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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2017
Choose this cruise for the fantastic itinerary.....left from Dubai, visited UAE, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Crete, Croatia and ended in Venice. I had heard good things about the NCL Sun, and mainly, it was all true......fantastic staff ... Read More
Choose this cruise for the fantastic itinerary.....left from Dubai, visited UAE, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Crete, Croatia and ended in Venice. I had heard good things about the NCL Sun, and mainly, it was all true......fantastic staff and level of service, just the right size ship, for me anyway! Ship was very clean. Mainly an older crowd, which was what I was looking for.......but expected on a 20-day cruise. A few kids, but never a problem, except in the main pool. Great entertainment, food was good, not exceptional. Specialty restaurants were great, but costly! Shore excursions were very overpriced, but that is par for the course. So glad I connected with others on roll call and set up/joined independent tours! Security was very well taken care of, especially since we were visiting some iffy ports in the Middle East. We never saw most of it, but were aware of some of the steps being taken a on board. Only downsides, for me, were...1. felt I was being nickel and dimed the entire cruise, but I guess that is standard now. It has been about 5 years since my last cruise, but it seems to have gotten much worse. Food choices were more limited, but staff bent over backwards to accommodate all. 2. Cabin (9115-inside) was drab, dark and dismal. It was a side-ways and set up very poorly, plus no pictures on the walls even! 3. Transport from port into main town was set up for all ports, except out last, Venice....where very little was said..A lot of us felt that we were just left to out own devices as to how to get prom port into Venice proper. We were told we could walk about 40 minutes, that's it! Don't know if this was just because it was the last port, or what. Overall......felt this was a great opportunity to experience an extraordinary itinerary in the parts of the world that many people don't dare to go to. Never felt unsafe, in fact felt welcomed in all ports. With all the previous trouble with the Star concerning her azipods and breaking down, I was somewhat skeptical, but NCL finally got itself together and straightened things out. A Great cruise!!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
We picked this cruise because of the itinerary. We added six new country visits to our list. Although there has been some concerns on the security of Middle East and Sinai Peninsula, we felt that tourism should be safe. We felt safe ... Read More
We picked this cruise because of the itinerary. We added six new country visits to our list. Although there has been some concerns on the security of Middle East and Sinai Peninsula, we felt that tourism should be safe. We felt safe during the cruise and NCL did take measures to make sure we were safe. The entertainment was great. We were impressed with Richard Matti, the cruise director's leadership. The shows, games and productions were done nicely. The guest speaker Jean was very knowledgeable and entertaining. The complimentary food choices were better than those from Carnival and on part with other similar level cruiselines. We were happy with the complimentary dinning room service and did not feel the need to go a specialty restaurant. We only tried one specialty restaurant - Brazilian BBQ. The meat choices were good and tasty but stay away from seafood. Ginza serves Asian foods which were not really authentic. The Executive Chef is from India, the Indian food and vegetarian dishes were superb in the main dinning room and even in the buffet Market Place. Shore excursions are doubly expensive. NCL penalizes non-NCL excursion booking customers to depart the ship later than their own customers. This is not acceptable. Cruisers should not accept such practice. We had a balcony cabin in fwd on deck 10. The room is quiet and of good size. The steward always kept the room clean and tidy. I like the separate door for the toilet. Wait services were faster in the Acqua Dinning Room than Versailles. Wait staff were attentive. We stayed 3 extra days in Dubai and overnight in Venice. Dubai is such a fascinating city. We had lunch at Burj Al Arab and did an afternoon desert safari. The weather was not clear therefore we did not go up to the top of Burj Khalifa. We regret not taking a tour to visit Abu dhabi's Grand Mosque. We could have done it with a tighter schedule planning. The embarkation and disembarkation were efficient. Overall, NCL is an efficient operator and provides good value for cruisers. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
The itinerary was excellent. The order which certain ports was visited didn't make much sense - I hope that scheduling two 12-13 hour tour days back to back was because of the availibility of the ports and not sloppy planning. The ... Read More
The itinerary was excellent. The order which certain ports was visited didn't make much sense - I hope that scheduling two 12-13 hour tour days back to back was because of the availibility of the ports and not sloppy planning. The food was awful. I need a gluten free diet but they made only half hearted efforts at providing gluten free foods. Day after day the Market Cafe buffet didn't have any gluten free choices. The only dessert choice for me was some soupy soft serve ice cream (and jello is not a dessert). The food had a very high fat and carbohydrate content - way too much gravy, breading and sauce. The food and the service in the dining rooms was also pretty poor. I regularly had to find someone to fill the water glass and the wait between courses was a bit on the long side. One aspect is still bothering me. The people who had independent tours in Israel on the first day (mostly Cruise Critic people), were made to wait until the NCL sponsored tours left first. There was a snag on the first day because immigration wanted to carefullly check all passports (fully forseeable by anyone except seemingly NCL because we were coming from several Arab countries before arriving in Israel). This caused a delay in starting the tours, most of which were fairly long and therefore returned well past dinner time. I objected to the policy and was told that Israel immigration required the NCL tours leave before the others. This makes no sense to me at all - why would Israel care who I was paying for my tour? I feel like we were being penalized for not taking and NCL tour. My cabin was comfortable and the room steward was friendly and helpful. The bathroom had one of the best layouts of all of the ships I've been on. Only one plug in the room for AC current. I hope this ship is going to be refurbished soon. It's reallly showing it's age. There's an unfortunate disco-like decorting them going on that isn't aging very well. This was my first NCL tour. I may use them again but only if the benefits of the itinerary outweigh the many drawbacks of the other aspects of NCL cruising. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
