31 San Diego Group and Theme Cruise Reviews

I cruise on holland america because they are the line that Legendary Blues Cruise charters. I would NEVER pay to go on this line otherwise. This last trip, end of october 2019, was especially bad. The food, especially the desserts and ... Read More
I cruise on holland america because they are the line that Legendary Blues Cruise charters. I would NEVER pay to go on this line otherwise. This last trip, end of october 2019, was especially bad. The food, especially the desserts and baked goods, were a travesty! While there was occasionally a decent item- flourless choc. cake, the popover rolls on the salad bar, I found most items to range between bad and disgusting. As a pastry chef with experience working in large scale operations (caesars vegas) in addition to small, fine dining establishments, i can tell you there is no excuse for food this bad. The apple pie was like a block of rubber, the choc souffle was accompanied by a sauce of watery cocoa, the cupcakes were frosted with some unknown rubber substance, the cookies were bland and overbaked, the ice cream was the cheapest pre-purchased crap available, the breads, rolls, etc, were flavorless and stale, etc. The hot food in the dining room was okay, but quality has definitely slipped in the last year. The buffet food was mediocre to bad- the pasta tasted exactly like Spaghetti-O's. i paid full price for a veranda cabin at the back of the ship (room 8175) Nice room, but not sure if something is wrong with the engines or what, but the constant vibration make it look like a strobe light when the bedside gooseneck lamp was on. That would have been okay, except every 20-40 seconds, the ship would give a jolt that would physically move me in the bed. I will continue to sail on this line only because of the great music and passengers on the blues cruise, but if you are looking to cruise for pleasure, definitely look elsewhere! Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
This was a once in a life time deal to sail to the Panama Canal and see what it was all about. We have sailed on RCL and Princess in the past. Lots of factors involved in deciding on this cruise but location, timing and price where major ... Read More
This was a once in a life time deal to sail to the Panama Canal and see what it was all about. We have sailed on RCL and Princess in the past. Lots of factors involved in deciding on this cruise but location, timing and price where major factors. Not sure if "price point" is where NCL fits in but I somehow thought in my mind that we were signing up for a top notch cruise and we were both very excited. The start of the cruise might have been some clue as to what we were to encounter. The boarding process had been moved to San Diego for some reason ??? Los Angeles has a beautiful terminal that can handle large crowds and do it smoothly. Right from the beginning it appeared that it was rookie status. Simply unloading baggage was confusing and unorganized. "Is this the first time they have done this" seemed to be a common question in regard to handling logistics with this ship and cruise line. The terminal in San Diego is in a nice area with lots to see and do but the process to get on the ship was terrible and I would not recommend it to anyone. Not sure they could screw it up any better???? Next up was the birthday surprise for my wife from my adult children. My son tried to use NCL's website to send a BD gift to my wife and our friend on the ship. The website crashed while he was in the process and had to start over, which ended up causing him to be double billed. There was never an acknowledgement of the gift by NCL to my wife or our friend, just a credit on our bill??? "Is this the first time they have done this"??? Missing Cabo San Lucas was not NCL's fault and I did'nt mind the extra sea days but stopping in Pueto Quetzal was not what we thought it would be. It was nice to get off the ship for a few hours (again the unloading process seemed like a new concept to the staff). Would not go back to Guatemala. The tendering process was worse in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. The captain said it was because the swells were going one direction and the wind was going another,"Is this the first time they have done this"??? The meeting in the Stardust Theater was not organized and just seemed like rookie status. Part of our group finally made it to a tender only to have a motor fail. They floated around in the bay for 1/2 hour while other tenders went by trying while tender 10 captain was trying to restart the motor???? "Is this the first time they have done this"?? We just spent at least 4 days at sea did anyone think to check all of that stuff out to make sure it was ready to go???? Both Guatemala and Nicaragua are disgusting places to visit and really not sure why we stopped there. We did sign up for the Zip Line in Costa Rica and again the boarding process was a mess but the Zip Line Operation was dialed in. Very well run and organized and able to handle the 4-5 buses full of us needing a break from the ship. The Panama Canal was interesting but it might have been more interesting to visit Panama City or Colon while going through the Canal instead of the first two. The locks are amazing and the process was very cool. The history behind this area is incredible and worth investigating. I thought Cartagena Columbia would be a breath of fresh air after the disappointment of the first two stops but..... We signed up for the catamaran transfer to the old city. The city is amazing looking from the water going in. On the way in the catamaran captain warned us about the street vendors. He said just say, "No Garcias" and they will leave you alone. Almost before the boat docked, the vendors were shoving stuff inside the boat trying to get us "rich Americanos" to buy their crap. This continued for a block and half where the entrance into the old city is found, then inside the beautiful old city. As we walked along the streets it continued. The only way to get away from them was to duck into a shop and take a breather. Someone suggested that the street vendors are not locals but from Venezuela as their economy crashes??? Not sure, but what could have been an awesome experience walking around the old city and enjoying the nice people, turned into a battle to avoid a fight with the street vendors because we would not buy from them!!! The shop keepers inside the old city were very nice and very accommodating to us, get rid of the street vendors and I might go back. Next stop was George Town in Grand Cayman. The one bright spot in the cruise. We loved this little island and will find a way to get back there someday. The Rum tour was awesome, our guide was awesome and the people there were great. The sea days weren't bad on the Pearl but they just seemed to lack that extra little something we had experienced on other ships. The Halloween costume party was totally lame and the group that had gone above and beyond to dress up got tossed in the first round, again my thoughts were "Is this the first time they have done this"??? We really wanted to watch the World Series which involved the Dodgers but were told that the ship would have to pay a royalty to get the games and Miami (the head office) wasn't going to do that. So we got days and days of World Cup Soccer instead (not a fan). The best the ship could do was to post the score (only once) on the ships channel. Really, "Is this the first time they have done this"??? The unloading (disembarkation) process in Tampa was an absolute joke. We were given instructions and followed them to a T, but the ship began giving out different directions which conflicted with the pervious instructions. We were supposed to disembark by 0845 but did not leave until 1030. If you are not a fan of waiting for ever in long lines do not unload in Tampa (I am sure it was a combination of the boat staff and the terminal staff, long lines in each area). They tried to say it was everyone else's fault (customs, dock handlers, etc) but I watched as handlers and shore personnel were standing around, "Is this the first time they have done this"?? On previous cruises, it seemed, that as soon as the dock lines were secured the ramps went down, stuff started flying off the ship??? In the past we were actually disappointed to get off the ship and did not want it to end, in this case we were happy to be off and on our way to our next activity. Not sure how this happened but, the one thing NCL did get right was the service staff. From the bartenders to the cabin steward, these hard working people have a clue and were the one thing that would put a smile on our faces. The food was good and the specialty restaurants were nice but, it was hard for them to make up for the deficiencies of the rest of the ship. We were looking for an adventure and I guess that is kinda of what we got. Next time, I think we are booking with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Chose this cruise as part of our Uncommon Journeys trip and easy sailing out of San Diego. Like the small ship of 1400. Liked the entertainment brought onboard. Liked upgrade. However, meals were hit or miss! Thai lunch was great; ... Read More
