15 Tampa Holiday Cruise Reviews

This was my first sailing with Royal Caribbean and compared to Carnival this ship lacked a few things but over all it was a good time. We had the my time dinning option which given the chance i will not do again. I like the consistency of ... Read More
This was my first sailing with Royal Caribbean and compared to Carnival this ship lacked a few things but over all it was a good time. We had the my time dinning option which given the chance i will not do again. I like the consistency of the same waiter every night they get to know you and your needs are met very quickly. Having a different server each night they do not have the personal time with you i would like i felt very rushed at times because they had so many other diners to attend to. We did not get to see any of the shows because we were always at dinner and they only had 1 a night i did not like that at all. As for on board activities i felt they were non existent as well. Especially on days at sea they did not have anything going on . I will say that the food was delicious and the on shore excursions we did were the highlight of the trip. The port of Tampa is by far one of the easiest ports to get in and out of and the porters were very helpful with getting our bags to and from the ship. Over all if i had never gone on any other cruise i would have thought this was fantastic but i had 5 other carnival cruises to compare with so i found it a tad disappointing. The ship size was good not to crowded but the room size and the lack of activities left me wanting more. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I have sailed multiple ships in the Fantasy class, Paradise included (back in '03 when it was still no smoking). Due to this, I knew going in how this ship would compare to newer offerings from Carnival and competing lines. First of ... Read More
I have sailed multiple ships in the Fantasy class, Paradise included (back in '03 when it was still no smoking). Due to this, I knew going in how this ship would compare to newer offerings from Carnival and competing lines. First of all if you are capable of "making your own fun" you will probably have a good time on this boat. I started cruising in '95 (I was 21 then), so I'm familiar with the activities boats of this size typically offer. If you are content with the pool deck, casino, meals, comedians, and maybe a show or two you should be fine. If all you know is Carnival Fun Ship 2.0 (upgrade) boats (or RCCL for that matter) the Paradise may seem kind of boring. Cons: -Lido deck restaurants (outside or inside, including the deli and pizza) were always nuts. It seemed like 10 minute lines for at least an hour (sometimes more) during both breakfast and lunch. I only ate in the MDR during the day once (lunch), and it wasn't busy at all. It appears that the people on this boat prefer the buffet meals. Dinner (buffet) selection was very poor during the one evening I checked it out, although (again) this may be typical on this ship. -Yes the interior looks dated. No way to hide this given that you enter the boat and the first thing you see is the atrium (which looks as dated as anything on the boat). -Stateroom looked dated as well, and had a "yellowed" robe, but served its purpose as a comfy place to sleep. -MDR (we had my time dining) hostess didn't know the show schedule, as was surprised when they got crushed immediately after the show. Service was VERY slow that night. This was surprising as it isn't like they don't go through this every few days. -Seemed like the pool deck bars were understaffed. One bartender for a ~10 seat bar for extended periods of time. They were pushing buckets of beer hard, I assume this helps relieve the pressure some. -MDR food was average. Not necessarily a con, but as someone who has been on 9 Carnival cruises in 16 years the gradual decline is something I can't help but notice. -Stop with the bacon police. It only backs up the buffet lines even more. I'm sorry that people waste a bunch of food (sad really), but add $1-2 to everyone's fare and let people grab their own bacon. Deserts I get (they are separate anyway), but the primary buffet lines really need to move faster. Pros: -Less than $90/person/day (family of 3, not including tips). Cons aside, I felt that I got what I paid for. -Serenity deck + waterslide are a nice touch for this older boat. -Pool deck (pools, deck, chairs), while worn, was in good shape. -Bed was really comfy. In my opinion, if you have complained about Carnival in the past you will likely do so again if you sail on this ship. In addition, if you are familiar with the Fantasy class ships nothing on this boat should surprise you. If all you care about is some food, the casino, the pool, alcohol, a few ports here and there, this boat will do. If you want more, you need to pay more. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
We went on our first Christmas Cruise in December, 2012. We left on Christmas Eve from Tampa, and returned 5 days later. Since we live in Tampa, we drove to the port. We arrived at about 11:30AM. This seems to be the perfect time to ... Read More
We went on our first Christmas Cruise in December, 2012. We left on Christmas Eve from Tampa, and returned 5 days later. Since we live in Tampa, we drove to the port. We arrived at about 11:30AM. This seems to be the perfect time to arrive at the port, TSA security was less than 5 minutes, and check in took nearly no time at all. We were on board by 11:50. Note that you board this ship in Tampa on level 7 (Empress deck). With the exception of a few cabins on the Veranda deck, this is the highest level with rooms. Above us was a conference room. Cabin: E240. This is an aft cabin on Empress deck. The window had a 2 foot shelf before it, which was very useful as a place to store "stuff". A great extra. The room did not have a refrigerator, something we have never experienced on a cruise ship. In addition, in the corner of the room, there was a 3 foot by 3 foot by 3 foot box, which held the life jackets. To get out of the bed on one side, one had to crawl over the "box" to get out. I don't know why the life jackets aren't kept under the bed, or in the closet. The room also had 2 small end tables, and a single chair. No sofa. It had a large screen TV. The shower was a full size shower, the largest I've ever seen at sea. I mean a real shower. We had no trouble with water temperature variation when taking a shower. Storage drawers in the room were limited, as was the number of hangers. Adequate for a 5 night cruise, if you don't pack to heavily. The room was tired, but clean. Our steward operated in the background, and did a great job. The room was quiet, we heard no one. We generally try to be under something that doesn't have a lot of night time activity, and were successful.Food: This is a cruise, lots of food, of generally OK quality. I'm on a low carb diet, and they were unable to offer me food with low carbs. They simply brought the carbs, and told me not to eat them. For example, I don't eat potatoes. I couldn't successfully request to "hold the potato, substitute additional veggies". They simply brought the extra veggies. A waste. Our wait staff made the extra effort to get to know our preferences (decaff coffee) and the like, and were quietly efficient. We had the early seating, and everything went smoothly. Note that one member at our table was on a gluten free diet, and had arranged for this special diet ahead of time. This need continued to mystify the wait staff, I don't believe any meals were served without some sort of problem. Lido deck food was good, lines were never bad if the peak time was avoided. Cruise Director: Steve Cassel was the best cruise director we have ever had the pleasure of sailing with. He was excellent! He also plays a mean fiddle! I'm not sure what he is doing on a small ship like the Paradise, but he was everywhere on the ship, doing his best to make everything fun. Entertainment - Main Shows - Excellent. We were on the Carnival Freedom in September, these shows were better. The performers seemed to be having fun, which came through on the performances. The Cruise Director also played the fiddle in one of the shows, adding another dimension to the entertainment. Entertainment - Comedy. we went to only the adult comedy, both performers were sub-par compared to what we had seen on previous ships. Funny and "R" rated is OK, but just "R" rated is just dumb. Maybe we hit them in the wrong mood, normally we really enjoy the comedy. Entertainment - Live Karaoke - Absolutely terrific. This is a must see. Karaoke with the house band playing instead of a CD. The band was great, and the singer was excellent. One of our table mate performed, and the band got into it. This is a really good time. Casino - We never went. Other Entertainment - My only grip is that things seemed to be clustered together. Shows and comedy were on the same night. We did not go to the guest talent show, I cringe at Karaoke taken to the next level. Ports - Grand Cayman - A great port. We snorkeled at Eden Rock, a 5 minute walk from the tender port. $5.00 for a locker (we bring our own equipment) for some of the best snorkeling in the area. If you are a first timer, Stingray City is a must visit. We have done that multiple times. Grand Cayman is a clean, safe place to wander around and explore. We were only there from 8AM to 3PM, a bit short. Ports - Cozumel - We arrived at 11AM and left at 8PM, a bit strange. We went snorkeling with Mystic Divers, and Rosie arranged for us to snorkel the Columbia and Palancar reefs. We have been to Cozumel many times, and the snorkeling from the shore isn't very good The best we have found is at the Money Bar, that is OK at best. The the offshore reefs were fantastic. Lots of large fish, and very beautiful. For $70.00 each we received a small boat tour. From Carnival a similar tour was available for about the same price, but there were close to 200 folks on the boat. We had 2 people. The Carnival tour included booze, Rosie's did not. Fitness Room - Tired. Everything worked but it was old equipment. It was clean. Ship - When we get on and off the ship,there is rust streaming down from the portholes. This concerned me, as it indicates a lack of maintenance. Our cabin window was also filthy (from the outside). It seems like they are saving money on the little things, kind of sad since the cruise was so nice. Conclusion - This cruise was fun, and well worth the money! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We sailed out of Tampa on Dec. 29th on Carnival Paradise. We had an oceanview cabin, and it was bigger than we expected. It was very clean, and well stocked with fresh towels and water all of the time. The rest of the ship was in very ... Read More
