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9 Singapore to Africa Cruise Reviews

We have been on several river cruises with Uniworld and had wonderful experiences and on a 2 week cruise with Blount on the Great Lakes in the USA, but apart from couple of cruises up and down the Norwegian coast on the Hurtigruten, this ... Read More
We have been on several river cruises with Uniworld and had wonderful experiences and on a 2 week cruise with Blount on the Great Lakes in the USA, but apart from couple of cruises up and down the Norwegian coast on the Hurtigruten, this was our first sea cruise. The moment we stepped on board in Singapore, we entered a world of comfort, luxury and plenty, all delivered with good humour and kindness by the hard working staff and crew. We were drawn to Seabourn because the food at all the restaurants is included as well as drinks. We did not want to face a large bill at the end. We were also attracted to this particular cruise because it included a lot of sea days and although we wanted to see an interesting part of the world, we also really wanted to relax. Cabin Our cabin was on Deck 5 (the lowest residential deck), and we had a beautiful big room with a verandah, a separate lounge room, a big comfortable bed and a big bathroom with a bath (yay!!!!!), with high quality and plentiful bath products and big, soft towels. There was plenty of storage and the view from the verandah was uninterrupted. Compared to the cabins on river cruises, this cabin was a mansion. A couple of times throughout the cruise, we had a "meet your neighbours" party. This is a great idea. Food The food at the Restaurant, Sushi, the Collonade and the Patio was outstanding. There was plenty to choose from and everything we chose was well cooked and delicious. We are big fans of Asian breakfasts, particularly Vietnamese. So when we boarded the ship, we asked the chef if he could cook us a Vietnamese Pho a couple of times a week for breakfast. And this he did. It was delicious and fragrant and we got many envious stares as it was delivered to our table. This was truly outstanding service. We really enjoyed lunch at Sushi. The bento boxes were delicious and the staff were wonderful, particularly the lovely lady from the Caribbean who served the wine and sake. The food at the Restaurant was outstanding. We had the best steaks we have ever had and their other dishes were also delicious and beautifully presented. The service was fantastic, particularly from Duane from Barbados and her colleague (also from the Caribbean). These two women were friendly, funny and incredibly efficient and helpful. We ate at the Collonade often. The variety at the buffet was always fantastic and we could both always find something delicious to eat. We particularly enjoyed the congee for breakfast and that’s what we had on the days we didn’t have our Pho. We often went to the themed dinners and always really enjoyed them. The lovely lady from Portugal who was the hostess at the front desk was so helpful. The Patio is an up market fast food joint and it was the place to go when we had a hankering for a hot dog, hamburger or pizza. We were not impressed by the Thomas Keller Grill. I had the lobster thermidor and it was swimming in butter and all the food was far too salty. The Grill had all the pretentions of a fine dining establishment without the haute cuisine. The menu never changed, and, unlike the other restaurants, we could not request any changes to the dishes. Aparently the chefs knew better what was best for us. On the other hand, we had Thomas Keller inspired dishes at the Restaurant and the Collonade and they were absolutely beautiful. We hail from a part of Australia that produces truffles and we love em. We were very excited to know that there were a lot of dishes which included truffles. Unfortunately the truffle was undetectable. The executive chef explained that they cannot get fresh truffles, so they use canned ones. These have very little aroma or flavour and I suggest they should leave the truffle out of the menu until they can get the good stuff. Drink The wine ranged from very good to acceptable and there was always plenty to choose from. There was a huge variety of cocktails and the lovely bar man in the Observation Bar always brought over our favourite cocktails as soon as we sat down. Great service. Public Spaces Even though the ship was nearly full, it never felt crowded. I love to find a quiet spot to read and I could always do that. The Observation Bar was pretty much deserted during the day and I could sit and read and watch the ship ploughing through the water. My only complaint was that each day at around 10am, a couple of blokes used to meet to have a very loud, shouty discussion on religious issues. Their conversation dominated that large space and I suspect they were trying to attract other participants. I was really not interested in their subject matter and I could not concentrate on my book. It appeared to me to be officially sanctioned, as one of the participants was a member of the clergy. The bar man told me he had tried to direct them to a private meeting room but to no avail. I am surprised the senior management didn’t insist. Seabourn Square was always a great place to get to know other guests. It’s comfortable and welcoming and refreshments are laid on. Entertainment We really enjoyed the shows put on by the in-house singers and dancers. These people were very talented. We didn’t see all the guest performers but those we did see were great. We also really enjoyed the guest lecturers and learned a lot about the Middle East and the Suez Canal. We loved the cooking demonstrations by the Executive Chef Kurt Timmermans . What a clever man he is. Staff and Crew We found the Captain and his team to be personable, approachable and helpful. My husband had lots of technical questions and he went out of his way to answer them. The cruise director was a delightful woman, as was her assistant and the staff at the Square went out of their way to help us. We booked excursions as we went along and they always made excellent alternative suggestions if the one we wanted was booked out. Everyone we dealt with had clearly been through rigorous training and did their job beautifully. Passengers Mostly Australian and American with a few other countries represented as well. Age range 60 and upwards. Mostly lovely people who were thrilled to be on board such a lovely ship, living in the lap of luxury and having such a wonderful experience. They were a pleasure to spend time with. However it always amazes me how a small minority are constantly complaining about anything and everything and thought nothing of being very rude to the staff. They seem to get off on it. We found there were always passengers like this on river cruises as well. Excursions These were on the whole, enjoyable, with some that were outstanding. Our favourites were the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, shopping with the chef in Muscat, the incredible first sight of Petra and the cooking demonstration in Santorini. The Grand Mosque is gobsmackingly gorgeous, the visit to the market with the chef was really interesting and Petra is definitely one of those places everyone should see. The cooking demonstration at a small restaurant attached to a farm on Santorini was some of the most beautiful food we have ever