24 San Diego Spring Break Cruise Reviews

We were two adults traveling without children that stayed in an inside stateroom on deck 7 midship of the Disney Wonder. We had an amazing experience with superior service and I cannot wait for my next Disney cruise! -The main dining ... Read More
We were two adults traveling without children that stayed in an inside stateroom on deck 7 midship of the Disney Wonder. We had an amazing experience with superior service and I cannot wait for my next Disney cruise! -The main dining food was superb- many options on the menu! -Our servers in main dining were wonderful- best I’ve ever had on a cruise. They were personable, and very efficient. -Our inside cabin was very comfortable and clean. -Entertainment is high quality. The main stage shows are of a high caliber with Frozen the musical stage show being a highlight. - We enjoyed all the adult entertainment options on the ship! We liked trivia, bingo, crafts, adult only game shows, adult only pool area and the adult only restaurant, Palo. Cruise entertainment staff were very upbeat and personable! - Ports of call were Cabo and Ensenada. -In Cabo we took an excursion to the Breathless all inclusive resort! It was gorgeous and staff were wonderful. -Port of Ensenada we took a wine tasting tour that was fabulous! We LOVED our guide and the countryside was beautiful. This was an amazing cruise and you cannot beat the Disney experience. I have previously sailed on Holland America and Disney beats out Holland in the service and entertainment categories! Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
As this was our 10th Azamara, we were looking at returning to the Quest with great enthusiasm. Our on board experiences again did not disappoint. Other reviews talk about the white nights, Azamazing evening and the like so I don’t see ... Read More
As this was our 10th Azamara, we were looking at returning to the Quest with great enthusiasm. Our on board experiences again did not disappoint. Other reviews talk about the white nights, Azamazing evening and the like so I don’t see the need to revisit them in this review other than say that the signature events are exciting, anticipated and very much enjoyed. The advantages of the size and ambience of the R Class ships, Quest (and Journey) to us outweigh any negatives. To step aboard and see familiar faces amongst guests, staff and crew and to be remembered by name makes a comfortable, pleasant and enjoyable experience. The refit wasn’t a new experience for us as we’d been fortunate to have had 32 days on board straight out of dry dock last year. The Quest is a ship not only well loved but also well maintained and extremely clean. Firstly, what a great itinerary, even with the unplanned change from Cartagena to the touristy Cozumel. Due to storm activity in the Caribbean we concur that safety of the vessel, staff, crew and guests is of top priority and the change of itinerary and subsequent fine under the Jones act was Azamara’s decision. The Panama Canal was on our bucket list and the day’s transit experience didn’t disappoint. The history of the Canal is like nothing else. We loved the variety of the ports on this itinerary and without hesitation would re visit if the price were right. If it’s not on your bucket list it needs to be. The addition of the biking program is welcome by us wanting something different, hopefully (positive feedback here) the lengthy insurance form that needs completion prior to the activity is stored on board and can be reused again for future bike activities on future cruises. The ones we did were extremely well organised, fun and very enjoyable. Bike were easily to manage. Well done to those staff involved. The benefits on the self-service laundry continues to be an undervalued addition to your cruise price. The machine are smart, efficient and leave no one guessing to how long the washing needs to be ‘in’. Due to this upgrade in technology I believe that the laundry ‘protocol’ or behavior has improved to an acceptable standard and I met some lovely interesting people there, who then became ‘friends’ around the ship. Regulars will know what I mean. We met old friends and made new ones of all ages, nationalities and demographics. Over the years, we have seen some stubble and not so stubble changes on board, but on the whole we continue to be pleased with the product, service and quality of the food provided. This cruise also bought some variation and welcome additions to foods previously offered both in the buffet and Discoveries. I don’t agree with other negative review about the food as I believe it to be of high standard, tasty and surely inviting. We did mention in our mid cruise feedback form, and it was addressed immediately, that whilst acknowledging service was generally very good we did notice some delays in service in Discoveries. It wasn’t a deal breaker and we would happily return there each night if we weren’t dining in a delightfully exotic buffet or one of the specialty restaurants. The Discoveries staff do an amazing job and the attitude, flexibility and enthusiasm that they display needs to be commended. Shows where of usual standards with some enjoyable guest entertainers, sea days provided general 'something to suit everyone' experiences. Guest lecturer was popular and informative. Those activities, along with progressive trivial was the usual fun 'tongue in cheek' laugh at those more serious about it than our team. You could clearly do as little as wished or be quite active. As always under the competent helm of the Captain, senior officers, experienced staff and crew the service was impeccable and the attention to detail outstanding. We do not have a problem with the size of the staterooms or bathrooms as we know that they just ‘come with’ the design of the R Class ship which we love. We however appreciate that it would be a considerable challenge for some. As Azamara moves towards the future with the release of the 2019 itineraries, I’m pleased to say we have committed to another four for the next 12 months and must soon start thinking about 2019. The downside is that they all involve long haul flights but we are excited to be introducing other ‘newbies’ to our favourite brand and are prepared to ‘share the love’ when they step aboard with us next cruise. Until then we wish all Azamara staff, especially those on the Quest (and Journey) smooth sea and fair winds. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
I’m a 34 year old male who traveled solo on the Norwegian Sun for the full-ship charter called the Groove Cruise. The charter was from October 28 to November 2, 2016. This was my 36th cruise and 23rd time with Norwegian. I had been on ... Read More
I’m a 34 year old male who traveled solo on the Norwegian Sun for the full-ship charter called the Groove Cruise. The charter was from October 28 to November 2, 2016. This was my 36th cruise and 23rd time with Norwegian. I had been on the Norwegian Sun previously in 2008. I’ve tried out other cruise lines including Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. What follows is a review of the cruise and some mentions of entertainment as they were experienced. Embarkation: San Diego The embarkation was better compared to this past Miami Groove Cruise on Norwegian Pearl. There was a miscommunication between the port security, port check in vendor and the NCL corporate security team about NCL’s wine and champagne policy at the beginning. SMS who does their port side operations worked with the other two to get this problem straightened out and a table was setup to pay the corkage fee. NCL was trying not to honor their wine and champagne carry-on policy clearly stated on their website. No information saying this wouldn’t be allowed on charters was ever provided to guests. NCL also on this sailing would not honor the soda package which they did offer on the Norwegian Pearl in January because “it was a charter.” Not sure what NCL’s corporate policy changes at the last minute were trying to accomplish but at the beginning of embark it caused some tense moments in the embark terminal. Once the wine and champagne was worked out, the rest of the embarkation was smooth and efficient. Day 1: San Diego Touring the Ship: The Norwegian Sun is an older ship in the Norwegian fleet. She had just been in a shortened technical dry dock earlier this year so her carpeting was refreshed and overall she looked amazing. The Sun staff do a remarkable job keeping her looking fresh. Given that it was a music charter, the crew had to remove chairs from venues to make room for dancing. Dazzles tables and chairs were emptied out and so were the chairs on the main floor in the theater. The remaining chairs in the theater were covered with plastic sheeting to protect them from any spills. The observation lounge was transformed into a chill lounge with a large blow up igloo. It fit nicely into the lounge and made for some great late night relaxing moments. The pool deck was transformed into a dance venue with production equipment featuring LED walls, sound and lighting. The Great Outdoors venue was cleared of tables and chairs mostly to allow for dancing as the sunset sessions and after hours stages were located here. Stateroom: Oceanview 7007: The ocean view cabin was in great shape. Everything functioned as it should. The cabin steward did a great job of keeping it tidy. A bar of soap was provided in the bathroom besides the normal body wash and shampoo dispenser located in the shower. Due to the previous cruise taking longer to disembark, it put getting the pool stage setup behind schedule. Once it was setup music for the day could be found from Dannic, Thomas Newson and Bamboora. By night the ship transformed itself into a wonderland of glow and glitter as the night’s theme was Shine! This theme is always amazingly creative but always makes me feel bad for the crew as glitter is everywhere! Tonight’s main entertainment featured the sounds of Solidisco, Feenixpawl, EDX and Dancetronauts in the main theater. Other venues on the ship going at night included the casino and the silent disco in Las Ramblas. Day 2: SEA DAY Sleep is hard to come by on Groove Cruise. If you’re getting too much sleep then you’re not doing it right. After about 4 hours of sleep it was time to start day 2 of GC and head to the on-going after hours located at the Great Outdoors with sounds from Pirupa, Mendo and Jaime Narvaez. A standard breakfast buffet was served in the buffet. The main pool stage started up around 11AM with the sounds of Kristina Sky. The day would continue under the sun with the sounds of Kryder and Tom Starr back to back along with Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano. The fun really started when the sunset with live beats from Goldfish who played saxophone right on the pool deck with the beats. This set was amazing! EDX and Antonio Giacca wrapped up the pool deck stage. At 3PM, a giant Twister game was in the sports court. It had a lot of attendees and was a ton of fun. Since it overlooked the pool stage in the basketball court, you were not out of ear shot or visual site of all the action going on poolside. Day time theme was Baby Blue & Pink Party (wear blue or pink). Once the sun had set it was time for the theater to get going along with Dazzles Disco and the Silent Disco in Las Ramblas. Tonight’s entertainment featured the sounds of Bamboora, Thomas Newson, Dannic, Paris and Simo, Monoky, Lujan, Doc Brown & many more supporting artists. The theater was the hopping venue for the night until it closed about 5AM. Tonight’s night theme was dress up like your favorite Celebrity. Many unofficial themes would be had this night. I dressed up as a Minion because they’re a celebrity too! Day 3: CABO SAN LUCAS – DAY 1 After grabbing about four hours of sleep, I rejoined the last couple of hours at the Great Outdoors where the Abyss by Incorrect had moved to. During the early morning hours until Noon featured the music of Anthony Attalla and Cocodrills. Since our arrival was scheduled for Noon into Cabo, there was a few hours of music provided poolside by DMorse and Doc Brown. Doc Brown continued to play pool side until 3PM – well beyond our arrival into Cabo. The party then moved off the ship to ME Cabo. This beach resort hotel had an expansive pool space. Extra equipment was brought in to make it a party for Groove Cruise and it went from 1PM until Midnight with the sounds of Scotty Boy, Croatia Squad, Jonas Blue, Robin Schulz, Denney, Sian and DUBFIRE who was the lead for the night party. The all day theme was Groove Cruise 3000 but it turned more into a pool party day and night. After midnight the party moved to Breathless Cabo which was closer to the tender pier. The night kicked off with the sounds of Lavelle Dupree and continued with Shaun Frank, Dean Mason and featured artist Lost Kings. Between the two venues, I liked the layout of Breathless Cabo more. Less guests went to the Breathless party as there was also an after hours going on the ship. Abyss by Incorrect this night featured the sounds of Toolroom artists Weiss, Mark Knight, Prok and Fitch and closed out with Sydney Blu. DAY 4: CABO The party moved back to the ship around 4AM but I returned about 2AM. When I woke up, Prok and Fitch was still playing at the Great Outdoors. The pool deck stage got going around 11AM and stayed active until the ship weighed anchor and headed back for San Diego. The biggest entertainer of the afternoon was Fedde LeGrand. Since it was Halloween Day, it was Halloween costumes both day and night for the themes. Tonight was the best night of the cruise in my opinion. Trance all night in the Stardust Theater from Adam Scott, Kristina Sky, Orjan Nilsen, Gareth Emery and Super 8 & Tab. It was an amazing night in the theater with friends both old and new on Groove Cruise. Gareth Emery’s set was everything in the world that night. Loved every last minute of it. Orjan Nilsen through down a mean set as well. Kristina Sky is an up and coming artist from the West Coast and her sets are just amazing. It’s my third time experiencing her style on Groove Cruise. DAY 5: SEA DAY Technically the day began a midnight when I was still in the theater until about 4AM. The day began with the Devils and Angels daytime theme only Mother Nature was not cooperating as it was cold, windy and not so sunny. After hours was again on the back deck at the Great Outdoors as it was the most sheltered from the wind. The wind would mess up the main pool stage as well and cause removal of the LED walls. The wind didn’t stop us! Klingande’s playground was on the chilly pool deck all afternoon and while the theme may have been devils and angels, people resorted to onesies to keep warm but still dance. Afternoon beats included sets from Solidisco, Moon Boots, Klingande, SNBRN, Shaun Frank and Stanton Warriors. After a lovely dinner in the mid-ship Four Seasons main dining room, it was time to grab some serious sleep! Sleep is hard to come by on Groove Cruise and you must get some sleep before disembark day. I slept until 2:30AM and got up to catch the last of Audien’s set in the theater before heading upstairs to the Great Outdoors for the closing classics party with Chocolate Puma, DJ Dan and lastly DSK CHK as we were tying up the ropes to the pier in San Diego. DAY 6: DISEMBARK Foreign guests were required to go to the Observation Lounge between 6A and 8A to present themselves to customs. Some guests were not paying attention and this caused delays for everyone else trying to get off the boat. Since the music had stopped, some guests had gone back to their cabin and fell asleep. Disembarkation took much longer than anticipated running well after 11AM. When I did finally get off the ship and clear customs, the lines had abated. NCL did the best they could with disembark given how sleep deprived the guests were. SUMMARY Overall this review was more about the Groove Cruise experience instead of an actual review of the Norwegian Sun. Groove Cruise has many ways to save including the usage of codes like GCVIRGIN which help both new and returning guests. The crew on the Sun were happy to see us and had a blast right alongside us. Service was amazing the whole trip from the dining room to bar staff to guest services. While the food served in the Four Seasons main dining room was a bit salty sometimes, the new fleet menu had various tasty selections. Crew members who were not generally working because the cruise ship did not need production cast, other entertainers and youth counselors were out and about and being helpful for a few hours a day. You would see them with us having a great time too! Minus the Norwegian Cruise Line corporate office trying to change the wine and champagne policy for charters and changing the policy about the soda package on charters, Groove Cruise Cabo was a great success! In case you did not know the Groove Cruise sails twice a year, West Coast in October and Miami in January! Looking forward to the next Groove Cruise! Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
I try to sail on a HAL ship once every 2 years. I normally go to the Mexican Riviera in the winter to use their excellent thermal suite and work out equipment. I consider it my spa week to relax. This was my first time on the Zaandam. ... Read More
