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Sail Date: October 2003
Transatlantic Crossing on the GTS Millennium 26 October to 9 November 2003 Summary. The Millennium transatlantic crossing from Barcelona, Spain, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida was a largely satisfying vacation. While there are some issues ... Read More
Transatlantic Crossing on the GTS Millennium 26 October to 9 November 2003 Summary. The Millennium transatlantic crossing from Barcelona, Spain, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida was a largely satisfying vacation. While there are some issues we have with the food (too salty), we did have a good time (a bad day at sea beats a good day in the office). The Millennium itself is a well maintained 3 year old Panamax cruiser with some nice amenities. Gripe list is at the end if you stay awake that long. Background. We (Bob and Mary) are a mid-50s DINK couple (Double Income, No Kids, I know it is so 80s, but it is true) living in Brooklyn, New York. We have done about 19 cruises, ten on Holland America and the rest spread over Princess, NCL, Bahamas Cruises (now defunct) and more recently Celebrity. Most of our cruises have been to the Caribbean with Canada-New England, Alaska, Panama Canal and transatlantic crossings mixed in. After our prior transatlantic crossings (the Millennium westbound in November 2000 and the Norway eastbound in September 2001), we found that we rather liked the many sea days and the new ports that a crossing can provide. Cruise Arrangements. We had booked this cruise about a year in advance taking Celebrity's air package and making our own hotel arrangements. We used our regular agent who has been able to offer us competitive pricing (by our standards). By paying a $75/pp deviation fee, we obtained non-stop flights from JFK to Barcelona and Fort Lauderdale to LaGuardia. Pre-Cruise. We flew into Barcelona two days early to get over jet lag and to see some of the sights. We reserved a studio apartment at the Hotel Citadines Rambla which is on La Rambla (equivalent to Greenwich Village in ambiance). Since check in was at 3 PM, we walked around the La Rambla and Placa de Catalunya for a bit. We found a Citibank branch on Passig de Gracia, a major thoroughfare similar to 5th Avenue just north of Placa de Catalunya. The exchange rate at the time was about $1.17 to the euro and Citibank charged about $1.19 to the euro, much better than what one would get in the US. After a bit of walking, we bought a two day pass on the city tour bus for 19 euros. We got to see a good bit of the city and rest at the same time. Weatherwise, Barcelona was cooler and windier than NYC. The Hotel Citadines is an apartment hotel where studio or one bedroom apartments can be rented on a daily or weekly basis. The room we had was spacious and comfortable with a large bathroom and a corridor kitchenette. Unlike a full service hotel, they do not offer daily cleaning and make up service which was no problem for us since we tend to be neat. An interesting or annoying feature of the studio we had was that the electric service is activated by inserting the room keycard into a slot by the entrance. This makes it easy to find the room keycard when you leave and also ensures that the power is off. The fridge and clock radio are on continuously powered circuit. While the hotel offered a breakfast buffet, it was rather expensive at 12 euros each. We found a number of places nearby that offered either coffee and a croissant or a full American breakfast for 2 to 5 euros. There are a number of places for dinner just south of the hotel at the Placa Real. Along La Rambla on the west side near the Ritz-Carlton is a supermercado (supermarket) called Champions. It has a lot of interesting items particularly jams and marmalades on the lower level. Also along La Rambla in that area is an open air market (it is in a shed with open walls). There is a large selection of fresh and prepared food as well as several wine shops. Further down toward the port area is Placa Real which has a number of restaurants and bars. The area is interesting to explore and on Friday and Saturday there are impromptu markets that have interesting things. We got some excellent chocolate bars at one stand. Boarding and Stateroom. We took a cab to the port area where the Millennium was docked about 11:30 AM Sunday. After we dropped off our bags, check-in took less than 10 minutes since we were Captain's Club members. We boarded the ship immediately thereafter and had lunch in the Ocean Cafe. We were able to go to the cabin after 1 PM. By 3 PM, we had our bags, unpacked and were all set up. Nice! Our cabin was a 1-B Premium Veranda cabin which is 191 ft 2 with a 41 ft 2 veranda. With the full phasing in of Concierge Class cabins (former 1-A cabins), our cabin would now be classified as a 1-A cabin. The cabin had only a shower, not a bathtub, was still quite comfortable though not nearly as spacious as a Holland America Line (HAL) veranda cabin. The veranda was about 4½ feet deep and 9 feet wide. With two closets, an enclosed dresser with safe and lots of shelf space we had plenty of storage room. Itinerary and Shore Excursions. The Millennium sailed from Barcelona on Sunday 26 October stopping at Gibraltar, UK; Funchal, Portugal, then sailing five days across the Atlantic to St. Martin, St. Thomas and ending at Fort Lauderdale on Sunday 9 November. There were a total of nine days at sea for a 14 day crossing. While we have visited St, Martin and St. Thomas multiple times, Gibraltar and Funchal were new to us. At Gibraltar, we took the upper mountain walking tour which took us by cable car to the top of Gibraltar. From there one can see across the straits to Morocco on a clear day. We had rain that morning so Morocco was indistinct though visible. The tour included St. Michael's cavern which is a natural amphitheater and the siege tunnels built by the British in the 1800's to hold off the Spanish forces. The Barbary Apes (tailless monkeys actually) were out blithely ignoring the tourists (when not swiping jewelry or hats). Gibraltar is about 3 square miles and depends on tourism and duty free shoppers from Spain and other places for its living. Funchal, Portugal, sits about 500 miles out in the north Atlantic off the coast of Africa. It is a rather rocky island with mountain peaks as high as 5,000 feet. Funchal is a modern European city with a nice plaza area near the main cathedral where we had lunch. Prior to lunch we took the Levanda walking tour which follows the irrigation channels used to water their fields. The walk was less than three miles over mostly even though slightly muddy ground. Unfortunately the tour guide stayed at the front end of the group so those in back never heard her narration. We did not try the basket sledge ride which some other pax enjoyed. The pier at Funchal also has some shopping, a post office and an internet cafe. We did have a very nice lunch near the cathedral in downtown Funchal. The other stops at St. Martin and St. Thomas were about what one would expect for these islands. We walked around a bit and had lunch near Bobby's Marina in St. Martin. The port area has been expanded and upgraded to handle up to four Panamax ships (Panamax is the largest ship size that can pass through the canal). On St. Thomas, we did a little shopping and took the Kon Tiki motorized raft trip to a quiet island beach. Ship Services. The Millennium is a modern ship with a wide variety of services and activities available for pax. We used only a fraction of the services available, but those we used were by and large were well presented. The fitness center had a good variety of hydraulic resistance equipment and some free weights. While it got crowded about 10 AM, the waits were very short. The fitness center also had treadmills and stationary bikes as well as an aerobics area. The top deck had a walking track that is about five laps to the mile. There is also a large enclosed spa area available to all pax. This included a food service area serving light spa-type cuisine, two Jacuzzis and the Thallasotherapy pool which is a large aerated seawater pool similar to a Jacuzzi but at a lower temperature. A very delightful area indeed! The Thallasotherapy pool has two reclining seating areas with Jacuzzi type air jets. We opted for the Persian Garden which has 2 steam baths, a low temperature sauna and a private lounge. It cost $110/pp for the two week cruise which may be steep but we found it worthwhile. Food. The Metropolitan Restaurant is the main dining venue for the ship. Dinners were served at 6 and 8:30 PM, breakfast and lunch were open seating. Meals there were well prepared and presented but are leisurely in pacing (just right for a sea day). We did find that some of the dinner entrees were over sauced and salty. Plainer entrees were available on request. The dinners offered a variety of appetizers, two soups and salads, five entrees plus several desserts. The entrees included two red meats (beef and lamb or pork), chicken, fish and a pasta/vegetation entrEe. The Ocean Cafe is the self service meal area behind the pool area. There are four buffet serving lines with three special purpose areas at the back end of the cafe. At breakfast, the special purpose areas provide either cooked to order omelets or eggs or a continental breakfast. At lunch the special purpose areas provide cooked to order pasta or sandwiches or on one day, Indian entrees which were excellent. A pity the Indian entrees were not offered more often. We alternated between the Metropolitan and the Ocean Cafe depending on our mood. In the late afternoon, pizza and pastas are available as well as sushi complete with wasabi mustard, pickled ginger, soy and even themed table settings. The fish was fresh and we used it for snacks to tide us over till late seating dinner. The pizzas were only OK, but then, there are no high temperature gas-fired ovens on-board to make the pizza crisp. Burgers (overdone) and hot dogs were available near the pool. The specialty restaurant ($25/pp service charge) is the Olympic which features original wood paneling from the Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic. Food and service here was extremely good (again, very rich), however, watch out for the wine list. We spent $75 on five glasses of excellent wine and champagne including service charge, more on that next. Lounges were plentiful and varied. We preferred the Platinum Club which is stacked above the Rendezvous Lounge and connected to it by a circular opening above the Rendezvous' dance floor. This allowed us to hear the music at a reasonable volume. Michael's Club unfortunately is no longer a cigar bar, cigarettes are OK. If you want to smoke a cigar, you have to go outside and brave the winds of the North Atlantic. Michael's has been converted to a piano bar similar to the ones on Holland America; however, HAL seems to have carried it off better. Cova Caffe is the ship's coffee bar where one can get cappuccino, espresso, excellent pastries and also cocktails. Pastries were available during the late morning and drinks including coffees were reasonably priced. Keep in mind that liquor purchased in the shops cannot be taken back to the cabin; however, you can bring liquor on board. I brought a bottle on board at St. Martin, ran it through the baggage x-ray and took it back to the cabin with no hassles. By the way, liquor prices were lower on St. Martin than St. Thomas; of course, you can only bring in one liter from non-St. Thomas places. A 15% service charge is added for drinks service. We still tipped our regular bartender. We particularly liked Words, the dead tree edition library, and Notes, the MP3 music library. Both were elegantly decorated and comfortably furnished with an eclectic selection of books and music. Well worthwhile investigating. Gripes. What is a cruise without a few gripes! First off, let the record show that we enjoyed ourselves and we would go on Celebrity again, so our complaints are not major in nature. We used room service only once when we were in St. Thomas and had a 12:30 excursion. The kitchen was being inspected by the Coast Guard and I had to push them for service. To their credit, they did deliver though one order was wrong which they quickly made good on. As noted above, the food was salty at times. Bar chow were the usual breadsticks and peanuts, OK if you are not used to HAL's hot bar snacks. We made do with sushi and some others brought pizza from the Ocean Cafe. A movie schedule has not provided for the entire cruise so you did not know until that day what the movies were. This is also true to the movies on the television. HAL provides a schedule at the cinema area for the entire cruise and also a daily TV schedule. The service staff was in general good, but there were a few snags that must be expected in any large scale operation. We tend to be early risers and we try to stay clear of the room for an hour or two to give the room steward a chance to neaten up. Still, we found ourselves running into him while he or his assistant was working on our room even three hours later. This seemed to be more upsetting to him than to us. One thing I did find annoying is that the security personnel will not hand inspect cameras and film. Despite asking them several times to hand inspect, they sent the cameras and film through the x-ray machine. I was later told by the front desk staff that this is standard procedure. If this is standard procedure despite pax request to the contrary, I suggest you do not take more film than necessary off the ship for port calls and do not use higher than 400 ASA film speed. I am thinking about a digital camera anyway. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2004
We are a couple in our 60's who had never been on a cruise before, and what's more, we were proud of it. Snobs. But the romance of crossing the Atlantic on this new Queen, in tandem with the QE2 on her last transatlantic cruise, ... Read More
We are a couple in our 60's who had never been on a cruise before, and what's more, we were proud of it. Snobs. But the romance of crossing the Atlantic on this new Queen, in tandem with the QE2 on her last transatlantic cruise, appealed to the historian(s) in us. So we booked a suite, and entered the flower bedecked embarkation hall on a red carpet flanked by trumpeters and machine gun toting, black clad commandos. In the Queen's Grill line, the formalities were so quick we weren't sure we were meant to be getting on the ship. We were overwhelmed, the most pleasant way, by the size of the ship and its variety. On our six days, we tried to sample everything that was offered, but failed, and failed badly. I'm writing this review mainly to commend something that I haven't seen mentioned in other comments; and that is the Oxford Discovery Program. We attended a number of lectures and they were one of the highlights of our trip. The topics were eclectic: from Islam to England's best churches, from Sex in the Victorian Novel to the Periodic table. We were enriched, not only by the excellent lectures, but by the questions and discussions that followed. This is our idea of a good time. But even without the lectures, we were converted. We booked first class accommodation; and it was: a very roomy suite with plenty of comfortable space, huge bed, sitting and pantry area, a great balcony, large bathroom, walk-in closet; and plenty of touches like flowers, fruit,wine, and appetizers. We had butler service: he called me "mum" and I felt Queenly. His talk was better than his walk: there seemed to be a "three times of asking" rule for him to produce on a request. The steward kept the room very clean. The Queen's Grill restaurant had an impersonal Westin Hotel-like decor, but the food was good and so was the people-watching. My husband enjoyed everything and I appreciated the Canyon Ranch choice on the menu--very tasty, but restrained in calories. Service was friendly, helpful, personal. Patrick, the maitre d' responded instantly to our request for a table change. We tried the Todd English restaurant, and it was certainly good, (even better people-watching) but the food was ultra rich. Once was enough. Booking at the Canyon Ranch Spa was a bit of an adventure: the computer system seemed to baffle those operating it. Once I made it past the technical issues, the service was happy; and the treatments ultra-professional. But the prices, my dear. We are lucky enough to afford to pay, but these charges made me feel like a sucker, and I did not return. The Black and White Ball was a terrific idea--easy to pack for; and people participated. There were some lovely gowns and it was a swell affair. The Ascot Ball seemed a bit downmarket, with people wearing paper hats. We loved most of all being at sea, and the QM2 is a ship on which you can appreciate that. There are plenty of places to walk and sit and enjoy the mystery of the ocean. The weather was appropriately grey and we felt very naval taking our promenades against the salt wind..1.3 miles around the ship. When it got too chilly we enjoyed the view from many lovely places around the ship, sitting with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and watching the waves endlessly roll by. We were totally converted and are looking for another cruise. Thank you, Queen Mary 2. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2004
This was our third summer on the Rotterdam, and 2nd transatlantic. I must say the weather was an issue throughout our month onboard. We were delayed almost 36 hours in Amsterdam and missed 2 ports because of high winds and rough seas. HAL ... Read More
This was our third summer on the Rotterdam, and 2nd transatlantic. I must say the weather was an issue throughout our month onboard. We were delayed almost 36 hours in Amsterdam and missed 2 ports because of high winds and rough seas. HAL responded with a refund of $24.95 pp and champagne at dinner. Of course shore excursions were automatically refunded. HAL's early embarkation is very popular. We arrived at the pier at 11:45 and there was a line snaking around the terminal. Things moved very quickly and orderly and we were on board by 1230. The service as always was top notch. This is HAL's ACE, and they play it well! The crew couldn't have tried harder to please or have been friendlier. There were a few language barrier problems, mainly at the stir fry and pasta bars, and one wine steward who only knew white and red (no mixed drinks), but he smiled a lot. The food was disappointing this trip. Dinners were strange to say the least. Entrees were all served with sauces strange', and broccoli was everywhere. It turned out to be the joke of the cruise "HAL's broccoli sale". Soups which are usually great, were floured to the max and tastless. We had to add sugar to the corn chowder. On more than 1 occasion our tablemates sent back their entrees. Desserts were good, but salad's were wimpy. The Lido at lunch was much better, but has anyone ever seen steaming scrambled eggs taken out of a freezer bag, probably nuked? Many minor mechanical problems. Rumor had it that the bridge referred to this trip as the cruise from H***. Electricity went out, stabilizer broke, oil leak, latte machine kept fritzing out, No TV, Internet was in and out all trip. Well we were in areas that Satellites were difficult to access, but it doesn't help when the receiver is behind the funnel either. Poor traffic patterns for major events. Ran out of food for both on deck BBq's. What did we do? We took the lemons and made lemonade. We had a wonderful time with old and new friends, loved the crew and they loved us back. HAL needs to work on COMMUNICATION company-wide, entertainment bookings, and the MENUS and the chefs, one of whom told us in all seriousness, that he was a culinary school drop out. We'll go back, we're booked on the Zaandam for New Year's. We didn't let the minor junk ruin our trip, we paid too much money to be mad. Please HAL, Shape up. Give us back what has trickled away through in-attention to detail. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
Our first impression of the Queen Mary 2 was breathtaking, as our taxi dropped off us on the West Side of Manhattan. The Queen Mary 2 appeared boxy in pictures, but she is truly inspiring. The check-in was smooth. After suffering hours of ... Read More
