13 San Diego Gay & Lesbian Cruise Reviews

Bucket-list cruise. Check-in was a bit rough: new program scanned my wife's passport and said she was born on some tropical island I've never heard of; a supervisor had to be called to update the location to NY. Night 2, around ... Read More
Bucket-list cruise. Check-in was a bit rough: new program scanned my wife's passport and said she was born on some tropical island I've never heard of; a supervisor had to be called to update the location to NY. Night 2, around 9:45, we were in the Schooner bar having a drink and listening to Joy Wade the piano player. He was going along quite nicely, until he got bored or ran out of popular songs, and then started playing something that talked about sex and killing someone. There were a few nervous laughs from the folks sitting nearby, but we found it inappropriate and walked out. We're not prudes, but that was out of line. The rest of our cruise was great. We found the food in the main dining room to be much better than what we had on Freedom last year; even the choices in the Windjammer were better. The forays off the ship were eye-opening. We did a mix of RCCL and Costco excursions. We enjoyed them all, but driving through the impoverished areas with the shanties and garbage strewn everywhere made me feel sad. And Colon, Panama looked like Dresden after the bombings of WW2. Cartagena was beautiful. We did a Dora tour and we highly recommend it. 4 hours total between driving and walking around the city. The vendors are relentless, but a firm "No, gracias" usually did the trick. There was a running commentary during our Panama Canal transit, which was very informative. The ship was very clean, and the crew was constantly wiping down/disinfecting the common areas and handrails. We were asked EVERY day about dining in the specialty restaurants. We actually went to Chops Grill on embarkation day as part of The Key package, and dined at Giovanni's Table on the last night on board; both were excellent. Speaking of The Key, I highly recommend it. For 20 bucks per day per person, you get a lot of perks. We walked on the ship with the Diamond and Pinnacle folks, we had the free luncheon at Chops, we had the Voom Internet and streaming package on our phones for the whole cruise, we had some free and then half-price drinks, we had a bottle of sparkling wine waiting in our cabin on day 1, we had priority disembarkation at all the ports, we had reserved seats at all the shows, we had an a la carte breakfast in the dining room on the last day, and we could walk off the ship whenever we were ready to go. Everything was pretty smooth (even if the ocean wasn't on a couple of days, turning the pools into wave pools), until the day we ended in Miami. The breakfast for The Key was very nice, but afterwards, there was supposed to be someone there to escort folks to the gangway; it's no big deal, we found our way off the ship by ourselves. It was a nice touch to see Andrea, the cruise director, waiting by the gangway and wishing each guest safe travels. After getting our luggage and going through customs, there was no one from the crew directing people to the shuttle buses for the airports; there were crew members there with signs for excursions, though! We eventually found our ride, but a little nudge in the right direction would have helped. Overall, we had a really nice time on this once-in-a-lifetime (for us) cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Cons -old cruise ship; framework inside hasn't changed -resulting from old design, passengers cannot navigate as easily as on modern ships - traveling portside corridors will not land you at the same places starboard. -soda ... Read More
Cons -old cruise ship; framework inside hasn't changed -resulting from old design, passengers cannot navigate as easily as on modern ships - traveling portside corridors will not land you at the same places starboard. -soda package is a rip off. Soda will come from the bar fountain and at stations without a fountain, cans are used. However, you often get an old can (flat soda) because only slightly half a can pours into one of their cups. So, if the person in front of you orders a Pepsi and then, you're the next guest 15 minutes later to order a Pepsi, you get whatever was leftover in the can from the prior guest. Pathetic policy. -Stardust Auditorium (theatre on the ship) is extremely outdated. The seats are fold down and low to the ground. Very uncomfortable. -Thermal Spa chairs are positioned inside the center of the spa; they should be ideally facing out to the front forward the ships windows. Pros -This is a classic cruise ship; which makes it easily convertible to what an affinity group customizes it to be. This ship is one of the most chartered ships in the US today. -the Filipino staff will cater to your every ask -food is slightly above average; good spread Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
This was my first 30 day cruise - which I assumed would be a little too long - but wanted to go because of the places it went LOVED the cruise - MOST locations - the ship is showing it's age the crew was fantastic - best ... Read More
This was my first 30 day cruise - which I assumed would be a little too long - but wanted to go because of the places it went LOVED the cruise - MOST locations - the ship is showing it's age the crew was fantastic - best crew I have ever seen on a ship - best after nearly 10 other cruises I will gladly take another cruise again - there were few younger people on the ship but most were so friendly and enjoyable - Open dining is a great feature and I will only EVER use that - it gives so much freedom the entertainment was quite good - some better than others as you would expect = but all in all pretty good - the ship was steady - but had leaks so many times - with buckets standing 1/2 full of water seen all over the place Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
As this was our 10th Azamara, we were looking at returning to the Quest with great enthusiasm. Our on board experiences again did not disappoint. Other reviews talk about the white nights, Azamazing evening and the like so I don’t see ... Read More
As this was our 10th Azamara, we were looking at returning to the Quest with great enthusiasm. Our on board experiences again did not disappoint. Other reviews talk about the white nights, Azamazing evening and the like so I don’t see the need to revisit them in this review other than say that the signature events are exciting, anticipated and very much enjoyed. The advantages of the size and ambience of the R Class ships, Quest (and Journey) to us outweigh any negatives. To step aboard and see familiar faces amongst guests, staff and crew and to be remembered by name makes a comfortable, pleasant and enjoyable experience. The refit wasn’t a new experience for us as we’d been fortunate to have had 32 days on board straight out of dry dock last year. The Quest is a ship not only well loved but also well maintained and extremely clean. Firstly, what a great itinerary, even with the unplanned change from Cartagena to the touristy Cozumel. Due to storm activity in the Caribbean we concur that safety of the vessel, staff, crew and guests is of top priority and the change of itinerary and subsequent fine under the Jones act was Azamara’s decision. The Panama Canal was on our bucket list and the day’s transit experience didn’t disappoint. The history of the Canal is like nothing else. We loved the variety of the ports on this itinerary and without hesitation would re visit if the price were right. If it’s not on your bucket list it needs to be. The addition of the biking program is welcome by us wanting something different, hopefully (positive feedback here) the lengthy