I try to sail on a HAL ship once every 2 years. I normally go to the Mexican Riviera in the winter to use their excellent thermal suite and work out equipment. I consider it my spa week to relax. This was my first time on the Zaandam. I liked the layout of the ship; smaller than most but not crowded even though it was Easter break week. We ( my son and I ) were upgraded to a partial blocked outside cabin, 3383. This was not an upgrade. The cabin was large but from the moment we entered I knew we would have a problem. The diesel fuel smell in the cabin was overwhelming and the A/C was hardly working. We immediately called downstairs; they said the smell would go away when we started sailing and sent someone up to look at the A/C. The repair man came up and said that the cabin was hot and that they would adjust it downstairs. We went off to sign up for the thermal suite package and I did not think about it again. When we came back to the cabin after dinner the smell was still bad and the A/C was still not working well. Our cabin steward apologized and got us a fan. He did what he could but he looked like this was not the first time this cabin had a problem. I tried to sleep with the fan blowing the fumes in my face. At 1 am I gave up; I had a terrible headache from the fumes and felt sick to my stomach. I went to the front office and asked if there was anywhere I could sleep. The lady said ; sorry we are completely booked. She was sorry I was sick from the cabin fumes but there was no room in the inn. I offered to sleep in the infirmary, I just needed some sleep and some clean air. No the infirmary was closed. So I told her I would sleep in the library. I went up and slept on the library couch for 2 hours, woke up without the headache and went back to my smelly cabin. The smell did get better the next day, the A/C never did and after 2 days of asking for help we gave up and kept the fan going. The toilet in the cabin worked most of the time; only had to have it fixed 2x. Avoid this cabin. The rest of the trip was fun. Went on the whale watching trip and saw a couple of whales ( the end of March is really too late in the season). We enjoyed the thermal suite and worked out everyday on the new equipment. We spent some time in the casino , contributing to the casino's retirement fund. The casino manager was great. The comedian , Dan Grueter was wonderful and we were sad that he only did one show. The singers and dancers were good and did their best with the small stage and the simple sets. We enjoyed the cooking demo, the computer classes and the DJ in the Crow's nest. We ate in the lido restaurant for all of our meals. We have done this before on 2 other cruises with HAL and normally we found the food there to be as good as the dining room . But not this time, HAL's food quality is slipping. Overall, we had a nice time. But for me the quality of service was seriously lacking. When you are paying so much for a room on a ship ; you should be able to sleep in your room and not the library couch. I was too tired and had too bad a headache to care. I wish someone on the HAL staff could have cared a little more. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We booked an inside cabin and had the opportunity to upgrade, several weeks before the beginning of the cruise (for a fee). We chose to upgrade to an outside cabin on the Dolphin deck (1879). It was a wonderful cabin, large with a window ... Read More
We booked an inside cabin and had the opportunity to upgrade, several weeks before the beginning of the cruise (for a fee). We chose to upgrade to an outside cabin on the Dolphin deck (1879). It was a wonderful cabin, large with a window and bathtub. It was noisy as they were loading the ship, as a cargo door was just below the cabin. After sailing, we didn't hear a peep in our cabin, except for the last night when the crew was positioning luggage or other cargo right below us. This was the smallest ship we have sailed on, so we were a bit hesitant; however, in the end, the ship didn't fee small. In fact, the ship was among our favorites. Our summary of the cruise is as follows: Pros: -Nice ship, with big cabins -Crow's Nest is a great space, and we loved 70's, 80's and Michael Jackson nights -Pool area at the back of the ship is wonderful, although we like that it was adults only on the Oosterdam -Loved the overnight in Puerto Vallarta. We didn't have to rush to get back to the ship. Cabo is also great and we could walk to the beach. -Generally good food, with excellent food at Pinnacle Grill, for $20 a head -Scheduled LGBT event, but not hosted -Nice big and well-equipped gym although staff could have been better at ensuring a better sense of decorum from other passengers (shirtless and barefoot people working out) -HAL cats were great; loved the Adagio Duo -Photographers weren't in your face -Made extra efforts to accommodate Passover for Jewish passengers Cons: -Service a bit spotty at times. The host seating people for dinner always looked confused and never acknowledge your presence (line was a mad house). The restaurant seemed a bit under staffed. -Tea was nice, but it took 20 minutes every day to clear the line, as they were seating one by one. There never seemed to be enough food, and once again, it was under staffed. -No place to jog on the ship, except the treadmills -Invisible cruise director and no staff -Didn't use the spa services as they don't have male masseurs All and all, a lovely week. We would definitely sail on the Zaandam again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
The Big Easy is a salute to New Orleans. I couldn't believe how much energy the performers brought to the stage and the production values that are invested in the show: pyrotechnics, dynamic lighting, multiple sets and costumes. The ... Read More
The Big Easy is a salute to New Orleans. I couldn't believe how much energy the performers brought to the stage and the production values that are invested in the show: pyrotechnics, dynamic lighting, multiple sets and costumes. The ten-piece band is even blocked into some of the scenes and everyone has a rollicking good time. You've got to see the "House of the Rising Sun" scene with it's dancing bats, explosions, and aerial vocals. The jazz show band: piano, drums, bass, guitar, trombone, two trumpets, and three saxes, give a memorable performance whether in the pit, on stage, or in the lounges when the theater is dark. There's even an opportunity for karaoke cruisers to sing with the band. The Nouveau Steakhouse is worth every bit of the $30 surcharge. Climb a glass staircase above the grand atrium and you enter the dining room below a glass-paneled ceiling at the top of the ship. It's the most exclusive space on board. The food is not cooked before you sit down and the service is impeccable. They've added an adults-only pool area at the back of the Lido deck with basket-weave cabanas. There are two new water slides, one that launches you vertically by dropping the floor away. The cruise director, Stu Dunn, is a hoot. He is a fountain of funny stories and a master at finding new ways and reinvigorating old ways for cruisers to have fun on board. We took a Mexican Riviera cruise: Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and Ensenada, but the Spirit is relocating to Australia. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
The first time we did a cruise it was a 9-day Mexican Riviera on the Spirit. This time it was on the Spirit again, but with the 5 kids ages 16, 15, 15, 13, and 12. Also with 3 grandparents, 2 nieces, and 1 sister-in-law. My wife and two ... Read More
The first time we did a cruise it was a 9-day Mexican Riviera on the Spirit. This time it was on the Spirit again, but with the 5 kids ages 16, 15, 15, 13, and 12. Also with 3 grandparents, 2 nieces, and 1 sister-in-law. My wife and two girls stayed in room 4195 which was on level 4 with french doors and an obstructed view. We could see a little between the life boats in this room. Having fresh air is a MUST for me when I cruise. I love to have the door open at night to hear the sounds and smell the air. The Spirit allows for this pretty cheaply with the obstructed view. You can't walk out on to anything, but you do get the fresh air. When researching I noticed that manly of Carnival's ships don't have this obstructed view. You can get a window down lower, but the window doesn't open. The room had the double twin beds pushed together with a Pullman style bed pulled down and the couch made up as a bed. My 13 and 12 year old daughters occupied these. There is PLENLY of enough storage room in the cabin. Between the two closets with hangers, the wardrobe thing, the drawers, and under the bed we had more than enough room. I should have brought additional hangers though. My three sons, 16, 15, and 15 were 2 doors down from us in two twin beds separated and a Pullman style bed above the couch. Two grandparents and a niece were on level 4 as well, but further down and had a balcony. The sister-in-law and another niece where farther down on the opposite side. They were in an accessible cabin. She had a scooter type wheelchair. This room was plenty wide enough at the front door and the bathroom door. There is extra room in the cabin and bathroom. She had a window that didn't open with an obstructed view as well. This was GREAT for her and allowed her to cruise. There are a very limited number of these rooms, PLEASE don't book one of these unless you really use the wheelchair to get around. The last grandparent was up on the 8th level in an extended balcony cabin. It did have an adjoining door that locked. The sound came through the door a little and the neighbors where noisy from time to time, but this grandparent was hearing impaired so it didn't matter. This room was the same type of room my wife and I had the first time we cruised on the Spirit. We did not have a locked adjoining door in our room and never heard our neighbors. If it were me I would try not to get an adjoining door if I didn't need it. I am sure that you will find the rooms basically the same for all the Spirit class ships (Spirit, Pride, Legend, and Miracle) Well that is the room report and experience. Being a spring break cruise it had good parts and bad parts. Firstly, and most importantly, being spring break we were actually able to go on the cruise seeing the kids had school. Another good thing was that the kids has plenty of "friends" to play with in Club O2 and Circle C. Club O2 is for 15 to 17 year olds and Circle C is for 12 to 14 year olds. The kids were able to check themselves in and out of there as they wanted to and used it as they wanted to. The bad thing about spring break were all the college age kids getting smashed and puking on the decks. Ok, I only saw that once. But the college age kids seemed to think everything was about them and were often rude in their behaviors. They were crazy down on the beach in Cabo San Lucas. One of the kids workers told me that security was caught off guard the first few nights with they college kids and that they were "out of control." It wasn't a drunken orgy fest, but it kicked the stress factor up a little and made the cruise a little less relaxing. The shows were ok, nothing super special, but you can find some good stuff according to your taste. They really push this big New Orleans dance thing that I really didn't like, nor did anyone else in my group. I didn't like it the first time I saw it on the last cruise. They need to come up with something else. The direct service staff couldn't have been better. The room steward was great and from the first meeting he knew who we were and called us by our names. He must have studied the security photos they take when we get on, or he has a GREAT memory. Andrea in the dinning room and Putu her assistant where the BEST. My kids wanted her to come home with us. I feel like whatever I write will not do her justice. If you are on the Spirit get seated for breakfast or lunch with tall Andrea from Romania. We purchased quite a bit of Inch of Gold in the shops. I know it isn't all gold, but it looks just as good, it is stronger and much cheaper. No gambling this time, we lost too many quarters on our first cruise. The ship recently came out of dry dock for some upgrades. Things added in the year since our first cruise? The new 21 or older only Serenity area. This is out on the old fantail back deck. They said they don't even allow kids to go find their parents there. They have to send a message with a crew member. There is a new water slide that is very exciting. You get in this vertical tube that closes, you hear this count down from 3, then the bottom drops open, you get "flushed," you circle around in this tube (out over the edge of the boat) and end up in a landing area. One of the crew members told me it is the fastest water slide on any cruise line. There is also a whole water experience up where this slide is. Lot of water splashing around with buckets dumping for the kids. I am sure more things where done to the ship, but nothing that I noticed. The food was good during our dinning time and in the buffet area. Better than I normally eat at home. I am NOT a food snob so everything, except the scrambled eggs on the buffet, was great. We didn't do the Carnival soda program and that was fine as our family only drinks water at home. You get lemonade, unsweetened tea, water, hot tea, and coffee anytime of they day. You get fake orange juice and some other corn syrup juices at breakfast in the buffet area. You can get real juice in the sit down dinning room. This ship does not have a movie theater. I understand some of the larger classes of Carnival ships have outdoor movies. This is something that I would enjoy. Come September the Spirit is headed to Australia, never to return so if you are going to cruise on it you better do it soon. The Pride is out of Baltimore, and the Legend and Miracle are out of Florida. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We had a good time on this cruise - not a spectacular time, but a good and relaxing time. We were aboard the Spirit for this same cruise last September and had a wonderful time. After learning the Spirit is moving to Australia later ... Read More
We had a good time on this cruise - not a spectacular time, but a good and relaxing time. We were aboard the Spirit for this same cruise last September and had a wonderful time. After learning the Spirit is moving to Australia later this year, we decided to repeat the cruise. We purchased future cruise certificates while on board and received a great rate from our PVP so we booked this cruise immediately after returning home. This was our tenth Carnival cruise. We flew in from Kansas City on the 15th. We originally had reservations at the Holiday Inn directly across from the cruise terminal but our sons came down from Los Angeles for dinner and there were no more rooms available so we changed to the Residence Inn which is also very close to the cruise terminal. The hotel shuttle picked us up at the airport and provided transportation to the ship on the 16th. The Residence Inn is a good hotel. We had dinner on the 15th at Il Fornaio on Coronado Island - it was very good. Since our sons were with us, we were in no hurry to board on the 16th, so we had lunch at Anthony's. The service was very good and the food was okay - maybe a little expensive for the amount of fried seafood we received, but hey, it's San Diego and on the water - nice view. Embarkation - We last cruised from San Diego in 2008 and were expecting to embark at the new cruise terminal but embarkation occurred at the old terminal. We heard several stories about the new terminal - it was too small, they ran out of money, so we don't know. A HAL ship was also embarking so it was a bit confusing. There was a Carnival VIP line but then it merged with the normal Carnival & HAL lines to get through security. Once through security, things moved very quickly until we arrived at the line for the welcome aboard photograph and then the line to activate your sign & sail card which was taking place on the dockside rather than on the ship. All in all, it took about an hour and fifteen minutes to board after arriving around one o'clock. As first-time platinum cruisers we were handed VIP express signs which were basically useless - we just stood in line. Perhaps had we arrived earlier - say at 11am or so, platinum status would have been helpful. Our PVP had pre-arranged for a wheel chair for my wife but she didn't need it. I am not sure if the VIP luggage tags made a difference, but when we arrived at our cabin two of our bags were already there and the third arrived shortly. A room steward passing by told us that "somebody likes you." The ship looked great, we thought. We were in the same cabin (5124) we had been in during September and it was very clean. It was an extended balcony which is what we normally travel in on Spirit class ships. During the last evening when the Carnival legends show began we could faintly hear the music from the Pharaoh theater. We thought the crew did a great job of keeping the ship clean throughout the cruise. The muster drill went by smoothly and quickly and we were on our way pretty much on time. We had dinner the first night in the Steakhouse and it was very good. We even thought the service had improved over the excellent service we received during September. We had crab cake, lobster bisque, lobster ravioli, and cheesecake. They still provide a complimentary bottle of wine with dinner during the first evening. When we made our reservations on line, we requested a specific table and Dora honored that request. We also bought a wine package of 8 bottles for $208 which included the 15% gratuity. Carnival has changed their wine selection - many of the lower priced bottles have screw-off tops rather than corks. Some of the selections are okay and some just so-so. The weather during the first two sea days was overcast and windy so we spent most of our time on the balcony relaxing, reading, and sleeping. Once we arrived at Manzanillo the weather was fantastic. My wife had knee replacement surgery during January so we weren't very active - only briefly leaving the ship in Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo - we did enjoy our time on the sun deck. Throughout the cruise, there was never any difficulty finding deck chairs. At Ensenada, we took the scenic coast or golden coast tour which consisted of a 45 mile or so drive up the Baja coast. It was inexpensive and a good tour to just see the countryside. There was a nice one hour stop at a seaside restaurant. We found the San Adreas fault area interesting. We thought that for the most part, the food was pretty good. There were a couple of occasions the food seemed cold. We dined during the 8:15 seating and it seemed as though it was left over from the early seating - I don't know. Our black bean enchiladas seemed "dried out" as if they had been under a warming light. The last night, I ordered prime rib and my wife ordered the mac n' cheese. Niether of the entrees was very good. The prime rib almost tasted as though it had been canned meat. However, all the starters were very good. Our wait staff team was very attentive. Overall, however, we were pleased with the food. Our breakfast and lunch meals in the Lido and main dining room were good. The more I cruise, the easier I am to please when it comes to food - I ate a hot dog for lunch twice and a turkey wrap sandwich twice as well. The lido buffet did become quite hectic on the last sea day before Ensenada and then for lunch at Ensenada as people were returning to the ship. Our table was a booth for four. We were surprised how many vacant tables there were during the late seating - I saw at least six tables for two that seemed to be vacant during the entire cruise. I would imagine anyone requesting a table for two during late seating should be able to have one. We were surprised at the demographics during this cruise. We thought of this cruise as a "spring break" cruise but there weren't that many young people aboard - maybe because it was 9 days. The ship generally didn't feel crowded. We tipped both our wait staff and cabin steward's team in addition to the auto-tips. We thought the entertainment was pretty good. There was a very good two person reggae/steel-drum type combo playing on the lido deck that we really enjoyed. One night the regularly scheduled show was cancelled due to electrical problems and another show substituted. Debarkation was a breeze. Platinum cruisers met in the Sports Bar at 8:30am and we were off the ship and through customs in 15 minutes. I was surprised they didn't ask for any ID. Once again, this was a good cruise and a good vacation at a fantastic price. There were a few glitches but nothing to spoil a cruise. Our next cruise is on the Carnival Miracle repositioning cruise from New York through the Panama Canal next March. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
