1. Home
  2. Cruise Destinations
  3. Middle East Cruises
  4. Middle East Cruise Reviews

20 Middle East Holiday Cruise Reviews

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
MSC Fantasia Xmas Cruise 2016 We joined the cruise on Christmas Day, arriving at about 0800 from Abu Dhabi airport. When we got to check in at the port we handed over our tickets and credit card so that in a few minutes we got a bit of ... Read More
MSC Fantasia Xmas Cruise 2016 We joined the cruise on Christmas Day, arriving at about 0800 from Abu Dhabi airport. When we got to check in at the port we handed over our tickets and credit card so that in a few minutes we got a bit of paper to say we gone through this process. I thought that this would be it but noted we did not have our cruise cards. Normally this is a one stop shop and you proceed to the ship. Not so with MSC. Our next stop was the obligatory photo before we could get to the gangway. Clearly the revenue opportunity could not be missed and so there was no route around this point and a “No” was not the password to proceed. There were a number of check in desks but only the one photographer so this caused a bit of a bottle neck. NOT WELL ORGANISED After this we proceeded to another desk to have our cruise cards issued. This meant we could now go on board to have our photographs taken again by the security team. However, we could not use these cruise cards for anything until they had been activated. Luckily, MSC have placed two activation devices on board, to which all new passengers would have to go. Once at the activation device it appeared that some passengers were having trouble understanding how to use them and this also caused a bit of a queue. Finally, we were ready to enjoy our cruise, however, our cabin would not be ready until 11:30 (from crew member number 1) but then it would be 12:30 (from crew member number 2) and finally 13:30 (from an announcement). So only 5 hours to wait before we could see our cabin. Still we could sit outside in the hot sunshine with our English winter clothes until then. The buffet was open and so we could get some food and drink (provided you had activated your card). Upon investigation, I found our cabin was ready at 12:00 and we were free to use it, thanks to the cabin steward. However, no baggage had arrived. We waited until 15:30 (7 hours after boarding) and still we had luggage missing. So, I went to see the person responsible, a nice chap from housekeeping who had been dealing with a line of other passengers with the same questions. I was informed that the problem was shore side with the port authority bag screening section and it was out of the control of the ship. I asked the nice man (nicely) to take me to the quayside so that he could show me where the problem was. Obviously, I was expecting to see piles of baggage awaiting to go on board. On the way ashore I was informed that the ship always experiences this problem as the shore staff have to pray 5 times per day and as a result they stop work on a regular basis. However, to my great delight, we bumped into the supervisor who confirmed all baggage was actually on board and had been for some time. It would appear therefore the vessel did have some control over the distribution of the baggage. Our bags arrived about an hour later. Looking at the gangway being used for baggage it would seem that first on meant last to go our as more and more bags were piled up. NOT WELL ORGANISED Having undertaken a great number of cruises and work in the ship safety team for a number of years I was delighted to see that there would be a drill for those passengers joining that day. This drill would be at approximately 20:30 but no fixed time was given. Being so conscientious, we duly followed the instructions on the back of our cabin door and as mentioned on the TV, taking our life jackets (not wearing them) to our assembly point. We arrived at 20:25 ish to an empty assembly point with no crew around, we had not seen anyone on the stairs either. So we awaited and at about 20:32 along came one crew member with a jacket saying “Assembly Point Crew” (or something similar). He had a hand held scanning device to scan our cruise cards and proceeded to do so for the dozen or so people that were there. I did note, that two passengers left the assembly point when their cards were scanned and the crew member had his back to them. More crew members turned up after an announcement from the Bridge stating “For exercise” the rest of the message was drowned out by the cacophony coming from the passengers, crew and announcements in 4 or 5 languages. One English passenger took a handful of cards to have them scanned but was refused as the crew member could not see the other passengers and that they had their life jackets, Hooray. So, one of the group went off and acquired the life jackets. These jackets must have been quite a fashion item in the opinion of some passengers as the ships photographer was summoned to take photo during the drill. Not something I have seen before and not sure it added to the seriousness of the process. But then with so many passengers all talking at the same time it was difficult to hear any instructions. Announcements were made from the Bridge but it was impossible to understand what these were. No one was in control of this assembly point, the passengers were taking no notice and most had their life jackets on (not all correctly) before they sat down. The announcements were in at least four languages and it became difficult to determine what was being said. It left me with no confidence that in the event of a real emergency there would be any organisational processes to control the passengers and ensure their safety. NOT WELL ORGANISED Luckily as soon as the drill was finished it was time for dinner. We had the same table for the whole cruise and so got to know our waiter. This allowed us to make light of him getting my order wrong on three separate evenings and another in our group twice (5 out of seven evenings wrong). We were seated near to the waiter’s station but luckily when the trays were dropped and cutlery went flying it did not cause and lasting damage to my person. MSC have a recommended dress code and this is demonstrated in the daily paper. So, I was somewhat surprised to see one passenger come into the dining room and sit down with an entire table evening dress whilst he was in shorts and tee short complete with baseball cap. He kept the cap on for the entire meal. It is fair to say his whole ensemble was matching Red Bull. Pity it did not give him wings. NOT WELL ORGANISED It was nice on occasion to sit out on deck getting some sunshine. There were mornings when certain areas had been close off for maintenance, this is nothing unusual. However, on one particular day we chose to sit in an area that offered the best sun, taking our positions at about 09:30. At 12:00 the deck crew arrived to inform all the passengers in this area that they must move. So about 40 passengers had to pack up their things and then try to find other sunbeds elsewhere. Needless to say, there were few sunbeds to be had by this time and a lot of sense of humour failure, from my wife in particular. It appears that some maintenance needed to be undertaken and so the deck needed to be clear. However, had the area been closed first thing, then it would have been accepted. I visited the reception desk to ask why this had happened. The nice man told me he had no idea but agreed it was not offering the best service. He took my cabin number as said he would send a message to the Staff Captain. I was to hear back from one of them later that day, surprisingly I did not get any message. Work commenced at about 13:30 and it was good to see some of the crew were wearing safety harnesses, albeit they were never attached to anything. I did take some photos of the in action for the record. NOT WELL ORGANISED Whilst enjoying some sunshine on deck, we decided it would be nice to have a drink, as you do. However, as we were on deck 15 forward of the Aqua Park, it appeared this area was devoid of serving personnel. So, I walked down a deck and aft of the Aqua Park to see if I could have some drinks delivered. When I arrived at the Bar Delle Fontane I was informed that I should be going to the I’Tropici Bar. Failing to do this would mean that the glasses migrated from one bar to the other. After a little discussion, the waitress agreed to come to our location and take the order. I did assure her that were the glasses came from and indeed what happened to them when we were finished was not something I was going to lose sleep over. NOT WELL ORGANISED All in all, the service was not as good as seen and expected on other cruise lines. The entertainment staff on the other hand were simply brilliant. But this was let down by the poor organisational skills and my concerns over the drill. I did watch a second drill in Dubai and noted similar issues with passengers out of control. It seems that in small number the crew are happy to move some from their sunbeds but when it comes to safety there could be another Costa Concordia waiting to happen. I have attached a few photos to show some of the other concerns I had on my Xmas cruise that could be dangerous to the health of the passengers. Having cruised with P&O, Cunard, RCI, Ocean Village, NCL, Princess and Seabourn. I have always expected there to be some sanitizing police at the entry to any food area. The hand sanitizers are vital to prevent the spread of Nora virus. Normally there is at least one crew member to prevent you getting access to the food area without using the gel. This is not the case with MSC. As you can see in the photo of the entrance to the buffet the machine is put to one side and there is no one ensuring it is used. Whilst sitting near the entrance I would suggest up to 90% of the passengers (and Crew) did not use the machine before getting into contact with food. On two occasions I did report the fact that the machine was not working but no action was taken. In addition, MSC seem to have the policy of preparing food such as hamburgers, hot dogs and fries well in advance. This is in another photo. However, I noted that this food is left for long periods and at no time did I see anyone measuring the temperature to ensure it was safe to eat. In fact I did try a burger and fries to find they were both warm and not hot but also very dry. Finally, I was surprised to see the way in which MSC advertise their drinks packages. Promoting irresponsible drinking to get the best value for your money. All good stuff. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We have cruised many times mainly with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean but this was our first time with MSC. We were lured by the concept of the Yacht Club so most of my review is based on this. Pre Cruise: We arrived at 1am so ... Read More
We have cruised many times mainly with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean but this was our first time with MSC. We were lured by the concept of the Yacht Club so most of my review is based on this. Pre Cruise: We arrived at 1am so spent the night at The Grand Excelsior hotel close to the airport which suited our needs for a comfortable stopover hotel at a reasonable price. Embarkation We travelled independently by taxi to the port in Dubai to embark the ship and quickly found the Yacht Club priority embarkation area where a butler was on duty to escort us to another area where our check in formalities were taken care of while we relaxed with refreshments, so far so good until were escorted by one of the butlers to embark the ship whereupon one of the ship's security staff got into a disagreement with the butler for bringing us to his gangway . It was all very uncomfortable and embarrassing and was not a good first impression. My husband did bring the debacle to the attention of the senior butler once we finally got on board and of course they were most apologetic and concerned to hear what happened so we put it behind us and looked forward to the cruise. Cabin: We finally made it to the enclave of the Yacht Club and our well appointed cabin, loved the walk in wardrobe and the marble bathroom, balcony a tad on the small side. Bed was very comfortable with memory foam mattress toppers and lovely pillows. Nice bathroom products, fluffy towels and bathrobes, all the luxuries you would expect. We had a lady butler and a “junior butler” which is a fancy name for cabin attendant! To be honest the junior butler was better, very attentive and pleasant to talk to. He previously worked for Royal Caribbean and it showed. Food and Drink: We were very impressed with the service in the Top Sail Lounge, all the staff in there were attentive and welcoming. The Afternoon Tea service was wonderful with traditional white gloved service and tablecloths , such a treat. The cocktail menu was extensive and we loved the Aperol spritz and the Italian wine selections You certainly do not go hungry as they have breakfast, lunch, snacks, evening canapés and sweet treats according to the time of day in the Top sail Lounge plus 24 hr room service, mini bar with snacks and drinks all included as well as the dedicated Yacht Club restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner . The One Pool bar served excellent cappuccinos as you would expect on an Italian ship but also the best cup of tea I have had at sea, proper tea pots and fresh milk in a jug which was a pleasant surprise and a welcome change to the usual plastic cartons and tea bags in cups that is often served outdoors! The One pool also had a lovely breakfast buffet and light lunch selections including freshly cooked pasta every day. This being a Christmas cruise the restaurant was very busy most evenings and sometimes the service was a little slow but on the whole it was very good. I enjoyed the Italian style menus with many courses and smaller portions, the cheese course was fantastic. Often we would skip dessert and have a night-cap and chocolates in the Top Sail lounge. Even though the ship was full there was never a problem getting a sun lounger on deck. Being a Christmas cruise there were lots of large family groups and the rest of the ship had a very lively atmosphere so we really didn’t spend much time away from the sanctuary on the Yacht Club areas however we did enjoy the White Party on deck on Christmas night and the main atrium with the Swarovski staircase looked lovely all decorated for Christmas. In fact the whole ship was spotlessly clean and well maintained. Spa I pre booked a spa package online which is something I have never done on previous cruises as the prices are frankly outrageous but the prices on MSC seemed fairly reasonable in comparison. The Aurea spa is well appointed and the staff are mainly Balinese. I very much enjoyed the massages I had there and they don’t give you the hard sell for products like other ships I have been on. Ports: We arrived in Abu Dhabi on Christmas day, after a leisurely morning on the ship we took a taxi to the Emirates Palace Hotel which is about a 20 min drive from the port where we indulged in their famous cappuccino with gold leaf sprinkles, very decadent, a wonderful treat for Christmas Day. The hotel was opulent and beautifully decorated for Christmas. We then took another taxi to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. This was absolutely spectacular and words and photos are not enough to describe the sheer beauty of this place. Everyone is welcome to visit and it’s free to enter but