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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
The service on the cruise was outstanding. My waiter Ciprian or chip was amazing always made sure we had everything we needed. Everyone on the cruise was very welcoming handbags helpfu. Getting on and off the ship went very smoothly. There ... Read More
The service on the cruise was outstanding. My waiter Ciprian or chip was amazing always made sure we had everything we needed. Everyone on the cruise was very welcoming handbags helpfu. Getting on and off the ship went very smoothly. There was 8 of us that cruises on the splendor, they always made sure to give us all the space we needed. The cruise gave us options once you got off the ship such as excursions and restaurants to go eat at or see. Entertainment on the ship was amazing. The shows on the ship they would do we’re so much fun and you could even talk to the cast afterwards. They were so sweet and fun to be around. The comedy shows we’re hilarious and they had family shows too so everyone can watch them. Certain nights they would hold deck parties and play music and just dance all night. On other nights they would hold movies out on the deck where everyone could lay out and watch them it was awesome. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2018
We are loyal Celebrity cruisers and wanted to try something more upscale and on a smaller ship. The Azamara Quest was truly a wonderful experience. The cabins were a bit smaller but had very efficient storage space and decorated with ... Read More
We are loyal Celebrity cruisers and wanted to try something more upscale and on a smaller ship. The Azamara Quest was truly a wonderful experience. The cabins were a bit smaller but had very efficient storage space and decorated with lovely cool gray colors. The closets light up when the door is opened. The food was wonderful in the Main dining room. We enjoyed breakfast, some lunches and some dinners there. We also ate in the specialty restaurants which were a cut above the main dining room in service and ambiance. Overall possibly the best food we have had on any of our many cruises. There were two wonderful evenings you can read about on the web site “White Night” and the “Azamazing Evening”. Both events are so well organized and enjoyable. A must not miss for sure. The entertainment is more subdued than on a ship like Celebtrity but still several beautifully appointed spaces to relax and enjoy a drink before or after dinner. Overall, it was a more sophisticated atmosphere. The decor and ambiance was relaxing and classic. There were no photographers hounding us for photos. There was no pressure to keep spending more money on extra things. The fare is all-inclusive for basic spirits and wines etc. This was wonderful and no need to upgrade unless you are very picky. Highly recommend this ship! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
We have made multiple cruises with Azamara and have never been disappointed. The friendly crew and officers keep bringing us back for more. We have always been treated as welcome and important guests. Incredible experience. We have ... Read More
We have made multiple cruises with Azamara and have never been disappointed. The friendly crew and officers keep bringing us back for more. We have always been treated as welcome and important guests. Incredible experience. We have repeatedly cruised on the Journey and this was our first time on the Quest. Never once did we feel out of place. The atmosphere on board was identical to what we would have expected on the Journey. We even met 5 or 6 crew members who recognized us from our previous cruises on the Journey. How wonderful is that?. The only negative we experienced was their decision to change the entertainment offered. They have dropped the production shows and substituted a formula combining comedy theater and vocalists which needs considerable work. Hopefully the company will recognize the error that they have made and correct it quickly. We have every faith that they will bring their entertainment offerings back to the previous levels. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2018
Went on this cruise because it was out of San Diego and had 2 new ports for me. I lived near Loreto so it was like going back in time. Loved how you felt like family on board. Would have liked to have singers and dancers. The ... Read More
Went on this cruise because it was out of San Diego and had 2 new ports for me. I lived near Loreto so it was like going back in time. Loved how you felt like family on board. Would have liked to have singers and dancers. The "short Plays" would have been fine in between other entertainment but not for an hour. Not the right venue. The actors that did the readings were very personable and I liked the idea that they were at some of the parties and got audience participation. Had a great time with them. Hotel director Phillip stood out to me as he worked on the line serving food when needed and was always smiling and friendly. Embarkation went smoothly, usually does in San Diego....don't know why there aren't more cruises leaving from San Diego. It is one of the most convenient cruise ports as far as getting from the airport and things to do and hotels in the areas. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
i chose this sailing because of a special promotion which made the price reasonable compared to most other azamera cruises and it had an interesting intinerary.. i had always wanted to sail on azamera due to its excellent reputation for ... Read More
i chose this sailing because of a special promotion which made the price reasonable compared to most other azamera cruises and it had an interesting intinerary.. i had always wanted to sail on azamera due to its excellent reputation for food quality, its small size, the free liquor and free gratuities. it lived up to my expectations, the staff is very friendly, the captain down to the housekeeping, food was excellent, white nights is a terrific event, get there early and grab a table with a very high end buffet. tendering was orderly and had minimal waits. the only 2 reasons it is not rated 5 stars was that we had a botched excursion where the vendor swisstours did not do all elements of the excursion in papagayo, azamera did refund us 50 per cent but we really wanted the complete refund. the second issue was the best entertainment on the ship was the singers and dancers and russ the cruise director who is also an excellent singer. azamera for some reason is letting go of all their singers and dancers as of feb 8th for some type of new format. this cruise had 3 nights of a violinist and a piano player/magician. do i really need 3 nights for classical music and no comedians. the inside cabin we had seemed smaller than other ships the same room size. overall though the cruise was excellent and i would definitely go on this cruise line. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
Azamara Quest Review Costa Rica 15-25 Jan 2018 This was our sixth cruise with Azamara and it was every bit as good as the last five. We stayed in Hotel Bougainvillea in Santo Domingo, outside San Jose, for 4 days before embarkation. ... Read More
Azamara Quest Review Costa Rica 15-25 Jan 2018 This was our sixth cruise with Azamara and it was every bit as good as the last five. We stayed in Hotel Bougainvillea in Santo Domingo, outside San Jose, for 4 days before embarkation. The hotel was set in 10 acres of botanical gardens and had a swimming pool. It was great for bird watching. We took a tour from there to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which was excellent, and went into San Jose by taxi to see the National Theatre (amazing building). The hotel arranged transport for us and another couple to the port. The evening before embarkation we got an email from Azamara saying that due to high winds the port of embarkation had changed from Puerto Caldera to Puntarenas. The hotel was able to rearrange the transport for us, and it ended up costing us $70 a couple in a very comfortable mini-bus. When we got to Puntarenas we found embarkation a little different than usual. We were directed into a terminal building to be given a medical form, then took the shuttle bus along the pier to the ship. Check-in was completed in the Cabaret Lounge. This was all done with very little fuss and little queuing - given the short notice, we felt this was handled very well and efficiently. Our verandah stateroom was very comfortable. Our two attendants did a good job, bringing me lots of extra hangers and making sure our fridge had plenty of tonic waters as we requested. We are most nights in Discoveries (MDR) and found the food to be excellent, with some dishes being outstanding. We like to share tables, but found it quite difficult to do this because we like to dine fairly late and by the time we got there all the large tables had filled up. However we found that even when we had a table for two, we could chat to the couple at the next table. Service was generally very good, although on a couple of occasions we had quite a gap between courses. The included wines were OK and if we didn’t like the day’s offerings, it was usually possible to get some of a previous day’s wine. We booked dinner in Prime C (speciality restaurant - $30 a head extra) one night and, as always, the food and service was superb. We ate breakfast in Windows (buffet), where again the tea & coffee service was excellent. We mostly had lunch in the Patio, though I often went into Windows to get a slice of the roast meat of the day to have with salad. The cruise only had 2 sea-days and we spent these in our favourite spot -deck 11 sun-deck. The Azamazing evening was due to be held in the old part of Panama City, but as the weather was unsettled, the Captain decided to bring it onboard. It was a folk-dancing show and was quite good, but inevitably it lost atmosphere being held in the cabaret lounge. The White Night was excellent. The buffet included lobster, steak, lamb, Frito Misto, Paella and, of course, crepes suzettes served by the Hotel Manager. It was quite an emotional occasion, as it was Captain Carl Smith’s last voyage on the Quest before taking over the new Azamara ship, the Pursuit. The ports we went to were: Panama City - (two days). On the first day we took the Hop On Hop Off bus from Fuerte Amador where the boat docked and got off at the Miraflores lock. We didn’t see any ships going through the lock, but thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition about the canal and how it was built. On the second day we got a taxi into the old town and had a wander around it and around the fish market close by. Golfito - a small town right next to the dock. We had booked a private tour along with others on our Roll call. The tour was a boat trip in the Golfe Dulce to see dolphins, which we did -a pod of 340! We were then taken to an animal sanctuary where we saw monkeys, an ocelot, macaws, sloths and a tayra. Lastly we had the opportunity to snorkel over a small reef. Quepos - tendered port - there seemed to be quite a nice little town next to the tender port. Again we had booked a private tour to Manual Antonio National Park. The tour company met us just outside the tender port and took us to the park, where we walked through the park with a guide who had a monocular and who was able to point out various animals, birds and frogs along the way. The path led to the beach where we had time for a swim before setting off back again. Then we were taken for lunch in a local restaurant. Unfortunately it was a Sunday when we were there so the Park was very busy as the trail to the beach was used by them. We had to queue to get into the park, and then queue along the way to be able to see reptiles, birds, animals & frogs along the way. San Juan Del Tour, Nicaragua,- tendered port. This was a nice little town with a nice beach and lots of beach bars and restaurants, all close to the tender port. We had booked a private half day tour of the town, a visit to the statue of Christ Misericordia perched on the cliff over the town( half the size of Christ the Redeemer in Rio), then to an adventure park where we had a bone rattling ride in 4x4s, to a viewpoint where we could see Lake Nicaragua and it’s 2 volcanoes. From there we could do an included short walk or visit an Iguana Sanctuary, or do Zip-lining for an extra $30. I opted for the zip-lining, which was a first for me - I loved it! We ended up at a seaside restaurant for an included drink and to watch an excellent display of folk-dancing. Puntarenas -the ship was docked at the pier of this small seaside town. This time we took the ship’s tour to the Cloud Forest which was fascinating and included butterfly and humming bird gardens. The tour included lunch and the inevitable stop at a souvenir shop. Disembarkation was, as usual, very easy. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
It was LA to LA, so very little flying from Las Vegas. The ship is small, but big enough, so as not to feel cramped. Our suite is always the correct size. The food is so much better than other cruise lines. We never seem to be rushed like ... Read More
It was LA to LA, so very little flying from Las Vegas. The ship is small, but big enough, so as not to feel cramped. Our suite is always the correct size. The food is so much better than other cruise lines. We never seem to be rushed like other cruises on bigger ships with 2 dinning seating. This time the enrichment lectures were not as good as we have had before, they were only average. The service has always been excellent and this time was no different everyone is so helpful. Always smiling and asking if they can get you anything, so pleasant. We were at sea a good share of the time. The ports in Mexico are for the most part very nice. Shore excursions were varied and there was something for everyone. Sometimes it was nice to just stay on board and read a book, they had a nice selection in the library. We are already booked on the Navigator in 2019 for a northern Atlantic cruise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
This was out third Crystal cruise and probably our last for a while . While the service and food were top notch , the average age of our fellow cruisers had to be well in the 80's . I'm not young by any stretch , 59 . But ... Read More
This was out third Crystal cruise and probably our last for a while . While the service and food were top notch , the average age of our fellow cruisers had to be well in the 80's . I'm not young by any stretch , 59 . But anywhere we went walkers , canes , rascals, wheelchairs . I'm sorry but I want to be with someone closer to my demographic. Perhaps Crystal can have themed cruises catering to younger people , eg: classic rocker or jazz performers. Maybe a yoga theme . They are going to need to attract younger people , because soon their client base wont be able to travel or just wont be here any longer . Sorry if this seems cruel and I realize and hope that one day I will be this old man that everyone complains about . Its hard to give up all the great things crystal has to offer , but until I get older I just may have to . Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
We love the Sea of Cortez itinerary and this was a great trip. The other people on this cruise were great and we meet lots of other interesting people. We had lots of stimulating conversations. The crew is a happy one and do all they can ... Read More
We love the Sea of Cortez itinerary and this was a great trip. The other people on this cruise were great and we meet lots of other interesting people. We had lots of stimulating conversations. The crew is a happy one and do all they can to take care of any problem you may have. The food was good with just a few exceptions. The complimentary wine selections have improved enormously since sailing with them 8 months ago. That really made the meals even better Wish that Coors Light was on the list of complimentary - had to pay 2.75 for it. Bud Light is complimentary. But that sure is a small complaint. Captain Jose was amazing keeping us closer to shore to avoid swells after one of the California storms. He even told us that we would be near St Ignacio lagoon at sunset - this is a Grey whale sanctuary where there are lots of whales and dolphins - unfortunately we did not see much from the ship but I sincerely appreciated the try for it. When was the last time you had a cruise ship even look for wildlife much less tell you to watch for it! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2017