We chose this cruise as it visited countries I had not been to like Jordan, Israel and Crete. As we got closer to our sail date, we wondered if there would be itinerary changes due to international politics. We visited all countries on the ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it visited countries I had not been to like Jordan, Israel and Crete. As we got closer to our sail date, we wondered if there would be itinerary changes due to international politics. We visited all countries on the itinerary with minor time changes for port arrival and departures. Embarkation was smooth and quick with no problems as was the disembarkation. While on the Star, we had three different room stewards. We felt he best service and restaurant was O 'Sheehans, and the waiters all understood English. In Versailles and Aqua, many the waiters did not understand English very well and were not able to accommodate any change from the menu, for example we were told they did not have applesauce when we ordered the roast pork or mint jelly when we ordered the leg of lamb. The dinner menu was repeated several times and alternated at the main dining rooms, O' Sheehans and the market street buffet. They had crepes at the buffet that was very good and the stir fry at the buffet was excellent, better then the Asian specialty restaurant. The entertainment was fairly good, a lot of variety and both seatings were often fairly full. There were not many children on this itinerary, probably due to the length of the cruise. The ports were good with a lot of choices for shore excursions. The ones we did, were very good with good English speaking guides. When we sailed through Gulf of Aden, we picked up a security team and did a safety drill in case of piracy problems. I felt NCL did a very good job keeping us safe and had adequate protection provided. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
I loved everything about our cruise through the Middleeast. The ports were great. The crew were all wonderful. The food and service were top notch. I hope those that disagree will go find another cruise line. They ... Read More
I loved everything about our cruise through the Middleeast. The ports were great. The crew were all wonderful. The food and service were top notch. I hope those that disagree will go find another cruise line. They won't be missed by those of us who love NCL and the STAR. THe ship is a nice size - not too big. Our cabin was great. The meals were very good. I especially enjoyed Cagney's , O'Sheehan's, and Versailles All of the restaurants were good, these were just outstanding. I am gluten intolerant and the restaurant people went out of their way to accommodate my needs. I was impressed with the waiters and waitresses and their knowledge of my dietary needs. They knew which foods were OK and which I should avoid. From Dubai to Venice, we visited amazing ports. Israel should be visited by everyone. The transit through the Suez Canal was wonderful also. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
The Norwegian Star's itinerary was really good for this 20 day cruise. The ship was clean and always being worked on to keep it in tip top condition. We enjoyed the food in the main dining rooms. We tried the four Specialty dining ... Read More
The Norwegian Star's itinerary was really good for this 20 day cruise. The ship was clean and always being worked on to keep it in tip top condition. We enjoyed the food in the main dining rooms. We tried the four Specialty dining rooms, Moderno was the first and the meat was just okay; La Cucina the food was mediocre, we would not go back, LeBistro was good the first time we went and just okay the second time and finally Cagneys was the best, we had filet's which were extremely tasty and tender! The service was very good. The drinks were really good, especially in the Bier Garten. The Entertainment was good, some of the acts we have seen on other ships, but most of it was new. We only did shore excursions that were organized through cruise critics or we organized our own with people we met on the ship. Highly recommend this cruise and NCL! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Dubai, our port city, was on my bucket list and the rest just fell into place since we hadn't traveled the Middle East it was an opportunity. We really enjoyed the private tours we set up in Dubai and enjoyed the older section where ... Read More
Dubai, our port city, was on my bucket list and the rest just fell into place since we hadn't traveled the Middle East it was an opportunity. We really enjoyed the private tours we set up in Dubai and enjoyed the older section where we stayed. The ship was great and the entertainment was beyond my expectations. Much better than the last few cruises. Our cabin was small considering it was a balcony room. Our service in every area was outstanding. We opted to go private tours for the big ones(price and convenience) and were not disappointed. Didn't miss the big bus tours with fewer stops. We opted to do Hop On Hop Off three times and found them to be the best way to see the sights and to get to places we wished to see. We were not concerned with security as NCL took care of that aspect in concern area and the rest was fine. My only complaint was that we were held up for customs clearance in Israel and NCL opted to let people holding ship tours off first, and then private tours. This was not really fair to the passengers that had set up their own tours. We were treated like we weren't important.We were two hours late in meeting our guides. Fortunately for us, we were still given the full tours and not rushed. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
CHOSE THIS CRUISE FOR THE DESTINATIONS IT VISITED: SHORE EXCURSION ABORTED IN HAIFA (FIRST TIME THERE) DUE TO CREW OVER REACTING TO IMMIGRATION RULES: AQABA HIGHLIGHTS TOUR A WASTE OF MONEY: WATER POLICY IS CRIMINAL: WIFE WAS SICK AND WE ... Read More
CHOSE THIS CRUISE FOR THE DESTINATIONS IT VISITED: SHORE EXCURSION ABORTED IN HAIFA (FIRST TIME THERE) DUE TO CREW OVER REACTING TO IMMIGRATION RULES: AQABA HIGHLIGHTS TOUR A WASTE OF MONEY: WATER POLICY IS CRIMINAL: WIFE WAS SICK AND WE WANTED TO BUY A GLASS OR CAN OF SPARKLING WATER BUT WERE TOLD WE HAD TO BUY A BEVERAGE PACKAGE TO GET ONE: DR; SANTANA AND HIS STAFF WERE HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL: FOOD WAS NEUTRAL AT BEST: ONLY CAGNEYS EXCELLED: GUESTS ARE NOT TREATED LIKE PAYING CUSTOMERS BUT ONLY A NUMBER TO BE SQUEEZED FOR MONEY: THERE APPEARED TO BE NO COOPERATION OR COMMUNICATION BETWEEN SHIP SECURITY AND SHORE SECURITY AS WE WENT THROUGH X-RAY SECURITY CHECK ON LAND AND AGAIN 100 FEET LATER ON THE SHIP: FRONT DESK LACKING IN DETAILS OF THE CRUISE: WALK-OFF DISEMBARKATION REQUIRED BEFORE 7:30 AM SUPPOSEDLY REQUIRED BY IMMIGRATION: IMMIGRATION WAS NOT EVEN PRESENT WHEN WE GOT OFF: LAST TIME ON NCL; BUT THEN THEY PROBABLY DO NOT CARE: Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
The embarkation in Singapore was a complete shambles! Stood in various lines for a couple of hours.We had a balcony cabin on level 10, which was very pokey, bathroom also tiny (could hardly fit in the toilet), and the provided soaps and ... Read More
