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248 Transpacific Repositioning Cruise Reviews

We took this cruise as a gentle way to go home to Canada from Japan. (We had done an around Japan cruise with Windstar beforehand) It was very enjoyable, food great, staff lovely, entertainment good. There were alot of sea days ... Read More
We took this cruise as a gentle way to go home to Canada from Japan. (We had done an around Japan cruise with Windstar beforehand) It was very enjoyable, food great, staff lovely, entertainment good. There were alot of sea days together but we got a routine of trivias, podium talks, hot tubs and eating in the day as the weather was too cold to be out on deck much or in the swimming pool. The speakers were entertaining, one gave talks on major trials. Another did Buddhism history and meditation and a third did varied talks from Rasputin to dog behaviour. The afternoon progressive trivia was fun if you had got a team together. It wasnt too rough so seasickness wasnt an issue either. We did have to change our clocks forward about 6 separate times to be on Vancouver time by arrival butbetter than getting full jetlag. So repositioing was worth doing, although the stop in Russia was a waste of time except to stretch your legs! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
While the overall cruise was very enjoyable, since we were with friends, we have for the first time, being Elite members, have found some issues with the food and/or the prep. This was the first time we sailed in Aqua Class, and while ... Read More
While the overall cruise was very enjoyable, since we were with friends, we have for the first time, being Elite members, have found some issues with the food and/or the prep. This was the first time we sailed in Aqua Class, and while the smaller dining room is nice & Blu, gave us access to two menus (Blu and Main), we do not feel the extra cost of Aqua class was merited. There were some instances where the entrees lacked flavor and were overcooked. One of our travelling companions made the remark that the crepe suzettes dessert tasted like "hockey pucks." Early on, we expressed our disappointment to Guest Relations. Subsequently the Head Chef came to our table and explained that the food comes frozen from the US. and that may alter the freshness factor and taste. Having been on numerous Celebrity cruises, Europe, Caribbean and the TransAtlantic, this was quite a unique explanation. On a positive note, service in Blu was excellent and the wait staff were always willing to exchange any food that was not to your liking. The Blu hostess was also extremely accommodating. As on all our Celebrity cruises the cabin attendant "Z" kept our room in excellent shape. Also we had fun with the Celebrity Life staff, particularly with Jaz and Tim. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We tend to prefer longer cruises with sea days. Celebrity almost always has excellent speakers and this cruise was no exception. We tried to catch all the talks. This is our second cruise in Aqua. The ammenities make the trip so much ... Read More
We tend to prefer longer cruises with sea days. Celebrity almost always has excellent speakers and this cruise was no exception. We tried to catch all the talks. This is our second cruise in Aqua. The ammenities make the trip so much more enjoyable so thats what we look for now. Our cabin, an A1 was a long way from the spa and because of the weather we didn't use it. The room was very well done and the bed was very comfortable. By the time we finished breakfast our room was usually finished. Very clean.did n The buffett was usually crowded but never so much that we couldn't find a place to sit. I noticed, and reported, when a guest came back and dumped his leftover food back into the container. After that I only ate what was served. No more self serve. I feel that they should have someone at all the stations. I have no desire to eat a strangers leftovers. The lounge music venues were very nice. The service in Blu as always was excellent. Daniell and Jet, our waiters, Yudie(sp) the Maitre d' and the wonderful hostess were were so friendly and professional. Overall the shows we great with one notable exception. The music was so loud it overpowered the singers and the guest piano player. It was also.was damaging to our ears. Some of the performances we had to leave because of the music. I don't know why the music director thinks that louder is better. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We have completed 13 Regent cruises (with 222 nights), and was surprised with a poor review on Cruise Critic from one couple. We were on that same Regent Mariner cruise and had none of the 'problems' described--we adapted ... Read More
We have completed 13 Regent cruises (with 222 nights), and was surprised with a poor review on Cruise Critic from one couple. We were on that same Regent Mariner cruise and had none of the 'problems' described--we adapted to changes that we could not control. Both Regent and we could not control the weather. First--If they did not like their multi-hour air-schedule, it can be changed. We were scheduled on an overnight flight from Vancouver to NYC but we changed it to an early afternoon flight that got us home. Regent’s initial late-day flight selection gave guests the opportunity to take a tour of Vancouver! Ask, and Regent changes the air flights--yes it cost a little money, but we are Platinum level, and one flight schedule change was allowed. Second—This was a relocation cruise--we expected multiple days at sea. We were scheduled to have 5-days-at-sea, and we had 6-days-at-sea, when we bypassed the Russian port. There were wonderful lectures by Hugh Neighbour and Karen Dodd. There were extra social events added to entertain the guests. If you were bored, that was your fault. Third--YES, we skipped the Russian port. Their comment that “ALL OF THE GUESTS WERE UPSET” is very unfair and UNTRUE. There were 50-knot winds over the deck--added to the forward speed of the Mariner, it gives a 75mph deck wind. The decks were closed for outside walking. My wife and I exercised by walking the interior walkways on various decks. There were 23 feet swells. We had very wet and salt encrusted balcony windows, which were cleaned at the next port. I enclosed two photos of the TV screen in our suite showing these numbers. The Mariner has stabilizers, I knew of no one who was sick from mal de mer. The captain/master changed the direction (and avoided the worst of the storm). I saw him at the Coffee Connection, and thanked him, for consideration of the safety of the guests. After his direction changes, we then had MUCH weaker winds, and less than six feet swell. [I BELIEVE that the Mariner was originally scheduled to use their tenders to transport the guests to and from shore at the Russian port. With a pitching sea, it could be a human disaster! On two previous Regent cruises (Amalfi coast, Italy and Galle, Sri Lanka), the Captain declared that the sea was too rough to have guests enter the tenders and we skipped the port!] Fourth--We had great weather on all Alaskan ports; but it rained at Ketchikan, as usual. We did not see the Hubbard Glacier because there was very dense fog. Many guests, including me, stood on the top deck and got wet from the weather. Regent did supply snacks and hot coffee for those awaiting a breeze to dissipate the fog. After about an hour of only seeing sea-ice, the Mariner left Yakutat Bay. The weather then was fine, at distance of about 10-miles where some wind, and a change in air-temperature resulted in no fog and a blue-sky. When the ship was docked in any Alaska port, we often sat outside in the sun on the pool deck for lunch and enjoyed the snow covered mountains, numerous playful otters, eagles, (once saw some orcas playing by our ship), and had another great meal. I know of no one who used the pool, but the hot tubs were used by some. I really cannot understand such a negative review--but it was from one couple. We have three more Regent cruises booked, and look forward to the ship, food, staff, and meeting other well-traveled guests. It is a pleasure to be take care of by Regent. I would highly recommend cruising with Regent for those people who enjoy “joie de vie”. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This was our 33rd cruise and our fifth time on HAL. We chose this itinerary as a means to return to North America after a long adventure in Australia. First the things we liked: The BB King All Star Band was terrific every time they ... Read More
This was our 33rd cruise and our fifth time on HAL. We chose this itinerary as a means to return to North America after a long adventure in Australia. First the things we liked: The BB King All Star Band was terrific every time they performed, playing excellent cover versions of classic pop, soul and funk songs The BB King club was a great place to relax and dance. Overall the food was good enough. HAL has the same dishes on all of their ships, the variety is good and the quality is good enough. Generally the service all over the ship was quite good. Unfortunately the ship itself was old and the interior design was dated, unpleasant and downright ugly. This was a shock to us as we have found other HAL ships to be attractive. But the Noordam was like a bad cheap hotel with almost no pleasing public spaces. The Noordam is in desperate need of a complete make-over. There were many sea days and unfortunately the activities on board were very down market. There was only one lecturer who was mediocre, leaning on video content from other sources. Otherwise just silly games and activities aimed at upsales like gem displays and beverage tastings. So we were quite bored and had to lean on the hobbies we brought on board. Shortly after leaving Sydney, the ship began to run out of all sorts of beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. At one point there was almost no beer available. Lots of passengers were commenting about it. I got fed up and wrote a letter to the Hotel Manager which resulted in a flurry of responses, including a face-to-face meeting with the Assistant Beverage Manager. He thanked me for my letter and explained that all of the items were indeed on board but the staff just failed to go get them from their sources. He promised that they would do better. But then the next morning when the room service waiter brought our breakfast juice and coffee, he apologized that the ship was out of orange juice. Of course there was plenty of OJ on board, just not in the room service kitchen. Crazy. I was pleasantly surprised by the very low price of this cruise, but then found out the truth in the cliche "You get what you pay for." This was just a budget cruise with the quality that one usually finds with low-cost budget products. We will probably return to HAL, but probably not to the Noordam. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this cruises from Sydney to Honolulu as we wanted to visit the islands and Hawaii. also to try out HAL for first time, we have done 27 other cruises mainly on Princess but also on Cunard, P&O, Celebrity, Carnival. Embarkation ... Read More
We chose this cruises from Sydney to Honolulu as we wanted to visit the islands and Hawaii. also to try out HAL for first time, we have done 27 other cruises mainly on Princess but also on Cunard, P&O, Celebrity, Carnival. Embarkation was ok. Had VD verandah cabin, aft near elevators, ok with cabin. Bed fine, settee a little hard. Shower ok. Ecko our steward was fine. Had various meals in MDR and Lido, all poor, mdr meals for dinner were poorly presented and poor quality ingredients, i.e. tough meat and fish, hardly any veggies. Worse food on any ship I have been on. Little assistance given to me as a Celiac, although I advised HAL well before cruise. Not once did the head waiter speak to us re food, service at our table. Only time we saw officers was in pinnacle bar having their drinks before dining in pinnacle restaurant, they don't eat in the mdr !! The Captain did not even appear at the gala night cocktail pary and I never saw him. Entertainment was ok. I was not impressed with our first taste of HAL and will not return. Overated. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
My husband and I were on the recent reposition cruise from Australia to Honolulu. We usually love RC and are Diamond (now Diamond Plus) members. This ship is in a run down condition. One of the main elevators was not working over half ... Read More
My husband and I were on the recent reposition cruise from Australia to Honolulu. We usually love RC and are Diamond (now Diamond Plus) members. This ship is in a run down condition. One of the main elevators was not working over half the time causing a log jam at the elevators. In our cabin, the sink was cracked, and hot water was seldom available. Rust was prevalent almost everywhere. There was not enough room for the Diamond and up members. In order to find seating, one had to be at the longe at least an hour early. The food is getting worse and worse over the years. The same items were on the menu night after night. And to our dismay, they ran out of vanilla ice cream in the WindJammer. On the plus side, we seemed to have a new mattresses. Our neighbors, however had an old one and were very uncomfortable. Overall, we were very disappointed in a cruise we had been looking forward to. We will be trying other cruise lines in the future. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This was our first cross ocean repositioning cruise. The opportunity to visit Sydney/New Zealand again, see French Polynesia for the 1st time and wind up in Honolulu was the attraction overcoming the twelve sea days. Had prepared for ... Read More