insurance form that needs completion prior to the activity is stored on board and can be reused again for future bike activities on future cruises. The ones we did were extremely well organised, fun and very enjoyable. Bike were easily to manage. Well done to those staff involved. The benefits on the self-service laundry continues to be an undervalued addition to your cruise price. The machine are smart, efficient and leave no one guessing to how long the washing needs to be ‘in’. Due to this upgrade in technology I believe that the laundry ‘protocol’ or behavior has improved to an acceptable standard and I met some lovely interesting people there, who then became ‘friends’ around the ship. Regulars will know what I mean. We met old friends and made new ones of all ages, nationalities and demographics. Over the years, we have seen some stubble and not so stubble changes on board, but on the whole we continue to be pleased with the product, service and quality of the food provided. This cruise also bought some variation and welcome additions to foods previously offered both in the buffet and Discoveries. I don’t agree with other negative review about the food as I believe it to be of high standard, tasty and surely inviting. We did mention in our mid cruise feedback form, and it was addressed immediately, that whilst acknowledging service was generally very good we did notice some delays in service in Discoveries. It wasn’t a deal breaker and we would happily return there each night if we weren’t dining in a delightfully exotic buffet or one of the specialty restaurants. The Discoveries staff do an amazing job and the attitude, flexibility and enthusiasm that they display needs to be commended. Shows where of usual standards with some enjoyable guest entertainers, sea days provided general 'something to suit everyone' experiences. Guest lecturer was popular and informative. Those activities, along with progressive trivial was the usual fun 'tongue in cheek' laugh at those more serious about it than our team. You could clearly do as little as wished or be quite active. As always under the competent helm of the Captain, senior officers, experienced staff and crew the service was impeccable and the attention to detail outstanding. We do not have a problem with the size of the staterooms or bathrooms as we know that they just ‘come with’ the design of the R Class ship which we love. We however appreciate that it would be a considerable challenge for some. As Azamara moves towards the future with the release of the 2019 itineraries, I’m pleased to say we have committed to another four for the next 12 months and must soon start thinking about 2019. The downside is that they all involve long haul flights but we are excited to be introducing other ‘newbies’ to our favourite brand and are prepared to ‘share the love’ when they step aboard with us next cruise. Until then we wish all Azamara staff, especially those on the Quest (and Journey) smooth sea and fair winds. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Overall, it was an OK cruise. The MDR menu really need to refer to previous generations menus where there where more choices for each course. Now there are 'starters' and 'entrees'. Cabin 3130 was awesome if you are on ... Read More
Overall, it was an OK cruise. The MDR menu really need to refer to previous generations menus where there where more choices for each course. Now there are 'starters' and 'entrees'. Cabin 3130 was awesome if you are on an M class ship. Well placed for an Oceanview. Bistro on 5 needs a remake or make it free. We saw no more than 5 people in there at a time and mostly at dinner. Get real Celebrity! People aren't paying $10 for lunch!! Shows were OK. What really shines on the Infinty is the crew. All nice and attentive. Our MDR waiter was an absolute blast! The assistant was awesome too. Even our coffee shop guy was good, as well as the Martini server. Embarkation was smooth, but we were select so the special line was nice. We are now Elite, so next review we will tell more. We usually cruise in Concierge class, but this time was OpenView. It wasn't much different, just no balcony, but a huge window instead. I look forward to our Solstice cruise in May from Hawaii to Vancouver. Never been on the S classed ships. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
This was my 3rd sailing on the ms Veendam, the first since her refurbishment and second Mexican Riviera cruise. Embarkation in San Diego is always a pleasant experience as it's close to our home in Arizona and it's a quick trip ... Read More
This was my 3rd sailing on the ms Veendam, the first since her refurbishment and second Mexican Riviera cruise. Embarkation in San Diego is always a pleasant experience as it's close to our home in Arizona and it's a quick trip from airport to dock. The embarkation crew was excellent and very friendly. Once on board we went to our Veranda Suite, on the Veranda deck towards the stern of the ship. The suite was tight but clean and bright. There were a few issues with the suite from the get go that took some work on our part to get the Front Desk to get things made right. If you travel with any medical equipment requiring an electrical outlet be warned there is ONE plus in the suite and it is on the combo desk/vanity table. Both my partner and I use CPAP at night and had to request a "strip" from the Front Desk. Once it was delivered it was a regular electrical strip with a 3 foot cord. Great for my partner sleeping on that side of the suite but I had to do some odd arranging of my side at night in order to sleep - move the stool from the vanity table to the end of the bed and place the CPAP on the stool and STRETCH the CPAP hose as far as possible. Interesting for my hours of sleep. The more critical issue was the lack of air conditioning in the suite. By the 4th day of the 7 Night sail we had a suite that was comfortable. The entire ship was warm and the Rotterdam stern tables were very warm for the first couple of evenings. Dining on the Veendam was a mixed bag. The Lido was always swamped, after all it was Spring Break, and the food lines long at times. The Rotterdam Dining Room was a great breakfast place in order to avoid the crowded Lido and dinners were nice. We did purchase the Admiral Wine Package and were satisfied with the wines on offer. The Dining Room staff were excellent. We had dinner at Canalleto on night and were very pleased but truly the Pinnacle Grill is the dining experience on the Veendam. The bars were very nice but crowded and service could be slow at times. For this first time I can actually have a positive review of the Casino. The Casino staff on this sailing were absolutely amazing! We mainly played at the Black Jack Table with its $5.00 minimum. It was a real pleasure to sit and talk with the staff and other guests. We did not participate in any of the shore excursions but we did get around in all of the ports. Cabo San Lucas was a "tender in" and lasted a whopping 10 minutes once we arrived on shore. NOTHING but junk and pushy people trying to get you into their stores or taxis. Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta were different stories. We found cabs at each dock that took us on a tour of what we we wanted to see and then for lunch. Highly recommend "El Shrimp Bucket" in Mazatlan (touristy but GREAT SHRIMP) and in PV "The Margarita Grill" was absolutely amazing - the best Margaritas (one is enough) but the salsa and guacamole really stand out as some of the best. Rumor had it, on the ship, that the Veendam was potentially going to be leaving the Holland America fleet and that the Mexican Riviera was going away as well. From the Holland America brochures I can see where the Mexican Riviera sailings stop in 2016 but nothing about the Veendam. The once gracious ms Veendam has gotten "very long in the tooth" and is showing her age and this was our last sail on her. I am a 2 Star Mariner and am not sure about working towards my 3rd Star. Read Less
