4 San Diego First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

NEGATIVES (1) Embarkation: Almost a three hour wait in line with a 1000+ other passengers crammed tightly together waiting to register was the worst possible scenario for beginning a vacation. (2) Disembarkation: The only elevators ... Read More
NEGATIVES (1) Embarkation: Almost a three hour wait in line with a 1000+ other passengers crammed tightly together waiting to register was the worst possible scenario for beginning a vacation. (2) Disembarkation: The only elevators going to the 3rd deck for disembarkation were locked off from all but decks 3 and 5. Eventually I and others took different elevators to deck 5 and walked down stairs to deck 3 carrying all luggage. Instead of leaving the ship with fond memories fresh in our mind, we left with a sour taste because of their rampant disorganization. POSITIVES (if the embarkation and disembarkation had not been so disorganized, my overall rating would have definitely been a 4.5 out of 5 stars) (1) Staff: Service-staff members were superbly accommodating and friendly throughout the ship; the best I have ever experienced. (2) Ship: The ship was spotless and well maintained. (3) State Rooms: Our cabin was comfortable, clean, and well-maintained. Our cabin steward was the best ever. The beds were excellent. I had some of my best nights of sleep in many years. Don"t forget State Room 10307 when booking a cruise on the Sun. (4) Food: The main dining rooms served a varied selection of well prepared appetizers and entrees that should have satisfied every passenger's taste. The buffets had an excellent selection of dishes with varied theme nights. We looked forward to the excellent soups, different with each meal. The bakery provided scrumptious breads and rolls as well. Some of the food tended to be lukewarm when served upon occasion, especially at breakfast. (5) Entertainment: The entertainment was varied and enjoyable in the lounges and the Stardust Theater. We attended the Stardust every evening and were not disappointed with a single performer. The Norwegian Sun's band, singers and dancers were awesome. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
I recently returned from the Pacific Coastal cruise I went on with two family members, with only one who had been on a cruise before (he sailed on Celebrity). We were very disappointed with Royal Caribbean's customer service on this ... Read More
I recently returned from the Pacific Coastal cruise I went on with two family members, with only one who had been on a cruise before (he sailed on Celebrity). We were very disappointed with Royal Caribbean's customer service on this ship and off the ship. First of all, we waited in the check in line in San Diego for two and a half hours. It was a cattle line, and there were not any chairs to sit in once you were in line. I am in my twenties and it was hard enough to stand that long, but I can't even imagine how others must have felt. There were people with walkers who had to stand the whole time! The workers directing everyone to the lines were confused and downright rude. By the time we actually got on the ship it had been three hours. HORRIBLE. Only 1 out of 3 suitcases got to the room early. The other 2 were late. Positives: We loved the ports. San Diego, Catalina Island, and San Francisco were incredible. Canada was ok. We had so much fun. We did not buy any shore excursions, as we preferred to tour around and do our own thing. We found a good deal online for the hop on hop off bus tour in San Francisco. Warning: It can get extremely cold if you sit on the upper outside deck of the bus. We went over Golden Gate Bridge at 40 mph and it was 20 degrees cooler up there. I can't remember the last time I was that cold. There wasn't room on the bottom inside deck of the bus where everyone was warm, so plan accordingly. We enjoyed the food, especially in the dining room. A few desserts were questionable, but we had a great time. We requested a table to ourselves, but were put at a table with 12 people. However, we were lucky and loved the people at our table. The Windjammer buffet was good. The breakfasts were just ok, but lunch was great. The staff in the Windjammer was extremely friendly and entertaining! The Schooner bar was nice too- loved the staff there as well. I loved walking around- the interior is beautiful and clean. The glass theme is awesome. Disembarkation was very simple. We did not have any customs to go through in Canada, which was surprising. However, there needed to be better signs directing people how to get out of the terminal in Vancouver. Good thing we didn't have an early flight, or we would have been cutting it close. Negatives: Everyone was told to go to deck 2 to get off the ship in San Francisco. Well that changed two times, but they did not make an announcement. Everyone was crowded together outside of the lobby area on deck 4, and they were not letting people use the stairs to get to deck 5, which ended up being the departure floor. We waited about an hour... Insanity. We were also late getting into San Francisco (with no explanation), and we had a family member waiting for us at the port. She waited about two hours from the time she saw the ship arriving. Communication was the main problem overall, as you can tell. The ship had a mechanical issue and we were supposed to leave San Fran at 5 pm, but left at 2 am. The announcements were vague and we basically had a second sea day. We barely had any time in Victoria BC, as we got off the ship around 6:30 pm. We should have received ship credit or SOMETHING. We were there 4 hours instead of 7 hours and there was not much to do that late. The activities on the ship were boring. Not everyone likes trivia or bingo (which costs $). There should have been more activities on our sea days. The entertainment needed some work. We saw one production with the singers and dancers and it was cheesy and did not make sense. The best show was Bowzer from Sha na na. Very entertaining. It was nice when they showed a movie - American Sniper - in the Coral Theater on a sea day. They should have done that more. We tried seeing American Sniper the previous day in the movie theater, but since the movie theater was so small, it was full about 40 min prior to the movie starting. Overall, it was a nice cruise ship, the ports were fun, and the staff in the bars and restaurants were incredible, but the communication issues need work. The customers pay a lot for these cruises, and should be treated better. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This was my second experience sailing, and my partner's first. I want to make clear that we did enjoy ourselves. So it isn't necessarily that it was a horrible experience. But it was definitely less than I expected. First, the ... Read More