please take note of the dress code particularly for women as you need to be completely covered from head to toe in loose clothing. The mosque has guidelines on its website but they will provide an abaya if you don’t have the appropriate dress. We timed our visit to we could see it at sunset as well as in the daylight. It is truly stunning inside and out. The next port was scheduled to be the private island of Sir Bani Yas but we woke to thick fog and it was not safe to navigate, so we spent the day at sea. Fortunately the Captain managed to rearrange the itinerary so we could visit there later in the week. We were so glad not to miss this unique place. Again as Yacht Club guests we felt very pampered as we got priority tender service to the beach where a golf cart was waiting to whisk us to the Yacht Club section of the beach where one of our favourite butlers was waiting to bring us drinks and a buffet was set up. It was absolute paradise! We were also able to bypass the very long line for the tenders when we returned to the ship. I did feel a little self conscious as we were escorted to the front of the queue I must admit! After the re arranged sea day we docked in Manama, Bahrain where my husband took a ships excursion to the Bahrain Race circuit for a 4x4 driving experience which he enjoyed by all accounts. The port is not within walking distance to anything as it’s an industrial port but a shuttle bus was provided (for a fee). I did not go ashore but spent a blissful morning having a massage and then enjoyed the sun on the very tranquil One Pool deck having my every need catered for! Next port was Doha Qatar, again not walking distance to the town but I believe the shuttle was free in this port. We took a ships excursion on a Dhow cruise which was very relaxing but we spent a lot of time at anchored in the sea where you could swim, sunbathe and admire the view, also a decent buffet lunch was served. I would imagine if the weather was cloudy this could be pretty boring but fortunately it was a lovely day and not too hot. There was an upper deck for sunbathing and the lower deck was shaded. We were also taken on a short tour into the city where a photo stop was made so we could admire the ultra modern skyscrapers. All in all, a very enjoyable day. After the rescheduled visit to Sir Bani Yas Island we arrived back in Dubai on the Friday as per the original itinerary. We had a ships tour to the Miracle Garden which was scheduled for the afternoon. I must say the way MSC handles excursions is unlike any other cruise line we have been on. Although I had pre booked all our tours online no times were given so I expected that we would find out the tour times when we boarded but there were excursion tickets in our cabin. When we enquired with the shore excursions desk she informed us that we only get our tickets with the meeting times the night before the tour. This can be quite awkward if you have a half day tour as how can you plan the rest of your day? She explained it’s because the tours have to be grouped by different languages and they don’t have all the information and times until the day before from the tour operators. It’s very bizarre but we just went with the flow. So our Miracle garden tour left the port at 2.30pm it included had a city tour past the Burj al Arab and the Jumeirah Palm etc. The traffic was very slow so we were late arriving at the Miracle garden which being a Friday and a holiday weekend was very busy. It was a beautiful place and the floral displays are stunning. The crowds did thin out a little after sunset but a lot of passengers were very tired and hungry and those on early seating missed their dinner as we did not arrive back to the port until after 7pm. I am sure if the excursion times were listed when you booked people could have planned accordingly. Fortunately for us advantage of the open seating Yacht Club restaurant meant we did not have to rush to get ready for dinner and we ordered some snacks from room service as soon as we got back to the cabin. Some passengers were disembarking very early for their flights home so we did not get much sleep on our last night as folks were coming and going from about 2am! Luckily as we were staying in a hotel Dubai for New years’ eve we had a leisurely disembarkation at 8.30am, escorted off the ship and to our luggage in the arrivals hall by our butler. Pampered to the end! So in conclusion, we would certainly sail with MSC again but only in the Yacht Club. We really enjoyed the service, food and all the perks that come with it. Having said that Celebrity still remains our home from home and we will happily sail in regular cabins without all the suite perks as we love the food, service and ambiance of their ships in general. One thing that really did concern us was the lifeboat drill on the Fantasia. I have never attended such a disorganised drill in all our 43 cruises. Listening to the drill in 6 different languages is tedious but necessary but instead of checking passengers off a list as you enter your muster station staff were randomly scanning guests cruise cards all over the place. Then they kept calling for missing guests to attend the drill. Herding cats is the phrase that comes to mind! As some folks embark in different ports not everyone participates so then they have to have another the next night for those who boarded in Abu Dhabi which was transmitted over the ships PA while we were dining so it was impossible to have a conversation! Most of these quirks are due to the fact that there are many nationalities on board so everything has to be multi- lingual. For that reason there was no Captains daily announcement. We also missed not seeing the cruise director on TV in the mornings. These are things we have become very familiar with on the American cruise lines and MSC certainly has their own way of doing things and we felt a little out of our comfort zone at times however the Yacht Club concept more than made up for any of these idiosyncrasies . A change is as good as a rest as they say! Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Firstly, my first time flying with Emirates, but guaranteed it won’t be my last. I got a requested upgrade to fly out Business Class at what looked to be a heavily discounted price. What an experience- it’s the first time I’ve ever ... Read More
Firstly, my first time flying with Emirates, but guaranteed it won’t be my last. I got a requested upgrade to fly out Business Class at what looked to be a heavily discounted price. What an experience- it’s the first time I’ve ever been on a plane, had a holiday and could not wait to do the return flight! The added bonus was that Business Class also entitled me to a free chauffeur driven car from my home 70 miles away to Gatwick and back, as well as return Chauffeur transfers both ways in Dubai. Add that into the amount of lovely free champagne and booze I quaffed and it started to look like a bargain! Virgin and ESPECIALLY BA need to look to their laurels regarding this competitor- I recently flew longhaul with BA Premier Economy and it was awful… From what I can ascertain, Emirates Business Class is easily equivalent to BA and Virgin First Class. Anyway having arrived in Dubai a couple of days early, I spent some time just getting used to the warmth of the sun on the creaking bones again- wonderful- I’d not considered the Emirates as a winter destination before but at between 6.5 and 7.5 hours direct flight it’s nearer than the Caribbean, and from what I have experienced of both, the weather seems more dependable.. They laughed at me in Dubai when I mentioned snow, saying they only get about 4 days rain a year! Anyway, onto the cruise… there is not much about the destinations because I picked up bronchitis the day I left home, so this ended up being a very laid back chill holiday..because I KNOW I’m going back! Another rather wonderful thing- I had booked a balcony but found just before going that Costa had upgraded me to a mini-suite- as a solo traveller I don’t tend to get such nice upgrades, so well done Costa! Day 1 & 2 First impressions- strangely wonderful embarkation process- walk up to the deserted check in desk, they put a room number sticker on your passport,and fill in the health questionnaire- you walk through to the ship, they take questionnaire and your passport which you don't see again until the end of the cruise ( I think! If anyone spots a dodgy looking Deco wandering around Dubai, you'll know it's not me!), and you go to your cabin where your cabin key awaits. Painless.And no queues. I did spend the first few days chuckling at what I thought was the Captain’s name - "Cordiali Saluti" , until it was pointed out to me that his welcome signed off with that greeting, followed by the words “Cordiali Saluti”! Doh! The cabin is great and spacious- can't fault it at all. Nice touch that every door had a Christmas tree decoration.Slept perfectly when I eventually got to bed. The room has a coffee pod machine which is nice, if I can work it out- you only get 2 free pods however, so I shall be selective when I use them.. I live life to the edge eh?! Nice that the cabin had a bath as well as a shower, and more storage space than I’ve ever seen in a cabin before! It's very eerie getting on Costa ships because people embark quite leisurely..our embarkation time was from between 3.30pm and 07.30am the following morning- no queues to embark or disembark. But it does the impression of a ghost ship at times! Last night I unpacked and headed to the bar, to test out the all inclusive drinks package, which at 19€ a day still works out at the best drinks package at sea, incorporating coffees, teas, alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks. It seems impossible to walk more than about 20 feet without finding a bar with music playing, which is nice.Last night they must have felt they were playing to the guests of the Marie Celeste! I'm sure tonight will be busier as we are at sea through the night. I've just been down to the a la carte restaurant for breakfast expecting it to be heaving with people.. There were maybe 15 guests, and approximately 25 waiting staff! Needless to say, no sooner was I seated than this procession of people appeared- the bread man, the croissant and pastry lady, the assorted juices lady, the cereals man, the coffee man, the man who took my breakfast order.. If it carries on like this, I'll be dead impressed! I'm more used to avoiding the buffet breakfast scrums on most ships! As most of you know, I tend to be a 2 meal ( breakfast and dinner) person onboard, so I settled for a very beautifully cooked cheese and herb omelette which should see me through to dinner. This ship has done away with early and late sittings so at meal times, the choices are buffet- which I had last night, ( tasty and fresh salady stuff mostly) , a Pizzeria with a small additional charge ,or open seating in the main restaurant . Looking at the restaurant this morning, it seems mostly set up with smaller tables, but I did like the fact that in the daily programme, there is an option to meet others who don't wish to dine alone ,at 6.30 each night. Having said that,knowing my luck, I'd get paired up with Fred Munster and Nigel Farage.. So maybe for tonight at least, I'll dine with my trusty Kindle for company! Currently it's 9.30am here and I'm waiting for the lifeboat drill to occur in about 10 minutes, before we depart Dubai for Bahrain at 10.30. Just heard the first of the obligatory 5 language cabin announcements, but as it's for the safety drill, I guess they can't afford to miss anyone out! Well that was fun- I've never been on a ship where we had to line up in groups before- "and move to the left, move to the right".. I was expecting to be asked to do-si-do! I'd lost the will to live by the time we'd reached the 5th translation! However, it's done now. After this, only the essential announcements are relayed to cabins in all 5 main languages. Ok- 20 minutes later and I'm out by the pool- it's deserted!!! Hurrah! Unless they all know something I don't.. Bye bye Dubai, bring on Bahrain... I was sitting right by the ship's hooter when it went off!!! Jump?!!!! How high?!!!!!! Now to chillax.... Later that day… A nice day in the sun- the ear that wasn't affected by my headcold has now been wind blasted within an inch of its hearing life- being ever the resourceful Brit, I resorted to wrapping my caribbean kaftan thing round my head to protect what's left of my hearing- I actually really don't CARE what it looked like! It worked. Deck entertainment that I saw ( there was more but I only write what I see) was a deck side morning disco masquerading as an aerobics class-Gangnam Style was never Jane Fonda(!) and later they dragged a few holiday makers up, presented them with about 15 ingredients and challenged them to come up with the most innovative cocktail.. Lolol! Class or what?!!! Funny to watch the reaction of the tasters. Got slightly distracted on way back to cabin by a coffee / tea bar offering 16 different teas ( yawn!) but a variety of coffees including Marzipan infused! Well, that was lunch sorted, together with my lemsip/ whisky hot toddy.. Decided to a la carte the dinner tonight - no problem getting a table although I think allocating me table 111 for 1 was rubbing it in a bit! 5 courses on offer- went for just 3- roast beef with artichoke, italian cheese and finally, "diplomatic cake"... I was really hoping that was a dessert telling me to embrace my curves and eat more.. Sadly this turned out not to be the case, but as a non pud eater it was luvverly!! Cream and some sort of pastry thing with a nod to health by the addition of a strawberry. On to the show "Made in Italy" prefaced by an introduction to the international hostesses- German, French,Spanish, and finally Hannah,the english hostess who spectacularly announced that she is the language interpreter for every other language than French, Italian Spanish and German- good luck with that luv! Still for my Costa doubting cruise friends, I think it's a really good facility to have. Showtime was great- a mixture of all things italian from opera to dance to pop- including a v innovative Formula One dance to The Race.. I'd forgotten the joys of "applauso applauso " on Costa ships- it just makes me smile. Sitting in one of the many lounges now, awaiting the "70s explosion"... Should be fun! Bahrain tomorrow and I'm afraid I've opted ( on most of this cruise) for beach resort days- hey ho. Day (non existent 3) & 4.. Oh well, after a fairly uneventful day 3 to due to this stupid cold, it looks like I shall be on board Xmas Day and Boxing Day- finally succumbed to the Doc today and he advised not to do my planned trips for next two days-bronchitis. Ho hum. At least he didn't confine me to cabin!!! Well at least I shall get to see Costa Christmas in all its glory- and let's face it, if you are going to be ill, you may as well be ill in the sun!! Not too impressed with his nurse that jumped back about 8 feet when I coughed!!!!! Although as backwards long jumps go, it was probably very proficient! So, yesterday - as said earlier, a peg out day by the pool which was fine. The show was an entertaining comedy acrobat team who did some amazing human "slinky" thing, which thankfully did NOT involve them tumbling down the stairs- which was the only thing I could do with my slinky! Back to the room last night to find this big box of panettone waiting- that and the prosecco will be coming home with me, otherwise I might explode before xmas day! We arrive in Abu Dhabi at 13.30 today and depart tomorrow at about 16.30, so I guess there will be a mass exodus this afternoon.Some are doing an overnight desert trip involving tents camels and bedouins. I don't think I was made for camels.. And I'm fairly sure they aren't made for me- girl has to know her limitations! My plan ( in the absence of shore trips!) is to enjoy the day in the sun- temperature is a lovely 25 degrees, and then tackle the Christmas Eve Dinner- I am interested to see what we receive- then the Hip Hop Burlesque Show ( there's a juxtaposition!) followed by the Midnight Mass if I'm still awake. I did this last year and it was lovely - mostly the Filipino staff and a few of us Roman Candles- it's about the only time of year I go to church and I must admit I do enjoy it. Signing off for now- I hope everyone has a happy and peaceful day- I may update later on Day 5. Costa NeoRiviera Firstly- MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Thoughts for the day: 1) The hygiene and elf n safety standards on this ship are impeccable. I was watching today in the outdoor buffet area- if someone so much as drops a chip, someone is there to pick it up. The floors are constantly being mopped and all the buffet food has individual pick up tongs to reduce contamination 2) Sea water pools puts women like me at a severe disadvantage as regards swimming with any type of dignity.. No sooner am I in there then let's say my natural buoyancy takes over and the Mae Wests float to the top.. So you either go with that and float on your back looking like two atolls adrift at sea, or you fight it and people assume you are drowning... Just cold water showers poolside then for me.. 3) The quality and freshness of the food I've encountered on here surpasses anything I have had on the "posher" lines.. I did wonder if Costa Serena was unique in this, but no, seemingly not. 4)The entertainment has been fine for coping with so many nationalities- if I want a West End Show I'll go to London. But for what you get, the professionalism of the dancers and singers is top notch, the humour is by necessity " in yer face"( which I'm fine with!) and it is wonderful to sit in a theatre that is never more than 70% full with massive legroom and little tables for your drink(s)! 