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16 Europe - Black Sea Senior Cruise Reviews

This was my first cruise, but even the experienced cruisers praised Viking Star as their best cruise. The ship is new, modern and high class. The tours were also high quality in addition to the food and staff. It was mainly 65+ guests, ... Read More
This was my first cruise, but even the experienced cruisers praised Viking Star as their best cruise. The ship is new, modern and high class. The tours were also high quality in addition to the food and staff. It was mainly 65+ guests, with no children on board. So if you are younger it requires some patience and adjusting assumptions. But there were a few "younger" people traveling with parents and there are always a few 65+ people who like late night entertainment and drinks. We sailed around the Nordic sea, Bergen (three stops in Norway), Denmark, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Russia, Finland and ending in Sweden. The dining options were a good variety. We were on the third floor and had only two nights of special dining, but those were excellent. The restaurant and buffet area offer a wide range of options and we did not tired of those options either. I loved the accommodations and the staff was fabulously consistently kind and generous. I would go back in an instant and dream of retiring on a Viking ship. Thank you Viking! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
Drawn to this Holland America 21 day Norway, Baltic Treasures Koningsdam cruise by the great itinary, previous excellent experience with HAL service, on Nieuw Amsterdam, we are independent travellers who enjoy the ease of relaxing ... Read More
Drawn to this Holland America 21 day Norway, Baltic Treasures Koningsdam cruise by the great itinary, previous excellent experience with HAL service, on Nieuw Amsterdam, we are independent travellers who enjoy the ease of relaxing time efficient travel to multiple destinations, the convenience of many choices in dining and entertainment, and the social interaction, offered by cruising. Koningsdam is lighter, brighter, occasionally glitzier, with pleasant furnishings, colours and fittings. Interesting art,paintings , sculpture and light fittings catch the eye in public spaces, while cabins are comfortable with a welcome glass doored shower, excellent aircon, great beds and larger TV. Cabin Staff are as efficient, unobtrusive and friendly as always. Food is fresh ,varied and generous , high quality meats ,fish fruit and vegetables, both in MDR and Lido and throughout the ship, attractively presented with appetisingly small potion sizes. However, whether it be a design issue, management strategy, system breakdown or staff issue ,dining and dining service delivery, formerly Hal's forte became its' abject failure throughout our cruise. Despite empty tables, (which often remained empty !) Open Seating diners were sent with Beepers to the in range Ocean Bar to wait sometimes 45 minutes before being seated ,or joining a table of other guests .Attempts to book days ahead to avoid this irritating daily debacle , either failed completely , or the available times were at 5.15 or after 9pm. I did observe guests with fixed seating who waited up to 40 minutes after their seating times to be seated, but don't know how widespread the issue was in this dining category Using the redesigned Market Station Lido during the main dining periods was a frustrating and at times difficult experience. Firstly , the new 12 second Handwash (Do the maths x passenger numbers ,and you 'll get the idea )stations , impractical, too few, ignored by staff and guests .Pueril Gel stations were made available but no emphasis on their use before entry. A hygiene breakdown waiting to happen. Perhaps this concern is behind the new Lido design, where even a glass of juice must be handed to you by a staff member, as self service has disappeared. A wonderful concept, unfortunately a disasterous implementation, as it results in queues for every item of your meal, sorties to different stations ,cold food,and excessive time wasted assembling the simplest meal. The stations are understaffed , and stations frequently closed . On the floor,tables are covered with dirty dishes which overwhelmed staff have not cleared,so it is not clear if diners have merely returned to the stations to complete their meal , or that a space is actually available for newcomers. Fewer staff means water, drinks are much slower to appear. The Lido is a casual eatery, supposedly offering a faster dining option, and pleasant social contact in less formal settings,but it has deteriorated to a poorly run cafeteria despite the good food quality offered, and a place to be avoided particularly at Breakfast times. The Dutch Café another good concept ,poorly designed , offered good food, reasonable coffee, long queues (one coffee station) too few tables ,and dirty dishes uncleared for excessive periods. Explorations Café12Dive In 9 , Gelato Bar offered coffee cakes , hamburgers , sandwiches pizza , and provided good service and quick meals . The Tamarind Restaurant has excellent food, staff and service. All drink orders are now computer generated, but this has resulted in very long delays as waiters in public areas fill orders and return only when trays are full with several orders combined, a time consuming strategy in reality. The World Stage in the round is a technically excellent facility, with great sound, lighting and screens. Why is it not used more effectively? Hal repeated World Stage Shows 3 times during our 21 day cruise which is just cheap and not acceptable. Quality of entertainment varied from excellent Frozen Planet, the HAL singers, dancers and orchestra to tired magician comedian acts who should be superannuated. The Lincoln Centre, Two Pianos and BB King provided shows attended and enjoyed by many, but were rather repetitive in nature. The Cruise Director Role has been redesigned to that of Dutch translator for the Captain, and the focus on hosting has almost completely disappeared both around the ship and in the entertainment venues, leaving an impersonal void and lack of ambience or heart around the vessel. The Port Advisor gave very basic overviews which were .of little value, but the Library has disappeared and was replaced with some small shelves of new travel Books which could be used in Deck 12 Crows Nest We travel independently in ports , considering HAL Ecursions overpriced, overcrowded and poor use of valuable port time, a perception continually reinforced by our observation of them in cruise port hot spots. Yes we enjoyed our cruise, but it was only a good cruise for the above reasons , when it should have been a great cruise.Design flaws, new cost cutting Carnival management strategies, HAL you are seriously destroying your brand and formerly excellent reputation.Would we sail on Koningsdam again ?. No, not unless reviews show these serious issues are remedied . Would we recommend her to others.. NO Will we sail with HAL again.? Unlikely Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
