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54 Middle East First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

So here is my review of my first ever cruise on the Thomson Celebration (Mediterranean Sunrise). Obviously I have nothing to compare it with as I have never sailed before, but I have stayed in dozens of hotels worldwide so I will try to be ... Read More
So here is my review of my first ever cruise on the Thomson Celebration (Mediterranean Sunrise). Obviously I have nothing to compare it with as I have never sailed before, but I have stayed in dozens of hotels worldwide so I will try to be as honest as I can. Sorry it is so long, there’s so much to say, but I have subtitled each section for ease of reference. * Outbound Flight – We flew early morning from Manchester to Aqaba, Jordan and the 5 ½ hour flight was hassle free. We were only 30 minutes late taking off and they gave us breakfast an hour in. Complimentary drinks were plentiful and they didn’t dawdle when serving them either. All flight staff demonstrated great customer service skills, politeness and efficiency. We collected our suitcases quickly and the bus ride to the ship was only 30 minutes. My only gripe here was we hadn’t been told we were getting the meal and spent £25 on breakfast at the airport. That said we also ate the inflight meal (“coz we’re on holiday”, lol). * Embarkation - Our first ever experience of the embarkation/registration process was like being on the boat ride in ‘Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory’, but in a nice way. It was all so very quick and well organised like a conveyor belt moving us from photograph taking, form checking, medical declarations signed, debit card registration, optional dining extras and handing us our cabin keys with great efficiency. Everyone was very ‘happy clappy’, we loved the excitement of it all and we came out the other side like kids in a candy shop. We went straight to our room to change into clothes we’d packed in our hand luggage and our suitcases were outside our room when we left it 10 minutes later. * Cabin - Deck 6 cabin 207 (Deluxe standard) – Reviewed below. * Food – We ate in the Lido restaurant mostly and never had a single item that wasn’t delicious. Breakfast they have back bacon, eggs done to perfection, omelettes made to order and pancakes to die for. Lunch and Evening Meal were equally good. Food was mostly English fare. We tended to not have an evening meal though as we were too full to enjoy the evening festivities, so we took to eating at around midnight before bedtime when there were curries, pizza, burgers and chicken strips to devour from the Lido. We enjoyed a few meals in the Meridian where the meals were more set and this was a great way to meet other cruisers as we always shared a table (in the Lido you tend to just sit on your own). We paid £47 each to eat in the Hot Stone Terrace, Mistrals and Kora La. All 3 were fabulous, lovely food, great service and well worth the money we paid. But if you’re on a budget, you won’t feel like you missed out if you don’t do these. * Bars/Entertainment – We tended to go to Liberties in the evening and joined in many of the quizzes, fun and games. The entertainment team really are 1st class in our view. Adam, Chris, Luke and Shaneece made a great holiday even better. We went to some of the Broadway shows and loved them all, even the 2 comedians and Braximusic (those guys were amazing). So we didn’t miss out we also did Hemmingway’s 2 evenings and Horizons 2 days, as well as the Coffee Port afternoon. There really is a bar to cater for ever preference on this ship. Drinks were always good, we stuck to the AI drinks and we had more than our money’s worth on this holiday (had we have paid for it of course). * Staff – Amazing people! They work their socks off these guys. The Lido Deck and Liberties bar staff/waiters were super quick and attentive to when your glass was empty. The other bar areas were pretty efficient too, but just not a quick as Liberties, which made us feel as if we were not getting the best service from them. Every member of the service or cleaning staff said hello when you passed them and always had a smile. They are really a credit to Thomson. I’ve been told we had new starters learning the ropes as the experienced staff has moved to the newer ships, but you can’t tell. The crew and captain are also very friendly whether on or off the boat. The entertainment team tend to be less friendly when not on official duties, or rather less welcoming if you say hello. I couldn’t help but feel like I was intruding if we tried to talk to them when they were having a drink on the Lido deck after a show. * Pools/sunbeds – They were cold and only a handful ventured in. I presume this will improve later in the summer season. We didn’t struggle for a sunbed, but usually went to the Lido sun deck rather than the cushioned ones on deck 9 (got these on last day and they are amazingly comfortable). * Photographs - There was an offer on the 1st day on official photographs. £70 for every picture they take, so we couldn’t resist. Again we were like little kids queuing for the ice cream man whenever we got off the ship and went for our evening meal. We’ve got over 100 pictures and they’re brilliant. So that’s the parent’s Christmas presents sorted this year. * Shops – Only a small number of shops, with a good variety of items from tobacco and jewellery, to clothes and souvenirs. We had no intention of buying anything but couldn’t resist it as the prices were very good. The cigarette offer we got were £25 per 200, the same in UK would have been £85 per 200. We only purchased 800 (I know the limit is 200 each) and we were lucky we didn’t have any taken from us in the UK as I know others did. We didn’t bother buying alcohol as they were all glass bottles that have to go into your hold luggage and the savings were only a couple of quid a bottle. Prices on some items did get reduced later in the cruise, so wait if you can till the last day but make sure it will opens as it only opens when ship is at sea. * Wi-Fi – Costs a fortune! We just got free Wi-Fi in port in any coffee shop. From official Thomson card = 1 hour (max 75mb) £8 – 1 day (max 300mb) £15 – 3 days (max 800mb) £25 – 1 week (max 1200mb) £49 – 2 weeks (max 2200mb) £90. * Disembarkation/Malaga Airport – Every flight but 1 was early morning, however all passengers have to vacate their rooms at 7am. You can pay £25 to keep your room if you’re on a late flight. Our bus was 8.10am, so we ate breakfast at 6am when the Lido opened to beat the rush. We left the room at 7am and waited by the door on deck 4 to get off as soon as it opened. That meant we were on bus 1 leaving the port first. That also meant there were no queues at check in and as the Spanish don’t rush when checking you in, these can and did build up quickly. It also meant that we went through security without any delay either. The same cannot be said for anyone on buses 2 and above, they had a minor nightmare through check in and security, so I’m lead to believe. It wasn’t helped that we were all told to go to zone B for the gates, but the passport control box in zone B was unmanned for at the time we went through security, therefore it looked as though it was closed for the day. Luckily we knew this would open an hour before the first flight as we’d been through Malaga 6 months earlier, so we waited nearby and went through once it opened. Again we missed the major queues and our flight left on time from the gate announced. I appreciate others did not have the same experience, so can only attribute our luck to our early start before the masses and that our plane wasn’t delayed as others were. * Would I go again? – In a heartbeat yes. In short though I loved cruising and this won’t be my last. I will choose Thomson again and the Celebration will be top of my list. Why? The staff and other customers completely made this holiday the best I’ve ever had. Because the ship is not enormous we were able to meet many people who were so friendly. Of all the passengers we spoke to during our 13 days on board, only 1 couple said they wouldn’t do Thomson’s again and their reasons were that the food and entertainment is better on P&O. I would rather pay Thomson’s prices as I was completely happy with just about everything. * Excursions/ports of call Petra, Jordan – We did the Thomson excursion and it was worth every penny of the £120pp we paid. The bus ride took 2 ½ hours with one 15 minute stop off and you get 3-4 hours to view the site which is amazing, but a very long walk down to the main areas. We made it to The Treasury, Hadrian Gate and the Theatre and we walked for nearly 2 hours! There was lots more to see, but it would take us 2 hours to get back up to the entrance/exit, so we had to turn around and go back. If you stay with the guide it takes longer as they stop often to talk about everything. We followed another couple who’d been there before. You can get a horse or a pony and trap, but we slugged it out. The horses are whipped to death both up and down the hill and I didn’t trust the pony/trap drivers as there was a collision on the day we were there between 2 of these. You get a meal on this trip at a local hotel before you return home. It’s AI and satisfactory (but not a patch on the ship’s food). Chana, Crete – We did this ourselves using the map from Destination Services which is very useful. Short bus ride immediately off the ship’s gangway to the main street, then a leisurely walk around the harbour area and old town. Valletta, Malta – We did the 3 Islands tour with Thomson’s here. First off a speedboat ride over to Gozo. This was a white knuckle ride as the sea was choppy and it was pretty breezy. We loved it, but we’re 50 years young and there were people in their 80’s who weren’t as excited bouncing around at break neck speed. On Gozo we took to the road in jeeps, which were a little cramped in the back (I had a front seat lol). We visited some lovely areas, but The Azure Window (as seen in Game of Thrones) is no more as the sea took it away in early March. I was a little disappointed, but you can’t blame Mother Nature. We stopped at a beach café then back over to Malta, visiting the caves on Comino on the way. The weather was not good on this day, so this trip was slightly marred by that. However it’s still worth the £70pp we paid. Palma, Majorca – Again we did our own thing here. There is a ‘Hop On Hop Off’ bus immediately off the ship here, but it has a long queue when everyone gets off the ship first thing. It costs 18 Euros per person with headphones and we did a full round trip taking pictures of sites along the way. We got off at the shopping centre and had some lunch at a local bar then walked back to the ship. Cartagena, Spain – This is a beautiful town and you can do it yourself here. The main places to see are within a 10 minute walk of the ship. We saw the Amphitheatre, the Castle of Conception and the Bullring. The buildings are all amazing here. It was Bank Holiday so we were also treated to a parade by the local children in band uniform. Delightful. I spent nothing here as I’d inadvertently left my purse of the ship, but only realised when we went to buy a coffee and get some free Wi-Fi, lol. Gibraltar, UK – We did our own thing here. We walked into town rather than wait for the shuttle as the queue was very long. We wanted to do the cable car to the apes so we ignored all the tour guides in mini buses (Gibraltar Rock Tours or something) as they started off quoting 35 euros each to take the tour of the rock, apes, St Michael’s Cave etc. They also told us the cable car had 45 minutes wait and we would only save a few pounds, but it would take us 3 hours to walk through the reserve to get to the apes. We thought they were embellishing the truth a little to get our business, so we walked 30 minutes to the cable car only to find they were indeed telling us the truth. So we went outside to the nearest mini bus and paid £25 each for the tour. It was brilliant, he talked us through all the areas and gave us interesting facts along the way. We passed all the cable car walkers on the way up and back down and completed the tour in 90 minutes. He even dropped us in town so we could shop and buy some fish and chips for lunch, yummy. Most of the shops were offering discount for Celebration customers and I got a Pandora safety chain for £45 instead of £60. TIP - Do your research and only do the Thomson excursions that you’ll find difficult doing yourself or where you are worried about getting back on time. Our friends did a few Thomson excursions where they paid £36 each and ended up doing what we did for next to nothing. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
Retirement present for self and Husband. Never been on a cruise before, went with another couple who were seasoned at cruising. Staff on ship friendly, but lack of contact communication from Thompson reps, seemed to walk past the ... Read More
Retirement present for self and Husband. Never been on a cruise before, went with another couple who were seasoned at cruising. Staff on ship friendly, but lack of contact communication from Thompson reps, seemed to walk past the passengers without any communication. Cabin staff worked very hard, and keen to please, our. Cabin was on the outside, but spoiled by air conditioner and engine noise, and vibration at all times Fantastic food, available at any time Great not to have to worry about cash as all inclusive, but this lead to abuse of alcohol especially with youngsters. Great New Year Party organised. Despite an adults only pool, children were often the occupier of this facility. The ship did look dated and tired, but not too big which made getting about easy. Trips, especially the 4 x 4 into the mountains was a complete waste of money, -driver couldn't speak any English, and the entire journey was in silence, photo stop on way back for electric pylon!!- what is that about??- should have complained but just glad to get back to ship.Sight seeing trip in Dubai was also a disaster due to fog- in realty saw absolutely nothing- pity there was no provision when the trip organisers knew the weather was against what the aim was. Unsure if I would cruise again-didn't float my boat! Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Only booked this for the destination really and to try msc as we have never sailed with them before and after this experience we wont ever again ! Whilst the ship itself was lovely that's the only thing that could be said was good ... Read More