5) This has rekindled my love of smaller ships- it has about 1600 passengers and 900 rooms.. You can walk end to end in about 5 minutes flat. You don't need to queue for lifts, and despite the rumours about "foreigners" not queuing, I have not seen even one instance of anyone pushing in.The rumours of Costa ships being smoke filled dens appears to be unfounded too! 6) The beds are "awesome" on here and I have slept like a log! Aside from the fantastic unexpected free upgrade to a mini suite, the cabins are well fitted out, clean and well maintained. I have never had a cabin with so much storage space! I found another cupboard yesterday when I pressed the hairdryer button my mirror- only for the whole mirror to swing open to produce a further huge cupboard housing a safe ( I had wondered where that was!) as well as says hairdryer! I have not forgotten my P&O balcony complete with blue plastic webbing, rusty rails and paint flecks all over it! That was the same cabin where the handle came off in my hand if you recall! 7) Their inclusive drinks package is the best at sea, and means that since I've been on here, aside from a bottle of Cloudy Bay which I treated myself to for yesterday and today , and a packet of crisps ( because I could!) I have no other onboard spend at all. 8)I wasn't a fan of freedom dining, preferring to inflict myself on others at dinner, but actually it's been ok. I think it's led to me meeting less people than normal, but I also believe the vast array of nationalities by definition makes that harder. I've enjoyed the freedom to eat when I choose as opposed to when it's prescribed and as long as I have my Kindle, I've been a happy Billy No Mates in the corner! 9)Here's the thing... For all of the above plus more, I am starting to think that Costa may be my favourite cruise line.. I still have a lot to try out, but for value for money , I find them hard to beat. I'm interested in other opinions from fellow cruisers , and for non cruising friends, I'll shut up now!!!!! Today is a people watching day- it is the first time that I've seen the decks fairly full- this is a definite advantage of having almost every day as a port day- people clear off to explore! Having said, as I say, today ( at least for the next couple of hours) the world and his wife are here.. Yes there are plenty of children but they are "contained" reasonably within a) a children's pool on deck 12 with slides and stuff and b) in one of the two adult only pools.. Well, it's Christmas eh? And they are all being well behaved if a little noisy... The assorted deck walkers are funny to watch- there are the Sophia Loren and George Clooney beautiful people, the Middle aged stomach suckers-in squeezed into budgie smuggler speedos , the self conscious but willowy latinesque teenage beauties,giggling in little gaggles,and eying up the sullen moody boys, the sock wearing white hat & sandal brigade desperately seeking shade ( I wonder where they can be from?!), the dedicated yompers marching determinedly around the deck in anticipation of the Christmas dinner to come, eyes front and no deviation , the weary mothers who just look relieved that the sun is out and their children have playmates of all nationalities to play with, the teenage lads who really DO seem lost on here, and tend to sit quietly in corners scowling gently,pretending they can't see the giggly girls, the long suffering bar staff with their enforced uniform of Xmas hats which they wear with aplomb and a smile, dads pretending to read their papers and discreetly watching the girls go by without attracting the attention of their wives, who are watching them like hawks regardless anyhow..All the world is here.. I hear French, English, German, Arabic,Spanish, Italian as a gentle cacaphony of voices melding with the Christmas deck music.. It's strangely soothing.. I'm not a crowd lover, but even within all of this, it seems calm and peaceful... They say no man is an island.. I feel a little like one here, but surrounded by other islands, so it could be worse. Language is not hugely a barrier- smiles are universal and people are friendly enough. I'm not sure if I miss the big group table at dinner or not- I've met some interesting people by dining that way in the past, but actually , a table for one has been ok on this cruise.. Sad but true. I have my reindeer deely boppers ready to go tonight; bring it on! Day 6&7 Day 6 passed in a blur of sun sleep and .. Well that's it really! Oh except for the fact that I decided against my better nature to try italian Bingo.. Oh that's fun.. You push holes in the paper as opposed to using your dobber.. And you'd think , THINK, that with repeating each number in 5 languages, you'd have time to read a book Inbetween... Oh no sirree!!!! It was bloody hard to keep up and when I actually WON ( yes WON!!) I was so surprised and so slow that I nearly missed it! As it was, I had to go up front to "applauso applauso" in bare feet because I'd taken my shoes off... You could hear the tuts from the Jimmy Choo and Loboutin brigade.. I don't care- my tootsies looked lovely courtesy of my friend Angela at Image Salon so who cares?! Probably just jealous of my winning! The show "Myths & Legends" wasn't probably going to be my thing so I pottered off to see the Arabian Night floor show. Highly entertaining if very basic humour, culminating in the crowning of Mr NeoRiviera... I rather like this sort of simple humour- you look around the room and everyone is laughing- similar to the first time I watched Penguin Racing on Fred Olsen.. There's not a lot more designed to make me cry laughing than grown men strapped to 6 foot tall MDF penguins whilst assorted punters throw the huge dice to get their penguin over the finish line.. Call me childish but I LIKE that sort of thing! So, back to Mr Costa NeoRiviera.. Round one, basically a " You can take your hat off " routine to whittle from 20 down to 3.. Well a blind man could have worked out all 3.. There's been a fantastic Egyptian man who throws himself into everything, ( he really can dance like an Egyptian!), there was the obligatory italian stallion who just KNEW he was, ( not that I'm complaining!) and then this little tubby long haired grandad who was just hysterical to watch.. Ok.. So I guess before round two, you can already guess the winner? The game was to drag 3 (un ) willing women from the audience to act as Jane, to each man's Tarzan.. There was ONE extremely happy Jane there.. Then Tarzan had to beat up the cannibal with his fred flintstone cosh (applauso applauso) and swing through the jungle to rescue his jane.. Ok.. Silly but.. Egyptian man had either never heard of Tarzan or he'd been really badly dubbed in Egypt , as his cry came out like a cat with his bits caught in a mangle ( bye bye!), the Italian Stallion was so busy looking beautiful he forgot to act.. So step forward Mr Costa NeoRiviera- who threw himself into the part with what can only be described as gusto, and he looked totally in shock when he won .. Even though the animateurs had hoisted his Jane up between them and deposited her in his arms! Bloody funny- you had to be there to appreciate it! Last night,there was ( boring but worth mentioning for potential Costa cruisers) an offer to wash and iron up to 25 items for a total cost of €20.. Normally this is €11 an item and so REALLY not of interest.. But €20 to get 9 dresses and 2 tops returned ready to pack? Oh yes! Returned to my cabin at 6pm tonight and straight in the case.. Thankyou Costa! Dinner was tasty and I leave the ship at 9.30 tomorrow- interestingly at the disembarkation talk, you can keep your cabin on here until 3pm at no extra charge and even then you can continue to use the ship's facilities inc the restaurants until whatever time you are due to disembark. To sum up, this is my second Costa cruise, and no they're not the poshest but I do seriously believe they are fun.. Life is what you make it.. Holidays are what you choose to make them.. I didn't see any of the Emirates because of this bronchitis, but I had a totally relaxing chilled holiday in the most beautiful weather.. The cabin was the best designed and most spacious of any ship I've been on, and the staff can't do enough to help. And I KNOW I will be back here. With Costa too. For non cruising friends, I hope this hasn't bored you too much.. For cruise lovers friends, I hope you find this a useful honest review. Ciao!!!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
The MSC Lirica is a medium ship, doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the mega ships but nether less is spotless and service was great. Our teenage family tend to go for an itinary that will engage the kids and this was ticked ... Read More
The MSC Lirica is a medium ship, doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the mega ships but nether less is spotless and service was great. Our teenage family tend to go for an itinary that will engage the kids and this was ticked the boxes. First the ship, seemed identical to the Opera we sailed on in August so new our way roun. This is an Italian ship so dinner is a 7 course Mediterranean affair, no steak, burgers etc but salads, pastas and seafood. With the size you do not get any speciality restaurants. For breakfast we always ate in the MDR not the buffet and was great the rest of the time we were off ship. There is a smoking bat at the one end of the Ship. As this was Christmas there was a great Christmas theme, however, the Xmas service was in Italian. If the shows are vital to you cruise enjoyment, choose another line as it is very Western European, not great from a Brit point of view but not high on my agenda. Arrived from Birmingham at around 7:30 into Dubai, immigration is slow but we will still on board for 10:00 am. The downside to this is disembarkment was at 4:00 am the following Saturday. Dubai Please note there is free wifi in the cruise terminal. We arrived early so took a taxi tour. The taxis are plentiful even for our party of 7. The taxi drivers are all tour guides. Negotiate your price. Typically 500 dirhams for 6 hours, 300 for 3. We visited the deira gold souk, the creek,the magnificent park Hyatt hotel, the Egyptian themed Raffles hotel,the palace,dubathe Flamingos and finally dropped off at the Dubai Mall to go up the Burj Khalifa. Tip pre book online, save yourself a lot of money plus choose a time of your choice. The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world and includes an ice rink, an aquarium and dancing fountains! All on board for 5:30. Abu Dhabi Again taxi tour 300 dirhams as the party wanted to get back for 2:00. The Mosque is fantastic and clothes are provided for women to cover up, cruise card will do as I'd, saw the Sultan's palace, the marina, the F1 circuit and Ferrari world. Sea day ; rained all day!!!!!!!!! Khor fakkan Had a fantastic day at the beach at the lovely 4 star Oceanic Hotel. Take the shuttle bus out of port. Then take the free shuttle bus to the Hotel. The day pass costs 65 dirhams per adult (12 and over) and must be paid in cash. For that you get free towels, sunbed and lounges on beach or pool and a fantastic buffet lunch including non alcoholic drinks. Free wifi in hotel. Never seen so many staff in a hotel. Free shuttle return at 3,3:30 and 4. Muscat Boat docks at Muttrah, old part of Muscat. As this was Xmas day we just wandered around the Souks bartering for fancy dress for New Year and the fish market. Easy to walk to keep the sea on your left 10 minutes. Remember Omani Rial is currency but euros accepted as normal currency, 1 rial is 2 euros. If you prefer taxi tour again plentiful waiting to be negotiated!!!!! Khasab Another favourite day. We pre booked a Dhow tour with Khourshem Tours. A full day visiting telegraph and seema Islands, lunch, snorkelling,equipment and towels provided and non alcoholic drinks cost 32 euros per person. Approx 17 on board. We saw bottle neck Dolphins close up and the Coral round the islands meant some great fish. Very chilled day, the 6 hours flew by. Dubai. For us the kids wanted to go to Wild Wadi by the magnificent Burj Al Arab and part of the jumeirah beach hotel. Wow what a view. Tip buy one get one free vouchers form the Dubai Entertainer are available on ebay for a few pounds.235 dirhams to get in. All in all fantastic taste of the Middle East .   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
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
Joined Thomson Celebration on 20th December 2012 for Red Sea Magic Christmas Cruise. Transfers from Sharm El Sheikh airport to port went smoothly and boarding process was straight forward. We had sailed on the ship before , normally on ... Read More