Cruising out of San Diego, CA has the benefits of a clean well run cruise terminal, a beautiful city and every tourist accommodation. Still, the first and last two days on board are spent reaching the Sea of Cortez, and the times we have ... Read More
Cruising out of San Diego, CA has the benefits of a clean well run cruise terminal, a beautiful city and every tourist accommodation. Still, the first and last two days on board are spent reaching the Sea of Cortez, and the times we have done it, the weather has been mild but not tropical. Our stateroom was nicely appointed, although on the small side for verandah rooms on high end ships today. Concierge service (in fact, all service) was very pleasant and helpful. Room was kept moore neat than clean. "Extra charges" and sales promotions are held to a pleasant minimum, as are PA system announcements. Food was quite good and quite varied too. Long lines and crowds were usually well controlled, with some exceptions. Boarding the vessel in San Diego involved standing in a long long line, wishing we had signed for a suite. Oddly, debarking was a model of quick and painless re-uniting with luggage, passport control and customs. Four elevators (two forward, two aft) usually worked efficiently but not when events opened or ended. Reservations at specialty restaurants (there are just two) seemed to fill up quite fast, almost before we left San Diego. Flexible dining meant a line at the dining room early on, with no line an hour later but by then, sometimes having to miss the entertainment. Azamazing - the evening party and piece de resistance - was in fact as amazing as anything I might have conjured up. If you go, do not miss it. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
The itenerary for this cruise was the main deciding point for us. Plus being able to drive to and from San Diego was great. Our trip to Copper Canyon, though long, was terrific! The guide was very informative about the canyon, its people ... Read More
The itenerary for this cruise was the main deciding point for us. Plus being able to drive to and from San Diego was great. Our trip to Copper Canyon, though long, was terrific! The guide was very informative about the canyon, its people and their history. He also told us about the construction of the train track. Azamara reserved a special train that held just cruise passengers so it wasn't at all crowded. The crew on the Quest were as friendly and helpful as always. It is so nice to be remembered and appreciated. We also loved the chance to see small towns in Mexico that we have not visited. It was particularly nice to be in little towns that don't typically have cruise ships visit. I will continue to travel with Azamara whenever possible. We always feel as if we are part of a big family when we board either of their two ships. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
My wife and I just completed a two night ‘mini-cruise’ aboard Regent Seven Seas newest and most luxurious ship, the Explorer. We have sailed aboard Regent Mariner before and were looking forward to seeing how Explorer compared. ... Read More
My wife and I just completed a two night ‘mini-cruise’ aboard Regent Seven Seas newest and most luxurious ship, the Explorer. We have sailed aboard Regent Mariner before and were looking forward to seeing how Explorer compared. Regent claims that the Explorer is not just their most luxurious ship, but the most luxurious ship afloat. Although I have not been aboard every ship afloat, Regent’s claim is not overstated. How does one define luxury? For me, it is defined by the overall design; size of the suites; accommodations within the suites; the pristine, well thought out décor, trims, paintings, flooring, carpet---the general ambience; the food choices and quality; the selection of beverages and complete food service; the professional and warm crew and staff; but most of all, the attention to detail to all of the above. Regent is known for all of this on their other vessels, but Explorer is in a class by itself. I had seen pictures and videos of the ship and was impressed, but upon my first steps aboard, I realized that this ship cannot be appreciated in a two dimensional world, it must be seen and experienced in three dimensions. The grandeur and majesty of the Grand Salon area demands a real-time presence. It is spectacular while being both functional and welcoming. That’s hard to do. Something that looks majestic from a distance often cannot bear close scrutiny. This is not the case with Explorer. The details scream out, “Look at me!” and close up the workmanship is extraordinary. Our Concierge level suite was spacious, well decorated with a huge amount of closet and draw space. The bath area, with a double sink as well as both a stand-up shower (with great shower heads!) and a bath tub with a shower was larger than expected. It allowed for two people to prepare at the same time without stumbling into each other. The bed was super comfortable; the TV was large (never turned it on) and the welcome bottle of champagne was most welcome. The balcony was spacious and with beautiful wicker looking furniture. As far as the meals are concerned, only being on board for two nights, our evening meals were taken at Pacific Rim and Prime 7 restaurants, while we had breakfast at Compass Rose and lunch at La Veranda. The service we received at all of the restaurants we chose was professionally perfect and often punctuated with genuine warmth and concern for the enjoyment of our meal. The décor of both Pacific Rim and Prime 7 were up to par with the finest of land based restaurants. Pacific Rim offers Pan Asian dishes that are light on the palate and beautifully presented. The appetizer menu is challenging because you want to try everything. We had several starters and they met our expectations. For our main course, the Lobster Tempura was truly outstanding. I would also recommend the Mochi for dessert. Prime 7 holds a special place in our hearts as this was where my wife and I had our wedding dinner (on the Mariner) in 2010. Nothing has changed. It is still my favorite steak house on dry land or on the water. It is the attention we received from the caring staff of the Prime 7 who served us that made our evening special complemented the outstanding food choices. If there is a thread running through our all-inclusive Explorer experience it is the attention to detail. Whether it is the ship’s overall design or the softness of the carpets on the stairways or the mirrored view looking out of the mid-ship elevator which doubles the size of the area or the smiles of crew and staff each time they see you, it was the consistent attention to detail that made me feel that this ship and those who are part of the staff and crew, make it the most luxurious ship afloat. Were there any negatives? I’ll be picky. The light system in the suite is very complicated to figure out and after two days, I was still turning on and off the wrong lights in the room. The shower system in the walk-in shower comes without directions and it takes some experimenting to tame it. Once you’ve accomplished this, it adds to the luxury experience. To summarize, if you are looking for an all-inclusive luxury cruise experience, why not go with the most luxurious ship afloat—Regent Seven Seas Explorer. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was our third Oceania Cruise, our previous two being on Regatta to Alaska. We chose Oceania this time due to an excellent experience on Regatta last July. I will be concise here as compared to my previous reviews. Overall I would ... Read More
This was our third Oceania Cruise, our previous two being on Regatta to Alaska. We chose Oceania this time due to an excellent experience on Regatta last July. I will be concise here as compared to my previous reviews. Overall I would rank this cruise a B+ on the school grading scale. 1) The Ship/Cabin: We never sailed the Sirena when she was a Princess ship, but the $50 million dollar upgrade looks well spent. Hard to believe it was a 17 year old ship. She is beautiful: New and better furniture, marble public Bathrooms. computer screens in the elevators. Nearly a carbon copy of Regatta, but quite a bit newer feeling. Beds and linens brand new. Still need to get used to the small cabins on R-ships, but the public areas are immaculate. 2) Dining: We may not be a good source for this. We ate exclusively @ the Terrace Cafe with a couple stops @ Waves Grill. I was told that the table service at the Grand Dining Room was quite long (slow). We typically eat dinner early (5-6 pm) so we decided not to wait. That being said, the Terrace was excellent with a great assortment of food cooked to perfection. The new Tapas selections were particularly wonderful. Waves was just okay; nothing spectacular. Reminded me of an upscale Dennys. Fries were great however. We unfortunately did not reserve any specialty restaurants, and were going to wing it on board. Very difficult to get a seating this way as both restaurants were fully booked by the 3rd day of a 10 day cruise. I am sure if we pressed, we could have gotten a seating, but my wife was satisfied with just eating at the Terrace. Frankly, I was just as happy. After 25 cruises on several lines, in our experience, nothing compares to the food quality on Oceania in terms of buffets. It is astoundingly good. Most of the dishes in the Dining Room were served here as well, but it was warm and ready to eat instantly @ 630pm when Terrace opens. Rarely a crowd here for dinner. 3) Service: As always, Oceania excels in this department. No problems whatsoever. As we do eat early, out room stewardess and steward were right on the ball making up our room spotlessly in record time. Excellent. Bar Service and Terrace service were equally excellent. 4) Ports: We have done the Mexican Riviera many times, so nothing new here, except for La Paz which was really nice. If you go, check out the Whale Museum in the heart of the Melancon. We also went to their local Anthropology Museum and had a nice guided tour. We did somewhat boring excursions in Cabo and Ensenada. Ensenada has great wines in case you did not know. 5) Entertainment: The Activities Staff did wonderful with a somewhat grouchy crowd. The String Quartet and House Band were great. We listened to the quartet extensively. They are amazing. Afternoon Tea was also excellent, with the Quartet being the centerpiece. We missed most shows as we are early crashers Casino staff were wonderful. My wife actually won. The Enrichment lecturer was quite good and very professional. Overall Expression: Sirena is not quite up to the par of Regatta, or perhaps the other O-ships. 90% excellent, but it was the little things. Something was lacking. The Cappuccino machines were sometimes malfunctioning or not being maintained. Towels were sometimes not available in the bathrooms. A public toilet or two was not flushable, as was ours once (they fixed it immediately). Water and soft drinks would be available for bingo, but no glasses (once). The bingo machine died halfway through the cruise. One of the early morning cleaning guys had significantly bad B.O. and he would clean the library while I was reading and leave a NASTY presence. I was not sure how to address that, but clearly the Hotel manager should do so or at least notice. Little things kept reminding me of a certain lack of attention to detail. Christmas cookies would be out along some displays, but the next morning empty plates and a disastrous spread of cookies was sitting there way too long. Little things like that. Even Dottie, the cruise director, wasn't as bubbly and nice as previously. Our fellow passengers consisted of a large number of whiners and complainers which sort of put a damper on our experience. The demographic on this particular cruise was a bit older than I expected. There was only one child on board. Don't get me wrong; we had a GREAT cruise, but not the best cruise. Still, we got what we wanted: a nice relaxing 10 days off to relax, to do nothing and to overeat some outstanding food. We were well pampered and well satisfied. Sirena is only 6 months into her life as an O ship. Still working out the bugs I suspect. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
My mom and I were on the December 11, 10-day "Coast to Canyons" cruise on the Sirena. We traveled as part of a larger group. Other than a transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2, Oceania is the highest-end cruise line either of ... Read More
My mom and I were on the December 11, 10-day "Coast to Canyons" cruise on the Sirena. We traveled as part of a larger group. Other than a transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2, Oceania is the highest-end cruise line either of us had been on. I was a bit nervous coming into the cruise, having read some negative reviews of the ship. However, overall it was one of the best cruises I've been on, especially for the food. Embarkation and Debarkation: The Sirena was by far the smallest cruise ship I've ever been on—Holland America's Maasdam was the smallest until now. With only 599 passengers to board, and no other ship at the Port of Los Angeles on our first or last day, getting on and off the ship was incredibly easy. It took barely 20 minutes from the time our group was called on the last morning to having our luggage and waiting for the bus home. The Ship: Sirena was incredibly easy to get around. You could walk from one end of the ship to the other in just a few minutes. One night we had dinner at Tuscan Steak on the 10th deck and didn't finish until 9:20, and we were down the elevator and across to the Sirena Lounge on the 5th deck just after 9:30 and in time for the show. Our cabin, Stateroom 6017, was right above the Sirena Lounge but we never heard any noise from there, even during one of the production shows. I also didn't notice any signs of wear and tear with the furnishings. All the chairs were very comfortable, though I would suggest having chairs that are slightly less heavy in the Sirena Lounge to make it easier to arrange them for trivia. The boutiques were small but we made good use of all our shipboard credit. I was surprised that they don't sell bottles of liquor in the boutiques to take home. The Cabin: Ok, this is the one big issue I had. The cabins were just too small. I knew going in the bathroom would be tiny, and it was. And I know that Oceania couldn't do anything about the cabin size. However, it was still a huge shock to open the door and see how little room there was to move about. I lost count of how many times I walked into the beds or makeup table. We did have enough space for all our belongings, by using every drawer and hanger available to us. We also used the laundry facilities once, and they would be a must on a longer cruise. But the beds were incredibly comfortable, and our cabin attendant Zin and her assistant were fantastic. We also appreciated having a minibar. The Passengers: Befitting the higher cost compared to most ships that sail out of Southern California, the passengers on the Sirena were largely older. I'm 43 and was probably in the bottom 10 percent in terms of age. There was one little girl traveling with her grandparents, but no other children. We had a good mix of different cruising experiences, from Carnival through Seabourn. People were by and large very friendly and dressed nicely for dinner. I still can't figure out what country club casual is, though. The Food and Drink: The food on the Sirena was easily the best part of the cruise. There were a few items we didn't like as much—my mom was disappointed by her monkfish in the GDR one night, as was I with the roast chicken, and our entrees at Tuscan Steak were overdone—but those were rare missteps. It's too hard to list all the highlights, but some of the best meals and dishes we had were the miso seabass at Red Ginger, all the breakfast pastries in the GDR and Terrace Café, the ice cream at lunch and dinner, the veal Bolognese in the GDR, and the omelettes. And I must give a specific shout out to the holiday cookies they started putting out midway through the cruise. The cocktails and wine by the glass selection were also very good, though we weren't able to get Moscow Mules in the Horizons Lounge one night because they had already run out of ginger beer. My favorite drink wound up being a sparkling wine cocktail, the Hugo. The Activities and Entertainment: I do wish there had been more activities on port days, especially because these are ports that the heavily West Coast crowd had likely visited numerous times. Morning trivia would be nice, or perhaps other choices beyond putting, shuffleboard, bean bag toss, and spa seminars. I did enjoy the lectures we attended on sea days. The bright side was I got a lot of reading done on the port days where we didn't take excursions. The nighttime entertainment was very good and high quality. My mom enjoyed being able to understand the production show singers, and Dale Kristien was excellent. After a two-hour dinner and show, we were too tired to go up to the Horizon Lounge, so I can't speak to that. The Excursions: We took three excursions, one each in La Paz, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. I liked the La Paz tour, which mostly took us around the city, and the Puerto Vallarta excursion, which included a tour and tasting of a tequila factory. However, the Mazatlan excursion was disappointing. It was an hour shorter than scheduled, and the guide did not make it clear when we were in the Gold Zone. Also, both the Mazatlan and PV tours included long stops in jewelry stores. I would expect a little better from Oceania. The Service: Next to the food, this was the best part of the cruise. It helped to have 400 crew members to 599 passengers. The staff was always very helpful without ever being obtrusive. I loved not being asked over and over again if I'd like something to drink. The staff at the Terrace Café was always on top of things. I thought being served at the buffet might be inefficient but it worked great. A special nod to Valentina, who was always really kind and helpful, and very generous with desserts. The Value: I have never been on a cruise before, excluding a riverboat, where so much was included. No charge for coffee drinks, or for lobster, or for ice cream. It's hard to judge how much we saved compared to sailing on Princess or Carnival or Celebrity, because I wouldn't have indulged like this on those ships. However, given the level of service and all that's included, I think Oceania is a much better value than I anticipated. I don't know when the opportunity to sail with them again might arise but I would certainly consider it. Overall, I would give the Oceania Sirena very high marks but perhaps wouldn't mind trying an Oceania ship with larger cabins next time. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Oceania Sirena Baja California – Mexico Cruise December 11-21 2016 Why this cruise? We are experienced cruisers with 34 ocean and 3 river cruises over the past 17 years, enjoying ... Read More
