1. Home
  2. Cruise Destinations
  3. Panama Canal & Central America Cruises
  4. Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews
Cruise Ratings
1,829
1,175
662
393
172
Preface: Seabourn has always been my preferred Cruise Line since I sailed on Seabourn Goddess II, now Seadream II, the Seabourn Sun, formerly the Royal Viking Sun and now the Holland America Ship Princendam. This was my 5th Seabourn ... Read More
Preface: Seabourn has always been my preferred Cruise Line since I sailed on Seabourn Goddess II, now Seadream II, the Seabourn Sun, formerly the Royal Viking Sun and now the Holland America Ship Princendam. This was my 5th Seabourn Legend cruise, and this ship is by far my favorite! I hope you enjoy my review, and take it from the cruisers that know me, CruiserDan always tells it like it is! The Ship: I disembarked my last Seabourn Legend cruise on December 5, 2002. The ship was scheduled for a 2-week dry dock then to resume its Caribbean and Panama Canal itineraries. We were told at the time that new CD players were to be installed in the suites, new carpeting throughout (in dire need) and several bars were going to have all new upholstery on the furniture. I was anticipating a fresh "new" Legend. Although the ship was sparkling clean, and maintained beautifully by the hard working staff, it lacked what was promised. No CD players, no new upholstery (personally, I didn't think that was necessary) and the carpeting was not replaced. We were told the Pride beat the Legend on the carpeting delivery and installation. Hopefully next dry dock, these things will be completed. At every port, the maintenance staff was hard at work painting the exterior, re-varnishing the teak rails, and polishing brass. The dining room was always in perfect condition. Although the ship was built a decade ago, it has the charm, elegance and sophistication that is timeless. I would rate the condition of the ship a 90% taken the fact that some regular maintenance and updating is still required. The Staff: I can't say enough good things about the hard working staff on the Legend. I enjoyed seeing familiar faces, and met some new friends. They immediately called me by name, offered assistance in any way possible, and anticipated every need. The Cruise Director, Dan Hodge, was pleasant, extremely passenger friendly and professional. I give him a near perfect score. The assistant Cruise Directors were Gina Pontone, and Helen Kitching. They both were a joy to sail with. Gina offered true "star" quality with her over-the-top performances and sparkling friendliness and energy. Helen offered the true "nice girl next door" type with a voice of an angel. They both are fairly new to Seabourn, and I hope to sail with them often in the future. Bruce Tilden the Club entertainer has always been a favorite of mine. He went out of his way several times to make sure each and every passenger was happy with the music selections. His beaming personality was apparent each and every night. This is truly a talented piano player and singer. I consider him a personal friend. Dan, Gina, Helen, and Bruce are a true team made in Seabourn heaven! The Captain was Karlo Buer. I have never sailed with him, and found him to be a bit "stand-offish" for a Seabourn Captain. He rarely hosted a table, and was not visible to the passengers during the day. He did, however, get us to all the ports safely and in a timely manner. The Hotel Manager was Guenter Steinbrunner. He was excellent interacting with the passengers and running a smooth ship. At the latter part of the cruise, he was training ex- Maitre D'Hotel Christopher for an upcoming promotion, working in Miami at the Seabourn headquarters. My stewardess, Anna (or China, as I liked to call her) was beautiful and brilliant. She went out of her way throughout the full cruise to make my sailing as comfortable as possible. I can't say enough about her. She is a true 100%. I don't normally comment on the Doctor on board, as I usually don't have the pleasure of his company, but having been very sick for 5 days of the cruise, I did have the opportunity to rate him. Dr. Michael Woch, ex-figure skater, Polish decent and living in Canada. I went to see him during his limited office hours (9 AM-10 AM). I was complaining of severe stomach pain, headache, nausea and tiredness. I won't go into specific details, to spare the reader. He prescribed Imodium. I had already taken 2 the night before. He told me to take 2 immediately, and then 1 after, well you know. By the next morning I had taken a total of 12 and had run out of pills. I visited him again, and to my surprise he gave me another 5. Later, after emailing home, my pharmacist explained that 4 a day are usually the max, and never more than 8 a day. He also didn't take into consideration that several crewmembers had the exact virus the week before and several more came down with it the latter part of the cruise. Enough of that. My rating of the Doctor is 50%, but because I don't usually include the Dr. in my cruise ratings, it will not affect the staff rating. I rate the staff, as a whole at 95%. The Entertainment: As I mentioned in the last segment, Dan, Gina, Helen and Bruce are true professionals. They provide fantastic entertainment that go far and beyond most cruise ships. They don't do the glitzy showy stuff that you might experience on a large ship, just the basic good music and showmanship. The guest entertainers consisted of Graham Scott, a brilliant concert pianist, and Joe Monti a magician/comedian. I preferred the former to the latter. Of course, during the day the staff provided entertainment in the form of trivia challenge (a personal favorite), putting tournaments, spa lectures, and wine and spirit tasting. For a small ship, the entertainment and staff is first class. 98% rating. The Itinerary: Our itinerary started in Caldera Costa Rica and ended in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. We stopped in 3 ports in Costa Rica, Playa Flamingo and Puerto Quepos on the Pacific side, and Puerto Moen on the Atlantic side. We sailed through the Panama Canal with a stop in Fuerto Amador near Panama City. One stop in Roatan Honduras, and 2 stops in Belize, Hunting Cay and Belize City. Very interesting ports that I had not experienced, and 5 relaxing sea days. I would rate the itinerary at 95%. The Shore Excursions: I experienced 4 exciting shore excursions, and will only comment on these. At the first port I experienced "Tree Canopy Jumping". I am fearful of heights, but felt I would never have the opportunity to do it again, I participated! This excursion had the participant up to 150 feet in the air, sliding from one taught steel cable through the trees to platforms. It was very exciting, and safe, as you were harnessed with mountain climbing gear. This is an excursion NOT to be missed! A lot of fun! The next excursion was the complimentary Seabourn Experience at the Gamboa Rain Forest Resort in Panama. We were treated to a cable car ride through the forest treetops, a festive show with buffet lunch, and swimming at the resort. A very nice experience for all of the guests. In Roatan Honduras, I experienced a "Dolphin Encounter". I met my trainer at beach side, and was able to touch and interact with "Gracie" the dolphin! The dolphins put on quite a show for us, and interacted with each and every passenger. The photo opportunities were awesome. The trip was overbooked, so half the participants left for the excursion an hour later, and missed some valuable time at the beach that was available. The dolphin encounter is one not to be missed. The last excursion I participated in was "Cave Tubing" in Belize. After a 2-hour bumpy ride to the Jaguar Paw resort, we set off on our adventure. Only 13 guests participated in the excursion, so a comfortable van was provided. To our shock, when we arrived, we learned of 3 mega ships docked nearby and droves of tourists. Our guide suggested we take an alternative route to the river, hiking up and over mountainous terrain. We were in for a surprise! The path consisted of very steep upward and downward climbs and slippery surfaces. As our group had fitness in our favor, no one was injured and we all arrived at the river in one piece. We boarded our inner tubes, and set off through 3 caves. Because it was so dark inside each cave, they provided us all miner lanterns to wear on our heads. I think tour operators come up with these gadgets to make us all look silly! After 2 hours of tubing, a nice lunch was provided, and we made it back to the ship. This excursion was another success. Ellie Szollosy does a great job as Travel Manager, and I give her excursion adventures a 99%. The Passengers: The average age of the passengers was about 45 to 50 years of age. They consisted of well-heeled cruisers to first time passengers. This particular crowd seemed a bit more quiet and reserved than the usual Seabourn passenger. Usually there are several "characters" on board, and a very lively late night crowd. This was not the case. The casino only enjoyed a few busy evenings, and typically the Club closed between midnight and 1 AM. Everyone seemed to have a great time. I don't rate passengers. The Food and Drink: Hands down, Seabourn provides the best food afloat. I was not disappointed. Chef Pascal DePortemont prepares innovative dishes and special requests. Seabourn has retained Chef Charlie Palmer as the inspiration on board, but Chef Pascal's interpretations of the recipes are truly divine. The soups are the best I've ever tasted, and the French fries and wine for lunch is truly Nirvana. The bar service is wonderful. A personal favorite, Christian, manned the Sky bar. Another pro, Michael, manned the Observation bar. A newcomer, Jacques, manned the Club. Jacques was the only "weak link" and his inexperience showed. Hopefully he will improve, or be assigned another position on board. Seabourn excels in the food and beverage department. My rating is 98%. Overall: Seabourn did it again. They provided excellent service, accompanied with a smile. From the initial glass of Champagne after embarkation to final good-byes. New friends and memories were made, in a first class style. Although I lost 5 days because of illness, I still rate this trip at 95%. Thanks again Seabourn, the cruise line whose motto is "What is it about Yes you don't understand?" PRS 68@aol.comMay 2003 Read Less
Cruise December 14 to December 24, 2005 Embarkation Went smoothly and quickly. We boarded at noon and found no crowd as the cruise information implied by saying its smoother after 2:00 p.m. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and ... Read More
Cruise December 14 to December 24, 2005 Embarkation Went smoothly and quickly. We boarded at noon and found no crowd as the cruise information implied by saying its smoother after 2:00 p.m. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and overnighted there at a motel that provided transportation to the pier. Others who drove to the cruise parked at hotels/motels that they stayed at overnight where parking for the duration of the cruise was either at a nominal charge or no charge. For those who drove to the ship and parked in the garage, there was the inconvenience of leaving from Pier 2 and returning at Pier 21. Baggage delivery was terribly slow. Didnt get our bags until at least 6:30 p.m. -- we were at dinner in our jeans (hooray!). Others were not pleased also. Food We elected Anytime Dining in that we wanted the flexibility it affords. Generally, the breakfast and lunch food was good. Portions at breakfast, lunch, and dinner were adequate. At dinner, the Beef Wellington, lobster, baked clams (appetizer), and scallops were quite good, but my steak was tough and neither mine nor my wifes were cooked as we liked them, and the baked potato was not cooked. Service varied from meal to meal with the last breakfast being totally inefficient. The waiter didnt seem to be able to take more than one customers order at a time. Bayou Cafe: fillets not cooked appropriately, but nice size. Service was terrible. It wasnt crowded, but we had to continuously ask waiter for water. Others reported that they did not have the same problems (perhaps different staff on duty). Sabatinis: Absolutely excellent in all ways  food and service (well worth the extra $20/person). Horizon Court: Food below par at all meals, but was plentiful and many choices (many more choices than in dining room). Pizza bar is excellent and there is no extra charge. Paying extra for ice cream at the Ice Cream Bar is ridiculous. Free ice cream in the Horizon Court in mid-afternoon was available, but the scooper could have been used to scoop melons. Be careful of very slippery floor very early in the morning. Soft drink card for $39.50 is pricey. To this they added 15% for a gratuity (another indicator of the cheap attitude felt by even those who had cruised with Princess many, many times --- i.e., ever since it was acquired by Carnival -- another was our cabin steward saying that he is allotted only a certain number of chocolates for pillows). Formal Nights We were pleasantly surprised that there was a loosening of the requirements that men had to wear tuxedos, suits, or sport jackets in that I dont believe in playing dress up when on vacation. A pair of slacks for men and a shirt with a collar works for men and slacks and a blouse or a dress works for women. The crew, wait staff, etc. didnt give a hoot, but we did get some disparaging stares from snooty passengers. Too bad. Our money is a green as theirs. Amenities There are several antimicrobial liquid dispensers at the Horizon Court buffet. Would be a good idea to have it at all dining areas and when reboarding the ship. Bring you own laundry bag if youre planning on doing laundry. Laundry facilities good. Costs $1.00 for detergent, $1.00 for a wash, $1.00 for a dry. Bring quarters in that coin change machine might not work or be out of quarters. Be aware that slot machine tokens might be in the coins the change machines make. Theyll work in the laundry equipment, but are useless off the ship. Surprisingly, the cost for dry cleaning is not any more than youd pay in many cities (e.g., I had a pair of short dry cleaned and the price was $3.25). Would have been nice to have instructions printed on the laundry bag as to what to do with the clothes (i.e., turn it in where, give to cabin steward, or. . .). Too many attempts by photographers to take pictures that then are a rip off. If they say 8-1/2 by 11 pictures, theyre giving you the paper size. The picture is considerably smaller with maps and other material covering much of the page. Communication and Disabilities Communication is not a strong feature on the Coral Princess. In fact, its pretty bad. Incorrect information in the onboard publications (someone should help the writers with appropriate capitalization of words), including signage throughout the ship being less than adequate, information on the onboard TV not being accurate (insurance on purchases that applied to earlier cruises was broadcast throughout one day, but no one seemed to have a clue about it), and the requirement that you must carry picture ID when leaving the ship (not once were we asked for this, especially since the electronic system now in use has your picture displayed each time your boarding card is scanned). Also, would be a nice feature if the ship announced the weather forecast in addition to the condition of the seas. Ship was very accommodating to persons with motor disabilities (many wheel chairs, canes, walkers). Cabin Our cabin was on the Aloha Deck (Deck 12) and we had a balcony. Cabin was good sized with a very large closet and adequate drawer space. Bathroom was typical and shower size was OK (unless you weight 350 lbs  we dont). Two electric outlets next to each other on the desk and one in bathroom. Bring a power strip if you need more. Balcony adequate for two (two chairs and a table). Facial tissue: cheap brand and like sandpaper. There was no clock, but the wakeup call did work. Bring your own clock. The one on your cell phone wont work (duh!). The only problem we had with the cabin (it was amidships) is that it was below an area where they must have kept livestock in that there were hoof beats late into the night. A complaint to the pursers desk was ignored. Others said the same about the noise. Also ignored was our request to visit the bridge and we did not receive any notification one way of the other that was supposed to be forthcoming in writing. Ignored requests and complaints relates to the communication problem noted above. Written complaint about the Tulum tour (see below) did result in a letter of apology and a refund of a third of the price. Crew The strong point was that the young men and women from many countries who worked in numerous capacities (wait staff, clerks, maintenance, etc.) were delightful and most helpful. It was surprising to find that the maintenance department dispatched a worker to replace a flickering light with 10 minutes of the call. Cabin steward did his job. Entertainment We went to three shows (productions) and the magician (he did the traditional Transformation and also walking through a mirror). The production numbers had good themes and staging, but absolutely the wrong choice of music for the productions. Cast was generally good, except for one singer who screamed and was often off key. Piano player/singer in the atrium lounge was fun, good, and entertaining. Tours Montego Bay  Return to ship by 3:30 p.m.; ship scheduled to leave at 4:00 p.m. Actually left at 4:45 p.m. Should have provided later time before leaving to allow more time for tours. Impression was that Montego Bay is not the safest of places. Tulum  Knees in your chest buses. Box lunch horrible, including an apple that wasnt washed and chips with cayenne pepper. We didnt eat them at all. Our guide knowledgeable. Tulum itself was magnificent. Downside was on the return when there was a long wait to board the tender and no place to sit. Were sure that the idea is for you to be shopping along 5th Avenue. If there is time, we are told that two blocks away the prices are much more reasonable. Grand Cayman  enjoyed the half submarine and the turtle farm. Guide had worked at the turtle farm in the past and was most informative. Limon  same bus problem as Tulum. The poverty is striking. Makes one appreciate what one has. Buses on Panama Canal tour quite adequate. Promotional material in error in that its a 90 minute bus ride both to and from the tour boat. Promotional material gave the impression of a quick transfer to the tour boat from the Coral Princess, but instead it was a 90 minute bus ride (did get to see some of the countryside). Tour of the Canal was a fantastic experience. Overall Beautiful ship. Many friendly passengers. Crew excellent. Tours enjoyable (although the busses were uncomfortable at times and the tours through Princess were overpriced in some cases). Our goal was to experience the Panama Canal, to get a snapshot of some of the Caribbean, and to relax. The cruise lived up to those expectations and we enjoyed the experience. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2000
Every time I go to the Cruise Critic homepage, I am amazed to see how highly rated this ship is by the members. Today, I decided to go to the individual member reviews because we had quite a disappointing experience on this ship in 2000. ... Read More