Chose this cruise as part of our Uncommon Journeys trip and easy sailing out of San Diego. Like the small ship of 1400. Liked the entertainment brought onboard. Liked upgrade. However, meals were hit or miss! Thai lunch was great; lobster tails on Gala night were excellent; however, last meal on last night was inedible....lamb chops! Gluten free bread was horrible white bread they put in microwave when I asked for it toasted. Finally, on our disembarkation day we were all told we could stay in our room until they called out number/color. Staff asked to come into rooms at 7:00 and 8:00 am before we were called and it was kinda rude. Service is going downhill and so is food....getting too much like Carnival. Both we and another couple who have cruised many, many days and are 3-star mariners, do not think we will ever go HA again! Very sad! Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Excellent value and an excellent ship. We opted for a Signature Suite 6045 which was well worth the money. Room Stewards (Nyoman and Yusep) were attentive and always accommodating with a smile. We had thoughts of opting for the upscale ... Read More
Excellent value and an excellent ship. We opted for a Signature Suite 6045 which was well worth the money. Room Stewards (Nyoman and Yusep) were attentive and always accommodating with a smile. We had thoughts of opting for the upscale restaurants, but elected not to do so since the regular food service and quality were very good. Our Wine Steward, Yohan, was exceptional and most helpful. Being that the cruising itinerary has almost 7 sea days, the entertainment and ship-board amenities have to be good. The Lincoln Center Stage quintet was excellent, and, although we did not see all the stage presentations, the few that we saw were very professionally done. Land tours were good, and the bus lines were not long, given that there were several handicap people on board. The several tour guides that we experienced all spoke with different levels of English competency, which is to be expected. All in all, they were knowledgeable and had good senses of humor. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
we have a 2 yr old and would also love to have a getaway ..so what did we decide on? what better vacation than a cruise?! With a toddler in tow, we knew we wanted something convenient and easy travel. Therefore we decided on a cruise. ... Read More
we have a 2 yr old and would also love to have a getaway ..so what did we decide on? what better vacation than a cruise?! With a toddler in tow, we knew we wanted something convenient and easy travel. Therefore we decided on a cruise. three years ago i had a blast on the Disney Fantasy and i knew someday i would like to cruise with disney again. We live in san diego, so we knew we wanted to depart from the San Diego port -- and to make sure the little one likes cruises, we decided on the Disney Wonder 2 nights cruise. It departs from San Diego which makes our lives that much more easier (because it's not so fun flying with a toddler). Disney definitely knows how to cater to families. When i was on the Disney Fantasy three yrs ago, i already had a lot of fun (and that was without a baby). So to go on Disney cruise with a toddler it made it even more special because it met all our expectation. I didnt have to carry so many thing around. All i had with me was the room key. Food, drinks, and snacks everywhere. When my toddler was hungry, i have access to pizza, chicken tenders, soups, cookies soft serve and more. When thirsty, Disney had whole milk dispenser, water, and juices easy for anyone to get a cup to quench their thirst. For entertainment, no need to question about disney, you know they will have great entertainment for adults and kids! from family activities, to kids only, to adults only shows. For a two nights cruise, they even kept their Pirates night -- fireworks on the sea followed by a late night buffet / snack. it was awesome. I didn't think they would include the pirate's night for a 2 night cruise.. i thought they only have that on longer cruises. The employees / staffs... c'mon it's Disney, you know you will meet friendly and polite staffs. You will definitely get one of the best services with this cruise line. Bottomline, 2 nights cruise is not enough to be honest. but it is a great getaway for parents with kids and who are local. yes Disney cruise is expensive but you get what you pay for. And for me that's totally worth it. Knowing that you will get great service, superb cleanliness and incredible entertainment. Definitely was a stress free vacation even though it was only for two nights. Going on this 2 nights cruise was less stress for me than going to hawaii for 1 week (even though hawaii is known for paradise). LOVED the dining experience. a rotation of dining at different restaurants so guests can experience different themed restaurants that the cruise offers. the waiters who serves you follows to each night so you get the same server. which i love because by 2nd night the server knows what you like and dislike. they even have your drink ready on the table by the 2nd night! love it! and yes of course with disney there will always be some magic touches! i highly recommend this itinerary for those who live in SoCal and who wish to have take their children on a disney cruise. I'm no Disney fanatic, but i'm definitely a Disney CRUISE fan! i am hooked!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We chose MS Westerdam for our Panama trip, decidedly for the itinerary. The number and destination of ports compared to cruise duration was exactly what we wanted. All the stops were very interesting. We booked several shore excursions, ... Read More
We chose MS Westerdam for our Panama trip, decidedly for the itinerary. The number and destination of ports compared to cruise duration was exactly what we wanted. All the stops were very interesting. We booked several shore excursions, mostly at destinations we had not previously visited. Overall the Westerdam is simliar to all other Holland America ships, however it does seem to be well worn, tired and in need of some attention to repairs. This is the only disappointing part of our trip was condition of the ship. Since our last HAL trip they have added a great salad bar which was a welcome addition. Otherwise food was good, but typical ship fare. However if you missed dinner by 8:30 your only option until 10:30 was pre-sliced pizza and pasta and no dessert option. Our room 5188 was well researched prior to booking. Deck 5 balconies are larger than other decks. The balcony is 100% covered which is good to provide shade during the day and coverage if raining. This is great for late afternoon when looking for respite from sun. Entertainment on board is very typical of cruise ships. However the B B King band was FABULOUS. Their band is truly amazing and we spent many evenings listening to band and dancing. The piano bar entertainer Damien was not very enjoyable as he tends to bang the piano rather than play and is not a very good singer. Overall service on the ship is good, however we found that the aft pool deck service could be drastically improved. During breakfast service it was difficult to find anyone to clean a table or provide coffee, during the day there was many dirty dishes and cups laying around and few people to take orders. This is also the first time on any ship that we found a couple of rude and seemingly resentful staff. We would take a Holland America cruise again if the price and itinerary was a good bargain, but HAL would not necessarily be our first choice. Puerto Vallarta -local bus to Bucerias. There is a Walmart right across from the cruise ship terminal just in case you forgot anything. Manzanillo - walked around the immediate area which has good shopping, interesting local sites. Huatulco - took local taxi to La Crucecita - $4. Back at cruise ship terminal there is a fabulous beach with a great swimming area, some watersports and on the beach restaurants with cheap beer. Guatemala - WONDERFUL took a shore excursion to Antigua which is one of the most beautiful clean cities we have visited. Spent several hours in Antigua looking at local sites and wished we had more time. Found the city to be very clean and felt comfortably safe. The site of volcanoes were amazing Nicaragua- took a shore excursion to Leon. Cathedral was interesting with beautiful views, but overall Nicaragua was very dirty and we did not venture very far from the town square as we did not feel safe. Costa Rica - beautiful, lush and very clean. Shore excursion to coffee plantation was very interesting and great trip through countrysite. Panama Canal - was much more interesting than expected. Local canal expert was on board ship for the entire transit providing details and history of the canal as we progressed. The front bow of the ship is opened and set up for viewing for the entire day. Next time I would like to read more about the history and details of the canal before cruise. Aruba - shore excursion to snorkel sites. Antilla shipwreck was beautiful with lots of fish; wreck was interesting and easy to see. second dive site was Ok but lacked variety of fish. Next time in Aruba we would most likely do similar dive but book on shore to save money. Curacao - spent most of day exploring Punda and Otrabanda. Beautiful locations, clean and we felt safe wandering around the town. Local restaurant upstairs in old fort by cruise ship terminal provided great views and excellent local beer. Jamaica - we had been advised not to venture out of cruise ship area on our own so we took an shore excursion to a local beach. This turned out to be a wise choice as outside the terminal is quite run down and mostly shanty housing. Beach was mostly clean with good facilities. Cruise ship terminal is a very unfriendly place where it seems the locals are not thrilled to have tourists there and also extremely expensive. We purchased a cup of coffee that was $5 for nothing special. Grand Cayman - our only tender site. George town was crazy busy with cruise ships but everything seemed to move along quite quickly. Since we knew ahead of time that there was going to be 6 ships in port that day we booked a shore excursion to Tiki Beach. This facility is clean and well run, however there is not much of a swimming area as there is a coral reef about 6 - 10 feet off shore. Next time I would most likely get off ship and take a taxi to a different beach club. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
