35 San Diego Holiday Cruise Reviews

The Ship: The ship is wonderful. The retrofit changed a few things, so i recommend you also try the Maasdam to get a feel for the smaller ships. The Atrium is wonderful and still all the decks and spaces are so wondrful. The artwork is ... Read More
The Ship: The ship is wonderful. The retrofit changed a few things, so i recommend you also try the Maasdam to get a feel for the smaller ships. The Atrium is wonderful and still all the decks and spaces are so wondrful. The artwork is also wonderful. They changed happy hour times, but that is okay, we still made a few of them. We danced in the crows nest late one night and had a blast. I recommend you check out the deck plans. We always to scour them before we sail. The crew:The crew was amazing. Arthur and Gabriel of the front desk! They need a raise. Cyn of the spa, she was great. Our room stewerts were also amazing. The Entertainment: The on location stuff by Kinoa was amazing. His knowledge , his humor, his open heart full of aloha was so refreshing. This guy is so informed, a true native that you simply cant stump him. Dont miss his presentations. I even took some of gradma's jewlery to him, and he knew all of the hawaiian origins. The show Airborn was hilarious and inspiring. the singing and costumes were really good. The movies were all latest realeases. They show them the next day on the TV or in the Gym, so we saw alot of them. There is so much going on, dont fall prey to sitting in a lounger all day. Walk the decks, go to the cooking presentations, take the galley tour, go the library and just do it. It is nice to see Officers and the Captain enjoying a show or two some times too. The Dining: Prior to this cruise we always booked late seating. This time, due to negative people at our table, we jumped ship and switched to open seating. We found others of like mind that love their surroundings and love cruising and are generally happy with themselves to be fun to hang out with and did what we would normally do with our tabelmates. We ate at Canaletto together, went offshore together and got time to have a bite and talk. The dining was wonderful. For an 18 night cruise food did not repeat itself and was always fabulous. The soups were killer and we got to meet the saucier or soup guy and tell him so. The dining staff on this ship is top notch and clearly they have fun at work. They laugh and joke with us and each other and one night after dinner (we usually shiut the dining room down) they were celebrating a coworkers birthday at the very end of the shift with a with a pie in the face and icewater on his head. we all laughed and clapped at this rare human moment from folks who work so very very hard. The Gym: There is a good deck on the gym floor in which to take pics as most do, but also give the gym a try. We wend there everyday. It is free and they have good equipement. Just bring headphones so that you can also catch that movie you missed the day before , because they have screens and plug ins. The Spa:This is limited to 20 couples on this size ship and is a must do with 12 sea days. I am expecially glad we did, as the mineral tub was so ralaxing with a sea view and the ceramic hot beds were our daily moment of zen. There are also showers, steam rooms, two of them, one cooler one hot. If you can possibly afford it, just do it, and you wont regret it. The pools and hot tubs: THE pool (only one) was refilled with nice warm water that just got colder and colder each sea day. Very motel 6 like. The hot tubs, never hot, the jets are on day and night no option to turn the jets off. The jets are just blasts of cold air the water bubbles six inches high. On the back deck at The Retreat , the wind takes the bubbling water to be shared by all on the deck, and in your face too. The rectangular hot tubs at the Retreat , when they were filled, which wasnt all the time, were oddly the hottest pools and hotter than the hot tubs. They also had motion and jets to them, but were simply hotter. they are shallow, but wonderful. They just simply dont travel well at sea, so they are netted and empty most of the time as most of the water sloshes out across the decks. poor planning. The Room: We booked a oceanview on the promenade deck next too an exit to our "veranda". Loved the fresh air that would blow in when doors on this deck would open and close with people going in and out. Stateroom 327, just steps away from the promanade, providing fresh air, a feeling like it was our own viranda at half the price of the lanai. close to elevators and the atrium, and the lovely atrium steps. The Excursions: We had these stops: Oahu, Maui, Kuai ,Kona and Hilo. On Oahu (this was our overnight stop) we got together with friends for dinner and drinks, but the next day we took the city bus to Hanauma Bay and went snrokeling. I recommend this very much. Clear warm waters and huge fish. We have been to Oahu before so, this was perfect for us. On Hilo we got a rental car and drove to Volcanoes National Park and spent a time there walking trails. On a prior cruise we took the crater hike and it was wonderful. This time we drove to key spots and then drove also to Akaka Falls. This is a very spectacular fall on a very very short walk. Do this is you are pressed for time and want to squeeze in one more side trip. It is worth it. on Kaui we took the Seafun Kauai Shore Snorkel excursion form the ship. This is the best trip! You start in a van with a very short ride to suit up in a short wet suit, which keeps you warm and bouyant enough, so that you dont need a vest as on other snorkel trips. Once at the shore, the guides help you get situated, so dont let the rocky shore worry you. If you are lucky you will get the guide named Paul. We have gotten him twice now. This guy lives in the ocean and knows it like the back of his hand. He always produces a good find. Last time it was a Nerf Shark and Turtles and too many fish to describe. He will even offer to dive with your camera and get a good pic for you. This time he found an Octopus and we took turns holding it with his guidance. He also points out everything so you want to follow him, and he is good at keeping you close if you stray. We saw eels, sea cucumbers, turtles and a million dish. The Octopus was the star this time. The Kona Sail & Snorkel was a Snorkel excursion form the ship. This was a tender port, so this wonderful sail snorkeling excurion starts with a short drive in a van to the Kaloko Honokohau Marina. Then you travel south by catamaran to a sheltered cove. This was a small and intimate catamaran. Good lunch and treats and beer if you want it. The fish were wonderful and we always see some species that we haven't seen before. This location had a beautiful view of a beach that only native hawaiians can go to, but it was also close to a nice drop off.The water is thirty feet deep where the boat ties off to an anchor point. The water is very clear visablity is 120 feet. Along the shore are blocks lava that are plentifull with marine life and unbelievable amounts of fish. This was one of the few locations that we saw schools of fish. This is not for first time snorkelers or weak swimmers. The guides are friendly and very knowledgable of this pristine spot. West Maui Snorkel Cruise snorkel excurion from the ship:This the second time we have taken this excursion and was just as great as the first time. The crew is fun and friendly, very helpful for first time snorkelers. The water is about 20 feet deep, coral heads rise off the bottom at least 15 feet. Marine life covers the coral heads that attract the fish and turtles. The water is very clear you can see for 60-80 feet, fish are very abundant swimming around the coral heads. This spot is south of the ship tender close to Olowala state reserve on shore the water is very calm.The sail back to port is mostly by motor, the crew tries to sail but the wind has other ideas, take lots of pictures going to and from this location. The good: We love cruising and love our surrounding both at home and on a ship. Not much can dampen our day. One sweet highlight was seeing a storm petral and an albatross on the water. The bad: People who think that they are royalty; one day a woman stuck her pronged cane in the elevator while it was closing. It clamped down on the end and she was stuck on the outside with the rest of her cane and i was stuck on the inside with the end of it. Naturally it shut down the elevators and i had to pry open the doors. It put the elvator out of commision for a day. This might work in a city, not so much on a cruise ship. The ugly: Buzz kill negative people who hate their surroundings should not cruise. This sucks the life out of those of us who do. If you run around and take bowls of cheese or all the almonds you are selfish. If you complain that the soup is cold when there is steam clearly rising from it, you are ignorant. Leave cruising to those of us who know how to do it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Background We cruise often, and usually during the holidays. We're all 3-star HAL Mariners, even our 9 year old. We're in our 40's; husband's parents in their 60's. We've also cruised Celebrity 3 times, and ... Read More
Background We cruise often, and usually during the holidays. We're all 3-star HAL Mariners, even our 9 year old. We're in our 40's; husband's parents in their 60's. We've also cruised Celebrity 3 times, and Princess 3 times (in-laws have cruised Princess 5-6 times) and RCCL a few times as well. But most of our cruising is with Holland America. We prefer mid-size/smaller ships. We booked this cruise VERY last minute, directly with HAL, therefore we were wait-listed for everything: dining, upgrades and even getting a cabin on the ship in the first place. We ended up with a Cat. B Vista Suite and my in-laws got the smaller Cat VQ Spa Verandah, both on Deck 9, Verandah Deck. (I will be making a lot of comparisons to Princess in the review because we have cruised most recently with Princess. We were considering switching from HAL to Princess as our preferred cruise line after we had a disappointing experience with HAL, not with an actual cruise, but with how a future cruise deposit was mishandled by the corporate office. HAL eventually made us whole on the issue, and we weren't completely swept off our feet with our Princess experiences, therefore we'll cruise either line now depending on price & itinerary) Embarkation and disembarkation in San Diego was easy, quick and efficient. We live in Los Angeles, and we drove down on the morning of embarkation, parked (pre-paid parking online) at the Wyndham (formerly a Holiday Inn) across the street from terminal for $65 for the entire week. My in-laws had flown in from Canada a day or so earlier and had stayed at that same hotel. They were very pleased with their room there. I think we were on the ship by 11am, well in time for the Mariner's Welcome Lunch in the dining room. The Ship This is our 2nd time on the Veendam. We did a Bermuda cruise on this ship, summer 2010. We really enjoyed that cruise, and thought the ship was in good shape then, but they've spiffed up the soft goods (carpet, upholstery, window treatments, etc.) even since that cruise. They also improved the one thing we didn't like about the ship in 2010 -- that silly "retreat" thing. Remember when HAL had that really bad, and thankfully short-lived idea to replace all of the aft pools with that retreat concept? Which was basically some loungers standing in 3 inches of water and some other poorly executed water features? I think they were trying to compete with RCCL's H20 zone, and HAL really missed the mark on that one. Anyway, it is still called "the retreat" on the Veendam but it is now two large hot-tubs and two plunge pools. We'd still prefer another pool, but this is much, much better than their first retreat concept. At first, I thought I was confusing the Veendam with another ship, but I pulled up our Bermuda cruise pix on my Flickr account, and sure enough, the Veendam aft "retreat" in summer 2010 looked entirely different, even the tiling is a different color. The outdoor teen Oasis area above the kids club appeared to be closed for the entire cruise. We have a tween, therefore this really didn't affect us, but if she were a teen, she would have been really disappointed. She has cruised HAL many times, and is really looking forward to the day she is able to use the Oasis. Our cabins were forward, but I noticed a slight sewer smell on the stateroom decks towards the rear of the ship. They placed long auxiliary dining tables perpendicular to one side of the pool on embarkation day; we've seen that before but usually it's temporary for embarkation dining or later on in the cruise for a BBQ. But they remained there for the entire cruise, and that not only displaced loungers by the ship's only real pool, but it also compromised the ambiance of the pool area. But the ship was in amazing shape, especially for an 18 year old ship! Cabins We had B123, which is a Vista Suite forward. Our cabin was almost perfect, except that it was rather creaky while sailing. That was the ONLY thing in the entire cruise that revealed the ship's age. The first night was really noisy and kept us awake. But then we either got used to it, or it wasn't as noisy later on in the cruise. The cabin was spotless, and the carpet and other soft goods in the room looked brand new. Our steward was very pleasant and took good care of us. Plenty of room and storage for the three of us. Although my daughter, who has slept in many cruise ship sofa beds, said this sofa bed was the most uncomfortable one. We really like the verandahs on HAL much better than Princess. HAL's teak flooring looks more upscale than the blue rubber matting on Princess. But what really makes a difference is that HAL's decks are far more private than what we have experienced on Princess. My in-laws had the smaller VQ Spa Verandah, room 106. They had a recurring problem with brown water coming out of the sink, shower and tub. This happened several times throughout the cruise, and they never seemed to get it fixed. We had smokers next to us who smoked on their verandah often, as they are allowed to do on HAL. In theory, smoking in not allowed on Princess verandahs, but they do it anyway. Dining The food in general was better than we have experienced on our most recent HAL cruises. We try to take as many meals as possible in the dining room, including breakfast lunch. We like set dining, late, but since we booked the cruise last minute, we got "any time" dining, which we do not like at all. At the Mariner's Welcome lunch on embarkation day, my mother-in-law asked the maitre d' about providing us with a standing reservation at the same table around 8pm, but he said he couldn't do it. Later on, I happened to stumble upon Fauzi, who was at the pool and taking dinner reservations. I really think Fauzi made this cruise for us and restored our faith and loyalty in HAL. I explained to him that we liked traditional, set dining, with the same table and waiters every night, and this was very important to our family's overall cruise experience. And he made it happen! (With the exception of one night, which was partly our fault because we were late) He was also our waiter, along with his assistant Yo and Madonna the sommelier, and those three really made this cruise for us. We enjoyed everything we ate in the dining room. It's not Michelin star-rated cuisine, but it is really good. Also, we did have a few meals in the Lido, and the pastas were the best and the sushi isn't bad for a cruise ship. We had one lunch in the Pinnacle, and it was very good. I had the crab cakes. Children's Activities Our 9 year old daughter went to the Kids Club every night and enjoyed it very much. She is a seasoned cruiser, and gives Princess a slight edge on Kids Club, but she really enjoyed the activities on the Veendam. This was her first HAL cruise in the tweens program. Also, HAL had no children's books in the library (Princess has a nice selection of books for young readers.) We were told that the kids books were in the Kids Club, but my daughter said it was baby books and Harry Potter and nothing else. Not a big deal; we'll just remember to bring more books for her on our next cruise. We're an interfaith family, and we appreciated that HAL had both Christmas and Hanukkah services/activities onboard. We even had a Rabbi to lead services. Santa visited the Showroom on Xmas Day. As I mentioned previously, the teen outdoor Oasis was closed for the entire cruise, but they did have their indoor Loft space. Entertainment Overall, very good entertainment on this ship. There were more actual vocalists in the cast than I was expecting for a ship this small. The first night was a short show that gave us a preview of all of the entertainment around the ship. Second night was the Bob Mackie Broadway tribute which we've seen on other HAL ships, but it holds up. Third night was a magician that was just OK. One night was there was a show called (I think) Encore, which primarily features just two of the vocalists and it was AMAZING. We usually had our pre-dinner cocktails in the Ocean Bar or Explorer's Lounge around 7:45pm, and it seemed that our timing was bad as the entertainers always went on dinner break shortly after we arrived. However, what we did hear in the Ocean Bar was good and the Adagio (classical violin and piano) duo on the Explorer's Lounge was exceptional. Ports This was our 3rd Mexican Riviera cruise, and I have been reluctant to get off the ship (except in Cabo) because of all of the reports of incidents with cruise passengers in the other Mexican ports. My husband doesn't share my feelings and always gets off the ship and usually schedules his own private surfing or diving excursions. This year, I vowed to my family that I would make an effort to get off at every port. We did our usual in Cabo: Tender into the marina, then take a water taxi over to Mendano Beach, walk down the beach past the loud party spots and post up in front of the Pueblo Bonita resort. It's just a day at the beach, and that's fine with us. Mazatlan was a delightful surprise. There's a huge ex-pat (Americans, Canadians) community there who have organized as a volunteer group with the goal of making cruisers and other tourists feel welcome, informed and safe. They greet the cruise ships passengers with maps and are available to answer questions. We walked from the ship to the town center that was very charming, and then walked out to the beach area where the cliff divers are. In Puerto Vallarta, my husband went surfing and my daughter, my in-laws and I took a taxi into town. We walked around, went into a few shops and also visited the Cathedral. We ended up at a restaurant (The Blue Shrimp) on the Playa de Los Muertos for some beers, snacks and wi-fi. I feel a lot better about ports in Mexico now, and I'm also inspired to brush up on my Spanish. Service I think service, in general, was better on this ship than our most recent HAL cruises. However, if you needed anything, you have to go to the front desk where there was never a line and everything was dealt with efficiently and satisfactorily. But they never, ever answered the phone extension # that is for service or questions. Spa I purchased the thermal chair package for my husband and me ($149) during open house on embarkation day. Because there are only 5 chairs, and the ship was completely sold out, I was skeptical about being able to actually use them. The spa manager assured me that I wouldn't have any problems with availability since they sold only 20 "passes" per cruise. Technically that may be true, but you also have to account for the people who are having spa services done at any given time as they have access to the thermal chair suite and there are other types of packages that include access. And then there are those tacky passengers who buy one pass but then let their entire family in and camp out there for hours on end. The first time I tried to use the thermal chairs, the suite was packed. A family of 4, who were very open about the fact that they were sharing just one pass between them, was reserving all of the chairs, even if one of them went into the steam room for 20 minutes or so. HAL cannot prevent this behavior, of course, but they need to better about policing it. One of the steam rooms wasn't working. And the water jets in the hot tub NEVER worked for the entire cruise. When I asked, I was told it was just a hot tub, not a Jacuzzi. So why did it have the water jets? To be fair, every time my husband went, he had no problem getting a chair and I was also able to get a chair on subsequent visits, and the steam room was eventually repaired. My husband went every day and I went 3-4 times. I got a massage that was very good. Meant to go back for the hot stone massage but never got around to it. In summary, the spa is lovely and has a lot to offer but was understaffed. They needed more than one person on the front desk, checking people in, booking appts, etc. And they need to have some one checking in on the thermal suite to make sure everyone is in compliance with the rules. Odds/Ends I have been on nearly 20 cruises and never gotten seasick until this cruise. The weather wasn't bad (have sailed much rougher waters) but I got a mild case of nausea on our last (at sea) day. My mother-in-law, who is prone to seasickness, was violently ill for the last 30-36 hours SOLID of the cruise. Not sure why. Our cabins were pretty far forward, and we usually try to get aft or mid-ship. Not sure if that had anything to do with it. But it was definitely seasickness, as opposed to something viral, because we all felt better when we reached San Diego. Very limited on board duty free shopping in terms of cosmetics and fragrance but costume jewelry for days! Never a line at the Explorations Cafe for coffee, but it was more expensive than Princess' International Cafe, even with my 3-star Mariner discount. BE CAREFUL when signing up for the internet package. It's easy to accidentally sign up for a $250 plan when you didn't really mean to. They took it off of our bill and said that it happens a lot since they've switched platforms. I was impressed with the depth of the cruise director's staff for such a small ship. The Veendam has a full time librarian, a future cruise consultant, a port shopping expert, a port/location expert and others. And they always seemed to be available. And make sure you don't get the ship's little blue fabric laundry bag mixed up in your things and accidentally bring it home with you because they will charge you $15 just like it says on the bag. Believe me, a used dirty laundry bag from a cruise ship was not an intentional souvenir on our part! The captain was approachable and very visible. Summary We cruise often and none of these minor shortcomings I mentioned here had a significant impact on our overall enjoyment of the cruise. The crew on this ship really had it together both in service and operations. Ran like a top. It was a lovely cruise, and we're definitely keeping HAL in our future cruising options.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
