a cruise. We even exchanged e-mail addresses with them. Entertainment was for us the weak point of the cruise. The shows seemed dated and mechanical. We usually spend a lot of time listening to a wide range of music on board but this time did not as most bands performed in smoke filled venues. The piano bar players seemed uninspired and the Calypso band on the pool deck seemed stuck on one sound. All of their songs sounded alike. Disembarkation was fast even though we had a high number and we were on the road to The Wild Animal Park by 10:00AM. Despite the subpar entertainment, we will cruise again on Carnival. It was a pleasant and inexpensive getaway and better than we had expected. We had avoided Carnival for years fearing wild and drunken partiers and substandard food, and we found neither to be our experience. The demographics on this cruise could have just as well been Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, or Princess - the other cruise lines on which we have traveled. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We sailed on the Vision of the Seas Nov 9, 2008 - Nov 16, 2008 out of San Pedro (Los Angeles Harbor), CA. We live in NJ and this was our 13th cruise. This was a last minute cruise for us and this was the first time that we had not chosen a ... Read More
We sailed on the Vision of the Seas Nov 9, 2008 - Nov 16, 2008 out of San Pedro (Los Angeles Harbor), CA. We live in NJ and this was our 13th cruise. This was a last minute cruise for us and this was the first time that we had not chosen a cruise because of the ship and itinerary. We planned to visit the grandchildren in Seattle. The weather in Seattle is not conducive for a vacation in November, so when I saw this cruise at a reasonable price I booked it. As it turned out this was not our favorite ship and certainly not our favorite itinerary. We flew down from Seattle the night before arriving at 10:30 and stayed at a Marriott Springhill Suites hotel that was in Manhattan Beach. It was too far for free hotel pickup and the taxi ride was $20 with tip. The hotel had free breakfast and since we were too far from the airport to go back for the shuttle, we had the hotel call us a taxi to the ship. The fare + tip cost $50. For the convenience of taking taxis and not having to hassle with shuttles, throw in the free breakfast and the fact that we got a good leisure rate on the hotel this was an adequate choice. There was nothing to do in the area of the hotel, and I would not have chosen this hotel for an earlier arrival. The next morning we arrived at the cruise terminal at 11:30 and the porter took us to get luggage tags. (I really would prefer preprinted luggage tags, even if they emailed the rest of the documents). We had no lines, and the entire check-in process with security and pictures might have taken half an hour. Since we were on deck 8 we had check in with the suites. But I didn't see anyone with lines. The cabins were not ready yet so we wandered around the ship and had some lunch. We had a 3:00 meet with our roll call at the Schooner Bar. We moved to the Sports lounge next door and the football fans were doubly happy because Sunday football was in full swing. It was great to meet the others from our roll call. It had been a very active group. My DH was less interested in meeting the group since we were not doing independent tours with anyone as we did on previous cruises. Others on the roll call were more into drinking and zip-lining. We had early seating with 2 other couples. They were very pleasant. As with our other 12 cruises, we've always enjoyed the company of our tablemates. FOOD - The first 2 days the food at dinner was on the bland side. After that, I ordered differently and I had some very interesting meals. I do not let the appetizers, soups and salads being smooshed into one course stop me from ordering one of each. When I do this, I am not as disappointed and certainly not hungry if the main course ends up not being my favorite. I also order a baked potato where appropriate. I can always fill up on a baked potato. Our server always asked us if we were happy with the food and always offered to bring a different selection if we were not satisfied. CABINS - The cabins on Vision were the smallest we've experienced. We had inside 8579 and at 160 square feet, I think I've reached my minimum cabin size. My poor DH had to climb in and out of bed because that is the only way around the drawers that stick out at the end of the bed. Also missing was a refrigerator, but this is something we never used anyway. This cabin had a small hidden staircase next to it that went up to the spa. This was definitely a bonus. Our own staircase (to be shared with the other cabins forward of 8579)to the spa, fitness center and the Solarium. It was a nice quiet room, with a little walking above at about 7 a.m. which was no problem for us since we were up by then anyway. The bedding was very comfortable. The cabin steward was great. ENTERTAINMENT - The cruise director on this ship was outstanding. He added a lot to the shows (along with the group of 50 from Alaska). We went to all of the shows and enjoyed them all. They included 2 production shows (good cast), a comedian, a ventriloquist/comedian, a singer/comedian. All the other usual activities were available including different types of trivia, arts and