Joined Thomson Celebration on 20th December 2012 for Red Sea Magic Christmas Cruise. Transfers from Sharm El Sheikh airport to port went smoothly and boarding process was straight forward. We had sailed on the ship before , normally on deck 3 or 4, however, on this occasion we had upgraded to Deck 7. Stateroom slightly larger with bath and shower but otherwise no different from Deck 3 / 4 and would probably not upgrade again. Stateroom was clean and functional, stateroom attendant service was minimal. Food was to the usual high standard but sometimes warm with no evidence of food temperatures being checked at banmari in LIDO restaurant. Drinking water barrels were not on site and had been replaced with bottled water on request by the glass. We missed the water barrel and being able to top up our water bottle. Water from hot water urn for tea had strange taste and we never had a good cup of tea all week. Soft drinks and alcoholic drinks were ordered via waiter in any part of the ship. Waiting time to order and to receive drinks ordered certainly felt longer than any other time we have been on board, and sometimes it was difficult to catch a waiter to place your order. Ships staff generally helpful and friendly. Itinerary was limited to industrial ports where you could not disembark and just walk around. You always required to disembark as part of a rather expensive organised trip. Travel times to trip destinations, i.e. Caira, Petra, etc. were 2-3 hours making a day trip 10-12 hours. We spent six days on the ship looking at cranes, trains and industrial containers often with clouds of sand/cement billowing around. This did not stop us from taking full advantage of the ships facilities and we did eat, drink and were merry and relaxed, until we tried to find a sunbed. We would travel on The Celebration again but would not follow this itinerary again. Given that Thomson knew the limitations the itinerary ports offered, the number of passengers on board, and the number of passengers who would be off ship on trips, as well as the fact the weather in the region lent itself to sunbathing, we have to ask why were there so few sunbeds? Despite written and verbal communication from Thomson on being a courteous passenger and not reserving sunbeds, etc. inevitably selfish people did, causing ill feeling, frayed tempers and embarrassment as passengers could not even find a plastic chair to sit on never mind a sunbed. The one trip we went on was, as always with Thomson, well organised and enjoyable. Entertainment was very good, varied and well timed spread out over the two main entertainment areas. Thomson's might think on enforcing their "requests" such as no-one over 18 in the casino and no reserving on sunbeds rather than just lending lip service to this. Would have been good to have a child free area on the ship. Although the casino had signs to say that no-one under 18 should be in the bar, there were always children in that area. Similarly the Horizons Bar would have been a suitable spot for adults only drinks. Unfortunately another example of Thomson requesting parents take responsibility for their children and not enforcing their request as "groups" of youths and children roamed and ran unchecked and without any parental supervision. All in all an enjoyable Christmas on board The Celebration. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
My wife & our boys aged 12 years & 9 years were on the Thomson Celebration Cruise during this Christmas in 2 nos. outside cabins on B deck. The cabins were comfortable with adequate space to store cloths etc. The food was ... Read More
My wife & our boys aged 12 years & 9 years were on the Thomson Celebration Cruise during this Christmas in 2 nos. outside cabins on B deck. The cabins were comfortable with adequate space to store cloths etc. The food was acceptable in the buffet restaurant but could have been hotter. A microwave would sort this problem out. The crew were both friendly & helpful. The first port of call was Aqaba in Jordan. Thomson supplied a free shuttle bus to the centre of the town which was worth a walk around. Thomson were running a tour to Petra which they would charge my family £404.00. We arranged our own taxi & including the cost of entry tickets. Total cost £140.00, a saving of 65%. The next port was Sokhna in Egypt. This port is a commercial one in the middle of nowhere surrounded only by factories. There is no town. Initially, we walked to find a taxi to take us to the Pyramids but were thwarted by the Port Authorities as they were not happy with Thomson passengers walking in their port. The Thomson representative tried to get us to return to the ship but when we refused found us a taxi. We assume that the Port Authorities complained to Thomsons which forced them to find us a taxi. We would have booked the Thomson Tour to the Pyramids if it had been reasonably priced, our cost including tickets was £150.00. Thomson were charging £320.00, a saving of 53%. If the passengers did not want to take the Thomson Tour they were kept captive on the ship, just like another day at sea. The final port before returning to Sharm El Sheikh was Safaga, another commercial port with a cement factory at the quay side. When we arrived it was windy with cement dust blowing towards the ship which is a health hazard. The town is quite run down & not really worth a visit. We easily found a taxi to take us to the Valley Of The Kings which cost £160.00 including entry tickets. The Thomson cost for my family was £344.00 our saving 53%. Thomson tours are grossly overpriced. I think that they are exploiting a captive market. A week before the cruise set sail date Thomson informed us that the Sports Deck was closed due to upgrading the ship. Having 2 nos. boys that are keen on football & basketball this was not good news as it was difficult to keep the children occupied during the day at sea. As we only booked this cruise a month before the cruise would start, we consider it was deceitful of Thomsons to not tell us about the deck closure at the time of booking. we complained to Thomsons who so far have ignored us. Finally, Thomson want to organise their airport departure procedures better. All their buses from the cruise & hotels arrive at the airport at the same time. This leads to massive unnecessary queues. All their planes were taking-off at short intervals which meant there were not enough buses at Sharm El Sheikh Airport to ferry passengers to the planes & when the planes were ready to take-off they were having to queue to leave. Our plane was 50 minutes late taking-off. This problem could easily be overcome by staggering the times that the buses arrive at the airport & leaving longer periods between flight take-offs. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause if you believe or perhaps you are a newbie to RCI! With a fare too good to be true and not having to fly, we booked a last minute inside guarantee on Brilliance of the Seas out of Dubai during the ... Read More
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause if you believe or perhaps you are a newbie to RCI! With a fare too good to be true and not having to fly, we booked a last minute inside guarantee on Brilliance of the Seas out of Dubai during the holidays. We will be three star Mariners on our next HAL cruise and have also sailed Celebrity but we're looking forward to an RCI experience...... especially having had the sea call me on the new shell phone......I love that ad! We used our usual online agent and to my surprise within the week our RCI reservation was assigned a Superior Ocean View Balcony Cabin on deck nine, mid-ship! I kept checking every day waiting for it to be a mistake. We have never booked a guarantee before in any category and this good fortune probably doesn't happen often. For those of you contemplating a cruise on Brilliance but concerned about it being an older ship lacking the bells and whistles of the bigger classes, don't delay. The ship was in great shape and looked festive with all of the holiday decorations. There were no plumbing issues, the carpets and furnishings looked fine, and all of the surrounding glass sparkled from the continuous cleaning. Liked a Lot: being able to see the pre-booked reservations that you make on the RCI web site for your specific cruise; being able to view your account from the cabin TV quick response from the RCI dining team regarding my wait-listed MTD status (thanks for the tip CC) the planner on Day One that lets you know in advance the formal nights, drink of the day, activity times for the week, special sales each day; the inclusion of all of the port information in the first daily compass, providing information even if you were doing a port on your own instead of a ship tour The Captain's sense of humor and friendliness of the crew. Always being greeted with smiles and doing everything they could to make you comfortable The outdoor seating area by the Seaview Cafe deck 12 that seems luckily undiscovered Seaview Cafe panini sandwiches-wish it was open earlier than three pm The layout of lounges in the Colony Club; being able to go from the Champagne bar to the piano bar, and dance floor without the music overlapping Solarium was a peaceful pool retreat with an exotic Indian theme, wooden loungers with thick pads to relax on, the convenience of both a bar and cafe Room Service-arrived on time and with everything you ordered! Entertainment -a wide variety through out the day and into the night; classical music, Latin music, big band orchestra or R&R to dance to, piano music to sing along with, classical guitar, disco and karaoke; theater shows included guest singer Tracey Shield performing like Celine Dion, Rat Pack tribute, and Tango Buenos Aires Dining & Drinks Chops Grill-Great and worth the money; excellent service and they even decanter your wine by the glass; the steak melted in your mouth and was cooked as ordered; sides were good also-mushroom and leek combo, potatoes with prosciutto & cheese, onion rings, green beans or buttered asparagus; desserts included mud pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for us chocolate lovers; Portofino-originally reserved the Wine & Dinner series but unfortunately not enough people so it got canceled. We substituted a regular dinner reservation and enjoyed it very much; really liked the variety of breads to get you started; we ordered veal saltimbocca which was good though a little salty; desserts were very rich-I had a double dark and white chocolate dessert which was heavenly but best shared MDR-we were able to switch from the early seating to MTD and liked being able to reserve ahead of time; The staff did a superb job of handling this style dining and we always got a table for two without waiting and in the same section though didn't have to request it. They easily accommodated guests configuring the table sizes from 2-6. Even the larger oval tables for eight appeared more conducive to conversation than the huge round tables you so often see in banquet settings; our waiters Alex and Alok were a great combination and it helped that they were also able to serve you the wine as you didn't have to wait for a wine steward; the special holiday dinner offered traditional turkey which was very good; nice assortment of breads each night, delicious lentil and sun-dried tomato soup, excellent presentation; food was hot; stayed away from the steak(Chops reservation anyway) but have to say I ordered sea food three times and twice it was overcooked and once it was cooked to perfection but full of bones! As was my husband's and the gentleman at the table next to ours. Need to schedule more filet lessons Windjammer-typical cruise buffet; no problem finding a table, friendly service and hot food, some items really good (danish pastry, sweet & sour Indian dish, cooked to order omelets) others take or leave but you won't go hungry Drinks-Drink of the Day was $6.95; Bottle of Heineken was about $5; we thought bottles of wine outside of the wine package were slightly higher or what you might pay in a larger city in the US (but less than a hotel in Dubai!) Most cocktails were in the $7-$8 range but Margaritas and the like were a sobering $10-$11. The drinks were all good---not watered down; enjoyed the revolving bar at Starquest and the live entertainment every night at the Lobby Bar; medium size bottled water in your room was $4----yikes! Liked a Lot Less: Sun lounge chairs crammed together-we didn't like the design of the pool area and placement of the chairs on the outside decks at all. An average amount of towels covered vacant chairs but not excessive however the chairs were so close together they took economy class to a new level. Many of the chairs were also lined up on the upper decks against the wall and often had a ceiling overhang that blocked the sun or ventilation fans blowing. There was a special area designated for either suite or diamond guests but the area wasn't utilized much whenever I walked by. There is also a lot of deck space allocated to the water slide and sports activities which I guess that "prime real estate" aspect depends on your interests......but you do have the solarium alternative to escape to. Cabin- Showers-sure are tiny! Spoiled by the HAL shower/tub combo in all of their balcony cabins so no thumbs up here; plenty of storage space and hangers, comfortable beds (liked the curved edges) and the sconce lighting with a reading light; needs flat screen TV, built in international plug adapters, and some new balcony furniture but I'm sure these will be taken care of in a future dry-dock and not a major concern Odds and Ends: A good balance of service throughout the ship. Waiters were available when you wanted a drink but didn't pounce on you as soon as you finished one or before getting settled in a new venue. Photographers unobtrusively captured candid shots or were scattered at various places in the ship to take your photo without having to be scheduled in advance. With the beautiful decorations even we couldn't resist buying an 8x10 for $19.95. The in-house news show hosted by Paul the Cruise Director was a clever way to inform you about what was going on and what you needed to know. There were two formal nights and one theme night. The White Night had many crew and guests donning Middle Eastern dress and posing in the Arabian tent and around the camels. The obvious good time being had relinquished my impulse to call the Cultural Wizard when I spotted them with a drink in hand! Port Tips-This Middle East itinerary is a great way to explore a part of the Gulf region. They are all industrial ports so factor that into your "view expectations" while sitting on your balcony in port. Friday is the holy day and except for the malls most things will open later in the day. Visiting the mosques-in Abu Dhabi all women will be given an abaya to put on and a shayla for your head if you don't have a scarf. Men will be provided a khandora if wearing shorts; in Muscat women must have long sleeves to your wrists and a head covering. Men need long pants. You will remove your shoes before entering the mosque. I didn't wear socks in Muscat, it was not a problem (though I would have felt better if my toenails weren't painted red.) In the shopping areas it is respectful for women to cover shoulders and knees---think short sleeves and capri pants, though in Dubai people digress! Dubai-add a day or two pre or post cruise if this is your first visit. There is so much to see and do here even after you shop! The cream colored taxis with different colored roofs are plentiful, metered, and inexpensive. You will see many lined up at the port entrance; HOHO busses were also at the cruise terminal as were free shuttles to a couple of the malls....I believe one was Dubai Mall but not positive; there were also many 4x4's waiting to take people on their scheduled desert dune bashing experience (if you are prone to motion sickness you may want to take some medication before hand) Abu Dhabi-Free shuttle to the Marina Mall where you can get a taxi if not on a scheduled tour; Sheik Zayed Mosque is beautiful and free tours are given in the morning; Falcon Hospital is an interesting alternative if you