Oceania Sirena Baja California – Mexico Cruise December 11-21 2016 Why this cruise? We are experienced cruisers with 34 ocean and 3 river cruises over the past 17 years, enjoying Crystal, Oceania, Celebrity, Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Commodore, Azamara, Princess and Holland America ships, as well as Viking, Avalon and Ama Waterways river boats. We have always enjoyed the “small ship” cruises we have done on Azamara Quest as well as Oceania’s Insignia and Nautilus. We do not particularly enjoy the pre-Christmas commercial rush and noise, so this seemed like a good opportunity for a relaxing time. Getting there and Embarkation. We considered driving from our home in Phoenix to a Long Beach CA hotel and leaving our car there until our return. We did this on our first cruise with Carnival in 1999, but finally decided that since we could avoid the crowds and confusion of LAX by flying directly into the Long Beach Airport on Sunday morning, we would do that. This airport is quite small and easy to navigate, and had only one other flight on the ground; so this proved to be a good way to go. The timing was virtually perfect and we went through the embarkation process at the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal in a few minutes. While waiting for the elevator upon boarding, we were pleased to hear that our deck’s staterooms were ready and available so we dropped our carry on belongings off, went to the buffet for lunch and then proceeded to the beautiful library on deck 10 to pick up some reading material. Since Sirena has only been sailing since the spring, the book selection was very up to date. Our Stateroom. The eight identical Renaissance ships; named without much imagination as Renaissance I through Renaissance VIII; were built between 1998 and 2001. So they all suffer from the somewhat dated design ideas of 20 years ago. This means that the “standard” verandah cabin is rather small, 204 square feet including 34 square feet of verandah. The Penthouse suite has 332 square feet which includes 66 square feet of verandah. We had chosen this suite for our initial cruise from Manaus out the Amazon to Barbados on Insignia, and been upgraded by Oceania to this class on a Mediterranean cruise. Our third Oceania trip was in a standard Verandah class, but since this seemed cramped we opted for the larger suite on Azamara Quest, (an identical Renaissance ship), in 2015, and chose it again for this trip. Our stateroom was 8010. The prime motif was dark wood, with light grey textured walls, a large mirror on one wall, and a nice, modern painting above the sofa. The desk arrangement was convenient, and next to it was the decent sized sofa. There were two arm chairs and a small table, probably adequate for room service (which we never use on any cruise). The verandah was good sized with two adjustable cane arm chairs that could be fitted with a padded seat and back cushion. There was a small table and a faux teak deck. The bed had two gooseneck directed focused reading lamps as well as normal wall lamps. These focused lamps made reading in bed very easy. The desk held a good sized laptop with internet service, which due to our suite status and prior sailing record, was free. I normally used the available computers in the Oceania @Sea computer room on Deck 9, since I like a mouse. We also enjoyed the full glass wall with the door leading out to the verandah, as it provided nice light all day. The bathroom had a full sized, obviously new shower, with both a rain shower head, a hand held spray head and a towel rack holding huge bath towels in addition to the normal sized bath towels and other towels on racks in the bathroom. There was a single sink, but cabinets and drawers on both sides providing all the room needed for toiletries. The closet was good sized with an easily sufficient number of nice quality clothes hangers provided. As usual on board ship, there was more than enough drawer space for all we brought aboard. The additional room provided in a suite meant that the stateroom was easy to navigate and well designed for relaxation. We liked Oceania’s layout better than the jazzy new design for these suites that we experienced on Azamara Quest on our cruise to Norway in July 2015. We had the prototype of this suite, and this meant that it was visited by the company CEO to show to a group of travel agents on our full day in port in Edinburgh prior to sailing. But the Azamara version has an open space between the closet and the desk, which is located all the way over to the verandah wall. This means that there is no sofa. In addition, the Azamara cabin chairs were less comfortable. In short, we think Oceania’s Penthouse suite on the ships is a good idea for a more comfortable journey with some nice amenities. However, if one really wants a great ship’s cabin experience the penthouse suites on Oceania’s Marina and Riviera, with more than 400 square feet, are a most delightful way to sail away. The ship itself. Sirena was launched as Renaissance IV in 1999, purchased by Princess Cruises and sailed as Ocean Princess for that line until bought by Oceania in 2015. Its “maiden sailing” for this line was in April 2017. The refurbishing done in connection with this acquisition shows up in many ways. Virtually all the furniture is new, as are some of the bathrooms, such as ours. The carpeting is new and the art work along the corridors and stairwells also, reflecting a very nice taste in non-objective art (if you like this art, as we do). Apparently the poolside decking was replaced also, as it looked very new and attractive. There were one or two blemishes or “dings” in two of the elevator doors, but we don’t know if these occurred before or after refurbishment. The essential layout of the ship remained the same, of course with its handy concept of “eat aft” and “enjoy forward”. The one exception to this rule was that the daily tea was served in the delightful Horizon Room, forward on Deck 10. This site offers excellent views, forward, port and starboard from comfortable seats, with a small dance floor in the center. It is used for some daytime activities and ship sponsored gatherings, as well as late night music and dancing. The center section of Deck 10 is open to the pool below, with a walking deck leading aft. This is where you find the two specialty restaurants, Tuscan Steak and Red Ginger, as well as the most attractive small library at sea. Deck 9 has the buffet aft, the pool area and the Spa and Gym forward. Decks 8, 7 and 6 are all cabins, with the bridge, forward of course, on Deck 8. Deck 5 has the show lounge forward, the casino, shops, the main bar, “Martinis” an “Upper Hall” seating area and the main dining room aft. Deck 4 has cabins and the Reception Desk, Destination Services and the Concierge, as well as the Medical Center. There are a few cabins on Deck 3 as well as the tender exits. Generally speaking the ship was well taken care of, with crew members frequently in evidence maintaining furnishings and ensuring cleanliness. All in all, Sirena is a compact, nicely designed, easily navigated and attractive vessel. Dining and such. Oceania has a well deserved reputation for providing a quality dining experience. Our personal favorite remains Crystal, and to be fair, we have not sailed on Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn or Silverseas ships. But Oceania comes in as our second favorite dining cruise line. It should be noted that Marina and Riviera, with four rather than two specialty restaurants, are a cut above the other four Oceania Renaissance class dining venues. Oceania does not have any added charges for its specialty restaurants and I believe that this is true for the other three high end cruise lines referenced above. All of the other major cruise lines have a range of extra charges for food venues beyond the main dining rooms and buffets. Sirena offers 5 dining options in four locations. This arises from the creation of “Jacques’ Bistro” as a separate lunch option in the main dining room. We tried it once and it was quite nice with an orientation to French food as might be expected in a restaurant named after Oceania’s cuisine supervisor, Jacques Pepin. The buffet offered a pleasant dinner option having the tables set up with linen table cloths and nice tableware. I have mentioned the specialty restaurants on Deck 10; Tuscan Steak and Red Ginger. The menu for the latter is Asian fusion, while the former, as one might expect from the name, features beef and Italian dishes. Without going into detail about our meals, it is enough to say that we were very satisfied. If Crystal scores 97 out of 100, and Marina 95, Sirena would reach 93. The range of ships in the Celebrity line would make it a little more difficult to reach an exact rating, but we think the probable score would be around 90. Azamara would come in about the same level, although, like Celebrity, it has additional charges for its specialty restaurants. We especially loved Red Ginger, dining there three times. We did not visit Tuscan Steak since we are not into that style of food. We did hear that the service there was not that great, that they tried to sell ordinary lobster tails as “Maine Lobster” but that the small filet mignon was great according to one diner. The main dining room has one level, and is a trifle noisy. The staff worked hard and was very pleasant, with no glitches in delivery. Open seating is the rule everywhere, and we used both the option to dine by ourselves or with others with no problem. Since the dining rooms open at 6:30 each night, there were lines at that time, but the maître d’ handled the rush very well. The menu selection was good with very little duplication of choices over 10 days. As noted, we ate at Red Ginger three nights. We loved this venue on our two Marina cruises, and were not disappointed here. The hostess; Alina, I believe, was charming and efficient, and the overall service level very high. The décor is very attractive and the venue quieter than the main dining room, with just enough bustle and activity to make it a charming experience. We ate one luncheon at Jacques’ Bistro, where the menu is fashioned after a Paris bistro, and thought that this was a great idea with a small but excellent menu and equally fine service. It was not too crowded, but probably draws enough patronage to justify its continued place in the dining firmament. We ate every breakfast and most lunches at the buffet. The “small ship” limitations was evident here in that the size of the service area was limited and that limits the extent of the menu. Despite this, the food was generally extremely good, and the selection broad enough for most tastes. The selection of fruit for breakfast was as large and good as on any ship. The service here was occasionally spotty. Edith liked to order cappuccino for her breakfast coffee, and sometimes delivery was slow. It should be noted that the tableware in all venues was first class. The dining room featured Rosenthal Versace dishes, and all other venues used well designed ware from Schoenwald. This is “hotel” china, and not porcelain of course, but I used to sell fine china in a school job long ago at a classy Georgetown D.C. store, and have kept my love of good tableware ever since. The glass ware and utensils were of equal quality. One other change from our prior Oceania experiences was the switching of the small bar next to the main dining room to a Barista serving cappuccinos, lattes etc. all day long without charge. Since this location is on Deck 5, fairly close to the main bar, Martinis, it made sense to skip the duplication and provide a new and pleasant choice. Entertainment. There were four forms of entertainment aboard. A pleasant lady offered some good lectures on sea days, all connected with Mexico and our ports. Martinis has a pianist “in residence” providing appropriate cocktail lounge music. There was a string quartet from Eastern Europe playing largely classical music in the evening in the Upper Hall near the boutiques on Deck 5, and every day at 4:00 in the Horizon Lounge for afternoon tea. They were enjoyable. Then there were the main shows every evening in the Sirena Lounge on Deck 5. The problem affecting these shows is that the lounge has two levels of flat floor, so most of the seats are directly behind other seats, limiting the view somewhat. This did not make a lot of difference for the solo singer, nor I would guess, the comedian whose shows we skipped. But it did limit views of the “production shows” and I would think, the magician, who we also chose not to see. The other issue we had was the schedule. There was only on show each night, and that was at 9:30. This was simply very late for us, and we were often tired, especially after shore visits. We thought that the production shows, with three singers and three dancers were entertaining in a simplistic way; about par for the cruise ship course. The solo singer, Dale Kristien, had been the lead female singer in the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera as well as the original Los Angeles production; and performed it over 1700 times. She was very good, and had a nice selection of songs. We don’t enjoy comedians, and as noted, were simply too tired at 9:30 for the magician, despite that fact that I enjoy these acts. Overall we found the entertainment about what you expect on a small ship. Only Crystal seems to have its act entirely together as far as entertainment and enrichment go, even though their ships are not exactly huge, Crystal Symphony carrying slightly less and Crystal Serenity slightly more than 1000 passengers. The crew. By and large their performance was exemplary. Our cabin attendant, Carolina and her assistant had our cabin made up every morning by the time we returned from breakfast. Our butler, Dorian, was efficient and helpful, although we did not use him very much and could have done without the $14.00 daily gratuity. We really did not need the 5:00 P.M. daily serving of peanuts, and could have managed the reservation at Red Ginger ourselves. All the rest of the staff was usually smiling and friendly. We were told by the Captain that while there were 14 different nations represented by the 599 person passenger complement, the 400 crew members came from 46 different countries. There were a few minor language difficulties, but all needed