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Sail Date: May 2004
Okay, now a real review. I have been feeling guilty about posting my last review or comments prior to sailing because I saw my ship slipping in the ranks daily. Please forgive me. Embarkation went very well. Debarkation was even quicker. ... Read More
Okay, now a real review. I have been feeling guilty about posting my last review or comments prior to sailing because I saw my ship slipping in the ranks daily. Please forgive me. Embarkation went very well. Debarkation was even quicker. And when they say not to use the escalator if you cannot hand carry your luggage, please listen to the nice port people. My wife didn't and down, down, down bounced her big garment suitcase. Fortunately it was only me at the bottom and I saw it coming, plus it stopped before it got to me anyway:) I have to say there were only a handful of people my age or younger. Which I sort of expected and really didn't mind. But the activities and programs are geared to the older folks, in my opinion. So after 3 nights everything became redundant. For example, bingo, karaoke, or a piano bar show were the highlights so maybe that will give you a hint. The ice show under the big top was great. Always attend these things on the second night of showing so the cast can get the bugs out on the first performance. Our room was great, we took a ton of stuff and unpacked it all and still had cubby space available. Having a balcony was nice but we didn't use it all that much. The ship rocked a bit and the itinerary was very windy most of the time. We couldn't use the rock wall a couple of times because of it. Not to mention they had designated (short) periods of time when the wall was open. The captain kept saying the wind was normal so I don't think I'll be sailing that way again. The ship itself was super clean and immaculately maintained, hats off to Jefferson who was always working his butt off every time we saw him. The food was okay, 5 out of 10 at the buffet, average I guess. We had poor service at Chops, the steak house, the food was good, not stellar or anything to write home about. Whatever you read about Chops or Portifino's, don't believe the hype. If I had to do it over I would just go to the dining room for everything, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food was consistently good and service was very good as well. The entertainment was okay, 1 out of 2 comedians was pretty good. All of the couples we hung out with became extremely bored. If you are the restless type that likes to have a variety of activities to choose from, cruising might not be good for you. I should have followed advice given to me... take a 3 or 4 night cruise to get an idea of what to expect then you'll have a better idea if cruising is for you. If I ever cruise again it will be to Alaska. All of the people we talked with had the same opinion, everything we would have wanted is in the USA. From Florida to Hawaii and Alaska, the Pacific Northwest to Eastern Sea board, we would have seen some beautiful country and not had to walk through a 3rd world country to get there where the locals have forced grins because they depend on you for their very livelihood. We did get to meet some nice people granted. But St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau would get a 3 or 4 out of 10 stars for ports. Not impressive and you really don't have any time to absorb the culture if that is someone's reason for going. I must say that we didn't see many kids but they were there I think. Johnny Rocket's was okay, we have the chains out here in San Diego so no surprise there. If you want to hear YMCA sang 2 or 3 times during your lunch then this is the place for you. Oh one more thing, the 4 story "mall" called the Promenade was a huge let down. Looked beautiful but only a handful of shops on the floor level only, the rest were bars with guests rooms above. Oh yeah, loved the gym, needs more free weights though. It is beautiful too;) Hope this accurate review helps would be cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
This cruise was a bit of a disappointment from beginning to end. We noticed a high level of disorganization the first day with key/room screw ups as well as dinner seating mistakes. I attribute this in part to the staff being unprepared ... Read More
This cruise was a bit of a disappointment from beginning to end. We noticed a high level of disorganization the first day with key/room screw ups as well as dinner seating mistakes. I attribute this in part to the staff being unprepared for a full ship with 600 kids. They normally only have a few kids on the Panama Canal Cruises. Because of Pod problems they were in dry dock for repairs and switched itineraries with the Millennium. I should have heeded the advice not to get off at Campo De Crapo. To drop you off and shuttle you to an artificial village tourist trap was bad form by Celebrity. The rest of the stops: San Juan, St. Thomas and Nassau were fine. We found the bartenders in the Martini/Champagne Bars to be rude, especially if you used the soft drink sticker. Comments regarding Celebrity having great food is a myth. Although, the SS United States was excellent and well worth the $30 surcharge. The food is no better nor worse than RCCL in the other dining rooms. Its quantity and presentation over quality and taste. The ship can not hold a candle to the Explorer of the Seas. The appointments are not as nice. The common areas and bars aren't as good and the there are fewer activities for kids and teens. The workout facility was also disappointing. The aerobic equipment was inferior and improperly calibrated and maintained. The fitness center was poorly manned with only one employee to conduct classes, see to equipment and take care of guests. Young kids were running around and using the equipment. I was also told that the classes weren't very good. On sea days it was a free for all getting chaises on the deck. I found the staff to be over the top pushy on trying to sell spa services. I was also surprised by how many kids were using the spa pool and whirlpools despite many signs saying "18 and over". The disembarkation was a disaster. Many people missed flights home because of the immigration delays. This whole process could have been handled much better by Celebrity. Also we had a "suite with butler service". This means your room is slightly bigger than a standard balcony room. You have an extra stateroom attendant who wears a tuxedo, you get a bathtub and a few minor extra amenities. Don't get me wrong, it is a nice ship, but it isn't one of the premiere ships on the seas. You can do better for the same or less money. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
This was our 10th cruise (we normally cruise with Princess), however it was the first time to cruise with HAL. We were impressed with the high level of service that we received in the dining room, Neptune's lounge, Odyssey Restaurant, ... Read More
This was our 10th cruise (we normally cruise with Princess), however it was the first time to cruise with HAL. We were impressed with the high level of service that we received in the dining room, Neptune's lounge, Odyssey Restaurant, and most public areas. We felt that the service on the lido deck buffet was very inconsistent and definitely not up to par with the other areas of the ship. We were not impressed with the ship. If you have questioned any other posts about the Zuiderdam's vibration problems, IT IS STILL TRUE! We were in stateroom 8135, and the ship vibrated at sea and sometimes when docked. When we tried to sleep at night it felt like we were in the bed of a cheap motel room (no wonder we received such a good rate on that particular room $$$). The layout and flow of traffic on the Zuiderdam felt more crowded and enclosed than other similar sized ships that we have experienced. Some people might prefer this since the Zuiderdam does have the feeling of a much smaller ship. The entertainment/activities were below average. They were very limited and only a few interested us. We like the activities on Princess much better since they have a wide variety that seems to meet all age groups. HAL closed their pools at 7:00 PM and hot tubs at 10:00 PM, so you can forget that if you like to do it in the later evening. HAL does appear to hold their tour operators to much higher standards. They were the best that we have ever had in the Caribbean. We will not cruise with HAL again. While they do a few things better than some of their competitors, our overall vacation experience has been much better on Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
Had it not been for the 19 people in our party, I do not think I would have had the good time that we did. I have heard it said that once you do a Disney or Royal cruise, all else is downhill....well, it is certainly true in this case. ... Read More
Had it not been for the 19 people in our party, I do not think I would have had the good time that we did. I have heard it said that once you do a Disney or Royal cruise, all else is downhill....well, it is certainly true in this case. Embarkation was really no problem, although Miami isn't my top choice to leave from. We were able to get to our rooms early and our luggage was delivered quite early. Trash, hangers, tags, etc. littered the hallways (by the elevators) for a few hours after all the luggage was delivered. Our room was comfortable and our steward, Randy, was GREAT. He was the most polite person I encountered from the Carnival staff and extremely helpful. We traveled with 10 adults, 9 children ages 5 through 13 and all had cruised before. Our first night at dinner was a warning as to the rest of the week. When one of our party asked for more bread (nicely, by the way), we were told by Anil, our waiter, that he can only do one thing at a time! They seemed really frazzled. A simple, "one moment sir" would have sufficed. These type of comments went on all week. We did not go to the last night's dinner - we went to the buffet where we knew we would have a relaxing dinner. Anil and Freddy also did not seem to like children and had a very hard time relating to them on any level. As for drinks, we had to go to the bar ourselves if we wanted drinks other than wine, as the bar staff was stretched waaaaaay too thin. Uilia thought she could handle it, as she told Pablo, the maitre d'. She had a wonderful rapport with the kids, taught them the new macarena and seemed to really enjoy her job. We just needed 3 of her!! The Paris dining room also looks like it has wood grain contact paper on the walls. Kids club was fun for our kids. Although when one of the mom's asked a bartender what level the kids club was on (we were on deck 5) he pointed up. That's about as far as the directions went. Our kids had soda cards but were ignored at the bars where they were to get them filled....even when there was no one else at the bar. Our excursions were great. We loved snorkeling in St. Thomas and St. Martin. Everyone at the excursion desk was helpful and will help you find your ideal trip - just tell them what you want to do. The gift shop staff, especially the gentleman from Denmark, were all wonderful, pleasant and genuinely pleased to be there. Which is more than I can say for most of the staff we encountered. We always felt like we were bothering them. I had never been treated this way on vacation before and was really quite offended. We all believe in rewarding great service and kept waiting for someone to give our additional tips to, heck, we are still waiting. I am hoping that this is the end of this staff's rotation on board and they get friendlier faces. My favorite nighttime activity was the piano bar with Greg taking requests. I disliked the fact that in order to get a 5x7 picture I had to buy the 8x10 first. The food was fair, nothing I'd write home about. The buffet was always good and the pizza is great at 2 am! Drink prices vary from bar to bar...even the exact same drink. I couldn't understand it. When I asked why I was charged more in the Sports Bar for a BBC than in the World Bar, I was told that the other bar was wrong, and vice versa. We had to wait outside for 2 hours to get on a bus to the airport and when the bus driver pulled up he ran over our bags...and our bag had to be pulled out from the wheel well. The Carnival reps answer to this was, "do you want to take your bag up front with you?" How was that going to solve anything?? It was Carnival who put our bags out there in the first place! Then the driver asked for tips!! AAAHHH. I will never, ever cruise Carnival again. If you want the very best in service - go Disney or Royal. They know how to treat you. None of us had ever cruised Carnival and the only reason we did was that it fit all of our schedules..live and learn I guess. The reason we had a good time was the company we kept. We had fun because we enjoyed each other's company and did not put the responsibility on Carnival for our fun. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
CARNIVAL VICTORY Crusing is one of the most magnificent experiences, and yet there's something unholy about it, at least on Carnival Victory. The magnificent includes the staterooms, food, and service, and the unholy includes the ... Read More
CARNIVAL VICTORY Crusing is one of the most magnificent experiences, and yet there's something unholy about it, at least on Carnival Victory. The magnificent includes the staterooms, food, and service, and the unholy includes the value, overworked foreign staff, and blatant marketing. I took my first cruise ever, as a single, on March 7, 2004 for the eastern Caribbean out of Miami and here's my review. This review will help you if you want to take this ship, Carnival, or want to know what it's like to travel single. ROOM: My outside stateroom in the aft on a low deck was clean, large, with a separate sitting area and a very italian chic decor. I reported a few broken lights and sink and only the lights were fixed. The AC is adjustable by a lever on the ceiling vent and leaving it wide open made the room comfortably 70-72. There's a hair dryer built in, no outlet in the bathroom, and only 1 outlet outside. There is no alarm clock; bring your own. The room will be cleaned twice daily and you get towel animals and chocolates in the evening. I saw inside many inside cabins and they were significantly smaller than the outside rooms, with no sitting area, but many people loved them for their darkness and cheapness. I even met a honeymoon couple who loved theirs. There are no bathtubs except in suites. Bathrooms throughout the ship have a faint sewer smell, and I suggest this may be due to the fact that the ship makes its own water from seawater. It might also be a fault of the ventilation system. Keep in mind that the ship treats its own wastewater. Staterooms with balconies loose room to the balcony part and were quite smokey. Hint: in the front of the ship on decks 6&7, there are doors that lead to a public balcony spanning the width of the ship and going right up to the private balconies. This is the place to be when entering ports and refreshing at sea. There were signs saying this area was closed, but I went anyway and saw officers who did not throw me off. Others were there too. I think they want you to book a balcony...and not realize there's a free big one or two at the bow. FOOD: I lost weight on this cruise, but that was due to high levels of activity, and small portions. The food in the dining rooms was very good, with a real gourmet flare only somewhat marred by second quality ingredients. There were 6 courses at dinner. They even had separate desert menus and replaced silverware with each course. I had lobster, chateaubriand, coquilles st jaques, escargot, chilled soups, creamy soups, broth, cherries jubilee, and baked alaska. Portions are small and I rarely felt stuffed at the end of a meal. Dinner was something to look forward to and took 1.5 hours. It was like catchup time where everyone shared what they had done that day. The dining room was glitzy and very bright, but tacky. Silverware was stained and worn, many light fixtures lacking bulbs. Giant mermaids with the stern faces of men stare at you from every wall. The dancing waiters is overrated. Quality of waiters varied and I happened to get two excellent ones, but some were much less so. Take the time to ask them personal questions and be friendly; it really made a difference. Avoid the buffet at all times except: try the Gala buffet on night 6 at 11ish, but beware, you must be early and patient as all 3000 people seemed to be there. See my comments under formal nights. (By the way, it would be so much more in the passenger's interest to have this gala on the last night, but Carnival wants you packing and turning in early this night so you don't delay disembarkation.) The deli is a small window with only one sandwich maker; lines were very long and slow. The chinese joint is less crowded, with very low fat and mediocre quality chinese. Dim Sum which