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8 Stockholm to Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

This is our first Ocean cruise experience and it was absolutely wonderful! Our cabin was roomy and I was impressed about how the storage space was designed. The bed was really comfy and the bathroom was large for a stateroom. Although ... Read More
This is our first Ocean cruise experience and it was absolutely wonderful! Our cabin was roomy and I was impressed about how the storage space was designed. The bed was really comfy and the bathroom was large for a stateroom. Although electrical outlets in the bathroom were only for razors or toothbrushes, there were ample 220 and 110 outlets in the main cabin. I really enjoyed having a port to charge my phone and IPad near our bed. Our cabin Stewart's were also wonderful and serviced our cabin twice daily. The goodies in the refrigerator were a real treat! I can't say enough about the dining options. There were so many choices and varieties of food. On several occasions , they offered special buffets specializing in foods of the regions. Although the specialty Italian and Chefs table Restuarant were a great, we really enjoyed the open dining of the World Cafe. We visited the Explorers lounge several times to enjoy the music but we loved watching the scenery off the bow. Lastly, we want to thank Viking for arraigning the unique welcoming at some of the Ports. In Scotland, bagpipes greeted us on 2 stops and the crew welcomed us home with music and dancing. OUR CRUISE was the British Isle Explorer. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
This cruise while enjoyable did not live up to the standards we came to expect from Viking. One wonders if this was the result of growing pains. That said, this was our fifth cruise with Viking and we have two more already on the books for ... Read More
This cruise while enjoyable did not live up to the standards we came to expect from Viking. One wonders if this was the result of growing pains. That said, this was our fifth cruise with Viking and we have two more already on the books for later in 2017 and 2018. This feedback is for both the Normandy and Baltic cruises. Both ships were beautiful and meticulously maintained. The cabin personnel have always been first rate. However, tour guides on both the Normandy and Baltic cruise seemed somewhat lacking in interpersonal skills and there knowledge base was not what we experienced on earlier Viking cruises. However my biggest concern was the dining wait staff. The wait staff quality of service varied from above average to below average especially in the general dining areas. Specialty dining (those requiring reservations) was consistently above average. While my review seems overly critical, I have come to expect great things from Viking. As stated earlier we have future cruises already booked. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We chose this cruise because we have had great experiences on Oceania and liked the itinerary, Stockholm to Barcelona. On this cruise, the crew from the general manager on down was terrific. Attitude was "what can we do for ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we have had great experiences on Oceania and liked the itinerary, Stockholm to Barcelona. On this cruise, the crew from the general manager on down was terrific. Attitude was "what can we do for you". Our cabin was perfectly maintained. Our major on board activity is dancing and there was plenty of opportunity everyday with music before and after dinner. The band in Horizons was great, played all kinds of music. No comments on shore excursions since we do independent touring but I will say Oceania is providing more and more information and assistance to independent travelers which we appreciate. Food has always been Oceania's strength. This was our 7th O. cruise and we thought the food in the main dining room was not as good or as varied as on previous cruises. It was not bad ( we are not discouraged from cruising again with O, we've signed up for 50 days in 2017) but it is not as good as it has been in the past. This was a port intensive cruise with one sea day so there were not many lectures. There was only one speaker who gave three lectures and he wasn't very good. On our previous cruises with O. the speakers were very good. Our one negative about the ship itself is about furnishings in public spaces. The tables in Horizons and the Terrace are much too close together. It is very difficlut to find a table where someone will not be bumped by servers or other guests. It is annoying. Also, the furniture in Martinis and Horizons, while looking great, is not user friendly. There is not a single chair (other than a barstool) we could sit on in Martinis. It is all low and soft. In Horizons all the window seating is big and soft. We found it uncomfortable and it also blocks the view from the more normal size chairs in the middle of the room. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We chose the 12 day Stockholm to Amsterdam Whimsical Waterways tour. We arrived one day early in Stockholm to explore the city and stayed at the Hotel Kungsträdgården, very will situated and excellent accommodations. Hotel breakfast was ... Read More