This was my second experience sailing, and my partner's first. I want to make clear that we did enjoy ourselves. So it isn't necessarily that it was a horrible experience. But it was definitely less than I expected. First, the good. Zaandam is a small ship. I had previously sailed on a large Royal Caribbean ship, and I had a hard time getting to know people. On this sailing, we made a lot of friends. Because the ship is smaller, you see people more frequently and thus there are more chances to make connections. That's a good thing if you are sociable, like we are. The cabin steward was a real gem. He had this knack for knowing exactly when we had left the cabin without seeming like he was hovering, waiting for us to leave. He always greeted us with a smile and called us by name. The front desk crew was also very professional. I felt that embarkation was a lot easier on this line than my previous experience on Royal Caribbean. The fact is that the ship pulls into port at 7 am. From 7 until roughly 8:30 they are waiting for port clearance. And the rest of their passengers are not off until around 10 am. And they start boarding new passengers at noon. That gives them only about 2 hours of time to get the ship ready. Given that, it is simply amazing what they do. The nighttime shows were particularly good, particularly the comedians. I haven't laughed that hard in years. They also have a pretty decent movie theater, and showed a selection of pretty good movies at night. Now the bad: First, from the start it seems like everything is about money with them. I would be interested in more seminars on interesting stuff, but apart from the cooking classes and fitness classes, it seems like most of their activities are really only thinly disguised attempts to sell you something. If your idea of a good vacation is not constant attempts to sell you things, then the day can be a bit boring, until nighttime, when the ship does start to come to life. There are movies, shows, and the bars come to life at night. So the nights were definitely far more entertaining than the days. During the day you can use the pool, but that gets old after awhile. They need to plan more interesting daytime activities. Before you reach the port, Holland America will offer you information on the ports. This is really a spoiled opportunity. They could have taken this chance to tell us about all the "off the beaten track" sorts of things you can do in these truly interesting ports. Instead, for the most part they use the information session to promote their own favorite shops in the ports. And how does one become one of Holland America's favorite shops? Simple. You give Holland America money. We found this out in a really interesting way. We took our little Holland America port map into town, and one of the proprietors tried to get us into his shop, telling us that he is one of "Holland America's Guaranteed Shops". We told him that he wasn't on our map! He said, "really, can I see?" Sure enough, he wasn't on our map. He was furious! "We paid them a lot of money to be on that map!" He told us, "we should be on there!" On ship, his story turned out to be true. The Holland America port director told us that his shop had accidentally been left off, but that his shop, "The Real McCoy" was one of their guaranteed shops. So there you have it. The man's credibility was confirmed: Their "guaranteed shops" is just a synonym for their advertisers. I gave the owner of "The Real McCoy" my map so he would have proof, and I truly hope he gets a refund. Service around the ship for the most part was pretty good, and people were pretty friendly. But on several occasions ships staff were rude to us. This seemed more common at the drink station in the Lido. At one point, a crew member scolded me for grabbing something myself rather than waiting for her to give it to me. (Keep in mind, the Lido restaurant is a buffet!!!!) And another crew member blatantly refused to give me an empty cup at dinner time when I requested it. I then asked for a glass of water, which I then poured into a bowl and handed the bowl to him. One shouldn't have to go to such lengths to get an empty cup. I got another lecture from a crew member respecting some sort of "tender ticket." I still have no idea what that was about. Apparently, they have some sort of odd, nonsensical procedure for getting off the boat in Cabo, which they poorly explain to passengers and then try to cover for by scolding passengers who don't know what to do. The Main Dining Room was an atrocious experience for us. We ate there only one night, the rest of the nights preferring the Lido restaurant. Our first night in the Main Dining Room They chose to seat us right next to a server station. There really is nothing more uncomfortable than sitting right next to the server station. You feel constantly like you are in the way, as waiters fly by with trays only a few inches above your head. You feel like you are in the way. Service was beyond slow. And while the food quality was decent, the food arrived in such small quantities that we were left hungry. Granted, we could have ordered more, but given how long it took them to bring everything, we opted to simply go to the Lido afterwards and eat a little more. On top of all that, the waiter treated us rudely because we didn't want to pay $10 for a carafe of water. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer and made us feel like we were bad people for refusing the offer. The ship is gay-friendly because it is small, so you get a chance to really know the other passengers. But Holland America doesn't really do much to help that. On our voyage, there was an LGBT meeting only one night. And now, for the ugly: debarkation. I have heard that debarkation is bad in San Diego. But nothing prepared me for how bad. Ok. I understand. This is not totally Holland America's fault. They are dealing with the government. When I complained to Holland, this was the answer I got. Fine. I understand. But that is not all there is to the story. Holland America may not have the power to control the government, but they certainly can put pressure on them. Holland America could go to the port of San Diego and tell them, "Hey, you guys need to get your act together and stop being so rude to our passengers. If you can't get it under control, we won't be coming here anymore." If San Diego wants the tourism dollars, (and they do!), they would make it right. I will say this: foreign ports always make you feel welcome. For some reason, our country has got to the point where we are so xenophobic that we are even suspicious of U.S. citizens who travel. U.S. ports are by far the least friendly of any in the world, and San Diego is the worst of all of them. How is this Holland's fault? Well, it isn't ALL Holland's fault. But we did have a particularly horrible experience that was all Holland's fault. My partner is a Mexican citizen who happens to be a U.S. resident who has a green card. I am a U.S. citizen. On the final day, non-U.S. citizens have to go through an additional screening. So my partner had to report to the Mondriian lounge before debarkation. I went with him, in part just for the security of it all. If they gave him any trouble, at least I would know what was going on. Well, one of Holland's officers forced me to leave the line. I was told that U.S. citizens are not allowed to accompany their non-citizen family members. However, this appears to be a very selectively enforced rule. In fact, only the gay family members were separated from their families. The people in front of us and behind us both had U.S. citizen husbands who were permitted to stay with them. When I brought this to the attention of the crew member who separated us, she said that she did not know, and that if she had known she would have forced them to leave as well. That was a blatant lie. I overheard her discussion with the man behind me, who was a U.S. citizen who made it very clear that he did not want to leave his wife. She knew full well that he was a U.S. citizen. The only explanation I can give for this is that I wasn't a "real" family member because I am gay and they were straight. If there is another explanation, I would love to know what it is. On top of all this, the officer led me to an area where I could at least observe the proceedings. After a few minutes, a member of U.S. Customs came over and was verbally abusive to me and threatened me, ordering me to leave the area. I can think of nothing I was doing to deserve this treatment. I was simply sitting silently watching the proceedings trying to make sure that my loved one had gained entry. And how did Holland react to this? The only proper thing for her to do would have been to stand up to the Customs officer, and say, "Excuse me! You do not speak to our Passengers in that manner! What is your name and badge number!" Instead, she meekly ushered me out of the area, muttering her apologies under her breath. When I was out of the lounge, I asked to speak to the Captain, since I had been verbally threatened and treated abusively on the ship. The Captain refused to see me. When I said I was never sailing with Holland again, then another officer came up to me and tried to explain that the poor treatment wasn't Holland America's fault, it was the fault of the U.S. Government. Sorry. That doesn't cut it. Holland let it happen, and it only happened because I had been forced out of line in the first place, something none of the straight spouses were forced to do. Overall, we do not recommend this cruise line. Although we had a good time overall, there were far too many glitches. 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Sail Date November 2012
Embarkation went really smooth once we got to the ship after fog delays in flying into San Diego. We boarded the ship at apx 12:15 and were told our rooms would be ready at 1:00pm so we took this time to purchase our first drink from the ... Read More
Embarkation went really smooth once we got to the ship after fog delays in flying into San Diego. We boarded the ship at apx 12:15 and were told our rooms would be ready at 1:00pm so we took this time to purchase our first drink from the bar and Coke cards for those that wanted them and then headed to our first meal on Lido Deck. We found the layout to be quite confusing with all the stations and people coming from all directions. We looked forward to the Oriental station as it was our favorite on out last cruise and were not disappointed on this cruise either. The Deli station always seemed to be a hit as well as the Grill. The other stations always seemed to serve the same thing so that was new as in the past there seemed to be more variety. Found a very limited supply of fresh pineapple but when we found it it was delicious. Rooms were ready at 1:00 just as we were told so we dropped off our carry on items and began exploring the ship. Found the layout of this ship to be great, I never got lost and my husband thought that was something as it was the first time. The decor of the ship is bizarre to say the least, very explicit so if traveling with children you might find yourself explaining things to them quite often. Ship seemed a little worn and dated. Balcony was small but served its purpose to sit out and enjoy the ocean breeze, wish there would have been more sun as I think I would have used it more. Food - Overall I found it to be more that satisfactory and a good variety of choices. We chose to eat in the main dining room for breakfast most mornings and found the service and food to be good. We ate most of our lunches in port but grabbed food also on Lido Deck...first