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72 Panama Canal & Central America Holiday Cruise Reviews

I requested a refund for the cruise we just took on 12/20/2014 - 1/7/2015. Silversea clearly cheated their naive customers, who paid for the 6-star cruise but received a 2-star experience at best. - The food was terrible, and they ran ... Read More
I requested a refund for the cruise we just took on 12/20/2014 - 1/7/2015. Silversea clearly cheated their naive customers, who paid for the 6-star cruise but received a 2-star experience at best. - The food was terrible, and they ran out of even of that in the end. There were hardly any fruit, stale nuts and terrible frozen fish. -The TV was not working properly. - The new in-residence entertainment team was inexperienced, vulgar with no singing talent. - No aerobic classes or instructor for the first half of the cruise - some passengers complained about dirty carpets and leaking windows Every single passenger complained about this and more. A shameless rip-off by Silversea Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
This cruise was sold as the "ultimate" and the ship was rated with 5 stars ! This cruise was just the worst I ever experienced. Apart from 4 constant shopping channels on the TV with a cruise director who should be fired at all, ... Read More
This cruise was sold as the "ultimate" and the ship was rated with 5 stars ! This cruise was just the worst I ever experienced. Apart from 4 constant shopping channels on the TV with a cruise director who should be fired at all, this cruise can be considered as a "rocky horror picture show".. Christmas was celebrated with flying paper-planes and hard rock music, 30 minutes (!) the cruise director was playing the piano ( worse than an beginner ) where the guest were allowed to sing christmas songs,the dinner was very poor, no decoration on tables, noisy kids were running around during dining and there was no feeling like christmas. at the pool area the so called cruise director played with the awful house rock band hard rock as it worst. The show at the theater were unprofessional, cheap and stupid. Same on new years eve and during the other days. The food was ordinary, always the same and the presentation of it far away from 5 stars. But the worst thing was the lack of hygiene - kids with diapers occupied the pools and hot tubs, even the spa. This actually should be reported to the us health authorities. Lazy waiters were busy with internal discussions rather than to clean the tables and take the dishes away. Same with the area on the pool deck. On top of it the entire staff was unfriedly except the cabin attendant and the bar keepers on the sunset deck. There was neither control, nor security visible. I could continue the list of endless complaints but it would exceed this report. One thing still to mention - the captain could not answer the question how many guests are on bord this ship! In my opinion this ship was totally overloaded. I was happy that the "horror picture show" did end after 11 days finally. This cruise line never again ! Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Having cruised on large ships before, I was prepared for the herding but not for the lack of caring by management. An attitude of "company policy" and "couldn't care less" were exhibited by front desk personnel. ... Read More
Having cruised on large ships before, I was prepared for the herding but not for the lack of caring by management. An attitude of "company policy" and "couldn't care less" were exhibited by front desk personnel. Hanukkah and Christmas occurred during cruise time and there was neither a rabbi or priest on board for Mass or rites. The entertainment was an embarrassment and the food lackluster. The company seems to have adopted a policy of scrimping to get by. I took one arranged excursion, zip lining in Costa Rica. I prearranged it on line before the trip. It was an adventure in the rain that I thoroughly enjoyed but it would have been better if the group of 25 had been smaller so as to make a speedier trip. The ship interior is badly in need of renovating. The carpeting was beyond repair in the hallway, the hot tub leaked and swamped the deck daily. On the other hand the wait staff was impeccable as was the room steward. I enjoyed dining with pleasant people of various backgrounds. I took a taxi in Aruba to spend the day on a public beach. It was a breath taking sight and an enjoyable afternoon. Since the trip I have heard that this cruise line is under the umbrella of Carnival Cruise Line along with Holland America and Cunard. After this cruise experience I doubt that I ever cruise those lines again.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
If you are disabled, handicapped or have a special need think twice before "pearling"...37 night..four cruises back to back and with almost 400 other Aussies onboard this crew had NO IDEA! Immigration and disembarkation were ... Read More
If you are disabled, handicapped or have a special need think twice before "pearling"...37 night..four cruises back to back and with almost 400 other Aussies onboard this crew had NO IDEA! Immigration and disembarkation were disasters particularly in San Diego (crew admitted they did lots wrong.,) elderly in queues for up to 1 and a half hours.....on a wet deck...queue from front to rear of ship. Took them 40 minutes to pull the handicapped and disabled out of the queue...when previously asked one staff member refused! yep- refused to assist a disabled passenger!...Long letter of complaint to Head Office. Wheelchair bound passenger left on wharf missing a tour and the list went on. One disaster after another. Had a disabled cabin and yet....passengers totally ignore handicapped seating in both garden cafe and Stardust Theatre. Crew do NOT police this and claim they cannot ask offenders to move on. Why have rules if you don,t police them? Avoided mandatory life raft drill (5 of us) knowing we were not on any list and we were right! These guys (Administration and Guest Services) have no idea how to run a ship. Demographics of age of passengers not even glimpsed I would suggest. 1500 "spring breakers" would have loved the queues and got drunk! however.... Best week was the one I spent ill in my cabin! Through or continuing cruising passengers with tours not given desembarkation preference over those going home and the list went on and on. NEVER,NEVER again Norwegian and in particular Pearl. Cold meals, argumentive staff, the cattle pen that was the Garden Cafe and poor facilities for the handicapped I,m afraid left me very cold and it wasn,t the climate. I doubt Norwegian have ever dealt with passengers doing four cruises back to back. There were exceptions of course and they were seen to in the right manner and in the right light and credit given where due. Demanded a return of the 12$ per day service fee due to all of the above and duly received same. Note that this fee is a "discretionary" fee. Most other lines have removed it or you can remove it on boarding.,it is NOT mandatory or compulsory contrary to what Norwegian might like you to think. Aussies tip who we feel deserve it - not as a matter of right..call it a service fee or whatever does not make it right. They also have to stop offering every complainant a free bottle of wine..that does not cut it with me ---solve the original problem--you cannot wash it away with a free bottle of wine! Must cost them a fortune in give away free wine! Food problems, language problems, poor comedy acts and it went on and on. I think you have my message by now. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
For those of you who want me to get down to brass tacks immediately, I will say this was overall a wonderful cruise. The ship was in beautiful shape, very classy and clean. This was my third Princess cruise and my 5th overall. I have never ... Read More
For those of you who want me to get down to brass tacks immediately, I will say this was overall a wonderful cruise. The ship was in beautiful shape, very classy and clean. This was my third Princess cruise and my 5th overall. I have never been on the Coral before. We had a balcony room on deck 8 and an interior room, and although as many of you have read, the showers are crazy small, everything else was fine. Plenty of space for clothing, nice sized balcony, comfortable beds. Water pressure in the showers was amazing. Never ran out of hot water. Embarkation was fast and friendly, although for some reason, they never took our luggage. So when we embarked we had it with us. That turned out to be good, because our rooms were ready right away so we could get in and unpack immediately. I was happy about that because I wanted to change into shorts and now I could! Our room steward, Pedro, was fabulous. Always smiling and greeted us by name. Very sweet to our kids, and spoiled them with towel animals and chocolates. He made sure we had whatever we asked for. He even found some packing material so we could safely take our bottle of champagne we won home. A+ for Pedro! I will say that EVERY crew member I ran into greeted me with a "Good morning" "Happy New Year" or some other kind remark. Everyone smiled and seemed genuinely happy. That was SO nice. It really affects the quality of your overall cruise. I know this from past experience with another cruise line, where this did not happen and it really spoiled the trip. We were hoping our kids would be upgraded from their interior to a balcony, since this ship was not full, but figured that maybe the balconies do not all fit 3 people. No biggie. The new layout of Horizon Court is wonderful. Someone really took notes on what did not work in the past with the buffet and fixed it. I never had to wait for more than a few seconds to get any food, with the exception of the omelets station in the morning, but they have to cook them as you order, so it was fine. The food up at the court is good, not great, but good. I will give kudos for 2 things that I noticed: one was that the salads (green salads) were always very crisp and fresh. They do not skimp with iceberg lettuce either- they used mixed greens or romaine. Nice! Two was the fruit- the watermelon and pineapple and melons were always fresh and ripe. Good job! The desserts were not very good, much better in the MDR. I will say that the sugar-free desserts where surprisingly good- usually better than the regular desserts at HC. The entertainment I noticed was geared more towards the older demographic- since that makes up the majority of cruisings population is I guess why they go that route. The first show was called "What a Swell Party" which consisted of a number of old (classic) show tunes like "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" and "Let's Misbehave". I found it to be a bit boring and dated, but I am not the demographic they are trying to please, so. The best show is "On the Bayou", great sets, costumes, etc. Don't miss that one. "MotorCity" was their ode to Motown, which was pretty good. "Ye Olde Pub Show" was awful. Yikes! I am not a prude, but I don't like some cruises ship's female dancers costumes (barely there), as I think it's unnecessary. I am proud that Princess does not denigrate their female dancers that way. If other cruise lines want to have their female dancers in thongs, then let's have the guys in thongs, too! The comedian was really funny the first night, passable the second show. The mentalist was amazing, and the magician was good, except some of this tricks were revealed inadvertently by lighting, so that kind of took the amazement away. The staff run game shows were great, very funny and entertaining. The other games/trivia were fine, except one staff member didn't "believe" in prizes- so when we won, we got nothing! :( Not cool. The ports were nice, and we went on 3 excursions through Princess- the Cartagena old city tour and canoe trip through the mangroves, in Grand Cayman, the Dolphin Cove/Stingray City tour and the Panama Canal Monkey Island trip. I liked the old city tour, I could have lived without the canoe trip. Did not see much wildlife (birds, a crab), and the mangroves smelled really bad. Our tour guide was great, Willy Guttierez. I can see why he has won awards. The Dolphin Cove/Stingray City tour was great. Keep in mind that if you do Dolphin Cove and want ANY pictures, make sure you have $100 on you. You can purchase one picture for $25 or the whole CD for $100. I will say the pictures are really good, though. Worth it for me. The monkey island trip was not so great, as we only saw 3 monkeys total- all in one sighting- and our tour guide did not bring any fruit to entice them. Another boat guide did, and he had a monkey jump on his boat. The resort they took us to was OK- the hotel was nice, but our tour guide was pointing out time shares she said had been refurbished, and all of us were looking at each other and saying "they have been?!" Yikes. In Aruba we went with Sonny Binns on a tour we designed, with 2 other couples from CC. It was great. Sonny was very informative and very nice. Definitely recommend him. In Costa Rica we had planned to go to the National Park via city bus, but got nervous and went on a canal tour instead. Our tour guide was good and we found many animals, including 3 sloths, howler monkeys, Basilisk lizards, bird and iguanas. He was bale to get the boat right up to the sloths and we could get at the bow and get good pictures. One nice thing about Princess is that when you get back to the ship, they have cold water and cool cloths for you- which is so nice on a hot day! Spoiled rotten with Princess! Food in the MDR- for the most part, I'd say very good. Some things were just okay, while others were fabulous, so they get a very good overall. If you like meat, I highly recommend the Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding- SO GOOD. I also recommend the Filet Mingon- cooked to perfection! Of course their fettucine alfredo is to die for, as is my favorite dessert, the Princess Love Boat Dream. Our waiter was great, Suwit from Thailand. Made great food recommendations and was very sweet to our kids. I preferred lunch in the MDR to HC, as the food was so much better. My son loved the pizzeria and ate lunch there every day. The grill was also good, good burgers, good fries and hot dogs. MUTS was great. They played "Now You See Me"- really enjoyed that one, "The Lone Ranger", "Pacific Rim", "The Great Gatsby" and had some music concerts and sports on as well. Loved the popcorn and the warm cookies and milk. Again, spoiled rotten by Princess! I did wish they had more deck hands passing out blankets, as most of the time we could not find one. The photographers were good, if you can, find Natalie- she will take a great portrait. Very good at posing people to look their best. Complaints? A few- no one is perfect. I was not happy that the Churchill Lounge (smokers lounge) was located in the atrium. Every time you walked past it you could smell smoke, and during disembarkation, we sat in Crooner's Bar which is right across from the atrium and got a sore throat from the smoke. We were supposed to wait in the Wheelhouse Bar, but there was no space left. Also, during our Panama Canal transit, the loudspeaker system was not working well and the man they had aboard to tell us all about the canal during the transit could not be heard- you got every 3rd or 4th word he said, which was extremely annoying. I really wanted to hear what he had to say. I was glad I had done a lot of research on the canal before I went, or I'd have been really ticked off. My DH was furious, because he called down to the front desk to complain, hoping they'd fix it, and they acted like they didn't know what he was talking about- "they are not making any announcements" they told him. I thought he was going to go down and choke them. I also thought they could have done more for the New Year's Party. No champagne (unless you bought it), no balloons, just streamers. One of our previous Princess cruises was over New Year's and they had the champagne waterfall that night with free champagne, a balloon drop at midnight, etc. But, other than those things, I thought Princess did a great job and I am looking forward to my next cruise- on Princess, of course! Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
11/26/2013 through 12/07/2013 Background The views and opinions expressed in this review are mine and may conflict with others thoughts. That is what makes everyone unique. I have found these boards so very helpful in the past, and ... Read More
11/26/2013 through 12/07/2013 Background The views and opinions expressed in this review are mine and may conflict with others thoughts. That is what makes everyone unique. I have found these boards so very helpful in the past, and wanted to share my experience. I found little information on this cruise as I did my research that spoke to anything other than the canal. To me his trip was more than the canal and thus my review will hopefully provide a more comprehensive view on this cruise for newer cruisers such as myself. My DH and I sailed on the Coral Princess roundtrip Panama Canal partial transit from November 26, 2013 through December 7, 2013. We are in our late 30's and this was our 3rd cruise (on the Ruby Princess in January of 2013 and Celebrity Solstice in 2012). Previously we have done 5 all-inclusive resort vacations at Sandals. We booked Balcony Class B2, room #C603 (Caribe Deck - 10). This floor’s balcony cabins are larger than regular balcony cabins and are ½ covered and ½ exposed. I am a vegetarian when I travel (macrobiotic vegan at home) and I contacted Princess prior to departure. I was told via email that they would be able to accommodate my food request and to contact the Maître D once on ship. To get this out of the way, food was not very vegetarian on this cruise. Every main course contained egg. Why someone classifies chicken eggs as not animal is beyond me. Did I eat it, yes, because I didn’t want to cause a fuss. Before the trip, I read the recommended book The Path Between the Seas. I normally read a fiction book a week and have a difficult time reading non-fiction. This was no different. It took me 2 months to read the book cover to cover. I am glad I did because I certainly did not know any of the history on the canal. There was a 10 page section toward the end that would have sufficed. My DH read that part and felt well informed. However, there were several lectures and movies that would have provide a similar background. In fact the movie by NOVA, A Man, A Plan, A Canal, was almost a word for word read of the book. Travel and Embarkation We had a direct flight from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale on the day of embarkation. Our flight put us in around 1:00. We got to the terminal and upon exit from the curb a representative from Princess took our bags. This next part made my DH very happy. There was no wait for security or check-in and we waked right on board. We were able to immediately head to our room and drop our bag before heading for lunch. Room The balcony was very nice in that it was very large. It had 2 recliners and a table. On the way down, the balcony was always shaded which is good for us. The way back, the sun was intense, so we did not sit out there during the morning or afternoon. We used the balcony a ton, which is why I wanted the larger space. The room itself was small but very functional. In comparison to Celebrity Solstice, the bathroom was lacking in space and décor. I much preferred the Solstice’s shower including glass door to the Coral and Ruby’s small shower and curtain. They have added a dispenser for shampoo/conditioner and shower gel; one more obstacle to avoid in an already crowded area. The closet space was much better than the Solstice. The amount of hanging and shelf space was significantly more. The bed was horrible; we clearly must have had a mattress topper on the Ruby. You could clearly feel that it was two beds and I have bruises on my sides from sleeping. We could have asked for a topper, but it was not a huge deal. The décor inside the room and the ship was not my style. I found it to appear dated just like the Ruby. I much preferred the décor on Solstice, but certainly this did not impact my vacation in any way. One tip I read on this board that always pays off is with respect to the carpet color difference on the port vs. starboard side. The port side had red in the side runners, vs. the starboard side which is pink. Sometimes you walk off the staircase and get turned around, but that always help steer you in the right direction. Food Highly subjective topic. We ate well and were satisfied. We ate in the main dining room for breakfast for the first three sea days. For Aruba and Cartagena we ordered room service. All other breakfasts we ate at the buffet. We ate Muesli with Soy Milk. For room service we wrote in Soy Mile and got it without exception. Also we asked for room service between 6:30 and 7:00. We got it at 6:30 each time. We tipped nicely for this extra service. For lunch, we ate in the main dining room every sea day. We each ate the vegetarian burger which was tasty. We ate at the grill on a few days and ate the same vegetarian burger. Many of our excursions included lunch also. For dinner, we had anytime dinning and elected to eat at 5:30 almost every night. The weird thing was they