communications were accomplished. The Itinerary. This was not the most adventuresome trip we have done, but had enough places of interest to be enjoyable. Our initial sailing was “26 Miles Across the Bay” to Santa Catalina Island, where we had never been before. We took a local bus ride with a somewhat strange driver, but still enjoyed this unique place and the cozy little town of Avalon with its plethora of four passenger golf carts. Cabo San Lucas was a partial tour failure. This was not a ships tour, and we did reach Todos Santos up the Pacific Coast for an abbreviated excursion. We received partial reimbursement. La Paz on the Sea of Cortez side was about 11 miles from where we docked, but again a free shuttle was provided. We spent an hour or so there, and the waterfront with its Malecon is attractive. Our private tour into the hills outside Matzalan was very worthwhile. This city has grown a lot, and the north waterfront area has a wide range of newer hotels, condos and apartments. The interior was more typical of rural Mexico, and we enjoyed walking in on a three baby baptismal ceremony in a local church. Since many of the relatives were using their cell phone cameras, we felt comfortable in using ours. Another church in our final destination, Copala, was built in 1565, and still dramatic. There was another tour mix-up in Puerto Vallarta. But we did arrange a short tour downtown, with a full refund of our pre-paid charge. Since it was a Sunday, many stores were closed, but once again, the stunning growth of this area in the 16 years since our first visit was remarkable. Summary. This was largely an enjoyable trip. One very pleasing facet of the small ship experience is the higher degree of contact with your fellow passengers. If you are cruising on a 5000 passenger Royal Caribbean monster, and have dinner with a nice couple, the odds that you will ever run into them again are miniscule. On a 600 passenger ship you will probably see them at the buffet, a show, or tea or in a boutique some other day. This makes for a friendly and cheerful atmosphere. We also noted that almost all our fellow passengers were very experienced cruisers. While most were from the United States, there was a contingent, as always, from Canada, and some from Australia, as well as Europe. We were mostly senior citizens, and while Oceania does not have a children’s program, there were two young – about 10-12 years old – persons aboard, and they seemed to be doing fine. We would recommend Sirena for any cruise up to 21 days. Beyond that its size limitations might make the sailing grow a little tiring and boring. But it is a first class ship and rates very highly among our cruising favorites. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2016
I chose this cruise because I can drive to the port. Princes have the best dinning services and the best food choices but the desserts I have ever eaten are the best. The crew is always friendly. When I cruise I always choose Princess ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I can drive to the port. Princes have the best dinning services and the best food choices but the desserts I have ever eaten are the best. The crew is always friendly. When I cruise I always choose Princess because I know I won't be disappointed. I like to cruise just for the luxury. I don't go to shore anymore . Been there and done that. Just like to read and relax and do nothing. My favorite part is the motion of the ship it helps me sleep better. I try to cruise at least twice a year. It's good for change and relaxation for your well being. "Just get on the ship and forget it" that's what is so great about cruising. You also meet a lot of wonderful people from all over the world. I'm always surprised that people fly all the way to Los Angeles for a cruise to Mexico. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
As Journey was newly out of dry dock, there were some minor snagging issues with unfinished work but nothing to spoil the cruise. In the stateroom these were quickly rectified once pointed out. Caldera is not really geared for ... Read More
As Journey was newly out of dry dock, there were some minor snagging issues with unfinished work but nothing to spoil the cruise. In the stateroom these were quickly rectified once pointed out. Caldera is not really geared for passengers on cruise ships so initially it looked a bit disorganised at the port, but in fact we were on board in 40 minutes with nothing lost. As this was a first time on Azamara (normally sail Celebrity) I cannot say how much improvement has been done to the ship but she looked splendid and the crew are helpful and friendly from the Master down. Dining is excellent, all open seating and no formal nights. Tried the extra cost Chefs table - superb, Aqualina - Italian (ish) very good and Prime C - Steakhouse also very good. Actually the food is so good in the Discovery that on another occasion probably would not bother with the Speciality restaurants, although Chefs table could tempt me again! Aramara is inclusive of drinks and tips which was great and it in no way affected the service. Bar staff were great, attentive and generous with the measures. Serving staff and stateroom attendants excellent. As a small ship the entertainment team is limited but the Cruise Director, Eric was a great host and performer, he's always happy to chat to guests (as is Capt. Magnus and Staff Capt. Dario) the 6 singers and dancers were good and worked very hard. 7 piece orchestra were fantastic, their 2 special jazz gigs were outstanding. Solo guitarist Simon is terrific and cabaret pianist Ed also very good. Guest entertainers - all 4 very enjoyable. As the ship has no theatre only a cabaret lounge it must be quite difficult to perform so close to your audience but all seemed to make the most of it. The Azamazing evening up in the hills in Mexico was an adventure! 600 people transported by mini vans up unmade roads is quite an achievement. We loved the evening with traditional dance and music served up with canapés and Teqilla cocktails but seeing the stage was a challenge. As seating was all on the level those nor in the front 4 to 5 rows probably didn't see much not helped by people getting up and standing to take photos. I can understand why but under the circumstances rather selfish. White night, an on deck bbq evening was huge fun culminating in a huge conga around the ship. (Wish we'd know about it in advance so we could have taken approximate clothing, most guests made the effort to dress all in white). Aramara make a lot about the destinations and whilst all ports were fine we were disappointed by a couple tours. Poor inaccurate information resulted in one being unsuited to us and other guests, much more strenuous and we cancelled another. Overall a great cruise, probably spoils us for other lines. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2015
This was our first time cruising with NCL having sailed only with Princess on prior cruises. We went with no expectations and tried "not" to compare the Sun to the three Princess ships we had sailed but did find ourselves ... Read More
This was our first time cruising with NCL having sailed only with Princess on prior cruises. We went with no expectations and tried "not" to compare the Sun to the three Princess ships we had sailed but did find ourselves comparing a few times. Overall though we were very happy with the experience on board. A much more laid back crowd but then I guess that is what Freestyle cruising is all about. The ship, although a little smaller than the Grand, Golden and Ruby is still a large ship with plenty to keep you busy while at sea. Pool areas were often full during sea days with the good weather but generally were able to find a couple of seats within a short amount of time. Thought the entertainment was good with variety, They changed it up once or twice during the 11 days and brought new entertainers aboard. Food in the dining rooms was excellent IMO, and lunch and dinner in the Garden Cafe was generally quite good as well. The exact same breakfast options everyday get's to be a little boring, but, Princess was no different. We also had the free Ultimate Beverage Package which unlike Princess does not include bottled water, sparkling water or specialty coffees but considering they were throwing it in free with the room I'm not about to complain. We booked a guaranteed inside cabin but they dropped the price dramatically after booking so we called and were upgraded to a picture window ocean view ob deck 9 which was very nice. Enjoyed all ports of call. Acapulco, Manazanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Really not much to see in Manzanillo and all the newest development and resorts are to the North of the Port, although the old downtown is right in Port. All the staff for the most part were friendly. Jonas, Keiran. Elizabeth, Lucas at the bars were our favorite. Dining staff was good. And my wife really loved Encep our room steward who had a different Towel Animal each night we returned to our room. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our experience aboard NCL and I would sail with them again, especially if the price is right. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2015
My husband and I had been planning this trip for months and after such a positive experience on the Pride of America we could wait to be on another Norwegian cruise. The ship is very old and small. We couldn't get over how small ... Read More
My husband and I had been planning this trip for months and after such a positive experience on the Pride of America we could wait to be on another Norwegian cruise. The ship is very old and small. We couldn't get over how small the buffet area was. it was especially bad on the first day when everyone was trying to eat lunch at the same time. Once we set sail only the main buffet was open for lunch and the outside buffet would open at 3:00 PM. When the main buffet was closing and resetting for lunch. We couldn't understand why both buffets weren't opened with staggered closing times to be reset for dinner since the space was so small. The ship did offer pizza and pasta, but it was not in the same location as the buffet and was very difficult to find. They did offer a barbecue on the pool deck that helped with the lunch traffic on sea days. The ship is very chopped up and difficult to navigate through. All in all the ship is in major need of an overhaul in dry dock! I have never seen a cruise ship that had so few poolside activities. There were a lot of activities on the ship, but the ones I wanted to try were are during the day when I wanted to be at the pool in the sun. I would have liked more entertainment options in the evening starting around 6:00 PM, the dancing never starts on cruise ships until 9:45 or 10:00 PM. That's just to late for those of us that get up early. My favorite was Deal or No Deal game. I actually won $50.00 playing that game. The only good service I received on this ship was from my room steward and in the Casino. All of the other service I received was way below standard especially in the dinning rooms. Getting seating in the dining room was a chore. We were always the first or second couple to get to the dining room. After our table was assigned the server walking us to our table didn't know where the table was located. They were actually carrying maps of the dining room around, but still couldn't find our table. The service was very poor and slow in the main dining rooms you were left at your table for long periods of time before your order was taken and many times we had to request for items such as drinks, coffee, butter, cream and artificial sweetener multiple times. There was never enough staff at the pool bar for service and rarely were there employees walking around the pool deck asking if you needed anything from the bar. Acapulco - we did the city bus tour, shopping, and fort. This was a good tour and very informative. The shopping places they took us to were very expensive, Don't spend your money here, you can do better price wise in other ports. Manzanillo - we did the all inclusive beach getaway. This was a great excursion once we got there. The bus didn't have working air condition. Is is very hot in Mexico this time of year and we couldn't go on a bus without air conditioning. We were late getting away for our excursion and the bus still didn't have great working air conditioning. We were told to be back on the bus at 4:55 PM only to lean that the tour operator changed his mind and told half of the people on this excursion to be back at 4:30 and had an attitude with the ones that returned at the original time of 4:55 PM. No one ever told my husband and I that the return time had changed. There is not a true beach at this resort it is more like a cove. The pools, drinks and food are very good and it was worth the money. The time change of our trip messed up our entire evening and kept us from seeing the only show I really wanted to see. We did speak with the shore excursions manager and expressed out displeasure with the trip and the attitude of the tour operator. I did request a refund since my entire evening was messed up and I had spent almost $800.00 on shore excursions. He refused my refund and gave me a bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries instead. Much to our surprise, when we requested a printout of our ship account it had been credited with the cost of the excursion. Puerto Vallarta - We didn't do a planned excursion at this port and I'm really glad we didn't. This a a great port to walk around and shop. There is a market just outside of the port and you can get some great deals there. If you can't find what you are looking for you can take a cab downtown for $10.00 to the mega shopping center. Also, there is a great restaurant right where the market is that has great drinks, chips, salsa and cheese dip with high speed WiFi connection, so you can catch up with your family back home. Mazatlin - We did another beach break with a buffet lunch and two drinks included. The beach was beautiful! However, it was crawling with locals selling stuff all over it. Once you bought something they wouldn't leave you alone. After a couple of hours of this we got tired of it and when to one of the three pools for the remainder of the day. They take you by cab to the resort, so you are not locked into staying for the entire day. You can go back to the ship anytime you want. The tour operator was very nice and worked hard to make everyone happy. She was always smiling and very happy to help with anything you needed. Cabo San Lucas - My favorite port by far! It is just beautiful! Norwegian tried there best to ruin it with the awful tender experience, but we didn't let that bother us. Getting off the ship in the mornings was fine because we had planned excursions and were taken as a group to the tenders. It was getting back off the ship and on after dinner that proved to be challenging. We were in port overnight. The first day we tour the boat tour out to the Arch and went to the glass blowing plant. The Arch is beautiful and the glass blowing plant is amazing. The shop at the glass blowing plant is a great place to by inexpensive gifts. I couldn't get over the great prices there. If you have a lot of shopping to do skip the demonstration and go straight to the shop. You only get 30 minutes to shop and I could have stayed for hours. When we finished out tour we shopped around the amazing marina, after spending some disappointing time a Senior Frogs, where they said they had WiFi, but it wouldn't work. The marina is huge and you can spend an entire day just shopping and looking around. After a long day in the heat we decided to go back to the ship, freshen up, eat dinner and return to the marina to find a go WiFi connection. A lot of the stores close early in the Marina, and we didn't know that. We found a place to get some drinks and WiFi. We wanted to be sure to be back on the ship prior to 10:00 PM, because after 10:00 they only have one tender per hour running. I don't understand the thought process on this when you are docked in port from 8:00 Am until 2:00 PM the following afternoon. We were back at the port ready to catch the tender at 8:30 PM. We had to wait forever for the tender to arrive and once it did we were told that we couldn't get on the tender because it was rocking too much. Everyone trying to get back on the ship was not happy and expressing their displeasure with the process. They finally let us on the tender that was rocking too much and we arrived back on the ship at 10:00 PM. That is a very long time to wait for a tender. We later learned that they only had two tenders running. This is unacceptable to me in the service area as we only have limited time at ports and on the ship before we have to return home to the real world. The second day we went horse back riding on the beach in beautiful Cabo. You get some great views of the water and your picture taken on you on your horse with the beach in the background. This is a great excursion to do on your second day in port. You get back to port in time to shop a little more before you get back on the ship for the last time. Our inside cabin room was plenty for us as we are not in the room much at all. The shower is very small and makes it difficult to shave your legs, but other than that there was plenty of room for two during our 11 day cruise. The bed on the other hand were awful! They were so hard and lumpy that my husband and I had to take Advil PM in order to be able to sleep. 