In spite of all our preplanning always expect the unexpectable. Airline booked - check Small tours booked and paid - Berlin and St Petersburg through SPB Tours - check Planned Hop on Hop off buses for self tours in ... Read More
In spite of all our preplanning always expect the unexpectable. Airline booked - check Small tours booked and paid - Berlin and St Petersburg through SPB Tours - check Planned Hop on Hop off buses for self tours in Tallinn, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Stockholm - check Tickets pre purchased for Anne Frank Haus and Keukenhof Garden Tour - check Transfers pre paid from airport to Hotel and from Cruise port to airport – check The day finally came for our 12 day Celebrity Baltic Cruise vacation to begin. We had relatives take us to Miami Airport to board our British Air flight to Heathrow and connecting flight to Amsterdam. I booked the airfare months earlier when they were running a great sale on Business class fares that were less than economy class. I subscribe to an online news letter called First class flyer and get these great deals on Business and First class fares and strategies. We went early to the airport due to the stories of long TSA lines and then off to the lounge. Check in went quick and the lines were not bad. Off to the lounge. We were then informed that the flight was running 2 hours late. With only a layover at Heathrow of 2 hours that was going to cause us to miss our connecting flight. Now our prepaid transfers were lost since there was a 24 hour cancellation policy. We were supposed to arrive in Amsterdam at 10:45 am and then we had tickets to tour the Keukenhof Gardens at 2:45pm. We were not going to make that either. Totally out of our control. At least we had the lounge access. We finally arrived in Heathrow at 9am, our connecting flight left at 8:45. To the lounge again to see when we could get on another flight. We were originally rebooked on a flight at 2:40 that would arrive at 5pm but got on an earlier flight at 1 that arrived at 3:30p. The Concierge at British Air called our transfer company for us but they would not change the pickup time. Oh well that should be the worse thing that happens this trip. When we arrived in Amsterdam we decided to take a taxi. Hoping my trip insurance will cover this and the tour tickets. Many used the train to get into Amsterdam from the airport. We were not dragging 2 suitcases up and down the escalators. We got to the Doubletree Amsterdam Centraal Station and checked right in. After dropping off our stuff in the room we decided to take a walk through town. I had a self walking tour of the red light district that we did and visited the sex and Hemp museums. Hotel location was great and we used Hilton our points. We had tickets for the next morning at 9 am to the Anne Frank Huis so after dinner went back for the night. After breakfast we took a taxi to make it by our 9am ticket time. We spent 2 hours going through there. We then decided to do the Hop on Hop off bus and 2 boats that we bought tickets for. For anyone doing it with the wait time for the transfers we spent the rest of the day and finished at 5 pm. Saturday we started the day with rain and cooler weather. We still had access to the HOHO bus so went to the outdoor market in the morning. Then back to the hotel and a 10 euro taxi ride to the cruise ship. Cruise ship check in at 2 was quick and we were able to get right into our stateroom and had lunch. After the muster drill up to the sail away cruise critic gathering. How nice to after months of interacting with so many meet in person the people that contributed to the board. The next day was a sea day and we had our Cruise critic connection gathering. We met all the officers and they had coffee and Danishes. The Capt and officers introduced themselves to us and made themselves available for any questions we had on the ship and cruise. The next day we went to Berlin. We had a great tour booked through SPB Tours. We did take the bus and did have traffic going into the city as others have mentioned. Our bus was ½ empty so there was plenty of room to be comfortable. We did though see everything that was on our itinerary. Some were drive by but many other we got off the bus and walked around and had time for photos. I knew ahead of time that it was not an in-depth tour. We then got back to the ship no traffic within 2 ½ hours. We had met other that took the train tour from the ship and they did not see anything more than we did but they said the train ride was nice. The next day was a sea day. In our rooms shore excursions left us a paper to pay ahead of time for shuttles to get from the ship port to town. They said the distance was 20 to 30 min walk. The ports were Tallinn, Helsinki, and Copenhagen. We decided to use OBC to get it. It was not needed. First of all, all the HOHO buses come right to the port on cruise days. So did the HOHO boat in Copenhagen. There were 2 HOHO bus companies. One was Redbuses and the other citysightseeing. Our choice was city sightseeing. BIG MISTAKE. They did not run as many buses as the other company. We should have asked how many buses were running that day. Then again we would assume the person selling the tickets really knew. That meant more waiting time at bus stops when you only have a few hours at any given port. They told us 30 min between buses. We waited over 45 min at some stops. More about that later. So if you plan to self tour and use HOHO you do not need to pay for the shuttle. Tallinn was truly a hidden Jewel. It was a perfect place to do our own tour. BTW we did have with us the Rick Steves Northern Europe cruise tour book to help with the walking tours. If you should go out on your own take the HOHO to the top of the town and walk down hill back to the port . Some people took walking tours and said they could have done it on their own. It was a nice port to see. NO matter how you see it have comfortable shoes! You are walking on cobblestone roads which was difficult for many people. The next day we arrived in St Petersburg. We arrived at 7am but did not clear customs to begin getting off the ship until 8. We had book a private 12 person tour with SPB Tours for the 2 days there. Getting off the ship was a feat in itself. First EVERYONE lined up to get off the ship at the same time. We were not even cleared from customs yet. Some lined up before 6:30. We did meet everyone in our group at the lounge so we did all get off together. Next you have to go through immigration. No lie 10 – 15 min per person!!! They actually check a computer to make sure that you are on a list given to them from the tour companies that you may have booked with. If you are not on an organized tour you need to get your own VISA. Since we booked with SPB Tours they took care of everything for us. After clearing customs that first time the other times took moments to get through. SPB Tours took our tour to another level. Our tour guide was the informative spoke perfect English and took care of all our needs. Originally we were supposed to do a night Ballet but decided to