tasted. What that woman could do with a fresh tomato was a miracle. I was surprised that Seabourn didn’t provide passengers with audio headsets. Uniworld provide them for every passenger. On several tours, people got left behind and there was a great scramble to find them again. At Petra, it’s a long, difficult walk from the bus into the site and we lost the guide very early in the journey. It’s hard to get lost there, but it would have been nice to know what we were seeing. Laundry There is none and the cost of the laundry service is eye watering. However, being Aussies, we were well organised. We brought our own collapsible clothes line and a wonderful washing aid called a Scrubba. It’s a heavy plastic bag with a built in wash board and it worked a treat, although our room occasionally looked like a Chinese laundry. I understand they are going to provide a laundry soon and that’s a great idea. Internet Very patchy and as other reviewers have said, it should be part of the package. In summary, this was a wonderful experience. We both work and it was just lovely being waited on by friendly and attentive staff, to eat and drink deliciousness, to be entertained and to see really interesting sights. We have just booked a 45 day cruise on the Seabourn Quest in February, from Buenos Aires to Monte Carlo. Can’t wait. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
Let me first state that I did not like awarding the scores set forth below. My wife and I had hoped for a far better experience. This was our first Seabourn cruise; the most recent ones before were on Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, ... Read More
Let me first state that I did not like awarding the scores set forth below. My wife and I had hoped for a far better experience. This was our first Seabourn cruise; the most recent ones before were on Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, respectively. Our cruise started in Singapore and ended in Dubai. Some elements of the Encore were lovely. The overall décor was most attractive, and the Seabourn Square set up was a delight. For the most part, our Verandah V5 cabin was well thought out (the closet could use some reconfiguration -- raising the hanging poles and sacrificing a bit of the shelf space above). It was impossible, however, to regulate the temperature in our cabin at a stable degree; at night, especially, the air conditioning, unlike the day, was ineffective -- with the room being so warm we discarded our covers. Our stewardess was absolutely terrific, and the other members of the non-food service crew were personable. So what wasn't so great? Primarily, it was the food -- especially in comparison to both the Oceania Marina and the Regent Explorer ships. With the exception of the Thomas Keller restaurant (the second time, at least) no meal was delicious, and several of the meals were plain disappointing. Bread was consistently substandard, as were most of the pastries. Beef was not as good as the lamb; chicken was overcooked. Fish, however, was well-prepared. The Restaurant's cuisine was not generally as good as the Colonnade's. Service in the Restaurant at dinner was really bad. Twice (once dining alone and a second time with another couple), we had to skip dessert to make the 8:45 pm show; in each instance we were seated at 6:45 p.m. That is inexcusable. Service in the Colonnade was, conversely, quite good at both breakfast and dinner. Daniel and Megan deserve special mention for their performance. As for Thomas Keller, the steaks the first time were terribly over-salted, and not just our table. The people next to us had the same complaint. The captain actually tried my wife's and readily agreed, and the manager subsequently invited us to dine in his restaurant again, promising a far better experience the next time -- which it was. The sushi restaurant was fine, with the lead server a true delight. The food was okay. It is impossible to see the chefs at work due to the configuration of the counter; its front should be all glass and the display of fish lowered so that the preparations can be viewed by diners, especially those sitting around where the chefs were working. We found the entertainment mixed. Wayne (the comedian on the cruise) was truly entertaining; on the other hand we thought the Tim Rice show to be a disappointment -- less due to the singers and more due to the choice of songs performed. The rest (we attended several) were so-so. The lecturers were distinguished. We would have preferred slightly more sophisticated talks -- and with more emphasis on the current states of the countries visited and less on their histories. We took several tours. The most disappointing to us was in Muscat, where we were left for 90 minutes at a mediocre, touristy souk and had only 15 minutes, in contrast, at a wonderful museum. The rest were okay, if over promised. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
April 3 - Jun 5, 2015 Asia/Africa (62 days) Ship condition- (rating: 4) - old, small, cabin small, air conditioning is terrible, - no theatre. All shows are in sitting room style. So if you sit in the back, you are ... Read More
April 3 - Jun 5, 2015 Asia/Africa (62 days) Ship condition- (rating: 4) - old, small, cabin small, air conditioning is terrible, - no theatre. All shows are in sitting room style. So if you sit in the back, you are blocked by other people's head. - Library is big, quite a few books. - dining room is ok, tables are a little bit clouded. - just one small swimming pool but not clouded. - walking track is on the tenth . Nice and cool early in the morning Entertainment: (rating: 4) - much to be desired. - ship dancers young, pretty and energetic. - invited South African dance group..pretty good - a lot of individual performers, ie singers, comedians, magician, Musician. A little disappointing except Claude Eric. - not much space for activities. Used up almost every little place Available. Ports and Tours: (rating: 8) - ports are excellent since most of the ports we have never been To. Especially Dubai and Cape Town. - tours are unexpectedly good. Though expensive but worth it. Good organization. Food: (rating: 7) - breakfast had a lot of choices but every day has the same thing. No change, since it's a long trip (62 days), I have to get creative And mix and match different food. Luckily it has congee every Day which serve me well (I can add my own ingredient. - sea food and steaks are cooked right, much better than Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. - a few theme day, ie Japanese sushi, Indian curry, Mother's Day Brunch and desert days are pretty good. - fruits are terrible..honey dews and cantaloupes are tasteless - watermelons are sweet but it's all gone after the first two weeks Never see them again. - papayas are mostly good - no garlic bread Services: (rating: 8) - dining rooms services are generally good (some are Exceptionally good, others are not quite up to standard.) - our cabin steward is excellent, can't complain. - cruise director tried his best. - the rest of the crews are quite up to standard. Overall: (rating: 7) - the reason we booked this cruise is for the ports. Almost all of the ports we haven't been to, especially Dubai and Cape Town. We are quite satisfied on the whole. We really enjoyed the tours ( every port is different), the relaxation on the ship. The free internet and clothes washing. The meeting of friendly people from different countries on and off the ship. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