The embarkation in Singapore was a complete shambles! Stood in various lines for a couple of hours.We had a balcony cabin on level 10, which was very pokey, bathroom also tiny (could hardly fit in the toilet), and the provided soaps and lotions of low quality. Too many things on the Star went wrong or weren't good to make this cruise a pleasure. The ports were great but the order was sometimes baffling: some ports were re-visited and others not long enough. Staff was mostly good, except at Guest Relations desk who were unhelpful, sometimes arrogant or even ignorant. Their typing up of activity & event sheets were a proofreader's nightmare; even after showing them almost every day, this persisted. Information about ports was posted too late or in strange places. Entertainment was often amateurish and certainly repetitious, and activities were boring and often repeated. The food was very good at the Market Cafe but dismal in the Aqua and Versailles restaurants (slow service, food often tepid, overcooked and the menu also repetitious and unadventurous). The shops also had the same old things; some of the sales were held in the wrong place.and therefore were chaotic and frustrating. The shore excursions were very expensive and often not as described. The one terrific spot for us was the O'Sheehans irish pub, where the atmosphere was great, the staff very helpful and nice, service always speedy and the food was good - also the nightly music by the Melodic Trio was fabulous. We also liked the many available bars, helped by the free drinks package (which we definitely would NOT have purchased at the price). Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
This was my first NCL cruise. I booked it because of the unique itinerary, the reasonable price, and my niece likes NCL. I was blown away by the care and thoughtfulness NCL obviously puts into their cruises. The shore excursions were an ... Read More
This was my first NCL cruise. I booked it because of the unique itinerary, the reasonable price, and my niece likes NCL. I was blown away by the care and thoughtfulness NCL obviously puts into their cruises. The shore excursions were an excellent supplement to this unusual itinerary. One thing that impressed me was that the crew seemed genuinely happy to be serving and doing their jobs. They struck me as people who were being treated right, and who had been placed in appropriate jobs. Embarkation and disembarkation was easy and smooth. I had a very late flight out of Venice, and the front desk person offered to switch my transfer to one that was much later. Huge help. The food was adequate for me. If you are someone who enjoys high end foods and variety, you will need to go to the specialty restaurants. For me it was perfect because I could always find fresh fruits, vegetables, etc. Thanks NCL for producing such a great product. I am looking forward to my next cruise with you. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We chose this cruise because it included the Suez Canal we had 2 nights in Dubai before the cruise and we were stopping in what we thought were fairly interesting ports ?? They weren't interesting at all for me ! The excursion to ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it included the Suez Canal we had 2 nights in Dubai before the cruise and we were stopping in what we thought were fairly interesting ports ?? They weren't interesting at all for me ! The excursion to Jerusalem and Bethlehem were excruciatingly awful, too many people ( last days of the Passover ) the guide ! Well the less I say about her the better !! We had sailed on the other two Queens and thought we give the QM2 a try ! I disliked the ship, not for me ! Not many of the staff had smiles although they appeared to be working hard ! On the whole the food was good not great but good ! Eating in the self service was not a pleasure at all and although we used it as little as necessary I never felt I wanted to stay any length of time! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2015
From the moment I arrived at the Terminal in Dubai, it was clear that this ship was different to the bigger P&O and Princess liners I had sailed on previously. Everything just flowed smoothly from Day 10. The attention to passenger ... Read More
From the moment I arrived at the Terminal in Dubai, it was clear that this ship was different to the bigger P&O and Princess liners I had sailed on previously. Everything just flowed smoothly from Day 10. The attention to passenger comfort and convenience was outstanding. Embarking and disembarking in foreign ports went well with minimal queueing for Customs and Immigration. Detailed information was given in plenty of time and all went as planned each time.' The Guest speakers were excellent, entertainment and good food all added to the experience. The Captain and crew were very friendly and approachable. I got the feeling it was a happy ship. I have been thoroughly spoiled for any other cruise ships and I look forward to getting on board as soon as my finances can be arranged. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Regent Voyager is a lovely ship, brilliant captain, smiling and ever helpful staff, very clean, pleasant artworks (in the main), great library, and a stunning itinerary that included Oman, Petra, the pyramids, Jerusalem, Dead Sea and ... Read More
Regent Voyager is a lovely ship, brilliant captain, smiling and ever helpful staff, very clean, pleasant artworks (in the main), great library, and a stunning itinerary that included Oman, Petra, the pyramids, Jerusalem, Dead Sea and Masada. Our cabin was perfectly maintained by our stewardess. And it was all inclusive - no chits to sign. Who could ask for more? Call me Oliver Twist, but I can. The ship was let down a little by food in the main dining room. It was similar in quality to RCL and far below Seabourn, and Azamara. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as I had been expecting. The specialist restaurants were a little better, but not much. It could be that my judgement of the latter is a little jaundiced because we booked a table for two but were put on one with six (very nice) people. However the biggest disappointment was the La Veranda buffet. It isn't fit for purpose. Now my cruising experience is limited to half a dozen different lines but they all, without exception, have had what is perhaps best described as a U shaped buffet. You can walk in one side and if seating is scarce continue round to the other side to check the situation. Not with La Veranda because it splits along the stern part - a Berlin Wall of serving stations. So you have two identical mirror-image buffets. And identical includes the food offered - it's the same on each side. Ridiculous. This can lead to the silly situation where the bacon or whatever on one side has gone and you can see some on the other side, but can't reach it. So you have to call a server for assistance. This also limits choice: with a flow-through layout other ships can offer twice the number of items. Senior staff were good but some junior waiters were not fully trained, especially when it came to wine. I asked for a Cote du Rhone and received something completely different. Oh yes, it said "Cote" on the bottle but not one that was within a hundred miles of the River Rhone. However on the whole there was a good choice of included wine throughout the ship (if you knew what to ask for). Did buy three "premium" wines but left two and returned one. Not actually bad, but dead. Maybe wine doesn't keep well on a ship. In the evening La Veranda becomes a themed (Indian, Chinese, Mexican whatever) eatery that is part waiter service and part buffet. We tried it once and it was ok. However turning it into a quasi bistro means that there is nowhere on Voyager to enjoy basic - collapse in a heap back from a long tour, can't be bothered to change - help-yourself simple food. Despite the failings of La Veranda this is a good ship and I would sail on her again without hesitation. In fact Voyager has pushed Seabourn Odyssey down to third place in my list of favourite ships. The food on Odyssey is way better but Voyager just edged it with its free excursions. And they were excellent. My top ship? Azamara Journey. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2011