means appetizers is simply a large circular dumpling. You get a choice at both of these "walk up windows" of about 5 selections. So, don't think it's like a real delicatessen or chinese carry out place. On the upside, everything from the window joints is very low fat. FIRST AND LAST DAYS - Others are wrong when they say the first and last days are 1/7th of your cruise. Nonsense. Expect these to be days of transition and dedicated to transportation, not fun. On a 7 NIGHT cruise, one has a long first day of orientation, 6 days of glorious travel, and one day of crashing back to reality and leaving the ship ASAP. Think of day 8, Sunday, as time stolen from Carnival, and you will have the right perspective. They need to get the rooms clean, give the staff off, and make sure you get out. Many services are not in place on days 1 and 8 and crew even get to leave the ship. Note they also get to leave when you're in port, on a rotating basis, which is why the ship virtually shuts down in port. For example, in staterooms you get carnival robes, but they appear on day 2, as with towel animals. Day one is again, not a real, full "fun ship at sea" day. It's the staff's day off where they still have to work (and a Sunday if you're religious!). This is part of the unholy. I always assumed they would have one day off for transition, restocking, give the staff off. But no, work work work, maximize profits. All carnival owned lines, which is 80% of the industry, are this way. Fourteen hour days, putting on a cheery face, and constantly serving others, even paying for a lesser steward to clean their own rooms, is all part of the life of Carnival's hotel staff. God bless them because as you'll see below, they can be a highlight of the whole trip. SERVICE: A hint to all new cruisers is to chat up the staff as much as possible; ask them questions about themselves. Formal etiquette dictates that these folks should be virtually invisible, but that's a poor tactic. The room steward, Ziang, was great and introduced himself while I was relaxing on day 1. Carnival's evil marketing comes in here again: you will be asked to sign a form indicating the steward introduced himself to you. I dismissed him the first night and told him to take it easy. He gave me a big handful of chocolates in thanks. One way in which they spoil you is by coming to your room two times a day. To clean up in the am, and to turn down your bed, close the curtains, change the towels, at night. And of course, to leave you the famous towel animals--I got a snail, frog, heart, and swan. It's like the mother or loving spouse you never had! There is a steward and his assistant, and they were just charming, inquiring about your day when you met them with genuine regard. I had heard they look out for single travelers, and I certainly felt special. As I passed the stewards tidying the breakers' rooms, I saw the utter mess they left them--floors covered with shoes, papers, all manner of stuff--like messy dorm rooms. I also realized that there are beds under the beds and the sofa is a bed. Most breakers were 4 to a room, which made the fare around $300. Cheap! I wish I had known. That's the real necessity for the 2 cleanups a day. The fold out beds have to be made up. The ship automatically charges you $70 for tips, and this makes it easy. If your service is lacking, you may wait in line at the Information desk and they will adjust the amount (or so the policy goes). You may also change the amounts given to each person if it warrants it. But again, you have to wait in line at the pursers. If you are staying 4 to a room, I think it is fair and good karma to tip extra to the steward by maybe a dollar or so a day. More if you are piggish. I looked forward to seeing my waitstaff and they remembered my name and called to me outside the dining room when I met them. Galin and Diana are to be requested in the aft dining room, both Bulgarians and sterling souls. At my table, there were 8 people total: two asian ladies who never joined in the conversation and who were I think lesbian lovers from French polynesia, two bahamian ladies (from the Bahamas) in the twilight of their lives, one eccentric gentleman who always wore suit jacket, bowtie, and shorts, who was in the evening of his life. He was a bit of a wine connoisseur and always made a big fuss over his selection. The young couple at my table mocked him so blatantly that he disappeared midweek to another table. His shorts always matched his jacket and he was intellectual, but he drew many stares. According to this gentleman, who I rather liked, the wine selection was sorely lacking. I never took wine with dinner, so I don't know. In the beginning I was so afraid of the spring breakers that I wanted to conserve money to take another cruise. BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH! OR DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR? Which brings me to the bad parts of the trip. Spring breakers made their presence felt and there were at least 1500 of them on this sailing. They were the talk of the ship, with their obnoxious behavior and exhibitionism. They stagger spring breaks now so as to not overwhelm vacation destinations, I learned, so I advise against cruising in March in general. I had read how these kids can ruin a cruise, but with sheer willpower, you can still have a good time. The first day the lido deck was jam packed with sunbathers, and I could not find a seat. In the absence of the "dudes" and with at least one big companion, I would have thrown off the beachtowels "holding" seats and sat there. There was tons of this, but Carnival says it is forbidden. I don't think, however, that Raja and Jakarti, the skinny security team would be much help if Jocko and his buds were pounding you for taking their primo seats. I recommend the lobby deck where there are nicer lounge chairs that actually overlook the water. It was hot on deck and the sun blazing, but with the breeze, you hardly noticed, and could hear the waves the bow made and feel a slight sea spray. Pools are small and saltwater and not recommended. The water slide is for all ages and recommended. The chairs on this deck have no view except of other folks. The upper deck is shaking with loud music most of its operational time and is rather strictly shut down around 5 pm. The first few nights I hit the gym around 4 pm and it was packed. This practice I quickly abandoned for jogging around the jogging deck. It's a separate small deck that goes all around the ship at the very top and I often said goodnight to the sun there. Again, not crowded and very inspiring. After a day outside, the sun and the seawater, you'll feel kinda dirty, so plan on showering and putting on fresh clothes for dinner. Most people didn't get in the pools, so only pack a couple of swimsuits. You can easily wash them in shampoo and hang in the bathroom. They'll be dry by the am. Or you can dry them in towels, as you get as many as you ask for. SODA CARDS are for the aggressive: you can buy one for $32 and get as many sodas as you want, but for some reason the bartenders are quite put out by this. There is a gratuity included, but I got so much attitude and the tiniest juice glasses full of soda. Once I waited at a bar and saw everyone else get waited on who ordered alcohol, while I sat there, for at least 15 minutes. I kinda gave up and started hitting the iced tea station on lido deck. By the way, the iced tea comes out of the juice type dispenser, not from pitchers and is quite good and good for you. Towards the end of the cruise, I got revenge on the bartenders: I would go back every hour for another small soda and be quite vocal if I got overlooked. In one bar, I just sat there and drank the whole small glass, and kept asking for more until I was full. The bartender was miffed. Note: you can order sodas from any of the roaming bartenders. They have diet coke and diet sprite. ALCOHOL It's easy to waste money on this as waiters are in evidence everywhere and drink prices vary wildly. Brandy is $5 while a singapore sling is 3.50 and champagne is $6.25. My advice: order the today's special for $2.95 and skip the plastic souvenir cup. It's small, but strong, tasty, something you won't get back home, and overall the cheapest drink. They have it at every bar all day for $2.95. I was erroneously charged $19.95 for wine. Save the receipts you get with every drink; I thought it would be unnecessary but saved myself $19.95. Note that you may purchase a bottle of wine or champagne at dinner and your waiter will keep it for you all week. ART AUCTIONS--It was fun sitting in the fanciest lounge, sipping champagne, and learning about art, but I have to warn you that these are fake auctions. They have many copies of the same pieces of art; and the lithographs are just copies, not signed artwork. They auction them due to a legal technicality. Tip: you don't get champagne unless you sign up at the bar-Carnival brand marketing. The auctioneer is handsome and well dressed but speaks a sort of broken English with such a heavy accent that it was rather comical. Think "profit center." My honeymooner friends bought 6 pieces of art and thought the auctioneer's accent was sexy. I just don't think their $80 unsigned lithograph of Yellow Submarine was a good deal. FRIENDLINESS--I went on this cruise to try and forget about the death of my mom, after taking care of her for 2 years through various surgeries and illnesses. I went alone, as a 32 year old gay male and at the last minute, with the hope that it would lift my spirits and it did. I met only one other gay person and he was a mincing latino who I had no interest in. But just by opening my mouth and asking the simplest questions like: how are you today? Is this seat taken? I talked with many great couples and they really enhanced the experience. I found it funny how people were so reluctant to start the conversation...but so happy to talk once you prompted them. My advice is to talk to everyone and keep in mind you don't need their names, or an introduction, and you'll probably never see them again. I even chatted up a few spring breakers. SEASICKNESS--No one comes out and says this, so I will, you will feel the motion of the ship as it rocks back and forth and pitches forward and back. The curtains in your stateroom will move. Seasickness is apparently extreme vertigo that causes nausea and vomiting. I complained that the pills were not working, but they are only for nausea. Carnival doesn't offer the nondrowzy staple Bonine, but Med Eze or some such (marketing anyone?). The pills are free and steward, purser, and nurse have them. The more jockish and insensitive you are, the less you will notice. You will also feel the rumble of the engines in the lower decks on the aft end of the ship. People at the forward end complained of equipment noise. The ships do not use tow trucks but have bow and aft thrusters, tunnels through the ship with props in them. These make aft and fore locations less desirable in the bowels of the vessel. I was directly over one of the aft ones, because when we docked there was a loud noise, and I could see the ripples in the water coming from directly under my window. In the piano bar, one night a steward came to say that the noise was so loud it was bothering the people above, so Carnivalers being what they are, the crowd then increased the noise level. This is lowest common denominator style cruising. They sang songs like Barry Manilow and you literally sit at the piano. ENGINE ROOM TOURS are not offered but you can purchase a video tour for $39.95 or watch a preview on the TV. Same for bridge tours. From what I saw, the engine room was crowded with machinery for optimum passenger space, and so probably would have made a lousy tour anyway. Officers are unfriendly and make themselves scarce, but given the overall quality of passengers, I hardly blame them. The cruise director, throughout his various talks, will give you examples of the "Top 10 dumbest questions" and various examples of low class americans. I believe this is considered part of the entertainment, although I found it in poor taste and got tired of being mocked by the cruise director and his buddy. The cruise director and his assistant make the funniest pair: the CD himself is tall, bald, and emaciated and his assistant is short, bushy haired, and aussie. FORMAL NIGHTS were like going to the prom in tropical heat and humidity with your parents. They occur on night 2 and 6 and include the best food of the voyage. On night 6, the last hurrah, save room for the Gala Buffet, and get all liquored up, be there at 11 with a friend who likes to talk and get ready to hurry up and wait! The line was at least 100 people long, out the door onto the outside decks, and the food looks superb. Finger sandwiches, parfaits, tortes, desserts, ice sculptures. Sadly, I arrived at midnight to mass pandemonium and like many others, just went back to my room to sleep. People dressed up much more than I expected. There was about 50% tuxedos and the rest suits. Some wore only shirt and tie. Young women were dressed predictably, ala Paris Hilton, in clingy camisole style dresses and sandaly high heels. Some areas of the ship were too warm for suit jackets like the disco and the upper levels of the theater, but the main dining room was not too warm. Most people really enjoyed showing themselves off and looked good. On "nonformal" nights, just wear long pants. T shirts, jeans, sandals, all were okay although some dressed. On Carnival, it's prom on the formal nights and just long pants on other nights. Many girls wore tube tops and skirts. On the last night, many wore t shirts and shorts, although my waiter said that if the maitre d' had seen them, he would have asked them to change. He was rarely in evidence except for his two begging nights where he approached each table and made himself known. My honeymoon friends required his services, but were so turned off by the constant asking for tips, that they decided not to tip him at all. On several occasions, this guy begs or others do for him. Ironic that he was from Jamaica, which is known for its aggressive beggars. DANCING-- I like to dance but had no opportunity because the breakers crowded this spot from day 1. It's a truly beautiful spot, with walls made entirely of chrome and TVs. Many lounges and a see through dance floor. There is also a glass wall to watch the goings on from the stairwell. The first night, the "singles" party is at 11:30 pm in there and it was so hot and packed with kids, that I couldn't stand it. From 9-11, it's for teens only, then, from 11-4 for college kids only during the month of March. I met an older latino couple who lamented they could not find anywhere to dance on ship and made fun of the breakers flip flops and tight outfits. I think there should have been more opportunities for dancing, both formal and disco, and more than one 30-minute class, which was held on the stage of the theater. Basically, there was no ballroom dancing to be had on Carnival Victory and they have no real venue for it except the one disco. DECOR was among the best of what I have seen of Carnival, but still not that impressive. Sage green chairs were cool, but then bright brass railings and black granite floors clashed. The atrium is much smaller than it appears and no elevator has a view of the ocean. I never thought I'd tire of halogen lights, but they blare down on you everywhere, from lounge to dinner to elevator, and got quite annoying. I loved the carpet--turquoise with small waves in it, and the blue green theme was excellent. The artwork is rare and bad. The good pieces were for sale at the auction--no pricey originals here. I felt sorry for the last Czar and Czarina as they stared down on the champagne bar turned wine bar and the 7 teenagers sitting there guzzling beer and mocking the passing crowd. Public men's rooms were a joke. Light bulbs out everywhere, but overall a clean ship, and a pleasant decor, but gaudy in an italian kind of way. Hallways are small as I had heard and usually full of stewards, passengers, cleaning carts. Carpets were very stained. Beautiful etched glass doors that automatically recess into walls. Washing and drying a load of laundry costs $4 and I would heartily recommend doing so. They were usually empty and you really needed 2 sets of clothes each day. Short outfit for day, long pants and collared shirt for night, then something to sleep in. There's a clothesline in the bathrooms for your trunks. ENTERTAINMENT was Carnival brand McFun. Overall, it was less entertaining than TV, reading, or just people watching. There was a lack of variety and not as many things to do as I had expected. Exercise classes mostly carried fees. Carnival has done market research and must think that the audience loves interaction because all performers are constantly addressing you in the style of "Are you ready to rumble? Let me hear you make some noise, people!" I've never been asked to clap for myself so many times before! "Give yourselves a nice hand." The