Our first impression of the Queen Mary 2 was breathtaking, as our taxi dropped off us on the West Side of Manhattan. The Queen Mary 2 appeared boxy in pictures, but she is truly inspiring. The check-in was smooth. After suffering hours of lines and delays to board the Disney Magic, we were onboard the Queen Mary 2 in less than half an hour after arriving at the curb. Contrary to other boats, we were not escorted to our cabins. This was not a problem, since we cruised many times and we knew our way around. However, it set the tone for the crossing. We found the staff to be courteous and helpful, without being intrusive or overbearing. In contrast to our other cruising experiences, there was no barrage of photographers or waiters selling drinks. There was very little merchandising. We found the service to be understated, creating an aura of class. The staterooms were small, but very clean and well appointed. Fortunately, we did not spend much time in our room. Our two children (age 4 and 8) wanted to be in the pools or at the nursery. The Queen Mary 2 has six pools, each with a pair of hot tubs. The result is that there are plenty of deck chairs and sun beds to go around. Much to our surprise, we found that the ship catered to children. In fact, the Queen Mary 2 was more kid friendly than all of the other ships we sailed that were purposely designed for children. All children have full access to all of the pools and hot tubs—regardless of age. The nursery on the Queen Mary 2 was large and well-staffed, with a phalanx of British nannies, and the dining rooms had a wide array of menu items that were kid-friendly. There was also a host of parties to attend, such as the Masquerade Ball and the Ascot Ball, which fascinated the children. Perhaps that is why there were so many children onboard. The food onboard Queen Mary 2 was good. There was a great English Pub, which had better fare than the most London establishments. The buffets were common to those on other cruise ships, and the food in the main dining room was competent. However, food was not our primary objective. We were looking to share with our children a modern experience of crossing the Atlantic. Fortunately, the Queen Mary 2 answered our needs. That is why we already booked our next crossing for 2005. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
Constellation Transatlantic September 7th - September 20th, 2004 Dover to New York I should start by saying that we were very active on two different boards prior to this cruise, and both added immeasurably to the cruise experience, both ... Read More
Constellation Transatlantic September 7th - September 20th, 2004 Dover to New York I should start by saying that we were very active on two different boards prior to this cruise, and both added immeasurably to the cruise experience, both in terms of advice, and friends made on board. Pre-trip: We flew to London a few days before the cruise, hoping to recover from the jet lag before boarding in Dover. It almost worked. We rented a car (specify automatic, or you'll end up with a standard transmission, and THAT can be quite the adventure) and drove South to be near Brighton and Royal Tunbridge Wells. We toured for a couple of days and enjoyed ourselves, but still were falling asleep at the wrong times of day (at least not behind the wheel, but DO be careful!). We arrived in Dover after driving over from West Sussex, and dropped off our rental car. The rental company, Europecar, was located at the Dover Calais Ferry (East) Terminal, and of course, the ship was docked at the West Terminal. The agent at Europecar couldn't have been more accommodating, though, and drove us, in our rental to the right dock, and then took the car back to the agency for us. Embarkation/first day aboard: We arrived at about 11:30 to the pier. Embarkation was fairly straightforward, but there were no signs to indicate that suites could check in at a separate line. We were able to book a Sky Suite as the prices were significantly better for the Transatlantic versus other cruises. When they asked if we were Captain's Club, I said yes, and we got put into a line that morphed into a brief melee of confused passengers and no clear direction from the staff. Since that lasted all of five minutes, I won't really fault the cruise line. We then walked by the Suite check-in, which is where we were supposed to check in, but the whole process was less than 10 minutes until we boarded, so no real complaints. In the interests of fair disclosure, I'm always pretty "tightly wound" at this point in any trip, and until I relax, can be quite critical. The Champagne welcome was offered, but with bags in each hand and no offer of an escort, we couldn't take the champagne, and were told we couldn't go to our rooms yet. We hobbled up to the Aft deck 10 for lunch and a glass of wine. At this point I was determined to find fault, as I had yet to be "treated famously." The glass of wine helped the mood, and, realizing we were on board relieved the stress from anticipating problems, and I became somewhat human again. In the stateroom (which WAS ready before the stated time) we really relaxed. Our stateroom attendant introduced himself (Menino) and immediately made up for anything left of my left-side-of-the-road-driving-missing-the-ship-standing-in-long-lines anxiety. I was now really ready to relax and enjoy. First lesson learned; don't sweat the small stuff, and you'll enjoy your cruise a lot more! We had only six hangers in the closet, and with in seconds, 24 more appeared. We had only four pillows, and, again, two more appeared right away. While we waited for our luggage, we went and booked half a dozen spa treatments for the sea days. Our Butler, Pras, came in and introduced himself, and made us feel totally welcome, and asked about our various preferences- no afternoon tea, but bring a cheese plate every day, please! Our luggage arrived just before we thought about complaining about the delay, and I realized it would have to be my constant duty to find fault, or else I might have a perfect cruise! After a false start for the lifeboat drill- they delayed it for late arriving passengers, we went to the mast bar to meet up with web friends. Only one or two there because of the delay. We ended up in the Martini Bar with Sudie, the bartender, and I knew I was home! We sailed an hour and a half late, but with martini tasting going on, who cared! Before dinner, I went to change a spa appointment, but found that everything had been booked! Lesson learned: book early for any services wanted on a sea day that's formal. Stateroom and ship dEcor: We were in a Sky Suite on Deck six, aft. The room was decorated in orange, which I would normally hate, but it's hard to describe. The bed coverlet and curtains, along with the decorative pillows on the bed and sofa softened the orange so that it was cheery without being "brassy." We loved the extra space in the room, and will have a hard time returning to regular cabins after this! One of the best features was that the bed faced the sliding glass doors, so you could be in bed and watch the ocean roll by. The closet storage was very good- the closet is an "almost-walk-in," and had enough space that, even for fourteen days, and both being clotheshorses, we had enough room. The upgraded bathrooms in the suites are very nice, with an attractive butterscotch colored marble, and a nice shower/tub combination. Only problem is that it's not suited for really tall people- at 6'3", I couldn't stand up straight in it. The stateroom was near the aft staircase and elevators, and we never heard any noise, which was a relief. It was also close to the dining room and martini bar which was a plus! The dEcor on the ship was nice, perhaps a little too bright for my tastes, but not offensive. The Reflections Lounge is decorated in what I would call "Day" colors, so it looked a little funny at night. The Cova Cafe and the San Marco restaurant were elegant, but a little over the top, as was the grand lobby atrium- what you might expect on a cruise ship, and part of the "glamour." The Martini/Champagne Bar and the Seaside Cafe were more muted and attractively done. Or maybe I was more muted after Sudie's concoctions! One thing that we both noticed was the attention to keeping the entire ship clean! Crew were always polishing and maintaining areas of the ship, and even the Captain was seen pointing out areas he wanted fixed. The Dining Room: Really, a very attractive room, and I was glad to be seated on deck four in the center, as we'd already dined on deck five on the Infinity, and I wanted to see it from another angle. We walked into dinner (late seating), and right behind us came a couple I recognized from one of the boards, and it turned out they were at our table! Really sweet and funny couple from Virginia. We had two other couples at the table with us, one from Mississippi, and another from New Jersey. In fairness to everyone, I think it took us all a few night to warm up to each other. Everyone liked the location of the table, and it appeared that we were "four against four." But, unless anyone is truly awful, give them, and yourselves, a chance. The eight of us ended up getting along famously, with hugs and kisses and even a tear or two on the last day, so I'm really glad we waited a day or two to see. Our waiter and assistant waiter, Mugerel and Iggy (that's not his name, but none of us could pronounce his- made me feel like the ugly American, but he was very good natured about it) went out of there way to learn our habits, likes and dislikes. Iggy didn't always understand every request but persisted until he got it right, and Mugerel really made us feel that he DID care if we didn't like a particular dish. The Assistant Maitre d', however, didn't bother to show up until the fourth night to even say hello. I was trying to be patient, but at our table, there were four suites represented, and while I didn't necessarily expect better service because of that, I did expect at least SOME attention. Whereas on other ships, the maitre d's have gone out of their way to prepare something special, or at least check in, he was missing in action until we had a problem with the wine steward. While he took care of the problem, he then disappeared again. We hope Iggy and Mugerel are happy with the extra money in their tip envelopes! Wine service was the true downfall of the experience. We were at a table of cocktail drinkers, so getting the wine steward's attention and getting our wine before the entrEe was a problem. They were also out of several of the more common wines by the second or third night. Ordering on-line from the tv in the stateroom seemed like the answer, but they "lost" the order, and then didn't have that wine either. Lesson learned: if you're at a table where few drink wine, and, unless you're going to order several bottles a night, get wines by the glass from the bar waiter in the dinning room. Two advantages: better service, and we drank less at dinner! Our bar waiter was wonderful and attentive, even after finding out that his home had been hit by a hurricane! He fell into the "tip extra at the end of the cruise" category. The food in the dining room was "very good." Not excellent, but very good. (O.K., I trained as a chef, and live in the San Francisco Bay area where we have impossibly high standards for food!) At any time when something wasn't to our liking, we were offered a replacement right away, and steered away from dishes that our waiter felt were not the best choices. Comparing apples to apples (other cruises), this was really good cruise food, with terrific service. Ports/Shore excursions: We chose, in most ports, to split the day. We weren't anxious to spend the whole day on a bus tour, but wanted to see more than just the city center of each port. So we decided to take a short half day ship-organized excursion, and spend the balance of our time exploring on our own. This worked really well in Le Harve, France and Cork, Ireland. In France, we went to Fecamp, where Benedictine liqueur is made, and then to Etretat, a cute village on the "Alabaster Coast" where we hiked the cliffs away from the tour group. We still had time to wander around Le Harve and see the few local sights that we wanted to see on our own. In Cork, we did the morning "Blarney Castle" tour, which was fun and a little touristy, and then got dropped off in the center of Cork to explore on our own. We'd found a wonderful restaurant on line, and had it recommended by several guide books, so had our own gourmet Irish vegetarian adventure! Cafe Paradisio, if you go to Cork! We shopped on our own, having a wonderful time in the local food markets, and then used the Celebrity free shuttle to get back to the ship. We were to stop in Dublin, but Celebrity changed that a few months before the cruise, with at least four explanations given. We stopped instead in Belfast, and decided to explore entirely on our own. We went to Belfast Castle, which is pretty on the outside, but not much more than a function hall for weddings, etc. on the inside. But the guard at the gates gave us a map to the park land above the castle, so we hiked up to the caves above- great exercise, and a unique experience, with STUNNING views of Belfast and the harbor. The only thing we weren't able to do was lunch at "Nick's Warehouse," which came highly recommended, but isn't open on weekends for lunch. Our last port was to have been Reykjavik, but due to high seas and high winds, the captain decided to go a more southerly route, stopping in Vigo, Spain. We gave in and did a full day tour to Santiago de Compostela to see the cathedral-magnificent, and we had a wonderful lunch at the hotel in the main square. Many were disappointed about not going to Iceland, but most of us were philosophical about it, and certainly glad for the smoother Southern crossing to New York. On the whole, we were very pleased with the shore excursions, but I would recommend that you do some of your own research before picking one, as you'll have a better idea of what you want to see. Entertainment: To be fair, we didn't really partake- never went to a show, and rarely stayed up for the band dancing after late seating. We did attend almost every lecture by John Maxtone-Graham, who was fascinating as a lecturer about the old ocean liners. Excellent. We heard mixed reviews from other passengers about the big production shows, but the complaints and praise seemed about equal. The one time I went out dancing, I was a little disappointed that the sock hop night was mostly dance contests and not simply dancing. My technique isn't good enough for the more formal dancing in the Rendezvous Lounge, and I didn't seem to have time for dance lessons! The movies in the movie theatre NEVER tempted me, although some passengers liked one or two. There didn't seem to be any comedy, romantic or otherwise, so I wouldn't rate that part of the trip well. So if I didn't have time for any of that, what did I do? Two things: Spa/Fitness facility: Really nice! I had manicures and hot rock massages. We did the Razul treatment (involves mud, salt scrub, showers, steam, and hoses with VERY cold water- most excellent!) and the Alpha capsule (eehh). I thought the staff was wonderful, and hot rock massages are GREAT, as was the Razul. For exercise, we mostly used the track outside to do laps in the morning- usually about 4 miles, but did use the treadmills on the one rough day before New York. Plenty of equipment, and no waiting. The thallasotherapy pool was terrific, and the hot tubs outdoors really nice, especially on the day we were leaving Belfast! But your bathing suits WILL fade A LOT in all the chemicals and minerals in the water! Bring an old one. Cocktail parties: It's not that we drank our way across, but with so many people that we met on-line, there were always drinks here or there, in suites or in various lounges with someone we met. We had to start making dates with people just to make sure we'd see them. The highlights of all this were a few birthday/anniversary parties in the suites, and a progressive cocktail party organized on-line so that everyone could see the different kinds of staterooms that members of the group had. Lots of fun, and a recommended activity if you end up traveling with a group. O.K., and I read a lot, and napped a lot, and ate A LOT!! Other Food venues: Lunch in the main dining room was lovely and well paced for relaxing sea days, but hard to do if you were running off to a 1:00 p.m. activity. The deck 10 buffets were o.k., but I mostly used them for cereal in the morning, along with lox and bagels-yum. The best was the aft grill, which did some specialty food during the trip for lunch, including an Indian Buffet, which was very good. We didn't do casual dining, mostly because we liked our table so much, but it did look nice when set up with tablecloths at night. We used the hamburger/pizza grill and the Aqua Spa grille a lot, especially because the weather was so beautiful for most of the days crossing the Atlantic. Never ate a canapE, but had wonderful cheese tray in our stateroom every day. Went to casual tea, and the food was good, but how many meals CAN we eat? Ocean Liners was a real treat for me. I loved the formal service and elegant dEcor. As a fan of Ocean Liner history, it was fascinating. The waiters were very skilled, and yet not too stiff, which made for a great atmosphere. The food was mostly spectacular-Goat Cheese Souffle and Cheese Cart being my favorite, and the desserts were wonderful. Again, the entrEe (fish with grilled vegetables) was merely very good, but others raved about their steak (can't remember the preparation). We splurged a little on wines, and had a great sommelier (see, I CAN spell it!) who more than made up for the shortcomings in the San Marco dining room. A great experience worth doing at least once during a cruise, whether for a romantic evening, or to celebrate with new friends. Disembarkation: It would be a stretch to say that I enjoyed this part of the cruise. But, with the unbearably long lines for immigration, there was a newly discovered benefit. The lines snaked forward and aft through the ship, so every time you moved forward, you ran in to someone else to say goodbye to. It was like a farewell conga line! And we were put in to Michael's Club for the rest of the time and were able to visit quietly with the other people on our deck. Disembarkation wasn't fun, but really not that bad- very efficient on the shore side, other than the long taxi lines caused by three ships arriving at the same time. Overall: As I think you can tell, we had an awesome cruise, and even though it might appear at the beginning that I was too critical, I certainly don't feel that those few things I found lacking impacted my overall enjoyment (and, apparently, I'm a lot less cranky once I'm over my jet lag!). But I have to stress again how important the boards were to our enjoyment of this cruise. We knew so many people before we even left the country, and felt right at home once on the ship. On-line, we were able to organize a lot of fun activities, and many planned their own shore excursions with friends made through the boards. And yet, and this was a fear, we didn't feel trapped by the group, feeling obligated to only hang out together. We met lots of other fun people throughout the cruise, and everyone mingled really well. The only thing we found was that, since we preferred late seating, we missed half of the passengers, as they were on a different schedule with early seating throughout most of the day and evening. Finally met the people in the next Stateroom half way into the cruise, and they joined us for dinner one night when our tablemates went to Ocean Liners. Great fun! This was, of the sixteen cruises I've done, certainly one of the best, especially given the value of a Transatlantic. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
JEWEL OF THE SEAS Transatlantic Cruise Harwich, England to Boston, Mass. Sept. 1st, 2004 By Mary & Vincent Finelli For us the most exciting trip is the transatlantic crossing on a new ship; of course, the draw back is that in order ... Read More