We sailed out of Tampa on Dec. 29th on Carnival Paradise. We had an oceanview cabin, and it was bigger than we expected. It was very clean, and well stocked with fresh towels and water all of the time. The rest of the ship was in very good shape, although it could use some updating. We traveled to Grand Caymen on Dec. 31st which was simply beautiful and amazing. We did a snorkel/stingray city excursion. It was fantastic! The water was a little choppy, but all in all we had a great time. New Years Eve aboard Paradise was AMAZING!!!!! By 10:30 p.m. most guests made their way to the Lido deck for a great party. The band was very good, and there was a lot of dancing and celebrating. It was about 80 degrees, and the champagne was flowing! The following day we went to Cozumel. We did the "GO JEEP" excursion which was AWFUL!!!!! I would not recommend this excursion to anyone. The brochure promised an exciting "through the jungle" off road experience with tequila tasting,and 1.5 hours on a great beach. It was a two-hour ride, back and fourth, on a highway to nowhere in the most broken down jeep. The tastings occurred in small roadside places which were "sketchy" and scary. We were on a beach for about a half hour, and it was horrible. The beach was dirty and smelly. The restaurant was very overpriced, and the food was well below par. Many other passengers paid only $20 for an all inclusive beach tour and were very pleased with those excursions. Beside the "Go Jeep" excursion, another complaint would be that the food on Paradise was not as good as other cruise lines. It was compatible to Bob Evans or Cracker Barrel. If your looking for gourmet top-chef prepared meals, you would be disappointed. The only time lobster was available was on New Years Eve. The desserts were amazing, though. Another complaint would be the lounge savers on board. You literally have to get up at 7:00 a.m., get a towel, and "save" your lounge chair. Some guests saved lounges for their entire group, or family,even if they never showed up. Some "saved" chairs would be vacant for most of the day. Also, we were not able to enter Tampa Bat until 3:00 p.m. on our day of departure due to fog, causing us to miss our flight. Luckily, we had a travel agent who was able to make all of our arrangements for a hotel and new flight. It did cost quite a bit to get a new flight for three the next day, and a hotel room. If you are cruising in December or January, I would recommend flying in a day before, and out the day after, the cruise. You would only have to pay for a hotel room, and not have to worry about making arrangements from the ship.At times, it was difficult to get a free line out. All and all, we had a great time. New Years Eve was worth all of the other little problems. And, hey, you're in 80 degree sunny weather, swimming in the ocean, in January!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We arrived at pier about 11:00 and checked in; then waited until our group was called to board. By 11:30 -â€" 11:45 we were on the ship. The 4 year old was hungry so we ate at the buffet because Versailles did not open until 12 ... Read More
We arrived at pier about 11:00 and checked in; then waited until our group was called to board. By 11:30 -â€" 11:45 we were on the ship. The 4 year old was hungry so we ate at the buffet because Versailles did not open until 12 or 12:30. We explored the ship for a while, went to our cabins and then went to the Biergarten for the sail away. Overall, we thought the ship was kept very clean and staff was very friendly and went out of their way to accommodate us. Our little one was up early on the first sea day - even before Versailles opened. We walked around the ship looking for breakfast. Not being fond of buffets, we were thrilled to find the Blue Lagoon which became our breakfast spot. It was quiet, a wall of windows, good food and great staff. They served a full breakfast with bacon and eggs cooked to order as well as French toast and omelets. We also enjoyed the Blue Lagoon at lunch, too. Our time in Roatan was a bit of a disappointment. I had booked a Victor Bodden private tour. It was not worth it. He took us to see the monkeys -â€" but they are not indigenous to Roatan. If you want to see indigenous monkeys, St. Kitts is the place for that. This was like a very tiny petting zoo. We asked about the butterfly farm and he told us it was the wrong time of year to see them. We asked about the iguanas and he told us it was completely booked up. The beach while beautiful was over crowded and our guide could not find more than 1 chair and 1 small umbrella even though there were 4 of us. There were tons of "hawkers" trying to sell us everything. Worse, he took off and was gone for hours leaving us to wonder if he was even coming back to get us. We finally had to call the number and were told he went to get gas but would be "right back." Well, when he came back, we noticed that the tank was nearly empty. Made us think that he lied about the other things to so he could just drop us at the beach. Just not the pleasant beach day we thought we would be getting. In Belize, we tendered ashore and found a tour company; we had been told by the Victor Bodden guide that it was not safe to just take a taxi to the zoo and we were also told that by the tour company in Belize so we went to Altun Ha with a tour company. The 4 year old liked climbing the ruins and we had a really nice day. In Costa Maya, I had contacted Steve at the Tropicante. We had a wonderful day - we got exactly what Steve had promised - 4 loungers and 2 umbrellas. The food was excellent and reasonably priced, the beach was beautiful. Steve also directed us to Neptuno to see about fishing. We paid $75 for 4 of us to go out fishing. My husband caught a 3 ft barracuda which our guide filleted and took to Steve's to cook for us - it was absolutely amazing in taste!! The best food we had on the trip! I really can't recommend Steve highly enough. In Cozumel, we did the Dolphin Encounter through Swim With Dolphins Cozumel and it too was great. We had to change our time from 1:00 to 3:30 so it was just our family - we all had a ball with the baby dolphin named Eddie. The photographer took 144 pictures which we purchased on a DVD for $139. Unfortunately, during our week, both my son and then my grandson had a bout with acute gastroenteritis necessitating seeing the doctor. She was very nice but she had to quarantine the 4 year old on Thanksgiving afternoon. My son and I went up to Aqua to try to take turkey dinners back to the cabin. It presented a dilemma to the staff because to get the whole dinner was more plates that we could carry. I suggested that maybe we could make several trips but the manager had a waiter carry the tray of dishes up to our room so we could all have Thanksgiving dinner together. This kind of responsiveness on behalf of the crew was experienced several times over. My grandson loved the towel animals that the cabin steward made and the steward too was so responsive when he had to clean and disinfect our cabins (connecting) several times more than usual. We liked eating in Versailles sitting at the back windows watching the wake but Aqua is actually a quieter dining room. The food was pretty similar in both as was the menu. The food was fine - not gourmet, but what you would expect when serving the numbers on a ship. The last night we ate in Cagney's and my family enjoyed having filet, crab cakes and lobster tails. We also had to use room service quite a bit because of the quarantines. Room service was good food but usually pretty slow delivery. Figure at least an hour to get your lunch, dinner or snack. Breakfast was delivered right on time using the card on the door. A couple of things that I had not really picked up after reading these boards: 1. There are professional photographers who offer photo sessions every evening. The pictures are really lovely. Some families dressed up and were anticipating Christmas photos or other family photo souvenirs. We did not bring any dressy clothes -â€" in retrospect, wish we had. We did take advantage of the photographer until the last night -â€" again, wish we had done so several times. 2. Freestyle in the dining rooms is more like "country club casual" rather than cargo pants type casual. 3. The Star Bar was not discovered by us until the last night when we ate at Cagneys. If you like a quiet place to have a before dinner cocktail, this is really nice -â€" would definitely have used it more. We did not take advantage of any of the entertainment on the ship because of the young one -â€" our family preferred to spend time together so we did not use the kid's club either. The one kid activity we did was the cupcake decorating which was packed with kids, not particularly well-organized and they didn't seem to anticipate the crowd wishing to participate. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise and would consider NCL again in the right circumstance. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas cruise review Nov 21-26, 2011 Tampa to Cozumel to Costa Maya to Tampa Twelve of us sailed on the Jewel over Thanksgiving to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary. Those sailing were my ... Read More
Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas cruise review Nov 21-26, 2011 Tampa to Cozumel to Costa Maya to Tampa Twelve of us sailed on the Jewel over Thanksgiving to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary. Those sailing were my parents, me, my brother and his family (wife, 12 year old boy, 8 year old girl), and my sister and her family (husband, 15 and 13 year old boys and almost 10 year old girl). I was in cabin 7138. Mom and Dad were next to me in 7140. My brother and family were down the hall in 7126. We were all on the port side. My sister and her husband were in 7650 and their kids were in 7648 on the starboard side. All were category E3 balcony deluxe staterooms. Some (like 7126) had the pull-down bed. Cabins: very well laid out, and I had plenty of room for my things. I like that the ends of the bed are curved -- made it easy to walk around the bed to get to the balcony. The bed was extremely comfortable, and had many pillows on it. The shower has an interesting set of rounded doors that you slide shut, and these worked well. I thought the shampoo and conditioner were fine. My only complaint about the cabin was the balcony. There were little flecks of white paint all over the furniture, as though someone had pressure washed the ship and didn't bother picking up. I had a chair, a lounge, and a small table on my balcony. My parents next door had two chairs. We just leaned around the divider to talk to each other when out there. I didn't find the furniture comfortable, so didn't spent much time on the balcony, although I kept the curtains open so I could enjoy the view. A flat screen tv also would have been nicer, but I understand those are coming with the next refurbishment. Wine packages -- my parents ordered the 12-bottle Platinum (middle of the road, price wise) wine package, to cover wine for dinner. My siblings and I also purchased a 12-bottle Platinum wine package, to cover pre-dinner cocktails, and to have wine for drinking in the room. This worked well, although we had more than we needed. We quickly found a large enclosed booth area at the end of the Schooner Bar where the 12 of us could congregate with our wine, (and soft drinks for the kids!) and then just walk down the stairs to the dining room. Embarkation We met at my parents' house the day before embarking. They live about 30 minutes from the pier, so no airline flights or ground transportation was used. We arrived at the pier in Tampa around 11:30am. Dropped the luggage with a porter while my brother and brother-in-law parked the minivans in the garage across the street. There were a number of benches along the drop off point, so we sat to wait for them. We then entered the building and went up an escalator to security where our hand luggage was scanned. We were given health forms to fill out, after which we stood in line to check in. Very friendly personnel. Got my sail pass card. Sister's family sailed through (bad pun, sorry!). We ended up waiting a long time for Mom and Dad -- as they had a computer glitch right as they were checking in. Sister's family had their embarkation picture taken while I sat off to the side and had a glass of lemonade and some cookies. Walked outside down a looonnngg sidewalk to a scissors-style gangplank which dropped us off on deck 5. Had our picture taken for security, then took the elevator upstairs, walked through the solarium and pool area, dragging our hand luggage, to the Windjammer buffet, getting there about 12:45. Tried honey stung chicken -- yuck. Chicken curry with chunks of white meat was fantastic. They had loads of pappadums (thin crispy lentil crackers) every day -- YUM! Buffet cleared out very fast at 1pm as people went to their rooms. We finished our lunch, then went to our staterooms. Our souvenir drink cups were in the room. Met Yuliya, our stateroom attendant -- unbelievably friendly. We decided to meet in the Schooner Bar (deck 6) for a drink shortly before 3pm. I had just gone back to the cabin to get my life jacket for the drill when the announcement came over the loudspeakers that life jackets weren't necessary -- oh well. At least on a ship this size, it wasn't too far a walk to get back to the bar. Mandatory muster drill -- around 4pm. Mom, Dad, brother's family and I were at the same drill station -- G14, which is in the Portofino restaurant. We checked in with the girl at the stand, then sat down until we were cleared. The entire thing only took about 15-20 minutes. Very efficient. Dinner 6pm -- tables 528 and 529. Second level of the dining room(deck 5) on the starboard side of the ship (left hand as you enter the dining room) near the railing, and opposite a waiter's station, so was relatively quiet. Vidalia onion tart the first night was very good -- tasted like quiche. Waiter Christian from Romania -- very experienced, and very professional, Has wife and daughter, about whom he told us many stories. He also did some card tricks, which had the kids entranced. Assistant waiter was Violeta from Croatia -- very pretty girl and SUPERB waiter. Called Dad "Sir William" and Mom "Madame Carole" . Had our names down from the get-go, and called me by name every time I saw her anywhere on the ship. Christian didn't really use our names. Violeta remembered that I liked hot tea every night, and that my sister-in-law didn't want the bread basket (too much temptation!). A variety of breads was served each night. There was a mix-up the first night. The kids were seated next to us, but with different wait staff. They got their appetizer, but never got their meals. We addressed that, and the next night when we arrived, Christian told us that he had arranged to switch tables, so he had our table, and the kids' table, and nobody else. Things went very well after that, and we appreciated his doing that. Tuesday, Day 2 -- captain had announced moderate seas, and he wasn't kidding! I got up, showered, dressed, and was doing fine until I sat on the bed waiting to call Mom to go get breakfast, and the motion got to me. Went to the main dining room and tried to eat but nothing felt like it was sitting very easily. Took a dramamine and after an hour of sipping ice water, felt ok enough to walk through the dining room and back to my cabin. Yuliya saw me in the hallway and exclaimed "what's wrong!?" and I told her I was seasick. She had just finished my cabin, so she told me to go in and lie down and asked if she could bring me anything. I replied "yes, a bucket of ice would be wonderful" and she turned and literally ran down the hallway and returned instantly with a bucket of ice. From then on I had ice twice each day, which was most appreciated. She asked me every time after that how I was feeling. Tuesday night was formal night. We got two of the bottles from our wine package and set up in the empty Champagne Bar on deck 5 for pictures, as there was a lovely spot by the railing where we could stand. My sister and sister-in-law got everyone into place and we took turns with our various combinations of people. (we looked at the pictures the day we got off the ship and were so pleased at how well they turned out) Went into dinner and it was my poor Dad's turn to be seasick. He tried the lobster bisque which was awful -- very fishy tasting. Christian brough him a Caesar salad to try but after two bites Dad excused himself saying "guys, I'm sorry, but I have to go" and he left. I had the sliced steak which was excellent and I think that was the night of the peach/blueberry cobbler which was very hot, and not too bad. Wednesday, Day 3 was Cozumel, and our dinner at Chops. My siblings and their families went scuba diving and swimming with the dolphins (separate trips). My folks and I stayed on board. I believe this was the day they started putting up the Christmas decorations onboard. I happened to be going up in one of the glass elevators facing the atrium right as they plugged in the lights to the Chrstimas tree -- a number of crew were there -- and everyone applauded. The adults met in the atrium bar for a drink and went up to the restaurant a few minutes early (8pm reservation) but they were ready for us. Don't remember the waiter's name -- he was quite forgettable and never made an effort to be personal. Very long intervals between courses. My filet was perfectly done (I asked to have it butterflied because I like my steak well done) and very tender. Sister's steak was unfortunately butterflied (which is typically done for people who like well-done meat and she prefers medium) and the waiter offered to have it replaced but she said no, and said that although it was more done than she would have preferred, it was fine. The chocolate mud pie was the best chocolate dessert I have ever had in my entire life, and that's no exaggeration. Sort of a combination of chocolate mousse, ganache, and I don't know what else but it was exquisite. Sides were served family style. The onions rings were wonderful, as were the mashed potatoes. I only regret that the platters were so big that we ended up wasting much of the food. All in all, a delightful evening, and well worth the extra charge. Thursday Day 4 -- Thanksgiving -- Costa Maya. Some of our party got off the ship to do some shopping, but didn't partake in any activities. We all grew up in Florida, so had no interest in going to any beaches. We spent the day in the same way we had done most other days -- my dad had breakfast early in the main dining room, then walked around the ship with his book, looking for quiet places to sit and read. Poor man got shuffled around a lot -- seems every time he found a quiet spot, an activity would be scheduled. I also think he saw more of the ship than the rest of us. I know I never saw the nightclub -- but he did! The Schooner Bar ended up being a favorite place to sit. Very comfortable couches and chairs, and beautiful views of the ocean. Its location also meant that sooner or later, someone from the family would come strolling by. We didn't see much of my 15 year old nephew -- he quickly found a group of kids to hang out with. They spent a lot of time at the pool tables. The girls mostly played with their Barbies in the cabin when they got the chance, since they only see each other a few times per year. Nobody used the kids' facilities... .although the teenager and