Only booked this for the destination really and to try msc as we have never sailed with them before and after this experience we wont ever again ! Whilst the ship itself was lovely that's the only thing that could be said was good about it, The service was virtually none existence. All the staff ( with the exception of the cabin steward) looked totally miserable and as though they didnt want to be there and were so rude and ignorant. It was like it was in inconvenience for them with guests being there. They would let doors slam in your face and expected you to always move out of the way if you happened to be walking in the same pathway. We only ate in the restaurant the first night. £2.50 for a bottle of water and it was in a warm & in a blue plastic bottle. The food was so little that it would look lost on a saucer. 3 pieces of meat just larger than the size of a 50p piece and about 4 diced sized potatoes does not equate to a main meal. The food in the buffet was exactly the same everyday with what wasn't eaten at lunchtime still there in the evening. The shows if you could call them that were very similar each night with no change in the stage set and mostly acrobatic. There was no seating on the prom deck and most days they put chains on the doors saying it was closed due to high winds, but the sea was like a millpond. We have been on many cruises before and always enjoyed the evening entertainment and the formal nights but this is the first time ever that we never got to wear the tux & evening dress as it would have been wasted. Hardly anyone bothered and lots were still in their shorts. I could go on and on but I think you get the just of it !!!! on a plus note... Abu dhabi & Dubai were fantastic and so we will be looking to re visit there for a holiday in style Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This was our first experience of cruising so we had mixed feelings once we started to read the reviews but I suppose you can't please all of the people all of the time. We were met at the airport and because of the time of day 8:00am ... Read More
This was our first experience of cruising so we had mixed feelings once we started to read the reviews but I suppose you can't please all of the people all of the time. We were met at the airport and because of the time of day 8:00am we were taken to a lovely hotel for breakfast and whilst there we completed our paperwork in preparation for boarding the ship. That was effortless and then a short journey to the ship we were told that our cabins would be available in a couple of hours but all facilities were open for us to use so again that was fine. We really enjoyed our holiday, the food was first class, our cabin 2004 was adequate clean and plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, we had an ocean view but with a pothole so it was a little dark. The staff were friendly and very obliging and nothing was too much trouble. We ate every night in the King & I restaurant and had no problem booking a table and the food was excellent. The Windjammer at lunch time was always extremely busy and there was a window of 1.5hrs 12:30-2:00 when it was very chaotic and tables were very difficult to get. We had one day at sea which was difficult with 2000 people all using the ships facilities they were strecthed to the limit with people having to sit on the deck floor as all sunbeds were full. Drinks packages we bought the package before we started our holiday all I would say is if you are not sure if it's for you there's no hurry as you can purchase on board the only stipulation is when you buy it it has to be for the rest of your holiday eg buy Wednesday you would pay for 5days. Water, juice,coffee and tea are free from drinks stations. If you don't want to go on trips you can do your own thing and there are free buses from the ship to take you into the resort. There was plenty of entertainment choices from line dancing to quizzes during the day if that's your thing and the evening could easily be enjoyed going to a show or just relaxing in one if the bars. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
This was our first cruise ever, so we went with no preconceived ideas and no expectations. We chose the cruises mainly on price, it was cheap and it went to interesting places in the Middle East that I wanted to go to. We knew we would ... Read More
This was our first cruise ever, so we went with no preconceived ideas and no expectations. We chose the cruises mainly on price, it was cheap and it went to interesting places in the Middle East that I wanted to go to. We knew we would be off the boat most days and to us it was just a floating hotel. Embarkation was good and quick and we arrived on board straight away after arriving at the cruise terminal. However our suitcases took more than 4 hours to arrive at our cabins. We could have gone into Dubai or relaxed by the pool except we had our UK winter clothes on and couldn't change. Now we know to bring a change of clothes or swimsuit in your hand luggage. In general the ship was great, no complaints. We had a cabin without windows which was adequate in size, very comfortable and cheap.We bought an Allegrissimo drinks package before we came, which was cheaper and very good, as you never had to think about the costs of drinks. We found all the staff to be very professional and very helpful. There was a service charge daily but I think the staff deserved this. The main sit down and be served restaurant served excellent food, though portion size was small. The buffets, breakfast, lunch and dinner were excellent in the choices and ranges of food available. They were very busy and sometimes you had to share tables, but this was good for meeting people of other nationalities. I can't comment on entertainment as we never attended any. Excursions were expensive but well organised, though the guides let them down by not being able to offer up information, history or stories. It did say they give basic information only but our guide on the Desert Safari didn't even do that. He only spoke when questioned, didn't say where we were or how long we had at that spot. I booked the Big Bus on line before coming and got a combined ticket for Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat. This was a lot cheaper than individual tickets bought on the ship. Finding free sunbeds or places to sit in the sun outside was also a problem. You could reserve you place with a towel, which people did and then disappeared for the rest of the day. Staff were supposed to remove them after 30 mins but they never did. Lastly and most importantly, my husband contracted some kind of food poisoning on the first evening, maybe after eating mussels. He was sick all night with diarrhea too. This then lasted the whole week and on into the week we got home. He visited the medical centre who examined him, gave him advice and medicines and even 2 drips but nothing worked. Also it cost us 526 euros! even though we are in the process off claiming some of it back through our insurance. It spoilt the cruise for us, especially for me as I was alone for a lot of the time. This year we are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary and had planned a variety of holidays to celebrate, but this turned out to be a disappointment due to the illness and the ships inability to cure it. Despite this the cruise itself was very good and I would recommend this company. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
This was our first cruise. It was our Wedding Anniversary and my husband's 70th birthday, so it was booked up last June. We paid £3,900 for the holiday + £600 for 2 drinks packages, so expected some luxury... And we were so ... Read More
This was our first cruise. It was our Wedding Anniversary and my husband's 70th birthday, so it was booked up last June. We paid £3,900 for the holiday + £600 for 2 drinks packages, so expected some luxury... And we were so looking forward to our first cruise.... I could not sleep at all. The air con was on continuously blasting out all night. You couldn't turn it off. Neither did the temperature dial work. By Wenesday, I just wanted to fly back home. The sleep deprivation was making me feel quite ill and I was very worried about my husband who has a lung condition and air conditioning irritates it. He had a really nasty nose bleed in the night which we believe was brought on by the aircon. I did make an appointment to see the guest relations manager. He didn't turn up, so had to see the front desk manager, he said EVERY single stateroom was the same i.e. As it was an old ship, the aircon had to be on continuously. I would love to know if there were any staterooms were you could turn off/regulate the aircon. There was no empathy with our situation what so ever. The front desk manager gave me a pair of ear plugs! I did try them, but they were too uncomfortable to wear. Found one person in particular on the guest services desk to be very arrogant. Room no. was 6000 with a Balcony. It was a very small room. Found out that deck 6 had had the balconies fitted as an add on. There was no fridge and no coffee/tea making facility. The food was mediocre ... Not what we expected at all. In the Windjammer, evening meal, I called over a waiter and gave him a beef slider that was completely raw in the middle... No wonder there were tummy upsets. The bar "service" poolside was non existent most of the time. You could feel the movement/engine humming... Didn't expect that. Entertainment? Daily activities? oh dear.... We were both so bored. Some positives ... The other travellers on board were great, met some lovely people. A couple of the poolside staff were wonderful. The casino... Loved that. When we disembarked we transferred to Le Royal Meridian beach resort and spa (5*) for 3 days... It was pure luxury, top notch food and service. Sleep quality was fantastic. Dubai was fab. So at least we had a nice ending to the holiday. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
This was my maiden trip on a cruise and was absolutely mind blowing experience. Since I was travelling with my mother, I must say I was bit apprehensive given the health conditions of both of us, but that fear did not deter us from ... Read More
This was my maiden trip on a cruise and was absolutely mind blowing experience. Since I was travelling with my mother, I must say I was bit apprehensive given the health conditions of both of us, but that fear did not deter us from embarking on this wonderful journey. The decor inside the cruise resembled of a 7 star hotel and can give a run for their money on every front. The staff were well trained and were so hospitable that they were just a call away for any help required. The food was another WOW factor and the way the food gets churned on a daily basis is nothing short of a miracle!!! The rooms were well ventilated and had a nice spacious balcony and the housekeeping staff would attend 2 times a day to keep things spic and span In short I would say everyone on the cruise was pampered for choice be it for the food, beverages, entertainment and not to the mention the ambience!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We, as a family, were looking forward to this cruise for months. it was my and my husband's first cruise. embarkation was easy. Our kids and grandkids have been on several cruises so they know the drill. we boarded and ate lunch ... Read More
We, as a family, were looking forward to this cruise for months. it was my and my husband's first cruise. embarkation was easy. Our kids and grandkids have been on several cruises so they know the drill. we boarded and ate lunch on the lido deck, then on to our cabins to unpack. luggage was at our cabin by 3:30 and we unpacked and got ready for dinner. we had early dining in the elation dining room. christian and eduardo were our waiters and they were beyond great. any request we had was filled quickly and they made our under 18's really enjoy the dining experience....the over 18's, likewise. ( for some of you that have never cruised before, be aware, you can order as many appetizers, entree's or desserts that you want....and this family did just that! lobster night was outrageous....we kept ordering and ordering and ordering and they kept bringing....! there were 11 of us and we must have eaten 25-30 lobsters and shrimp!! needless to say we enjoyed dinner time and our waiters were part of the enjoyment! they became part of the family!!!! Entertainment on board was fun. punchliner comedians were great and my granddaughter was ready to go on stage with the singers and dancers. thoroughly enjoyed. Out cabin steward, francis, was amazing! everything we asked for was brought to us quickly with a smile on his face. he, as well, treated us as family. The reason i cannot give this trip an excellent review is because we, as a family, decided to have a batman adventure night.....we all dressed up as batman characters....batman, robin, batgirl, joker, riddler, poison ivy and alfred. we went to dinner on our last night at sea dressed this way...dining room applauded us and we were so enjoying ourselves. our waiters even called us by character name! looking forward to pictures, dancing and a fun family night. Security put a damper on that when we went to have pictures taken.....said my son could not be on the ship in the batman costume....(his mask only covered his eyes). with some help from other passengers who loved the idea and were enjoying seeing this crazy family having fun, the security person did allow us to have pictures taken but then had to remove our costumes. something we had looked forward to for months and worked so hard on, came crashing down around us.....did they think batman and his friens and villains were going to rob the ship of all the money they had on board?????? anyone that has been on a cruise knows that no money changes hands on a cruise....it's all on a card and charged to you at the end of the cruise!!!!! needless to say, this put a big question mark on a carnival cruise in the future!!!!! Oh yes, a second thing that hampered our vacation....our 6 year old who is small for her age but swims like a fish wasn't allowed to use the water slide because she wasn't tall enough!!!! Although twice she was allowed to use it when an adult family member intervened with the gentleman in charge of the gate.......go figure!!!! she was the only one of the 5 kids with us that was not allowed to join in the fun......very unsettling to her. wanted to know why the other kids were better than her...hard to justify when they did let her go down 2 times!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This was our first cruise and, having undertaken extensive research, booked RSS with the USP of Holy Land tours included. We travelled business class from LHR on Virgin, which was the worse business cabin we have ever experienced. Dubai ... Read More