JEWEL OF THE SEAS Transatlantic Cruise Harwich, England to Boston, Mass. Sept. 1st, 2004 By Mary & Vincent Finelli For us the most exciting trip is the transatlantic crossing on a new ship; of course, the draw back is that in order to do this we must first fly to Europe, since currently most cruise ships are built in Finland, Italy, France and Germany. And the Jewel of the Seas was built in Germany. Consequently, we flew to London, England from Miami, Florida, on August 29th and spent two days in this splendid city. We had been there before, so no herd like tours for us this time. We stayed at the City Inn Westminster and spent a good part of our time at Westminster Abbey, where we even observed Matins. On September 1st, Royal Caribbean International (RCI) transferred us by bus to Harwich, England (home of the Pilgrims' "Mayflower" ship). Harwich harbor has had extensive growth recently, but the best thing about departing from Harwich is the Bagpipe band which plays as the ship sails away. This is an exceedingly touching moment as the passengers realize that they are headed for the ship's maiden transatlantic voyage. The band is elegantly dressed in full Scottish apparel, kilts and all. EMBARKATION The bus deposited us and our baggage just twenty feet from the port door. Excellent! There was wheelchair assistance from the entrance. We were grateful, because there is no elevator and the ramp leading to the ship has an unusually steep incline. The Crown & Anchor Society has priority check-in for its Diamond and Platinum Members. It also greets all passengers with freshly baked cookies and lemonade. All this welcome was nice after the two hour long ride from London through the quaint English country side. Between check-in and boarding, we were in our cabin in less than thirty minutes. SHIP When RCI conceived of the Radiance Class of ships, it truly designed a modern, classically shaped liner with yacht like overtones: 90,090 gross tonnage, GTV (Gas Turbine Vessel). The first of this class was the Radiance of the Seas (2001), followed by the Brilliance of the Seas (2002), the Serenade of the Seas (2003) and finally the Jewel of the Seas (2004), which concludes this class of ships. All were built at the Meyer Werft Yard, Papenburg, Germany. Last year, RCI also concluded the building of the larger Voyager class ships, five in all (Voyager, Explorer, Adventure, Navigator and Mariner of the Seas), and recently it has announced the construction of two Ultra Voyager class, soon to be the largest cruise ships in the world. The Jewel is 902 ft. long, 106 ft. wide (Panamax). It has a 28 ft. draft and cruises at 24 knots. There are three acres of glass windows, giving passengers continuous views of the seas. There are nine elevators and twelve passenger decks with a maximum passenger capacity of 2,501. This trip the ship was full to capacity with passengers of all ages, from infants to elderly, and a crew of 859. The total number of staterooms is 1055: 817 are ocean view of which 577 have balcony; 238 are interior. There are 19 wheelchair accessible cabins distributed in various categories. All cabins have interactive TV, telephone, hairdryer, computer jack, refrigerator and 110/220 volts electrical outlets. We were happy to sail again with Captain James, Chief Purser Francois and Maitre D' Orlando. We felt like we had returned home. The first night we saw a gorgeous sunset while dining, with the sun, a huge red ball, slowly setting in the west over the sea. Then, at 9:30pm from our balcony, we watched the full moon rise, changing colors from orange, to gold, to white by ten o'clock. The air was so clear the craters of the moon were evident. In other reviews, we have described the Jewel's sister ships in detail and we refer you to our prior reviews for details. But each ship has a specific identity which arises from her unique art work. Many pieces are in the forward and Centrum staircases. Even though we extensively use the elevators, we manage to visit the ship's staircases, where we can view the interesting art work. Deck 2 has some ocean view and interior staterooms, but mostly non public areas. Look for interesting art pieces in the forward stairs between decks 2 and 3, such as David Stuart Forbes' unique "Luggage of Babel Part I" a work in neon, wood, metal, leather and paper. In the Centrum stairs between deck 2 and 3 are Pascale Riberolles' blown glass vases "Automne - Clairette" and Paul Cox' photo collage "Tafelberg/Curacao." Deck 3 has all ocean view and interior staterooms. In the Centrum staircase between deck 3 and 4 are Lippa Dalen's earthenware "Vase" and Ramon Enrich's acrylic painting "Paysage." Deck 4 forward has the first level of the Coral Theatre, midship are staterooms and toward aft is the Centrum, with the Guest Relations Desk and Explorations Desk. This Centrum is beautiful with a marble dance floor, bar and an eight deck tall atrium with balconies on each deck. There is a water fall and orchids plus a stunning sculpture by Nico Widerberg (Norway) entitled "Northern Lights" made of aluminum, stainless steel and crystal. This sculpture is lighted by an intricate system creating an awesome effect recalling the Aurora Borealis. Here also is the portrait of the Jewel's Godmother: Kathy Mellor, the U.S. Teacher of the Year 2004. In the forward staircase between deck 4 and 5 is Miguel Chevalier's holographic film "Flow" and in the Centrum staircase is Birgit Ten Berge's oil painting "Landscapes" Aft is the Tides Dining Room, whose entrance is magnificent. There are silk draped columns, stretching all the way aft to Mouls' Mosaic of Byzantine glass, brass and copper titled the "Full Moon Swing." The colors of the dancers' clothing are emerald, amethyst, ruby and tourmaline: tones reflected by the Ship's name (RCI "Art, The Collection," 2004). Prominent in this mosaic is the full moon. With artwork like this, the dining room is simple, but dramatic and tasteful. Deck 5 & 6 are all public areas: Deck 5 forward is the main level of the Coral Theatre. Its beautiful curtain ("Reef Rhapsody") has an ocean theme evoking images of sea fans and schools of fish. Midship on Deck 5 is the conference Center, Photo Art Gallery, the shops (logo items, jewelry, perfume etc.) and the Centrum with the "Latte-tudes" coffee shop. Toward aft is the Tides Dining Room Balcony with its wine cellar walls. In the corridors leading to the dining room there are some colorful glass panel scenes. Deck 6 forward is the Coral Theatre Balcony, where we sat at the back for shows. There is an excellent view of the stage from every seat. There is a Cinema featuring the latest movies. Toward midship is the Pit Stop Sports Bar and the Casino Royale. The Champagne Bar is located near the Centrum. Toward aft is the Schooner Bar and as usual some of the most interesting art work can be found here. The model of the "Soliel Royal" (Louis XIV, the Sun King) Flagship of the French Fleet launched in 1690, is exquisite in detail. Ebbing's ceramic statue "Beatrice" is amusing with its upturned nose. The corridor to the Schooner Bar holds a wooden boat with a steering wheel which fascinates children. The entrances to Portofino and Chops Grille are here and toward aft is the Safari Club, and the Game Reserve with self leveling gyro pool tables. All the way aft is the Congo Bar. Sinclair's "Pair of Giraffes" done in painted resin and Couts' oil paintings "Cheetah" and "Zebras" are found here. Decks 7, 8, 9 & 10 are all staterooms with the exception of the Bridge located forward on 10 and the Library on deck 9 and the Concierge Club on deck 10, located near the elevators. Art work in the forward staircase, between deck 8 and 9, includes Spaans' photographs of light sculptures "Three Dancers, Blue Corner, Yellow Door" and, between deck 10 and 11, Van Munster's neon "Brainwave" and "Moi." In the Centrum staircase there are interesting photographs: Deck 6 - 7, Ellen Kooi's "Velserbroek - The Bridge" and deck 8 - 9, Jorma Puranen's "Language is a Foreign Country 1-3." Decks 11, 12 & 13 are public areas. Deck 11 forward is the Ship Shape Spa and the Solarium, Vincent's favorite area. There is a whirlpool and a lap pool. The Burmese and Thai influence here is nice and includes the following: an antique Burmese Bell, a Temple gate flanked by two Golden Elephants and Manley's "Reclining Tiger" in bronze. Midship is the outdoor pool area and aft the Windjammer buffet with casual dining. Deck 12 forward is the ShipShape Center, Gym, the jogging track, and the Crown & Anchor Society Lounge. From midship to aft are located Adventure Ocean (arcade), the Teen Pool, Sports Court with its comical Kinloch Bronze "Catch," a stout man in a bathing suit trying to get up a beach ball game. There is also the Seaview Cafe: an excellent place for lunch -- onion rings, Cuban sandwiches, fish and chips, soups and salads -- desserts too. Deck 13 forward has the Viking Crown Lounge, with its 180 degrees view of the sea, and Hollywood Odyssey (intimate night spot) plus a putting green, mini golf course and the Rock Climbing Wall. CABIN Stateroom #7114 is one of nineteen wheelchair accessible staterooms w/ automatic door openers. When entering on the left, there is a double armoire, with a set of shelves, private safe, and a large closet. Next there is a desk/vanity with lighted mirror, T.V. and refrigerator. There are two plush blue arm chairs and a large coffee table. A glass wall faces to the verandah with sheer drapes and heavy brocade blackout drapes. We found these useful, since the passengers in the cabin next door left their balcony lights on all night. Our balcony had a large table for dining or playing cards etc., two chairs and a chaise. Very nice. When entering on the right was the huge bathroom, with a 4'X4' shower, sink, medicine cabinet and plenty of safety rails all around, and eight hooks for hanging robes and clothes. There was also a chest of drawers, a king size bed, two night stands and reading lamps -- very comfortable. Our cabin attendant Glenford O'Garro was the best! He kept everything spotless and was so cordial. Thanks Glenford. FOOD & SERVICE Hotel Director Nibu runs a tight ship. He has high expectations for the crew and we feel that they are met. Anything that we needed was promptly and pleasantly provided. On a new ship, it is difficult to have all things come together so quickly, but Nibu managed it well. The Tides Dining Room and all of the many food venues are in the capable hands of Maitre D' Orlando. If a preference is just stated, his subordinates are on it and they relay it to the waiters (or vice versa). Their motto is "please the passengers." Mary asked for lemon wedges on the first night and they were on our table every night thereafter. Our waitress Anabelle and her assistant Daniel were both very efficient and pleasant. We have done enough cruises to realize that when passengers are tardy to dinner it can disrupt the pace. Meals are usually served course by course to insure freshness and proper temperature. We are always amazed when passengers stroll into the dining room fifteen to forty five minutes late. The servers work in conjunction with the galley (course by course), which may be serving more than a 1,000 meals for each seating. Fifty years ago, when we first began traveling by ship, the dining room doors were closed fifteen minutes after the stated dinner time. People are not so punctual nowadays, but courtesy is always in vogue. We used Room Service on a daily basis. Full American breakfast every morning was hot and and inviting. One night we had dinner with soup, salad, Filet Mignon and cheesecake for dessert, all served in our room elegantly. We also dined with our friend the Captain, where an excellent meal was over seen by Maitre D' Orlando. Mary, seated beside the Captain's father, had a lively conversation with this very erudite gentleman. We were also treated to an exceptional luncheon by the Group Coordinator Elmer in the Tides balcony with its wine display cabinetry. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Jill is part of the "Take Out Team," which brings on line the new ships, thus placing RCI's stamp on every ship -- from the Concierge to the Chef. This system provides uniformity of service throughout the fleet. The RCI singers and dancers were on their final cruise and really went out with a lot of energy. We felt that by far the best production show was Tango Buenos Aires, a revue built around tango stars Ruben and Sabrina direct from Argentina. Having seen the Argentinean tango champions in Buenos Aires over two years ago, we were thrilled to see this sinuous duo. Their routine with the boles was superb. John Christie was also in fine form once again. We missed the Celtic Tenors, but were assured that they brought the house down. Music in the Centrum featured "Deja Voo" by Theo and Zlati (Bulgaria), his "Jail house Rock" and her "More" were something. The Rosario Strings played each evening before dinner and their Bass player also sang some great renditions of Johnny Mathis hits. In the Schooner Bar, Barry from Boston entertained with Broadway show tunes. There were "Olympic Games" at the pool, Horse Races, Guest Talent Shows, "Dead Again" an interactive murder mystery, "The Quest" an adult scavenger hunt, plus the usual Bingo and Slots Tournaments. After all, five sea days are a challenge for the Cruise Director, and she was up to it. Then there was also the sea itself which treated the passengers to many beautiful sunrises and sunsets. There were dolphins frolicking in the Atlantic at dinner time. There were terns, gulls, birds and spouting whales. Then, there were the many faces of the ocean itself: calm and serene, active with swells, glistening in the sun or even shrouded in fog with the ship's fog horn sounding. Don't forget the game of figuring the ship's course. Just after leaving Cork, Ireland, Vincent was convinced that the ship was going east instead of westerly. He was puzzled until the next morning, when the Captain announced the ship had returned toward Ireland to debark a lady with acute appendicitis, foregoing the usage of a helicopter due to a thick foggy night and transferring the patient to a boat which met the ship half way. Later the Captain reassured passengers that she had been operated on and was recovering well. PORTS OF CALL Naturally on a transatlantic cruise there are five restful sea days. However, this cruise started off with exciting European cities: London, Harwich and Plymouth, England; Le Havre, France; and Cork, Ireland. Then of course across the pond there is Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. We enjoyed this itinerary and found the approach to Plymouth lovely, while Cork whet our appetite for a return to Ireland. Sept. 1, Harwich, England Depart: 5:30pm We sailed into the sunset accompanied by the Bagpipes playing traditional tunes. Sept. 2, Le Harve, France Arrive: 7:00am Depart: 10:00pm LHA Tour: Paris sightseeing with Lunch cruise on the Seine, 11 hrs., $189. This is well worth it since it tours the Normandy countryside, the major sights of Paris and serves a gourmet meal on the river. There are three other tours of similar length and price to the Beaches of Normandy, Mont St. Michel and the Alabaster Coast. Sept. 3, Plymouth, England Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 5:00pm Tendering to the port is necessary. This was the last stop for the Mayflower prior to sailing for the New World. PYG Tour: Leisurely drive & Devonshire Cream Tea, 3.5 hrs., $56. Admiring the Devonshire moors covered with heather and drinking cream tea make an unbeatable combination. Sept. 4, Ringaskiddy, Ireland Arrive: 7:00am Depart: 5:30pm Ringaskiddy is the port for Cobh and Cork. CKB Tour: Scenic Drive & Blarney Village, 3.5 hrs., $40. This took us through the countryside to the Woolen Mills; with hindsight perhaps the CKA Tour of Blarney Castle and Panoramic Cork would have been a better one, because to get so close to the castle, one might as well see it up close and personal, rather than just from afar. We didn't take the CKA tour because of the warnings describing the presence of stairs. Sometimes we find these tour warnings are a bit exaggerated. There are also excursions to the Killarney Lake region and the Waterford crystal factory. Sept. 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9, At Sea. Sept. 10, Portland, Maine Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm There are an abundance of city tours and several tours for the sports minded: kayaking and lobster fishing. PWA Tour: Portland highlights & lighthouse, 2 hrs., $29. This not only tours Portland, but also does the rocky coastline. Sept. 11, Boston, Massachusetts Arrive: 8:30am Depart 5:00pm There are two highlights of Boston City tours by bus BXA, 1.5 hrs., $45 which ends at Logan Airport and BXA, 2.5 hrs., $45 ending at the Sheraton Boston or at the Hyatt Harbor Side Hotel. However, if there is time, the better part of the day, it would be nice to do the "Freedom Trail," a walking tour by the Boston Common, Paul Revere's house, the Old North church, etc.... DEBARKATION RCI has a color/number procedure with the Immigration/passport check done several days earlier on board. Boston has a simple system with a very short distance to the baggage pickup. There were an abundance of porters, taxis and busses right at the port terminal. We were met by Mary's brother Frank and his wife Regina. Just perfect timing -- we didn't wait a second and we were off to three days in Sudbury Massachusetts, Mary's home town. SUGGESTIONS Almost every day the NY Times FAX ran out, not enough copies, but there were too many copies of the German, French, Canadian and Spanish daily news sheets. Perhaps, at the end of the day a survey on the number of unused sheets and the unfilled requests of the other language papers should suggest the number of copies to be printed for the next day. CONCLUSION This was a wonderful cruise, passengers should expect a few glitches on a new ship, but this was almost perfect. We were amazed at the gentle kindness of all the crew. This always starts from the top: the Captain should be very proud of his subordinates, Francois, Nibu and Maitre D' Orlando. It was surely a pleasure to sail with them. We are looking forward this winter to booking two more cruises on RCI ships so we'll reach the number of 25 cruises for the status of Diamond Plus in the Crown & Anchor Society. In the meantime we have already booked a cruise on the new Caribbean Princess for November. Happy Cruising! 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Sail Date: October 2004
Brilliance is a marvelous ship with wonderful amenities. Having sailed on her before, we knew what to expect before embarkation and were not disappointed. We specifically selected a cabin on the curve of the atrium which gave us a much ... Read More
Brilliance is a marvelous ship with wonderful amenities. Having sailed on her before, we knew what to expect before embarkation and were not disappointed. We specifically selected a cabin on the curve of the atrium which gave us a much larger balcony; one which actually accommodated a chaise lounge as well as two chairs and a small table. This cruise was a Transatlantic crossing preceded by a three-day swing to Corsica and Mallorca. The first three days saw the ship populated by Catalonians who were on a long weekend. Since we were booked for second seating we were not ready for dinner to be served at 10:00 p.m. A talk with the chief dining room steward easily transitioned us to the main seating which was at a more convenient 7:30. The final 11 days, the crossing through the Mediterranean to Lisbon and finally Miami, saw the dining hours back to the normal 8:30 second seating. Knowing of the change prior to sailing, however, would have been more convenient. The service provided by the ship's staff was impeccable. We should all be treated so well at home. From the cabin attendant to the waitress, to the assistant head waiter, to the staff at guest relations, it was all perfect. If only the staff at RCI's Miami headquarters could do half as well. Although we realize the need for cruise lines to explore additional sources of revenue in order to keep fares attractive, the incessant art auctions in the atrium area of the ship.....almost a daily occurrence.....are enough to almost ruin that area for the 98% of passengers who could care less about the auctions. The sound carries up through seven decks and is unavoidable. Better they were held in the theater or a lounge. We will be on Brilliance again in April for a jaunt down to Panama and are eagerly looking forward to another voyage on this gracious liner. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
Star Princess- Transatlantic repositioning cruise- Venice to Ft Lauderdale, Oct, 2004 (17 day cruise) (Note- ship was fully booked) Embarkation & Disembarkation -- Boarding & Ships departure from Venice -- Excellent. No line ups. ... Read More