his friends may have tried the disco. I spent some time sitting on the balcony, or down in the Schooner Bar with my Kindle. Dinner was traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner and was very good. (but no rutabaga, darn it!). Friday was our last day, and we were at sea all day, heading back to Tampa. The seas were much calmer than they were on the way down, which I appreciated. We all had our luggage outside the door by 11pm for pickup, and the tv ran a continuous loop of video on how to fill out the customs and immigration forms, how to use the luggage tags, where to meet for disembarkation, etc. Our group was scheduled for 9:15, and we met on the top level of the theater. We were called about 20 minutes late, but disembarking was very easy. We walked down one level, went outside on deck 5, scanned our sail cards one last time, and then walked back inside the terminal to pick up our luggage and go through customs. The luggage was very neatly laid out in rows with huge numbers indicating each section. I found my suitcase instantly, and sailed through customs. I spent more time walking than standing in line. A few miscellaneous notes: at the beginning of the cruise, staff were diligent about asking to see the sail pass, to see the stamp for the soda card, but by Thursday they didn't ask anymore I had an outstanding Vodka Collins at the Schooner Bar. They had some karaoke there -- most of which was truly, truly awful. The regular entertainment there wasn't much better. I didn't see any of the shows in the big theater, but saw some bits on the tv the next day. The cruise director and her staff seemed to be doing a good job. I played trivia in the Schooner Bar several times. There were rarely more than 4-5 tables of people playing, which was unfortunate -- but they weren't giving away anything more exciting than a key chain or occasionally a hat, so that may explain it. I just like to play! Entertainment in the Atrium bar was great -- a lot of Christmas carols as you would expect at that time of year -- but the music and singers were great. Crew were pretty friendly. I heard there were 600 kids (out of 2500 passengers on our cruise) but they were never much of a problem. Just one rowdy group of 10-12 year olds playing on the stairs one night. Other notes: in the Windjammer, make sure you check out the 'other side' of the buffet. Some items are repeated on both sides, but many are not. The hamburgers were particularly good, as was the sliced fruit. I ate a lot of pineapple! The survey forms that you receive in the cabin are supposed to be returned to customer service well before disembarkation time. I missed it, but was thrilled to see yet another drop off box for the forms right after we scanned our sailpass card to get off the ship, so I was able to submit mine after all. Overall: the Jewel is a beautiful ship with gorgeous views of the ocean. There are 5 or 6 glass elevators -- 3 or 4 on the outside of the ship, and two overlooking the atrium. People were generally courteous when using the elevators. There is a very nice mockup of the ship on each floor as you get off the elevator showing you which way is forward, and where things are located. I recommend checking out the menu for the dining room. It's posted on a board just outside the dining room doors on deck 5. It was fun to plan what we wanted to have each night. My 12 year old nephew had expressed a great interest in trying duck while on the cruise (there is almost nothing this kid won't eat). He almost backed out, but we convinced him that if he didn't like it, he could try something else. Our waiter Christian helped him cut it, and my nephew was so thrilled, he was bringing samples over to the adults' table for us to try. Friday night was the lobster night -- a lobster tail. I didn't order one, but everyone else at our table did, so then I changed my mind, and they quickly brought one to me, which I enjoyed. In sum, it was a wonderful 5 days, and everyone had a good time. It was particularly nice to have so much together time as a family, since my parents and brother live in Florida, and my sister and I live in Georgia. I would not hesitate to cruise on the Jewel again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Arrival and check-in was smooth. We arrived at the Tampa terminal around 11am and there were no lines for check-in. Santa made a visit to the waiting area while boarding began. We were on the ship around 11:30am. The Windjammer was open ... Read More
Arrival and check-in was smooth. We arrived at the Tampa terminal around 11am and there were no lines for check-in. Santa made a visit to the waiting area while boarding began. We were on the ship around 11:30am. The Windjammer was open but we had to wait until 1:00pm to access our cabin. Cabin: Deluxe ocean view with balcony on Deck 10. Very cozy room that without the balcony would be claustrophobic. Plenty of storage space. Very old TV that did not get good reception and had a limited amount of channels. Beds were very comfortable. Cabin Stewart was excellent and efficient. MDR: we were assigned late seating. At 12noon, the Head Water was available for seating request and we were able to switch to early seating. My Time Dining was filled to capacity. Our table ended up being on Deck 4 way, way off in a corner. I think we got the trainee table as service was slow and inefficient. We were being served our dinner when most tables were having dessert or were done dining. The food was ok and they need to hire a new pastry chef. The staff in Adventure Ocean was friendly and had a wide variety of activities planned to keep the kids entertained. I did not like having to walk through the arcade to access Adventure Ocean. Overall, no complaints from about the kids club. The water slide: has limited hours but was a lot of fun for my little one. The weather was chilly while we were cruising and that limited the amount of pool time. The pools are not heated. We made 2 ports of call: Costa Maya and Cozumel. Costa Maya is nothing exceptional. Cozumel is on of the favorite ports of call and Radiance was the 1st of 6 cruise ship to pulling into Cozumel the day we were there. It was a chilly, overcast day but we went to the beach anyways. We ended up coming back to the ship around 11:30am and found the Oasis docked next to us. What a sight! And the massive amount of people coming off the Oasis was impressive. The weather was chilly but a lot warmer then what we left behind. Overall, the cruise was a great getaway but lacking the elegance that cruising once had. We had an early disembarking time slot and were off the ship by 8:50am and at the Tampa airport, via taxi, by 9:15am. Very smooth and efficient. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
My wife and I just returned from our New Year's cruise aboard the Carnival Legend. This was our fifth time cruising with Carnival and we believe that a cruise is as good as we make it. Port and Embarkation: Getting around Tampa ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from our New Year's cruise aboard the Carnival Legend. This was our fifth time cruising with Carnival and we believe that a cruise is as good as we make it. Port and Embarkation: Getting around Tampa and getting to the port is rather uncomplicated. With our party of six, we rented a van and enjoyed Tampa with two days of pre-cruise activities. I was able to transport everyone to the port at about 11 am and then returned the van to the airport. I purchased a one way transportation voucher at the airport and was back to the port by 11:50 am. Embarkation was quick and simple. We were all onboard by 12:45 pm. Dining: As with some other reviews, I would echo that dining was not horribly spectacular. We found the food to be somewhat hit or miss, and unfortunately, it seemed to miss more than hit. The morning and lunch buffets were boring and unimaginative. Although food is readily available, our recommendation to Carnival is to offer less food and improve quality. We enjoyed the Golden Fleece Steak House on New Years Eve and must say that the service, food, and attention we received was fabulous. This is well worth the additional $30 charge per person. Rooms: Carnival rooms are among the best that we have ever experienced at sea. We had an extended balcony cabin and loved the size of our balcony. As we were cruising with friends next door, staff gladly opened the petition between the balconies and we all enjoyed several evenings on the deck together. However, a word of caution to those of you who are light sleepers...our room was on deck eight and you could easily hear the chairs being dragged across the floor on deck nine (lido deck). You could also hear a constant walking during the day. Entertainment: We have always found Carnival entertainment to be pretty good and this cruise was no exception. We really enjoyed all venues. One of our favorite spots was the piano bar with Angela. It was always a small, but lively group of people. The stand up comedy was very good. When they say R rated, they really mean it is R rated! They do not allow anyone under the age of 18 to stay in the theater when one of these shows are going on. Ports of Call: Unfortunately, we were not able to get into Grand Cayman because of bad weather. We visited Roatan, Belize City, and Cozumel. It is becoming more difficult to book tours outside of the cruise line, but with research ahead of time, we were able to book private company tours in each port ahead of time and save considerable money doing so. Debarkation: Debarkation was a breeze with the Legend. We were out of the ship by 10 am. We chose private van transportation that you can purchase right at the terminal when you get off the ship. As a hint, you can buy a one way transfer to the airport for $7 per person if you have a group of five or more. This is a considerable savings compared to what the cruise line charges. The trip was fast. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
This was our first holiday cruise, but I don't think it will be our last. Royal's friendly staff and good service made for a relaxing holiday. We were traveling just the two of us (myself and my husband), it's the first ... Read More