This was our first cross ocean repositioning cruise. The opportunity to visit Sydney/New Zealand again, see French Polynesia for the 1st time and wind up in Honolulu was the attraction overcoming the twelve sea days. Had prepared for stormy weather in New Zealand, but were surprised by the rainy, windy weather most of the way to Tahiti. Sea days from Bora Bora to Hawaii were sunny and warm allowing for sunbathing and deck walking. My sister and brother-in-law joined us on this cruise. Embarkation started out with a short walk from our hotel to the Overseas Passenger Terminal. The door alarms were having difficulties. Many loud sirens and announcements ensued to immediately vacate the building. These were ignored and check-in continued through the din. My four-plug power strip was taken away at the security check along with many others. Was surprised, as it had not been a problem for past cruises. Heard later that power fluctuations on board had caused a power strip to catch fire, resulting in the ban. No notice in advance from Royal Caribbean. The Radiance is older, but we felt that all the areas we visited were well maintained and quite clean. Our cabin was 1556 on Deck 10. For those researching in future years, there were three formal nights. Days 2, 8 & 16. Enjoyed the main dining room most nights. Our waiter and assistant waiter from Indonesia were excellent and very enjoyable. Head Waiter was quite nice and dropped by for a chat each night. Different menus were provided for each of the eighteen nights – no repeats! A number of standard offerings offered every night of course. Tahitian-themed dinner leaving Papeete was our favorite. Also enjoyed nights at Chops Grille, Giovanni’s, Samba and the Chef’s Table to break things up a bit. Entertainment in the main showroom was fine, but a little sparse with the long stretches between ports. Only two production shows during the cruise. Cruise Director Cuddy Cudworth was enthusiastic and worked hard to entertain. We really enjoyed the Sunny Duo – Ukrainian Violinist and Guitar player in the Schooner Bar along with the other music around the ship. To help get us through the stormy sea days, the night time entertainment did a number of matinee shows in the main showroom. Movies were also scheduled in the main showroom each afternoon. The little Cinema was swamped with customers most of the days. Overall service on board was very good to excellent. Kristina in the Schooner Bar took great care of the four of us. Would probably not do this cruise again, but had enough adventures and new experiences to make the one time memorable! Ports/Excursions Sydney – attended the Handa Opera West Side Story musical on the harbor. Great production and amazing singing/dancing in a great setting. Also visited the Sydney WildLife Zoo and had dinner at Aria. Picton – rainy day. Did the Queen Charlotte Sound cruise, visited the Vines in Blenheim and walked around Picton for a bit. Not much open on Easter Sunday. Wellington – nice day. Full day Lord of the Rings Tour was excellent. River Anduin, Isengard, Rivendell and "Get off the road" filming sights plus an excellent lunch. Tahiti – snorkeling tour, walking around downtown Papeete and sunset catamaran tour. Moorea – Motu Picnic Lunch included snorkeling with stingrays & sharks – very enjoyable. Bora Bora – booked Patrick’s tour with Maohi Nui. Incredible snorkeling outside the reef with lots of sharks and colorful fish. More great snorkeling inside the reef with stingrays and sharks. Amazing Polynesian lunch followed by a fire dance. Highly recommend this tour. Honolulu – did the Little Circle Island Tour. Good way to leave the ship a little later and bridge the gap to hotel check-in or flight departure. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Trans-Pacific cruise as ships relocated to US Northwest. Normal RCI quality, i.e. excellent food and quality staff. We we disappointed that Rita’s restaurant has been closed as we used to enjoy sitting out eating guacamole / chips and ... Read More
Trans-Pacific cruise as ships relocated to US Northwest. Normal RCI quality, i.e. excellent food and quality staff. We we disappointed that Rita’s restaurant has been closed as we used to enjoy sitting out eating guacamole / chips and sharing the grande margarita with friends (it would be nice to be able to get a pitcher of margaritas for sharing but bartender thought it was mitigate over-serving issues that have happened). The ports were only ok, generally a little on the boring side but guessing due to the last ship of the season. The ship was good shape although showing signs of external wear Horrible cabin location, it’s beneath the Windjammer and Izumi speciality restaurant. The room sounds like you’re in a bowling alley due to the carts in the restaurants above running over the stippled tile in the kitchen areas. It does subside around midnight until around 4:30 am, currently 4:21 am and the banging has started. Called several times and restaurant manager did state they would try to mitigate noise, unfortunately to no avail. Asked to be moved but was not accommodated although RCI did give coupon for small discount on future cruise. VOOM on this cruise was marginally above worthless. Using SpeedTest by Ookla, download speeds ranged from a high of 1.5 mbps down to a non-functional low but averaged at 0.55 mbps across the multiple occasions that I tested. Onboard Tech stated that it speeds is up to 4 mbps, subject to weather and sea conditions but even docked with clear skies the speeds were typically sub 1 mbps. Be warned, no refunds or recourse from RCI for poor VOOM service Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Ovation is a spectacular ship with friendly accommodating crew who work extremely hard and diligently, except for one crew member who managed to spoil our cruise experience for us to the extent that we are now canceling 3 more booked ... Read More
Ovation is a spectacular ship with friendly accommodating crew who work extremely hard and diligently, except for one crew member who managed to spoil our cruise experience for us to the extent that we are now canceling 3 more booked cruises aboard the same ship even though it means we will lose a $1200 non refundable deposit. We are so upset by our experience that we have chosen to lose our money rather than cruise with Royal Caribbean again! The specialty dining at Wonderland and Jamies is a true delight but Chops Grille is now trading on their reputation from years ago, as for the dining room....I've had better food in a hospital. Entertainment was creative and visually pleasing on all levels, but did find queuing for shows hours ahead of time a tiring experience. Our cabin was well appointed and spacious, more storage than you could dream of, tea was provided but no coffee. Getting on and off was easy and efficient. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this repositioning cruise from Sydney to Honolulu primarily because we got a good deal and the fact that the itinerary included three stops in Tahiti and a stop at Lahaina, Maui. Unfortunately, after booking, we were advised by ... Read More
We chose this repositioning cruise from Sydney to Honolulu primarily because we got a good deal and the fact that the itinerary included three stops in Tahiti and a stop at Lahaina, Maui. Unfortunately, after booking, we were advised by Royal Caribbean that they would have to cancel the Maui stop. Since this was to be Ovation of the Seas' first visit to the US, the US authorities apparently needed to carry out thorough inspections of the ship and it would, therefore, have to remain in port for an extra couple of days. So we would have to skip Maui and arrive in Honolulu one day early, although we could remain on the ship an extra day in the port. Consequently Royal Caribbean promised to refund passengers the equivalent of one day's fare to their onboard accounts, which we thought was fair and reasonable. So while we were a bit disappointed to miss out on Maui, we appreciated the credit in our onboard account and the extra day in Honolulu. Anyway, after that long-winded introduction, I have to say that this was a pretty good cruise! Leaving Sydney Harbour after dark was quite memorable. We also enjoyed the three stops in Tahiti, particularly Bora Bora. The weather was kind of damp in Papeete and Morea, but we were especially lucky with the weather in Bora Bora, which is a stunning place. It's definitely somewhere I would like to return to. My wife particularly enjoyed shopping for Tahitian pearls in Vaitape, the main town in Bora Bora! The ship itself is huge, modern and well appointed, and being less than three years old is still in very good condition. I had thought that having more than 4,000 fellow passengers might result in the ship being too crowded, but we didn't find it to be a real problem. For example, while the Windjammer Marketplace (the main buffet on Deck 14) got very busy at times, we never had a problem finding a table. Also, due to the size of the ship, there was not too much motion most of the time. We did find the food in the main restaurant to be a bit disappointing the first few nights. However, we then started asking our waiters for recommendations on which dishes to choose and after that enjoyed almost every meal. We ate in the main restaurant most evenings and had breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer Marketplace where we found the food quite acceptable. Overall, the food on the cruise was, in our view, fairly good but not as good as we have experienced on some prior cruises. Our balcony cabin was great. No problems there at all. Also, the level of service provided by the crew and their friendliness throughout the ship was almost always exceptional. We went to a few of the evening shows in the Royal Theatre and were not disappointed although the sightlines from the upper audience levels were a bit restricted. Embarkation in Sydney and disembarkation in Honolulu both went smoothly. We found the wifi to be very good. We pre-purchased a "surf and stream" package for one device, which worked out quite well as we were able to switch between our three devices (two smartphones and a laptop) as required. The cost of pre-purchasing the package, while not cheap, turned out to be considerably less than if we had bought it on the ship. So, overall a memorable cruise on a nice, modern ship, with the highlight for being the one-day stop at Bora Bora! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
we went on this cruise to celibate my wife's milestone birthday, was a little concerned about the amount of sea days but the ship had everything and more that made it all go too quick. Sailing out of Sydney we sailed to Tahiti ... Read More
we went on this cruise to celibate my wife's milestone birthday, was a little concerned about the amount of sea days but the ship had everything and more that made it all go too quick. Sailing out of Sydney we sailed to Tahiti which was nice just ask SIMON, but there was no Imperial Leather on board :)( Aussies of the right age bracket would get this in joke) then onto Moorea, then onto to Bora Bora ( best snorkeling on the planet in my opnion, then finally on to Honolulu, we missed Maui due to some inspections needed in Honolulu. The service was excellent through the ship although our cabin steward I think needed L plates for Suite service as he was not quite there. Cabin The Owners suite was very spacious and the beds were very comfortable , apparently no expense was spared on this ship when it was fitted out. Dining I was a little disappointed with the main dining room as it was originally designed for the Asian market and there was no Grand Dinning room across multiple levels like on other ships, just two separate dinning rooms which felt a little cramped. The Service was exceptional and the food was wonderful. Our favorite specialty dining was Jamie Oliver although the Wounderland was and experience within its self. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
My father died during the cruise and I needed to amend my travel arrangements. The front desk staff were terrible and it took over 3 days to sort new departure arrangements. I received conflicting information from onboard Front desk staff ... Read More