Every time I go to the Cruise Critic homepage, I am amazed to see how highly rated this ship is by the members. Today, I decided to go to the individual member reviews because we had quite a disappointing experience on this ship in 2000. I've been curious to see how things could have improved that much to give this ship such a good rating. I don't know how the ratings on Cruise Critic are arrived at, as it appears from the actual member reviews that many of the things that bothered us, are still unimproved in 2004. Our cruise began in Istanbul, and ended in Athens, and the itinerary was exquisite so certainly nothing to complain about in that category. Yes, as one member noted, there seemed to be big discrepancies in how much people paid for this cruise so one should strike a very good bargain when purchasing their tickets. It started off rather badly, when other cruise lines had people waiting in the lobby of the hotel to check people in. Windstar did not. We were never contacted by the cruise line and received a call at 8 am the next morning asking why we had not placed our luggage in the hallway the night before. We were still asleep and had absolutely no idea we were to do that. No one had contacted us at all. We hastily packed and went down to the lobby, where we sat in a group that waited a long time for our bus to arrive to take us to the dock. At the dock, we had to ask where to go. No one from the cruise line there to direct us. The cabins are very small, and we had the misfortune to be placed in one that we had to move out of on the second day. We didn't notice it when we first came on board, because the ship's engines were not running at the time. We spent most of our first evening exploring the ship, dining and later returned to our cabin where we discovered a deafening whine that apparently comes from the proximity of this cabin (and others) to the ship's turbines. We barely slept that night, but when we called guest services the next morning, they weren't at all polite and acted as if we were the first people who had ever complained of this. The steward who helped us move all our things told us this happens all the time, and that they are very aware of which cabins are problems. The food was very unsatisfactory almost all of the time. We lived in Europe at the time and were shocked at the lack of quality in the preparation of the food. No excuse for this. The open seating policy created an awkward situation several times, particularly at breakfast, when often there was no place to sit down. Don't go on this cruise if you expect elegance as portrayed in the brochure. Casual attire was the dress of everyday, every evening. Polo shirts and khakis at dinnertime. If that's what you want, that's great. But that was not what the brochure suggested. Yes, they close off the decks very early in the evening. We went out for a stroll one night before dinner and found them roped off and crews busy hosing them down. There are not a lot of places to go on a ship this small. If you get seasick, beware. We hit very rough seas going into Athens on our last evening and almost no one showed up for dinner. The worst I have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Our cabin on the lower deck had its porthole underwater (Yes, underwater!) It was creepy. Worst of all was a domestic disturbance that happened in the middle of the last night on board. I tried to help out, calling for assistance and could not reach anyone after hours. Couldn't even find a steward in the hallways. I ended up getting the ship's doctor out of bed. She wasn't at all pleased and her handling of the situation was less than appropriate. We left ship with a very bad taste in our mouths. We will not be travelling on Windstar in future. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2002
June 2002 Elegant Explorer ! Just back from the pre-inaugural cruise on the new Holland America - ms Prinsendam in NYC. Fresh flowers and magical art everywhere. I had a room with a private verandah. Built in 1988 for Royal Viking ... Read More
June 2002 Elegant Explorer ! Just back from the pre-inaugural cruise on the new Holland America - ms Prinsendam in NYC. Fresh flowers and magical art everywhere. I had a room with a private verandah. Built in 1988 for Royal Viking Line, she was transferred to Cunard in 1994 when they acquired RVL, and then on to Seabourn. It seemed to me that the real vision of the cruise line while building this ship must have been passenger to space ratio. With fewer than 800 guests, it truly felt like a home at sea. Visiting places all over the globe, this ship is for those seeking adventure-elegant style. The food served in the Lido restaurant and in the La Fontaine dining room was five star. They also have a new alternative restaurant - The Odyssey Restaurant, which was spectacular. The hi -tech internet cafe was neat. On board shopping is very simple. The Casino was limited. Entertainment on board this ship was simple and sweet. The Wajang theatre is a nice place to catch up with recent blockbusters and complimentary popcorn is served before each feature presentation. The Queen's Lounge is where they have the nightly shows and is very spacious. The Ocean Spa was heavenly. There is also 2 bars and 3 other public lounges, a library and a cigar room - The Oak Room, which is very classy. Intimate yet spacious is what describes this ship. So go ahead - book yourself on a trip where wonders await you and where you can truly call yourself - The Elegant Explorer. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2003
My wife and I took our first HAL cruise to the Sea of Cortez. My wife is handicapped in that walking is very difficult. We had been told that boarding should begin as early as 11:30 a.m.. We arrived at 10:30 only to find that the ship had ... Read More
My wife and I took our first HAL cruise to the Sea of Cortez. My wife is handicapped in that walking is very difficult. We had been told that boarding should begin as early as 11:30 a.m.. We arrived at 10:30 only to find that the ship had been late arriving and all passengers were still aboard. We, along with a group that grew to over 200, stood outside the gates, in the sun until after 1:00P.M. when they finally let us through the gates. No one told us anything about how to handle our bags. There were some porters with their carts that were overwhelmed by the number of passengers ready to board the ship. Not knowing anything to the contrary, many people stood in line to enter the terminal building, only to be told that they had first to give their bags to a porter. Once inside the terminal building and through the check-in process, we waited until 2:00 p.m. to board the ship. The path one must follow to get to the gangway involves two flights of stairs and/or an elevator followed by a serpentine like gangway. Not an easy matter for someone with difficulty walking. Having inquired about the availability of wheelchairs, we were told there were no "wide" chairs available. Now for some good news! Once on board, we found our cabin to be very spacious and comfortable. It was among the largest of any ship we had been on. (This being approximately our 12th cruise.) We made our way up to the LIDO deck for lunch. We found the Mexican station and the boundless supply of great guacamole. Returning to our room, it was after 5 p.m. before our bags were delivered. Departure was delayed by a half hour or so due to fueling delays. The ship itself is spotless and very tastefully decorated. I did wish on more than one occasion for a waste receptacle as there are literally none to be found. We found our cabin steward to be very friendly and efficient. Our dining room stewards lacked the finesse and attention to detail that we have enjoyed before. As the week progressed, we learned that this may be largely due to the idea that they serve one year contracts getting no days off and usually working 12 - 15 hour days. They were not alone in this as the bar staff was apparently in the same work rotation. In that HAL is a "Tipping not Required" cruise line, this takes most of these people out of the realm of most other cruise lines where they are at least in a position to make some reasonable money in exchange for their long hours. I personally found this very hard to accept and probably will not cruise with HAL again unless they change their policy. The ports of call, Loreto, La Paz and Cabo San Lucas there enjoyable and interesting. The biggest drawback was Loreto and Cabo are tendered ports. The stairway leading from the ship to the tenders is very steep and the steps very narrow. I saw only one person that used a wheelchair exit the ship in these ports and it was only because she could manage the steps. My wife was a prisoner. Tendered ports on this ship are not for people with handicaps! I love to dance. However dancing on this ship is limited to the Ocean Bar and the Crow's Nest with very small dance floors. The one night of the LIDO POOL PARTY provided the closest thing to a reasonable floor. The music played, on the whole was o.k., however, if you really want to dance, look elsewhere! One couple that we met booked this cruise expressly to dance. They were quite unhappy. We found the bar service to be very inconsistent with regard to the way drinks were prepared. Even the Bar Manager did not know the correct way to prepare a Banana-rama. Martini's sometimes filled the glass and other times did not. Soda at $ 1.75 per can seemed a bit unreasonable. The entertainment ranged from fair to good. The food was good with some items approaching excellent. The ship board activities didn't seem up to par but were o.k. Overall rating for our first time with HOLLAND AMERICA- FAIR. Our arrival back in San Diego was timely and the deboarding seemed to go much more smoothly than our arrival. By all means, if you have the time and opportunity, take the City Tour. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2003
This is a chronicle of back-to-back cruises on Holland America Line's ms Zuiderdam, the first of HAL's Vista Class ships. Itineraries, Sept 6 - 20, 2003: Week One - Western Caribbean - Key West, Cozumel Mexico, Georgetown Grand ... Read More
This is a chronicle of back-to-back cruises on Holland America Line's ms Zuiderdam, the first of HAL's Vista Class ships. Itineraries, Sept 6 - 20, 2003: Week One - Western Caribbean - Key West, Cozumel Mexico, Georgetown Grand Cayman, Half Moon Cay Bahamas. Week Two - Eastern Caribbean - Half Moon Cay, Philipsburg St Maarten, St Thomas USVI, Nassau Bahamas. Sea days were Monday and Thursday, both weeks. Ship's time equal to local at all ports. Zuiderdam sails on Saturday. Precruise: I seem unable to find a travel agent versed in the cruise industry. I became so frustrated dealing with amateurs, that I decided to try out booking directly with HAL. The service was terrific, and the price was actually less than what I saw quoted on cruise agency web sites. The HAL reps were unfailingly courteous and helpful. During initial booking, the reservations representative steered me away from less desirable cabins. She sent my booking confirmation and invoice while we were on the phone by e-mail attachment (Adobe Acrobat). When I later discovered we were eligible for an AARP discount, it was quickly taken care of. The whole experience was so clean and efficient it would take a significant discount for me to return to booking with a travel agent. Of course you can book completely on-line, but I'd advise talking to a HAL rep who can provide assistance with cabin location. If you require a little hand holding, HAL will assign a personal "Cruise Consultant" to assist you so you'll be able to consistently deal with the same person. We flew Continental out of Houston, TX (IAH) to Zuiderdam's homeport, Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL) one day early. Stayed overnight at the Renaissance Hotel on 17th Street, approximately mid way between the airport and HAL's pier 26 at Port Everglades. The location, AAA's four diamond rating, and a low government rate made this a good stop over. Renaissance is a comfortable hotel with an excellent, but pricey, restaurant. Boarding: Zuiderdam begins boarding to the ship's public areas at 11:30AM. Open and active are the pool and grill, Windstar Cafe (an Italian coffee bar with moderate charges for coffee and pastries), Internet cafe, art gallery, front office and most of the lounges. Luggage and coat storage is also available. The Lido buffet begins serving lunch at 12:00N. Cabins are ready for occupancy by 1:30PM. We arrived about 11:15AM and were aboard by noon. There were at least two dozen HAL rep's in the terminal to process passengers. Our luggage was delivered soon after the cabins were open. The Ship: Zuiderdam has eleven decks. Decks four thru eight and part of deck two are cabins. Two per cabin occupancy is 1,824 with 800 crewmembers. She weighs 82,000 tons and is 935 feet long so that three circuits around the continuous lower promenade deck approximates one mile. She is powered by five diesel engines and one gas turbine, and she is propelled by 25,000 bhp Azipod props (more about these later). The dEcor is appropriate to the itinerary. Zuiderdam was built and designed for year round Caribbean cruising and the interior motifs reflect this concept. Some areas offer a challenge to navigate; especially the central lounges adjoining the casino on deck two. There are nooks, crannies and small corridors to deal with, somewhat similar to what is occasionally found in the lounge areas of some land resort hotels. Maybe this is what the designers had in mind? The central atrium is smaller than on the S Class ships. This provides more space for the lounges and other public areas, but I miss the larger atrium which I often use as a reference point for navigation. The ship is impeccably clean and shows little signs of wear, a credit to the maintenance crew, her Hotel Manager Nick Burger, and Captain Johannes van Biljouw. Zuiderdam's condition and appearance is extraordinary considering that 1800 people tramp through her every week. Unlike the S Class ships, Zuiderdam does not have a passenger use laundry. Twice we used the $12 per 'full bag' laundry service. Both times delivery was next day. The Lounges: The Best: Crow's Nest. Great viewing lounge with huge wraparound window located forward on deck ten. Cocktail piano, also theme night music such as 50s & 60s tunes by CD. Explorer's Lounge. Classical music by The Rosario Strings. This is also the venue for afternoon tea. Excellent snacks and a good selection of teas (save room for the scones!). The Worst: Queen's Lounge. So poorly designed that it's useless for any function. That's too bad because The HAL Cats, a truly good band fronted by a first-rate vocal quartet, plays danceable music here most nights. Ocean Bar - Once again, poor design. This lounge is totally open to the atrium losing any identity as a lounge, and the dance floor is too small. For some incomprehensible reason, a divider is installed across the center of the seating area, disconnecting the rear of the lounge from the front. Music is by Meir & Rae Ann on drums and a piano. How eclectic is that? Music is mostly traditional dance: fox trot, waltz, tango, etc. No Opinion: Northern Lights - Late night activity usually starting at 10PM, mostly disco and light rock. A DJ spinning CDs supplies music. Booth seating surrounds a largish dance floor. Design by Gateway. There's also a Sports Bar. Since the signal is international, the TV schedules are mainly soccer. A WNBA game was showing on NFL Sunday afternoon! To be fair, they do pick up Sunday and Monday night NFL games. The Vista Lounge, The main showroom is forward on decks one and two. This is an attractive room of good design with comfortable seating. Just don't sit behind one of the many pillars or in the rear of the upper section. Unfortunately, the quality of the shows does not match the setting. The production shows are LOUD. Who decided that loud is good? To paraphrase Shakespeare, let's kill all the soundmen, too! Following cruise ship tradition there are two production shows. The first was decent, but the second, a review of movie musicals, was near unbearable. Almost every number, including the romantic ballads, was programmed in a hyper, upbeat tempo, making all the tunes sound alike. The show was completely out of sync and boring. The music for the production shows is prerecorded. Did I mention that it is LOUD? The cast was excellent with talented dancers and singers, all completely wasted. We didn't repeat any shows during week two. The Vista Dining Room: An attractive and well-constructed design. There are two levels located aft on decks two and three. Seating is well organized with comfortable chairs and some banquet tables. Best of all, each dining area has its own galley located immediately adjacent to the dining rooms. Instead of waiting for dumb waiters from a galley below, dishes are more directly served. This means hot dishes arrive hot and cold are offered cold. You do want to avoid seating the far aft section of the lower dining room. When cranked up the Azipod propulsion system delivers a significant vibration. The shaking is primarily felt on the back end of the lower deck. However, it's only a problem when the engines are pressed. The captain tries to maintain lower revs during dining hours, but there are times they must be turned up. When this happens the place settings won't dance off the tables, but it's definitely uncomfortable. Our cabin: Since we were on for two weeks I upgraded us from our usual standard outside to a "superior verandah suite" located amidships on deck six. The SS cabin is 288sft, and the balcony 100sft. The room is well designed with two queen size beds, which we had put together, a restful full sized fold out sofa, three chairs (one too many), a glass top coffee table, a writing desk and the standard desk. There are plenty of drawers, shelves and closets. The bathroom is large, with a full size Jacuzzi tub, a separate shower stall, double sinks, two medicine chests and a long shelf running under the sinks. The standard outside cabins, as well as the inside (if you don't mind the dark), are more than adequate in size and design. DVD rentals are available from the front desk. There's a $25 deposit for each disk. Dining: The Vista dining room offerings are equal to, and often exceed, Celebrity. The quality and presentation is far better than on the other HAL ships we've sailed on. Menu selections are extensive: two or three selections are available for each precourse and there are four primary and three "from the grill" optional entrees every night. Steaks and prime rib are delivered to order; however, note that medium rare is usually too rare for the distaff side. The Odyssey has to be the best alternative restaurant at sea. It even rivals the best upscale steak houses on land. Steaks, rib eye, tenderloin and two sizes of filet mignon are offered. The steaks are Prime Sterling beef and are cooked on a 1600 degree grill. It doesn't get any better than this. Although the menu features steak, the other entrees are superb, most notable is a seafood ravioli. The wait staff was recruiting out of Hungary, primarily Budapest. HAL obviously sought out the best servers among Budapest's world-class restaurants. They are smooth, attentive and prompt. With minimal delay between courses, we were in and out in less than an hour and a half. This whole staff was brought on board Saturday, the thirteenth. Some early patrons complained of uneven and clumsy service. However, we dined there on Wednesday evening, and it seemed they'd been serving there forever. It's a testament to their skills that they adapted in such a short time. These guys are good! The Crew: The Indonesian dining stewards and The Philippine bar staffs were excellent as usual. Nearly all were up to HAL standards. Oddly enough, there were a few grumps, who even bordered on rude. I don't recall experiencing this on previous cruises with HAL. Oddly enough, one of the ice cream servers was a real grouch, which is totally out of character for that station. Fortunately, the grouches were fringe players and a very small minority. The dining room staff were prompt and, as you'd expect, well trained, cheerful and eager to serve. Our Head Steward, Alexander, was especially caring, very personable and always ready to lend a hand. My wife is originally from Japan. Wayan, our table steward for both weeks, spoke fluent Japanese providing my better half with a special feeling of welcome. We had two different cabin stewards each week, both efficient and in the best tradition of cabin stewards: always out when we were in, and in when we were out. Ridwan, our steward the first week, had completed his twelve-month contract. Saturday afternoon he flew home on leave before continuing on to Nice to help outfit Vista Class number three, ms Westerdam, which is scheduled to launch May 2004. The ship's officers seem friendlier than on other ships, always offering a greeting and a smile. It's amazing how the front office staff manages to maintain a cheerful and polite appearance in spite of the frequent rudeness and confrontational attitude of so many guests. For some reason, people seem to adopt an 'in your face' attitude with these gals who, after all, are really no more than desk clerks without any real authority to resolve disputes or provide managerial decisions. Despite this, all of the front desk people were consistently courteous and helpful. Guests ought to realize that only a supervisor or the guest relation's manager can resolve problems. Often, even they have to get instructions from Seattle to resolve a policy dispute. The Passengers: A more diverse age mix than on other HAL cruises. The Zuiderdam is evidently appealing to the younger set. The dress code was universally observed in the main dining room. Formal night saw only a few out of uniform in the other public areas. Over the two weeks, four of our eight tablemates were from Florida, two from NYC and two from Canada. Naturally, there are lots of Floridians taking advantage of the "Florida Resident Discount". Speaking of discounts, midway of the first week a flyer was distributed offering the following week for $199 inside or $299 outside, a pretty good deal! I've never seen this before, nor was it repeated during the next cruise. I suspect