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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
First i want to say "Thank you!' to everyone on the previous world cruise segment who cancelled this portion of the cruise, which allowed my wife and I the chance of a lifetime at a wonderful price! Seems Princess changed many ... Read More
First i want to say "Thank you!' to everyone on the previous world cruise segment who cancelled this portion of the cruise, which allowed my wife and I the chance of a lifetime at a wonderful price! Seems Princess changed many of the original ports of call due to the Ebola crisis. Since we didn't know of the original itinerary anyway, the trip and price were perfect for us. The Ocean Princess (nee Tahitian Princess) is on its last legs as a Princess cruise ship. It is being sold to MS Cruises in early 2016. Even still, the cabins and public areas were kept up and we very much enjoyed our time on this small ship. The staff and crew were marvelous, especially our cabin steward and the singers and dancers who doubled as the Cruise Director staff. Even with 16 sea days, we were never bored. Dining was excellent, but a little repetitive the last two weeks. The nitpicks are the nickle and diming that occurs now since Carnival took over. Many ports had shuttles that charged $8 or Euros to get from the port to the downtown area and another $8 to get back - ridiculous! These should be free or very minimal. Embarkation was difficult due the South African immigration checks that were needed, and some port stops (Namibia in particular) were ridiculous due to an inexperienced and overwhelmed immigration staff. The port stops were both interesting, adventurous and, in one case, down-right fascinating. Stops included Luderitz and Walvis Bay, Namibia. For my money, we could have skipped Luderitz and made Walvis Bay an overnight stop so we could have experienced the Namib desert dunes at Sunset and Sunrise. The dunes are the draw here and they were more, much more, than i expected them to be. Our choice of Sandwich Harbour 4x4 (off ship tour company) was perfect and we had a wonderful time. Luanda, Angola was an adventurous stop. This was a first for the Princess line and, despite all the hype and warnings from the port lecture, we found it a nice place to visit. It is a former communist-aligned country and they were devastated by a very long civil war. Now it is an Oil Oligarchy and the downtown area is booming, slowly pushing the slum areas out of the city and building high-rises everywhere. There are not many colonial (it was a Portuguese colony) buildings left due tot he war, but the old fort (now a war museum) was very nice. I wouldn't return, but I found it a very interesting stop and enjoyed it. Sao Tome/Principe is another former Portuguese colony of the coast of West Coast of the African Congo area. When the Portuguese pulled out in 1975, the economy took a tumble and it is just now regaining its footing as a tourist destination. Still riddled with poverty, many eco-resorts are being built and the Taiwanese Government is investing heavily. The US maintains a (secretive) communications area on the island. A nice day stop and the only tender port. Our crossing the Equator ceremony was postponed due to rain, but they held it a few days later and it was a lot of fun. Cape Verde is a misnomer of an island nation as they have been suffering a drought for the last decade and the main island (Mindelo) hasn't had a drop of rain in 18 months - even the palms are dying. However, we had a wonderful (off ship0 tour and, like Sao Tome, they, with Dutch and Eurozone help, are bringing the island up to tourist standards. Water will be a problem, though. Tenerife in the Canary Islands was a very nice stop. We just flagged a cab and went for a ride around the island. Madeira is absolutely gorgeous! I'd stay a week here the next visit. Casablanca and Rabat in Morocco were great stops. Very enjoyable tour as well. Ceuta, Spain was our first ship excursion - overpriced and crowded with a couple silly stops (a waterpark, really???) But the guide was nice and after the non-walkers left us, we had a good tour of the fortress. Malaga is excellent and we highly recommend the "free" walking tour offered from the square. Lisbon is always a great port (we have been many times as we have friends who live near there), but Princess really needs to plan a longer stay there. However it is one of the best sail-aways you will ever experience. Rouen France was a fantastic treat as we sailed up the Seine and actually ported right in the City not at Le Havre, so we had a bonus river cruise on the way out. We again took a ship tour to Giverny and Monet's gardens and home. A great guide, but again an overpriced, overcrowded group function. We made port in Dover and went our separate ways. There are a lot of things to like about a small (800 passenger) ship - more ports and less tenders, getting to know your fellow passengers and crew. There are some things that don't work - 24-hour service is nearly non-existent. Less choices for activities, bars, snacks etc. Overall, this small ship experience was excellent and we will miss having this option in the Princess fleet. Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
We have sailed on 30 Crystal cruises, the longest cruise prior to the World Cruise was 21 days. This was our first World Cruise. Transfers The included Carey Limo SUV transfers from home-airport-ship-airport-home were seamless. ... Read More
We have sailed on 30 Crystal cruises, the longest cruise prior to the World Cruise was 21 days. This was our first World Cruise. Transfers The included Carey Limo SUV transfers from home-airport-ship-airport-home were seamless. Drivers there to meet us on time, assistance at the luggage carousels in FL and back in Houston, and strong enough to hoist all the luggage into the SUV. So nice to see a friendly, smiling face in the midst of airport and port commotion. Ports We sailed to 44 ports (47 ports if we count the missed/sail-by ports of Rarotonga, Port Elizabeth and Alter do Chao). Best ports: Cape Town, Wellington, Napier, Tauranga, Auckland, Dunedin, Akaroa, Milford Sound. Ports we can say we’ve been to, and don’t need to return: Maputo, Manta Most unique and exotic ports: Easter Island and both ports in Madagascar Onboard Observations Dining: Main dinner sitting in the dining room was full capacity during all segments. We always opt for the late dinner sitting, and the dining room was never more than 2/3 full, often it was ½ full or less at the 8:30pm sitting. Service was unrushed, extraordinarily attentive, and the ambient noise level of the room very quiet. The menu choices, between the Modern Cuisine selections, the Crystal Classic selections, and our occasional off-menu special requests, were varied to suit everyone’s palate. Many appetizer and entrée selections did repeat during each segment, but we always found at least two courses (and often more) every evening. We were generally pleased with the all-inclusive wine selections; however, as we were sailing through some of the world’s best wine regions, we did purchase wines while ashore in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and thoroughly enjoyed them onboard during several dinners. (Whenever we chose to enjoy our own wines, I would bring the bottle to our sommelier in the dining room about 6:00pm, and it was then already decanted and on our table when we came to dinner at 8:30pm). Specialty Restaurants: Since so many guests chose to dine early, with the exception of the last segment, it was never a problem to eat at Silk Road, Prego or Tastes after 8:00pm. Especially for a table for 2. We often made reservations the same afternoon for dining that evening. And even during the last segment of the WC, Antonio and the specialty restaurants’ staff made every effort to accommodate everyone who wanted to dine. Again, reservations for smaller tables (i.e. 2-4 people) were much easier to reserve than tables for the larger 6+ groups. Cabin Comfort: We have sailed Crystal before, so we are very familiar with the amenities and idiosyncrasies of the standard verandah staterooms onboard. All of our luggage nested within each other and fit under the beds with no problem. We used the space under the sofa for storage of snorkeling gear and new purchases from ashore. We brought 25 extra hangers (the dry-cleaning type) which were very handy, supplemented the ship’s hangers and took up less space in the closet than the wood hangers. The cabinets under the bathroom sinks easily absorbed 4 months’ worth of toiletries. We brought a collapsible mesh clothes hamper from the Dollar Store, which was stored under the desk; we knew when it was time to do laundry when the mesh hamper was full! We raised the cocktail/dining table to its highest position and it stayed at that height for the entire cruise. Since most of the desk surface was occupied with electronics (PC, I-phones, Kindle, camera), the table became the only multi-purpose “flat space” in the room. We needed more magnets! The walls are metal and become a giant bulletin board. There are so many pieces of paper to keep track of! (Invitations, shore excursion tickets, restaurant reservations, WC newsletter, etc.). Entertainment and Special Events: We were wowed and our expectations exceeded the minute we arrived onboard. We were welcomed by name on the gangway by both Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez and Captain Giske. Our checked luggage was delivered to the stateroom within an hour. The onboard gala (dinner, bands, and entertainment) just blew us away. And it only got better during the next 108 days. We have sailed many Crystal repositioning transatlantic voyages because we enjoy the multiple sea days with all the activities. Well, the World Cruise was like a transatlantic crossing on steroids. With the exception of the Billy Joel “My Life” production show which was repeated on all segments (and we attended all 6 performances, btw), the variety of guest entertainers and large production shows were incredible. There were a few “misses”, but overall, the entertainment was truly world class. The lecture series offered so many options and so many differing views, there was something to suit most everyone’s interest. On some sea days there were 4 speakers scheduled: 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. The World Cruise special event in New Zealand at Hobbiton was jaw dropping. The laser light show, followed by the fireworks was an amazing production. And to be served and entertained by an entire village of costumed Hobbits, was something very special. The special event at the private estancia in Montevideo was a miracle of logistics. The weather more than cooperated, and it was like a massive, huge, gigantic picnic with about 550 of your best friends, with wine, beer, food and lots of entertainment. Lessons Learned: We brought about 1/3 too many toiletries; better to bring too much rather than too little, but we won’t haul as much the next time. We brought too many clothes, especially casualwear and underwear. The self-service laundries are so convenient, and the ship’s laundry & dry cleaning so efficient, we did laundry more often than we had anticipated and will cut down the amount for future long cruises. We will take an extra suitcase with us, even if it is under-filled on the outbound. Based on how much we bought during port calls, as well as the bulkiness on the special WC segment gifts, we could have used the extra space for the return home. We ate smart, exercised often, rarely used the ship’s elevators, and “only” gained 10 lbs. I got on the scale this morning and I’m “only” 4 lbs. heavier than when we left. We are so fortunate, lucky and blessed to be able to have experienced such a journey. So few people on the planet can even imagine an adventure such as this, especially after seeing places like Madagascar, Mozambique, and the less affluent areas of South America. Every day I look at the Crystal brochures and our upcoming booked adventures with a great sigh. I still tear up describing this adventure to people. This was not a cruise. It was a life changing experience. We are so glad we were there. Read Less
23 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
This was our second World Cruise on HAL Amsterdam, but not our last. Our favorite cruise line is Crystal, but HAL is a better deal. 80% of the quality for 60% of the price. So when we can save up enough shekels we go on Crystal, when we ... Read More
This was our second World Cruise on HAL Amsterdam, but not our last. Our favorite cruise line is Crystal, but HAL is a better deal. 80% of the quality for 60% of the price. So when we can save up enough shekels we go on Crystal, when we get to antsy to wait, HAL here we come. Back to this cruise. Wonderful ship, great food, friendly people, fantastic itinerary. Our main activities on board include eating, playing bridge, reading, evening shows, and just generally relaxing. The food in both the main dining room and the Lido buffet is very good. Not always perfect, but the friendly and helpful serving staff will do everything humanly possible to satisfy us. Great variety. The staff is excellent, with a particular shout-out to Presty. Cooked to order breakfast items are the best on any ship we've been on. Bridge lessons and afternoon play were first rate with Karen and Dave. And almost all of the players are friendly, and tolerant of differing skill levels. There were no cut-throat players on this cruise. One of the best libraries at sea. We only brought one book for the flight down and another for the return, got the other 4 dozen books we read from the library. There's live music scattered all over the ship, and the evening shows are generally very good to excellent. We were unable to attend most of the lectures, as they conflicted with bridge classes in the morning. Shore excursions on HAL are a disappointment. The quality and selection is on par with other ships, but the prices seem to be outrageous. With the exception of Indonesia, where local traffic mandates a police escort if you want to get back to the ship on time, we hired a taxi, booked a local excursion in port, rented a car, or rode off on our own bicycles. And at most it cost us 1/2 of what the ShoreEx cost, for the same quality. Yes, we took our bikes with us. Great fun! Previously we've kept them in the cabin, but this time the wonderful Hotel Manager Henk volunteered a place to store them. With the exception of Sydney they're not much use in the big cities, but on the islands they can't be beat. One other person that deserves special mention is Cristal, the Guest Services Manager. No matter what the issue, she would step up and solve it, with a smile. Henk and Cristal are the best in their respective jobs of any cruise we've ever been on. One of the most memorable ports was in the Azores. I don't know if it's like this year around or just the day we were there, but it was the most verdant land we've ever seen. Car rental for $30/day right in the port made it even better. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
Please note that we were on board for 162 days but the number of nights we could show in the summary has a maximum of 100 days. We sailed Crystal Cruises and remained on board the same ship for 162 consecutive days. We boarded ... Read More
Please note that we were on board for 162 days but the number of nights we could show in the summary has a maximum of 100 days. We sailed Crystal Cruises and remained on board the same ship for 162 consecutive days. We boarded Crystal Serenity on 12/21/14, remaining on board until 05/31/15, representing our longest cruise ever. Our first voyage began with a Holiday Cruise, continued with a Caribbean cruise, until the start of the 2015 World Cruise in mid-January of 2015. At the conclusion of the World Cruise, in Miami on May 4, we stayed on-board for two final voyages; Miami to Lisbon and Lisbon to Rome. Summary ======== We had an amazing time. Highlights included the places we visited and circumnavigating the Globe on World Cruise 2015, the cuisine, service, enrichment, entertainment and some very special shore excursions, most notably a Safari Overland in South Africa and attending the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. In the end, it was the people who made it most special for us including the extraordinary crew and so many nice people we sailed with. This was our seventh full and overall eighth World Cruise and for us it was wonderful. One of the main reasons we keep returning year after year is the people including the crew and the guests who in many ways have become our extended family. On this year’s World Cruise we not only sailed with friends from previous cruises but made many new ones several of whom were on their first World Cruise. The World Cruise on board events, which were created exclusively for the 2015 World Cruise, was the best yet in my opinion. To me this says a lot since the challenge was having 600+ full World Cruisers on board instead of an average year which is about half of that number, making logistics the more challenging and planning even more important. Some highlights included the on board World Cruise Gala which was the best yet and much nicer than what can be done at a Hotel, and then all of the on board shows created just for the World Cruise and the two themed on board dinners. I want to note that there were more on board shows created and performed on board Crystal Serenity just for the World Cruise than ever before on a World Cruise.. We also enjoyed a good deal of the other entertainment such as the Beatles Celebration Group. With very few exceptions, most of the events were for everyone whether on the full world cruise or one or more segments which we applaud. We appreciated the added diversity of food offerings in the Crystal Dining Room, which is a hallmark for the World Cruise given the overall duration and time spent on board by those taking the full World Cruise. The Modern Cuisine menus, which rolled out in May of 2014, added more choices than ever before. We were unable to attend the first of the two Shore-Side Events due to an illness, but heard that it was a lot of fun. We thoroughly enjoyed the second event held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The events were more challenging given that they were attended by close to 600 people. Crystal was very wise to make most of the on board events available for everyone even if they were not booked on the full world cruise including those who remained on for the start of the World Cruise from the previous voyage and attended the Gala, to the various themed dinners and on board shows created just for the World Cruise. I used a one to five * rating with five being the highest and one the lowest for my ratings and a plus sign (+) to go above the rating. Overall Experience ***** =============== Itinerary ****+ ======= The World Cruise itinerary was the first time a Crystal Cruises World Cruise has ever circumnavigated the globe, which we thought was extraordinary. We especially enjoyed visiting Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and the diversity of ports on this World Cruise. The reason I didn’t give the itinerary five stars is because of the timing of some of the ports which had Noon or later arrival times for some ports that only had a one day visit as well as a few ports which had overnights, but the arrival time the first day was around noon. I thought this limited the time in port and the selection of shore excursions and think that even if