My father died during the cruise and I needed to amend my travel arrangements. The front desk staff were terrible and it took over 3 days to sort new departure arrangements. I received conflicting information from onboard Front desk staff and onshore Princess staff. Princess gave no credit for existing return flight and I had to pay for a new full fare that was exchanged from Aust$ to US$ to NZ$. The air carrier advised my family that Princess as travel agent had full discretion in making no or little penalty charges to travel. No discretion was applied. I would not recommend Princess on this basis. There was relentless onboard promotion for buying jewellery (Effy) and artworks which was tedious. Food was good and plentiful, entertainment was a bit ho hum - one comedian was absolutely dreadful and the second relied on old hack and tired women-as stupid content. There were two production shows which were excellent. Musicians played similar and in a lot of cases the same songs (how many times can you listen to Hey Jude?!) Onboard activities were limited with the same things recycled through the cruise - movies (same movies returned too frequently); bingo; quizzes (I'm a quiz fan but the same format and type of questions were used across three quiz events, and the events were bumped in face of venue conflict); demonstrations such as cocktail making was view only. Cards as an activity was good (bridge; 500) as there were a fair number of people interested therefore plenty of opportunity to play. However this was organised by participants. I feel entertainment staff often opted out of organising activities, so it dependent on participants to get things going. Venues appeared to be mismanaged in that the act and or audience size wasn't appropriate to the particular venue used. Enrichment activities were limited to forensic topics (potentially good however presenter was poor and used promotional material as evidence) and others were directly linked to the sale of jewellery and artworks. Did two excursions - whole day Moorea swimming and snorkeling which was excellent and the LA Venice Beach and Santa Monica visits. Definitely wouldn't recommend Venice Beach as a destination (old; tired; dirty; broken; grotty) but Santa Monica was nice to walk around (shops; pier; beach) Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this particular cruise as we both enjoy Sea days and the cruise experience. This particular cruise from Auckland to Vancouver had plenty of these with only six ports. Time seemed to fly by, with all the activities going on. ... Read More
We chose this particular cruise as we both enjoy Sea days and the cruise experience. This particular cruise from Auckland to Vancouver had plenty of these with only six ports. Time seemed to fly by, with all the activities going on. The crew and staff were friendly and welcoming. Activities were varied and plentiful should we wish to take part. And the food .well that was great! We chose often to go more casual dining in the horizon or indeed catch a movie and have pizza. But we also went formal to anytime dining, in the dining rooms available to us, whereby the waiters would be friendly and helpful. We had a back to back cruise so continued on to Alaska, we found that the leg from LA to Vancouver changed the dynamics of the passengers as many left in LA and others came on for a short cruise to Vancouver, then new people joint the ship for Alaska, which changed again, so this was a new experience for us. However, this did not deter from a great trip Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose the transpacific cruise because of the ports and Celebrity Solstice because of reviews and recommendations. Very pleased we went Aqua class as the food and service in Blu restaurant was outstanding, especially for anyone with ... Read More
We chose the transpacific cruise because of the ports and Celebrity Solstice because of reviews and recommendations. Very pleased we went Aqua class as the food and service in Blu restaurant was outstanding, especially for anyone with special dietary requirements. By comparison, the main dining room was mediocre, but the buffet was better than expected. The Spa cafe was also good for light breakfast and lunch options but the burgers at the Mast Grill were disappointing. Al Bacio Cafe is very popular for specialty coffee and tea but expensive unless you have a drinks package. The daily treats there are provided free and some are very good. The gym is modern and spacious and evening entertainment was very good, especially the Lighthouse Duo and Gilly and the Girl. Some of the special artists were also great but there was a lack of variety of activities during the day and the cruise catered more to an older crowd with two sets of five consecutive sea days with mostly passive activities on offer. Although there were a small number of families on board this cruise which spanned the school holidays, and there is a kids club, the ship does not really cater to children or a younger crowd. It is quite accessible for people with mobility issues but there were often long delays for the lifts especially when disembarking. There were only 6 ports of call on this 19 night cruise so it was disappointing for a cruise called Tahitian Treasures that we visited two of the three ports in Tahiti over Easter where many places were closed due to the holidays. Shore excursions can be prebooked through the cruise line or independently online for convenience but are usually much cheaper and quite easy to book when you arrive in a port if you have done some research beforehand. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
The embarkation experience in Sydney was probably our worst experience of embarkation on any cruise. There seemed to be no organisation, and the only guidance was by other passengers, as there seemed to be a great lack of staff around. ... Read More
The embarkation experience in Sydney was probably our worst experience of embarkation on any cruise. There seemed to be no organisation, and the only guidance was by other passengers, as there seemed to be a great lack of staff around. When we chose this cruise we knew that there were a lot of sea days ahead of us, so we were prepared to entertain ourselves for long stretches of time. While they had many activities, there could have been more variety. We enjoyed the ports as we had not been to most of them. The shore excursions were way too expensive for us, so we were able to find local providers at almost all ports. Some ports were a little overrated, such as Los Angeles, where the ship docked at San Pedro and with a 3.00pm all aboard deadline, there was not sufficient time to get into LA and see anything and return in time. The dining was very good, accommodating my dietary requirements. There did seem to be less general variety in the buffet compared to other cruises we have been on. The wait staff were to be highly commended, as were all the staff onboard - friendly and helpful and dedicated to ensuring everyone had a great experience. The entertainment was mostly quite good, but not as spectacular as we had experienced on other cruises. The other passengers were respectful and well behaved, with no loud noise to interrupt a peaceful night's sleep. The bed was super comfy - it felt like a cosy nest. It was great to be part of the Cruise Critic Roll Call, so we were able to arrange some activities together to get to know others. All in all it was a great cruise where we met a lot of likeminded people. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Very nice ports and food in main rests were very good. The ship is in very poor condition though and they are not doing anything to fix it up There was water leaking all over the ship and a very bad smell of mould. The food in the ... Read More
Very nice ports and food in main rests were very good. The ship is in very poor condition though and they are not doing anything to fix it up There was water leaking all over the ship and a very bad smell of mould. The food in the buffet was always the same and not very good. The ports were very nice and the crew is very good. The cruise director was one of the best we have had on a cruise. All his staff were very good and easy to talk to. They should try to have more to do though on sea days as it was quite boring though some people love sea days I do not. We really loved New Zealand and Tahiti and that made the long sea days worth the wait. We really love Princess cruises and was disappointed on the very poor condition of the Golden princess. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We sailed from Hawaii to japan 15 days approx. 65 passengers . This Cruise which is about 15th was one of the best . Great Food Great service (with exception to the Butler bad) Fantastic mix of travellers We had 4 days of ... Read More
We sailed from Hawaii to japan 15 days approx. 65 passengers . This Cruise which is about 15th was one of the best . Great Food Great service (with exception to the Butler bad) Fantastic mix of travellers We had 4 days of rough sea's but no one really bothered .I was cruising alone and met a fantastic group of people which we met each day for lunch and Dinner with Cocktails in the Lounge pre dinner .The Crew were fantastic friendly. I had a Butler servicing my suite on Deck 6 he was the only disappointment (you would have thought he had paid to be aboard unfortunately very arrogant.. This was April 2nd.Some of the People I met are all catching up for a Cruise from Boston to Cancun on Le Champlain cant wait ... I highly recommend Ponant from this experience it is a definite cut above large Cruise lines Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
If you want a ship with a casino, climbing wall, giant water slide, etc., ignore this review and Viking Oceans. If you seek a family cruise with you and your (non-adult) children, look elsewhere. If you like cruising with thinking people ... Read More
If you want a ship with a casino, climbing wall, giant water slide, etc., ignore this review and Viking Oceans. If you seek a family cruise with you and your (non-adult) children, look elsewhere. If you like cruising with thinking people and a remarkably intelligent, attentive crew visiting an itinerary of a lifetime on an impeccable, smallish ship, read on. We are just back from Viking’s Grand Pacific Explorer cruise that traced all around the Pacific, roughly following the Ring of Fire from New Zealand through Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Russia (Siberia), across the Bering Sea, and down through Alaska to Vancouver. Portions of this 93-day itinerary were also available in smaller chunks of 15 to 23 days. As we came to realize, the guests on shorter legs were taking a cruise on the ship. We lived there. And it was fantastic. There were roughly two dozen of us who traveled the entire way and another fifteen or so who embarked in Sydney for 79 of the 93 days. All tolled, we traveled 19,919 nautical miles on the ship. Convert to statue miles and add on the air travel, and our adventure went far beyond the distance around the globe. What we learned: You can be happy on a Viking Oceans ship for a long time and still be happily married. Although our Penthouse Veranda was not the smallest stateroom, several of the Grand Voyagers were in the standard size (all veranda) staterooms, and there was at least one couple who survived and celebrated their 50th anniversary just afterward. The secret is the many varied public spaces on the ship. The Explorer’s Lounge is great 24/7, and you don’t have to order any booze to just sit and enjoy the view and read. Or converse in comfortable seating clusters. Add the quiet reading area in the deck 1 library, the exterior wings outside the Winter Garden, and various nooks and crannies. There is always somewhere to go. Crossing the equator and the International Dateline can be fun. Viking made sure we celebrated on both occasions. May 14 happened TWICE (thus 93 days, not 92)! The seas are never what you expect. Yes, the Tasman Sea can be “lively,” as can the Bass Strait above Tasmania, but even the Bering Sea is not necessarily going to be bad. If you count on good or bad seas, you won’t get them. It’ s pure luck. Siberia did kick up a ruckus for us for one day, but the Bering Sea was crazy calm! You will get to know the crew very, very well. They will bring you just about anything, anytime. Room service delivers ANYTHING on their menu for free anytime. Ask for the things you don’t see but crave. This applies to those on the ship for two short weeks or for three months. “Another latte, madame?” “A scone from tea in the Wintergarden?… sure I will get that for you.” The only cost is if you elect to drink alcohol from the bar. Those with the Silver Spirits package pay nothing. Others like us paid very reasonable prices with no added gratuities if we chose to drink. Of course, the minibar in our PV cabin had standard level booze and mixers of our choice, so we could always carry our own drinks to the lounge. If we had brought a bottle of our own on board-- no problem. They’ll even provide the glass and ice. No nickels. No dimes. There is a bar waiter, Ardel, who introduced me to an excellent formula for a top shelf margarita, now dubbed the “Ardel Margarita” by several of us who enjoyed it! The senior officers are incredible. Kudos to the general manager for most of our cruise, Joaquim Scherz, and to the restaurant manager Gerome Venon, for making our group of voyagers feel especially welcome and for preventing monotony from EVER setting in – as if that could happen with such a rich itinerary! Even the entertainment team added some new performances so we could enjoy the talents of two different Viking Bands who were onboard during our tenure and especially the excellent ensemble of four young Viking Vocalists Aoibhin, Jorgen, Dan, and Beth, whom we got to know quite well. (These four, by the way, were the first to be awarded a new contract by Viking to stay together on their next cruise in the Caribbean.) Kudos to cruise director Spencer who rose to the role on this, his first cruise in the position. When Viking says they are a family, they are serious. That includes the passengers. They know you. They figure you out within a few days, and they are all eager to make the cruise p-e-r-f-e-c-t. Your cabin steward knows when you are likely to be out and about or when you have an excursion scheduled. The ice is there every day on time. The things you store in you bathroom are arranged exactly as you like them. After a few days, people know your names. (The general manager told us he actually looks over each guest list in advance and learns names and scans for those he has met before.) We learned much about the way Viking hires, trains, and rotates its crew and senior officers. We boarded Viking Orion and saw crewmembers we had met four years ago on Viking Star, now promoted to higher positions and