This was our first holiday cruise, but I don't think it will be our last. Royal's friendly staff and good service made for a relaxing holiday. We were traveling just the two of us (myself and my husband), it's the first cruise we've taken by ourselves in 12 years. Our other cruises have been with family and/or friends. This was a bit of a second honeymoon as we are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. We headed to the port via car. It's the first time that we've ever parked at the port, in the past we've always taken shuttles or taxis, and I was a little anxious about how the parking situation would be. This is a very easy port to navigate. We dropped our luggage off with the porter and then utilized the self-parking available directly across the street. There was plenty of parking space and the cost was $70 for the 5 days we were gone. We were parked and on the ship within an hour. Our cabin was a balcony cabin on Deck 9, with easy access to the Solarium and casual dining two floors up and just a few flights down to Deck 5 for the shows in the evening. One of the things we have always liked about the cabins on the Royal Caribbean ships is the storage space. There are cubbies and storage space everywhere. My favorite is the storage behind the angled mirrors. Unpack, slide the luggage under the bed and we were ready for our trip. The Radiance of the Seas is one of the smaller ships, which I personally like the more intimate environment this provides. This was our second time on this ship, having taken this same ship to Alaska last year. Coming back on board felt like coming home. This ship has lots of windows that provide great views almost everywhere you go. I especially like the open air seating at the back of the Windjammer (casual dining room). Grabbing coffee in the morning and sitting out under the shade in the fresh air was a great way to start the day. My biggest complaint about this ship is the basketball court directly over the Windjammer. It makes for a very noisy environment in the dining area, which is yet another reason to take your food to the open air area in the back. The food in the regular dining areas was good as usual, but not exceptional. We were lucky enough to have a table for two. We did go to the specialty restaurant Portifino for Thanksgiving dinner. We chose to go non-traditional and I had a skewer of seafood which included lobster for my Thanksgiving feast. The presentation was impressive, the food was above average from the dining room and the service was impeccable. The tiramisu that I had for dessert was the most elaborate display I have ever had and the taste did not disappoint. It was served in a white and milk chocolate shell, accompanied by a shot of Bailey's & Kahlua with cream on top. One word...delicious. We enjoyed several of the shows while on board. We went to both production shows, one was a compilation of Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Barry Manilow songs. The other was a romantic journey around the world. We especially enjoyed the second production show as the singing and dancing seemed a little more suited for the cast. The highlight show for us, however, was the guest performer Lance Ringnald, who is a former Olympic gymnast. His was a combination of humor and gymnastics. Probably one of the more unique shows we've seen on a ship. Our stateroom attendant Michael, was great. He was very discreet, but attentive. He was probably the most creative stateroom attendant we've had. He went beyond just your standard towel animals and added humor that had us laughing out loud. We came back to our cabin one night to open the bathroom door to find our water closet had towel legs ending with a pair of our shoes. Quite funny. Returning to Tampa, we had the quickest and easiest disembarkation we've ever had. We left our meeting area to disembark at 8:15am and were in our car at 8:45am. The worst part of the trip was the drive home to Georgia with the holiday traffic. For a carefree and relaxing holiday, I would highly recommend taking a cruise. There were lots of families on board, but as a couple we enjoyed a more intimate experience. It was a great break from the rush and frenzy of the holiday season and a prime opportunity to reconnect and remember all we should be thankful for. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
My two grandchildren, 11 1/2 yr old boy and 7 yr old girl, just returned from a 7 day Holland America Western Caribbean cruise. They just loved it. The ports, Key West; Belize City; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala; and Costa Maya, ... Read More
My two grandchildren, 11 1/2 yr old boy and 7 yr old girl, just returned from a 7 day Holland America Western Caribbean cruise. They just loved it. The ports, Key West; Belize City; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala; and Costa Maya, Mexico, were wonderful for the kids. They enjoyed Club HAL, the kids' activities. Because of the age difference, they were in different groups, but both enjoyed the time spent with the kids' activities. The staff was wonderful. Between the port excursions and Club HAL, we spent only one full afternoon at the pool, which they also enjoyed. I had hoped to take the kids more often to the dining room, but the service there was slow enough that they became bored, so except for the formal nights and one other, they ate dinner at the self service buffet. I ate there once or twice with them, and twice took them up there for dinner and then to Club HAL, after which I went to the dining room and joined others for dinner. The 11 1/2 year old went with me one evening to hear the comedian, who had been presented as family friendly, and my grandson enjoyed it. I was unhappy that the one evening we might have gone to a movie, it was R-rated. I am not sure why it was chosen for a holiday cruise, which includes many children. The disembarkation was a snap, very smooth and easy. We next stopped at Santo Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala, which is not even on the list provided here. We had arranged to join an excursion organized by a CruiseCritic member, before leaving on the cruise. There were 7 of us in all, on a boat with the guide, the boat driver, and a helper. We travelled about 35 minutes along the coast and then went into Rio Dulce at the town of Livingston. We went up the river, into the rain forest, and found it very interesting and enjoyable. The only form of transportation in that area is on the river, so we saw many people in canoes and small boats with outboard motors. Our guide, Javier, told us that many communities own boats that are shared by community members. At the beginning of our trip up the river, we stopped at the hotel owned by Javier to order our lunches, and then on the way back, we stopped for lunch. My grandson and I had a delicious seafood soup, with a crab, shrimp, and a whole small fried fish. The whole trip was about 7 hours and we had a great time! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
I went on a Western Caribbean cruise on the Ryndam with a family member during Thanksgiving week. This was my second cruise with Holland America, but my fourth cruise total (having sailed with Royal Caribbean and Carnival in the past). ... Read More
I went on a Western Caribbean cruise on the Ryndam with a family member during Thanksgiving week. This was my second cruise with Holland America, but my fourth cruise total (having sailed with Royal Caribbean and Carnival in the past). Overall, it was a good value at $550 per person for the 7-night cruise. We arrived in Tampa the day before the cruise and stayed at the Doubletree Hotel Westshore near the airport. I was able to get a free night using my Hilton Honors rewards points, so that made it an even better experience. Their regular advertised rates started at around $70, which is quite reasonable for a newly renovated Doubletree hotel. Overall, it was a comfortable stay. The hotel was about a 20-minute drive to the cruise port; and we were able to get a free shuttle to the hotel and the cruise port. However, the embarkation process was a lengthier one than I had experienced at previous cruises; we waited what seemed like an hour before being serviced by a customer service rep. Ship: Upon arrival, I noticed that the Ryndam was a lot smaller than what I had expected. I like big ships with lots of room to roam. Nevertheless, I kept an open mind. I later learned that this ship carries about 1200 passengers, which is relatively small compared to the megaton ships being built today (the new Oasis of the Sea carries about 6000). This midsize ship does have its advantages, however. It feels cozier, plus it's easier to navigate or find your way around. In addition, the Ryndam has a more classic European-style atmosphere. At almost every corner, there's an art or antique piece. They even have a self-guided ipod tour of their art collection - which I highly recommend to better appreciate this ship. It's an older ship, which may be obvious to some, but certainly not rundown or tacky. Thanks to recent renovations, one can appreciate both the classic and the contemporary spaces. My personal favorite areas were the Delft Library (lots of books and comfortable chairs) and the Crows Nest Lounge (very hip). Stateroom: We opted for a "guaranteed inside cabin" and ended up in the middle of the ship at the Lower Promenade deck. For an inside cabin (no windows/balconies), this was quite spacious; there was even room for a couch. Holland America has a reputation for having one of the most spacious cabins at sea, and ours was no exception. Also, because our room was in or around the middle of the ship, there was very little to no experience with rocking motion at sea. The only thing I would change is the TV, with a reception that was erratic. Activities: There were plenty of options to do onboard. Each day, there were movies at the Wang Theater, live performances at the Vermeer Lounge, cooking demonstrations at the Culinary