We chose the 12 day Stockholm to Amsterdam Whimsical Waterways tour. We arrived one day early in Stockholm to explore the city and stayed at the Hotel Kungsträdgården, very will situated and excellent accommodations. Hotel breakfast was included and well above expected with hot items, Swedish specialities, extensive breads, excellent fruit. Embarkation was smooth though delayed two hours. Disembarkation in Amsterdam was announced to be ahead of schedule and included about 1 hour total of waiting in lines to leave the ship and then to get taxis. Those using the more costly transport services provided by the Oceania were able to proceed much more quickly. We were upgraded to a B2 stateroom 7065 in the center of the ship. At no time did we experience seasickness though I am prone. This room is connecting. While locked, through the door we could hear toilet flushing and cans of soda being opened! The bathroom is spacious and the room well appointed. The bed is very comfortable with high quality sheets. The veranda is lovely and was enjoyable as we entered and left Oslo, for sunrises and sunsets etc. I made special requests for drinks in the fridge and they were able to find almost all of them. The With OLife promotion we selected 4 excursions, $400 OBC and internet. Having internet access on the ship was nice to check email, send photos, read the paper. To those who complain about connection speed, I would suggest looking up Louis CK's appearance on Conan O Brien under "Everything's amazing". We chose excursions in Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen and Gydnia. Of these, only Gydnia we could not have done on our own. It is an industrial port and would require some transport to either Gdansk or elsewhere to be worthwhile. Other ports including the three we did with Oceania excursions are possible to do on your own. We chose Guide Guru for St Petersburg and were very pleased with the excellent price for a small group tour, the pleasant tour guide, wifi on the van, comprehensiveness of visit and flexibility of small group (6). Food on the Marina was excellent in all venues. Service is sometimes slow in the Grand Dining Room and specialty restaurants, whether you eat degustation style with multiple courses or not. We notice that service begins to slow as the assistant waiter tends to take over for dessert service. In the GDR, Red Ginger and Toscano, waits for dessert and coffee were quite long. Terrace buffet has excellent food as well with lobster, steaks and sushi always available. During the cruise, there was a Russian night and a German night at Terrace which is nice considering that cruising does tend to limit opportunities to sample local cuisine. Terrace and Waves offer options to eat outdoors to enjoy views especially when sailing out of Stockholm, into Oslo through the fjords, etc. Each of the speciality restaurants has extras that make the experience more 'special' but the chopstick choices, hot towels, tea choices in Red Ginger seemed overly fussy. Having lived in Paris and having studied cooking, we found Jacques to be exceptionally good with French classics with excellent execution and service. Lobster thermidor, gratin dauphinois, terrine foie gras, all excellent. Some items were mistranslated though. Brandade de merlu is incorrectly translated as chilean sea bass. (The chilean sea bass in Red Ginger is excellent.) Afternoon tea is enjoyable. The finger foods do not vary much, but are done well. Tea service goes from 4 until 5pm where Horizons quickly transforms to Happy Hour. One leisurely afternoon, we stayed conversing with new friends from tea to happy hour. Unfortunately, no one cleared our table of tea service, even after our happy hour drinks arrived. The staff seem to be perfunctory to their duties with cocktail staff were unwilling to clear tea service from our table. We asked the server twice and then floor manager Vikram who seemed to be more interested in chatting and flirting with other servers than clearing the table, but were ignored. Entertainment is not a strength on Marina with shows every night in the Lounge at 9.30 or 9.45. Every other night, there is a production show. Other nights, there was live music, either vocalist, a musical duo or on one evening the ships classical pianist. This show was particularly disappointing as it turned out to be an interpretive jazz and contemporary concert with commentary. There is however a lending DVD selection and an excellent library. Live classical music in the lounges is quite nice. I attended one enrichment lecture on amber. The speaker was not the most vibrant, but the presentation was informative. No spotlight was ever put on the speaker, leaving me unsure of what he looked like! The fitness room is well equipped. I was able to get a machine every time I wanted. The fitness room fridge is stocked with cold water, Gatorade and Vitamin Water. The steam room and sauna are available to all guests at no charge. On