This was our first cruise and, having undertaken extensive research, booked RSS with the USP of Holy Land tours included. We travelled business class from LHR on Virgin, which was the worse business cabin we have ever experienced. Dubai hotel, JW Marriott Marquis, was excellent. Embarkation was very well managed and lunch on the pool deck was a wonderful start to our trip. Our Butler Suite, thank you Joshua, was spotlessly clean, fantastic walk in closet with all the space you could wish for, champagne on ice to welcome us, mini-bar stocked with our personal choices, and nightly canapés delivered shortly after we had unpacked. Our Stewardess, Recel, and Steward, Michael, looked after us so well - it was almost magic, our suite was always serviced, twice a day, and we were never inconvenienced. The balcony had a lounger, two reclining chairs and a table. As we were in a stern suite we invariably enjoyed sunshine most of the day and enjoyed really good views of the ports. We were very close to the launderette, but not close enough to hear the noise generated by the very efficient machines. Food: pool lunches were varied and tasty; Compass Rose - good solid product; Prime 7 - steaks and sea food to die for; Signatures - highest quality food, presentation and service. Sette Mari - good quality but menu repetitive. La Veranda - breakfast was the weak point but still not bad. Drinks free flowing and good quality. Tours: all very well organised with friendly, military precision. Tour guides all well informed professionals with one exception in Cyprus, who was shockingly awful! Trips in Israel were really good and the highlight of the trip for us. Comfort: bed very comfy with good linen. Bathroom well supplied with top end toiletries and towels. Plenty of bathroom storage space. Very convenient all together. Well serviced by Recel and Michael, great ambassadors for RSS! Safety: this is taken very seriously from the lifeboat drill on day 1, the piracy drill because of our sailing itinerary, and the regular crew drills and updated safety information for passengers. Entertainment and Enrichment: all looked high end but we were not interested in participating. Good variety if this is for you. Overall organisation, especially disembarkation day when Voyager arrived 2.25 hours late due to a Force 9 gale. Staff quickly changed flights and re-scheduled D-bark times to accommodate revised arrangements so smoothly, very well done with no problems. We stayed on in Barcelona, making a great finale to our trip and using RSS business class return flights with BA. Special mention for Ray Solaire, Cruise Director, a real character, Daniel Green the Captain, and Roxana from Signatures who was the most delightful and helpful member of the crew, and that is high praise as all the crew were truly outstanding. We are looking to re-book with RSS before too long. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This was our first ever cruise and hence our first review on this site. A couple of earlier reviews of this ship on this website were very helpful for us so thank you for taking the trouble - they really helped us prepare and set ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise and hence our first review on this site. A couple of earlier reviews of this ship on this website were very helpful for us so thank you for taking the trouble - they really helped us prepare and set expectations. We chose this particular cruise as a 'floating hotel' to see the fascinating places it stops at (Dubai / Muscat / Khasab / Abu Dhabi) rather than for a cruise experience per se. We booked several excursions through cruisingexcursions.com - I wouldn't use them again. Before we arrived we received conflicting/confusing information about embarkation procedures, as did others. Many disgruntled folk had been transferred to the port from the airport in the morning but did not know that they were not allowed into their cabin till 8pm. Cabin was clean and pleasant inside (an outside cabin with small balcony) with plenty of storage space. The balcony was a bit grubby and many people used their balcony for smoking which made sitting outside rather unpleasant for a non smoker as the smell of cigarette smoke wafted down the length of the ship. The ship is decidedly Italian and the décor awesome but not in a good way. The interior design team should have been sacked at an early stage in the process but were seemingly allowed to realise their nightmare visions unrestrained. Such extreme design is bound to irritate a good proportion of any audience and that included me. That together with the wretched music in every public area of the ship made our cabin a welcome retreat. Still the holiday was cheap (I kept telling myself). We were told that the average passenger consumes 5.2 meals per day on the ship. The food was certainly plentiful and some of it was really good and much of it healthy also. But looking at many of the passengers, taken together with the statistics, I concluded that dietary self control is a serious problem on cruises like this. The level of food waste, especially in the self service restaurants, was disturbing as some people piled vast quantities on to their plates only to leave much of it. The evening five course dining experience was varied with some excellent dishes and others less so. But not bad overall once we realised that it wasn't compulsory to eat every course. The service from staff varied considerably between wonderful and non existent. At times staff would walk at you as if you weren't there, whilst at other times staff were genuine and really made an effort to be friendly and helpful. Unlike the number of places in the lifeboats, there weren't enough sunbeds to go round. This provided excellent people-watching opportunities. I've never before seen people steal others' clean towels from sunbeds and replace them with their own dirty ones. The Giove Theatre seemed bigger than many UK provincial theatres. The nightly shows were glitzy and clearly had taken significant effort and resources to stage. They just got a bit samey and weren't all that entertaining judging by the efforts needed to get the audience to respond. We had a couple of 'hot stone' massages in the spa centre - a truly excellent service there. Wonderful. A disappointment for me was the complete cultural separation between the ship and the outside world - no attempt was made to educate or inform about the places being visited - no talks, no experts in middle east culture, art, religion etc to help us get more out of the experience. Just bar staff selling drinks packages and shops selling stuff you can get in a duty free shop anywhere. The excursions were a wonderful relief - these were the windows to get out and make the most of the short period in each of the fascinating places we stopped. The Costa excursions seemed much better organised but considerably more expensive than the cruisingexcursions.com trips we had booked. However we experienced various difficulties with ours (one excursion was cancelled without telling us and another left several people behind). The information and process for disembarkation was reminiscent of our experience of the Italian railway system at Pisa last year. None of what we were told actually happened in practice and we ended up carrying our own cases off the ship at 6am on our last day. Overall - would we go on a Costa cruise ever again? Absolutely not. Interestingly everyone we spoke to on the ship said the same. Should we be put off ever going on a cruise again? Most people said there were great cruising experiences to be had so we'll keep looking. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Our very first cruise and we were so looking forward to sailing on QM2 but by the time we arrived back at Heathrow from Dubai I could have kissed the ground so glad were we to be back. I suppose the omens were starting to show when we left ... Read More
Our very first cruise and we were so looking forward to sailing on QM2 but by the time we arrived back at Heathrow from Dubai I could have kissed the ground so glad were we to be back. I suppose the omens were starting to show when we left Southampton on the 10th January and the Queen Elisabeth was late arriving so instead of the two queens leaving to mark the start of Cunard's 175th year we left alone. It was the two Egyptian ports, pyramids and Valley of the Kings that attracted me to this cruise. These of course were cancelled soon after we paid the balance of the fare and I am sure the chances of QM2 ever visiting any Egyptian ports were slim to say the least, without these ports however I very much doubt if the first leg of the QM2 World Tour would have been booked by so many. Over 2000 passengers disembarked in Dubai, many very, very disappointed after so many cancelled ports, 10 says at sea, a dire replacement container port and other disappointments outlined by others on this website. Even experienced cruisers told us it was one of the worst cruises they had been on and we were very unlucky. Will we ever cruise again, I very much doubt it as we were stir crazy by the time we reached the final destination and very annoyed at the captains statement upon disembarkation that they had been to the number of ports scheduled - maybe Cunard would be better off advertising mystery tours! Cunard need to learn a few new words one of which is 'sorry'. As first time cruisers we have nothing to compare but if Cunard are supposed to be one of the top drawer cruise lines then I can only say that standards must be slipping as there was a range of items that in our opinion was not up to the supposed white star service some highlighted by others who were also on this very disappointing cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
It did not start well - an overnight flight from the UK which was very squashed and uncomfortable (Emirates. VERY disappointing) and then we were in the embarkation area by 9.30am and told we would not have a cabin until 20.00. We were ... Read More
It did not start well - an overnight flight from the UK which was very squashed and uncomfortable (Emirates. VERY disappointing) and then we were in the embarkation area by 9.30am and told we would not have a cabin until 20.00. We were appalled. Luckily we managed to get a good armchair each and catch up on some sleep. Then there was a mad surge forward around 3pm and it was utter chaos. We began to panic thinking we had come on the 'Ryanair' of cruises. However, somehow our chairs were near the front and we slipped into the queue and the embarkation was then painless and quite efficient although I would not have been able to stand for several hours as the people at the back must have done. We went on board and ate on Deck 9 at the lido grill and all was well. I went off to locate our cabin and was told we could not have it until 20.00 (it was 16.00 then and I had a dreadful headache and this seemed totally unreasonable) I spoke to the steward and explained I felt unwell and needed to lie down and amazingly he said we could have the cabin at 18.00 and sure enough we did. After that it was pretty much perfect. We had balcony cabin 8439 at the back of the ship and it was fine. The air conditioning was a little noisy but the main problem was a 'squeaky wardrobe' when the ship was in motion overnight. This really was irritating. Cabin steward Joe anticipated our every need and was faultless, absolutely SUPERB. We ate on the early sitting in the Michelangelo restaurant for 6 nights and at the buffet on deck 9 for one. We didn't care for the pushing and shoving in the self service and greedy people in shorts and singlets piling it high. We didn't go to any of the entertainment as not our thing - we sat on our balcony and read. Bliss. We retired early as all the trips started early. The trips were superb, really enjoyed them all, excellent guides. We did Niswa and Jabrin Castle, Mystical Muscat (LOVED Muscat) Khasab and surroundings, Abu Dhabi and Dubai city tours. All brilliant. We thought the ship was great, we have no complaints about the decor and I especially liked the rear sundeck on deck 9 and the adults only pool which I mostly had to myself every day for half an hour or so. We have confidently recommended Costa cruises to our friends (and everyone sneered when we were going because of what happened to the Concordia) and we will certainly travel with them again if they go where we wish to travel. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
My Wife and I decided to do a Cruise this Christmas to get away from it all. We flew to Dubai on the 20th December from Dublin, good flight. The Hotel overnight supplied in Dubai was excellent and we were up graded to a Junior Suite(not ... Read More
My Wife and I decided to do a Cruise this Christmas to get away from it all. We flew to Dubai on the 20th December from Dublin, good flight. The Hotel overnight supplied in Dubai was excellent and we were up graded to a Junior Suite(not sure why). Breakfast next morning and transfer/embarking the Ship was very smooth and painless. Accommodation was an Ocean View Stateroom which was first class. Everything about the Cruise was, in our opinion, excellent from the food to the all inclusive Drinks Package. I would recommend that people do one of these Drinks Inclusive Packages as drink can be expensive and the package will pay for itself in a matter of days. This was our first Cruise and we were very pleasantly surprised. The Dining provided something for everyone, be it a casual buffet on the 12th deck or a Formal Gala sit down meal in pleasant company. We found all the food to be excellent. All staff from waiting to bar staff were very helpful and courteous. The tipping is added to your bill at the end and costs €7 per person per day. we asked to have this removed at the beginning (it was removed on the end bill) and we tipped the staff we felt appropriate, i.e. the Cabin Stewart, our main Waiters and certain Bar Staff. I believe all were happier with this arrangement. Only two things we were not delighted with were two Ports, Kasab and Al Fackat which had nothing to see at all. in Kasab we did a bus trip supplied by MSC into town for ten Euros only to get straight back on it and return to the Ship. One observation that we both made was a couple of individuals, one a Family and one a Couple who had previously availed of 5/7 star cruises on the Princes and Royal Caribbean lines. They complained bitterly and constantly and out everything from food to entertainment. One of these actually compared the food on the Lirica as being comparable to being the difference between your "local chippy and a four star Michelin Restaurant". Fine, if that is the case pay for the 7 star cruise and don't complain about being on a four star one! All in all, a wonderful experience and one I would recommend and hope to do again this year if at all possible. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Firstly, for those who have read my previous reviews I hope I've demonstrated that my comments are as objective as possible and where possible as positive as I can be. This review is based on my expectation for the price we paid. Had ... Read More
