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5 Oslo to Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

Along with 12 members of family and friends we took the Windsurf to the Tall Ship parade in Amsterdam. All of us were repeaters from 2nd Time cruisers to 18th with the exception of one couple. We boarded in Oslo which was efficient and ... Read More
Along with 12 members of family and friends we took the Windsurf to the Tall Ship parade in Amsterdam. All of us were repeaters from 2nd Time cruisers to 18th with the exception of one couple. We boarded in Oslo which was efficient and beautiful. Our first night we choose to eat outside at Candles which was glorious. We spend our dinner gazing out over the Oslo Fiord as we sailed along, clear, lovely night, it did not get dark until 9:45, delicious food what a way to begin a cruise. We had great weather, lovey sail into Kristiansand where we docked. I was able to buy at the famous fish market the Baltic Shrimps and bring them aboard to our friends to enjoy for lunch. Our day at sea was crossing the North Sea where it behaved, calm, a bit of rain, for those of us who wanted a bit of sea rock and roll not to be. The highlight was The Tall Ship Parade. We rose at 5 am to go through the lock. We anchored across from Java Island a beautiful spot right across the waterway which partially parallels Central Station in Amsterdam. The Tall Ships were a bit delayed and we certainly could see the sails as they came into the harbor to dock. Some people were disappointed that they were not closer or the we were actually not " in" the parade but the logistics for all ships especially our huge sail boat part must have been a nightmare. The tenders immediately began the easy five minute ride to Java Island. All day and all night thousands of small ships, barks and brigantines, schooners, pleasure craft circled us, it was memorizing. We were about 500 yards from the fireworks barge and for two nights we enjoyed 30 minutes of Grande Finale. Glorious! The Wind Surf had surprises for us as the day went by: hats with Sail Amsterdam on them, sips of special typical liquors, special food treats, a men's chorus singing sea shanteys, etc. Very surprising and generous. It was a great two days on the ship being the center of attention. The other ports were also interesting and in Vlissingen and Zeebruge Windstar provided buses to take us the the towns of Middleburg and to the rail station to get to Bruges. Very convenient and well appreciated. Service was impeccable as usual, food was delicious, creative and varied. It was a busy cruise with plenty to see and do and then come back to the ship to relax. Docking in Dover was efficient and easy. I hope in five years Windstar will repeat this cruise. It was different, totally enjoyable, a wonderful way to experience a great event. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all ? Not exactly a fairytale, or like the witch in "Snow White," but on MSC Opera, there are mirrors almost everywhere, maybe a thousand of them, including in the ... Read More
Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all ? Not exactly a fairytale, or like the witch in "Snow White," but on MSC Opera, there are mirrors almost everywhere, maybe a thousand of them, including in the cabins. The stairways, lifts, and large walls were covered by mirrors; matched with brass rails. First impression: We came early on board in Oslo, June 27 and the first we noticed were all the brass and mirrors, and not a spot on them, very clean. I see that others call this ship for "bright Italian art deco style." Itinerary: Norwegian west coast; including Stavanger, Sognefjord to Flåm, Bergen; day at sea; Southampton, and our disembarkation port was IJmuiden in the Netherlands. June 27. to July 3. Cruisers in our group: Family of 3 generations - 8 persons from 12 to 88 years of age. Cabins: Our outside cabin (with large window) was small, but well-designed, clean & comfortable. The shower area is smallest and most cramped that I have ever seen, but we managed to get ourselves clean. 2 inside cabins, about the same layout, without the window. Air-con /heating was good, and easy to control. Old fashioned small TV. We missed CNN and/or BBC. Clientele: Most of the passengers were from families with children to retired - typical for summer-cruises. Mixed of Italian, British, German, Spanish, French, Dutch and Norwegian passengers. Officers: Italian officers, whom we hardly saw. Crew and service-staff: From Indonesia, Brazil, Italy, South Africa, Eastern Europe, Honduras and India. Many of them are sorely in need of more hospitality/service and language training, but they did their best and worked hard. I got the feeling that conditions on board were not easy for them. Several crew did not look so happy, which influenced the service. Announcement: Generally made in 4 to 5 languages. English, German, Italian, French and sometimes Spanish. Too much unnecessary sales-announcements. The ship's program for each day looked cheap and had bad printing. It looked more like a sales-flyer. Safety drill: As Oslo was the second port of embarkation, we were asked to meet up in one of the lounges, with our life-vests (as in old days). When we came there, they did not care if all showed up, vests were not necessary after all, and after a brief demonstration of the life-vest and explanation of the emergency signals, 3/4 of the time was used to sell excursion and other products. Ship: Clean and well maintained, nice ship, but nothing special. Many lounges, small theater. No heated pools. At least one of the 2 pools should be heated. 