the at sea day, these rooms were crowded, but otherwise, I was the only one each time I visited. These however close at 9pm at the same time as the spa, although I would have wished them to be open a little later. Though not perfect and perfect should never be the expectation, service is very good to excellent. Our steward Anna was lovely and although I say perfect is not to be expected, I found her service to be so. The crowd on this cruise was mostly older retired couples, but this is not to say exclusively so. There were a few families, a few 'younger' couples and a few group of friends. Everyone who enjoys cruising and good food in a relaxed atmosphere would be comfortable here I think. The value of Oceania is in the inclusiveness of most dining and beverages. I must admit, the Oceania forums on CruiseCritic being at times a bit snarky, that I was wary about meeting people on the ship, afraid there would sniping or putting down of others. I am happy to report that the cruisers I met do not seem to be those that are active on the forums and everyone we met on the cruise were quite nice, normal and down to earth. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We did the Baltic and on to Southampton on Whisper and enjoyed our first experience with Silversea, although the food was all very Italian based, which can become tiresome. We found Seabourn to have a greater selection on their menus and ... Read More
We did the Baltic and on to Southampton on Whisper and enjoyed our first experience with Silversea, although the food was all very Italian based, which can become tiresome. We found Seabourn to have a greater selection on their menus and wines were also a little better class. Having also completed over 70 days cruising with Seabourn the comparison was interesting to say the least. Port excursions are expensive on any 6 star vessel and we were introduced to private tours, by meeting fellow passengers on line prior to departure through Cruise Critic. We enjoyed smaller tours groups and very informative Guides through TJ Tours in St Petersburg. The butler surprised us by unpacking our suitcases which we didn't have done with Seabourn. Entertainment was a little better on Seabourn, but with a number of days on (some staff do 4 to 6 months on without a break) i can understand that doing the same routine over and over can become a strain. The suites on ships are very similar and the service of a very good standard, with Seabourn just pipping Silversea in this regards. Eating on deck was definitely the best meal with the steak and prawns the highlight )one of the best cooked steaks i have ever had, and the prawns were huge. Found that there was not a lot of action after the show finished around 10 or 11 at night. Overall i would class Seabourn a little ahead at this point, but still a very enjoyable cruise Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
BACKGROUND:  We have sailed on the Wind Surf many times, including 3 cruises when it was owned by Club Med, so every new cruise is now like a family reunion of sorts for us. Since our last cruise on the Surf, there have been many changes ... Read More
BACKGROUND:  We have sailed on the Wind Surf many times, including 3 cruises when it was owned by Club Med, so every new cruise is now like a family reunion of sorts for us. Since our last cruise on the Surf, there have been many changes -- new owners (Xanterra), new ships in the fleet, newly refurbished interior decor, and a new itinerary (first time for us in Scandinavia). This May we were delighted to sail on the maiden voyage of the Star Pride, and so I was looking forward to a point-by-point comparison between the two ships. HOTEL INFORMATION: We arrived in Stockholm two days before the cruise, and stayed at the Scandic Hotel in the center of town, conveniently located just a block or so from the train station, with many nearby restaurants, and within an easy walk of the Palace, City Hall, Old Town, and other attractions. Our room was very comfortable, wi-fi service was excellent, and the hotel cafe/bar was lively and attractive, with good food. The breakfast buffet was as good as I have experienced anywhere in Europe, but it did get crowded after 8 AM. There were many other Windstar passengers staying at the hotel, as evidenced by Windstar caps, jackets, and other apparel. EMBARKATION: The ship was conveniently docked in town, so it was a very short bus ride from the hotel to the dock, and we were able to board immediately. Check-in was both smooth and quick, and by the time we got to our cabin, our luggage was already there, as was our cabin steward Christian. CABIN: We were in Cabin 136, which is midship on the lowest deck, arguably the most comfortable location for minimal motion at sea, Although we had great weather for most of the cruise, there was some rocking & rolling on occasion, especially at night. We slept like babies! As always, the cabin was spacious (188 sq ft) and comfortable. Unlike on the Star Pride, the beds were high enough to enable luggage storage underneath. They were also VERY comfortable. As always, the bathroom