Firstly, for those who have read my previous reviews I hope I've demonstrated that my comments are as objective as possible and where possible as positive as I can be. This review is based on my expectation for the price we paid. Had I paid less I may have thought our experience was acceptable. This is quite long, but bear with me! As a result of lots of positive comments from friends and the fact that I love anything to do with water we decided to give Cruising a go. I chose Royal Caribbean because it sounded like an American company and therefore I expected a really high standard of customer service. Furthermore, as it was a first time experience I decided to go for a high-end option. To make the booking I initially rang straight through to RCI, but they couldn't organise the itinerary I wanted (odd), but they sold the cruise well so I contacted my own agent and they were able to book the complete deal without any fuss (dial a flight -- Michelle). Paying the amount we did we expected priority for various procedures such as boarding, lounges, bathing, dining, the usual and from the tone of the call to RCI I wasn't expecting anything less -- you get what you pay for. We set off, really looking forward to the trip! We arrived at the port in Dubai to embark on the 'Serenade of the Seas' (1) We were surprised to note that there was no one at the entrance to identify what type of customer we were and to guide us from there. In fact this set the tone for the trip and much of what we discovered over the next 7 days was as a result of default rather than good customer care. We made our way to the check in and were advised that we could access our stateroom at 1pm. (2) we were told to wait in the general waiting area. First impression was not very good. (3) Deck 11 is a bit tired looking and reminiscent of a 2-3 star holiday camp. By the way, I was 15 years old the last time I was at a holiday camp and I think I'm well past that type of experience! We made our way to what was an Owners Suite. It's a 2 bed-roomed suite with a living area, a bathroom, en-suite and balcony. Couldn't swing a cat on the balcony as 2 sun-beds, a table and 2 chairs took up all the room. (4) As the week progressed the balcony became a real source of irritation. We were in very high temperatures and as the barrier was fully with no ventilation it became like an oven so unusable! By day 2 when I realised that getting a location on the general sun deck that didn't involve getting intimately close up and personal with all the other guests was nigh on impossible, the fact I couldn't our balcony was really frustrating. Later that afternoon we went in search of lunch. 'The Windjammer' was the only option. This is a buffet style canteen. First impression -- Staff really very miserable and unfriendly -- oh dear, and worst of all, plastic plates - Yuk! Unfortunately, having 24 years in the customer services sector means I'm more aware of what good service is and if you've read my previous reviews I'm really good at complimenting those organisation who deliver well. However, rather than throw myself overboard I decided that the best course of action is to eat (the plastic food) and have a glass of wine. (5) We had bought the premium drinks package $55 per day per person, which included all types of drinks. Total cost to us, as 4 adults in the family, was £995 for the week. We aren't heavy drinkers, but we didn't want the hassle of having pay for each item so consolidating it seemed a good idea. I asked the rather fed up waitress if I could have a glass of wine. Waitress - "Do you want red or white?" Me- "White wine pleases. What have you got?" Waitress- "Chardonnay" Me- "Don't you have Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio" After all these are probably 2 of the most popular grapes!! Waitress- "No, just Chardonnay!" Brilliant, I thought, this is going from bad to worse, which way to throw myself over board? So far rubbish greeting, shabby boat, horrendous canteen, miserable staff and now I can't get something reasonable to drink! Needless to say we dispensed with the premier drinks package -- at the end of the week we spent less than the cost of the package anyway, so would not have been worth it! (6) When we got to the cabin we were advised that our luggage would be delivered to our cabin by 8pm. Joy -- this meant we wouldn't have had the option to lie in the sun as we didn't have any swim wear! We booked 'my time dining' for 6.30pm so couldn't get changed for dinner either! (7) Our cabin attendant arrived to show us round the cabin. He was a nice chap but not very informative. He showed us the manual and left. At 6.30 we made our way to 'my time dining' located in the Reflections restaurant. It was very cramped, but looked really pleasant and professional. Nice tableware, neatly laid out and thankfully smiley waiting staff. Thank God for Yasar and Harry. Yasar is from the Philippines and was genuinely keen to ensure that we had a good dining experience. Our family just loved him. He was so sweet and polite, and so we generally took his menu recommendation. To be fair, he was normally absolutely right. 'Miss Alice' and 'Sir Alan' was how he addressed my daughter and husband, I think I was 'Madam Janet' and he really made up for the poor impression we'd had up to that point. What was even more endearing was that even though we'd eaten at the speciality restaurants for the following 3 nights and given that there were 2000 guests on board, he remembered our names when we ate there again. So impressed were we with this team we ate there for the rest of the week. Harry was also really sweet and as the week progressed he opened up a little more. They made a very good team. Top tip -- Take the 'wine package' for dinnertime, as you get better choices and overall probably works out as being more cost effective. General comments - (8) Entertainers on this ship were awful. Singing is not there best feature! Whoever auditioned them needs to have their ears tested. The karaoke singers in the pub were better. - Casino -- Staff don't smile. We didn't actually use the casino, as we wouldn't know what to do except lose money, but it was interesting to observe. - Theatre Shows - My husband and daughter attended the Beatle's night (big hype for this show!), and had it not been for the fact they were at the front, they would have left very early on. I was given the impression that the shows were fabulous on a cruise -- not evident on this one! - Pool area and sun deck -- one word Horrible. Beds were plastic and uncomfortable and far too close (some very intimate moments could be had if you were that way inclined) and the pool looked decidedly dodgy. (9) I love the sun and it was one of the key features of why we chose this cruise. However, I managed 6 very unbearable hours in cramped and thoroughly unpleasant bathing conditions. My family did not even entertain the idea of going out onto the deck and as our balcony was like an oven we couldn't lie out in our own space. As a result we came home the same colour as we left! - Restaurants - Chops Grill -- Really, really great steaks and pudding. A definite must. Giovanni's -- Good Italian food. Azumi -- very bland and lacked character - Concierge Club -- Opening hours not brilliant as these were 8-10.30am and 5-8.30pm. Wasn't opened on day 1 from 1pm, which would have been really useful as could have given us a lot of information. We were booked on an early sitting so didn't get round to going there until day 3. Provided complimentary drinks and food, which were okay, but no Gordon's or Bombay Gin! Dawson and Lee were lovely and ensured that we were never without a drink. Francois was really helpful. - Trips -- Seriously overpriced and so we didn't use the service - Stop over's --Throughout the trip we docked at industrial ports so nothing attractive to look at. Nothing to be done about that, but again as we were first timers it was disappointing. Suggestions -- as per numbers 1. There should be someone to meet priority clients and to guide them through the process of checking in and then advise what to do 2. The concierge lounge should be open for the whole day on day 1, as it would allow guests to meet each other, break the ice so to speak. It would also provide an opportunity to learn more about what to expect or what is provided during the trip rather than guests having to figure it out as they go along 3. I understand that the ship has had recent refurbishments and this is evident in most parts of the ship, but the areas on deck 11 look really worn, so first impression not good. Other areas did look good. 4. The balcony should have slatted barrier to allow air to get through. Useless in extremely high temperatures 5. Premier drinks package should have a variety of wines. Lets face it a reasonable bottle of Sauvignon Blanc can be bought at cost for a few pounds, in bulk even less, so don't be mean. It appears a bit money grabbing!! 6. For priority client's luggage should be taken to rooms at earliest time, otherwise what's the point in paying extra? 7. Cabin attendants for Gold card clients should be given time to actually instruct their guests on options and what to do rather than directing them to a manual to read 8. Get better singers. 9. Section off an area for Gold card clients to sunbath What we loved 1. 70's night was hilarious 2. The guests who sang on the Karaoke night 3. Yasar, Harry, Dawson, Lee and Francois 4. Chops Grill 5. Coming home! Would we cruise again -- Yes, but on a smaller and more customer focused ship. We would never travel to this part of the world again and will try Europe or somewhere that has a more attractive and interesting landscape. Also one where you pay for the whole package rather than feeling as though everywhere you turn someone is after more money. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
First let us introduce ourselves we are a married Egyptian couple with no children living in Kuwait I work in investment banking and my wife is a freelance graphic designer. We came across the Dubai cruise by chance and the booking was ... Read More
First let us introduce ourselves we are a married Egyptian couple with no children living in Kuwait I work in investment banking and my wife is a freelance graphic designer. We came across the Dubai cruise by chance and the booking was the fastest decision we ever had, took us around 15 minutes to close the booking we even decided to do an early anniversary celebration for it. We booked before the embarkation by a several month and till the big day we kept dreaming and fantasize about how it will look like beside lots of research. To cut it short to the review we landed in Dubai the day before the embarkation and stayed at Savoy Central hotel about 5 minutes drive from the port. And here comes the big day as we were approaching the port and got the 1st visual contact with the ship we were amazed by the ship's massive size (I know it's a small one compared to RCL fleet but we still rookies) , RCL land staff on the port were very nice , helpful ,smiling and organized the check in process took around 20 minutes including double checking with UAE coast guards our eligibility to take a return visa to UAE at the end of the cruise. Finally we got our sea passes and headed to the ship and from the moment we stepped in the ship the fascination started from the Centrum till we reached our stateroom at the 9th floor, after checking out our beautiful room we decided to talk a walk around the ship and since then we didn't stop walking till we reached back Dubai. Our stateroom was on the 9th floor we booked a balcony room very spacious with a nice size balcony , very comfy bed and pillows bathroom was good the shower was a little bit tight but wasn't a problem as you don't want to waste too much time in the shower , room service was great they clean and make up your room several times a day and by every night you will find your cruise compass along with a very nice wrapped towel (we had an elephant , dog and a hanging monkey. The ship is amazing with lots of activities from live shows to various dining options , relaxation by the solarium to watch movies on the huge screen by the pool, interactive touch screens on each floor showing the ship map , point of interests and all the activities going on board was very informative. For the dining we tried several places along the trip (Windjammer , The Reflections , Giovanni's Table and Park Cafe) usually we had breakfast around 8 Am , Snack 1 PM and Dinner 8:30 PM. 1- Windjammer : The food on windjammer is very nice with lots of varieties and the main thing we loved in Windjammer that no matter how crowded it is you'll never feel it due to its spacious space. 2- The Reflections : The food was very tasty and sophisticated and very nice wine menu. 3- Giovanni's Table : we went to Giovanni's Table on the Mystery Wine Dinner night Same as reflections very tasty and sophisticated and the show was awesome. 4- Park Cafe : Very nice for a mid day light snack and they have the best Roast Beef sandwich I ever had. Regarding the onboard activities we enjoyed the lovely animation team on the Serenade they had different activities every day , the Arabian night was wonderful . We went to the tropical theater a couple of times and were impressed by the huge production they have onboard , also the shows on the Centrum was very amusing specially the 70's disco night. The good thing that if you missed on any show (which defiantly you will as some shows are played together) it will be broadcasted on the internal channels on your stateroom TV. Also all live bands were very nice playing different genres of music from easy listening to latin music. The overall entertainment onboard the ship was awesome Service on the ship is wonderful and very professional from room attendants to restaurant greeters and waiters, bar tenders , animation team ,onboard shops sales representatives all officers and senior officers everyone is greeting you with a huge smile and won't save an effort to help you in anything. We didn't do any kind of shore excursions as we enjoyed the ship very much and we didn't want to waste any time outside it, we only got to a short tour in Oman by our own around 2 hours but from the excursions list we got on the ship seems like they offer lots of on shore activities with very reasonable prices. The most thing we loved in the cruise is the guests onboard the ship a very nice combination of multi culture people that are looking forward to spend good time all guests were friendly , smiling and happily greeting each other, we had lots of short/long side conversations with many people from all around the world we even managed to earn new friendship with a very lovely German couple on the 2nd day and we spent the rest of the cruise together. The only thing we didn't like on the whole cruise that the outdoor swimming pool became very dirty by the last 2 days of the cruise. Checkout process was very easy specially that I had all the onboard expenses debited from my credit card directly. Bottom line we enjoyed every second on the cruise and we are officially attached to the cruising life. we started looking for 2014 cruise already. In the end I would like to thank everyone working on the Serenade Of the Seas for making our dream vacation comes true. Hope the above info. Was informative for you. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