Hurricane Isabel precipitated cancellations and HAL decided any revenue is better than none. After all, a major profit element is the money we spend while on board. As regards the small people, school was back in session so there was only a small number of toddlers and a couple of infants. On board is a dedicated kids area called Club HAL. It must have been nearly deserted. Shore excursions -- I discovered snorkeling on our first cruise and became instantly captivated. As a result, I have very little first hand knowledge about above water activities on any of the islands. It was only due to a sore throat in the middle of week two that wifey and I did a land/water tour on St Maarten. Booked through the ship, it's titled "French Connection Sea & See". It's a bus transit around the island interrupted by a shopping stop in Marigot and tour of coral reefs at Grand Case's Creole rock. Creole Rock is purported to be the best snorkeling area around the island. I saw enough while on the glass bottom boat to suggest that snorkeling would be very marginal here. The bottom is mainly rocks with some coral and common fish such as Sergeant Majors and Wrasses. Lots of huge Uni, however, made my wife's taste buds tingle. This was aboard the "Seaworld Explorer', an underwater moving observatory. The tour was a good overview of the island, but the guide went around the island bassackward, stopping in Marigot first. Most of the stores in Marigot follow the French tradition of closing between one and two o'clock which is when we were there, resulting in a wasted forty-minute stop. That was too bad because there are some nice shops in Marigot. The wife, an avid casino connoisseur, took the "Discover Atlantis & Harbor Cruise" in Nassau. This is a gal who considers Las Vegas resorts 'quaint', but found Atlantis too gigantic. In the end, she simply made a small donation to the slot machine gods and returned to the ship. Now for the good stuff. The following snorkel trips are listed in order from best to least good; however, the least is still darned good. Nassau: "Snorkel Bahamas Adventure" is a 5-½ hour trip operated by Stuart's Cove. On a previous excursion I went on the impressive Athol Island snorkel. This Stuart's Cove outing surpassed all of my previous experiences, including Athol Island. The boat trip is @ three hours, and visits Schoolhouse Reef, the spectacular Golden Key Reef and finally a "swim with the sharks" at 'The Wreck of the Bahama Mama'. I have never before witnessed such a number and variety of fish as at Golden Key. There are never-ending fish, large and small, singly and in large schools. The floor is decorated with huge, magnificent coral formations of all shapes and sizes. While there, a shark cruised past our group. He obviously thought this was his ocean and didn't know, nor care, that we weren't scheduled for a shark encounter until after Golden Key. Surprisingly, getting in with a dozen or so sharks is not frightening. I suspect we were too caught up with their grace and magnificence to be scared. The fact that the boat captain hadn't lost a diver in twelve years was also encouraging. This is a five star, gold medallion, prime trip, not to be missed! Georgetown: I booked a two reef and stingray swim with Capt Marvin. This is again a three-hour boat trip with snorkel stops at Coral Gardens and the Barrier Reef, followed by a visit to Stingray City. The Barrier Reef extends for many miles and is near enough to the surface to be visible from above. There is abundant sea life, and of course, extensive coral. Here I saw my first Moray eel. As for Stingray City, there are just too many boats and people crowded together to enjoy it. I stumbled around among the crowd for a bit, then got back in the boat. The kids seem to enjoy it. Key West: A catamaran trip to Sand Key Reef with the Fury Cat operation. Fury is found extensively through the Yucatan and Caribbean. Our trip was on a 65' catamaran with a small enough group so we were never crowded. Unfortunately, westerly winds from the recent tropical disturbance in The Gulf had stirred things up so that visibility was only about 15 - 20 feet. The reef, however, is marvelous. Did you know that the reef off Florida's coast is the third largest in the world? I didn't. We got enough of a taste to make me want to return. I can unreservedly recommend this trip. Half Moon Cay: A surprisingly good snorkel trip. The coral garden area is only a ten-minute boat ride from the tender dock with lots of fish and coral. There's a very nice beach, but the bottom is too sandy for good snorkeling. Just relaxing on the beach and swimming is the most popular past time. There are lots of beach toys and other activities available for rent. Comfortable beach chairs are plentiful. There's also a pavilion with souvenir shops and a bar. A barbecue lunch is served at noontime. Half Moon Cay is perfect for kicking back and enjoying a restful day. Cozumel: We went to Chankanaab Park for snorkeling and beach time. The park offers a sheltered beach area with palapas, a lagoon, a swim with the dolphins, a sea lion show, snuba and a number of boat trip operators who work from the beach area. There's also a full menu bar & grill. The conch ceviche was very good. There's probably lots of other stuff, too. Unfortunately, the beach was fly infested so we didn't stay long. The snorkeling from the beach is fair. Dzul Ha is much better, but you can experience some swift currents there. Chankanaab's waters are more sheltered, so it's a good alternative for marginal swimmers. I have previously boat snorkeled Columbia and Palancar reefs from Cozumel. The reefs here are world class and there are many good operators. Disembarkation: The procedure has greatly improved since our last visit. Immigration is held in the terminal, not on board. This greatly expedites clearance since we don't have to wait for the inevitable latecomers to clear before we can leave the ship. The preliminaries are routine: put luggage in hallway the night before, leave your cabin by 8:00AM and wait in a public area for your number/letter to be called. Both the Lido and main dining rooms are open for breakfast. We had a noon flight and were off the ship and at our boarding gate by 9:30. Of course, when all those ships return from Alaska things won't go so smoothly. I should mention that stuff happens. Disembarkation was delayed the previous Saturday due to a late departure the previous day from Half Moon Cay. However, even then we would likely have been at the airport by 10:30 or 11:00. Final Thoughts: As devotees of HAL, we were concerned because of the numerous negative Zuiderdam reviews that appeared in the early months. Certainly Zuiderdam has some odd quirks, but the overall design is easily adapted to and becomes an ultimately user friendly floating resort. We found absolutely no evidence of unpleasant aromas in any area. The mechanical systems such as toilets, A/C, hot water, elevators, etc never failed. Fellow passengers were largely polite, friendly and in pursuit of a fun trip. We never witnessed one instance of rowdy or inappropriate behavior. We had a wonderful journey. My advice is go and enjoy. Following are some of the web sites I found useful researching our cruise: ms Zuiderdam: http://www.hollandamerica.com/fivestarfleet/zuiderdam.htm ms Zuiderdam Virtual Tour: http://www.virtualtoursusa.com/hollandzuiderdam.htm Port Everglades: http://www.co.broward.fl.us/port.htm Georgetown: http://www.edenrockdive.com/ http://www.captainmarvins.com/ http://www.caymanonline.com/info/watersports/snorkel/index.shtml Cozumel: http://www.cozumelinsider.com/ Key West: http://www.furycat.com/snorkel.htm Nassau: http://www.dive-bahamas.com/ Philipsburg: http://www.stmaarten-activities.com/trips.htm - Snorkelin St Thomas: http://www.vinow.com/ http://www.cokidive.com/ Travel Insurance: http://www.insuremytrip.com/ Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
CORAL PRINCESS PANAMA CANAL October 30 - November 9, 2003 By Mary & Vincent Finelli This cruise began in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with a crescent moon and culminated in the Florida Straits with a total Lunar Eclipse. ... Read More
CORAL PRINCESS PANAMA CANAL October 30 - November 9, 2003 By Mary & Vincent Finelli This cruise began in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with a crescent moon and culminated in the Florida Straits with a total Lunar Eclipse. What happened in between is the substance of this review. There was nothing average about these ten days. From the first glimpse of the Coral Princess in port with her "gas turbine/diesel enviro engines installed above decks in the funnel, it is obvious that this ship is something different. When arriving in port our son Marcello asked, "are you sailing or flying?" This is an impressive, unique silhouette: polished steel structures, resembling jet engines, and steel stacks, perched atop a 15 deck tall ship! This ship, built in Chantiers de l'Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France, is 964 ft. long, her beam is a Panamax 106 ft, her height is 204 ft. and with a draft of 27 ft, her maximum speed is 24 knots. There are 987 cabins including 20 wheel chair accessible (sq. footage between 217 - 374); 89% of all cabins are ocean view and 83% of these have balconies. Passenger capacity is 1,970 and the crew numbers 900. She is still in her inaugural year having been launched December 2002. Registry, of course, is Hamilton, Bermuda. Since Princess is the union of two venerable lines: England's P&O (Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company) founded in 1840, and Italy's Sitmar Line established in 1913, her crews reflects these beginnings even today. When P&O purchased Sitmar in 1988, a new line emerged --- Princess. The Coral Princess' Captain Giorgio Pomata joined Sitmar in 1978, and has continued to serve on many Princess ships as Captain. Crew members and customs reflect the Princess' origins. The serving of High Tea in the Bordeaux Dining Room every afternoon at 3:30 pm accompanied by the Delphinus Strings contributes to her very English atmosphere. The continental manners of the top Italian crew members, like Passenger Services Director Carlo Gunetti, from whom a formal greeting is customary (Ladies .."a kiss on the hand is quite continental"), and Maitre d' Generoso Mazzone, who overseas the ship's dining venues like a virtuoso conductor, generate an atmosphere of elegance and efficiency. Whilst the very British Cruise Director Trevor Bradford handles the passenger activities with great aplomb. EMBARKATION Security was evident at Port Everglades when we arrived at 11:30 am. Embarkation started at noon. There were crew members on the dock to assist with the wheel chair and the pre entered data sheets helped to expedite the processing. The on board credit/cabin key card is a handy system. We were in our cabin within 30 minutes --- which is quite excellent. The expansive "Welcome On Board" Buffet was appetizing; however, we tend to avoid buffets, so we ate on Lido Deck 14 at the Princess Pizza (very crispy, thin and excellent). During embarkation, personnel were stationed at all elevators providing directions and a welcoming atmosphere. Our luggage was in our room by 1:30 pm. Very efficient! SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS Passengers enter the ship on deck 5, into the Princess Plaza. The "Under the Seas " theme juxtaposes the Coral Princess' motto "Over the Seas." There are murals of crustaceans, black and white whales, and coral formations, as well as bubbling cylindrical glass fountains. A cascade of stainless steel flows down four flights from Deck 8, while an impressionistic stainless steel boat acts as a net for marine shapes and both are illuminated with changing colors. Each separate level of this four deck atrium affords areas for cocktails bars, coffee bars and entertainment. Plaza Deck 5 forward is the Bordeaux dining Room. This walnut wood paneled room has several very nice paintings, square walnut columns with brass trim and a ceiling with white twinkling lights over head. The Fili D'Oro linens used in the dining rooms are a nice touch. Midship is the Passenger Service Desk, Tour Desk and the Patisserie Coffee Shop, serving specialty coffees, teas and pastries. Then, there is a series of mostly outside staterooms and just a few inside cabins. Fiesta Deck 6 forward is the Provence Dining Room. Toward midship are the onboard shops and the entrance to the Princess Casino flanked by two red coated, beaver hatted, tall Buckingham Palace Guards. The Casino has carpeting depicting Beefeaters, Big Ben, among other London scenes. Among red painted telephone booths, passengers play Hyde Park Poker, Buckingham Palace Blackjack and other charmingly named games of chance. Going toward aft is the expansive Explorers' Lounge. It is off a wonderful corridor with windows to the sea and mosaic green, tan and white pillars forming a six arch arcade in front of the lounge. The carpeting depicts African animals, and the walls display several murals with exotic scenes (Asian, Turkish, Egyptian, Ethiopian, etc.). All the way aft on Deck 6 is the Universe Lounge with its wide, wide, revolving and elevating stage, which is a fitting place for on board extravaganzas. However, the brass rails on its upper level obstruct the view of performers. These are soon to be replaced with glass. Look for the interestingly lighted two deck bar in the rear. Promenade Deck 7 forward is the Princess Theatre. This simple, open room has a perfect view of the stage from every seat. Its walls are covered in gold and maroon suede. Go early or you may not get a seat. Walk toward midship to see the Wheelhouse Bar, a beautiful dark walnut paneled room with a huge brass and copper light as a centerpiece. The tables are drop leaf with brass fittings, brass wall sconces and dark green and brown leather furniture complete the decor. The carpeting is blue depicting continents, oceans and sailing ships. The walls hold many ship memorabilia and paintings of ships like the 1950 "Chusan" of P&O. The Wheelhouse corridor entrance is flanked by two wooden ship's figureheads: One a female in a black sarong and the other a naval officer with gold epaulettes. These evoke images of the South Seas. Mid ship is the Crooner's Lounge with pictures of the "Rat Pack" (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. etc...). Here you may purchase a martini in a Sinatra souvenir glass. There is also the Churchill Lounge where cigars and spirits can be enjoyed. Mid ship, on the port side is a beautiful wedding Chapel where couples may be married in international waters by the Captain. Going toward aft is Sabatini's, the upscale Italian restaurant, which in this class ships is larger and more elegant than the "Sabatini's Trattoria" of the Grand class ships. Then, there also is the Bayou Cafe with its brick walls, New Orleans Jazz and Cajun cuisine. All the way aft, on this deck, is the balcony of the Universe Lounge. Outside is the wrap around Promenade with lounge chairs for reading or watching the waves. Emerald Deck 8 has the Library, the Card Room and the Internet Cafe with world stock trade information, all of which are clustered around the central elevators. Then, both forward and aft are staterooms, some categories with balcony and some with obstructed view. Dolphin Deck 9, Caribe Deck 10, and Baja Deck 11 are all staterooms and suites, mostly with balconies and some inside cabins. Aloha Deck 12 is mostly staterooms with balcony and a few inside cabins, except for aft, where are located the Pelican Children's Pool & Playhouse (ages 2-7 yrs), the Fun Zone (ages 8-12 yrs) and the Off Limits Teen Center (ages 13 -17 yrs). As you can see the young people have their own well supervised facilities. Lido Deck 14 forward has the Horizon Court (24 hr) Buffet Restaurant seating 386, which is quite crowded at peak times. Outdoors are the Princess Pizza, Lido Bar, Lido Swimming Pool, three whirlpools, and the Haagen Daz ice cream bar. Towards aft is the Solarium Lotus Pool area with its retractable dome and a swim-against-the-current pool and two small whirlpools. Excellent before 9:30 am, when you may have it all to your self. The decor is relaxing: a statue of a young Buddha overlooks the pool and there is a white gazebo on the end. Aft is the Lotus Spa and the Fitness Center. Sun Deck 15 has a Princess Link mini golf course and the Golf Simulator with some of the world's most renown courses featured. It also holds the Outdoor Grill serving hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, etc.... Sports Deck 16 has a Splash Pool, a Center Court for sports with space for spectator seating, Shuffle Board and the Deck Chess Set. FOOD & SERVICE Passenger Services Director Carlo Gunetti has this ship running like a precise time piece: The service is fast and friendly. For instance, a screw broke on Vincent's wheelchair during boarding and Ronan Amaral, Jr. Asst. Purser, supplied us with a temporary wheelchair while he had Vincent's fixed over night. He was very helpful, and we appreciate his thoughtfulness. Throughout the ship we always received courteous and prompt service with a smile! The "Anytime Dining Program" means that there is more to do for the Maitre d' Generoso and the Head Waiters, since there is no longer a fixed time and table for many cruisers: thus, reservations and seating is an ongoing activity. We happen to recognize Head Waiter Pasquale Marino from previous cruises, but on the Coral he was magnificent. Generoso and his staff pleasantly greeted the passengers at the dining room door and outdid themselves in accommodating everyone's request in the best possible way. Moreover, the Maitre d' himself went from table to table assuring that everything was perfect. At Table #20 for two, we enjoyed some of the finest meals. At lunch, our waiter, Elisa Dumitrescu was always cordial and efficient as was the asst. waiter Sandor Lorincz. Every evening our waiters Gerardo De Leon and his Asst. Larry Gutierez were top notch. We know this wonderful service is mainly due to the instructions of Generoso and Pasquale. We surely received special attention. They helped us in selections from the kitchen and their recommendations were always excellent. Thank you for the many great delicacies. Bravi! The International Menu offers splendid choices; there is a lot of reading. We thoroughly enjoyed this Gastronomic Tour. Executive Chef Michael Borns, his Sous Chef Giuseppe and the Pastry Chef Cosimo (Sicily) did three "Culinary Demonstrations," two of which we attended. Princess Lines has three Corporate Executive Chefs, and seventeen Executive Chefs, thirteen of which are Italian, including our old friend Antonio Cereda. The gustatory delights we sampled were outstanding and here are some of our recommendations: SAILAWAY DINNER: Shrimp Cocktail; Cream of Porcini Mushroom Soup; Watercress and lettuce salad, and Nebraska Prime Rib. CAPTAIN'S WELCOME DINNER: Crab Quiche with jalapeno chili salsa; Capon broth, tortellini with minced chives; Mixed salad with arugula; Lobster Thermidor or Royal Pheasant with shallots and Parisienne potatoes. PRINCESS DINNER: Cold water Lobster & Crayfish Cocktail with sun dried tomatoes; Chilled Cream of Zucchini with William pear and blue poppy seeds; Endive salad with mushrooms and shallots; Roast Buffalo slowly cooked in Napa Valley Red Wine sauce with potato pancake and baby vegetables. FRENCH DINNER: Pate de fois de Strassbourg; Escargot Bourguignon (cooked in Bourdeaux wine); French onion soup; Mixed garden greens and radicchio with vinaigrette; Caneton Roti a` l'Orange (Roast duckling glazed with Orange Curacao sauce). ITALIAN DINNER: Prosciutto di Parma with melon; Eggplant Parmigiana; Pasta e fagioli; Salad of baby spinach, crispy bacon, pine nuts and Pecorino cheese; Pappardelle al Sugo di Lepre (Flat egg noodles with rabbit sauce). INTERNATIONAL DINNER: Baby leeks with smoked salmon in Champagne sauce; Won Ton soup; Salad of lettuce, tomato, avocado and red onion; Penne pasta with calamari; Surf & Turf of Filet Mignon and Jumbo grilled shrimp. CHEF'S DINNER: Green asparagus spears in warm tarragon butter sauce under puff pastry; Lobster bisque with Cognac; Salad of field greens, cherry tomatoes and shredded carrot; King crab legs or Rack of Lamb Dijonaisse with Brussels sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes and mint jelly. These menus do not list the "piece de resistance" DESSERT. There is such a variety, that we will only name a few of our favorites: * Swan puffs on a heart shaped lake of melted chocolate. * All of the SoufflEs, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, hazelnut and their accompanying sauces. * Almond mousse with custard -- ooh la la! * Sorbets, sherbets and ice creams are all made on board and are delicious. * Pecan pie, apple pie, and pear tart --- do not miss them. * Dark