Arts Center, and other activities listed on the daily bulletin. I liked going to the gym - to work out all those calories from overeating! I also liked relaxing at the library/cafe and at Crow's Nest Lounge. The posted activities were not as extensive at say a Carnival or Royal Caribbean, but the quality was quite good. Service: The service was usually good. However, when I had requested a blanket due to the cold temperature in our room, no one brought it after many hours. Also, the dining room service was slow at times. During this particular Thanksgiving cruise, the ship was reportedly at full capacity; perhaps that's why it was hit-and-miss at dining. Nevertheless, the staff were mostly friendly and helpful. In particular, the staff at the shore excursions desk were patient and informative when we had to change our plans numerous times. What I didn't like was the organization - or lack thereof- during the special Mariner's Lunch (for repeat HAL cruisers) and the Master Chef night. There was a long wait in the hallway with about 50 people waiting to get in; it could've been better organized, I thought. Dining: I liked most of the food at the Rotterdam dining room, where we had our dinner nightly. There was something for just about anyone, including vegetarians. A few times, I even ordered two dishes on the menu, especially during dessert! Now, if a guest can't find at least one good to eat on the menu, he/she is probably too picky.... The choices at the buffet-style Lido were not as much as I had seen in other cruises though, and the quality of food there was about average. What I really appreciated was the "open seating" option for dining at the Rotterdam. There was a short wait at times, but I liked the flexibility that the open seating plan offers. Entertainment: I saw two shows at the Vermeer Lounge, both of which featured dancers/singers in Las Vegas-style performances. The second show was better than the first. I really enjoyed the spectacular performances at a prior HAL cruise, but the ones on Ryndam were mostly average. This time, I preferred the movies showing at the Wang Theater/Culinary Arts Center - saw "The Proposal" and "Up." Fresh popcorn served too. Port & Shore Excursions: The port stops included Key West, Santo Tomas, Belize City and Costa Maya. We bought shore excursions for Guatemala, Belize and Costa Maya. Save your money on shore excursion at Key West as this is a pedestrian-friendly city with lots to see on foot; if you can't, then go on a Conch Train tour. The other part of the world (Central America) is famous for its jungles, beaches and ruins - so I would recommend going on a tour to see one or all of those things! We did the Quirigua ruins tour in Guatemala; the zipline/canopy tour in Belize; and the jungle beach break in Costa Maya. The best beaches are in Belize and Costa Maya, which are excellent for snorkeling/diving, but I personally didn't do any underwater activities. Although the shore excursions were quite pricey, they did make our vacation much more enriching. Overall, it was a good cruise vacation - and a great value. My advice to future cruisers: shop around for the best cruise and shore excursion deals; know what is most important to you on a cruise vacation - and be flexible and open-minded. If you expect everything to be "perfect", you will be disappointed - and lose out on the joys of traveling. For us, the Ryndam fit our needs; it wasn't perfect, but I would rate it an 8 out of 10 stars for the reasons above. I would also consider returning to a Holland America ship in the future. Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Parking was great just across the street from the ship. We took some of our smaller luggage (roll-ons) and went in to check in. This went very smoothly and soon we were boarding the ship at around 12:30. Once aboard we were told we ... Read More
Parking was great just across the street from the ship. We took some of our smaller luggage (roll-ons) and went in to check in. This went very smoothly and soon we were boarding the ship at around 12:30. Once aboard we were told we couldn't take our luggage to our room (that was ok) but we would have to check it. Well, they had only two luggage tags left (they were already out of them at a really early time) so we made up our own. The really good thing is our luggage (all of it) was among the first to arrive at our room (Good for them!) After a nice buffet lunch, we proceeded to our rooms around 1:30, took our luggage in and proceeded to tour the ship. The ship is just beautiful and very tastefully decorated, especially the atrium which had fantastic holiday decor (a Christmas tree, a large gingerbread house poinsettias, etc. All could be viewed from many floors above this open area. Dinner in the dining room the first night and the next three were just great. Our waiter Kwasi couldn't have been more friendly and helpful, especially since we had a 5 year old with us. Our family table consisted of folks with different food requirements (2 vegetarians, and another with a health issue) but all were able to find something they could enjoy. The selection on the menu was quite good and the food overall was great! Now the not so good - We all lined up the second day at the appointed time to get off the ship in Key West. The line which snaked up several floors did not move at all for some time. (Ok, maybe the ship hadn't cleared customs) No announcement was made for the delay, and over a half hour later, the line started to move but VERY SLOWLY!! Several people we talked to missed their Cruise tours which had left without them. Hopefully they got reimbursed but, in any event, they still missed what they had wanted and signed up to do. Getting back on the ship was not much better. Another 20 minutes or so to get back on (which was tough since our 5 year old needed to go "potty".) We have never in our previous 12 cruises experienced these kind of delays. (RCL - something you should definitely try to improve) The rooms (we had a Junior Suite for 4) was large enough and had loads of storage space, some of which we never used. The bathtub was a nice addition for our grandson who did use it twice. We ate breakfast and lunches in the buffet which were very family friendly. Food selection was quite good even though it was sometimes hard to find a table for 6. One other thing we must mention - the smoking allowed in lounges and in the casino. As non-smokers we could not enjoy MOST of the lounges at night because of the smokers. We understand that RCL is catering to a younger crowd than we usually travel with, but why encourage them by allowing them to smoke in so many places,turning off those of us who don't smoke and want to enjoy the lounges and casinos? For that reason, we probably would not travel again on RCL ships; Celebrity and Azamara, both owned by RCL, have designated areas for smokers which do NOT include the lounges or casinos. We truly hope RCL will change and correct some of these problems. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the ... Read More
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the cruise dropped TWICE. The first I feel was due to the economy and the second to fill the ship. The first time our cruise was not paid off yet and Carnival was kind enough to adjust our price. The second time our cruise was paid in full and Carnival was kind enough to give us an onboard credit for the difference. Later, Carnival dropped the fuel surcharge and gave us onboard credit for that. It would be an understatement to say that Carnival and our agent were very accommodating with our booking. Please note that you must keep up with the price of your cruise and call and ASK for the discount/credit - it DOES NOT happen automatically (except for the fuel surcharge)! Airport to Cruiseport taxi was just $24. Embarkation - We arrived Christmas Day and were the second family there and only waited about 20 minutes before we were shuffled through and awaiting to board. We were on the ship about 30 minutes later. This was a great experience compared to past experience. The Inspiration - My first impression was very clean and well maintained! We do not drink but still found the "welcome aboard" complimentary glasses of champagne a nice jester but eventually got tired of saying "no thank you" due to the many, many offers. We walk around the ship to get oriented and I suggest everyone do the same. You are not able to walk front to aft on most levels/floors so learning the maze if very helpful. Stateroom - Our cabin was roomy even with 2 kids (14 & 10). The beds were very comfortable! Bathroom was basic and watch out because the hot water is HOT! Sometimes we could not mix enough cold water in. Our cabin was ALWAYS well taken care of. The towel animals prompted me and my daughter to go to the demonstration on how to fold them. Room service was prompt and tasty. Food - We ate most breakfast and lunch meals at the buffet and found it quite pleasing. We did eat one breakfast in the dining room and the Eggs Benedict was awesome! For the evening meals we ate in the dining room. We sat with the most amazing family from Virginia! We couldn't wait each night to get to see them again! We know we will see them again some time down the road! OK back to the food. The dinner meals were delicious! Everything prepared nicely. The appetizers were all great. Main dishes were hard to choose from so I ordered two and the waitress was happy to bring both (she was very kind, informative and delightful!). On lobster night my son ate two entire meals. The Chocolate Melting Cake is the ultimate dessert! It is hard to order anything else, but try them all. If you want to see how challenging it is to feed over 2,000 three meals a day take the Galley Tour. (It should be mandatory for those that discredit the food in their reviews!). This ship has a FREE sushi bar that opens around 5:30 pm each afternoon. Get there early - the line gets long quick but it's worth the wait! Entertainment - Maybe not Vegas quality but you are not paying $100 a ticket. The singers were very talented as were the dancers. The orchestra put out a big band sound with only 8-10 musicians. The shows were put together well. The magician was good and the comedian was even better. We did not attend the late version of the comedian and appreciated the Cruise Director's warning that it was not appropriate for kids. Karaoke was fun. Trivia was also. For the kids - AWESOME! The ship offers many things for kids and it looked like all the kids were enjoying them! (This cruise has a lot of kids onboard so if this is something you don't care for - find another cruise) Formal Night - We had the onboard credit so we rented tuxedos for me and my son. If you do this, do it online before you go or first thing on the ship. There inventory is small and they may run out of your size. We met the captain and went to the dining room where just like every night Wilson (our Maitre' d) welcomed us. Cozumel - This was the second cruise to Cozumel for the wife and I so we were able to plan our visit better. We went to Chankanaab National Park and snorkeled. I have heard there are better places off shore to snorkel but this was our first time and this place was perfect for us. Beautiful fish, some nice coral reef and other things to do inside the park also. The taxi was $10 and admission was $49 for the four of us. Snorkel gear and life vest were $15 each to rent. We returned to the ship for a late lunch and then in to town for shopping. We had experienced the hounding of the store workers last trip so this was short and again unpleasant. So we went back to the pier and bought our stuff then got back on the ship. Disembarkation- Very quick and easy! Do the one where you take your own luggage! Show up early as they start before the time given. In summary, we had a great time! This is a 3 star cruise ship and you cannot expect it to compare with a 5 star. For the price this is an AWESOME cruise, do not hesitate to book this cruise. I found it to be nothing like some of the negative comments in a few of the previous reviews. If I had to complain about anything it would be the constant solicitation of having your picture taken. A simple "no thank you" took care of each. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The public areas of the Veendam are beautiful and our stateroom was comfortable. One of the things I love about HAL ships is the number of public spaces, both inside and out, to sit and enjoy the scenery and the sun. The other passengers ... Read More
The public areas of the Veendam are beautiful and our stateroom was comfortable. One of the things I love about HAL ships is the number of public spaces, both inside and out, to sit and enjoy the scenery and the sun. The other passengers were a great mix of well-behaved families. The only minor negatives were AYWD (which doesn't work well when the ship is at full capacity) and unreliable room service delivery (after two times without food we gave up). After the upcoming drydock, and with a little improvement in the food service management, the Veendam would be perfect! After some anxiety about flying through Seattle, which had some big winter storms, we arrived in Florida as scheduled. We spent the night before the cruise at the Tampa Waterside Marriott, which was very nice. We stopped at Total Wine and bought several bottles for the cruise and then had dinner in Ybor City. In the morning we could see the Veendam from our hotel window. The Marriott has a Hertz desk, which made it easy to return our rental car. We arrived at the pier about 11:30 and were told that boarding would begin at 2:00 p.m. because the ship was being sanitized after a norovirus outbreak. HAL had arranged for a deal on admission at the nearby aquarium, but we opted to sit and play cards. Boarding started at 2:00 as promised, and we were in group #8 to board. Staterooms weren't ready, so we went right to the Lido for our first delicious lunch. At that point it was not crowded, but the Lido got quite jammed as more people boarded in a short time. Since the ship was in Code Red, the buffet was not self-serve (even for water and coffee), which slowed service down a bit, but to stay healthy I was happy to avoid touching spoons that others had touched. The shortened embarkation time threw our usual Day 1 routine off schedule; by the time we got to the spa, there were no more massage appointments for the first sea day. Oh well. After the lifeboat drill, we went to the aft pool for sailaway and a margarita - HAL cocktails are soooo good! Then on to dinner in the dining room, which tonight entailed only a short wait. Food and service were good, as always. We made it to the show, which involved a comedian who was somewhat funny. By the time we returned to our stateroom, all of our luggage had been delivered and we unpacked. We had an aft outside stateroom on the A deck, category FF. The bathroom had seen better days - definitely in need of the upcoming refurbishment. The bed was very comfortable, and the storage space was great. DD and I do not travel light - the three of us had 5 suitcases and 3 small rolling carry-ons, but it all fit in the closets and underbed drawers, and all the empty luggage fit under the bed. The air conditioner worked fine. Other than the beat-up bathroom, the only problem with the stateroom was a frequent odor issue. I love an aft cabin and the easy access to the Lido and the aft pool. Monday we stopped in Key West. It was a beautiful day - like almost every other day on this cruise. We took the trolley tour, shopped for the items we forgot - air freshener spray and an extension cord, and walked down Duval Street. We were back on board for some pool time before a beautiful sunset sailaway. Our wonderful room steward had brought us a wine bucket and ice so we could chill our wine before dinner. There were a few new passengers (and their luggage) waiting to board in Key West, whose arrival in Tampa must have been delayed. Monday evening we had our first delicious meal at the Pinnacle Grill (booked online before the cruise). The PG beef is incredibly good and the desserts (chocolate soufflE and Cherry Garcia Baked Alaska) were great too. Monday night's show featured the Veendam singers and dancers in a tribute to Broadway. We saw several Broadway shows this year, and I thought that the Veendam entertainers were Broadway quality. Very enjoyable. Tuesday was our first sea day. After breakfast in the dining room, we found lounge chairs on the stern of Deck 9, just below the aft pool, a very peaceful spot. At 3:00 I went to the martini class, which unfortunately conflicted with the Indonesian tea service. So many cocktails, so little time. Unfortunately, we could not get dinner reservations that morning (except for 8:30), and ended up waiting about 45 minutes for a table. A note on AYWD: We'd requested the early traditional dinner seating when we booked in March, but got AYWD. I was open to the concept, but AYWD did not work well on this cruise. The ship was at full capacity since it was a holiday cruise, and there were several large family groups with multiple tables, which probably upset the dynamics of AYWD. If there are 1200 people on board and 75% of them eat dinner in the dining room, AYWD probably works relatively smoothly. If there are 1450 people on board and a higher percentage of them eat in the dining room, it doesn't work so well. When it worked for our schedule, we reserved a table for 5:30. On the two occasions that we preferred to eat later, we waited 45-60 minutes for a table (so much for eating as we wished). We were never offered a pager, perhaps because of the Code Red situation. The maitre de was one of the few unfriendly staff I encountered - he had an attitude like we weren't quite good enough to eat in his restaurant. That didn't help the situation. My DD (on her 4th cruise since age 8) missed having a personal connection with an assigned waiter. She is a picky eater, so perhaps it is easier for her to order from the same person every night. She did have trouble finding food to eat on this cruise and ended up ordering pasta almost every night. The menu choices were just too adventurous for her, but the waitstaff was very willing to accommodate her requests for non-menu items like marinara sauce. I had no problem at all finding food to eat. Once we were seated, the food and the service were both good. I did not think that the selection on the menu was as good as the Zaandam in 2006, but perhaps my expectations were higher on this cruise. I did not go hungry. Tuesday night's show was an illusionist duo who were very impressive. How do they do that? Wednesday we stopped in Belize, which involves a looong tender ride. We were on one of the first tenders and had arranged for a combo shore excursion - ATV ride and cavetubing - with Yhony. He was waiting for us when we disembarked, and sent us off with a great guide (Richard) for a short tour of Belize City on the way to the ATV site. The ride was muddy and lots of fun. The cavetubing was different from anything I've ever experienced, but crowded and chaotic. Next time I'd go to a beach instead. Wednesday the Code Red was lifted. It was very interesting to see how much reappeared: salt and pepper shakers, bread baskets, self service in the Lido, the taco bar at the Lido pool, magazines in the library, the fruit basket in our stateroom, nuts and appetizers in the lounges, cloth towels in the restrooms, pool towels readily available, basketballs, etc. Wednesday was New Year's Eve, one of the highlights of the cruise. It was formal night, so we got dressed up and had pictures taken. Because we left the ship before the 8:00 a.m. dinner reservation time, we did not have dinner reservations. When I called in the afternoon, they said that getting a table anytime after about 7:45 should be fine. Fortunately, we went to the dining room about 7:30, before the early show ended. We waited for almost an hour (and were not offered a pager) and while we waited the line eventually extended past the elevators. Finally the three of us were seated at two adjacent 2-tops, with an aisle in between. Service was very slow; clearly they were just overwhelmed