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
Our first cruise was 7 years ago and now it seems that we are taking a cruise almost every year since this cruise on Holland America was cruise #8. Since we live in California, it's easy for us to board in Los Angeles or San Diego ... Read More
Our first cruise was 7 years ago and now it seems that we are taking a cruise almost every year since this cruise on Holland America was cruise #8. Since we live in California, it's easy for us to board in Los Angeles or San Diego and less expensive since we are not dealing with the flights to get us back east for a Caribbean cruise which is next on my list.Well I scoured several sights and found Holland America to be very reasonable with the pricing and it had some decent reviews so I figured I had nothing to lose right? Well my husband wanted Norwegian but we had already been on that ship 2x and Royal pulled out of the area so I convinced my husband about trying a new ship and what a great deal I was getting $$Where we disappointed? HECK NO! Where do I start?1. The kids resisted going to Club Hal first and of course Grandma did not want us to dump the kids, but I told her not to worry the kids would be ok and guess what? After that 1st night they were hooked and did not want to be with us! They wanted to be at the kids club and reluctantly joined us for lunch/dinner when the club closes.2. The buffet was tasty. Do you ever go on cruises were the food is ok and you are just counting down for the dining room to open? Well we don't have that concern on this ship. Sure there might be a few things left out from the buffet but we hardly noticed.3. Beverage Cards - One for alcohol and one for soft drinks..Bigger savings on the soft drinks and I was advised to buy only one for all of us to use. On other cruise ships, I have been advised to buy one for each member of our party (rip-off!!)4. FOOD, oh wait I already mentioned that one. The only thing I would not do again would be the cupcake tea time.5. Movie theater was comfortable and they had the popcorn bags out :)The cons:1. Casino, the way they handle the payouts is confusing. I felt liked I needed 101 classes on how to get the payouts and there wasn't much help.2. Deals on the pictures - too expensiveI'm definitely a fan of Holland America, they keep it classy and I'm glad that they avoid having the waiters sing and dance , well they did have them do it one night but it was just waiving the napkins. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
I want to relate on what a great cruise we had when at one point just a few years ago, we were unsure if we would ever be able to take extended vacations again due to my 6 y/o's epilepsy and autistic conditions. I originally ... Read More
I want to relate on what a great cruise we had when at one point just a few years ago, we were unsure if we would ever be able to take extended vacations again due to my 6 y/o's epilepsy and autistic conditions. I originally booked through the travel agency through USAA, but then found out about a program geared toward travelers like my son called Autism on the Seas. They can be reached at www.autismontheseas.com. Through this program, they took care of everything including priority embarkation, private muster drill away from the large crowds, private dining table in a quiet corner of the dining room, coordination with the ships medical staff regarding the condition and camp carnival. We arrived a day early into San Diego and settled into our favorite hotel, Best Western Island Palms, which is located on quiet Shelter Island. We were able to do the snooze and cruise package and took the hotel shuttle to the ship at 11:30am. 15 minutes later we got in the handicapped area and were immediately assigned a person to take us through the line. As our son is autistic, he is not the best in handling long lines. We were able to get to the front of the line and then we were handed off to another Carnival employee who got us our pictures taken and then escorted on to the ship. Once onboard, we met with a woman (Alena) from guest services who was aware we were coming. She gave us a private safety drill and took us to our muster station and then guided us to our room. We were in our room by 12:30. We met our room steward (Xiomara) who was very friendly and related our requests (extra bathrobe, ice, clearing out the refrigerator, etc) and she gave us her phone number and times she would be available. I gave her a prepaid Amex card as a tip upfront. We then went to the Lido deck and grabbed lunch on the pool deck. There was a 2 peice raggai band playing and they were good. We then went to Camp Carnival at the front of deck 5 to get our son checked in to the program. We met Leeann from South Africa who was the director. My son gave her a hug and kiss right away. They were already aware of his condition thanks to the communications beforehand by Autism on the Seas. Even though he was 6, our son was able to be with the 2-5 kids there. We were also issued an onboard cell phone to use while onboard. That way they could communicate with us if anything was wrong and also we were able to use this anywhere in the ship to keep tabs on each other. It was nice to not have to use walkie talkies even though we had brought them. We had the early seating at the Empire Dining Room. We were greeted by the Maitre D who showed us to our area in the back corner of the dining room next to a large window. This was nice as our son can get noisy at restaurants, but the secluded location was also calming for him too. We were intorduced to our dining staff of Nina (Bulgaria) and Jasmina(Macedonia) who were some of the kindest and detailed people I have ever met. They knew that we had a special needs child onboard and treated him like a king. They had his meal already set up (chicken fingers and french fries). They were very good at what they did in that the women at the table were greeted first and orders taken and then the men. The ordering was always done over the shoulder and not across the table. The meal choices were very tasty and I ordered double portions on 2 evenings. We were also able to have our unfinished bottle of wine held over to the next night. The following day, our son became sea sick from the motion of the ship. I ran into Nina who was serving lunch and she asked me about our son by name and I told her that he was sea sick. She said that apple sauce is a good cure and that's what the crew eats when queasy. She said that apple sauce was not on the menu, but would have the kitchen specially prepare it for our son each meal. That was the trick as he did great from then on. This was the first time that I had ever gone with a balcony stateroom and when I was offered an upgrade due to trying to get my fare repriced (fare on our cabin had dropped quite a bit), I was offered a catagory 8k extended balcony. Unfortunately, that was under the Lido deck so I initially passed and then I checked Carnival's site again to see what cabins were available for upgrade. On the Spirit class ships, there are about 5-6 cabins on the port side that have a storeroom for the cabin stewards next to them. As a result, there is no stateroom there and the resultant balcony space behind the storeroom is available for the 2 adjoining rooms. My balcony was approximately 30 feet long by 6 feet wide. We had 2 lounge chairs, 3 regular chairs and 2 tables. That is the most you can have without getting a suite. We spent a lot of time out there. I brought some bungee cords to hold the door open when we were out there. (Just don't open the inside door at the same time as you will develop a wind tunnel). Before our trip, I contacted John Heald, who is the senior cruise director for Carnival. I asked him if he could arrange a special photo op for our son and some of the ship's officers. Our son loves people in uniform and that would be a cherished event for him. John quickly agreed and set that in motion. Our first day onboard, we received a phone call from guest services that the Captain wanted to meet with our son and gave us some times that evening he would be available on the atrium deck. We got a great picture of the Captain, Hotel Director, and our son. The Captain related that he had seen other autistic kids really light up with that kind of encounter and he wanted to do this. The Hotel Director later told me that the ship wanted to do something special for our son and had me take my camera card to the photo lab and they would print out the pics we had taken with the Captain and Fun Ship Freddy and had them blown up to 8x10 and signed and presented to us in leather portfolios along with a large Fun Ship Freddy stuffed animal signed by each of the counselors at Camp Carnival. We had 2 days in Cabo and did the Exclusive Beach Resort the first day and I went scuba diving the second. They have a great dolphin program that we will do next time. It was crowded in town as we had a NCL ship along with the Splendor also moored along side of us. The entertainment was superb. I really enjoyed the show band who had a lot of power and was very musically adept. The dancers sometimes seemed out of sync, but we were really impressed by the band and singers. The adult comedy onboard was very funny. The Versailles lounge was always crowded. I did the Fun Behind the Scenes tour on the last sea day. A little pricey at first, but well worth the money. Our guide Melita, was a a staff trainer so she had extensive knowledge of all areas of the ship. The tour was highlighted by visits to the engineering control room and the bridge with a personalized picture with the Captain standing at the helm. I was disappointed (only bad thing on this ship) with the condition of some of the fitness machines. Several of the cardio machines were missing parts or needed other repairs. We were set to be docked by 7 am on Friday morning, and I arose early at 5am to watch us pull in. I noticed that we had turned to the left and were now going at high speed. I switched on the channel on the tv that shows the position and track and saw that we were now heading at 20kts going due west into deep water. That told me that there was an emergency going on (another ship in distress or a tsunami). I turned on CNN and saw the devastation in Japan and the warnings for the West Coast of the US. The best place to be in a tsunami is in deep water. The Captain did not make his first announcement until 6:30 and made regular announcements thereafter along with the CD to assure us that we were not in any danger and inviting us to relax and we could stay in our state rooms instead of packing out for debarkation. They played a movie in the Versailles Lounge and put CNN on in the main theatre. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
The Oosterdam is still a great modern ship, but it is looking a bit shopworn is both the public areas and the cabins, mostly just minor cosmetic stuff, lots of nicks and dents, missing tiles and tattered furnishings that need to be ... Read More
The Oosterdam is still a great modern ship, but it is looking a bit shopworn is both the public areas and the cabins, mostly just minor cosmetic stuff, lots of nicks and dents, missing tiles and tattered furnishings that need to be repaired or replaced. It didn't help that we had to leave a note on the first day for the room steward to please vacuum all the crumbs off of the carpeting from the previous occupants and to replace the torn shower curtain that was laying on the bottom of the tub. We finally met our invisible room steward on the fourth day and he was never seen again the entire cruise!!! The food and service were excellent on this voyage, despite three days of Code Red (no self service) which is a big pain for both the passengers and crew. The Pinnacle Grill always exceeds our expectations in both food and service, it is well worth the extra charge. The spa continues to be one of the Oosterdam's highlights and really adds that extra bit of relaxation to make you feel that life is a pleasure. Our main complaint (as with many fellow passengers) was that we went to Mazatlan on this voyage while every other cruise line including Carnival had cancelled it. What were they thinking???...a military helicopter and many many soldiers with big machine guns did not make us feel secure enough to get off the ship when the TV news had stories of more violence the day before. Only the passengers that had tours were brave enough to get off and it mostly seemed like a sea day onboard in this wasted port of call. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Just got back from the Oosterdam Mexican Riviera cruise... had a GREAT time... sad that it's over. Traveled with my mom (in her 60's) and my ten year old daughter. We were in an SY cabin. We have one other cruise under our ... Read More
Just got back from the Oosterdam Mexican Riviera cruise... had a GREAT time... sad that it's over. Traveled with my mom (in her 60's) and my ten year old daughter. We were in an SY cabin. We have one other cruise under our belt... Alaska with Holland America (three years ago). I REALLY appreciated the reviews from the other guests who have taken this cruise, so I vowed to write one when we got back. I'm not a witty writer, so this will have to do. Pre-Curise: Did priceline.com for 4 star room... got Westgate in downtown for $86 with all fees. Great hotel, great location. I love to priceline 4 star hotels in big cities... get to stay at really nice places at great rates.Embarkation: Arrived at 11:30. Went smoothly. Room was ready when we got on board at 12:00. We were seated for our Mariner's brunch by 12:30. Luggage was a little slow getting to our room, but hey, we're on vacation... no problem with us. We signed up for unlimited laundry and loved it. We filled a bag almost daily. Clothes came back same day (when given to steward by 9:00 am) even though they told us it could be up to 48 hours. The clothes were clean and pressed. Vista Dining Food: Wow! Really exceeded my expectations. I thought the food was OK on our last cruise, but this food was great! We are all picky eaters, but there was always something for each of us to eat. We even stretched ourselves to try new things since it's all "free." Some don't enjoy the master dinner on the last night due to the silliness/dancing, but we really enjoyed it.Cannaletto: Fun change! We enjoyed our experience and appreciated a different dining option that was "free."Pinnacle Dinner: Again, WOW! Great filet, great desserts, great service (albeit, slow)... nice experience. Would do it again.Room: Loved our SY suite. We had an inside cabin on our first cruise, so our suite felt luxurious. Our balcony looked MUCH larger than the other ship balconies that were in port with us (Disney Wonder, Sapphire Princess, Norwegian Star). We spent hours upon hours sitting on our veranda. Enjoyed many snacks/meals from room service on the Veranda.Kids Club: My daughter enjoyed the kids club every time she went, but she mostly enjoyed being with mom and grandma. All of the staff went out of their way to be kind to her... gave her extra cherries in her Shirley Temple, shared a magic trick, gave her a cute nickname, her stuffed animals were arranged in cute ways, etc...) Videos: Great selection. Had all but one movie we wanted.Entertainment: Loved the magician/comedian. Loved the John Denver singers. Didn't go to any of the performances by the HAL singers/dancers.Puerto Vallarta: Daughter and I did the Canopy Adventure - really fun. I highly recommend this excursion. It was fun to get out of town and into the forest canopy. Came away with about 10 mosquito bites each... bring your bug spray. A shout-out to "team D" who were so fun and professional. Mom did the "Town and Fiesta Tour." She really enjoyed this tour and said the food was great.Cabo: We wanted to do the Dolphin Swim, but it was totally full. Daughter was disappointed, but I just told her that mom should have booked sooner than the day of. We took a glass bottom boat out to El Arco and walked around the pier. Service: Really, what can I say except WOW!! Our room steward, Janji was great... I wish I could take him home with me. The Indonesian staff go out of their way to provide little extras and service with a smile - they are amazing. There were a few "human errors" (a missed room service item, a cappuccino that took too long to come at dinner time), but really, this is to be expected. The number of positives FAR out-weighed the number of human errors.The only bad part of the trip was getting off the boat today. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Pre-hotel stay: We flew in the day before and stayed at the Holiday Inn San Diego on the Bay. They have free airport pick up every ½ hour. Great hotel, and was very nice to see the ship out the window when we woke up the next morning! ... Read More