it means skipping a few ports it is better to arrive in the early morning than midday. I realize that sometimes timing has to do with issues such as the tides and how to put an entire itinerary together but if it was possible to eliminate a few ports to have created more full days in ports to me that would have been desirable. Post World Cruise we enjoyed Bermuda and especially the Mediterranean. Cuisine ****** ====== Recognizing that two thirds of the passengers for the world cruise would be on board for at least 108 days, the Crystal Dining Room menu continually offered new items in addition to those that one would expect when coming on board for one voyage. The Modern Cuisine Menu introduced on Serenity last year coupled with the Traditional Menu offers more options than ever before. In addition, menus in Tastes and Prego were changed from time-to-time and the menu in Silk Road was changed once. Although we don’t eat at the Grand Gala and other Special Buffets, we were very impressed with their offerings and they were offered one time on each World Cruise segment and on a couple of other voyages. Entertainment ***** ============ We were very pleased with the diversity of the entertainment knowing that we all have different tastes when it comes to this area. There was a wide range of offerings and something for everyone. Show times were adjusted based on where we were sailing. On the World Cruise there were more special performances than ever before, which were created just for one night that were absolutely amazing. As was the case with last year’s World Cruise, the on board entertainment team was augmented with two vocalists who performed in all of the shows created on board the ship and performed from time to time in other venues. The talent of the Entertainment Team is amazing and I am reminded of all of the hard work that they must put into creating these special one-time shows for all of us to enjoy. The preparation is more challenging that people realize. Other items related to entertainment-included movies, the pre-dinner magician shows along with the Strings Quartet and the Pianists. We thought that the movies that were available this year for viewing in the Crystal Cinema were quite diversified and included many highly rated movies. On the two voyages we were on before the start of the World Cruise we had the opportunity to see Pianist Mark Farris perform. Mark is one of the pianists who regularly perform on the Crystal Symphony and we thought he was amazing. Our only disappointment was the departure of pianists John Mentis and Colin Salter during the World Cruise. I also wanted to note that the crossing had terrific entertainment with no only the evening shows but some performances held before main dining. Enrichment ***** ========= Crystal offers more enrichment than any cruise line we have ever sailed and on the World Cruise this is augmented several-fold. There are so many programs offered on sea days that each day represents several days of activities. My wife participated regularly in the Odyssey at Sea Knitting Class and the Gentle Yoga Class, and I participated regularly in the Indoor Cycling Classes. We enjoyed many of the lectures with three lectures or more available on each and every sea day. We wish we had time for Memoir Writing and the Apple Computer Classes and hope to do this on a future World Cruise. Fifty+ enrichment programs are offered each and every sea day. I would say that 50% of the lecturers were exceptional, 40% strong, and about 10% weak. The ones that I rated weak are ones that either essentially read word for word from slides or from a prepared speech sounding more like a college professor from one of those introduction courses or ones where I simply had no takeaways from the talk or left without learning anything new. Because on a World Cruise, Crystal makes an extra effort to bring on first time lecturers you will see some being weak but to me that is fine because by bringing on new people you often find outstanding lectures who are asked to return on future voyages with some becoming part of the Crystal Family. I especially enjoyed Ocean Views, which is a panel discussion, and was hosted by Ken Rees and allows audience participation via hand held electronic devices. There were actually more activities offered during the World Cruise than ever before with additional courses offered on devices such as the iPad, a Book Club and a Zumba class offered on many sea days in addition to so many activities that have become a hallmark of World Cruises such as the College Computer Class, Memoir Writing, Language, and Piano Classes just to name a few of the programs. Similar to the entertainment, there was a tremendous amount of entertainment on the themed Miami to Lisbon Cruise, which followed the World Cruise. Shore Excursions/Land Programs ***** ========================== The Shore Excursion and Overland Programs offered not only increase in volume each and every year but also with the addition of many unique program offerings. Some of the start times were adjusted to later in the morning for those who are late risers. For us the highlights were private cars arranged through the land program department for some selected places including Bermuda, Colombia and Peru and attending the Grand Prix and also the three-night four-day overland program at the Phinda Private Reserve in South Africa. I also wanted to note that to me each year the on-board Shore Excursion Department gets stronger and stronger in terms of the personnel. We find them to be very knowledgeable and helpful and they do their utmost best to deal with any problems that come up and they were terrific in adjusting shore excursions when we missed a couple of ports and when our arrival was delayed to a couple of ports. Internet *** ======= Overall, the Internet was more reliable and faster than in 2014, which is positive given that overall occupancy was quite high with some voyages sold out and the one-hour per day of complimentary Internet for all guests who have previously sailed with Crystal Cruises. There were a couple of issues. One occurred on one of the World Cruise Segments when there was an equipment failure while we were sailing several days at sea which could not be rectified until we were in port. The other one happened on a couple of other crossings when there were times when we were moving from one satellite to another and encountered very slow connections or dropped connections and some outages. The latter is part of the challenge when sailing on a World Cruise or on a crossing. The bottom line is that there were days when the internet was very reliable and rather fast given the limitations of satellite technology, other days when speed was average, and other days when the internet was either down or very slow. As I mentioned, one of the challenges of the Internet this time around unlike in prior years that we sailed was that one hour of complimentary internet per day is now offered to each guest who has previously sailed with Crystal Cruises. This was even more challenging given that most of the voyages we were on were at full occupancy and the fact that more people come on board with more devices than ever before. Overall, the internet was the best we have ever experienced on board either Crystal Ship. The enhancements made not only in infrastructure, and augmented Satellite bandwidth but in the area of monitoring and control has really added to improved service. With that said, the speed and reliability of the Internet will never be the same as at home. The challenges include a sailing like the World Cruise where you are sailing in areas where access to a satellite is difficult and where you go from one satellite to another requiring manual intervention. On top of this there is the potential for equipment failures, interference caused in port or when sailing near land and the fact that Satellite technology in no way compares to fiber optics. There were a few times with durations lasting a few days at a time when the Internet was very slow or even not available. Because the Internet experience is just not going to always be the same depending on where one is sailing or if there is an equipment or some other issues, this is why depending on where or when you are sailing that you may have different experiences with one person saying how wonderful the internet is and another person saying it was not good. We also appreciated that FaceTime was often available which was not our experience in 2014. The investments made in 2013 to upgrade the internet infrastructure, the fine tuning that was made in 2014 before the rollout of the complimentary 1 hour per day of Internet for Crystal Society Members along with some other changes that were made did pay off in my opinion. Finally, the device one uses can make a big difference. For example, I find that the MacBook will provide a better experience than say an iPad. Even the type of Internet Browser that one might use can make a difference Finally, other techniques that one might use such as reducing the number of pixels in a photo before attaching it to an e-mail or including it in a blog will make a world of a difference in speed. Planning *****+ =========== I touched on this earlier but wanted to give the Crystal Cruises Senior Executives and the Senior Officers of Crystal Serenity excellent marks for all of the effort that went into planning the 2015 World Cruise. Changes were required based on the record number of full World Cruisers on board and the overall occupancy rate when most segments were 100 full. A wide range of items had to be addressed including: WORLD CRUISE GALA. Unlike in previous years when the kickoff to the World Cruise was held at a hotel on land, this was not possible given the significant number of World Cruisers. As a result the voyage began one day in advance and the Gala was held on Serenity. The Serenity was transformed for this as the Crystal Plaza was made over with lots of cocktail like tables with table cloths and lights providing a wonderful spot for the kickoff and the welcome by President and COO of Crystal Cruises Edie Rodriquez, a cocktail party and a balloon drop all in one. Following this, we enjoyed a sit down dinner in one of three dining venues with an assigned table and seating. There was lots of entertainment and by far this was the best World Cruise Gala we ever attended. All of the planning and coordination of this event was truly amazing. MEDICAL NEEDS. With so many full World Cruisers a very wise decision was made to have more than one physician on board for the World Cruise. As it turned out there were three Physicians as when the second person was hired he asked if his spouse who is also a Physician could share his contract and that is exactly what happened. All of this was a very wise decision because in addition to a couple of months of various upper respiratory viruses going around the ship, there were more major medical issues given the number of World Cruisers on board Serenity and the ages of some of the guests. DIVERSITY AND QUANITY OF ENTERTAINERS. Getting entertainers on and off the ship to make way for other entertainers and towards the end of the cruise getting additional land based musicians onto the ship when sailing full for the Crystal Serenity Pops Concert was amazing. SAFETY DEMONSTRATIONS. With two-thirds of the guests on board for the entire World Cruise Captain Giske thought it would be a great idea to offer a safety demonstration that gave passengers an opportunity to gain a more detailed insight into safety on board Crystal Serenity. This program was repeated twice during the World Cruise and provided us with a lot of information relate to safety. This included seeing a safety movie that was developed for each crew member, seeing one of the crew rafts which was deployed in the outdoor pool, seeing a life boat with all of the equipment that is on the life boat, seeing one of the fire fighter teams and also walking up a smoke filled corridor (smoke was simulated) when the safety lights were on. We thought it was superb and provided us with a wealth of information related to safety. The crew was on hand at each location to answer questions. WORLD CRIUSE SHORE SIDE EVENTS. Creating shore-side events that would work for 600 World Cruisers plus the Crystal escorts. This is no easy task and congratulations to the vice President of Crystal Land Programs and Port Operations, the on board team and the respective tour operators from the two ports of call for all of the efforts that went into these events. Service *****++ ====== I’ve listed service last so that we could save the best for last. For us service is one of the main reasons that we sail on Crystal Cruises. We find that the Service is the finest of any other cruise line we have sailed and any place we have dined or stayed at on land. The on-board crew is absolutely amazing. They have become our extended Crystal Family. There are many members of the crew that we have known since we first started sailing with Crystal Cruises as well as other members of the crew whom we have known for one or more years who just make each of our voyages the best it can be. On top of this even members of the crew who are on their first contracts quickly learned the Crystal Culture which stresses a high service level. The key for us is that the high level of service can be provided in not only a professional manner but in a manner that is highly personal. Rather than walking around like robots if you will, as they do on some cruise lines, the crew performs their responsibilities with caring and warmth for the guests they take care of. This culture is evident at all levels both on board each ship but also at the Crystal Headquarters. In the end, it is my belief that any successful enterprise is successful because of the people. You could take the most modern ship afloat and with the wrong people it will be a disaster. Crystal has mastered this area and it continued to be evident throughout the time we were sailing on board Serenity. There were certainly different ways to provide feedback on issues and that included comment cards that were provided to the full World Cruisers on two different occasions which could be filled out and submitted to the Hotel Director, and/or using the on-line form to submit comments to President of Crystal Cruises President, Edie Rodriquez, a conversation with a Senior Officer, or a conversation when Edie Rodriquez and Senior Vice President, Thomas Mazloum were on board. At the same time on the other voyages, there was a letter sent to the room from the Hotel Director providing his phone number in the event that there was some issue that needed to be resolved. While resolution cannot be realized for each and every comment I can point to numerous examples of items that were identified by people we know that were resolved expeditiously. In the end, this is my experience. At times I have used the word “we” rather than "I" as my wife also felt the same way that I did. I realize that we all have different opinions and see things in different ways. What one person enjoys another person might not and what one person does not care for, someone else might like. If we all saw things in the same manner, this would be a boring world. As I have said often, the only experience that matters the most is our very own. I am grateful that my wife and I had the opportunity to sail on Serenity for this extended period of time and have been humbled by all that we experienced on and off the ship. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
I boarded Queen Elizabeth in Southampton on December 23rd and spent Christmas and New Year on board before returning to Southampton Jan 6th.2015. I then crossed to Hamburg and back before setting off on my half of the World Cruise Jan ... Read More
I boarded Queen Elizabeth in Southampton on December 23rd and spent Christmas and New Year on board before returning to Southampton Jan 6th.2015. I then crossed to Hamburg and back before setting off on my half of the World Cruise Jan 10th., finally disembarking in Auckland on Feb 27th. Having enjoyed over 40 cruises to date, reaching Diamond Tier on both Seabourn and Cunard, I feel more than qualified to give a frank and fair review of my own experiences of the Queen Elizabeth My first cruise on the ship was in April 2014 from Dubai to Southampton and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. However, I did decide that April that my next trip would be in a Club Class cabin in order that I would dine in the splendid and comfortable surroundings of the elegant Club Restaurant. There I recently enjoyed over 2 months of wonderful service. The Maitre'd Tetiana was first class. Elegant, attentive and charming. As were my server Lhea and Sommelier Miroslav. 3 top professionals who all went to great lengths to ensure that my every wish was catered for. On the first night, I requested bread sticks.These were brought immediately and presented on my table every night without further reminders. Miroslav's knowledge of wines, plus him charm and humour were exemplary and between us I explored a wonderful wine selection throughout my cruise. Personally, I found the Eastern European staff to be mainly very good. Of course, some are better than others and this applies to ALL nationalities, but '' you'll never please.............'' Due to the high number of cruises I have enjoyed on Seabourn, one of the world's top lines I am aware that standards are higher on that line. However, cost for cost, I find Cunard better value £ for £ I am booked again on the Elizabeth for 7 weeks starting November 18th and very much looking forward to embarkation. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2014
This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the ... Read More
This cruise offered unusual ports. I was on the last segment from Capetown South Africa to Southampton England. Our ports were: Capetown, Luderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia, Luanda, Angola, two islands in Cape Verde, three islands in the Canaries, Agadir, Casablanca, and Tangier Morocco, Cadiz and Vigo, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal. As usual the service on Holland America was excellent. There were only 900 passengers on this last leg of voyage which basically circumnavigated Africa for 88 days. With so few passengers, the crew was even more attentive than usual. Many cancelled this leg of the voyage due to the Ebola virus. But, safety first, Holland America cancelled port calls in countries anywhere near the outbreak. The weather was perfect throughout the cruise. During sea days we were kept busy with excellent lectures on topics concerning ocean travel, its luxuries and travails and on wild life. The usual crafts, dancing and bridge activities were popular. You could even attend computer classes. The only portion of the voyage that did not measure up to Holland American standards were the shows put on by the HAL singers and dancers. Otherwise the entertainment was very good. We're told Holland America will not be offering the circumnavigation of Africa cruise in 2015, but Princess has a comparable cruise on its website. Bill Reynolds   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2014
We have traveled quite a bit but this was our first Riverboat Cruise! It was a wonderful experience and a great way to some of European cities we hear so much about plus some smaller towns that you don't hear so much about. The ... Read More