happy in “the family.” The family extends to all the ships. When the Viking Sky encountered rough seas off the coast of Norway (while we were in Australia), every crewmember on Viking Orion was paying attention, praying, and even helping to send a video to the crew of Viking Sky in support and thanks for all their efforts. Family goes both ways. We Voyagers truly got attached to Joaquim and gave him a Viking umbrella salute send-off as he departed for a well-earned vacation. There were tears. Viking is truly fortunate to have such amazing people, and Joaquim is one who has been with VO since its launch. If he has any say about it, the quality will not diminish as the company expands. We sincerely hope his influence will keep things as good as they are! Speaking of family, our group of “Voyagers” definitely became one. People who take Viking cruises are fascinating folks with endless interests and stories. When you meet new people at home, you may see them once a week or a couple of times a month. When you make new friends on a ship, you see each other as often as three meals a day plus an excursion. Yes, we could avoid seeing them, but we enjoyed getting to know each other—really well! We avoided talking politics -- which was a refreshing change for over 90 days! We compared notes about our days (what excursion did you take?), drank a LOT of free wine (opened and closed the World Café many times), and watched out for each other when someone was “solo” on an excursion. These friendships will last for sure. We learned about the tons and tons of food they bring on board and when. We noticed that the chef went into town to pick up a few things while we were out on excursions – but only if he can find provisions that met Viking’s strict quality and safety standards. Within a couple of days, the cook at the breakfast fruit and yogurt bar handed me a bowl as I walked in each day and several times kept a few strawberries aside when the stock was dwindling before the next provisioning. He found the plain Greek yogurt that I like if it is not out on display. He was genuinely apologetic when the strawberries ran out in Siberia! If it wasn’t perfect, all we had to do was ask. Just when I was muttering to myself that there weren’t any chocolate options on the desert bar in the World Café, one of the supervisors offered to go down and get a chocolate mousse from the sit-down Restaurant downstairs…. “And where are you sitting, madame?” Or if the buffet choices were not exactly what we wanted, the chef custom-prepared a strip steak (“Medium? Four minutes, please.”) and delivered it to our table, with a potato and sour cream if that was what we wanted. All this in the “buffet” style World Café, our favorite venue for every day. Manfredi’s, the Italian specialty restaurant, is a gem. People seem to figure this out quickly, so be sure to book reservations as soon as you can. Book before you embark, as we did or stop by the laptop at the entrance to the world café to add more or make changes. We also learned that they will make every effort to change your numbers as you meet people and want a larger table. (Thank you, Ian!) Yes, we also ate in the Chef’s Table, but after trying each of the (mostly delicious) menus, we found we preferred the less formal and more flexible options elsewhere. We aren’t “The Restaurant” type people, though many of our friends were and enjoyed it just as much as we enjoyed the free-ranging exploration of the world Café – the same food, but you can graze and get up from your table at will. (Just hide your fork…. They clear TOO quickly!) The only nights I personally did not enjoy as much were the Indian Buffet theme nights, but my husband loved them. I just ordered a strip steak and tasted a few other things. I made the suggestion that perhaps not EVERYTHING had to be Indian… like the weird gelato flavors. We learned SO MUCH. The itinerary was loaded with places we had always wanted to see, and Viking offered many ways to learn about each one. The guest lecturers were great, and word gets out about which ones are REALLY good. The naturalist in the north Pacific and Alaska, the historian in Southest Asia, the archaeologist in New Zealand, the reef pilot on the Great Barrier Reef, and many others were terrific. If they can keep you awake in a darkened theater on a gently rocking sea, they must be good! The video replays on demand in the cabins were a MUST to keep up with the many things to learn. What we saw: It is a challenge to summarize forty-seven ports, but there were recurring themes: wildlife, history, religions, World Heritage sites, gardens, wine/beer/whiskey. We chose to take many optional excursions, mostly because we don’t like touring on buses much. A bus to GET somewhere is fine. We tend to like walking tours better. When we compared notes with our fellow travelers, we learned that by skipping some of the included excursions, we missed some good stuff. Some of the descriptions did not make it clear just how much time would be spent on or OFF the bus. As my husband says, the descriptions are a bit like real estate ads. Example: “Enjoy a panoramic tour.” Translate: bus ride. As Viking continues in these ports, we are sure the excursions will be refined and the descriptions edited for a better match to what is actually there. In the first season of a new itinerary, this is tough. We took this cruise knowing that would happen. Our priorities for tours may not be yours. My husband is a photo buff—both wildlife and street scenes, and I tend to enjoy culture, art, crafts, and people. Sometimes we split up to see what we liked best. We did not need to stay together every day of a 93 day cruise! Don’t miss the onboard cultural visitors. There were local groups who came on board in several countries to perform music and dance. ALL were amazing. Sometimes we did not find out about them until the day before or the day of. READ the Viking Daily! Port/excursion highlights: (Unless otherwise stated, all excursions/tours were VIKING offerings) Everything in New Zealand. Lots of wildlife and Maori culture options. We especially enjoyed visiting a sheep farm outside Napier, a foodie tour I did in Wellington, a seal watch my husband did outside Wellington, and wildlife cruises outside Christchurch and Dunedin. Others went to interior locations such as the Hobbiton tour. This may not be the best way to see interior New Zealand. I wish I’d had more time at Rotorua at the native (Maori) center there. Australia: Hobart, Tasmania. This port is right in town and we wish we had stayed MUCH longer. Just walk off the ship, and you were in a pedestrian area filled with shops and history. (Think Viking River Cruises.) We took a tour outside of town and visited a winery and the charming town of Richmond. Wish we could have done BOTH. We’d like to go back to Tasmania. The koala and kangaroo sanctuary outside Melbourne. Unlike many “sanctuaries” where the animals are caged or restricted, this one has animals on their own in the wild and shows visitors how to find and follow them respectfully. No koala cuddling, but fantastic naturalists who teach and let you participate in finding the animals. Sydney: Did a pub crawl in The Rocks on a HOT day. Saw lots of local color: weddings, crazy young professionals out having fun, and of course the Opera House right at Circular Quay. Since Viking Orion is small enough to pass under the Harbor Bridge, we were docked a short shuttle FERRY ride from Circular Quay. This could have been a pain, but it’s much more fun than a shuttle bus! We had a day on our own while others disembarked and embarked. Viking did offer an excursion for the in-transit passengers, but we elected to spend time with some new friends from Sydney whom we “met” here on CC. (They joined our cruise later in Hong Kong.) Great city. Almost anything you can do would be fun. Whitsunday Islands and Cairns: both are portals to the Great Barrier Reef. We went on a smaller catamaran out to snorkel in the Whitsundays and a very large one (but well managed) in Cairns. We are not experienced snorkelers and have never seen the reef before, so we enjoyed these. Experienced GBR visitors might like more private or selective tours, but these are hard to find and schedule within port time limits. Viking did managed the tendering in Cid Harbor (Whitsundays) very well. Thursday Island--- skipped because of an incoming cyclone! Darwin: wildlife options again. We saw Jumping Crocs, which we thought would be really touristy. It actually was fun. The Territory Wildlife Park was also good, though VERY warm. Take lots of water with you! Be sure to visit the aviary. Weaker Australia ports: Newcastle, Townsville. These are perhaps good ports for their access to other places inland, but we did not find the actual towns as interesting. Maybe with time? Indonesia: In general, Indonesia has bad traffic, hot weather, and lots of temples. The blend of religions is fascinating and varies from island to island. Get a taste by seeing some of everything. Komodo: The national park is going to be closed for 2020. We were lucky to see the dragons. Very hot, and the most aggressive vendors we saw on the entire cruise were in the tent as we left the park. Be prepared to be tough and to haggle. Otherwise just duck and keep on walking! TAKE WATER. Viking did an outstanding job of managing the tendering and keeping guests hydrated and safe. They were on the dock with COLD towels and drinks as we finished the tour. The really wanted everyone to drink and stay safe. Bali: another disembarkation/embarkation port. On the day on our own, we traveled by cab into Denpasar to visit the fabric street—a MUST for any quilter or sewing enthusiast. We did an evening dinner and performance that evening which was fun, though touristy. We enjoyed seeing Batiks being made and wood carvers in action on a Viking excursion the next day. Surabaya: We visited a temple that is actually within an amusement park. Though it looked like we were entering Wally World, the temple, right next to the water, was interesting. The seafood lunch served on the way was excellent though a bit crowded. Our highlight was a stop at a T-shirt place that had graphically bold shirts at very low (fixed) prices. Thanks to a good tour guide. We’ve gotten compliments on those shirts everywhere. Semarang: Entre to a daylong trip to Borobudur, a must-see. Don’t do the included tour. Not much there. The Rainbow Village is not as enthralling as they say. Those who went to Borobudur said the long ride was definitely worth it, especially with the police escort that accompanied the bus caravan, stopping the challenging traffic. Think presidential motorcade. Viking managed an unfortunate bus accident between two buses that were following too closely pretty well. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Jakarta: Interesting but not worth two days? Went on a tour that included an inside visit to a large mosque and Catholic cathedral and a walk through Chinatown Had some time on the second day to go into town on the Viking shuttle to a shopping mall that offered great shopping for authentic batik shirts and much more. I think half the ship bought batik shirts. Weaker ports in Indonesia: Lombok? We actually did not go into this tender port. Those who did said we did not miss much. We really should not judge. Singapore One day, and not enough. Unfortunately, immigration stole over 90 minutes of our day—through no fault of Viking. If there were way for the ship to stay two days and not have to do this each day, it would be worth it. We did a walking “Odyssey” tour and saw little India, Chinatown, and an area called Arab Street. I’d do that tour again. We had time to explore on our own, which we always like. I’d like to have seen the gardens at Singapore Marina Bay, but we did not have time. I’d REALLY like to swim in the world’s largest infinity pool on the rooftop there, but you have to stay in the hotel to do that… unless Viking has connections? Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) Our one day was a quick stop. My husband and I did separate tours. He enjoyed the Batu Caves and Pewter factory tour, managing to avoid having his hat stolen by the monkeys. I did the Blue Mosque tour, which was a misnomer. We saw a view of the mosque at a GREAT distance. We did enjoy a tour of several sites in the city and a FANTASTIC lunch at the Renaissance Hotel. Of course, the last thing we needed was more good food! We honestly cannot say whether Kuala Lumpur is worth more time. Thailand Bangkok: The port is VERY, very far from the city, at least two hours drive if traffic is not bad. We had three days in Bangkok, the middle one a disembarkation/embarkation day for other passengers. We did Viking’s Bangkok After Dark tour, which was twelve hours long! The heat was oppressive, and the guide kept a pace that was a bit too enthusiastic for the heat. It did take us to great things and included a much appreciated foot massage after a lot of walking. We had a local dinner of SPICY pad thai and time shopping in the iconic night market. The tour is good, but plan on being totally soaked with sweat. Pace yourself and carry water. We took a private tour on the ship’s changeover day, and that was smart. We had a small van with great A/C and endless water. We could get back into the cool van often. We split the tour cost with three other friends, so it was quite reasonable. We visited locations our first tour did not include. Day 3 took my husband on the Viking tour out to the Summer Palace and Ayutthaya. He declared that tour to be excellent, including the golf carts! (I rested and did much-needed laundry out of the heat.) Cambodia Sihanoukville: This is the toughest port to talk about. It is not pretty, and the people lack hope. This port sparked great debate among our friends onboard. In my opinion, Viking needs to be honest about what you will see (poverty, loads of trash, hopelessness). The contrasts of the hotel where Jackie Kennedy stayed (a claim to fame in this miserable town) and the life in a local fishing village are painful. The Cambodian Cuisine tour we took involved riding in tuktuks through dusty, dirty streets. I did not initially appreciate the mask they gave me to wear, as I have never had respiratory issues. In the end, I actually needed it. The market offered a realistic view of what people buy and eat. The beachfront barbecue food attracted too many flies for us to taste it. Then we went to the Jackie hotel and had delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks while feeling hollowly fortunate. The second day we took the included tour, but we were warned by our friends to expect very sad scenes and sickening smells. They were right. The little children who should have been in school -- but had never even been REGISTERED to attend -- bore witness to the lack of hope of the Cambodian people. Yes, Viking should let us all see the realities, but the descriptions also need to be accurate. This port is a place to learn and think, not to enjoy. If the corrupt government is benefitting from Viking’s visits, perhaps this is not a good idea? Sadly, the countryside beyond the city has exceptional natural beauty, and the guides were very honest about their plight. Vietnam What a contrast to Cambodia. There is hope, and education is highly valued in this rapidly-growing economy. VERY. VERY. HOT. Ho Chi Minh City (known to the locals as Saigon): Three days. A fair distance from the port -- about an hour. Fantastic city to visit! We did the Saigon Cooking Class, which was excellent in both organization and fun. We shopped in the market, cooked, learned a lot, and enjoyed our own cooking. The next day we enjoyed a special visit to the Hotel Reverie with our fellow Voyagers (NOT an excursion) for high tea. This was arranged by the general manager and restaurant manager just for our group. WOW. If you have a chance to do this high tea on your own, DO IT. We’ve never, ever seen anything like it! Try the iced Vietnamese coffee. It’s addictive. The third day we did Viking’s “Iconic Ben Thanh Market” tour which was disappointing. We spent more time being served food than exploring the market (allowing NO time for this). I expect Viking will be clarifying expectations with the tour operator on this, as several of us spoke to the ship about it. Chan May (near Danang): Excursion to Ancient Hoi An. This city was swamped with tourists, and the tour was too commercialized for us. We had hoped for an interesting walking tour. We were herded into places to buy things, stopped ever so briefly amid the crowds to take pictures of landmarks with said crowds. Little to no time on our own as was advertised. Other guides were apparently more flexible, and our friends enjoyed their tours. Ha Long Bay (overnight): Wow. This place is drop dead gorgeous. Even the included tour is amazing. We did a longer, slightly different boat tour of the bay, including a stop at a floating village. Great tour! We also went outside the city to the mountains and Yen Tu Monastery. What a wonderful change of pace. We meditated and talked with the leader of the monastery, a man with remarkable charisma. The tour also included a delicious dinner at a resort hotel in the mountains. A winner! Hong Kong (3 days) Another changeover port. The included tour was good- Victoria Peak (in clouds), sampan ride in Aberdeen, and Stanley Market with free time. Spent our “off day” on our own with a friend who lives nearby then did more exploring on the third day with some fellow travelers. We then did the Hong Kong by Night tour which was OK but went back to some places we had already seen on our own. It would be great for people just starting out in HK. Taipei (Keelung port)- one day We did the tour to Yehliu Geopark with its amazing rock formations. Great photo op if you can go early enough for smaller crowds. Then went to mountain village of Jiufen. Cute, though filled with tourists. There were some nice places to have tea with a great view. The Taiwan landscape is very pretty! JAPAN! Japan was perhaps the biggest “surprise” of our trip. We had heard that it was beautiful, but it was MORE beautiful than we thought. We had also heard about the crowds during Golden Week—extended this year due to the installation of a new emperor. It was more crowded in some places than we could ever imagine. AVOID Golden Week. This was Viking’s first visit to the Japanese ports, so ALL of them did something special at the port: bands, dancers, etc.! Lots of fun. Japanese weather was a welcome relief from the heat in previous ports. Kagoshima: Great tour to Kamikaze museum and Chimai samurai historic district with classic Japanese gardens. Terrific intro to just some of the subtleties of Japanese culture. Nagasaki: (separate excursions). Imari and Arita pottery tour was outstanding. Learned a LOT about the aesthetic, the history, and the processes. Beautiful scenery en route. Husband did Historic Nagasaki tour for the atomic bomb story and more. Korea (a one day stop in Busan in the midst of Japan ports): Beomosa Temple and Fish Market tour was good. Lots of walking up hill. Fish Market is a true cultural experience, especially on the weekend! More Japan Hiroshima (2 days): Sobering as you would expect. The included tour to the Peace Park is good at hitting highlights on foot, though it was pouring rain. The museum would have been interesting, but the line stretched around a half mile! Optional tour to Itsukushima Shrine was great. Crowded because of Golden week. Go as early in the day as you can. We were on the 7 am ferry. Great photo ops of the floating torii gate you always see on brochures. Be sure to try some maple leaf shaped cakes. Osaka (Kyoto): We took the tour that traveled to Ancient Kyoto. Worst crowds we have ever seen. Heel to toe and shoulder to shoulder in a mob. Easy to lose the guide. (Others shared pictures taken by friends on “regular” weekdays showing NO crowds.) DO NOT GO during Golden Week. Very long path of thousands of torii gates, but too packed to enter. Scary crowded! The Golden Palace late in the day was less crowded and saved the day for us. Shimizu: (day and a half): Nice city with very friendly people. They had quite a welcome for us at the port since this was Viking’s first visit there. Amazing views of Fuji that cleared off for us. I went to Hiroshige Utagawa Museum. Speechless how good it was. Included tour also good… good photo ops. Tokyo ( 3 days): Port is immediately next to the Olympic Village they are building for 2020! This was our last disembarkation/embarkation port getting hundreds of new passengers onboard. Kamakuri tour to three shrine and temples very good but again crowded. 43 foot Buddha! Took Viking’s shuttle to downtown on the middle day, a Sunday, and discovered that NO ONE was in town during Golden Week. Walked to Iperial Palace Grdens (beautiful) and around the area near Nihonbaski Mitsubishi. The department store is worthy of a visit on its own, very old school and filled with amazing things, including a full basement are of food. See where people custom order their $50K silk kimonos! Third day took Edo-Tokyo Museum and City Tower tour. City tower not that great. The sky tower is better, I think, if you like that sort of thing. Museum and smaller local garden were nice. Tokyo is a gorgeous city, and SOOO clean! Be sure to try every Japanese bathroom. After Indonesia and others, they are a delight! Sapporo/Otaru: Beautiful location on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. We took the optional tour to Nikko whiskey. Lots of fun. It SMELLED of whiskey when you walked onto the grounds. Friend told us the included tour was also very good. Much cooler here. The cherry blossoms were out, as this part of Japan is weeks behind the more southern areas. Russia (Siberia) Koraskov: Did the included tour. Damp, cold, and cloudy/drizzly. Not much here, and quite sad after Japan. The people are clearly longing for the good old days of the USSR. The performance was fun, and the vendors selling crafts there were very genuine. Most are happy to take USD, though they may cheat a bit on exchange rates! Petrapavlosk-Kamchatsky: This city benefits from the large Navy base (out of sight from the port). Volcanoes abound. We did the military history tour. Too much talking at you. Choose a different one, perhaps just the included. Orthodox cathedral is less than ten years old! Someone showed us video from the helicopter tour over the volcano, and it was amazing. (But I don’t think I’d go with a Russian pilot in a Russian-maintained helicopter! Very pricey, too.) USA Dutch Harbor, AK: No tours offered, but there was a shuttle (school) bus into town. The locals are VERY friendly and talk on the buses. Go to the Alaska Ship Supply for fun, and perhaps to Safeway just to see how the locals live. Bald eagles everywhere—like pigeons! Take a hike or a walk. If you’re an American who’s been away for a long time, stop in a local bar for American bar food… nachos or a cheeseburger? If you watch Deadliest Catch, you’ll recognize many locations. Kodiak, AK: Nature photo cruise was a real highlight. Small boat with only 6 guests and a very knowledgeable couple guiding it. WELL worth it! Small town with simple self-guided (walking) tour and a shuttle bus. Very genuine. Seward, AK: Kenai Fiords cruise was incredible. Whales, dolphins, eagles, and a glacier thrown in. Entire pods of orcas! This was a MUST MUST MUST DO, even on a drizzly day. Stay in town for a visit to the Sea Life Center or some shopping, A regular shuttle goes back to the ship. Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), AK: This small town with its native tribe of 760 people owns the port through a small corporation that benefits the tribe. They market it well, with many activities and tours. The whale watch cruise we took was actually done by a separate company that cooperates with the corporation. It was excellent. Great photos of humpbacks, including mama and baby. Sea lions, and more. Another keeper! Warning: the bridge you walk across into the port area is COLD because of the wind, but the temps are much nicer around the corner and out of the wind. Wear layers. Friend did the zipline and loved it. Sitka, AK: Busier port with another ship in port at same time. Cute, smallish town. Walking tour went 5+ miles to see historic sites, totem area, and Raptor Center. All are worth seeing. Wish we’d had longer in totems and Raptor Center. People who took included tour said it was good, too. Note: if you are looking for the post office, you have to go outside of town, They closed the location right next to the port! Ketchikan: VERY, very touristy. We saw a total of FIVE other ships in one day, one of whom was waiting for us to pull out. Downtown is all shops, some owned by other cruise companies. We went out of town to a Fishing lodge for a crab feast. It was fun, including the boat ride out to the island. Good wildlife and newspapers-in-the-picnic-table crab boil. Dress for the weather because you are on an outdoor deck. You also get a walk in a temperate rainforest at the lodge. If you want nothing but shopping, stay in town and walk off the ship. Some ships dock a bit outside of town. Vancouver, Canada: Kudos to Viking for handling the challenge of disembarking over 900 passengers by tender! It went quite well. We were off the ship and on our way to the airport ahead of schedule. We hope everyone’s bags went to the right place. Ours did. Viking, you made a difficult good-bye palatable by keeping it smooth and easy. Suggestions for Viking: Consider changing the itinerary for Jakarta and Singapore. Maybe steal a day from Jakarta and add it to Singapore? You could play with some of Indonesia, perhaps. What about Lombok? Semarang is not great, though you need it for Borobodur. Think about solving that? Think about how you want to “sell” your port call in Cambodia Continue to refine the excursions. We know you do this because of wise changes that were made after Viking Ocean’s first summer in the Baltic. Suggestions for future Grand Voyagers: Plan for HOT weather and extreme high humidity on this itinerary of traveling Feb-May as we did. We live in the southeast US and know humidity, but this is FAR worse. Plan to change your clothes from the skin out 2-3 times a day in many of these ports. Take enough clothing so you can do that. If you are on a long cruise with people getting on and off for various shorter :legs, “ ask the management to gather the “voyagers’ for cocktails and /or dinner and get everyone’s first names and cabin number while they are at that first gathering, That way you will know where to find each other! Emails help, too, if you want to be able to contact everyone. The ship management cannot give you this info. Thanks to TL from our group who spearheaded this! A long cruise is a marathon, not a sprint. If one excursions or day is lousy, just look to the next one. Share your feedback in a constructive manner. It goes much further, and the crew will always want to help you. Vary your excursions. Don’t book too many temples, street market visits, or anything else. You’ll get tired of it! READ the Viking Daily—before you go to bed! Get accustomed to giving laundry advice in Viking’s free launderettes. You know how they work, and you don’t want the newbies to break the machines! Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same time. It appeared that no one from Ponant was present to advise us what we were to do and we were all walking around like sheep. At the disembarkation end it was even worse as we were told there would be taxis once we got out of the terminal and of course there were none, nor did the taxis even come there, so we had to arrange very expensive private transfers after waiting more than an hour for a fabled taxi. Once on board, our cabin was what we expected. It was very clean and our room steward was excellent. The turnaround for laundry, which was free for us as past passengers, was brilliant. Service in the dining room was inconsistent. Sometimes it was good and sometimes not. The service on any gala night seemed to favour those tables which had officers, which seemed to only host French passengers. That said, the wait staff we had were always happy and helpful. The standard of the entertainment is consistently good and the shows are always a highlight. Kamel, the Cruise Director is a huge asset for Ponant. The food is the biggest let down on this ship. In advance of this cruise we were required to produce significant medical evidence of our ability to travel for the last 6 days. From that I would have thought that both I, and my doctor, had made my gluten intolerance very clear. Apparently not. The choice of gluten free food is beyond poor. I raised this at the first opportunity with the head waiter, who then raised it with a very indignant head chef, who effectively dismissed my complaints. To be given a broken piece of toast for breakfast is an absolute insult, given how much this cruise cost. There were no gluten free pastries, not even rice biscuits for the cheese. The room service menu was even more limited. It is not often that I can go on a 3 week holiday, on what sets itself up as a French culinary gastronomy cruise and lose weight, but it happened. The quality of the included wine was very hit and miss. It was all French. Some was acceptable and others were very, very ordinary. The cocktails however were fabulous. The port calls were a bit of a problem, but mainly due to the water conditions. Our captain did a great job to get us to Pitcairn. In other reviews, non French passengers have made the complaint that there appears to be favouritism shown to French passengers and a sense of entitlement. We saw this too. I don't know how many times I was literally pushed out of the way by a person thinking that they had a better right than I did to be in that position in an ordered queue. We had very few landings on this cruise and for our special lunch and performance on Easter Island the French speaking passengers arrived significantly before the English speaking ones and took up the very best positions. We found it so hard to find a spot together so far from the action that it was not worth even bothering to get involved in the show. With so many non French traveling on Ponant this really needs to be addressed. We really did feel like we were getting second best treatment. Overall, if this had been my first cruise with Ponant I would be in no hurry to do another. We have been on two other cruises ( the Kimberley and from New Zealand to Sydney) and they were excellent. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. After booking the 21 day cruise I discovered I was gluten intolerant and went on a gluten free diet. I thought I would be doomed to eat foods naturally gluten free and have to pass up so many ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. After booking the 21 day cruise I discovered I was gluten intolerant and went on a gluten free diet. I thought I would be doomed to eat foods naturally gluten free and have to pass up so many of the goodies. The first night, in the dining room, when I told my waiter about my diet needs, he brought the head waiter over to talk to me. From then on, they made sure I was enjoying as much as possible while not messing with my diet. Every evening Clinton would bring me the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus from the next day and have me place my orders. In addition to those things marked as gluten free, they would make changes to the food if possible to meet my needs. For example, replacing the pasta with GF pasta, replacing the toast with GF (finally eggs and toast for breakfast), etc. My order was always prepared in a special gluten free section of the kitchen, to prevent cross contamination. In addition to the dining room, the buffets were also accommodating. They had a gluten free section which always had GF breads and rolls, GF entrees, deserts etc. If I wanted the GF bread toasted, they used fresh gloves and used a dedicated toaster. They offered delicious GF pizza upon request. They had great GF cookies at the Cafe Promenade. I am sure they would be as accommodating and attentive to any special diet needs. Other than the food, the rest of the cruise was spectacular as well. We loved the ports, the ship is beautiful, and enjoyed many of the activities. My only complaint would be that the evening entertainment started too late for us, so we missed a lot of it. In past cruises we were able to listen and dance to music before dinner and go to the show shortly after dinner. We missed that. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Despite what I consider to be the most apt review title, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise albeit plagued by a very high numbers of people experiencing prolonged bouts of chesty coughing and sneezing with some also suffering ... Read More
Despite what I consider to be the most apt review title, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise albeit plagued by a very high numbers of people experiencing prolonged bouts of chesty coughing and sneezing with some also suffering bouts of the dreaded Noro Virus. Thankfully my wife avoided the Noro Virus but both regrettably fell foul to the coughing sickness and in my case twice, with only 3 days clear around Mid trip. There were many cruisers being taken off the ship by ambulance in the various ports of call, there was also a helicopter high line medivac on the 2nd day of the cruise. There were frequently large lines of people standing outside the medical centre. Apologies for the rather lengthy review but this was a 21 day cruise. Our vacation started with a BA from London to Seattle on Wednesday 4th October arriving in Seattle around 18:00, we took the light train from Seatac to Westlake for the amazing Seniors price of $1 each. Unfortunately as we had been previously advised, regular taxis were rather thin on the ground in Seattle and as we don't use Uber we set off to find the Edgewater hotel on foot. After a couple of wrong turns and taking advice from some very friendly and helpful locals we arrived safe and sound at the hotel some 20 minutes later. It was a bit of a hike dragging our luggage but perfectly doable for the relatively fit and healthy. I would however most probably chose a hotel closer to Westlake station if I were to return to Seattle in the future . (Or figure out how to use Uber) The Edgewater was a great hotel ideally located for sightseeing. However was a bit miffed by the concierge who quoted $45 for a hotel taxi to the cruise terminal, telling us it was about the same cost as a regular taxi. We took a regular taxi and only paid $15 including the tip. We arrived at the pier 91 around 11:00 and were on board the magnificent Explorer of the seas by 11:20 with the absolute minimum of fuss... well done to both the port authorities and RCL for this. After running the now normal gauntlet of crew trying to up sell almost everything imaginable, including the kitchen sink, we settled down on the Royal Promenade to await access to the staterooms. Despite the rather gloomy weather, first impressions of both the ship and staff were very good. Our stateroom which was ready at exactly 13:00hrs was spic and span and our stateroom attendant Ketut from Indonesia found and delivered our bags and also a couple of extra pillows as requested. Our wait staff Renato and Guilherme in the Sapphire deck 3 my time dinning were very friendly and efficient and our first dinner was both excellent and served in a very timely manner which we very much appreciated. We took the majority of dinners in the Sapphire dinning room, lunch was just a sandwich in the Promenade cafe and breakfast in the Windjammer. We gave up doing speciality dinning around 10 years back, finding them none to special after the 2nd or 3rd time and not worth the additional cost. The entertainment and activities organised throughout the cruise from were numerous and well organised by the entertainment staff. The very experienced cruise director (head of on board sales) was very good at his job. He did appear to be quite elusive at times during the day and only turned up at events as and when he had to. In a similar manner the master of the vessel was certainly not a high profile character. If were not for his somewhat repetitive noon announcements we would not have known he was on the ship. The Hotel Director on the other hand was the complete opposite, he was to be seen frequently on a daily basis around the ship carrying out his various duties and interacting with both crew and passengers on numerous occasions. The continued on board attempts to up sell various products and services was occasionally annoying but thankfully not overly so, with the exception of speciality dinning being touted within the main dinning room. Which I personally considerer to be a somewhat shoddy practice and rather insulting towards the food being served in the Sapphire dinning room. Thankfully the Park West art auctions were being held in the ships conference room. Well out of the way and not taking up valuable seating in any of the lounges, every 2nd day or so. (You may guess, I am not a great fan of Park West).....We heard frequently about RCL being an environmentally aware company and doing all within its power to save the planet. I have a great suggestion for RCL to assist in their most noble effort, stop delivering Park West paper copy junk mail to all Staterooms Fleet Wide.....that would certainly save quite a few trees each year.... The ice show as always was phenomenal, the 2nd show impromptu show was also very good. The majority of the headline acts were very good however the initial production show Wild Cool and Swinging by the resident singers and dancers, was rather disappointing with respect to both vocals and set design. The other production shows after this however, were very professional and most enjoyable. The exceedingly high number of Diamond and Diamond Plus cruisers on this very popular voyage resulted in the pre-dinner social drinks event being extended from the dedicated lounges to the Star lounge to accommodate the numbers. Despite this change, seating in the Star lounge was at a premium for the first hour or so. It took until around day 10 or so to realise just why we could never find and empty seat at 17:00hrs., there were people queuing up from before 16:00hrs to rush in and grab their favoured seats in the star lounge. Our first port of call Honolulu was a bit of a disappointment, the local tourist board have obviously no interest in cruise passengers. There was no warm welcome to Hawaii indeed there was no welcome either within or outside the extremely large and barren cruise terminal. No greeting of any sort, no local guides or tourist pamphlets, no maps etc. absolute zero, an opportunity lost by the Honolulu tourism industry. Lahiana our 2nd port of call and our first tender port was considerably better. There was a group of singers on the jetty giving us a real Hawaiian welcome. There was also plentiful local information to be had on the jetty and a considerably better atmosphere in comparison to the rather inhospitable Honolulu. There was about a 10-15 minute wait for our tender going ashore which has to be expected with so many people wishing to get ashore at the same time. However the line was well organised and controlled by ships staff. On the return trip we listened to the cruise directors advice and came back slightly before the high volume rush time, getting a tender with no delay on the jetty. The crossing the line ceremony (equator) was a hoot and very well attended and the certificates we received from King Neptune were a great souvenir as was the one for crossing the international date line westbound loosing a full day in the process, on the occasion Friday the 19th Suva Fiji was a bit rough looking around the port area but the people were very friendly polite and most helpful. We took a shore 4 hour excursion with Mona tours, visiting the Museum, a native village and some sightseeing along the way. Our guide was excellent, and the bus/group size was ideal with only around 20 passengers. (One of the 2 reasons we no longer use ship tours is the delays involved with large bus groups, the other being the extortionate price charged by RCL) Again regrettably Port Villa Vanatu was also somewhat rough around the edges, and not somewhere I would be in a hurry to return to. We took the $5 water taxi into town and had a good look around before returning to the ship. Mystery Island was just expected, a very small uninhabited Island with a grass airstrip running down the centre. We had a great time wondering round the island, sitting on the sand and dipping into the clear water occasionally to cool down. Just a shame the weather turned rather wet in the afternoon. Numea New Caledonia was a great port of call, the compulsory free shuttle bus takes you from the ship to the In town Cruise Terminal" from where there are many many options to go sightseeing. The cruise terminal has excellent free WiFi and reasonably priced souvenirs. Well done again to both RCL and the Australian immigration authorities for carrying out the immigration checks prior to our arrival in Sydney. This resulted in a very smooth departure from the ship. From the volume of moaning and groaning by some Americans and the repeated PA announcements regarding the Australian Visa requirements, not all US cruisers were aware of this requirement prior to the cruise. All in all a great transpacific cruise, the sea days were brilliant, the crew were great, the ports were OK, but not a cruise I would repeat Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We have been C&A members for many years and been always pleased with the services and treatment on board of RCI ships. We been grateful to the army of the hardworking members of the RCI team, many ymployees, cabin attendants, ... Read More