What was to be a memorable voyage on the Ocean Princess started badly even before we embarked. You can always be sure that when things begin poorly that is the way they usually continue! Let me first say that my wife and I are so ... Read More
What was to be a memorable voyage on the Ocean Princess started badly even before we embarked. You can always be sure that when things begin poorly that is the way they usually continue! Let me first say that my wife and I are so called Platinum cruisers. That is actually a euphemism for almost nothing. The value attached to the loyalty levels is an illusion. On a scale of one to ten my aspirations to achieve Elite status and have my clothes cleaned for gratis are less than zero. As for getting computer time most of my 500 minute allocation was taken up with getting a connection at sea. The satellite system on board is hopeless OK ,now for some detail. Two weeks before sailing our tickets arrived from the agent. On the same day we were informed that the most interesting by far of all the Indian Ocean rim stops, Yangon in Myanmar was curtailed by SIX hours due to operational difficulties. I spoke to the UK Princess office expressing my huge disappointment. What I was told in no uncertain terms by an aggressive operator that if I didn't like it I could cancel. Let me just say that we booked one year in advance and paid what I consider to be a huge sum to secure a premium cabin. So we really had no option but to continue. We boarded in Singapore and found our way to the cabin, deck 7 mid ship. The Ocean Princess is about to be sold to Oceania who will refit it completely to make it suitable for 6 star clients. In the meanwhile Princess are making as much money as they can out of what is a very dilapidated vessel. To cut to the quick the cabin was tawdry. The shower cubical had mastic repairs, the headboard was falling to pieces, the bed was worn out and sagged badly, the carpet was filthy , the balcony doors were rusty, the wardrobes were not covered by lighting and so dark we could not find our clothes. On the balcony the paint was peeling off , the flow of water to the hand basin was extremely poor and the TV did not function properly. All told an utter insult to passengers that paid around $18000. The food on board was repetitive and in many ways very poor with little thought to menu choices. The Princess signature dish in the self service area, Chicago Beef was grossly undercooked with blood haemorrhaging from it into a platter. Princess say they are very concerned about cooked food. Well, they certainly were not in this case or on the other occasion they served the same dish. The salads were awful as well in this cafeteria with little or no thought to choice. Overall the food was ill befitting a 4/4.5 star ship especially the meat in the main restaurant which was nothing less than appalling being full of gristle. An Australian cattle farmer on board said that it was rubbish. I agree The ship has seen better days...a lot better. The spas on the pool deck did not work (at all) for the duration of the cruise. I was told by a member of staff the parts were no longer available. In the dining room the glass mirrors covering a number of areas have decomposed and are badly corroded. Overall this ship is very tired . How Princess have got the temerity to sell vacations on it defies belief. The extraordinarily expensive port trips are nothing less than usury. In Durban as part of a tour we were taken to the concourse of a stadium where we were deposited for three quarters of an hour in the boiling heat with absolutely nothing to do. I eventually got a refund from Princess for that but it wasn't without effort and it took a long time . Princess is no longer the superb company it was . Every penny is now accounted for and corners have ben cut in every department. The consequence of this is that cruising with Carnival is now dumbed down. It's all about the money and nothing whatsoever to do with their clients comfort...! Slick company accountant have fettled every aspect to increase revenue and in its place have left an anodyne and unmemorable experience. These soulless company- men have sucked every cent they possibly can out of the product. Money is king. Be aware that you will be bombarded with useless offers every day, most of which are extortionate. Princess have left us with a very bad taste in our mouths. Caveat emptor Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
We sailed for the first time on Azamara journey Singapore to Mumbai. This cruise is unforgettable for so many reasons, did not know what to expect as never heard of this line. Love this ship from friendly staff relaxed ambience, felt like ... Read More
We sailed for the first time on Azamara journey Singapore to Mumbai. This cruise is unforgettable for so many reasons, did not know what to expect as never heard of this line. Love this ship from friendly staff relaxed ambience, felt like going home. Dining superb, tried all restaurants not at all stuffy. Adored the coffee lounge where our Balinese waiter made every day a wonderful experience, coffee superb. Cabins adequate and spotless, we had balcony high deck 8. Entertainment was enjoyable, and Eric the most amazing cruise director. From Captain down this experience has spoilt me for other cruise lines. Can't wait to experience this line in future.have been on 5 cruises and heard many complaints, there where 16 in our group from Cruise express and not one complaint wow. Please keep doing what your doing Azamara you have my vote Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Having read other passenger reviews who sailed on Arcadia during this world cruise,there does appear to be a common factor, one which P & O will ignore at their peril.Arcadia, along with the likes of Oriana and I believe Adonia are for ... Read More
Having read other passenger reviews who sailed on Arcadia during this world cruise,there does appear to be a common factor, one which P & O will ignore at their peril.Arcadia, along with the likes of Oriana and I believe Adonia are for adults only. Far from being anti children it is just something that my wife and I appreciate when getting away from it all. It is a feature I am sure that attracts passengers back time and again. We sailed on her after her launch in 2005 and it was a wonderful experience. In 2012, nothing really has changed and if we draw a comparison against other cruise lines and ships, then Arcadia is ready for the scrap yard. It is crying out for a face lift, particularly with the cabins.Whilst the beds were comfortable the bathrooms were very tired and with no interactive TV entertainment was very poor if you chose to spend an hour or two indoors.Balcony furniture was way past its sell by date. The Meridien Restaurant needs a serious review, The menus sound good but in reality the food was bland and quite uninteresting.Staff were as always excellent, but good food is being wasted. On the other hand the Belvedere Self Service was, In our opinion very good. Just how much choice do some people want? And the theme nights. Well, personally we thought these were the highlight of the cruise along with a visit or three to the Orchid and Ocean Grill.The Spa area is overpriced