cruise director is an excellent juggler, but I can't say much more for him. Beware of getting there early and getting those good seats! They are constantly picking people out of the audience, either for a joke at their expense, or to humiliate them on stage. For example, the "man show" involved two women rating 5 men as they acted like their favorite animal, crawling on stage. These ladies then had to rub the men down as they took their shirts off. The assistant cruise director Skippy from down under was so mocking that I sensed his real disgust. "I can't believe the things you people will do," he said often. Sad thing was that all the men on stage were middle aged, and none of the frat dudes who deserved this treatment got it. Also, the comedians picked on people who left their shows, "Hey man, why you leaving? Oh, you gotta pee, oh okay man, that's awight." And they also pointed out people who, they thought, were not enjoying their shows and poked fun at them. Low class, base kinda stuff. There's a latino comedian who does a special midnight show for adults only that gay bashes: he's against gay marriage and went on for about 10 minutes about how awful gays are and gay sex . I was offended, but he got heckled from some of the breakers for his lack of tolerance! Hooray, these kids are pretty enlightened. Throughout all the shows, the breakers coordinated heckling. A group would all shout out something on cue and it was funnier than the entertainers. A word about temperature here: if you're coldblooded, sit up in the balcony, it's quite warm up there. Only sit in the orchestra section if you like it cool--many ladies complained about the temperature--but men could sit here with a suit on without sweating. Ladies, guys may love to see skin, but a shaw or pashmina is in order with a reveling getup. It's only fair if guys have to wear wool suits. Also, it's classy to match: cocktail dresses go with suits, whereas long gowns go with tuxedos. You can rent a tux for $85. I was surprised that even some enormously large people were dressed in full formal wear. One lady who was obese had on the most beautiful pink satin floor length gown with a train! Her hair was up, and had been fancily done. And her even larger husband had on a tux and they looked fantastic! If you're going this far, buy her a corsage and him a boutonniere in the small formalwear shop. Again, it's like the prom if you want it to be and was fun. I wore a makeshift tux of leather suit jacket, black pants, white shirt and white silk tie (like they wore at the academy awards). But on Carnival, I'd have to say it's laissez faire, and one of my tablemates had on a plaid shirt and striped tie, both blue. Everyone showed up at my table to dinner on formal nights. The bingo was awful: in the theater with about 1000 other people, 25 minutes of waiting for everyone to get a $20 card, then 5 minutes of an aussie dancer calling numbers. There were only 3 bingos total and the prize ranged from $750 to a free cruise. Teatime was nice, but the tearoom joins the disco with a transparent floor. Someone had left the strobe lights on in the floor, so all during this teatime, strobe lights danced above our heads in a quintessential carnival moment. During the second tea, I had to beg someone to wait on me, and the violin was off key for the Mozart piece. The trio was good, but not very good, and this was one of the few uncrowded things to do onboard. You should also know that the card room is now a gulf simulator, empty all the time because it requires a fee. On the magic shows, the first one was crummy, with him talking to the audience the whole time cracking dumb jokes, telling people they looked grumpy and the like. The second magic show was fantastic, although not first rate, and the finale a total flop. In carnival style, he spent half of his time in the audience, picking out people, children, asking for someone's ring, etc, cracking dumb jokes, asking us to clap for ourselves, etc. He builds up to this finale where all the dancers are standing on picnic tables, and two audience members are supervising. He drops a curtain, and then says, drop the first curtain. They tear this down, then drop a second curtain. Drum roll. He runs around stage, gets upset, and announces, it's not going to work, the curtains messed up, the curtain falls revealing the smiling dancers, and the magician runs offstage. Chuckles the cruise director rushes on stage and without even the least acknowledgement of what has happened, announces what else you can do: gamble, go to the disco, go to a bar, go back to your cabin, read a book, tip the Maitre d'hotel! Really absurd and a big letdown. When you're in port, there is no diversion whatsoever, the restaurants and lounges go on different, reduced schedules, so go ashore. The main shows were good, glitzy, contentless things. Dancers were generally very young and small. There were about 15 women and 4 guys. Some students around me mocked the male dancers for how gay they were. They did all seem pretty gay, with small hairless bodies, slightly muscled, and they were about the same size as the girls. A blond guy was slightly hunkier and bigger than the rest and did air splits pretty high in the air. The main singer was without sex appeal. The costumes were fantastic and extremely revealing for the women. The music in all venues was so loud that you could hear distortion in the speakers. This goes for music everywhere on the ship: nightclub volume LOUD. There is no culture in the shows; both are musical medleys of popular music throughout the ages. And yes, they even come into the audience and want you to "participate." The library is on the photo level of the atrium and minuscule with a small and pathetic selection. It's an attractive and comfy room, but only open 2 hours when at sea, and staffed by an attitudinal American girl who will tell you the books are in no particular order. I think you can go in here just to sit anytime, but am not sure. The book selection is behind locked doors. The remainder of this floor is chock full of photos and videos for sale of you doing everything. Take your own camera; they have $1.00 next day developing! They have a camera vending machine, but they cost $17. Yuck, I give the entertainment a C-. I would recommend teatime, one art auction (only for champagne and to see the most beautiful public room), the main vegas shows, the second magician, and the black comedian. I wish they had had a movie theater. I attended almost everything, however, and kept myself very busy. Many teens smoked in the main theater even though it was forbidden, as well as many other such areas. PORTS OF CALL were San Juan, PR, St. Martin, and St. Thomas. We arrived in the evening at San Juan so there was nothing but dinner or nightlife to do; a big ripoff as this is an excellent and large island. I watched the sun set from the lobby deck and admired the quaint spanish architecture. It was breezeless, about 85, and the same humidity here. In St. Martin, I took an island tour and was most impressed for my $35. An air conditioned cushy bus, a happy guide, a thorough tour. Don't listen to his info re Charlotte Amalie. This is the name of the Danish Queen at the time of the city's founding. Amalie does not mean "city" as my guide said. He seemed to be a McFun type, who made us clap for ourselves, etc. Shopping on the French side was fun, but the good beaches are on the Dutch side. Most people parked themselves at Divi Little bay and the talk of the town was the nude bathers from the french side. This island is hot, poor, heavily tourist-dependent, and known for its friendliness. But it is also everything you've seen and read about. Turquoise water, dark black inhabitants with smiles and waves, white sand, swaying palm trees, towering hills, lush vegetation, beautiful vistas. Beware that the sun is much stronger here than in the US and many people complained of burns despite precautions. Take a big hat and at least 15 SPF sweatproof sunscreen. Lines on and off the ship were not the longest of the cruise, but were still hurry up and wait. I suggest buying a bottle of the Guavaberry liqueur, $15. It is great with spite and a shot of vodka. It has a unique spicy flavor. We docked at all ports and used no tenders; although just to get off the dock you had to walk some 6 foot ball field lengths (our ship was 3 lengths and you exit aft, and then there was the carnival spirit which was equally as long). There is a very convenient shopping area here with places to eat. I suggest getting off if only to hang out here. There's Calypso music and a view of the beach. St. Thomas was richer than St. Martin, prettier and larger, but they drove on the wrong side of the road, so I'd be reluctant to rent a car here. Beware: tour buses here are al fresco. No big coaches. We're talking pick up trucks with open air carriages on them. However, I did not notice the heat much as many cool breezes floated down the mountains we climbed up. Asthmatics should not take these open air tours. The old klunkers on the island and many trucks and tour buses including my own made the fumes very strong at times, especially when stuck in traffic downtown. This, combined with the heat and humidity, could knock an asthmatic out. The island is very mountainous, and the soil volcanic. Megan's bay is famous and deservedly so. But I would recommend the excursion to Trunk bay on the neighboring island of St. John. It's called the "5 star" and you cruise there on a yacht, but only get to stay half a day. Go to bed early the night before you arrive in St. Thomas as the best excursions happen in the first half of the day, and you have to wait in long lines at 6:45 am to clear customs. This is a big hassle; make it easy on yourself by taking your photo ID and birth certificate out of any holders or wallets. Hint: the line gets shorter closer to 8:15, but if you aren't there by 8:30, it's a big problem. St. Bart's also seemed good, with many wealthy retreats. I was struck with how little beach space there was on these islands and the shabbiness and smallness of even the nicest houses. I couldn't imagine spending thousands on a joint where you have to drive down a steep hill to get to a beach littered with cruisers. On some days, the guide told me, as many as 8 ships arrive in port here and I can't imagine the crowds. When we went, it was not crowded anywhere. Such a blissful change from the ship! The tours know you'll want to shop and take you to many places that have either enclosed malls or open air bazaars. I did all my shopping in the malls after learning the black ladies in the bazaars were hard to bargain with. You're expected to haggle. They have a lot of african looking clothes and trinkets as well as island gear. I took back a shot glass $2, a polo shirt $15, a t shirt $8, and a fan $1.25. Plus t shirts for family and friends. All good prices I thought. I also got a calendar with great pictures and recipes for $7. So not as expensive as I thought. I advise skipping the coladas mid-trip as the combination of sun, heat, and booze seemed to wipe people out and many complained of how tired they were. I got a peach soda for $2 out of a machine here, and was content. I was advised not to drink the water or ice. Be advised that you are not allowed to take any food ashore! Someone had written that you can take sandwiches to save money, but you cannot. They will seize them due to quarantine regulations. You can't introduce foreign flora and fauna and foods can do this, so think again. Also, beware that you may not find a place to eat onboard after your tour, as the hours of operation vary by day and there is absolutely no 24-hour buffet. Posted hours for each day with strict enforcement. At 2:29, they have one hand on the steam trays, ready to wisk them away at 2:30. One can always order room service, but order a lot, the croissants are about 3 inches long, yogurt is about 1/3 cup, sandwiches half size. The fajitas are actually one fajita, cut up and artfully arranged, and cold. Nevertheless, it's one small fajita, and a rather pretentious fire-roasted tomato salsa. Don't be afraid to order 4 iced teas, equal about 16 ounces. Service took between 15 minutes on port days to 1 hour at night. Try the beef and brie sandwich on baguette. I also took several small bottles of hand sanitizer and always had one on hand. I forgot sometimes, but made an effort to use this before eating sandwiches and stuff. Neither I nor anyone else I met got sick on the cruise. I was concerned about the norovirus and other outbreaks. Don't worry, just make sure you wash your hands before you eat. Or take the sanitizer. It was so humid, I didn't really need hand cream either. Don't expect starry nights or spectacular sunsets because clear days always turned into overcast nights. It was still nice to be on the uppermost decks as you left port, and watch the lights go on, the ship maneuver, and the island slip away. Magical and largely ignored by passengers. And I've saved the worst for last: EMBARKATION - A nightmare of heat, Spanish, long lines, annoying college brats, delays, problems. It took 2 hours to get on the ship. The Miami airport is very crowded and busy, with small public areas for soooo many folks. The Carnival Greeters were not friendly and had no signs other than their binders. Other lines had signs. Getting to Miami, flights were overbooked and very cramped. In Miami, once you got your luggage, you had to drag it a long ways to the carnival shuttle then wait on the bus for it to fill. I did not see any taxis nearby. The port is a good distance away. Then begins the main fun, finding your luggage, and waiting in line. A note about tipping: I had been told to tip the guys who load your luggage from the bus to the bins, and did. The bus driver asks for a tip and engages in carnival behavior: asking you to hoot and holler and clap for yourself and how excited you are. But if you read the transfer coupon, it says that it includes a 15% gratuity for the driver! So I didn't tip him, just the other guy. Also, beware that multiple ships launch simultaneously, so not everyone on your bus is going on your ship. Once you get your luggage into the right bin, you go to a large hot warehouse and stand in line. You go through security first, and show your ID. Then you go through a line for the funpass, which was as long as the one without. Then you get to a counter, and get a piece of paper. I had asked for an upgrade, even offered to pay, and she says "What? With all these spring breakers? This ship is totally full." Then you get into line and go upstairs and wait in another line for your room key. Here it goes quick and you get hurried along and get your "card key" which is really your "sign and sail" card. It's your onboard ID/Credit card. Then you wait in another long line down a long hall to get your photo taken . This photo is just for your purchase of $15, so I suggest skipping this part! There's a fake background of a ship or somesuch and a foreign photographer telling you to smile. Then you go downstairs and the lines split. You fight teenagers for the best place in the shortest line. They take your card, put it in a machine, take your photo for the card, and then you're on the ship, with absolutely no direction. Luckily I was warned and took my brochure. The hallways are very, very long, 3 foot ball fields on cabin decks. If you have trouble walking, as my mom and stepmom did/do, I think they make special provisions for early embarkation. It took 5 minutes to go from bow to stern. DISEMBARKATION involves you being up at 6:30 and getting out of your cabin. I was totally unprepared and greatly distressed. Unless you have little luggage or an early flight, I suggest checking your luggage the night before at midnight. You are slowly geared down on day 6, after all the proms are over, and talks turn to "mandatory disembarkation." I had to stay over in a hotel the night after due to flight availability, and this created much trouble for me. I planned and was advised to hang on the ship until about 10:30 and take my own luggage. Well, there was an error on my bill, and I got breakfast first. By the time I got through the purser's line, I got back to my stateroom and the steward was there, upset that I had not vacated the room yet. I had to hurriedly pack up my last few things, drag my bags to the lobby and then they tell me that self disembarkation is over. This happens from 7:30 to 8:30. I arrived at 8:35. There is a general feeling of "I don no nothing" and officially to the lobby which is packed with wheelchair folks. My big bag got caught on one of the ladies chairs. I realized I had not emptied the safe! So dragging heavy luggage back, etc. Nightmare! So then I waited till an officer told me to get out of the main lounge at 10:30. While I was there I watched a biography of Gloria Estefan, who I never had much of an opinion on, and was surprised to see her proud cubana history. As for the Miami airport, let me just say, book the air yourself and do not stay