change it to “Go Out Like a Local” It included a vodka sampling . The next day we toured again and made it back to the ship in plenty of time. I would not hesitate to use SPB Tours again. Helsinki was our next port of call. It was a very easy touring port. HOHO buses but again 45 min wait times between stops. Wasting that time when there for only a few hours……. Next port of call for us was Stockholm. We opted for the HOHO boat here. Many had said that the buses get caught in traffic jams so it would be easier. Our first stop was the Vasa Museum. If you plan to go you should go there first as well. Make sure when arriving by boat you go to the lines that are not for the group tours. We got in within 10 min. It was fascinating. After that we went to go to the Skansen. We felt if we did we would not have time to go to anything else so passed on it. The ship was leaving pot at 3 PM. Boy did we luck out with fabulous weather. We took the HOHO boat to the old town. It was magnificent. Again a 35 min wait . We went by the palace where the royal military band was playing. Then off to city center. Walked around a bit and then back to the ship. Make sure you are on deck as the ship leaves Stockholm. It was amazing to see and pass by all the little islands. The scenery was beyond words. Good thing we left when we did otherwise we would have gotten stuck in low tide. We sat on our balcony for over 3 hours before getting ready for dinner. Next day was a sea day. Good thing since we needed to recharge after 5 days of straight touring. Copenhagen was our final port of call. What a mess. There is only a 2 lane road to get off the port in and out. With all the tour buses waiting it became a single lane for in and out. We were stuck for almost an hour on the HOHO in front of the ship. What a traffic jam it was!!!! Considering we were only in port from 10 – 5 time is pretty precious. Again we used citysightseeing bus company. First stop for us was the old city area. We went by the round tower and walked around the old city. Very nice. Walked to the Rosenbourgh Castle and had lunch we brought in the gardens. Went back on the HOHO bus. Only 15 min wait time so not too bad. Went around the entire loop to see the whole city. We then got off across from Tivoli park. We wanted to go in but the lines were too long. It was now 3 pm. We decided to get back on the bus to head back to the ship wanting to get off at two fountains to take pictures. Little Mermaid being one of them. What a joke. It took 2 ½ hours to get back to the ship when it should have taken 30 min. Driver had us switch buses and that bus did not move for 45 min. Driver said I am just the driver go complain to the company. Then EVERY stop the driver gets off to have a cigarette. 10 min each time. Worse experience ever. What a waste of 50 Euro for the 2 of us. I mention the price for others to consider is it worth the HOHO or just pay for tour from a company and focus on a couple of sites at a port. I know SPB Tours had a Baltic package with tours in each port we went to . We thought we would do better on our own. In actuality you are doing a panoramic tour of the city. Now taking in consideration the wait times between buses and boats we probably would have done better with the tours. No wait time, bus was there waiting to take you to the next location etc. If you are traveling and staying in a city for a couple of days then the HOHO would be a better option for an overview of the city and then you still have another day or 2 to see specific sites. If I would have known this before again I would have let SPB Tours take care of all my logistics. Others that used them loved all the tours. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
I would like to make a complaint of my last cruise with MSC. In October 2013, I made a cruise in the Mediterranean in the ship Lirica. I reserved a balcony and this trip was great. I had a beautiful view from my balcony. I was so ... Read More
I would like to make a complaint of my last cruise with MSC. In October 2013, I made a cruise in the Mediterranean in the ship Lirica. I reserved a balcony and this trip was great. I had a beautiful view from my balcony. I was so pleased with MSC that I decided to make another cruise with the same company. So I reserved the cruise from Hamburg in the ship called Splendida. And I made this trip this September. This time I also reserved a cabin with balcony, but unfortunately they gave me a balcony that had in front a life boat and the mechanism they use to unboard passengers at the ports. The result was that I couldn't see anything at all. I didn't have the beautiful views of the other trip in Lirica. I went immediately to the bureau of Customer Service of the ship and they told me that they were very sorry but that the ship was full and that they couldn't change me to other cabin. So I had to stay the 11 days of the cruise the same way as if I had been in a cabin without balcony. I think that in cases like this you have to compensate the passenger in a cabin with that limitation and not charge the same price as the balconies with a normal view. As i am retired and I am not rich, and you know very well that cruises are expensive, (and cabin with balconies more), I have to save money to afford this cruise. After my first trip I was a great fan of MSC and recommended it, but now I feel betrayed and deceived. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
We've traveled on Windstar Sailing ships for 22 years. We've also been on the Pride when it was a Seabourn ship. It is not in top condition under Windstar's operation. Our cabin had rust stains in the window area, around ... Read More
We've traveled on Windstar Sailing ships for 22 years. We've also been on the Pride when it was a Seabourn ship. It is not in top condition under Windstar's operation. Our cabin had rust stains in the window area, around the bathtub and the carpet looked worn. The tub was not draining when we checked in on day one. After reporting that and the stuck shower control those items were fixed. Cabin upkeep was less than perfect and I felt they were short on staff at times. Usually, ships put small wrapped candies on the bed in the evening? Now they put unwrapped candies on a plate? That's a bit tacky. We like small ships and pick cruises by itinerary. The itinerary was as good as could be expected with the situation in the Crimea. But the ship was just not that great. Food was okay. Availability was limited. Although there is always room service, the restaurants are not serving at some times/days. And the ready made sandwiches you can get if you missed lunch are not worth eating. That leaves you with room service. As on most cruise lines the excursions are ridiculously expensive and not as good as tours you can book off the ship. And lastly, the 800 # can't answer questions about ports, tendering, docking or clarify excursion and shuttle information. I tried. They didn't have any answers. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Four of us joined the Black Watch as a surprise for 2 elderly relatives who had already been on board for 2 weeks. We found our cabin very disappointing and the general atmosphere felt like a visit to an old and fading Harrogate hotel in ... Read More