chocolate mousse, heart shaped with Lady Godiva liqueur, Tiramisu and NY cheesecake are served every day. * Many fruits, international cheeses and delicate petit fours are served daily. The dining room staff are beautifully dressed every night: Nile green dinner jackets, Red, White & Blue cummerbunds with stars and matching ties. The Maitre d' Generoso looks spiffy in his pin stripe trousers and black cut away. Head waiter Pasquale was sharp in the white tuxedo with shawl lapels. What more can we say? As Executive Chef Borns said, "Food is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate." The English Rose dinnerware was the palette for the plating of excellent culinary masterpieces. We also dined in Sabatini's whose decorations were refined and lovely. The long parade of antipasti made the main course seem anticlimactic; however, we still managed to enjoy the veal chop and the fritto misto frutti di mare (mixed seafood, langostino, shrimp, scallops etc., etc...). This made for a very enjoyable evening, overlooking the sea with wonderful background music. CABIN Our Stateroom # C627, wheelchair accessible, has a double wide door and when entering on the left there is a triple armoire with two closets, and a third with shelves, and a personal safe. Next, there is a TV, and a desk/mirrored vanity with hair dryer, and two chairs. When entering on the right there is a huge bathroom with 5x5 ft. shower and many safety rails in the proper places. The triple mirror is nice, but the shelves are small. There is a queen bed, two four drawer night stands and an end table. The far wall is glass with the ramp and door to the double balcony. There was a large table and two chairs to which our terrific Steward Henry Sebastian added a chaise for Vincent. Henry was excellent in every way. Accommodations Supervisor Dorota Bak (Poland) visited us just to check if we needed anything. She was very courteous and we appreciated it. Thank you. ENTERTAINMENT The Coral Princess has many venues similar to the larger Grand class ships, but it is smaller and carries fewer passengers. The Princess Theatre Production shows were nicely staged, (but could use a sound check, since the decibel rate was too high at times). We preferred the Universe Lounge, where the Premier Season of "Tribute" was performed on the extra wide stage, while making good use of its rotation and elevation capabilities. The show was dedicated to music legends such as the following: the Beatles ("Hey Jude"), the Beach Boys ("California Girl"), The Rat Pack (Frank, Dean and Sammy were all highlighted), and finally Cher's "Believe" was saluted. The singers were terrific and the Princess dancers were energetic. The same cast performed "Da Beat" a Jazz/Swing piece. Most shows were staged twice to give cruisers a chance to see them. We especially enjoyed Tony Cherry, a singing impersonator, who did a memorable Tom Jones and other imitations. The "Princess Patter" lists all daily activities, plus has a column from the Ship's Navigator which is informative both historically and geographically. It also gives the current ship's position. Other activities were Trivia, at which we each won 5 gold medals and 6 silver for Mary and 7 silver for Vincent. There is also line dancing, Bingo, horse races, and daily movies (i.e. "Bruce Almighty," "Alex and Emma," "Plots with a View,"), etc. The Princess Scholarship Program is new and offers the following classes: Pottery, Digital Photography, Building Wealth Investing, and the Princess Grapevine wine tasting. All of the above is under the stewardship of the affable Cruise Director Trevor Bradford, and he is up to the task. Princess also has a Captain's Circle Program which has many benefits for repeat cruisers. On board Host Nicola Fisher was helpful and explained many of the perks: a Quarterly, preferential pricing, stand by, platinum check in, on board events etc. It pays to return to Princess. We expect to return soon, since we have booked on board three future cruises! PORTS OF CALL Oct. 30, 2003 Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, Depart 5:00 pm Oct. 31, 2003 At Sea Nov. 1, 2003 Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrive: 6:59 am Depart: 4:26 pm Some of the available shore excursions: Tulum Mayan Ruins, 7 hrs, $94; New Waves Scuba Diving, 2.5 hrs, $75, for beginners. Nov. 2, 2003 Grand Cayman -- Arrive: 10:00 am Depart: 6:36 pm Island Highlights & Stingray Sandbar Snorkeling, 4.5 hrs, $64; Atlantis Submarine Odyssey, 1.5 hrs, $86. Nov. 3, 2003 At Sea Nov. 4, 2003 Limon, Costa Rica -- Arrive: 6:27 am Depart: 6:56 pm The Jungle Train, 3.5 hrs, $49, a ride through the lush rain forest; River Rafting, 7.5 hrs, $99. Nov. 5, 2003 Panama Canal -- Arrive: 5:46 am Depart: 7:26 pm One hour and 42 minutes to traverse the Gatun Locks; Cruising in Gatun Lake (the world's largest man made lake), There was a a perfect rainbow off starboard side, which we saw from our balcony as we ate breakfast; We arrived at Colon's Cristobal Cruise Terminal at 4:06 pm, but were not allowed into the city because of political demonstrations. There is great shopping on the pier (coffee, T-shirts, Panama hats, etc...) Nov. 6, 2003 At Sea Nov. 7, 2003 Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- Arrive: 12 noon Depart: 4:18 pm Prospect Plantation & Dunn's River Falls, 4 hrs, $62; River Tubing Safari, 3.5 hrs, $69. Nov. 8, 2003 At Sea Nov. 9, 2003 Port Everglades -- Debarkation: 9:00 am SUGGESTIONS 1. During the Welcome Aboard Buffet, at the Horizon Court some crew should direct the passengers to the various food stations thus minimizing the long line formed at the first station near the entrance. This long line occurs mainly on the first day, when new passengers are unaware of the several food stations which can be accessed independently. 2. At the Princess Theater the last row of seats and the area behind it should be reserved for people with wheelchair and those with limited mobility as well as the persons accompanying them. The reserved area should be supervised by a theater attendant before the beginning of shows. CONCLUSION Princess remains one of our favorite cruise lines. We are now Platinum Members of the Captain Circle, the Princess "Frequent Floaters" Club. We have already booked with Princess three future cruises; however, before we'll be back on a Princess ship, we must complete the next three cruises in the near future: The Southern Caribbean on the new Serenade of the Seas, Dec. 6 - 13, 2003; the Western Caribbean on the new Costa Mediterranea, Jan. 11 - 18, 2004; and the W. Caribbean again on the new Mariner of the Seas, Feb. 22 - 29, 2004. As you may have noticed we love cruising and we especially favor new ships, which we can first explore and write about. We plan to write reviews of our next cruises, so look for them at the appropriate time. We wish you Great Holidays and Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
After enjoying a cruise from Hong Kong to Athens on the Renaissance 2 we were very happy to see the ship sailing again as the Regatta under Oceania Cruise Line. With the ship under new management we were not sure what to expect but we knew ... Read More
After enjoying a cruise from Hong Kong to Athens on the Renaissance 2 we were very happy to see the ship sailing again as the Regatta under Oceania Cruise Line. With the ship under new management we were not sure what to expect but we knew we loved the design and size of this ship. We booked a penthouse suite on a back to back cruise. The first cruise was from Miami to Costa Rica through the Panama Canal and the second was along the Mexican Riviera from Costa Rica to Los Angeles. Embarking in Miami went smoothly and a bottle of champagne was waiting for us in our penthouse suite. This cabin was very comfortable for our 24 day voyage with ample storage space, a nice size veranda with two reclining chairs and a small table and a good size bathroom with a tub and shower. Thick and cozy bathrobes and slippers were provided. We were never given a program for the day or told the Veranda Terrace was open for snacks for arriving guests. Movies shown on TV in the cabin were inexcusably bad. Announcements from the bridge could be accessed in our cabin on the TV if we wanted to hear them and that was so nice We recently had been on a cruise where you had to open your cabin door every time an announcement was being made. Our butler came in to introduce himself and offered his services but never explained just what he was there to do. We requested reservations in the two specialty restaurants giving him the dates and times we would like. The reservations we had asked for were never confirmed until 12 noon of the day the reservation was for and each time the reservation was for the wrong time. On the second cruise we made reservations ourselves. We found that if we wanted room service we called our butler and he would call us back very promptly to see what we wanted and he would bring our order. In other cabins the room steward filled the same function so there seemed to be no advantage to butler service. Our butler delivered two canapes per person to our cabin at about 4:00 PM each afternoon and gave us fresh ice. This was the only extra service we had and thought it unnecessary with 24 hour room service available for all guests. The suggested gratuity for butler service was $3.00 per person per day. Other guests may have found ways to use their butlers, but we did not and thought him superfluous. The beds in our cabin deserve special mention. We had read the beds were new and very comfortable and we found them to be the best of any cruise line we have traveled with. The sheets, duvet and pillows are beautiful and oh, so cozy. Our cabin steward and assistant were excellent and kept everything spic and span and couldn't have been friendlier and more helpful. They were both a delight. We found the staff aboard the ship were extremely well trained and excellent in every way. Service with a smile was the rule of the day. They were mostly from Eastern Europe and were very friendly and acco mmodating in every way. We wondered if they had also been selected for their looks -- they were such an attractive group! The shore excursions department was not as competent. Information was not as complete as it could be and it was very nice when local tourist guides came on board. Unfortunately, only one specialist spoke on each cruise. An expert on the Panama Canal came on board to give 3 lectures and was outstanding. A representative from the Guatemalan Tourist Office was also very informative. The shore excursions offered tried to meet the desires of the sedentary as well as the more active and adventurous. One of the nicest surprises was the quality of the food on board. It was very good and each presentation was beautifully done. We loved having one seating and being able to dine when we wished and with whom we wished. If we wanted to share a table the maitre d' would be very good at trying to match up compatible people and we found it a delightful way to meet our fellow passengers. One of my favorite areas on the ship is the library. It is a beautiful room with comfortable chairs and a great selection of books. There are also two computers that can be used 24 hours a day at no charge if you are not on the internet. There is a separate room with many computers. I found the charge for using the internet connections high but the staff there was very helpful. I was able to download all my digital photos and have a CD disc burned at the end of both cruises for a small fee. Entertainment was minimal. One excellent group from Australia, BLACK TIE, gave 3 shows, each one better than the last. They repeated the shows on the next cruise, and were just as enjoyable the second time around. There was one lecturer on digital photography,who gave a series of three lectures, on the first cruise that was very informative and had excellent attendance at all lectures. A lecturer on astronomy on the second cruise, besides a series of lectures, published an Eye on the Sky daily almanac in the daily program, and was on deck each evening at twilight and in the early morning to point out the daily heavenly show. Another lecturer on the second cruise did a series about what you need in life to make you happy. Other passengers enjoyed the series but I found what made me happy -- being aboard the Regatta with the person I love -- my husband. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
Let me start this off by saying we were a little reluctant to book a Carnival cruise at our age of 62. From what we have read and heard that Carnival was for the younger crowd,lots of neon,average food,poor service etc. Well we were ... Read More
Let me start this off by saying we were a little reluctant to book a Carnival cruise at our age of 62. From what we have read and heard that Carnival was for the younger crowd,lots of neon,average food,poor service etc. Well we were surprised,yes there is lots of neon and glitz, but the group that was on our sailing was a nice mix. The crew was friendly and was eager to please, there were some exceptions but overall I would give them 7 out of 10. The food was wear we were most surprised,very good to excellent on most nights. We eat in the dining room late seating for all or breakfast and diners, lunch was on deck with the usual fare.Our wait staff was good on par with some of the better restaurants in our area.The Ecstasy in most part was clean, some of the high traffic area carpet was stained in hallways but overall she was in good shape for a ship that gets this much traffic every week. We were told she carries 2200 to 2400 every week, year round. The only thing that we had trouble with was the fact that we booked the lowest grade inside cabin category 1A. It had one lower and a fold down bunk bed. At 62 the bunk bed is not the thing to do, I new this going in, but thought I would give it a try considering what we paid for this cruise (cheep).I tried to get a up grade at the embarkation but was told the ship was full. By the way embarkation went very fast and was by far the best we have been on on the 5 cruises we have taken in the last 20years. Our cabin E183 was good size, clean, and was in an excellent location on E deck, but No more bunk beds for us. Ports of call we did our own thing as we normally do when we cruise, a little walking through some shops and then back on board. We have been to the ports of call before on RCCL. Over all our cruise was very good for what we paid, we got a very low price on this cruise and we were pleased for the four days we spent with Carnival. FB,ABQ,NM Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
The new Lirica is a beautiful vessel. Technologically advanced, it provided a smooth, quiet cruise even in some choppy waters. The room (windowed outside cabin) was very nice and clean. More than sufficient storage space. Our ports of call ... Read More
The new Lirica is a beautiful vessel. Technologically advanced, it provided a smooth, quiet cruise even in some choppy waters. The room (windowed outside cabin) was very nice and clean. More than sufficient storage space. Our ports of call were wonderful - interesting, historical with beautiful scenery.(Panama Canal, Central America and Cartagena, Colombia.) However, MSC Cruise Line will have to improve its cuisine to compete with mainly American cruise lines. This is my 7th cruise. Previously, I've sailed with NCL, Princess, Premier and Carnival. The food on the Lirica was absolutely horrendous. And I do not avail myself of cruise vacations for food. I eat to live, not live to eat. The quality and presentation of food were awful and inferior. Bacon and sausage were inedible. Bacon consisted of 90% fat and barely cooked. Eggs usually served cold. Main meals deficient in choices, quality and presentation. Meats (i.e. beef) tough and grizzly. Desserts were practically nonexistent. Each night we had a choice of either ice cream or cake. The latter a frozen piece of tasteless flour, cream and fluff. On night one we were handed a wine list. We made choices, then told they were out of wine. Finally, our number 4 choice was in stock. Our last stop was to be at Key West. Everyone had to report to Immigration at 6:45 a.m. for passport clearance. That was a fiasco. After waiting 2 hours for immigration to board, the only scrutiny was a look at passport and look to see if each face matched passport. No one's name was checked off, etc. How would anyone know if an individual was cleared? Then we never made it to Key West because ship anchored off pier and tenders were unable to navigate the choppy waters safely. There were other cruise ships docked at the pier. People who had never been to Key West were very disappointed. Disembarking for excursions was poor, disorganized and unsafe. MSC needs to formulate a better system so cruisers will not be made to stand on stairwells for an hour while waiting for disembarkation. Clearly, a safety hazard existed. Additionally, bar staff and servers were poorly trained. They had little experience in making cocktails, evidenced by poor quality and taste of drinks. Again, the ship was lovely. Crew attempted to accommodate passengers. However, on day one it was obvious that staff was stressed. They didn't appear to be a happy lot. They lightened up on day three. MSC has potential. They need to make major changes. We were a party of eight and none of us would ever sail on one of their ships again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
We had previously won a cruise during a bingo session aboard the Navigator (a beautiful ship with a fantastic crew) and since we had planned to attend Mardi Gras we decided to take the Mardi Gras Cruise aboard Rhapsody of the Seas from Feb ... Read More
We had previously won a cruise during a bingo session aboard the Navigator (a beautiful ship with a fantastic crew) and since we had planned to attend Mardi Gras we decided to take the Mardi Gras Cruise aboard Rhapsody of the Seas from Feb 22-29. We arrived a day early to enjoy an evening of Galveston's Mardi Gras celebration before departing on what RCCL staff described as a Mardi Gras party cruise. The Galveston Mardi Gras is something not to be missed - it is a great time! Embarkation at Galveston is a breeze. Within 10 minutes of hitting the front door of the terminal we were through check-in and on our way onboard! Unfortunately, what was promoted as a festive "Mardi Gras" cruise ended up being anything but. Although the itinerary was unique since the ship would be docking in New Orleans, the activity and dining schedule was apparently a carbon copy of the one used for the ship's standard itinerary. This meant that one of the formal dinners and feature entertainment was scheduled on evenings we were scheduled to be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Just how bright was that? The cruise atmosphere and the staff were far from festive and there was little aboard that would even hint that the cruise had anything to do with Mardi Gras. $50 in theme decor and a little imagination would have gone a long way to set the Mardi Gras mood. Although The Rhapsody is an older ship, there seemed to be a significant amount of deferred maintenance. It looked like it had seen much better days. Although the condition of the public areas was acceptable, the carpeting in the rooms was rather stained and worn, the temperature control on the 3rd floor was virtually non existent and the sanitation system (toilets) had recurring problems. By the way, I do not recommend rooms 3130 and aft due to excessive vibration and noise from whatever is on the floor above. The food aboard was average at best. The WindJammer (buffet) food was anything but creative and the selection was very limited and very repetitive. The food in the dining room (2nd seating) was either cold or dry each of the nights we dined there so it didn't get high marks either. Although there were a lot of negatives, a significant amount of credit should be given to Royal Caribbean for their efforts to lessen the impact on their guests created by the tragic boat accident that blocked the Mississippi River. The accident made it impossible for the Rhapsody to dock in New Orleans. To make the best they could of a very bad situation, they diverted to Gulfport and contracted buses to transport guests to and from New Orleans. After we arrived in Cozumel (our final port of call) it was announced by the ship that all water activities at port had been canceled - due to high winds. Unfortunately, they decided not to make an announcement when the ban had been lifted by port authorities a short time later - this mistake meant that people who had booked excursions involving water activities did not participate in them - even though they could have participated in the excursions had they known of the change. In closing... Galveston Mardi Gras was fun! New Orleans Mardi Gras was fun! Cozumel was fun! The Royal Caribbean "Mardi Gras Cruise" aboard the Rhapsody was not fun. If I was looking for a "fun" cruise that enhances the Mardi Gras experience I would not consider Royal Caribbean's Mardi Gras Cruise aboard the Rhapsody. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
