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544 Transatlantic Luxury Cruise Reviews

This was our first Oceania Cruise. Past cruises with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney. I did a lot of research. We decided on the cruise because we have wanted to visit Ireland (this cruise docked on Cohn and Dublin) and the ... Read More
This was our first Oceania Cruise. Past cruises with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney. I did a lot of research. We decided on the cruise because we have wanted to visit Ireland (this cruise docked on Cohn and Dublin) and the transatlantic crossing intrigued us. We arrived early; at the dock 11:30 am. Embarkation in Manhattan was very easy, quick. We were on the ship in 10 minutes. A group of 6 adults, we headed to the Terrace Cafe for lunch which, though very crowded, fed us well. While at lunch, they announced our cabins were ready. We traveled Concierge level A3. Our cabin was spacious, spotless. Our luggage had been delivered. We quickly unpacked and set off to explore the ship. The fact that the ship was on the smaller side attracted us as well. It was easy to navigate. We saw the spa, met the artist in residence, saw the teaching kitchen. Muster drill was ...a muster drill. Dinner that night was at Toscana. While at lunch we were approached with an open reservation so we took it. It was delicious. So let’s just get the food out of the way. Dinner at all the restaurants was delicious, including the main dining room. We ate at Toscana twice, at Jacques twice, and at Pollo once. We passed on Red Ginger even though it was most highly rated, most of our group were not fond of Asian food. The rest of the cruise we ate in the Grande Dining room for dinner, many lunches and a few breakfasts. And this is Cruise was the only Cruise we actually had dinner at the buffet. And it was enjoyable. We also enjoyed the afternoon tea. Their service from stateroom attendants to all servers, bar service, every employee we had contact with, was excellent. The entertainment with 1 exception was adequate. The exception, Chuck Wagner was excellent. Now the reason for the title. Even with all the preparation and research, the weather had a severe effect on this cruise. Weather in Canadian ports was forecasted to be normally high 49s low 50s. It snowed in Halifax, so our stop in Newfoundland was cancelled. Snow accumulated on the decks and verandahs. 6 or more inches as well as deeper drifts. Access to the open decks was prohibited, though I do not know why you would want to go out anyway. Five straight sea days followed of rocking, crashing waves and rolling. We truly missed having access to an indoor pool on the ship. We grew tired of the movies. There were enrichment talks, usually 2 per day at 50 min. each, trivia but by sea day 4 we couldn’t wait for a port. Our day in Cobh, home of Blarney Castle was cold and rainy. We enjoyed our excursion but for the first 1/2 hour the windows were so steamed on our bus we could see nothing out of them. Wiping just gave us brief glimpses before they steamed up again. When we got back on board, we were informed that the weather was too bad and our Dublin stop was cancelled. We stayed in Cobh an additional night. The next day the weather was still so bad, it made walking into the small city undoable. We did enjoy the museum on Irish immigration and the Lusitania and Titanic in the welcome center 10E each and the small but well supplied shop as well. When we finally continued on our journey, the captain and crew were finally able to get us out of the rolling, rocking seas and we made the last two scheduled port stops, in Saint-Malo and Le Harve. We enjoyed the warm spring weather there and on our last sea day. We were content with our excursions. One aside, now that I’ve had the experience. We had never been to Paris and after discussion and research did decide to do the one day excursion from Le Harve into Paris through the cruise line, though it was pricey. It is 6 hours (3 to, 3 back) travel, another hour plus ride around the city to see the main sights, 1.5 hours on your own (20 min searching for a toilette) and 15 min photo op at the Effiel Tower. My opinion now...not worth it. Do something closer to Le Harve. On the whole, it was less than expected experience. Are we glad we went? Yes. We enjoyed much of the cruise. Had we been on RC or another line with a ship with more to do, the sea days would have been more easy to get through. If we were with our children and grandchildren, this is not the line we would have chosen. We knew that when we booked. On the up side, we can plan a British Isles-Ireland Cruise with the kids. Debarkation was a mess due the the face to face with British immigration and having to collect our passports before leaving the ship. We waited in lines that at times had no end. Seriously. No one knew where the end of the line was and the crew was not able to help the situation. Still they were pleasant with hundreds of seniors many of whom were acting like toddlers at Disney. We were in line with a gentleman who had an excursion at 8:30 am. It was 7:45 am. We did not get to the passport station until 9:15. I hope they held his tour. I don’t know who is to blame for that mess. We had a pleasant bus ride to the airport. All the air arrangements were made through Oceania and it was as pleasant as a day spent at Heathrow and an 8 hour transatlantic flight could be. Same movies as onboard. Some things you just can’t control. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This was to be the cruise of a lifetime. A chance for my wife to visit some of the many places I had visited while on business travel. Titled by Oceania “Museums to Mosaics” We called it the “Cruise from Hell” along with some ... Read More
This was to be the cruise of a lifetime. A chance for my wife to visit some of the many places I had visited while on business travel. Titled by Oceania “Museums to Mosaics” We called it the “Cruise from Hell” along with some other long time (29 Oceania cruises) cruisers. Things stated going downhill at our second port – Halifax. It was very cold and started snowing as were leaving the port. The next morning there was over a foot of snow on the swimming pool and deck. Many of the crew members had never seen snow and found it fascinating. The visit to St Johns, Newfoundland was canceled due to stormy weather. My wife had lived in Newfoundland 50 years ago and was anxious to see how it had changed over the years. All in all it was a very disappointing start to the cruise. Crossing the Atlantic in the heavy seas for five days did get many people quite queasy, which led to distributing barf bags by the elevators. It was rough enough that safety belts for the beds would have been appreciated. People had to hold on to the railings and walls to go along the corridors to keep from falling. When we arrived in Cork, Ireland the wind was very strong with sideways rain and very cold. Fortunately the Jameson Distillery tour was indoors. The visit to Dublin for the next day was canceled due to heavy seas and gale force winds so we spent the day in our cabin in Cork. The next disappointment was arriving in London/South Hampton on Good Friday. I had really wanted my wife to at least have a brief visit in London. This meant there was to be no visit after planning on it for a year and half (since we had booked the trip). We were not informed of the no London tours until I asked the Destination Services manager when we were going to be able to select them on the cruise. We had asked out travel agent prior to the trip when we were going to be able to schedule a London tour (like all the others we preselected) but were told we had to wait until we got on the ship. Then we then proceeded to visit Bordeaux on Easter Monday, which is a celebrated holiday in France, with practically everything closed. The next stop in Biarritz was canceled due to heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay (that precluded using tenders to disembark). I guess Oceania is not aware that the Bay of Biscay is notorious for rough seas. The last straw was visiting Malaga on May Day, May 1st – another holiday with the shops closed. The tour was supposed to be easy – the guide had very poor English skills and appeared to be trying out for the Olympic speed walking team. My wife had to sit down and wait for the tour to return with no available free rest rooms. To Summarize: Cruise Length 28 days Sea days 8 scheduled (11 total) Missed ports 3 total Stop not available due holiday 1 (London) Ports limited due to holiday 3 I understand that Oceania does not control the weather. However, they do control the scheduling. In previous years the “repositioning cruise” had been scheduled in May. If the cruise had been scheduled just a week later, Good Friday would have been at sea, Easter would have been in Cork and London would have been available for a visit. I had expected that Oceania would take holidays into account when scheduling trips and try to optimize passenger enjoyment. I guess I was wrong. The message this sends is that passenger satisfaction is a sorry second to revenue maximization. Oceania does many things quite well. The food is good albeit somewhat uneven in the specialty restaurants. The desserts in the Grand dining Room are superb and the crew members we interacted with were well trained, friendly and courteous. The entertainment was much better than previous cruises and the comedian (Martin Beaumont) was terrific in both his shows. We paid over $30,000 for what we consider a $15,000 cruise at best. I had hoped Oceania would have reached out to people who had done the 28 day cruise but after 2 ½ weeks we have heard nothing from Oceania. Never again do we plan cruising on Oceania or any of its’ related lines. Postscript: We did complain to Oceania thru our travel agent and received a very disappointing self serving reply offering a $600 total ship credit on another cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We enjoy sea days and this had 8 of them, which were blissful and relaxing The ship and crew were great, as were the food and facilities. St Maarten was a waste of time and the tour was awful on a rusty, uncomfortable, aged bus. The other ... Read More
We enjoy sea days and this had 8 of them, which were blissful and relaxing The ship and crew were great, as were the food and facilities. St Maarten was a waste of time and the tour was awful on a rusty, uncomfortable, aged bus. The other excursions were excellent. All in all an ideal cruise with first class service from Viking staff, especially at the bars and restaurants. The Chef's Table and Manfredi's are a must to dine in. The cabins are nicely appointed, comfortable and very quiet. The Spa facilities are great and the main spa is free to enjoy, unlike with certain other cruise lines. The 2 pools are just fine, especially as Viking is adults only so no screaming kids clogging up your swimming freedom. The captain is great and makes this the cheeriest, most friendly ship we have experienced. The entertainment is good enough, though some cruise lines offer more in this department. Viking is our number one choice for cruises. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