Four of us joined the Black Watch as a surprise for 2 elderly relatives who had already been on board for 2 weeks. We found our cabin very disappointing and the general atmosphere felt like a visit to an old and fading Harrogate hotel in March living off its long lost glory days. 1st of all the plus points, ++++ dinner and service was very good, gym 4 stars, bar staff and waiters excellent, cabin cleaned and towels also v.good, music in the forward bar not bad. 2nd minus points - - - - very drab cabin& beds, breakfast was 'stone cold' one morning but better the next, afternoon tea 3 stars, coffee 2 stars, general atmosphere was one of fading bygone days. Fred Olsen business model We are hardly youngsters ... all in our 60's but this ship caters for a mind set, the average regular card carrying "this is our 10th Fred trip' passenger swears by Fred Olsen because they get free upgrades to better cabins and 'well we know where everything is on this ship' is an indictment to the average passenger. On our return journey we were overtaken by the Queen Mary 2 and we hear oh look at that, all those lights and its far top big with too many people on board well I have been there and actually it was brilliant So if its fading glory, lets all wear beige anoraks and in bed by 10-30 then The Black Watch is for you - if its lets live a little, conversations that contain the word tablet means samsung and not something you take 3 times a day with meals then pick another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We are a middle aged couple and decided to treat our selves to a mini cruise before Christmas. We arrived at Tilbury which was easy to get to and the embarkation process was fast and efficient. We were in our cabins 15 minutes after ... Read More
We are a middle aged couple and decided to treat our selves to a mini cruise before Christmas. We arrived at Tilbury which was easy to get to and the embarkation process was fast and efficient. We were in our cabins 15 minutes after arriving. The cabin was much bigger than we expected and was spotlessly clean with plenty of storage space . The crew were always extremely helpful and prompt and the service in all areas was excellent. The boat was old but clean and had an old fashioned charm about it missing in more modern boats. We much preferred this to the bigger, newer boats. It was a small ship by modern standards but we enjoyed the more sedate pace on board. The food was excellent, with good choices in both restaurants. There was plenty of entertainment at night and during the day. Quizes, bingo, live music, cabaret etc and drinks in the bars were reasonably priced. We enjoyed working our way through their excellent cocktail list while listening to live classical music or singing. The ports we visited were lovely and as it was a small ship it docked in the centre of Antwerp and Aamsterdam and it was a short walk to the town centres from the boat. There were plenty of excursions to pick from but they were quite expensive. It is much cheaper to arrange your own once you are off the boat. There were plenty of facilities on board. Shops, gym, pool, beauty salon, games room, library and a continual supply of tea and coffee. There were daily news papers and quiz sheets printed. We were sorry when the cruise ended as we honestly could not fault anything. The disembarkation process was quick and efficient. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise. It was an adults only cruise and the majority of people were middle aged. We are definitely going to book again on this ship as we enjoyed the smaller boat with its more intimate atmosphere. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
MSC Magnifica 8th October 2024  Very quick check-in, on board and in cabin by 12.45. S3 family cabin - sitting area next to full length balcony windows, separated from dressing area and bedroom by curtains. King size bed, comfortable, ... Read More
MSC Magnifica 8th October 2024  Very quick check-in, on board and in cabin by 12.45. S3 family cabin - sitting area next to full length balcony windows, separated from dressing area and bedroom by curtains. King size bed, comfortable, lumpy pillows, nice bedding - not duvet but sheet, blanket and cover. Bedside tables each with three drawers. Bedside light and access to main lights. Divider cupboard between bed and dressing tables, three large cupboards, one of which contained the fridge. TV, quite small, on this divider. Interactive menu on the TV, including access to shipboard account and info. At least the account t info was available during the first few days, but it disappeared later in the week and the reception staff said that it was only visible on the last day ?? 4-seated settee, small oval coffee table and small armchair without arms. Bathroom fairly compact. Shower with curtain, which did not attack during a shower. Good pressure and soap and shampoo available in dispensers attached to the shower wall. Early sitting for dinner - 6.00 pm - which I find too early. However late sitting at 8.30 is too late for me as well - need to consider freedom dining in future. Meals at dinner consisted of Appetisers, salads, soups, pasta dish, main meal and sweet. We usually selected 3/4 courses maximum. Alternatives to menu offered daily eg salmon, chicken. There was also one vegetarian main as well. Buffet for lunch, always available are burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, pasta, chips and salad. Always adequate, sometimes really good. Special recommendation here for the freshly-made pizzas - usually about 4 different flavours - each one we tried was delicious. Used for lunch time each day. Breakfast we opted for in-cabin, to avoid the inevitable crush and push when so many cultures are on board. This trip included Russians, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Japanese, Chinese and possibly Portuguese. Most annoying - lifeboat drill after pickup in Hamburg, which included those passengers who had joined in Amsterdam the day before. Every instruction was repeated throughout all the cabins in six languages. This happened just after I awoke from an afternoon sleep, so at least it didn't wake me up. We believe this was a mistake because the following drill was not transmitted into the cabin, only the initial call for those passengers affected. Evening entertainment - we spent each evening in the Tiger Bar which is not as garish as it appears in the pictures with all the tigerskin carpets and seats. The musicians in here were very good but the Animation team were restricted in their games by the various nationalities attending. It usually consisted of audience guessing names of films or tunes or artists and running to a chair on stage, where the correct answer was rewarded with an MSC bag, or t-shirt etc. The theatre shows were all well attended every evening, because there was the locust swarm of passengers traversing the Tiger