The Thanksgiving (November 27-December 12, 2013) voyage of Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas, while not a Turkey, gave fewer reasons to give thanks than it might have. For approximately two hundred passengers, the San Diego ... Read More
The Thanksgiving (November 27-December 12, 2013) voyage of Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas, while not a Turkey, gave fewer reasons to give thanks than it might have. For approximately two hundred passengers, the San Diego embarkation got off to a rocky start. On the previous cruise, Legend of the Seas was reportedly unable to recover a tender and had to leave it at its Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, final stop. When the unlucky two hundred (some Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society Diamond members among them) came to check in they were told they could not be accommodated on the cruise due to a lack of lifeboat capacity. First shocked and then angry they were mollified when clearance came that we could sail without the tender. (That boat was ultimately recovered successfully when we arrived in Cabo two days later) For the rest of us embarkation and check-in was normal, not too slow and not too fast. However, starting out with over ten percent of your passengers (some of the prestigious variety) angry or anxious is not a good thing. This was a Crown & Anchor Society “Member’s Cruise” so prestigious passengers were the norm rather than the exception. For some lesser types, a feeling of second-class citizenry was palpable during the entire sailing. Legend of the Seas is (by necessity because we were transiting the Panama Canal) the smallest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. Bigger ships won’t fit. It is, as a result, “quirky.” The Windjammer Buffet is significantly undersized and, therefore, always crowded. The walking/jogging track, however, at a full quarter mile in length is perfect. Many but not all of the in-cabin safes are unusual in that, rather than entering a code of your choosing for access, you must “swipe” a major credit card for access. That means you have to (otherwise unnecessarily) carry a credit card in addition to your SeaPass card everywhere you go. But don’t put that credit card in the same pocket because its magnetic stripe will eventually render your SeaPass card unusable. What were they thinking choosing credit card safes on a cruise ship? Legend does not have an outside fantail bar, devoting that potential space to an underused quiet deck outside the health club on deck nine and a mostly ignored rock climbing wall on deck ten. The wine staff is virtually invisible in the dining room. If you want a bottle of wine, you have to ask your waiter to get one of them to stop by. Some people liked the fact that they weren’t solicited to buy wine; I didn’t like it. Royal Caribbean lost a lot of revenue on this cruise as a result. Instead of buying one bottle of wine every other night, I bought only one during the entire cruise. Had I been able to, I would have purchased at least six more bottles giving Royal Caribbean a minimum of $250 more of my money. The only tender port, Cabo San Lucas, started out as a nightmare of failed debarkation logistics. Guests were forced to wait for too long to disembark and some crowding and shoving resulted. The crew was ill-prepared for unruly passengers who became impatient and exacerbated the situation. The same thing happened at our Puerto Quetzal stop that didn’t require tenders. Training will help here but they need to get on with it. The senior staff is very helpful. Maitre’d Rodrigo worked to find me a table with other solo travelers and Food & Beverage Manager Silvio Ghigo quickly acted on my request to add tables on the smoking side Viking Crown Lounge veranda to match up with similar tables on the non-smoking side. The junior staff is not so accommodating. In Cartagena the maintenance staff was power washing deck ten forward of the rock climbing wall. Elderly passengers were slipping and sliding on sudsy water flowing over the walking track. I asked both a deck steward and a climbing wall attendant to place some of the yellow “caution” cones at the wet places so people would step more carefully. Both told me that wasn’t their job. I found an officer down on deck nine who got the cones. When my pocket was picked in Cartagena (both foolish and careless on my part) I had no cash for a taxi back to the ship, I inquired of three separate Legend of the Seas Tour Guides and Tour Bus Drivers if I could hitch a ride home. “No, you didn’t buy a tour from us so we won’t/can’t help you.” Fortunately a fellow passenger (George, God bless him) stepped off one of those busses and loaned me $20 so I could get back to the ship. The Guest Services representative confirmed to me that since I did not purchase a Royal Caribbean tour I would not be entitled to a ride even though I had been robbed of my money. Later, I mentioned to Keith Williams, the Cruise Director, that Royal Caribbean should consider a possible policy change in such a situation. He wrote it all down and implied that someone would get back to me but no one did. The Senior Officers (Master Kjell Nordmo, the Staff Captain, and the Hotel Director Francois Wache, etc., are mostly aloof). Captain’s daily noontime public address announcements failed to contain interesting tidbits of real information as is, in my experience, the main reason to stop what you are doing and listen. Also, inexplicably, public address announcements are not audible on any television channel in the cabins. If you are in your stateroom and want to hear what is being said, you must step into the passageway to listen. On the talent side, Musical Director Filmer Flores delivered great shows with the most memorable performance being his solo night of classical offerings in the “That’s Entertainment Theater.” Singer Aaron Libby of the ‘singers and dancers’ is a standout. Multi-talented piano man Chuck in the Schooner Bar draws an appreciative crowd but must fight to be heard due to sound that bleeds in from the musicians playing on the adjacent Centrum Stage. The glass doors between those two venues will not stay in the closed position. Headliner entertainment was very good, led by Broadway show tune singer Michelle Murlin and variety act “Los Pampas Gauchos” who were a hoot. Foreigner’s Domenick Allen rocked the house. Cruise Director Williams doesn’t go overboard with too much personality as many of his peers do. For me, at least, he sets the perfect tone. He is at a disadvantage here, however, as his ship offers smaller and fewer venues. The final night’s “Broadway Showtunes” performance was underappreciated by guests who mostly didn’t recognize the mostly obscure selections the performers had chosen to sing. Too many guests in the “That’s Entertainment” show lounge were rude to those same performers, choosing to leave their seats and exit the theater during applause for the final number and before Cruise Director Williams made his closing remarks. There is nothing the Royal Caribbean can do about rude patrons. One strong disappointment was the port lecturer who was, to put it kindly, in way over her head. I had many conversations with fellow passengers who compared her to other lecturers on other ships and found her wanting. She read her lectures from a word-for-word script where many passages seemed to be lifted from web pages and then haphazardly pasted together. I love great shipboard lectures and none were offered here. Dining Room food and service is, as you would expect, good to very good but never great. Windjammer fare is just OK. Steakhouse Chops, on the other hand, is excellent (on both evenings I tried it) with the porterhouse outshining the strip steak. Izumi’s “hot-rock” table-top grilling concept is fun and the sushi there is very good. Izumi was severely underused by guests and I suspect it won’t last long. The Chef’s Table experience is amazing with five fine wine pairings and just the right amount of pomp and circumstance. Chef Rudy delivers a Royal meal and you can see his pride on both the plates and his face. All three specialty restaurants can be enjoyed for a discounted price of $115 per person if you buy the “Dining Package.” If purchased separately, the three will set you back $145 or more. I found “My Time” dining room service to be curt and impersonal but at the late 8:30 seating one deck below I felt both welcomed and valued. I did not dine at the early seating nor did I try room service. Late in the cruise I attempted both breakfast and lunch in the main dining room but gave up due to long lines at the doorway. We became aware of the fact that the Norovirus boarded Legend of the Seas on Day Ten of this cruise. By Day Thirteen we were in full Code Red mode with all serving tongs, beverage dispenser buttons, ice bins and more being handled exclusively by crew members. As we departed Cartagena on Day Thirteen, the unofficial word on the ship was that 98 passengers were down with gastrointestinal distress as were 40 members of the crew; just over five percent in each category. No official specific information was forthcoming (as is the practice on Cunard) so these numbers could not be verified. I was, again unofficially, told that at one point sixty cabins sported the yellow “quarantine” magnets above their doors. Having been through this twice before on ships (Cunard’s Elizabeth and on Celebrity), it is my opinion that these outbreaks are mostly the fault of fellow passengers who fail to observe proper sanitation and hygiene. However, Legend’s outdated beverage dispensing equipment and a completely unacceptable Windjammer and pool deck ice dispensing process could and should be eliminated to reduce clear points of preventable risk. (Dispensing ice from plastic bins with passengers dipping their glasses, both new and used, or handling the communal ice scoop would be a health-code violation in virtually every U.S. jurisdiction and would not be allowed) Early in the cruise, both crew and passengers, from my observation, all but ignored the ubiquitous Purell dispensers early in the cruise. Later it was “too late.” Crew members were poorly trained on gloved-hand procedures as I witnessed several using their gloved hands to smooth mussed hair, scratch noses, rub eyes or lean on unsanitized surfaces and then use that same hand to serve food or distribute utensils, cups or glassware. Again, proper training is lacking. In fairness, however, kids’ center staff and even musicians were serving food at one point and perhaps cross training those folks is not normally required. I don’t know. Twenty foot swells and gale force winds greeted the passengers on the next to last sea day out of Cartagena. Pools were closed (the Solarium pool was drained), sea sickness bag holders graced every staircase landing and decks were mostly abandoned due to high winds. Some passengers were sickened while others were exhilarated. I felt sorry for those already suffering from gastrointestinal distress on those heavy seas. On this fifteen day cruise, tuxedos and evening gowns were much in evidence on the three “Formal Nights” (Day Two, Day Eight and Day Fourteen—all sea days). There were fewer dress-code scofflaws on this trip than I have experienced on other Royal Caribbean sailings with shorts, caps, tank tops and bare feet rarely appearing where they should not be. Besides the three “Formal Nights” there were four “Smart Casual” nights in the mix with all other nights being some variation of “Casual.” Legend does not have guest-accessible laundry facilities but does run a $30 “cram all you can into this paper bag” special along with regular 48 hour laundry and dry cleaning service. Wi-Fi signals are, by cruise ship standards, strong and acceptably fast if you bring your own laptop, and, by the standard on all cruise ships, too expensive. Passengers who used the ship’s computers on Deck Eight complained of very slow speeds on what they called “outdated” equipment. Smoking is allowed in the casino but, while you must pass though the casino on Deck Four to get to the That’s Entertainment Theater, the air handling equipment spares you from too much secondhand exposure. Also, you can walk up to Deck Five and then back down to Deck Four to avoid the Casino smoke on that route if you wish. Royal Caribbean did a stellar job of finding live NFL and college football broadcasts to play in the Schooner Bar, on the Big Screen at the pool and on the stateroom televisions. First run movies were offered free of charge on the latter two venues as well. Channel offerings include CNN International (not the U.S. channel, unfortunately) and Headline News but no Fox News or MSNBC nor any of the four major broadcast networks. This cruise departed San Diego stopping in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; transited the Panama Canal; and then stopped again in ColÏŒn, Panama; Cartagena, Columbia; concluding in Fort Lauderdale. There were seven sea days. Much is written elsewhere about ports so I will leave those details to others except to recommend that excursions should be considered mandatory for Puntarenas and ColÏŒn as those port areas are unappealing in every way. Most of us commented that there wasn’t that much to do on sea days and while I agree, I will credit that in part to the small ship’s lack of venue opportunities. Trivia competitions were usually oversubscribed for the size of the Schooner Bar and seats in the Centrum for before dinner entertainment were hard to come by. Trivia teams are limited to six members. On the first day I found myself, as a solo traveler, locked out since I would be the prohibited “number seven” on any team I approached. Trivia is “progressive” so if you don’t find a home early, you have a tendency to be left out for the balance of the cruise. The Canal transit was, for most, both the reason to book this cruise and the highlight. Many passengers who rose early to grab the best viewing spots later commented, however, that they could have easily slept in. It turns out that if you closely observe one lock experience, frankly, you could skip the others if you wished. Those of us who were fascinated by the intricacy of both the Canal’s construction and operation were rewarded with insightful commentary from a local narrator that Royal Caribbean brought on board. He offered up just the right amount of public address information, neither weighing us down with constant chatter nor failing to anticipate a detail about which we might be wondering. He made up for a sub-par destination presentation that day before by our on-board lecturer. Given the choice, I personally would not choose to sail aboard Legend of the Seas again. But, I would transit the Panama Canal again. Since the new wider Canal that will accommodate larger vessels won’t open for another couple of years, I am told that Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor loyalists have only the Legend available for Canal transits. Maybe they ought to consider trying another line for this itinerary to see what the competition has to offer. I am sure that Royal Caribbean would be happy to welcome them aboard a Celebrity ship even if their points won’t count. I am told that Crown & Anchor privileges will be available to them but, given how these Diamond and Diamond Plus members seem hooked on Royal Caribbean points, I suspect shifting to a different brand may be unthinkable to them. For me, I wish Royal Caribbean would take a look at what hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and others do: make their frequent cruiser program points inclusive of all their brands (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara). They would likely have all my cruise business if they would do that. And, I would be a Diamond Plus member (instead of not quite Platinum) by now. Until then, I have divided my purchases (78 nights at sea in 2013) trying various providers from Royal Caribbean to Carnival to Princess to Cunard to Celebrity to SilverSea. Some folks don’t know what they’re missing and I suspect that is the way Royal Caribbean wants it.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
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
I took my Grandfather on a 14 day cruise to fulfill a promise I made to him to take him north, south, east and west. This cruise was thru the Panama Canal (south). It started out with the best expectations. However, I quickly found that ... Read More
I took my Grandfather on a 14 day cruise to fulfill a promise I made to him to take him north, south, east and west. This cruise was thru the Panama Canal (south). It started out with the best expectations. However, I quickly found that this cruise would be fraught with frustrations. I somehow managed to upset the room service folks and the whole cruise I don't think I had one meal that was as ordered; and you'll get a better idea of exactly how frustrating by the end of this. The first few ports were great. Then my Grandfather managed to hurt himself on one of the deck chairs (many of them had screws loose or missing). I took him to the Doctor and he said he was ok, but his leg kept getting worse and by the last couple of days on the Statendam he could not walk. The only way I could get a wheelchair was to rent one. For the last three days they wanted me to pay $145! It was their deck chair that hurt him and they were ruthless in the requirement of payment before I could get a wheelchair! So we are basically stuck in our cabin and even thought I tipped, room service never did get the orders right and on the last day, they gave us used silverware! :-( Please consider before using Holland America. Do not get sick, they will be very unsympathetic and not to helpful. I do have many other frustrations over this one cruise with them too. Just think twice about using them. I have had such delightful experiences with other cruise lines that it highlighted how poorly they behaved. At the end of the cruise, I was so exhausted that I just didn't have the energy to complain over the fact that they just took out a daily gratuity whether I felt they deserved it or not:-( While our room steward was terrific, I would not have given anyone else a dime.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise with good weather; this was our second Panama Canal transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic. We are regular cruisers; this was our first time on Celebrity. We booked an Aqua Class stateroom on ... Read More