seemed to be open earlier than the flyer suggested so we would go a few minutes early. One night we got back late from an excursion and ate more like 6:00 and still did not have to wait for a table for two. My DH ordered fish most nights and was pleased. I ordered the vegetarian main course on all but one occasion. One night they did not have a vegetarian main course (only the pasta) and I could not eat that option. The head waiter accommodated my request to just provide the sample of all the vegetable sides from the other main courses. If you have a special diet, they are supposed to provide you the menu from the night before and take your order. I did this for night 2, but after that I would ask to see the menu and explain the process, but it became too confusing to explain to the wait staff so I just stopped. Overall the food was good. I would suggest the Solstice was much better in terms of options, quality of food science and overall taste. That is not to say I went hungry or did not like what I ate, I certainly did enjoy it. Beverage Package We previously purchased the unlimited soda and more package when we traveled on the Ruby, which was a great value for us. This time around we did not think it would be a good value as we did not anticipate our consumption of beverage would be 3 or more per day. However when we got to our room, we found that our travel agent purchased this for us as a gift! So very nice and unexpected! We did use it every day, but would not have been cost effective this round. The package was convenient since we did not need to sign anything. We tried the mocktails and really enjoyed the Chocobanana. Nightly Entertainment/Show Highly subjective topic. There were a few guest appearances (two comedians, a magician/illusionist and a hypnotist) and the house entertainers. The dancers were excellent. The house orchestra was ok. After the first show, we did not return to see any of the production shows because of the singers. The first comedian was funny but the crowd was not into him. The second comedian was not a comedian, but rather a singer and ventriloquist. I really enjoyed hm. We did not do the hypnotist. MUTS This is why we sail Princess. My DH really enjoys MUTS. We watched Oblivion, Man of Steel, Star Trek into Darkness, and Wolverine. Another highlight was watching the Lions beat Green Bay on Thanksgiving!!!!!!! We also watched The Heat in the Princess Theater and a few in room movies. Crew I would say this ship had overall the most friendly crew members. Everyone we encountered was friendly, helpful, talkative, etc. Sea Days We played basketball, played put-put, worked out, watched a few lecturers, watched an in room movie, etc. Pretty much hung out and relaxed. They were great, but I would not want more than we had in a row. Otherwise I am afraid that my DH would get bored. Ok so funny story. On the first full sea day, we were hugging the coast of Cuba. My DH always jokes that we are going to get bombed by them. We were in the room when I looked out and saw two super small boats racing towards us. Did you see Captain Phillips? Well we both grabbed our binoculars to check for machine guns. Nope nothing, whew! It was crazy, there was a larger fishing boat and then these two boats. Not sure why they were racing toward us, but it was a non-issue, but a good chuckle for us. Aruba I booked an independent excursion through Jolly Pirates. For $51.00 each, we stopped at 3 snorkel locations, had lunch and got to rope swing off the boat. To get to the location we took the public bus which was $2.30 per person each way. No problems with the transportation. The first snorkel stop was at the Antilla shipwreck; a WWII ship. This was very cool to do. I have read reviews that suggest this stop is for experienced swimmers/snorkels due to the current and waves. I would not characterize myself as a strong swimmer. I had no problems at this spot and in fact really enjoyed this stop. The other two stops were in more shallow water or closer to shore. I had my fill after the first stop as I get headaches from the water easy. My DH snorkeled at the third stop. Lunch was BBQ chicken, ribs and rice and beans. I had preordered a vegetarian meal and they confirmed this via email before we left for vacation and again at check-in. However, there was no meal on the boat. They gave me beans and rice which was fine. Another highlight of this excursion was the rope swing. My DH with his 3rd degree separated shoulder got in line and did a flip into the water. Crazy man! At least he had fun. The ships near us all stopped to watch us; you could tell they were jealous! The way back they played music and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I would highly recommend this excursion to everyone. We would do this again if we returned to Aruba. Cartagena I again booked an independent excursion through Segway Tours Colombia SAS. We did a Segway excursion in Puerto Rico before and loved it, so we wanted to do another one in a historic city. For $65.00 each, we booked the 90 minute historic tour. We also arranged for taxi transportation with this company for $15.00 each way. There was one other couple on the excursion with us. We stayed in the walled city and stopped at major churches, public squares and other relevant places. It was warm that day and there was no wind. At each stop, César, our guide, would direct us to a shaded location and provide informational narrative on the location. He was awesome and so was the excursion. We traveled down the streets and got to see some magnificent balconies with flowers. We would do this excursion again in a heat beat. At the end of the tour, the cab driver arrived to take us back, but for $20.00 each person, he would take us wherever we wanted to go before arriving back at the ship. The couple we were with wanted to shop for an emerald, so we agreed to go to various sites for the extra money. We stopped at a shopping center that the cruise ship stops at, and an emerald museum. Of interest to us, we stopped at the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. For $20.00 each we could have gone into the fort, but we just wanted to get photos. The last stop was at the La Popa Monastery. This is a top a large hill and gives some great photo opportunities of the city below. There was a $5.00 per person admittance charge, but again we were only looking for picture opportunities so we did not go in. After this we headed back to the ship. The taxi driver is the regular driver that César uses for his Segway business and is very polite and honest. Please note, the vendors in Cartagena are aggressive. If you are not interested, just tell them and they will leave you alone. If you act interested, they will continue to follow you trying to sell their wares. We had no problem, but saw others struggle with this concept. Panama Canal and Colon So the canal itself is interesting, but not the main reason why I wanted to do this cruise. I liked the various ports including this one. I have no idea how long it took to do the three steps of the locks, maybe 1 hour? It was raining hard as we approached the locks, but by the time we were in them, the rain was light and then stopped. There was a very pretty double rainbow. Ok so here was the first confusing thing about the ship. I read on this board that we could get to the bow of the boat from deck 10 and 11. However, when you try to get there, there are signs which clearly state for emergency only. As a result, my DH told me I was wrong. But I knew that this board would not lead me astray. So on the day of, I asked DH if we could just try. He agreed and as we got close to the door I asked a cabin steward if we could use the door and he said of course. So in we went. Yeah!!!! Thanks board! View was great from here because the upper decks are blocked by glass. We stayed here, then went to the 8th floor aft to see the gates close, to our room on the starboard side to see the landscape, to the 7th floor port side to see how close we were to the sides and back to the 10th floor bow. We booked PC1610A Monkey & Wildlife Nature Cruise on Gatun Lake. This excursion boarded the tender 50 minutes after clearing the locks. I think this was my all-time favorite excursion. We drove a bit to get to our location with commentary from the guide as we went. Once there we boarded our boats in the Chagres River, went through the cut and into Gatun Lake. The guides pointed out various birds and reptiles. We stopped at a few islands in the lake and called the moneys! They threw peanuts or banana’s on the bow of the boat and the monkey’s came. First we got to see a family of 3 Capuchin monkeys. They jumped on the front and side of the boat, ate, jumped in the trees, etc. It was the highlight of my life! I so love primates and have never seen wild monkeys. Next, we spotted a group of Howler monkeys high in the tree tops. They are a lethargic group, so there was no interaction with them, nor did we get to hear them. The last set of monkeys we encountered were Geoffroy's Tamarin. I have never seen them before. Super cute, fast and less social than the Capuchin. This excursion included a snack, which consisted of a box lunch of a turkey sandwich, mango slices and a banana muffin. More than we expected. Limon, Costa Rica We booked LIO105A Rainforest Aerial Tram, Tortuguero Canals & Lunch. Wow is there a reason to book through Princess. This was a 10 hour excursion. The first part of the trip took us to a river boat where we saw various birds and a sloth real close up. It was lovely! Then we got back into the bus to go to the rainforest where they provided us with a snack of various fruits. Now it was a nice bus, but we got delayed due to the government deciding that it was time to trim trees. We were stuck on the road for an hour. We thought we would not make it to the rainforest or have lunch. We were able to do both. The rainforest was beautiful and the air quality was unbelievable. We did not see any monkeys, but we did see the largest wasp known to man. Good lord! We also saw butterflies and wonderful varieties of plants and trees. The lunch was served buffet style and consisted of fruits, rice, beans, chicken, pasta and a dessert dish of plantains. Overall super yummy! In total we were on the bus for 5 hours. We got back to the ship and they drove us straight to the gangway because it was 15 minutes past the time we were set to sail. Oops! Grand Cayman We booked GCM450A Scenic Bike Ride, Turtle Farm, Hell & Snorkel. The tour suggests that it is strenuous as it is a 7 mile bike ride. I am not sure we actually biked a full 7 miles, but I could be wrong. This was a great tour, but a word of warning, you are biking. If you are not used to biking 7 miles, this is probably not the excursion for you. It was a slow pace and at the end there were several folks who looked like it was way too much for them. The tour took us to the turtle farm (not a big fan of what I saw here), rum place, Hell and back to the shop. We don’t drink so the rum place was of no interest. Hell was boring as…well you get the point. Then we boarded the bus and went to the Tiki Bar for a snorkel break off the shore. It was a good snorkel; saw three lobsters and many various fish. Disembarkation We were delayed getting off by about 30 minutes. Not sure why, but I would rather hang on the boat for extra time than hang in the airport. There was an announcement that I didn’t hear well, but I heard something about CDC. I won’t bore you with our flight back, but we landed in wind chill of 7. Not fun! Summary Overall, we had a wonderful time. I loved the balcony and chairs. The excursions were amazing! We have another cruise planned for April on Princess. Spending 11 straight days with my DH is priceless and I can’t imagine having a bad time on vacation ever. I would like to thank everyone for answering my questions along the way and more importantly having the ability to read your questions and responses so I was well prepared.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
The Thanksgiving (November 27-December 12, 2013) voyage of Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas, while not a Turkey, gave fewer reasons to give thanks than it might have. For approximately two hundred passengers, the San Diego ... Read More
The Thanksgiving (November 27-December 12, 2013) voyage of Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas, while not a Turkey, gave fewer reasons to give thanks than it might have. For approximately two hundred passengers, the San Diego embarkation got off to a rocky start. On the previous cruise, Legend of the Seas was reportedly unable to recover a tender and had to leave it at its Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, final stop. When the unlucky two hundred (some Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society Diamond members among them) came to check in they were told they could not be accommodated on the cruise due to a lack of lifeboat capacity. First shocked and then angry they were mollified when clearance came that we could sail without the tender. (That boat was ultimately recovered successfully when we arrived in Cabo two days later) For the rest of us embarkation and check-in was normal, not too slow and not too fast. However, starting out with over ten percent of your passengers (some of the prestigious variety) angry or anxious is not a good thing. This was a Crown & Anchor Society “Member’s Cruise” so prestigious passengers were the norm rather than the exception. For some lesser types, a feeling of second-class citizenry was palpable during the entire sailing. Legend of the Seas is (by necessity because we were transiting the Panama Canal) the smallest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. Bigger ships won’t fit. It is, as a result, “quirky.” The Windjammer Buffet is significantly undersized and, therefore, always crowded. The walking/jogging track, however, at a full quarter mile in length is perfect. Many but not all of the in-cabin safes are unusual in that, rather than entering a code of your choosing for access, you must “swipe” a major credit card for access. That means you have to (otherwise unnecessarily) carry a credit card in addition to your SeaPass card everywhere you go. But don’t put that credit card in the same pocket because its magnetic stripe will eventually render your SeaPass card unusable. What were they thinking choosing credit card safes on a cruise ship? Legend does not have an outside fantail bar, devoting that potential space to an underused quiet deck outside the health club on deck nine and a mostly ignored rock climbing wall on deck ten. The wine staff is virtually invisible in the dining room. If you want a bottle of wine, you have to ask your waiter to get one of them to stop by. Some people liked the fact that they weren’t solicited to buy wine; I didn’t like it. Royal Caribbean lost a lot of revenue on this cruise as a result. Instead of buying one bottle of wine every other night, I bought only one during the entire cruise. Had I been able to, I would have purchased at least six more bottles giving Royal Caribbean a minimum of $250 more of my money. The only tender port, Cabo San Lucas, started out as a nightmare of failed debarkation logistics. Guests were forced to wait for too long to disembark and some crowding and shoving resulted. The crew was ill-prepared for unruly passengers who became impatient and exacerbated the situation. The same thing happened at our Puerto Quetzal stop that didn’t require tenders. Training will help here but they need to get on with it. The senior staff is very helpful. Maitre’d Rodrigo worked to find me a table with other solo travelers and Food & Beverage Manager Silvio Ghigo quickly acted on my request to add tables on the smoking side Viking Crown Lounge veranda to match up with similar tables on the non-smoking side. The junior staff is not so accommodating. In Cartagena the maintenance staff was power washing deck ten forward of the rock climbing wall. Elderly passengers were slipping and sliding on sudsy water flowing over the walking track. I asked both a deck steward and a climbing wall attendant to place some of the yellow “caution” cones at the wet places so people would step more carefully. Both told me that wasn’t their job. I found an officer down on deck nine who got the cones. When my pocket was picked in Cartagena (both foolish and careless on my part) I had no cash for a taxi back to the ship, I inquired of three separate Legend of the Seas Tour Guides and Tour Bus Drivers if I could hitch a ride home. “No, you didn’t buy a tour from us so we won’t/can’t help you.” Fortunately a fellow passenger (George, God bless him) stepped off one of those busses and loaned me $20 so I could get back to the ship. The Guest Services representative confirmed to me that since I did not purchase a Royal Caribbean tour I would not be entitled to a ride even though I had been robbed of my money. Later, I mentioned to Keith Williams, the Cruise Director, that Royal Caribbean should consider a possible policy change in such a situation. He wrote it all down and implied that someone would get back to me but no one did. The Senior Officers (Master Kjell Nordmo, the Staff Captain, and the Hotel Director Francois Wache, etc., are mostly aloof). Captain’s daily noontime public address announcements failed to contain interesting tidbits of real information as is, in my experience, the main reason to stop what you are doing and listen. Also, inexplicably, public address announcements are not audible on any television channel in the cabins. If you are in your stateroom and want to hear what is being said, you must step into the passageway to listen. On the talent side, Musical Director Filmer Flores delivered great shows with the most memorable performance being his solo night of classical offerings in the “That’s Entertainment Theater.” Singer Aaron Libby of the ‘singers and dancers’ is a standout. Multi-talented piano man Chuck in the Schooner Bar draws an appreciative crowd but must fight to be heard due to sound that bleeds in from the musicians playing on the adjacent Centrum Stage. The glass doors between those two venues will not stay in the closed position. Headliner entertainment was very good, led by Broadway show tune singer Michelle Murlin and variety act “Los Pampas Gauchos” who were a hoot. Foreigner’s Domenick Allen rocked the house. Cruise Director Williams doesn’t go overboard with too much personality as many of his peers do. For me, at least, he sets the perfect tone. He is at a disadvantage here, however, as his ship offers smaller and fewer venues. The final night’s “Broadway Showtunes” performance was underappreciated by guests who mostly didn’t recognize the mostly obscure selections the performers had chosen to sing. Too many guests in the “That’s Entertainment” show lounge were rude to those same performers, choosing to leave their seats and exit the theater during applause for the final number and before Cruise Director Williams made his closing remarks. There is nothing the Royal Caribbean can do about rude patrons. One strong disappointment was the port lecturer who was, to put it kindly, in way over her head. I had many conversations with fellow passengers who compared her to other lecturers on other ships and found her wanting. She read her lectures from a word-for-word script where many passages seemed to be lifted from web pages and then haphazardly pasted together. I love great shipboard lectures and none were offered here. Dining Room food and service is, as you would expect, good to very good but never great. Windjammer fare is just OK. Steakhouse Chops, on the other hand, is excellent (on both evenings I tried it) with the porterhouse outshining the strip steak. Izumi’s “hot-rock” table-top grilling concept is fun and the sushi there is very good. Izumi was severely underused by guests and I suspect it won’t last long. The Chef’s Table experience is amazing with five fine wine pairings and just the right amount of pomp and circumstance. Chef Rudy delivers a Royal meal and you can see his pride on both the plates and his face. All three specialty restaurants can be enjoyed for a discounted price of $115 per person if you buy the “Dining Package.” If purchased separately, the three will set you back $145 or more. I found “My Time” dining room service to be curt and impersonal but at the late 8:30 seating one deck below I felt both welcomed and valued. I did not dine at the early seating nor did I try room service. Late in the cruise I attempted both breakfast and lunch in the main dining room but gave up due to long lines at the doorway. We became aware of the fact that the Norovirus boarded Legend of the Seas on Day Ten of this cruise. By Day Thirteen we were in full Code Red mode with all serving tongs, beverage dispenser buttons, ice bins and more being handled exclusively by crew members. As we departed Cartagena on Day Thirteen, the unofficial word on the ship was that 98 passengers were down with gastrointestinal distress as were 40 members of the crew; just over five percent in each category. No official specific information was forthcoming (as is the practice on Cunard) so these numbers could not be verified. I was, again unofficially, told that at one point sixty cabins sported the yellow “quarantine” magnets above their doors. Having been through this twice