11 days is a long time to sleep on a lumpy, hard bed! Our needs were met by our room steward everyday. We always received prompt service when requested and we had fresh ice in our ice bucket each time we returned to our room. He kept it very clean and was the only employee that we felt deserved additional tip money from us. I've had better food on other cruise lines and a menu that changed every night. They had a standard menu that never changed and the other side of the menu did change each night. I had two good pasta dishes, but other than that my taste buds were left lacking. The best meal of the day was breakfast at the buffet and I didn't get my baked Alaska that I so look forward to each time I cruise. Do yourself a favor and purchase the specialty dining package when you book this cruise. We ate at the steak house one night and the service is what we have grown to expect from the main dining room on the cruise ship and the food was excellent! I feel like I must mention as stated earlier in this review how poor the service was in both of the main dining rooms. Also, there was supposed to be a dress code in the Seven Seas dining room. However, it was not being enforced. Why do cruise lines force us to shove all of those nice clothes in a suitcase along with our casual clothes while trying to keep our luggage under 50 pounds since we have to fly to the port only to find it was totally unnecessary to begin with? Either make the entire ship cruise casual or enforce the dress code. This is very frustrating for us rule followers! The entertainment was decent. We missed the O What A Night Performance, because of the problem with our shore excursion. Most of the entertainment seemed geared for an older crowd and I have to admit that I felt like one of the youngest adults on the ship at the age of 44. The disembarkation process needs serious help! That process was the biggest mess I have ever seen. If you are going to do easy walk off at anytime and handle your own luggage you have to go down to deck 3, deck 5 is too steep for luggage. All of the no US Citizens have to go through immigration. They are told to be in the observation lounge at 6:00 AM. Yes, you guessed it people didn't follow the rules. The ship docked an hour early and we were scheduled be able to walk off the ship at 8:30 AM. They were still looking for all of the non US Citizens at 8:30. They tried many times during the 1 1/2 hours we waited from the time we docked to locate these people, but had a very hard time. We could have exited the ship early had it not been for these people. Once again the rule followers were punished for the actions of a few rule breaking people. We were able to get off the ship a little after 8:30 AM, getting a cab and over to the airport was very easy. This was our fourth cruise and we have never experienced such and unorganized lengthy disembarkation process. I'm not sure if the cruise line, port terminal, or immigration is to blame for this one. All in all we enjoined each port and I would love to return and spend more time in these lovely places. However, if I could find the same itinerary using a different cruise line I would definitely take them instead of Norwegian in hopes that the cruise line would provide a more updated ship, better customer service, better meals and more accommodating entertainment times and a comfortable bed to sleep in. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2014
This cruise combined the best...departing from our home port (no airports!) and being once again on the Quest. Embarkation was easy...hardly any wait time before we received our seapass card and were welcomed on board by staff handing out ... Read More
This cruise combined the best...departing from our home port (no airports!) and being once again on the Quest. Embarkation was easy...hardly any wait time before we received our seapass card and were welcomed on board by staff handing out glasses of bubbly. Since we arrived a bit early, we headed straight to Windows for lunch. Unfortunately, lots of people had the same idea and they ran out of tables! We were prepared to eat on the loungers by the pool, but the ever efficient staff realized the problem and began bring out more tables and chairs, so we were quite happy. Our first (included) glass of wine with lunch made it perfect. By 1:30 the announcement was made that cabins were available, so we headed to Deck 7. We like this deck, sandwiched between two cabin floors and thus very quiet. Our veranda cabin was in good condition. Yes, it's small and the bathroom very very tiny, but there is plenty of well organized storage space and the beds are very comfy. We immediately met our attendants, Alvin and Osvy...they were excellent and Osvy especially always had a smile and a pleasant comment or two whenever he saw us. Before we knew it, we were called for muster drill (very easy) and then we got ready for the Meet and Mingle and dinner. There were lots of Cruise Critic members on this cruise and unfortunately, we had to leave the meeting early to meet our dinner companions. I really don't like having the Meet and Mingle on sailaway day....it's just too inconvenient, IMO. We took this cruise not for the sightseeing but to relax...and right off the bat we had two sea days! Perfect. When we arrived at Mazatlan (our first port) we were ready to go. We took a ship excursion...Concordia and Copola. It was quite good and we enjoyed a nice lunch in Concordia. The highlight was visiting a local artist in Copola (of course we had to buy something...very unique and we saw nothing like it in any other port.) La Paz was disappointing...on our ship excursion we just drove past the malecon (would have liked to walk along) and spent most of our time in the natural history museum and in a small weaving shop (didn't buy a thing) and then drove through what appeared to be the seediest part of town. Not an excursion I'd recommend. Next Topolobampo. Many of those on board took the very very long trip out to Copper Canyon. We didn't. Instead we went on a small boat to the mangroves and met the resident dolphin Pechocho...a wild dolphin who lives in a solitary state in the mangroves but who over the years has become quite tame and loves to swim up to the small boats for a belly and fin scratch. Then to a sandy beach where a tent with refreshments was set up for us. A very nice excursion. Next port Guaymas where we went ashore and walked the tiny town by ourselves. Not much to see but the townspeople had set up a little market and entertainment along the waterfront and we had fun watching and browsing the merchandise. The next stop, our favorite by far, was Loreto. We overnighted there (more on that later) and the first day went on an excursion to Coronados Island. On the way, our small panga (which held three couples and the operator) diverted to see hundreds of dolphins just a few feet from our boat. Then, just a few yards away an enormous Blue Whale surfaced. Wow! Absolutely awe inspiring and a bit scary, given the difference in size between the whale and our tiny boat! After that we went to the island itself and had a nature walk and snack and those brave souls (the water was still pretty cold at this time of year) who wanted to snorkeled. I waded into the water by some rocks and looked down and saw plenty of fish! The water was crystalline. We thoroughly enjoyed this excursion. On the second day in Loreto we met some friends who have retired there and they showed us around town and we ate at a local restaurant. Loreto is a delightful place and one I'd love to visit again. Our last port was Cabo San Lucas. Very pretty but very very commercialized and street vendors stop you every few feet hawking souvenirs and excursions. After the hustle and bustle of Cabo, we were glad to have two more sea days on the way home to Los Angeles. Disembarkation was just as easy as embarkation, but not as much fun! Now a few things about the Quest. The new captain, Jose, is incredible. So personable and seemed to be everywhere at once! His noon time comments were fun and he even rescued one of the passengers on a snorkeling excursion. We heard that the water was cold and there was a strong current and the gentleman was having some difficulty swimming back to the boat...so Capt. Jose, who had gone on the excursion, swam over and helped the passenger back. We very much hope to cruise with this captain again...he was the best! All the rest of the staff were wonderful, as usual. Russ was his usual exuberant self and Phillip, the hotel director, as always friendly and helpful. Max Difaz, the pianist, was in great form and we enjoyed getting to know him a little better on this cruise. We were very lucky to find the perfect waiters in Discoveries on our first night and we made sure we ate with them every night after that (except for the White Night and one night in Aqualina)...kudos to Robert and Newman...charming, fun, and very attentive. On our night in Aqualina (the food was every bit as good as we remembered) we asked to be seated in John's station...we had met him on our first Quest cruise and he is terrific. My only "complaint" was that he kept bring us extra food...he wanted us to try everything...we were completely over stuffed by the time the dinner was finished. Food across the venues, Discoveries, Windows, the Pool Grill, and Aqualina (we didn't eat in Prime C this time) was very very good. The chef has a wonderful way with fish and I had the "healthy choice" almost every evening. My husband loves pasta and these too were excellent. Usually at the pool grill, we'll eat burgers, but this cruise I decided to try the blackened fish Panini....sooooo good. We had a couple of special nights on this cruise. Super Bowl Sunday was celebrated in the Cabaret. Staff had decorated with team color balloons (Seattle on one side and Denver on the other)...there were themed ice and watermelon carvings, and so much food. Sliders, hot dogs, bbq ribs, chicken fingers, side salads, and a huge bowl of popcorn. Russ was making ice cream sundaes too! We ate so much we didn't need to go to dinner that night. (And did I mention drinks? Beer, wine, cocktails, etc.) The only downside was that we were getting ESPN feed and so we didn't see the commercials...also, the satellite went out right at half time so we didn't get to see most of the halftime show! The second special night was the White Night which was held on our overnight in Loreto. Local dancers came on board and performed...there was an excellent pool side bbq (Phillip was making crepes suzette...soooo yummy)...lots of cocktails and wine...and then dancing! Lots of fun. The third special night was the Azamazing evening held in Cabo. Unfortunately, not so amazing. The original venue (Wirikuta Gardens) was changed at the last minute which was disappointing. The logistics of getting us all off the ship and to the venue was handled efficiently but felt like a cattle drive! The show itself was, IMO, very mediocre and cheesy. However the fireworks at the end were spectacular. Food consisted of sweets and cookies which, while nice, weren't the "local delicacies" promised. A few vendors had set up tables to one side but a quick look and we were done...the prices were astronomical compared to what we'd seen in town. As soon as the show was over, we were herded back to the ship. Azamara really needs to reconsider the entire Azamazing Evening promotion. In some ports and with some entertainment it could be lovely but some ports just don't lend themselves to this and it's especially disappointing when it is hyped so much and then doesn't live up to folks' expectations. Now to on board entertainment. I have to say this cruise was the worst of the ones we've done on Azamara. The quality of singers and dancers was not as good as on past cruises. We had a violin duo one night and after listening for a few minutes, I walked out. There was a pianist/magician (strange combo) who was just okay...Max was much better! They did bring on a comedian our last night on board who was very funny...the best show. But that was it for entertainment. Disappointing. On the other hand, there were two enrichment lecturers who were outstanding. One, Jay Christofferson, was a professor in marine biology. He gave four lectures which were absolutely terrific. Another lecturer was a cultural anthropologist...we made it to one of his lectures and it was very well done. Now, a note about the new "more inclusive" policy on beverages. We had been quite happy on past cruises with the included wine at lunch and dinner. But we did take advantage of the new policy and had cocktails out by the pool and before dinner. Very enjoyable. The wines were uniformly good and our waiters were quick to find a special favorite we'd had the previous night and bring it out to us again. On this cruise we used the jogging track every morning and it was nice to be up early and walking. Nice touch having orange and grapefruit ice water available (and towels too) A couple of mornings, though, we were diverted by whales spouting and breeching...easy to see from Deck 10. I also went for a spa treatment (they were running specials all the time) and had a very relaxing massage and facial. A bit of a sales pitch for the products but not too bad and the spa itself was very nice and Chloe, the therapist, excellent. In summary, another wonderful cruise on Azamara. Can't wait to be back on board again.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
We wanted to try Azamara Club Cruises. Which is interesting in itself, because until not that long ago, we had never *heard* of Azamara. We thought it would be something approaching the level of Crystal (whom we have sailed in the past and ... Read More