Pre-hotel stay: We flew in the day before and stayed at the Holiday Inn San Diego on the Bay. They have free airport pick up every ½ hour. Great hotel, and was very nice to see the ship out the window when we woke up the next morning! The hotel is so close you can walk to the port. They do offer free transfers to the port as well, but we chose to walk it was quicker, and all our luggage was easily pulled. Ship: The ship is beautiful, we have traveled on many of the voyager class ships as well as Celebrity and Disney, but I think the Radiance class is my favorite. My husband and I had sailed her to Alaska. I love seeing the ocean all the time from the public areas and the elevators. Food: I thought the food was very good. The Windjammer had lots of variety. The main dining room food was very good this time. Although some of the selections maybe weren't as good as in the past, I think the actually taste was better. Our waiter, Ashley from India was excellent. He always helped steer us to the best choices which I think helped. Seemed like there was more chocolate desserts on this trip, which was lacking the last time we cruised. Only problems with food/dining was that we were at a table for 8 on deck 5 (second deck of dining room). Our table was right inside the door against the back wall and the dining room was very warm every night. Second issue was we were traveling with my parents who live in another state, so this trip was an opportunity to spend time with them. On other cruises we like to sit at large tables with other people, but this time we had hoped for a table with just us. We asked for a table for 8, assuming that with 7 of us, we would have a table to ourselves. Surprisingly on the first night about 15 minutes into the seating they sat an older gentleman with us, who was travelling alone. I would have thought they would put single travelers together, or at least at a table that was a mixture of different people so there would be ample opportunity to meet people. While the gentleman was very nice, it was awkward to have family conversations because we had to keep filling him in on what we were discussing. Thought after the first night he would request a different table, but he didn't so here was there every night. Cabins: We had two cabins next to each other on deck 4, outside cabins, 4052 and 4054. (My parents were in balcony room on deck 7). Our rooms were in a very good locations, only 6 or so rooms from the elevators and Centrum. Very good room steward who was patient with my boy's room. This was our first time with the boys not in a connecting cabin. Guest relations were very happy to give us an extra key for their room. Entertainment: The shows in the theatre were hit and miss. A comedian and magician were very good, but the production shows, and others were just ok. One we thought was horrible was Judy Koba, (sp?) but entertainment is very subjective. The entertainment around the ship was excellent! There was a classical guitar player that was so good every time he played in the Centrum there would be people everywhere listening on all the levels. The Centrum was very busy all the time which was nice, with lots of activities/music and even people dancing. Teen clubs: My kids had an excellent time. The teen program is different than the kids club, not as structured and often times they don't do an activity because there aren't enough kids interested. Therefore, it is very important to go the first night to find other kids their age so they have someone to hang out with all week. My boys met some great kids from England, Scotland, Ohio and California and hung around with them the whole trip. It was Spring Break so there were probably many more teens on board than a normal 10 day sailing, but not so many that it was crazy. There didn't seem to be as many in the younger age groups, of 4-11 years. Sometimes they did the activities, like dodge ball, or just hung out in the teen area, and often around deck 12 in the evening. There was a 1 am curfew on the ship which was nice, so they knew they had to be back by then to avoid getting in trouble. Debarkation: Went very smooth, we had Orange tags and were told to wait in the Deck 5 dining room. We were off the ship by 9:15 or so, very quick to find luggage and get a cab to the airport. All we had to do was turn our form in to customs, they didn't check our passports or anything like on other ships. Ports: Cabo San Lucas - We went to Medondo Beach to Billigans. A lot of fun, the water was a bit cold, but it was a very beautiful beach. The sand on the beach was very coarse. The drinks and food were good but a bit expensive. This was the most expensive of the 3 beaches we went to. This was the most beautiful port, make sure you are on deck when heading into this port, lands end was just gorgeous! Mazatlan - The ship docked at a container area, not pretty by any means. Everyone had to take a free but compulsory tram to the cruise terminal which was about a 3 or 4 minute ride through all the containers. We walked the few blocks to the water taxi to Stone Island. We were the only ones walking that way, so weren't sure if we were going in the right direction, but did find our way. Water taxi is only $2 per person round trip. Once over there we walked just a little bit across some rocks and we were on the beach. Very different from the beach in Cabo, much more primitive and natural, with the sand very fine and dark. I don't remember the name of the restaurant we sat at, but had a few beers and rented a kayak. The waves weren't very big here, but were fun to play in. Water was a bit warmer than in Cabo. Acapulco - We had a tour with Sammy from Tourbyvan. Very good tour, went to all kinds of places here, saw lots of history as well as the markets where the locals shop. He told us a lot of history of the area , he had lived there is whole life and we got to see the cliff divers. I had always wanted to see Acapulco and it was one of the reasons we chose the 10 day trip on Radiance over the 7 day on Mariner. It was kind of sad to see that Acapulco is past its prime. Sammy was telling us how there is 35% unemployment, and that once Cancun was built the tourism really dropped in Acapulco. Many of the hotel chains have pulled out of the city. This was a very hot day when not in the air conditioned van. Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo - We went to Playa La Ropa beach. This was the biggest waves we had of the three beach stops. Beautiful with the ship in the background with the warmest water. We had a lot of fun at this port. We had a few drinks but didn't eat here. We went back to the ship for that. The town of Zihuatanejo was very nice and had some good shopping. Puerto Vallarta - The ship docks directly across from the Walmart and Sam's Club. Very weird to see that out the cabin window! We did go to the Walmart, but didn't see anything worth buying. We took a taxi to the downtown area. It was very nice shopping and we got the best souvenirs here. This was the only overcast day we had the whole trip. The boys chose not to go to the beach that day, I think they were beached out. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
This was a our 7th cruise, our fourth on Royal Caribbean,over a 20 year period. Last year we did a Panama Canal cruise on the Jewel, a Radiance class ship. It was nice after boarding to already know the layout of the ship. This cruise ... Read More
This was a our 7th cruise, our fourth on Royal Caribbean,over a 20 year period. Last year we did a Panama Canal cruise on the Jewel, a Radiance class ship. It was nice after boarding to already know the layout of the ship. This cruise was, as was the cruise on the Jewel, top notch. We love Royal Caribbean and have never had a bad experience on any of their ships. Cruise Detail: CABIN - Our stateroom on the 9th deck was just behind the centrum was very quiet and was convenient to everything. FOOD - We ate in the dining room for every evening meal on the My Time Dining plan. After the third night we joined with three other couples we liked and ate together the rest of the cruise. It was just like the early seating only we got to choose our table mates. We always found food we liked on the menu and in the Windjammer. SERVICE - We would like to make special mention of our waiter and his assistant, Arthur from Peru and Micheline from South Africa. They were the most pleasant and efficient and friendly waiters we ever had on a cruise. They added much enjoyment to our cruise experience. Our cabin steward took care of all our needs. We didn't see him much but didn't need to. ACTIVITIES - One of our main focuses was ballroom dancing. We took every dance class that Joyce and Sam offered. They were excellent teachers and interesting people. We learned some new dances and improved the ones we already knew. Joyce, a music history major in college, also gave a couple of enrichment presentations that we attended. Those were very enjoyable and interesting as well. There were many places to dance on the ship and several different groups to dance to. We got to know the other hard core dancers and formed friendships with them. We especially liked the Sock Hop, which was led by our great cruise director, and dancing to the ships orchestra. I wished the orchestra had been available for more than one night. ENTERTAINMENT - We've heard people complain about the entertainment on other posts but we were extremely pleased. We enjoyed all the shows and the dance bands. The classical guitarist was the best I've ever heard and the Rosario Strings were great as always. We didn't encounter any of the previously reported plumbing problems although there were unpleasant odors in some of the public restrooms. All in all was a great cruise. Kudos to Royal Caribbean for giving us a consistently wonderful cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Holland America's Oosterdam was the perfect vessel for a gorgeous week at sea during our early spring break. My husband and I booked this easy trip online through Holland America and couldn't have found the process any easier. ... Read More
Holland America's Oosterdam was the perfect vessel for a gorgeous week at sea during our early spring break. My husband and I booked this easy trip online through Holland America and couldn't have found the process any easier. Getting going was easy as we drove to San Diego from Phoenix. We used Aladdin Parking and their shuttle was quick and easy, dropping us off right at the pier terminal. Embarkation was not too bad, though we were loading at the same time as Celebrity Constellation and they were a bit late that morning. We stood on the boardwalk in San Diego for about 35 minutes but it was a pretty day and we encountered lively conversation with those around us. Once inside the terminal the wait was a mere 10 minutes and we were onboard for a lunch buffet in no time at all. This was our 15th cruise, but our first on the Oosterdam. We were not disappointed! We were welcomed aboard handsomely and the service continued at an extremely high level throughout the trip. The ship itself is quite nice with a few tiny scratches and smudges here and there. Nothing, absolutely nothing that I would complain about. Our room was clean and we loved having a tub in this balcony room. There was plenty of room for clothing and moving about and our balcony was a good size for us. The crowd aboard this sailing was varied as it was spring break, but filled with a ton of people from Arizona. We enjoyed meeting people of all ages from a 20-somethings to octogenerians. It was a great mix. There were about 300 children aboard but we rarely saw them and when we did they were very well supervised. We actually saw all the little darlings having their picture taken with the captain and it was precious. By the way, this Captain was probably the most visible we have ever sailed with and he had a wonderful way about him. You can tell when a ship is humming along smoothly and people enjoy working for their boss. The satff was so gracious and we commented over and over how lucky we were to be taken care of so beautifully. Food was probably the best we have ever had while cruising; quite similar to Celebrity in many ways. Yum. Yum. Yum. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill one night and had some of the best ribeye steaks we've ever had. (Unfortunately their lunch wasn't as tasty as their dinner.) We truly enjoyed the special dinner in the main dining room on the last night at sea. The waiters danced and prepared our meal tableside and it was both fun and delicious! The Ocean Bar served up some of the tastiest beverages we have tried in recent years and we loved their 3:30 to 4:30 half-price Happy Hour - wow! The daily activities onboard were mostly calm though there were a few intriguing classes offered in the Culinary Center. We used most of our time to read and relax and found the Oosterdam library to be one of the largest we've ever encountered on a ship. That Crow's Nest library/coffee bar is a very nice place to relax and gaze out over the ocean. There were quite a few sightings of whale and dolphin around the ship throughout the week. We did not use the spa facilities this time around but took the tour and found the space to be quite welcoming. One tiny side note here - we were invited to a special brunch for returning Holland America patrons. The service here and the brunch itself was the most disappointing part of the entire cruise. We couldn't figure out why they would not make this a highlight since it was a reward for loyalty.. no idea at all. Other than that tiny hiccup, this was a wonderful cruise on a beautiful ship with an extraordinarily gracious crew and a fine captain as well. We would recommend this ship to anyone searching for a lovely week at sea. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Despite 2 ID checks in less than 30 paces, a baggage check screening, and 5 minutes of signing in for the Sail & Sign cards the total time from being dropped off at the pier entrance to opening our cabin door was less than 20 minutes! ... Read More
Despite 2 ID checks in less than 30 paces, a baggage check screening, and 5 minutes of signing in for the Sail & Sign cards the total time from being dropped off at the pier entrance to opening our cabin door was less than 20 minutes! Although we're experienced cruisers this was our first fantail balcony. As previously noted in other Cruise Critic reviews, there was soot residue in the mornings on the seats and railing. But, for us, only twice in 8 days. At 6pm the stewards start piling the deck chairs up against the railings of the Lido Deck so you have complete privacy from above throughout the night until 7:30am when they unstack the chairs. The fantails are definitely more roomy and offer great views for sunrises, sunsets, and sail-aways. Specialty coffees were reasonable. A tall coffee went for $1.50 (plus 15% grat.) Dinners in the Empire Room were consistently good in quality and taste. The wait for anytime dining (table for 4) was 10 min. or less. Free ice cream sundaes and banana splits were certainly popular on at-sea days. Free drinks with munchies and entertainment on Carnival's repeat guest night was also very popular. Free sushi was offered every evening, as well. Main stage entertainment was above average all week, with the Friday night's song & dance tribute to New Orleans a must see. Music fans will appreciate Carnival adding two additional musicians to the orchestra's normal 8 members. A 10 piece creates a much better sound. Disembarking the 2100+ passengers took a total of about 80 minutes. Well, done Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
This was our second cruise on HAL and our first on a Vista-class ship. Both cruises lived up to HAL's stated mission of creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience, every time, and the two experiences make for complementary observations. ... Read More
This was our second cruise on HAL and our first on a Vista-class ship. Both cruises lived up to HAL's stated mission of creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience, every time, and the two experiences make for complementary observations. Points of comparison: ** The R-class Zaandam provides self-serve laundries. The Vista class ships do not, but do offer several laundry options. Midway through the cruise we availed ourselves of the "all you can cram into a blue fabric bag for 20 bucks" deal, and, as others have noted, it is amazing how much that bag will hold. Although I would expect that midweek must be point of highest demand, the turnaround was amazing. Our underwear and socks were neatly folded, the bundles were wrapped in tissue paper, and the slacks, knit shirts, and t-shirts were all arranged on hangers. It's a small point, but on the whole I would rather have the option of a self-serve launderette. ** I much prefer the dEcor of the Oosterdam. The music/instrument theme of the Zaandam grows tiresome. The ersatz pipe organ in the atrium is a monstrosity. And what's the deal with the Escher etchings in the stairways? For anyone at all prone to motion seasickness, a ship is already a sufficiently unsettling environment that one doesn't need the further disorientation of Escher's spatial anomalies. ** The Explorations Cafe is one of my favorite spots on board a HAL ship. On the Zaandam it is situated on the Upper Promenade deck directly across from the Explorer's Lounge. It is a destination in its own right. As of the Oosterdam's recent drydock, the Explorations Cafe is now part of the Observation deck, where, to my mind, it seems cramped and comes across as an appendage to the Crow's Nest. ** While speaking of the Explorer's Lounge, I must mention how much DW and I appreciate relaxing there and especially enjoying the music of the Adagio Strings (a quartet consisting of two violins, one viola, and one cello). But once again, in our private head-to-head comparison, Zaandam came out ahead. The musicians on our Zaandam cruise were Filipino. Those on the Oosterdam were Polish. Shame on me for indulging a preconception that Europeans would be superior musicians! That prejudice is wrong all by itself, but in this case it was decidedly not true. My recollection of the Zaandam complement is that they engaged their audience, and played enthusiastically and with verve. They had a broad repertoire ranging from classics, to light classics, to show tunes and movie themes and popular tunes (including one especially delightful rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's El Condor Pasa). Their Oosterdam counterparts, by sorry contrast, seemed to unsteady in their command of the English language to engage with the audience, spent long periods of "dead" time deciding what number to play next, and spent inordinate time on breaks. It may just have been our bad luck, but they seemed to be in a pattern of 30 minutes performing (including the long intervals just noted) alternated with 30 minutes on break. They played, at least in our hearing, no show tunes and no popular music, sticking with the old masters peppered with occasional light classics. Considering the nature of their repertoire, heavily weighted toward the classics, I was amazed that they could not perform on request Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, especially