Sail Date March 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
The Oosterdam is still a great modern ship, but it is looking a bit shopworn is both the public areas and the cabins, mostly just minor cosmetic stuff, lots of nicks and dents, missing tiles and tattered furnishings that need to be ... Read More
The Oosterdam is still a great modern ship, but it is looking a bit shopworn is both the public areas and the cabins, mostly just minor cosmetic stuff, lots of nicks and dents, missing tiles and tattered furnishings that need to be repaired or replaced. It didn't help that we had to leave a note on the first day for the room steward to please vacuum all the crumbs off of the carpeting from the previous occupants and to replace the torn shower curtain that was laying on the bottom of the tub. We finally met our invisible room steward on the fourth day and he was never seen again the entire cruise!!! The food and service were excellent on this voyage, despite three days of Code Red (no self service) which is a big pain for both the passengers and crew. The Pinnacle Grill always exceeds our expectations in both food and service, it is well worth the extra charge. The spa continues to be one of the Oosterdam's highlights and really adds that extra bit of relaxation to make you feel that life is a pleasure. Our main complaint (as with many fellow passengers) was that we went to Mazatlan on this voyage while every other cruise line including Carnival had cancelled it. What were they thinking???...a military helicopter and many many soldiers with big machine guns did not make us feel secure enough to get off the ship when the TV news had stories of more violence the day before. Only the passengers that had tours were brave enough to get off and it mostly seemed like a sea day onboard in this wasted port of call. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
My friend and I left on April 19th for a 4 day cruise To Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. We really didn't know what to expect, other than I had been on CC forum and had talked/ask questions of these two ports, which neither of ... Read More
My friend and I left on April 19th for a 4 day cruise To Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. We really didn't know what to expect, other than I had been on CC forum and had talked/ask questions of these two ports, which neither of us had visited before. When we arrive (we flew in directly from Kansas City, Missouri), we found our transportation, and they took us to the cruise ship, which is probably within 10 - 15 minutes of the ship. In San Diego it was 75 degrees, but from then on the weather changed to rain/wind/COLD. (Please see Ensenada, Mexico for when we went back to San Diego before we went home.) I had already filled out our Fun Pass, so that helped us get through everything much smoother, and able to get to our rooms. We thought we might have to go to the Lido deck, but by 1:30 (I believe it was) our room was ready. We had a window and the room seemed spacious enough for what we had. I will say since the Elation is an older ship, and maybe because we were only doing 4 nights, it seemed like the room was missing a few things that I was used to having on the longer trips, but that was OK. We had a vault, which I definitely wanted, as well as the TV, but we didn't have a small refrigerator, which I think some of the other ships I have been on may have had. The bathroom was a nice size with the amenities that come, but there was not a hair blower, but that was OK, as my friend brought that, and I brought the curling iron. I really love our beds/bedding as I feel like a baby when I put the comforter on me. Really warm and light. Before I forget, do no bring an iron with you if you need to press your clothes. There is a laundry room where you can was/dry your clothes for a certain price or coins. The iron is free as far as I know, or it was when I used it a year or two ago. The ship (I like more vibrant colors) was in browns/coppers, and it was kept real clean for an older ship. Our table (seating of 10) had Vince and his helper attending to us in the dining room. They always kept me in HOT tea, which I had requested, and NO ice in my water. We had the 8:15 seating as that didn't rush us to have to be at dinner so early, or leaving a port that we were vising to get to dinner in time. We were pleased with the food, and if there was something that we didn't like or want, we could ask, and they would try to get us something else on the menu for that night. Flying in to San Diego, we met a lot of people from California, where they didn't have to pay to fly in like us. If you like to save money, they still have the $10 store, mainly for ladies, but they have some good buys that I have been pleased with down through the years. Since the weather was so windy/cold we played miniature golf, but there were few at the pools. We did go to the theatre and seen the Newlywed Game, which was very good. There was always something to see/do if you wanted to on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
This was my family's first-ever trip to Hawaii - so we were looking forward to this trip w/ much anticipation. We went with a group of experienced cruisers - some had cruised to Hawaii before aboard Zaandam, others had been to Hawaii ... Read More
This was my family's first-ever trip to Hawaii - so we were looking forward to this trip w/ much anticipation. We went with a group of experienced cruisers - some had cruised to Hawaii before aboard Zaandam, others had been to Hawaii but not aboard a ship, and others had cruised but not to Hawaii. Our friend and travel agent made the arrangements for our group and also for our shore excursions, pre-cruise hotel, Bon Voyage dinner, Meet and Greet - plus she procured HAL luggage tags for our group! Can't say enough good things about her. Embarcation was fine despite the fact that the [I]Carnival Spirit[/I] was embarking on her 8 day cruise the same day - the hotel across the street where we were staying was full and the lines on the pier were tremendous: We were glad to stay at the hotel for a couple extra hours to enjoy breakfast on the terrace and a couple of drinks at the bar as the lines on the pier dissipated. One thing to note is that HAL no longer takes your CC for the shipboard account on the pier - either you do it online or you must swing by the front office to set up your account: I waited a couple days to go to the desk to do this to avoid the lines. Service was splendid and the staff and crew were outstanding - I cannot say enough about how wonderful the crew are aboard Zaandam: CD Anthony is the best I've ever experienced. Edy, Geoffrey, Wayou, Rafael, the guys in the Crow's Nest, the Ocean Bar and Lido Bar and our cabin stewards as well as the spa staff and Kris and Iris at the Front Office took really great care of us. The band was good and the activities were plentiful, if one wished to participate - otherwise, there was plenty of time and space to relax and read a good book (for this itinerary I recommend "Letters from Hawaii" by Mark Twain - available thru Amazon) I also cannot say enough good things about our waiter's conscientiousness regarding my Gluten-Free diet. Scotty and I also caught sinus infections (it seemed to be going around) on the return trip and we both went to the infirmary on separate days - and we were both dealt with kindly and professionally by the staff and the same Doctor we met last year aboard Noordam. Iris helped us have two