Star Princess- Transatlantic repositioning cruise- Venice to Ft Lauderdale, Oct, 2004 (17 day cruise) (Note- ship was fully booked) Embarkation & Disembarkation -- Boarding & Ships departure from Venice -- Excellent. No line ups. Excellent commentary over the ships loud speaker system describing the sites as we cruised down the Grand Canal and out to sea = a memorable experience. Disembarkation -- Disembarking 2600 plus passengers is going to be a delay. They try to minimize the discomfort by allocating baggage tags with different disembarkation times. We had arranged early departure and were given red #3 baggage tags. Procedure -- Directions were to wait on Deck 7, but deck does not have sufficient public areas resulting in people standing and sitting on the floor. We avoided by waiting and relaxing in the public area on Deck 14. Disembarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was a smooth procedure where we were quickly processed thru Princess exit machine using security card they provide you on Embarkation followed by swift processing thru immigration and then directed to waiting luggage. NOTE: They never checked our departure luggage tags to ensure we were getting off the ship when we should be; and all luggage appeared to be on dock. Cabin -- Balcony cabin D327 on Dolphin Deck (Princess calls it a mini suite) -- We were celebrating our 40th anniversary and splurged with an upgrade. Good decision for a cruise of this length = gave us more room and we really enjoyed the luxury of a bathtub. Veranda -- Has two small plastic chairs and table large enough for breakfast; plus two cushioned chairs (small lounge chairs). No privacy since the verandas are stepped (like a pyramid) with Dolphin Deck being the bottom of the pyramid. Also noisy = can hear conversations of guests above on their veranda. Sitting area in cabin -- Comfortable two seat sofa and one chair with coffee table large enough for breakfast. Greatly enjoyed our many breakfasts on the veranda and in the cabin. Sitting area has its own TV and HVAC thermostat. Sliding patio doors onto veranda. Sleeping area -- Twin bed configuration made into queen. Comfortable. Desk with chair, mirror, hair dryer, telephone and two electrical outlets = which was an excellent work station for me with my laptop. Area had a separate HVAC thermostat. Would keep the room temperature at 70F. Also has a second TV but not able to use both TV's at one time since no divider from sitting area and sleeping area. Closet next to Bathroom -- Ample hanging and cupboard space. Bathroom -- Good size, large combo tub/shower. Good size counter for personal effects. Location -- Cabin on starboard side generally puts us on the dock side for each port. However, since we were cruising westward, we did not get the sun we would have if our cabin had been on the Port side = if ever cruise again for a long period of time over the Atlantic or Pacific consider the location of the sun and pick the sunny side of the ship. Noise -- No noise from adjacent cabins or hall. However, in rough seas there was substantial noise and some vibration, likely from the stabilizer system which kept us awake one night = need to collect further information as to whether this is a problem throughout the ship. Cabin Steward -- Angelo -- Excellent. Shore Excursions & Itinerary -- Itinerary good, providing us with many new ports. However, had the following problems with Princess shore excursions -- i) buses -- on the whole had uncomfortable seating and no leg room, ii) Rome and Seville were a 1.75 hr. bus ride away = shortened up the time for touring, iii) Ratio of one tour guide for every 40-45 passengers on the tour = too large, iv) Insufficient time allocated to stops on tour = were too rushed, v) Were assembled in Princess Theatre rather than go ashore to meet tour bus (except for one port) = lost 15 minutes of valuable time. Conclusion -- i) One day short stops do not do the cities justice = not the way to visit a city that may not get backed to: ii) Try to do on own unless can determine that Princess has allowed adequate time for each visit (i.e. night in Venice); and iii) Princess should reduce the number of ports and increase the amount of time in the ports (i.e. as being done by other cruise lines such as Oceania). Ship  -- i) DEcor/finishes -- Very pleasing, well done, ii) Feel- have created many areas where one can comfortably get away from the "crowd" = well done; iii) Flow- worked well, except for deck 5; iv) Elevators -- did not work well = slow doors, noticeable waiting times, noticeable multiple stops with phantom passengers (would stop for passengers and no one waiting = persons had given up and walked). Activities Aboard ship -- Size of ship permitted a multitude of entertainment options, with some nights having two featured entertainers = great for a voyage at sea such as a transatlantic crossing. Note: Must arrive at main events at least 15 minutes early for the first shows or may not be seated. Found a full day of interesting activities available for each day at sea. Line ups -- i) Into dining areas initially/first two days were noticeable, but then disappeared; ii) For shore excursions noticeable, sometimes line ups were an annoyance; iii) From time to time at Purser's desk; iv) Always at Future Cruise desk (used a number system to overcome). Dining -- Quality of food and service was a disappointment, ranging from poor to excellent but on the average good. We had some major problems in the Portofino Dining Room = slow service, some meals not that good. Lucked out by one night sitting at table #6 in the Capri dining Room and thereafter booked this table each night = excellent service and no further problems with food. Jun, the waiter, allowed us to put extra plates in the middle of the table to be shared by all = his efforts and that of his assistant waiter resulted in a memorable dining experience (screened all food he brought to table and if not to his standard would return it to the kitchen). On the average, pastries lacked quality. Three main Dining Rooms -- i) Portofino Dining Room (open seating) -- initially our regular dining room, trying to sit at a table of four or six rather than the table of 8 where found it difficult to communicate with all eight persons. Service varied depending upon the section of the dining room in which you were seated. One lunch in Portofino took 1.5 hrs to get main course -- one of the couples left; several dinners were slow, meals taking two hours to complete. Note: reportedly same kitchen is serving the Portofino and Amalfi Dining (Fixed Seating) rooms and this could be the cause of the slow service vs. Capri which has its own kitchen; ii) Capri Dining Room (open seating) -- We had two good dining experiences and settled in with table #6, Capri Dining Room serviced by Jun (excellent). Reservation possible -- We had to phone each day to book the table at a specific time = unnecessary nuisance, but gave you all the benefits of fixed seating and a more flexible time tailored to your preferences. Buffet Dining -- Horizon Court -- on the average food did not meet our expectations (bacon, greasy sausages, week iced tea, tasteless pastries). Policy of closing one of the buffet service areas leads to congestion/crowding. At time found the layout of the food in strange order, requiring breaking in and out of the line up. Bonus -- Could make special order for an omelet. 3:30 p.m. tea -- A touch of class; all waiters in tuxedos with service in white glove. Excellent Service. From time to time some of the small sandwiches dry, on average food very good. Special restaurants -- i) Sabatini -- Extra charge of US $20.00 per person. Service excellent, other than as noted. Person in charge needs further training (I had a problem with a tasteless main course of prawns. When drawn to his attention, said would mention to Chef, and five minutes later was back at the table asking how meal was). My wife's meal was excellent. ii) Tequila -- Extra charge of US $15.00 per person. Service and meal excellent; with three piece band providing background music and dancing a touch of class = a memorable evening. We had to leave for a show and as a result unable to stay for the dancing; but returned several times to a few extra tables not being used for dining to have drinks = great location and band to relax, have a drink, and dance. Fixed vs. Open Seating -- When traveling on our own we always arrange for fixed seating. This time were unable to get a fixed seating reservation and we missed the experience of dining with the same group every night, comparing our notes, arranging excursions together and getting to know the staff/having the staff provide us with personal service based on our needs. Started to get tired of meeting new people every night and forced small talk. Whether want early or late seating should be determined by the itinerary and ships departure (on this itinerary early seating would be the best. When chose late seating, for days when this would not work, could take meal in open seating restaurants). The risk of fixed seating is that you might be assigned a table with an incompatible group. Another option when you are cruising with others is to take the open seating, find a waiter that you like and then make reservations every day (in Princess case, over the telephone), which we did in latter part of the cruise to get the same waiter = gives you the best of two systems. Entertainment -- Size of ship allows you, on several nights, to see two different shows. Quality of entertainment is equal to Las Vegas = was the best we have experienced on a cruise ship (other than for the excellent specialized entertainment provided by the locals at each ports on the Tahitian Princess). Princess Theatre has good site lines; theatre level stage props (props, entertainers can entry and exit thru floor elevators). Some of the seats uncomfortable in that all seats are the same configuration, not taking into consideration the slope of the floor underneath = results in one sliding forwarding on the seat. Internet -- At a cost of $10.50 for 30 minutes was able to hook up laptop (wireless) to ship's system in one location -- Atrium. Very slow connection (lower end of telephone speed) and not a user friendly connection system -- could only purchase in 30 minute increments, when came to end of 30 minutes and tried to send an e-mail lost the e-mail, does not appear to sign off until you shut down the computer, when you run out of 30 minutes, you have to close out Explorer and sign on again. Tour desk -- Staffed by one, who thought it was appropriate to handle the passengers waiting to see her by using a numbered system rather than to expand her hours or have an additional crew member assist, as we have found on other cruise lines (RCI). A disappointment. Fitness -- Promenade deck -- Excellent for walking in quiet sea; on deck 7 & 8, with stairs up to deck 8 at the bow -- 5 times around reportedly mile. Gym -- Good. 15 treadmills, all on 30 minute reservation periods, basically same equipment as our club's fitness facilities in Thornhill. Good weight equipment. Exercise room next door with mats. OVERALL CONCLUSIONS -- Tahitian Princess Cruise, our other Princess experience, was a memorable cruise vs. Star Princess a good cruise with some noticeable problems = Star Princess -- Great Ship with management problems. This ship is capable of moving from a Berlitz Cruise Guide rating of four stars to five stars, joining Celebrity as the only large cruise ships receiving this rating. Will be interesting to monitor other members' experiences on whether they solve the problems. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2004
We had a nice SS cabin plus 2 days in Barcelona at the Gran Havana Hotel, which was quite nice and conveniently located. Embarkation was a disaster with all 1800 passengers arriving at one time, or so it appeared. There was a special ... Read More
We had a nice SS cabin plus 2 days in Barcelona at the Gran Havana Hotel, which was quite nice and conveniently located. Embarkation was a disaster with all 1800 passengers arriving at one time, or so it appeared. There was a special line for PH and full suite guests. There was no one to help carry bags to the stateroom. The stateroom was nice, over 300 sq. feet with a balcony large enough for a table, 2 chairs and 2 padded chairs with hassocks. Plenty of storage space with 3 closets, full size tub with separate shower and 2 sinks. Food service was average- no bad meals, an occasional plate that had to be reheated. The Pinnacle Grill was outstanding- well worth the $20.00 charge per person- we had the lamb and the large filet. The fruit was quite limited with no mangos, papayas or pineapple, and they ran out of prunes and several types of cereals before the end of the cruise!! The entertainment was quite good, with Jacqui Scott as on of the features- she had been on Crystal cruises on 2 occasions with us. The ship's singers and dancers were excellent and they had a big band on for the crossing. Only one real cocktail party- the Captain's reception, but 5 formal nights. On one they had the Black and White Ball in the Crow's Nest at 1030 p.m. for both seatings. Even with most people not attending it was very overcrowded. The outside elevators were a nice feature, but the overall appearance fared poorly when compared to the Rotterdam- too gaudy for my taste- orange and blue angels on the benches! All and all not an experience we would want to repeat. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
Thoroughly enjoyed our recent 17-day cruise from Barcelona, Spain, to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. BOOKING & FLIGHT: Arrived two days early for an opportunity to see and enjoy Barcelona. Our hotel and travel package was booked through ... Read More
Thoroughly enjoyed our recent 17-day cruise from Barcelona, Spain, to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. BOOKING & FLIGHT: Arrived two days early for an opportunity to see and enjoy Barcelona. Our hotel and travel package was booked through HAL and we stayed at the AC Diplomat in Barcelona. Our flight was booked with Air France and was very uncomfortable in coach. The seating was so close that when the passenger in the forward seat reclined their seat back it actually touched my chest, until I too placed the seat back further back. This made eating almost impossible and in eight hours only one trip to the facilities was possible. Our recommendation, fly business class if you can afford it. The flight into Paris was late and the one hour transfer time for our Barcelona flight reduced to twenty minutes. Air France was on the spot with transportation for our group and ensured a direct drive to the next terminal, otherwise we would have been on our own to walk across the complex. The Air France Airbus flight to Barcelona was pure luxury with all the seating space anyone could ask for. The arrival procedure at Barcelona Airport was great with HAL representatives waiting at the door and assisting with the limited customs procedures and immediate transportation to the hotel. PORT ACCOMMODATIONS: The AC Diplomat is a lovely and very modern hotel with very comfortable beds, a luxurious bathroom furnished completely in marble, fridge. fully stocked with complementary beverages each day and cable television. The heating and air conditioning system was great. With the HAL booking the free breakfast was very nice. EMBARKATION: Bus transportation and city tour was provided from the AC Diplomat, although it took five buses for all HAL guests. The downside was that all 1,800 plus passengers seemed to arrive at the very small terminal at the port within the same hour. The processing was quick, taking no more than 30 minutes, at which time we were surprised with an upgrade from a AA Suite to a SS Suite. SUITE ASSIGNMENT: The SS Suite was large, especially with the additional shower and sink in the bathroom. The three closets were spacious and the drawer space in the desk adequate. Plenty of room under the King sized bed for luggage storage. The larger size television and DVD player made watching the occasional movie more comfortable. PUBLIC AREAS: We missed the larger public rooms of the Statendam. Even the Ocean Bar of the Vista Class ship was smaller. The casino was larger and well designed for gaming variety. The Atrium lacks the style of previous Holland America ships. Having a bar in the first level of the Atrium, adjacent to the customer service areas of the ship was odd. I did use the bar area here for Internet access with the best wireless signal in any public area. The garish color design in most public areas made us wonder who selected the interior fabric and style. DINNING: We found it necessary to request a table reassignment four nights into our cruise. The noise level in the upper dinning room adjacent to the serving area was unacceptable. The menu was good to exceptional most evenings, but the soup and salads lacked any excitement. Several evenings the meat dish was not cooked to order and one evening the lamb dish was so undercooked that the head waiter was visibly upset when we pointed out the blood red lamb. The steak orders were never cooked or served correctly. Breakfast in the Lido was good, although the menu choices lacked the variety of previous HAL cruises. Several breakfast items ran short after the 15th day of the 17 day cruise. Our servers were very friendly and quick to correct any problems brought to their attention. TOURS: Barcelona--took advantage of the Red and Blue Bus Line Tours in the city. A great way to see the sights at your leisure for only about $13 (depending when you bought your Euros). Would like to have had two more days in Barcelona. Holland America is now charging $5 per person for each direction off the ship into Tarragona. The same applied for Funchal, Madeira and the Canary Islands. The Casablanca, Morocco city bus tour was less than pleasant, having boarded the oldest and dirtiest bus available to our group and our tour guide was well past his retirement age and had obvious respiratory problems. The biggest problem was that he was unwilling to answer most questions about the tour route. The St. Maarten tour was delayed due to poor communication and a lack of buses. We ended up in a last resort transportation alternative for the tour. The tour guide blamed the ship and the ship blamed the tour group. Not acceptable. The tour on Half Moon Cay was canceled due to water clarity conditions, no notice and little effort was made to refund the fee. ENTERTAINMENT: The shows were lively, well designed and performed. The variety of guest entertainment good to excellent. The casino was the best we have seen on board a ship with plenty of tournament action and instruction from the casino personnel. We did see quite a few people hit sizable jackpots and had a good gaming experience. The Karaoke competition was great with several nights of great fun. We are looking forward to our next Vista class experience on the Oosterdam in February '05. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
ABOUT US: We are 55 and 60 years old, and have traveled extensively. We took the Westbound Transatlantic crossing of the Opera in 2004, starting in Genoa, Italy and ending in Ft. Lauderdale. This was our 7th cruise together. ABOUT THE ... Read More