cruise I never went to the grill for a hamburger or hotdog so can't comment on how good they were. We ate one lunch in the main dining room and it was wonderful had fish and chips and shared BBQ ribs which were fabulous throughout the cruise. For dinner we at early seating with Donald as our Waiter and we couldn't have asked for a better waiter he was wonderful and we looked forward to spending a couple of hours with him each evening. We celebrated his birthday as well as 4 others in our group on this cruise. The maitre de was so much fun we ran into her quite often during the cruise and she was pleasant with lots of fun stories to tell. She mentioned that this was the first cruise with the menu we had and asked for suggestions and our group said that they felt it gave a great selection, my suggestion was that I wanted souffle and had waited all cruise and on our last night we were served souffle not sure if it was scheduled that way or if she had it added either way I enjoyed. Steak House - What a beautiful atmosphere and the staff was great until time to get our check and we had to wait quite a long time. The selection was wonderful, they cooked to perfection the way each of the 12 in our party ordered their steak. The porterhouse seemed to be the favorite selection. I had a New York Strip and shared with some of the guys as it was too much for me. I found the flavor of the steak to be wonderful but it seemed to lack some seasoning that I am used to. The fillet also was said to lack real flavor. Only one person felt that it was not worth the $30 pp. We would go to their steak house again on a future cruise which is something we could not say on previous cruises and the use of their steakhouses. Entertainment - They need to really step it up in this area we all felt and so did the majority of those we talked to. We all felt that for a Carnival Cruise encouraging families to travel together they only seemed to offer adult comedy, four shows daily and 1 or 2 PG rated shows which I felt took it too far. In the production shows the girls are dressed scampi in thongs, see through coats etc. I am not a prude but I do appreciate great entertainment and a variety and this ship did not offer it. The final Legend Show was the best however it was also made crude by the staff with their production numbers. I think they need to realize that families do travel and we don't need to be shown crude entertainment. Late night comedy for those that want is great and I have enjoyed several shows but taking adult comedy from comedy to just crude is not entertainment to me and I heard this comment throughout the cruise as people said they walked out. So Carnival step it up in your production and variety to offer your guests as your game shows were on the adult side as well. The other entertainment offered just wasn't that great. I like to sit and listen to music while out by the pool and that was virtually non existent. I felt the best music was played in the Casino and I heard others say the same and then others that said they wished he would shut up so too each our own. I just felt if they had him somewhere else on the ship people could have danced to his country music. The guy in the atrium area was awful. The person in charge of Karaoke was horrible no personality at all. Stu and Pip were horrible and not very people friendly, they acted tired and like we were just in their way. On other cruises the cruise directors encouraged participation and these two I think hoped no one would participate. Casino and Bingo - The Blackjack tournament is getting to be a joke lots of participants yet the cruise line and casino keep the cash and give out a measly $500 to the winner. Don't know how the Texas Hold-em Tournament was in payout but it was fun to watch. Bingo was a complete joke they give out one 3 game strip for $20 and usually only played one game and the prize money was so skimpy. I played the one day when you played 7 games for $20 but again you only got one strip of 3 games and played all 7 games on the same strip and pay outs were horrible. When someone won they never yelled Bingo or got excited in any way...come on you did win something get a little excited. Also they had a drawing for a free cruise...this used to be a Bingo game....you bought 10 tickets for $20 and then they drew out a number and you had to be present to win. The first number the person wasn't there and then the person that won just waved their hand never got excited like they win a cruise everyday!! Come on people if you are going to play a game play with enthusiasm and have some fun the cruise directors were dull enough we didn't need to buy into their dull drum. Other than that the casino paid our group as a whole pretty good, coming home with money is always a plus. Overall rating is a 3* for the cruise. Room steward wasn't the greatest and the entertainment was horrible. Disembarkation was a joke they acted like it was the first ship they had ever disembarked. For those international people that seem to hold up the process on every cruise either stop cruising or pay attention and follow directions. For the staff disembarking we are tired of hearing it is not your fault you are in control take control. Biggest complaint by many was no place to gather and play board games with family as the only table large enough were in the dining room and it became frustrating when people wanted to eat and couldn't find a table for all the groups playing games....I admit we were one of them but our family and friends love to play games and there was no other place on the ship to do so. We planned our next cruise while on board and will be switching cruise lines for that one but we will give Carnival another try if the price is right and the time and itinerary are what we are looking for. We met some of the greatest people on this cruise and hope to cruise with them again. That is one of the reasons we like to cruise as we meet some of the most wonderful people that we probably would have never been given the opportunity to meet otherwise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010

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