We have traveled quite a bit but this was our first Riverboat Cruise! It was a wonderful experience and a great way to some of European cities we hear so much about plus some smaller towns that you don't hear so much about. The service, the food, to cabin, and the excursions were all well thought out and executed. We had lovely weather which allowed us to enjoy the upper deck a lot! So nice to be floating along just enjoying the scenery for awhile and then exploring a town without having to pack and unpack or figure out where to eat that day! The locks were interesting to experience and see and the captain and his crew have our utmost respect. We would highly recommend Viking! My only suggestion is to offer bike riding along the Danube as an excursion. We saw folks gathering for a ride while walking to the bus for one of our excursions. Read Less
23 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014
For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific ... Read More
For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage was a perfect match for us, we decided not to wait for our 50th Anniversary. A major selling point for us was that there were no long flights to and from foreign airports involved. There would be little jet lag also. Two days prior to the cruise, we flew from Orlando, FL to Seattle, Washington for some independent sightseeing. On September 21, we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Seattle for our incredible 78-day journey. For us it was the trip of a lifetime. For many others on the cruise, this was their forth or fifth + Grand Voyage. Our Ports of Call were Seattle, Washington, Kodiak, Alaska, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Kushiro, Japan, Tokyo, Japan (2 overnights,) Nagasaki, Japan, Jeju, S. Korea, Incheon (Seoul,) S. Korea (2 overnights,) Xingang, China (2 overnights,) Qingdao, China, Shanghai, China (3 overnights,) Hong Kong (2 overnights,) Phu My, Vietnam, Singapore (2 overnights,) Tanjung Priok (Jakarta,) Indonesia, Bali, Indonesia, Slawi Bay (Komodo Island), Indonesia, Darwin, Australia, Port Douglas (Cains,) Australia, Sydney, Australia (2 overnights,) Nomea, New Caladonia, Kuto (Ile des Pins,) New Caledonia, Lautoka, Fiji, Suva, Fiji, Apia, Samoa, Hilo, Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii (2 overnights,) Lahaina, Hawaii and San Diego, California. If you have never taken a Grand Journey or World Cruise, perhaps you think these cruises are just like other cruises only longer. These cruises are so much more than that; they are very extraordinary experiences. Passengers on our voyage bonded together immediately because we knew that we would be together for 78 days. We soon became like a family. The "precious" (HAL's word) staff, which for the most part is hand picked by Holland America for these cruises is even more attentive and friendly for the same reason. Service is far superior, more personal, although always wonderful on all HAL cruises. The passengers were mainly seniors, American for the most part but with some Australians and Canadian; there was only one child on board for the complete cruise. Other children did join the cruise for a segment and more children were on board for our Indonesian stops (crew families.) There were so many extras for every passenger. Among the most notable were, a Travel Journal (I used mine daily,) a strong zippered lined shoulder bag including a smaller matching toiletries bag with a leather stateroom/ ID holder and lanyard, a HAL-Steiff Teddy Bear Sailor, Grand Voyage Tiffany mug, ceramic Royal Goedewaagen Grand Voyage Plate plus a sturdy roll along piece of luggage to carry all the gifts home. Everything was of the highest quality. Passengers also earn unique Grand Dollars throughout the cruise by participating in various activities. I turned my dollars in for a flash drive, two compact umbrellas, HAL cosmetic case and ear phones. MP3 Players were a quite popular choice. Many evenings there were special Gala Celebrations and formal Theme Nights such as the elaborate Black & Silver and Black & Gold Grand Balls. Other events were equally unique only more casual such as the Halloween Monster Mash Party, Alaska Salmon Bake, Kimono Night, Tropical Paradise Dinner and Hawaiian Cookout. Three of my other favorites were the exciting Masked Ball (I loved my gorgeous complimentary hot pink mask,) Oktoberfest and the Red Lantern Formal Dinner. HAL went to great expense elaborately decorating the venues for all the planned themed events. All the servers wore themed costumes. Of course we had the usual Captain's Welcome Reception and Mariner's Appreciation Night that are always lovely and well-attended. Two other themed events were the Chef's Farewell Dinner and the Grand Show Buffet. Other exciting optional events were extra cost. Everyone who attend these thought that they were worthwhile. There were a total of nine formal nights on the 78-day cruise. As we departed each port there was a Farewell Party with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, sometimes even complimentary cocktails and live band. Although we always regretted that we didn't have longer port stays (are they ever long enough?) we all looked forward to the farewell parties. The ship had the usual daily Afternoon Tea at 3 PM; I only attended the most elaborate themed ones, Royal Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino and English High Teas. I photographed each lavish display of pastries. A more unusual high tea was the Cupcake High Tea. Speaking of food, on our Grand Journey there were better choices at all three meals. For example Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail was always on the MDR dinner menu. For breakfast crepes were an unusual offering. At lunchtime we could always choose from a whole section of sushi, sashimi, mussels and clams in addition to other selections. Even the room service menu had more choices. Since the food is always good on HAL, I never was tempted to try the specialty restaurants or extra cost dinners although I had plenty of onboard credits to spend. I was told that HAL allots more dollars per passenger for food costs on Grand or World cruises which would explain the greater variety and quality. MDR service was uniformly well-paced. We always finished dinner in about an hour or so (really, I know it's hard to believe.) We were encouraged to linger and savor our wine. Our servers, Adi & Fosil, always smiling, did an exemplary job catering to our needs and spoiling us. Assistant Dining room Manager, Pandi not only kept an eye out making sure everything went well, he also stopped by twice nightly making conversation and helping the servers in various ways. Noel our wine steward was always punctual, reliable and helpful. Grand Voyages passengers have a unique package option of a glass of wine each night and it is very reasonably priced; we took advantage of it. We also received excellent bar service in the lounges and poolside from Enrico, Ann Marie and Mary Jane. Without asking, they often anticipated our requests for ice water. Service in our stateroom was just as attentive. Our room was often made up sometimes even before we returned from breakfast. All of our special requests were attended to daily without fail. Arif (Lukman, earlier in the cruise) & Made always greeted us with smiles and engaged us in short conversations. They were very professional and efficient. Our comfortable oceanview stateroom #2695 was cheery and well stocked; it even had two hair dryers. We requested and promptly received extra wooden hangers. HAL also provided us with a power strip that we used daily. A suggestion to HAL is that they install bathroom nightlights. After being disturbed early in the morning on several occasion from crew working on the deck above, the noises stopped after passengers mentioned the problem during a Q & A session with the officers. Other minor problems were also fixed after this session. HAL did listen. The Queen's Lounge (theater) entertainment was diverse and professional although lacking stage sets. There was always a main nightly show except when there were port night excursions or when a movie on a big screen was shown in the theater. We usually had matinee shows if there was no evening show scheduled. Entertainers often appeared twice with a different show each time. I enjoyed the talented singers and dancers even when they repeated their three shows on another segment. They were always energetic. Just about everyone on board attended the fabulous Indonesian & Filipino crew shows. The theater was packed for both 3 PM shows and the crew was so proud of their performances - so were we. The shows really helped to bond the crew and passengers. HAL should schedule these shows at 3 PM on their other cruises as well. I know that my husband, I and others do not want to stay up until 11 PM to attend the late shows. I also enjoyed the nightly live entertainment in the various lounges. Adagio in the Navigation Lounge performed beautiful classical music on the piano and violin. We were regulars at their pre-dinner performances. Debbie Bacon performed in the Piano Bar; we attended her nightly show at 7 PM. It was always fun & games with her. One night she invited her husband, Ron to join her on guitar; it was the highlight for all of us. When we were in ports overnight, Debbie performed outdoors on deck under the stars. How romantic was that! We enjoyed the Adagio guys and Debbie so much that we purchased several of their CDs, which they autographed. When these performers were off, we enjoyed the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and Larry in the Crown's Next. They were very entertaining as well. Although we had a couple of long stretches of sea days, I was never bored. There were so many daily scheduled activities that I couldn't attend them all. My favorites were the wonderful Port Talks by Travel Guide Barbara who was so knowledgeable and well travelled and the Kitchen Galley Tour. I attended most of the quality computer classes by Craig who made learning fun and easy. There were plenty of history, military history and talks on the culture of the foreign countries that we visited. I attended all the culinary demonstrations (with printed recipes and samples, of course) and a couple of movies. A big thanks goes to HAL for providing various religious services throughout the cruise. Few cruise lines do this anymore. By far one of the most unusual activities on board was the special Neptune Ceremony when we crossed the equator. What fun the crew, passengers and officers all had poolside. Complimentary specialty drinks, costumes and decorations added to the festive atmosphere. The exotic Ports of Call were the main reason we booked this cruise and each was exciting and memorable. My favorite, and it is difficult to pick just one, was perhaps Shanghai. We docked right in the center of the action facing a beautifully lit skyline complete with a laser show. The city has a lot to offer visitors. My husband's favorite was Ile des Pins with its stunning beaches. We both thought that the most unusual port was Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons. How many other cruises stop here? We enjoyed all of the HAL Shore Excursion and found them to be very worthwhile. One disappointment, though, was that the scheduled Tokyo stop was cancelled due to the eminent arrival of a typhoon. The captain anticipated the problem, substituted two other exciting ports, Kanazawa and Fukuoka (Hakata) on the opposite side of Japan. We did not encounter rough seas or rain perhaps just a bit of wind. Those who had previously visited Tokyo said that these were even better ports. Special for the Grand Voyages, HAL arranged complementary shuttles in the ports whenever it was feasible. This was a huge help especially for those touring independently. In only one port did I have a problem with the shuttles. That was in Dutch Harbor where there were only two buses in service and no HAL shore excursion offered. Many passengers resorted to roaming taxis. There were a few other port challenges mostly out of HAL's hands but with a trip this long no one expected perfection. HAL did their best to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for us all. HAL provided us all with a plethora of pre-cruise documentation and throughout the cruise. We received plenty of port information sheets, maps, ship logs and multi-page Explorer Guides to the ports with things to See and Do, shopping info, dining, sightseeing suggestions etc. At each foreign port we receive an extremely handy card listing essential foreign words, phrases, and a currency conversion charts that I used in every port. It also listed emergency phone numbers of the ship in port. I made a few minor suggestions to HAL at the end of our cruise. For the Lido Buffet, I suggested adding lemonade as a beverage. I enjoyed it in the mornings poolside. Ice tea is provided but the caffeine makes me feel wired. Tall glasses are needed as it was hard to fill water bottles using juice sized glasses. I missed having no fat milk available at breakfast. I suggested more variety of music poolside. Embarkation was very slow (45 minutes,) which surprised me but we were offered cold water or lemonade. It was just hard to drink the beverage while moving along the line with jackets and hand luggage while trying to complete the health sheet. A more serious problem was the fact that the very comfortable couches in the Queen's Theater are lower than the chairs. If you sit on a couch, it is difficult to see over the heads of people on chairs in front of you. The main problem for us, though, was the absence of flex time dining. In ports, it was a rush to make it to the MDR for our 5:30 Early Dining Time. I have to say that Pondi was always accommodating to our late arrivals. Only once did we have dinner in the Lido Buffet. Many of the excursion buses in Beijing were delayed two hours returning to the ship due to evening traffic jams. We were all treated royally in the Lido restaurant which stayed open late to serve us. It was nice not to have to change clothes for dinner. What I enjoyed most about the ship was the dome over the pool area. We could sit poolside even in Alaska where the temperature was cool. Although we experience very few rainy days, whenever it got a bit windy or cool, the dome was closed. Also HAL adjusted time zone changes eastbound at 2PM instead of the usual 2 AM so we didn't lose any sleep - great idea! The well-maintained ship was comfortable although there were several plumbing problems on the long journey. The ship was just the right size to get into the smaller ports and it was easy to find my way around the ship. Hopefully another HAL Grand Voyage is in my future - what a spectacular way to cruise and be pampered. One unique and valuable bonus offered by HAL is that for every $300 you spend on board, even pre-booked shore excursions and drink packages, you earn credit for a sailing day. We reached three star level a week early due to this bonus and are now only 8 days shy of level 4 stars when you receive complementary laundry service. We booked the Back to Back HAL cruise to the Panama Canal, keeping our same stateroom. So, our vacation lasted an additional 14 days. Due to the high cost of our return flight from San Diego, it was only a little more money to cruise back to FL on the ship and simply drive home. But, that is another review.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2014
One of the plans you tend to make upon finishing your working years is what will you do to celebrate retiring. I had long ago decided to do a long and adventurous cruise to new places. I had my eye on the Grand Pacific cruise on Holland ... Read More
One of the plans you tend to make upon finishing your working years is what will you do to celebrate retiring. I had long ago decided to do a long and adventurous cruise to new places. I had my eye on the Grand Pacific cruise on Holland America's Amsterdam which left in Sept and was 70+ days around the Pacific. However, when I realized that HAL was doing a circumnavigation of Africa for the first time in 5 years with port calls at some places that were high on the bucket list, I decided to go with the Rotterdam instead. It was not listed as a "Grand Voyage" although the price was about the same as the Pacific cruise, but it was indeed grand! Flying from Florida to London was not a pleasure, as opposed to leaving from Ft Lauderdale or even Seattle, but after having to change to a flight to Washington DC, then Amtrak to Philly, and then flight to London followed by "tube" to London Victoria Station, then coach to Southampton, I made it. The Rotterdam had left Rotterdam the day before with less than half the guests before embarking the rest of us. I boarded around noon and the bags were in the room before I was, a first for me. Lunch in the dining room a few minutes later and then back to 1852 (outside mid ship) to unpack in my new quarters where I quickly felt at home. Five separate closets with plenty of storage as the Rotterdam was built for long cruises. The Rotterdam was redone about 5 years ago with new bathrooms, comfortable beds, all the usual HAL goodies. Room stewards couldn't do enough for me such as fresh fruit bowl and even some flowers. Cleaned every morning and turned down every night, and always asked me by my name if I was happy. I prefer the dining room to the Lido when time permitted. The greeter, who also always used my name, made sure I had a table and server of choice. Most of the dining room staff were excellent. I was treated like royalty and often was served my usual choices without even asking! If I asked the server which entree was better tonight, he would tell me and ofcourse return to make sure. If you treat these folks nicely, you will be amazed how great service is. I do mostly seafood or vegetarian and with rare exceptions it was delicious and well presented. Breakfast in a quiet dining room with a sea view table and a good server, Rosenthal china, and great cooked to order food....life doesn't get much better for me. The Rotterdam had about 1300 guests for the first 48 days, about 100 under "full capacity", with a lot of singles and no children. Well, one little girl who belonged to an officer. Never crowded, few ques, easy to find a seat for most everything, except some of the high quality lecturers. The lecturers were an important and quality part of this grand voyage. Entertainment also good to excellent. The cast shows were great; thought they should have performed more often. You could tell most of the staff were picked for this special voyage. Cruise director Michael and port lecturer KK were excellent. Many of the guests on this ship were frequent cruisers, some too frequent. By that, I mean, they were never satisfied with anything. To the staffs credit, they overlooked the TMC (Too Many Cruises) folks and still gave us great information and service. Keep smiling guys! The Rotterdam goes into drydock spring of 2015 and it does need some attention. It did have some plumbing issues, but I was lucky to have no problems in my room the entire trip. The dining room often had themed nights relating to the areas we were visiting. There were also special regional foods served around the pool area. Entertainers from the various areas were also brought on to add to the grand style voyage. We were the only ship in port with just a few exceptions. We only tendered in one port (Luderitz) and overnighted in 5 ports. The Rotterdam was a great ship for this itinarary as it is one of the fastest cruise ships on the seas, better to out run pirates and storms. We did run without most exterior lighting in the pirate areas and often maintained 20 knots. An officer told me with all 5 engines going and a freshly painted hull, the Rotterdam can do 26 knots. That burns too much fuel. Also, this ship rides deeper in the water which gives it more stable ride. We did have to avoid a cyclone in the Indian Ocean. A lot of extra sea miles and $75,000 extra in fuel costs, but the Rotterdam did very well indeed. I left on day 79 from Lisbon to fly home (flights were full from London so close to Christmas) only missing one port Vigo, Spain. After mostly great weather, it was getting cold and rainy as we returned to Europe and thus I didn't miss much. I would urge those seeking a long voyage exploring unusual ports on a great mid size (60,000 tons/1400 guests) ship, to consider the Rotterdam on this itinarary. As Holland America builds new (bigger) ships, their older ships will be sold. Don't expect a 100,000 ton/2500 guests ship to do these great places and that will leave only the more expensive smaller cruise lines to do them. The smaller ships can't handle the rougher seas either.   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