a day afterward. They are not set up for this and it involves dragging your luggage miles and waiting outside for 2 hours and just all kinds of trouble. No cabbies knew where my hotel was. Carnival gave me no telephone number or address for the hotel and it was a Sunday! (by the way, there are NO religious services onboard and not even a chaplain I think in an emergency). I couldn't find my pen. The hotel shuttle was unmarked! And the guy doesn't stop, he drives through looking for someone to flag him down! It was outrageous and I have to say that Miami is a tropical latino sewer; it was like being in Mexico City. Everyone I dealt with was hispanic and attitudinal. I will never return there unless I absolutely have to. I don't care what people say about embarkation at other ports, they cannot be more of a hassle than Miami is! Somehow, it seemed hotter than all the tropical ports we were in and more foreign. And I can speak Spanish! SINGLE CRUISING - Well, I met no other singles, but have heard others say Carnival has many. They need to improve their singles parties, and not hold them in the disco at 11pm on the day of departure. There are some singles groups that are coordinated and I would recommend them. Other lines, I hear, have more than one single gathering and at better times and dates. March is a big time to avoid as well as the summer. Kids were not a problem, but I think in appropriate numbers and with irresponsible parents, they could be. For example, I stood behind a woman, clad in a bikini, barefoot, dripping wet, to get chinese food. I had noticed the lido restaurant floor was slippery and wondered why. So then I saw her. The worst part was when her kids came in dripping too, and I thought she should lose her parenting license. Many seniors ate in the dining room and I could just imagine one of them breaking a hip on the slippery wet marble floors because of "bikini mom" and her ignorant brood. Also, I advise going to the dining room for all meals and avoiding the buffet. You're basically forced to make conversation at the table, and I met many charming people this way. Even spring breakers. There are also some travel agencies out there that coordinate singles groups on mainstream cruises. That would be cool, but you can have a good time even if you don't find a best buddy to pal around with. Consider yourself an independent traveler, as the upscale lines call it, and that will give you the right attitude. GAY CRUISING - If I couldn't pass for straight, I think I might have had a hard time and possibly a fight on this spring break ship. But I passed well and had straight guys calling out to me when they saw me around ship. Don't expect to meet any other gays though; I think most of us are pretty turned off by the low class of Carnival. Go on another line. The servants were very gay friendly (waiter and such) but the officers seemed very unfriendly and there were no FOD meetings. I was in the sports bar one time and heard the word faggot mentioned repeatedly, although it might not have been towards me. I think the one guy was criticizing the other as in "that's so gay, you faggot," like we used to say in high school. The security staff, who I had to get involved with when my neighbors got locked out, were all Indian and very surly. It was funny to see them closely following the muscle dudes, because these Indians were rather puny and I can't imagine how they would keep order if the dudes wanted otherwise. DECK SHOES - If you're sensitive to the motion of ships and don't have a great sense of balance, or have trouble walking, I suggest ditching the sandals for nonslip deck shoes like Sperry Topsiders as the marble floors were usually wet and slippery and often the crush of the crowd made you feel pressured if you slowed down. Consider this: if you fall down and hurt yourself on this ship, it's out of pocket expensive and unless your heathplan covers you while in Panama, could be a big problem. Breaking a bone would involve being airlifted to a hospital island like Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, or Curacao. SUMMARY - Airflights and embarkation/disembarkation were nightmares: try to board early and try a port near to your house; avoid Miami as the city is a swampy hassle. The ship is a marvel, perhaps the best among the fleet in decor, but gaudy. Food is very good if you dine in the dining halls only. Entertainment is third rate and not as varied as you've heard. Avoid March as spring breakers can ruin your cruise. The ship will usually feel crowded and you must expect to wait in lines everywhere. The cruise is a fantastic value, very action packed as vacations go, but you get little time in ports, and there are many money pit extras that can double the cost of your cruise if you are not smart. Being friendly and outgoing can reap great rewards. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
I just have to say, I was not pleased with this cruise. The ship itself is beautiful, and the service was wonderful - no complaints there. But, there seemed to be some major problems, namely the food. I have never heard anyone ever say ... Read More
I just have to say, I was not pleased with this cruise. The ship itself is beautiful, and the service was wonderful - no complaints there. But, there seemed to be some major problems, namely the food. I have never heard anyone ever say that cruise food is bad. However, I have to say that this is by far the worst food that I have ever had. My husband and I tried to eat in the main dining room every night, and each night, we were sending food back. Too salty, overcooked, bad flavor - the list goes on and on. We tried Jade and the Windjammer, and had the same problems. We thought about trying Chops or Portofino, but I just didn't feel like I should have to pay more than I already was to get better food. Honestly, we were thankful to get off the boat in each port, because we could at least get some food off of the ship. My husband and I asked around, because we thought that maybe something was wrong with us, but there were so many other people on board who felt the same way - the food was awful! We are not frequent cruisers, but those who we talked to who were said that this was by far the worst food they have ever had on a cruise ship. I cannot complain about our servers in area of food however - all of the servers did their best to accommodate us, and they definitely deserve their tips. We understood that it wasn't their fault, and they understood that we weren't upset with them. I have to say, the restaurant service was probably the best that I have ever received. We had an Interior Promenade room, which was very cute! I was worried that it would be noisy, and that I would hear all of the parades and such from the Promenade. However, there was no problem at all, I am pleased to say! In fact, I slept through one of the parades! Our room was also right next to the elevator, and again, no noise. Also, the shades really blocked all of the light, so having one of those rooms really was as dark as a normal interior room. I appreciated having the extra sitting space of the window seat. Some friends of ours had balcony rooms, but those rooms were no bigger than ours - they just had balconies. The bathroom was fine. Our stateroom attendant was awesome! I was unhappy with the Spa. The prices are too high, period. Everyone does a fine job, but a one-hour massage should not cost $135. I was expecting the prices to be a bit more expensive than on land, but not that much more expensive. Also, I asked for a pedicure with paraffin wax, and the girl never gave me the paraffin wax. Fortunately, it didn't show up on the bill, but I was a bit surprised. I was also peeved that some of the exercise classes had fees associated with them. I'm already paying quite a bit, and to have to pay $10 or $15 every time I want to kickboxing, yoga, or pilates class seemed a bit excessive. Needless to say, I didn't attend any of those classes. The water in the mineral pool in the spa was dirty. Speaking of nickeling and diming at the spa, it does seem like you get nickled and dimed everywhere on the ship. If you want better food, you have to pay money. As I already stated, the spa prices were too outrageous. Drink prices were also a bit outrageous, and yes, I know that the prices included the tip. The thing that I found hilarious was that, on the bill, there was an area for you to leave an additional tip! Excursions were also a bit overpriced.... Speaking of excursions, we only went on one, and I have to say that I was not satisfied with that, either. We went on the Underwater BOB in St. Thomas. Now, I have heard that this is the coolest, and not to be missed. After being on it, I have to disagree. The reef on which we "BOBbed" was not pretty in the least. Furthermore, the BOB only goes down about eight feet. Well, in order to see any pretty colors or fish on the reef, you have to be up close. So, it didn't matter if you were BOBbing or snorkeling, it all looked the same - blue and brown rocks. Let me say now that I am a scuba diver, and so maybe I am just jaded. If you have never scuba dived before, then I think that this might be an ideal thing to do, if you're looking to experience it without being scuba certified. However, if you're already a scuba diver, don't go. It cost $100 per person, and then the mates on the boat ask for a tip! Also, we BOBbed in a protected cove, and we weren't alone - two scuba diving excursions, a snorkeling excursion, and a sailing excursion shared the cove with us. It got a bit crowded in there..... I also was unhappy with the pools. For some reason, they were drained on our first day, which was at sea. Why would the pools be drained when you're at sea? Everyone wants to be in the pools! So, all of the adults were crowded into the hot tubs, which were not hot at all, so it felt like I was in a bubbly pool. Also, the crew was doing some maintenance work on the decks during our "at sea" days, and so areas of the Solarium and pool deck were closed off. Now, this may have been emergency repair work, but it didn't appear that way to me - it looked like routine maintenance work. Why would that be done during an "at sea" day, when everyone wants to use the pool and solarium? It made those areas very crowded, because not all of the space in those areas could be utilized. On the plus side, we were very happy with the entertainment. The cruise director and his staff are absolutely wonderful - they are all very funny! In general, the service is excellent. My husband and I voiced our concerns about the pools and food and general complaints to someone in the spa, who took our name and room number and spoke with Guest Relations. From there, Guest Relations called us every day to check on how we were doing. Obviously, there's not much that they themselves could have done to improve the food and such, but I was impressed that they took the time to call. Overall, I don't know that I would use this ship again. We really did try to overlook "the little things," but unfortunately our issues weren't with "the little things." We loved the ship itself, and there is lots to do, but the food, the pools, and the added-on costs really disappointed us. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
This was our honeymoon and our second cruise. The last cruise was on Explorer of the Seas, Western Caribbean itinerary. Upon arriving to the port in Miami, the signs advised us to go to a specific terminal. We arrived there and to our ... Read More
This was our honeymoon and our second cruise. The last cruise was on Explorer of the Seas, Western Caribbean itinerary. Upon arriving to the port in Miami, the signs advised us to go to a specific terminal. We arrived there and to our surprise, there was nobody there except security. It was approximately 10am. Security said they were not allowing anyone in to the check in area and there was no other entrance into the check in area. We sat in some white chairs for nearly an hour and a half. They finally allowed the two of us in and there were already hundreds of people in line and standing around. I guess there was another entrance, this was very disappointing. I didn't appreciate being lied to. We checked in at the counter and then had to stand in line for over another hour against the wall. I asked what the delay was and was advised that customs arrived late and that there were still passengers exiting the ships. While in line we overheard people talking about Labadee and how the ship was not going to stop in this port. We were never told about it at check in. I had to go ask someone about this little bit of info. and was advised that it was cancelled due to an uprising in Haiti. I guess the check in persons did not feel it was important to tell everyone they dealt with. After we were allowed on the ship, it was a stampede to the escalators without any direction or organization, they just allowed everyone to go the entrance at once regardless of who was waiting longer in line. Upon entry onto the ship, we were welcomed very graciously. My wife received a red rose for Valentine's Day and we began to think we would have an outstanding honeymoon. We went to our stateroom and our minds immediately changed again. We both have asthma and are allergic to smoke. I guess the previous people in the stateroom decided they were going to smoke in the room. The odor in the room was very very bad. After a couple hours, we were able to find our stateroom attendant and ask her if there was anything she could do to help. She entered the room and said it smelled very bad and she would try and help us. She then proceeded to wipe down the cabinets and walls with a cleaner and changed the bedclothes. She attempted to remedy the problem, but in the end, it still smelled very bad in the room. We are big complainers, so we just dealt with the problem and lived with it, we were on our honeymoon. I tipped on the very first day and it made a difference with the dining staff, but not the stateroom attendant. The only thing she did when she entered the room was make the bed and give us new towels. Not the same treatment I received on the last cruise. The ports were ok. In Nassau we went to a Dolphin Swim which was booked through the Dolphin Encounters not the ship. They only book the encounter, we wanted to swim with the dolphins which was much better. In St. Thomas, which was very beautiful, we only experienced the shopping area and the Kon Tiki Party Tour. This was a waste of time and money. Not very party like, especially with the very horrible band on board the aged boat attempting to play music. Also, the customs which everyone goes through, was very quick and painless. San Juan was extended to a full day because we were unable to go to Labadee. I was really looking forward to Labadee and San Juan was a very poor choice in an extension. There's not a lot to do there and the entire town is filthy. Food was less than wonderful, deck chairs were always full especially with three sea days. I called and complained about young kids being in the Solarium or the adult pool area and was told by the front desk that 17 and up was allowed in there and told her that these were small children jumping and yelling and splashing and all she said was that children above 17 were allowed in there. She never remedied the problem at all. It doesn't help on the boat if you have rules and you do not enforce them. As a law enforcement officer, I was very displeased to see young kids, very under the age of 18, walking around with buckets of beer through the promenade and neither their parents nor employees/security from the boat doing anything about it. I also witnessed minors in the casino gambling. If you have rules, enforce them. It is for their safety and the safety of all passengers. Debarkation was easy and painless. I know this is a long review and there is much I am leaving out, but if you have any further questions, feel free to contact me at cruiseseeker@msn.com Thank you Debarkation was easy Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
This was our 1st cruise on Holland America. We had decided to try them for a more "formal" cruise experience. The ship is beautiful in a very understated way. While there are numerous lounges and bars, you have the feel of a ... Read More