My mom and I booked this cruise through Craft Cruises as a knitting cruise - so we didn't specifically choose this ship, it just happened to be the ship and the itinerary associated with the craft trip. Having said that, HAL exceeded ... Read More
My mom and I booked this cruise through Craft Cruises as a knitting cruise - so we didn't specifically choose this ship, it just happened to be the ship and the itinerary associated with the craft trip. Having said that, HAL exceeded my expectations in every way. I've cruised with NCL, Disney, and Cunard, but this was my first time with HAL; HAL is now my favorite line (maybe tied with Disney). The food and service, especially, were excellent. I'm a vegetarian, and I enjoy cooking and eating exotic / gourmet food. I was particularly impressed with the variety of vegetarian options in the MDR. When we booked, I was concerned because the Westerdam is due to be overhauled next month. So I was particularly impressed that the ship seemed to be in excellent shape, no more worn or dirty than any other ship I've cruised. Because we had knitting classes each sea day, and other group activities, I didn't get to try out any of the ship's entertainment or enrichment activities. I did visit the spa several times, and it was comparable to most other ships. I would absolutely sail with HAL again, and in particular, I'd love to see the Westerdam after it's overhaul. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Cruising out of San Diego, CA has the benefits of a clean well run cruise terminal, a beautiful city and every tourist accommodation. Still, the first and last two days on board are spent reaching the Sea of Cortez, and the times we have ... Read More
Cruising out of San Diego, CA has the benefits of a clean well run cruise terminal, a beautiful city and every tourist accommodation. Still, the first and last two days on board are spent reaching the Sea of Cortez, and the times we have done it, the weather has been mild but not tropical. Our stateroom was nicely appointed, although on the small side for verandah rooms on high end ships today. Concierge service (in fact, all service) was very pleasant and helpful. Room was kept moore neat than clean. "Extra charges" and sales promotions are held to a pleasant minimum, as are PA system announcements. Food was quite good and quite varied too. Long lines and crowds were usually well controlled, with some exceptions. Boarding the vessel in San Diego involved standing in a long long line, wishing we had signed for a suite. Oddly, debarking was a model of quick and painless re-uniting with luggage, passport control and customs. Four elevators (two forward, two aft) usually worked efficiently but not when events opened or ended. Reservations at specialty restaurants (there are just two) seemed to fill up quite fast, almost before we left San Diego. Flexible dining meant a line at the dining room early on, with no line an hour later but by then, sometimes having to miss the entertainment. Azamazing - the evening party and piece de resistance - was in fact as amazing as anything I might have conjured up. If you go, do not miss it. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
This was my family's first cruise and we were not disappointed. In fact, we were surprised at how attentive the staff was and how well-cared-for we felt. We had no pre-conceptions or notions as to how cruises generally were so we ... Read More
This was my family's first cruise and we were not disappointed. In fact, we were surprised at how attentive the staff was and how well-cared-for we felt. We had no pre-conceptions or notions as to how cruises generally were so we were surprised at all of the niceties and courtesies we were given while on the cruise and at ports. We have decided cruising is the most bang for the buck because there would be no way a family of 5 could stay for 7 nights, have at least 3 meals a day, attend events and shore excursions and basically have your every wish granted. It was a real eye opener. I mean, sure, there will be times where we'll want to travel to one destination and spend more than a day there but it was perfect to get a sampling of the Mexican Riviera for a day and then go back to OUR ship and get comfortable again. It becomes a proprietary thing, when you feel you belong to a ship and a ship belongs to you. We feel that way about the Westerdam but we're definitely going to give the rest of Holland America's fleet a chance. We're already getting ready to book our next annual family vacation with HAL. I also think I would consider a quick getaway for my husband and me aboard HAL, too. Holland America is definitely a destination for every family of every type - small, large, empty-nesters, etc... So glad we chose Holland America!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Beautiful San Diego,We arrived 1 day early, Dec 3rd, Watched the sunset at Sunset Cliffs.There was the evening Christmas Parade. The King's Inn, authentic Mexican food for dinner next door. Embarkation at 1.00pm was very fast ... Read More
Beautiful San Diego,We arrived 1 day early, Dec 3rd, Watched the sunset at Sunset Cliffs.There was the evening Christmas Parade. The King's Inn, authentic Mexican food for dinner next door. Embarkation at 1.00pm was very fast and our luggage was in our room within the hour.Correction, my luggage was missing, regardless We headed up to Lido Deck 8 like veteran cruisers for lunch...Asian curry noodles and rice quite authentic. Checked with Security where my bag was held and my small travel iron was confiscated until Ensenada.You can not pack extension cords either. My cabin was Ocean View 3343 mid deck, near the Clock Tower Atrium....which was beautifully Xmas decorated with gingerbread houses, train set.Christmas trees lights.. Cabin was great,, quiet and equidistant both ends of the Amsterdam, La Fontaine Dining room and Queens Lounge..Must mention that my Cabin Stewards Agus and Made were warm, friendly and unobtrusive, kept the cabin very clean and tidy. I look forward to the Towel Art and be surprised every evening. All the ports were excellent, You are in Paradise, The ship excursions were pretty good but We decided to rent a car where We can and explore the islands on our own. HAL ships' ON LOCATION .We had Kainoa who gave us lectures on Hawaiian Culture, History and personal stories of the islands, advice,maps, guidelines to plan your day ashore,the many places to see,and shore excursions. There were the Hula Dancers performances and Hula lessons.Ukulele lessons,Hawaiian Lei making classes ,....A deeper Hawaiian experience. Dec 4th, 5 lovely fun filled sea days,This beautiful ship had fresh flowers everywhere. I read books by Dean Koontz and Jeffrey Archer in The Exploration Cafe Library. Dec 10th, HONOLULU (Oahu). We took the bus transit to Hanauma Bay, for swimming and snorkeling,Not environmentally correct to walk on the coral and rocks,then a long walk on Waikiki Beach, and some shopping for a Ukulele (Better buy on Amazon). i've been to the Pearl Harbor Memorial before .. there wasn't enough time to do more. HILO (Hawaii) Dec 11th..We drove up to Mauna Kea (13 796 ft) At 9200 ft,The Onizuka Center, the road to the summit was blocked off because of frozen ice, so We decided to drive South to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.(original plan was to do this from Kona) Moana Loa was spewing lava before the mist covered everything. Took a walk through the Thurston Lava Tube. At the shoreline of black lava fields, Kilauea was actively erupting lava into the sea, shooting massive plumes of smoke and ashes into the sky that can bee seen from afar. Next day, Dec 12th KONA, There was no car rental shuttle.It's USD28 to get to the car rental and USD28 back so no car rental. We did the Hop On for USD15 each,At the beach stop,James went snorkeling with his Go Pro and I walked the tidal pools and beaches.Saw 5 turtles and lots of yellow fishes..James did the Atlantis submarine (USD85).while I went shopping. 6 packs of Macadamia nut chocs ($24) at Target and Ross is my favorite for bargain hunting, shoes, dresses and fine Italian soap.(Bulgari 100ml parfum $30). Dec 13th NAWILIWILI (Kauai). We drove through Lihue to Waimea Canyon,The Grand Canyon of Hawaii.Don't just stop here, keep on driving to the very end of the road and from here you can see the North shore of the island, the jagged cliffs overlooking the sea.here was where they filmed Jurassic Park. A stop at Wailua Falls, there was a rainbow, before heading back to the ship. Dec 14th LAHAINA (Maui). Make sure your car rental pick-up is at JHM Airport.