1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise with good weather; this was our second Panama Canal transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic. We are regular cruisers; this was our first time on Celebrity. We booked an Aqua Class stateroom on the ninth deck, and this included the Blu dining room. Details below. The cruise had seven sea days that were relaxing. 2. Embarking: We made our own flight arrangements for this cruise, but we did use Celebritys hotel in San Diego, the Sheraton Marina, a nice hotel convenient to both the airport and the port. We were bused to the port around noon. The security line was a bit long, but we were on board by 1PM. Our cabin was ready for us; one suitcase arrived before 2:30 and the second bag arrived at 5:30. We were over 2,000 passengers of all ages, from infants to seniors in electric scooters. Nationalities were across the board: US, British (160), Belgians (over 40), Swiss, Germans, Canadians, Brazilians, etc. As the ship was next headed for Harwich, England, it appeared that some of the Europeans were going to continue on home on board and not fly. 3. The Celebrity Infinity (from perspective of Aqua Class): The cabin is the same size as any other verandah cabin but with nicer amenities. Despite its size, there are adequate storage drawers and closet space for the two weeks. [My wifes contrarian comments: The storage and closet space looks very good before your suitcases arrive. I do agree it was adequate, but only because I had mercilessly edited the clothing I packed down to only those items I absolutely knew I would wear and brought along a Magellans valet travel tray to corral my cosmetics in/on the desk (there are no drawers in the cabins desk, just large open shelves.] There are only two 110v and two 220v outlets in the room. The bathroom is compact but it does have storage shelves under the sink. The shower is a walk-in type with a great multi-nozzle system. Suitcases fit well under the bed. The cabin has a small safe and a small refrigerator (never used it and kept it locked). There is a TV that receives movies, some cable news (depending on reception), shipboard activities, and other channels. You get a daily planner in your cabin the night prior. You need to read it carefully as there are no announcements on the PA system other than the Captains 10 oclock bridge report followed by a very brief summary of the days activities. If you want a newspaper, a four-page news summary (in various languages) is available daily around noon in the Guest Services area. There is a children/teens area and programs for them. I defer to others with children to comment on this part of the ship. Library is very small; bring your own reading. 4. Meals: Food in the Oceanview buffet - which almost everyone uses for breakfast and lunch - is good. There are plenty of choices at both meals, and you can eat as much or as little as you want. It is a bit hurried, though, and not a place for a leisurely meal. As we were Aqua Class, we did not use the main dining room. I dont know if we could if we wanted as our dining tips that had to be prepaid when booking were earmarked for the Blu staff and not the dining room staff. Blu: We stopped by Blu after we boarded. A waiter on duty recommended we do not appear at 7 (our usual dining time), but come earlier or later. The room seats 100, and they have about 200 guests. The waiter was correct in his advice. We found we could get a table no later than 6:30. Arriving later meant that we would have to wait until around 8PM. So much for open dining in Blu. We found service and food in Blu to be excellent. The menu is different from the main dining room. The menu is not twigs and leaves it is well-prepared regular cooking with maybe a bit less starch and a bit more emphasis on vegetables. If you feel calorie deprived, you can easily make up the shortage with their excellent breads, wines, and desserts. Other than a few tables for large parties of six or more, tables are for two with two tables set relatively close together. If you wish to chat with your neighbors, you can, and if you (or they) do not want to, its no problem and no affront. While the dinner service runs fairly well, breakfast service does not. The issue seemed to be that each breakfast order is different and cannot be premade in the kitchen. Thus, breakfast service is slow and does not work when you have an early shore excursion. We avoided trying to do breakfast on these days in the Oceanview buffet due to the crowds there, and we found the AquaSpa Cafe to work for a good and quick breakfast. The above being said, an unhurried breakfast in Blu on sea days was pleasant. We made reservations on-line for both Qsine and the SS United States specialty restaurants. Both, in their respective ways, were excellent. Qsines food is excellent and the presentation is completely unusual. However, it works. The United States copies the first-class dining room of its namesake. This includes something not seen on any ship we have been on: the large amount of space between tables. Those were the good old days. Both restaurants were worth the extra charges. There are other food outlets around the ship as well as a goodly number of bars. We can recommend the Italian gelateria. At dinner one night a couple noted that the Ocean Grille, in the back of the Oceanview Cafe, was a great place for a casual grilled dinner. You cannot go hungry or thirsty on board. 5. Dressing for meals: For this two week trip it was three formal, and all the rest casual. A good number - perhaps half - of men at formal nights were in tuxedos or suits; some who did not want to dress up just did not appear for these meals. You get the specific dates for dress (and all time changes) in the initial daily program in your cabin when you board. 6. Shore Excursions: A word of advice: make your shore excursion reservations on-line! Otherwise you will either have to use the not-so-user-friendly on board TV system to make your reservations or stand in line on board at the excursion counter. The on-line billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you dont need the ships tour office. Celebritys tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ships staff, you have support when there is a problem. Concerning tours in Guatemala and Costa Rica: Most tours are long because it is a distance from the port to get up into the mountains. In Guatemala, it was 90 minutes each way for the Antigua tours. In Costa Rica, it was 2 ½ hours each way to get to the Monteverde area. This included around 20 miles of unpaved roads. Also, pay attention to warnings concerning Colon, Panama. Ship tour personnel and tour guides made it quite clear that visitors had no business wandering around in town. Stay in the shopping area pier-side, or take a tour that passes through the town. 7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, lectures, bridge, bingo (for serious players!), etc, etc. Two lecturers on board were popular: Al Goldis, a retired general manager and scout, knew everything there was to know about baseball. Martin Harrington Uncle Marty is a citizen of Panama and provided a series on all aspects of that country. He also provided commentary on the PA system as the ship transited the canal. We did not attend any of the shows on board; the bits we saw looked good. The casino payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have your picture taken by the shipâs photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. There are various venues for night owls. 8. Tipping: Not a problem if you sign up for the recommended amounts (for cabin steward, waiter, asst waiter, and head waiter). The amounts are charged to your shipboard account. As I said earlier, if you are Aqua Class, you pay tips when you book. You only need to tip separately (cash) the person who brings your room service breakfast. Your bar bill automatically adds 15 percent. 9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise, anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. You can track your account on the ships TV channel. We received a paper copy about the half way point in the cruise; we received a final copy the night before disembarking. However, anything you charge that last night (bar, shopping) will not appear on that copy. Keep your receipts so that you can check the amount you see on your credit card bill at home. 10. Disembarking: We signed up for the ships valet luggage service. Our bags went out of our cabin the night before, and we did not see them until we arrived at our San Antonio airport. The service costs, I believe, $20 per person, plus whatever the airline charges. Celebrity will tell you what restrictions there are concerning airlines and routing. You get different luggage tags the night before as well as your boarding passes for your flight(s) home. Our morning procedure was that we had to be out of our cabin by 8 and in the specified waiting lounge by 8:15. Announcements were only made in the waiting areas. We were called to leave at 8:30, and we arrived at our gate at Fort Lauderdale Airport at 10:30. It took nearly an hour to get through customs/immigration (sequestration shortages), and it took about another half hour to get through TSA security at the airport. 11. Conclusion: We would classify this cruise as very good bordering on excellent. Celebrity advertising does not equal reality. Yes, we would sail with Celebrity again (Aqua Class), if timing and itinerary meet our desires. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@satx.rr.com. Fred Groth San Antonio, TX Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
The Zaandam is starting to show her age at 12 years old but, she is well maintained. There were some problems like some of the areas smelled slightly of sewerage (Lido Deck Men's Restroom), and an overflowing urinal in a Men's ... Read More
The Zaandam is starting to show her age at 12 years old but, she is well maintained. There were some problems like some of the areas smelled slightly of sewerage (Lido Deck Men's Restroom), and an overflowing urinal in a Men's room by the Pinnacle Grill...Which was immediately taken care of by the Engineering Staff...Come-on, we've all had a toilet backup, and we've never had 1,500 guest in our house all at one time either! Our room was very clean and taken care of by our Steward Dedi. He was bending over backwards to take care of our needs. The one thing that stands out with the M/V Zaandam is the crew: They were beyond helpful. And the entertainment was first rate. The Food Staff was excellent. From custom made sandwiches by Bernard to chit-chat with Benny in the Dining Room and everyone in-between. The Entertainment was superb! An outstanding Elton John impersonator named "Joel Mason" really rocked it out (Even with Laryngitis) . You can preview Joel on You Tube if you don't believe me! Charlie on Guitar (Charlie Jourdan) in the "Piano Bar" gets our highest praise: Extraordinary song writer, fantastic singing and a great conversationalist between songs. You can preview him too on You Tube! The Zaandam Dancers and Singers were new to their job but gave a marvelous performance each time we viewed them. Chris Pendleton: Comedienne, Female, One each, was incredibly funny and kept it clean and fresh. Even the ships Chaplin was in the front row and laughing! She too can be viewed on You Tube...Or at funnyfiddle.com. A collection of people told us that: "Holland America is a bunch of old people!" Well, to us "Old" is a state of mind and in our mind there weren't too many old people on board....All we can say is: Holland America to St Petersburg Russia in August, 2013...My Battle Cry! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Good points: -Zaandam much better than the Oosterdam in decor, service and company response to problems. Had a bad leak in my suite ceiling that took days to correct, but received a very generous shipboard credit and a cookbook plus ... Read More
Good points: -Zaandam much better than the Oosterdam in decor, service and company response to problems. Had a bad leak in my suite ceiling that took days to correct, but received a very generous shipboard credit and a cookbook plus apology note as compensation. Compared to the Oosterdam, where I had worse problems with cabin and an injury caused by HAL and I got no compensation or apology. -Shore excursions were excellent -Food was pretty good, Pinnacle Grill filet was outstanding, La Cirque fantastic -Entertainment at times was excellent -Embarkation and disembarkation very smooth -Hotel the night before, booked through my travel agent, Sheraton Marina in San Diego very good (not necessarily affiliated with HAL.) -Although I had a very bad spa experience with a too-young and experienced staff person, the spa manager quickly refunded the hefty sum I had paid in advance. -LOVE the Thermal Suite on HAL, though this one was WAY small. Pool was the size of a hot tub. BUT there was rarely anyone in the room, and what a way to relax! -Explorations Cafe really spacious, comfortable, and service was good there. -HAL continues to have the best guest to tonnage ratio, with lots of space and non-crowded atmosphere. However, at times this could be a negative for a solo traveler! Not so good points: -Service was not up to par for the price and supposed reputation of HAL Dining room staff seemed worn out or overworked, repeated requests needed for simple items like iced tea, etc. Chaotic, unacceptable situation with dining room seating. Some sort of "reservations needed" policy we were never notified about- "on your own" dining turned out to receive annoyance from restaurant manager, no table or a very long wait, and never could figure out what kind of system or lack of they were using. Many people annoyed, very long lines. 75% of the time, service overall could not in any way be described as "luxury," "gracious," or "outstanding." -Even though the restaurant food was good, the room service food was HORRIBLE. Unacceptable, poorly presented, served with resentment, and hardly edible. -Cabin steward(s) just okay. Just doing their job, and since you pay $11.50 per day for tips overall, felt underwhelmed so didn't tip them more. Was slightly put off by Cruise Director's heavy pitch on the last day for tips to the staff, when indeed, no staff member stood out for doing anything other than their job. -Unavoidable but still annoying culture/ language gap makes trying to complain or explain needs met with blank looks, non-responsiveness, or incorrect/ poor resolution, if any. Tendency to insinuate blame on the guest and a constant theme of NOT showing the kind of gracious, over the top service HAL advertises. A big gap here! -Very unclear when formal nights were- advance notice was the typical 2, but turns out there were 3, with hardly any advance and not clear notice. How are you supposed to pack or plan for that? Lack of enforcement of dress code for formal nights. -For the price I paid for my verandah suite, it was a rip-off. Very small, the bathroom was tiny, and the "jetted" tub was a disgrace. Not big enough for an adult, and all the jets didn't work. -The Zaandam is looking a little shabby, and for the price of my cruise, would expect stain-free carpet and not to see taped-together wood in a couple places. -This is the nature of HAL, so is more a mis-match for me as a youthful solo traveler, but a total lack of fun atmosphere. No club to dance, people my age acting much older, grumpy (how can you be unhappy when you get to go on a cruise???) and not everyone was unfriendly, but almost everyone seemed confused why someone would cruise alone. -NO gathering for solo travelers as I had seen on the Oosterdam schedule!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Embarkation: Arrived at the San Diego Pier at around 11AM - the Statendam had arrived that morning from a 28 day South Pacific itinerary so we didnt know if it would take any longer than usual to get the ship off loaded and ready to board ... Read More
Embarkation: Arrived at the San Diego Pier at around 11AM - the Statendam had arrived that morning from a 28 day South Pacific itinerary so we didnt know if it would take any longer than usual to get the ship off loaded and ready to board - happily we board at 11:30AM although our stateroom was not ready we were able to drop off our carry ons and go to the Mariners lunch. The beautiful and elegant Statendam: As we toured the ship (knowing she is one of the "older" ships in the fleet) we noticed how well maintained the ship was. Deck 8 contained the main throughfare of shops, casino, bars and all was clean, polished and very nicely decorated. Up on Lido Deck 11, the steel band was going, drinks were flowing and people were milling about exploring this very nice ship. The deck chair cushions were the only things that we really noticed needed some attention (we also knew the ship was headed to dry dock after our cruise so this may be moot now). Tasteful Holiday decorations around the ship, not over bearing or tacky. Our stateroom: We had a balcony stateroom on deck 9 aft - very roomy, lots of storage space. Again a few scraps on the wall here and there, but nicely maintained and CLEAN. Our stewards were awesome, I need extra pillows and they were brought up promptly upon the request. Throughout the cruise, our great cabin stewards remained so friendly, happy and quickly learned our "routine" so that they were in and out of our cabin when we were out to breakfast or dinner. The dining room: We had main seating on Deck 8 table requested for 2 and received! The dining room very nice and open although the tables seemed kind of close together and getting in and out of our chairs required some contorsions (our chairs would hit the backs of tables behind). Menus quite varied with special menus for the holidays. Food mostly very good and well presented somewhat lacking in spices but for the generic crowd, understandable so that most could enjoy. Our Waiter and his assistant worked flawlessly together, a great team and again very chatty with us and happy with big smiles always. They had time to come back after meals served to make sure we had everything we needed and ready to get anything desired - these guys were great. The itinerary: Puerto Vallarta was our first stop - got to stay all day with plenty of time to go into town on our own and enjoy this beautiful city. We had our first tour in Guatamala to the city of Antigua. When I pre-reserved this tour the departure time was 8:30AM from the ship. When we got on the ship, we noticed a time change in this port - ship arriving at 5:00AM! This made our tour departure time move to 5:30AM YIKES. We had to leave Guatamala at 2PM instead of the original 5PM time. We decided not to get out of bed so early and just enjoyed the port. We also couldnt dock next to the big shopping area at the port (the Celebrity Summit grabbed that spot) so we had to take some un-airconditioned school buses from the ship to shopping luckily only about a 10minute bumpy ride. We arrived Panama at 6PM and thought we'd take a tender out to explore the area. The tendor operation was very problematic and our tendor ticket number was called at about 8:45PM which wouldnt give us much time at all on shore so we skipped that too. Izapa Mayan ruins tour in Pt Quitzal was great. Huatalco very restful and lots of shops around the dock area. Panama canal transit was flawless and beautiful - perfect weather, great expert brought on board and very informative as we crossed through the canal. Last stop was Cartagena Columbia. With only a 5 hour layover we took a cab to "the dungeons" shopping area (we've been to this port before) and spend a good amount of time there. We also had some time to climb the dungeon walls to the top to view the beautiful beach line. 15 minute cab rides was $20 each way which seemed pricey for the distance. Thus one of my "less than perfect" comments on the survey was length of time and the actual times the ship was in port. I know alot of this depends on other ships and port schedules but I thought it was worth a comment. Code Red! About 2 days out of Puerto Vallarta a Noro-Virus outbreak on the ship causing a code red to be called. I dont know how many people were affected (luckily we stayed healthy) but the ship literally took action and we were back to being served food by crew at Lido. This meant no taco bar and serve yourself Pizza during this time. No silver wear on tables (had to get yours from a crew member) and a thorough cleaning of table-chairs after each table vacated. For Dinner, no rolls in a basket on your table, but served to you by your wait staff. No Hot Tub usage (and drained) and No Self Service Laundry during this code red period which lasted about 6 days. Code red was lifted on our last port stop so we had that afternoon and 2 sea days of "freedom" before the end of the cruise. Disembarkation: We chose Luggage Direct service so we were almost the first group off the ship -very smooth, Immigration line kind of long due to only a few officers on duty for us but we werent in a rush. Flight out of Miami at 4:30 with a $75 cab ride - Luggage Direct worked great set them out of cabin nite before and didnt see them again until we arrived our final destination (all for $20 a piece) Overall: The ship and crew awesome! The crew seemed happy to be there and to have us on board - very friendly all around. The future cruise team (Tina and Thom) were so friendly and knowledgeable. Many talks on ports and the history of Panama Canal were frequently going on. We've been on ships before that were going into a dry dock situation after our cruise and had some negative experiences with work starting before our cruise was over causing some areas to be inaccessible to us - This trip, the only prework I saw was some bubble wrapping of the back guardrails and deck (on deck 9) on the last afternoon of the cruise which made this common area inaccessible, no big deal. I would say this trip was a very restful one, calm seas, beautiful weather - the ship can only look better now than when we were on her since she went in for a beauty treatment as the Capt said right after our itinerary. Nice being on a smaller ship as the crew gets to know you better and you also get to know other guests better as you see them more often. We loved the ship, the crew and our overall experience on the beautiful and elegant Statendam. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
The beginning and end of the cruise was unacceptable. This was our third cruise and compared to the others there were some major differences. We embarked at noon in San Diego and had to wait 6 hours till our baggage arrived outside our ... Read More
The beginning and end of the cruise was unacceptable. This was our third cruise and compared to the others there were some major differences. We embarked at noon in San Diego and had to wait 6 hours till our baggage arrived outside our cabin. It was not just us, but all of the passengers suffered this ignonomy. Even though we came extra early so that we could get ready for the evening. It was especially difficult since our Sabbath starts at Sundown, and we had no clothes to wear that evening. The excuse given was "a computer glitch". There was not so much as "an excuse us" from anyone, not even the cruise director. At the end of the cruise, after we disembarked in Ft Lauderdale, we had to wait on the Pier for almost three hours to go thru disembarkation". Once we got to the Customs officer, we were waved thru immediately. We still cant understand the long delay in Ft Lauderdale. the excuse given there was "the computer is down". The rest of the cruise was very enjoyable. The crew was always helpful, happy and cheerful. We couldn't ask for more. The dining room staff went out of their way to accommodate us, even though we had special dietary requirements. Our Cabin was always clean, and the Captain's announcements very jovial. Everyone of the crew did their utmost to make our voyage smooth and calm. We did not take any of the Ships organized shore excursions, instead we opted to find our own tours which were as good and much less expensive. Mostly we went with a couple of other passengers in Vans and Taxis. Only once did we get "gypped" - in Cartagena Colombia. We had asked the "Tour Guide" FERNANDO TOURS to take us to the Palacio Inquisition. He promised to do so, but said we would get there at the end of the tour. We never did. Instead he took us to various shops where I am sure he got commission. Never mind, we did little shopping since we were waiting for The PALACIO. I suggest that you stay away from FERNANDO's TOUR in Cartagena, and hope that HOLLAND AMERICA takes away his port license and does not allow him to enter the port to scam others. Due to the inconveniences we experienced at the beginning and end of the trip, we will opt for other cruise lines in the future. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We flew directly from Anchorage on Thanksgiving Day, arriving San Diego shortly after 10AM. Celebrity staff at the airport were awesome and we were on our way to the boarding terminal around 11, after the last bus load of disembarking ... Read More