crafts and excellent dance lessons. PORTS - These ports were not my favorites. Out of my 13 cruises, I would rate these as uninteresting. If I lived in southern California, what the heck, it is a cheap cruise, but I would not fly to get to these ports again. We love to enjoy the ambiance of a new port and/or share independent excursions but these ports did not have a lot to offer. We walked around Cabo which was an okay day. Because of tendering we didn't get off the ship until after noon. In Mazatlan we took a taxi too and from Old Town. The church there was interesting and there was a little more of the ambiance we were looking for. In the afternoon we walked to the little ferry boat and spent a few hours at Stone Island. I would have really loved to have rented a few chairs and umbrellas on the beach (hint to vendors). We put our towels down and went swimming, but now had nothing to to use to dry off. In PV we went to the Westin. Their limited day pass provided us with the chairs and shade we were looking for, but the first 12 feet into the ocean was very rocky with a steep drop. You can sit on the hotel property away from the vendors. If you want to go to the beach, this was not my favorite. If you want a pool to hang out at, this is a good choice. DEBARKATION - We took priority debarkation and as we left the windjammer at 7 a.m. we saw people already walking off the ship. Because of the time change the night before, 7 a.m. felt like 8. We left at 7:15 when priority self debarkation was called and walked right off. There is really no customs anymore for U.S. citizens - just hand in your customs sheet as you walk past the immigration officer. We took a cab to the airport for $60 and we were there at 8 a.m. We were hoping to get onto the earlier flight but it was completely booked. So we hung out at the airport for our 12:30 flight. I think I would chance an 11:30 flight if it was a Sunday and I was taking the priority debarkation. DH and I both agreed that the 10:30 flight would have been cutting it too close. We still had to wait on line to check in at the airline counter and then there was another line to go through security. SUMMARY - Another enjoyable cruise, but not our favorite. Our last RCL cruises were on larger ships Brilliance and Explorer. I prefer the larger ships. But this ship was adequate and provided most of the amenities of the larger ships. I think the regulars from CA are going to love the larger ship that will be sailing out of San Pedro. The food was similar to the other RCL ships although there appeared to be fewer juice choices than on the larger ships. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We live in San Diego and we are 58 and 69 and decided to try HAL for the first time. First Impressions: The crowd was a little older for the most part than Carnival. The staff were happier than Carnivals... We Arrived at Port at 10:00 AM ... Read More
We live in San Diego and we are 58 and 69 and decided to try HAL for the first time. First Impressions: The crowd was a little older for the most part than Carnival. The staff were happier than Carnivals... We Arrived at Port at 10:00 AM and could not go on pier since two ships were debarking, so my daughter dropped us off and we hired a pedi-cap. He loaded all our bags and us and peddled us about 50 feet, took our baggage in and we gave him $10.00. We checked in without a hassle around 11:00 and were eating lunch in the Lido around 11:30 By 12:00 we were meeting and drinking with "new friends" in the AFT Bar. CABIN 8068: We booked an SZ guarantee and received an SS. We got lots of wrong info on this room so here are the facts. It was lovely, although wheelchair accessible, it had two showers one in tub and one where the toilet is. The counter space is limited due to handicap features but was totally adequate for us. It was right next to the the glass outside elevators which was not an issue, no noise, in fact was lots of fun to people watch. Yes it is above the Lido restaurant but only a small portion and their was no noise, a room farther down may have been an issue but not ours. The beds were fantastic as were the pillows. Our room was always clean and our ice chest was always full. Thank you to our wonderful cabin attendant D.B! This was our first time in a suite and the extra room was very nice, most of all the (dining height)table on the balcony with two chairs, that would have been enough for us, as we did not use the chaise chairs. We loved the Elemis shampoo and lotions and received new ones daily! FOOD: We are casual diners and only went to main dining one time so the following depicts the Lido I have never seen so many "happy, friendly employees" Hot food was hot and cold was cold, The waffle bar was amazing! I was worried that HAL would not be casual enough for me, not to worry, everybody does their own thing and even tho nice, it was as casual as you want to make it.HAL knows exactly what they are doing. The emphasis I felt was on quality and not quantity and everything was served by friendly professional "servers" at the counters.I particularly enjoyed the roast turkey, roast pork, rotisserie chicken. The Prime Rib was wonderful..The salad bar was fresh and had tons of offerings. HAL Lido is very elegant compared to Carnival, it is carpeted , has candles, piped in music and real flowers! ENTERTAINMENT