Bar on their way to and from wherever. We never did find out where everyone disappeared to, but there were plenty of alternative bars or lounges. We found the daytime in the Tiger Bar was dominated during the sea day by the Entertainment Team creating games and shouting loudly and often for applause, applause - more than a little trying, especially if we were writing or reading (or trying to). We moved into a different bar, but it was still close enough to hear the call for applause. The ship is immaculately clean and like a micro community. The service was either fantastic or very poor, with disaffected staff showing either disinterest or disdain at times. However, we on,y encountered a couple of members of staff who were miserable and the rest were delightful. In fact, our waiter at dinner and a number of bar staff were very pleasant and happy, which is what we expect at all times from customer-facing staff. Our ports of call were Zeebrugge for Brugge, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Le Havre. When we docked at Zeebrugge, due to some pervious research, we were aware that there was a free port shuttle, but this fact was never made known on board. Instead the ship shuttle at €14 was suggested. As I was unwell at the beginning of the trip, we decided to go on the ship shuttle, which took us close to Blankenburg rail station where we boarded the first train for Bruges, at a cost of €12, which is €3 each person, each way. These run from Blankenburg at ten minutes after the hour, each hour and the return from Bruges is at 36 minutes after the hour, and they ran on the dot while we were there. The trains are clean, comfortable and fast, a great way to travel. While in Bruge we had coffee, caught up with mails, FB etc. In Amsterdam we walked along the harbour, passing the river boats along the way, to the Grand Central Station. At this point the HOHO buses can be found, although we didn't use these this time as it was quite recently that we had done both canal and coach trips. We walked through the city, checked out the Sex Museum which ad been recommended to us. Although this may sound seedy, the Museum is very interesting and good value for money at €4 each. We then had our coffee at one of the Hotel coffee shops, where we were disappointed that their WiFi was not working. As we left the coffee shop there was an almighty crash as a motor cyclist was hit by a tram and everything around seemed to just stop. The ambulance was at the scene very quickly and the cyclist was quickly whisked away, hopefully not too badly hurt as he was at was on his feet just after the accident. We then continued our wanderings and were soon in the red light district, where some of the girls were showing their attributes. My Hubby commented that window shopping could sometimes be appealing - this from the man who HATES shopping with a passion back home. By this time we were both tired so we caught the No. 26 tram back to the ship - at a cost of €1.30 each. Although the ship was docked here overnight, we decided to spend the evening on board and enjoyed an excellent meal in the main restaurant. Our third stop was in Hamburg and again we paid the ship's shuttle cost of €13.90 each as we had not been into Hamburg previously. I had researched the alternatives and found that there are water buses available, and there were also plenty of taxis available. I did overhear that these were charging €20 each way, but I can't verify this. We were dropped off at the square where the Town Hall was, a most magnificent building it has to be said. After a quick coffee in Starbucks and a quick email catchup, we decided to get the HOHO tour. I was a little nervous about this because I had read that these HOHOs were more geared to the Europe languages, with English not very much in evidence, but we went on two of these buses and in each case English was available as well as Dutch and German. This was in fact one of the best value HOHOs we have been on and the whole tour lasted just over 2 hours. We both really enjoyed the sights we saw and the information that was also given. Our last call was Le Havre and we were booked on a ship's excursion to Breuille Castle Calvados distillery, with a stop at Breuille en Ange. The guide at the Castle was excellent and able to converse fluently in English and French. The Ship's guide also provided commentary in Italian for a small contingency of our group. Very interesting, very welcoming visit. The trip to the village was super, so reflecting what we expected of a typical French village in the countryside. We treated ourselves to some traditional patisseries and had a good trip back, taking in Honfleur while still in the coach, showing the contrasts of a busy port and the idyllic countryside. A good excursion, although it was certainly a little overpriced. An ambience change certainly appeared to happen for me over the last couple of days on the cruise, following the picking up of large number of Russian passengers and their children. This may just reflect the cultural differences, but the staff around and about certainly seemed to be intimated by the attitude of these passengers and I felt quite upset at times when I observed how the staff were treated as servants, rather than as the hard-working, pleasant individuals that we had encountered. It appears that the Russian culture is just louder and more aggressive than we usually encounter on multi-cultural ships or resorts, so perhaps it is a case of being more tolerant (or avoiding cruises where passengers are picked up like ferry passengers, at each port of call throughout the cruise.) Overall this was a great cruise, we enjoyed the food, the service, the upgrade of cabin, the company we kept and being in a beautiful and immaculate ship, almost all of which was attributable to MSC - the bonus was really good weather in all the ports we visited - and the excellent value for money.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
After sailing on the Millenium fro Tokyo to Vancouver in May we were ready to give up on Celebrity but had previously booked the Constellation 2 Oct sailing and decided to give them one more chance and we are glad that we did. Everything ... Read More
After sailing on the Millenium fro Tokyo to Vancouver in May we were ready to give up on Celebrity but had previously booked the Constellation 2 Oct sailing and decided to give them one more chance and we are glad that we did. Everything that was wrong with the Millenium and there were a magnitude of service and ship maintenance issues- we found all in very good order on the Constellation. Ports were changed because of the strife in the Ukraine so we visited two ports in Turkey instead. Trabzon and Sinop. Neither were particularly attractive but we were not two disappointed because they were new and we had been to the ports that were dropped on previous cruises. Food, Cabin and Bar services were what we had previously come to expect from Celebrity. We booked our next Celebrity cruise on this ship for August 2015 doing the Adriatic. Be careful when booking onboard as they will not or cannot book you into existing groups. In our case I called celebrity when we got home and had the booking transferred to a group, kept the same cabin and on board booking benefits and reduced our cost by almost $1000 Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Flight on Turkish Airways was on time and we were served lunch with free drinks. Arrived at Ataturk Airport and all was well until we had to locate our transport. We were told to look for a person holding a card with our name on it. This ... Read More