We flew directly from Anchorage on Thanksgiving Day, arriving San Diego shortly after 10AM. Celebrity staff at the airport were awesome and we were on our way to the boarding terminal around 11, after the last bus load of disembarking passengers was delivered. Embarkation went very smoothly and we were on board by noon, and in our room by 1:30. Cabin: This was a tiny flaw in our experience. The guys just never seemed to click as a team and even though we had 6PM dining, we came back to the room after 9PM a couple of times and they hadn't even begun. However when my wife was quarantined, the guys took good care of her. Meals: The Trellis dining room was adequate. Typical cruise food, generally tasty and well presented - nothing to get excited about. The Oceanview Cafe was perfect for breakfasts and the Grill at the back was a great spot for lunch paninis. Also, check out the eggs benedict station and waffle spot for breakfast. Don't try Oceanview for dinner - paltry offerings. The "sushi" was a joke and seemed to be less than freshly made. We had dinner at SS United States twice and Qsine once. We would do US again (a quiet and refined respite from the hurly-burley) but likely not Qsine - the food was outstanding at each place, but Qsine seemed a bit too cutesy and pleased with itself. They tout the iPad ordering, but it's really an electronic menu - the waitstaff take your order in the usual way with paper and pencil. We were invited to the Chef's Table and there are no words to adequately convey that experience. The only thing I would say is if you are offered the opportunity, by all means accept. Aqua Spa Cafe - this deserves special mention and kudos. Breakfast here on sea days was a delight and worth checking out. Many cereals, including oatmeal, along with all manner of fresh fruits. Very personal and available to all regardless of cabin class. Ports of call: Cabo San Lucas, Puerta Vallarta, Puerta Quetzal, Punt Arenas, Colon and Cartegena. Two excursions that stand out are the future canal tour out of Colon, Panama, and the chef's experience in Cartegena, Columbia. Puerta Quetzal is a made up port, sort of like Costa Maya, but probably the best organized as far as souvenirs at the end of the pier is concerned. Enrichment: There were two guest lecturers on board and both were outstanding. Victoria Baker is a retired anthropologist and shared a number of her experiences. Alex Filipenko is astronomer and gave several exciting lectures about the heavens and hosted a well-attended star-gazing evening at sea. Uncle Marty narrated the Canal transit and presented a number of lectures about the Panama Canal history and operation. Entertainment was excellent, especially Kuba. As the title states, a "gastro-intestinal" illness occurred on the ship - I don't think the term Noro-virus was actually uttered by ships personnel. About day 10 we noticed an increase in announcements about washing hands and entry to most dining venues required passage through a gauntlet of personnel squirting Purell or handing out Purell wipes, and even engine room guys were wiping down railings and elevator control panels. By day 13, the ship had gone to Red Alert and no one was allowed to handle anything (foodwise) unless it was handed to you by staff - even coffee was thus protected. My wife had her bout, beginning at 5 AM on day 13, and was released the evening before we docked. Crew: I have seen previous reviews of Infinity where folks have commented on the friendly staff. We concur. Without fail, every crew member we encountered looked us in the eye with appropriate greeting and all seemed genuinely pleased to see us - this applied from the lowest to the folks with the most gold braid. Disembarkation: As Diamond on RCI, we were Elite on Celebrity and were nicely ensconced in our departure lounge while disembarkation proceeded in an orderly fashion. Suddenly, at 9 AM, we were told the lounge was closing and discovered the rest of the passengers on board were all being shuffled off the ship. This put a huge load on the entry to the luggage area and Customs. We stood in line for nearly an hour as we inched our way to freedom. I suspect they wanted to do a deep clean of the ship and the only way to accomplish that was to get everyone off the ship quickly as possible. In summary, we had a great vacation and the Panama Canal is a magnificent marvel of engineering. Everyone should do it at least once in a lifetime. We want to go back on a Solstice class ship after the new locks become operational, just to see the difference. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
28 DAY Round Trip from San Diego,CA to HAWAII, TAHITI & MARQUESAS (NOV. 23, 2012 to DEC. 21, 2012) We were a group of 4 couples traveling Round Trip from San Diego, CA. We all live in San Diego and looked forward to not having to ... Read More
28 DAY Round Trip from San Diego,CA to HAWAII, TAHITI & MARQUESAS (NOV. 23, 2012 to DEC. 21, 2012) We were a group of 4 couples traveling Round Trip from San Diego, CA. We all live in San Diego and looked forward to not having to deal with the airlines. The check in and embarkation went smoothly with no delays. This was my husband and my 7th cruise. First on Holland America. (Other 6 cruises were on Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, Carnival and Celebrity) Our group was probably the youngest on board(our ages 60-65). Average age was about 80ish. Our cabin(757)on Deck A was nice and we were very happy with the service from our room attendant(bringing us fresh towels 2 times daily) We also liked that the ship had 3 laundry rooms aboard on such a long voyage. In our opinion the entertainment was average. With the majority of the passengers being on the older side the activities were somewhat limited to the older generation. Bingo, golf putting games, cooking classes, crafts, chess, pub trivia, beginning computer classes, stretching classes and art shows. The shore excursions available on the Hawaiian Islands were very good. On Bora Bora we went on the "Bora Bora Island Discovery" tour and the "Shark and Ray Encounter" which we all enjoyed. The food and service in the Dining Room was quite good. My husband and I usually ate our breakfasts and lunches at the buffet which was above average. We did not try any of the specialty dinning rooms so have no opinions. The 4 ladies in our group enjoyed "high tea" every afternoon. It was excellent. Our biggest complaint was that we missed 3 of the 7 islands due to weather. I personally think that Holland should not run this South Pacific cruise this time of the year or at least let people know that there is a good chance that they will miss islands. To make up for the missed islands we were given 1 glass of wine or 1 glass of inexpensive champagne. We were lavishly credited $9.16 per person for missing Kiritmati Island; $13.11 per person for missing Raiatea Island; and $11.46 per person for missing Rangiroa/Polynesia. Wow, how generous! We spent a total of 20 sea days out of a total of 28 days. Needless to say it was not the best experience. Also, as everyone looks forward to when traveling to Polynesia/Bora Bora, we had maybe 2 days total that we could enjoy the beautiful blue waters that the South Pacific is so famous for. The food and service was not bad. This is the last cruise we will take for 28 days. 14 days seem to agree with my husband and myself. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Embarkation: San Diego was smooth, parked at airport parking lot about 1 mile from cruise terminal free shuttle to terminal. Cabin: We had a veranda balcony room seemed somewhat smaller than we had on the Maasdam. Limited storage space ... Read More
Embarkation: San Diego was smooth, parked at airport parking lot about 1 mile from cruise terminal free shuttle to terminal. Cabin: We had a veranda balcony room seemed somewhat smaller than we had on the Maasdam. Limited storage space for 14 day cruise. Service was very good and timely. Entertainment: Production shows OK but music is getting stale. Would be better if newer music was introduced into productions. Movies were provided in the "Screening Room" daily which proved to be useless with only 30 seats available. Considering that this cruise occurred during the Holiday Season and to Hawaii was amazed at the lack of Christmas and Hawaiian music or Hawaiian themed activities. Thankfully HAL did have Kaimoa who represented the Hawaiian culture and provided a lot of good information on Hawaii. Without his presence there were few if any Hawaiian activities. Needed more activities on ocean days and more interaction from cruise director. Food: We had open seating and overall the food seemed better than we have had in the past. Pinnacle Grill excellent and well worth the extra charge. Should continue to offer flavored coffee in Lido. Ports: All very good, was surprised how crowed and cosmopolitan Waikiki had become. Would skip in future. Debarkation: Slow Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We arrived at the port in San Diego at around 11:30 a.m. and though there was a line we were aboard the Oosterdam in good time. We didn't have to wait for our cabin like on other ships. We went straight to our cabin, dropped off our ... Read More
We arrived at the port in San Diego at around 11:30 a.m. and though there was a line we were aboard the Oosterdam in good time. We didn't have to wait for our cabin like on other ships. We went straight to our cabin, dropped off our stuff and headed for the Lido deck. The food was ready and waiting for us. My luggage was in the cabin when we returned from lunch, but my companion had to wait until 4:45 p.m. for hers. The cruise to Hawaii took four days and was relaxing except that we did not receive any water in our stateroom the first three days. We thought that they didn't provide it in the stateroom anymore, until there was two bottles in the room on the fourth day along with a receipt for three bottles that we never received. I couldn't find the cabin steward so I returned the water to the front desk and requested that no more be left in the stateroom for the rest of the cruise. The next day we returned to the stateroom to find a bottle of water with a receipt for two more bottles. Once again I took the water to the front desk and requested our bill be corrected, which it was. When I returned to the cabin I left the cabin steward a note requesting the removal of all items in the mini bar so we were not charged for anything else. He complied. As I stated, the cruise to Hawaii was relaxing, but on the cruise back it seemed as though the number of children doubled in size. I was told by another passenger that most of them were children of the crew, which I could not substantiate. I certainly hope that Holland America does not risk the loss of paying customers in this way. The unsupervised children took over the pool and all three of the hot tubs. At one time there was an elderly person with a noodle in the deep end of the pool and the kids were jumping in the water on both sides of him. Another time a child in the hot tub was splashing people as they practiced line dancing. The aft pool is for adults only, but it is outside and the air temperature stayed in the 50's and 60's. The aft pool should be for the children; it is even decorated for them. The shore excursions were organized and informative. The food in open seating was excellent on some nights, but bad on other nights. Service after the first night was excellent. We had Gede as our server after the first night and we requested him every night until the end of the cruise. We took a cruise to the Panama Canal a couple of years ago on the Zuiderdam and was very impressed with the food. I guess your can't judge by cruise lines, you have to judge each ship on it's own merit. The shows were good, especially the Oosterdam singers and dancers. I would have liked to see more of them. We were scheduled for disembarkation between 9:50 and 10:00 a.m. but were called around 9:10 and went directly off the ship. Easiest disembarkation ever. When I returned home I checked my credit card account online and was again charged $12.03 for the mini bar, that was empty since day four. Never again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
The good things: there was something for everyone and we are aged 13 to 80. We all liked the evening entertainment, particularly the gymnast and the comedian who did the impressions and some of us liked the singers and dancers. (meh). ... Read More
The good things: there was something for everyone and we are aged 13 to 80. We all liked the evening entertainment, particularly the gymnast and the comedian who did the impressions and some of us liked the singers and dancers. (meh). With a few exceptions (hey that lobster thermidor was really bad) we had a good time at dinner from opening night to the final Parade of the Baked Alaska (and for those of you who hate and avoid it, what can I say? We waved our napkins with the best of them.) The waiters were great and always remembered my cappuccino. We played Team Trivia every day and came-this-close to winning a ball cap. Some of us did that mile walk every day and I tried learning Tai Chi and the Hula - good instructors too. I meant to take the camera class and never got there but maybe next time. We all enjoyed dress-up (the grandchildren too) and looking at others who made the effort. Some pretty tiny dresses on some of those teen aged girls but at least one of us wasn't complaining... The not so good but not that big a deal: Rotterdam needs to redo the bathtubs as they are really grungy and that tall lady in the Office is grouchy. And the less said about the coffee...Also the wonderful Stryker the Piano Man needs a bigger room. That little bar area was over flowing every day just to hear him. And why couldn't we have more of the talented Adagio Strings - maybe tea time? Best travel tips from others: using a small transparent shoe bag over the bathroom door for odds and ends, bringing a magnetic white board for the door to leave messages for the rest of the family, and packing the thingy with the extra outlets for our BlackBerries, cameras and razor. That one teeny one at the desk is not enough. And we will all remember the other passengers: Bathrobe man(never seen in anything else), red sequined ball cap lady (never took it off but made it easy to spot our tour group) and best of all: sleeveless shirt man who always wore the same one every day...unless he had 14 identical ones. The Captain was memorable for his calm and in control announcements, even the one telling us about the fire....(which fortunately was just a little electric one in the Spa.)Grandson was disappointed he didn't get to get in the lifeboat. The stops were fine: Hilo, Maui, Honolulu. And kudos to the patient and wonderful crew. We agreed it had all been the best Christmas ever. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I am a veteran cruiser, and as a family, my parents and I have spent the past few holidays on various cruises. They are 3 star Mariners with Holland America and just shy of four star status. This was my third - and favorite - Holland ... Read More
I am a veteran cruiser, and as a family, my parents and I have spent the past few holidays on various cruises. They are 3 star Mariners with Holland America and just shy of four star status. This was my third - and favorite - Holland America cruise thus far. Previously I've cruised with them aboard the Zuiderdam; this was their second cruise aboard the Statendam (but their first since its upgrade last year) and they have also cruised aboard the Volendam, the Veendam, Oosterdam and Westerdam. I found this cruise particularly enjoyable because of the ships size. There really is a difference between 1200 and 1900 passengers on a full ship. Embarkation in San Diego was a breeze, I never encountered a line or a sense of crowding - even on days at sea when looking for a deck chair by the pool. This is a bit of a contrast with previous cruises on the Zuiderdam. It is a very nice ship, but I truly appreciated the smaller size. With older parents, only two elevator shafts versus three, meant shorter walks across the ship. I LOVED the newer, up to date decor in the Crow's Nest ... a quiet retreat any time of day, except when a trivia game or such had been scheduled. Dennis, one of the attendants in the Crows Nest, was the best! By the first day out of San Diego, he knew our names, preferences, and treated us as though we were his only customers. As a designer (my land job!), I found the flow of the outdoor areas worked better with the aft pool on a separate deck from the midships pool. My dad's only complaint was the removal of the bar with stools at the aft pool - it has been replaced with a window where you can order drinks. I have always preferred small ship cruising, but found the Statendam to be the right mix of small with big ship amenities. It made for a very friendly ship. Our ports included Puerta Vallerta (we didn't take a tour, just a taxi to the boardwalk for some shopping and lunch overlooking the sea), Huatulco (took the ship's 5 Bay Catamaran Tour with a swim call at a beach - we felt it was priced appropriately at $49 - literature said cash bar, but all the drinks were complimentary); in Guatemala we took the shuttle up to Antigua - again, well worth the price. We didn't see a need to tour as I had been there before and we enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere of the colonial city by just walking around and having an AMAZING lunch on the roof of the El Serena Restaurant - I found it recommended in one of the guides in the ships library and it was the best recommendation of the trip! We had about 3.5 hours in Antigua - found about an hour of shopping, walking around the square, visiting the market and dodging hecklers to be enough - so to enter the oasis of El Serena, a very romantic mercantile home dating to the Spanish, with the best views of Antigua from its rooftop restaurant, to be a nice retreat. In Corinto, Nicaragua we walked into the town, which is just outside the gates of the pier. If you are not on a tour, there isn't much reason to leave the ship. This was the only disappointing port. We had four days in a row in various ports and a break would have been better! Costa Rica, of course, is a highlight. I have a friend whose brother is a guide and he picked us up at the dock and we had a wonderful day going off the beaten path. We had all been there on several previous trips and our only requests were to see some wildlife and have lunch at a nice restaurant with a nice view - all of which were accommodated. The highlight for many is the passage through the Panama Canal - it IS an amazing feat, but as I have been through 9-10 times previously, I used it more like a day "at sea" --- Our final port was Cartagena which was new for all of us. There is a new service provided by the port - they run big catamaran shuttles from the ship dock to the old town. It is $5 and good all day (so, basically, roundtrip per person $5 and you get to enter the Old City by boat). On the dock, just as you are about the pass the exit gates, there are a couple of shops, internet cafe and a dock - you buy the boat passes in the shop and the shuttles run every 1/2 hour in each direction. Be warned - if there are waves, it is possible you might get some heavy spray if you sit in the front! HAL charges $49 pp for their horse carriage tours through the old town. The three of us bought the $5 shuttle passes and then found a carriage and driver who took us on the same hour long tour for $40... total (ie - not per person). We may have been slightly lucky because a tour representative at first told the driver he couldn't take us because he was reserved for the ships and they weren't "allowed" to take independent travelers because the cruise lines contract all of the horses and carriages ... not sure if that is true, but we didn't see ANY other empty carriages while we were touring or walking through town. Nonetheless, as soon as she walked away and we said we were on a cruise, he loaded us up - we asked how much and he said $40. As the hour drew to a close we started thinking it would be $40 per person but it wasn't - it was $40 total, so we tipped him generously. This particular cruise wasn't so much about the ports for us - we were just looking for a relaxing boat ride over the holidays and that was exactly what we found. We are not big into shows and entertainment, but found the trivia contests fun and enjoyed participating in the daily quizzes posted in the library. The library, by the way, was one of the best I've seen at sea - it was a relaxing meeting place and heavily used for research, puzzles (at least two big tables always had 3-4 jigsaws going at a time), internet and just reading while watching the changing scenery out the big windows. We alternated between the Canelleto Restaurant on the Lido Deck for dinner and the ship's dining room with one night in the restaurant where you pay an additional charge (the name escapes me as I write). We found tables nearer the entry to the dining room seemed to have better/more consistent service than those further from the kitchen/near the aft. Probably just our luck of the draw and we enjoyed all of our meals. I also appreciated that the buffet on the Lido had hours - it wasn't open 24 hours a day as on some ships. It would actually close up - prepare for the next meal and then re-open. I found it kept me from "grazing" if I happened to be passing through between meals! Much appreciated! All in all a wonderful trip...our ONLY dissatisfaction was treatment with HAL Air/Sea arrangements - we paid extra for a non-stop flight from SFO to San Diego and were booked for about 6 months on a non-stop United flight. About 6 weeks prior, they said they would not honor that flight due to a contract change and re-booked us on a flight leaving at 6 AM from SFO with a FOUR HOUR layover in LA, waiting for a connecting flight to San Diego. Absolutely not! We were refunded the deviation fee in the form of an on board credit, but that was it. We ended up cancelling, losing the fare and rebooking the EXACT SAME United flight, non-stop out of SFO on our own since it was still relatively cheap. We NEVER use cruise line air arrangements but in this case we had a wedding in SFO the night before and could not fly to San Diego until the morning of embarkation (usually we arrive a day early and spend the night) so in this case we wanted HAL to be responsible if we had problems with our flights the days before Christmas and it backfired. Fortunately we ended up flying independently with no problems, so the gamble paid off but we would have saved about $400 had we started off taking the gamble and never involving HAL in the first place. I would highly recommend the Statendam and its stellar crew to anyone looking for a relaxing holiday, and this itinerary for anyone looking for a nice combination of time at sea and visiting interesting ports. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Statendam Review: Christmas and New Years Holiday Sailing San Diego to Ft Lauderdale via Panama 14 days Embarkation went exceptionally well - we stayed the night before at the Holdiay Inn By the Bay which is directly across the street ... Read More