AND STUFF TO DO: I thought Joel Mason was very talented and put on one heck of a good show. However, in my humble opinion, I feel he benefits from depicting/impersonating Elton John a highly respected member of the gay community...yet when I asked him if he raises money or awareness of AIDS his answer was that he does not subscribe to "that" life style and the subject is too controversial for a cruise ship. HELLO...ok next thing we enjoyed was team trivia, and lost in desert and lost at sea quiz's. I enjoy the Casino and won $1,000.00.on the quarter slots (you must play 3 quarters to win big) I did not come home with that but was fun and I came out ahead. STAFF: Thank you to you all! All the staff we met were fluent in English and had wonderful tales to tell of their various home lands, family and ship board life. Wait til you meet Mr. Boozey! ROOM SERVICE: Quick and wonderful first cruise I did not worry about getting my first cup of coffee, it always arrived within 10 minutes. SUMMARY: I love HAL... I would book them again, but I also would book Carnival as well. I guess I believe "whats not to love about a cruise?" Feel free to e-mail me if you have questions. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was our thirteenth cruise and our third on Princess. We are in our sixties and added our recently widowed sister-in-law at the last minute. We chose Princess because of the itinerary, relatively short 11-day cruise and the comments on ... Read More
This was our thirteenth cruise and our third on Princess. We are in our sixties and added our recently widowed sister-in-law at the last minute. We chose Princess because of the itinerary, relatively short 11-day cruise and the comments on Cruise Critic. Although this cruise was early in the season, the weather was good and we only had one day of partial rain. Island Princess is a great ship: clean and well-maintained. Navigation around the ship is simple. Our biggest complaint involves the narrow aisles in the Princess Theater which severely limits exiting after the shows. Horizon Court is poorly designed and creates a considerable logjam selecting food items. The ship rode quietly on the ocean with minimal movement. Our mini-suite was aft and provided ample room. Initially we required changes to the cabin since it was missing a dividing curtain and had a lumpy bed. Our cabin steward Leonardo promptly resolved everything. A minor complaint was the warm water that came out of the cold water faucet. We chose traditional dining, which included great service from Silva and Yvette. They also took our wine orders which is unlike most other ships. Nonetheless, service was prompt and courteous. The food was awful the first two nights (overcooked chicken, dry beef that was hard to cut, nondescript soup etc) but then we experienced a major change and enjoyed very nice culinary choices for the rest of the voyage. We took most of our other meals in the dining room where we sat at large tables and had the opportunity to meet other travelers in a quiet atmosphere without the hassle at Horizon Court. The pizza and hamburgers on the upper deck were excellent. There was no desire to try the specialty restaurants since the dining room was very good. We noticed those restaurants were seldom full. Entertainment was excellent. We particularly liked the string quartet that played frequently in the atrium and the Broadway like shows in the theater. The dancers and singers were very talented. Joni Butler had an excellent voice, but her song choices were not the best. The two comedians were usually very good. Ports of Call: Aruba was great, but four hours on a Sunday reflects poor scheduling. Cartegena was good, but very crowded if you didn't take a tour. We selected the La Popa, Dungeon tour with a shopping stop that was excellent. The guide was a multilingual teacher who provided us with the history of the area. The Panama Canal was the main attraction and well worth the experience. We elected to remain on the ship (as suggested by many Cruise Critic reviews) and enjoyed going through the locks in both directions. The history provided by the husband/wife lecture was excellent. There was plenty of time and shopping selections at the Cristobal Pier. We had been to Ocho Rios several times, but wanted to climb the Dunns River Falls with our sister-in-law. We avoided all of the vendor hassles by taking the boat excursion which included climbing the falls. Highly recommended. Although embarkation was quick and painless, disembarkation was disorganized. We waited for 1.5 hours in the Princess Theater with few status announcements. Locating bags was a nightmare. Bags were organized by color group only, not by sub group (#1,2..5). The bus trip to the airport was well coordinated, but due to airline baggage charges the cruise line no longer offers one-stop baggage handling with airline check-in. Summary: The Island Princess is a great ship which provides excellent service and generally good dining experiences. The Panama Canal should be on everyone's bucket list. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Unlike most people my husband and I started planning for retirement in 1964 when we got married. After our first cruise in 1975 we knew this was something we wanted to do again. From that time until we retired, we were on 15 cruises, ... Read More