given that this is the centennial of Barber's birth and that they perform under the name Adagio Strings. ** The most disappointing point of comparison is with the Thermal Suites. The cost is considerably higher on the Oosterdam. This is no doubt due to the Hydro-Therapy Pool, which Zaandam lacks. I was unimpressed; the Hydro-Therapy Pool looks snazzy but delivers less than a regular Jacuzzi or hot tub. The ceramic loungers are a major attraction, and DW and I spent many blissful hours basking in their radiant heat on the Zaandam but, strangely, they seemed to be under-powered and underwhelming on the Oosterdam. Another factor contributing to the disappointment is their relative placement. The Oosterdam's Thermal Suite faces out a bank of windows on the starboard side. On the Zaandam, the windows wrap around thus affording a spectacular view looking forward, directly under the starboard side of the Crow's Nest. Plus, the Zaandam's Thermal Suite has a door leading outside to a small deck. Even though we were plying our way up and down the Alaska coast, it was glorious to step out, wrapped in the quilted, terry-cloth bathrobe, onto the deck and feel the cool air and smell the sea breeze. If I had it to do over, I would have saved the $249 (thanks to a $50 discount owing to the unavailability of a sauna) on the Oosterdam. In the future we are unlikely to sign up for this option on another Vista-class ship but so long as HAL retains the current configuration of spa facilities on the R-class ships. I will consider the Thermal Suites a great use of my vacation dollars. Other observations, in more or less random order: ** Shore accommodations: Like many cruisers, we are unlikely to book our flights to arrive at the port on the date of embarkation. Given the likelihood of weather delays and other interruptions, we book overnight accommodations. In this case, because of the vagaries of frequent flyer miles, we could not find a return flight until the day after debarkation. So, we had two overnights bookending our cruise. In this case we stayed at the Holiday Inn On the Bay, directly across the street from the cruise terminal. One can't beat it for location. It maintains a continual shuttle service between the Inn and the airport, a scant three miles away. Unfortunately, it is one of approximately 4 Holiday Inns that do so, none of which services the guests of any other. Owing to the high volume of airline crew and cruise pax who frequent the Holiday Inn On the Bay, the shuttle had to skip over our little group waiting with growing impatience at our appointed place, and we stood there 40 minutes while other shuttle buses completed two or even three circuits. The front desk personnel were without exception cordial, pleasant, and helpful. Even though we arrived shortly after 1 o'clock, we were issued a room right away. Upon debarkation we were even earlier at the front desk, but were greeted as if we were old friends and given a room immediately. On the trip in, we were placed in the south tower. It is old and tired. Both in the common areas and in the room it shows a lot of wear and tear. The east tower, where we lodged on the homebound end, was a much different story; not only were the common areas sprucer than the south tower but our room was fresher and more commodious too. ** Embarkation: The Holiday Inn we stayed at is right across the street from the cruise terminal. One of the complimentary services it offers is a curb-to-curb shuttle, which sounds like a major benefit. In actuality, however, it ended up beside the point. Starting in the early morning, the concierge booked timeslots, at 15-minute intervals, on a first-come-first-served basis for any guests who wished to be shuttled across the street. The plan soon went awry, as terminal authorities started turning shuttle buses away from unloading their passengers at the entry to terminal. A long line had formed stretching far down the street, and passengers were told to schlep their stuff to the back of the line. As a result, the Holiday Inn suspended its shuttle service for several hours. DW and I were fortunate to claim a bench in the shaded area in front of the hotel, and watched the slow progress of the line. At about 1:30 in the afternoon, we gave up on the prospect of a shuttle ride, gathered up our gear, and walked over - the equivalent of maybe two city blocks. The line was no longer stretching along the street. We presented our passports and boarding documents at the iron grill that serves as entryway. After passing that inspection, we walked another city block to drop our baggage (two roll-a-boards and one folded up garment bag) with the handlers (whom I tipped $10). A Celebrity ship was onboarding at the same time. We followed the arrows pointing us in the direction of the Oosterdam and were herded (word chosen advisedly and with deliberation) into stalls consisting of two rows of benches facing each other antiphonal style. As these stall would fill up, an official would remove the tape barriers and shepherd us toward the metal detectors, where our persons and carry-on luggage were inspected. At that point we had a Disney World experience. Remember how after waiting and waiting outside for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction you triumphantly turned the corner only to find another maze of stanchions you had to snake your way through? We were given our health questionnaires to fill out, and wended our way through the maze for another 45 minutes until we got to the Promised Land where our passports were scanned, our boarding documents validated, and our keycards issued. The studios photos of the passengers taken at the point of embarkation show that the ordeal took the bloom off the rose for most. We made it to our cabin by 2:30 p.m., which, blessedly, was absolutely ship-shape. I don't remember that the process of embarkation was so protracted and difficult when we boarded the Zaandam in Seattle, but that may be one of the differences with the larger Vista-class vessels. ** Cruise Critic Meet & Greet: Although we got off to a rocky start (the original poster identified our sailing date as March 20, 2009 instead of 2010), our CC roll call became a particularly active one. I think that some enduring friendships will come of it. One of our stalwarts made the necessary arrangements both shoreside and with the Hotel Manager to get the renowned banner out of storage and proudly unfurled for the "traditional" webcam wave at 3 o'clock on embarkation day. (Anyone interested in seeing a webcam screenshot of our wave can check page 16 of our roll call thread at http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1098106&page=16.) The following day, at 11 o'clock Sunday morning, we had a CC meet 'n greet in the Captain's Corner of the Crow's Nest. Many thanks to Jocelyn Larson at HAL Corporate for handling the arrangements for us. We had a full house, with well over 30 people in attendance. It was great fun to meet people we had been openly corresponding with for weeks and even months. It was a little awkward at first to attach real/genuine names to people we knew only under the message board "handles." I'm glad I brought nametags and Sharpies and encouraged everyone to put not only their real names on the tags but also their handles. I have heard reports that it frequently happens that officers join the meet 'n greet; in our case the only staff member to appear was Michael the Future Cruise Consultant. In the future I will organize (or suggest to whoever is organizing the event) a second meet 'n greet for the tail end of the cruise. It would have been great to share experiences and thoughts with each other again at the end. The connection we already felt with each other from the roll call made for an instant community. Even in the congenial precincts of a cruise ship, it's nice to come across familiar faces. ** Special kudos to J.T., our esteemed Cruise Director. He is a fine specimen of a rare breed. Ubiquitous, unflappable, charming and in no way patronizing. Our CC gang formed our own team for the daily trivia challenge in the Crow's Nest, right before Happy Hour. If J.T. had awarded prizes for second place, we would have done well. As it was, we had to find our consolations elsewhere. While we're on the topic of fellow passengers, it's worth noting that this was a spring break cruise. DW and I were sailing at this time because it was spring break week at the university where she teaches. Many others we met were also teachers, at any level, on spring break. And the average age was much lower than on other cruises. Many college-age cruisers were among us, and DW and I enjoyed their company without exception. Finally, I must mention the large number of children on this cruise. I did not encounter or observe any who were obnoxious or obstreperous or insolent or running amok or any of those other things people complain about on the Cruise Critic boards. After an extraordinary evening session of trivia, our team was hanging around in the Queen's Lounge for a bit when the teen youth director came in looking haggard and advised us that the precincts were soon to be overridden with adolescents with their throttles in the full open position. Pleased to heed her warning, we beat a hasty retreat. ** One of the aspects of HAL I appreciate most is that they still accommodate the religious needs of the passengers by offering free passage to a chaplain. In our case the padre was Father Tom Mills, a priest of the Diocese of Halifax in Nova Scotia. He was both a congenial table companion and a first-rate minister of the Gospel. A surprisingly large number of cruisers came together for worship not only on Sunday but also for daily Mass - which made for further community with fellow passengers. ** As You Wish Dining: DW and I prefer open seating. We always instruct the maitre d' to seat us with others. For us the variety of mealtime companions is a major attraction. Not once did we encounter "difficult" tablemates. Conversation flows easily and smoothly (Where are you from? Have you cruised before? Is this your first with Holland America? Tell me about your family.) and it's not difficult to get people to share parts of their story. We are fairly adventurous eaters, but don't have particularly well developed palates. The regular fare in the Lido and the MDR is adequate for our needs and tastes. We appreciate that the MDR chefs maintain the sense of portion control. The portions served in most U.S. restaurants nowadays have gotten grotesque, and have done deadly damage to our sense of what is a regular portion. For the most part we enjoyed the leisurely pace of meals in the MDR. Entertainment: The few shows we attended in the Vista Lounge were pleasantly diverting. The room looks opulent but whole sections of seating are rendered superfluous because pillars obstruct what should be normal sight lines. I would gladly have enjoyed the Adagio Strings more, but I discuss them above. We have no complaints, however, with the prodigious artistry and showmanship of the man starring in the Piano Bar. His repertoire is vast, so much so that requests for the old standards/favorites, even when granted, are greeted with sighs of exasperation. But the teasing is given and generally taken all in good fun. Rarely was there an empty seat in the Piano Bar while he was holding forth. Maintenance and overall condition: To my relatively untrained eye, except for the Thermal Suites (see above), the ship was in fine condition and order. I am always impressed to observe how crew members are forever scrubbing, swabbing, varnishing, painting, and polishing. We spent far more of our waking hours on the ship than in port, and rarely if ever did I observe anything amiss from a housekeeping and maintenance standpoint. ** I credit the cabin stewards with doing an amazing job under trying conditions. Ours were amply up to snuff on both the major services (replenishing towels, refilling the ice bucket, replenishing the fruit bowl, cleaning the glassware, making the bed, etc.) and on the small special touches (chocolates, towel animals, as notable examples). It leaves us thoroughly befuddled therefore why the top sheet was never tucked in. The amazingly comfortable beds are one of the elements that distinguish Holland America from the competition, and lovely though the blanket and duvet certainly are, I like the feel of a topsheet directly on top of me - but (alas!) not so much that I would remake the bed myself. As I stated at the beginning, on the two cruises where we have enjoyed Holland America's hospitality, HAL achieved its mission of creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences for DW and me. With the single exception of the Oosterdam Thermal Suites, we got good value for the money we invested. As others have noted before, a ship has a sort of character and personality all its own. Based on Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
With my oldest son growing up and setting off in the world, I felt that we needed one last big adventure together before they all grew up and left me. We were able to find this fabulous 11-day, 6 port Mexican Riviera cruise for a wonderful ... Read More
With my oldest son growing up and setting off in the world, I felt that we needed one last big adventure together before they all grew up and left me. We were able to find this fabulous 11-day, 6 port Mexican Riviera cruise for a wonderful family vacation. My boys were seasoned cruisers with 4 prior cruises under their belt but none over 5-days long. This 11-days along with a Deluxe Balcony was suppose to be our ultimate vacation, which it was, but it also hooked us on cruising for life! The Radiance of the Sea is a beautiful ship. Common areas are in very good repair. Maintenance defiantly keeps up with the daily wear 'n tear common to cruise ships. The public area restrooms are very beautifully decorated and maintained. Dining We had main seating dining at 6:00PM. We never had to wait in line. In fact, once we were shown our table the first day, we were able to seat ourselves just as soon as the doors were opened. I know there are a lot of people signing up for My Time Dining and some may like it but all I saw was people waiting in line to make reservations and them later standing in line to be seated for their reservations. With main seating we were in a smaller, less noisy dining room on the side of the MDR. We had the same table and the same wait staff each night, which we loved. They knew from the first day what we liked such as lemons on our water or jam with our rolls, and had those things ready for us every night after. Eating that early was closer to our normal dinner time at home and gave my teens time to work up an appetite for a 2nd desert at the Windjammer before they closed for the night at 9:00PM. Also to note, if a table of people didn't show up for dinner because they had plans to eat somewhere else like Chops or Portofino's, their table was not filled with MTD reservations. It was left empty. Our dining room was only for main seating dining. On day 5, the other 3 tables in our section were empty and we had our wait staff all to ourselves. Not only did we have their undivided attention, we had time to really talk to them and get to know them. With MTD and different staff each night, that would not have happened. The head waiter was visible every night and not only to be seen but was actively refilling water glasses, clearing plates and being of "service" along with his staff. Dinner was always relatively quick, only about 1.5 hours each night. Food was great every night. There was always plenty of food with not too large of portions. Just the right amount for when you eat as often as we did in a day. Quality, flavor, presentation & temperature were just fine. I had no complaints with the food. All three sons were able to borrow tuxedos from the high school's drama wardrobe. They totally dressed up both formal nights and dresses per guidelines each additional night. I lost count of how many people stopped at our table complimenting how well they looked. I loved it and I think they did too. Stateroom We had a D1 stateroom on the 9th deck listed as Superior Ocean View w/Balcony. We had 1 adult and 3 teen boys in the cabin and it had plenty of room. The balcony measures about 9' x 4' and was furnished with 2 chairs and a side table. We did a cabin crawl with our Mix & Mingle group and I was able to tour several different types of cabins. The inside cabin with 2 drop down bunks would have fit us fine but I really loved the balcony. The bathroom did smell bad. Kind of like sewer but not too heavy. I sprayed my Febreze and the smell went away for awhile. The room steward said it was the shower curtain and changed it for us. The bathroom was always damp but it wasn't a damp, musty smell it was a poppy smell. The steward sprayed Glade each time he made-up the room and the smell came and went with no consistency but was never strong or offensive enough to complain about. I just kept the Febreze handy. The beds were nice but the sofa bed and drop down beds were too hard for me. The boys didn't complain. I like how they have done away with the bed spreads. I never trusted how germy they might be. The beds have a nice heavy comforter enveloped with a sheet or duvet which is washed every few days. The curtains were very heavy and blocked any light from the balcony during the day plus we had a curtain separating our room in half. With the center curtain drawn, I was able to go to sleep while the boys stayed up with the lights on playing quiet games in the other half of our room. We came on-board with 9 suitcases. I know, that's a lot, but we were on the ship for 11 days and there is no self serve laundry on the Radiance. My point is that I was able to completely unpack, get everything into closets, cupboards and drawers and be able to stow my empty luggage under the beds with no problem and room to spare. I did bring two of the suitcases with the clothes still on the hanger which was good because I would not have had enough hangers otherwise. The night of the midnight poolside bar-b-q we had a ventilation problem. The air conditioning system sucked in the diesel smelling lighter fluid charcoal fumes from the grill and our room was not inhabitable for about an hour. So we went to the bar-b-que! The smell vacated any one awake on our hall and when they sent me to Guest Relation the fumes started filling the Centrum area and even the Guest Relations employees started complaining. There was no thought to stopping the poolside bar-b-q but later I thought their