when everyone chose to eat in the dining room on new year's eve. Perhaps on full capacity cruises - and especially on special nights - HAL should return to assigned dining. We went to the show lounge at 11:00 for the New Year's Eve party, which was the best NYE party I have ever attended. Hats, necklaces and noisemakers were handed out at the door, the ship's bell was placed on the stage to be rung at midnight, VJ and the Hal Cats played great music, the officers danced, and there was a balloon drop at midnight. What a way to start the new year! Thursday we stopped in Costa Maya. We rented jet skis, which DD loved, and went out on a one-hour snorkel trip. Fortunately we managed to do this before the downpour, our only rain on the trip. The beach in Mahahual is pretty, but walking down the malecon there was a constant barrage from the locals. Voyager of the Seas was also docked at Costa Maya, so the port itself was crowded, and the shopping was ridiculous. (At one store I asked the price of a pair of earrings, and was told $35; I returned a few minutes later with money, and a different clerk said $90, but for me $75. Such a deal!) We had the good sense to make a 5:30 dinner reservation and dinner was again delicious. The show was a violinist. Friday was our last stop, Roatan. What a beautiful island! A large Carnival ship was docked, so the Veendam tendered, which was a slow process because it was too shallow for more than one tender at a time. Luckily,we have learned to get ready early on tender days, and we were on the second tender (even after waiting for room service breakfast that never came). We'd arranged for a private tour with Bodden Tours, and we couldn't have chosen better. We had an island tour with a great guide (Norma), and then brief stops at West End and West Bay Beach before heading back to the ship at 11:00. The last tender was supposed to be at 11:30, but so many people returned at the same time that it took another hour to get everybody on board. We hung out by the aft pool for sailaway, and the music ended before the anchor was lifted. Friday DD and I finally had our massages, and then I went to a flower arranging class, which was very interesting. Friday was the second formal night, and again we made a 5:30 dinner reservation and dinner was good. The show was the Veendam singers and dancers, and just as good as the first one. We finally made it up to the Crow's Nest, where VJ and the Hal Cats were playing; they are really good. Saturday was the second sea day and after the embarkation talk and the Mariners' lunch we hung out at the aft pool again, soaking up the sun and watching some silly pool games. After packing, we had our second dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, which was again excellent. The show was an encore performance by the illusionists, violinist and comedian. Sunday we had silent disembarkation, which was a breeze. Our time was 8:30 - 9:00, and about 8:40 we were ready to go and walked right off the ship. Our luggage was easy to find, and National Rent-a-Car had a shuttle waiting. The cruise was a great way to pack a lot of sightseeing into a week, but it's the service that makes HAL a great cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background Information: This was our 7th cruised and third with Royal Caribbean International. My wife and I are early 60's and we were cruising alone. We selected this cruise on Grandeur of the Seas strictly because it was over the ... Read More
Background Information: This was our 7th cruised and third with Royal Caribbean International. My wife and I are early 60's and we were cruising alone. We selected this cruise on Grandeur of the Seas strictly because it was over the Thanksgiving holiday and price for a Ten day cruise. Our itinerary was two sea days, San Juan, St. Maartin, St. Kitts, Antigua, Tortola and Two sea days. We booked our cruise through a Travel Club travel agent, Category H and were assigned stateroom 3114 Large Oceanview Stateroom and requested and received main dinning. We were assigned table 18 in the Gatsby Dinning Room. Travel To Port and Embarkation: Travel to Port of Tampa was and easy 2 hour drive, the road signs to the Port and Ship Terminals were easy to follow. We arrived at the port around 12:15, the cruise departed on a Monday. Grandeur of the Seas was the only ship in the port but there was very heavy traffic around the entrance to the cruise terminal. We received blank luggage tags from the porter at the terminal curb and quickly filled those out and turn our luggage over to the porter. Going thru security the couple in from of us in line was stopped at the carry on luggage x-ray machine and directed to table that was line with confiscated bottles of alcohol for a physical search. The check in line was about 15 minutes long, we had completed RCI online check in process on their website, and had our Set Sail Pass. The check in process was less than 30 minutes, from arriving at the terminal to entering our cabin. Ship information: Grandeur of the Seas is a Vision Class small and twelve years old but it appeared to be very well maintained. The following Grandeur of the Seas Facts are from the RCI web page Gross Tonnage 74000, Length overall 916 feet, Breadth 106 feet, Max Speed 22 Knots, eleven decks. One thing I found interesting the Captain said that the Grandeur was 25 feet below the waterline and 110 feet above the waterline. Why does it turn over? It was easy to get from one point on the ship to another, very little wait for elevators. The cruise was full and I would estimate that 80% of the passengers were over 50, seen very few young children and I would guess less than 20 teens. Stateroom: Our cabin 3114 is listed as a Large Oceanview Stateroom and it anything but large, but that normal for RCI. There was also a noticeable vibration when the ship was moving, but nothing that would keep you awake at night. There was adequate closet space and ample room under the bed to store luggage. Our room attendant introduced himself to us on our initial arrival to the cabin. He always kept the cabin clean and tidy and we had towel animals on the bed at night after dinner. Activities: Lot of activities going on, especially on the sea days, every activity had lots of people attending, and it seem that there was always two things going on at the same time that I wanted to attend. There was the usual over priced Art Auction that blocked the Centrum on deck 4 every sea day. Bingo was crowded. The evening shows in the Palladium Theater seem to fill up quite quickly and if you wanted to attain you had to get their early for a seat. We show up on time for the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception in the South Pacific Lounge and it was completely pack with no were to sit. Again I think this had to with the age of the passengers. Service: The service we received ranks was pretty good not the best that we had, but far from the worst and I would give it a 4 on a scale on 1 to 5. There was a problem with the Dining room which I'll cover it the dinning section. Everyone from the lady that checked us in at embarkation, Pursers Desk, to the towel attains on the poll deck were amazingly pleasant and conscientious. Shore Excursions: We only had one RCI excursion and that was in St Maartin. SM86 St. Maartin Island Tour, 2 ½ hour tour that crossed over to the French side of the island. This tour was very inexpensive; it was the first RCI excursion that I ever felt cheated when it was over. All it is is a bus ride (large bus) form the tourist tarp on the Dutch side of the island to the same type tourist trap on the French side. No island history or geographical information was provided; a number of schools and the island flower were pointed out a number of times. One would have been better off hiring a cad for a lesser price. Dining: We had main seating for dinner and ate half of our breakfasts, lunches and all our dinners in the Gatsby Dinning Room the rest were in the Windjammer Market Place.. We also had a indulged ourselves at the Solarium Cafe late at night after the windjammer was closed. The quantity, variety and quality of food all over the ship was again pretty good. I would rate the quality of food on a scale of 1 to 5 a solid 4 for the quality of food only. In the Gatsby Dinning Room our waiter was Edwin and his assistant was Godfre we had a table for 4 very near the front of the dinning room. Main seating was at 5:30 and that seemed to be earlier than all the other cruises we've been on. The dinning room staff was very attentive and remembered each of our peculiarity each night. The first three nights the dinning room was full and it took over two hour for dinner. On the fourth night on the dinning room was less crowed and dinner was only 1 ½ hours. I don't contribute this long time to the waiters, but to some problems in the kitchen. The Windjammer was a very popular place and was always crowed, tables were bused quickly as soon as dinner were threw. Food was always fresh and hot. Entertainment: I attended all of the evening shown and found was above average for a cruise ship with the exception of the comedian Chas Elstner he was pretty bad. The Cruise Director, Simeon Baker was above average and the Singers & Dancers were really enjoyable. The Liars Club and Love and Marriage Game Shows were a big hit. Disembarkation This was the worst debarkation we experienced in our six prior cruises. We had an 8:45 call time for our color baggage tag but were not called until almost 9:20. It took another 40 minutes to get threw the custom line. I believe this is a problem with the US Customs and not Royal Caribbean Summary: Prior to departing I had review this cruise on Cruise Critic and read all the reviews that I could find on the Grandeur of the Seas and had a pretty good idea of what to expect. We had a real good time on this Cruise, service was good, weather was great, and food was OK. We would take this cruise again next year if it were available. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008

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