This is my 3 rd sailing to Alaska but first time with HAL on this route. Having done several other cruises also to Europe with HAL and other lines I find myself comparing. My husband and I felt that the overall experience was pleasant. The ... Read More
This is my 3 rd sailing to Alaska but first time with HAL on this route. Having done several other cruises also to Europe with HAL and other lines I find myself comparing. My husband and I felt that the overall experience was pleasant. The crew were always smiling and obliging, even when dealing with some demanding passengers! This was our first time visiting Sitka and we felt it was the highlight of the ports of call with very lovely scenery. In each port we did our own thing which was good since flying excursions were canceled due to low cloud cover. State room was balcony on floor 7. No complaints except for my husband who is 6'4" and had to stoop while showering! Our adult, disabled son was traveling with us and had the fold out couch which needed extra foam and was brought by the cabin steward on our request. We had room service in the mornings twice and it was prompt. We chose to eat in the MDR for most meals because the Lido was a zoo making finding a table challenging and there are no trays which means going backwards and forwards for beverages etc. The Pinnacle was good as was the Cannelto. Entertainment re the shows was well done. We especially enjoyed the Captain and his talk and the backstage tour with the performers. The group Recycle Percussion were exceptional. The cruise director was energized and entertaining and ran the Dancing with the Stars competition for the passengers very well which resulted in the grand finale dance off with the qualifying passengers being paired with one of the professional dancers to perform on stage for their fellow passengers. I availed myself of the enrichment classes that involved computer/camera lessons which I have enjoyed in the past and enjoyed adding to my skills again! MDR was not as good as I remember from past experiences with HAL. The portions seemed smaller...my husband had ordered the appetizer with the descriptive "Tower of crab meat and avocado" which more accurately looked like a smudge on the plate. Both boarding and disembarking were smooth and we were certainly accommodated with our son who has autism so we did not have to stand in the long lines to board. We greatly appreciated this. The general ambience of the ship is one of understated elegance with dark woods and brass accents which was very pleasing. The crows nest was a favorite spot giving great views along with comfortable seating as one sailed along. We used the gym daily and felt that it was adequately equipped. Unlike other cruise lines we did not feel as though there was any undue pressure to buy.....be it in the bars or anywhere on the ship. The afternoon teas have changed from the elegant service with the staff in their national costume to a self serve buffet which was disappointing. Also gone was the traditional appearance at Formal night with the march in of the Baked Alaska replete with sparklers that used to be carried aloft by the head chef with staff marching behind. Also gone was the midnight chocolate/dessert extravaganza....ah me. The Lido also closed down at times and it was difficult to find something to eat! Yikes! A lovely final touch however, was at disembarking as one crossed the gang plank to return to the normal life....the heads of each department stood on shore in a line waving all the passengers goodbye.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2014
30 day Hawaii & Tahiti Cruise----Feb. 14, 2014, 16 sea days and 14 port days. Although we are four star mariners on HAL it has been almost three years since we cruised with them. The following is a summary of the ship and my cruise ... Read More
30 day Hawaii & Tahiti Cruise----Feb. 14, 2014, 16 sea days and 14 port days. Although we are four star mariners on HAL it has been almost three years since we cruised with them. The following is a summary of the ship and my cruise experience, beginning with the positive followed by concerns. Generally speaking—I find no significant degeneration in HAL's service or facilities. This was a very good cruise and I highly recommend it. Excellent weather and relatively calm seas all the way except Moorea, the port we had to miss due high winds. * I recently read a review from a lady regarding the maintenance and upkeep of the Statendam in which she condemned the ship and company for allowing the ship to deteriorate. I find that not to be accurate at all, conversely, this ship is well taken care. The Statendam entered service in 1993 and, with the possible exception of the Prinsendam, I find it better maintained than most of the HAL fleet we have previously sailed on, most of which were newer ships. HAL has always enjoyed a reputation of taking good care of their ships; I find they still do so. *The meals were better in general than I recall on most previous voyages, the only exception being the “Pinnacle” which is still good but has slipped slightly, we used it 6 times. The Lido buffet seemed to have a larger food variety this trip and HAL does a great job of making certain everything is sanitized. I love the fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning there. The Canoletto was very good and made for an intimate dinner, last time we were on the Ryndam they didn’t charge the $10.00 per that they do now in the Canoletto. However, on the Ryndam things were so crowded, probably because no charge for the Canoletto, that the tables, even for two, were so packed together that it was like joining a "6 conversations going at once club". *Shore excursions were all pretty well put together and of quality. All escorts were tour knowledgeable and easy to understand. HAL did not overload the coaches and managed to keep most of the passenger loads to around 50% max. We also sail a lot on Regent which equally has excellent excursions, but their price is included in the cruise package which I greatly prefer. *During our last 200 days or so at sea we have elected to take open dining. No more traditional for us. We experienced excellent service in the main dining room by HAL personnel and always got a table for two, seldom we had to wait, maybe twice for a minute or two. This is our second voyage on HAL using their “Any time you wish dining”, or, almost 60 days at sea with HAL using that service. It is my opinion that HAL critics of this procedure are flat wrong. *The gym on this ship was excellent in that it had lots of modern workout equipment, was located up high with good views of the ocean and not overcrowded like so many of them are. *The Statendam is one of HAL's "S" class ships. So is the Ryndam which we have also sailed on. It occurred to me that this class ship has more open deck public area per passenger than any ship we have been on. This proves to be a major plus for guests on cruises where a lot of scenic cruise days are involved, like along the coast of Alaska, glacier viewing, Antarctica, fiords of Norway and so on. All open decks on this ship are planked with Teak, and there is two 360 degree complete walk around decks, the promenade and the uppermost outdoor deck which runs around the top perimeter. Also there are many decks where public can gather to sightsee. On so many ships when approaching spectacular points of interest, like Hubbard Glacier at Yakutat, everybody is on deck trying to find nook for good viewing. Decks are so crammed that it is ludicrous. One frequent criticism of the newer megaships is that they have little open deck space for observation, sunbathing or cozy quiet places to read, which used to be considered of value for traditional ocean travel of yesteryear. Instead, the ships are designed like shopping malls and amusement parks where guests are pretty much confined to interior areas. Even though these ships might have excellent space to passenger ratios, getting out and enjoying an open sea breeze is not a number one priority for ship designers anymore. *Prior to boarding someone told me that HAL still had the same old selection of news service on cabin TVs. I dread being relegated to watching only FOX and CNN, so I simply leave the TV off. Imagine my surprise then, when I find MSNBC (My favorite), BBC, and FOX. HAL got smart and got rid of program duplicity leaving CNN out and giving their guests a “fair and balanced” selection of news choices and reviews. *As always, HAL has provided a good selection of theme lecturers for a voyage. Three in particular I liked so much on this one I didn’t miss a single one of their presentations. On this voyage they have something new, a Polynesian, Kanioa, who works full time describing ports and history of the Pacific, he even does some Alaska and South America. He has an artful sense of humor that really cracked folk up occasionally. Quite a change from the old travel agent style delivery by someone speaking about everything in general with a delivery similar to reading from a text book. Both HAL, Regent and Princess are excellent in providing experts for areas being traveled, such as naturalists, biologists, anthropologists and historians. HAL is one of the few lines anymore that provides a protestant cleric for Sunday services and daily devotionals. *We had a normal balcony stateroom located on deck 9 slightly forward of midship. Enjoyed it although would like a larger bathroom without the tub, but only a shower. Great balcony, larger than most. Even though this voyage has been very smooth, one time during the day when we couldn't get into Moorea I felt the ship take on a big one, I looked outside, through our patio windows, to see a wall of white water completely obscure the view for a few seconds. Being on deck 9, or 7 decks or stories above the water line, the spray must have reached 10 stories up. *We had seven formal nights, which we like. *I really like their hot tubs on the Lido deck, used them every day. *Entertainment was pretty much on par for most ships this size. They had some great singers and performers and have pretty much done away with the bore comedians with their corny political jokes that leaves half the audience mad and the other cackling (although they do have a comic now and then that is very good they are now wise enough to stay away from ignorant politics or religious issues). *Most unique port visited: Fanning Island. *Best deals and quality on local made items: Fanning Island. *Most exciting: Port: Rangiroa--Due to dicey departure through channel in order to enter ocean again. Also, best demonstration of Black Pearl farming found here. *Most educational shore excursion: All day tour around Island of Tahiti which looked good in the shore excursion description but expensive. Later, when I checked it out on the ship it was closed out. But later yet they expanded it. Sure glad they did, besides being an excellent tour it included lunch at a restaurant that was out of this world, du Musee Gauguin. If we ever get back to Tahiti again we are definitely going to try to get there for dinner. Regarding the down sides: *HAL has definitely reduced staff levels. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have that many apparent negative ramifications, although the reductions do have an impact. For instance, the laundry equipment was down more often than should be and all around staff effort isn't near as coordinated as it used to be so there is a lot of reacting and not enough anticipation of potential problem areas. *I am not enamored with HAL's new wine policy. I do miss the old one where one could bring a modest amount of wine on board at any port without charge or restrictions, it was an unique feature of their sailing experience. Since they are determined to go the mediocre route in order to fit in with most of the other big cruise lines, the least they could do is provide a red wine selection that is more reasonably priced. For instance, a $12.00 bottle of Cab. from COSTCO sells for about $55.00 on board. If you buy at COSTCO and pay the $18.00 corkage to bring it on board, you pay about $30,00. I would gladly pay HAL $35.00 for this wine and eliminate the hassle. *The price of Internet is horrible due to the slow speeds. I wish HAL would give free Internet perks like Regent does. I would greatly appreciate that over some of the other Mariner perks provided.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2014
We recently returned from our 3rd Azamara Cruise, our second time aboard the Journey. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong on Feb 17th for our journey through the China Sea, to Tokyo and finally Shanghai. The Journey had been upgraded since ... Read More
We recently returned from our 3rd Azamara Cruise, our second time aboard the Journey. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong on Feb 17th for our journey through the China Sea, to Tokyo and finally Shanghai. The Journey had been upgraded since our last cruise with new carpets, upholstery, cabins etc., and mirrored the Quest. No matter which ship you are on you feel comfortable and at home. The Journey remained over night in Hong Kong so we were able to see the Hong Kong harbour light show. Breathtaking! The next day we began our Journey, stopping at several islands in the China Sea; Xiamen, Taiwan, Ishigaki and Okinawa. This was our first trip to Asia so we booked Land Discoveries at each of the ports of call. Our guides on the tours were from the same company so we saw them at several of the islands. Their language skills and knowledge were very, very good and we would highly recommend the tours. We arrived in Tokyo on the 25th for a two day stay. Our first night there was our AzAmazing Evening. We were bused to the Japanese Matsuri Gardens, where we were greeted by Kimono clad ladies and music on traditional Japanese 15 string guitars. Lovely venue, lots of walking around room, lots to see & do. Traditional music and dancing, drumming & singing. Local artists created and shaped animal shaped lollipops. Calligraphers did our names in traditional Japanese writing. Sumo wrestlers performed for us. Refreshments were varied and abundant. Truly an AzAmazing Evening. Entering Tokyo harbour the ship hit an underwater obstacle which we later learned damaged the Port propeller. The Captain came on the PA system and told us that we would be proceeding to Osaka Japan with only one propeller so our arrival time would be somewhat later. The next morning Captain Jason gave a full presentation to the guests describing the damage, including underwater pictures of the propeller. While we were in no danger, it was decided that the cruise would end in Osaka as the ship had to proceed to dry dock for repairs. All the Osaka tours were rescheduled to accommodate our late arrival. We were very impressed at how well the Captain and crew kept us informed. Our cruise was scheduled to end in Shanghai two days later. The home office, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines flew a “GO” team of 30+ people to Osaka to ensure that individual arrangements would be made for all the guests. We were flown to Shanghai and put up at the 5 star Hyatt Hotel, on the Bund. This hotel overlooked the beautiful Shanghai harbour that, like Hong Kong, had a fabulous night-time light show. All expenses were covered and the GO Team was there and arranged our private transportation to the Shanghai airport the next day. We were also well compensated by the cruise line for shortening of the cruise and any inconvenience. The ship and its crew continue to exceed our expectations. They go out of their way to make you feel at home, and this is one of the main reasons that we have chosen to cruise with Azamara. Unfortunately we had occasion to make use of the Medical facilities. Dr Dahl and his staff were highly professional and followed up to ensure all was well. From the start of the cruise, Captain Jason and his officers of the ship were out and about every day, talking to guests, answering questions and ensuring that everyone was being taken care of. Chef Fabio’s cuisine was exceptional as usual. Cruise Director Tony kept us informed of all the daily activities and the evening shows were very entertaining. While not as incident free as our previous cruises with Azamara, the way in which the Captain, the crew and Royal Caribbean handled the technical difficulties has reinforced our confidence in and loyalty to Azamara Club Cruises. Cruise #4 is in the works!   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2014
FIRST SECTOR OF 2014 WORLD CRUISE EMBARKATION We arrived at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton at 12:30 and were told there was about a half hour delay in boarding. We were nevertheless on board and in our cabin by 1:30pm. We then went up ... Read More