We drove to the port and parked at the parking structure there. This is $10.00 per day cash and was handy.You embark at about 1:30PM and sail about 5:30pm. There wasn't any signs to tell you how to check in. We saw a line and some ... Read More
We drove to the port and parked at the parking structure there. This is $10.00 per day cash and was handy.You embark at about 1:30PM and sail about 5:30pm. There wasn't any signs to tell you how to check in. We saw a line and some people gathering luggage. We got in line just because it was getting long but it turned out we needed to be there. Once they took our luggage we were directed in to check our self in. Inside you just get in the shortest line. Well the people who did not fill out their docs should be in another line compared to those of us who filled them online. Check is slow no matter what and the person checking us in just took off and never came back. I saw her once and yelled Hi and she kept on walking. We waited for her to come back for 15min. I asked for a manager to get someone and the manager did. Then we scurried for the on board picture which always looks great after check in and they give you a number to remember for your pictures. I thought why do I have to remember a number. They give your boarding pass and take your picture on it also. We get to our cabin and size was 185sq ft. which ok for two adults and two teens.We had two twins made into a queen and two pull downs that the ladders could not be hooked on to. The cabinets are made of formica and there are only 5 small drawers. They give you shelves in the closet with 10 hangers. There is not enough storage. The bathroom was average and tiled all over.The grout looked dirty on the wall and floor tile. We had 3 shelves to put all our stuff. It worked out ok.There is a safe in the room. It is about 5in X 5in and you use a key. You get the key from your Cabinstewart if you can find him. You also have to give the key back the night before you leave or they charge you if you can find him. By they way our Cabinstewart never took any dirty dished out of our cabin. We let it sit for 2 days before we sat them outside. We decided to get the teens soda cards for $15.00 (they charge a gratuity for this purchase). We waited a long time for one baggage by the time it came we missed the grill food. Dinner for late was at 8:00pm and it was about 5:00pm. So we all munch on a fruit basket we order prior. I must say the food with carnival has gone down hill alot. I sailed on the Maiden Voyage and the food is a nothing as before in 1987. The eggs benedict did not have a sauce it was coated and dried on egg. I was very disappointed with each meal. Our dinning room Waiter and Assistant Waiter were ok. If you want anything other than water it will cost you at dinner.Cost of drinks are airport prices $6.25. In regards to attitude of crew in all areas I felt most of the time I was in the way of the crew and I better get out of the way. I had a bar waitress confront me. She said I asked you twice if you wanted a drink and you said no then I saw you having a drink at the bar. Did you have a problem with getting a drink from me? I told her I wanted a drink and not have to carry it. In the casino they did not have enough staff to run the tables. Lots of people wanted to gamble and no dealer. The floor walker said they were short and to wait until later. This is one noisy ship. Noisy by passengers they cater to under 30. The entertainment was noisy. Lots of passengers yelling alot. We tried to find areas to distress from the noise there was none. We went into the piano bar and it was so loud it echoed off the walls. We went to the Society Wine bar and it still Ya Hoo time. Most quiet we found was the casino and casinos are noisy. Not even our cabin because of the parties in the hall ways every night. Bring ear plugs. The carpets on the ship were stained in most areas and the bar was all fingerprinted up. The elevators would ring this loud strangled ring. That was very annoying. At the debark talk the Cruise Director said this ship for the past 14 weeks was rated the number 1 out of the 20 Carnival ship based on passenger satisfaction on the comment cards. This shocks me. If this is the best I'd hate to see the worst.I had to sit back and wonder how could this be? I looked at who would be writing this. This ship caters to under 30 and most have never been on a cruise or maybe don't even what service is. As long as its a party they are ok. I have sailed on 20 cruises and this was my first cruise I was really displeased with. I will never sail on this ship ever again and if its number one with Carnival I will never sail on Carnival again. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
I have been on many cruises from Princess to Holland America and everything in between. The MSC Lirica was a breath of fresh air. No pushy "art" auctions, no charging extra for ice cream, specialty restaurants and fitness ... Read More
I have been on many cruises from Princess to Holland America and everything in between. The MSC Lirica was a breath of fresh air. No pushy "art" auctions, no charging extra for ice cream, specialty restaurants and fitness classes, no aggressive bar servers. This was a relaxing cruise without the usual nickel and diming, loud announcements and tacky decor on other lines. Also, gratuities are truly optional, unlike many lines where they are automatically added to the bill. It was also a truly sophisticated, international experience. I enjoyed getting to know passengers from Europe and learning words in other languages. The entertainment was first rate. Cruise Director Francesco prepared a spectacular show every evening. The last three nights got standing ovations each night...from the traditionally more reserved early dining crowd! Asst. Cruise Director Paulo hosted a presentation each afternoon featuring opera videos on a big screen with printed summaries and commentaries. MSC also hosts theme cruises, such as big band cruises with Les Brown Jr. (and his band of renown) and Fun & Fitness cruises for exercise enthusiasts. You'd have to check with your travel agent for the dates of specific theme cruises. This ship is classic...I loved hanging out at the elegantly tasteful Lord Nelson pub. The Blue Club Disco is a quiet refuge during the day and comes alive at night. The two pools and various Jacuzzis are wonderful to "bliss out." Dining was excellent. I'd only recommend that some soft, ambient music be playing during dinner, that the frequent "Happy Birthday/Happy Anniversary" musical theme be eliminated and that the lights be lowered slightly. Social Hostess Linda was a delight, as were all the staff members. I'm surprised by some of the negative reviews on this site...I guess the service has been greatly improved since the January inaugural. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
Like many experienced cruisers, we chose a one night precruise option, because of possible weather delays on our flight from LAX to San Juan. Lucky for us, nothing went wrong, and by Saturday afternoon, we were comfortably ensconced in ... Read More
Like many experienced cruisers, we chose a one night precruise option, because of possible weather delays on our flight from LAX to San Juan. Lucky for us, nothing went wrong, and by Saturday afternoon, we were comfortably ensconced in room 405 at the San Juan Marriott. It was one of those great corner rooms, which just came our way through happenstance. With a large wraparound balcony, we had a view of the pool area, the beach, and the ocean! That evening, we took a $15 cab ride to the Intercontinental, where we had a terrific steak at Ruth Chris' steakhouse. A bit pricey perhaps, but not outlandish, all things considered. John and I are cruise veterans, with more than 40 trips to our credit. We've found that one week is never enough for us, and as we're both retired, we prefer to take back-to-back cruises. Because he wanted to get his certification for scuba diving, he chose the Dawn Princess because of its PADI sanctioned program of instruction. Our wonderful T.A., Brian, found us a great room at half the price others were paying for less comfortable accommodations. Because the hotel to ship transfer wouldn't take place till the early afternoon, we sent our bags with the luggage that would be collected later that day, and took another $15 cab ride to the ship shortly before 11am. We didn't have long to wait, and it was a pleasant day, with shade by the terminal against which we were lined up. The terminal opened promptly when they had indicated it would, and the line moved along swiftly. As we had qualified for platinum member status with the first cruise, we were shuttled into the special line set up for those in that category. After taking an impression of our credit card, we received our room keys and went on board. Perhaps I've come to expect the line of uniformed and smiling escorts on Celebrity who show you to your room, but that's not the way Princess handles the situation. Instead, several staff is stationed at strategic points near the elevators to point the way to your deck. We were on deck 11 (Aloha), and had no difficulty finding stateroom #406. Upon entering the room, we found it a tad smaller than the similar accommodations we share with John's 86-year-old mother, but since this was just going to be the two of us, it would prove just fine. Venturing two decks above, we had our first of many meals at the tastefully decorated and efficient, Horizon Court. As we're both champion Diet Coke drinkers, we purchased $25 stickers for the week, which would allow us unlimited coke refills. In addition, you receive an insulated beverage glass that is yours to keep after the cruise. In my experience, it's best to order a large coke, instead of having these small glasses refilled. The food in Horizon Court was plentiful and the variety was dazzling in the various options. Our room steward was a lovely thoughtful lady from the Philippines, Dorie. Not only did she keep our stateroom spotless, but also it was always picked up and tidy. It was always a joy returning to our room and finding it so orderly...quite a change from home, he he. As it was just the two of us, we chose anytime dinning. This was the first time we had used this option, and it worked well for us. We often enjoy a light snack of guacamole or finger sandwiches after 4pm, but if you have first seating dinner, then you're often full from your afternoon treats. So, we were still able to enjoy our afternoon snacks, sip some wine on our verandah, and go to dinner between 7 and 7:30, with enough time to catch the late show and not feel rushed. Because we did have anytime e dinning, we ate in the Florentine dinning room, while guests with traditional fixed sittings, ate in the Venetian. The glamorous glass and brass atrium, soars 4 decks above, around which are clustered the shops, pizza parlor, lounge areas, and the casino. Glass elevators transport you with effortless ease from deck to deck, a plus for those unable to climb stairs. Service in the Florentine was excellent. Everyone from the young lady at the door who checked your key card to see that you were in the right area, to the staff of waiters and bus boys who served with efficiency and smiles, seemed intent on providing outstanding service. Victor and Robert were two of our favorite waiters, and we were fortunate to have been in their stations. The food on Princess has greatly improved overall. While portions were perhaps not as large as on Celebrity, for instance, one was always able to request more if more was desired. Presentation is still a quality that needs some work, but that's nitpicking, and doesn't affect the taste or range of the dishes. John's scuba instructor was Meghan, a bouncy athlete with patience and a quick wit. The equally capable Lester, who couldn't have been nicer, and was always there to assist the divers with their tanks and other gear, assisted her. In selecting two different itineraries, we visited several different ports, with St. Thomas the sole repeat. During our two weeks of cruising we called at Aruba, Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, and Isle Margarita. The latter port turned out to be a favorite, and on the island bus tour, we had a chance to see some of the more scenic areas of this tiny island. Our guide, Miguel, was a font of information, not only about the history of the area, but also of life on the island, as it exists today. St. Maarten was a great shopping port, and the Jimmy Buffet boutique, Last Mango in Paradise, was one of our favorites (yes, we're both Parrotheads). As for the entertainment, the three production sows, "Rhythms of the City", "C'est Magnifique", and the cabaret styled show that is presented on the final formal night. The first two shows, we had seen last year aboard the Tahitian Princess. But they have been fine tuned so that they are enjoyable revues with spectacular dancers, singers, and costumes. I may be wrong, but with such capable musical talent available in the Dawn Princess Orchestra, was the music canned...it certainly didn't appear to be live, and no credit was given to the Dawn Princess Orchestra. I was told by one of the entertainment staff employees that sometimes the shows are taken off the smaller ships and put on the larger vessels, as was the case in point here. On evenings when there were no production shows, there was still a plethora of entertainment offerings in both of the large venues, the Vista Lounge and the Princess Theatre, as well as in the numerous clubs and lounges on board. Adam Ace, Chip Romero, Paul Edison, and Feto Giron, were just some of the performers whose acts we caught over the course of our two cruises. While there is not a cinema on the ship, recent films are shown in either the Princess theatre or in one of the other lounges. Among the films shown were "Intolerable Cruelty, "Under the Tuscan Sun", "Runaway Jury", and "Captain and Commander". For those still seeking additional films, try the assortment broadcast in your stateroom. One of the pluses of a Caribbean cruise is the large number of shipboard activities. There is music poolside, most afternoons, lots of trivia, bingo, port lectures, and the art auctions. Amy and Chad were the art auctioneers on both our cruises, and were well informed about the artists and artwork they carry. While one might find a cruise ship an unusual place to purchase art, great bargains are to be had here, over a typical land based gallery. While there are indeed world-class artists such as Dali, Miro, Wyland, Steinovitz, and Tarkay, several up-and-coming artists are also offered at auction. Some lesser works are also mixed in among the treasures; Caveat emptor is more than a warning. Be prepared to live with what you buy, and buy only that which you love. Overall, the cruise was a good value for the money. We enjoyed a number of sublime moments that no amount of money can buy: crimson sunsets, azure waters, the languid attitude of a tropical latitude. We shared good times with fellow passengers and formed new friendships. We can't wait till our next Princess cruise, which is the "Islands of the Pacific Theatre", cruise on May 17th! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
About Us We are in our 30s. This is our third cruise with Princess. We have done the Eastern (2003) and Western Caribbean (2002). We book with the same agency each time--prices/booking available online, but I book over the phone. ... Read More
About Us We are in our 30s. This is our third cruise with Princess. We have done the Eastern (2003) and Western Caribbean (2002). We book with the same agency each time--prices/booking available online, but I book over the phone. Embarkation We took a flight to get into FLL at 10:30 in the morning. Got our bags and hopped in a cab for Port Everglades. We did the Princess transfer once and realized that it took way too long. We were in line and waiting to get in the building shortly after 11:00. We waited for about 20 minutes when the doors opened. The express check in line was long so we got into the Caribe deck line-we were second. We signed the paperwork and headed to security expecting to wait in the holding area for a while. To our delight, they were already boarding. We were standing on our balcony by 11:30. This was the fastest process yet. The Ship We had loved the Grand Princess and were a bit concerned that this ship might not "WOW" us or that it might feel too small. What we found was just the opposite. We loved the decor, the furniture and the art around the ship. The pools were great too. We didn't miss having a true night club too much. There was enough to keep us busy at night. The expanded Wheelhouse Bar was a great change. Much more comfortable and welcoming. The corridor outside Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe made you feel like you were walking on a side street in a city. The glass work around the ship was interesting too. Our Cabin We booked an AB--Balcony cabin on Caribe. We usually have a mini, so we were concerned about feeling cramped. The bed/desk/chair/tv area was fine. The closet and cabinet space was similar to the mini. I did miss the storage area in the living space and found that we ran out of space each time I went shopping in a port. I was prepared for the small bathroom. But after a few days of peeling the shower curtain off my backside I was dreaming of the minisuite bathroom. I did bring an over the door shoe holder. Without it I would have gone nuts in the bathroom. The only outlet in the room was on the wall next to the balcony door. I brought a small power strip, but no extension cord. Bring an extension cord. The balcony was huge. I asked our room steward, Dino, to bring me a pool lounge chair. It fit nicely with the table and two chairs. Having that chair was a great way to relax on the balcony Food We did anytime dining. We tried tables for 2, 6 and 10. We had a mix of good and bad service. Luckily, we found a waiter and a table that we loved so we started to call in the morning to reserve the table. Try to get table 94 (it's by a window) with Matt and Noel. His section also had a table for 4 and one for 12. There were times when he was slammed but he handled everything with a smile. Matt is very attentive and quite funny. He made our dining experience even better. We found the food in the dining room to be similar to what we had on the Grand, but the portions seemed to be smaller. Matt even told us which meals were small so we would order something extra to share. We loved all of the cold soups. The beef meals that I had were better than what I've had before on cruises. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court each day. The food was good, but there was less of a variety than what we saw on past cruises. We did order the champagne breakfast for the Panama Canal. It was well worth the $25. Most of the items could have been picked up in the HC, but the presentation of the food and drinking champagne just after sunrise going through the canal was an experience that I won't forget. Entertainment This was the first time that we enjoyed the production shows. There is great use of the rotating stages in the Universe Lounge and the tv's and video screens were a nice addition. It kept things interesting. The dancing was a notch above what we've seen before. Better costumes and great choreography. We liked the two male singers (Scott and Patrick)and one the of the female singers (Tracy). we found Jenn to be a boring singer with one style and no range. The comic, Kevin Hughes, was fantastic. We went to all three of his shows (and we bought his CD!). We had a nice surprise in that Willie Tyler and Lester were part of the entertainment. We had been fans as long as we can remember, so it was a bonus to see him live. He was also very approachable around the ship. The other entertainers (juggler, comic and magician) were ok. But nothing that you hadn't seen or heard before. Avoid Jack Wilkes--we stayed for the entire show, but should have followed our fellow passengers out the door. David Moore, the piano player in Crooners, is fantastic. Make sure to grab a martini and sit and listen to him at least once. We didn't listen to the bands that much. Most of it didn't fit us, or wasn't that great...My husband enjoyed all of the pool games and silliness involved. We ended up with some prizes and champagne too. The game shows and trivia were fun too. A good way to pass some time between losing money in the casino. Ports/Shore Excursions We did a private tour with Peat Taylor in Jamaica. A group of Cruise Critics booked a tour together. It was a great half day. Peat was very knowledgeable and funny. He's got a decent singing voice too. We went to Dunn's River Falls, through Fern Gully and around Jamaica. We enjoyed the falls, but it was a bit much for me so I stopped about 3/4 of the way up. Fern Gully was beautiful. If you are going to Jamaica, save your money and book a tour with Peat ($30pp) and you get a great tour....Panama Canal Ocean to Ocean tour: We enjoyed the tour. It was very long and the weather danced between hot and rain, but we loved it anyway. I think you have to enjoy the history and engineering behind the canal to really like this tour. We missed our initial lock time, so we were delayed about 1.5 hours in getting back to the ship. We didn't have time to shop in the market at the port, but I was worn out by then and didn't care that much. I did see one man get sick at the front of the boat. His family just kind of ignored what happened and I promptly moved to the back of the ship to avoid any future incidents...Costa Rica: Sloth Sanctuary and Canoe Tour. This was a fantastic excursion. Our tour guide, Gloriana was the best guide we have ever had. She even made the bus ride fun. She knew so much about Costa Rica and her live for her country was great. The canoe ride was pleasant. There were four people in each canoe with a guide. We got to see many birds and there were monkeys swinging in the trees. Then we were introduced to the Sloths. They are incredible creatures. I fell in love with them. I even adopted one, along with another cruise critic member. I am proud to be one of Sid Wiggy's moms. We had a chance to enjoys a fruit buffet and a drink before heading out on a nature walk, where we learned even more about the wildlife and plants. I'd recommend this tour to anyone that loved animals and wants to learn a lot about Costa Rica...We did the Island Highlights in Grand Cayman. We enjoyed seeing Hell and doing the postcard thing. We were a little troubled by the Turtle Farm. It is a mix of conservation and meat supply. We could have skipped that and been happy. We ate lunch at Breezes. Excellent conch fritters...In Cozumel we did the Dolphin Swim and Snorkel. The swim part was great. You got a kiss from the dolphin, danced with it and then you got pulled by the Dolphin. I squealed the entire time. The snorkel part was ok. We were in a large circle and the dolphin just swam under us around the circle. Since the water was very cloudy there were times when I didn't know the dolphin was coming until it was right next to me. We were going to buy the video, but they wanted $35 for it. It wasn't worth that to us. But then a cool thing happened: my husband was picked to help train a baby dolphin. He got spend about 30 minutes in the water working with the dolphin and a trainer. It was a once in a life time experience. After that we spent some time in Chakanaab walking around. We ate lunch in the park--which was fantastic. Then is was back to the ship and on to shopping. Scholarship at Sea The only thing that we did was pottery. We took the throwing class with Barbara Kates and had a lot of fun. Barbara is a great teacher with a lot of patience! We both made bowls that we were able to glaze and bring home. We also painted plates to bring home too. We loved this program and look forward to adding to our pottery on future cruises. Pictures The switch to digital photography made things interesting. We had a lot more opportunities to get our pictures taken, and there multiple versions of each picture available. But the prices have gone up again so we ended up buying fewer photos. Funny thing is that if the process were cheaper, we would have bought more photos and would have given the ship more money in the long run. Passengers We expected an older crowd and we got one. There were many walkers and wheelchairs, but it wasn't a problem. For the most part, we found the older crowd to be pleasant and chatty. I even had a few grandmothers that claimed me as one of their own. I did see more 40s and 50s doing the complaining and I had expected it from the 70-80 crowd. Staff We had a great time getting to know the cruise staff. Kelly Neal, Deputy Cruise Director, was a riot. He always entertained us and made up for Trevor Bradford and his canned jokes. The other staff members, Josh, Tyrone, Kent, Erin, Sam and Robyn were so much fun. I look forward to seeing them on future cruises. All in all it was a great cruise, made even better by the people we met from this board. I feel like we made some lifelong friends that we hope to see again someday. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
This sailing was the repositioning cruise from South America to Florida and was the last sailing before the Infinity was put into drydock for "propulsion" problems. We had originally booked this cruise for two reasons. First we ... Read More
This sailing was the repositioning cruise from South America to Florida and was the last sailing before the Infinity was put into drydock for "propulsion" problems. We had originally booked this cruise for two reasons. First we had done the trip around Cape Horn two years ago so wanted to "finish" off SA. Second, life had been pretty hectic so we thought this would be a good cruise since there weren't a lot of ports. The ports were all important since they were in countries we hadn't been to before. So we were just a little disappointed that Celebrity chose to drop one of four ports and that was Manta, Ecuador. This was the one port that we would have liked to have seen and when combined with another unfortunate experience meant we were on board for 7 straight days. Even for experienced cruisers this is a long time to be "captive" on a ship. Even with all the activities that the ship's staff managed to come up with, we found it was just a little boring and a tad repetitive after 4 or 5 days!! As for the rest of the cruise and the ship - we found the embarkation and disembarkation process to be the best that we had ever experienced. We have sailed before on Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, and RCCL but Celebrity beat all of them hands down. From the time we arrived at the dock in Valparaiso till we were eating lunch in the Oceanview Cafe was about 20 minutes. And their disembarkation without announcements is a joy!! We had a balcony cabin (I know they prefer to call them staterooms) that was more than adequate. The bed was comfortable, there was lots of storage space, and the bathroom was larger than any other we had encountered on a ship. We enjoyed having our breakfast delivered to the stateroom and sitting outside in the mornings. The food was well above average. There was quite a selection of places and types of food available all day and well into the night. We only went to the dining room for dinner (early sitting) since there was so much choice for all the other meals. Our waiter and asst waiter were very good. After the first evening, they would greet us by name and knew what we preferred to drink which is always nice. There was only one evening that we were not impressed with the choices on the dinner menu but then again it can't always be perfect. We enjoyed Celebrity's afternoon ritual of "sorbet on parade" and the very nice afternoon tea. The entertainment on board was what can be expected of most cruise ships. There was the required production shows and some individual entertainers that were O.K. Really depends on what you expect and your personal tastes whether the evening shows met expectations. There was one group that we really enjoyed. It was an a cappella group called Lighthouse. They would pop up in one bar or another over the 14 days and they were very entertaining at least to us because they sang a lot of songs from the 50's and 60's. There was the required bingo (which we never attended), art auctions that have become a staple of the cruise ship industry, and some lectures, etc. There is a very nice cinema which screened fairly new release movies. The casino was small but adequate and was less smoky than some others we have encountered. As to the ports of call - if you cruise to see as many places as you can in one cruise don't do this one. Arica, Chile is the first port of call. It is a small town with not a lot of happening. It is an oasis in the middle of a desert. The shore excursions are almost non- existent because there is nowhere to go except out into the desert. There is very little shopping besides the little market in a park across from the terminal. Then Lima, Peru which we did not get to see but several people reported that it did not meet their expectations. Callao where the ship docks is not very safe. Evidently three women who had got a cab to take them downtown Lima had a purse snatching incident when they stopped at a light just outside the terminal. So if you want to see Lima, take one of the shore excursions or arrange to be met. The only other stop we made was in Aruba and what can you say about a Caribbean island that many cruise ships visit every day. Luckily there was only 2 ships in the day we were there. If you like the Caribbean (white sand, warm water, almost guaranteed sun, and lots of jewelry shopping) you will like Aruba. Overall, we enjoyed our first cruise with Celebrity on the Infinity and will probably sail with them again given the right itinerary at the right price. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
We were on the Mariner's 14-night trip from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale via the Panama Canal. As first-timers we decided to book one of the ship's larger suites that included butler service. We were delighted and dismayed by ... Read More
We were on the Mariner's 14-night trip from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale via the Panama Canal. As first-timers we decided to book one of the ship's larger suites that included butler service. We were delighted and dismayed by our choice. Next time we'll think more carefully. (See the very end of this review for details about this.) First of all, every suite on the Mariner has a balcony, and when the weather is as gorgeous as it was during our cruise, you don't spend much of your time in the suite itself. You're either on your balcony, or you're on the (almost) empty deck. Having the extra space was extremely nice, but we really didn't use half of it. And, anyway, as we learned during one of the "open houses," even the smallest suites on the ship are more than comfortable for two people. Secondly, everyone gets the same service, whether in a big suite like ours or in one of the smallest. We of course had the extra advantage of having a butler. He was extremely charming and eager to please. He was a great conversationalist. He unpacked our luggage and took our clothes to be dry cleaned and pressed. He looked after every little detail, like delivering invitations to the people we invited for a cocktail party. He was extraordinary. But, like the extra space, we really didn't need him. Like everyone else, we had a steward and stewardess who cleaned our suite twice every day. (We hardly ever saw them.) I don't know what more you'd want in terms of in-room service. Thirdly, it's true. Radisson does attract a largely older crowd. But this means that the best parts of the ship, like the swimming pool, jacuzzis, the big bar at the aft, are **empty** most of the time. One night my sweetie and I went to soak in one of the deck's three jacuzzis at 7:30 p.m. The air was warm. There was a big full tropical moon in the sky. We were absolutely 100% alone. I was in the ship's pool on most days and maybe only twice was there someone else swimming with me. Fourthly (is there such a word?), everybody gets the same food, which on most counts ranges from very good to excellent. Our only disappointment was in Latitudes, the reservations-only Asian-fusion restaurant. (Too salty!!) We had very good (formal) French food in Signatures. But we really loved the Spanish and Italian menus in La Verandah, the most casual restaurant. Also, the seafood in ALL the restaurants was exceptionally fresh. Our big "learning experience" came when we anchored in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. SIX other cruise ships were there at the same time. They were ENORMOUS. We watched their passengers wait ten-deep in the hot sun for a tender back to their ships. Those of us on the Mariner were whisked back and forth on nearly empty tenders. At the dock, the Mariner had set up chairs under an umbrella and had crew members passing out iced water and orange juice. What we don't understand is that the nicest suites on those huge ships cost almost as much or more than the smaller suites on the Mariner. But on those huge ships you share **everything** with 2000+ passengers, no matter how much you pay for your suite. What I'm pretty sure we learned is that the "ultra-deluxe" Radisson cruises are probably an incredible bargain, given the service, the space, and the fact that most areas of the ship are empty most of the time. Also, the fares are all-inclusive. I don't have time to do the math. But you don't need a big suite or butler service on a ship like the Mariner. We had a spectacular trip. (We especially enjoyed Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. Although, the Gatun Yacht Club is a big bore! My sweetie took the helicopter trip over the Gatun Locks and had a blast.) You can spend a third of what we spent and still have a fantastic time. We're definitely going to take Radisson again, but next time we want to do a longer cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
We just returned from the Panama Canal cruise Monday morning, April 12th. I will start by saying we had a wonderful cruise. The Lirica is a very nice new ship. The staff was very friendly and bent over backwards to please everyone. We were ... Read More
We just returned from the Panama Canal cruise Monday morning, April 12th. I will start by saying we had a wonderful cruise. The Lirica is a very nice new ship. The staff was very friendly and bent over backwards to please everyone. We were very apprehensive due to the bad reviews we had read, but decided to go with a "Good Attitude" and expect a good experience! We recognize new ships need time to get all the kinks out, particularly since they are an Italian line and are not accustomed to Our American Desires. Thanks to all the previous criticism, they did all they could to correct the legitimate complaints. Being of Italian decent, we were very much at home with the Italian crew and the food. The pastas were hand made every day and the sauces were delicious. The one item which was always a disappointment was the steak, it was overcooked so many times. Italians do not know how to cook steak MEDIUM RARE!!! If you like rare meat, tell them "con sangue" meaning "with blood" I do not eat any fish, but my companions do and said it was great! The food was plentiful and we particularly enjoyed having our meals in the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The room was beautifully appointed and the service was very good. Every night, they have a late night buffet, which was very nice. The last Gala Buffet is absolutely beautiful, like the old days on ships!!! The Entertainment was Fabulous!!! Every night was a different show in the theater, Each one with different acts that were terrific. It was an 11 night cruise, so some of the show people were on more than once, but they were so good and did different types of shows, that we welcomed seeing them again. After the nightly shows, there is a team of young people called the Animation Team that continued entertaining us in the lounges. They were lots of fun and kept the crowd really going!!! There were skits that were very funny and all kinds of music and dancing. Before long, everyone was mingling and having a great time. They also have a large, beautiful, after hours disco, which was great. There was activity planned all day long. The Animation team worked from early in the morning all through the afternoon and into the evening planning activities, getting as many as possible to participate. They were the Heartbeat of the Cruise. Embarkation at Port Everglades was not what I expected. We were crowds of people waiting on line for a very long time. They seemed to be very slow at the counters processing the passengers. They might have been stalling until all the rooms were cleaned. My last experience was in Miami with Royal Caribbean, the Navigator, which was THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SHIP I have been on. One other disappointment on the Lirica is the size of the rooms. They are really small but I will say if you are organized, you can manage okay. As for the tours that were offered, We took one in the Panama Canal which was the former canal zone and Gatun locks. It was $57 each and not worth it. It included a visit to the Gatun locks where a lecturer was supposed to explain the entire inner workings of the locks. It was mobbed with people from other tours, we were separated from our tour guide and never heard a word. We got more out of being up early in the morning as we approached the canal and our English speaking hostess narrated the entire entry explaining everything. Other than seeing where the americans lived when they controlled the canal, there was nothing more to see. You are told that Panama regulations only permit guests taking an excursion to go ashore. There are other tours offered such as a Helicopter flight over the canal, or a river boat ride. I do not know anything about them. We also took the city tour in Cartegena, Columbia. It was very close to the ship and a large group, so we felt safe. We would not venture inland in that city. Costa Rica was the greatest for shopping. Save your money for that port. Right outside the ship, they have a marketplace with beautiful hardwoods such as jewelry boxes, salad bowl sets, inlaid wood trays, gorgeous calves leather goods and very reasonable. If you are booked on the Lirica, go with a Happy Attitude and practice a few Italian words, the staff loves it. They do speak some English. And the Cruise Director Francesco speaks English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and even some Japanese. He is remarkable. He explains everything in all of them and does not miss a beat. We were spellbound by his flow of sentences. Buon Voyage Jean Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
It was with much excitement that my husband and I booked onto the QM2 for what we hoped would be a very special 4 night cruise on what Cunard call 'the best ocean liners in the world'. QM2 was to sail from Southampton on the 16th ... Read More