My partner and I were lucky enough to have booked a two week 'cruise and stay' holiday, very last minute (less than one week before our departure!), with week one on the Thomson Celebration 'Red Sea Cruise' (from ... Read More
My partner and I were lucky enough to have booked a two week 'cruise and stay' holiday, very last minute (less than one week before our departure!), with week one on the Thomson Celebration 'Red Sea Cruise' (from Sharm-El-Sheik) and week two at Nubian Island resort in Sharm-El-Sheik. The whole experience was wonderful! Perfect weather every day, the ship was of a good standard, great food, we dined mostly in the Meridian restaurant and definitely worth a visit to the Mistral restaurant too. My partner is gluten free and he was very well catered for with his own menu at every meal. We did a lot of excursions the first week; Wadi Rum, Petra, Cairo (from Sokhna) Nile cruise, Giza, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, it was busy but very worth it! We spent about £700 (for the two of us) on the excursions, which seemed a lot, but it was definitely worth it. Yeah the ports are 'industrial' but your in the Middle East not the Caribbean! The staff are so friendly and I couldn't fault the experience. I had read some negative comments on cruise review sites before the holiday but I just thought they were about other peoples expectations and I'd go with an open mind and I wouldn't let it impact my experience, it worked for me. We are a gay couple and I had been slightly concerned about the possibility of other cruisers homophobic attitudes but this was mostly unfounded with most people being very friendly. We probably did stand out as the 'only gays on the ship' but it didn't affect our holiday at all. Most people were probably oblivious! Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
We have just returned from our first cruise, Thomsons "Red Sea Magic" aboard the Celebration. While this is not the largest ship out there, it is very comfortable, with a fantastically friendly yet unintrusive crew, who provide ... Read More
We have just returned from our first cruise, Thomsons "Red Sea Magic" aboard the Celebration. While this is not the largest ship out there, it is very comfortable, with a fantastically friendly yet unintrusive crew, who provide nothing but first class service and great food. Our outside cabin had two comfortable beds, a nicely fitted shower room, and loads of storage space with 2 full length wardrobes. We had a new flat screen tv, with movie and other channels, but didn't really make much use of it as we can watch tv at home! The ship is being upgraded to "Platignum" standard, but the work is not a problem for current customers and is due to be done by early May. This ship is aimed at a purely British clientele, so the food and entertainment is geared towards their tastes. We didn't have the drinks package, and although we never went without a tipple, we'd have been hard pressed to get our money's worth from it, so I can't recomment paying the extra £219 per head (all parties in a cabin have to pay for the package, so you can't just get one and share it!. If you have the package, you still have to pay extra for premium brands and there seem to be time restrictions too, as our friends had to pay for barista coffees before 10am (free tea and coffee are always available in the restaurants). The crew are mainly Phillipinos but all speak very good English, and have obviously been well trained to provide good service. The food is excellent, and there's always something new on the menu, with a choice of 3 restaurants and snack bars to choose from 24 hours a day. Sadly, the ports of call in the red sea are not much to write home about, being industrial raher than tourist ports, but that need not spoil the holiday, as there's always something to do on board, if you don't want to join an excursion or go exploring on your own. Altogether, a great experience, and we look forward to cruising again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
I went on the 'Holy Lands' cruise, March - April 2013. It was fantastically good value and had the most wonderful time! I loved being on the ship, arriving at an exotic port at dawn, a days fabulous sightseeing,all extremely ... Read More
I went on the 'Holy Lands' cruise, March - April 2013. It was fantastically good value and had the most wonderful time! I loved being on the ship, arriving at an exotic port at dawn, a days fabulous sightseeing,all extremely well and comfortably organised. The best local restaurants booked for us at lunchtime, top-flight lecturers informing us on what we were seeing and about the countries we visited - an amazing education whilst being totally pampered. As the passengers never exceed 350, you never feel crowded. In fact, it's easy to be alone if you want to, and that's not just in your comfortable cabin. (I booked the cheapest) If you are a single passenger wanting to socialise, you're invited to join other passengers at tables at mealtimes; if not, no problem. It's a very friendly and respectful atmosphere. Again, for single passengers, a drinks party was arranged on the second evening on board to introduce you to staff and other singles. Minerva cruises attract intelligent people with curiosity/experience about their world. The mainly Philipino restaurant and bar staff were charming and the service 5 star, as was the food! (and I'm fussy) . On my second evening in the Verandah bar - lovely gentle, live music being played, the barman said: "Ah, Mrs Chadwick, will it be the gin and tonic again tonight?", Tony the barman had remembered me! Alcoholic drinks are very reasonably priced. The food is excellent with a choice of silver service dining, or the self-service restaurant with a cornucopia of choices, which you could take out, or have brought to you, on deck. Entertainments are fine, talented musicians of all persuasions are there for your enjoyment. I bopped away till the early hours! And then woke early for a good breakfast before the morning's excursion! On a budget, I stuck to the price included excursions, of which there was a daily choice. Though if you wish to pay a very reasonable fee you can explore further. I very much appreciated the company's concern for the welfare of staff- almost part of the family - evidenced in their cheerful good service. Cleanliness is excellent, scrupulous attention is paid to passenger comfort and health. I would recommend Minerva cruises very highly - it changed my life! I'm booked again this year. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We booked this through a Thomson travel agency and never having cruised before decided to try a few upgrades. We upgraded to a suite, bought the drinks package (more later) and selected our seats on the flight. On arrival at the ... Read More
We booked this through a Thomson travel agency and never having cruised before decided to try a few upgrades. We upgraded to a suite, bought the drinks package (more later) and selected our seats on the flight. On arrival at the airport we were faced with a dilemma, hand luggage which was overweight! Allowed only 5kg but the paperwork states 7kg. After switching stuff around into main cases we proceeded. No in flight entertainment or meals as standard, this is not good enough for a 5 + hour flight. Arrived at Sharm el Sheik airport, no problems here other than chaotic with several flights arriving around the same time. Took a coach to the dock, could not call it a port. We had to queue for registration in a small hut, felt a bit like a refugee at this point. Eventually got on board and the suite we had (056 on deck 8) was fine, the bathroom had clearly been refurbished recently, although the description of the view was "partially obstructed", there was ample room to see past the lift boat arm and winch. The cabin steward could not have been better. Sailed to Aqaba (Jordan) where there were several excursion options. We went to Wadi Rum & Petra. Both were over priced although Petra is spectacular. The welcome back on board as we arrived from Petra was unexpected, the crew, mainly waiters formed a guard of honour, whilst others sang. Second port visited was Sokhna, very industrial area. We didn't do any trips from here, having visited the pyramids etc previously. Third stop was at Safaga, again very industrial port probably the worst surroundings as we docked right next to what looked like a cement works! From here we took a trip to Hurgarda and went on a snorkelling which was very good. Last night on board spent sailing back to Sharm El Sheik. Overall experience was fine, but the wobble on board ship which is ever present whether static or moving is annoying. The entertainment team were very good, stage show twice every evening, other groups entertaining around the ship at various times. The food was very good, although we did not spend much time in the Lido area, which was very basic and over crowded, we took all our meals in the Meridian Restaurant & did not try the al a carte Mistrals, but heard good reports. The waiters worked their socks off to make the experience a good one, they even turned their hand to entertainment, celebrating anniversaries, birthdays etc in song at table side. They even put on their own stage show at the end of the week. Hygiene was a major issue, with staff stationed at every entrance to all food outlets armed with hand cleansing spray, the cabins were cleaned twice daily and the public areas especially hand rails were constantly cleaned. There were no reports of any illness during the week. As mentioned at the start, we purchased a drinks package when booking, this was expensive and we were annoyed to find that the same package was on offer on board at a dramatically lower price, needless to say we have written to Thomson complaining. Other passengers had booked more excursions than us and they were just as annoyed when the found a special offer on board if three trips were purchased on additional was thrown in free. I think Thomson will be getting a few letters! As a first cruise experience we enjoyed the Celebration, it is a small ship & although some areas have been refurbished others are in need of some TLC. I'm sure if we had shopped around we might have saved on the overall cost, but we went for convenience via Thomson. Will we cruise again, probably, will it be with Thomson, not sure. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We have recently returned from a week's cruise in the Middle East on board RCI's "Serenade of the Seas". This was our first cruise and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We booked very early, paid extra for an outside ... Read More