toiletries were by the upscale French brand L'Occitane, I have fallen in love with the Verbena scent, and so was greatly surprised to find that only the bath soap had that fragrance, while the hand soap, shampoo, and bath oil were the "Milk" variety, with a definite Baby powder aroma. Maybe Windstar got a better deal on it, who knows? SHIP/CREW INFORMATION: We were greeted at the dock by Captain Peter Harris of Britain, with whom we had sailed before. He is charming, affable, very gregarious, and extremely witty. We were pleased to receive an invitation to dine with him one night, and had the opportunity to also meet his beautiful wife and lovely daughter. What a handsome family! But we especially noted and appreciated his on-board visibility, and his effortless ability to chat up the passengers. The Hotel Manager Ratko, and Bar Manager Andrew were fairly new to Windstar, very competent, but lacked that easy manner with the guests. I was very interested to see the new Windstar decor, and to compare the WInd Surf implementation to that of the Star Pride. When cruising, I often get up very early to explore the ship, along with my camera and tripod. Windstar has used some of my photos in their publlcations and blogs, and I recognize a few on my pics in the Cruise Critic photos. Overall, I found the new Wind Surf decor to be very subdued, with a blue/brown/tan color scheme. Sleek and soothing, yes. Dazzling, no. The most noticeable change was replacing much of the carpeting with dark, high gloss oak flooring. However, it seemed to me to be a composite product of some sort, as the surface was a tad lumpy. This was especially noticeable in the transition to the Lounge, which already had real wood flooring, which was (to coin a phrase) "flat as a board." The new carpeting has a plush, almost shag-like pile to it. This worked great in the public rooms like the Yacht Club, but not so well on the stairs, where it tended to mash down on the edges, and thus looked worn even though it is still very new. ACTIVITIES/EXCURSIONS: As has been noted in almost every review I have read about Windstar cruises, planned activities are not their forte'. First, they do not really have a Cruise Director on board, and the daily activity sheet is almost identical from day to day. They do offer "Port Talks" in the late afternoon to discuss the next day's port of call, and the excursions that are available. In general, I very seldom sign up for excursions, as I find them to be overpriced, and often somewhat boring. My wife did sign up for a tour in Oslo, which she enjoyed. In my opinion, Windstar would do well to consider adopting the Viking river cruise model, and offer a complimentary walking tour at each port of call. Instead, most of their tour offerings involve climbing on a bus (or even a train) to go somewhere else. I much prefer to wander around town and take pictures. However, there ARE two planned activities that occur on almost every cruise: the deck BBQ and the crew show. The deck BBQ is OK, but I find it to be overrated, crowded (especially when the weather does not allow al fresco dining), and with just average food. The main attraction is grilled lobster or lamb chops (mine were almost raw). Big deal. The other traditional activity is the crew show, which can be pretty good if there is some talent on board, but once you've a bunch of waiters line dancing, the appeal dwindles with repeated iterations. Most of the passengers AND the crew seem to like it though, and that's what counts. Another activity that Windstar doesn't really promote at all is the popular "Name That Tune" contest that occurs twice a week in the Compass Rose after dinner. The "Rain" duo always does this, and before them, Callen & Joyce would also do it. It's VERY popular, and never fails to fill the room, with passengers forming large teams for competition. Great fun! SERVICE: What brings passengers back to Windstar again and again is the intimacy and ambiance of small ship cruising, combined with the highly personalized service provided the wait staff. They are just terrific. They greet everyone by name, quickly learn where you like to sit, and what you like to eat and drink. It's very easy to start thinking of them as personal friends instead of ships' crew. For many such as myself, the favorite dining experience is at breakfast and lunch in the Veranda, where it is not so crowded, the pace is relaxed and informal, and there is more interaction with the wait staff. On our cruise, the senior guy at lunch was "Boon", but the favorite waiter was "One", Of course, everyone had their personal favorites, which is why the result is such a pleasant experience. I only had one service complaint, which was that food service in AmphorA could be quite slow, especially when a majority of the passengers decided they wanted to be seated immediately after the dining room opened. DInner should not have to take over two hours! This was not nearly such a problem in the Candles or Stella Bistro venues. The other service complaint that comes up time and again is with the internet. It is so crummy that Windstar should just