My brother and I wanted to cross the Atlantic. We were particularly looking forward to Funchal (Madeira) Portugal, cruising through the Strait of Gibraltar and visiting Sevilla and Valencia, Spain. We were not let down; sea days were a ... Read More
My brother and I wanted to cross the Atlantic. We were particularly looking forward to Funchal (Madeira) Portugal, cruising through the Strait of Gibraltar and visiting Sevilla and Valencia, Spain. We were not let down; sea days were a blast, the weather was good (60s and 70s), excursions were terrific. The staff is amazing - open and friendly, always engaging & remembering our names, taking care of any requests. Just terrific. Here’s an example of great service; we would read on the top deck most days in the late afternoon, where comfortable couches are located outside. One day there had been early rain, and the furniture had been secured. We asked a senior crew member if they could set up the furniture and within 5 minutes, it was set. Very impressive. The food was very good, entertainment was great. The Viking singers get a huge high-five. We used Viking Air Plus, which I recommend- all transfers were seamless. You can’t go wrong with Viking, and I have already signed on to a 2020 cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
I recently sailed on a trans-Atlantic voyage and a western Med cruise. I had a Grand Suite for the first segment and a Penthouse Suite on the second leg. Both staterooms were equipped with a bluetooth Bose speaker. I enjoy listening to ... Read More
I recently sailed on a trans-Atlantic voyage and a western Med cruise. I had a Grand Suite for the first segment and a Penthouse Suite on the second leg. Both staterooms were equipped with a bluetooth Bose speaker. I enjoy listening to my own playlists on Spotify. If you do too, I recommend that you download your favorites before leaving home as streaming services are blocked once you're on board. The Grand Suite was spacious and it was nice to be able to host a cocktail party for nine. The butler arranged for a bartender and canapes. It was a very nice get together. We also enjoyed the convenience of having a second bathroom. The crossing was very smooth - one of the best, according to the Captain. The itinerary was interesting and featured some nice ports of call. I especially liked Madeira and Cadiz. Would highly recommend this as a wonderful way of getting to Europe. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We've traveled throughout much of Europe and a little in South America, but two countries we had not been exposed to were Brazil and Portugal, so when this cruise was announced we jumped at the opportunity. It also helped that the ... Read More
We've traveled throughout much of Europe and a little in South America, but two countries we had not been exposed to were Brazil and Portugal, so when this cruise was announced we jumped at the opportunity. It also helped that the cruise line was offering a double cabin upgrade (veranda for the price of an inside cabin), and the extras offered (gratuities and basic drink package) were not common on ocean crossing cruises. Even with all our travel, we are relative neophytes in the cruising game, having only taken a total of four over the years. The most recent cruises were on Celebrity, which we now use as our standard against which to judge others, and we were anxious to compare this "upscale" cruise line to those. We arrived in the departure city, Rio, a day early and took in the sights, and then the next morning taxied to the port. As the ship is small and only holds about 700 guests, the lines were short in the registration area, and it was only a matter of 15 minutes before we were boarding the ship. The wait to get into our cabins was also short, and luggage arrived quickly. A bit of good news we received once we were on the ship was we were able to use our Celebrity points to get some perks on Azamara (including a free hour of wifi time). Our cabin was small (category V3 on deck 7), but it had plenty of closet space and places to store the luggage. We met our cabin stewards, Dyna and Gouri, right after finding the cabin, and they carefully wrote down our requests for stocking the minibar and other requirements. For the rest of the cruise they tended to our needs perfectly and unobtrusively, always with a smile on their faces. At the muster drill we learned an interesting fact: Apparently Norovirus, the scurge of cruising, manifests itself within 24 hours of embarkation. So the cruise line doesn't allow guests to touch any of the serving utensils in the buffet for the first day. Not sure if other lines have adopted that practice but we didn't hear of any outbreaks during our cruise. For the remainder of the cruise we learned the ins and outs of Azamara cruising. The ratio of guests to crew is less than two to one, and there are always management staff around to ensure every operation runs smoothly. In the buffet they are constantly providing coffee refills, taking away plates, filling up your wine glass or other drinks. In the main dining room it's all open seating, meaning you meet new people each day. After the first couple of meals we were especially pleased with one of the servers, Doma (from India), and so from that point we requested to be seated in her area each night. She and her assistant, Wayan (from Indonesia) took great care of us, remembering our drink preferences and other details, and becoming great friends by the end of the cruise. Other dining options were the small cafe on the pool deck, where you could get hamburgers, salads, chicken wings, etc., as well as frozen yoghurt for dessert, and two specialty restaurants (which we didn't take advantage of). Both my wife and I felt the food quality was excellent, with plenty of choices at all times, and there were always two types of red and white wine each day, which we enjoyed. There were also special occasions, such as buffets outside on the pool deck. One of those was their "White Night" where everyone is encouraged to wear white. Food was plentiful (including zillions of BBQ lobster tails), and live entertainment and dancing lasted late into the night. Since the weather was quite chilly and windy that night, they provided blankets to everyone. Another special offered was the Chocolate Fantasy, with every chocolate concoction you could ask for including two fountains. Entertainment ranged from magicians to singers to comedians, but our favorites were Four on the Floor, their resident singing group. A special event was the crew talent show, where various crew members showed off their singing and dancing skills. It was great fun seeing people we knew on the crew and finding out they had such great talent. For us other reasons Azamara stands out are (1) small ships and easy to get around, (2) free guest laundry with free detergent, (3) free shuttle buses to take guests from the ship to the city center in each port, (4) drink packages and prepaid gratuities even on ocean crossings, and (5) crew members that take pride in ensuring your happiness and satisfaction. Those and everything else about Azamara are the reasons we found we were in a great minority of only cruising once with the line. Nearly everyone we spoke with had cruised with Azamara 5, 10, 15 or 20 times. One couple had been on nearly 50 Azamara cruises! We definitely will cruise with them again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. ... Read More
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. We never witnessed grouchiness or tension among the staff, in definite contrast to the larger cruise ships we've been on in the past. The service was hence over the top. Perhaps it was just our L'Austral crew, but e.g. the front desk ladies were amazing, juggling all day in at least 2 languages, and manning the reception 24/7. Always friendly with a smile, and anything we asked for was done, taken care of or checked on with efficiency. We never felt 'second class' by not being French, and 99% of the French passengers were very friendly once you tried a few words in French.. I think sometimes people get insecure and appear standoffish until you get to know them a little. Due to the itinerary, we had a significant number of Aussies, Germans, Austrians, some Brits, someone from Iceland, and a handful of Americans. Several multilingual passengers, and an unusually high number of solo travelers. That being said, it does help to speak French, since the naturalists, cruise director etc are all native French people, and not every joke or comment can be translated properly into English. All announcements were always in both French and English. The captain was very involved and you seemed to run into him often. He was there, coming in another Zodiac when ours had engine problems, always ready to help out. He navigated that vessel safely and very smoothly. His background is commanding icebreakers, so a transatlantic is probably much easier work for him. Overall recommendations: Although there's 3 elevators, they don't reach everything, for example the marina. Not a good ship for wheelchair, crutches, or walker. Cane may be okay if you can negotiate 1-2 flights of stairs. Currency on board is Euro, but you can settle your account in USD, and if you book a future cruise on board, the quote can be done in either currency. The onboard boutique/store does NOT have sunscreen, nail clippers, antacids... so don't forget those. They have mostly clothing, a few gifts, small amount of jewelry and handbags. Most of the clothing is for use in Antarctica. All high quality (mostly made in France and Germany), and thus pricey. If you wish to leave tips, you have to have cash. Unlike on other cruise ships, where you can add a tip to your bill, you can't do that on Ponant. The services in the spa already include a service charge. Food/drink: Be prepared to gain weight - we felt like Thanksgiving turkeys.. especially the desserts are too delicious to pass up, plus they have daily varying homemade gelato.. ugh. The pastry chef is top notch, French of course. And then the cheeses...! Our ship wasn't full, so during the first 2 weeks, dinner was either buffet on 6, or sit down on 2, and lunch was only buffet. You can always get coffee drinks, croissants and fruit in the main lounge on 3 in the a.m., and coffee/tea with some type of goodie from 4pm-5pm, main lounge as well. Open bar using decent brands, top shelf is extra. Their champagne is pretty good, and on certain occasions, Veuve Cliquot comes out. House wines red/white/rosé are overall decent. If you like beer, you'll be probably disappointed. Mostly Heineken, and e.g. Corona amazingly has to be paid for. Main dishes range from okay to superb - it really depends who's cooking and what. The mostly Indonesian crew is of course best at fish etc, even room service fish was fantastic. The Peruvian carving chef was amazing. Lamb most of the time was awesome. Be aware most of their beef and pork meats (roast, loin etc) are cooked 'rare' and are quite fatty. Room service club sandwich was the best sandwich we've ever had, period. Now if you can't find anything to strike your fancy, just talk to the restaurant head guy or directly to the chefs, they will come up with something for you. Spa/fitness: actually got a haircut, Elsa was very good and took a whole hour, only 65Euro. The hammam looked nice, very hot in there and we were in the tropics, so didn't use. Fitness center looked nice, mostly deserted. The saltwater pool is a decent size for a small ship, due to internal ramp you can't swim laps but it's nice to hang out or tread water. As far as the itinerary - the Brazilian government has now banned all non-Brazilian vessels from anchoring off Fernando de Noronha. It was quite a bummer, but nothing could be done about it. We received 250Euro onboard credit each as a compensation. OB credit can't be used for future cruise deposit, certain visas they arrange for you, or tips as I mentioned above. Since basically everything is already included, we "had to" shop at the boutique, DH got a real Panama Hat and I bought an Icebreaker vest and 2 Breton sweaters, nice souvenirs! Brazil: Rio - loved it and will try to return Paraty - very quaint, difficult walking on cobblestones, not touristy, and no public RR Salvador - broke my heart to see how they let their city deteriorate in so many ways.. even in the public market prostitution was going on. Very sad. Recife/Olinda - Would love to return to see the Olinda Carnaval. We had dancers from Olinda come to the ship to present a show and they were spectacular. Olinda walking tours are quite the workout walking steep hills in high heat and humidity. Guinea-Bissau, Bijagos Islands There was a couple (he French, she Portuguese) who lives on Keré Island, who acted as cultural intermediaries. Our naturalists came from Antarctica and that's where their expertise lies, not Africa, so they did not have much information. Honestly, most of my information was from documentaries I had found online at home, prior to the voyage. The Islands are definitely not touristy (there's rarely a ferry from Bissau), most of the village inhabitants are very reserved and do not interact. It appears they asked a couple of women to put on their 'good dress' and sit by the walking trail, so people could get their selfies with a person from Bijagos. I felt we were being intrusive overall, although I understand they authorized the visit and Ponant helps finance e.g. a water well etc for the villages. If you're a snorkeler/diver, this is not your spot, water murky with very low visibility. Sadly, we saw almost no wildlife, wrong season, normally there are lot of birds, hippos etc. Senegal-Dakar Well, we spent the day at an African family's B&B in Dougar, 45 min E of Dakar, and about 20min from the new airport. We booked through airbnb.com and they reconciled us with Senegal. Before we arrived there, I couldn't get out of Dakar fast enough, between peddlers, noise, the smell of urine, Sahara dust, and traffic insanities... Considering you don't wait in line for anything except the Zodiac embarkations, and the whole ambiance, it's definitely a luxury line and we're glad we chose this trip. Regardless of the itinerary glitches, we enjoyed ourselves and were thoroughly relaxed, so we booked another/ future cruise onboard, which will be on one of the sister ships. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
I chose this cruise because it left from Miami where I live. The ship is beautiful and is keep extremely clean in all areas. Service in all area were polite, pleasant and happy to help in any way needed. I was a single traveler so my ... Read More
I chose this cruise because it left from Miami where I live. The ship is beautiful and is keep extremely clean in all areas. Service in all area were polite, pleasant and happy to help in any way needed. I was a single traveler so my cabin was quite comfortable. For two people I think the drawers are not adequate.Shower was exceptional hot water whenever needed.The Manfredi's restaurant was the best food and service on the ship. Breakfast and lunch at the buffet and pool area had great selections of food chooses. The night time shows in the theater were very good, young and enthusiastic performers. The late night Torshavn Clubs entertainment , the Viking band and both singers and guitarist were exceptional. Shore excursion on St Martin was disappointing, too long and very depressing area. Excursion on Madeira and Barcelona were excellent. One last note traveling as a single person, the supplement charges are quite high. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
This was our first Cunard experience, and we were not disappointed. We were on the first sector of the 2019 World Cruise; this would take us from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale, stopping at Bermuda and Port Canaveral. We were under no ... Read More
This was our first Cunard experience, and we were not disappointed. We were on the first sector of the 2019 World Cruise; this would take us from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale, stopping at Bermuda and Port Canaveral. We were under no illusions with six sea days before the first port of call we would need to find plenty to do. Also, the North Atlantic in January could have been very rough (think North Sea trawler!), we were very fortunate and had a remarkably smooth ride. We had booked a Princess Grills mini-suite which was mid-ships and deck six. Embarkation/Disembarkation The ship was using the City Terminal in Southampton. We had priority boarding and so did a lot of others, from arriving at the terminal to getting to the cabin took 45 mins. Check in took a bit longer as they had to confirm that we had valid US visas (ESTA). Disembarkation was more complicated because our flight was not until 18:00. A coach tour of Miami had been organised for those transferring to Miami airport. A couple of days before disembarking instructions and luggage tags were dropped off in our cabin. We had to be in the Royal Court Theatre for 07:45, no leisurely breakfast then. Once called, we were quickly off the ship and had collected our luggage; this was then put onto the coach. There was some confusion because some of the passengers on the coach had flights that were too early for the tour; they had to be taken off the coach. We had a comprehensive tour of Miami, with a detailed description from our knowledgeable guide Linda. There was time for some lunch in Miami Beach and a walk on Ocean Drive. We finally reached the airport for 13:30; this might have seemed early for an 18:00 flight, but with the queues at check in, immigration and security, the time soon passed. Cruise Critic Roll Call Meet and Greet We did have a small M&G on the first sea, a nice chat with quite a varied bunch. Dining As we were Princess Grill passengers we ate in the Princess Grill, and could have eaten there for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. We had an allocated table for two (103) which was ours for the whole cruise. Our waiters Tusha and Tutu (spelling guess) could not do enough for us, nothing was too much trouble. Meals are served at a leisurely pace, but when we turned up early one evening, they asked if we were going to the show and provided ‘express’ service, in and out in an hour! Every morning the lunch and dinner menus are delivered to your cabin, giving you plenty of time to consider your choices. If there was nothing on the dinner menu that you fancied, there was also a good selection of a la carte choices, though some did need to be ordered in advance. Memorable meals included Dover sole cooked at our table, the mixed grill, beef Wellington, Tornados Rossini and last but not least the chilli dog for lunch! A particular highlight was the wines that our sommelier Sheila, always managing to find interesting wines by the glass, that were below the $11 drinks package threshold, that matched our food choices, her service was prompt, efficient and very friendly. Although the food in the Princess Grill was amazing we did occasionally try other venues for breakfast and lunch. The Lido buffet for breakfast when we had early starts was better that many buffets that we have tried, at peak times it could be very crowded and difficult to find a table. Choices of food were very wide. The Lido Grill provided great hotdogs and burgers. We had fish and chips in the Golden Lion pub one day, this was very good, and served quickly. Bars We had decided to purchase the Beers, Wines and Spirits Option drinks package; this costs $69 per day per person. It worked for us, I don’t know whether we made or lost on it, effectively we saved the 15% service charge which is applied to all purchased drinks. There is a comprehensive set of terms and conditions that fill a sheet of A4 paper. Our favourite bar was the Grills Lounge where Patrick was the consummate host, nothing was too much trouble. The standard of nibbles served with drinks before dinner was very high, the crisps particularly, we were also offered hot canapes. Other favourites included the Commodore Club with its stunning forward view, and after dinner the Chart Room provided somewhere quiet and intimate. Prelunch drinks were either in the Golden Lion, which had a good selection of beers, or the Winter Garden, which could be quite crowded. Most of the time service was prompt, efficient and courteous. Most bars also served tea and coffee. Cabin Our cabin was starboard midships on deck 6 (6103), it was a very good size; it is described as a Princess Grill Mini-Suite. The décor and fittings were in good shape. Between the bathroom and main room is a spacious hanging area that really works well. The beds are high enough to take some pretty big suitcases underneath. There were also two deep drawers under the foot of the bed. There is a spacious sitting area with a sofa, chair and coffee table. The balcony does have an overhang and is quite sheltered, but it is a good size. Our steward Jaypee looked after us well, and was always keen to do more. This grade of cabin comes with fluffy bathrobes, and on embarkation Champagne. This cabin was very quiet, nothing rattled. The bathroom had an over-bath shower and lots of storage. Along with a kettle there was also a coffee maker. Large bottles of water are provided complimentary. The only slight downside was that the hairdryer was not very good and really needed upgrading. Entertainment I enjoyed the lectures in the Royal Court Theatre by Professor Bob Donaldson ‘Global Threats in the 21st Century’ might sound a bit on the heavy side, he presented an interesting perspective on international relations. We both enjoyed talks by retired cricket commentator Henry Blofeld. We also went to evening shows with Phillip Browne, Roy Walker and juggling comedian Goronwy Thorn. These were hosts by Entertainment Director Neil Kelly. It was very pleasing not to have to get to the theatre 30 mins before a show started, there were always seats available. Photography We were pleasantly surprised by the ship’s photographers and their low key approach, only taking your picture when asked. We did have a picture with the captain, but it was not good enough for the $30 price tag. Gym A very good gym with everything you could want, some of the machines looked to be new. As usual it could become congested at peak times. My only suggestion would be to add a sit-up bench. Shops Lots of shops to choose from, but not everything had a price tag which was a bit off putting. Ports of Call Bermuda, after six days at sea we were very glad to stretch our legs on land. We stayed around the Royal Naval Dockyard, taking in the Clocktower Shopping Mall, the Dockyard Glassworks and the Frog and Onion Pub. Bermuda is not a cheap place, $7 for half a pint of local lager. Port Canaveral, Florida We originally booked on the Kennedy Space Centre Up Close Tour, but this was downgraded to the standard tour because of the US Government shut down. It was a long day and started with negotiating US Boarder Control formalities. The Space Centre sent buses to the port to collect us (I think there were 10 busses in all). We had a very knowledgeable guide in Julie, who also kept very good control of the group. Julie warned us that the Space Centre had become very ‘Disneyish’, with stirring music blasting out, rather than a history lesson more an experience. The tour lasted from pick up at 08:30 to back on board 16:45, not for the faint hearted it’s a long day and hard on the feet, but I thought it was well worthwhile and enjoyable. Top tip, if you purchase anything in the Space Centre retail outlets; ask for the cruise passenger 10% discount. Anything Else? We were under no illusions that there were a lot of sea days on this trip, but Cunard offered plenty to keep us occupied. The level of service on the ship exceeded our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We chose this as we wanted to try Viking Ocean and like the shorter length from Lisbon. We also never had done a holiday cruise and Viking did it right. The food, entertainment, bars and lectures were top notch. We have been on many ... Read More