We wanted to try Azamara Club Cruises. Which is interesting in itself, because until not that long ago, we had never *heard* of Azamara. We thought it would be something approaching the level of Crystal (whom we have sailed in the past and greatly enjoyed, pre-all inclusive). We love the small ship format, we were specifically interested in this particular itinerary (which included Mexico's Copper Canyon)...and, as Celebrity loyalists, we wanted to see what our status would bring us on Azamara. The Canyon was the big draw for us in the beginning. We have done the Mexican Riviera to death, but this itinerary offered the lovely small ports of the Sea of Cortez - and the Copper Canyon. Party-hearty survivors of Puerto Vallarta need not have signed up for this cruise. Embarkation in San Pedro was a breeze. The Azamara Quest was the only ship in port that day. We had forgotten the convenience of a smaller ship; the check-in lines were minimal, to say the least. Our key cards identified us as "Discoverer" - top-of-the-line status on this line, but that was to change (more below). One of the first crew members to greet us on the way up the gangway was Jose, the Captain. This would not be our first encounter with him. We were greeted on the main deck with sparkling wine and cranberry juice, and a bit of a wait - the cabins were not quite ready. Fortunately we were given a running commentary about the room status and after a while, coupled with more trips to the champagne tray, the stampede began to the rooms. For us, the National Affairs Suite turned out to be Cabin 6030, one of the last available rooms. It was off the forward elevators and stairs. It is one of the tender cabins, meaning the size of the cabin has been compressed to accommodate the ship's tenders in their davits, and views are obstructed. The bright side of our room was that it overlooked the smaller crew launch boat and we actually had a decent view out the window. The other side of the room? Thunk. Thunk. Slam. This room is directly above the doorway leading out to the boat deck on level 5. When the doors shut on a calm day, a "thunk" is definitely noticeable. When they shut on a sea day and the winds are up, the "slam" is much more pronounced. The noise was especially pronounced upon entering and leaving port as guests go to the rails, and when the crew puts out the deck chair cushions and towels at sunrise and collects them at sunset. We tried not to notice the noise after a while. It is a very narrow room; just enough space for the bed, closets, and a desk and cabinet. The only chair in the room is a stool, which made our decision to skip room service a lot easier. In the room was a missive welcoming us as Discoverer members in Le Club Voyage, containing special events planned "exclusively" for us as top-tier members (thank you, Celebrity). The perks included the LCV cocktail party, a champagne brunch hosted by staff, and - 235 free Internet minutes per guest. Whee! There was also a coupon good for a free bag of laundry. We usually tour a vessel prior to the boat drill. With the Quest, we saw everything in 20 minutes. I was always intrigued by the old Renaissance Cruises ships. This ship, and its sister the Journey, aren't getting any younger. They do have a dated look to them. But they are kept in very good condition. Dining: we ate in all venues. The Discoveries dining room is LOUD. If I could change the font to make "LOUD" bigger, I would. It is especially noisy toward the center. The least noisy part of the restaurant was near the entrance, where the hostess did her very best to maintain her cool against some terribly snobby customers: "we've been waiting for *two* minutes!" "what do you mean, we can't get our *regular* table?!" People, you're on VACATION - take a chill pill! Or enjoy a free martini from the nearby Discoveries Lounge bar. About those free martinis: Azamara is sort of semi-inclusive in offering a selection of free wines with lunch and dinner, and free beer and cocktails from the bars. As long as you're happy with Bud and Becks instead of Corona and a well vodka instead of Ciroc or Grey Goose, you'll do perfectly fine on Azamara. The bar menus detail what costs what...and what doesn't cost anything. We passed on the "specialty" alcohol packages that ranged between $16-19 bucks daily. The food in Discoveries was much better than anticipated - a varied selection every night, prepared well. The bread and desserts were the only weak parts. I thought the complimentary wines were mostly so-so - but I couldn't argue about the price, right? We ate in Aqualina, the Mediterranean specialty restaurant and in Prime C, the specialty steakhouse, once during our cruise. Aqualina was an exceptional dining experience for the $25 per person fee. I really liked my osso bucco. The Missus enjoyed the seafood platter. The experience in Prime C was a bit more mixed. The seafood appetizer was excellent, as was the filet. I should have ordered the NY strip a bit rarer than my usual "medium". The service in C felt slightly off. The pool grill offered a wide variety of specialties, more than most poolside eateries on other ships. The coffee bar on board, Mosaic Cafe, features the not-so-fee-friendly Nespresso system. But you could go up to the counter and order your standard non-Nespresso coffee drink, and the friendly staff will whip them up in a flash for you. One of our favorite gathering places on the Quest. A number of specialty pool buffets were set up during the cruise. One of them was hosted by the ship's officers, who dished out the chow - including an entire roast pig. The Missus asked the officer in charge of the pig, "how did you keep this pig below decks?" The officer replied, "he had his own little house downstairs, and his own little garden. He was pretty happy - until this morning..." Azamara officers are not without a droll sense of humor. In fact, we liked how the crew interacted with the passengers, from the captain on down. Captain Jose issued, almost without fail, his "Voice from the Bridge" - a noontime soliloquy that usually ran between 8-10 minutes, detailing everything from the location of sister ship Journey, the distance to his home in Portugal, and literally everything in between - spoken with an extremely straight face. There was rarely a time when we didn't see him at some event on board the Quest, and even on shore. He brought a certain humanity to his job. We enjoyed how the singers, dancers and musicians engaged with passengers at events, especially the "White Night" event. Tours: We only took a couple of ship tours. But one was the Copper Canyon, and that would be enough for any cruise. The CC canyon was *long* - one of the longest ship's tours I've taken in my life. Off the boat and on the bus at 5 AM. Nearly two hours to the train. Six hours by train to the lookout and hotel for lunch. Six hours back on the train, during which time darkness fell and there was nothing to look at. Another hour and a half on the bus. We spent a little under two hours on site, some of which was taken up by lunch and a folk show by the local Indians, and the rest of that time spent wandering around the lookout trying not to fall over the canyon's edge while being besieged by Indian souvenir vendors. Were we to do this again, we'd spend the night at the canyon and make it a two-day trip. A single day just killed us. That night, we returned to the port where a huge party was in full swing. The people of Topolobampo put on a big fiesta right on the dock, with a live band and a dance floor. We learned that the crew joined the mix and encouraged passengers to come on down and support the town's efforts. We received a similar welcome the next day in Guaymas, where there was almost non-stop entertainment at dockside and young volunteers wore t-shirts saying, "may I help you?" The "Azamazing Evening" in Cabo was a little underwhelming. The show felt really hokey, though the fireworks at the end were awesome. I would imagine the "Evenings" in Europe probably have more material to work with to make them more interesting. But I give Azamara props for getting a great proportion of the guests off the ship onto the tenders and buses and bringing them back in one piece. The SWAG we received - little handicrafts and tequila miniatures - was a really neat treat. Overall: The Quest: an aging ship without the bells and whistles of more modern ships. A curse, but perhaps also a blessing. There are cruises where we mostly don't need a lot of visual / aural stimulation. Public passageways could be a little tight, especially when bad weather drove everyone indoors from the pool deck. The area around the photo kiosk and shops is often cramped due to the presence of sale tables, which restricted passenger flow. The crew: very engaging, for the most part. I experienced no special Azamara "moments" with them but thought many of them made a solid effort to ensure we felt at home on board. The facilities: only one small swimming pool. The Quest offers a thalassotherapy pool as part of its spa services, but we passed on purchasing a day pass. On Celebrity, that pool is free to all to use. The Quest's spa pool is no more than a glorified hot tub in size. The Cabaret Lounge is the ship's multi-purpose facility for shows, lectures, bingo - and the special Super Bowl party held during this cruise. As a Niners fan, I had no dog in this particular fight...but that didn't stop me from doing drive-by munching on the party's food tables. As a theater venue, the sight lines are really poor, especially in the back. The Casino wasn't exactly packed during this cruise. The usual slots and blackjack junkies. C-Prime was reminiscent of your upscale American steak house - lots of black/white photos of American pop culture. Aqualina had a vaguely European feel to it. The shows: We didn't think much of the special guests brought on board as nightly entertainment. A couple of the musical shows were really done well. I had not seen the "Voices" show on any other ship and thought this was the best of the cruise. Cruise Director: Russ Grieve is the Best. Cruise. Director. Ever. He sings! He dances! He makes great waffles (during his stint at a LCV officers brunch)! Extremely outgoing. Most cruise directors are rather standoffish but Russ really made an effort to reach out to the guests and made them feel welcome. FItness center: collection of treadmills, ellipticals, strength machines and free weights. It is relatively small compared to larger ships and you might have to wait for a treadmill during some sea day mornings. A full range of exercise classes is offered. Quite a few people use the jogging/walking track above the pool deck. 13 laps on that track equals a nautical mile. Children's facilities: none that I could see. No children's programs were listed in the daily newsletter and there weren't any kids on this cruise. The itinerary: A Mexican cruise, but not the usual Rivera Shuffle (Cabo-Vallarta-Mazatlan). We saw a lot of the lovely little port towns along the Sea of Cortez. Been to most of them before, but liked them all. The tours: Other than Copper Canyon and a Sierra Madre trip out of Mazatlan, we really weren't interested in seeing anything. We were happy to bum around the port towns, especially Loreto and Guaymas. A pity Cruise Critic doesn't list these ports on its drop-down menu. I would be happy to write about them. Le Club Voyage: a number of events for past passengers, including a brunch in Aqualina and the usual LCV passengers event in the Lounge. The Aqualina brunch was nice. The passengers event was nothing special - except when the LCV representative tried to explain the "new" expanded status levels. Discoverer was the top level. She explained this would be surpassed by two new "super" levels - but was at a loss to explain whether, at those new levels, your treatment would be anything different or better than Discoverer. The changes were apparently so new that even the LCV rep was still trying to figure it all out. Would we sail on Azamara again? Perhaps. The itineraries are really interesting and we like the small ship experience. But Azamara's bread-and-butter is its European and Mediterranean cruises - a little far to travel, for us. Azamara won't tear us away from Celebrity and Crystal. It does, however, give us another cruising option. This was one of the nicer cruising experiences I've ever had. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
We are unseasoned at cruising, so consider these comments with that perspective. Our previous cruise experience was limited to a 50-passenger trip though the Greek isles on the Sea Cloud -- a wholly different experience than that offered ... Read More
We are unseasoned at cruising, so consider these comments with that perspective. Our previous cruise experience was limited to a 50-passenger trip though the Greek isles on the Sea Cloud -- a wholly different experience than that offered by a "traditional ocean liner." But we had been looking for the right opportunity to dip our toes in the water of large passenger ship cruising, and the Top Chef theme cruise -- only 4 nights 5 days on a highly regarded "luxury" line-- seemed an attractive introductory experience from which we might forecast our cruising future. Sadly our experience was very mixed. First, the Top Chef themed activities were simply wonderful. Cooking demonstrations, Quickfire "competitions," Q and A's with 10 years of fan favorites and winning "chef-testants," and Tom Collichio playing lead guitar and singing Creedence at the poolside stage-- we could not have enjoyed the themed events more. Bravo to Bravo and Top Chef for a well-planned and well-executed experience. And it bears saying that the Top Chef chefs and staff were all about the ship, interacting with the passengers, spending real time and making real connections. Every single Top Chef person -- and most notably Gail Simmons and Hubert Keller-- was as cordial, gracious, and engaging as one could imagine. A class act by a classy group in every respect. If only the ship and its staff had lived up to the standards of the reality TV folks. I don't want to nitpick, and we are seasoned travelers if not cruisers, so I have no problem rolling with the unexpected, but these seemed to us to be serious lapses in the cruise line's core functions: 1. Our "veranda suite." Oh, please. There is nothing "suite" or sweet about the suites. They are single rooms, with the tiniest bathroom you can imagine. The presence of a small upholstered love-seat in addition to the bed is evidently the defining feature of a "suite" on this line. For shame! We are not price-sensitive when it comes to accommodations and we booked the best available suite months in advance. Even so, one person must sit on the bed to allow the other to move anywhere in the room. The sound of the toilet flushing is enough to wake the dead. The shower delivers nothing warmer than room temperature water (but curiously, the water in the bathroom sink is hot). The veranda is a plastic-enclosed postage-stamp with 2 miserable plastic chairs. The TV cannot be viewed from the seating area, only the bed -- whose genius is behind that failure of space/function? The hallways are endless and narrow and laundry carts and food service carts are left parked permanently in key spots along the way. Suffice it to say that I have stayed in budget-priced Travel Lodges that were better designed and better appointed. The vaunted "Concierge Class" turns out to be three stems of Peruvian lillies (alstomeria) and three pieces of fruit. They were, all six of them, there when we moved in and they were there when we left. Requests for daily ice were hit and miss. 2. The food. Yikes! Awful in the Main Dining Room (San Marcos). The rib-eye was like pot roast; the duck was flabby and fatty and unrecognizable. Everything was unseasoned, overcooked, and bland. The onion soup was fine, and my husband had an appetizer of himachi one evening that was good. But even the vaunted Sunday brunch was cold bacon, toaster waffles served room temperature, and the same canteloupe, watermelon and honeydew that we had seen at every service for four days. Waiter service was fine, but entry and seating service was an ugly and unpleasant frenzy at every meal-- bossy and over-bearing staff, indifferent to guest sensibilities and preferences. The buffet was just dreary. Endless pans of curries and over-baked sludgy pasta casseroles. The rolls and pastries were stale every single day. The pizza was doughy, tough, flavorless, served room temperature. The sushi was unimaginative and unexceptional. The omelets were fine but took forever as that station was never adequately staffed. The hamburgers at the poolside grill were like frisbees in their lack of flavor or other recognizable meat-like qualities. We tried two of the specialty (extra price) food options, with good results. Bistro on Five had very nice panini, if an absurdly limited menu, and the bar across from Bistro on Five served a marvelous 7-item tapas platter for $19.00 that was a tasty and sufficient supper for two one night when the MDR menus was so dreary that we simply got up and left without ordering. The ship makes a big deal of its ice creams and gelatos, but both were sub-par, The ice cream, which I tried 3 different times, was full of ice crystals and inadequately flavored. The gelatos were no better. Pastries at the coffee bar were days past their sell by deadline. Drink service -- wine, cocktails, beer, sodas -- was very strong. No complaints at all although in retrospect the all-inclusive beverage package is over-priced but very convenient. 3. Ship entertainment. Way way way too much thumping pounding "music" -- everywhere, all the time. The passengers are mostly 45+ and even more. Why are we enduring hip hop and rap and disco music constantly? The comedian was unfunny and hostile to the (admittedly sparse) audience. The lectures and programs were almost all sales opportunities. The "art" auction was astonishingly huck-sterish and uninformed. Oh, I could say more, but what is the point? Truth be told by Day 3 we were looking forward to being done with this luxury vacation; by the 4th day we were avid to get off the damn boat; and by the time we docked, I was grateful to the point of tears that it was finally over. Embarkation and disembarkation are very well-organized and we were grateful for the ease of departing. I have tasked myself with the assignment due diligence and investigating whether our experience was typical, or was based on a bad choice of cruise line. If we need to spend more to have a good experience, I'll bite again. If what we had is what you get, then no -- never, never, never again. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