forget about it, at least while away from port. DINING: Head Chef Klaus created some great food for us throughout the cruise. No complaints whatsoever. Perhaps the one area where I would look for improvement would be to offer more European style whole grain breads. The breads offered at the Scandic hotel were better than what was served on board. The wine service on board. was VERY good. I did not opt for the premium beverage package, as it costs over $100/day per cabin, and I just can't drink that much and walk straight. Also, I stick to beer and wine, and seldom if ever order a mixed drink or cocktail The wines offered on board were of very good quality, at very reasonable prices (good selection at $7-9/glass or $26-35/bottle). Again, in my opinion WIndstar should consider the Viking Cruise model, which is to include beer, wine & soft drinks with meals, with premium beverages available from the bar. ENTERTAINMENT: Let's start with the good. "Rain" (Craig & Nicola WIlloughby) are simply outstanding, miles better than any other entertainers I have heard on any cruise ship, regardless of size. Craig is a brilliant guitarist, and Nicola has a beautiful voice. They are very versatile and entertaining, and bring a lot of energy and passion into their delivery. They usually pack the Compass Rose, with the crowds increasing every night. The main problem is that the Compass Rose room is just too small. The "Cool Breeze" band appearing in the main Lounge was mediocre at best, very much like the "Top Society" combo that appeared on the Star Pride. Vocalists were OK, but the musicians were just average at best, no energy or passion in their delivery, tired arrangements, lackluster repertoire, etc. Some nights there were only a few folks in the Lounge at 10 PM! Meanwhile, the Compass Rose was jammed. Main asset for both bands is that all the band members are Filipino, which means they can share quarters with the crew. My advice would be to dump the bands, put "Rain" (or a similar duo like "One Night Stand") in the main lounge, put a DJ or piano player in the Compass Rose. I am betting that bar sales would pick up significantly, while costs would go down. Passengers would be better served. DISEMBARKATION: Hard part is getting off the ship by 8:30 AM or so. However, it all went smoothly EXCEPT for the monster big line of folks waiting for a taxi. Luckily, we were one of the first passengers off, and we still had to wait almost 30 minutes. Lots of passengers were really unhappy, I'm sure. When meeting people, first impressions are very important. With a cruise, the last impression is often what sticks in your mind. SUMMARY: While we were on our previous cruise on the Star Pride in May, we booked another cruise on the Wind Surf to Spain for September 2015, took advantage if the on-board booking discount. Much to my surprise, Windstar apparently no longer offers a discount for an on-board booking, nor was their any on-board sales effort at all. What I did notice was cruise information displayed on the on-board computers --- but for the 2013 season! Oooooops! We are dedicated Windstar aficianados, and I am sure we will be back for many more cruises in future. I just wish Windstar would get their act together to address some of these vexing issues that would be SO easy to fix. I wish better things for them. Gary (The Hitman)   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
After 20 years of cruising we discovered Regent in 2010. We are going on 100 days of voyaging with them now. This Baltic and circumnavigation of the British Isle cruise we just completed was outstanding. We had been cruising exclusively ... Read More
After 20 years of cruising we discovered Regent in 2010. We are going on 100 days of voyaging with them now. This Baltic and circumnavigation of the British Isle cruise we just completed was outstanding. We had been cruising exclusively with Princess and HAL prior to that. We toyed with the idea of giving Silver Seas a shot but received a hint that their quality was on the ebb, the debacle on the Silver Shadow in Southeast Alaska this summer confirmed that. Of Regent's three ships, we like the Voyager the best. We have never had a cruise that we didn't enjoy, although, as with anything in life, there was an occasional blemish. We prefer the longer excursion type voyages, three weeks or more. The longest was on the Prinsendam for almost three months. In May 2010 we happened upon Regent. Haven't really looked back since, I hardly even gloss others brochures and offers anymore. My wife discovered the first one, on the Navigator. She really likes the absence of nickel and dimeing. For me Regent stands out in these areas: Quality of shore excursions. (They go to lengths to arrange numerous and detailed itineraries while assuring knowledgeable guides who one can understand and most of the time keep the coaches to about 55% capacity).