FIRST SECTOR OF 2014 WORLD CRUISE EMBARKATION We arrived at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton at 12:30 and were told there was about a half hour delay in boarding. We were nevertheless on board and in our cabin by 1:30pm. We then went up and found a seat in the Lido self-service restaurant and had a leisurely lunch. CABIN We had a balcony cabin on deck 8, directly below the Lido, from which we heard no noise during the cruise. The cabin was clean, in good condition, with little evidence of wear and tear. There are two wardrobes, with 40 hangers provided. There are also shelves and drawers, which should provide ample storage for a 2 week holiday, but perhaps not for a full World Cruise. The cabin was kept clean by the steward while we were at breakfast and dinner each day – excellent service. Dressing gowns and slippers are provided. The bed linen is very good quality fine cotton. The two beds can be arranged as twin or double. They are reasonably soft, yet supportive. There are two large pillows, one square and one oblong, with good quality foam filling. The shower room was also in good condition, except for some mould on the tile grouting in the shower area. The shower curtain is a heavy fabric material, rather than plastic, which is much more practical. This was very clean, presumably because it can be easily placed in a washing machine. The shower thermostat was not always very effective at controlling the water temperature, but we have had the same problem on other ships. The strength of the lighting was good and a shaving/make up mirror is provided. Gilchrist and Soames, soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion are supplied and replaced as used. The bath towels were fluffy and an adequate size, but certainly not bath sheet size. There are also small hand towels and flannels. The balcony has two chairs and a table, but no recliners. The small flat screen television in the cabin provided general information and often had a recording of one of the talks from the previous day. It had US news channels, plus Sky News and BBC World. A number of films were shown each day, but the quality of the picture was so bad that most were not worth watching. FOOD Britannia restaurant. We were on the second sitting at 8:30pm. Our waiter, Dennis, from Dubrovnik was a real character. He was full of advice about which choices to make and even sang to us on one evening. We were initially impressed, but soon realised that he spent too much time entertaining us and not enough time serving and his assistant struggled to make up the lost time. Unlike tables served by other waiters, we were asked to choose our desserts with the starters and main course, instead of deciding on a light or more filling dessert after our main course. This procedure meant that it provided extra time for Dennis’s entertainment. Unlike other sections around us, we were rarely offered the Petit Fours with our coffee. It will be interesting to hear other peoples’ experience with Dennis. The food itself was good to excellent and there was no indication of the budget being cut since our last Cunard cruise in 2012. It is certainly much better than that provided by P&O. In particular we enjoyed some superb steaks, of a quality one would expect in the best restaurants. We also ate breakfast in the Britannia Restaurant, where the quality and choice was consistently good. You can have the full range of cooked English breakfast, cereals, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, bread and pastries, etc, etc. We normally had lunch in the Lido, where there was always a good choice of hot and cold dishes, plus pasta and pizzas made to order. Chocolate and vanilla ice cream was always available from a machine – parents please note! When the weather was bad it was difficult to find a seat between 12:00 and 1:00. If it was really full, a more leisurely lunch was available in the Britannia Restaurant. When the weather is fine the Lido grill is open where you can dine outside. This mainly offers burgers and hot dogs, with chips or salad. They no longer serve steak, so that is one cut back on the budget. Cunard’s famous afternoon tea is still available in the Queens Room between 3:30 and 4:30. Even if you only go once, you have to experience it. It is just not the same to have a self service tea in the Lido. DRINKS As is normal on Cunard and many other ships, the drink prices are very high ( from around $10 for a glass of wine) and there is also a15% service charge. We noted that many only drank water with their meals. THE CRUISE The title “Lost at Sea” refers to the fact our 10 day cruise from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale was just that. The stop in the Azores was cancelled. After leaving Southampton we experienced 3 days of rough weather. At one stage speed was reduced to just 4 knots due to the storm force winds (Normal cruising speed 20 knots). On the third day (4th January) we were advised that our one and only morning ashore in Ponta Delgada in the Azores had been cancelled, as the weather would be too rough to enter the harbour. On the morning of our intended stop (6th January) the wind and sea conditions had moderated as we passed South of the Azores. Since the cost of fuel is now a major factor in running a cruise ship, it is clear that the cancelled stop had more to do with the additional cost of the fuel that would be needed to make up lost time, than the sea conditions. If you were in a restaurant at 9am or 12 noon when there was a report broadcast from the bridge, you would not hear these and the only way to monitor progress was on the “Report from the Bridge” shown on the television. This was often not updated and continued to show the previous day’s position, speed and sea conditions, or nothing at all. Despite the rough weather experienced at the beginning and a swell in the middle of the Atlantic, only a gentle rolling motion was experienced, except during the storm, when there was more rolling and pitching which some found uncomfortable. ENTERTAINMENT For the first few days we were entertained by a comedian and a singer. We did not find anyone who had ever heard of them. Presumably they work mainly on cruise ships. The Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers appeared towards the end of the cruise. We were told they were a new group and had to rehearse before appearing. Although the singers were good, the dancers were typical of those seen on cruise ships and lacked experience. They were certainly not up to the standard of those previously seen on Cunard cruises. There were also a number of musicians who performed in the theatre and around the ship and these were generally good. It had been intended that new acts (and Speakers) would join the ship in the Azores. Having cancelled this stop, the comedian ran out of jokes and the singer expanded her repertoire. We did have some interesting speakers. An adventurer, Adrian Hayes, who told of his mountain climbing, trips to the poles and trek across the desert. He was certainly entertaining. A retired policeman, David Bright, was less so and openly admitted that speaking was not his forte. He regularly over ran his allotted time and was unable to finish his story. It was more like listening to an ex-copper talking in the pub and as such was nevertheless fairly entertaining. An ex-BBC man, Peter Dorking, gave us a potted history of the BBC, with both archive film and sound. These were well produced talks. OTHER ACTIVITIES There were talks on how to dress (women), jewellery, learn to dance, fence (yes, with swords), get the most from your i-phone, i-pad etc., etc. There were also films shown in the theatre, cooking demonstrations, an audience with the Captain and many other things throughout the day. In fact it was often difficult to fit in time for your meals!! CREW Overall we found the crew courteous, helpful and very professional. Well done Cunard for the standard of training. One thing we did notice was there are now a much greater number of waiters from Eastern European Countries and they certainly were able to provide a better service, having a greater understanding of English and European culture, than many of the Asian crew members. DISEMBARKATION Where immigration does not take place on board, but in this case, ashore at Fort Lauderdale, be warned, it is a very long process. We stood “in line” for over an hour. The Americans certainly do their best to discourage tourists! CONCLUSIONS Firstly one has to bear in mind that as with most first sectors of a World Cruise crossing the Atlantic, the fares are heavily discounted and offer exceptional value for money. Even leaving this factor aside, we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, which was followed by a few days of hot sunshine in Florida. We were certainly relieved to find that Cunard have not lowered their standards. I did hear one woman ask at the Purser’s deck “Can I wear jeans in the restaurant tonight?” “No” was the answer, “The description of semi formal clearly states no jeans”. As I say, Cunard have not lowered their standards.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2014
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even ... Read More
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even for 2, even with the ship full. You can bring your own wine and champagne on board! ($18 corcage fee if served in a restaurant). Beautiful flower arrangements. Wonderful live classical music daily. Reasonable coffee prices. Good selection of movies in Wajang Theatre, often relevant to the destinations visited. Negatives: Way too many announcements over the PA system, in english and dutch, obtrusive. Insufficient variety in food. Taste of food varying. Melons and watermelons often near to rotten, quality of cut fruits low. Only alibi-sushi (must try the sweet potato fries though!). Few production shows (but fairly good). Many guest entertainers of varying quality, practically all british or irish. And as always on cruise ships: Way too expensive shore excursions, no information about cost of individual transportation, internet rates and speed unacceptable ($0.75/min). It's a small cabin, however with ample drawer space. But I knew this ship, so knew what to expect.  Just want to point out that in the cabin 3387 we experienced noises every night because the galley is just above. Apparently heavy objects are being moved around and bumped on the ground. This must be a permanent situation.In addition, at some point a different type of noise occurred, which turned out to be a malfunction of the steam system (whatever that is). So eventually we had to be given another, inside cabin to sleep for 3 nights, before we were moved to another outside cabin.Our neighbors at cabin 3387 told me they heard these noises as well. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
World Voyage on QE  Sorry this is really long but it was a 118 day voyage! Embarkation - January 10, 2014 - The traffic in Southampton was horrible (no fault of Cunard) but once I made it to the terminal things moved quickly. My check-in ... Read More
World Voyage on QE  Sorry this is really long but it was a 118 day voyage! Embarkation - January 10, 2014 - The traffic in Southampton was horrible (no fault of Cunard) but once I made it to the terminal things moved quickly. My check-in time was 1 pm and I arrived around noon. There was no queue and I checked in and was on the ship in a matter of about 10 minutes. My three big bags and carryon were in my stateroom by 2:00. Food - I was in the Britannia Restaurant at table 330 which is about in the middle of the restaurant on deck two. We started out as a table of 10 solo travelers but this changed from segment to segment. The food was usually very good. There is a pasta, a fish, two meats and two vegetarian selections each night. You can usually also get certain off-menu items like a Caesar Salad, shrimp cocktail, fresh fruit, a chicken or meat entree, jell-o, etc. if you ask (These are not printed on the menu or advertised - I found out from a frequent Cunarder). The servers were excellent and I am sure would have tried to get other things if I had asked. I seldom eat breakfast and the few times I did was in the Lido. There was a good selection of items but, not surprisingly, some things did run out on longer segments. Lunch in the Lido was good with a selection of main courses, fresh salads, fresh fruit, cheese, breads, a soup, a hot dessert as well as a number of cold ones. There was also an Asian section. Most lunches also had chewy cookies in 2-3 different flavors. There is also a soft-serve ice cream machine with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. The Verandah - only ate here once but it was very good. The service was excellent. Lunch in the Golden Lion Pub - I ate lunch here a few times. The fish and chips were very much to my liking. The choice of meals are all typical pub fare. Alternative Dining in the Lido - I only ate here once when the theme was Asian (called Jasmine). The main course choices (there were three) were not my favorites but the soup, appetizers and desserts were excellent. Room Service - The Room service menu was more than adequate and service was fairly fast (arriving in under 20 minutes). The food was good and the choices varied from the dining room/Lido menus. Stateroom - I had a BC balcony stateroom on deck 7. The bed was very comfortable and had nice soft sheets. There was a 2-seat couch which opened into a bed (which would have been very tight with three people). Bathroom was very compact with a small shower. Plenty of space for my things on the shelf under the sink or on the small shelves beside the counter. Penhaligon's Quercus toiletries were provided - shampoo, conditioner, bath and shower gel, body lotion, and bar soap. Also a shower cap, cotton balls and Q-tips were provided. I had no problem with the quality of the towels although I heard complaints from others. Bathrobes and slippers were also provided. The balcony had three chairs which made it somewhat cramped but I probably could have had one or two removed if I had asked. I enjoyed the privacy of my balcony because I was not in one of the cut-in parts or corner balconies so I was not visible to other balconies. Entertainment - The Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers were very good and I saw each of their shows at least once (they repeated on most segments). The entertainers who were brought on for one or two shows varied greatly. Some were absolutely horrible (I walked out on one comedian whose show was raunchy and would have gone over better on a college campus than on Cunard) and some were amazingly good (a number of singers and a man who played the dulcimer come readily to mind). Most of the folkloric groups brought on in various ports were quite good. "Nexus" (billed as the "International Party Band") were ok but seemed to always play the same few songs at the sail-aways. (Sail-aways were a disappointment to some because there was not much participation.) Lectures - Most sea days had two lectures. The topics were widespread (Hitchcock's movies, the Golden Age of Ocean Liners, Pompeii and Herculaneum, famous women associated with Greenwich Village, history of U-boats, the Dreamflight program, "My Favorite Planet", the Cold War, etc.). One of my favourite writers, Bill Bryson, was on for a segment and spoke three times. All the lectures I saw were great. Most were broadcast on the TV in your stateroom if you missed them in person. Activities - There were a number of activities during the day. Some of these were held every day, some only on sea days. Movies were shown just about every day, usually at 2 p.m. There were computer classes (some free, some with a fee), bridge lessons, art lessons, sports competitions, trivia (sometimes 4 times a day), bingo,and classes in dancing, scarf tying and napkin folding. Sea days had needlework/knitting group hosted by the social hostess. Afternoon tea was served each day in the Queens Room and the room looked quite elegant. It was a nice break in the afternoon. There were other activities as well but you get the idea. At night there was live music in at least three venues (there are close to 25 musicians on board - not including the singers and dancers), dancing, trivia and other competitions, sing-alongs in the pub, and "Chocolate and Ice" buffets. There were a number of cocktail parties on each segment - full World Voyage guests, different levels of the World Club program, and those guests that just joined on each segment. One thing I would like to see on World Voyages is craft classes by a craft expert (not the social hostess). Cunard could charge a nominal fee for supplies. Balls - We had about 25 over the 118 days. The Black and White Ball was the only one that had most people participating. For the others there was usually no more than about 5% taking part. For the ball, special themed banners are hung in the Queens Room. Those who dress for the theme parade around the room and sometimes there were prizes. Dancing goes on for a couple of hours. Since most balls were on formal nights, as long as you have on formal wear there is no problem. Solo Travel - I was lucky to be on a very active Cruise Critic Roll Call. I spent two nights in Southampton prior to the voyage and ate with CC friends both nights. By the time I boarded the ship I already knew a number of people. We had a meet and greet each segment and I got to know many of the people on the roll call. Cunard put ten solos together at the dinner table for the first month of the World Voyage. We got to know each other very well and became a "family" looking out for each other. Five of us were together the entire voyage. A solo travellers get together was held each sea day at 11:00 with the Social Hostess facilitating. There were also about four "Gentleman Hosts" on each segment to dance with the ladies. I must have given off "I can't dance" vibes because I was never asked if I wanted to dance. Commentary - We had expert's commentary as we sailed out of New York, through the Panama Canal, and through the Suez Canal which made these really special. Port Presentations - for me, this is one area where Cunard could do much, much better. I realize that they, like all cruise lines, want to sell their excursions but the information about the port itself could be improved. For most ports the "must sees" and "what to do if you have been before" were discussed but not in much detail, if at all. The availability of a shuttle bus and its drop off point was not always given until the night before (to be fair, I believe that some of these are run independently of Cunard). The (written) guide to the port (given a day or so in advance) has poor maps (no scale, many important sites are not listed, etc.). The good thing about these presentations was that they were not just "where to shop" talks which you find on many lines. Ship Excursions - I took a number of these and the quality really depended on the tour guide. I had a number of really good guides and one terrible one in New York City. On another tour we did not go to one of the places indicated in the itinerary. I mentioned this to the Shore Excursion staff (I really was not complaining, I just wanted to let them know). The next day I was given a note of apology and a 25% refund which I really did not expect. Usually, disembarkation for tours went smoothly with meeting times and locations listed in the Daily Programme. One of the major complaints I heard was that Cunard charges for bottled water as you leave for excursions (evidently some cruise lines give bottled water). I had a collapsible water bottle which I filled the night before and put in the fridge so this did not bother me. On hot days there was water on the pier as you got back on the ship and chilled towels as well as the ever-present hand sanitizer. Crew - I found the vast majority of the crew to be very friendly and helpful. My stewardess (Shirley) was wonderful as was our waiter (Arnil). We had three different assistant waiters over the four months and all were good. The servers in the bar areas quickly learned my preferences and were quick to serve. Some of the officers could have made more of an effort to be friendly (or at least say "hello") when you met them in passing. Public Rooms - I really liked the Art Deco design of the ship and the "old time" elegance. There was quite a bit of Cunard memorabilia on display in different areas which I enjoyed seeing. There were some problems with water drips (evidently from the a/c which was hopefully fixed during the dry dock) and there was at least one plumbing issue that affected some staterooms. The Internet - Like on most ships, the internet had its good days and bad. There were a number of ports where there was no connectivity. One day I logged in and had lost around 600 minutes (wasn't sure of the exact amount). I talked to the tech guy and he gave me back the minutes. From then on I took a screen shot of the "Satellite Internet Usage Summary" to show that I logged off and exactly how many minutes I had left. I used my iPads on board and had no problems getting a signal in my stateroom or in other areas of the ship (provided there was a signal). Dress Code - For the most part the dress code was followed especially on formal nights. "Informal" is a little vague and although most dressed nicely (as described by Cunard) some stretched the definition of the term. I did see men being loaned jackets if they did not bring one to the MDR. Again, some stretched the idea of a jacket for dinner to include windbreakers and motorcycle jackets. BTW, jackets for men are not required during the day or if eating in the Lido. During the day, dress is no different (i.e. not dressier) than on other cruise lines I have been on. Disembarkation - My assigned group was called only five minutes late. It took about ten minutes to get from the deck three part of the Britannia Restaurant (assigned area) to the inside of the terminal. My four suitcases were not all where they should have been but it did not take long to find them. Had to wait some time for a porter but the one I got was able to get me out quickly. "Class System" - There is a great deal of discussion on Cruise Critic about Cunard's "Class System". Having sailed on the original Queen Mary, when I started investigating World Voyages I was a little put off thinking of three mutually exclusive parts of the ship. As I learned more, I realized that this is not true. Yes, there are a very few parts of the ship that are for the Grills passengers only but this is no different than special areas for the most costly suites on a number of other lines (and more seem to be going this way). Unless I saw someone going in/out of a suite or using their card in the lift, I never even knew who was in the Grills. The vast majority of the areas (maybe 95% or more) of the ship are open to everyone and I never felt "different" or "inferior". All in all, it was an amazing adventure and I thoroughly enjoyed the Cunard experience. Would I do another World Voyage? Most definitely! Would it be on Cunard? Most definitely! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2013