We liked the itinerary and decided to take the plunge on the Costa Luminosa despite some disappointing reviews, surely it come be that bad.Oh dear, what an unmitigated disaster the whole cruise turned out to be. From the moment we stepped ... Read More
We liked the itinerary and decided to take the plunge on the Costa Luminosa despite some disappointing reviews, surely it come be that bad.Oh dear, what an unmitigated disaster the whole cruise turned out to be. From the moment we stepped on board we were made to feel as unwanted as the plague. Many of the staff were rude, the photographers were very arrogant and argumentative.Our cabin steward Norbert and our waiter Gary were the only exceptions to this, both behaved in an admirable and conscientious manner at all times and kept our spirits up when at times we could easily have walked off this awful ship.Food on board (compared with other cruise lines we have been with) I can only describe as being just above "pigswill". Very very poor, mostly cold or just warm, much almost inedible.Drinks were far too expensive, many people did not drink at all because of it.The cabin was above the theatre and many nights we were woken to performers practising, often until 2-30 am.Complaints were noted but not dealt with.This is by far the VERY WORSE cruise I have EVER experienced. NOT to be recommended. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
Silver Whisper: Dubai to Athens, 4/20/08 - 5/5/08 Embarkation. It was a hot Sunday in Dubai and by mid-morning we were out of touring options, seriously jet lagged, with five hours to kill before our scheduled boarding. We hadn't ... Read More
Silver Whisper: Dubai to Athens, 4/20/08 - 5/5/08 Embarkation. It was a hot Sunday in Dubai and by mid-morning we were out of touring options, seriously jet lagged, with five hours to kill before our scheduled boarding. We hadn't purchased an early boarding permit but we decided to call the Silversea port agent to see if we could show up at the ship, pay the $100 per person fee, and proceed on board early. He said yes. By noon we were cheerfully received and directed to The Restaurant for a leisurely, delightful lunch. All the wait staff ambled over to our table to introduce themselves and welcome us aboard. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that when you board early they attempt to get you to your cabin early. By the end of lunch our cabin on deck eight was ready. We were unpacked and sipping our complimentary champagne when general boarding commenced. Under the circumstances we decided the $200 we splurged to board early was well spent. We would have spent $60pp for food and drink waiting at our hotel. For me, embarkation gets an A+. The Ship. We were immensely impressed with the Silver Whisper. She is totally comfortable, spotless, and in top condition. Her public rooms are spacious and richly appointed without seeming the least bit stuffy and well disbursed throughout the ship so we never experienced a sense of crowding. We had 375 passengers on board but it seemed like only 75. Our standard cabin was excellent, ample space and storage, a very comfortable bed, and a large bath with double sinks and a separate tub and shower. The cabin furnishings were a bit worn, but in a homey comfortable sense. Getting about the ship was initially a bit of a challenge since some areas are accessible only by forward stairs and elevators and others by the aft stairs and elevators. But after charging down occasional dead ends, we mastered the territory and grew to love the ship's layout. For me, the ship gets an A+. She isn't new, but she wears her years oh so well! Service. I have never experienced service of this quality. When we boarded early, the staff at Reception all but cheered. The waiters in The Restaurant were warm, welcoming, totally genuine and determined (successfully) to remember our names from that moment forward. Our cabin attendants treated us like visiting VIPs. They were simply perfection throughout the cruise. We found our cabin a bit warm when we moved in and inquired about the air conditioning. An engineer was quickly dispatched and determined, cheerfully, it was fine. The next morning, returning from breakfast, we encountered three teams of attendants working the cabins on our deck eight. They all knew us. They all stopped what they were doing to ask about our air conditioning. (It was fine.) This wasn't an accident. This was Silversea's commitment to passenger service at work. Wow! That evening, I walked into the Panorama Lounge after the show and ordered a cognac. This was our second night on the ship. My cognac was delivered in thirty seconds. My response: "That was fast!" My waitress casually responded: "The bartender saw you walk in." Business as usual!!!! That quality of service continued throughout our journey. In my opinion, A++. How could it get better? Ports of Call. We usually decline ship's tours when we cruise to avoid Jake Snake from Serpent, Idaho who inevitably finds his way on to our bus. But given this itinerary, we decided to make this cruise an exception. We stuck with the ship's tours and we're glad we did. Jake found us only once, on our four-hour tour of Fujairah. (He snuck on the bus as a Brazilian in drag.) The tours were generally quite well done. We were highly impressed seeing the Whisper's Tour Desk personnel not only present but actively involved in all the tours. They were friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to please. Best Tour Desk we have experienced by far! Dubai was, for me, a good place to get over jet lag, once. It's a massive desert construction zone with a flicker of native culture apparent if you look hard for it. We did a fascinating desert safari trip that was a gas—an hour of navigating desert sand dunes in a Range Rover with its tires partially deflated followed by dinner and belly dancing under the stars in a "native encampment." Our evening in the desert ended with an unplanned moment of magic. We were the first of about fifty Range Rovers to leave the encampment. As we drove in darkness across the sands a herd of several dozen camels appeared in our headlights, their ghost-like images a majestic and unforgettable sight. The camels proceeded calmly toward and around us on their way back to camp. (Daytime versions of the desert safari were offered as shore tours in Fujairah and Sharm El-Sheikh.) If you have unlimited amounts of money to squander, Dubai is ready and able to help you do it. If you like shopping for mostly familiar consumer goods in giant awesome ultra lavish shopping malls, you will find bliss in Dubai. If you like lounging on a beach or poolside, dozens of impressive five star properties are at your disposal in Dubai with many more on the way. For us, a day on the Ho Ho bus and an evening in the desert was enough. Our first two ports of call were half-day stops, Fujairah, U.A.E, and Salalah, Oman. Both are beach resorts serving, largely, citizens of nearby nations. The ship's tours we took gave us a nice overview of what little there was to see. The busses were only half full and the guides pretty good. Some folks were disappointed but I didn't expect much and thought our four hours on shore was time well spent. It was like turning down a new road on a car trip just to see where it went. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was another matter entirely. It was an exotic, dramatic, highly memorable travel experience. Our sense of anticipation began several months before the cruise when Silversea alerted us to the fact that all women must wear an abaya in order the leave the ship. Several days before our arrival in Jeddah, the Tour Director gave us a thirty minute briefing (some would call it a rant) on the Jeddah stop. Not only did he reiterate dress requirements, he cited a laundry list of "stipulations" that would apply to all of us while in Saudi waters—all alcohol would be confiscated and placed under lock and key in the hold; strict manifests would be maintained for each tour bus; a variety of documents would need to be completed for each passenger for presentation to Saudi authorities upon arrival; our on shore tour the travel guides might not measure up to the standards we expect from Silversea since we would be only the third cruise ship to call at Jeddah; any infractions discovered by Saudi authorities, particularly the religious police, would prompt severe penalties, (The Cloud, which had visited Jeddah about three weeks ahead of us, received a $10,000 fine and was threatened with impoundment because a half bottle of wine was discovered in a crew cabin.), the Saudis were oh so difficult to deal with, and on it went. By the time we boarded our busses in Jeddah we were as excited and apprehensive as our mother hen Tour Director. The guide on our bus wasn't much but was better than we had been lead to expect and somewhat of a jovial chap. His surprise of the morning: he informed all the abaya clad ladies "we Saudis aren't all that formal. Don't bother to cover your hair." Our first stop was the Qomosani House. To say this was a modest facility would be drowning it in praise. Then we were treated to a brief walk through the fascinating streets of old Jeddah, Al-Balad, to see some of the remaining early architecture. Next we proceeded on foot to the grand souk for more than an hour of independent shopping and people watching. I loved every minute of it. We then boarded the bus and drove along the Corniche, the new, modern waterfront of Jeddah stretching for many miles. It is punctuated with dozens of huge pieces of quite striking modern sculpture, a source of justifiable pride for the Saudis. From this point, those who booked a half-day trip were taken to the local fish market and then back to the ship. Unfortunately, the moment the half-day folks pulled up to the fish market the mid-day call to prayer began. They spent thirty minutes cooling their heels in the parking lot while the Saudis tended to Allah. The delay caused them to miss lunch back on the ship. Understandably, they were an unhappy lot. Meanwhile, we had booked a full day tour so we were taken to a modern elegant Lebanese restaurant in a fancy neighborhood close to the Corniche for a dining experience I will never forget. Teams of young waiters descended upon us serving eighteen separate entrEes family style at tables of eight. It took two hours for us to devour this magnificent feast. The problem was the first entrEe was excellent and all that followed kept getting better. We departed the restaurant the happiest of sated campers. Then on to a most surprising and incongruous stop. We were taken to a fashion design studio, a women's studio in a land where women show only their hands and eyes in public. What a hoot watching dudes in dish-dashes touting sexy lingerie and related items of high fashion. Not a Saudi woman in site unless you count manikins! Go figure! Then we proceeded on to the Abdul Raouf Khalil's Museum. This magnificent facility is a beautiful and meticulously restored private mansion. It contains three stories of brilliantly presented art and artifacts of Saudi culture and history. I am not a museum person but I wanted much more time here. Our Tour Director said Silversea is considering this museum as a future "special Silversea event" site. They couldn't do better. We were then hustled off to the local fish market which, at four in the afternoon, was well past its prime and then back to the ship. The Jeddah stop, in my opinion, was worth all the angst Silversea experienced in offering it to us. It was timely, truly unique, and exceptionally well done particularly in light of the "special circumstances" the Saudis currently impose on visiting cruise ships. I am sure Silversea will tweak the half-day itinerary to correct blatant deficiencies and all future visitors to Jeddah will be in for a treat.. We got our booze back at about 7:00 p.m., the moment we departed Saudi waters. Nirvana! Our overnight to Luxor was quite well done. It's a three hour bus ride each way in a scheduled caravan with armed escort and an armed "minder" who catches up on his sleep on each bus. When you reach the Nile valley, about an hour before arriving at Luxor, you are treated to views of the Egypt that has existed for five thousand years. Fascinating. The temples of Karnak and Luxor are awesome, along with Petra the focal point of the cruise. No one was disappointed. Our hotel was the five-star Sonesta. It should have been called the Construction Zone since they were in the process of adding three new floors to the top of it. It was ok for one night, great setting right on the Nile. We were offered three beautiful, lavish but flavorless buffet meals. I found the Valley of the Kings to be annoying because of the crowds. Seeing one magnificent tomb was enough for me. Our guide, a university professor of antiquities from Cairo who was flown in by Silversea exclusively for this tour, was simply sensational. His commentary in excellent English perfectly embellished the sights and sounds of Egypt. I've never experienced better. We drove to Luxor thinking this would be our first and last visit to Egypt. We drove back to the ship determined to return. In our opinion, Petra is equal to all the superlatives applied to it. We will visit it again so we can enjoy it in the early morning before the crowds arrive and again in the evening twilight. Our tour was well done and the drive to Petra much more interesting than I had anticipated. Sharm el-Sheikh is a popular, tried and true resort stop, beautiful beaches with world class diving opportunities. We skipped a ship's tour here and had a good time simply walking the beach. The final highlight of our cruise was the Suez Canal passage. It was great fun rising early to view scores of ships waiting to take their place in our northbound caravan. I had planned to do a video piece entitled "Images on the Suez Canal." Unfortunately, I discovered while really interesting images are there to see they are few and far between since the canal is nothing