Statendam Review: Christmas and New Years Holiday Sailing San Diego to Ft Lauderdale via Panama 14 days Embarkation went exceptionally well - we stayed the night before at the Holdiay Inn By the Bay which is directly across the street from the cruise ship terminal. Walked over to the terminal at around 10:45 had bags checked, through security and checked in by 11:15 - Boarding commenced at 11:30. Once onboard we found our cabin then began the first day exploration of the ship, public areas, spa, lido deck etc. We knew the Statemdam was an older ship but to us you couldnt tell - The public areas are so nicely (and uniquely) decorated with great color schemes - the furniture looks great with very little wear and tear noticed anywhere on board. What impressed me throughout the cruise was how each section of the ship had its own "flaire," unique to itself somewhat like moving from one room in a home to another with different style, decoration and color scheme. There was always a crew member cleaning railings, windows, carpets somewhere on the ship as we walked around on board. We had a verandah cabin which had a queen size bed, chocolate leather-like sofa, a nice large sofa table (which as movable unlike some on other lines), a nice desk area with plentiful storage (3 rows drawers at the desk). Our bags slid easily underneath the bed. The bathroom had a single sink, tub and shower. There a 4 closets for hanging and additional storage (safe inside one closet). We did have trouble navigating in the hallway of the closets as the both of us could not be in a closet at the same time moving around each other in this space proved difficult. We had early seating for dinner in the MDR table for 2 requested and received! Dinner service went smoothly, gracious and hard working staff - The food was well prepared and always came out piping hot! It did seem the dinner staff had too many table to attend to as sometimes there was a longer wait in between courses but the MDR is beautiful. We had a string quartet play for the first 30 mins of dinner, but then they left to be somewhere else - it would have been nice to have that live music continue through dinner. Our cabin stewards were great - once they got a feel for our "routine" and knew when we would be out of the room - they did everything they could to keep the room done while we were gone. They cleaned the room in the morning and then again during dinner. The cruise itinerary was for the most part great, stopping in Nicauragua wasnt so special and I understand the Statendam only stops there a few times a year unfortunately we got tagged for this one. This country is probably in the worst shape economically that we saw throughout. Costa Rica, Guatamala, even Cartegena seems more together with the housing situation (just my observations). Going through the Panama Canal (one a beautiful sunny day) was memorable. HAL also provided many very knowledgeable speakers on board to help us learn about Mayan culture, the Panama Canal itself and Jade - these speakers were great. The Cruise Director and Captain of the ship we the most entertaining and personable team we have ever enjoyed on any sailing on any cruiseline! We normally dont normally interact with the CD but it was almost impossible this cruise - he was everywhere! Fun and entertaining. This was his last cruise before moving on the Maasdam. The Captain was also ever present physically and speaking daily as to where we were, what was coming up, etc. My wife and I were having our picture taken on the first formal night and the Captain happened to be walking by and the photographer said "join in the picture Capt!" .... and he did! It was very obvious the crew got along well and we saw this all over the ship. Debarkation smooth and basically on time - we did the "luggage direct" service - for $19 each, you leave your bags outside your room night before and you dont see them again until your final destination. I was a bit worried about this wondering if our bags would in fact make it (out of my control) - All ended well in San Francisco as our bags appeared almost right away. Negatives: Our cabin was the last veranda towards the back of the ship (with a great balcony) and directly under the Lido deck aft pool and directly above the MDR. The door going to the aft portion of the ship was right outside our cabin. The hinge on that door is broken so it doesnt slow the door from coming back into place so everytime sometime came in or went out, a horrific SLAM would rattle through our cabin - luckily this area only had people in it during daytime hours. Also early morning around 5AM the crew would hose down and line up all the deck chairs so we heard that noise every morning. The only time we heard anything from the MDR was on the last evening at late dinner seating when the crew puts on the extravaganza with everyone singing and music - this only lasted about 5 mins, and we heard nothing else the entire cruise from the MDR. Regarding Luggage Direct, one of the "perks" was that we got "priority disembarkation" being the first group off the ship since we didnt have to claim our bags we went right to the buses to the airport. The bad news was there was only one bus going to Miami Airport so we had to wait on the bus for everyone to get off the ship that had transfers to Miami (so much for the priority disembarkation - we could have stayed on the ship longer had a good breakfast etc.) but this situation isnt forseeable just unfortunate! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This is just going to be a short tale, but we travelled with our teen age daughter on the Christmas cruise and we all had such a fantastic incredible relaxing time. The only bad thing was the end of the cruise we had to get off and say ... Read More
This is just going to be a short tale, but we travelled with our teen age daughter on the Christmas cruise and we all had such a fantastic incredible relaxing time. The only bad thing was the end of the cruise we had to get off and say goodbye to the wonderful new people we met which included fellow passengers and staff and crew. I had read a few negative reviews about this ship and was slightly hesitant, but trust me it is a grand old ship and it is a credit to the Captain, Officers, Staff and Crew that keep her in tip top shape. Only thing I would say that if you are travelling with children the families seem to go on this ship at holiday seasons and the other times it is a much more older demographic age group. I am in my mid forties and I would be considered the youngest. But don't be to worried the HAL have a fantastic set up for children and all travelling passengers. Ports we visited : Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco,Guatemala, Nicaragua,Costa Rica and Cartagena. Some we loved and some were not to my liking but that is a personal choice each person has their own opinion. I just want to say a special thank you to the people who looked after us at the Concierge desk, the spa and salon and we mainly ate the Pinnacle and then the people at the crows nest. Also to our wonderful room attendants. Also the cruise director was very entertaining. We are now looking at a European Cruise with Holland. It was a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was our fifth sailing with Holland America line and, until this cruise, we always found the ships to be above par with excellent service and food. Granted it has been two years since our last Holland America sailing...but the decline ... Read More
This was our fifth sailing with Holland America line and, until this cruise, we always found the ships to be above par with excellent service and food. Granted it has been two years since our last Holland America sailing...but the decline was extremely evident. We boarded the ship and were allowed to immediately go to our stateroom. The non smoking room reeked so of cigarette smoke we could barely call the front desk without coughing. We were informed that a "deep cleaning" would be performed and left the room. Two hours later, the room was in the same condition and we again called the front desk - within 10 minutes an ozone generator was at the door and we again had to leave our room for two hours. When we returned, the room smelled of ozone but the smoke smell was gone...BTW, the window of our room did not open so we could not dispel the ozone smell. The front desk did send us a small plate of chocolate covered strawberries and a note for the inconvenience...and this was the only time we received a towel sculpture the entire trip. As we unpacked, we noted the overall cleanliness of the room...or lack of it. Dust was accumulated on most flat surfaces and the cleaning crew had left several long black hairs in the tub. We would later find one of our blankets was stained with some white bodily discharge - enough said about that. Our room steward was a pleasant person who was managing 27 rooms - they used to manage 12. It was a wonder that our room was serviced every day with that amount of work. We tipped generously every day and always received a smile and a thank you. The overall condition of this ship was quite poor. As other reviewers have noted, the carpet and some of the furnishing are old and have not been well maintained. We noted a significant problem with the plumbing as several public restrooms were "Out of Service" for most of the trip. One night, only one of the three ladies rooms near the main restaurant was available and by the third day, out cabin was unavailable for several hours as a plumbing issue in the room below ours was serviced. The food and service in the main dining room was sporadic. The first night service was a little slow but the food was delightful. Night two it took about 30 minutes to order and about 30 minutes between each of the three courses. Most of the food was cool to cold by the time it reached us. This continued throughout the trip - delightful to terrible service...wonderful to inedible food. One night we went down to the Lido Deck buffet after dinner as most of the food in the main restaurant was sent back after one taste. We are not "foodies" but when a brisket is not cut cross grain - it becomes extremely tough and simply cannot be chewed...and baked alaskan with raw meringue is not acceptable. Enough said...Holland America will not be seeing us for a while. We will wait until conditions have improved and will, in the meantime, move on to another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We always wanted to go to the south pacific and this was an affordable cruise with Holland America an round trip from San Diego. We had a great time visiting all the ports and overall enjoyed the cruise. However, we will not be cruising ... Read More
We always wanted to go to the south pacific and this was an affordable cruise with Holland America an round trip from San Diego. We had a great time visiting all the ports and overall enjoyed the cruise. However, we will not be cruising on this line again do to the demographics of the ship. If you are over 75 this is the cruise for you. Fellow Passengers: The passengers were definitely seasoned cruisers as the brochure states. We knew that the typical demographic was 50 plus. This cruise attracted passengers that fit a demographic of 75 to 90 year olds. Many people joked that this was a floating nursing home. Lots of wheel chairs, walkers and electric scooters on the ship. My husband and I do have our AARP cards however, were surprised by the age group of the passengers. We did not have much in common with the majority of our fellow passengers. Overall people were friendly and we made some new friendships. Dinning: The food was great on the ship lido and the dining room. Varied menu items. Quality was good. The only snacks available in the afternoon were deserts in the Lido. No healthy foods like yogurt, or cottage cheese or veggies. The lido also closed early at 8:00 pm then late night snack from 10 to 11 pm. The service in the lido was poor. Wait staff did not pick up the dirty dishes in front of you. Many times I had to bus our table. The service in the dining room I would rate poor. One evening I had to chase down the waiter as he forgot to take my husband's order for dinner. Food did not come out of the kitchen consistently. When ordering food sometimes more often than not, the people's food came out at different times. By the time I finished eating my husband was just being served. There is an opportunity for additional training for the wait staff. Italian Restaurant, Canaletto was fairly good it is similar to the leading chain restaurant and is not gourmet Italian fair. It was not worth the 10 dollars per person. Steak House, Pinnacle Grill -- We found that we did not need to make a reservation at this restaurant we just walked in and were seated. This steak house did not meet our expectations. The cost was $20 per person. We ordered steaks -- filet and rib eye. The rib eye was tough very hard to cut my husbands appeared to be baked not seared rare. They had to be using a lower grad of Sterling Beef. I was expecting an experience like we get when we dine at Motrin's or Ruth's Chris steak house, USDA Prime Beef. When you spend $45 for a steak you get the best. We sent our steaks back and our money was refunded. Public Rooms: We did not care for the layout of the ship -- it was very compartmental. Not open like other cruise ships. The pool area most of the time had the cover closed it was like a sauna. People would get there early and sleep in the lounge chairs all day. We spent most of our time out back of the ship at the pool. Cabin: Our inside cabin was extremely small -- the bed just fit and we had one small chair with a table. The space for clothing ext.. was limited. It would be good for a 7 day cruise but, not for a 30 day. I felt like we were hiding in the closet. I have stayed in inside cabins but never one this small. We did not spend very much time in the room so it was not that big of a deal. SPA and Fitness: The gym was adequate plenty of machines etc.. However, you had to pay extra for boot camp, spin and yoga. There were no cardio classes available -- aerobics or zumba. It was extremely hot in the gym and the staff was asked several times to turn on the air conditioning but, they said they asked the captain and he would not change the temperature. Shore Excursions: We did not purchase any shore excursions from Holland. We found them extremely overpriced. We purchased our excursions in the ports from the locals. Tendering was a challenge -- long wait times to get off the ship. Some were 1 hour from the time you got your number to get off the ship. Once again do your homework - if you are used to the FUN SHIP this is not the cruise for you. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Cruise was 14 Jan to 23 Jan, but we spent a week prior to that in Palm Springs. Drove back to San Diego on the 14th, to the Hertz location, they had a special shuttle to the cruise ship pier, which worked out great. Had no embarkation ... Read More
Cruise was 14 Jan to 23 Jan, but we spent a week prior to that in Palm Springs. Drove back to San Diego on the 14th, to the Hertz location, they had a special shuttle to the cruise ship pier, which worked out great. Had no embarkation problems, went smoothly, and were in our room by 2:30. Bags came within the next hour. That night, we had dinner at the Nouveau Steakhouse. They were giving all diners a free bottle of wine, mine lasted most of the cruise. After your dinner, you either take it with you, or they obtain it from the wine cellar, which was what I did. Meal was good, service excellent. I always give a cash tip, for services earned right then, rather than the 10 dollars per person per day they debit from your account. Since they deduct automatically, you can adjust it on the day before debarking the ship. You then have to bring envelopes of cash for meal tips, room service, and the cabin steward. We always use the soda plans, and always had the staff asking us if we wanted refills even though they were not then getting any gratuities. We then had two days at sea. We were on the starboard side aft, and always used the aft pool area, which was never really crowded. No babies in the pool or jacuzzi. The starboard side is their smoking area, so we stayed on the port side at the pool. I had to tell one fellow that he needed to use the starboard side. We used the Empire Dining Room, anytime seating, except for one other time at the steakhouse. Only had to wait one time more than 25 minutes, the rest was getting seated immediately. The time we had to wait, the next day we had pastries delivered to our cabin. Our waiters were Walter, Ramona, Edwardo, and Kostadin. All were efficient, pleasant, and friendly. I had multiple entrees several times, never a problem. Our room steward, Victor, and his team were always receptive to our needs. Room was squeaky clean at all times. We always have room service breakfasts, to avoid all the people and food in the buffet. Carnival Spirit had a "Luggage Express" program, for $20 pp. They picked up our three bags the night before we got back to San Diego, the next time we saw them was on the baggage carousel in Liberty Newark. Great program Carnival. All in all, this was a nice cruise. There were no problems, except coming back to the snow in NY. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
This was our first Holland America sailing and we were impressed. We were worried that the ship would be crowded, being both a holiday cruise and knowing that many of the Carnival Splendor passengers were probably re-booked onto our ship. ... Read More
This was our first Holland America sailing and we were impressed. We were worried that the ship would be crowded, being both a holiday cruise and knowing that many of the Carnival Splendor passengers were probably re-booked onto our ship. But we were surprised in how uncrowded it actually felt. The San Diego Port was nice. Check in was relatively efficient. We arrived early and we were whisked directly to the Lido with our luggage. It was crowded, but we found a table for five in relatively short order. About 12:30, we were cleared to enter our cabins. Our cabin was very nice. It was clean, relatively roomy for a ship, and even had a bathtub in our balcony room. We enjoyed a nice afternoon in San Diego on our balcany. The sail away was relatively uneventful...no big fanfare. This is not a real party cruise line, catering to a more sophisticated, if not a more 'mature' crowd. The ship was wonderful. Very clean and always well kept. The public rooms are relatively small, and the atrium is unimpressive. However, we got used to the choppy feel of the ship, as it provided a number of intimate spaces with many entertainment choices. We especially loved the string quartet in the Ocean Lounge while waiting for dinner. We also like the Jazz band. The shows in the main theatre were good, but a little cheesy. The kids loved the teenager programs. We were traveling with a 14 and 17 year old. We hardly saw them and it was a negotiation every night for the curfew. They had a wonderful time and enjoyed their counselors and new-found friends. The food was among the best we have experienced on a ship. We dined twice in the Pinnacle Grill, which is worth the extra $20. The flaming kabobs and the baked Alaska were wonderful. The food in the Lido was also very nice with many choices. We did have a complaint about the limited hours at the Lido...they were quick to shut it down at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., even if there were lines down the hall. If you like afternoon tea, don't expect much on Holland America. It is a long wait to get to a buffet when you enter, and good luck getting your tea water re-filled. The gym was huge and we never had to wait for any equipment. The cruise is focused more on enrichment classes (i.e., computer classes and cooking demonstrations) and there are very few cruise director-led activities. In fact, we rarely saw the cruise director JT, and I am not sure that he had a staff (just the DJ). All in all, this was a fabulous cruise. There were some minuses and it is definitely not a cruise for the partying set. However, the ship was quiet and clean, the food above average, a good time for the kids, and great excursions. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We've just completed our third cruise and our first with HAL. The previous two cruises were with Princess. At first I was going to approach this review as a comparison between the two lines. On further reflection, I thought this was ... Read More