The Princess people at San Francisco airport were on the ball and once I pulled the bags off the merry go round they were there to put them on a cart. We were a party of four so we had 4 suitcases and two rollators. My dad and his lady ... Read More
The Princess people at San Francisco airport were on the ball and once I pulled the bags off the merry go round they were there to put them on a cart. We were a party of four so we had 4 suitcases and two rollators. My dad and his lady friend were with us or maybe it was the other way around. My dad is 90 and walks slower than a turtle. Can't see out of his left eye due to a stroke and is stone deaf but wears hearing aids anyway. His friend was 84 but looked and acted like she was 104. So our job was to herd them from location to location. We all gathered at the airport to wait for the bus. All we did was walk out there and got on. Off we went to the port. The trip to the port took 15 minutes but once we got to that area it took 45 minutes to get to the terminal. It was a Friday and traffic was heavy plus it was around lunch time so there were a lot of cars and people. Once we got there we simply got off the bus and the luggage was taken care of. Reminder to future cruisers who take the princess bus transfers, TIP YOUR BUS DRIVER. I went inside and found a princess representative that took care of passengers with disabilities. They got wheelchairs for the old guys and guided us to a counter for check in that was just for disabled parties. The entire check in process was the most organized painless operation we have ever had. From getting off the bus and checking in we were in our cabins in about 20 minutes. Kudos to all of the princess staff for making this process painless. It also helps to tip the guys who push the wheelchairs around. They like tips. We herded the two turtles to the Horizon court for the noon feeding. We came from Virginia so my dads stomach clock for food was telling him that it was after 4 pm. No problem getting a table and the feeding commenced. For the next 15 days we used the horizon court about half the time for breakfast and lunch and the staff was unbelievable and very efficient clearing tables and making sure we had drinks and refills. If you prefer something other than orange juice as a morning beverage you can request others like apple and cranberry and they will bring it. We then had to go to the dreaded muster drill and even though my dads cabin was three cabins from our he had to go to a different muster station than they did. Big problem. We took them to their station and found chairs for them and explained to the muster staff about their disabilities. We then went to our location in the princess theater. I truly hate these damn drills and thought they were being phased out until the Concordia disaster occurred. I understand the reason for this drill but I can still hate it. Later during the cruise I witnessed a party of four having a private drill in one of the lounges with a crew member explaining everything because they had boarded late and missed the first one. Great that they made sure everyone was informed. We sailed away and going under the Golden Gate bridge was fantastic. A lot of picture opportunities. Then it was time for dinner. We did the 5:30 seating because my dad has a schedule for his stomach. His watch said 5:30 so let the eating commence. We then walked around to look at the ship and become familiar with every place. The ship is old but I thought maintained very well. Things are going to break down, rugs are going to show some wear and OMG there will be rust. It's a big mechanical object that sails in salt water and the mechanical systems put up with 2000 plus people every week. It's the nature of the animal that toilets will stop up and rooms might be warmer than you would like them to be. And yes there are some people who (gasp) find rust. The elevators were hot and some didn't seem to work as well as others but you know what folks I was on a 15 night cruise to Hawaii with my wife and these mechanical deficiencies that other cruisers complained about were no big deal. Put things in perspective. You're on a cruise that millions of people would die to be on. You're not at work because you're on a 15 night cruise to Hawaii. Stop complaining and have some fun. We did. The food was good to very good. My wife enjoyed the influence of native Hawaiian flavors to the new menu. The seafood was excellently prepared. Especially the scallops. She often ordered the vegetarian entree as a side dish to the usual side accompaniments that come with your meal. They were interesting and had great variety so vegetarians should not be disappointed. The only items that were not good was a soup made with goat cheese, apples and a "crusty grape" garnish. It sounded good in concept but was like drinking salad dressing and the grape was truly awful to bite into. It would have been good as a sauce on a steak or as a dressing. The gnocchi were heavy and doughy. But there was a garlic pesto pasta one night that was really great. The 5th floor cafe had some great desserts. Some better than what was on the dinner menu. One day they had pavlova with fresh strawberries which I wish I could have smuggled home. So stop by there to see there offerings. The Panini sandwiches there, however, had very little filling and not worth trying. The entire princess staff was helpful and wonderful. We enjoyed interacting with the cruise directors staff when we played trivia or made leis with fresh flowers. We were told we weren't going to be able to take the fresh flower leis off of the ship so we threw them away and then saw many people walking right off of the ship wearing them. Would have liked to wear this souvenir a little longer. They were made with beautiful orchids. Try and get a ticket for this activity. One day they did ribbon leis which looked interesting and the next time they used fresh flowers. It would have been nice to learn a little more about the history of leis during this activity but I was still happy with the result. They were all nice and seemed to really want us and other people to have fun and enjoy yourself. We got to snorkel in Maui and eat the best nachos with island bbq pork we ever had at Dukes bar at Waikiki beach. They were really good nachos. When our order came there were about 8 other couples sitting around the bar and once they saw and smelled what we had they all ordered some nachos. The only negative comment I have is about going to Ensenada Mexico to satisfy the Jones act. Don't get off if you can help it. It's a dirty little town and the street vendors will hassle you to death. The worst part is the mothers laying or sitting on the sidewalk begging for money and their children are also begging. It's sad. There is a small area right next to the ship were you can buy stuff. I felt like I needed a shower after walking around that hole in the wall. I guess if Tijuana had a deep sea port princess would probably go there. Just a word to the wise, don't get off at Ensenada. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2013
We chose this cruise as we were already going to be in California for our son's wedding 3 days prior to embarkation. We drove down from Pasadena, spent a day enjoying San Diego, dropped off the rental car and embarked. Note there is ... Read More
We chose this cruise as we were already going to be in California for our son's wedding 3 days prior to embarkation. We drove down from Pasadena, spent a day enjoying San Diego, dropped off the rental car and embarked. Note there is still construction on the street outside the terminal, but our cab driver easily negotiated it. We tried to check our bags at the obvious spot, but were told to take them inside. Seemed unusual but we diligently went inside, where we were told to take them back outside. OK, finally got them checked and came back through the line. No other embarkation problems of note and we were quickly onboard enjoying the buffet lunch. Met the other Cruise Critic Rollcall members at the Sunset Bar for sailaway drinks after muster drill. One member had made beautiful pin-on buttons for all of us, and we wore our Mardi Gras beads to identify ourselves. Good way to get the cruise started! The officers were friendly and mixed with the passengers every day. It was great to have the Captain greet you personally at breakfast and the Hotel Director spend 1/2 hour with you at Elite Happy Hour. These are the little things that make traveling on the Century very special. She may be older and smaller, but the ship has a devoted following. This was a quiet cruise with a lot of sea days and was definitely an older crowd. But there was lots to do if you chose to do it. The enrichment lectures on Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Theater in WWII were fabulous and June, the Hawaiian arts and crafts lady, was great fun. The standard of excellence that Celebrity maintains in its service, food, maintenance of facilities, etc., is what keeps us coming back time after time. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was ... Read More
We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was excellent. We checked in at 2.10PM , probably after the initial rush. Cabin 422 ( a suite) was spotless on arrival and we were greeted by our Steward and offered Champagne. It is a large lounge area with a separate large bedroom with King bed, separate bathroom and robe area. We booked the Sterling Steakhouse for the first evening dinner, to overcome what can be difficult dining arrangements as people turn up on the first night. A good decision with a good meal , superb steak , excellent service. We dined most evenings in the Santa Fe dining room and as on previous cruises on the Diamond, experienced excellent service and good quality meals. Entertainment was excellent and production shows very good , although we do notice that the production shows are now of 28-35 minutes duration. Cruise director and his team do a very good job with activities. We ran into 3 days of very heavy weather across the Aleutian islands areas with 2 massive storms, the ship and staff coped well with having all decks and outside activities closed for 3 days. We never really felt crowded, apart from the first show in the theatre. Also the Education lectures were terrific. As experienced cruisers, we have enjoyed several cruises on the Diamond. Yes it is a large ship , but everything works to our satisfaction. This was a repositioning cruise and a means of us travelling from USA to China before flying home from Shanghai to Melbourne , australia. We enjoyed the cruise, met some lovely people, were fed well and entertained. We were very well served. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
After 20 years of cruising we discovered Regent in 2010. We are going on 100 days of voyaging with them now. This Baltic and circumnavigation of the British Isle cruise we just completed was outstanding. We had been cruising exclusively ... Read More
After 20 years of cruising we discovered Regent in 2010. We are going on 100 days of voyaging with them now. This Baltic and circumnavigation of the British Isle cruise we just completed was outstanding. We had been cruising exclusively with Princess and HAL prior to that. We toyed with the idea of giving Silver Seas a shot but received a hint that their quality was on the ebb, the debacle on the Silver Shadow in Southeast Alaska this summer confirmed that. Of Regent's three ships, we like the Voyager the best. We have never had a cruise that we didn't enjoy, although, as with anything in life, there was an occasional blemish. We prefer the longer excursion type voyages, three weeks or more. The longest was on the Prinsendam for almost three months. In May 2010 we happened upon Regent. Haven't really looked back since, I hardly even gloss others brochures and offers anymore. My wife discovered the first one, on the Navigator. She really likes the absence of nickel and dimeing. For me Regent stands out in these areas: Quality of shore excursions. (They go to lengths to arrange numerous and detailed itineraries while assuring knowledgeable guides who one can understand and most of the time keep the coaches to about 55% capacity).---Quality and size of suites. The size of their D thru H suites are almost unsurpassed. They have walk in closets that serve as dressing rooms, the bathrooms have walk in showers in addition to a separate large bathtub, on this recent cruise we had four large suitcases but only used about 35% of the drawers, hangars and cupboards, although these suite categories are smaller on the Mariner than on the Voyager and Navigator the Mariner does have extra large Penthouse suites.---Outstanding demeanor of all the crew, i.e. room stewards, bar tenders, waiters, wine stewards, officers, etc.--Staff to guest ratio. Ship design, size and condition. (The Mariner and Voyager have pod propulsion which offers a noticeable absence of vibration and noise, particularly in the stern area where most conventional shaft ally powered ships have this negative) I particularly appreciate the dining arrangements, no waiting, no assigned seating unless we ask to be with someone else and we almost always get a table for two.--Wine selection is above average.--- Prime 7 is pretty good. We weren't too enamored with the Signature. The reservation lash up for the Signature and Prime 7 needs some work and improving. However, on this trip, their regular dining room, the Compass Rose, was outstanding (better than the Signature even). What we have taken to doing is to determine right off which head waiter we want, then stick with him. Then, we "always" get the type table we want and the waiters know exactly our tastes, our names and how to set up the table. Beats the old traditional seating all to pieces, you know, the old way where you run the "luck of the draw" for tablemates and take a chance on getting stuck with nimrods for the entire voyage. Free and fast internet (The Voyager has an excellent and large internet cafe which is the best we ever experienced)---Good selection of newspapers delivered every morning (I like the New York Times & USA Today) and their TV news channels offer an excellent ideological selection, from left progressive to hard core right wing.) Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
Embarkation: We arrived at Sydney Airport on the morning of 20th May 2013, and were met by a very efficient Princess Representative who escorted us to a passenger waiting area, before being taken to the bus and transported to the new ... Read More
Embarkation: We arrived at Sydney Airport on the morning of 20th May 2013, and were met by a very efficient Princess Representative who escorted us to a passenger waiting area, before being taken to the bus and transported to the new White Bay Cruise Terminal. Immediately upon arriving, we were able to complete our pre embarkation paperwork, hand over our credit card details, were given our Cruise Card, a numbered embarkation card, and joined the thousands of other passengers, families and friends in the waiting area. In less than an hour our embarkation number was called, and we were herded through the Customs & scanning area. With all that behind us, we followed the trail of eager passengers past the ships embarkation photographers and finally arrived at the gangway. For the 3rd time in our lives, it was so exciting just walking up the gangway on to the Sea Princess as the start of our next adventure was just about to unfold. Review of the Sea Princess: In writing this critique, it has to be noted that this cruise was full, with around 2000 passengers and over 1000 crew. The ship itself is getting older, and experiencing spasmodic maintenance problems that caused engine issues, and numerous episodes of leaking pipes which flooded staterooms, hallways, and the Princess Theatre. Staff were always quick to work on reported problems, & despite the age of the ship & all its fittings, everything looked clean, polished & well cared for. Dining: Dining was nothing short of spectacular, to say the least. On our 1st evening, we were placed on a table for 4 in the Traviata dining Room, but only the 2 of us turned up, and we spent the first week having very romantic dinners on our own. Following this, we asked the Maitre D if we could be moved to a larger table, and this was executed with precision to table 108 Traviata 1st sitting. Here we met up with 6 other delightful passengers who over the course of the 104 days, made our cruise very memorable. Four of our new dining companions were Americans, and the other 2 were fellow Aussies. The mix was phenomenal, and Maitre D Neville should be commended for his work in orchestrating these seating arrangements. Our new waiters were ''" ''"Benjamin” and ''"Nandi”, who looked after our culinary experience every night to absolute perfection. If you want to see most of the nightly entertainment, then 1st seating dining is a must. The food selection in the dining room was mind boggling, always arrived beautifully presented, in a timely fashion, and always hot. Drink prices were expensive, but wine left over was always named, recorked and available for the next evening meal. The variation of food over the 104 days would have been a mammoth planning exercise, but we never missed a night of restaurant dining in the whole time on board. We did notice on this cruise that the ''"World Cruise Souvenir Menu’s” were very few and far between. In fact, I only collected 3 souvenir menu’s, one of which was an evening meal at the end of the cruise, and the other 2 applied to brunch meals. I renamed the Horizon Court buffet ''"The horror-zone” for obvious reasons, for it was terrible lining up for food, arguing with combative passengers, and searching