We set off from home at 04.50 on 1st March from Manchester airport on the 07.20 shuttle to Heathrow. From here we caught the 10.25 BA flight to Los Angeles, touching down at 13.15, local time, 8 hours behind the UK. LAX appears unique ... Read More
We set off from home at 04.50 on 1st March from Manchester airport on the 07.20 shuttle to Heathrow. From here we caught the 10.25 BA flight to Los Angeles, touching down at 13.15, local time, 8 hours behind the UK. LAX appears unique to us in being the only airport where planes are required to be towed onto the stand - jobs for the boys!!? Parked within 50 yards of the stand, the first tow truck that was attached broke down, so we had to wait about ten minutes for a replacement! The Captain (a lady) advised us that this was perhaps no bad thing; because the airport terminal congestion had eased by the time we were able to disembark the plane. The Immigration hall was still packed with people and we made our way to one of the interminable queues with around at least 100 passengers in front of us, each queue being situated in front of four immigration desks. By the time we could see these booths, we found that only two were manned and soon afterwards, one of the two staff, just got up and left! A notice displayed on the booth read "The face of our country", to which we wryly observed that it was more accurate to say the invisible face! Eventually we were reassigned to a different queue, and finally passed through immigration to collect our baggage, which had been removed from the carousel and put on the floor in a haphazard manner, necessitating walking round the whole perimeter of the carousel to locate each item! We then queued again to pass through customs which involved handing over our declaration form stating we were not in possession of more than $100,000, did not have any food, had not visited a farm in the past 7 days and had not handled any animals! By now over two hours had elapsed since the plane touched down!! Outside the terminal we found the airport hotel shuttle pick up point and waited about ten minutes for the Marriott bus to arrive. Check in at the hotel was swift and we were given a 7th (top) floor room with a king sized bed. The room was very spacious and had all the facilities we needed. We had chosen this hotel specifically because we knew from Google Earth street view that it was easy to walk to and from the airport. This gave us the flexibility of either catching the hotel shuttle or walking, and we timed one walk at 13 minutes from leaving our room to arriving at terminal 1. On the 2nd March we were back at the airport for a 7.20 am flight to San Francisco's Oakland airport. Here we had already booked an open topped bus tour of the city, which lasted two hours. The weather was fine, dry and reasonably sunny, although only around 15C. We then wandered round the central part of the city and took a short cable car ride; the cable cars are one of the main features for which SF is renowned. During our city tour we saw the famous Golden Gate Bridge, whose colour is more akin to the Forth rail bridge in Scotland, red rather than golden. We returned to the airport for our flight at 19.05 arriving back at LAX at 20.25, walking back to the hotel. On the 3rd we were back once again at LAX for the Flyaway coach link ($7) to Union Station to catch Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner to San Diego, a journey of two hours 50 minutes. We were advised to do this, rather than flying, because the railway hugs the coast for part of the route, and therefore is scenically attractive. San Diego was a little disappointing and we certainly saw quite a bit of it, by taking two different trolleys (trams) criss-crossing the town. We also walked round the famous Gaslamp quarter, which proved to be underwhelming when set against its high rating. Restaurant food was expensive so we waited for our return train journey for food. The train station, known as Santa Fe Depot and dating from 1915, was a short walk from the waterfront, but there were no cruise ships in that day. We were surprised that on the return journey the train was packed and standing, with so many day-trippers returning to Los Angeles from the various beach resorts along the way. On the 4th, with a bit of a lie-in for the first time since arriving in LA, and seeing the hotel room in daylight, we checked out at 11.am. Our review of the Courtyard by Marriot LAX has already been published on Trip Advisor. Although there were metered taxis in the street outside quoting USD60 but subject to whatever the meter actually recorded, we had arranged transport with the concierge for $65, and arrived at the cruise terminal around 11.45am. Embarking commenced as usual at 12 noon and we had some lunch and made some future dinner reservations. Lifeboat drill is now enforced and you are dragged out of your cabin if you are not at your muster station, so "dearly beloved" has now had to change the habit of a lifetime and attend!! We had not finished unpacking before it was time to go to the Panorama Lounge for our prearranged gathering of Cruise Critics. The next day was at sea and, and as we predicted the weather was cold and cloudy. Matters improved on the 2nd sea day, although the temperatures were far from tropical. However I suppose we were being slightly over optimistic to expect anything else at the beginning of March!! The ship was virtually full with 500 passengers (single occupancy means that it is rare to hit 540 capacity). Silver Spirit is of course the largest of Silversea`s ships and we have always felt it was less intimate and the passengers less friendly, and this time proved no exception. On several occasions when passing passengers in the corridors one felt one was invisible, when they neither smiled nor acknowledged you, and whether or not they spoke English, a smile is universal and costs nothing! However with regards to the officers and crew, nothing is too much trouble and they have worked extremely hard to provide an excellent level of service. We sailed with Captain Arma last November on the Wind, and he invited us to dinner on the first informal evening. We found out later that he is responsible for choosing his own table, and prefers to dine with people he knows. Cabo San Lucas - this was a tender port, but only about 5 minutes to the pierside. We did not have a trip until the afternoon, so just walked along the promenade lined with shops and restaurants. Most of the shops were selling souvenirs and the cafes had loud music blaring out, reminiscent of a Mexican Benidorm! Walking to the end of one side, we came to a weighing machine, which stated that the marlin hanging from it weighed 120 lb! Round the corner the fishermen were selling the catch of the day, mainly mackerel, which were huge and resembled large salmon. They were also gutting the marlin, and the pelicans were trying their hardest to pinch the roe, without much success as it was too heavy for them to break off. As we came into the pier, there were several large seals, one in particular was hanging onto the stern of a returning fishing boat, and was desperately trying to get in, with both flippers and half his body on the back of the boat!! There were several round the fishermen gutting the marlin and were vying with the pelicans for any morsel they could get. Other passengers ventured further afield on foot and said the town became less tacky and more refined so our view of Cabo as sleazy was based on a limited exposure. Our whale watching trip started by getting on a catamaran in the harbour with about 75 other Silversea passengers, so the boat was not full. We headed out into the Pacific, and not into the Sea of Cortez, which we had expected, but to travel the full length of the Sea of Cortez would have taken several days. The boat could, though, have headed towards the mouth of the Sea of Cortez, where the land-based passengers saw more whales than we did! We were well looked after during our trip and had no complaints about onboard facilities serving us margaritas and/or soft drinks. We saw a few whales, but those who did a cookery course at a local hotel saw more including calves. The tip therefore is to research a waterfront hotel and go there if you want to whale watch!! Acapulco. We were due in here at 12 noon, but in calm water, the pilot fell off his boat between that and ours, and had to be fished out and hospitalised with two broken ribs! This caused a delay of 90 minutes until a fresh pilot could be found. This worked to our advantage because we did not sail until 22.00 instead of the planned 17.30, for which we were most grateful. They are currently rebuilding a new cruise terminal, so the approach to the old town was fraught with diggers, cranes, and holes in the road. However we managed to reach the old town and walked round the market district, taking in the shops and street vendors, before finding an Internet cafe for US$1 for one hour! We took a cab to a cafe right round the bay on top of a promontory with a very good view of the whole bay and our ship. We had been recommended to visit Senor Frog's bar but at 5.45pm it was dead. This seemed to sum up Acapulco, where several other bars to which we had been recommended had closed down due to lack of business. The local taxis are mainly old style VW beetles, in varying states of decrepitude. Ours was no exception. The driver said it dated from 1992, but its rust and lack of power on the hills suggested maybe 1972! We finished the day in Acapulco by going to Quebrada to see the divers who have one performance around 1 pm, and three shows later at night in the dark. They charge 40 pesos (USD4) to watch the performance, paid in advance to a guy selling tickets. People dispersed when the ticket seller came round. Our vantage point was a public viewing area built on one side of the small bay where the divers jump from a different side. There was piped music and a Spanish commentary. The youngest diver was 7 years old, about which his proud grandmother, who was standing next to us, informed us. They dive from three different stages from the cliff, and reach these by climbing up the cliff face from the sea. Although being told the performance would be at 7pm, then 7.20pm, the show actually started at 7.40pm. This performance is quite impressive, not least because of the height of the cliffs from which they jump, but also due to the narrow gap between the cliffs into the sea. Overall, Acapulco disappointed. The fact that this had once been the resort of the great and the good was remarkable, until one remembers we are talking about the 1950's and 1960's, and time moves on. This was no glitzy resort but bore the hallmarks of a tourist destination from which the tourists (foreign, at least) had gone. This is perhaps a shame because at no time did we feel threatened or intimidated. What was surprising was how few locals had any command of the English language. Huatulco. After a day at sea, we reached here, a pretty resort with nine bays, popular by virtue of its close proximity to Mexico City. We got a taxi (USD5) from the jetty to La Entrega Beach where one can leave one's belonging with one of the beach bars for the price of a beer. Being Sunday the beach was packed. We had taken our snorkel gear because this beach has a small offshore reef and is popular with divers and snorkellers for this reason, but we found the water to be very cold and didn't in fact snorkel at all. Puerto Chiapas. This was our final port in Mexico, which is very close to the Guatemalan border. Here we took the shuttle (USD10) per person round trip, for the 50 minutes ride to Tapachula. This is the largest town in the area and the shops gave the impression of a degree of prosperity. There was quite a contrast between the locals here and those in Acapulco, the former being slimmer and apparently more affluent, the latter being invariable well overweight and down at heel. Again, we found an Internet cafe, which charged USD1 for one hour. Back at the attractive port area we perused the few outlets in the terminal, buying some coffee. Close by was a bar/cafe with a large pool and a great R&R spot for the ship's crew. We had a Mexican dish and got a free beer, which was not expensive. Puntarenas. This is the Pacific port in Costa Rica where we had arranged a trip on the Monteverde tourist train through the rain forest in the mountains. The coach needed remedial surgery on route - administered by the driver after receiving a spare part by special delivery, whilst we sat on the coach for about an hour. The drive was very scenic as we climbed to over 3000 feet with a marked drop in temperature, having left the port at 8.15 with temperatures already at 91F!! After lunch we had a ten-minute ride on a miniature railway followed by a 30-minute walk through the rain forest canopy. Whilst we heard some birds, we saw nothing, the usual story - the fauna are at their most prolific early in the morning and late in the evening. We then retraced our steps by train and coach to the ship. The trip was worth it for the drive but not for the train ride or rain forest walk. The lunch venue is part of the railway setup and fully accessible and modern, although the food was nothing to write home about. We had a sea day before a full day transit of the Panama Canal, the highlight for most passengers, but we were fortunate to have done this before. We had an exceptionally interesting and informative lady guide brought on at Miraflores, who gave a running commentary until we finally reached the Caribbean side and she left by launch back to Panama. Cartagena. The following day we arrived in Colombia's popular Caribbean port, also a port we had previously visited. With nothing extra we wished to see, we stayed on board and enjoyed a very hot sunny day by the pool. Santa Marta. The day after, we reached Columbia's main coal exporting port, further east from Cartagena. Fortunately there was only limited activity in the dock area because it was a Sunday. We opted not to do any of the two ship's shore excursions, but availed ourselves of the Silversea's shuttle out of the container port area to the edge of the town. There were plenty of taxis here and a few market stalls. From here we used the locally provided map to walk along the road with a pleasant beach to our right and the town, laid out on a grid plan, to our left. We walked through a well-maintained park towards the heart of the town. The town itself appeared reasonably prosperous and well kept in the main streets which were bustling with people, roadside stalls, and many shops were open in 5th Avenue - actually named 5th Street. Unfortunately they would not accept US dollars, which was a shame as there were some nice clothes in some of them. Prior to visiting the shopping area, we came to a large square, at one corner of which stood the Cathedral in which the main Sunday service was just finishing. It was a very plain but attractive church with a stained glassed little annex, with both side doors and the main entrance open to the elements. The music was also interesting and was not of the hymnal type, but very modern, in a show tunes type style. Local women wore attire above the knee and tops without sleeves, contrary to the advice from our ship regarding conservative dress if visiting the cathedral. After realising that we could not spend any money and having seen most of the main streets, we returned to the ship. After two further sea days with the weather continuing to be generally hot, but sometimes windy, we disembarked the ship in Fort Lauderdale. Silversea arranged facilities for a hospitality room at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale, for those flying out that evening from Miami. This worked very well because it gave us another day swimming and sunbathing before our flight at 21.45. The organisation of the Silversea ground staff from getting onto the coaches at the quayside, to being taken to Miami airport was first class and extremely well organised. Silver Spirit Review This is the biggest of, what Silversea calls, the line's traditional fleet and it has the worst passenger/crew ratio. Generally, the ship's condition was very good, though our V6 grade cabin, 917, had bad carpet staining beyond routine cleaning and the settee had stuffing showing and looked worn. There was also staining on carpets in the corridors, particularly on deck 9. We feel that the ship is long overdue refurbishment, as some internal areas are looking decidedly shabby. We also found the bed mattress to be unacceptably hard, despite being given the "soft" side, and various doctoring by our butler and his assistant. The lights over the writing desk flickered due to a loose connection but this was fixed, as