We have recently returned from a week's cruise in the Middle East on board RCI's "Serenade of the Seas". This was our first cruise and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We booked very early, paid extra for an outside balcony and chose cabin 8102. On our balcony were 2 sunloungers, 2 chairs and 2 tables ... and there was still plenty of space. The cabin itself was compact but there was ample wardrobe space, hangers, cupboards and also a sofa. The shower was always hot with plenty of pressure. The staff were superb, particularly our waiter (Sandry) and assistant waiter (Ajay) who made our evening 3-course dinner in the Reflections Restaurant even more enjoyable (Table 451). The food was superb and sometimes it was difficult to decide which dish to have. There was also a "healthy option" but we did not select from this menu! One point to mention is regarding the dress code for dinner. According to the information we were sent prior to the cruise, there were 2 formal nights (tuxedo or suit and tie), 2 smart casual nights (jacket and shirt) and 3 casual nights. However there were no smart casual evenings so my husband had taken a jacket and 2 shirts for no reason! In addition on the formal nights we were disappointed to see that several guests wore casual clothes. Surely if the literature referred to a dress code, and the daily "Cruise Compass" newsletter left in the cabin stated what was required, then it should be enforced? The "Windjammer" self-service restaurant is available to everyone at no extra charge so those guests who did not want to make an effort should have been advised to use that restaurant on formal nights. Check in was very efficient. We flew overnight from LGW on the Emirates flight and were taken to The Hyatt Hotel for breakfast where we completed the necessary boarding documentation and received our cabin keycards. Mid-morning we were then taken to the ship where we could take advantage of the sunshine relaxing on loungers on the sun decks until our cabin was available. There was no queue to get onto the ship. Disembarking the ship was even more efficient. Luggage was collected from outside cabins at midnight and guests were advised of the time of their departure and where they should assemble in the morning. Purchasing drinks packages prior to departing the UK is definitely worth doing as it means you can have some control over the costs involved, paying for these in advance so that it's not such a shock at the end of your cruise! We chose the unlimited soda fountain package and a 7-bottles of wine package (other deals are available). Obviously you can purchase more drinks when on board which will be charged to your cabin. We were also allowed to take 2 bottles of wine on board with us that we had purchased at LGW duty free, but you should declare them before boarding the ship as other drinks might be confiscated. The ports of call were interesting. We had previously been to the Middle East and visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi but had never been to Muscat in Oman. We therefore decided to do the Mystical Mosque and City tour but booked this independently via our travel agent about 2 months prior to leaving the UK. This meant we had already paid for our trip and it was at a much lower price than if we had booked it direct with RCI. Imagine our surprise to find that we were the only 2 people on this excursion, chauffeur driven in an air conditioned luxury car by our very knowledgeable and helpful guide and we could therefore explore at our own pace. The mosque was fascinating and definitely worth a visit. However it is only open to the public until 11 a.m. and please note that ladies should wear loose long trousers (or loose long skirts), long sleeves, preferably socks with sandals and a scarf to cover your head when in the mosque itself. Men should not wear shorts. On board ship there's plenty to do during the day and in the evening but it is up to you whether you wish to join in or just relax. There are numerous bars, lounges and places to sit. We had a great time and will go on a cruise again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Thomson Calibration 21st to 28th Feb - Our first time cruising and what a great and fun time it was. This grand old boat packs a lot into its newly refurbished interior and what a happy and hardworking crew they all are. Loads to do ... Read More
Thomson Calibration 21st to 28th Feb - Our first time cruising and what a great and fun time it was. This grand old boat packs a lot into its newly refurbished interior and what a happy and hardworking crew they all are. Loads to do on-board with a service that was second to none. Its relaxed atmosphere set the tone and we loved the wraparound wooden promenade deck that gave the ship a slightly classical feel while having all the mod cons you would expect. This been our first ever cruise we were a little nervous about what to expect on-board, what to pack. The ship had a very mixed age range, a nice relaxed feel and it exceeded all our expectations. So here's our review. FLIGHT The out bound flight over was on a new Thomson plane with a happy crew and good service. Sharm airport was good but crowed. For people cruising, you don't need to purchase a Visa. Thomson staff were well organised and the transfer smooth. Hygiene The boat is kept spotlessly clean with strict 'hand' sanitising in place to help prevent bugs and gems. This was reassuring and very much appreciated by people. Cabin We were in 901; on deck one in bottom of the boat. It had not yet been refurbished but it was just great and comfortable. The lower down in a boat you are the less you feel any vibration and waves. We slept well and the room was very comfortable and well worth the money we paid. The Cabin steward was very efficient, happy to help and the room was spotless. The boat is currently been refitted but this hardly noticeable to guests. Entertainment Now this was real a good all-round effort by all the individual artists and exhibitions. The ships band worked hard and played lots of cool music. Meach and Pekles played a wide variety of music and were themed on the Beatles. They were very talented and enjoyable to watch and listen to. The stage company performed a different show every night and where a versatile and talented groups of performers. Ben did a great solo guitar and song slot one afternoon which showed off his vocal and still skills. I would buy his CD. Clearly the performers enjoyed their work and people enjoyed listening to them. The Horizons Bar was our favoured bar. It brought a relaxed easy listening and chilled atmosphere to us before we went off to dinner. It had several artists playing either classical, smooth or lap. The waiter service was just lovely in this bar. The afternoon play was fun. I'm not a fan of quizzes but the afternoon quiz brought a few smiles us. There were cooking and other demos which all added to the fun. All-round, there was something for everyone on this boat and did not get a chance to experience it all in our week. We enjoyed the Abba tribute and fabulous outfits boys!!!!! - LOL. Some very nice harmony vocals on slightly bouncy sea. Ports and Tours The ports were lovely if ya like looking at container ships and gravel ships!! Not pretty ports but still, interesting to see the life of industrials ports. This cruise was not about the ports of call but about the tours and ship. We did have a walk around in Acaba which felt safe and was hassle free in the main. Visiting Petra in Jordan was stunning, but not cheap at a whopping £120 each. Ya we might have saved a few ponds if we arranged it ourselves using local taxis but then it would not have saved that much. A ticket to get into Petra alone would have cost £50 each. We do recommend the Thomson tour with a good guide and lunch thrown in. Petra Tips -- It's cold, very cold so take warm clothing; Good footwear is essential for Petra as there is a lot of walking on rough ground, down and back up a steep hill. For the people who are less mobile there are hours and carts at Petra but the ride looks quite a wild one! Bring some water with you from the ship to drink. It was also very dusty the day we visited Petra so if ya use medications for Assma, take it with ya along with a scale to cover ya mouth. Can't comment about any other tours but heard people saying they enjoyed them even though some were fare away. Ships Food What can one say about this? It was very good with a mixed selection of foods which were well cooked and presented. Again the standard was high with a great service. We always requested a table for two and got what we asked for. Most people got dressed up for dinner, smart casual most evening and one formal night were 85% really made an effort with tie, shirt and many with tucks. Less formal was the pool bar and it had great burgers. I liked the salad bar which was just lovely and crispy fresh. The food in our opinion was excellent. On Board Service I thought the service was exceptional from the bar staff to reception, waiters, cleaners, stewards and entertainers. Friendly and helpful and 5* + from us. A Few Tips/Comments -- On board currency are English pounds. Tipping on board is included in your Thomson holiday purchase price but we still liked to reward good service personally by tipping. Smaller change can be difficult to obtain on board so bring it with you from UK. If ya going shopping in Egypt get small denomination notes as you may find it difficult to get any change from a purchase. Always haggle on the price to half of what they first ask you for. The ship has free laundry rooms for washing cloths so ya might bring some powers with ya! Eating dinners later meant we could enjoy sunset, miss the crowds at dinner and get a table for two The ships shop only seemed to open when sailing at sea. It seemed to be well stocked. Sunbeds can be hard to find on a hot days. A 45 min rule is fairly applied to stop bed blocking by people leaving towels on them. So use them or lose them is fare. There is plenty of other outdoor seating. Book Thomson tours on the internet to save a few quid and avoid queuing. If ya like a drink or two get the drinks package as its very worthwhile and cost effective. Drink prices are equivalent to UK and individual purchases soon add up. The ship seems to have good access for people with mobility issues. The ship has an unusual tremor in some parts, even when it's in port. Lower decks don't experience this tremor. It wasn't a bad tremor and gave people a good talking point. Most laughed about it and then forgot about and simply moved to another location. The on board internet service is not cheap with rates starting at £4 for 15 mins. UK Phone calling is expensive to. If ya got a Smart Phone, make sure you turn off your data roaming device or ya might get a financial shock. Alternatively just turn of ya Phone and enjoy the peace. The ships shop seems well stocked with some good duty free deals and all the usual necessities. Finally We had a ball, met lots of people and totally chilled out. We will be back to cruise again with Thomson and would happily choose this ship again. Very well done to all the ship's crew including those we hardly saw but know helped to make this a holiday to remember. Chow for Now ? Karl Love & David Hill Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Trip booked last minute, two weeks ahead, and wanted to try cruising and see 3 major sites of Petra, Pyramids and Luxor while it was cooler. Luckily for us it was also no children. Flights and transfers to ship, ported at Sharm el sheik, ... Read More
Trip booked last minute, two weeks ahead, and wanted to try cruising and see 3 major sites of Petra, Pyramids and Luxor while it was cooler. Luckily for us it was also no children. Flights and transfers to ship, ported at Sharm el sheik, were all fine and boarding process was no problem. Had cabin 898 which is level C and the lowest you can get (A and B are higher decks) and also at the rear of the boat. I liked the fact we were so close to the water, the port hole sometimes went underwater, but the engine noise can be very, very loud due to an auxiliary engine. After complaining was given earplugs but you could still clearly hear the engine and this badly affected my sleep. This did not go well with the early start and long trips. The cabin itself was perfectly fine and better than we expected. The ship itself is quite old and a bit tired but fine. The sports deck was closed, as we knew, but also a lot of refurbishment was going on, due to the ship going Platinum in May, which we were not advised of. Overall the food was good with a choice of eating places and varied menu. The entertainment was continuous with live music, games, quizzes etc. and the shows were the best quality I have seen as 'hotel' entertainment. It can be hard to get seating if you are late to a show. Restaurant and cabin staff were generally friendly and helpful. There can be a shortage of sunbeds/seats in sunny areas and the pool is really a plunge pool and was very cold. The tours were quite long coach journeys but the coaches were comfortable. There was a problem with our Petra tour, due to snow!! and an accident, which left us little time in Petra. This could have been handled better and an extra hour gained in Petra, especially given the price of the tours which do seem to be overpriced. Both the Pyramid and Luxor trips went with no problems and were very enjoyable if over priced. The ports we docked at were not particularly inviting and we only ventured out at Aqaba as there was a free transfer into a beach side town which was quite pleasant Unfortunately despite hygiene appearing quite high on board there was an outbreak of norovirus which gradually got worse during the week culminating in having to leave the ship early on the last day so it could be deep cleaned. This was inconvenient but we were sent to a good hotel all inclusive to await airport transfers. Since returning I have also had norovirus. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
My partner and I decided to book a cruise as it was a holiday we had never done before and having reviewed many different cruise lines we settled upon Cunard and the Queen Mary 2. We took this decision as we managed to find a very good ... Read More