before on ships (Cunard’s Elizabeth and on Celebrity), it is my opinion that these outbreaks are mostly the fault of fellow passengers who fail to observe proper sanitation and hygiene. However, Legend’s outdated beverage dispensing equipment and a completely unacceptable Windjammer and pool deck ice dispensing process could and should be eliminated to reduce clear points of preventable risk. (Dispensing ice from plastic bins with passengers dipping their glasses, both new and used, or handling the communal ice scoop would be a health-code violation in virtually every U.S. jurisdiction and would not be allowed) Early in the cruise, both crew and passengers, from my observation, all but ignored the ubiquitous Purell dispensers early in the cruise. Later it was “too late.” Crew members were poorly trained on gloved-hand procedures as I witnessed several using their gloved hands to smooth mussed hair, scratch noses, rub eyes or lean on unsanitized surfaces and then use that same hand to serve food or distribute utensils, cups or glassware. Again, proper training is lacking. In fairness, however, kids’ center staff and even musicians were serving food at one point and perhaps cross training those folks is not normally required. I don’t know. Twenty foot swells and gale force winds greeted the passengers on the next to last sea day out of Cartagena. Pools were closed (the Solarium pool was drained), sea sickness bag holders graced every staircase landing and decks were mostly abandoned due to high winds. Some passengers were sickened while others were exhilarated. I felt sorry for those already suffering from gastrointestinal distress on those heavy seas. On this fifteen day cruise, tuxedos and evening gowns were much in evidence on the three “Formal Nights” (Day Two, Day Eight and Day Fourteen—all sea days). There were fewer dress-code scofflaws on this trip than I have experienced on other Royal Caribbean sailings with shorts, caps, tank tops and bare feet rarely appearing where they should not be. Besides the three “Formal Nights” there were four “Smart Casual” nights in the mix with all other nights being some variation of “Casual.” Legend does not have guest-accessible laundry facilities but does run a $30 “cram all you can into this paper bag” special along with regular 48 hour laundry and dry cleaning service. Wi-Fi signals are, by cruise ship standards, strong and acceptably fast if you bring your own laptop, and, by the standard on all cruise ships, too expensive. Passengers who used the ship’s computers on Deck Eight complained of very slow speeds on what they called “outdated” equipment. Smoking is allowed in the casino but, while you must pass though the casino on Deck Four to get to the That’s Entertainment Theater, the air handling equipment spares you from too much secondhand exposure. Also, you can walk up to Deck Five and then back down to Deck Four to avoid the Casino smoke on that route if you wish. Royal Caribbean did a stellar job of finding live NFL and college football broadcasts to play in the Schooner Bar, on the Big Screen at the pool and on the stateroom televisions. First run movies were offered free of charge on the latter two venues as well. Channel offerings include CNN International (not the U.S. channel, unfortunately) and Headline News but no Fox News or MSNBC nor any of the four major broadcast networks. This cruise departed San Diego stopping in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; transited the Panama Canal; and then stopped again in ColÏŒn, Panama; Cartagena, Columbia; concluding in Fort Lauderdale. There were seven sea days. Much is written elsewhere about ports so I will leave those details to others except to recommend that excursions should be considered mandatory for Puntarenas and ColÏŒn as those port areas are unappealing in every way. Most of us commented that there wasn’t that much to do on sea days and while I agree, I will credit that in part to the small ship’s lack of venue opportunities. Trivia competitions were usually oversubscribed for the size of the Schooner Bar and seats in the Centrum for before dinner entertainment were hard to come by. Trivia teams are limited to six members. On the first day I found myself, as a solo traveler, locked out since I would be the prohibited “number seven” on any team I approached. Trivia is “progressive” so if you don’t find a home early, you have a tendency to be left out for the balance of the cruise. The Canal transit was, for most, both the reason to book this cruise and the highlight. Many passengers who rose early to grab the best viewing spots later commented, however, that they could have easily slept in. It turns out that if you closely observe one lock experience, frankly, you could skip the others if you wished. Those of us who were fascinated by the intricacy of both the Canal’s construction and operation were rewarded with insightful commentary from a local narrator that Royal Caribbean brought on board. He offered up just the right amount of public address information, neither weighing us down with constant chatter nor failing to anticipate a detail about which we might be wondering. He made up for a sub-par destination presentation that day before by our on-board lecturer. Given the choice, I personally would not choose to sail aboard Legend of the Seas again. But, I would transit the Panama Canal again. Since the new wider Canal that will accommodate larger vessels won’t open for another couple of years, I am told that Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor loyalists have only the Legend available for Canal transits. Maybe they ought to consider trying another line for this itinerary to see what the competition has to offer. I am sure that Royal Caribbean would be happy to welcome them aboard a Celebrity ship even if their points won’t count. I am told that Crown & Anchor privileges will be available to them but, given how these Diamond and Diamond Plus members seem hooked on Royal Caribbean points, I suspect shifting to a different brand may be unthinkable to them. For me, I wish Royal Caribbean would take a look at what hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and others do: make their frequent cruiser program points inclusive of all their brands (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara). They would likely have all my cruise business if they would do that. And, I would be a Diamond Plus member (instead of not quite Platinum) by now. Until then, I have divided my purchases (78 nights at sea in 2013) trying various providers from Royal Caribbean to Carnival to Princess to Cunard to Celebrity to SilverSea. Some folks don’t know what they’re missing and I suspect that is the way Royal Caribbean wants it.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
I took my Grandfather on a 14 day cruise to fulfill a promise I made to him to take him north, south, east and west. This cruise was thru the Panama Canal (south). It started out with the best expectations. However, I quickly found that ... Read More
I took my Grandfather on a 14 day cruise to fulfill a promise I made to him to take him north, south, east and west. This cruise was thru the Panama Canal (south). It started out with the best expectations. However, I quickly found that this cruise would be fraught with frustrations. I somehow managed to upset the room service folks and the whole cruise I don't think I had one meal that was as ordered; and you'll get a better idea of exactly how frustrating by the end of this. The first few ports were great. Then my Grandfather managed to hurt himself on one of the deck chairs (many of them had screws loose or missing). I took him to the Doctor and he said he was ok, but his leg kept getting worse and by the last couple of days on the Statendam he could not walk. The only way I could get a wheelchair was to rent one. For the last three days they wanted me to pay $145! It was their deck chair that hurt him and they were ruthless in the requirement of payment before I could get a wheelchair! So we are basically stuck in our cabin and even thought I tipped, room service never did get the orders right and on the last day, they gave us used silverware! :-( Please consider before using Holland America. Do not get sick, they will be very unsympathetic and not to helpful. I do have many other frustrations over this one cruise with them too. Just think twice about using them. I have had such delightful experiences with other cruise lines that it highlighted how poorly they behaved. At the end of the cruise, I was so exhausted that I just didn't have the energy to complain over the fact that they just took out a daily gratuity whether I felt they deserved it or not:-( While our room steward was terrific, I would not have given anyone else a dime.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise with good weather; this was our second Panama Canal transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic. We are regular cruisers; this was our first time on Celebrity. We booked an Aqua Class stateroom on ... Read More
1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise with good weather; this was our second Panama Canal transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic. We are regular cruisers; this was our first time on Celebrity. We booked an Aqua Class stateroom on the ninth deck, and this included the Blu dining room. Details below. The cruise had seven sea days that were relaxing. 2. Embarking: We made our own flight arrangements for this cruise, but we did use Celebritys hotel in San Diego, the Sheraton Marina, a nice hotel convenient to both the airport and the port. We were bused to the port around noon. The security line was a bit long, but we were on board by 1PM. Our cabin was ready for us; one suitcase arrived before 2:30 and the second bag arrived at 5:30. We were over 2,000 passengers of all ages, from infants to seniors in electric scooters. Nationalities were across the board: US, British (160), Belgians (over 40), Swiss, Germans, Canadians, Brazilians, etc. As the ship was next headed for Harwich, England, it appeared that some of the Europeans were going to continue on home on board and not fly. 3. The Celebrity Infinity (from perspective of Aqua Class): The cabin is the same size as any other verandah cabin but with nicer amenities. Despite its size, there are adequate storage drawers and closet space for the two weeks. [My wifes contrarian comments: The storage and closet space looks very good before your suitcases arrive. I do agree it was adequate, but only because I had mercilessly edited the clothing I packed down to only those items I absolutely knew I would wear and brought along a Magellans valet travel tray to corral my cosmetics in/on the desk (there are no drawers in the cabins desk, just large open shelves.] There are only two 110v and two 220v outlets in the room. The bathroom is compact but it does have storage shelves under the sink. The shower is a walk-in type with a great multi-nozzle system. Suitcases fit well under the bed. The cabin has a small safe and a small refrigerator (never used it and kept it locked). There is a TV that receives movies, some cable news (depending on reception), shipboard activities, and other channels. You get a daily planner in your cabin the night prior. You need to read it carefully as there are no announcements on the PA system other than the Captains 10 oclock bridge report followed by a very brief summary of the days activities. If you want a newspaper, a four-page news summary (in various languages) is available daily around noon in the Guest Services area. There is a children/teens area and programs for them. I defer to others with children to comment on this part of the ship. Library is very small; bring your own reading. 4. Meals: Food in the Oceanview buffet - which almost everyone uses for breakfast and lunch - is good. There are plenty of choices at both meals, and you can eat as much or as little as you want. It is a bit hurried, though, and not a place for a leisurely meal. As we were Aqua Class, we did not use the main dining room. I dont know if we could if we wanted as our dining tips that had to be prepaid when booking were earmarked for the Blu staff and not the dining room staff. Blu: We stopped by Blu after we boarded. A waiter on duty recommended we do not appear at 7 (our usual dining time), but come earlier or later. The room seats 100, and they have about 200 guests. The waiter was correct in his advice. We found we could get a table no later than 6:30. Arriving later meant that we would have to wait until around 8PM. So much for open dining in Blu. We found service and food in Blu to be excellent. The menu is different from the main dining room. The menu is not twigs and leaves it is well-prepared regular cooking with maybe a bit less starch and a bit more emphasis on vegetables. If you feel calorie deprived, you can easily make up the shortage with their excellent breads, wines, and desserts. Other than a few tables for large parties of six or more, tables are for two with two tables set relatively close together. If you wish to chat with your neighbors, you can, and if you (or they) do not want to, its no problem and no affront. While the dinner service runs fairly well, breakfast service does not. The issue seemed to be that each breakfast order is different and cannot be premade in the kitchen. Thus, breakfast service is slow and does not work when you have an early shore excursion. We avoided trying to do breakfast on these days in the Oceanview buffet due to the crowds there, and we found the AquaSpa Cafe to work for a good and quick breakfast. The above being said, an unhurried breakfast in Blu on sea days was pleasant. We made reservations on-line for both Qsine and the SS United States specialty restaurants. Both, in their respective ways, were excellent. Qsines food is excellent and the presentation is completely unusual. However, it works. The United States copies the first-class dining room of its namesake. This includes something not seen on any ship we have been on: the large amount of space between tables. Those were the good old days. Both restaurants were worth the extra charges. There are other food outlets around the ship as well as a goodly number of bars. We can recommend the Italian gelateria. At dinner one night a couple noted that the Ocean Grille, in the back of the Oceanview Cafe, was a great place for a casual grilled dinner. You cannot go hungry or thirsty on board. 5. Dressing for meals: For this two week trip it was three formal, and all the rest casual. A good number - perhaps half - of men at formal nights were in tuxedos or suits; some who did not want to dress up just did not appear for these meals. You get the specific dates for dress (and all time changes) in the initial daily program in your cabin when you board. 6. Shore Excursions: A word of advice: make your shore excursion reservations on-line! Otherwise you will either have to use the not-so-user-friendly on board TV system to make your reservations or stand in line on board at the excursion counter. The on-line billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you dont need the ships tour office. Celebritys tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ships staff, you have support when there is a problem. Concerning tours in Guatemala and Costa Rica: Most tours are long because it is a distance from the port to get up into the mountains. In Guatemala, it was 90 minutes each way for the Antigua tours. In Costa Rica, it was 2 ½ hours each way to get to the Monteverde area. This included around 20 miles of unpaved roads. Also, pay attention to warnings concerning Colon, Panama. Ship tour personnel and tour guides made it quite clear that visitors had no business wandering around in town. Stay in the shopping area pier-side, or take a tour that passes through the town. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, lectures, bridge, bingo (for serious players!), etc, etc. Two lecturers on board were popular: Al Goldis, a retired general manager and scout, knew everything there was to know about baseball. Martin Harrington Uncle Marty is a citizen of Panama and provided a series on all aspects of that country. He also provided commentary on the PA system as the ship transited the canal. We did not attend any of the shows on board; the bits we saw looked good. The casino payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have your picture taken by the shipâs photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. There are various venues for night owls. 8. Tipping: Not a problem if you sign up for the recommended amounts (for cabin steward, waiter, asst waiter, and head waiter). The amounts are charged to your shipboard account. As I said earlier, if you are Aqua Class, you pay tips when you book. You only need to tip separately (cash) the person who brings your room service breakfast. Your bar bill automatically adds 15 percent. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise, anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. You can track your account on the ships TV channel. We received a paper copy about the half way point in the cruise; we received a final copy the night before disembarking. However, anything you charge that last night (bar, shopping) will not appear on that copy. Keep your receipts so that you can check the amount you see on your credit card bill at home. 10. Disembarking: We signed up for the ships valet luggage service. Our bags went out of our cabin the night before, and we did not see them until we arrived at our San Antonio airport. The service costs, I believe, $20 per person, plus whatever the airline charges. Celebrity will tell you what restrictions there are concerning airlines and routing. You get different luggage tags the night before as well as your boarding passes for your flight(s) home. Our morning procedure was that we had to be out of our cabin by 8 and in the specified waiting lounge by 8:15. Announcements were only made in the waiting areas. We were called to leave at 8:30, and we arrived at our gate at Fort Lauderdale Airport at 10:30. It took nearly an hour to get through customs/immigration (sequestration shortages), and it took about another half hour to get through TSA security at the airport. 11. Conclusion: We would classify this cruise as very good bordering on excellent. Celebrity advertising does not equal reality. Yes, we would sail with Celebrity again (Aqua Class), if timing and itinerary meet our desires. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@satx.rr.com. Fred Groth San Antonio, TX Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
I had originally seen this cruise advertised last year as a re-positioning cruise from NYC to Vancouver, including the Inside Passage so made a note to keep an eye out for this for 2013. When it was advertised, it wasn't posted as a ... Read More