We chose this as we wanted to try Viking Ocean and like the shorter length from Lisbon. We also never had done a holiday cruise and Viking did it right. The food, entertainment, bars and lectures were top notch. We have been on many cruises and this was probably the most well designed cruise-ship we have been on to date. We booked again for a colder weather cruise in New England in 2020 and are thinking of the winter Norway cruise in 2022. The food was excellent and the specialty venues were also great. We had the SS package and are wine lovers and had a wide choice of wines by the glass to order. We also got a discount on bottle purchases and enjoyed our French Champagne by the Bottle. If you are interested in cooking classes, sign up right away when you get on board as they do not advertise them in advance. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We love the size of the Viking Sun class ships and find the Viking staff very helpful welcoming.The Sun is a 2 yr old ships, which like others (e.g Viking Star) is extremely comfortable. This reposition cruise was a last minute ... Read More
We love the size of the Viking Sun class ships and find the Viking staff very helpful welcoming.The Sun is a 2 yr old ships, which like others (e.g Viking Star) is extremely comfortable. This reposition cruise was a last minute decision to primarily to celebrate my spouse's recent retirement. Viking repositions this ship from Europe to MIA where Vikings starts its World cruise offering. Therefore, the crossing offers only two ports of call (Azores and Bermuda). While most people on board were seasoned travelers, a few people were surprised that even with all the greatest technical advances this ship could rock. While we had a variety of weather, the Atlantic is not a small pond and it can be quite rough. Although I heard some complaints, I was surprised about some very unrealistic expectations. Since, we actually treated the trip as an adventure we loved it and rod ecommend that you take some Dramamine with you on any cruise . We did not need ours and the medical center could provide some, if you got seasick. Based on our sailing history, we would not rate this past cruise as extremely rough. The cabins on board the Viking Ocean are very comfortable, clean and well layout. Plenty of space to move around in with many public nooks suitable for curling up with a good book! The Viking Staff is selected for their "yes, we can" attitude. Although each one us are very unique individuals, the Viking crew is overall very happy and proud to be working for a rapidly growing company which the staff likes with a 90% retention rate over any 10 yr period. Food as expected on a cruise, is abundant, diverse and always delicious. On Christmas Eve the SUN served large steamed lobsters and perfectly executed Osso Bucco in their regular dining room. There were a few caviar offerings at the bars with all daily events and menus for all meals posted on in-room tv monitors. A few times we needed to use room service and while it too was very tasty, it could have been delivered a bit hotter. Although this cruise had only two ports of call there was plenty of entrainment. We do like the fact that Viking does not have a casino onboard. There were some small poker games and Chinese Mahjong available for those so inclined. There are also video tables where you can enjoy playing a computer black jack dealer. In addition to excellent port of call talks, Viking has a number historians, technical experts (e.g driverless car engineering), and musicians discussing their expertise in very simple and interesting presentations. Viking requires that passengers be at 16 years or old, which we found the adults to be quite friendly and open to making new acquaintances. For us, most part we found tables for two available. Since our last cruise, the bars have a greatly expanded selection of quality brands. Since I favor Tanquary Ten, I was pleased that it was available at every bar. and covered by our drink package. There is a night club for dancing and a night cap, but we did not visit it this trip.The cruise director conducted a caroling sing along in the atrium on Christmas Eve, utilizing the classical pianists, the Viking band and even the on board acoustic guitarist. Unfortunately, I did scrap up my leg at the Lisbon Airport and I needed to used the medical staff to heal it. This inconvenience limited my ability to use the abundant spa fitness services on board. The Viking Norwegian spirt shines with very unique spa treatments and many pools located in the spa, in addition to the lap pools and hot tubs found on deck. On the SUN you can elect to start in a hot sauna and then cool down in an ice room with snow. If it is your thing, there are great gym machines exist and in the morning you are invited to yoga/pilates classes. Otherwise, weather permitting, you can take to the promenade and get your exercise by running or walking around the ship with instructions on how many laps constituted a mile. All in all we enjoyed ourselves and would consider going again. We find sailings of this duration suit our life styles very well and while we liked this crossing, there are so many other offers that we have not tried. For example we doing a Panama crossing this month. Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
This is my third transatlantic crossing on board Queen Mary 2. I've gotten to know the ship very well and the quirks of the ship. I enjoyed the cruise a lot, but perhaps not my favourite transatlantic crossing. Ship: She is a ... Read More
This is my third transatlantic crossing on board Queen Mary 2. I've gotten to know the ship very well and the quirks of the ship. I enjoyed the cruise a lot, but perhaps not my favourite transatlantic crossing. Ship: She is a beautiful ship, her public spaces are spacious and the art deco decor is nostalgic and hearkens back to the golden age of ocean liners. You never feel that there are too many people on board Fellow passengers: sociable and friendly, no major issues Cabin: The cabins show a bit of wear, especially in the bathroom Dining: I felt there was a lot of pork this year, I felt in past years there were more beef options. Activities: Afternoon tea: always a classic event on board QM2. It happens daily and great afternoon activity Fitness opportunities: The gym isn't particularly big but if you enjoy running, running on the promenade deck is always enjoyable. Entertainment: Cunard Insights (Lectures): very good, a lot of interesting lecturers and topics, always something I look forward to attending while on board / Evening Entertainment: like always, nothing spectacular, but Cunard is not known for their singing/dancing shows. Service: Service on board was good. I've gotten to know a few of the crew, and have my "favourite" bartender that has served me on all my QM2 voyages. Port/Shore Excursions: N/A since this was a transatlantic crossing. Value: As a luxury cruise, it is not the cheapest cruise but I enjoyed my time on board and I didn't splurge this year or try to hold back either. Would I go again: At the end of the voyage, I didn't think I wanted to do another transatlantic crossing in QM2 again since I felt I had done all that I could on board, however, given that I'm booked to do another QM2 transatlantic crossing in August 2019, I guess I really enjoy my time on board. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We enjoy cruising with Viking. They are first class and do not “nickel and dime” you. The service is excellent and the crew is very good. Everyone working on the ship is friendly and says hello with a smile. The food is outstanding ... Read More
We enjoy cruising with Viking. They are first class and do not “nickel and dime” you. The service is excellent and the crew is very good. Everyone working on the ship is friendly and says hello with a smile. The food is outstanding and the two specialty restaurants serve unique food . It is nice traveling with only adult passengers and also not getting harassed by photographers. The entertainment is average. We usually enjoy the lectures and classes , however, we did not enjoy them on this cruise. The topics were not interesting or relevant for us. I don’t care about somebody rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. The cruise port talks were not well done and the moderator seemed to be just reading his presentation. The two cruise directors were very friendly and personable- Mark and Heather. The two musical shows that Heather and her assistant, Brian Rodriguez, put on were very good. They both have beautiful voices . The glitches on our cruise were associated with the transition from one cruise to the other. It seemed that they forgot we were doing a B2B and we got no communication about the second half. There was a considerable change in the service for the second cruise and service wasn’t as good as the first part. There were long waits in the dining room for just service and food . Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Service is exceptionally excellent by all staff allways. Food is not up to expectations: very refined on the printed menus but too many different ingredients result sometimes in lack of genuine taste. Thomas Keller Grill is just ... Read More