Flight on Turkish Airways was on time and we were served lunch with free drinks. Arrived at Ataturk Airport and all was well until we had to locate our transport. We were told to look for a person holding a card with our name on it. This was, in reality, a piece of paper attached to fencing, along with 100s of others, as we entered the arrivals area. We then had to wait for nearly half an hour to be told to go, with others, to a minibus. The booking-in system at the ship was quick and efficient. Once on-board we went to the Windows Cafe for lunch whilst our luggage was delivered to our cabin (sorry Veranda Stateroom). Our Stateroom (6083) was roomy, with a lot of storage space, and had a flat screen TV. The bed was large and had the deepest mattress I’ve had on any ship. The bathroom was small and only had a shower (no bath) but this was perfectly acceptable. Bottled water was complimentary and replaced daily. We always ate breakfast and lunch in the Windows Cafe. There was a very large selection at breakfast with the exception of breakfast cereals which there was little choice. Lunch again had a large selection but very little variation in the menu. Even though it was it was supposed to be self-service we were served every day. Infection concerns were given as the reason. The one thing I could not understand was that there were no trays and getting a cold plate for salads was a constant problem. They want to serve salads in a bowl, cold meats/cheese on another plate. Then I wanted a roll and butter but I only have two hands! I had to find a table, put down what I had then go back for what I couldn't carry. Every night we ate in the Discoveries Restaurant. On entering we were asked what table size we required and escorted to a suitable table. This worked very well and we met many friendly people. Different wines were served each night but some were very much house wines. The food was good but not the high standard we expected of this level of ship. Again the menu was not as varied enough each night. One night many of us at the table had venison which looked and tasted like liver! All the staff on the ship were very friendly and attentive. Nothing was too much trouble. The singers and dancers performed to a high standard. However, they had to double up on quizzes etc. which can only be expected on a ship of this size. However, they were clearly not trained to do these additional functions. We did not take any ship organised tours as we thought that they were far too expensive but chose instead to just walk around the towns where we docked. We did not buy anything or had a drink in these ports as each only wanted their own currency and not the Dollars or Euros we bought with us. There were too many different currencies to keep changing small amounts. Nessebar was an old picturesque town with many old churches. However, they had people on the doors to levy a charge on all who wished to enter. I believe that this was only done when a ship was in port. All in all, a pleasant port of call. The same cannot be said for our next port, Constanta. This can best be described as either London or Coventry after the Second World War blitz! I'm surprised that any ship would want to visit here. Many houses, cafes and shops were either boarded up or just a shell. This was a tender port and we were met by local guides who handed out maps of the town. Not a lot of people around. However, the centre town square was a light relief with very attractive buildings surrounding it. After a day at sea we arrived at Batumi which was definitely the highlight of the whole cruise. We docked in the town and walked around this very attractive and clean city. There were many beautiful buildings some old and some very new. This was also the place where we were to experience the AzAmazing Evening. Most of the 700 passengers went to the Batumi State Musical Center for a show entitled “Legends of Dance”. It was so well organised and the show was of an exceptionally high standard. On our return to the ship we were met with many locals who had come down to the sea front just to see the ship. The ship had laid on a band to greet us and we were served drinks prior to us getting back on-board. The sail away was also impressive as the locals waived us away and many of the building had their own light shows. The last port was Trabzon. After a steep climb up from the harbour we entered a town which was very much like Istanbul in character. Many very busy streets and squares. It was too commercialised but there were no problems with being hassled by the local shops. The ship had advised us of the disembarking procedures a couple of days before. We had been scheduled to depart the ship at 7:45am which I queried as our flight was not until 12:55. It was changed to 8:45am without a problem. However, 9am was the very last disembarking time. It did give many passengers the feeling that, “The cruise is over, get off”! Many passengers were leaving on flight much later than ours. The coach, taking us to the airport, took ages to leave the port and made very slow progress through Istanbul. Once away from the city we made speedy progress to the airport. We had to have our entire luggage scanned on entry. This seemed a bit excessive. Otherwise check-in was speedy and efficient. The airport is vast. We left from gate 221. The flight home, on Turkish Airways, was on time and again a pleasant experience. Would we travel again with Azamara again? Probably not as their normal cruise pricing is way above what we would normally spend. Their food in the main restaurant also is not up to the standard of other cruises we have been on. However, it is a good ship with very friendly staff.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We cruise a lot on all different lines and this is the first ship we felt was UNACCEPTABLE. This is especially disturbing since the ship was chartered by Vantage 'Deluxe' Travel which we had heard was a terrific travel company. ... Read More