Meet and Greets in the Crow's Nest - which I highly recommend, particularly on a longer itinerary, as folks seem to have so much more to share at the end of the cruise. I was also invited to a tea w/ our HM, Fierman, and GRM, Iris, who asked us group leaders how we felt about the cruise - I thought this was a nice touch and showed genuine concern for our well-being. The ship did schedule some LGBT unhosted meetings in the Crow's Nest but they weren't well attended. Seems that our group was nearly all the LGBT that were aboard and we knew one another already. Never went to a show. The very idea of scheduling the main seating show before dinner during cocktail hour is ridiculous - and scheduling the Ocean Bar band to take their break during cocktail hour is even dumber! The trio in the Ocean Bar was good despite the drummer's apparent surliness for the first half of the cruise - Thankfully he managed to get himself thrown off the ship in Hawaii during a Coast Guard inspection and the remaining duo seemed much happier without him. The HAL Cats were rather good - but as with most HAL Cats combos, they need to turn down the amplification... The itinerary was wonderful and we saw so much - every Hawaiian port was truly enjoyable. Some highlights of the trip included encountering a huge herd of dolphins mid-ocean westbound who raced to meet the ship in such great numbers as if we were offering free crack in the ghetto. We also saw a great many whales frolicking off the port of Lahaina, Maui all about the ship all day long. Our friend, Mary, rented a van and drove a number of us around Honolulu to Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace and the state government buildings, and afterwards to the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki for a delightful lunch (I could stay there forever...) Kona is a lovely port just to wander around: much better than Hilo where one must take a taxi or bus to get out of the former Military installation and into town, and Kauai is a gorgeous rustic island which is very much the way I imagined Hawaii to be. I think of my short time in Hawaii, I'd have to say that my favorite ports were Kawai, Honolulu and Kona. Sadly - [I]Zaandam[/I] herself was not up to the standard of what I expected a HAL ship to look like after the recent January drydock (I could see it from my apartment here in SF for two weeks so I know it was there!) The cabins were in good condition, and the dining room chairs were brand new - but other than that, I could not tell you what had been done: Hull and Superstructure are in desperate need of paint - Rust streaks are everywhere, the paint was scraped away beneath the bow anchors to such an extent that it appeared more rust than blue (Some painting was done on the portside bow while we were in Kauai - nowhere else) and paint is bubbling and peeling around the windows and hull-doors so that one can easily see the rust streaks on the white superstructure from pier or tender. Lightbulbs burnt out all over the place - and of the 6 chandeliers in the MDR, 1 was never lit for the entire cruise. Lamps in the Lido were broken or crooked. Torn and frayed upholstery in the Lido and certain public rooms on Upper Promenade Deck. Broken out windows in the Lido. Filthy windows, including the Magrodome itself until after we had had some rain in Hilo and Kauai. Decorative decals that wrap around the bulkhead surrounding the opening for the Magrodome are decayed and peeling off in the central areas. Ships clocks are unsynchronized, and the TV channel that gives time and date was often wrong. Forward Lido clock under the Magrodome is correct - Aft Lido clock under the Magrodome is off by 3 1/2 hours. Scuffs and scrapes in the hard flooring around the Lido bar. (It wouldn't take a couple hours one night w/ a floor polisher to get rid of those scrapes, says the Old Military man...) Cracking and peeling finishes on the wooden tables near the Lido Bar. Broken chairs in the Lido Restaurant (I pinched my finger in the loose arm joint of one chair while pulling it beneath me - nearly fell through the broken seat of another...) Hair Salon only had one cape to cover clients - the beauticians had to share back and forth while doing Mother's hair and mine. Also, a chair in the salon had broken brakes: After Mom had her hair washed, the ship rolled and she rolled helplessly towards the windows scaring her half-to-death! Dirty tile in the Thermal Spa - I could take my hand and wipe the dirt away from the tile around the T-Pool. I really wanted to take a scrub-brush to the place! Frayed and poorly laid carpets in the corridors - I could easily see the concrete between the gaps in the cuts! Of the 8 lamp standards around the aft pool: 2 had new lamp globes, 4 had yellowed and filthy globes, and 2 had no globes at all! Damaged artwork: One of the carved marble sculptures outside the Sports Bar was tied up with rope to hold it together throughout the cruise, and the great circular painting at the top of the midship stairwell had gilding from the frame peeled off from what appeared to be tape that had been applied here & there. Broken Lifeboat Davit? Portside-Aft davit was left extended throughout the return trip to California - Didn't notice if it was extended for the entire cruise... Broken Granite floor tiles in the elevators and a huge gouge in the door of one elevator. When I asked the Captain during one of his talks what happens during a drydock, he mentioned that there's quite a lot of maintenance that goes on - cleaning the hull, polishing the propellers, etc - which is all well and good. I later asked our kind Hotel Manager, Fierman, about the poor condition of the ship to which he replied, "I know". He did say that many ports prohibit painting and window-washing nowadays - but again, one would think that the floors and tiles could have been scrubbed, lightbulbs could have been changed and a good coat of paint could have been slapped on the ship as she sat in the drydock for two weeks, don't you? Yes, it's a 10 year old ship, but it's not going to make it another 10 years unless Seattle puts some time and effort into the condition of this ship - Ryndam and Statendam were in better condition last fall than Zaandam today! IMO, who cares about new showroom furniture, rearranged cocktail lounges and shops and the sliding glass door staterooms that are being installed on the ships when the basics go ignored? Would I go to Hawaii again? In a heartbeat. Would I take a Hawaii cruise again? I believe that seeing Hawaii by ship is probably the best way to go - I wouldn't know which island to go to first and think that I might get bored had I been on only one island. However, I honestly don't think that it's worth the time away to only spend 4 days in port and not 5 - All those days at sea got to be a bit much on the return trip that a mere 4 ports just wouldn't be worth it unless an overnight were planned someplace like Honolulu. I'd either book the one 15-day cruise in January 2011 that still includes Kona or the 30-day Polynesian/Pacific Cruise that includes Hawaii - but I wouldn't do the 14-day Hawaiian cruise from San Diego. ...and despite the exceptional staff and crew - whom I've realized is very much the reason I continue to sail HAL - until HAL gets its act in order and cleans up the ship and does some necessary repairs, I wouldn't book any cruise aboard Zaandam as the sad condition of the ship was the most disappointing aspect of the entire cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
What a vacation! We are timeshare travelers, and love driving to a location and unloading for the week. We often take a day trip and stay overnight in another location. While we will still take an annual trip or two on land, I think ... Read More