It was with much excitement that my husband and I booked onto the QM2 for what we hoped would be a very special 4 night cruise on what Cunard call 'the best ocean liners in the world'. QM2 was to sail from Southampton on the 16th April 2004 and then on to make two maiden calls to Geurnsey and Cherbourg. It was to be our fourth cruise, the first being on Brilliance of the Seas in August 2002, Adonia in August 2003 and again on Brilliance in November 2003. We had been most impressed with all our cruising experiences, in particular, Brilliance of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) We left our home in Lancashire on 11th April to travel to Southampton for our pre-cruise hotel organised independently by ourselves. QM2 was due to dock into Southampton at 6.00 a.m. on the 12th. We awoke relatively early and were informed by the local news on our hotel room TV that QM2 was in fact to dock some 5 hours late due to a technical difficulty. Whilst this was obviously disappointing, it gave us the unusual opportunity to see QM2 arrive into Southampton in daylight at 11.00 a.m. video camera in toe, we waited for the first glimpse of QM2 which was the top of her red funnel over the top of the port buildings in the distance and watched her gracefully, quietly and slowly take up her position at the QE2 terminal. The time on our tickets showed embarkation to be 3.30 p.m. We had received no notification from Cunard (despite Cunard apparently being aware of this delay from the Friday before and in receipt of our mobile numbers) therefore, we attended at the terminal in accordance with the information given on our tickets. It took a significant amount of time to drive to the dock as the dock area was completely gridlocked with traffic. When we arrived at the terminal and parked our car our luggage was taken and we were asked to board a coach which would take us back through the terminal to the De Vere Hotel for refreshments. Whilst discussing what we should do we were informed by a fellow guest that if we chose to go to the local hotel then it would take at least an hour to get there and there was nowhere to sit. Therefore, we chose not to take up this offer and instead went into the terminal to wait for Cunard to open the doors. At 4.00 p.m. passengers on the previous voyage were still disembarking and the scene was one of absolute chaos. At 4.55 p.m. Cunard opened the doors and we were one of the first to be checked in. The signs to the ship were pointing in the wrong direction and the escalator to the waiting hall wasn't working. However, we were not too concerned, only eager to see what awaited us. After a very short wait of only one or two minutes in the waiting hall we were told we could embark. We dashed to form a queue and were then told that actually, they weren't quite ready. Another 5 or 10 minutes later we were finally told we could embark. We walked straight into the Grand Lobby and were faced with a line of staff who greeted us by saying "welcome aboard". No-one offered to show us to our cabin and no-one offered to help carry some of our hand luggage. We were just pointed in the right direction which we felt was very lacking in comparison with our other cruises. Anyway, not to be perturbed we eagerly made our way to our cabin. We had been upgraded from an inside to an outside with a porthole and the cabin had been adapted to be wheelchair friendly, therefore, it was huge. We were extremely pleased with our cabin which was furnished to a delightful standard and was spotless. There was also a complimentary half bottle of champagne which I understand is provided on all cruises. We left packing until later and explored the ship. If I had been a first time cruiser I am sure I would have been absolutely elated with her beauty however overall I felt the rooms were too similar and lacked atmosphere and character. There is very little wood, the wall panels are high gloss laminate and the huge murals which line the walls to the Britannia, whilst are designed to look like bronze appear to be made from plastic. I understand that wood has not been used to comply to fire regulations however Brilliance was only launched in 2002 and is full of beautiful wood panels and flooring. Our first meal on board was taken in the Britannia restaurant. We were on late sitting however by the time the safety drill had been done, it was 9.20 p.m. before we were able to sit down. Quite simply, the service was appalling. The waitress had to ask my husband to help her support the overloaded drinks tray as she was going to drop it and beer was 'served' in the can unpoured and even unopened. My glass had a 'tide mark' and the food served was cold. We felt it may be unreasonable to complain on the first night and hoped our dining experiences would improve. They did not. Each night our food was served luke warm and each night the food served was sent back to the kitchen. The water glasses were always kept full and generally the wine waiter was excellent however on one occasion, when the wine was brought by the Maitre'd it took two attempts for us to receive our correct order. These are only a small selection of instances, there were many more. On the third night we advised the Senior Maitre'd that for our last night we were to dine elsewhere as we were so disappointed. The Maitre'd promised he would ensure if we did chose to dine in the Britannia on the last night that everything would be perfect. He also offered us a free bottle of wine. We felt we ought to give Cunard an extra chance to deliver and took him up on his offer. The last night arrived and we went to sit at our table. There were no serviettes and no glasses. Starters were just about hot, mains were cold and the turkey served was processed. It tasted disgusting. We asked the Senior Maitre'd whether he was aware that the turkey was processed and he said he was, this was due to the chef running out of the carvery turkey. He said himself that it was unacceptable and embarrassing for him to serve food of this quality. There was no way I could eat the processed turkey as it tasted of chemicals and as there was nothing else I liked on the menu I was offered chicken. When this arrived it was a plain chicken fillet with boiled potatoes, broccoli and carrot. Not exactly imaginative however I considered myself lucky as it was steaming hot. I tried room service once for breakfast which was good however one item was missing. The self service Kings Court was used only once, again for breakfast and we found only a limited choice of food available compared with Royal Caribbean Windjammer. The Todd English Restaurant was excellent and was on a par with the alternative dining found on Royal Caribbean such as Chops Grill or Porto Fino. The shows were some of the best we have seen and Jennie Bond who was on board gave a lecture about her life as a Royal Correspondent and her contribution to 'I'm a Celebrity' which was extremely interesting. In my opinion, Geurnsey made no effort to welcome us (only had a tent selling special souvenirs) but we were tendered. We were much further out than when we have been to Guernsey before however the arrangements for the tenders seemed to be well organised. Arrival at Cherbourg was something else. The welcome Cherborg gave QM2 was amazing. As we sailed towards the docks at 6.00 a.m., the Navy and other little boats came to greet us spraying water. Several thousands of people lined the docks cheering and clapping and a band played. We disembarked and the tourist board had arranged for horse drawn carriages and antique cars or a shuttle bus to take us the short distance to the town. Many of the shops had posters of the ship welcoming its maiden call. Cherbourg had gone to so much effort and my husband and I will never forget it. The night time (11pm) send off was similar however more people lined the docks, someone said there were around 10,000 people holding torches. It was fantastic. As a 'gesture of goodwill' Cunard have offered to contribute 25% of the price paid for this trip against a future trip with Cunard to compensate for the late arrival of the ship in Southampton. They also provided us with a complimentary sailaway champagne party from Guernsey. All in all we were extremely disappointed with our QM2 experience mainly due to the apparent lack of organisation generally and awful service in the Britannnia Restaurant (especially with Cunard promoting their "White Star Service"). We also felt that the waiting staff seemed fed up and unhappy which is no surprise if their guests had as many complaints as what we had. Finally, on the morning of disembarkation, our steward walked 'mistakenly' into our cabin whilst we were still in bed at 7.15 a.m. and our friends told us they had their steward knocking on their door at 6.00 a.m. to say 'good morning'. With our hand luggage packed, we took the lift to disembark. A youngish male entered the lift with us with a suitcase and two boxes. One box had a picture of a toaster on it and the other box a kettle. I coyly said to him "the food wasn't that bad was it?" He replied no ma'am. My husband advised me once the male had left the lift that he was the cruise director who had completed his 4 month contract. I hope it gives him and his peers food for thought. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
As previously avid supporters of Celebrity (Century, Galaxy, Millennium and Constellation) this little four-night junket left us with doubts about our favorite cruise line for the first time. Perhaps Celebrity isn't geared up for the ... Read More
As previously avid supporters of Celebrity (Century, Galaxy, Millennium and Constellation) this little four-night junket left us with doubts about our favorite cruise line for the first time. Perhaps Celebrity isn't geared up for the four-night experience and maybe it was just dumb bad luck on our part to book it, but we came away slightly bewildered, somewhat disappointed and wondering if our favorite cruise line is changing its focus? This was our first cruise on Summit. Once you've experienced the M Class ships, getting around is a piece of cake. Summit did not however, seem quite as well appointed or elegant as Constellation and our Category 2A balcony cabin looked somewhat tired and perhaps in need of refurbishment. EMBARKATION: Timely, except that a pleasant gentleman with a big smile handed out Debarkation Forms (the ones you fill out to get OFF the ship) in the embarkation lounge and failed to advise us we needed to complete them prior to boarding. This proved to be embarrassing and a bit awkward when we got to the Captain's Club desk to check in. The agent wasn't pleased, nor polite, that we hadn't completed the form and questioned my statement that we'd not been told to fill them out before boarding. I scrambled for our return flight information and filled out the form but I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened had I packed our return flight info in our checked luggage? And also, the last thing you want to think about on sailaway day, is debarkation! CABIN: This was partially my mistake, but forewarned is forearmed. I asked for Cabin 9173, slightly aft of mid-ships on the Sky Deck because it had an angled balcony. We've been in cabins on the Sky Deck before on two other Celebrity ships and never had a problem, but 9173 had a major flaw. In the wee (wee) hours of the night/morning, there was something very noisy going on upstairs in the Waterfall Cafe that sounded for all the world like a roller derby. We learn something new everyday. I learned never to book this cabin! One additional lesson learned...some cabins have drop-down third berths in the ceilings. Unless you're not opposed to potentially having a family with children in the next cabin, you might want to avoid locating next to one of these cabins. So check your deck plans before you make your cabin selection. We are empty-nesters with a grandchild. We love babies, especially our own, but were not necessarily ecstatic when we discovered the couple in the adjoining cabin had brought along their two year old grandchild. I don't know why I thought families with children were put in specific areas on each deck. Obviously, they are not. FOOD AND SERVICE: We had requested a table for ten (there were four of us, two couples in our 50's). We got a table for six on the upper level. The two gentlemen assigned to the remaining two seats at our table had requested a table for two and the maitre'd had told them not to worry because we were all "about their age". NOT. Thank Heavens they were delightful guys but a little offended by the suggestion they looked twenty years older than they were! It appeared the usual matching of tablemates wasn't deemed important for a four-night cruise as I heard this complained about more than once. Some people had it worse, assigned to tables taken up mainly by family groups traveling together. This can be a miserable situation. Or perhaps we were all just displaced by the corporate groups? Either way, it was a disappointment and didn't appear to have been given thought to. Service was very good to excellent and we loved our 2nd in command at table, Milton Alexander from Honduras who had a lovely smile and a great sense of humor. We all like and expect competence in the dining room wait staff, but personality is important as well. Celebrity seems to be overlooking this lately. The food was shaky the first night, but excellent every other night of the cruise. The Normandie was superb, thanks to the excellent staffers who rotate between Summit and Millennium. I knew I recognized them! Top notch food and service! There cannot be much of an excuse for the ship's not having received their wine order before our sailing. Two out of the four nights onboard, the wines we ordered were not in stock for this reason. Disaster! Cafe Cova...read my lips. Starbucks would be better, much. Understaffed and sometimes unpleasant wait staff. We've noticed this trend on other M-class ships. What's up here? ENTERTAINMENT: Went to The Night of Stars, the first night's entertainment in the Celebrity Theatre. It was pathetically amateurish and rather creepy. It came off looking like a porno film with everyone wearing their clothing. Weird. We didn't bother after that. Where were the comedians? Where was The Newlywed Game? Every time I cruise on Celebrity, I wonder why on earth they don't bring in some small jazz groups. I'm tired of Yellow Bird and steel drums. SCARY STUFF: Returned to our cabin on sailaway night shortly after 1 AM. Hubby removed his shoes and immediately stepped on something sharp. Ouch! We flicked on the cabin lights and picked up what amounted to an entire pile of large, sharp shards of glass embedded in the carpeting all over the floor on his side of the bed! Someone had broken something in the bathroom, cleaned the bathroom and hadn't bothered to check or vacuum the rest of the cabin. Housekeeping had to send someone up at 1:30 AM to do so and I'm sure the noise woke up the two year old next door. CELEBRITY HAS GONE CORPORATE? Arranged to meet our fellow cruisers in the Martini Bar before late seating. We were astonished to discover a corporate meeting going on down in the public atrium below the Martini Bar, where normally there is a dance band between dinner seatings. My husband cruises to get away from corporate speak. I can't print on this website what he said about this one. SHORE EXCURSIONS: Only two stops on this four-nighter. Both times there were as many as four to six other large cruise ships in port. Wow, lots of folks! Getting to our shore excursion in Cozumel was a disaster. Many people missed their group because ship's shore excursion personnel didn't know where groups were assembling. Just too many people in port for the transportation to be appropriately handled. Instead of the usual large, air-conditioned bus we were stuffed into van taxis four passengers per seat for a thirty five minute drive over unpaved roads. Corporate groups got the big buses with a/c. Most unpleasant and mildly sweaty. OVERALL: Maybe, after all, it was just dumb bad luck. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
We booked the shuttle through NCL to pick us up at LAX, and they never showed up..I called NCL from the airport and we were left on hold for almost an hour! Finally got a shuttle outside to the ship, on our own and was one of the first ... Read More
We booked the shuttle through NCL to pick us up at LAX, and they never showed up..I called NCL from the airport and we were left on hold for almost an hour! Finally got a shuttle outside to the ship, on our own and was one of the first ones at the port to embark. We did our pre-registration online, and it ended up taking 45 minutes to check us in, because the workers didn't know how to use the new software, and had to enter everyone manually! People were still not checked in until late in the early evening. Once we were on, the ship is beautiful! The ship was spotless. I love that they have you sanitize your hands before you enter, and all throughout the ship. I liked the atrium, very tall and the skylight went all the way to the top. We had an inside cabin, the biggest of any ship I had ever experienced. I'm not one to complain about food on a cruise, because of all the choice. Well, it was the worst food ever! The buffet was so small and full of fried finger foods and there was no choice. Everything looked unappetizing (and I love food)..The only plus was the dessert section, which was bigger than the buffet itself. In the morning for breakfast, the eggs looked like soup. The main dining rooms were only good 2 nights. The choices were strange, and we left unsatisfied. I recommend the steak..there was no lobster or prime rib offered on this cruise. The best was the Pacific Heights Cooking Light Restaurant, no charge, and delicious! Blew the other dining away. No chocolate buffet was disappointing. Entertainment was fantastic. the best shows I have seen. Disembarking was the best of any ship. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
CRUISE FROM HELL !! 1st & last ever on Carnival !!! Our repositioning cruise from Hawaii to Vancouver started off on a bad note and then went downhill! On embarkation, we found that our room's air conditioning was not working. ... Read More
CRUISE FROM HELL !! 1st & last ever on Carnival !!! Our repositioning cruise from Hawaii to Vancouver started off on a bad note and then went downhill! On embarkation, we found that our room's air conditioning was not working. Neither was our room safe. We called the purser's desk to advise them of the problems. The response was that someone would come to help. After waiting two hours, I went to the purser's desk to inquire as to the delay (never waited this long to have a problem solved on RCL). I was told that room was warm due to ships' doors being open to allow other passengers to embark. I asked why the purser's desk area was cool and comfortable even though it was on the same deck as the open doors. I received a blank stare for an answer. I insisted on another room and was told this would be impossible. I stated that I would have to talk to the Captain. Again I received a dumb response. "The Captain has no control over these things. He only navigates the ship" During this fiasco, a steward was sent to our room to correct the safe problem. He told my wife that we should expect more problems with the safe. After my telling the pursers office that I would look up the Captain even if at his welcome aboard party, I was told that they would send someone to look at the AC. or I could get a fan!! First night in Hawaiian port was with NO air conditioning. Next Morning I again went to pursers office and stated that since I had paid by credit card, I would have CC company hold payment from Cruise line as I was not getting what I had paid for. Lo and behold, an engineer was sent to our room and solved the problem by putting in clean filters. Oh yes, our safe was not working again. The steward had to come back and replace batteries in it. We found that most of the furniture on board was in poor condition. Holes, frays and snags in chairs, in lounge areas and dining room made us think Ship was a lot older than the 3 to 4 years of age it really was. Breakfasts and lunches on the Lido deck were well put together. Even though many passengers were extremely inconsiderate of others. The inconsiderate passengers would take over a table in the dining area of the Lido deck and play board games, card games or paint by number while others were walking with food trays trying to find a place to eat. The only saving grace in the main dining room was our waiter and asst waiter! They were friendly, fun and efficient. A shame that the food they had to serve was so poor. Many a night we went to the Lido deck to have pizza after a disastrous meal in the dining room. There were a few children on board with this sailing. They appeared to be having a good time for the most part. However the crew did not follow the regulations the ship itself had posted. The kids were never reminded that running at poolside was not allowed. Nor were they told that they had to be over 18 to use the hot tubs. They even used the hot tubs to practice with their masks and snorkels. All while being observed by the pool staff. Two, possibly three shows in the theater were worth seeing. A few of the so called "Las Vegas Review" shows were comparable to a sixth grade elementary school play. The rest were not up to that quality. The finale of one show went into Gospel singing. This venue is certainly not the time or place for this music. Not everyone was religious enough to appreciate this. Nor is this music really fitted for pure entertainment purposes. The shore excursions were good of course. After all, this is Hawaii. Too bad one could not book a shore excursion online prior to embarkation. Early arrivals to the ship scooped up all the good trips before many others arrived on board. I realize that I may have been a bit hard in this review, but I am only comparing this cruise to our other 14 cruises. We have experienced the best. We would never go back to Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
A private country club at sea is the best and probably the most accurate way to describe a cruise experience on Oceania's beautiful ship "Regatta." Although we had traveled on this former Renaissance vessel before, the $10 ... Read More