and with stone beds and steam rooms out of operation little was made of a concession. Treatment prices were prohibitive which must have affected numbers. Coffee shop with Costa Coffee was fine but is far to small.But.......the biggest criticism of all was the lack of evening interaction generated amongst passengers.Sparsely attended bar areas with entertainers playing to themselves and waiters twiddling their thumbs. More like a Mortuary and a big downside for us as a group. Having said that, if you are on the ship for 109 nights then maybe you just don't want to socialise. On that basis we would never again choose a sector cruise. The itinerary was fine except the cancellation of our visit to the Seychelles.Was it pirates or the hike in insurance costs because of a perceived risk? We will probably never know. What is important for all of those who regularly cruise with P & O is, do they take any notice of what is written and said? Changes are needed to Arcadia and quickly. I for one will not be booking to go on her again until refurbishment has been undertaken and having sampled others who have upped their game, P & O are in danger of losing some very loyal but valuable customers. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
After reading all the harsh reviews on the net prior to embarking on the cruise, I must say I was pretty much concerned about whether I had made the right decision to cruise with the Costa Romantica. However, after having spent 22 fabulous ... Read More
After reading all the harsh reviews on the net prior to embarking on the cruise, I must say I was pretty much concerned about whether I had made the right decision to cruise with the Costa Romantica. However, after having spent 22 fabulous days cruising on the Costa Romantica, I felt that I owed to write this review. Here goes my itinerary and cruise dates - 22 days of cruising from 20 November 2010 to 12 December 2010 - Singapore, Port Klang (Malaysia), Langkawi (Malaysia), Phuket (Thailand), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Cochin (India), MalE (Maldives), MahE (Seychelles), Reunion Island and Mauritius. Embarkation - The embarkation process in Singapore was fairly quick but clearly not well structured. Three ladies were standing in front of a very small desk trying to check the passports and get people to fill in a health declaration form. After the formalities were completed, we then proceeded to the gate and had our souvenir picture taken. Upon arrival in the main deck, we were handed over our Costa Card, cabin key and our identification picture was taken. We then proceeded on our own to our cabin which was fairly easy to find. Our luggage was delivered to our front door within 30 minutes. Cabin - we had an outside stateroom with a porthole. It was great to be able to see outside especially when we were nearing land. Our room was tidied every night and day and towels were changed. Our cabin steward was always very nice and discreet. Every night, our cabin steward would make a different bed decoration with the bed cover. Very nice! We read that some people had noise issues or blocked toilets. We never had any flushing issue with the toilets and apart from particularly noisy neighbours, it was just fine. The daily programme "TODAY" was delivered to our cabin every night along with a map of the next port. As far as air conditioning was concerned, we were not even using the air conditioning in our cabin as the air extractor was largely sufficient. Food - Breakfast was served either in the Giardino buffet (buffet style) or in the Botticelli Restaurant (formal table seating). There was a wide variety of food ranging from eggs, bacon, cereals, pastries to fruits. Late breakfast was available in the buffet for late bed risers till around 11.00. Lunch as well was served either in the Giardino buffet or in the Botticelli Restaurant. We mostly went to the Giardino Buffet where we had a variety of food to choose from. There was a new theme everyday for lunch in the buffet area (Mediterranean, Chinese, Creole, Indian, etc). On some sea days, we had special lunch "Chef Surprise" by the poolside or in the corridor leading to the Piazza Italia when it rained. On the Terrazza, there was also an outside grill with French fries, on the spot hamburger and hotdogs for lunch. The Terrazza was my favourite place on the ship in the afternoon when it was not too crowded. Loved the views and the sea breeze there. The buffet area was always like a beehive, always opening up and closing up for something else - breakfast, late breakfast, lunch, teatime, kids buffet, teens buffet and sometimes alternative dinner. One can imagine how big an organisation this must be to run the buffet everyday all day. The buffet supervisors and the snacks stewards worked really hard to keep the place always up and running and always attended to guests' requests (even the most eccentric ones) with a smile. Dinner was served in the Botticelli Restaurant with the first seating being served at 18.15 and second seating at 20.45. The first seating was served by far too early taking into consideration that we always had to rush to shower after a full day out. Service by our charming waitress and assistant waiter was always excellent. The daily menu consisted of appetizers, soup, pastas, main course, salad, cheese and dessert. One could choose as much courses as one wanted. We had a number of very good and appetizing courses. On two occasions, we were entertained by a nice waiter show. Everyday at 23.30, snacks were served in the Tango Ballroom and on some nights, we had midnight buffets. Food arrangement was always very nicely done. The midnight buffet in the kitchen was also truly amazing. We felt like visiting an art gallery. The kitchen was decorated with very nicely and finely carved fruits and vegetables which had been done by talented Filipinos. Due to the weather, we only had one midnight party and a midnight buffet by the poolside. There was a live ice carving demonstration and we had so much fun at the party. Coffee, tea, chocolate and a wide variety of infusions were readily available until midnight at the Giardino buffet area. There was so much food on board but so much waste as well. I have read other people reviews complaining about the lack of food or lack of variety. Personally, I have never ever in 22 days felt hungry because there was not enough food onboard. On the contrary, the food was so plentiful that we felt we were eating all day long! We have however been appalled by the fact that all remaining good food on the line is thrown away as the majority of the crewmembers do not have the right to eat the same food as passengers. Such a waste and such a pity! Only a happy few arrogant crewmembers had the right to eat at the buffet. The English host kept saying: well, anyway we're not wasting food. We use it to produce steam and it is much cheaper than diesel! Oh come on! The buffet area was cleaned spick and spine every night and it was a pity to see some people making such a mess in the buffet area. I often wondered whether they behave like that in their own house. Some people filled their plates with monstrous portions of food as if with the fear that they would starve to death on the ship and then obviously, left aside terrible heaps of leftovers. Gala nights - We had a total of 4 gala nights on our cruise with formal dress code