Unlike most people my husband and I started planning for retirement in 1964 when we got married. After our first cruise in 1975 we knew this was something we wanted to do again. From that time until we retired, we were on 15 cruises, mostly on Royal Caribbean. Because of our early planning, we were able to retire early and have been retired for 7 years. Since we retired we have been on 25 cruises. We really like the longer cruises. More than half of our cruises have been longer than 7 days. Our longest cruises have been 30 nights from LA, through the Panama canal, down into the Amazon River to Manaus and up to Tampa, and 33 nights from LA to Sidney, Australia with stops in Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and several other islands. We enjoy everything about cruising. We sent our kids on a cruise for their honeymoons. We took our granddaughters on a cruise 4 years ago and are taking them again in May for a graduation and will do the same next year for the same reason. We live in the LA area and had some points to use so we decided to cruise on the Carnival Paradise. The best service we got was at embarkation because we are gold card holders, so check in was a breeze for us. We usually book balconies but we had only enough points for an ocean view cabin. Be sure to print out your FUN PASS. We got to our cabin to drop off our carry on luggage and went to lunch before most of the people even got on the ship. The Paradise is the oldest ship we have been on in quite a while. The ship was not easy to navigate because it had a dining room in the middle. You had to go up or down to get from one end to the other when you were on that deck. The public areas were very nice. The cabin accommodations were OK except for the fact that the cabin had no heat. Our table mates also had no heat in their cabins. Our cabin attendant had the air cranked all the way up the first night and luckily we went to the cabin after dinner. We found him and he turned the air off for us. When we asked how to set the heat, he said there is no heat. We told him no more air and he forgot only once. Another problem we had was cigarette smoke coming into our cabin. The cabin attendant said the people across the hall from us were heavy smokers and there was nothing he could do to help us. For the most part he was good, as were most of the staff on the ship. In the main dining room, my husband ordered fish every night and said it was excellent. I ordered beef most nights and I got it the way I like it one night and not the next. The waiter took it back twice and the third steak was not sent back. I decided to have dessert with the rest of the table and go up to the Lido for pizza. The Lido restaurant had pizza all day every day and it was good. There was a soft ice cream/yogurt machine available all day also located in the Lido restaurant. Breakfast and lunch were run of the mill in the Lido. I was surprised that the cookies I had come to look forward to were no longer free. You had to buy them at one of the little shops. They were not on the room service menu either. Overall the food was did not live up to the food on other Carnival ships. We did not take part in the daily activities or in shore excursions. Since we live near LA we have been to Catalina and Ensenada before. . On past trips to Catalina we have rented a golf cart and driven around the island. That is always fun. In Ensenada there is shopping right by the pier. There is a pharmacy that is reliable and has good prices on many things. Something to think about if you don't have prescription coverage. We like to play cards and Carnival ships have decks with their logo at guest relations for free. That was a nice touch. Two of the shows (singers and dancers) were OK but the third one was excellent. The outside entertainment was also outstanding. We had a comedian and a magician. The cocktail party was nice. The wait staff couldn't bring us enough drinks. I do not drink and they brought me diet cokes without any hesitation. There were also plenty of hors d'oeuvres to go around. We also got early debarkation. Because this was a 4 night cruise we each had a 19 inch suitcase on wheels and a carry on so we opted to carry our own luggage off the ship. . That was a breeze. We go on cruises not only to get away, but also to be comfortable in our cabin, for the service we receive, and for the food. In my opinion, those are some areas that need improvement. They were not terrible but just left something to be desired. We would not go back on that ship again. Carnival has too many nice ships with better food, better service, and nicer ships with lots of balconies for us to go backward to a ship that doesn't have them. They do have a few suites with balconies but we did not see inside of them. Our other Carnival cruises have been on the Spirit class ships and the newer Liberty and the Freedom. We have booked balconies and they have been very nice. We have been in one suite on the Spirit and it was awesome. We really enjoy these classes of ships. They are bigger but they still give you the personal touch that you look for on a ship. I am glad we used points for this cruise and not out of pocket cash because it was not a very good deal to pay what they were asking. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008

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