What a vacation! We are timeshare travelers, and love driving to a location and unloading for the week. We often take a day trip and stay overnight in another location. While we will still take an annual trip or two on land, I think Cruising is definitely for us...which is what this cruise was for! Find out if we liked sailing and if our bodies could handle the rolling seas. The answer is definitely YES! If you have never been on a cruise, choose a short cruise, but at least 5 days so you can really get a feel for it. Believe all the tips that say bring fewer clothes and more money though! While almost everything on our Royal Caribbean Cruise was paid on our Sea pass, we had been told that the casino also used your Sea pass, which was not true. I am sure we might have lost more money if we had brought more, but it would have been nice to have a little bit more. We didn't get to the point of checking ATM fees, but we did set money aside for cab fare and tips when we returned to San Diego. We had a terrible dinner table location, but we had such a wonderful couple to dine with, we decided NOT to move. We started out with 9 at our table, but one couple and their son were supposed to be with their group at another table. There was a Mom and her 17 year old daughter who joined us the first night and one other night. But the other couple was a delight, and have traveled and cruised a great deal, so we had a great time learning from them. Service was on the slow side, but we were not in a big hurry, so we didn't really care. The Grand Romance package was a special treat (can't believe we got tired of chocolate covered strawberries), but skip the Couples massage. VERY overpriced for what you get. We did the pre-paid gratuity, which we obviously did NOT understand. Somehow we thought that our gratuity covered everything, only to learn that EVERY bar tab has 15% added to their already high costs ($4.50 for a Miller Lite???) and that we SHOULD have tipped room service since that is on a tip per service. Boy did we feel badly! We had breakfast in our room 4 days! Also missed that we should have tipped at the massage, but we did not feel bad after spending $289 on that. Skip the "Chain by the Inch" where they don't bother to tell you that besides your 7 inch bracelet costing $31.50, they add another $5.00 for the clasp, which they do not give you an option on the kind. Then if you buy enough you also get a "FREE" bracelet, but they make that a 6 inch of the $2.00 or less chain, and then charge you $5 for the clasp. We caught part of the opening night stage show, which focused WAY too much on couples who were either just married, or had been married 30+ years. So of course if you are not allowed to get married, your 15 years doesn't mean much! Seems there could be more focus on PEOPLE instead of couples! We didn't make it to any of the other shows, choosing instead to go to the casino after dinner, or walk around the ship, or enjoy a cocktail together on our balcony. For a couple who doesn't really care about shows, the swimming pools, the activities aboard ship, or fine dining, we were amazed at how our time FLEW on this cruise. We thought the food was super (although someone at our finally dining room breakfast said it was the worst food they had experienced on a cruise). If you couldn't find something you liked to eat, then you just were not hungry! We bought the overpriced water package and had 8 large bottles of Evian for the trip. That was just enough. You can buy bottled water for $1 a bottle in Ensenada, and we saw people bringing shopping bags full of water back on board, but other people said they did not recommend buying bottled water in Mexico. Our eight bottles provided well for us aboard ship as well as in our two ports. You really have to decide for yourself if that is the route you want to take. With gratuity, we paid $3.50 per litre of water. The lemonade was great, iced tea okay. Can't see getting the soda package, but it certainly seemed to be popular. It means you have to carry your cup around with you. Wine at dinner was pricey with one bottle $28, but it lasted two meals. Watch out for the "fun" drinks that they carry around at dinner. You might get the glass, but at $10 a drink, you should skip those unless you MUST have the glass! The "new" system for Royal Caribbean is to let you stay in your cabin until meeting at a debarkation lounge you are assigned to. We were wandering around the ship and my partner asked me to take her to our lounge so she could sit and wait. As we got there, about a half an hour early, everyone was following a guide and we were told our group had been cleared for debarkation. We joined the end of the line and were off the ship in less than 10 minutes! I think you could wander around the ship longer if you wanted, enjoy the breakfast longer. I could definitely see hanging around for longer since we were back home and not in a big hurry to go anywhere. One last comment. Take advantage of the pictures on board. They can be annoying at first, but we found some really nice pictures and although they are overpriced, they are great keepsakes and the photography is professional. We would definitely recommend this cruise! Our next cruise will be Alaska for my retirement! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
November21st-30th Background: I traveled with my partner Jimmi (jmcal123). I am a lifelong cruiser (#35) on everything from Crystal to Carnival. While I am not loyal to any one line, I tend to favor Royal Caribbean and Princess. This was ... Read More
November21st-30th Background: I traveled with my partner Jimmi (jmcal123). I am a lifelong cruiser (#35) on everything from Crystal to Carnival. While I am not loyal to any one line, I tend to favor Royal Caribbean and Princess. This was my choice for cruises because of the itinerary (two new ports) and ship (new class of ship for me).We also were able to combine my platinum discount with the AZ resident special and the FCC I had, so we ended up with a decent deal with some onboard credit as well. We were joined by a friend that we have travelled with twice on the Caribbean Princess and two of his friends. While there are many positives about this cruise, there were a few disappointments as well, enough for me to mention them, but not to deter me from Royal Caribbean in the future. We are very much looking forward to our Oasis cruise next September. Fortunately, our biggest issue happened immediately upon boarding the ship and we were able to put it behind us within a few hours. So with that being said, take my opinions with a grain of salt, as you should with any review that you read online. Pre-Cruise: We drove the 5 hours from Phoenix to San Diego and arrived midday on the 20th. Having been to SD many times, we chose the Sofia Hotel on Broadway about 2 blocks from the Pier. We have stayed at the Sofia before and would recommend it to anyone, especially at the $88/night we found it for on Expedia. It is a steal at that rate. After spending 3 meals on land, I again realized the value of a cruising vacation. Meals are expensive, even when you are paying attention to price. We spent the morning on Mission Beach for a run, before heading to Coronado and then to the ship. We used Mission brewery parking and paid $9/night for the cruise and there was ample service to and from the cruise port. Embarkation: For those who have not used the cruise facilities in San Diego, they are some of the worst out there. We were docked next to the Oosterdam and there were plenty of people to crowd this area. We had waited until 1 to go and park, so we did not board until 2 PM and it was still busy. Once through the initial chaos, it was easy to actually board. I understand now that San Diego and CCL have invested