2 outdoor Jacuzzis. Restaurants and Food: Here came the disappointment. The menu in the two dining-rooms, was a bit dull and the food was mediocre, absolutely not gourmet, but OK. Those in our family who had not been cruising before, thought the food was good in the dining room. At the buffet, not so many choices, lukewarm, overcooked and unfortunately a bit tasteless. Italian cuisine can be so much better than this. Outside snack-grill had tasteless burgers, but the pizza was OK. No special-restaurants or other choices. Entertainment: Theater performances were OK. No live orchestra, but taped music in theater and in some lounges. Duo and trio were average, but classic music performances were good. They had an "Entertainment team" of 8 crew members that was active to get people out to dance. They did a nice job there, even my old mother of 88 years was encouraged to dance. They had different games and play every night. They had amateurish "silly games" that were crazy and funny and got us to laugh. Extra point for their enthusiasm. A kick to those who rates cruise ships: For several years "Berlitz complete guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships," an informative and interesting book, has rated this ship, MSC Opera, and most other MSC ships at 4 stars. Same 4 stars as Berlitz has rated the Princess ships, Holland American ships and Royal Caribbeans largest ships. Anyone that has sailed on these ships, know that there is a big gap between them. The readers of Berlitz will appreciate to get an objective view. The Opera has its qualities, but as 4-star ship, is to give the travelers too high expectations. This is not fair to the ship or the travellers. Summary: To us, MSC is budget cruising. But, and this is worth mentioned. We paid a "nice" price, and considering this, it was good value for money, but do not have high expectations. For first time cruisers, and for budget-hunters, this cruise is OK, and value for money. Morton Salt + Pepper, from Norway. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We were impressed with the embarkation process in Oslo but a little alarmed when one of our suitcases didn't arrive. After several hours trying to find out what happened, we were told that it was being held by security. As another ... Read More
We were impressed with the embarkation process in Oslo but a little alarmed when one of our suitcases didn't arrive. After several hours trying to find out what happened, we were told that it was being held by security. As another reviewer mentioned, a phone call or message from the steward would have been nice. We were told the message service on the phone system was not working that day (and many other days by the sound of it). The problem items in our suitcase included a bottle opener that Cunard had given us (OK for them but not Royal Caribbean apparently) and a pocket knife with a blade about a third of the size of the steak knives used in the dining room. What a fuss and waste of time as we were sent on a wild goose chase around the ship and then no security officer around for the people waiting. Not a great start to our first (and most likely last) cruise with Royal Caribbean. We ate supper in the Aquarius Dining Room and our waiters (especially Clifford) were quite good. Forget about eating in the dining room for other meals though as service is terrible. Staff are hard to find and are quick to direct you to buffet tables for many menu items and never offer a refill on coffee. So that means you have to head to the buffet. Find a table first or you will be wandering around while your food gets cold. And be prepared for the extremely bad manners and gross behavior of some of the other 'guests' at the buffet. One man ahead of me in line at breakfast practically crawled under the sneeze guard to help himself to a dish. Gross. After getting his head and shoulders all the way under the guard he grabbed the dish and dumped most of it on his plate (dude, I think that was a garnish). Needless to say, I went to another section of the buffet to get my meal. We found the public areas of the ship to be very pleasant and bright but got confused getting around occasionally. Entertainment was generally OK except for the last