---Quality and size of suites. The size of their D thru H suites are almost unsurpassed. They have walk in closets that serve as dressing rooms, the bathrooms have walk in showers in addition to a separate large bathtub, on this recent cruise we had four large suitcases but only used about 35% of the drawers, hangars and cupboards, although these suite categories are smaller on the Mariner than on the Voyager and Navigator the Mariner does have extra large Penthouse suites.---Outstanding demeanor of all the crew, i.e. room stewards, bar tenders, waiters, wine stewards, officers, etc.--Staff to guest ratio. Ship design, size and condition. (The Mariner and Voyager have pod propulsion which offers a noticeable absence of vibration and noise, particularly in the stern area where most conventional shaft ally powered ships have this negative) I particularly appreciate the dining arrangements, no waiting, no assigned seating unless we ask to be with someone else and we almost always get a table for two.--Wine selection is above average.--- Prime 7 is pretty good. We weren't too enamored with the Signature. The reservation lash up for the Signature and Prime 7 needs some work and improving. However, on this trip, their regular dining room, the Compass Rose, was outstanding (better than the Signature even). What we have taken to doing is to determine right off which head waiter we want, then stick with him. Then, we "always" get the type table we want and the waiters know exactly our tastes, our names and how to set up the table. Beats the old traditional seating all to pieces, you know, the old way where you run the "luck of the draw" for tablemates and take a chance on getting stuck with nimrods for the entire voyage. Free and fast internet (The Voyager has an excellent and large internet cafe which is the best we ever experienced)---Good selection of newspapers delivered every morning (I like the New York Times & USA Today) and their TV news channels offer an excellent ideological selection, from left progressive to hard core right wing.) Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
Having sailed previously with Seabourn and Crystal, my husband and I expected Silversea would equal, if not surpass, our previous experiences. I'm sad to report we came away from our 10-day Baltic cruise disappointed and hungry. Very ... Read More
Having sailed previously with Seabourn and Crystal, my husband and I expected Silversea would equal, if not surpass, our previous experiences. I'm sad to report we came away from our 10-day Baltic cruise disappointed and hungry. Very hungry. We decided to try Silversea after it was recommended to us by my parents who, in all other things, are reliably excellent judges of quality. In their defense, my parents (like many we met aboard the Silver Cloud) have never tried any of the other high-end cruise lines and, if your standard of comparison is the Carnival Funships, Silversea probably seems like the gold standard of luxury cruising. And some aspects of Silversea ARE pretty swishy. The service is excellent, as good as we've had on Crystal and Seabourn, and very friendly. There were none of the delightful, above-the-call-of-duty surprises we'd come to expect from Seabourn-no constant stream on yummy treats on the pool deck, no canapEs on the dock after a long day of sightseeing, nothing but the standard chocolates on the pillow at night, no trademark complimentary excursion-but the wait staff had memorized our names and preferred cocktails by Day 2, and our cabin stewardesses were most meticulous women I have ever met. The cabins were spacious and luxurious. (The walk-in closet was fitted-out with cherry built-ins and padded hangers, by far the nicest closet I've seen on a cruise ship.) The gym was truly impressive given the size of the ship, and it's location (top deck, forward) provided great views from the elliptical trainer. The box of Godiva chocolates we were given upon embarkation was very much appreciated. Best of all, was the pool deck, the nicest I've seen on any ship, truly superlative in both quality and layout. It became our very favorite place to while away sea days, even in the blustery north. The pool-side grill provided the tastiest food on the ship, the pool itself was generously heated (and the hot tubs actually HOT!) and deck stewards were quick to supply coffee drinks, wool blankets or anything else we requested. The real problem we had with Silversea is that we shouldn't have HAD any problems with Silversea—that's what luxury cruising is all about. And my husband and I are pretty good sports. We do our share of luxury travel, but we also do our share of "roughing-it," and aren't normally critical people. Enough was amiss with life aboard the Silver Cloud, though, that we started to Notice Things-and those things added up. We were able to see the humor in a lot of it (the free cocktails really helped with that) but there were definitely times we were Not Having Any Fun, and we were more that ready to get off when we at last disembarked in London. Our biggest complaint was with the food. The pool deck grill served fairly well-prepared basics and, throughout the ship, the pastries and baked goods were very nice, but the dining room was a disaster. I recall only two good meals in the dining room: a lunch with a very nice soup