This was our 1st cruise on Holland America. We had decided to try them for a more "formal" cruise experience. The ship is beautiful in a very understated way. While there are numerous lounges and bars, you have the feel of a much smaller ship. Decor is understated with little flash, but very comfortable. The recliners in the Crows Nest lounge were a great place to watch the water glide by while you enjoy your drink. Cabin size was excellent and having a stateroom with a balcony makes me feel that I'll never book a cruise again without one. Food quality in the Lido Deck "Food Court" was excellent for breakfast and lunch...we never made it to the Lido dining room. Good thing too....as others have said, the service in the dining room left much to be desired. Coffee cups and water glasses sat empty after numerous requests for refilling, entrees arrived lukewarm with side dishes missing until I reminded our servers again and again. However, the food quality and service in the Pinnacle Grill (the $20/pp cover charge alternative venue)was superb and well worth it. Pools are smallish, but never seemed overcrowded...but you can't say the same for the whirlpools...you could never get a seat. Poolside servers were sporadic...some great, some disappeared without ever fulfilling your order. The bands and vocalists were great, but the headline acts were mediocre with the notable exception of "The Mikes", an acapella group from Canada who were great. Bottom line...a very relaxing trip with so-so cuisine, an ok itinerary (St. Martin & Half Moon Cay were great, Nassau is Nassau (we never left the ship), but nothing...I repeat...NOTHING in Tortola). Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
We embarked on our cruise Christmas week, December 21, 2003. We travelled with two boys, 15 and 11 as well as parents who are 75 and 80. The ship was filled to capacity. No upgrades were available. This is our second cruise, the first ... Read More
We embarked on our cruise Christmas week, December 21, 2003. We travelled with two boys, 15 and 11 as well as parents who are 75 and 80. The ship was filled to capacity. No upgrades were available. This is our second cruise, the first having been on the Celebrity Century in 2000. Embarkation was not as bad as many of the reviews I read. While it was not particularly well organized I attribute any chaos to the ancient mindset of the cruise industry as a whole rather to any specific cruise line. Certainly the cruise industry has a few lessons to learn from the hotel and airline industries. If checking in and checking out of a Holiday Inn was as chaotic as it is with a cruise they would have been out of business decades ago. Boarding was not particularly memorable which I find unfortunate. We were greeted by someone in a plain white uniform (no name tag) and politely directed to the nearest elevator. Ho hum. In fact, that set the tone for the rest of the cruise. We booked a balcony stateroom (3 total) on the 9th deck, mid-forward. Our Attendant was Maria who was as efficient and as sweet as you could want. The prior occupants of one of our rooms were smokers (yes, in-room smoking is allowed in ALL rooms on RCL). Without asking Maria stripped the entire room of all of the curtains and bedding, washed them twice, washed down every single inch of the rest of the room and repeated this the next day. What more need I say? There was more than plenty of room for all of our "stuff." The room was in decent shape but beginning to show signs of age. About the only complaint I had with the rooms, aside from the bathroom being small, was the lack of any cold water. All the water in the faucet was warm or hot. Our luggage arrived later in the afternoon without incident. Our first encounter with the food was at lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. In general, the Windjammer food was fresh, pleasantly displayed, competently served and well organized. Contrary to most reviews the coffee served on our ship was EXCELLENT. It was fresh brewed from the "Seattle's Best" brand. I was very relieved. In fact, the free coffee throughout the ship was tastier than the strong, Starbuck's type coffee found at the coffee bar. Windjammer served a huge variety of food and desserts, many of which were sugar-free. Unfortunately, Windjammer closed in the evening. This ship has NO "midnight buffet" and no place to eat after 10pm except in the tiny, well hidden Seaview Cafe way up on the 12th deck accessible solely by exterior means. On our voyage we had winds of over 50 MPH the first 2 nights and it was dangerous trying to get to this place. Equally unfortunate was the fact that the Seaview also served the best food on this ship (it was freshly prepared for your particular order). Suffice it to say that the "food" served in the Cascades dining room was awful and on par with nursing home food: institutional in taste, always served warm and everything tasting just about the same. This was a huge disappointment. Indeed, we will never travel with RCL again due to this. Our waiter was Darko, from Croatia, and he was excellent. We thought we would avoid further disappointment by eating at the so-called specialty restaurants. We tried Portofino. The food was HORRIBLE! In fact, it was inedible. Fortunately we enjoyed Chops much more. Entertainment was only fair, at best. As for children's programs they were basically non-existent for our kids. While the ship has a room dedicated for these programs there were no Supervisors in sight, ever. Worse, at night no one from the ship stopped any of the children from walking the upper decks in 50 MPH winds. That also happens to be where their basketball court is. Kids from 10 up were free to roam anywhere they wanted with whomever they wanted. I would comment on the Cruise Director except I don't think we had one. Someone named "Bill" called himself the Cruise Director the 2 times he appeared in public, and he was a total dud. As for the rest of the ship the public bathrooms were ALWAYS dirty and smelly, the elevators could have been faster and another bank of elevators in the forward section of the ship should be installed. It is a long, long, looong walk for anyone, and particular the elderly, from the "forward" elevators to the forward rooms. In sum I would rate this cruise a solid 6 out of 10. As a result we will not travel RCL again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
NOTE: This is a VERY long review. If you just want to hit the highlights, look at the heading for each section for the "score" I gave that particular section. INTRODUCTION My husband and I are in our mid-thirties. My husband ... Read More
NOTE: This is a VERY long review. If you just want to hit the highlights, look at the heading for each section for the "score" I gave that particular section. INTRODUCTION My husband and I are in our mid-thirties. My husband had never been on a cruise before this one. My past cruise experience has been with Disney Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean, so I had a fair set of expectations for this cruise. We picked Celebrity because of its reputation for food, and because we perceived it as a mainstream, yet upscale line. We upgraded to Concierge Class and I was very much looking forward to the extra pampering that Concierge Class promised. This review is not a chronological outline of our cruise. Rather, I have grouped the major points that are important to me when I cruise and discussed them, taking into account the entire cruise experience. To summarize my impressions of the experience, I have used a 0-10 scale on how well I feel Celebrity performed in each of these areas. I based the score and my summaries on two things: My past experiences with other cruise lines, and how well Celebrity did, or did not, live up to the levels of amenities and services that they advertise. Fair warning: In some parts of this review I am quite negative about aspects in which I felt Celebrity was lacking. In spite of my disappointment with the line and some services and amenities, we did still have a fantastic time. EMBARKATION / FIRST IMPRESSIONS [9/10] We arrived at Port Everglades at 11:30AM on the day of our embarkation. After handing our bags over to a porter, it was a brief walk to the pier terminal, where we were directed to the priority processing area for Concierge Class room holders. This was the first, and last, time we experienced priority embarkation or disembarkation. We signed in and were on board the ship in under ten minutes. Once on board we were offered a glass of champagne or chilled orange juice. We took the champagne and asked where we should go to make reservations for the Olympic. We were directed to the restaurant itself, and waited around awhile until someone came by and told us we needed to head up to deck 10 to make our reservations. We explored the ship and took some photos of it, as it was still nearly empty. Celebrity thoughtfully provides an introductory note to all early-arriving passengers letting them know where food is available and what areas they might want to visit until their stateroom is ready at 1PM. STATEROOM APPEARANCE / CONCIERGE CLASS AMENITIES [8/10] We stayed in stateroom 9050 on the Sky deck. The stateroom held no real surprises, it was roomy, thoughtfully laid out and tastefully decorated with light wood and bright (but not too bright) colors. Our deck had two chairs with blue chair pads and a small table. Inside we had a couch and a queen sized bed. There was a mini-bar in our room under the television. A nice touch - I have never been on a cruise that had a mini-bar refrigerator. Unfortunately, the refrigerator just barely chilled any beverages in it. Celebrity's advertises many amenities in their new, much-touted Concierge Class level. Among them are plush bathrobes, fresh flowers, a fruit bowl, welcome champagne, a pillow menu, daily delivery of canapEs in the afternoon, a hair dryer, personalized stationery, a Hans Grohe showerhead and a Celebrity tote bag. The pillow menu was terrific; I requested a body pillow and my husband requested a comfort pillow. Both were astounding. The special showerhead was in fact, nothing special. And the personalized stationery was just a few sheets of paper with our room number and "Mr. & Mrs. J" laser printed on them. The canapEs? More about those under the next section. Noise and Overhang: Many people seem very concerned about both noise and the overhang on the 9th floor staterooms. We found neither particularly bothersome. Around 9AM I heard the scraping of chairs overhead briefly, perhaps just a few seconds each day, as they readied the Aqua Spa lounge area. The sounds were muffled and brief. The overhang was actually quite nice. We enjoyed the feeling of being nestled up under it safe from the searing sun, or the rain shower that we experienced on the morning of our arrival to San Juan. STATEROOM SERVICE [6/10] Our service got off to a strong start, but as the cruise wore on became more and more spotty. By the last night, I was highly disappointed with the service from our stateroom attendant and her assistant. I was pleased with their service on the first day, but was disappointed daily when I returned to our room in the afternoon to find none of Celebrity's Concierge Class canapEs in the room. Celebrity advertises daily afternoon canapEs as one of their Concierge Class perks but we never received any without having to ask around, in spite of the fact that we saw other attendants delivering them to room after room each afternoon. One afternoon I picked up the phone and called to request that some be delivered, as we were hungry and tired and didn't want to leave the room. They arrived and after tasting them, I stopped being disappointed that we didn't receive them on a daily basis! They tasted stale and were not at all to our liking. We had room service on most mornings. It was always delivered punctually with a phone call about two minutes before it arrived. For some reason on the last two nights of the cruise, we did not receive breakfast service menus when our room was turned down for the night. We had to call around to find them. On the last night of the cruise it was especially annoying as there were no stateroom attendants in the hallways. I tried dialing the Stateroom Services line, the Room Attendant line, the Guest Services line and finally the Concierge Class line from the phone and no one picked up at any of those numbers. Finally, I spent about twenty minutes waiting in the hallway until I found an employee taking other passengers' room service requests from their doors and asked him if he could get us one. At this point I was regretting giving our stateroom attendant and her assistant a generous tip just a few hours earlier. Our room service not only slacked off at the end, but downright disappeared after the tip envelopes were handed out. SHIP AREAS AND ACTIVITIES [8/10] I had read many criticisms of the design of Millennium-class ships. From the dreaded overhang to the lack of a full track around the promenade level of the ship, many people have found many things to criticize about this class of ships. I had studied the deck plans so I knew what to expect. I found the layout to be a little crowded at times, and I don't think it did wonders for traffic flow. There were some very congested areas on the ship. But with over 2,000 passengers, I don't know if there was any design that could have improved upon this. Celebrity has many lounges and bars. The Cosmos lounge at the front of the ship is where many of the evening's recreational activities are held. We thoroughly enjoyed that area and the view that it offered. The Extreme sports bar at the front of the ship wasn't nearly as crowded. I didn't stay there long because the chairs in that lounge were poorly designed an extremely uncomfortable. Other lounges on the ship include the upscale Michael's Piano Bar, the Platinum Club which houses the martini bar and the brightly decorated Rendez Vous lounge. A coffee bar, the Cova Cafe, is located midship and offers higher end coffee drinks such as espresso and cappuccino. The lounging and sunning areas on the ship were plentiful, but on sea days there were rarely chairs available anywhere. The Aqua Spa has an enclosed lounge area near the Thalassotherapy pool which is quite nice. The pool had at least four hot tubs around it and nicely padded deck chairs which were filled to excess whenever the weather was warm and the sun was out. The jogging track was on the deck above and was surrounded by more lounge chairs (these were non-padded). There were more of these available so that's where we spent our at-sea days. Many of the areas were served by roaming bartenders, and attendants handing out cold cloths, which was very nice. The afternoon sorbet out by the pool was fantastic as well. There were miscellaneous activity areas: A shuffleboard section, a ping pong table that seemed out of place on a lower deck and a basketball court. The Fun Factory, an area for kids, was located aft of the ship and was a ghost town. We also found an arcade somewhere on the ship, I can't recall where. It was a ghost town as well. Cruise Critic Party: One of the biggest disappointments on my cruise was that Celebrity once again dropped the ball on the Cruise Critic party gathering. I had heard of this happening at least once before on a recent Millennium cruise but did not expect it would happen to us. I arrived back at my stateroom at 11PM one night to find our invitation to the Cruise Critic party. That was all well and good, except the party had occurred at 11AM that very same day! So I missed a chance to get to meet the Cruise Critic folks on board our ship. I was very disappointed in Celebrity's screwup. THE ELEMIS SPA [7/10] My husband and I both booked a massage for our first at-sea day on Monday. My husband loved his massage, and I found that my masseur, "Oz", was one of the top three massage therapists I've ever had. Unfortunately, the massage had to end and the hard sell of the Elemis products had to begin. I did not like feeling pressured to buy products, and neither did my husband. Disney never resorted to hard sells after their massages, and I don't understand why Celebrity, a line that tries to market itself as "upscale" resorts to such low-end tactics. One of our tablemates did fall for the hard sell and purchased $159 worth of products. When she told us this, she also told us she regretted doing it and how much the hard-sell put a damper on her fantastic massage. METROPOLITAN DINING ROOM - FOOD QUALITY [8/10] SERVICE [7/10] The Metropolitan Dining room has a beautiful blue ceiling overlooking the expansive two story dining area. On the aft end is a huge set of picture windows which were always dark during our cruise as we had the late seating. We were seated at a table for 8, but there were only 6 of us. By the second night, the extra chairs and place settings were removed, giving us ample room. On the first night our maitre'd came to us and asked if we would mind hosting one of the officers of the ship on the first formal night, the next night of the cruise. We said we'd love to, of course. And so we hosted Christian, the Food and Beverage manager, on the first formal night. It was a treat as the wine flowed freely and was complimentary. Christian was a very personable Austrian man who was tall with a peaches-and-cream complexion. When he opened his mouth, however, he sounded exactly like Arnold Schwarzenneger with that accent! It was very interesting to listen to him, and very strange to hear that familiar accent come out of someone who looked so unlike Ahnold. Ironically, the worst meal I had at the Metropolitan restaurant was on the night of Christian's attendance, though I didn't dare say anything. I had a shrimp scampi style dish and