Service is exceptionally excellent by all staff allways. Food is not up to expectations: very refined on the printed menus but too many different ingredients result sometimes in lack of genuine taste. Thomas Keller Grill is just o.k., nothing exceptionnal. For lunch at the Collonade, there is not much variety for the cold dishes and salads: allways the shame shrimps and salmon and salads. The breakfast on the terrace outside the Collonade is a magic moment and very well served. The tea time at the Observaton Bar is also a delicious experience. And after dinner, the same observation bar is a cozy place to enjoy a night cap with Jacqui's singing at the piano. We did not like the noisy entertainment games at the pool deck (Costa style), but they took place just 2 or 3 times. Entertainment and activities were not very interesting, we expected more lectures and classical music performances (piano 1 time, violin 1 time). But all by all, it was a marvelous experience, the weather in november on the south atlantic was sunny and warm, but above all, the way the staff makes you feel as a king all the time is the best reason to come back! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose this cruise because we haven’t been to the Canary Is., and were looking forward to visiting. As explained earlier, we still haven’t visited them.. The Captain Did the right thing by avoiding the 70ft waves that hit Tenerife. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we haven’t been to the Canary Is., and were looking forward to visiting. As explained earlier, we still haven’t visited them.. The Captain Did the right thing by avoiding the 70ft waves that hit Tenerife. The Company did the wrong thing by not crediting our accounts or offering some compensation for the missed ports and fuel savings. it was also wrong to not totally reimburse passengers for the price of booked tours. Embarkation and disembarkation were handled efficiently. We will not let Oceania book our airfare again. this was their second chance. this time we travelled for 21 hours joining the ship in Barcelona from Phoenix. we actually enjoyed the 8 sea days with no schedules to keep or ABC tours to take. did a bus tour on our own in Malaga, a very lovely town. entertainment on board was to our liking. Yes, the production company is young. But, unlike some, the singers can indeed dance, and the dancers also can sing. a few flat notes here and there. If you want Broadway caliber, those BIG ships or Broadway are the Place for you. all on board staff, except one front desk guy seems to be happy doing their jobs and were very kind. We did meet two women who enjoyed soaking In their tubs. Most of us wish the showers had taken the place of those tubs which just took up valuable space. How small? well, If you dropped your soap you had to open the door to be able to bend down and retrieve it. Hubby says this is the best food at sea, Regent is right there in the running too.we enjoyed all the specialty restaurants. Food at Jacques, as you may guess, is very rich. the main dining room offers a fine selection each meal as well as the waves grill and the big buffet. the special brunch buffet featured all the ice carvings and specialty desserts, and beautiful fruit and.vegie displays. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Third time on the Voyager, and sixth sailing RSSC. Good news: the regular cabins are still great; house keeping still strong and service oriented; refurb quite good; great menus in the restaurants; alhough food is very good, quality no ... Read More
Third time on the Voyager, and sixth sailing RSSC. Good news: the regular cabins are still great; house keeping still strong and service oriented; refurb quite good; great menus in the restaurants; alhough food is very good, quality no longer outstanding, and quite inconsistent; service WAY BELOW standards we always loved. Never had to ask for coffee, water and beverages in the past —— this time it was the norm. Wifi was the WORST! Regent probably had no choice but to give it for free. Been involved in mergers and acquisitions —— understand how new owners assume that they can operate the new acquisitions better and more economically than previous owners. In my opinion NCL either reduced F and B staffing or have new members that are not well trained. Captain and crew did a great job navigating the storm! Felt sorry for the room service waiters —— they really had a workout! Took our first Crystal cruse last year. Other than cabin size, service and food was superior. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
QM2 – NY to Southampton 11th to 18th November 2018 My wife and I are in our mid-60’s and have sailed with Cunard now for 125 days or so since 2011 on all their ships. QM2 is not our favourite ship, but we took advantage of their ... Read More
QM2 – NY to Southampton 11th to 18th November 2018 My wife and I are in our mid-60’s and have sailed with Cunard now for 125 days or so since 2011 on all their ships. QM2 is not our favourite ship, but we took advantage of their offer this last summer to, effectively for free, include two nights at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Times Square (room only – normally c300$ per night), plus transfers from JFK to the hotel and from the hotel on the 11th to the cruise terminal. You had to book by telephone or via a travel agent and not online. I insisted on an early morning flight for Friday 9th, this meaning we would have at least 50% of Friday in NY + all-day Saturday, rather than arriving late-pm US time as most did. We booked the cheapest inside cabin for this voyage as there is not much to see from a balcony but sea, mist, waves and rain at this time of the year. How did it all go? The flight was with BA leaving at 0830hrs UK time arriving in JFK c1100hrs US eastern time. BA actually supplied a decent breakfast and service was fine and flight ok. We pre-booked our seats and checked-in online before the flight. On exiting JFK Arrivals, we were met by two very nice Cunard reps’ who greeted us by our first names. It turned out we were the first two on the day of a 100+ total, but the only Cunard passengers on that flight. As a result, they had provided a taxi just for us and we were in our hotel room by 1pm – fantastic. Cunard have a desk in the hotel foyer, manned at certain times and later in the day we were able to confirm transfer times for the Sunday to the ship. Transfer to the ship? This was 100% fine at 1100hrs on the Sunday. Luggage was collected from rooms by porterage before departure, but we had to eyeball it before boarding the coach and likewise at the cruise terminal. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is basically a large shed with not much to commend it, but as Platinum Cunard World Club Members we bypassed the already mounting huge queues and were onboard by 1300hrs and the large cases arrived shortly afterwards. The cabin? We had 6209, which is an Inside on Deck 6 and as it so happens is directly under the so called ‘Chef’s Galley’ at the after end of the Kings Court Buffet on Deck 7. It is a smallish cabin, albeit with the usual shower and w/c etc., large double bed and sufficient storage space. Unfortunately, during the day one could hear from time to time, food trolleys being moved overhead and at night the distant sound of vacuuming. This was not a terminal problem, but might really irritate some people. If you have a choice, do not choose any cabin anywhere on Deck 6, as Deck 7 is the main self -service buffet, Grills Restaurants + promenade/lifeboat deck are all immediately above. Food? Super meals in Britannia Restaurant (we were second dining) but the buffet was so-so for lunch. Breakfast in the same ‘served’ restaurant or the buffet was 100% fine – decent choices, but probably hotter in the ‘served’ restaurant. The only comment on the dinners is: Why cannot they simply do as any of their eight choices a meat or fish dish without it being covered in fancy sauces. Even roasted Haddock had to come with a weird coconut sprinkling over it all, making it look like a cheap pullover. Tasty it was, but bog-standard fried cod and chips would have been nice as an offering. You can get this in the Golden Lion ‘pub bar’ as one of their lunch menu items, but this was always jam-packed from c1130hrs every day. We had to pretend to be interested in ‘Killer Darts’ between 10.45hrs and 1130hrs to get a table for two for a somewhat early lunch. Afternoon Tea in the Queens Room? Nice, but join the queue early! Speakers and Entertainment? John McCarthy was the headline speaker (Beirut hostage crisis) + a variety of other speakers including a retired RN officer talking about submarine warfare in three sessions + Commodore Connell talking about ‘defence matters’ – he is/was UK Naval Attaché in Washington at the time of the voyage. In the evenings it was the usual diet of song and dance, comedians you haven’t heard of, specialist musicians (finalists but not winners in Britain’s got Talent etc.). On the last night the entire Cunard team did Broadway Rocks, which was very good. Service? Always good and friendly. The downside of the voyage. We will never have an inside cabin again unless it is a cruise with numerous ports of call – 7 days was, for us, claustrophobic. It is nice to have some natural light though a window, or door. Drinks are massively overpriced in comparison to P&O and there is a 15% auto gratuity on every one purchased. For example, the Californian Rose wine we like at dinner was a total of 41.40$ a bottle (say 4 glasses) compared to the same on P&O for a flat £17.50. Cunard are now offering a drinks package for, wait for it, 69$ per day per person when all in the same cabin. That would mean you would spend 966$ for the seven days for the two of you for a half-decent reduced selection of drinks from the menu and some of, but not all, the speciality coffees/teas and water. We did not choose that option – did anyone? Auto gratuities? I joined the long queue on the first day at reception having them removed or reduced. P&O are removing them entirely in May 2019. Champagne Bar? – rarely saw anyone in it in the evenings. A few young people onboard including one or two babies, but by far the average age of passenger must be 60+. Cunard must advertise heavily amongst the LBGT community because there was a significant and noticeable presence onboard – some going out of their way to dress and appear radically different from everyone else. Cunard have dedicated meetings for LBGT, Friends of Dorothy as well as Friends of Bill W on all their ships. This is fine by us, but might be offensive to some. On the other hand, Mrs Essex Man noticed that many of our older ladies seemed to feel that ‘glitter’ in its various forms was the in-thing this year. Evenings can be boring – you either have the bars, usually with some form of musical accompaniment, the theatre, G32 which is a small dance floor with a group or DJ who seems to like ABBA, or the Queens Court huge dance floor and seating area. This is predominantly for ballroom dancing which is not everyone’s cup of tea nowadays in-spite of Strictlys’ success. Films – poor choice and always at wrong times. Dinner in Britannia – Cunard must introduce Freedom Dining like P&O and other cruise lines ASAP. 8.30pm is too late to dine for many of us, but 6pm is also too early for some and why go to the buffet when you are paying a lot of money for proper service? We have never had a problem getting a table in Freedom Dining on P&O, particularly if one is prepared to share a table for 6 or 8. It is nice to meet other people – and you will probably never see them again on the same voyage if they are boring. In summary, the whole thing was okay, but Cunard are now living in a bygone era and having trouble filling QM2 (at least trans-Atlantic). Captain Wells (a great guy) admitted as much when he mentioned that QM2 will be trialling voyages going via Dublin, Liverpool. Iceland and Canada before arriving at NY – in other words, more of a cruise than a straight seven-day voyage A to B. And price? It was £1240 each including the cabin for 7 nights, flights, hotel and all transfers for the total of 9 days, so it was a bargain. We spent a grand total of 419$ on drinks, a photo + a reduced gratuity of 50$ each for the 7 days. To be honest though, we had more fun on MSC Magnifica in early-October for £700 each INCLUDING their standard Classic drinks package and all in a Balcony Cabin for 7 days around Northern-Europe, and we did not starve either! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We travelled Eastbound on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 in November, so expected possible rough seas, which did not really materialise, which was good! The QM2 is a beautiful ship, one of the last "Liners" - as opposed to cruise ... Read More