was a badly squeaking bathroom door. Our butler and his assistant did everything required of them. All the staff worked hard to provide the highest standard of service. I am sure that if we asked them to lie down so we could walk all over them, they would!! Nothing is too much trouble. We try to be civil and polite and friendly to these people because they work long hours, every day for typically an 8-month contract. The same cannot be said for an increasing number of passengers. One guest relations manager told us that, when he leaves the sea, he plans to get a dog and call it Hey You. This will enable him to say to the dog "Hey You, come here", a familiar cry directed at him by passengers! Such passenger rudeness is total unnecessary and a disgrace. Captain Arma splits his time between this ship and Silver Wind, and we had sailed with him on that ship last November. We found him friendly and approachable. Martin was the Hotel Director, deputising for the ebullient and charming Paulo, who returned from leave at the end of our cruise. Don was the cruise director and he handled the afternoon trivia quiz with diplomacy, even when one team exceeded the limit of 8 by an extra member and 2 'observers', and several other teams "cheated". Despite this, our 'little' team of up to only 6 won several times. We didn't watch very much evening entertainment, partly because poor dining room service precluded this on 3 occasions. Anyone coming to this line for nightlife will be disappointed because the bars and lounges are largely empty by 11pm, reflecting the age profile of many passengers. Entertainment is one of many areas where Silversea has made cutbacks. The troupe of entertainers they do employ are not good all-rounders, and they need to bring back the Jean Ryan company who we saw first on the Silver Spirit, who were infinitely superior. Dining Room We took breakfast, lunch and dinner here on various occasions. There are some menu items at breakfast that come from this galley and it is sensible to dine here to enjoy them at their best. Breakfast food and service was very good. Lunchtime service was excellent, probably because, like breakfast, few opt to dine here. The food was generally also very good, though the Oriental stir-fry dishes (a welcome option) were very bland. Dinner was something of a curate's egg. Sometimes the service was faultless, sometimes there were inexplicable long waits; this is unacceptable on a line like Silversea, who proclaim they are 6th star. Sometimes the food was very good, sometimes it definitely wasn't. We dubbed this the artichoke cruise because this vegetable appeared in some form virtually nightly! Previous voyages have majored on spinach or asparagus. The beef Wellington served on the first formal night was cold and rejected for a hot version, which was provided graciously. When dining on a table larger than for four, it was inadvisable to have fish as the main course because it would be overcooked. We always ordered extra vegetables with our main course but it was difficult to get the galley to cook these beyond blanching. Desserts were invariably very good and the sorbets fantastic. The restaurant manager, Marcelo, was charming and very helpful. In addition to the main dining room, there are 5 other dining venues. La Terrazza. This was extremely popular and advance reservation necessary. There are 3 menus, which rotate every 3 days. The service was as good as staffing and galley allow. Possibly the worst meal we had here was as part of the Captain's invitation table. Those who chose the ravioli found it congealed, stuck to the plate, and impossible to cut with a fork. The main course fish was served overcooked and dried out. If the galley can't get it right for the Captain's guests, what can one expect normally? We had a total of four dinners here and some food was better than others. One night, the venison stew was good but the 'catch of the day' was not. Sometimes the pasta was good, sometimes not. By virtue of being extremely popular, and so full every night, the waiters were constantly rushing and this gave the impression the venue was under-staffed. Marcello still managed service with humour and efficiency, though. We lunched here on 2 occasions and neither were sufficiently memorable to recall now. We like the opportunity offered to take breakfast outside here. This facility proved popular with passengers but restricting the large tables set for only just 2 effectively reduced capacity, and when very busy, necessitated us asking if the occupied table would mind company. Eating outside brings the drawback of a long walk to and from the food service area. The range of food was good, though omelettes were pre-cooked, thereby rendering them rubbery and cold, so we specified lots of '"extras" to ensure we got a freshly cooked one. Stars Supper Club This shares a galley with La Terrazza and serves a multi-course tasting menu from 8.30pm. Entertainment in the form of a jazz singer and pianist accompanies the food and there is a small dance floor. The menu does not change and was well prepared and presented. Mickey, the singer has been the resident singer since the Spirit was launched. Even allowing for her heavy cold at the start, she gave the impression of being bored with her role. During a previous sailing on the Spirit, a different artist was superior. Le Champagne We did not eat here this time, having sampled the revised $30 cover charge and the new menu on the Wind last November. Seishin Unique to the Spirit, this venue offers Japanese cuisine, subject to a cover charge. The original Japanese chef has been replaced permanently by a Filipino (cutback?), and the food was interesting and well presented. The three female waiters coped well. Deck Food We often took lunch here because we spend a lot of time around the pool. The menu has not been changed for years and needs a revamp. On sea days a mini barbecue is put on and this adds variety, though the very basic salad choices were very disappointing and could easily be enlarged. In the evening this galley runs the Hot Rocks venue of dining under the stars. The menu is limited and focuses on steaks, though salmon, prawns and pork chops are also on the menu. The concept is to cook your own main course on a hot stone, which is brought to your table for the purpose and is a concept which was popular in the UK 20-30 years ago in mid-range restaurants but has long since died out. Frankly, this is not fine dining on any measure, does not fit with the original Silversea concept of ultra luxury and shows how Silversea is now catering for a different demographic. It was amusing to watch other passengers stuffing their faces with large slabs of meat, clearly oblivious to the Relais et Chateau marque to which Silversea belongs. Brown Rolls The availability of these became something of a saga! We were told company policy lays down that Silversea only provide these at dinner, where they were always in short supply. For breakfast and lunch, a brown loaf is offered, already sliced by the crew so it is dry and unappetising. Eventually a special bake was prepared for us but 'hidden away' in case other passengers ate them first! Ultimately, brown rolls debuted for everyone at breakfast in La Terrazza on the last morning of the cruise prior to disembarkation! The good news part of this saga is Silversea work hard to never say 'no' to meet reasonable requests from passengers, which we gather is not true on rival Seabourn and (from our own experience) not the case on Oceania. Disembarkation This was handled very well by Silversea, both in terms of baggage handling and the transfer arrangements to the Hyatt Pier 66 hospitality room and late afternoon journey to Miami airport, as previously stated above. The same could not be said for US immigration, which, like our arrival at Los Angeles on the 1st, was an appallingly protracted process. Silversea kept passengers on board in comfortable surroundings, in order to minimise the time spent standing in line in the terminal, though inevitably some passengers had already started to queue alongside the outside deck prior to their luggage coloured tag label being called. Some passengers had taxis waiting for them on the quayside, but didn't manage to disembark till after 11 am. One wonders if their taxis waited! We won't be returning to the USA any time soon because of these delays at immigration which are lamentable for a technologically-advanced country. Passengers Of the roughly 500 on board, there were 183 from the USA, typical for a voyage starting or ending in a US port. Next by number were 88 from the UK and there were roughly 55 German speakers (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). Only 14 were staying on for the following cruise. A significant proportion of the passengers were plain rude; they would pass you in a corridor without even a smile, as if you were invisible. This is another indicator in the changing demographic on board these days. It never ceases to amaze us how many passengers have little appreciation of the ports of call and no clear understanding about the return flight arrangements. They just leave this to their TA in blind faith that the 'travel professional', who is always described as 'brilliant', knows best. From long experience of TAs, this is very risky because, often, their knowledge is inadequate and we frequently come up with better alternatives than the TA, when taking account of the circumstances of the passenger. Our favourite quote from this cruise came during a dialogue over where in the world we have sailed with Silversea. One of the sectors is the Middle East and a passenger enquired whether this was China! Still, it's probably cheaper on a cruise than in a care home!! Sadly, the number of passengers of this sort appears to be increasing and one marvels at Silversea taking care of them, always with a gracious smile; another Silversea plus. There is no doubt that the Spirit is regular Silversea passengers' least favourite ship, and surprisingly a number said they would not sail on her again. We would certainly think hard before choosing the Spirit again, which is a shame because we like Captain Arma, Paulo (hotel director) and many of the crew, all of whom try their best to serve passengers well. The problem is the dining arrangements do not work consistently and to the standard of the other 4 traditional ships. Two further comments, which are seemingly not within the remit of either the officers or the crew. Dress code Quite rightly, Silversea have a strict code to which they ask their passengers to adhere. On a formal night, one couple was seen entering the theatre, the lady in a heavy knitted sweater, accompanied by her husband with a baseball cap on his head! We have heard alarming rumours that Silversea are intending to relax the dress code, removing the requirement for male passengers to wear jackets in La Terrazza. Unfortunately most passengers seem incapable of understanding what "smart casual" means, and quite frankly they are an insult to those passengers who do. There were several occasions when jacketless men appeared in public rooms and were not censured. It would seem Silversea are letting this ride. Smoking policy Once again Silversea are specific on where passengers can and cannot smoke. This also was not adhered to. With the advent of the electronic cigarette, which does contain nicotine, passengers were surreptitiously smoking all over the ship and were not told this was not allowed. There was often a smell of cigarettes from some passengers' balconies, and some passengers blatantly smoked on deck in non-designated areas and were not stopped. If Silversea have both a dress code and a smoking policy, then it needs to be adhered, to regardless of whom the passenger might be. The title for this review refers ostensibly to the above two issues, the state of the cabin and internal decorations, and the inconsistency of the food, but in no way to the standard of the service provided by the crew. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
Celebrity Solstice was a breath of fresh air, for once we didnt feel nickel and dimed for every little extra. Sailing in Aqua class everything is included. Everyday, fruit, canapes and some sort of drink was delivered to the room. Loads ... Read More
Celebrity Solstice was a breath of fresh air, for once we didnt feel nickel and dimed for every little extra. Sailing in Aqua class everything is included. Everyday, fruit, canapes and some sort of drink was delivered to the room. Loads of amenities included a beach bag, slippers, robes, bottled water in room etc etc etc Also we really appreciated that there was ice cream, sorbet and low fat ice cream all day long in the cafeteria,( why they had a shop selling gelato is beyone me) they were soo good, try the Litchee sorbet Blu our specialty restaurant was wonderful, healthy and seems like low calorie food, beautifully served, by very attentive waiters, and for once we saw the Maitre D everyday. They even called your room to leave a msg thanking you for having gone to dinner in the Blu. Only little bad note is that the aqua class balcony rooms are no larger than the normal balcony rooms and we found these a little too small. We were supposed to be three luckily, the third person backed out of trip and we had the room for ourselves, it would have been awful for 3, no closet space, and if the couch/bed would have been opened we wouldnt have even been able to walk in the room. Apart from that the room was fine. Absolutely no noise from hallway or other rooms. The ships passengers median age seemed to be from mid 30s and up. Very little children or adolescents due to it not being a school holiday, so very little noise that end either. But the ship seems much more suited to adults, not young children as there arent that many sport activities on board like all of the Royal Carribean ships. Forget movie theater there was none!! And they did the Wii in the discotheque. All excursions we found ourselves outside or inside the port arrival areas Way less than the excursions offered on ship of course. In Roaton pls dont miss the Gumbalimba park you can go all day There is a monkey park where they come sit on your shoulders and head soo cute until one stole the earring off one of the ladys in the group, continued to eat it for 10 minutes, but he eventually threw it down. They advise you to put all your bright stuff, bags etc in a locker beforehand. There are parrots, other animals and an insecterium to visit. Zip lininig or canapy tour is 10usd more and snokeling with a guide to reefs is 15usd more than admission which also gives you bus roundtrip. a great day overall. But try to take a lunch off boat or snacks as they have very little, i bought a cheeseburger for 10usd!! They didnt have much else, oonly down side. I would definetly reccomend this cruise and Celebrity ship to everyone and can t wait to go on another. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
Starting with the best.... The dining experience was incredible, Silk Road was so good, we made another reservation immediate after dinner. The sushi, black cod, dessert were all memorable. The dinning room food was near equal in quality ... Read More
Starting with the best.... The dining experience was incredible, Silk Road was so good, we made another reservation immediate after dinner. The sushi, black cod, dessert were all memorable. The dinning room food was near equal in quality to the specialty rest. Great mix of cruisers but more on the older group ( we are 52), met some very nice people. Many repeat cruisers on the ship, one person told us they have cruised with crystal for over 20 years and have seen some of the crystal staff aged over the years. The ship is clean, service is great. My husband celebrated his birthday on board, he was provided a "special birthday breakfast" ( it was over the top) along with an invitation to the Captain's quarters for champagne. Speaking of champagne, as soon as you board, you are presented with champagne. Within 2 hours on board, we had a great lunch , tipsy, and very relaxed. The not as good.., activities were limited, I read 4 books during the cruise, the lecturers almost put me to sleep. The casino was empty most of the time except for a few of us. The cabin is the smallest of all ships we have been on. We sailed in late November and shop inventory was extremely low. I wish there was a better selection of merchandise especially when it came time spending the on board credits. Despite the " not as good" we would definitely sail with Crystal again , they made us feel special and welcome. Read Less

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