have been to Abu Dhabi before. The staff is welcoming and provides a lot of information, you get to see falcons being treated in the "spa" and even have one perched on your arm for photos Muscat-Free shuttles to the port gate in Muscat were provided. There is a large sign outside with posted fares to different places. Gives you an idea for your taxi negotiations; Some drivers will interpret the rate to be pp. We agreed to pay 15 OR for both of us for a roundtrip to the Grand Mosque and have the driver wait for us. He had wanted 20 rials for the 30 minute ride each way. He explained areas as we drove through the city, after our visit he brought us to a reception area in the mosque for tea and dates, took some pictures for us etc and in the end we felt he earned the extra amount and tipped him the difference You can walk to the Mutrah Souk in about 10 minutes from the port gate; Bait al Zubair and Palace area are about 3km from the souq. If you are energetic you can walk to it in about 50 minutes along the beautiful sea promenade or corniche. The four buildings offer a wealth of information about Oman, there's a beautiful jewelry exhibit for the women and handsomely crafted swords and kanjars for the men, a cafe to order coffee or tea and try the Halwa sweet treat of Oman, stop in the gift shop where you can also spritz yourself and make a splurge purchase of Amouage, the Rolls Royce of perfumes of the world made in Oman. If your ship is docked overnight, check to see if there is a performance at the new Royal Opera House http://www.rohmuscat.org.om/ It is a beautiful building and offers not only opera but ballet, symphony, jazz and other performances. The new season begins mid January through March and tickets sell out quickly so if you are interested, don't hesitate. Fujairah-plan a tour, dhow cruise or stay onboard and enjoy the ship; the shuttle to LuLu's is like a trip to Carrefour or Walmart SuperCenter Passenger mix was at least 75% Europeans from all over the continent, some North Americans and everyone in between. Daily program guides were offered in a variety of languages. A number of children and teens on board and an equal number of activities to keep them busy; yes, even Santa came aboard Christmas Eve Embarkation-moved along quickly Passport Retrieval-effortless; also US citizens- ship arranges Oman visa/ charges $13 to your sea account-probably others too but not sure which countries so won't comment Disembarkation-Our tag number gathered in the Schooner Bar at 8 am and I was home making coffee at 8:30 am after a 10 minute taxi ride-as close to a Florida perk as you can get! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We cruised 19-26th December 2011 and I can tell you, we will not be staying home for Christmas any more. For the first time we paid for embarkation and city tour (we usually do this on our own) and it showed up to be a great idea. After ... Read More
We cruised 19-26th December 2011 and I can tell you, we will not be staying home for Christmas any more. For the first time we paid for embarkation and city tour (we usually do this on our own) and it showed up to be a great idea. After breakfast and check in in Hyatt we were taken to city tour, which gave us basic orientation of Dubai, UAE and the culture. This helped us to plan our two Dubai days at the end of our cruise. In Fujairah we did the East Coast tour which was great value for money (30 Eur for 4 hour trip). The city itself is boring and this was a great choice. We did Muttrah/Muscat on our own, the ship organised free shuttle (in every port but Dubai) and we walked pretty much all day and evening all over the interesting sites. In Abu Dhabi after "must see" mosque we went by taxi to Yas island and stayed whole day in Ferarri World (awesome), the taxi was 25 USD each way (considering this was about 60 km this was great). And finally in Dubai we did Hop on bus day and night, which was good value for money since they took us straight from and to the ship. Burj Khalifa experience, Aquaventure, Souqs, Wafi light show.. just name it, we did it :o) So I must say the ports of call were great. The ship was ok, not stunning but clean with great Solarium, billiard tables, cinema and standard RCI features. I can not say one bad word about the ship. We ate 3 night in Dinning room (including great Christmas Dinner) which served good meals and we were glad to have Robert from Hungary as a waiter since he was polite and quick and not too familiar ( I really hate this in a waiter). Other meals we ate at Solarium, Seaview Cafe and Windjammer, food and service was great as usually, I was thrilled to eat Duck-dumplings which is traditional for my country in a great quality. Our room was standard interior room on 10th floor (great location). Room attendant was awesome, helpful and polite. One incident was disturbing.. in next room an old couple would bang on wall ( and I mean really loudly) if we made a beep after 8.00 pm. Come on people, we were just talking not having a party, if you want to sleep 8.00pm-6.00am stay at home or pay for extra large room, you will reduce the noise. In the morning the old lady would give us an ugly stare and complain but since we really did not do anything unusual(in fact we are quite boring, we usually go to bed before midnight, we do not drink at all and when coming back to room in the evening we try to be quiet) and no one else has ever had problem with us, this did not ruin our day. I just feel sorry for people who destroy holidays not only for themselfs but also for others just because they expect that by paying for the cheapest cabin they can act as they own the ship. I loved the atmosphere on the cruise, Santa showed up (yeah, he was skinny and he used our safety boats to come but it was nice anyways). I also liked the carolling (did I spell it right?), Christmas dinner decoration, the "pull and it will pop" toy we all got and so on. The decorations on the ship were nice but not too much, just the way I like it :o) So, to sum up the cruise was great and the timing made it awesome, so I can only recommend. Just wondering where we will go next Christmas :o)) Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We embarked on the beautiful Brilliance of the seas at Dubai for a one week cruise and had a great experience from start to finish. Our check in was brilliant - we were in our stateroom barely half an hour after arriving at the terminal, ... Read More
We embarked on the beautiful Brilliance of the seas at Dubai for a one week cruise and had a great experience from start to finish. Our check in was brilliant - we were in our stateroom barely half an hour after arriving at the terminal, everyone seemed courteous and helpful, and soon the children were enjoying their lunch in Windjammers, the casual buffet restaurant. On a previous cruise, this process took over two hours and when we did get to go on board our stateroom was not yet ready. The only thing that did not seem right on embarkation day was the lacklustre emergency drill. No life jackets were used and I doubt the information given would have been useful in a real emergency. The Brilliance of the seas is indeed a beautiful ship with lots of space and activities, and although we liked the kids' programmes on offer, we found there were enough activities to enable us stay and play together. We enjoyed table tennis especially and our adolescent played this as well as football with the other children. The mini golf was another option our younger son particularly liked. There were many areas to sit or lie to relax and several nice places to take family photos. Sometimes we simply went for a walk around the ship and enjoyed the views. There were other activities going on such as swimming, rock climbing, jogging and basketball in a relaxed atmosphere. Despite the holiday season and many people on board, it did not feel crowded, even on the sea day. There was always somewhere to sit on deck and in the restaurants. We loved the international ambience and hearing many languages being spoken apart from English. Our accommodation was slightly smaller than on a previous cruise, but it was faultlessly clean and our stateroom attendant Nikki gave us a really personal service, by the time we were leaving we felt we had known her for ages. She was very helpful and friendly and could do any thing with her amazing towel animal displays. The most touching display was her heart shaped towels and pillows display with real red rose petals on our wedding anniversary. We had decided to keep this quiet but she saw a card in the room and decided to give us a truly lovely surprise, which we appreciated very much. She also brought in a vase of red roses. Now food. We had my time dining at the minstrel restaurant. The food was very good and there variety was impressive. Ferdi and Rigo, our waiters, were excellent and polite and anticipated our every need, making suggestions without any pressure. Windjammers gave us the casual option for breakfast, lunch and snacks, offering a wide variety of choices. Even though it is a buffet restaurant, the waiters were very friendly and would stop for a chat and offer to bring drinks. This friendliness seemed to the norm with all the staff we came into contact with. Even those who simply passed by us would smile and greet us. We could not help but feel special. The only thing I would wish for in addition to all this would be a dedicated 24/7 pizzeria. My children would have loved this. Back to food, room service is of an excellent quality and can be conveniently ordered on the interactive TV in the stateroom. Ports of call were interesting. This was our first visit to the Middle East and I was a bit concerned to read the ports were all cargo ports, but I was pleasantly surprised. Cargo ports indeed they were, but they were so beautiful. With the other ships and dhows and cranes and absolutely gorgeous mountainous backdrop in Muscat, for example, the views in the setting sun were stunning. Also, the port views from the balcony as we arrived at Abu Dhabi in the morning were beautiful. And Dubai...what can I say? We liked the free shuttle services provided out of the ports and sometimes into the cities and the malls. This was very welcome in Fujeirah especially where we were not exactly sure what to do, being the first port of call. We also used the taxis and the big red sightseeing buses. We did not do any of the suggested excursions but we enjoyed going about on our own. Back on board, the entertainment was very good, especially the evening shows and poolside parties. I think the timing of the first show at 7:30pm was not quite suitable for families with children who did not take part in the kids' clubs. The earliest we could get my time dining was 6:30pm and we had to rush on a couple of evenings to take them to the show they wanted to see at 7:30pm. The shopping seemed a little bit limited, in our opinion, and the photographers were very enthusiastic. We did find, though, that a few of the photos showed subjects out of proportion to the beautiful backgrounds, but we still managed to get some good ones to bring home, although those had all been taken by one photographer. Perhaps he could help the others... All in all, it was a delightful cruise. I nearly forgot to mention the library where I could get away now and then, and the well organised disembarkation process. We are very eager to cruise with Royal Caribbean again and are already making plans for our next experience with them.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was our 13th cruise and was booked within the last 3 months. We normally travel with Princess and had never even considered Thomson, I suppose if honest, had made the assumption that it would be comparable to Butlins-on-Sea. How ... Read More
This was our 13th cruise and was booked within the last 3 months. We normally travel with Princess and had never even considered Thomson, I suppose if honest, had made the assumption that it would be comparable to Butlins-on-Sea. How wrong we were! We had returned from a Princess Med cruise in September and subsequently booked this to fit in with the New Year break. Having already cruised this area before we thought we would just remain on the ship, read, take in the sunshine and chill out. Since we normally choose a balcony and there being non on the Celebration, we managed to secure the last remaining suite. Check in at the airport was smooth and very efficient, the Thomson staff being so helpful this started the trip off well. Great flight only marred by the awful food which you were able to purchase, drinks seemed to be dearer than usual on flights as well. Good transfer to the ship and something we have never come across before, on boarding the ship you are personally escorted to your cabin. This is so appreciated because it takes a bit of time to work out where your cabin is in relation to where you board even if you've been on the ship previously. The suite was much larger than we imagined, very clean and tidy. Supposedly if you are in Premier Class (confirmed on your luggage labels) your luggage gets delivered first. Don't think I agree with this, it was about 2 hours which is quicker than Princess but hey its a relatively small ship in contrast. Our room steward made an appearance after about an hour and a half, pointed out the obvious things, where the air-con was, safe, tv etc. then left. Didn't really see much of him after that for the whole cruise, apart from him entering the room without so much as a knock when hubbie was on the loo, and no "Please make up the room" sign on the door. Very disappointed to find a towel sculpture secreted in the cupboard all ready for display, unfortunately this poor dog must have been created many months ago because it was filthy. We also found an abandoned sock down the settee, and a consistently empty ice bucket, but that is all we could find to fault as regards the room. As room stewards go we'd give ours 6 out of 10, normally we leave a thank you card containing £50, we didn't feel ours warranted this gift, first time ever we've done so. Food experience, well you won't go hungry but it is not the 5* dining experience that we have come to expect, however the friendliness of all staff and fellow passengers by far makes up for it. The shows laid on by the entertainment singers and dancers have to be the best we have ever seen, we normally give them a miss, especially on Princess as the shows leave a lot to be desired. Young team, great voices, enthusiasm and well choreographed. We paid for the drinks package but to be honest I don't think we even managed to drink our money's worth and we can certainly put a few away. Drinks are well priced with spirits 60% larger measure than normal, Gin and tonic £3.70, only Heineken and John Smiths but £3.50 so not bad for a cruise. The ports of Safaga and Port Sokhna are just that, ports and industrial at that. No shuttles to anywhere so if you want to get off, you need to do an organised tour, not a problem for us but be warned. Shuttle (free) available at Aqaba but it doesn't drop you off in the best place, quite a walk back to shopping area. Weather was a bit hit and miss, 3 and half days of sunshine, strong breeze, 3 and half days of overcast cold weather. Very poor tv reception throughout the trip, shops only open on about 2 occasions, take some books or entertainment for the daytime if not touring. Now for the absolutely best bit, departing. Yes you do have to leave your room at 9am but you can extend till 3ish for £30, we didn't bother. However your cruise card still works up until an hour before you get off the ship,the entertainment, food and drink still carries on, Thomson do remember you are still on holiday - take note Princess! Princess chuck you out of your room at 8, you gather in the dining room complete with chipboard tables after all cloths have been removed, and there you sit in silence and wait. As far as they are concerned you now don't exist and you've nothing to do, or eat/drink, until your coach comes to dump you at the airport with up to 8 hours (yes) before your flight, you can't even check in. Would we go with Thomson again, yes, we booked the Baltic Capitals whilst on board, saved £500. No tipping or 15% added to drinks prices either. Would we go back on Princess, probably not, even though we are Platinum members and have a future cruise deposit lodged with them. We were really pleasantly surprised and met some lovely people, great camaraderie all round and a wonderful start to the New Year. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