I had originally seen this cruise advertised last year as a re-positioning cruise from NYC to Vancouver, including the Inside Passage so made a note to keep an eye out for this for 2013. When it was advertised, it wasn't posted as a re-positioning cruise and we were told that because of the Jones Act (Law) we couldn't cruise past LA if it wasn't a re-positioning cruise. Then, after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between NCL and the travel agent, we were told that because the ship was going to a foreign port (namely Cartegena) we could sail to San Francisco. You can imagine my anger when we got on board to have the cruise advertised as a re-positioning one There were three of us travelling, so we chose a mini-suite with balcony on deck 11, being told it was a bigger cabin. The three of us have travelled together before and have had no issues with the third bed. Embarkation was quite simple but we were dismayed when we saw the size of the cabin. The interior one we'd had on deck 5 with Holland America on the last trip was just as big. Of greater concern was the third bed. It was the lounge which was as hard as a board. It took 4 days of asking for more padding before the bed was comfortable enough. The one layer of well-used foam that was put on the first night was insulting. If you are going to sell a cabin as being suitable for 3, make sure the bedding is suitable. Even if a child is the third passeger, they deserve better than what we got. Of great concern also was the state of the cabin. It was very dusty, and we found evidence of a previous occupant with trash left in the wardrobe and one drawer, and also a very dry remnant of a coffee bag in the coffee maker. We waited for three days before we asked for it to be removed. The first night we went to the Azure Dining Room, waited for a long time for a meal which was a bit hit and miss. We subsequently found out that we had a substantial number of new wait staff on board, none of whom are given any pre-training re serving, just given a manual or two. Then we tried the Tzar Dining Room and faced the same issue. I don't expect silver service in a dining room unless I've paid for it but I do object to servers reaching across my face to deliver a meal or remove a plate. We took advantage of having our bottles of wine stored each night, and on the third night, one party member was told her wine was finished. This wasn't the case, it had at least one glass left. We really had to insist, speaking to a senior staff member before the bottle was replaced. The next night, another bottle was obviously off. It had a screw cap which was faulty and didn't close properly so the wine had gone off. We were told that wine should be drunk on the same night, and what could we expect with a screw cap. Once again we insisted and had the bottle replaced. Unfortunately, this sort of experience didn't end there. We had cold food served, had to send several dishes back when meat was stringy or tough or had a very strange taste. We had chocolate dipped strawberries delivered to our cabin on two occasions as an apology and were given a free bottle of wine because of problems with food. Two nights it took 90 minutes before we left the dining room, with waits of up to 20 mins for the entree to be served. Some problem had occurred in the kitchen. The final night I had duck salad which tasted delicious, only problem was it contained only one piece of duck measuring about 1 inch by 1/4 inch square. The Lamb Shank dish the same night tasted very nice also, but it was a pity that whoever served it had slopped the sauce all over the side of the dish and then wiped it with a very greasy rag. I should have sent that back but by that stage was over it. We ate a number of times in the Garden Buffet and were satisfied with the offerings, but it would be nice if the fruit provided was ripe. Couldn't help wondering why staff weren't rostered on earlier on shore days. We had to wait for cups, plates etc to be replenished. Staff seemed to be astonished that all these passegers were milling about - what are they doing here? And could someone mentioned to all serving staff that a soup spoon is for soup and a dessert spoon, used for cereal, dessert etc. We complained about the lack of entertainment during the day which is available on other ships. We were told by the entertainment director that budget cuts meant that information talks were't offered any more. We turned up in the Showroom for a talk on the shore excursions to be told they weren't being held as only one staff member had done the Panama trip before. Then we were told that they would do one only after passengers boarded in Miama. Yes, it was held, but not all the printed information on each of the ports was available and we were given information on a lot (but not all) of the excursions which was too much to take in. Yes, they ran in on the TV but we got the whole talk even up to the last day of the cruise. We figured out that things like deck games, beanbag throw and talking to entertainment staff cost no extra for the cruise line, so that is what we got. Thing is, not everyone can do or is interested in the activities that were available. The movies that were available on the big screen were for the larger part not late release, with offerings like Pretty Woman. Was it just coincidence that half way through the cruise suddenly we were offered Les Miserables, Jack Reacher and Lincoln? Or did we all complain. I question the wisdom of showing a kids movie, Wreck-it Ralph, when only 17 children were on board. Another reviewer mentioned the poor offerings on the room tv and I must agree with them. Re-runs of the movies shown in the theatre, and re-runs of the same tv shows shown over and over. Plus of course the remote that didn't work unless it was held right in front of the on/off light. We did do excursion off the ship, and mostly they were quite good. I do object however, to be taken as an almost captive group to jewellery stores with enormous pressure brought to bear to buy. The offerings in the shops on board were quite good but as others have mentioned, over-priced. And I can never understand why people will pay thousands of dollars for jewellery that had no valuation offered with it. We did go to the Art Auctions but by the last one were more than a little jaded by the same old information. I've never heard of a ship tour that cost money (don't think we were ever told how much). We though we had pretty much seen it all but on the last day the organisers (????) excelled themselves. We were all told what bag tags we needed and where to be at a certain time. We turned up where we were supposed to be to be asked if we had been through Immigration? No, we didn't know we needed to. Though it must be on shore. So round we turned, walked from the front of the ship, all round the deck to the other side of the ship to join the queue for Immigration. Then when we got back to the front of the ship where we were before, got our amusement from all those who came after.and who didn't know either. Felt sorry for the staff who had to bear the brunt of passengers anger. Comments from other passengers who have cruised before with NCL but not on the Jewel, said there was no comparison between it and the other liners and they would not cruise on the Jewel again. Came to the conclusion that Freestyle cruising is just another term for sub-standard offering. If passengers don't want formal nights, why do so many make the effort to get dressed up night after night. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
A really good 14 day experience. My Stateroom number was C309, one of the staterooms with the small curved balcony. STATEROOM: The room was typical in size and in great condition. The balcony was small but was just fine. I liked the ... Read More
A really good 14 day experience. My Stateroom number was C309, one of the staterooms with the small curved balcony. STATEROOM: The room was typical in size and in great condition. The balcony was small but was just fine. I liked the curved balcony because it offers a wide 180 degree view of the canal transit. Yes, you lose privacy, as other passengers on their balconies can see you, but for the canal experience I recommend this balcony type; also note you can see the other passengers. Bed was comfortable... bathroom shower was small; When one is on a cruise one should know that showers are smaller than in your house. No problem. STEWARD STAFF: A+. The room was tended to twice per day, on schedule, and quickly. Moore was the name of the steward... he was very professional and polite. FOOD: The food was good in all locations. Fresh, pleasing to eat, great to look at. Note, I did not say the food was "great,"... I said it was good. Nothing to complain about. The service however was excellent! ENTERTAINMENT: Very good, and was changed throughout the duration! I attended all of the choices, and was completely satisfied. The Scholarship@Sea program was fantastic. SHOPPING: I did not do any on-board shopping, and I did not feel pressured to by anything. SHIP TOUR: The behind the scenes ship tour (there is a fee) is well worth the cost. It lasts about 3 hours and is very informative. CONS: 1) This itinerary has many "continuous sea days." 2) The stateroom television had a faulty ship's course tracking system, therefore, one could not track the ship location. BE AWARE: Internet service on ALL cruise lines is very slow and very expensive. Princess Cruises did a good job of providing activities and its up to the passengers to take advantage of the offerings. I would do this cruise again and will sail with Princess again.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Embarkation: Arrived at the San Diego Pier at around 11AM - the Statendam had arrived that morning from a 28 day South Pacific itinerary so we didnt know if it would take any longer than usual to get the ship off loaded and ready to board ... Read More
Embarkation: Arrived at the San Diego Pier at around 11AM - the Statendam had arrived that morning from a 28 day South Pacific itinerary so we didnt know if it would take any longer than usual to get the ship off loaded and ready to board - happily we board at 11:30AM although our stateroom was not ready we were able to drop off our carry ons and go to the Mariners lunch. The beautiful and elegant Statendam: As we toured the ship (knowing she is one of the "older" ships in the fleet) we noticed how well maintained the ship was. Deck 8 contained the main throughfare of shops, casino, bars and all was clean, polished and very nicely decorated. Up on Lido Deck 11, the steel band was going, drinks were flowing and people were milling about exploring this very nice ship. The deck chair cushions were the only things that we really noticed needed some attention (we also knew the ship was headed to dry dock after our cruise so this may be moot now). Tasteful Holiday decorations around the ship, not over bearing or tacky. Our stateroom: We had a balcony stateroom on deck 9 aft - very roomy, lots of storage space. Again a few scraps on the wall here and there, but nicely maintained and CLEAN. Our stewards were awesome, I need extra pillows and they were brought up promptly upon the request. Throughout the cruise, our great cabin stewards remained so friendly, happy and quickly learned our "routine" so that they were in and out of our cabin when we were out to breakfast or dinner. The dining room: We had main seating on Deck 8 table requested for 2 and received! The dining room very nice and open although the tables seemed kind of close together and getting in and out of our chairs required some contorsions (our chairs would hit the backs of tables behind). Menus quite varied with special menus for the holidays. Food mostly very good and well presented somewhat lacking in spices but for the generic crowd, understandable so that most could enjoy. Our Waiter and his assistant worked flawlessly together, a great team and again very chatty with us and happy with big smiles always. They had time to come back after meals served to make sure we had everything we needed and ready to get anything desired - these guys were great. The itinerary: Puerto Vallarta was our first stop - got to stay all day with plenty of time to go into town on our own and enjoy this beautiful city. We had our first tour in Guatamala to the city of Antigua. When I pre-reserved this tour the departure time was 8:30AM from the ship. When we got on the ship, we noticed a time change in this port - ship arriving at 5:00AM! This made our tour departure time move to 5:30AM YIKES. We had to leave Guatamala at 2PM instead of the original 5PM time. We decided not to get out of bed so early and just enjoyed the port. We also couldnt dock next to the big shopping area at the port (the Celebrity Summit grabbed that spot) so we had to take some un-airconditioned school buses from the ship to shopping luckily only about a 10minute bumpy ride. We arrived Panama at 6PM and thought we'd take a tender out to explore the area. The tendor operation was very problematic and our tendor ticket number was called at about 8:45PM which wouldnt give us much time at all on shore so we skipped that too. Izapa Mayan ruins tour in Pt Quitzal was great. Huatalco very restful and lots of shops around the dock area. Panama canal transit was flawless and beautiful - perfect weather, great expert brought on board and very informative as we crossed through the canal. Last stop was Cartagena Columbia. With only a 5 hour layover we took a cab to "the dungeons" shopping area (we've been to this port before) and spend a good amount of time there. We also had some time to climb the dungeon walls to the top to view the beautiful beach line. 15 minute cab rides was $20 each way which seemed pricey for the distance. Thus one of my "less than perfect" comments on the survey was length of time and the actual times the ship was in port. I know alot of this depends on other ships and port schedules but I thought it was worth a comment. Code Red! About 2 days out of Puerto Vallarta a Noro-Virus outbreak on the ship causing a code red to be called. I dont know how many people were affected (luckily we stayed healthy) but the ship literally took action and we were back to being served food by crew at Lido. This meant no taco bar and serve yourself Pizza during this time. No silver wear on tables (had to get yours from a crew member) and a thorough cleaning of table-chairs after each table vacated. For Dinner, no rolls in a basket on your table, but served to you by your wait staff. No Hot Tub usage (and drained) and No Self Service Laundry during this code red period which lasted about 6 days. Code red was lifted on our last port stop so we had that afternoon and 2 sea days of "freedom" before the end of the cruise. Disembarkation: We chose Luggage Direct service so we were almost the first group off the ship -very smooth, Immigration line kind of long due to only a few officers on duty for us but we werent in a rush. Flight out of Miami at 4:30 with a $75 cab ride - Luggage Direct worked great set them out of cabin nite before and didnt see them again until we arrived our final destination (all for $20 a piece) Overall: The ship and crew awesome! The crew seemed happy to be there and to have us on board - very friendly all around. The future cruise team (Tina and Thom) were so friendly and knowledgeable. Many talks on ports and the history of Panama Canal were frequently going on. We've been on ships before that were going into a dry dock situation after our cruise and had some negative experiences with work starting before our cruise was over causing some areas to be inaccessible to us - This trip, the only prework I saw was some bubble wrapping of the back guardrails and deck (on deck 9) on the last afternoon of the cruise which made this common area inaccessible, no big deal. I would say this trip was a very restful one, calm seas, beautiful weather - the ship can only look better now than when we were on her since she went in for a beauty treatment as the Capt said right after our itinerary. Nice being on a smaller ship as the crew gets to know you better and you also get to know other guests better as you see them more often. We loved the ship, the crew and our overall experience on the beautiful and elegant Statendam. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Took my bride of 30 years on this New Year's Eve cruise on the Island Princess to celebrate her "special" landmark birthday on New Year's Eve. Considered other choices for a trip but this cruise offered everything we ... Read More
Took my bride of 30 years on this New Year's Eve cruise on the Island Princess to celebrate her "special" landmark birthday on New Year's Eve. Considered other choices for a trip but this cruise offered everything we wanted in one, neat, package. We wanted a mini suite with a balcony and we got one on the Dolphin deck, D707, in the aft section of the ship not far from the stern and rear bank of lifts. We departed Ft. Lauderdale in a timely fashion after a relatively simple check in at the port. Parked at Park n Go near the port who offered a very reasonable rate. Would recommend them. When we got on board we went directly to our cabin and to our surprise a few of our bags were already there and the rest followed promptly. Our mini suite was lovely. Plenty of room, a full couch that could sleep one or two people, a chair and coffee table, two televisions, refrigerator, make up table and chair. The bathroom was quite roomy and featured a full tub and shower combo, full sized vanity for our stuff and plenty of towels. The closet outside the bathroom was stocked with plenty of wooden hangers even though we brought our own. Probably unneccessary to have brought so many. We went to the Horizon buffet on deck 14 for a bite. The lifts near our stateroom were nearly always empty and always came within seconds. That was certainly unexpected but welcome. From the time we got on to the time we returned everyone, and I mean everyone, on the crew was so gracious and kind and welcoming. The food, overall, including the Horizon buffet was very good. One night we paid $25 pp to eat at their Italian restaurant, Sabbatini's, which was top of the line. I would definitely recommend that if you take this cruise eat there at least once. The shows were very good as well and the on board troupe put on four different stage shows all of which were very enjoyable. There were a few singing acts, a magician, a hypnotist, two comics and a crew night where some crew members strutted their talents. A cooking demo in the Universe lounge was very enjoyable and the tour of the galley immediately following was eye opening. I would rate the overall entertainment that was offered to be a B+ bordering on A. The shows were not too long, 45 minutes or so, but that was enough as our 7:45 PM seating at dinner allowed us time to get to the Provence dining room in plenty of time after showtime. We opted for traditional dining for dinner in the Provence dining room on Deck 6 but if you chose anytime dining you would be eating in an equally nice dining room on Deck 5 where you would eat your breakfasts and lunches if you desired or do the Horizon buffet if you chose. There were two formal nights on the 10 night cruise and many folks, most in fact, dressed very nicely. Of course there were a few who didn't but that was certainly in the minority. Our wait staff was most proficient as were the waiters that served you if you chose to eat in the Bordeux dining room for lunch or breakfast. The menus were identical and the food choices covered the full range anyone could ask for. We had lobster dishes a couple of nights, steak and prime rib on a couple of nights, and lots of fish, pasta and vegan dishes were offered. If you didn't like the food you were in the minority as well. The pool deck on deck 14 included two pool areas, one covered, one not. Both featured jacuzzis and were rarely crowded. There were ample deck chairs and lounges for all which was certainly welcome. The casino was so so. Some older machines mixed in with some newer slots but none of the really new slots land casinos offered. Overall we found the slots real tight. There were numerous table games, blackjack, three card poker, Let it Ride, craps and roulette. The cruise was a bit bumpy due to rough seas. As the Island Princess was a smaller, older, ship in the Princess line you felt the shudders from time to time as we crashed through the swells but nobody I saw got sick. Our stateroom in the aft section rocked and rolled a bit at night but we were in bed so who cared. The balcony got well used and the view was top notch. There were several laundromats throughout the ship that we used a few times even though we overpacked, so we thought. They were clean and well maintained. $2.00 for a wash and $2.00 for the dryer and they were good sized. They had bill changers, irons and ironing boards and a vending machine for detergent, bleach and softener if you wanted that. I would consider underpacking nezt time and doing a wash or two on board. The cruise offered a ton of things to do so if you didn't find something that interested you it would be your fault. There were lounges with music all the time and they were real good too....not your run of the mill calypso band that some cruises offer. The 3:30 PM tea in the Bordeaux dining room was excellent. Tea, scones, pastry and cookies galore. We did that twice but really should have done it more but took several land tours which kept us off the ship during the tea time. The island tours were numerous and they offered quite a variety. The price was generally within range as tours go and seemed to be well coordinated. The tip situation always sticks in my craw but it is a fact of life on board. Our mini suite called for a $12 pp gratuity or $240 for the both of us for the 10 night cruise. Our room steward, Benedik, was a doll and we gave him a generous tip on top of this as we did for our waiter, Michael, and junior waiter Victor. It was my wife's 75th birthday and they decorated our stateroom door with a lovely birthday sign and balloons which stayed up all cruise long. They presented her with a lovely Princess decorated cake and candle and sang happy birthday on New Year's Eve which she really appreciated. Our kids chipped in some birthday gifts like some on board credit, a champagne breakfast in our suite (worth every penny), chocolate dipped strawberries, two bottles of wine we used in the dining room, delicious canape tray. Oh my. We had room service a few times and they delivered right when they said they would. We usually gave the server a few bucks but that was not done by all who used the service. Overall we were very happy with the itinerary and ports of call which included Aruba (too short a stay there), Cartagena, Limon Costa Rica, Panama Canal and Grand Cayman. A lovely cruise, a super ship not overly large so you can get around easily without the mob scene on larger ships. Only about 2000 were on the Island Princess and it seemed like there were many less than that based on the uncrowded venues. I would recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to relax and have a great time. Not cheap, especially over New Year's Eve, so if you want to do the trip at some other time you will save mucho bucks and get the same thing. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
The beginning and end of the cruise was unacceptable. This was our third cruise and compared to the others there were some major differences. We embarked at noon in San Diego and had to wait 6 hours till our baggage arrived outside our ... Read More