We've just completed our third cruise and our first with HAL. The previous two cruises were with Princess. At first I was going to approach this review as a comparison between the two lines. On further reflection, I thought this was unfair since both companies offer a very good product and I believe that each company can stand on its' own merits. We arrived in San Diego one day early since winter-time air travel can be problematic. We stayed at the Holiday Inn across from the cruise port which was very convenient for embarkation the next day. The hotel is OK (nothing special) but my one suggestion would be to request a room overlooking the bay. That way, you can see the ship when you wake up the next day and it may reduce some of the noise (train whistles) from the Amtrak station on the east side of the hotel. Embarkation: We left the hotel just before noon and walked across to the cruise port. We were directed to the side for our luggage (see the notes at the end of this review regarding luggage). From here we got in line (moderate in length at this point), completed our registration and received our card key etc. Proceeded onto the ship and we were onboard within 20 - 25 minutes from the time of our arrival at the entrance. Very efficient. We had an invitation for lunch in the Vista dining room so we decided to go there for lunch and avoid the buffet line-ups. At 1:00 pm, the overhead announcement let us know that the staterooms were ready. Dropped off our carry-ons and went to explore the ship while waiting for our luggage to be delivered. Luggage delivery was a bit slow as we received it just before departure at 5:00 pm. Stateroom: Originally, we had booked a standard verandah room. About three weeks before departure, we received an email from HAL offering us an upgrade to a Superior Suite for a very reasonable price, so we took advantage of this. It has probably spoiled us for our cruising life. The room was very nice with lots of room. Good closet space and more cupboards than we knew what to do with. Bathroom had both a whirlpool bath and a stand up shower along with double sinks. The balcony was the entire width of the room and had lots of space. We met our room stewards (Agung & Agus) just before departure. Both were excellent throughout the cruise with the room always cleaned by noon and the bed turned down in the evening. Public Spaces: Our favourite area on the ship was the Explorer's Cafe and Crow's Nest Lounge. HAL certainly got this right as the combination of the library, internet terminals and a relaxing lounge with wrap around panoramic windows providing a very relaxing atmosphere to watch the world go by. In the evening, the Piano Bar was our venue of choice. During the day, the pool areas were busy but never felt too crowded. We were always able to find good locations for the sun. Dining: Breakfast and lunch were generally at the buffet. Overall the food was good with only a few misses. I would like to see more variety as it did become repetitive by the end of the week. All the dinners were in the Vista dining room (except one). The food was quite good and well presented. There was a different theme each evening with a few standard offerings throughout the week. Christmas Eve and Christmas day menus were very good. We had anytime dining and most evenings there was no more than a 10 to 15 minute wait. The only problem with the anytime dining is that we never seemed to have the same table two nights in a row so we were never able to build a good rapport with the wait staff since they were different each evening. Service was generally very good although there were a few hiccups with some of the basics. One evening it took more than 20 minutes to clear the plates after we had finished eating and on another occasion it took about 30 minutes for the coffee to be delivered. The dessert had been sitting there for 20 minutes already. Small things, but these are table service basics and should be handled better. We did eat in the Pinnacle Grill one evening and it is well worth the surcharge. Formal Nights: This was a big disappointment throughout the cruise. There were two formal nights and participation was dismal. Considering HAL's upscale reputation we expected to see a large number of people dressed up (Tux's, suits, etc.) for the evening. We would estimate that less than 20% of the people were dressed for a formal evening. This was quite different from our Princess cruises where a majority (> 60%) of the guests dressed up for the formal evenings. Disembarkation: Overall, this process went very well with the only problem being the luggage (see below). The customs check-in was handled very well in the new Broadway Pier building. Luggage: This is an area of concern. On check-in we were directed to the side area to drop off our luggage. Unfortunately, there were no porters there at the time to tell us what we should be doing next. Do we put the luggage on the racks ourselves? or is that supposed to be done by the porters only? After waiting several minutes with no help in sight we decided to put our suitcases on the racks ourselves. Trust me...there was quite a bit of stress when it was 4:45 pm and the luggage had not been delivered to our room yet...did we put it in the correct place? For disembarkation, HAL uses a color system much like most of the other cruise lines. We were 'Yellow 5'. This is a fairly simple system and is tough to screw up. After clearing customs, we went downstairs to claim our luggage. We arrived at the 'yellow' section (according to the sign on the wall), but guess what...the only luggage there had 'pink' tags on it. We found someone with a clipboard and he went searching. Soon he called us down to the 'lime' area and lo and behold, all the yellow tagged luggage was there (no idea where the 'lime' luggage was). Either the luggage porters are color blind or they're drunk...it is not a difficult system. Overall: We had a great cruise and will certainly be back on a HAL ship within the next few years. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
This Rotterdam sailing was the first to leave from San Diego's new Broadway Pier and had a few operational problems...like the twelve cages of luggage that were left out in the pouring rain instead of being fork lifted inside of the ... Read More
This Rotterdam sailing was the first to leave from San Diego's new Broadway Pier and had a few operational problems...like the twelve cages of luggage that were left out in the pouring rain instead of being fork lifted inside of the new terminal building. Likewise, hundreds of passengers also had to wait outside in the rain as the new terminal was poorly designed with the passenger check-in area just inside the front door. We will wait until late afternoon to board future cruises from this terminal to avoid standing in the rain, wind, or hot sun!!! The ship and it's furnishing are all in excellent shape which is pretty typical for HAL ships...the food, service and entertainment all met our expectations with just a few minor exceptions. Some cutbacks like the lack of flaming desserts in the main dining room are not critical as long as the Pinnacle Grill continues to offer top notch food and service with kudos to Sam the PG manager on this voyage. Since this holiday cruise was an "R & R" vacation, I will not rate the ports as we have been there and done them many times on past cruises. We mostly just walked around and visited a few beaches to enjoy our Mexican visit. Only real negative comment that I must make concerns light bulbs...my pet peeve is burned out light bulbs and there were hundreds of them burned out on the Rotterdam, including two in our cabin plus lots more everywhere I looked, more then I have ever seen on any ship...perhaps this is a new way to conserve fuel!!! Overall, a good cruise experience and we never hesitate to recommend the ships of HAL to friends and family. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Carnival Spirit November 20 - 28, 2010 Mexican Riviera Saturday, November 20 This is my sixteenth cruise, sixth on Carnival, second on a Spirit class ship, but the first time on the Carnival Spirit. At the request from ... Read More
Carnival Spirit November 20 - 28, 2010 Mexican Riviera Saturday, November 20 This is my sixteenth cruise, sixth on Carnival, second on a Spirit class ship, but the first time on the Carnival Spirit. At the request from someone for more details, I write my reviews while on the ship, as the details are fresh in my mind. Something that I started with the last cruise is that I now have installed photo editing software on my laptop, so I now can provide pictures with the review on the Carnival forum (the review in the review section will only contain a link to the pictures). I had always wanted to do this cruise, even though I've been to two of the three ports before. The reason I wanted to do this cruise is that the Spirit class is my favorite class of Carnival ship, there is one new port I have not been to before and it is longer than one week (even just one extra day makes a difference). When I realized I could go for eight nights and it would only cost me three vacation days I booked it. After I booked this cruise the price just keep going up, and up and up. So I am glad I booked early before Carnival figured out how popular this cruise would be. Since I live less than three hours driving time from the port, I drove to the port this morning. It is raining, but I still make it in the estimated time of two and one half hours plus ten minutes for an unscheduled stop. My main concern with the rain is that I want to take pictures once I board the ship, and the rain will make this more challenging. I decide to rely on my GPS, even though I've been to the port several times. That turns out to add a little excitement to the trip. The GSP went out about halfway down. After a little fumbling around, I realize the fuse that goes in the charger has fallen out (apparently a long time ago, and the unit was working off the internal battery). At first a little panic sets in. Then I realize I've been to the port several times and know how to get there (although this will be the first time I leave from the port on a cruise ship). The only real change will be that I will end up at the parking lot across the street from the ship. It cost more, but since it is raining it might be a good idea to park there anyway. Soon the rolling hills that one drives over in northern San Diego County are in front of me and I relax and continue my drive. There is only one place I am worried about, that being where the 5 splits into the 5 and 805. Still, a wrong turn here will only cost me 30 minutes at the most and I will still have plenty of time to make the ship. Then I start to notice that civilization is starting to show up along the freeway. It is 10am and I might find a store open that carries fuses, allowing me to continue as I had originally planned. I get off at a good looking exit and there on the other side of the street is a hardware store. Ten minutes and 84¢ later my problem is solved. I left home at 8:00am and arrive at the port at 10:40am. I park at Park & Go (right at the end of the airport runway) and wait for the shuttle, which apparently is not running on a frequent schedule. So for $7 + a $3 tip I catch a hired shuttle to the port. I later found out that this was a really good stroke of luck on my part. Those that were in line about one half hour after me waited about two hours in line, and in the rain, just to get into the secured port area. I was in line for perhaps five minutes. The Park & Go is $8 per day (with an online coupon - normally $10 per day). The parking lot across the street from the ship is $15 per day, so I am still coming out ahead. The luggage is being loaded into vans (one for the HAL Oosterdam and one for the Carnival Spirit). I fill out the health questionnaire and by 11:10 I am in a seat waiting to board, which is scheduled to begin at 11:30. And, as I type this I note that a wedding party is boarding. In fact now they are now boarding the VIPs, and since I am in zone two, it is time to shut down the laptop and board. It is now 11:45am. I sneak into my cabin and meet my cabin steward and tell him that I am going to drop off my carry-on luggage, which I do. Then I get out of his way and go up on deck for some picture taking opportunities. As I suspected, the rain put a damper on the photos. Still I ended up with 162 photographs. This is kind of low for me on a first day, but still not too bad. I got all the photos I wanted and since there is no sun, I don't have any harsh shadows. I also sneak in a little lunch before the buffet gets too crowded. As I look out across the bay I noticed a third cruise ship. Then I saw the whale tail funnel. Of course I then realized it was the Carnival Splendor which is in San Diego for repairs. Soon there is an announcement that the muster drill will begin in ten minutes. Ten minutes later the ship's horn goes off. Everyone starts to go to their muster stations. Then there is an announcement that the muster drill would start shortly. This was followed by an alarm. Apparently everybody (including yours truly) reacted to the Oosterdam's muster drill horn. Perhaps that was all for the good, because within minutes of the muster drill being over it started raining hard. We may have lucked out by being slightly early since the muster drill is outside. One really nice change was that we did not have to bring our life vests to the drill. Thank you Carnival! After the drill I headed off to the Fantail Bar to meet up with the others from the roll call. It seems to be a nice friendly group. Many of them had met on an earlier cruise; however, I was new to the group (though I believe I was the second person to post on the roll call). The Oosterdam departed first. We apparently had a lot more luggage to load. While waiting for the Carnival Spirit to leave I ended up taking to a family that was on its fourth Thanksgiving cruise. Finally at 6:00pm with the ship backing from the dock I headed back to my cabin. Even though I was early to the port, my luggage was not early to the cabin. Nonetheless, upon my arrival to the cabin I noticed my smaller checked luggage in the cabin. So if worst comes to worst, I will not have to wear the same clothing for a week. I also notice that we are now moving forward, but it is raining, so I am canceling plans to write this out on the balcony tonight and instead I am updated it from inside a nice dry cabin. As I am typing this my bigger checked luggage arrives (so I am all set). It takes less time to unpack then it did to pack, probably because I don't have to decide what to unpack. According to the Travel Channel (that is what I call the ship's information channel - channel 14) it is 7:25pm and we are moving at 20 knots (23 miles per hour). Well dinner is soon, and I am going to put on a different shirt. Nothing much doing tonight except for a welcome aboard talk, and since I've been welcomed aboard several times, I don't feel I any need to attend. So I'll come back to the cabin after dinner and relax, since I've been walking up and down this ship several times and my feet hurt. There is a very long line to get into the restaurant, so I figure I'll just sit down and wait. As everyone walks past me I notice there are a lot of children in the late seating. I wonder if this is by choice or did early seating sell out? I'm at a table with another single, a father and son from Hawaii, and three generations of mothers/daughters. However, the three women seem interested in moving to the early seating (if that is possible), so I'm not sure if they will be at our table tomorrow night. As we get to talking I realize I am the most experienced cruiser of the group. It seems like a fun group. The waiter is top notch with a good sense of humor. Not a bad group to spend seven dinners with (I've got reservations for the Supper Club on Monday the 22nd). During dinner I was attacked by a pirate. While I am used to this, when I look up and there is no photographer in sight I begin to wonder what is going on. It took a while for the photographer to get around to the other side of the table so that he could take my picture. I end up having a chicken appetizer and shrimp dinner. The waiter is going around asking everyone how they like their dinner. However, when the waiter gets to me he doesn't ask me the same question. I've already finished my dinner. So instead the waiter asks me if I would like seconds, which I accept. For desert I want something cold, so I opt for chocolate ice cream. When I return to the cabin the TV remote is no where to be found. I check the towel animal, but it didn't eat it. I check all the typical places the cabin steward might put it, but it is not there. Believing the cabin steward would not intentionally hide it, I figure the most likely explanation is that he knocked it off the end table where I left it when he turned down the bed. Sure enough when I check under the bed I find it. Well, I guess I was more tired than I thought. I don't know what time I woke from my reading the fun times while lying on the bed, but I just decided it was time to make it official and go to sleep. Sunday, November 21 I'm up early enough for sunrise photographs. However, it doesn't look like there are any clouds, so I don't go outside for a better look. Big mistake, because a little later when I do go outside I realize the conditions are almost perfect for a good sunrise photographs, except that the sun has already started to rise. I get some acceptable photos just to save face, but for now on I'll have to be a little more careful. Unlike yesterday the weather is beautiful. I go up on deck for more photographs and notice there are a lot of early risers on this ship. We are moving at 22-23 knots (25.3 to 26.5 MPH) in a southeasterly direction. We are also close enough to land to see the land. I've been to the Mexican Riviera four prior times and we are usually further out to sea. I wonder if the captain is cutting a few corners to make up some time. We have a 1400 nautical mile trip, and if the navigator can cut 22 nautical miles off the route, that will save us a full hour at cruising speed. I notice there is a cook to order egg station that is not open yet. It is almost 7:00am so I sit down to see if it will open at 7:00am. A manger comes by and moves the sign. I ask when the station will open and he says 8:00am. I'm a little disappointed until he tells me there are some cook to order omelet stations open inside. Normally I carry breakfast down to the cabin and eat it on the balcony. However, I put the "make up my room" sign out and want to give the room steward an hour (if he begins at 7:00am). So instead I eat out on the rear deck overlooking the wake. As I am headed outside with my breakfast I run into one of the people from the roll call. A quick hello and then it is time to eat before the eggs get cold. Speaking of my cabin, it is a standard Carnival cabin (almost all the inside, ocean view and balcony cabins are the same) with an extended balcony. However, I am not in on of the indents where if you look straight down you will see the top of the lifeboats. This is where most of the extended balcony cabins are. I am on deck five forward of the lifeboats. If I look straight down I see my feet. Okay, so the railing angles in a bit. I still have a clear view forward and aft and it is an extended balcony (six feet deep instead of the standard four feet deep). The people in the extended balconies over the lifeboats have to look forward or back at a slight angle. The only thing is the light in the bathroom is slow to go on. So, if you intend to use the bathroom, you have to plan ahead by about five seconds. The only real complaint is the lack of a chair. There is a couch and table which works out fine for most things. However, I prefer to have a chair at the desk rather than a stool. The shower has a handheld shower head (which I really like) and there is room in the shower to move around (unlike some other cruise lines). The art in the corners of the stairways are glass pieces with several mirrors behind the glass piece. It is an interesting way to present the artwork and I decide to take several photographs of the glass art. I also go up on deck to take some pictures with a little more light than I had yesterday. Since it is early there are still not too many people out and about (I'll get pictures of the sea day crowds later). I also go out on the bridge wing observation deck to get some pictures looking back along the side of the ship. The bridge wind observation deck sticks out far enough so that if you don't know about it, you would not think I was on the ship when I took the picture. I get back to the cabin and the cabin steward did not get to it. So I guess he does not get to work early. I've got to talk to him and get him to make sure my ice bucket stays full. I need the ice to make cold water. It is 9:30am and as I look out my window I see land - not islands, the main land. It is very unusual for the cruise ships to be this close. Last night I saw what I believed to be the Oosterdam and it was much further out to see than we were. I believe the reason for this is that a ship that cannot be seen from land has an extra layer of security (but this is just my theory - I have not verified it). As I said, by cutting a few corners the captain can make up some time. It doesn't take much to save a full hour over the course of a 1400 nautical mile route. At 10:30am there is a captain and senior office introduction followed by a Fun Ashore and Fun Aboard presentation by the cruise director, Jen Baxter (from England). I leave at 10:15 and I still haven't seen my room steward this morning. The captain says hello and two senior officers just wave. The captain has some good news and bad news. The good news is that we made up the time we lost waiting to load the luggage. The bad new is we are lost. Well, at least he has a sense of humor. It has been six years since I was on the Carnival Pride and Jen didn't tell me anything I didn't already know about the ship. When she got to the Fun Ashore talk I left, since I already have three shore excursions booked (one for each port). I stopped by guest relations and I am told I will get the shore excursion tickets, which I bought online prior to the cruise, after 1:00pm. But the person was wrong, as the tickets were delivered well before noon. Slight bit of panic when I can't remember which card I used to lock the safe (I prefer the pick your own combination safes), however, the first card I tried was the right one. At any rate, I stopped by the future cruise "office" (more like a table and chair in the corner), and book a ghost cruise. I am interested in going to Europe in 2012, but that schedule is not out yet. I already have my 2011 cruises booked. I come back to the cabin and finally find my cabin steward. I ask him to keep the ice bucket full, and he says he will, and then proceeds to fill it. He had already cleaned the room and still had not put more ice in the bucket - yikes! I am sure glad I caught up with him. At 12:30 there is a Food and Wine Pairing in the Nouveau Restaurant (the steakhouse). I'm going to give that a try (it cost $15 extra). After that a quick swim and then perhaps some balcony time, after all, I did pay for it and I came on this cruise to relax. I could do lunch on the balcony, except there isn't time to go