the pasta was a gluey massive brick. Other than that one fiasco, the food was quite tasty in the restaurant. I thoroughly enjoyed my filet, and the lobster tails as well. We had very genial service from Preston and Cristina, our wait staff. Cristina was always fast with the dressing and water refills. We did suffer relatively long waits trying to get our sommelier to our table, and waiting for ground pepper and other small things like that. It was not uncommon for us to be through with our appetizers and soups before the wine or drinks we had requested showed up. CASUAL DINING - FOOD QUALITY [7/10] The Ocean Grill on deck 10 serves buffet-style food throughout the lunch hours, and an area nearby serves ice cream. There are also pizzas, hamburgers, hot dogs and fries available by the pool. Every evening a sushi bar is served at the Ocean Grill. We never ate in the Metropolitan for lunch as our schedules rarely allowed it. We dined in the Ocean Grill at least once a day. The food was good for buffet-quality food. The pizza was bland and be forewarned - what looks like a cheese and pesto style pizza is actually a blue cheese pizza. Blech. The burgers were dry and overcooked. The sushi, however, was outstanding. The Greek salad served aft of the ship at the salad bar is fantastic and authentic, but keep an eye out for it. They only serve it one day during the cruise. OLYMPIC DINING ROOM - FOOD QUALITY [10/10] SERVICE [10/10] There is no superlative that I can use for this restaurant that hasn't been used already by someone else, so I will be brief. The food at the Olympic was fantastic. The service was also fantastic. Watching the waiters work their tables, with the sommeliers and their assistants all mulling about the room was like watching a well-orchestrated dance. I had the Goat Cheese SoufflE, which entirely lived up to its reputation, as did the Steak Diane. My husband had the Rack of Lamb and we both got chocolate soufflEs for dessert. Our sommelier was delightful. My husband was looking at a Chilean red and our sommelier winced a bit and said it was far too tannic for his liking. He asked if we liked very tannic wines - and I specifically do not. I told him what I liked in a wine and he gave us three or four alternatives. We told him what we would be ordering for dinner and asked him which one he recommended. He gave us his recommendation and we went with that. He said, "If you do not like it, just let me know. I'll be happy to drink the rest of it myself!" He checked by three or four times to make sure we enjoyed our wine, and it was the best wine we had on the ship. MIDNIGHT GRAND BUFFET [9/10] / GOURMET BITES [6/10] The Midnight Grand Buffet, held on the last formal night, is splendid, featuring almost a dozen large ice sculptures. Flowers and decorations are entirely made out of edible fruits, sugars and even cheeses. It is worth waiting up for, even if you might be stuffed from the lobster dinner. I took many photographs of the Grand Buffet and have included them on my Millennium photo website which is listed at the bottom of this review. As an alternative to multiple late night buffets, Celebrity offers "Gourmet Bites" on many evenings in the clubs and lounges. These are small appetizers handed out by roaming waiters. I tried many and found the quality varied wildly from "Absolutely Awful, Where is my Drink So I Can Wash That Foul Taste Out of My Mouth?" to quite tasty. The first night of the Gourmet Bites was the most disappointing. They improved greatly throughout the cruise. CELEBRITY THEATER / ENTERTAINMENT [6/10] We attended Celebrity's "Broadway" show, the "Classique" show, and the final night's show, the Celebrity-produced "FantaSea" show. We missed "Pure Platinum" on the first night and so can't speak about that. The Broadway-themed show began and then stopped abruptly due to a technical failure. It resumed 15 minutes later after half of the theater had cleared out. It wasn't particularly notable. I really did not enjoy "Classique", which seemed forced and jumped around far too much theme-wise for my tastes. Plus, there were multiple spotlight failures during that show as well. After leaving "Classique" I began to wonder if any major show on this ship went on without noticeable glitches. Fortunately, Celebrity truly saved the best for last. "FantaSea" was very well-done. It was a varied and classic show that left me holding my breath and anticipating more, rather than looking at my watch wondering when the show would be over, as I had during the previous two. Entertainment around the ship and on the non-production nights was also varied. The a capella group seemed like they were trying to be the Backstreet Boys without any instruments. On our final night, our comedy juggler in the Celebrity Theater had us laughing uproariously. He was one of the best shows we saw all week long. The concert pianist featured, Craig Dahn, was long on Liberace-flash and ego and short on real piano work. He played a lot of chords and arpeggios, which look more complicated than they are, but didn't tackle the more difficult portions of Beethoven's 'Fur Elise' on stage, which I have worked on as a very elementary pianist. PORTS OF CALL / SHORE EXCURSIONS AND ACTIVITIES CASA DE CAMPO [5/10] - Everyone knocks on Casa de Campo and I am pleased to say it's not as awful as everyone has made it out to be, but it's not fantastic either. There's not much to do on this seemingly dull section of the Dominican Republic. We signed up for the Bayahibe Beach Break and found it a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time at Casa de Campo. We did not see the Kandela production in the evening, opting instead to head back to the ship to dine at the Olympic. SAN JUAN [7/10] We did no organized tours in San Juan and we didn't need to. We docked and walked through the streets, taking pictures until we hit the other side of the island (it's a narrow island in the area where we docked). I got some spectacular shots at an old cemetery along the water and at a castle. We shopped a bit and had lunch in town before heading back to the ship. ST. THOMAS [8/10] This was our favorite stop. St. Thomas is the most built up of all the islands we visited and is an eastern Caribbean port staple. Nearly every cruise ship goes here once. This was my fourth time in St. Thomas. We did the Turtle Cove Snorkeling and Sailing tour from this stop and it was the best snorkeling tour I've ever been on. The company who runs it, Doubloon (www.doubloon.com) provides a guided tour of Turtle Cove for approximately 30 minutes if you wish to follow along. There's a full hour of snorkeling, so you can do the tour and then go on your own for the next half hour. On the way back to the ship they were extremely generous with the rum punch, salsa, chips and even the Doubloon temporary tattoos. I recommend this tour to anyone who likes snorkeling, and who would love to see some sea turtles in their natural habitat. NASSAU / PARADISE ISLAND [7/10] I had never been to Nassau and didn't know what to expect. We did no organized tour here either. The port was slightly chilly, around 70-75 degrees with no humidity. It cooled down as the afternoon wore on. We were in Nassau from noon to 6PM. We left the ship shortly after noon and walked out of the major touristy area. Nassau seemed clean and attractive. We walked down to the west bay to see the lighthouse. It took about an hour and we passed by a number of gorgeous spots, plus the Pirates Pub where we stopped for a beer. From the west bay area we took a cab to the Cloisters on Paradise Island for about $15 for both of us. The Cloisters are hard to describe, but they are very old stones that had been left to languish, and were purchased and reconstructed in a beautiful section of Paradise Island. Pictures of the Cloisters can be found at my photo website listed below. We also went to the gardens on Paradise Island. From there we walked back to the main entrance to the island where the bridges are and from where you can easily see Atlantis. We took a $3 per person ferry ride back to our port in Nassau. Our guide on the ferry was very entertaining. Once we got back to Nassau we did some shopping in the area and saw a festival going on up at Bay Street. By this time it was 5PM and all of the walking and sightseeing had us worn out. We'd love to go back to Nassau again. DISEMBARKATION [0/10] All too soon it was time to leave the ship. We heard during the disembarkation talk that we were scheduled to dock at Pier 31 at Port Everglades. Our flight was out at 11:50AM from FLL, so we had beige tags, indicating we were to be 2nd off the ship. There was no priority disembarkation specifically for Concierge Class members listed. To be fair, I do not believe Celebrity could help this situation, but our disembarkation was the worst I have ever experienced on any cruise. It was the worst process imaginable. I couldn't believe how painful disembarkation was after hearing how blissfully fast it was for previous cruisers. Later, we found out that Broward County had a record number of cruise ships in port on the 21st of December (16 cruise ships, they bragged in their flyer which congratulated all of the enormously inconvenienced passengers that day for being a part of a "historic" moment.) Because Port Everglades wanted a slew of money and a "record" and didn't care about convenience for anyone involved that day, we were shuffled off the ship onto a bus that took a 15 minute drive to the Broward County Conference Center. Once there, we were not allowed to get off the bus. Instead, we were forced to sit in an overheated bus, with loud music blaring, for another hour while each bus in front of us unloaded (10-15 minutes per bus to get off all the passengers, any handicapped passengers, their carry on's, etc.) There was near mutiny. Several passengers were bordering on missing their flights. We were two of them. 75 minutes from the time we walked off the cruise ship until the time we could get to our luggage was simply, disgustingly, outrageous. Laughably, they told us after we claimed our luggage to get on another bus to go to the airport. I told the woman there was no way I would ever board another bus there again and she directed me several buses down to the taxi area. There was no organization to the taxi area, people were all clustered around and there was no line. We ended up traipsing across grass and through bushes to find an available taxi so we could get to the airport just in time to make it through security for our flight. For this reason alone, I am seriously considering never leaving from this port again. While this seemed to be a one-time occurrence, it was clear that the folks at Port Everglades had their priorities and their processes seriously screwed up. It was a miserable ending to what was otherwise quite a solid cruise. As I said, I don't think it was Celebrity's fault, but it certainly reflected very negatively on the entire trip. PASSENGER MIX As I wrote earlier, we are in our thirties. Of the passengers on board, Dru Pavlov, our cruise director, mentioned that only about 100 were under 18. There were very few children on board and the ones we saw were very well behaved. There were a large number of very elderly people on board. A solid majority were over 75. My husband and I met one couple just a few years older than us and saw only a few people who appeared to be around our age. In many cases, this was not a problem at all, but a few times we felt the age difference pretty heavily. Most notably, it was very hard to get good seats for shows as they tended to fill 30-45 minutes before the show was even scheduled to begin. It seemed that our passenger mix loved to get somewhere very, very early and wait. We also encountered some unexpected rudeness from a few elderly passengers. The "lounge chair hogs" were out in full force on this trip and it was impossible to find a good lounge chair by the pool. As we were sailing from Casa de Campo, my husband and I spotted four empty lounge chairs on the pool deck. I asked the gentleman standing next to them if they were claimed and he said he didn't think so. No towels or personal belongings were on them, so my husband and I settled down in two of the chairs. A few moments later an elderly woman with a cane and her husband came screaming at us to get out of "their" chairs, yelling that all of them were "reserved". I told her that there were no personal items anywhere near the chairs and she started waving her cane at me and yelling louder, giving me a lecture about not respecting elders and stealing her chair. I was taken aback by her horrible behavior and as we got up, all I could do was say, "You are extremely rude!" She continued to yell at us as we were leaving. An elderly woman a few chairs down saw the whole thing and offered us her chair, which we of course declined. I thought that was very kind of her, but I was shaken by the whole thing. I have never seen anyone behave so rudely in public in my life, and unfortunately, it soured me on the experience of sailing with this group. There were other similar, but more toned-down situations. Some of the elderly passengers would just walk right ahead of us in lines at the buffet, as if they didn't see us standing there. On Bayahibe beach, I was standing in a very nice beach spot putting down our beach bag and laying out our shoes while my husband moved over a lounge chair from further down on the beach. An older woman from our ship walked right up to where I was, told me to move and without even glancing at me turned around and directed one of the staff members to put down her chair where all of our things were. Overall, I was left speechless by the rude behavior I witnessed from a few of other passengers on this cruise. I had never seen this type of behavior on my other cruises. SUMMARY I was not as thrilled by the Celebrity experience as I had hoped I would be. Celebrity's service, productions, and even my fellow passengers fell short of my expectations for this cruise. Their food, however, did not disappoint and we were also very impressed with their bartenders and bar servers. My husband and I talked several times on this cruise about what we wanted to do for our next cruise. He definitely enjoyed the cruise experience, and we both want to cruise again next winter. We have decided that we will probably leave Celebrity for awhile and go back to Royal Caribbean or Disney Cruise Lines for our next cruise. We'll most likely go with Royal Caribbean and sail on one of their monster ships, which tend to attract a younger crowd. Our Celebrity cruise was a nice experience, but I think we're in search of something a little different next time. Thank you for reading this far, and if you are interested in any photos you can find them at: http://community.webshots.com/user/millieshots Read Less
Sail Date: December 2003
This was my 11th cruise with my wife (56 & 51 years old) and my first on Holland America. I normally travel on Celebrity, RCL, and Princess. This was a 7 days cruise which took in Half Moon Cay, St. Martin, St. Thomas, and finally ... Read More