ABOUT US: We are 55 and 60 years old, and have traveled extensively. We took the Westbound Transatlantic crossing of the Opera in 2004, starting in Genoa, Italy and ending in Ft. Lauderdale. This was our 7th cruise together. ABOUT THE SHIP: If you have a specific idea of what cruising should be like, with a thousand detailed requirements, you will not enjoy this ship. It does not offer the same experience as Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian and probably never will. If, on the other hand, you find the interplay of cultures fascinating, and find differences stimulating instead of just "wrong," you'll have a wonderful time. MSC is an Italian company. They are the second largest cargo line in the world and are relatively new to the cruise market so there are some good values to be had. At least half of the passengers on our ocean crossing were Europeans and the blessedly few PA announcements were in five languages: English, German, Italian, French and Spanish. Service personnel must function in most of these languages. Some do this better than others, but all seemed pleasant and patient. The MSC Opera is new and is a sleek greyhound. It was designed for the luxury trade before the decision was made to pursue the budget end of the market. The interiors are quietly elegant in dark blues, smoky plums, corals and creams. There's no art in particular but the lighting fixtures are well designed like big sculptures. The ship lacks glass-sided elevators, high atriums and Vegas-style metallic glitz, but makes up for it by being really comfortable, human-scaled like a good European hotel. Lots of small places to settle in. Lots of glass and views of the sea. We had an inside cabin. It was not the largest we've been in, but the mirror layout was the best we've seen, giving more light and sense of space than we expected. The bathroom was equally well-planned, generously sized with an excellent shower. Water heat and pressure were both good. The smaller of the two restaurants, L'approdo, is a jewel box of red and pink. The larger restaurant, La Caravella, is very sophisticated in green, cream and yellow, with lots of columns and divisions so it seems more intimate than its size would indicate. There is a cafeteria on the top deck with indoor and outdoor seating. The top deck also has two pools and is very lively. There is often an excitable host screaming in 4 or 5 languages, running incomprehensible games and contests with enthusiastic passengers, Europop blaring on the speakers. If you want quiet, there are lounge chairs on the Boat Deck most days and also at the stern of many of the cabin decks. ABOUT THE FOOD: Extraordinarily good. Northern Italian. We were on for 17 days and they didn't miss on a pasta or risotto once. Good pizza, superb homemade ice cream, excellent bread, good soup. We found the meat entrees a little lacking but others singled them out as exceptional. You could always get a grilled sirloin or chicken if you didn't like the chef's entrees. The cakes were of the baba au rhum variety. Very airy and not much chocolate, but plenty of variety. Lots of salads and fresh fruit, plus fresh fruit in the rooms. The waiters are Italian and joke a little heavily at first and not always successfully in an attempt to charm you. On the whole they are very good. When I expressed a preference for ice tea and breadsticks rather than rolls, I found them waiting every night. Luigi was an excellent waiter, Mario and Carlo excellent maitre'd's (and Sylvie was a superb cabin steward too.) MSC has a policy that you don't have to tip if you don't want to. This is churlish, the staff deserves it, they work hard. We followed the policy we have always followed. We ignored management's guidelines and tipped what we wanted to and felt was appropriate. THE BEST THING ABOUT THE SHIP: The intimacy and sheer livability of the ship are the main virtues for us, but one of the most civilized things is that they allow you to get duty free liquor and open it and consume it in your room. They don't seal it for the voyage so you'll order more from the bars like many lines do. THE WORST THING ABOUT THE SHIP: There are two really bad things about the ship: 1) SMOKING: Many Europeans smoke. Like chimneys. And seemingly they aren't even aware it might hurt others. They are behind us on banning smoking. Fortunately they were not allowed to smoke inside the restaurants, but the outdoor patio area was rendered unusable for non smokers. This was a big disappointment to us, but didn't ruin the cruise. We don't go to the lounges at night (we like to get up for the dawn) but we understand there were fights in the lounges about people who ignored the non-smoking area designations. And there's nothing like being in a jammed corridor trying to exit the ship in a port and having someone light up. Some Americans complained to the offenders but many of the smokers didn't speak English, so it was futile. We never saw staff do anything to enforce the no-smoking areas. I am asthmatic and suffer from smoke, but I was able to get away from it OK. Judge for yourself whether it makes a difference to you. 2) MANAGEMENT: Charming but utterly chaotic. Generally inefficient and sometimes maddeningly so and in odd ways. The loading of the ship in Genoa, for example, was the most efficient I have ever seen. You checked in, reserved your dining table, and booked your shore excursions in one very smooth line. But once on board, both the purser's and excursion desks were uninformed and uncoordinated. For example, we tried to book a transfer from the dock to Ft. Lauderdale airport. Reception said Shore Excursions handled that, Shore Excursions said Reception handled that, they bounced us back and forth, called each other and yelled into the phone. We eventually did get to the airport and make our flight, but a little more coordination would have worked wonders with the experience. Similarly the 24 hour internet service broke down periodically because the satellite gave them problems. Nobody had any idea when it would be fixed. There is a technician on board but service remained unreliable. Our two valiant American hostesses, Amanda and Vanessa, bravely took a barrage of passenger criticism, justified and otherwise, and relayed the complaints to management. Often the response from the bridge was an automatic "no," but then the problem would be mysteriously solved 24 hours later. THE PEOPLE ON BOARD: The Americans on board this repositioning cruise were largely retired people, many from Florida. They are very experienced budget cruisers. They have taken every line and they have very set expectations about what they like and want from a cruise. When they don't get what they are used to from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, etc., they don't perceive this European ship as different, they perceive it as WRONG! This makes some of them very hostile. For example, there are only small cups of ice water on a hot day. Not spigots of iced tea or fruit juice like on other ships. There is iced tea but only in the dining rooms. Not in the cafeteria or on the outdoor patio. This one thing made a lot of people hostile. (Until management gets around to this one, bring a tall insulated mug and make your own). We were told there is little music for ballroom dancing at night. Only disco (I guess their Mediterranean cruises have more young people -Europeans have longer vacations than us and the American passengers skewed older). There are movies on the TV but they are dubbed in many languages. And the English-language originals are often not on at convenient times, nor are the schedules reliable. "Welcome to Mooseport" loses something when dubbed in German (I'm not kidding). And some passengers just don't like it when they are so many people on board that they can't talk to, and they grow impatient when instructions have to be translated. Also, some cultures are trained to get on line, while others just crowd in, which makes for conflict. If management would put rope lines like a bank in front of the reception counter, that might defuse a lot of bad feeling. We read some hostile reviews of this ship and its sister ship, the Lirica before we booked this, but we must say we enjoyed the experience thoroughly and found it a phenomenal value. You just have to know what you are getting in to. SHOPS: Very tasteful and very expensive, which made no sense at all. The shops were one part of the ship not recalibrated for budget cruising. The stock was entirely for the European market, the wrong weight clothing and not even in American sizes. They didn't sell bottles of aspirin or Tylenol, but did sell several kinds of expensive anti-cellulite cream. Considering the average age and needs of the Caribbean cruisers this is pretty odd. Also, one lone bottle of SPF sunblock shared shelf space with plentiful supplies of old-fashioned tanning butter. If they sold some insulated mugs with the ship's logo, they'd clean up and stop the no iced tea hostility, but they are not yet that sensible. The $350 dollar sweaters didn't sell even at 50% off. When the temperature outside went to 90 degrees, people wanted tee shirts. They only had a few, they were expensive and for sale only in the liquor store! A simple $29 item in the jewelry shop would have sold out. But they didn't have anything at all in that category. SHORE EXCURSIONS: The stops on our crossing were: Barcelona, Casablanca, Funchal, Barbados, Antigua, Tortola, St. Maarten, and Nassau. Generally well run. Remember to bring Euros for Barcelona and Funchal (not all the Americans on board did). The ship charges 3 percent to change money. This includes 3 percent to cash travelers checks which is a bum deal. They're supposed to be cash. The full day excursion to Marrakesh from Casablanca which includes a 4 hour bus trip both ways is exhausting but sooo worth it! Don't miss this one. In Madeira, we found riding a wicker basket down a mountain in Funchal is terrifying without much thrill. They don't tell you you're riding down a HIGHWAY with trucks coming at you and you're being steered by 2 guys with string. Phooey! Take a cab to the top of the cable car instead. Also, Tortola is the most beautiful place I ever saw in the Caribbean. A NOTE ON LUGGAGE: Our luggage was lost between Paris and Genoa. The idea of a 17 day cruise with no luggage was really frightening for us. It was found and delivered to our hotel at midnight the night before we departed. We met people whose luggage was lost connecting from Rome, Frankfurt and London. Some bags caught up with the ship before we left, some joined us at our first stop in Barcelona, some never caught up at all. Since the art of transferring baggage seems to have been lost, travel insurance is a good idea, at least giving you some money for replacement clothing. And pack your carry-on bags carefully in case your big suitcase(s) go AWOL. HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: MSC has hired management from American cruise lines to explain American cruise culture to them, so improvement should be swift. They are really trying hard. But I don't expect they'll ever be "plain vanilla." If you like, by all means give them a try, but only if you understand going in it's going to be different, and that's not a bad thing. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
Check in was a dream, after 15 mins we were on board and in our cabin. US ports could learn a lot from here and should do!!!!!! The cabin was roomy with lots of space for all our clothes. Which idiot agreed to put the beds next to the ... Read More
Check in was a dream, after 15 mins we were on board and in our cabin. US ports could learn a lot from here and should do!!!!!! The cabin was roomy with lots of space for all our clothes. Which idiot agreed to put the beds next to the window and not the sofa is beyond me. That is a huge error. Celebrity's balcony cabins are far better. The bathroom was small and had the most unpleasant odour, it stank from urine. Our steward told us they had had problems and everything was repaired in Barcelona, after we shower it would be ok. In fact it got worse. The next day we went to guest services and asked somebody have a look, true to RCI nobody came. I asked to see the GS manager (Sue). I was told she was not there, I said I would wait and took a seat. 2 mins later she came out, I informed her about our problem and we were moved to another cabin and things were ok. It seems they have problems with this section, we cruised again in Jan '05 in cabin 9206 and had the same problem. The food was terrible, choices were limited, poor quality in the restaurant. Our waiter from Turkey was not that good. He served starters without sauces, our pasta dish was dry and was sent back, I could not even get a steak cooked rare, he said it was not allowed. Our bus boy was super he should have been he waiter. Every day on the menu, shrimp cocktail, parma ham & melon Caesar salad. Not served as extras but as a choice, after 11 days!!! The buffet in the Windjammer was just the same, the food choice was limited, salads were the same daily, main courses lamb, chicken, etc., were not good. The waiters from Romania and Turkey were so miserable they just walked around and did nothing. The tables were left dirty after they cleared the things away from the last guests. We had cruised on the Vision and that was much better, even the tea and coffee station has been reduced, no lemon, honey, etc., only half & half portions of milk were available. At times the entertainment was good, mostly just ok. In the end we stopped going. Arrival in Miami was early in the morning and was nice to see the skyline all lit up, the only thing that's nice about this port. Getting off the ship is a joke. The new immigration laws for non US is so bad that it will be a long time before we visit again. They take fingerprints, eye photos, etc., which is ok. However in Jan. they were taken 4 times, with more than 1 hour standing in line at the airport cruise terminal to board, again to leave the ship and again to leave the USA. Criminals are treated better. If the details were correctly stored as our passports are swiped through the machine all the info should be on the screen and not that everything has to be repeated. This they call security, to us its a nightmare. RCI has become a mass carrier with cheap prices, even cheaper quality. The customers no longer matter, all they want is to fill the ships. After our cruise in Jan again on the Brilliance (booked Jan '04) we encountered the same problems, quality, etc. IT'S BACK TO CELEBRITY FOR US. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
My wife and I just returned from a transatlantic cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas. It is accurately named "brilliance" of the seas. The ship was absolutely beautiful and the service was second to none. We sailed from ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from a transatlantic cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas. It is accurately named "brilliance" of the seas. The ship was absolutely beautiful and the service was second to none. We sailed from Barcelona, ported at Alicante & Malaga (Spain) and Lisbon, Portugal. All three cities were interesting in their own way. Alicante offered the least to us of the three, but it was a nice place to visit. We took a guided tour (walking and bus) in Malaga and found it to be very interesting. We had an excellent tour guide and would like to have had more time there. Lisbon offered a great location to walk and shop. The streets were very inviting for visitors and the shops were welcoming to tourists, even though the language was a barrier. Returning to the ship for the next 7 days at sea, we were overwhelmed by the activities offered on board. There were more things to do than we could participate. A wide variety of activities and interests were included and all were well planned and executed. The crew members that led each activity were very friendly and interesting. The ship was nicely appointed with exquisite furnishings in the public areas. The furnishings included inlaid woods, marble, granite, beautiful artwork, tapestries, leather and other top of the line materials. Much attention had been given to detail. The self-leveling pool tables were a nice feature, especially on the days when the ship was experiencing excessive motion due to the rough seas. Even the seats in the 3 level theater were equipped with air conditioning in the seatbacks. As with previous cruises, the food was delicious. Each dish was tasty and beautifully presented. The service by our head waiter and assistant was excellent. The Seaview Cafe was a particularly quaint and pleasant place for an afternoon meal. It was somewhat remotely located and offered an ambiance found no place else on the ship. The service in our cabin was excellent. Our steward (Dotsie) was pleasant and very efficient. We would love to repeat this transatlantic cruise in the future or return to this ship for any of its cruise offerings. It was a trip to be remembered! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
This was our honeymoon cruise. We are in our mid 40s, and this was our 3rd cruise together. We arrived for embarkation early and got onboard quickly. It took a few hours to get our luggage. (not a problem) One of the first things we do ... Read More
This was our honeymoon cruise. We are in our mid 40s, and this was our 3rd cruise together. We arrived for embarkation early and got onboard quickly. It took a few hours to get our luggage. (not a problem) One of the first things we do when we get onboard is to go to the spa and check out any specials. We were pleasantly surprised to find the pay as you go Hydro pool, and thermal spa. We treated ourselves to an unlimited full length cruise pass that cost us $320 as a couple. This proved to be the best investment we've ever made on a cruise ship. We spent at least two hours a day in the spa. It was great after spending all day on a shore excursion, and returning sore, and worn out. We had a late seating for dinner. The service was just above average, but the food was exceptional. The entertainment was the best!! They had a large variety of acts (comedy, juggler, Big Band, and the show troupe was top notch). The cruise staff all knew us by first name after the first day. We were given a handicapped cabin, that was fine with us because of the size, it was very roomy. The bed was the best we've ever had on a cruise. Our steward was very attentive, and our cabin was spotless. There was lots of closet space, and the bathroom was big. The casino was very lively and was packed most of the time. The payouts were in abundance. My wife left the cruise on the winning side after winning on many occasions with $200 and $400 wins. I didn't play much, but broke even. The ports were very lively and we had a great time at every one. Overall we had a great time and will be sailing on Holland America again very soon. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
I have been on 10 cruises in the past 2 years and a lot were a lot cheaper then this one on what is supposed to be the best ship. Well, I DO NOT think it was the best ship. In fact it was the worst ship I have ever been on. The crew ... Read More
I have been on 10 cruises in the past 2 years and a lot were a lot cheaper then this one on what is supposed to be the best ship. Well, I DO NOT think it was the best ship. In fact it was the worst ship I have ever been on. The crew made it seem it was a problem to do anything for you. I saw old people(with walking sticks) trying to get a table after they stood in long lines trying to get some food, and none of the staff even offered to help If you got lucky enough to get a table then you had to look all over to get a drink (NO THE STAFF DID NOT GET IT FOR YOU - THEY TOLD YOU WHERE TO GET IT). You would go to one drink station and maybe find a glass and have to go looking for something to put in it. And if you were too long you would get back to your table to find your food had been cleared away and the buffet would be closed so you did not get any food. If you were getting food and it was time for the buffet to close and you were in the middle the food was taken away from under your nose and you were told "WE ARE CLOSED." Yes, they had a staff shortage, but the cruise we were on I heard about 150 staff just walked off the ship. I DON'T KNOW HOW TRUE THAT WAS, but I was on the island and coming back a lot of staff were shouting and getting off the ship with suitcases. As for disembarkation, I saw a 91 year old woman pushing her own wheelchair off, and another really old couple trying to get off. I helped them. The man had Parkinsons and the woman had 2 walking sticks and she said to me she could not walk anymore because she was in so much pain and had tears in her eyes. I took them aside and when I got off the ship I found a man with a wheelchair and told him about them. I just hope he went to help them. Also, do not expect to find your bags when you get off the ship. What a mess. At this point you wish you had stayed home for sure. Then we had a transfer to the airport and the buses didn't come so they said to all in the lines that if you want to get taxis go ahead (but everyone had already paid for the transfer). A lot of people did get taxis but our flight was not for another 3 hours so it was wait there or wait in the airport, so we waited. During the cruise a lot of people who were on the ship, including myself, asked if we could get off the ship and fly home. The shows on the ship are bad and there is not much to do except to play in the casino and that was always full. The only place you could get food and drink in peace was the Golden Lion Pub. If it was not for that I would have lost weight on the ship. At least the beds were very comfortable, but believe it or not there was no phone by the bed!!! The menus in the main dinning room were names you could not understand and the night they served lobster they did not serve melted butter with it. Can you believe that!! This is how the ship is run. Only one sugar free dessert and you had to ask for it!!! No powdered milk available for your coffee. I asked for an omelette with onions and I was told they did not do onions!!! Save your money and take a real cruise -- Royal Caribbean or Celebrity or just about any other line... The ship is new but not all that beautiful. The inside and outside pools leave a lot to be desired. Old fashioned step ladders to get in and out of the pools. Not convenient like the ones on Princess or almost any other line. Bottom line. Don't waste your money. For a lot less you can get a lot more. On a scale of 1 - 10 my husband and I (and probably everyone else the we talked to on the ship) would rate the Queen Mary 2 no more than a 3 star and that, believe me, is stretching it to the max. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