resolution to the problem was pretty smart. The Maintenance Engineers turned the air-conditioning on to the whole ship. They spread the smell across all the public rooms that were closed like the MRD, Windjammer and the theaters. This diluted the smell enough that it was no longer strong enough to bother anyone. When we returned to our room it smelled just fine. Some residual smell on the clothes in the closet but I just whipped out the Febreze again. Public Areas We did not spend much time at the pool on the ship as we were at the beach almost every day while at port and our sunburns didn't need any more exposure. We did spend more time than I thought we would in the card room playing Scrabble. We don't usually play this at home but I think it must be a vacation thing. They provide quite a few board games and loads of cards. Bring a small dictionary if your family doesn't trust your creative spelling in Scrabble. We stumbled into a daily trivia game of "Name that Show Tune" at the Schooner Bar. I was amazed at how well my 19 year old son knew his show tunes!?!?? We came in 2nd place. Most of those kinds of "cruise activities" we shy away from because they seem dorky but it was fun. The Casino Royal gladly took our money, again! I was pleasantly surprised that they had a no smoking area with decent games. All the machines cashed out in quarters instead of tickets making it hard to slip your winnings into your pocket for the next night. We did a slot pull with 26 people in our M&M group. One slot machine was picked and we each put in $20, so that would be $520 we invested. We each pulled a $5 (maximum) bet 4 times then stepped aside for the next person. At the end, we had $455 left so we lost a total of $2.50 each after a total of 104 $5 pulls. The payout was not very good with that much going in. It made me rethink playing slots. Guest Relations We spent too much time at the Guest Relations desk. The staff was excellent, especially Keshia, and all of our problems, large and small, were taken care of superbly. I ordered, and prepaid for an Adventure Gear package (with 4 items) to be delivered to our cabin. Half of the package was missing and the receipt delivered with it said there were only 3 items in the package. I did have my internet receipt showing what I had ordered so that was fixed. Next, I had booked when they were offering a $75 on-board credit for my class room but it didn't show up on my account. My booking statement only said "offer" in the promotion section. Keshia e-mailed the corporate offices and they responded the next day and my account was credited. Now, both of these problems were computer record problems with RCCL so make sure to print any receipts and advertisements showing what you purchased and bring them with you so you can show them what you really purchased if you have any problems. I thought 2 problems for one customer was enough to indicate that something is wrong with their system. guest relations also impressed me when I was called down to the desk the day after our midnight air-conditioning fumes experience. I was offered a voucher to have the clothes in my closet cleaned to remove the smell. Remember, I packed 9 bags of luggage so there were way too many clothes in my closet. I told them that I was fine with my Febreze but I'd love to get some underwear and t-shirts washed. No problem and I was happy. I do want to note that I was on vacation and I was having a wonderful time so I wasn't functioning in my insistent, frustrated and demanding customer mode. I did see several of those kinds of people at the desk in front of me. One lady had been offered dinner for two at Chops and a bottle of wine to solve her problem and now she was down there demanding a second bottle of wine. I don't know what her problem was but the way she behaved embarrassed me. The staff was very gracious and professional. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Cruise on Elation March 25- March 29 2010 Wednesday night my wife is asking the youngest son if he is excited about going to Disneyland, and he told her he wants to take his fun ship Freddy doll on the big boat. ( I think it is because the ... Read More
Cruise on Elation March 25- March 29 2010 Wednesday night my wife is asking the youngest son if he is excited about going to Disneyland, and he told her he wants to take his fun ship Freddy doll on the big boat. ( I think it is because the doll was sitting on the computer desk and he just happened to look at it as she asked him about Disneyland, either that or the kid is psychic) Thursday morning we woke up and took the boys to daycare as usual so that they would not suspect anything while me and the wife frantically began packing (good thing this was only a 4 day). around 9:00 we went and picked up the boys and told them we were starting our vacation early. Their eyes were lit up like they had just seen a Christmas tree surrounded by presents. They asked if we were going to Disneyland we told them we were but we had to go take care of some other stuff first. As we were driving to San Diego the older son was looking out the window like this is not the way to Disneyland. Some idiot almost side swiped us as she changed into our lane without signal and while we were in it. I had to actually swerve into the empty lane to the right, thank goodness no one was there. Heart was pounding good on that one. Ended up missing the turn we usually take thank goodness we brought Garmina with us (that is the GPS Garmin). So we approached farther north than what we would have which gave a great view of the ship, of course the boys were perking up at the sight of the ship and the younger one is like "we are going on the boat" the older one is like "no we are going to Disneyland". Me and the wife are looking like deer's caught in the headlights(now of course we are convinced the child is using some supernatural ability). My wife is like oh look it is the Elation(good diversion tactic), which neither one had seen. So I asked them if they wanted to go take a closer look at it and of course they did. (this got us out of telling them at least for the moment). We drove to the port and parked. I asked my oldest son to help me with something in the trunk, and I opened the trunk and grabbed one of the luggage tags and asked him to help me with this suitcase. Instantly he is bouncing up and down and shouting we are going on the boat. The younger one starts doing the victory dance. I don't know if it was for excitement about going of the victory of the "I told you so". Embarkation was not as smooth as normal. Only because when I filled out the online information I gave them the number of our pass cards instead of our passports. She had a heck of a time over riding it and it took us about 7-10 minutes instead of the usual 5 (wasn't a big deal) just remember to use the right information online and give the same documents when processing. We actually were joking that it was faster when all we had to do was show birth certificates. First evening We were given late dining, of course when you book at the last minute you really don't have an option, when we got on the ship we went to the buffet (well did you expect something else?) I let my wife know I was going to check on changing our dining time to either early or at least anytime dining. (no I was not hitting up the bars on the way). Ended up being first in line for the Maitre De and changed to anytime dining, they give you a card and the table number of 777 which is their special code for it. Went back to the buffet and ate lunch, then ate second lunch 5 minutes later. Relaxed and enjoyed a couple of DOD's. Went to the room and dropped off our carryon bags. Noticed that the TV remote wasn't working they took care of it. We were happy to have the window cabin on this cruise, it is nice to know what time of day it is when you are in the cabin. It was also great when I saw a whale jumping just outside of Cabo. Getting too far ahead of the story now. We did take the boys for a tour of Camp Carnival, the Elation and Paradise both have a great location for this, the Splendors room size is superior. The boys actually had a counselor that they had from the Splendor so that was a nice treat. When we would go to pick them up early during the sea days the counselors were sad to see them go. The Mustard drill (as my oldest calls it) has changed. We didn't have to take life jackets for the drill. Just show up, get the presentation, walk to the muster station and then released. A lot more streamlined than other times. Of course no cruise would be complete without stopping at the sushi bar before dinner, and the Elation has some of the best servers in that area. We get a kick watching our youngest eating raw tuna it reminds me of Gollum when he captures the fish in the sacred pool in the LOR trilogy (two towers). He pulls it through his teeth like it is taffy or something. He always asks "are we getting sushi?" Thursday night I went with a couple of the tiger shrimp, a farmers salad, and the flat iron steak. For desert was..........drum roll..................Orange sherbert. I know I could have had a couple of the chocolate melting cakes but I have to try to keep a little bit healthy. Oh I just jumped right to the food, forgot to mention the seating on the anytime dining. We were in line for the 6:00 feeding and it was like 5:50 when one of the staff was checking everyone's card for their table number, we told them we were anytime dining and our table number was 777 and they took us out of line and through the left door and we were seated next to a window. Now pay close attention here: Our waitress asked if we would like bottled water or sparkling water, we had seen this before when we went on the Elation in November. We told her no thanks regular water would do. We watched what was happening at some of the other tables and noticed that some of the waiters would only ask if they wanted water and would immediately open the bottle and pour, then they would ask for the sail and sign card to charge for the water. Other tables would just have the water bottles sitting on the table as in hopes that the guests would open and pour their own. THERE IS NO NEED for the bottled water. The regular water is just as pure and I would venture to say maybe even purer. I really think that this is a tacky ploy by Carnival. It seems that none of their procedures are the same from waiter to waiter when offering the water. I don't know if this is a new policy throughout the fleet or if this is localized to the Elation but the Elation is the first time we noticed it. We didn't go to the welcome show instead we took the boys to CC and then went to the Spa on the adult only deck to relax. I will leave the rest of the details of the evening undisclosed. After we picked up the boys that night we took them for pizza and Ice Cream, this is a re-occurring theme for us so if I leave out the end of the evening part on any day you pretty much know where we would be. We played Spades while eating and snacking and the youngest crashed out on the booth part of the table. CC must be really hard on the children because they always seemed tired around 10:30 every night. LOL First day at sea We were up relatively early as the sun was shining in our window. (Really ok with that too) We went to the sit down breakfast at like 8:00. (They weren't offering bottled water so that is a plus). I Found a new favorite on the menu. Bagels with cream cheese and salmon. I didn't even know that they offered it until this cruise. They serve it with tomato and slices of onion. In fact I usually would have eaten the eggs Benedict my original favorite but this was just as filling and I think much healthier. The boys wanted to play mini golf so we told them that we would take them after their morning CC. They were doing face painting so it is always good picture time after they get painted up. Wife wasn't feeling that great in the morning and we were not sure if it was the DOD's from the day before or sea sickness, (special note: we never get sea sick even after meeting our limit on tequila) it was not usual for her to be feeling woozy so we went to get some Dramamine. We rested for a little while Wink Wink and then went to pick up the boys from CC for mini golf. I think I got like 3 holes in one and pared everything else so beware if you decide to play for shots on the mini golf course with me. LOL We ate lunch at the sit down in the dining room (no lido buffet we like the quiet meals) I ordered the Sushi (of course) usually I have noticed that the sushi bar is only open every other day to serve sushi and on the off days the only time to get it is at lunch time in the dining room (shhhhh! This is classified top hush hush)LOL I went with the steak salad and an German black forest ice cream. (ok I had two of them. Sheesh) We went to the shore excursion desk to check on snorkeling and they told us the water was going to be mid to high 70's so not being too sure of how warm that was we figured we would wait until we were off the ship to decide yes or no to snorkeling. We did buy a snorkel for our oldest to practice within the kids pool. He got the hang of it pretty quick. My wife took some pictures that looked like I was holding his head under the water but I really wasn't. ...no really I wasn't. This was our formal night and we somehow mixed up the time and were off by an hour so we left the pool earlier than we needed to so that we could get ready. (Wife was not happy that I didn't bring my dress shoes, don't side with her on it we did after all pack in a hurry). We got the boys off to CC and then headed back to the room for a quick pick up of the bottle of wine that I brought. (ha ha...had you there for a minute keep you mind on the food ok, it is all about the food.)LOL I did open the wine in the cabin so that they would not charge me a corking fee, funny thing is last time I took a whole bottle to the table uncorked they tried to charge me the fee even though I uncorked it myself. I am beginning to thin that you have to watch these guys like hawks. We brought a white (blanc) wine, one that we picked up on our last trip to Ensenada, for the formal night to go with the Lobster and when we got to the maitre de station for seating they asked us what kind of table we wanted (just a single table or a group table) we decided on the group table to be social. They sat us at a table for 10 and I proceeded to drink the wine, my wife didn't feel like any. We waited for more people to join before we ordered so the waiter would be able to serve the whole table at once. The conversation was pretty lively and very humorous as there was a 17 year old boy at the table. One of the other guys at the table kept teasing him about getting more tail (lobster that is). I did have a lobster with a side of lobster but not the side of side lobster to go with it. I was astonished to find that I ended up drinking the whole bottle of wine by myself. The smile on my wife's face was just as big as the one on mine and she had no alcohol. We gambled a little bit after dinner, (at the casino of course). We went to bed early so that we could be rested for Cabo San Lucas........to be continued. Cabo San Lucas What an adventure!!!! Me and the boys sat and watched out the window as we were getting closer to Cabo, we could see the Arch in the distance and I was scanning the water for anything living. I did see a flying fish, the ship must have disturbed it because it flew out from the front of the ship and along the crest of the wave that the ship was making until it dove back down into the azure blue water. Not really crystal clear but very nice color to it. I seen something jump out in the distance and told the boys to look it was a whale but they missed it and then I doubted if I had really seen a whale until after I seen it spout. The boys get easily distracted and missed the spout too. We woke up in time to eat in the Imagination dining room, I wasn't about to miss out on the salmon bagels. And the view out the window of the coast was great, I seen about 4 or 5 dolphins swimming north toward the arch. We tried not to rush our breakfast but knew we had to get to the line for the tender boats if we wanted to get off the ship before 9:30. When we went to get in line it was already wrapping down the port side of deck 4 toward the aft of the ship and the elevator area was congested, we got into line just as they were changing the line so that it would wrap from the back to the front and as we were going down deck 4 toward the front of the ship a staff member stopped the line and started asking how many in each party. There was a second tender boat that had just arrived at the front of the ship, and we were in line just at the right time to follow her down the hall to get on it. Was a little bummed out because they did not have water for sale at the front tender. I know I should have bought the bottle at dinner the night before. Ha Ha Wife was happy that we weren't the couple in front of us who forgot their sail and sign cards in their cabin and realized it just before heading down the stairs to get on the tender boat. These were the blue tenders and probably could seat 50 people. We ended up at the front of the tender boat and the edge of the boat was really high but there was the seat area that the kids could stand up and look over the edge of the boat. The edges were so high that our youngest (41" tall) when standing on the seat his shoulders would be at the height of the boat edge. He didn't want to stand up on the seat and look out at first but stupid me wanted him to enjoy it as much as I was. So as I was prying him off of my neck to stand him up on the seat his left hand swept right across my face.....knocking my glasses right into the sea of Cortez. Oh to see what those glasses can see in the sea now. LOL. I told him what he already knew because you could see the shock in his face. "you just knocked daddy's glasses off into the water" Instant tears, and I didn't even say it loud or very stern, but he was devastated and I knew I had to act quick to reassure him that it was ok. My wife asked what happened and I explained as I sat him back on my lap. Then I told him "it's ok son daddy can get more glasses" nothing. Then "it's ok son daddy looks better without glasses". He responded with "no you don't" Which of course drew a laugh from everyone who had then caught on what had happened. I comforted him the rest of the way to the pier and he became more confident with standing on the seat and looking out over the edge........to be continued.....and we haven't even got off the tender yet...LOL The Pier Generally we avoid the pictures that they take when you dock somewhere, I can't stand that they hold up the line to get where we are going. I understand that they want to make an extra buck on the pictures but it shouldn't be at the expense of my family time to get where we are going. Carnival should make sure that they form the picture lines away from where people are trying to get off the boat. Take the pictures if you want but let's not block people who are not interested. That said. We did take pictures that day when we got off in Cabo, new port so have to do it at least once, hey we even bought the one with the boys and the aztecean/Indian?