night when it was absolutely terrible. The Entertainment Director and his staff were great - better than some of the headliners! Please do yourself a favor and don't ever bring that unicycle rider back! Our inside cabin was pretty shabby and the decor is definitely dated. Storage was a bit of an issue. We booked this cruise because of the ports and we really enjoyed them all, especially Paris, Liverpool and Edinburgh. We were upset with ship staff that insisted there was no alternative but their shuttles and tours from the pier in Dublin and Edinburgh. Always a lie and an expensive one as well! The ship is built for fair weather cruising and we felt a lot of motion even when the seas were slight. This cruise worked with our schedule (fit right in between two transatlantic crossings) but we were not impressed with Royal Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Overall, this was a great vacation. We took this cruise for the itinerary, as the boat was much smaller than the ones we prefer. I was slightly worried about the boat because it was small and not much to do.. But my doubts were shut down. ... Read More
Overall, this was a great vacation. We took this cruise for the itinerary, as the boat was much smaller than the ones we prefer. I was slightly worried about the boat because it was small and not much to do.. But my doubts were shut down. The crew was wonderful and the boat is kept very nice. You don't even know it's a lower class ship for rcl! Our dinner staff was the best we have ever had, and we cruise quite often!! There was another review that mentioned being sick when coming home and I laughed when I read it. Sure enough though, my mom and I both came home and had caught the sickness. Apparently the norweigens are bad about washing their hands and it spreads that way. About six people on our floor were sick. It certainly didn't ruin our trip but coming home and being sick is never fun. The staff tried really hard to prevent illness with sanitizer everywhere and hand washing videos but I guess we caught it!! The entertainment crew was great, very friendly and fun for a younger crowd! If your trip is like ours, expect mostly older people on your boat!! Our head waiter and staff were great! We had special requests and they always fulfilled them(: Sol, the cruise director, was very fun and did a great job with things! Our food was really good, just like any other royal cruise we have been on! Don't be discouraged by the picky reviews you have read on this sight, I was a little worried but you shouldn't have to worry about anything! It's a great vacation and we went to beautiful ports including Paris, Cherbourg , England, Ireland, and Scotland. If you're not picky, expect to have a great time. It is up to royal Caribbean standards, entertainment and food and cleanliness up to par. It's no oasis of the seas, but that's okay!! I had a great time and sad it's over:( Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Let me preface this review by saying that we recognize the challenges that arise due to an outbreak of the Norovirus, and have accounted for those challenges in this review. My wife and I have taken 7 cruises, all of them on Royal ... Read More
Let me preface this review by saying that we recognize the challenges that arise due to an outbreak of the Norovirus, and have accounted for those challenges in this review. My wife and I have taken 7 cruises, all of them on Royal Caribbean. We are in our mid 40s and have been married 23 years. We opted for this 9-night cruise out of Oslo, Norway instead of a 7-night Mediterranean cruise mostly due to price-per-night when airfare was factored in. Prior to sailing, we stayed at the Thon Munch Hotel in Oslo. It's a great hotel to start a cruise vacation because the rooms are only slightly larger than an outside stateroom. The bathroom fixtures are the same that we have seen in the cabins on RCI ships! The main difference is that the bathroom floor is heated and the bed is more comfortable. The hotel was quiet, clean and comfortable. We booked a room with the breakfast option. The breakfast buffet included scrambled eggs, soft-boiled eggs, a variety of cereals and fruits, cold cuts, cheeses, artisan bread, pickles and one of my new favorites; pickled herring. Free wi-fi was available throughout the hotel. It is a short walk to the "main" downtown area restaurants and sights. It was a nice walk from the hotel to Vigeland Park on the morning before we sailed. It's a 15 minute cab ride from the Thon Munch to the pier. The hotel front desk clerk (never went home?) was kind enough to call the cab company without charge. After sailing on Radiance, Voyager and Freedom class vessels, the smaller size of the Vision of the Seas seemed like a pleasant change. We booked a balcony guarantee about 8 weeks prior to sailing. We were upgraded to a Junior Suite just a few days after making the reservations. We boarded