(not Kahului Airport which is too far from Lahaina) and the last car rental shuttle return to pier is 4.00pm ($20 cab return to Pier at 6.30pm). Drove up to Hakeakala National Park, dormant volcano, elevation 10,024 ft. We were above the clouds !!!! Nature enthusiasts would love the unique flora , silver swords. THE ROAD TO HANA, yes, We decided to do partway of this road, time permitting because We don't know when We'll be back this way again, just to say "We were there.". Narrow winding road through rain forest.Stopped at a fruit stand, On the way back, We went to the beach to watch the surfers.I had a Maui shave ice for $5, don't do that, not natural flavoring, inedible I had to throw away. It's my birthday, the dining room staff sang a Happy Happy song, which also works for anniversaries or anything else (I speak the language) and also a Birthday cake. If they sang in reverse, Am I one year younger You think? The 5 sea days to Ensenada, Mexico Dec20th, a seaside town with a wet fish market, lots of touristsy shops.Had a walk around and back to the ship for TEA., delicious scones with berries preserve and clotted cream.Earl Grey. Dec 21st, San Diego.Last breakfast.Disembark,Took the shuttle to the airport USD10. The HiGH POINT of this wonderful and special cruise was the Scenic Sailing of Kilauea Volcano 10.00pm.I videoed from the ship's bow.The lava flowing into the sea, bright orange red spewing up against the dark night.Lots of steam and smoke. Captain Fred Eversen is cool. The Amsterdam Dancers and Singers and the other entertainers were Super Excellent. The Culinary Art Centre was standing room only, Lots of activities like Trivia and stuff.... Cruise director guys were cool. The food was Excellent and ALL the staff did their best to make this an amazing wonderful cruise. I did not win the $25,000 Bingo, ;( I did not win the Cruise Bingo. ;( Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
I’m a 34 year old male who traveled solo on the Norwegian Sun for the full-ship charter called the Groove Cruise. The charter was from October 28 to November 2, 2016. This was my 36th cruise and 23rd time with Norwegian. I had been on ... Read More
I’m a 34 year old male who traveled solo on the Norwegian Sun for the full-ship charter called the Groove Cruise. The charter was from October 28 to November 2, 2016. This was my 36th cruise and 23rd time with Norwegian. I had been on the Norwegian Sun previously in 2008. I’ve tried out other cruise lines including Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. What follows is a review of the cruise and some mentions of entertainment as they were experienced. Embarkation: San Diego The embarkation was better compared to this past Miami Groove Cruise on Norwegian Pearl. There was a miscommunication between the port security, port check in vendor and the NCL corporate security team about NCL’s wine and champagne policy at the beginning. SMS who does their port side operations worked with the other two to get this problem straightened out and a table was setup to pay the corkage fee. NCL was trying not to honor their wine and champagne carry-on policy clearly stated on their website. No information saying this wouldn’t be allowed on charters was ever provided to guests. NCL also on this sailing would not honor the soda package which they did offer on the Norwegian Pearl in January because “it was a charter.” Not sure what NCL’s corporate policy changes at the last minute were trying to accomplish but at the beginning of embark it caused some tense moments in the embark terminal. Once the wine and champagne was worked out, the rest of the embarkation was smooth and efficient. Day 1: San Diego Touring the Ship: The Norwegian Sun is an older ship in the Norwegian fleet. She had just been in a shortened technical dry dock earlier this year so her carpeting was refreshed and overall she looked amazing. The Sun staff do a remarkable job keeping her looking fresh. Given that it was a music charter, the crew had to remove chairs from venues to make room for dancing. Dazzles tables and chairs were emptied out and so were the chairs on the main floor in the theater. The remaining chairs in the theater were covered with plastic sheeting to protect them from any spills. The observation lounge was transformed into a chill lounge with a large blow up igloo. It fit nicely into the lounge and made for some great late night relaxing moments. The pool deck was transformed into a dance venue with production equipment featuring LED walls, sound and lighting. The Great Outdoors venue was cleared of tables and chairs mostly to allow for dancing as the sunset sessions and after hours stages were located here. Stateroom: Oceanview 7007: The ocean view cabin was in great shape. Everything functioned as it should. The cabin steward did a great job of keeping it tidy. A bar of soap was provided in the bathroom besides the normal body wash and shampoo dispenser located in the shower. Due to the previous cruise taking longer to disembark, it put getting the pool stage setup behind schedule. Once it was setup music for the day could be found from Dannic, Thomas Newson and Bamboora. By night the ship transformed itself into a wonderland of glow and glitter as the night’s theme was Shine! This theme is always amazingly creative but always makes me feel bad for the crew as glitter is everywhere! Tonight’s main entertainment featured the sounds of Solidisco, Feenixpawl, EDX and Dancetronauts in the main theater. Other venues on the ship going at night included the casino and the silent disco in Las Ramblas. Day 2: SEA DAY Sleep is hard to come by on Groove Cruise. If you’re getting too much sleep then you’re not doing it right. After about 4 hours of sleep it was time to start day 2 of GC and head to the on-going after hours located at the Great Outdoors with sounds from Pirupa, Mendo and Jaime Narvaez. A standard breakfast buffet was served in the buffet. The main pool stage started up around 11AM with the sounds of Kristina Sky. The day would continue under the sun with the sounds of Kryder and Tom Starr back to back along with Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano. The fun really started when the sunset with live beats from Goldfish who played saxophone right on the pool deck with the beats. This set was amazing! EDX and Antonio Giacca wrapped up the pool deck stage. At 3PM, a giant Twister game was in the sports court. It had a lot of attendees and was a ton of fun. Since it overlooked the pool stage in the basketball court, you were not out of ear shot or visual site of all the action going on poolside. Day time theme was Baby Blue & Pink Party (wear blue or pink). Once the sun had set it was time for the theater to get going along with Dazzles Disco and the Silent Disco in Las Ramblas. Tonight’s entertainment featured the sounds of Bamboora, Thomas Newson, Dannic, Paris and Simo, Monoky, Lujan, Doc Brown & many more supporting artists. The theater was the hopping venue for the night until it closed about 5AM. Tonight’s night theme was dress up like your favorite Celebrity. Many unofficial themes would be had this night. I dressed up as a Minion because they’re a celebrity too! Day 3: CABO SAN LUCAS – DAY 1 After grabbing about four hours of sleep, I rejoined the last couple of hours at the Great Outdoors where the Abyss by Incorrect had moved to. During the early morning hours until Noon featured the music of Anthony Attalla and Cocodrills. Since our arrival was scheduled for Noon into Cabo, there was a few hours of music provided poolside by DMorse and Doc Brown. Doc Brown continued to play pool side until 3PM – well beyond our arrival into Cabo. The party then moved off the ship to ME Cabo. This beach resort hotel had an expansive pool space. Extra equipment was brought in to make it a party for Groove Cruise and it went from 1PM until Midnight with the sounds of Scotty Boy, Croatia Squad, Jonas Blue, Robin Schulz, Denney, Sian and DUBFIRE who was the lead for the night party. The all day theme was Groove Cruise 3000 but it turned more into a pool party day and night. After midnight the party moved to Breathless Cabo which was closer to the tender pier. The night kicked off with the sounds of Lavelle Dupree and continued with Shaun Frank, Dean Mason and featured artist Lost Kings. Between the two venues, I liked the layout of Breathless Cabo more. Less guests went to the Breathless party as there was also an after hours going on the ship. Abyss by Incorrect this night featured the sounds of Toolroom artists Weiss, Mark Knight, Prok and Fitch and closed out with Sydney Blu. DAY 4: CABO The party moved back to the ship around 4AM but I returned about 2AM. When I woke up, Prok and Fitch was still playing at the Great Outdoors. The pool deck stage got going around 11AM and stayed active until the ship weighed anchor and headed back for San Diego. The biggest entertainer of the afternoon was Fedde LeGrand. Since it was Halloween Day, it was Halloween costumes both day and night for the themes. Tonight was the best night of the cruise in my opinion. Trance all night in the Stardust Theater from Adam Scott, Kristina Sky, Orjan Nilsen, Gareth Emery and Super 8 & Tab. It was an amazing night in the theater with friends both old and new on Groove Cruise. Gareth Emery’s set was everything in the world that night. Loved every last minute of it. Orjan Nilsen through down a mean set as well. Kristina Sky is an up and coming artist from the West Coast and her sets are just amazing. It’s my third time experiencing her style on Groove Cruise. DAY 5: SEA DAY Technically the day began a midnight when I was still in the theater until about 4AM. The day began with the Devils and Angels daytime theme only Mother Nature was not cooperating as it was