some money into building a new green pier which should improve this process immensely. Anyone who questions about water and alcohol, we checked a bottle of vodka and a case of water with no issue. Cabin, the issue, and Sail away: Our reservation for the Radiance was about 16 months old, but did not book the ship until May. Cabin selection was wide open aside from the "bump", so ended up with an E3 balcony cabin, 7566. The cabin was exactly as expected with typical dEcor, plenty of room for us and a comfortable bed. The issue we had was with the balcony, more specifically, our view from the cabin. It appears that just about every balcony cabin on deck seven is obstructed by the cover of the life boat. So there is no looking down from your balcony, just looking out. It was funny, when I first went out on my balcony, I was blinded by the reflection of the light off of what I thought was a barge or something next to the ship... little did I know that that was our view. After becoming really irritated with realization that this was our view, we called our travel agent and sent picts to him to describe our balcony. I was going to call guest relations, but wanted to be sure we did not accidentally book an obstructed view balcony. After connecting with RCI corporate, our travel agent was informed that we were in a 100% non-obstructed balcony cabin. She also mentioned that there may be other cabins available and to contact Guest Services as there is nothing that could have been done from the corporate side once we board the ship. On my first visit to guest services, I spoke with a guest service representative about my complaint. Her first and immediate reaction was: " Just so you know the Radiance of the Seas has been sailing fully booked the past few sailings." At this point, I was only trying to find out if there was a cabin to switch to like the land representative said there may be. I asked if I would be able to speak with her manager and she walked away into the guest service office and returned to tell me that that her boss had stepped away and that her computer was locked so there was nothing she could do right now. So I asked to be contacted by the supervisor. The woman scribbled my name at the bottom of a loose sheet of paper and that ended our first interaction. As I walked away, I became extremely irritated with the condescending treatment I received from her and the lack of importance put on my request, being added to a loose piece of paper with everything from beds needing to be put together to a crib being needed did not make me feel like my issue was taken in any regard as important. Several hours later, I again returned to the guest service desk and again asked to speak to the manager. By this time, I had learned who I should be speaking to and asked for her directly. Instead, her assistant came out to "deal" with me. I again explained the issue I had with this stateroom. She told me that the ship was indeed sailing full and that a room change could not happen. We continued this conversation about our room and she continued to say that RCI considers a 100% non-obstructed balcony view a 180 degree left to right view and did not account for moving up or down. That this was a decision made by RCI corporate and that they knew it was an issue and have adjusted their description for it. With this description, I argued and still believe that I did not receive what I paid for. In fact, to be technical, the balconies in between the "bump" and dining room "bump" do not even have the 180 degrees promised because of the "bumps". My argument was that considering the timeframe I was booked, had I been able to find this information out, I would have either booked a higher category stateroom or lower as I do not feel this cabin was suitable for the description given to it. I further brought to her attention the service we had received earlier in the day with her employee. After about 20 minutes of pushing the blame onto RCI corporate and saying that additional training was needed for her staff, she offered us a bottle of wine for our inconvenience and she said we would be contacted if someone should decide to leave the ship during the cruise. At that point I walked away from the situation, we were sailing and that was what mattered at that point. It got cold quick and sail away was definitely a little different from a Fort Lauderdale, San Juan, or Miami departure. But it is beautiful and the San Diego skyline is very pretty at night. We stayed out as long as we could and then headed in to the warmth of the ship and we were finally heading to the warmth of the Mexico. Cruise Critic Get together: We did not have a particularly active roll call, but we had quite a few sign up for the meet and greet. Unlike others I have been to, this one was very organized and led by the cruise director. While it was nice to see him come to the get together, it was a very much sit and listen rather than mingle and get to know your cruise critic members, so we left. I much prefer the casual get together where you chat and not deal with raffles, prizes, etc. Cabo San Lucas: The tender process for Cabo was long. We waited about an hour to get off. It is surprising that RCCL does not have a priority tendering process for Diamond cruisers. It was just unorganized as we walk all over the ship and there were people cutting in line. I have been to Cabo many times and we just wanted to find cheap beers on the beach. The weather was beautiful... sunny in the mid 80s. We took a water Taxi ($5) over to Medano beach and a short walk later we were at "The Office"... a cute little restaurant with tables in the sand and with decent prices and really good food. We spent several hours here drinking and in the water before heading back. It was a great relaxing way to spend the day. We did walk around the tender area, found $2 Coronas and were one of the last tenders back to the ship. This turned out to be a wonderful day that I would repeat again in a heartbeat. Mazatlan: Going into our stop at Mazatlan, the city has ranked amongst my least favorite that I have visited. Jimmi has been hounding me to go horseback riding and I did not want to go to the Golden Zone, so we spoke with Randi and booked her Happy Horses. She was easy to meet off the ship and we were on our way to Stone Island. We were berthed with the Oosterdam, so Randi had two groups going out. So we ended up at a restaurant on the beach for about 2 hours before we got to ride. It was a little long as we did not want to get wet by going in the water before the ride. That being said, lunch was fantastic. We rode for about two hours on a deserted beach. It was great. Jimmi had a mishap in that he fell off the horse while dismounting while trading horses at the halfway point. After the tour, we hung out at the closest bar and had Coronas. I had to get my fill so I did not pay $5 for Coronas on the ship. We figure out that we do not need to go horse riding again (OUCH!). But there is still something about Mazatlan that I just do not like. Personal preference I am sure, but I would suggest Randi's to anyone who enjoys horse riding. Puerto Vallarta: Our day started out with the Splendor mishap #1. We were fortunate to both have front row seats and not get injured. While running up on the track, we noticed that the Splendor was going to be parking in what seemed to be an impossible parking spot so we walked down to the helipad to watch. It turned out that the spot was too small. We saw the angle and the speed and it seemed inevitable at that point. The railing from the Splendor wrapped around the railing on the Radiance and tore off. Not a big deal really, but the guy standing a foot away from me ended up with the railing in between his legs. It was interesting that