This was my 11th cruise with my wife (56 & 51 years old) and my first on Holland America. I normally travel on Celebrity, RCL, and Princess. This was a 7 days cruise which took in Half Moon Cay, St. Martin, St. Thomas, and finally Nassau. The itinerary was fine, even though we have been to all ports many times before. The weather was very good around 80 most of the time and the seas were fairly calm which made for all the ingredients of a successful cruise. The Zuiderdam is about one (1) years old, but came across as a much older ship. The vessel was cheaply built (Tinny was the word used by others) and it was apparent from the start that the crew was having a hard time keeping up with all of the repair requirements which were extensive. The ship was just put into an emergency drydock for 2 days prior to this cruise at Newport News, Virginia but several of the crew members told me that few of the problems were fixed. The problems included broken public bathrooms; paint scraping above and below the surface; broken Yogurt and drink machines (Constantly); electrical problems in the private suites and problems with getting hot water. Virtually everyone on the ship encountered these problems. In addition the ship was poorly designed and poorly built. The architect built a ship that looked like it was made for the 1950's with tacky colors and design. None of the fine art work or teak work was showing on this ship which are a trade mark of Holland America. All of these problems were compounding by the fact that the crew did not clean the boat in the public areas and we found constantly dirty balconies, carpets, bathrooms, and other common areas. Other ships you constantly see the staff painting and cleaning and this was never apparent on this ship. The two swimming pools were the smallest in the industry making the 2 hours set aside for laps every day a matter for jokes. The spa pool was an extra $ 11.00 per day compared to being free on Celebrity. In the private cabins their was inadequate drawer space and the beds were hard as rocks. The bathrooms were made cheaply with a plastic shower curtain instead of glass. No bathrobes were offered which has become a standard with comparable rated cruise lines. For those that like to workout in the Gym and spa this also left a lot to be desired. The equipment was very basic and limited compared with similar sized ships. I think this was partly due to the very old crowd that normally cruises on Holland America. Walkers and wheel chairs were everywhere blocking anyone who wanted to walk quickly. To Holland America's credit they do work hard to please these customers, but this also scares away younger cruises below 70. This was definitely a cruise for the 75/90 crowd. On the positive side the ship provided some great entertainment with a very fine comedian (Tom Drake); an excellent singer (Claude Eric); and two very good production shows with a great cast of dancers and singers with excellent costumes. These shows ranked right up with the best we have seen on cruises. The food was very good and hot, but the service was inconsistent. We ate at the early seating at 6:15 pm since the late seating at 8:30 pm was much to late considering some people took almost 2 hours to be served at dinner! Some nights the service was fast at dinner and other nights our servers seem to just disappear. We liked the fresh squeezed orange juice every morning and the place settings at each table in the upstairs Lido Restaurant was very nice. I also liked that you could get a snack almost anytime in this restaurant and their was a nice ice cream bar with a variety of flavors at no extra charge. The ship provided fresh fruit in our balcony stateroom which was a nice touch and a daily limited newspaper was delivered to your cabin every morning. All public bathrooms had cloth towels in plentiful supply at all times which is not always the case with other cruise lines. During days at sea we were often bored during the afternoons. Holland America has very little in the way of exciting activities unless you consider playing cards and bingo as enough. Myself and my wife both read 2 books since we had so little alternate stimulation and even the movie theatre broke down twice during the voyage. Overall the good food and entertainment could not overcome the poor design and condition of the ship. We heard this loud and clear from the other passengers including one couple who were veterans of 35 cruises with Holland American. The notoriously famous large cabins were non existing on these new class of ships of Holland America and we frankly thought out loud that the changes were a result of Carnivilization of the fleet. In other words maximum the profit of carnival at the expense of a quality cruise. I would say that better then 70% of the passengers on this cruise said 'Never again' on this ship or Holland American. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
I traveled with a group of 10 people which included 2 teens. We all have cruised several times with RCL and also with other cruise lines. The Explorer of the Seas was one of our favorite cruises and that is why we wanted to go on the ... Read More
I traveled with a group of 10 people which included 2 teens. We all have cruised several times with RCL and also with other cruise lines. The Explorer of the Seas was one of our favorite cruises and that is why we wanted to go on the Mariner. The Inaugural cruise however was very disappointing. The ship was very beautiful but let's face it...the food is one very important part of the experience and the food on board the Mariner was not good. If any of you are familiar with the buffet restaurant "Ryan's", then you know what I'm describing. The Windjammer served the SAME exact breakfast AND lunch everyday. The prunes and oatmeal were popular and I will tell you why later. I couldn't look at the green wrap with egg salad one more time and I didn't go on a cruise for hamburgers and hot dogs (let alone dried out with stale buns). Dinner in the dining room was a huge disappointment. You couldn't get a decent steak, the salmon was hard and dry, and I think the pasta was Chef Boyardi! Also, RCL doesn't give a soda with dinner anymore. You either have to buy it or show your card with the beverage punch/sticker. Now, if you ate in the restaurant Chops, the food was great. What a difference $20/pp made. The food in Portifino was excellent. Again what a difference $20/pp made. I think RCL has cheaped out on the dining room dinners so that you will spend the extra $$$ in one of the other restaurants for good food. I mean be prepared to spend it if you are interested in a good meal. Johnny Rockets ran out of their signature hamburgers and onion rings on Wednesday and then served the hamburgers from the dining room. (Just when I tried to get away from those!) The Cafe Promenade had the same exact stale croissant sandwiches everyday but the cookies and pizza were good. The service was excellent and the employees were very nice. I don't know if Port Canaveral brings out the "older" bunch of cruisers or just this particular cruise, but most of the people on board were at least 80 yrs old. (That's why the prunes and oatmeal were popular!) And I have never seen so many walkers, wheelchairs, canes, seeing eye dogs and motorized "rascals" in my life! At 6pm in front of the dining rooms the rascals were lined up like it was a parking lot! (The dogs however were very sweet and made me miss mine at home!) The stairs however were ALWAYS empty and was my choice of getting around. All the "slow movers" did make it tough getting anywhere in a timely manner. The casino ran out of small bills on Thursday. That was strange. The Adventure Ocean program for the older teens was terrible. All they had was a teen disco with music that was empty most of the time. No activities at all were planned. No crafts, scavenger hunts, contests or ANYTHING for the kids. Once again RCL has in place entertainment available in the game room for $1.00 - $5.00/play. There weren't any attendants available when the machines took the money and didn't work.(Another great way for RCL to pay for the beautiful ship!) The Sprinkles Ice Cream station was turned off every day around 8pm and didn't get turned back on until around noon the next day. Room service was pitiful. Your choices were cold cereal, fruit, coffee/tea, juice and 2 other snacks. That's it. For the first time getting off a RCL cruise I am looking for another cruise line to go on for my next cruise. I know for sure it won't be the Mariner. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
We cruised on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas on a repositioning itinerary, Boston to San Juan, 10/31/03. It appealed to us because it sailed from our home town. There were 4 of us: my wife, our almost 2-yea old daughter, her ... Read More
We cruised on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas on a repositioning itinerary, Boston to San Juan, 10/31/03. It appealed to us because it sailed from our home town. There were 4 of us: my wife, our almost 2-yea old daughter, her grandmother, and me. My main reason for writing is to provide a heads-up to others with very young children: Royal Caribbean isn't for you. I've had bad luck relying on travel agents, so I tend to research our vacations myself pretty thoroughly in advance. Before booking this trip, I looked up RCCL's website, other cruise websites & reviews, brochures, etc. to get as much info as I could. I noticed that there was a rule that the indoor pool/solarium was adults only, and that the organized Club Ocean programs were for kids 3 & up toilet trained, but couldn't find any other rules regarding diaper-aged kids, so I contacted RCCL directly. I knew that the ship lacks a dedicated children's pool but I asked if our daughter could at least use the outdoor pool, and use the playroom if supervised by us, and was told yes. Once on board, we encountered many large, boldly printed signs with stern rules clearly stating that children in diapers or pull ups were not permitted in any pool or playroom under any circumstances, period, even with swim diapers and parental supervision. Ouch. The Club Ocean supervisor simply handed us a bag with a couple of plastic toys in it to use in our cabin, as if this would solve everything for 8 days of sailing. I'm not criticizing these rules, they can make any rules they like, and we aren't the kind of parents who think our child is the center of the universe and should be able to go anywhere. But it was frustrating that while they had no trouble stating this policy very clearly once on board, it is not written anywhere in any company literature available before booking/boarding. Further, their own people seemed to be unaware of this rule when I contacted them. Do they bury this info to get you to buy, and then let you find out when it's too late to cancel? If they want an older crowd, they should just make the rules clear, and they will get the clientele they want, we can go elsewhere, and everyone's happy. (Are these rules unique to Royal Caribbean? I don't know, but we've been to resorts, playrooms, health clubs, and even public pools with no such restriction.) Bottom line: If you have diaper-aged kids, find another vacation. Other comments about the cruise: Food: Fair to good banquet quality food. I was surprised that dinner offerings in the Windjammer buffet were about the same quality as in the main dining room. Service in both the dining room and the Windjammer at dinner (which we found easier with a 2 year old) was outstanding. At dinner the Windjammer is quiet, laid back and very friendly, with wait staff offering wine, desserts, etc. so it was actually a nice change from the structured banquet hall feel of the big dining room. They treated our daughter like she was their own. They even had a high chair set up for her each night, with her own specially folded napkin ready and waiting. Unlike company management, the wait staff in both rooms seems to like having toddlers around. One minor gripe...I know that main dining room seating isn't necessarily based on cabin price, but c'mon. We had the 2nd most expensive type of accommodation on board, and we were assigned to a dining room table in a dark, low ceiling area in a far corner of the room, next to a noisy busboy station. Couldn't they save those tables for folks paying bargain basement fares for inside cabins? It's another reason why we ended up in the Windjammer a lot. Cabin: Excellent. We had a 2 bedroom/2bath family suite aft, which had a large living room with a glass wall overlooking a huge balcony facing the rear of the ship on deck 8. Highly recommended, especially if your family would otherwise need two regular balcony rooms, since it's cost competitive and has a much nicer balcony and living area. The "master" bedroom opens directly on to the balcony and has its own bathroom. The 2nd bedroom can sleep up to 4, has no window and is next to the 2nd bath. No noise problems, as there are cabins-no lounges- on the floor below and the spa directly above. Since our daughter had limited recreation options on the ship, we used the balcony a lot and improvised water games with a beach pail and squirt bottle. (Of course, we could do that at home for free!) The cabin, and the ship in general, were in good condition. A broken mirror hinge in the bathroom was fixed before I even had a chance to tell anyone. Itinerary: Boston/Bermuda/Antigua/St. Maarten/San Juan. Repositioning itineraries are nice if you like lots of at-sea days, which we do. I found the port days rather stressful. In St. Maarten, for example, we shared the pier with RCCL's mega ship Adventure of the Seas, plus the nearly as large Brilliance of the Seas, and another smaller ship, the Pacific. All together, this meant that about 8,000 passengers were descending on the Island at one time, total chaos. Just try to get a cab to any place (or worse yet, get one back). By the way, Bermuda is in remarkably good condition considering they had a major Hurricane only about 5 weeks earlier. Overall: Adequate food, nice cabin and great service... it could be a pleasant vacation for the people Royal Caribbean's facilities cater to--people without toddlers. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
My husband and I have been on 15 cruises in the last 3 years, We have sailed on every major line in the industry. We are pretty much laid back people and we had always thought that there was no such thing as a " Bad Cruise" but ... Read More
My husband and I have been on 15 cruises in the last 3 years, We have sailed on every major line in the industry. We are pretty much laid back people and we had always thought that there was no such thing as a " Bad Cruise" but alas, we just experienced one. For HAL's benefit I will list the positives first: 1} Embarkation and debarkation were easy and very organized. 2} Casino literally gave away money!! I truly had never seen a ship casino pay out on so many slot machines. 3} Entertainment was better than average. That's IT for positives!! Now for the negatives The Zuiderdam cannot find its place in the HAL lineup, You know that they are trying to achieve a younger audience but they just can't pull it off. Between the Decor, (If you could call it that) which looks like a remnant sale at Kmart , the closed in hallways, the low ceilings and congested layout, this boat is was headed for disaster before it even left on its maiden voyage. We read the message boards before going on board, so we sort of knew what to expect. The first time cruisers on this ship probably thought it was wonderful, but if you are a seasoned cruiser, PAY ATTENTION TO NEGATIVE FEEDBACK on different boards, they are all true!! The vibration problem in the back of the ship is NOT a myth, it is a reality. After speaking with the maitre 'd requesting a change of tables BEFORE the ship even sailed, he informed us that the upper level dining room was completely booked and not to worry we were in the front of the lower dining room. And by the way, he mentioned that they had brought in heavier tables to reduce the vibration so the plates don't vibrate off the tables anymore. We knew we were in trouble when I asked if it was true that the ship was going into dry dock. He responded with a reluctant yes, and the ship will be drydocked in December for Mechanical Problems.. The sewer odor problem is NOT a fantasy! This ship is obviously not vented properly, because at certain times of the day the overwhelming odor of raw sewage is prevalent throughout the ship. We could not use our balcony every morning because of it. Maintenance was sent, but they were well aware of the problem and their was nothing that they could do. Lack of maintenance was appalling, this ship is only 9 MONTHS OLD! It could easily pass for at least 5 years old. Water leaks in The "GRAND ATRIUM" turned the gold leaf green and moldy. I watched the art auction with buckets around me to catch dripping water from the ceilings. Decks were not cleaned in th A.M. from the previous evening. Laminate surfaces were buckling everywhere, door cabinets were hanging off hinges, paint was falling off the balcony roof in our friends' mini suite. HAL definitely gets an F in maintenance. Dining room service is a disaster. We had only a waiter, no asst. waiter or busboy. The food service was rushed and hurried ,they were trying to get second seating diners out in 1 hour! We had to keep calling the maitre 'd over to tell our waiter to slow down. The first night at dinner he threw the menus at us and told us to make it "snappy". It all went downhill from there. The food was mediocre at best, the dessert selection was even worse, unless of course you consider JELLO to be a Treat! We were constantly holding onto our plates so our waiter would not swipe it away from us while we were in "Mid - Bite". It got so bad that the Head waiter removed our waiter from our section and served us exclusively the last 3 nights of our cruise. We were not alone in hearing dining room horror stories from other passengers. We knew of at least 10 other tables that were experiencing the same kind of service. We also took a walk toward the back of the dining room one evening to "experience" the vibration problem. If anyone DARES to write that they felt no vibration, then they were either dead or drugged. You had to raise your voice just to have a conversation and the background noise from the vibration was like a scene out of the movie EARTHQUAKE! HAL definitely gets an F for dining room service. Our Cabin which was a category B balcony was below typical of other cruise lines. Once again you had the WAL-MART decor surrounding you, which flowed so beautifully with the prison grey corridor walls. A painting or two would help along the corridor walls but they obviously didn't have it in their budget. HAL gets a D for room and hallway decor. The Staff on board was helpful in getting my room changed from the back of the boat to midship (Due to the heavy vibration in our cabin). Other than that you are basically getting Holiday Inn level of service. I will have to say that room service was the highlight of HAL'S customer service. HAL gets a C- for service (it would have been a D if not for room service)! I have taken pictures of many of these things that I have listed here and intend to email them to HAL. Let's just say that this was a major disappointment on HAL's part. As everyone knows HAL is giving away their cruises because the senior population is not traveling as much as they once did and they have to open themselves to other markets. They have a very long way to go and should look upon Celebrity Cruise line as their role model. If you are a 1st time cruiser all I could say is Bon Voyage, If you are a truly experienced cruiser then you will quickly know that all is not right with this vessel. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2000