being required. The first one, the captain conveyed everybody in the Opera Theatre for a free champagne toast and a very short address to the public. We would have appreciated that the number of gala nights be communicated to us prior to embarking on the cruise in order to bring appropriate outfits and in sufficient number. Maybe next time! Night Entertainment - The night shows at the Opera Theatre were of a good level and varied. The best shows were the Romanian acrobats, Rob & Miky and the Flamenco dancers, Trio Mulero. Thumbs up! The worst shows: Singer Jo Lis and Tenor Alberto Jelmoni. The Costa Romantica dancers were very good as well. I missed the crew show as I was too exhausted after going out that day. Daily activities - Daily activities were conducted by the animation team. The dance lessons with the Brazilian dance instructor were always excellent. (Bachata, cha cha cha, latin dance, mambo, merengue, tango to name a few). This was among the few things that kept us alive during sea days and I must say probably one of the things that helped us not take on any extra weight. However, generally speaking, there were repetitive animation activities such as quiz, manual works and lectures. Other one-off activities included live fruit carving demonstration, kitchen visit, chef culinary demonstrations, spa demonstrations or Chinese lessons. Roman catholic religious activities were performed daily by the capellano. Information desk - I was not particularly impressed by the information desk staff. It was usually very crowded with lots of people queuing up. The staffs, mostly Italians were not very welcoming in their approach. Spa and Beauty Centre - The spa and beauty centre was a total waste of time. The spa staff never seemed to know whether they had to run spa activities as mentioned on the TODAY and almost always seemed to be annoyed to have to conduct these activities. The activities were also mostly repetitive. The spa staffs were also almost always using the spa for their own personal benefits/grooming. Excelsior Casino - opens at sea only. Did not use that one Photo - On gala nights, a team of photographers would go around in the Botticelli Restaurant to take individual or group pictures of the guests and they would also set up several photo booths with various accessories near the Piazza Italia so that people wishing to take professional pictures could do so. I had a couple of these and the photographers were always so friendly and talented. However, the minus point was that the photos were really expensive (Around EUR 20 each). Duty free shops - Duty free shop was open only at sea. Everyday, there was a different array of goods on offer. We certainly made some good buys and it was always nice to do some window-shopping in the night. Cruise Excursions - The cruise excursions were really overpriced. So, we mostly did our own thing which was by far cheaper and applied a simple rule whereby we only took excursions requiring boat transfers (e.g Phuket and Seychelles). The excursions were hassle free and well organised. However, we did not understand why the tour office had such limited opening hours. This was very frustrating. This resulted in endless queues and chaos since the tour officers were so overwhelmed with passenger queries. No explanations were given as to why the volcano tour in Reunion was cancelled. We eventually learned it through hearsay. However, for the excursions that we booked through the cruise, I must say we were very satisfied with our day. The local tour guides were very friendly, professional and did their best to please the guests. Crewmembers - I must say I really enjoyed this cruise for the friendliness, smile, openness, simplicity and courtesy displayed by Costa's crewmembers. The bartenders, waiters, assistant waiters, buffet supervisors, snacks stewards, cabin stewards, animators, gym instructor, duty free shop attendants, photographers were so great. They were so easy to talk to. Very open and generous people who work damn hard. We found out that they work extremely long hours 7 days a week for a not so great pay and most of them have a first bachelor degree. We were appalled to see the waiters carrying trays of dining wares endlessly. But despite them being tired, they were always there with a smile on their face, happy to be able to help. With such an international crew, I was so glad to get to know people from the Philippines, China, India, Honduras, Peru, Romania, Croatia, Latvia, Brazil, Morocco and Spain. Generally speaking, I noted that crewmembers originating from these countries were far more friendly and open than crewmembers coming from Italy or UK. Moreover, as a general rule, the ship's admin staff and higher officers were arrogant and almost never smiled to passing by passengers in the corridors. They would also almost never exhibit any sign of friendliness or courtesy towards the guests. The English host was damn arrogant. Not to say the least about the doctor! At first, we thought he was the captain. Walking around with his superior looks! The photo manager had such a bad look in the eyes that he almost certainly frightened all the guests away from the photo exhibit area. Fellow cruise passengers - we made countless number of friends of all age groups coming from countries as diverse as Switzerland, UK, USA, South Africa, France, Reunion Island, Spain, Croatia and Mauritius. Generally speaking, the passengers were very open and friendly and it was always very interesting to meet so many people coming from so many different countries. All we had initially in common was that we either spoke English and French. It was on the cruise that I realised how lucky we were to be able to converse in both languages. And 3 weeks onboard the same ship certainly creates some ties. The bad side of it was that there were many grumpy passengers as well. Passengers complaining for as little as why it is raining or complaining about why they lost the little funny games organised onboard. It was such a pity! It was only a game after all! Why bother?! We were on holidays! There were also a bunch of rude passengers as well who seemed to be annoyed to see people around. I often wondered why they left their home to come on a cruise where obviously you will get to see a lot of people. Disembarkation - Upon arrival in Mauritius, we were required to have a face-to-face meeting with the Mauritian customs in the Tango Ballroom and this was really bad! Monstrous queues. We had to queue up to collect our passport and then queue again to have it validated by the Customs officials. Costa should really take care of that. Disembarkation guidelines by the French hostess were also not very clear. We were asked to vacate our cabin at 7.00, which was by far too early and we were required to wait in the Opera Theatre at 8.30 perhaps for some more formalities but at 8.30, we were told we could get down freely whenever we wanted. This took a matter of minutes. Luggage could be found very easily and there were luggage personnel to assist. Issues with Costa Romantica - Smoking - Smoking was the main issue we faced onboard. Costa should really cater for this issue and should have a segregated smoking area in the open air. This was totally unfair towards those not smoking. I am particularly sensitive to smoke and on several occasions, I felt unwell with the smoke. This issue was particularly