RCI had crew waiting for this, almost as it was expected. The screamed everyone to get off and it was over. Shortly after, we hear the now common Echo Echo Echo. The captain then announced what happened and the Splendor tried again. It was announced later that there were 2 injuries onboard related to this accident, but I could not see how as we saw everything that happened. We had plans to go to blue or green chairs, but just never made it. We walked through town and again found a bar for lunch and beer. Our restaurant featured tableside made salsa and it was excellent. If you noticed, there was a theme in our port stops... find a restaurant and bar, and enjoy the scenery. Manzanillo: This was the ship's maiden call on Manzanillo and I should have done more research for this stop as the ship did not have much to offer. We originally planned on doing the turtles, but read a couple of things on CC that made us choose not to. I figured I would go down to the exit and find some information about the port. I ran across the cruise director and I asked him what he suggests to do here. He said that the best bet is to walk to the end of the pier and ask the locals. So, apparently he had not done his homework either. We just went down to the shuttle and paid the $4 for the round trip to downtown. We spent a few hours downtown and headed back. There were no beaches close by and not much of anything close to the port area. In hindsight, we should have done the turtle tour. Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: What a pleasant surprise this port was. Beautiful beaches and a great market area, the only problem was the limited time we had in port. We had a bad tender spot on our first attempt, so we went down early and were on a tender by 7:15. We walked through the port area and got to see the fish market. We chose Los Gatos for the day and it was a great choice... probably the highlight of the trip port wise. We had chairs at a restaurant and service all day. We did have a little issue with the cabs trying to rip us off on the return to the port area, but went with it... it was $3 to get there and $5 to get back. We had a few minutes to walk though the market area and then it was back on the ship. It was HOT and the tender line was long. Food: After reading my review of the Emerald Princess I can almost say the same thing here. Again, food is completely subjective and I am trained chef, so can be picky. I found food to be good to very good. The dining room was standard and I thought was significantly better than our Elation cruise in September, but choice wise a step down from the Emerald and Princess in general. I never went hungry in the dining room, but there were a few nights the menu just did not jump out at me. Some of the highlights... the soups were outstanding. The Chilled were some of the best I have had. The Ice Cream was fantastic. I think I had Almond Butter Ice Cream with my dessert 5 out of the 9 nights. We did not care for our Turkey dinner. I wish I had chosen something else. We thought the Windjammer buffet was very good. We ate all breakfast and lunches here and were always pleased with the quality, choices, and temperature. The afternoon snacks were also a very good treat. I like that they have food here just about the entire day. We ran into lapses on the Elation where there was only pizza or sandwiches. Overall we were quite satisfied with the dining options; though looking back our company in the dining room overshadowed our dining experience. Also, the pizza is not very good. Princess blows everyone else out of the water on this one. Portofino: Portofino has become our favorite dining experience on a cruise ship. The food and service are consistently outstanding. When making reservation, make sure you do not have other plans for the night. All plates are made to order and if you order the same appetizers, you will most likely not get them at the same time, but a different one. We chose just about all of the appetizers on the menu between the 5 of us and the highlight was the lobster risotto. This is one of the best dishes I have had on any ship. The seafood skewer is beautiful and tasty. My favorite dessert is also in Portofino. The White Chocolate Brulee is to die for. It was a 2.5-3 hour dining experience, but it was wonderful. Dining Room Service: Normally I would group this with service in general, but our dining room service was beyond accommodating and seemed to go out of our way to serve us. We chose My Time Dining and there were five of us. After a member of our party talked to the head Waiter, we were told we can have the same table if we came after 8. With all the kids and families on this trip we were more than happy with this setup. Our servers were great and we had them for 7 of the 9 nights. They even arranged for us to have soufflE on the final night because we missed it when we went to Portofino. As usual, MTD was a success for us and are very happy to see it rolling out to all cruise lines. I have never been a fan of being forced to eat at certain times with people I may or may not like and did not sail RCCL because their lack of this option for years. Bar Service: Bottom line is that RCI is a bit overpriced. The positive is that they do not measure shots like Princess and Carnival, but you pay extra for that. The fact that on a Mexican Riviera cruise is charging $4.95 for a Corona is ridiculous. I thought that we would try to save a few dollars by ordering buckets, but a bucket of 6 Coronas and they just charged me for $30 plus tip... so instead of saving a few dollars I ended up with warm beers! Entertainment: If I have sun, pool, ocean, and a good book I am more than satisfied. Throw in a bucket of beers and life does not get much better for me. We did not go to any of the organized entertainment except what we say in the atrium during cocktail hour before dinner. We really enjoyed our company and spent hours just chatting in the windjammer, on the pool deck, or in the dining room and we had a blast. We hope that we get to sail with our new friends again. Because we traveled in a group we did not really meet many new people which is usually the case. Either way, we enjoyed our self made entertainment and laughed until our sides hurt. Pure word of mouth was that the show with the salsa dancing was extremely well done. We stayed out late one night and closed the bar down which was a lot of fun. People tend to stay up late on the formal nights. Ship: Aside from the above mentioned issues with the balcony, the ship is gorgeous and I love the size. It should be mentioned that our friends we in a balcony cabin on deck nine and still had the white lifeboats in sight, but had a better view. The ship holds the people well and has activities throughout the ship. We never had a problem finding a chair, and chair saving did not seem to exist. We loved the Solarium pool and napped there on occasion. We did think that the faded fake plants should be replaced with live plants, but we enjoyed the area. The pools were warm after the 1st day and extremely warm on the way back. Weather: It was just about perfect. Sun was out midday on day two and did not go away until the last day. This is typical for this cruise, but it was HOT in the ports. Loyalty Program: Aside from the Balcony discount, RCI's program is just awful. I just turned elite on Princess and the perks you get there are significant compared to the coupon book placed on your bed. I will never cruise a line for a loyalty program, but RCI has not put forth much to change my mind on that. RCI Response: Upon returning to Phoenix, I wrote a letter to RCI corporate about my experience in my room and with the guest relations department. The woman acknowledged that this is a common complaint and that they were looking into the reclassification of the 7th floor balconies. She offered us a small OBC for our Oasis cruise. I was not looking for anything, but was told that they would follow up when any decisions are made on this. I was pleased with this response and hope that adjustments are made to the guest relations issues we had on this cruise. While it made up a good portion of this review, it did not bother us after 6 PM on day one. I am happy that it was promptly addressed upon returning. Bottom Line: We seem to be in a Princess then Royal pattern and we like what both have to offer. We are sailing on the Island Princess in March and have the Oasis booked in Sept and we are very much looking forward to both. While we were disappointed in our cabin, I should have done more research and suggest the same for anyone sailing on the Radiance class ships. We still like the Caribbean more than the Mexican Riviera, but with the pricing so low on the West Coast and an easy drive for us, I would do this cruise again in a second. We really enjoyed our trip and the company was very special. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