more than a lengthy ditch cut through the desert. The world will have to wait for a more patient videographer to produce "Images." The ports and tours get an A. Entertainment. I've always assumed the larger the ship the better the entertainment. The Whisper reminded me not necessarily so. I was totally pleased by the entertainment offered on board. During the first half of the cruise we were entertained by a magician, an excellent Irish flautist, an equally excellent singer-impressionist as well as our Cruise Director Simon Heath, a respectable singer himself. On the second half of the cruise, Simon was joined by a pair of versatile pianists, a superb vocalist and an excellent violinist. The Silver Whisper Quartet played daily on the Pool Deck at lunch, before and after dinner in The Bar, and ably backed up several of the entertainers. They were versatile and most enjoyable. And our lounge lizard was also a solid performer. We weren't offered a production show but I didn't expect it or miss it. One of the highlights of this cruise was our Enrichment Lecturer, Dr. Richard Atkins. A retired academic and brilliant speaker, his presentations on Islam, Saudi Arabia, "The Curse of Oil," our Greek and Roman cultural heritage and the Suez Canal perfectly enhanced our tour experiences. His lectures were very well attended and enthusiastically received. Best lecturer I've experienced on a cruise ship! Our Guest Chef, Jeffrey Bates, was, to me, a disappointment. His presentations were a mix of thirty minutes of tedious patter with fifteen minutes of cooking demonstration. I probably expect too much since I regularly watch the stars do this stuff really well on the Food Channel. I loved the fact that his demonstrations ended with a stream of waiters passing out a taster plate to everyone in the audience. Overall, the entertainment and enhancement package gets yet another A. The Dining Experience. I regret I must rate the dining experience on Whisper only a B. When it was good it was very good indeed. And it was frequently very good. On our first formal night, dinner was perfection: caviar, assiette of artichokes, fresh lobster, and a magnificent chocolate plate. The chef was bolder with flavoring than most ship chef's we've experienced, with outstanding results. But the galley produced far too many failures for a luxury cruise. Here are a few examples. One night, three at our table were served beautifully plated empty mussel shells. On another night, two at our table were served souffles that were so undercooked they were runny on the bottom. On another night, one person was served an ice cream dessert that was so melted the ice cream had lost its shape. I ordered a medium rare sirloin steak. It was tasteless and served at nearly room temperature and well done. The Spanakopita was all filo dough, almost no filling. At our last dinner, I was served risotto that was flavorless because it had been rushed. You can't rush risotto. And three folks at our table ordered the pork tenderloin and ate only one bite. Furthermore, the wait staff were consistently superb but frequently too rushed. During one lunch we noticed our wonderful Bulgarian waitress literally running in order to keep up. That shouldn't happen. That afternoon there was one sommelier serving the entire dining room. She fell woefully behind. The sommeliers on Whisper are instructed to fill your wine glass no more than a third full. That's ok by me. But the policy requires the sommeliers to make frequent table visits in order to keep up. Our wine glasses remained empty much of the time because the sommelier had no hope of keeping up. Unacceptable! We met lots of Silversea regulars on this cruise. All with the exception of one English couple agreed the galley had problems and assured us this was an exception to the rule. The delightful English couple thought the galley was doing just fine. Disembarkation. The marvelous crew of Whisper made leaving the ship as painless as possible. The luggage was promptly transferred to the Athens terminal. They then hovered around the gangway offering to carry anything we had in our hands. I was more than able to handle my camera. Crew members stood every few hundred feet lining the route to our luggage. Everyone was off the ship by nine. Another A for the Whisper. This was our first Silversea cruise. We loved every bit of it and plan to book another Silversea cruise in the near future. We are Regent regulars and found Silversea to be a worthy competitor indeed. The larger Regent ships offer a few more entertainment and dining options than Whisper, but less of the sense of intimacy we enjoyed on Whisper. While Regent service is excellent, we found the service on Silversea even better. This was most noticeable at the Reception and Tour Desks. The dining experience on Regent is consistently excellent. That wasn't the case on Whisper but Silversea regulars aboard convinced us to give Silversea another try and that we will! 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Sail Date: January 2007
Just returned from Jewels of the Emirates on Costa Classica ...We flew BA from Heathrow ....Try to get to the airport in plenty of time to check in as, although we booked together, we were not seated together on the plane....because we ... Read More
Just returned from Jewels of the Emirates on Costa Classica ...We flew BA from Heathrow ....Try to get to the airport in plenty of time to check in as, although we booked together, we were not seated together on the plane....because we were early we could get that remedied but not all managed to do so. I did try to check in online beforehand but because it was a group booking by Costa I was unable to do so. flight was delayed for two and a half hours ...making up time we arrived two hours late around 1.15 am. We were on board by 2.00 am after an easy embarkation and there was food in the buffet for the late arrivals.... we then had to wait two hours for luggage so a very late bedtime!! Just as well we had nothing planned for the morning as we slept until 10 am !! We were in a suite (it was my special birthday treat) which was spacious and well furnished with a good sized balcony, also well furnished with two steamer type chairs and table. Marble bathroom with twin washbasins and jacuzzi bath and separate shower cubicle with good powerful shower. We didn't use the bath as the jets looked a bit discolored and grotty and the bath was fairly worn. Plenty of hot water at all times. We had breakfast in the cabin each morning and I think this was available to all cabins at no extra charge. Only one English speaking tv channel which was BBC World which was fine just to catch up on the news. Our only complaint re the suite was that they are situated under the 'sun' deck and we were disturbed most mornings early (5.30 - 6.00) by the sunbeds being dragged into position. Also any late night deck parties were noisy. The lounges and public areas are all well furnished but we did not like the marble clinical looking staircases, which magnified any general noise . there was limited deck space for sunbathing...it did appear very crowded at times. (Apparently next year they will be operating Costa Europa which is a larger ship and Costa Romantica, sister to Classica) We ate in the buffet at lunchtime and the dining room in the evening (no other choice for dinner) the food overall