acute in the Piazza Italia and the Tango Ballroom (the two main common rooms) and with children and non-smoking people around, this was really awful. Tendering - We had to use tenders in Phuket and Maldives. The tendering process was not always very well structured. People were rushing in and out of the tenders and we often wondered whether the tender was not filled well above capacity and frowned at the idea of an emergency. I do not believe that the tenders were fully equipped with life jackets for so many people. Pool - Did not use the pool at all. The pool was definitely too small for such a big ship and for so many passengers. Great itinerary - The itinerary was the primary reason why we chose to do this trip and it certainly paid off. We definitely think it was well worth value for money. We certainly had the best time of our lives and we really did not want to get off the ship. Reflecting on our cruise, I must say we were very lucky. We almost always fell on nice taxi drivers (except in India) who spared no efforts to show us around. Plus we had such a beautiful weather during the days at port. On several occasions, it rained at the end of the day when we were back on the ship or nearing the end of the day and one whole day at sea. Many passengers groaned about it. But we took it well. Mother Nature had been good enough to give us the entire day out, well, it was fair enough that she should take the night. Throughout our journey, there were never any signs of pirates and we never felt insecure. We had rough sea from Phuket to Colombo while crossing the Bay of Bengal and from Seychelles to Reunion Island. Some passengers were seasick when the ship rocked. Fortunately, I was spared. Plus point is that seasickness pills are available free of charge at the information desk. All in all, if I were to do the cruise again, I definitely would! Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
SAFE HAVEN The code words "Safe Haven, Safe Haven" from the voice of Captain Carl Smith Master of the Quest over the loudspeakers alerted the ship placed under lockdown. The passengers and the crew moved towards the center of ... Read More
SAFE HAVEN The code words "Safe Haven, Safe Haven" from the voice of Captain Carl Smith Master of the Quest over the loudspeakers alerted the ship placed under lockdown. The passengers and the crew moved towards the center of the vessel. We were now in the Gulf of Aden, notorious for pirate activity. Captain Smith sounded the all clear signal after a few minutes ending the exercise. He further explained that safeguards were already in place should problems arise. The ship had posted extra lookouts and an armed speedboat followed in her wake. He also added that the Quest had more than enough speed to outrun any pirate vessel. The ship followed a convoy of ships through the IRTC (International Recommended Transit Corridor). Military ships and aircraft of other nations heavily patrol this area leading to the entrance of the Red Sea. Captain Carl Smith's expertise and skill sailing his vessel out of harms way is truly admirable and a unique experience for the passengers We had 16 sea days, an overnight stay in Mumbai and Dubai, and a day each in Cochin, Phuket and Alexandria. Mumbai still holds a great intrigue for us specially " The Tower of Silence" where Zoroastrians leave their dead to be depleted by birds of prey; the birds are slowly declining for ingesting harmful chemicals. A visit to a well kept WW2 museum in El Alamein sixty miles north of Alexandria is worth the trip. Dubai gives one the idea of toys in a child's sandbox. An elephant ride in Phuket's mini jungles is exciting. Thai silk is also a great buy. We found life aboard ship intimate, unhurried and leisurely. We had calm sailing on "mirror-like seas" throughout the voyage. They deleted formal nights. The main dining room seats about 400 persons and is open seating for dinner. Choice tables and prompt service were always at hand for early diners. Latecomers will find the dining room busy and noisy. George our maitre'd from Bulgaria gladly served us special food not found on the menu. Our waiter Marco from Colombia and his assistant Nurwandi from Indonesia quickly learned to anticipate our dinner needs. The food is well prepared and beautifully presented. The dinner menu included venison, osso bucco, steaks, Chilean sea bass and lobster tails. Salmon is always available. Wines are free of charge during lunch or dinner. Freshly squeezed orange juice made to order smoothies and fruit power drinks be always at hand during breakfast. Specialty coffee, bottled water and soft drinks are available at no charge. Ice cream in 12 flavors, some exotic as durian, ube, ginger is supplied daily at the Windows cafe. The Australians welcomed the sight of their familiar "Vegemite". The Windows cafe is a Lido type buffet that offered hot and cold dishes. There are the usual egg, waffle stations and hot dog/hamburger grill. Occasional outdoors buffets and barbecues featured Asian, East Indian and Middle Eastern food. The ship's staff served the food in the cafe. Vital places held sanitation stations. Passenger awareness and staff's diligence kept the vessel healthy. The Prime C and Aqualina are alternate restaurants that require reservations and a cover charge. The Prime C steakhouse served superior "filet mignon", The "seafood platter on ice" and the Chilean bass is a favorite among diners at the Aqualina. Hotel director Philip Herbert stood by the shuttle bus helping debarking passenger's load their hand luggage. The hotel director had the overall responsibility and the final authority for hotel operations aboard ship. A ship's officer handling luggage is an unusual sight. Philip was a doer and goes for the "extra mile". He is totally unpretentious and easily accessible. He kept a low profile and is constantly cruising the deck unobtrusively to observe and advise. The hotel staff showed a great respect for him. They were dedicated to and mirrored his aims. They were friendly and eagerly provided excellent service, much to the delight of the passengers. There were at least four hundred hotel staff members. Many came from the Philippines, South America, Turkey, Eastern Europe and the UK. The passengers mostly middle-aged and seniors came from Australia, Canada and the UK. Our cabin located near amidships on deck 6 had easy access to the main dining room and the elevator. It had a safe, fridge and a well placed LCD TV set, a closet with ample storage and an enclosed dresser with deep drawers. It had a bed placed away from the air vents. The covered balcony provided us with privacy and superb portside view of the ocean. Irwin our room steward from the Philippines kept the cabin immaculate. He supplied the room with fresh fruit, water, ice in elegant containers and the bathroom with huge luxurious bath towels daily. We kept up with the ship's present location, checking our bills, or ordering room service on interactive TV. The ship got their world news by satellite TV and gave a hard copy of the Times Digest (The New York Times) to passengers daily. Internet charged 55 cents per minute. The ship also provided a laundromat at no cost. This is our third trip on a small vessel (under 40,000 tons). A small ship could easily fit in little ports, load and debark quickly. The 30,277 gross ton, 694 capacity ship Quest started life in 