We travelled Eastbound on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 in November, so expected possible rough seas, which did not really materialise, which was good! The QM2 is a beautiful ship, one of the last "Liners" - as opposed to cruise ships - and the food (Princess Grill) and the service both in the restaurant and cabin, was immaculate. There is something to do from 6.30 am - 2.00 am if you wished to be constantly occupied, and what is offered is very varied and interesting. Our cabin was lovely with comfortable beds and a decent sized shower room. Only quibble is that it would be nice to have a shelf or two on which to put personal toiletries. However, the wine is horrendously expensive. Just two glasses of very ordinary NZ Sauvignon Blanc (currently selling in Tescos at £7.00 a bottle) was $51 and a bottle of NZ Cloudy Bay SB was $65.00. And two gin and tonics in the Carinthia Lounge were $21.00 which, seeing as they are mostly tonic water, seems really excessive. But the main rip-off on board is the photographic department. Their prices are very high, but they know they have a "captive audience", and everybody is going to want to purchase their photo with the Captain, if available, so they can charge $35.00 for an 8 x 10 inch photo. They sent round a card which said: "Spend over $90.00 in the Photo Gallery tomorrow and get a free photo". This implies that if you spend, say, $92.00 you are entitled to a free photo. We ordered $119.00 worth of photos and asked how to get the free photo but were informed that we had not spent enough to entitle us to the freebie because, if they deducted $35.00 from $119.00 we were under the $90.00 limit. This seemed to contravene the terms of the offer, but in order to get the free photo we had to order another photo which brought our total to approx. $150.00. They then deducted the cost of the "free" photo, which brought our final total to $129.80. The offer stated unequivocally that you are entitled to a free photo if you spend "over $90": we spent well over that but still had to spend more to get the free photo. We should have just stayed with our order and forgotten about the so-called "free" photo. We think this is downright dishonesty, and sadly, because of this bad experience, I shall downgrade the "Onboard Experience" to two stars. It would have been five stars otherwise. The photographic department is run by a company in Southampton, to whom we have written, but they have not bothered to reply. Apart from the sour taste left by the photo department , we really enjoyed our journey on the QM2. It is a wonderful experience, the staff cannot do enough for you and we had a truly good time. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
In November 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s 11-day cruise across the Atlantic aboard the Serenity (voyage OCY181110). For some time, we’ve taken two to three cruises a year on Crystal. This is one of two ships in Crystal’s ... Read More
In November 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s 11-day cruise across the Atlantic aboard the Serenity (voyage OCY181110). For some time, we’ve taken two to three cruises a year on Crystal. This is one of two ships in Crystal’s tiny ocean fleet. Each carries around 900 passengers. The two ships are pretty much a matched set that rotates crew, routes, and entertainment. ROUTE: This type of cruise is for those who enjoy the boat ride itself. It started in Lisbon and ended in Fort Lauderdale. The only enroute stop was at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, which placed us back in the U.S. It was Sunday, and the onboard border clearance was quick and painless -- took only five minutes from leaving our room to returning. OVERALL RATING (5 OUT OF 5): I rate this cruise as excellent (an overall “5” on a scale of 5). My score is based on the high quality of (1) live music in the small venues, (2) food offerings (truly perfect), and (3) service in the food and entertainment areas (still the most attentive service anywhere on land or sea). However, we’ve never found the Serenity to be perfect “ultra luxury” in every way. We keep coming back year after year because it’s like a comfortable old hotel, where the predictable pleasures outweigh the problems of an aging ship. In fact, the cruise’s most memorable lecturer was a writer for the old “Cheers” television comedy (Cheri Steinkellner). She gave you the juicy backstory of that neighborhood bar where “the troubles are all the same” and “everyone knows your name.” If you’re looking for a low-key, relaxing, good old-fashioned voyage across the Atlantic, this is your ship. Luxury measured by what’s not there. No stateroom announcements. No pressure to buy anything or do anything. No gaming to get your keycard for just one more charge (Crystal’s price is all inclusive). For cruisers who’ve tired of harried herding on the mass-market lines, the absence of certain nuisances on Crystal may be worth an overall “5” in itself. ENTERTAINMENT: When it comes to entertainment, what get’s the perfect “5” from me is the live jazz and show tunes performed in the ship’s small venues (the “Great American Songbook” from the 1940s and 50s). Crystal calls this its “supper club” and “cabaret” entertainment. I found these talented performances every bit as enjoyable as a night clubbing in Seattle or New Orleans. But no cover charges, taxi fares, exorbitant parking, or pestering to buy another drink. Crystal’s musical offerings continued right up to the end, with five shows on the final night of the cruise. The last of these shows ended at 11 pm, just as luggage was due outside the staterooms. Pretty impressive for a cruise with less than 900 passengers. There are lots of amazing musicians out there who never do albums or arenas. Crystal finds them; some stay for a cruise, others stay for years. But if live music isn’t your niche, think of the Serenity as your floating senior center. One with lots of pampering (they even have a “valet service” that parks the scooters and wheelchairs to keep the halls clear after bedtime). And the ship’s veteran waiters are saints of the sea when it comes to their patience and respect toward the older crowd that frequents Crystal. Yup, you’ll find all the day-to-day activities that you’d expect in a well-appointed senior center: bingo, bridge, needlepoint, knitting, shuffleboard, slots, puzzles, trivia, liars club, name-that-tune, karaoke, parlor magic, tribute shows, afternoon tea, and dance hosts for the ladies. (About a fourth of the passengers on this cruise were involved in a bridge tournament.) Music and comedy shows are focused on the tastes and memories of the “extra generation” of seniors blessed with extended retirements. There was even the screening of a new film about finding late-life romance in a nursing home (yes, including sex). The filmmaker (Neil Leifer) was onboard and understandably pegged the Crystal crowd as a sympathetic test audience. But I’ll say it again: travel agents should use caution in sending children under age 50 on this ship. Though Crystal’s current president came over from Disney, absolutely none of the following “advancements” in onboard entertainment are found on this ship (thankfully): water slide; climbing wall; zipline; go-carts; carousel; laser tag; bungee trampoline; bumper cars; surfing simulator; trapeze training; skydiving wind tunnel. After all, this ship is called the Serenity -- a synonym for quiet peacefulness. There is, however, a golf net, a little swimming pool, and a “shopping mall” of three stores (including one that sells the Chico’s line). While there are no midnight buffets, there is 24-hour room service for those who can’t wait until the next meal at 6 am. Not surprisingly, the youngest on board are usually the employees. No teen gangs here. And nature seems to impose its own curfew, with the halls largely empty after midnight. DINING: We dined in all of the ship’s venues with the exception of its Italian restaurant (Prego). When it comes to dining, I give this cruise a perfect “5” simply because I found it perfect in every respect. Taste, variety, presentation, novelty, service, and overall enjoyability were all consistent with luxury cruising. It’s not just about the food, though. You get to leisurely visit with some of the world’s most interesting people. Table topics go far beyond the common senior focus on kids’ foibles, grandkids’ achievements, and perpetual medical procedures. While this is indeed God’s waiting room, people here aren’t in a hurry to keep their appointment with Him. In fact, the more they cruise, the less they rush to get to the next onboard activity. Crystal has definitely reinvented the experience of its main dining room. We much appreciated Crystal’s new walk-in flexibility (open dining) for time, table location, and the number of diners joining us. With little fanfare, you can now bring along your onboard friends, old and new. Or dine in a quiet secluded corner and share secrets. Gone are those days when disappointed cruisers went up to a hearing room for an audience before the maitre d’. There you lined up and pled your case for the dining dispensation of a better table or feeding time. Never quite seemed consistent with Berlitz’s definition of luxury cruising as “the kind of stylish ships aboard which the word ‘no’ is virtually unheard.” STATEROOM: We stay in ordinary staterooms on Crystal (no opulent party suites for us). Though Crystal had just remodeled this ship’s “penthouse” class of rooms, the only change we found in the standard stateroom was a bigger TV screen. But we frankly don’t come here for the rooms. We keep returning to this ship because it’s like a comfortable old hotel, where seasoned employees year after year provide the most attentive service anywhere. And an expected part of a comfortable old hotel (ship) is old rooms with problems that we just get fixed as they arise. This time it was slow drains, faucets without cold water, no clock, no shower curtain, and a stuck sliding door