The beginning and end of the cruise was unacceptable. This was our third cruise and compared to the others there were some major differences. We embarked at noon in San Diego and had to wait 6 hours till our baggage arrived outside our cabin. It was not just us, but all of the passengers suffered this ignonomy. Even though we came extra early so that we could get ready for the evening. It was especially difficult since our Sabbath starts at Sundown, and we had no clothes to wear that evening. The excuse given was "a computer glitch". There was not so much as "an excuse us" from anyone, not even the cruise director. At the end of the cruise, after we disembarked in Ft Lauderdale, we had to wait on the Pier for almost three hours to go thru disembarkation". Once we got to the Customs officer, we were waved thru immediately. We still cant understand the long delay in Ft Lauderdale. the excuse given there was "the computer is down". The rest of the cruise was very enjoyable. The crew was always helpful, happy and cheerful. We couldn't ask for more. The dining room staff went out of their way to accommodate us, even though we had special dietary requirements. Our Cabin was always clean, and the Captain's announcements very jovial. Everyone of the crew did their utmost to make our voyage smooth and calm. We did not take any of the Ships organized shore excursions, instead we opted to find our own tours which were as good and much less expensive. Mostly we went with a couple of other passengers in Vans and Taxis. Only once did we get "gypped" - in Cartagena Colombia. We had asked the "Tour Guide" FERNANDO TOURS to take us to the Palacio Inquisition. He promised to do so, but said we would get there at the end of the tour. We never did. Instead he took us to various shops where I am sure he got commission. Never mind, we did little shopping since we were waiting for The PALACIO. I suggest that you stay away from FERNANDO's TOUR in Cartagena, and hope that HOLLAND AMERICA takes away his port license and does not allow him to enter the port to scam others. Due to the inconveniences we experienced at the beginning and end of the trip, we will opt for other cruise lines in the future. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
After two cruises within the year on RCCL large ships which left us fatigued from all the activities we decided to take it down a notch with Celebrity. In terms of a entertainment we found it many steps downward but service and food were ... Read More
After two cruises within the year on RCCL large ships which left us fatigued from all the activities we decided to take it down a notch with Celebrity. In terms of a entertainment we found it many steps downward but service and food were definite steps upward. This was our fourth time on Celebrity having taken a 7 day cruise to Bermuda and two eleven day cruises previously. We chose Aquaclass instead of a suite due to only corner aft sky suites available at booking. While many love this location we do not share the affinity for the location. Our cabin 1523 located forward ship and under the gym and spa was perfect for us and one we wouldn't hesitate to book again. We found the cabin pretty narrow and storage a challenge but we made it work. However, the only benefits of Aquaclass I consider rave worthy are the shower and Blu dining room. Since we consume lots of water and told that bottled water would be provided daily in aqua cabins we skipped checking in our usually duffel bag full of Deer Park. The ship provided water but it was the reverse osmosis water served anywhere on the ship and rebottled in recycled brand name bottles which was disappointing. The dining room Blu isn't so much about the food as it is the size of the dining room--a more intimate atmosphere alleviating us the need to book a specialty restaurant. Our shipmates on the cruise were pretty mature with seemingly a high number requiring physical assistance or scooters. This cruise also had a high percentage of non U.S. residents that were engaging an quite friendly. Diners in Blu were also very friendly and we often engaged in conversation with the tables in close proximity. This made for the entertainment that was sorely missing on this cruise. I can only conclude that Celebrity directed monetary resources to the staff and services and not to entertainment. New Year's night was the most exciting with free champagne to toast even before midnight. Not to be missed on Equinox is the Molecular Bar where the bartenders are mixologists with drink prices of $12.00. We found the bartenders and staff at the Lawn Club great but I am convinced the alcohol is watered down-probably due to the drink packages available. Gym and equipment also get high marks. We tried our hand at the Casino out of sheer boredom and lost like most passengers reported. Overall ship service was absolutely great provided by a staff that appeared fairly relaxed and extremely courteous. Special shout outs to the staff of Blu and Celebrity's "Loyalty Ambassador." Weather in Dec-Jan was perfect and we made all the ports. In each of the ports we acquired tours from the locals with no major regrets. Cozumel- Been there done that so many times I wish it wasn't a stop. Hubby took advantage of this being the first cruise stop and went into "town" for a full body massage for $50.00 while I gem window shopped. Massage suite was air conditioned with only two massage tables/areas. It apparently IS the place to dump spouse to allow peaceful assessment of the stones. Costa Maya - Somehow we've missed this port on other cruises but we really enjoyed it. Recommend skipping the golf cart rental(60.00 for two hours) walk outside the gate and pay $2.00 each for a taxi to the beach area. Many beach cafes where a chair/umbrella and internet access is free with purchase of food/beverage. Beach great-bathrooms clean what else could you want? Many passengers stayed in the port area to swim with the dolphins and shop the vendors in the area-very Americanized. Costa Rica was also a great port and the place I considered the best for shopping on the entire cruise. Locals at the port "tent straw market" are not aggressive and are very courteous. This is the port for coffee, massages, manicures/pedicures (ladies take your favorite color) and other touristy items such as T-Shirts. Prices are considerable higher at other ports. In Colon, we were able to tour the Gatun locks, tour Colon the city, drive to Panama City visiting the old and new cities, and a stop for shopping on the way back to the ship. Negotiated cost was $150.00 for two. A highlight was that our tour guide drove us to two additional locks and across/back the two main huge canal bridges which gave us a great view of the canal in both directions. I recommend skipping the taxi "cartel" that will accost you in the terminal and instead find one of the "red polo shirts" tour guides at the bottom of the escalators. Initially we negotiated a tour to Miraflores Locks and Panama City with a taxi service paying the first $35.00 to the cartel with $115.00 to be paid to the driver upon completion. The cartel then will appoint a driver for you. However in our case the driver did not wanted more than $115.00 for his services. After arguing with the cartel and then telling us that he needed $5.00 more we terminated the arrangement, received our initial deposit back, and obtain the services of a "red shirt tour guide." Cartagena- $20.00 per person bus tour acquired from vendor. A mistake--other passengers will not respect the meet-up time and therefore some sites are skipped. Also the tour guide's main job is to get you into an assigned jewelry store to purchased oil dipped resin filled emeralds. Street vendors are really, really aggressive and are all selling the same made in China souvenirs. Picked up Columbian coffee and costume jewelry at cruise port. Internet Cafe available at port for $3.00/hr. Caymans - Had the privilege of tendering ashore to join the passengers from four other boats in port. I've always wondered why this is such a major cruise port. Bought $7.00/bottle beer at local cafe, taxi to Seven Mile Beach and back, and very amused at jeweler trying to convince me to purchase a "yellow diamond" without proper papers for 8 grand. I rewarded his efforts by buying a $25.00 rainbow topaz that I set in an empty setting. I spent days viewing the "yellow emeralds" better known as golden beryl onboard the ship--didn't purchase-but the salesperson offered to buy us champagne to think about it. She also visited us at the Molecular Bar to inform us we only had two hours left to make the purchase. Cruise recommended for those whose prime objective is relaxation and can self entertain. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We traveled on the Island Princess over the New Year's holiday, completing a "bucket list" item of seeing the Panama Canal. The Island Princess departed on Sunday, the 30th, along with five other cruise ships. Port ... Read More
We traveled on the Island Princess over the New Year's holiday, completing a "bucket list" item of seeing the Panama Canal. The Island Princess departed on Sunday, the 30th, along with five other cruise ships. Port Everglades was mobbed. We dropped our rental car off at the Avis located in the Port, and there were about 50 other customers waiting to board their shuttle bus that holds about 12 people. We found a cab, but with the traffic and security checks, it still took about 30 minutes to go about three miles. When we arrived at our terminal, it was a very crowded as we expected at 12:30, which was the initial boarding time. It took about an hour to go through check in and security and board the ship. HINT: If you do not want to stand in line, arrive at the ship after 2 PM for a 4 PM departure. There was no line in sight at that time. We were about an hour late departing the Port and it appeared that the five cruise ships in Port had the same departure time. Therefore, the "sail-away" party was concluded before we left the dock. Our itinerary called for two sea days before arriving in Aruba. The seas and wind were very rough. In fact, our cruise director, Richard Joseph, said it was the roughest he has seen it in two years. We were luckier than other passengers, and spared illness. Princess did a nice job with the New Year's Eve celebrations, which was a formal night. There were many choices...we experienced the Atrium and the Lido deck. The Atrium had a balloon drop and more classic entertainment. We stayed there until 11:30 and headed for the Lido deck, outdoor party. For just raining and being windy, there was a good, generally younger crowd. The cover band ICON was quite good throughout the cruise and DJ Mikey kept the crowd going. Streamers were handed out and thrown over string that was stretched over the upper deck. We danced until 1:30 AM, when the crowd started to retire. There was also a beautiful buffet on the Lido Deck. I will cover the ports and excursions separately in the port review section, but here is my overall observations of the cruise: PASSENGERS: On this cruise, it appeared the majority of passengers were over 65 years of age and retired. There are a lot of "slow walkers". Very few children on this cruise. The passengers are not as "well-heeled" as on Celebrity. Formal nights were most surprising. There were only a handful of men in tuxes or women in truly formal dresses. Most men were in sport coats and women in a casual dress. If you are looking for a more active or energetic cruise, this is not for you. We felt young at 56 and 58 years of age. FOOD: I don't expect much when feeding large groups, but the food quality was poor. We had anytime dining in the Bordeaux dining room. It did not matter...veal, chicken, beef...everything tasted the same. The only exception was the lobster. Don't bother with the NY strip steak, which everyone complained about at our table of ten. One fellow passenger equated the food with a high school cafeteria, and she was right. The Horizon Buffet suffered the same fate. The speciality restaurants were empty whenever we walked past them, and in ten days we did not talk to any fellow passengers who went to one. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to a few production shows which were good, the dancers much superior to the singers. "On the Bayou" had some fancy costumes. It was held in the Universal Theater and as a hint...arrive at least a half hour before show time. It's not as large as the Princess Theater and much of the seating is obstructed. "Piano Man" was also good in the Princess Theater. Hypnotist Kellie Karl was OK, but some of her subjects reacted so extremely, that you had to wonder if they were plants. "That 50's Night" was fun with a twist and hulahoop contest. Comedy Vocalist Diane Cousins was awful...we left; but believe it or not, not as awful as Billy Vader. I fell asleep after a few minutes. My husband said he lost track of his "jokes" and he kept repeating himself. We enjoyed the activities with the Cruise Director Staff: The Yes/No Gameshow, The Liar's Club, The International Crew Show, Peer Factor, and The Ultimate Deck Party. We also played some bingo and some difficult trivia. For the production shows...the 8 PM shows are the most crowded and you have to arrive early. SERVICE: The Cruise Director Staff was wonderful, mainly Mark and Toby. They are full of energy, and we were amazed how many hours of the day they are up and about. Our cabin steward was polite and had our room cleaned the minute we left for breakfast. However, this was our first cruise where I have to say the dining room staff was not up to par. Normally, the wait staff jokes and engage with the passengers. Yes, there were a few who did, but the majority were just doing their job, not enjoying their job. Not that I blame them as it has to be grueling. One item that disturbed us was the constant selling of products on the ship...even in the Horizon Buffet, there was selling of a Princess cookbook conducted table-to-table by a member of the wait staff. At every opportunity, Princess was trying to sell something. The spa was the worse in the selling of product. After a relaxing massage, you are then in for the hard sell. THE SHIP OVERALL: The Island Princess is in need an overhaul. It's getting tired and worn. While generally clean, it's a little shabby and neglected. The linens are getting thin, the windows were dirty, paint is sorely needed on the exterior of the ship, and a horrible sewer smell was present, especially in the aft areas of the ship. Also, there is a problem with the air conditioning on this ship. The entire cruise, we had the thermostat on the coolest setting possible, and the room was never really cool and humidity free. While the ship is in Alaska, the air may work, but not in hot and humid Panama. Princess excels at port lectures and Barb and Bill were wonderful. We attended every port lecture and they were very informative. They did a wonderful job talking about the Panama Canal while we were going thru it. DISEMBARKING: An unorganized mess. We opted for the self help off option. We had the first time in the group that met in the casino. The problem was that no one stayed in the casino awaiting the call to leave. The passengers hovered around the exit door, which resulted in the elevators and walkways being blocked. Hint to Princess...make everyone stay in the casino and not around the exit door. That way the elevators will not be blocked and people getting off the elevators can walk freely. It was a mess. We waited quite a while in customs, so don't scheudle your flight before 10:30 am. OTHER HINTS: Bring a power strip as there is only one outlet that is accessable. We purchased 36 hangers ($6.00 at Target) and they really helped us organize the cabin. Use the internet very early or very late. The service is very slow during busy times. At 75 cents a minute, you want to speed things up. Bring your own soap as the ship has cheap, small bad smelling bars. We purchased our cruise two weeks before sailing. We went thru cruisecompete.com. After registering, we had seven travel agents respond to our request with their pricing. We saved hundreds compared to the Princess website pricing. Booking at the last minute did not give us a choice in our cabin and we had to take an interior room, midship on level 10. However, it worked out fine on this cruise. We were rarely in the room, and with rough seas, being midship was a blessing. The port review section did not include a Panama Canal section, so here is my review of the Panama Canal: PANAMA CANAL: We did not take an excursion here, but stayed on the ship for the partial passage. We had sight of the Gatun Locks at about 5:30 AM from the Horizon Buffet. This area has windows that look out of the front of the ship. NOTE: We arrived here at 5 AM for front row seating at a table. If you arrive any later, you will not secure a seat by the window. We personally witnessed two arguments when people tried to cut in front of the folks who arrived early. We sat here versus outside as there is always a chance of rain...and sure enough, it did rain. We actually entered the lock about 6:30, as advertised the night before. The narration of the passage from Barb and Bill was wonderful. They explained everything that was going on...and there is quite a bit of action. The locks and the whole operation are truly a manmade miracle. We were in the lock system for an hour and a half. A reminder that if you do not take an excursion and remain on the ship, you will only complete one lock system in the Panama Canal. After exiting the Gatum Locks, you will anchor in Gatum Lock. (Those on excursions will travel by tender to shore for buses to their excursions. There is an excursion for $179 that provides a ferry boat to take you thru the entire Panama Canal. There are three locks systems total if you complete the entire canal. You then take an hour and a half bus ride from the outskirts of Panama City back to the ship.) We remained in Gatum Lake until 11 am and then did a return passage through the same Gatun Lock. We arrived in Colon about 3:30. We got off the ship here and there is a small shopping area called Colon 2000 as soon as you exit the ship. There is not much here...a restaurant, a casino where Spanish only is spoken, a Raddison Hotel, and few electronic stores, a dollar-like store, and a Subway. We were warned not to venture outside of this shopping area. We picked up all the passengers who were on excursions and left Colon at about 5 PM. About half the passengers took excursions...the other half remained on the ship. You will be amazed how many ships are anchored waiting for their time slot. There are 60 shops waiting for 40 slots a day. The cruise lines pay a hefty surcharge for definite times of passage. The Panama Canal was the reason we picked this particular cruise...it did not disappoint. This was our second Princess cruise...for the second time we chose Princess on their itinerary and ports. But for a cruise itself, we would choose Celebrity all day long. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Background Information My husband has had a Panama Canal transit on his "bucket list" for years, and when the opportunity came to take one during the holiday season (something I had wanted to experience), we signed up! We are ... Read More