This was our third cruise. Previously we had cruised with another couple. This was our first time going it alone. All of our cruise experiences have been on HAL. (Our first cruise was to the Caribbean on the old Westerdam in an ... Read More
This was our third cruise. Previously we had cruised with another couple. This was our first time going it alone. All of our cruise experiences have been on HAL. (Our first cruise was to the Caribbean on the old Westerdam in an oceanview. The second was also to the Caribbean on the Volendam in an oceanview.) This cruise was to the Mexican Riviera out of San Diego. We weren't looking specifically for this destination, but the rate was too good to pass up. It was SO much less expensive than comparable length Caribbean cruises at the same time. This seems to be one of HAL's best value cruises since it is still substantially cheaper than other HAL offerings a year later. ABOUT THE EMBARKATION PORT. San Diego was a pleasure compared to Fort Lauderdale (where we sailed from on our previous cruises). You could even walk from the airport to the cruise terminal if you didn't have to deal with luggage! (It's about 2 miles.) We flew in a couple days before and stayed in one of the several hotels that is within a few blocks of the terminal. We stayed at the Hampton Inn which was a two block walk to the ship. We walked pulling our wheelies behind. There is a high-rise Holiday Inn immediately across the street from the terminal - after checking out from your hotel, all you need to do is negotiate a crosswalk to check in for the ship. The whole experience of airport-to-hotel-to-ship transfers were absolutely painless. The proximity of the airport made catching your flight home much less stressful, too. ABOUT THE CABIN. We booked an SY cabin (Superior Veranda Suite) for about $800. Some time before saildate (maybe 6-8 weeks) we got a call from HAL asking if we wanted to upgrade to SA (Delux Veranda Suite) for $295pp. We jumped at it. The total for the cruise was just a little over $1300pp for the second largest stateroom on the ship. Was it worth it? Oh yes! It definitely was. The stateroom was more than 500sf with a very large and comfortable sitting area and a huge bathroom with two sinks, a jacuzzi tub and separate shower. There was a large, well-lighted dressing area with lots of closet space. The veranda was large enough for two lounges and a table & chair set. Waiting for us in the room was a bottle of wine (or was it champagne?). The stateroom was nicer than many hotel rooms I've stayed in. To give you a sense of how large it was: without moving furniture around, there was enough open floor space for the two of us to stretch out on the floor and do yoga! Another benefit about having a suite is you get priority boarding and departure. We didn't know this when we checked in, but as soon as we cleared check in, we were told to go right on board. A nice unexpected perk. NAVIGATOR LOUNGE. For passengers booked into Deluxe Veranda Suites and Penthouse Suites, there is a Navigator Lounge. It is a large, comfortable room in the center of the ship (no windows). There is constantly food and drink (coffee, tea, juice) available for self-service. (The staff will also offer to have you sit and they will get what you want.) We got our breakfast from this Lounge every morning and walked down the corridor to our room to enjoy our breakfast on the veranda. There is a nice breakfast selection, an excellent variety for a light lunch, hors d'ouvers in late afternoon, pastries and sweets all along the way. We would also go to the lounge to have tea and play cards mid-afternoon. It is a very quiet, comfortable, welcoming place. SPA & HYDRO-THERAPY SUITE. We splurged ($250/cpl) for the week and used the hydro-therapy suite. The eucalyptus steam rooms, heated ceramic lounges, and luxurious, quiet and large therapy pool were totally worth it. I lost many hours that week in utter relaxation! THE SHIP. I was a bit concerned about the size of the Vista Class ship. Our two previous cruises were on significantly smaller ships. One of the things I liked about those experiences was the lack of crowds. I was pleasantly surprised. The only time I felt at all crowded was our first night going into the dining room. There was a long line with people waiting to be shown to their tables. That didn't happen subsequent nights because people knew where their tables were. The ship felt exactly like the other HAL ships I was on. I liked the familiarity and definitely liked how the 1800+ passengers seemed to disappear nicely! It was never even a problem finding a deck chair at the pool or on the Promenade. THE FOOD. I have read mixed reviews about the food on HAL. Personally, I have yet to be disappointed. We're both "foodies" and appreciate fine dining. The meals in the main dining room consistently surprised me. I always marvel at how they serve so many people such high quality food. The Pinnacle Grill is very much worth the small surcharge. The meat that I've had there surpasses what I've had at most dining establishments on land. SERVICE. We had a table mix up our first night. Since this cruise was a celebration for our 20th anniversary, we really wanted to have a table for two. We were seated at a table for six (or was it even larger?). This was a big disappointment (and the only one on the cruise). We chose not to dine there that night after discussing the mix up with the dining room manager. The next day we got a call in our stateroom from the manager - he would have us seated at a table for two for the rest of the cruise. One night we off-handedly mentioned to our waiter that it was our anniversary. The next night he surprised us with a "Happy Anniversary" cake. This was particularly nice because, as a gay couple, we really appreciated the being treated as a couple. The dining room manager even wished us a happy anniversary when he next saw us. These little personal touches are the types of things that have happened on each of our HAL cruises - and it's one reason why we're brand-loyal. NOTABLE POINTS ABOUT THIS CRUISE. I particularly liked that 3 of the 7 days were at sea. I really enjoy at sea days. I wish HAL had more cruises to nowhere. When I'm looking for a cruise I look for one with a high ratio of at sea days. We had lots of whale and seal sightings on this cruise. We enjoy jazz and classical music. Each night in the Explorer Lounge after diner there was a string quartet that was truly excellent. It was a lovely way to close the evening. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009

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