was OK but not brilliant. I had to return a fillet steak on one occasion which was tough but it was replaced immediately with a more tender one! the choice at dinner was good I thought...I managed to choose 4 courses on most evenings with no problem (the diet has now started!) my partner (who is a meat and two veg man) managed 3 courses every night. The waiting staff were good we had a Filipino and an Indonesian always smiling, and I had the obligatory 'Happy Birthday' sung to me as only they can!!. And also an iced birthday cake with my name on from them. There were two formal dinners during the week but really dress wise anything goes. A few men in dinner suits, about fifty per cent in suits or jackets and trousers and the rest in open necked shirts and casual trousers!! I presume if there was an alternative more relaxed venue for dinner then those people would go there and not to the restaurant. The lunchtime buffet was a different matter the 'hot' food was rarely 'hot' unless one happened to catch the grill when they'd just cooked something!! Free Tea and Coffee was not available 24 hours a day and was not served in the restaurant after dinner. So if like us you like a coffee after dinner you had to pay for it in the bar! There is 'compulsory' tipping on this cruise of 6 euros per person per day but they still add 15 per cent to the bar bills. The passengers on our cruise were made up of approximately 60 per cent German with probably 15 per cent each of French and Italian and 10 per cent British and half a dozen or so Japanese! One of the staff said it did fluctuate each week. It was a bit frustrating that the announcements (especially before the evening shows) had to be done in all four languages!! But the excursions were kept in groups of passengers speaking the same language with an appropriate guide. Our guide on our two excursions was a young lady called Asma who was excellent, very knowledgeable and a very friendly personality. We found the shows to be OK but nothing special. Just one male singer, six female dancers and three male dancers. (our minds went to the talented singers/dancers male and female who danced and sang through twelve different shows on our two weeks on Thomson Emerald!!!) The first port of call was Muscat where we decided to take a taxi to a nearby fort and local sights...took the shuttle to the port gate and agreed with a taxi driver to take us for an hour for an agreed price of 30 euros. Unbeknown to us we chose the wrong man who took us to the Grand Mosque three quarters of an hours drive away where we couldn't go in because I did not have enough clothing to cover myself completely!! Then when we asked to be taken back to the port he continued to drive north up a dual carriageway muttering to himself as he went when we repeatedly asked to be taken back to the ship...eventually he managed to find a slip road to come off and turn around and then proceeded to drive us back to the port around every little side road he could find! We arrived back at the port two hours later with him demanding 70 euros (saying he agreed 35 euros an hour!) I gave him 50 euros and he threw it back at me! To cut a long story short we found an English speaking taxi driver there who tried to mediate and accepted another 5 euros making 55 euros which he said he would make him accept. We walked away at that stage. So BEWARE ...not all taxi drivers are honest, some obviously can't resist the temptation to make a fast buck!! It really upset us both especially as Muscat looked a really nice place and all we saw was the back of the car in front and a Mosque we couldn't go in!! As we sailed away from here we saw dolphins leaping not far from the ship. Fujairah was the next port we were greeted by local girls who presented each passenger with a hand made pot and we did the East Coast tour here with the lovely Asma as our guide. Several photo stops at a couple of forts and a fruit and veg market, then the Fujairah museum all quite interesting. Abu Dhabi we got the shuttle bus into town and did our own thing as we did in Bahrain. Then we did a tour of Dubai on the Friday afternoon after berthing, again with Asma, which included a visit to Jumeirah beach to see the famous hotel, a water taxi across the creek to a spice market and then an hour in the gold souk. Saturday morning we got the shuttle bus into town which drops you at one of the huge shopping malls. The flight home was not until 3.00 am Sunday but we didn't have to vacate our cabins until 6 pm (luggage out at 5 pm) then we had dinner in the restaurant at 6.30 pm and left the ship at 10 pm picking up our luggage on the way to the coach to the airport. We finally got through the various security checks and check in procedures at 11.30 and then went through to Duty Free which was wonderful!!! My pay as you go Orange Mobile phone did not work in any part of the UAE or Oman (if I had a contract one it would have done apparently) so if you need/ want to contact home better to check with your company first. I did ring on the Satellite phone from the ship ...6 euros for 40 seconds!!!! There is also an internet room but it seemed very slow and cost about 4 euros just to send a quick email! By the way for those of you who smoke the cheapest cigs we found were in the Duty Free Shop in the cruise terminal in Dubai. Marlboro were about £6.50 for 200 and B & H were £6.00. I think they were about the same in the airport but we had already got them by then. Our flight home was more or less on time leaving and arriving. All in all an excellent itinerary not so sure about Costa Cruises for us again because of the language situation and I am sorry to say the rudeness of some of our European colleagues! We spoke to someone who had done Costa cruising in the Caribbean and who said it was a lot better with mostly Americans and Brits so all English speaking passengers (probably less of a headache for Costa as well!) Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
Silver Cloud review: "Whispering Winds" Dates: March 29-April 12 Itinerary: Dubai, UAE (overnight); Muscat, Oman; Salalah, Oman; Safaga, Egypt (overnight); Aqaba, Jordan (overnight); Suez Canal transit; Port Said, Egypt ... Read More
Silver Cloud review: "Whispering Winds" Dates: March 29-April 12 Itinerary: Dubai, UAE (overnight); Muscat, Oman; Salalah, Oman; Safaga, Egypt (overnight); Aqaba, Jordan (overnight); Suez Canal transit; Port Said, Egypt (overnight). This itinerary is an excellent introduction into the Middle East and how the region goes from the futuristic, modern Dubai to the antiquities and more traditional lifestyle of Salalah. Port Overview: Dubai-Modern city...the Monte Carlo or Las Vegas of the Middle East (without the gambling!) Excellent hotels; fine western restaurants. The gold souk (marketplace) is impressive. We spent a few days in Dubai before boarding the ship, While there we rented a car and drove to Al-Ain, a town midway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Well worth the journey. It gave us a better view of what the UAE is like. Muscat: We opted not to do a ship organized tour. We took the complimentary shuttle to the souk (marketplace) and meandered around there and the old part of the city. The souk was more traditional and in my opinion, more interesting than the souks in Dubai. We took a taxi to the Al-Bustan Intercontinental