that kept us from using the veranda. All eventually fixed after a little intervention from an officer. Onboard television was limited to a few generic international channels. Those who live for American reality shows or Monday night football may need to schedule their cruise during the annual rerun doldrums. On the other hand, the Lido Deck’s sound system was unintelligible, and a channel on our television was a good alternative for hearing the captain’s daily announcement on weather conditions and routing adjustments. Travel agents should alert customers that, even on a cruise billed as ultra luxury, an aging ship’s staterooms may be in less than perfect condition. INTERNET ACCESS: You really don’t come here for the Internet. A few months before our trip, Cruise Critic published its article, “6 Cruise Lines With Great WiFi.” Crystal didn’t make the list. Those tethered to the rituals of social media may consider it more of a forced silent retreat than a vacation. Internet connectivity varied greatly throughout the cruise, with regular display of the dreaded message, “Internet access is currently not available” (even when approaching Florida). Passengers grabbed it while they could. And ocean crossings like this one obviously lack port stops where an Internet cafe could come to the rescue. For some primitive, less-connected retirees like ourselves, a vacation with sporadic Internet is no deal-breaker. And there’s something to be said for the attitude of a past Crystal president that cruisers should “turn off the Internet and just enjoy the moment.” (Virtuoso Life, May-June 2015, p. 99) However, travel agents should caution their customers that this ship may not be a good fit if they must stay in uninterrupted email contact with a business or relative back home. Nor should passengers count on Internet availability to make enroute arrangements for port stops or post-cruise travel. Or for online bill paying or holiday shopping at the last minute. SHIP’S MUSEUM: The lore of cruising traditionally has the rich & famous dining at the captain’s table. But Crystal has something just as good for the rest of us. Captain Vorland periodically opens up the ship’s museum and serves as its docent and resident storyteller -- sort of a Norwegian cross between Sully Sullenberger, Garrison Keillor, and your favorite humanities professor. This guy really has been everywhere, man (he even took a break as a Crystal vice president). The museum, in a restricted area, has a couple hundred commemorative plaques. They reflect the Serenity’s visits to the world’s ports, both famous and obscure. While some of the plaques are simple pieces of wood, the more elaborate ones feature local art, crafts, and materials. Tell the cruise director or Crystal Society host if you’d like to be included when a group does this. Like the free kitchen tours, backstage tours, magic shows, and guided stargazing, Crystal doesn’t charge for this onboard activity. I’ve always been impressed by Captain Vorland’s daily explanation of the sea conditions and resulting navigation adjustments. Reminds me of the aviation saying that “a superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of his superior skill.” Or success is measured by all the potentially bad days that cruisers never know they have been spared. Captain Vorland may in fact be eligible for the honor of the Explorers Club, given his work in advancing passenger cruising through the Northwest Passage (like another Norwegian who pioneered polar air routes back in the 1950s). Crystal recorded the many lectures that experts gave during the Serenity’s treks through the Northwest Passage. I’ve watched around 40 of these videos, and the collection should be sent to the Vancouver Maritime Museum (rather than just forgotten, lost, or erased). FEDERAL INSPECTION SCORES: Federal agencies in both the United States and Canada conduct health inspections of cruise ships. The inspection scores are posted on the agencies’ public websites. See www.cdc.gov and www.canada.ca. For the U.S. inspections (CDC), cruisers can read the full reports online in all their technical detail (as well as Crystal’s side of the story). For the Canadian inspections, you’d need to email a request to see the report behind a score. Unlike your grades back in school, a passing score (both countries) is set a bit higher at 86 out of 100. And a score of 100 means no significant deficiencies, not perfection. The Serenity’s most recent U.S. inspection occurred in December 2018 (about three weeks after the end of our cruise). Score was 95. The inspection report listed 43 violations around the ship, none of which would deter me from booking the ship again. (Gluttony at that Churrascaria dessert bar was a health risk for me, though.) A few months passed before CDC published the results of this inspection. Perhaps due to the famous shutdown of some federal agencies for about a month. The Serenity’s most recent Canadian inspection was in June 2017. Score was 99. However, even well-inspected luxury liners can face that noro nastiness (vomiting, diarrhea). There’s a limit to what cruise lines and governments can do to protect passengers from their own health habits. While we were crossing the ocean, Crystal’s other ship (the Symphony) had a norovirus outbreak on the Amazon. No secret, though. It was publicly reported on CDC’s home page, in Cruise Critic’s passenger chat room, and in USA Today. The Symphony’s doctor made daily reports to CDC, sought CDC’s assistance, and was able to contain the illness (less than 5 percent of the passengers reported symptoms). While passengers in a Cruise Critic chat room are not a statistical sampling, their online thread on the Symphony didn’t signal any cruise-spoiling panic. They made passing references to onboard norovirus in the midst of much more vigorous exchanges over the ethics of petting sloths and the merits of selling the Chico’s brand in the ship’s clothing store (true story). Per these stats and chats, it’s not inevitable that most people on board will get sick if there’s a norovirus outbreak (defined by CDC as 3% of passengers). A clinic that specializes in travel medicine can give you a thorough briefing on how to handle this contingency, including what remedies to take along. Here are two lists of doctors with this type of practice: (1) the International Society of Travel Medicine (www.istm.org) and (2) the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (www.astmh.org). Measles has made quite the comeback across the U.S., and is highly contagious. CDC presumes that travelers born in the U.S. before 1957 have childhood immunity. If you were born later and have had the shots, you may want to take along proof in case there’s a quarantine in your travels. (See www.cdc.gov/measles/travelers.html) EVOLVING AMBIENCE: Crystal’s customer core is retired “comfortable couples” from the American mainstream. Some have been retired for decades -- now in their eighties and beyond. Crystal continues to preserve traditions from a prior era of travel. There are still formal nights (“black tie optional” and some tuxedos), daily afternoon tea, a dress code after 6 pm, and an ornate hideaway for smoking cigars. We continue to feel safe from onboard crime. Guests occasionally die from getting old, but not from assaults, drunken parties, or jumping overboard. You’ll have to cruise elsewhere for those experiences. But Crystal is not an isolation ward, and travel agents may need to prepare some customers to expect subtle changes in the ship’s atmosphere. For instance, the music. The Russian string quartet has been replaced by a solo performer with an electronic violin. Crystal has invested heavily in computerized neon costumes for performers to dance in the dark. The young jazz crooner that faithfully replicates the 1940s may wear his hair in a modern man bun. (But just be glad that yet another generation is striving to perpetuate the old favorites from before it was born.) The crew members who give you super service may sport a few tattoos. (We’re talking pretty young ladies here, not muscled male deckhands.) And you’ll see cruisers who whip out their smartphones whenever there’s a lull in table talk. (We’re talking seniors here, not millennials.) And you might even see a dog on board these days. Folks on this cruise reported dog sightings at the buffet line, ice cream bar, clothing store, Lido Deck dining, Japanese restaurant, and ledge around the hot tub. The tiny hound that I saw didn’t make a sound, didn’t bother anyone, and was even wearing a dress at one point. And the affection from crew members suggested that they might be missing their pets back home. Or perhaps their parents just raised them to be kind to animals (and seniors). Social media polarizes this sort of thing in a rhetoric of rights. But it’s not really a legal matter until a foreign ship (here the Serenity) departing from a foreign port (here Lisbon) finally reaches an American port (here the Virgin Islands). (49 CFR 39.5(b)) Until we reached the Virgin Islands, it was just a customer relations call as to which species Crystal wished to accommodate in the price of a ticket. Regardless of a dog’s purpose, the practical problems for “pet parents” make it unlikely that cruises will ever really go to the dogs (become truly “pet friendly”). There are issues like dog-sitting during port stops, local health regs, security screenings, and distinctive nasties from nature. Things like fleas with plague, cute little snakes, and big birds that really do eat small mammals. Nature is indifferent to the rhetoric of rights. In the event of a canine unthinkable, it can be a long wait until the next port stop with a veterinarian. And I have no idea whether Crystal’s onboard physician would agree to treat a suffering non-human. If you insist on bringing Fido or Fifi, a competitor’s megaship will be more likely than tiny Crystal to include a vacationing veterinarian among its passengers. Of course, you never know what travel entrepreneurs will develop for an unmet need. While we were docked in the Virgin Islands, the humane society was having a dog-washing fundraiser at the yacht marina. Proceeds of $10 a dog went to “fly homeless pets to stateside rescues and better lives.” Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
This was our fourth crossing of the North Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2. As on the previous trips we opted for a obstructed view cabin on deck 8. We like the location, close to the gym, Commodore Club and buffet and outdoor promenade on ... Read More