Seabourn Legend Crossing. March 2005. A review by CruiserDan The Itinerary This was a trans-Atlantic crossing. We left St. Thomas USVI, and cruised the Atlantic Ocean to Lisbon, Portugal. We had one stop in Madeira, Spain. St. Thomas ... Read More
Seabourn Legend Crossing. March 2005. A review by CruiserDan The Itinerary This was a trans-Atlantic crossing. We left St. Thomas USVI, and cruised the Atlantic Ocean to Lisbon, Portugal. We had one stop in Madeira, Spain. St. Thomas is a beautiful Caribbean Island, with lovely restaurants, beautiful beaches and plenty of duty-free shopping. We arrived a day prior to the cruise, and stayed at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef hotel. We boarded the Legend the next day at 1:45PM, and prepared for 8 sea days. On the 9th day, we had a port-of-call in Madeira, Spain. Most of the ship enjoyed the Seabourn Experience, high tea at the famous Reed's hotel. As I had experienced this excursion on another Seabourn cruise, I decided to forego the trip to Reed's. We were on our own, and decided to take the sky ride to the top of hill to enjoy vast views and vistas of the city. Some of our fellow cruisers decided to take the "street toboggans" down the steep hilly streets of Madeira. On the last morning of our crossing, we arrived in Lisbon, Portugal. The people, as the city are lovely. We stayed at the Pentana Palace Hotel, and enjoyed a very rare upgrade to the Royal Suite. Lisbon is definitely a destination city. The vast big-city shopping district boasts beautiful clothing at reasonable prices. (Even with the dollar so weak) We visited the quaint town of Sintra, where the weather was cool, and the food was excellent. Crossings aren't for people that must get off the ship everyday or love to shop. Crossings are for people that want to relax, socialize and enjoy the pampering of being on a first class cruise ship. The Staff I will start with Geir-A. Thue-Nilsen, the Captain of the Legend. In my opinion, he is the very best Captain on the high seas today. He has a quality about him that oozes professionalism and respect, while offering warmth and friendship to all he meets. He loves his work, but also loves to play. From participating in fun and games with the passengers, to offering a sincere "see you soon" at the bottom of the gangplank while guests are disembarking. I look so very forward to sailing with him in the near future. The restaurant staff, including Jan, Zoltan(s), Johanna, were outstanding, as the Maitre d', Luca and the assistant Maitre d' (name escapes me) were fantastic. Always service with a smile, friendly greetings and a welcoming feeling. The bar staff were also excellent. Slavo in the Sky Bar, and Macjic in the Club. 4 other "gold stars" go to the public rooms manager, Steven, the Hotel Manager Guenther, the head of the Housekeeping Department Lill, and the stewardess Christine. Although Christine was not our stewardess this trip, we enjoyed her comradery as a friend. The only weak link we experienced was the Staff Purser. A group of us decided that it would be nice to throw a crew party one evening. We discussed it with the Staff Purser, who was to arrange the party, and split the cost between our group. The party (barbecue) was not well received by the crew, as it was very last-minute. We were not told of it until after it had already begun. As the crew had no idea that our group threw the party, it was extremely uncomfortable when we greeted the crew who were there. The Staff Purser promised another party on another night, but it never happened. Service all around would be a perfect 10, had we not pursued the crew party. The Entertainment The Cruise Director, Eric DeGray was simply fabulous. His keen singing voice, his warm demeanor and his striking looks make him a stand-out in the cruise industry. Seabourn had better make sure they take very good care of him, as he is a huge asset to have on any cruise ship. He was joined by Michelle and a new-comer. The latter was a bit weak compared to Eric and Michelle. I hope she has the opportunity to improve as her contract continues. If a glitzy show and non-stop entertainment is what you look for in a cruise, Seabourn is not for you. The entertainment is often low-key, high quality and intimate. The Ship Our crossing was sold-out, with 197 passengers on board. The ship sparkled from stem to stern, with the exception of the front deck with Jacuzzi. This area was being re-done during our trip. Dining Enjoying 107 days on Seabourn, I can honestly say that the food was the most outstanding on this cruise. The food wasn't as salty as previous cruises, or as rich. Sashimi tuna was offered on several occasions, as were staples lobster, filet and caviar. For a cruise ship to be consistent in the quality of ingredients, recipes and quantity is quite an accomplishment. Hats off to the chef! The Passengers A cruise line can only do so much to accomplish a true 6 star vacation. Truly the passengers can enhance or diminish your experience. For the majority, the passengers were well-heeled travelers, and very friendly. There were one or two passengers that didn't seem to fit in the Seabourn "family". Complaining, hurtful comments, and snobbishness seemed to be their mode of operation. I truly hope they enjoyed their Seabourn experience, if they didn't, it was nobody's fault but their own. I had the pleasure to finally meet (and identify) Bldsld, Daneite, and CruiserMatt. I enjoyed another cruise with CeeJay11, Drs S and P, Kit, John, Joanne, Kelly, Phil and many new friends. Overall This was a great cruise, filled with many memories of friends, fine dining, and gracious service. The only downfall of this crossing was losing hours day after day. It became a bit tiresome, and the jet-lag after the cruise was brutal. The crossing in November will offer the opposite, starting in Tenerife and gaining hours to Ft. Lauderdale. I am already booked, along with many of my fellow Seabournites. I hope you enjoyed my review.   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
This was booked via a travel agent who advertised nationally in the UK. This was to be a surprise for my wife to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary which we had delayed because of our eldest daughter's wedding back in 2002. I ... Read More
This was booked via a travel agent who advertised nationally in the UK. This was to be a surprise for my wife to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary which we had delayed because of our eldest daughter's wedding back in 2002. I presented it to her last Christmas 2004. I had opted for the Cunard package which gave us club class seating on BA. This is always appreciated when flying together as we sit looking at each other which makes conversation much more enjoyable. Another sweetener was our travel agent also bundled in a night at the 5* Essex House to which I added on two extra nights. Transfers to the passenger port were not included but its less than 45 minutes and $12 by cab from South Central Park even with the Sunday traffic. So no big deal. The embarkation process was excellent, our check in time was 2pm to which we stuck to. We dropped our bags (5) and arranged for a porter to collect them. He must have been miffed, as he gave back the $1 my wife offered and failed to label the bag we obtained in Macy's which he promised to do. In our defence we only had a single dollar or a twenty and it does say tipping is optional. We did get the bag back later that evening after speaking to the pursers office. We had our photos taken, passports checked and 'sail and sign' ID cards issued in less than 10 minutes. Our first impressions of the ship were great. We had never sailed, cruised or crossed on a ship before and our expectations were exceeded. We sat in our cabin drinking out half bottle of sparkling wine. We the ventured out on deck for the departure and Champagne reception $10 a glass but they do serve Veuve Clicquot with a huge strawberry. The sights leaving NYC from the passenger port were fabulous, NY skyline, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and all set against a lovely sunset. We love the food and preferred to eat in the Britannia rather than the King's Court. I just can't understand why people pay all this money only to eat in a shopping mall type of food court. The only reason I can see is if you forgot (or didn't want) to pack any formal evening wear. To us the evening dining experience is about dressing up feeling a little bit special. Eat in Todd English one night which is a must do. Great food. We also liked taking afternoon tea in the Queen Room. I must say the food standards are very high, except for a previously noted comment on the breakfast fruit juices (especially the orange and cranberry). To serve food at this high standard and to serve overly watered down excuses for fruit juice is appalling and we said so. The planetarium, RADA sample Shakespeare scenes, the Oxford University lectures we both thoroughly enjoyed. We only managed to catch one of the evening shows which was a shame as the one we saw was good (comedy magician) if a little short 45 minutes. We had two days of fog which didn't spoil anything for us as we occupied ourselves with the daily activities. There was a slight drama as a passenger had to be medivac'd to hospital. As no helicopter could fly we had to divert some 300 miles to St Johns, Newfoundland, where he and his wife transferred via coast guard boat. We like the Chart Room which used quite a bit and only discovered the Commodore club later in the week. Had a few raspberry Martini's there which if featured as DOD (drink of the day) cost only $4.25. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
MSC Opera. Transatlantic Crossing Fort Lauderdale to Genoa 2nd to 19th April, 2005. Although this is our own personal thoughts and opinions based on our experience from time to time there may be comment upon opinions and thoughts of some ... Read More
MSC Opera. Transatlantic Crossing Fort Lauderdale to Genoa 2nd to 19th April, 2005. Although this is our own personal thoughts and opinions based on our experience from time to time there may be comment upon opinions and thoughts of some of the people with whom we spent time during our 17 wonderful days. This was not our first cruise with MSC and what really concerned us was that changes may have been made during the 2005 Caribbean Season that might reduce our personal enjoyment. On board there were a couple who have taken 38 cruises with MSC, a lady on her 32nd cruise with MSC, a lady who had sailed with MSC westbound in November and loved it so much that she had stayed on board throughout the 2005 Caribbean season and a couple who had sailed westbound and enjoyed it so much that they immediately booked the return to cruise eastbound. It can be seen therefore that we are not alone in our appreciation of the MSC product. There were some very minor changes which we thought were not for the good. For instance previously there was a jug of water in the cabins and this was refreshed twice daily. Now there was bottled water to be purchased. In the dining room a jug of iced water was delivered to the table and remained there throughout the meal -- now you had to wait for the wine steward to refill the glasses. There had been orange juice and pineapple juice available all day along with tea, coffee and iced tea but now the juices had disappeared. Previously we had been able to purchase ashore local spirits and take back on board or purchase in the shop on board and take to the cabin and open. This was no longer permissible. The pool towels were delivered to and collected from the cabin on a daily basis. None of these minor changes spoiled our over all good impression and other things remained as we remembered. There was one change with which we disagreed strongly and this was splitting the "welcome" cocktail party to 2 venues and at one venue there was not one person present to extend a welcome. It seems that certain passengers complained during the 2005 Caribbean season that "they" did not wish to queue to enter the rooms!! We found Opera to be every bit as elegant and stylish as her sister ship Lirica. Whilst the Opera colours may have been more vibrant there were always tasteful and attractive. There were again some lovely lighting features as you would expect on an Italian ship. The very highest standards of cleanliness were again visible everywhere. Night and Day the staff were hard at work keeping Opera spotless. We love the size, the design, the space, the intimate atmosphere and the facilities on Opera and Lirica not for us are the massive ships including the MSC new builds. We preferred the soft furnishings colour schemes (and especially the art work) in our cabin 12005 to that on Lirica but in all other ways the design was identical. The same excellent storage -- it was impossible to utilise it all -- the same clever use of mirrors and an identical bathroom with bath and shower. The same fluffy bathrobes. Fresh fruit in the cabin every day and the ice bucket filled twice a day. When cruising we are not interested in the casino or the onboard shopping so whilst there are cruise liners with supposed superior facilities these would not be of concern to us. We love the "old fashioned" quality and charm of MSC. Dining at a fixed time at a fixed table in a fixed restaurant with the same waiter who comes to understand our likes and dislikes is very high on our list of "wants" on a cruise. Toward the very end of the cruise we did encounter extreme rudeness from one particular area but overall the staff were impeccable in their behaviour and service. Wherever we went we were treated politely and greeted with huge smiles and this continued every day. The staff were so willing to do anything they could to please and assist. Nothing was a bother or trouble. Even late at night in the lounges the stewards willingly and smilingly would bring a glass of water when requested. At the lunch time buffet they were only too happy to serve tea, coffee, ice tea, water. Plates were removed from the tables swiftly together with an enquiry if there was anything else that you might wish. Nothing was forced or pushed upon us. There was no harassment or pushing of drinks, photographs or any other item. Good natured cajoling by the entertainment team to take part in their activities could easily be rejected and was accepted gracefully. Let me now deal with the negative aspects although I would stress that not one was a major problem and certainly did not spoil our enjoyment nor create the feeling that we would not sail with MSC again. 1) MSC is not an easy company to deal with. Requests for brochures are ignored, Faxes and letters are ignored. You are advised requests regarding dining, etc. are just that "requests" and nothing is guaranteed. There should be a far greater urgency to fulfill customer wishes in this highly competitive field. Information provided by the company varies from country to country and most certainly is not always accurate. Two very good examples of this lack of liaison were A) USA passengers were given a total incorrect arrival time in Genoa which caused great problems for some and worry whilst on the cruise in trying to make new arrangements for their onward travel. In fairness to MSC the staff on Opera did endeavour to help and provided free internet access to facilitate these revised plans B) The confusion regarding buses from Genoa to Milan. Even during the cruise the staff were trying to get information from their Italian Head Office. MSC has a complicated sales programme in different countries with huge fare differences. (I do have to say that for our dining requests -- L'Approdo Restaurant, second sitting, table for 2) finally I did receive a "guarantee" after a long distance telephone call and this was honoured.) These administrative people were not actually on the cruise with us -- so what was really most important was our actual cruise experience and this is what we judged -- and on this our review is based. 2) The manner in which our complaint for rudeness via the telephone was not well handled. There was a closing of ranks to protect the guilty party. The Hotel Director was contradictory in his response. First he needed the identity of the person responsible but when we tried to discover this we were blocked because "if one person was rude then it is the fault of everyone and we cannot give one name." Answer this question. Would you give 2 rude people the power to ruin your cruise? I expect that like me you would reply "NO WAY!" So these 2 persons at the end of a fabulous experience were not important. 3) The Virtual Reality Games Room was totally empty of games. This was upsetting for some and especially those with pre-teen and teenagers. 4) The DJ in the disco had no interest in catering to the tastes of the passengers. The DJ would frequently disappear for up to an hour leaving the most terrible "noise" blasting out!! 5) I have the highest respect for the very hard working entertainment team and joined in some of their activities!! However we could not disagree with those who voiced the view that some of the games were overlong, a little repetitive and a touch too "loud." This was especially true of the area of the pool -- the main "relaxing area" for many. Possibly changes of venues would have been an advantage! However this was minor as overall they do a superb job especially with solo passengers and must be exhausted with very few hours sleep per night 6) I felt that the staff lost a wonderful chance for a huge deck "Goodbye Caribbean" Party the day we departed Barbados. Similarly the arrival in the first European port was very low key. 7) The grilled frazzled bacon at breakfast is terrible!! I did read via "Boston Globe" that a chef had been employed especially to cook the bacon as "European chefs" were no good at that!! Well it seems the employee does not understand that not everyone wants their bacon prepared the same way and served cremated!! 8) The "Welcome Cocktail Party" was in 2 venues Caruso Lounge and Sotto Vento Lounge. We opted for Sotto Vento and there was not one officer or higher ranked person or member of the entertainment staff present to indicate "Welcome." That said it was unanimous that MSC was THE MOST generous hosts with unlimited complimentary cocktails and canapes. This was true of the "Welcome," Repeaters and "Farewell" cocktail parties. 9) The wine glasses at the dining table are small and unsuitable. We did manage to finally get long stemmed large bowled "Barolo" glasses to fully enjoy our red wine each evening. 10) Some of the late night buffets were moved indoors to La Vele. This really was not large enough. This was especially true of the Farewell Buffet Magnifique. We did not want to eat just to view but it was a terrible battle to get in and many gave up. Some other late night buffets were billed as in "the lounges" frequently this did not seem to include the Caruso Lounge. Since we did not wish to consume food at that time it was not a problem for us but some were unhappy. 11) The shore excursions were limited, not very extensive and pricey, compared to what could be done on one's own. MSC does not organise the excursions they have different agents in each port. Consequently they do not accept liability. We heard a number of complaints at the language groups being mixed and some people having virtually no information in their mother tongue. One of our group had a poor experience in this regard. 