Background Information My husband has had a Panama Canal transit on his "bucket list" for years, and when the opportunity came to take one during the holiday season (something I had wanted to experience), we signed up! We are both 60 years old, and have 16 cruises under our belts, including four with Celebrity (three of these on the Mercury). We were with a group booked by a discount travel agency out of the Seattle area. This was problematic because we were given our booking number and flight info only a few weeks before departure, meaning we were unable to book ship's tours until then (we worried that some might be sold out by the time we could book them). I also wanted to get discounted drink packages during the short internet sale Celebrity was having; we just barely made it. I booked the drink packages and two ship's tours online beforehand. Once we arrived at the ship, we found they had no record of these transactions, and we had to go through it all again in person (at a higher price for the drink packages, too). Flaky website? Memo to self: take screen shots or print receipts next time. Travel To Port of Embarkation Owing to my work schedule, we were unable to travel to the departure port a day or more beforehand, as we would have liked. Celebrity arranged the air for this travel-agency group. We took Shuttle Express from our Seattle home to the airport. Celebrity had us on an 11 PM flight from Seattle to Detroit, then another flight on to Fort Lauderdale leaving at what was 3 AM to us. This was HORRIBLE; it took us several days to get back to feeling normal, what with the lack of decent sleep that night and the three-hour time change. We thought ahead to bring along a small breakfast to eat in the Detroit airport, which garnered envious stares from gate-mates. Once we landed in Fort Lauderdale and claimed our luggage, there was an easy-to-spot Celebrity representative who took our transfer paperwork, handed us bus passes, and directed us to "hang out" until called. After being called, we all stood outside for some time -- a half-hour? - until the bus arrived. An agent on the bus gave excellent instructions on what to expect when we arrived at the cruise terminal. At the terminal, all the luggage was unloaded before the passengers were allowed to get off the bus and proceed into the terminal to check in. This particular terminal was very bare-bones. Once we wound our way to the front of the line, things moved along and we were finally able to board the ship! Stateroom Our veranda cabin was in fine shape (as was the rest of the ship). Biggest complaint was that our next-door-neighbor smoked on the veranda, a total no-no (not allowed in cabins or on verandas, or on the right-hand side of the ship for that matter). Perhaps he thought "no one would notice," but the odor was obvious, even with the veranda door closed. We probably should have mentioned this to someone, but oh well. Apart from that . . . it was all good. (I recall that the safe was on a shelf so high that I couldn't reach it without a chair, but my hubby took over that task for us.) We put up seasonal door decorations we had brought along (used poster putty) -- maybe every 10th door had some distinguishing decoration - and also brought a few Christmas decorations for inside our room (mini-lights, holiday fabric, small unbreakable ornaments). We found there were enough outlets (for a change); when flat-screen TVs were installed on the wall across from the bed, the outlets the old TVs had used (in a nook above the fridge) became available for passenger use. We were able to access wi-fi from our room. Our room steward, Benjo, was fine but not outstanding. Does anyone else wish the stewards didn't rearrange the bed pillows? Each night we had to go through all the pillows again to find which were the ones we had chosen as "favorites" previously. Guess I should mark them somehow. Being as there are no self-service laundry rooms on Celebrity, we learned to do hand laundry and where to hang it to dry, depending on if it was a sea or port day. There is a drying line in the shower, but we had our own clothesline and also put items subtlety on the veranda table and chairs, in ways they didn't show and could not blow off. Ship Info I was particularly interested to see how the ship decorated for Christmas. The atrium had (faux) swags and wreaths hung on the railings that circled the area. There was a lighted (and lightly-decorated) (faux) tree in each lounge and in the atrium. Public-area floral arrangements had a holiday look. The atrium stairways had numerous pots of (live) poinsettias flanking the steps, and other sets of stairs had a couple pots of them on the landings between the floors. Our cruise started on December 19 and the ship was decorated when we arrived, but the poinsettias weren't put out until after we were underway -- perhaps they had obtained them in Florida. In the atrium, there was a table with a model train that ran in the evenings. There were numerous tables with kit-based gingerbread house displays, usually but not always near dining venues. For a Christmas-lover such as myself, there was enough seasonal decoration to make me happy. On this ship, the officers were very visible and available. They were smiling and helpful. In fact, we'd not seen as much officer/passenger integration before on any ship. Dining We had "anytime dining" but always took the same table at the same time and often had the same folks at the tables near us. We like to dine early so we can get to the first show and then turn in for the night. There were a few other like-minded individuals who waited outside the dining room for the doors to open at 5:45 or 6. We always got a table for two (though there was less than a foot between our table and the next one - so not very private) without a wait. We had Djoni ("Johnny") for our waiter on the first night, and requested him after that. We are not picky eaters and always found something to suit on the dinner menu. Djoni would give us his recommendations, which were pretty spot-on. We ate dinner in the buffet a few times, along with most of our breakfasts and lunches -- there are so many choices there! Indian food was especially enjoyed. I did think they needed to ramp up the salad-bar area; they tended to run out of protein items and it was hard to reach everything. We were always able to find an empty table, and there were lots of tables for two. We tried the Aqua Spa Cafe for breakfast and lunch a few times, and found it to be a pleasant experience. Sometimes we took a meal from the buffet line to our veranda, when it was not too hot out (fortunately there are trays available). We tried the burger grill; I enjoyed the turkey burgers and my husband was a big fan of the Angus burgers. There is also a sandwich "shop" on the pool deck across from the burger grill, and that was a nice change of fare. One day there was a Mexican buffet served on the pool deck. Sometimes the wind was so strong that you could not really dine outside (out back or on the pool deck); your food would blow off your plate! A big favorite of my husband's was the ice-cream station in the buffet area . . . always smiling service, many flavors, delicious! We also liked the palm-leaf cookies, and the little pastries and sandwiches, at the Cova Cafe. We did not go to the extra-fee Murano restaurant, or try room service. There were two brunch buffets held in the dining room, on Christmas Day and New Year's Day (one had to be an eagle-eyed reader of the daily bulletin to know these were happening). They were sumptuous and ever so impressive, including (on Christmas) lighted ice carvings depicting Santa's sleigh and reindeer -- so large that each took up its own table. As usual, we gained weight in spite of always using the stairs instead of the elevators! Activities On a cruise, we generally prefer to relax in our cabin and on our veranda, rather than participate in activities, but that doesn't mean there weren't any . . . there were many, even on port days. We did attend a Cruise Critic get-together sponsored by the ship, on the first full day of the cruise. It was held in the Martini Bar with about 50 CC members in attendance. A number of ship's officers showed up for this event, including the captain. By pre-arrangement, there was a gift exchange with folks bringing wrapped gifts indicative of their home area -- when your number was drawn, you came up to select a gift and also introduced yourself. Some took advantage of this gathering to nail down info for privately-arranged shore excursions. The next day, Cruise Critic members had the chance to go on a bridge tour. Captain's Club members had a short list of special opportunities made available to them; we attended the Backstage Tour. For all passengers, there was a Galley and Restaurant tour, followed by a Food and Beverage Showcase. The latter was held in a large lounge and featured stations such as Meat & Poultry, Bakery, Napkin-Folding, Cotton-Candy making (with samples), Pastry, and Fruit & Vegetable carving (a real showman here). A couple activities we tried to attend, did not materialize. We did attend napkin-folding class, watch ice-carving on the pool deck, see a cooking demo called "Global Flavors" where a mushroom rice dish and crème brulee were prepared, and watch the "Star Chefs Cooking Show," at which two guests were paired with ship's personnel and given an Iron Chef-like opportunity to prepare a meal in very few minutes, which were judged by a panel of more from-the-audience guests. We also attended three "Ocean's Ahead" presentations by officers on the topics of: Onboard Recycling & Carbon Footprint, Secrets of Ship Navigation, and How the Ship Moves. All very interesting, even to this non-techie person. There were three "Beyond the Podium" enrichment speakers onboard, all of whom gave numerous talks. "Uncle Marty" Martin Harriman spoke and did Q&A sessions about Panama and the canal, and narrated our passage through the canal. What a font of knowledge, and such a fine ambassador for his country! We attended all but one of his talks. There were also Hal Tinberg (an enrichment speaker on forensics) and Dik Daso (curator of Modern Military Aircraft at the National Air & Space Museum). Possibly not considered activities, but there were several shopping events held onboard which we attended. One, on the day transiting the canal, was on the pool deck and featured Panama-specific items. Another day was "$10 Madness" at the boutique shop. Passengers received a Christmas card from the ship, as well as a gift. There were Catholic, and non-denominational Protestant, services available late on Christmas Eve, as well as on Christmas Day and on other days, too. The Protestant Christmas Eve service had about 100 in attendance, and included communion, plus singing of well-known hymns, expertly accompanied by the ship's show band pianist. We didn't participate in any late-night New Year's Eve activities, but reports are that a great time was had by many. Children's Clubs Being a holiday cruise with school out-of-session, one had to expect a quantity of children, and there were about 200 of them (on this 1800-passenger vessel) -- almost always well-behaved and out of sight, enjoying themselves. Santa arrived via the pool deck on Christmas Day, and led a parade of children to the atrium lobby, where each child was given a gift from the ship. (Santa was available on and off throughout the day for photo ops with passengers.) Entertainment We attended the early-evening show, all but one night: 19th: general welcome and a little bit of everything, including the aerialists 20th: Dance Around the World (production cast) -- formal night 21st: Greg Bonham (singing and trumpet) 22nd: Playing by Air (juggling) 23rd: (didn't attend; the daily bulletin says Steven Scott, comedian) 24th: Christmas show, very nicely decorated and performed (production cast, a capella group, aerialists, cruise director, orchestra, plus the children on board sang two songs). After this, there was caroling in the atrium, led by the officers but all could join in -- this was packed! 25th: Lelani Marrell (vocalist) -- formal night 26th: Joshua Seth (hypnotist) 27th: Liverpool Knights (production cast) 28th: Gossamer Magic (magician) 29th: Antonio Salci (pianist) 30th: double bill of Gossamer Magic and Lelani Marrell 31st: A Touch of Broadway (production cast) -- formal night 1st: Bruce Smirnoff (comedian) 2nd: double bill of Bruce Smirnoff and Antonio Salci Also on the 2nd, there were two interesting presentations: a so-so crew talent show and "crew walkdown" (started off by a cruise-ship-passenger flashmob doing "Thriller"), and an afternoon show at which the Cruise Director, John Grantham, discussed his former life as a Hollywood stuntman, complete with film clips. We also enjoyed the string trio, often catching them in the Cova Cafe. They played the occasional holiday tune, but mostly stuck to classical numbers. The show band was another favorite of ours -- fortunately, a number of the evening performers called them out and featured them. Port & Shore Excursions Briefly -- more in the Shore Excursions area. By the way, we never changed any money, but found the places that we went took US dollars, or a charge card. Cartagena, Colombia: private city tour with Dora. She was great! Colon, Panama (not discussed elsewhere): private tour of Gatun Locks and Panama City with Roberto of Robtad Tours. I would recommend Roberto without reservation. He had extensive knowledge, was easy to understand, was untiring in explaining how the Locks worked, and made sure we saw what we wanted to see. Five stars for Roberto! Puntarenas, Costa Rica: tour through ShoreExcursionsGroup.com/Greenways Tours - Puntarenas Highlights Puerto Quetzel, Guatemala: ship's tour -- Antigua - Self-Guided ("on your own") Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: ship's tour -- PV Walking Tour. We also went to Costco for a look-around! Cabo San Lucas, Mexico: tour through ShoreExcursionsGroup.com/Cabo Outfitters -- Kayak the Arch & Snorkel Lover's Beach Disembarkation This took longer to get going than anticipated. We were supposed to all be off the ship before 10 AM, but no. Apparently non-US citizens were supposed to exit first, but a few went into hiding and the rest of us had to wait until they were found and had cleared immigration. Out of 26 departure groups, we were assigned #22, so we had a two-hour wait in the large theater. They showed CNN during this time -- loud and obnoxious. Yo, Celebrity - how about a "highlights of your cruise" video instead, or something about other destinations Celebrity visits? Eventually, we were let off (with what appeared to be heartfelt "goodbyes" and "safe travels" from staff), found our bags (had a hard time fighting our way through the crowd to get to them) and joined a huge line to go through the formalities. Once through all that, we had bus transfers to the nearby San Diego airport (which transfers were never collected, but we did get bussed there). Our flight didn't leave for several more hours, so we hung out at the terminal and bought lunch and such. After our flight, Shuttle Express took us home from SeaTac Airport, and our lovely cruise was done. Back to work the next day . . . sigh . . . Summary The itinerary was excellent, the crew friendly and helpful, Christmas was done "just right." A trifecta, as far as this cruising couple was concerned! Thank you, Celebrity, for a wonderful holiday cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We flew directly from Anchorage on Thanksgiving Day, arriving San Diego shortly after 10AM. Celebrity staff at the airport were awesome and we were on our way to the boarding terminal around 11, after the last bus load of disembarking ... Read More
We flew directly from Anchorage on Thanksgiving Day, arriving San Diego shortly after 10AM. Celebrity staff at the airport were awesome and we were on our way to the boarding terminal around 11, after the last bus load of disembarking passengers was delivered. Embarkation went very smoothly and we were on board by noon, and in our room by 1:30. Cabin: This was a tiny flaw in our experience. The guys just never seemed to click as a team and even though we had 6PM dining, we came back to the room after 9PM a couple of times and they hadn't even begun. However when my wife was quarantined, the guys took good care of her. Meals: The Trellis dining room was adequate. Typical cruise food, generally tasty and well presented - nothing to get excited about. The Oceanview Cafe was perfect for breakfasts and the Grill at the back was a great spot for lunch paninis. Also, check out the eggs benedict station and waffle spot for breakfast. Don't try Oceanview for dinner - paltry offerings. The "sushi" was a joke and seemed to be less than freshly made. We had dinner at SS United States twice and Qsine once. We would do US again (a quiet and refined respite from the hurly-burley) but likely not Qsine - the food was outstanding at each place, but Qsine seemed a bit too cutesy and pleased with itself. They tout the iPad ordering, but it's really an electronic menu - the waitstaff take your order in the usual way with paper and pencil. We were invited to the Chef's Table and there are no words to adequately convey that experience. The only thing I would say is if you are offered the opportunity, by all means accept. Aqua Spa Cafe - this deserves special mention and kudos. Breakfast here on sea days was a delight and worth checking out. Many cereals, including oatmeal, along with all manner of fresh fruits. Very personal and available to all regardless of cabin class. Ports of call: Cabo San Lucas, Puerta Vallarta, Puerta Quetzal, Punt Arenas, Colon and Cartegena. Two excursions that stand out are the future canal tour out of Colon, Panama, and the chef's experience in Cartegena, Columbia. Puerta Quetzal is a made up port, sort of like Costa Maya, but probably the best organized as far as souvenirs at the end of the pier is concerned. Enrichment: There were two guest lecturers on board and both were outstanding. Victoria Baker is a retired anthropologist and shared a number of her experiences. Alex Filipenko is astronomer and gave several exciting lectures about the heavens and hosted a well-attended star-gazing evening at sea. Uncle Marty narrated the Canal transit and presented a number of lectures about the Panama Canal history and operation. Entertainment was excellent, especially Kuba. As the title states, a "gastro-intestinal" illness occurred on the ship - I don't think the term Noro-virus was actually uttered by ships personnel. About day 10 we noticed an increase in announcements about washing hands and entry to most dining venues required passage through a gauntlet of personnel squirting Purell or handing out Purell wipes, and even engine room guys were wiping down railings and elevator control panels. By day 13, the ship had gone to Red Alert and no one was allowed to handle anything (foodwise) unless it was handed to you by staff - even coffee was thus protected. My wife had her bout, beginning at 5 AM on day 13, and was released the evening before we docked. Crew: I have seen previous reviews of Infinity where folks have commented on the friendly staff. We concur. Without fail, every crew member we encountered looked us in the eye with appropriate greeting and all seemed genuinely pleased to see us - this applied from the lowest to the folks with the most gold braid. Disembarkation: As Diamond on RCI, we were Elite on Celebrity and were nicely ensconced in our departure lounge while disembarkation proceeded in an orderly fashion. Suddenly, at 9 AM, we were told the lounge was closing and discovered the rest of the passengers on board were all being shuffled off the ship. This put a huge load on the entry to the luggage area and Customs. We stood in line for nearly an hour as we inched our way to freedom. I suspect they wanted to do a deep clean of the ship and the only way to accomplish that was to get everyone off the ship quickly as possible. In summary, we had a great vacation and the Panama Canal is a magnificent marvel of engineering. Everyone should do it at least once in a lifetime. We want to go back on a Solstice class ship after the new locks become operational, just to see the difference. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
I can honestly say that this was one of, if not THE, best cruise that we have taken in about 20 years of cruising. For us, this cruise brought us many firsts, including our first out of LA/Long Beach, our first along the Mexican Riviera, ... Read More
I can honestly say that this was one of, if not THE, best cruise that we have taken in about 20 years of cruising. For us, this cruise brought us many firsts, including our first out of LA/Long Beach, our first along the Mexican Riviera, first through the Panama Canal, and first 14-day sailing. We have cruised The Carnival Paradise several times when it sailed out of Miami into the Caribbean and have always enjoyed this class of ship. As expected, we were amongst the minority on this sailing, that is to say that we are not yet retired and still "work-to-cruise". I can also say that we made some great friends on this sailing and hope to cruise with them again in the future (both through CCritic and people that we met on the ship). While the Carnival Paradise is an older ship and will be going into dry dock in early 2012, everything worked as expected, hot water was hot, cold air was cold, and everything was clean and neat for a ship of her age. What I would really like to point out are the officers, crew, and staff, of the ship. They were in one word amazing. From the officers to the maintenance workers, they all had smiles and seemed sincerely glad that we (and even they) were on the sailing. Maybe it was the change from 3 and 5 days party cruises to the 14-day canal transit or maybe it was that Carnival is going to great lengths to put customer service into everything that they say and do. I suspect that it might be a little of both. It did not matter if the crew members were assigned to our MDR table, our stateroom, or if we saw them daily, they all truly seemed to enjoy what they were doing and it showed in how they talked with us in the halls, on the lido, the bars, or anywhere. The Paradise is using the new Carnival MDR menus and the food was always hot and exactly as ordered; I like my beef rare (almost moo-ing) and that was never a problem. We had 6 (three couples) of us at a table for 8 and the wait staff were attentive and friendly throughout the sailing. One night we did the Chef's Table (as this ship has no private restaurant/steak house/etc) which I would highly recommend anyone who would like a fantastic 4-hour meal and discussion with the ship's head chef and several members of his staff, it was well worth the cost. The food in the lido was as expected and the lines were never a real problem for us, even during the busiest times of the day. Then again, we seldom let lines or such bother us when we cruise. On entertainment - we are very limited here given our enjoyment. We did the comedy club once or twice and it was great both nights. The selected comics were on target with their bits and the audience that they had that night. I can not say anything about the shows since this is just not something that we tend to watch. We are Piano Bar Flies and on this cruise - we closed the place down most nights - although often we and one or two other couples were the only ones there. I think that part of the issue here was the age of the cruisers, most nights by 12mid, the ship would be very quiet everywhere including the PB. We had a great time with the piano player who is a local from Florida and who we hope to see again - or a ship, in a band, or walking the beach in sandals. I know that there is much more that I should be writing and am sure that my wife would add a lot as well. If anyone has specific questions, they can find me on the cruise line boards and I'll be glad to offer more. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My wife, son (age 16) and I decided to take this cruise over the holidays, as none of us had ever seen the Panama Canal. Despite having been on 5 previous cruises as a family, this was the first time we'd cruised anywhere in the ... Read More