cold, windy and not so sunny. After hours was again on the back deck at the Great Outdoors as it was the most sheltered from the wind. The wind would mess up the main pool stage as well and cause removal of the LED walls. The wind didn’t stop us! Klingande’s playground was on the chilly pool deck all afternoon and while the theme may have been devils and angels, people resorted to onesies to keep warm but still dance. Afternoon beats included sets from Solidisco, Moon Boots, Klingande, SNBRN, Shaun Frank and Stanton Warriors. After a lovely dinner in the mid-ship Four Seasons main dining room, it was time to grab some serious sleep! Sleep is hard to come by on Groove Cruise and you must get some sleep before disembark day. I slept until 2:30AM and got up to catch the last of Audien’s set in the theater before heading upstairs to the Great Outdoors for the closing classics party with Chocolate Puma, DJ Dan and lastly DSK CHK as we were tying up the ropes to the pier in San Diego. DAY 6: DISEMBARK Foreign guests were required to go to the Observation Lounge between 6A and 8A to present themselves to customs. Some guests were not paying attention and this caused delays for everyone else trying to get off the boat. Since the music had stopped, some guests had gone back to their cabin and fell asleep. Disembarkation took much longer than anticipated running well after 11AM. When I did finally get off the ship and clear customs, the lines had abated. NCL did the best they could with disembark given how sleep deprived the guests were. SUMMARY Overall this review was more about the Groove Cruise experience instead of an actual review of the Norwegian Sun. Groove Cruise has many ways to save including the usage of codes like GCVIRGIN which help both new and returning guests. The crew on the Sun were happy to see us and had a blast right alongside us. Service was amazing the whole trip from the dining room to bar staff to guest services. While the food served in the Four Seasons main dining room was a bit salty sometimes, the new fleet menu had various tasty selections. Crew members who were not generally working because the cruise ship did not need production cast, other entertainers and youth counselors were out and about and being helpful for a few hours a day. You would see them with us having a great time too! Minus the Norwegian Cruise Line corporate office trying to change the wine and champagne policy for charters and changing the policy about the soda package on charters, Groove Cruise Cabo was a great success! In case you did not know the Groove Cruise sails twice a year, West Coast in October and Miami in January! Looking forward to the next Groove Cruise! Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
Just completed a wonderful cruise aboard the Ms Amsterdam, visiting most of the Polynesian islands. Service was exceptional aboard HAL's flagship, especially for those with a Neptune and Pinnacle suite on the Navigation deck. We ... Read More
Just completed a wonderful cruise aboard the Ms Amsterdam, visiting most of the Polynesian islands. Service was exceptional aboard HAL's flagship, especially for those with a Neptune and Pinnacle suite on the Navigation deck. We were greeted by name by bother servers and officers. Even deviations from the printed menu in main dining were accommodated (like the time an Ahi tuna main coarse was served when the menu only had the tuna as a Carpaccio appetizer) Food was excellent too, making it difficult to decide how many selections to make from the appetizer/soup/salad portion of the menu. A nice touch is that the menu was very predictable; the first appetizer was always a fruit melange, the second an appetizer of thinly sliced meat or fish, etc. ) but also, different in an enjoyable way if you appreciate good food. Only compliant here was that portion sizes were occasionally too large! (My Prime Rib was at least 1 Kg). Entertainment included the typical acts from Las Vegas in the main lounge at night, as well as educational lectures during the days at sea. A very nice touch was how the entertainment was shaped around the ports visited. There were classes to learn play U'kulele, dance the Hula, as well as exhibitions by native experts on the main stage. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We chose this cruise as we were already going to be in California for our son's wedding 3 days prior to embarkation. We drove down from Pasadena, spent a day enjoying San Diego, dropped off the rental car and embarked. Note there is ... Read More
We chose this cruise as we were already going to be in California for our son's wedding 3 days prior to embarkation. We drove down from Pasadena, spent a day enjoying San Diego, dropped off the rental car and embarked. Note there is still construction on the street outside the terminal, but our cab driver easily negotiated it. We tried to check our bags at the obvious spot, but were told to take them inside. Seemed unusual but we diligently went inside, where we were told to take them back outside. OK, finally got them checked and came back through the line. No other embarkation problems of note and we were quickly onboard enjoying the buffet lunch. Met the other Cruise Critic Rollcall members at the Sunset Bar for sailaway drinks after muster drill. One member had made beautiful pin-on buttons for all of us, and we wore our Mardi Gras beads to identify ourselves. Good way to get the cruise started! The officers were friendly and mixed with the passengers every day. It was great to have the Captain greet you personally at breakfast and the Hotel Director spend 1/2 hour with you at Elite Happy Hour. These are the little things that make traveling on the Century very special. She may be older and smaller, but the ship has a devoted following. This was a quiet cruise with a lot of sea days and was definitely an older crowd. But there was lots to do if you chose to do it. The enrichment lectures on Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Theater in WWII were fabulous and June, the Hawaiian arts and crafts lady, was great fun. The standard of excellence that Celebrity maintains in its service, food, maintenance of facilities, etc., is what keeps us coming back time after time. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We went on a theme cruise, The Soul Train Cruise. Everything regarding the actual soul train activities were superb! We had so much fun. We stayed in a room with a veranda. Our room was nice, with a nice view. Our cabin stewards were nice. ... Read More
We went on a theme cruise, The Soul Train Cruise. Everything regarding the actual soul train activities were superb! We had so much fun. We stayed in a room with a veranda. Our room was nice, with a nice view. Our cabin stewards were nice. Our luggage was destroyed by the Cruise ship. We spent part of our time in port looking for replacement luggage. Didn't like that. Our ceramics were destroyed after being removed from the ship to shore, even after packing it extremely well; funny how things can survive bi-coastal flights but not simple loading from shore to ship or vice versus. I don't know what Holland Cruise line uses to load and unload luggage. Whatever they use, it was detrimental to almost all of the pieces of luggage use. If the luggage was not destroyed, it was damaged. Some of the Holland Cruise Line staff seemed reluctant to service many of the Soul Train passengers. They would often tell passengers that we were out things when they did not want to go replenish supplies. For example, they would say there was no more syrup for pancakes and waffles. Who runs out of regular maple syrup when serving pancakes and waffles? We found maple syrup on the other side of the dinning room. There were several instances like this when it came to salad dressing, and dinner choices on the menu. We even had to convince the staff to accommodate three in our room booked for three: for example we requested to have three bath robes, three sets of towels, three drinking glasses and three chairs to sit out on the veranda--after all, we booked a room for three people, right? The food in formal dinning room was OK. It was mostly bland food with little seasoning. Food on the rest of the ship was mass produced and tasteless. I found my self eating just to satisfy hunger and not for enjoyment. I probably lost weight on the ship (not that I didn't need to). I really looked forward to having good food. I was very disappointed. It was comparable to hospital or college dormitory food....I think it college dormitory food to be better. The Soul Train entertainment and activities were absolutely fantastic!!! I would love to do the Soul Train Cruise again, but with another cruise line that is not associated with Carnival Cruise Corporation. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We were booked on The Smooth Jazz Cruise so we didn't have a choice of ships. After reading some really negative reviews about the Westerdam I was apprehensive about the quality of food and service on the ship. We have been on about ... Read More