12) Unlike our previous cruises with MSC the Disembarkation system whilst good in theory worked poorly in practise. There was misinformation and misunderstanding. There was ignorance as to the nationalities and the immigration requirements for all nationalities. Now for the many many positives and there were so many. EMBARKATION. This was so easy. We arrived about 10.45 and although there were people waiting we were included in Group 1. Within 30 minutes they were on to Groups 4 and 5. Group 1 was called and it was an easy less than 10 minute to do the procedure take the picture and issue the identity/charge/key card. At 11.45 we were already on board. We understand that about 15 minutes later there were some problems with the gangplank and the wind in Fort Lauderdale and there was a delay of about 20 minutes to rectify. We were welcomed on board and escorted to our cabin by a white gloved young steward -- who insisted on taking both items of hand luggage. SERVICE. I have already indicated that the service was of an exceptionally high standard. Some staff were not fluent in English but when spoken to slowly and courteously with understanding did correctly interpret requests. The staff could not do enough to help passengers. Each and every day wherever we went we were greeted warmly with huge smiles and a friendly "how are you." Staff who came from islands like Antigua and Barbados were only too eager to give information as to how to get the best out of their islands. These people really cared. Our Balinese dining steward Budha and his assistant Budi were excellent and gave us great service. Our likes and dislikes were learned very quickly and there was every attempt to provide good service. Budha has now returned home to get married and will forsake life at sea in the future. He is a great loss. FOOD. The food generally was very varied and exceptionally good. The special buffets that featured several days during lunch were excellent. The pizzas were delicious and even the New Yorkers agreed on that score! Each day the menu featured a different Italian Regional Speciality. This could be an appetizer, a soup, an entree, a dessert. In view of the huge regional variations in Italian cuisine this was interesting. There were one or two items on the menu I did not enjoy. The Tournedo Rossini was especially poor and not the correct cut and this day the mange tout (snow peas) were yellow and way overcooked. The Prime Rib on the other hand was a Ambrosia! The lamb too was outstanding!! The lobster and seafood/fish in general were perfect! Our waiter (and others too) was happy to serve as a meal 2 appetizers or two entrees, to bring a small portion of risotto and a small portion of the pasta both of which were excellent. Requests for off menu items were received well and met with pleasure. I heard comments about individual menus. For instance one evening "Cheese" there was one cheese dish in the appetizers. Cheese included in one soup. Cheese included in the salad. Cheese in the Risotto. Melted cheese with one of the entrees. Quiche was the vegetarian dish that day. There was a selection of cheeses and then a cheesecake. I hasten to add all the cheeses were of different types! My meal that day was a white fish and orange mousse, the risotto -- a small portion only, a grilled steak with salad, and then fresh fruit. Delicious and certainly not "cheesed off." We specifically requested L' Approdo and were not disappointed. We like the "feel" of this restaurant far more than the larger La Caravella. First sitting was at 6 p.m. Second Sitting was 8.30 p.m. We had selected second sitting, always enjoyed a leisurely meal and left the restaurant every evening by 10.30 at the very latest. The "show" for second sitting diners was 10.45 p.m. so this worked out well. ENTERTAINMENT. Generally were good although there was one disaster. The Tenor left us at San Juan and we picked up various other entertainers at other ports who did "one off" shows. The predatory female singer who joined us at Tenerife was certainly not in the same class as Romancia -- a wonderful young lady from Barbados and a great singer with a varied repertoire with the PopCorn band in Caruso Lounge. We believe that they and she should have been used far more throughout the cruise. We rolled with laughter when she received a complaint that she did not sing all her numbers in English!! The magician was a great entertainer and he and his wife were genuine delightful and very approachable people happy to mix with the passengers and give special "off stage and close up" shows. The dancers were outstanding. The Can Can and RiverDance routines left the audience breathless. There were numerous standing ovations. THE BANDS. The various musicians were brilliant. Very varied from classic to Dance to Pop to Latin. There was something for all tastes. There was music at the buffet lunch, music at high tea and then from 5 p.m. music in at least one of the lounges. People managed to enjoy dancing of all styles and we certainly did our bit to wear the floors out in the various venues. We danced in the morning at Le Piscine, we sometimes danced at lunch at Il Patio, we danced in the afternoon, we danced in the evening and we danced at 3 (sometimes 4) in the morning! THE BARS AND LOUNGES. All attractive rooms with a feeling of space even though the ceilings were low. There was a sense of intimacy through clever design. There was always a feeling of being "at sea" with views over the ocean and you did not feel hemmed in. The Byblos Disco had superb views to stern with floor to ceiling windows. It was used during the day quite often by passengers seeking peace. The colour schemes were tasteful and in some rooms there was a strong art deco influence with some very attractive occasional furniture. The drinks were of a very reasonable price -- and this included the wines in the restaurants and even the mini bar. In the Piano La Cabala Bar there was a Martini Bar with a large range of Martinis!! We enjoyed several excellent Margaritas in this bar which had lovely large windows. THE ITINERARY. We enjoyed all our ports of call very much. San Juan/St. Thomas/Antigua/ Martinique/Barbados/Tenerife/Cadiz/Mallorca. They were interesting and we always felt safe. We were a little disappointed at some of our port times but we knew these well in advance and were prepared. We were fortunate in that we arrived 2 hours early at 18.00 hours in San Juan. We departed Martinique one hour later and Barbados 2 hours later. This extra time in the ports was very much appreciated by the passengers A lot of advance research had been done and this was pooled between our group who had all met through the internet and we were able to maximise the time in each port. At St. Thomas we were berthed at Charlotte Amalie adjacent to QM2. This was a busy day in port with 4 of the largest liners afloat all in harbour that day. We had arranged our own tour -- as we did at Martinique -- and had a wonderful time. PASSENGERS. Very international mainly senior citizens but with the hearts and minds of twenty somethings. Through the wonder of internet we were part of a group of varied, interesting, educated people of several nationalities. It is amazing how well we gelled and bonded. The wonderful atmosphere generated only added to the overall enjoyment. I would like to say a heartfelt and sincere thank you to all my ship mates who might read this. May we all sail again together in the near future. Would I sail with MSC again? Without a doubt! In fact I am already booked on the transatlantic crossing (all different ports) of Opera departing Fort Lauderdale 8th April, 2006, and counting the days. All in all a true 5 star experience.  Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2005
First the bad: 1) The average age of the people on this cruise was approaching about 70. 2) A transatlantic crossing is a really long time to cruise with a non-party crowd like that. 3) Princess puts lots of salt in the food. We were all ... Read More
First the bad: 1) The average age of the people on this cruise was approaching about 70. 2) A transatlantic crossing is a really long time to cruise with a non-party crowd like that. 3) Princess puts lots of salt in the food. We were all swollen by the end of the trip. 4) Our dining room service was sub-par. In a first for us, we cut their tips. 5) The tab adds up fast on a long trip like this one. The good: 1) There were only 9 kids on board. 2) The Grand Princess is a great ship with lots of amenities. 3) Our cabin steward and the cruise director staff were outstanding. 4) The poolside video screen for movies under the stars was especially cool. Observations: 1) All food on board is included with three exceptions. There are two restaurants on board with an additional cover charge. Sabatini's, the Italian place is probably worth the extra $20. They serve you about 14 courses of neat stuff. (I learned I like anchovies.) The Painted Desert has a $15 cover charge. Since it's pretty much just a steak place, and you can get steak in the main dining rooms any night you want, I don't see the advantage. Grand Princess also features an ice cream bar for an extra charge. The ice cream isn't great, and we discovered they have free ice cream on the buffet every day between 3:30 and 4:30. 2) Coffee, tea and water is free inboard. All other beverages are charged to your account. Alcoholic beverages are expensive and really add up over the course of a cruise. At $1.50 per coke, it's definitely worth while to buy the all you can drink soft drink deal the first day of the cruise if you like sodas. 3) I suck at bingo. At $20 a session, that's another thing that really added up fast. 4) Princess owns and operates the art auctions on board. No matter what you buy from them, they guarantee they'll buy it back from you if you change your mind. 5) Get involved in the on board activities. It's fun and helps to pass the time on the long at sea days. 6) In addition to the internet access area, there are three computers in the library with net access. The line for net access was always shorter in the library. 7) Did I mention how charges add up on you? Get a print out of your charges from the purser's desk at least a couple of times during the cruise so you don't have any nasty surprises. While on board Anna and I played bingo, got on stage during pub night, competed on and won the Newlywed Game, participated in The Weakest Link, bet on the horse races, bought a horse for the big horse race finale, went to a few shows, watched some movies and played in the casino. Ports of call: Galveston, TX: We departed from Galveston. Princess had representatives at the Houston airport to meet us and put us on their shuttle bus. Embarkation went smoothly once we arrived. Fort Lauderdale: The first stop for this itinerary was Port Everglades, for only 3 hours. When we booked, we were told we couldn't get on the ship there, yet many people did. I don't understand why that was. With all the at sea days, we could have skipped the Gulf of Mexico crossing and not felt like we missed anything. Bermuda: The ship docked at West End. Most of the shopping and activities were in Hamilton or Georgetown on the other end of the island. We chose to ride a ferry to Hamilton to take a look around. Bermuda is beautiful and very stateside like, even though it's part of Great Britain. If the weather had been warmer we would have enjoyed a kayaking or snorkeling outing. As it was we just did some shopping and picture taking in Hamilton and then headed back to the ship. At Sea: Only a few days before we were in the Atlantic, a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship got hit by a freak 70 foot wave. We were very fortunate in that by the time we got to the area that happened to them, the Atlantic was flat and smooth like glass. Honestly, for our entire transatlantic crossing, the water looked more like a lake than an ocean. It was so smooth, we honestly could have water skied behind the ship. According to past transatlantic cruisers, these calm conditions were definitely out of the ordinary. One night the captain came on the intercom and asked for volunteers to donate blood for a sick crew member. We later learned one of the casino dealers was having some internal bleeding for some reason. Several passengers donated blood to help her. The next morning at about 6 am, the captain roused us from sleep to evacuate a couple of decks of the ship because a helicopter was coming to medivac the young lady to the Azores. People gathered all over the decks to watch the chopper hover over the deck and draw the stretcher holding the woman up as it spun in the air. They got her aboard safely and after reaching Ponta Delgada successfully operated on her. The last we heard she was recovering nicely. Ponta Delgada: The Azores just suddenly appear in the middle of nowhere. The islands are really beautiful. We took the crater lakes overview excursion. Our guide was good and very enthusiastic about his homeland. Unfortunately our view of the crater lakes was obscured by fog, but the drive around the island was marvelous. The rolling grasslands full of cows suddenly falls away to valleys of trees and cliffs that drop right off into the Atlantic. I was reminded at once of pictures I've seen of Ireland and Hawaii. After all the at sea days, this little piece of land was very welcome. I stayed on deck until the last glimpse disappeared behind us when we left. Lisbon: Sailing up the river to Lisbon we got to enjoy the sights of fishermen out for the morning catch and the beautiful bridge across the river right at the port. Lisbon also features a statue of Christ across the river, just like the one in Rio de Janeiro. We took a shore excursion to Fatima during our Lisbon stop. What little I got to see of this beautiful city was from the windows of our bus. There's plenty to explore in Lisbon and I'd definitely like to go back to check it out better. Fatima is a very impressive place and they're still building more. We witnessed several people crawling into the chapel on their knees, signifying whatever they had come in search of in the past had come to pass. They crawl in as a way of returning to say thanks. We watched part of a church service while we were there and toured the rest of the church grounds and the surrounding town. We were looking for a place to have lunch when we stumbled upon Jack Pizza. As a Jack, I had no choice but to try them out. The pizza was good and so was the Portuguese beer. On the way back to the ship we got to experience rush hour traffic Portuguese style. Actually it's just like any other rush hour traffic you've ever been caught in. We barely made it back to the boat before our scheduled sailing time. The roughest seas we saw were in the approach to the Straits of Gibraltar. Even these little white caps weren't much higher than about 4 feet. Unfortunately it was hard to see the rock, but we could just make it out in the distance. We did get a good view of the African coastline before we turned north towards Barcelona. Barcelona: What a pretty city. We took the Barcelona highlights tour and cruised around past the Olympic stadium, many architectural wonders and ended up with a tour of Gaudi's unfinished cathedral, La Familia Sagrada. The cathedral was crawling with tourists, but was really cool to see. After getting dropped back off at the ship, we struck out again and had lunch along the popular La Rambla district of the city. It's a pretty tourist filled area, but it's a lovely place to stroll and shop. Unfortunately we didn't have time to also ride the tram from the port area up to the top of Montjuic. There's a village up there built for one of the World Fairs to represent all the separate provinces of Spain. If I ever get back to Barcelona, I'd like to check that out. We got our most beautiful sunset of the cruise after we sailed from Barcelona. The sun set behind the mountains and reflected across the Mediterranean as we headed north east to Cannes. Cannes: Cannes is a tender port, which means you have to ride a boat in to get to shore. You can take shore excursions to Monte Carlo or Monaco, but we chose to just wander around Cannes. We happened to be there the week before the famous film festival and we saw a lot of preparations taking place for that event. We also stumbled into a flea market in the town square area. It was kind of a combination art festival and garage sale, but fun to poke around in. We also did some window shopping at some extravagantly priced shops along the beach strip and I looked for topless sunbathers, to no avail. Cannes appears to still be a quaint seaside town and it's very clean. Livorno: All I saw of Livorno was the actual port. We took the Pisa and Florence highlights excursion and were off the boat as soon as it docked. Unfortunately we visited these places on Italian labor day, and all the museums were closed. We did get to walk past the museum where Michaelangelo's David is housed, but alas couldn't go in to see it. Likewise, we only got to walk around outside the cathedral and other monuments in Florence. It was in this city that I first started to notice the graffiti problem that seems to plague the cities on our trip. Of all the places we went, this city was the dirtiest. Pisa looks like it wouldn't be anything if it weren't for the leaning tower. It's really more of a small town than a city. The tower itself sits in a square next to the cathedral and baptistery. Those three buildings are surrounded by a wall and tons of stalls hawking souvenirs and counterfeit sunglasses and purses. Taking the obligatory "holding up the tower" picture is a very popular activity, and you have to jockey for position since people are constantly walking in your way. Once you've done that, you can head back to the bus. There's nothing to see here folks. Civitavecchia: Our disembarkation port was Civitavecchia. A word to the wise, this port is quite a ways out from Rome. You'd better have your ground transportation arranged, because there aren't any taxi cabs nearby. Some people took a shore excursion into Rome as their way of getting to town. After the tour, they got dropped off with their bags at the train station. This was a pretty cheap way to get to town, but I wouldn't want to have to deal with my luggage on the Rome subway system. It would probably be OK with just one bag, but since this was the end of a 16 day cruise, few people had that little to keep up with. Rome: We stayed for a couple of days in Rome. All Rome hotels are expensive. Ours was no exception, but I highly recommend La Scalinata di Spagna at the top of the Spanish steps. It's a good in town location, right at a Metro stop and at the top of one of the most popular tourist sites. In Rome, everywhere you look there are historical sites, ruins and things to fascinate the visitor. You can walk between many of the most popular things, or grab a cab or jump on the Metro to get around more quickly. We saw the Spanish steps, the coliseum, the forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain, the Presidential palace (accidentally), the Vatican and many Piazas and fountains along the way. Really you need several days to see it all, and we only had two, so we were turbo touring. We took a tour with Icon Tours (www.icontours.com) for the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. I highly recommend this outfit. The guide really knew his stuff and was passionate about the material. I came out equally impressed by his knowledge and the skill of the artists who created all the wonderful work in the Vatican collection. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
I just went on my first cruise ever -- on the QM2 -- and it was perfect. We originally booked a B3 room 6161 at an excellent rate, but asked about upgrades when we got onboard. The Purser's office told us they would let us know if ... Read More