First time with Royal Carribbean. Ship a little smaller than our cruises on Princess and Cunard QM2. staff very friendly and helpful. Easy embarkation. Room spacious. A little tired in places,considering it was a top suite. Balcony ... Read More
First time with Royal Carribbean. Ship a little smaller than our cruises on Princess and Cunard QM2. staff very friendly and helpful. Easy embarkation. Room spacious. A little tired in places,considering it was a top suite. Balcony very small and cramped,but as this was a winter sailing did not matter too much. We pre ordered a wine package. Not successful with ensuring a bottle went from dining room to dining room. Concierge room good for snacks and evening free drinks, but during the day they allowed unsupervised children in ,no-one checked them ,they were lucky there was not an accident with coffee machine etc.We only had room service once for breakfast and that was awful. It came on a grubby tray the cooked breakfast was delivered later than the rest and was dried up and overcooked and nearly cold. The toast was burnt and cold. In fact all we had was a drink and we left the rest. We did not risk it again. The main disappointment for us was the itiniery. We were moored in Muscat for 2 days ( only a 7 day cruise) and we were in a working container port. Our cabin overlooked the workings of lorries loading up with containers and there was a lot of noise into and through the night. No point in sitting on the balcony .They would have been better to have been in Abu Dhabi for 2 days but I suspect it was to do with costings and port fees . Overall, though not a bad cruise.Dubai was good . Plenty to see .felt safe and can easily get about on your own. Very expensive ( wine about £45 a bottle in the hotels and restaurants) But some beautiful hotels. We stayed in the One and Only Royal Mirage for 2 nights pre cruise. Nothing to see really in Fujaraih. Muscat was clean and nice.In Abu Dhabi we visited the Formula One track (good trip,if you like that sort of thing).The cruise did not take you very far afield but it was interesting. Entertainment on ship was ok.Evening bar staff very friendly. Quickly knew and remembered your names.Th ship returned close to Dubai for the midnight fireworks in Dubai on New Years Eve which was a good experience to watch from the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
What a disappointment.We have been on many cruises over the years, none as bad as this one. The customer services staff were unbelievably rude, the staff above waiter level were completely arrogant. 15% was added on to everything including ... Read More
What a disappointment.We have been on many cruises over the years, none as bad as this one. The customer services staff were unbelievably rude, the staff above waiter level were completely arrogant. 15% was added on to everything including water bought at the bar. On top of that, 7 euros a day per person was added to the final bill for tips regardless of quality of service. The waiting staff were dissatisfied with their treatment by the company resulting in poor service. There were passengers embarking and disembarking for two consecutive nights making us feel that our cruise was over early. One couple was in bed naked when the next set of passengers entered the cabin having been given a key. The food was appalling considering it was an Italian ship one would think that at least the pasta dishes would be good, sadly not so. The food was either tepid or over cooked. The embarkation procedure was ridiculous with some staff giving one set of instruction only to be told something completely different by another member of staff resulting in people missing pre-arranged taxi transfers. The afternoon tea was set out with blue plastic cups reminiscent of a children's tea party these needed serious checking as most had either lipstick stains or stale tea or coffee. Water in the main dining room had to be purchased as none was supplied.The destinations were good Abu Dhabi, Dubai and a couple of places in Oman and the weather was superb. The trips were a big rip off and all can be booked privately from the port when you leave the ship. Would choose the cruise again but just not with MSC. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Was a bit dubious about sailing on this ship as I know it is a little older having done a Med. cruise on her in 2006. However embarkation was effortless and we were soon on board. I think possibly it felt easier as we had arrived in ... Read More
Was a bit dubious about sailing on this ship as I know it is a little older having done a Med. cruise on her in 2006. However embarkation was effortless and we were soon on board. I think possibly it felt easier as we had arrived in Dubai 2 days earlier (hotel stay) prior to embarkation. so we were not jet lagged/jaded. Windjammer, easy to use, a good selection of food, and even at 'peak' times we found a table without hassle. My only observation was that on settling at the table with food and you ordered a drink from the 'patrolling' drinks waiters, invariably you had finished your meal before the drinks arrived. But saying this the staff were very friendly and attentive at all times. Minstrel restaurant dining in the evening : no complaints about the food it was adequate and good. The waiting staff were under a lot of pressure and sometimes they were slow and forgetful. I think this is because the regime has decided they look after more tables at a time in an effort to save costs. Also bread rolls were only offered once per meal sitting whereas previously they used to 'keep coming'. Entertainment: We like to sit down to a show, in the evening, and there was a facility to do this in the Pacifica Theatre. My previous experience with RCI (4 times) was that the shows were not up to scratch and not very polished at all. This time they surpassed my expectations and provided excellent entertainment for the duration. I think they have moved away from the high percentage of 'in house' productions and brought in guests from outside for the majority of the shows. We travelled with friends and the only downside we could see was the management of your onboard account. It pays to check your account on a daily basis as we found errors, such as and additional wine package added in excess of $230 which was not for the account. On querying at the main desk our friends were told they could do nothing about it they had to check with the restaurant staff in order to resolve. Why should we have to chase to correct their error??? I had a query about changing currency for a forthcoming port call to Muscat in Oman and enquired at reception if they did the appropriate currency exchange. The young lady said they did, but her colleague handled this any would be back shortly. After about 5 mins, and sick of waiting, I approached another member of staff who informed me they did not do currency exchange for Oman, but USD or Euro were quite acceptable. However the person dealing with currency was not in attendance, but she was contacted and sorted me out in a matter of minutes. A little frustrating but we got there in the end. We needed to switch a pre booked excursion from a Sunday to a Monday and was advised this could be done at the excursion desk or main reception and at no extra cost. Later in the day, with our friends, we changed the booking for 4 persons and were quite happy with the service. BUT on checking our on board account via the interactive TV we saw that we had been charged the full excursion price per person for the new date. Once again we had the hassle of queuing at the excursion desk to get sorted. Guess what ? Human error. It goes without saying, you must be vigilant and check your on board account daily!!!!!! Excursions were fine, we pre booked a package of 5 up front and got a discount. Overall a pleasant time was had by all but you have to be on the ball, don't just assume everything will run smoothly. Disembarkation was easy and without problems. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
For this cruise to the Red Sea for Petra in Jordan ,we travelled to the NEC Cruise Show in October 2010.We were informed the ship was almost full and we were offered a total of 4 cabins to choose from.We thought we received a reasonable ... Read More
For this cruise to the Red Sea for Petra in Jordan ,we travelled to the NEC Cruise Show in October 2010.We were informed the ship was almost full and we were offered a total of 4 cabins to choose from.We thought we received a reasonable discount on brochure price until in February 2011 we were given an additional fuel charge ,this almost wiped out the discount from the cruise show. Seemingly there were many cancellations for this cruise presumably because of the unsettled situation in the middle east,therefore there became available many late deals.Yes i am aware that shipping Co's must try and fill available cabins as they don't wish to sail with empty space,i also know that cabins were sold for half the price we paid .This is not my main gripe but the additional fuel charge still rancour's ,i know for a fact that the late Booker's despite the reduced price for the cruise did not pay this additional fuel charge,and those who did were subsidising these half price travellers. CAN THIS BE RIGHT? That off my chest,This Cruise was Fantastic and everything we had expected There was some doubt as to whether we would be able to stop at the planned ports in Egypt.The Captain gave us updates as we sailed towards Alexandria,as after we had left the UK there was the COPTIC MASSACRE.However we were assured that the tours planned would be undertaken. Our tours were in ALEXANDRIA,CAIRO and GIZA,LUXOR and VALLEY of the KINGS,and from Sharm El Sheikh a Trip to ST CATHERINES MONASTERY.On all these coach tours we were accompanied by an Armed Plain Clothes Policeman,in Alexandria we had in addition Police Motorbike Outriders who preceded us and stopped traffic to let us pass.To Cairo [from PORT SAID]we went in convoy of 5 coaches with additional forces in jeeps interspersed between the coaches to the outskirts of the area ,however there were plenty of security present at Giza Pyramids and Cairo Museum,also at the Temples of Karnak ,Luxor and the Valley [FRom SAFAGA]. No we did not feel intimidated at all and felt that we were being taken care of under special circumstances existing [i have been to Egypt Twice Before].Lucky for us we managed to get to Petra in Jordan which was the main reason in booking this cruise and one to mark off "our to do list",and it was well worth our expectation. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
This was our first cruise so we didn't really know what to expect but we were not disappointed. The ship was clean and comfortable although beginning to look it's age and some area's could do with refurbishment. Our ... Read More
This was our first cruise so we didn't really know what to expect but we were not disappointed. The ship was clean and comfortable although beginning to look it's age and some area's could do with refurbishment. Our cabin was at the rear (sorry - stern !) of the ship just above the water line and we did find it to be a little noisy at times (engines) and throughout the ship, there seemed to be a constant vibration from the generators even when alongside the dock. The accommodation was very good and was kept very clean by the steward. There was plenty of storage space in the cabin. The bathroom facilities although functional, could do with an update though especially the grouting in the shower. The bed pillows were a bit small and the towels have seen better days but were clean. The food was very good indeed with something to suit every taste even if you are very picky like me. English style sausages, bacon and beans for breakfast was a bonus too and a baked sponge pudding every lunchtime ! I preferred the buffet style restaurant as you can choose what you want and also the quantity but we did try the waiter service restaurant and found that to be very good too. I have read reviews moaning about the fact that all the waiters and bar staff were Filipino but we found them to be all really good and they looked after us very well. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for them. As for the entertainment, we can't really comment as we only managed to fit in one show as we were tired after long days ashore on excursions and virtually went straight to bed when we got back. There was so much to do on board the ship, I don't know how people managed to fit it all in. Because of the Political situation that arose in Egypt after we had booked the holiday, it was obvious that we wouldn't do the published itinerary, which was a disappointment, but it was not Thomson's fault and they did a marvellous job at organising other trips and threw in a free trip to Jerusalem & Bethlehem for those who wanted to go. It was a very long day but very enjoyable. Under the circumstances, I think Thomson did a sterling job ! At the time we booked the holiday, we opted to pay extra for the 'all-inclusive' drinks package which in hindsight was a mistake as although we like to have a drink (or two), we probably didn't get our money's worth, but that was our mistake and it did save us getting a nasty drinks bill at the end ! Bottled drinking water was NOT included in the drinks package nor was the cabin 'mini-bar'. Also the safe in the cabin has to be paid for if you want to use it. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
Azamara Quest review From our outset at the embarkation port, we quickly identified how much more engaged this ship's staff was compared to any other of the numerous upscale cruises we have previously completed. Even though we ... Read More