course and a halibut cooked in truffle oil, and a dinner that featured some kind of smoked reindeer carpaccio. Beyond that, the Dining Room cuisine was complicated but badly executed, and sometimes not even hot. (Sometimes not even WARM.) Moreover, service in the dining room was almost comically disorganized and really, really slow. At breakfast, I often waited 15 minutes for my beloved caffeinated beverage and another 30 minutes for eggs. Lunches took two hours, and dinners nearly three. I mean, I can "dine" with the best of 'em, but we spent huge stretches of time seated at a table with nothing in front of us-no bread, no drinks, and no hope of a satisfying meal. Overall, the food ranged from almost good to downright bad. We discovered the best dishes were the wellness options, which featured delicately prepared shellfish, fish, soups and some nice desserts. The problem with sticking to this menu was the very real specter of starvation. After a 64 calorie appetizer, a 186 calorie main, and a 119 calorie dessert (the calorie counts for wellness dishes were helpfully listed on the menus) we would bolt back to our cabin, salivating at the thought of our turn-down chocolates. La Terrazza, the ship's alternative dining venue, served good-but-not-great Italian food at dinner, pizza at lunch, and offered hearty but unimpressive breakfast and lunch buffets. Still, food quality in La Terrazza beat the Dining Room hands down and, for this reason, it was very popular and usually very crowded. The crowds were a real problem in the snug, galley-style buffet area because, believe me, in those quarters you do NOT want to be trapped between the 95-year-old lady and the chaffing dish when she decides she wants some hash browns. Some things just aren't worth dying for. Okay, enough about the food. It was bad. Moving on...the bathrooms were small, with only one sink and they were looking a little worse for wear, but the real issue was the toilets, which must have been manufactured by N.A.S.A. because every time one of them was flushed it sounded like a FREAKING ROCKET BEING LAUNCHED. If anyone along our line of plumbing flushed in the middle of the night, it literally woke us from a dead sleep. Most passengers seemed to abide by an unvoiced pact not to flush between midnight and 7AM, but it happened occasionally. Napping was never an option. Even more disturbing, the hallways twice smelled strongly of sewage while maintenance men with shop-vacs bustled about. I thought riots might start in the laundry room, which was unwisely outfitted with 5 Miele washers and 5 Miele condensing dryers. The controls on the Mieles were so complicated, most older passengers needed help just turning them on, and the condensing dryers literally took several hours to dry a single load. One of the two receptionists at the front desk was consistently snippy to the point of rudeness. We spent an entire day in Szczecin, Poland, home to the captain's wife and children. Unfortunately for those of us not married to Szczecinians, there was NOTHING to do in Szczecin beyond posing for photos with the giant fiberglass shark outside the town's nicest pub. Like most of our fellow passengers, we were back on the ship within an hour and spent the rest of the day reading on our deck chairs and watching the captain's kiddies frolic in the pool. As for the captain, he didn't bother to attend either of the cocktail parties he "hosted," which resulted in rumors he a) spoke no English or, alternatively, b) hated us all. The piano player was so bad that the cruise director, Judy, referred to him as "Poor Henry" in her announcements and twice encouraged us to go listen to him as he was "up there all alone." Judy was charming and British but was absolutely addicted to the sound of her voice over the ship's PA system and, according to those who attended her lecture on the final evening, shared entirely too much about her tragic relationship history. Afternoon tea was interrupted by "fashion shows" from the ship's boutique and H. Stern jewelry store, and you basically had to tackle someone to get a scone. Disembarkation in London Bridge was interesting but very disorganized. The Silver Cloud rafted up alongside the HMS Belfast and, after milling around in the reception area while we ostensibly waited for our luggage to be unloaded, passengers disembarked by walking across the Belfast and boarding a Port Authority launch, which dropped us off on the Westminster pier. I have no idea how some of the less-ambulatory passengers managed this, as there were lots of slippery ramps and steps on and off of ferries involved, and we STILL waited in the rain for 40 minutes for our luggage to appear. Silversea had assured us there wouldn't be any taxis available and encouraged everyone to buy pricey ship transfers or hire private cars. We were not the least bit surprised to see the long line of waiting taxis, though, and as we hopped in one of them and headed for the train station, we felt nothing but relief. And hunger. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009

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