My wife, son (age 16) and I decided to take this cruise over the holidays, as none of us had ever seen the Panama Canal. Despite having been on 5 previous cruises as a family, this was the first time we'd cruised anywhere in the Americas. Also, the Island Princess, a so-called Panamax ship, was the smallest ship we'd ever been on, as we'd previously sailed on Royal Caribbean Radiance- and Freedom-class ships, the Golden Princess, and the Celebrity Constellation. So for us, it was a new region, a new time of year, and new class of ship. The ship. The Island Princess was in good shape, as it had apparently been in drydock for a refresh in the fall of 2010. The public spaces looked fine and were kept clean throughout the trip, and the exterior of the ship, aside from rust stains around the anchor ports, looked very good. We had a mini-suite (D712) near the back of the ship, and that turned out to be a good choice for both a stable ride and its fully-covered balcony. Other than the sofa bed (more on that later), the cabin was in excellent condition. Embarkation. We normally try to get on the ship as early as possible so we can wander around before the crowds arrive. This time, however, we couldn't do that, because the ship had picked up some refugees floating in the Caribbean on the way into Fort Lauderdale and docked several hours late. Despite this, we still got aboard about 1:00 p.m. Princess deserves considerable credit for its humanitarian operations, and was impressive in making up for the subsequent delay. Our bags were in our room by 2:30 p.m. -- the fastest they'd been delivered on any cruise we've taken. Cruise Days 1-2. The cruise started with two sea days, the second of which was fairly rough (15-foot seas). A fair number of passengers and crew got ill, and service times suffered a bit in the main dining room. We weren't affected much, because we had a smoother ride in the back of the ship. I heard a persistent rumor that the ship was having trouble with its stabilizers, but there was no official announcement. The rough seas resulted in the pools being closed, and I watched one spa empty most of its contents onto the deck after a swell. We'd opted for the anytime dining, and always requested to share a table. This worked very well, because we ate with different groups each night and met some very interesting people. I recommend that you still make reservations, though, as that guarantees you'll be seated quickly, and we always got served more quickly on the nights we had reservations. I don't know if the dining rooms operate this way intentionally, but that's how it worked out for us. My wife and I ate in Sabatini's on the first formal night, and I would say the dinner was worth the additional charge (plus, my son was freed to roam with his new buddies and spared one night of coat and tie). On this cruise, Princess also offered a pub lunch with live music in the other specialty dining room on sea days, and we found that to be very good. We probably only hit half the shows on this cruise, and I would characterize the talent level as OK. Our other dining mates were highly critical of the dance shows, but we didn't see any of those. Of the comedy acts I saw, I'd say they were passable, with the exception of one juggling act that seemed just weird. Aruba. This was a very short stop (4 ½ hours), so we didn't sign up for a tour. My wife and I settled for walking around the area around the port, which was unremarkable. In retrospect, we probably should have gotten a cab and gone to one of the nearby beaches, which the rest of the passengers found to be very impressive. Cartagena. Based in Cruise Critic reviews, we had hooked up with another couple and booked a tour via Lee Miles. Lee is an American who also runs a jewelry store in the city, and he arranges tours using a variety of guides. Our guide, Roberto, was very good, and we had the advantage of traveling in a much smaller group than the normal oversubscribed ship tours. Cartagena is a very interesting city with a lot to see, but the street sellers are pretty aggressive. Going in a small group with a local guide mitigates this problem quite a bit, and I'd recommend this approach. A significant number of passengers seemed frightened of Colombia and stayed on the ship, but I'm convinced Cartagena is fine for a day tourist. If you don't want to spend the $50-70 per person for a custom tour, you can just get a cab to the old part of the city and wander through there. Several of our dining companions did just that, and they were very positive about it. Panama Canal. I try to avoid ship tours for the most part, but ship tours were the only option if you wanted to get off and do anything. On this itinerary, the ship transited the Gatun Locks, parked in Gatun Lake, discharged passengers on tours via tenders, and then went right back out and docked at Colon. The ship did not "cruise" Gatun Lake as advertised, which resulted in minor grumbling from some of the passengers. Here's a tip for watching the lock transit: go to the back of the ship. It's uncrowded, you don't have to look through the plexiglass wind deflectors up front, and you get much closer to the lock doors opening and closing. On the Island Princess, you can go to any one of four decks on the back and get a great view of lock operations, and not battle the crowds on the front of the ship. We'd decided to book the expensive ship tour that put us on separate ferry that transited the entire canal. Once we got on the bus, we discovered that the bus's sound system had a problem and delivered mostly high-volume static (the fact that several speakers had been forcibly ripped out of the bus ceiling probably didn't help). This did not stop the guide, who never shut up during the entire 75-minute ride to the ferry dock. We could not understand a single thing this man said, and the entire ride was like running an industrial saw in a lumberyard. We ended up on a ferry with several hundred other people, which sounds bad but was actually comfortable. The ferry served a nice lunch during the transit, and we got to see the Miraflores Locks operate in a way that we couldn't see from the cruise ship. The ferry featured another commentator who never shut up, but at least he had speakers that worked. Nonetheless, there was no reason that he had to try to berate the passengers into singing "Feliz Navidad" with him as we docked in Panama City. Then, of course, we got back on the same bus with the same screwed-up sound system with the same guide who never shut up the entire bus ride back to Colon. I request that Princess tell this tour company to tone it down -- a lot -- particularly since the passengers have no other choices. Puerto Limon. Since this was Christmas Day, I was wondering what would be available. I ended up booking a tour (of sorts) with Okeydokey Tours to go to the Veragua Rainforest. I'm not sure I'd call this a tour, because the booking consisted of us getting into a small van with a friendly driver who dropped us off at the Veragua visitor center and drove us back when we were done. He was a good guy and I liked him, but he certainly wasn't any sort of tour guide. Veragua was OK, and the guide we had there was enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable (Okeydokey did not arrange this tour; Veragua is like a theme park where you buy your ticket at the door). But, it was over an hour's drive from the port on pretty nasty roads, and I suspect that going to the canals or whitewater rafting would have been a better choice. Perversely, we didn't see a single interesting bird in the entire rainforest, but got to watch two large green parrots fighting on a corner of a building next to the dock. It being Christmas Day, it wasn't worth walking in the town around the port, as it was very quiet. However, there was a big area for people selling various things right next to the dock, and the merchandise there was surprisingly interesting. My wife ended up getting a foot massage and pedicure for $15 from a lady in one of the stalls, and I suspect that was one of the best deals we got on the trip. Ocho Rios. Here, we used separate ship's tours, both of which went pretty well. My son and I went zip-lining, which was highly enjoyable, and my wife took an aerial tram over the rainforest. As opposed the the Panama Canal tours, the guides were unobtrusive and the number of passengers manageable. As we got back to the ship, we noticed a maintenance team welding up something under the ship, presumably the errant stabilizer. This gang looked like the sort of people you'd send to blow up an errant asteroid and save the earth -- buff skin divers, lots of high-speed equipment -- so it seemed that the rumor that the ship was having some mechanical problems was correct. To be fair to Princess, whatever the problem was probably didn't have a significant effect on the cruise, so I won't criticize them for not putting out an announcement. One problem the ship's complement did cure was taking care of a bad allergic reaction my son suffered when we got back on a Ocho Rios. He had run up against something ashore that caused a very severe rash, and so we got to use the ship's medical facilities. We are indebted to Dr. Deon Venter, the ship's doctor, and his assistant, Matt, for getting things under control and following up with my son multiple times prior to us disembarking. The Island Princess has a very good medical staff and facility, and the treatment my son got there was as good (and quicker) than what we would have gotten at home in the States. Disembarkation. This was quick and painless, as was the Princess-arranged bus transfer to the airport. Miscellaneous comments and summary. Due to my son's rash, I spent the last night of the trip on the sofa bed, which I discovered to be nastily uncomfortable. I guess 16-year-olds can sleep on anything, but 53-year-olds don't sleep well on crooked steel frames that telegraph through a thin mattress. Since returning, I have seen other complaints about this, and I can confirm that at least one sofa bed on the Island Princess is unacceptable as a bed. Nickel-and-diming continues on cruises (and everything else) and this trip was no exception. We were charged for orange juice served after 11:30 a.m. (and who thought up this policy?) and were constantly solicited for bottled water prior to disembarking at the ports. I defeated the latter by bringing my own water bottles, and we also avoided paying ship prices for laundry detergent by bringing aboard our own. However, exercise classes were reasonable at $10 a session, and my wife found the spa prices to be tolerable. Princess has installed something called "The Sanctuary" on the back of many of its ships, which is, as far as I can tell, a limited-entry sunbathing area that you have to pay extra to use. Maybe this is worth it to somebody, but my impression of The Sanctuary is that it is like lounging around in the fake-plant section of an arts-and-crafts store. Astroturf, plastic shrubbery -- what's all this about? Maybe some other reviewer can explain the attraction. The lectures Princess offered on the cruise were informative. One was given by the cruise director and covered the history of the cruise industry and current trends, and I thought it was very good. Another lecturer (a former State Department and World Bank employee) gave a series of lectures on the ports, and they were generally well-done. Otherwise, we liked the ship and the cruise. Princess has opted away from giant multistory public spaces, and various areas on the ship, while impressively decorated, retain a human scale and are comfortable. Despite the ship being at full capacity (2200 passengers), it never felt crowded. Our cabin steward, Alvin, was effective and unobtrusive, and likely would have done something about the sofa bed had I discovered it and mentioned to him. Every crew member that we encountered seemed very expert at their job. My last bit of advice is that if you take a Christmas cruise, try to bring something to give the people serving you on a holiday. I live near Washington, D.C., so I brought a set of White House Christmas ornaments to hand out to the cabin steward, Christmas day tour guides, etc. I don't pretend to think that this would make up for their being away from their families (and working), but I believe they appreciated the gesture. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We went on the Christmas Getaway sailing from Barbados. This was not a cheap option, but we chose it due to the excellent itinerary. The Thomson Dream is not as bad as I expected, but the holiday was let down by a number of factors, this ... Read More
We went on the Christmas Getaway sailing from Barbados. This was not a cheap option, but we chose it due to the excellent itinerary. The Thomson Dream is not as bad as I expected, but the holiday was let down by a number of factors, this was mainly the quality of the food, service and entertainment. The good points first, the ports of call were fantastic and we arrived on tome every day and were not diverted or abandoned any ports. The check in process was fairly smooth and efficient, although we were delayed so I think this may well be why we did not experience any delays in checking in. The cabin was of a good size and clean and comfortable. The bathroom was pleasant and toiletries provided. The breakfast in Sirens was always well presented and hot as was lunch and afternoon tea. The bad points, the entertainment was appalling, the main lounge had a group called French Melt, they were out of tune and the lead singer spoke broken English and sounded worse that a cat in agony. The Caribbean duo in the main lounge were good but sang exactly the same songs in the same order for 14 nights. In the Oceans Bar, the group were better but it was impossible to get a seat unless you missed meals and sat all night. The main show lounge did not live up to the normal Thomson standard, the shows were very boring and the performers appeared to be simply going through the motions. The guest acts were a joke, on a 2 week cruise they had 2 comedians, both as bad as each other. This was a disgrace on a special cruise. The food in the buffet restaurants was generally good, however, the selection available late at night was poor and the first week they served you everything and you felt a bit like Oliver Twist asking for some more. The main Orion restaurant was very poor in terms of quality of food and service. On New Years eve it took 30 minutes to get a drink, the staff were rude and unwilling to help. The food was very poorly described on the menus and often did not resemble the food you ordered. Steak was offered once in two weeks and it was more often pork or chicken, with a the over use of spinach. The size of the portions were what you would expect in an OAP home, not on a cruise ship, it was not like it was high quality food they were giving you! I find it very difficult to believe that Thomson's do not enforce rules on their cruise ships, for example, on other cruise lines, under 18's have to be out of the public areas by a certain time, on this ship children as young as 4 or 5 were casing chaos in public areas after midnight. On the days at sea it was a very boring experience, the day time activities were rubbish and every sun bed was reserved from the crack of dawn even if not used, no policy was apparent for resolving the reserving of sun beds, this must be looked at on a small ship with limited outside space. The cabin had very poor air conditioning, I reported this to reception on 3 occasions and nothing was done about it, eventually they admitted a problem and gave us a complimentary bottle of cheap wine! Watch your bill at the end of the cruise, they appeared to be giving people on board credit then taking it off in the second column of the bill, check it carefully before you leave the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I am a veteran cruiser, and as a family, my parents and I have spent the past few holidays on various cruises. They are 3 star Mariners with Holland America and just shy of four star status. This was my third - and favorite - Holland ... Read More
I am a veteran cruiser, and as a family, my parents and I have spent the past few holidays on various cruises. They are 3 star Mariners with Holland America and just shy of four star status. This was my third - and favorite - Holland America cruise thus far. Previously I've cruised with them aboard the Zuiderdam; this was their second cruise aboard the Statendam (but their first since its upgrade last year) and they have also cruised aboard the Volendam, the Veendam, Oosterdam and Westerdam. I found this cruise particularly enjoyable because of the ships size. There really is a difference between 1200 and 1900 passengers on a full ship. Embarkation in San Diego was a breeze, I never encountered a line or a sense of crowding - even on days at sea when looking for a deck chair by the pool. This is a bit of a contrast with previous cruises on the Zuiderdam. It is a very nice ship, but I truly appreciated the smaller size. With older parents, only two elevator shafts versus three, meant shorter walks across the ship. I LOVED the newer, up to date decor in the Crow's Nest ... a quiet retreat any time of day, except when a trivia game or such had been scheduled. Dennis, one of the attendants in the Crows Nest, was the best! By the first day out of San Diego, he knew our names, preferences, and treated us as though we were his only customers. As a designer (my land job!), I found the flow of the outdoor areas worked better with the aft pool on a separate deck from the midships pool. My dad's only complaint was the removal of the bar with stools at the aft pool - it has been replaced with a window where you can order drinks. I have always preferred small ship cruising, but found the Statendam to be the right mix of small with big ship amenities. It made for a very friendly ship. Our ports included Puerta Vallerta (we didn't take a tour, just a taxi to the boardwalk for some shopping and lunch overlooking the sea), Huatulco (took the ship's 5 Bay Catamaran Tour with a swim call at a beach - we felt it was priced appropriately at $49 - literature said cash bar, but all the drinks were complimentary); in Guatemala we took the shuttle up to Antigua - again, well worth the price. We didn't see a need to tour as I had been there before and we enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere of the colonial city by just walking around and having an AMAZING lunch on the roof of the El Serena Restaurant - I found it recommended in one of the guides in the ships library and it was the best recommendation of the trip! We had about 3.5 hours in Antigua - found about an hour of shopping, walking around the square, visiting the market and dodging hecklers to be enough - so to enter the oasis of El Serena, a very romantic mercantile home dating to the Spanish, with the best views of Antigua from its rooftop restaurant, to be a nice retreat. In Corinto, Nicaragua we walked into the town, which is just outside the gates of the pier. If you are not on a tour, there isn't much reason to leave the ship. This was the only disappointing port. We had four days in a row in various ports and a break would have been better! Costa Rica, of course, is a highlight. I have a friend whose brother is a guide and he picked us up at the dock and we had a wonderful day going off the beaten path. We had all been there on several previous trips and our only requests were to see some wildlife and have lunch at a nice restaurant with a nice view - all of which were accommodated. The highlight for many is the passage through the Panama Canal - it IS an amazing feat, but as I have been through 9-10 times previously, I used it more like a day "at sea" --- Our final port was Cartagena which was new for all of us. There is a new service provided by the port - they run big catamaran shuttles from the ship dock to the old town. It is $5 and good all day (so, basically, roundtrip per person $5 and you get to enter the Old City by boat). On the dock, just as you are about the pass the exit gates, there are a couple of shops, internet cafe and a dock - you buy the boat passes in the shop and the shuttles run every 1/2 hour in each direction. Be warned - if there are waves, it is possible you might get some heavy spray if you sit in the front! HAL charges $49 pp for their horse carriage tours through the old town. The three of us bought the $5 shuttle passes and then found a carriage and driver who took us on the same hour long tour for $40... total (ie - not per person). We may have been slightly lucky because a tour representative at first told the