Azamara Quest review From our outset at the embarkation port, we quickly identified how much more engaged this ship's staff was compared to any other of the numerous upscale cruises we have previously completed. Even though we arrived much too early to go aboard as a result of our very early arrival flight into Athens with nowhere else to go but wait at the port, the Azamara Quest staff were immediately friendly and helpful to us even though they were still occupied with completing that day's disembarkation of the previous cruise's guests. The warmth of the greetings from the directors of both hotel and guest relations, and their welcoming of early arrivals with an assortment of continental breakfast items in the port was impressive when they could have been dismissive until they had completed their tasks of the cruise just ending. This introduction set the tone of the entire staff's attitude throughout the 24 days: every staff member whom we encountered was not just eager to serve, but also to add their extra personal warmth of inquiry, or helpfulness. The friendliness of this staff, and their pleasure and pride in working on this ship, built a tone of congeniality throughout the trip: even the captain and officers mixed amongst us on a daily basis, chatting and overseeing that all was as it needed to be. How much clearer an understanding management had by daily visitations throughout the ship while chatting with guests and staff. How much more serious the recognition was here that each guest has a broad array of travel choices, and that this ship really wanted our experiences to cause us to return eagerly. Dining choices were outstanding whether in the very elegant main open seating venue, in the two a la carte restaurants, or in the attractively presented cafeteria selections. An assortment of outdoor deck party dinners, gracious afternoon teas with harp music, and dining room brunches with live musical accompaniment rounded out these choices. In each, a very high standard of both choice and quality was present. The accommodation was attractive and comfortable, and the 8th floor suites had considerably more living and storage space than the veranda cabins. Entertainment covered a range of options from Broadway to classical, but more space could be set aside for those who enjoy dancing other than at the disco. Excursions covered the port highlights well, and were fairly priced. The exotic itinerary of this cruise was what brought us the first time to Quest: the excellent staff and delightful on board atmosphere will have us return. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We booked in April 2010 for our cruise in September and were advised that this was the best price and it would NOT get any lower.We appreciate that last minute deals are often available but we wanted to go on the cruise, so we booked ... Read More
We booked in April 2010 for our cruise in September and were advised that this was the best price and it would NOT get any lower.We appreciate that last minute deals are often available but we wanted to go on the cruise, so we booked it.Imagine our surprise when other guests told us they booked in June and got large discounts, hardly last minute, Thanks RCCL, for nothing. We left Edinburgh for the cruise from Venice and opted for a cruise lines pre cruise hotel package. The flight times were very unreasonable, having to be at the airport at 04.05hrs. in the morning and not arriving in Venice until 16.45hrs. Twelve hours and 40 minutes from Edinburgh to Venice. !!!!!! These were obviously the cheapest flights that Royal Caribbean could get.We were met by a charming rep. from the local tour company, who took us to our hotel, (The Carlton Grand Canal),given our room key and we discovered that it was looking out onto a back alley. Unlucky !!! Next morning we were awakened before 6 a.m. with the noise of a toilet being flushed and a shower and bath running and noisy and banging pipes. It appears that the bathroom of the adjacent room was directly through the main lengthwise wall of our room.We spoke to the hotel management who basically apologised but shrugged their shoulders, saying those guests were leaving that day, but not, that new guests were arriving later, you guessed it, same again, but a little later next day, thankfully we only had three nights.The charge made by RCCL of £ 496.32 per person was silly money,and we would have expected better treatment from RCCL, obviously not. I asked the hotel about booking direct and their rates were more favourable, and the rooms better. We have often championed RCCL as being excellent for quality,service and standards but we were now having second thoughts. We were transferred to the ship early on the day BEFORE sailing and feel that as the ship was staying overnight we could have been allowed longer at the hotel. The transfer again by the local company was fine, but when we arrived at the port, we were VERY surprised to find NO ONE from RCCL to advise us where we should go. Eventually we saw a sign saying, vision of the seas, and a berth number.We followed this until we saw a lonely looking man with a small paddle,which could not be read from more than 4 or 5 metres, with RCCL and an arrow pointing into a terminal, where it took about an hour, waiting in a long line to be attended to. This is why we felt it was pointless having such an early transfer, why not give passengers the opportunity to arrive later, after all the ship was staying overnight, this was the transfer included by RCCL and arranged by RCCL, a little more thought needed perhaps. We eventually got on board, where a limited crew were available and we decided to locate our cabin. A member of the crew stopped us and asked where we going, and politely told us that the cabins were not available, go to the windjammer for lunch. When we did get to our cabin, it was excellent and we met our steward, who was very friendly, things looking up, !!!! Sadly the service in the dining room was very slow and the food sometimes cold or lukewarm. I had to return soup on at least three (3) occassions, including twice at the same meal. Other guests also returned courses that were incorrectly cooked. At breakfast I asked for poached eggs, and was told they are not on the menu,so they are not available, strange, are they so difficult. To have to wait one hour and ten minutes between first and second course also is not encouraging. One lunch time we simply walked out because of the slow service. We also ate in the windjammer a couple of times but were disappointed that even here, although the plates were often hotter than in the dining room, the food was not very hot and often the gravy was cold. There was no wine waiter in the dining room with the table waiters and their assistants having to double up, thus slowing service down also. We also noticed that guests who arrived after us were often leaving as we were receiving our main courses. The shore excursions were excellent and the drivers and guides were friendly and knowledgeable but the trips were very,very expensive, and did we REALLY have to visit TWO papyrus factory outlets, at the expense of spending more time in the Museum in Cairo or other historical sites. We prebooked our trips and RCCL took the money at the time of booking, it was not added to our on board account like several other cruise lines. So be warned. The ship had no postcards for sale, and they were charging $2 for postage, I was assured they would go with the agents that day, but discovered two days later that the mail was still on board and would not be posted until we returned to Venice at the end of the cruise. so now we know why RCCL mail never arrives until after you have returned home. The entertainemnt was mixed but the production shows were not nearly as slick as other cruise lines and some of the special guest acts were sadly, passed their sell by dates. The cost of the drinks on board were very,very expensive, and a lot of guests were commenting on this, also, to run out of bottles of the less expensive wine on the first day and then another wine two days later, seems to suggest something is wrong. Tea bags was another issue, with waiters having to scurry off to try to find regular teabags, after offering only a selection of Earl Grey or flavoured ones. Dismebarkation was the usual 'get them off get the next lot on'. Sadly again NO ONE from the ship was on shore to advise passengers which way to go and with another ship using the same disembarkation route, it was difficult to know which way to go. Again we had to hang around the airport for a long time before being allowed to check in at 12.10hrs. and then not arriving back into Edinburgh until 21.20hrs. There are other points, including the fact that RCCL have not even had the courtesy of writing a reply to my letter of the 8th.October 2010. Are they not interested.!!!! To summarise,we were very,very disappointed at the quality of service, quality of food and lack of value for money from this cruise. RCCL's standards have dropped dramatically since our last cruise with them and I don't consider they now run even a close fourth behind PRINCESS, CUNARD or P.& O. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
First of all Costa does not recognize Cruise Critic Roll Calls and Meets, so my attempts along with others on later Dubai cruises to establish a Roll Call met with a dismal response. So I was not able to arrange any private tours as I did ... Read More
First of all Costa does not recognize Cruise Critic Roll Calls and Meets, so my attempts along with others on later Dubai cruises to establish a Roll Call met with a dismal response. So I was not able to arrange any private tours as I did on my last NCL Cruise. This is mainly due to the fact that there were not many passengers from the USA on board due to the long flights involved. Costa did inform me however, that there would be an English speaking briefing early in the cruise. Fly/Cruise or Independent? The first decision is whether to take the full fly/cruise or go independent from the UK. Costa will not give you the competitively priced flight details until the holiday is booked. We told our agent that the booking was provisional depending on the flights, as I did not want to be changing aircraft in the middle of Europe in winter. (Airports were closed all over Europe the day after we left!) After 10 days Costa still did not provide suitable flights, as they involved either changes in Germany or leaving early on the Saturday in Dubai. That would have lost a whole day in Dubai, so we booked our own non-stop flights which arrived at 2130 on the first Saturday and left at 0210 on the Sunday. The current packages now available in the UK (early 2010) include 2-3 nights in a hotel before the cruise. This is a great way to start the holiday as it means you beat the jet lag and the chance of winter weather delays. Dubai Airport On arrival at the airport you have a very long walk in Terminal 1 to passports and customs. You don't have to stop at the Visa desk if you are from the EU or N. America as you automatically get a 30 day visa. After passport control you have the opportunity to shop at the excellent Duty Free shop prior to going through a final security check and leaving the airport. The shop is a great way of getting some 10Dhr notes for tips, taxi change and stocking up on soft drinks! On leaving the airport you will be met by your Costa Rep if you can find them or get a taxi to the ship. No need to pay £30/$48 for a pre-booked taxi as there are lots of city taxis waiting in line. There are 3 types of taxi in Dubai: Ladies only taxis, normal taxis and family taxis which seat 7, or 3-4 with luggage. The cost to the ship was less than 60DHr which is £10/$16. The journey takes about 15 minutes in the evening. All Dubai taxis are metered and very clean. They are an excellent way for a small group to see the City. Embarkation On arrival at the Cruise Terminal we handed in our completed online tickets and signed a health declaration. We were told all our documents and cards were in our cabin. Next we handed in our passports which we would not see again until disembarkation, so keep the receipts! We now proceeded to the ship having given our luggage to a porter. We expected to be sprayed with antiseptic gel as we boarded the ship, but although there was a gel dispenser there nobody insisted on its use. This routine continued during the cruise. The gel was there outside the restaurants but its use was not enforced at all. Our late arrival time proved to be a bonus as you are not allowed to board the ship until 1500 on the first Saturday, but can leave your luggage at the terminal. Your cabin is available from 2000 on Saturday so we went to our cabin first and found our Costa cards which serve as the door key and onboard account. It had taken 90 minutes from walking off the aircraft to getting onto the ship including shopping - Fantastic! Within an hour our luggage appeared so our cruise had really begun. The Costa Luminosa The Luminosa is a beautiful ship, elegantly decorated and well laid out. A lot of thought has gone into the design from the spacious cabins to the layout of the theatre and bars. There are lots of lifts/elevators so getting around is very fast. The use of hi-tech information and booking "totems" reduced the lines at the enquiry desks and made booking of the facilities very easy. Even the registering of your credit card was done using an ATM style machine. Note, only Visa and Mastercard debit cards are acceptable, not Maestro and Cirrus only. The machines are in 10 languages and so are all the announcements and entertainment! The ship is efficiently run and everything appeared to work except the air-conditioning. We had a balcony cabin on deck 8 for 3 people. This was very convenient for getting refreshment from the cafeteria on deck 9! Normally it's a bit of a squeeze, but the cabin was much longer and wider than normal so we had no problems. The balcony was fairly large but had a large overhang from the restaurant deck above, this did not affect lower decks. I was informed that the cabins with the smallest overhang and largest balconies were on deck 4. There was a mini-bar in the room and a hair dryer, but no iron. The beds were very large and comfortable. Large cases fitted easily under the beds. However, we did not sleep very well as the room was always hot and humid, so we complained about the air-conditioning. Someone came to fix it but it wasn't just our cabin, the whole ship seemed humid compared to our other cruises. Other faults we had were quickly dealt with. The sockets are 110v US type and 230v Continental. You cannot use 2 UK adaptors together as the sockets are too close, so bring a lead with a US plug for charging your electronics as they are multi-voltage. There is a second dual outlet in the bathroom which only works with the light on. The cabin service was excellent. The room was made up twice a day and ice was re-plenished at the same time. We had breakfast in the room most days at no extra charge, but the timings were a bit erratic and the drinks were often cold. There is a €2 charge for room service at other times. There is one main dining room, the Taurus with two sittings. The Taurus was a lovely place to eat, the serving stations were all separated from the tables, but some tables were very close to each other. We had asked for a table of 6-10 and were paired up with a very friendly family threesome, also from England with a teenage daughter. This infinitely improved our cruise experience as there were few opportunities to meet other English-speaking guests other than on a tour, accidental encounters or if you were lucky enough to be sat with them at the open seating breakfasts and lunches. The food and service in the Taurus was quite good. The service at dinner was very slick as there was a time constraint, but there was still time for coffee. The food was good rather than sensational. The worst dinner was at the Christmas Eve Gala. We had dry turkey with no cranberry sauce, no Christmas pudding and not a mince pie in sight. I think it was the Italian style that affected the menu! The ice cream was lovely compared to the fare at the cafeteria. The lunch service was not as hurried and was not recommended if you wanted to leave the ship for a day out. There were two Gala formal dinners and one Arabian