upstairs, get my lunch, come back down, eat, then go back upstairs to attend the Food and Wine Pairing. But afterwards, if I'm still hungry, that might just work out perfectly. I can see that this is going to be another cruise where I keep putting the trash can were I want it, and the room steward will keep putting it where he wants it. Oh well, it is no big deal. The distance is only about three feet, but it keeps me from banging my shin on it while I type this, and then the room steward most likely moves it back under the desk to get it out of his way. Well, we just received the captain's noontime report. He says we left about 90 minutes late, but have already made that time up. We have traveled about 370 nautical miles and have 1035 nautical miles to go. The weather is beautiful and we should enjoy ourselves, which I will, as it is time to head to the Food and Wine Pairing presentation. Well there are a few surprises. Nowhere does it say reservations are necessary for the Food and Wine Pairing. And guess what, since drinks are served (the wine) a fifteen percent gratuity is added to price (I think the prices should be listed as $17.25 rather than $15 if the tip is going to be add in after the receipt is prepared). I guess there are some advantages to being single (besides having to pay for two people, even though it is just me in the cabin). I was able to join the Food and Wine Pairing even while others were being turned away. My receipt says $15, but the TV says $17.25 (which does equal $15 + 15%). The first entry on the TV is $125.85 for my shore excursions which I paid for when I booked the shore excursions online. Fortunately before I think I have to go to guest relations I realize the second entry is a credit for the same amount. The third entry is a credit for $10.54 (it is showing as a deposit). I have no idea where that came from. It is a very odd amount. Well the Food and Wine Pairing was interesting. However, the wine tastes the same to me no matter what food I have in my mouth. We had a small piece of salmon, a small piece of steak, a small slice of strawberry, some sea salt, marmalade and some other items. We were not told each had to last for all five glasses of wine. Now some people definitely tasted a difference in the wine based on what food was in their mouth. I sure didn't. We were told 85% of the people like red wine. I like white better, so maybe I'm just weird. That said I'll just stick with the wines I like no matter what I am eating. Basically the rule of white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat still seems to work. Well plans change, but that is why I like sea days - total relaxation and flexibility. I ended up having lunch on the balcony and then spent the rest of the day in the pool. Well, actually let me explain that. First of all the middle pool was the same temperature as the ocean - in other words cool. The forward pool was okay. The rear pool is adults only (I didn't go in that one). The two hot tubs were warm tubs. As such, I just decided to spend a few hours in the hot/warm tub. I watched the sun go down from the hot tub. I could see there was no reason to go back to the cabin to get my camera. I have plenty of pictures of an orange ball sinking below the horizon. With no clouds in the sky I knew the sunset would be a dud. There are still two and one half hours until dinner. So I'm working on this and maybe playing my favorite computer game (Civilization - Civ 5) to pass the time until dinner. Well, I was playing Civilization and watching the clock. I was on time for dinner, but forgot about the reception before dinner. Oh well. There is another long line for getting into the restaurant. I just find a comfortable chair and wait for the end of the line. I had a shrimp appetizer with prime rib for the main course. Both were quite good. Not steakhouse quality, but still quite good. I topped it off with the warm chocolate melting cake. I believe there are people who cruise Carnival just so they can have the warm chocolate melting cake. I also informed everyone, including the waiter that I would not be at dinner tomorrow night and why. One person asks me if the Steakhouse is worth it. Since Carnival's food in the main dining room is actually very good, I say no. I go just for the variety. Is it worth $30? Yes. I would estimate you would pay about $70 for the same meal on land. But is it worth $30 more than the free food I can get in the main restaurant - not in my opinion. The waiter of course gives me a hard time. I must admit, I've had some good waiters on other cruises but this guy is quickly rising to the top. Good service and a great sense of humor. That is a hard combination to beat. At any rate, he says you cannot get the warm chocolate melting cake in the supper club. I'll bet if I asked for it they would get it for me. Nonetheless, since my dinner is at 7:00pm I have been invited to come down to the main restaurant for desert. As I type this it is Monday morning, and I am still debating if I will accept the invitation. After dinner I head back to the cabin and remove my tie (I wish I could remove the head of the person who invented ties). I then pick up my good camera and head out to the production show. I have three cameras with me. My good camera is a DSLR. It is big, but takes high quality pictures. I also have a travel camera, which I define as being able to fit in pocket. It takes good pictures but it is not up to the standards of the DSLR, especially in low light. I also brought my water proof camera just in case. On all my prior cruises the rules have always been no video taping and no flash photography at the production shows. I can take pictures with the DSLR without the flash. No sooner had the show ended then someone was in front of me telling me not to bring the camera to any more shows. The band was still playing and I had to ask him to repeat what he was saying three times because the band was much louder than he. Apparently the rule on this ship is no video taping and no photography (the word flash does not appear in front of the word photography). We have been instructed to set our clock ahead one hour, and from then on to make sure our clocks are on ship time. A big deal is made not to ask the locals what time it is, and not to use our cell phone clocks, since they display local time. Back at the cabin I am so tired that I just put everything down and go to sleep. Monday, November 22 I wake up at 6:30 and sunrise is at 6:40. I take a peek outside. Conditions are not perfect and I am very tired, which is not good for someone looking to relax. So I hop back in bed and read the Fun Times, which replaces the Carnival Capers as the ship's newspaper. The Fun Times seems a little smaller than the Carnival Capers, which I haven't seen for over two years, yet all the information seems to be there. So I try and figure what is missing. Finally I realize the ads are missing. For example, the nightly show used to take up about one quarter of the page. Now it takes up less space than a credit card. Speaking of ads, I am surprised Carnival is still using Park West for its art auctions. Park West lost some important lawsuits and I'll just leave it at that. I suggest that anyone contemplating the purchase of art on a Carnival ship do their homework first. I personally would not buy anything from Park West that cost more than $10. A review of the Fun Times shows that there is nothing of real interest to me going on today. So, I'll plan a relaxing day. I'll work on this, pick out the photos I am going to include with the review, play some more Civilization, this time out on the balcony, take more pictures and relax in the warm tub. Actually I've got everything all set in my mind, when I hear a knock on the door. The room steward is here. Yesterday he doesn't touch the cabin until the afternoon and today he is hear at 9:15am. Having been out on the balcony this morning I know it is warm. I estimate we passed Cabo around 5:30am. For reference typically ship headings to Puerto Vallarta will pass Cabo at around noon and ships that are going directly to Cabo typically arrive around 9:00am. In my mail box is my future cruise certificate and an invitation to a past guest party at 3:45pm. Okay, the mental picture of my plans just got ruined. I'm going to go up on deck around 10:00am for pictures and brunch. Then back to the cabin for choosing pictures, updating this and perhaps some game playing. Then in the afternoon some pool time, followed by the past guest party. Then the time between the end of the past guest party will remain open for now. The show tonight after dinner does not interest me, so I'm leaving that time open to my whim. I'm already showered and dressed. So all I need to do is put a few things away, then put the make up my room sign on the door and head upstairs. Well, there were not many people in the pools yet, which kind of surprised me. Nonetheless, I take a few pictures and then grab a banana. But, since this is supposed to be brunch, I also get a slice of pizza. Then it is over to the store for a few souvenirs, a couple of key chains, a small toy boat, and a couple of shirts which are on sale two for $20, even if one is a child's small and the other is an adult's small. All of these are for my sister's neighbor's kids. Back to the cabin and my room has been made up, so in the spirit (that is "spirit" with a small "s", not the Carnival Spirit) of vacationing, I decide to truly relax. I lay down, and it turns out I needed that. My little siesta was briefly interrupted by someone wanting to make sure everything is alright. A supervisor checking up on the cabin steward I guess. Well, since the room has been made up and there is ice in the ice bucket I state that yes, everything is fine. The captain made his noon time announcement. We are 890 nautical miles from San Diego and 520 nautical miles from Acapulco. He says we are about 70 miles from the nearest land (about even with Puerto Vallarta) and that we made up most of the lost time (we are a few minutes behind where we should be). I wonder if he lost that time moving back out further to sea. At any rate at about this time an alarm sounds. Then with the mike still open the captain tells someone one on the bridge to, "Make that thing shut up." We then learn that the air temperature is 79 degrees and the sky is partly cloudy or partly clear, the captain says it is our choice. Well, my choice is to spend a little time in the pool and then make it back in time for the past guest party. So, I'll be back at you later. Once again the middle pool is cool, something I could tell even before I put my foot in the water, as I could see how other people were reacting when they entered the pool. I go into the forward pool but I realize that there is not enough room to swim and if I don't do some swimming I am going to start to feel cold. So, it is off to the warm tub. An hour of soaking and then I come back to cabin. I decide to sit out on the balcony, work on this and pick out some picture to post with the review. And now it is approaching time for the past guest party, so off I go again. Well, that was easily the best guest past guess party I have been to. It actually was a lot of fun. Perhaps because of the high energy singer who entertained us before the captain spoke? The captain said that we made up 97% of the time we lost in San Diego waiting for the luggage to be loaded. So, we are a few minutes behind schedule. The party ended with a video of all the past and current ships in the Carnival fleet. Since I had my camera with me I went over to the water slide to get some pictures, and then waited for the sunset. And once again it was an orange ball dropping below the horizon, and this time I've got photographic proof. Be back at you after dinner. Dinner was excellent. I had a shrimp appetizer and an iceberg lettuce salad. For the main course I had the eighteen ounce rib eye steak. Although it was worth more than the $33 I paid (I added a little extra tip), I still don't feel it was worth $30 (the standard price) more than the included meal in the main restaurant. I decided to "dress up" in my tux-t-shirt. Just as I exit my cabin a large Camp Carnival group is on its way back to Camp Carnival, which is just down the hall from me. One of the kids says nice shirt. I say thank you. Then, while I am at dinner someone comes to visit the people next to me, sees my shirt and says "nice tux." It was 6:50pm when I saw the kids in the hall, which means we are in the middle of early dinner. What are all of these kids doing in Camp Carnival? Is Camp Carnival open because of Anytime Dining, or is Camp Carnival open because of all the kids in the late dinner? After dinner I return to the cabin and just relax. The next three days are all port days, so there will be less time for relaxing for a while. Tuesday, November 23 I'm getting lazy. I wake up at 3:30am and think this would be a good time to go out on deck to see, and photograph, the ship at night. But I decide to stay were I am. The next thing I know it is 6:30am. I stay in bed for a while, then shower, dress and get breakfast, which I eat on the balcony while watching sea turtles, small flying fish and some schools of small fish just below the surface. Even though it is before 9:00am it is fairly warm outside. I have been able to see land since 6:30am, which is about the time we passed tomorrow's port of call. Acapulco is now showing on the Travel Channel map. There is no scale, but I'll be able to tell when we are really close because the speed will start to drop from the current 22 knots. I'm scheduled for the Cultural and Picturesque Acapulco tour. Basically I am interested in the photo opportunities. However, I decided two and a half years ago that I would take a ship sponsored excursion at this port. That was the last time I visited Acapulco. I went out on my own, and it was not a pleasant experience. Just outside the gate are the taxi drivers. Every 50 to 75 feet I was asked the same three questions. The first two questions were no big deal. But that last question was annoying. Basically they are offering a "full service" massage. It got to the point that I began to wonder if prostitution was legal in Mexico. I would like to avoid, or at least limit, having to walk through that gauntlet on this trip. A ship sponsored excursion is one way to get out of the port area without having to face that line of taxi drivers. Well in a short period of time I have seen several sea turtles, flying fish and at least three dolphins. I did get one good picture of a sea turtle. However, taking my camera from the cold cabin (I always turn the air conditioning up as far as it will go and leave it there) to the warm humid air is causing the lens to fogging up, so I have to leave the camera out on the balcony for a while until it warms up (the camera - not the balcony, the balcony is already warm). There are some kids a couple of balconies above me who are really enjoying the nature show. It is 10am and we are still doing 23 knots. The sea is smooth unless you are a sea turtle that is fairly close to the ship. Finally at about 11:00am we start to slow down. However, the docking process takes a long time. The ship does not touch the dock until about 12:15, a good 45 minutes from the time we entered the bay. The captain says the temperature is 82 degrees. There is one other ship in port with us, the Oceana. It will leave around 6:00pm. Well I didn't expect Acapulco to be the highlight of the cruise, and the tour sure didn't change things much. The two the places we missed I've been to before, so it was no big deal to me. One of those places offered a great view of the bay and the ships. We didn't go there because it was too crowded. At our next stop, and at another stop, I was able to get similar pictures, so I was happy with the picture taking opportunities. We only spent ten minutes at the fort because of how late we got there, and that is the tour guide's fault (bad time management). The air conditioning in the van began making too much noise, so the driver turned it off. Fortunately it was late in the day, so the heat was not a big problem. Finally we arrived back at the port thirty minutes late (more bad time management on the tour guide's behalf). No problem for me, as I have late dinner. However, for anyone who had early dinner, and was expecting to get back thirty prior to dinner, it could be a problem. I did learn why we are not supposed to ask the locals what time it is. Acapulco is ninety minutes head of us. That could easily confuse someone. The last stop was a jewelry store that offers free drinks. I was enjoying a cup of Coke and was almost finished when I suddenly realized my mistake. The Coke of course is safe, but it had ice in it. I guess I'll find out tomorrow if the water in the ice was filtered or not. And free drinks or not, the leather belts were listed at $62 US dollars. I even if I talk them down to $30, it would not be a good deal, as I know I can get leather belts in Mexico for $20 each. I'm just cooling down (not from the tour - from the heat) for a bit, and then I'm going back outside for some night time photographs of the ship. Then I'll come back to the cabin and cool down again before dinner. Well, it looks like the taxi drivers are gone, so hopefully it is safe to go out and take a few pictures. I have to leave the secured port area to get the pictures I want and really don't want to meet too many taxi drivers. On my way out I run into a Camp Carnival group again. This time it is the real little ones. These guys could tell you their age with one hand, even if a couple of fingers were missing. It is the middle of early dinner, and Camp Carnival is open? Well, I got the pictures I wanted and only got asked three times if I wanted a taxi, and I didn't give them the chance to ask any follow up questions. A little girl was selling something (most likely gum) for a dollar. I just gave her all my change and kept walking. I also picked up some souvenirs. An Acapulco shirt from the cliff divers for me, a couple of key rings for my sister's neighbor's kids and a shot glass for one of my friends while on the tour, a mask for my sister and some necklaces for my sister's neighbor's kids from the street vendors on the way back from the photo shoot. The shirt and mask were $15 each and the necklaces were two for $15. The shot glass and key rings came to $5 total. Now I've got to get me a quick shower, or I'll be the only one at the table by the time the salad is served. Even at night in the bottom half of November it is hot and muggy in Acapulco. There is not enough time to go up on deck to take night time pictures before dinner, so I'll have to leave my camera out on the balcony. It takes a good half hour for the camera to warm up when I take it out of the cold cabin. My only other choice is to sleep with it, and quite frankly, it is not very cuddly. The lines were much shorter tonight. I would say half the people that would normally be at dinner were not there. The father and son from Hawaii were missing from our table. I did see them at the cliff divers. We had just enough time to say hello when I notice my group was leaving. At any rate, the topic of conversation at dinner tonight was my dinner last night and what we all did today in port. I had a Thai salad, shrimp appetizer and lasagna for the main course. Then, wanting something cold, I opted for chocolate ice cream for dessert. After dinner I returned to the cabin to get my camera and then headed up to the sun deck, which is now the moon deck. The ship is not that colorful up on deck at night, but I did take several pictures. They turned out okay, but not as interesting as I had hoped. Oh well, there will be other ships and other nights. Tonight's show is not that interesting to me, so I am in the cabin (it is too hot out on the balcony) bringing this up-to-date and getting ready for tomorrow (the next two days I have early shore excursions. Wednesday, November 24 I keep waking up right around sunrise. It might be because I sleep with the drapes fully open. Eventually I get up and get some breakfast, which I eat on my balcony. Soon it is obvious that the ship is slowing down. However, we don't go into the bay as far as we did the last time I was here. Last time the ship anchored in the bay. This time we are in the mouth of the bay and the captain has already spun the ship so it is facing out for departure. The destination shopping insert (the port map) in the Fun Times contains something I have not seen before - a port day planner. It is like a day out of daily planner, with a blank line next to each hour so one can plan one's day. It is noted that, "As time in the ports of call is limited and valuable, use this tool to help plan your day ashore." The Acapulco insert did not contain this. This is a tender port (you can tell by sticking a fork in it - ha ha) and they want us in the Pharaoh's Lounge 45 minutes prior to departure of our tour. I can only wonder how much time we will be wasting. Nonetheless, I don't want to be the person holding everyone else up, so it is time to go. I'll be back after the City Tour, which visits both cities; Zihuatanejo, which is still a small fishing village and Ixtapa, which has been turned into a resort by the Mexican government. It is very hot. Our tour guides tells us that there are two seasons, the rainy season and the reconstruction season. We are here in the beginning of the reconstruction season. Apparently they had a very rainy rainy season, the worst in seventy years. We are told this is why it is so humid. Our first stop provides us with a view of the bay with a great view of the ship. I get lots of pictures. Then it is off to Ixtapa. Our next stop provides an overview of the resort area. Then we get to spend some time in one of the resorts. If you are looking for a land based resort to spend sometime, this is not a bad place to look at. Apparently the area used to be a swamp and coconut plantation. And where there are swamps there are crocodiles. Since crocodiles and resort guests don't mix too well, the Mexican government had to catch the crocodiles and put them in a sanctuary. The tour guide made a big point of stating that MOST of the crocodiles have been caught. And sure enough on the beach of the resort we visited there was a warning sign. Next there is some time for shopping (of course). I pick up a couple of belts for me ($20 each), three shot glasses for my friend, some coffee for my sister and brother-in-law and four key rings for my sister's neighbor's kids. This tour was $16 less than yesterday's tour, and was a much better tour. Everything ran smoothly and on time. We did not spend too long in any one place, and yet got an overview of both cities, which are only a few miles apart. After I have completed my souvenir shopping in both cities I have $8 plus a 20 Peso bill left. I see a couple of small jewelry boxes in Zihuatanejo that would be great for a couple of young girls that live next door to my sister. However, the shop owner wants $8 each. I explain I need two and I show him all I have. He agrees to sell me two small boxes for all I have. So I return to the ship with nothing but my camera, over one hundred pictures and some souvenirs, but no money. Of course I have more money in the safe on the ship. Upon my return to the ship at about 2:00pm, all I can think of is some ice cream and that nice cool pool. First the ice cream, then slight detour at the grill for a pastrami sandwich. One advantage of late dinner is that even after eating a snack at 2:30pm, I still have over five and one half hours until dinner. After my snack it is pool time. One nice thing about being on the ship while in port is how empty the ship is, including the pools. I last an hour of doing a little more than just floating. It is now about 3:30pm and as more and more people return to the ship, the pool begins to get too crowded for just floating around, so I head back to the cabin. I take a quick shower to remove the salt water (the pools are salt water) and I then I start to put all the stuff away before deciding to relax a bit. The next thing I know it is after sunset. Too bad, I wanted to see if I could get some good sunset pictures. So I decide to finish putting everything away and then work on this. In addition to writing my review I also keep track of my expenses, which helps when it comes time to fill out the customs form and I back everything up. In fact I do not erase the photos from my memory cards until I have copied the photographs to the computer and backed the photographs up on a flash drive. That way the failure of any one will not cause me to lose any pictures. I back up everything, the review, the spreadsheet with my purchases and of course the photographs. Oops, that was close. I have not changed the time on my computer, so I thought there was ninety minutes until dinner. However there was actually only thirty minutes. Fortunately the Travel Channel lists the time, and upon looking at my watch I realized my mistake. Now it is time to go to dinner. Tonight's show does not interest me. Since I have done almost everything I wanted to do, I'll probably just come back to the cabin watch TV and play Civilization, which is what I end up doing. Thursday, November 25 (Thanksgiving Day) I woke up this morning in time for sunrise. The bad news, all I got was an orange ball above Manzanillo. The cloud cover was not in a memorable sunrise pattern. The good news, we were also pulling into port. As this is the one port I have not been to before, I wanted to get some pictures, so I went up to the observation deck above the bridge. This is the only forward facing deck with the glass wall low enough to shoot over. Two tugs came out the meet us. I have no idea why. With no wind to speak of the ship is perfectly capable of maneuvering into the dock, which it did without help I found a Sail and Sign card on the deck, so I went down to guest relations to turn it in, then up to the buffet for breakfast, which I carry back to my balcony. Unfortunately I forgot that the port side was facing the sun. So I ended up eating breakfast on a very brightly lit balcony. So, we are docked. It is 7:00am and my tour is not until 9:00am, so I decide to update this. Of course not much has happened yet, so on to some not so random musings. The amount of misinformation running around is amazing. What I have heard includes a misunderstanding of the PVSA (Passenger Vessel Service Act) which is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Jones Act, stating that the ship weighs 86,000 tones (which is actually a space rating, not a weight rating), where the Splendor was when it was disabled (a passenger on this ship thought the Splendor became disabled near Manzanillo, when in fact it was about more than one thousand miles north of here) and I even had someone call me before the cruise and say that I guess you are not going on your cruise. When I asked why not it became apparent that they did not realize my cruise was booked on a different ship (fortunately) than the Splendor. Well, it is not even 8:30am yet and a few seconds on the balcony makes it clear that nobody is going to get frostbite today. I’m going to get ready for my tour, Manzanillo City & Shopping Tour. So, I’ll be back at you this afternoon. Well, the tour covered some interesting sights; however, there were two problems. First of all we were in a full sized bus on a route that would have been a challenge for a full sized van. Several times the driver could not make the turn and had to make a simple right or left turn into a three point turn. Simply put, we were on a rather steep mountain and it did not feel safe. The second problem, we got out of the bus twice (not counting when the tour ended). Once for five minutes to take pictures and the second time to shop for ninety minutes at some place that was called a mall. Actually it is one very large store that was like a Walmart super store with groceries and general merchandize. I didn’t come to Mexico to buy a washer and dryer, which is the first thing I saw when I entered the store. For the rest of the time I was in the store the same thought kept running through my mind – how would Carnival react if I showed up at the gangplank with a washer and dryer? Across the street was a flea market. There weren’t any fleas I was interested in; however, I did pick up a couple of key rings for my sister’s neighbor’s kids and a shot glass for my friend. Back in port I get a few good pictures of the ship. Interestingly enough, the stores across the street from the port are not touristy shops. Instead, these are the kind of stores that the locals would shop in. Along the dock on the way back to the ship I picked up a couple of small purses for two young girls that live next door to my sister and wood puzzle for the little boy that lives next door to my sister. I also picked up a wooden key rack for myself. It did not feel as hot or humid today as I thought it would this morning. Of course part of that could be that I had spent so much time in an air conditioned bus. So back on the ship I get some ice cream and lunch and then head to the pool. After a while in the pool I go into the warm tub. I stay there until enough people are back on the ship that the warm tub gets crowded. In fact, I leave when I see two little kids looking for a place to get into the warm tub, and sure enough they take over the place I just surrendered. Back at the cabin I shower the salt off and then go back on deck for the sunset. Unfortunately the sun is setting behind a mountain. It looks like a great sunset. However, the best part is taking place out of view behind the mountain. After that, since my balcony faces the dock, I decide to see if anyone arrives late. Sure enough some people are late, but fortunately the gangplank is still out. Whatever the reason, the stress causes a very brief fight. I hang out long enough to see us back away from the dock. Then it is time to do what I am doing now – update this. Soon it is time for dinner. Today is Thanksgiving, so it will be interesting to see what is on the menu. For the most part tonight’s menu is just like normal. There is a turkey selection and tonight we have to choose our desert at the same time we order the main course. Normally we choose our desert after we have finished the main course. I have two shrimp appetizers and steak for the main course. It was good. Again, it is not steakhouse quality, but still quite good. Once again the conversation around the dinner table concerns the tours we took. The father and son from Hawaii went off on their own and got lost. Obviously they made it back to the ship on time. The other single fellow did the ATV tour. He mentioned how genially the residents seem to appreciate the tourists. I think to myself how every tour guide knows this is the second to last cruise to these three cities. Back in the cabin there is something interesting on the TV. The next thing I know it is very early in the morning, so I turn everything off and go to sleep. Friday, November 26 I wake up after sunrise again. Too bad, there are clouds outside, which should have made for a good sunrise. Since it is a sea day, I relax in bed until sometime between 7:00 and 8:00am. One thing I notice is we are rocking a bit. A quick check of the Travel Channel confirms the reason. We are headed northwest at 21 knots and there is a thirty knot wind coming from the north. Well, it is 10:00am and one can carry being lazy only so far. It is time to go outside and see what is interesting. First of all the spray from the waves hitting the bow is creating a rainbow, which can be difficult to capture with a camera. However, I get a few acceptable photographs. Also, the sea is rough enough that the wake disappears fairly quickly, which is hard to show in a photograph, as there is no scale in a photo of an empty ocean. I also notice that the pools are empty, which of course is easy to document. I’m not sure why. Are 90% of the people on this ship lazier than I am, or is the wind making it feel cooler than it really is? I’ll soon find out, as it is about 2:00pm and the wind speed has dropped to about five knots, and the ocean is fairly smooth now. I get out of the cabin long enough for the cabin steward to do his or her job (either my cabin steward has a female assistant or she has taken over responsibility for my cabin, I’m not sure which) and in addition to a few pictures I also grab breakfast and purchase a picture that was taken last night with a pilgrim and turkey. After updating this, I decided to spend a little time in the pool, which is still empty. After a while I switch to the warm tub. I notice enforcement of the rules is a little lax. The aft pool is supposed to be adults only. Apparently some of those adults were born in a year starting with a two. In the warm tub some of the kids were splashing each other with plastic cups of water. This was obvious to anyone in the pool area, even a Cyclops with one bad eye would have noticed. The kids were making an effort not to splash me, and were apologetic if they did splash me. Personally I didn’t care if they splashed me or not since I was already wet. Still, where was the deck crew? The boys were splashing the girls and the girls clearly were not happy about it. I know one of the boys’ parents saw what was going on, but that did stop it. What did stop the splashing, with the cups at least, was one of the waiters. While cleaning up he noticed the cups the boys had and asked them to give him the cups. Actually the kids were very respectful, they were just acting like the young children that they are. So that I don’t appear to be picking on the kids, I would also like to mention the 300+ pound man that did a cannonball into the pool. He had not been, and was not interacting, with anyone, so why did he do it? Was it to amuse himself, to annoy everyone else in the pool with a rather significant tidal wave or just a way of calling attention too himself? About this time the sun was getting low and I decided to return to my balcony for some sunset pictures. The set up was good, but unfortunately the ship was moving and by the time the sun set the ship was clear of the clouds. I took some pictures, but they will never make the pages of National Geographic. Tonight is the second elegant night and I’m going to bring my computer to dinner tonight, so that I can show the three ladies the crocodiles they were swimming with in Ixtapa. I had the shrimp cocktail and breast of chicken, which was a little smaller than I was expecting, so I decided to have the warm chocolate melting cake for desert, while most of the others at the table had the baked Alaska. The topic of conversation around the table was the various activities offered on the ship, such as the free design your own ice cream Sundays at the fantail bar late in the afternoon, the comedy shows, the late night dance party and Mexican buffet and who saw who around the ship. Tonight we set our clocks back one hour, so we will be back on Pacific Standard Time. Saturday, November 27 Well, today is the last day. I wake up in time to go out on deck and get some sunrise photos, however, I decide not to. I was just being lazy more than anything else, since I was already awake. I noted that we passed Cabo before 4:00pm yesterday, so we are ahead of the Carnival Pride (a sister ship) that left Cabo at 4:00pm in May of 2004 and had to travel an extra 100 miles to make it back to Long Beach. Yesterday we were going twenty knots. Today we are going eighteen knots. I do not have much planned today. I don’t normally go swimming on the last day so that I don’t have to pack a wet bathing suit. Also I want to get this and the photos ready to upload tomorrow when I arrive home. But I do have a couple of not so random musings to comment on. On channel seventeen we are supposed to be getting the instructions for debarkation. Instead we are getting a replay of the first evening’s talk. I think it is a little late for the wonderful shore excursions and a reminder of what we can expect for the next eight days. Having been through debarkation several times I’m not overly concerned. Also, they are cleaning the balconies between 10:45am and 1:00pm today. We are supposed to have the curtains closed and the balcony door locked. So at 9:30am while I am shaving I am trying to figure out what all the noise was. There was someone cleaning my balcony. Did the maintenance crew forget to set their clocks back? At 11:00am today was a Q&A session with the cruise director and her staff. At first I was disappointed that the captain would not attend. However, this turned out to be one of the most interesting Q&A sessions I have attended, and not just because I got to ask three questions. The questions were varied and the cruise director and her staff provided what I believe to be honest answers in a lively and interesting manner. My three questions and the answers were … Q1 – The cruise director suggested that we leave our passports in the safe. My question was, suppose we miss the ship, will some go into our safe and get our passport? The answer was yes. The passport would be given to the port agent. Q2 – I asked what their favorite class of ship was. All answered the Spirit class for the same two reasons I have. First of all it is the easiest class to navigate, though one mentioned that on the Dream class one can walk the full length of the ship without having to go up and over the mid ship dining room. The second reason is the Spirit class has the most space per person of all the Carnival classes of ships. Q3 – Had she read Cruise Confidential and did she have any comments. One member of the staff did not realize it was a book. However, both Jen (the cruise director) and at least one of her staff were familiar with the book. Jen said while mostly true, some of the book was far fetched. After the Q&A session I asked Jen why the welcome aboard talk was playing instead of the debarkation talk. She was unaware of the mix up and thanked me for informing her, as she would have no way of knowing. When I returned to the cabin with my lunch the debarkation talk had replaced the welcome aboard talk. I intended to eat lunch on the balcony. However, the captain made his noon time report and I came inside for that. One thing I have noticed is that both yesterday and today I was able to see land, thus my theory of the captain cutting corners so we could arrive on time in Acapulco may not hold water. The air temperature is less than sixty degrees, so there are not many people in the pools. Carnival only provides an envelope for the Maitre d’ because the cabin steward, waiter and assistant waiter are included in the auto tip and the Maitre d’ is not. Well the only thing the Maitre d’ did for me was interrupt my dinner around desert time with some sort of an announcement. I don’t see any need to tip him. So I go down to guest relations and get a couple of envelopes and label them waiter and assistant waiter. I’ll make sure the waiter and assistant waiter knows that this tip in addition to the standard auto tip. The waiter and assistant waiter did an excellent job while the room steward did an average job and will get the standard auto tip. Well it is now 4:30pm and I have finally picked out and resized 48 photos that I am going to include with the review. So now I have to fill out the customs form, which is why I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of all my expenses. Not all expenses qualify (drinks and tips don’t have to be declared) but the spreadsheet allows me to both fill out the customs form and double check the on board account (which can be done via the TV). Then it is time for a shower, shave (since I can’t do that tomorrow morning as I’ll pack my shaver) and get dressed in tomorrow’s clothing so I can pack – yuck. Well, at least it is easier than packing at home. After I finish packing there is still time until dinner, so I decide to proof read this. As I do so I notice the ship is rocking. A quick check of the Travel Channel shows that we are moving in a direction that is a little west of north at seventeen knots and there is a 23 knot wind coming from the northwest. While I am sitting on the bed with my feet up there is a knock on the door. Before I can get out of the bed a third room steward is opening the door. He wants to know what time he can clean the room. First of all he gave me no time to react to the knock. What if I was a female getting dressed? Second, don’t they know I have a set dining time? And if not, don’t the rotating room stewards share information? There is a sign we are supposed to put on the door when we want the room to be made up. I have used it every time. Upon returning from dinner I note that the leftovers from my lunch on the balcony are still there. The room is clean, but the balcony is not. And for the first time, there is no towel animal on the bed. For dinner I had shrimp cocktail, iceberg lettuce and chicken with pasta. The topic of conversation tonight was about the sights we saw from the ship. One of the ladies saw a whale and another one saw some dolphins. After dinner we all said our good-byes. I have a three hour drive tomorrow, so after dinner I just returned to the cabin, updated this, and then got to thinking about the cruise. My goal was to relax and to that end this was a very successful cruise. As to Acapulco it will not be missed (the next cruise will be the last time the Carnival Spirit visits Acapulco). I’m sure Manzanillo has more to offer than I saw on my tour. But Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa will be missed. As to Carnival, the cruise was typical Carnival. The service was great. The food was good and I could do without the constant interruptions around desert time at dinner. And since Carnival is family friendly there were plenty of kids. All the kids add a different flavor to the cruise. Depending on how you feel about kids, the kids either added to, or detracted from the cruise. Personally I think the kids were well behaved. Not perfect little angels, but still well behaved. The bottom line is I enjoyed the cruise. In the end this is one review written by one person based on one person’s experiences during this one cruise. I’m not sure what value this review will have in the future. The people on the next cruise will not see this review, if they see it at all, until after their cruise ends. After that, this cruise will not be repeated. However, I hope that in some way this cruise will provide some insight to someone doing research on how that person or persons will spend their hard earned vacation dollars. Sunday, November 28 I work up about 5:30am and turned on the Travel Channel. We have slowed to 13 knots and are close to the harbor entrance. There is a 20+ knot wind hitting us broadside and I can feel the ship rocking. By 6:30am we are approaching the dock and I go outside to get some harbor views of San Diego. The airport, which is at the north end of the bay, sure is busy this early in the morning on a Sunday. By 7:00am the ship is docked. It is cool outside, but the weather is fine. It should be a pleasant drive back home. Well, at least as pleasant as can be, given that I am leaving the cruise, not driving to the cruise. After a few pictures I go back to the cabin and drop off my camera, then head back up to the Lido deck (deck nine) for some breakfast. I am surprised at the number of people up this early. I head over to one of the cook to order omelet stations and decide to eat in the buffet, since my tray and plate from yesterday’s lunch is still on the balcony. On the way back to my cabin I run into my original room steward. I pick up my Sail and Sign statement and it matches what I have. I’ll have to check with my agent on Monday to see if she knows anything about the mysterious $10.54 credit, which is listed on the statement as a refundable onboard credit. They want us out of the cabin by 8:00am, so I still have a little time to play games on the computer. I was off the ship a little before 10:00am. Customs only wants the declaration form, they don't want to see the passports. As a result the line is moving rather quickly. When I get outside I see that the line for the Park & Go is long, so I grab a taxi. I think it was the driver's second day on the job. He had no idea where the Park & Go lot was. I told him it was at the end of the runway. He still had no idea. I gave him the address, he still had no idea. I had to enter the address into the GPS for him. The drive home was uneventful. Here is a link to the pictures ... http://community.webshots.com/album/579186518RNMrdE Read Less
Sail Date November 2010

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