/philippinian? Ok you get what I am saying. We walked along the pier and didn't see squads of armed guards all over the place, although we did see a few here and there later on. I actually like the way they have the pier layed out with the red walkways where the vendors/salespeople are not allowed to walk. They have to stay on the special yellow like border that surrounds the walkway. We didn't book any excursions on the ship thinking it would be just as easy to get one when we got off, and it was. They were lined up like taxi cab drivers at LAX on the day after thanksgiving weekend. We looked at a few of their signs and of course they all say they will give you the best deal. I think it is best if you know what you are looking to do and then figure whatever the cost was on the ship is will be less than half that price through the local agents. Best always to do it in a group. We booked it by ourselves though, wife was a little nervous. I spoke with Aurturo(Authuro) and we booked all 4 for 109.00 on a scuba adventure. We were set to go out at 11:30 and my main concern was that we would be back in time to catch the boat at 3:30. Even though they keep telling you yes of course of course, it is still tough to not think about it just a little. Our second requirement was that we would be on a boat with a relatively larger group (safety in numbers). Arturo actually walked us down to where the "mermaid"(except it was in Spanish) was and we took a look at the catermaran, it was pretty good size and there was a propane grill on the boat, he told us we would be served drinks and food. (I would tell you what was all included but figure it is best to reveal it as I tell the story) The boys and I sat at Senior frogs and I took some pictures with them in the area while the wife was looking at things. We walked around the little shopping area on the pier and like other ports of this type I am sure the prices were way marked up, wife bought me a shirt ( I think this was to make me feel better about the lost glasses). At 11:00 we went to where the pier was and paid the remainder of the fare (only paid half as a deposit). Aurturo lead us to where the captain of the "mermaid" was going to take us to the catamaran and we noticed something disturbing, there was only us and three other people. All guys, Spanish speaking, Wasn't sure if their packs were packed with guns but I was trying to keep my cool and not to draw their attention. We got to the boat and sat for about 5 minutes when we noticed the other group of tourists heading though the boat and there were children and couples and Americans so the fear was relieved. I noticed some had green bands on their wrists and thought at first they were the muster bands that they put on the children but they weren't. I guess they were a group of tourists staying at one of the local hotels and had booked though the hotel. We were a lot more relaxed now. Then the boat headed out into open water. We headed out toward the arch and there was a photographer on the boat taking pictures( we know how that gig is from the pier) We gave our camera to someone to take our picture figuring that hey at least they would be able to run off with it. If you decide to do this with you camera then just make sure that you hand it to them with the strap open so they can put it on their wrist, trust me you don't want any of your stuff falling off into the Sea of Cortez or any open water for that matter. I was really nervous about this person taking our picture, after all she was drinking and wasn't too sure footed, but we made it through and she did get a few good shots of us. We could see the sea lions laying out on the rocks sunning by the arch or at least the boys and the wife seen them I saw what looked like sea blobs, no real defining shapes to them. (remember no glasses) My wife was the first to notice the spout of water spraying in the air, the boys got excited as we kept getting closer and closer to a small pod of whales. (it is a pod right, or is that peas) I was given a cervesa (beer for you non bilinguals....LOL J.K.) my wife had a diet and the boys we let have some real soda. This boat got right up on those whales and......... The Adventure continued.... This boat got right up on those whales and......... We we following right beside three whales. They weren't all coming up at once, but you could see them surfacing and spouting. The boys were really excited about it. At long last we could end the myth of what a whale looks like when it surfaces. Our oldest son all the way down kept saying that he seen a whale and yet we could not see one anywhere, it was most likely the waves that were playing tricks on his eyes. So now we are sure that when he says he spotted a whale that the odds are better that he knows what he is looking for. Woohoo, less false alarms. LOL. We were doing the best we could to take pictures of them and on one photo I actually snapped the picture as one had jumped out of the water. That was amazing and has probably hooked the boys for life on the "Save The Whales" campaign. We followed them for what only seemed like a few minutes but in reality was more like 10 minutes, time flies when the whales are watched. Of course when the catamarans captain mentioned that we needed to go everyone was bummed out at first since it was such an awesome sight. The price on the docks for the whale watching only tour was like $10 per person and I would say that would be worth the price, of course you could probably haggle them down to $6 or $7 but then you might have to help row the boat. LOL We continued toward our snorkel stop at Santa Maria ( I think that was it) it was probably about a 20 minute cruise and when we were getting near they started handing out the snorkel gear. I would recommend to everyone....if you don't scuba, or snuba, or helmet dive.....you should at least snorkel. Go ahead, tell me you can't swim.... They give you life jackets so you are floating and not swimming. We put the gear on our oldest and took some pictures, he looked like a fish out of water. They told us that they didn't have any gear small enough to fit our youngest and I kind of let them know that he was going to be really sad about it. The captain went down and brought up the smallest mask he had, probably one of his personal family masks because it was nicer than the other ones they had. All of the gear provided was more than adequate for what we were doing, after all none of us were really more than beginners, except me of course, yes I am at least an advanced beginner. LOL The Captain anchored the boat (catamaran actually just that boat is faster to type), They helped everyone down the ladder and into the water, I went first from my family to test the water and of course when I touched the water it felt a little chilly. I looked at my wife like I am not so sure the boys are going to like this, but I jumped into the water anyway. It was actually really nice, and so I made a personal mental note that when the water is 75+ it is actually comfortable and very bearable. Our oldest came in next and the water temperature was not an issue for him. He was more concerned that he could not touch the bottom. He was clinging to me like a wet kitten with his claws dug in. He kept trying to climb on top of me like which made it a little tougher to keep my balance. I quickly let him know that everything was fine and that his life jacket would hold him up with no problem. I kept him at arm's length so that he could gain confidence and so that I could keep my head above water. We both had life jackets on and if you ever take your children be sure that you do the same until they are comfortable with their life jackets. My wife and youngest got in next and he was not a happy little boy. It was too cold for him at first but he adapted after a little while. The ocean is a strange new experience so we already anticipated that they would have a less than perfect reaction to it. Our oldest wanted to head to the beach and I mistakenly obliged. Do not try this with children if you are not familiar with going ashore in snorkel gear and fins. The trick is to walk sideways and it is best to take off you fins as soon as you have sure footing in the water. The closer you get to shore with your fins on the harder it is to walk. When you get past the water break it is best to move rapidly to the shore. Of course even the best plans have issues. Going ashore here was even more difficult because the sand was not sand. The beach is made up of very tiny pebbles, not sharp but a big pain when you get a bunch of them in your flippers. I was not able to take mine off as I should have because I wanted to be very careful with brining my son to shore. On a positive note, I was able to warn my wife that coming ashore with our other son was not the best idea. She was right at the point of the break water and headed back into the abyss. (ok not into the abyss, it just sounded more dramatic). While we were on the beach I explained to my son why coming ashore was not the best idea, for one we are suppose to be snorkeling and that is hard to do on land. LOL. We walked around the beach to where the water meets the rocks to reenter the water, it was a little easier in this situation to get my flippers back on prior to going back in. (I know, I should wait until I am in the water to put them on but again didn't want any distractions that would take my full attention off my son while in the ocean). .....will continue later.......sorry this review is taking so long but somebody insisted that they wanted all the details........LOL Back to the Catamaran Me and my eight year old son floated back into the water, there was very little break water on the side of the beach with the rocks it was the south facing beach and was a little more protected it seemed. I was trying to encourage him to put his face in the water so that he could look through his mask and see all of the fish. Of course little did I know that this was going to cause a problem for him, because he instantly was like "let's go back to the boat". Having the life jackets on was great because when you get tired of swimming you can just float in the water and rest. My wife and youngest had by now worked their way back onto the boat as we were swimming towards it. Up to this point I was not able to do much snorkeling it was mostly swimming. We got back to the boat and I helped my son up the ladder where mom was waiting with a towel for him. The weather was nice so getting out of the water was not that cold. Climbing the ladder was more difficult going up than down, I think because of the whole principle of gravity. I took off my fins and then swapped them with a bigger set. My son explained that he wanted to go back to the boat because when he looked in the water he saw a big fish and it kept swimming closer and closer to him, so it just startled him a little bit. I guess we should have explained it a little better about why we were going in the water in the first place. I asked him if he wanted to go back in and he passed, I asked my wife if she wanted to go back in and she was ok with staying on the boat for awhile while I went back in. This time I took off my life jacket and took in a foam noodle (again it is nice to have some floatation device for when you want a rest from swimming) I mainly stayed close to the boat while my oldest kept pointing out the fish that were swimming around me. The visibility was great and there was a wide variety of fish swimming in the area. When I got back on the boat the second time they had fired up the propane grill and I could smell the carne asada grilling. They mixed me a rum punch and I relaxed on the bench and enjoyed the view while talking with my wife about what we were going to do next time we went snorkeling. I had another Rum punch and by then they were serving the tacos with beans. It is a little tough to walk and carry a plate on a rocking boat, although the waves were not that big. I could see that the experience was something the boys would remember by the look in their eyes. It was that combination of wow and is this real type of look, and I am certain they will hold those memories for some time to come. Either that or they were sneaking rum punch (just kidding). As they were getting ready to head back I grabbed another rum punch, figured it would be good to sip on while we headed back. There is a hill there next to the little cove we were in that has 4 flags on it I think it was the UN, US, Mexico, Canada and California flag, my wife took a picture of it so that I could see it better since I was partially blind. The crew was getting the music going and our boys were dancing around on the center platform From the back of the boat I heard a whistle blowing and the captain had put on some funky looking mask, the music was the tequila song and I know everyone can guess what was about to happen next. The crew was dancing around the boat with a bottle of tequila and a shot glass and every time they went up to someone they would blow the whistle and give them a shot of tequila. I was thinking wow that is a great way to end a great trip. I figured that there wouldn't be any need to drive when we got back to the pier so it would probably be alright to do a shot or two. The only issue I had was that everyone was using the same shot glass and being paranoid about swine flu I didn't want to take the chance of catching anything. I know the tequila would probably kill anything on the shot glass but I wasn't about to take any chances. Besides shot glasses can be so limiting. So I got the attention of the guy with the bottle and I tilted my head back and pointed into my mouth, yes I carry my own shot glass wherever I go. My wife had heard stories from my brother about the time we went to Margaretville so now she was able to actually capture the moment on the digital. So they blew the whistle and filled up my personal shot glass, which I kept half full by taking a swallow before my mouth would fill up completely. My wife inquired about the lesson the boys were learning from this, I don't remember my response to this but I was pretty sure that at their age they were not about to go and drink tequila out of the bottle. Hopefully they learned not to drink out of other peoples glasses, shot or otherwise. I know my wife will probably remind them about that lesson often when she shows them the pictures she took. LOL, before the bottle had emptied out I had an opportunity to take another drink.....so.....I did. I was feeling pretty good when we got back to the pier. We gave the crew a nice tip ("bring more tequila next time") Ok that wasn't the tip that was a joke. We got into line to catch the tender back to the ship and while we were in line I bought a bottle of Cabo Wabo (still unopened and hopefully saving it for our next cruise to cabo) The boys took pictures with the statues that were along the pier. The tender ride back was uneventful, didn't lose anything that time thank goodness. When we got back to the cabin the boys crashed and me and the wife started getting ready for dinner. We went to eat. My wife had the chicken, I ate the steak, our boys had burgers and pizza. Again we finished with a sherbert. We took the boys to camp carnival and then we relaxed for awhile. After we picked up the boys we went to the lido for pizza and Panini's and that is when I discovered that they also served toasted bagels with creamed cheese and salmon on the lido. We played a hand of spades and again the youngest crashed out on the bench. (it is almost like his second bed)..... We enjoyed our final day at sea, pretty much a typical day, we ate, we relaxed, we played golf, we ate, we relaxed we looked at pictures, we had sushi.....oh ya then that happened, I remember now but have to wait to tell you about the Old Ladies that were less, much less than friendly.....to be continued The mean old ladies with foul mouths... On the evening of our "FUN" day at sea, we went to the sushi bar to enjoy our last opportunity for sushi. My wife took the boys to find a seat where we could eat and I was in the front of the line waiting for the sushi chef to finish his prep to open the feast (yes I was actually first in line for the sushi bar). Soon I had several plates in my hands and proceeded to where my wife was sitting with the boys. As I was sitting down I couldn't help but notice a group of 10-12 older ladies carrying on as they were playing some game where you have to guess the word based on what the other person is saying. I really didn't think anything about the fact that they were being very loud until one of the ladies shouted out a profanity. (something like Rooster Sucker, except the profane version of it). My wife was like "oh no they didn't" and I immediately let them know that we have children here. Well they didn't want to hear it. They were saying things to imply that the children shouldn't be there etc. we let them know that it is a family cruise line, a public area and that we didn't appreciate their rudeness. A few minutes later things settled down and they went back to playing their game. They were still carrying on a bit about us and I turned to let them know again when one of them said F*@k you to me. So I ripped her new one. I hope her butt is still sore from it. If they wanted they could have played in the game room, or one of the bars, I am sure there were plenty of places available where they could have said anything they wanted without offending anyone, but no these ladies decided to do this right in the middle of the promenade during sushi time. I guess they must not have counted on someone like me letting them know that they are not alone and that they are not the only ones on the ship. Before we left to go take the boys to their camp carnival dinner someone from another smaller group right next to us thanked me for letting them have it and pointed out that they agreed the old ladies were being very rude. As we left we noticed a security at toward the end of the promenade and let him know that there were a bunch of old ladies causing problems down by the sushi bar. We took the boys to the Lido deck where they met with the CC counselors who were doing the sign in right by the buffet. Then we headed for dinner. We sat next to a nice couple from Virginia that night and had some great conversation. I ordered the grilled salmon and then ordered the chocolate melting cake for desert. The crew sang their "so sad to see you go" song. We went back to the cabin to pack things up before picking up the boys. We took some pictures with the boys at CC and then set the bags out. The disembarkation process went really smooth, although there was a lady in front of us that was really struggling with her suitcases we were glad that we have the ones that can be chained together. My wife let me drive (even though I didn't have my glasses), I can see the road pretty good during the day. We were able to check into our hotel in Fullerton early then it was off to Disneyland for 4 days. We were glad to get home to get some rest at the end of the week. The End Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We departed San Diego on March 11, 2010 and had perfect weather all 8 days. The ship was beautiful and well maintained and staff was very helpful and friendly. The itinerary was two sea days, Acapulco, Zihuatenejo, Manzanillo and then two ... Read More