Theme night. However, there were still a lot of men who think that formal is a clean pair of jeans! The Samara guests had their own restaurant, but I'm sure it was the same menu as the Taurus. There was a fine dining restaurant called the Luminosa Club which we did not use. The main cafeteria was the Andromeda on deck 9 which served food and drinks most of the day. You could get tea, coffee, water and pizza all the time. The water dispensers were handy for refilling your own bottles prior to a day out as the ship's water was fine. There were ice cream machines available at meal times, but the ice cream was horrible. It was water based rather than milk. The Andromeda included a Grill Bar for burgers, etc and several pasta stations. This reduced the lines as there were several serving stations. The only time it got crowded was when the tour buses returned as it was the only place to eat. The food was again good, but not memorable. There were several bars which also sold coffee and cake. The main entertainment bar was the Elettra on deck 2 and then the Piano Bar Antares on deck 3, which was always less crowded. There was also a noise insulated disco frequented by the younger set. There did not appear to be a proper band on board, so things never really hotted up, as the music mainly consisted of aged Duos with music machines! The main problem with all the bars was the smoke. One half of each bar allowed smoking which eventually dispersed everywhere - ugh! The main evening show was held twice nightly in the fabulous Phoenix Theatre. As there was a show for each sitting there were always enough seats, but after watching all the shows I can see why! Costa tries to be all things to all men, so the constant 10 language announcements meant there was no room for a compere or comedian in the shows. Even the Bingo was in 8 languages! The theatre itself is very hi-tech with laser lights and turntables, etc and had an excellent layout. The shows consisted of a talented 14 strong Russian Dance Troupe, who did a 45 minute show, but did not sing. The next show was all singing from an Italian female singer who cleared most of the Italians away by singing in English for the first 20 minutes! The following show was 45 minutes of acrobatics and juggling from a very athletic Chinese Troupe. The shows would have been much better with some variety as they were all one thing or another. The usual Crew talent show was a bit of a fix as most of the acts were from the entertainment staff who sang in the Bars! On the final Saturday the theme was Arabian Dancing and again we had 15 minutes of one man twirling around in a traditional LED Illuminated Costume! This was followed by a Belly Dancer who insisted on pulling children from the front row to accompany her on stage - had she been checked by "the Child Protection Agency?" Life on Board The first day started with a Ship's brief in English at 0930. As most people had arrived between 2300 and 0200 the night before, it was a bit early and the information was repeated on the TV and also in the Daily "Today" ship's paper. The English host had a daily hour for any problems, but did not organise any "meet and greet" sessions for the 500 English speakers. If you asked any questions at her briefs you were told to see her afterwards and she would not discuss any problems even if they applied to the majority! The "Today" paper was delivered every evening and contained the relevant information for the following day. It was an essential read, especially when the clocks changed! The TV had the usual programs of excursions and the cruise events to date. The only English channel was BBC World and sometimes there was a free film in English, but as there was no TV schedule it was a bit hit and miss! You could pay €9 to see more recent films in English. As the ship's currency was the Euro, this made everything expensive for £ and $ guests. The cocktail of the day was €5, plus the 15% service for drinks. This was the bargain of the day, so we had a few of those during the week. There were drinks packages at extra cost, but the arrangements and rules varied, so Costa needs to be contacted directly to get the best deal for you as the internet wasn't very clear on what was available. The extra features of the Luminosa were the Golf and Racing car simulators. The car was €20-25 for 5-7 minutes and was quite exciting if you could drive well, as the car was very easy to crash. A lot of people spent most of their time impaled in a straw bale. A reset "on track" button would have been handy for novices. The golf looked good, but at over €100 for a round it should be. The 4D cinema at €8 for a 12 minute Disney style ride was good fun. Playstations were also available for rent and there was a Video Arcade. The big pool had a retractable roof and was mainly frequented by children. As the ship was docked during the day except the first and last days, there were plenty of sun-loungers available in quieter parts of the ship. There was also an adult pool at the aft end of deck 9. As the ship was in port most days there was not a lot happening on board during the day. There was an excellent gym and a spa which offered a wide range of treatments. There was a dance lesson most days around late afternoon which was well attended and good fun. I wish we'd attended that second Tango lesson! There was also a large Children's club and Teen club, the former being the more popular. The smaller children appeared very happy and were taught to perform a routine for the Arabian Night. The Arabian Night consisted of Folk dancing on the stage in the large pool area that also had a huge TV screen which showed all the action on stage plus the ship's TV channel during the day. The evening also had belly dancing by the Dance Troupe and a Conga dance of all those who had dressed in costume. It was an enjoyable evening that was followed by a Midnight Buffet around the pool. The Casino was quite popular. There were lessons for beginners for the table games and plenty of one arm bandits for those keen on losing their money. The casino was only open when at sea. Deck 3 had a small mall of shops selling the usual cruise memorabilia and jewellery. There were the usual watch and gold offers during the week. The duty free did not compare at all with the airport. The photo shop displayed most of the ad hoc pictures taken on arrival and in the dining room, but some pictures were left in your room with an order form. If you did not want to order they were collected the next day. There were plenty of opportunities for Formal photos on Gala nights. A DVD was available at the end of the cruise for €40 which highlighted your cruise. Christmas on Board The cruise was from 19th December to the 26th, so Christmas featured everywhere on board with illuminated trees and nativity sets on show throughout the ship. Door decorations were placed on every cabin door and the crew wore Santa hats. Christmas music was continuously played over the PA, but it wasn't intrusive. There was a Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the Theatre. There was also a Christmas theme to some of the entertainment during the week. However, for British guests the lack of our usual Christmas fare and cranberry sauce was a bit of a downer. Christmas was also actively displayed ashore in the local Malls! Ports of Call and Tours At all the ports of call the ship advised that you could not walk out of the port. Most ports were out of town except Muscat. A free bus was provided to get you to the port gates. At every port except Muscat there is absolutely nothing to see within walking distance of the gates! Taxis are available from the gates but may not be metered, so you could get scammed! The souk and cafes are walkable from the gate only at Muscat. At Fujairah and Abu Dhabi there were shuttle buses to the shopping mall for €6. This was well worth the trip at Abu Dhabi as it was on the opposite side of the city from the port along the beautiful tree-lined Corniche. As there was not a lot to see in Fujairah it was an excuse to leave the ship and stock up at "no haggle" prices at Lulu's which is the UAE equivalent of Wal-Mart. At Dubai the shuttle bus to the Dubai Mall was free and again was well worth the trip if you didn't have anything else planned. The Mall is right by the Burj Tower, the world's tallest building by miles! Taxis were available in and out of Dubai right by the ship. There is a port charge of Dhr20-25 included in the fare. Taxis could only bring you back to the ship at other ports due to security. There was a hop on hop off bus tour available at the ship in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Full details of these tours including the maps are available on Google. As usual you could view the expensive Costa tours and book them online before you go. As previously described the tours were either of the city highlights or safaris into the desert with various lengths of transit time. Hotel tours included overpriced tea or lunch stops at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi or the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. The only alternatives were taxis, hop on/off buses or finding a reputable local tour guide. Just wandering off on your own is not recommended. The ship provides you with a useless map at each port but an up to date guide book is essential as everything is changing very quickly. The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi in my 2007 book had moved 10 miles! We ended up using the Hop on/off tours in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai after being quoted a ridiculous taxi fare at the gate at Abu Dhabi. The tour has only been running since December in AD. The bus picked you up at the ship then dropped you at the port gate in Abu Dhabi where another bus met you. The tour was very informative and had a 20 minute frequency if you got off. We bought a 2 city ticket which was discounted; it also included a Marina Mall Tower visit in Abu Dhabi and a Dhow cruise in Dubai. At Dubai the bus took you into town to pick up the Red City Tour. After a few minutes you arrived at the Wafi Mall, which is worth a visit. From there you could change to the Blue Beach Tour which goes out to the Atlantis on the Palm and back via the Emirates and Dubai Malls. Hint - if you are on the Beach tour and it's getting late, you can get off at the Dubai Mall and go downstairs to the shuttle bus area and get the free shuttle back to the ship which runs until 2100. This saves going back into town and changing buses twice to catch the last bus back to the ship which leaves at 1845! If you miss it the taxi fare to the ship is only about £5/$8. Compared to Europe there is not much culture to see apart from the Mosques and Palaces. The museums contain little more than weaponry and costumes until the Guggenheim opens in Abu Dhabi. The most amazing things to see are on a Las Vegas theme, i.e. Glitzy hotels and shopping malls, especially in Dubai. The Wafi Mall had an Egyptian theme and the Dubai Mall had a spectacular aquarium and waterfall. We booked the Mystical Muscat Tour as this should have included a visit to the Grand Mosque and Palace. In the end we just had a fleeting glimpse of the Mosque from 500 yards and a quick drive by of the Palace Entrance so you couldn't even get a photo! This was caused by the Sultan visiting the Mosque so everything shut down including the traffic. There were no real alternative sites to see apart from a distant view of the luxury Al Bustan Hotel. After the small Museum the final shopping trip to the souk was across the road from the ship! Even going with the Costa tour has its drawbacks. We are still negotiating a refund! Our tour above highlights the main problems of tourism in its infancy in this area. The local dignitaries can bring havoc to a city at short notice by closing everything down almost on a whim. Our mosque visit in Abu Dhabi was also denied by arriving during an unscheduled closure, but at least there was no traffic jam. We did not take part in any other Costa tours as we found the ability to see what we wanted much easier with the Hop on/off bus. This had the advantage of a direct connection to the ship and an excellent commentary in 8 languages on a known itinerary. However, Spanish was not available. We did not get off the ship in Bahrain as there was nothing there to get too excited about unless you want to visit the old Grand Prix track. Disembarkation You can leave the ship anytime from when it docks on the Friday until the early hours of Sunday morning and still use all the facilities. You can use your cabin until 1630 on the last Saturday. There are facilities to keep your hand luggage safe while your main bags are off-loaded depending on your departure time. We had a brief in English on Friday morning about the arrangements as well as comprehensive notes in the "Today." Final accounts were delivered to cabins early Saturday morning and if there were no problems they were automatically settled on your card. Queries had to be sorted before collecting passports from 0400 to 0930 on the Saturday in the Piano Bar. If you had lost your passport receipts your entire group had to collect in person, otherwise only one had to go. It was amazing that the line was only a couple of minutes long as everything was arranged efficiently. Most queries were about the compulsory service charge. As it was mentioned in the booking conditions I can't see why people have to complain about it at the end of their trip. It was mainly passengers who had eaten only in the cafeteria objecting to tipping a waiter they never saw in the Taurus. There were still staff in the cafeteria, folks. On the Wednesday you were asked what time you would be leaving the ship so you got the correct colour coded labels. Luggage had to be left outside your cabin with the coded labels at least 8 hours before you departed the ship. If you were leaving the ship and returning on the last Saturday you could leave your hand luggage under supervision in the Antares Disco on deck 2 until 2300. Anything purchased on board on the last day was payable in Euros or US dollars. For those travelling with Costa there were display boards around the bars and theatre with your flight and departure times from the ship shown complete with any flight delays. On finally leaving the ship you collected your luggage in the terminal and went through security and customs to your bus or taxi. There were no big lines and plenty of taxis. Twenty minutes after leaving the ship we were at the airport ready for the 8 hour flight back to London and not the 12 hour trip via Frankfurt Costa wanted us to use! Summary We all had a lovely cruise on the Costa Luminosa it's a fine ship efficiently run. We met new friends and saw some amazing sites, though not all complete, especially in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We were disappointed not to have seen inside a Grand Mosque due to the unforeseen closures. As Costa tries to appeal to all nationalities this does restrict the entertainment program. For English speaking guests there will soon be US cruise ships on this itinerary which should have greater appeal. Nevertheless, Costa had a competitively priced cruise especially if you had children. This advantage was reduced on board by the Euro prices. This itinerary will be great in 5 years when the area is completed and the building work stops completely instead of temporarily. Would we cruise Costa again? It depends on the itinerary and competition! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click