We cruise a lot on all different lines and this is the first ship we felt was UNACCEPTABLE. This is especially disturbing since the ship was chartered by Vantage 'Deluxe' Travel which we had heard was a terrific travel company. But, they chartered and continue to charter this ship which has poor accommodations and is not maintained or operated properly. (I tried to post a review like this right after the cruise but CruiseCritic did not have this ship available to review at the time.) I'll start by saying the itinerary, crew and cruise director were great. Only the ship was deficient. First, design. 'Deck 1' on any other ship is above the water line. But on the Harmony G 'Deck 1' is below the water line with small windows AT the water line. So, you feel like you're in a washing machine any time you're in your cabin. 'Luckily' our toilet didn't work so they 'upgraded' us to a forward cabin on Deck 2. This was somewhat better, but because it was forward it had a lot more motion than amidships cabins. As the cruise wore on we realized that the passenger cabins were sorely deficient in ventilation and cooling. Any time it was warm outside, it was hot and stuffy in our cabins. The common areas, the dining room and lounge, were always freezing. And, their doors did not close properly, so that the cool air was constantly being lost outside. I think the engineer purposely used the cooling resources for the common rooms and didn't care whether cool, fresh air got to the passenger cabins or not. The other issue was stabilizers. The ship has them, but the captain only turns them on when they think it's rough seas. And their idea of 'rough seas' is a whole lot different than my wife's idea of rough seas. The food was just 'ok' and they were accommodating to the extent possible with such a small ship and crew. The passengers were average age of probably 75 and preferred to come back to the ship for lunch rather than eating in port. I just don't understand why you would travel all that way to eat average American food. In short, don't sail on the Harmony G. Vantage did not adequately respond to our concerns so we will avoid Vantage 'Deluxe' Travel as well. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
We were two couples from Northern England seasoned cruises i must add, and chose this cruise because we had not been to the Black Sea before.Unfortunately some of the usual places they visit were changed on the itinerary because of the ... Read More
We were two couples from Northern England seasoned cruises i must add, and chose this cruise because we had not been to the Black Sea before.Unfortunately some of the usual places they visit were changed on the itinerary because of the troubles in that area.Nevertheless we still enjoyed the cruise. Embarkation went smoothly although we did have to walk the full length of one ship before boarding Riviera. Stateroom: We both had Penthouse suites on Deck 11 midship on starboard side.They were spacious and comfortable and with a butler, everything was catered for. All the public rooms lounges etc.were decorated to a high standard and were all in a pristine condition as was throughout the ship. We chose to dine for dinner in the main dining room with a good variety of menus.Service here was good although on one occasion they were under pressure one night, as everybody came at the same time due to the Captains welcome party.Also dined at 3 of the 4 speciality restaurants.Great cuisine in each of them,except Jacques the French restaurant.Two of our guests chose a lamb main course which was lamb wrapped in pistachio filling then encased in a pastry encrute.When it was sliced open the piece of lamb inside was no bigger than a postage stamp!! Come on Oceania more lamb please.We were offered another course which was declined. Entertainment of the 4 shows by the Jean Ann Ryan company were excellent.Standard of the other entertainment was good also. No tours were taken as everybody knows Oceania are rather expensive.When will they get the message! Brief description of ports visited; Nessebar,Quaint town with narrow streets/walkways with souvenir shops,restaurants and bars. Constanta,Not as bad as some blogs suggest.Have to go with open mind.Old part does have derelict buildings but there is a new pedestrian walkway through the area with cafes and bars. Betumi,Nice esplanade to walk along then head inland to come to the town with buildings of a Russian influence. Trazbon,Typical Turkish city with shops and a fortress to visit. Sinop,Nice port area and esplanade to walk along and head inland also to the town. Kusadasi,This is the port for Ephesus to visit although the town of Kusadasi is worth a visit to the shops to buy genuine fake goods and haggle for a good price. Disembarkation was a smooth transiton to Athens airport, transfers by Oceania. As we all have done Oceania cruises before, the conclusion was would we travel with them again and the answer would be a resounding yes.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our sixth trip with Vantage, thirds on the Navigator......and all in the same cabin!!! We started in Prague with the pre-trip extension and it was a highlight of the trip! Prague and Bratislava are both beautiful and our group of ... Read More
This was our sixth trip with Vantage, thirds on the Navigator......and all in the same cabin!!! We started in Prague with the pre-trip extension and it was a highlight of the trip! Prague and Bratislava are both beautiful and our group of 24 really bonded in the first 24 hours or so. Navigator has been remodeled since our last trip on her, and she looks beautiful, although I hate the new name of the Lounge......Rat Pack Lounge? Really???? But it seemed a lot more spacious than before and there was ample room for the on board entertainment, which there didn't use to be. Our cabin was comfortable as usual and the walk-in shower was a big relief after 5 nights struggling in and out of deep bathtubs in hotels. Plenty of storage space, especially now that I have a Vera Bradley hanging vanity case......what a find THAT was. Our cabin steward was excellent and fearless.....he came right away the afternoon I found a spider as big as my fist on the outside of the door for our french balcony.....and he didn't even laugh at me for standing on the bed pointing at the door! We were divided into 3 groups and I love the way they did it: Blue group were people who did the pre-trip extension; Green group those who were doing the Danube from Bonn to Constanta and the Yellow group those who boarded in Budapest and did not do the pre-trip. Only negative to that is that all three groups tended to stick together and not mingle a lot. The ports we visited ranged from wonderful to okay, but only because in some of them there just wasn't a lot to see and do. We did one optional on the cruise and that was the puszta tour to see the Hungarian cowboys. I know I read reviews of this tour from people who said the horses were thin and seemed mal-treated. While we saw absolutely no evidence of abuse or mal-nourishment, I would not book it again because it just wasn't worth the money. Those who went to Tito's Palace met the Prince and Princess of Bulgaria! As for the food, I thought it was great. I read previous review from vegan who had trouble finding food to eat. What a shame, because our trip had one of the best vegetarian cooks on the planet!!! I had no trouble finding many choices for breakfast from cold Muesli to yogurt and fruit and for lunch the salad bar and cold fruit soups were to die for. Dinner always had a vegetarian menu and there was only one I didn't care for and that was nobody's fault....sometimes you just don't care for a recipe and this was one of those times.....and the chef made me something else!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