We were booked on The Smooth Jazz Cruise so we didn't have a choice of ships. After reading some really negative reviews about the Westerdam I was apprehensive about the quality of food and service on the ship. We have been on about 12 cruises so far primarily on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. While the Westerdam is not as new as the other ships we've been on, I must say that the service was excellent. The cabin steward couldn't have been more helpful and the dining room service any better. The food was as good as any of the Royal Caribbean ships we've travelled on but a notch lower than Celebrity. But still no complaints here. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill one evening and found the food and service exemplary. It was well worth the price and I highly recommend it. Back to the main dining room where the selections were varied and tasty delivered hot to the table. Friday night was particularly good with a filet and lobster tail surf and turf. Since we were on a themed cruise, entertainment was provided by the cruise promoter so I can't comment on Holland America line up. Only a few minor negatives such as cabin size, pool area (as compared to Celebrity and RCL). and bar scene. But these were minor and no big deal. Ship boarding and departure were a breeze. Good job Weserdam!   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Never having been at sea 5 days in a row, we were afraid we might get bored. Not the case. We loved every minute of it! The activities were diversified and abundant. The entertainment was quality, plentiful, and scheduled so people at ... Read More
Never having been at sea 5 days in a row, we were afraid we might get bored. Not the case. We loved every minute of it! The activities were diversified and abundant. The entertainment was quality, plentiful, and scheduled so people at both dinner sittings could enjoy them. The ship was very clean. Crew could be seen on a daily basis vacuuming common areas, wiping down chaise chair cushions with disinfectant, or polishing glass and brass. During peak usage times, public restrooms were manned with an attendant who cleaned commodes every 30 mins. and kept the vanity wiped dry. The individual cloth hand towels were a nice touch too. Hand sanitizer was not only offered at the entrance to all dining areas, but frequently was dispensed by a staff member. No doubt Celebrity is working very hard to prevent the spread of illness. Everyone, including maintenance crew,was super friendly and said "hello" when ever passed. The officers, including the Captain, participated with the passengers in water volleyball, shuffleboard, bean bag toss, and other activities. We found the excursions to be reasonably priced and they offered a discount for booking 3 excursions at the same time. In Hilo, the Secrets of Puna was a much better excursion than expected from the description. Others in our group of 12 felt the same way. The Concierge Class C2 was well worth the additional $100 per cabin. Priority check-in with express luggage delivery and priority disembarkation were worth it without all the other amenities like chilled sparkling wine upon arrival, daily flowers, fruit, and hors d'oeuvres, etc. Concierge Class boasts "guest to staff ratio of nearly 2:1" when in fact we had two cabin stewards maintaining 16 cabins! Considering that work load, it's commendable they were able to provide all the added concierge services as well as they did. The binoculars furnished in the cabin were a joke! I suggest you take your own. The complimentary shoeshine service appeared to be the shoe cloth provided in the cabin. (surely the cabin stewards weren't expected to shine shoes too!??) On the downside, the mattress that was billed "premium" was not very comfortable nor were any of the 4 pillows. Also, during disembarkation, the baggage handlers misplaced two pieces of our luggage. One we found in a different numbered area and the second was found about an hour after we left the port, after filing a lost claim, and were going through airport security. No attempt was made to deliver it in time for our flight or to send it on a later flight. We were told it would be a week before we'd receive it. It's been on week today and we haven't received it yet. Travel is never perfect. However, we feel the good on this cruise definitely out weighed the bad and intend to cruise worth Celebrity again! Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
I admit it, I've become a travel snob and thought the wine themed cruise would be special on Celebrity but it was not. I asked around and found out the wine themed events were for wine groups that booked the cruise as a group through ... Read More
I admit it, I've become a travel snob and thought the wine themed cruise would be special on Celebrity but it was not. I asked around and found out the wine themed events were for wine groups that booked the cruise as a group through their wine clubs. I was told there were two groups on board, one had 90 people and another 100 people and the special events were for them only. There were the usual wine tasting seminars for a fee that most cruise lines offer but nothing out of the ordinary for those not traveling with a wine club. The food in the Oceanview buffet was the same everyday and boring, not much creativity there.The dining room was nicely decorated with good servers and the food was average but I am a foodie. The big touted buffet from 10 am-2PM in the dining room was mostly the foods from the Oceanview buffet with a few other items added but the presentation was excellent. We had dinner in speciality restaurant Qsine and it was fabulous. $40 each with fun and energetic servers with very creative meal items and presentation. Loved the concept, edgy and imaginative. I noticed the management staff stayed on top of the service in the bars and dining areas. If there was a bottleneck of people, the manager called for assistance and even someone in a suit jumped in to clear tables. The embarkation went smoothly and many employees were on hand to welcome passengers and assist. The customer service at the reception desk was excellent and if they didn't have the answer,they would call our stateroom with the answer. Disembarkation went smoothly also considering how many people needed to get off the ship. There is a new express procedure for those with carry on luggage only, they get off the ship first which is a good and modern procedure. Overhead announcements were minimal which made the ship more quiet and no obnoxious cruise director was yelling out the latest bingo jackpot-yeah!! Entertainment with the comedians was very good but the chef cook off was just okay. Professor Lisa's presentations were outstanding and witty. Lots of people gathered in the frosty styled martini bars and cafe al Bacio for morning espressos and snack time. These were the gathering holes for good drinks and relaxation with entertaining live music. The newly designed ship is more modern and gone are the days of gaudy staircases and flamboyance. Colors are softer and have more of a cosmopolitan look. Good customer service all the way around. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
This was my first-ever cruise. As of writing this review, I've now gone on a couple more cruises, both with Carnival, and looking back, the 5 day Baja Mexico cruise was a perfect little get-away. The ship was clean, and ... Read More
This was my first-ever cruise. As of writing this review, I've now gone on a couple more cruises, both with Carnival, and looking back, the 5 day Baja Mexico cruise was a perfect little get-away. The ship was clean, and comfortable. The room was clean and just exactly what you'd expect from a cruise ship room. The shows on this ship were particularly good. The cast and crew were very welcoming and friendly. The food was better on Carnival back in 2012 than it has been in recent years. This cruise had an incredible water slide. I'm not someone who enjoys those things normally, but I was peer-pressured into using this water slide and LOVED it. It was a total thrill to drop straight down, and then go over the side of the ship. Since the Spirit, I've been disappointed with the average slides on subsequent ships I've been on! I would recommend the Carnival Spirit to any budget conscious traveler looking for a nice get-away for the price. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
From the moment we left San Duego on Saturday until we left the following Sunday in Vancouver, it went very well. We got on cleanly, the buffet food was well cooked and the Dining room restuarant was beautiful. Many selections, The wine ... Read More
From the moment we left San Duego on Saturday until we left the following Sunday in Vancouver, it went very well. We got on cleanly, the buffet food was well cooked and the Dining room restuarant was beautiful. Many selections, The wine steward really loved his job and was able to asnwer many of my questions about wine, serving it,. he even gave us a lesson on how to learn to sense the flavors in wine. Our room was just above water level, with an outside large window. We got to wake up watching the waves roll by, and really feel like we were on a ship.The Murano restuarant food was excellent. the only downside here, was that it took a bit longer between some of the courses, and at the end. But this is very personaly and is nto a big issue with me.The stern of the ship on the 11th deck was great for hanigng out and watching the water, the waves, and the Whales go by. Unlike Carnival, which pushes drinks on you, we were left alone for most of the strip. If we left an empty glass or dish on our table while sitting there, the staff politely came by and removed them. The Cruise Director, Rich, was a real genuine person. When he talked to you, he acted liike he was a long time friend, and gave you his attention. My wife and I wondered if he ever slept, becasue we saw him all the time.And of course, I have to tell everyone that the Band Kenosis was fantastic. We had seen them 9 years ago on the Norwegain line, and loved them. We always hoped to see them again, and as we walked into the room and saw them playing, we recognized the lead singer and the keyboard player. Andy and John introduced themselves and enjoyed thei music every chance we got. Between the band and hte food and the service, I wodul gladly go on that ship again without a hesitation. Thank You Century. Loved every minute of it. BTW - My wife and I have been on 6 cruises in the past 10 yeras, and Celebrity ranks as a number one. I can tell you that Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We arrived at the terminal at about 3:00 after driving from the Phoenix area. Except for a minor problem with the new to us car, it was an uneventful trip across IS 8. Since most of the passengers were on board embarkation was quick and ... Read More