Hotel for a nice, relaxing lunch by the ocean. On the drive to the hotel, the taxi driver took us past the Sultan's palace. Salalah: We opted to take the tour. (See below) Safaga: We opted to take the overnight tour of the 'Valley of the Kings' (see below) Aqaba: Aqaba is the Jordanian port nearest the remarkable archeological site of Petra. The ship's tour included round-trip bus to Petra; approximately 3 hours in the site; a guide; lunch. This cost USD195.00. The three of us knew that Petra was huge and wanted to spend the entire day there. Doing some research on the internet we were able to find a company that picked us up pierside in a new Mercedes-Benz S-class and drove us to and from Petra. This allowed us the freedom to spend as much time as we liked in Petra. The cost for the car was USD300.00 for the car and driver. Entry into the site is 21 Jordanian dinar and they do not take foreign currency or credit cards. (Remember to have dinar with you if you make private arrangements to Petra!) If you would like a guide you can arrange one at the visitors center. We elected to see the site on our own. We spoke with some folks who did the ship sponsored tour and they said it was fine, but not long enough in Petra, and they would've preferred to be in a private Mercedes than in a bus. Suez Canal transit: Certainly an interesting day and process. It's one way traffic only and ships join a convoy. There are no locks (such as those found in the Panama Canal). It's a deep ditch in the sand! Pt. Said: Other than the pier, saw nothing of Pt. Said as we disembarked and headed to Cairo. Cabin: (719) This is a Verandah Suite and on this itinerary we really enjoyed the ability to sit out in the sun in privacy. Acqua di Parma amenities now rule the Silversea waves and they're quite nice. They were replenished about 4 times over the two weeks. The cabin is your standard, very comfortable Silversea stateroom. It's a bit smaller than the cabins found on the Whisper and Shadow. Food: Splendid! Whether it is hot-dogs or pizza poolside or a specially prepared meal, we could not find any fault with the food aboard the Silver Cloud. When we travel, we like to bring our own wines with us (the Silver Cloud has a very good Premium Wine List and the "house wines" are good as well so don't feel you need to lug wines around the world!). The head sommelier (J.J.) was truly very knowledgeable about wines. One evening we invited the Cruise Director and her partner to a dinner where the chef and sommelier paired the wines with the food to create special menu for us. Outstanding! We also dined with other guests who had the sous-chef (a South African) create a special menu based on their personal South African wines. Another outstanding pairing! Service: Excellent! The crew of the Silver Cloud doesn't seem to know the word "no". On the guest information form I noted that I preferred "Pepsi" vs. "Coca-Cola". Imagine my surprise when I opened the minibar and found cans of Pepsi! They also had Pepsi at the pool bar from the second day of the voyage. I asked one of the bartenders if they always had both Pepsi and Coke. He said that they carry both on board but Coke is for the passengers and Pepsi is for the crew. Every time I'd order a soda by the pool, they would bring me a glass of Pepsi and the can to show that it was Pepsi. Sort of like the days when someone would order Sanka at a restaurant/diner and they'd bring the empty Sanka packet with the coffee! Midway through the cruise we were given a feedback form to fill in. Anything we wrote about (and they were minor) was addressed the next day by a note from the Hotel Director. Embarkation: The Dubai Cruise Terminal is very modern and easy to manage. We were met inside the terminal as we cleared the security checkpoint. We were escorted from the terminal to the ship by white gloved Silversea staff. Once onboard we were photographed and issued our keycards and then further escorted to our stateroom. Very easy, very smooth embarkation. Disembarkation: This was similarly easy as anyone getting off in Pt. Said was either taking buses to Cairo or made private arrangements. The Ship: The dEcor of the ship is very attractive, very light, and not at all glitzy. She's an easy, very comfortable vessel to get around with the design of all staterooms forward and most public rooms aft. The social locations on the ship were the "Panorama Lounge" and "The Bar". It is in these lounges that people would congregate for their cocktails and conversation. One caveat for you ship lovers: If you're looking for a nautical experience you won't find it on this ship. The Silver Cloud is more of a floating Ritz-Carlton and less a seafaring vessel. Shore Excursions: Dubai: "Sharjah", Sharjah is an emirate about 30 minutes from Dubai. We took a ½ day tour of Sharjah on the morning the ship was to sail. It was a nice diversion but nothing to write home about. Salalah: "The Frankincense Trail"-This was a very interesting tour. During this tour we were taken to the tomb of Job (from the Bible story). We were also taken to a frankincense tree where we were shown how frankincense is 'tapped' from the tree. The last stop was a beach with blowholes. It was nice to see the "countryside" of Oman. Safaga: "Luxor and the Valley of the Kings". This was an overnight excursion. We were taken by buses to the Karnak Temple. Karnak is amazing and our guide was knowledgeable. We spent about 90 minutes at Karnak before making our way to the Sonesta Hotel for lunch and to check in. The hotel is fine. Not luxury but by no means a "Motel 6". All meals at the hotel are buffet style and average at best. After checking in we went to the Luxor Temple. We returned to the hotel for dinner, but instead of going to the buffet, we ventured next door to the Le Meridien for dinner. After dinner we returned to the Karnak Temples for a Light and Sound show. The Light and Sound show is included in the cost of the tour but is frankly too long. The following morning we went to the "Valley of the Kings" where we saw the tombs of King Tut, Ramses III, Ramses IX. Truly fascinating. The only 'ugliness' on any tour came about when one of the tour guides from another Silversea bus took two of her passengers straight to the head of a very long line to get into a tomb. There was a near riot and the tour guide didn't seem to care. Entertainment: We're really not ones to go to the shows in the lounges but what we did see was very good. The ship has a troupe from the "Jean Ann Ryan Company" as resident performers performing various shows. The ship also had a jazz pianist on for the first week and a singer for the second. Security: Whether we were walking in a city by ourselves or were part of an organized tour we never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. People were friendly at each port even when we said we were Americans. In Egypt the tour buses are escorted by and manned with a security detail. At no time during our trip did we feel unsafe or in danger. Overall impressions: The Silver Cloud was the way to see this part of the world. The passengers were of mixed nationalities and got on quite well (US, UK, Australia and Luxembourg nationals formed the 4 largest nationality blocs). The average age was probably in the 50s. Six Stars for the Silver Cloud! Read Less

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