the ship in Oslo at about noon on May 6, 2010. Since we were in a suite, we were able to go into the short line. The cabins weren't expected to be ready until 2:00 p.m., so we went to the Windjammer and had a little lunch, and wandered the ship a bit. At 2:30 we were given the "all clear" that our cabins were ready. We didn't discover till later that ours wasn't really ready. The bed was made, but little else was done (tub felt slimy, toiletries were used, room not vacuumed). This should've been a warning sign of things to come from the cabin steward. We were in Suite 8084, second from last aft cabin on the starboard side. As far aft as we were, the ship's motion was not objectionable. We always take a Transderm Scop patches and didn't need them this time. The only night we ran into rough seas was day 2, the North Sea. Passage through the Hebrides was smooth as glass. The junior suite is considerably larger than a standard balcony stateroom; about 50% wider. The bathroom was much bigger, with dual "medicine cabinets" and a bathtub. The tub was more of a hindrance than a benefit. It was difficult to step out of since the bottom of the tub was about 6" higher than the floor. The closet is about the same size, as a normal cabin, but there are a couple of other tall narrow storage areas in the room. The widescreen LCD TV is easily viewed from the bed(s), but doesn't tilt/rotate to improve the view from the seating area. The various inputs on the TV weren't disabled like we had experienced on other ships. We hooked up the netbook via the HDMI port and watched a couple of DVDs on the days at sea. The "ship's channel" was not viewer friendly. Too much time was spent on switching between various image sources instead of using a split screen to display the information all at once. The in-suite coffee maker was a nice touch. As I mentioned, the Norovirus outbreak affected most of the cruise. In an attempt to combat the apparently ongoing outbreak, the crew was constantly disinfecting all exposed surfaces (kudos!). They used a bleach solution, but never wiped the surfaces dry (boo!). The stench of oxidized copper in the polished brass elevator to the Viking lounge was horrible. I'd like to know how many pairs of pants were ruined by leaning against wet, bleached handrails. The shops on board were not very well organized. The "booze" shop was PACKED with cases of different types of liquor. So much so that there was not enough room for two people to pass in the "aisle" - scarcely enough room for one. The jewelry shop was very spacious, with plenty of room, as was the cosmetics shop. The logo shop was the most sparsely populated. They probably should have swapped places with the booze shop. The advertised special sales (scarves, rings, etc.) never took place. The cabin steward was very personable, but never performed his duties adequately. He was obviously very anxious to make up our room as early as possible each night. Despite our repeated reminders that we have late dinner seating and he can make up the room at that time, he usually tried to get into the room around 7:30 p.m. When asked to replenish the toiletries (shampoo, conditioner and lotion), he hesitated, and said he wasn't supposed to, but would see what he could do for me. The coffee maker was filthy when we arrived on day one, as was one of the cups. He never vacuumed the room during the whole cruise. The worst infraction was that he read our comment card that I left in the room while we were at the Solarium bar. I thought it was strange that he tried explaining his performance, unsolicited, but didn't realize till later that he read the comment card. A number of times during the cruise we were charged for mini-bar items that we did not use. We ordered the water package, and had to have the charges removed from the account three times, including the final day. This was the first time I had rented a tuxedo on board. The tux was delivered late on the 2nd day of the cruise. Once it was delivered, I found that the size was wrong, and not all accessories were included. I called the number provided, and it turned out to be housekeeping. After transferring my call to the tailor, he took my information and arrived at the cabin in minutes. After a verification measurement he left and returned in about 20 minutes with all of the accessories and the appropriately sized pants. I was surprised at how readily some the staff used profanity - not in a derogatory fashion, but sort of "friendly" fashion. It's not a question as to whether I was offended or not, it is just unprofessional. There are three dining venues on board; Main Dining Room, Windjammer Cafe (buffet) and the Solarium Snack Bar. The MDR was open most days for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On some sea days brunch was served. The food served in the MDR was a little better than we had on Liberty. Burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches were served in the Solarium Snack Bar. I have mixed reviews about the food service staff. They were saddled with an enormous task of individually serving everybody in the Windjammer due to the presence of the Norovirus. Perhaps that was the reason for much of their seemingly irrational behavior. Most obvious was their apparent lack of awareness of the port schedule. In more than one port, most excursions were returning at about the same time, which just happened to coincide with the time that they closed half of the Windjammer. I understand the precautions that must be taken to combat the spread of the virus, but the crew frequently left their post unmanned, and did not confront pushy passengers that reached into the bins to help themselves. The Main Dining Room staff was some of the best we've encountered. The waiter was professional, friendly and very well spoken. Each night after dinner, he always asked if we'd like to try something else from the menu. After the second night, our assistant waiter left the ship; a young woman with an apparent case of homesickness. Her replacement, Sanjay, was superb. He always made sure our water, tea, coffee was filled and never assumed that he knew what we wanted to drink, but would ask, "Would you like Diet Coke again tonight, sir?". The Head Waiter, Colin, spent more time at our table than we've ever encountered on any other cruise. He assisted with serving and bussing our table. Perhaps an artifact of the smaller ship, but the MDR wait staff seemed much more attentive. The staff at the Solarium bar was very good, despite the fact they never knew what the drink-of-the-day was. The bartender, Artur, was from Brazil and spoke English very well. After the first couple of days, he greeted us by name, and never assumed what our drink selection would be. The excercise facilities are very small, and always crowded. The area designated for the excercise classes - a "dance floor" - took up a large amount of the available space. It was by far the smokiest ship I have ever been on. I don't know if it was just that there were a higher percentage of smokers than previous cruises, or inadequate ventilation, but most of the Centrum from deck 4 to deck 7 was very smoky, all of the time. The starboard side of the pool deck was dedicated to smoking and was always smoky. At every port, disembarking was very disorganized. The crew always had two of the Seapass readers at the exit point, but only ever used one at a time. Frequently, the lines would stretch from the deck 1 door up the stairs onto deck 2 landing and into the elevator area. Similar problems were encountered in returning to the ship, with the exception of one port where they actually had both lanes operating. Also, the crew got annoyed with passengers that didn't know which way to put the card into the readers. It was strange that the two readers were different - one was card face-up, the other was card face-down. I could never tell which was which; they looked identical. The itinerary was the reason we selected this cruise. The only issue is that we didn't have enough time in any of the ports! The train trip from Le Havre to Paris is about 2 hours each way, so 4 hours of the Le Havre stop is in transit - still well worth the trip, though. Getting a cab from the train station back to the pier at 10:30p.m. is a little difficult. We went to the hotel across the street, and they called a cab for us. Edinburgh is about a 30 minute shuttle ride from the tender port. The final trip of the private shuttle is about 3 hours prior to weighing anchor. Unfortunately, those 3 hours could've been utilized on the Royal Mile. We booked excursions through the cruise line for Cherbourg (Normandy) and Invergordon/Inverness. We relied on the Hop-on, Hop-off bus in Paris and Dublin. The final disembarking in Oslo was moved earlier to allow the ship to be decontaminated. According to a crew member, over 300 passengers got sick with Norovirus on this cruise. As with other disembarkations, this was disorganized. Some staff instructed passengers to enter one line, other staff told the pax not to stand there. We purchased transfer from the pier to the airport while on board. It was fairly easy, but not as cheap as a taxi to the train station, and the Flytoget to OSL. Despite the crew issues we encountered on this cruise, I would recommend this itinerary on this ship, although I would probably opt for a stateroom without a tub - it's dangerous for those with short legs. I would encourage potential passengers to not prepay gratuities and bring cash. In retrospect, we tipped the cabin steward way too much. I probably should've told him early on that his tip will depend on the service he provides. Perhaps he would've kept the room a little cleaner and wouldn't have run up bogus mini-bar charges. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010

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