for a vacant seat. The manners of many people left a lot to be desired, and you would think some people had never been fed before, the way they carried on around the buffet food. The Sterling Steakhouse was a joke, situated in a partitioned off area of the Horizon Buffet each evening. While it was busy most nights, and the food reportedly great, it could not be seen as a special dining environment. The Ice-cream Parlor outside on deck 12 under the movie screen was usually quite busy, but it’s a shame one of the staff positioned there left a bit to be desired. You would think the ice-cream was coming out of his allowance, the way he carried on about metering it out. All diners were looked after for Special occasions with a cake and a throng of caroling waiters and bar staff, which just made that special occasion even more memorable. Lounges & Restrooms: We always found the restrooms clean, tidy and well stocked. The Vista lounge area exhibited a strange seating arrangement with bench lounge seats interspersed with single tables and revolving chairs. Apart from taking up a huge amount of excess room, these tables and chairs were horrendous obstacles, and difficult for the elderly or mobility compromised passengers to move around, especially after they had been dislodged by previous users. Given the difficulty accommodating large numbers of passengers in the lounge areas, seating could have been much better worked out. The Princess Theatre is as good as any other theatre, chairs comfortable, but the idea of drink waiters trying to serve drinks to passengers in the middle of a full row is stupid, and needs immediate reviewing. Surely passengers can survive the 45 minutes for a show to go without a drink, but then Princess would not make as much money on drink sales, I suppose. Several times over the course of the 104 days there was a leak from the ceiling of the Princess Theatre, and several seats had to be portioned off as they were soaked. This intermittent leaking continued on for most of the cruise, despite numerous attempts by staff to try and fix the problem. The Wheelhouse Bar was used many days for trivia sessions, and trying to fit upwards of 400 passengers into an area that could only house 200 at best, was nothing short of nauseating. To get a seat, most people had to arrive for trivia almost an hour early, and this caused fights amongst passengers who tried to reserve seats for other members of their trivia team. Whilst reserving seats is a known ''"No-No” what else could people do. Many disagreements ensued because of this. The Laundry: The public Laundry was a nightmare, with only 2 machines and dryers on 3 of the passenger decks. Queuing was long and tedious, and those passengers who put washing in the machines and went away for hours continually aggravated fellow passengers waiting for vacant machines. Woe and behold anyone who touched anyone else’s laundry, and only remove someone else’s laundry at your own peril. The laundry proved to be a very entertaining area, with many altercations occurring daily. We found it easier to hand wash as much as possible in the cabin, and hang it on coat hangers around the room to dry. Always take a small hanging peg line to hang in the shower, and this is great to hang smalls on, which dry pretty much within a day or do in the air-conditioned atmosphere. It has to be noted that a passenger came up with a very innovative method of securing a washer and dryer, and while I would not personally do it, (or advocate that anyone else should do it either) I did chuckle at the effrontery of the action. Apparently, this person came on board with previously printed and laminated ''"OUT OF ORDER” signs; and when a machine was needed, these signs were posted on machines. Just goes to show the lengths people will go to in order to achieve their aims. As a postscript, I do believe this person was appropriately dealt with by Princess staff. Staterooms: Surviving 104 nights in an inside stateroom was not a problem, given that this was our 3rd time cruising for this length of time, but organization is a must. Having a place for everything, and keeping everything in its place, is a definite necessity. On this cruise we were assigned Stateroom B326, reasonably central on Baha deck level 10. Our Stateroom steward was ''"Froilan” who looked after us to perfection for the first 4 legs of the cruise. On embarkation and meeting him for the first time, we set out requests for a foam mattress overlay; dressing gowns; an ice bucket every night; extra coat hangers, and an extra chair as the stateroom only has one. After Froilan left in Los Angeles we were allocated ''"Melville” for the last leg of our cruise, but unfortunately he was not as efficient as Froilan. Research prior to our cruise assisted us to make the decision to give the stateroom steward 50% of our tip up front, with the proviso that if he looked after us well, there would be same amount at the end of the cruise. This was one of the best decisions we were to make, because we were looked after extremely well. The room was always left clean and tidy, towels always changed each morning, and beach towels were replaced whenever they were used, sometimes several times during the day. Shampoo, soap, skin lotion & body wash (excellent for hand washing clothes) were replaced daily. Entertainment: Having cruised for 104 nights with Princess previously, we had a reasonable idea what to expect as far as entertainment was concerned. In comparing the last 3 cruises we have done of 104 days, it is easy to see that cutbacks on entertainment for this cruise were very noticeable. 2009 there were 104 different evening events and 14 Production Show 2012 there were 71 different evening events and 15 Production Shows, but in 2013 there were only 62 different evening events and only 10 Production Shows. Many nights on this last cruise we found there was nothing to do other than watch a movie, which I do not consider watching movies that are years old and repeated several times, as major forms of evening entertainment. The selection of movies available was antiquated, and despite many complaints, this problem did not change for the entire cruise. Several old & new movies were played on the in-house televisions, and under the stars, however, some of these were repeated with monotonous regularity. Overall, the Production Shows were very good, but many of the comedians were aged, as were their jokes and stories. At various ports around the globe, artists got on and off, always ensuring a fresh supply of good and no-so-good entertainers. Pre & post dinner dancing was always available, & passenger theme parties were scheduled at sparse intervals. Morning & afternoon trivia sessions were a must for the brainiacs, who always played for sheep stations. We always tried to catch up on the Port lectures, especially for all the new ports we had not been to before, as there was always some interesting bits of info to take away. Other ways to keep occupied included scholarship @ sea lectures; library; church services; dancing lessons; sports tournaments; bingo; card playing; game shows; exercise classes; movies; choir practice; culinary demonstrations; & ice carving demo’s. Princess offered Service club meetings, which was relevant to us being Lions; but we did not avail ourselves of the Dr Bob & Bill W meetings, nor did we join in as GLBT groups, but it was entertaining to note that they cater for these groups as well. Princess continually advocates that passengers must not save seats in the public lounges and theatres, however, despite this, seat saving continues at an alarming rate. On very popular entertainment nights, a passenger would take their life into their own hands if they needed to visit the rest room before a show started, because their seat then became fair game for whoever was waiting. Gymnasium: We did manage to find the gymnasium several times, although not as much as we should have. The equipment was state of the art, and reasonably well utilized, but having someone available to help you to use the computerized equipment was not always available. The only scales on the ship was located just outside the gym, and these came in handy to check out just how much weight we were putting on weekly. They probably explained why our clothes were shrinking at a great rate of knots, but on this score, I blamed the washing water for shrinking them!!! Shore Excursions: We researched all the shore excursions before boarding, so picked the eyes out of what was available, and made sure we selected all the important places of interest to us. While it has to be noted that all of the ships excursions were expensive, there was the guarantee of knowing that if an excursion got back late, the ship would not leave us behind, as did happen to several passengers who did their own thing and returned late. All of the good excursions booked out early, so if there is something special that you really want to see or do, then booking early is a must. On this cruise we booked about 50% of our tours with the Cruise Critic group. This is a great way to meet other cruisers, cuts down the cost of excursions, and in most cases, you get to see more places of interest on the tours because the groups are smaller than the big Princess ones. One thing that needs to be pointed out, is that Princess are not happy if tour soliciting occurs whilst onboard, so if you plan on doing Cruise Critic Tours (which I definitely recommend), make sure you have these arranged and paid for before you get onboard. Also note that if you are on a private tour, and you get back late, that Princess will not guarantee they will wait for you. Photo Taking: Unfortunately, on this cruise, I think I developed a syndrome aptly called IPAD RAGE, because almost every 2nd elderly passenger had an IPAD which they used as a camera. Understandably, because they are easy to use, can take multiple pictures quickly, and can be filed or deleted at a later time. However, most of these IPAD’s take up a large amount of viewing space when placed up against the window of a bus whilst on tour; or worse still, if someone sitting in front of you tries to take a picture while you are in the theatre trying to see between 2 heads. Most of these IPAD’s are attached to a cover, which is left hanging underneath, thereby taking up double the viewing area. This annoying practice needs to be governed somehow & offending passengers need to be aware of how this practice affects other people around them, and be more considerate. Gone are the days of the small hand held camera’s, it now seems that IPAD’s are taking over with the ageing population. Service: Embarkation and disembarkation was handled extremely well. The Pursers Desk, Future Cruise Staff and Captains Circle staff handled most of our needs very efficiently. We were very fortunate to have the same stateroom steward for the first 84 nights, and this worked very well in our favor. Even though we partially tipped in advance, our cabin steward was extremely attentive, clean and thorough, & consequently got a nice tip when he left Our evening dining waiter and bar staff were also very good, although we chose not to tip in advance here, leaving it to the last night on board to slip each of our staff an envelope. The Cruise Staff: The Cruise Director Tim Donovan appeared to have an attitude problem, and was not very approachable, and didn’t appear to endear himself to many passengers. The Cruise Staff consisted of Matt, Kim, Brandon Mark, Martin and Mikey. Matt was the assistant Cruise Director, and took over as Cruise Director when Tim left. Matt appeared to enjoy his job, and always spoke. Martin was then promoted to Deputy Cruise Director, but this appointment left more than a lot to be desired!! Kim was the Zumba instructor, and her classes every sea day were packed to overflowing. Other than Zumba and the occasional evening passenger show, you never saw her. Brandon was by far the most approachable, always had a smile, and seemed to care that he was there for the passengers. Mikey was patronizing, with a large attitude problem, and needs to acquire more PR skills. D.J. Mark was out of his depth on this cruise of elderly passengers. He gave the opinion that he didn’t want to be there, and for the most part, shouldn’t have been there. Martin was a complete waste of space, both as a member of the cruise director staff, and as Acting Deputy Cruise Director. Despite the differing issues with the Cruise Staff, they did manage to survive keep us entertained for the 104 days. Tender service: The tender service remains a nightmare, however, I don’t know how else you could move 2500 people on and off a ship any other way. Queuing for tender tickets, then queuing again when your number was called, tended to take the excitement off getting off the ship at each port. If you fore went queuing for tender tickets, then you had to wait until everyone else was off before you could try and find the exit, and this definitely would cut down your time on shore. Possibly Princess need to use more tender boats when this arrangement has to be implemented, because the current arrangement is annoyingly frustrating. Queue jumping was a frequent occurrence, and many an argument was had while waiting in line. Visa Acquisition: For this cruise, the only Visa’s we had to get before boarding were for India and the United States. For whatever reason known only to them, the acquisition of the Indian Visa was a nightmare. From completing the forms online, then submitting them with your passport and required fee, then waiting for it all to be completed, created many nightmares for numerous passengers. The inequality of some passengers not getting the Indian visa at all, left a lot of the passengers who did get the visa angry at Princess for the differing stories & falsehoods we had been told. This is an area that needs to be immediately investigated and rectified by Princess. Several other countries required visa’s. but these were organized onboard by Princess and charged to our cruise a/cs. Such a pity the Indian Visa could not have been done the same way. IN CONCLUSION: Apart from a few minor hiccups, we had a fantastic 104 nights, visiting many parts of the World we had only ever dreamed about seeing. With research and previous planning, we had the most enjoyable cruise ever, and have marked a lot of places off our bucket list. We were wined, dined and entertained in style, and will definitely sail with Princess Cruises again.   Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
On March 3, 2013, our day of departure, we arrived early at Barangaroo Wharf 5 in order to beat the crowds. Once there, we had an orderly check-in and then were asked to assemble with a group of about forty people. Apparently the ... Read More
On March 3, 2013, our day of departure, we arrived early at Barangaroo Wharf 5 in order to beat the crowds. Once there, we had an orderly check-in and then were asked to assemble with a group of about forty people. Apparently the passengers from the previous cruise were still disembarking, so HAL decided to treat us to a two-hour bus tour of Sydney while we were waiting. We had a nice tour around town and a stop-over at Bondi Beach. Once back at the Oosterdam, we were shown to our cabins without further ado. We were so pleasantly surprised by our stateroom; it was on the Navigation deck (8079), starboard center, with a gigantic verandah. The room itself was spacious and had ample luggage and storage room. Our two cabin stewards, Indra and Sutarno, were outstanding in every way. We got to know them quite well while on our twenty-seven day journey on the ocean waves. I would describe the Oosterdam as an elegant ship, neither dazzling nor garish. She was more cozy and comfy, with some nice artsy touches. Everything seemed to be spotless, which is, as they say, next to godliness. I noticed the profusion of hand-cleansing dispensers scattered around the ship. This gave me a clear impression that the management was dead serious about stopping the spread of bacteria and viruses through unwashed hands. Good for them! The food in the Lido Lounge was, um, average-to-slightly above-average most days. The best meals in the Lido, I think, were the breakfast omelets, Panini sandwiches, pasta bar, and dessert bar. The entrees could be hit or miss, depending on the day. There was also a little hamburger station at the Lido pool which served great burgers and hot dogs. A "Mexican" station was also set up by the Lido pool, and I hear the best item was the shrimp/guacamole/mandarin salad. We only dined in the Vista Lounge twice, and both times our steaks were as tough as a cadaver. With almost a month on board one gets a good feel for the ship's milieu. The Oosterdam was no exception, as we became settled into a routine on sea days. I know my husband complained a little about there not being much activity on board, and a slight insouciance by the athletic staff to organize sports activities during the day, especially table tennis. It would also be safe to say that there was very little activity for young children or teenagers onboard, as the Oosterdam is geared mostly for mature adults, although, ironically, the adults we spoke to all said that there should be more sports activities around the Lido pool area for adults. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the Oosterdam was the Crow's Nest, a lovely atrium-like area with great views and a nice little library and computer area. Each day the Cruise Director would host a Team Trivia game, and this proved to be a big hit. There was also Happy Hour at the Crow's Next bar and the Queen's Lounge, where passengers could buy their second drink for $1. I won't go into detail about ports visited, except to say that the process was very smooth indeed, even when we had to use the ship's tenders. One memorable occasion was when our tender was halfway between the ship and the Akaroa dock when the engine stopped. We floated for a good fifteen minutes and then, voila, the engines started up again. I'm glad they did, because Akaroa was a beautiful little town in a most picturesque and sheltered bay. There were many highlights of our cruise on the Oosterdam, not the least of which was our good fortune to meet some lovely people from Australia. These folks made our trip so memorable, along with the excellent Oosterdam Captain Arjen Van der Loo and his outstanding crew. All in all, it was a terrific experience and one I won't soon forget. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
This was our third cruise on Oceania (including one on the predecessor Ranaissance) and the first on Marina. We did the itinerary from Sydney to Tahiti - 25 days - in March/April 2013. I cannot say enough about the quality of this ship. ... Read More