We arrived at the terminal at about 3:00 after driving from the Phoenix area. Except for a minor problem with the new to us car, it was an uneventful trip across IS 8. Since most of the passengers were on board embarkation was quick and easy. The first intimation that HAL was losing it's class was the lack of a reception party to give directions to our cabin. Having more than twenty cruises under our belt, this gave us no problem, but one can imagine the confusion for the first timer. Since we were late, our cabin was ready for us. We dropped our carry-ons and proceeded to the Lido for something to eat. The ship was operating under high sanitation procedures so all buffet food had to be served by the staff. Chaos is the best description one can give it. We immediately found that many of our travel "companions" had little concept of manners or respect. Crowding and line jumping were rampant. Too make matters worse, the food was basically inedible. The meat was tough, the vegetables were cold, the drink dispensers were slow, and there was insufficient table space. We avoided the buffet as much as possible for the rest of the cruise. All-in-all, a bad start.Back at the cabin we found our luggage had been delivered. This was pleasant surprise given our late arrival. We found the cabin to be clean and in good condition, but a trifle smaller than we expected. Storage and closet space were very good. Quite surprisingly, we did not see our steward on the first day or for the rest of the cruise, except for the last day as we were leaving the cabin. He did, however, do a good job of keeping the room and bathroom clean and tidy.Back to the food issues. Meals in the main dining room tended to be mediocre and uninspired. Service for breakfast and lunch tended to be slow and erratic. This was a far cry from our previous experience on this ship five years previous. We ate two meals in the Pinnacle room where we found the food and service to be very good, however the Le Cirque experience was somewhat overpriced. Our meal in the Canaletto did little to inspire us since we could have obtained the same food in the buffet. Service was good, but not great.The only entertainment we attended was the Adagio Strings in the Explorer Lounge. This group of talented musicians from Romania provided a pleasant diversion. We did not attend any of the shows.Since we have been in both of the ports we visited, we spent little time ashore and took no excursions. The stop scheduled for Mazatlan was cancelled due to dangerous conditions there. In addition, one day of cruising was shortened to allow our ship to hurry to Puerto Vallarta to assist another ship there with engine problems.FYI. The casino is rather small for a ship of this size. We spent little time there since smoking is allowed. Note that you can now use your cruise card to play the machines (and the table games I surmise) This looks like a great way for the unwary to get into a lot of trouble. We did not see a lot of activity in this area.Make-up of the passengers seemed to be evenly spread from young families to senior couples. The timing of spring break, the relatively low cost, and the itinerary seems to have attracted significant numbers of passengers unaccustomed to cruising and social exposure. Rude behavior in the buffet, loud and inappropriate conversations, failure to make even the most perfunctory acknowledgment of dress "codes" all served to make activity in the public areas less than pleasant. As with all mass cruise lines, HAL is attempting to offset low initial cruise cost with nickel and diming on every thing from specialty coffees to overpriced photos. Disembarkation was well done and seemed to be one of the best organized activities of the week. I seriously doubt any future cruises on HAL for us. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
The cruise was really great. There were a couple little things that were irritating, so I'll address those first. 1) The decaf on the Lido deck was NOT decaf. It took me 4 days to figure out why I was so jittery. I really enjoy a cup ... Read More
The cruise was really great. There were a couple little things that were irritating, so I'll address those first. 1) The decaf on the Lido deck was NOT decaf. It took me 4 days to figure out why I was so jittery. I really enjoy a cup of decaf at breakfast, but I had to go without. 2) We had a jetted tub in our penthouse suite, which was awesome. The problem was trying to shower in it. There was no way to adjust the shower curtain to keep the water in the tub. After every shower, the bathroom floor was completely soaked. 3)This ship was smaller than others we've been on and there was a LOT more rocking. I was a little queasy for the first 2 days. 4)The dining room was very loud. My Mom is hard of hearing and we got tired of shouting at her over the din. 5) Two of our three closet doors were not working properly causing the closet light to stay on and they were very loud to open. Someone came to fix one of them, but it broke again in a couple days. Those are my only complaints. Our 5 year old enjoyed Camp Carnival well enough. He would have preferred to spend every minute with us, but he seemed happy when we dropped him off and picked him up. He did not resist going and always came back with some art project or face paint. He would often see kids he knew from camp around the ship and was always waving at them. We never left him there for more than 3 hours at a stretch and made sure he got a nap in the cabin every day. He ate pizza for lunch and chicken nuggets for dinner almost every day and he was happy. We brought him to dinner with us in the dining room 6 nights out of 9. He got his food when we got our appetizers, then we took him to camp around 7 while we finished our dinner in peace. I used the exercise area 3 times, once for free weights, once for yoga ($12) and once for the 7 am free stretch class. It was fine, although the yoga wasn't worth it. We enjoyed walking on deck 10 several times, we played minigolf, and my husband played basketball. We also tried the waterslide. A little tame for me, but my 5 year old loved it. The pool was fine also, we swam 3 times. Hot tub was more of a warm tub, but adequate. We went to two song and dance shows, I enjoyed them. We also saw a magician and a juggler and some comedians. Normal cruise ship stuff, what I expected. We wanted our son in bed by 10 every night, so we didn't really go to any bars or dance clubs. We are not party people. We brought 4 bottles of wine on board for 6 adults and I only purchased 2 other drinks. The food was outstanding, better than ever. Loved everything I tried and a great variety. They make the BEST pastries and baked goods. I ate lots of fish and shrimp and too much desert. I did try the Spa Carnival options several times and they were all good. My pants still fit when I put them on to fly home, so I guess I did OK. We went to the Nouveau Steakhouse for Valentine's dinner. It was very good and a better atmosphere than the Empire room, but I don't know if it was worth the extra money. It was a splurge for Valentine's Day, we probably won't do it again. My husband has wheat intolerance so he avoids it when possible. They were extremely diligent in making sure everything he ordered in the dining room was wheat/gluten free. He said the gluten free pasta was the best he ever had. We pretty much blew our budget on the penthouse suite cabin, so we tried to get by cheap in the ports. We didn't book any excursions. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
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
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
Carnival Spirit Valentine Cruise This was our fifth cruise on Carnival and our first 8 day cruise. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay, across from the Cruise Terminal, and what a wonderful experience it was to see the cruise ships ... Read More