We departed San Diego on March 11, 2010 and had perfect weather all 8 days. The ship was beautiful and well maintained and staff was very helpful and friendly. The itinerary was two sea days, Acapulco, Zihuatenejo, Manzanillo and then two sea days. The food served was very good overall. Now there was a meal or two that just did not wow me but considering the kitchen is feeding over 3,000 mouths continuously they still nailed more dishes than they missed. On a scale of 1 to 10 I give the food an 8.5. The cruise director and her staff did a fine job keeping veryone entertained throughout the days. Though not the best I've had they still did fine. On the scale I give them a 7. The weather as I said was perfect..10 on the scale and the wait staff around the pools I also give a 10. Acapulco hs become a bit seedy over the years but Zihuatenejo was great. Stayed on board and had the ship nearly to ourselves in Manzanillo. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
In addition to loving cruising on our own sailboat around coastal Floria where we live, we have been regularly "big boat" cruising for the last twenty or so years with family, friends and many of sailboat club members. As a ... Read More
In addition to loving cruising on our own sailboat around coastal Floria where we live, we have been regularly "big boat" cruising for the last twenty or so years with family, friends and many of sailboat club members. As a result we have exhausted all ends of the Caribbean, especially the east coast of Mexico and the Yucatan. We have danced in the conga line at Carlos and Charlie's in Cozumel, snorkeled at San Francisco Beach, hiked up the ruins at Tulum, taken the long bus ride to Chitchen Itza, hiked in the rain forests and cave tubed in Belize. This year we intended to do something different and book a cruise in the Mediterranean, but after seeing the cost of airfare to Europe, we opted for a 10 day cruise out San Diego down to Baja California (our Mexican guide explained they owned all of California once and just because we gringos took part of it, they were not changing the name) and up the Sea of Cortez to mainland west coast Mexico. Each port was new and different and reminded us why we love to travel. The real unexpected bonus was the intimate Holland America ship the Veendam. We usually cruise on very large ships that are more like floating cities so at first glance we were a little underwhelmed by the size of the ship but after a few days we really learned to appreciate the benefits of a smaller ship. It was less crowded, easier to embark and disembark, easier to get around but the best part was how nice it was to get to know the staff and to be made to feel like part of the HAL family. Not only would we definitely do it again but we are already booked on that Mediterranean cruise for this spring on another HAL ship. Finally, there is not an option fro reviewing either Loreto or Toppolobampo but we loved both of them and would definitely go back. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Investor Insights based on passenger observations and personal experiences from the Holland America Ryndam Holiday Cruise from Dec 21st through Sunday Jan 4, 2009 Good riddance was the mantra for the day for many passengers as they ... Read More
Investor Insights based on passenger observations and personal experiences from the Holland America Ryndam Holiday Cruise from Dec 21st through Sunday Jan 4, 2009 Good riddance was the mantra for the day for many passengers as they disembarked from this two week holiday cruise on the Ryndam as we arrived late in San Diego. There was not a tear to be shed or a sob to be found as many seasoned cruisers appeared to be disenchanted at the culmination of this voyage. I was not surprised when disembarkation was at least 90 minutes late to start (we were suppose to be off at 9:45 AM and retrieved our luggage after 10:45 AM-luckily we made our flight as it was delayed) nor that the elevators at both the aft and forward locations had mechanical failed requiring some folks to be taken off in the service elevator. These elevators are in need of dire repair-the elevator buttons would not light in some, while others would flicker. On at least three separate occasions I experienced a brake problem with the elevators and on one occasion had to step up about 10 inches to get off. Knowing that CCL cut their dividend and management was addressing the company's bottom line, I expected some changes, but was disappointed that the signature of excellence was severely compromised in the process. There will always be a few things that go awry on a voyage as we do not live in a perfect world and we usually are just nonchalant about it. I was a little surprised when on day one of the cruise the front counter personnel would not replace my wife's 100 day pin that was broken as they did not have enough supplies and they would send one to our room later if they had enough-it never happened. Okay, but when we went over to the explorer's lounge and requested a deck of cards to play a game-we were turned down as they did not have any supplies. We were told cards were available for purchase in the Casino-hmm. Moving on our Dining Room Table stewards were excellent, however, the Pinnacle Grill folks were less than satisfactory. We always looked forward to this venue and frequent a few times per voyage. Not this time, it took 20 minutes for someone to bring a signature cocktail list to make a selection from. I clearly pointed out to the staff I was highly allergic to both egg and all poultry products. They insisted they would take the utmost care. When the hors d'oeuvres were brought the waiter could not tell me what was in the three brought to me, however, I already knew from many past voyages. In the past I was given a couple of Bruschetta as the others appetizers contained egg. I had questioned the warm bacon dressing in the salad and the salad dressing. I was assured all were safe. After the first bite-I knew something was awry. My son called over the waiter to let him know, that I had an allergic reaction with the salad. The waiter immediately became defensive and told me I was mistaken. I told the person this is for educational purpose that something in the salad had an egg or poultry ingredient. This person insisted I was wrong and was quite terse. He later must have been told to apologize. Should I mention that several of the side's dishes were not brought to our table as ordered until we reminded the servers? I won't mention my brother's tough lobster or the other disappointments. Several days later the chef I had met in Alaska stopped by to visit us on the Lido as he recognized us from the two voyages on the Ryndam in Alaska this past summer. He informed me that the warm bacon dressing is made with turkey bacon and if staff had inquired it would hot have been served to me. The food in the dinning room was better than the Pinnacle, however you have to savor what you can because the pickings were awful slim and the prospects no matter how hard you squint were just plain bleak. Looking at a coupon for Black Angus that I have-I regretfully submit that this chain restaurant would receive higher marks for a better quality of food. Should I mention that the Hot Woks in the local super markets now do a better job with the oriental dishes than the Lido? The pomp and circumstance that use to accompany the Master Chef's dinner was noticeably absent-yes they did the same motions but without the props, for example the parade of the baked Alaska no longer has the sparklers on top. Although the first time cruiser would not know the difference, it was not the case for the many of us who had cruised before and on other Holland America Holiday Cruises. Should I mention that all of us traveling together were not even invited to the mariner's luncheon for the same sitting? We had staff fix the reservation time. The before luncheon cocktails were no longer offered and only wine was served with lunch - but these subtle changes again were an example of the noticeable cut backs. Clearly front office staff was not on top of their game plan. When I question sail away cocktail charges on my bill as someone inadvertently used the wrong room number - I requested that they pull another tag for comparison that did have my 17 year old son's signature for a soda card for the cabin that he was in-they refused and he had to go to the front desk to correct their error. Are the cutbacks the new paradigm for Holland America mariners? Those past perks supplied to former cruisers have succumbed to a vicious bout of vertigo in memory. Apparently across the Holland America line - these changes were implemented November 1st. I wasn't looking for disgruntled passengers on this cruise - but somehow I kept running into them in the dinning room for breakfast when I joined other travelers. What are the likely hoods I would eat breakfast and every time people started complaining? After several encounters with disgruntled passengers I decided to interview a few of the smiling stewards (about 10 percent of the staff) to learn about downsizing and increased workload. The morale has been shattered for many except those with their first contract. Supplies are short and staff does not have the needed tools to do their jobs effectively. We all have had jobs we didn't like, but somehow made the best of them so we could pay the bills-this message somehow is not universal and has resulted in many resignations among the crew. Random Comments: Supply problems-No batteries for remotes (TVs-DVD). One cruise staff mentioned that recently they did not have any Kleenex and were instructed to put five sheets in an empty box. Event staff did not have all the needed supplies to hand out for the dam dollar redemption-travelers were furious. Event staff was told to scrimp at dam dollar events. Cabins weren't that clean-fortunately we had Clorox wipes and cleaned drawers before we put our clothes in. Hand towels put on the floor to be changed were re-hung on a couple of occasions. The bed linens reportedly were not changed on a two week cruise. When Cabin stewards were off, they did not turn down the bed sheets at night as they hurriedly knocked on the door and handed out chocolates along with literature for the next day. Was the laundry equipment working properly as the wash cloths did not have the Clorox removed 100%. Does the ventilation system filters get cleaned or changed? There were a lot of sick passengers. The coffees were hit and miss and sometimes tasted like someone reused the grounds. Observed passengers' complaints in the dining room as orders for both lunch and breakfast were wrong. With deflation on the horizon-gratuities' were raised with less service provided. Chocolate extravaganza has lost the extravagance in contrast to just as recent as last summer. When a passenger told me they wouldn't bother to get off in Manzanillo-I should have listened. Ditto for Puerto Chiapas-the tour bus parked in a poultry yard to get to the Izapa Ruins and the Chocolate City portion was a bust. This was a desperate attempt to offer a tour. I could list more but what is the point. There were many passengers with a chip on their shoulder and I did not believe them for a nanosecond, however many long-time cruisers were disenchanted also. One final note: Two of the passengers that had been on multiple cruises across the spectrum of cruise lines - summed Ryndam stewards and help like this - they thought the Norwegian line cruise Pride of Aloha staff were the worst ever until they went on this cruise. As an investor it is my belief from what we just experienced is that this lack of quality going forward will have severe financial consequences - unless management can attract new passengers that do not know any better. Good day, Kidderman Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My family (husband and I plus our two boys 7 and 11) went on this cruise with our in laws and another family (husband wife and 7 year old son) on April 6th. It was spring break for the kids and for my mother in law, who is a teacher. ... Read More
My family (husband and I plus our two boys 7 and 11) went on this cruise with our in laws and another family (husband wife and 7 year old son) on April 6th. It was spring break for the kids and for my mother in law, who is a teacher. Husband and I are Carnival veterans, this was our 8th cruise. However, this was our first time leaving from San Diego. Embarkation: We drove down to San Diego and left our cars in a park in ride. A shuttle at the park and ride provided a free shuttle to the cruise terminal. After a short ride to the terminal, I noticed a huge amount of people at the terminal all scattered about. I though, "how unorganized! This is going to take hours!". I was wrong! Despite all the people and a computer problem (they could not process our paperwork or activate our expense accounts) we on the ship in 30 minutes. Food: In the 10 years we have been cruising with Carnival, they have not changed their menu, which isn't necessarily a bad thing! I look forward to their wonderful cold soups (gaspatcho, mango crea, strawberry) every cruise, as well as lobster and bread pudding. The dining room service has always been spectacular, but this time it was just horrible! The dinner service was the low point of the cruise. Our waitress was really bad. She wasn't rude or unpleasant,just really inept! We were getting out appetizers while other diners were getting their desserts! She would bring items out and leave on the tray for up to 15 minutes before she served them. Dinner service the first night took 2 hours. We complained to the head waiter, but the poor service continued all week. The Supper Club service was great and the food was good. The bartender was a chatty Slovenian girl who was very heavy handed with with the vodka in her martini's! You definitely got what you paid for! Lido dining had a large variety of items, but the lines were long. Long lines, however, are to be expected when you travel during spring break. Cabo: There were 5 ships in port, which is a lot for a small town like Cabo. The tenders took forever! We had booked a shore tour through another agency and had to cancel because they were running late. Shopped for about an hour, then got an early tender back on the ship. No big, I've been to Cabo 4 times before, so I wasn't missing out. Mazatlan: Did the Stone Island tour. Great beach, but the vendors can get quite annoying. You buy one thing, then the others's swarm you. Not much can be done since all of Mexico's beaches are public. La Paz: Hired a taxi and spent the day at a local beach. The water is crystal clear, but very cold! Downtown was quaint, not much was open. On board activities: Bingo, at $20, was a rip off. I enjoyed the trivia games won some medals and a "plastic ship on a stick". My 11 year old loved karaoke. He really didn't participate much in the kids club due to the fact that he was at the tail end (he was 2 months from turning 12) of the 9 to 11 kids club. My 7 year old and his friend had dinner everynight with the kids club. The past guest and captains party were wonderful. Waiters walked around with cocktails and appetizers. The shops were overpriced, but I did get a good deal on Absolut vodka, 2 bottles for $18! I avoided the art auction like the plague since I spent $395 on a painting on my last cruise and never even hung it up! We didn't check out the shows. We all find them to be very cheesy and can't stand the over the top, exaggerated singing! They are produced well, but not really our cup of tea! Debarkation: Our steward was kind enough to let us stay in cabin until they called our group. Getting off the ship was a snap and before we knew it we were on our shuttle to the parking garage. We hopped in the car and head home planning our next cruise the entire 2 hours that it took to get home! Final thoughts: I am a believer that the most important thing to take with you on vacation is an open mind. Keep in mind that you are on a Carnival ship, the most affordable cruise line out there. Keep that in mind anytime you question the clientele or the food quality. You are also an adult and are perfectly capable of locating your own room. You aren't royalty or a super celeb, so don't expect champagne to be handed to you. Again, if you desire services such as room escorts and champagne service, then book a Crystal cruise. If you feel like you don't fit in, book at Holland America. Kids bother you? Don't go on a cruise during spring break, if you don't have a choice, book a cruise that is geared towards an older crowd or couples. Treat the staff like you would want to be treated. If you are condescending or belittling, expect to be treated just as bad. I go on Carnival knowing I am NOT going to get white glove treatment. I know I am going to encounter some "trashy" people and mediocre food. Why do I go? Because Carnival fits my family and friends' budgets to a tee. I know what to expect, I get what I pay for and sometimes evenmore! By the way, we will be going on our 9th Carnival Cruise on Aug 25th! Read Less
Sail Date April 2008

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