This was our third cruise on Oceania (including one on the predecessor Ranaissance) and the first on Marina. We did the itinerary from Sydney to Tahiti - 25 days - in March/April 2013. I cannot say enough about the quality of this ship. Luxury is found in every aspect of the ship. Among the most important elements is that the ship is very well sized for the passenger count. The Marina is larger than the previous Oceania ships and takes 1250 passengers. Both the physical size of the ship and the size of the staff is perfectly matched to the passenger count. There is never any difficulty finding a place to sit anywhere, whether in the buffet dining room, poolside, lounges, casino, or even getting on equipment in the fitness center. The cabins are very well sized and the space is very well used. The staff is uniformly excellent. I have never seen such friendly and pleasant people who are so eager to be helpful without being overbearing. The food is the best I have encountered on any other cruise line (and I have been on many others). There are four specialty restaurants (French, Italian, Asian and Beef) and each is fantastic with regard to both the quality of food, quality of presentation, breadth of menu and quality of service. There are no additional charges for these restaurants, although reservations are needed. The main dining room does not come up to the same high standard. Although the service there is excellent, and being seated (open dining) was never a problem, the menus and food quality not not nearly as good as the specialty restaurants. As a result, we had 19 of our 25 diners at the specialty restaurants. We eventually learned that on the nights when we could not get a reservation at a specialty restaurant, the buffet was an excellent alternative. The selection and quality was actually much better than the main dining room. As long as you don't mind the informality of a buffet, it is an excellent choice.We really enjoyed the more casual dress code of this ship. A jacket is never required at any of the restaurants. There are no "formal nights" which for us is a pleasure. We really appreciated that there are no extra charges for anything except liquor. Soft drinks, cappuccino, mixers, etc. are all free. We were on the concierge level and the concierge lounge was always well stocked with juice, soft drinks, bottled water, small snacks, coffee/tea/cappuccino. The fridge in out room was also stocked with soft drinks and water. Of course, alcohol is available for purchase, but much to our delight, they do not constantly push it on you as is the case on many other ships. If you are poolside and want a soft drink, it will be brought to you. If you want a drink you will get one easily but you won't be bombarded with constant attempts to sell you liquor. Especially nice that that whenever you leave the ship there is bottled water available as you leave. On so many other ships, they squeeze an extra few bucks out of you by selling water to you as you leave the ship. Now for the one big negative...the pricing of their shore excursions is outrageously high compared to any other ship I have been on. Also, the quality of the excursions is nothing special. At a couple of our ports we took independently arranged excursions and they were much better and very much cheaper (1/2 to 1/3 the cost). One striking example is that at our disembarkation in Pappete, Tahiti, they ship charged $149/person to transfer to the airport by bus (a 15-20 minute ride). We took a cab which cost us $20 for 4 people. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
We very much enjoyed the cruise, although it was VERY cold! We were disappointed not to have a pre boarding morning tour of Charleston. We loved Beaufort, Savannah, Sapelo Island, Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island and Amelia Island and ... Read More
We very much enjoyed the cruise, although it was VERY cold! We were disappointed not to have a pre boarding morning tour of Charleston. We loved Beaufort, Savannah, Sapelo Island, Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island and Amelia Island and general cruise through the low lands. We especially liked our big rooms on the first floor in the 100's(same floor as the dining room). They are bigger because there is no balcony which takes away from the square footage of the room as well as the light! It was also nice to have an elevator, as I have had three knee operations(no replacement) and I don't need to do stairs any more than I have to. I was disappointed that the staff did NOT observe the dietary restriction that I had specifically written down on your space for "dietary needs" Every morning, they give you a menu to choose from, write it down and I always noted "low sodium". No one ever sought me out to find me with the low sodium meals. We just recently returned from a cruise of the Black Sea and the very first thing they did after the emergency drill, was to ask those with dietary requirements, to come to the lounge to meet with the chef to discuss my needs. Every meal a designated waiter brought me what I had requested for BOTH lunch and dinner! On the cruise we took with you, I finally had to go out to the kitchen, find the chef, and demand that SOMEONE pay attention, not just to me, but to others who also complained. One other suggestion: the entertainment was a little thin. One of them should clearly be dropped. It's been so long that I can't remember exactly who. Otherwise, it was very enjoyable and the staff was excellent. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2013
Having previously only done Princess Grill, I was looking forward to experiencing the Cunard experience that most guests book - Britannia. Embarkation in Singapore was a breeze. There were no large queues and I was on board in about 15 ... Read More
Having previously only done Princess Grill, I was looking forward to experiencing the Cunard experience that most guests book - Britannia. Embarkation in Singapore was a breeze. There were no large queues and I was on board in about 15 minutes and my suitcase arrived at my cabin about 10 minutes after I did. I couldn't believe how quick and efficient the embarkation process was. After unpacking I did a quick tour around the ship and was impressed with the maintenance, everything looked spick and span. Cunard is obviously not cutting corners with regards to maintenance. Rather than do a short story on the voyage, I will summarise my observations about various aspects of the voyage: Service: In a word - excellent. The steward who looked after my room did an excellent job. He was always cheerful, friendly and kept my room looking very smart. Our table was served by a sommelier, waiter and assistant waiter. All three were very professional and our table received excellent service; we never had to wait for anything and there were no delays in regards to wine or alcoholic beverages. Our waiter was also very accommodating with requests. On lobster night our table all requested extra lobsters, a request which were happily granted by our waiter. Throughout the ship I encountered many different staff members from various locations (Sir Samuel's, The Commodore Club, Kings Court, Todd English, G32, the photography staff, The Chart Room and the Purser's desk) and they were all great, everyone was polite & friendly and the White Star training really shows. Accommodation: I had a D5 standard inside on deck 5. This was very conveniently located between staircases B & C and decks three & seven. The inside stateroom was very spacious and very well appointed. It was perfect for one person and I never felt claustrophobic. The only issue I had with the room was the engine noise that came through the pillow. The room I was in is located next to a void on the deck plan and I discovered that I was right next to a noisy crew staircase. This must have been the cause of the noise as occupants two staterooms down the corridor reported no noise through their pillows. I solved this problem using earplugs. Food: Again, excellent. I enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Britannia Restaurant and each time I found the food to be of a very high standard. I appreciate that the appetisers are a sensible size as the mains are quite substantial and this combination leaves room for the delicious desserts. I left the table each night feeling comfortably full - not slightly unwell from overeating. I heard some negative comments about the food in Britannia, comments which I cannot understand as the meals I had in Britannia restaurant were excellent. Kings Court was great for a quick snack or an early morning coffee before a shore tour. I found the layout to be relatively easy to follow and the food to be very good. I also had dinner at Todd English one night and was very impressed with the food and service. Having not enjoyed a previous lunch experience at Todd English I wasn't expecting much but boy was I wowed. I certainly recommend dinner at Todd English during your next QM2 voyage. Shore tours: The shore tours in Bangkok and Saigon were okay. There was a two hour drive to each city from the port and the guides ranged from fantastic to good. I found the 'Highlights of Ho Chi Minh city' tour to be boring and wouldn't recommend that tour. The tours were, however, well organised and we left and arrived back at the ship on time. Activities on board: Bingo was a lot of fun and the entertainment staff made it very enjoyable. G32 was it's usual let down, the fact that there was no DJ in residence (we had a fill-in from Vibez) only compounded the problem. The daily activity sheet was filled with many activities and your day can be as busy or as relaxing as you choose. I decided to do very little each day and so can't comment on the lectures or the shows as I pretty much just swam in the pool and went to the gym most days. The Chart Room is a great hang-out for those Britannia guests on late sitting. The room has a great buzz and is a very enjoyable place to meet friends for drinks before dinner. Overall: I very much enjoyed this voyage and would do it again in a heartbeat. The food, accommodation and service were excellent (baring the engine noise through the pillow) and I cannot imagine how Cunard could make it better. The public rooms in the ship are beautiful and certainly convey that 'ocean liner' atmosphere. What makes it all the more real is that QM2 is an actual ocean liner and that is something you don't get on any other ship. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
My partner and I decided to book a cruise as it was a holiday we had never done before and having reviewed many different cruise lines we settled upon Cunard and the Queen Mary 2. We took this decision as we managed to find a very good ... Read More
My partner and I decided to book a cruise as it was a holiday we had never done before and having reviewed many different cruise lines we settled upon Cunard and the Queen Mary 2. We took this decision as we managed to find a very good deal for this voyage from Southampton to Dubai, the first leg of the 2013 world voyage, in January (when could be a better time to head off to some heat after Christmas when everything is dismal and cold?) and personally I was excited by the glamour and sophistication which would await me on board such a magnificent looking vessel. I was not disappointed, this holiday exceeded my expectations in every way and I would recommend a voyage upon this wonderful ocean liner to anyone. I have focussed my review on the ship itself rather than ports / day trips as otherwise I will ramble on for too long. Checking in at Southampton was quick and simple. The Queen Mary 2 was docked in the old QE2 terminal which is like something out of the 1960's however was perfectly adequate and I quite enjoyed the feeling of stepping back in time as we boarded. As soon as we were on board we were greeted by smiling faces and warm welcomes from every member of the White Star staff we passed. We stayed in an inside cabin or 'stateroom' as they are called (4061), which is the best value option and if you don't mind not having a window or balcony it is quite adequate. The decks are all so beautiful and vast, there is no necessity to spend much needed cocktail money on a balcony when you can spend time on the public decks. I guess this is all down to individual preference, and if you have the cash to splash then the balcony staterooms are beautiful, but ours was clean, roomy enough for two including enough wardrobe space for all my evening dresses and throughout the voyage, if you tune the tv to the bridgecam channel you can see what the outside weather is doing and have your own little "window" to outside. The morning show with Paul O'Loughlin, Entertainment Director was also very interesting and a fun way to start every day telling us about upcoming shows and events, I didn't really want to go back to BBC Breakfast when I got home! We were lucky enough to have Commodore Rynd, head of the Cunard fleet at the helm and he was very personable, visible around the ship from day to day and his 12pm navigational announcements every day were very enjoyable informing us about the ships position and interesting facts of the day. When booking this voyage I had been worried that I might find the sea days a little tiresome and boring, particularly the 5 in a row between Egypt and Dubai however I could not have been more wrong, and the sea days were actually some of my favourites. Each evening we received a daily programme in our stateroom which listed all the activities for the following day along with evening dress code and information on guest performers. I looked forward to planning our next day and it was a struggle to fit everything in there was so much on offer. I guess at this point it is worth mentioning that on this particular voyage the majority of travellers were aged around 50 upwards and I guess many of the activities are geared towards this age group. However to put my review into context, I am 32 and was probably the youngest on board (bar 2 toddlers I saw) however I threw myself into it and thoroughly enjoyed everything on offer. Daytime activities included many pub quizzes in the Golden Lion pub (very enjoyable particularly as these days in usual pub quizzes everyone can cheat on their phone -- not so easily done at sea so much more enjoyable), daily lectures and talks, films and planetarium shows, shuffleboard, decathlon, short tennis, golf (there is an indoor simulator also), water volleyball, darts, i-seminars, art classes, make up demonstrations and our personal favourite ballroom dance classes with the wonderful Wilfried and Ilona ex ballroom and latin champions who were lovely and even managed to get my partner interested in dancing who has NEVER shown any interest before despite constant nagging! Flower arranging with Mikee and Mario is not to be missed, a hilarious double act and a fun 4 hour session over 2 days which allowed us to keep our floral masterpieces and have them in our stateroom or on the dinner table. There is a $50 supplement for this activity but well worth it for the fun you will have. Cunard do their best to secure good guest lecturers and entertainers and on this voyage Martin Bell, Ruthie Henshall, Roy Walker were the headliners, all of whom were very popular and very entertaining in their respective fields. However lesser known entertainers such as Goronwy Thom -- comedy juggler and Elio Pace -- singer and pianist were absolutely excellent. This brings me onto the subject of entertainment as a whole. The Royal Court singers and dancers were top quality and the shows presented were better than many I have seen in the West End and Broadway, shows were usually performed twice a night in the gorgeous theatre and this was good to give flexibility around different dinner sittings. On a couple of occasions we watched the shows twice as they were so good. The Entertainment staff and social hostess who ran the quizzes did an ok job but personality wise they were somewhat lacking apart from Paul (Ents Director) who was very good with his patter. I could not believe the number of wonderful resident musicians on board -- a string quartet, cocktail pianists, a jazz trio, the Queens Room orchestra, Vibz Caribbean band and Joey Mix with his Royal Court Orchestra were all outstanding and there was much live music on offer each day. Highlights were Dixieland in the Winter Garden, and the Afternoon Tea Dances with the Queens Room Orchestra and vocalist Michel Chartier. Food was overwhelming in terms of the amount on offer. The Kings Court buffet is open for 22 hours a day and serves pretty much anything you can think of, I agree with other reviews that the layout of this area isn't very cosy but we didn't eat there that often, only really for post evening dancing snacks and cookies before bed! When the weather is warm the boardwalk cafe is open in the afternoon and this serves great burgers, chips and salad. The main Britannia Restaurant was large and glamorous as I expected and we had such an attentive waiter and sommelier. When torn between 2 dishes they will offer to bring you both and no request was too much. We were always welcomed with a smile and enjoyed every evening we dined in here. Over our 18 day cruise I did consume a lot of food however it was too delicious not to and that is what holidays are all about. It is worth spending one evening dining in the Todd English restaurant, you pay a supplement here but the food was first class and it was a nice special treat. Drinks are plentiful and although pricey, you get what you pay for and the cocktails and champagne in particular were lovely. My tip is to have pre dinner cocktails in the Commodore Club on deck 9, which has a lovely ambience particularly when the pianist it playing, check out the molecular cosmopolitan for a delicious sweet and tangy treat. The Chart Room and Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar are also nice for a pre dinner aperitif. We opted to pay $6.50 per day and have unlimited soft drinks, this was well worth it and I would recommend it for people who like to have plenty of cola, lemonade, orangeade or juices as you can use this in any of the bars. I believe that Cunard line do many more formal nights than other companies and this was something which I personally loved as back at home these days, one never gets the chance very often to get dressed up. Everyone respected the dress code and it was such a lovely feeling looking around and seeing the glamour and sophistication of all the guests. Formal nights included a Masquerade Ball, Egyptian Ball, Burns Night Ball, and Black and White Ball, all of which we were informed about in advance of our voyage enabling us to bring appropriate formal wear. The Queens Ball room is elegant and again the live music, singing and performances by the resident dance couples are highlights of the evening. There are a number of pools and jacuzzi's and the indoor / outdoor pavilion pool with sliding glass roof on the top deck is a popular choice when the weather is not so hot, as it was when departing Southampton on 9th January! My personal favourite outdoor space was the stern of deck 8 as there was a terrace bar here and once the weather was warm it was a sunbathing hotspot and lunch time live music by the pool with Vibz really made the holiday. One of my favourite days was our trip down the Suez Canal as the weather was hot, I was in the Jacuzzi with a glass of prosecco enjoying the scenery and the live music -- absolute bliss. The one niggle I had on this voyage was the service received at the Pursers Office, as the staff here seemed a little disinterested in their jobs and they weren't as helpful as they could have been. Whilst enjoying a lovely performance by the on board choir in the Grand Lobby, they wouldn't shut up from talking very loudly interrupting the singing, and even my long glares didn't seem to make any difference. Apart from this we thoroughly enjoyed our time at sea and once we disembarked in Dubai I felt very sad to be leaving this magnificent beautiful ocean liner which by that point felt like home. I guess as a first time "cruiser" I have nothing to compare it to, however if you enjoy old fashioned glamour, variety, succulent fayre, live music, high quality entertainment and beautiful surroundings then this is the ocean liner for you. I am saving already for my next trip! Read Less

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