I just went on my first cruise ever -- on the QM2 -- and it was perfect. We originally booked a B3 room 6161 at an excellent rate, but asked about upgrades when we got onboard. The Purser's office told us they would let us know if something was available, and the next morning called us to say we could have a Jr. Suite upgrade (room only) for $1,000. , or we could upgrade completely with both a Jr. Suite and the Princess Grill for $1,500. for two people. We chose to upgrade our room only because we had already had dinner and breakfast in the Britannia Room and had loved it AND our table-mates. The Jr. Suites have a bathtub and a walk-in closet, and a bowl of fresh fruit that's replenished daily. Even though it was an April Cruise with high wind the first couple of day, the seas were relatively calm and we barely felt the ship rocking. I had a few spa services in the Canyon Ranch Spa, saw some shows in the Royal Court theater and attended on show in Illuminations -- the planetarium. We had tea in the Queen's Room; attended RADA acting lessons; took two-mile walks on deck 7 (3 times around = 1.1 miles) and used the gym on windy days. And while we brought our own laptop, we found it easier to use one of the many computers in Connections to check and send our email (which can also be done on the interactive tv in your cabin). I've never been on any other ship -- so I don't know how our cruise stacks up against others -- but like I said in my first sentence -- it was perfect. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
Just returned from our spring crossing to Europe onboard the beautiful Brilliance Of The Seas. We started in Miami Apr 29th for our 13 night sailing to Barcelona with stops in Funchal(Madeira), Lisbon, Malaga and Villefranche. - The ... Read More
Just returned from our spring crossing to Europe onboard the beautiful Brilliance Of The Seas. We started in Miami Apr 29th for our 13 night sailing to Barcelona with stops in Funchal(Madeira), Lisbon, Malaga and Villefranche. - The Ship: The Brilliance just got out of dry dock the day prior to sailing and looked brand new inside. Everything was clean and was being kept that way. - Embarkation: Boarding process in Miami was a breeze despite a full ship. Took only appr. 25 minutes to be on the ship 8am 12:30h noon). Good work RCCL! - Fellow Passengers: Good mixture of older an middle aged people on board (slightly older crowd than experienced on other cruises with RCCL though), almost no kids. Mostly Americans but also many Europeans, mostly British, Spanish, German and French. - Staff and Cruise Director: Staff was friendly throughout but not always too attentive when it came to assisting older or handicapped people. Improvement/training there should be considered by RCCL! Staff in the dining room at our table outstanding! Mihaela (Romania) and Diego (Uruguay) were just perfect! Overall great staff and always smiling. - Entertainment: Bill, the cruise director was a very friendly person, easy to chat to but unfortunately a little bit lame compared to others I had on previous sailings. Nice guy, but not really the best CD. However he did his best and had an open ear to every question or suggestion. Entertainment during this long cruise was rather boring and disappointing. The RCCL singers and dancers and their production shows were the worst I´ve seen so far. The dancers were actually pretty good but the singers were awful and the productions themselves very boring. Improvement please! - Food: The food overall was very good but definitely needs improvement in the Windjammer (buffet). It seemed to be the same variety every single day. The main restaurant however was good throughout the journey. Very nice menu cards with a huge selection to choose from every night. Specialty restaurants are very good but not necessarily worth the extra money. It is great and maybe worth it for a more intimate dining experience but there is no reason to go there for the food, since the food is as good and free of charge in the main dining room. - Seas and weather: Crossing the Atlantic sure is a challenge and one does not know what to expect. We left Miami in bright sunshine and had mostly great weather throughout the whole journey. The weather did get bad when we were in the middle of the Atlantic for 2 days. For a few hours we had winds up to 130mph (from the side!!) and quite high waves. It did a little damage to the ship (nothing serious though) but I was amazed how stable the ship still was. I never felt insecure or sick at any time not even if we slammed into one big wave at 4 a.m. which woke everybody up. It sure was an experience. Information from the bridge was always very good by the way. - Ports: The six sea days went by very quick. Funchal/Madeira is absolutely beautiful and worth every visit. Lisbon is great but we did not have too much time in port to see most of the city. Malaga´s old town is nice to walk through and do some shopping. Villefranche (close to Nice) is one of the most beautiful ports I´ve been to. Very charming little village (tender service) and close to Nice and Monte Carlo ( easy to reach by train). Not to be missed is a tour from there to St. Paul De Vance. Absolutely stunning! RCCL charged for every transfer (US$4.- each way!) in the first three ports. I remember it was all free on Celebrity. - Overall: Great cruise, met the nicest people, beautiful ports, very friendly staff, good food. What more can you ask for? Would I do it again? Definitely! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
Transatlantic Cruise April 23, 2005 What an adventure! We are both in our early 50s. On this cruise we took my wife's 90 year old father with us. We have been on 9 previous cruises. We arrived in San Juan on the day of sailing. We ... Read More
Transatlantic Cruise April 23, 2005 What an adventure! We are both in our early 50s. On this cruise we took my wife's 90 year old father with us. We have been on 9 previous cruises. We arrived in San Juan on the day of sailing. We had purchased Celebrity transfers from the airport to the cruise terminal. This was about the smoothest embarkation that we have had. We got right on the ship. Our bags arrived in our cabin within an hour. We had a Concierge Class cabin, 8139. They do tell you that this is part of the Concierge service. We were handed a glass of either champagne or orange juice. We headed off to the buffet area for lunch. We have been told by Cruise Critic members that this was one of the best ships they have sailed on. SHIP -- The ship is laid out nicely. My wife's reaction was that it was a letdown. We had sailed last year on the Jewel of the Seas in the Baltic, and she felt that the Jewel was much more elegant and "modern" looking and much more to her taste. After a few trips around, I found that the ship was very easy to navigate. The dining room and buffet areas are in the back and the Celebrity Theatre is up front. With the Casino and shops in the middle, we were all set. We did not visit many of the bars but found the Cova Cafe to be very interesting. You could always find the captain there in the afternoon. He told us he really enjoyed their coffee. We did have a chance to go to the hospital as my father in law came down with bronchitis. The staff there was very friendly. They took great care of him. I just think he enjoyed the young nurses. Just remember that it is on a cash only basis even with the medical insurance with the cruise line. You need to pay all the money up front, then put your claim in for a refund. In port, you will be leaving from either deck 2 or 3 or both. I was disappointed in the game room since there were few games to play. The best room was the computer room on deck 4. It was always busy, but was open 24 hours. There is also a computer classroom on Deck 6 which you could also use. They hold classes on different subjects. We took a class on downloading your digital camera. At the end of the cruise, they would help you load your saved pictures onto a CD. I do want to mention that the casino was not overly busy. I did ok on the craps table as I had it to myself almost every evening. They had only one ping pong table. We really enjoyed playing here after dinner or in the morning. CABIN -- This was a Concierge Class cabin. We only paid about $100USD over a regular one. It was larger and had some nice features. There were fresh flowers in the room (not changed the entire cruise) and bathroom (which were changed). The towels are thicker compared to the Holiday Inn type towels you will get in the regular cabins. My wife felt that the rugs were getting threadbare and needed changing. She also said the mildew in the shower and bath could've been taken care of easily but wasn't. We were disappointed with no towel animals. The cabin attendant, Luna, and her assistant George, were tremendous. They took care of everything we needed. They kept the cabin very clean. We always enjoyed talking with them although Luna was the most talkative. She was always on top of things. Can't say enough about them. The balcony was very nice as the chairs had a nice pad on them. I didn't like the binoculars that were in the cabin. They did not work well. My father in law did not like the pull out couch. He hurt his back on it the first day. We were able to get him into another cabin the next day. It was an inside cabin. He still complained about that bed as being lumpy and slanting toward one side. CRUISE CRITIC CONNECTIONS PARTY It was very nice to finally meet everyone we have been writing to on the threads on Cruise Critic. We enjoyed the one on the Jewel and thought this would be the same. It was not. We were given an invitation to meet at Michael's Club on the first sea day in the morning. All they had for us was coffee. There was no representative from the ship talking to us. Only the cruise director was there for a very brief time. We only know this because the cruise director told us later he was there. On the Jewel we had pastries and there were drawings for prizes. I know this is not a big deal, but I felt it added to the enjoyment. We had a great turnout. I think we had over 40 show up. There was a group shot taken by the cruise photographer. When I questioned the Cruise Director why it was not a bigger celebration, he told me that it is not done that way on Celebrity. DINING We had a early problem in the main dining room We had asked for a window table for 4 when we booked 8 months earlier. We found our table to be in the center of the main dining room. I spoke to the assistant head waiter. He found me a window table right away on deck 5 (upper level). It was a great table. Our waiter was Ottoniel (from Guatemale)and the assistant was Made (from Bali). They were very good. Made always had a smile on his face and knew exactly what we wanted. I had bought a coke card (don't bother with this unless you buy a lot of cokes). I had ordered a coke at each meal. We had one bar server always bring me two cokes at the beginning of the meal. The food at dinner we rated good to very good. I always enjoyed the different selections of soup and appetizers. We both finally settled on getting Caesar salads every night. My father in law felt that the fish dishes were overcooked. Mine were ok. One night the steak was tuff and even the second one they sent out was worse. Other than that, the food was good. The desserts and breads were always the best. I think this was also true on the Jewel. The buffet was a very clean environment. The servers all wore gloves. The buffet selections left a lot to be desired. On several occasions, we could not find anything we liked. We ended up going for cheeseburgers,fries, and pizza which were good. I can tell you those were the best fries I have ever tasted on a ship. The ice cream bar was very good. Great flavors in sherbet. Room service was good, delivered when ordered. We tried it for breakfast one day and found the food was not hot. I tried the sushi bar a few nights. It was very good. Another problem I found was there was not a good selection of cereals(breakfast). Mainly bran cereals and corn flakes. A box of Cheerios would've been a welcome change. CUSTOMER SERVICE -- This is where Celebrity shines. All the staff we encountered were friendly and always willing to help. Even the captain was accessible. Anytime we asked for anything, we received it. One point we didn't like was the cruise director, Ed Rojas. He was very nice when you met him, but I felt he was extremely too low key. Kudo's to the computer staff. They were always willing to help you out. Ariel was extremely knowledgeable and was always available for you. The rest of the computer staff was equally helpful and took the time to work with you if you had a problem. SEA DAYS -- Since this was our first transatlantic, we didn't realize the significance of the many sea days. I didn't like them. After day two, I was relaxed enough and was looking for some land action. I think our next cruises will be more port intensive. There were not many activities on those days. We did have guest lecturers. Marlin Fitzwater was the best. He was humorous. The others were dry. And all of them were republicans. We would like to see some diversity in this area. I do want to let you know that during the entire voyage, the seas were very smooth or slightly rolling. We avoided any potential storms as they sailed around them. Even the Bay of Biscay was calm. ENTERTAINMENT Too many production shows and not enough comedians. We felt that this was a very weak area and geared to an older crowd. A few highlights were Elliot Finkel, a pianist and Paul Boland and Marlise Boland, a husband and wife team whose performance was very good. He did musical impressions and she was a singer. The Celebrity singers and dancers were very talented but how many production shows can you see on a cruise? DISEMBARKATION -- Because we were Concierge Class, we were able to get off the ship early. We also were able to meet in the Cinema as the rest of the ship met in the Celebrity Theatre. They had danish and coffee for us there. When we got off, there were plenty of porters to help you load your luggage and bring it to the bus. It went very smoothly. The whole process took less than 30 minutes. Overall, I felt that this was a good ship with great service. While I would never do another transatlantic, I would probably sail on this ship again with a different itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2005
We boarded the ship in the beautiful and user-friendly terminal in Tampa for my 1st and hubby's 2nd Trans-Atlantic. My 6th and his 8th cruise. We had read the reviews in this section, and had sailed before on the Rhapsody and had a ... Read More
We boarded the ship in the beautiful and user-friendly terminal in Tampa for my 1st and hubby's 2nd Trans-Atlantic. My 6th and his 8th cruise. We had read the reviews in this section, and had sailed before on the Rhapsody and had a ball, so we felt like we were ready. Ship is smaller and prettier than Rhapsody. It has elegant teak decks in several places, a more luxurious spa, more elegant decor in the atrium and was cleaner than the family-oriented, Caribbean-sailing Rhapsody. Our inside cabin was fine - a real bargain. One of the nicest features of this ship and its sisters is the bow to stern walking track - 1/4 mile once around!! It was always a popular place for the geriatric crowd you get on a Trans-Atlantic!! And some of my fellow walkers could really MOVE!! It was important to mind manners and not block the fast lane!! The relatively old crowd was a great mix of folks from all over the world. Meeting people from the various countries was such a treat!! We thought we remembered a piano and a dessert bar on the top level of the Windjammer Cafe on the Rhapsody, and that had been filled with tables and chairs on the Splendour, perhaps to alleviate the fact that it's small. We never had a minute's problem getting a nice place to eat. But sometimes the fish on the buffet was over-cooked -- probably hard to get it right in a mass buffet. But the food in the Windjammer was, other than that, uniformly good and the service was the best on any ship's mass-cafe we've ever been on, except for Sun Princess, vintage 2000. The food in the dining room was wonderful. I could've eaten their salmon every night for the rest of my life!! The veggie dishes and desserts in every eating venue were superb. In the Windjammer the breakfast bacon was soggy until passengers complained, and they got it right after that!! The King and I dining room was full nearly every night for the early seating, but the service was great and the table mates were fun and interesting. Look for experienced cruisers on a re-positioning cruise!! What a learning experience!! The pools were good temperatures - chilly for the salt-water swimming pools and REALLY warm and luxurious for the hot tubs. The shows were good - we went to two. I guess on a re-positioning you don't get the big names that we had on the Rhapsody Caribbean cruise - I guess they don't need to be stuck at sea! But there was ample talent and the shows were well-prepared and presented. As for onboard diversions, the only fly in the ointment was those ubiquitous, noisy art auctions!! ARRRGGHHH!! The trivia geeks were a huge population among this AARP-aged crowd!! We filled the Schooner Bar, so they moved us to the Top Hat Lounge. I thought the trivia -- and all the planned activities on board -- was tons of fun and well presented. Line dancing and fitness classes were fun. The beauty shop seminars were a nice way to meet another group of cruisers than the trivia geeks, and I learned a lot - probably not enough, but it was still fun!! Now, about that infamous Splendour vibration... We did not feel it in our forward, upper-deck cabin at all until they cranked up all five engines. Then you could definitely feel it, and the water in the glasses in the dining room would shake, etc. I'm sure it might have been perceivable on a lower, aft deck throughout, but we didn't feel it until we left the Azores on about the 8th day and had to make up time lost from not being able to go into port at the expected hour. It definitely was there. We're experienced cruisers, and it honestly didn't bother us. Other folks we talked to didn't seem to mind it as well. Likewise, we had read complaints here about the ship's stability, and we experienced two or three days of strong gale force winds and very high seas - we're talking 30 feet or more at times. We found the ship to ride like a dream -- the roll put us to sleep at night!! And considering everything, we thought it was relatively quiet. Our only shore excursion was in Malaga, Spain, arranged so that we could make the Alhambra Palace in Granada and still not get left behind when the ship sailed!! It was well-run. The only problem was that there were SEVERAL people on the tour who were not physically capable of the demands of this tour, and they should not have been allowed to participate with this group. We paid a lot for the tour and there was not time for us to be slowed down. I felt for those slower people involved, too - I have been in a wheel-chair on a cruise ship. For their comfort/safety and our convenience they should have been routed to another tour. Getting off the ship was the worst part of the trip - not because it had problems, because it was well-organized. But none of us wanted to leave, as far as I could see!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2005
The Westerdam is a large, beautiful ship. Unfortunately, as expected, when you cruise with 2000+ passengers, you become a number. Our cruise was remarkable in several different ways. As previously stated, the Westerdam is a beautiful ... Read More
The Westerdam is a large, beautiful ship. Unfortunately, as expected, when you cruise with 2000+ passengers, you become a number. Our cruise was remarkable in several different ways. As previously stated, the Westerdam is a beautiful ship and the accommodations are exceptional. The service is excellent and the crew is exceptionally courteous. But, this is where the good ends. Piracy at sea is not dead.....Holland America has managed to find ways to charge for everything imaginable and, in some instances, exorbitantly. Believe it or not, you have to pay to take most of the aerobic classes, pay to use the steam room sauna, pay for shuttle buses, pay outrageous amounts for use of the internet, pay for all drinks except for ice tea, They have their hands out just about everywhere you turn. Finally, they tell you how much you have to tip and automatically put it on your bill. Regarding the food, both in the dining room and buffet, not very much good can be said. In the dining room, the presentation was generally good, but the food was totally tasteless. The Italian dishes were especially bad, with much of the food pre-cooked. At the buffet, it was a dreary repetition, with mediocre food at best. The Italian station had good pizza, but forget about the pasta...it was precooked, with the same sauces day in and day out. The cheese was misrepresented as real Parmesan cheese, when in reality is was a cheap copy. All in all, we will not sail on this ship again as the bad far outweighs the good......... Read Less

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