2000 as the Renaissance Cruises R7. Previous owners called her Dolphin and Blue Moon. She is rated a 5 (top scale 6) among cruise ships and a CDC score of 94 in 2008. She is a sleek and beautiful ship. Azamara did a great job refurbishing the Quest. They retained her elegant paneling and the beveled mirrors of the R7.They replaced the existing TV sets with flat screen LCD units. The library had at least a thousand volumes in English, German and other languages. It used the honor system and opened 24 hours a day. Passengers usually leave their own read books augmenting the library. The library is very quiet, spacious, well lighted fitted with wing chairs and cozy furniture. Father Pinto a Catholic priest from Brooklyn, New York conducted mass and interfaith service for the passengers and the crew on sea-days. He also assisted during the ship's Anzac day festivity. They also held Sabbath service. Katherine, a harpist from Canada played classical and contemporary music at the Mosaic cafe. The cafe served specialty coffees and freshly baked pastries for free. The Cabaret lounge served as an auditorium and filled up early during performances. An Indian troupe showed folk dances in Mumbai and a belly dancer performed in Dubai. An Egyptian academic narrated the highlights and history of the Suez Canal during the ship's passage. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We booked our cruise through a cruise only agency, one that we have used for several years. We are too old and too fat to fly internationally in coach, so we usually buy our coach tickets independently and upgrade to Business Class with ... Read More
We booked our cruise through a cruise only agency, one that we have used for several years. We are too old and too fat to fly internationally in coach, so we usually buy our coach tickets independently and upgrade to Business Class with miles. However on this itinerary we booked Princess air through the travel agent because it was several thousand dollars less than if we had bought two one-way tickets each from the airline. We flew United on the outbound, and a combo of South African Air and United on the return. We flew into Singapore one day early, and booked the Pan Pacific hotel through the travel agent, who had a better price than I could find on the internet. It's a great hotel, and a real steal at $135 including taxes. Because we'd been to Singapore before, we chose to spend our 1.5 days there at the Jurong Bird Park, and the Orchid Garden at the Botanical Gardens. We were glad that we'd flown in early, and enjoyed two leisurely days. We embarked around 3 PM, taking a taxi from the hotel to the pier. No crowds at that hour, so we were in our rooms within minutes. I had assumed (wrongly) that Princess would have refurbished the ship when they changed it from the Tahitian Princess to the Ocean Princess. So I was surprised to see that the cabin showed signs of wear. Nothing bothersome, just a little tired. Our cabin steward was excellent, as they almost always are. The itin originally had 13 ports of call, but the Seychelles and Myanmar were removed before departure, reducing the number to 11, on a 32 day cruise. So nearly two-thirds of the cruise was at sea. The Seychelles was dropped due to pirate activity in the West Indian ocean, and I was definitely in favor of avoiding pirates! It was unclear why Myanmar was dropped, but it was suggested that it had to do with the tides in the river, and the scheduled times of arrival and departure. I'd visited most of the ports of call on previous travels, but my husband and our friend had not. We prefer to arrange our own shore excursions when possible. However on this cruise we only did our own tours in Malaysia, Thailand, and Cape Town. I just couldn't find reliable tour operators in some of the ports that don't have high levels of tourism. Kuala Lampur is a very modern and interesting city. We took a tour with Princess because the independent tour I'd hoped to book fell apart before we left home. In Penang,Malaysia (island) we booked a full-day tour with Mr. PG Lee, at a cost of 30 Malaysian Ringgits per hour (leepg2006@gmail.com). I especially liked the tour at the spice garden and the butterfly farm. And another fresh seafood lunch! Phuket,Thailand (another island) is charming, and has recovered well from the Tsunami, at least in the areas that tourists see. We booked a full-day island tour with Daj, http://www.independenttraveler.com/ at 1800 baht for the day, including petrol. Our guide was pleasant, and we enjoyed tasty seafood lunch at a local restaurant recommended by him. In Chennai we took the Princess tour to Mahabalipuram, to see the sea temples, which are interesting. I am a big fan of India, which isn't everyone's cup of tea, as proved by the reaction of many of the ship's passengers who had never been there before. IMHO one needs to experience the countryside in India, to offset the impact of the large, teeming cities. It's a place that grows on you with the length of stay. But cruises just can't provide that option. Mumbai, with its 14 million people and terrible traffic is also shocking for most Americans. We elected to take the tour which visited three different temples. India's various religions make it a very interesting place to travel. After several days crossing the Indian Ocean, we arrived in Oman, an ultra-conservative Muslim country. Muscat was small and bright and shiny clean, after India. Female passengers are advised by the Tour Consultant onboard to cover their legs (all of them), their arms (all of them), and also their hair if they plan to visit the National Mosque. A number of ladies just couldn't believe that this applied to them, so they were refused entrance unless they could cover themselves appropriately. The National Mosque is incredible...don't miss it. At the Souk we purchased Diet Coke for $5 a six-pack. Cheaper than $1.95 each onboard! Other people brought on soft drinks and water for their cabins. We next sailed to Dubai, where we had two days, since they had extra time due to the cancellation of two ports. This was very helpful. A lot of passengers had dinner ashore the first evening and we were ready for some individually prepared food. It's a fascinating city, because everything is so new. The question of whether or not they will be able to repay the bailout money and what will happen if they cannot looms large. In the meantime, construction is at a standstill, and my husband observed that you could probably buy a cement truck pretty cheaply (and all other construction equipment). We took the Princess Desert Safari Tour, which put 4-5 passengers in new Toyota Landcruisers with a skilled driver, who drove us into the desert for some dune riding. Fun! We also visited a camel farm, and had lunch at a desert camp where camel rides were available, and a belly dancer entertained. It's a great tour, although at noon it's well over 100 degrees, which is why the tour is usually run in the early evening. Some passengers mentioned that they had booked the evening tour online, and they picked them up at the ship. However you'd have to know the ship's departure time if it isn't a two day stop. On the second day we took a Princess tour of Dubai-Old and New. It was a standard city tour. One of the highlights was a small boat transfer across the Dubai creek, where we visited the spice market and the gold