We have been C&A members for many years and been always pleased with the services and treatment on board of RCI ships. We been grateful to the army of the hardworking members of the RCI team, many ymployees, cabin attendants, restaurant workers, cooks, etc. for their efforts to make our vacation comfortable and enjoyable. We never complained. This time, however , we encountered something different. The detailed account of our recent misadventure is enclosed to this message. Thank you for reading In October 2018, to celebrate a wedding anniversary, we boarded Explorer of the Seas for a 21-day cruise journey from Seattle to Sydney. In addition to cruise sailing we also planned a detailed itinerary in Australia, including flight from Sydney to Cairns, scuba diving in Great Barrier Reef for six days, and return home to Portland Oregon. For two years prior to travel we were looking forward to once in a life time exotic adventure. My husband and I like to cruise and dance. We enjoyed RCI hospitality and have been diamond members of Crown and Anchor Society for several years. We are both seniors, but continue to work full time, therefore each vacation is very special. To travel to Australia these days, all U.S, citizens must have an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) approval. It is an electronic application that is filed on line and approved (or rejected) within seconds. Once approved, it is electronically attached to your passport and subsequently secure the entry to Australia. Prior to boarding the ship, we were provided with the web site address and instructions how to apply for the ETA. Day 1. Departure Our dreams were instantly ruined once we stepped aboard a magnificent cruise liner Explorer of the Seas. My Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) was approved; my husband’s one - rejected. No reasons or explanation provided. But the automatic response suggested that we should apply for a tourist visa. Day 2 In search of advice and assistance we met with the Explorer of the Seas’ manager of guest services. At the Crown and Anchor parties we often attend, the captain and officers always thank and praise the past guests for loyalty, and pledge support and assistance in ANY perilous situation and circumstances. Right? Wrong! Meet Mr. X, the manager of the guest services office of Explorer. On surface, he appeared groomed and polished. In substance, he was cold, unsympathetic, indifferent. He advised, that my husband’s ETA rejection is not the RCI problem, but rather decision of the Australian government; that we should disembark in the next port of call, preferably Honolulu (albeit a huge fine we were responsible for under the Jones Act). He frequently used the word “unfortunately, as the highest degree of sympathy and compassion. In addition to his arrogant demeanor he was amazingly misinformed. In fact, everything he said was either flat wrong or highly inaccurate. For instance, he advised that the ETA rejection was a decision of the Australian government ( wrong; it was not a government decision just yet, but rather a computer program with certain preset data); that we shouldn’t be allowed to board the ship without the visa on the first place ( wrong, the passengers were allowed to board and did apply later); he said he could not say if there were any other guests in the same or similar situation, as it was against the RCI policy (there was no such policy); he said, we could not disembark in New Caledonia because it would require Australian visa( wrong again, it is a French territory and visas for the US citizens are not required). His demeanor was unfriendly, if not arrogant. He did not offer any constructive advice or suggestions. At the contrary, he behaved as if we were common criminals or habitual visa violators. His verdict was simple and clear “get out of the ship”. The fact that we had purchased a twenty-one-day cruise fare and paid for the hotels and air in Australia meant nothing. If before the meeting with manager X we felt upset and worried, after it we were completely devastated. This cruise was becoming the worst nightmare. The same day ( which was second day of the cruise in the middle of the Pacific) we were provided with the rules of disembarkation that was carefully placed on our well-made bed. Perhaps, Mr. X wished my husband to disembark in the open ocean…. Day 3. Once we realized there was not much help or assistance coming from the guest manager’s office of RCI to rely on, we decided to take some actions and get to work. Within the next twelve hours, we learned all we could about the Australian visas and applied electronically for all of them: again, for ETA, but from different intermediary; for the transit visa (in hopes to at least be able to fly back from Sydney and save the costly airfare); and the Australian tourist visa (visa # 600). This one required 20-page application and numerous supporting documents that we too provided electronically. In the meantime, our cruising was business as usual: the RCI praised us, as diamond members, for loyalty. Each day we were invited to various celebrations, lunches, behind the scene tours, dinners, exclusive member shows, etc. Also, we were presented with elegant souvenirs as a token of appreciation for our loyalty. Day 4. We called the manager’s office to say that, first, we applied for Australian tourist visa; and second, in case the tourist visa is not approved, we would like to disembark in New Caledonia. Day 5. Manager's assistant, guest administration officer called back to advise that we would be allowed to disembark in Noumea ONLY if we provided the flight itinerary and hotel accommodation confirmation in New Caledonia. The deadline - tomorrow, in the port of Lahaina, the eighth day of the cruise. We were stunned. This information is required at the time of entry New Caledonia. Why manager X demanded it 12 (twelve) days in advance ? It remained a mystery. Regardless, we did not question or dispute his demands. What else you do, if you are in the middle of the ocean under complete power and control of an incompetent and arrogant RCI official? You just comply. Again, we spent hours on internet putting together a new itinerary, booked a new flight from New Caledonia back to the US, and cancelled all the previously booked (nonrefundable) flights in Australia and cancelled all existing hotel reservations in Sydney and Cairns. As was required by officer X, we provided the info to the guest services desk. Day 11 On the 11 th day of the cruise, and twelve days before Sydney, we discovered my husband’s visa was approved. The guest service manager’s assistant called and asked If perhaps we still wanted to disembark in Sydney….. No, we did not. By that time, we already cancelled all booking in Australia and made a new reservation in New Caledonia. On October 24th, we disembarked in New Caledonia. We wanted to leave the unfriendly ship ASAP. The manager X did not offer a single word of regret, sympathy, or apology. It was business as usual. Yes, we suffered financial losses due to improper conduct of the RCI manager’s indifference, and his insistence on booking a new itinerary ahead of time; and yes, we lost two full days of the cruise vacation. Most importantly, we lost faith in RCI and felt deep disappointment in treatment and attitude we had experienced on board of the Explorer. Mr. X is not good for the RCI guests and he is not good for the RCI reputation. He should be removed, or seriously retrained. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
First, let me say, I loved the itinerary for this cruise - 21 nights across the Pacific from Seattle to Sydney. Embarkation (and disembarkation) went very smoothly, though we were surprised there was no welcome aboard glass of champagne. ... Read More
First, let me say, I loved the itinerary for this cruise - 21 nights across the Pacific from Seattle to Sydney. Embarkation (and disembarkation) went very smoothly, though we were surprised there was no welcome aboard glass of champagne. This was a minor change from the previous cruises we'd taken on Celebrity (a sister company), but was just the beginning of a slew of disappointments in the quality of Royal Caribbean as it compared to Celebrity. My biggest complaint was the quality of food in the main dining room. Steaks were low quality and very tough. Selection was low quality and, most surprising, did not improve on formal nights. They were literally offering higher quality food selection at the buffet! The result of this however, was that the huge dining room was virtually empty while the buffet was packed with long lines and full tables. Secondly, was the unabashed up-sell! Even the dining room menu had choices that you needed to pay extra for! Apparently, if you wanted decent food, you had to pony up another $30-$50. Breakfast in the dining room had an option on the menu for the fresh-squeezed orange juice, but that would cost you an additional $5. We looked at menus from the signature menu and even they offered up-sell selections!! That's just plain tacky. Next was the sick-boat-syndrome. Every one of our party of 5 had upper respiratory illness throughout the entire 3 week period. It never abated until we got off the boat. Yet my husband and one of our friends, who suffered the most severe symptoms, had to pay exorbitant medical fees and wait for long lines to get treatment. The long lines and loud chorus of coughing throughout the boat was enough proof that this entire boat was suffering the same symptoms. The design of the ship itself left much to be desired. There was no outdoor dining section. In fact there was little emphasis on offering outside views. There were few window seats in the lower level lounges and even those just looked out on the lifeboats. There was one upper-level lounge that had a wide array of windows, but that looked out at the pool rather than out to sea. There were a lot of little lounge areas that looked into the atrium, but who wants to look at that when you're out at sea? The shows also didn't live up to the quality of those we had experienced on our Celebrity cruises with the only exception being the ice show. That was actually quite extraordinary! The one area they excelled at over Celebrity was the more active offerings for younger travelers - the FlowRider, climbing wall, miniature golf - and the larger children's activity center. Personally, I would never take another Royal Caribbean cruise. As an after thought - I forgot to include a review of the enrichment activities. On a cruise this long with SO MANY sea nights, they were unprepared for the number of people wanting to participate in the activities. There were literally fights between people trying to get into watercolor and jewelry classes and the lounges used for trivia were way too small to accommodate the crowds. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
This is going to be long winded! So many times, I have read that this itinerary only comes around twice a year and therefore, fewer reviews. If I can help anyone decide to take this journey, my job will be done. I decided to sail from ... Read More