This was our fourth crossing of the North Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2. As on the previous trips we opted for a obstructed view cabin on deck 8. We like the location, close to the gym, Commodore Club and buffet and outdoor promenade on deck 7. As it was a winter crossing we got some of the famous North Atlantic weather (motion of the ocean as the captain put it), two days of huge swells and waves and after that heavy wind. The ship pitched quite heavily but did not roll, it was a humbling experience to watch the sea wash by when enjoying a cocktail in one of the ships many comfortable bars. We had breakfast in our cabin for six days out of seven. It was delivered promptly as ordered but lukewarm. Lunch in the Kings Court buffet was a positive surprice, with good selection, no queues and wonderful views from the bay windows overlooking the promenade deck. We especially liked the sushi assortment. Lunch and dinner in the graceful Britannia restaurant was ok, with some hits and some misses. Food was always delivered quickly, service was impeccable and portions of good size. Some of the fish was a bit overcooked, some dishes lacking in taste, but in general we were always well fed. This time we chose late dining at 20:30 which in our opinion is better than the early 18:00 sitting, especially if you can't decline the delicious afternoon tea at 15:30. Late night buffet in the Kings Court was a bit of a disappointment. But you will never feel hungry on the QM2. As the outdoor promenade was closed for two days due to high winds we began our day on the treadmill in the gym. After that it was time for some tea, reading and wave watching in the Commore Club, followed by the nautical announcement at noon by the wonderfully entertaining captain Chris Wells. After lunch some more reading or attending lectures or simply having a nap before afternoon tea. Then a visit to the planetarium, some more reading perharps, enjoying the wonderful Ukrainian string trio in Carinthia Lounge with a glass of wine, before dressing for dinner. On day two everybody was invited to the Captain's Cocktail Party and on day four we attended Cunard World Club party, hosted again by the captain. After dinner it was time for the show, which we saw on four nights on this crossing. The performances consisted of some average singing and dancing, easy to watch for an hour but you weren't left hungry for more of the same. The music heard around in the ship in various locations by the harpist, pianist and the mentioned string trio was very good and fitting to the upscale surroundings. The lectures, pub trivia and planetarium shows seemed to be very popular as was ballroom dancing in the Queens Room and G32 disco for late night entertainment. The best thing to do on the Queen Mary 2 is to enjoy the wonderful public spaces of the ship. As the ship is designed for the Atlantic crossing where there may be days on end when you can't enjoy the open decks there must be enough interior space to accomodate the whole population of the ship without feeling crowed. In this the QM2 excels and you always manage to find a nice spot for yourself. Commodore Club, Carinthia Lounge, Chart Room and the Champagne Bar are extremely comfortable and classy spots to look at the waves and people passing by with a nice drink in your hand. Luckily the drinks are of good quality and made of premium brands, as the prices are not cheap. Tea in the Commodore $4, Vesper martini $15. A bottle of perfectly drinkable white wine in the Britannia can be had for $35 which is not that bad. Service in the bars was impeccable, friendly and courteous without being intrusive. Crossing on the QM2 is not for everyone, but if you feel even a little inspired go for it. Average age on this winter voyage was 60+, with just a handful of children and hardly any teens. It is the only ship in the world where you can relive some of the romance and thrill of the way how people travelled a hundred years ago in the first class of the grand ocean liners. It is a very well built quality ship and it's owners and officers are very proud of her. She was designed to feel classic and classy, not modern and she has aged well. With some attention to the cabins in the future she will an even more enjoyable experience. As this was our fourth crossing in five years I think it's now time for a brake but we will be back. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Ive completed nearly 20 cruises but wasn't sure how I would cope with 7 sea days as I was worried I would be bored. Needn't have worried as there was so much to do we couldn't fit it all in! Cabin was a balcony cabin. ... Read More
Ive completed nearly 20 cruises but wasn't sure how I would cope with 7 sea days as I was worried I would be bored. Needn't have worried as there was so much to do we couldn't fit it all in! Cabin was a balcony cabin. We booked a sheltered cabin on the advice of the cunard rep and it was great. Didn't use it that much (just to look out to sea and for whale / dolphin spotting) but we were certainly sheltered from any wind and rain. Cabin was spotless and up to the normal standards. Compact but plenty of room for everything. Ive travelled on all the cunard ships, Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and this was certainly the best food we have had. Evening choices- the lamb rack was excellent, lobster, beef always good. I did have pheasant and don't think it was a popular dish and was a little overcooked as i think it was on the pass too long but was quickly swapped for another choice. Kings Buffet always had a lot of choice and plenty of places to sit. You do have to walk round all the sections as they are split into types rather than all being together but made it feel more like a restaurant than a canteen so appreciated this. Always appreciate having real plates rather than plastic plates and mugs. Entertainment suited us. Really interesting lectures (Tom Parker Bowles, Dickie Arbiter), Planetarium wasn't as good as expected but think i was probably a little tired when we went. We did the bridge classes which were great fun. Lots of good music and dancing all around. We couldn't fit in everything we wanted to do each day. I like dressing up and i think nearly everyone dressed for dinner.Very casual in the day and anything goes. the theatre shows weren't to my taste. The welsh comedian was good. Service everywhere was excellent The art gallery was also excellent and Alex and co did a great job, thank you Would definitely recommend and have booked again (booking onboard is really worth it and you get so much on board credit ) Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Getting on board in Southhampton was a breeze. Ship is beautifully decorated. The ship’s library was huge, with more books than some schools’ libraries. Our stateroom (with balcony) seemed slightly larger than similar rooms ... Read More
Getting on board in Southhampton was a breeze. Ship is beautifully decorated. The ship’s library was huge, with more books than some schools’ libraries. Our stateroom (with balcony) seemed slightly larger than similar rooms we’ve had while cruising. Dining room meals were varied and creative, with some occasional misses. Lunch buffets were very good; breakfast could use some variety. We were highly pleased with our waiter team. Slot machine odds in the casino seemed more generous than other ships we’ve been on (meaning we won). Shows were uniformly excellent. Most guest speakers were entertaining. The in-house singers/dancers, band, and guest artists were great. Overall, great value for the money: we had a package with 5 nights London hotel for a modest price. That being said, we have some suggestions for improvements for Cunard • TV needs to include US sports. We got American cable news, but only Brit sports, other than one NHL game. At least show NFL in the lounge, not to mention the World Series. • Rooms need to have clocks, or have the phone (which has the time) next to the bed. • Internet connection on public computers needs to be faster or cheaper: it’s slow, as on other ships, and overpriced (like a lot onboard) for what you get. • The room assigned to bridge games was too small, limited to 13 tables. People had to be turned away. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Celebrating a birthday and an anniversary. We knew that Silversea would enable a trouble free voyage. Our Butler and Maid decorated our suite for the birthday/anniversary celbration with clever towel art and balloons. Our fridge was ... Read More
Celebrating a birthday and an anniversary. We knew that Silversea would enable a trouble free voyage. Our Butler and Maid decorated our suite for the birthday/anniversary celbration with clever towel art and balloons. Our fridge was constantly restocked with our favorite beverages. Our every need was cared for (including some seasickness tablets on the occasion that they were needed. The food was simply amazing with the specialty restaurant La Dame serving on eof the best meals we have ever enjoyed. While we did not take part in the entertainment at night (being early to bed folks) we did enjoy the lectures. And the Bingo. And the Trivia contests. The dining options enabled us to enjoy what we wanted when we wanted it. And when the (free) WiFi went out on deck 4 and 5 we were presented with a $300 credit. A really fine gesture for a porblem that was not foreseeable. What can I say? It is Silversea.. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We prefer to cruise back from Europe rather than flying. We have been on Silversea for only four years, but it is our "go-to" cruise line. This trip fit in with our earlier plans: started with a week in Madrid in a rented ... Read More
We prefer to cruise back from Europe rather than flying. We have been on Silversea for only four years, but it is our "go-to" cruise line. This trip fit in with our earlier plans: started with a week in Madrid in a rented apartment; then fly to Porto for an Ama Waterways cruise up and down the Douro River; then the high-speed train to Lisbon for a few days waiting to board the Whisper fro the crossing. As usual, the ship met or exceeded our expectations. The staff is wonderful and as repeat cruisers, we re-acquainted ourselves with many of them. It is such fun to walk into a bar on board and not have to order a drink. It just appears before you! The crew and the wait staff were also a welcoming sight. We have recommended Silversea to many of our friends and the feedback we get is always positive. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Past good experiences and the newness of the ship contributed to our choice. The service is not 6 star and the food is not outstanding. Afternoon tea is well done. The excursions were adequate. The on board lectures were well presented ... Read More
Past good experiences and the newness of the ship contributed to our choice. The service is not 6 star and the food is not outstanding. Afternoon tea is well done. The excursions were adequate. The on board lectures were well presented and informative. Our cabin this time was the lowest category. On our first ocean cruise with Viking we had a penthouse category. The service was just average. The value is about average. The Viking cruise experience is in the middle between Holland America and Crystal. The Cunard experience has fallen recently even below Holland America. Viking Ocean cruises offer a carefully curated itinerary, but the excursions are often farmed out to the local guides and coaches; thus, the quality is uncertain. The staff appeared overworked at times. The public rooms and the overall design of the ship are very attractive. The entertainment is average. On the whole, I recommend suite cabins on Holland America, which offer service above and beyond Viking, for about the same cost. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018

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