souks. I bought saffron in the spice market, which actually came from Iran. The jewelry in the gold souk is absolutely overwhelming! It all begins to look the same after the first three store windows. (Drum roll). And then we had seven days at sea. That's just too many on a small ship, in my opinion. We had a terrific Cruise Director (Sammi), but the lack of space limits the number and variety of activities that can be arranged. Our previous cruise was a Holy Land itin on the Royal Princess, which is a sister ship to the Ocean Princess, and we loved the smaller ship. But it was a port intensive cruise, with only two sea days out of eleven, which we all needed after our days on shore. On this long cruise I read about eight books on my new Kindle (perfect for traveling), saw at least six movies (the selection went downhill at the cruise progressed), and attended several lectures by the onboard guest speakers. But it was challenging to find appealing activities when the Princess Patter arrived each evening. We called on the port of Nosy Be, which is on a small island off the northwest coast of Madagascar. We elected to take the Princess tour to the smaller island nearby, where we could see the lemurs for which Madagascar is famous. We did see one variety that is very small, perhaps weighing a couple of pounds. The villagers were thrilled to have visitors, which only occurs a few times a year. The children are let out of school, and they sing and dance to entertain (and request a 'local donation'). I was relieved that there were no accidents in the loading and unloading of the small boats that took us back and forth to the small island. Madagascar is a huge island. I wish Princess would try to develop another port of call somewhere on the island. Three more days at sea before we arrived in Durban, which is quite a lovely city! We did the Princess tour to 'Land of the Thousand Hills', taking us through some beautiful countryside, and ending at a Zulu tribal village where we saw a well done Zulu show, shopped in a nice (and huge) souvenir store, and toured a reptile farm (shudder). At the Durban ship terminal at least 100 vendors set up stalls, selling good quality handicrafts. The prices were much lower than found in the stores. The Zulu bead work is beautiful. In Durban about 100 passengers disembarked for an overnight at a luxury game camp. We picked them up the next day when we called on Port Elizabeth, where there is absolutely nothing to offer tourists. Someone suggested that the only reason we stopped there was to pick up the group who went to the game camp. I think that's probably correct. We took the shuttle bus ($5 each way) to the local mall, which went through downtown but didn't stop. It was a nice enough mall, but not worth the trip. Finally we arrived in Cape Town on our 31st day, and over-nighted on the ship there. Before leaving home we had purchased tickets online for Robben Island and for the Table Mountain tram for those two days. We docked right downtown, at the Victoria and Alfred (not Albert) Waterfront. What a great location! The first day was spoiled a bit by a downpour, put we visited the Slavery Museum, which was excellent, had lunch and spent the last afternoon packing. The museum included an exhibit about the life of Nelson Mandela. We were planning to stay another week in South Africa, so we bought two-day Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus tickets. The next day brought sunny skies, so we took the HOHO bus to the Kirstenbosch Gardens, which are fabulous, if you like gardens and really wonderful native sculpture. Our next stop on the bus was the Cable Car for Table Mountain, which was totally clear. Another 'don't miss' experience. We continued on the bus to Camps Bay, a sophisticated suburb on the water where we had a delightful alfresco lunch. We spent three nights at a private game reserve, Sanbona, which is about three hours East of Cape Town, in the Little Karoo area. We hired someone to ferry us back and forth since they drive on the other side of the road in S. Africa, and we didn't really need a car. It was a wonderful experience, and quite different from other game experiences in East Africa. The high points of the cruise were 1) the crew and 2) the other passengers. The crew seemed to work very well together, and were always helpful and good natured, although several of them expressed an interest in working on a larger ship, where I'm sure they make more money in tips. The other passengers were extremely well traveled, both in cruising and in land touring. It was always fun and usually educational to sit at breakfast or lunch with almost all of them. What didn't work? On the small ships there is not an option for anytime dining. One must pick first of second seating, and we had chosen second seating because we like time to shower, change and have a drink before dinner. There were 530 people on board, with a ship capacity of about 680. Apparently there were a lot of cancellations, since at one time the ship was supposed to have been fully booked. So our party of three was at a table for six, but there were no other guests at our table, and there were several partially filled or even empty tables in the dining room. I do love my husband and our friend, but dinner would have been much more fun if we had had someone with whom to discuss our day's highlights. Perhaps the moral is to choose early seating, when there are lots of sea days. The food was mediocre, although always beautifully presented. We attended a Chef's demonstration early in the cruise where he emphasized that he had 32 entirely different menus. And there were! But it's difficult to successfully duplicate a national cuisine for 530 people in two groups. For example, the Greek dishes tasted similar to Greek food in Greece or even US restaurants, but not the same and not as tasty and fresh. Maybe it's because they have to provision far in advance, and freeze a lot of the food. Maybe it's because they modify the seasonings for the audience they serve. But it generally wasn't very tasty or interesting, in the opinion of many passengers. They do a good job of getting the food to the tables while it's hot. The waiters and the kitchen staff have a well developed system that works very well. They rely on pre-packaged products. The coffee in the Horizons Buffet is nearly undrinkable. It's made from a syrup, rather than brewed. Some passengers figured out that they could use their coffee cards at the coffee counter up there for brewed coffee, and they weren't charged. Iced tea was also made from a syrup, and was so strong it was undrinkable, even after diluting it by 50% with water. One lady solved that problem by ordering a pot of hot tea and three glasses of ice with most meals! It seemed to us that Princess has cut so many corners to remain profitable that they have changed the nature of their product. It felt more like a Carnival cruise or an NCL cruise. We've sailed with Princess many times, and may sail with them again. But we were disappointed with this one. It just didn't meet our expectations. We had a nice time, but it wasn't a wonderful experience, as you want all of your vacations to be. We've booked our next cruise on Oceania, and are looking forward to comparing the two cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010

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