This is going to be long winded! So many times, I have read that this itinerary only comes around twice a year and therefore, fewer reviews. If I can help anyone decide to take this journey, my job will be done. I decided to sail from Honolulu instead of Sydney mainly to escape airline luggage restrictions and also to rest after my first visit to Hawaii. This trip was 18 months in planning with no stones unturned. I really don’t know where to start. I’m always sceptical about people who have a gripe against a cruise line or hotel when something goes wrong that clouds their entire review (sometimes due to unrealistic expectations), or those, much like me, who can see no wrong. I’m a glass half full kind of person. I will try to give this review balance. A little background. I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and more importantly, to Bora Bora, my bucket list place. My youngest daughter aged 19 and I flew to Hawaii on Jetstar on September 24 from Sydney. We spent a marvellous week there before embarking the Solstice on Oct 1 for the cruise home via French Polynesia and New Zealand. What a month-long journey it was…. We stayed at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel in a premier oceanfront room. The view was stunning and well worth the extra cost for this room in my opinion. It made me constantly “feel” I was finally in Hawaii. It’s located next to the Park Shore Hotel and the Zoo in the quieter end of Waikiki. It was an easy 10-minute walk to Waikiki central. The staff at this hotel were friendly, helpful and professional. We luckily paid $USD60 for an early check in which was much appreciated after arriving from Sydney at 6am. Those overnight flights are brutal if you can’t sleep on a plane (like me). Check in and check out was super easy and fast. The pool area was very pleasant. You could check out towels and deck chairs to take to the beach across the road without charge. There’s an ice machine on some floors. One thing about this hotel is that there is no room service. That didn’t bother us in the least because there were 2 ABC stores, a Wolfgang Puck, a juice place, a cookie store and a Subway on the ground level. The weather in Hawaii was very warm and humid. The locals saying that it was unusually so due to the recent hurricanes and volcanic activity around the islands. I enjoyed swimming at Kuhio Beach to cool down on many occasions. The ocean was refreshing and not cold. Whilst in Hawaii we went with Oahu Photography Tours to the “North Shore” and a “Beautiful Hawaii” tour. I can highly recommend them. You don’t need to be a photographer. They will help you get great shots at some beautiful locations if you want or you can do your own thing. An iphone is just as good as an SLR. We took both. It’s a great way to see the island. I do have to say here that many people we spoke with went to the North Shore with Hi5. It sounds that this may have been a better option. I will go with them next time. Oh, and there will be a next time. Already booked for next June before I even left Hawaii. LOL. We also went to Pearl Harbour. Got a shuttle from our hotel, for something like $USD32 return for both of us. Of course, you still can’t disembark the boat onto the memorial due to structural defects, however, the moving video and 2 free museums were well worth the visit. The movie really explained in simple terms why and how the bombing of Pearl Harbour occurred. Such a tragedy. I booked Arizona tickets online two months out. We got there two hours before our tour asked if we could change our times. Numbers are down so we were able to do that no problem and did not have to wait. One morning at 6am we hiked Diamond Head. We caught an Uber as the buses weren’t running that early. My daughter called it the “death hike” although it wasn’t that bad. It was tough though. There were lots of places to stop and rest on the way up with great photo opportunities. There are lots of uneven lava paths, tunnels and stairs +++. I saw some young and older people have trips and spills. TIP. Once you get to the top and arrive at the near vertical stairs on your right, turn left, a much easier climb to the summit. We were greeted by an amazing scene that included a rainbow! Well worth the effort. Some other things we did was to eat Poke’ in backstreet restaurants, tuna, salmon and octopus, yum. I tried Loco Moco once, and ate at a lovely Italian place, Arancino Di Mare, down near the zoo. Beautiful food. Of course, we went to the Cheesecake Factory and Dukes. No complaints. Lulu’s attached to the Park Shore had great breakfast although way to big portions that were very tasty and economical. Get one meal for two. Great views too. Tikis grill at our hotel was lovely too. You could have a light meal by the pool with drinks or dine in the restaurant for a more a la carte menu. There was nightly music and entertainment. We were on the 10th floor and the music was enjoyable, not intrusive. Of course, we also did some retail therapy at the Waikele outlets and Ala Moana Centre and got some high-end bargains compared to prices in Australia. We caught an Uber to the outlets from Ala Moana, $USD35, and then got a Robert’s air-conditioned bus back to the hotel for $USD10 each which you could book at the outlets. Now to the cruise October 1, got to the terminal by 11am with Hawaii23 shuttle service and were on board by 12 eating lunch at a dedicated dining room function for Concierge class. A lovely way to start. This would be my 7th cruise. All the others on Royal Caribbean. As Concierge class we were invited by the concierge Javier, to the bridge and to sail into Auckland on the helipad which were really nice touches. The main advantage of Concierge class for me was the location. We had a hump cabin on the pool deck with a bigger balcony. We were starboard and had shade most of the day. From day 1 I was blown away. This ship by far is the best I have been on. Probably the biggest difference is that this ship seems to have 2 passengers to each crew member. That is amazing. Considering I have been on Ovation where it was probably 10 to 1. There were no lines on this ship! The Solstice staff were standout. They are truly a credit to their ship and industry. So friendly and willing to help anyone and assist at every opportunity. I could name so many people. But here goes some….Greg and Abel on the pool deck, Maurice, our room attendant, Jim, Faishoul, Kim and Almandi in the dining room. Thank you. You deserve all the recognition you can get. The Solstice has tendering down to a fine art. We had no problems getting off or back on the ship whenever we wanted. We were docked for Honolulu, Papeete, Auckland and of course Sydney. The entertainment was enjoyable with a few standout performances. I enjoyed the enrichment talks about sharks, rays and turtles etc with Brent Nixon prior to French Polynesia. They were appropriate and informative. Especially as we would be swimming with them in Bora Bora. The food was amazing. Not one bad meal. We were careful not to overeat and enjoyed our food. Often skipping lunch after a lovely breakfast where you are spoiled for choice. Occasionally we had a hot dog or burger from the Mast Grill that were always tasty. We dined at many of the specialty restaurants, namely Murano, Silk Harvest, and Tuscan Grill. The flambé lobster at Murano was particularly good. At Silk Harvest, we did a set menu that consisted of a lot of seafood with an Asian twist titled Silk ‘n’ Soul. Very nice. Tuscan Grill was my least favourite, only because I am not a steak person. We had pre-purchased a 3-night dining package. Most nights we did select dining and did not ever wait to be seated. We were treated like royalty. We ate breakfast in the Oceanview café daily except when we ordered room service on days that we had early tenders. It was on time, complete and still hot enough to eat. I was not going to purchase a drink package; however, I could not pass up the premium package for $AUD46 a day! It went on sale just before our cruise. By the time I had daily bottled water, speciality coffees, soft drink, nightly wine with dinner and a cocktail or two, it worked out economical for me. Whenever we went ashore I would grab some cold bottled water to take with me. I suppose I should mention here that we were advised not to drink anything other than sealed bottles of water in French Polynesia which surprised me a little. We were also warned about having drinks with ice in it. My daughter had the premium non-alcoholic package which was not on sale. I was under the impression that she would not be able to drink alcohol as this cruise originated in the USA where drinking laws are 21. However, after clearing Hawaii and in international waters, the drinking age was reduced to 18. So, she ended up having a couple of drinks which were charged at full price and 18% gratuity. Luckily for me she doesn’t drink much. Our first port of call was Maui after departing Honolulu at midnight. We had organised a ship’s tour on what was a beautiful day without any wind. A 45min helicopter flight. How else to see the most of Maui in one day? I can only say that it was worth every dollar. My daughter and I travelled in the front with the pilot as we ascended 10000 feet to the Haleakala Crater. Awe inspiring. It looked like something out of a sci fi movie. A bit like Mars, the red planet. We then travelled the road to Hana by air and saw majestic waterfalls and beautiful terrain that you can’t see from the road. We travelled the famous Jurassic Park helicopter scene into the “park” as Blue Hawaiian had the contract for all the helicopter scenes for all the Jurassic movies. On return to the port we visited the shops and bought some souvenirs and enjoyed the shade of the Banyan Tree. After Maui we had 5 sea days. There was always something to do around the ship or relax around the pool. The cruise director, Rick Spacey and his team could certainly entertain. The uniformed staff often played games against passengers which I think they genuinely enjoyed. Many people debated that 5 sea days in a row were too much, however, I didn’t think so. I used the Canyon Ranch Spa for a massage and a manicure however I found the staff unengaging, condescending and dismissive on two different occasions. Karin who did the massage and Kim the advanced aesthetics technician who did my nails were less than happy to be there in my opinion. I believe they are not employed by Celebrity which could have enhanced their business in my eyes. I could not wait to get out of there. Our next port of call was Papeete, Tahiti. The city itself was like any other capital city with a French flavour. We did another ships tour down the West Coast. It was a nice way to see some of the island. We visited a grotto, a scared ground, and a botanical garden. We called into the markets to buy some souvenirs and found them to be quite expensive. $USD10 for a fridge magnet minimum. This was the same all over French Polynesia. I did get some beautiful unique flower arrangements for my granddaughters to wear in their hair. The next port day was Bora Bora. My destination!! I was up early because I was so excited. It was another beautiful day. I had organised a private tour for about 30 cruisers with Maohi Nui. We had booked nearly a year out to ensure we could experience all Bora Bora has to offer. 12 of us, 6 at a time, did a full day combo tour for $USD215 each which included going up the mountain in a 4-wheel drive for some stunning views, a drive around the island with commentary from Arii who was obviously proud of his country and culture. Up the mountain we visited an artist studio where I bought 4 beautiful hand painted sarongs for my family at home. They were not cheap but definitely unique and of good quality. The artist said it takes him 4-5 hours to paint each one. We then went down the mountain and boarded a 12-seater outrigger canoe with Teddy and Vaitiare and went snorkelling in a coral garden. So many fish all swimming around you. We were serenaded by ukulele as we were taken through the pristine waters to Patrick’s private motu for a true Polynesian feast of suckling pig cooked underground. It was melt in the mouth good! It was served with fruits cooked in the oven, two types of BBQ fish, a chicken and spinach dish and some salad. Cold drinks were supplied and included bottled water, beer, wine, soft drink and champagne. We ate with our hands as you do in Bora Bora from banana leaf plates. After lunch, Patrick performed his fire dance before we headed back to the outrigger to swim with sharks and rays, and that we did in 1-2 metres of water! It was thrilling. Finally, we headed out to the reef to swim in 40ft of deep blue water on top of sharks deep below. To top everything off, a mother and calf whale breached in front of our outrigger as we headed back to the port. What a day! Words are not enough. This day turned out to be the highlight of our month-long holiday. It’s a good idea to take water shoes, an underwater camera, and your own snorkels as we did. If you go to Bora Bora, do yourself a favour and tour with Maohi Nui. Vaitiare likes to book groups to make her job easier so use your roll call and organise things early with one person to do the planning. I do recommend the combo tour however only 12 people per day can do this. The other cruisers did the full day tour and Polynesian lunch minus the 4 wheel drive up and around the island and most raved about the day. All money is payable on the day in cash. The last port of call in French Polynesia was Moorea. It was very hot and humid. We booked the ships Capture Moorea photo tour. It was a lovely way to see the island from Belvedere Lookout and atop Magic Mountain. It was very majestic scenery. After we left French Polynesia, the weather changed. We had cold windy weather with 4 metre swells. They closed the top decks for a couple of days. I was rocked to sleep two nights in a row. The weather settled a little in New Zealand and remained cool till we reached Sydney. Fortunately, I heard of no one coming down with gastro. Unfortunately, many people including myself became unwell in the last few days of the cruise. Many people were quarantined due to influenza A or another virus going around that caused razor blade throats and a hacking cough. I am still recovering. I don’t blame Celebrity for this. The ship was kept meticulously clean and they maintained mandatory hand sanitising. It was just a consequence of many people in a confined space with viruses that were airborne and helped along via the air conditioning when everyone was forced inside due to inclement weather. Despite the illness, I had the time of my life!! I met so many nice people to share my time with. I can now tick off Bora Bora and hope that you can too one day. It really is paradise. Everything else on this remarkable voyage was a bonus. Tours Hana and Haleakala Helicopter Exploration ++++ Discover Tahiti’s West Coast +++ Maohi Nui- Bora Bora ++++++ Capture Moorea- Photo tour ++++ Auckland- Hop on Hop off bus and the Skywalk +++ Bay of Islands- Island and Cave Adventure ++ Read Less
Sail Date October 2018

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