A private country club at sea is the best and probably the most accurate way to describe a cruise experience on Oceania's beautiful ship "Regatta." Although we had traveled on this former Renaissance vessel before, the $10 million refurbishing by Oceania of the Regatta proved to make the vessel an even finer cruise experience. With only 660 passengers on board this 30,000 ton vessel, the ship offered a wide variety of activities as well as gleaming decor and eye-appealing art work. For my wife and I, one of the most important features of a country club on land or at sea, is the staff training and their response to requests and service. This mix of young men and women from countries all over the world always greeted passengers with a smile, anxious to be of service. Professionally trained, the staff at all levels catered to our every wants and needs. The two-week Mediterranean cruise set sail from Venice, Italy and ended in Barcelona, Spain. Ports of call included Dubrovnik, Croatia; Corfu, Greece; Sorrento, Italy; Amalfi, Italy; Civitavecchia (Rome); Bonifacio, Corsica; Livorno, Italy, Portofiono, Italy; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Marseilles, France. The weather cooperated in the Med style with smooth sailing and only one day of rain. A sweater and a light jacket took care of most touring days. The destination services staff arranged educational and interesting tours, although expensive, at each port. We traveled with two couples, the Shaws and the Proctors, all of Sarasota and experienced cruise folks. We all enjoyed the casual yet elegant atmosphere of the restaurants. Informal dress meant no need to pack a tux or suits with only collared shirts required at the evening meals. However, we very often wore the men's traditional blue blazer to these elegant bistros. Country club casual was the in-thing to wear! However, if you are looking for the extravaganza floor shows of larger cruise ships, forget it! There was nightly entertainment but it wasn't the best. We gave the shows a "B-" rating. As for the other shipboard services, our group held a rating cocktail party and gave the following shipboard services these ratings: Food, A-; Main dining room service, A+; Specialty dining rooms A-; Cabins and cabin steward service A; Tours B+. An overall rating of the Regatta and its staff we gave an A and for overall value, an A. Our group gave the ship and staff a "five star" rating! The planning by the staff for the embarkation and the debarkation was evident as both went very smoothly. We have experienced some long waits for boarding when leaving some larger vessels. But not the Regatta! We were informed the night before the end of this traveling adventure, that our color (passengers given various colored tags for bags and then the colors are called for departure) would be called about 8:20 am. Our bags except for carry-ons had to be outside our cabins by 11:00 pm the night before leaving. Also, we could stay in our cabin until called, a different and nice feature. Promptly at 8:20 our color (green) was announced. Easily identifying our luggage in the large warehouse next to the ship, we quickly passed through the officials to the buses and on to the airport in Barcelona for the flight home. On board was the Oceania sales representative Carmen Miranda. An indication of this "five star" rating our group gave the Regatta, Carmen was kept very busy toward the end of the cruise booking people for future voyages. A good indication of quality! After this two-week cruise, we look forward to again experiencing the gracious "Country Club Style" cruising with Oceania.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2004
The cruise line went out of there way to give us the things we wanted. This was our 50th Wedding Annversary cruise and it needed to be special. It was just that and more. Embarkation: was easy and fast, since we were from So Calif. we ... Read More
The cruise line went out of there way to give us the things we wanted. This was our 50th Wedding Annversary cruise and it needed to be special. It was just that and more. Embarkation: was easy and fast, since we were from So Calif. we rented a car and drove to San Diego and dropped off the car (or we should say they dropped us off at the cruise line after we turned in the car)with Hertz. Cabin: Our room wasn't ready because we got there early but this wasn't a problem. We wanted to see the ship and to know where everything was located. When we got into our stateroom on the skydeck it was bigger than seeing it online. We had booked the Celebrity ConciegeClass Stateroom with veranda. It was a little more but worth it (we wouldn't crusie anyother Class). Cruise: It was just the best ever in all ways. The ports were great, the days at sea were fun and we were treated by everyone as if we were the only people there from our Stateroom. We were well attended to by our waiter, and we can't say enough about how they treated us. Land Tours: Let's just say that we went on all of them and most were OK, but some were overpriced for what you received. Next cruise we will make our own tour at each port with the locals. Debarkation: Was as easy and fast as the Embarkation. Our hotel had a van waiting for us and off we went for three more days vacation before driving home. It was a great month for us two weeks on the seas and two weeks on land stoping and visting everyone on the way home. Celebrity Crusie lines: Thanks for a wonderful time. Don & Donna Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
DIAMOND PRINCESS REVIEW 5/1/04 3-NIGHT COASTAL CRUISE.. LA TO VANCOUVER Who "we" are: my husband and I are two 35-year old professionals. He is a Financial Analyst, and I am a travel agent.. but in a prior life I was a CPA. ... Read More
DIAMOND PRINCESS REVIEW 5/1/04 3-NIGHT COASTAL CRUISE.. LA TO VANCOUVER Who "we" are: my husband and I are two 35-year old professionals. He is a Financial Analyst, and I am a travel agent.. but in a prior life I was a CPA. (I'm so cruise addicted/obsessed I had to become an agent.) I am commonly referred to as "Suzy Cruisy" as that is my online cruise chatting screen name, and the name I call myself when contacting my cruise clients. My given name is Suzette, under which I have my other reviews listed, and when I refer to my husband, I will mention Charles. We have been together for over 7 years, but are still "newlyweds" as we only married in September 2003. Of course, we were married at Sea on the Star Princess by the Captain. So, if you want to learn anything about Princess weddings, you might wish to look up that review as well. The cruise There is absolutely nothing to write home about regarding this cruise. We sailed from LA (San Pedro) to Vancouver (Canada Place) for three nights, two days, no ports. The purpose of this little getaway was solely for relaxation, and to get to know the brand-new Diamond Princess real well. She is not only new, but a new class of ship for Princess. And I can say that she is definitely my favorite ship so far, and I've sailed a few :). The Dining I realize some folks think cruising is ALL about the food, but its not. I'd say maybe 80% ;) is a better guess. For those new to Princess, or cruising, I'll explain Princess dining in general. Then I'll elaborate in the Diamond Princess dining experience, how its different, and just THE BEST. On most cruiselines, the main dining choices are two "fixed" seatings. You are either assigned early or late traditional fixed seating. In this traditional dining experience, you would sit at the same table, with the same dining companions, with the same waiters, at exactly the same time every night of the cruise. Cruises were like this because of the large number of folks that needed to be fed, and it was the most efficient to feed them "en masse". On Princess, you can choose "traditional" or "Anytime Dining" as part of their "Personal Choice Cruising" concept. With Anytime Dining, your dining is much more flexible, even though you will order off the same menu as those folks that are in the traditional dining room. (The menu changes every night, usually with a "theme", so you don't see the same stuff twice during your cruise unless it's a real long one.) Basically, Anytime Dining is like walking up to a restaurant at home. You walk up when you want during the hours they are open (usually 5:30 - 9:00pm), tell them how many are in your party, and they seat you as space becomes available. If you go during the "peak" hour of 7-8pm, then you might have to wait for a table. If you go much earlier or later, you can usually get seated right away. Also, just like at home, you can make a reservation if you are sure in advance that you want to eat at a particular time, at a specific table, or with a specific waiter. How the Diamond (and its sister Sapphire) are different: The Anytime Dining experience on Diamond has been taken to ANOTHER level. There is not just one, or two, Anytime dining rooms that have that evening's menu.. but FOUR uniquely-themed dining rooms. Now, its REALLY like a restaurant. The four themes are Southwestern, Asian, Italian and American Steakhouse. When you walk into one of these, you will have not only the nightly menu placed in front of you, but also a supplemental menu that has selections based upon the "theme" of the dining room you are sitting in. You can order off both, mix and match, etc! The only "catch" is that its more important now to choose to make reservations. Each of the four themed dining rooms are small, so they fit a very limited number of people at once. I found on my short cruise that the American Steakhouse dining room (Sterling) was so sold out it didn't even take walk-ups. Also of note is that the four Anytime Dining rooms are laid out exactly the same and have only ONE large, 10-person table. There are quite a few 4 and 6 person tables, and LOTS of tables for two against the wall. Also, if you choose traditional dining on your Diamond or Sapphire Princess cruise, you won't feel left out either. They rotate the special dining room menus in the traditional dining room as well, so the folks that enjoy the traditional experience can enjoy the specialty dishes. Other dining options: Princess has 24-hour room service, and buffet, if you don't want to have dinner in the main dining rooms. They also have an Italian restaurant called "Sabatini's" that you can choose to pay a service charge to have either lunch or dinner in. The courses keep coming in here, and the very best waiters and waitresses are in here. For an even more casual dining experience, they have a hamburger grill and pizza in the afternoon out by one of the pools. They also have "Scoops", a premium ice cream bar that has an extra service fee (that I always refuse to partake in). Free ice cream is available in the buffet in the afternoons. Breakfast, lunch, and "high tea" are always available in one of the main dining rooms each day also. You will be given a "Continental Stateroom Breakfast" door hanger on your first day. You can make selections from here and hang it on your door at night and get your breakfast delivered in the morning. If you don't get a door hanger the second day, ask. Also, you can order whatever you want on the door hanger, not just what is pre-printed. Just write what you want in the margin, but remember to write EVERYTHING you need. For example, if you order pancakes, remember to also order syrup. Entertainment Like most cruiselines, Princess has "Vegas Style" production shows in the Princess Theatre on some evenings. Other nights, the main entertainment is a magician, or a singer, or a Comedian. We saw a good new production show called "Curtain Up", which we enjoyed a lot. In addition, as part of the "Personal Choice Cruising" concept, Princess will have lots of other evening entertainment choices in other venues. There might be a funny, audience-participation show, like "Princess Idol", in one lounge while the main show is going on in the Theatre. Musicians playing various types of music will be playing in the different lounges throughout the ship. If you want disco, there will be something. If you want swing, there is usually one. If you want piano, there is usually one, etc. The greatest thing about "Personal Choice Cruising" is the variety and choice you have. By simply looking at your daily activities list in the Princess Patter newsletter, you can see what entertainment is happening that evening that you want to partake in, and schedule your dining times around it! If you want, you could catch two different shows most nights. Also, on a weekly cruise, the production shows usually repeat in case you miss it the first time. Seminar @ Sea If you want to learn something new while you are at sea, then you can participate in one of Princess' new enrichment programs. On my cruise, only "pay extra" computer training classes were offered, but I know they do offer some complimentary classes on other topics on the longer cruises. Pottery is one of the more popular ones during this new concept's first year - 2003. The Diamond There is something I can't explain that makes me love Princess ships' dEcor. They use lots of teal, earth tones, and medium oak - and everything is warm. The cabins have their beige and white "fabric looking" walls, rather than stark white panels found on some other lines. You don't feel like you are on a ship, you feel like you are in a regularly-constructed room. On the Diamond, it was even better for me. I took lots of pictures of the carpeting. (Charles laughed at me.) I particularly loved the dEcor in the Casino, as it was a Safari theme and there was big murals painted on the walls, and the carpet had lions and tigers, etc. in it. Fabulous. For those new to Princess, the ship is 113,000 tons, holds 2,670 passengers, is 970 feet long, and has 750 cabins with balconies. She is one of Princess' largest. However, she won't feel that way when you are on her. One of Princess' taglines is "Big ship choice, small ship feel". What that means, is that its big so there are lots of different things to do and see to suit your tastes, but you will not feel like you are in a big place. Where other lines have massive dining rooms that seat 1000 people at once (big, grand, and LOUD), Princess has 5 smaller main dining rooms. (I'll discuss dining it its own section.) For those used to Princess ships, the Diamond class has passenger sleeping decks nearly identical to the Grand-Class ships (Grand, Golden, Star).. but some differences in the public areas. Some of the features of the Diamond are: ? Basketball & tennis court ? Jogging Track ? BIG Spa, with a "swim against the current" pool (see below for details) ? Cyber golf (pay extra.. hit against a screen) ? Mini-golf 9 hole course ? Ping Pong tables ? Shuffleboard ? Extra-large chess board out on deck ? Neptune's Reef large outdoor pool with two spas ? Calypso Reef large pool with retractable roof and two spas ? Paddling Pool (deepish pool in the back) ? Two more spas up on the deck slightly aft of Skywalkers Nightclub ? Terrace Pool for adults only at the extreme aft ? Children's areas for different age group kids 3-17 ? Princess Theatre for large big shows ? Skywalkers Nightclub.. offering great views from its perch high above the ship between the aft and the center of the ship, and great disco dancing at night ? Wheelhouse bar for lounging and dancing ? Hearts & Minds wedding Chapel / computer training @ Sea ? Shopping ? Multiple smaller bars ? Internet Cafe and Coffee Bar ? Explorer's Lounge (more dancing and shows) ? Art Gallery ? Club Fusion.. for lounging, dancing, "nightclub atmosphere".. screens showing those dancing on the dance floor ? The "Wake Bar" for a quiet drink ? Churchill's Lounge for sports and cigars (bad combo I think, but, whatever!) ? Many shops in the central Atrium area ? Casino with many types of table games + slots ? Library, with CD listening stations (cushy chairs you can plug headsets into) ? Writing Room where you can sit and write or read and enjoy the view For those who have been on Grand-class ships before, and are only thinking of the differences... I really like the moving of Skywalkers from the extreme aft to the new center/aft location. I personally always loved the Skywalkers old location, but sun lovers will REALLY like the tiered new look aft. Its beautiful seeing all those layers of wood, pools, and wonderful sun. The wake bar is absolutely nothing to write home about. If it had some better windows, it would be cool. Also, having to walk across the dance floor of Club Fusion really limits its use. I mean, when they are having some kind of activity there, like Bingo, you aren't going to want to get up and walk right in front of everyone to go down there. Lastly, Club Fusion in the place of the Vista Lounge is probably good. It seemed that many folks never made it up to Skywalkers for their "disco" dancing time. Having this additional great dancing venue with the TV screens everywhere is a good change. I think it will take some the crowds out of the Explorer's Lounge in the evening. I'm not sure if the few slots and video poker they put in there is going to work out, but those machines weren't even functioning in my cruise. Cabins On this cruise, I sailed in a mini-suite for the first time. I've now tried all the different types, and think the mini is by far the best. Depending on your personal preferences, you can choose the cabin right for you. Insides (no windows) will always be the cheapest. Then oceanview, balcony, mini-suite, and full suite. I enjoy the balcony and above categories simply because you get the fresh sea air. I tend to think the insides and outsides are "stuffy", but I can still handle sailing in them if the price is right. I think a "port intensive" cruise would be best suited for an inside. You'll be so tired, you won't be doing anything but sleeping in your cabin. On a cruise with a lot of sea days, you'll be on the ship more and, therefore, might enjoy a more spacious cabin. Balcony cabins are nice, but there isn't really much space for lounging in them. The balcony itself is the most spacious area of the cabin to "hang out" in. This is why Charles and I thought the mini-suite was the BEST. Along with a much larger bathroom with a bathtub/shower combo, we loved having the comfortable sitting area to lounge in. We had a full suite for our wedding, but don't think its worth the cost as compared to the minimal benefits above the mini-suite. The minis are abundant enough to sometimes get great discounted prices on, and the full suites don't generally offer any discounts. Diamond-class ships offer a nearly-identical cabin arrangement as compared to the Grand-class. This means the following as far as balcony and mini-suite cabins are concerned: *Aloha and Baja balconies are smaller, and fully covered from above. They are not good for sun bathing, but are great for more privacy from above. *Caribe balconies are the largest on the ship and are half open / half covered *Dolphin balconies are fully open to above *Emerald balconies are fully covered Remember that all Princess sailing passengers are entitled to a bathrobe to use while onboard. You don't have to be in a particular category to get this perk. If you don't have one waiting for you in your cabin, just ask your steward, or leave him/her a note. Lotus Spa The spa on the Diamond is big and fabulous. I've never seen a nicer one. There is lots of Asian-style dEcor, and more types of steam showers and saunas than I've ever seen! They also have some hot stone beds (in a curved recliner shape) that you can relax on before a treatment. I heard great things about them. The only drawback is that the spa is directly below "Center Court", so you might hear a basketball bouncing the whole time you are doing your relaxing treatment. Very strange. I don't recall having this problem on other Grand-class cruises, but maybe no one was playing at the time. They certainly had the spa and Center Court in the same place.??! The Menu of Services: Ionitherimie Algae Detox - the "lost inches" thing $119 LT Oxygen Lifting Facial - 50 min for $99 Aroma Pure (Seaweed Massage) - 1.5 hour $158 - on float bed $173 - with Spa mini facial $208 Aroma Stone Therapy - 75 min for $175 Asian Lotus Face & Body Experience - 1.75 hours for $215 (this is a reflexology massage, scalp massage, & 45 min facial) Frangipani Scalp Massage - 20 min for $29 Couples Massage - 50 min $247 Full body Massage - 50 min $99 Deep Tissue Massage - 50 min $104 Reflexology - 50 min $99 Aroma Flex - 50 min $99 Manicure - 45 min $40 Pedicure - 45 min $55 Rasul couples mud and steam treatment - $75 Various prices for hair cut, color, style in the salon. Updos are listed for $30, $35 & $45 Alpha Relaxation Capsule - 25 min $45, 45 min $60 Metabolism test & body fat Composition Analysis - $ 30 Various Cycling, Yoga and Pilates classes - $10 fee Other stretch and Aerobics classes are free Personal Training available for a fee I personally did the Oxygen Lifting Facial on this cruise, as when I am pressed for time or money that's what I like best. On other ships I've raved about the Frangipani Scalp Massage, but didn't try it on this ship. My friend did and said it was great. My husband and I have tried the "Rasul" couples thing on another ship, and I would say to save your money. There is no need to pay $75 for you to slap gook on each other, sit in a steam room, and shower it off. ;) Overall I always love Princess cruises. This ship is no exception and I would highly recommend it! Happy sailing! ~Suzy Cruisy Read Less

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise