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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2011
Ok, it wasn't quite perfect. Close but no cigar. From my viewpoint, the food was great. I had one bad meal (Duck-very tough) and that was it. All the desserts were great, the meals were very good to excellent. There was usually a ... Read More
Ok, it wasn't quite perfect. Close but no cigar. From my viewpoint, the food was great. I had one bad meal (Duck-very tough) and that was it. All the desserts were great, the meals were very good to excellent. There was usually a bit of a wait for 5:30 seating in the Non traditional dining room, but it went fast. A smile and a thank you went a long way with the Maitre D. He was a bit harassed. The ship was great too. Lots of places to go and relax or not. That's what I love about cruising, the choices are yours to make. Not sure I got my money's worth with the soda package, but it was fine. I didn't get the coffee package because I drink one cup of coffee in the morning and I'm not a gourmet about it. I most often got coffee from room service and had it on my balcony. The bed wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great. A bit hard for me, but not that bad. The Trident Grill was nothing to write home about nor was the Pizza parlor. The ports were fine, although I have no comparison, since this is my first trip to Hawaii. I loved the way they organized the departures for the excursions. It was really well done and absolutely no waiting on a dock to find out where you were going. You waited in the Princess Theater until your group was called, went to the disembarkation deck and got right on the bus or van. It was truly great. They do need more seating in the Princess Theater. I only got to see one show because there was no seating. The 10:30 was too late for me because I get up at 6 am, without an alarm clock. I'm not sure what I missed, but everyone said the shows were great. My only issue was my flight home. When I left, I was flying out on US Air 6344, but when I got to the airport, they said there was no such flight. Finally, I got on a 10:10 flight that took me to Philadelphia. Not my first choice, but at that point I didn't have any choice. I'd have liked to know about the change before I left the ship. I spent money trying to check-in on line. It was frustrating. Can I blame Princess for that snafu? I don't think so, but they should have let me know about the change. US Air's people were great. They helped me all the way along. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal ... Read More
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal undercover in two minutes Day 2 24th Nov. We flew with Singapore Airlines, Manchester to Singapore with a short stop for fuel and some more passengers in Munich. Excellent service and food, the seat back entertainment was exceptional over 50 films + comedy shows+games and TV programs on a 10inch screen. Easy on-line check-in 24hrs prior to flight. Day 3 25th Nov .The pick up from the airport was excellent a gent with a board with our name was there, he showed us where to wait whilst he went for his brand new black Mercedes and took us straight to The Traders Hotel, the room was small, as reports had said but was adequate and aircon was good, the pool was excellent, shopping in Orchard rd, shuttle bus to town and routes, we did [a groggy "Orchard Road"] The shops in this city are awesome [not cheap] and everywhere they have Chrissy decorations up, it all looks so good!! Spent some time by the hotel pool in the sun at lunchtime until it clouded over and p-----d down for an hour! Had a meal in Tanglin Mall [attached to the hotel] and bought some food and wine for the evening Day 4 26th Nov. Hippo Bus tour, got over the journey, now up at 7am, today we are doing the hop on hop off bus around all the tourist spots for a quick view of Singapore! This was an excellent way to see the sites in a very short time with a running commentary as to where you were and what to see. We booked this via Viator on the internet and paid '£11pp on the day it would be $S23 It takes 1hr to do each of the two routes, then you can choose where to go and get off at that stop, then rejoin the trip when ready. We had an exceptional meal on Clarke Quay whilst on the route and even though it rained we were under cover and had excellent service and views, had a take away in the room that night and crashed out. Day 5 27th Nov. Lounged in the hotel in the morning chatting to the friendly staff and other people who were going on the cruise, There was one thing to mention, the maid had put a Kitkat on our bill, so we spoke to her and she said we had taken it and that she found the wrapper in the bin! {WE DID NOT HAVE THE KITKAT] so reception removed the charge, as we left the Hotel the next day we noticed a Vodka and Tonic had also disappeared!! Make your own assumptions, then the Taxi to the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre to book in for Transfer to ship [only S$10], this was poorly organised we are Elite so we are supposed not to have to wait but wait we did, in a grotty hall on uncomfortable seats until a bus took us thro a massive container port about 25mins drive away to join the ship, we then booked into the ship had a meal and relaxed. We went for dinner 2nd sitting looking forward to meeting our new companions, they were a gentleman of approx 90yrs by himself and a family of 4 mum, dad and two boys one 9yrs and one 10yrs all from Auss. During the meal the 10yr old was unwell and mum went out with him twice on the 3rd occasion they came back he had the waste bin from the cabin with him! Within 5mins he was being sick in the bucket at the table!!! We resolved to move tables the following day. [And did!] We went to see the show and enjoyed the performance and went to bed! Day 6/1 28th Nov. Day at sea had breakfast on the balcony [room service Free] then decided to spend some time in the sun. It was partial cloud all day so we had a lazy day on deck but unfortunately got a little sunburn. The evening was formal night and Champagne fountain plus our new table [what will we get?] We also had a meet and greet with our friends in the Cruise Critic group at 11am to 12pm for drinks with the Captain, Cruise Director and staff which was good fun followed by another meeting some other good friends we had met on Facebook Rollcall and had had some Video chats with prior to the cruise at 6pm, this went on till Dinner at 8.15 and was an absolute brilliant party!! Then off to dinner at the new table, we couldn't have been more pleased we had a lovely lady from Sydney Sue, and her husband Max[who was Italian and was fluent in many languages] they where a joy to be with. Then another couple from Yorkshire turned up and the table was a delight, pleasant intelligent conversation with a bit of banter all night, then off to the show again till late, then bed. A thoroughly brilliant day!!! Day 7/2 29th Nov Ko Samui. Tendered to the shore for 9.15am which was poorly organised and time consuming then a mini-bus to Chaewang Beach, left to ourselves from 10am to 12am $29 each with Princess. The beach wasn't exceptional, many in the Caribbean and Med are much better, swam and enjoyed an expensive beer and returned on time. Had lunch with some people we had met in the Singapore hotel, it was to hot to sunbathe so we chilled out in the room with a few drinks. Went to dinner enjoyed a pleasant meal with good company then crashed out with a Baileys and brandy. Day 8/3 30th Nov. Bangkok/ Pattaya Took the FREE shuttle bus to Pattaya 45mins, what a brilliant place great shopping right on the beach [not sure about swimming though] spent most of the time spending money and choosing clothes great fun, Sandra bought a silk dress and I bought a pair of trousers. Shuttle back to the ship, crash out and relax with a drink!! Very happy with Pattaya went for dinner with our four companions Sue and Max, Sue and Allen, we have a great time with in depth conversations about just about anything, and we are always the last people out of the dining room. It's a relief to have such good company. Received our first laundry back today all properly cleaned and pressed and free!!! Day 9/4 1st Dec. Day at sea. Woke up this morning the sea is like a millpond not a cloud in the sky, we tried to buy some sunscreen yesterday on the ship but they only had factor 4!! Breakfast on the balcony Spent the day in the sun watched a Movie "Cowboys and Aliens" funny! A few drinks plenty of relaxing. Time for evening meal enjoyable as ever, then off to bed!! Day 10/5 2nd Dec. Vietnam. Decided the 2.5hr drive to Saigon would be to boring [which was confirmed later by people that went] so we took the free shuttle bus to a small town market 45mins away, what a treat, started at a decent supermarket then thought there must be more to see so we walked 2 blocks and found this huge 3 story local market with a food market next door, spent ages routing around clothes shoes belts everything you could think of, all genuine designer goods [not!] I bought an Armarniish belt! Ha Ha. Then off to the food market, OMG fish drying out in the dirt on the pavement, what a stink and flies everywhere, next the Veg. Market what a difference beautiful food everywhere the vendors were the classic ladies sitting amongst the produce sorting, cleaning, peeling and posing for photos, so friendly, indeed everybody was friendly, giggling as we tried to talk to them [apart from the occasional guy pushing sunglasses at you on the street]. A great morning out [except some poor cruisers didn't walk the block and missed all the local stuff, we told a few when we got back to the bus and they them went off to see the local market!] Bought a bottle of wine and twelve cans of coke and tonic with the rest of the Dongs and went back to the ship. Enjoyed the sun and the peace as most had gone to Saigon and we almost had the ship to ourselves! Excellent dinner, had a little argument with Sue who was a NHS worker supporting the strike! So I couldn't let that go and we had a ding dong [which I enjoyed but I don't think she did!] Day 11/6 3rd Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [ Chillin all day!!!] Dinner, atmosphere was ok all forgiven! Day 12/7 4th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 13/8 5th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 14/9 6th Dec. Bali Elephant Safari This was great fun, up early tender to the shore was 40mins and it poured down with rain, the people who got on first where on the open top of the tender and got totally soaked!!! Then a 1.5hr drive to Elephant park in the mountains of Bali. First we fed them then had a half hour+ ride on them thro the jungle, it poured down for 10mins, but they gave us capes for that and there where huge spiders all around us in the trees, then an Indonesian meal [not me normally!] but it was very enjoyable! Then an hours drive to a local market [just sold crap!] and back to the ship. A good day out and very enjoyable. Great meal that night and good company, we were late as usual. Day 15/10 Wednesday 7th Dec Day at sea Lovely hot day, too hot went to the room for a drink at 2pm and stayed till 3.30pm sunny on the balcony. Tonight is Captains Circle night so Formal and free drinks should be good!! Plenty of free drinks; the most cruised person was an Aussie who had done 1500 days at sea [over 4yrs at sea] now thats a lot!!! A good meal we don't bother with shows, so a walk around the decks and off to bed! Day 16/11 Thursday 8th Dec Day at sea Getting hotter as we reach the equator, Had to do Aussie customs today before Darwin tomorrow, all done by midday, sunbathe, but so hot, always above 30C we had to retreat to the spar for a break. Day 17/12 Friday 9th Dec Darwin 37C walked off the ship, passed the protected beach [protected from Box jellyfish] to a lift which took us 5 storeys up to the road into town. Walked into town and explored the shops, very pleasant, with lots of shops. Went to buy some wine in Woolworths, they wouldn't let us as we didn't have photo I.D. a friendly Aussie bought 3 bottles for us and we paid him [ace] Day 18/13 Saturday 10th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 19/14 Sunday 11th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 20/15 Monday 12th Dec Port Douglas, The Great Barrier Reef We where taken to the port by local tender to join the high speed catamaran for the journey to the Outer Barrier Reef [approx 90 mins] where the boat tied up to a pontoon above the reef, we were then given any equipment we needed [$5 for a latex stinger suit ref the Box jellyfish] and were then free to snorkel in the large protected area. The visibility was about 10 metres, there were plenty of fish large and small, We then had a semi-submersible ride around the reef for about 35mins, next we had a pleasant lunch on the pontoon or in the cat. We the returned to Port Douglas and due to time we where transferred straight back to the ship and missed Port Douglas itself [shame]. A long enjoyable day on a trip that has to be done. Day 21/16 Tuesday 13th Dec Airlie Beach, Daydream Island Resort, The Whitsunday Islands we arrived at 10am and had a right mix up with the tenders from the ship, it seems that they didn't have enough Auss customs officers to do both sides of the ship so we were delayed, we finally went to this beautiful island by cat arrived 12pm and watched the hotel staff feeding the fish on their living reef, it was very hot! We had a look around the 7 pools, it was now lunch time at the Fishbowl Restaurant after 30mins it started to rain slightly, we were sitting with a Scottish couple having a good natter and the wind suddenly changed direction. A mini Cyclone went straight thro the whole resort, smashing tables, glasses, chairs, and taking down a number of large trees, one landed on some sun beds crushed them and fell into the pool!!! It was one of those times when you say Wow! that could have been deadly. Luckily nobody was hurt and the sun came out and we enjoyed the rest off the day, 5pm to 7pm with low cost cocktails $3.99 in Skywalkers, "Rob Roy" was the best [Chivas Regal base] Day 22/17 Wednesday 14th Dec Day at sea This was a lovely day slightly cooler than all the others [we are heading south out of the tropics] still very sunny and warm, sunbathing and a few drinks, we then had a goodbye party with the Facebook crowd at 4pm, till 5pm and cocktails in Skywalkers [Cocktail was "Chairman of the Board", Bombay Sapphire base] next changed for the formal night and free drinks at the captains farewell party, superb beef wellington and great company till late. Day 23/18 Thursday 15th Dec Day at sea Last day of the cruise, weather changed as expected, a lot cooler 20C and cloudy, packing has to be sorted as they take the cases tonight after dinner [or before if you want] sort out all the admin. Day 24/19 Friday 16th Dec Sydney, The Sail into Sydney Harbour to Circular Quay was amazing with fantastic views of the city, the opera house and the bridge! Disembark and get a taxi to the hotel [ only $A15 The 4 Points Sheraton Hotel, This is a lovely hotel, check in was perfect, no effort, bags taken to room. The room was a harbour view with a large picture window overlooking Darling Harbour excellent! That morning we chose to buy a joint ticket to The Aquarium, The Wild Life Adventure and The Sydney Tower. The Aquarium was brilliant with lots of exotic sea creatures that you don't see in the northern hemisphere, The Wildlife Centre was just what we wanted, we stroked Kangaroos, saw a Duck-billed Platypus, a giant crocodile, a Wombat and best of all we cuddled a Koala. Next a short walk, to the Tower fabulous 360 views of Sydney. Finally an evening having a meal and a walk around Darling Harbour, this was amazing, Christmas Tree, Carol singers and buzzing with loads of people having a great time in all the bars, a great day all round. Day25 Saturday 17th Dec Sydney Today we had breakfast in a Restaurant on Darling Harbour, the weather was a little cloudy but warm. At lunch time we decided to take the ferry from the harbour to Manley Beach. This was so easy $13 return every 20 mins, about 30mins to get there, the weather was now brilliant and hot, we were surprised how beautiful the area was, lots of shops, a beautiful prom and a fantastic beach, loads of surfers, people having barbecues on the beach, a market, lots and lots of things going on everywhere! That night we went back to harbourside and had a meal, It was Saturday night and was all set up for a fireworks display so we went back to the hotel to watch from our grandstand view room. It was a brilliant display especially with some chocolate and a bottle of wine. Prior to this we had to call our pick-up for the airport the following day to confirm, when we did we couldn't get thro' so I asked the Concierge to help, he tried and said they were closed, however, he went onto the internet and looked up their web-site, got an out of hours number and confirmed our pick up with them [all without me asking him to do it] absolutely excellent service!!. We then needed to check in to Singapore Airlines and print our boarding cards, I went customer services at the hotel and asked about the printer and the girl on the desk offered to do the whole job for me!! I gave her the flight details and she sorted everything out and printed the boarding passes!!! Another example of fantastic service by the hotel staff. Day 26 Sunday 18th Dec Fly home, We had the morning at leisure as our flight wasn't until 4.15pm, so we strolled around the harbour, had breakfast and did some last minute shopping. We were picked up on time by a company called Sunbuses and taken to the airport. Dropped the bags off waited for the flight to Singapore on the Airbus 380 8hrs, then a 2hr wait in Singapore for a flight to Munich 12hrs, then stay in the plane for an hour whilst some passengers left and others joined and the wings were de-iced then a 2hr flight to Manchester. Day27 Monday 19th Dec collect car Arrive at Manchester call APH, they sent a bus to transfer us to the car park. The car was parked ready to collect then off to home 40mins Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2011
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to ... Read More
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to expect. Our Grand Voyage was a 70 night cruise, visiting many ports in the Far East, Australia, and a bit of the South Pacific. We sailed from our home port of Seattle, which was convenient but enabled us to take far too much luggage. The embarkation procedure was efficient. The ship was just as we remembered it; immaculately clean, an extensive art collection, beautiful floral displays. Our room, on this cruise, was an inside cabin on the Verandah Deck. We had plenty of space for storage and to move about. No noise issues. In the first hours, our Cabin Stewards made sure that they introduced themselves, and that we had everything we needed. In spite of the fact that they are now responsible for many more rooms than in the past, our Cabin Stewards did an amazing job of keeping our room clean. They still took the time to make a towel animal each night, too. We prefer to eat in the Lido, rather than in the LaFontaine Dining Room. We find that the food is just as good, but we have the advantage of being able to mix & match entrees & sides, rather than having the set plate combos that are served in the dining room. The dining room stewards on the Lido are absolutely outstanding! It took only a few days before they called us by name, knew where we preferred to be seated, served our beverages as we liked, etc. Another benefit of eating on the Lido, is that the staff are much more willing to socialize with the guests. We loved the opportunity to learn about Indonesia. On this cruise, we ate a few suppers in the Pinnacle, which we found to be excellent. Although we attended a Le Cirque night, both of us much prefer the Pinnacle's regular menu. Our ports on this cruise were many & varied. We only participated in a couple of excursions, sponsored by HAL, as most were quite overpriced. Before the cruise, I was actively involved in our Roll Call, so I was able to both organize & participate in several Cruise Critic excursions. These were all excellent - and a great value. we had a travel guide, who was supposed to share information about each port. Unfortunately, it became clear that she would sometimes use her role to get people to purchase HAL's shore excursions, rather than supporting people who wanted to visit the ports independently. The evening entertainment was not what it used to be, although there were a few, very good performers. The best shows, were those put on by the crew. We had both an Indonesian & a Filipino Crew Show on this cruise. Day time activities, on sea days, varied minimally from day to day, but there were a wide range of activities available; sports, educational lectures, water color classes, etc. We had 4 guest chefs who were on board at different times during the cruise; all provided excellent demos in the Culinary Arts Center. When we disembarked in Long Beach, CA, the process of leaving the ship was well thought out & organized. Unfortunately, the process fell apart once we were reunited with our baggage. The lack of sufficient porters resulted in mayhem. Our Grand Voyage was exactly that - Grand. We spent 70 indulgent days aboard a beautiful ship, with an entire crew that provided truly loving care. We traveled with a fascinating group of passengers. We were never bored, nor homesick. The only significant disappointment, was having to leave the ship at the end of our cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2011
OVERVIEW:Both cruises were excellent, and we would have no hesitation in recommending this line to anyone considering a keenly priced alternative to some of the 6 star ships, or for anyone on a higher cabin grade/cost on 3-5 star lines... ... Read More
OVERVIEW:Both cruises were excellent, and we would have no hesitation in recommending this line to anyone considering a keenly priced alternative to some of the 6 star ships, or for anyone on a higher cabin grade/cost on 3-5 star lines... With all the inclusions offerred (wine, gratuities, port shuttles, coffee and soft drinks) plus the fact that cabins are well appointed, laid out for max use of space, plenty of storage and well soundproofed, that excursions were fairly priced around the $80-150 mark, its a VERY good deal. Cuisine was well above average, with the finest ingredients, varied international menus and probably the best breakfasts we have seen at sea. A high standard of cuisine overall with some reservations as to SOME items - see details in section below.Add to this the excellent and friendly staff, bridge, engine and galley tours, smart casual attire and you have a product that offers a lot more value for money than we have found anywhere else. On top of this, the pretty well intelligent, professional and laid back passenger profile (UK, US, Canada, Aussies with some Euro pax), with age of pax around 38-55 means mid-agers will love it also for the lack of kids, no overdone formality or familiarity for that matter - just a friendly mix. It's a goodie !In a nutshell, for the rapid reader, here are our observations of the pros and cons, for more detail please read on after...! PROS + CONS:PROS: Company integrity and fair treatment after changes to itinerary; Overnight stays in port: pricing spot-on and included generous offerings of good wine and sodas; Staff, top service; well appointed cabins with quality toiletries and accessories, variety of entertainment, reasonably priced and well chosen excursions, shuttle buses. High degree of safety and security is a company priority. In the 'pirate-zone' special measures with costly diversions were made to protect the ship. Most of our small shipboard concerns and enquiries were acted upon and fixed almost immediately.CONS: Website a bit flaky; Some matters required referal to head office and the subsequent delay in reply from Miami meant some issues that should have been handled on board could not; Food quality superb though expertise in preparation was at times below the high standards elewhere; No AV "in" available on the LCD TV in the cabin to reveiw fotos/videos, lack of movie playing times in the onboard daily news; deck cleaning often in very late evening which made them slippery at times.ABOUT US: We are a well travelled, 50's same-sex couple of 29 years, who have a enjoyed a good few cruises, hotels, itineraries , destinations and voyages on 5 continents under our well-travelled belts. After 30 years in the travel industry and semi-retired, we now travel on FULL fares and costs are an important consideration. We chose our first trip on Azamara because prices were comparable to a one-way business class fare (very $$$ ex Australia to Europe). On reesearching, Azamara was also chosen because the cabin facilities and grade were above average, the published fares were almost all-inclusive - with fare inclusive of gratuities, complimenatry wine at meals, and soft drinks offered throughout on an itinerary with port overnights. In short - the Singapore-Dubai and Dubai Athens b2b cruises on AZAMARA ticked our boxes for a leisurely trip to Athens.Many of the other current reviews on sectors of the Azamara 2011 Asia cruises reflect the current layout, facilities and staff/service on the Quest very well, so won't repeat here, rather would like to truly review the excellent, good and 'almost good' of our Azamara experience....OUR CONCERNS BEFORE SAILING:Firstly, it was to be a long trip - all in all over 3 1/2 weeks on board for the 2 cruises. Secondly we had sailed Crystal as a premium product before, as well as cruising on 'value' lines such as NCL, so were prepared to experience, something in the middle with Azamara. Thirdly, as a same-sex couple, one of us a smoker and with this length of time at sea plus Azamara's tight smoking policy, there were some reservations as to smoking and acceptance of our discreet but alternative lifestyle. We need not have worried on any account...AZAMARA CRUISES THE COMPANY (PLEASE READ ALL !) :Having been in Management with airline, hotel and group & Consular travel services companies for over 30 years, the first consideration for a traveller should always be the company with whom you are making a transaction. Azamara was an unknown to us and when we first booked with our agent, we found the response from RCI agency in Sydney to be below par in coming back with some of the info we needed.Assuming this to be the fault of our agent, I tried myself to call. In short, it took a lot of time, yielded poor responses, often lacking in knowledge , and most especially - in the all important matter of showing empathy with your client. Turning to the website was not much better and the fact that the layout and user access to important matters was somtimes a bit "hit and miss" did not add to our initial impression.**(IF the resident Cruise Critic blogger for Azamara Club Cruises happens to read this review, I would be most grateful for a private message so that I may discuss further this review on a professional level...)**That said, our ACTUAL experience was that Azamara Cruises are an extremely fair and customer conscious corporation:-We were advised in a timely manner, nearly 80 days before sailing that due to security concerns with the Mideast situation, our port call was being substituted from Alexandria to Santorini. The company not only advised early (unlike our upcoming Oceania cruise with about 17 days notice of changes), but Azamara also offered a very generous onboard credit to each guest as a goodwill gesture. Apologies were again given onboard. This is putting the customer first - well done Azamara !The company also suffered misfortune with bad fuel being supplied in Mumbai, but prudent fuelling and navigation planning ensured we were not "running low" and despite having to dock elsewhere this did not affect schedule. In fact the planning was such that the poor fuel was carried on board all the way to Athens for eco-friendly defuelling there - I am sure at great cost, but with full respect for the environment. The ship also faced the breakdown of our escort-ship from Dubai through the 'pirate-zone' off the horn of Africa. Consequently, Azamara went to great expense in loading our security team aboard in Dubai and then to dock again at Muscat to load their armaments. Again at great cost, but with schedule unaffected as the Captain kept full speed on for a week to meet schedules. The concern for safety. security and sticking to schedule could not receive high enough acclaim. Truly professional.THE SHIP. PASSENGERS, CABIN : The Quest was the first trip for us aboard any of the R Class ships. Quest was well apointed, nicely maintained and well laid out. She rode well and provided a feel of a good upscale hotel at sea with warm and traditional "club" decor. We prefer the more intimate and low key voyages offered on such ships. However if passengers, crew or services are 'off the mark'on such ships it can make for a stressed experience. Not so on board the Quest - it was a wonderful balance on all sides. Great fellow passengers, most of a semi-professional background, middle aged, well travelled and of a pleasant and entertaining nature. Passengers mingled well , without over-familiarity and the atmosphere was indeed that of the members at a friendly club. The cruise encompassed many "at sea" days - 9 in fact between Dubai and Suez but with a varied and diverse program on board, there was rarely any time that could not have been filled should you have wished. On board program covered everything from cuisine to dance - enrichment lectures - ships tours to galley, bridge and engine control room - games - spa, gym and excellent fitness instruction. A well rounded programmed indeed. even with nearly a month at sea, we did not grow weary of our journey and were sad to leave the vessel in Athens, (with still so much that we could have done !). Our cabin - 1B Veranda - was about 10% smaller than that on Crystal but well planned in layout. It offered great space and storage and despite reading of the 'shower curtain' issue, this was NOT an issue, the curtain is well designed, locked at one end and does not "flap out and cling" from the well designed shower stall. Storage again is plentiful in the bathroom. cabin service was almost immediate with several fellow passwengers remarking on the fact that the magical 'clean-team' would literally tidy up as one left the room. Cleaning was done thoroughly, all valet services efficiently and with a smile, a professional team here.SMOKING AND OUR 'ALTERNATIVE' LIFESTYLE :As a smoker, I was initially upset on boarding to having been 'relegated' to one upstairs zone to smoke, and not being able to do so on my cabin veranda. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. As I and my (non-smoking) partner discovered the benefit of a single smoking area on the ship - In effect an outdoor, weather protected veranda on the pool deck. Here, we mingled with others (who were also, more often than not, one smoker with a non-smoking partner !). The result was a group on board that met socially as they stopped by "for a fix" whilst not inflicting their bad habits on other passenegrs. The area actually became a social venue and many friendships have developed as a result of the friendly gathering that eventuated. On the issue of our lifetyle, the ship provided a discreet meeting time each day for people of same-sex orientation and again, friends were made on board. Crew and all staff were most accepting and kind in their dealings with us. Well done Azamara ... Good policy = good outcome for all. ENTERTAINMENT: Excellent for a small ship. The shows were well chosen and varied each night. Many guest artists joined at each port giving refreshment to the evening programme. In paricular, we should mention :Johnathan Johnston, an outstanding Flautist (and certainly a virtuoso on the flute) performed to standing ovations on the 12 day Dubai-Athens leg. Even the non-classical were blown away by this incredibly talented guy. The resident Raconteur/Pianist Donald (Jim) Badger was witty, incisive and brilliant in this difficult position on any ship. Filling a lounge or cabaret with a polished and varied act nearly every day. With a lot of B2B cruisers this is not easy, but his repertoire and humourin parrying with the audience in a playful manner made him a true gem of the offering.Azamara's keen eye for the small touches such as ; - CD of crickets chirping playing on pool deck area at night ! - A special memorial service for servicemen on Australia's ANZAC Day which was held on deck at dawn by the Captain and Senior Crew for Australian, New Zealand and other guests. - A Special "Gala" day for the British Royal wedding, with live coverage and catering.Kudos to all for a well selected and varied line up. 99 % well above average and very often just brilliant.CUISINE:Serving staff were faultless, bordering on brilliant. Nothing but the highest praise for their efficient, friendly and courteous service. all done without familiarity or cheesiness. These guys were well chosen, love their work and it shows. In all venues and without individual exception they were superb.The only SMALL downside for us was some small matters regarding cuisine. To set the scene - we are NOT "foodies" , nor do we eat out in 5 star restaurants weekly back home. We are of the old-school, 'eat what is provided for you' upbringing and certainly are not menu-snobs or wannabe Chefs... We also understand catering to 100's or 1000's of guests in varied restaurants over the course of a day and at sea is never easy.What WAS provided on Quest was excellent choices. International meant just that, asian, indian, greek, itlaian, mexican, french, spanish etc. Three included dining areas and two speciality restaurants were available each day as was room service from the in-room or restaurant menu of the day. This, by the way was very well done, offering a fast and friendly delivery of hot food and most importantly, all the condiments - never had to ask for sauce or spices, they were on the tray along with generous cutlery settings. Important when you have had the experience of having to ring again for the missing items !! Azamara had room service completely and efficiently taken care of - bravo ! Service, Variety and choice were never an issue.The ingredients, provisions meats and variety of fruits and vegetables was of the very best quality. The company has spent a lot of time and money here and it should show...However, although all ingredients were of excellent quality, esp. the never-ending lobster and steaks, both well cooked and presented, the Executive Chef for the main restaurants on AZ QUEST was, to our mind, lacking in his supervision and preparation of SOME dishes. I honestly believe that the preparation is more under par than admitted to... leading to a few dishes and menu items going out to tables that shouldnt have - I will not nit-pick , but for example (soggy batter on prawns, steak 'surf and turf' served but lobster forgotten (!) in Specialty restaurant, in particular we disliked the soups, often they were over-salted or over-sweetened with poor stock bases, and some weird menu items like chocolate or strawberry soup in the savoury part of the menu, that really have no place on any menu. A good stock/soup chef and deletion of some over-fancy bizarre cuisine ideas on some of the main Discoveries restaurant menus. Buffet overall was well above average and on many occassions superior to the food received in main restaurants of other ships.That said we ate and drank very well (The complimentary wines at lunch 11.30-2.30 and dinner from 18.00-21.30 , free flowing by the way, are all bottled vintages from around the world - very good too!). So please don't regard this as an indictment on the beautiful food and quality ingredients offered. We ate well - Azamara could just lift the supervision in preparation at times.We have expressed this to Quest's Hotel Director, Ryszard onboard and understand that they will review. IMPORTANT: To be fair, this is our only real issue, and on this voyage, there may have been some kitchen complications or absent staff. But, with the rest of the ship scoring near-perfect in our book, this, to US, if fixed, would put Azamara up close there with other 6 * ships on nearly every front.THE SUM UP As two value conscious travellers, in our early 50s, we are experienced of over 100 destinations over 30 years and look keenly at quality/price/value for our trips. We travel from 3-5 star on land/sea/air and can state that that this is a very, very good product which has come a long way since their initial poor start (we understand from early CC reviews in 2007). We travelled on Azamara's regular published fares and while this review may seem too glowing it is not, it's exactly the way we saw things. We review through our other compared experiences for price quality and value. All in all we would have no hesitation in recommending Azamara Quest, we will put this company on our preferred shopping list for future itineraries. ALL of our close shipmates concurred and are also very likely to choose Azamara again. So, go for it - its a good sail and these people delivered well ! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
This was our third cruise on the Emerald, first being Venice/Greek Isles, second voyage. Nothing is like it was on the first cruise anymore. Princess continues to be the only line that does not take contagious/infectious control ... Read More
This was our third cruise on the Emerald, first being Venice/Greek Isles, second voyage. Nothing is like it was on the first cruise anymore. Princess continues to be the only line that does not take contagious/infectious control seriously, thus the blast of Norovirus on the ship. Granted, the staff worked diligently attempting to serve at the Horizon, but there is, on any day, such lack of control, food arrangement, and direction in Horizon, it is utter chaos. Anger and frustration on the part of passengers did not help.This is the only line we cruise that does not have someone at every door insisting on hand cleaner prior to entering any common areas. FOOD: The food was so poor, we stuck to mostly fruit, salad bar vegetables; grain bread and butter, wherever it was hidden. It appeared more people opted for Anytime dining, and lines were staggeringly long waiting to get inside. Service was very slow, and no one ever came back to ask if your meal was OK. Thus, we ate at the Horizon, among dirty plates and no service for even water.Getting past the poor selections, tough meats, uncooked fish, and service, the biggest problem - and one most anyone over 55 hopes not to experience - was the inedible varieties of foods overwhelmed with salt. Everything had far too much salt in it to taste like anything but salt.CROWDS: The ship sleeps more than 3000 people; but there just is not enough room in the common areas, the lounges, nor in the theatre when everyone is out and about. To see a show, you needed to be in a seat an hour prior.Since the ship is so large, you can only get into cargo ports - away from the towns. Shuttles were provided, at a cost each way. Again, we often have shuttles on other lines, but they are provided as a "service" for free.BEDS: We knew the beds were not great from the first cruise, and made phone arrangements prior to cruising. Sadly, one bed tilted toward the floor; the other sank so deeply in the middle we asked for pillows (6) to fill the gap and sleep on. Minimal response from the ship. Our cabin steward was phenominal in assisting and continually apologizing for the situation. SMOKE: Hallways were reaking from smoke coming out of cabins. Why they don't designate one side of the ship for smoking makes one wonder. It is not possible to eliminate the odor of smoke by washing down a cabin "when needed".We were part of 290 CC's, with four M&G with invitations sent to the Captain, etc. We never saw the captain or co-captain; they (unlike other lines for CC) never served appetizers or drinks. Very disappointing as it was obvious we were part of the "masses" and not important as cruisers.PORTS: The TransAtlantic and ports were the best. The Baltic ports were crunched into short port times, and inability to see as much as desired. St. Petersburg was a delight. Can't say enough about our private tours booked through members of CC, and all the organizing that went into the M&G. The one tour we did with Shore Excursions was simply OK; as usual, huge busloads and wasted time getting on and off for a "photo op".This 27 day was chosen for the itinerary, not the ship. Those of us who enjoy much longer cruises, and know it is possible to have much more for your money than what we experienced will look elsewhere. For us, three times and we're out. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2011
Embarkation in Southampton was good it took less than one hour to get on board the ship. the initial observation of the vessel was good large bars and lounges and plenty of deck space. The balcony cabin was fine , bathroom was large ... Read More
Embarkation in Southampton was good it took less than one hour to get on board the ship. the initial observation of the vessel was good large bars and lounges and plenty of deck space. The balcony cabin was fine , bathroom was large and seemed fine. But after 3 days all this changed. the toilet kept on breaking down 10 times on the whole journey 3 times spilling water and raw sewage onto the bathroom floor.Each time when we complaint the problem was fixed so we thought but again and again it happened.We asked to be moved on 3 occasions but the request was totally ignored. the Headliner shows were great the best we have seen on a cruise ship for a long while.but otherwise the daily entertainment was to say mediocre the cruise director was never to be found and the cruise staff are very badly trained. Food in the Belvedere leaves a lot to be desired, always cold and very little variety. Our waiters in the main dining room were fine and the food was of good quality. Food in the Rhodes is excellent well worth the extra cover charge. The screening room must be the joke of the century, 30 seats for a ship with 2000 passengers.Would we ever go again on this vessel NO WAY. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
We'd heard a lot of good things about P&O (including here), and were looking forward to our first cruise with them. While not BAD, it certainly didn't live up to it's reputation. Food was mediocre at best, service ... Read More
We'd heard a lot of good things about P&O (including here), and were looking forward to our first cruise with them. While not BAD, it certainly didn't live up to it's reputation. Food was mediocre at best, service inconsistent, entertainment was a mixed bag with some pretty good stuff and some amateur hour quality, special interest lectures were consistently poor except for those given by the cruise director himself. Aurora herself is beautiful, but seemed very cluttered, with shops stuck in the hallways. The mattress sagged and was lumpy, should have been replaced last year. Noisiest ship we've ever been on, we could hear both adjacent cabins plus our neighbors on the floor above. No WiFi in the cabins, I had to go to the computer room itself to log on.Orangery cafeteria was very disorganized, often not set up for lunch by noon. They usually ran short of glasses, and when I asked for more was often greeted by a blank stare.The pool is fresh water, which means it is very expensive to fill. So after draining it due to rough weather, they declined to refill until our next main port.Tender service at the smaller ports was extremely inefficient compared with other ships we've been on. At one port they only put 2 boats in the water - this for 1800 passengers and a 30 minute ride to shore. Only about half the passengers that wanted even got ashore before it was time to get back aboard.I could go on, but you get the idea. As I said, it was not so bad that we'd absolutely refuse to go again, but we'll take any other option first.The only excellent item was the bridge classes and tournament. We're big bridge fans (not all that good, just love it), and that ended up being the only highlight of each sea day. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
This was a very good cruise for us, I'll rate it a 4.5 out of 5.0, as I intend to be 'Fair&Balanced', but Hey!! we had a Tsunami and a helicopter medical evacuation as extra entertainment..so maybe a 4.75 would be more ... Read More
This was a very good cruise for us, I'll rate it a 4.5 out of 5.0, as I intend to be 'Fair&Balanced', but Hey!! we had a Tsunami and a helicopter medical evacuation as extra entertainment..so maybe a 4.75 would be more appropriate. It would probably take a Seabourn or Oceania to rate a 5+ by me, so consider my critique with that in mind. Some people grumble..we don't. We are 'active'. We hiked, snorkeled, and rented 4WD Land-rovers,Jeeps etc. I say that right off because we did NOT go on 'organized' HAL tours; as we were NOT in need of mobility aides etc. However...we seemed to bump into fellow cruisers in all sorts of places!! So, fear not, we saw most of what everyone else saw..and perhaps more than most. Also, age-wise we're on the 'younger' end of the passenger list intentionally so, as we enjoy the company of experienced cruisers; we just walk a lot faster and maybe sleep less.My REVIEW will be chronological later, I will add those details later in the ports-of-call section. Embarkation at SanDiego went very smooth; especially so because we stay the night prior at the HolidayInn across the St. from the pier. I highly recommend doing similar for anyone worried about Air connections etc. Door-to-Stateroom Luggage Service was too $expensive$ for us ($975 bucks) but it's the way to go methinks if one is a bit 'gimped up' or money isn't a concern.The ROTTERDAM seemed to be ship-shape. It's not new. We like that. It's classy..not glitzy. Just the right size vessel for us means less than 2000 pax and more than 500. Is it comparable to OCEANIA's newest Uber-classe cruiser? Probably not...but it was a good $$value$$ for the fare spent.Clientele/Fellow Passengers: We didn't meet anyone who had NOT cruised before. We are entering our early retirement years and we were nearly the youngest except for 2 honeymooners. No teens at all. Most passengers have their money working for them by now; not the other way around. Did anyone grumble? Yep. No different than any other cruise. The same people I avoid back home I avoid on a cruise. Generally a sedate, yet interesting mix of people aboard from US, Canada, Germany, UK, Sweden, OZ and Japan. Few from elsewhere. Stateroom: We were on Deck #3 near the front, with large window looking onto the teak Promenade, our favorite area. Our Neighbors had a 'Lanai' Rm. which allows for walking directly onto the deck. A decided advantage if handicapped. PLUS, Lanai's get their own deck lounger-chairs!! A source of irritation to certain passengers who felt slighted. Hmmm. (Deck #9 Skydeck loungers were usually nearly empty all day). You make the call on THAT one..I'm too diplomatic.Public Rooms: Very good. Clean, clean, clean. Any lapses noted by others as regards upkeep or tidiness was unfounded in our experience; and trust me, we CARE about such stuff. Housekeeping? Excellent. The ambiance of the foyer, library, etc was sedate, and appointed in quite good taste, with a nod to wonderful Oriental antiquities in display cases and a superb array of Nautical framed pictures and plaques etc all thru the ship. Nice. Again, classy..not glitzy...yet not dowdy by any means. Library and Internet Cafe were BUSY!!Casino: Busy with the regulars. A solid crowd for the popular Poker Table most all the time. A smoker's hangout. We don't do casinos. Pools and Lounging Areas: It was Hot and Sunny nearly every day, lounge chairs were at a premium poolside around the main pool (which has a retractable roof). The Rear/Aft splash pool was where the cigarette smokers hung out. Way up top Deck #9 was wide open for Sun-worshippers...no Pool. Deck #3Promenade was nearly filled with readers and nappers every day. Lots of book readers on this cruise. Few swimmers. Non-swimming pool-side chair-hogs? Yep, like always. Dining: We went with OPEN-SEATING on Level 4...with a twist. We clicked with some great fellow cruisers. So how did we do it? We all asked to be seated together at the same time and same table each night. Presto!! Instant fun table every night. We 'thanked' the Dining Rm. Steward beforehand. The food was great. We took Lunch at the Lido every day, and accepted a gracious invitation to join another couple one evening at the Pinnacle Grille on one occasion. Wow!! Nuff said.Bars and Drinking: The Ocean Bar served up nice cocktails before Din-din and adjoined the dance floor; with the Neptunes trio providing Smooth Jazz music. The MIX Lounge had PianoMan and a 'NameThatTune' ambiance. The Crow's Nest DJ (the loneliest man on the ship)...Located Wa-aay up top, was sparsely (none)attended due to the demographics of the clientele EXCEPT on one of the last nites...The Black&White Ball!!! When certain of the crew got to 'let their hair down' a bit til the wee hours. It was a light drinking crowd overall. No bubbas jumping in the Pools. No CountryWestern, no Heavy Metal...and surprisingly, no Lawrence Welk. Floor Shows/Entertainment: Good. Great musicians, I 'got' the risque jokes of the comedians, and the singers were all A-OK. My wife loved every minute of every show. And as a neat surprise, the smooth Soul sounds ala Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke were performed by my fave, Jackie Wilson's son.Lectures/Education: I took in Frank's Microsoft/Computer classes. Very good fella and I learned a LOT!! We didn't do Cooking or Health things. Dunno.Cruise Director and Officers: STEVE the Cruise Director was more than up to the task; and LISA the Shore Guide/Guru was just peachie-keen and knowledgable about everything. The Officers handled EVERYTHING in such a professional way. Hospitable and just fine in all ways.Tendering and 'Days at Sea': Because this cruise involved a LOT of sea days AND many tenderings to small islands I must say WE had no problems whatsoever. Some pax got a little 'stir-crazy' and some were barely physically able to manage getting in and out of the Lifeboat Tenders very well. My advice? Call it a Life when such things get to be too much. When one's cruising days are over...they're over. My day will come as well. Nuff said.Now, on to the Islands. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
Just back from above. Had a really nice time. Met some lovely people. The itinery was very good. Jordan (Petra) and Dubai were really interesting. Positives first:       Ship very easy to get around. I never got lost once in three ... Read More
Just back from above. Had a really nice time. Met some lovely people. The itinery was very good. Jordan (Petra) and Dubai were really interesting. Positives first:       Ship very easy to get around. I never got lost once in three weeks!   Balconies fairly large compared to some other cruises weve been on.   Food quality in the Britannia good to very good on most nights.   Daily dancing classes were fun.       Negatives:       Flaws in the basic design of the ship (IMHO). The aft desk area with pool just seems unfinished. There is a small pool with a massive area for loungers but its totally soulless.       Flooding occurred quite regularly on various floors and in public places (table tennis table was constantly soaking!)       Rooms were fairly large but again the dEcor meant they seemed totally bare and emotionless places.       The aircon was a major complaint from everyone we met; Out of our group of about 16 people at least half came down with respiratory problems within the three weeks. We had engineers to switch down ours to no avail. We ended up sleeping on the floor beside the open balcony door one night! The pursers office refused to do anything but move our bed to the balcony end (which helped a bit). There was a but going about and it was spreading in the aircon. It needs to be investigated urgently (we sent a letter in the last few days to Tanya (Guest relations) stating that).       Staff were a lot more 'aloof' than on any other cruise line. Our stateroom attendant hardly spoke to us the whole time on board. Apart from perhaps one or two bar staff and Gemma and the rest of the Spa, the rest were totally stand offish. I realise that this is perhaps how Cunard train their staff but to have to run after them to try and get a drink after sitting in the bar for half an hour is excessive.       Food in Lido average at best. We have cruised with Celebrity on four occasions in last two years and they are miles ahead in their buffet service.       Big negative was Entertainment. In 20 nights there were two major shows. The rest were either average comics, instrumentalists or tribute acts (Beatles/El Divo). This is not acceptable and was clearly down to 'penny pinching' by Cunard. In their defence the two shows (especially La Danza) were fantastic.       In conclusion we wont be going with Cunard again (certainly not the Elizabeth anyway). If we had paid full price (not booked two weeks before sailing) we would have been a lot more critical. It is not 5 star. The hotel we stayed in Dubai was. Overall we ghave rated it 4 and this is mostly for the fun we had with new friends (not the actual cruise ship!)Celebrity remains our choice of lines and I look forward to August on Equinox!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
Embarkation: We purchased Princess transfers and were told we'd be taken to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney and shuttles would run from 11am to 4pm to the pier. That was not the case. We were taken to a dowdy downtown hotel ... Read More
Embarkation: We purchased Princess transfers and were told we'd be taken to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney and shuttles would run from 11am to 4pm to the pier. That was not the case. We were taken to a dowdy downtown hotel and dumped into a room with not enough seating. We stood for 6 hours with no explanation as to why there were no shuttles nor when there would be any. We were told "soon." Had Princess been honest we would have taken a cab. Finally at 2:30 we were taken to the pier only to have to stand in a horrendous line for 1 1/2 hours. Not a good experience after an 18 hour flight from California. This ranks as one of the worst embarkation experiences in our 22 cruises. The Diamond Princess is one of the most beautiful ships we've ever seen. Standing on a deck in Sydney Harbor was awesome. We were thrilled to be in Sydney and on the Diamond. There was a CC Meet and Greet at Skywalkers and then no other CC activities for the duration of the trip. Since there were 127 CC members we were very disappointed that we weren't acknowledged or that anything else was organized for us. Our port side balcony cabin was nice although there wasn't as much storage as on other cruise lines. As on other ships the cabin steward - Chai - was very helpful and anxious to please. Unfortunately Princess has a smoking in stateroom policy and, as luck would have it, passengers across from us smoked non-stop and, it seemed, round the clock. Guest Relations would not do anything to help us. I repeatedly asked to be moved, was even willing to give up a balcony for an ocean view, but they refused saying the ship was sold out although I knew for a fact it was not. I suffered from a major sinus infection as a result and my illness went to deaf ears, even to Santa Clarita who obviously does not care about client retention. For a ship the size of the Diamond the fitness center is inadequate. I love riding the Exercycle in front of a floor to ceiling window overlooking the ocean. That is not the case on the Diamond. There were 3 bikes all facing a wall with weights in front. There was always at least a 30 minute wait for the cycle. The room was always uncomfortably hot. On other cruise ships there were jars of water with lemon or cucumber. No water was offered in the fitness center. The scale was in kilos so I couldn't keep track of weight gain. This cruise went from Sydney to Beijing and for some reason we always docked far from town and at container ports. Most of us were disappointed that we were always so far from town and had to rely on shuttles to get to town. Unfortunately the entertainment was mediocre at best. Since the theatre did not accommodate all the passengers each show was repeated. After the first couple of shows we didn't bother going to any more. As for the comedians who appeared in other venues on the ship, the jokes were very old and hadn't been particularly funny in their prime. During the first part of the cruise we had both an Elvis and a Rod Stewart. They appeared a few times during the first few days and then got off the ship. They were quite good and it was fun to watch them. There were 2 or 3 good movies. They should have had more since this was a 23 day cruise. Movies Under the Stars had a few movies and concerts but they should have offered much more. Dan Styne, the Cruise Director did a good job and there was a variety of activities. Zumba was offered on most sea days and was very popular. We even had horse racing on three days and had a wonderful time. At $3 a race that was a fun and reasonable activity. We are seasoned travelers and know how challenging it is to feed thousands of people. However, the food in the International Dining Room was not as good as it could have been. The meat, be it beef, pork or lamb, was always dry and overcooked, as was the fish. Luckily I could order gravy and tartar sauce to drown the food. The desserts were very bland. We had pavlovas one night and I used my knife to stab the meringue shell into pieces. It was that hard. The Horizon Court is very nicely laid out. It has the feel of a restaurant instead of a cafeteria as in most ships. Unfortunately the fare was repetitive and boring after the first few days. We enjoyed having fish and chips at the English Pub lunch which was offered quite often. There were a few different brews for sale, although at a high price. The tea at 3:30 every afternoon was very well presented with a nice variety of sandwiches and little cakes. Wine tasting was very reasonable - $9.50 - and the wines were all quite good. Our cruise was shortly after Yasi. Port Douglas was still experiencing bad weather. Nevertheless we still snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef. Although visibility was poor it still was a wonderful experience. The lunch provided by Quicksilver was wonderful. Because of our late return the ship sailed two hours late. We took the Elephant Park Safari in Bali. That was one of the high points of our cruise even though it took a couple of hours to get there in very heavy traffic. We were also late getting back and again the ship sailed 2 hours late. We were so glad that we took Princess excursions as the worst thing that could happen is waving to a ship sailing away. When we docked in Keelung, Taiwan, "bankers" boarded the ship to exchange currency. Sale was from 10:00-12:00, purchase of unused New Taiwan Dollars 3:00-5:00. That was a major disaster. As soon as we got off the ship it started pouring. We could see that the streets across from the pier were dirty, dingy and ugly. We immediately returned to the ship and asked to change the currency back. We were told that we had to wait until 3:00. Luckily I showed up at 2:30 as I knew the lines would be huge. A few people lined up at 3:30 and after waiting 1 1/2 hours, the bankers left at 5:00, leaving those passengers holding useless currency, not accepted anywhere else. There was such a huge uproar that a few days later the ship offered currency exchange services - at a fee, of course. So, my suggestion to everyone, do not exchange any more currency than you can put in coin collections if exchange is not available. Although I made sure that Express Checkout meant Express Checkout - that turned out not to be the case. A credit balance must be taken care of before disembarkation. This I found out as we were trying to exit the ship when bells clanged. Since it took an hour of waiting in line at Guest Relations to clear up the credit balance I asked for help in finding the Princess transfer. My request was refused. When we arrived in the terminal there were no Princess representatives nor any English speaking people and we couldn't find our Princess transfer to Beijing - 2 1/2 hours away! This was an unbelievably stressful situation which was resolved by a Chinese lady offering assistance. The bus was parked a distance away and we got there within 2 minutes of its leaving. I shudder to think what would have happened if the bus had left and we'd have to take a taxi with no Chinese money and no knowledge of the language. There again voicing concerns to Customer Relations in Santa Clarita fell to deaf ears. They really could care less. The Diamond crew did not enforce hand sanitizers and when we returned to the ship in many ports there were no sanitizers visible. Many people entered food areas and did not sanitize their hands nor were they encouraged to. I heard that two cabins had been quarantined so I told everyone I met to be sure to wash their hands often and to protect themselves and others. Pity the crew didn't think that was important advice. So, all in all, the Diamond Princess is a beautiful ship but this is not a ship I would recommend. Nor would I gave any points to Princess for Guest Relations or Customer Service or customer retention. Read Less

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