We have cruised 5 times 4 of which were on Carnival . We gave Royal Caribbean a try this time. We stayed at the Raddisson Miami May 29th, it seemed when we said we were with Royal Caribbean we were treated poorly. We were promised a sleep ... Read More
We have cruised 5 times 4 of which were on Carnival . We gave Royal Caribbean a try this time. We stayed at the Raddisson Miami May 29th, it seemed when we said we were with Royal Caribbean we were treated poorly. We were promised a sleep number bed and never got one, the wallpaper was falling off the walls, no smoke alarm and the carpet smelled like the toilet overflowed and was never cleaned up. We consulted the manager and was told that was the room Royal caribbean booked for us. The Explorer of the Seas is a beautiful ship embarkation didn't take long at all and went smoothly. The activities were all good, the parades and ice skating show were wonderful. Our balcony room was worn and soiled. They were in the middle of renovations with the rooms so hopefully this will be corrected. The room steward was always around and left his cart in the hall. The fold down bed never was completely made. One sheet thrown over the fold down couch. Carnival's stewards came and went without seeing them and we always had clean well stocked rooms. Soft fold down beds. No bathrobes either that are standard w Carnival. The swim towels were only worn towels and not very big. The shore excursion we choose in St. Maarten was the 4x4 jeep and was a lot of fun, the BOB underwater excursion in St. Thomas is not to be missed, San Juan city/rum factory tour was good too. They let us off the bus to shop also in old San Juan. Bahamas we did the Breezes day, Not really worth the money we didn't leave until 1 only had 3 hours and was very crowded. On Carnival you were given a meeting room to meet for tours then got off the ship together. Royal caribbean just lets you off and you must find a small 5x7 sign to meet the tour. Many people were angry. totally disorganized. Dining was not what we were used to with Carnival we had to wait up to 10 min between courses. My son asked for milk with dinner every nite only got it the first night. It seemed too much trouble. The cocktail waiter never came by and the photographers never showed either. The grand buffet where they really fix up food was a big disappointment. Carnival's is so much better. We booked an after cruise excursion because our flight was at 4pm. we were told this would take up the time after disembarkation before the plane. Big mistake we had to get off the ship at 7a and there was no food available room service or dining room before then. The excursion was over at noon. We sat at the airport 4 hours. Carnival does things differently, more parties more organization and better service. Being a seasoned traveler it could be just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I think we will stick with Carnival. Read Less
If you cruise with your children or are someone who has cruised before who is considering taking your kids on a cruise and you are considering DCL, PLEASE do yourself a favor and read this before making a decision. I must warn you folks ... Read More
If you cruise with your children or are someone who has cruised before who is considering taking your kids on a cruise and you are considering DCL, PLEASE do yourself a favor and read this before making a decision. I must warn you folks this review be lengthy..... I recently returned from a 7 day voyage on the Disney Magic (sailing 9/18). This was my 9th cruise on my 6th cruise line so I have a pretty good idea of what is out there as far as cruising products go and also what I like (and don't). Since I have cruised on Celebrity more than any other cruise line (and thus far like them best) my thoughts on my DCL trip are based on a comparison of how they measure up (or don't) to Celebrity. In a nutshell, I felt that as a Disney experience this rated about a 3 (on a scale of 5) and as a cruise it rated a 2. And honestly, that opinion has nothing to do with Hurricane Jeanne. First let's start with what we liked. The cabin was perfect. For two adults and one child, our cabin was the perfect size. We booked an outside stateroom guarantee and were upgraded to a verandah cabin so we were fairly pleased with that. There was more storage and drawer space in this cabin than any other stateroom I have ever seen - including a suite on Celebrity. I liked the concept of the split bath (toilet and sink in one bathroom, tub and sink in another), however in practice, the toilet room was quite small and sometimes hard to maneuver especially if in a gown while making one last bathroom break on formal night. The shows: Hercules was probably the best show I have ever seen at sea, the Golden Mickey's was close behind. Lots of folks had raved about Disney Dreams - maybe it was too hyped up for me but I was pretty much underwhelmed by that particular show. Now on to the things I didn't like.... The layout of the ship: On a ship with 2700 people where every third person is pushing a stroller of some sort, it makes no sense to me to only be able to traverse the length of the ship on ONE side! On decks 3, 4 and 5, what I would call the "main" decks, that contain the dining rooms, the lounges, shops, theaters etc - one can only travel from the fore to the aft of the ship on the port side. There are no walkways to be found starboard. The walkways that are available on the port side are only maybe two or three people wide so if you are walking with your partner and another couple is coming from the opposite direction, the two couples must then walk single file in order to pass one another. And on deck 4, between mid ship and aft is the photo gallery which at various times during the cruise would be closed completely - meaning that on deck 4 you could NOT get to the aft of the ship - you had to back track to a stairwell and go either down to 3 or up to 5. More on the layout: I found the Lido/buffet area to be entirely too small for the number of people on this ship. There were 4 buffet lines up on deck nine and I would be surprised if there were 20 tables set up indoors for people to get out of the sun and heat and enjoy lunch - plenty of tables outside, but not nearly enough inside for the number of people on the ship. They did also serve buffet lunch on deck 3 in their Parrot Cay restaurant but if you and your family are enjoying a sea day in the pools, hiking 6 flights of stairs down to lunch is not really practical. The stairs, or more accurately the elevators. Very very very very slow. Not sure if it is due to the number of people maneuvering strollers in and out of them or what but the main theme of this cruise was pressing the button for the elevator, waiting 10 minutes then finally saying "screw it - let's just take the stairs". The tag in the elevators claims to hold 12 people. This may be true, if the 12 people are all under the age of 5. IMHO, these elevators hold 4, possibly 5 adults comfortably, as in, you are not concerned about stepping on anyone's toes or if you applied enough deodorant that day. The pools on DCL, unlike other cruise ships I have sailed, are fresh water. They are not however chlorinated, judging by the lack of visibility in the water. Unsure what method they employ (or don't) to keep their pools clean but what ever it is they need to consider another option because they were fairly dirty with very cloudy water most of the trip. The Mickey pool is certainly not big enough for the number of kids on this ship and even when not overcrowded you STILL couldn't see Mickey's face at the bottom because the water was so cloudy. The Goofy pool same thing only larger kids. The "Quiet" Cove adult pool? Hardly! While not crowded really it is located RIGHT BENEATH the ship's horn! So that means every day at noon, the adults trying to enjoy a QUIET relaxing sea day by the adults only pool get their ear drums ruptured by When You Wish Upon a Star! Quiet - yeah right. More on pools - or lack of. No Spa Pool! My husband and I completely enjoy the thalassotherapy pools on Celebrity and were disappointed to not find one or something similar on DCL. Also, the spa treatments did not really appeal to us, not a large variety and their prices seemed higher than other cruise lines...After a full summer with Hannah home with me all day everyday, I was looking forward to getting pampered in the spa and having a bit of respite and relaxation for me and didn't feel I would be getting a good value for my money and I would be better off getting my spa treatments on land. Ahhh......relaxation for Mommy. Let's talk about the children's activities. To say I was disappointed in the activities on DCL is a huge understatement. Five year old Hannah's first cruise was September 2003 on the Celebrity Galaxy. A 10 day Western Caribbean cruise out of Baltimore. Everyday on the Galaxy she woke up BEGGING to go to the kids club. When we picked her up at noon for lunch and a little nap, she could not wait to return. Every evening we asked her if she wanted to eat with Mommy and Daddy in the fancy restaurant or if she wanted to eat in kids club and every single night kids club beat out Mommy and Daddy - which was actually kind of nice because that means every night I got a nice quiet, romantic meal with my husband. Hannah never asked to go the kids club on DCL and often did not want to stay very long once there. One nice option on DCL was that every parent who registered their child for the programs received a pager. If Hannah wanted to leave the kids club she just let a counselor know and they would send us a text message. She wanted to be picked up, a lot. And honestly, I can't really blame her. It seemed like every time we went to get her the kids were all lined up in front of a giant TV screen watching a movie! Maybe my expectations were too high for the DCL kids club. Based on their advertising and the fact everyone gives them 4 or 5 stars in their reviews AND the fact they don't have to pay licensing fees, I figured the Disney Characters would be an integral part of the kids club activities. Maybe a Princess Story Hour where each day a different Princess comes in a reads her story to the children or leads them in a craft related to their story. Or have Goofy do some "Olympics" type games. Or at least have Captain Hook run the How to Be a Pirate activity. In order for Hannah to have any kind of character interaction I had to stop what I was doing, go retrieve her from the kids club and wait in line to see a character often for 20 minutes or more. The character appearances, IMHO were more about the photographers taking pictures for people to buy than about children having a once in a lifetime moment with their favorites. As far as the more traditional aspects of cruising go, food and service, I was also completely unimpressed and downright displeased with most of it. I have decided I do not like the policy of only having my stateroom tended twice a day, morning and night. I like on X how if I leave my room for five minutes someone has gone in and re-hung towels, replenished water and ice, etc. It took us a total of FIVE phone calls our first day on DCL to establish that we wanted water and ice in our stateroom all day every day. Apparently our room steward can only handle ice and not a pitcher of water as well, that must come from room service. And then once we established with room service to just bring the ice water every day they wouldn't stop bringing it - even at 11 o'clock at night with the Privacy Please sign on our door. Why even have these signs if they are ignored? On DCL, as on HAL, I am not sure I could pick my room steward out of a police line up. He/she (not even sure which it was) never took a moment to introduce themself to us and let us know they would be taking care of us and if we needed anything to call. If you want to receive above the suggested tip amount then spend less time making towel animals and more time making sure I know at least what you look like! Our service in the dining room was very good and in line with what I expect to receive on a cruise ship however the food very much was not. Breakfast was fine and dandy and lunch was okay. Dinner, except for the specialty restaurant, was disappointing. When I dine on a cruise ship, I have to come to expect a meal that I would normally pay around $100-$150 per couple on land. A Ruth's Chris experience if you will. The choices were unimaginative and poorly prepared. I loathe the rotating dining concept. The only restaurant who's dEcor was even close to being what I expect on a cruise was Lumiere's. Parrot Cay was like eating in a Bahama Breeze's or tropical themed Outback Steakhouse. The light show in Animators Palate? Please spend more time and money on the cuisine and less on this "show". In all three restaurants, my rear was treated to vinyl seats. I understand the number of young children who may spill food or not control their bladders but when I am wearing a silk formal gown, I would prefer to sit someplace that does NOT make my butt sweat! Palo's - now THIS was more like it! We were able to dine there on two separate nights and both were heavenly. The first night I had a rack of lamb that was so good I ate it very slowly because I did not want the meal to end! I am unsure why this level of cuisine is reserved only for the specialty restaurant. Can't you just make Palo's executive chef in charge of everything else too so I can have more than 2 nights of wonderful dining?!?!? I missed afternoon tea. We did not attend tea at Palo's and I am sorry to have missed it, it may have been more like what I expect. We did wait on line the first day to get tickets for Tea with Wendy Darling. I am not sure I can put into words what a complete waste of time this event was. The "tea" was cold, as in iced tea. And rather than little cucumber sandwiches and proscuitto (sp?) wrapped melon balls and other tea like foods I have come to expect from Celebrity and even the Royal Dutch tea on HAL there was a plate with 3 or 4 overcooked, unflavorful chocolate chip cookies. Again this event was about the ship's photo crew taking pictures for you to purchase. As mentioned, our cruise was affected by Hurricane Jeanne. We hit 8-13 ft seas and even though our cabin was great in size it was horrible for noise, as we tossed and turned with the seas our room creaked so much I was afraid it was going to come apart at the seams! On Thursday the Captain announced we would not be calling on Castaway Cay on Friday due to Jeanne's proximity to the Bahamas. I was mildly disappointed, but it is what it is, this was not something that could be controlled by anyone on earth. By Friday afternoon the Captain announced that Port Canaveral would be closing at midnight that night and we would be disembarking the ship around 10:30 pm that night. DCL provided lodging for all passengers at the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan resorts and provided bus transportation to WDW and breakfast Saturday morning. DCL has offered us 50% off of our next voyage which I find generous considering we paid for, and received, 7 nights of lodging and food. It just so happens the final nights lodging was at the Dolphin (in a Sweet Sleeper bed - BONUS!) I understand and appreciate the need to get us off the ship so they could put back out to sea for the safety of the crew and the vessel BUT, I am unsure if disembarking a ship full of young children, toddlers and infants at 11:00pm was the best idea. It was 2 am before we got into bed that evening and a good portion of the children on board we poorly behaved even with a full 8 hours of sleep! I am unsure if we will take DCL up on their offer for 50% off our next cruise. Even at half price I feel it may be too high. Maybe a 3 night to get to see Castaway Cay. But honestly for my money, if we want to give Hannah a Disney experience we will take her to the parks for a week and if we want to go on a cruise, we will go on a real cruise line that we know will meet or exceed our expectations Read Less

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