Carnival Spirit Valentine Cruise This was our fifth cruise on Carnival and our first 8 day cruise. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay, across from the Cruise Terminal, and what a wonderful experience it was to see the cruise ships sailing into and out of the bay right in front of you. Be sure you have time to visit San Diego either before or after your cruise. We arrived at the terminal about 11:45 and the embarkation process was very fast. My one complaint was that they required everyone to remove their belts. I don't even do this at the airport and because of this I lost my cell phone holder. It fell and was kicked into another area. We were on board the ship by 12:30 and having lunch not long after. The rooms were ready around 1:30. We sailed Super Bowl Sunday and the ship was prepared for it. Several area was set up with TVs and Big Screens and the large screen in the Pharaohs Lounge also showed the game. They also postponed the mandatory safety meeting until the next day at 10:15 am. The sea was choppy the first say and the last day but was not very uncomfortable. Food: All the meals were great and well presented. The first day was probably the least favorite but it was still very good. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido Grill but we had dinner in the Main Dinning Room every night. Our main concern was Anytime Dining. This is something new on Carnival and they share part of the upper MDR. This caused a delay in the seating in the MDR on a couple occasions. Carnival may need to look at not seating Anytime Dining at the same time as Set Time dinning. They may need to also find another entrance for the Anytime Dinning. Other than this experience, we enjoyed the Main Dining Room and our servers. We especially enjoy the assistant waiter, Mirko, who was a shining ray of light each evening. Sea Days: We have always looked forward to our sea days and especially on this cruise with four of them. If you have sailed the Caribbean then get ready for a great ride. The Pacific Ocean does not always live up to its name. On this cruise we experienced some very choppy and strong seas and there were many that felt the effects more than others. My wife and I did not have any problem. As one review has already posted, the water in the Lido Pool splashed out one night and I was one of those whose feet almost got wet. The Lido Party continued even with the rocking and rolling created by the swells and waves. Be sure to bring your binoculars, cameras and a good eye to see the dolphins, whales and other sea creatures. We saw whales and dolphins as we passed Cabo San Lucas. Entertainment: We skip some of the shows but did catch the Head Liner Singer who was a friend of one of our group. The New Orleans show was quite good and some of the special effects were remarkable considering the movement of the ship. Stu, the CD, was excellent and always remember my wife's name after only one introduction. The bar staff in the Atrium Lounge is excellent and a special thanks to Alex for his personal attention. I would also like to say thanks to Allen David for his great service on the Lido. Ports of Call: These were all new ports for us and we had some anticipation over visiting Acapulco. We found this port to be very clean and very busy. It is a busy center of life and culture. We visited the Fort and Zocolo. In Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa we took a taxi to Playa de Ropa and Patys Mar y mar Restaurant for a day at the beach. We found the beach very clean and beautiful. Patys is a great place to stay and enjoy the scenery. Manzanillo is a working seaport and you must leave the docks to see the city. We took a ship excursion, Magic Pueblos, and traveled to Comala and the Colima area. We visited a coffee processing area, a museum, a section of highway where it appears that you are rolling up hill without any power and the city of Comala. We had lunch at a fantastic restaurant in Suchitlan. Debarkation: Since we had a late flight so we tried Luggage Express and it worked well except for one piece being place on the wrong plane but arriving in the correct city. We took a taxi to Seaport Village and spent the morning there. We then took a taxi to the airport around 1 for our 4 pm flight home. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
We gathered 25 of 29 extended family members from across the U.S. for four nights on Carnival Elation. We ranged from 81 to 4 years old. The oldest (my dad) was also confined to a wheelchair. On balance, I think we were pleasantly ... Read More
We gathered 25 of 29 extended family members from across the U.S. for four nights on Carnival Elation. We ranged from 81 to 4 years old. The oldest (my dad) was also confined to a wheelchair. On balance, I think we were pleasantly surprised with this cruise. PROS: * very pleasant staff (I really enjoyed my conversations with our waiter, for example, away from the dining room) * delicious food (I couldn't get enough of the Mongolian stir fry) clean, comfortable, and spacious ship (we put our family of four in a single room and it worked great) * lots to do on board (my daughters loved the line dancing, mini-golf, and Thriller dance training) * fantastic child care (a godsend for my cousin with his two small children) * a welcome running track (my wife and I ran most mornings at about 6:30 and the track was never too crowded) * some funny shows (the opening night's clean comedy act was a gut-buster)and * plenty of space to spend time with our extended family or to get off somewhere and read. Also, embarkation, debarkation, luggage delivery, and the tender boats to Catalina Island were fast and efficient. Also, the rap I'd previously heard was that Carnival tended to be geared for singles and younger people, and that I should expect 24-hour rowdiness by some of the passengers. I was pleasantly surprised. While the shallow sex humor and overall sexualization of so much of American culture certainly made its way into the large shows and comments by some of the activities directors on stage, both individually and as a group we had lots of choices to just enjoy family-oriented time together. CONS: I'm nitpicking to be even-handed, but here are three suggestions, and these probably apply to every cruise ship out there. (Having only two cruises under my belt, I don't have enough context necessarily.) * In the large song-and-dance shows, the cruise-line show developers and choreographers should give the performers a wider range of styles to work with. If every single song is loud and energetic, it's numbing, and the ironic result is that the audience is not energized at all. Also, if so many of the show themes revolve around sex, it's no longer sexy, it's just cheap. C'mon! Get a little more creative. * Mr. Sound Technician: lose your love affair with the bass guitar. It could be at one-third the volume you used and still be the dominant voice. Whoever picks the music tracks for the public areas. * Declare a moratorium on any Muzak on open air decks before, say, 9:00 a.m. The only people there at that hour are savoring the views and the peace and quiet. Ditto in the buffet dining room before 9:00 a.m. Who wants "Highway to Hell" playing at 7:15 a.m.? THE LAST TWO GENERAL COMMENTS: * Traveling with a disability: My dad (81) is confined to a motorized wheel-chair. While I wouldn't change our cruise choice to accommodate one person, the destinations on this cruise weren't very accessible for him in that chair. The tender boats to Catalina Island were great, but he wouldn't have been able to negotiate the stairway to reach them, and the chair would have been too heavy to transfer to the tender boats anyway. Second, in Ensenada, the taxis were kept somewhat away from the ship dock, so we would have needed a chair to transport him to them. But his chair wasn't an option, since it would have been nearly impossible to put in the back of taxi without a special wheelchair lift, and the ship's policy is not to let its own smaller and collapsible wheelchairs off the ship. So, if I had it to do over again, I might bring along a second more portable wheelchair just for him. * Arranging for some more structured extended family gatherings on board: We didn't think to do this beforehand, but I wish we would have set aside a single night in one of the reservable public rooms for our extended family to get together. In the absence of that, the only time we would dependably see everyone gathered was at our dining table (Carnival allowed us to put everyone at three tables together), but even then it was hard to carry on a full-group conversation. PORTS OF CALL: CATALINA ISLAND AND ENSENADA * Catalina Island: My wife and daughters and I just walked around. It was a beautiful day, and we loved walking on the jetty and looking at the birds swooping down to try to grab surfacing fish, but we don't have much feedback to offer on excursions. Some of our extended family members really enjoyed the 45-minute orienting bus tours for the village of Avalon ($20/person?), and other family members enjoyed the freedom of renting six-person golf carts to circle around on their own ($40-60/hour for a couple of hours?). * Ensenada: Waiting on the curb by the ship was Yoshido and his 15-passenger van, looking to serve as the driver for the day for any group wanting to hire him. He was great. After a few minutes of negotiation, 15 of my extended family jumped in for the trip to La Bufadora (the Blowhole) and back, with a subsequent stop in the shopping district in downtown Ensenada. Altogether this was about a four-hour trip, and we settled on a rate of $150, though with our tip we brought that to $180, which was his original offering price. Bear in mind that we waited until at least 10:30 a.m. to even leave the ship, so he might have demanded more earlier in the day. The Blowhole was interesting. So were the shops lining the last 300 yards from the parking lot to the Blowhole. And so were the shops back in town, especially for the 18-year-old in our group whose parents took her to Hoosong's, an apparently famous cantina downtown. She legally enjoyed her first piña colada there. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010

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