My partner and I decided to book a cruise as it was a holiday we had never done before and having reviewed many different cruise lines we settled upon Cunard and the Queen Mary 2. We took this decision as we managed to find a very good deal for this voyage from Southampton to Dubai, the first leg of the 2013 world voyage, in January (when could be a better time to head off to some heat after Christmas when everything is dismal and cold?) and personally I was excited by the glamour and sophistication which would await me on board such a magnificent looking vessel. I was not disappointed, this holiday exceeded my expectations in every way and I would recommend a voyage upon this wonderful ocean liner to anyone. I have focussed my review on the ship itself rather than ports / day trips as otherwise I will ramble on for too long. Checking in at Southampton was quick and simple. The Queen Mary 2 was docked in the old QE2 terminal which is like something out of the 1960's however was perfectly adequate and I quite enjoyed the feeling of stepping back in time as we boarded. As soon as we were on board we were greeted by smiling faces and warm welcomes from every member of the White Star staff we passed. We stayed in an inside cabin or 'stateroom' as they are called (4061), which is the best value option and if you don't mind not having a window or balcony it is quite adequate. The decks are all so beautiful and vast, there is no necessity to spend much needed cocktail money on a balcony when you can spend time on the public decks. I guess this is all down to individual preference, and if you have the cash to splash then the balcony staterooms are beautiful, but ours was clean, roomy enough for two including enough wardrobe space for all my evening dresses and throughout the voyage, if you tune the tv to the bridgecam channel you can see what the outside weather is doing and have your own little "window" to outside. The morning show with Paul O'Loughlin, Entertainment Director was also very interesting and a fun way to start every day telling us about upcoming shows and events, I didn't really want to go back to BBC Breakfast when I got home! We were lucky enough to have Commodore Rynd, head of the Cunard fleet at the helm and he was very personable, visible around the ship from day to day and his 12pm navigational announcements every day were very enjoyable informing us about the ships position and interesting facts of the day. When booking this voyage I had been worried that I might find the sea days a little tiresome and boring, particularly the 5 in a row between Egypt and Dubai however I could not have been more wrong, and the sea days were actually some of my favourites. Each evening we received a daily programme in our stateroom which listed all the activities for the following day along with evening dress code and information on guest performers. I looked forward to planning our next day and it was a struggle to fit everything in there was so much on offer. I guess at this point it is worth mentioning that on this particular voyage the majority of travellers were aged around 50 upwards and I guess many of the activities are geared towards this age group. However to put my review into context, I am 32 and was probably the youngest on board (bar 2 toddlers I saw) however I threw myself into it and thoroughly enjoyed everything on offer. Daytime activities included many pub quizzes in the Golden Lion pub (very enjoyable particularly as these days in usual pub quizzes everyone can cheat on their phone -- not so easily done at sea so much more enjoyable), daily lectures and talks, films and planetarium shows, shuffleboard, decathlon, short tennis, golf (there is an indoor simulator also), water volleyball, darts, i-seminars, art classes, make up demonstrations and our personal favourite ballroom dance classes with the wonderful Wilfried and Ilona ex ballroom and latin champions who were lovely and even managed to get my partner interested in dancing who has NEVER shown any interest before despite constant nagging! Flower arranging with Mikee and Mario is not to be missed, a hilarious double act and a fun 4 hour session over 2 days which allowed us to keep our floral masterpieces and have them in our stateroom or on the dinner table. There is a $50 supplement for this activity but well worth it for the fun you will have. Cunard do their best to secure good guest lecturers and entertainers and on this voyage Martin Bell, Ruthie Henshall, Roy Walker were the headliners, all of whom were very popular and very entertaining in their respective fields. However lesser known entertainers such as Goronwy Thom -- comedy juggler and Elio Pace -- singer and pianist were absolutely excellent. This brings me onto the subject of entertainment as a whole. The Royal Court singers and dancers were top quality and the shows presented were better than many I have seen in the West End and Broadway, shows were usually performed twice a night in the gorgeous theatre and this was good to give flexibility around different dinner sittings. On a couple of occasions we watched the shows twice as they were so good. The Entertainment staff and social hostess who ran the quizzes did an ok job but personality wise they were somewhat lacking apart from Paul (Ents Director) who was very good with his patter. I could not believe the number of wonderful resident musicians on board -- a string quartet, cocktail pianists, a jazz trio, the Queens Room orchestra, Vibz Caribbean band and Joey Mix with his Royal Court Orchestra were all outstanding and there was much live music on offer each day. Highlights were Dixieland in the Winter Garden, and the Afternoon Tea Dances with the Queens Room Orchestra and vocalist Michel Chartier. Food was overwhelming in terms of the amount on offer. The Kings Court buffet is open for 22 hours a day and serves pretty much anything you can think of, I agree with other reviews that the layout of this area isn't very cosy but we didn't eat there that often, only really for post evening dancing snacks and cookies before bed! When the weather is warm the boardwalk cafe is open in the afternoon and this serves great burgers, chips and salad. The main Britannia Restaurant was large and glamorous as I expected and we had such an attentive waiter and sommelier. When torn between 2 dishes they will offer to bring you both and no request was too much. We were always welcomed with a smile and enjoyed every evening we dined in here. Over our 18 day cruise I did consume a lot of food however it was too delicious not to and that is what holidays are all about. It is worth spending one evening dining in the Todd English restaurant, you pay a supplement here but the food was first class and it was a nice special treat. Drinks are plentiful and although pricey, you get what you pay for and the cocktails and champagne in particular were lovely. My tip is to have pre dinner cocktails in the Commodore Club on deck 9, which has a lovely ambience particularly when the pianist it playing, check out the molecular cosmopolitan for a delicious sweet and tangy treat. The Chart Room and Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar are also nice for a pre dinner aperitif. We opted to pay $6.50 per day and have unlimited soft drinks, this was well worth it and I would recommend it for people who like to have plenty of cola, lemonade, orangeade or juices as you can use this in any of the bars. I believe that Cunard line do many more formal nights than other companies and this was something which I personally loved as back at home these days, one never gets the chance very often to get dressed up. Everyone respected the dress code and it was such a lovely feeling looking around and seeing the glamour and sophistication of all the guests. Formal nights included a Masquerade Ball, Egyptian Ball, Burns Night Ball, and Black and White Ball, all of which we were informed about in advance of our voyage enabling us to bring appropriate formal wear. The Queens Ball room is elegant and again the live music, singing and performances by the resident dance couples are highlights of the evening. There are a number of pools and jacuzzi's and the indoor / outdoor pavilion pool with sliding glass roof on the top deck is a popular choice when the weather is not so hot, as it was when departing Southampton on 9th January! My personal favourite outdoor space was the stern of deck 8 as there was a terrace bar here and once the weather was warm it was a sunbathing hotspot and lunch time live music by the pool with Vibz really made the holiday. One of my favourite days was our trip down the Suez Canal as the weather was hot, I was in the Jacuzzi with a glass of prosecco enjoying the scenery and the live music -- absolute bliss. The one niggle I had on this voyage was the service received at the Pursers Office, as the staff here seemed a little disinterested in their jobs and they weren't as helpful as they could have been. Whilst enjoying a lovely performance by the on board choir in the Grand Lobby, they wouldn't shut up from talking very loudly interrupting the singing, and even my long glares didn't seem to make any difference. Apart from this we thoroughly enjoyed our time at sea and once we disembarked in Dubai I felt very sad to be leaving this magnificent beautiful ocean liner which by that point felt like home. I guess as a first time "cruiser" I have nothing to compare it to, however if you enjoy old fashioned glamour, variety, succulent fayre, live music, high quality entertainment and beautiful surroundings then this is the ocean liner for you. I am saving already for my next trip! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Thursday 24 Jan 2013 to Thursday 31 Jan 2013 Exceeded our wildest dreams Enormously helped by Sally at Thomson shop in Swindon who explained the language for Cruses, selecting cabins and most important the All Inclusive package at c. ... Read More
Thursday 24 Jan 2013 to Thursday 31 Jan 2013 Exceeded our wildest dreams Enormously helped by Sally at Thomson shop in Swindon who explained the language for Cruses, selecting cabins and most important the All Inclusive package at c. '79 compared to many on board who were quoted over '200. Flight Check in c.0730, after hearty breakfast at Cumberland House, Gatwick North went without queues or problems. There is a special luggage check in for Red Sea cruses so we couldn't check in the previous evening. Flight to Sharm El Sheik modern short haul 5 hours no films or meals the pilot tried to make up for this by pointing out Mount Blanc and other features along the route. Had a good read and snoozed waking to see Mount Blanc, may have snoozed for much of the Mediterranean. Transfer went without problems: 'Cruise admin marque with photo, and hand sanitization' completed, and then a welcome warm evening stroll to M.V. Thomson Celebration and the magic began.This was an adult only cruise, no children great. Cruise Dariusdave has never been on a salt water cruise, yes a Nile cruise a few years ago not the same. The good wife of 40+ years has taken her mother on a cruise from Falmouth to Madeira so has experience of Bay of Biscay. Our abiding memory after walking up the gang plank was the friendly greeting. This greeting set the tone for the entire cruise. Cabin 6224 We were escorted to our cabin by our Cabin boy. Horror of horrors our reserved double bed appeared as two singles with furniture between. Don't worry says our Cabin boy I will sort out while you are at dinner. Yes he did, friend for the entire cruise. We had accepted a telephone offer from Thomson Cruise to upgrade to a 6th deck cabin at a generous discount. Our cabin had the promised window with a good view of the promenade deck, so any walking by could look in. Hence we had to remember to pull the curtains when dressing or undressing. Sometimes it is difficult to remember this is a Motor Vessel Cabin not a hotel room. Well it was spacious, had plenty of the right furniture, chest of drawers and large wardrobe. Even better it scores 9.5 out of 10 for coat hangers, plenty of them and fine quality. A fair size digital safe was located in the wardrobe, large enough to take cameras etc. There were comfortable spacious arm chairs designed in a bygone age. A large television occupied the worktop adjacent to the bathroom wall. An unoccupied bracket and wires above hinted that the flat screen era would soon arrive. I know not if this electronic contraption worked but it was there. However there were a few electric points and with a little trial and error I could run my sleep apnoea machine. Beds, pillows and covers suited us, were comfortable and we slept well every night. Bathroom was better than expected, a hot powerful shower morning and evening, basin with a bag of goodies and lovely soft fluffy towels. The loo reflected French build and design. Two fascinating features of the said loo it worked on the 'vacuum' basis so could be a little loud. Also, remembering childhood rail journeys and the sign about not pulling chain when in a station, seated in harbour, there was a certain noise and massage like vibration to the occupant. It seems the ships electric generator was not rubber mounted (or the rubber mounts had long worn out) and the whole ship vibrated which took a little getting used to. When at sea this was not a problem and vibration vanished. The Hemingway's Bar No point in wasting time waiting arrival of luggage to unpack and change. Time better spent exploring and locating the Cocktail bar. Oh for a guide or Tripadvisor review to alert one to the perils and dangers of the Thomson Cruise 'All inclusive' drinks system. We found the bar best described as long and thin. Main feature was the Grande piano. There were a few unoccupied tables and chairs. We were advised by bar staff to sit and await arrival of a drinks waiter. Now some tables had drinks menus and our table did not. Be warned not all drinks are all inclusive, if they are not be prepared for very expensive duty free snifters. Eventually a waitress arrived to log our Thomson Ship Credit Card info and agree that Mrs T might have a G & T but Dariusdave might not have a Cuba Libra, but he could order rum and coke. There is no doubt that Thomson make their profits from the bar, adjacent casino and shops aboard. All inclusive service belonged to the age before a red flag holder walked in front of a motor car. The bar area contained a section where drinks waiters processed orders on computer terminals whose technology predated Mr Gates Windows system. Dariusdave may be past 60 but has had a computer terminal on his desk for decades. The length of time it took waitresses to tap in orders almost made Dariusdave think Thomson were paying a staff bonus for the slowest servers. When orders were processed barmen would fill glasses (assuming there were sufficient clean empties available) then place the glasses on trays to enable the waitress's to deliver to rapidly dehydrating customers. Dariusdave is used to travelling All Inclusive and one accepts that 'local spirits' are not exactly Gordon's Gin. But after flight, Customs transfer and boarding our home for the next week a few cocktails would help us to relax and unwind from the strains and stresses of the journey. In fairness as we found our sea legs and discovered other watering holes we grew accustomed to the Celebration way. We have no memory of encountering the inebriated who take over our town and city centres at weekends, generally our fellow passengers were a friendly and very civilised group. This bar with grand piano had two part time musicians. The violinist (both Dariusdave's daughters play the violin and piano) was an enthusiastic entertainer who knew how to charm his audience. The pianist although proficient seemed a rather dour character. We enjoy live music and were frequently found here before dinner. It may be a little harsh but I 'm sure honest to say The Hemingway's Bar seemed a little below par for service compared to the rest of Thomson Celebration. Horizons Bar Found on deck 9 and what a find. A young lady sings a young man plays a grand piano (an electric box provides additional sounds) and all our favourite Carpenter's Songs float across this bar to our ears. Plus on evenings cruising close to shore lights of various resorts are clearly seen. Unlike Hemingway's Bar Staff are attentive to customers' needs, ambiance near perfect. Horizons Bar ticked all our boxes loved coming here after dinner. The Meridian Restaurant First night, long short haul journey, a few cocktails need to feed the inner man. Originally thought we would visit