driver he couldn't take us because he was reserved for the ships and they weren't "allowed" to take independent travelers because the cruise lines contract all of the horses and carriages ... not sure if that is true, but we didn't see ANY other empty carriages while we were touring or walking through town. Nonetheless, as soon as she walked away and we said we were on a cruise, he loaded us up - we asked how much and he said $40. As the hour drew to a close we started thinking it would be $40 per person but it wasn't - it was $40 total, so we tipped him generously. This particular cruise wasn't so much about the ports for us - we were just looking for a relaxing boat ride over the holidays and that was exactly what we found. We are not big into shows and entertainment, but found the trivia contests fun and enjoyed participating in the daily quizzes posted in the library. The library, by the way, was one of the best I've seen at sea - it was a relaxing meeting place and heavily used for research, puzzles (at least two big tables always had 3-4 jigsaws going at a time), internet and just reading while watching the changing scenery out the big windows. We alternated between the Canelleto Restaurant on the Lido Deck for dinner and the ship's dining room with one night in the restaurant where you pay an additional charge (the name escapes me as I write). We found tables nearer the entry to the dining room seemed to have better/more consistent service than those further from the kitchen/near the aft. Probably just our luck of the draw and we enjoyed all of our meals. I also appreciated that the buffet on the Lido had hours - it wasn't open 24 hours a day as on some ships. It would actually close up - prepare for the next meal and then re-open. I found it kept me from "grazing" if I happened to be passing through between meals! Much appreciated! All in all a wonderful trip...our ONLY dissatisfaction was treatment with HAL Air/Sea arrangements - we paid extra for a non-stop flight from SFO to San Diego and were booked for about 6 months on a non-stop United flight. About 6 weeks prior, they said they would not honor that flight due to a contract change and re-booked us on a flight leaving at 6 AM from SFO with a FOUR HOUR layover in LA, waiting for a connecting flight to San Diego. Absolutely not! We were refunded the deviation fee in the form of an on board credit, but that was it. We ended up cancelling, losing the fare and rebooking the EXACT SAME United flight, non-stop out of SFO on our own since it was still relatively cheap. We NEVER use cruise line air arrangements but in this case we had a wedding in SFO the night before and could not fly to San Diego until the morning of embarkation (usually we arrive a day early and spend the night) so in this case we wanted HAL to be responsible if we had problems with our flights the days before Christmas and it backfired. Fortunately we ended up flying independently with no problems, so the gamble paid off but we would have saved about $400 had we started off taking the gamble and never involving HAL in the first place. I would highly recommend the Statendam and its stellar crew to anyone looking for a relaxing holiday, and this itinerary for anyone looking for a nice combination of time at sea and visiting interesting ports. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We arrived at the port around 1:00 and waited only a couple of minutes to board. Our room was ready so we went directly to it to put some things in the safe. We had a huge inside cabin on Main deck. We rarely cruise in balcony cabins ... Read More
We arrived at the port around 1:00 and waited only a couple of minutes to board. Our room was ready so we went directly to it to put some things in the safe. We had a huge inside cabin on Main deck. We rarely cruise in balcony cabins anymore since we never use the balcony and find that we sleep better in an inside. After reading some of the reviews we were concerned that the ship would be in poor shape. Well, either we aren't that fussy or some of the others have impossibly high standards. We did notice some of the carpet was worn on the stairs leading to the dining room (my suggestion is to take the elevator to avoid the stairs if that will ruin your cruise) but other than that the ship looked great including the pool area. All the hot tubs were open every day. We have never seen so much cleaning going on -- the ship was spotless. We enjoyed our sea days. We did not have a problem finding lounges or a table and chairs. One thing we did notice is that a lot of passengers leave their towels on the chairs even if they aren't coming back. The pool attendants tried to keep up with this. There are a lot of events happening every day. I attended several digital camera workshops and learned some new things. The teacher was a young woman named Molly. She did an excellent job explaining and demonstrating how to organize and edit our photos. I now know how to remove wrinkles making everyone in my photos look wrinkle free! The food was above average. We ate breakfast and lunch in Lido and had anytime seating in the MDR for dinner. I am a picky eater and I could find something that I liked on the menu each night in the MDR. The service was excellent in both the Lido and the MDR. Someone on the staff was always willing to assist you. Ice cream was available all day and into the evening. The staff was very friendly. It seemed that every staff member we saw smiled and said hello. We did have to go to the front desk for an issue with our TV. They resolved it promptly and sent a plate of chocolate strawberries to make up for the issue (totally unnecessary but the strawberries were delicious). Every time we passed the desk (which was at least once a day since we were on Main deck) they greeted us by name. The officers including the captain were out and about on deck. The hotel manager spoke to us several times during the cruise making sure we were enjoying ourselves. The cruise director, Jason, was outstanding. Probably the most visible cruise director we have ever had on a cruise. His staff is young and energetic. We even managed to fit in a movie in the screening room -- they have really comfortable seating. We really enjoyed the entertainment. There were several production shows, a magician, Marty Brill, a comedian who did one of the funniest routines we had ever heard about someone learning English, and another comedian. We also had the pleasure of watching Island Magic, the steel drum band, perform a few times and listening to guitarist, Stephanie Johnson several evenings in the Crow's Nest. We have been on HAL before for New Year's Eve and love it. There were numerous places you could celebrate but we chose to be in the main lounge. It was crowded but fun with a good mix of music, a countdown to New Year's and the balloon drop. We had a little rain on the first day when we visited Half Moon Cay. But, we didn't let it interfere with our having a good time. We were off the ship early and we able to find a shaded area under a thatched roof near the lifeguard stand. We walked around, swam and enjoyed the barbeque. We didn't do much in Curacao. It isn't our favorite port. We did get off the ship and look at some of the shops but that was it. It was the day before New Year's Eve and many people were setting off firecrackers -- lots of noise. Later in the evening prior to our leaving we were able to see a lot of very pretty fireworks from the ship's decks. In Bonaire, we took the water taxi to Klein. We walked down to the pier and booked with a vendor rather than booking with the ship. It cost $15 round trip. Our cousins, at our suggestion, booked with Woodwind (we have gone with them twice previously). They were amazed at how great the snorkeling was. The snorkeling on the side of Klein where the water taxi drops you off is not as good as where you go with Woodwind. But, it was a great beach day and we enjoyed it and would do it again. Going through the Panama Canal was very interesting. We took most people's advice and got up early to be on deck when we entered the canal. We were glad we did. It was beautiful and very interesting. It was very crowded on the bow so we went up one deck and watched from there. Then, later, when most people had lost interest we went down the bow. Don't miss the special rolls and coffee that they serve when entering the canal. We got off the ship when it docked in Colon. We followed the ship's advice and stayed in the port area. There are a few shops including a very good market where we bought some local beer and candy. Lots of people were buying wine to bring on the ship. It seemed as if the entire crew was in the market buying personal food supplies. In Costa Rica, my husband and his cousin went zip lining. They booked through the ship -- the 3 hour tour. My husband had been before and said that this zip line was much better than the one he had gone on previously. When he returned we walked around town. There is a little market right by the port and if you go out onto the street there are many shops. It is very laid back and we enjoyed walking around looking at the old architecture. We found a supermarket a couple of blocks from the ship and bought coffee there. They had the same brands they were selling at the market at the pier but much cheaper. We really had a great cruise and are already booked on the Noordam for next New Year's Eve. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Statendam Review: Christmas and New Years Holiday Sailing San Diego to Ft Lauderdale via Panama 14 days Embarkation went exceptionally well - we stayed the night before at the Holdiay Inn By the Bay which is directly across the street ... Read More
Statendam Review: Christmas and New Years Holiday Sailing San Diego to Ft Lauderdale via Panama 14 days Embarkation went exceptionally well - we stayed the night before at the Holdiay Inn By the Bay which is directly across the street from the cruise ship terminal. Walked over to the terminal at around 10:45 had bags checked, through security and checked in by 11:15 - Boarding commenced at 11:30. Once onboard we found our cabin then began the first day exploration of the ship, public areas, spa, lido deck etc. We knew the Statemdam was an older ship but to us you couldnt tell - The public areas are so nicely (and uniquely) decorated with great color schemes - the furniture looks great with very little wear and tear noticed anywhere on board. What impressed me throughout the cruise was how each section of the ship had its own "flaire," unique to itself somewhat like moving from one room in a home to another with different style, decoration and color scheme. There was always a crew member cleaning railings, windows, carpets somewhere on the ship as we walked around on board. We had a verandah cabin which had a queen size bed, chocolate leather-like sofa, a nice large sofa table (which as movable unlike some on other lines), a nice desk area with plentiful storage (3 rows drawers at the desk). Our bags slid easily underneath the bed. The bathroom had a single sink, tub and shower. There a 4 closets for hanging and additional storage (safe inside one closet). We did have trouble navigating in the hallway of the closets as the both of us could not be in a closet at the same time moving around each other in this space proved difficult. We had early seating for dinner in the MDR table for 2 requested and received! Dinner service went smoothly, gracious and hard working staff - The food was well prepared and always came out piping hot! It did seem the dinner staff had too many table to attend to as sometimes there was a longer wait in between courses but the MDR is beautiful. We had a string quartet play for the first 30 mins of dinner, but then they left to be somewhere else - it would have been nice to have that live music continue through dinner. Our cabin stewards were great - once they got a feel for our "routine" and knew when we would be out of the room - they did everything they could to keep the room done while we were gone. They cleaned the room in the morning and then again during dinner. The cruise itinerary was for the most part great, stopping in Nicauragua wasnt so special and I understand the Statendam only stops there a few times a year unfortunately we got tagged for this one. This country is probably in the worst shape economically that we saw throughout. Costa Rica, Guatamala, even Cartegena seems more together with the housing situation (just my observations). Going through the Panama Canal (one a beautiful sunny day) was memorable. HAL also provided many very knowledgeable speakers on board to help us learn about Mayan culture, the Panama Canal itself and Jade - these speakers were great. The Cruise Director and Captain of the ship we the most entertaining and personable team we have ever enjoyed on any sailing on any cruiseline! We normally dont normally interact with the CD but it was almost impossible this cruise - he was everywhere! Fun and entertaining. This was his last cruise before moving on the Maasdam. The Captain was also ever present physically and speaking daily as to where we were, what was coming up, etc. My wife and I were having our picture taken on the first formal night and the Captain happened to be walking by and the photographer said "join in the picture Capt!" .... and he did! It was very obvious the crew got along well and we saw this all over the ship. Debarkation smooth and basically on time - we did the "luggage direct" service - for $19 each, you leave your bags outside your room night before and you dont see them again until your final destination. I was a bit worried about this wondering if our bags would in fact make it (out of my control) - All ended well in San Francisco as our bags appeared almost right away. Negatives: Our cabin was the last veranda towards the back of the ship (with a great balcony) and directly under the Lido deck aft pool and directly above the MDR. The door going to the aft portion of the ship was right outside our cabin. The hinge on that door is broken so it doesnt slow the door from coming back into place so everytime sometime came in or went out, a horrific SLAM would rattle through our cabin - luckily this area only had people in it during daytime hours. Also early morning around 5AM the crew would hose down and line up all the deck chairs so we heard that noise every morning. The only time we heard anything from the MDR was on the last evening at late dinner seating when the crew puts on the extravaganza with everyone singing and music - this only lasted about 5 mins, and we heard nothing else the entire cruise from the MDR. Regarding Luggage Direct, one of the "perks" was that we got "priority disembarkation" being the first group off the ship since we didnt have to claim our bags we went right to the buses to the airport. The bad news was there was only one bus going to Miami Airport so we had to wait on the bus for everyone to get off the ship that had transfers to Miami (so much for the priority disembarkation - we could have stayed on the ship longer had a good breakfast etc.) but this situation isnt forseeable just unfortunate! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was our first HAL cruise. Previously we have cruised on 4 times on Celebrity and once on NCL. We chose it for the itinerary -- Panama Canal -- and we wanted to be away for New Years. We had also heard good things about HAL from others ... Read More
This was our first HAL cruise. Previously we have cruised on 4 times on Celebrity and once on NCL. We chose it for the itinerary -- Panama Canal -- and we wanted to be away for New Years. We had also heard good things about HAL from others who had cruised on the line. We flew in the day before and stayed at the Marriot Courtyard in Dania Beach since they had an airport shuttle and a cruise shuttle the next day included in their room rates. The hotel was fine, and there was a seafood restaurant in easy walking distance for dinner. We got to the port at around 1 PM and were in our stateroom in maybe half an hour. Boarding was easy and efficient. Our stateroom was clean and the crew everywhere was cheerful and helpful. We had a VA balcony cabin on deck 8 towards the front of the ship with amazing views. We were extremely happy with it as we had booked a balcony guarantee cabin. There have been some negative comments on the condition of the ship -- ignore them. There was always some maintenance, cleaning, painting, and whatever going on. Yes, there were some dings and dents in the walls at spots, and maybe the carpet was worn in a couple of extremely high traffic areas. If that is what ruins your vacation, then stay home. The food was good, generally well-prepared, and the variety made sure everyone in our party had something they liked. I would like to commend the restaurant staff for handling food allergies well. One person in our party has a serious allergy -- she received the next day's menu everyday at dinner. She could order whatever she wanted and they would prepare her dinner separately to make sure nothing on the plate would cause her distress. We frequently travel together, and we were very happy not to worry about her finding something she could eat. We never got to the Pinnacle Grill because there was always something on the next day's menu that we wanted! You can also get the specialty coffees at no extra charge in the Dining Room with your dinner. There is a charge for them when you order them at the Crows Nest coffee bar. The Lido buffet was the low point in the food service. It was more cafeteria-style than buffet and at times the lines were long because there was no way to just grab one thing from a station without going through then entire section because someone had to serve most of it. There were many items that should have been cafeteria-style that were not. The Philippine-style buffet on the last sea day was very good, but the line was terrible because the last item on the line was cooking too slowly and held up everything else. Overall, the food was good but we often chose lunch by what had the shortest lines. On the itinerary: we wanted to see the Panama Canal and everything else was additional. We took the excursion on the ferry that takes you through all of the locks to Pacific. DO NOT MISS THIS. Yes, it was very hot, and the excursion was expensive -- but isn't this why you took this particular cruise? Half Moon Cay was a pleasant beach stop. I would have liked to have gotten to Curacao earlier. Most museums closed early since it seems that the day before New Years eve is a holiday so most of what we wanted to see wasn't open. There were 100,000 firecrackers going off in the streets in the afternoon -- we know this number because we happened upon the shipping container in one of the squares! We also stumbled on a beer and drum band street party that was fun. The Postal museum is listed on line as a point to see because of the age of the building. They are wrong, the age of the building is significant, but the man running the place is really worth the trip! He was closing when we found the place but let us in because we were really interested. Between his limited English and our total lack of Dutch we found out about history, renovating classic buildings, and traveling the world looking for funky stamps. Bonaire is snorkel heaven -- need I say more? Costa Rica was more interesting than I expected. We hired a local tour guide off the ship who was a fabulous ambassador for his country. I could see going there for vacation. We went to a beach, took a ride through the canals seeing birds, sloths, a very cool red and yellow crab, and other local fauna, saw a banana plantation, and ate some of the best pineapple I have ever had. New Years Eve countdown in the Vista Lounge was fun and lively. But there was not too much going on after around 1:30 AM. The entertainment was typical. I rarely care for the shows on cruise ships. I personally am partial to a bar with some good live music. The solo guitarist was good and the house pop band HALcats (very cute) were fun to listen to. I also liked the Steel drum band. My biggest complaint is that there was very little to do after 11 PM. There was just the casino and Northern lights which is a small DJ bar. It was just too close and hot most of the time. Maybe they could keep one lounge open later. We were at last call for one of the lounges every night. We knew this would be an early ship ahead of time, but it was still a surprise when we would get to a lounge after main dinner seating (around 9:30 -- 10:00), sit down listen to some music and chat a bit, and by the time we are ready for maybe a second drink, the bar is closing up. I know some people have had some problem with the front desk, but we never saw it. My key card suddenly stopped working after a few days and we had a question about our bill and both instances were handled quickly and cheerfully. The biggest problems we saw was that one elevator was always out of service -- they never seemed to have every elevator on the ship working. Some of the public rest rooms were taken in and out of service for short periods of time. Overall, we really enjoyed the cruise. We would definitely take another HAL cruise, and would also return to Zuiderdam.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2011

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