The ship is sharp and well laid out . . . it is actually the same ship as the Carnival Legend/Miracle twins with a bit classier decorations and fittings. Costa out shines everyone on embarkation proceedings . . . but is in the "not ... Read More
The ship is sharp and well laid out . . . it is actually the same ship as the Carnival Legend/Miracle twins with a bit classier decorations and fittings. Costa out shines everyone on embarkation proceedings . . . but is in the "not ready for prime time" class for food and tours. Food . . . well prepared but dull compared to other cruise lines such as NCL and Royal Caribbean . . . and with poor access. A 3 hour only lunch buffet . . . less than 2 hours for served breakfast . . . and no dinner or evening buffet options were very old school. You essentially eat at your assigned dinner time or starve! Food was well prepared but with very limited choices.. Tours had to be pre-purchased and there were no refunds. Costa then mixed languages which essentially gave you half a guide. When questioned, the tour staff shrugged and essentially said "tough".   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
I had read so many negative reviews that I was hesitant to book this cruise line. I truly don't know what they were complaining about! Boarding was so swift and I was in my cabin, with my luggage without any snafus. There were 3,000 ... Read More
I had read so many negative reviews that I was hesitant to book this cruise line. I truly don't know what they were complaining about! Boarding was so swift and I was in my cabin, with my luggage without any snafus. There were 3,000 passengers and only 78 English speakers, but it was never a problem. I was traveling alone and was seated with a delightful mix of dining companions. They had all of the English speaking folks in one corner of the dining room, so we mingled with each other. I have cruised on Celebrity, Holland America, Orient, Norwegian, RCCL, Renaisance, Costa and Carnival and this was probably the most spotless ship I have been on. My cabin was spacious and very comfortable. The ship is beautiful, with lovely pieces of art and sculpture everywhere. There was wonderful music every night, several different musical styles, and lots of people dancing. Yes, the shows must cater to everyone, but they were very good. I took lots of pictures, but I haven't a clue on how to add them to this review. Dining was always a pleasure! Our waiters were wonderful and hard working. This is an Italian ship and the food reflects this. There are more courses than we're usually served. The portion size is geared to the European diner. I do hate the waste I see when portions are too large. I enjoyed the variety of food and the desserts were incredible. I always ate in the dining room, buffets are not for me. I had my coupon booklet for our free water, and we all shared at dinner, so I left the ships with unused coupons. All of the ship staff I encountered were cordial and helpful. I do plan on cruising with MSC again! When you combine the beautiful ship with the considerable cost savings, it's an easy decision. And the Black Sea is a marvelous destination. It is relatively uncrowded, such a change from the Mediterranean ports. I would suggest you take a taxi when you debark as the walk to the bus/train is very long and difficult.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We had heard good reports about Azura and were really excited about taking a 24 night Cruise to the Black Sea. Embarkation was smooth and quick and we were on board within 30 minutes. Cabins were not available and were directed to ... Read More
We had heard good reports about Azura and were really excited about taking a 24 night Cruise to the Black Sea. Embarkation was smooth and quick and we were on board within 30 minutes. Cabins were not available and were directed to restaurant to get food and drink whilst waiting for an announcement about availability. This came relatively quickly and we entered a clean reasonably spacious balcony cabin on Barbados Deck Starboard side, The first thing that hit us about Azura was that you could not walk all around the Promenade deck because the bow end was blocked off by superstructure. Secondly that no matter where you went on the ship it seemed very busy - with great difficulty finding seats in other than the Planet Bar or the Glass House. The Theatre was always completely full for first show at least 30 minuted before curtain up and started to emply 5 mintes before the end of an act so that Wacky Races could be performed by a combination of Walker aids, zimmer frames, wheelchairs, and disabled scooters as people zoomed off to claim seats for another show lounge. We felt that Manhatten lounge was dangerous when full because isles were frequently blocked and the lounge vista was not helped by huge pillars keeping the roof up. We dined on first sitting in the Oriental restaurant. The food was OK as was service but it was nothing to get excited about, especially the puddings. The show lounges were in my opinion quite poorly laid out and Brodie's Bar which we frequented for Quizzes was quite the most unwelcoming and uncomfortable bar I have ever encountered on any ship. It was in the same room as the casino and with regular clientelle on the noisy fruit machines it made for interesting quizzes with questions often having to be repeated The cruise itinerary was we has hoped going to be exciting especially cruising the Dardonelles and the Bosphorous, however both transients of the Dardonnelles were late at night and one of the Bosphorous was very early in the morning. This left us feeling distinctly short changed. We were unable to call in at Myteleene owing to rough seas, however I have been tendered by other cruise lines in much worse conditions. whoever planned the itinerary at Carnival want to be given a talking to. To dock on a Sunday morning in Vigo - when they must have know the port was virtually closed was disgraceful. Especially as we had been as sea for 5 days. Why could we not have called at Gibraltar or Cadiz on a Saturday? Passengers were not happy to discover a virtual lock down of Vigo. Tours we booked were for the most part OK although the Odessa guide was a joke. Taking us on a half hour stop to a Ukrainian bank to get local currency to use in local toilets and then telling the us the bank required to see our Ukrainian passports. What an idiot.. However the most disappointing aspect of the whole cruise was the attitude of more mature passengers. They were often very rude and intolerant. One example being to start booing and slow hand clapping in the theatre because the show was 7 minuted late in starting. DSS investigators need to get on one of these ships - the benefits bill would drop alarmingly. People was supposedly could hardly walk could suddenly sprint when a lift became free Read Less
Sail Date September 2013

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