the buffet. But as we left Hemingway's Bar we paused to be greeted by fellow passengers who strongly advised we try The Meridian Restaurant a floor below. Thank heavens for their sound advice. Wow The Meridian became our spiritual home on this Cruise. Always make a show of sanitizing hands on entering this Restaurant, or you get sent back to do it again. We were greeted, escorted to a table with a panoramic window and view of docks. Just a tip the ventilation system blows very cold by these windows. Sharm docks are not a great sight best to sit away from windows. Our dedicated waiters presented us with menus. They asked to see our Thomson Cruse Credit Cards and as if by telepathy the thought entered my head that wine by the glass is AI, but bottles cost. The waiter team working system is so good our glasses were never dry. Plus our young waiters were anxious for us to dine in their zone at all meals and spoilt us. First evening menu had loads of choices AI, plus upgrade like steak for a supplement. In fact every meal breakfast, lunch or dinner had wonderful choices we were spoilt. Silver Service every meal, waiter would always pull out chair for good lady and we were always greeted as welcome guests. By very good team work every cooked plate reached our table hot. It was a privilege to wine and dine here. One lunch time we joined a Cruise Regular from bonny Scotland she seemed to know every waiter by name. Drinks flowed and we must have departed a good hour after other guests no attempts to suggest perhaps we would like to move to a bar. I will write later about Captain's Black Tie event. However here is the correct place to mention that wonderful Sunday evening dinner. Given several hundred guests descended on The Meridian at virtually the same time this was the ultimate challenge for The Meridian Team. There are many restaurants in Swindon that are good for a family of say six but can't cope with an office or club outing for say thirty. We were speculating as our food orders were taken in a calm and professional manner how they would cope. We need not have worried the Team were first class. Hot food was hot and properly cooked, waiting times were short, wine glasses were filled and an excellent evening was enjoyed in the right spirit. Dariusdave did pay for the Wine Tasting Lesson one afternoon at The Meridian, it was light hearted and good fun. They even presented a certificate as a memento. The Buffet Lido Restaurant The second morning with early departure to Petra we breakfasted at The Buffet. Perhaps we were joined by several hundred guests all seeking sustenance at the same time before our coach trip. Hygiene standards were high, there was no self-service. Rather like school dinner ladies items that might have been full English were ladled or slapped onto one's plate, no portion choice. But with long queues and almost every table occupied we were confused as to whether we were in a rugby scrum or sardine tin. If every meal had been endured at this location we would not have enjoyed this cruise. Captain Wojtek Ziolkowski's Gala Reception Love it or hate it every civilised cruise should have a Black Tie event. Yes it gives the Ship's photographic team a chance to earn their wages and yes Dariusdave was happy to buy a few photos next day. Celebration is as The Thomson Brochure suggests a smaller liner, nothing wrong with that. But dare Dariusdave suggest that not only were a very large number of guests participating in this ritual but most were over 60+++. Hence very long queues may have been good for photographers but not so good for ageing limbs and joints. Might Dariusdave suggest three or even four smaller sessions would have quicker shorter queues and less stressed participants? Dariusdave a mere 62 and fit for bowls was perhaps at the younger end of the age spectrum, but many decent 'Seniors' (who were too British to complain) found the long slow queues a great physical strain. Thomson please think outside the box and find a better way. Otherwise we enjoyed this ritual and can only praise the 'fine dining crew' for their exemplary contribution to a memorable evening. Ports of Call and Trips First stop Aqaba in Jordan, frankly the geography or environs of the port are of little concern. Any who have read their Tripadvisor know what to expect. First morning a little overcast but what a privilege we were to be entrained by The Jordanian Red Arrows who have appeared at The Fairford International Tattoo. It is a great advantage that they fly propeller aircraft so we may see and enjoy. Jet aircraft can be far too fast for the amateur photographer. Half an hour literally flew past I select a photo at the end of this review that I hope shares the joy of this first morning. A bonus that we were welcomed to Jordan by their 'Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.' Aqaba A shuttle bus was available to take guests into Aqaba. We availed ourselves of this free service after lunch. Aqaba was extraordinarily busy, we were informed later it was a National Holiday after their Election. Our mini-bus eventually deposited us at The Movenpick Hotel. Now as the seasoned traveller would expect there were many professional beggars, conmen and so called unlicensed guides plying for our generosity. Plus a few bedraggled horse and cart operators who reminded me of Steptoe. First foot forward we decided to walk into Aqaba to see and photograph the great flag. After half a mile or so Dariusdave spotted what he expected a genuine taxi guide dropping some Americans at a local restaurant? Conversation opened. The guide offered an exciting itinerary, Dariusdave armed with $ performed the mandatory haggle honour satisfied we boarded a very mature Toyota Corolla (the same model my daughter drove in her student days) and headed into town. Our guide explained how there was snow on the mountains near Petra as, like Joseph in the New Testament, he had returned to his home village to vote in the Election. Hence today was a National Holiday. Our guide showed us the public beach where many from Amman the Capital of Jordan were enjoying family day out. Yes we did observe many mothers wearing the 'Swimming Burkha' as they splashed around with their children. We stopped at the castle and various locations to photograph the Great Flag. The flag pole at 130 meters high is one of the highest flag poles in the world. Our guide explained it was not the Jordanian Flag flying (although it looked similar) but the flag for Arab liberation that dates back to the First World War and Lawrence of Arabia. We also visited various markets and saw real coffee shops. All too soon our journey was over and we walked back from the main market to rendezvous with our transport. A fascinating afternoon trip, a chance to see parts of the real Aqaba with a knowledgeable guide speaking impeccable English a bonus trip much enjoyed. Petra We choose this cruise so that we might visit Petra; attempts from Taba in October had failed. We regard Petra as one of the most important archaeological sites in the Middle East and many regard it as one of the remaining Wonders of The Ancient World it has long been on our must visit list. An early start, I counted ten coaches (there may have been more) so at least 600 guests were intending to 'walk the walk' each coach had a qualified guide. Points of interest along the route were seeing in the distance Aaron's Tomb on Jabal Harun. (Author's note Israel also claims this tomb in an Israeli location) The return journey identified Wadi Rum where parts of Lawrence of Arabia were filmed. The landscape with snow topped mountains, arid plains and small villages was of great interest and comfort stops well chosen for the photographer. We arrived at The Petra Movenpick for comfort and coffee then our guide offered us the choice walk with him or ride. No choice we wanted the full guided tour. Wow it just got better as we approached The Treasury. Little glimpses at first through the Canyon then we were at the 1 Million $ Harrison Ford location. Our guide explained as part of filming for Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade the Queen of Jordan escorted Harrison Ford down The Canyon. At one point she asked 'If I show you the finest site in The World will you donate 1 Million $ to my Charity,' Harrison agreed and The Queen of Jordan asked Harrison to take one step towards her and he could then see The Petra Treasury, legend has it he paid up. There was a half hour break at The Treasury Site, where loud Bedouin Boys kept offering to sell us postcards and other items. Then Dariusdave and good lady happily agreed to walk on to Roman Petra. We saw the amphitheatre carved into the stone hillside and many more tomb carvings in The Pink City. Lunch time was approaching but Dariusdave agree to 'climb the climb' to see the 'tent' covering Roman mosaics. Another great wow experience. There is a mystery at the Roman end of Petra. Dariusdave was lucky enough to negotiate a horse and trap to return us to the entrance. We have never travelled so fast as taken by that Bedouin lad. However when we arrived back at the Movenpick, well shaken and stirred, our guide was waiting to take us to lunch. There must be a secret guide's short cut. Cairo Sphinx & Pyramids Given political problems it was no surprise that The Cairo Museum trip was cancelled. We had booked Pyramids Son et Luminaire with Nile boat trip and lunch. Our guide spent much of the desert crossing trying to sell 'Gold Cartouches' with your name in hieroglyphics. Like a good Boy Scout Dariusdave had ensured Good Wife Cathy was wearing her Nile Cruise Cartouche. We were a little surprised to be told it was real old gold (less than ten years old) unlike the ones on sale now. We were greeted at The Gates of Cairo by road blocks, armed soldiers and tanks. Travel around Cairo was fascinating paddy fields between blocks of flats. Our guide explained good Muslims were expected to have at least eight children, there was a population explosion and farmers were converting fields to flats built without planning permission or Western Building regulations. Most seemed unfinished and given visible lack of spirit levels in the construction one fears for any earthquake activity. We did witness mini-riots at fuel stations where mini-bus drivers fought for scarce supplies of diesel Our guide studying for a PHD who already had a Master's Degree. Explained Egypt needed to import fuel, lack of hard currency from reduced tourist numbers resulted in fuel shortages. We stopped for our boat trip and lunch. This was accompanied by a familiar face (see Dariusdave's review Sol Y Mar Taba) the Whirling Dervish and a traditional Egyptian Belly Dancer. Interesting to study the faces of The Egyptian Customers all dressed as affluent businessmen. Dariusdave wonders how much longer such entertainment will be permitted by The Islamic Government; our guide seemed surprised it still continued. However our friend the Whirling Dervish was as good as ever. There must be 1001 Papyrus shops within a mile of the Pyramids. Last time we visited one it was in Luxor, this time Cairo. Jolly good salesman, same old pictures, be warned if you enter you will be hassled till you buy. Son ET Luminaire Good old MV Celebration had provided blankets, much needed in the chill evening air. We think we were the only party and front two rows were enough. A really professional production, easy to hear and understand the voices. The lighting was fantastic we enjoyed every minute. Hope photos do justice to this historic evening. Must say compared to last visit a vast improvement. The area has been tidied up there is now a proper entrance to the Sphinx and a comforting number of Security Guards around for our protection. Return journey to Celebration there was one fascinating experience approaching Sokhna harbour we encountered a mammoth lorry queue at 'The Motorway Services' again we were told shortage of diesel. Hence great stacks of Chinese Containers at the port that could not be transported to Cairo. Diesel was reserved for tourist coaches we were very lucky to have made this trip. Back to Celebration, back to sea. All aboard, engines soon running and we were heading south through the night for Safaga. Safaga may be an industrial port but there were many trips available greatest was coach to Luxor and Valley of The Kings. We had stayed there as part of our Nile cruise and eleven hours aboard even an air-conditioned coach was a bit much for my knees. We could have tripped to local shops, stayed at a local hotel or had a boat trip. We decided to enjoy the facilities aboard Celebration and enjoyed countless entertainments. Patricia Colledge gave a fascinating Lecture 'The Valley of The Kings.' The Baked Alaska Parade through the Meridian Restaurant and at 11.30 The Crew Show in the Broadway Show Lounge were a grand ending to our first cruise. Sadly all good holidays come to an end and we were soon sailing back to Sharm El Sheikh . The departure from Celebration was very well organised as was the transfer to airport. Would we cruise again? Yes we have just booked MV Celebration Eastern Promise for 26 April 2014.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
First-time cruiser -- head read up on all the various things to watch for on cruises, etc. We found ourselves with many experienced cruisers (5 x a year or more) who told us this was an exceptional ship relative to many. Check-in was ... Read More
First-time cruiser -- head read up on all the various things to watch for on cruises, etc. We found ourselves with many experienced cruisers (5 x a year or more) who told us this was an exceptional ship relative to many. Check-in was fast and efficient with little waiting despite a large number of people arriving when we did. Disembarkation was no waiting at all -- really excellent. Loved the Grand Cuvee Dining Room -- service and food variety was great. We didn't see a need to visit any specialty rests. Just about every worker on the ship makes you feel special and truly seems concerned about your experience -- including the room attendants who were better than many hotel 'sales' people I've met over the years. Ship amenities were excellent. Communication on processes, shore excursions, etc were excellent. Only small niggle was we had an upgraded beverage package and I wish they would link husband and wife info so I didn't have to have both cards to get drinks for both of us. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012

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